Detailed Lebanese & Lebanese Related LCCC English New Bulletin For September 09/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations
You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?
Acts of the Apostles 12/25.13,1-12: "Then after completing their mission Barnabas and Saul returned to Jerusalem and brought with them John, whose other name was Mark. Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the ruler, and Saul. While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia; and from there they sailed to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews. And they had John also to assist them. When they had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they met a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet, named Bar-Jesus. He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and wanted to hear the word of God. But the magician Elymas (for that is the translation of his name) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul away from the faith. But Saul, also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, ‘You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? And now listen the hand of the Lord is against you, and you will be blind for a while, unable to see the sun.’ Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he went about groping for someone to lead him by the hand. When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was astonished at the teaching about the Lord.

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 08-09/18
President Aoun receives honorary doctorate from Notre Dame University Louaize/NNA//September 08/18
Hariri: Government Should Include Main Political Parties to Implement Reform and Investment Programs/Naharnet/September 08/18
Lebanese Arm Wrestlers Revive Century-Old Tradition/Beirut- Asharq Al-Awsat/September 08/18
A cannabis program in exchange of loyalty/Nadim Koteich/Al Arabiya/September 08/18
Changemaker Festival awards top Lebanese impact leaders/Maria Matar/Annahar/September 08/18
NAYA | DAWRIC targets women entrepreneurs in Lebanon/Ryme Alhussayni/Annahar/September 08/18
Germany: Anti-Immigration Party Surges in Popularity/Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/September 08/18
The Tehran Summit: Three Jugglers and a Phantom/Amir Taheri/Asharq Al-Awsat/September 08/18
Iran’s meddling in Syria will not end well/Camelia Entekhabifard/Arab News/September 08/18
Between slumber and awakening from Al-Sahwa/Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi/Al Arabiya/September 08/18
Basra drowning in a sea of salt and poison/Adnan Hussein/Al Arabiya/September 08/18
While Iran’s leaders and allies confer on Idlib, Shiite Iraq implodes in their faces/DEBKAfile/September 08/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on September 08-09/18
President of the Republic receives honorary doctorate from Notre Dame University Louaize: Beware of confusing between differences and hostility, a political adversary is not an enemy but a partner in the homeland
Chamoun on his Party's 60th anniversary: To continue working towards aspired goals, rendering Lebanon's interests above all
Hariri: I Work Silently to Form the Government
Communication lines between Hariri, Aoun open: Future official
Israeli General: 'Hezbollah' Controls the Lebanese Army, Next War Will Be Against Both Sides
Report: Govt. Formation Endeavors 'Paused' as Aoun Prepares for Travels Abroad
Hariri: Government Should Include Main Political Parties to Implement Reform and Investment Programs
System Failure at RHIA Terminal Probed
Lebanese Arm Wrestlers Revive Century-Old Tradition
Eyes Recently Seen': A Pakistani Artist Exhibition in Beirut
Richard Attends Ceremony Marking Repatriation of Middle Bronze Age Ax
Council of Ministers' General Secretariat: Current execution plan at Airport is part of an 18 million USD advance approved last February
Bassil from Bechaleh: We want everyone to join the government of national consensus
ElKhalil urges Aoun to put an end to critical positions, practices aiming to drag Lebanon back to preTaef period
Yaziji receives warm welcome upon arriving in Lebanon: I hope that a government will be formed soon to serve our people
Mikati says Qlay'at Airport a pressing need
A cannabis program in exchange of loyalty
Changemaker Festival awards top Lebanese impact leaders
NAYA | DAWRIC targets women entrepreneurs in Lebanon

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on September 08-09/18
Pompeo calls out Khamenei’s hypocrisy over Iran’s lack of aid to Palestinians
11 dead in attack on Iran Kurd rebel HQ in Iraq
US military drawing up options should Syria use chemical weapons
Russia, Turkey, Iran Fail to Reach Truce Agreement on Syria’s Idlib
Egypt Sentences 75 to Death, Hundreds to Jail Over 2013 Sit-In
Iraq Vows Crackdown after Protesters Torch Iran Consulate
Rouhani Evokes Iran-Iraq War in Call to Defy US Pressure
Iraq’s top two parliament groups urge PM to resign
Iran executes Kurdish separatists
Israel Kills Palestinian Teen in Border Clash- Ministry
Houthis Are Trying to Sabotage Peace Talks, Says Yemen FM
'We Just Didn't Make It,' UN Envoy Says as Yemen Talks Falter
UK Police Make Arrest after 'Serious Incident'
Haftar Hints at ‘Liberating Tripoli’
Boko Haram overruns key crossroads town in northern Nigeria
The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on September 08-09/18
President Aoun receives honorary doctorate from Notre Dame University Louaize
Sat 08 Sep 2018/NNA
President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, confirmed Saturday his belief that "radical changes in societies can only be achieved by the youth, especially the students," adding that "it is necessary to prepare the generations, enrich their political culture and their ability to conduct dialogue, debate and logical argument, and develop their sense of criticism." "Beware of confusing between differences and hostility, for a political adversary is not an enemy but a partner in the nation," said Aoun, adding that political competition and opinion differences are healthy and necessary for democratic life. The President hoped that with the near birth of a new government, a new phase of work and serious national production would begin so as to overcome the past political and economic burdens and catch up with modernity. He stressed that investment in education is one of the richest investments, because it provides the country with a wealth of young minds, with all their dreams and rebellions, that are Lebanon's promising future. He called on the Lebanese universities to keep pace with the steps of economic advancement by adapting their specialties to the labor market's needs. The President's words came in his speech at the ceremony held by "Notre Dame University - Louaize" at its Bechara Al-Rahi Auditorium on its Zouk Mosbeh Campus marking its foundation anniversary. The University honored President Aoun by awarding him an honorary Doctorate degree in Humanities in recognition of his national path and achievements. The ceremony was also an opportunity to launch a national community initiative on the dangers of "online and technology addiction".
Below is the President of the Republic's detailed speech:
"The fact that an institution is founded while the country is going through a widespread crisis at different security, political and economic levels shows that its leaders believe in this country and in its resurrection. And the fact that this institution is a university campus shows a greater belief, not only in the resurrection of the nation, but also in the role of young people and the need to rely on future generations.
The foundation of Notre Dame University - Louaize in 1987, the year of worrying expectations, is merely the embodiment of this belief that has led to the graduation of students who have enriched the country in various fields. We congratulate and wish their university further progress and development. Investment in education is indeed one of the best investments especially that it equips the nation with a sustainable wealth that grows every year, unaffected by crises and the meanders of time; a wealth of young brains driven by their dreams, courage and rebellion, which constitutes the promising future of Lebanon.
Dear audience,
In today's ceremony, we highlight the importance of "awareness about the dangers of Internet and Technology Addiction", given that this addiction has become endemic in many household with obvious repercussions in our society.
Addiction itself is dangerous, in all its forms: smoking, drugs, gambling, Internet ... since it paralyzes the will and enslaves mankind. You are free as long as you are able to choose, to say yes or no. However, when you are trapped in dependence, you lose, somehow, your freedom.  It is true that Internet has marked a major revolution in the world of knowledge and technology, opened wide horizons to new worlds and facilitated access to information. Nevertheless, some of its applications and websites take up a great deal of our time, attention and interaction, and sometimes break several ties with reality, which in itself represents a pressing threat to our societies. As such, suggesting solutions would undoubtedly be one of the key objectives of this campaign. Social networks have opened up spaces for people to meet, which was unthinkable in the past. However, the danger lies in the fact that virtual communication replaces real communication between people and that human relationships lose their meaning and depth. The greatest danger is the lack of control, the disappearance of borders, the ignorance of the concept of freedom and, unfortunately, the emergence of a moral decline that is alien to our society and our culture.
Dear audience,
Addiction to Internet, to the screen and to the virtual world has created certain reluctance amongst young people to the real world and to dealing seriously with public affairs. Indeed, the level of political awareness and political culture has declined amidst many young people and has often been confined to fanatic and extremist quarrels, characterized by instigation and obscenity. Against this backdrop, I have, in January 2014 addressed a message, or even a call, to all the rectors of universities in Lebanon, as they are considered to be the first laboratory to identify the opinion of others and to discuss, debate and exchange ideas between students, thus inviting them to open their conference halls to speakers of different political affiliations so that our students get accustomed to listening and discussing in a calm and civilized manner, rather than debating in the streets with batons, stones and obscene slogans, or exchanging insults and instigating on social networks, stemming from my conviction that radical changes in societies only occur through young people, especially students. It is therefore imperative to prepare future generations, to enrich their political culture, to develop their capacity for dialogue, debate, argumentation and reasoning, and to sharpen their critical thinking.
Dear young people from Lebanon,
Freedom of expression is certainly a sacred right, as are other sacred values that you must not ignore, the first being the truth which is the ceiling of freedom. When freedom of expression goes against the truth, it is no longer freedom, it becomes slander and moral attack ... There is also human dignity and reputation, which are also sacred values, and no one has the right to undermine them. Insult, obscene speech and defamation do not fit into the context of freedom of expression. Political competition is healthy, as is the difference of opinion, both of which are necessary for democratic life. But beware of confusing difference and enmity. In fact, your political opponent is not your enemy; he is your partner and you work together to serve the interests of the nation, even if your approaches and working methods are different. I am aware of your national jealousy mixed with anxiety about the future as the horizons are dark and the pathways of change seem blocked. However, I want to remind you that you are the real power of change, hence, do not give up on that role. I also promise you, from my position of responsibility, to spare no effort to unify the efforts of political leaders in order to deal with the corruption that undermines all the foundations of the nation and to reach a national consensus for an economic recovery that will offer you additional job opportunities. At the commencement of the next government, which we hope will be formed soon, we will begin a new phase of serious work and action at the national level to rid ourselves of the political and economic burden of the past and to catch up with modernity.
On that note, I greatly count on Lebanese universities to accompany the stages of economic development, adapting their curricula to the needs of the labor market, in order to avoid the graduation of unemployed who would not have any other choice but to emigrate. In conclusion, I would like to thank the Notre Dame University - Louaize for giving me the honor and express my deep appreciation for its initiative in launching this awareness-raising campaign on the dangers of this new addiction, hoping that it would be fruitful, that our society becomes aware of this imminent danger, and that our society assumes all its responsibilities to put an end to it.
Long live Lebanon!"

Chamoun on his Party's 60th anniversary: To continue working towards aspired goals, rendering Lebanon's interests above all
Sat 08 Sep 2018/NNA - National Liberals Party Chief, Dori Chamoun, vowed Saturday in a ceremony marking the Party's 60th anniversary "to continue to work along the same historical path," recalling both the Party and Lebanon's history and praising their shared relationship of "sacrifice and giving". In his address marking the occasion, Chamoun spoke about the many difficulties faced by partisans, despite which they held on and remained faithful to their commitment. "We are all sons of one institution and we must work as one hand and one heart, because this is the only way to succeed," he said. "There is no place in the Party for those who work for personal interests, but rather all partisans have to work to achieve the Party's aspirations with Lebanon's best interests above all others," stressed Chamoun.

Hariri: I Work Silently to Form the Government
Beirut- Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 8 September, 2018/Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri said he was working in silence to form the new government, urging politicians not to escalate their rhetoric. Speaking during an official dinner at the Grand Serail on Friday, Hariri stressed that he was abiding by the Constitution in his attempts to form the long-awaited new government. “The government will be a national entente government that includes all the main political parties so it can implement the reform and investment program that we prepared. We secured funding for its first phase of about $12 billion, during the CEDRE conference. Why? Because I consider that this program will save our country from the crisis, which is obvious to everyone,” he said. He also underlined the need of cooperation for the success of the reform program, noting that the exchange of accusations between politicians was useless. “Since I am going to gather all the political parties around the table of the Cabinet and ask them to work together for the success of this program and the benefit of the country, the citizens and the youth like you, then any escalation and accusations are useless. I am a working day and night, silently and calmly, to reach this goal, and God willing, we will achieve it,” the premier-designate stressed. As for the recent debate over the constitutional powers stipulated in the Constitution, Hariri affirmed: “I know the Constitution, and everyone does too. I am working as prime minister-designate, according to the Constitution, and there is no need for any controversies that have nothing to do with the real goal of our work, which is to form a government as soon as possible.”Emphasizing the need to form a new Cabinet that would respect the parliamentary sizes achieved during the May 6 elections, he said: “If the lineup doesn’t respect the parliamentary elections, Parliament will not give it its confidence. But if the government wins its confidence, then it cannot be contradictory to the results of these elections.”
Communication lines between Hariri, Aoun open: Future official
The Daily Star/September 08/18/BEIRUT: Future Movement Secretary-General Ahmad Hariri underscored that communication between the premier-designate and the president remained open, a statement released Saturday by the Future Movement said. He also stated that Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri won’t be pressured into relinquishing his role in the government formation process. Speaking Friday during an event in Tripoli’s Qalamoun, Ahmad Hariri said that the premier-designate was committed only to the Constitution and the interests of the people and the country. “This is what pushes him to be more keen on [preserving] the relationship with the president, holding on to the settlement and protecting the political, security and economic situation in the country,” the secretary-general said. He was referring to the political settlement that led to President Michel Aoun’s election to the presidency in 2016 and brought Saad Hariri back into the premiership. In televised remarks in August, the Future bloc warned “against a growing rhetoric that contradicts the effects of the settlement that revived the role of constitutional institutions and put an end to a vacancy that lasted more than two years in the presidency.” It stressed that cooperation between Aoun and Hariri was not a “political picnic," but a project to protect and achieve solidarity in the country. Saad Hariri was tasked in May with forming a government, but his efforts have faced obstacles amid demands from several political sides, especially as they relate to the number of seats each party will get in a new Cabinet. Concerns about the formation continued to mount earlier this week, when Aoun expressed reservations about a draft Cabinet lineup that Premier-designate Hariri presented to him. After Hariri presented the president with the lineup, Aoun’s office issued a statement saying that he “had some remarks on the [lineup] based on the principles and criteria [used in determining how many ministers each party gets], which he had specified the government’s structure and Lebanon’s interests require.” Aoun has long called for set criteria to be applied across the board, which the statement said Hariri’s lineup did not do. The statement sparked tension between Hariri’s Future Movement and the Free Patriotic Movement, which was founded by Aoun, over the prerogatives of the prime minister-designate and the president in the government formation process. But, Ahmad Hariri said, “all of those who are betting on a dispute over the prerogatives of Aoun and Hariri are mistaken. Communication lines between them are open ... but it seems that there are some who want to disturb the relationship between them and open the doors to a huge political dispute.”

Israeli General: 'Hezbollah' Controls the Lebanese Army, Next War Will Be Against Both Sides
Tel Aviv - Nazir Majlii/Asharq Al-Awsat/September 08/18/As the Israeli army ended its recent exercises for a possible war with "Hezbollah", saying that the construction of a large security fence along the border with Lebanon was nearing an end, a senior Israeli general claimed on Thursday that "Hezbollah" was controlling both the Lebanese army and state, threatening that the next war would not exclude the country’s armed forces, but would be directed against both parties. Although the general has confirmed that "Hezbollah" did not intend to fight Israel, noting that the party “lives in a bunker” since the last Israeli war on Lebanon, he stressed that in certain circumstances, “(Hezbollah) may find itself compelled to fight this war, and then it will do so with a major and dangerous force against Israel.” The general, who asked not to be named and said he was “a senior commander in the northern brigade of the Israeli army”, claimed that "Hezbollah" was in control of the Lebanese army. He said the party “has grown in strength in recent years, especially after its important combat experience in Syria alongside the Syrian regular army forces and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, and then the Russian army.” The Israeli general was speaking at the conclusion of a training for paratroopers on a war with "Hezbollah", on Thursday, the fourth in a month. “The distinction we made between "Hezbollah" and Lebanon during the Second Lebanon War (2006) was a mistake,” the officer said. “In the next war we will not make this distinction. We will hit Lebanon and any infrastructure that would contribute to the fighting.”As for the defense wall Israeli is currently building along the border with Lebanon, he noted that the part of the wall that has been built so far reaches 11 kilometers, with the goal of increasing it to 130 kilometers.

Report: Govt. Formation Endeavors 'Paused' as Aoun Prepares for Travels Abroad
Naharnet/September 08/18/As President Michel Aoun prepares to make visits abroad, the efforts to break the stalemates hampering the government formation are likely “paused,” al-Akhbar daily reported on Saturday. Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri dispatched to the Presidential Palace on Friday al-Mustaqbal Minister Ghattas Khoury to discuss the Cabinet formation file. “The two men agreed to calm the political rhetoric, and to stop counter campaigns on the powers of the State’s leaders,” said the daily. Reports said that Aoun was weighing the possibility of sending a letter to the parliament to discuss a so-called “open-ended” designation period of the premier to form a government in light of the delay. Controversy arose on whether the presidency has the power to reconsider the mandate of the premier.Hariri was tasked with forming a government on May 24, but his mission has since been delayed because of conflict between political parties, mainly the Druze and Christian representation. Aoun is expected to travel to Strasbourg, New York and Armenia, in September. He will deliver a speech at the opening of the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York late in September, while on Monday he will travel to Strasbourg to address the European Parliament.

Hariri: Government Should Include Main Political Parties to Implement Reform and Investment Programs
Naharnet/September 08/18
Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri made a speech on Friday during a dinner at the Grand Serail on the occasion of the selection of Lebanon as a regional center for the Middle East by "Change Maker", the Premier’s media office said. During the dinner, the "Lebanon Impact 2018" Awards were distributed.In his speech, he said: “Amidst the political turmoil in the country, meeting with you tonight at the Grand Serail is a breath of fresh air I want to thank you all for. It is really a breath of fresh air because when I see all this youth capacity, all these skills, creativity and entrepreneurs, I say that there is still great hope in our country and its future. And I remember that my belief in you, after God Al-Mighty, is unlimited. My faith in your ability to develop our economy towards the economy of technology and communications, the economy of knowledge that opens up great opportunities for young Lebanese entrepreneurs.
Thanks to our efforts, the economic environment is now ready to embrace and support initiatives. Over the past five years, Lebanon has witnessed investments of the value of $180 million in emerging technology companies. These investments have risen from less than $10 million in 2013, to more than $50 million in 2017. Lebanon place rose from fifth place in the region to second place last year, after the United Arab Emirates. Our goal is to bring Lebanon back to the path of economic growth, job creation, and confidence in our country and in our youth. The outgoing government sent a number of new draft laws to parliament to improve the work environment, including a new bankruptcy law, new laws for private equity funds, secured lending, preferential shares, and judicial arbitration. All these new laws are in parliament at present. In the outgoing government, we also worked with the Ministry of Telecommunications to provide the best internet service and we saw a tangible improvement in its speed, and work is still going on to improve it. We also established with the Ministry of Telecommunications a MIC Ventures Fund of the value of $50 million to invest in emerging technology companies.
We also established with IDAL a corporate support unit that provides free legal and financial advice. Our duty is to invest in our human capital to create a workforce that has the skills that emerging technology companies are looking for, and the capacity to develop these companies and innovate for the future. For this, the Presidency of the Council of Ministers launched the “Summer of Innovation” to encourage activities in the areas of entrepreneurship, innovation, coding and technology.
Our ultimate goal is to transform Lebanon into a center of creativity in the region, and initiatives such as the one that brings us together, are a step in the right direction.
Our country has all that is needed to become a center of innovation: We have skills, recognized creative abilities, active investors, a supportive environment and an entrepreneurship culture. Today you are the ambassadors of the region, of Lebanon, of your generation and of the future of our economy. This is a great responsibility and at the same time a great hope for me and our country. I want to thank and congratulate Ahmad Shakra and Kareem Samra who established the HULTZ price and to the work team who organized this event. I would like also to congratulate all the candidates and especially all the winners, and I wish everyone a successful event. Now, since this is transmitted live on TV and everyone is expecting political stances, especially about the formation of the government, allow me to say this: The whole country and all political forces agree on the necessity to form a government as soon as possible. I started from three rules that I will not abandon. The first rule: The government will be a national entente government that includes all the main political forces so it can implement the reform and investment program that we prepared. We secured funding for its first phase of about $12 billion, during the CEDRE conference. Why? Because I consider that this program will save our country from the crisis, which is obvious to everyone.
The second rule: Since I am going to gather all the political parties around the table of the Council of Ministers and ask them to work together for the success of this program and the benefit of the country, the citizens and the youth like you, then any escalation and accusations are useless. I am a working day and night, silently, and calmly, to reach this goal, and God willing we will achieve it. The third rule: I know the Constitution, and everyone does too. I am working as Prime Minister-designate, according to the constitution, and there is no need for any controversies that have nothing to do with the real goal of our work, which is to form a government as soon as possible. Some say that the lineup should respect the results of the parliamentary elections. This is only normal. The best way to respect the results of the parliamentary elections, the only criterion, is that the government, just as the Constitution says, should ask parliament, which resulted from the parliamentary elections, for its confidence. If the lineup doesn’t respect the parliamentary elections, parliament will not give it its confidence. But if the government gets the confidence, then it cannot be contradictory to the results of these elections. I would like to reassure you all. We will always believe in God first, and in Lebanon, the Lebanese, the Lebanese youth and in all of you and we will always work to achieve the goal. We will achieve growth, create job opportunities and improve infrastructure and the basic services so that you, the innovators, can achieve your unlimited goals”.

System Failure at RHIA Terminal Probed
Naharnet/September 08/18/Judge Samir Hammoud has tasked on Saturday the Internal Security Forces Intelligence Branch to conduct investigation into the failure at Beirut airport which led to overcrowding of passengers flying from Lebanon. A major failure in the baggage system at Rafik Hariri International Airport has left passengers stranded for hours in the terminal and inside planes after boarding. A malfunction hit the baggage drop and passengers system operated by SITA, a multinational company providing IT and telecommunication services to the global air transport industry. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation had issued a statement saying the system failure had occurred Thursday at 11:30 pm, resulting in a “total suspension of the registration process and congestion in the departure sections.” In another statement, the Directorate clarified that SITA is the operator of more than 70% of the luggage registration systems around the world, including at Beirut's airport, adding that “the full responsibility for the malfunction falls on the company” and vowing to take “the necessary legal measures” against SITA. The chaos prompted Lebanon's Middle East Airlines to delay all its flights for Friday . Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri on Friday summoned the caretaker ministers of public works, interior and finance as well as security and administrative officials to discuss the matter. Hariri's move came after the head of the Central Inspection Bureau, Judge George Atiyeh, summoned to his office Fadi al-Hassan, the chief of the RHIA, and Civil Aviation Director General Mohammed Shehabeddine to question them over “the circumstances of the congestion that occurred overnight and at dawn at the airport,” the National News Agency said.

Lebanese Arm Wrestlers Revive Century-Old Tradition
Beirut- Asharq Al-Awsat/September 08/18
On a seaside podium in Lebanon, Halim el-Achkar locks hands with an opponent, exerting pressure until he slams both contestants' forearms down with a fearsome growl, to win the bout. His rippling biceps etched with tattoos, the 25-year-old is thrilled that the country's century-old pastime of arm wrestling has been given a new lease of life. "I always loved this game. For me, it's a symbol of strength and manliness," said Achkar, sporting a neatly trimmed black beard. "This discipline must be taken up more, so we can shine abroad the same way we do in basketball," he added. The tournament in Jounieh, a Lebanese town just north of the capital Beirut, is the second annual nationwide contest organized by the country's arm wrestling federation. Established last year, the body already boasts 750 members whom it trains to perform at international standards, founder Karim el-Andary told AFP.
Grappling for gold
"The goal is to put Lebanon on the world map," he said. It's a goal that looks achievable, since two federation members scored gold medals at a competition in Italy last year. But Andary is driven by more than a quest for international recognition. "Arm wrestling is rooted in Lebanese tradition. We inherited it from our grandparents. It's our duty to preserve it," he said. As far back as the 19th century, men in villages across the country would show off their strength, locking hands over a table -- or even just lifting rocks. "This tradition was widespread across the country," said Maroun Khalil, who heads the Lebanese Federation of Heritage and Traditional Sports. "It was both a playful pastime and a way to resolve disputes in villages without resorting to bloodshed," he said. The old sport has drawn in new fans in Lebanon. Dozens gathered in Jounieh to watch men and women grapple for gold. A single fight can last a few seconds or several gut-wrenching minutes, with at least two referees hunched over the table to spot fouls. Pierre Harb, 31, stepped up to the elevated competition platform. "Arm wrestling has been part of my life since I was a child," said Harb, competing professionally for the first time.
Despite possessing bulging arms and facing a 14-year old opponent, luck was not on his side.
Harb's rival -- imposingly tall and bulky for his age -- swiftly triumphed. Competitors were seeking to secure their slots in the annual national final on September 9, which will crown three champions: one in the under 90-kilogram men's category, one above that weight, and one woman.
'Not just a man's thing' Of the 300 participants in this summer's nationwide tournament, one in six were women. And it's the first time women have competed at the national level. In Jounieh, Amany Abi Khalil, 22, was determined to crush the misconception that physical strength is a purely male domain.
"I came here to show that women can take part in this sport without becoming less feminine," said the theatre undergraduate. "Some were surprised by my decision, but my parents and my friends supported me," she said. A competition was also held for male and female members of the army and security forces. Claudine Aoun, head of the National Commission for Lebanese Women, watched enthusiastically from a ringside sofa. "Women taking part in this competition is a message" that they can operate in sectors previously associated with men, she said. The winner of the women's competition on the day, 16-year-old Teresa Bassil, agreed. When she stepped up to the stage for the awards ceremony, she did so among a sea of male judges clad in red. "Strength is not just a man's thing. Women too can be strong," the teenager said softly, dressed in a purple t-shirt with her hair tied back in a ponytail.

Eyes Recently Seen': A Pakistani Artist Exhibition in Beirut
Beirut- Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 8 September, 2018/Pakistani artist Basir Mahmood’s solo exhibition entitled "Eyes Recently Seen" was launched on Thursday (September 6) at Letitia Gallery in Beirut. Curated by Lauren Wetmore, the show presents a series of photography and video works. “Many themes from Basir Mahmood’s work will be relevant to the Beirut context, from picturing an interdependent relationship between humans and the sea to exploring the societal position of so-called ‘unskilled’ laborers. Basir’s work brings an array of contexts and themes in sharp focus through his process – the way he allows us to transcend the distinction between how an artist sees the world versus how the world is seen,” Wetmore said. Mahmood’s photographs and videos deal with labor, hierarchy, distribution and identity; they occupy a space between staged scenes and spontaneous documentation. Born in 1985 in Lahore, Mahmood reflects on various structures of life and recreates his own visual experiences using photography and videos. Eyes Recently Seen brings together works from the past five years of Mahmood’s practice – including meditations on fishermen titled Message to the Sea, 2012 and Holy water from Makkah, 2015 – are shown together with new pieces that investigate communal human consumption. “All the works in the show contain observations that may be familiar to some in their everyday life, but some may not have been aware of them at all. My video work ‘A message to the sea’ can envision a relationship between the sea and a fisherman, a profession that does not exist anymore due to recent developments in the old fishermen settlement where I stayed for several months; and my photo work ‘Holy Water from Makkah’ can trace a trajectory of a sip of Zamzam that reached me through a pilgrim who carried it back to distribute it to his family and friends on his return home,” Mahmood said. Both Milk and All Good Things, made in 2018, are composed of the activity of individuals from various occupations, including day laborers and milk sellers, in a Lahore film studio. The new diptych, All Divided Equally, 2018- embodies Mahmood’s fascination with the societal division of resources by depicting an abundance of food, each item cut exactly in half to create a multitude of diptychs. The resulting tableaux consider the outcome of equality in distribution. “It shares reflections and representations of everyday routines. I keep on looking, continually trying to make sense of what I see around me. It is tiring at times because not everything makes sense - we have a complex world around us. When I recreate what I have seen inside a studio space, my imagination plays a role in negotiating the position I have to what I saw. This is how I personalize every narrative that I create: I am a narrator who is part of the story he is telling. If not in reality, what goes on inside a studio space is at least in my control: for instance, in my diptych photo work ‘All Divided Equally’, I can hope for an equal distribution of all the resources equally among everyone,” Mahmood said. He recently participated in the 10th Berlin Biennale: We Don’t Need Another Hero in Berlin, 2018 and completed the Rijksakademie residency program in Amsterdam, 2016-2017. His work has been showcased in exhibitions internationally, including Contour Biennale 8 in Mechelen, 2017, The Abraaj Group Art Prize: Syntax and Society in Dubai among many others.

Richard Attends Ceremony Marking Repatriation of Middle Bronze Age Ax
Naharnet/September 08/18/U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard on Friday commemorated, at the Beirut National Museum, the return to Lebanon of an ancient ax dating to the Middle Bronze Age (2200-2000 B.C.), the U.S. embassy said in a statement. The “Bronze Ax” will be displayed permanently at the Beirut National Museum. In her remarks, Richard highlighted U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) efforts to locate and recover the Bronze Ax. After receiving a notice from the Government of Lebanon alerting the potential unlawful sale of the Bronze Ax, the FBI launched an investigation and recovered the artifact, the embassy said. Richard recognized the close collaboration between the U.S. and Lebanese governments to repatriate stolen archeological treasures and combat the illicit trafficking of cultural property – blocking a source of funding for criminal and terrorist networks.

Council of Ministers' General Secretariat: Current execution plan at Airport is part of an 18 million USD advance approved last February
Sat 08 Sep 2018/NNA - In an issued statement by the Council of Ministers' General Secretariat on Saturday, it denied recent news about expenditures at Rafic Hariri International Airport reaching $88 million. "With the number of passengers at Rafic Hariri International Airport reaching 12 million per year, double the capacity of the Airport, a study was designed to increase its capacity to 10 million passengers by the Summer of 2019, pending the implementation of the general guideline plan," the statement clarified."At its meeting held in Baabda on 8 February 2018, the Cabinet approved an advance payment of $18 million to implement emergency priorities at this stage," the statement added, noting that all current expenditures fall within this approved payment.

Bassil from Bechaleh: We want everyone to join the government of national consensus

Sat 08 Sep 2018/NNA - Caretaker Foreign Affairs and Emigrants Minister, Gebran Bassil, said Saturday that the aim is to have all sides joining in a national unity government, so that all can work to build the country and not destroy it. "There are those who demand more than their rights at the expense of others...and this is detrimental to balance and justice, which constitute the most important principles that govern citizens," said Bassil. It is certain that the President of the Republic has the right to set standards to sign the government formation...and anyone who wishes to participate has the right to fair demands in accordance with the outcome of the parliamentary elections. Such justice leads us to live together in peace and national partnership, instead of tyranny, domination, isolation and injustice," he emphasized. Bassil's words came during the inauguration of a solar project in the town of Bechaleh in the region of Batroun earlier today.

ElKhalil urges Aoun to put an end to critical positions, practices aiming to drag Lebanon back to preTaef period

Sat 08 Sep 2018/NNA - Development and Liberation Parliamentary Bloc Secretary-General, MP Anwar El-Khalil, appealed Saturday to President Michel Aoun "to intervene with his closest confidant to stop him from trying to drag Lebanon to the days that preceded the national Taef Accord."Speaking during an educational honoring ceremony held at his Hasbaya residence earlier today, El-Khalil said, "We have the utmost respect and appreciation for President Aoun, and we call on him to put an end to all attempts to obstruct the formation of the government through dangerous positions and practices that aim to drag Lebanon back to the pre-Taef days.""We look forward to the President's positive role, so that he would not be a partner in this historic mistake," he added. "If the current indications remain the same, the formation of the government may take very, very long," El-Khalil concluded.

Yaziji receives warm welcome upon arriving in Lebanon: I hope that a government will be formed soon to serve our people
Sat 08 Sep 2018/NNA - Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, Youhana X Yaziji, arrived in Lebanon Saturday afternoon via the Masnaa border crossing with Syria, where he was warmly welcomed by various political officials and citizens. Thanking the crowd for their hospitality and support, Yaziji said he was pleased to see all people united together as they greeted him in Majdel Anjar and hoped that "a government will soon be formed to serve our people in Lebanon."The Patriarch indicated that he will be paying a pastoral visit to the regions of Zahle and Baalbek soon.

Mikati says Qlay'at Airport a pressing need
Sat 08 Sep 2018/NNA - Former Prime Minister, MP Najib Mikati, tweeted Saturday on the Beirut Airport situation, saying, "What happened at Rafic Hariri International Airport requires a two-phase solution, the first being the implementation of the expansion plan and the development of the Airport, while the second part entails assessing the possibility of using the Qlay'at Airport in the North." "Both solution parts require transparent and clear tenders according to international standards," he added, stressing that the Qlay'at Airport has become an urgent need more than ever at this stage.

A cannabis program in exchange of loyalty
Nadim Koteich/Al Arabiya/September 08/18
The Baalbek-Hermel region in northern Beqaa in Lebanon has never ceased to test Hezbollah. This area has been Hezbollah’s most difficult challenge. Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah said he was willing to personally go there to rally support and ensure victory during the elections. This region displayed an unprecedented level of rejection and opposition on the Shiite level over the performance of Hezbollah’s representatives there and it escalated into an attempt to expel MP and Minister Hussein Haj Hassan from a Hussainiya (a Shiite congregation hall) in Baalbek. It thus came as no surprise that the city eventually had the highest voter turnout in its history, from all the constituent groups of its societal fabric.
Discontent against Hezbollah
However, the mobilization succeeded in securing the desired results for Hezbollah and winning all six Shiite seats amid serious accusations of fraud. Some of this was documented via video recordings that showed how ballots were unethically transferred from booths to the municipal building. What is done is done in this election but the urgency of this area’s crisis remains for the Shiite duo. When people in Hay al-Solm, one of the poorest neighborhoods in Beirut's southern suburb, stood up against Hezbollah, over removing construction violations, they directly insulted leaders of the party. It was not a coincidence that a young man from Al-Shams, who is a native of this neglected and deprived Beqaa region, dominated the scene. The crisis later became clearer and clearer. In a recent speech by Nasrallah commemorating the July War, activists from Baalbek shared pictures on social media networks showing how the city’s square had empty rows of seats. This highlighted the low attendance rate and stood in stark contrast to the usual attendance at Nasrallah's speeches depicting a sea of people turning up to watch him on big screens. The amnesty and cannabis laws will be offered in exchange of turning a blind eye to the disastrous consequences of Hezbollah’s war in Syria. Another indicator was the speech of Parliament Speaker and Amal Movement Leader Nabih Berri on the 40th anniversary of the disappearance of Imam Musa al-Sadr. According to activists from the Baalbek and other observers, the attendance in South Lebanon overwhelmed that of north of Beqaa, along with the absence of the Baalbek’s people from the festival in the heart of their own city, which was a subject of amusement on social media.
The failing fortress
It is not only these images that exposed the magnitude of the crisis in Baalbek-Hermel. The wave of development promises made toward it is unprecedented in the history of Hezbollah’s and Amal’s political language, and it is met by the local investment of rising powers of which the most prominent is retired Major General Jamil al-Sayyid. These rising powers are working on deep-rooting a northern Beqaa identity and establishing a local affiliation which is outside the partisan affiliation of the Shiite duo. This made Berri caution against “coup attempts” against him and his ally. In Washington, I have learned that all policies are local policies – according to a famous phrase in Washington’s political hallways – and if this applies to a capital like Washington and to the options of its political powers, it must apply to a small country like Lebanon. Accordingly, we can understand Hezbollah’s and Amal’s rush to form a government. This rush however is being executed in a cold manner and does not express itself much because it wants to avoid blackmail and to prevent showing the weaknesses in this battle of pulling political strings. In this context, local observers did not overlook how in his last speech, Nasrallah noted the need to postpone working on the normalization of relations with Syria, since it is a political item on the agenda of the next government or an item of the Ministerial Statement items, in order to facilitate the birth of the government which has so far been difficult.
Amnesty and hashish
The deputy of Nasrallah, Sheikh Naim Qassem, went far in conveying messages to his own allies before his Christian opponents, so that no one would imagine or think that his ministerial size in the next government should reflect his role and position in the battle for the presidency after the presidency of Michel Aoun ends.  Qassem’s statements are considered the clearest indication of the need to separate government formation now and other battles, whether presidential or any other, and which can wait or which political alertness on can be postponed. The urgency of Hezbollah and the Amal Movement to form the government today springs from their need to pass laws to mitigate the crisis in their environment in Baalbek-Hermel, a strategic environment with huge demographics and that’s known for its sprawling tribal structure and geographical proximity to Syria, where Hezbollah is fighting its most dangerous battle since its establishment. Forming the government is the key to introducing two new laws. The first would be a law of amnesty to reassure tribes and restore peace in the northern community of Beqaa, and the second would be related to cannabis cultivation to protect the livelihood of the people of this region in the absence of any serious development plans and alternative mechanisms to create jobs. The amnesty and cannabis laws will be offered in exchange of turning a blind eye to the disastrous consequences of Hezbollah’s war in Syria. An example of these consequences is the torrent of competing Syrian laborers in Beqaa. The people of Beqaa are aware that the Syrians will not return home anytime soon, that the Assad regime is not in the process of facilitating their return, that the Russian initiative is destined to fail on every count and that they can always expect their situation to get worse and that their roles as a reservoir of martyrs and unemployed is out of sync with the rhetoric of defending them and their dignity.
Changemaker Festival awards top Lebanese impact leaders
Maria Matar/Annahar/September 08/18
BEIRUT: The Changemaker Festival officially kicked off with an opening ceremony at the Grand Serail with the first ever Lebanon Impact Awards.
Lebanon’s top impact leaders were recognized at the elegant Gala Dinner, which was held Under the patronage of caretaker Prime Minister Saad Al Hariri, who was present to show his pride in those being honored.
This year, the Changemaker Festival –A MENA-wide event has chosen Lebanon as its Middle East regional hub. The event aims at operating at the intersection of youth, education, entrepreneurship, and impact; its goal is to bring together university students, decision-makers, educators, global experts and many others. In the beginning of the ceremony, one of the attendees started singing the national anthem out loud. Thus, the rest of the participants sang along and organizers didn't need to play the musical track. Everyone was singing their homeland’s anthem.
Following that moment of unity, Ahmad Ashkar, founder of the Hult Prize foundation, gave a speech and later on hosted the night.
“Over the last 12 months we have inspired thousands, and I want to give a big shoutout to the college students who are here. Through this event, we will bring together 5,000 university students, hundreds of corporations, and thousands of entrepreneurs to work together to reshape the economy again, not just here but in the whole Middle East,” he said. Afterwards, he welcomed care-taker PM Saad Al Hariri on stage, who gave a forward looking speech noting that young people are “a dose of oxygen” for the country’s development. “I believe in your capability of developing the economy to offer opportunities for all the Lebanese. Due to our combined efforts, the percentage of investments in Lebanon has increased from less than 10 million dollars in 2013 to more than $50,000 million dollars in 2017,” he said. Additionally, he indicated his point of view towards the formation of the government which he believes will be a government of national consensus which joins all the main political parties. He also added that it will be able to execute the program of reform and investment that will facilitate the official release of the over $11 billion of funding pledge during the Paris Cedre conference earlier this year.
Back to the Changemaker Festival: it was time for the Impact award- distribution which included seven categories: corporate leadership, sports, and leisure, youth, health and wellness, celebrating impact, arts and culture, and diaspora.
Winners were: Saad Haziri,chairman of BlomBank ,for corporate leadership; Michael Haddad,a professional athlete, for sports and leisure; Maya Hijazi, an influencer and activist ,for youth; Yorgui Teyrouz ,founder Of Donner Sang Compter for health and wellness; Zeina Daccash,Lebanese actress and director,for arts and culture;Nayla Fahed ,founder of Lal ,for celebrating impact;and Aya Bdeir,founder of Littlebits for diaspora.
Awardees received a strong round of applause for their distinctive inspirational work and were given the opportunity to express their thoughts in short speeches.
“We can get the money we need and we can build our country again. However it is essential that we don’t forget who we are and maintain our Lebanese identity,” said Michael Haddad. Aya Bdeir’s mother received her daughter’s award instead of her, took the stage with a heartfelt thank you and recounted her daughter’s journey. After graduating, Bdeir wasn’t given any support from funding companies. Thus, she traveled to New York and founded LittleBits, one of the fastest-growing companies in the USA. She considered the present youth “lucky” to be in Lebanon during this period where startups are being supported especially by the Prime Minister. After the awards ceremony, attendees enjoyed a gourmet dinner and an opportunity to network with other like-minded people.
On Saturday, September 8, and Sunday, September 9, the festival, which will take place in Biel, is offering a variety of opportunities including entrepreneurship workshops, panels of global influencers, startup pitches, live bands, food trucks, and much more. Participants include many influencers, entrepreneurs, and celebrities such as Valerie Abou Chakra, Daniella Rahme, Ramy Ayach, Marc Hatem, and many others. On the night of the 8th of September, Hult Prize, in partnership with the United Nations, The Central bank of Lebanon, and BLOM Bank, will host their Lebanon finals in the Changemaker festival, awarding USD 250,000 to a group of Lebanese university students with distinctive innovative startups. Hult Prize was named ‘One of the Top Five Ideas Changing the World’ in 2012 by President Clinton and TIME Magazine.
Sponsors for the Changemaker festival include Hult Prize, BLOM Bank, Kobeissi & Franjieh law firm, Anghami, Fitness Zone, Beirut Digital District, and Careem.

NAYA | DAWRIC targets women entrepreneurs in Lebanon
Ryme Alhussayni/Annahar/September 07/18
BEIRUT: Driven by technological progress, the future of work is potentially offering unparalleled opportunities. Industries from agriculture to education are integrating tech into their day-to-day operations, making it harder for the people who lack tech skills to keep working.
This year the British Council organized the Entrepreneurship workshop under the name of Direct Action for Women: Reform, Inclusion and confidence (DAWRIC) and funded by the EU. The workshop was led by proAbled (Sic) academy, which is an online platform that connects HR and recruitment departments in companies to potential employees trained by NGOs; it took place on Monday and lasted until Thursday at the Gefinor Rotana, Hamra. The Entrepreneurship training targeted women entrepreneurs and provided them with the knowledge and skills to expand their existing business. Each of the 21 participants come from different backgrounds and own a different kind of business. “Group work helps me see things from a different perspective, we get to discuss our issues in order to grow our businesses and find solutions to the problems we are facing. I learned a lot of new technical words and I’m hoping by the end of the workshop to learn how to be better in terms of branding and marketing,” said Marie Georges Hatem, founder of a dairy business named Em El Khayrat.
The candidates got the chance to meet investors and microcredit institutions, such as Lebanese League for Women in Business (LLWB), Foundation Diane and many more. They also received certificates during the last day of the training. “I believe that these kinds of workshops, that help triggering our creativity, teach us how to introduce our businesses properly to customers and develops our patience in certain situations,” said Rima Gedeon, one of the participants. The main speaker of the workshop Samer Sfeir, who’s specialized in Entrepreneurship programs, explained that in order to understand the topic well, the candidates have to walk a certain path, which begins with their mindset and ends with learning the criteria which define a good woman entrepreneur. “Looking at the downturn in the Lebanese economy, we face two options, one is to simply give up or to actually bounce back. But in order to bounce back, one has to be different than what the market usually offers, one has to stand out,” said Sfeir to Annahar. Sfeir unfolded the criteria that best defines a good woman entrepreneur, and that is innovation, as it helps open up new dimensions for the business and the added value of the product/service to people’s life. Having these two characteristics, one can guarantee the sustainability of the enterprise. The workshop discussed different topics starting with leadership, team building, sales, online marketing, etc… and ended by introducing the participants to funders and investors in order to build up new connections.
Some of the participants started their businesses because they were unemployed and there are no chances of job opportunities in Lebanon. However, they chose not to give up, and instead, focus on helping low-income people with their businesses and creating new job opportunities.
*Rana Tabbara contributed to this article.
The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on September 08-09/18
Pompeo calls out Khamenei’s hypocrisy over Iran’s lack of aid to Palestinians
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Saturday, 8 September 2018/ United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has traded barbs with Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, saying that Iran provides support for terrorists while only donating small amounts of money to Palestinian aid organizations.“Iran’s regime punished Palestinians by providing them just $20,000 — yes, $20,000 — via UNWRA from 2008 to 2017,” Pompeo tweeted on Saturday. America’s top diplomat’s response came after Khamenei tweeted at Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, saying that the Palestinians “should not be neglected even for a second”.Pompeo quote tweeted Khamenei, noting that the US has, since 1994, provided $6.3 billion in aid to support the Palestinian people while “Iran’s morally corrupt regime provided hundreds of millions in aid to terrorists who endanger the Palestinians’ lives & livelihoods”.
11 dead in attack on Iran Kurd rebel HQ in Iraq
AFP, Sulaimaniyah Saturday, 8 September 2018/At least 11 members of an Iranian Kurdish rebel group were killed in a rocket attack on their headquarters in Iraqi Kurdistan on Saturday, officials said. The Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) has carried out sporadic attacks inside Iran from its rear-bases in Iraq and is blacklisted as a “terrorist” group by Tehran. The leftist organization was holding a meeting at the time of the attack, one of its officials told AFP on condition of anonymity. He blamed the attack on Tehran. “Eleven KDPI members were killed and 30 wounded by Katyusha rockets fired on their headquarters in Koysinjaq,” Kamran Abbas, director of the city’s hospital, told AFP. Koysinjaq is about 60 km east of the autonomous Kurdish region’s capital Arbil. Abbas said the party’s secretary general and his predecessor were among the wounded. The KDPI is Iran’s oldest Kurdish movement and has seen several of its leaders assassinated by Tehran in the past. Iranian security forces have also carried out repeated operations against KDPI bases in the mountainous terrain along the border.

US military drawing up options should Syria use chemical weapons
Reuters//Arab News/September 08/18 /NEW DELHI: America’s top general on Saturday said he was involved in “routine dialogue” with the White House about military options should Syria ignore US warnings against using chemical weapons in an expected assault on the enclave of Idlib. Marine General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said no decision had been made by the United States to employ military force in response to a future chemical attack in Syria. “But we are in a dialogue, a routine dialogue, with the president to make sure he knows where we are with regard to planning in the event that chemical weapons are used,” he told a small group of reporters during a trip to India.
Dunford later added: “He expects us to have military options and we have provided updates to him on the development of those military options.” Syrian President Bashar Assad has massed his army and allied forces on the front lines in the northwest, and Russian planes have joined his bombardment of rebels there, in a prelude to a widely expected assault despite objections from Turkey. This week, a top US envoy said there was “lots of evidence” that chemical weapons were being prepared by Syrian government forces in Idlib. The White House has warned that the United States and its allies would respond “swiftly and vigorously” if government forces used chemical weapons in Idlib. President Donald Trump has twice bombed Syria over its alleged use of chemical weapons, in April 2017 and April 2018. France’s top military official also said last week his forces were prepared to carry out strikes on Syrian targets if chemical weapons were used in Idlib.
Dunford declined to comment on US intelligence about the possible Syrian preparations of chemical agents.
Idlib is the insurgents’ only remaining major stronghold and a government offensive could be the last decisive battle in a war that has killed more than half a million people and forced 11 million to flee their homes.
The presidents of Turkey, Iran and Russia on Friday failed to agree on a cease-fire that would forestall an offensive. Asked whether there was still a chance the assault on Idlib could be averted, Dunford said: “I don’t know if there’s anything that can stop it.” “It’s certainly disappointing but perhaps not (surprising) that the Russians, the Turks and the Iranians weren’t able to come up with a solution yesterday,” he said. Tehran and Moscow have helped Assad turn the course of the war against an array of opponents ranging from Western-backed rebels to the Islamist militants, while Turkey is a leading opposition supporter and has troops in the country. Turkey says it fears a massacre and Turkey can not accommodate any more refugees flooding over its border. But Russia’s Vladimir Putin said on Friday a cease-fire would be pointless as it would not involve extremist militant groups it deems terrorists. Dunford has warned about the potential for a humanitarian catastrophe in Idlib and instead has recommended more narrowly tailored operations against militants there. “There’s a more effective way to do counterterrorism operations than major conventional operations in Idlib,” he said.
Russia, Turkey, Iran Fail to Reach Truce Agreement on Syria’s Idlib
Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 7 September, 2018/The leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran failed on Friday to agree on a ceasefire on the northwestern Syrian region of Idlib, perhaps the final chance to avoid what activists warn will be a humanitarian disaster.Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani, meeting in Tehran for a summit of key foreign players in Syria’s war, agreed in a final statement that there could be no military solution to the conflict and it could only end through a negotiated political process. But as Syrian regime and Russian warplanes mounted air strikes in Idlib on Friday morning in a possible prelude to a full-scale offensive on the opposition stronghold, Putin and Rouhani pushed back against Erdogan’s call for a truce. "Idlib isn't just important for Syria's future, it is of importance for our national security and for the future of the region," Erdogan said. "Any attack on Idlib would result in a catastrophe. Any fight against terrorists requires methods based on time and patience." "We don't want Idlib to turn into a bloodbath," he added. Putin said a ceasefire would be pointless as it would not involve extremist groups it deems terrorists. Rouhani said Syria must regain control over all its territory. In the final statement, the three leaders agreed on the need to eliminate ISIS, the Nusra Front, and other extremist groups. But there were other armed opposition groups who could join any ceasefire agreement, they said. The communique also called on the United Nations and the international community to step up humanitarian aid to Syria and help in restoring basic infrastructure assets. Efforts must be made to protect and to create conditions for the safe return of refugees, it added. The Idlib province and surrounding areas are home to about 3 million people — nearly half of them civilians displaced from other parts of Syria. That also includes an estimated 10,000 fighters, including the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham group. The Syrian regime was not directly represented at the summit, nor were the United States and other Western powers. America's ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has warned any military offensive in Idlib "would be a reckless escalation.""There is no military solution to the Syrian conflict," Haley said in a statement Wednesday. "Assad's brutal regime — backed by Russia and Iran — cannot continue to attack and terrorize Syria's citizens."

Egypt Sentences 75 to Death, Hundreds to Jail Over 2013 Sit-In

Cairo/Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 8 September, 2018/An Egyptian court on Saturday issued death sentences for 75 people, including prominent Muslim Brotherhood leaders, and jailed more than 600 others over a 2013 sit-in which ended with the killing of hundreds of protesters by security forces. The sentencing concluded the mass trial of some 700 people accused of offenses including murder and inciting violence during the pro-Muslim Brotherhood protest at Rabaa Adawiya square in Cairo. The government says many protesters were armed and that eight members of the security forces were killed. In Saturday's hearing at the vast Tora prison complex south of Cairo, a criminal court sentenced to death by hanging several Muslim Brotherhood leaders, including Essam al-Erian and Mohamed Beltagi and preacher Safwat Higazi. Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Mohamed Badie and dozens more were given life sentences, judicial sources said. Others received jail sentences ranging from five to 15 years. Furthermore, the court handed a five-year jail sentence to award-winning photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid. Abu Zeid, widely known as Shawkan, is however expected to walk free soon, his lawyer said. Shawkan was arrested in August 2013 as he covered deadly clashes in Cairo between security forces and supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi. He was accused of "murder and membership of a terrorist organization" -- charges that can carry the death penalty -- but has already spent five years in jail. Shawkan should, therefore, be able to leave prison "within a few days", his lawyer Karim Abdelrady said as he welcomed the verdict.

Iraq Vows Crackdown after Protesters Torch Iran Consulate
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 08/18/Iraqi protesters on Friday torched the Iranian consulate in the southern city of Basra in fresh demonstrations over poor public services after parliament called for an emergency session on the unrest. Unidentified attackers also fired shells into Baghdad's fortified Green Zone in a rare attack on an area that houses parliament, government offices and the US embassy. There were no casualties. Basra has seen a surge in protests since Tuesday, with demonstrators torching government buildings as well as political party and militia offices, as anger boils over after the hospitalisation of 30,000 people who had drunk polluted water. At least nine demonstrators have been killed since then in clashes with security forces, Mehdi al-Tamimi, head of Basra's human rights council, has said. In a bid to quell the violence, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said late Friday that he had instructed security forces to "act decisively against the acts of vandalism that accompanied the demonstrations". Iraq's Joint Operations Command, which includes the army and police, said in a statement there would be a "severe" response with "exceptional security measures", including banning protests and group travel. - 'Sick and abandoned' -The wave of protests first broke out in July in oil-rich Basra province before spreading to other parts of the country, with demonstrators also condemning corruption among Iraqi officials and demanding jobs. "We're thirsty, we're hungry, we are sick and abandoned," protester Ali Hussein told AFP on Friday after another night of violence. "Demonstrating is a sacred duty and all honest people ought to join." Thousands of demonstrators rallied outside the Iranian consulate on Friday while hundreds stormed the building and set it on fire, an AFP photographer said. A spokesman for the consulate said that all diplomats and employees were evacuated from the building before the protesters attacked, and that none of them were hurt. Iraq's foreign ministry called the attack against the consulate "an unacceptable act undermining the interests of Iraq and its international relations".
Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi denounced the incident as a "savage attack", according to Iranian news agency Fars. Iran is a key power broker in Iraq and many of the militias and political parties whose offices were torched Thursday are known to be close to the Islamic republic. Parliament said that lawmakers and ministers, including Abadi, will meet on Saturday to discuss the water contamination crisis, the latest breakdown in public services to infuriate residents. The meeting was demanded by populist Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr, whose political bloc won the largest number of seats in May elections although a new government has yet to be formed. Sadr, whose supporters held protests inside the Green Zone in 2016 to condemn corruption among Iraqi officials, called for "demonstrations of peaceful anger" in Basra after the main weekly Muslim prayers on Friday. And the representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, spiritual leader of Iraq's Shiite majority, in his Friday sermon denounced "the bad behaviour of senior officials" and called for the next government to be "different from its predecessors". At least 24 people have been killed in the demonstrations since they erupted in Basra on July 8.
'Excessive force' -Human rights activists have accused the security forces of opening fire on the demonstrators. But the government has blamed provocateurs in the crowds and said troops have been ordered not to use live rounds. Amnesty International on Friday denounced "the use of excessive force by security forces" and called for an investigation into the deaths. The anger on Basra's streets was "in response to the government's intentional policy of neglect" of the oil-rich region, the head of the region's human rights council Tamimi said. Abadi has scrambled to defuse the anger and authorities have already pledged a multi-billion dollar emergency plan to revive infrastructure and services in southern Iraq. But Iraqis remain deeply sceptical as the country remains in a state of political limbo. Sadr on Thursday called for politicians to present "radical and immediate" solutions at the emergency meeting of parliament or step down if they fail to do so. Abadi, for his part, is trying to hold onto his post in the next government through forming an alliance with Sadr, a former militia chief who has called for Iraq to have greater political independence from both neighbouring Iran and the United States.

Rouhani Evokes Iran-Iraq War in Call to Defy US Pressure

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 08/18/Iran's President Hassan Rouhani evoked memories of the devastating Iran-Iraq war on Saturday to call for unity in the face of economic hardships and US pressure. "Today, the government is on the frontlines. This is an economic, psychological and propoganda war," Rouhani said on state television. "We had sweet days and we had hard days during the sacred defence," he said, using the official name for the war with Iraq which claimed up to two million lives between 1980 and 1988. "But our nation never backed down. Now, too, our nation will not bow before the pressure of a new group in the White House." Iran's economy has been battered in recent months, in part due to Washington's withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal, which had lifted sanctions in return for curbs to its atomic programme. Prices are rising and shortages are widespread, while Iran's currency has lost around 70 percent of its value against the dollar compared with a year ago. Rouhani said that the United States is pressuring Iran and at the same time calling for negotiations "every day". "Which one should we believe? Your messages, or your brutal acts? If you want the best for the Iranian people why are you pressuring them?"Rouhani called for unity after weeks of pressure from both reformist and hardline factions over his handling of the economic crisis."We cannot fight America, the left and the right at the same time. We cannot fight on three fronts," he said. The president also acknowledged the mounting economic pressure. "(Yet) we cannot back down from our goals because of temporary difficulties. Remember those (war) days, our heartaches brought us to eventual victories."Rouhani made the remarks during an event named after Mohammad-Ali Rajai, Iran's second president whose assasination in August 1981 was blamed on the political-militant group Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK).

Iraq’s top two parliament groups urge PM to resign
AFP/September 08, 2018/BAGHDAD: The two leading groups in Iraq's parliament on Saturday called on Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi to resign, after lawmakers held an emergency meeting on unrest shaking the country's south."We demand the government apologise to the people and resign immediately," said Hassan Al-Aqouli, spokesman for the list of populist Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr that won the most seats in a May election. The announcement dealt a severe blow to Abadi's hopes of holding onto his post through a parliamentary bloc unveiled just days earlier with Sadr, a former militia chief. Ahmed Al-Assadi, spokesman for the second-largest list, the Conquest Alliance, condemned "the government's failure to resolve the crisis in Basra", a southern city where 12 protesters were killed this week in clashes with security forces. The Conquest Alliance was "on the same wavelength" as Sadr's Marching Towards Reform list and they would work together to form a new government, Assadi said. Abadi defended his record in parliament, describing the unrest as "political sabotage" and saying the crisis over public services was being exploited for political ends. Anger in Basra flared after the hospitalisation of 30,000 people who had drunk polluted water, in an oil-rich region where residents have for weeks complained of water and electricity shortages, corruption among officials and unemployment. Demonstrators have set fire to government buildings, the Iranian consulate and the offices of pro-Tehran militias and political parties.
Iran executes Kurdish separatists
AFP/September 08, 2018/TEHRAN: Iran executed three alleged Kurdish separatists on Saturday, local media reported, despite criticism by the United Nations that at least one had been tortured in prison. Ramin Hossein Panahi, Zaniar Moradi and Loghman Moradi were all executed on Saturday, according to the conservative Fars news agency. It said Panahi had planned to bomb a rally in Iran’s Kurdish province last June. Zaniar and Loghman Moradi were accused of membership in an unnamed “terrorist separatist group” and of killing four people, including the son of the Friday prayers leader in the Kurdish city of Mariwan. Panahi was accused of membership in Komala, which has been waging a long-running separatist insurgency in Iranian Kurdistan from bases across the border in Iraq. He was sentenced to death in April, drawing criticism from UN human rights experts, who said his execution “would be unconscionable.”“We are deeply disturbed by reports that Mr. Panahi has suffered human rights violations before and during his trial, including incommunicado detention, torture and ill-treatment, and denial of access to a lawyer and adequate medical care,” they said in a report at the time. They pointed to reports that Panahi had been denied medical care for injuries suffered during his imprisonment, including from reported beating with cables. He had also reportedly started a hunger strike at the beginning of this year in the Rajaei-Shahr prison in Karaj, near Tehran.

Israel Kills Palestinian Teen in Border Clash- Ministry
Gaza/Asharq Al- Awsat/Saturday, 8 September, 2018/A Palestinian teen died of his wounds Saturday a day after he was shot by Israeli troops during a protest on the Gaza border, the enclave's health ministry said. Ahmad Abu Tayoor, 17, was shot late Friday on the border close to the southern city of Rafah, the ministry said. The Israeli army shot dead another 17-year-old Palestinian on Friday and wounded at least 45 others as thousands of demonstrators approached Gaza's border in multiple locations. Palestinians set tires ablaze and threw Molotov cocktails and grenades towards nearby Israeli soldiers, the army said. There have been regular protests along the border since March 30 as Palestinians demand the right to return to homes their families fled or were expelled from during the war surrounding the creation of Israel in 1948. At least 175 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in Gaza since then. Over the same period, one Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper. Israel accuses Gaza's Hamas group of manipulating the protests and of seeking to use them as cover to carry out attacks. This week, it closed its only people crossing with Gaza after violent protests damaged the infrastructure. Israel said it would reopen the passage next Thursday providing the situation is calm. Gaza has been under an Israeli blockade for more than a decade, and its Hamas rulers have fought three wars with Israel since 2008. Some 80 percent of the enclave's two million residents rely on aid, according to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

Houthis Are Trying to Sabotage Peace Talks, Says Yemen FM
Jeddah- Saeed al-Abyad/Asharq Al- Awsat/Saturday, 8 September, 2018/Yemeni Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani accused the Iran-backed Houthi militias on Saturday of “trying to sabotage the negotiations” that ended without their attendance in Geneva and said that the UN envoy had not been firm enough with them. The Houthis failed to attend the consultations, but UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths said earlier that it did not represent a “fundamental blockage in the process” and that he would meet soon with their representatives in Sanaa and in Muscat, Oman. “We want the UN to be firmer in bringing the other party to the negotiations,” Yamani told a press conference before leaving the Swiss city. Griffiths and Yamani, also heading the negotiating delegation in Geneva, on Friday discussed the release of prisoners, the arrival of humanitarian aid and the reopening of Sanaa airport, a UN spokeswoman said on Saturday. UN-brokered talks to end Yemen’s three-year war were meant to begin on Sept. 6, but only representatives of the Yemeni government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi turned up as the Houthis insisted their plane to Geneva be allowed to evacuate dozens of injured people to neighboring Oman. At a press conference, Griffiths’ spokeswoman Alessandra Vellucci, said that the UN special envoy to Yemen started his negotiations with the Yemeni government delegation in Geneva on Thursday evening and that he is still waiting for the Houthi delegation to arrive from Sanaa. Local sources added that Houthi militias rejected all international efforts to persuade them to allow the transportation of their team of representatives on board an international plane to Geneva. Houthi narrow-mindedness when it comes to peace efforts is “no longer a secret,” General People's Congress Party official Adel al-Shuja told Asharq Al-Awsat. He added that the reason behind their determination to transit in Oman is to exploit consultations to transfer a number of Lebanese “Hezbollah” and Iranian Revolutionary Guard officials in Yemen, as well as to traffic Houthi leaders and bring weapons on board the Omani plane. In a statement, the Aden government expressed its commitment to “look for any opportunity to alleviate the suffering of people who suffer from poverty and hunger."

'We Just Didn't Make It,' UN Envoy Says as Yemen Talks Falter
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 08/18/UN-backed talks between Yemen's warring parties ended Saturday before properly getting off the ground, with the UN envoy acknowledging it had not been possible to convince the rebels to come to Geneva. "We didn't manage to get... the delegation from Sanaa to come here... We just didn't make it," Martin Griffiths told reporters in Geneva. He said it was "too early to say when the next round of consultations will take place." His comments came after the Huthis, powerful armed tribes locked in a war with Yemen's Saudi-backed government, have refused to take off from the rebel-held capital of Sanaa unless the United Nations meets a list of conditions, which includes securing a safe return from Geneva to Sanaa for their delegation. The talks had been scheduled to formally open Thursday but were put on hold, leaving Griffiths scrambling to save them. Griffiths hosted a number of meetings with the government delegation, which arrived in Geneva on Wednesday, and diplomats from countries with influence in Yemen's bloody conflict. Griffiths said the meetings were "fruitful consultations", insisting that "we made some good progress... (on) confidence-building measures". A day earlier, the Huthis' Supreme Revolutionary Council said they were becoming "increasingly suspicious that the coalition intended to insult" the rebels.It accused the Saudi-led alliance of planning to strand the rebel delegation in Djibouti, where their plane was to make a stop en route to Geneva. The Huthis hinted they feared a repeat of 2016, when 108 days of talks in Kuwait broke down and a rebel delegation was stranded in Oman for three months due to an air blockade, the council said in a statement on Telegram. The Saudi-led military coalition controls the country's airspace and Sanaa international airport has been largely disused for years. The Iran-backed Huthis also demand the evacuation of their wounded fighters from Sanaa to Oman. Saudi Arabia and its allies have meanwhile said they have already granted the Huthis clearance to fly, accusing the rebels of intransigence. Griffiths, who said earlier this week he believed the Geneva talks would offer a "flickering signal of hope" to the Yemeni people, has been up against difficult odds from the start. He is the UN's third Yemen envoy since 2014, when Huthis overran the capital and drove Hadi's government into exile. All previous attempts to resolve the conflict have failed. Nearly 10,000 people have been killed since Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened on behalf of the government in 2015, triggering what the UN calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

UK Police Make Arrest after 'Serious Incident'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 08/18/Police made an arrest on Saturday following a "serious incident" in the northern English city of Barnsley that left one man with stab injuries. Traders at a local covered market said they and parts of the town centre were locked down over the incident, sparked by reports of an individual with a knife. South Yorkshire Police initially reported on Twitter that it was responding to a "serious incident". In a later statement it said: Officers were called at around 8:20 am (0720 GMT) "following reports that a man had been stabbed in Barnsley town centre".
"Police then received numerous further reports of an individual in the town centre with a knife," it said. "One person has been arrested in connection with the incident and is in police custody.
"One man suffered minor injuries. No other injuries have been reported at this time."It said several crime scenes had been established and there would be a highly-visible police presence until police had established what happened. "An investigation is now underway and in its early stages to establish whether this is an isolated incident and whether the individual acted alone," it added. Earlier the Facebook page of Barnsley Mayday Green Market reported that "this market and most of the town centre is in lockdown", before later declaring it had received the all-clear. Contacted by AFP, they said they had no more information, other than "second-hand reports" that there may have been more than one person with a knife. Britain is on high alert after a string of terror attacks, including by individuals brandishing knives.

Haftar Hints at ‘Liberating Tripoli’
Brussels, Cairo- Abdullah Mustafa and Khalid Mahmoud/Asharq Al- Awsat/Saturday, 8 September, 2018/Libyan National Army (LNA) commander Khalifa Haftar said Thursday that the “Tripoli crisis shouldn’t go longer and liberating the Libyan capital is inevitable.”Speaking to tribal leaders in Benghazi, he declared that he would liberate Tripoli through a well-structured plan to end what he called militia rule. “We will not be silent about the current situation in Tripoli anymore,” he stressed. Haftar warned that, if elections in Libya are not transparent, his LNA will obstruct them. The parliament called on its members to attend two sessions at its headquarters in Tobruk Monday and Tuesday in order to enact the bill of a referendum over the constitution. These sessions are the last chance before heading to the presidential elections in case the quorum is not met to pass the bill. Meanwhile, disputes continued between France and Italy over the Libyan crisis, although Italy's Defense Minister Elisabetta Trenta urged cooperation between the two countries. In a related matter, European Parliament president Antonio Tajani said Friday that “the future of Libya is being decided now, and the EU has to play a central role in managing this crisis. If we are not able to carry out this task, we will leave the door open for the ambitions and interests of countries.”“In the absence of a stable Libyan government that can control the country´s borders and territory, managing migration flows from Libya´s coast will become more difficult," Tajani said, adding that the smuggling of weapons and drugs will continue to help terrorists, putting in danger the safety of African and European citizens. “The country is a powder keg ready to explode. "The clashes in Tripoli that caused over 200 dead over the last few days have further exacerbated internal conflicts and, despite an agreement on a ceasefire, the situation remains extremely fragile.”

Boko Haram overruns key crossroads town in northern Nigeria
The Associated Press, Maiduguri, Nigeria/Saturday, 8 September 2018/Boko Haram extremists have overrun a key crossroads and military outpost in northern Nigeria, residents said Saturday. Gudumbali is a town to which just months ago the government encouraged displaced people to return. The Borno state secretary of the self-defense hunters association, Bunu Bukar, said the extremists attacked on Friday afternoon. There were no immediate reports of deaths. “Suddenly, I saw people running all over the place shouting, ‘They have come! They have come!’” resident Umara Modu told The Associated Press. “I saw the attackers right inside our town but, surprisingly, they told us to calmly take our property and move out because we are not the target.”He said about half the town’s population fled as the extremists entered without resistance. The fighters are thought to be with the Boko Haram faction under Abu Mus’ab al-Barnawi that has the backing of the ISIS. “I will never go back to Gudumbali again, no matter the assurance, because we went back after the military authority and the Borno state government promised us adequate security,” Modu said. Security forces had no immediate comment. Gudumbali was the site of one of the deadliest encounters in the fight again Boko Haram, with scores of soldiers killed in 2015. The town also was among the first communities targeted in a military operation that launched earlier this year to return thousands of people displaced by Boko Haram to their homes in Nigeria’s northeast with the goal of resuming normal life. The government under President Muhammadu Buhari more than once has declared Boko Haram defeated but the extremists continue to carry out attacks in the impoverished northeast and Lake Chad region.The security situation is a major challenge in Africa’s most populous country as elections approach next year.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on
September 08-09/18
Germany: Anti-Immigration Party Surges in Popularity
Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/September 08/18
The AfD's opponents, who often brand the party as "far right" or "extremist," claim that the party's alleged ties to neo-Nazi groups pose an existential threat to Germany's constitutional order. The AfD's supporters counter that Germany's politically correct establishment, afraid of losing its power and influence, is attempting to outlaw a legitimate party that has pledged to put the interests of German citizens first.
"Migration is the mother of all problems." — German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer.
"Extremism cannot be combated with exclusion, but with looking at the facts. Those who want to reach concerned citizens must themselves get out of the ideological trenches." — Oswald Metzger in Tichys Einblick, a prominent German blog.
The murder of a German citizen by two failed asylum seekers in Chemnitz, and the attempted cover-up by German police, has contributed to a surge in support for the anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany (AfD), which, according to a new poll, has overtaken the Social Democratic Party (SDP) to become the second-strongest political force in Germany.
Support for the AfD has increased to 17%, while backing for the SPD has fallen to 16%. Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU)/Christian Social Union (CSU) alliance is at 28.5%, according to an Insa Institute poll published by the newspaper Bild on September 3.
The rise of the AfD — which has been fueled by widespread anger over Merkel's decision to allow into the country more than a million mostly Muslim migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and the subsequent increase in violent crime — reflects an ongoing realignment in German politics, in which voters increasingly are rejecting the multicultural orthodoxy of the mainstream parties.
When federal elections were held on September 24, 2017, the CDU/CSU won 32.9% of the vote, its worst electoral result in nearly 70 years. The SPD won 20.5%, its worst-ever showing. The AfD won 12.6%, to become the country's third-largest party in the German parliament.
The election results showed that more than a million traditional CDU/CSU voters defected to the AfD. In a sign that concerns over mass migration are not limited to conservative voters, the center-left SPD lost 500,000 voters to the AfD while the far-left Left Party lost 400,000 voters. In addition, nearly 1.5 million first-time voters cast their ballots for the AfD. This trend has continued, as consistently corroborated by opinion polls since the 2017 election.
The mainstream parties are fighting back with what some observers say are underhanded measures, aimed at delegitimizing — and possibly criminalizing — the AfD, including by calling for the party to be placed under state surveillance.
The AfD's opponents, who often brand the party as "far right" or "extremist," claim that the party's alleged ties to neo-Nazi groups pose an existential threat to Germany's constitutional order. The AfD's supporters counter that Germany's politically correct establishment, afraid of losing its power and influence, is attempting to outlaw a legitimate party that has pledged to put the interests of German citizens first.
Calls for the AfD to be monitored by German intelligence have intensified in recent days, after members of the AfD participated in mass protests in Chemnitz against spiraling migrant criminality — protests in which approximately 50 hooligans and neo-Nazis were also present.
The protests erupted after a 35-year-old German-Cuban man named Daniel Hillig was stabbed to death on August 26 by two migrants during the city's annual festival.
Police initially refused to reveal the identities of the perpetrators, but on August 27 a police report was leaked on social media — the document has since been scrubbed from German websites but it remains on a Russian site — which showed that the killers were illegal migrants from Iraq and Syria. Both had extensive criminal histories but were allowed by German authorities to roam free on German streets. Police later confirmed that the leaked document was authentic and said that they had opened an investigation into suspected "violation of official secrets."
Thousands of people took to the streets for several days to protest the killing and the inaction by German authorities over the issue of spiraling migrant crime. The protests (and counter-protests) brought together a broad spectrum of German society, including supporters of the AfD, as well as members of the so-called "far-right scene." Near the end of one of the marches, some of the protesters turned violent and began insulting some migrant passersby. That incident then shaped the media narrative from one of Germans protesting migrant crime to one of far-right attacks on innocent migrants.
Few if any of Germany's mainstream politicians condemned the murder of Hillig, but they were quick to denounce attacks on migrants.
On August 27, government spokesman Steffen Seibert, in a national press conference, condemned the "hunting of humans of a different appearance, of different origins" on the streets of Chemnitz.
Chancellor Merkel echoed: "We have video footage about the fact that there were hunts, that there were riots, that there was hatred on the street, and that is unacceptable in our constitutional state."
It later emerged that all of the government's allegations were based on a single 19-second video — titled "Hunting for Humans in Chemnitz" — which was posted on YouTube and later broadcast by the public television channel ARD. The video shows one individual chasing another in what appears to be an isolated incident.
Moreover, a protester who grabbed national headlines by making a Nazi salute at the Chemnitz protest was discovered to be a left-wing extremist who infiltrated the march in order to discredit it. But the media narrative had been set in motion.
The chairman of the German Parliament's Internal Affairs Committee, Burkhard Lischka (SPD), warned of the danger of a civil war:
"There is a small right-wing mob in our country that will take its violent fantasies of civil war to our streets. That in the Bundestag [German parliament] a party applauds these excesses against foreign fellow citizens as legitimate self-justice, shows that the majority of our country must become even louder when it comes to rule of law, democracy and cohesion in our society."
Bundestag Vice President Thomas Oppermann demanded that the AfD be monitored by Germany's domestic intelligence service, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, BfV): "The refugee question divides society and the AfD rides ever more radically on this wave."
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) countered that he sees no basis for monitoring the AfD. On the sidelines of a closed-door meeting of the CSU in Brandenburg, Seehofer defended the Chemnitz protesters: "Just because people protest, that does not make them a Nazi." He added: "Migration is the mother of all problems."
Saxon Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer (CDU) later contradicted the government's claims: "There was no mob, there was no hunting down of people, there was no pogrom in this city."
Saxon Attorney General Spokesman Wolfgang Klein added: "After examining all of the material available to us, there was no hunt in Chemnitz."
When asked to rectify his claims, Seibert doubled down:
"I will not have a semantic debate here over a word. Of course, if the Attorney General's office says so, I take note. However, it remains that a video shows how people of foreign origin were chased and how they were threatened. It remains true that there were statements that were threatening, close to the call for vigilante justice. So, in my opinion, there is nothing to talk about."
Like Seibert, Merkel refused to back down:
"We saw pictures that very clearly revealed hate and the persecution of innocent people. One must distance oneself from that. That is all there is to say."
Writing for Tichys Einblick, a prominent German blog, commentator Oswald Metzger summed it up:
"'There was no mob, there was no hunting down of people, there was no pogrom in this city.' Saxon Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer (CDU) clearly corrected the almost hysterical and false reporting of countless leading media outlets on the events in Chemnitz after the deadly stabbing. Even the chancellor and her government spokesman had, as we all know, conveyed these false reports to the public, and thereby giving them publicity.
"For long enough, many citizens from all walks of life have noticed that the problems of integrating even third- and fourth-generation immigrants have grown bigger, not smaller — especially among Turks. The mass immigration of the past three years, under the banner of 'the right to asylum,' has significantly increased the fear of parallel societies, of crime, and of cultural alienation.
"When I consider the often undifferentiated, blanket accusations against 'brown Chemnitz' [brown is the color of Nazism], then the established parties will not have to wonder why, almost without exception, they continue to lose to the colorful AfD.
"When concerned citizens increasingly are stigmatized as being Nazis — accusations which, incidentally, in their excessive use amount to a shameless trivialization of Nazi crimes — they often respond with the indifferent remark: 'Well, then I'm just a Nazi!'
"Extremism cannot be combated with exclusion, but with looking at the facts. Those who want to reach concerned citizens must themselves get out of the ideological trenches."
*Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

The Tehran Summit: Three Jugglers and a Phantom
Amir Taheri/Asharq Al-Awsat/September 08/18
Is Russian President Vladimir Putin treating the Syrian conflict as a geopolitical version of a symphony by Tchaikovsky? Well, he started his intervention in Syria with a soft overture in the form of occasional support for the forces of the Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad before launching the first movement in the form of carpet bombing several cities, notably Aleppo, into submission.
In the second movement, he switched to adagio mode by helping Assad’s forces kill or expel as many anti-regime fighters as possible.
Last week, Putin started preparing for what he hopes will be the grand finale: an attack on Idlib, the last stronghold of anti-Assad rebels. With that in mind, the Russian leader has assembled the largest aero-naval battle group Russia has deployed for a single operation since the Second World War.
In Tehran today, Putin hopes to sell his grand finale to Iran and Turkey, the two players in the Syrian imbroglio that, for different reasons, have decided to accord their cacophonic partitions with Putin’s symphony of death and destruction.
The so-called trilateral Astaneh Group had to hold its latest session in Tehran because Iran’s “Supreme Guide” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei cannot travel abroad due to concerns about an Interpol “red notice” issued by a criminal court in Berlin.
By the time of this writing, it seemed that in Tehran Putin would clinch at least part of the deal he wants.
As indicated by the haste with which President Hassan Rouhani was sent to Kazakhstan to sign the Russian-dictated Caspian Sea Convention, the leadership in Tehran is in an accommodating mood vis-a-vis Moscow. All that the mullahs want is for Putin to let them continue having some presence, even if largely symbolic, in Syria. Mired in a worsening economic crisis and challenged by nationwide protests, the ruling mullahs are left with a narrative based on the claim that they are fighting in Syria so that they won’t have to fight anti-Shiite militants in Iran itself. Losing that narrative would mean a possibly fatal humiliation for a regime that has little to offer Iranians.
To keep the illusion alive that Tehran is still a big player in Syria, Khamenei dispatched Defense Minister Gen. Amir Hatami to Damascus to sign what was presented as a defense treaty. In face this was no such thing. The two had signed a defense Treaty in 2006 which never fully came into effect. The new accord was an addendum envisaging a role for Iran in reorganizing and retraining Assad’s army when and if the war is over.
However, everyone knows that Assad’s own future is still in doubt and that if Russia remains the final arbiter of matters in Syria it would not allow the Iranians to secure a major presence in any future Syrian army. Putin may have more trouble persuading Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to swallow the grand finale in Idlib.
Seven years ago, as the “Arab Spring” flared from one country to another, Erdogan started dreaming of a neo-Ottoman “space”, if not an empire, spanning a vast swathe of territory from North Africa to the borders of Iran.
In Syria, he abandoned an early alliance with the Assad clan in favor of an alliance with the local branches of the Muslim Brotherhood. By 2018, Erdogan’s grand dream had shrunk into a small fantasy of creating “Kurdish-free” enclave inside Syria across the border. Now, if Putin flushes Turkey’s last Syrian allies out of Idlib, Erdogan will be left with an even smaller fantasy-land named “Euphrates Shield Zone” where he is building what looks like a Turkish Bantustan. A new tsunami of refugees from Idlib could wash away that Bantustan, leaving Erdogan with little to show for his massive investment of blood and treasure in an ill-designed adventure.
My guess is that Putin will try to throw a few crumbs to Erdogan. Putin still hopes, in my opinion wrongly, that he could loosen Turkey’s traditional moorings in the Western alliance.
Humiliating Erdogan at this stage may undermine that strategic goal.
Khamenei may have no choice but to accept some Turkish role in Syria for two reasons. The first is that, like Putin, he hopes to see Turkey distance itself from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and seven decades of close ties with Washington. The second reason is that, once new American sanctions come into effect in November, Tehran would need Turkish help in sanction busting operations to keep the Iranian economy afloat until Donald Trump leaves the White House.
What about Assad in all this, one may wonder as an afterthought?
The truth is that though, strategically speaking, Assad is no longer relevant to the future of Syria, almost all major players, including the US and its local allies still firmly ensconced in nearly 30 percent of Syrian territory, need the despot for various reasons. Russia and Iran need him to claim that they are in Syria at the invitation of its legal government headed by Assad. After all, it was Assad who signed the lease for the Russian bases and Assad again who gave his stamp of approval to the presence in Syria of an army of Lebanese, Afghan, Pakistani and Iraqi mercenaries raised by Iran. Turkey needs Assad to bolster its claim as the last defender of Syrian Sunni majority against the minority ruling clan.
The US and its allies also need Assad in the role of a genocidal maniac whose very existence justifies their presence on Syrian soil.
Israel, too, needs Assad not only to help keep Syria in a tragic limbo but also because for four decades the Assad clan guaranteed the security of the ceasefire line at the Golan Heights. In his just-published memoirs, John Kerry, the US former Secretary of State, reveals how Assad even offered to cede the Golan to Israel in exchange for a guarantee for his regime’s survival.
In today’s summit in Tehran, Putin, Khamenei and Erdogan are three jugglers engaged in multiple deceptions. As for Assad, he is a phantom, seen but not heard.

Iran’s meddling in Syria will not end well
Camelia Entekhabifard/Arab News/September 08/18
Last week’s summit in Tehran was an opportunity for the leaders of Iran, Russia and Turkey to showcase their joint efforts to end the seven-year war in Syria. Rather than a show of unity and cooperation, however, it was a demonstration of separation and disagreement.
Shamelessly, the three presidents discussed the imminent fate of three million people in Idlib province, and the future of Syria in general, without the presence of a single Syrian at the negotiating table. Unusually, in Iran, where such high-level political events take place behind closed doors, the meeting was broadcast live on state TV. Iranians were therefore able to witness the differences in opinion between the three men who hold the keys to Syria’s future, and to see at first hand the consequences of meddling in the affairs of other countries — which the Tehran regime does, while making ordinary Iranians foot the bill.The meeting showed what failures these three leaders are, although at least Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey spoke honestly. He did not hide the fact that the three countries have different interests in Syria, and that those of Iran and Russia do not match Turkey’s.
Vladimir Putin called for the “total annihilation of terrorists in Syria,” while Hassan Rouhani focused on reconstruction and the need for Syria’s displaced to return home. Meanwhile Turkey, which backed opposition forces, fears a flood of refugees fleeing a military offensive and widespread destabilization that would harm its national security.
Iraq is a perfect example of what happens when the Tehran regime interferes in matters that are none of its business, and without the support of the Iranian people. Tehran and Moscow want to attack Idlib and wipe the remaining terrorists off the Syrian map — in effect conducting a massacre so that they can claim victory in the war on behalf of the Assad regime.The UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura estimates that there are 10,000 terrorists in Idlib. To wipe them out, however that is achieved, would cause huge civilian casualties and displace hundreds of thousands of people, even with the Turkish and Jordanian borders closed. A simple calculation shows this battle will not be as simple as the Iranians and Russians seem to think. Meanwhile, if the regime in Tehran requires a lesson in what happens when you meddle in another country’s affairs, it need only look across the border to Iraq. Since Saddam Hussein was deposed, Iran has spent billions on trying to cement its position in Iraq, and influence elections in its favor. What has all that money and interference bought? Ask the people of southern Iraq, where polluted water, electricity shortages and political corruption are laid squarely at the door of Iran, to the extent that the Iranian consulate in Basra was attacked by protesters last Friday. Iraqis see all the political failures and mismanagement in their country as having been caused by Iranian interference. The same will happen in Syria. Money cannot buy people’s hearts, or win their permanent friendship.
Iraq is a perfect example of what happens when the Tehran regime interferes in matters that are none of its business, and without the support of the Iranian people.
*Camelia Entekhabifard is an Iranian-American journalist, political commentator and author of Camelia: Save Yourself By Telling the Truth (Seven Stories Press, 2008). Twitter: ​@CameliaFard

Between slumber and awakening from Al-Sahwa

Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi/Al Arabiya/September 08/18
The slumber which was called the Awakening (Al-Sahwa) for decades and the backwardness which was embellished with religious terminology to hide its violence and fundamentalism and to cover for its dangerous opportunist groups which used religion, its principles and its main concepts for the purpose of attaining political power and which used the Quran in order to be “masters of the world” and to gain “sovereignty of the world” as Hassan al-Banna, the founder of this dangerous approach, put it, have brought evil and disasters to every country where Al-Sahwa activities and branches operated and where its ideology spread. It emerged from two places in the world; India or Pakistan later with al-Maududi and his disciples and Egypt, with Hassan al-Banna and the Muslim Brotherhood. This Al-Sahwa is glorified by political Islam groups, both the Sunni and Shiite ones. All the models they presented were horrific bloody dictatorial ones. Have we awoken from this ominous Al-Sahwa? Did it end and has its evil ended?
Two models
The scene shows two models. The first one pertains to the spread of Al-Sahwa, its groups, organizations and militias especially in some Arab countries where the Iranian snake has expanded — in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. Religious slogans and Al-Sahwa parties become part of the general political scene there and have a presence that imposes itself on people with the power of arms, violence and terrorism. The second model is countries that have become aware of the dangerous orientation and that have classified the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group. Al-Sahwa tried to manipulate religion, its principles and its main concepts for the purpose of attaining political power. This has been done by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and other Arab countries. It is a firm action taken against the roots of terrorism and extremism, and not just their offshoots. This model has begun to impose itself as an option that could be inspiring for many Muslim countries as well as other countries of the world. It is a model that’s still advancing and developing and is yet to be completed.
People more important than ideology
One of the basics of this model is that people are more important than ideology, religion is more important than the groups that falsely claim to belong to it and that development of the country and the people is the goal. Other than Iran, there are two countries in the region that support the fundamentalist and terrorist Al-Sahwa project by all means, which are Qatar and Turkey. This triad has affiliates, institutions and projects, especially in many European and Western countries, including the third generation of Al-Sahwa followers that have been educated in the West and have been raised on Al-Sahwa ideologies and discourse. Their education has enabled them to join official and civilian institutions in the countries from where they acquired their nationalities. The way these people were raised bound them to the ideas, concepts and objectives of Al-Sahwa groups; hence, they seek to serve them as much as they can.
Some hasten to argue that Al-Sahwa battle is over and that the war against Islamist groups has succeeded, thus we must turn the page and move on. This is more of a wishful thinking rather than a realistic assessment, built more on optimism rather than on logical analysis. However, it is also true that we are now in a better position than we were years ago, especially than the tough years of the spring of fundamentalism and terrorism, the spring of the Brotherhood, Sururists and all the terrorist and violent groups. It is true that we are in a better position, but we are still at the very beginning. We need decades of education to graduate generations whom Al-Sahwa did not tamper with their minds and contaminate them. We need long-term plans to consolidate these gains and develop them and to pursue and besiege the remnants of Al-Sahwa. We need to establish awareness, spread knowledge, build countries on firm national constructs and erase this evil ideology via decisive decisions, insight and patience.

Basra drowning in a sea of salt and poison
Adnan Hussein/Al Arabiya/September 08/18
After repeatedly speaking out, like tens of thousands of Iraqis from the province of Basra, and not receiving any positive response from the local or federal governments, civil society activist Hashem Ahmed came up with a new and unprecedented way to voice his objection.
On the west bank of the Shatt al-Arab River, a bronze statue of Basra’s and Iraq’s poet Badr Shakir al-Sayyab, one of the pioneers of the free verse in Arabic poetry, has stood for years. The statue was long neglected before the Ministry of Water Resources pledged to restore it last year while cleaning the rivers and streams of the Shatt al-Arab and which have suffered from neglect and turned into stagnant swamps due to the mounds of waste. Local authorities had ignored cleaning this water and did not take any initiative to clean it though it was once the source of prosperous agricultural life in Basra.
The ‘Salt Song’
The Basra activist, deliberately covered the Bronze Status of Sayyab with salt, while another activist wrote on the statue’s pedestal ‘Salt Song’ that made a clear dig at the famous poem ‘The Rain Song’. It is as if the activist wanted to say that if Sayyab would have been alive today he would have written a new poem with this title.Basra is not just the only channel that opens Iraq to the Arabian Gulf and the rest of the world, but it’s also the economic capital with a population of nearly three million. It is the largest oil and gas producing province with the largest and most important oil fields. Its oil reserves account for 59% of Iraq's total reserves of 115 billion barrels. Its ports export the largest percentage of oil (more than 3.5 million barrels per day), whose financial resources fund 95% of the state budget. With its astronomical wealth, Basra should have been one of the world's most prosperous and developed cities.
With this astronomical wealth, Basra should have been one of the world's most prosperous and developed cities. However, the opposite is true as the city today lacks the most basic of public services amenities (health, education, electricity, water, transportation, housing and sanitation). Its population is the poorest in Iraq, and this has resulted in protests every year since 2010. Their current uprising, which is the longest and most critical, has been ongoing for the last two months. This year, the problem of water scarcity has worsened. The salinity in the waters of the Shatt al-Arab has increased due to abnormal levels, making it unsuitable for drinking and agriculture. Due to the absence of a sewage system in the governorate, Basra’s water has been contaminated with toxins. The latest statistics indicates that the cases of poisoning and other digestive diseases have risen to 18,000 cases.
Dams to the north
The high rate of salinity in the Shatt al-Arab is mainly due to the lack of sufficient quantities of fresh water coming from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. This is because Turkey and Syria have built many dams on them while Iraq was not interested in building any irrigation facilities. The situation worsened when Iran built dams on its side and diverted the streams of some rivers which originate from Iran and flow into the Tigris and Shatt al-Arab rivers. Iran also dumped contaminated water into Shatt al-Arab thus increasing the rate of salinity and contamination. The biggest problem for Basra, and by all means for Iraq as a whole, is the corruption of the influential political class, which mostly consists of political Islam groups. Since 2003, Iraq's revenues from oil exports have reached over $1 trillion. It is estimated that at least a quarter of that amount ended up in the accounts of influential parties, their leaders and their partners of Iraqi, Arab, Iranian, Turkish and other businessmen.
Corruption poisons
These influential parties have formed "economic committees" in the ministries and governorates, and they manage these committees which function is to obtain financial bribes (commissions) from companies that are in the process of signing contracts to build industrial and agricultural projects. Many of these companies are front companies and have ties to ministers, governors and general managers in Iraq and were only founded in order to acquire funds allocated to projects. In Basra in particular, news broke in the last two years that the governor, the head of the provincial council, members of the provincial council and other senior officials were involved in administrative and financial corruption. The former governor had fled the country through Iran to dodge arrest and trial. Such incidents happen dozens of times a year. The fact that there isn’t a policy in place to fight corruption has made matters worse. In fact, everything that is happening in Iraq is in the interest of the corrupt. The judiciary’s orders to arrest officials accused of corruption are not implemented, and if they happen to be implemented the defendants are usually exempted thanks to the general amnesty law which was issued two years ago, or they are released on grounds of "insufficient evidence". This expression alludes to the fact that the sufficient evidence to convict the defendant is usually in the hands of government officials accused of corruption themselves. Since 2006, the year in which the first elected government took power, the three successive governments have vowed to make fighting administrative and financial corruption within their priority. However, these operations to fight corruption only addressed few of the powerless corrupt while the big sharks have remained outside the realm of accountability and prosecution thanks to their influence and the power of their influential parties which have always received a significant share of the loot. To make matters worse, the system of forming these governments has been based on a system of sectarian, national and partisan quotas, contrary to the provisions of the constitution. This system has played a crucial role in exempting corrupt officials, who are senior officials of the parties represented in the government, from accountability. The abolition of the quota system is the first condition to fight administrative and financial corruption in Iraq. This will be a prerequisite for the revival of political, economic and social life, and to save Basra from its current drowning in salty and poisonous water so that fresh water can return and pour into Basra and Iraq as a whole, like depicted by Badr Shakir al-Sayyab in his poem ‘Rain Song’: Rain, rain, rain.

While Iran’s leaders and allies confer on Idlib, Shiite Iraq implodes in their faces
من موقع دبكا: في حين يجتمع قادة إيران وحلفائهم للتشاور بشأن مصير أدلب السورية الشيعة في العراق يثورون في وجههم
DEBKAfile/September 08/18
Tehran’s back yard, Shiite Iraq, is on the brink of a violent civil war. Anti-Iran riots were raging in the southern oil city of Basra and spreading to Baghdad when Iran’s leaders, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani were conferring with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan in Tehran on Friday, Sept. 7 on an offensive to subdue the last rebel holdout of Idlib and so finally end Syria’s civil war.
Iraq was to have emerged as the vital link in Iran’s coveted post-war land bridge to the Mediterranean via Syria and Lebanon. However, this week, the Islamic Republic of Iran was slapped by a historical irony, a backlash from its own Shiite coreligionists in Iraq, which threatens to snatch that goal away just as it comes within Tehran’s grasp.
During five days of violent protests and clashes with security forces, in which at least 11 people were killed, Shiites who dominate Iraq’s second city, the southern port of Basra, stormed and set fire to the Iranian consulate, blaming Tehran for the corruption rife in the country and the breakdown of basic services. Crowds on the streets chanted slogans against Iranian influence on Iraqi politics, ransacking and torching official buildings. Pro- and anti-Shiite militias were fighting each other on the streets. The violence reached the capital on Friday, when the fortified Green Zone, seat of government and foreign embassies, came under attack – first by Katyusha rockets then by mortars. The streets were cleared on Friday night by a nocturnal curfew. Moments after it was lifted Saturday morning, protesters came out to shell Basra’s international airport. Overnight they had seized control of Umm Qasr, Iraq’s oil export port.
If Iranian and Russian leaders had hoped to get the Idlib operation quickly out of the way and so ring the curtain down on the Syrian civil war, they were suddenly set back by the real prospect of a civil war breaking out in Iraq. Tehran was caught unawares by this development, which is all the more calamitous given the country’s disastrous economic crisis: Shop shelves in Tehran and other cities are empty, and even baby diapers are hard to find. The national currency continues the slide sparked in May by President Donald Trump’s exit from the Iran nuclear deal. The rial has plunged 140pc in value.
Putin too is confronted with a grave setback to his plans. He had gambled on the Idlib operation bringing the Syrian war to an end and, by solidifying Iran’s grip on Syria, opening the door for Russia to set up bases in Iraq. Iraq’s descent into internal anti-Iran Shiite violence may oblige Moscow to revamp the basic premise of his policy, i.e. partnership with the Shiite Muslim camp against the US- Israeli alignment with the Sunni Muslim bloc. The fate of the Idlib operation pales in significance compared with the pivotal turnabout in the region’s balance of power generated in less than a week by fiery Iraqi Shiite protests.
For this setback, Tehran has only itself to blame. In early July, when temperatures in Iraq were hitting 48 degrees Celsius, an unnamed Iranian official decided to turn off the current to Basra because the Baghdad government had stopped paying electricity bills. With their water taps running dry and air conditioning switched off, the citizens of Shiite Basra surged onto the streets to vent their ire against Tehran. It appeared that Iranian intelligence sources fell down on the job of assessing the mood current in the Shiite majority in Iraq.
However, DEBKAfile’s sources report that non-payment of electric bills was merely a pretext. Tehran had decided to stir up trouble in Iraq as a muscle-flexing lesson for President Trump and a demonstration of Iran’s ability to sow mayhem in various parts of the Middle East, if he goes through with the sanctions he proposes to impose on Iranian oil sales on Nov. 4. But the Iranian policy-maker responsible for sparking unrest in Shiite Iraq failed to appreciate its boomerang effect against Tehran rather than America.
The masses out on the streets in the Shiite towns of Iraq are protesting against the corruption deeply entrenched in Iraq’s ruling circles, including the government, the army and the forces of law and order, for which they hold strong Iranian political and military influence in Baghdad responsible. The violence was immediately directed against the pro-Iran militias and their political organs, while images of Ayatollah Khamenei were burned and banners carried the legend: “In the name of religion, the thieves are robbing us.”
Although Iraq’s general election took place in May, the various parties, none of which gained a majority, have failed to form a coalition, leaving the former prime minister Haydar Abadi at the head of a caretaker government. The machinations in Baghdad of Iran’s foremost regional wire-puller and strategist, Al-Qods chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani, are a key factor in the chaotic situation in Iraq. His efforts to install an Iranian puppet, Iraqi militia chief Hadi al-Amiri, as prime minister has deadlocked coalition negotiations, since it is opposed mainly by the Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr whose bloc came out first in the election. The unrest in Iraq, though sparked by Tehran, threatens to veer out of its control in the absence of a government in Baghdad. to seize the reins.