Detailed Lebanese & Lebanese Related LCCC English New Bulletin For September 17/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations
Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it!
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 11/27-32: "A woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!’But he said, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!’When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, ‘This generation is an evil generation; it asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so the Son of Man will be to this generation. The queen of the South will rise at the judgement with the people of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here! The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgement with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here!"

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 16-17/18
The Rafiq Hariri trial and the future of Lebanon and Syria/Randa Takieddine/Al Arabiya/September 16/18
Israel 'Strikes Weapons Depot Meant for Iran or Hezbollah Near Damascus Airport'/Jack Khoury, Noa Landau/Haaretz/Reuters/September 16/18
Netanyahu: Israel will never again fail to preempt attacks/Jerusalem Post/September 16/18
West has a chance to bring Iranian regime to heel at UN Security Council/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/September 16/ 2018
Why Can't I Criticize My Religion/Majid Rafizadeh/Gatestone Institute/September 16/18
Diversity Is an American Strength, Not Weakness/Noah Smith/Bloomberg/September 16/18
We May Be Facing a Textbook Emerging-Market Crisis/Satyajit Das/Bloomberg/September 16/18
Stop Obsessing About Countries’ Reliance on Foreign Financing/Stephen Mihm/Bloomberg/September 16/18
Putin the puppeteer is pulling the strings of troika counterparts ahead of the battle for Idlib/Raghida Dergham/The National/September 16/18
Political mainstream has to fight back in war against fascism/Baria Alamuddin/Arab News/September 16/18
Erdogan hopes to pressure Putin into delaying Idlib offensive/Maria Dubovikova/Arab News/September 16/18
Dancing our way to multifaith peace/Philip Rosenberg/Al Arabiya/September 16/18
Oslo Accords: A Silver Jubilee for false promises/Amir Taheri/Al Arabiya/September 16/18
Concessions from UN envoy Martin Griffiths and Houthi intransigence/Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi/Al Arabiya/September 16/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on September 16-17/18
Mass Commemorates Kataeb Lawmaker's Assassination Anniversary
Al-Rahi Urges Formation of 'Neutral, Emergency Govt.'
Aoun underscores strength of Lebanese-Kuwaiti relations
Jumblat Lashes Out at Bassil, Warns against 'Playing with Fire'
LF Shows 'Flexibility' as PSP Says Won't 'Eliminate' Itself
Foreign Ministry: Not to interfere in the affairs of the countries that supported Lebanon in its crises
Diaspora Energy Conference purses its works in Montreal, sheds light on education and business opportunities of oil and gas
Makhzoumi contacts AlKinai: We denounce any offense to the State of Kuwait and its Emir
Habshi during Deir Ahmar's MiniMarathon: No to drugs in North Bekaa, Baalbek, Hermel and all Lebanon
Hariri launches new waste management project in Sidon
Roukoz to Radio Lebanon: Debate over President's share in government is out of question
The Rafiq Hariri trial and the future of Lebanon and Syria

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on September 16-17/18

Israel 'Strikes Weapons Depot Meant for Iran or Hezbollah Near Damascus Airport'
After Damascus Raid, Israel Says Working to Keep Weapons from Foes
Netanyahu: Israel will never again fail to preempt attacks
Lavrov Affirms Continuous Coordination with Ankara
Egypt Tries 30 Terrorists for Joining ISIS
Abdel Malik al-Houthi Chooses His Uncle to Succeed Him
UAE Urges Security Council to Act 'Immediately', End Iran's Weapons Supply to Houthis
Tunisia Ruling Party Suspends Prime Minister's Membership
Israel to Build Around Gaza World’s Longest Concrete Wall
Killer Storm Far from Over, U.S. Officials Warn as 'Epic' Rain Falls
Iraq parliament elects nominee of pro-Iran list as speaker
Iran Hails Iraq Parliament Selections
Horrific video shows man hung by crane in Iran public execution
Reports: U.S. to Impose Tariffs on $200 Billion in Chinese Goods
The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on September 16-17/18
Mass Commemorates Kataeb Lawmaker's Assassination Anniversary 16th September 2018/A mass was held on Sunday to commemorate the 11th assassination anniversary of Kataeb MP Antoine Ghanem and his two companions, Nohad Gharib and Tony Daou. The service, held at the Saint George Church in Deir Al-Haref, was attended by Former President Amine Gemayel and his wife, Joyce, Kataeb's Deputy-President Salim Sayegh representing the party leader Samy Gemayel, Kataeb's Secretary-General Nazar Najarian, and several politburo members. In September 2007, a car bomb killed Ghanem and six others in Sin El-Fil, just days before the Lebanese Parliament was set to elect a new president for the country.
Al-Rahi Urges Formation of 'Neutral, Emergency Govt.'
Naharnet/September 16/18/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi on Sunday called for the formation of what he called a “neutral emergency government” that would “begin building national unity.”“We urge the President and the Prime Minister-designate to speed up the formation of the government and we tell them that it is unacceptable to procrastinate,” al-Rahi added during a tour of the Iqlim al-Kharroub region. “There is no justification for the failure to form it. Neither shares nor sizes are the priority but the priority is rather Lebanon and its people,” al-Rahi went on to say. “You do not have the right to refrain from building a government or to refrain from building a country,” the patriarch emphasized. Political wrangling over shares is still impeding the formation of the new government. PM-designate Saad Hariri was tasked with forming a new government on May 24.

Aoun underscores strength of Lebanese-Kuwaiti relations

The Daily Star/BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun Sunday underscored “the strength of the fraternal relations” between Lebanon and Kuwait, a statement from the presidency reported, after a pro-Hezbollah Lebanese journalist stirred controversy over the emir’s recent visit to the United States. In a phone call, Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber Al-Sabah and Aoun discussed bilateral relations, while the president expressed his appreciation for the emir’s stances and for always being supportive of Lebanon. The two agreed that “nothing could affect the soundness” of Lebanese-Kuwaiti relations, official or unofficial, the statement said. After a Sept. 5 meeting between Sabah and U.S. President Donald Trump, journalist Salem Zahran claimed that Trump had asked Sabah to cancel various contracts that Kuwait had with Chinese companies, worth $11 billion, and “forced” him to sign on to the same projects with U.S. companies, for contracts valued at $14 billion. In the Sept. 13 interview on Hezbollah-affiliated news channel Al-Manar, Zahran also alleged that the emir had traveled to Washington on a “medical visit,” and that only after he arrived did Trump call him in for a meeting. Zahran’s claims came despite that fact that days ahead of the meeting, it had been announced that the emir would travel to the U.S. to hold talks with Trump. After Zahran’s comments incited condemnation from Lebanese and Kuwaiti officials alike, Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri also expressed his respect and appreciation for the Kuwaiti emir, according to a statement issued by his office Saturday.

Jumblat Lashes Out at Bassil, Warns against 'Playing with Fire'
Naharnet/September 16/18/Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat has launched a blistering verbal attack on Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Jebran Bassil without naming him. “The son-in-law is seeking to consolidate his hegemony and we are the only ones opposing him,” Jumblat tweeted, in an apparent reference to Bassil, who is President Michel Aoun's son-in-law. “The rest are a group of monuments and corpses whose only concern is to split shares. Do not play with fire,” Jumblat added. A war of words has been raging between the two parties against the backdrop of the Cabinet formation process.The PSP is insisting on getting all three Druze seats in the new government while Bassil and Aoun are demanding one of the seats for their ally MP Talal Arslan.

LF Shows 'Flexibility' as PSP Says Won't 'Eliminate' Itself
Naharnet/September 16/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri does not have a “new Cabinet line-up” but is rather trying to capitalize on the previous format that he has presented to President Michel Aoun, sources close to Hariri said. “The Lebanese Forces party has showed flexibility over the past hours regarding President Michel Aoun's suggestion that the LF's share include a state minister, but it has not given a decisive answer to the PM-designate regarding this proposal,” the sources told Asharq al-Awsat daily in remarks published Sunday. “The LF is waiting to be officially informed of the types of the other portfolios it would get while insisting that one of them should be the defense portfolio or the energy portfolio,” the sources added. A senior PSP official meanwhile told the newspaper that his party is “counting on Hariri's efforts and his honest intentions.”“We are willing to help him but we will not eliminate ourselves as some are demanding,” the official added.

Foreign Ministry: Not to interfere in the affairs of the countries that supported Lebanon in its crises
Sun 16 Sep 2018/NNA - In an issued statement by the Foreign Affairs and Emigrants Ministry on Sunday, it stressed the need to refrain from offending any sister or friendly country to Lebanon. The statement urged all sides "not to interfere in the affairs of the states that stood up and supported Lebanon in its crises, keeping the interests of Lebanon and the Lebanese in mind."Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry statement praised "the brotherly State of Kuwait and its Emir, Lebanon's sincere and loyal friend, who holds Lebanon in his heart and soul and never abandoned it in the darkest circumstances." It also paid respect to the Kuwaiti people who consider Lebanon as their second home.

Lebanon qualifies for the Davis Cup Group A after winning over Thailand

Sun 16 Sep 2018/NNA - Lebanon qualified for the Asian-Oceania title in the Davis Cup following its victory over Thailand 3-2 in the final of Group B at the National Tennis Center in Bangkok on Sunday. With this victory, Lebanon returned to the significant position it has occupied for more than 15 years.

Friends of Cedar Forest organize their annual 'Godfather Day' in presence of dignitaries
Sun 16 Sep 2018/NNA - The "Friends of the Cedar Forest" Committee organized the annual "Godfather Day" on Sunday, in the presence of security and military officials, politicians, activists and crowds of dignitaries and citizens from different regions, who gathered with their families on the hills surrounding the ancient Cedar Forest. The "Godfather Day", held in cooperation with the municipality and the Gebran National Committee, bagan in the early morning with the arrival of visitors from the South, Bekaa, Akkar and Mount Lebanon regions, who came to check on the cedars bearing their names. Head of the "Friends of the Cedar Forest" Committee, Antoine Gebrael, indicated that the event is organized on a yearly basis, attracting a large number of people who come to nourish their planted Cedars.Gebrael stressed that "the Cedar is a symbol of the nation's persistence." "If this green Cedar does not remain at the top of our mountains, then Lebanon itself might perish!" he exclaimed. In turn, Advisor to Caretaker Information Minister, Alissar Naddaf, congratulated the "Friends of the Cedar Forest "Committee for preserving the Cedar Forest through all available means. She also commended the Committee for organizing this important "Godfather Day" on a yearly basis, whereby each person would care for his own-planted Cedar that embodies a national, symbolic meaning. Geagea urged all the Lebanese to take part in this initiative, hoping that "our Cedar would remain standing high and eminent on our Lebanese Flag."

Diaspora Energy Conference purses its works in Montreal, sheds light on education and business opportunities of oil and gas
Sun 16 Sep 2018/NNA - The third regional "Diaspora Energy Conference" for North America pursed its works at the Montreal Conference Palace on Sunday, focusing on the next generation's pulse that highlights emerging talent with its ideas, aspirations and entrepreneurial spirit. Work sessions focused on education and business opportunities in the oil and gas field, with the aim of encouraging North American companies and experts of Lebanese origin to participate and support the emerging ecosystem in this promising sector. The first session was held under the title "LEBANITY", which was launched by Caretaker Foreign Affairs and Emigrants Minister, Gebran Bassil, as a way of life for all generations in expressing about Lebanon via concrete measures that keep relations with their mother nation alive and unbreakable, despite the geographical dimension.

Makhzoumi contacts AlKinai: We denounce any offense to the State of Kuwait and its Emir
Sun 16 Sep 2018/NNA - National Dialogue Party Chief, MP Fuad Makhzoumi, condemned in a statement on Sunday "the attack against the State of Kuwait and its Emir, Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, for whom we have all respect."In a phone conversation with Kuwait's Ambassador to Lebanon, Abdel-Aal Al-Kinai, Makhzoumi deemed Lebanon's relations with Kuwait as "historic, especially that Kuwait is a leading Arab country in caring for the Lebanese working on its soil," while referring to its "advanced and distinctive role" in ensuring Lebanon's stability.

Habshi during Deir Ahmar's MiniMarathon: No to drugs in North Bekaa, Baalbek, Hermel and all Lebanon
Sun 16 Sep 2018/NNA - The Union of Municipalities in Deir el-Ahmar organized Sunday a mini-marathon in collaboration with the municipalities and associations in the region and the Beirut Marathon Association, under the headline, "No to Drugs," with the participation of around 400 runners of all ages. In his word on the occasion, MP Antoine Habshi considered that this sports step against drugs is coupled with the legislative draft law, which was submitted to produce cannabis for medical purposes and to protect farmers. "Today we say no to drugs in the northern Bekaa and in Baalbek-Hermel and all Lebanon," stressed Habshi. In turn, Head of the Beirut Marathon Association, May el-Khalil, said: "Today, Deir al-Ahmar has united all of Lebanon, and this is what we call sports tourism.""I see peace and love in your faces, and I salute the Umm al-Nour Group, our partner since 2003, running together against the scourge of drugs and for life," added el-Khalil. At the end of the marathon, medals and trophies were distributed to the winners, and certificates of appreciation were awarded to the marathon and sports clubs. An exhibition of Lebanese municipal products was also organized on the margin of the marathon, in which associations from the region participated.

Hariri launches new waste management project in Sidon

Sun 16 Sep 2018/NNA - Marking the World Cleanup Day, MP Bahiya Hariri launched on Sunday the new "sorting from the source" waste project in Sidon, calling for transforming it into an executable plan. Hariri considered that municipalities have a basic role in rendering such a plan a success, since they shoulder the responsibility of preparing its infrastructure and administering the coordination between associations involved in its implementation. "We are committed to a future step on environment and health and a new generation of behavioral change that begins with educational institutions and civil society, and I am confident that if we cooperate together we can achieve the goal of this project," Hariri emphasized. "Our aim is to spread the culture of sorting from the source and transforming it to a mechanism and work plan prone for execution, starting with the school and far-reaching the home and neighborhood," she added. "During the upcoming period, there will be an environmental state of emergency within the city of Sidon to consolidate the basis of this plan and launch it with full force through the efforts of all," Hariri assured. MP Hariri's words came during her meetings with the city's dignitaries and prominent school and university officials and civil activists in Majedelyoun earlier today.

Roukoz to Radio Lebanon: Debate over President's share in government is out of question
Sun 16 Sep 2018/NNA - MP Chamel Roukoz said in an interview with "Radio Lebanon" Station this morning that "the debate over the President's share in the government is out of question." Roukoz noted that "deliberations regarding the formation of a new government are going at a very slow pace.".He added that the delay in forming the cabinet will put Lebanon's economy in jeopardy

Darwich meets Pope Francis in Vatican
Sun 16 Sep 2018/NNA - Archbishop Issam Yuhanna Darwiche met Sunday with Pope Francis in Vatican, during a reception in honor of the participants at a conference organized by the Vatican Department of Human Resources, on the situation of Christians in the region.

The Rafiq Hariri trial and the future of Lebanon and Syria
Randa Takieddine/Al Arabiya/September 16/18
Listening to the results of the prosecution of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon that’s investigating the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri is painful in respect to the future of this country.
The prosecutor confirmed that the court’s evidence shows that when defendants Badreddine, Oneissi and Sabra were indicted, Hezbollah’s general command recognized them as brothers in the Resistance and said they were honorable men.
Hezbollah’s menace
The prosecutor stated that the Syrian regime was at the heart of the conspiracy to assassinate Rafik Hariri and discussed the political circumstances that prevailed at the time such as forcing Hariri to extend the presidency of Emile Lahoud, holding the Bristol opposition meetings and Hariri’s preparation for elections with the opposition and support of Resolution 1559 that demanded the withdrawal of the Syrian army from Lebanon and for disarming militias.
The court's statement confirms what a large number of observers already know about political life in Lebanon. However, these hearings raise a tragic problem for the independent and impartial Lebanese citizen and which is about how his or her future will be under the domination of a party which has conspired to serve the regime of Bashar al-Assad to kill a Lebanese prime minister who hence paid with his life and the lives of his companions to liberate his country and revive it. The question, now that the son of the martyr Rafik, Saad, has been appointed to form a cabinet, is how will the future of Lebanon look with a party that is using its weapons to put pressure on all of the state's decisions, including choosing a president, selecting an electoral law, making international alliances and imposing ties with the murderous Syrian regime?
In this sense, there is no hope, not only for Lebanon, but also for its surrounding area, where a criminal regime has not only settled with the assassination of Hariri and his companions and all the martyrs after them, but also continued its work in Syria and killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced thousands others while calling for the help of Iran, Hezbollah and Russia to keep it at the top of the country it destroyed. Whatever the government will be, if it will have a chance of being formed or not, and whether Hariri remains the prime minister-designate or apologizes and steps down, the future of this country is going to be painful, because a large part of it denies this painful reality, the dominance of Hezbollah and the return of agents of the Syrian regime to politics in Lebanon.
This large part claims that the STL is an international scheme seeking to undermine it. However the STL is an international institution that affirms facts that cannot be denied. Bashar Al-Assad’s survival under the rule and the will of Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, is a disaster for Syria, Lebanon and the entire region.
Those who believe that Bashar al-Assad or Vladimir Putin will get the Iranians to leave Syria are wrong. If Iran is forced to leave because of economic reasons, it will rely on the continuous presence of its Lebanese proxies and soldiers in Syria. As for the Lebanese who are rushing to normalize ties with Syria and make visits to Bashar Al-Assad and who claim that Syria is ready to supply Lebanon with cheap electricity, then let them know that this regime and its allies have brought nothing but evil, murder, destruction and displacement.
Syria returns to Lebanon
It is known that Rafik Hariri was not the first of the martyrs to be killed on the orders of the Assad family, although he was almost among the first high ranking Lebanese martyrs who fell by the hands of Hezbollah operatives. As for Lebanon, all of those who allied with Hezbollah because it is the strong and dominant element in the country, they will be responsible for the fate of the Lebanese people who could have hoped for a better future than the one they are facing today. The STL is not, as Hezbollah's officials put it, "playing with fire" because Assad, his Iranian allies and Hezbollah, as well as Israel which is holding onto the Assad regime, are the ones who are setting fire to the region. Despite the fact that Saad Hariri emphasized that he will not take the road of an eye for an eye, Lebanon's future is not reassuring in such circumstances. All that has been said about the dissociation policy from regional conflicts is meaningless as long as Hezbollah is in the Syrian and Iraqi war arenas and working alongside the Houthis. How can Lebanon rise up when the dominant party wants to form a government quickly and wants to have the Health Ministry that could bring more tragedies to the country if the United States decides to intensify sanctions against the group? People are facing difficult and miserable conditions due to the accumulated waste, catastrophic environment, power outages, almost daily scandals and endemic corruption. A criminal bunch in Syria and Lebanon is now seeking international legitimacy, and unfortunately, for the peoples of the region, it may probably engage in a barter that guarantees the interests of major powers.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on September 16-17/18
Israel 'Strikes Weapons Depot Meant for Iran or Hezbollah Near Damascus Airport'
Jack Khoury, Noa Landau/Haaretz/Reuters/September 16/18
Israel struck in Syria on Saturday night, targeting an area near the airport in Damascus, Syrian state media reported. According to the report, several Israeli missiles were intercepted by Syrian air defenses.  ''Our air defense systems thwarted an Israeli missile aggression," state news agency SANA cited a military source as saying. Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the missile attack targeted an arms depot near the airport where new weapons recently arrived for the Iranians or Lebanon's Hezollah group.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said Israel does not comment on foreign reports. “Israel is constantly working to prevent our enemies from arming themselves with advanced weaponry,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday amid reports of the strike
“Our red lines are as sharp as ever and our determination to enforce them is stronger than ever,” Netanyahu added.
Earlier this month, Syrian state media reported that Israeli jets attacked military targets in the northwestern Syrian city of Hama, targeting Iranian positions. In August, a senior Syrian chemical weapons development scientist was killed when his car exploded in the nearby city of Masyaf in northwestern Syria in an attack that Syrian media attributed to Israel's Mossad espionage agency. According to reports, Dr. Aziz Asber ran a scientific development center in the city, which was attacked several times before. The blast also killed his personal driver. Several strikes near Masyaf have been attributed to Israel in recent years, including one on July 22.
In May, Israel said it attacked nearly all of Iran's military infrastructure in Syria after Iranian forces fired rockets at Israeli-held territory for the first time in the most extensive military exchange ever between the two adversaries. Israel has previously acknowledged having carried out air strikes in Syria aimed at degrading the capacity of Iran and its allies, including Lebanon's Shi'ite Hezbollah group, which are backing Assad in the country's seven-year civil war. The Israeli military struck more than 200 targets and fired 800 missiles and mortar shells over the past year-and-a-half, a senior IDF official said earlier in September. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
After Damascus Raid, Israel Says Working to Keep Weapons from Foes
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 16/18/Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday his country is taking action to stop its foes from acquiring sophisticated arms, hours after Damascus said Israeli missiles targeted its airport. Israel has not officially confirmed or denied a report by Syrian state news agency SANA of an attack late Saturday on Damascus international airport. "Israel is constantly working to prevent our enemies from arming themselves with advanced weaponry," Netanyahu's office quoted him as saying at the start of his cabinet's weekly meeting. "Our red lines are as sharp as ever and our determination to enforce them is stronger than ever." SANA quoted a Syrian military source as saying that air defenses "shot down a number of hostile missiles" during the attack. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said the strikes hit a weapons depot outside the airport. Israel has vowed to prevent its arch-foe Iran, which is a main backer of the Damascus government, from gaining a military foothold in neighboring war-torn Syria. Earlier this month, Israel acknowledged having carried out more than 200 strikes in Syria over the past 18 months, mainly against Iranian targets. It has also admitted to striking Syria to prevent what it says are deliveries of advanced weaponry to Lebanon's Iran-backed Hizbullah. The last reported Israeli strikes on Syria took place on September 4, when Syrian state media said the military's air defenses downed several missiles in the coastal province of Tartus and in central Hama. Netanyahu was speaking two days before the start of Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, and the anniversary of the outbreak of the Yom Kippur war. The 1973 conflict started with a surprise attack by Egypt and Syria that Israel was only able to defeat after setbacks that caused severe losses. "Forty-five years ago, intelligence erred by holding to a mistaken assessment regarding the war intentions of Egypt and Syria," he said. "When these intentions became clear beyond all doubt, and when the danger was on our very doorstep, the political leadership made a grievous mistake by not allowing a pre-emptive strike. We will never repeat this mistake."Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty in 1979, but Israel and Syria are still officially in a state of war.

Netanyahu: Israel will never again fail to preempt attacks
Jerusalem Post/September 16/18
Bibi's comments were delivered on the eve of the 45th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War.
“Forty-five years ago, our intelligence misjudged the war intentions of Egypt and Syria,” Netanyahu said, referring to the intelligence assessments at the time that discounted an Egyptian and Syrian surprise attack.On the eve of the 45th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet Sunday that Israel will never repeat the mistake it made in 1973 by not preempting an enemy attack. “Forty-five years ago, our intelligence misjudged the war intentions of Egypt and Syria,” Netanyahu said, referring to the intelligence assessments at the time that discounted an Egyptian and Syrian surprise attack. “When these intentions became clear beyond any doubt, and when the danger was already at hand, the political echelon committed a grave error in that it did not approve a preemptive strike. We will never repeat this error,” he said.
According to minutes from the cabinet meeting six hours before war broke out on Yom Kippur in 1973, then-prime minister Golda Meir and defense minister Moshe Dayan opposed a preemptive strike, even though by that time Israel had clear intelligence information of an imminent Egyptian and Syrian attack.
According to minutes of that meeting that were released for publication eight years ago, then chief of staff Lt.-Gen. David “Dado” Elazar raised the idea of a preemptive strike and said it would give Israel a “huge advantage and save many lives.”“We can wipe out the entire Syrian air force at noon,” he said. “We need another 30 hours to destroy the missiles. If they plan to attack at 5 p.m., the air force will operate freely against the Syrian army. This is what we are capable of.”
Meir said that she was “tempted,” but that a decision could wait for a number of hours until there is a dialogue with the Americans. Dayan was adamantly opposed to a preemptive strike, even “by five minutes.”He also opposed, as Elazar suggested, calling up the reserves, saying that it was important that the world does not blame Israel for starting the war.
Netanyahu, in an apparent reference to reported Israeli preemptive military actions in Syria to prevent Iranian entrenchment there or weapon transfers to Hezbollah in Lebanon, said that today “Israel is constantly working to prevent our enemies from arming themselves with advanced weapons.”
The country’s red lines are clearer than ever, and its resolve to enforce them are stronger than ever, he said. Referring to the nearly 2,700 Israelis killed during the Yom Kippur War, Netanyahu said the country “must do everything to prevent war – the war’s victims destroyed the lives of families and are an open wound in the heart of the nation.” At the same time, Netanyahu said, “If war is forced upon us, we must do everything to win it with a minimum of losses.”During the meeting, Netanyahu also related to reports that the IDF was weighing the possibility of allowing convicted terrorists to request a shortening of their sentences. “I strongly oppose this,” he said. “I know this is also the position of the defense minister, and therefore it will not happen.”

Lavrov Affirms Continuous Coordination with Ankara
Moscow – Raed Jaber/Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 16 September, 2018/Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov failed to reach a deal with Germany on the necessity that Berlin doesn’t take part in a possible Western military operation in Syria. After meeting his German counterpart Heiko Maas on Friday, different points of view on Syria seemed clear, especially regarding the possibility of a military operation by the regime against Idlib. This comes as Russian media said it is more likely that Russian President Vladimir Putin would attempt to convince his Turkish counterpart President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of a limited and accurate military operation, during the meeting on Monday in Sochi. “We always stick to the International humanitarian law when we conduct operations involving military action. We along with our Turkish partners are vigorously working on solving the situation in Idlib in a full accordance with the arrangements which were made during the process of creating the de-escalation zone over there,” said Lavrov. "It is in our interest for Syria to be a stable country. For that, reconstruction is necessary. And we have an important role in that," Maas said. "I will impress upon my colleague Lavrov our expectations that there should be no major offensive in Idlib," Maas added.Further, Russian media reported that Putin opts to persuade Erdogan that in case a political solution failed then there won’t be an alternative to launching a military operation. The source added that Moscow doesn’t mind to grant Ankara an additional time to fulfill its commitments in the file of separating moderate opposition from extremists.

Egypt Tries 30 Terrorists for Joining ISIS
Cairo - Walid Abdulrahman/Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 16 September, 2018/An Egyptian court continued Saturday hearing witnesses in its seventh session of the trial of 30 accused of joining ISIS and forming a terrorist cell in Alexandria. The Cairo Criminal Court heard the testimony of one of the officers, who stressed that "the founder of the organization, Nour, communicated with ISIS leaders abroad, and was convinced with their ideology and formed terrorist cells in Alexandria and Damietta.” The founder of the organization set up a camp in Western Sahara to train elements how to manufacture explosives and similar devices and to use them in hiding from the police and security forces. Egypt’s Attorney General Nabil Sadiq has ordered the transfer of 30 terrorists to the Supreme State Security Criminal Court on charges of forming a terrorist group that embraces ISIS Takfiri ideas, financing the cell with money, weapons and explosives, providing safe havens and sheltering its members, targeting churches, Christian citizens and vital installations and receiving military training in ISIS camps in Syria and Libya. Investigations conducted at the Supreme State Security Prosecution revealed that Nour was ordered by ISIS cadres to establish a terrorist group inside Egypt. The members of the group, according to the orders, should follow ISIS Takfiri ideology, which is based on shedding the blood of the ruler, security forces, police and Christian citizens, destroying their places of worship and carrying out hostile operations against them and public and vital facilities with the aim of overthrowing the state.

Abdel Malik al-Houthi Chooses His Uncle to Succeed Him
Sanaa/Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 16 September, 2018/Houthi group Leader Abdel Malik al-Houthi has chosen his uncle Abdel Karim al-Houthi as his successor in case he dies or gets killed, informed sources in Sanaa told Asharq Al-Awsat. He authorized him to manage most of the group's affairs in Sanaa and the rest of the provinces while maintaining a small margin for his cousin Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, head of the so-called Supreme Revolutionary Committee, and his brother Abdel Khaliq al-Houthi. The sources said that the death of the leader in the group and former President of Yemen's Supreme Political Council Saleh al-Sammad forced Houthis and their leader to appoint a successor in anticipation of his death or assassination in any operation. News circulated said that the leader of the Houthi group summoned several weeks ago his consultative council, which includes a number of the group’s leaders whose role is equivalent to that of the Expediency Council in Iran, and pointed to the importance of choosing a successor for himself to carry out most of his supervisory duties in order to avoid the struggle among the group’s members after his death. Houthi chose his uncle to succeed him and assume his duties after being supported by most of his advisers, sources stressed. The Leader’s decision, according to sources, was opposed by his brother and Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, who was preparing himself to succeed his cousin. Notably, most of the group’s elements and their leader are included in UN Security Council sanctions list and those wanted by the Saudi-led Coalition. In order to convince his brother and cousin of his decision, sources reported that Houthi has granted some of the political and media authorities to Mohammed Ali, including the ability to make decisions in regards to the Revolutionary Committee and the proposal to appoint leaders from outside the circle of the group. He also granted his brother powers in terms of military affairs.

UAE Urges Security Council to Act 'Immediately', End Iran's Weapons Supply to Houthis

New York - Ali Barada/Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 16 September, 2018/The United Arab Emirates told the UN Security Council on Friday that the liberation of Yemen’s key port city of Hodeidah from the Houthi militia is critical to re-engage them in UN-backed peace talks. It called on the international community to put pressure on Houthis "immediately" in order to cut off the supply of arms provided by Iran to them "in direct violation of Security Council resolutions 2216 and 2231."“Iran provides Houthis with some of the most sophisticated weaponry and know-how ever obtained by a non-state actor,” the UAE said in a letter addressed to the Security Council and UN Security General Antonio Guterres. This weaponry includes “ballistic missiles, guided anti-ship missiles and kamikaze aerial drones along with hundreds of thousands of landmines and improvised explosive devices that are devastating Yemeni civilians across the country,” the letter of which Asharq Al-Awsat has received a copy added. UAE’s Permanent Representative to the UN Lana Nusseibeh highlighted that previous letters were sent to the Security Council by Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash and Minister of State for International Cooperation Reem al-Hashimi.  Also, in a letter addressed to President of the UN Security Council Nikki Haley, with a copy to Guterres, Nusseibeh said the Houthis’ "no-show" rebuke to the UN and to a meaningful political process is a serious setback and a significant disappointment for the Yemeni people and the Saudi-led Coalition, which is eager to find an end to the conflict. She reiterated and reinforced her country's commitment to a UN-led political process, notwithstanding the Houthis’ decision to disregard the Geneva talks, organized by UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths. “Unfortunately, this is only the latest Houthi broken promise to re-engage in a political process since they derailed the political transition process in 2014, resorted to violence and triggered the humanitarian and political crisis faced by Yemen nowadays," she added. However, the Coalition remains committed to “supporting the efforts of the Special Envoy and the UN-led political solution in accordance with relevant Security Council resolutions, GCC initiative and its implementation mechanism and the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference.” “The Coalition is ready to support new talks whenever the Special Envoy can ensure the Houthis’ meaningful participation. We hope he can achieve this soon,” she stressed.

Tunisia Ruling Party Suspends Prime Minister's Membership

Tunisia - Almunji Suaidani/Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 16 September, 2018/Tunisia's ruling Nidaa Tounes party froze the prime minister's membership. "The party decided to freeze the membership of Chahed," Nidaa Tounes said in a statement. Following long discussions that lasted for hours on Friday, the party took that decision that might lead in a further phase to a temporary dismissal of Chahed. During his visit to one of the schools in the north of the capital, Chahed refused to comment. Wafa Makhlouf, a founding member of Nidaa Tounes, expressed objection and other members’ rejection of the statement content – a stance that shows affection with the prime minister who aspires to play a key political role bigger than the one determined for him when he was first appointed a prime minister. Makhlouf expressed concern regarding the current condition in the country. A former leader in Nidaa Tounes Riad Alaziz expected the number of deputies from the National Coalition bloc to reach 55, and all of them would be supporting the political program of Chahed. This makes the bloc come second after Ennahda Movement and push Nidaa Tounes to the third place. This parliamentary bloc works on ensuring positive outcomes of Chahed government during the upcoming voting over the financial law 2019, also through voting in favor of Chahed carrying out a partial amendment in the government, as well as conducting huge reforms and implementing a development program.

Israel to Build Around Gaza World’s Longest Concrete Wall
Ramallah - Kifah Zaboun/Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 16 September, 2018/A “protective” wall that Israel has been building for months along the border with the Gaza Strip will become “the world’s longest concrete wall” and will extend over 65 kilometers to reach the Strip’s land and maritime border, the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported. Israel decided to build the wall after the 2014 war, but its implementation began after three years of internal debate. The wall is the third line Israel has constructed along the border to confront the Palestinians and prevent them from carrying out attacks. Following the Oslo Accords in the early 1990s and after the disengagement from Gaza in 2005, Israel established buffer zones around Gaza and set up barbed wire, but these measures did not stop underground attacks. The wall aims to provide underground and off-the-ground protection from infiltration through the coastal strip. It will also include physical barriers and sophisticated technological detection systems, according to the Israeli newspaper. To date, Israel has used two million concrete blocks in the construction of the wall through five concrete factories that have been built along the border. The region employs 1,200 workers from different countries, including Romania and Brazil. According to the newspaper, the land wall will include an underground barrier at a depth of tens of meters, equipped with sensors that can detect any drilling of tunnels by land or any movement of divers across the sea. The maritime wall includes intelligent waves for early warning. The cost of building the concrete wall is 3 billion shekels, ($1=3.60 shekels). Hamas uses military tunnels for various purposes, including carrying out operations and infiltrating into Israeli settlements.
Killer Storm Far from Over, U.S. Officials Warn as 'Epic' Rain Falls
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 16/18/Authorities have warned residents displaced by a killer hurricane that its devastation was far from over, as Florence dumped "epic amounts of rainfall" across the southeastern United States, bringing catastrophic flooding and up to 13 deaths. Most of the fatalities occurred in North Carolina, where officials confirmed eight victims. They included three who died "due to flash flooding and swift water on roadways," the Duplin County Sheriff's Office reported. A woman and her baby were among the first casualties when a tree fell on their house, contributing to a death toll that US media said had reached 13 -- 10 in North Carolina and three in South Carolina, according to CNN. Florence made landfall Friday as a Category 1 hurricane but has since been downgraded to a tropical storm, even as it continued to wreak havoc along the East Coast, downing trees and power lines and forcing 20,000 people to flee to shelters. On Saturday some residents tried to return home, driving through flooded highways and armed with chainsaws to clear fallen pine trees that covered the road. North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper warned against such behavior as roads became increasingly dangerous. "All roads in the state right now are at risk of floods," he said. "As rivers keep rising and rain keeps falling, the flooding will spread. More and more inland counties are issuing mandatory evacuations to get people to safety quickly."He earlier said the storm system "is unloading epic amounts of rainfall: in some places, measured in feet, not inches."In a separate briefing, Steve Goldstein of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said some areas have already received two feet of rain and could expect up to 20 inches more as the system moved "slowly, nearly stationary" over eastern North Carolina. In New Bern, a riverfront city near the North Carolina coast that saw storm surges of up to 10 feet (three meters), residents took stock of the damage after flood waters began receding and authorities rescued hundreds of people who had been stranded. Charles Rucker, a retired teacher, had only spent five nights in his newly-purchased house, built in 1830, when Florence struck. "It was like a bullet train coming through the living room. Nothing I ever experienced before, I was truly scared," he told AFP. "We have 4,200 damaged homes," Mayor Dana Outlaw told CNN. The doors of many houses suffered so much wind damage they appeared to have been kicked in, while the city's beloved fiber-glass bear statues, which are sponsored by local businesses, were floating down streets.In one piece of good news, authorities said 16 wild ponies on hurricane-struck Ocracoke Island, located off the North Carolina coast, were safe.
Deadly path
South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster on Saturday announced the death of a 61-year-old woman who died when her car hit a downed tree on a highway. CNN also reported a man and a woman died in South Carolina's Horry County due to carbon monoxide poisoning.
President Donald Trump tweeted late Saturday that "five deaths have been recorded thus far," and expressed sympathy to the victims' families. The White House said Trump would visit hurricane-hit areas next week "once it is determined his travel will not disrupt any rescue or recovery efforts."More than 800,000 customers in North Carolina were without power and 21,000 people were being housed in 157 shelters across the state. As of 2:00 am (0600 GMT), maximum sustained winds had weakened to near 40 miles (64 kilometers) per hour, and "additional weakening is forecast while the center moves farther inland," the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said. But it continued to warn of "catastrophic" flooding from excessive rainfall. The military announced Saturday it was deploying nearly 200 soldiers to assist in storm-related response and recovery efforts, along with 100 trucks and equipment.
Besides federal and state emergency crews, rescuers were being helped by volunteers from the "Cajun Navy" -- civilians equipped with light boats, canoes and air mattresses -- who also turned up in Houston during Hurricane Harvey to carry out water rescues.
Tornado warnings
Hurricane Florence made landfall Friday in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, after stalking the coastline for days. Tornadoes remain a threat, with the NHC saying that "a few tornadoes are possible in southeastern North Carolina and northeastern South Carolina."About 1.7 million people in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia are under voluntary or mandatory evacuation orders, and millions of others live in areas likely to be affected by the storm.In South Carolina's Myrtle Beach, Victor Shamah, the owner of The Bowery bar, decided to open because people "wanted to eat, they didn't have any place to eat. They wanted a rink.""Everybody is nervous," customer Katy Steindl said. So it's "time to go out and have a drink."
Iraq parliament elects nominee of pro-Iran list as speaker
Agencies/September 16/18/Under an unofficial agreement dating back to 2003, the prime minister position is reserved for Shiites, president is a Kurd, and parliament speaker a Sunni
Iraqi lawmakers have elected a Sunni Arab as speaker of parliament, the first step in forming a new government four months after national elections. Lawmaker Ahmed al-Asadi says 169 lawmakers voted for Mohammed al-Halbousi during Saturday’s session and 89 voted for former defense minister Khalid al-Obeidi. Al-Halbousi is the former governor of Anbar province and was supported by the pro-Iran bloc inside parliament.. Early this month, parliament held its first session but failed to proceed with the process of forming a government with two Shiite-led blocs claiming to be the biggest bloc that will be tasked to form the government. Under an unofficial agreement dating back to 2003, the prime minister position is reserved for Shiites, the president a Kurd, and the parliament speaker a Sunni. Iraq’s Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi has said he will not “cling to power,” after the country’s highest Shiite religious authority called for the appointment of a new head of government. A member of the leader’s parliamentary bloc, however, said Friday that if al-Abadi gets a majority in the legislature he will form the new Cabinet. A member of al-Abadi’s al-Nasr List, or Victory List, said Friday that the outgoing prime minister is still negotiating to form the largest bloc in parliament and if he succeeds then al-Abadi will be nominated for forming the new Cabinet. The legislator spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief media. Al-Abadi’s political position has weakened in the wake of rioting in Iraq’s oil capital, Basra, over corruption, failed services, and contaminated drinking water. Al-Abadi, who was backed by the US for a second term in office, said he would respect the directives of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who said it was time for Iraq to appoint a prime minister it has never had before. Al-Abadi made his remarks at his weekly press conference on Thursday.Political analyst Ihsan al-Ashaari said al-Abadi’s statement does not mean that the outgoing prime minister is no longer trying to hang on to the post. He said this decision will be made by the largest blocs in the legislature. “The negotiations are still ongoing,” al-Ashaari said.

Iran Hails Iraq Parliament Selections
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 16/18/Iran on Sunday hailed the selections made by Iraq's parliament a day after the body elected candidates backed by a pro-Tehran bloc as speaker and first deputy. "The Islamic Republic of Iran supports decisions made by the (Iraqi) people's elected representatives," foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said. "The Islamic Republic of Iran has always supported Iraq's democracy, territorial integrity and national sovereignty," he added. Iran is a key power broker in neighboring Iraq and many of the militias that played a central role in ousting the Islamic State group are known to be close to Tehran. Iraq's national politics has been in paralysis since the May 12 national elections, but Saturday's appointments were expected to solidify new alliances and pave the way towards forming a government. "We hope we soon witness the election of the president and prime minister to form a new Iraqi government," said Ghasemi. Lawmakers appointed as speaker former Anbar governor Mohammed al-Halbusi, a Sunni politician backed by a pro-Iran bloc led by Hadi al-Ameri's Conquest Alliance -- a coalition of anti-jihadist veterans close to Tehran. The post of first deputy speaker was given to Hassan Karim, put forward by populist Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr whose list won the largest share of seats in the election. Baghdad and Tehran, which fought a brutal war from 1980 to 1988, came closer after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and the rise of Iraq's Shiite majority on the political landscape.

Horrific video shows man hung by crane in Iran public execution

Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishSunday, 16 September 2018/Iranian social media accounts have shared a video showing a brutal execution of an old man being hanged while lifted with a crane before the eyes of the public. Human rights activists who shared footage of the incident claimed that it took place on Friday in the city of Marvdasht, southern Iran. It is reported that the man being executed is 26 years old, and had been imprisoned when he was only 13 years old. The footage shows hundreds gathered to witness the execution, as women who are believed to be related to the man scream in the background, condemning the execution be carried in this manner. The Iranian Human Rights Organization said there had been an increase in executions during the past few months, noting that 30 executions were carried in August only. Amnesty International have previously said in its annual report that at least 507 people were executed in Iran during 2017.

Reports: U.S. to Impose Tariffs on $200 Billion in Chinese Goods
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 16/18/U.S. President Donald Trump has decided to impose tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports and could make the announcement in the coming days, US media reported. Citing anonymous sources, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal reported that the tariffs would be set at 10 percent. Trump has already imposed 25 percent tariffs on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum, as well as 25 percent on $50 billion in goods from China. The prospect of new tariffs undercuts hopes of an imminent reduction in trade tensions between Washington and Beijing. On Thursday, China had welcomed a U.S. offer to hold fresh trade talks, providing some hope the world's top two economies could step back from the brink of an all-out trade war.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published
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West has a chance to bring Iranian regime to heel at UN Security Council
أمام الغرب فرصة لإركاع النظام الإيراني في مجلس الأمن الدولي
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/September 16/ 2018
This Islamic Republic of Iran is mired in crises, few of which stem from US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal and the subsequent renewed economic sanctions. Those actions only serve to help the US, and hopefully the international community as a whole, in putting pressure on Iran’s clerical regime at a time when it is most vulnerable and least likely to conceal the misdeeds that make such pressure necessary.
Iran’s national currency, the rial, plumbed new depths this month, trading at more than 150,000 to the US dollar. The new figures provoked further economic protests in various Iranian cities, in what has become the status quo in recent months. The Iranian people view the economic catastrophe as part of the broader failings of the Iranian government, and many of the protests have accordingly taken on an unequivocal message of opposition to the regime in its entirety.
Activists have chanted “death to the dictator” and “death to Rouhani,” in reference to the country’s supreme leader and its president. Others have doubled down on the condemnation of both political factions of the clerical regime, while also rejecting the regime’s attempts to dismiss the unrest as the product of some foreign conspiracy. “The enemy is here,” protesters declared, according to independent Iranian news outlets and witnesses on social media. “They are lying when they say it is America.”
But the Iranian people are not simply declining to blame the West for their problems. The Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), a major driver of the protest movement, insists that the Iranian people are in fact calling out to the US and Europe to stand with them as they take hold of the solutions to their problems.
We can do this by focusing international attention on the human rights abuses with which the Iranian regime responds to any and all popular threats to its hold on power. We can also weaken the regime’s repressive infrastructure by building a broader consensus for economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation that will ultimately force the mullahs to respond to the crises they are presently trying to suppress.
A combination of internal and external pressure could finally bring the Iranian regime to heel, thereby ushering in both democracy at home and security abroad.
The worsening economic and social conditions, along with the popular response to them, amplify the inherent potential of assertive Western policies.
Clearly, the Trump administration’s decision to convene the UN Security Council to discuss Iran-related issues on Sept. 26 comes at an auspicious time, providing an opportunity to condemn the latest arrests and human rights violations involving peaceful protesters, and to underscore the ineffectiveness of those measures. The 2018 Iran Uprising Summit planned in advance of that meeting will echo this message.
In August alone, Iranian authorities arrested approximately 1,000 protesters. In January, in the midst of the nationwide uprising, arrests exceeded 8,000. Arrest in the Islamic Republic usually involves long periods of isolation, followed by torture, as security forces clamor for false confessions to support political charges.
Recent examples are numerous and come as no surprise to Western observers, after several American and European nationals were caught up in the regime’s efforts to suppress all manner of perceived threats to its hard-line Islamist identity.
Visitors to the Islamic Republic are not the only Westerners at risk from the regime’s desperate bid to resolve its domestic crises through violence. The acknowledged role of the MEK in the uprising has prompted Tehran to target the popular democratic resistance group outside of Iran. Fortunately, all serious attacks have been thwarted so far, but had they managed to slip past European security services, terrible damage was plotted in March against the MEK community in Albania. On June 30, targets included hundreds of American and European dignitaries attending an international rally outside Paris organized by adherents of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and its president-elect, Maryam Rajavi.
The unraveling of the latter attack led to the arrest of Assadollah Assadi, a high-level diplomat at the Iranian embassy in Vienna, who masterminded the plot hatched at the highest levels in Tehran. His arrest exposed a terrorist operative hidden at the heart of Europe, and that Tehran’s anxiety at the domestic unrest and the MEK’s advances outweighs all other considerations, including relations with the EU.
A continuation of rights abuses in Iran means a perpetuation of terror threats abroad, while preventing Tehran from further abuses in one of these areas will ultimately make the regime’s entire project of self-preservation unsustainable.
The recent terror attempts should make it apparent to both sides of the Atlantic that Western interests and the Iranian people’s interests are one and the same. A combination of internal and external pressure could finally bring that regime to heel, thereby ushering in both democracy in Iran and security abroad. This is a message that should be emphasized at the Security Council this month.
*Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh

Why Can't I Criticize My Religion?
الدكتور ماجد ربيزاده: لماذا لا يمكنني أن انتقد ديني
Majid Rafizadeh/Gatestone Institute/September 16/18
On the surface, for those who wanted to reform Islam, the only place to do so appeared to be the West. We all assumed that here in the West, it would be safe to question and criticize. Instead, so many institutions utilize a far more subtle method of silencing criticism.
The more you conceal or disregard constructive criticism of Islam, the harder you are making it for reforms to occur in the religion and the easier you are making it for Muslim radicals to prevail.
The reason I criticize the radical elements of my religion is not because I have hatred in my heart, but because I desire to protect those who have been abused and abandoned by their leaders.
When I received a letter from a Shiite religious preacher from the United Kingdom, it did not surprise me. I receive many similar letters from extremist Muslims all over the world, as well as Western liberals, socialists, and others. Each time, opening these letters, I prepare for criticism of my careful scrutiny of my religion. As expected, the letter began with a familiar suggestion: "Stop criticizing your own religion."
The letter went on to support this instruction with promises of the media and Western progressives favoring me and becoming far more supportive of me, if I were to align my views with their preferred talking points:
"If you stop criticizing Islam, the West will certainly be more welcoming of you, and you will receive more offers and opportunities to further your career."
What is it that I say that rankles the left so much? I refuse to be apologetic for radical Islam in the West. I refuse to gloss over the darkest consequences to which rampant extremism has led. I do not waffle beneath the idea of multiculturalism or tolerance; some things are not meant to be tolerated. The message of the apologists is clear: Get in line. Send out the same messages that others are: about all aspects of Islam being a loving and benevolent religion. Focus on this and sweep the crimes against humanity under the carpet.
I truly wish I could.
Clearly, it is not hard to see why so many of my colleagues have succumbed to this pressure. My path would indeed have been much easier if I had picked up the politicized view and marched forward with the others who have chosen expediency over truth. But I found it impossible to fit in and merge with the mainstream Islamic apologists in the West. The memories of what I have seen, and the atrocities that I know are still being committed, haunt me, and drive me to speak for the voiceless. My purpose has never been to make the West like me or to receive personal benefits from sharing my experiences. My purpose has always been only to stop the torment that my people have endured at the hands of merciless tyrannical Islamist regimes and groups.
I was born and raised in majority-Muslim societies, in the two dominant sects of Islam, Sunni and Shiism, in both the Arab and Persian worlds. The experiences that my family and the people around us went through shaped me in a way that it is inconceivable not to realize how dangerous sharia and Islamist rule can be. As a result, my mission has been to address these underlying problems, explained in my books, in the hope that it might help to usher some reforms from within the religion. Muslims such as Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser and Salim Mansur, to name just a few, have also been advocating reinterpretation.
What the Islamic apologists have to understand is that I, and others like me, are not going to strike a Faustian bargain in order to benefit and fit in with the mainstream. There are some values, such as raising awareness and helping subjugated women who are often effectively enslaved and tortured in many ways under Islamist rule, that are far more important than solely serving one's personal interests.
Another purpose behind these messages is to analyze the words "the West". It seems when people such as the Islamic preacher say that the West will like you and you will benefit more if you do not criticize Islamism, the "West" does not represent all Westerners, but seems mostly to refer to institutions and figures of the political far left. These extremist Muslims may also be referring to organizations or social media outlets that do not report facts but ideology. They appear to address matters as they wish they would be, rather than by looking at evidence. Unfortunately, many of these universities, institutions and outlets happen to be the giant and the dominant ones in the West.
When I first came to the U.S. to teach on a Fulbright scholarship during the Obama administration, it was intriguing to see how many institutions and figures did not like to hear or report any criticism of Islam. This flight seemed to represent a total double standard. While these Westerners appeared totally fine with strongly criticizing religions such as Christianity and Judaism, they did not treat Islam the same. It was a shock to discover, quite quickly, that it was acceptable for them to criticize their own religions, but not all right for me to criticize mine. It was not possible to make sense of it.
In Iran and Syria, where I grew up, one can get arrested, jailed, tortured and even executed for saying anything that may not be positive about the dominant religion of the land, Islam. On the surface, for those who wanted to reform Islam, the only place to do so appeared to be the West. After all, so many political leaders consistently boast about the value of freedom of speech and freedom of press. Where else could a reform of a highly restricted religion occur?
If something like this were attempted in a country where sharia law is enforced, one would face severe consequences for even attempting to criticize the religion. We all assumed that here in the West, it would be safe to question and criticize anything. Instead, so many institutions utilize a far more subtle method of silencing criticism. Some of these methods include labeling anyone who says anything remotely negative about Islam -- even those who offer constructive criticism and the opportunity for reform -- as promoting "Islamophobia."
Please just accept a simple message: If you think criticizing Christianity and Judaism is constructive, and a way to modernize and create reform, then please apply the same rule to Islam.
The more you conceal or disregard constructive criticism of Islam, the harder you are making it for reforms to occur and the easier you are making it for Muslim radicals to prevail. There are currently, around the world, atrocities being committed every moment of every day in the name of Islam; your goal should not be to be politically correct or fiercely protect this religion, but to heal its wounded and offer support to those that want to eliminate the abuses. Glossing over the often unspeakable acts to which sharia can lead will only empower those individuals who have malevolent intentions, while subjugating the most vulnerable to their cruelty.
If, as you claim, your core values are upholding freedom of speech, freedom of press and open discussions about Christianity and Judaism, these values should apply to Islam as well. Support the voices of those who have experienced sharia law first-hand, and call for reform.
The reason I criticize the radical elements of my religion is not because I have hatred in my heart, but because I desire to protect those who have been abused and abandoned by their leaders. With open eyes, I am not willing to hide from the truth, no matter how great the benefit or profit.
*Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated scholar, businessman, political scientist, board member of Harvard International Review, and president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He has authored several books on Islam and US Foreign Policy. He can be reached at Dr.Rafizadeh@Post.Harvard.Edu
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Diversity Is an American Strength, Not Weakness
Noah Smith/Bloomberg/September 16/18
As the US population becomes more diverse, some people on the political right are questioning whether the change will fray the fabric of American society. In a recent segment, Fox News host Tucker Carlson asked a pointed question:
“How precisely is diversity our strength?...[In] institutions [like] marriage or military units, [is it true that] the less people have in common the more cohesive they are? Do you get along better with your neighbors or your co-workers if you can’t understand each other or share no common values?”
Many were quick to decry Carlson’s question as racist. But whatever his motive, his question deserves an answer.
One common justification for diversity — which has a very long history in the US — revolves around the cultural contributions that people from a variety of backgrounds bring. These can be simple things like food, clothing styles, music or holidays — taco trucks on every corner, Korean barbecue on every block. St. Patrick’s Day, Hanukkah, Cinco de Mayo and Chinese New Year. A second and more subtle rationale is the idea that diversity of ethnic and religious backgrounds generates diversity of ideas. There is a whole strain of research on the question of whether diverse teams, companies and other organizations produce better results. Although many studies find that this is the case, the question isn’t settled. But these defenses of diversity, true though they might be, don’t get at the real reason that taking in immigrants from such a huge variety of backgrounds has been a winning strategy for the US As I see it, the best answer to Carlson’s question is — to paraphrase President John F. Kennedy’s justification for going to the moon — that diversity is our strength not because it’s easy, but because it’s hard.
When everyone shares a common ethnic and religious background, it can be easy to forget how different we all are from one another. Each individual has a unique combination of ideas, personal history and worldview, but within the confines of a company, school, neighborhood or team, there is a natural social pressure to submerge these differences beneath the impulse to conform. Diversity fights against this crushing weight. Ethnicity, religion and national origin are far from the only things that make individuals different, but because they are visible and unavoidable, they force people to deal with difference. Whether at the office, in school or within marriages and families, diversity pushes people to do the hard work of respecting each other’s unique individuality. Individualism, that core American value, can also make institutions stronger in the long run. Instead of expecting everyone to simply know their place and follow the rules, organizations have to explicitly take their members’ unique backgrounds into account. American institutions such as public schools, universities, corporations, cities and the military have developed both official mechanisms and deep institutional cultures designed to recognize and make use of their members’ unique strengths.
And they seem to be stronger for making the effort. The US has the world’s best universities, in large part because of an inflow of talented faculty and students from around the globe. Its companies are the highly profitable in the globalized age, in part because of their ability to leverage diverse workers and sell to diverse customers. Throughout its history, the US military has drawn its strength from its ability to integrate diverse populations of soldiers — it remains the world’s strongest, even as more homogeneous rivals like Russia have suffered from manpower shortages. And most of the country’s big cities are thriving, especially those like New York, Houston and San Diego that have been invigorated by immigration. Those of the same mind as Tucker Carlson will claim that all this success comes in spite of diversity, rather than because of it. But there’s strong evidence that through repeated contact, diversity leads to greater social trust and lower discrimination between people of different backgrounds. And the correlation between organizational diversity and performance might also come from this difficult but rewarding strengthening process.
In other words, diversity isn’t a magic pill that makes American society instantly stronger — it’s more like exercise. Just as lifting weights strengthens muscles, learning to deal with people who are obviously different strengthens the core American value of individualism.
Those survey responses are backed up by actions. As the US population has become more diverse, interracial marriage has climbed steadily, and now represents more than a sixth of new marriages. Since the 1990s, Americans have, on average, been moving to more racially diverse neighborhoods, and staying there once they move. Though some Americans — no doubt including much of Carlson’s fan base — remain dubious of the country’s growing diversity, the country as a whole has embraced it. Turn over any American coin, and you will see the words “e pluribus unum” — meaning “from many, one” — stamped in metal. That motto represents the centrality of diversity to the American experiment — the thesis that a society forged from disparate parts will ultimately be the strongest. That’s not an easy road for a nation to take, but so far the US has managed to navigate it successfully, and the payoff has been substantial.

We May Be Facing a Textbook Emerging-Market Crisis
Satyajit Das/Bloomberg/September 16/18
Emerging-market stresses have been building since at least 2013. Investors may have forgotten the effect of the “taper tantrum” on the so-called Fragile Five — Brazil, India, Indonesia, Turkey and South Africa — a term coined by Morgan Stanley to describe their vulnerability to capital outflows. Monetary accommodation, lower current-account deficits and growth disguised the underlying challenges, attracting more capital to those markets. The textbook recipe for an emerging-market crisis requires a large dose of debt and an associated domestic credit bubble, including misallocation of capital into uneconomic trophy projects or financial speculation. Then add: a weak banking sector, budget deficits, current-account gaps, substantial short-term foreign-currency debt and inadequate forex reserves. Season with narrowly based industrial structures, reliance on commodity exports, institutional weaknesses, corruption and poor political and economic leadership.
Based on these criteria, the number of emerging markets at risk extends well beyond Turkey and Argentina. Like Tolstoy’s families, each nation has different sources of unhappiness.
Total emerging-market borrowing increased from $21 trillion (or 145 percent of GDP) in 2007 to $63 trillion (210 percent of GDP) in 2017. Borrowings by non-financial corporations and households have jumped. Since 2007, the foreign-currency debt — in dollars, euros and yen — of these countries doubled to around $9 trillion. China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Africa, Mexico, Chile, Brazil and some Eastern European countries have foreign-currency debt between 20 percent and 50 percent of GDP.
In all, EM borrowers need to repay or refinance around $1.5 trillion in debt in 2019 and again in 2020. Many are not earning enough to meet these commitments.
Turkey and Argentina have twin deficits (combined budget and current-account gaps as a percentage of GDP) of 8.7 percent and 10.4 percent, respectively, that require financing. Pakistan has a twin deficit well above 10 percent. Brazil, India, Indonesia, South Africa and Ukraine are at or above 5 percent on that basis. In India, if state governments are included the number approaches double figures. Those gauges are rising in China, Malaysia, Mexico, Colombia, Chile and Poland.
Then look at reserve coverage — foreign-exchange holdings divided by 12-month funding needs for the current account, short-term debt maturities and amortization of long-term debt — which measures the capacity to meet immediate foreign-currency obligations. Turkey and Argentina score 0.4 and 0.6 respectively, meaning they can’t cover their needs without new borrowings. Pakistan, Ecuador, Poland, Indonesia, Malaysia and South Africa have reserve coverage of less than 1. Chile, Hungary, Colombia, Mexico and India have coverage of less than 2. Brazil and China come in at 2.5 and 3.1 times, respectively. Even where reserve coverage appears adequate, caution is warranted. Long-term debt becomes short-term with the passage of time or an acceleration event. Forex holdings may not be readily accessible. Much of China’s $3 trillion of reserves is committed to the Belt and Road infrastructure initiative. The ability to turn US Treasury bonds and other foreign assets into cash is limited by liquidity, price and currency effects. Reserve positions are notoriously opaque: In 1997, the Bank of Thailand was found to have grossly overstated available currency holdings.
China and India face well-documented difficulties in their financial systems. The true level of Chinese non-performing loans may be several times the official 1.75 percent. India’s NPL ratio is around 10 percent of all loans.
Events in Turkey and Argentina show how these weaknesses become exposed. Global liquidity tightening, led by the US Federal Reserve increasing rates and unwinding its bond purchases, reduces capital inflows and increases the cost of borrowing. Trade tensions, sanctions, the breakdown of the global institutional structure and rising geopolitical risks exacerbate those stresses.
Weaknesses in the real economy and the financial system feed each other in a vicious cycle. Capital withdrawals undermine currencies, driving down prices of assets such as bonds, stocks and property. The reduced availability of finance and higher funding costs add to pressure on overextended borrowers, triggering banking problems that feed back into the economy. Credit rating and investment downgrades extend the cycle.
Policy responses can make things worse. Higher interest rates to prop up currencies (60 percent in Argentina) may be ineffective. They reduce growth and aggravate the debt burden. Weaker currencies import inflation. Supporting the financial system and the economy pressures government finances. IMF remedies, which aren’t always effective, impose financial and human costs that many nations find unacceptable, prompting political and social breakdown. And the IMF’s capacity to assist may be constrained by concurrent crises.
Investors are assuming that critical vulnerabilities have been addressed. Important changes made after the 1997 Asian crisis created different risks, however. Floating exchange rates and unrestricted foreign-exchange movement increase currency volatility and allow capital flight. While local-currency debt has increased, unhedged foreign-currency debt remains significant. Higher returns on local-currency debt attracted foreign investors to India, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa and Eastern Europe. But weakening currencies may drive them to exit, hurting all assets.
Turkey and Argentina may be special cases. But given the fundamental problems, other emerging markets are likely to come under pressure. As Herbert Stein’s 1976 law states: “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.”

Stop Obsessing About Countries’ Reliance on Foreign Financing
Stephen Mihm/Bloomberg/September 16/18
As a growing number of emerging markets teeter on the brink of crisis, we’re hearing more and more about “original sin.”
No, this isn’t about Adam and Eve’s transgressions. The concept, coined by economists Barry Eichengreen and Ricardo Hausmann, refers to the inability of most nations — and their corporations — to borrow abroad in their own currency. Instead, they necessarily borrow in other currencies.
Turkey, for example, has accumulated significant debts denominated in dollars. As the lira collapses relative to the dollar, those debts become harder to pay, fueling a crisis and encouraging investors to flee, making a bad situation even worse.
On a superficial level, the degree to which a country exhibits original sin offers an appealing way to predict which economies are most vulnerable to crisis. After all, if a country relies on debt denominated in another country’s currency, it is necessarily vulnerable to collapse because of fluctuations in the exchange rate. This conventional wisdom comes with a corollary. It holds that countries that exhibit high levels of original sin — in other words, are particularly reliant on foreign financing of long-term loans — must have some history of financial recklessness and instability that left them in this unenviable position. Heavy reliance on foreign financing suggests a history of trouble and a higher likelihood of future problems.
But history doesn’t really support this view. As two economic historians who studied the long history of original sin concluded, reliance on foreign financing of long-term debt does not in itself predict much of anything when it comes to the likelihood a country will sustain a financial crisis.
Prior to 1914, for example, many countries relied heavily on debt denominated in foreign currencies, or debt that contained a “gold clause” that effectively prevented borrowers from monetizing their debt. These countries, though ostensibly similar in terms of their reliance on foreign debt, did not necessarily end up in trouble. In this particular study, for example, the researchers found that some countries with exceedingly high levels of original sin — the United States, for example, as well as South Africa, Norway, Finland, Uruguay and other countries — actually sustained far fewer crises than countries with lower levels of original sin: Argentina and Russia and other countries that the researchers delicately described as having “rotten fiscal institutions and poor international track records.”
In this early period, then, original sin did not really correlate with the likelihood of crises. But that was then. What about more recently? A separate survey in this same article that assessed levels of original sin in the 1990s offered a different but equally counterintuitive finding.
Here, countries with a troubled history had the same levels of original sin as countries with a sterling track record of repayment. Like the finding for the earlier era, this suggested that high levels of original sin had little to do with the likelihood of crises.
Conversely, low levels of original sin have not correlated with better performance, either. Separate studies have found emerging markets at the end of the 19th century — Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Italy and others — that managed to borrow heavily in international markets in their own currencies yet then defaulted.Likewise, a separate study found that reliance on borrowing in other countries’ currencies has little correlation with a history of capital controls, lax monetary policy, problems with fiscal solvency, inflation levels and other hallmarks of trouble. The only variable that seems to be positively correlated with original sin is the size of the country: Smaller economies have higher levels of foreign borrowing. That’s it. What does this all mean? History suggests that even if the current crisis in emerging markets plays out in the currency mismatches that come with borrowing abroad, this is a symptom, not an underlying cause. (Indeed, a sweeping study of sovereign debt found that the actual currency in which the debt is denominated does not seem to bear any relation to the likelihood of default.)
Instead, investors should pay far more attention to other problems afflicting these countries rather than reliance on foreign financing. No less importantly, low levels of foreign debt should not be construed as evidence of a low-risk environment. As one paper on the topic has noted, “minimizing foreign currency financing is not a sufficient condition to eliminate financial crises.” All of which is to say that investors should resist the understandable temptation to view foreign-denominated debt as a problem unto itself. It’s not — and never has been.

Putin the puppeteer is pulling the strings of troika counterparts ahead of the battle for Idlib
Raghida Dergham/The National/September 16/18
Russia is determined to see through the battle of Idlib at any cost as the crowning of its role in Syria’s future.
If it is true that the US Treasury Department is resisting Donald Trump’s Iran strategy by ignoring his demands for further action against the regime in Tehran, this could indicate that the holes in the US president’s policy go beyond sanctions, in a way that could affect both Washington and Tehran’s decisions. The implications are not restricted to Iran either but affect the great power game taking place in Syria and Iraq. They affect US-Russian relations, currently walking a tightrope of secret accords and mutual suspicion, especially with regard to the looming offensive in Idlib and Moscow’s relations with both Iran and Turkey.Russia is determined to see through the battle of Idlib at any cost, as the crowning of its role in Syria’s future, while also neutralising Turkey’s influence and curbing Iran’s appetite.
This is to some extent compatible with US objectives. Indeed, the Trump administration wants to head off Turkey’s role in Syria, albeit for different reasons. However, the administration is unconvinced Russia is serious about containing Iran, although it believes Moscow’s oil interests demand reining in Tehran’s ambitions in Syria. Where the US and Russia diverge primarily is the sphere of influence in Syria and the issue of its reconstruction.
While Moscow might not mind a limited containment of its partners in the Astana process, Washington wants to disentangle the triptych and strip Russia of its control of all the cards in Syria. What is more, Washington wants Turkey’s leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan – who is meeting Mr Putin tomorrow in Sochi –to reconsider his Syrian forays and Russian ventures and return to the fold of Nato. Meanwhile, Mr Trump wants to cripple Iran economically to force it to reconsider its regional and domestic policies and renegotiate the nuclear deal.
On this, if US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is one of those who believe their patriotic duty is to ignore their boss’s orders, there will be a fundamental flaw in US foreign policy. There are two outcomes here: either the anti-Trump “resistance” succeeds in sidelining the presidency by forcibly rectifying the president’s policies or the president and his faction move to suppress that dangerous mutiny. Either way, there are huge risks. According to the Washington Post, Mr Mnuchin and others in the treasury are resisting Mr Trump’s bid to pressure Iran using Swift, the system that clears international financial transactions. The president had asked the treasury to present options for sanctions using Swift to pressure Iranian banks but two months on, the report has yet to materialise, delaying the president’s ability to make a decision. The alleged reason behind the treasury’s prevarication is that Mr Mnuchin is concerned for the implications for US-European relations, already strained by the proposed additional November sanctions. Officials opposed to the treasury’s actions underscore the effect of banning Iranian banks from Swift in restricting Tehran’s ability to finance the regime in Damascus, Hamas, Hezbollah and other militias in the region and beyond. On that note, Russian sources say Hezbollah and Hamas have recently held meetings in Lebanon to co-ordinate their future strategies. One outcome of the meeting is said to be an agreement on using double strikes – or simultaneous attacks – against US interests. The sources suggest preparation would take place later this month.
In Syria, military developments move apace. Sources say the Idlib offensive is expected to launch two weeks after the Russian-Iranian-Turkish summit in Tehran, following an agreement reached between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar Al Assad. Russia would supply the air cover needed for the attack. However, the US has signalled its opposition to a major operation that could trigger a humanitarian disaster so for now, a “cleansing” mission would proceed with military operations against groups designated as terrorist organisations. This only leaves one problem, according to sources: the reaction of the Turkish president. The sources predict Mr Putin would seek to appease Mr Erdogan though sweeteners that address his concerns but do not reveal the exact nature of what they would be.
The Russian president is carefully pulling the strings connecting his troika counterparts on the eve of the crucial battle for Idlib. The Trump administration has issued warnings and vowed to respond if the regime deploys chemical weapons in the offensive. But fundamentally, Washington does not want Russia to turn US and international endorsement of de-escalation zones in Syria into consent for Moscow’s strategy to neutralise the Syrian opposition, consolidate power for Mr Al Assad and monopolise future reconstruction contracts.
Nearly two weeks ago, the Trump administration signalled it would keep its forces in Syria indefinitely. The message that sends out is that a Russian monopoly is unacceptable and the time has come to dismantle the troika. The Trump administration wants a reset in Syria that would allow it to become one of the guarantors of its future. Washington is making its move as Mr Trump sets out to participate in the UN General Assembly session next week, where he will address the Security Council. The Americans want to reinstate UN Security Council Resolution 2254 as the reference point for Syria rather than the Astana process, to remove Iran and force Mr Al Assad to reconsider his alliance with the Iranians, if he wants to remain in power in the coming period.
The US is raising issues of the constitution, elections and the distribution of powers between the Syrian president and prime minister in the coming phase and has hinted at using pressure tactics such as blocking support for reconstruction in Assad-controlled areas and prosecuting the regime for war crimes.
Mr Al Assad has become a sought-after point man for the major players in Syria but he is also on warning.The Russians are cautioning him not to even think he can operate outside their radar. The Iranians want him to think carefully before daring to dispense with them and turn his back on Iran’s role in helping him remain in power. And the Americans want him to understand he is not an absolute victor who can act with impunity in Syria and Lebanon, and that his wings have been trimmed irrevocably. As for Turkey, it finds itself in an unenviable position, thanks to its arrogant president. Russia is in the process of a major containment of Turkey following the battle for Idlib and is under US sanctions. All this carries the risk of serious domestic ramifications for Mr Erdogan, with a heavy wind blowing from Syria.

Political mainstream has to fight back in war against fascism
Baria Alamuddin/Arab News/September 16/18
In these divisive times, it has become rare to see collective displays of European unity; a reassertion of the bloc’s core values of tolerance, human rights and the rule of law. It was thus cause for celebration last week when a two-thirds majority of MEPs supported a motion that Viktor Orban’s regime in Hungary posed a “systemic threat” to the EU’s democratic model, paving the way for sanctionary measures. Nevertheless, the 197 MEPs who opposed this motion are a warning sign of how xenophobic populists have transformed themselves from a contemptible minority to a continent-straddling insurgent force.
Orban stands accused of corruption, repression of migrants and undermining the rule of law. Measures against Hungary’s civil society, oppositionists and the media pave the way toward single-party statehood. Comparable measures in Poland for dominating the Supreme Court render the judiciary beholden to its authoritarian masters. Italy, Austria, France, Denmark and elsewhere are similarly blighted by a resurgent far right, with scarcely-disguised encouragement from Moscow. Meanwhile, racist violence in Germany is a stark reminder of fascism’s ugly face.
Democratic Europe breathed a sigh of relief last week when the anti-refugee Sweden Democrats only gained 17.5 percent of the vote in the Swedish elections, despite fears that it could outperform the mainstream parties. The integration of refugees was a dominant issue when I chaired the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s 2016 security conference and I was impressed by the refreshingly enlightened desire of politicians and citizens alike to facilitate the absorption of Syrians and Iraqis into Swedish society. If the extreme right can win 17.5 percent of the vote in moderate, tolerant Sweden, then God help the rest of Europe. Having proved too treacherous and self-serving even for Donald Trump, the loathsome fascist demagogue Steve Bannon has embarked on a neverending road-trip to unite Europe’s disparate extreme right. If these transnational forces of evil act collectively through EU institutions, neo-Nazis could wield greater international influence than at any moment since World War II. America, with its complex federal system, has a long way to go before becoming an authoritarian state; yet the Trump administration’s war against the media, gerrymandering of state boundaries, obstacles to minorities’ voting rights, and demagogic governance style fly in the face of the US Constitution’s inspiring aspirations.
Last week we marked 25 years of the Oslo Accords. This historic breakthrough was trampled underfoot by the inexorable rise of the Zionist far right and the implosion of Israel’s political center ground. Instead of being challenged by a resurgent left wing, Israel’s far right was outflanked and hijacked by a messianic extreme right, which gleefully hacked to pieces any remaining hopes for Oslo’s enlightened vision of two sovereign states living peacefully side by side.
Political mainstream must rise to the challenge and define its strategy in this war against anti-liberal authoritarianism, while winning back disaffected communities vulnerable to far-right incitement.
During the EU vote on Hungary, the UK’s Conservative Party MEPs disgustingly held their noses and voted on Orban’s behalf. As one Tory politician explained: “We are going to gain brownie points with people who might be able to help us in the Brexit negotiations.” This demonstrates how Brexit necessitates Britain’s surrender of the moral high ground on the world stage. The EU has collectively faced down autocrats in Russia, China, Israel, Iran and Turkey over human rights abuses. When the EU stands determinedly together, it is difficult for bullying authoritarian states to take retaliatory measures against individual European nations.
As Britain attempts to go it alone, the land of the Magna Carta and the cradle of parliamentary democracy finds itself groveling and scraping before tinpot dictators to win trade deals, appease egos and avoid disfavor. A populist knee-jerk referendum vote for supposedly reasserting sovereignty has surrendered the UK’s international relevance as a core European state, leaving the British Isles fading into humiliating dotage as a declining backwater. As former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown warned last week, such insular, populist tendencies undermine the world’s ability to muster a collective response to severe economic crises, humanitarian threats or genocide. The US’ escalating trade war against friends and foes alike also exemplifies how populist leaders are resorting to petty, spiteful and counterproductive measures that ultimately punish their own most fervent supporters. The Hungary vote may give MEPs a sense of righteous vindication, yet Orban and his cronies will become even more trenchant in mobilizing supporters against “liberal European elites.” The last time European parliamentary democracy collapsed heralded the ascendance of Nazism, a world ripped apart by war and the senseless slaughter of millions in industrial-scale extermination camps. If this Pandora’s box of hatred, prejudice and violence is unleashed again, should we expect the consequences to be fundamentally different a second time around?
Why is it only the ultranationalists who are mobilized and organized, with the likes of Bannon and Nigel Farage contributing their malevolent talents to subverting the mainstream? Why is it only populist propagandists who are tapping into the frustrations of ordinary citizens? Liberals appear so transfixed by the Mueller inquiry and Trump’s Twitter feed that they miss the bigger picture of how the world is being deluged by an authoritarian tidal wave, exemplified by Vladimir Putin, Orban, Xi Jinping, Ali Khamenei and Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
It is axiomatic to the liberal world view that mankind collectively benefits by working together to address global challenges. Compare this with fascism’s nihilistic ideology that diametrically opposed civilizations are fated to fight to the death. How could such a narrative ever be considered populist?
The malign disease of fascism sets communities against each other, infiltrates and subverts institutions of state, and erodes the very foundations of democracy. The political mainstream must rise to the challenge and define its strategy in this war against anti-liberal authoritarianism, while winning back disaffected communities vulnerable to far-right incitement. If they fail to vigorously block these extremists at every turn and mobilize the world behind an optimistic, progressive world view, then the political center ground will find itself brutally swept aside and banished to the margins, as the train of human progress thunders off its rails and plunges into hell.
*Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed numerous heads of state.

Erdogan hopes to pressure Putin into delaying Idlib offensive

Maria Dubovikova/Arab News/September 16/18
Following the failure of the tripartite meeting in Tehran involving the Iranian, Turkish and Russian leaders, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan will head on Monday to Sochi to meet Russia’s Vladimir Putin in a bid to convince him to postpone the attack on Idlib for three to four weeks. He wants the time to take the necessary steps to neutralize the terrorist groups using the province as a shelter. When the meeting in Tehran resulted in misunderstandings and a lack of cooperation regarding the upcoming battle in Idlib, Putin gave the order that there must no leniency with terrorists in the province and that he will not allow any of them into Russia. Though preparations for Erdogan’s visit to Russia are on, Turkish forces have deployed tanks in the eastern suburbs of Idlib city for the first time since Syrian forces started massing reinforcements nearby. According to the latest reports, tanks and soldiers with heavy machinery and artillery crossed the Turkish border and entered Idlib.
The Erdogan-Putin meeting will focus mainly on the latest developments in Syria, as Ankara seeks a cease-fire in Idlib, while Russia regards an escalation as the only way to liquidate armed opposition factions. Turkey, which provides support to some opposition groups in Syria, fears a large-scale attack on Idlib close to its border, which could lead to more refugees flowing into its territory, adding to the burden on its troubled economy and weakening the Turkish position in the settlement of the Syrian conflict. It has to be noted that Erdogan stands on very shaky ground on the world stage and is swinging between the rival camps of Russia and the West. He has long-term ambitions he is seeking to implement, playing on the differences between the camps and making contradictory statements. He does not want to let relations with either side deteriorate to conflict level as this would not be in Ankara’s interests. At the same time, Erdogan feels that he is being targeted by his old Western allies, including the US, and he does not want to anger Putin, who he believes would help bail his country out if targeted by a Western plot.
Turkey, which provides support to some opposition groups in Syria, fears a large-scale attack on Idlib close to its border, which could lead to more refugees flowing into its territory.
The West has warned Russia and the Assad regime against proceeding with a direct assault on Idlib. Previously the threats were only that they would take action in the case of a chemical attack, but now any military action may be followed by a response from the Western powers. Erdogan will definitely play this card and attempt to persuade Putin to wait before taking the final decision to allow Turkey more time to separate the terrorists from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) it supports. Erdogan in this sense will play a role as peacekeeper and mediator in the eyes of the West, as he is trying to stop Putin from sparking further violence and bloodshed in Syria. Initially Turkey was not opposed to any military action against the militants in Idlib, but Ankara is now seeking a means to defuse the tensions temporarily and to neutralize as many terrorists as possible in order to avoid any refugee influx and to save the FSA and its own positions. Erdogan hopes to convince Putin that such terrorists would then be closer to Russia and this would not be in Moscow’s favor. However, it is unlikely that the Kremlin will yield to international pressure, regardless of who is making the call to think twice.
Damascus and Tehran are also putting pressure on Russia over its interests in Syria as they want to control all the territory in the country themselves, depriving the Western players of any leverage on the settlement of the Syrian issue.
Syria and Iran are looking to crash the last stronghold of the opposition, hoping that any wins will be more significant than any risks and losses. But they are underestimating the probable response of the West, which might be catastrophic for all their gains and for Russia and its interests as well. Nevertheless, sources in Moscow believe that the Idlib operation will not start before Oct. 10, and Erdogan will not be capable of preventing it. *Maria Dubovikova is a prominent political commentator, researcher and expert on Middle East affairs. She is president of the Moscow-based International Middle Eastern Studies Club (IMESClub). Twitter: @politblogme

Dancing our way to multifaith peace

Philip Rosenberg/Al Arabiya/September 16/18
So few, in fact, that when I attended the 7th World Peace Forum on behalf of the World Jewish Congress alongside Rabbi David Rosen from the American Jewish Committee, the two of us represented an immediate 1% increase in the Jewish population. Estimates are that Indonesia’s Jewish community numbers around 200, or less than 0.000001% of the total 261 million majority-Muslim population of the country. Indonesia’s constitution envisages a secular country, but its law requires the identity card of every citizen to list them as being a member of one of six religions: Islam, Protestant Christianity, Catholic Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism or Confucianism. Judaism is not an option. The country’s Jews must either proclaim themselves to be part of another faith or, after a court ruling in 2017, enter, ‘believers of the faith’.
Hope for the future
Regrettably, the small, Jewish population is required to operate discreetly out of fear of hostility. What was for a long time the only purpose-built synagogue in the country often attracted protests and was forced closed by extremists. There are different views about wearing a kippah – Jewish religious headwear – in public. Some have experienced overt hostility whereas others have had no problem. The basis for this tension is often the unfair projection on to all Jews of political frustrations with Israel’s government, which is as unjust as blaming all Muslims or Arabs for the actions of specific governments or movements within the Islamic world.
Imagine a world in which people actively seek out friendships with people who are different from them
But all this notwithstanding, the World Peace Forum’s decision to invite Jewish representatives was an encouraging sign that can give us all hope for the future. The conference’s theme of the ‘Middle Path’ – Al-Wasatiyyah – of moderate Islamic thinking, combined with Indonesia’s national philosophy of Pancasila (‘five principles’) which includes unity and social justice, is a good basis for constructive conversations. Furthermore, I have long been impressed by the fact that alongside being the world’s largest Muslim country, Indonesia is also the world’s third largest democracy (after India and the USA).
I was very glad I took part in the conference. First-hand contact is an important starting point for relationship and peace-building. Attending the Jakarta event enabled ample opportunity to engage in wider conversations or challenge assumptions. On a more basic level, there is something powerful to being the ‘first’ Jew that many people had ever met. My home city of London is a very global place, where relationships and friendships between people of very different backgrounds are normal rather than novel. However, this is not true everywhere in the world. Many societies are mono-cultural in fact, or at least in practice. I felt like I had temporarily become a minor celebrity, with dozens of people from across Islamic world wanting to take photos and selfies with me in my Kippa. It caused a positive stir when a Hijab-wearing female leader from one of Indonesia’s biggest Muslim organisations took my hand and we launched in to a spontaneous dance in front of all the delegates. Whilst conservative traditions in Islam and Judaism do not encourage mixed dancing between the genders, this harmless act made a point better than thousands of words or workshops could have done. Imagine a world in which people actively seek out friendships with people who are different from them, hear their side of the stories in conflict, learn empathy and practice moderation instead of extremism. All these things are easier said than they are done, but that does not take away from us all obligation to try.

Oslo Accords: A Silver Jubilee for false promises
Amir Taheri/Al Arabiya/September 16/18
Last Thursday marked the silver jubilee of an event that at the time it happened was hailed by some as a landmark in the use of diplomacy to achieve peace.
If you wonder what we are talking about, don’t worry. Few people remember the event and most of those who do pretend not to remember. We are talking of the so-called Oslo Accords shaped between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasser Arafat in secret negotiations in the Norwegian capital. At the time, the accord was marketed as the home-run to a solution of the “Palestinian problem” that had haunted the Middle East and generated much violence and many wars for decades. The excitement the “accord” created was so intense that a few weeks later it led to Nobel Peace Prizes for the trio that concocted it: Israeli leaders Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, and the PLO chief Arafat. Right from the start, however, the true nature of the “accord” was either kept partly secret or hyped beyond limits of diplomatic double-talk. The Palestinians and their supporters in the West claimed that “Oslo”, as the accord came to be known in shorthand, was a first step towards the creation of a Palestinian state. They chose to ignore Rabin’s repeated statements about a Palestinian “entity short of a state that will independently run the lives of the Palestinians under its control”.Even Peres, who got carried away into a romantic muddle of thinking that he and Arafat could create a “new Middle East” of peace and prosperity, a delusional version of Theodor Herzl’s “Altneuland” (New-Old Country), didn’t talk of a two-state solution. He excluded a purely Palestinian state; instead, he promoted a Jordanian-Palestinian state, an idea he tried to sell to Americans and Egyptians without success. Even if one does not believe that the Oslo Accords was still-born, it should be clear by now that the scheme is now all but dead.
There was also deception on the other side.
As early as 1988 at a press conference, Arafat had promised to recognize the right of Israel to exist as a state. After “Oslo”, however, he took no steps to transform that promise into political reality. To those who visited him after he had been installed as head of the Palestinian Authority, he played his old tune about a Palestine from “the river to the sea.”Arafat made it clear that he saw “Oslo” as a transient phase in a long-term campaign to eliminate Israel. When pressed, he would say he accepted the United Nations’ Security Council Resolution 224 which recommends talks between Israel and Arab neighbors to resolve their territorial disputes and make peace. At the time “Oslo” was unveiled some of us wondered about hidden reasons that produced it. The first reason that came to mind was that “Oslo” was designed to save Arafat from irrelevance. Arafat had lost much of his credibility with Arab and Islamic states first by siding with the mullahs of Tehran in 1979 and then by hanging to Saddam Hussein’s coat-tail during the invasion of Kuwait. Arafat was running short of money as his latest benefactor Saddam Hussein’s finances were squeezed as a result of sanctions imposed in 1991.
Shadowy figure
Without diplomatic support and without money, Arafat would be no more than a shadowy figure languishing in Tunisia. His downward slide had been accelerated by the Madrid Peace Conference in which “real Palestinians”, that is to say, people who lived in the West Bank and Gaza, fielded an alternative leadership that quickly won respect and admiration across the world. Unlike Arafat who was notorious for a career of violence, including attempts at destroying Jordan and plunging Lebanon into civil war, not to mention countless acts of terror in a dozen countries, the Palestinian delegation in Madrid established itself as a voice of reason and compassion. Haidar Abdul-Shafi, Hanan Ashrawi and Faisal al-Husseini, who had remained inside, did look like people who genuinely desired peace because they were directly affected in their personal lives.
Thus one undeclared aim of “Oslo” may have been to destroy the “Madrid” figures and re-impose Arafat’s hold on the Palestinian “cause.”Another reason may have been the failure of part of the Israeli leadership to consider the possibility of peace with Syria at a time that the US, having flushed Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, had established itself as the arbiter of things in the region. At the time one heard echoes of feelers put out by Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad who promised Israel peace not only with Syria but also with Lebanon which was under his occupation. There is evidence that Rabin was initially tempted by the Syrian feelers. However, it seems that some in the Israeli leadership felt that giving up even part of the Golan Heights was too risky while giving Arafat an office in the West Bank would keep him in a cage.
In choosing the path to “Oslo” the Israel leadership ignored a key lesson of the state’s founding father David Ben Gurion who insisted that the solution to the “Palestinian problem” had to start with peace with Arab neighbors. For without such peace, he argued, any Arab state could manipulate the Palestinians for its own ends.
“Oslo” not only did not envisage the creation of a Palestinian state but may have even postponed it sine die. It created a new status quo in which those with guns and money on the Palestinian side felt comfortable while the Israeli side could also avoid contemplating the longer-term prospects of an unstable situation.
Ironically, the two-state idea has morphed into a cliché, especially for anyone running out of ideas as to how to deal with what Tony Blair once described as “the most difficult problem in the world.” Since “Oslo”, with the exception of Rabin, all Israeli prime ministers, that is to say, Peres, Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu have endorsed the “two-state” formula. The official Palestinian side has been more ambiguous on the subject, and, in the case of Hamas, hostile to the idea. It was only during the premiership of Salam Fayad that the Palestinians Authority came close to genuinely adopting the two-state formula as the basis for its strategy. Even if one does not believe that “Oslo” was still-born, it should be clear by now that the scheme is now all but dead. A quarter of a century later, we are left with a status quo that, though far from ideal, seems stable and the flickering hope of a new deal brokered by the US. In both cases, contrary to common perceptions, it is the Palestinians, weak and divided though they are, who will have to make a choice.

Concessions from UN envoy Martin Griffiths and Houthi intransigence

Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi/Al Arabiya/September 16/18
Those who believe that ideologized groups seek the interests of their countries or are capable of finding political solutions are doomed to failure. Adopting “the policy of begging” with them only makes them more stubborn. This is exactly what has happened at the Geneva conference on Yemen a few days ago, where the legitimate government delegation attended the talks and waited, but the Houthis did not turn up and invented trivial excuses for not attending. This action proves how the Houthis disregard the UN and its special envoy to Yemen, Mr. Martin Griffiths who right after he announced that the Houthis will not attend, he added that he will go to Muscat and Sanaa to renegotiate with the Houthis. He did not even express his displeasure at the Houthi’s actions and did not reprimand them for not committing to the understanding which he had personally reached, as if it was given that the Houthis would let him down from the beginning. After Griffiths’ press conference, Yemeni Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani, also the head of the legitimate government delegation, held a press conference in which he spoke with unprecedented candor about the discontent expressed by the UN envoy behind closed doors concerning the truancy of the Houthi delegation and its illogical demands to get out some wounded Houthis along with trainers from the terrorist Lebanese Hezbollah from Yemen. This condition is out of the scope of the preparation for the Geneva conference. Thus Al-Yamani was angry and declared that Griffiths takes a contradictory position publicly and privately.
When politics fail in war, armies start to move in, and Yemen is not an exception. Thus the Yemeni army, the popular Resistance and the Coalition to support legitimacy have started to move again on all fronts that had witnessed calm in the past period in an attempt to pave the way for a political solution that everyone believes is the best solution. However, the Houthis are resisting a political solution in disregard of the challenges facing the Yemeni people in terms of poverty, hunger, epidemics and the plight of education in the areas they control.
The Houthis are resisting a political solution in disregard of the challenges facing the Yemenis in terms of poverty, hunger and epidemics.
Flaws in UN approach
The way the UN approaches the Yemeni crisis has plenty of flaws and its positon on the armed and terrorist Houthi militia that staged a coup is incomprehensible. Dealing with it, as if it is legitimate by any means is completely wrong. It is a terrorist and armed militia that has overtaken authority in some areas in Yemen that does not exceed 20%. Negotiating with it should be about disarming it, its exit from the areas it occupies and about renouncing violence and terrorism, but what is happening is exactly the opposite. When dealing with the Houthis in this way, the UN is committing a mistake. It is prolonging the armed conflict and delaying the liberation of Yemen from the terrorist militia. According to history and logic, such militias only understand the language of force and weapons, and they will not abandon any of their gains for political negotiations. This is what makes the real and actual solution dependent on the legitimate government, the Yemeni army and the Coalition to get the militia to accept the conditions of force; the force of rights and weapons. The noose is tightening on the Houthis as the table has turned against them. Time has become their main and fiercest enemy. This has been one of the legitimacy’s and the Coalition’s biggest successes in the past phase. All the givens on the ground indicate sequential defeats of the terrorist militias on all fronts, especially at the Hodeidah front which fully controlling all its crossing points towards the Houthis’ areas have become near.
The next military escalation will further subjugate the Houthis, weaken them and deepen their losses and defeats. It would not be easy for the Houthis to confront another wave of tight military confrontation. In the end, due to the mandate that governs the mission of special envoys in war, they usually do not succeed in solving crises. The Syrian and Yemeni crises are the best evidence to that.