Detailed Lebanese & Lebanese Related LCCC English New Bulletin For September 21/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations
Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it
Luke 11/42-46: "‘But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practised, without neglecting the others.Woe to you Pharisees! For you love to have the seat of honour in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the market-places. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it.’One of the lawyers answered him, ‘Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us too.’ And he said, ‘Woe also to you lawyers! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not lift a finger to ease the

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

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Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on September 20-21/18
Ignore regime rhetoric, US sanctions are hitting Iran hard/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/September 20/18
Analysis/Putin Absolves Israel Over Syria Strike, but Crisis With Moscow Reaches All the Way to Tehran/Amos Harel/Haaretz/September 19/18
The International Criminal Court: A Failed Experiment/Ahmed Charai/Gatestone Institute/September 20/18
Funding UNRWA: Are European Taxpayers Being Taken for a Ride/Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/September 20/18
Will Iraqi territory be used to fire rockets on Israel from Iran/Yonah Jeremy Bob/Jerusalem Post/September 20/18
A Chequers Brexit Won’t Help the Banks/Lionel Laurent/Bloomberg/September, 20/18
The Rehabilitation of the Horn of Africa/Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al Awsat/September, 20/18
Iran’s Callous, Deadly Message/Eli Lake/Bloomberg View//September, 20/18
For ‘Greater Iran’, Afghan, Pakistani fighters give their lives in Syria/Ali Hajizade/Al Arabiya/September 20/18
Iran’s Khomeini: The will of the dead brings death to the living/Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi/Al Arabiya/September 20/18
What happened in 1979/Mamdouh AlMuhaini/Al Arabiya/September 20/18
Iran accuses Saudi Arabia of theft/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/September 20/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on September 20-21/18
U.S. Official: Iran Helping Hezbollah Build Arms Factories in Lebanon
AlRahi calls for emergency, impartial, nonpartisan government
UNIFIL Commander visits Bkirki
Aoun: Lebanon Is not on the Path of Bankruptcy
Lebanon's Parliament to Convene in Absence of Cabinet
Report: FBI Chief Expected in Beirut
Final Touches Made ahead of President Trip to NY
Nasrallah Defies Israel, Says Group Has 'Highly Accurate' Missiles
Lebanon's Ambassador to Saudi Arabia: We will not forget the Kingdom's continuous support to Lebanon
Jumblatt refuses visit of PSP ministers to Syria
Kataeb Party Joins International Democrat Union
Sami Gemayel from LA: We will work for a free, sovereign Lebanon
Shiites across Mideast Mark Ashoura, Mourning Saint's Death

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on September 20-21/18
4 dead, including suspect, after Maryland warehouse shooting
British and French planes scrambled to shadow Russian jets
Putin-Erdogan Deal Revives Northern Syria’s ‘Main Artery’ to Damascus
UN Says Russia, Turkey Still Working on 'Details' of Idlib Deal
UN: Threat to Idlib civilians remains high
Netanyahu Tests Israeli Fast Train from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv
Gargash Says Gulf States Should be Party to Proposed Iran Talks
Exclusive: Russia, Iran Race for Syria Reconstruction Deals
Barham Salih: Favorite Candidate for Iraqi Presidency
Morocco's FM, US Officials Discuss Iran Conspiracy with Polisario
Japan's Abe Cruises to Party Vote Win, to Stay as PM
Boko Haram Kills Nine Villagers in NE Nigeria
Tensions Rise as EU Prepares for Final Brexit Stretch
Trump Threatens Middle Eastern Countries over Oil Prices: 'OPEC Monopoly Must Get Prices Down Now'
Pope relieves accused Indian bishop of duty: church officials
UN chief: ‘Time for concrete action’ on North Korea
Pompeo: US ready to restart talks with North Korea immediately

The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on September 20-21/18
U.S. Official: Iran Helping Hezbollah Build Arms Factories in Lebanon
The Daily Star and Agencies/Thursday 20th September 2018/The U.S. special envoy for Iran, Brian Hook, announced on Wednesday that his country has evidence that Iran is helping Hezbollah build arms factories in Lebanon. “They [Iran] were really able to develop a forward-deployed missile base in Lebanon and are trying to do so in Iraq,” Hook said in remarks to the Hudson Institute think tank. “If we want to have a stable and prosperous Middle East it starts with constraining Iran,” he added. “They’re essentially trying to ‘Lebanize’ the Middle East.”On Wednesday, the U.S. State Department's Country Reports on Terrorism accused Iran of being a global threat. "Iran remains the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and is responsible for intensifying multiple conflicts and undermining US interests in Syria, in Yemen, in Iraq, in Bahrain, in Afghanistan, and in Lebanon, using a number of proxies and other instruments such as Lebanese Hezbollah and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp’s Quds Force," Coordinator for Counterterrorism Nathan Sales told reporters, according to a transcript released by the State Department. "The threats posed by Iran’s support for terrorism are not confined to the Middle East; they are truly global."

AlRahi calls for emergency, impartial, nonpartisan government
Thu 20 Sep 2018/NNA - Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Bechara Butros al-Rahi, called Thursday for forming an emergency, neutral, non-partisan cabinet to tend to the pending economic and financial dossiers. "Four months have passed and we are into the fifth, yet there still seems to be no government lurking in the near future...This is unacceptable and we totally reject such practices by our politicians. The country does not belong to any of them, but to the entire Lebanese people," stressed al-Rahi. He, thus, urged various sides in the country to form an impartial emergency cabinet, comprised of prominent Lebanese figures known for their expertise and impartiality, and who are capable of launching the needed reforms in the state's structures and different sectors. "It is not enough to call for a national unity government...It is the emergency cabinet that can bring views closer and establish understanding and reconciliation...Only then can a government of national unity be formed, and I do not think there is another solution till this day," the Patriarch underscored. His words came upon concluding the summer season at the Patriarchal Seat in al-Diman and moving back to Bkirki. It is to note that Patriarch al-Rahi is expected to head to Canada and the Vatican in the near future.

UNIFIL Commander visits Bkirki

Thu 20 Sep 2018/NNA - UNIFIL Chief Commander, Major-General Stefano Del Col, paid a protocol visit to Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Bechara Boutros al-Rahi, in Bkirki on Thursday. The meeting was a chance to discuss the general situation in the country, in addition to the work of the UNIFIL forces in South Lebanon.
Aoun: Lebanon Is not on the Path of Bankruptcy
Beirut- Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 20 September, 2018/President Michel Aoun warned against spreading negativity over the country’s economic situation and disseminating harmful rumors. “The Lebanese pound is not in danger and Lebanon is not on the road to bankruptcy,” he said on Wednesday during a meeting at the Baabda Palace with a delegation of the Lions clubs, headed by Governor of the Region 351, which includes Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, and Iraq. The delegation visited the Baabda Palace to thank Aoun for patronizing the hand-over ceremony held recently, and to brief him on the Lions humanitarian activities and programs scheduled for 2018. Addressing the delegation, the president said he hoped that the overall situation in Lebanon and the Arab countries would improve significantly, and peace would prevail. “We in the Arab world are all living martyrs. Shrapnel of wars in the region has spread across Lebanon through terrorism and sleeping cells. We thank God that we have been able to establish internal security and fortify our borders. We are now at the point of addressing economic security after we were afflicted with many economic burdens. Rumors that the economic situation is on the brink of the abyss are not only false but also abhorrent,” Aoun stressed. He noted that some political parties were working on spreading rumors “to derail the reform process that we have initiated.”“We do not deny that there is a crisis, but we are dealing with it through the adoption of the state budget, which has not happened for nearly 11 years, as well as through the economic plan that we have set and through the CEDRE Conference,” the president said.

Lebanon's Parliament to Convene in Absence of Cabinet
Beirut - Youssef Diab/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 20 September, 2018/Lebanese Speaker Nabih Berri has called for a two-day legislative session on Monday to discuss and approve crucial draft-laws despite the absence of a government. Berri most likely secured the consent of all political parties, including al-Mustaqbal Movement, before setting the date for the two sessions. A statement said Berri has asked lawmakers to convene at 11 am on Sept. 24 and 25, for morning and evening sessions. Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri's al-Mustaqbal said that its deputies would attend the sessions, describing them as “necessary,” particularly that some proposals include projects linked to the CEDRE international conference that was held in Paris last April. Earlier on Wednesday, Berri chaired a meeting for the Parliament's Bureau at his Ain el-Tineh residence to discuss the legislative sessions. Member of Parliament’s Bureau MP Michel Moussa told Asharq Al-Awsat that “all parties agree on the importance of holding the sessions, particularly amid a cabinet crisis.” He said that during next week’s sessions, deputies are expected to approve a number of proposals related to CEDRE, mainly the law on fighting corruption. “There is also a need to solve the crisis on housing loans and solid waste,” Moussa explained, saying it was unacceptable to allow the government crisis to reach the Parliament and paralyze all constitutional institutions. Before heading the Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc meeting last Tuesday, Hariri agreed that some draft-laws needed approval despite the government deadlock. “If there are very necessary items that we agree on, I think they are those linked to the CEDRE Conference,” he said.
Report: FBI Chief Expected in Beirut
Naharnet/September 20/18/In a first, FBI Director Christopher Wray will reportedly visit Lebanon after being appointed in his post following a confrontation with his predecessor James Comey, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Thursday. Preparations for the visit were surrounded with “confidentiality”, well-informed diplomatic sources told the daily, describing it as “urgent and important.” They added that Wray “wants to have direct talks with senior Lebanese officials.”The US official heads a large delegation of senior aides who are charged with security, military, intelligence and economic portfolios, to hold wide consultations with senior Lebanese military and security officials, according to the daily.

Final Touches Made ahead of President Trip to NY

Naharnet/September 20/18/The finishing touches on the trip of President Michel Aoun to New York where he is set to partake in the new session of United Nations General Assembly next week are being made, media reports said. Aoun has headed a preparatory meeting yesterday, during which he discussed the most important issues on the agenda of the General Assembly and the position of Lebanon in that regard. Discussions also highlighted Aoun’s speech last year where he called for Lebanon to be a center for civilizations and dialogue, cultures, religions and races, the Saudi Asharq al-Awsat daily reported on Thursday. Well-informed sources told the daily that Aoun’s upcoming speech at the UN will focus on several issues mainly the Syrian refugees in which Lebanon will reiterate its call on the international community to ease the burden on Lebanon. He will also seek to make Lebanon a world center for civilizations and dialogue. A roadmap prepared by Lebanon for the past year will be presented on this subject.

Nasrallah Defies Israel, Says Group Has 'Highly Accurate' Missiles
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 20/18/Hizbullah said Thursday it had acquired "precision missiles" despite extensive efforts by neighbour and foe Israel to prevent the Shiite movement developing this capability. "It has been done. The resistance now owns precision missiles" as part of its weaponry, Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised address during the key Shiite commemoration of Ashura. Israel this month acknowledged carrying out more than 200 strikes over the past 18 months in war-torn Syria, where Hizbullah fights alongside Israel's arch-foe and Shiite powerhouse Iran in support of the Damascus regime. Israel has said it is working to stop both Iran and Hizbullah from acquiring sophisticated arms. "Attempts in Syria to block the way towards this (missile) capability" have failed, Nasrallah said.
"If Israel imposes a war on Lebanon, it will face a fate that it never would have expected."
Israel has fought several conflicts against Hizbullah, the last in 2006.
The Israeli military believes Hizbullah has between 100,000 and 120,000 short-range missiles and rockets, as well as several hundred longer-range missiles. Late Monday, an Israeli raid hit Syria's coastal province of Latakia to prevent what the Jewish state said were deliveries of advanced weaponry to Hizbullah. The same evening Syrian air defences downed a Russian military plane by mistake, killing all 15 on board. Russia also backs Syria's government militarily and it was the worst case of friendly fire between the two allies since Moscow intervened in the conflict in 2015. On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country was "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". Nasrallah accused the Israelis of trying to kill him "day and night". He has lived in a secret location for decades and rarely appears in public. The Hizbullah chief also reiterated his support for Iran, after the United States withdrew from a landmark nuclear deal in May. Washington reimposed sanctions on the Islamic republic last month, and a new round of even harsher sanctions targeting Iran's vital oil sector is set to go into effect in early November. "It is our duty today to stand by Iran, who in a few weeks' time will face a dangerous deadline -- the start of American sanctions," he said. Nasrallah accused the United States of "going to all the world's capitals in a bid to besiege" Iran, as Washington seeks support for its measures against the country.

Lebanon's Ambassador to Saudi Arabia: We will not forget the Kingdom's continuous support to Lebanon
Thu 20 Sep 2018/ NNA - In an issued statement marking Saudi Arabia's National Day, Lebanese Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Fawzi Kabbara, reiterated that "Lebanon will never forget the continuous support of the Kingdom, especially during its hard times." Kabbara reminded of the historic relationship between Lebanon and the Kingdom, stressing on preserving and reinforcing the Saudi-Lebanese bilateral ties. "The delicate situation that the Arab region is witnessing today is one of interlocking challenges. This requires of me, on this occasion, to reiterate the importance of the relationship between our two countries and to emphasize our keenness to uphold, fortify and strengthen them in order to maintain the close ties established by our predecessors over decades of time," the Lebanese Ambassador confirmed. He finally referred to the major development, growth and prosperity witnessed in Saudi Arabia on the internal scene, and its significant, active and influential presence at international level.

Jumblatt refuses visit of PSP ministers to Syria
Thu 20 Sep 2018/NNA - "If geopolitics governs the Lebanese-Syrian relationship, our position from the regime will not change. Therefore, I refuse that the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) and the Democratic Gathering visit Syria, in contrary to what was published in al-Akhbar newspaper," Former MP Walid Jumblatt said Thursday via Twitter.
Kataeb Party Joins International Democrat Union 20th September 2018/Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel on Wednesday announced that the party has joined the International Democrat Union (IDU), a working association of like-minded political parties of the centre and centre right from all over the world. Speaking at the IDU's 2018 executive meeting in Los Angeles, Gemayel presented an insight into the Kataeb's history, values and goals, stressing the importance of the party’s presence in international platforms which allow it to address the Lebanese cause. He also stressed the need to support Lebanon amid the hardships it is going through on both security and economic levels, outlining the importance of dissociating Lebanon from regional conflicts in order to spare it dangerous ripple effects. Formed in 1983, the IDU provides a forum in which parties holding similar beliefs can come together and exchange views on matters of policy and organisational interest, so that they can learn from each other, act together, establish contacts and speak with one strong voice to promote democracy and centre-right policies around the globe. Founder Members of the IDU included Britain’s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, then US Vice-President George Bush Sr, Paris Mayor and later President of France Jacques Chirac, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and many other Party Leaders.

Sami Gemayel from LA: We will work for a free, sovereign Lebanon

Thu 20 Sep 2018/NNA - "The Kataeb Party will continue to defend the sovereignty and independence of Lebanon, as well as the right of the Lebanese people to a decent life and the building of a state in which they can live with dignity," MP Sami Gemayel asserted on Thursday during his meeting with Lebanese emigrants residing in Los Angeles, on the sidelines of his participation in the International Democratic Union Conference. In his address at the IDU meeting, Gemayel called for support and assistance to Lebanon in tackling its various security and economic challenges and the crisis of the Syrian refugees. He urged the international community to safeguard Lebanon's neutrality away from regional conflicts that threaten its stability. Shedding light on the Kataeb's goals and projects for Lebanon, MP Gemayel stressed on the importance of his Party's presence at the international forums, which provides a mechanism to bring the Lebanese issue before active parties that enjoy abundant expertise and necessary knowledge in assuming state administrations. It is to note that the Kataeb Party recently joined the International Democratic Union, which includes more than 80 influential parties from around the world.
During the Conference meetings, the Christian Democratic Party in Germany and the European People's Party assessed the work of the Kataeb at the Lebanese level, while referring to their partnerships with the Party. They also affirmed that the Kataeb's new membership in the Union would provide more attention and necessary assistance to the Lebanese situation at various levels, in addition to allowing Lebanon to play a real role in the world as a democratic country.

Shiites across Mideast Mark Ashoura, Mourning Saint's Death
Associated Press/Naharnet/September 20/18/Shiites across the Middle East on Thursday marked Ashoura, an annual commemoration mourning the 7th century death of Prophet Muhammad's grandson Hussein, one of Shiite Islam's most beloved saints. For Shiites, who represent over 10 percent of the world's 1.8 billion Muslims, the remembrance of Hussein is an emotional event that sees many believers weep over his death at the Battle of Karbala in present-day Iraq. Some beat their backs with chains, flagellating themselves in a symbolic expression of regret for not being able to help Hussein before his martyrdom. But the commemorations can prove tempting targets for Sunni extremist groups, who view Shiites as heretics. In Iran, the Mideast's Shiite power, groups of men beat their backs with chains in Tehran. Other mourners beat their chests while carrying black, green and red flags. State television showed similar mourning ceremonies across the country. For Iranians, this Ashoura comes as the United States is re-imposing sanctions on Iran previously lifted by its nuclear deal with world powers, despite Tehran's compliance with the accord. While Iran's national currency, the rial, plummets, Ashoura provides a moment to fuel mourners' defiance with its message of sacrifice and dignity in the face of coercion. Hussein "insisted on the truth until the end," said Milad Ghodrati, 36, of Tehran. "He lost everything to defend the truth." In the Iraqi city of Karbala, hundreds of thousands of mourners gathered around Imam Hussein's shrine, chanting and striking themselves in rhythm to an imam calling out over loudspeakers. Many pressed up against the mausoleum holding his remains, reaching out to touch it. Lebanese Shiites also went out on the streets. Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah gave one of his traditional Ashoura speeches, saying on Thursday that the group now possesses "highly accurate" missiles despite Israeli attempts to prevent it from acquiring such weapons. In neighboring Pakistan, paramilitary troops, police and intelligence agents fanned out to protect mourners' processions. Authorities cut mobile phone services in major cities holding commemorations for fear of militant bombings. Motorbikes were stopped from carrying multiple passengers to prevent drive-by shootings. Some mourners there sliced their backs with knives to express their grief. Battered by brazen and deadly attacks by an Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan, minority Shiites stationed heavily armed guards at their mosques Thursday. Police also were on hand. Basir Mujahid, a spokesman for Kabul's police chief, said large vehicles, including trucks and SUVs, were banned from streets where mosques are located to prevent car bombs.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on
September 20-21/18
4 dead, including suspect, after Maryland warehouse shooting
The Associated Press, Aberdeen, Maryland Thursday, 20 September 2018/An employee at a Rite Aid warehouse opened fire at work on Thursday, killing three people before taking her own life, authorities said. Several other people were wounded. The suspect was a 26-year-old temporary employee at the Rite Aid distribution center in northeastern Maryland, Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler said at a news conference. The sheriff’s office said in a tweet a short time later that she had been identified as Snochia Moseley of Baltimore County. It appears only one weapon was used - a 9 mm Glock handgun that was registered in Moseley’s name - and no shots were fired by responding law enforcement officers, Gahler said. He said authorities don’t know her motive. She died at a hospital from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, he said. Krystal Watson, 33, said her husband, Eric, works at the facility and told her told her that the suspect had been arguing with somebody else near a time clock after a “Town Hall meeting.” “And she went off,” she said. “She didn’t have a particular target. She was just shooting,” Watson said as she drove away from a fire station where relatives tried to reunite with loved ones. “She didn’t aim. She just shot,” Watson said. Area hospitals reported receiving five patients from the incident. Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore said it was treating four patients with gunshot wounds. Two were in stable condition and two who were seriously injured. A spokesman for a health system that includes Christiana Hospital in Newark, Delaware, said one patient was being treated there. Christiana Care Health System spokesman Hiran Ratnayake said the person was in serious condition.Gahler said the call about shots fired came in at about 9:06 a.m. and deputies and other officers were on the scene in just over five minutes. He said the suspect had reported for the work day as usual, and around 9 a.m. the shooting began outside the business and continued inside. The shooter had two or maybe three magazines for the gun. He did not know how many shots were fired. Mike Carre, an employee of a furniture logistics operation next to the distribution center, said he helped tend to a wounded man. Carre locked the doors of his workplace after the injured man came hobbling in, bleeding from his leg. He called 911 from a bathroom before helping colleagues wrap the man’s blood-soaked jeans above his injury to cut off blood flow.  Shooter 'came in in a bad mood' Carre said the man told him the shooter “just came in in a bad mood this morning. He said she’s usually nice. But today, I guess it wasn’t her day. She just came in to pick a fight with someone.”“She pulled out a gun and she just started shooting at her co-workers.”At a nearby fire station, family members waited for hours to be reunited with loved ones. Police blocked off the road outside but waved in cars driven by people who said they were there to meet up with people who were at the distribution center. Reggie Rodgriguez’s mother works at the distribution center. His wife had tried calling her numerous times but got no answer.
“I was calling her all morning. It went to voicemail because they keep their phones in lockers,” said Kelly Rodriguez, 40. When they finally reached his mother on Thursday afternoon, Reggie Rodriguez said, “That’s all I wanted to do: Hear her voice.” His mother was uninjured. He said she sounded relieved the crisis was over. A law enforcement official said authorities worked their way through the distribution center to clear the facility. The attack came nearly three months after a man armed with a shotgun attacked a newspaper office in Annapolis, Maryland, killing five staff members. Authorities accused Jarrod W. Ramos of attacking The Capital Gazette because of a longstanding grudge against the paper. Susan Henderson, spokesman for the drugstore chain Rite Aid, described the warehouse as a support facility adjacent to a larger building. Harford County Executive Barry Glassman said that unfortunately, incidents like this are “becoming a too-often occurrence not only in Harford County but in the country.”

British and French planes scrambled to shadow Russian jets
Reuters, London Thursday, 20 September 2018/British and French military jets were scrambled to investigate suspected Russian fighter aircraft flying over the North Sea on Thursday. Colonel Cyrille Duvivier, a spokesman for the French Air Force, told Reuters one or several Russian planes were detected and that the actions were not hostile. “The usual response mechanisms were triggered: Rafale fighters took off in the late morning from the base of Saint-Dizier with a refuelling plane and positioned themselves for possible intervention,” Duvivier said. RAF jets regularly monitor Russian warplanes near UK airspace and they intercepted jets near Romania last month. Britain’s Minister of State for the Armed Forces, Mark Lancaster, spoke about “an ever more assertive Russia” in a speech in London in July. He said the RAF has had to scramble jets more than 80 times over the last decade to intercept Russian military aircraft.

Putin-Erdogan Deal Revives Northern Syria’s ‘Main Artery’ to Damascus
London - Ibrahim Hamidi/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 20 September, 2018/A deal struck in Sochi last Monday by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the opposition-held Syrian province of Idlib showed that the two main roads linking Aleppo to Latakia and Hama, which are considered the “main artery of the North,” would be reopened to Damascus by the end of the year. The deal stipulates that the M4 from Aleppo to Latakia will be opened to traffic and that the Syrian regime's transit on route M4 from Aleppo to Latakia and M5 from Aleppo to Hama will be restored before 2019. A copy of the text, received by Asharq Al-Awsat on Wednesday, includes 10 clauses and a timetable for establishing a 15-20 kilometer wide corridor in Idlib, which would be patrolled jointly by Russian and Turkish military units.The deal stipulates the withdrawal of all heavy weapons including tanks and artillery, from the zone by October 10 the latest and to “get rid of terrorists by the 15th of the same month.”Paragraph six of the document said: “All tanks, MLRS [Multiple Rocket Launch Systems], artillery and mortars belonging to warring sides will be withdrawn from the demilitarized zone by October 10.” In return, Russia pledged to keep the status quo in Idlib and take all necessary measures to prevent any military operations and offensives in the area, in addition to safeguarding the free movement of local residents and goods, and the return of trade and economic-related activities. The Russian-Turkish deal hopes to avert a military offensive against the northwestern province, where a humanitarian disaster would affect around 3 million Syrians. Meanwhile, thousands of refugees from Idlib started to return to their homes within 48 hours of the announcement of the deal, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Wednesday. "Around 7,000 people have returned to their towns and villages since the announcement of the deal on Monday, especially in the southeast of Idlib and the north of (neighboring) Hama," said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based Observatory.
UN Says Russia, Turkey Still Working on 'Details' of Idlib Deal
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 20/18/The deal to avoid a Syrian government offensive on Idlib province is still being worked out by Russia and Turkey, the UN said Thursday, stressing that the threat to civilians remained high. "This is not a peace deal. It is an aversion of (a) whole-scale-war deal," the head of the United Nations Humanitarian Taskforce for Syria, Jan Egeland, told reporters in Geneva. Syrian government ally Russia and rebel supporter Turkey reached an agreement to create a demilitarised buffer zone in Idlib, Syria's last opposition bastion, where half of its three million residents have been displaced from areas retaken by Syrian forces. While briefing the taskforce about the pact on Thursday, Russian and Turkish envoys made clear they "are still working... on the details," Egeland said. He expressed hope it was an indication that "the big war was averted" in Idlib, although Russia stressed it would continue operating against fighters it identifies as terrorists. "I see a great potential for a lot of fighting," Egeland said. "We are concerned for the civilians in these areas, so it is not over." The UN has repeatedly warned that a full-scale assault on Idlib could trigger the bloodiest episode of Syria's seven-year war, which has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions. Despite the ongoing concerns, Egeland said he was "relieved" for now."The outcome here was the least bad of (the) realistic solutions," he said.

UN: Threat to Idlib civilians remains high

AFP/September 20, 2018/Egeland: Russia, Turkey ‘still working out deal on demilitarized buffer zone’ Russia stressed it would continue operating against fighters it identifies as terrorists. The deal to avoid a Syrian regime offensive on Idlib province is still being worked out by Russia and Turkey, the UN said on Thursday, stressing that the threat to civilians remained high.“This is not a peace deal. It is an aversion of (a) whole-scale-war deal,” the head of the UN Humanitarian Taskforce for Syria, Jan Egeland, said in Geneva. Syrian regime ally Russia and rebel supporter Turkey reached an agreement to create a demilitarized buffer zone in Idlib, Syria’s last opposition bastion, where half of its 3 million residents have been displaced from areas retaken by Syrian forces. While briefing the task force about the pact on Thursday, Russian and Turkish envoys made clear they “are still working... on the details,” Egeland said.
He expressed hope it was an indication that “the big war was averted” in Idlib, although Russia stressed it would continue operating against fighters it identifies as terrorists. “I see a great potential for a lot of fighting,” Egeland said. “We are concerned for the civilians in these areas, so it is not over.”
The UN has repeatedly warned that a full-scale assault on Idlib could trigger the bloodiest episode of Syria’s seven-year war, which has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions. Despite the ongoing concerns, Egeland said he was “relieved” for now. “The outcome here was the least bad of (the) realistic solutions,” he said. The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia has welcomed the Russian-Turkey agreement agreement signed in Sochi, calling it a “step on the road to making a political solution possible.”Hassan Nasrallah said his group may reduce the number of its fighters in Syria because of an easing of the conflict, particularly after the recent agreement. It “will take Syria in the next weeks and months to a new phase,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech to supporters. He said the deal’s success will depend whether it’s properly implemented. “We will remain there even after the Idlib accord,” Nasrallah said.
“We will stay until further notice,” he stressed. On Thursday, Nasrallah said Hezbollah had acquired “precision missiles” despite extensive efforts by Israel to prevent the movement developing this capability. “It has been done. The resistance now owns precision missiles” as part of its weaponry, Nasrallah said in a televised address. “Attempts in Syria to block the way toward this (missile) capability” have failed, Nasrallah said. “If Israel imposes a war on Lebanon, it will face a fate that it never would have expected.” Israel has fought several conflicts against Hezbollah, the last in 2006. The Israeli military believes Hezbollah has between 100,000 and 120,000 short-range missiles and rockets, as well as several hundred longer-range missiles.

Netanyahu Tests Israeli Fast Train from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tested Israel's new high-speed train from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv on Thursday, but much work remains before it is fully operational. Netanyahu joined Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz on the ride from a newly built train station in Jerusalem's city centre to Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv. That portion of the route is due to open on Tuesday, but trains will not yet be able to reach Tel Aviv itself or other locations. Travelling at speeds up to 160 kilometres (100 miles) per hour, the ride from central Jerusalem to the airport will take 21 minutes -- half the time it takes to drive there in normal traffic, though congestion often makes the trip much longer. There is also an older train that runs from Jerusalem to the airport, but that journey takes some two hours and requires a change. Netanyahu spoke briefly before the ride, saying it was a "historic day" and the beginning of a "new era". The new train was due to open in March, but work to prepare the line has been slower than expected and its launch repeatedly delayed. The project dates back many years, having first been planned in the 1990s, with an original opening date of 2008. The new line includes 40 kilometres of tunnels and eight bridges, with a small part of it controversially passing through the occupied West Bank. Companies involved in the project include Canadian firm Bombardier, Spain's Semi and France's Alstom. Israel also wants to extend the line to include a Western Wall station, which would be sure to spark criticism. The Western Wall is located in the ancient Old City in east Jerusalem, occupied by Israel in 1967 and later annexed in a move never recognised by the international community. It is in an area at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, located just below the Al-Aqsa mosque compound. The hilltop compound is sacred to both Muslims and Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount. It is the holiest site in Judaism and the third-holiest in Islam, after Mecca and Medina. The Western Wall is considered one of the last remnants of the Second Jewish Temple, destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. While Israel sees all of Jerusalem as its undivided capital, the Palestinians view east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. Katz said Thursday the new line was cause for "celebration" for Jerusalem. "Now, more than ever, when there are people trying to challenge and question the Jewish people's connection to Jerusalem and ownership of it, we're connecting Jerusalem," he said.

Gargash Says Gulf States Should be Party to Proposed Iran Talks
Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 20 September, 2018/Anwar Gargash, United Arab Emirates Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said Thursday that Gulf states should be included in proposed treaty negotiations with Iran over its ballistic missile program and regional behavior.
"It is essential that the Gulf Arab states be a party to the proposed negotiations. It is prudent for Tehran to avoid sanctions and to take these proposals seriously," Gargash tweeted. His tweet came after Brian Hook, US special envoy for Iran, said on Wednesday Washington is seeking to negotiate a treaty with Iran to include Tehran's ballistic missiles and its regional behavior. Iran has rejected US attempts to hold high-level talks since President Donald Trump tore up the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and six world powers earlier this year.

Exclusive: Russia, Iran Race for Syria Reconstruction Deals
Rif Dimashq Governorate- Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 20 September, 2018/Russia is working relentlessly to push against Iran tapping into Syria’s reconstruction projects, as the two compete for securing the largest share of investment contracts in the war-torn country.
Iran is hoping to make up in reconstruction deals what it had lost in the energy field after Russia having monopolized memorandums of understanding signed for repairing a power grid and extracting from one of Syria’s lucrative phosphate mines. Reconstruction deals multiplied in numbers after Syrian regime head Bashar Al-Assad issued an order to establish two new administrative zones within the capital’s vicinity. In an effort to clear Damascus from any rebel presence, Assad issued in 2012 Presidential Decree No. 66, which stipulates erecting full infrastructure for two new zones within Damascus.
Codenamed district 101 and 102, the two areas are located in Al-Mezzeh neighborhood west of the capital and extend to reach beyond Kafr Sousa neighborhoods. District 101 is connected to 102 on the south-east side, extending from the south-eastern parts of Kafr Sousa to neighborhoods south of Damascus. Damascus presented the blueprints for district 101 under the name Marota City, which is Syriac for heaven. It covers an area of 2 million square meters and set up to include 12 thousand apartments spread over 168 towers and multi-story buildings.
It will also be home to 17 academic institutions, four gas stations, three mosques and a church. Annexed to district 101’s southeastern side, district 102—named Basilia City, Syriac for "homeland" or "sovereignty"-- covers areas located between Al-Qadam and Yarmouk refugee camps.
Interestingly, all neighborhoods covered by Assad’s reconstruction decree were home for popular anti-regime movements and were reduced to rubble in the aftermath of the civil war. The Damascus Governorate established “Damascus Cham Holding Company” for managing real-estate and reconstruction, primarily the project's land plots and singing construction contractors for establishing 101 and 102. “Iran rushed to invest heavily in Area 101, which is nestled behind its old embassy and very close to its new embassy pegged on the Mezzeh highway," traders and real estate agents signed up with Damascus Cham Holding told Asharq Al Awsat. Sources explained that “any company can partner with Damascus Cham Holding Company to establish a new construction company.”
“Damascus Cham Holding Company provides the land plot and while the consigned partner provides construction funds, under a partnership agreement the former decides on the split of project ownership, whether at 55 percent - 45 percent, 51 percent or 49 percent, depending on location and volume of construction.”Sources confirmed that Iranians and Iran-linked Lebanese nationals moved swiftly to establish companies in Syria. After an under-the-table agreement struck between Iran and Qatar, which swept and cleared neighborhoods and cities from opposition factions’ presence, namely Darayya, Iranian officials landed a contract with authorities to build some 30,000 housing units within area 102. Darayya lies 5 km south of the Iranian embassy and has the Mezzeh airbase under a kilometer away, but Tehran denies the above strategic value of the location, swapping it with religious motives of the area being home to a shrine of a prominent Shiite figure.
The city has substantial geopolitical and logistics value, given that it borders Lebanon and is an outpost for top regime command and intelligence centers. Despite the Iranian out-of-breath rush into singing reconstruction deals in Syria, another regime ally, Russia, is actively blocking Tehran’s attempts to land deals inside or about Damascus, senior Syrian real estate agents, speaking under the condition of anonymity, told Asharq Al-Awsat. Sources added that leaks strongly indicate that Russians enjoy the upper-hand when it comes to landing reconstructions contracts in area 102.
In some areas pending reconstruction, the Russia-Iran business battle delayed the return of displaced locals to their homes, such as Al-Malihah town. According to the Rif Dimashq local reconstruction committee, 1.2 million homes, more than 5,500 schools were destroyed, 60 percent of health facilities sustained damage and are in need of some level of rebuilding. Public property suffered a loss of some $6 billion in assets.
A government-linked Iranian newspaper cited a report previously published by a Revolutionary Guard website on Iranian-Russian differences over reconstruction in Syria to uncover new dimensions of the differences between Moscow and Tehran over the post-war share-sharing of Syria. Whereas the regular military defends Iran's borders and maintains internal order, according to the Iranian constitution, the Revolutionary Guard is intended to protect the country's theocratic system. Armed to its teeth, Revolutionary Guard forces answer to orders issued by the Iranian Supreme Leader solely. The newspaper said that “nothing” is the share Iran has secured from the post-war Syria market, pointing out that most reconstruction contracts are signed up to President Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Despite the high costs paid by Iran to support Assad, Iran is not getting any leverage in emerging post-ISIS reconstruction markets in Syria.

Barham Salih: Favorite Candidate for Iraqi Presidency
Baghdad - Sulaymaniah - Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 20 September, 2018/Iraq’s Shiites and Kurds have been discussing their choice for the premiership and the presidency after Sunnis picked on Saturday Mohammed al-Halbousi to become parliament speaker.
In Iraq, the speaker is a Sunni Arab while the prime minister is Shiite and the president is a Kurd. Observers expect that Kurds would present more than one candidate for the presidential post next Tuesday, amid speculations that Barham Salih is likely to secure the highest votes, particularly after returning to the ranks of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). Reports emerged this week that Bafel and Kibad Talabani, the sons of late Iraqi president and PUK leader Jalal Talabani, made an offer to convince Salih dissolve his Coalition for Democracy and Justice (CDJ) party and return to the ranks of the PUK in exchange for nominating him for the presidency. On Wednesday, PUK leaders held a meeting in Sulaymaniah and selected Salih to take over from current President Fuad Masum. “Barham is the sole nominee for the post of president,” Sa’adi Berah, the PUK spokesman said on Wednesday. “PUK leaders have voted today on this decision after he (Barham) accepted all the conditions of the PUK. During the meeting, Salih defeated Latif Rashid and Moahmmed Sabir, winning the internal party election by 26 votes. Sabir won 15 votes while Rashid received only one. Separately, Fadel Mirani, secretary of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) politburo, announced that his party, headed by Masoud Barzani, the former Kurdistan Region President, would also have a candidate for the presidential post. However, an informed Iraqi source asserted that the KDP’s candidate would not affect the chances of Salih to win the elections.

Morocco's FM, US Officials Discuss Iran Conspiracy with Polisario
Rabat- Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 20 September, 2018/Morocco's Foreign Affairs Minister Nasser Bourita said that talks he held with US officials during his visit to Washington on Sep 17-18 addressed several topics, mainly Iran and its conspiracy with Polisario. This topic is a major concern for US officials, as affirmed by the Department of State. In a statement, issued Monday, the Department highlighted the joint efforts of Morocco and the US to limit Iran’s support of terrorism and to resist its impact on the region. According to Maghreb Arab Press (MAP), Bourita said that during the talks, US officials expressed appreciation to the Moroccan role in security matters. As for the Sahara issue, Bourita stated that he discussed with the officials the Moroccan point of view concerning the current situation. He underpinned the Moroccan-US partnership that is interpreted through the exchange of visits at the diplomatic level. Bourita met with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, US National Security Adviser John Bolton, Under Secretary for Political Affairs David Hale and State Department's Brian Hook. He also held discussions on Tuesday with prominent figures in the Senate, including Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, and Todd Young.

Japan's Abe Cruises to Party Vote Win, to Stay as PM
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 20/18/Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won comfortable re-election as leader of his ruling party Thursday, setting him on course to become Japan's longest-serving premier and realise his dream of reforming the constitution. The 63-year-old conservative secured 553 votes against 254 won by former defence minister Shigeru Ishiba, a hawkish self-confessed "military geek", in a two-horse race for leader of the Liberal Democratic Party. The win effectively hands Abe three more years as PM, giving him the chance of breaking the record for the nation's longest serving premiership held by Taro Katsura, a revered politician who served three times between 1901 and 1913. To loud cheers of "banzai" -- the Japanese equivalent of "three cheers" -- from party members, a grinning Abe said: "The battle is over. Let's build a new Japan by joining hands and uniting." Shinichi Nishikawa, professor of politics at Meiji University in Tokyo, told AFP that the vote was effectively a referendum on Abe's record that he successfully negotiated. "But he can't wholeheartedly welcome the result as he couldn't win overwhelmingly." Public support for Abe -- a political thoroughbred whose grandfather and father both held power -- has recovered after he managed to survive a series of cronyism and cover-up scandals. Reconfirmed in power, Abe will head to New York this weekend to attend the UN General Assembly and hold a summit with US President Donald Trump. Abe and Trump, who enjoy each other's company on the golf course and are close diplomatic allies, are expected to analyse the latest inter-Korean summit. But they will also have to confront a growing trade dispute as Trump sees Tokyo among "unfair" trade partners.
Forever renounce war
While Japanese voters put the economy and social security as their top priorities, Abe aims to use the election to push his dream of reforming the country's post-World War II pacifist constitution.
Nationalist Abe has frequently voiced his wish to rewrite the charter, imposed by the victorious US occupiers, which forces the country to "forever renounce war" and dictates that armed forces will "never be maintained". Abe insists any changes would merely remove the country's well-equipped Self-Defense Forces from the constitutional paradox whereby they should not technically exist. "It's time to stipulate both the Self-Defense Forces and the protection of Japan's peace and independence in the constitution," Abe said in his last stump speech in Tokyo. "Together with you all, I want to work on reforming the constitution," he said in his victory speech on Thursday. But any changes to the text would be hugely sensitive in pacifist Japan and almost certainly greeted with fury in China and the Koreas, 20th-century victims of Japanese military aggression. Even if Abe manages to force a revision through parliament, he would face a referendum, raising the prospect of a Brexit-style political meltdown if the people vote against him, said Yu Uchiyama, political scientist from the University of Tokyo. In addition, surveys show that tinkering with the legal text is far from top of most Japanese voters' to-do list, as the country faces an ageing and declining population and a still-sluggish economy. Acknowledging concerns over the economic outlook, Abe said he plans to introduce "bold" stimulus measures to ease the expected impact of a tax hike scheduled for October next year. Japan's economy has been expanding for the past few years at a slow pace thanks to the Bank of Japan's ultra-loose monetary policy and huge government spending, which have led to a weak yen -- a key positive element for Japanese exporters. But analysts warned US-led trade wars could be a major risk factor for an economy still struggling to win a long battle against deflation. Local media said Abe plans to reshuffle his cabinet on October 1. However, he is expected to retain Vice Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso, a political ally who has backed his "Abenomics" strategy to stimulate the world's third-largest economy.
Boko Haram Kills Nine Villagers in NE Nigeria
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 20/18/Nine people were killed and nine others injured when Boko Haram fighters raided two villages in northeast Nigeria, the civilian militia said on Thursday. Jihadists in pickup trucks attacked Kalari Abdiye and nearby Amarwa, some 20 kilometres (12 miles) from Borno state capital Maiduguri, on Wednesday evening. "The gunmen, who were obviously Boko Haram fighters, killed nine people and injured nine more in the attacks," Ibrahim Liman, from the Civilian Joint Taskforce (CJTF) told AFP. "They attacked the villages around 8:30 pm (1930 GMT) when it was raining and people were indoors." Frightened residents rushed out of their homes but when they did so they were shot "indicriminately", said another CJTF leader, Babakura Kolo. "The two villages were completely burnt by the attackers," he added, giving a similar toll. Both villages are in Konduga, a district of Borno state that has suffered repeated attacks in a nine-year insurgency which has left more than 27,000 dead. Last December six people were killed in a suicide attack on a crowded market in Amarwa, while 10 people lost their lives in April when two female suicide bombers attacked the village. It was not clear which of the two Boko Haram factions was behind the attacks and there was no claim of responsibility. Fighters loyal to the group's long-time leader, Abubakar Shekau, have indiscriminately targeted civilians, particularly using suicide bombers and hit-and-run raids. A separate faction backed by the Islamic state group and known as ISWAP (Islamic State West Africa Province) has focused more on attacking military and government targets. But more radical elements are said to have taken over the ISWAP leadership, prompting fears of an upsurge in violence against the local population. On Monday, ISWAP killed a Red Cross health worker who had been kidnapped with two of her colleagues in a raid six months earlier, stoking fears for the other hostages being held.

Tensions Rise as EU Prepares for Final Brexit Stretch
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/September 20/18/EU leaders will on Thursday make preparations for the final stretch of Brexit negotiations, after clashing with Britain over how to bridge their differences to reach a divorce deal. Leaders of the 27 other European Union countries will meet without British Prime Minister Theresa May in Salzburg, during the first of three summits in successive months that Brussels hopes will yield an agreement. But as they arrived for a pre-summit dinner in the Austrian city on Wednesday evening, both sides called on the other to make further concessions. EU Council President Donald Tusk said that despite progress in some areas, on the two thorniest issues of the Irish border and post-Brexit trade ties, "the UK's proposals will need to be reworked". May, who is under intense pressure from Brexiteers back home, retorted that she had already made compromises and it was now the turn of Brussels. "If we are going to achieve a successful conclusion then, just as the UK has evolved its position, the EU will need to evolve its position too," she said. Both sides had been aiming for an October EU summit as the deadline to reach an agreement, to allow time for the deal to be ratified by British and European parliaments before Brexit in March. But with the talks deadlocked, Tusk is seeking approval on Thursday for another summit in November -- when he warned there must be a deal, to avert a "catastrophe" of Britain crashing out of the bloc.
- 'Get this deal done' -
The summit dinner was dominated by discussions over how to deal with irregular migration into Europe, but May gave a short speech on Brexit at the end, officials said. She pressed her case for a Brexit deal, telling fellow leaders: "The onus is now on all of us to get this deal done."For the first time, she presented to the group her so-called Chequers plan for the post-Brexit trading relationship, which was published in July. Her proposal to follow EU rules on trade in goods has provoked a fierce backlash among eurosceptics in her Conservative party, renewing speculation of a challenge to her leadership. EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has also been deeply critical of the plan, which May hopes could form the basis of a political agreement on trade to be included in the divorce deal. British officials insist however that it is the only way to protect existing trade after Brexit while also resolving the Irish issue.
- Irish border talks -
Much of the divorce deal is agreed, but a key sticking point is how to avoid a "hard border" between British-ruled Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic when London leaves the EU single market and customs union. There are fears that frontier checks would disrupt trade and could undermine the 1998 peace deal on the island. Europe is insisting on a fall-back plan, a "backstop", that would keep Northern Ireland in the customs union under EU rules while a future trade relationship is negotiated. London has rejected this, saying it would create a border in the Irish Sea that threatens its territorial integrity, but offered only a partial proposal in return. May will meet with Irish Premier Leo Varadkar before the Brexit talks on Thursday, and Tusk will brief her afterwards on what the EU27 discussed. Diplomats warned before Salzburg that there would be little headway as both sides act cautiously before May's Conservatives begin their annual conference on September 30. But there were signs of some movement on Ireland, after Barnier suggested any checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK could be away from the border. May welcomed his willingness to "find a new solution", and conceded that some checks were already carried out in the Irish Sea, on agricultural products. But she repeated her warning that Britain would not agree to a "legal separation of the United Kingdom into two customs territories".
Trump Threatens Middle Eastern Countries over Oil Prices: 'OPEC Monopoly Must Get Prices Down Now'
The Hill/Thursday 20th September 2018/President Trump on Thursday suggested that the U.S. may reconsider military support for countries in the Middle East if members of OPEC don't bring down oil prices. "We protect the countries of the Middle East, they would not be safe for very long without us, and yet they continue to push for higher and higher oil prices! We will remember. The OPEC monopoly must get prices down now!" Trump tweeted. The president's tweet comes ahead of a scheduled meeting among OPEC members and Russian officials this weekend, when representatives are likely to discuss whether to increase oil output. The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that OPEC members will be hesitant to increase supply significantly, in part because the Trump administration's trade disputes have affected global markets. Meanwhile, Iran warned that it would veto any decision from the group that harms its national interests as it reels from sanctions implemented by the Trump administration last month. Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, Iran's oil minister, said any decision on a new production agreement would be "void" and "invalid" without Iran's support, Bloomberg reported.
Trump has previously taken aim at OPEC through Twitter, referring to it as a monopoly on multiple occasions. In July, he accused the organization of oil exporters of doing “little to help” rising gas prices. In June, he again blamed the organization for "artificially high" gas prices, tweeting that "OPEC is at it again."

Pope relieves accused Indian bishop of duty: church officials
AFP, New Delhi Thursday, 20 September 2018/Pope Francis has relieved from duty an Indian bishop accused by a nun of raping her, local church officials said on Thursday, in a high-profile abuse case that sparked protests by clergy angry at police inaction. Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who has rejected the accusations, had written to the pope requesting he be temporarily relieved of his duties while an investigation was underway. “Having considered all circumstances the Holy Father has accepted the request of Bishop Mulakkal,” the Catholic Bishops Conference of India said in a statement Thursday. Another bishop has been appointed temporarily in his stead, the statement read. The nun first accused Mulakkal in late June of raping her 13 times between 2014 and 2016. But police in the southern state of Kerala, home to India’s largest Christian population, did not formally question him until September.
Protests by nuns
The lack of action provoked outrage and five nuns -- in a rare show of dissent within the Indian Church -- and dozens of supporters staged days of protests. The alleged victim has also approached the Vatican representative in India to press her case. Her letter, leaked to Indian media, said Mulakkal was “using political and money power to bury the case”.Mulakkal has called the whole scandal a conspiracy by those against the Church, and has won backing from his congregation at the Missionaries of Jesus Church. In July, two priests were arrested for allegedly raping and blackmailing a woman for over 20 years in Kerala. Sexual abuse by clergymen and the failure of senior Church officials to take action has been one of the biggest scandals facing the Catholic Church in recent years. Pope Francis issued a letter on sexual abuse to the Catholics around the world in August, expressing the Church’s “shame and repentance”. Christians -- overwhelmingly Catholic -- are the third-largest religious group in India. Around 80 percent of the country’s 1.25 billion population is Hindu, followed by a sizeable Muslim minority.MT 18:04

UN chief: ‘Time for concrete action’ on North Korea

AFP, UN Thursday, 20 September 2018/UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday called for concrete action to follow up on North Korea’s commitment to close a missile test site with international monitors present. Guterres welcomed the announcement by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a summit with his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in in Pyongyang. “The commitments reflected in the joint statement include important military confidence-building measures and a commitment by the DPRK to dismantle missile engine testing infrastructure in the presence of experts from related countries,” Guterres said in a statement. “Now it is time for concrete action.”When North Korea dismantled a nuclear test site in May, Guterres complained that no international experts had been on hand to witness the closure. North Korea also expressed readiness to close its Yongbyon nuclear plant, which is key to its weapons program, if Washington takes “corresponding measures.”Guterres offered UN help to advance efforts to fully rid the Korean peninsula of nuclear weapons and called for unity among global powers. The breakthrough at the Pyongyang summit came amid preparations for next week’s annual gathering at the United Nations of world leaders, during which North Korea will loom large. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has invited North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong ho for talks in New York, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting. Pompeo said the talks in New York and meetings in Vienna will be the beginning of negotiations on the denuclearization of North Korea, to be completed by 2021. Pompeo will chair a Security Council meeting next week on North Korea to discuss US diplomatic efforts that have undergone a major shift in tone from last year. At last year’s UN gathering, President Donald Trump threatened to totally destroy North Korea and derided Kim as “little rocket man.”The Trump administration is facing calls from Russia and China to consider easing tough economic sanctions imposed on North Korea to create an incentive for Pyongyang to move forward. The United States maintains that sanctions must remain in place until North Korea has fully dismantled its weapons programs.

Pompeo: US ready to restart talks with North Korea immediately
Reuters, Seoul/Washington Thursday, 20 September 2018/The United States is ready to restart negotiations with North Korea “immediately”, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday, with the aim of completing North Korea’s denuclearization by January 2021.
Pompeo said he had invited North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho to meet in New York next week where they are both due to attend the United Nations gathering of world leaders. The United States has also invited North Korean representatives to meet with the US Special Representative for North Korea in Vienna at the “earliest opportunity”, Pompeo said. Pompeo cited North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s decision to “complete the previously announced dismantlement of the Tongchang-ri site in the presence of US and international inspectors as a step toward the final fully verified denuclearization of North Korea”. “On the basis of these important commitments, the United States is prepared to engage immediately in negotiations to transform US-DPRK relations,” Pompeo said in a statement. North Korea’s pledge at a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Pyongyang drew an enthusiastic response from US President Donald Trump, even though some US officials and experts fear a ploy to weaken Washington’s resolve and its alliance with Seoul.
Last Update: Thursday, 20 September 2018 KSA 23:15 - GMT 20:15

The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on September 20-21/18
Ignore regime rhetoric, US sanctions are hitting Iran hard
د. ماجد ربيزاده: لا مصداقية للخطاب الإيراني المدعى عدم الإهتمام بالعقوبات الأميركية لأنها تصيب إيران بقوة
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/September 20/18
Iran’s state-controlled Persian news outlets this week put significant emphasis on disregarding US sanctions and threatening a “10-times stronger response” to any hostile move by Tehran’s opponent.
The newspaper Etemad quoted Ali Shamkhani, the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council and close adviser to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, totally dismissing US sanctions, in particular the recent ones that were imposed on Iran’s automotive sector.
According to Fars News and the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), Shamkhani pointed out: “Our nation will prove that, as Saddam (Hussein) is buried in Tikrit and as Baghdad is controlled by those forces of the region that desire freedom, the US sanctions will lead nowhere due to our domestic, regional and international resolve.” It is worth noting that hard-line politician Shamkhani was appointed by the so-called moderate president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani.
Other Iranian leaders, including the supreme leader, also frequently boast about the country’s self-sufficiency and self-reliance when it comes to the economy.
But such a dismissal of US sanctions, as well as the rosy picture of the economy depicted by the regime, appears to be totally detached from reality. The latest developments and policy changes reveal that the theocratic regime is extremely concerned about the US sanctions.
The sanctions are exacerbating the state’s economic crisis and threatening the repressive rule of the Islamic Republic. For instance, while Iran has long held a tight grip over currency trading in foreign exchange markets, it has recently loosened many of its restrictions on the trading of the rial or the dollar. By relaxing the country’s currency laws, the ruling mullahs are attempting to neutralize the negative impact of US sanctions.
This should illustrate the fact that the re-imposition of sanctions by the Trump administration has brought negative repercussions for the Islamic Republic. In addition, according to ISNA, the head of the Iranian parliament’s economic committee, Mohammed Reza Pourebrahimi, has stated that Tehran is also allowing the currency exchange offices to import gold. This further demonstrates the notion that the Islamic Republic has become desperate to bring gold and hard currency, specifically foreign currency, into the country. To Iranian leaders’ dismay, the EU has proved to be less influential than it hoped in assisting and benefiting Tehran with increased trade in order to insulate the Islamic Republic from the negative impacts of US sanctions and Washington’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. It is important to point out that any American or non-American entity that assists Iran’s exchange offices in obtaining the US dollar, or even deals with Iran’s currency, will also be subject to US sanctions. Despite its efforts to buoy and strengthen its currency by relaxing its regulations, Tehran is doomed to fail.
Another measure that the Iranian leaders have been taking is to store oil on a fleet of supertankers. Iran also resorted to this strategy of floating storage for its oil before it reached an agreement with the Obama administration over its nuclear program and before four rounds of UN Security Council sanctions were lifted. Many of the countries that buy oil from Iran cut back on their imports from Tehran in the month of August.
Despite its efforts to buoy and strengthen its currency by relaxing its regulations, Tehran is doomed to fail. The regime’s economic problems are too deep to be resolved by passing uninformed and random currency laws. The Iranian regime’s financial corruption, misuse of public funds and the widespread banking crisis are among the major reasons behind the present currency and economic crises. In fact, these problems are systemic and exist deep within Tehran’s economic infrastructure. Although Iran is brushing aside the US sanctions as insignificant, Tehran is trying to chart ways to brace for them. In early November, Washington’s secondary sanctions will hit Iran’s oil sector — the regime’s major revenue source. But why are the Iranian leaders so determined to paint a picture showing that the US sanctions are insignificant? First of all, the regime does not want to show signs of weakness. From the perspective of the Iranian leaders, any manifestation of weakness will not only embolden and empower the overwhelming majority of the Iranian people who oppose the regime, but will also strengthen the alignment of regional and global powers in containing and curbing Tehran’s aggressive foreign policy.
Secondly, the regime is the paymaster of many militias and terror groups in the region. In order to maintain its quality of being appealing to Shiite militias and in order to attract more recruits, the Islamic Republic is obliged to show economic strength.
Third, one of the core pillars of the mullahs’ revolutionary ideology is anti-Americanism. Acknowledging that the US sanctions have impacted Tehran’s “self-sufficient” economy would be nothing short of admitting defeat by the US, aka the “Great Satan.”
Despite the rhetoric coming out of Tehran in dismissing Washington’s actions, the sanctions have already began to harshly bite the theocratic establishment.
*Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh

Analysis/Putin Absolves Israel Over Syria Strike, but Crisis With Moscow Reaches All the Way to Tehran
تحليل لعاموس هاريل من الهآررتس: بوتين يبرئ إسرائيل من عملية اسقاط الطائرة الروسية لكن الأزمة مع موسكو تتشعب وتصل لطهران

Amos Harel/Haaretz/September 19/18
Monday’s incident near Latakia, in which 15 Russian soldiers were killed in a downed plane, might see Russia toughen its stance toward Israel and curtail the air force’s freedom of action in Syria
“You always have to remember the first lesson in military history: Don’t mess with the Russians,” a senior officer in the Israel Defense Forces said on Monday – without realizing how prophetic his words were.
The incident in the Syrian skies on Monday night has now put Israel in an extremely difficult position with the Russians, and is liable to negatively influence the strategic freedom of action its air force had enjoyed on the northern front until now.
This is true even as Russian President Vladimir Putin absolved Israel of downing the aircraft, saying the incident was a result of a "tragic chain of circumstances."
Israeli fighter jets attacked Iranian-related targets in Syria. Syrian aerial defenses tried to thwart the Israeli attack and accidently hit a Russian Air Force plane with a Russian-made missile.
It sounds like the start of a bad joke, but the potential consequences are widespread – as evidenced by the initial, harsh condemnation issued by Moscow, which places responsibility for the incident on Israel.
The downing of the Russian intelligence plane with 15 crew members on board first and foremost embarrassed the Kremlin. In the hours following the incident, the Russians actually blamed a French carrier for shooting down the plane. Only on Tuesday did the Russian Ministry of Defense admit that a Syrian anti-aircraft missile had been the reason.
The Russians are very uncomfortable admitting the weapons they provided their allies with led to the death of Russian soldiers. The Russian Defense Ministry's announcement, which included very exceptional wording, stated that the Israeli attack was an irresponsible and “deliberate provocation” that created a dangerous situation. Russia reserves the right to respond to the downing of the plane and the death of its crew, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu told his Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Lieberman.
On Tuesday afternoon the IDF Spokesperson Unit released a first official statement regarding the incident. In the statement, Israel admitted that the incident began with its strike, expressed condolences for the death of the Russian soldiers – but laid full responsibility on Syria, Iran and Hezbollah.
According to the statement, the strike was aimed at thwarting a smuggling operation to Lebanon – part of Hezbollah's "precision project" to mount precise navigation technology on the organization's rocket arsenal. Israel notified the Russian forces in Syria shortly before the strike began.
A debriefing on Tuesday morning which included the prime minister, defense minister, IDF chief of staff and senior Israel Air Force officers indicated that the Israeli fighter jets were already over Israeli airspace when the Syrian rockets were fired. The IDF spokesman said that an initial investigation showed the Syrian barrage to be wide-ranging and imprecise. The Syrians did not make sure the Russians had no planes in the air.
The Russian aircraft was hit as it flew east of Latakia – in other words, farther away from where the Israeli rockets were fired (in this, Israel is rejecting the Russian claim that Israeli fighter jets were hiding behind the Russian aircraft and led to its targeting).
The Russian Defense Ministry's announcement caused quite a bit of unease in Israel. Security brass held talks during the day, running analogous to channels with Russia. About an hour after the IDF's announcement, Putin released his own statement, striking a much more composed tone than the Russian defense ministry. According to Putin, the downing of the jet was a result of a "chain of tragic circumstances." He confirmed Israel did not hit the aircraft and said Russia will take steps to secure its troops and installations in Syria.
The practical implications of Putin's words will be seen over the next two days: Russia could, for example, demand from Israel an even earlier warning before it strikes; it could enforce a no-fly-zone for Israeli fighter jets near its bases in northern Syria; or it could supply Assad's army with new aerial defense systems it has so far withheld.
The Turkish precedent
The Russians have already responded forcefully to previous incidents, under slightly different circumstances, after suffering losses in the Syrian skies.
In November 2015, two months after Russia began deploying its air force in northern Syria, a Russian fighter jet crossed the Turkish border, apparently by accident. Turkish fighter jets downed the Sukhoi, killing one of its crewmen. The second pilot was injured and rescued.
Moscow, which claimed the plane had remained on the Syrian side of the border, imposed numerous sanctions on Ankara during a severe diplomatic crisis. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan swiftly expressed regret for the incident, and the Turks have since trodden very carefully when it comes to the presence of Russian forces in Syria.
Israel acted smarter than the Turks at the time. A few days after two Russian fighter jets landed at the Khmeimim air base in northwestern Syria, Netanyahu paid an urgent visit to Moscow to meet with Putin. The two decided to set up a mechanism in order to prevent an aerial confrontation: A telephone hotline, through which Israel would avert any potential incident by informing the Russians several minutes in advance, before carrying out any attack near its forces in Syria.
According to several reports, some of the conversations on the hotline are conducted in Russian (by Russian-speaking Israeli army officers) in order to prevent any misunderstandings.
The two leaders have met almost 10 times since that September 2015 meeting. The hotline operates constantly, and in some cases has prevented aerial incidents – such as when Russian drones got close to the Israeli border in the Golan, or when Israel Air Force jets carried out an attack near Russian forces in Syria. Just two weeks ago, the IDF reported that it had carried out some 200 sorties in Syria since the beginning of 2017. The Israeli bombings commenced, according to foreign press reports, in January 2012, less than a year after the outbreak of the Syrian civil war.
The bombings were first directed at convoys and arms depots containing advanced weaponry intended for Hezbollah in Lebanon. Over the past 18 months or so, Israel has focused a significant part of its efforts in trying to halt a relatively new trend: The establishment of the Iranian army in Syria. In order to accomplish this goal, Israel has bombed bases, as well as weapons development and production sites, associated with Iran and the Shi’ite militias it operates in Syria.
Israel has generally waged these campaigns successfully, save for one exceptional incident: On February 10, the Syrian defense system downed an Israeli F-16 over Israeli territory, during an Israeli attack on Iranian targets in Syria.
Russia demanded clarifications from Israel for that incident, too, after it feared its forces were placed in danger. However, Russia used more moderate diplomatic language at the time.
Netanyahu was Putin’s guest on May 9, for the Red Square parade marking the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany. A few hours after Netanyahu returned to Israel, a barrage of Iranian rockets was fired at Israeli positions on the Golan; Israel responded with a broad attack on Iranian targets in Syria. The unfolding of events was interpreted as tacit Russian agreement for Israel’s move.
Now, though, matters are far more complicated. It doesn’t really concern the Russians when Israel and Iran fight among themselves. But when events accidently spill over and affect their own servicemen, the initial Russian response is radically different.
Netanyahu will have to draw on all his diplomatic experience and skills in the coming days to calm tensions with Moscow. If Russia decides to demonstrate a hard line for an extended period, it is capable of interfering with Israel’s freedom of action in the Syrian skies.
This is a critical matter for Israel, since the Iranians will be keen to exploit any break in air force activity to increase the smuggling of arms to Lebanon and to bolster their military presence in Syria.
Israel has sparked this crisis with Russia, albeit completely unintentionally, in a way that is liable to influence the situation on the northern front. Considering the scope of the attacks that have been reportedly lately, perhaps it is surprising that things didn’t go awry sooner.
In the months after the Turks downed the Russian plane in Syria, Turkey suffered a series of mysterious cyberattacks. The Russian announcement on Tuesday morning about maintaining the right to respond to the killing of its soldiers should certainly set off alarm bells in Israel’s cyberdefense units as well.

The International Criminal Court: A Failed Experiment
Ahmed Charai/Gatestone Institute/September 20/18
Ambassador John Bolton was prescient in his 1998 warning, when the formation of body was first being debated in Rome, that it would be ineffective, unaccountable and overly political.
The reconciliation commissions of South Africa and Morocco aimed to rehabilitate victims, and pay compensation for state outrages against them. That method would be a better model for Africa than a court funded and run from Europe.
The International Criminal Court is a noble ideal but a flawed institution. Far better to encourage nations to develop courts that are accountable to the victims and free from charges of selective enforcement or foreign intervention.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) is "already dead to us" National Security Adviser John Bolton told the Federalist Society recently. The U.S. will, he said, resist the court "by any means necessary."
Why would the Trump Administration take such a hard line against "the world's court of last resort"? Founded in 2002, in the wake of the Rwandan and Yugoslavian genocides and mass rapes, the international body was supposed to try evildoers who would otherwise escape justice due to broken legal systems in failed states.
Opposing the court is not a new position for the U.S. or Ambassador Bolton. The Bush Administration refused to sign the court's implementing treaty in 2003, contending that it would lead to trials of U.S. soldiers and spies by a politically turbo-charged body located in Europe. At the time, many European leaders opposed President Bush's war in Iraq and questioned its actions in the war on terror, including rendition and holding prisoners indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay. Ambassador Bolton was even more prescient. He warned, in 1998, when the formation of body was first being debated in Rome, that it would be ineffective, unaccountable and overly political.
Now, U.S. soldiers may face charges for activities in Afghanistan. While the U.S. is not a signatory of the treaty, Afghanistan is, and the court claims jurisdiction over any actions taken there. If the ICC begins prosecuting American "war crimes" abroad, commanders will temper their battle plans, soldiers will become gun-shy and civilians will refuse to serve. America's sovereign right to defend itself will be weakened. Israel is also expected to be another target, as the Palestinian Authority has agreed to the court's jurisdiction and has already requested a probe.
In practice, the International Criminal Court is a failed experiment.
Its trials appear selective and political. While the court has received more than 10,000 written complaints referring to 139 countries, according to the London-based Africa Research Centre, it has focused its prosecutions exclusively on sub-Saharan Africans. Of the 10 investigations in progress, nine relate to African leaders or rebel leaders. (The only non-African case was against Serbian extremists.) This leads to the all-too-easy accusation that the court is racist, neo-colonialist or, in the words of one African writer, "white justice for black Africans." Following a 2013 African Union summit, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn denounced the court as a "racial hunt". While these charges are hyperbolic, the court's selective prosecutions have undermined its credibility among Africans.
The ICC has also not been successful in Africa. The court's first chief prosecutor, Luis Ocampo, pledged to indict and try the leaders of Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a Ugandan terror group linked to slaughter, rape and kidnapping, by the end of 2005. The LRA's leaders have yet to face justice. Almost a decade ago, the court indicted Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir. No trial has occurred and Bashir continues to travel freely to Arab and African states that have signed the ICC's implementing treaty. The court has not delivered on its promise to bring justice to people who have none.
As a result, African nations are pulling out. South Africa, Burundi, Gambia have voted to withdraw from the ICC and other African states are joining the stampede for the exit.
The ICC likes to refer to itself as the world's court, but it represents fewer and fewer of world's nations. The U.S., Israel, China and Russia have refused to ratify the court's implementing Treaty of Rome. The African Union itself has openly criticized the ICC and debated leaving the court's jurisdiction en masse.
The court's leaders have, in addition, not held themselves to particularly high standards. Chief prosecutor Ocampo, defended his use of offshore bank accounts by saying that his salary was insufficient. Such a remark hardly inspires confidence.
Even worse for the court's credibility are the allegations brought by David Nyekorach Matsanga, president of the Pan-African Forum, that Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi, the ICC's president, allegedly received illegal sums totaling some $17 million between 2004 and 2015. These payments, Matsanga said, were to bribe prosecution witness against Sudan's president. A court spokesman dismissed Matsanga's evidence as a falsified invoice and unverified bank records. (Matsanga is no angel. He was spokesman for the infamous Lord's Resistance Army in the 1990s.) Still, the evidence deserves an impartial review.
The International Criminal Court is a noble ideal but a flawed institution. Far better to encourage nations to develop courts that are accountable to the victims and free from charges of selective enforcement or foreign intervention. South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the Moroccan's Equity and Reconciliation Commission -- a government body subject to oversight by the people's representatives -- have heard hard cases and delivered judgements respected across the political spectrum. The two institutions aimed to rehabilitate victims, and pay compensation for state outrages against them.
That method would be a better model for Africa than a court funded and run from Europe.
*Ahmed Charai, a Moroccan publisher, is on the board of directors of the Atlantic Council, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Foreign Policy Research institute and Center the National Interest in Washington.
*This article was originally published in a slightly different version by NewsMax Media.
© 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.

Funding UNRWA: Are European Taxpayers Being Taken for a Ride?
Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/September 20/18
Iran's average annual contribution to UNRWA in recent years has been $2,000.
Iran does spend billions of dollars a year outside its borders in the Middle East. Iran provides weapons and cash to terrorist groups such as Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Lebanon's Hezbollah. Iran helps these groups because they want to destroy the "Zionist entity." Iran is now devoting huge resources in Syria to help dictator Bashar Assad in his fight against the rebels, as well as substantial sums of money helping Houthi militias in Yemen.
Lebanon's laws treat Palestinians as a special group of foreigners, even denying them the same rights granted to other foreigners. Palestinians in Lebanon are not only denied basic rights enjoyed by Lebanese citizens and other foreigners, but also denied rights as refugees under international conventions.
Arab and Muslim states could start to think of ways to help Palestinians achieve a better life and improve their children's future instead of sitting in refugee camps and waiting for handouts from the UN and other Western countries. Or is continuing to beg non-Arabs and non-Muslims for money the better deal?
Lebanon hosts nearly 500,000 Palestinians, most of whom live in ghettos called refugee camps. They are denied not only basic rights enjoyed by Lebanese citizens and other foreigners, but also denied rights as refugees under international conventions. Pictured: The Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp in Tripoli, Lebanon. (Photo by Salah Malkawi/Getty Images)
At a meeting in Cairo this month, Arab and Muslim foreign ministers expressed concern about the fate of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) after the US administration decided to cut all US aid to the agency. The ministers "underscored the importance of allowing UNRWA to continue playing a pivotal role in providing humanitarian aid" to Palestinian "refugees." They also warned that "harming" UNRWA will aggravate the crisis in the Middle East.
If these Arab and Muslim countries are so worried about UNRWA and the Palestinian refugees, why don't they step in to fill the vacuum and pay for the loss of the US funds? What is keeping them from pulling out their checkbooks and solving this "refugee crisis"?
The Arabs and Muslims are not as naive as the Europeans, who continue to pay millions of dollars to UNRWA and the Palestinians. European Union leaders and governments are playing their own people for fools by not telling them that even the Arabs and Muslims do not waste their money on a UN agency that has created new generations of fake refugees by allowing second and third generations to inherit UNRWA's status of "refugee."
European and other Western taxpayers are evidently unaware that their money is being spent on millions of these "refugees," thus encouraging them not to move on with their lives or improve their living conditions because they have become entirely dependent on US and EU taxpayer money. It is time for the Europeans to follow the example of the Arab and Muslim countries and stop funding a corrupt and incompetent UN agency such as UNRWA.
The concern of the Arab and Muslim leaders and governments over the defunding of UNRWA stinks of hypocrisy. What have these Arab and Muslim countries done in the past 70 years to alleviate the "suffering" of the Palestinians and help them move on with their lives? Literally nothing.
On the contrary, some of these countries, especially Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria, have kept the Palestinians living in horrific conditions in refugee camps, refusing to grant them basic rights and withholding privileges granted to other foreigners, such as education, employment and health care.
Worse, the Arab and Muslim leaders and countries have been lying to the Palestinians by assuring them that one day they will return to the homes of their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents in mostly non-existing villages inside Israel as part of a so-called "right of return."
When it comes to expressing solidarity with the Palestinians, the Arabs and Muslims are good at one thing: lip service. That, as we shall shortly see, is the only service they have ever provided to the Palestinians.
Thus, before answering the question of why the Arabs and Muslims do not want to help the Palestinians, it is worth discussing how much the Arab and Islamic countries have contributed to UNRWA. According to statistics released by UNRWA, not much.
Take, for example, the year 2017.
According to the statistics, the US remained the No. 1 contributor to UNRWA, to the tune of more than $364 million. No. 2 was the EU, with $142 million; No. 3 Germany, No. 4 the UK, and No. 5 Sweden.
Saudi Arabia, which came in as No. 6, was the only Arab country at the top of the donor list to UNRWA, with a modest contribution in 2017 of only $53.2 million. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) another oil-rich Arab country, with $12.8 million, came in as No. 15 (after countries such as Denmark, Italy, and the Norway).
Algeria and Tunisia, whose foreign ministers say they are now worried about the US decision to halt US aid to UNRWA, last year contributed no money to the UN agency.
Here is another important piece of information: The Islamic Republic of Iran, whose leaders never miss an opportunity to condemn the US and voice full solidarity with the Palestinians, provided a sum of only $20,000 to UNRWA between 2008 and 2017. This means that Tehran's average annual contribution to UNRWA in recent years has been $2,000.
Here it is worth noting that Iran does spend billions of dollars a year outside its borders in the Middle East. Iran provides weapons and cash to terrorist groups such as Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Lebanon's Hezbollah. Iran helps these groups because they want to destroy the "Zionist entity." Iran is now devoting huge resources in Syria to help dictator Bashar Assad in his fight against the rebels, as well as substantial sums of money helping Houthi militias in Yemen.
When, however, it comes to funding a UN agency that helps Palestinian refugees and their descendants, the Iranians, like most Arab and Islamic countries, do not seem to care. These countries are and have always been very good at offering soothing words to the Palestinians, while refusing to provide them with badly needed humanitarian aid.
So, the Iranians, who in the past 10 years have given UNRWA about $20,000, are only now condemning the US decision to slash US funds to the UN agency.
The US move to cut the aid to UNRWA is "a clear violation of the UN General Assembly resolution 302 (IV)," said Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani who is also head of the Parliamentary Union of the OIC Member States (PUIC, PUOICM). Larijani described the US decision as "shameful" and urged all parliaments of the OIC member-states to take strong decisions in condemning the US move.
The Arab countries are just as hypocritical when it comes to UNRWA and aid to the Palestinians. Some of these countries that are weeping over the US decision to cut its funding of UNRWA have not only done zero to assist the UN agency; they also have long subjected the Palestinians in their countries to discriminatory and apartheid laws.
Consider, for instance, Lebanon, a country that plays host to nearly 500,000 Palestinians, most of whom live there in ghettos called refugee camps. The Lebanese government and its representatives were among the first Arabs to condemn the US decision to cut aid to UNRWA.
Yet, this is the same Lebanon whose laws treat Palestinians as a special group of foreigners, even denying them the same rights granted to other foreigners. Palestinians in Lebanon are not only denied basic rights enjoyed by Lebanese citizens and other foreigners, but also denied rights as refugees under international conventions.
Palestinians in Lebanon are prohibited from legally acquiring, transferring or inheriting property. Palestinians also lack the right to work in the private sector and in 36 specified professions, such as medicine, law and engineering.
In Syria, the conditions of the Palestinians are far worse. Nearly 4,000 Palestinians have been killed and many more have been wounded since the beginning of the civil war in 2011. "Since fighting began, more than 85,000 Palestinians have fled Syria to Europe while tens of thousands more have sought refuge in neighbouring countries," according to The New Arab.
We are again facing Arab and Islamic hypocrisy concerning the Palestinians. Instead of condemning the US administration (which is no longer going to help UNRWA), perhaps the Arabs and Muslims might wish to come up with an alternative plan to end the "suffering" of the refugees and their descendants. The US has given UNRWA many billions of dollars over decades, while Muslim and Arab leaders have been issuing empty statements of support for the Palestinians for just as long. If Muslim and Arab leaders truly cared about the Palestinian refugees and their descendants, they would either replace the US as donors or tell the Palestinians the truth -- that the time has come to end the farce called "right of return." Moreover, Arab and Muslim states could start to think of ways to help Palestinians achieve a better life and improve their children's future instead of sitting in camps and waiting for handouts from the UN and Western countries. As for Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, these countries could do the Palestinians a favor by ending their policy of treating them as second- and third-class citizens and foreigners. There is no reason why Arab countries should not end official discrimination against their Palestinian residents, grant them citizenship and allow them to pursue employment opportunities. The issue of the Palestinian refugees and their descendants could be solved in a heartbeat if the Arab countries wanted to do so. The first step is to stop lying to Palestinians and to confront them with the truth -- that the "right of return" is a fantasy that cannot be fulfilled because it would mean turning Israel into a country where Jews become a tiny minority. Step number two: Stop persecuting and murdering Palestinians in Arab countries. Instead, offer them hope for a good life and a better future for their children. Or is continuing to beg non-Arabs and non-Muslims for money the better deal?
*Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East.
© 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.

Will Iraqi territory be used to fire rockets on Israel from Iran?
Yonah Jeremy Bob/Jerusalem Post/September 20/18
Iraq’s desire not to alienate the US and avoid a superfluous confrontation with Israel would not be the decisive factor.
Asked whether an Iranian presence in Syria would be worse than the 120,000 Hezbollah rockets in Lebanon aimed at Israel, he said Iran’s presence would bring things much closer to the North Korean scenario for multiple reasons. “Hezbollah’s rockets are a problem, but it is a problem which can be dealt with. A new [Iranian] built up ability [in Syria] like this would be much harder to deal with. Consider the vast additional space,” Amidror said, which the IDF might need to cover in order to take out rocket attacks. He said if Iran had rockets in Syria, it would also greatly increase the quantity of rockets Israel might face in a broad war with Tehran’s proxies.
Further, he said, “In Lebanon, the actor is Hezbollah, not Iran. Here [in Syria] the forces are Iranian,” meaning if Hezbollah can be deterred from conflict with Israel in order not to face a backlash from other Lebanese groups, Iranians in Syria would have no similar brake on their actions. Amidror said Israel needs to work harder to get the US to throw around its military and diplomatic weight in managing Iran, including in its activities in Syria.
Questioned if he thought further requests to the US would bear fruit when Israel has repeatedly asked for US action on these same issues in the past, Amidror said, “I don’t know if it will work, but we should always try. It is very important to get the US committed” to blocking Tehran from building up its forces in Syria. In addition, Amidror made reference in his article to claims that Iran has concealed a group of its nuclear scientists from public view so they can continue making progress toward a nuclear weapon. He said he did not have specific evidence of such a concealed move beyond public source material supporting the claim, but noted, “There was a group of scientists until 2003. Where are they?” One area in which Amidror went against conventional wisdom of many Israeli defense experts was his prediction that Iran may remain in the 2015 nuclear deal until its conclusion, despite the US pressure campaign.
Until the Trump administration pulled the US out of the nuclear deal on the grounds that it was tilted toward Iran, many Israeli defense analysts said Iran would stay in the deal. Most now say they expect the Islamic Republic to leave in the next six to 12 months due to the shift in US policy.
Amidror said that no one can know for sure what Iran will do and that perhaps domestic political pressure would force Tehran to exit the deal, but that overall “it is the best deal for them. I would be very surprised if they leave.”“The logic” behind Iran’s broader goals would be “to stay,” he said.

A Chequers Brexit Won’t Help the Banks
Lionel Laurent/Bloomberg/September, 20/18
London’s ex-Lehman Brothers bankers who’ve been meeting up for nostalgic drinks have found the conversation shifting quickly to Brexit — and whether their next reunion will be in Frankfurt, Paris or somewhere else.
As the official March 2019 Brexit deadline looms, banks are in the last stages of preparing for a worst-case “no-deal.” A brutal loss of the City of London’s access to the EU wouldn’t just mean renting a new office to have a nameplate somewhere. Instead, lenders would have to set aside billions of pounds to fund their overseas offshoots.
True, the politics is looking more favorable to a fudged softer Brexit along the lines of Theresa May’s derided “Chequers” plan. But even if she manages to keep the train on the rails, the proposal still entails the eventual loss of so-called “passporting” rights for London’s bankers to work in Europe — just done at a gentler pace during a period of transition. So their bosses have no choice but to prepare for the worst.
London’s ex-Lehman Brothers bankers who’ve been meeting up for nostalgic drinks have found the conversation shifting quickly to Brexit — and whether their next reunion will be in Frankfurt, Paris or somewhere else.
As the official March 2019 Brexit deadline looms, banks are in the last stages of preparing for a worst-case “no-deal.” A brutal loss of the City of London’s access to the EU wouldn’t just mean renting a new office to have a nameplate somewhere. Instead, lenders would have to set aside billions of pounds to fund their overseas offshoots.
True, the politics is looking more favorable to a fudged softer Brexit along the lines of Theresa May’s derided “Chequers” plan. But even if she manages to keep the train on the rails, the proposal still entails the eventual loss of so-called “passporting” rights for London’s bankers to work in Europe — just done at a gentler pace during a period of transition. So their bosses have no choice but to prepare for the worst.
Brexit is a vast undertaking for the finance industry, which has to make its plans public, budget for them, and get staff on board. As UBS Group AG’s chief executive Sergio Ermotti said in an interview with Bloomberg TV on Monday, “Whatever is going to happen from now onwards, it’s not going to make the exercise less expensive.”
The bank subsidiaries being set up will have to be capitalized. The worst-case scenario for the industry’s extra capital needs is estimated at $30-$50 billion by consultants at Oliver Wyman, while new operating expenses could hit $1 billion.
The impact on staff will be heavy too. After drawing up lists of who has to be moved and where, managers are now having a “Brexit conversation” with staff that is proving almost as awkward as the more typical “bonus conversation.” Some bankers will have to do back-and-forth journeys every six months, others will be sent on multi-year stints, and others will have to move for good. For Londoners with families, that won’t always be welcome.
Banks have splurged on fancy European housing and private school places to appease their future expats. But, again, that means more money. Even HSBC Holdings Plc, which already has a fully-licensed Paris subsidiary, estimates the cost of moving 1,000 staff across the Channel at about $300 million.
The worry now is that cutthroat competition between banks will turn the last stage of the pre-Brexit marathon into a frantic sprint. Managers fret that disgruntled staff will be peeled off by rivals with the promise of a more lucrative relocation, or even a job with no relocation at all.
Of course, nobody knows still what Brexit will actually look like. The optimists’ view is that politicians will patch up their differences, and some kind of deal will emerge that limits the cost and protects business. But the danger for bankers is that once managers and shareholders start looking at staff numbers and resource allocation in a global business, it’s hard to stop. Maybe one unintended consequence of Brexit will be a realization that the banks had too many people, too many businesses, and too many markets to begin with.

The Rehabilitation of the Horn of Africa
Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al Awsat/September, 20/18
The Horn of Africa has always been the most tense, least stable and most attractive to external interference among all other parts of the continent. It has been plagued by internal conflicts on one hand and by the ambitions of other countries on the other, as great powers have sought to protect their economic interests in the region. Around 3.3 million barrels of oil traverse the Red Sea daily, not to mention the military bases established by other countries. Therefore, wars and conflicts that arose between the states of the Horn of Africa have had a tremendous impact not only on countries themselves, but also on the security and stability of the region and the world. Crises have persisted for decades without the ability of any country to resolve them.
The happy news finally came when Saudi Arabia was able to sponsor two peace agreements; the first between Ethiopia and Eritrea, which ended a bloody conflict that lasted two decades, and the other between Djibouti and Eritrea that put an end to a ten-year rift.
The Horn of Africa is a strategic region, not only for Asia and Africa but for the whole world. It overlooks Bab al-Mandeb Strait, one of the world’s most important waterways. The equator passes through its southern part and it has the most important ports of the region, such as the port of Kismayo and the port of Djibouti. It is inhabited by about 90 million people.
Historically, the Arab withdrawal from the region has enticed other countries to set a foothold, hoping to reshape the political and economic map of the Horn of Africa. But Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has worked quietly and continuously over the past four years to rehabilitate the Horn of Africa and to create a consensual formula with a strategic vision of collective benefit that all the parties would agree on.
In this regard, one cannot forget that the countries’ stability, support and consolidation were the fruit of the Saudi policy par excellence, in the face of the “stability of chaos” in the Horn of Africa, which is sought by other countries, in particular Qatar and Iran. Disastrous consequences have afflicted every spot where those two countries operated.
The Horn of Africa has faced three scenarios over the past 20 years: The first is an effort by Qatar and Iran to strengthen and expand their influence in the region, even if it contributed to aggravating the situation and prolonging wars. The second policy is that of fueling differences between the competing countries because of conflict of interests and different agendas. The third scenario is that these countries reach the conviction that cooperation and coordination is the best choice for all parties, in order to preserve their interests and the security and stability of the region. This is the scenario that Saudi Arabia has chosen and worked to implement, after it was met with great appreciation from the three states, as well as the rest of the Horn of Africa countries. Those were convinced that Riyadh’s interests rest in enhancing the security, stability and development of the region.
This is a legitimate objective that no one can oppose. When peace prevails, the Horn of Africa countries will become a fertile ground for investments that will fill the gap left behind by the Iranian agenda (in the Eritrean case) and the Qatari ambitions (in the Ethiopian case).
Within one year, from March 2015 till March 2016, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz, has met more than fourteen African leaders. Their visits led to the signing of several agreements for projects within their countries, from Gabon to Niger, Mauritania and Nigeria, the Horn of Africa countries, including Ethiopia, Djibouti, Eritrea and Somalia, reaching the Sudan and the Republic of the Comoros. This was followed by the institution for the first time in Riyadh of the post of minister of state for African affairs, a move that African countries positively welcomed and saw as evidence of the interest of major regional and stable states, such as Saudi Arabia, in the Dark Continent.
This was reflected in a historic agreement - the deal between Ethiopia and Eritrea - which the Saudi diplomacy worked silently on until the Jeddah peace treaty was signed, along with the reconciliation between Djibouti and Eritrea.
The rehabilitation of the Horn of Africa would not have succeeded without the clarity of Saudi policy and its firm and declared positions, which are based on supporting regional and international peace and stability, without interfering in the internal affairs of other countries. The Horn of Africa countries have tried the policy of “stability of chaos” and the results have been disastrous. The time has come to understand that investing in the region’s stability and development is a bet that no one will lose.

Iran’s Callous, Deadly Message

Eli Lake/Bloomberg View//September, 20/18
When a regional power wants to assert itself and intimidate its rivals, it has several options: Stage a military exercise, test a missile, maybe even have a high-ranking general deliver a threatening speech. Rarely does signaling deterrence mean killing innocents. Yet this is exactly what Iran did earlier this month when it launched a barrage of missiles at the headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran, or KDPI, during a meeting of its 21-member central committee. Six of its members were killed, according to one of the survivors, Khalid Azizi, a member of the committee. The strike was significant for a few reasons. First, its location: outside of Iranian territory, in northern Iraq. Iran has supported militias that have killed Iraqis and coalition forces in Iraq since the US- led invasion in 2003. But it has not launched a direct military strike into Iraqi territory since the mid-1990s, during the Kurdish civil war. More important, Iran faces no real danger from the Kurds, especially the KDPI. Some Kurdish separatists in Iran have conducted attacks on Iranian targets over the years. But the KDPI has pursued a nonviolent strategy for equal political rights in Iran. There is “no evidence” that the KDPI was launching terrorist attacks, said Michael Rubin, an expert on Iran and Iraq at the American Enterprise Institute. He called the group “basically a coffee klatch for Iranian Kurdish exiles.”Even after the missile strike, the KDPI has refrained from calling for a violent response. Instead, it announced a general strike for the Iranian Kurdish region. “We don't want weapons or training from other countries,” Azizi said. Instead, he said, the organization seeks a political solution. “The best revenge is to organize Kurds in Iranian Kurdistan against the regime,” he said, and “to find a common agenda among all of the Iranian opposition.”
Iranian state media initially described the strike as a successful act of counterterrorism. Later, however, the mask slipped. In a television interview, the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps said the missile strike was intended as a warning to America. “The attack against the terrorists in Iraq’s Kurdistan conveys a message to the enemies, particularly those superpowers who think they can impose their evil plots on Iran and bully us,” said Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari. That’s a not-so-veiled threat to military bases in the Iraqi Kurdish region that host US special operations forces and intelligence officers. In fact, Iranian-backed militias have recently fired at the airport compound in Basra, where there is also a US consulate. The White House subsequently warned Iran that it would be held responsible for any attack on US personnel.
Finally, the missile strike is notable for its precision. Eleven years ago I visited this very compound, which is sprawling. That Iran was able to hit the room where the KDPI central committee was meeting suggests they had both valuable intelligence and the technology to exploit it. For his part, Azizi seemed resigned to the uncomfortable position in which his organization finds itself. “Iran is trying to provoke a war so they can kill more of us,” he said. “They want to divert the attention of the people in Iran to say we are the enemy.”
That’s undoubtedly correct, and Iran's Kurds are also wise to refrain from responding in kind to Iranian aggression. The West, however, need not show such restraint. The US and European leaders should schedule a summit with a delegation of Iranian Kurds to discuss how the free world can help their struggle. Iran’s leaders would certainly get that message.

For ‘Greater Iran’, Afghan, Pakistani fighters give their lives in Syria
Ali Hajizade/Al Arabiya/September 20/18
As is known, the Iranian regime widely uses people from the Shiite communities of the neighboring countries in the Syrian war; mainly Iraq, Afghanistan, and Shiites from Pakistan to a lesser degree. This article is about Afghan and Pakistani fighters, who give their lives for “Greater Iran.”Afghans fighting in Syria are probably one of the militant units controlled by Tehran. They are often used to attack opponents’ positions, and they have the highest rate of losses. Since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, a few million of Afghans have lived in Iran. Most of them do not have any documents, and they remain in the country illegally.
That makes it difficult for them to integrate into the Iranian society and puts them in a vulnerable position. It is needless to say that the majority of Afghans live in extreme poverty in Iran. The Iranian regime could always exploit vulnerable groups.
The formation of Liwa Fatemiyoun with a high concentration of Afghan fighters was completed in 2014. However, the Afghans had been fighting in Syria and suffering many losses long before that date. Though the Iranian propaganda tries to cover up the fact that Liwa Fatemiyoun is controlled entirely by IRGC and presents the Afghan fighters (as well as others) as the defenders of “Holy places”, operating at their discretion, numerous testimonials easily expose this misinformation. It is a fact that Afghans are mainly (not always) recruited from among the Afghans who live in Iran illegally and don’t want to return to Afghanistan.
Iranian authorities offer the fighters a monthly salary and legal residency in Iran to them and their families, even though these people are refugees and they have been living in this country for decades. The Iranian authorities should had given residence to them many years ago. Not always this process of involving the Afghans in military actions is voluntary.
It is a sad fact that Iranians use 12- to16-year-old Afghan teenagers as cannon fodder in Syria. Human Rights Watch recorded the facts of using child soldiers. Such actions of the Iranian regime may be regarded as crimes against humanity.
Various methods
According to the reports of Human Rights Watch based on testimonies of Afghans who could run away to Europe, the Iranian authorities use various methods to involve the Afghans in military service in Syria. Often, the Iranian police raid the Afghans in Iranian cities.
Arrested Afghans are offered either deportation or military service in Syria. In case of refusal, deportation also threatens the family of an arrested Afghan. Very often, those who agreed to fight in Syria get paid only a part of the pledged amount.
The Afghans complete a military crash course (including skill with a gun, RPGs, digging of trenches and use of communication media) mainly in Varamin, 60 kilometers south of Tehran.
After their arrival in Syria, the Afghans come under the command of the Iranian officers, who send them into combat, threatening them with mass shootings. According to Afghans, they met 12-year-old Afghan boys fighting for the Shiite groups controlled by Iran.
We also have information that Iranians try to recruit the Afghans, caught crossing the borders illegally. Human Rights Watch provides the evidence of a 14-year old Afghan boy.
Iranian commanders have no mercy for Afghans and throw them to hotspots (often without backup), so the Afghans have one of the highest rates in terms of loss of lives. In January 2018, Radio Farda reported about 2,000 dead Afghans, quoting the Commander of “Fatemiyoon Division.” Of course, this number might not reflect the real figure; moreover, the number of deaths has changed since that time. However, even taking this figure, we can understand that the rate of irreparable losses is too high
Iranian border guards detained him together with some 150 other Afghans after they tried to cross from Iran into Turkey. “They took us to a police station near the border, and we had to walk barefoot. They beat us with sticks like animals,” he said.
“Then they put us on a truck and ordered us to keep our heads down; if we raised our heads, they would beat us again.”
At the police station, the officers offered the men and the boys in the group the choice between going to fight in Syria or deportation to Afghanistan: “They said to us, ‘if anyone wants to go fight in Syria, we will take care of you; otherwise, we will deport you.” None of the men in the group agreed, and they deported all of them to Afghanistan.
In 2016, in the west of Afghanistan, not far from Gerat, Qurban Ghalambor, the representative of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Afghanistan was arrested. The Afghan authorities suspect him of recruiting Persian-speaking Hazaras, who live in Afghanistan, to involve them in the war in Syria.
Preying on men
As we can see, the Iranian authorities prey on Afghan men and boys, to send them to the Syrian war. According to sources, the number of Afghan fighters in Syria can reach 20,000. There is also a small community of Afghan refugees in Syria, the members of which also participate in the war on the side of Assad’s forces.
Iranian commanders have no mercy for Afghans and throw them to hotspots (often without backup), so the Afghans have one of the highest rates in terms of loss of lives. In January 2018, Radio Farda reported about 2,000 dead Afghans, quoting the Commander of “Fatemiyoon Division.”Of course, this number might not reflect the real figure; moreover, the number of deaths has changed since that time. However, even taking this figure, we can understand that the rate of irreparable losses is too high.
Besides the Afghans, the IRGC also has armed units of Pakistani Shiites in Syria. The Iranian propaganda tries to present Pakistani “Liwa Zainebiyoun” as volunteers, defenders of Sayyidah Zaynab Mosque. However, there are shreds of evidence of using Pakistani fighters in offensive operations in various sites of the battlefield.
Information about Pakistanis killed in Syria first appeared in November 2014, but there also could be other victims before. There are also pieces of evidence pointing at the involvement of Pakistanis in military actions in 2013.
Iranian intelligence services strengthened their ties with Shiite groups in Pakistan right after the start of the US military campaign in Afghanistan in 2001.
Certain Pakistanis living in Iran, Pakistanis from Shiite districts of Pakistan and a small number of Shiite Pakistanis deported from the UAE also fight among the Pakistani brigade. Some Shiites in Pakistan talk about discrimination against them, so they treat the war in Syria as a crucial battle.
Although the commanders of “Liwa Zainebiyoun” say that they are the defenders of Shiite Holy places in Syria and are not subject to the IRGC, in fact, the Pakistani brigade, as well as the Afghans, are controlled by the IRGC and follow their orders.
Shiites in Pakistan
Tens of millions of Shiites live in Pakistan, and there has been tension between Shiites and Sunnis since the late 1980s. In June 2017, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Al-Alami, Sunni Islamist group affiliated with the ISIS, carried out a terrorist attack in Pakistani Parachinar, were Shiites are concentrated. This terrorist attack was revenge for the local Shiites going to fight for Iran’s side.
The participation of Pakistanis in the Syrian conflict, in part, causes confrontation in Pakistan. It shows that the involvement of Pakistanis as mercenaries in Syria also facilitates sectarian confrontations and violence within Pakistan.
Fearing Pakistani intelligence services, Iranians are cautious about recruiting Pakistanis. They widely use websites and social networks. Iranians try to smuggle their new recruits out discreetly, also using boats. Of course, that does not work every time.
There were dozens of cases when the Pakistani authorities intercepted volunteers heading to Syria. They prefer not to disclose all the details about Pakistani participation in the Syrian war and Iran’s role in it, but using only information available in public domain, we can understand the schemes and the scales of this phenomenon.
Certain organizations, involved in recruiting, work as “charitable societies,” for example, at the end of 2016, Pakistani intelligence services suspended the activities of “Ansarul-Hussain” organization. This Shiite charitable organization was sending Pakistani Shiites to the war in Syria.
It is noteworthy that even though Pakistanis call themselves “volunteers,” in fact, the Iranian authorities pay them salaries for their “voluntary” job in Syria. The exact number of Pakistanis fighting in Syria is unknown, but a figure of 1,000 fighters regularly appears in Pakistani mass media.
The Iranian authorities organized demonstrative funerals in Kum for certain Pakistanis killed in Syria, hinting at their honors and the martyr status.
The Sunni extremists from Pakistan also fight in Syria but against the Assad regime. In other words, Pakistanis fight in Syria on both sides, depending on their religious identity.

Iran’s Khomeini: The will of the dead brings death to the living
Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi/Al Arabiya/September 20/18
Khomeini’s will is one of the Iranian regime’s biggest problems as its commitment to it has cost the Iranian people a lot of bloodshed and destruction. This is because the dead leaves a will according to circumstances prevailing at the time of his death, but history is ever changing. Hence committing to Khomeini’s will has resulted in destruction and devastation in the region.
His legacy echoed the illusions of Sunni fundamentalism, which was established and developed by the Muslim Brotherhood. Khomeini talked about an “Islamic government”, a “conspiracy” against Islam, a belief that he and his “revolution” represent Islam and that “Quran is the constitution”. Therefore, those who come after him should carry the banner of Islam as understood by Khomeini. Khoemini understood Islam as a revolution, as a form of governance and politics. “Islam is a school, unlike non-monotheistic schools, as it covers all individual, social, materialistic, moral, cultural, political, military and economic affairs and supervises them. It does not miss any point — even the smallest — pertaining to educating people and society and to its materialistic and moral development,” Khomeini said.
This politicized interpretation of Islam is the ideology of political Islam that uses the sacred to serve the sacrilegious. It is an exploitation of Islam in an unprecedented way to achieve political goals. This politicized interpretation of Islam is the ideology of political Islam that uses the sacred to serve the sacrilegious. It is an exploitation of Islam in an unprecedented way to achieve political goals. This is in addition to the huge efforts of Khomeini, clerics who support him and disciples in order to dovetail his Shiite doctrine into Sunni ideologies of politics; which the intellectual Abdallah Laroui called “the Sunnization of Shi’ism.”
An international pariah
Today, the Iranian regime is under the great pressure of US sanctions. The regime has turned into an international pariah. It is the only regime in the world that declares its direct support for all forms of terrorism and chaos in the region and the world, and it is backed by Turkey and Qatar.
Its relations with Russia are based on mutual interests in Syria. This regime is following the ideology and commits to the will of someone who died three decades ago. Despite the pragmatism of the regime, which it has manifested on many occasions in the past, it has never faced such decisiveness and increasing sanctions. The Iranian people are vibrant people with a strong heritage and excellent literature. Considering the contemporary history of the region, they have tried to protect themselves from the injustices of successive regimes. They are among the people of the region who use the term “revolution” the most when describing their activity against the political regimes — perhaps, their only competitor in this regard is the Egyptian, and as we recognize the normal difference between the two peoples, the concept of the “revolution” has been a positive one for both of them.
Hashemi Rafsanjani was a founding partner of Khomeini and Khamenei in the coup against the Shah. He ruled Iran with iron and fire and via a claimed pure divine right and their (figures who staged the coup) own interpretation of Islam.
As a result of disputes over power, Rafsanjani led a movement that’s known as the reformist movement in Iran. Despite suspicions that his death was not due to a natural cause, what’s important here is a recently published interview of his daughter Faezeh Rafsanjani.
Rafsanjani’s exposé
Faezeh Rafsanjani’s interview was quite interesting as she made some statements that are much more powerful than her previous statements. In an interview with an online channel earlier this month, she said: “I am not against religious governments, and like everyone else we believed that the Islamic Republic would succeed. However, the Iranian Islamic government did not only fail but it has also destroyed Islam” she said. This is a significant statement because this is one of the dilemmas created by the newly formed models of political Islam and which have been adopted by Sunni and Shiite Islamic fundamentalism.
Many argued that this fundamentalist model that mixes religion with politics distorts religion and destroys politics. What Rafsanjani said is a clear example of this in the Iranian context, as she accepts the idea of a religious government but still admits that the Iranian Islamic government has failed, and she added it has “also destroyed Islam.” This is the fate of the fundamentalist movement in all its models — from Sudan to Taliban and to Iran.
As per Khomeini’s way, Supreme Leader Khamenei has killed some of his comrades and some of his most loyal followers and supporters. Today, he is old and sick. He wishes to die before the collapse of his own big dream and the ideology which he and his predecessor created and used in order to govern the Iranian people with force and to spread destruction and devastation in some countries like Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.
Iran’s confusion
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has said more than once that Saudi Arabia will seek to prevent Iran’s interference in Arab countries by all means and that if Iran does not abandon its expansionist sectarian project, it will be forced to go back to address its own internal affairs and take care of its people. These are not just words; as it has been proven true by all the observers. These words reflect a vision, strategy, decisions and positions, which in a short period have started to show benefits and give results. There are many examples — the most prominent being the reconciliation between Ethiopia and Eritrea in the Horn of Africa and which was brought about by Saudi Arabia’s and the UAE’s intensive efforts.
Iran’s confusion has started to appear in Iraq, where it is beginning to lose a lot of its influence and power. Iran’s strikes on Kurdish opposition areas in Iraq along with internal executions of some Kurdish symbols are useless, and they have led Washington to warn the Iranian regime of the consequences of such policies, which is reminiscent of Iran’s positions after 2003 against US forces in Iraq.
Iran’s destructive role has been exposed to the world. A US court has fined the Iranian regime for its well-known role in the 1996 Khobar bombing in Saudi Arabia; in which a number of Americans were killed. This was previously proven by Saudi Arabia with strong evidence. Examples of these destructive roles assumed by Iran can be an important tool for exposing the crimes of the Iranian regime in all the courts around the world. If this trend develops in Europe, South America and Africa, it will be an important factor to embarrass countries, which still defend Iran or the bad nuclear agreement that was led by former US President Barack Obama.
In the end, the bad models of governing regimes, which I spoke about and which are introduced by Islamist groups end in failure, destruction of Islam and extermination of human beings. Iran is its worst model.

What happened in 1979?
Mamdouh AlMuhaini/Al Arabiya/September 20/18
What do late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the Russian-Afghan War, famous Chinese reformist leader Deng Xiaoping, Pope John Paul II and the Iranian revolution have in common? It doesn’t really look they have anything in common except perhaps one thing which is: The year 1979. This strange year witnessed the emergence of names and incidents which changed the face of the world into what we know today. Thatcher, the prophet of capitalism and the open market which the world now knows, assumed her tasks as prime minister in 1979. The Russian invasion of Afghanistan which contributed to the fracture of the Soviet empire and created the incubator in which terror groups grew up also happened in 1979.
China would not have had this economic power today if it hadn’t been for Xiaoping’s radical reforms which were that same year. Pope John Paul II defied communism and contributed to reviving the Catholic Church. He became the pope in 1978 but his most courageous steps were in 1979. And of course who can forget the Iranian revolution which erupted in that strange year?
The whole world is fed up with al Qaeda’s terrorist operations and other organizations that adopt violence in the name of religion. But political Islam has risen in an unprecedented way with the Iranian revolution that overthrew Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in 1979
Margaret Thatcher
In his book Strange Rebels: 1979 and the Birth of the 21st Century, American Journalist Christian Caryl skillfully explains this year which – if we look back – is viewed as the most important year which opened a new chapter in the book of modern history.
It’s interesting that many observers expected that the decade of the 1970s was a mere shade of the decade that preceded it. There was the sense of chaos and lack of order due to assassinating Kennedy, the Watergate scandal, the repercussions of the Vietnamese War and the increased consumption of drugs and alcohol. It was a bleak decade passing by without any guidance but in its exactly last year, history took a sharp turn which we are still under its positive and negative repercussions.
If 1979 is the decisive turn, then the events which led to it were a series of historical interactions that surged, sometimes in a logical manner and sometimes in a strange one, to explode all at once in this year. Before we get to Thatcher who became prime minister in 1979, we need to go back to know this solid and stubborn woman whom her father, the grocer, taught her how to pave her own way and make others follow it and not the other way around (this father who planted in his stubborn daughter the values of diligence and determination was conservative on the social level and liberal on the economic level).
Thatcher who specialized in chemistry at university mockingly replied to those who asked her about becoming the first female prime minister and said: “I am not the first woman but the first scientist to become a prime minister!” However this strong revolutionary confidence and tendency for change which she was well-known for remained repressed inside her and only gradually appeared. She deeply believed in the values of the market and competition but she only showed a little of this strong tendency because she did not want to risk her gradual political rise. She was a youthful and cautious politician swinging between idealism and realism.
She was practical and was not ready to make statements that may harm her political status especially in the 1950s and 1960s when talking about the open market and competition was viewed as heresy that contradicts with the economic doctrine that’s solidified in the notion of the government’s control of the economy.
Even when Thatcher became the education secretary, she could not impose her policies and ideas and ended her term without making any noticeable changes (no one remembers her except by her decision to abolish free milk for schoolchildren and afterwards she was nicknamed "Margaret Thatcher, Milk Snatcher”).
Even inside her Conservative Party, there weren’t plenty of figures who agreed with her complete belief that competition and the open market are the suitable recipe for the deteriorating British economy. The Conservative Party Leader at the time Edward Heath (who became prime minister between 1970 and 1974) believed in pairing between the state control and the free economy. However the British economy continued to decline and inflation increased by an unprecedented rates. Unemployment also increased and a series of protests and strikes ensued.
Great Britain which formed the global economy bended on its knees and requested a loan from the International Monetary Fund which it once helped establish, and it was the first industrial country to take such a move. At that critical time and during that strange year, Thatcher came to change the economic formula and completely change the picture. Thatcher saw in herself a rebel and a revolutionary against the economic doctrine that has solidified since World War II and which at first succeeded for several reasons but almost drowned the country afterwards. This iron lady did not believe in consensus or agreement but she was inclined to radical polarization and change. Her ideas succeeded and her principles prevailed. Britain has since 1979 taken an economic and cultural path that’s mounting till this moment.
Xiaoping's vision for China
Famous Chinese reformist leader Xiaoping passed through harsher and more difficult circumstances than those Thatcher passed through. Although he was close to Mao whom he admired after he managed the war of the Japanese invasion, he brought him closer and distanced him and respected him and humiliated him, and in the end he returned to him after he felt that the cultural revolution he launched achieved its goals, although it represented a disaster to the Chinese economy and society.
Xiaoping was always a pragmatic man with a cold mind. He only raised his voice to criticize the situation in China when the time was right. Xiaoping, who before he succeeds in his third marriage, lost his first wife and whom his second wife humiliated him after she decided to separate from him and make it public, transformed from a social character who likes to engage in conversation into an unsociable person.
However in all cases he did not lose his sharp intelligence and his cold realism, the author of the book said Mao pointed to him once during a meeting with American officials and said: “That little man there has a great future ahead of him.” This little man did in fact prove that he was the best thing to happen to China in the past decades. His historical decisions to open the Chinese market, privatize agricultural lands and open the door for foreign investments marked the beginning of the rise of the Chinese giant which did not stop growing.
Xiaoping’s visit to the US in 1979 shook him despite some of the funny and confusing incidents which happened during it. At a dinner which former American President Jimmy Carter held in his honor, actress Shirley MacLaine sat next to him and said when she visited China during the Cultural Revolution, she was struck by the scene of the professor as he ploughed the ground. Xiaoping, who himself suffered from this revolution, looked at her in contempt and said: “Professors should be teaching university classes not planting vegetables!”
Xiaoping then returned to China and he had a different China for the future in his mind. The China which communism exhausted was an underdeveloped ruin at the time when its neighbors like Singapore and Japan were developing and prospering.
Xiaoping, the man who made the famous statement: “It doesn't matter whether a cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice”, then made his biggest move in 1979, and China and the world changed after this.
The Polish pope
The Polish Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope to ascend the papal pyramid in 1978 since more than 400 years. His visit to Poland, which was under Soviet influence, was seen as the first crack in the body of the Eastern bloc that collapsed ten years later. This Pope went to his native country, and there he delivered 39 speeches challenging directly the Marxist ideology.
Those speeches touched the millions of passionate Polish hearts that crowded to listen to him. Polish people, who were forced to accept Marxist thought never separated from their connection to the Catholic Church. For long centuries, Polish people tied their national identity to the church, and this continued even after their country was under communist influence. The pope, who was known for his ability to give speeches and influence, pushed for this notion, and didn’t speak about money or material things or the economy, but on the importance of the spiritual aspect in one’s life.
That year could mark the beginning of the return of politicized religion to Europe, which then escalated to reach the United States, where the mix of religion and politics played an important role.
But the return of political Islam was stronger and deeper, not in the West, but in the East. The signs of the Afghan war started to appear with Afghan President Mohammed Daoud Khan, but it actually began in 1979. One of the reasons that lead to the destruction of the Soviet empire, but it turned Afghanistan into an incubator for terrorist groups seeking power and influence.
The whole world is fed up with al Qaeda’s terrorist operations and other organizations that adopt violence in the name of religion. But political Islam has risen in an unprecedented way with the Iranian revolution that overthrew Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in 1979. The Shah, who launched the so-called White Revolution aimed at modernizing his country, did not think the mullahs could remove him from his throne and dispel his dream, but this is what happened.
The writer says that the events that occurred that year, and the ideas of the characters that emerged in it are what formed the reality that we live in now. “Whether we like it or not, the market and the politicized religion are some of the most influencing powers in this century.” The writer remembers important events like that the emergence of Microsoft was in that year, and the beginning of the so-called income imbalance in the US also began that year.
But he forgets important events such as the arrival of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to the presidency which was also in that year. As well as the beginning of the rise of radical thought. Of course, the coincidence alone has made this year a turning point in history in a way that no one expected, and changed the face of the world forever.

Iran accuses Saudi Arabia of theft

Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/September 20/18
These are the signs of a long crisis when Iran accuses Russia and Saudi Arabia of stealing its share of oil! Iran knows very well that no one stole a barrel from it or from its share. The market has its rules that have not changed since ages ago; the oil market is for those who can sell oil and not those who sit on it.
Iran has a massive reserve underground but it produces a little and it will sell even less. Due to the American sanctions against it, it lost half of its exports so far, although the US embargo on its oil purchases did not go into effect yet and will in November.
Iran is not prohibited from producing or exporting oil but buyers will have to choose between Iran’s oil or trade with America. Of course, most countries abandoned buying Iran’s oil in order not to lose the American market.
Amid this dangerous situation, the Iranian government is, before its people, trying to create justifications to the bad situation it has led the country to and it’s doing so by blaming others such as accusing Saudi Arabia and Russia of stealing its market share. The truth is the entire blame must be directed at the regime
Desperation in Iran
Iranian foreign, oil and commerce ministers toured half of the world trying to tempt buyers by decreasing prices, accepting their local currency and accepting a bartering system. However, most of these countries refused to buy oil from Iran despite all the temptations. Hence, it’s not Saudi Arabia and Russia that stole oil but this is Iran’s hostile policy which cost it its markets, clients and revenues.
As long as Tehran wants to play a heavy game by militarily deploying in the region, igniting wars, supporting terror groups and insisting on its military nuclear program, then it must tolerate the price.
Iran immediately lost more than a million barrels which it could not sell out of its daily production of 2.5 million barrels. It will probably lose another million barrels during the next weeks when the sanctions are implemented. Iran’s share will shrink to no more than half a million barrels and it will have to sell it for a very low price – this is if it could because the American government intends to harass it until its oil exports are zero.
Iran’s losses are doubled because its revenues will collapse as its exports decline and then the cost of imports will increase due to the American boycott campaign against it. We must note that the Iranian government’s dream to develop its capabilities to double its oil production so it reaches five million barrels a day failed after global companies withdrew.
Amid this dangerous situation, the Iranian government is, before its people, trying to create justifications to the bad situation it has led the country to and it’s doing so by blaming others such as accusing Saudi Arabia and Russia of stealing its market share. The truth is the entire blame must be directed at the regime, which put its foreign military projects before its domestic commitments, and since it militarily and politically expanded in the region, it should have expected a counter attack.
The blame game
Tehran seeks to create a foreign enemy, Saudi Arabia in particular, and we do not expect it to go far in accusations against Russia because it’s not in a situation that allows it to confront two major global powers at the same time: the US and Russia.
The Iranian regime’s behavior is reminiscent of what Saddam Hussein did at the end of his war with Iran as he blamed his country’s economic hardship on Kuwait, which he accused of stealing oil. He also blamed Saudi Arabia and the UAE claiming they were decreasing oil prices in the market to intentionally harm Iraq’s economy.
There are always shifts in the market as even with the decrease of oil exports of countries like Iran, Libya, Venezuela and others, there are countries whose production increased like the US who along with Russia became among the largest producers in the market. Despite the increased production by capable countries like Saudi Arabia and Russia, the prices continue to increase.
Saudi Arabia and Iran are two oil-rich countries but the difference is in the philosophy and in how to handle this oil. In Iran, ever since the religious system assumed power, oil has been the state’s means of implementing its ambitions of expansion and wars.
As for Saudi Arabia, it’s the same Saudi Arabia in the 1970s, 1980s and afterwards; it looks at oil as a commodity that it relies on in its revenues to run the country’s economy. The result is that Iran became an economically destroyed country that brags about its production of missiles and nuclear reactors and the Revolutionary Guards. Saudi Arabia, however, brags about successful companies like Aramco and SABIC and about its participation in stability and development along with the region’s countries.