Thursday, 30 June 2016

How Britain Could Exit ‘Brexit’

The New York Times

By Max Fisher

In the days since Britons voted to leave the European Union, the so-called “Brexit” referendum has created such severe turmoil that public attention is increasingly focused on an extreme option: Can they get out of it?

Prime Minister David Cameron said on Monday that he considered the referendum binding and that “the process of implementing the decision in the best possible way must now begin.” But he also said he would leave that process to his successor, after his expected resignation in October. This opens a window of at least four months during which time Britain could decide not to proceed, and avoid consequences from Europe.

If the next prime minister does trigger the departure process, Britain then has two years to negotiate the terms of its leaving. While European Union rules say that membership is revoked automatically at the end of that period, Britain could theoretically use that time to negotiate an alternative plan.

Option No. 1:

Simply don’t do it

The referendum is not legally binding. The process of leaving does not begin until the prime minister officially invokes Article 50 of the European Union’s governing treaty. So he or she could, in theory, carry on as if the vote had never happened.

Mr. Cameron has already caused a delay by refusing to invoke Article 50 himself. Of his two most likely possible successors in the Conservative Party, Theresa May opposes leaving the union and Boris Johnson, a prime Brexit proponent, is already backpedaling, pledging on Monday that changes “will not come in any great rush.”

Most members of Parliament opposed leaving the union, and might support a prime minister who refused to invoke Article 50. But that would be akin to overruling the will of 17.4 million Britons who voted to leave, an extreme step in a country that prides itself on democratic values.

It would also risk inflaming the underlying political forces that led to the “Leave” victory: rising populist anger, distrust of seemingly unaccountable government institutions and a belief that the system is rigged.

It is difficult to predict how pro-Brexit voters would respond if their government ignored the referendum’s result, but such a move risks empowering more extreme voices. British politics, already in tremendous turmoil, would face an uncertain future, as would the lawmakers who will be up for re-election.

Option No. 2:

A Scottish veto

The House of Lords said in an April report that any decision to exit the European Union would have to be approved by the Parliaments of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Welsh voters supported Brexit, and Northern Ireland’s Parliament is led by a party that favors leaving the union. But Scottish voters overwhelmingly opposed leaving, and so does the governing Scottish National Party, which has pledged to take any available measures to remain in the bloc.

Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister of Scotland, has suggested that her Parliament could withhold consent, sparking a constitutional crisis.

That, in turn, could be an opportunity for leaders wishing to avoid a Brexit. The next prime minister could tell voters that he or she would like to carry out their will, but that leaving Europe is impossible without Scottish approval.

This offers at least a hint more political legitimacy than simply disregarding the referendum.

But if Britain’s next prime minister is intent on following through with Brexit, the British Parliament could repeal the law that gives Scotland veto power. Ms. Sturgeon would probably respond by seeking a new referendum on Scottish independence — something she has already threatened to do if Britain leaves the union.

Option No. 3: A do-over

In 1992, Danish voters narrowly rejected a referendum on joining one of the treaties that laid the European Union’s foundations. Eleven months later, after a flurry of diplomacy, Denmark held a second referendum, which voters approved.

Similar scenarios unfolded in 2001 — and again in 2008 — when Irish voters rejected European Union treaties before embracing them in second referendums in subsequent years.

Could British voters reverse themselves as well? By Monday, four days after the Brexit vote, an online petition calling for a do-over had 3.8 million signatures.

But there is little reason to believe that a second referendum, were it held today, would yield a different result. While a handful of Britons have said on social media that they regretted their vote to leave the union, polling suggests that they are a tiny minority. A survey by ComRes, taken on Saturday, found that only 1 percent of “Leave” voters were unhappy with the results. (Brexit won by four percentage points, 52 to 48.)

British leaders could justify a second cut at the question by securing special concessions from the European Union, like allowing Britain to put a cap on immigration. This approach was how Danish and Irish leaders persuaded their voters to approve the referendums they had previously rejected.

Mr. Johnson, who said on Monday that Britain was “part of Europe and always will be,” hinted before the vote that he might pursue this strategy. “There is only one way to get the change we need, and that is to vote to go,” he wrote in a March op-ed in The Telegraph. “All E.U. history shows that they only really listen to a population when it says No.”

A second vote would allow politicians to claim that they had followed the will of the voters and stood up to the European Union, avoiding both populist outrage and the economic and diplomatic fallout of a British exit.

European leaders, however, may not be eager to go along. If any member state can extract special concessions by threatening to leave, it undermines the union’s ability to make Europe-wide policies. It also gives other states an incentive to play chicken with exit referendums, a dangerous game that could easily end in disaster.

There is also a risk that British voters would reject the second referendum as well. If that happened, there would truly be no going back.

Option No. 4:

An exit in name only

Article 50 gives an exiting country two years to negotiate terms for its relationship with the union, on issues like trade and migration.

What if Britain struck a series of deals that largely preserved the status quo, only without formal European Union membership?

This, too, seems to be something Mr. Johnson is pondering. In an op-ed in The Telegraph on Sunday, he promised that Britain would maintain free trade and free movement deals with Europe.

As Rafael Behr, a columnist for The Guardian, joked on Twitter: “Otherwise known as ‘membership of the European Union.’ ”

One model is Norway, which is not a European Union member but subscribes to its common market and open borders.

“Leave” campaigners emphasized two goals: reducing migration and extracting Britain from European bureaucracy. While a Norway-style arrangement could, in theory, limit migration, it would worsen British subjugation to European policy makers.

If Britain chose this path, it “would have no vote and no presence when crucial decisions that affect the daily lives of its citizens are made,” Norway’s former foreign minister, Espen Barth Eide, warned last year.

Such a deal would also probably require Britain to continue paying membership fees, which “Leave” campaigners promised to win back.

How Britain Could Exit ‘Brexit’

E-bracelets to Guide Pilgrims through This Haj Season

Jeddah- The Saudi Ministry of Haj and Umrah announced that as of this year’s Haj season, pilgrims will be required to use electronic identification bracelets as part of a safety measure, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

With the campaign launched last week, retail shops selling the electronic bracelet started logging all personal identification information of pilgrims. The information saved includes as to where the visitor had entered the Kingdom, the visitor’s visa number, passport number and address.

During last week’s premiere exhibit of the portable piece, Eisa Mohammad Rawas, undersecretary for Umrah affairs at the ministry, said the new device would allow a better delivered service by government and private sector bodies including for those who are lost, elderly and do not speak Arabic.

It is water-resistant, connected to GPS, and contains personal and medical information, helping authorities provide care and identify people.

SPA said the devices will also notify those who wear them on timings of prayers and a multi-lingual help desk to guide especially non-Arabic speaking pilgrims around the various rituals of the annual Islamic event.

Saudi Arabia receives during the annual pilgrimage to Makkah over two million Muslims coming from all around the world.

Nearly a thousand new surveillance cameras were installed this month at Makkah’s Grand Mosque which are directly connected to control rooms staffed by special forces monitoring pilgrim movements for the event scheduled for August, Haj officials have said.

Undersecretary Rawas said the ministry consulted with travel agents and Haj and Umrah companies here and abroad before designing the bracelets. The information can be accessed using a smartphone by employees of the ministry, and security and services bodies.

E-bracelets to Guide Pilgrims through This Haj Season

Film Studio Lionsgate to Buy Starz for $4.4 Billion

Lions Gate Entertainment Corp, the film studio behind the Hunger Games movies, announced on Thursday that it would buy premium television network Starz for $4.4 billion in cash and stock, the deal unites the biggest mini-major studio in the country with the second biggest cable network on television.

Both companies held on and off talks for some time. The long-anticipated deal will help diversify Lionsgate’s business and make its financials less dependent on whether it can deliver a hit movie, according to Jefferies analyst John Janedis.

Lionsgate Chief Executive Jon Feltheimer said on a conference call that the deal creates a “global content powerhouse that invests nearly $2 billion a year in new content.”

Starz, which competes with HBO and Showtime, also develops original programming such as the fantasy series “Outlander.”

Lionsgate’s bet on a cable network comes with risks, however, as more viewers watch television online and buy fewer cable subscriptions.

“It also increases exposure to the premium cable network business, which faces challenges of its own in a more fragmented media landscape,” Janedis said.

Lionsgate will pay $32.70 per share for Starz, representing a premium of nearly 16 percent to Starz’s closing price Wednesday. Shares of Lionsgate fell 3 percent at $20.32, while Starz shares were up 7.6 percent at $30.40.

Lionsgate, which is headquartered in Santa Monica, California and incorporated in Vancouver, Canada expects the deal to add to earnings per share and to close by the end of 2016.

The combined company will have two influential, large shareholders with big voting stakes. MHR Fund Management LCC, run by Lionsgate Chairman Mark Rachesky, will remain the biggest shareholder while Liberty Media’s entities, owned by Malone, will be the second largest shareholder.

Lionsgate and Malone own shares in Starz, while Malone is also a Lionsgate shareholder who sits on its board. To avoid conflicts of interest, a special committee at Starz was formed to evaluate the offer and Malone was recused from the Lionsgate board, according to a person familiar with the deal.

PJT Partners was the lead adviser to Lionsgate, along with J.P. Morgan, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse.

Starz was advised by LionTree and the Raine Group. The legal advisers on the deal were Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz and Dentons for Lionsgate and Baker Botts and Weil, Gotshal & Manges for Starz.

Film Studio Lionsgate to Buy Starz for $4.4 Billion

Jeh Johnson: Attack Bore the 'Hallmark' ISIS

One U.S. citizen reportedly suffered minor injuries in the Istanbul airport attack this week which killed until this moment 44 people and injured 256, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said on Thursday.

Johnson said Tuesday’s attack bore the “hallmark” of terrorist group ISIS and that Americans should expect to see more state and federal law enforcement officials at airports, train stations and other transit hubs around the country over the July Fourth holiday weekend.

“We will not shortcut aviation security in response to increased travel volume and longer wait times,” Johnson told the committee.

Johnson also said he has seen foreign militant groups disseminate literature about ways to obtain guns easily under U.S. laws, such as the “gun show loophole,” this week.

He said he supported “sensible” legislative proposals to tighten gun control such as universal background checks.

“Those determined to commit terrorist attacks on our homeland are taking advantage” of the United States’ comparatively light gun controls, he told the committee.

“So I think it’s a matter of homeland security that we address this.”

Johnson also weighed in on the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to block President Barack Obama’s plan to spare millions of illegal immigrants from deportation.

“We’re disappointed in the court decision, and at some point, it’s going to be up to Congress to wrestle with this issue. We have to account for these people. They’re here and they’re not going away,” he told the committee.

Lawmakers from both parties grilled Johnson over violent crimes carried out by illegal immigrants in the United States, which committee Chairman Charles Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, said were the result of “lax immigration enforcement” and sanctuary-granting policies.

Johnson was also criticized for being too aggressive in deporting immigrants by protesters from United We Dream, an immigrant advocacy organization.

Jeh Johnson: Attack Bore the 'Hallmark' ISIS

Hadhramaut Governor: Missiles Programmed to Strike Mukalla Airport

Jeddah- Brig.Gen. Ahmed Saed bin Breek, Governor of Yemen’s largest governorate of Hadhramaut Governorate on Wednesday revealed that authorities have found missiles of unknown origins, describing them as “foreign”. The governor gave no further details on the alien characteristics of the armaments. Moreover, the missiles were directed to attack ports and airports in capital city of the Hadhramaut coastal region in Yemen, Mukalla.

The governor also confirmed that security bodies have discovered a series of mine fields planted and ready for detonation in the Yemeni Ashihr, also another southern town in Hadhramaut. The official explained that the fields were set up in professional, intricate ways.

On the other hand, security authorities in the second military zone in Mukalla said that a team of women is being given official training to inspect suspicious vehicles with female passengers. Once training is completed the team will join the official security forces in Yemen, especially those assigned to coastal towns of Hadhramaut.

Moreover, the recent terrorist attacks staged against the town of Mukalla were considered a mere retaliation to the harsh defeat suffered by the terrorists earlier when they lost hold of the city.

Governor Breek urged all components of the Yemeni community to stand together forming a more consolidate stance which would bring about victory against those ripping Yemen apart.

Other security officials asserted that the Yemeni governorate of Hadhramaut will remain a free patriotic territory, regardless of the incessant attempts of turning it into an insurgency hub. They said that all terrorists wishing Hadhramaut ill will be fought, and that security and stability will be restored.

Hadhramaut Governor: Missiles Programmed to Strike Mukalla Airport

Kurdish Commander Uncovers Details to Iran’s Support for ISIS

Irbil- An opposition Kurdish-Iranian commander revealed details on the Iranian administration backing terrorist organizations in the region, namely ISIS. Iranian forces have been training ISIS militants on national grounds first then deploying them to ISIS-held territories in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Egypt.

ISIS has been receiving artillery support from Iran, which is being delivered either by airdrop or by land.

Moreover, the commander uncovered details on the Fallujah campaign advance in Iraq that was only made possible after Iranian forces negotiated an agreement with the self-declared caliphate to make way for Iraqi and Iranian forces to enter.

The commander of the military wing of the Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK) in Iran, Hossein Yazdan Banna, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, warned that Iran will be cooking up news on ISIS attempting to stage terrorist attacks in Iran as to paint itself a victim’s image, deceiving the public’s opinion.

Recently, Iranian security and military officials have circulated news on thwarting an ISIS plot set to target 50 sites in Iran, claiming to arrest ten conspirers and giving Banna’s argument the solid proof it needed.

Banna added that the allegedly ISIS terrorists arrested by Iranian authorities are merely innocent citizens who have nothing to do with any terrorist group whatsoever.

PAK commander Banna added that those detained have been arrested for their affiliation to the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons, a PAK branch. Over the past period, the Falcons were able to stage many attacks against IRGC camps used to train terrorists, as those camps are also transfer hubs for trained recruits to join ISIS ranks in Iraq.

Naming a number of the training camps in Iran, Banna mentioned Imam Ali camp located in Tehran, Qazanjy camp located in Kermanshah, Imam Sadeq camp located in Qom, Hezbollah camp located in Varamin and Amir al-Mu’minin camp located in the Elam province.

Banna pointed out that these camps do not only offer military training but also indoctrinate the recruits into a specific ideology and political orientation. Among the institutes responsible of for altering recruits’ mindsets are Qom’s International Center of Islamic Sciences and the International Institution on Bringing Together Islamic Sects.

The International Institution on Brining Islamic Sects together is an Iranian organization set to lure in Sunni Muslims into Iran. The institution is mainly run by the Quds Force, an IRGC fundamentalist division for special operations.

Kurdish Commander Uncovers Details to Iran’s Support for ISIS

Palestine: Hamas Leaders Meet Baath Party, ‘Hezbollah’ Officials

Riyadh- Palestinian sources revealed to Asharq Al Awsat newspaper that three Hamas leaders have been spending relentless effort to restore the organization’s relationship with Iran.

Hamas had undergone disputes with Iran concerning standpoints taken on the Syria war. The Palestinian organization, unlike Iran, had widely supported the Syrian revolution against Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.

Sources revealed that Palestinian leader of Hamas’ military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Marwan Issa along with other military leaders like, Yehya al-Sinwar, Mahmoud al-Zahar, have sustained contact with Iran over the past period.

The three commanders had uninterruptedly received financial and military aid from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), exceeding 45 million dollars annually- noting that prior to dispute rising, Hamas’ military division received far more significant financial and military aid in Iran.

Sources revealed that internal friction strikes the Hamas organization with the group’s military division often being in disagreement with its political administration. The military wing looks forward to restoring connections with Iran and delivering them into a stronger state, guaranteeing the constant flow of funds.

On the other hand, Hamas’ political elite rely further on bolstering ties with Arab communities, being one itself. The Arab world cannot come to accept Hamas carrying on affiliation with Iran, after the latter’s militias and allies committing mass genocides against the people of Syria.

Moreover, should Hamas extend their tolerance towards crimes committed or backed by the Iranian regime; they would lose support of a large portion of the Muslim Arab world.

Hamas’ political entity sees that keeping the Turkey-Qatar custody plan over the organization is the best serving option.

In context, sources mentioned that Hamas party allies have sent delegates to Damascus last month among which was Palestinian Popular Resistance Movement Secretary General Abu Qassem Daghmash.

Daghmash had reportedly met with Secretary General of the Syrian Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party. He also visited Lebanon meeting with General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim—Ibrahim is known to hold close ties with the so-called “Hezbollah” party, and has played a major role in trying to clean up the group’s recent situation with Lebanon’s banks to reach an understanding post the U.S.-ordered measures.

The Hamas-Iran relationship was established three years post Hamas’ establishment, and was first conceived at the Tehran First Palestinian Intifada Support Conference in 1990. A year later, Iran opened an official bureau for the organization and appointed Imad Alalami as party representative in Iran.

Iran bolstered its ties with Hamas only after its relationship with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) subdued.

After Israel sent over 400 Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and Hamas leaders to exile in 1992, most of them moved to south of Lebanon. The leaders’ presence in Lebanon served as an extremely fertile ground for the organization to further nurture its ties with the IRGC, and establish new ties with its Lebanon proxy “Hezbollah.”

IRGC training of militants during their stay in Lebanon had played in favor of the Palestinian party restoring control over the Gaza Strip.

Analysts believe that the Iran, Syria and affiliated militias comprising Hamas, PIJ and “Hezbollah” forged alliance, anchored in Damascus, are the main orchestrator of Palestine’s regional and international orientation and agenda.

Palestine: Hamas Leaders Meet Baath Party, ‘Hezbollah’ Officials

Iran is not a Role Model: Khamanei Assistant

London-The assistant of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday that the Iranian regime has regressed over the past 37 years, adding that it could no longer pretend to be a role model to other countries.

Ali Akbar Natiq Nouri, who also serves as head of the Supreme Leader’s Special Inspection Office, accused Iran’s judicial authority of corruption, questioning whether the Judiciary was abiding by the principles of Islam.

Iran’s Jamaran news website quoted Nouri as saying that statistics published by the Iranian government on addiction, homelessness and bribery have been used by “enemies” to criticize the regime.

Nouri’s comments were made following corruption reports that spread in the country earlier in June.

The corruption scandal was rocked by a series of exposed summaries of bank accounts belonging to high-ranking officials being circulated online. Many senior executive officials employed at the institution responsible for managing state insurance and finances were being paid fifty times over the minimum wage set for government employees.

The revelations, which have sparked widespread anger, continued to dominate front pages across the country, and even led to the resignation of the head of the state insurance regulator, Mohammad Ebrahim Amin.

For his part, the head of Iran’s judicial branch, Sadeq Larijani, replied to Nouri’s comments, saying that those who criticize the regime after 37 years had been regime officials and suddenly took an opposition role. Larijani was implicitly pointing at Nouri, who served as parliament speaker from 1992 until 2000.

Nouri’s remarks came at a time when Iranian officials have been reiterating their country’s commitment to become a unique role model that other countries should follow.

This is the second warning made by an Iranian official over Iran’s regime regression this year. In August 2015, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Mohammed Ali Jaafari said that the Iranian regime did not achieve any progress in its third decade and warned against the collapse of the country’s moral and cultural standards.

During a television interview earlier this month, Larijani admitted the removal of 50 judges in 2015 for their involvement in corruption cases.

Last week, Ali Khamenei commented on the exorbitant salary scandal, saying that the case had been overstated. He added that the wave of criticism was part of a campaign on the Iranian regime’s principles.

Khamenei was addressing Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during an Iftar banquet.

For its part, the IRGC rejected claims that its members were receiving very high salaries. IRGC spokesperson Ramadan Sherif expressed his concern over criticism campaigns launched against the Iranian regime.

It is noteworthy that the majority of Iranian officials who commented on the exorbitant salary scandal said they were worried about the “regime’s reputation.”

Iran is not a Role Model: Khamanei Assistant

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Russia Harassing U.S. Diplomats all over Europe

The Washington Post

By Josh Rogin

Russian intelligence and security services have been waging a campaign of harassment and intimidation against U.S. diplomats, embassy staff and their families in Moscow and several other European capitals that has rattled ambassadors and prompted Secretary of State John Kerry to ask Vladimir Putin to put a stop to it.

At a recent meeting of U.S. ambassadors from Russia and Europe in Washington, U.S. ambassadors to several European countries complained that Russian intelligence officials were constantly perpetrating acts of harassment against their diplomatic staff that ranged from the weird to the downright scary. Some of the intimidation has been routine: following diplomats or their family members, showing up at their social events uninvited or paying reporters to write negative stories about them.

But many of the recent acts of intimidation by Russian security services have crossed the line into apparent criminality. In a series of secret memos sent back to Washington, described to me by several current and former U.S. officials who have written or read them, diplomats reported that Russian intruders had broken into their homes late at night, only to rearrange the furniture or turn on all the lights and televisions, and then leave. One diplomat reported that an intruder had defecated on his living room carpet.

In Moscow, where the harassment is most pervasive, diplomats reported slashed tires and regular harassment by traffic police. Former ambassador Michael McFaul was hounded by government-paid protesters, and intelligence personnel followed his children to school. The harassment is not new; in the first term of the Obama administration, Russian intelligence personnel broke into the house of the U.S. defense attache in Moscow and killed his dog, according to multiple former officials who read the intelligence reports.

But since the 2014 Russian intervention in Ukraine, which prompted a wide range of U.S. sanctions against Russian officials and businesses close to Putin, harassment and surveillance of U.S. diplomatic staff in Moscow by security personnel and traffic police have increased significantly, State Department press secretary John Kirby confirmed to me.

“Since the return of Putin, Russia has been engaged in an increasingly aggressive gray war across Europe. Now it’s in retaliation for Western sanctions because of Ukraine. The widely reported harassment is another front in the gray war,” said Norm Eisen, U.S. ambassador the Czech Republic from 2011 to 2014. “They are hitting American diplomats literally where they live.”

The State Department has taken several measures in response to the increased level of nefarious activity by the Russian government. All U.S. diplomats headed for Europe now receive increased training on how to handle Russian harassment, and the European affairs bureau run by Assistant Secretary Victoria Nuland has set up regular interagency meetings on tracking and responding to the incidents.

McFaul told me he and his family were regularly followed and the Russian intelligence services wanted his family to know they were being watched. Other embassy officials also suffered routine harassment that increased significantly after the Ukraine-related sanctions. Those diplomats who were trying to report on Russian activities faced the worst of it.

“It was part of a way to put pressure on government officials who were trying to do their reporting jobs. It definitely escalated when I was there. After the invasion of Ukraine, it got much, much worse,” McFaul said. “We were feeling embattled out there in the embassy.”

There was a debate inside the Obama administration about how to respond, and ultimately President Barack Obama made the decision not to respond with similar measures against Russian diplomats, McFaul said.

A spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Washington sent me a long statement both tacitly admitting to the harassment and defending it as a response to what he called U.S. provocations and mistreatment of Russian diplomats in the United States.

“The deterioration of U.S.-Russia relations, which was not caused by us, but rather by the current Administrations’ policy of sanctions and attempts to isolate Russian, had a negative affect on the functioning of diplomatic missions, both in U.S. and Russia,” the spokesman said. “In diplomatic practice there is always the principle of reciprocity and, indeed, for the last couple of years our diplomatic staff in the United States has been facing certain problems. The Russian side has never acted proactively to negatively affect U.S. diplomats in any way.”

Evelyn Farkas, who served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia until last year, said that there is no equivalence between whatever restrictions Russian diplomats are subjected to in the United States and the harassment and intimation that U.S. diplomats suffer at the hands of the Russian security services. The fact that the Russian government stands accused of murdering prominent diplomats and defectors in European countries adds a level of fear for Russia’s targets.

“When the Russian government singles people out for this kind of intimidation, going from intimidation to harassment to something worse is not inconceivable,” Farkas said.

Kirby told me that the State Department takes the safety and well-being of American diplomatic and consular personnel abroad and their accompanying family members extremely seriously. “We have therefore repeatedly raised our concerns about harassment of our diplomatic and consular staff with the Russians, including at the highest levels,” he said.

Kerry raised the issue directly with Putin during his visit to Moscow in March. Putin made no promises about ending the harassment, which continued after Kerry returned to Washington. The U.S. ambassadors to Europe are asking the State Department to do more.

Leading members of Congress who are involved in diplomacy with Europe see the lack of a more robust U.S. response as part of an effort by the Obama administration to project a veneer of positive U.S.-Russian relations that doesn’t really exist.

“The problem is there have been no consequences for Russia,” said Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), who serves as president of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. “The administration continues to pursue a false narrative that Russia can be our partner. They clearly don’t want to be our partner, they’ve identified us as an adversary, and we need to prepare for that type of relationship.”

Russia Harassing U.S. Diplomats all over Europe

Germany Enhances Armament for Bigger European Military Missions Post-Brexit

Cologne, Brussels-Hans-Peter Bartels, the parliamentary commissioner for the Armed Forces, said that Germany will handle a bigger responsibility in European military activity following the British decision to exit the European Union.

During an interview with Berliner Morgenpost newspaper, Bartels said that his country will have more military commitments following Brexit.

The statement of Bartels, member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), came after the announcement of Chancellor Angela Merkel on the German Army Day on June 11 about an increase in military spending, which will exceed 1.2 percent of the Gross Domestic Product for the first time in 25 years. Merkel said she will work on fulfilling NATO’s ambitions in raising the military spending of the organization’s member states to 2% of the Gross Domestic Product.

Merkel said that the decision came as a result of the new terrorist threats and the concerns among eastern European countries from the Russian expansion. She added that Germany will never accept Russia’s control on Crimea and its policy that aims to disturb the stability in eastern Ukraine.

The expert in military affairs in the Bundestag sees that the world is witnessing more American-British cooperation and military convergence, and expected the UK to direct its security policies toward the United States. He also expected the UK to become Europe’s partner in the security policy within a few years.

Tobias Lindner, expert of defense affairs in the Green Party agreed with Bartles, and anticipated the Brexit to increase Germany’s military burdens in the EU. He also expected the Union to claim more contribution in its military missions from Germany. Yet, Lindner said that these developments will negatively impact the disarmament policy. He also said that the EU’s military mission will persist with the Brexit, along with the biggest responsibility on Germany.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini has also expressed concerns over the deterioration of European security policy following the British decision to leave the Union. During an interview with Der Spiegel magazine, Mogherini said that the Brexit may impose some alterations on the European Security and Defense Policy and its paper work, which will be proposed soon on the EU. The Head of the European diplomacy expected cooperation in the military field between the Union’s countries to become the “standard” in the future.

Gernot Erler, special coordinator for Russian policy in the German Parliament has criticized Merkel’s announcement on the armament increase against the Russian Federation. Erler has also warned against the consequences of a military conflict with Russia.

Apparently, many members from the Social Democratic Party of Germany’s, which is Merkel’s partner in the government, refuse an escalation with Moscow. Among them is Minister of Foreign Affairs Frank-Walter Steinmeier who criticized the recent NATO maneuvers on the borders with Russia.

Steinmeier sees that Europe should ease the tension, considering that a symbolic military show will not attract new members to the Atlantic alliance.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary general, participated in the summit of the EU leaders, which kicked off in Brussels on Tuesday. According to Donald Tusk, EU Council President, the summit discussed the cooperation and the joint work between the European Union and the NATO alliance.

Days before the inking of a historic agreement between NATO’s government and the EU to confront the threats of Russia and the terrorism in the Middle East, Officials say that Brexit threatens the new defense strategy in Europe. NATO has previously announced that the Brexit will not affect the UK’s position in the alliance, which pushed many observers to ask about the type of future cooperation between Europe and the United Kingdom in the NATO following the referendum.

The European Union and the United States intend to take advantage of two separate summits to be held by the Union and the NATO in the coming days to push for reforms in the two institutions, aiming to reduce the European dependence on Washington.

A senior Western defense official, who participates in the cooperation between the two institutions, said that things will become more difficult, as NATO planned to link itself to a strong European Union, and not to be an option of a split weak bloc.

An expert and political analyst in the Commission’s headquarters in Brussels said that following the British referendum, the partnership’s balances through the Atlantic alliance will change, and both European and American parties will work on restructuring their relations.

Accordingly, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has paid a sudden visit to Brussels, where he held discussions in the EU and the NATO’s headquarters. Kerry said that his country can cooperate with Europe to cope with the referendum’s consequences. He also stressed the importance of setting a roadmap for the joint work, along with maintaining special relations with the United Kingdom.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary general, said that with Brexit, the European Union has lost a powerful contributor to European military missions. He expected the EU to become more dependent on the German and the French contributions.

Yet, the UK is concerned. British Defense Minister Michael Fallon has told Reuters that his country doesn’t want to see its forces under Brussels’ control.

Germany Enhances Armament for Bigger European Military Missions Post-Brexit

U.S. Rallying Business for Refugees, Obama Sets Sights on Doubling Global Resettlement

The White House will rally businesses to give jobs to refugees on Thursday. The move comes ahead of a September summit where U.S. President Barack Obama will urge world leaders to boost humanitarian funds by a third and double the number of refugees being resettled.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, said on Wednesday that the Obama summit during the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations would also aim to get one million refugee children into schools and seek that one million more refugees gain access to legal work in neighboring countries they fled to.

“The summit is by no means a panacea; even if we hit every target, our response will still not match the scale of the crisis,” Power told the United States Institute of Peace, adding that it would boost the number of countries trying to help.

“We need businesses, big and small, to do more too; which is why tomorrow, the White House is launching a private sector call to action, which will rally companies to do their part, from providing jobs to donating services to refugees,” Power said.

The United Nations refugee agency said last week that a record 65.3 million people were uprooted worldwide last year, many of them fleeing wars only to face walls, tougher laws and racial intolerance as they reach borders.

Power said the United Nations estimates that around 1.2 million refugees globally need to be resettled elsewhere because they are unsafe or their

“While we often overstate the security threats and economic costs of resettling more refugees, we routinely understate the likely consequences of failing to muster the global response that is needed,” Power said.

She said that terrorist groups like ISIS, al Qaeda and Boko Haram stood to benefit from a failed response to the refugee crisis as a central part to their narrative on the West being at war with Islam.

She said the United States intended to meet its goal of taking in 10,000 Syrian refugees, out of a total 85,000 refugees, this year and slammed calls by some Americans to halt the refugee program following attacks in Paris and Orlando. “Ignorance and prejudice make for bad advisors,” Power said.

U.S. Rallying Business for Refugees, Obama Sets Sights on Doubling Global Resettlement

El-Sisi Praises Elaraby’s Efforts to Support Arab Relations at the End of His Tenure

The Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi met the Secretary General of the Arab League Dr Nabil Elaraby yesterday to mark the end of his term as Secretary-General of the League. During the meeting, the Egyptian president expressed his appreciation for the sincere efforts made by Elaraby during his tenure as the Secretary-General of the Arab League during a historic period that he described as “difficult and unprecedented”. He added that during this period, Arab states faced, and still face serious challenges that affect their entities, national institutions and the capabilities of their people.

President Sisi praised Elaraby for devoting his time, effort and legal and diplomatic experience to serving Arab issues and defending the interests of Arab countries and their peoples. El-Sisi also praised Elaraby’s ability to develop the Arab League and its operational mechanisms, making it more reflective of the hopes and aspirations of its member states’ peoples and governments in order to support the relationships between Arab countries.

El-Sisi wished Dr Elaraby every success and said that he hoped that Elaraby would continue to contribute to various fields that have been enriched by his profuse knowledge.

El-Sisi Praises Elaraby’s Efforts to Support Arab Relations at the End of His Tenure

Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi Burns Down Homes in Fallujah

The Iraqi government continues to ignore warnings made by the international community and human rights groups about the involvement of Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi militia in the battle to liberate Fallujah from ISIS. Warnings about extremist groups exploiting the battle for sectarian purposes have also been ignored.

Many Iraqi parties are becoming increasingly exasperated with the torture and arrest of residents of Fallujah under the pretence that they are members of ISIS. The parties pointed out that this charge is a pretext that Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi militia are using to kill the people of Fallujah.

The city of Fallujah and its southern areas in particular have been bombed by coalition aircraft. Military operations on the ground, arson, destruction and looting carried out by soldiers in the militias have also been taking place.

The Mayor of Fallujah Isa Sayer Al-Issawi told Asharq Al-Awsat that “Fallujah’s infrastructure has been greatly damaged”. He added that Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi soldiers have committed acts of arson, crimes and violations and destroyed houses and shops. He continued by saying that what is currently happening in the city is causing catastrophic damage in it and that he has informed senior leaders of these violations but that there is no deterrent.

Al-Issawi also pointed out that many homes were demolished by military operations in the city during and after its liberation from the grip of ISIS, and that a series of air strikes carried out by the international coalition’s aircraft before security forces entered the city caused the destruction of large areas of residential neighbourhoods. Barrel bombs were also dropped on the city for months until military operations began and security forces entered the city in order to liberate it from ISIS.

Al-Issawi said that “Many buildings in the city of Fallujah have been razed to the ground or damaged beyond repair. Other facilities such as the sports stadium were badly damaged and dozens of homes were burned down”. He pointed out that the damage caused was extensive and that reconstruction will take a long time. He also added that militias continue to loot homes and public facilities, commit acts of arson and carry out bombings.

Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi Burns Down Homes in Fallujah

Lebanon after Qaa Explosions: A New Phase of Countering Terrorism

Beirut- The unprecedented explosions in the village of Qaa, North Beqaa, have led to a new phase of terrorist operations different from what Lebanon had witnessed in the past few years, driving a total security and political alert.

More than 24 hours following the attacks, investigations are still ongoing to uncover the party and the purpose behind them. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the bombings.

Interior Minister Nohad Mashnouq said yesterday “bombers came from inside Syria and not from refugee camps.”

For his part, Lebanese Army Commander Jean Qahwaji revealed that three of the bombers were Syrians, adding: “We were expecting to reach a new phase in the way terrorists operate.”

Security General Director General Ibrahim Abbas said it was not certain if there was a woman among the bombers in the Qaa village, as claimed yesterday. Abbas said that the security apparatus had information about expected explosions due to some confessions and investigations it conducted earlier.

Lebanon’s Cabinet issued a statement following its meeting yesterday, saying: ““The attack on the Lebanese national security and the unfamiliar manner in which it was executed usher in a new phase in the state’s confrontation with terrorism, which targets Lebanon’s security and stability.”

Prime Minister Tammam Salam called for “a national mobilization,” and feared that what happened in Qaa would be the start of terrorist operations in other Lebanese areas.

During his visit to Qaa yesterday, Mashnouq said: “The attacks that happened were expected and we already said that the security apparatus, the Army, the Internal Security Forces and the Security General were capable to foil in the past a large number of terrorist operations, however this cannot succeed at all times.” Mashnouq called on politicians and parties in Lebanon to help elect a new President, because “political security is the most important.”

A Cabinet session headed by Prime Minister Salam was held yesterday in Beirut to follow up on the latest security developments. General Qahwaji and Mashnouq also chaired another urgent security meeting for the same purpose.

A parliamentary source told Asharq Al-Awsat that there are several scenarios for the purpose behind the attacks in Qaa.

The source described what happened in Qaa as madness because it showed the deadlock the terrorists were facing when they were unable to achieve their targets. “The situation is dangerous and no one is capable to predict or offer information about what could happen after today,” the source added.

Four suicide bombers carrying explosions had blew themselves up on Monday morning in Qaa killing 5 civilians and injuring 15 others. Later at night, four other suicide bombers detonated themselves in the same village injuring 13 and spreading panic among residents.

The Qaa explosions, similar to all security incidents, opened the file of Syrian refugees as residents from Qaa had quickly accused refugees living there for being behind the explosions.

On Monday night, the Bekaa governor had canceled any decision forcing a curfew on Syrian refugees in the Qaa area and Ras Baalbek. Meanwhile, the army had carried out dawn raids at separate camps for Syrian refugees and detained 103 Syrians for illegal entry into the country. Two Lebanese were also arrested for possessing a Kalashnikov and a gun.

Local mayor Bashir Matar told AFP: “We fear the presence of other terrorists, this is why the Lebanese Army has launched search operations in the area.”

Matar added that due to the critical security situation, the funeral of one of the victims was postponed from Tuesday to a later date. Media outlets said the funeral would be held today.

Several events were also cancelled on Tuesday.

The French Foreign Ministry condemned yesterday the terrorist attacks and expressed France’s “solidarity with Lebanon.”

Also the Embassy of Italy in Lebanon condemned the attacks and asserted its support for the Lebanese Army and the Security Forces.

Lebanon after Qaa Explosions: A New Phase of Countering Terrorism

Dubai Government’s Smart Services Spare 1.2 Billion Dollars in 12 Years

Dubai- Smart Dubai Government (SDG) announced that shared smart services have enabled Dubai Government to make a total savings of AED 4.3 billion(an approximate $1.168) since the inception of the services in 2003.

The results were part of a comprehensive, six-month study conducted by an international, third party vendor to uncover the impact of SDG’s services and the benefits they have brought to the Government of Dubai.

“Since 2003, we have been committed to delivering impactful smart services for the Government of Dubai, in line with the vision of Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum to make Dubai a global benchmark for smart government. For the first time, we can quantify the benefits that we are delivering to the government due to enhanced efficiency; greater agility and higher responsiveness in government services,” said Wesam Lootah, CEO of Smart Dubai Government.

“The results of this report are further evidence of our ongoing commitment to ensuring the most efficient government, in line with our mandate to deliver world-class smart services and infrastructure as the technology arm of the Smart Dubai Office,” he added.

The report went in depth analyzing the Smart Dubai Government service portfolio, expenditure reports and projected cost savings to determine the cost-to-savings ratio for the Government of Dubai as a result of shared smart government services.

The report found that the Government of Dubai has saved AED 5.6 (an approximate $1.52) for each AED 1 spent by Smart Dubai Government since its establishment. The report also identifies an average saving of AED 358 million per year for the government over 12 years, resulting from SDG services.

In 2015, SDG saved the Dubai Government an average of AED 35.5 million every month. The Dubai Government saved AED 4.2 for every AED 1 spent by SDG in 2015: the highest cost-to-savings ratio of all time, and a growth of 20% over the previous year.

The report identified savings in hardware and software installation and maintenance costs, as well as savings to daily operations and personnel costs. Savings are identified across all business categories, demonstrating the added-value of SDG connected and shared services for all government partners.

“Smart Dubai Government is able to provide 70% of a government entity’s department services from day 1. Our service portfolio drives significant benefits for the whole government — from increased cap-ex efficiency; to removing redundancies; to reduced carbon footprints resulting from shared services. Smart government services also contribute to increased employee efficiency; improved asset management and drastically reduced maintenance costs. Through smart technology, we are empowering an agile and connected government to meet the future of Dubai,” CEO Lootah added.

Total savings were calculated across four Smart Dubai Government service categories: Infrastructure management; Government Resource Planning (GRP) services; Smart Services; and the annual GITEX event.

Government Resource Planning contributed the most significant savings to the Dubai Government, accounting for over AED 1.2 billion saved over 12 years. GRP services include daily business support services such as Finance, HR, Procurement and Asset Management.

Infrastructure Management saw the highest cost-to-savings ratio, saving the government AED 5.2 for every AED 1 spent on network services; cloud services; data and disaster recovery; and communication support services.

Smart Services — including the award-winning DubaiNow application; the secure single-sign-on digital ID service MyID; and the seamless digital payment platform ePay — have contributed an additional AED 443 million in savings to the Dubai government over 12 years.

Dubai government savings from SDG smart services have been growing at a rate of 6% per year. Significant increases are expected as more government entities adopt smart services, in line with Dubai’s smart city transformation, led by the Smart Dubai Office.

Dubai Government’s Smart Services Spare 1.2 Billion Dollars in 12 Years

Britons: To Be or Not to Be

London – Former First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond said that both Boris Johnson and Michael Gove were taken back by the results of the referendum as if they weren’t prepared for such a surprise.

What Salmond was trying to say is that both “I think it is extraordinary, the amount of damage done by politicians who quite clearly had no expectation of winning and therefore hadn’t done the work to bring together a plan of what to do once they’ve won.”

Salmond spoke during a debate organized by BBC about the Brexit decision. He added that both camps, stay and leave, are lost and had no plan B in case of emergency.

Despite that, hashtag “#regrexit” is still popular on social media in response to whether U.K. can reconsider the decision.

A poll demanding a second EU vote received 3.3 million signatures.

Minister of Health Jeremy Hunt announced himself as a possible candidate to be the next leader of the Conservative Party. He wrote an article in the Daily Telegraph during which he raised the prospect of a new EU referendum.

“I don’t think there (necessarily) needs to be another referendum but I think there needs to be some kind of democratic endorsement,” Hunt said.

He added that: “We’ve had nine general elections since we joined the EU and this is such a big thing that I think the terms under which we leave the EU also need to be put to the British people.”

Hunt stressed that the new prime minister should be given the chance to negotiate with Brussels before the two years’ time limit begins. He wrote: “We must not invoke Article 50 straight away because that puts a time limit of two years on negotiations after which we could be thrown out with no deal at all.”

According to Hunt: “Before setting the clock ticking, we need to negotiate a deal and put it to the British people, either in a referendum or through the Conservative manifesto at a fresh general election.”

President of the European Council Donald Tusk suggested non-official negotiations in September prior to the discussions of Britain’s exit.

There is a general belief that the competition on leadership of the conservative party could lead to early elections in November, three years before its actual date.

Former Liberal Democrat Party leader Nick Clegg called for an autumn general election. He insisted that it would be wrong for the Tory party alone to select the next PM. He stressed on the importance of a second public referendum.

Scotland voted for staying in the EU with 62% stay and 38% leave.

Due to complicated arrangements of UK, any legislation issued in London should be approved by three parliaments of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Though Article 50 was never applied before, House of Lords is discussing on how the exit procedures should be done.

Derek Wait, who participated in a report published in May about exiting procedures, said that the law allows Britain to change its opinion after activation of Article 50.

What made things worse is that both lead parties in UK were paralyzed with Cameron becoming an incapable leader. Most members of the shadow government have resigned.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who announced his resignation, said he won’t be doing the official steps towards exiting the EU.

Since the referendum is not legally binding, some politicians suggested a parliament vote before the official procedures begin.

According to some observers, the matter is now “to be or not to be” in the EU. Yet, most politicians agree that the results of 52% to leave and 48% to stay means exiting the EU should be done and anything else would be a “slap in the face” of democracy.

Scottish Prime Minister said her parliament object UK’s decision to leave the EU.

An emotional Cameron confirmed in his resignation speech that: “The will of the British people is an instruction that must be delivered.”

Leader of the UK Independence Party Nigel Farage announced he wants good relations with the EU after the exit. Farage told the press before the European Parliament session to discuss the referendum: “We won the war. Now we have to win peace. We want to be good friends, good neighbors, good trading partners.”

Farage said Britain should leave as soon as possible, but that the process should be amicable, adding that the size of the British economy and its close links with the rest of the EU meant that it should be given a preferential deal.

He commented: “We are the biggest trading partners of the euro zone. We can get a much better deal than Norway,” he said.

Chancellor George Osborne announced that the British government will have to cut spending even further and increase taxes to ensure the country can live within its diminished means post-Brexit decision.

Osborne explained that it will be a long process of economic changes to adapt to life outside the EU and it won’t be as “peachy” as it was when U.K. was part of the EU.

It is not likely for the EU to allow Britain to have access to the unified market. Yet, the important issue here is the restrains on immigrations that Brexiters had promised.

Article 50 of Lisbon Treaty organizes the process of any country leaving the EU, yet it hadn’t been activated.

Prior to the vote, Cameron said that Article 50 will be activate if UK voted for exiting the EU. Boris Johnson and other supporters are trying to delay the process.

EU leaders are divided between those who want to speed up the exit process like President of European Commission Claude Junker and others who asked for patience like Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Queen Elizabeth II said during her first public appearance since the Brexit decision, “I am still alive.”

During her meeting with Northern Ireland’s First Minister Martin McGuinness, the Queen provided the understatement of the century when asked how she’s doing: “Well, I’m still alive, anyway. There has been quite a lot going on.”

The Queen didn’t comment on the referendum, yet The Sun newspaper said that the Queen supports exiting the EU. The Sun based its saying on resources reporting that the Queen said “I don’t understand Europe” during a reception in Buckingham Palace.

Britons: To Be or Not to Be

White House Asks Tehran to Stop Funding Hezbollah

Washington, London – The White House urged Iran to stop giving financial support to the so-called Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah, warning of such continued support.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz told reporters that the White House asked all those who fund the so-called Hezbollah to stop doing so.

“We know that Iran supports terrorism,” he added “and we know that Iran supports Hezbollah. And that is why we’ve issued the most serious and most severe sanctions ever on Iran for doing so. So it’s important for them to recognize their own behavior in enabling this.”

Schultz explained that: “We’ve had a conversation recently about Iran’s concerns about access to international markets.”

White House Spokesperson went on to say: “Financial actors are looking into Iran’s behavior and whether Iran plans on continuing funding terrorism and on supplying resources to the so-called Hezbollah that is going to have impact.”

Schultz warned Iran that its continuous support to so-called Hezbollah won’t be in its interest.

On Friday, Hezbollah’s leader Nasrallah mocked the fresh U.S. sanctions saying that the so-called Hezbollah won’t be affected by the sanctions because of its secure, direct income from Iran and not through Lebanese banks.

“We are open about the fact that Hezbollah’s budget, income, expenses, weapons and rockets, are from the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Nasrallah said, adding that there are no bank investments involved.

In December, the Congress imposed sanctions on all banks that deal with the so-called Hezbollah. Lebanese Central Bank announced all Lebanese banks and financial institutions should comply to this against the Lebanese Shiite group. Nasrallah added: “As long as Iran has money, we have money and no law can stop us from that.”

Brett McGurk, President Obama’s special envoy in the fight against ISIS, said that there has been no “significant” change in Iran’s behavior in Syria following the international nuclear deal in July.

Speaking before the Senate Committee, McGurk added: “I have not seen a significant change in Iranian behavior…They’re primarily working to prop up the Assad regime.”

McGurk said the Islamic Republic is supporting some active Shiite militia groups in Iraq that are operating outside of the central government’s legal authority— an act that is “threatening Iraq’s own sovereignty.”

Public Relations officer for the IRGC Ramzan Sharif undertone indicating Iran’s fears of renewed sanctions. He ruled out any consequences following Nasrallah’s admission of receiving money from Iran.

IRGC spokesperson said that his country can’t be under more pressure that it had been before, ruling out the possibility that Nasrallah’s statement would be used as an excuse.

Speaking at the Iranian Judicial Conference in Tehran, Iranian President Hasan Rouhani implied that Iran is afraid of sanctions and that his country needs the foreign investments.

Internally, many parties in Iran condemned U.S. sanctions on national banks for the support of the so-called Hezbollah. Sanctions for supporting terrorism is the main reason many western banks and finical institutions fear of establishing economic cooperation.

Hezbollah has been blacklisted as a “terrorist” organization both by the US and Gulf states.

Earlier, an anti-money laundering body, said that Iran remains on the high-risk countries’ list despite sanction lift-off. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), asked its 37 members to monitor all trade and interactions with companies and personnel in Iran.

Meanwhile, Nasrallah’s statement angered the Iranians again regarding funding the so-called Hezbollah despite economic problems inside of Iran.

Nasrallah’s statement came days after Qasem Soleimani threatened of bloody uprisings in several countries in the region including Bahrain.

According to Iranian parties, Soleimani’s statement is a reaction from IRGC for replacing Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs in Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

In addition, some observers considered that recent statements of Soleimani come in response to Rouhani’s government attempts to normalize relations with western country in a way that might damage the interests of the IRGC.

Other observers fear new sanctions will be imposed on Iran for violating the sanctions on the so-called Hezbollah after the Congress approved on sanctions against Lebanese local banks that deal with the so-called Hezbollah.

White House Asks Tehran to Stop Funding Hezbollah

Omaish: Libyan Parliament, Constant Discord

Ibrahim Omaish, head of justice, reconciliation, and road-map committee at the Libyan House of Representatives, said that the house witnesses a constant discord concerning the trust in Fayez al-Sarraj’s government proposed by the U.N. In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Omaish noted that the parliamentary block that supports Sarraj is obstructing the trust session.

Omaish, a member of the parliament for Benghazi continues that his country suffers from bad conditions amidst concerns from transforming Libya into a new Iraq. He also talked about conflicts between the Democratic and Republican parties in USA concerning the Libyan crisis.

Below, the text of the interview:

*How do you see the situation in Libya today?

– Unfortunately, the situation is very bad. The Libyan people are split and the condition in the country suggests that Libya may be transformed into another Iraq. Omaish said that they expressed their concerns to the U.N. through its Special Envoy Martin Kobler.

* Are the presidential council and the U.N.-suggested government the reason behind this condition?

– As a parliamentary committee of justice and reconciliation, we had reached agreements and solutions with the National Congress, which controls Tripoli. But the U.N. and many western parties insist on the persistence of Sarraj’s government.

* Does this mean that you oppose Sarraj’s government?

No, we don’t oppose this government. Yet the international insistence and support for it, regardless of the parliament’s legitimate approval may threat the democratic and legal paths in Libya, and raise people’s concerns. Sarraj would have gained the support of the parliament, but the international insistence on supporting him regardless of the parliament’s position encourage some parties on ignoring the legislative council, the main decision maker in the trust matter.

*What about the National Army led by General Khalifa Haftar considered as one of the main conflict points between east and west?

– When the other party proposes cases, they should not obstruct solution. When talking about the building of a powerful army, we should not focus on names. Moreover, it’s better to talk about the rebels’ issue, and how to determine the differences between them and the terrorist organizations. In Benghazi, we see confusion between the “rebels” and “Ansar al-Shariaa”, which killed a big number of people. We want an inclusive national reconciliation and to leave the other issues to the interim laws of justice.

* Direct communication took place with American officials during the agreement’s discussions between the parliament and the National Congress in Tunisia in the end of 2015…what do you say about it?

– I don’t trust the Americans despite the positions I received from the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton personally, who expressed her support for the Libyan people.

However, a republican official concerned with the Libyan case in the U.S. Secretary of State said the most important is that Sarraj’s government controls the country, and refused any other agreements among the Libyan people.

* Where do you see danger in such positions?

– We are concerned from real attempts to use violence and force in Libya if the republicans won the presidential elections in USA, amidst suggestion to split some Arab countries.

* Do you see any serious indications on the “split” issue in Libya?

– Yes … the printing of the national currency in two countries: Russia and the U.K. for example is an attempt to reinforce the separation idea. If we resigned to this plan, it will last for years to come. The eastern region will remain under an autonomous rule, while the government will remain responsible for western region’s affairs.

* Some may understand that the parliament wants to exclude the U.N. from the Libyan case?

– No, we want to work under the umbrella of the U.N., but we have our concerns. Why they insist on the disagreement? Why the U.N, don’t ask Sarraj to propose his projects on the parliament and to demand its support?

* As an MP for Benghazi…How do you see the army’s war against terrorist organizations two years after it kicked off security operations in the eastern region?

– Finally, the army succeeded in rebuilding itself, and fulfilled a remarkable role in the eastern region. Yet, its chances of success are few, as it lacks for finance and arms. Yet, the army seeks to combat terrorism, liberate Benghazi and Derna to ensure stability in the eastern region, and tries to play an important role in liberating Sert and protecting oil facilities with few capabilities.

Omaish: Libyan Parliament, Constant Discord

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Opinion: The “British Spring” Domino Effect

A lot has been said about Britain’s shock exit and the effects that it will have on Europe and the world which are not limited to the small issues such as visas and customs. The map of the European continent and the Union, relations between member states and foreign alliances may change. For example, will the British uprising against the EU system ignite the desires of other restless European powers and change the political geography?

Dominos lean on each other. Change brings chaos and that is what we have learned even in the most stable and affluent regions. Separatist movements existed in Europe, but they retreated with the emergence of the Union. At the forefront of these is the Basque Country in Spain.

Will the unrest return? Will Scotland demand independence and end three hundred years of being part of the UK? Will the British-American role around the world come to an end? Will other major countries of the European Union withdraw from it and cause it to become weaker? Will the European Union collapse as a result of Britain’s exit? Will Russia take advantage of Britain’s exit and expand its influence in Europe? With the emergence of India and China’s economies, will Europe become weaker, especially in light of the movement in the US that is inclined towards Asia?

Just like earthquakes fissures, the effects of major events are not limited to the place where they occur. Britain’s decision to withdraw from the European Union may have effects elsewhere. It is a major and influential country in the Union and the continent, and its exit will leave a vacuum, the impact of which will be measured over the next few years.

When the British voted, almost half voted to stay in the EU. Most of them lived in big cities and were young. Those who wanted to leave the Union were made up of those living in rural areas and the elderly. In general, the British do not consider themselves Europeans very much, even though they were an important force within the Union and the continent. Historically, they feel closer to the Commonwealth system which currently consists of 53 states, most of which are former colonies of the British Empire. However, the Commonwealth has lost its significance and the relationships between the countries that are part of it are based on protocol.

Leaving Europe may be comforting to the British because it closes the door to immigrants from poorer European countries, but it will not stop illegal immigration. Leaving will also save the British EU membership costs but they will lose out on opportunities in huge neighbouring markets. Today, Britain is smaller than what it was last week; previously it was part of the four million square kilometres that is the European Union. Today, it has shrunk to about a quarter of a million square kilometres.

There is a risk that it will become smaller as those demanding Scotland’s independence vow that they will hold a referendum, gain independence and leave the United Kingdom in the next few years. Scotland’s area is 70,000 square kilometres which is about half the area of its neighbour England.

A short while ago we used to say that the disintegration of Britain was unlikely given its presence in the European Union, which has marginalized the separatist sentiments. However, its exit has awakened nostalgia amongst local groups that seek independence, even if that is at the expense of collective interests. Secession is not in favour of the Scots who do not number more than six million people. However, electoral referendums play on emotions more than they take into account the real interests of nations.

The domino effect does not stop here. Rather it threatens the circumstances that were formed after the end of World War II. Monitoring the way Russia deals with the British vacuum in Europe suggests this, and it will give us a clearer understanding of what its intentions for the near future may be. The American interest in getting closer to China and India will push the Russians to the west, towards Europe. Big Russian business interests with countries like Germany are being developed, and this may modify political alliances in Europe and affect its surroundings including the Middle East.

Britain’s exit has weakened the European equation in general, more than any other country could have done. However, there may be one positive aspect of it; it may correct the European Union’s political approach to other countries.

A politician from the Gulf said that they failed to conclude a collective agreement on petrochemicals because the Europeans involved political issues in the negotiations. Some believe that the European left is responsible for the crisis because they want to politically and bureaucratically control Europe.

Opinion: The “British Spring” Domino Effect

Getting Over Stage Fright with Help of Smartphone

New YorkTimes- For some people, public speaking comes naturally.

However, if you are like me, you may um and ah too much, spurred by the worry that nerves may get the best of you, that you might speak too fast or mess up in some way.

Therefore, I have been practicing my public speaking with the help of some applications.

Oratory Apps

One of those is a new app called “Ummo.”

With Ummo, you take a prepared speech, tap the microphone icon, wait for the countdown, and then talk.

As you speak, the app listens and automatically logs the words, the number of pauses and the use of pesky filler words like, “you know,” “like,” “right?”

Ummo can show a transcript of what you have said on the screen.

To improve, you can tell the app to beep when you use a filler word and edit the list of filler words to include ones you know you overuse.

Ummo can then give data like how many words were spoken and how often words were reused.

It also displays your pace in words per minute, how loud you were, whether your volume was consistent and so on.

The data is presented in easy-to-read graphs, and if you tap on a point in the graph, you can see the words in the speech transcript at that moment.

The idea is to learn when in the speech you faltered, so you can practice and fix mistakes.

Despite that, sometimes Ummo misunderstands the words that were said (though admittedly this American-made app may have had an issue with British accent), and I wish it kept a log of speech data to track whether there was improvement with practice.

Yet, Ummo is easy to use. It costs $2 and is available only on iOS.

Virtual Reality against Panicking

Part of the terror of public speaking is standing in front of a group of people who are paying attention to you.

This is a problem that the app “Public Speaking” by Virtual Speech may help alleviate.

Public Speaking, which is a virtual reality app, delivers an immersive 3-D video that moves as you look around.

The videos make you feel as if you are standing in different public speaking venues, like a podium in a small boardroom or a theater, sometimes with video of people listening to you.

The idea is to get someone accustomed to what it feels like to be presenting to a crowd, and thus prepare for the same situation in real life.

Because Public Speaking is a virtual reality app that shows the room as you look around, you need extra hardware to see the video — specifically Google Cardboard, a simple device that fits around your smartphone and costs $15 and up.

The app has a few extras like background noise simulation and the option to load in your own speech slides to the teleprompter-like display seen in various scenes.

Though the app cannot deliver the thrill of a real public speech, virtual reality experiences can be convincing and help conquer stage fright.

The app is free and available for iOS and Android.

Getting Over Stage Fright with Help of Smartphone

Little Improvement in Saudi Banks

Riaydh – In a new development that reveals the strength of financial structure of Saudi banks, Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) issued its annual study which showed a little increase of 2% of deposits in local banks during 2015.

Based on the study, the bank deposits jumped to 1.6 trillion Saudi Riyals at the end of the last year.

Saudi banks are considered one the most capable banks in the region that are able to overcome financial crisis due to the high precautions that SAMA requires from banks, at a time when all Saudi local banks became part of the Saudi stock market.

As a part of its incessant efforts toward enhancing and development of disclosure and transparency procedures and principles of listed companies’ announcements, the Capital Market Authority board (CMA) has approved a series of amendments to the instructions about announcements of listed companies. The changes are available on CMA’s website and are in conformity with the regulations issued by the CMA.

These instructions set the basic elements that companies’ announcements must include and were announced through Tadawul system and published on Saudi Stock Exchange Website. The instructions include that the title of the announcement published on Tadawul should be clear and not misleading.

Other instructions are available for companies to insure the safety of their announcements on Tawadul website.

CMA published its first companies’ announcements in 2006. It was then altered in 2008 and 20012. These instructions cover companies’ announcements in case of any news or expected event or development.

Little Improvement in Saudi Banks

Lebanon…Suicide Bombings Day and Night in Qaa

Beirut-Lebanon has witnessed a series of suicide bombings on Monday, starting by four bombings in the morning, thus causing the death and injury of many citizens.

Four suicide bombers blew themselves up early on Monday in the village of Al-Qaa in the Bekaa Valley, killing five people and wounding another 15, including four Lebanese soldiers, paramedic sources said.

In the evening, as family members gathered outside a church to mourn the morning’s victims, two men on a motorcycle threw a grenade at the group before detonating suicide vests, wounding another 13 people who were brought to hospital.

The Lebanese Army Command stated that “one suicide attacker blew himself up in front of one of the homes, while three other attackers followed, detonating their suicide vests one after the other as people gathered in the area.”

George Kitane, head of paramedics at the Lebanese Red Cross, confirmed the death toll and said 15 wounded were rushed to hospitals in nearby areas. He added that several others were treated on the spot.

Notably, the explosions occurred about 150 meters away from a Lebanese customs border point, according to eyewitnesses.

Security sources revealed that the Lebanese border village Qaa was not the target of the suicide bombers, but the terrorists were hiding in the village waiting for transportation to another location, yet the residents of the village discovered and attacked them before they were able to escape.

For his part, Future Movement Chief and former Prime Minister Saad Hariri said that the attack that targeted Qaa is a terrorist crime, organized in the caves of obscurity, and an episode in a hellish series that plans to extend the Syrian fire to the neighboring countries, and spread chaos in all societies.”

“It’s a further proof of necessity to mobilize all efforts to face challenges that threaten Lebanon,” Hariri said in a statement.

He added that Lebanon “cannot endure the repercussions of the ongoing war in Syria and that any plan to combat terrorism should begin from the inside and through legitimate institutions, at the forefront the Lebanese Army.”

The U.S. Embassy said in several tweets that the country “stands with Lebanon,” expressing support for the Lebanese Army and other security agencies in “the joint fight against terrorism.”

It also offered condolences to the families of the victims.

Moreover, the British Embassy released a statement reiterating its determination as ever to back stability in Lebanon and commitment to assist the Lebanese security agencies in enhancing security throughout the country.

Lebanon…Suicide Bombings Day and Night in Qaa

Ideology of Lebanese “Tripoli”

Tripoli has been linked over the past years with conservative movements and many extremist cells that were dismantled in northern regions like Akkar and Daniye. The Islamic scene in the city has long been influenced by the local complicated politics and the adversity toward al-Assad regime, which led to many terroristic attacks against the so-called Hezbollah that supports Assad’s troops in Syria.

Speaking about the conservative Islamic movements in Lebanon, Dr. Abdul Ghani Imad, expert in Islamic movements’ affairs explains that Sheikh Salem al-Shahhal established the first conservative Islamic group during the forties. His movement was missionary and aimed to amend the wrong practices of Muslims. On the political side, Shahhal didn’t have a clear position. He stood for the parliamentary elections in 1972, but he withdrew in favor of the “Jamaa Islamiya” (Islamic Group).

Many other extremist schools emerged in the region, like the school of Salem el-Rafei, who was among the first voices calling for “Jihad” in Syria, Bilal Dekmak , Sheikh Nabil Raheem or Sheikh Mohammad Khidr, along with radical Islamic movements like “Al-Tawhid” (Islamic Unification Movement) established by Sheikh Saeed Shaaban.

The concerns of the Islamic movements in Tripoli from the dangers of the Hezbollah’s positions increased, especially following the party’s attempts to invade Beirut and Mount Lebanon’s region in 2008, which led to a remarkable politicization in these movements’ features.

The Islamic groups in Tripoli currently receive financial support from different Arab countries, and depend on a network that includes Mosques, NGOs and schools. According to Imad, there are two types of these movements: one that has been armed and connected to a number of terrorist cells, and another that refused the armament. A source who preferred not to reveal his identity said that many activists from the conservative groups communicate regularly with security authorities in the country, and receive weapons from different political parties.

In fact, the general conservative Islamic scene in Lebanon is deeply split, just like other political and social parties in the country. Many foreign forces and local political parties have often exploited the Islamic groups in Tripoli to execute specific political plans.

Tripoli witnessed conflicts between extremist militants and members from the Alawite minority that supports Assad’s regime in Syria between 2012-2015.The battle concluded in the end of 2015, with the arrest of all militias’ leaders and the dismantle of terrorist groups. In May 2015, the Lebanese army arrested Ibrahim Barakat, described as one of ISIS’s officials in Lebanon, and accused of recruiting youth to the organization.

The majority of conservatives in Tripoli has long supported the force of 14 March, mainly the Future Movement presided by the former PM Saad al-Hariri, while the other radical groups, like “al-Tawhid”, which is funded by Iran and the Syrian regime, chose to support the forces of 8 March Alliance, led by so-called Hezbollah.

Yet, this scene has changed. In the municipal elections in May, these conservative groups have moved to uphold the former Minister of Justice Ashraf Rifi, known by his adversity toward Hezbollah and the Syrian regime.

Sheikh Mohammad Ibrahim, from the Mankoubin region, which heavily participated in the battles against Assad’s regime, said that the commitment of Ashraf Rifi to his restricted positions explains the remarkable support he received in the elections.

Yet, the variety of sects in Lebanon, and old Sunni alliances with the Lebanese state have succeeded in preventing al-Qaeda from controlling the region despite its constant attempts. However, according to Sheikh Ibrahim, the Syrian war and the violations committed against the Sunnis has changed this fact. He added that Hezbollah’s intervention in the Syrian conflict pushed many northern youth to join the Islamic militants in Syria.

Extremist sources in Tripoli considered that the new danger may emerge from a number of young men who have been randomly arrested. Sheikh Ibrahim says that many have been imprisoned for supporting the ideologies of ISIS and Nusra, and that those represent serious danger.

Although the Lebanese security forces have succeeded in capturing many terrorist cells, yet, it’s still unable to put an end to extremism, as it’s still unable to provide them with better living conditions.

Ideology of Lebanese “Tripoli”

Monday, 27 June 2016

Erdogan is Sorry and Moscow: ‘he Apologized’… The Result is Quick Normalization of Ties

Beirut-Turkey took on Monday a step forward in improving its tense relations with Russia. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan sent a letter to Moscow carrying two messages: Ankara said that Erdogan was deeply sad when Turkey hit a Russian jet that violated its airspace last autumn, while the Kremlin said that Erdogan apologized about the accident, which had pushed the Turkish-Russian relations to its worst since the end of the Cold War.

The initiative came following a Turkish good-intended step to refile charges against the Turkish suspect in the killing of the Russian pilot, shot down by Turkey last November.

Meanwhile, Turkish diplomatic sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu would discuss with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on the first of July the means to improve and normalize Turkish-Russian relations.

However, the sources asserted that Turkey did not present any “concessions” in the Russian file, adding that Turkey’s position was clear since the first day Ankara said it was sorry for what happened, and that Turkish combat aircrafts had not known the identity of the plane, which violated its airspace before being hit.

Turkish President’s spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin said that Turkish President Rageb Tayeb Erdogan had sent a letter to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin expressing his “deep sadness” about the accident that brought down the Russian jet last year. He said: “I share the suffering of the family of the Russian pilot who lost his life, and would like to offer my condolences. I want to tell them we are sorry.”

Kalin added in a press conference held in Ankara on Monday that Erdogan also called on his Russian counterpart to restore traditional friendly relations, find solutions to the region’s problems and fight terrorism.

He said: “Turkey and Russia have agreed to take necessary steps without delay to improve bilateral relations.”

In parallel, the Kremlin confirmed that Putin had received a letter from his Turkish counterpart apologizing for the killing of the Russian pilot of the SU-24 bomber that was downed by Turkey’s aircraft in Syrian airspaces last year.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Erdogan expressed readiness to restore relations with Russia. He added that Erdogan expressed in the letter his deep sympathy and condolences to the relatives of the deceased Russian pilot and said ‘sorry.’”

In his letter, Erdogan also said Russia was “a friend and a strategic partner” of Ankara, according to Peskov.

Turkish government spokesperson Numan Kurtulmus said Russian-Turkish relations were improving.

“We are observing some signs of improvement in relationship following the steps taken by both parties. A Russian company began to allow the employment of Turkish nationals,” Kurtulmus said.

The Kremlin website published the content of the letter sent by Turkey on Monday. Erdogan had written in the letter: “We never had a desire or a deliberate intention to down an aircraft belonging to Russia.”

The Turkish President also said the Turkish side undertook all the risks and made a great effort to recover the body of the Russian pilot from the Syrian opposition, bringing it to Turkey.

Also, Erdogan said in his letter that the Turkish authorities had launched a criminal investigation against the person linked to the killing of the Russian pilot.

A lawyer from the defense team of Alparslan Celik, chief of the team that killed Russian pilot Oleg Peshkov, said that Celik is still under arrest and that concerned authorities resumed their investigations.

Erdogan is Sorry and Moscow: ‘he Apologized’… The Result is Quick Normalization of Ties

Terrorist Bombings in Southern Yemen Kill 18

At least 18 people were killed in three ISIS-organized synchronized bomb attacks on Yemeni government forces in the southern port city of Mukalla on Monday, medics and security sources said.

Scores of other people were wounded in the bombings, which occurred just as soldiers were about to break their day-long fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The terrorist group ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack via their online news agency. The first explosion hit as an attacker detonated his suicide vest at a checkpoint on Mukalla’s western entryways.

A second blast came from a bomb-laden car at the military intelligence headquarters, and the last was an improvised explosive device which went off as soldiers were about to begin their evening meal.

Mukalla, capital of the vast eastern province of Hadramout and an important shipping center, was the former stronghold of a wealthy mini-state that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) built up over the past year as it took control of an almost 600-km band of Arabian Sea coastline.

In late April, Yemeni and Emirati soldiers regained control over Mukalla from AQAP, which put up little resistance before withdrawing its forces.

Terrorists in Yemen had also carried out a suicide bombing in the southern port city of Aden on May 23 which killed 40 army recruits, the latest in a string of attacks claimed by the group.

Extremist militants have gained territory and freedom to operate thanks to a war raging for over a year in which government forces have been pitted against Iran-allied Houthi rebels who control the capital Sanaa.

In an initial reading of the attacks, Yemeni security officials believe there is an overlap between militants supporting Al Qaeda and ISIS, though the two groups are ideological rivals and compete for recruits.

“Sleeper cells still exist in Mukalla and we are working against them every day,” a security official said.

“Since the liberation of the city, security forces have arrested hundreds of Al Qaeda fighters in raids, uncovered plots and seized around 20 explosive cars.”

Terrorist Bombings in Southern Yemen Kill 18

Investors Rush for UK, German Bonds after Brexit

UK bond yields hit an all-time low on Monday while rates on German debt pushed further into negative territory as investors sought safe haven following a vote to leave the EU.

“Markets are in unknown terrain, creating exaggerated reactions,” analysts at BNP Paribas wrote as UK 10-year bond yields fell to 0.963 percent and their German equivalents stood at -0.099 percent.

British finance minister George Osborne sought to reassure markets in a statement early on Monday, saying that the UK economy was “as strong as could be” and that the UK is “ready to confront what the future holds for us from a position of strength”. Osborne has also said that there would be no immediate emergency budget. He cautioned during the referendum campaign that Britain leaving the European Union could trigger a financial crisis that would necessitate a £30 billion package of spending cuts and tax rises. However Osborne has now said that the task of dealing with the consequences of the Brexit on public finances would have to wait until a new Prime Minister and a new Chancellor of the Exchequer is chosen in Fall.

Leading Brexit campaigner Boris Johnson insisted that “the negative consequences are being wildly overdone” in a Monday column for the Telegraph newspaper. He added that markets and the currency were “stable” in comments to journalists outside his London home.

But with the pound hitting its lowest point against the dollar in more than 30 years and stocks in British banks, airlines and property firms plunging, investors have sought out the perceived security of government bonds across Europe. Yields on French, Italian and Spanish 10-year-bonds also fell, although none was in such high demand as German debt.

Moody’s Analytics, one of the biggest credit rating agencies, has downgraded the UK’s credit rating outlook from “stable” to “negative” following the Brexit. Moody’s has predicted that the negative consequences of the Brexit on economic growth would outweigh any finances that Britain will save from no longer having to contribute to the European Union.

“During the several years in which the UK will have to renegotiate its trade relations with the EU, Moody’s expects heightened uncertainty, diminished confidence and lower spending and investment to result in weaker growth,” the agency said.

Markets are keenly awaiting any sign from European leaders on the next stages in the Brexit drama.

The UK has yet to submit formal notification of its intent to leave — and European partners cannot force it out until it does so.

Only Britain can trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty, which locks the UK in a two-year deadline to formally exit the European Union. David Cameron has said that he will leave the task of invoking Article 50 to the Prime Minister who will succeed him in Fall.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel rejected calls from France and the bosses of the European Commission and European Parliament for Britain to go quickly over the weekend.

The leader of Europe’s largest economy is to meet President Francois Hollande of France and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy on Monday before a summit of all 28 EU leaders on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Investors Rush for UK, German Bonds after Brexit