Detailed Lebanese & Lebanese Related LCCC English New Bulletin For September 19/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations
Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town.
Luke 04/22-30: "All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’He said to them, ‘Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, "Doctor, cure yourself!" And you will say, "Do here also in your home town the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum." ’And he said, ‘Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town. But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up for three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.’ When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way."

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 18-19/18
Small Lebanese craft brewers introduce big new tastes in beer/Sam Brennan/Al Monitor September 18 2018
Assad killed Bashir Gemayel in 1982 and triggered Sabra and Shatila massacres to trap Israel and its Lebanese allies/Hameed Ghuriafi/New English Review/September 17/18
Revisiting Sabra and Chatila massacres: The Assad regime responsibility/Dr Franck Salameh/TPT Admin/January 05/2012
Putin Says Israel Didn't Down Russian Aircraft; Netanyahu Offers Condolences/Noa Landau, Yaniv Kubovich from Haaretz and Reuters September 18/18
Sweden: Anti-Immigration Party Becomes Kingmaker/Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/September 18/18
Mullah John Kerry/Mamdouh AlMuhaini/Al Arabiya/September 18/18
To those who did not live in the moment/Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/September 18/18
Closing down Palestinian embassy in Washington: End of the cause/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/September 18/18
Idlib bloodbath: The next step in information warfare/Dr. Azeem Ibrahim/Al Arabiya/September 18/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on September 18-19/18
U.S. Says Jet Downing Highlights Need to End Iran Transit of Arms to Hizbullah
Lebanon: United ‘Christian Front’ in the Works to Confront FPM’s Autocracy
Central Bank Governor: Lebanese Pound is Stable
Lebanon: 2 Families Abandon Decision to Return to Syria for Fear of Military Recruitment
Lebanon: Machnouk Refuses to OK 'Badreddine Street' in Ghobeiry
Lebanese Govt. Seeks to Solve Housing Loans Crisis to Promote Social Security
Aoun, Hariri to Start Trips Abroad
Hariri: Naming Street after Badreddine Very Essence of Sectarian Discord
Backlash after Ghobeiri Street Named after Badreddine
Report: Govt. Formation Paused, New Format Unlikely
Defense Questions al-Hassan's Absence when Hariri was Killed, Says Abu Adas was at Crime Scene
Police Arrest Drug Dealer, Indoor Marijuana Grower
Top Ain el-Hilweh Extremist in Army's Custody
EU Official Urges Consolidation of Pluralism and Equal Citizenship in Lebanon
Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel Deplores Ministers' Spiteful Actions
Small Lebanese craft brewers introduce big new tastes in beer
Assad killed Bashir Gemayel in 1982 and triggered Sabra and Shatila massacres to trap Israel and its Lebanese allies
Revisiting Sabra and Chatila massacres: The Assad regime responsibility

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on September 18-19/18
Putin Says Israel Not Guilty of Plane Downing in Syria, Calls Incident 'Accidental'
Israel Determined to Stop Iran in Syria, Netanyahu Tells Putin
U.N. Gives Cautious Backing to Turkey-Russia Deal on Idlib
Russian Military Aircraft Vanishes over Syria as France, Israel Strike Latakia Targets
US-Iranian Row at IAEA Meeting
Ahmedinejad Describes IRGC Intelligence Chief as ‘Psychologically Imbalanced’
15 Organizations Slam Arrest Campaign Against Basra Activists
Germany Reduces Military Personnel in Kurdistan
Adel Abdul Mahdi: Compromise Iraqi PM Candidate Supported by Sadr, Ameri
UN Envoy’s Efforts in Sanaa Stumble at Houthi Intransigence
Europe’s Bankers Are the Big Post-Lehman Losers
Trump Says No FBI Probe Needed on Supreme Court Pick
The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on September 18-19/18
U.S. Says Jet Downing Highlights Need to End Iran Transit of Arms to Hizbullah
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 18/18/U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday that the downing by Syria of a Russian warplane with 15 people on board underscored an urgent need to resolve the Syria conflict and "to end Iran's provocative transit of dangerous weapon systems through Syria, which are a threat to the region."According to Russian and Israeli forces, the Syrian regime accidentally shot down the Russian Ilyushin-20 surveillance plane off the Syria coast late Monday. It was the worst case of friendly fire between Moscow and Damascus since Russia's game-changing military intervention in September 2015. "The United States expresses sorrow for the death of the aircrew members of the Russian plane that was downed by Syrian regime anti-aircraft fire," Pompeo said in a statement. It "reminds us of the need to find permanent, peaceful, and political resolutions to the many overlapping conflicts in the region and the danger of tragic miscalculation in Syria's crowded theater of operations." Russian President Vladimir Putin said the shoot-down, using the Russian-made S-200 air defense system, was the result of "tragic accidental circumstances." Israel has expressed "sorrow" for the Russian deaths, but insisted the Russian plane had been felled by "extensive and inaccurate Syrian anti-aircraft (surface-to-air missile) fire."The deadly chain of events started when Israeli missiles struck the coastal region of Latakia on Monday. Israel confirmed that it had targeted a Syrian military facility where weapons manufacturing systems were "about to be transferred on behalf of Iran" to Lebanon's Hizbullah. The Russian military accused Israeli pilots of using "the Russian plane as a cover, exposing it to fire from Syrian air defenses," a charge Israel denied.
Lebanon: United ‘Christian Front’ in the Works to Confront FPM’s Autocracy
Beirut - Youssef Diab/Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 18 September, 2018/The cabinet formation deadlock in Lebanon entered on Monday is highlighting lingering political disputes among rival Christian political forces, which have been targeted by the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and its leader, caretaker Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil. Various rival Christian parties, such as the Kataeb, Lebanese Forces (LF) and Marada, headed by Suleiman Franjieh, are being made to fight FPM attempts to exclude them from power. Efforts have therefore been underway between them to set aside their disputes and unite to fend off the FPM’s campaign against them. As a result, the rivals have found themselves agreeing on several political issues. Meetings kicked off in this regard between leaders of the Kataeb and Marada and also between the latter and the LF. But despite their entente, their efforts to form a “political front” to confront the FPM’s autocracy, remain insufficient. The FPM is currently adopting a policy of exclusion where it alone wants to monopolize power, leading Kataeb member and former MP Elie Marouni told Asharq Al-Awsat. He said such policy would lead to a one-party rule and is an attempt to remove other Christian forces from the political scene. Kataeb and Marada leaders and officials have made several efforts to improve their relationship. Kataeb MP Nadim Gemayel recently visited the northern city of Ehden and placed a wreath on the tomb of late minister and deputy Tony Franjieh, the father of Suleiman Franjieh. “The situation requires strong solidarity in the Christian camp,” Marouni said, adding that Christians in general are frustrated. “If you do not belong to the Movement of Jebran Bassil, then you cannot acquire any public position,” he said. Bassil continues to oppose granting any substantial share to other Christian parties in the next cabinet, particularly the LF, which has found itself edging closer to the Marada, its historic political opponent. LF media officer Charles Jabbour told Asharq Al-Awsat, however, that he rules out the establishment of a political framework capable of confronting Bassil. The FPM leader is not only at odds with Christian parties, but the majority of Muslim powers, including Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri and Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat, he added. If he continues with this approach, then he will end up leading himself and his movement towards national isolation, Jabbour said.

Central Bank Governor: Lebanese Pound is Stable
Beirut/Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 18 September, 2018/Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh said that Lebanon’s pound was stable, underlining the need for Arab countries to further stimulate the pace of economic growth, by adopting economic reforms and directing their policies towards investing in human capital and supporting research, innovation and knowledge. Speaking at a meeting of the 42nd Ordinary Session of the Governors of Central Banks and Arab Monetary Institutions held in Amman, Jordan, Salameh emphasized the need for Arab financial institutions and companies to conduct a comprehensive assessment of their current status and the changes to be implemented in order to ensure compliance and to avoid any reputational risks and huge sanctions imposed in case of violation. He noted in this regard the presence of different legal frameworks for data protection and privacy among countries of the Middle East, which require those countries to adopt new legal and practical arrangements to ensure compliance with the provisions of the new law. Salameh revealed that a circular has been issued in this regard, which ensures that banks and financial institutions in Lebanon will abide by procedures and measures in accordance with the provisions of the law, especially in terms of the appointment of a personal data protection officer and a representative to the European Union.

Lebanon: 2 Families Abandon Decision to Return to Syria for Fear of Military Recruitment
Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 18 September, 2018/Eleven Syrian refugees went back on their decision to return to their homeland from Lebanon on Monday, after they received information that some of their names were registered at the Jdeideit Yabous border crossing, where Syrian authorities will immediately arrest them to join the military service. A group of around 50 refugees, mainly women and children, gathered in a state-run school in Nabatiyeh, where they were received by officers and members of the General Security amid security measures by the army in the vicinity of the school. They were to be transported by Syrian buses into the Syrian territory. However, upon the arrival of the buses, 11 people declined to return. According to the Central News Agency, only 39 refugees leaving Nabatiyeh departed on Sunday. Two families refrained from joining the returnees, according to the agency, which said that some young men had been informed, after registering with Hezbollah offices, that the Syrian authorities would give them a period of six months to join the army. Moreover, they learned on Monday morning that their names were registered by officials at the border, and that Syrian authorities will arrest them immediately upon arrival in their homeland. Meanwhile, the first batch of refugees to leave the coastal city of Tyre, comprised of 110 persons, left Lebanon through the Masnaa border crossing in two buses. From Beirut, 178 people left the Sports City area - the first batch of voluntary returnees from the Lebanese capital - under the direction of Laura Almirall, the head of the UNHCR Mount Lebanon Field Office. Four Syrian buses took them to the Masnaa border crossing and then to Syria, to the province of Aleppo. In Tripoli, the third batch of refugees returned voluntarily on Monday to their homeland. Women and children gathered at the Rashid Karami International Fair to get on board buses that took them to Syria in the morning hours. They were accompanied by general security agents who supervised their registration and organized their safe return trip.

Lebanon: Machnouk Refuses to OK 'Badreddine Street' in Ghobeiry

Beirut/Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 18 September, 2018/Interior Minister in the caretaker government Nohad al-Mashnouk denied, on Monday having allowed the municipality of Ghobeiry in Mount Lebanon to name a street in the locality after Mustafa Badreddine. “I have not signed any decree allowing Ghobeiry municipality to name a street after Mustafa Badreddine, a key accused of the assassination of Rafik al-Hariri before the Special Tribunal for Lebanon,” Mashnouk said. “I do not approve such denomination; therefore, the decision of Ghobeiry municipality is rejected by the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities,” he added. Social networking sites reported on Monday that the caretaker interior minister had granted a year ago the municipality of Ghobeiry the permission to name a street after Mustafa Badreddine, a senior Hezbollah leader who was killed in Damascus in May 2016. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) accuses Badreddine of involvement in the assassination of Hariri in 2005. “Refusing to sign this decision does not mean any implicit approval,” Machnouk stressed. He noted in this regard that the ministry would send a letter to the municipality of Ghobeiry to ask for the removal of the street signs bearing Badreddine’s name. The municipality of Ghobeiry falls under the province of Mount Lebanon and located south of Beirut.

Lebanese Govt. Seeks to Solve Housing Loans Crisis to Promote Social Security
Beirut - Nazeer Rida/Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 18 September, 2018/Lebanon has put forward a set of proposals to deal with the housing loans crisis, through the ministry of finance and the central bank (BDL), in an attempt to contain the growing problem that would threaten the country’s social security should it persist. Well-informed Lebanese sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the BDL will issue a support package to revitalize the economy in the 2019 fiscal year, which would include a portion dedicated to support housing loans. Last week, the ministry of finance began working to resolve the crisis of housing loans, which have been frozen since March following the depletion of the support package provided by the BDL. Sixty percent of the package was earmarked for these loans. BDL was using the funds to support low-interest housing loans offered to limited income families. In a recent statement, Minister of Finance Ali Hassan Khalil reiterated his ministry’s approval to support subsidized housing loans, adding that the relevant legal mechanisms were being prepared and would be ready in a very short period of time. A few days later, deputies from the Strong Republic parliamentary bloc submitted to Speaker Nabih Berri a draft-law to finance subsidized housing loans, “given the severe damage caused by the halting of loans to a large segment of the Lebanese society.” The draft-law called for finding sources to subsidize the interest rate on housing loans offered by Lebanon’s Public Corporation for Housing (PCH), identify the beneficiaries and activate control on the application of conditions of use. However, the crisis is not limited to the suspension of housing loans, as the housing policy as a whole must be treated. Minister of State for Planning Affairs Michel Pharaon told Asharq Al-Awsat that the current crisis, which must be resolved, will not end the problems that emerged in wake of the absence of proper planning of the housing policy as a whole. He emphasized the lack of adequate planning resulting from the absence of a comprehensive policy, noting that the public sector has not coordinated enough with banks, the central bank and some ministries. Pharaon revealed that the current crisis affected many economic fields, “since the construction sector operates 34 associated sectors, which necessitates a solution to the housing loans crisis.”

Aoun, Hariri to Start Trips Abroad
Naharnet/September 18/18/President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri prepare to kick off separate trips abroad as the delay in forming a new government persists.
Aoun is expected to travel to New York to take part in the UN General Assembly next week, said al-Joumhouria daily on Tuesday. Hariri’s trip to France comes one day after the French Ambassador to Lebanon Bruno Foucher held series of meeting with Lebanese officials.
He announced that French President Emmanuel Macron is scheduled to visit Lebanon in February. Early in September, Hariri presented a government format to President Michel Aoun which "failed" to meet approval.

Hariri: Naming Street after Badreddine Very Essence of Sectarian Discord
Naharnet/September 18/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri on Tuesday described a decision by Ghobeiri Municipality to name a street after slain Hizbullah commander Mustafa Badreddine as “the very essence of sectarian discord.” Badreddine has been accused by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon of being the mastermind of the 2005 attack that killed ex-PM Rafik Hariri, Saad's father. The Hizbullah commander was killed by rebel shelling in Syria in 2016 according to Hizbullah officials. “This is regrettable and when we sought justice we were speaking of stability, but someone does not want stability but rather to take the country into another situation that they will be held responsible for,” Hariri added in a chat with reporters ahead of the weekly meeting of al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc. Caretaker Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq has ordered the removal of the controversial street signs in Ghobeiri, stressing that the ministry has not given a permission to the municipality to name the street after Badreddine. Turning to the stalled Cabinet formation process, Hariri said: “I support any powers stipulated by the Constitution and the biggest mistake against the presidential tenure and the country is delaying the formation of the government. The presidential tenure can be triumphant through achievements, not through a ministerial share or a minister here or there.”“There is nothing new regarding the government this week,” Hariri added, noting that “the problem is not only about the Lebanese Forces or the Progressive Socialist Party but also about the Marada Movement.”“The solution is easy if we really want it,” the PM-designate went on to say, pointing out that the government delay is “100% Lebanese.”“The parties should show modesty and (FPM chief MP) Jebran Bassil's labeling of the public works minister as incompetent is shameful,” Hariri added. Asked about Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi's call for a “neutral government,” the PM-designate said: “If we are not able to make the country neutral, how are we supposed to form a neutral government?”

Backlash after Ghobeiri Street Named after Badreddine
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 18/18/Politics is playing out in a street of Beirut's southern suburbs, with the naming of a road after a Hizbullah commander accused of masterminding the assassination of ex-prime minister Rafik Hariri. The backlash comes just days after the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, a U.N.-backed court investigating the 2005 car bomb that killed Hariri and 22 others, began hearing closing arguments. The municipality of Ghobeiri, south of Beirut, recently renamed a street leading up to the Rafik Hariri National Hospital after one of his accused assassins. Photographs spread across social media this week depicting "the Martyr Mustafa Baddredine Street," in honor of a leading member of Hizbullah who was killed fighting in Syria in 2016. Badreddine is believed to be the alleged mastermind of the blast that killed Hariri, and was indicted by the tribunal but never tried. Reacting to the street name, Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, Rafik's son, said Tuesday: "This is civil strife, par excellence, at a time when we're talking about eliminating discord."
Ghobeiri lies in the southern Beirut suburb of Dahiyeh, where support for Hizbullah is strong.
The Ghobeiri municipality says it submitted a request to the interior ministry one year ago to rename the street as is required by law, but that the lack of a response from the ministry within a month indicated tacit approval. It insists its decision was "legal, normal, and legitimate."
The interior ministry announced on Monday it rejected the municipality honoring "one of the main people accused" of killing Hariri. It said it would demand the street signs be removed. They were still up on Tuesday, according to an AFP photographer. Backers of Hizbullah were posting on Twitter in support of the Ghobeiri municipality, with the Arabic hashtag "Badreddine, even your name terrorizes them." Opponents said the move was a "provocation," 13 years after Hariri's assassination. "This is just throwing salt on the wound," one user said. Saad Hariri was reappointed prime minister in May for a third term, but has failed so far to pull together a cabinet of ministers. Despite prosecutors pointing the finger at Hizbullah for his father's killing, Hariri has repeatedly insisted that Lebanon's interest lies in consensus, not conflict. Hizbullah has denied involvement in Rafik's assassination and has slammed the Special Tribunal for Lebanon as illegitimate.

Report: Govt. Formation Paused, New Format Unlikely
Naharnet/September 18/18/Negotiations to end the government stalemate are “blocked” and reports claiming that a new government formula is being prepared to replace the one presented by the PM-designate Saad Hariri to President Michel Aoun early in September are “untrue,” al-Joumhouria daily reported on Tuesday. Center House sources (Premier’s residence) told the daily that “negotiations have stopped. None of the political parties have given up on their demand ceiling in order for the Premier to meet them halfway,” they said. The sources stressed there is “no amended version” (taking the reservations of President Michel Aoun into consideration) of the latest government formula presented by Hariri. “A breakthrough is unlikely,” they said, emphasizing that Hariri won’t prepare another government formula other than the one he presented to Aoun. Early this month, Hariri said he presented to Aoun a format for "a national unity government" that does not entail a "victory" for a political camp over another. He also noted that he took the demands of all parties into consideration. However, Aoun has reportedly expressed his “reservations” regarding the format. Hariri was tasked with forming a new government on May 24. His mission has been delayed by wrangling between political parties mainly over Christian and Druze representation.

Defense Questions al-Hassan's Absence when Hariri was Killed, Says Abu Adas was at Crime Scene
Naharnet/September 18/18/Defense lawyers for Hizbullah suspect Hassan Merhi on Tuesday suggested that ex-PM Rafik Hariri's top security guard Wissam al-Hassan should be considered a suspect in light of his unusual absence from Hariri's convoy on the day of the Feb. 2005 attack. “He might be a suspect, seeing as he was a key official in ex-PM Hariri's security detail who did not show up on the day of the bombing... This raises suspicions and doubts, which pushed al-Hassan to present an excuse and justify his absence by saying that he had an exam at the time,” Merhi's defense said at a closing arguments session at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon's headquarters in The Hague. The STL is trying four Hizbullah suspects in absentia after it accused them of carrying out the attack on Hariri's convoy. “It was unusual that he decided to take the exam although he could have succeeded without it. He was the head of ex-PM Hariri's security detail, or in other words the top security authority in all his movements,” the defense added. “The Prosecutor has not presented any evidence or convincing excuse to prove that al-Hassan had taken an official exam. I personally don't know the type of exam he took. That's why we have suspicions as a defense team. We are objective and the evidence does not at all suggest that he had a legitimate excuse or certain alibi not to be present in Hariri's convoy on the day of the assassination,” the defense went on to say. Separately, Merhi's defense said the Prosecution's evidence exhibits are insufficient regarding Ahmed Abu Adas, the Palestinian young man who was allegedly abducted by two Hizbullah suspects to appear in the video of the “false claim of responsibility.” “We do not rule out that Abu Adas was present at the crime scene for three reasons. The first is that evidence revealed that the crime scene was largely contaminated and the investigations and analyses were all shameful, which allows us to conclude that not all human remains were collected for examination. Secondly, some of the remains were invalid for identification. Thirdly, Abu Adas' character is of no value in the Prosecution's hypothesis and the evidence it has presented lacks any verification value,” the defense added. The defense also announced that by the end of its closing arguments, it will be able to prove that “Abu Adas was present” and that “his claim of responsibility was not fake but rather real.”

Police Arrest Drug Dealer, Indoor Marijuana Grower

Naharnet/September 18/18/The Internal Security Forces managed to clamp down on a suspected drug dealer in the area of Baabdat after close monitoring for over two month, the ISF said in a statement on Tuesday. The anti-narcotics central bureau monitored the movements of the suspect wanted on eleven drug warrants. He has been on the run since 2013, said the statement. The suspect identified by his initials as N.S., Lebanese, was lately spotted in action in the Baabdat area. ISF said the dealer is an indoor marijuana grower active in the Beirut and Mount Lebanon areas. Authorities said he was arrested with a female accomplice in Baabdat on Sunday. Two kg of marijuana were seized in his apartment in addition to 179 pills of ecstasy, 7g of cocaine, 54g of cannabis, a sensitive scale and tools used in the operation of growing marijuana. The investigation is ongoing.

Top Ain el-Hilweh Extremist in Army's Custody
Naharnet/September 18/18/Palestinian factions on Tuesday arrested notorious fugitive Bahaa Hujeir in the al-Tireh neighborhood in the Ain el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp, the National News Agency said. "He is accused of belonging to the (al-Qaida-linked) Abdullah Azzam Brigades and has been handed over to Lebanese Army intelligence agents," NNA added. TV networks said Hujeir is suspected of having ties to Mouein Abu Dahr, one of two suicide bombers who attacked the Iranian embassy in Beirut in November 2013. "The security operation carried out by the Intelligence Directorate required weeks of planning, follow-up, surveillance and security maneuvers," al-Jadeed TV reported. "He was the mufti of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades and had been hiding in the camp for several years amid several attempts by his father to hand him over to Lebanese authorities," the TV network added. Al-Jadeed also published a picture showing Hujeir and Abu Dahr along with a number of young men "most of whom were later involved in suicide bombings."
EU Official Urges Consolidation of Pluralism and Equal Citizenship in Lebanon Tuesday 18th September 2018/Former President Amine Gemayel on Tuesday met with the Special Envoy for the promotion of the freedom of religion or belief outside the EU, Jan Figel, at the House of Future in Bickfaya, with talks featuring high on the situation in Lebanon and the region. During the meeting, which was also attended by the Deputy Head of the European Union Delegation in Lebanon, Julia Koch de Biolley, the pair discussed the significant importance of Lebanon's diversity, hailing it as a great and successful symbol of steadfastness and preservation of identity despite turmoils and instability in the region.“Lebanon was the cradle of all religions. This country, with its unique experience, is willing to help crystallize solutions to the various democratic crises in the world,” Figel stated following the meeting. “No political solutions can be reached to social divisions unless there is a deep understanding of all religions and the social rift it is causing,” Figel said. “This country is a exemplary model that other countries in the Middle East must look up to,” he added. “Pluralism and equal citizenship are two concepts that are present in Lebanon. If these two values are shaped more profoundly in Lebanon, then its positive influence will spread to neighboring countries,” Figel stressed.

Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel Deplores Ministers' Spiteful Actions

Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel on Monday denounced the acts of retaliation made recently by certain ministers, deploring the fact that the fate of employees is being manipulated by spite.
"The fate of employees and their families now depends on spite. I fire an employee, you fire another one. What a shame!" Gemayel wrote on Twitter. The Kataeb chief was commenting on a statement made by caretaker Environment Minister Tarek Khatib who said that he would reinstate Nizar Hani as director of the Chouf Biosphere Reserve if the caretaker Education Minister Marwan Hamadeh revokes his decision to dismiss Hilda Khoury from her position as head of the ministry’s official exams department. Last week, caretaker Hamadeh, affiliated to the Progressive Socialist Party, discharged Khoury, an alleged FPM supporter, from her role in the ministry. In retaliation, Khatib dismissed Hani, who is said to back the PSP.

Small Lebanese craft brewers introduce big new tastes in beer
تقرير من "المونيتر" عن صناعة البيرة في لبنان
Sam Brennan/Al Monitor September 18 2018
Micro and craft breweries are paving the way for locally made Lebanese beer by working around the lack of traditional ingredients and doing what they can to avoid contributing to the Lebanon's persistent environmental problems.Lebanese brewmasters are introducing new takes on an old drink. Image by Hugo Goodridge/Al-Monitor.
BEIRUT – After being dormant for thousands of years, beer culture is returning to Lebanon. Lebanese brewers, pursuing their passion of carving out a space for the ancient drink in their homeland, have overcome the lack of traditional ingredients, including hops and malt, by incorporating locally grown fruits and spices. They are also embracing an environmentally friendly ethos in combating a deficiency in such basic materials as glass bottles.
Lebanon’s new take on an old drink was on display at the Beirut International Beer Event, BIBE 2018, held Sept. 13-16 at an open-air hippodrome near the trendy Badaro neighborhood in the nation’s capital. The young festival, in its second iteration this year, brought together beer lovers and beer makers from around the world. It also showcased some of the best craft breweries and microbreweries Lebanon has to offer.
Saying that beer has a long history in Lebanon and the Middle East would be a gross understatement. Archaeologists recently discovered the remains of a 13,000-year-old brewery belonging to the nomadic Natufian people, who lived in the high mountains of Lebanon and the Anti-Lebanon. The site is today in northern Israel.
Despite such auspicious origins, beer experienced a 10,000-year “slump” in Lebanon, with wine becoming the drink of choice for many locals. In 2006, there were more than 30 wineries in the country and only one local brewery. Over the last decade, however, Lebanese brewers have sought to revive the fortunes of the long-lost beverage.
“Beer was invented in the Middle East, [but] this knowledge was lost to time and history,” Kamal Fayad, the managing partner at 961 Beer, one of Lebanon's largest craft breweries, said at his stall at BIBE. “[Brewers] have come back to do something new, again.”
Kamal Fayad, the managing partner at 961 Beer, pouring a cup of lager at the Beirut International Beer Event, Lebanon, Sept. 14, 2018. (photo by Sam Brennan)
Fayad's 961 was the forerunner on Lebanon's craft brewery scene. Launched in 2006, it was little more than a labor of love, with enthusiasts creating beers in a garage to sell at their neighborhood bars. That passion turned into a trend, and by 2011, 961 was exporting beer from its brewery in the seaside city of Jdeideh to places around the world. It also now contributes to 15% of Lebanon’s beer consumption.
“I left Lebanon when I was 16 years old and traveled the world,” Fayad told Al-Monitor. Returning to his home country in 2012, he discovered the burgeoning 961. “[I was] amazed to find that Lebanon had such beers,” he remarked.
Instead of investing his retirement money in stocks, Fayad launched a second career. Starting as a small investor, he now owns the brewery. Today 961 produces an array of beer varieties, from a light amber ale to a hoppy IPA, all designed to provide Lebanon with “a new type of beer.”The brewery's Lebanese Pale Ale is the best encapsulation of the operation’s origins. Infused with spices and herbs, among them sumac, thyme, sage, anise, chamomile and mint, the beer packs the tastes of an entire Lebanese suq into a 330 milliliter bottle.
Paul Choueiry, a craft beer designer with Barley N’ Hops, an Ireland-based importer selling its wares at BIBE in anticipation of opening a microbrewery in Lebanon, has also experimented with local ingredients. Setting up shop in his birthplace, Zahle, in the Beqaa Valley, Choueiry had planned to homebrew a milk stout, but after scouring myriad stores, he could not find lactose, the ingredient that puts the “milk” in milk stout.
Refusing to admit defeat, Choueiry noticed that a lot of dark beers have an aroma of carob, the pea-shaped Mediterranean fruit often made into a sweet powder. Lacking traditional ingredients, Choueiry used what he had, and a rich chocolaty carob stout was born.
The ingenuity displayed by Lebanon’s brewers uniquely reflects the problems with beer production in the country. “It is still very difficult to do beer in Lebanon, not because of a lack of knowledge, but because the raw material is not available,” Fayad said. He noted that quality malt, one of the four key ingredients in beer, doesn't exist in the country.
The lack of materials also extends to subsidiary items, like glass bottles. With no glass factories in Lebanon producing beer bottles, microbreweries have to import them. Not only does this increase costs, but it also creates a tremendous amount of waste, which irks the environmentally aware entrepreneurs. “It’s essential that every industry … be aware of what is happening in this country,” said Chris Fadel, the brewmaster at Elmir, a brewery that prides itself on a scientific approach to beer. “We were buried under trash for two years. It’s not that now we don’t have the problem anymore because we can’t see it.”
Elmir was established in 2015, the year that protests erupted as trash piled up in the streets following the closure of the controversial Naameh landfill, a temporary dump kept open past its planned closure date. Although the protests have subsided, the issue remains ongoing.
Only Sept. 10, SevereWeatherEU posted an anonymous video on Twitter showing a flowing river of trash in Beirut’s southern suburbs. The footage spread widely on Lebanese social media. Many brewers are conscientious about not contributing to the problem.
Based in Fadel’s hometown of Beit Mari, right outside Beirut, Elmir is one of the few lucky breweries located in a municipality that recycles. “At the brewery, we use so much plastic, so five months ago, we started sorting our waste and talking to the municipality to sort,” Fadel remarked. “It wouldn’t make sense for a 21st-century brewery to do what the old generation did,” he further explained. “I can’t live with that.”
Of course, many other breweries are not based in Beit Mari and therefore face steeper challenges in being eco-friendly. “We try,” Fayad said. “Lebanon is not as organized as you might think. We have a problem with trash. We have a problem with recycling.”
He added that the problem is exacerbated by large commercial Lebanese beer producers, such as Almaza, owned by the Dutch company Heineken, imprinting their logo on some of their bottles, thus preventing them from being reused.
Nonetheless, 961 still does its part by sorting through piles of trash to find reusable glass. Fayad even cleans some of the recyclable bottles by hand, doing his part to maintain clean beer and a sustainable craft brewing culture.
*Sam Brennan is a Beirut-based freelance journalist who writes on culture, technology and politics. On Twitter: @samkbren
Assad killed Bashir Gemayel in 1982 and triggered Sabra and Shatila massacres to trap Israel and its Lebanese allies
Hameed Ghuriafi/New English Review/September 17/18
On every September 18, pro-Iranian and pro-Ikhwan Arab and international web-based news agencies rush to unveil the “bloody record” of Lebanese Christians and Israelis in what was to be known allegedly as those “responsible for the massacre of Sabra and Chatila” Palestinian camps in September 1982. While it is hard to dispute the bloody character of these killings of Palestinian civilians, many questions remain surrounding the responsibility of the party behind the Sabra and Chatila massacres.
Notable Lebanese-American historians who have researched the tragic events that occurred at the Palestinian camps of Sabra and Chatila in 1982, flatly dismissed allegations of Israeli direct involvement in the killings or Lebanese Forces official involvement. Dr. Franck Salameh, Professor of Near Eastern studies at Boston College, revealed in his article titled “Syrian Responsibility for The Sabra and Chatila.
Massacres”, republished in,
that the troops who conducted the massacres were selected by a Kataeb (Lebanese Forces) military commander Elie Hobeika who had established secret contacts with the Syrian Baathist regime of Hafez al-Assad.
Hobeika’s henchmen were reportedly instructed to kill men, women, infants and elderly Palestinians indiscriminately and to place the blame for the horrific massacres on the late Lebanese President-elect Bashir Gemayel and then-Israeli Defence Minister Ariel Sharon. It certainly was not a pure coincidence that the killings took place 48 hours after the Syrian-engineered assassination of Gemayel. Salameh’s startling revelation was eerily reminiscent of the allegations made in 1999 by Elie Hobeika’s former bodyguard, Robert Hatem.
In his highly controversial book titled, From Israel to Damascus, Hatem shed an interesting light on the Sabra and Chatila massacres. He claimed that the former Head of Syria’s Security Apparatus in Lebanon General Ghazi Kanaan (who was later murdered by the Syrian regime’s security apparatus to hide President Bashar al-Assad’s role in the assassination of Lebanese former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri) gave Elie Hobeika direct orders to dispatch militiamen to the Palestinian camps and commit the massacres. Hatem added that Ariel Sharon and Hobeika had a major altercation at a building overlooking the camps as soon as the Israeli defence minister found out about the large human atrocities carried out by the Lebanese Christian militiamen ordered by Syria’s agent.
Hatem later commented on the 2002 assassination of his former boss, saying that President Bashar al-Assad was notified of Hobeika’s intention to testify before a Belgian court about Sharon’s role in the Sabra and Chatila massacres and clear his name. The Syrian president was keen not to let the genie out of the bottle. He thus decided to eliminate Hobeika and bury the Assad’s family dirty secrets with him.
*Hameed Ghuriafi is a senior writer at the Kuwaiti daily As Siyasa and a former editor of several publications in Lebanon, Cyprus and London

Revisiting Sabra and Chatila massacres: The Assad regime responsibility
Dr Franck Salameh/TPT Admin/January 05/2012
This past September marked the twenty-ninth anniversary of the assassination of Lebanon’s president-elect Bashir Gemayel. Like its most recent clone, the 2005 murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, memories of the 1982 crime continue to haunt many Lebanese, some of whom are still persuaded its perpetrators to have been Syrian operatives bent on scuttling end-of-conflict prospects for Lebanon. Today, as Syria’s “Alawite era” teeters on the edge of its twilight, and as the international community prepares to indict it for ongoing crimes against its own people, the regime’s shady gruesome past is coming back to assail its tattered present days.
Although few Westerners today might remember Bashir Gemayel (or his assassination), and fewer still might be tempted to consider the motivations of those who commissioned his murder, rare are those who would not readily recall the massacres at Beirut’s Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camps, and rarer still are those who would not attribute those crimes to “right-wing” Lebanese-Christian militiamen—ostensibly bent on avenging their fallen leader. Never mind that Gemayel’s elimination and the ensuing massacres of Palestinian civilians hardly served the cause of Lebanon’s Christians. Indeed, the events in question plunged Lebanon into another eight years of bloodshed, tightened Syria’s grip over the country, turned it into a Syrian “satellite state” wholly bound to the whims and will of Damascus, and reduced the status of Lebanon’s Christians to a state of subservience and political insignificance. Yet, the narrative that attributes Gemayel’s killing to Israeli agents, and the Sabra and Shatila massacres to Israel’s Lebanese Christian allies—getting Syria off scot free—still has its defenders, and still defines a significant chapter in Lebanon’s modern history.
Today, as Syria veers toward civil war, as its military occupation of Lebanon seems to be a thing of the past, and as the international “Special Tribunal for Lebanon” readies to finger Syrian officials (beginning with the recent indictment of their Hezbollah foot-soldiers) for a string of political assassinations that have shook Lebanon since 2005, a revision of the pleasing narrative of an Israeli and (a “right-wing”)Lebanese Christian involvement in Sabra and Shatila seems fitting.
Besides the Kahan Commission’s mention of armed elements dressed in Lebanese Forces uniforms entering Sabra and Shatila between September 16 and the morning of September 18, 1982, there is no hard usable evidence to support the scenario of murderous Lebanese Christians itching to mete out revenge on Palestinian refugees for the assassination of President-elect Bashir Gemayel; that is to say there is no concrete usable evidence besides eyewitness reports of “men dressed in LF uniforms”—knowing full well that “uniforms” of every stripe were a dime a dozen in civil-war-era Lebanon.
Of course a scenario such as this remains tempting, and in the context of Lebanon’s war—and its cycles of tit-for-tat massacres and counter massacres—it would have made plenty of sense for Christian militias to exact revenge on Palestinians for the killing of their leader. However, there is no evidence to bear this out beyond the circumstantial. Of course, an argument could be made—and indeed one was made—that rogue elements of the Lebanese Forces, without knowledge or express directives from the LF’s leadership, entered the camps with the intent of killing Palestinian civilians. The question that begs being asked in this case would be, “why would LF members commit these crimes, flaunting easily identifiable insignia and uniforms, incriminating themselves and their community, at a time when Lebanon’s Christians had been hard at work for reconciliation with other constitutive elements of Lebanese society?”
It should be noted here that Bashir Gemayel’s first official act as President-elect of the Lebanese Republic in 1982 was not—as many at that time might have predicted—dismissing Lebanon’s Muslims, suing for partition, or signing a peace treaty with Israel without the endorsement of Lebanon’s Muslims. To the contrary, his first official act was to reach out to Lebanon’s Muslims and attempt to build a national unity government that would have eventually signed a peace treaty reflecting national consensus, not Christian communal interests.
Incidentally, throughout their troubled twentieth-century history, Lebanon’s Maronites always opted for reconciliation, power-sharing, and a “multi-ethnic,” rather than a purely Maronite or a Maronite-dominated state. To wit, when the French warned the Maronites about the “demographic time bomb” that Grand Liban of 1920 would become in twenty years’ time and advised them to construct a smaller “Christian homeland” instead, the Maronites opted for a “larger Lebanon” as a model of multi-ethnic (Christian-Muslim) coexistence. When another such opportunity for a smaller, culturally homogenous, Christian Lebanon offered itself in 1926, the Maronites still opted for “coexistence” with Lebanon’s Muslims. They did so time and again in 1936, in 1958, in 1976, and most importantly, at the height of their political and military power, in 1982. What’s more, Bashir Gemayel’s assassination dashed the hopes and snuffed the exuberance of a wide cross-section of Lebanese society—Muslims and Christians alike—and in the aftermath of his death the LF were scrambling to deal with the trauma, the disarray, the mass popular despondency, and the political vacuum that his sudden disappearance had left. It is, therefore, more than dubious that in a moment of national trauma such as this, the LF leadership would be plotting and executing a massacre that not only would have tarnished their image among the Muslims they’d been courting, but one that would have impugned their very legitimacy in the wider Arab world—which Bashir had been visiting for years prior, promoting his presidential platform and his national salvation and reconciliation project, and hawking his intent on hammering out an eventual “end-of-conflict” agreement with Israel.
The missing link in this drama is Elie Hobeika, a former LF member and senior officer long suspected of being a Syrian agent. In January 2002 Hobeika was assassinated in a car bomb plot reminiscent of the one that killed former prime minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005. Lebanese officials (then still under Syrian occupation) immediately blamed Israel for the Hobeika assassination given that the latter had allegedly been preparing to testify in a Belgian court case believed to be on the verge of implicating then Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon in the Sabra and Shatila massacres. However, close Hobeika associates and family members recently revealed that, at that time, Hobeika had been more concerned with clearing his own name than with implicating Sharon in the massacres. Indeed, a Belgian senator who had met with Hobeika shortly before the latter’s assassination revealed to al-Jazeera on January 26, 2002 (two days after Hobeika’s assassination) that Hobeika had no intention of identifying Sharon (or Israel for that matter) as the responsible party in the Sabra and Shatila massacres. This leaves (as only remaining “person of interest”) Baathist Syria; a notoriously murderous regime that is showing its mettle in today’s Syria, and that had mastered to the hilt the skills of “arsonist-fireman” in Lebanon these past forty years.
Syria stood to gain most from the assassination of Bashir Gemayel, as well as from the Sabra and Shatila massacres. Among other payoffs reaped, this “cold case” stunted all attempts at Lebanese national reconciliation, it scuttled the prospects of peace with Israel, it extended the Lebanese war for another decade, it maintained Syria’s occupation of the country for another twenty-three years, it tightened its grip over the functioning of the Lebanese state, it continued using Lebanon as a launching pad for Syria’s regional settling of scores, and it provided the Alawites with a bottomless private piggy-bank bankrolling their wars-by-proxy.
Murder, mayhem, arson, and intrigue have indeed defined the Alawite era in the modern Levant, and have kept Syria’s Alawites firmly ensconced in power. The world’s powers that be ignored (or condoned) Syria’s bad behavior. They did so mainly for fear that what may be lurking in a post-Alawite state might prove much worse than the inconvenient present: “it is us or chaos” went an ominous forewarning that the Assads conveyed to credulous visiting dignitaries—among them America’s seasoned Clintons and Kerrys. But has the Alawite “Us” been anything but “Chaos” these past forty years? Isn’t it time the world considered the “chaotic” alternative? Isn’t it time inhumed “cold cases” got lain open again?
*Dr Franck Salameh is assistant professor of Slavic and Eastern Languages at Boston College. He received his PhD in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies from Brandeis University in 2004

The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on September 18-19/18
Putin Says Israel Not Guilty of Plane Downing in Syria, Calls Incident 'Accidental'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 18/18/Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that "tragic accidental circumstances" led to the downing by Syria of a Russian warplane with 15 people on board. "It rather looks like a chain of tragic accidental circumstances," Putin told reporters, rejecting any comparisons with the downing of a Russian jet by Turkey in 2015. "An Israeli jet did not shoot down our plane," Putin said.
The Russian defense ministry earlier Tuesday blamed Israel for the accident and warned of reprisals. Putin said he had signed off on the defense ministry statement. "No doubt we should seriously look into this," Putin said, speaking at a news conference after talks with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Moscow would beef up security for Russian military personnel in Syria as a priority response, Putin said. "These will be the steps that everyone will notice," he said, without providing further details. He expressed condolences to the families of the victims, calling the accident a "tragedy for us all." Late Monday Syria accidentally shot down the Russian plane, killing all 15 crew members, when its air defenses swung into action against an Israeli strike. The incident was the worst case of friendly fire between the two allies since Russia's game-changing military intervention in September 2015. The Russian plane was downed by a Russian-made S-200 air defense supplied to Syria. The Russian Ilyushin dropped off the radar over the Mediterranean soon after Turkey and Russia announced a deal that offered millions of people reprieve from a threatened military assault in northern Syria.

Israel Determined to Stop Iran in Syria, Netanyahu Tells Putin

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 18/18/Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Tuesday that Israel would keep acting against its arch foe Iran in Syria, after a Russian aircraft was accidentally downed there by Syria during an Israeli missile strike. Netanyahu's office said he told Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone that "Israel is determined to stop Iranian military entrenchment in Syria, and the attempts by Iran, which calls for the destruction of Israel, to transfer to Hizbullah lethal weaponry (to be used) against Israel." Netanyahu also "expressed sorrow" over the deaths of the 15 Russian crew members onboard and said Israel would assist Moscow in the investigation. He said Syria was responsible for the downing of the plane. The late Monday incident saw the Russian aircraft with 15 crew members aboard shot down by Syrian air defense in response to an Israeli raid. The incident threatened to damage relations between Russia and Israel, which had three years ago established a hotline to avoid accidental clashes in war-torn Syria. But earlier on Tuesday, Putin had said it was the result of "tragic accidental circumstances." Netanyahu's office said he offered "to give Russia all the necessary details to investigate the incident, and suggested sending the (Israeli) air force commander to Moscow."Israel said earlier it had targeted a Syrian military facility where weapons manufacturing systems were "about to be transferred on behalf of Iran" to Lebanon's Hizbullah. In a statement, the Israeli military also disputed Russia's initial assertion that it used the aircraft that was later downed as cover while it carried out the strike. It stressed its jets were already back in Israeli airspace when Syrian forces launched the missiles that hit the Russian plane. It also expressed "sorrow" for the deaths of the Russian crew members and said it held Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, Iran and Hizbullah responsible. "Extensive and inaccurate Syrian anti-aircraft (surface-to-air missile) fire caused the Russian plane to be hit and downed," the military statement said.

U.N. Gives Cautious Backing to Turkey-Russia Deal on Idlib

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 18/18/The United Nations on Tuesday cautiously backed a Turkish-Russian deal to create a buffer zone in Syria's rebel-held Idlib province that put off the threat of an imminent onslaught. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the deal reached between the Russian and Turkish presidents and called on all warring sides to implement it.
He said the agreement to create a demilitarized zone in Idlib "should avert a full-scale military operation and provide reprieve for millions of civilians," a U.N. statement said.
The United Nations had warned that an all-out assault on the province where three million people live would trigger a humanitarian catastrophe and possibly one of the worst bloodbaths of Syria's seven-year war. In an appeal delivered last week, Guterres had warned that a full-scale battle in Idlib would "unleash a humanitarian nightmare unlike any seen in the blood-soaked Syrian conflict." U.N. peace envoy Staffan de Mistura also welcomed the agreement, telling a Security Council meeting that "we have seen crisis in Idlib averted". De Mistura said the de-escalation could open the door to holding talks on a new post-war constitution for Syria that could begin work in Geneva in the coming weeks."We are determined to do all that we can to give it a chance," he told reporters after the meeting.
A temporary measure?
U.N. aid chief Mark Lowcock sounded a more cautious note, noting that the deal was not open-ended and could simply postpone military action. "Is this merely a stay of execution? Or is it the beginning of a reprieve, the first tiny glint of light at the very end of the darkest tunnel?" he asked. Civilians in Idlib want to know if this is a temporary arrangement or the first step toward completely removing the threat of military action, said Lowcock. Syria and Russia have been preparing military action in Idlib to bring the province under the control of Damascus, but Turkey, which supports some of the armed groups, had called for a ceasefire. During a meeting Monday in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi, President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan reached the deal on establishing the buffer zone.  A 15-20 kilometer (9-12 mile) wide corridor will be established by October 15 from which all jihadist fighters must withdraw, paving the way for Turkish and Russian patrols of the area, according to the agreement. The deal was reached a week before world leaders are to gather at the United Nations for meetings on Syria and on a string of other conflicts raging across the globe. De Mistura suggested that the Idlib deal would provide some space for diplomats to try to advance efforts to end the war, which has killed more than 360,000 people.
Russian Military Aircraft Vanishes over Syria as France, Israel Strike Latakia Targets
Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 18 September, 2018/A Russian military aircraft vanished from radar as it flew over Syria on Monday, announced the Russian defense ministry on Tuesday. The disappearance coincided with French and Israeli strikes against regime targets.
The defense ministry in Moscow said the aircraft was returning to the Russian-run Hmeimim airbase in Latakia province when, at about 11:00 p.m. Moscow time (20:00 GMT) on Monday, it disappeared from radar screens. "Connection has been lost with the crew of a Russian Il-20 plane over the Mediterranean Sea 35 kilometers from the Syrian coast as it was returning to the Hmeimim airbase," the ministry said. The fate of the military personnel is "unknown," the ministry said in a statement which was carried by Russian news agencies. A search for the plane was underway. “The trace of the Il-20 on flight control radars disappeared during an attack by four Israeli F-16 jets on Syrian facilities in Latakia province,” the statement was quoted as saying. “At the same time Russian air control radar systems detected rocket launches from the French frigate Auvergne which was located in that region.”"The French army denies any involvement in this attack," a French army spokesman said. A US official said Washington believed the Il-20, which is used for electronic reconnaissance, was inadvertently shot down by anti-aircraft artillery operated by Moscow’s ally, the Syrian regime. Fourteen people were on board the plane. Around the time the plane disappeared, Latakia city came under attack from “enemy missiles”, and missile defense batteries responded, Syrian regime media reported.
An Israeli military spokeswoman when asked about both the reported Israeli strike and the Russian plane said: "We don't comment on foreign reports." A Pentagon spokesman said the United States was not involved and declined to provide further details. "The missiles were not fired by the US military and we have nothing further at this time," he said. Multiple countries have military operations underway around Syria, with forces on the ground or launching strikes from the air or from ships in the Mediterranean. In some cases, those countries are backing opposing sides in the Syrian conflict. Hotlines are in place for those countries to share operational information on their deployments, but diplomats and military planners say there is still a high risk of one state inadvertently striking another country’s forces.

US-Iranian Row at IAEA Meeting
Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 18 September, 2018/With less than seven weeks before the US re-imposes sanctions against Iranian oil exports, US and Iranian officials clashed on Monday at a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) by exchanging accusations over threats to global peace. The head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi, told the annual UN nuclear watchdog meeting that the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal (JCPOA) was “doomed” to seriously affect peace and security in the Middle East, Reuters reported. “As discerned almost unanimously by the international community, this ominous move is doomed to have serious repercussions for the international and regional peace and security,” Salehi said as quoted by Reuters. The meeting of IAEA in Vienna witnessed a clash between Salehi and US Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who read US President Donald Trump’s message to the IAEA delegates, Bloomberg reported. “The JCPOA was a flawed deal that failed to address continued Iranian misconduct,” Perry said, according to Bloomberg. The US says that Iranian interference from Yemen to Syrian is responsible for helping to destabilize the Middle East. Iranian forces are supporting President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, where the guerrillas of the Tehran-backed Hezbollah group are also deployed. Iran also supports the Houthis in Yemen. Some US sanctions lifted under the deal have already been put back in place while others are due to resume in November. According to Reuters, European powers have rushed to protect Iranian oil revenues and shield companies from the US measures to keep them operating in Iran, but many firms have pulled out regardless.The sanctions have contributed to a drop in Iran’s currency, which has lost about two-thirds of its value this year, hitting a record low against the US dollar this month. Salehi told the European delegates that now was the time for Europe “to uphold its commitments” made under the nuclear agreement.

Ahmedinejad Describes IRGC Intelligence Chief as ‘Psychologically Imbalanced’
Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 18 September, 2018/In the latest in a wave of criticism against Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s close associates, former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attacked Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Intelligence Chief Hossein Taeb, describing him as "psychologically imbalanced" and not fit for the job. He accused the judiciary and the IRGC of fabricating cases against his aides over political differences. In a video, Ahmadinejad lashed out against Taeb, saying that all he does is "fabricate cases,” revealing that during his presidency, he was opposed to him assuming his current post. The former president asserted: “All state officials know that he is imbalanced and everyone knows what he has been up to." Ahmadinejad said that "the fabrication campaign against him and his aides was launched by the Ministry of Intelligence and IRGC Intelligence in 2011 under Taeb’s leadership." Furthermore, he also wondered whether "the use of state power is permissible in political disputes." Ahmadinejad also revealed that Taeb, who served as deputy intelligence minister under former President Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, was removed from his post for sparking disputes among various officials. "They kicked him out of the Intelligence Ministry, but they later violated the law and gave him a top post with full authority elsewhere," said Ahmadinejad. In April 2011, the European Union included Taeb and 23 other officials on the sanctions list for "gross violation of human rights" of Iranian citizens. He is barred from entering EU countries. Ahmadinejad's stances and criticism of the Iranian regime, coupled with growing public discontent as a result of the deteriorating economy and living conditions, have sparked widespread debate in the country. His opponents accuse him of adopting "populist" positions. In another part of the video, Ahmadinejad stated that what he says is "not an insult or a propaganda against the regime... we want to reform the situation... we say that this is bad and damaging the regime, the Iranian revolution, and the people." A few days ago, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, vice president, chief of staff, and senior aide to Ahmadinejad, was sentenced to six and a half years in prison on charges of threatening national security.
In March, Mashaei protested in front of the British embassy and burned a court sentence against former vice president and close Ahmadinejad aide, Hamid Baghaei, in a symbolic reference to accusations of "links" between the Chief Justice and Britain. Commenting on Mashaei's charges, Ahmadinejad said it "distorts the image of the regime," while also criticizing IRGC intelligence service for setting up its own prisons. Last week, a group of Ahmadinejad supporters published a video of Mashaei in which he speaks of attempts to assassinate him in prison. He also accused Taeb of working to force confessions from Baghaei, who is serving a sentence in Evin prison. IRGC intelligence service is a parallel organ of the Ministry of Intelligence. Khamenei appoints its chief, who is therefore considered one of the most powerful figures in the regime. The Guards' intelligence service is known for prosecuting senior officials accused of security violations. It is tasked with providing protection for the supreme leader and senior officials of state agencies, airports and nuclear facilities. Ahmadinejad is not the first senior Iranian official to criticize the IRGC intelligence chief. In recent years, current deputy speaker Ali Motahari and reformist opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi have sharply criticized Taeb and the IRGC intelligence service’s operation in parallel to the Ministry of Intelligence. Among the most prominent arrests were Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's brother, Hossein Fereydoun, and brother of Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri, Mehdi Jahangiri, on charges of corruption. Prior to the 2017 presidential elections, Rouhani had criticized the arrest of a number of activists on his electoral campaign by the Guards’ intelligence.

15 Organizations Slam Arrest Campaign Against Basra Activists
Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 18 September, 2018/Basra protests are still the talk of the hour for Iraqis nationwide. Riots are clearly being echoed in the capital Baghdad. The recently-appointed parliament speaker Mohamed Al Halbusi is expected to arrive in Basra on Tuesday.
At the level of civil organizations concerned with human rights, 15 organizations operating in Baghdad issued a strongly-worded statement over what it called a “random arrests campaign” carried out by interior ministry forces against young activists in Basra. Collectively, the bodies asserted intentions on “raising a protest note to the international community” against government abuses. The statement issued by the organizations cited testimonies given by local Basra activists and citizens who said intelligence taskforces are rounding up protestors.
Some testimonies said that detained activists are being tortured into signing statements that go against their position on the status quo. Most arrest raids were conducted during nighttime and those arrested were led into unknown locations. “We publicly protest against cases of arbitrary arrests affecting Basra youth, and condemn such action carried out by the interior ministry as unconstitutional and being enacted without judicial warrants.”Civil organizations appealed to the international community, concerned international organizations and the United Nations to support and stand in solidarity to protect young people and activists from arrests. “All 15 organizations have already sent a letter to UN offices in Iraq,” said free press activist and signatory to the protest statement Mustafa Nasir. In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Nasser said that “Basra events, namely the arrests, make for a serious need to pause all indiscriminate campaigns that take their toll against the youth.”The intelligence cell accused of running the campaign issued a brief statement saying it “dismantled a criminal group that killed citizens and associates and carried out arson in Basra.”According to the statement, detainees were arrested by virtue of judicial warrants and later made confessions. Basra security sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that “most arrests were carried out against young people belonging to a radical and religious group that adopts tough anti-Islamic and anti-secular ideology, and is responsible for a break and entry into a Basra provincial building.”

Germany Reduces Military Personnel in Kurdistan
Erbil - Ihsan Aziz/Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 18 September, 2018/Germany is planning to reduce the number of its military personnel and advisors in Kurdistan by 50, announced Germany's defense minister Ursula von der Leyen. Von der Leyen met with officials from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), including Interior Minister and acting Peshmerga Minister Karim Sinjari, in Erbil on Monday. "All in all ... we had over the last mandate we had 150, now we will more focus on the specialists, so we will go down to a number that is below 100,” von der Leyen told reporters in a joint press conference. The German minister visited the region in February, and said that the end of the war against ISIS in Iraq does not mean the achievement of full stability in the region. Von der Leyen pointed out that the mission will change, noting the first phase was the acute fight against ISIS. "We were deeply impressed with what the Peshmerga were able to do... Now, it is the time to establish sustainable structures in the ministry of defense with the Peshmerga,” she added. Germany was among the first countries that provided important military and logistical assistance to the Peshmerga forces since the beginning of its war against ISIS. It also supplied the forces with weapons that helped them during the war. Total military assistance provided by other European countries to Peshmerga reached about $65 million.

Adel Abdul Mahdi: Compromise Iraqi PM Candidate Supported by Sadr, Ameri
Baghdad – Hamza Mustafa /Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 18 September, 2018/The name of Iraqi politician Adel Abdul Mahdi, who served as vice-president from 2005 to 2011 and as Finance and Oil Minister, emerged in Baghdad on Monday as the “best compromise candidate” for the position of prime minister post to succeed Haidar al-Abadi. Mahdi’s candidacy won the unprecedented support of both the Sairoon alliance of Moqtada al-Sadr and the Fateh bloc of Hadi al-Ameri. “Mahdi seems to have good chances to become prime minister,” Fateh MP Naim al-Abboudi told Asharq Al-Awsat. He added that Ameri has repeatedly said that he was not attached to any position and that he supported any candidate, who gets the backing of other blocs. Meanwhile, Abadi has remained as a candidate to run for a second term in office. Iraqi politician Hassan Al-Alawi told Asharq Al-Awsat Monday that although leaders from Abadi’s Dawa party were exerting efforts to reach power, the political structure in the country no longer allows the party to win a fifth term. “Abadi will not return for a second term because he lacks a partisan, parliamentary and popular base in Iraq,” Alawi said.  On the Kurdish level, Bafel and Kibad Talabani, the sons of late Iraqi president and leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) Jalal Talabani, made an offer to convince Barham Salih to dissolve his Coalition for Democracy and Justice (CDJ) party and return to the ranks of the PUK in exchange for a nomination for the Iraqi presidency. An informed source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said negotiations held late on Monday between Salih and Talabani’s sons succeeded in convincing the former Iraqi Kurdistan Region prime minister to abandon his party and return to the ranks of the PUK. Last Sunday, the PUK politburo met to choose its candidate for the Iraqi presidency, a post consistently held by the party since 2005.

UN Envoy’s Efforts in Sanaa Stumble at Houthi Intransigence
Sanaa /Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 18 September, 2018/Efforts exerted by United Nations envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths to persuade the Iran-backed Houthi militias to attend a new round of consultations stumbled at their ongoing intransigence, informed sources in Sanaa told Asharq Al-Awsat. Griffiths had held talks with Houthi officials in the capital as part of preparations to hold a new round of talks in Geneva. The Houthis failed to attend the last round, held on September 6, which ultimately doomed them to failure. The sources said that the militias demanded that the legitimate forces, backed by the Saudi-led Arab coalition, halt their operation in the Hodeidah province and reopen Sanaa airport to commercial flights. These were listed as conditions for their return to consultations. Another condition was their demand that the UN provide guarantees to ensure the safe travel of their negotiations delegation, along with dozens of wounded militants, outside of Yemen. They stressed that the aircraft must not be subject to inspection. These demands, however, have been interpreted as attempts to prolong the war. The sources revealed that Griffiths had held talks in Sanaa with Houthi government foreign minister Hisham Sharaf, members of the negotiations delegation, head of the militias’ so-called ruling council Mahdi Mshat and the Houthi-appointed head of the General People’s Congress Sadiq Amin Abou Rass. Abou Rass was appointed as head of the GPC after the Houthis assassinated party leader and former President Ali Abdullah Saleh in December. The sources revealed that the Houthis had ordered the GPC leaderships to stress the militants’ demands to Griffiths in their attempt to obstruct his mission. The envoy said during his meeting with Houthi officials that he still believes that efforts can still be exerted to reach reconciliation and build trust between the militias and legitimate forces, said Houthi sources. The trust-building talks focus on a prisoner exchange, delivery of humanitarian aid, reopening Sanaa airport and paying government employee salaries. Furthermore, the Houthis sought during Griffiths’ visit to spark a severe fuel crisis in Sanaa in order to blame it on the Hodeidah operation. Observers have expressed their doubts over the Houthis’ seriousness in reaching reconciliation with the legitimate forces and in line with international resolutions, especially given that they were still mobilizing recruits to join their war effort.

Europe’s Bankers Are the Big Post-Lehman Losers
Edward Evans/Bloomberg/Tuesday, 18 September, 2018/To see how Europe’s banking system has failed to bounce back from the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., one metric will suffice. The market value of a single US company — Apple Inc. — is getting close to that of Europe’s 48 biggest banks combined. On almost any measure, Europe’s lenders have been the loser from the financial crisis. They are less profitable and less valuable than they were in 2008. They’ve lost market share to Wall Street rivals, whose share prices have recovered handsomely. The market capitalization of the Standard & Poor’s Financial Sector Index has climbed to $3.4 trillion today. What explains this divergence? Europe’s political leaders wasted the crisis: They cauterized the wound, but missed the chance to clean up, consolidate and overhaul a fragmented financial system. The region’s banking chiefs dragged their feet, resisting calls for more regulation and not bolstering their balance sheets quickly enough. By contrast, the US was decisive, providing a $700 billion bailout that recapitalized the biggest lenders and let them offload their worst loans in to the Troubled Asset Relief Program. There was no such initiative in Europe, and banks there have proved less willing than US peers to offload assets at a heavy discount. The sovereign debt crisis that by 2012 had engulfed Europe underscored the previous failures and slowed the industry’s recovery. Even now, policymakers haven’t fixed the so-called “doom loop” — where a troubled bank’s big holding of government bonds can threaten a nation’s creditworthiness, and vice versa. So the financial scars could take a decade more to heal — if they ever do. Bank shares haven’t returned to their pre-crisis level, with the likes of Deutsche Bank AG and Barclays Plc trading at a steep discount to the book value of their assets. This is not the sign of a healthy financial system. Clients have taken their business to Wall Street. Europe has tumbled down the banking league tables. Barclays, the top underwriter of international bonds in 2008, now ranks fifth, according to Bloomberg data. Deutsche Bank, second in 2008, doesn’t even make the top five. Europe remains unprofitable. Too many firms are chasing too few customers. The Lehman crisis never triggered the Bank of America/Merrill Lynch-sized mergers that we saw in the US — another sign of the political shackles on meaningful European consolidation. We’re still waiting for the combination of Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank AG or UniCredit SpA and Societe Generale SA. In the meantime, Deutsche has dropped out of the Euro Stoxx 50 Index for the first time since its inception — a humiliation for Germany. Amid the gloom, there are some brighter spots, of course. Not every firm is as dismal as Deutsche Bank, and some countries, like Spain, did attempt to tackle their broken lenders with merger programs. But Italy remains an open sore. Banks there are still struggling with bad loans, and consolidation is glacially slow. As lenders prepare to wean themselves off the European Central Bank’s emergency programs, the cost of funding will rise, which may dent revenue for some, according to Jonathan Tyce, Bloomberg Intelligence’s senior banks analyst. “You can guarantee, if there are any wobbles, it will be the southern European banks that suffer most,” he says. Europe urgently needs to speed the healing process to keep up its slow economic recovery. That won’t be easy. The EU still lacks a truly unified capital market or a proper banking union. Germany still hates the idea of bailing out the profligate south. Confronting Italy’s banks might simply strengthen that country’s Brussels-baiting populists. If the crisis exposed one thing, it’s that the relationship between the banking system and national governments is a central failing of the European project. Until that’s fixed, Europe’s bankers will remain stuck in the recovery ward.

Trump Says No FBI Probe Needed on Supreme Court Pick
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 18/18/President Donald Trump said Tuesday that there is no need for FBI involvement in the scandal threatening to derail his pick for a coveted place on the U.S. Supreme Court. "I don't think the FBI should be involved because they don't want to be involved," Trump told reporters at the White House. Conservative judge Brett Kavanaugh appeared set to sail through Senate confirmation for the vacancy on the nation's top court until a California professor publicly accused him of having sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers almost four decades ago.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on September 17-18/18
Putin Says Israel Didn't Down Russian Aircraft; Netanyahu Offers Condolences
تقرير من الهآررتس: بوتين يقول إن إسرائيل لم تسقط الطائرة الروسية ونتانياهو يقدم تعازيه للروس

Noa Landau, Yaniv Kubovich from Haaretz and Reuters September 18/18
Earlier, Russia blamed downed military aircraft on Israel's 'deliberate provocations' striking Syria ■
France denies involvement, U.S. says plane shot down by Syrian air defense systems
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that Israel was not responsible for the downing of a Russian military aircraft during a strike on Syria Monday night. "It looks like a chain of tragic circumstances, because the Israeli plane didn't shoot down our jet," he said.
Putin's comments were a shift in tone after Russia accused Israel earlier of a "hostile provocation" in striking the Syrian port city of Latakia, which led to the downing of a Russian military plane with 15 servicemen on board.
When asked about comparisons to Turkey's downing of a Russian aircraft in 2015, Putin said: "This is a different situation. The Turkish fighter jet knowingly downed our plane.
The Russian president noted that the Defense Ministry's statement, vowing a retaliatory response, was "fully coordinated" with him. "The retaliatory measures will be directed above all to boosting the security of military men and installations in Syria," he said. "These will be measures everyone will see."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on the phone with Putin and expressed his condolences, but added that the responsibility for the downing of the Russian plane rests with Syria. He also reiterated that Israel is determined to prevent Iran from gaining a military foothold in Syria and thwart Tehran's attempts to aid Hezbollah with lethal weapons against Israel.
In the call with Putin, Netanyahu stressed the importance of continuing the security coordination with Russia, which he said has saved many lives on both sides over the past three years. He offered to send Russia all necessary details in order to investigate the incident, including dispatching the Israel Air Force chief to Moscow.
Earlier on Tuesday, Russia's Defense Ministry accused Israeli military planes of creating a "dangerous" situation in Latakia, near where the aircraft was downed by Syrian air defense systems, as it claimed Israel warned Moscow about the planned operation one minute beforehand, adding that it was not enough time to get the the plane to safety.
The defense ministry said 15 Russian military service people died because of Israel's "irresponsible actions," adding that it reserves the right to take appropriate measures after Israel's hostile actions.
According to the ministry, the Israeli F-16 jets carrying out the air strikes used the Russian plane as a cover to allow them to approach their targets on the ground without being hit by Syrian anti-aircraft fire.
"Hiding behind the Russian aircraft, the Israeli pilots put it in the line of fire of Syrian anti-aircraft systems. As a result the Il-20 ... was shot down by the (Syrian) S-200 missile system," Konashenkov said.
He said the Israeli pilots "could not have failed to see the Russian aircraft, as it was coming in to land from a height of 5 km (three miles). Nevertheless, they deliberately carried out this provocation," Konashenkov said.
Israeli army spokesperson Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis said in a statement that Israel "expresses sorrow for the death of the aircrew members of the Russian plane that was downed tonight due to Syrian anti-aircraft fire," adding that Israel holds the Assad regime fully responsible for the incident.
"Israel also holds Iran and the Hezbollah terror organization" for the event, said the statement. "Overnight, Israel Defense Forces fighter jets targeted a facility from which systems to manufacture accurate and lethal weapons were about to be transferred on behalf of Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon."
Manelis said Israel and Russia have a deconfliction system that has proven itself effective many times in recent years, and that "this system was in use tonight as well."
An initial inquiry by IDF top brass and the prime minister's bureau, Manelis said, showed that extensive and inaccurate anti-aircraft fire by Syrian forces downed the Il-20.
"When the Syrian Army launched the missiles tat hit the Russian plane, IAF jets were already within Israeli airspace," said the statement, adding the Ilyushin was not present in the area of the operation during the Israeli airstrike.
It also said Syrian anti-aircraft batteries fired indiscriminately, "and from what we understand, did not bother to ensure that no Russian planes were in the air."
The statement concluded by saying Israel will share all the relevant information with the Russian government as to confirm the facts of the inquiry. An Israeli political official later echoed these comments as well, adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are expected to speak soon.
Israeli Ambassador to Russia Gary Koren was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry following the incident, according to Russian media, though the Israeli Foreign Ministry declined to comment.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu informed his Israeli counterpart, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, that Moscow holds Israel wholly to blame for the shooting down of a Russian military plane near Syria.
The Kremlin was extremely concerned by the incident and President Vladimir Putin expressed his condolences for those who were killed, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
The Russian Defense Ministry said a recovery operation in the Mediterranean Sea is underway and that it has already located the wreckage in the sea and has retrieved some bodies and some fragments of the plane. A U.S. official earlier said Washington believed the aircraft, which is an Il-20 turbo-prop plane used for electronic reconnaissance, was inadvertently shot down by anti-aircraft artillery operated by Moscow's ally, the Syrian government.
Around the time the plane disappeared, the Syrian coastal city of Latakia, near a Russian airbase to which the Il-20 was returning, came under attack from "enemy missiles" and missile defence batteries responded, Syrian state media reported. The defense ministry in Moscow said the aircraft was returning to the Russian-run Hmeymim airbase in Latakia province when, at about 11 P.M. Moscow time (20:00 GMT), it disappeared from radar screens. The plane was over the Mediterranean Sea about 35 km (20 miles) from the Syrian coastline, Russia's TASS news agency quoted the ministry as saying in a statement.
"The trace of the Il-20 on flight control radars disappeared during an attack by four Israeli F-16 jets on Syrian facilities in Latakia province," the statement was quoted as saying.
"At the same time Russian air control radar systems detected rocket launches from the French frigate Auvergne which was located in that region." The fate of the 14 people on board the missing plane is unknown, and a rescue operation has been organized out of the Hmeymim base, the ministry said. The Israeli military had no reaction, saying it does not comment on "foreign reports." French military spokesman Colonel Patrik Steiger told Reuters. "We deny any involvement." A series of unusual airstrikes on Syria were attributed to Israel on Monday night. The official SANA news agency reported that ten people were injured in the attack, eight of whom were shortly discharged after being admitted to a nearby hospital.
According to Syrian media, missiles were fired toward military targets close to three large cities in the north of Syria: Lattakia, Homs and Hama. In recent weeks there has been a significant uptick in the amount of reports attributing attacks to Israel. Previous attacks, according to foreign media, mostly targeted the area of the Damascus International Airport.

Sweden: Anti-Immigration Party Becomes Kingmaker

Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/September 18/18
Swedish police received more than 2,300 reports of potential crimes linked to this year's election, including voter intimidation and threats of violence against property or persons. An international team of observers found irregularities in 46% of the polling stations visited. The team expressed particular concern over the lack of secrecy in voting. Swedish authorities allow more than one voter (normally from the same family) to enter the polling booth together, ostensibly to ensure that the more literate family member can assist the less literate ones to correctly fill in the ballot paper.
"We are concerned about the significant level of family voting where women, older voters and the infirm can be guided or even instructed how to vote by another family member... We feel this may be a way of suppressing some voters from freely choosing their own choice." — Statement on the Swedish election from Democracy Volunteers, election observers.
With tens of thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands, of migrants receiving welfare payments without having made any contributions, Sweden's current welfare system seems destined to collapse, according to Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Åkesson.
In Swedish elections, each party has separate ballot papers with the party name prominently displayed. The picking of ballots takes place in public, so anyone present can observe which party's ballot paper the voter will choose. As a result, some voters may have felt intimidated and reluctant to publicly reveal that they wanted to vote for the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats. (Image source: Jens O. Z. Ehrs/Wikimedia Commons)
A strong showing by the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats in the Swedish elections on September 9 drained away so many votes from the establishment parties that the two main parliamentary blocs were left virtually tied and far short of a governing majority.
The Sweden Democrats won 17.5% of the vote and emerged as the third-largest party in the country, according to the official election results released on September 16. The result, a 4.6% improvement on the 12.9% it won in 2014, placed the Sweden Democrats into a situation of holding the balance of power in the next parliament.
Incumbent Prime Minister Stefan Löfven's center-left Social Democrats came in first, with 28.3% of the vote — the party's worst result in more than 100 years. The center-right Moderate party came in second, with 19.8% of the vote, a 3.5% drop from 2014.
With eight political parties in the Swedish Parliament, the establishment parties traditionally have organized themselves into two rival parliamentary blocs: On the left, the Social Democrats and their allies garnered 40.7% of the vote. On the right, the Moderates and their allies won 40.3% of the vote.
Although the Sweden Democrats are now in a position to play kingmaker in Parliament, the mainstream blocs have vowed not to cooperate with them because of their "nationalist" positions on immigration and the European Union.
Sweden, with a largely homogenous population of around 10 million people, received nearly 500,000 asylum seekers from Africa, Asia and the Middle East since 2010. The arrival of so many overwhelmingly male migrants from different cultural and religious backgrounds has created massive social upheaval, including a surge in sexual assaults and gang violence in cities and towns across Sweden.
The Sweden Democrats campaigned on a promise to curb immigration, restrict family reunifications, speed up deportations and crack down on migrant crime. Party leader Jimmie Åkesson also warned that mass migration poses an existential threat to Sweden's social welfare system. With tens of thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands, of migrants receiving welfare payments without having made any contributions, the current welfare system seems destined to collapse, he said.
Pre-election polls showed that the anti-immigration message was resonating with Swedish voters. A YouGov poll published on September 5 — just four days before the election — showed that support for the Sweden Democrats was at 24.8%, compared to 23.8% for the Social Democrats and 16.5% for the Moderates. In other words, the poll suggested that the Sweden Democrats had become the largest party in Sweden.
Observers have proffered several theories to explain the disconnect between the polls and the final election results. Some commentators have pointed to efforts by the mainstream parties to portray the Sweden Democrats as "far right," "racist," and "neo-Nazi" due to the party's supposedly "nationalist" and "populist" stance on immigration. The stigma of voting for the Sweden Democrats may have given some voters pause.
During a televised debate in October 2016, for example, Prime Minister Löfven called the Sweden Democrats "a Nazi party, a racist party." He also claimed that "swastikas are still in use at their meetings." The Sweden Democrats accused Löfven of slander and threatened to report him to the Parliament's Constitutional Committee. Jonas Millard, the party's representative on that committee, said:
"When Sweden's prime minister claims that the Sweden Democrats are a Nazi party, it is not just a lie, but also completely lacking in understanding of history and lacking in respect for all those millions of people who have been exposed to real Nazism."
Löfven later relented and said that his words had been taken out of context. Since then, however, Löfven has repeatedly accused the Sweden Democrats of having links to Nazism, even though Åkesson, who became party leader in 2005, has applied a zero-tolerance policy toward racism and has expelled members suspected of extremism.
A day before the September 9, 2018 election, Löfven again branded the Sweden Democrats as racist:
"We are not going to retreat one millimeter in the face of hatred and extremism wherever it shows itself.
"Again, and again, and again, they show their Nazi and racist roots, and they are trying to destroy the European Union at a time when we need that co-operation the most."
Meanwhile, the Social Democrats invested eight million Swedish krona ($850,000; €770,000) of taxpayer money to encourage voter participation among migrants. That strategy appears to have paid off: in Stockholm's Rinkeby district, where nine out of ten residents are immigrants, the Social Democrats received 77% of the vote while the Sweden Democrats won only 3%.
A similar pattern took place in Sweden's five dozen other no-go zones (Swedish police euphemistically refer to them as "vulnerable areas"), although a detailed analysis of the election results by the Swedish-Czech author Katerina Janouch and her colleague Peter Lindmark show that the Sweden Democrats are making gains among migrants, especially among women who are concerned about rampant crime and the imposition of Islamic sharia law.
Others believe that election fraud may have benefited the mainstream parties at the expense of the Sweden Democrats. It remains unclear how widespread voter irregularities were, and what if any impact they may have had on the final election results. The Swedish police, however, received more than 2,300 reports of potential crimes linked to this year's election. The complaints include voter intimidation, including threats of violence against property or persons.
Separately, the Swedish Election Authority (Valmyndigheten), the central authority responsible for conducting elections, received more than 400 complaints of alleged voter fraud, and prosecutors are now investigating possible crimes in connection with the election, according to the newspaper Aftonbladet.
An international team of 25 election observers, "Democracy Volunteers," deployed throughout polling stations in Stockholm, Malmö, Gothenburg, Uppsala and Västerås — in total, the team observed over 250 polling stations across these locations — found irregularities in 46% of the stations visited.
The team expressed particular concern over the lack of secrecy in voting. In Sweden, each party has separate ballot papers with the party name prominently displayed, and voters pick the party-specific ballot of their choice from a stand inside the polling station.
The picking of ballot papers takes place in public, so anyone present can observe which party's ballot paper the voter will choose. As a result, some voters may have felt intimidated and reluctant to publicly reveal that they wanted to vote for the Sweden Democrats.
The election observers also criticized family voting, a practice in which Swedish electoral authorities allow more than one voter (normally from the same family) to enter the polling booth together, ostensibly to ensure that the more literate family member can assist the less literate ones to correctly fill in the ballot paper.
The election observers concluded:
"We are concerned about the significant level of family voting where women, older voters and the infirm can be guided or even instructed how to vote by another family member....
"A key aspect of voting is that a voter should have their individual right to cast their own vote independently and without the interference, or even knowledge of another voter.
"We feel this may be a way of suppressing some voters from freely choosing their own choice without the knowledge of others and we would recommend that the Swedish election authorities look at this as part of their own review in due course."
In a study entitled, "Is Voting in Sweden Secret," Jørgen Elklit of the Department of Political Science at Aarhus University wrote that family voting is a long-standing problem in Sweden and appears to be especially prevalent in immigrant communities:
"This type of help to disadvantaged voters obviously also puts repressed family members in a complicated situation, if they want to vote differently from their repressors. Family voting was rather common in the former Soviet Union and in Eastern Europe....
"It was very surprising (almost unbelievable) to read in the ... election observation report from the 2014 Swedish elections ... that the observers noted a considerable amount of family voting in Stockholm. There are ... indications that this phenomenon is primarily seen in polling districts with relatively many voters of non-Swedish background."
Other election irregularities include:
In Botkyrka, the Moderates party was offered 3,000 votes by local Muslim leaders in exchange for a construction permit to build a mosque. The party waited until two days before the election to reject the offer. Public prosecutors are now probing whether the offer was a criminal offense. In Degerfors, a Social Democrat politician allegedly offered to pay voters 500 Swedish krona ($55; €50) in exchange for their votes. In the same town, a Social Democrat politician allegedly followed voters into a polling station, and then accompanied them to the ballot box. The politician, who has not been named, is being investigated for improperly influencing voters.
In Eda, a Social Democrat politician allegedly helped voters fill in their ballots.
In Falu, hundreds of ballots were invalidated because they were delivered late by the postal service. In Filipstad, the Moderates party filed a complaint with election authorities after men were observed entering the polling station with women, picking the ballot papers for them and then following them to the ballot box to ensure that they voted for the Social Democrats. The Election Committee Chairperson in Filipstad, Helene Larsson Saikoff, herself a Social Democrat, said that she did not see any problem with the practice of family voting: "It is up to the voter if she wants to be accompanied by her husband or some good friend." In Gothenburg, the second-largest city in Sweden, some polling stations excluded ballot papers for the Sweden Democrats.
In Heby, a recount of votes resulted in significant differences between the results on election night. When asked how this could be, the chairman of the electoral committee in Heby, Rickert Olsson blamed the "human factor" which was due to "fatigue."
In Märsta, poll workers advised voters not to seal their ballot envelopes. Sweden Democrats said that the envelopes could have been tampered with.
Elsewhere, the newspaper Metro reported that ballot papers for the Sweden Democrats were stolen from the Swedish embassies in Berlin, London and Madrid, thereby making it impossible for Swedish "expats" in those areas to vote for the Sweden Democrats.
"In all the election observations I have been on, I have never seen a choice as undemocratic as the one in Sweden," said Danish MP Michael Aastrup Jensen, a veteran election observer who monitored the Swedish election in a private capacity. "It is far from the European standard."
Similar allegations of voter fraud surfaced in 2014 election. At the time, The Sweden Report wrote: "For starters, a number of mailmen have officially protested delivering voting cards from the Sweden Democrats (SD), the third-largest party in the country, because they do not agree with the politics of the party....
"There are several reports from Stockholm, Gothenburg, Laholm and Halmstad where the envelopes from SD have clearly been opened and resealed. The content has been removed or in some cases replaced with voting cards from other parties....
"Other irregularities against SD includes stolen voting cards at the pre-voting locations, and in one case a more advanced scheme: Someone had switched SD municipality voting cards with those of a neighboring municipality, making it very easy to cast an invalid vote.
"As if that wasn't enough, there's the risk of tampering by the election administrators themselves. In the May election for the EU-parliament, a noted case involved a vote counter openly debating whether to simply throw away the stack of SD votes on Facebook."
Meanwhile, information about an official EU report, which concluded that Sweden has the worst border controls in the European Union, was allegedly kept from voters until after the elections were over, according to the newspaper Expressen.
The report warned that Swedish border guards are poorly trained and lack basic knowledge about how to detect counterfeit passports and other travel documents used by fake asylum seekers and returning jihadis. The report said that the problem is especially acute at Stockholm's Arlanda Airport, the main airport in Sweden, and recommended that Frontex, the EU border control authority, be deployed to help Sweden to secure its external border.
Several border control officers interviewed by Expressen said that officials at the Ministry of Justice deemed the report to be "politically explosive" and that it "should therefore be kept secret until the election was completed." Justice Minister Morgan Johansson denied the accusations.
Some observers argued that the Social Democrats managed to eke out a success in the 2018 election only by adopting some of the immigration proposals advocated by the Sweden Democrats. In May 2018, for example, Prime Minister Löfven, in an effort to stanch the bleeding of votes, announced a plan to tighten asylum rules, improve border controls and cut welfare benefits for migrants whose asylum applications have been rejected.
Others noted that by making the election primarily about immigration, and by forcing the established parties to harden their policies on asylum, the Sweden Democrats emerged as the actual winners.
The leader of the Sweden Democrats, Jimmie Åkesson, addressing the Danish People's Party's annual meeting in Herning, Denmark on September 15, said it would be impossible for the other parties in Sweden to shut his party out of influence in the negotiations to form the next government:
"They make every effort to form a new government without giving us influence. But it will be impossible to keep us out. The sooner they realize it, the faster we will avoid chaos."
The scale of the challenge facing Sweden is daunting. A recent study by the Pew Research Center estimated that even if all immigration were immediately to stop, the proportion of Muslims in Sweden would still rise to more than 11% of the overall population by 2050. A medium migration scenario places Sweden's Muslim population at 20.5% in 30 years; a high migration scenario places the Muslim population at 30.6%.
*Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Mullah John Kerry
Mamdouh AlMuhaini/Al Arabiya/September 18/18
Former US Secretary of State John Kerry’s best moments was when he delivered his speech after the Assad regime targeted Ghouta with poisonous gas in 2013. It was a strong and humanitarian speech in which he repeated “and we know” what happened more than 40 times in a frank condemnation of Assad.
He used influential phrases like what happened was “a moral obscenity” and it “shock the conscience of the world”. Millions of people were waiting for an American military strike when he utters his last words.
However, his president Obama took a long tour with his chief of staff in the White House’s garden and without Kerry knowing anything, he changed his mind and decided to back down on the plan. Obama preferred Moscow’s pledge to purge Assad’s storage of Sarin gas. They were few minutes of glory and then Obama threw him under the bus, the bus of history.
Some of Kerry’s critics call him Mullah Kerry because of his obsession in the nuclear deal, the repeated concessions he made and the warmth displayed during meetings with Iranian officials.
Like any professional diplomat Kerry swallowed the insult. He drew a smile on his face due to the accomplishment which avoided war and bloodshed. He led the negotiations then told media outlets that all chemical weapons in Syria were disposed of. We know it was a trick as the Assad regime resumed its strikes of which the most famous are the Khan Shaykhun and Duma massacres. This was not an honorable chapter in the history of the former American administration, including of Kerry. However, he later went ahead to lead another major diplomatic mission – this time enthusiastically – and which is to seal the Iranian nuclear deal which ended up failing after President Trump tore it apart before the world’s eyes.
Violating diplomatic norms
Before the deal was made, Kerry’s injuries which he sustained after falling off his bike and which left him on crutches for a while did not stop him, and he seemed boastful as he limped competing with the European negotiators to get to negotiating halls in an attempt to finalize the agreement before it’s too late.
His activity is still on to this day as he hopes to revive the deal. Kerry still meets with Iranian officials, which is a flagrant violation of diplomatic and political norms. His successor Mike Pompeo has criticized this and Senator Marco Rubio said: “Hopefully Iran hires John Kerry to be their lead negotiator. Because he is certain to negotiate a bad deal for whichever side he is on”. In his recently-published memoirs Every Day is Extra, Kerry narrates plenty of stories about what happened in closed meetings and about the arguments with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and which were followed by warm greetings and smiles in front of the cameras. In one story, Kerry narrates a heated moment between Zarif and Lavrov. The latter looked at the former and sarcastically told him: “Are you really authorized to accept the final offer?” His statement insulted Zarif’s dignity so he angrily stood up and headed towards the door to leave. Kerry jumped from his seat and tried to calm him saying that the Russian minister did not mean to insult him.
However, Zarif’s satisfaction must come at a price, and he frankly said he wants more candy, i.e. concessions. This is what happened as Kerry returned to his team and pleased Zarif to resume the negotiations by cancelling some sanctions.
American writer Eli Lake wrote in his Bloomberg article that the entire story is a charade that’s planned between the Russian and Iranian ministers to manipulate Kerry and weaken his negotiating stance and corner him. Most probably this is right but it’s also clear that Kerry – upon pressure by his president – was willing to play the role of the stupid extra in the charade. He is not an idiot but he was searching for diplomatic glory for himself and for the Obama administration which failed on almost all foreign fronts.
Becoming Mullah Kerry
Some of Kerry’s critics call him Mullah Kerry because of his obsession in the nuclear deal, the repeated concessions he made and the warmth displayed during meetings with Iranian officials. This is in addition to his daughter Vanessa’s marriage to Dr. Brian Vala Nahed who is originally Iranian. All this created – as they say –weakness inside him towards anything that’s Iranian. These are just analyses which are difficult to figure out their accuracy unless we delve into his mind and examine his heart; however, Kerry’s inclination towards the Iranians and running after them is due to purely personal goals.
Kerry is politically ambitious and he tried to be a president before and failed. In his book, he attributed Obama’s rise to him and Obama’s ability to become president to him as he has given him the golden opportunity to make his famous speech at the 2004 democratic convention.
Kerry made a mistake and four years later he saw the dream that he’s always had being achieved by a young man who is almost unknown and who has no political experience and who does not come from a rich family (Kerry’s wife Teresa Heinz is the heiress of Heinz). Hence, it was said that Kerry felt that he deserved the presidency more than Obama did.
His obsession with the nuclear deal and meetings with Iranian officials even angered some Democrats because they are an unprecedented violation that serves his own personal aims before anything else. He wants this as an accomplishment to add to his resume and to invest in later in the future to become president.
It’s difficult for him to do so as his record is full of failure. He failed at becoming a president and he failed as a secretary and finally when he sealed the largest political deal in his life Trump destroyed it. This is why an angry Kerry insulted Trump few days ago when he said Trump “got the maturity of an eight-year-old boy with the insecurity of a teenage girl”. Actually these are nice insults said against the man who destroyed your future. Although he denied that he is planning to run for the presidency, everything he does says the opposite. Kerry loves the mullahs for his own personal aims but he’s not one of them.

To those who did not live in the moment
Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/September 18/18
“Learning never exhausts the mind!”
I often wonder about this Da Vinci quote. At what creative stage of his life did he write it? Before or after he had reached artistic maturity? If the aim of learning is to work and achieve, then something Greek philosopher Aristotle said in 322 BC is still relevant today: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
If I want to share some ideas I’ve have learned, in the possibility that I will one day implement them, it’s as if I am a doctor treating his patients when he himself is ill.
Hence I find me dragged towards advising myself and recommending others to make use of their day. Do not underestimate this small piece of advice as there’s nothing harder than managing the next moment, let alone tomorrow or the next ten years. If you can improve your day, then know that the entire life is made up of days and you can hence be kind and create every day. No wonder that all timescales go back to the moment that escapes from you now.
It’s great to have a long-term vision with constant preparation for surprises, but trust those who have done so and realized that the most difficult part was the art of managing the day. He who is not good at managing the day will not be good in managing upcoming days.
Those who get used to dealing with each day and then master it repeat this pattern. We call these the people of awareness and mastery. Look wherever you want and you will not see a successful man without a habit. This is why Arabs said in the past: “The habit is deep-rooted”.
Speaking of preparations for the path’s surprises, always remember Thomas Jefferson’s quote when he briefly said – and he’s a master in that – “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.”
Let go of the past completely, and focus on the present moment as this moment alone is the most capable of hiding and escaping.
If the adventure of even managing a single day is difficult for you, don’t be upset. Greek Philosopher Aristotle has met such men and women and he beautifully criticized them when he said: “There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing”. He’s honest here as the river sweeps the little rocks which have not decided their path in advance before the flood reaches the town. Prince and poet Badr bin Abdul Muhsin seems to have a different opinion that opposes Aristotle’s as it looks like fame weighs heavily on him. The extremely kind and humble prince, as all those who know him say, decided to support those forgotten, the ordinary men, when he said:
Oh how lucky he is whom no one knows
If he is kind, he will be thanked
And if he is bad, he will not be blamed
This is not the first time that Badr is biased to ordinary men. Few years ago, I asked him about the emirate and poetry and which was closer to his heart. He said that he inherited the emirate from his father who inherited it from his father, hence, he has not asked anyone about it, and as for poetry “it’s everyone’s essential need, a collar that people embrace you with.”
When you look for wise words – which by the way I am fond of collecting – you’d realize how similar they are. Sometimes it’s difficult to attribute a saying like: The only way to achieve the impossible, is to believe it's possible” to Charles Kingsleigh as all civilizations have poets, politicians and writers who directly or indirectly called for avoiding thinking about the impossible and ignoring it so the possible replaces the impossible.
If I hadn’t written about the greatness of the imagination recently, I would have repeated my idea which I don’t get bored of repeating. Let go of the past completely, and focus on the present moment as this moment alone is the most capable of hiding and escaping. As for the future, please do not choose a path other than optimism. Don’t be negative and don’t look at tomorrow with the eyes of a fearful man. If fear of the future yields results, everyone would have feared it.
Imagine the threat of seeing the mirage instead of the right path, and when the road comes to an end and doubt overwhelms you, you select another road although everything indicates you are in the right direction. You have dealt in the world of ideas with what’s absent, a mystery – which you could have granted confidence – with fear and worry, and when you believed the latter two, the road repudiated you.
Ancient Arabs are known to have said:
What is gone is gone
What is to come is a mystery
And what you have is the hour you live
About the moment, habit and all that, Robert Louis Stevenson sums me in his famous saying: “Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”
It’s beautiful to get used to planting these seeds, so we and our people constantly wait for a beautiful harvest in the future.

Closing down Palestinian embassy in Washington: End of the cause?
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/September 18/18
The red building in Wisconsin Avenue in Washington was until few days ago the headquarters of the General Delegation of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, i.e. the embassy of the “State” of Palestine in the US. It carried an important symbolic value on the political level, which was eliminated when the US State Department notified the Palestinian mission it was shutting it down for good and asked the mission’s head Ambassador Husam Zomlot to leave the country along with his family. The presence of a Palestinian diplomatic mission in the US came as a result of the Oslo Agreement which recognized Palestinian presence and which was also recognized internationally for the first time. Despite the criticism, the Oslo Agreement is a historic political project that revived the PLO and the cause were buried as a result of expelling the PLO from Beirut and its departure by sea to Tunisia. Oslo failed because extremist regional regimes and extremists from both the Palestinian and Israeli sides thwarted the few chances, which gave the opportunity to resolve the Palestinian cause.
Since the beginning of the conflict everyone knew that changing the Palestinian situation can only happen either via war, and the possibility of its eruption is like a mirage, or negotiations.
Due to the Palestinian officials’ unrealistic approach, they showed up to negotiate when it was too late. The Palestinians now have so little. As time passed by, their rights on the land decreased due to their continuous rejection and verbal bids. In addition to the Palestinian leadership’s desperation, which it has been suffering from for years, the leadership does not understand the character of President Donald Trump. Since the beginning of his presidential term, one of Trump’s acquaintances warned: Try to understand how to disagree with him otherwise he will throw you under the bus!
This is what happened to Abu Mazen whose friends are now rushing to get him from under the bus. Among the mistakes committed by the Palestinian leadership is that it tried a confrontation and forgot that the American government has huge influence on Palestinian activity as it’s the largest funder of the Palestinian refugees and their organization UNRWA contributing around quarter of a billion dollars each year. One of the major mistakes is believing that Palestine is a pivotal cause which Arabs and Muslims will not give up on. Truth is they have given up on it a long time ago as each state is preoccupied with its causes
Dispatched delegates
When delegates dispatched by President Trump went to the Occupied Palestinian Territories to explain their ideas, the Palestinian leadership refused to receive them. The leadership was angry because the American government had executed an old decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Of course we understand the anger of the Palestinian Authority but the opposite should have happened; the Palestinians should have met the American delegation and not reused to meet them. Sitting down and talking about the problem would have been the right approach. We all know that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is a pragmatic politician who has long experience in resolving disputes both on the domestic and foreign levels and that’s why he’s still governing to this day. He managed to confront rivals like Hamas with the least amount of damage. Although he hates taking up high-risk political projects, he’s aware that the US comes in second, after Israel, in terms of negatively or positively affecting his citizens’ lives.
Of course, it is possible that there is intent to get rid of the Palestinian cause by eliminating the refugee status in the UN, suspending their budget, decreasing support to the Authority and ending its diplomatic presence.All this is very possible and is the result of the laziness and failure in managing previous peace projects over the course of 30 years. It’s normal that a day comes when the rest of the stances are finalized. One of the major mistakes is believing that Palestine is a pivotal cause which Arabs and Muslims will not give up on. Truth is they have given up on it a long time ago as each state is preoccupied with its causes.
Egypt has finalized its stance since Camp David and Jordan did the same when it signed the Wadi Araba Treaty. Syria has practically before them signed the disengagement agreement after the 1973 War and Golan has become Israel’s most secure border area.
As for Lebanon, it is a helpless country controlled by Iran; otherwise it would have been the first Arab country that seeks a peace agreement with Israel. This is the truth, which the dreamers in the Arab world must realize. This truth is what pushed late President Yasser Arafat to sign the Oslo Accords as or else he and all other Palestinian leaders will live and be buried in foreign countries.

Idlib bloodbath: The next step in information warfare
Dr. Azeem Ibrahim/Al Arabiya/September 18/18
The final rebel holdout against the Assad regime in Syria is in Idlib province. Confrontation is inevitable as both Assad and his Iranian and Russian allies are looking to wrap things up in the country’s civil war, and it does not take a military genius to know that the final attack will be ferocious. The handbook for beating a civilian population into submission developed by Assad and the Kremlin in particular is already well understood. First encircle the target area and block all traffic of food. Then, bomb hospitals to ensure insufficient medical facilities when casualties start mounting up. Last, use munitions with the highest psychological impact, such as cluster bombs and chemical weapons to break the targets into surrendering. In case you were not certain, yes, all three of these tactics are explicit war crimes.
What used to happen until now, however, is that the propaganda offensive by the Russian information warfare machine to obfuscate and confuse the evidence for war crimes committed by Assad and the Kremlin started either as during the acts themselves, or immediately after. But this is now changing, and the Kremlin has moved onto the next logical evolution of its propaganda capabilities: pre-emptive misinformation. Kremlin-backed “media” channels have started pushing the narrative that the rebels in Idlib province are acquiring and planning to use chemical weapons. This does two things: 1) it supposedly gives Assad and Putin cause and urgency to step up their offensive against the rebels in Idlib; and 2) if chemical weapons were to be deployed, well this time “we know” that it was the rebels who had such weapons on hand.
Translation: an all-out Assad-Russian assault on Idlib is imminent and it will be utter bloodbath, complete with liberal deployment of chemical weapons and any other illegal weapons and munitions against civilian targets deemed necessary to shatter the psyche of the local population.
There are still plenty of conflicts to be fought if Assad wants to reassert Syrian national integrity, and if Russia and Iran are willing and able to continue helping him fight his civil war
Identifiable state actors
Under normal circumstances, such advance warning of intent to commit war crimes by clearly identifiable state actors would be useful in formulating a response from the international community, which might prevent such an attack, or at least mitigate it to some extent. But we do not live in normal time. The incumbent administration in the United States have no personal moral interest in humanitarian concerns, either around the globe or indeed in their own country.
China does not get involved in these kinds of disputes as matter of policy, and the rest of Western Europe has neither the leadership, nor the will, to risk direct confrontation with Russia in order to prevent civilian massacres in Syria. The aftermath of this assault is equally predictable. Tens to hundreds of thousands dead, horrific pictures on the news, a new wave of refugees heading toward Europe, and the tacit acceptance by the West that the situation is what it is, and nothing can be done about it now – “at least Assad is not ISIS”, is what they will be telling themselves. Will this finally bring peace and some measure of stability to the region? That is not quite so clear.
While the Sunni-Arab Syrian opposition will have been finished off, Turkey still operates in the Syrian theatre, and a fact that is widely obscured from the reporting on Syria, the regions of Afrin, Jazira and Euphrates continue to be administered by the de facto autonomous Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, a multi-ethnic quasi-state dominated by anti-Assad Kurds. There are still plenty of conflicts to be fought if Assad wants to reassert Syrian national integrity, and if Russia and Iran are willing and able to continue helping him fight his civil war. Keep an eye out on Russian propaganda channels for mentions of the Kurds in Syria.