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UK-WORLD:160731:(07-AUG-16):BREXIT BOOM continues: Now 27 countries around the world want trade deal with UK  1

TU-ME:160801:(07-AUG-16):Regional Implications of the Failed Coup d’État and Purges in Turkey: Initial Indicators  3

IS:160801:(07-AUG-16):The IDF’s First Wheeled Armored Personnel Carrier 3

IS:160801:(07-AUG-16):Israel Proves the Desalination Era Is Here. 4

EFR-NARO-RU:160730:(07-AUG-16):French General Calls for NATO’s Liquidation & Anti-Terror Alliance With Russia  5

IS-RU:160801:(07-AUG-16):Russia’s Double Standard Vis-à-vis Israel 5

UK-WORLD:160802:(07-AUG-16):REVEALED: Priti Patel ready to use £11BN foreign aid to build host of historic trade deals. 7

UK-IS:160803:(07-AUG-16):Netanyahu calls to congratulate new UK prime minister 7

UK-EU:160803:(07-AUG-16):Financial Expert on Brexit: ‘The British Always Want Special Treatment’ 8

UK-EU:160802:(07-AUG-16):UK prepares to protect its golden goose in EU talks. 9

TIS:160802:(07-AUG-16):The Destruction of Islamic State is a Strategic Mistake. 10

RU-EU:160802:(07-AUG-16):Russia wants EU gas pipe inroads backing Nord Stream.. 11

TU-NATO:160803:(07-AUG-16):Concerns that NATO could lose Turkey increase. 11

TU-EU:160802:(07-AUG-16):Turkey threatens to tear up EU migrant deal unless it gets visa-free Schengen travel within months. 12

CV-EU:160803:(07-AUG-16):Pope Francis: Europe has no future unless rooted in ‘Christian vision of man’ 13

UK-FCH:160804:(07-AUG-16):BOOM vs BUST: UK mulling multi-billion pound trade deal with China as EU economy collapses. 13

MPA-MWB:160804:(07-AUG-16):The Fraying Palestinian Politica Entity in the West Bank. 14

UK-EU:160806:(07-AUG-16):Brexit means that Britain will be boss again. 14

UK:160805:(07-AUG-16):Bank of England cuts rates to boost economy. 15

RU-US:160805:(07-AUG-16):Vladimir Putin Just Issued A Chilling Warning To The United States. 16

THA-AU-IS:160806:(07-AUG-16):West Seeks Details as Israel Says Charity Worker Funded Hamas. 16

DID-ME:160806:(07-AUG-16):The roasting of the Middle East. Infertile Crescent 17

TU-RU:160807:(07-AUG-16):As Turkey’s coup strains ties with West, detente with Russia gathers pace. 17

UK-EU:160803:(07-AUG-16):Almost 3MILLION EU citizens will have the chance to stay in Britain forever by 2019 regardless of the Brexit deal negotiated by Theresa May. 19

UK-EU:160803:(07-AUG-16):Brexit weekly briefing: Theresa May’s EU tour fails to bring clarity. 19

THA:160802:(07-AUG-16):Haniyeh: There’s No Distinction Between Hamas’ Military, Civilian Wings. 20

US-IS:160803:(07-AUG-16):Trump’s Israel Gatekeeper: Like His Boss, No Room for “PC”. 21

AS-UK:160805:(07-AUG-16):UK anti-Semitic incidents up 11% in 2016. 23

TIS-IS-CV:160804:(07-AUG-16):’You will pay a high price’ ISIS promises to conquer Rome & wipe out Jews in chilling clip. 24

UK-EU:160804:(07-AUG-16):EU Referendum: Will Scotland leave the UK over Brexit?. 24

IS-MGS:160807:(07-AUG-16):A Covenant of Shadows. 25

MIN-RU-EU:160807:(07-AUG-16):Iran, Russia map out rival to Suez Canal 26

IS:160802:(07-AUG-16):A Peek into the Top Secret Unit 27


A record triple issue as I begin to claw my back through the emails. 40 days into my trip, so over half-way. Going well so far. Don


UK-WORLD:160731:(07-AUG-16):BREXIT BOOM continues: Now 27 countries around the world want trade deal with UK

The Express 31-Jul-16


BRITAIN’s Brexit boom has hit new heights with 27 countries announcing that they want a trade deal with the UK and a tourism bonanza expected this summer because of the cheaper pound.

By David Maddox

Brexit boom has hit new heights with 27 countries announcing that they want a trade deal with the UK

With the UK on the brink of a new era of prosperity free from Brussels rule, new figures have revealed that the euro zone continues to be the dead weight of the world economy.

According to eurostat, the 19 country currency zone at the heart of the failing EU project only grew by 0.3 per cent in the last quarter, just half the rate of the UK.

According to reports 27 countries with a combined GDP of more than £40 trillion – over two thirds of the global economy – now want to take advantage of Brexit and strike new trade deals with the UK.

The vast economic potential dwarfs the EU’s single market worth around £12 trillion, just 22 per cent of the world’s GDP.

While Britain is trapped in the EU it cannot do its own deals and has to compromise with the other 27 members, but with independence on the way new Trade Secretary Liam Fox has been on a tour of America to start work on new deals.

Only two of the world’s top 10 economies – Italy and France, which are both on the verge of major financial crises – have yet to express an interest in doing a trade deal with Britain.

The countries which want a deal with the UK are Australia, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Germany, Ghana, Iceland, India, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, South Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Switzerland, the United States, Uruguay and Venezuela.

More are expected to follow.

Britain’s leading investor Jim Mellon – known as the UK’s answer to the US billionaire Warren Buffet – said that the economic picture in the Britain was “a complete vindication of the Brexit vote.”

He attacked the Remain campaign’s attempts top “paint a gloomy picture and put the country into a negative cycle.”

He said: “What are they trying to do, talk the country down? Cause a recession?”

He went on: “There is nothing not to like about what has happened.

“Brexit is a moment of economic liberation and there has been no example in history of a country not benefiting from economic liberation.”

He predicted that with UK contract law still central for the world’s markets that Britain would become a more successful version of Singapore as the “banking and financial centre for the world.”

Jim Mellon warned that the German banking system is also on the verge of needing a bailout

He said: “All this nonsense that people would relocate to frankfurt or Paris has proven to be rubbish.”

And he said that the latest eurostat figures have highlighted that “things are going wrong in the EU even more quickly than we feared.”

He said that the Italian banking crisis with 300 to 400 billion euros of unsecured debt meant it will eventually have to crash out of the euro causing an economic crisis in the block.

But he warned that the German banking system is also on the verge of needing a bailout while all the Southern European economies are being forced to break the EU’s rules to keep their economies afloat.

He said: “We are well out of it. If we stay these euro zone problems would be our problems but when we are out we are only responsible for ourselves.”

Meanwhile the UK is enjoying a “Brexit boom” in tourism because of the pound dropping in value by 13 per cent and thousands of foreign visitors deciding to spend their summer holidays here bringing in billions of pounds.

Hotels, airline companies and visitor attractions like the London Eye have all reported a dramatic increase in bookings in July.

British “staycation” people have also been put off travelling abroad by the increased cost of holidays in Europe, massive delays at Dover and spate of horrendous terrorist attacks on the continent.

Tourism Alliance chairman Bernard Donoghue has reported that early summer research by his organisation is suggesting that there are 18 per cent more foreign visitors and 11 per cent more British tourists to London this July compared with the same month last year.

He said: “We know people are responding very well to the London Is Open campaign.”

The UK is enjoying a “Brexit boom” in tourism because of the pound dropping in value by 13 per cent

Online accommodation service Airbnb has also claimed that it saw a 24 per cent rise in London visits in the month after 23 June referendum result compared with the month before.

It said that guests from 164 countries have booked to stay at homes in the capital.

Airbnb general manager James McClure said: “Post-Brexit London is more popular and diverse than ever.”

According to travel website Opodo passengers coming from the continent to the UK have also increased by 42 per cent while a bonanza for West End shops in London suggests that heightened tourist activity has seen an increase in sales at Fortnum and Mason of 20 per cent.

The HotelsCombined website’s UK and Ireland country manager Dmitrijus Konovalovas said: “Searches for London hotels by UK travellers have in- creased 22 per cent in the 30 days since the EU referendum result.

Airbnb has also claimed it saw a 24 per cent rise in London visits in the month after 23 June

“In the same period we’ve seen jumps in foreign searches for stays in the city. Those from Italy are up 23 per cent, Germany 20 per cent and Spain 15 per cent.

“There was a doubling of interest from Saudi Arabia and an 18 per cent rise in searches from Hong Kong. London remains firmly on the map for both domestic and overseas travellers.”

The queue of countries lining up to do a trade deal with Britain comes despite President Obama’s ludicrous claim on a visit to Britain during the referendum campaign that the UK would “be at the back of the queue” for a trade deal.

Presidential hopeful Donald Trump has already dismissed Mr Obama’s statement which many believe he was asked to make as a special favour to former Prime Minister David Cameron, who was leading Remain’s Project Fear campaign based on a series of false doom laden claims.

It was noted at the time that Mr Obama had used the British word “queue” rather than the American English “line”.

The threat was also made by other world leaders at press conferences with Mr Cameron including the Japanese Prime Minister whose country is also seeking a trade deal along with the US.


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TU-ME:160801:(07-AUG-16):Regional Implications of the Failed Coup d’État and Purges in Turkey: Initial Indicators

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 351, 01-Aug-16


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: In the wake of the failed coup d’état, Turkey is going through a massive and convulsive wave of repression, apparently aimed against anything remotely related to Fethullah Gulen’s supporters and the Hizmet network of educational projects. The fallout in terms of the regional balance of power is bound to be significant. There is little to cheer, even if the timely conclusion of the reconciliation with Turkey has so far spared Israel the traditional accusation of being behind the plot (and may even put Israeli diplomacy in a position to be of help in reducing the flames).

The failed coup d’état and subsequent purge in Turkey have rattled both local and distant onlookers. To begin with, the self-mutilation of the second-largest army in NATO can hardly be of benefit to anyone but those who seek to destabilize the region (and Europe). As the anti-IS alliance gathered this week in the US to weigh its next steps, and with the decisive battle of Mosul looming on the immediate horizon, the effective absence of Turkey from the battlefield is keenly felt – as is the decision by Erdoğan to disable all operations from Incirlik AFB.

Tensions between Turkey and the US have been rising for a while, as the Obama administration came reluctantly to the conclusion that the Kurdish forces in northern Syria (and their brethren in Iraq) are the most committed fighting force in the war on Baghdadi’s “Caliphate”. Just as opportunities to reduce IS seem to be taking shape, and an extra impetus is needed in any case after the horror in Nice, Turkey appears to be signaling that this objective is scarcely on Erdoğan’s radar – despite the Istanbul Airport massacre and the rising cost for Turkey of past tolerance of IS practices.

Moreover, Erdoğan’s aggressive and persistent demand that Gulen be extradited – a demand with which the US is unlikely to comply – is adding fuel to the fire. Given what is at stake, it will be necessary for some European players to suppress their outrage at Erdoğan’s overreactions and focus on securing his cooperation with a strategically important campaign at a decisive moment in the war against IS.

Meanwhile, relations between Turkey and the Sunni Arab “forces of stability” in the region, mainly Saudi Arabia and Egypt, are fast going from bad to worse. On July 16, Egypt refused to enable the UNSC to lend unanimous support to the democratically elected government in Ankara, questioning the UN’s ability to declare who is a democrat and who is not. This was Sisi’s way of settling a score. For three years, day in and day out, Erdoğan and his party – which see themselves as patrons of the Muslim Brotherhood across the region – have been questioning the Egyptian regime’s political and moral legitimacy.

The Egyptians and the Saudis could hardly contain their glee when news of the coup first emerged; or their disappointment when Erdoğan prevailed. Such reactions will poison relations for some time to come. Erdoğan has already openly stated that he considers Sisi to be the same as the conspirators (the “putschists”). (This ignores the fact that the Egyptian military, unlike Turkey’s hapless crew, came in only after millions had taken to the Egyptian streets demanding Mursi’s ouster.)

All this turmoil provides Iran, which was quick to lend political support to Erdoğan, with ample opportunity for mischief. As the lines of battle are drawn across the region, most violently in Syria and Yemen, the Iranian regime looks upon Saudi Arabia and her allies as an enemy camp in active contention. Iran can thus be expected to use this opportunity to try to draw Turkey closer.

To accomplish this goal, Iran might attempt to delineate a common ground in seeking to diminish the Kurdish role in the IS war. At the same time, it will likely seek to enhance the profile of its proxies in Iraq, thus making the US and the West more dependent on Iran’s contribution to the common cause. Presumably, given the tone already taken by John Kerry and others in Washington, this will end up eroding even further any motivation on the part of the Obama administration to keep up the necessary pressure against Iran’s ongoing missile projects and support for terror – even if there are elements within the administration who feel strongly that Iran remains an active threat to world peace and to US interests.

None of this serves the interests of Israel, the US, or Europe. There is little that can be done as the storm rages other than to keep channels of communication open and watch attentively for signs of Iranian fishing expeditions in Ankara or elsewhere. There can be no stop, however, to the anti-IS campaign, even if the emphasis for air support would need to shift once again to Jordan (indirectly backed by Israel’s strategic presence). The campaign cannot be held hostage to Erdoğan’s political agenda.

As passions abate, Turkey will emerge from crisis mode and remember that it still needs to be a member of the community of trading nations, a useful NATO ally, and a team player in the eastern Mediterranean. Sophisticated methods will need to be found to communicate to the AKP and its triumphant leader that their future does not lie with Iranian schemes to split the Sunni world and gain regional dominance for the Shi’a. To stay stable, Turkey will have to rebuild her alliance with the stabilizing elements whose help will be needed if Turkey and the region are to go back to business.

It was the rise to relative prosperity that built up Erdoğan’s base of popular support. Alienation from the West is not the way to sustain it.


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IS:160801:(07-AUG-16):The IDF’s First Wheeled Armored Personnel Carrier

(Communicated by the Ministry of Defense) 01-Aug-16 [As Isa. 2:7-9 these are her idols she trusts in rather than their God.



The Merkava Tank Administration at Israel’s Ministry of Defense completed the development of its first wheeled APC. The Eitan will be the world’s most advanced and protected wheeled combat vehicle.

Over the past few days, the Merkava Tank Administration at Israel’s Ministry of Defense, in collaboration with the IDF Ground Forces, has begun conducting initial trials of the Eitan, the IDF’s first wheeled armored personnel carrier (APC). The Eitan is an advanced, multi-purpose APC equipped with a multitude of abilities and is prepared for combat mobility in varied and difficult terrain.

Brig. Gen. Baruch Matzliah, Head of the Merkava Tank Administration: “The decision to develop the Eitan was made in light of lessons learned during Operation Protective Edge, and the increased need to replace thousands of the IDF’s veteran M113 APCs with modern tools with maximum protection, tailored to the existing threats in the arena. Alongside the decision to accelerate the production of the Namer APC, it was decided to develop an additional tool, to compliment it, which would enable fast, strategic mobility and maximum protection for ground forces. The series of exercises which we recently began, is allowing the IDF to test the tool in a variety of sites ahead of decisions regarding the volume of the purchase.”

The Eitan was designed as a multi-purpose tool with varied abilities, whose low development and production costs would be roughly half that of the Namer APC, and/or any other wheeled APC in the world. This low cost allows for the Eitan to be equipped with more tools, at a higher rate, in parallel to equipping the Namer.

The Eitan will be the world’s most advanced and protected wheeled combat vehicle. It will be equipped with an active defense system, similar to the Namer APC and Merkava Mark 4 tank, and with additional protection systems. The most significant advantage of the Eitan is its excellent mobility capabilities across varied terrains and at speeds of 90 kilometers per hour. The Eitan was designed for a multitude of tasks, from mobility for twelve soldiers (like the Namer) to advanced firepower.

Technical Statistics:

Weight: 30-35 Tons

Engine Power: 750 Horsepower

Propulsion: 8 Wheels, 8X8 Drive

Maximum Road Speed: over 90 Kilometers per Hour

Capacity: 12 Soldiers- Driver, commander, gunner and an additional nine soldiers

Combat Systems: From small arms positions to medium range with 30-40 mm cannons, and active defense system


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IS:160801:(07-AUG-16):Israel Proves the Desalination Era Is Here

Scientific American 01-Aug-16


One of the driest countries on Earth now makes more freshwater than it needs

Ten miles south of Tel Aviv, I stand on a catwalk over two concrete reservoirs the size of football fields and watch water pour into them from a massive pipe emerging from the sand. The pipe is so large I could walk through it standing upright, were it not full of Mediterranean seawater pumped from an intake a mile offshore.

“Now, that’s a pump!” Edo Bar-Zeev shouts to me over the din of the motors, grinning with undisguised awe at the scene before us. The reservoirs beneath us contain several feet of sand through which the seawater filters before making its way to a vast metal hangar, where it is transformed into enough drinking water to supply 1.5 million people.

We are standing above the new Sorek desalination plant, the largest reverse-osmosis desal facility in the world, and we are staring at Israel’s salvation. Just a few years ago, in the depths of its worst drought in at least 900 years, Israel was running out of water. Now it has a surplus. That remarkable turnaround was accomplished through national campaigns to conserve and reuse Israel’s meager water resources, but the biggest impact came from a new wave of desalination plants.

Bar-Zeev, who recently joined Israel’s Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research after completing his postdoc work at Yale University, is an expert on biofouling, which has always been an Achilles’ heel of desalination and one of the reasons it has been considered a last resort. Desal works by pushing saltwater into membranes containing microscopic pores. The water gets through, while the larger salt molecules are left behind. But microorganisms in seawater quickly colonize the membranes and block the pores, and controlling them requires periodic costly and chemical-intensive cleaning. But Bar-Zeev and colleagues developed a chemical-free system using porous lava stone to capture the microorganisms before they reach the membranes. It’s just one of many breakthroughs in membrane technology that have made desalination much more efficient. Israel now gets 55 percent of its domestic water from desalination, and that has helped to turn one of the world’s driest countries into the unlikeliest of water giants.

Driven by necessity, Israel is learning to squeeze more out of a drop of water than any country on Earth, and much of that learning is happening at the Zuckerberg Institute, where researchers have pioneered new techniques in drip irrigation, water treatment and desalination. They have developed resilient well systems for African villages and biological digesters than can halve the water usage of most homes.

The institute’s original mission was to improve life in Israel’s bone-dry Negev Desert, but the lessons look increasingly applicable to the entire Fertile Crescent. “The Middle East is drying up,” says Osnat Gillor, a professor at the Zuckerberg Institute who studies the use of recycled wastewater on crops. “The only country that isn’t suffering acute water stress is Israel.”

That water stress has been a major factor in the turmoil tearing apart the Middle East, but Bar-Zeev believes that Israel’s solutions can help its parched neighbors, too — and in the process, bring together old enemies in common cause.

Bar-Zeev acknowledges that water will likely be a source of conflict in the Middle East in the future. “But I believe water can be a bridge, through joint ventures,” he says. “And one of those ventures is desalination.”

Driven to Desperation

In 2008, Israel teetered on the edge of catastrophe. A decade-long drought had scorched the Fertile Crescent, and Israel’s largest source of freshwater, the Sea of Galilee, had dropped to within inches of the “black line” at which irreversible salt infiltration would flood the lake and ruin it forever. Water restrictions were imposed, and many farmers lost a year’s crops.

Their counterparts in Syria fared much worse. As the drought intensified and the water table plunged, Syria’s farmers chased it, drilling wells 100, 200, then 500 meters (300, 700, then 1,600 feet) down in a literal race to the bottom. Eventually, the wells ran dry and Syria’s farmland collapsed in an epic dust storm. More than a million farmers joined massive shantytowns on the outskirts of Aleppo, Homs, Damascus and other cities in a futile attempt to find work and purpose.

And that, according to the authors of “Climate Change in the Fertile Crescent and Implications of the Recent Syrian Drought,” a 2015 paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was the tinder that burned Syria to the ground. “The rapidly growing urban peripheries of Syria,” they wrote, “marked by illegal settlements, overcrowding, poor infrastructure, unemployment, and crime, were neglected by the Assad government and became the heart of the developing unrest.”

Similar stories are playing out across the Middle East, where drought and agricultural collapse have produced a lost generation with no prospects and simmering resentments. Iran, Iraq and Jordan all face water catastrophes. Water is driving the entire region to desperate acts.

More Water Than Needs

Except Israel. Amazingly, Israel has more water than it needs. The turnaround started in 2007, when low-flow toilets and showerheads were installed nationwide and the national water authority built innovative water treatment systems that recapture 86 percent of the water that goes down the drain and use it for irrigation — vastly more than the second-most-efficient country in the world, Spain, which recycles 19 percent.

But even with those measures, Israel still needed about 1.9 billion cubic meters (2.5 billion cubic yards) of freshwater per year and was getting just 1.4 billion cubic meters (1.8 billion cubic yards) from natural sources. That 500-million-cubic-meter (650-million-cubic-yard) shortfall was why the Sea of Galilee was draining like an unplugged tub and why the country was about to lose its farms.

Enter desalination. The Ashkelon plant, in 2005, provided 127 million cubic meters (166 million cubic yards) of water. Hadera, in 2009, put out another 140 million cubic meters (183 million cubic yards). And now Sorek, 150 million cubic meters (196 million cubic yards). All told, desal plants can provide some 600 million cubic meters (785 million cubic yards) of water a year, and more are on the way.

The Sea of Galilee is fuller. Israel’s farms are thriving. And the country faces a previously unfathomable question: What to do with its extra water?


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EFR-NARO-RU:160730:(07-AUG-16):French General Calls for NATO’s Liquidation & Anti-Terror Alliance With Russia

Sputnik 30-Jul-16


NATO’s present format and the alliance’s continuing expansion eastward is beneficial only to the United States, which seeks to keep Russia and Europe at odds, says retired French Army General Jean-Bernard Pinatel. Accordingly, he suggests the alliance be liquidated or ‘Europeanized’, and the creation of a European-Russian alliance against terror.

Interviewed by Le Figaro, Pinatel, a retired officer who now works as an expert in geopolitics and economic intelligence, recalled that if Russia and the European countries had succeeded in forming an alliance in the 1990s, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, they would have been able to effectively challenge US pretentions to global hegemony.

Now, the retired general emphasized, the threat of radical Islamist terrorism has once against opened a discussion on global leadership, and whether the US truly deserves its hegemonic position in Europe. According to Pinatel, the spate of attacks in Europe has clearly demonstrated to the French, and to other NATO members, that the US-led alliance is helpless in the struggle against the terrorist threat.

Moreover, against the background of NATO’s ineffectiveness is the example being set by Moscow, which, according to the expert, is once again forcing the French to consider an alliance with their eastern neighbor.

“This evidence, obtained at the cost of 234 civilians killed and 671 wounded since 2012, should not only jolt NATO, but lead to its total liquidation, or its full Europeanization, since the current policy of the alliance serves only interests which are not those of France,” Pinatel noted.

The general also recalled that Russia has repeatedly proposed cooperation with the United States in a coordinated campaign in Syria against Daesh and the Nusra Front terrorists, but has been refused, under the pretext that the so-called ‘moderate opposition’ still had potential.

As a result, he noted, the Middle East is witnessing the formation of a new equilibrium. “Russia, which has always been present in the region historically, is returning there once again. China, for the first time, is also actively poking its nose in the region. And only France, having once been privileged with the position of mediator, has lost everything under the patronage of the United States.”

The officer emphasized that he believes that Russian and French geostrategic and economic interests are “completely complementary” to one another, and that the history of the two countries has shown periods of fruitful cooperation and friendship, most recently during the Second World War.

Ultimately, “the US desire to return the atmosphere of the Cold War to Europe is being carried out through NATO, and serves the interests of the Americans, as well as incompetent and corrupt European leaders,” not those of the European people, Pinatel concluded.


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IS-RU:160801:(07-AUG-16):Russia’s Double Standard Vis-à-vis Israel 01-Aug-16


Since July 25 last, Assad’s Syrian Arab Army has hammered the Israeli front of the Golan Heights with its artillery, often logistically supported by Russia.

The goal is obviously to prompt a response by the Jewish State and make it wage a war directly against Syria. A pointless suicide for Israel, a return to the old and useless lines of the Cold War in the Middle East.

This would also mean starting to put pressure on the Southern front, precisely towards the Golan Heights, both by the Hezbollah, now retreated towards the border between the Lebanon, Syria, and Israel, and by the Iranian Armed Forces and their “volunteers.” The direction for everybody would be towards the Israeli Northern border, while Russia would clearly support this joint operation against Israel.

For Russia, the war in Syria has been the great catalyst for its new hegemonic alliance in the Middle East, not a new position towards the Jewish State, still seen as a US “prong” in the region.

Indeed, the core of the issue lies in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s statement that the Golan Heights will be excluded from any future negotiations on Syria.

Nevertheless, with particular reference to the Golan Heights issue, Russia wants to remain the point of reference for Egypt, Iran and many other “non-aligned” countries, which fear too strong a link between Russia and Israel.

Russia will favor Israel only to such a point as not to create new tensions with its “non-aligned countries’ front”.

However, what do the major global and regional powers really want after the end of hostilities in Syria?

The United States mainly want to define a “Kurdish corridor” from Iskenderun to Orumieh and, southwards, from Mosul almost up to Georgia’s borders.

It would be an area where the NATO troops would be stationed permanently, with or without Turkey’s participation.

The area around Israel, up to the North and beyond, the Golan Heights, including part of the territory in the Damascus Province, would then be the area directly or indirectly controlled by the Jewish State, the United States and, again, by NATO.

Even after President Erdogan’s countercoup, Turkey cannot but accept the “Kurdish Corridor,” though not at the expense of the Turkish Southern border. Without this acceptance, Turkey would remain without the US support, which is the only one available in the West and the only one capable of avoiding Turkey being subjected to the Russian hegemony in the region.

Not to mention the Turkish support to the Jabhat al Nusra Front – the Syrian group of Al Qaeda, which has recently split off from the “parent” organization in the Aleppo region – as well as to ISIS and the Turkmen jihad.

It is the instrument to wage an undeclared war against Russia and Syria that Ankara would soon put again in place if the “Kurdish Corridor” were not controlled by the NATO forces.

Nevertheless, following Syria’s fragmentation into zones of influence, nothing prevents the Atlantic Alliance from deciding to divide Turkey itself in an Anatolian component and a coastal one. There are NATO plans regarding this option, which must not be ruled out at all.

Furthermore, many analysts underline the strong support enjoyed by the jihadists among the soldiers in the “new” Turkish army emerging from the coup purges.

If the current Israeli strategy succeeds, the country could defend the Golan Heights along its sides, as well as divert, towards the Bekaa Valley, the Sunni jihadists directed against Hezbollah and finally better control the deployment of Bashar al-Assad’s forces along the Syrian border with Israel.

Moreover, Iran’s primary aim in the region is to keep as intact as possible the Assads’ Syrian Alawite State, which is the necessary rampart against the Sunni Turkey and the necessary protection against a Sunni jihad’s penetration of its Western borders.

What can Russia want after the end of operations in Syria?

Let us analyze the Russian strategic opportunities.

Either Russia wants a small Syria, which mainly defends the Russian ports on the Mediterranean, or it wants a slightly larger Syria with Damascus, Homs, Aleppo, and Hama, big enough to act as a bulwark vis-à-vis Turkey and cover Iran, but insufficient to defend itself on its own.

Or Russia might also wish to return to the pre-2011 Greater Syria, but this would entail a huge Russian military and strategic effort, which probably does not correspond to its primary strategic objective.

This goal is to isolate the NATO Alliance in the Mediterranean and prevent its significant presence on the ground.

We may even think that Russia would accept the “line” adopted at the “Geneva-3” Conference, with a Greater Syria without Bashar al-Assad, but always with a strong Alawite presence designed to guarantee Russia’s Mediterranean interests.

For the time being, however, the real danger for Israel does not come from ISIS, for it has no points of contact with the Jewish State. The real danger is Hezbollah, which can already become a serious threat in the Golan Heights and is also an indispensable terrestrial asset for Russia, which mostly operates only from the sky and mainly strike the positions of the anti-Assad “insurgency”.

If Syria remains strong and within its current borders, it will become the Iranian strategic prong against Saudi Arabia and the State of Israel, and Russia will be in a position to do little to stop this new geopolitical configuration.

The interests binding Russia to Iran are much stronger and stable than those which have so far linked Russia to Israel.

For Russia, Iran is the necessary line of continuity with the whole Central Asia and the point of energy cooperation with China, as well as the strategic bulwark against insurgencies southwards and eastwards in the Greater Middle East.

Conversely, for Moscow, Israel is an economic partner, a factor of stability in the region and a future natural gas producer. However, Israel is also a limit to the Russian project of reuniting all the anti-jihadist expectations and aspirations opposed to the Saudi hegemony, seen as the point of strength of the US presence in the region.

Russia wishes an Eastern Mediterranean freed from the NATO presence, from the North to the South, and does not yet view Israel as a fully independent strategic actor, autonomous from the United States.

Moscow wants to “see” the actual distance between Israel and the United States – just to use the poker jargon.

Hence, currently, Israel has two geopolitical options: a tacit alliance with Saudi Arabia and Turkey, under the US aegis, thus closing the window of opportunity for a strategic partnership with Russia.

Or an agreement with Russia for a smaller Syria without Bashar al-Assad, by ensuring the Russian strategic interests in the Mediterranean and Turkey.

Today, however, everything passes through Aleppo, largely reconquered by Assad and the Russian forces. If the city is regained permanently by the Iranian-Russian-Syrian coalition, Turkey – also after its recent rapprochement with Russia – will no longer have the logistical and strategic possibility to support the anti-Assad forces – an opportunity passing precisely through Aleppo. It will also lose its leverage southwards, towards the “Kurdish Corridor”.

Furthermore, Turkey has already sent troops to Iraq, claiming part of the territory of that State which has now collapsed, while currently, Turkey cannot afford a confrontation with Iran for Syria, let alone strong tensions with Russia, which supplies to Turkey 55% of its gas requirements, still under embargo.

Hence if Turkey can reach an agreement with Russia and also with Israel for its anti-Assad presence in Syria, without fearing a full-blown war between Russia and NATO, the New Syria could shrink to a strip of land between Turkey and Iran, guaranteed by Russia and strongly conditioned by Israel on its Southern front.

And Israel could expand its security zone in the Golan Heights, thus leading to Syrian reactions vis-à-vis Russia and triggering off the massive arrival of war material for an operation from the North against Israel. This is exactly what Russia wants to avoid.

The Golan Heights are the symbol of the “non-aligned” countries and Russia cannot forget this too easily.

Hence, the whole Syrian system is an equation, with too many unknown factors to be solved, that Israel is right in putting aside, given the solution to the Kurdish and Syrian tensions.


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UK-WORLD:160802:(07-AUG-16):REVEALED: Priti Patel ready to use £11BN foreign aid to build host of historic trade deals

The Express 02-Aug-16


THE NEW International Development Secretary has vowed to use Britain’s aid budget to help push for trade deals.

Priti Patel reportedly plans to use Britain’s foreign aid budget to boost trade

Priti Patel, who was one of the stars of the Vote Leave campaign, has said that the £11billion spent abroad should now be used to encourage countries to strike lucrative agreements with Britain.

Promoted to the cabinet by Theresa May, the former employment minister was one of the leading Vote Leave campaigners and has been a longstanding critic of international aid.

Previously, she has called for the abolition of her own department but now as Britain prepares for a prosperous post-Brexit era she sees a use for the 0.7 per cent of GDP spent on bailing out poorer countries.

A source close to Mrs Patel said: “Britain’s international aid commitments mean it gets fantastic access to foreign leaders all round the world.

“We can leverage existing relationships to strike trade deals.

“The Department for International Development (Dfid) can be used to improve Britain’s standing in the world.

“It will be a completely fresh way of looking at Britain’s aid budget.”

Part of the Cameron/Osborne legacy was an increased spending on international aid despite crushing austerity for Britain’s policing, care for the elderly, child protection and other domestic priorities.

But despite handing out billions to foreign countries – excluding the £10bn which goes to Brussels – the former Prime Minister never managed to use the aid budget to benefit Britain’s trade.

The low point came when India, which has received tens of millions in aid from the UK, awarded a contract for fighter jets to France instead.

Mrs Patel is understood to have made an urgent priority to change the culture of aid and link it with the new trade deals being set up around the world for when Britain is free of Brussels rule.

Liam Fox has met with Mrs Patel to coordinate their efforts

Already 27 countries, including a large number which receive aid from the UK, have expressed an interest in having a trade deal with Britain.

And Mrs Patel has held meetings with the new Trade Secretary Liam Fox, a fellow Brexit campaigner, on coordinating their efforts to get the best possible deals for Britain.

Mrs Patel recently strongly hinted at her new approach when she was appointed, when she said she wants to use Britain’s aid budget to help “our trading partners of the future”.


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UK-IS:160803:(07-AUG-16):Netanyahu calls to congratulate new UK prime minister

Times of Israel 03-Aug-16


Israeli premier wishes Theresa May luck, discusses ways two countries can work together

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by phone with his recently appointed British counterpart Theresa May on Tuesday afternoon, wishing her luck in her new role.

The two prime ministers discussed ways in which Israel and Britain can maintain and increase cooperation in a wide variety of fields, as well as regional issues and the threat of global terrorism.

May took over as British prime minister on July 13, after a Conservative leadership battle sparked by her predecessor David Cameron’s sudden departure over the UK vote last month to leave the European community.

May has long been known as a strong supporter both of Israel and of Jews. She made her first visit to Israel in 2014 to meet Israeli experts on cybersecurity and combating modern slavery – “two challenges which both Israel and the UK are confronting with great determination,” she said.

In April last year May told a Jewish youth group that she was “appalled” by the reported rise of anti-Semitism in Europe, including in the UK — “no one should live in fear because of their beliefs,” she said.

She acknowledged that “many Jewish people in this country are feeling vulnerable and fearful… I never thought I would see the day when members of the Jewish community in the United Kingdom would say that they were fearful of remaining here in our country,” she said. “We cherish the enormous contribution you make… Without its Jews, Britain would not be Britain.”


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UK-EU:160803:(07-AUG-16):Financial Expert on Brexit: ‘The British Always Want Special Treatment’

Spiegel 03-Aug-16


Interview Conducted By Alexander Jung

What direction will Britain take as it prepares for Brexit? British financial industry expert David Marsh says he believes Britain’s withdrawal from the EU will do less damage to Brits than to the rest of Europe.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Marsh, did you vote to leave the EU?

Marsh: No, I voted to stay. I did though do something unusual for me: I placed a £200 (237 euros) bet on “leave” with bookmaker Ladbrokes, just in case, to have a small consolation prize.

SPIEGEL: How much did you win?

Marsh: £600 — it relieved my pain a little.

SPIEGEL: It has now been five weeks since the referendum, and many expected an economic crash. So far, however, this has not happened. Were the concerns exaggerated?

Marsh: I think so. We have a period of uncertainty and companies may invest less. But in 20 years it is unlikely we will say that this referendum has led to a disastrous outcome. It may even offer opportunities.

SPIEGEL: What do you mean?

Marsh: The pound has fallen. This weakness will help our exports, British products will be cheaper abroad. And this attracts foreign investors, as seen with Japan’s Softbank taking over high-tech ARM for 29 billion euros.

SPIEGEL: Such a coup is hardly what Leavers wished for — to have foreigners take control of the economy?

Marsh: Oscar Wilde once wrote that people know the price of everything and the value of nothing. It’s nothing special for the British if everything is for sale. We have fewer sensitivities in this regard than the Germans.

SPIEGEL: But will the British be so relaxed about their flagship industry — financial services? Some here fear a veritable exodus.

Marsh: There are certainly some sectors that are particularly affected, for example the settlement of euro transactions. But computers can carry out a lot of this already. It could also lead to the relocation of some foreign exchange trading or investment banking, but not in a large way. Over 700,000 people work in the London financial sector, at the most 10 percent will be influenced by the Brexit vote.

SPIEGEL: But the banks may lose the EU passport necessary for distributing their products in Europe.

Marsh: The big houses already have bases in Frankfurt, Dublin or Paris. You can use these centers, which does not require much effort.

SPIEGEL: Many European financial centers are trying to attract business away from London. The Hesse economic minister will go there in August and lobby for Frankfurt.

Marsh: The Parisians were already here. Competition here is good for business. There it is not just one, but 10 rivals — that may help London. The City can operate the classic British game, the balance of power, playing off rivals against each other.

SPIEGEL: Frankfurt’s hopes are premature?

Marsh: Frankfurt will not transform itself overnight into a major international financial center. Frankfurt and London could complement each other. Frankfurt could focus on financing EU industry, and London could take the global operations.

SPIEGEL: This week, shareholders have agreed to the Frankfurt-London stock exchange merger. Is it realistic to have the headquarters in the UK?

Marsh: It wouldn’t be very clever to have the legal seat of the company in London. Maybe they could find another place, perhaps Amsterdam or Dublin.

SPIEGEL: The European Banking Authority will likely have to pull out of London.

Marsh: That would be a setback for the City. But we expect there’ll be another two and a half years before Britain leaves the EU. A lot can happen. European politicians’ ability to find compromises never ceases to amaze.

SPIEGEL: The UK is looking for a post-EU model. How would this look?

Marsh: It is certainly not like the Swiss model, nor Albanian, nor Greenlandic. I hope this doesn’t sound nationalistic — it should be a British way. There is a tendency in Germany to think that the British always want special treatment — and that is true: We want special treatment.

SPIEGEL: And what does this consist of?

Marsh: We need to manage a compromise between our expectations and the EU’s: We will still pay into the EU budget, but significantly less. We will control immigration more rigorously. And we want to maintain access to the EU internal market.

SPIEGEL: Do you really think Europe will allow this? If so, then EU critics in the Netherlands or Austria will wish to emulate this British model and leave the EU.

Marsh: That’s right; the EU can’t be too generous toward Britain. On the other hand, we have time on our side. Britain will probably not have a general election until 2020, while the German, Dutch and French will all go to the polls next year. Prime Minister Theresa May has time to develop Britain’s European position. She can build on the UK’s special status outside the euro area, where we are one of the largest trading partners. We will find a form of British exceptionalism. Frank Sinatra’s “I Did It My Way” may become for the UK, “We did it May way.”

SPIEGEL: What might this “May way” look like? Will the UK turn itself into a low-tax paradise with minimum regulation?

Marsh: We will certainly not become a European version of the Cayman Islands — we cannot afford that. Banking regulation should be at least as strict as in the EU. The financial crisis has taught us that less regulation leads to poorer results.

SPIEGEL: There are a lot of similarities between the prime minister and Chancellor Angela Merkel, this was obvious when May visited Merkel on July 20 in Berlin: They are of a similar age, similar origin and they are similarly pragmatic. Will that help British negotiations?

Marsh: There is good chemistry between the two. You can talk of “Angela May and Theresa Merkel” as Europe’s new tandem. Yet the chancellor faces the tougher task. Her room for maneuver is narrowing, the more she faces Europe’s economic problems: the debt issues in Greece, the banking crisis in Italy, the monetary policy of the European Central Bank.

SPIEGEL: What should she do?

Marsh: She is in a dilemma. Merkel’s supporters may desert her if she’s too conciliatory. But then the Germans cannot always say “no” when it comes to aid for countries in crisis or softening the Maastricht criteria (on deficit spending). They don’t have the strength.

SPIEGEL: Who will suffer most from Brexit: the UK or the rest of Europe?

Marsh: The British face a short, sharp shock that will subside relatively quickly. In Continental Europe, the process will last longer and be more painful. Although I voted against leaving the EU, I see Britain’s s future more optimistically than that of the rest of Europe. Yet if Germany and the UK formed an alliance, both would have it easier.

David Marsh, 64, is a leading expert on the European financial industry. He is the co-founder and managing director of the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum, a London think tank for financial and economic issues. He previously worked for various financial institutions and as a journalist. Between 1978 and 1995, he worked for the Financial Times in Germany, France and England.


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UK-EU:160802:(07-AUG-16):UK prepares to protect its golden goose in EU talks

EUObserver 02-Aug-16


The Brexit talks will now pit Barnier against his former boss in the Berlaymont, Jose Manuel Barroso, the new non-executive chairman of Goldman Sachs

London’s financial services sector is the UK’s golden goose, driving its economy as Britain’s traditional manufacturing sector has been allowed to steadily decline.

Protecting the City, and its status as Europe’s financial centre, will lie at the heart of British PM Theresa May’s negotiating strategy. Even so, London financiers are among the most nervous Britons in the uncertain post-Brexit world.

The potential loss of “passporting” rights is the elephant in the room for businesses based in the UK. Without it, the other European financial centres looking to pick up business from London – Dublin, Luxembourg, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Paris – will have an easier job persuading multinationals to flee the Square Mile.

Of these, Paris has been the most proactive in touting for business, although French leader Francois Hollande’s government is yet to offer the tax and labour law incentives that are probably needed to tempt some firms across the Channel.

The first piece of business to leave London has already been lined up by a senior Bundesbank official.

Last month, Andreas Dombret, a member of the German Bundesbank’s executive board, insisted that Brexit Britain would leave Frankfurt as the “more appropriate alternative” venue for euro-denominated clearing in future.

“I am convinced that, in the medium term, euro clearing cannot take place to the existing extent in London,” he said.

In March 2015 the European Court of Justice overturned a European Central Bank edict that would have required central counterparty clearing houses (CCPs) – which handle trades of stocks and shares – to be located inside the eurozone if they were processing transactions worth more than €5 billion.

This was a major victory for the City of London, which hosts roughly €1.3 trillion of euro clearing transactions every year.

However, the Court made it clear that London’s financial houses would not be able to offer the service were they outside the EU.

All this makes the recent career moves for former internal market commissioner, Michel Barnier, and his former boss in the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, more interesting.

The Brexit talks will now pit Barnier against his former boss in the Berlaymont, Jose Manuel Barroso, the new non-executive chairman of Goldman Sachs.

Having donated heavily to the Remain campaign, along with the likes of JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, which employs 6,000 people in London, is one of the US mega-banks anxious to avoid losing money from the Brexit fallout.

Goldman’s logic is sound: billions of dollars are at stake and who better to fight for them than the ex-commission president? Barroso, meanwhile, has decided that money is there to be made from Brexit, and he’s going to get himself a cut of it.

Appointing Barnier as his chief Brexit negotiator is one of EU commission boss Jean Claude-Juncker’s shrewdest moves.

A patrician French federalist, Barnier had a reputation for being a basher of the City prompting several of London’s more bellicose pundits to describe his appointment as a “declaration of war”.

It is true that the laws that saw bank bonuses capped were Barnier’s babies and were opposed by David Cameron’s government. But Barnier’s bark was invariably worse than his bite.

The UK MEPs who dealt with him on the European Parliament’s economic and monetary affairs committee respected him because he was a deal-maker, not to mention charming. The bonus cap bill, which was initially designed to increase the capital held by banks (a measure strongly supported by the UK) was one of very few to be opposed by former finance minister George Osborne.

When it came to blueprints aimed at splitting the riskier functions of banks from their day-to-day business, meanwhile, Barnier’s plans had, in the words of the UK Treasury “much in common with the banking reforms the UK has pioneered”.

He was also receptive to UK concerns that the eurozone’s banking union structure could allow the eurozone-17 to overpower countries outside the euro when drawing up financial services rules. Barnier now has masters in Paris and Berlin, as well as Brussels, to satisfy, but City financiers shouldn’t be losing sleep about him.

Instead, they should be more concerned about the political contortions resulting from Theresa May’s ministers seeking full single market access without freedom of movement.

The City’s strength relies on retaining free movement of both capital and people. Around 40 percent of workers in London’s burgeoning financial technology industry are non-Brits, while one in five tech businesses in the UK is started by an immigrant.

Yet anything short of a moratorium on EU migration will be considered a betrayal of the referendum result. Something has to give.


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TIS:160802:(07-AUG-16):The Destruction of Islamic State is a Strategic Mistake

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 352, 02-Aug-16


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The West should seek the further weakening of Islamic State, but not its destruction. A weak but functioning IS can undermine the appeal of the caliphate among radical Muslims; keep bad actors focused on one another rather than on Western targets; and hamper Iran’s quest for regional hegemony.

US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter recently gathered defense ministers from allied nations to plan what officials hope will be the decisive stage in the campaign to eradicate the Islamic State (IS) organization. This is a strategic mistake.

IS, a radical Islamist group, has killed thousands of people since it declared an Islamic caliphate in June 2014, with the Syrian city of Raqqa as its de facto capital. It captured tremendous international attention by swiftly conquering large swaths of land and by releasing gruesome pictures of beheadings and other means of execution.

But IS is primarily successful where there is a political void. Although the offensives in Syria and Iraq showed IS’s tactical capabilities, they were directed against failed states with weakened militaries. On occasions when the poorly trained IS troops have met well-organized opposition, even that of non-state entities like the Kurdish militias, the group’s performance has been less convincing. When greater military pressure was applied and Turkish support dwindled, IS went into retreat.

It is true that IS has ignited immense passion among many young and frustrated Muslims all over the world, and the caliphate idea holds great appeal among believers. But the relevant question is what can IS do, particularly in its current situation? The terrorist activities for which it recently took responsibility were perpetrated mostly by lone wolves who declared their allegiance to IS; they were not directed from Raqqa. On its own, IS is capable of only limited damage.

A weak IS is, counterintuitively, preferable to a destroyed IS. IS is a magnet for radicalized Muslims in countries throughout the world. These volunteers are easier targets to identify, saving intelligence work. They acquire destructive skills in the fields of Syria and Iraq that are of undoubted concern if they return home, but some of them acquire shaheed status while still away – a blessing for their home countries. If IS is fully defeated, more of these people are likely to come home and cause trouble.

If IS loses control over its territory, the energies that went into protecting and governing a state will be directed toward organizing more terrorist attacks beyond its borders. The collapse of IS will produce a terrorist diaspora that might further radicalize Muslim immigrants in the West. Most counter-terrorism agencies understand this danger. Prolonging the life of IS probably assures the deaths of more Muslim extremists at the hands of other bad guys in the Middle East, and is likely to spare the West several terrorist attacks.

Moreover, a weak and lingering IS could undermine the attraction of the caliphate idea. A dysfunctional and embattled political entity is more conducive to the disillusionment of Muslim adherents of a caliphate in our times than an IS destroyed by a mighty America-led coalition. The latter scenario perfectly fits the narrative of continuous and perfidious efforts on the part of the West to destroy Islam, which feeds radical Muslim hatred for everything the West stands for.

The continuing existence of IS serves a strategic purpose. Why help the brutal Assad regime win the Syrian civil war? Many radical Islamists in the opposition forces, i.e., Al Nusra and its offshoots, might find other arenas in which to operate closer to Paris and Berlin. Is it in the West’s interests to strengthen the Russian grip on Syria and bolster its influence in the Middle East? Is enhancing Iranian control of Iraq congruent with American objectives in that country? Only the strategic folly that currently prevails in Washington can consider it a positive to enhance the power of the Moscow-Tehran-Damascus axis by cooperating with Russia against IS.

Furthermore, Hizballah – a radical Shiite anti-Western organization subservient to Iran – is being seriously taxed by the fight against IS, a state of affairs that suits Western interests. A Hizballah no longer involved in the Syrian civil war might engage once again in the taking of western hostages and other terrorist acts in Europe.

The Western distaste for IS brutality and immorality should not obfuscate strategic clarity. IS are truly bad guys, but few of their opponents are much better. Allowing bad guys to kill bad guys sounds very cynical, but it is useful and even moral to do so if it keeps the bad guys busy and less able to harm the good guys. The Hobbesian reality of the Middle East does not always present a neat moral choice.

The West yearns for stability, and holds out a naive hope that the military defeat of IS will be instrumental in reaching that goal. But stability is not a value in and of itself. It is desirable only if it serves our interests. The defeat of IS would encourage Iranian hegemony in the region, buttress Russia’s role, and prolong Assad’s tyranny. Tehran, Moscow, and Damascus do not share our democratic values and have little inclination to help America and the West.

Moreover, instability and crises sometimes contain portents of positive change. Unfortunately, the Obama administration fails to see that its main enemy is Iran. The Obama administration has inflated the threat from IS in order to legitimize Iran as a “responsible” actor that will, supposedly, fight IS in the Middle East. This was part of the Obama administration’s rationale for its nuclear deal with Iran and central to its “legacy,” which is likely to be ill-remembered.

The American administration does not appear capable of recognizing the fact that IS can be a useful tool in undermining Tehran’s ambitious plan for domination of the Middle East.


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RU-EU:160802:(07-AUG-16):Russia wants EU gas pipe inroads backing Nord Stream

New Europe 02-Aug-16


Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on July 29 Moscow and Ankara are discussing the Turkish Stream gas pipeline. “In general, we are currently talking about the construction of two lines. The second line is for southwestern European consumers which can also be laid under the Black Sea and routed through Turkey,” Rossiya-24 quoted Novak as saying.

On July 26, Russian news agencies quoted Turkish Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci as saying a political decision has been taken to continue work on Turkish Stream and the Akkuyu nuclear power plant in Turkey. Zeybekci said Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, would “give the final impetus” to Turkish Stream in St Petersburg on August 9. The meeting will be the first since Russia and Turkey began normalising relations following the downing of a Russian warplane in November last year.

Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek has reportedly said Moscow and Ankara want to normalise relations as quickly as possible. In June, Erdogan wrote to Putin in a bid to normalise relations and the two leaders held a telephone conversation soon after that.

Chris Weafer, a senior adviser at Macro-Advisory in Moscow, told New Europe on June 28 it is reasonable to assume that Putin was just as keen to make peace with Turkey, as was Erdogan.

“President Putin wants to build a new southern route gas pipe into Europe to compliment Nord Stream 1 and 2. South Stream has proven to be too problematic because of Brussels and the Russians don’t seem keen to want to engage with them on this issue any longer. Turkish Stream is the only other alternative and I believe that Putin is very keen to build that pipe before competition from other areas, such as LNG [liquefied natural gas] or pipelines from Central Asia and Iran are more available,” Weafer said.

“Building the pipe across Turkey would also have the added advantage of blocking other competing pipes. Putin seems to take the view that once you have a pipeline in place you then only ever argue over price; you already have the customer locked in,” he said.

Turkish Stream would also be a big revenue earner for Turkey and could possibly open up the possibility of building the delayed Samsun-Ceyhan oil pipeline, which was planned to ease congestion in the Bosporus, and also draw Turkey closer to improving trade and investment in the Eurasia Economic Union, Weafer said.

Turning to other reasons Putin and Erdogan are keen to normalise relations, Weafer noted that more than any other action since early 2014, the cancelling of holiday flights to Turkey caused a great deal of unhappiness and resentment amongst Russian people. “It seems that the 25% food price inflation (winter 2014) or the ruble collapse were accepted as collateral damage from the weak oil price and sanctions while cancelling holidays is in an entirely different league. Russia people really like Turkish holiday resorts for price, convenience and service. This is election year after all,” Weafer said.

Moreover, Turkish companies are already big investors in Russia and are very important in some sectors such as construction. “Russia also managed to substitute a lot of food, which was blocked from Europe as a result of sanctions from or via Turkey. So the Turkish dispute risked inflation pressure in the autumn and winter or even some shortages again,” Weafer said.

Finally, the Moscow-based expert said that it is clear that some sort of lasting settlement in Syria is impossible without Turkey being involved. “Given that Russia has no intention of fully withdrawing from the region, e.g. it’s only Mediterranean naval base is in Syria, then for even purely pragmatic reasons both governments needed to re-engage,” Weafer said.


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TU-NATO:160803:(07-AUG-16):Concerns that NATO could lose Turkey increase

New Europe 03-Aug-16


Turkey’s President Erdogan said on Tuesday that the script for the attempted coup on July 15 was “authored abroad” and that the West is supporting terrorism, explicitly calling into question Ankara’s relations to Washington.

The collapse of US-Turkish relations

Speaking on Tuesday in yet another public address, Erdogan asked: “… What kind of strategic partners are we, that you can still host someone whose extradition I have asked for?” He was speaking in reference to the 75-years old US-based cleric Fetullah Gulen whom he accuses of being behind the plot.

Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdag is expected to go to Washington to negotiate the extradition of Fethullah Gulen. Bozdag said the US is well aware Gulen is behind the attempted coup.

On Monday, Washington dispatched its highest-ranking military officer to Ankara. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joseph Dunford, said the US supports democracy in Turkey and condemned the attempted military coup.

He was not the first US official to do so.

Last week US Central Command (CENTCOM) General Joseph Votel was forced to deny Washington is implicated with the attempted coup. Last Friday, Erdogan hinted there was US involvement in the attempted coup.

The pro-government daily Yeni Safak even named retired the former NATO commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John F.

Campbell, as the alleged mastermind behind the coup attempt. The White House has repeatedly rebuked the accusations.

In the aftermath of coup on July 18, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged the Turkish government “to uphold the highest standards of respect for [the nation’s] democratic institutions and the rule of law,” warning that this was a prerequisite for NATO membership.

Kerry echoed NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg who said that Turkey had to respect its own democratic order, rule of law and human rights.

Turkey’s Significance

It is clear that Turkey is a very important NATO ally, that Washington would wish to retain, but not at all costs.

There are currently over 20 locations used by NATO in Turkey, including the Incirlik airbase.The airbase where the US maintains nuclear arsenal was raided as part of the post-putsch operations and is considered as one of the epicenters of the air-force driven movement to depose Erdogan. Electricity was cut off from the base for a few days last week and it has been continuously surrounded by Turkish police and demonstrators.

Furthermore, Turkey has the second largest army in NATO and is deeply integrated in all operations. From the fight against IS to the Anti-Ballistic Missile Shield, Turkey has been a vital ally for the Alliance since 1952.

Eurasian school of thought

What appears as a threat is embraced in some circles in Turkey as a blessing, including retired Rear Admiral Cem Gurdeniz. In a much cited interview with Hurriyet, the retired Admiral suggests that there is a “Eurasian camp” in the military, that does not want Turkey to allow for an independent or autonomous Kurdistan, or the “loss” (reunification) of Cyprus, and that NATO no longer serves Turkey’s interests. He also questioned the soundness of participating in NATO’s Ballistic Missile Defense program.


Erdogan issued a Presidential decrees dismissing a further 3,000 members of the armed forces, including nearly half of Turkey’s highest ranking military officers. That includes even military doctors and academies. Over 10,000 officers and troops have been arrested. Military academies and schools have closed down.

“There is no turning back,” Erdogan said on Tuesday.

Approximately 70,000 people have been arrested or dismissed from the military, judiciary, civil service, education, state-owned companies, while 130 media outlets have been closed down. 50,000 civilian passports have been cancelled.

The role of domestic opposition

The opposition has thus far supported the government in its post-coup cleansing operation, but the leader of the opposition, Kemal Kilicdaroglu (CHP), expressed his concern that the parliament must be more involved in the process.

The nationalist opposition leader Devlet Bahceli (MHP) supports calls for the reintroduction of the death penalty for plotters, but warned on Tuesday that Turkey’s army should not become a force resembling that of “Saddam’s or Gaddafi’s army,” in an analogy that is anything but flattering to Erdogan.


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TU-EU:160802:(07-AUG-16):Turkey threatens to tear up EU migrant deal unless it gets visa-free Schengen travel within months

Daily Telegraph 02-Aug-16


Turkey has threatened to tear up a controversial migrant deal and send hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers to Europe if its citizens are not granted visa-free travel to the EU’s Schengen Area within months.

Mevlut Cavusoglu, the Turkish foreign minister, demanded the EU drop visa requirements for Turkish citizens by October.

But the European Commission refused to back down in the dispute, insisting it will only agree to visa-free travel when Turkey reforms its anti-terror laws.

And Germany warned that Europe “must not be blackmailed” over the issue.

The ultimatum is the first time Turkey has set a deadline over its demands. It will be seen as evidence the migrant deal is in jeopardy from the new hardline stance of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s regime, following last month’s failed coup.

Under the terms of the deal, which was personally negotiated by Angela Merkel, Turkey is to prevent asylum-seekers travelling to Europe and accept those deported from Greece.

In return, the EU is to pay Turkey €6bn in aid and member states are to take in one genuine Syrian refugee from Turkey for each Syrian deported under the deal.

But the EU and Turkey have been locked in dispute for months over visa-free travel, which was also supposed to be part of the deal.

The EU only agreed to drop visa requirements if Turkey fulfilled a number of conditions, including reform of draconian anti-terror laws used to silence opposition to Mr Erdogan.

Those reforms appear more unlikely than ever amid the post-coup crackdown in Turkey.

Mr Cavusoglu told Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper Turkey had taken “very serious measures” to stem the flow of migrants to Europe.

“But all that is dependent on the cancellation of the visa requirement for our citizens,” he said “If visa liberalisation does not follow, we will be forced to back away from the deal.”

A spokesman for the European Commission said visa-free travel would only be granted when and if Turkey fulfills all of the EU’s 72 conditions, including reform of the anti-terror laws.

“And we expect them to comply with these obligations,” she added.

“In no case can Germany or Europe be blackmailed,” Sigmar Gabriel, the German vice-chancellor said.

“We’re not haggling over the 72 conditions in the Turkish bazaar,” Andreas Scheuer, general secretary of Mrs Merkel’s Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), said.

“Visa-free travel for Turkey is completely ruled out in the current situation. The EU needs to make that clear now.”

The renewed standoff comes against a backdrop of growing disquiet among EU member states at the extent of Mr Erdogan’s crackdown following last month’s failed coup.

Almost 19,000 people have been detained and tens of thousands suspended from their jobs in the purge, which Prime Minister Binali Yildirim yesterday admitted had inflicted “unfair” treatment on some state sector workers.

Turkey yesterday (Monday) summoned the German ambassador to protest after Mr Erdogan was blocked from addressing a rally in Cologne by video link over the weekend.

The summons appeared to be a “tit-for-tat” response to German government criticisms of Mr Erdogan’s increasingly repressive measures in the wake of the coup attempt.

The German courts ruled a plan by Mr Erdogan to address a rally of his supporters in Cologne via live video was illegal.

“It’s unacceptable that authorities who remained silent to demonstrations by terrorist organisations are trying to block a democratic, anti-coup demonstration,” Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesman for Mr Erdogan, said.

“Security precautions should not be taken against those who organise a democracy meeting, but against supporters of terrorism and anti-democratic provocateurs.”

The Turkish authorities have repeatedly used “security concerns” to ban public demonstrations, including this year’s gay pride event in Istanbul, usually the largest in the Muslim world.

Bülent Turan, the deputy chairman of Mr Erdogan’s AKP, said Germany was showing “support for the putschists” by banning Mr Erdogan’s speech.

Ömer Celik, Turkey’s EU minister,  tweeted that the German constitutional court’s decision to upholdthe ban was “an utter backsliding in freedom of speech and democracy”.

“The democratic awareness of the Turkish nation and our citizens is a thousand times more powerful and superior to the racist and discriminatory West,” Bekir Bozdag, the Turkish justice minister,  said. “In the end, we will teach them democracy.”


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CV-EU:160803:(07-AUG-16):Pope Francis: Europe has no future unless rooted in ‘Christian vision of man’

Catholic World News 03-Aug-16


Resuming his Wednesday general audience following a hiatus during July, Pope Francis spoke on August 3 of his recent apostolic journey to Poland.

“My recent pastoral visit to Poland for World Youth Day took place 25 years after the historic visit of St. John Paul II following the fall of the Iron Curtain,” Pope Francis said in the Paul VI Audience Hall, according to the official English-language synthesis of his remarks. “Poland, Europe and the world have changed greatly since then, but the young continue to be a prophetic sign of hope for the future.”

“Waving the flags of their respective countries, they formed a mosaic of fraternity and a joyful response to the challenge of the Gospel,” he continued. “Poland, with its rich cultural and spiritual heritage, today reminds us that Europe has no future apart from its founding values, centered on the Christian vision of man and including the message of mercy expressed so eloquently in the last century by Saints John Paul and Faustina Kowalska.”

“At Auschwitz-Birkenau, in silence, I pondered all that happened there, remembered the victims, and sensed the mercy of God that made itself felt even in that abyss of evil,” he added. “Remembrance serves as a warning and a charge for our own time, so torn by conflicts, hatred and violence. I thank all those who made possible this visit, which offered a sign of fraternity and peace to Poland, Europe and the world.”


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UK-FCH:160804:(07-AUG-16):BOOM vs BUST: UK mulling multi-billion pound trade deal with China as EU economy collapses

The Express 04-Aug-16


CHINA has today said it wants to begin talks with Britain over a new free trade deal as soon as possible in another huge boost to the post-Brexit economy.

China wants a free trade deal with post-Brexit Britain

The world’s second largest economy has reached out to London in a bid to seal a deal which would be worth billions of pounds to UK businesses.

Beijing’s move means Britain is now in line to sign bumper agreements with all the world’s major economies, whilst Brussels’ chaotic trade policy lurches from crisis to crisis.

The protectionist EU is refusing point blank to consider talks with China over a free trade deal – something which has thwarted British companies for decades.

And its landmark negotiations with Canada and the US are both on the brink of collapse as irate member states threaten to rebel over Brussels’ cloak and dagger decision making.

The EU economy is floundering, with trade deals like TTIP facing a fight for survival

Whilst the Euro club languishes in the doldrums Britain has enjoyed better than expected economic news despite the financial turmoil which immediately followed the historic Brexit vote.

The latest figures show the economy grew faster than expected in the run up to the EU referendum, whilst the FTSE 250 of British firms recently wiped out the losses it incurred in the aftermath of June 23.

And today’s pronouncement by China will further fuel the impression that an outward looking UK can survive and thrive free from the shackles of Europe’s naturally protectionist instincts.

In a statement the Commerce Ministry in Beijing said it was completely “open” towards starting talks on a free trade deal with Britain, stating that an agreement would be in the interests of both countries.

Spokesman Shen Danyang said: “China is willing to proactively develop trade and business cooperation, has an open attitude toward discussing and signing a free trade agreement with Britain, and is willing to study this with Britain.”

David Cameron had pushed the EU to open negotiations with China shortly before the EU referendum vote, but his plea was angrily rebuked by cautious Brussels bureaucrats who said it was “premature”.

Since the Brexit vote global powers including America, India, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have all indicated their willingness to begin free trade talks with Britain as soon as possible.

But the picture is very different for the struggling Eurozone, which was warned today by a top American bank that it is staring down the barrel at total economic collapse.

The EU has spent years negotiating two landmark deals with the US and Canada which were supposed to demonstrate that it has the collective ability to strike agreements on the biggest stage.

Both the proposed TTIP trade deal with America and its partner agreement CETA, with Canada, have run into serious difficulties and are facing the very real prospect of collapsing after nearly a decade of talks.

Officials from both countries have indicated in recent weeks that they are getting increasingly fed up with attempting to negotiate with sclerotic Brussels, and both deals could yet be torpedoed by rebellious national parliaments.

Furious US negotiators have already said that TTIP is much less valuable to them now Britain has left the EU, whilst Canada’s top trade envoy recently asked in exasperation: “If the EU cannot do a deal with Canada, I think it is legitimate to say: Who the heck can it do a deal with?”

In half a century of existence the bloc has so far largely only managed to seal free trade deals with minnows on its doorstep like Kosovo, Bosnia and the Faroe Islands, because of the need for all member states to agree on the terms.


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MPA-MWB:160804:(07-AUG-16):The Fraying Palestinian Politica Entity in the West Bank

Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs 04-Aug-16



The Fragmented West Bank: The Whole Is Less than the Sum of Its Parts

The Palestinian Authority is failing to control extensive parts of the West Bank. As a result, some districts of the West Bank are developing in different directions, thereby accelerating the process of the PA’s disintegration.

In Hebron, for instance, the large clans of Mount Hebron have linked up with each other, reestablished the Tribal Council of Mount Hebron, and sent a delegation to Amman to express loyalty to the king of Jordan under the Jordanian flag. (For more details on the situation in Hebron, see here.)

In Ramallah, the PA’s de facto seat of government, Europe seeks to organize a phalanx of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as a political force. This effort is opposed by the PA, which wants the NGOs to be under its own rule. It was because of this pressure that former PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad resigned from the leadership of the key NGO Palestine of the Future. (For more details on the situation in Ramallah, see here.)

Nablus, for its part, has gone into a tailspin of total anarchy. It is under the rule of gangs, with exchanges of gunfire in the heart of the city and attempts at political assassinations. (For more details on the situation in Nablus, see here.)

Ramallah’s loss of control over the West Bank districts raises questions about its ability to run a state and play its part in ensuring not only Israel’s and Jordan’s security, as required by various agreements and the rules of conduct between neighboring states, but even its own security.

The tearing of the Palestinian political and social fabric will only increase as Palestinian Authority President Muhammed Abbas nears the end of his tenure.

The fragmented Palestinian West Bank will be a weaker entity than the weak states that collapsed in the Arab Spring. When the Palestinian entity collapses, the vacuum will be filled by the negative forces that have become the nightmare of the world.

Pinhas Inbari is a veteran Arab affairs correspondent who formerly reported for Israel Radio and Al Hamishmar newspaper, and currently serves as an analyst for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.


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UK-EU:160806:(07-AUG-16):Brexit means that Britain will be boss again

Spectator w.e. 06-Aug-16


All we have to do to regain total sovereignty is repeal Sections 2 and 3 of the 1972 European Communities Act

We know what people voted against,’ say half-clever ­pundits, ‘but it’s far from clear what they voted for.’ Actually, it’s very clear: the ­British voted to leave the EU and take back control of their own laws. They didn’t ­dictate precisely what kind of deal we should have with our neighbours after leaving: that is for ministers to negotiate. But when Leave campaigners invited people to ‘take back ­control’, voters understood what that meant: legal supremacy should return from Brussels to Westminster.

Remainers spent the campaign trying to suggest that the EU was just one among several international associations in which Britain participated. It was, they wanted us to believe, a club, like Nato or the G20, in which we agreed to abide by common rules in order to secure common objectives. All such ­associations, they argued, involved some loss of sovereignty. If we wanted ­‘undiluted ­sovereignty’, averred Sir John Major, we should ‘go to North Korea’.

Not for the first time, Sir John under­estimated the electorate. People could see that the EU differed from every other international body in that it presumed to legislate for its member states. Membership of Nato or the G20 may mean ceding power in ­certain areas; but it emphatically doesn’t mean ceding sovereignty — that is, the ultimate right to determine laws.

If Nato or the G20 aspired to unitary statehood, they, too, might become subjects of referendums. So far, though, no other body in the world has awarded itself supreme legal authority. I write ‘awarded itself’ deliberately. The primacy of EU law was not in the Treaty of Rome. Rather, as even committed federalists admit, it was invented by the European Court of Justice in a series of expansive ­judgments in 1963 and 1964.

So the EU’s treaties are unlike any other international accords. Instead of binding their signatories as states, they sustain a separate legal order, superior to national laws and directly binding upon businesses and individuals within states. In any conflict between a parliamentary statute and a ruling by the European Court of Justice, our courts automatically uphold the latter. You don’t have to be a lawyer to know in your bones the EU has a unique power to boss us around. Brussels has progressively extended its remit into most non-economic areas: criminal justice, environmental protection, social policy, immigration, public health, employment law, defence.

Most recently, it has engaged in a massive power-grab by adopting the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, allowing the European Court of Justice to rule on almost every aspect of national life. When the Blair government signed up to the charter, ministers dismissed it as no more justiciable than the Beano. Yet it is now being used by Abu Hamza’s daughter-in-law to challenge her deportation from the UK on grounds that her son is an EU citizen. When people read of such cases, they know that it is idiotic to describe the EU as a club. In the 1970s, Lord Denning likened European law to an incoming tide, pushing against the flow of our rivers, causing them to burst their banks. In 1990, towards the end of his rich life, he revised his metaphor: ‘No longer is European law an incoming tide flowing up the estuaries of England. It is now like a tidal wave bringing down our sea walls and flowing inland over our fields and houses — to the dismay of all.’

On 23 June, people voted to restore Britain’s political independence. This point is worth stressing because, since the poll, various Remain supporters have become overnight experts on what the other side ‘really’ wanted. Leavers, we keep being told, were voting against immigration, or political elites, or inequality — anything, in fact, except the EU membership specified on the ballot paper.

Against the various theories offered by pundits, we have one massive data set. On polling day, Lord Ashcroft’s field workers asked 12,369 people why they had just voted as they had. The answer was unequivocal. By far the biggest motivation for Leave voters was ‘the principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK’, with 49 per cent support. Control of immigration was a distant second on 33 per cent.

Addressing the concern of that 49 per cent is, on one level, very straightforward. Parliament simply has to repeal Sections 2 and 3 of the 1972 European Communities Act — the clauses that provide for EU law to take precedence over UK law.

The sensitivities around repeal are not legal but diplomatic. How can we carry out that abrogation while retaining the goodwill of our allies? Might we, for example, replicate some of our existing EU obligations through bilateral treaties, either open-endedly or for a guaranteed period? Should we aim at a hard exit, opting out of most EU regulations and becoming Singapore to its Malaysia? Or a soft exit, keeping the bulk of the existing arrangements and continuing to adopt many of the same standards as our neighbours for reasons of economy of scale? These are important questions — but less important than the thing that everyone agrees will now happen, namely a recovery of parliamentary supremacy. We might end up with a Switzerland-type association with the EU, or a buccaneering blue-water policy, or something in between — but all those options would be vast improvements on where we are now.

Once the EU loses its legal power to enforce decisions on us — and extract money from us — the balance is tilted. We may well choose to continue to participate in some European schemes; but we will be doing so as an independent nation in voluntary ­association with others. Think of the relationship between Canada and the United States. When it comes to civic, military, commercial and security links, you won’t find two closer partners. Yet Canada has sturdily refused to be drawn into the political union that knits together the 50 states across her border. She controls her own foreign policy, commercial relationships, embassies, frontiers, citizenship rights and courts. Unlike those of, say, Idaho, her judges and legislators are not answerable to a superior power.

Britain’s relationship with an increasingly united EU should follow a similar template. We should aim to maintain the closest alliance commensurate with political independence. Repealing the 1972 Act will make the ­United Kingdom fully sovereign — in a way that Japan or Switzerland or New Zealand take as read. Grant that, and the rest will follow.

Daniel Hannan is a Conservative MEP and was a founder of Vote Leave.


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UK:160805:(07-AUG-16):Bank of England cuts rates to boost economy

EUObserver 05-Aug-16


Global and British stock markets rose and pound sterling dropped on Thursday after the Bank of England cut interest rates to just 0.25 percent, the lowest level in the 322-year history of the bank, and embarked on a new round of money printing. Bank governor, Mark Carney, said he had unleashed an “exceptional package of measures” because of the economic stagnation likely to result from the Brexit vote.


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RU-US:160805:(07-AUG-16):Vladimir Putin Just Issued A Chilling Warning To The United States

ZeroHedge 05-Aug-16


As the United States continues to develop and upgrade their nuclear weapons capabilities at an alarming rate, America’s ruling class refuses to heed warnings from President Vladimir Putin that Russia will respond as necessary.

In his most recent attempt to warn his Western counterparts about the impending danger of a new nuclear arms race, Putin told the heads of large foreign companies and business associations that Russia is aware of the United States’ plans for nuclear hegemony. He was speaking at the 20th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

“We know year by year what will happen, and they know that we know,” he said.

Putin argued that the rationale the U.S. previously gave for maintaining and developing its nuclear weapons system is directed at the so-called “Iranian threat.” But that threat has been drastically reduced since the U.S. proved instrumental in reaching an agreement with Iran that should put to rest any possible Iranian nuclear potential.

The Russian president also highlighted the fact that although the United States missile system is referred to as an “anti-missile defense system,” the systems are just as offensive as they are defensive:

“They say [the missile systems] are part of their defense capability, and are not offensive, that these systems are aimed at protecting them from aggression. It’s not true…the strategic ballistic missile defense is part of an offensive strategic capability, [and] functions in conjunction with an aggressive missile strike system.”

This missile system has been launched throughout Europe, and despite American promises at the end of the Cold War that NATO’s expansion would not move “as much as a thumb’s width further to the East,” the missile system has been implemented in many of Russia’s neighboring countries, most recently in Romania.

Russia views this as a direct attack on their security.

“How do we know what’s inside those launchers? All one needs to do is reprogram [the system], which is an absolutely inconspicuous task,” Putin stated.

Putin further explained the implications of this missile defense system’s implementation without any response from Russia. The ability of the missile defense system to render Russia’s nuclear capabilities useless would cause an upset in what Putin refers to as the “strategic balance” of the world. Without this balance of power, the U.S. would be free to pursue their policies throughout the world without any tangible threat from Russia. Therefore, this “strategic balance,” according to Putin, is what has kept the world safe from large-scale wars and military conflicts.

Following George W. Bush’s 2001 decision to unilaterally withdraw the U.S. from the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty, Russia was, according to Putin, left with no choice but to upgrade their capabilities in response.

Putin warned:

“Today Russia has reached significant achievements in this field. We have modernized our missile systems and successfully developed new generations. Not to mention missile defense systems…We must provide security not only for ourselves. It’s important to provide strategic balance in the world, which guarantees peace on the planet.

Under the guise of following an anti-nuclear weapons policy, the Obama administration has announced plans for a $1 trillion nuclear weapons plan, which — let’s face it — is targeted at Russia.

Neutralizing Russia’s nuclear potential will undo, according to Putin, “the mutual threat that has provided [mankind] with global security for decades.”

There is no winner in a nuclear war between Russia and the United States. This has been not only confirmed but repeatedly warned about by atomic scientists who — if we are being honest — are the people whose opinion on this topic should matter the most.

It should, therefore, come as no surprise that NASA scientists want to colonize the moon by 2022 — we may have to if we don’t drastically alter the path we are on. As Albert Einstein famously stated:

“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”


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THA-AU-IS:160806:(07-AUG-16):West Seeks Details as Israel Says Charity Worker Funded Hamas

Wall Street Journal 06-Aug-16


The U.S., U.K. and Australia respond to allegations that a World Vision employee diverted money to Hamas

Western governments, alarmed over allegations that a representative of World Vision siphoned millions of dollars in aid to Islamist movement Hamas, sought more details from Israeli authorities who leveled the charges and arrested the charity’s employee.

Israeli prosecutors charged Mohammed El-Halabi, director of the Gaza branch of World Vision, with funding Hamas with up to $7.2 million a year from humanitarian aid over more than five years. He diverted funds to Hamas, which used the money to buy weapons, construct attack tunnels into Israel, and build military bases, they alleged.

Israeli officials said Hamas gave Mr. Halabi military training and then dispatched him to infiltrate World Vision in 2005. He was arrested on June 15 at a crossing into Gaza and confessed during an investigation, they said.

World Vision said Thursday that it was “shocked” to learn of the charges and, based on available information, had no reason to believe the allegations were true. The Christian aid organization said that it would review evidence presented by Israeli authorities, but that its programs in Gaza had been subject to regular internal and independent audits.

A spokesman for World Vision in Jerusalem declined to comment further. A lawyer for Mr. Halabi couldn’t be reached for comment.

Mr. Halabi’s father Khalil El-Halabi rejected accusations that his son is a Hamas operative. World Vision had appointed a Palestinian lawyer and his son has denied the charges, he said in an interview.

“Hamas has not contacted us and Mohammed has never been Hamas, nor have I,” he said.

The militant group has declined to comment on Israel’s allegations.

But the allegations stirred widespread concern among some of World Vision’s largest global donors, the U.S., U.K. and Australia. “If confirmed, Hamas’ embezzlement of humanitarian assistance funds would be reprehensible,” a U.S. State Department official said.

Israel is working with its security officials to inform countries about the details of the charges against Mr. Halabi, an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman said.

The U.S. funded World Vision projects in the Palestinian territories from 2000 until 2011, when it cut direct aid to the charity’s operations in Gaza and the West Bank, the State Department official said. He declined to disclose the reason for the cessation of funding.

The United States Agency for International Development, known as USAID, was one the largest single donors to World Vision’s U.K.-based international arm in 2014, according to NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based organization that tracks funding for nongovernment organizations operating in Israel.

The British government provides funding to World Vision’s U.K. operations but doesn’t donate directly to the charity’s programs in the Palestinian territories, a U.K. government official said. World Vision’s Palestinian operation has an annual budget of about $12 million, which is provided via the charity’s offices around the world, a spokeswoman said.

The U.K. was seeking further details regarding Israeli allegations that Mr. Halabi helped Hamas receive $80,000 from the U.K. to help construct a military base, the official added.

Australia’s government said Friday that it had suspended funding to World Vision in the Palestinian territories until an investigation into misappropriation of funds is complete. Australia provided about $3.8 million to World Vision’s operations in the Palestinian territories over the past three years, an Australian official said.


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DID-ME:160806:(07-AUG-16):The roasting of the Middle East. Infertile Crescent

Economist 06-Aug-16 [And who are the masters of water conservation and irrigation? Israel! Don]


More than war, climate change is making the region hard to live in

It’s too darn hot

“UNTIL the 1970s Basra’s climate was like southern Europe’s,” recalls Shukri al-Hassan, an ecology professor in the Iraqi port city. Basra, he remembers, had so many canals that Iraqis dubbed it the Venice of the Middle East. Its Shatt al-Arab river watered copious marshlands, and in the 1970s irrigated some 10m palm trees, whose dates were considered the world’s finest. But war, salty water seeping in from the sea because of dams, and oil exploration which has pushed farmers off their land, have taken their toll. Most of the wetlands and orchards are now desert. Iraq now averages a sand or dust-storm once every three days. Last month Basra’s temperature reached 53.9ºC (129°F), a record beaten, fractionally, only by Kuwait and California’s Death Valley—and the latter figure is disputed.

Unlike other parts of the world where climate change has led to milder winters, in the Middle East it has intensified summer extremes, studies show. Daytime highs, notes an academic study published in the Netherlands in April, could rise by 7ºC by the end of the century. Another study (by the UN) predicted that the number of sandstorms in Iraq would increase from 120 to 300 a year. The UN’s Environmental Programme also estimates that the harsh climate claims 230,000 lives annually in west Asia (the Arabian Peninsula and the Fertile Crescent), making it a bigger killer than war. Things are so bad that even Jabhat al-Nusra, a terrorist group, is preaching the virtues of solar panels.

The region also has fewer coping mechanisms than before. Population increase has reduced the water supply, leaving two-thirds of the countries in the Arabian Peninsula and Fertile Crescent without what the UN considers enough. Sana’a, the capital of Yemen, is set to run out of water in 2019 or perhaps earlier. Some people have air-conditioners, but power cuts—of up to 16 hours a day in southern Iraq—make them nearly useless. Baghdadis blister their fingers on door-knobs.

And they are the lucky ones. The Middle East is home to 39% of the world’s refugees, more than any other region. Hundreds of thousands live in tent cities. “If the wind blows from the north, it brings the gas from Qurna field,” says a librarian in a village north of Basra. “If it blows from the south, it’s heavy with gas from Majnoon.”

Much of the problem is man-made. Over-irrigation has dried up lakes and turned seas into dustbowls. The Dead Sea is shrinking by a metre a year. Oil has made much of the Gulf fantastically wealthy. But like a modern Midas touch, its atmospheric by-product threatens to choke it. Rising water levels could sink between 5% and 11% of Bahrain by the end of the century, according to projections. War and urbanisation have combined to chase rural people from the land. Desertification and sandstorms lift radioactive war detritus into the air. War stops people from taking counter-measures, such as planting trees.

Richer states can create artificial environments to make life less sweaty. In Kuwait, which recorded highs above Basra’s this week, malls turn the air-conditioning so low that wags joke they offer one of the coolest summers on Earth. Land reclamation may outpace land loss from rising sea-levels. And each summer millions of Gulf citizens migrate north. But for most Arabs, such things lie far out of reach.


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TU-RU:160807:(07-AUG-16):As Turkey’s coup strains ties with West, detente with Russia gathers pace

Reuters 07-Aug-16


As Turkey’s relations with Europe and the United States are strained by the fallout from its failed coup, President Tayyip Erdogan travels to Russia on Tuesday to meet Vladimir Putin in a trip he may hope will give the West pause for thought.

Turkish officials insist Erdogan’s visit to St. Petersburg is no sign that the NATO member and European Union membership candidate is turning its back on the West. Rather, they say, it is the next step in a rapprochement with Russia that started weeks before the July 15 attempted putsch.

But the thaw with Moscow, which imposed trade sanctions nine months ago after Turkey downed a Russian fighter jet near the Syrian border, comes as Ankara’s relationship with the West could scarcely be more fractious.

Erdogan and many Turks have been incensed by what they see as Western concern over a post-coup crackdown but indifference to the bloody events themselves, in which more than 230 people were killed as rogue soldiers bombed parliament and seized bridges with tanks and helicopters.

The Turkish government has blamed the coup on followers of a cleric in self-imposed exile in the United States, and purged tens of thousands of his suspected followers from positions as teachers, police, judges and soldiers. Western countries say the purge has been too fast and indiscriminate.

So damaged are relations that Germany’s foreign minister said this week there was no basis for discussions and that “we are talking with each other like emissaries from two different planets.” Austria’s chancellor suggested talks on Turkish membership of the EU should be suspended.

“For Erdogan, this meeting with Putin is certainly an opportunity to signal to Turkey’s partners in the West that it could have other strategic options,” said Sinan Ulgen, a former Turkish diplomat and analyst at the Carnegie Europe think tank.

“There is this perception game that Turkey could strategically gravitate towards Russia if the relationship with the West cannot be maintained. There is also an incentive on the side of Russia to use the crisis between Turkey and the West to undermine NATO’s cohesiveness,” Ulgen said.

Erdogan’s meeting with Putin will be only his second with a foreign head of state since the coup, following a visit to Ankara by the Kazakh president on Friday. Turkish officials have questioned why no Western leader has come to show solidarity.

“Both Russia and Turkey are outcasts as far as the West is concerned,” said Andrey Kortunov, director general of the Russian International Affairs Council, a foreign policy think tank close to the Russian Foreign Ministry.

“On the face of it, the failed coup has pulled Turkey closer to Russia. But there still remain serious differences between the two countries,” he told Reuters.

Disagreements persist over Syria, where Moscow backs President Bashar al-Assad but Ankara wants him ousted, as well as the South Caucasus, where Turkey has backed Azerbaijan in a conflict with Armenia, a Russian ally, over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region.

“The meeting between Putin and Erdogan … will show how far both sides are willing to compromise. The question is whether the current tactical de-escalation can translate into a deeper strategic partnership,” Kortunov said.


Washington is likely to be watching closely. Its ties with Ankara are strained over the continued presence in the United States of Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, accused by Erdogan of orchestrating the attempted coup.

Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, denies involvement in the coup and Washington has said it will extradite him only if Turkey provides evidence, much to the Turkish government’s frustration.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to visit Turkey in late August, officials have said, with Gulen’s case likely to be high on the agenda.

“At a time like this, Turkish public psychology expects expressions of solidarity and togetherness, but that’s not what is forthcoming from the West,” said Faruk Logoglu, a former Turkish ambassador to Washington and until recently a senior lawmaker in the main secularist opposition.

While the timing of Erdogan’s Russia trip could be interpreted as a signal to the West, Logoglu doubted it meant a full Turkish embrace of Russia or lasting damage to U.S. ties.

“The Turkish-American relationship is like a catholic marriage: there is no divorce. Both sides need each other,” he said. “It has experienced severe tests in the past and I think it will weather this one as well.”

Closer ties between Ankara and Moscow could be more troublesome for Europe, which sees a plan for a gas pipeline from Russia to Turkey, a project known as TurkStream, as a complication in its efforts to cut dependence on Russian energy.

“Gas cooperation between Russia and Turkey could be scary for the European Union,” said Akin Unver, assistant professor of international relations at Kadir Has university in Istanbul and an expert in regional energy.

“The EU wants to diversify suppliers and link eastern Mediterranean gas to Europe in the long run … if Russia bypasses all that with TurkStream that would not help. But the EU is in no position to bargain. Politically, it is very weak.”


Putin’s foreign policy aide Yuri Ushakov said Syria would be the main topic at the meeting with Erdogan. TurkStream, nuclear power projects, and the resumption of Russian charter flights to Turkey, which stopped after the downing of the fighter jet last November, would also be discussed.

Tourism revenue, a mainstay of the Turkish economy, has been decimated by the drop in Russian visitors, whose numbers fell 87 percent in the first six months of the year. The sector has also been hit by a series of suicide bombings.

“The Turkish side has given a written guarantee that they will fulfil Russia’s recommendations on extra security measures for Russian tourists at Turkish resorts,” Ushakov told a briefing in Moscow on Friday, adding that Turkey had granted Russian experts permission to check the measures on the ground.

On Syria, Kortunov said there was room for the two sides to move closer together on options for a political transition to end the five-year civil war and on the shape of a new constitution for the country.

“In cooperation with Russia, we would like to facilitate a political transition in Syria as soon as possible,” Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said in an interview with Russia’s TASS news agency. But he repeated Turkey’s long-held conviction that such a move would only be possible with Assad’s departure.

Kalin described the recent tensions with Russia as “short-lived turbulence” in a friendship that dated back centuries. Leaders in the West might be hoping the same is true of their relations with Ankara.

“The political backdrop does suggest there will be areas of convergence between Turkey and Russia,” said Ulgen, the former diplomat. “What is not realistic, though, is to view Russia as a strategic alternative to Turkey’s Western anchoring. Turkey remains an ally of the West.”


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UK-EU:160803:(07-AUG-16):Almost 3MILLION EU citizens will have the chance to stay in Britain forever by 2019 regardless of the Brexit deal negotiated by Theresa May

Daily Mail 03-Aug-16


Almost three million EU citizens living in Britain will qualify for permanent residency by 2019 regardless of any Brexit deal negotiated by Theresa May.

The analysis by the Social Market Foundation comes amid continuing debate over the future of EU nationals in Britain after Brexit and that of Britons living abroad.

Prime Minister May has controversially refused to confirm at the outset that all EU nationals living in Britain before Brexit takes place will be given the right to stay – insisting she wants similar commitments for Brits in EU countries first.

Some 600,000 EU citizens currently living in Britain will not have met the five year minimum requirement to gain citizenship

More than half a million EU citizens in the UK will not qualify for permanent residency rights if Brexit takes effect in 2019, according to new analysis

A study by the think tank assumed that Article 50 – the formal mechanism to leave the EU – is triggered next year and the process takes two years to complete.

Under existing rules migrants from other EU member states who have lived continuously in Britain for at least five years automatically have a permanent right to reside.

The paper said: ‘Given the likely protracted nature of Brexit, it is probable that all EU citizens arriving in the UK before 2014 and continuing to reside here will have permanent residency rights by the time Brexit actually occurs.

However, the think tank said as many as 590,000 people living in the UK may not have residency rights once the Brexit process has concluded.

Emran Mian, director of the foundation, said: ‘There are 3.6 million EU residents currently living in the UK.

‘Our analysis suggests that, while the majority have or will acquire permanent residence, the right to remain in the UK of almost 600,000 people may be at risk if the UK leaves the EU in 2019.’

Britain is expected to seek to introduce controls on free movement rules following the vote to leave but details of the system are yet to be outlined.

Ministers have come under pressure to provide a firm guarantee about the status of EU citizens already in the country.

Mr Mian said: ‘The Government should now provide its own analysis and articulate a plan for starting discussions.

‘Until it does, EU residents living in the UK, the businesses which employ them and the communities in which they live, are subject to uncertainty which will become more worrying as time goes on. ‘

Last week a Commons committee suggested that post-Brexit attempts to limit immigration and uncertainty during negotiations could spark a ‘surge’ in arrivals.

MPs called on the Government to set out a cut-off date and end uncertainty for EU nationals who are already in the UK, warning they must not be used as ‘bargaining chips’.


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UK-EU:160803:(07-AUG-16):Brexit weekly briefing: Theresa May’s EU tour fails to bring clarity

The Guardian 03-Aug-16


UK has not worked out what the questions are, let alone found potential answers to how it will leave the EU, critics say

The big picture

In her ongoing efforts to define what it was that 52% of UK referendum voters said they wanted last month, the prime minister, Theresa May, continued her progress round assorted European capitals – with little sign that she (or anyone else, to be fair) is any nearer knowing the answer.

At a press conference in Rome with her Italian counterpart, Matteo Renzi (who demanded a “clear timeline” for the UK’s exit), May reiterated that London had no plans to trigger article 50 – the start of the formal two-year leaving process – anytime soon, since all parties needed to work out the “nature of our relationship”.

She also repeated her warning – threat? – that the UK would ensure the protection of EU citizens in Britain only if British citizens got the same rights in EU countries. The government “will deliver” on British voters’ call for curbs on freedom of movement, she said, while also securing the best possible future trade deal.

Since most of Europe considers free EU movement a prerequisite of free EU trade, quite how the government will achieve this is unclear. May said in Rome she had an open mind on the question and that the UK could end up with a model that is “not necessarily … on the shelf already”.

She delivered the same message later last week, telling the prime ministers of Slovakia and Poland in Bratislava and Warsaw – the fifth and sixth EU capitals on her grand tour – that:

We need to find a solution that addresses the concerns of the British people about free movement while getting the best possible deal on trade in goods and services.

Whatever that solution may eventually turn out to be, warnings are now coming thick and fast that Brexit is going to be an awful lot more complex – and protracted – than anyone has yet even begun to imagine.

The whole thing could take years, largely because – as various Brussels diplomats told the Financial Times – London is still “nowhere” on deciding its position, and the parties have “not even worked out what all the questions are, let alone found the potential answers.”

In a paper that made many waves in Brexitland, Charles Grant of the authoritative Centre for European Reform pointed out last week that exiting the EU will require negotiating not just one deal, but six:

The first will cover Britain’s legal separation from the EU; the second a free trade agreement (FTA) with the EU; the third interim cover for the UK between its departure from the EU and the entry into force of the FTA; the fourth accession to full membership of the WTO; the fifth new FTAs to replace those that currently link the EU and 53 other countries, and the sixth co-operation on foreign, defence and security policies.

Still, talks – when they eventually get underway – on the first of those deals should at least be smoothed by the decision last week by the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, to make veteran French politician and Brussels insider Michel Barnier chief Brexit negotiator.

The appointment of Barnier, an ex-EU commissioner who clashed repeatedly with the City of London and the UK government over financial services reforms, was greeted as “an act of war” by some in the UK. Others pointed out he was a highly experienced – and not anti-British – politician and dealmaker.

Meanwhile, the British economy continued to suffer from post-Brexit blues, with calls intensifying for the Bank of England to cut interest rates later this week. After one set of figures showing the UK manufacturing sector was sinking at its fastest pace in more than three years and another indicating the referendum had triggered the biggest fall in consumer confidence for 26 years, the Guardian’s economics editor, Larry Elliott, warned bluntly that:

While it is still possible there has been an overreaction … the idea that business will ride things out after a month or two of turbulence now looks fanciful. Policy action – and decisive policy action at that – is going to be needed, starting with the Bank of England.

Lady Wheatcroft told the Times, meanwhile, that pro-remain peers in the House of Lords could well delay Brexit legislation when it eventually comes their way, while former Lib dem leader Nick Clegg said the government may have a mandate to take Britain out of the EU, but parliament must vote on how.

The view from Europe

While the rest of Europe (much of it now on holiday) waits more or less patiently to learn what kind of Brexit Britain wants, the battle to host the two influential EU agencies currently located in London – the European Banking Authority and European Medicines Agency – is already underway and looks like being won by Madrid and Rome, Euractiv reports.

Without bolshy Britain to hinder his efforts, meanwhile, Juncker – with the backing of eurozone governments – is pushing ahead with ambitious plans to boost workers’ rights across the bloc, says Politico, creating a “European pillar of social rights” with rules on, for example, the minimum wage and gender equality.

And a former Italian prime minister, Enrico Letta, has added his voice, in an opinion piece for the same publication, to the chorus calling for the EU to “relaunch or die” in the wake of Brexit, arguing that while divorce will be “complex, exhausting and unsatisfactory from almost every point of view”, relaunch must be:

infused with the fullest possible political and emotional investment. The aim of Europe’s leaders must be to guarantee that the EU is better able to protect its citizens, economically and socially, as well as ensure their security. We must not permit ourselves to waste this crisis.


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THA:160802:(07-AUG-16):Haniyeh: There’s No Distinction Between Hamas’ Military, Civilian Wings  02-Aug-16


Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh revealed that the terrorist organization makes no distinction between its civilian and military “wings,” vowing in a statement on Hamas’ website to take payments intended for government employees and funnel them to “military personnel.”

Qatar recently agreed to transfer $31 million to Hamas in order to pay government workers, who over the past three years have only received around one-third to one-half of their official salaries. In response, Haniyeh stated that the payments will go to pay all of the terrorist organization’s employees, including its fighters. He rejected those who say that there is a distinction between Hamas’ military and civilian employees, saying that both are “legitimate” because both have been “appointed by the decision of a legitimate government.”

The statement was first reported in English by The Times of Israel.

Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyah greets soldiers from Hamas’ military wing, whom he promised this week to supply with Qatari money intended to pay for salaries of civilian government employees

While the United States and other countries have designated Hamas as a terrorist organization, the United Nations distinguishes between Hamas’ political organization and its military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.

Three years ago, the European Union designated only Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist organization, despite the admission of a Hezbollah spokesman that the group has a unified leadership and no separate wings of the organization.

Despite the damage done to houses in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge two years ago, Hamas has been using its money and resources to prepare for the next war with Israel. Unnamed Israeli official last week estimated that Hamas was digging six miles of terror tunnels every month.

Since the end of the 2014 Gaza war, the Israeli Defense Forces discovered two Hamas tunnels that extended into Israeli territory—one in April and another in May. Israel destroyed 34 tunnels during the 50-day conflict and has since invested an estimated one billion shekels ($250 million) in tunnel detection technology. A Hamas operative who was captured in June after illegally crossing into Israel revealed that the terrorist group’s fighters can travel underground throughout the entirety of Gaza.

Brig. Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, the former director general of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, told reporters in May that the discovery of the tunnels was a sign that Hamas was preparing for another war against Israel. He added that the tunnel digging means that “they definitely invest a lot in making the necessary preparations so that in the next round, when they decide to start it, they will be able to inflict the heaviest damage on Israel, including through those tunnels.”

Haaretz defense correspondent Amos Harel wrote in January that “Hamas is investing great efforts and huge sums in the tunnel project. It is reasonable to assume that the number of tunnels crossing under the border is close to that on the eve of Protective Edge,” or the 2014 Gaza war.

In Your Complete Guide to Hamas’ Network of Terror Tunnels, which was published in the April 2016 issue of The Tower Magazine, Dan Feferman underscored that it is the people of Gaza who are paying the price for Hamas’ decision to prioritize war with Israel over their wellbeing.

There is a tragic side to Hamas’ tunnel strategy. Roughly 9,000 homes were destroyed during Protective Edge, and very few have been rebuilt. This is not Israel’s fault, as building supplies flow regularly into Gaza. But according to declassified intelligence reports, these supplies are routinely stolen by Hamas in order to serve the group’s terrorist purposes. Hamas smuggles in cement, diverts from construction and humanitarian donations, and even raids civilian construction sites in order to rebuild its tunnels. Estimates are that one tunnel can cost a million dollars to build and uses around 50,000 tons of concrete. Close to a million tons of concrete were poured into the terror tunnels before 2014.

The tunnels, in this sense, are a zero-sum game. If the same materials were put into reconstruction, the Gazan people would be better off and, lacking this crucial asymmetric warfare capability, Hamas would be less tempted to attack Israel. On the other hand, with the same limited materials going to terror tunnels, the people of Gaza continue to live in ruins while Hamas rebuilds its war machine.

While Hamas appears to be deterred in the short term, it continues to believe that the tunnels are its only strategic weapon. While it may not be interested in another war, the tunnels continue to be dug for a reason. Once used, however, they lose their effectiveness, as the IDF knows their locations and can thus destroy them. Hamas is well aware of this dilemma. The tunnels essentially leave Israel and Hamas in an arms race—with Israel racing to develop a technological solution before Hamas decides to launch another round of fighting.


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US-IS:160803:(07-AUG-16):Trump’s Israel Gatekeeper: Like His Boss, No Room for “PC”

The Media Line 03-Aug-16


David Friedman tells TML Palestinians haven’t met their obligation to be taken seriously as state

Love him or hate him, Republican candidate for president Donald J. Trump is doing it his way, ignoring what the American professional political world believed was the only way to become a party’s nominee and win “the Oval.”

No issue is more imbued with slogans and adherence to conventional wisdom than is the Middle East. Two-state solution, occupied territories, illegal settlements, incitement and even terrorism — the list is long.

Yet, notwithstanding the extreme sensitivities of the regional players and the long history of seasoned diplomats failing to broker anything that even remotely resembles a lasting peace deal, Trump, the first-time-out candidate, has selected gatekeepers for Israeli-Palestinian issues whose loyalties undeniably lie on the side of the Jewish state; who are personally and professionally erudite and successful, but who are also noticeably lacking the political trial-by-fire one would expect of a senior adviser on a lightning rod issue in a presidential campaign. Nevertheless, both of the two lawyers tapped for this delicate representation qualify for the position by virtue of what Trump himself was quoted as saying he looks for in an adviser on Israeli affairs: “people who truly love Israel.”

Jason Greenblatt, 49, who has worked for Trump for almost two decades and who is religiously-observant, told the Jewish news agency JTA that he stays apprised of issues by accessing a number of pro-Israel sources and advocates along with members of the Israeli government. His colleague – in law and in the Trump campaign – is 58-year old David Friedman, a native New Yorker whose father, a prominent rabbi, became the first Jewish clergyman to host a sitting president for a Shabbat meal when President Regan joined the Friedman family for lunch in 1984.

Speaking to Friedman, of whom it has been rumored that if Trump wins he will trade in his Jerusalem apartment for the US Ambassador’s residence in Herzliya, it becomes quickly apparent that he intends to be well-served by his lack of political experience if judged by responses more akin to a deposition than to a politician’s news conference.

David Friedman, thank you for speaking with the The Media Line.

TML: Who is David Friedman and why has Mr. Trump made you the gate keeper on policies relative to Israel?

Friedman: Well, first and foremost I’m somebody who loves Israel and someone who has Donald Trump’s trust. We’ve known each other for 15 years. I’ve worked with him in some challenging circumstances and have gained his trust and I would hope his respect. When he was called upon to select advisers in various areas, one of those areas was the relationship between the US and Israel and he wanted to select advisers who he knew had a deep love and commitment to the state of Israel.

TML: Are you going to tell us that one of the first acts is to move the embassy to Jerusalem?

Friedman: I think one of his first acts is going be to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. I think the movement of the embassy to Jerusalem is logistically something that can’t be done on the first day [but] I think that will happen in due course.

TML: How did you first meet Donald Trump?

Friedman: My first meeting was in his office. A mutual friend introduced us. He had some issues relating to Atlantic City. From time to time I’ve been his lawyer, but for all the time I’ve been his good friend.

TML: Why do you think Donald Trump should be the next president?

Friedman The president is the chief executive of the United States. He’s not a legislator, he’s not a committee member, and he’s not an adviser. Donald Trump has outstanding executive skills. He is a terrific decision maker. His heart is in the right place. Contrary to what people say about him he’s not impulsive. He is someone who listens to his advisers, and when called upon to make decisions, actually exhausts material on the subject.

He’s also the right person at the right time because in America, we are very much hungering for non-teleprompted leadership and authentic leadership actually accessible to the press. If you compare Donald Trump to any other candidate in history, he dwarfs the field in terms of his accessibility to the media and being on TV every night.

I think he’s what the country needs and I think his message is resonating with people who feel that globalism has failed them. And it’s a fairly large constituency in this country.

TML: Many believe that a candidate who doesn’t utter the mantra of a two-state solution won’t be taken seriously. Is  the Trump position on a two state solution a one state solution?

Friedman His position is not a one-state solution. His position is that he’s observed the obvious, which is that a two-state solution over the past generation has been attempted over and over again and has been a failure. The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again expecting a different result — and he’s not insane. To blindly embrace a two-state solution because it’s been an American policy for the past 25-years is not something he’s going to do, any more so than one would have expected a president in the 1970s embrace the Vietnam war because it was a 20-year policy of the United States. Policies are only good if they work.

TML: So what’s his answer?

Friedman I don’t think this is an area which is susceptible to jingoism. It’s a very complex issue. The conventional wisdom is that Israel has to be a Jewish state or a democratic state, but can’t be both. It’s essentially a demographic assessment which I think is wrong. With the removal of the Gazan population from the denominator, I think a one-state solution would reduce Israel from about 75 percent of a Jewish state to maybe about 65 percent. I don’t think it’s existential to do that. Ultimately, the issue is one of reducing tension and improving quality of life. That ought to be the first step, not the geography. The geography will follow if appropriate advances are made in quality of life.

TML: A good chunk of the world uses the word “illegal” before the word “settlement” when speaking about Israel. You don’t. Will President Trump?

Friedman: I think it’s almost silly to talk about settlements in terms of legal or illegal. I’m saying that as a lawyer who has actually studied the issue. My experience has been that the legal conclusions follow the political views. I can make an argument for legality; I can make an argument for illegality. I happen to be the view that the settlements are not illegal. I think they were captured in a defensive war from a country that no longer wants them back. You could obviously make an argument for why they are legal but it’s a waste of time to debate the issue.

TML: The United States is part of the quartet which has again condemned Israel for its expansion of Jewish communities in post-1967 areas. Would a President Trump change minds and policies of the European Union, United Nations, and Russia — its partners in the Quartet — or withdraw from the Quartet?

Friedman: It’s a good question. I haven’t really given it enough thought as to whether he’d withdraw from the Quartet and what the consequences would be. He would certainly use his influence within the Quartet to have a significant change of direction. The recent criticism of Israel in regards to Gilo and Ma’aleh Adumim [Jerusalem neighborhoods which the Palestinians claim for their state-in-waiting and object to Israeli building in those areas – Ed.] I think is just ridiculous. These are significant Israeli population centers. There is no scenario under any peace accord where Gilo or Ma’aleh Adumim would ever be evacuated or become part of a new Palestinian state. I think it jeopardizes the credibility of the Quartet and it jeopardizes the credibility of the United States when they focus on these types of issues. It’s really a mistake.

TML: France is planning to throw a bash for Middle East peace before the end of the year: an international conference the Palestinians support and Israel says is a bad idea. How is David Friedman advising candidate Trump?

Friedman: My advice is that it’s a bad idea. The international community should not be dragging Israel against its will to a conference. I don’t think France has the type of gravitas in the world community to be making that demand in any event. A Trump perspective is to support Israel and its approach to the peace process.

Trump policy first and foremost is to trust Israel that they know what they are doing. Israel has now been independent for 70 years. They’re a grown up country. They are not a client state of the United States. They are a partner with the United States in a global war on terrorism. We trust our partner and we want our partner to be secure and safe. We trust them to do the right thing.

TML: Assume rumors are true and Donald Trump decides to fly Trump Force One to Israel before the election. To maintain his status as honest broker would he meet with Palestinian Authority President Abbas?

Friedman:  I think he might. I don’t know. I haven’t had that discussion with him. I think there are good reasons not to and I think there are some reasons not to do it. I’m not sure what the decision will be.

I personally think putting the Israeli leadership on a common level with Abbas is a mistake. In one case you have a sovereign nation that is democratic, and in the other case you have a leader who is hanging on by a thread, who does not have an actual mandate and who funds stipends to pay to families of terrorists while they are in jail. These are difference types of governments — if you even want to call the Palestinian leadership a government. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have a meeting. The answer is, I don’t know. We haven’t had the discussion.

TML: What is Trump’s message to Abbas and the Palestinians who fear another pro-Israel president in the White House?

Friedman: The message to Abbas is that you have a burden that you have to carry to be taken seriously as a potential nation state. You haven’t met that burden yet. That includes renouncing violence, recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, creating infrastructure where money and funds are handled in a non-corrupt manner.

TML: What will Trump do to prevent Iran from creating nuclear weapons?

Friedman: This is at the very height of his foreign policy concerns and what he’s going to try to do is re-engage with the other significant players in the region to try and re-assert leverage with Iran. The situation is absolutely untenable right now. I don’t know if the agreement gets rips up at the beginning.

TML: Where do you and Donald Trump come down on the belief that the Israeli Palestinian conflict is the region’s core conflict, even when compared to Syria, ISIS and Sunni vs. Shia?

Friedman: That’s obviously not true. The Israeli conflict with its neighbors predated the Six Day War. Obviously there were two wars before then, from 1948 to 1967. This is not about battle about land. It’s an ideological battle about whether there will be a Jewish state and it’s a battle between a radical jihadism and the rest of the Muslim world.

TML: Hillary Clinton has just about everyone suggesting she is the most qualified person ever to be president. Where did she go wrong with the Middle East — if she did?

Friedman I don’t think she has made a right decision. I think she said some helpful things when she was the senator from New York when she had a Jewish constituency. As soon as she became secretary of state, the first thing she did was to embrace a unilateral settlement freeze. I think it completely poisoned the environment. I’m not aware of anything she did that is particularly good. I can name off the top of my head things that were nasty, like ripping up the letter from George Bush to Ariel Sharon, which I think was the only thing Israel got from evacuating Gaza. I don’t think she particularly likes Israel. I think she likes the kind of elite left among the Jewish people of Israel and in America like the Max Blumenthals, the Sidney Blumenthals and the people of that ilk who would like to turn Israel into a sort of Singapore. I think she’s terrible for Israel.

TML: Who advises David Friedman when Donald Trump wants to change the world?

Friedman:  Nobody. I have never really spoken of myself in the third person. I spend three to four hours a day reading everything I can up on the subject. I have had really good access to Israeli leadership who I think are doing the right thing by not endorsing anybody. I have a high level of information available to me and I study it.

TML: Are you in touch with Palestinians or Arabs?

Friedman: Both the Palestinians and Israelis that I’ve spoken to have asked me and I’ve agreed not to mention who they are.

TML: American Jews have shown little interest in voting foreign policy in a Presidential election. How will you change that? Can you change that?

Friedman: Look, it’s a great disappointment to me that the Jewish Left doesn’t support Israel as a priority. I’m hoping that as the American Jewish community recognizes the stark differences between a Trump administration and a Clinton administration on Israel that they will reprioritize Israel in their voting calculus. I think for a lot of the Jewish Left that does not prioritize Israel, it’s because they assume that Israel no longer faces existential threats. A strong Israel untethered to American pressure is essential to Israel’s ongoing survival.

TML: Will Donald Trump become “45”?

Friedman: I hope so. At the core, the American people are very much ready for a change. He is obviously the change candidate. Hillary Clinton is the antithesis of change. She’s been around for 25 years. It will come down to that. In many of the battlegrounds states, people feel tremendously neglected.

I don’t know if you saw a very good piece done by [Israel’s] Channel Ten here on the rust belt. It is extraordinarily depressing. These are good people who served in the military, supported the country and never really asked for much. They’ve been abandoned by multiple administrations. They are very much in large number supporting Donald Trump.

TML: David Freidman, if you’re right, will we see you in the US ambassador’s residence?

Friedman: I sure hope so. It’s not my decision. It’s Donald Trump’s decision but I would love that opportunity.

TML: Thank you.


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AS-UK:160805:(07-AUG-16):UK anti-Semitic incidents up 11% in 2016

Times of Israel. 05-Aug-16


Community security organization counts highest number in 7 years, with peak coinciding with Labour’s anti-Semitism dust-up

The debate in British media about anti-Semitism within the Labour Party coincided with an 11 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the first six months of 2016, a watchdog group said.

The Community Security Trust, or CST, registered 557 anti-Semitic incidents in that period, compared to 500 in the first half of 2015. The CST’s interim incidents report for 2016 was published Thursday.

The 557-incident total is the second-highest CST has ever recorded in the January-June period of any year, after 629 incidents recorded in the first half of 2009.

“There is no obvious single cause for the increase in recorded anti-Semitic incidents, most of which came in April, May and June,” CST wrote in a statement about the report. In an indirect reference to the debate over Labour, the statement also read: “This was a period when antisemitism, racism and extremism were reported and discussed prominently in the national media.”

The debate was over the role of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, a left-wing politician who was elected as party head last year. A harsh critic of Israel, he was accused by Jewish community representatives as well as senior Labour members and backers of generating an atmosphere that encouraged expressions of anti-Semitism among his supporters with statements against the Jewish state and in favor of the terrorist groups Hezbollah and Hamas.

British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn meets supporters and members of the media after attending a meeting of Labour’s National Executive Committee in London on July 12, 2016. (AFP/Chris Ratcliffe)

British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn meets supporters and members of the media after attending a meeting of Labour’s National Executive Committee in London on July 12, 2016. (AFP/Chris Ratcliffe)

Corbyn has disputed this, although last month he also said he regrets calling Hezbollah and Hamas his “friends.” He has suspended dozens of Labour members who made anti-Semitic and harshly anti-Israel statements, including former London mayor Ken Livingstone, who in May implied Adolf Hitler was a Zionist.

Separately, Labour lawmaker Jan Royall confirmed in a report about anti-Semitism in her party’s Oxford University chapter that some of that chapter’s members engaged in anti-Semitic acts, though she said the club was not “institutionally anti-Semitic.”

Royall’s report, published Wednesday by The Jewish Chronicle, does not include examples of the anti-Semitic incidents.

Reports of anti-Semitism at the Oxford chapter were among the developments that led to intense media coverage of Labour’s anti-Semitism problem. In February, the former co-chair of the chapter, Alex Chalmers, resigned because of anti-Semitic behavior by some members, triggering a probe by the party’s leaders in London.

Chalmers said some students repeatedly sang “rockets over Tel Aviv” and ridiculed Jews who felt concerned about this. Others used the term “Zio” — short for Zionist – to deride Jews.

The first half of 2016 also saw a polarizing debate in the United Kingdom about whether the country should exit the European Union, a decision favored by 52% of voters in a national referendum that took place on June 23.

According to CST and police figures, Britain saw a considerable increase in xenophobic incidents following the vote, where immigration was a central theme. Jews, however, were not singled out for such attacks after the vote on the British exit, or Brexit.


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TIS-IS-CV:160804:(07-AUG-16):’You will pay a high price’ ISIS promises to conquer Rome & wipe out Jews in chilling clip

The Express 04-Aug-16


ISLAMIC State militants have warned they are targeting Jewish people, Rome, Israel and Egypt in a chilling new video.

The footage, which is believed to have been released by terrorists in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, shows the influence the depraved terror group has is spreading further afield.

The clip, which was released on Monday, shows jihadis from the death-cult’s wing in Sinai – known as Wilayat Sinai – promising to conquer Rome and take aim at Israel.

Titled Desert Flame, the video shows Egyptian military targets being attacked by the heinous death cult.

The voiceover can be heard discussing past attacks in the Sinai region and how the twisted killers will continue to target westerners.

According to a translator from the Middle East Research Institute, the jihadi says: “This is only the beginning, and our meeting will be in Rome and Beit Al-Maqdis (Jerusalem).

“Oh Jews, wait for us. The punishment [we have prepared for you] is severe and soon you will pay a high price.”

It comes as a supergrass from the terror cult revealed the group were planning simultaneous attacks across Britain, France and Germany.

British-educated Harry Sarfo, originally from Germany, travelled to Syria but commanders for the heinous group told him to return to Europe to prepare a terror attack.

After suffering heavy defeats in Syria and Iraq over the past few months, Sinai has become an increasingly important area for Daesh.

In April, 12 jihadis left Gaza to join the ISIS wing in the region and last month Israel conducted several drone strikes on terrorists in the peninsula, according to a former Israeli official.

Researchers at the Information Handling Service said the death cult has lost a quarter of its entire territory over the past 18 months.

ISIS-controlled territory dwindled from 35,000 square miles in January 2015 to 26,370 square miles.


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UK-EU:160804:(07-AUG-16):EU Referendum: Will Scotland leave the UK over Brexit?

Tradefair 04-Aug-16


Scotland chose to stay in the UK when a referendum was called in 2014. Will the recent Brexit announcement lead to another independence vote?

One of the questions on many people’s lips since the EU Referendum in June is how leaving the union would affect relationships between the different countries within the UK. After all, only England and Wales supported Brexit; Scotland and Northern Ireland favoured Remain.

In fact, 62% of Scots and nearly 56% of Northern Irish people voted to stay in the EU. However, Remain support across the two countries was not enough to offset Brexit votes in England – a nation with approximately an 84% share of the UK population.

Speculation that Scotland will revisit its 2014 independence referendum has been rife. Two years ago, 55% of Scots opted to stay in the UK, while 45% preferred independence. Many have argued that Brexit will force another vote on the same issue.

First minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon said a second referendum on independence may be the only way for the nation to keep the free movement of labour, access to the single market and protection of human rights.

“I don’t pretend that the option of independence would be straightforward,” she stated last month.

“The outlook for the UK is uncertainty, upheaval and unpredictability. In these circumstances, it may well be that the option that offers us the greatest certainty, stability and the maximum control over our own destiny, is that of independence.”

Do Scots want independence?

A recent YouGov poll has shown that the Scottish reception for another independence referendum is lukewarm at best. Some 46% of Scots said they would rather live in a country that’s part of the UK, while 37% wanted to split away.

It seems the single market isn’t much of an incentive either, with 40% of people saying they would prefer to remain in the UK even if leaving gave Scotland better access to European goods and services.

But opinions may change once the UK government triggers Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. At that point, the UK will negotiate its withdrawal from the EU – and Scottish goodwill could erode if Westminster is unable to secure a good exit deal from Europe.

Some Scottish industries are already reporting that leaving the EU will have a significant impact on both funding and tariffs. For example, 74% of farmers’ income came from Europe in 2015, while 40% of sheep meat produced in Scotland was shipped to EU markets. The Scotch Whisky Association also claimed it would need to hike tariffs in countries that currently receive reductions due to EU Free Trade Agreements.

But what is the likelihood that the UK will clinch favourable terms upon leaving the EU? The answer, it appears, depends on which countries you ask. While some nations seem open to offering a sweetened deal to the UK, others feel a harsher approach is needed to discourage further EU exits.

Will the UK get a good deal?

A new Ipsos Mori survey found the French are the least forgiving nation. Just 19% of people in the country think the UK should get favourable terms. The same percentage of Russians said the UK didn’t deserve special treatment, despite Russia being the only country where a majority of the population thought Brexit was the right move (54%).

Unsurprisingly, the UK was the nation where support for a good exit deal was the highest, although only 56% of Brits agreed. Poland (36%), Spain and Italy (both 26%) were next in the list, indicating the UK still has some way to go to repair relationships with the EU following the referendum.

The success of these negotiations could have huge repercussions on whether Scotland decides to stay in the UK. It’s likely Britain’s economic performance over the coming months will also be under the spotlight, particularly if Scottish industries are hit particularly hard by reduced funding or export woes.

Is there another way?

There may be a third option for Scotland, one that lies somewhere between either leaving the UK or leaving the EU. Could the country have its cake and eat it too? It’s possible Scotland could remain in the UK, while still enjoying some of the benefits of EU membership – and there has been precedent for this.

Greenland, as a part of Denmark, was forced into the EU in 1972 but voted to leave the union a decade later. The Danes had to make a series of concessions, but Greenland was finally allowed to renounce its EU membership while maintaining close links to the union for trade and the nation also receives EU funding.

This type of relationship could appeal to Scottish politicians if the UK economy and financial markets take a turn for the worse and the EU rejects a favourable agreement over Brexit.

Ultimately, it’s too soon to say whether Scotland will leave the UK following the referendum. There are many factors involved, and with few formal rules in place to guide the UK’s negotiations with the EU, the future of Scotland may rest on how generous Brussels is feeling ahead of a potential split.


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IS-MGS:160807:(07-AUG-16):A Covenant of Shadows

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 353, 07-Aug-16


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:  The growing ties between Israel and the region’s Sunni Arab states are a result of instability fueled by the growing power of Iran and Islamic State, and by US retrenchment. But unhindered public cooperation between Israel and these Arab states will necessitate an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Many of the world’s nations are looking on in surprise and admiration at the ever strengthening ties between Israel and the more important Sunni Arab countries in the region – the open relationships with Egypt and Jordan, with which Israel maintains official diplomatic relations, but also the informal relationships with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates.

This shift appears to be fueled by three main factors. First, these Sunni countries fear Iran’s growing power over a Shiite bloc, which threatens the security as well as the unity of the Sunni states. There is an ancient religious conflict between the Sunni majority and the Shiite minority, but the minority enjoys the advantage of a singular leadership that is willing to do anything it can to change the status of Shiites in the Middle East.

This leadership, which sits in Tehran, is spearheading orchestrated and focused efforts to liberate the Shiites in Yemen, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, and defend the Shiites in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. The objective is to create an uninterrupted distribution of Shiites from Tehran through Baghdad to Beirut.

Meanwhile, Iran is trying to undermine the Sunni dominance on the Arab side of the Gulf between the Saudi Peninsula and Iran: Saudi Arabia, with its Shiite minority, in the oil-rich region; Bahrain, which underwent a Shiite coup attempt; and Yemen, where Saudi Arabia is fighting with the Sunni majority against the Iranian-backed Houthi minority.

The Sunni-Shiite conflict also has a nationalist aspect. It is impossible to ignore the fact that Iran is focusing its efforts exclusively on Arab countries. This nationalist struggle also manifests itself in inter-Shiite disputes, especially in Iraq, where the city of Najaf was once considered the most important Shiite city, but has since been replaced by the Iranian city of Qom.

The second factor fueling the Sunni countries’ concerns is the threat of extreme Salafism led by the Islamic State. The group’s Arabic acronym, Daesh, stands for “the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria,” but the organization is active in Sinai and Libya as well. It also has active chapters in Africa and in Europe, as the recent wave of terrorist attacks indicates. Therefore, the simple name “Islamic State” may be more apt.

The expansion of the group’s activities poses a threat to the Sunni states because they represent an enemy of the highest order. In Egypt, the threat is even more pronounced thanks to IS deployment in parts of Sinai and its collaboration with Hamas, the Palestinian chapter of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood – the mortal enemies of the current Egyptian leadership.

In Jordan and Saudi Arabia, Islamic State threatens the regimes from within, because in both countries there is extensive sympathy for the group among various sectors in the population. Even if the coalition of nations currently working to combat IS manages to dramatically diminish the areas under its control in Iraq and Syria, the ideology propagated by the group will still pose a very palpable threat to the Sunni states. Moreover, the coalition is having trouble maintaining its momentum against IS following a string of important victories.

The third factor stems from the general sense that the US has abandoned its allies in their time of need, with the object of scaling back its involvement in the region. In Egypt, this feeling is founded on America’s abandonment of deposed President Hosni Mubarak and its consequent appearance of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. The countries in the region were very disappointed with the conduct of the US toward both Mubarak and Syrian President Bashar Assad, who continues to massacre Sunnis uninhibited.

In Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf, the frustration stems from the fact that they view the landmark agreement between the West and Iran, spearheaded by the US, as an American capitulation. They realize that not only is the US no longer on their side in the fight against Iran, but the US expects them to make concessions to Iran. It has become clear to the Sunni states, which once viewed the US as a superpower whose mere existence was enough to stop any threat they faced, that things have profoundly changed.

Even if the U.S. is still a superpower, it has lost the will to use its power in the Middle East. Furthermore, when it does exercise its power, as in its leading of the anti-IS coalition, it takes action sparingly and extremely cautiously. And now, the US is compromising with its adversaries, as indicated by the weak American response to Russia’s increasing involvement in Syria.

These countries are looking for someone to help them at this time of need. Israel is the only country in the area whose stability is not in question. It is a strong country, both economically and militarily, and it has the ability and willingness to defend its essential interests. This is the foundation for the blossoming relationships between Israel and these Sunni countries – classic status-quo countries in an ever-shifting region that are looking for an anchor with which to stabilize themselves.

Israel can serve as this anchor. It is a marriage of convenience, not of love, but it is one of increasing importance. Cooperation is key to truly enhancing these relationships, as I was told by a Saudi prince who shared a stage with me at a conference in Washington recently. “The combination of Israeli money and Arab talent can have a positive impact on any region,” he said jokingly. But behind this line there was a great truth. Israel can provide these countries with precisely what they lack: security, technology and enormous improvements in the areas of water, agriculture and health.

However, a serious collaboration – a public, unhindered cooperation – between Israel and these Arab states requires a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Not because this issue is dear to the hearts of the Sunni leaders, but because without it, these leaders would lose the support of the street, which is imperative if the relationship is to go public.

Sadly, the Palestinians are in no rush to advance a peace agreement or their relations with Israel. On the contrary: their recognition that they are the key to enhancing Israel’s ties with the nations of the region only makes them think more highly of themselves and prompts them to ratchet up their demands.

The only way to overcome this hurdle is to change the order of the steps. First, build a relationship that will serve as an inclusive umbrella for Israelis and Sunni Arabs, and then lead the Palestinians into it to engage in peace negotiations.

Unlike in the past, the enhancement of relations is now no less important to the Sunnis than it is to the Israelis. But the Palestinian obstacle is in the way. It is not clear whether the Arab nations will be able to overcome this obstacle, despite their interest. Israel needs to think about ways it can help them overcome it, as this could be a historic opportunity and it would be a shame to squander it.

Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror is the Anne and Greg Rosshandler Senior Fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. He is also a distinguished fellow at JINSA’s Gemunder Center for Defense and Strategy. He was a former National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister, Military Secretary to the Defense Minister, and Director of the Research Division in Military Intelligence.


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MIN-RU-EU:160807:(07-AUG-16):Iran, Russia map out rival to Suez Canal

PressTV 07-Aug-16


The International North-South Transport Corridor, shown in bold green dots, will significantly reduce costs and travel time.

The International North-South Transport Corridor, shown in bold green dots, will significantly reduce costs and travel time.

A major project to foster trade connectivity through a less trodden path straddling a promising market is about to feature prominently in discussions when presidents of Iran, Russia and Azerbaijan meet in Baku on Monday.

The International North-South Transport Corridor (NSTC), a multi-model route to link India and the Middle East to the Caucasus, Central Asia and Europe, is being nurtured for significantly reducing costs and travel time and boosting trade.

“Our talks will focus on a flagship project – the International North–South Transport Corridor with a total length of 7,200 kilometers,” Russian President Vladimir Putin was quoted as saying on Friday.

“It aims to provide the best possible opportunities for transporting transit cargo from India, Iran, and the Persian Gulf states to Azerbaijan, the Russian Federation and further to northern and western Europe,” he said.

The NSTC concept was formalized by India, Iran and Russia in 2000 but it has not taken off in a big way yet. Western trade sanctions on Russia and Iran in recent years have provided a new impetus to put steam on the project.

Both Iran and Russia as well as Azerbaijan are seriously dependent on oil revenues which have sharply fallen due to the price collapse. The new transit route offers them a unique alternative to diversify their economy.

From left to right: Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev, Iran President Hassan Rouhani and Russian President Vladimir Putin attend the Caspian Sea Summit in Astrakhan, Russia on Sept. 29, 2014.

It also helps them as well as India and other regional countries reduce their dependence on traditional markets in the West where there is currently not much demand.

The corridor, instead, offers access to growing untapped markets in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

The ship, road and rail route connects India’s Mumbai to the Iranian port of Bander Abbas and further to Baku in Azerbaijan as well as Astrakhan, Moscow and St. Petersburg in Russia before stretching to northern Europe and Scandinavia.

Besides Iran, India and Russia, countries that are on board to integrate into the transit network include Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Turkey, Tajikistan, Oman, Syria and Bulgaria.

“We believe that this cooperation serves the interests of the peoples of Iran, Azerbaijan, and Russia and, of course, the interests of the entire region,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has said.

According to Zarif, the countries were discussing the “final details” of the project.

Dry runs of the route were conducted in 2014, from Mumbai to Baku and Astrakhan via Bandar Abbas. Results showed transport costs had been reduced by $2,500 per 15 tonnes of cargo.

For trade, India currently uses maritime transport to link with Russia. From St. Petersburg, the cargo has to sail around the entire western part of Europe and the Suez Canal which takes around 40 days to reach Mumbai.

According to the Russian Railways Logistics, the new route cuts the time just to 14 days and eliminates the need to pass through the Suez Canal, which is not only overloaded, but also very expensive.

The NSTC project also opens a window for alignment with Silk Road Economic Belt, a brainchild of Chinese President Xi Jinping to establish new trade and transport links with Central Asia and Europe.

China says the plan would boost growth and improve infrastructure to fulfill an “Asia-Pacific dream.” Observers also see it as part of Beijing’s ambitions to redraw the geopolitical map of Asia, which have ruffled feathers in the US.

The Silk Road Economic Belt vision also provides Beijing a counterbalance to Washington’s “pivot to Asia” strategy of focusing more military and other assets on the region.

For Iran, both the NSTC and Silk Road projects are a boost to the country’s “Look East” policy.

In an interview with Azerbaijan’s state news agency Azertac on Friday, Putin expressed hope that a free trade zone can be established soon between Iran and the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union.

“Iran is Russia’s longtime partner. We believe that bilateral relations will benefit from the reduction of tensions around Iran following the comprehensive agreement on the Iranian nuclear program,” Putin said.

The Russian leader said trade with Iran had grown by 70 percent to $855 million over the first five months of 2016. Overall trade between the two countries now stands at about $1.6 billion.

Russia’s government said last year it had agreed joint projects with Iran worth $40 billion.


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IS:160802:(07-AUG-16):A Peek into the Top Secret Unit

Israeli Air Force 02-Aug-16


The EW (Electronic Warfare) Division has received new and advanced technological systems that promise optimal guarding of IAF aircraft. We went out to check what has changed, who operate the systems and how the division’ servicemen and women affect the aerial campaign

Over the years, many mystical and magical properties have been tied to crows. Over the past few years, the bird has received yet another attribution – as the international symbol of attacks that happen under the radar – Electronic Warfare. The IDF’s “Crow” units might be scattered all over the country, but there is only one that operates in the air – the “Celestial Crows”, that is positioned in Tel-Nof AFB.

The unit’s reserve and mandatory service personnel recently held a wide scale, intensive training exercise in Israeli skies. The exercise simulated the combat image in the current battlefield, which is full of aerial threats and the operational challenges that they are expected to face in the next campaign in the northern theatre. We joined the special day in order to get a closer look at their missions and understand how such a small and secretive unit can affect an entire campaign.

Everyone Working Together

The “Celestial Crows” Unit’s main mission is to help IAF aircraft evade enemy discovery systems, such as radar, on their way to the point in which they are able to perform their mission, so almost every operational mission performed by IAF aircraft is escorted by the unit’s EW packages.

In the exercise, that simulated combat against Lebanon, all of the aerial platforms on which the unit performs its mission, such as the “Karnaf” (Hercules C-130) and the “Yas’ur” (CH-53), participated in the exercise. “In the exercise, we measured our cooperative abilities with all of the other elements in the helicopter while we operate”, explained Ssgt. Ofer, who operates EW systems hosted on the helicopter. “During the flight, we are required to optimally divide our attention in order to perform our mission efficiently. There are a number of elements talking to us at the same time, like the aircrew sitting in the cockpit, ATC and other EW Operators in other flight platforms next to us”.

The significant role of the EW Division in the battlefield has been proved many times before in different operations. “We rehearsed situations that simulated war as closely as possible”, shared Lt. Col. (Res’) N’, who has served in the unit for over four decades and has seen all of the ups and downs of it. “The uniqueness of this kind of exercise is that all of the operators from all of the platforms debrief together, in order to be readier for the next operation”.

In the last six months, the unit has been operationally deployed many times, a precedent in comparison with the past. Simultaneously with the operational activity, the unit’s personnel have been improving their ability to perform under fire and in continuous warfare and have fitted the training in the EW Academy to the new systems. “The last six months were not routine for the unit, not in development, not in renewal and not in activity”, said Brig. Gen. Uri Zeipert, Tel-Nof AFB Commander, to the unit’s personnel at the exercises commencement. “Your connection to the mission is of great significance”.


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