Detailed Lebanese & Lebanese Related LCCC English New Bulletin For September 13/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations
Here is my servant, whom I have chosen, my beloved, with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles
Matthew 12/14-21:"But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him. When Jesus became aware of this, he departed. Many crowds followed him, and he cured all of them, and he ordered them not to make him known. This was to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah: ‘Here is my servant, whom I have chosen, my beloved, with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not wrangle or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets. He will not break a bruised reed or quench a smouldering wick until he brings justice to victory. And in his name the Gentiles will hope."

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 12-13/18
Woodward Book Claims US Feared Israel was Unable to Defend Itself Against Hezbollah/Sputnik/September 12/18
Future Bloc: The lineup presented by Hariri is balanced and constitutes a basis for dialogue and consultation/NNA/September 12/18
Hariri: We must consider the economic and regional challenges, and the distribution of portfolios is secondary/September 12/18
Erdogan urges Russia, Iran to stop ‘disaster’ in Syria’s Idlib/AFP/September 12/18
How Kushner Played Matchmaker Between Israel and Saudi Arabia, According to Woodward/Amir Tibon/Haaretz/September 12/18
Turkey's Latest Power Grab a Naval Base in Cyprus/Debalina Ghoshal/Gatestone Institute/September 12/18
China's 'Digital' Totalitarian Experiment/Gordon G. Chang/Gatestone Institute/September 12/18
Who Really Sparked the Turmoil in Basra/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/September 12/18
What is Bigger and Beyond the Battle for Idlib/Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al Awsat/september 12/18
The Bank of England’s Nuclear Option for a No-Deal Brexit/Ferdinando Giugliano/Bloomberg View/september 12/18
Juhayman, Khomeini and Afghanistan/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/September 12/18
Following 9/11 anniversary, hurricane Florence cuts Guantanamo hearings short/Phoebe Leila Barghouty/Special to Al Arabiya English/September 12/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on September 12-13/18
STL adjourns final hearing sessions till Thursday
STL Prosecution Links Phones to Accused, Asks why Witnesses Excluded from Evidence
Lebanese President to EU: Return of Syrian Refugees Must Not be Linked to Political Solution
Report: Hizbullah ‘Backs’ Aoun on LF Cabinet Quotas
Hariri Says Govt. Impasse Easing, Hails STL 'Professionalism'
Berri decries government formation delay
Berri: Ministry of Planning the Sole ‘Sovereign’ Ministry Abroad
Israeli Jets Break Sound Barrier over Tyre
Report: FPM Lashes at Geagea after Indirect Hints about Bassil
Disciplinary Committee Head Depicts Corruption in Public Sector
Machnouk calls for amendments on electoral law
Two Lebanese men kidnapped in Syria
Politician of Lebanese Origin is Jailed Brazilian Leader's Plan B
Man held in Melbourne for trying to import weapons from Lebanon
Woodward Book Claims US Feared Israel was Unable to Defend Itself Against Hezbollah
Future Bloc: The lineup presented by Hariri is balanced and constitutes a basis for dialogue and consultation
Hariri to reporters: Aoun asked for amendment on submitted Cabinet format
Hariri: We must consider the economic and regional challenges, and the distribution of portfolios is secondary

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on September 12-13/18
Over 19,000 Syrian Kurds Deprived of Citizenship, 46,000 Remain Stateless
Erdogan urges Russia, Iran to stop ‘disaster’ in Syria’s Idlib
Turkey Captures 2013 Border Bombing Suspect in Syria Operation
Damascus Shells Idlib as UN Chief Warns of 'Bloodbath'
UN: Syria War Displacement This Year Worst Ever
UN documents further Syrian government use of banned chlorine
Russia Deploys Most Advanced Air Defenses at Army Drills
Merkel Says Germany Can't Look Away if Assad Uses Chemical Weapons
Parliamentary Elections Campaign Kicks Off Calmly in Kurdistan Region
Muslim Brotherhood Hackers Attack Egypt’s Official News Agency
Yemeni Army Says Iran Stirs Up Hate in Orders Given to Houthi Militias
Yemen Pro-Govt. Forces Say Main Rebel Hodeida Roads Seized
Over 100 Migrants Drown off Libyan Coast
U.S., U.N. Sanctions Target Libya Militia Leader
Trump Signs Order Permitting Sanctions for Foreign Election Meddling
Pompeo certifies Saudi Arabia, UAE protecting civilians
The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on September 12-13/18
STL adjourns final hearing sessions till Thursday
Wed 12 Sep 2018/NNA - The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) adjourned on Wednesday the final hearing sessions in the case of late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri's assassination till tomorrow [Thursday]. The STL prosecution on Wednesday exposed evidence based on the cellphones of the accused Hussein Oneissi, Assad Sabra and Hassan Merhi, centering on their phone calls from September 2004 till February 14, 2005, as well as on the geographical locations of the accused.The prosecution insisted in his pleadings that the mobile phones of the accused were out of service by the time Abu Adass disappeared.
STL Prosecution Links Phones to Accused, Asks why Witnesses Excluded from Evidence
Naharnet/September 12/18/The Prosecution at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon on Wednesday explained why three cellphones allegedly belong to the Accused Assad Sabra, a supposed member of Hizbullah who is accused along with three other suspects of involvement in the assassination of ex-PM Rafik Hariri. Verifying that certain mobile phones and lines belong to each of the Accused is essential seeing as the Prosecution's argument is mainly based on telecom data evidence. During the session, the Prosecution presented exhibits to explain why three cellphones belong to Sabra, noting that they were in use in the vicinity of his residence and involved communication between the Accused's wife and family members. Separately, the Prosecution tackled the issue of witness testimonies and asked why they have not been listed as exhibits. In the afternoon, the Prosecution started explaining exhibits that allegedly link a number of phones to the Accused Salim Ayyash. The STL is trying four members of Hizbullah for their suspected involvement in Hariri's murder. The court had kicked off sessions dedicated to the closing arguments of the parties on Tuesday. The sessions will conclude on September 21 after which the Judges will withdraw to deliberate and eventually issue a judgment in due course. Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri attended the first day of the closing statements. On Tuesday, the Prosecution announced that the Syrian regime was at the heart of the conspiracy that killed Rafik Hariri. Hizbullah has refused to turn over the four defendants to the tribunal and says it does not recognize the tribunal's authority. The men are being tried in absentia. Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah warned the tribunal and its backers not to "play with fire" in an August 27 address. A verdict is not expected until the new year.
Lebanese President to EU: Return of Syrian Refugees Must Not be Linked to Political Solution
Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 12 September, 2018/Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun called on the European Union to “activate the decisions of financial support for Lebanon,” stressing that the country was seeking to secure a smooth return of Syrian refugees to their homeland.In a speech at the European parliament in the French city of Strasbourg, Aoun said: “In a country with a small area, dense population and limited resources, suffering from weak infrastructure and increased unemployment, you must easily realize the extent of the burden we are shouldering.”He noted that the international community “did not bear its responsibilities to support Lebanon in mitigating the impact of this displacement, based on the principle of sharing burdens and responsibilities among states.”“Lebanon seeks to secure a dignified and safe return of the displaced to their homes and rejects any stalling in this regard,” the president said, adding that his country “refuses to link [the return] to a long-standing political solution.” Lebanon hosts more than a million refugees, who have strained the country’s already limited resources. Commenting on the general situation in Lebanon, Aoun stressed that the country was divided politically “due to regional wars” not to national problems. “The Lebanese society, by nature, is not an incubator for extremism and the rejection of the other. Respect for freedom of belief, expression of opinion and the right to disagree is part of the Lebanese culture,” he added. “These characteristics help Lebanon overcome its problems and bolster its internal security, in addition to inspiring other countries.”

Report: Hizbullah ‘Backs’ Aoun on LF Cabinet Quotas
Naharnet/September 12/18/Hizbullah party, which seems to “keep distance” from the wrangling between political parties over government seats, “supports” President Michel Aoun’s (FPM founder) adamant stance in “blocking” the Lebanese Forces from getting four ministerial seats, Kuwait's As-Siyasah newspaper said on Wednesday. “Hizbullah, which seems to spare no opportunity in voicing calls for a government lineup, has informed Aoun of its full support for his position regarding the formation process,” and the distribution of Cabinet shares, according to the daily. "The party stands behind Aoun in depriving the Lebanese Forces from getting four ministerial seats,” it added. The LF demands to get four seats including a so-called sovereign portfolio which has been indirectly rejected by FPM chief and Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil.
PM-designate Saad was tasked with forming the government on May 24 but his mission has since been delayed because of conflict between political parties mainly the Christian and Druze representation.

Hariri Says Govt. Impasse Easing, Hails STL 'Professionalism'
Naharnet/September 12/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri announced Wednesday that the government formation deadlock is easing, as he hailed the “professionalism” of the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon which is trying the suspected killers of his father, ex-PM Rafik Hariri. “A government format has been presented and President Michel Aoun has requested an amendment. I know what it is and everyone must be consulted in this regard,” Hariri told reporters ahead of the weekly meeting of al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc.“Several issues are being resolved and we must pay attention to the country and the environmental and regional challenges,” the PM-designate added. Asked about remarks by ex-parliament speaker Hussein al-Husseini about a deadline for forming governments, Hariri said: “With all due respect for him, the Constitution stipulates a 30-day deadline for the government to present its Policy Statement, whereas the PM-designate has no deadline (to form a new government).” “The Constitution is clear,” the prime minister-designate added.
Berri decries government formation delay
Wed 12 Sep 2018/NNA - House Speaker, Nabih Berri, categorically deplored on Wednesday the delay in government formation, stressing: "there is no excuse at all for such a delay."Speaker Berri's visiting deputies within the framework of "Wednesday Gathering" quoted the Speaker as saying there is no breakthrough on the issue of government formation yet. Berri stressed the need for the formation of the new government in light of the pressing economic situation. The Speaker reiterated his readiness to exert further efforts to facilitate and push forward the birth of the new Cabinet. On the recent incident at Beirut's Rafic Hariri International airport, Berri's visitors said he was not surprised if part of what has happened could be deliberately fabricated. Berri underlined that the real solution to this predicament lies in the appointment of a regulatory body and law enforcement. On the issue of the establishment of a Planning Ministry, Berri emphasized that the sole sovereign Ministry in the world countries is the Planning Ministry in its capacity as a "pivotal Ministry."

Berri: Ministry of Planning the Sole ‘Sovereign’ Ministry Abroad
Naharnet/September 12/18/Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said on Wednesday that the Ministry of Planning is the only “sovereign” ministry in the world because it is “pivotal,” while Lebanon tends to invent and name the so-called “services-related and sovereign portfolios.”
Speaking during his weekly meeting with MPs, Berri said: “We have invented sovereign ministries, services ministries and important ministries while the only ministry considered sovereign in other countries is the Ministry of Planning, because it is vital.”Berri’s remarks come as political parties horsetrade over the distribution of government shares and quotas. PM-designate Saad Hariri was designated on May 24 to lineup a Cabinet. His mission has since been delayed because of disagreements over the Druze and Christian representation.

Israeli Jets Break Sound Barrier over Tyre

Naharnet/September 12/18/Israeli warplanes on Wednesday violated the airspace over south Lebanese, especially over the coastal city of Tyre, Lebanon's National News Agency reported.
“They staged several overflights and broke the sound barrier, creating a sonic boom that echoed across the South,” NNA said. The fighter jets then returned to airbases inside Israel, the agency added. Israel's violation of Lebanon's airspace has become a near-daily routine since its first invasion of the South in 1978 but sonic booms have become rare in recent years.

Report: FPM Lashes at Geagea after Indirect Hints about Bassil
Naharnet/September 12/18/The Free Patriotic Movement lashed out at Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea assuring that “his attempt has failed to trigger dispute between FPM chief Jebran Bassil and President Michel Aoun (FPM founder),” the Kuwaiti al-Anbaa daily reported on Wednesday. “Geagea’s statement reflects an obsession called Jebran Bassi,” FPM sources told the daily, stressing that Geagea “was not successful in trying to separate between Aoun and the Free Patriotic Movement. He did not succeed in knocking a wedge between them,” they said. On Sunday, Geagea called on Aoun to “rescue his presidential tenure” through “reining in the greed” of some officials regarding the new government. He blamed the deadlock on “obstruction” by some parties “who should be the most keen on the presidential tenure's success,” in an apparent reference to Bassil. The sources added to the daily saying: “The peak of dishonesty was to publicly speak of support for the tenure while secretly try to knock it down” considering that Geagea’s targeting of the FPM was “aimed at the president and the political team that obtained the rights of the Christians and achieved balance and partnership, which also has given Geagea seats in the government.”

Disciplinary Committee Head Depicts Corruption in Public Sector Wednesday 12th September 2018/Head of the High Disciplinary Committee, Judge Marwan Abboud, on Tuesday said that the general performance of public employees has dramatically degraded, deploring the prevalent dishonesty and misbehavior. In an interview on Al-Manar TV, Abboud classified public servants into two categories: those who get paid without fulfilling their duties in return, and those who are honest and abide by the rules. “Half of the Lebanese state employees must be fired on charges of corruption,” Abboud said. “Had I had a falafel shop, I wouldn’t have stayed one second in the Judiciary,” Abboud responded when asked why he is still working in the justice department, pointing out that his financial condition does not allow him to leave his job. Abboud said that the committee he chairs, and which is in charge of enforcing accountability against corrupt employees, cannot take any action before the Central Inspection Department files a complaint against the employee who is being questioned. "Unfortunately, this rarely happens. Therefore, the committee has not been able to fulfill its duties," he said.Abboud admitted that he had been offered bribes many times himself, saying that he doesn't want to lie to himself or to the people.
Machnouk calls for amendments on electoral law
Wed 12 Sep 2018/NNA - Caretaker Interior Minister, Nouhad Machnouk, on Wednesday called for the amendment of the current electoral law, saying the door is open to modify points deemed as "weak" by all the Lebanese parties. The Minister of the Interior was speaking at the launch of the Book "Elections of the Lebanese Parliament 2018", under the patronage of House Speaker Nabih Berri. The Book was all set by the international company for information.  "The current law, despite my objections from the beginning on the proportional approach rather than proportionality principle, has allowed all the Lebanese and faith communities to feel influential and in attendance", he corroborated. However, the Minister noted that certain loopholes in said law must be addressed before the next legislative polls' date.

Two Lebanese men kidnapped in Syria
Annahar Staff/Annahar/September 12/18 /BEIRUT: Two Lebanese men were kidnapped while traveling in Syria Tuesday, with their whereabouts currently unknown. Firas Al-Sayegh and Basel Al-Ahmadiya were on their way to pick up the latter's wife from the Al-Suwaydiya governorate before their vehicle, a bmw, was snatched. Contact with their family member was lost immediately, and information regarding their kidnappers still unavailable.Their relatives confirmed to Annahar that the kidnappers have yet to contact them while the reason for the abduction remains unclear.

Politician of Lebanese Origin is Jailed Brazilian Leader's Plan B
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 12/18/Fernando Haddad wasn't uppermost on anybody's mind in April, when Brazil's former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva delivered a historic farewell speech hours before turning himself in to serve a 12-year prison sentence for corruption. As he listened to the speech from the third row, Haddad drew little notice. After all, he wasn't singled out for praise or expressions of appreciation. But on Tuesday, the 55-year-old former mayor of Sao Paulo was entrusted with the most delicate of missions: standing in for the jailed Lula in Brazil's October presidential elections. Right on a court-ordered deadline, the sober-minded former education secretary appears to have been handed what many consider an impossible mission, replacing a candidate who is so popular that neither jail, nor scandal nor economic crisis dampened his frontrunner standing in the polls. The same polls show that Haddad, a lawyer and former university professor, is no Lula. The latest survey by pollster Datafolha on Monday gave him just nine percent support, an improvement from a month ago.
He has barely four weeks to win over Brazilian voters.
Catch up
He has come from behind before, however. The son of Lebanese emigrants who says he learned as much about life in his father's textile store as at university, wasn't the most high-profile candidate when he ran for mayor of Sao Paulo in 2012. But he ended up winning.
His tenure was marred by mass protests over transportation fare hikes in 2013, and in 2016 municipal elections, he suffered a humiliating defeat to liberal businessman Joao Doria. The loss was a blow to Lula's Workers Party, coming just months after his successor, Dilma Rousseff, was removed as president amid a massive corruption scandal. "I am not an anxious person. I wait for things to happen before taking decisions. I am a political person, in the sense of participating in public life since I was on a university faculty," Haddad told the newspaper El Pais in 2016. Trained as a lawyer, with a master's degree in economics and a doctorate in philosophy, Haddad is married to a dentist with whom he has two children. He served as Lula's education minister from 2005, leaving in 2012 under Rousseff to run for mayor of South America's largest city. His political career put him at the center of the Workers Party, but without ever emerging from his mentor's shadow.
"Haddad spoke only when he was asked something," a former Lula ally told the Gazeta do Povo. Some criticized him as too distant, which Haddad dismisses as unfair. "I am the son of a Lebanese merchant and a school teacher. I learned at home to converse, to negotiate and in general I have a relaxed manner, even under the most adverse conditions. People confuse that with coldness and it's not," he was quoted as saying in a June 2017 article in the magazine Piaui. But outside of Sao Paulo, few people have heard of the imperturbable Haddad. His image hasn't been helped by accusations leveled last week by the Sao Paulo prosecutor's office of alleged corruption during his tenure as mayor, a charge he vehemently denies. From this point on, Haddad's ability to hold on to Lula's base will be key if he and his expected runningmate, youthful communist Manuela d'Avila, are to reach the second round of Brazil's presidential elections. It will be a sprint to beat the clock.
Man held in Melbourne for trying to import weapons from Lebanon
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/ednesday, 12 September 2018/An man in Melbourne has been detained on charges of importing an assault rifle and semi-automatic weapons from Lebanon, it was revealed on Tuesday. According to a news report in The Age, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) detained the 39-year-old on Sunday as soon as he touched down at Melbourne International Airport, on allegations that he was planning to bring in high-powered guns including an AK-47 assault rifle. The investigations around his alleged smuggling attempts began in December 2017 and the AFP and the Lebanese authorities collaborated to identify potential suppliers and traffickers of guns. Man charged with offences related to acquisition of weapons in Lebanon. The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has charged a 39 year old Newport man with a range of offences related to the alleged acquisition of weapons in Lebanon.
The weapons identified in the investigation were the type that is traditionally used by organized criminals, according to AFP Commander Amanda Kates. The identity of the man wasn’t however revealed in the report. “It will be alleged the man sought to purchase weapons including an AK-47 and semiautomatic handguns in Lebanon,” Commander Kates was quoted as saying by the newspaper. “We had real fears they could have been used to commit or facilitate other crimes. While charges have been laid, our investigators will continue working with domestic and international law enforcement partners to identify the full scope of this matter,” she added.
Woodward Book Claims US Feared Israel was Unable to Defend Itself Against Hezbollah
Sputnik/September 12/18
The book says the Trump administration was seriously concerned about the possibility of Hezbollah dragging the US into a “catastrophic” Middle East war.
The recently-published book entitled "Fear: Trump in the White House" says that in February 2017, early in the Trump administration, top US officials were seriously worried that Israel could not defend itself against a possible attack from Hezbollah, should one ever occur. Such an incident would have had "catastrophic" consequences, the book says. The book, by journalist Bob Woodward, cites National Security Council staffer Derek Harvey giving a briefing at some point early in Trump's presidency. According to Harvey, Hezbollah had accumulated a whopping 150,000 rockets, a huge increase from the approximately 4,500 it had during the 2006 war with Israel. The entire combined force of Israel's Iron Dome and David's Sling and Arrow defense systems would not have been able to deter a full-scale missile attack, Harvey reportedly insisted.
"Hezbollah was a perfect proxy for Iran to use to pressure and attack Israel, whose air bases could be pummeled with rockets," Woodward writes in his book. "Israel's defenses of Iron Dome, David's Sling and Arrow missiles would be inadequate."
Further, Harvey reportedly cited "sensitive intelligence" saying Hezbollah had some 48,000 full-time military personnel in Lebanon, presenting "an existential threat to the Jewish state," and the group was said to have some 8,000 troops in Syria and Yemen, not to mention regional "commando units."A possible Iranian-Israeli confrontation could have sparked a "catastrophic war," as the United States would have been dragged into the conflict, Woodward writes.When Trump adviser Jared Kushner allegedly agreed that Hezbollah should be addressed in a stronger way, Harvey told him that Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps was "integrated into the Hezbollah structure," with Iran funneling roughly $1 billion into the organization each year, Woodward writes. The administration was divided on Harvey's report, the book says. While National Intelligence Director Dan Coats and then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo agreed strongly with Harvey, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and then-National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster seemed to be less enthusiastic about it.
"Harvey felt the others did not appreciate the degree to which the fundamental balance of power had shifted," Woodward writes. "A full-scale assault could impact [Israel's] ability to actually fight."The report appears to have marked the end for Harvey. According to the book, Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer reportedly wanted Harvey to travel to Israel to meet with the country's top military brass, but McMaster, Harvey's boss at the time, did not allow that to happen. "McMaster said Harvey couldn't go, though he gave no reason," the book reads. However, Harvey did meet with Israeli officials in July 2017, but no plan for countering Hezbollah was ever created. Later that month, McMaster fired Harvey, only to himself be ousted in March 2018 by President Trump. The book speculates that the arms deal Trump reached with Saudi Arabia during his May 2017 trip to the kingdom might partially be a consequence of Harvey's findings, as Riyadh is a regional rival of Tehran. However, no formal agreement has ever been signed between the US and Israel regarding how to deal with Hezbollah, the book points out.
Future Bloc: The lineup presented by Hariri is balanced and constitutes a basis for dialogue and consultation
Wed 12 Sep 2018/NNA
Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri headed this afternoon at the Center House a meeting of the Future Bloc. At the end of the meeting, the bloc issued the following statement read by MP Rola Tabesh:
First- The bloc followed the proceedings of the recent sessions of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon and expressed its satisfaction with the path taken by justice to reach the verdicts in the assassination of Prime Minister Rafic Hariri and his martyr comrades.
The bloc expressed its support for the stance made by Prime Minister Saad Hariri in front of the headquarters of the Tribunal in The Hague, and considered it a wise and responsible position to the level of the efforts he deploys for the sake of Lebanon and its protection from the hurricanes of strife and wars that struck the region.
Prime Minister Hariri spoke to the Lebanese in a language that transcends the feelings of revenge, puts justice on the right track to uncover the culprits and stop the series of crimes that targeted presidents, leaders and intellectual and national symbols for decades without the local investigations succeeding in revealing the perpetrators and those involved.
The Bloc paid tribute to the families of the martyrs who were assassinated on February 14 and the families of the martyrs of the independence uprising, who lost some of the most courageous men. These men lost their lives for the freedom, sovereignty and dignity of Lebanon.
Second- The bloc expressed regret at the level reached by the political debate and the attempts to turn the facts and distract the attention from the sincere and required efforts to form a government. This ruins the calming atmosphere that prevailed thanks to the political settlement.
The current reality, full of economic, financial and administrative challenges, does not tolerate any form of intellectual and political luxury, and requires courageous initiatives to make concessions and reduce the conditions and demands, to start as quickly as possible the formation of the government and implement the reforms that our friends in the international community and our Arab brothers look forward to.
The exaggerated demands will not open the door to the formation of a balanced government, especially since the Constitution is clear in determining the mechanisms of the formation. It did not mention any political criteria and calculations.
The formation of national entente governments in Lebanon is based on the criterion of public interest, consultation, participation and the obligations related to the need to launch the governmental work cycle.
Therefore, the bloc stresses that the lineup presented by the Prime Minister-designate to the President of the Republic is a balanced formula that constitutes a basis for dialogue and consultation as to what the final lineup should be. The doors of the Prime Minister-designate will be open to all views and suggestions made by the concerned political parties.
Otherwise, the vicious cycle will remain and all political leaders will bear the responsibility of going into vacuum and reaping its negative consequences on economic and social stability.
Third- The bloc praises the speech of President Michel Aoun in the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, which constituted an important political stance on several issues, particularly issues that concern Lebanon mainly the role of the international community in the return of the Syrian refugees, the ending of UNRWA’s financial support, making Lebanon an international center for dialogue, and the international failure to find a solution to the Palestinian cause.
Fourth- The bloc noted that some administrative transfers did not respect the rules, and warned of the disadvantages that may arise from transfers that take the form of political revenge from persons just because they support this party or that.
The bloc believes that this disgraceful behavior in the administrative approach will bring the Lebanese administration back to the time of sectarian quarrel on posts between the parties of the civil war. It hopes the punitive decisions will be annulled because they are contrary to the most basic rules of administrative work.
Fifth- The Bloc said that the fact that the number of passengers in Rafic Hariri International Airport reached an unprecedented peak equal to twice its absorptive capacity should be an incentive to accelerate the opening of the airport of President Martyr Renee Moawad in Klayaat in Akkar, because it is for the benefit of Lebanon in general and the North specifically. In this context, the bloc hailed the decision to lay the foundation stone for the building of the Lebanese University in Abde in Akkar soon.
Sixth- The bloc declares its solidarity with the brotherly Palestinian people and its political leadership as regards the US decision to close the PLO office in Washington and sees in this procedure, in addition to the decision to stop financial the support for UNRWA, a policy that undermines the role of the United States in any effort to bring peace to
the region and provides the forces of extremism with a justification for the deliberate disregard of the injustice inflicted on the Palestinian people and their legitimate right to establish their
independent state.

Hariri to reporters: Aoun asked for amendment on submitted Cabinet form
Wed 12 Sep 2018/NNA - Prime Minister-designate, Saad Hariri, on Wednesday told reporters that he has submitted a Cabinet format to the President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, who has asked for an amendment. "Everyone should be consulted in this regard," Hariri told reporters before heading the regular weekly meeting of the "Future" bloc at the Centr House. Hariri dislcosed that there was some progress achieved in government formation issue. "We must take into account the country's situation and the environmental and regional challenges," he concluded.

Hariri: We must consider the economic and regional challenges, and the distribution of portfolios is secondary

Wed 12 Sep 2018/NNA
In a chat with journalists before chairing the Future Bloc meeting at the Center House, Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri responded as follows to journalists' questions:
Question: What is the nature of the committee that the Russian ambassador spoke about today?
Hariri: The committee that Ambassador Alexander Zasypkin talked about is for follow-up and coordination with the Russian side exclusively. The security committee will be purely about security and has not yet been formed. It will consist of representatives from the army, the Internal security forces and General security.
Question: Are we back to zero on the subject of the government?
Hariri: A lineup was proposed, there might be some things that need modification and we will consult with everyone.
Question: Are you willing to modify some things?
Hariri: We will see, the president of the republic is abroad and I was abroad as well. Communication continues with everyone. Upon the return of President Aoun, we will continue consultations.
In response to a question, he said: "There is always talk that the lineup needs to respect the results of the elections. It is the Parliament decides this”.
Question: Is President Aoun escalating when he says that he wants to send a message to Parliament?
Hariri: I do not think so. This was raised some time ago, but not anymore.
Question: Are the problems still the same?
Hariri: I think that things are unravelling, and it is time to reach salvation. The formation of the government should not be presented as a challenge between the parties. We must consider the economic, social and environmental challenges and all the regional challenges that confront us. The distribution of portfolios is secondary.
Question: What about your position in front of the Special tribunal, especially that some welcomed your statement while there was resentment from another team?
Hariri: Whoever assassinated Rafic Hariri will pay the price sooner or later. The important thing is the country. We want to complete Rafic Hariri's path. At the same time we are aware of the challenges. There are different points of views, so what should we do? Do we ruin the country or work to protect it? Some want to ruin the country and others want its stability. I am one of those who seek the stability of the country, and knowing the truth in itself is the way to justice. How did we deal with the tribunal at first and how are we dealing with it today? Things changed, all political parties changed, even those who were against it. There is more awareness and all the parties are working on this basis.
Question: What do you say to those who are skeptical about the Tribunal ?
Hariri: There are skeptics who deserve replies, and others who do not deserve any reply. The tribunal has shown professionalism in its work and that is a reality that everyone must deal with.
Question: Former Speaker Hussein Husseini said in an interview that it is not true that there is no deadline for the Prime Minister-designate to form a government, especially that the Constitution gave the government a deadline of 30 days to present its statement. Does this mean that the Prime Minister-designate has a deadline?
Hariri: I respect Speaker Husseini, but the constitution is clear in this matter. It gives a deadline for the ministerial statement to gain the government's confidence, but its formation is something else.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on
September 12-13/18
Over 19,000 Syrian Kurds Deprived of Citizenship, 46,000 Remain Stateless
Istanbul – Kamal Sheikho/Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 12 September, 2018/Syrians for Truth and Justice, a non-governmental group, has revealed that tens of thousands of Kurds are still deprived of Syrian citizenship. The group’s remarks were supported by an extensive report published to commemorate the 56th anniversary on the “Exceptional Census”, in the city of Hasakah, northeast of Syria. On August 23, 1963, Republican Legislative Decree No. 93 was issued ordering that a census be carried out in the northeast Hasakah governorate, home to the highest concentration of Kurds in Syria. That is why the census was called the “Exceptional Census”, also currently known as the “Hasakah Census 1962”. This was based on ethnic discrimination against Kurdish rights in violation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Syrians for Truth and Justice is an independent organization whose members include Syrian human rights defenders, advocates and academics of different backgrounds and nationalities. A report titled “Lost Syrian Citizenship: How the 1962 census destroyed the lives and identity of the Syrian Kurds” will be published in Geneva on January 18 during the 39th session of the Human Rights Council. Up until 2011, the number of persons categorized as foreign in Hasakah amounted to 346,242 registered individuals. By the end of May 2018, 326,489 obtained Syrian citizenship, said Syrians for Truth and Justice Director Bassam Al-Ahmed. Some 19,753 Kurds are still unable to gain citizenship, he added. After the outbreak of the anti-regime uprising in 2011, which called for sweeping reforms in the country, the ruling Bashar Al-Assad regime issued Legislative Decree No. 49 on April 7 within the same year which stipulates granting citizenship to those registered as foreign nationals residing in Hasakah. The issue of unregistered individuals peaked in Hasakah at the beginning of 2011, reaching more than 171,300 individuals, according to the report. Some 50,400 stateless individuals were able to land citizenship after managing registration as foreigners first, Ahmed added. However, he pointed to the fact that over 41,000 cases have not been corrected and are still deprived of citizenship. “There are still 5,000 people who did not check in with local registry authorities to correct their legal status, and are likely to be outside the country,” he added. In total, approximately 46,000 Syrian Kurds are unregistered and without any citizenship rights. According to the organization's researchers, the census destroyed the lives of Kurdish citizens, and that successive Syrian governments have adopted ethnic and racial discrimination policies against them. “We wanted to honestly convey the suffering of thousands of Kurds deprived of their most basic rights, where many of them are still deprived of citizenship and all their political, social and economic rights,” researchers added. For decades, Kurds registered as foreign residents or remained stateless. Among restrictions they faced was being denied the right to register marriages and births, to obtain passports and travel documents and the right to work in state institutions.

Erdogan urges Russia, Iran to stop ‘disaster’ in Syria’s Idlib
AFP/September 12/18
Erdogan has called for a cease-fire in the northwestern province of Idlib, the last opposition stronghold in Syria, as an assault by Syrian regime forces is expected any day
The comments came four days after the Turkish president met his Russian and Iranian counterparts for a summit in Tehran. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday called on Russia and Iran to halt a looming “humanitarian disaster” in Idlib, saying Syrians there could not be left to the mercy of President Bashar Assad. Erdogan has called for a cease-fire in the northwestern province of Idlib, the last opposition stronghold in Syria, as an assault by Syrian regime forces is expected any day. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Erdogan said the West had an “obligation to stop the next bloodshed” but that regime allies Moscow and Tehran were “likewise responsible for stopping this humanitarian disaster.”The comments came four days after the Turkish president met his Russian and Iranian counterparts for a summit in Tehran, where Erdogan sought to avert a bloody assault in Idlib. Analysts said Erdogan failed at the summit to achieve his aim, and his comments appear to indicate growing frustration in Turkey that Iran and Russia are not reining in Assad. While Turkey has been one of the main supporters of the Syrian opposition and called for Assad’s ouster, Ankara has until now worked closely with Assad’s allies Moscow and Tehran to find a political solution to the conflict. The UN has warned a large-scale military operation could create “the worst humanitarian catastrophe” of this century in Idlib, home to some 3 million people — about half of them displaced from other parts of the country. “The consequences of inaction are immense. We cannot leave the Syrian people to the mercy of Bashar Assad,” Erdogan wrote. The Turkish leader also criticized Assad’s bid to legitimize the fight in Idlib as a counter-terrorism operation. “Innocent people must not be sacrificed in the name of fighting terrorism,” he wrote. Idlib’s most powerful armed faction is the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) group, which Ankara officially designated a “terrorist” group last month. Erdogan acknowledged that groups such as HTS “remain active in this area” but insisted that such fighters “account for a fraction of Idlib’s population.” He called for a “comprehensive international counter-terrorism operation” and said that the assistance of pro-Ankara moderate fighters will be “crucial” in Idlib.
Turkey has already taken in more than 3 million refugees from Syria and Ankara fears any large offensive will lead to a new influx of up to two million people from Idlib. The civil war has claimed about 350,000 lives since 2011. Meanwhile, an ambush by Daesh has killed 21 regime fighters in Syria’s southern province of Sweida, a Britain-based war monitor said on Tuesday. The attack occurred late on Monday in the rural Tulul Al-Safa area of the province, about 100 km southeast of Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Eight radical fighters were also killed in subsequent clashes in the area, which is the militants’ last bastion in Sweida, the observatory said. State news agency SANA reported heavy clashes with Daesh in the area, adding that regime aircraft and artillery “targeted hideouts and positions” held by the group. Regime forces have been fighting Daesh on Sweida’s arid plains since terrorists carried out a wave of attacks in the mainly Druze province on July 25, killing 250 people, according to the Observatory. During their rampage, which targeted the provincial capital as well as rural areas, the insurgents also took about around 30 hostages, mostly women and their children.
At least 27 are believed to still be held, according to Human Rights Watch, after Daesh said it had beheaded a 19-year-old man and announced an elderly woman had died. Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said the hostages were believed to be held captive in Tulul Al-Safa.
A source in Sweida told AFP that families had had no word of their kidnapped relatives in weeks. Daesh has lost nearly all of the great swathes of territory straddling Iraq and Syria which it seized in 2014, but retains a presence in the vast desert that lies between Damascus and the Iraqi border, and holds a pocket in the Euphrates Valley in the east. A Kurdish-Arab alliance launched an assault on the pocket’s main town of Hajjin on Monday, with support from the US-led coalition fighting Daesh.
Turkey Captures 2013 Border Bombing Suspect in Syria Operation
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 12/18/The Turkish secret service has captured in Syria and brought back to Turkey the chief suspect in a 2013 bombing on the border with its conflict-torn neighbour that left over 50 dead, state media said Wednesday. Turkish citizen Yusuf Nazik, who is accused of planning the May 2013 Reyhanli bombing, was apprehended in an operation by the National Intelligence Organisation (MIT) in the Syrian city of Latakia and brought to Turkey, the Anadolu news agency said. Turkey at the time blamed the bombing -- one of the deadliest in its modern history -- on the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and allied groups. But the Syrian government rejected the charges. Anadolu also published a video of Nazik, dressed in a tracksuit top and jeans and standing by a Turkish flag, giving what it described as a "confession", saying he was behind the attack and it had been ordered by the Syrian regime. He said a man "working for Syrian intelligence" had given the order for the bombing and called on others in Syria to "return before it is too late", saying Turkey will "look after us". Nazik said he was from the Turkish southern city of Antakya and was 34 years old. Turkey has been an implacable foe of Assad throughout the Syrian conflict and has repeatedly called for his ouster. Yet Ankara has also been working in recent months more intensely with its main allies Russia and Iran on ending the conflict. Attention is now focused on Turkey's reaction should the regime go ahead with a planned assault on the last rebel stronghold of Idlib. The operation to capture Nazik which took place in Latakia is significant as the city has been a regime stronghold throughout the civil war and is seen as the heartland of support for Assad. There were no further details on the nature of the operation and if it had been carried out with or without the knowledge of the Syrian authorities or Russian forces who are present in the area. No date was given for Nazik's capture.The operation is the latest in a series of high-profile swoops by the MIT. It has brought back to Turkey in recent weeks suspects accused of links to preacher Fethullah Gulen, the accused mastermind of the 2016 failed coup seeking to topple President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, from several countries including Kosovo, Gabon, Moldova and Ukraine.
Damascus Shells Idlib as UN Chief Warns of 'Bloodbath'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 12/18/Government forces shelled Syria's last major rebel bastion on Wednesday, hours after UN chief Antonio Guterres warned the Security Council any full-blown offensive in Idlib risks triggering a "bloodbath". As troops massed for a Russian-backed offensive in the northwest, Kurdish-led rebels launched a US-backed assault in the east to oust the Islamic State group from its last redoubt in the Euphrates Valley, the US-led coalition confirmed. Intermittent artillery fire hit southern districts of Idlib province and adjacent rebel-held areas of Hama province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.The Britain-based war monitor did not immediately report any casualties from the bombardment which came after shelling and air strikes killed at least 15 civilians in the rebel zone since September 4. The northwestern province and adjacent areas form the largest chunk of territory still held by the rebels, who have been worn down by a succession of defeats in other parts of the country. Russia-backed government forces have been massing for weeks around Idlib, which is home to nearly three million people, many of them already dependent on aid.
UN agencies and relief organisations have warned repeatedly that any major assault could spark one of the worst humanitarian disasters of Syria's war. "It is absolutely essential to avoid a full-scale battle in Idlib," Guterres said on Tuesday. "This would unleash a humanitarian nightmare unlike any seen in the blood-soaked Syrian conflict."
- 'Security risks for Europe' -Ankara, which already hosts more than three million Syrian refugees, fears a new mass exodus and has called repeatedly for a ceasefire to give time for a negotiated settlement. More than half of Idlib province is held by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a jihadist alliance led by Syria's former Al-Qaeda affiliate, and Turkey has warned a government offensive could scatter thousands of foreign jihadists abroad, posing a security threat to the West. A major battle would trigger a "massive wave of refugees and tremendous security risks for Turkey, the rest of Europe and beyond," Turkish ambassador Feridun Sinirlioglu told the Security Council on Tuesday. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian expressed strong support for the Turkish position, warning there were "many terrorists from other nations who could scatter" in the event of a joint Syrian-Russian offensive, posing "risks for our security".
France, the European country worst hit by a wave of jihadist attacks since 2015, has been on high alert for radicals returning home from areas of Iraq and Syria that have been recaptured from IS. In the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, US-backed fighters fought to oust IS from the town of Hajin on the east bank of the Euphrates, the most significant remnant of the sprawling "caliphate" the jihadists once controlled spanning Syria and Iraq. The operation "will clear remnants of (IS) from northeastern Syria along the Middle Euphrates River Valley toward the Syria-Iraq border," the US-led coalition said.  - 'He's been warned' -In Idlib, civilians and fighters have been scrambling to prepare for the looming offensive. Western governments have said Damascus might again resort to the use of chemical weapons while Moscow has accused rebels of staging one as a pretext for Western intervention.
In a southern part of Idlib, a worried father busied himself making homemade gas masks, by stuffing gauze, cotton wool and coal into paper cups, then placing them in the corner of a large plastic bag. "We've been hearing the regime and Russia threaten to bomb us with chemical weapons," said Hadheefa al-Shahhad. "We had to make these masks to protect our women and children just in case," said the 27-year-old, who says he learnt how to make them by watching a video online. On Tuesday, Russia claimed that Syrian rebels had begun working on film footage that would be presented to the world as the aftermath of an alleged chemical attack by the Syrian army.Assad's regime has been repeatedly accused of using chemical weapons during the conflict and last year US President Donald Trump unleashed Tomahawk missiles against the regime's Shayrat airbase following an attack that killed more than 80 people. After another alleged toxic attack outside Damascus in April, Britain, France and the United States also carried out retaliatory strikes. Washington has spoken of far bigger reprisals if Assad orders any repetition.
"He's been warned, and so we'll see if he's wised up," US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said on Tuesday.

UN: Syria War Displacement This Year Worst Ever
London/Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 12 September, 2018/The UN Commission of Inquiry says Syria this year has witnessed levels of internal displacement not seen before in the seven-year conflict. The agency said in a report released Wednesday that over 1 million Syrian men, women and children have been displaced so far this year "with most now living in dire conditions." Syrian government forces backed by Russia and Iran captured wide areas around the country from rebels earlier this year. The areas include southern regions on the fronts with Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights as well as eastern suburbs of Damascus known as eastern Ghouta. The agency also warns that a possible offensive on the northwestern province of Idlib "would generate a catastrophic" humanitarian crisis. Regime forces have been massing troops on the edge of Idlib in preparation for an offensive on the last major rebel stronghold in Syria. Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday appealed to Russia, Iran and Turkey to “spare no effort to find solutions that protect civilians” in Syria’s Idlib and said it was “absolutely essential” a full-scale battle was avoided. “This would unleash a humanitarian nightmare unlike any seen in the blood-soaked Syrian conflict,” he told reporters.An estimated 3 million people live in Idlib - the last major stronghold of active opposition to Bashar al-Assad. The UN has described it as a “dumping ground” for people evacuated and displaced from elsewhere in Syria during the seven-year war. Assad has vowed to retake the region, backed by his Russian and Iranian allies.

UN documents further Syrian government use of banned chlorine
Reuters, Geneva/Wednesday, 12 September 2018/Syrian government forces fired chlorine, a banned chemical weapon, on a rebel-held Damascus suburb and on Idlib province this year, in attacks that constitute war crimes, United Nations human rights investigators said on Wednesday. The three incidents bring to 39 the number of chemical attacks which the Commission of Inquiry on Syria has documented since 2013, including 33 attributed to the government, a UN official told Reuters. The perpetrators of the remaining six have not been sufficiently identified.Weaponizing chlorine is prohibited under the Chemical Weapons Convention, ratified by Syria, and under customary international humanitarian law, the investigators said in their latest report. “To recapture eastern Ghouta in April, government forces launched numerous indiscriminate attacks in densely populated civilian areas, which included the use of chemical weapons,” it said, referring to incidents on Jan. 22 and February 1 in a residential area of Douma, eastern Ghouta, outside the capital. Women and children were injured in the attacks, suffering respiratory distress and requiring oxygen, it added.
Indiscriminate attacks
“The Commission concludes that, on these two occasions, government forces and or affiliated militias committed the war crimes of using prohibited weapons and launching indiscriminate attacks in civilian-populated areas in eastern Ghouta,” it said. A surface-to-surface, improvised rocket-assisted munition had been used in the two Douma incidents, it said. “Specifically the munitions documented were built around industrially-produced Iranian artillery rockets known to have been supplied to forces commanded by the (Syrian) government,” the report added. In the northwest province of Idlib - where the United Nations fears a major imminent assault by Syrian and Russian forces against the last rebel-held stronghold - chlorine was also used on February 4, the U.N. report said. “Government helicopters dropped at least two barrels carrying chlorine payloads in the Taleel area of Saraqeb,” it said, adding that at least 11 men were injured. “Documentary and material evidence analyzed by the Commission confirmed the presence of helicopters in the area and the use of two yellow gas cylinders”. The report, based on 400 interviews, also examined aerial and ground attacks by Turkey’s ‘Operation Olive Branch’, conducted with allied Syrian rebels, which wrestled the northwest Afrin region from Syrian Kurdish forces this spring. Afrin’s main hospital, a market and homes were hit, it said. “In conducting airstrikes beginning on 20 January, the Turkish air force may have failed to take all feasible precautions prior to launching certain attacks, in violation of international humanitarian law,” the report said .Rebels of the Free Syrian Army were “notorious for their arbitrary arrests and detention” in Afrin, it added. More than a million civilians were displaced in six major battles across Syria during the first six months of the year, many marked by war crimes, the report said. Thousands of displaced civilians still live in dire conditions in severely overcrowded centers, “where many are still being unlawfully interned by Government forces”, it said.

Russia Deploys Most Advanced Air Defenses at Army Drills
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 12/18/Russia showcased its most sophisticated air defense system on Wednesday, using it to repel a mock attack from the sky as part of what it describes as its largest-ever military drills. The wargames involved its state-of-the-art S-400, Russia's latest generation surface-to-air defense system, which is considered by NATO countries to pose a threat to their aircraft. The exercise on the Telemba military training ground -- about 130 kilometers (81 miles) north of the city of Chita in Siberia -- involved over 1,000 troops and over 500 pieces of military equipment. Russia's defense ministry hailed the drills as successful. "The troops have completed their mission with total efficiency," a high-ranking officer in the Russian Aerospace Forces Sergei Kuryshkin told journalists. The exercise simulated a "massive missile attack" by an "unnamed enemy," another military official Sergei Tikhonov said. Last year Moscow signed a contract to sell the systems to Turkey, raising criticism from Ankara's NATO allies, notably Washington, which has threatened to block delivery of its F-35 stealth aircraft to Turkey. Negotiations to sell the S-400 to Qatar and India are ongoing. In late August a senior Pentagon official said that sanctions against India would come under consideration if its purchase goes through. Russia has said the Vostok-2018 maneuvers are the largest in its history and involve nearly 300,000 men and all types of military equipment. The exercises involve Chinese and Mongolian armies and will continue until September 17.

Merkel Says Germany Can't Look Away if Assad Uses Chemical Weapons
Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 12 September, 2018/Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday Germany could not simply look away if chemical attacks took place in Syria, two days after her government said it was in talks with its allies about a possible military deployment in the war-torn country. The conservative leader said it could not be Germany's answer to reject military intervention, a direct rebuke of her Social Democratic coalition partners, who have rejected participation in military action against Syria. "It cannot be the German position to simply say 'no', no matter what happens in the world," she told the Bundestag lower house of parliament. Germany is under pressure from the United States to boost military spending and shoulder more responsibility within NATO. Berlin stayed out of military strikes carried out by US, French and British forces on Syria in April after a chemical weapons attack but it voiced its support. But Merkel and her conservatives must win over the more pacifist Social Democrats (SPD), junior partners in the ruling coalition, and overcome massive public opposition to Germany's participation in military combat missions. SPD leader Andrea Nahles on Wednesday told lawmakers her party would not agree to military intervention in Syria unless the United Nations authorized such action. Merkel’s comments came hours after US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis stressed that the head of the Syrian regime, Bashar al-Assad, has been well warned against any chemical weapons use in an anticipated assault on Idlib province. US officials have in recent days warned that Washington would take action if Assad were to use the banned weapons in opposition-held Idlib. "In Idlib, we're watching very closely what the Assad regime, aided and abetted by the Iranians and the Russians are up to there," Mattis told Pentagon reporters.

Parliamentary Elections Campaign Kicks Off Calmly in Kurdistan Region

Erbil- Ihsan Aziz/Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 12 September, 2018/Campaigns for the upcoming parliamentary elections kicked off at midnight Monday in a calm atmosphere in the towns and cities of the Kurdistan region of Iraq. Streets were decorated with images and posters of the candidates of the two ruling parties in the region, the Kurdistan Democratic Party led by Masoud Barzani and the National Union, which this time used a selection of young and media leaders in an attempt to reap the largest number of votes.As for the four opposition groups, only the posters of the Change Movement candidates were seen on the streets, while the Islamic parties such as the Union, the Jamaa and the Islamic Movement were absent despite announcing their participation in the elections scheduled for the end of September. The Coalition for Justice and Democracy, led by the well-known politician Barham Saleh, announced in advance its boycott of the electoral process over voter lists and fears of repeated frauds that marred the Iraqi parliamentary elections last May. Kurdistan’s political parties will compete for 100 seats in the regional parliament, which consists of 111 seats, including 11 seats reserved for national and ethnic minorities in the region. Campaigns are expected to last until September 28, according to a statement by the Electoral Commission in the region, which has set, in cooperation with the concerned municipalities, new conditions and controls for electoral campaigning, identified specific advertising sites within the cities, and also approved huge fines amounting to around 3 million Iraqi dinars for violators. However, on the first day of the campaign, a large number of violations was recorded, as posters of the candidates of the ruling parties were seen over pedestrian bridges, traffic signs, electricity poles and trees in the squares of Erbil. According to the candidate for the Kurdistan Democratic Party, Ali al-Faily, electoral campaigning was equally available to all candidates without exceptions, but the financial means and potentials might vary from one candidate or party to another. “I believe that these elections are crucial and decisive for the people of Kurdistan, as they are the first after the end of the war on terrorism, represented by ISIS, and come after the historic referendum on the fate of Kurdistan, in which the Kurdish people expressed their opinion with the utmost freedom and democracy,” Faily said in remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat.

Muslim Brotherhood Hackers Attack Egypt’s Official News Agency
Cairo - Mohammed Nabil Helmi/Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 12 September, 2018/The website of Egypt's state-run Middle East News Agency (MENA) was hacked on Tuesday for around an hour in what was the first tangible response to an Egyptian court’s decision Saturday to sentence to death 75 leaders and members of the Muslim Brotherhood. The hackers took over the website and posted an image of Brotherhood leader Mohammed al-Baltagi, who was among those sentenced to death on Saturday. The image included a statement in Arabic accusing the authorities of “oppressing the innocent.”“You send them to the gallows and oppress the innocent just because they have different opinions,” the statement read. Those sentenced to death on Saturday include prominent Brotherhood leaders. More than 600 others were sentenced to jail over a 2013 sit-in at Rabaa Adawiya square in Cairo. The sentencing concluded the mass trial of some 700 people accused of offenses including murder and inciting violence during the pro-Muslim Brotherhood rally at the square. MENA chairman Ali Hassan said that the hacking operation “appeared at around 2 pm and technical officials took action to resolve it.” On whether the source of the hacking could be identified, he told Asharq Al-Awsat: “It is too early to reach detailed results. We are conducting our probe in this regard.”The official Egyptian news agency was established in 1955 as a joint stock company owned by the Egyptian newspapers. It was then nationalized in 1960. Currently, it is subject to the authority of the National Press Organization, which was formed by a presidential decree. MENA broadcasts its news and regular publications in three languages: Arabic, English and French.

Yemeni Army Says Iran Stirs Up Hate in Orders Given to Houthi Militias
Jeddah- Saeed al-Abyad/Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 12 September, 2018/The Yemeni army issued on Tuesday a statement reaffirming senior Houthi leaders fleeing the city of Hodeidah in light of an army push for the city gates. Coupist ranks were noted to having started collapsing. In another note, the statement cited accounts of Iranian orders directing Houthi militants to propagate anti-Yemeni messages and stoke sectarian divisions. Iranian directives to Houthi militiamen represent blatant and provocative incitement against the Yemeni people, which mimic Iranian military statements made to threaten Yemen's security and integrity as well as promises to destabilize the war-torn country and the Arab region further, Army spokesman Brig. Gen. Abdu Majali told Asharq Al-Awsat. Brig. Gen. Majali said that the Yemeni army is constantly monitoring Iran meddling and instructions given to insurgents. He pointed out that the army draws its information from several sources and in coordination with the Arab Coalition member states. He explained that intelligence gathered information on Houthi militias recently moving leaders and sites and altered their arms smuggling routes in fear and hopes to bounce back from strikes and advances made by the national army. Brig. Gen. Majali confirmed that the national army has no other choice but to defeat the militias through military operations after coupists proving unresponsive towards the UN initiative and peacemaking efforts. Last week, Houthis refused to join internationally-sponsored consultations in Geneva. Brig. Gen. Majali said that the army is not waiting for any new orders and is operating according to an agenda based on military and presidential orders given to liberate all Yemeni cities from Iranian-supported Houthi militias. On another note, he reviewed recent victories recorded on strategic fronts, especially against Houthi strongholds in Saada province.
Yemen Pro-Govt. Forces Say Main Rebel Hodeida Roads Seized
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 12/18/Yemeni government forces, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, on Wednesday seized rebel supply routes into the key port city of Hodeida, military sources said, days after U.N.-brokered peace talks collapsed. Hodeida province is a major battleground in the war between Yemen's Saudi-backed government and Huthi rebels linked to Iran, which has been accused of supplying weapons to the insurgents. Abdulrahman Saleh Abou Zaraa, head of the brigade fighting the Huthis in the province, told AFP his forces had taken the insurgents' main supply route linking the port city to rebel-held Sanaa, known as Kilo 16. The Saudi-backed forces also seized a second supply route around Hodeida, known as Kilo 10, military sources said. Roads linking the port city to Sanaa -- both controlled by the Huthi rebels -- are also used for the transport of imports and aid, most of which enter Yemen through the rebel-held Hodeida port. The Saudi-led coalition accuses the Huthis of smuggling arms from Iran through Hodeida and has imposed a partial blockade on the port, which the rebels seized in 2014.
No plans to take the city'
A military source in the brigade fighting in Hodeida said Wednesday's operation aimed to cut off supplies to the rebels. The government coalition did not have immediate plans to try to take the city, the source said. Fierce clashes broke out Wednesday between the Huthis and pro-government forces on the east and south of rebel-held Hodeida city, leaving dozens of fighters dead, according to military and medical sources. The Huthis have not yet commented on the status of Kilo 16 and Kilo 10. Rebel TV channel Al-Masirah said four civilians had been killed in an air raid on Kilo 16, including one child. The United Arab Emirates, a key member of the regional military alliance led by Saudi Arabia, provides boots on the ground for Yemeni troops fighting in the south, including in Hodeida province. In June, the pro-government forces, led by the UAE, launched a major operation to retake both the city and port of Hodeida.
The troops, backed by coalition states' air forces, have retaken a number of towns across Hodeida province but have not yet reached the city. The coalition in July announced a temporary ceasefire in Hodeida to give a chance to U.N.-brokered peace talks. But on September 6, U.N. attempts to hold peace talks between Yemen's Saudi-backed government and the Huthis, linked to Saudi Arabia's archrival Iran, were abandoned after the rebels refused to leave Yemen for Geneva.
Pompeo defends Saudis, Emiratis
The Huthis accused the U.N. of failing to meet their conditions -- including a plane to transport their wounded to nearby Oman and a guarantee their delegation would be allowed to return to Sanaa. The United Nations' Yemen envoy, Martin Griffiths, has said he will be traveling to Oman, Yemen and Saudi Arabia next week in a bid to restart talks between the government and Huthis. Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened in the conflict between embattled Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, whose government is recognized by the United Nations, and the Huthis in 2015. Nearly 10,000 people have since been killed and the country now stands at the brink of famine. All parties to the Yemen conflict, which the U.N. calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis, have been accused of violations that may amount to war crimes by a panel of U.N. investigators. The panel found the Saudi-led coalition responsible for air strikes behind most civilian casualties, sparking a denial by Riyadh and its allies. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday defended Saudi Arabia and the UAE as taking "demonstrable actions" to protect civilians in a statement to Congress. The United States is a close ally of Saudi Arabia and provides arms sales, aerial refueling and intelligence to Riyadh.

Over 100 Migrants Drown off Libyan Coast
Paris - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 12 September, 2018/More than 100 migrants, including at least 20 children, died when two boats sank off the coast of Libya earlier this month, according to Doctors without Borders (MSF). The witnesses told MSF that two inflatable boats had left the Libyan coast on September 1, each with 160 people on board. The migrants were from Sudan, Mali, Niger, Cameroon, Ghana, Libya, Algeria, and Egypt, MSF said. According to a survivor, the motor broke down on one boat while the other continued until it "began to deflate... there were 165 adults and 20 children on board". As the boat began to sink, "few passengers had life jackets or knew how to swim, only those who held onto the hull of the boat managed to survive," said the witness. There were only 55 survivors, the source added. MSF said there were pregnant women, children, and even babies. Some had suffered burns from an oil spill, others had pneumonia from staying long hours in the water. Some had burns over 75 percent of their body, said an MSF nurse who works in Misrata, Libya. The Libyan coastguard brought 276 people to the port of Khoms, among whom were the survivors of the boat sinking. The group was transferred to a detention center under the control of the Libyan authorities, MSF said. Libya has emerged as a major transit point to Europe. Hundreds of migrants die annually as they attempt to pass the Mediterranean Sea in high-risk conditions, coming from the Libyan coast.

U.S., U.N. Sanctions Target Libya Militia Leader

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 12/18/The United States and the United Nations imposed sanctions Wednesday against Libyan militia leader Ibrahim Jadhran, whose forces attacked oil terminals in eastern Libya in June. The measures block all of Jadhran's assets within U.S. jurisdiction, and Americans are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with him. In addition, corresponding U.N. sanctions will "require all U.N. Member States to impose an asset freeze and travel ban," the U.S. State Department said in a statement. Armed groups led by Jadhran seized the Ras Lanuf and Al-Sidra oil export terminals on June 14, before they were recaptured by military strongman Khalifa Haftar's forces."This created an economic and political crisis that cost Libya more than $1.4 billion in revenue and set back efforts to promote political progress and stability in Libya," the State Department said. "Libya's oil facilities, production and revenues belong to the Libyan people."
Trump Signs Order Permitting Sanctions for Foreign Election Meddling
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 12/18/U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday allowing punitive sanctions on foreigners who interfere in U.S. elections, two years after Russia allegedly meddled on his behalf in the presidential campaign."We have seen signs of not just Russia, but from China, and capabilities potentially from Iran, and even North Korea," interfering in the run-up to the November 6 congressional elections, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said, announcing the new order.
Pompeo certifies Saudi Arabia, UAE protecting civilians
The Associated Press, WashingtonWednesday, 12 September 2018/United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he has told Congress the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are doing enough to protect civilians amid their military operations to end the conflict in Yemen. Pompeo said in a statement Wednesday he certified to Congress that the Saudi and Emirati governments “are undertaking demonstrable actions to reduce the risk of harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure.”He says ending the conflict has been “a national security priority” for President Donald Trump. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said last month the US intended to continue backing the Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi militias in Yemen despite civilian casualties.He said Wednesday he agrees the Saudi and Emirati governments are making “every effort to reduce the risk of civilian casualties.”
The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on September 12-13/18
How Kushner Played Matchmaker Between Israel and Saudi Arabia, According to Woodward
أمير تايبون من الهآررتس: ودورد يشرح كيف قام كوشنر بدور الوسيط بين إسرائيل والسعودية

Amir Tibon/Haaretz/September 12/18
Bob Woodward's new book 'Fear' claims Kushner championed MBS in early 2017 as most important figure in Saudi Arabia, clashing with U.S. intelligence.
WASHINGTON - Veteran journalist Bob Woodward’s new book on the Trump presidency claims Jared Kushner has been working to encourage an alliance between Israel and Saudi Arabia, sometimes against the advice of other senior officials in the White House.
According to Woodward’s account in the just-published “Fear,” Kushner’s efforts began during the first months of the Trump administration in early 2017. Woodward says it was the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser who first proposed that the president’s first official foreign trip should include two stops: Saudi Arabia and Israel. The idea was to send a message about the U.S.’ commitment to forging closer relations between the two countries, who are both regional enemies of Iran.
Woodward writes that Kushner discussed the issue with Derek Harvey, a retired military colonel who was in charge of Middle East policy at the National Security Council during Trump’s first year as president. Harvey told Kushner that choosing Riyadh as the first foreign capital to be visited by President Donald Trump would “fit perfectly with what we’re trying to do, reaffirm our support for the Saudis, our strategic objectives in the region.”
Woodward adds that the thinking was that “making Saudi Arabia the first presidential trip could go a long way to signaling that the Trump administration had new priorities. A summit in Saudi Arabia would also benefit Israel. The Saudis and Israelis, both longtime foes of Iran, had both open and important back-channel relations.”
After writing that Kushner had strong ties to the most senior levels of the Israeli government, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Woodward then describes a disagreement between Kushner and other senior U.S. officials over who was the most important figure to work with in Saudi Arabia.
Woodward claims that while senior U.S. intelligence officials believed that the most influential Saudi was the then-crown prince, former intelligence chief Mohammed bin Nayef, Kushner had a different reading of the situation.
“Kushner told Harvey he had important and reliable intelligence that the key to Saudi Arabia was the deputy crown prince, the charismatic 31-year-old Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS,” writes Woodward. Some intelligence chiefs in D.C. disagreed.
“The message from them was that Kushner better be careful,” Woodward wrote. “The real solid guy was the current crown prince, Mohammed bin Nayef, 57, who was known as MBN. He was the king’s nephew credited with dismantling Al-Qaida in the Kingdom as head of the Interior Ministry. Showing favoritism to the younger MBS would cause friction in the royal family,” he added.
Woodward doesn’t specify which intelligence sources Kushner relied on for his assessment that Salman was more prominent than the actual crown prince, Nayef. He does state, however, that, based on his own contacts in the Middle East, including Israelis, Harvey “believed that Kushner was right – MBS was the future.”
Kushner and Harvey allegedly pushed for a major summit to be held in Saudi Arabia during Trump’s visit, as a way of bringing the American-Saudi relationship back to the center of U.S. foreign policy, and that MBS became their main point of contact for organizing the president’s arrival.
Woodward writes that Defense Secretary James Mattis was skeptical about Kushner’s suggestions, as were two other top administration officials: Then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and then-National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster (who was officially Harvey’s direct boss), both of whom, like Mattis, had extensive experience working in the Middle East.
Tillerson, who had worked with the Saudi leadership during his years as CEO of ExxonMobil, cautioned against Kushner’s wish of negotiating a number of large deals with MBS. Woodward writes that Tillerson also believed “engagement with MBS should be taken with a grain of salt. The U.S. could work hard on a summit, and in the end have nothing.”
Woodward adds that “no one supported the idea of a summit” in the spring of 2017, as Kushner was offering. Yet Kushner eventually got his way. With the president’s support, and despite the other senior officials’ objections, Kushner pushed for a visit to Saudi Arabia. “When it looked like they were close, Kushner invited MBS to the United States and brought him to the White House,” Woodward writes. The visit took place in March 2017, two months before Trump’s trip to the Middle East.
Woodward notes that MBS had lunch with Trump in the White House’s State Dining Room, which is usually reserved for meetings between the president and other foreign leaders. “This violated protocol, unsettling officials at the State Department and the CIA,” writes Woodward. “Lunch at the White House with the president for a middle-rank deputy crown prince was just not supposed to be done.”
Two months later, Trump arrived to Riyadh and continued from there to Jerusalem – making Saudi Arabia and Israel the first two stops on his inaugural foreign trip as president. According to Woodward’s version of events, things played out exactly as Kushner had planned them.
Woodward concludes the chapter on the subject by noting that “the next month, Saudi King Salman at age 81 appointed MBS, age 31, the new crown prince and next in line to lead the Kingdom.”
The effort to bring Israel closer to Saudi Arabia remains a major objective of the Trump “peace team” led by Kushner, though Saudi officials have recently expressed skepticism about the administration’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.
Saudi officials have indicated to the U.S. peace team that Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel last December has made it more difficult for the Kingdom to pressure the Palestinians into accepting the administration’s plan.

Turkey's Latest Power Grab a Naval Base in Cyprus?
Debalina Ghoshal/Gatestone Institute/September 12/18
The possibility of a Turkish naval base on Cyprus does not bode well for the chances of a Cyprus reunification deal, particularly after the breakdown of the July 2017 peace talks, which were suspended when "Turkey had refused to relinquish its intervention rights on Cyprus or the presence of troops on the island." Turkey has 30,000 soldiers stationed on Cyprus, the northern part of which it has illegally occupied since 1974.
"If Greek-Turkish tensions escalate, the possibility of another ill-timed military provocation could escalate with them... Moreover, such a conflict might open up an even greater opportunity for Russian interference." — Lawrence A. Franklin.
Turkey's Naval Forces Command has "submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stating that Turkey should establish a naval base in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus." Pictured: The Turkish Navy frigate TCG Oruçreis. (Image source: CC-BY-SA-3.0/Brian Burnell via Wikimedia Commons)
Turkey's Naval Forces Command has "submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stating that Turkey should establish a naval base in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus," according to Turkey's strongly pro-Erdogan daily, Yeni Safak, which recently endorsed the proposal for the base in an article entitled, "Why Turkey should establish a naval base in Northern Cyprus."
"The base will enable the protection of Northern Cyprus' sovereignty as well as facilitate and fortify Turkey's rights and interests in the Eastern Mediterranean, preventing the occupation of sea energy fields, and strengthening Turkey's hand in the Cyprus peace process talks."
Having a naval base in northern Cyprus would also strengthen the self-proclaimed "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus," which is recognized only by Turkey. Cyprus is strategically important: a naval base there would give Turkey easier access to the Eastern Mediterranean's international trade routes and greater control over the vast undersea energy resources around Cyprus. In the past, Turkey has blocked foreign vessels from drilling for these resources; in June, Turkey began its own exploration of the island's waters for gas and oil.
This is not the first time that Turkey has set its sights on the area's resources. In 2014, Ankara dispatched surveillance vessels and warships to Cyprus's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to search for hydrocarbons. This incident took place just before the leaders of Greece, Cyprus and Egypt deepened their an energy-cooperation, "freezing Turkey out." As soon as the accord was signed, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades blasted "Turkey's provocative actions," saying that they "do not just compromise the peace talks [between Greek and Turkish Cypriots]... [but] also affect security in the eastern Mediterranean region."
At the time, UN-brokered reunification negotiations, which had been renewed after a long hiatus, ended unsuccessfully yet again, as a result of Turkey's search for hydrocarbons in the EEZ. According to a November 2014 report in the Guardian:
"Turkey's decision to dispatch a research vessel into disputed waters last month not only resulted in talks being broken off but has exacerbated the row over drilling rights."
The possibility of a Turkish naval base does not bode well for the chances of a Cyprus reunification deal, particularly after the breakdown of the July 2017 peace talks between Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades. The talks were suspended when "Turkey had refused to relinquish its intervention rights on Cyprus or the presence of troops on the island." Turkey has 30,000 soldiers stationed on Cyprus, the northern part of which it has illegally occupied since 1974.
Another factor that may be contributing to the Turkish Navy's desire for a base in Cyprus is Israel. Aside from Ankara's extremely rocky relations with Jerusalem, Israel and Cyprus have been working to forge an agreement to join their electricity grids and construct a pipeline to link their gas fields to mainland Europe. Although they are in a dispute over development rights of one of these gas fields, Aphrodite, they are invested in reaching a solution that will not damage their increasingly friendly relations.
Erdogan's considerations should concern NATO, of which Turkey, surprisingly, is still a member, and the rest of the West. As Lawrence A. Franklin recently wrote for Gatestone:
"If Greek-Turkish tensions escalate, the possibility of another ill-timed military provocation could escalate with them. The ability of NATO to respond to other conflicts in the area could be affected, as well as NATO air and naval assets based in both countries. Moreover, such a conflict might open up an even greater opportunity for Russian interference."
*Debalina Ghoshal, an independent consultant specializing in nuclear and missile issues, is based in India.
© 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.

China's 'Digital' Totalitarian Experiment
Gordon G. Chang/Gatestone Institute/September 12/18
China's "social credit" system, which will assign every person a constantly updated score based on observed behaviors, is designed to control conduct by giving the ruling Communist Party the ability to administer punishments and hand out rewards. The former deputy director of the State Council's development research center says the system should be administered so that "discredited people become bankrupt".
Officials prevented Liu Hu, a journalist, from taking a flight because he had a low score. According to the Communist Party-controlled Global Times, as of the end of April 2018, authorities had blocked individuals from taking 11.14 million flights and 4.25 million high-speed rail trips.
Chinese officials are using the lists for determining more than just access to planes and trains. "I can't buy property. My child can't go to a private school," Liu said. "You feel you're being controlled by the list all the time."
Chinese leaders have long been obsessed with what Jiang Zemin in 1995 called "informatization, automation, and intelligentization," and they are only getting started Given the capabilities they are amassing, they could, the argument goes, make defiance virtually impossible. The question now is whether the increasingly defiant Chinese people will accept President Xi's all-encompassing vision.
China's President Xi Jinping is not merely an authoritarian leader. He evidently believes the Party must have absolute control over society and he must have absolute control over the Party. He is taking China back to totalitarianism as he seeks Mao-like control over all aspects of society. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
By 2020, Chinese officials plan to have about 626 million surveillance cameras operating throughout the country. Those cameras will, among other things, feed information into a national "social credit system."
That system, when it is in place in perhaps two years, will assign to every person in China a constantly updated score based on observed behaviors. For example, an instance of jaywalking, caught by one of those cameras, will result in a reduction in score.
Although officials might hope to reduce jaywalking, they seem to have far more sinister ambitions, such as ensuring conformity to Communist Party political demands. In short, the government looks as if it is determined to create what the Economist called "the world's first digital totalitarian state."
That social credit system, once perfected, will surely be extended to foreign companies and individuals.
At present, there are more than a dozen national blacklists, and about three dozen various localities have been operating experimental social credit scoring systems. Some of those systems have failed miserably. Others, such as the one in Rongcheng in Shandong province, have been considered successful.
In the Rongcheng system, each resident starts with 1,000 points, and, based upon their changing score, are ranked from A+++ to D. The system has affected behavior: incredibly for China, drivers stop for pedestrians at crosswalks.
Drivers stop at crosswalks because residents in that city have, as Foreign Policy reported, "embraced" the social credit system. Some like the system so much that they have set up micro social credit systems in schools, hospitals, and neighborhoods. Social credit systems obviously answer a need for what people in other societies take for granted.
Yet, can what works on a city level be extended across China? As technology advances and data banks are added, the small experimental programs and the national lists will eventually be merged into one countrywide system. The government has already begun to roll out its "Integrated Joint Operations Platform," which aggregates data from various sources such as cameras, identification checks, and "wifi sniffers."
So, what will the end product look like? "It will not be a unified platform where one can type in his or her ID and get a single three-digit score that will decide their lives," Foreign Policy says.
Despite the magazine's assurances, this type of system is precisely what Chinese officials say they want. After all, they tell us the purpose of the initiative is to "allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step."
That description is not an exaggeration. Officials prevented Liu Hu, a journalist, from taking a flight because he had a low score. The Global Times, a tabloid that belongs to the Communist Party-owned People's Daily, reported that, as of the end of April 2018, authorities had blocked individuals from taking 11.14 million flights and 4.25 million high-speed rail trips.
Chinese officials, however, are using the lists for determining more than just access to planes and trains. "I can't buy property. My child can't go to a private school," Liu said. "You feel you're being controlled by the list all the time."
The system is designed to control conduct by giving the ruling Communist Party the ability to administer punishments and hand out rewards. And the system could end up being unforgiving. Hou Yunchun, a former deputy director of the State Council's development research center, said at a forum in Beijing in May that the social credit system should be administered so that "discredited people become bankrupt". "If we don't increase the cost of being discredited, we are encouraging discredited people to keep at it," Hou said. "That destroys the whole standard."
Not every official has such a vindictive attitude, but it appears that all share the assumption, as the dovish Zhi Zhenfeng of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said, that "discredited people deserve legal consequences."
President Xi Jinping, the final and perhaps only arbiter in China, has made it clear how he feels about the availability of second chances. "Once untrustworthy, always restricted," the Chinese ruler says.
What happens, then, to a country where only the compliant are allowed to board a plane or be rewarded with discounts for government services? No one quite knows because never before has a government had the ability to constantly assess everyone and then enforce its will. The People's Republic has been more meticulous in keeping files and ranking residents than previous Chinese governments, and computing power and artificial intelligence are now giving China's officials extraordinary capabilities.
Beijing is almost certain to extend the social credit system, which has roots in attempts to control domestic enterprises, to foreign companies. Let us remember that Chinese leaders this year have taken on the world's travel industry by forcing hotel chains and airlines to show Taiwan as part of the People's Republic of China, so they have demonstrated determination to intimidate and punish. Once the social credit system is up and running, it would be a small step to include non-Chinese into that system, extending Xi's tech-fueled totalitarianism to the entire world.
The dominant narrative in the world's liberal democracies is that tech favors totalitarianism. It is certainly true that, unrestrained by privacy concerns, hardline regimes are better able to collect, analyze, and use data, which could provide a decisive edge in applying artificial intelligence A democratic government may be able to compile a no-fly list, but none could ever come close to implementing Xi Jinping's vision of a social credit system.
Chinese leaders have long been obsessed with what then-President Jiang Zemin in 1995 called "informatization, automation, and intelligentization," and they are only getting started. Given the capabilities they are amassing, they could, the argument goes, make defiance virtually impossible.
Technology might even make liberal democracy and free-markets "obsolete" writes Yuval Noah Harari of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the Atlantic. "The main handicap of authoritarian regimes in the 20th century — the desire to concentrate all information and power in one place — may become their decisive advantage in the 21st century," he writes.
There is no question that technology empowers China's one-party state to repress people effectively. Exhibit A for this proposition is, of course, the country's social credit system.
Yet China's communists will probably overreach. The country's experience so far with social credit systems suggests that officials are their own worst enemies. An early experiment to build such a system in Suining county in Jiangsu province was a failure:
"Both residents and state media blasted it for its seemingly unfair and arbitrary criteria, with one state-run newspaper comparing the system to the 'good citizen' certificates issued by Japan during its wartime occupation of China."
The Rongcheng system has been more successful because its scope has been relatively modest.
Xi Jinping will not be as restrained as Rongcheng's officials. He evidently believes the Party must have absolute control over society and he must have absolute control over the Party. It is simply inconceivable that he will not include in the national social credit system, when it is stitched together, political criteria. Already Chinese officials are trying to use artificial intelligence to predict anti-Party behavior.
Xi Jinping is not merely an authoritarian leader, as it is often said. He is taking China back to totalitarianism as he seeks Mao-like control over all aspects of society.
The question now is whether the increasingly defiant Chinese people will accept Xi's all-encompassing vision. In recent months, many have taken to the streets: truck drivers striking over costs and fees, army veterans marching for pensions, investors blocking government offices to get money back from fraudsters, Muslims surrounding mosques to stop demolition, and parents protesting the scourge of adulterated vaccines, among others. Chinese leaders obviously think their social credit system will stop these and other expressions of discontent.
Let us hope that China's people are not in fact discouraged. Given the breadth of the Communist Party's ambitions, everyone, Chinese or not, has a stake in seeing that Beijing's digital totalitarianism fails.
*Gordon G. Chang is the author of "The Coming Collapse of China" and a Gatestone Institute Distinguished Senior Fellow.
© 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.

Who Really Sparked the Turmoil in Basra?
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/september 12/18
First, let us ask: Who is the most likely beneficiary of the sabotage of security in Basra? In response to Iranian finger-pointing, the Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, have no interest in such an action and nothing to gain.
In addition to being a neighboring border province whose security is directly linked to the security of the Gulf, Basra is an oil-producing area. If chaos erupts there and disrupts production, prices would rise, which is against the policy of such countries seeking to stabilize prices. The Americans, too, would be hurt if chaos led to a rise in oil prices, as their economy would also be affected.
Thus, the only realistic suspect is the Iranian government, which openly declares that it wants prices to rise to record levels so that chaos will engulf the world’s oil markets. Iran, in fact, sees a price rise as a “weapon of pressure” that could force the West to allow it to export oil and negotiate with it on Tehran’s own terms. Moreover, Iraqi oil companies last month signed a major contract with American oil company Chevron to develop oilfields in Basra Province, provoking anger from Tehran.
Had everyone not been preoccupied with Syria, in particular the situation in Idlib and the big upcoming battle there, Basra — both the city and the province — would have been a focal point of the world’s attention. Twelve of the city’s residents were killed because they protested against the conditions there, including the poor water supply and high pollution. The protests were a natural progression because the people there have been complaining for years about the chaos, the proliferation of militias, violence and unemployment. Now the water supply joins the list because it is no longer suitable even for animal consumption as it is too salty. To make matters even worse, the residents of Basra have suffered terrible heat this summer with little relief as a result of power cuts.
The recent protests, which were harshly and badly dealt with, resulted in the protesters turning against the Iraqi militias affiliated with Iran. They burned down the headquarters of political parties and even targeted the Iranian consulate, which has become, in the eyes of the people of Basra, a symbol of all that is evil in their province. They believe that the water crisis is a result of the siphoning off of shared water from marshlands and border areas until it became scarce and unsuitable for human consumption. Why target the consulate? It is because Iran’s official presence in Basra is much more conspicuous than it is in the rest of Iraq. Salty and polluted water caused the simmering anger of the people, who were already dissatisfied with Iraqi religious political parties and Iran, to boil over. Hostility toward these two targets, especially in Basra, is nothing new. The second-most important city in Iraq, it carried these parties on its shoulders to the government and in return was promised, more than anything else, a better future. But, since the Americans left, the situation in Basra has worsened. Water is just the final straw on a mountain of complaints. The people of Basra have been angered by Iranian militias that turned the city into their own private estate, controlling it with iron and fire.
Basra, where the plains of Mesopotamia end, was until recently the main producer of rice, millet and wheat for the entire region in southern Iraq — but now its people cannot drink from their own water sources as a result of water transfers.
Poor water supplies, like other badly managed services, are a problem in Iraq as a whole, not only in Basra. However, because the province is the government’s “purse,” and is home to the country’s only port, the chaos has scared the government, which is afraid that it might become like the “oil crescent” in Libya. It has also alarmed Iraq’s neighbors, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
Rather than exchanging blame and accusations, the Iraqi government must free Basra Province from militias, their weapons and Iranian interventions.
We know that Iran will resist all attempts to be removed from Basra but, given the chaos and protests, the authorities have no option other than to end the old situation and turn the city and the province into a region that provides not only oil to Baghdad, but also stability.

What is Bigger and Beyond the Battle for Idlib
Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al Awsat/september 12/18
There seems to a consensus that the battle for Idlib province in northwest Syria will be the final one in the “Syrian War”, and the first step towards Syria’s recovery.
That could be true, but about how wars end, I would like to revisit an interesting true story I heard about the chauffeur of Field Marshall Ferdinand Foch, the Commander General of the Allied forces during WW1.
As the story goes, the villagers where Emile, the chauffeur, lived were suffering, like all the French, from the long devastating war. Counting the days and praying for an imminent end, their only source of news was none but the good old Emile. The poor villagers would wait for the day Emile arrived in the village on a short leave granted by the great General – as his rank was then. The moment he arrived, they would rush to his house and ask him what became the usual question: “Please Emile, has the General uttered a word about when this war would end?” To such question, Emile would give his usual short answer: “No, he has said nothing!”
The days passed, without any dramatic news until one day, the villagers were surprised when Emile replied: “Yes, yesterday the General spoke. He asked me: ‘Emile, when will this damned war end!’”.
Few, actually, can foresee how wars end. Many wars went on and on, and became ever more complicated, when conflicting interests intersected, alliances changed and the balance of powers between the combatants’ backers shifted.
Indeed, most of the events that the Arab East witnessed since the birth of its new entities in 1920, and more so since the end of WW2 in 1945 – when most of these entities became independent states – have left problems and causes for future conflicts.
The entities in what we call “The Fertile Crescent”, in particular, have become easy prey to, and an open arena for three regional powers (Israel, Iran and Turkey), behind which stand two global powers (the US and Russia). Ironically, the only player absent from this scene is the “landowner,” who should be the decision-maker. Yes. This absent player is the local people, some of whom have chosen to be so, when they decided to serve the interests of others, and put these interests above their own.
In the current critical period in the region’s history, political, military and demographic wars are raging, all of which are legacies being brought back from the past, when need be; either for emotional and combat mobilization, or to accord fake legitimacy to resurrect animosities, grudges, bloodshed, changing maps and displace populations.
In 1920, the borders were drawn for Iraq, Syria and Lebanon and within these entities, the political classes strived to achieve two connected goals: the first, to hold on to power; and the second, to build a “political culture” that served the positions of power which would suit their interests.
The first dominant political classes were political and tribal feudalism which emerged since 1920. Political and tribal feudal lords maintained their dominance up until the late 1930s, when the European plitical scene began to change as a result of the challenge posed by Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia to the two old mandatory powers in the region, i.e., Great Britain and France. Parallel to this changing scene in Europe, more so after the “Balfour Declaration” became known, a new political “polarization” appeared in the Arab East between pro-Nazi Germany and pro-British and French mandates, in addition, to the beginnings of Leftist movements.
The aforementioned “polarization” ended only after crushing the Rashid Ali Al-Gaylani in Iraq (1941), the defeat of Nazism (1945) and the creation of Israel (1948). The latter development was bound to change the national political landscape in the region, in favor of the military. In fact, the series of military coups in Syria began in 1949 and in turn, these ushered a marked shift in the balance of power in the West, too. The US emerged as the Western “superpower” at the expense of Great Britain and France, with the USSR, as a “rival pole” and heir to the old national and Christian Orthodox “moskovism” in the region; something that was later confirmed after the Suez Crisis in 1956.
Thus, by the early 1960s, the whole Arab East; indeed, the whole world, witnessed the birth of “Bi-Polar Superpower Politics” between the US and the USSR. Between “capitalism” and its ideological adversary... “socialism”.
In the meantime, a lot had changed in the Middle East. Ataturk’s secular Turkey which became a full member of NATO was now confronting its old enemy Russia, and being a member of CENTO (the former pro-West Baghdad Pact) it was pitted against the project of Arab Nationalism. The Pahlavi Shahs’ Iran which was also secular and pro-West, was also a member in CENTO. As for the previously “socialist” Israel, its political power gradually slipped away from Zionist socialist parties and powerful trade unions as broad coalitions of conservative biblical groups, former army generals and “money mafias” of new immigrants.
The end of “The Cold War” with the demise of the socialist Soviet alternative, gave rise to two strong trends throughout the world: The religious trend, and the nationalist – racist trend. The Arab world and Turkey were no exception, while Iran had witnessed that change earlier. The same happened later even in India, the world’s largest democracy, and the western democracies in Europe and the US, where voters rose against “globalization”, and sometimes, even against “secularism”!
Today, it would be useful to keep this background in mind, when we look at the stumbling “democratic” experiments in Iraq and Lebanon, which are virtually living under the military and intelligence sway of Iran’s “mullahs”, and the Russian-led “battle to finish off” Syria’s uprising.
It is also useful to notice Washington’s total silence towards what the current Likud leadership is doing in Israel, the ongoing conspiracy perpetrated against the Syrian people, the sinister and ambiguous relations between Washington and the two “Islamist” leaderships in Tehran and Ankara, and at the fragility of “Arab” entities which we had thought for a long time were “independent” and “homogeneous” and with populations truly wishing to peacefully coexist.

The Bank of England’s Nuclear Option for a No-Deal Brexit
Ferdinando Giugliano/Bloomberg View/september 12/18
For a staunch supporter of central bank “forward guidance,” Mark Carney changes his mind a tad too often. From when he will leave his job running the Bank of England, to when the BOE’s Monetary Policy Committee will next raise interest rates, there are plenty of examples.
Yet on one crucial subject for the British economy, Carney has been uncharacteristically consistent: Don’t rely on the Bank coming to the rescue by cutting rates in the event of a messy Brexit. The governor has said more than once that, should Britain crash out of the EU without a deal, the central bank response wouldn’t be obvious. It was easy to imagine a scenario where “policy would have to be tighter, not looser,” he told UK lawmakers on Tuesday.This might surprise some. After all, didn’t he cut interest rates and buy more government bonds after Brits voted to quit the EU in June 2016? Why act differently after a “no-deal” exit?The difference is that a disorderly departure would be much worse for the economy than the referendum result. The Brexit vote still left open the possibility of a “soft” Brexit, whereby Britain would keep a relatively frictionless arrangement with its biggest trading partner. Yet should the country crash out of the the bloc and fall back on World Trade Organization rules, it would be a nightmare for companies and investors.
Sterling hasn’t recovered from its post-referendum tumble, but no deal would inevitably push it much lower. And this wouldn’t be investors betting on various possible scenarios — as has been the case since 2016. The probable queues of lorries at Dover; the difficulties for finance firms accessing the EU market; the creation of a hard border with Ireland — these have the potential to cause a currency crisis not unlike those occurring in emerging markets such as Argentina. What would the Bank of England do under these circumstances? The post-referendum playbook may, indeed, be the wrong one. In 2016, the Bank judged that sterling would fall but stabilize relatively quickly. This would make imported goods more expensive, it reasoned, but any impact on inflation would be short-lived. The risk of an inflationary spiral was therefore small. The Bank could easily ignore a deviation from its 2 per cent inflation target, and focus on supporting the economy. But in the event of a full-blown currency crisis, the economics textbook says a central bank must deal with that first of all. It’s precisely what Argentina has tried to do by raising interest rates to 60 percent, and what Turkey is being much slower in doing. The BOE would need to prioritize keeping inflation in check over supporting a recovery. So it would have to raise interest rates, even at the cost of causing (or worsening) a recession. Even if the pound found some support, the Bank would have plenty of reasons to lift rates. A no-deal Brexit would make the UK less productive, since it would increase supply constraints on companies. “If some of the supply side were to be chewed up, then even a fall in demand would not necessarily raise the output gap and therefore put a downward pressure on inflation,” Andrew Haldane, the BOE’s chief economist, told lawmakers.
Of course, Britain is neither Argentina nor Turkey. Its institutions and economy are far stronger, which will help maintain a degree of faith in its currency. It’s possible therefore that the inflation outlook might be kept under control, allowing the Bank to prioritize a recovery.

Juhayman, Khomeini and Afghanistan

Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/September 12/18
It’s been four decades – as we mark Islamic New Year, 1440 Hijri – since three incidents that were decisive phases and the repercussions of which remain with varying degrees to this day. There is still one quarter of 2018 before the year ends and it would be four Gregorian decades since these events. In February 1979, the Islamic Republic of Iran was established and the Pahlavi rule was toppled under the command of politicized Shiite cleric Khomeini. In November 1979, an extremist religious group led by Juhayman stormed the Grand Mosque and seized it for around two weeks before Saudi security forces purged the Grand Mosque from terrorists. In December 1979, the Soviet Red Army invaded Afghanistan to aid the government it supported and the Afghani jihadist movement was formed. These historic events, which happened around the same time became reasons for the emergence of groups, figures and ideas and domestic and foreign policies. Each phase of history requires being looked into and researched to trace its sources and consequences, beginning with that strange year 1979 until today. For instance, it is enough to know that the Russian Communist invasion of Afghanistan was a reason that developed this idea and built the climate of “jihad” to prosper. The success of Khomeini, the revolutionary and charismatic cleric who had his ideological illusions to control Iran’s throne and “export the revolution” is the event of all events. Expelled Islamist groups later went to Afghanistan, and especially Peshawar, from Egypt and Libya. Then thousands of Gulf and Arab people traveled to fight alongside the Afghans against the Communist invasion. This was the headline. Later however part of these people joined Osama bin Laden’s and Ayman al-Zawahiri’s camps. Osama himself moved from being a helper of Afghans to a figure with an international “jihadist” project. And the rest as they say is history.
Ideological illusions
The success of Khomeini, the revolutionary, charismatic and old cleric who had his ideological illusions, along with his disciples and supporters, to control Iran’s throne and “export the revolution” is the event of all events. Its repercussions are still felt to this day as they continue to add insult to injury and exacerbate Arab wounds. As for the third of evils, the story of Juhayman and his companions, it’s only the tip of the iceberg. The mountain of fire is the story of “al-Sahwa”, i.e. political Islamized groups, in Saudi Arabia. Juhayman and his group are only a small “detail” in the details of this ailment of al-Sahwa that made Saudi Arabia ill. Today, Saudi Arabia has announced via the future’s godfather Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that there is no turning back. Bye bye to 1979 as the entire journey has come to an end and the country has kicked off its vibrant journey toward the garden of hope – such as NEOM, projects to empower women, diversifying the economy and combating corruption. 1979 was such a year. We better contemplate it and these times over and over again.

Following 9/11 anniversary, hurricane Florence cuts Guantanamo hearings short
Phoebe Leila Barghouty/Special to Al Arabiya English/September 12/18
On the 17-year anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the week-long pre-trial hearing at Guantanamo Bay was cut short due to the anticipation severe weather from Hurricane Florence. The schedule change marks yet another major speed bump in the already slow moving Military Commissions case. Newly appointed commissions judge, Marine Colonel Keith Parrella, opened Tuesday’s session by ruling on the defense teams’ call for his disqualification from the previous day. Judge Parrella urged the court that despite the arguments from the defense, he believes he is more than qualified to assume the role. Tuesday was Parrella’s second appearance in the war court after being appointed to the role in late August. By midday, the court schedule had already been heavily altered by the unexpectedly drawn out examination of the new judge. However, in addition to addressing the call for his recusal, Judge Parrella was forced to delay proceedings even further in order to address the possibility of Hurricane Florence making landfall on the East Coast. The Category 4 hurricane is expected to ground air travel and cause severe damage along the East Coast of the United States later this week. However, it’s not only a matter of disrupted travel plans. Joint Task Force Guantanamo Bay spokeswoman, Navy Commander Anne Leanos, told Al Arabiya that the detention center itself is also taking special precautions as hurricane season looms over the Caribbean.
Destructive weather
According to Leanos, the Joint Task Force plans and prepares for destructive weather several times throughout the year. Guantanamo Bay is nestled on the southern tip of Cuba, and faces the seasonal threat of high intensity storms that build strength across the Atlantic Ocean. “We have plans and procedures in place to ensure the safety of detainees in our custody during destructive weather,” Leanos said. Though catastrophic storms such as Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria rocked the region in 2017, Leanos says the detention center on Guantanamo Bay has faced no significant weather-related interruptions to date. While hearing schedules and base travel are often affected during hurricane season, the Commander says operations and detainee safety remain intact despite the threat of inclement weather. “In cases of destructive weather, JTF Guantanamo maintains a supply of essential supplies including Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) for both the staff and the detainees;” Leanos said, noting that the MREs for the detainees are prepared to meet Halal standards. In anticipation of the hurricane, the 31st pre-trial hearings for the 9/11 case will close on Wednesday, instead of Friday as initially scheduled. In addition to the added cost of altered travel, a shortened hearing schedule means defense attorneys’ time with their clients is also cut short. Because of Guantanamo Bay’s remote location, attorney-client meetings are already extremely limited. It is unclear how this session’s disruptions will affect the future of the complex case. The five men charged with planning the September 11th attacks are currently held indefinitely at the high security detention center in Guantanamo Bay. All five face the death penalty. At this time, no trial date has been set.