Detailed Lebanese & Lebanese Related LCCC English New Bulletin For September 04/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath
John 03/31-36: "The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly things. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, yet no one accepts his testimony. Whoever has accepted his testimony has certified this, that God is true. He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands.Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath."

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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 03-04/18
NAYA/Joumana Haddad: A strong voice for a secular Lebanon/Ghadir Hamadi/Annahar/September 03/18
Lebanese Govt. Failures Transform Litani River into Polluted Dump/Nazeer Rida/Asharq Al-Awast/September,03/18
AUB officially opens new academic year/NNA/September,03/18
Hezbollah’s public defiance will do little to halt tribunal findings/Makram Rabah/The Arab Weekly/September 03/18
Israel Signals It Could Hit Iranian Targets in Iraq/Reuters and Jonathan Lis/Haaretz/September 03/18
Iraq and the Fall of the Tango/Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al Awsat/September 03/18
Economic Growth and the Rule of Law/Mark Gongloff/Bloomberg/September 03/18
Does Corruption Matter to Voters/Stephen Mihm/Bloomberg/September 03/18
Bill Clinton, Boris Yeltsin Missed Historic Opportunity/Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg/September 03/18
Britain's Burka Blues: "I'd Like to Thank Boris Johnson"/Denis MacEoin/Gatestone Institute/September 03/18
Turkey Creating New Tensions with Greece and the US/Lawrence A. Franklin/Gatestone Institute/September 03/18
Iran’s ballistic missile deployment in Iraq a game-changer/Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg/Arab News/September 03/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on September 03-04/18
Presidency's press office: Aoun received from Hariri initial format for new government
Hariri upbeat over Cabinet formation
Hariri Hands Aoun Format of 'No Victors, No Losers' Govt.
Report: Hopes Fluctuate as Efforts Persist to Solve Cabinet Stalemate
Bassil Meets Syrian Ambassador, Discuss UNRWA File
Bassil Slams U.S. on UNRWA: We Won't Accept Naturalization, Partitioning
Bassil meets Ambassadors over UNRWA dossier, says US decision to end aids tampers with peace
Lebanon: Foreign Ministry Condemns Washington’s Decision to Halt UNRWA Funding
Kanaan: Comprehensive Health Coverage Shouldn't Be from People's Pocket
Lebanese Minister to Attend Damascus Fair This Week
Suzanne al-Hajj to Appear Before Permanent Military Court
One dead in Mkalles gas explosion
NAYA/Joumana Haddad: A strong voice for a secular Lebanon
Lebanese Govt. Failures Transform Litani River into Polluted Dump
AUB officially opens new academic year
Hezbollah’s public defiance will do little to halt tribunal findings

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on September 03-04/18
New Iraq Parliament Holds First Session despite Political Divisions
Iraq's Sadr and Abadi Form Biggest Parliamentary Bloc
Former Dutch Defense Minister Appointed UN Envoy to Iraq
Turkish Finance Minister Says Weak Lira Will Not Threaten Banking Sector
Turkey Inflation Surges to 15-Year High in August
Iran FM to Meet with Assad as Syria Showdown Looms
Iran FM says ‘terrorists must be purged’ from Syria’s Idlib
UNRWA Expresses ‘Deep Regret’ at US Decision to Cut off Funds
Abbas Interested in Confederation with Jordan, Israel
Palestinian Foreign Ministry Calls for Cooperation to Document Settler Violations
Sources: Syrian Regime Forces Await Orders to Attack Idlib
US Welcomes Arab Coalition’s Statement on Operation in Yemen’s Saada
Tunisia: Four Terrorists from Pro-ISIS Cell Killed
Philippine President Kicks off Official Israel Visit
Philippines' Duterte Apologizes for Cursing Obama
Death Toll Hits 48 in Boko Haram Troop Attack
The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on September 03-04/18
Presidency's press office: Aoun received from Hariri initial format for new government
Mon 03 Sep 2018/NNA - President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, received this afternoon from Prime Minister-designate, Saad Hariri, an initial format for the new government, a statement by the press office of the Presidency of the Republic indicated on Monday. "The President made several remarks on the format, according to the principles and criteria which he has determined regarding the form of the government, as well as according to Lebanon's interest," the statement added. "The President will keep on consultation with the PM-designate in preparation for an agreement on the new government's lineup," it concluded.
Hariri upbeat over Cabinet formation
Georgi Azar/An Nahar/03 September/18/Hariri had previously met with Free Patriotic Movement leader and caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil to try and dispel the remaining obstacles hampering the formation of new Cabinet, a deadlock now in its fourth month.
BEIRUT: Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri met with President Michel Aoun Monday to submit a fresh draft Cabinet lineup. Hariri had previously met with Free Patriotic Movement leader and caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil to try and dispel the remaining obstacles hampering the formation of new Cabinet, a deadlock now in its fourth month. "Its a lineup in which no one wins," Hariri said. Hariri has been adamant in refusing to grant Bassil's FPM or any other coalition, veto power in the government, the equivalent of over 10 seats in a 30-member Cabinet. "Everyone made some sort of sacrifice, it's a very different lineup than the first one," he told reporters following his meeting with Aoun at the Baabda Presidential Palace. The LF, who saw their bloc expand to 15 MPs, have been pushing for a package of four service portfolios while the FPM were demanding 11 ministries including four for the President.

Hariri Hands Aoun Format of 'No Victors, No Losers' Govt.

Naharnet/September 03/18/PM-designate Saad Hariri announced Monday that he presented to President Michel Aoun a format for "a national unity government" that does not entail a "victory" for a political camp over another. Speaking to reporters after his long-anticipated meeting with Aoun in Baabda, Hariri said the proposed format would involve "sacrifices from all parties."Hariri also noted that he took the demands of all parties into consideration while emphasizing that only him and Aoun possess the format's exact details. Informed sources meanwhile told LBCI TV that Hariri's remarks reflect the reality of what happened. "The format includes the blocs' shares and portfolios without any names and it consists of 30 ministerial seats. Only the president and the PM-designate have knowledge of the format's details," the sources added. Earlier in the day, Hariri had held talks at the Center House with caretaker Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil. Talks focused on the efforts to form a new government, Hariri’s media office said. According to media reports, Hariri was expected to meet with Bassil on Sunday evening. Hariri later called the Free Patriotic Movement chief and agreed to meet with him today. Hariri was tasked with forming a new government on May 24. His mission has been delayed by wrangling between political parties mainly over Christian and Druze representation.

Report: Hopes Fluctuate as Efforts Persist to Solve Cabinet Stalemate
Naharnet/September 03/18/Instead of an anticipated meeting on Sunday between Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri and caretaker Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil to discuss the stalemates delaying the Cabinet formation, a telephone call between the two took place where Hariri asked to meet Bassil, media reports said on Monday. “Hariri has telephoned Bassil on Sunday evening and asked to have a meeting with him before he holds talks with President Michel Aoun,” said LBCI station. Al-Liwaa daily had reported yesterday that Hariri was expected to meet Bassil Sunday evening ahead of his much-anticipated meeting with the President. It added that an actual line-up might not emerge before the second half of September, while stressing that the disagreements are narrowing. Meanwhile, according to al-Akhbar newspaper, Hariri has apprised to Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea that “he can no longer bear the delay to lineup the government, and that the LF will not get the deputy PM post nor a sovereign ministerial portfolio,” as requested. According to well-informed political circles, Geagea has made what he considered the “last concession”, and that “he won’t make any other concessions under any circumstances.”
“Speaker Nabih Berri and Hariri have managed to persuade Geagea to abandon a demand to allocate a sovereign portfolio and the position of the deputy prime minister,” al-Akhbar said quoting the circles.

Bassil Meets Syrian Ambassador, Discuss UNRWA File
Naharnet/September 03/18/Caretaker Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil has met on Monday with Syrian Ambassador to Lebanon, Ali Abdul Karim Ali, the State-run National News Agency reported. The two men discussed the latest developments after a U.S. decision to halt funding for the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA. Bassil had on Sunday blasted the U.S. decision, stressing that Lebanon will not accept “naturalization or partitioning.”Washington, which until last year was by far the biggest contributor to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), said Friday it would no longer fund the "irredeemably flawed operation". Some 450,000 refugees are registered with UNRWA in Lebanon, with many living in the country’s 12 refugee camps. Palestine refugees represent an estimated ten per cent of the population of Lebanon. The ongoing conflict in Syria has forced many Palestine refugees from that country, including men, women and children, to flee to Lebanon in search of safety.

Bassil Slams U.S. on UNRWA: We Won't Accept Naturalization, Partitioning
Naharnet/September 03/18/Caretaker Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil on Sunday blasted a U.S. decision to halt funding for the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA, while stressing that Lebanon will not accept “naturalization or partitioning.”“What does the 'deal of the century' has in store after Jerusalem was recognized as Israel's capital, the approval of the Jewish nation-state law and most recently halting funds for UNRWA to abolish the right to return? Refugees, displacement, integration, segregation and transfer!” Bassil tweeted.And calling Israel a “one-sided state that rejects the other and seeks to create neighboring one-sided entities,” the minister and leader of the Free Patriotic Movement underscored that Lebanon will not accept the “naturalization” of Palestinian refugees on its soil, the “partitioning” of the country, or “a deal that would end the era of diversity.”

Bassil meets Ambassadors over UNRWA dossier, says US decision to end aids tampers with peace
Mon 03 Sep 2018/ NNA - Caretaker Foreign Minister, Gebran Bassil, on Monday said that the US fresh decision to end all funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) tampers with the peace process, stressing that Lebanon will fight refugee settlement through political and diplomatic channels to conserve the Palestinian right of return. Bassil made these remarks during his meeting with a diplomatic delegation representing the states concerned with the UNRWA dossier, and which comprised 15 Arab and foreign ambassadors to Lebanon, in addition to the Chargé d'Affaires of 9 embassies in Lebanon and representatives of UNRWA, UN, and the European Union; neither the US Ambassador nor a representative of her took part in the meeting. "The US decision to cease the funding of UNRWA is only a political decision, and not an administrative or financial; it is part of the decisions and policies adopted recently," Bassil said following the meeting. "[The decision] tampers with the fundaments of the peace process, thus with the regional and international peace and stability, as it follows a series of steps, which are the recognition of al-Quds as Israel's capital and the consecration of the Jewish identity of the state," he added, "which means the abolition of the right of return.""Pertaining to Lebanon, this is a constitutional matter and we cannot accept it, for it eliminates the Lebanese entity and nation," he stressed. "Therefore, I deemed it normal to summon the ambassadors of the donor and host states, in addition to the representatives of UN, UNRWA and the EU," he said. "We informed the ambassadors of Lebanon's rejection of the said decision, and we called the international community not to accept the end of aids to the Palestinians, especially that the US decision contravenes the UN resolutions upon which the peace process has been built," Bassil indicated. "We consider that the cease of aids and the inhibition of return oppose all the international resolutions and the undertakings of the concerned states; therefore, our rejection and that of the concerned states must be translated whether into reneging on this decision or into increasing the donor states' contributions," he explained. "Lebanon regards such decisions with growing fear and concern as the help for the Palestinian refugees is ceased to prevent their return; and as aids overwhelm the Syrian people in the host countries, but end if they decide to return to their homeland," Bassil underlined. "This is the message that we conveyed to the ambassadors, so that they relay it to their governments, and we will wait for their official answers," he concluded.
Lebanon: Foreign Ministry Condemns Washington’s Decision to Halt UNRWA Funding
Beirut /Asharq Al-Awast/Monday, 3 September, 2018/Lebanon’s foreign ministry condemned the United States’ decision to stop its contribution to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).“Helping UNRWA is the duty of the countries that agreed to the establishment of the state of Israel on Palestinian land and covered up the occupation of the territory and the displacement of its people,” the ministry said in a statement. It warned of the intentions behind the decision, “which comes in the context of successive events,” including the relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem and the declaration of the city as Israel’s capital and the defining of Israel as a Jewish state through the recent nation-state law. The foreign ministry called for an “emergency meeting” of the Arab League, including host and donor nations to UNRWA, on the sidelines of the upcoming United Nations General Assembly. In this regard, the ministry praised Germany’s decision to increase its contribution to UNRWA and called on other countries to follow its example in order to fill the void caused by Washington’s decision and allow the continuation of UNRWA’s work.
Kanaan: Comprehensive Health Coverage Shouldn't Be from People's Pocket
Naharnet/September 03/18/Head of the Finance and Budget Parliamentary Committee MP Ibrahim Kanaan said on Monday that all Lebanese citizens must have health medical coverage, stressing that medical expenses must not be paid from their “own pockets.”“There are 1.8 million Lebanese nationals who have no health coverage. Health coverage must not be paid from the pockets of citizens,” said Kanaan after the committee meeting. A health card enables people to be provided with the adequate hospitalization services. “The ministries of health and finance have been requested to provide the full cost of issuing health cards,” added the MP, noting that the figures of the study will be presented at the next committee meeting. On the general economic and financial situation, Kanaan said the committee will convene next week in the presence of ministers of finance and economy, and representatives from the Central Bank and the Association of Banks of Lebanon to come out with a “clear vision on the required reforms.”
Lebanese Minister to Attend Damascus Fair This Week 03rd September 2018/Caretaker Industry Minister Hussein Hajj Hassan is set to visit Syria this week to attend the 60th Damascus International Fair. The National News Agency reported that the Lebanese minister will hold a series of meetings with Syrian officials to discuss ways to boost bilateral economic ties.Last year, the visits of Lebanese ministers to Syria sparked debate on whether these trips should be labeled as personal or official, after Transportation and Public Works Minister Youssef Finianous, Industry Minister Hussein Hajj Hassan and Agriculture Minister Ghazi Zeaiter had taken part in the Damascus fair.

Suzanne al-Hajj to Appear Before Permanent Military Court
Naharnet/September 03/18/The former head of the Internal Security Forces anti-cyber crime bureau, Lt. Col. Suzanne al-Hajj, will appear before the Permanent Military Court on Tuesday as a criminal defendant, LBCI station said on Monday. Al-Hajj, and hacker Elie Ghabash, are accused of “fabricating” a spying for Israel case against Lebanese comedian Ziad Itani. Itani was detained in November 2017 on charges of “collaborating with Israel.” He was released in March 2018 after 109 days in detention, after which an arrest warrant was issued for al-Hajj. Al-Hajj and Ghabash were arrested on suspicion of fabricating electronic evidence to “frame” Itani. Media reports said al-Hajj had asked the hacker to fabricate a case against Itani to take revenge on him for posting a screenshot of a 'like' she had placed on a tweet by controversial TV director Charbel Khalil. The 'like' cost al-Hajj her job as head of the ISF anti-cybercrime unit. Media reports have said that al-Hajj and Ghabash are involved in other hacking attacks.

One dead in Mkalles gas explosion

BEIRUT/An Nahar/September 03/18/One person was killed while three others were injured Monday after a gas explosion rocked a printing house in Mkalles. Investigators visited the site to determine the cause of the accident at the request of the public prosecution, most likely a result of a gas leak. The three injured were transported to a nearby hospital and are being treated for burn wounds.

NAYA | Joumana Haddad: A strong voice for a secular Lebanon
Ghadir Hamadi/Annahar/September 03/18
Haddad has always been criticized for her controversial writing, and loud-spoken opinions on sexism, racism, confessionalism and discrimination in Lebanon.
BEIRUT: A feminist, activist, international best-selling author, and one of the secular and independent candidates in the 2018 Lebanese Parliamentary elections, Joumana Haddad sure has a lot on her plate.
With her new book, “The Seamstress’s Daughter,” slated for release this coming fall, and her new show on Al Hurra TV that will be launched in October, Haddad seems to always be on the go. “I wake up every day with so much passion, energy, and love for what I do that I really think I can move mountains,” she told Annahar.
Her forthcoming book is her first novel after numerous poetry collections, essays and other literary genres. It’s written in English and has been translated to Arabic, and it will also be published soon in French and Spanish as well.
The novel is inspired by her maternal grandmother, who was a survivor of the Armenian genocide, and it revolves around the lives of four successive generations of women in the Middle East who, between 1915 and 2015, lived through the Armenian genocide, the Israeli war on Palestine, the Lebanese civil war, and the Syrian war.
As for her upcoming TV show, it’s about freedom of expression in the Arab world. “It’s pretty much a reflection of all the human values I defend and stand for, mainly our right to be free. Censorship is an insult to our dignity and intelligence,” Haddad said.
She’s also waiting for the results of her appeal at the Constitutional Court contesting the results of the elections.
But Haddad is especially excited about officiating in a few days the wedding of a couple who didn’t want a religious marriage but wanted a ceremony. “They had a civil marriage in Cyprus, and I’ll be performing a secular ritual for them here, in the presence of their family and friends, where I get to be the one who marries them," she said.
Haddad stressed the importance of civil marriage, as she thinks it’s one of the steps that are “key for Lebanon to become a real and inclusive country.”
Haddad has always been criticized for her controversial writing, and loud-spoken opinions on sexism, racism, confessionalism and discrimination in Lebanon.
“There’s a lot of hate against me, but there’s also a lot of love and support for me,” she said. “I simply choose to focus on the positive, and guess what? It’s amazing.”
Her passion for the things she believes in motivates her, and “it shows in the way I write and speak”, she said. Growing up in war-torn Beirut in the 70s and 80s, Haddad has always found that dreaming and planning for the future is the best support to survive the tough days.
“Even if the present is completely dark and calling for desperation, dreaming big, planning well, and educating yourself will ultimately give you a better tomorrow.”
She gives great credit to reading books as a child and an adolescent and advises young girls to stay curious and thirsty for knowledge.
“It’s about keeping curiosity alive and not surrendering to the bad situations around us, because we’ve all been there; we’re only human after all,” she told Annahar. As a mother of two sons, 26 and 19, Haddad noted that it hasn’t always been easy raising children while learning and working at the same time.
“My kids grew up with a very busy and ambitious mother, and I believe it’s been a good example for them, to know that women are entitled to have careers and achieve a lot,” she said. To her own mother, Haddad represents a “vengeance on a tough life.” “Both my parents come from modest families, so they struggled to send me and my brother to a private school to give us a good education,” she said. This is why public schooling was on top of her agenda when she was running for the elections. “It’s so unfair that education should be conditioned by how much money your parents have.”
“People always ask me why I’m so angry all the time, but how can I not be?” she asked. “Until this stops being a discriminative, classist, sexist state, I’m going to stay angry, because I care,” she said. “I can’t be indifferent.”
Haddad insists that a person really has to love Lebanon in order to resist the urge of leaving or simply becoming indifferent. “If you don’t love this place you can’t handle it, but you need to know that it’s your absolute right as a Lebanese to live here, and to live here with dignity,” she said. “However, change doesn’t happen on its own. You need to go out there and claim it.”
She advises young people to find something they’re really passionate about, like a cause that moves them, and work for it.
“It’s impossible to fix the corrupt system all at once, but let each and every one of us pick a battle and stay committed to it, even if winning seems impossible now. Ultimately, the unjust system will surrender and the change will happen. Just let us dare to believe that it will,” she told Annahar.
Exclusive – Lebanese Govt. Failures Transform Litani River into Polluted Dump
Beirut - Nazeer Rida/ /Asharq Al-Awast/Monday, 3 September, 2018
Lebanon’s Litani River Authority sent dozens of legal warnings to factories and municipalities over their dumping of waste and sewage in the county’s longest river. A video posted by the Authority and circulated on social media showed how the river was being transformed into a polluted dump.Failure to address this problem can be blamed on successive government negligence and waste of water resources. The situation has deteriorated to such an extent that farmers are no longer using the river for their irrigation. Pleas sent to the government since 2016 have failed in saving the river. The 170-km long Litani crosses through 20 percent of Lebanese territory. It starts from the eastern Bekaa region and ends in the Mediterranean in the South. In addition to the waste being dumped into it, its banks have also been polluted by trash and dotted by construction violations. Furthermore, the over-use of its water for irrigation has led to a drop in its levels. Lebanon approved in April a law to protect the Litani waters, but the violations have persisted, as have the warnings. Speaker Nabih Berri even highlighted the issue during his weekly meeting with lawmakers on Wednesday. He stressed the need to implement the water law and persecute the violators. The parliamentary public works, transportation, energy and water committee is set to convene later this week to take the necessary decisions over the Litani. Head of the Litani River Authority Sami Alawieh told Asharq Al-Awsat that telephone calls have not ceased from the sides who have been received complaints over their violations. The files have since been sent to the judiciary “and it alone resolves this issue,” he stressed. He vowed to continue his mission “until the end” to ensure that the wrongs against the people have been righted.“The only salvation lies in implementing the Lebanese laws,” Alawieh said.
Power plants under threat
Four hydroelectric power plants have been constructed on the river and they are now all facing the possibility of being shut down due to the drop in water levels. Irrigation and fish farms along the river are also being threatened due to its pollution. Touristic sites along its banks have also been affected due to a drop in river levels. Previous governments have made proposals on the need to clean up the Litani and its basin, but ultimately, the problem can only be solved by addressing the reasons that have left the environment in such a dire state.Alawieh noted that the authorities approved a $70 million plan in 2016 to implement various projects on the Litani over a seven-year period. They include a sewage treatment plant and cleaning the lower and upper basins of the river. Indeed, he said, the Council for Development and Reconstruction has already kicked off work in these projects. He noted, however, that studies on the sewage treatment plants were not thoroughly planned and the plants that have already started operation are not functioning properly enough to tackle the problems. Moreover, there are delays in launching the construction of the remaining plants, he revealed.“Even the construction of these plants have compounded the problem,” lamented Alawieh.
Proposals have been made to municipalities to take temporary measures to treat their sewage until permanent ones are found, he said.
Sewage and garbage
Alawieh remarked, however, that even these proposals were faced with hurdles, leading him to assert that the problem cannot be solved as long as the violations on the Litani remain.“They must be ceased immediately,” he stressed. These violations include garbage dumps that have been set up near the river basin or the river itself. Municipalities have also dumped their sewage in the river and dug arbitrary irrigation wells. Untreated industrial waste has also been dumped there. Ministries, said Alawieh, should also be blamed for their lenient approach in addressing the problem. He singled out former Environment Minister Mohammed al-Mashnouq’s decision to simply extend deadlines to violators to resolve their transgressions. Instead of sending warnings to factories at fault, they should have been forced to shut down their operations, he added. The Environment Ministry at the time claimed that it does not have the authority to close factories, saying that the government alone enjoyed such a power. Legal warning have been sent by the Litani River Authority through the judiciary and great efforts have been exerted, through the cooperation of the security forces station in the Bekaa city of Zahle, to crackdown on factory violations, he told Asharq Al-Awsat. He also urged the Environment Ministry to “rectify the decision” taken by Mashnouq. The solution, he explained, calls for the ministries of industry, environment and energy and the Council for Development and Reconstruction to devise a time-frame for the implementation of the Litani projects in order to speed up their execution. According to the law, the Litani River Authority does not have the power to crackdown on violations, which forced it to resort to the judiciary, Alawieh said.

AUB officially opens new academic year
Mon 03 Sep 2018/NNA
The American University of Beirut (AUB) opened its new academic year in an official ceremony held in Assembly Hall, on campus.
The ceremony was headed by AUB President Dr. Fadlo R. Khuri. Chairman of the Board of Trustees Dr. Philip S. Khoury, Provost Mohammad Harajli, deans, trustees, vice presidents, faculty, students and various university stakeholders were present in the ceremony.
Entry of the Academic Procession, comprising the president, deans, faculty and trustees signaled the start of the ceremony. This was followed by the Lebanese National Anthem. President Khuri then took the podium and delivered his address, entitled: "A life in the world"; he said: "Today, we have the privilege and the responsibility launch towards an even more energetic successful controversial 2018, after a highly impactful and successful academic year just concluded. A great deal was accomplished and yet much seems incomplete somehow."
"Lost in the current immigration noise is the institutional memory of America's rise to scientific primacy in the mid-20th century, fueled by the immigration of brilliant, creative minorities seeking escape from the very same ethnic nationalism we are seeing on the rise today." He added that Vannevar Bush, sensing the trend of Einstein's and Fermi's immigrating to America in the interwar period, "developed the blueprint for the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. Within 20 years, the US became the world leader in scientific discovery as well as military power."
"Today, America, a nation that disproportionately relies on international students and doctoral graduates to accelerate its scientific research mission and its technological and industrial age, may find those students in short supply. The US is faced with policies that not only discourage immigrants from the six mainly-Muslim majority nations that were outlined in President Trump's original travel ban, but also has manage to dissuade many from the far and near east, as well as some parts of Africa from committing to graduate and post-doctoral studies in the country that once harbored the world's most endangered refugees," he continued.
"But AUB is different. We inhabit, lead, and embody a patch of fertile dissonance in the Middle East, ever since 152 years ago, when Presbyterian missionaries founded the American University of Beirut as the Syrian Protestant College. Far more successful at disseminating a secular, liberal arts education than it had been in religious conversion, the university took advantage of Lebanon's liberal and diverse population to become a world leader in inclusive education. Battered but unbowed by the Lebanese Civil War, the university has gradually emerged that much stronger for its role as the preeminent seat of higher learning in the Arab world, all while maintaining the spirit of a liberal arts school. One thing we cannot compromise on-and something the American University of Beirut does very well-is to dispel the myths that contribute to the fear of the other. We accept students from every political spectrum, every religious background, and 22% of our students are international. While many graduates retain the same political and religious views that they brought with them, they are far less likely to believe in violent confrontation after an AUB experience, and far more accepting of individuals who are different from them in every way. Several universities in Europe have taken on the mantle of inclusive education as a tool for social mobility and societal cohesion, focusing on excellence through diversity," Khuri said.
"Over 13 years in my previous occupation at Emory, we led the recruitment of 95 faculty members, and never once worried about an individual's background, except with regard to talent, character and fit," he added.
"In my generation Europe was viewed less warmly than the US, in large part due to its Colonial history, a source of suspicion and contempt among the recently colonized and many would say with good reason. "The American Dream" was prevalent even among young Arabs whose disdain for American foreign policy did not prevent them from admiring a United States genuinely coming to grip with its racist past to forge a more accepting, more inclusive, ethnically diverse, more multicultural future," he added. "This was the America that I had grown up dreaming of, not the constricted, indifferent, increasingly inward-looking US that we have observed lately."
Khuri then spoke about his plea for inclusivity, based on observations from 23 years of his work, "Inclusivity allows you to select, admit, nurture and unleash the very best and brightest, the very people who we can help to ensure a better, fairer, more just and more inclusive world. In fact, recent data from American cities and towns which had an increase in immigration demonstrated a drop in the incidence of violent crimes, despite the publicizing of rare crimes attributable to refugees and unregistered aliens, in their country and in the US, these peoples bring drive, diversity, as well as a palpable thirst for a better tomorrow."
"Like Einstein and Fermi and so many others before you, you emigrated to the United States and became a citizen of that great land, contributing so richly to its cultural and academic capital. So let me say as an American citizen myself, pass us more immigrants please, Mr. Trump. And as a Lebanese citizen I say the same to General Aoun. Our future as a human race, not just our scientific future, which is substantially threatened by a downturn in graduate school education and events, our future as a human race in the critical areas of the humanities, science, engineering and medicine strongly suggests that discouraging one group from reaching for their dream can have far broader consequences than those one might intend. Certainly Lebanon and indeed the Arab World's future is also dependent on economic and social reforms at a minimum. These are the kinds of reforms that will allow the children of Lebanese mothers to become full Lebanese citizens, so that this tiny country can retain, nurture and empower more of the very best and brightest," Khuri continued.
He said that one of the priorities in the coming years is to "create a 100 million dollar fund to get the best and the brightest students from Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Iraq to start to study at AUB to bond together as leaders."
He concluded, "We're committed to raising this money, the Board of Trustees and I, so that these people can create lives that are more abundant, more meaningful, and more powerful."
Following Dr. Khuri's address was a speech by Sir Fraser Stoddart, a Nobel Laureate, and a chemist of stature who has played a leading role in the development of mechanically interlocking molecules leading to the design and synthesis of molecular machines with myriad applications in industry, health and medicine, environmental protection, personal care, nutrition, and more. Stoddart spoke about his experience in the "university of life", and advised the youth in the audience on how they can face the opportunities and obstacles awaiting them in their lives. He said,
"Life is not a bowl of cherries. The chances are that you will meet these occasions when everything seems to be against you and this is the real test."

Hezbollah’s public defiance will do little to halt tribunal findings
Makram Rabah/The Arab Weekly/September 03/18
Neither Hariri’s blood nor his legacy will be washed away by the likes of Nasrallah and his Syrian allies.
Most Lebanese over the age of 18 can recall precisely where they were at 12.55pm, February 14, 2005. This is not entirely due to the huge explosion that ripped through Beirut but because that was the moment when larger-than-life former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was killed.
Hariri was not simply a Lebanese politician nor was he one of the traditional sectarian chieftains who commanded a militia throughout the Lebanese civil war (1975-90). The son of a citrus farmer from the southern city of Sidon and a self-made billionaire, Hariri was the central figure within Lebanon’s post-war reconstruction and the public face of the country’s international resurgence after years of bloodshed and destruction.
Lebanon has still not recovered from his assassination, with the state incapable of developing either a serviceable infrastructure or reversing its failing economy.
Hariri’s killers are yet to be brought to justice by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), an international judicial body established in 2009 by the United Nations.
Much of the STL’s ineffectiveness lies in its mandate and endlessly protracted operating procedures. Yet, despite those obstacles, the STL is to shortly enter its closing stages, after which the court will deliberate and issue a verdict within the next few months.
Under normal circumstances, this run-of-the-mill judicial sequence could be expected to bring nothing but relief to a public troubled by Hariri’s death. However, in this case, the main suspects in the assassination are high-ranking members of Hezbollah’s elite special operations unit and that changes everything.
This is among the factors that have led to Hezbollah taking a very aggressive stance towards the STL, accusing it of implementing a Western, Zionist agenda far removed from the justice it was supposed to serve.
In principle, the mandate of the STL restricts its jurisdiction to individuals. Consequently, no political entity or state can be implicated. Nevertheless, Hezbollah stands accused in the court of public opinion of Hariri’s death, an accusation bolstered by tangible evidence in the case.
In his most recent televised speech, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah accused Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, Rafik Hariri’s son, of using the tribunal to influence the shape of the government he has been attempting to form since May.
Using a belligerent tone, Nasrallah proclaimed the tribunal’s verdict would “not mean anything to us at all and its rulings are of no value, regardless of whether they are condemnation or acquittal rulings.”
Nasrallah warned that anyone hoping the STL verdict would carry long-term consequences for Lebanon’s political future could be “playing with fire.”
Nasrallah’s protestations run counter to the facts, which stand to further divide Hezbollah and the Sunni constituency. Contrary to what Nasrallah is peddling, the formation of the government has stalled, not because of the STL, but because Hariri is refusing to relinquish his veto and allow Hezbollah and its main Christian ally, President Michel Aoun, to normalise relations with the Assad regime in Syria.
Additionally, the Free Patriotic Movement, under the leadership of Aoun’s son-in-law Gebran Bassil, has refused any compromise, further frustrating Hariri’s efforts to form a government.
More important, while Hezbollah might claim it does not care about the STL and its findings, the Lebanese at large genuinely do. Across Lebanon, there is a sincere thirst for justice and closure for their slain prime minister, not merely because they want to cherish his memory but because justice in Hariri’s case might protect them from a similar fate.
The Lebanese, largely against their will, have adjusted to the presence of this Iran-imposed militia. Nasrallah, by intimidating the Lebanese into denying Rafik Hariri justice, is the one who is playing with fire, a sectarian fire that, if unleashed, would not stop burning until it devoured Lebanon and its self-appointed protectors.
No one is under any illusion that the tribunal’s verdict would translate into actual arrests or that Nasrallah will hand the perpetrators to authorities. What is certain is that neither Hariri’s blood nor his legacy will be washed away by the likes of Nasrallah and his Syrian allies.
A 1,000-kilogram bomb might have silenced Rafik Hariri in 2005 but it will not stop the Lebanese from hearing the verdict of the STL, a verdict that will expose the wolves in sheep’s clothing that lurk in our midst.
Written By Makram Rabah
**Makram Rabah is a lecturer at the American University of Beirut, Department of History. He is the author of A Campus at War: Student Politics at the American University of Beirut, 1967-1975.
The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on September 03-04/18
New Iraq Parliament Holds First Session despite Political Divisions
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 3 September, 2018/The newly-elected Iraqi parliament convened its first session on Monday despite political divisions that saw rival camps claim to have secured the largest bloc at the legislature. The largest bloc holds sway over naming a new prime minister, who will be tasked with forming a new government. The new parliament faces the twin tasks of rebuilding the north of the country following the war against the ISIS terrorist group, while rehabilitating services to the south, where severe water and electricity shortages have fueled protests. "We must focus in the next stage on reconstruction, services, and providing jobs. It is the time for economic reforms and expanding our security achievements," said caretaker Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi in an address to the 329-seat parliament. Speaking at the session, President Fuad Massum underlined the need to confront extremism and poverty. Speaker Salim al-Jabouri stressed that the “country was in dire need to preserve its political gains.”Lawmakers must now select a parliament speaker before electing a president. The president then appoints a prime minister to form a government. On Sunday, MPs led by cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, of the Sairoun alliance, and Abadi, of the Victory alliance, said they created a bloc that would give them a majority in parliament. The Sadr-Abadi alliance included 20 electoral lists that collectively won 187 seats, a document published by the state news agency showed. It is now in the lead position to form a government. A rival grouping led by Hadi al-Ameri, of the Fateh alliance, and former PM Nouri al-Maliki, of the State of Law coalition, responded by saying it had formed its own alliance that would be the largest bloc after it got some lawmakers to defect from the other group. They held a news conference late on Sunday to say they in fact had the largest parliamentary bloc, with 145 seats.

Iraq's Sadr and Abadi Form Biggest Parliamentary Bloc
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 03/18/Sixteen political groupings in Iraq, including those of nationalist Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr and outgoing Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, late Sunday reached an accord to create the biggest bloc in parliament, capable of forming a new government. A close aide to Abadi told AFP that the bloc consists of 177 deputies, which is more than half of the 329 lawmakers elected in legislative polls. As the largest bloc it would be tasked by the president to form the government. Iraq's political system is designed to ensure that no one person or party can dominate in order to avoid any return of a dictatorship following the ouster of strongman Saddam Hussein. The accord came just several hours before the first session of the Iraqi parliament which was elected in May. Abadi, backed by the West, who came in third in the elections with 42 seats, could possibly remain in his post. According to a copy of the list of signatories to the new accord seen by AFP, it includes Sadr's alliance with communists which won the most seats in the election (54 seats). On Monday, parliament will hold its inaugural session during which it must elect a speaker -- traditionally a member of Iraq's Sunni Muslim community -- as well two deputy speakers. Parliamentarians will then have 30 days to elect a new president for the country, a position that goes to a member of the Kurdish minority with at least two-thirds of the vote. Kurdish parties have yet to officially announce candidates for the top but largely symbolic post of president. The new president will then have 15 days to task the biggest parliamentary bloc to form a new government. The new coalition accord also includes the Wataniya list of outgoing secular vice president Iyad Allawi (21 seats) as a signatory along with several Sunni lists as well as Shiite cleric Ammar al-Hakim's Al-Hikma list (19 seats).

Former Dutch Defense Minister Appointed UN Envoy to Iraq
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 3 September, 2018/Former Dutch Defense Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert was appointed on Saturday as the United Nations’ envoy to Iraq, to head a mission which plays an essential role in the country's political and economic spheres. She was named special representative and will head up the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), a statement from the organization said on Saturday. She will replace Jan Kubis, a Slovak former foreign minister who took up the post in February 2015. During his tenure the mission tried to curb internal conflicts, such as the crisis which erupted between the autonomous Kurdish region and the central government in Baghdad. Hennis-Plasschaert, 45, served as the Netherlands' defense minister from 2012 until 2017. She was also a lawmaker in her home country and at the European Parliament, as well as working for the European Commission. UNAMI was established in 2003 by a UN Security Council resolution, at the request of the Iraqi government, and the mission was expanded four years later. It advises the government on matters including political dialogue and reconciliation, in addition to helping with elections and facilitating dialogue between Iraq and neighboring countries.

Turkish Finance Minister Says Weak Lira Will Not Threaten Banking Sector
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 3 September, 2018/Turkish Financial Minister Berat Albayrak stressed on Sunday that the deterioration of the lira was not a threat to the banking sector.His remarks stood in stark contrast to the predictions of major rating agencies that warned that the lira sell-off could weaken lenders’ assets. In the event of a problem at banks, Ankara would be willing to step in with support, Albayrak told Reuters. The lira has fallen some 40 percent against the dollar so far this year, hit by concerns about President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s control over monetary policy and a worsening diplomatic rift with the United States. Economists say the central bank needs to hike rates decisively to rein in double-digit inflation and support the currency. Erdogan, a self-described “enemy of interest rates”, wants low rates to keep a credit-fueled growth boom going. “The central bank in Turkey has been maybe more independent than those in other countries,” Albayrak, Erdogan’s son-in-law, said. The bank will take steps “to continue this independence,” he said. Turkey has reached a point where it requires a “full-fledged fight against inflation,” Albayrak said. Investors have been unswayed by similar language in recent weeks. The central bank on Monday signaled that the worsening outlook for inflation was becoming a bigger risk, saying its monetary stance would be adjusted at its next meeting on September 13.“Recent developments regarding the inflation outlook indicate significant risks to price stability,” it said after data showed inflation hit its highest level last month in nearly a decade and a half, at 17.9 percent. Relations with the United States, a NATO ally and major trading partner, have soured over a series of issues including Turkey’s detention of an American pastor on terrorism charges. For years, Turkish firms have borrowed in dollars and euros, drawn by lower interest rates. The currency slump has driven up the cost of servicing that debt and investors fear that banks could now be hit by a wave of bad loans. Around $179 billion of Turkey’s external debt matures in the year to July 2019, according to JPMorgan estimates. Most of that - around $146 billion - is owed by the private sector. Ratings agencies Moody’s and Fitch both sounded alarm about the outlook for banks last week, with Fitch estimating that banks’ foreign-currency lending now stood at around 43 percent of all loans. “I have no reason to be worried at this stage. But we are aware how important the banking sector is. We are in a close coordination and cooperation with our banks and the (banking watchdog) BDDK,” Albayrak said. “We are not expecting any problems in the banking sector, but in case of a problem, we will support them in every way.”He also dismissed concerns about debt, including in the private sector. He said the current account deficit will be “considerably below” forecasts by year-end and “much stronger” in 2019.
Turkey Inflation Surges to 15-Year High in August
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 03/18/Inflation in Turkey rose again in August to nearly 18 percent, official statistics showed on Monday, a record since late 2003 and coming after the Turkish lira dramatically weakened against the US dollar last month. Consumer price rose 17.9 percent in August from the same month in the previous year, up from 15.85 percent in July, according to the Turkish statistics office, increasing pressure on the central bank to hike interest rates.
Iran FM to Meet with Assad as Syria Showdown Looms
Associated Press/Naharnet/September 03/18/Iran's foreign minister held talks with officials in Syria on Monday as Syrian forces and their allies prepare for an assault on the last opposition stronghold in the country.Syria's foreign ministry and Iran's state-run IRNA news agency said Mohammad Javad Zarif was received by Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad upon his arrival in Damascus, and was to meet later with Syrian President Bashar Assad. Iran has lent crucial military and economic support to Assad throughout the seven-year civil war and the discussions are expected to focus on the looming battle for Idlib. Assad has vowed to defeat the opposition in its last refuge in the northwestern province if the rebels do not surrender to government rule. Idlib and the surrounding area is home to some 3 million people — nearly half of them already displaced more than once by the civil war — choosing to live in opposition areas. U.N. officials believe an offensive on Idlib would trigger a wave of displacement that could uproot an estimated 800,000 people and discourage refugees from returning home. Thousands of government troops and allied fighters have been massing in areas surrounding the province. The leaders of Iran, Turkey, and Russia are expected to meet in Iran this week to discuss the situation in Syria.

Iran FM says ‘terrorists must be purged’ from Syria’s Idlib
Associated Press/September 03/18/DAMASCUS, Syria: Iran’s foreign minister said at the start of a visit to Damascus on Monday that “terrorists must be purged” from Syria’s Idlib and the entire northwestern province returned to government control. Mohammad Javad Zarif’s comments in Damascus were reported by Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency and came as Syrian forces and their allies are preparing for an assault on Idlib, the last opposition stronghold in the country. “Syria’s territorial integrity should be safeguarded and all tribes and groups, as one society, should start the reconstruction process, and the refugees should return to their homes,” Zarif said. He met with Syrian President Bashar Assad and his Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, who is just back from a visit to Moscow. The visit comes days before the leaders of Iran, Turkey, and Russia are expected to meet in Iran to discuss the situation in Idlib.
During their meeting Assad and Zarif discussed the agenda of the summit in Iran. A statement from Assad’s office said Iran and Syria “had similar views on the different issues” to be discussed. It provided no further details. Zarif said it was necessary to consult “with our Syrian friends” ahead of the Sept. 7 summit, according to Fars. Iran has lent crucial military and economic support to Assad throughout the seven-year civil war and the discussions are expected to focus on the decisive battle for Idlib. Assad has vowed to defeat the opposition in its last refuge in the northwestern province if the rebels do not surrender to government rule. Idlib and the surrounding area is home to some 3 million people — nearly half of them already displaced more than once by the civil war. Tens of thousands of people fled to Idlib after surrendering in government offensives elsewhere, choosing to relocate to an opposition-held area rather than risk reprisals or forced conscription at the hands of the government. U.N. officials believe an offensive on Idlib would trigger a wave of displacement that could uproot an estimated 800,000 people and discourage refugees from returning home. Thousands of government troops and allied fighters have been massing in areas surrounding the province. In their meeting Monday, Assad and Zarif also discussed what they called “western pressure” on their two countries, in apparent reference to the U.S. sanctions on Iran and calls for limiting Iran’s role in Syria. Israel has grown nervous of Iran’s growing presence in Syria and threatened to prevent a build-up of pro-Iranian forces near its frontiers with Syria. Russia, another Syria ally, and Damascus have also said that western countries are preparing to carry out strikes against Syria ahead of the Idlib offensive. They claim such threats were part of the west’s attempt to undermine Syria’s drive to restore control over all its territories. The U.S. and France have warned an Idlib offensive would trigger a humanitarian crisis and warned that a chemical attack in Idlib would prompt a western retaliation. In the statement from the Syrian President’s office, Assad and Zarif said that resorting to “threats and pressure reflect the failure of those countries to realize their plans for the region after Syria and Iran confronted them.”

UNRWA Expresses ‘Deep Regret’ at US Decision to Cut off Funds
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 3 September, 2018/Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Pierre Krahenbuhl stressed on Monday that the agency’s work will continue despite the United States’ decision to cut off aid. “I express deep regret and disappointment at the nature of the US decision,” he said in an open letter to Palestinian refugees and the agency’s staff. Millions of Palestinian refugees “cannot simply be wished away,” he added. UNRWA provides services to about 5 million Palestinian refugees across Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank and Gaza. Most are descendants of some 700,000 Palestinians who were driven out of their homes or fled fighting in the 1948 war that led to Israel’s creation. The growing refugee count was cited by Washington, UNRWA’s biggest donor, in its decision last week to withhold funding, and has potential ramifications for the Palestinians’ pursuit of a right of return to land now in Israel. Krahenbuhl said “the protracted nature of the Palestine refugee crisis” was not unique. He said the children and grandchildren of long-displaced refugees in Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, Congo and elsewhere are also recognized as refugees and assisted by the United Nations. “No matter how often attempts are made to minimize or delegitimize the individual and collective experiences of Palestine refugees, the undeniable fact remains that they have rights under international law and represent a community of 5.4 million men, women and children who cannot simply be wished away,” he said. A day earlier, he said from Jordan: “We are not mandated to deal with the politics. It is the utter failure of the parties and the international community to resolve this conflict that explains why Palestine refugees are still refugees 70 years on.”
“It has nothing to do with an UNRWA perpetuation of that situation.""The investment in young boys and girls... (and) in opportunities for their future is an investment in stability and therefore preserves the opportunities for peace," Kraehenbuehl told The Associated Press separately in an interview Sunday. "It is clear to me this decision has been made for political reasons and not in relation to UNRWA's performance or the results that we have achieved," he said. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described UNRWA on Sunday as “the refugee perpetuation agency” whose money “should be taken and be used to really help rehabilitate the refugees, whose real number is a sliver of that reported by UNRWA”. The United States paid out $60 million (£46.5 million) to UNRWA in January, withholding another $65 million, from a promised $365 million for the year.  Krahenbuhl said Arab Gulf states had injected funds but UNRWA still needed more than $200 million. In Lebanon on Monday, UNRWA opened its school year as scheduled. Studies in UNRWA-run schools in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip got under way on Wednesday. Claudio Cordone, director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon, told Reuters that funds would last only until the end of the month but the agency would continue to raise money to ensure the schools remain open. Washington’s move against UNRWA was the latest in a series of US and Israeli policy decisions that have angered Palestinians and raised international concern. They include Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December, the moving of the US Embassy to the contested city in May and Israel’s adoption of a “nation-state” law in July that says only Jews have the right of self-determination in the country.

Abbas Interested in Confederation with Jordan, Israel
Ramallah - Kifah Zboun/Asharq Al Awsat/September 03/18/Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has expressed interest in a tripartite confederation with Jordan and Israel. In a meeting with Israeli lawmakers and activists on Sunday, Abbas referred to a conversation he had with US envoys Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt in Ramallah in 2017. The envoys “asked me whether I believed in a confederation with Jordan. I said, yes, I want a three-way confederation with Jordan and Israel,” Abbas said. He added rhetorically, “I asked them if Israelis would agree to such a proposal.” But Abbas did not elaborate on any further details as such a proposal was not discussed widely. He accused the United States and Israel of revoking the possibility of achieving peace, and he even described the US as an enemy of the Palestinians. He said US President Donald Trump and his Middle East peace envoys were “hostile” to the Palestinian people, citing Washington’s decision to dramatically cut aid. The President met members of the Israeli Peace Now group, including executive director Shaqued Morag, and members of the Knesset Meretz MK Mossi Raz (a former Peace Now director) and Ksenia Svetlova. Peace activists from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party attended the meeting as well. At the meeting, Abbas said he supports Israel’s security, underlining that the Palestinian and the Israeli security forces work together “on a daily basis.”“I have a problem with Netanyahu, not with Likud,” Abbas stressed. He further said that the Israeli government refuses to conduct negotiations with the Palestinians, despite the fact that Russia, Japan, Belgium, and the Netherlands have repeatedly offered to host peace talks. Abbas also criticized the US for its alleged determination “to completely destroy UNRWA,” the international agency caring for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians considered refugees by much of the international community. “Seventy percent of Gaza residents are refugees. Most of them live off UNRWA’s assistance,” Abbas told his Israeli guests. “How is it possible that on one hand you cancel UNRWA and on the other hand help Palestinian residents?,” he asked in reference to a recent US decision to end all funding for the UN agency.

Palestinian Foreign Ministry Calls for Cooperation to Document Settler Violations
Ramallah - Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 3 September, 2018/The Palestinian Foreign Ministry called for holding a meeting soon with all official and non-official institutions to protect the rights of Palestinian citizens against Israeli settler violations. It aims to speed up the registration and documentation of each violation to file a lawsuit against Israel as an occupying power before all relevant regional and international institutions and courts.“It is no longer sufficient to issue statements condemning these violations because they are not deterring the occupation authorities from stopping their repressive and arbitrary measures,” the ministry said in a statement. “Instead, they are still looting lands, deepening and expanding their settlements, displacing Palestinian citizens and carrying out daily attacks on the people’s homes, trees, properties and holy sites,” it added. The Foreign Ministry denounced ongoing attacks by settler militias against Palestinian citizens, their properties and crops in the occupied West Bank under the protection of Israeli forces. The latest of these attacks was their confiscation of 20 olive trees in Burin village south of the northern West Bank city of Nablus. It also condemned the incident in which 30 Givat Ronen settlers hurled rocks at citizen Bashir Hamzeh’s home on the outskirts of Burin. The ministry stated that the confiscation of Palestinian lands in various parts of the West Bank is ongoing, noting the expansion of the Beit Aryeh settlement, north of Ramallah. It reiterated its warning against allowing crimes committed by settler militias deployed on the hills of the West Bank “to become the norm.”It also warned against ignoring statistics that show the great suffering and the heavy losses incurred by the Palestinian people due to this “organized Jewish terrorism.”
“These crimes are part of a clear division of roles between the Israeli government and the settler militias to consecrate the occupation, confiscate more Palestinian lands and gradually uproot the people to ultimately Judaize large parts of the West Bank,” the statement stressed.

Sources: Syrian Regime Forces Await Orders to Attack Idlib
Beirut - London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 3 September, 2018/Syrian regime forces are awaiting presidential orders to kick off an offensive against the province of Idlib, informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat on Sunday.The Syrian sources said the forces of regime leader Bashar Assad are on full deployment at all fronts in the east, west and south of the province, in addition to Sahel al-Ghab, a flat expanse of farms and grasslands that stretches across Hama and Idlib. “Regime forces have completed deployment on the outskirts of military fronts from where they would carry out attacks against Idlib. Other regime forces have also completed military preparations in the countryside of east Latakia ahead of attacking opposition-controlled areas from where they would be able to reach Jisr al-Shaghour, one of the biggest cities in the countryside of west Idlib,” the sources said. Rami Abdel-Rahman, director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Sunday Syrian forces had delayed launching the Idlib battle due to “contacts held lately to find a Turkish solution that pleases all parties and would therefore avoid fighting in the north of Syria.”He said “there are also Russian efforts to reach a deal with opposition factions,” adding that at the same time, “the regime is ready for a battle.”The monitoring group’s director explained that opposition factions were digging trenches and underground tunnels to prevent regime forces from making any future advance in the area. Also, civilians were forced to move towards Turkish-controlled areas in the Afrin region, in northern Syria. Meanwhile, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem told the Russia-24 broadcaster on Sunday that Syria does not look for any confrontation with Turkey. Ankara "should understand that Idlib is a Syrian province,” he said, adding that Assad had set a priority to liberate it either through reconciliations or military measures. Meanwhile, information about intense explosions at the military al-Mazzeh airfield remained unclear Sunday. Syria’s official SANA news outlet reported that the blasts were caused by an electrical short circuit at a munitions depot near the airport. However, Abdel Rahman told AFP that the Mazzeh airport, in the western suburbs of Damascus, was hit by a “possible Israeli missile.” The attack left two pro-regime fighters dead and wounded another 11.

US Welcomes Arab Coalition’s Statement on Operation in Yemen’s Saada

Washington - Muath al-Amri/Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 3 September, 2018/The United States has reiterated its confidence in the steps taken by the Saudi-led Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen to investigate a military operation in the northern region of Saada in August. The Joint Forces Command of the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen accepted on Saturday the findings of the Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT) regarding allegations surrounding one of the Arab coalition operations in Saada on August 9. The US welcomed the outcomes of the probe announced by Saudi Arabia, which bore responsibility for the operation and the precautionary measures to safeguard civilians. “The United States regards the Saudi-led Coalition's ‎announcement that it will review their rules of engagement, hold those at fault accountable, and compensate victims following the JIAT findings as an important first step toward full transparency and accountability,” the US State Department said in a statement. The Joint Forces Command of the Coalition expressed regret over the air strike error and extended its sympathies, condolences and solidarity to the families of the victims. “The Joint Forces Command will, as soon as the official findings are received, undertake legal proceedings to hold those at fault accountable according to the rules and regulations related to such cases,” it said. The Pentagon, for its part, also welcomed the Coalition’s announcement. Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said in a series of tweets that the Department of Defense appreciated the alliance’s decision “to take legal measures to ensure accountability and make the necessary improvements to its Rules of Engagement to prevent such a tragedy in the future.”Britain also hailed the findings in the investigation. “We welcome the speed of the investigation into the incident and the Coalition's announcement of regret and action to address the recommendations of that investigation,” said the British Foreign Office in a statement on Sunday. London also slammed the Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen for their attacks on Red Sea shipping routes and missile launches at Saudi territory, accusing them of showing a reckless disregard for civilian life. “The Government condemns the attacks against Red Sea shipping, and regular missile attacks against Saudi Arabia, which have been launched by the Houthis with Iranian support,” the statement added. “Coalition countries have a legitimate right to defend their own territory.”

Tunisia: Four Terrorists from Pro-ISIS Cell Killed

Tunis - Al Munji Al Saidani/Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 3 September, 2018/The Tunisian army and security forces have killed four terrorists and wounded three others in a joint operation. The Tunisian ministry of defense affirmed that the terrorists belong to Jund al-Khilafah that pledged allegiance to ISIS in 2015. Military sources revealed that a video showed the Tunisian army targeting terrorists through air strikes at Mghila mountains where the suspects had taken shelter. The army also destroyed sites where the terrorists were positioned. The ministry affirmed that four soldiers were injured after two landmines exploded during the operation. Since 2011, Tunisia has been facing armed terrorist groups spread across the western mountains. Often, the landmines hinder the work of the security and military units there. Security sources and experts estimate that around 100 terrorists operate in the area. The Tunisian authorities ordered security and military reinforcements at around 11 Tunisian border crossings with Algeria and Libya. These operations included combing the mountainous region of the country’s northwest and the heights of central Tunisia as well as setting ambushes and launching reconnaissance missions. Further, additional security units were ordered to go on joint patrols. Jund al-Khilafah has defected from Uqba ibn Nafi battalion affiliated with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. The first appearance of this battalion in Tunisia was in 2015.

Philippine President Kicks off Official Israel Visit
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 3 September, 2018/Controversial Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte kicked off on Monday a four-day official visit to Israel, where he was warmly welcomed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The two leaders oversaw the signing of three agreements in trade, science and care-giving. Tourism, labor and defense deals are also on Duterte’s agenda. Netanyahu highlighted the countries' long friendship, how the Philippines took in Jewish refugees after World War II and was the only Asian nation to vote for Israel's establishment. "We remember our friends and that friendship has blossomed over the years and especially over the last few years," Netanyahu told Duterte. Israel’s Government Press Office has said most of the visit will be closed to the media, an apparent precaution against faux pas by a president whose two-fisted crime-fighting tactics and rhetoric have raised hackles at home and abroad. Duterte has been accused of condoning human rights abuses in his deadly drug crackdown and has made controversial comments about the Holocaust. He drew outrage in 2016 when he compared his anti-drug campaign to the Nazi genocide of Jews in World War II and said he would be "happy to slaughter" 3 million addicts. He later apologized. Official Philippine police tallies place the number of suspects killed in police-led anti-drug raids at more than 4,500 since Duterte took office in June 2016. International human rights watchdogs have cited far higher death tolls. Duterte, a 73-year-old former government prosecutor, denies condoning extrajudicial killings but has openly threatened drug dealers with death. “There’s just no knowing what he will say from one moment to the next, so both sides want to keep this (Israel) visit as low-key as possible,” one official involved in the planning, and who asked not to be identified by name or nationality, told Reuters. Ernesto Abella, an official with the Foreign Ministry in Manila and a former Duterte spokesman, said the issue of moving the Philippine embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as the United States did in May, had not been discussed.

Philippines' Duterte Apologizes for Cursing Obama

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 03/18/Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte has apologised to former US president Barack Obama for calling him a "son of a whore" in 2016, which sparked a new low in their nations' long alliance. Duterte lobbed the insult in response to steady criticism from the United States over his violent drug crackdown, which has been a target for international condemnation. However, the Philippine president said his nation's relationship with America has since improved under President Donald Trump, who he described as a "good friend" who "speaks my language". "It would be appropriate also to say at this time to Mr. Obama that you are now a civilian and I am sorry for uttering those words," Duterte said Sunday in a speech before Filipinos in Israel. Duterte landed in Israel on Sunday for a four-day stay as the Philippines seeks to develop new sources of military hardware and nail down protections for its overseas workers. "If it is (in) your heart to forgive, you forgive. I have forgiven you, just like my girlfriends when I was still a bachelor... I have forgiven them also," the Philippine leader said in the same speech. After his election in mid-2016, Duterte quickly earned a reputation for using vulgar language against critics which his aides have tried to minimise or explain away. He branded Pope Francis and the then US ambassador to Manila "sons of whores". He also fired expletives at the United Nations and during a speech in the Philippines raised his middle finger in defiance to the European parliament. Duterte often rails at critics of his campaign to rid the Philippines of narcotics, which police say has killed 4,410 alleged drug dealers or users. Rights groups say the actual number of dead is triple that and could amount to crimes against humanity.
Duterte cursed Obama ahead of a regional summit in Laos two years ago prompting the US to cancel a meeting between the two leaders there. Obama later described Duterte as "a colourful guy" as he urged him to conduct his anti-narcotics campaign "the right way".
Duterte sparked new criticism ahead of his departure for Israel, blaming the high number of rapes in his hometown of Davao on the large number of beautiful women there. "They say there are many rape cases in Davao," Duterte said in a speech on Thursday. "For as long as there are many beautiful women, there will be many rape cases, too."Duterte has on several occasions made rape jokes in public since his presidential campaign. The latest comment was denounced by women's rights defenders."Beauty doesn't cause rape, rapists do," said Philippine lawmaker Risa Hontiveros, a Duterte critic.
Death Toll Hits 48 in Boko Haram Troop Attack
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 03/18/The death toll from a Boko Haram attack on a Nigerian army post on the border with Niger has risen to 48, military sources said on Monday. Scores of Boko Haram fighters in trucks stormed the base on Thursday in Zari village in northern Borno state and briefly seized it after a fierce battle. Boko Haram, which has been waging a deadly insurgency in Nigeria since 2009, has intensified attacks on military targets in recent months. At least 30 Nigerian soldiers were intially said to have been killed in Thursday's raid. "The casualty toll now stands at 48 with the recovery of 17 more bodies of soldiers in surrounding bushes in Zari by search and rescue teams," a military source who did not want to be named told AFP. "Search operations are still ongoing and more bodies are likely to be recovered."Another military source confirmed the new death toll. "So far (the) bodies of 48 troops have been recovered. Yesterday rescue teams found 17 bodies of fallen soldiers," he said, adding that they included two officers and 46 soldiers. "When the troops were overwhelmed by the terrorists they withdrew in different directions."

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September 03-04/18
Israel Signals It Could Hit Iranian Targets in Iraq
Reuters and Jonathan Lis/Haaretz/September 03/18
Responding to reports about Iranian ballistic missile deployment in Iraq, Defense Minister Lieberman says 'we retain total freedom of action, will not limit ourselves to Syria'. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman signaled on Monday that Israel could attack suspected Iranian military assets in Iraq, as it has done with scores of airstrikes in war-torn Syria.  Citing Iranian, Iraqi and Western sources, Reuters reported last week that Iran had transferred short-range ballistic missiles to Shi'ite allies in Iraq in recent months. Tehran and Baghdad formally denied that report.Israel sees in Iran's regional expansion an attempt to open up new fronts against it. Israel has repeatedly launched attacks in Syria to prevent any entrenchment of Iranian forces helping Damascus in the war. "We are certainly monitoring everything that is happening in Syria and, regarding Iranian threats, we are not limiting ourselves just to Syrian territory. This also needs to be clear," Lieberman told a conference hosted and aired live by the Israel Television News Company.
Asked if that included possible action in Iraq, Lieberman said: "I am saying that we will contend with any Iranian threat, and it doesn't matter from where it comes ... Israel's freedom is total. We retain this freedom of action.There was no immediate response from the government of Iraq, which is technically at war with Israel, nor from U.S. Central Command in Washington, which oversees U.S. military operations in Iraq.  Lieberman also touched upon the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying that he has no hopes of reaching a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians, and that Israel must act unilaterally.
According to Lieberman, "all negotiations have led us to a dead end" and Israel must "take responsibility and shape its policy on its own." Lieberman added that when he meets officials from Arab countries, "they are never the ones to bring up the Palestinian issue. It just doesn't interest them."
'Free hand'
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Saturday he was "deeply concerned" by the reported Iranian missile transfer.
"If true, this would be a gross violation of Iraqi sovereignty and of UNSCR 2231," he tweeted, referring to a UN Security Council resolution endorsing the 2015 international nuclear deal with Iran. The Trump administration abandoned that deal in May, citing, among other factors, Iran's ballistic missile projects.
According to regional sources, Israel began carrying out airstrikes in Syria in 2013 against suspected arms transfers and deployments by Iran and its Lebanese ally, the Shi'ite Hezbollah militia. These operations have largely been ignored by Russia, Damascus's big-power backer, and coordinated with other powers conducting their own military operations in Syria. A Western diplomat briefed on the coordination told Reuters last year that, while Israel had a "free hand" in Syria, it was expected not to take any military action in neighboring Iraq, where the United States has been struggling to help achieve stability since its 2003 invasion to topple Saddam Hussein. Despite their formal state of hostilities, Israel and Iraq have not openly traded blows in decades. In 1981, Israel's air force destroyed an Iraqi nuclear reactor near Baghdad. During the 1991 Gulf war, Iraq fired dozens of Scud rockets into Israel, which did not retaliate, out of consideration for U.S. efforts to maintain an Arab coalition against Saddam.
Israel made a plan for its commandos to assassinate Saddam in Iraq in 1992, but the plan was abandoned after a fatal training accident.

Iraq and the Fall of the Tango

Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al Awsat/September 03/18
I telephoned the Iraqi politician and he knew the purpose. He asked me about the date of my visit and I said: “After the formation of the government.” He laughed and said: “I’m afraid you’ll be late. As always, we’ve become victims of a game that’s bigger than us. The formation of the government practically needs a compromise between Brett McGurk (US presidential envoy for the international coalition against ISIS) and Qassem Soleimani (commander of the Quds Force). It is true that tensions between Tehran and Washington playing out on Iraqi territory are not new. But it's also true that this time they are approaching a bone-crushing battle, in the wake of the crisis caused by the withdrawal of Donald Trump’s administration from the nuclear deal and the US return to imposing painful sanctions on Iran.”
He added: “This is the first time the quest to form a government is so difficult. The post-Saddam era did not rebuild the relations between the components, but exacerbated them. Forget about the public statements of courtesy. The deterioration of Arab-Kurdish relations need no evidence since last year’s referendum and the ensuing disciplinary process. In addition, Shiite-Sunni relations are not at their best.
One should also not forget disputes within the same components. The Shiite house itself is divided despite the heated Iranian activity. Differences among Arab Sunnis are not concealed by a souvenir picture under one roof. The Kurdish house is already known for its divisions at the crossroads.”
He went on to say: “Since the fall of Saddam, there has been some kind of coexistence between the American and Iranian aggressors on Iraqi soil. Tehran has committed itself to this kind of co-existence to encourage Americans to withdraw first, and then to facilitate a nuclear deal under Barack Obama’s term. The situation is quite different today. The Iranian economy is in a difficult situation. If the Trump administration goes too far in the direction it has announced, it would be possible that Iran would decide to break the balance and curb the US influence. A battle of this kind will have significant costs, even for the internal balances in Iraq and for the country’s location in the regional alignment.”
The politician did not forget to remind me at the end of the phone conversation that Iraq is not alone, and that Lebanon is also trying to form a new government, which could be delayed due to the escalating crisis between Tehran and Washington. In fact, disagreements on the size of ministerial shares are associated with larger policies. I called another politician. The picture seemed bleaker: He started talking about recent news reports about Iran supplying its pro-Syrian militias in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen with missiles of varying ranges, as well as establishing missile factories in these countries.
“The Russian military presence in Syria prevents Iran to act with absolute freedom,” he noted. “If Tehran chooses to deploy a missile force in Iraq to threaten Israel and the Gulf states, a new chapter of the Iraqi tragedy will begin, especially if Iran decides to assign Houthi roles to the Iraqi Popular Mobilization militias.”
It is clear that the rules of the game are no longer in Iraqi hands. And that the political class lost the opportunity to save Iraq from external players despite resorting on many occasions to the ballot boxes. The logic of the state is still the weakest player in Iraq, and internal and external ambitions have made the violation of the Constitution a normal and acceptable practice. Is it conceivable to see Iraq in this situation fifteen years after overthrowing Saddam’s regime? It is painful that Iraqi politicians can no longer hold the former regime responsible for the deterioration of their country’s situation nor the decision of Paul Bremer to dissolve the army. It is painful that after Saddam’s departure, Iraq witnessed the largest feast of corruption in modern times. Some even believe that it surpasses what Russia experienced after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The story of the lost billions no longer needs documentation. Greediness is no longer a disease, but an epidemic that was not deterred by shy attempts of vaccination.
Political and financial voracity and the disputes over monopoly and domination prevented the restoration of the spirit of the Iraqi structure. Neither the team that considered itself victorious succeeded in rationalizing its victory nor did the team, which considered itself defeated, succeeded in rationalizing its defeat.
A logic prevailed over the country, that of dragging, delaying and betting on foreign tutelage. ISIS’ bloody appearance revealed the government’s lack of immunity. This logic prevented for example compliance with Article 140 on resolving the issue of disputed territories.
Thus, the Arab-Kurdish tango is poisoned. Policies and class-based stalking led to the poisoning of Sunni-Shiite tango. In this climate, the logic of quotas and militias has prevailed again over the logic of the state, the Constitution and the institutions.
The ordinary Iraqi citizen cannot be exempted from liability just as the Lebanese citizen. The people complain from the corrupt, the greedy and the violators of the state, and then go on a factional basis to elect the tragedy-makers whom they complain about. The citizen is a partner of political forces in wasting opportunities. The Iraqis return to raise the obvious demands, such as electricity, drinking water and basic services, at a time when the avaricious devour the budget of ministries, uncaring. It is a country that swims in a sea of crises and loses its wealth amid battles of arrogance, greed and obedience to external wills. It is not easy for the ordinary Iraqis to wait for the results of Qassem Soleimani’s tours of politicians to distribute warnings, bandages and assurances, nor to wait for the results of McGurk’s visits, which also necessitated contacts from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The coexistence tango’s failure internally threatens a new cycle of deterioration if, in the coming period, we see a final demise of the Iranian-American tango on Iraqi soil. There is no solution without a state that deserves to be named as such. It is necessary to tango. The requirement of success in dancing is to understand your partner and to synchronize your steps with his steps. Iraqi and Lebanese politicians must follow intensive courses in the art of tango. Greediness will distort the dance and kill the state.

Economic Growth and the Rule of Law

Mark Gongloff/Bloomberg/September 03/18
Vladimir Putin seems to have it all: Seemingly endless political power. Oil. A nuclear arsenal. What he doesn’t have, though, is the ability to breathe new life into Russia’s listless economy. And that is bad news for the country’s future – which has implications for the rest of the world.
More specifically, Putin can’t fix what ails Russia – slow growth, crumbling infrastructure and an unhealthy and aging workforce, for starters – without changing everything about how he rules, write Bloomberg’s editors: “Putin can have Putinism or a more prosperous Russia, but not both.”
Mark Whitehouse, who lived in Russia for a decade, including the years of Putin’s rise, and recently spent another informative month there, provides an essential history of Putinism. Essentially, Putin’s choices – seizing property to give to his supporters, crushing political opposition, invading neighbors – have made the country toxic for investment. Changing his approach now, however, could lead to his ouster and then, maybe, an even bigger mess. “If Putin can’t establish a rule of law, how does Russia get from where it is to a brighter future?” Mark asks. At the moment, it doesn’t seem possible.
Of course, underestimating Putin is dangerous too. Leonid Bershidsky examines the skill with which Putin is handling the uproar over his proposal to raise the retirement age – a necessary but unpopular step on the road to economic health. Open question: Will that artistry be enough to transform Russia, or will the rest of the world have to deal with a nuclear power in perpetual decline? President Donald Trump’s trade war’s latest friendly-fire casualty is good old American alcohol maker Brown-Fofrman Corp. The company today cut its profit forecasts for the year, thanks to tariffs Europe levied in retribution for Trump’s. Brooke Sutherland points out that Trump’s chummy meet-and-greet with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker last month didn’t remove any of these tariffs, meaning Brown-Forman and other US exporters are still suffering. Trump may ultimately cut a symbolic deal with Europe as he did with Mexico. Still, Brooke wonders: “[H]ow many millions in profits will Brown-Forman and others have sacrificed before we get there?”
Trump’s aforementioned trade deal with Mexico seems to be focused on North America. But a lot of it – including its protections for intellectual property, labor rights and, most glaringly, shark fins – seems aimed right at China, writes Christopher Balding. This suggests the Trump administration hopes to isolate and keep up the trade pressure on its Asian rival, Chris writes. Such worries have been slamming Chinese stocks for months now, writes Shuli Ren – prolonging an earlier downturn over worries about government efforts to curb runaway borrowing. As a result, China’s stock market may be stuck in bear country for a long, long time.

Does Corruption Matter to Voters?

Stephen Mihm/Bloomberg/September 03/18
The idea of making corruption an issue hasn’t always been a winning strategy. In the 19th-century United States, most corruption was usually entangled with the petty graft, bribes and kickbacks associated with local machine politics in the nation’s fast-growing cities.
This kind of corruption, though, didn’t just enrich a handful of well-connected pols and their wealthy backers. Instead, machine politicians instilled loyalty among their ward bosses, captains and constituents by distributing patronage jobs, government contracts, bribes and other enticements.
Though such ill-gotten gains may not have been allocated fairly, these quid-pro-quo relationships insured that they didn’t just benefit, say, one congressman and his pet rabbit. As a consequence, voters didn’t rush to punish corrupt politicians. They had too much to gain from the corruption endemic to machine politics. Corruption at the highest levels of government did not lead to significant electoral consequences, either, though for very different reasons. The administration of Ulysses S. Grant, for example, became embroiled in numerous scandals. But did voters punish the Republican Party? Not really: Republican losses in the midterm elections of 1874 had far more to do with Democrats’ growing ability to suppress the black Republican vote in the Reconstruction South.
It helped, too, that voters rarely made national scandals a factor in how they voted for their local representatives. In the 20th century, though, this began to change, driven by the nationalization of politics. Previously, it was hard to view an entire party as guilty of corruption, but the creation of national media markets and a centralization of political power in Washington helped make this charge increasingly viable. At the very same time, the decline of machine politics stripped corruption of its positive associations. These related changes made politicians charged with corruption more vulnerable to vengeful voters. Two scholars who have studied the issue found that from the 1930s onward, corruption increasingly involved “mostly random acts of narrowly self-interested officials who return nothing to the public.” Voters formerly happy to tolerate corruption because they formerly got a piece of the pie now began to punish bad behavior at the ballot box. Indeed, several studies of 20th-century politics have shown that candidates suffer when charged with corruption. In general, this research has demonstrated that incumbents accused of corruption tend to see significant reductions in their expected vote tallies: anywhere from 5 percent to 15 percent, depending on the severity of the charges.
But these punishments are meted out on the individual level. Can corruption charges stick to an entire party? History suggests that it can, though here the evidence is a bit more spotty and inconclusive. The textbook case, perhaps, are the 1974 midterm elections, when Richard Nixon’s scandals and ignominious resignation — followed by President Gerald Ford’s controversial pardon — helped fuel a powerful backlash against the Republican Party. In those elections, Democrats toppled 49 Republicans in the House of Representatives, giving them a supermajority; they also posted significant advances in the Senate, too. But these gains proved fleeting in the following years. During Bill Clinton’s first term, Republicans repaid the favor. They took a corruption scandal that actually involved both parties — the check-kiting controversy known as Rubbergate — and managed to direct most public anger at the Democrats. This, combined with other issues like the health-care reform debacle, enabled Republicans to sweep the Democrats from the House and Senate while simultaneously capturing a majority of governorships in the fall of 1994.

Bill Clinton, Boris Yeltsin Missed Historic Opportunity
Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg/September 03/18
The transcripts of calls and personal conversations between Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin, published by the Clinton Presidential Library, reveal a complex relationship. They also pose tantalizing questions about what the world could have been like had the relationship been more equal.
American Russia experts who are listed among the note-takers of the presidential conversations said the freshly declassified documents refute the Kremlin’s narrative of a humiliated, cheated Russia whose assertive comeback under President Vladimir Putin was overdue. For Russian readers, they add substance to the story of victimization. “Reading these documents, it’s easy to see how the various grievances and narratives, real and imagined, that dominate current Kremlin thinking took hold,” tweeted Andrew Weiss, a Clinton administration veteran who is vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment. “But for all the Kremlin’s mythmaking, there’s little indication of any US desire to humiliate and marginalize Russia.” Stephen Sestanovich and James Goldgeier, who also served under Clinton and are now prominent academics, had a similar interpretation.
They aren’t necessarily wrong. The transcripts reveal a warm relationship, spiced up with banter and based on a clear similarity between two talented populist politicians. Perhaps a more surprising discovery is that the US president initiated more of the conversations, seeking to engage with Yeltsin on every important international matter of the day.
One of the few times Yeltsin called Clinton in a rage was on March 24, 1999, when the North Atlantic Treaty Organization began bombing Yugoslavia during the Kosovo war without warning Russia. “Of course, we are going to talk to each other, you and me,” Yeltsin said. “But there will not be such a great drive and such friendship that we had before. That will not be there again.” The friendship survived, despite this and other tense exchanges. At another point during the Kosovo conflict, an enraged Clinton called Yeltsin after Russian troops occupied the airport of Pristina. But the leaders were talking about giving each other bear hugs soon afterward. Throughout their documented relationship, Clinton shows consideration for Yeltsin. When they have differences, most notably about NATO’s eastward expansion, the US president is never dismissive, always at pains to explain how he sees things. When Yeltsin proposed a “verbal gentlemen’s agreement” that no post-Soviet country would ever join NATO, Clinton argues earnestly that the deal would be bad for Russia. “The message,” he said, “would be, ‘we’re still organized against Russia — but there’s a line across which we won’t go.’ In other words, instead of creating a new NATO that helps move toward an integrated, undivided Europe, we’d have a larger NATO waiting for Russia to do something bad.”Clinton clearly tried to convey to Yeltsin a message of partnership rather than contempt. But the problem wasn’t with Clinton’s rhetoric or his sincere sympathy for his Russian counterpart. It was with the power dynamics.
The US president set the agenda for most of the conversations. The most frequent Yeltsin line in the transcripts is “I agree.” It’s not just that the younger, healthier, better-educated Clinton had a greater command of the issues: He knew, and so did Yeltsin, who was in charge.
At two critical junctures, Yeltsin openly begged the US president for money. In early 1996. Yeltsin had to fight off a robust challenge from Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov. The contest was especially hard because the Russian government owed huge arrears on salaries and pensions. On Feb. 21, Yeltsin asked Clinton to use US influence at the International Monetary Fund to bump up a proposed loan package to Russia to $13 billion from $9 billion. And when the three-year loan came through (at $10.1 billion, the biggest such facility the IMF had ever approved), Yeltsin pleaded with Clinton to speed up disbursement, making no secret of why he needed it. “Please understand me correctly,” he told the US president on May 7, 1996. “Bill, for my election campaign, I urgently need for Russia a loan of $2.5 billion … The problem is I need money to pay pensions and wages.”
It’s unclear whether Clinton intervened, but Russia did receive $3.8 billion from the IMF in 1996, and the arrears were largely gone by election day.
The other time Yeltsin asked for help with the IMF was in 1998, during Russia’s debt and currency crisis. The fund ended up disbursing $6.2 billion to Russia in 1998, more than in any other year; it did little good, but Yeltsin couldn’t fault Clinton for being unhelpful.
The dependence on Western loans, which Yeltsin thought could be expedited by Clinton even when Russia didn’t meet the IMF’s conditions, meant that the Russian president had to accept that the Americans could act as they pleased. Clinton would bomb Yugoslavia and Iraq, no matter how uncomfortable it made his friend Boris. Throughout the 1990s, Yeltsin argued against NATO expansion, but by 1996 he could only beg Clinton to postpone the admission of new members until 2000, or at least until the Russian election was over.
Clinton’s explanation why he wouldn’t promise to keep certain countries out of NATO sounded friendly, but was likely disingenuous. Declassified documents published earlier by the Clinton Library reveal what he was telling eastern European leaders while he was talking to Yeltsin. In January 1994, Clinton told Czech President Vaclav Havel, according to a paraphrased record of the conversation, that he didn’t consider Russia an immediate threat to its neighbors “because of what happened to the Russian military and economy.” But, he added, “if historical trends do reassert themselves, we will have organized ourselves so that we could move quickly not only to NATO membership but other security relations that can serve as a deterrent.”Putin didn’t engage in “mythmaking” when he said in a particularly belligerent speech that during the Yeltsin era, Russia was so deeply in debt and so weak militarily that US leaders decided its opinion could be largely ignored. The Clinton-Yeltsin transcripts largely confirm that interpretation.

Britain's Burka Blues: "I'd Like to Thank Boris Johnson"
Denis MacEoin/Gatestone Institute/September 03/18
As a Muslim woman, I'd like to thank Boris Johnson for calling out the niqab" — Title of an article by Dr. Qanta Ahmed in The Spectator.
"[T]his is a point that we Muslims seem to be unable to get across to non-Muslims – there is no basis in Islam for the niqab.... That's why Muslim nations are themselves regulating and banning the niqab and burqa..." — Dr. Qanta Ahmed, The Conversation, January 2017.
Some observers feel that it is especially painful to see Western feminists marching and wearing black face masks in order to protect Muslim women's right to wear them, but failing to support the rights of other Muslim women who plead not to be forced into them.
We are expected to feel guilty if we dare to question what some Muslim women themselves question: if shariah law is really the most wholesome lifestyle for many women.
"[T]here is no basis in Islam for the niqab.... That's why Muslim nations are themselves regulating and banning the niqab and burqa..." — Dr. Qanta Ahmed. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
On August 5, Britain's former Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, published an article in The Daily Telegraph. Entitled "Denmark has got it wrong. Yes, the burka is oppressive and ridiculous – but that's still no reason to ban it", the article created a furore both within and outside his own Tory party, and for more than one reason.
Johnson is currently the strongest candidate to replace Theresa May as Prime Minister, given her increasing weakness as a leader, largely due to the problems surrounding Brexit and her inability to create a suitable deal for it. This is relevant to the furore. Johnson is an ambitious politician who is given to making controversial comments.
Despite his popularity in some circles, Johnson has his enemies, and not just within Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party (where the slightest hint of what is called Islamophobia must at all costs be condemned). It is regrettable then, that his careless remarks on women in niqabs and burqas resembling letterboxes or looking like bank robbers brought down the wrath of the politically correct and ended by ignoring the far more constructive statements in the article as a whole.
The varied, mostly negative, responses to Johnson's article have been well explained by Soeren Kern. But not everyone thought badly of Johnson's piece, given that he had not called for the full face veil to be banned in the UK, even though it is banned in several European countries and elsewhere. Before the Dutch ban, there was a ban by Denmark this year. Brendan O'Neill, the editor of Spiked, but writing in The Spectator, described Johnson as having taken a liberal stance on the veil by refusing to let the state determine how citizens may dress. He also pointed out that "as we now know, you're not allowed to say anything even remotely critical about Islam or its practices these days".
The controversy arising from Johnson's article reignited a basic problem for liberal democracies. On the one hand, no democratic state can dictate rules for people on how to dress, eat, drink, engage in sexual relations, conform to heterosexual norms, and much more. Unlike Islamic states, such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, where even a woman dancing alone for pleasure can lead to a criminal charge, and where rules for female dress and comportment are centrally strictly enforced, Western countries and Israel pride themselves on huge liberties for everyone, including on how they dress.
On the other hand, the presence of Islamic garb from hijabs to niqabs and burqas on the streets of Britain is a problem for democrats precisely because of Western notions of individual freedom. To many, female Islamic clothing represents the powerful oppression of women's rights. While some Muslim women insist that being covered represents modesty, provides respectability and insures that they will not, in public, be targets of unwanted attention, on Western streets they look as if they could be symbols of the undue pressures on women to conform to a patriarchal, deeply misogynistic code and the punishments that can be and often are inflicted on women for even a slight avoidance of the rules. Even in the West, women have been murdered by their own families in honour killings where they have opted to wear Western clothes (for example, here, here and here), however modest in our terms, or, in Europe, the United States, and Canada, just for being "too Western". There are about 5,000 honour killings worldwide every year, even merely for refusing to wear a hijab. In 2015, an Indian Muslim man killed his four-year-old daughter for not covering her head while eating. Those are far from being the only cases. The murders seem often to be carried out by victims' fathers, mothers, brothers, and cousins, or extended family members.
Is it, then, appropriate for such garments to be seen in countries where democratic norms find such abuses unacceptable? Some observers also feel that it is especially painful to see Western feminists marching and wearing black face masks in order to protect some Muslim women's right to wear them, but failing to support the rights of other Muslim women who plead not to be forced into them.[1]
Many Muslim women do wear hijabs and niqabs out of a mistaken belief that they are required religious garb; but many are also forced to wear them by family members.[2]
Wearing full face coverings happens not just in the first generation of immigrants, but also in the second and third generations, often with the youngest more radical than their grandparents -- a total reversal of what has happened to all earlier immigrants, notably in the US for Irish, Jews, Poles, Chinese, Japanese, and more.[3]
As far as wider society is concerned, Islamic clothing serves to demarcate Muslim women from others. In two recent reports from the UK, Muslims have been identified as the most difficult of the country's ethnic and religious communities to integrate, with women suffering in several ways from that inability to fit in. An article by Sir Trevor Phillips, once the architect of Britain's multiculturalism policy, admitted that Muslims had not embraced the demands of living in a diverse society. Additionally, a 2016 government-sponsored review of social integration by Dame Louise Casey also concluded that Muslim communities were the most resistant of all incomer groups.
It is important to note that a number of Muslim women are strongly opposed to the veil, such as Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Saira Khan, Masih Alinejad, possibly because, even when devout, they apparently want to integrate without the marks of the clerical oppression in their everyday lives.[4] One of these is Qanta Ahmed, a medical doctor who has achieved some prominence as a journalist. She made a point of congratulating Johnson in a pointed and bracing article entitled "As a Muslim woman, I'd like to thank Boris Johnson for calling out the niqab". She writes, revealingly, that "while Saudi Arabia is itself liberalizing, the niqab is increasingly adopted by Muslim women living in the West, often as an anti-Western pro-Islamist political statement opposing secularism."
Referring to the various European bans on full-face veils, she writes:
"When Boris Johnson mocks the niqab, he is emphatically not mocking Muslim women because – and this is a point that we Muslims seem to be unable to get across to non-Muslims – there is no basis in Islam for the niqab. Claiming otherwise is a profound distortion of Islamic belief. That's why Muslim nations are themselves regulating and banning the niqab and burqa – as in both Morocco and Turkey where these coverings are seen as an invasion of Salafist affinities and a risk to national security and societal integrity."
After giving a brief description of why these veils are not Islamic in origin, she writes that:
"This convenient vacuum has allowed some to insert their own interpretation of veiling, for their own motives, including enforcing gender segregation and even gender apartheid, while also portraying Muslims in Europe as besieged by the false construct of Islamophobia which capitalizes on a false victimhood that so empowers Islamists as the persecuted darlings of blind liberalism."
The Qur'an does not even use the word hijab (or the verb hajaba) to refer to a head-covering for women. Nor does it mention niqab or burqa as suitable garb for women. As Ahmed notes, Islam only calls for women to be modest, as many other religions do without demanding veils of any kind (although married Orthodox Jewish women do cover their hair with scarves, hats or wigs, and many Roman Catholic nuns also cover their heads).
The most popular Salafi website in the world (available in several languages) is Islam Question and Answer, a forum on which fatwas (often very long) concerning just about anything are posted as answers to questions from believers. It was founded by Muhammad Salih al-Munajjid, a scholar born of Palestinian refugee parents and educated by Salafi shaykhs in Saudi Arabia. According to al-Jazeera,
Al-Munajjid is considered one of the respected scholars of the Salafist movement, an Islamic school of thought whose teachings are said to inspire radical movements in the Arab world, including al-Qaeda and a group called al-Dawla al-Islamiya fil Iraq wal Sham (also known as the Islamic State, IS or Daesh).
In a fatwa published in 2004, in answer to the question: "Could u (sic) please supply me with some quotes (sic) from the Hadith and Quran on the importance of hijab for women.[?]", we come across an extremely distorted reading of some Qur'anic verses. Here is a translation of part of a well-known verse in The Study Qur'an, a modern fully annotated version of the sacred text produced by a team of Muslim and non-Muslim scholars:
And tell the believing women to lower their eyes and to guard their private parts, and to not display their adornment except that which is visible thereof. And let them draw their kerchiefs over their breasts...." (Sura 24 [al-Nur], v. 31) [5]
Now, here is the way the fatwa (in English) translates and interprets the same part verse:
And tell the believing women to lower their gaze (from looking at forbidden things), and protect their private parts (from illegal sexual acts) and not to show off their adornment except only that which is apparent (like both eyes for necessity to see the way, or outer palms of hands or one eye or dress like veil, gloves, headcover, apron), and to draw their veils all over Juyoobihinna (i.e. their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms)
It should immediately be clear just how much the fatwa introduces that is simply not there in the text. There is nothing in the original verse that necessitates veils, gloves, headcovers, or aprons, nor is there any requirement for women to cover their faces, necks, or bosoms, or reveal only one eye. For example, the word "adornment" (zayna) means "decoration, embellishment, finery, or something that beautifies", or, in Hans Wehr's authoritative dictionary, also "clothes, attire, finery", can refer to things such as jewellery.
Most striking is the gloss given to the badly-transliterated word "Juyoobihinna" (better as juyubihinna) to mean "their bodies, faces, necks and bosoms". The Arabic word juyub is the broken plural of jayb, which the always reliable Wehr translates as "breast" or "bosom". It can also mean "heart". It has nothing to do with whole bodies, faces, or necks, which is why the Study Qur'an renders it as "breasts". Even in the modern West, it is normal for women to cover their breasts in public.
Finally, the translation "draw their veils" is misleading. The word for "veil" is actually simply khimar, pl. khumur. For some time, the khimar has been interpreted as a head covering, but the context is obviously not that. A more detailed examination of its original and Qur'anic meaning by a Muslim author, Joseph A. Islam, shows that a khimar is just something that covers something else. He translates the line in question as: "...And to draw their coverings over their chests" (24:31).
As Salafism grows in influence across the Middle East, in Europe, and North America, Salafi clerics are demanding that women wear, not just the niqab that shows only the eyes, but just one eye. In 2008, the BBC reported on Shaykh Muhammad al-Habadan, a Saudi ultra-conservative, for making just this demand. In Mosul, Islamic State enforcers made women wear full veils and gloves.
It seems that what is happening here is that religious fundamentalists, all men, often elderly men, want to make women invisible and wholly lacking in any female characteristics that could lead to their own sexual desire. By covering women's faces and bodies, they make it impossible to distinguish one woman from another when in public, which is possibly the intent: to abolish a woman's identity outside a close family circle that they say they are protecting.
All the while, it is not the Islamic religion that justifies these suppressions but a culturally-defined patriarchal system that could not be more out of keeping with Western societies, where many women are increasingly asking to be in command of their lives, and where men, however powerful, who abuse women are exposed – and sometimes arrested, tried and imprisoned. Yet we are expected to feel guilty if we dare to question what some Muslim women question: if shariah law is really the most wholesome lifestyle for many women.
The Netherlands is just the latest EU country to have banned the burqa in a major step towards affirming our democratic convictions about human rights and respect for the autonomy and individuality of everyone. Already, some twelve European countries have passed laws for full or partial bans on the burqa, while the UK government still stumbles over even the slightest restriction suggested.
*Dr. Denis MacEoin is a former lecturer in Arabic and Islamic Studies and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute.
[1] The support of feminists for Islamic oppression of women has been well described and condemned by Ayaan Hirsi Ali in a short video statement on YouTube.
[2] For a long and fascinating documentary on male attitudes, including several disturbing interviews, see here.
[3] For an eloquent account of young Poles growing more American, see Keith Maillard, The Clarinet Polka, USA, 2003.
[4] Many are included in Ida Lichter, Muslim Women Reformers, Amherst, 2009.
[5] There is a long and detailed footnote to the whole verse on pp. 875-876.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Turkey Creating New Tensions with Greece and the US
Lawrence A. Franklin/Gatestone Institute/September 03/18
Relations between Washington and Ankara have already deteriorated significantly under Erdogan -- as dramatically emphasized by America's absolutely correct refusal to turn over to Erdogan the man he says is behind Turkey's 2016 coup attempt, Fethullah Gülen, a Muslim cleric who exiled himself to Pennsylvania almost 20 years ago, as well as by the escalating imbroglio over detained U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson, who is apparently being held as a hostage to force the U.S. to extradite Gülen back to Turkey.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell recently called Greece, "an anchor of stability in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Western Balkans."
Under President Trump, the signs keep growing that the U.S. is more and more likely to see things Greece's way.
During his state visit to Greece in 2017, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made a forceful request that Greece agree to re-negotiate the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne. Pictured: Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in Athens on December 7, 2017.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's June 24 re-election seems to be leading to heightened tensions between Turkey and Greece. Furthermore, in an eventual confrontation between these two NATO member states, Turkey's reported interest in purchasing air-defense missiles and fighter jets from Russia, underscored by Turkey's continued detention of American Christian Pastor Andrew Brunson and the U.S. imposition of sanctions on Turkish officials (as well as Turkish counter-sanctions), may well cause Washington to favor Greece.
In addition, prior to June 24, the Turkish parliament, and the Turkish people by referendum, awarded the presidency with nearly authoritarian power. Erdogan may now use these powers to strengthen even further his control of Turkey's domestic political order --- and to become more aggressive internationally as a result.
Erdogan's margin of victory in the June 24 election was slim. Despite his hold over the Turkish media, Erdogan garnered but a slim majority of 52% in the election. Erdogan, possibly to increase his domestic political support, might continue taking an aggressive posture toward Greece. Erdogan could, for instance, demand that Athens renegotiate the status of Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, which were awarded to Greece in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne.
Turkey's nationalist political parties, which constitute most of the domestic opposition to Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP), already favor a policy that demands Athens return territories given to the Greeks in the Treaty of Lausanne, after the Ottoman Empire's defeat in World War I. The nationalist People's Republican Party's (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu publicly impugned Erdogan's patriotism for having failed to demand that Greece give back all the disputed islands:
"Look at islands of Aegean, they are Greek islands. The islands that should be ours are occupied by Greece. The Greek flag is fluttering on islands belonging to Turkey. I want an answer for this, Erdogan."
Erdogan might also want to insist that Greece should surrender sovereignty over the Dodecanese Islands, which consist of 163 islands and islets that Italy ceded to Greece in 1947.
Political opposition to Erdogan's AKP is also based on the fear that Turkey is becoming increasingly anti-democratic. In addition, many Turks fear that Erdogan's party is intent on transforming Turkey into an Islamic State, thus jettisoning the country's modern identity as a secular, democratic republic.
Erdogan seems openly nostalgic for the Ottoman Empire, and recently conducted a ceremonial visit to the refurbished tomb of Sultan Mehmet II, the Turkish conqueror of Constantinople in 1453.
The Ottoman Empire was dis-established in 1924, after more than four centuries as the center of Islam. After the declaration of a Turkish Republic in 1923 by secular, nationalist military officers led by Kemal Ataturk (Mustafa Kemal), both the Sultan and Caliph of the Ottoman Caliphate were forced to abdicate.
The initial sign that Erdogan actually may be adopting a more nationalist policy was his forceful request, during a December 2017 visit to Greece, that Greece agree to re-negotiate the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne. The Greek response was immediate and unequivocal. Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos replied:
"The Treaty of Lausanne defines the territory and sovereignty of Greece and the European Union and this treaty is non-negotiable. It has no flaws, it does not to be reviewed or updated."
Following that rejection, Turkey staged a series of provocative incidents in the Aegean region, including violations of Greek air space and incursions into Greek territorial waters. More serious incidents followed, among them the ramming in February of a Greek Coast Guard vessel by a Turkish patrol boat, harassing a Greek helicopter transporting Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in April, and the crash of a Greek Mirage 2000-5 that had been on a mission responding to Turkish jets violating Greece's air space over a Greek island close to the Turkish coast.
Bilateral tensions are still escalating. Erdogan is demanding that Greece extradite several Turkish soldiers who fled there for asylum after a failed coup against him in July 2016. Greece's Supreme Court last year ruled against the extradition, declaring that should an extradition take place, the soldiers would suffer a curtailment of their human rights.
In response, Turkey detained for several months two Greek soldiers who had mistakenly crossed into Turkish territory during inclement weather, but in August finally repatriated them to Greece.
This escalating dispute also includes the divided island of Cyprus, which Turkey invaded in 1974. Since then, Turkey has occupied a northern section of the island, ethnically cleansing Greeks from that part of the island. Cyprus' political status has remained in limbo ever since.
In June 2017, peace talks between the island nation's ethnic Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders seemed to be leading to the establishment of a unified government. By February 2018, however, negotiations came to a halt.
The president of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, blamed this sudden collapse on the decision of Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci to await the outcome of the Turkish referendum on the powers of the of the presidency. While the talks remain in recess with no set date for resumption, both the Greek and Turkish communities in Cyprus support a peace settlement. Discussions are underway to explore possibilities for resuming negotiations.
Whatever happens next, Erdogan maintains about 30,000-strong troop presence in the northern portion of Cyprus. If Greek-Turkish tensions escalate, the possibility of another ill-timed military provocation could escalate with them.
The ability of NATO to respond to other conflicts in the area could be affected, as well as NATO air and naval assets based in both countries. Moreover, such a conflict might open up an even greater opportunity for Russian interference.
Erdogan has indicated that he may not be interested in stopping there. Turkish journalist Uzay Bulut, now living in the US, quotes Erdogan as saying in early March 2018:
"There are physical borders and then there are borders in our hearts. Some people ask us: Why do we take an interest in Iraq, Syria, Georgia, Crimea, Karabakh, Azerbaijan, the Balkans, and North Africa?...None of these lands are foreign to us. Is it possible to divide Rize [in Turkey] from Batumi (in [Georgia]? How can we consider Edirne [in Turkey] as separate from Thessaloniki [in Greece]? How can we think that Gaziantep [in Turkey] has nothing to with Aleppo [in Syria], Mardin [in Turkey] with al-Hasakah [in Syria] or Siirt [in Turkey] from Mosul [in Iraq]."
Those overweening attitudes are undoubtedly causing concern in the Trump Administration, already with its hands full with the legacy bequeathed it in Iran, China, and North Korea, to name just a few places. Relations between Washington and Ankara have already deteriorated significantly under Erdogan -- as dramatically emphasized by America's absolutely correct refusal to turn over to Erdogan the man he says is behind Turkey's 2016 coup attempt, Fethullah Gülen, a Muslim cleric who exiled himself to Pennsylvania almost 20 years ago, as well as by the escalating imbroglio over detained U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson, who is apparently being held as a hostage to force the U.S. to extradite Gülen back to Turkey.
There is a marked increase in pro-Greece rhetoric at the U.S. State Department. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Wess Mitchell recently called Greece, "an anchor of stability in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Western Balkans." Mitchell also bluntly warned Turkey that the U.S. would not accept any Turkish violations of Cyprus' Exclusive Economic Zone. Mitchell's warning was probably a reference to Turkey's actions to block offshore gas drilling by Cyprus.
If nothing else, Erdogan's impulsive assertiveness may be inspiring Greece to help in damping down some other sources of regional instability. Athens recently reached a compromise with Macedonia over its name, as "Macedonia" is also a northern region of Greece. Athens then sponsored "The Republic of North Macedonia" as a future new member of NATO.
Greece, which had previously adopted a stridently anti-Western policy in the wake of its massive debt crisis, now describes its overall foreign policy as "Euro-Atlanticism", and has steadily improved relations with other democratic states such as Israel. Greece and Israel are cooperating with Italy and Cyprus to export to Europe natural gas discovered in Israeli waters.
All of that does not diminish the threats to NATO and the region produced by Erdogan's growing truculence. Under U.S. President Donald J. Trump, the signs keep growing that the US is more and more likely to see things Greece's way.
*Dr. Lawrence A. Franklin was the Iran Desk Officer for Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. He also served on active duty with the U.S. Army and as a Colonel in the Air Force Reserve.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Iran’s ballistic missile deployment in Iraq a game-changer
Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg/Arab News/September 03/18
There was another sign last week that Iran was getting worried about losing its privileged position in Iraq. Reuters reported that Tehran had moved ballistic missiles to its proxies over the border. As expected, Iran denied the report, but Reuters stuck to its story. It said that: “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 story made sense because it replicated what Iran has done elsewhere, most recently in Yemen, where it has been supplying its Houthi allies with short and medium-range ballistic missiles and training them how to use them. The Houthis have, since 2015, launched more than 180 such missiles against Saudi cities and towns, as well as others directed at Yemeni population centers.
It also stands to reason that, as Iraqi political groups have struggled to form a new government, it is becoming likely that an independent coalition may succeed in winning a majority in Parliament. An independent Iraqi government would most likely seek to limit Iran’s meddling in Iraq’s internal affairs. Following the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iran has built a formidable presence in Iraq, politically and militarily. It has stoked the fires of sectarian differences and exploited anti-American sentiments among Iraqis.
In the name of fighting Americans, and later Al-Qaeda and Daesh, Iran sent fighters and materiel to Iraq. It created several sectarian militias modeled after its own, and practically obliterated the border between the two countries, as it ferried fighters from all over the world to Iraq. Its military leaders crossed the border at will and Gen. Qassem Soleimani treated Iraq as his own turf as he commanded Iraqi militias into various battles.
Over the years, Iran manipulated Iraqi politics and imposed its own candidates to lead the country against Iraqi wishes.
The May 12 elections marked a watershed, as candidates campaigned openly against Iran’s meddling and won. Soleimani immediately set up shop in Iraq and has been trying to coax, cajole and threaten Iraqi politicians into joining a disparate pro-Iranian coalition. His shenanigans have been the main reason it has taken so long to form a government.
Iran has tried to exploit protests against poor services in the southern provinces, and it contributed to heightened tensions by cutting off electricity to those provinces in the middle of Iraq’s scorching summer.
Iran’s reported handing over of ballistic missiles to militias in Iraq a threat to peace and security throughout the region.
Thus the news about sending ballistic missiles to sectarian militias is another attempt to secure its future influence should the new government try to chart an independent path from Iran. Those militias would act as Tehran’s proxies if the new government demanded Iran’s own forces leave the country.
The presence of ballistic missiles would first pose a threat to the Iraqi military, which does not have such technology. As we are witnessing in Yemen, ballistic missiles can be used internally against government forces and against other communities.
Iran’s desperate act can also be seen as another element in its confrontation with the US, and as such it poses a threat to US troops in Iraq and Syria, which are within range of any ballistic missile in the hands of Iran’s proxies.
Once verified, the presence of Iranian-supplied ballistic missiles in Iraq would undermine the European rapprochement with Iran. It would embarrass France, Germany and Britain, as they have been trying to preserve the nuclear agreement in the face of strong US opposition.
Perhaps in reaction to the news of Iranian missile deployment to Iraq, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Thursday that, following the US withdrawal from the agreement, Iran should be ready to renegotiate its future nuclear plans, its ballistic missile arsenal and its role in the wars in Syria and Yemen.
Earlier last week, President Emmanuel Macron reiterated France’s commitment to maintaining the nuclear accord, but also called for broader talks on Iran’s nuclear program after 2025, its ballistics program and its influence in the wider Middle East region.
Most of all, the EU would be embarrassed, as it has been the most vocal in defending the nuclear deal and taking measures to counter US sanctions. As recently as Thursday, the EU made it clear that it was taking further action, through its Blocking Statute, which entered into force on Aug. 7, to mitigate the sanctions’ impact on EU companies doing business with Iran. It further asserted that it was “working on concrete measures aimed at sustaining cooperation with Iran in key economic sectors, particularly on banking and finance, trade and investment, oil, and transport.”
The news about Iran expanding its missile deployment to Iraq, in clear violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, should compel the EU to reassess its position.
Most alarming of all, the missiles would threaten Iraq’s neighbors, including Jordan, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, who will now have to deploy missile defenses to deal with the new situation. Major population centers in these countries are within reach of even short-range missiles.
If verified, Iran’s new ballistic missile deployment, and handing them over to irregular militias in Iraq, is a game-changer. Within Iraq, it would create a state within a state, beholden to Iran and armed with strategic weapons. Regionally, it would cause new dangers to Iraq’s neighbors, and would threaten international peace and security. The US and Europe should also take note, as the new deployment would threaten their own troops in the region.
*Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg is the GCC Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs & Negotiation, and a columnist for Arab News. The views expressed in this piece are personal and do not necessarily represent GCC views. Twitter: @abuhamad1