Detailed Lebanese & Lebanese Related LCCC English New Bulletin For September 05/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations
The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.
Luke 10/01-07: "After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, "Peace to this house!"And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the labourer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house."

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

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

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on September 04-05/18
UNIFIL Head of Mission Major General Del Col hosts LAF Commander General Aoun in UNIFIL HQ/UNIFI web site/September 04/18
Iran's Secret Weapons-smuggling Air Routes to Lebanon Revealed by Intel Sources/Fox News/September 04/18
Convoy of Iranian Forces Was Bombed Near U.S. Base in Syria, Report Says/Haaretz/September 04/18
Israel Strikes Iranian, Assad Regime Targets' in Syria/Jack Khoury/Haaretz/September 04/18
Kerry Reveals Details of Assad’s Secret Letter to Netanyahu in 2010/Amir Tibon/Haaretz/September 04/18
Iran’s Fake News Is a Fake Threat/Eli Lake/Bloomberg/September 04/18
A Free Press Can Bury the News, Too/Noah Feldman/Bloomberg/September 04/18
Shakespeare to Tarafa: Store some of summer’s joys for the winter blues/Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/September 04/18
When there is Twitter, who cares for traditional writing/Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/September 04/18
John McCain and the quest for an Arab hero/Makram Rabah/Al Arabiya/September 04/18
Qatar and gambling on the impossible/Mohammed Al Shaikh/Al Arabiya/September 04/18
Iran’s brinkmanship doomed to failure/Osama Al-Sharif/Arab News/September 04/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on September 04-05/18
Lebanon: Aoun’s ‘Observations’ Freeze Government Formation
Lebanon: Saudi Arabia Launches Jusoor Initiative With Tribal Leaders
Berri Urges Arab League Meeting to Fund UNRWA
Report: Hariri’s New Govt. Formula Considered a ‘Failure’
Aoun's Bloc Slams Hariri Line-Up, Bid to 'Encroach' on President Powers
Hariri Says His Jurisdiction 'Clear', Defends Draft Line-Up as 'Convincing'
Adwan Warns Aoun, Says LF Again Wants 5 Seats, Sovereign Portfolio
Hariri, Hajj Hassan Agree on Emergency Authority to Tackle Polluted Litani River
Hundreds of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon Return Home
Military Court Adjourns Interrogation of Suzanne al-Hajj
Palestinians in Lebanon Fear Aid Cuts Will Slash School Access
Israeli Army General Says Another War with Hezbollah Will Be the Last
Maronite Patriarch Warns of Educational and Social Crisis in Lebanon
Hankache Reiterated Need for Rescue Government
Kataeb Party Holds Obstructors Responsible for Political Instability
Lebanese Man Commits Triple Murder in France
UNIFIL Head of Mission Major General Del Col hosts LAF Commander General Aoun in UNIFIL HQ
Iran's Secret Weapons-smuggling Air Routes to Lebanon Revealed by Intel Sources

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on September 04-05/18
Convoy of Iranian Forces Was Bombed Near U.S. Base in Syria, Report Says
Israel Strikes Iranian, Assad Regime Targets' in Syria
Kerry Reveals Details of Assad’s Secret Letter to Netanyahu in 2010
Israeli Strikes Target Iranian Positions in Syria
U.S. Says Will 'Respond Swiftly' if Assad Uses Chemical Arms
UN urges Putin, Erdogan to talk urgently to avert Idlib ‘bloodbath’
Russia Resumes Idlib Air Strikes amid Warnings
Idlib Offensive Awaits Tehran Summit, Russia ‘Won’t Indefinitely Tolerate Situation’
Iran Recruits over 2,000 Syrian Combatants
Iran: No Time Limit to Maintain Nuclear Deal
EU chief diplomat to quit after struggle with Iran nuclear deal
Kurdish Decision Set to Shape Future of Iraqi Politics
Iraqi forces kill six protesters in southern city of Basra
Iraqi Parliament’s First Session Ignites Dispute over Largest Bloc
Safadi Discusses Syrian Crisis With US Official
12 Arrested on Terrorism Charges in Algeria
Tel Aviv Intends to Expel UNRWA From Jerusalem First
Palestinians, Jordan Disagree with Israel over ‘Confederation’ Interpretation
Israelis to File War Crimes Complaint against 'Hamas' at The Hague
Satterfield is Leading Candidate for US Ambassador to Egypt
'7th Brigade' Declares ‘Military Coup’ against Militias in Libyan Capital
Spain Says U.S. Losing Israel-Palestine Mediator Role
Afghan Taliban Announces Death of Haqqani Network Founder
The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on September 04-05/18
Lebanon: Aoun’s ‘Observations’ Freeze Government Formation
Beirut - Nazeer Rida/Asharq Al Awsat/September, 04/18/President Michel Aoun “had some observations” on the first detailed draft cabinet line-up presented by Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, his office said Monday, signaling a lack of final agreement on the division of shares and portfolios among Lebanon’s leading parties. Hariri visited Aoun at Baabda Palace on Monday, handing him an initial version of a government formula. He told reporters that the formula was “for a national entente government in which no one wins over the other, but each team sacrifices in some way.” "Nobody has this draft except me and the President; and it has not been discussed with anybody else," he said. Following their meeting, the Presidential Palace said in a statement that Aoun “had some observations” based on the principles and criteria used to form the government, which is required to serve the interest of Lebanon. "The President would remain in consultation with the PM-designate in preparation for an agreement on the new government lineup," the statement said. Hariri’s latest proposal was the first to include the details on each political party’s share. But a dispute on the representation of the Druze community remained unsolved. Differences on the representation of Christians also remained. Lebanese well-informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the principle obstacle is that of Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil. The sources said the last round of talks held by Hariri resulted in offering the LF four ministers, on condition that the party gets four portfolios. However, Bassil rejected this demand and said the LF should get four ministries, including a minister of state without portfolio.“If some parties continue to reject our demands, then we will return to our previous demand for five ministers, including one sovereign portfolio. This is our right based on the results of the last parliamentary elections,” LF sources told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Lebanon: Saudi Arabia Launches Jusoor Initiative With Tribal Leaders
Beirut/Asharq Al Awsat/September, 04/18/The Saudi Embassy in Beirut inaugurated on Monday the “Jusoor” (bridges) initiative, which gathered in its first edition Arab tribal leaders in Lebanon. The meeting was attended by a number of Lebanese politicians and Arab diplomats.
The initiative paves the way for future activities to consolidate Saudi-Lebanese relations and achieve a “common understanding” of the nature of bilateral ties and the means to develop them based on human values, according to the Saudi Charge d'affaires in Lebanon, Walid bin Abdullah Bukhari. Jusoor aims at reaching out to all civil society organizations, in line with the new identity of sustainable Saudi diplomacy, which will include cooperation with research centers and universities, in addition to several visits of the head of the Saudi diplomatic mission in Beirut to all Lebanese regions. The Saudi diplomacy in Lebanon, in its new strategy, seeks to identify the concerns and desires of the Lebanese communities in Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf countries in general, and in turn follow up on the affairs of the Saudis in Lebanon, including residents, visitors and scholarship students, based on the directives of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz. Consequently, the Jusoor initiative will be a tool for communication, to reach out to the Lebanese people directly, regardless of their belongings and affiliations. Bukhari underlined Saudi Arabia’s commitment to support the efforts of stability and prosperity in Lebanon and other countries, and its keenness to develop a culture of moderation and tolerance in the face of extremism.

Berri Urges Arab League Meeting to Fund UNRWA
Beirut- Asharq Al Awsat/Tuesday, 4 September, 2018/Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri called on Monday for an Arab League meeting to garner funds for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for the Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) after the United States’ recent decision to cut its funding for the agency. In a meeting with Palestinian factions on the occasion of signing a “national unity” document by Lebanese and Palestinian officials, Berri stressed that this meeting is “the sole beacon of light in this dark age.” “The US decisions... starting from the decision to move the embassy to occupied Jerusalem and ending with the cutting of funds to UNRWA, are heading towards canceling the right of return for Palestinians and ending the Palestinian cause,” Berri said. “I have repeatedly stated that the first response is to unify the Palestinian forces in their struggle against the Israeli occupation and all these conspiracies and plots,” he further noted. “This document is signed with the kind sponsorship of Speaker Berri,” Fathi Abu al-Urdat said in a statement on behalf of all factions, thanking him for his continuous support for the Palestinian cause at this difficult stage after Trump’s decision on Jerusalem and on halting funds to UNRWA. “These serious decisions require a joint Palestinian-Lebanese move. “We have also addressed many issues of interest to the Palestinian camps, and as usual he promised to follow up on these issues to solve them,” Urdat explained. He announced their commitment to this document, “which stipulates boosting Palestinian-Lebanese and Palestinian-Palestinian relations”.

Report: Hariri’s New Govt. Formula Considered a ‘Failure’
Naharnet/September 04/18/A government formula proposed by PM-designate Saad Hariri to President Michel Aoun on Monday has failed to accomplish the needed results and was reportedly pronounced “stillborn”, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Tuesday. “It is striking that Hariri’s government draft was delivered stillborn,” a senior political source told the daily. “It only survived for a few minutes during the deliberations between the two men. The meeting ended and they agreed to continue consultations,” added the source on condition of anonymity. After his long-anticipated meeting with Aoun in Baabda on Monday, Hariri said he presented a format for "a national unity government" that does not entail a "victory" for a political camp over another. 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. Well-informed sources told al-Joumhouria that in his statement to reporters after the meeting, Hariri has tried to “adorn the draft, hinting that the ball is in the court of the President which may have prompted a statement from the President's’ office considering the draft as “initial” and not final.”Aoun’s media office had said on Twitter following the talks: “The President has received a initial version of the new government, and he made some observations based on the principles and criteria he had set for the form of government which is required to fall in the interest of Lebanon.”According to said reports, Aoun’s reply is a “masked” rejection of the format which “has brought things back to square one.”Hariri was tasked with forming a new government on May 24, but his mission has since been delayed because of wrangling between political parties, mainly over the Christian and Druze representation.

Aoun's Bloc Slams Hariri Line-Up, Bid to 'Encroach' on President Powers

Naharnet/September 04/18/The Strong Lebanon parliamentary bloc on Tuesday criticized a draft Cabinet line-up presented by Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri on Monday, warning of a perceived attempt to "encroach" on President Michel Aoun's powers and "bypass the results of the parliamentary elections."“We reject the monopolization of confessional representation and we see an attempt to bypass and disrespect the results of the parliamentary elections,” MP Ibrahim Kanaan said after the bloc's weekly meeting. “There is an attempt to bypass the president's role. Did the Taef Accord abolish the president's role? Is it a threat to state institutions if he practices his powers?” the MP lamented. He added: “We respect the jurisdiction of all state institutions and what we heard yesterday after the Baabda statement was unacceptable. President Aoun is entrusted with real and true partnership.”Hariri announced Monday that he presented to Aoun a format for "a national unity government" that does not entail a "victory" for a political camp over another. Speaking to reporters after a long-anticipated meeting with Aoun in Baabda, Hariri said the proposed format would involve "sacrifices from all parties."The Presidency said Aoun voiced reservations over the line-up based on “the standards that he had announced for the government's format which are necessary to achieve the country's interest.”

Hariri Says His Jurisdiction 'Clear', Defends Draft Line-Up as 'Convincing'
Naharnet/September 04/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri on Tuesday defended the draft Cabinet line-up he presented Monday to President Michel Aoun as “convincing,” while stressing that his jurisdiction as PM-designate is “clear.”Reiterating that the format entails “no victors or losers,” Hariri called for “looking at the full half of the cup.” “If the reservations are negotiable, I'm willing to review them,” the PM-designate added, stressing that “the government will inevitably be formed.” “Every person has to come off his throne so that we form the government,” Hariri went on to say. Earlier in the day, the Strong Lebanon parliamentary bloc criticized Hariri's draft line-up, warning of a perceived attempt to "encroach" on Aoun's powers and "bypass the results of the parliamentary elections." The Presidency said Monday that Aoun voiced reservations over the line-up based on “the standards that he had announced for the government's format which are necessary to achieve the country's interest.”

Adwan Warns Aoun, Says LF Again Wants 5 Seats, Sovereign Portfolio
Naharnet/September 04/18/Lebanese Forces deputy chief MP George Adwan lashed out Tuesday at the apparent rejection of the Cabinet line-up that Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri presented to President Michel Aoun on Monday, announcing that the LF will again insist on five ministerial seats including a so-called sovereign portfolio. “The LF made utmost concessions over its rights, which made some think that there is a 'bazar'. After what happened, we will once again demand five ministerial seats including a sovereign portfolio,” Adwan told MTV. “What happened will only harm the new presidential tenure,” Adwan warned. “It's about time the Free Patriotic Movement made concessions to facilitate the formation process,” the lawmaker went on to say. Hariri's draft line-up gives the LF four ministerial seats without a sovereign portfolio according to media reports. The four portfolios referred to as 'sovereign' in Lebanon are foreign affairs, defense, interior and finance. The Presidency said Aoun voiced reservations over the line-up based on “the standards that he had announced for the government's format which are necessary to achieve the country's interest.”

Hariri, Hajj Hassan Agree on Emergency Authority to Tackle Polluted Litani River

Naharnet/September 04/18/Caretaker Minister of Industry Hussein Hajj Hassan held a meeting with the committee tasked with following up on the treatment of pollution of Lebanon’s southern Litani River, the National News Agency reported on Tuesday. Conferees tackled the deterrent measures to inhibit numerous water pollution sources, which include microbial and chemical contamination from industrial and domestic effluents and wastewater, including the trash resulting from camps of the displaced, added NNA. Moreover, they focused on the necessity to activate the ministerial committee chaired by Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, and tasked with solving the river’s pollution. The ministries of: Industry, Interior, Health, Energy, Agriculture and Environment comprise the committee. During the meeting, Hajj Hassan contacted Hariri, to whom he proposed the formation of a higher emergency committee for the Litani River, chaired by Hariri, who voiced support for any suggestion that would speed up the sought solutions. Hariri also said that this issue had become a national cause requiring multiplied efforts. Speaking at a press conference following the meeting, Hajj Hassan refused to hold any side responsible for the Litani's pollution, and insisted on "positive cooperation."He also maintained that the polluting factories must be shut down. High level of pollution in Litani is a well known environmental issue that has spiked up lately in light of reports that around 20 percent of Lebanon is at risk of cancer.

Hundreds of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon Return Home

Associated Press/Naharnet/September 04/18/Hundreds of Syrian refugees returned to their homeland early on Tuesday, the latest group to return to Syria from its western neighbor, the National News Agency reported. NNA said hundreds of Syrian families left this morning in buses from the northern city of Tripoli, the southern town of Nabatieh, from the Hasbaya towns of Shebaa and al-Arqoub and from the area of Bourj Hammoud. The refugees have assured that Lebanon’s General Security -helping refugees return home in coordination with Syria- “have facilitated their return,” and affirmed their “eagerness to return back to their homeland.” Russia has put forward an initiative to return hundreds of thousands of refugees to Syria, and hundreds have returned from Lebanon over the past months. Lebanon is home to some 1 million Syrian refugees, a large number for a country of 4.5 million people. The Russian initiative was proposed following the summit in Helsinki between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, although it was not clear whether the U.S. supported the proposal.

Military Court Adjourns Interrogation of Suzanne al-Hajj

Naharnet/September 04/18/The Military Court on Tuesday adjourned the interrogation session of Lt. Col. Suzanne al-Hajj to November 25. Tuesday's session was aimed at questioning al-Hajj over a lawsuit accusing her of fabricating a spying for Israel case for the actor Ziad Itani. The session was adjourned after al-Hajj's defense team requested that it be provided with documents that can aid its case. The hacker Elie Ghabash, who was allegedly hired by al-Hajj to fabricate electronic evidence against Itani, also appeared before the court, according to the National News Agency. Media reports said al-Hajj sought to take revenge on Itani after he screenshotted a Twitter 'like' that eventually cost her job as head of the Internal Security Forces' anti-cyber crime bureau.The tweet, posted by controversial TV director Charbel Khalil, was widely seen as insulting to Saudi Arabia and Saudi women.

Palestinians in Lebanon Fear Aid Cuts Will Slash School Access
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 04/18/It's back to school for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, but funding cuts to the UN agency supporting them means students may only be in class until the end of month. One by one, students in the dilapidated UN-run Haifa school in a suburb of the Lebanese capital stand up to receive their textbooks for the fresh academic year. Books on physics, mathematics, geography, chemistry -- some new, but most used and worn -- are handed to the solemn eighth-graders sitting at chipped wooden desks. With no air conditioning in the classrooms, the late-morning heat is stifling. Palestinian flags hang from the ceiling and most of the walls are covered in doodles and Arabic graffiti: "Neymar," in tribute to the popular Brazilian footballer, "You are the darling of my heart," and "Palestine". Across the region, more than half a million Palestinian students may lose access to their education after the United States said it would stop backing the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA). Washington was UNRWA's top contributor for years, providing more than $350 million a year to the agency that assists more than five million Palestinian refugees around the region.
On Friday, the US announced it would pull all funding to the "irredeemably flawed operation".
To keep its essential operations running until the end of the year, UNRWA says it needs $217 million -- otherwise health centres and schools may be forced to close. In Lebanon alone, 66 UNRWA-run schools could shut by the end of September, depriving some 38,000 Palestinian students of an education.
- 'Where will our kids go?' -That worry hangs in the air as parents gather with their children for the first day of classes at the Haifa school. "It's a plot against the future of our children," says Ramadan Ibrahim, who hails from the Palestinian camp of Yarmuk in Syria's capital.
He fled Syria's war six years ago with his wife and children, coming to settle in Beirut, and Yarmuk has since been flattened by fighting between Syria's regime, rebels, and jihadists. Ibrahim's eldest son is in Germany, and the next two are working odd jobs to provide for the family. Only his youngest, 14-year-old Abdel Rahman, is in school.
"It would be good to have at least one educated person in the family," says their 53-year-old father, was is balding but sports a scratchy beard. "We're trying to keep Abdel Rahman going, through his brothers' jobs," says Ibrahim. "Where will our kids go? To work in coffee shops? I see boys of seven or eight who are working in cafes because their parents cannot send them to school," he tells AFP. An estimated 174,000 Palestinians live in Lebanon, according to a census by national authorities last year, although the UN estimates there are tens of thousands more. They are barred from nearly 20 jobs, including many that require higher education like lawyer, doctor, and engineer. With no way out, generations have been stuck living in the dozen squalid, densely populated and poorly serviced refugee camps across the country. - No alternative -The future looks dire for them -- and for UNRWA, says the agency's country chief Claudio Cordone. "We have 27 clinics that serve more than 160,000 people. We have 61,000 refugees living below the poverty line," says Cordone. "There isn't an alternative to this provision of services to these people." English teacher Maisun Issa admits the situation is tough.
"The ceiling collapsed in one class. There's damage in other parts of the school that need to be fixed," says the 52-year-old. Her family is originally from the ethnically mixed Israeli city of Haifa but she was born in Lebanon and has taught English in UNRWA schools since 2003. "We all have families that depend on us. This worries employees," says Issa, who supports her mother and her orphaned nephew. "There are entire families that depend on UNRWA and all of a sudden there will be kids that find themselves without schools," she says. Fatima Hamid, a 33-year-old Palestinian refugee, never got to finish her studies and was hoping for something different for her daughters. She lived in Libya before coming to Lebanon, where she had her daughters Rana, 14, and Rawan, 10. "It's a huge catastrophe," says Hamid. "We're afraid. The whole world knows the situation for Palestinians. If the schools close, our children won't have a future -- they'll end up in the streets."
Israeli Army General Says Another War with Hezbollah Will Be the Last
Agencies/September 04/2018/The head of the Israeli military’s Northern Command issued a clear threat to the Lebanon-based Hezbollah on Monday, saying Israel’s next war with the group would be the last one.“[Hezbollah] will feel the force of our arm. I hope there won’t be another war, but if there is, it won’t be another Second Lebanon War, but the final northern war,” said Maj. Gen. Yoel Strick at a conference. Strick stressed that the Israeli army has dramatically improved in the 12 years since the 2006 war, with a more intensive training schedule, better weaponry, and improved intelligence capabilities. “If [Hezbollah] knew what we know about them, they wouldn’t be speaking so confidently,” Strick said. “In Hezbollah, they make statements from bunkers. We are aware of their economic situation and their capabilities,” he added.

Maronite Patriarch Warns of Educational and Social Crisis in Lebanon 04/2018/Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi on Tuesday blamed politicians for tarnishing and distorting the fundamental political pacts and agreements that were sealed between the Lebanese, saying that they were replaced by a sectarian- partisan system which ensures their political survival in the state's power system. “Thus, citizens find themselves forced to get affiliated with his sect's party so that he would get a job or participate in running the State’s affairs,” Al-Rahi said during the annual Catholic Schools conference. The patriarch said that the current government formation stalemate is causing total recession, hindering all attempts of economic revival, impeding reforms in all sectors, and contributing to the spread of corruption and to the establishment of the law of the jungle. Al-Rahi warned of a serious educational and social crisis as the State is forcing many private schools to shut their doors, saying that the problem resulting from the salary scale law is pushing teachers and schools personnel into unemployment. “It is the State’s duty to help parents who chose to get their children in private schools. To do so, the State should cover the six-degree pay hike granted to the teachers," he said.

Hankache Reiterated Need for Rescue Government 04/2018/Kataeb MP Elias Hankache on Tuesday called for a rescue government, saying that the country is on the verge of bankruptcy and economic collapse. “We are heading towards more procrastination over the formation of a new government due to the ongoing wrangle and greed over ministerial seats," Hankache said during an interview with Radio Van. "How can we establish a culture of accountability in this country as long as we form governments in which we force ourselves to represent all the political parties?" he asked. "If officials in Lebanon have the will, then let’s form a rescue government and end the current tensions. Otherwise, I suggest forming a small rescue government until a political solution is reached, or at least until a larger government is formed," he said. "It is unacceptable to leave the country without a government and keep the people's concerns and problems unsolved."

Kataeb Party Holds Obstructors Responsible for Political Instability 04/2018/The Lebanese Kataeb party on Monday renewed its criticism of political forces that are hindering the Cabinet formation with conditions and counter-conditions, blasting their selfishness and recklessness while the country is facing tremendous problems. "The Kataeb party [...] holds all of the Cabinet formation obstructors, who are busy wrangling over shares, sizes and gains, responsible for the prevailing political instability," read a statement issued following the weekly meeting of the Kataeb's politburo. "The party warns against wasting more time and calls for a state of emergency on the economic and social levels after financial indexes have reached an alarming point," it added. The party also deemed the failure to resolve the refugee crisis as a major threat endangering Lebanon's entity, demanding that the Syrians' return to their homeland would be accorded a paramount importance. The politburo also warned of the repercussions of the U.S. decision to cut UNRWA funding, warning that it may dash the Palestinians' right to return to their land and, therefore, lead to a new status quo according to which the refugees would stay for good in the countries that are hosting them. Days after a mass was held in Tabariyyeh to commemorate the martyrs of the Lebanese Resistance, the politburo noted that said ceremony highlights the wide rift between the memory of the great martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the country, and the current politicians who would compromise anything for power.

Lebanese Man Commits Triple Murder in France 04/2018/A 31-year-old Lebanese national, identified as Bernard Bitar, committed a horrific triple homicide, stabbing his family members to death inside their apartment in Le Cannet (Alpes-Maritimes) in southeastern France. The suspect murdered his mother Paula (61), his father George (78), and his younger sister Bernadette (21).Police arrested the assailant at the crime scene and referred him to psychiatric examination. French media quoted Bitar as telling the police that he doesn't regret his act and that the crime was premeditated. Sources revealed to Voice of Lebanon radio station that the murder motive is believed to be related to inheritance.
UNIFIL Head of Mission Major General Del Col hosts LAF Commander General Aoun in UNIFIL HQ
UNIFI web site/September 04/18
UNIFIL Head of Mission and Force Commander Major General Stefano Del Col met today with Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) Commander, General Joseph Aoun, at the UN Peacekeepers’ Headquarters in south Lebanon to discuss operational imperatives for the two forces following the renewal of UNIFIL’s mandate by the UN Security Council.
Discussions included a wide range of issues to further enhance the coordination between the two forces in south Lebanon and the capability of LAF, which has helped ensure over 12-years of overall stability in UNIFIL’s area of operations south of the Litani River.
“Despite the regional turmoil, the LAF continues to show resilience and its ability in preserving stability through the efforts and sacrifices of its troops and the Lebanese security apparatuses,” said Major General Del Col after the meeting.
The discussions also focused on the provisions stipulated in the UN Security Council resolution 2433, adopted on 30 August to extend UNIFIL’s mandate for another year under UN Security Council resolution 1701 (2006). We are closely coordinating with LAF to ensure UNIFIL’s freedom of movement and access to the Blue Line, in all its parts as well as the safety and security of our peacekeepers, which is integral to the effective execution of our mandated tasks
In comments after the meeting UNIFIL Force Commander Del Col also noted that:” We have a common intent to ensure stability in the area of operations and, among other things, ensure that the area is free of unauthorized weapons and hostile activities of any kind.”
Major General Del Col stressed the importance of building on the momentum of an already enhanced presence of UNIFIL and LAF coordination, noting that a priority for the international community and UNIFIL is to further build the capacity of LAF in southern Lebanon.
“The establishment of the (LAF) Model Regiment, for example, is an important step forward to extend state authority and security, and preserve stability,” Del Col said.
In adopting resolution 2433, the Security Council also encouraged Lebanon to deploy an offshore patrol vessel in Lebanese territorial waters.
Major General Del Col also commended the LAF for its active engagement in the UNIFIL-led tripartite and liaison mechanisms, which have helped in de-escalating tensions, especially along the Blue Line, and in building trust between the parties.
“The Tripartite Forum is a unique confidence building mechanism that has also been instrumental in preventing misunderstandings and preserving stability in the area,” he continued.”
For his part, General Aoun expressed appreciation for UNIFIL and the 41 countries contributing troops to the peacekeeping force who are helping to further strengthen LAF and maintain calm in south Lebanon.
“I would like to extend the full support of the LAF to Major General Del Col for the success of this mission. The excellent cooperation and coordination between the two forces has dramatically improved the security situation and been instrumental in providing the stability to UNIFIL’s area of operations,” said LAF Commander General Aoun after the meeting.
“The calm that has prevailed in the south of Lebanon is reflected in the whole country,” he said, adding that he is looking forward to further enhance the cooperation between the two forces to fully implement UNSCR 1701.
Iran's Secret Weapons-smuggling Air Routes to Lebanon Revealed by Intel Sources
Fox News/September 04/18
An Iranian civil aviation company is suspected of smuggling arms into Lebanon, destined for the militant group Hezbollah and Iranian weapons factories -- and western intelligence sources said Monday they've uncovered the unexpected routes that Iran apparently took to try avoiding detection.The sources identified two rare and unusual Qeshm Fars Air flights from Tehran to the international airport in Beirut during the past two months.
The first flight, on July 9, involved a Boeing 747 that departed from an air force base in Tehran, stopped for a short layover at the international airport in Damascus, Syria, and then continued with a rather “uncharacteristic flight path” to the Beirut international airport, where it landed shortly after 4 p.m. local time.
According to flight data obtained by Fox News, the route passed over northern Lebanon, not following any commonly used flight path. A regional intelligence source who asked to remain anonymous said: “The Iranians are trying to come up with new ways and routes to smuggle weapons from Iran to its allies in the Middle East, testing and defying the West’s abilities to track them down.”
Western intelligence sources said the airplane carried components for manufacturing precise weapons in Iranian factories inside Lebanon. The U.S. and Israel, as well as other western intelligence agencies, have supplied evidence that Iran has operated weapons factories in Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.
Last week, citing Iranian, Iraqi and Western sources, the Reuters news agency reported that Iran had transferred short-range ballistic missiles to its Shiite allies inside Iraq in recent months. Tehran and Baghdad formally denied that report.
The second flight was conducted on August 2. Flight number QFZ9960 landed in Beirut at 5:59 pm, after departing Tehran's international airport two and a half hours earlier. This time, the plane did not stop in Damascus, but it followed a slightly irregular route north of Syria.
Qeshm Fars Air is considered one of the various pseudo-civilian airlines used for arms-smuggling by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the elite Al-Quds force led by Qassem Soleimani. Back in October 2017, President Trump imposed sanctions on the IRGC and the Al-Quds force.
The airline had ceased operations in 2013, citing poor management, but restarted under new management in March 2017. It is said to have two Boeing 747s in its fleet. Among the members of the company’s board are three IRGC representatives: Ali Naghi Gol Parsta, Hamid Reza Pahlvani and Gholamreza Qhasemi. The United States is Lebanon’s primary security partner, according to the State Department. Since 2006, the U.S has provided Lebanon over $1.7 billion in security assistance, in part to counter Hezbollah’s influences.
Hezbollah is considered a terror organization by many U.S. officials and other western countries, and is backed and funded by Iran.
The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on September 04-05/18
Convoy of Iranian Forces Was Bombed Near U.S. Base in Syria, Report Says
الهآررتس/إسرائيل تستهدف قافلة عسكرية إيرانية بالقرب من الحدود السورية ومقتل 8 إيرانيين وسوريين
Haaretz/September 04/18
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights: Eight killed, including Iranian and Syrians, in air strike as Iranian foreign minister visits Damascus ahead of battle over Idlib
A convoy of Iranian forces was hit by air strikes near the U.S.' Al-Tanf base in Syria, as reported on Monday by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors victims of the fighting. According to the report, an Iranian citizen, four Syrians and three non-Syrian combatants were killed in the attack.
Rami Abdel Rahman, the chairman of the Syrian organization, whose headquarters are in London, said that it was not known who was responsible for the attack. The AFT news agency turned to the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition asking whether it had bombed the convoy, but there was no response.
The site of the strike is located near Syria's borders with Iraq and Jordan. The report of the attack came at a time when Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was visiting Damascus for talks with senior Syrian officials, in advance of the battle for Idlib in the northwest of the country, which is considered the last major rebel enclave. It was the second time in a week that a senior Iranian official visited Syria.
Iran's defense minister arrived in Damascus last week and signed an agreement for defensive cooperative between the two countries. Tehran has provided Syrian President Bashar Assad with military support in recent years in his war against the rebel forces opposing his regime.
Sunday saw a report in Syria about an aerial strike near the Al Mezzeh military airport in Damascus, which was attributed to Israel. According to a source in the pro-Assad regional alliance, Syria's aerial defense systems shot down the Israeli missiles. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that two military men were killed and another 11 were wounded. On Friday Iranian President Hassan Rohani, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are scheduled to meet in Iran to discuss developments in Syria. "I believe that the meeting will be successful and beneficial for the region, the people of Syria and the struggle against terror," said Bahram Qassemi, a spokesman for the Iranian Defense Ministry, to Iran's Fars news agency.
Qassemi added that Idlib is one of the most complex issues on the agenda, and said that Damascus "is determined to put an end to this catastrophe. The Syrian government has a right to fight terror in the region. Iran, as a supporter of the government, is present and will continue with its assistance as long as the Syrian government is interested."

Israel Strikes Iranian, Assad Regime Targets' in Syria
Jack Khoury/Haaretz/September 04/18
Israeli jets attacked military targets in the northwestern Syrian city of Hama on Tuesday, Syrian state media reported, adding that one person was killed and 12 others were wounded.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, warplanes entered through Lebanese airspace and targeted Iranian positions. A military source told the SANA state news agency that Syrian air defenses intercepted several missiles over the nearby town of Wadi Al Uyun. Civilians in the area reported hearing explosions and seeing smoke rise from nearby buildings. Additional strikes were reported in the coastal town of Baniyas, the site of research centers and military installations. The Israeli military struck more than 200 targets and fired 800 missiles and mortar shells over the past year-and-a-half, a senior IDF official said Tuesday, adding that the IDF is working intensively to target Iranian weapons convoys and targets in Syria. Last month, a senior Syrian chemical weapons development scientist was killed when his car exploded in the nearby city of Masyaf in northwestern Syria in an attack that Syrian media attributed to Israel's Mossad espionage agency. According to reports, Dr. Aziz Asber ran a scientific development center in the city, which was attacked several times before. The blast also killed his personal driver. Several strikes near Masyaf have been attributed to Israel in recent years, the last of which was on July 22. Some of Iran's military bases in Syria are next to Syrian military compounds, an intelligence source told Reuters. Last year, it was reported that Israel attacked a target near Masyaf. The alleged Israeli strike took place exactly 10 years after Israel took out Bashar Assad's nuclear reactor. At the time, the Syrian army general command described the target as a military facility, and said a nearby site where short-range surface-to-surface missiles were stored was also hit. However, a war monitor said the center in Masyaf has been described by the U.S. as Syria's chemical weapons manufacturer. Opposition forces also said the target was a weapons factory that develops arms for the Syrian regime and for Hezbollah.
Kerry Reveals Details of Assad’s Secret Letter to Netanyahu in 2010
Amir Tibon/Haaretz/September 04/18
أمير تايبون من الهآررتس: وزير خارجية أميركا السابق كيري يكشف تفاصيل رسالة الأسد السرية إلى نتنياهو عام 2010
'Assad asked me what it would take to enter into serious peace negotiations in the hope of securing return of the Golan Heights,' former U.S. secretary of state says in new memoir.
WASHINGTON – Syrian President Bashar Assad sent U.S. President Barack Obama a secret proposal for peace with Israel in 2010, which was also shared with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, former Secretary of State John Kerry writes in his new memoir published Tuesday.
According to Kerry, Netanyahu found the proposal “surprising” because it showed that Assad was willing to make more concessions than in previous negotiations.
The letter was drafted by Assad a year before the start of Syria's civil war; Syria and Israel did engage in American-mediated negotiations up until early 2011, but eventually did not reach any agreements or understandings.
In his book “Every Day is Extra,” Kerry writes at length about Syria, which he describes as an “open wound” left behind by the Obama administration and an issue that he thinks about “every day.”
According to Kerry, in 2009, while he was chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, he visited Damascus as part of a Middle East tour and held his first long meeting with Assad, who by then had been in power for a decade.
“In our first meeting, I confronted him about a Syrian nuclear power plant that Israel had famously bombed,” Kerry wrote, referring to the Syrian nuclear reactor that then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s government destroyed in 2007.
“The fact that this was a nuclear facility had been well established publicly. It was beyond dispute,” Kerry explains. Yet Assad, according to Kerry, denied those facts, even when the two men were left alone. “Assad looked at me in the eye and told me it wasn’t a nuclear facility, with exactly the same affect and intonation with which he said everything else. It was a stupid lie, utterly disprovable, but he lied without any hesitation,” Kerry writes.
During their next conversation, writes Kerry, he pressed Assad on his support for the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, and the Syrian president replied that “everything is to be negotiated” – hinting that this policy could change as a result of negotiations with Israel.
Kerry notes that previous attempts to reach a peace agreement between Israel and Syria under the governments of Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak, Olmert and Netanyahu (during his first term in the 1990s) had all ended in failure, but Assad was still interested in some sort of deal with Israel.
“Assad asked me what it would take to enter into serious peace negotiations, in the hope of securing return of the Golan Heights, which Syria had lost to Israel in 1967,” writes Kerry. “I told him that if he were serious, he should make a private proposal. He asked what it would look like. I shared my thoughts. He instructed his top aide to draft a letter from Assad to President Obama.”
In the letter, writes Kerry, Assad asked Obama to support renewed peace talks with Israel and stated “Syria’s willingness to take a number of steps in exchange for the return of the Golan from Israel.”
Kerry notes that “Assad’s father [Hafez Assad] had tried and failed to get the Golan back, so he was willing to do a lot in return.”
According to Kerry, immediately after the meeting with Assad he flew over to Israel and shared the information with Netanyahu, who had just recently returned to power after 10 years either out of politics or in the opposition. “The next day, I flew to Israel, where I sat down with Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu and showed him Assad’s letter,” writes Kerry. “He was surprised that Assad was willing to go that far, significantly further than he’d been willing to go [previously].”
Kerry had mentioned the letter’s existence once before, in a New Yorker interview in 2015, but had not previously described his conversation with Netanyahu about it. Back in 2015, he said that Netanyahu eventually told the administration he could not make an agreement with Syria under the circumstances.
According to Kerry, after he showed Assad’s letter to Netanyahu, he brought it back with him to Washington. The Obama administration tried to test Assad’s seriousness by asking the Syrian leader to take “confidence-building measures” toward both the United States and Israel, including a cessation of some weapon shipments to Hezbollah. Yet Assad disappointed the administration by failing to follow through on his promises.
“I remember hearing that Assad was continuing with exactly the kind of behavior on Hezbollah that we told him needed to stop. It was disappointing but unsurprising,” writes Kerry.
Later in the book, Kerry describes Assad in very negative terms, reflecting on his conduct throughout the brutal civil war. “A man who can lie to your face four feet away from you can just as easily lie to the world after he has gassed his own people to death,” Kerry says.
Kerry also writes at length about deliberations within the administration on how to react to Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his people in the summer of 2013.
According to Kerry, he and most other senior national security officials around Obama advocated for a military strike against Assad, in line with Obama’s definition of chemical attacks as a “red line.” But Obama hesitated – especially after it became evident that such a step would not receive overwhelming support in Congress. Kerry concludes his chapter on Syria by writing that by the end of Obama’s term, and as Donald Trump was preparing to enter the White House, “diplomacy to save Syria was dead, and the wounds of Syria remained open. I think every day about how we might have closed them and how the world might close them still.”On Friday, excerpts from Kerry’s book related to his attempts to foster an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord as secretary of state were published by Jewish Insider. In his memoir, Kerry also says he probably spent more time as secretary of state talking with Netanyahu than with any other world leader.

Israeli Strikes Target Iranian Positions in Syria
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 04/18/Israeli missile strikes targeted Iranian military positions in the Syrian provinces of Hama and Tartus on Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said. Syria's state news agency SANA said its air defense systems downed several missiles launched from Israeli warplanes. The Observatory said missiles struck Wadi al-Oyoun in the central province of Hama, near a scientific research center which was already targeted by Israeli strikes in July and last year. Iranian military positions in coastal region of Banias, in the province of Tartus, were also targeted, the Britain-based monitoring organization said. "There was material damage," said Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman. "The air defense system responded to an Israeli aggression carried out by aircraft... that targeted some of our military positions in the provinces of Tartus and Hama," SANA said, quoting a military source. "Some of the missiles" were downed, the agency said, reporting an initial casualty toll of one dead and four wounded.

U.S. Says Will 'Respond Swiftly' if Assad Uses Chemical Arms
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 04/18/The United States warned Damascus Tuesday it will respond "swiftly and appropriately" if it uses chemical weapons against its people. The warning came amid signs that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was preparing an offensive in Idlib province that the United Nations has said poses the threat of a humanitarian disaster. "Let us be clear, it remains our firm stance that if President Bashar al-Assad chooses to again use chemical weapons, the United States and its allies will respond swiftly and appropriately," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
UN urges Putin, Erdogan to talk urgently to avert Idlib ‘bloodbath’
Reuters, Geneva/Tuesday, 4 September 2018/Syria could be spared its bloodiest battle yet if the Russian and Turkish presidents talk to each other urgently about resolving the situation in the rebel-held region of Idlib, UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said on Tuesday.
De Mistura told reporters that ongoing talks between Russia and Turkey held the key to averting an assault on the region, but six reported air strikes on Tuesday suggested the Ankara talks were not going well. Media reports had said Syria’s government might wait until Sept 10 before launching an assault, making a summit in Tehran on Friday “crucial”. But he called on Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Turkey's Tayyep Erdogan to talk by phone before then, saying “time is of the essence”.

Russia Resumes Idlib Air Strikes amid Warnings
Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 4 September, 2018/Russian air strikes have resumed against opposition fighters in Syria's northwestern Idlib province on Tuesday after several weeks, as the West warned against the repercussions of a military operation on the territory. The head of the regime, Bashar al-Assad, has sworn to recapture every inch of Syria and has made big gains against the opposition since Russia joined his war effort in 2015. Last week, a source close to Damascus said the regime was preparing a phased offensive to recover Idlib province, but Turkey, whose army has a string of observation posts around the edge of the area, has warned against such an assault. Russian air raids ceased in and around Idlib on August 15, but pro-Syrian regime forces have maintained an aerial bombardment and shelling against opposition fighters there, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. An opposition source and the Observatory both said the air strikes were in the countryside near Jisr al-Shughour on the western edge of the opposition's northwestern territory. Russian, Turkish and Iranian leaders are due to meet on Sept. 7 in Iran and are expected to discuss the situation in northwestern Syria. US President Donald Trump on Monday warned the Syrian regime against launching an attack on Idlib, saying the offensive could trigger a "human tragedy." Assad “must not recklessly attack Idlib Province. The Russians and Iranians would be making a grave humanitarian mistake to take part in this potential human tragedy," Trump tweeted. In a speech to EU ambassadors, the EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, also warned that an offensive would bring destructive results on the Syrian people who have been already suffering greatly due to the civil war. She added that the EU should exert strong efforts to prevent the offensive.

Idlib Offensive Awaits Tehran Summit, Russia ‘Won’t Indefinitely Tolerate Situation’
Moscow - London - Raed Jabr and Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 4 September, 2018/Moscow is awaiting a tripartite summit in Tehran next Friday to develop a Russian-Turkish-Iranian joint vision on a solution in Idlib, while Foreign Minister Sergei warned that Russia “could not indefinitely” tolerate the situation in the opposition-held Syrian province. Speaking to university students in Moscow on Monday, Lavrov said the Syrian regime, Russia’s ally, had every right to wipe out militants in northern Idlib, Interfax news agency reported. In a message addressed to Ankara, Lavrov stressed the need to separate the moderate opposition from terrorists. "We are now taking the most active effort, together with our Turkish colleagues, together with the Syrian government, and with the Iranians as participants in the Astana format, to split the armed normal opposition forces from the terrorists on the ground,” Lavrov said. Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrived Monday on a surprise visit to Damascus, where he held talks with head of the Syrian regime Bashar Assad and his Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, who is just back from a visit to Moscow. His visit to Syria follows that of Iranian Defense Minister Amir Hatami last week. Zarif met Assad to discuss "issues on the agenda for the tripartite meeting," according to the Syrian presidency's account on the Telegram messaging app. Assad's office also said Iran and Syria "had similar views on the different issues" to be discussed. On Sunday, informed Syrian sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that regime forces were awaiting presidential orders to kick off an offensive against Idlib. Assad has pledged to defeat the opposition in its last refuge in the northwestern province if the fighters do not surrender to government rule. Sources said Monday that differences between Russia and Turkey concerning the situation in Idlib have declined following talks held between the two sides in the past weeks. However, Russian media outlets said the gap has widened between Moscow and Tehran. A Russian expert wrote on the Svobodnaya Pressa website that “Tehran is no more in need of Moscow in Syria,” and that it was working on enhancing its own presence and interests there.

Iran Recruits over 2,000 Syrian Combatants
London – Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 4 September, 2018/The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights obtained documented information from a number of reliable sources on Iranian forces having recruited over 2,000 Syrian nationals, most of whom are Deir Ezzor locals.
Recruits receive direct funding, military and logistical support from Iranian forces operating on Syrian territory. Sources presenting documented information stress that recruits are on Iranian payroll that ranges from 48,000 Syrian pounds to 75,000 Syrian pounds, varying according to both rank and time in service. Such massive recruitment is accompanied with an Iranian desire to counter losses incurred by ongoing bombardment by Israeli and US-led international coalition strikes against its troops in Syria. Iranian forces steadily exercise military expansion within Syrian territory, introducing elements of its infamous Revolutionary Guard or loyalist militias from Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and Asia. The Observatory pointed out that there have been no withdrawals of Iranian military forces, Afghan, Asian, Iraqi and Lebanese Hezbollah militias from Syrian outposts insofar, and that they all remain stationed in deployments such as near Aleppo’s southern and northern countryside, Idlib’s eastern countryside, and northern and southern Hama suburbs. A report published by the group stated that the number of Iranian forces comprising non-Syrian militiamen tops 32,000, of which 7,806 belonging to Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Afghan, Iraqi and Asian militias combined were killed. The report included accounts of 1,649 deaths of Hezbollah militiamen as well.

Iran: No Time Limit to Maintain Nuclear Deal
London- Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 4 September, 2018/Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi denied on Tuesday reports claiming there was a specific time-frame between Tehran and European countries to find mechanisms for economic cooperation. However, he stressed the need to speed up Tehran's access to "practical" guarantees to compensate for US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and resumption of economic sanctions. In his weekly press briefing, Qasemi said his country was considering compensation mechanisms for the aftermath of the US withdrawal from the nuclear agreement. He denied statements that recent negotiations included Iran's regional intervention and ballistic missile development, asserting that they discussed the financial system, industries, technology and economic issues. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Thursday that Iran must be open to discussions on its missile program and regional interventions. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei questioned the fate of the nuclear deal and called on Iran’s President Rouhani to “stop having hopes in them on the issues like JCPOA or economic matters.”
“It is fine to establish ties, continue negotiations with Europe; however...You should strictly watch over the process of dealing with the matters, approaching their promises with wariness,” Khamenei warned. Last week, Rouhani told the parliament during his questioning session he informed his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron that Tehran had a "third way" to deal with the ongoing crisis other than simply abandoning or staying in the nuclear deal. The spokesman denied the existence of negotiations between European and Iranian officials on the development of ballistic missiles and regional interventions, noting that it “is not a new topic”."Iran's behavior would be in line with its interests," asserted Qasemi. Before heading to Tehran for his first visit, British Secretary of State Alistair Burt said talks with Iranian officials will discuss Iran’s ballistic missile arsenal and its role in wars in the Middle East. Back in May, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi demanded that European countries provide “guarantees” within 60 days to safeguard Iran’s interests after the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal. “The Europeans have between 45 and 60 days to give the necessary guarantees to safeguard Iranian interests and compensate the damages caused by the US pullout,” AFP quoted Araghchi as saying. Qasemi told reporters there couldn’t be a time frame on the deal regarding issues such as the development of mechanisms for financial and banking cooperation and industry-related issues.
The spokesman pointed out that his country is waiting for other proposals, after Europe has reached an internal agreement, before announcing its final position on the European packet.
"The European negotiations are going through technical stages," he said, noting that the negotiations had taken a long time and called on the Europeans to "clarify the issues as soon as possible."Meanwhile, the spokesman downplayed local reports stating that a planned meeting between the foreign ministers of Iran and the European countries on the nuclear deal had been canceled, pointing that it is still not clear "when and where" the negotiations will be held. In his weekly press conference, Qasemi denied tensions in the Iranian-Iraqi relations, indicating that certain international parties are trying to undermine Iran’s foreign relations with its neighbors. 'I can say that this is part of a widespread psychological war against Iran,' he added while noting that over the past few days more than eight issues have been raised about Iran and Iraq, and the “enemies” have tried to raise these issues and create tension between the two countries. At the same time, Qasemi pointed out that the psychological war to undermine Iran's relations with Iraq and other countries is on “their agenda, and we must pay attention to the destructive nature of these measures with sensitivity and not allow them to re-distribute topics that are not fundamentally helping them to succeed.” Regarding the process of forming the parliament and government in Iraq and some of the accusations against Iran, Qasemi believes the charges that are sometimes raised are “false and unfounded, and the necessary answers have been given to them.”
He asserted that for Iran, it is critical to maintain Iraq’s “independence and territorial integrity.”“This is the right of the Iraqi people to choose what they want, and our general policy is not to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, but we do not allow others to interfere in our internal affairs,” noted the spokesman. Qasemi declined to directly respond to a question on Iraq’s Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi’s statement about cutting off Karun River from Shatt al-Arab, as reported by ISNA news agency. He said the two countries will maintain their cooperation and dialogue in various fields. If there is any issue, it will be discussed during talks and negotiations between officials of both countries, Qasemi asserted.
EU chief diplomat to quit after struggle with Iran nuclear deal
AFP/Brussels Tuesday, 4 September 2018/The EU’s chief diplomat Federica Mogherini indicated on Monday she would not seek reappointment when her term expires next year. The former Italian foreign minister, who has played a major role in trying to save the beleaguered Iran nuclear deal, told a gathering of EU ambassadors that she would work hard over the coming year to leave the “house in order” for her successor. Mogherini’s term will end along with the those of the rest of the current European Commission, led by President Jean-Claude Juncker, when its mandate runs out in October next year. “We have a lot to do this year. First of all to preserve what we have achieved so far, that has been a lot but fragile,” Mogherini said. “We have a lot to do to complete the job and to leave to the one that will have the honor, the pleasure, to do this job after me next year, the house in order.”
Mogherini became the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy in 2014 at the age of just 41 after a rapid rise through the ranks of Italian politics. She faced resistance from Eastern European countries who saw her as inexperienced and too close to Moscow. She has been a staunch supporter of the Iran nuclear deal, which is seen as flawed by many as Iran continues to spread its influence in the region and finance terrorist militias. Many social media users expressed their content with Mogherini’s decision, sharing a picture of her wearing a headscarf and posing with Iranian parliament members. But she has overseen significant developments in the EU’s security architecture, notably a major defense pact that aims to get member states to cooperate more closely and spend money more effectively. Her efforts to preserve the 2015 Iran deal, under which Tehran curbed its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief, have struggled in the face of opposition from US President Donald Trump, who withdrew from the pact earlier this year.
Kurdish Decision Set to Shape Future of Iraqi Politics
Erbil - Ehsan Aziz/Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 4 September, 2018/Iraqi Kurds, once again, assumed the role of shaping Iraqi politics as main blocs, US-backed Sairoon and Victory alliances vs Iran-backed Fatah and State of Law coalitions, rushed to win over Kurdish support.“It is too early for Kurdish parties to take a final decision on this matter, and both sides will fail to form a government with Kurdish absence,” former Patriotic Union of Kurdistan PUK member Areez Abdullah told Asharq Al-Awsat. Abdullah spearheads coordination efforts with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in the negotiations with Baghdad. He went on explaining that the Iraqi Shiite divide between Sairoon and Fatah has made for a game of political alliances that Kurdish parties will not play a part in. “We wait in anticipation for events to unfold then give our word—given that we rest assured that both teams will not be able to form a government without the Kurds,” said Abdullah. “Kurds will join a party after naturally negotiating demands and rights of the people of Kurdistan,” he added. Iraq has been caught up in a post-elections political flurry as parties race to secure a parliamentary majority. Kurdish parties are an elemental partner in constitutional political processes promoting partnership, harmony and balance on which the modern-day Iraqi federal parliamentary republic was founded, Abdullah added. He stressed that Kurdish forces no longer trust Victory Alliance’s leader and outgoing Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi because of inconsistent positions and ongoing spat with Kurdish parties. In that, Abdullah hinted the likelihood of Kurds joining opposition forces. “The Kurdish side cannot be overlooked or excluded from real participation in Iraqi governing,” said Iraqi Kurdistan Parliament senior adviser Majid Saleh. “Former Shiite governments deliberately marginalized the role of Sunni forces in state management. We all saw the bloody and costly violence that flooded Iraq as a consequence,” he added.
Iraqi forces kill six protesters in southern city of Basra
The Associated Press/Basra/Tuesday, 4 September 2018/Iraqi security forces fired tear gas and live ammunition on hundreds of protesters in the southern city of Basra on Tuesday, killing six people and wounding 19.Twenty-two members of the security forces were also wounded, some by a hand grenade, the sources said, in some of the worst unrest reported during months of protests sweeping the long neglected south, heartland of Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority. The government has also imposed a curfew in the city. Two activists told The Associated Press that security forces fired bullets and tear gas on protesters demanding better services and jobs on Monday, killing 26-year-old Mekki Yasser. A funeral procession for Yasser was held Tuesday in front of the provincial government building, where protesters threw stones, prompting security forces to fire tear gas at first, then to open fire, killing another six protesters. The activists spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing for their safety. They said a fire was raging on the 6th floor of the provincial government building after protesters lobbed Molotov cocktails inside. A crowd of protesters tried to storm the building. Iraqi officials could not immediately be reached for comment. Several protesters have also been demanding that the border with Iran be closed, and according to social media users, protesters have also been demonstrating against corrupt Iran-linked government officials. A video being circulated on social media also purports to show protesters surrounding a government building that is on fire.Iraqis in the south have been protesting against unemployment and poor public services since July. The protests have often turned violent, with protesters attacking government offices and security forces. Water shortages along with a lingering electricity crisis in the oil-rich region have contributed to protesters' rage, fueling the demonstrations in Basra. Iraq's government has scrambled to meet the growing demands for public services and jobs, but has been hindered by years of endemic corruption and a financial crisis fueled by diminished oil revenues and the costly war against the Islamic State group.
Iraqi Parliament’s First Session Ignites Dispute over Largest Bloc
'Hamza Mustafa/Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 4 September, 2018/The first session of the new Iraqi parliament ignited on Monday disputes between rival parties over which one holds the largest bloc at the legislature. Acting Speaker Mohammed Ali Zaiyni adjourned the session to Tuesday in order to resolve the difference over the largest grouping. All 329 lawmakers, except Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi and executive ministers, were sworn in at the legislature’s inaugural session. Addressing the MPs, Speaker Salim al-Jabouri called for an apology to be issued to the Iraqi people due to the poor services that sparked popular protests across the central and southern parts of the country in July and which have persisted to this day. This marks the second such apology by a senior Iraqi official after one made by Fateh alliance leader Hadi al-Ameri some two months ago. The dispute over the largest bloc is likely to continue on Tuesday. This grouping holds sway over naming a new prime minister, who will be tasked with forming a new government. The “Reform and Construction” alliance claimed to have formed such a bloc, comprised of 177 lawmakers. It includes the Sairoun coalition, backed by Sadrist Movement leader cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, Abadi’s Victory alliance, Hikma coalition of Ammar al-Hakim, “Wataniya” coalition of Iyad Allawi and “Qarar” coalition of Usama al-Nujaifi. The Fateh – State of Law alliance, which dubbed itself the “Construction Alliance”, however, declared that it gathered the largest number of MPs, with 153. It is comprised of Ameri and former PM Nouri al-Maliki. Fateh MP Naim al-Abboudi told Asharq Al-Awsat that the dispute between the two rival camps over the largest parliamentary bloc will be resolved by the Supreme Court. “We have not other way to resolve this dispute,” he stressed. Former MP Salah al-Jabouri told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The first parliamentary session brought with it all the disputes we have been suffering from for the past 15 years whereby negotiations after negotiations are held with no clear vision over how to build a state.”
Safadi Discusses Syrian Crisis With US Official
Amman- Asharq Al Awsat/Tuesday, 4 September, 2018/Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Ayman Safadi discussed on Monday with the US Special Representative for Syria Engagement, James Jeffrey, "developments of war on terror" and the latest developments in the Syrian file, according to a statement issued by the Jordanian Foreign Ministry. Safadi discussed with Jeffrey and the accompanying delegation, which included Deputy Assistant Secretary and Special Envoy for Syria Joel Rayburn, developments in the Syrian crisis and efforts to find a political solution to the conflict, the statement said.
He stressed the need to intensify efforts to reach a political solution to the Syrian crisis that preserves the unity of Syria and accepted by the people in line with resolution 2254 and via the Geneva negotiations process. They tackled the issue of Syrian refugees as Safadi briefed the US delegation on the “huge burdens Jordan had to bear as a host of 1.3 million Syrians,” urging the international community to shoulder its responsibility towards the refugees, according to AFP. He stressed that Jordan encourages voluntary return of Syrian refugees to their country.
On the other hand, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received on Sunday in Tel Aviv Jeffrey to discuss the situation in the Middle East, in particular, the Syrian and Iranian issues, the prime minister's office said. Ahead of Jeffrey’s visit to the region, the State Department said he would discuss “maintaining Israel's security while countering Iran's destabilizing activity throughout the region.” It said that Jeffrey and Rayburn will also travel on to Jordan and Turkey, where they will reiterate the US position against a military offensive in Idlib.
The two “will also address Russia's specious allegations of international plans to stage a chemical weapons attack in Syria” in their meetings across the region, according to the State Department.

12 Arrested on Terrorism Charges in Algeria
Algiers - Boualem Goumrassa/Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 4 September, 2018/The Algerian ministry of defense announced that 12 suspects were arrested on terrorism charges. Nine of the detainees were arrested for the possession of weapons and three for supporting extremist groups. The Algerian army has been intensifying its activity in regions that were controlled by extremists years ago. On its website, the ministry said that the nine individuals were arrested in In Guezzam and Tamanrasset, near the border with Niger. It added that the army seized eight firearms, a hunting rifle and four kilograms of gunpowder. In another region at the southern border, 14 kilograms of explosives and two automatic pistols were confiscated. The ministry did not provide any additional details regarding the military operation.The border regions are known hubs for arms smuggling and human and drug trafficking. The three other suspects were detained in Setif (300 kilometers east of the capital Algiers) on suspicion of supporting terrorists. The ministry did not provide further details.
During years of conflict with extremists, Setif remained safe from terrorist attacks that plagued eastern Algeria.

Tel Aviv Intends to Expel UNRWA From Jerusalem First

Ramallah- Asharq Al Awsat/Tuesday, 4 September, 2018/The Israeli mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, said he was determined to draw up a plan to end the work of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Jerusalem. Barkat confirmed that he had instructed the municipality’s specialized staff to prepare the plan for submission to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for approval. “We will close UNRWA schools and allow better choice (for people),” he said. “We will replace their failed welfare services with our plan.” Barkat described UNRWA as a foreign and unnecessary body, which failed dramatically and hindered progress in the city. “The goal is to remove the factor that impedes the continued development of Jerusalem ... We want to end the attitude towards them as refugees and see them as residents,” he said. He also claimed that removing UNRWA from Jerusalem “will reduce incitement and terrorism and improve services.” UNRWA operates the Shuafat refugee camp, north of Jerusalem, the only camp in the city, with a population of more than 20,000. The agency has five schools in Jerusalem, in addition to a central medical center. The Israeli decision to end UNRWA’s work in Jerusalem came days after the United States decided to completely halt its funding to the international body. The US intends to end UNRWA’s work, within a plan to revoke the right of return and recognize only 40,000 refugees who remained alive from some 700,000 who left their villages in 1948, rejecting UNRWA’s figures of more than 5 million refugees. UNRWA was established in 1948 by a UN resolution. The PLO said that only the UN could cancel the organization’s mandate. UNRWA Spokesman Sami Mushaashah said that his administration did not receive any notification regarding the termination of their presence in the city of Jerusalem. “The agency asserts that its schools and other vital services in the holy city are still working,” he stressed.

Palestinians, Jordan Disagree with Israel over ‘Confederation’ Interpretation
Ramallah - Kifah Zboun/Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 4 September, 2018/Israel was the original side that had proposed to the Americans the idea of a Palestinian-Jordanian confederation, to be established between the West Bank and Jordan, excluding Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, revealed Israeli sources. According to a report published in the Israeli daily Haaretz, the recent US proposal that was presented to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was originally an Israeli idea. Abbas announced that he would agree to a confederation with Jordan if Israel was part of it. “I was asked whether I believed in federalism with Jordan,” Abbas said. “My answer was yes; I want to establish a tripartite confederation with Jordan and Israel. I asked if the Israelis agreed with this proposal.” Abbas wanted to embarrass the Americans and the Israelis, as he knew that he was ready to discuss this issue only after the establishment of a Palestinian state. Nabil Abu Rudeina, spokesman for the Palestinian Authority, said the idea of a confederation had been on the agenda of the Palestinian leadership since 1984, but stressed that the two-state solution was a prerequisite for any future agreement with Jordan.
This Palestinian approach contradicts the Israeli proposal that the West Bank (without Jerusalem) be under Jordanian security control, which will protect the Jordanian-Palestinian border with Israel, while Israel declares the annexation of East Jerusalem and the Israeli settlements. As for the Gaza Strip, it will not be be part of the confederation agreement, but its security will be linked to Egypt. Jordanian government spokeswoman Joumana Ghneimat said the kingdom’s annexation of the West Bank was not open for discussion.
“Discussing the issue of a confederation with the West Bank is out of the question,” she said, stressing her country’s stance on the establishment of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. According to Haaretz, Jordan fears that a confederacy would be an implementation of the “alternative homeland” on its territory and that it would be transformed into a “border guard for Israel”. The confederation, as envisioned by Abbas, will force Israel to strike new economic agreements, to coordinate foreign policies with Jordan and the Palestinian state and to deal with them as partners of equal status. As for the Israeli perception, the confederacy would be an agreement between the West Bank as a “canton” (an autonomous region) and most of its relations with Jordan would be economic, while the Jordanian king would determine the foreign and security policies. The idea of a confederacy is not new. It was first proposed in the early 1980s, during negotiations between then Jordanian monarch, Hussein bin Talal, and late Palestinian Liberation Organization chief Yasser Arafat. The plan was based on the idea of federalism proposed by King Hussein in 1972 to link the West Bank with the East Bank and establish economic and security cooperation between them, while recognizing the specificity of the Palestinian people in the West Bank, including the establishment of self-governance.
But these years-long negotiations failed and the Jordanian monarch ended the matter by severing the links between the West Bank and Jordan at the administrative and judicial levels.

Israelis to File War Crimes Complaint against 'Hamas' at The Hague

Tel Aviv - Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 4 September, 2018/A group of Jewish farmers living in Israeli towns bordering the Gaza Strip traveled to The Hague in the Netherlands on Monday to file a complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC) against the “Hamas” leadership.
They demanded “Hamas” to pay financial compensation over the torching of thousands of acres of farmland in recent months from incendiary kites and balloons. A delegation of about 20 farmers arrived in The Hague to hand over the drafted complaint to the court. Members of the delegation confirmed that they were speaking on behalf of about 50,000 farmers, whose products and fields had been damaged by fires over the past five months. The complaint was drafted by Israeli legal group Shurat HaDin, whose president Nitsana Darshan-Leitner said in a statement that the existing security reality in which fields and forests in Israel are being burned every day by activists from “Hamas” is “unacceptable.” The lawsuit was filed against “Hamas” officials, including its leader Ismail Haniyeh, his deputy Saleh al-Arouri, the movement’s former chief, Khaled Meshaal, its head in the Gaza Strip, Yahya al-Sinwar, and several others. Along with the complaint, the group protested on Monday outside ICC offices accompanied by a photo exhibit of fields destroyed by the incendiary kites and damage done by mortars and rockets. This is the first lawsuit of its kind submitted to the ICC from the Israeli side. According to the plaintiffs, the firing of incendiary kites and balloons towards the settlement areas in the outskirts of the enclave led to burning around 30,000 dunums of cultivated land, causing millions of dollars of damage as well as health and psychological damage. “What they are trying to do is to burn us, not just our fields. It’s a war crime and a crime against humanity,” farmer Ofer Lieberman said ahead of his arrival at The Hague. “The lawsuit was prepared in the light of several violations of the Rome Statute, including burning fields by incendiary kites, attacking Israeli borders, using children for combat purposes and civilians as human shields,” Lieberman added.

Satterfield is Leading Candidate for US Ambassador to Egypt
Cairo - Mohamed Nabil Helmy/Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 4 September, 2018/Egypt is awaiting the official announcement of the name of the new US ambassador to Cairo, more than a year after the former diplomat’s mission ended. The past three years have witnessed tense relations between Cairo and Washington. However US President Donald Trump signaled warmer ties with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah el-Sisi after unfreezing previously withheld $195 million in military aid. Last week, Reuters said David Satterfield, a veteran US diplomat with deep experience in the Middle East, is the leading candidate to be nominated as US ambassador to Egypt. Since June 2017, the US Embassy in Cairo is run by Chief of Mission and Chargé d'Affaires Thomas Goldberger. Former Egyptian Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs Mona Omar told Asharq Al-Awsat that placing the name of Satterfield as a candidate for the post of US ambassador to Egypt reveals a US desire to push US-Egyptian relations forward. “If the US speeds up in choosing the new ambassador to Cairo and Congress swiftly approves the nomination, then this would definitely signal a thaw in relations between the countries,” she said. Satterfield has previously served as the deputy US chief of mission in Iraq, ambassador to Lebanon, director for Near Eastern affairs on the National Security Council as well as in Syria, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.

'7th Brigade' Declares ‘Military Coup’ against Militias in Libyan Capital

Cairo – Khaled Mahmoud/Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 4 September, 2018/Security continued to deteriorate in the Libyan capital Tripoli as clashes between rival militias persisted for a second week. Spokesman for the Brigade, Abdul Salam Ashour urged in a statement the government and security forces to exercise their duties. Ashour is interior minister of the Government of National Accord (GNA), which is headed by Fayez al-Sarraj. The Brigade announced that its forces were advancing steadily on Tripoli. In what could be interpreted as a military coup, the Brigade “reassured the residents of Tripoli, all sovereign institutions and diplomatic missions that its advance was aimed at protecting these institutions and ridding them of militias.”The weeks-long fighting in Libya pits the 7th Brigade, which was marching from the city of Tarhuna, against the Tripoli Revolutionaries and “Special Deterrence – Abou Salim” force, both of which are linked to the GNA. The GNA had labeled the 7th Brigade as an outlawed group. Sarraj’s deputy, Ahmed Maiteeq had held talks with Ashour to discuss the situation in the capital. A governments statement said that the minister had presented the measures and decisions taken by his ministry to restore calm in Tripoli. Presidential Council of the GNA had declared on Sunday a state of emergency in Tripoli in wake of the clashes.On Monday, authorities blocked Facebook as part of a clampdown on reports about the fighting. Some reports claimed that the violence had reached the vicinity of the GNA headquarters, forcing Sarraj to flee to the naval base in the capital. A GNA official denied the claims. Witnesses said that a number of gunmen had attacked the headquarters and clashed with the security guards. On the political level, the Tubrok-based parliament said that the unrest in Tripoli led to the postponement of a legislative session, set for Monday, that was aimed at amending the Constitutional Declaration. The meeting was postponed to next week. At least 41 people have been killed and 128 wounded in the Tripoli fighting. Meanwhile, the Italian foreign ministry announced that it was reducing the number of its diplomatic staff in Libya. Diplomatic sources in Rome said that the embassy in Tripoli will remain functional. Local diplomats and media reported that Italy had evacuated 18 embassy employees. Russia, meanwhile, called on rival militias to cease their hostilities and prevent the country from slipping towards chaos.

Spain Says U.S. Losing Israel-Palestine Mediator Role

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 04/18/Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell and his Palestinian counterpart warned Tuesday that Washington was losing its traditional mediating role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by "aligning" with Israel."I regret that the United States, which for many years played a role in contributing to the peace process... are unfortunately disqualifying themselves from playing a mediator role that has the confidence of both parties," Borrell told a press briefing in Madrid with his Palestinian counterpart Riyad al-Maliki. "The minister told me of his serious concern with regards to the situation... as a consequence of the alignment of the United States on Israeli positions," Borrell said. U.S. President Donald Trump has pledged to unveil a plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace saying he wants to reach the "ultimate deal." But Maliki said the U.S. administration had decided "to be part of the problem and not part of the solution.""The United States see the conflict through Israel's eyes, they have adopted the Israeli position," he added, calling on the international community to "take measures to save the peace process."Both ministers were reacting to the U.S. announcement on Friday that it would end funding for the United Nations' agency for Palestinian refugees UNWRA.The United States also announced last month that it was canceling more than $200 million in bilateral aid to Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. Borrell, who condemned the moves, said Spain would double its own, far smaller contribution to UNRWA, from one to two million euros. He said he and Maliki had also talked about "recognition of a Palestinian state." On Sunday, an Israeli peace activist said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had told her U.S. officials working on a peace plan had asked him about forming a confederation with Jordan. A confederation has been favored by some on the Israeli right as a way to avoid granting full statehood to the Palestinians for now. Borrell dismissed this as speculation, saying: "I'm not going to believe it until I see a tweet from President Trump."The Spanish parliament voted unanimously in 2014 to recognize a Palestinian state, but that has remained symbolic.

Afghan Taliban Announces Death of Haqqani Network Founder
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 04/18/The founder of the Haqqani network, one of Afghanistan's most effective and brutal militant groups, has died after a long illness, their affiliates the Afghan Taliban announced Tuesday. Jalaluddin Haqqani, a one-time CIA asset whose group became a top US target, spent decades working with groups such as Al Qaeda and the Taliban to entrench jihad in the conflict-racked region. Despite his fearsome reputation, his death is not expected to have an impact on the extremist group's operations. Jalaluddin, thought to be in his 70s or 80s, had been bedridden for years and had already passed the leadership to his son Sirajuddin, who is also the Taliban's deputy leader. Jalaluddin "was from among the great distinguished Jihadi personalities of this era", the Taliban said in a statement posted on Twitter. He "was ill and bedridden for the past several years", the group added. It did not specify where or when he died. Unverified reports have placed him in Pakistan in recent years. During the 1980s Jalaluddin Haqqani was an Afghan mujahideen commander fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan with the help of the US and Pakistan. He gained fame for his organisation and bravery, garnering attention from the CIA and a personal visit from US congressman Charlie Wilson who helped secure arms for the mujahideen. A fluent Arabic speaker, Jalaluddin also fostered close ties with Arab jihadists including Osama bin Laden who flocked to the region during the war. Later, Jalaluddin became a minister in the Taliban regime which took power in Afghanistan in 1996. There had been rumours of his death before, in 2008 and 2015, though this was the first time the Taliban have issued a statement on it. - Devastating attacks -The Haqqani network has been blamed for spectacular attacks targeting civilians, Afghan and US-led NATO forces across Afghanistan since the Taliban were toppled from power in 2001. However Afghan and foreign analysts and diplomats played down the significance of Jalaluddin's death for the group's operations. Analyst Michael Kugelman of the Wilson Center in Washington tweeted: "Given how long he'd been ill, his death won't have a big impact on the war." "His death is not going to affect the network or Taliban operations because he was not an active member," Afghan political analyst Atta Noori told AFP.
"He was too old, sick and in bed for years."The Haqqanis, suspected of links to Pakistan's shadowy military establishment, were described by US Admiral Mike Mullen in 2011 as a "veritable arm" of Pakistani intelligence. Washington has long pressured Islamabad to crack down on militant groups, particularly the Haqqanis. On Saturday the Pentagon announced it was cancelling $300 million in aid to Pakistan because of its lack of "decisive" action. But Jalaluddin's son Sirajuddin was running the network "with major ISI involvement", a foreign diplomat in Kabul told AFP, referring to Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence.
"I doubt anything will change," he said. Designated a terrorist group by the US, the Haqqanis are known for their heavy use of suicide bombers, indiscriminately killing Afghan civilians and security forces. They were blamed for the devastating truck bomb in the heart of Kabul in May 2017 that killed around 150 people -- though Sirajuddin later denied involvement in a rare audio message. The network has also been accused of assassinating top Afghan officials and holding kidnapped Westerners for ransom. They include the Canadian Joshua Boyle, his American wife Caitlan Coleman, and their three children -- all born in captivity -- who were released last year, as well as US soldier Bowe Bergdahl, who was freed in 2014. In Kabul, the group is widely believed to have been behind many of the recent attacks on the capital that were claimed by the local wing of the Islamic State group. Some analysts believe it works with IS -- which at the same time is involved in a bloody turf war with the Taliban -- to avoid blame and political blowback.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on
September 04-05/18
Iran’s Fake News Is a Fake Threat
Eli Lake/Bloomberg/September 04/18
As if the free world didn’t have enough to worry about with Russian fake news, now the world leader in state-sponsored terrorism is getting into the act: Iran is running a disinformation campaign on social media, and it is bigger than previously believed.
A closer look though at this propaganda, however, reveals a paper tiger. Iran’s network of Twitter handles, websites and Facebook fakes are amateurish and clumsy. Anyone foolish enough to trust information from something called the “Liberty Front Press,” or to believe that the opposition in the UK has its own website called “,” is already an easy mark for the web’s many frauds and grifters.
Start with the quality of the propaganda. According to a public report from the cybersecurity firm FireEye, the Iranian fake news operation could not keep its story straight. The proprietors of Liberty Front Press changed their Twitter and Instagram accounts to “BernieCrats” this summer to appear more American. Yet they failed to take down a tweet from May that described Senator Bernie Sanders as “an accessory to terror at the Gaza border.” And when these accounts and sites were not just reposting news items found on legitimate sites, the report found, they were posting original material marked by “poorly written English” or just cutting and pasting news items from Iranian propaganda channels such as PressTV.
In addition to being sloppy, the campaign is also redundant. According to FireEye, the Iranian campaign was intended not to influence this year’s midterm elections in the US, but rather “to promote Iranian political interests, including anti-Saudi, anti-Israeli, and pro-Palestinian themes, as well as to promote support for specific US policies favorable to Iran, such as the US-Iran nuclear deal.” It goes on to say that the US fake news sites included “significant anti-Trump messaging.”
That’s it? Surely someone inside the Iranian regime must know that there are already many established US advocacy groups that oppose President Donald Trump, support the Iran nuclear deal and are highly critical of certain Arab countries and Israel. If you want criticism of the nuclear deal, there is the Ploughshares Fund, which provided grants to a network of groups that promoted the nuclear deal when it mattered in 2015 and tried to save it in 2017 and 2018. Looking for anti-Trump messaging? I recommend to you the Democratic Party. All of these voices are far more effective in moving US public opinion than a handful of semi-literate social media accounts and third-rate news aggregators.
But let’s give the Iranians some benefit of the doubt. It takes years for a good propaganda operation to build trust with an audience. Perhaps the plan was to build trust and an audience over time — and then, at the right moment, inject a meaningful lie into a stream of trusted news. At least that’s the way these things are supposed to work.
Again, though, the Iranian operation was so amateurish that it was pretty easy to determine that their network of sites was not on the level. Most of the Twitter accounts affiliated with Liberty Press, for example, were attached to phone numbers with Iran’s country code.
None of this is to say that the work to expose the operation was not worth it. The campaign may not be “a clear and present danger to US democracy,” says Ben Nimmo, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab. But it is nevertheless “a covert regime messaging operation that merits attention.”
That is the right perspective. Compare Iran’s disinformation campaign to that of Russia, which has a network of fake news sites and social media accounts aimed at tearing America apart. During the 2016 campaign, for example, Russian trolls actually staged two competing rallies — one pro-Muslim, the other anti-Muslim — at the same time and location in Houston. (Luckily, the ploy does not appear to have sparked any physical confrontations.)
By contrast, Iran’s propaganda network seems like it would only work on the most anti-American Americans. Its sites posted videos of Iranian General Qassem Suleimani responding to threats from Trump and promoted hashtags like “#DeleteIsrael” and “#FreePalestine.” Maybe the mullahs were microtargeting Berkeley.
Whatever the motivation, the work is shoddy. It may be vile, but Iranian fake news is not a real threat.

A Free Press Can Bury the News, Too
Noah Feldman/Bloomberg/September 04/18
Did the National Enquirer have a right to buy stories about Donald Trump in order not to publish them? And if so, what was the crime in buying Karen McDougal’s report of an affair with now-President Trump — a crime to which Michael Cohen pleaded guilty?
These questions have become all the more pressing as it has emerged that the Enquirer has been buying and hiding Trump’s stories for decades. In fact Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, had wanted to buy the whole archive for Trump to make sure that the stories stayed dead.
Start with the right not to publish. In the US, the press’s right to publish whichever stories it chooses includes the right not to publish whichever stories it chooses. The government can’t be in the business of forcing newspapers to publish stories against their will.
What’s more, the legal system generally recognizes that individuals may tell others, including newspapers, that they have the right to publish or not publish their stories. It follows that the Enquirer was within its rights when it bought Trump’s stories, chose not to publish them, and prevented others from doing so — at least so long as Trump was not a candidate for office.
If this sounds strange to you, that’s probably because you have the general sense that the First Amendment is meant in part to promote the public interest in the spread of information. It seems perverse that a media company could use it to suppress information.
But the legal truth is that there is no fundamental public right to know all information. The First Amendment protects free speech and a free press. Both of these rights belong to the speaker, not to the public.
As a consequence, the Enquirer and its parent company, American Media, had the right to do what they did. All that changed, though, when Trump became a candidate for office. The Enquirer still had the right to choose what it wanted to publish — or not — about Trump. But it also had the obligation to follow the law about campaign contributions, and that’s where it got into trouble.
If the Enquirer’s purchase of news was intended specifically to help Trump get elected and coordinated with his campaign — and it was, according to prosecutors and Cohen — then the Enquirer was spending money not for journalistic purposes but rather to help Trump get elected. That counts as a campaign contribution. Because the Enquirer is a corporation, the unreported, unacknowledged donation was unlawful.
But pretend for a moment that Cohen and the campaign weren’t involved. If the Enquirer was already in the habit of buying and killing stories to help Trump, then its purchase of the McDougal story might look like just a continuation of this longtime practice, not a campaign contribution. Newspapers, after all, are allowed to help candidates in other ways without it counting as a campaign contribution. For example, the Enquirer could have published — and did — stories supporting Trump and attacking Hillary Clinton. Those did not count as a campaign contribution, even if they helped Trump. Indeed, newspapers are generally exempt from some aspects of campaign-finance law to protect exactly these types of lawful speech.
To push this argument even further: Cohen’s plan to buy the whole Trump archive from the newspaper would probably have been legal, even if the campaign itself paid for it. Campaigns buy advertisements from news organizations all the time, so they should have the right to buy stories as well, as long as they pay a fair-market price. The only conceivable criminal angle would have been if the purchase was a personal expense for Trump and he charged the campaign for it. But that would seem not to be the case, since Trump never felt the need to buy the stories before he ran for office.
The difference here, of course, is that Cohen wasn’t proposing that the Trump campaign buy the stories. He was proposing that the Trump Organization buy them, in secret, presumably with himself as the middle man. If the Trump Organization had bought the archive but not reported the expense, that would have been a campaign-finance violation. And if Cohen had made the payments himself, as he did for the Stormy Daniels story, then he would have been guilty of an illegal campaign contribution to Trump. Even if Trump made the payments personally, he would have been obligated by law to report the expense.
All that said, this focus on campaign-finance law feels narrow, especially when the basic facts of this story are so shocking: For years a newspaper was secretly helping Trump hide unpleasant stories. Even when he became a candidate for the nation’s highest elected office, that practice continued. In any normal world, that alone would be enough to cast the president and the paper into the shadow of deep scandal. In the world we actually have, the technical legality of it all is up for debate.
It’s always worth getting the law right. So yes, a free press can suppress stories. But it can’t do it in coordination with a campaign, and for its benefit.

Shakespeare to Tarafa: Store some of summer’s joys for the winter blues
Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/September 04/18
“Don’t forget your umbrella and beware of the winter blues.” This was the first piece of advice from the people of Oregon, northwest of the US, which they told me before I even arrived. I laughed from the bottom of my heart and said: “Don’t they know that we pray for rain and welcome it and that we even prepare ourselves for rain by selecting our destinations in the desert and light a fire and prepare coffee as we await the guest that’s coming from afar?”I arrived to Oregon, the city where it rains for around 11 months. I thought I had found what I was looking for until a few months later when my relationship with winter and rain began to change. The rain which we waited for in Najd became frequent and dominant. I suddenly got used to the wet weather and the long winter nights. It was a new experience to a man who associated winter with going out from the city and going to the desert to enjoy the change in weather.
The streets of Oregon would suddenly be empty. Dim lights would be seen at porches while those you saw after 7 p.m. are either in search for a hot drink or restlessly looking for the shortest way home.
Mental health
This is the first time I greeted winter blues where many people opt for satiety, alcohol and long sleeping hours while being absent from work or traveling to where there is sun. In recent years, there have been more studies about the rates of suicide which increase in winter nights. One in every five women gets the winter blues. I am not scaring anyone but this is what doctors recommend: Pay attention to your children and talk to your partners more after 10 p.m. as a lack of appetite, weight gain and unjustified anxiety are all primary symptoms that winter blues is near. Scientists have attributed women’s hatred of winter and their feeling of depression to several reasons “of which the most important is the short daylight time as they cannot perform all their daily duties, and they also suffer from the silence which reigns over the family after 10 p.m.”Check on your loved ones during all seasons, but check twice on them in winter. Doctor Hussein Zohdy al-Shafai, a doctor of psychiatry and neurology, said the winter blues first requires direct medical supervision especially as patients who suffer from seasonal depression can be treated with a pill that they take at night. The dose of these pills, mood stabilizers, are regulated at sporadic times depending on their rate in the blood.
Since the winter blues has its presence, I’d say depression after the World Cup affected a majority of male viewers. It was a great summer this year with the tournament being played. We got used to watching matches and following up on the players’ news, and we enjoyed the goals they scored and got surprised by the strong teams’ weakness. Suddenly – and all problems begin after this word – the World Cup ended and joy ended without any warnings although everyone knew when it will end! There must be a study to explain to us what happens before, during and after the World Cup every four years. There should be an intelligent doctor who monitors people’s mood and recommends that the World Cup be held during the winter season so it shortens its long sad nights. Back to winter blues. Some of the English phrases which were translated into Arabic seem strange to Arabs. For example, those who translated Shakespeare’s works conveyed warm greetings. This is something which Shakespeare may say and which 6th century Arabian poet Ṭarafah ibn al-Abd would never say. Shakespeare lived in a cold country; hence warmth was of value, while Tarafah lived in the desert of the Arabian Peninsula so he only welcomes the breeze and rain! Therefore, among the characteristics of the residents of the Arabian Peninsula is that they do not suffer from the winter blues. You see them smiling in winter and tolerance can be seen even while driving and you see the driver’s teeth which are otherwise only seen by dentists!
May God have mercy on photographer Saleh Al-Azzaz whom I remember during all seasons as he smiled and said: “I do not know a land that better describes Allah’s words: ‘And you see the earth barren, but when We send down upon it rain, it quivers and swells and grows [something] of every beautiful kind’ more than the vestal Najd after the rain transforms it from a barren desert to a flower garden!”
This was the spirit of Saleh, the human, as he saw beauty in everything, and this was his eye as a photographer as water is the beginning of everything in Najd. Water is what makes valleys flow and what turns the yellow desert red and dresses it in green that’s comfortable to the eye. People thus go on trips in all directions and this impacts them as they rejoice and you see them waiting for their guests or standing at the roadway to direct their friends to an area which no one had visited before so they can go there and enjoy their time. It only rains in winter but if it rains in summer, we also celebrate it as the scarcity of something teaches us the virtue of missing it. In the Arabian Peninsula, we never thought of possessing an umbrella to shield us from rain and we never became restless in winter nights because of lack of conversation after 10 p.m. Our grandparents went to bed with hopes it will rain and their grandchildren still do the same. In Oregon, however, and in other areas where winter is long, everyone holds on to their umbrellas when it gets cloudy. Check on your loved ones during all seasons but check twice on them in winter. Try not to end the warm conversation on the dinner table suddenly after 10 p.m. Store some of the summer joy to protect you from the evil of the winter blues and rejoice in the rain that waters the heart before it waters thirsty lands.

When there is Twitter, who cares for traditional writing
Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/September 04/18
Traditional educationalists seem to be facing a losing battle with current generation of young students around the world, and in the Arab world in particular.
They bemoan the lack of interest in writing out their ideas, elaborating and defending them in essay style writings, instead preferring for the less strenuous multiple choice examination responses and the current more ubiquitous twitter messaging. Who can blame them when it seems that politicians and so-called opinion leaders are opting for the 140 character messages to lay out their thoughts, anger or response to other tweets and satisfy a mass market hungry for their twitter junkie fix of the day? Are these justified criticisms or are the traditionalists completely out of touch with a fast moving modern world? There are arguments for both, but with grave implications for an educated and articulate society. Some argue that in a fast moving modern world with events unfolding globally and brought home through a technological revolution, ensures that followers of events need to absorb as many of these fast moving events as possible and have no time to absorb long and laboriously laid out written discourses and arguments. But even Twitter has recognized the limit of imposing a small number of characters for users to express in an intelligent manner their thoughts, excluding of course the bizarre use of exclamation marks and other symbols. The problem with brevity is that ideas and messages are not well thought out as evidenced by the many retractions, deletions and apologies that follow either misunderstood or ill worded tweets
140 to 280
The company announced that it has started testing 280-character tweets, doubling the previous 140-character limit, in an effort to help users be more expressive. According to the company, research showed that the character limit is a major cause of frustration for people tweeting in English, let alone in other languages, and that increasing the character number actually will help with people making more tweets, presumably those with the ability to rationalise beyond 140 characters. The 140-character limit was originally established to reflect the length of SMS messages, which was how tweets were distributed prior to the development of mobile apps. SMS messages are limited to 160 characters; Twitter reserved the remaining 20 for the username. Given the mass appeal of tweeting today, Twitter has considered expanding the tweet length for years, even mooting up to 10,000 characters. Given the appeal of lashing out a 140 or 280-word tweet plus a few exclamation marks, the far larger tweet idea is not going to go down well with tweet-obsessed users as Twitter’s identity has always derived from its real-time nature and the brevity of its messages. The argument goes that if one wishes to expand on his or her ideas then they are welcome to write out full essays. The problem with brevity is that ideas and messages are not well thought out as evidenced by the many retractions, deletions and apologies that follow either misunderstood or ill worded tweets. The problem then becomes that this is not a matter of choice of either a brief thought via tweeting or longer essays, but what type of a future informed and literate society we wish our children to inherit.
Future generations will no longer have the interest or the concentration span of reading books or long essays or setting down their thoughts in this format. The art of book writing will die out and so will the passion for oratory. Who can forget epoch making and inspirational speeches by leaders in time of crisis and need, and their everlasting appeal, compared with soon to be forgotten rambling tweets? Many of the older generations around the world look back with nostalgia and some nightmare flashbacks on their efforts to write out full-length essays, with many efforts rubbished by teachers that the ideas were not clearly expressed and the essays to be re written.
Well-argued reasoning
We thank those teachers now as hopefully it instilled in us the love of querying issues and setting out well-argued reasoning. The same applied to debating societies in schools and universities where opponents argued for or against a topic of the day, helping to tone language skills and intellectual curiosity.
How can one do that in a 140 or 280 character tweet? No wonder the accusation of fake news today, creating an even greater torrent of supporting and opposing tweets but with few really comprehending the key issues at stake. The difference is that tweeting is easy and anyone can do it , whether these are comprehensible or not, and the same applies to the lowest level of multiple choice questions with a yes/no choice , as opposed to more rigorous essay writing. The same applies to modern TV media coverage of events and the difference in style of more “traditionalist” media outlets who make their reputation through hard hitting full length debates and questioning like the BBC’s Hard Talk, program and the more catchy modern TV media where it seems the television presenter is the news rather than the other way around. These stations interrupt news programs with seemingly random incongruous advertisements, and nothing is more hilarious than watching self -promoting TV anchors grill their guests to discuss in 15 seconds or less what they believe are the key issues facing the world in say global warming , genocide in Myanamar, spreading trade disputes, or North Korea’s de-nuclearization prospects. Back to tweets. Despite imploring him to stop being a dinosaur, as many of my former students can testify, this writer does not and will not have a Twitter or Facebook account. Maybe they are right, but long may the traditional education dinosaurs live.

John McCain and the quest for an Arab hero
Makram Rabah/Al Arabiya/September 04/18
Heroism is a trait people usually yearn for, going as far at times as to create imagined idols, ones that can be used in the construction of a super narrative for nation and state building. The death of US Senator John Sidney McCain III and the ensuing touching eulogies and memorial service underscored the touring figure of an American hero, one which the whole nation and beyond mourned his tragic loss. McCain was a hero not simply because he is was scion of a respected military family nor because he was a Vietnam veteran and a prisoner of war, but he was a hero despite all of that.
McCain’s real heroism was his ability to conquer his family’s legacy, which usually is a setback, and his famous feats of rage and transform it into a passion for championing the causes of the oppressed. As a lawmaker, he staunchly tried to reinstate the image of the United States as a morally guided nation an image which his country had lost as early as the 1950’s, especially with the Arabs who always viewed their relationship with the US from the prism of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the US skewed support of the occupation of Palestine. Despite these realities, people like McCain tried to work through these barriers and attempt to bring some form peace and stability to the Middle East, which was booged down in endless violence and autocratic regime. Much of McCain’s eulogies stressed his aggressive in-your-face approach to politics but it also underscored his most redeeming quality, which was his ability to work across the somewhat rigid party lines
Invasion of Iraq
Consequently, McCain saw it necessary for the removal of these dictators and thus he fully supported the invasions of Iraq and the removal of Saddam Hussain. He equally opposed Iran’s expansionists venture in the Levant and always stood with the forces of democracy in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, openly supporting the Syrian rebels against Bashar Assad and his Iranian patrons. Despite his hawkish and interventionist fold, McCain was an advocate of the two-state solution and the establishment of a viable Palestine state alongside Israel, and while he was clearly more of a friend to the Israelis, he was far removed from the populist mindset that US President Trump and Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu were peddling for their own personal interest. Back in 2008 presidential race I was one of the few of my friends who supported McCain, while I was and still is inconsequential as I am not a US citizen, McCain came across as a man of principles that will not waver when any of the imagined redlines are crossed.
Ability to act
As years progressed and the Obama administration gave the region away to Iran, and allowed Bashar Assad to gas hundreds of brave souls in Ghouta and elsewhere, I was reminded why I rooted for McCain, and that ultimately man is not judged by his color or gender nor by his family but by his ability to act. Something that Obama clearly and cowardly failed to do. Much of McCain’s eulogies stressed his aggressive in-your-face approach to politics but it also underscored his most redeeming quality, which was his ability to work across the somewhat rigid party lines, which divide US politics and keep bipartisanship alive. By specifically requesting that his political foe and presidential contender Barak Obama, speak in his funereal McCain specially wanted his successors to cherish his real legacy and oppose the Trumpian mindless and suicidal acts which pass for politics.
Unfortunately, this culture, McCain wished for is non-existent in the region, as people refuse to even consider working with their foes towards the embitterment of their communities. This does not merely apply to relations between states but also on the micro level as sectarian schism seem to be the order of the day. The people of the Middle East and particularly the Arabs are at a very dangerous juncture, as Iran remain adamant on destroying what remains of their communities. Therefore, to avoid such a terrible picture they should perhaps look towards the life of John McCain for inspiration, and understand that heroism cannot flourish except in a diverse and pluralistic milieu. One that allows people to grew into heroes, not merely because of their righteousness, but also because of their shortcomings. Maybe then, the search for an Arab hero(s) would be finally over.

Qatar and gambling on the impossible
Mohammed Al Shaikh/Al Arabiya/September 04/18
It seems the isolation and marginalization which Qatar is living through is going to prolong and may cost the Qataris more than what they expected at the beginning of the boycott. In order to withstand the boycott and the marginalization and their political and economic consequences, Qatar took many hasty decisions that cost it a lot without it achieving the desired results. This statelet which was prestigious during the term of former US President Obama is not the same in the times of US President Donald Trump. Instead of rationally dealing with its new situation and realizing that the tasks assigned to it by the former US president sprung from emergencies and not were not based on strategic reasoning and that the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ and the ‘creative chaos’ had failed miserably, Doha continues to be arrogant and insists on restoring its role.
Qatar must return to what it was before the onset of the ‘Arab Spring’. It seems that Hamad bin Khalifa, who actually controls power in Qatar, had thought that he could revive the same revolts again with his money and regain influence in the region; as was the mission assigned to him by Obama. However, this is almost impossible even if the Democrats regain power again as it’s anticipated and hoped for.
The rules of the game changed completely. The Muslim Brotherhood, which had employed its cadres to execute the conspiracies of what they called “creative chaos” for US’s benefit, is now facing an existential threat in every sense of the word. It is no longer secret to many who used to support and bet on the Muslim Brotherhood that it is losing its popularity and its influence is diminishing in Arab countries. Even many of those who belong to the Brotherhood have now started disowning it, and many have begun to criticize it publicly and even defame it.
However, Hamad bin Khalifa still insists on supporting its cadres and spending on them generously wherever they are. This was considered by many of the rational Qataris as foolishness and unjustified stubbornness. Politics is always based on what is possible, not on what is supposed to be. Many of those I met from Qatar admit this. I even have information that suggests that Emir Tamim (the supposed Emir of Qatar) is convinced of this as well since present and future indicators do not suggest that Islamists are still the same; therefore, insisting to bet on them and defying those who oppose them, like his father is doing, is a huge waste of time, effort and money. Iran which ignited the spark of political Islamization and which embraces and finances many of the Islamists’ operations, in spite of their sectarian differences, is now facing tough conditions, both internally and externally. It is on the verge of falling due to the economic sanctions imposed on it by the US. If Iran collapses or at least changes some of its behavior or retreats to reform its internal situation, Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood will be like a small ship which the ocean waves pummel and which will eventually swallow it.
The Qatari people and most probably their Emir, Tamim, have begun to feel that Hamad’s bets, or let us say the two Hamads’ (Hamad bin Khalifa and Hamad bin Jassim) bets, have proven to be a failure. So will they act before drowning?

Iran’s brinkmanship doomed to failure
Osama Al-Sharif/Arab News/September 04/18
Time is running out for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his government. Last week, he was summoned by parliament to answer questions on the country’s mounting economic crisis and, in a rare rebuke, his explanations — he blamed the economic woes on an “American conspiracy” — were rejected and he now faces a review by the judiciary. Two of his ministers were impeached last month, putting further pressure on him.
Iran’s economy nosedived after US President Donald Trump in May withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed biting sanctions. Trump warned foreign companies that they too will face penalties if they choose to do business with Iran. The EU pledged to save the nuclear deal and protect European companies from possible US sanctions but, four months later and after a series of meetings, the deal continues to rest on shaky ground.
Even Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei appeared skeptical when he warned Rouhani last week, through comments published on his website, that “there is no problem with negotiations and keeping contact with the Europeans, but you should give up hope on them over economic issues or the nuclear deal.”
The European front is no longer united either. Last week, France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called for further negotiations with Tehran, saying: “Iran cannot avoid discussions, negotiations on three other major subjects that worry us — the future of Iran’s nuclear commitments after 2025, the ballistic question and the fact there is a sort of ballistic proliferation on the part of Iran, and the role Iran plays to stabilize the whole region.” Iran's Foreign Ministry dismissed Le Drian’s statement and complained of “bullying and excessive demands” on the EU’s side.
But Iran’s troubles will worsen when a second batch of US sanctions take effect in early November. This time the sanctions will target Iran's main commodity and foreign currency source — its oil exports. Washington has threatened countries that buy Iranian oil and even China, a major importer, has hinted it may cut down its imports from Iran. Bloomberg reported last week that Iranian oil exports had already fallen in August to 2.1 million barrels per day — their lowest since March 2016.
Experts estimate Iran’s losses from the current US sanctions to be $5 billion a month, and that is the main reason behind the collapse of the Iranian currency and sharp decline of imports of essential goods. Iran also continues to suffer from high unemployment, especially among the youth, and deteriorating public services. In reality, neither Rouhani nor any other leader could offset the effects of US sanctions on the local economy. But that is not the only reason for Iran’s economic qualms. Since Khamenei came to power in 1989, the role of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the clerical establishment has grown exponentially. Those two major players have impeded attempts for genuine economic and political reforms, which began with President Mohammed Khatami in the 1990s. Further attempts to steer the country toward a more liberal and transparent rule were nipped in the bud following the 2009 presidential elections, when the religious establishment backed conservative incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad against potential reformist candidates.
But Iran’s troubles will worsen when a second batch of US sanctions take effect in early November
Furthermore, those two bodies are the driving force behind Iran's regional meddling in the affairs of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. Such interventions come at a hefty price, both economically and politically. It is no secret that the majority of Iran’s youth do not approve of the ideologically driven adventures of their leaders in the region, nor do they embrace their anti-US rhetoric.
Today, popular protests, which began late last year, continue sporadically in various parts of the country amid worsening economic conditions. Iran's religious leadership has rejected Washington’s conditions to lift the sanctions and rebuffed Trump’s readiness for unconditional talks.
Top Iranian military and IRGC officials have threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz and Red Sea passageways in retaliation for any disruption of Iranian oil exports. Such actions would prove foolish and would put Tehran on a military collision course with Washington.
There have also been reports that Iran has delivered ballistic missiles to loyalist groups in Iraq in a bid to put pressure on Gulf countries. Again, such move would only isolate Iran further and would have little effect on a possible military confrontation.
It would be wrong on Khamenei’s part to abandon Rouhani at this crucial stage and allow hardline IRGC figures to take over. There is speculation that, if Rouhani is impeached, an interim military government led by the hawkish Gen. Qassem Soleimani would take over. That would be a recipe for disaster and could be the trigger for a major regional showdown; one that Iran is sure to lose.
Instead, Iran should not dismiss the opportunity to engage in talks with the US while initiating a meaningful dialogue with its neighbors. Iranian leaders have a choice: Either face further domestic troubles that will lead to chaos or take serious steps toward normalizing ties with its neighbors and ending its meddling in regional affairs. The current politics of brinkmanship will certainly fail.
Osama Al Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman. Twitter: @plato010

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