English LCCC Newsbulletin For Lebanese, Lebanese Related, Global News & Editorials
For 19 July/2022
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
‘Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.’”
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 10/13-16:”‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But at the judgement it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? No, you will be brought down to Hades.‘Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.’”

Titels For English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on July 18-19/2022
Israel Military Intercepts Drone That Came from Lebanon
Israel says downed small drone likely belonging to Hezbollah
Reports: Hochstein may visit Beirut within two weeks
Aoun says spared no effort for reform, urges formation of new govt.
Aoun urges judiciary to issue rulings in pending cases
Berri tells US delegation no time to waste in border demarcation file
Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Calls for Electing Impartial President
Naqoura Tunnel' a New Conflict Issue between Lebanon and Israel
Lebanon's Baalbek festival back, despite economic collapse
Raad: Lebanese are masters of their country and its policies
Jumblat slams Syria, Hezbollah, says Lebanon 'gone with the wind'
FPM welcomes Arab support for Lebanon in Jeddah summit
Civil servants' wages tripled for 2 months, transport allowance hiked from March
Finance committee approves banking secrecy amendments
US delegation urges Lebanon to speed up government formation
Aoun stresses Sunnis’ role in preserving Lebanon unity
Lebanon needs a hero to save it from Hezbollah/Dalia Al-Aqidi/Arab News/July 18/2022
The Evening News and the Forms of Assault against the Pain of the Lebanese/Hazem Saghieh/Asharq Al Awsat/July 18/2022
LIC Statement on the New Lebanese Parliament
Lebanon LGBTQ community suffers setback amid wider clampdown

Titles For Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 18-19/2022
Iran, Russia, Turkey presidents to talk Syria war in Tehran
Kohavi: Attack on Iran at Center of Israeli Army Preparations
Macron talks diesel with UAE leader
Russian Shelling Kills Six in East Ukrainian Town
Why Does Russia Want to Remove the Syrian Political Process from Geneva?
Iraq Prosecution to Probe 'Maliki WikiLeaks'
Italy's Embattled PM Draghi Visits Algeria for Gas Talks
Tunisia’s Ghannouchi Investigated on Terrorism Charges
Explosion of Violence in South Sudan Threatens Peace Pact

Titles For LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 18-19/2022
Britain's New PM Must Get Real on Iran/Con Coughlin/Gatestone Institute./July 18/ 2022
Three Figures Made the Date in Jeddah/Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al Awsat/July 18/2022
Biden and Putin: A tale of two visits/Baria Alamuddin/Arab News/July 18, 2022

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on July 18-19/2022
Israel Military Intercepts Drone That Came from Lebanon
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 18 July, 2022
Israel's military said on Monday it had intercepted a small drone that crossed into the country from Lebanon, adding that it had likely been sent by the Iranian-backed group Hezbollah. The drone had been tracked by Israel throughout its flight, the military said. "The Israel Defense Forces will continue to operate in order to prevent any attempt to violate Israeli sovereignty," it said. Hezbollah has occasionally sent drones into Israeli airspace before, calling them reconnaissance missions.

Israel says downed small drone likely belonging to Hezbollah
Naharnet/Monday, 18 July, 2022
The Israeli army on Monday said it brought down a small quadcopter drone likely belonging to Hezbollah after it crossed from southern Lebanon into Israel. “Earlier today, the Israeli Defense Forces detected the infiltration of a drone from Lebanese territory into Israeli territory before bringing it down. The aerial surveillance units monitored the drone throughout the incident,” Israeli army Arabic-language spokesman Avichay Adraee tweeted, adding that the quadcopter drone “seems to be linked to terrorist Hezbollah.”“We will continue to work to prevent any violation of Israel’s sovereignty,” Adraee added. The spokesman also published a photo of the apparently unscathed drone, which indicates that it was likely brought down through technological means. The incident comes around two weeks after Israel shot down three unarmed Hezbollah UAVs headed for the Karish offshore gas field. Hezbollah said those drones were on a “reconnaissance” mission aimed at delivering a “message” to Israel as to the sea border dispute with Lebanon. Israel later revealed that it had shot down another Hezbollah drone on June 29 as it was still flying in Lebanon’s airspace.

Reports: Hochstein may visit Beirut within two weeks
Naharnet/Monday, 18 July, 2022
U.S. energy mediator Amos Hochstein may visit Beirut within two weeks, amid reports of progress in the file of sea border demarcation between Lebanon and Israel. “A U.S. endeavor will kick off within the next two weeks, through an expected visit by U.S. mediator Amos Hochstein aimed at reviving the negotiations,” Lebanon’s al-Binaa newspaper reported on Monday. “A solution will be eventually reached, seeing as the intersection of interests among major powers will impose a solution on Lebanon and Israel, especially that the U.S. is giving this file great importance as part of its war with Russia,” the daily added. The report comes two days after General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim said that “Lebanon is before a very big chance to regain its wealthiness through the demarcation of the maritime border.”“I believe we’re only weeks away from achieving this objective,” Ibrahim added. “I believe that what we will reach as to border demarcation is less than a right but rather a settlement. Unfortunately, the international and regional circumstances oblige us to reach a settlement, seeing as our right is neither Line 29 nor Line 23, but rather entire Palestine,” Ibrahim said.

Aoun says spared no effort for reform, urges formation of new govt.
Naharnet/Monday, 18 July, 2022 
President Michel Aoun said Monday that he has “spared no effort in order to achieve the aspired reform.”He, however, added that each time he used to “run into domestic obstacles that left their negative repercussions on the progress of the situations.”Aoun voiced his remarks in a meeting with a delegation from the American Task Force for Lebanon comprised of Edward Gabriel, Nijad Fares and Jay Ghazal. The delegation was accompanied by U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea. “The negotiations with the International Monetary Fund have reached specific results that must be continued and it is necessary to form a new government to follow up on this essential file that is vital for the future of economic revival,” Aoun added. Responding to a question from the delegation, the President stressed that “it is unacceptable to delay the process of demarcating the southern maritime border” with Israel. He also underscored the need to “activate the U.S. mediation that is being led by Ambassador Amos Hochstein, in order to reach quick results and enable Lebanon to invest in its oil and gas rights in its waters, while preserving the stability of the border.”
Aoun also emphasized that the “time factor” is crucial in this regard.

 Aoun urges judiciary to issue rulings in pending cases
Naharnet/Monday, 18 July, 2022   
President Michel Aoun on Monday stressed the need for the judiciary to issue rulings in the “pending cases, especially those related to financial lawsuits and the Beirut port blast crime.”“The families of the victims and the detainees are still awaiting the judiciary’s rulings,” Aoun said in a meeting in Baabda with caretaker Justice Minister Henri Khoury, Higher Judicial Council chief Judge Suheil Abboud, State Prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat and the judges Afif al-Hakim, Habib Mezher, Elias Richa, Dany Chebli and Mereille al-Haddad.
“It is unacceptable to paralyze judicial work under any excuse and the perpetrators must be punished, in any position they may be,” the President added. The National News Agency meanwhile said that the meeting tackled “the current judicial situations and the work of courts and public prosecutors.”

Berri tells US delegation no time to waste in border demarcation file
Naharnet/Monday, 18 July, 2022
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri on Monday warned a U.S. delegation against any further delay in the U.S.-mediated talks between Lebanon and Israel to demarcate their maritime border. “There is no more time for procrastination and delay in the demarcation of the sea boundary and for allowing the companies that won the tenders to start their work,” Berri told a delegation from the American Task Force for Lebanon, which was accompanied by U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea. “There is no justification at all for this delay or prohibition,” Berri added.

Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Calls for Electing Impartial President
Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 18 July, 2022
Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi has urged political parties to secure the formation of a government and the election of a new president. The patriarch called for a president who abides by the Lebanese cause, national principles and Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence, and who respects the principle of impartiality. He rejected a president who is influenced by the regional axes. Rahi’s comments came during a mass sermon in the Qannoubine Valley attended by Caretaker Information Minister Ziad Makari. The patriarch strongly rejected any delay in the election of a new president. “We cannot call for Lebanon’s neutrality and choose a president who is biased towards the axes and thus unable to implement neutrality,” he stressed. On maritime demarcation talks between Lebanon and Israel, Rahi said that Lebanon “cannot wait for a long time to extract gas and oil while Israel is already doing so.”He called on the US, which is mediating the negotiations, to resolve the problem.

Naqoura Tunnel' a New Conflict Issue between Lebanon and Israel
Beirut - Nazir Rida/ Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 18 July, 2022
A new point of border conflict was added on Monday to the Lebanese-Israeli file after a pro-Hezbollah caretaker minister included the so-called “railway tunnel” established by the English army in the forties between Lebanon and Palestine, to the lingering border dispute between the two countries. Caretaker Minister of Public Works and Transport Ali Hamieh included the issue under the title “the Occupied Naqoura tunnel”, to two other conflict border points of Shebaa Farms and Kfarshuba Hills, and to the disputed maritime areas where border demarcation is being negotiated under the UN auspices and US mediation. “Our sovereign rights lie in our decision to restore every inch of the occupied tunnel, besides to our decision to restore our land and maritime borders too,” said Hamieh during a visit to Naqoura where the tunnel lies. The tunnel was built by the English army between 1942 and 1944 to build a railway for rapid movement between Lebanon and Palestine. It was closed in 1948 with the declaration of the state of Israel. According to field sources in south Lebanon, “Israel closed the tunnel with a cement wall and placed concrete barriers inside it within a geographical spot located inside Lebanese territory." According to the former head of the negotiating delegation on the border with Israel, retired Major General Abdul Rahman Shehaitli, the tunnel lies in Lebanese territories and was closed by Israel, which is occupying the area where the tunnel is located, a long time ago. The Israeli side "is encroaching on Lebanese territory at this point,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat in remarks. The tunnel is located directly on the coast of Naqoura (the farthest south of Lebanon), while the Israeli forces installed a gate to the east of it that "encroaches on Lebanese territory for a distance of about 30 meters as well," he added. “There is no dispute over the point, but Israel is now refusing to acknowledge it or allow the Lebanese to reach it. The point is still a pile of stones since 1923. The Israeli army installed the gate in front of it deep inside Lebanese territory in the year 2000 after the liberation of southern Lebanon,” Shehaitli noted. During his visit to the tunnel, Hamieh said: “We are on Lebanese soil that is under Lebanese sovereignty...A study was conducted on the railway tunnel, which was built during the Second World War in 1942." He added that "we are now in the process of preparing terms of reference for launching international bids for the establishment of resorts and facilities.” “We will not give up an inch,” of the land or maritime borders, Hamieh said, “We also want our rights and borders in the tunnel until the last square meter.” Anti-Hezbollah parliamentary sources said the issue adds a new dispute to the lingering border conflict between Lebanon and Israel.

Lebanon's Baalbek festival back, despite economic collapse
Associated Press/Monday, 18 July, 2022
Lebanon's renowned Baalbek festival is back, held in front of a live audience for the first time since 2019, despite the country's economic meltdown and the coronavirus pandemic. French pianist Simon Ghraichy performed in front of a full house on Sunday night in what organizers described as a night of hope for Lebanon's revival. The annual festival in the ancient northeastern city of soaring Roman columns has long attracted celebrities from around the world. It had taken a major hit as a result of Lebanon's ongoing, nearly 3-year economic crisis and the pandemic, which had forced organizers to broadcast live from the site without an audience in 2020 and 2021. Inside the city's mesmerizing acropolis, French-Iranian oriental dancer Rana Gorgani twirled to Ghraichy's piano playing. "I'm so proud to be here in this place full of history and beauty," Ghraichy, who is of Lebanese and Mexican heritage, told The Associated Press. Since 1956, the Baalbek International Festival has hosted icons from Lebanon and the rest of the world, including world-renowned artists like French singer Charles Aznavour in 1999, English musician Sting in 2001, France's Johnny Hallyday in 2003 and tenor Placido Domingo a year later. It was also home to concerts by Lebanon's diva Fayrouz and Egypt's Umm Kulthum. The festival suffered a 23-year hiatus during Lebanon's civil war and resumed in 1997. Both residents and tourists attended in large numbers every summer. This year, the festival comes at a challenging time as Lebanon struggles with an unprecedented economic crisis, described by the World Bank as one of the worst in modern history. For many among the audience -- which also included Lebanese officials and foreign dignitaries -- the evening was a welcome escape. "Baalbek is back, and we want Lebanon to return to the way we used to know it, which is the Lebanon of art, culture, openness, and moderation," said former lawmaker Henri Helou.

Raad: Lebanese are masters of their country and its policies
Naharnet/Monday, 18 July, 2022
Hezbollah MP Mohammed Raad has said that the Lebanese are the masters of their country. "We are the ones who decide on our policies in a way that serves the interests of our children and our future generations," Raad said. "We do not choose our policies based on programs that the black chambers prepare for us," he went on to say. Raad stressed that Israel will not succeed in subjugating the region and that betting on it is "futile." He added that "the Israeli enemy has no place in our region."Raad's statement comes a day after the United States and Saudi Arabia called the Lebanese to form a government that ensures that "Lebanon does not become a launching point for terrorists, drug smuggling, or other criminal activities that threaten the stability and security of the region."

Jumblat slams Syria, Hezbollah, says Lebanon 'gone with the wind'
Naharnet/Monday, 18 July, 2022 
Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat has said that the decision of war and peace is in the hands of Iran and Hezbollah, as long as Lebanon doesn't have a defense strategy. In a TV interview, Jumblat urged the Arab states to support the army, the Internal Security Forces, and the institutions, which are collapsing. "Lebanon is gone with the wind," Jumblat said, as he mentioned Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's statement about the Mediterranean gas. He went on to criticize the Syrian regime, adding that calling for the Syrian refugees repatriation is nonsense. "This regime does not care about anyone or any sect, it uses everyone for its own interests in order to maintain power," Jumblat said. Earlier on Sunday, Jumblat had criticized U.S. President Joe Biden's visit to Palestine. He said that the latter had failed to pronounce the name of slain Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh correctly. "He has officially signed the death certificate of the Palestinian state," Jumblat said of Biden.

FPM welcomes Arab support for Lebanon in Jeddah summit
Naharnet/Monday, 18 July, 2022 
The Free Patriotic Movement has welcomed, in a statement, the support of the six Arab Gulf states, Egypt, Jordan and Iraq for Lebanon. In a joint statement issued after a summit in Jeddah, the leaders of the nine countries had expressed their support for Lebanon's "sovereignty, security, and stability."The FPM considered that Lebanon cannot benefit from any support without implementing the needed reforms. "In order to stop the collapse, we need a political will to implement a full reform program," the FPM said. The statement added that Lebanon's "sovereignty, security, and stability" reflects the FPM's position regarding Lebanon's right to extract its oil and gas resources and the repatriation of the Syrian refugees. "We are keen on maintaining the best relations with the Arab countries, based on openness, cooperation and mutual respect," the FPM said. The statement called for the neutralization of Lebanon from the regional conflicts. It expressed the FPM's hope for a comprehensive dialogue in the region, instead of "violence, wars and sanctions, which have only brought harm and destruction.""We hope that this summit will lead to the completion of the nuclear agreement and to a real rapprochement between Iran and the Gulf states, and that it will bring back Syria to the Arab League," the statement said.

Civil servants' wages tripled for 2 months, transport allowance hiked from March
Naharnet/July 18/2022
A ministerial committee on Monday agreed to grant civil servants financial incentives aimed at putting an end to a public sector strike that has paralyzed state administrations. The committee also decided to revoke a salary hike that had been recently granted to judges in an exclusive manner.
“It has been agreed to ensure equality among all public sector employees without any discrimination,” caretaker Labor Minister Mustafa Bayram announced after the committee’s meeting. “It has been agreed to approve a host of laws that would secure a large basket of revenues for the public treasury,” Bayram added. He announced that accordingly civil servants will be granted two extra salaries for each of July and August, while hiking the daily transport allowance to LBP 95,000 with a retroactive effect as of last March. The committee’s meeting was chaired by caretaker PM Najib Mikati and attended by a large number of caretaker ministers. “We will try in today’s meeting to tackle new ideas with the hope to reach a solution that would be acceptable to everyone, but meeting the demands all at once is something impossible and would lead to a bigger collapse of the situations,” Mikati said during the meeting.

Finance committee approves banking secrecy amendments
Naharnet/July 18/2022
The Finance Parliamentary Committee on Monday “approved the amendments of the banking secrecy law in a manner that serves preventing tax evasion and combating corruption, terror funding and illicit enrichment,” Committee head MP Ibrahim Kanaan said.“Our concern is transparency and preventing selectivity,” Kanaan added.

US delegation urges Lebanon to speed up government formation
Najia Houssari/Arab News/July 18/2022
BEIRUT: A delegation from the American Task Force for Lebanon has stressed the importance of “establishing a social economic program before it is too late.”The call came after the delegation — accompanied by US ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea — held talks with several Lebanese officials on Monday. Edward Gabriel, head of the ATFL, said: “Time is moving quickly, and the government must expedite laws and policies, carry out the required reforms, and take the necessary steps to meet the needs of citizens to push forward negotiations with the International Monetary Fund. We need a partner, and that partner is the government, which has to act quickly to achieve what is required from it.” The US provided aid worth more than $700 million to Lebanon last year, he added, and President Joe Biden “did not forget about Lebanon” during his Middle East visit.
MP Ibrahim Kanaan, chair of the finance and budget committee, announced the adoption of a law amending banking secrecy to prevent tax evasion, combat corruption, financing terrorism, and illicit enrichment. Biden mentioned several issues that affected Lebanon and stressed the integrity of the Lebanese territories during his meetings. The US call came as judicial assistants decided to join a strike of public sector employees on Monday, causing courts in Lebanon to grind to a halt. Public sector employees have been striking for about a month demanding that salaries be increased and for transportation allowances to be raised. The judicial assistants said they had stopped working permanently and would not make any exceptions, be they for urgent cases or public prosecutions, and would no longer issue notices on behalf of departments and courts. Joseph Talj, an official from the judicial assistants’ committees, said: “Ever since the crisis began in 2019, judicial assistants have been seeing how unfortunate people’s lives have become and are now suffering just like them in making ends meet. They can no longer provide food for their families, proper education, or health care.
“How can we work in palaces of justice where equity, equality, justice, and fairness don’t exist? Either we work to live a decent life with our children, or we stay home and die of starvation and diseases.”The same demand prompted retired members of the armed forces to stage a sit-in on Monday morning in front of the Baalbek branch of Banque du Liban, preventing employees from entering. They stressed that salary increases needed to include all employees, especially military personnel, in service and retired.
The Lebanese pound has lost 95 percent of its value since it started depreciating in 2019. The minimum wage is equivalent to $23 according to the black market exchange rate of LBP29,500. Before the financial collapse, it amounted to $444.
With the gradual lifting of subsidies on fuel and medicines, and the inability of health and social security institutions to cover hospitalization for public sector employees, the workers went on strike because they were unable to afford a minimum standard of living. Speaking on behalf of the retired armed forces personnel, Imad Awada said: “More protests will be organized in different regions until the decision to amend judges’ salaries based on the LBP8,000/USD rate is withdrawn, or until all public employees are included in the decision, especially military personnel in service and retirement, in addition to improving benefits.” The ongoing strike paralyzes most of the state’s official departments, especially the Ministry of Finance and the real estate departments. Those striking urged the ministerial committee tasked with managing public facilities to hold a meeting headed by the caretaker PM and PM-designate Najib Mikati to follow up on this issue.
Parliamentary committees have been convening to approve bills that fall within the framework of reforms demanded by the IMF in light of the ongoing government impasse since mid-May to present them in a legislative session to be determined later. MP Ibrahim Kanaan, chair of the finance and budget committee, announced the adoption of a law amending banking secrecy to prevent tax evasion, combat corruption, financing terrorism, and illicit enrichment. The committee has not yet finished studying the 2022 budget which, according to Kanaan, required “the government to present its study on the unification of the exchange rate, especially since taxes, fees, and salaries in the state are still calculated based on the rate of 1,507 LBP/USD, with the exception of judges’ salaries.” There is also discontent over calls to divide the municipality of Beirut into one council for the Christian part of the capital and one for the rest. MPs from the Free Patriotic Movement have proposed a bill on this subject. MPs from the Lebanese Forces Party and the Kataeb Party argued that the proposal served to “treat all Beirut neighborhoods equally.”
But there were strong reactions to the idea.
Lebanon’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdel Latif Derian said: “This cannot happen. This would bring us back to the East/West Beirut division. This is unacceptable and threatens the Islamic-Christian coexistence that we have preserved and will preserve at all costs. A government needs to be formed as soon as possible, especially since the collapse and paralysis pervade state institutions.” Derian stressed that officials needed to assume their responsibilities and form a rescue government as nothing else would pave the way for the election of a new president, implementing reforms, and fighting corruption. Beirut MP Ibrahim Mneimneh also commented on the division proposal. “Beirut's size and role require an elected local authority with the ability to rule and make decisions, not sectarian divided municipalities that seek to give priority to narrow interests over the city's. Populist proposals do not address the crisis, but may create a larger one.”

Aoun stresses Sunnis’ role in preserving Lebanon unity
Najia Houssari/Arab News/January 29, 2022
BEIRUT: Lebanese President Michel Aoun made a surprise visit to Dar Al-Fatwa on Saturday, where he met with Lebanon’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdel Latif Derian, the highest authority in Sunni Islam in the country, amid fears of a Sunni boycott of Lebanon’s political process. Aoun stressed the role “that the Sunni community plays in preserving Lebanon’s unity and political diversity, and the importance of participating alongside all other components in national and political life, as well as all elections that define the future of Lebanon and its people. “Arrangements are underway so that the parliamentary elections are held as scheduled, and there is no reason to postpone them,” he added, stressing that “the Sunni community is an essential component, and we do not support its boycott of the elections.” Aoun’s visit to Dar Al-Fatwa was described by political observers as “an attempt to remedy what can no longer be remedied; too little, too late.”
A source close to the former prime minister of Lebanon, Fouad Siniora, told Arab News: “The damage was done to the Sunni community when Aoun obstructed all attempts made by PM-designate Saad Hariri to form his government. Aoun went further by insulting Hariri, calling him a liar.
“Lebanon’s relationship with the Gulf states was also damaged as a result of the positions of Aoun and Hezbollah regarding the abuse committed against Saudi Arabia. It’s pointless to resort to Dar Al-Fatwa now.”
Prime Minister Najib Mikati announced on Friday that “there will be no Sunni boycott of the parliamentary elections in May. Our main concern is for the state and its institutions to remain active and effective, and for elections to be held on time.” It comes days after Hariri, who leads the Future Movement that represents the majority of the Sunni community in Parliament, announced “the suspension of political work and the suspension of any direct role or responsibility in the ruling authority, Parliament and politics in its traditional sense.” Mikati said: “It is true that Hariri announced his reluctance to run in the elections, but we will definitely not call for a Sunni boycott, and whoever wants to run should run. The sect holds great potential to participate in the elections.” Hariri's Future Movement has a major influence in 10 of the 15 electoral districts in Lebanon. He had attributed the suspension of political action to his conviction that “there is no room for any positive opportunity for Lebanon in light of Iranian influence, international uncertainty and national division.”A source in Dar Al-Fatwa said: “Derian, along with prominent Sunni figures, decided to move toward unifying the ranks to absorb the turmoil before it was too late and to confront the Iranian control that Hezbollah relies upon on the national scene.” The source close to Siniora noted: “The Sunni sect’s boycott of political action leads nowhere because Hezbollah can then take the decisions it wants without anyone objecting to it. It can also nominate whoever it wants for Sunni seats in the elections and ensure their victory to serve its interests.”
On Friday evening, three days after Hariri’s speech, his older brother Bahaa Hariri announced that he would “continue his father’s journey, the late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.”
Bahaa, 55, who had kept away from politics after the assassination of his father in 2005, making room for his brother Saad, said: “First of all, it must be emphasized that neither our religion, nor our morals, nor our upbringing … allow us, the sons of martyr Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, to abandon our responsibility, and we put (forward) all our capabilities for the sake of Lebanon’s renaissance.”
He added: “The family of the martyr Rafik Hariri ... will not disintegrate. In partnership and solidarity, we will fight the battle to restore the homeland and restore the sovereignty of the homeland from its occupiers.”
Bahaa stressed that any misinformation alluding to a power vacuum among Lebanon’s Sunni community serves only the enemies of the country, adding: “Who dares warn of a vacuum within the largest sect in Lebanon to which I have the honor to belong?”

داليا العقيدي/لبنان بحاجة إلى بطل لينقذه من حزب الله..لن يسود السلام والأمن والأمل قبل أن يتخلص لبنان من نصر الله ومن حزبه الإرهابي.
Lebanon needs a hero to save it from Hezbollah/Peace, security and hope will not prevail until the country has rid itself of Nasrallah and his terrorist party.
Dalia Al-Aqidi/Arab News/July 18/2022
The leader of the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, last week issued new warnings to the US and its most prominent ally in the Middle East, threatening Israel with an upcoming war that might bring woe to the state of Lebanon and its people.
In a televised speech, he said that the July 2 attempted drone attack on the disputed Karish gas field off Israel’s Mediterranean coast was just the beginning. “Write this equation down; we will reach Karish and everything beyond Karish and everything beyond that… If you want to prevent Lebanon from exercising its right to save itself by extracting oil and gas, no one will be able to extract oil and gas,” Nasrallah said. He stressed that military action would be the only Lebanese option to obtain its right to oil and gas resources. “The capacities of the resistance today are unprecedented; the fighting spirit is higher than ever. We have various capacities on land, sea and air, and all these options are open,” he said. The militia leader’s threats increased the divisions in Lebanon and will most likely soon fuel conflict on the country’s streets, given the fact that his words do not meet with the people’s consensus. While Nasrallah sends his drones and threats, the negotiations between Lebanon and Israel to determine their maritime borders continue with American mediation.
As usual, Nasrallah did not miss a chance to point an accusing finger at the US, which he always describes as the “Great Satan,” to increase the brainwashing of his militia members and to please his benefactors in Tehran. Nasrallah criticized US President Joe Biden’s visit to the Middle East and his actions on Yemen and Ukraine.
He also accused the US of committing aggression against Yemen and using regional countries as a tool, stressing that Biden could easily end the war and lift the siege. However, just one day after his fiery speech, the US State Department issued a statement in which it reiterated America’s commitment to facilitating the Lebanese-Israeli negotiations, emphasizing that the only way to achieve progress toward a resolution is through diplomacy. “The administration welcomes the consultative and open spirit of the parties to reach a final decision, which has the potential to yield greater stability, security and prosperity for both Lebanon and Israel, as well as for the region, and believes a resolution is possible,” the statement read.
Peace, security and hope will not prevail until the country has rid itself of Nasrallah and his terrorist party.
Nasrallah waging war against Israel takes us back to 2006, when Hezbollah, with Iran’s support, kidnapped two Israeli soldiers, forcing Tel Aviv to respond with military action, the price of which was paid by the Lebanese people. His selfishness, idiocy and loyalty to a foreign power led to the deaths of more than 1,200 people, the destruction of Lebanese infrastructure, including buildings, bridges and roads, and the disruption of power stations. However, the pro-Iran militia leader should be reminded that 2022 is completely different to 2006. The Israeli military is well equipped with fighter jets, guided missiles, drones, submarines and military cruisers that have the ability to wipe out a small country like Lebanon. How long will this country — rich in history, science, culture and art — remain hostage to someone whose hands have been stained with the blood of his own people? How long will the Lebanese government keep silent about the scourge of Nasrallah?
The blood of the victims of the Beirut port explosion has not yet dried and the pain of the wounds has not yet dissipated. Is there not a single brave Lebanese figure willing to hold Hezbollah and its leader accountable for their murders, terrorism and hostility toward foreign countries?
And, above all, for how long do the international community and human rights organizations intend to turn their eyes away from what is happening in this beautiful country? Peace, security and hope will not prevail until Lebanon has rid itself of Nasrallah and his terrorist party. Only at that time will Lebanon’s life-loving people chant in one voice, filled with optimism and ambition, the famous song of the late, great musician Wadih El-Safi, “Lebanon, Piece of Heaven.”
• Dalia Al-Aqidi is a senior fellow at the Center for Security Policy.
Twitter: @DaliaAlAqidi

The Evening News and the Forms of Assault against the Pain of the Lebanese
Hazem Saghieh/Asharq Al Awsat/July 18/2022
The evening news on the Lebanese broadcaster LBCI is a spectacular scoop that recurs daily. It tells us that, in contrast to what we know to be true, Lebanon is leaping from one success to another, consistently taking excellence to new highs. Vacationers and tourists are flocking to it. The parties and soirees never stop. The country's towns and villages are putting all their history, charm, and delicious food on display. The literary and artistic genius of the Lebanese has captivated the world. Our sports teams are attaining one victory after another...
Those who present the news in this way probably have good intentions, and they perhaps looked into the matter deeply and concluded: this total disaster is all the more reason to demand some hope. Think positive, and positive things will happen.
Unfortunately, since we are talking about a news bulletin, the fact that the scoop is fake becomes apparent after only one or two minutes, as does the fact that optimism about the future is misguided. The attempt to ward off reality with an arsenal of desires fails before it begins. The reason for this is that the actual news soon follows and pulls us down from the skies of fantasy to the reality on the ground: tragedy surrounds us from all sides, while escaping them is no easy matter.
This approach is dangerous, not only because the famous phoenix will never rise from the ashes and the Lebanese don't have the capacity to "rebuild what had been destroyed" as the famous song "Rajaa Yitaamar Libnan" (Lebanon will be Rebuilt) tells it will. It is a dangerous approach because it could multiply the sense of hopelessness that the Lebanese feel every time they come into contact with reality, especially since no citizen can avoid this contact all through their long days and nights. Reality strikes every time they go to get a loaf of bread, medicine, or fuel and whenever they face the agonizing reality of being abandoned and left to fend for themselves...
Taking the opposite course to cultivating illusions allows us to add awareness of the tragedy to the tragedy itself. Such an approach might be wiser, more mature, and more useful. It can be realized through a more comprehensive description of what has happened and is happening that illustrates the immense difficulties required to overcome this state of affairs, considers the massive responsibilities that doing so entails, and lays out the sacrifices that have to be made along the way...
Neither denying nor belittling the problem helps. Thus, the juxtaposition of two broadcasts in a single broadcast leaves us with a mind-blowing outcome: the Lebanese's dazzling excellence on every level is behind the unprecedented catastrophe that they are undergoing today!
But if resisting reality with folklore and rosy pictures is harmful enough, resisting it with images of blood is far more harmful.
Here, too, and through Al-Manar (for Hezbollah) and Al-Mayadin (for Hezbollah admirers), uncovering the facts of the matter takes no more than a minute or two: after tons of victories and talk of what lies "beyond Haifa" and "beyond Karish," and "humiliating the Zionist enemy," whose teeth are chattering with fear, the same announcer or guest adds that that enemy has violated our airspace thousands of times over the past few years, or that, at this very moment, it is conducting an airstrike on our Syrian neighbor.
Once again, if we bring the two sides of the story together in a single sentence, we would end up with a phrase something like: because of the many victories we have achieved and because of the degree of the fear that was instilled in the enemy, it has violated our airspace thousands of times over the past few years and continues to violate it.
The knife that stabs formal logic, here, cuts deep.
No doubt, there are many ways to conceal reality, and they come from multiple sources. Some are derived from simple Lebanese village traditions, others from a military Arab tradition that became notorious for spinning defeats into victories.
However, this assault on the mind does not negate the differences between its forms. The first assault is well-intentioned. It can be categorized as cultural, meaning that it simultaneously adopts an ancient, folkloric and mystical view of the country, a view that has little awareness of changes and imagines, in the same way that old Rahbani songs did, that a nice coincidence could solve our difficult problems.
The second assault is ill-intentioned, taking advantage of the nation's weakness and building on it. It is also cultural, but its culture is of a warlike and revolutionary nature. It is confident that the country is rushing to its death, and it is taking decisive and proactive steps to accelerate the process.
If the rosy assault on the mind raises fears of squandering the pain of the Lebanese by mixing its elements and camouflaging its causes, then the message of the armed attack aggravates that pain and promotes it to the rank of a venerable goal we should strive for. The first assault tells us that the cure lies in smiling with hope and keeping everything as it is. The second assault tells us that the cure is to gulp down more of what has brought us to where we are now, and by doing so, ensuring that everything will be obliterated by tomorrow.

LIC Statement on the New Lebanese Parliament
July 15, 2022
Contact: joanna@theresolute.group
Washington, D.C. - In the May 2022 parliamentary elections, the Lebanese people sent a clear message rejecting the rule of Hezbollah and their allies. The Hezbollah-led majority was defeated and Hezbollah’s strongest political adversary, the Lebanese Forces Party, won the largest number of seats. Next, Parliament is set to elect the President by September and those members opposed to Hezbollah’s rule have the opportunity to unite and choose a candidate to lead the country out of this crisis.
The LIC once again congratulates the people of Lebanon on fairly holding these critical elections despite administrative and logistical obstacles, threats of violence, and rampant misinformation.
The LIC has long held that elections should occur to replace the current majority responsible for the grave economic and political crisis ravaging the country. In that respect, the LIC has been mobilizing the diaspora, engaging Lebanese opposition leaders, and communicating with electoral monitoring organizations. LIC President Dr. Joseph Gebeily made two trips to Lebanon before and during the elections to meet with opposition groups, political activists, candidates newly elected MPs, and election observers.
The country now enters a new phase of constitutional milestones. Parliament has selected its Speaker, Deputy Speaker, and other officers of the committees, as well as reappointed Najib Makati as Prime Minister. What remains now is for Parliament to convene and elect the President.
The Lebanese people made it clear through the ballot box that they want to see a different class of rulers; one that is capable and willing to address the socioeconomic crisis and defend the sovereignty of the State against the dominance of the militia. These objectives can only be accomplished if the anti-Hezbollah members of Parliament are united in their efforts to act on behalf of the majority of the Lebanese people and coalesce behind a single presidential candidate. The LIC stresses the need for elected MPs from the opposition, both former representatives and the newly elected, to set aside any disagreements and form a cohesive front to improve the living conditions of the Lebanese and protect them against weapons outside the State’s authority. This parliamentary coalition must:
Ensure the democratic process started with the parliamentary elections continues with the formation of a capable cabinet and the election of a president.
Elect and support a president with honesty, integrity, and commitment to the Lebanese state who will uphold the constitution, restore confidence in the government, and strengthen state institutions.
Pass desperately needed legislation and reforms to address the State’s finances, the electricity crisis, the independence of the judiciary, and the fight against corruption.
Take necessary steps to alleviate the suffering of the Lebanese people who lost their savings and livelihoods and are facing unemployment, hyperinflation, and shortages of food, fuel, and medicine.
Hold the President and the Cabinet accountable by exercising Parliament’s fundamental role of oversight of the Executive Branch.
Assert the sovereignty of the State over its territory, controlling its borders and ports of entry and confronting the illegal activities of the militia.
The LIC calls on the United States and the international community to support Lebanon at this critical juncture. Lebanon’s allies and friends, including the U.S., should actively engage the new Parliament, particularly those forces opposed to the mafia-militia clique, and offer diplomatic support and legitimacy, as well as humanitarian aid and security assistance. These initiatives should be conducted in concert with Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states to enhance their effectiveness and balance the existing Iranian influence.
Lebanon will only recover from this crisis that has wrought so much suffering if structural reforms are implemented, systemic corruption is eradicated, relations with Lebanon’s neighbors in the Arab world are restored, and State sovereignty is protected. This demands new leadership with integrity and vision for Lebanon’s future. The Lebanese people have taken the first step and elected new representatives with a clear mandate to move forward from this political impasse. LIC calls upon Parliament to follow the lead of the people and unite behind a Presidential candidate to guide the nation out of this crisis.
The Lebanese Information Center in the U.S. is the largest grassroots organization of Americans of Lebanese descent, committed to building a free, sovereign, and democratic Lebanon for the good of the Lebanese people and in the interest of the United States of America.

Lebanon LGBTQ community suffers setback amid wider clampdown
Associated Press/Monday, 18 July, 2022
Nour never felt entirely safe as a queer person in Lebanon. But in the past few years, the 25-year-old pharmacist had begun letting his guard down, meeting with friends in LGBTQ-friendly spaces in Beirut and even performing in drag shows. He now opts to stay at home, fearing for his safety more than ever after a wave of anti-LGBTQ hate speech that followed last month's decision by the Lebanese Interior Ministry to shut down any events aimed at promoting "sexual perversion." The setback is part of a broader clampdown on marginalized groups and freedoms that activists say aims to distract the public from Lebanon's spiraling economic and financial crisis, which has pulled over three-quarters of the population into poverty. Millions in the once middle-income country continue to struggle with soaring inflation, rampant power cuts, and medicine shortages, while tens of thousands have left the country in search of opportunities abroad. "It really felt like they wanted to just distract the masses from everything going on and focus on this hot topic," Nour, who asked to use a pseudonym because he has not come out to family, told The Associated Press. Security forces have since cracked down on several events catered to the LGBTQ community, forcing their organizers to eventually shut them down. They also visited the offices of Helem, the country's first registered LGBTQ advocacy group, asking for their registration papers and other documents.
The move followed loud complaints from religious officials who publicly described them as ungodly and said they were not in line with Lebanese customs. In a statement on June 24, the Interior Ministry said that LGBTQ-friendly events "violate our society's customs and traditions, and contradict with the principles of the Abrahamic religions."Helem's Executive Director Tarek Zeidan blasted the statement, saying it "pits Lebanese people against each other.""It was very clear that it was a deliberate decision to manufacture moral panic in order to divert attention from the general political and economic disaster that is Lebanon today," Zeidan said. Lebanon since late 2019 has been reeling from a crippling economic crisis that the World Bank says is among the world's worst since the mid-1800s. The Lebanese pound has lost over 90% of its value against the dollar, while much of the population has struggled to cope with soaring diesel fuel, gasoline, medicine and food prices.
Citizens and experts blame decades of financial mismanagement and corruption at the hands of Lebanon's entrenched ruling elite for the crisis.
Human rights organizations say the recent setback for the LGBTQ community is part of a broader clampdown on civil rights and freedoms, coupled with the economic crisis. In May, religious clerics were up in arms after recently elected lawmakers and advocacy groups promoted civil marriage and state-mandated personal status laws independent from religious courts.
Last month, comedian and rights activist Shaden Fakih stood before the Military Court, accused of harming the reputation and insulting the country's Internal Security Forces in a prank call during the country's COVID-19 lockdown, in which she asked for permission to leave the house in order to buy sanitary pads.
And earlier this month, the Lebanese government announced that it has been in talks with Syria over a forced refugee returns plan for over a million Syrians in the country. Some activists and human rights advocates say Lebanese authorities are trying to find scapegoats, as they stall probes linked to a host of financial crimes, the 2020 Beirut port explosion and soaring cases of domestic violence and sexual assault. "The state seems either completely unwilling or unable to crack down on violations of grave rights like corruption, torture, hate speech, but on the flip side acts very quickly under pressure from religious and other powerful institutions in the country to crack down on the rights of marginalized groups," Aya Majzoub, a Lebanon researcher at Human Rights Watch, told the AP. In some cases, residents have responded to religious leaders by taking matters into their own hands.
In the predominantly Christian Achrafieh district, partisans dubbed the Soldiers of God — a protest group that advocates for socially conservative values and laws — tore down a billboard promoting events for Pride month. Elsewhere, residents in the Sunni Tarik Jdideh neighborhood gathered to condemn the LGBTQ community's events and their supporters, calling them an "infiltration" into their community. The Rev. Abdo Abou Kassm, director of the Catholic Center for Information, a media arm of the Maronite church, sympathized with the angry protesters, though he opposes any violence and bullying. "You have your freedom at home, but you cannot promote this in the community as it is in fact against nature. The law says so and almost all Lebanese abide by this," Abou Kassm said, adding that the angry protests were a reaction. "Our society is not ready for this."
Despite a constant battle fighting discrimination and abuse, Lebanon's LGBTQ community is the most vibrant and open in the Arab world and has made significant gains in the past few years. Although homosexuality is still considered a crime, the country boasts at least half a dozen active LGBTQ advocacy groups, as well as bars and clubs that openly cater to the community. Now, Nour and his friends avoid meeting in their usual spots, fearing raids and harassment. "We do have a WhatsApp group so whenever someone is going out, we just notify the others and when we expect to be back home," he explained. As Lebanon's dire economy continues to unravel, activists fear authorities will continue to target marginalized groups to distract from real issues. "We are witnessing the beginnings of a full-blown attack, because this ruling regime is beginning to fear it's losing control," Zeidan said. "What we're saying loudly and clearly is that they're coming for all of us. First they came for the refugees, and no one cared. Then they came for the queers and no one gave a damn either."

The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 18-19/2022
Iran, Russia, Turkey presidents to talk Syria war in Tehran
Agence France Presse/Monday, 18 July, 2022
With the war in Ukraine still raging, Russian President Vladimir Putin travels Tuesday to Tehran for talks with his Iranian and Turkish counterparts on the Syria conflict. Russia, Turkey and Iran have in recent years met to discuss Syria as part of the so-called "Astana peace process" to end more than 11 years of conflict in the Arab country. All three are involved in Syria, with Russia and Iran supporting the Damascus regime against its opponents, and Turkey backing rebels. Tuesday's summit comes as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to launch a new offensive in northern Syria against Kurdish militants. Iran, whose President Ebrahim Raisi is hosting the meeting, has already warned that any Turkish military action in Syria could "destabilize the region." The Tehran summit will also enable Erdogan to hold his first meeting with Putin since Russia invaded Ukraine in February. The Turkish president has for months been offering to meet the Russian leader in a bid to help resolve heightened global tensions since the war began. "The timing of this summit is not a coincidence," Russian analyst Vladimir Sotnikov told AFP. "Turkey wants to conduct a 'special operation' in Syria just as Russia is implementing a 'special operation' in Ukraine," he said.Turkey has launched waves of attacks on Syria since 2016, targeting Kurdish militias as well as Islamic State group jihadists and forces loyal to Syrian President  Bashar al-Assad.
Green light? -
Erdogan's planned military offensive targets Kurdish fighters which Ankara regards as "terrorists." They include the U.S.-backed Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which formed a crucial part of an international coalition against the Islamic State group in Syria. Ankara fears a strong Kurdish presence along its border with Syria will embolden the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party, which for decades has been waging an insurgency against the Turkish state that has claimed tens of thousands of lives. Syria's government has repeatedly condemned Turkish threats to mount a new incursion. Sinan Ulgen, a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe who specializes in Turkish foreign policy, said Ankara wants the blessing of Moscow and Iran before launching its operation. "It's particularly important because the two potential target regions are under the control of Russia, and Turkey wants to be able to use the airspace... so as to minimize the risks," he said. Iran "also has an indirect presence in the region through Shiite militias that it controls," said Ulgen. Ultimately, Erdogan is hoping to get "the green light" from Putin and Raisi, he added. Russia has already expressed the hope that Turkey would "refrain" from launching an attack on Syria. Iran, whose foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian visited both Ankara and Damascus in recent weeks, has also urged caution.
'Destabilizing' -
Late last month, Iran's top diplomat said in Ankara that "we understand that... maybe a special operation might be needed." "Turkey's security concerns must be tackled fully and permanently." Days later, Amir-Abdollahian said in Damascus that Turkish military action in Syria "would be a destabilizing element in the region".Mazloum Abdi, chief commander of the YPG-linked Syrian Democratic Forces, has urged Russia and Iran to restrain Turkey. "We hope (the attacks) will not take place and that the Kurds... will not be forsaken during the talks between the big powers," he said. The SDF has warned that an invasion by Ankara would undermine efforts to combat Islamic State group jihadists in Syria's northeast. Nicholas Heras of the Newlines Institute said Iran and Russia "want to prevent another Turkish military campaign in Syria." "Iran is building a presence in and around Aleppo that concerns Turkey, and Russia is for all intents and purposes ceding ground to Iran throughout Syria," he added. For Iranian political analyst Ahmad Zeidabadi, "new differences" have emerged between Russia, Iran and Turkey following the Ukraine war.
This and an "uncertain future", he said, means the three leaders will try to "coordinate" their views on Syria to avoid further tensions.

Kohavi: Attack on Iran at Center of Israeli Army Preparations
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 18 July, 2022
Israeli army chief Aviv Kohavi has said it was Israel’s “moral obligation” to prepare a military response against Iran’s nuclear program. In a speech at a ceremony marking the change of the military’s Home Front Command chief on Sunday, Kohavi said: “Preparing the home front for war is a task that must be accelerated in the coming years, especially in light of the possibility that we will be required to act against the nuclear threat.”The Times of Israel quoted him as saying that the Israeli army “continues to prepare vigorously for an attack on Iran and must prepare for every development and every scenario.”Kohavi said “preparing a military option against the Iranian nuclear program is a moral obligation and a national security order.”He added that such preparation is “at the center” of the Israeli army’s preparations, and includes “a variety of operational plans, the allocation of many resources, the acquisition of appropriate weapons, intelligence and training.”Last month, dozens of Israeli warplanes conducted air maneuvers over the Mediterranean Sea, simulating striking Iranian nuclear facilities.

Macron talks diesel with UAE leader
Agence France Presse/Monday, 18 July, 2022
French President Emmanuel Macron hosted United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan for lunch in Paris on Monday, with increased diesel supplies on the menu for their official talks. The UAE has emerged as a key partner for Western countries as they scramble for energy supplies worldwide to replace imports from sanction-hit Russia. Sheikh Mohamed, also known as MBZ, was on his first overseas state visit since taking office in May following the death of his half-brother. The visit is expected to conclude with "the announcement of guarantees given by the UAE on quantities of hydrocarbon supplies to France," Macron's office announced before the visit.The deal will cover diesel in particular, which the UAE does not supply at present. France is seeking "to diversify its sources of supply in the context of the conflict in Ukraine," the Elysee source added, referring to EU sanctions on Russian oil. Sheikh Mohamed's decision to make his first official visit to France "is a conscious one that acknowledges the historic ties between the two nations but also the potential for even greater cooperation and growth with France," his diplomatic advisor Anwar Gargash said on Friday.
"The UAE is determined to remain a reliable partner and source of energy," he added. "We have sold our oil to the far-east for 40 years and now we are directing it toward Europe in this time of crisis." The UAE president's visit to France came after Joe Biden's first Middle East tour as president, which included a visit to Saudi Arabia for energy talks. Macron and Biden were overheard talking about energy supplies from the Middle East at a G7 summit at the end of June in Germany. Macron told Biden that he had spoken to Sheikh Mohammed who had said he was at his "maximum" in terms of oil production, but that the Saudis had some spare capacity. After his lunch with Macron, Sheikh Mohamed is set to be guest of honor at a dinner at the former royal palace in Versailles outside Paris.

Russian Shelling Kills Six in East Ukrainian Town
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 18 July, 2022
A Russian shell smashed into a two-storey building in the eastern Ukrainian town of Toretsk on Monday, killing six civilians who were sheltering there, the State Emergency Service said. It said on Facebook that rescuers found five bodies in the rubble and pulled three people out alive, but one later died in hospital. "The town of Toretsk was under fire today from early in this morning. A two-storey building sheltering people was destroyed as a shell slammed into it," the State Emergency Service said. It posted photographs on its Facebook page of rescue workers digging through rubble and what was left of the devastated building, and said the search for survivors had been abandoned. Reuters could not immediately check details of the report independently. Russia, which invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, denies deliberately targeting civilians but cities have been flattened and millions have fled the fighting.

Why Does Russia Want to Remove the Syrian Political Process from Geneva?

London - Ibrahim Hamidi/Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 18 July, 2022
Damascus has informed United Nations envoy Geir Pedersen that it would not send its delegation to Geneva to participate in the ninth round of the Constitutional Committee on July 25, which means freezing the Syrian political process that is held under the auspices of the UN.
The actual reason is not related to Damascus’ objection to the Committee’s mechanism or the topic of “discussions” between the two delegations – namely the government delegation, and the other representing the opposition “negotiating committee.”In fact, the decision came upon a recommendation from Moscow. It is also not related to Russia’s objection to the Syrian constitutional reform efforts and issues, such as sovereignty, foreign agendas, and “occupations”; rather, it concerns Switzerland’s position on the Ukrainian war and its break from neutrality. In short, Moscow is not satisfied with Switzerland’s joining Western sanctions against Russia because of the Ukraine war.
What is the Russian solution?
Moscow is punishing Geneva - a major European capital for the United Nations and its institutions - and attempting to shake European unity because of Ukraine, at the lowest price, and not through Russia’s withdrawal from UN organizations or boycotting international meetings on the Syrian crisis.
The punishment came from Syria. Accordingly, Moscow asked Damascus to refrain from participating in the Constitutional Committee meetings in Geneva, and suggest Sochi, Moscow, Damascus, Algeria or Muscat as possible alternative hosts.
What prompted the issue>
At the conclusion of the meetings of the eighth round of the Constitutional Committee in May, Pedersen agreed with the heads of the two government and opposition delegations - Ahmed Al-Kuzbari and Hadi Al-Bahra respectively - to hold the next round after the Eid Al-Adha holiday, between July 25-29. At that time, Russian presidential envoy Alexander Lavrentyev was reportedly not satisfied with the Swiss authorities’ handling of entry visas for the Russian delegation and the coldness of the reception.
What does Pedersen want?
Based on the agreement between the Syrians and the regional and international sponsors in the previous round in June, Pedersen sent written invitations to Al-Kuzbari, Al-Bahra and the civil society, asking them to present some ideas on the means to accelerate the work of the committee to achieve the goal stipulated in the reference standards and the basic elements of the internal regulations and to work quickly and continuously to achieve results and progress without external interference or time frames imposed from the outside. Pedersen wants to present practical proposals to expedite constitutional discussions within three options: discussing more than one topic per day, tackling one chapter of the constitution in each round, submitting drafts and discussing one chapter of the constitution in each session, until all chapters are completed. The atmosphere and diplomatic contacts remained positive, suggesting that the meetings will take place. Syrian officials said their delegation would participate in the meetings if “logistical problems for Russian friends” were resolved. Indeed, the Swiss authorities facilitated the visa procedures for the Russian delegation. But suddenly, the decision to boycott was relayed to Geneva from Damascus hours after a “breakthrough” represented in the Western acceptance of Russian conditions on extending the Security Council resolution to deliver humanitarian aid across the border for only six months.
What are the problems of the Russian veto?
Boycotting the Constitutional Committee meetings has many complexities. First, it exposes the realities of the meetings, collides with the public discourse of Moscow and embarrasses Damascus, which does not seem to mind abandoning the international umbrella to discuss its constitution and what it sees as a sovereign matter issue. Most importantly, the boycott contradicts the political process, as UN Security Council Resolution 2254 stipulated that reforming the Syrian constitution was a Syrian-led process and not a Russian matter. This was confirmed in writing by the work standards document completed by the Syrian parties in 2019. Moreover, the Syrian National Dialogue Congress, which was held in Sochi in early 2018, stipulated that reform must be discussed in Geneva. This was coupled with several statements from the “guarantors” of the Astana process, stressing that the work of the Constitutional Committee should be carried out “without external interference.”
What are the options?
An envoy of a Western country, who participated in the Geneva meetings, said after receiving a letter from Pedersen’s office about the cancellation: “When you attack another country, and targeting civilians becomes a cornerstone of military strategy, whether it is in Ukraine or Syria, political hypocrisy is a key feature embedded in your foreign policy.”The decision meanwhile, came as a surprise to the opposition, which found in the Geneva Process a platform that gives it political significance and parity with Damascus. A leader in the opposition said the government delegation has tied its participation to “fulfilling Russian demands.”He continued: “We are facing a very deep crisis that will last for more than a few months, while the Constitutional Committee will not hold any meetings.”“This fabricated crisis was not created by any Syrian side, but by a foreign party, Russia,” he added. “This is blatant foreign interference in the work of what is supposed to be a committee maintained and led by Syrians. Russia is not a party to the Constitutional Committee to decide whether they should travel or not.”There is no doubt that the decision that Damascus conveyed to Geneva on behalf of Moscow will be discussed by the Astana “guarantors” - Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish and Iranian counterparts, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Ebrahim Raisi - in Tehran on Tuesday. It is true that Tehran, along with Ankara, is looking for an achievement in the Syrian arena. But the fate of the possible Turkish military operation in northern Syria will likely be the most pressing issue at hand. The officials will also likely prioritize the areas of “hostile cooperation” between Ankara and Moscow in Ukraine. Iran also wants to propose issues that concern its role and US President Joe Biden's recent visit to the Middle East.
It is known that the Constitutional Committee is neither a committee, nor working on the constitution. It is nothing but a pretext that allows “players” to act like there was a political process to justify military choices and social engineering, as well as prevent another real process from taking shape. And there are those who want a constitutional process without an international umbrella. Russia is using Syria and its “political process” as an arena for controlling its partners, punishing its opponents and “testing” its rivals and the Constitutional Committee is small evidence of this.

Iraq Prosecution to Probe 'Maliki WikiLeaks'
Baghdad - Fadhel al-Nashmi/Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 18 July, 2022
Iraq’s judiciary is expected to examine two complaints to probe the voice recordings attributed to former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in which he criticized politicians, notably his rival cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Known in Iraq as the “Maliki WikiLeaks”, the former PM threatened to attack Najaf city to protect the country’s highest Shiite authority should Sadr attack it himself. Lawyers who filed the complaints have demanded that Maliki be held accountable for the recordings, which they said “harm national security and incite strife and sectarian violence.”A rights source told Asharq Al-Awsat that Maliki may be tried in a special court over terrorism charges. He added, however, that a trial is unlikely because the judiciary in Iraq is politicized. On Wednesday, activist and journalist Ali Fadhel released around one minute of the recording. He has around 48 minutes worth of recordings and will release a minute or two a day so that they will have a popular and political impact in the country. In the latest recording on Sunday, Maliki said: “The coming phase is that of fighting. I told this yesterday to Prime Minister [Mustafa] al-Kadhimi.” “I told him that I am not relying on you, the army or the police. They will not do anything,” he was heard saying. “Iraq is approaching a brutal war from which no one will emerge unscathed unless we manage to stop Sadr, [parliament Speaker Mohammed] al-Halbousi and Masoud Barzani,” he added. Maliki’s remarks clearly date back to two months when the Sadr-Halbousi-Barzani alliance was still standing. Around a month ago, Sadr’s parliamentary bloc of 73 MPs resigned from the legislature. Maliki was also heard saying that he was arming ten to 15 groups “in preparation for the critical phase.” He said he would attack Najaf and protect the Shiite authority and the people should Sadr attack. The former PM also expressed his disappointment with the Popular Mobilization Forces, ruling out the possibility of working with them and describing them as a “nation of cowards.”Maliki has since twice denied that his voice was in the recordings. Iraqis have dismissed his denial, saying the voice and ideas expressed in the recordings were “exactly how the former PM would think and act.” Iraqi researcher at Arizona State University Saleem Suzah said he has no doubt that the recordings are that of Maliki. In a Facebook post, he added that the tone of voice and manner of speaking heard in the recordings match Maliki’s. Political researcher Yehya al-Kabisi said Maliki’s remarks are nothing new as these are statements he has often spoken to his guests. But this is the first time they are released in the open. Sadr, meanwhile, has dismissed the recordings and called on his supporters to do the same because “we have no regard for Maliki.”

Italy's Embattled PM Draghi Visits Algeria for Gas Talks
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 18 July, 2022
With his government's fate in limbo, Italian Premier Mario Draghi is visiting Algeria’s capital Monday to finalize deals boosting Algerian gas supplies to Italy as Europeans brace for a possible cutoff of Russian gas. In a sign of the importance of the visit, the Italian delegation includes the foreign minister, interior minister, justice minister and ecological transition ministers, The Associated Press said. They’ll hold a day of talks, meet with Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and sign joint agreements. Algeria is set to displace Russia as the main supplier of gas to Italy, after a major agreement was reached during a trip by Draghi to Algeria in April between Algerian energy giant Sonatrach and Italian company ENI to increase gas exports. EU countries have scrambled to diversify energy sources after Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Monday's trip comes at a precarious time for Draghi, who had to cut it a day short because of political troubles at home. A main partner in his pandemic unity government, the populist 5-Star Movement, boycotted a confidence vote in the Senate last week on an energy costs relief bill, jeopardizing the survival of the 17-month-old government. The political turmoil forced Draghi to reduce his Algeria visit from two days to just one. Amid concerns that payments for Russian gas and oil are funding President Vladimir Putin’s war, Europe is trying to cut its reliance on Russian natural gas imports and prepare for a potential Russian cutoff in reprisal for EU sanctions. Prior to the war, Russia provided Italy about 29 billion cubic meters of gas per year, compared with about 23 billion from Algeria. Already this year Algeria has delivered 13.9 billion cubic meters to Italy via the Trans-Mediterranean pipeline, a 113% rise over forecasts, according to Algerian energy giant Sonatrach. Algeria on Friday announced a 4 billion cubic-meter increase in planned supplies for the months ahead. Italy is especially dependent on natural gas to generate electricity, heat and cool homes, and power its industry. Italy has also been reaching out to other energy-producing nations to secure alternate sources, including Azerbaijan, Qatar, Congo, Angola and Mozambique.

Tunisia’s Ghannouchi Investigated on Terrorism Charges
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 18 July, 2022
The leader of Tunisia’s main opposition party is due to be questioned by the country’s anti-terrorism unit on Tuesday on suspicion of money laundering and terrorist financing through an association charity. The accused, Rached Ghannouchi, was among a dozen top Ennahdha party officials whose bank accounts the north African country’s central bank froze earlier this month. The moderate Islamist Ennahdha vehemently disputes the accusations of money laundering and terrorism financing. President Kais Saied suspended parliament last year and seized broad powers in a move that he said was necessary to "save the country" from a political and economic crisis. This prompted criticism from the opposition, which accuses him of a slide toward totalitarianism. Ennahdha has said that these accusations are aimed at distracting attention from a July 25 referendum planned by Saied to change the constitution to augment presidential powers and reduce the role of the parliament and prime minister. The president’s critics say he is trying to legitimize a "coup." Opposition figure Nejib Chebbi said he feared Ghannouchi’s arrest after the hearing, denouncing what he called a "harassment campaign" unleashed by the government against "leading political figures."Saied and some others blamed Ennahdha in part for Tunisia’s political crisis last year. Ennahdha, which dominated parliament before it was suspended, is among the president’s fiercest critics.

Explosion of Violence in South Sudan Threatens Peace Pact
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 18 July, 2022
An explosion of violence in South Sudan is raising fears that the country's fragile peace agreement will unravel before elections the international community hopes can be held next year. The wave of near-daily killings across this East African country is often blamed on marauding militias whose attacks threaten the 2018 truce between President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar, The Associated Press said. While the two leaders work in the same government in relative peace in the capital Juba, elsewhere South Sudan appears at war with itself: Hundreds of people have been killed since the start of the year in violence ranging from cattle raids to ethnically motivated revenge killings. The violence appeared to worsen in June after Pope Francis canceled his visit this month, citing his knee problem. The pope's visit was meant to encourage faith in a country damaged by years of war, including a long conflict for independence from Sudan and then a civil war. At least 209 people were killed and 33 others wounded across the country in June alone, according to a violence tracker by the Juba-based civic group known by its initials as CEPO. Both Kiir and Machar are under pressure to release a timetable for presidential elections in 2023. While Kiir expresses hope that a vote can be held next year, Machar has said that elections are impossible amid such widespread insecurity. In recent days the violence has been worst in the president’s home state of Warrap, where victims include a military intelligence chief and a former government commissioner. “We have lost many lives in communal violence," Kiir said in a speech in early July, noting the killings in Warrap's Tonj North county, where gunmen killed 30 soldiers on June 25. The Tonj North clashes erupted after authorities there sent security forces to recover cattle stolen by raiders from another county. In other cases, deadly skirmishes have been triggered by efforts to disarm youths. “I deeply regretted their death,” Kiir said of the people killed in Warrap. "We cannot allow this senseless killing of both security personnel and civilians to continue.”Killings also have been reported in the Western Equatoria, Eastern Equatoria and Central Equatoria states, the president said, acknowledging that peace gains since 2018 have been eroded by what officials describe as inter-communal violence. Following the killings in Warrap, Kiir's army chief, Gen. Santino Deng Wol, vowed to defeat ethnic militias in comments to state broadcaster SSBC. “We are responsible for the security of the country," he said. "We will not allow chaos to happen, and we would not allow anyone to disturb the security.” But some analysts say government troops and police — often outnumbered by civilian attackers in areas awash with small weapons — can't be relied on to protect civilians. They also charge that the attackers have powerful political backers in Juba. “The armed youth in Tonj North are more powerful than our army and other security institutions,” said Edmund Yakani, head of the CEPO group tracking violence. The violence is “undermining the genuine implementation” of the peace agreement, he said. It also is hindering humanitarian efforts among communities in urgent need of food, medicine and other supplies. “The scale of sub-national conflict — which now spreads from north to south, from east to west — is alarming,” Nicholas Haysom, the UN representative to South Sudan, told the Security Council last month. More than 80% of civilian casualties this year are “attributed to intercommunal violence and community-based militias,” he said. “This violence divides communities and hampers reconciliation.” There were high hopes when oil-rich South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011 after a long conflict. But the country slid into civil war in December 2013 largely based on ethnic divisions when forces loyal to Kiir battled those supporting Machar. Tens of thousands of people were killed in the war, which ended with the 2018 peace agreement. But the terms of that accord have not been fully implemented, and persistent violence is weakening it even more. A panel of UN experts in May said the 2018 agreement is faltering. The deal “is now hostage to the political calculations of the country’s military and security elites, who use a combination of violence, misappropriated public resources and patronage to pursue their own narrow interests,” said the report. Others in South Sudan express similar alarm. “The country is breaking into pieces," said James Akot, a political science scholar in Juba. “The country is breaking into community defense forces that can actually overpower our army soon.”

The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 18-19/2022
Britain's New PM Must Get Real on Iran
Con Coughlin/Gatestone Institute./July 18/ 2022
[U]nder [Boris Johnson's] premiership, Britain backed attempts by other Western signatories to the deal -- the US, France and Germany -- to revive the JCPOA in the face of mounting evidence that Tehran has absolutely no interest in abiding by its commitments.
In the latest indication that Iran is in breach of its JCPOA commitments, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN-sponsored body responsible for monitoring Tehran's nuclear activities, has reported that Iran has recently escalated its uranium enrichment activities at its underground Fordow facility.
Experts say this will enable Iran to enrich uranium to weapons-grade levels without being detected by IAEA inspection teams.
Consequently, with Mr Johnson soon to depart from Downing Street, there is a golden opportunity for his successor to adopt a new, more robust policy towards Tehran, one that clearly identifies the ayatollahs as posing a clear and present danger to the security of Britain and its allies.
The scale of the Iranian threat is reflected in last week's statement by US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan that Iran had agreed to supply Russia with hundreds of drones to support its war effort in Ukraine.
The revelations concerning Iran's deepening involvement in the Ukraine conflict should certainly concern the British government....
The recent upsurge in Iranian military activity, both in the Arabian Gulf and Ukraine, provides incontrovertible evidence that, far from trying to reach an agreement with the West, Iran appears determined to intensify hostilities.
Britain, together with other signatories to the JCPOA, must base its policy on the assumption that Iran is a hostile regime, not one that has any interest in reaching a peaceful accommodation with the West.
Britain Prime Minister Boris Johnson's dramatic removal from office gives a superb opportunity to adopt a new policy towards Iran, one that takes proper account of the deadly threat the Iranian regime poses. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Boris Johnson's dramatic removal from office gives Britain a superb opportunity to adopt a new policy towards Iran, one that takes proper account of the deadly threat the Iranian regime poses to Britain and its allies.
From his time as foreign secretary to his more recent tenure as prime minister, Mr Johnson's attitude towards Iran and its illicit nuclear activities can most charitably be described as equivocal.
During the Trump administration, Mr Johnson liked to give senior American officials working on the Iran brief the impression that he was deeply sceptical about the value of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the deal negotiated by then US President Barack Obama that was supposed to limit Iran's nuclear activities. Any reservations Mr Johnson may have entertained in private about the deal did not, however, see him end Britain's involvement in the agreement. On the contrary, under his premiership, Britain backed attempts by other Western signatories to the deal -- the US, France and Germany -- to revive the JCPOA in the face of mounting evidence that Tehran has absolutely no interest in abiding by its commitments.
In the latest indication that Iran is in breach of its JCPOA commitments, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN-sponsored body responsible for monitoring Tehran's nuclear activities, has reported that Iran has recently escalated its uranium enrichment activities at its underground Fordow facility.
Experts say this will enable Iran to enrich uranium to weapons-grade levels without being detected by IAEA inspection teams.
Iran's wilful disregard for the deal it signed with the Obama administration in 2015 has been a key factor in the Biden administration's failure to revive the deal, despite US President Joe Biden investing an enormous amount of political capital in his doomed mission to improve relations with Tehran.
Consequently, with Mr Johnson soon to depart from Downing Street, there is a golden opportunity for his successor to adopt a new, more robust policy towards Tehran, one that clearly identifies the ayatollahs as posing a clear and present danger to the security of Britain and its allies.
The scale of the Iranian threat is reflected in last week's statement by US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan that Iran had agreed to supply Russia with hundreds of drones to support its war effort in Ukraine.
Russia's offensive in eastern Ukraine has stalled as a result of the heavy losses it has suffered both in terms of men and equipment, and Moscow is desperate to secure military reinforcements to sustain its war effort.
The provision of hundreds of Iranian drones could therefore provide the Russians with a much-needed boost.
"Our information indicates that the Iranian government is preparing to provide Russia with up to several hundred UAVs, including weapons-capable UAVs on an expedited timeline," Mr. Sullivan told a briefing of White House reporters this week.
The revelations concerning Iran's deepening involvement in the Ukraine conflict should certainly concern the British government which, under Mr Johnson, has been a staunch supporter of the Ukrainian cause, so much so that there have even been Ukrainian streets named in honour of Britain's deposed prime minister. In such circumstances, it will be extremely difficult for Mr Johnson's successor as prime minister to continue with the same policy of appeasement towards Tehran while Iran is actively supporting the Kremlin's war effort in Ukraine.
The British military is certainly under no illusions about the scale of Iran's military threat after a detachment of Royal Marines recently intercepted a cargo of Iranian surface-to-air missiles that was being shipped to Iranian-backed Houthi rebels fighting in Yemen in contravention of a UN Security Council resolution.
According to details provided earlier this month by London's Ministry of Defence, the Iranians were attempting to smuggle missiles out of the country in speedboats destined for the Yemeni coast when they were intercepted by Royal Marine commandos in the Gulf of Oman.
The recent upsurge in Iranian military activity, both in the Arabian Gulf and Ukraine, provides incontrovertible evidence that, far from trying to reach an agreement with the West, Iran appears determined to intensify hostilities.
It is a change of approach that Britain's next prime minister must acknowledge when formulating Britain's policy for dealing with Iran.
In future, Britain, together with other signatories to the JCPOA, must base its policy on the assumption that Iran is a hostile regime, not one that has any interest in reaching a peaceful accommodation with the West.
Con Coughlin is the Telegraph's Defence and Foreign Affairs Editor and a Shillman Journalism Fellow at Gatestone Institute.
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Three Figures Made the Date in Jeddah
Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al Awsat/July 18/2022
One day in Baghdad, I pondered the reasons why the United States decided to dissolve the Iraqi army. I didn’t find a convincing answer, neither from America’s opponents, nor from its allies.
Then President Jalal Talabani said: “The US is confusing and confused. But it is a major power, which when it sets its mind to it, can offer what others cannot.”The truth is that the US often acts like a great boxer whose successive bouts have cost them their ability to listen to friends. The loss in the ability to listen often doubles the urge to dictate to others.
The boxer’s ability to commit mistakes is also coupled with the ability to admit to and rectify them, either through a change in US president or by the decision-makers reviewing their decisions. All of this, of course, is viewed from the lens of American interests.
The American story with the Middle East is long and complicated. Its interests there are vast, but its ability to understand its complexities is weaker than its ability to create shocks in it.
The US has often appeared weary of the Middle East, and the feeling is mutual. In recent years, successive American administrations did not hide the fact that the Middle East took a backseat in its agenda as it focused its attention in containing China’s rise.
Many in Washington believed that this part of the world is stuck in the trap of history, preoccupied with the wars of the past, reprisals, economic failures, despair and fear of change and only produces waves of conservatives, extremists and suicide bombers. The US almost quit the region, especially after its need for its oil dropped.
Arab and international summits over the decades taught us to limit our expectations, hopes and judgement. But the series of summits that took place on the sidelines of the Jeddah summit and the ensuing statements implied that the US has really reviewed its relations in the region and that it was rewriting its role in it.
The overall impression is reminiscent of Talabani’s statement in that the US can, when it decides to do so, offer what Europe, Russia and China cannot. It can offer advances in defense, the economy, technology, health, education and environment.
US President Joe Biden was clear in stressing that America decided to be a strategic partner to its allies and friends in the Middle East and that it was in no way ready to leave behind a vacuum to be filled by China, Russia or Iran.
It seems that the US has concluded that the return to the Middle East and acknowledging the “error” of withdrawing from it helps it in its policies against China, Russia and Iran.
Obviously, the US president’s statements from Jeddah would not have been made were it not for the shock caused by the Russian war in Ukraine. Every reading of political, military, energy and food security developments in the world must be traced back to the shocks that were caused by the war.
One must also not forget the upcoming US midterm elections. Washington has concluded that the return to the Middle East helps it withstand and perhaps even contain those shocks and their negative impact and may help it wage the elections.
The American return to the Middle East would not have been possible had the Arab player themself not assumed their role in the region. The participation of the leaders of Egypt, Jordan and Iraq alongside the Gulf Cooperation Council leaders at the summit gave the impression that the Arab forces of moderation were playing a greater role in securing their interests, and managing region’s affairs and its ties with the world.
Moderate countries are no longer accused of being stuck in the past and of being producers of extremists. They are no longer accused of failing in taking difficult decisions when it comes to progress, reform, modernization and joining the race towards the future.
The summit could not have been held – an in Jeddah in specific – were it not for the spark of renaissance lit by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and that transformed the new Saudi Arabia into a prominent and responsible political, economic and energy player and a voice to be reckoned with on the international arena.
Along with the drive towards stability and prosperity, the Crown Prince launched efforts to clear the Gulf and Arab air, even extending a hand to neighboring Iran if it were prepared to meet under international law and the principle of good neighborliness.
The extraordinary reform process in Saudi Arabia was accompanied with similar experiences in countries that took part in the summit. This helped the Arab player return to the Middle East alongside the US. The moderate Arab countries notably also maintained relations with China and Russia, which certainly has not escaped American decision-makers.
The dialogue in Jeddah differed from others held in the past. The Saudi-American talks were frank, open and realistic over security, political and energy issues. It was the diplomacy of mutual interests, serious partnership and numbers. The American-Arab dialogue was also clear and frank. We can say that the conditions of the tango were available.
The US returned with a new approach and Arab moderation came to the summit with specific visions and knowing what it wants. The fruits of the open dialogue were evident. The Gulf-American statement expressed Washington’s clear return to its commitment to defend its allies and develop their defense capabilities to deter old and new dangers. It also announced a partnership to secure marine navigation in the strategic straits.
The Jeddah summit statement was also clear about the truce and peace in Yemen, commitment to the two-state solution, position towards Iran and policy of meddling and destabilization.
Will the Jeddah summits form a new turn in the developments in the region and Arab-American relations? Only the future will tell, but Washington’s concern over the Ukraine war and China’s rise leads us to believe that the implementation of the agreements is close to the maps that have been drawn up to handle several files. Add to that rising western voices that warn that the West’s political and economic dominance was waning. Tony Blair was among them. He said: “The biggest geo-political change of this century will come from China not Russia.”
The outcomes of the Jeddah summits will be at the center of attention in capitals near and far. They will be closely examined in Beijing and Moscow. How will Tehran interpret America’s return to the region, the return of the Arab player and the new chapter in ties between Washington and moderate Arabs? Three figures made the date in Jeddah. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, President Joe Biden, and of course, Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Biden and Putin: A tale of two visits
Baria Alamuddin/Arab News/July 18, 2022
We are in the throes of two potentially game-changing visits — US President Joe Biden’s recently concluded trip to Saudi Arabia, followed by Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s pilgrimage this week to Tehran.
In an implicit admission of his administration’s earlier failure to prioritize the Middle East, Biden declared to Arab leaders: “We will not walk away to leave a vacuum to be filled by China, Russia or Iran.”
A joint US-Saudi statement pledged efforts to deter Iran’s interference in “the internal affairs of other countries, its support for terrorism through its armed proxies and its efforts to destabilize the security and stability of the region,” while recognizing the need to prevent Tehran “acquiring a nuclear weapon.” Specific security measures include a joint US-GCC maritime task force in the Red Sea.
This reinforced an earlier joint statement by Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, pledging to use “all elements of national power” to stop Iran arming itself with nuclear weapons. Biden said America was ready to use military force against Iran as a “last resort,” declaring: “The only thing worse than the Iran that exists now is an Iran with nuclear weapons.”
At last week’s summit in Jeddah of leaders from the six Gulf states plus Egypt, Jordan and Iraq, which Biden attended, there was an affirmation of their joint commitment to Lebanon’s “sovereignty, security and stability.” The strong language from that summit about support for Iraqi democracy and the deal for interconnected Saudi-Iraqi electricity grids are also important parts of the necessary process of weaning Iraq away from Iranian dependency. However, there was a notable absence of commitments for confronting Iran-backed paramilitary forces in these states.
Of course, this visit was about much more than Iran. As the Saudi Ambassador to the US Princess Reema bint Bandar put it, this relationship must move beyond the “oil for security” paradigm. Consequently, America’s focus on cooperation on technology, renewable energy, education and economic diversification was welcome, with Biden stressing “how closely interwoven America’s interests are with the success of the Middle East.” And with trillions of dollars of GCC investments in the US and the West, this is by no means a one-way relationship.
In the context of such serious matters, many observers despaired at the shallow stupidity of much of the Western media coverage; respectable outlets focused on fist bumps and photo opportunities, while largely ignoring the fundamental issues of global security under discussion.
In a characteristically defiant move, while Biden was still in the region Tehran unveiled a new fleet of ships and submarines capable of carrying armed drones. “As we are aware of the aggressive attitude in the US system of domination, it is necessary to increase our defensive capabilities day by day,” army chief Abdolrahim Mousavi said, pledging a “regrettable response” if “our enemies make a mistake.”
Why are the ayatollahs so keen to showcase their evolving drone capabilities at this exact moment? With cheap Turkish drones having proved an unexpectedly potent weapon for the Ukrainians, Putin is heading to Tehran to invest in Iranian drones. There have already been secret scoping visits by Russian officials to check out Iranian military hardware. The Revolutionary Guards’ tame media outlets trumpet how Iranian weapons can compensate for Russian “weaknesses” on the battlefield. However, a US military official in the Gulf told me that sophisticated American anti-drone and missile capabilities can neutralize such threats, often before they even get off the ground. Iran’s increased 2022 defense budget of $26 billion makes it one of the world’s top 15 states in military spending, but that is still about 30 times less than US defense expenditure, and there are immense differences in effectiveness and capacity — making all Tehran’s anti-American saber rattling look ridiculous.
Nevertheless, a mutually beneficial Tehran-Moscow axis should trigger alarms. As well as enabling Russia to procure cheap arms, it would be a financial windfall for Tehran, which has long sought to flog its domestically produced weaponry to warlords and terrorists throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America. Thousands of increasingly sophisticated Iranian missiles have been exported to militias in Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria. The planet becomes less secure if we allow Iran to become the armorer of choice for pariah states and insurgents.
When rogue states band together, they risk coalescing into a bloc — an axis of evil, if you like — and it becomes difficult to exert meaningful pressure against them as they trade with each other, exploit each other’s parallel financial systems, arm each other, and help each other to evade international law.
To prevent sanctions and anti-proliferation measures being rendered ineffective, Biden’s strategies toward states such as Russia, Iran, North Korea and China must not be implemented in isolation. Narrow focus on Europe and NATO will not make the world safe, it will only embolden other pariahs to flex their muscles.
Biden commended Saudi efforts toward a ceasefire in Yemen, but now it has never been more important for Arab states to reassert their necessary roles in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq if there is to be a curtailment of Iranian interference, which has served only to maintain these nations in a permanent state of turmoil. Arab states must demonstrate that they possess the diplomatic capacity and vision to play this crucial role.
We should not be too hasty to applaud Biden’s trip and the Arab summit. Yes, America is back, but this is where the real work starts. It’s no secret that the president was reluctant to make this journey in the first place, so Arab states must be assertive in holding the US to its commitments and keeping this administration closely engaged.
This is a region on a knife edge; years of Iranian expansionism have made major regionalized conflict all but inevitable. Biden’s visit shows that the Arab world has succeeded for now in regaining American attention. Leaders must now do everything in their power to maintain this attention and keep it laser-focused on addressing these chronic long-term threats to regional stability.
*Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed numerous heads of state.