June 08/2019
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
Let them turn away from evil and do good; let them seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil

First Letter of Peter 03/01-12:”Wives, in the same way, accept the authority of your husbands, so that, even if some of them do not obey the word, they may be won over without a word by their wives’ conduct, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Do not adorn yourselves outwardly by braiding your hair, and by wearing gold ornaments or fine clothing; rather, let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God’s sight. It was in this way long ago that the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves by accepting the authority of their husbands. Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham and called him lord. You have become her daughters as long as you do what is good and never let fears alarm you. Husbands, in the same way, show consideration for your wives in your life together, paying honour to the woman as the weaker sex, since they too are also heirs of the gracious gift of life so that nothing may hinder your prayers. Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called that you might inherit a blessing. For ‘Those who desire life and desire to see good days, let them keep their tongues from evil and their lips from speaking deceit; let them turn away from evil and do good; let them seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.’”

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on June 07-08/2019
President Aoun meets officials participating in Diaspora Energy conference, stresses increased communication with expatriates
Hizbullah Advises Bassil to Pacify Standoff with Hariri
Palestinian president praises Saber Murad’s courage amid terrorist attack in Tripoli
Al-Hassan: Dangerous to Exploit Terrorist Crime for Sectarian Incitement
Mustaqbal-PSP Row Erupts as MP Accused of 'Insulting' Hariri
8 Arrested in Tripoli as Reports Say Mabsout Briefly Held 2 Months Ago
'Tachtouch' Returns to Lebanon after Monkeying Around in Israel
Lebanese-American Mueller Report Witness to Remain Jailed in Child Porn Case
Environment Minister Hails Bickfaya's Waste Management Initiative
German Parliament Rejects Ban Of Hezbollah, Snubbing US And German Jews
Opinion/Between Hezbollah, Israel and Another War: Can UN Peacekeepers Really Keep the Peace?

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on June 07-08/2019
US commander says he believes Iran threat still ‘very real’
Saudi Arabia, UAE, Norway tell UN Security Council tanker attacker ‘most likely a state actor’
US targets Iran’s petrochemical industry with sanctions over support for IRGC
New US sanctions target Iran’s petrochemical industry
Iran rejects French call for wider talks beyond nuclear deal: state TV
US will not accept more Turkish F-35 pilots over Russia defenses
Syria Flare-Up Leaves 83 Fighters Dead
Militants kill 21 regime forces in Syria’s northwest
Ethiopian PM stresses unity amid Sudan mediation efforts
Ethiopia PM in Sudan to broker talks between generals, protesters
US gives Turkey up to July 31 to backtrack on Russia missile deal
UK's May Quits as Party Leader, Starting Succession Race

Titles For The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on June 07-08/2019
German Parliament Rejects Ban Of Hezbollah, Snubbing US And German Jews/Jerusalem Post/June 07/2019
Opinion/Between Hezbollah, Israel and Another War: Can UN Peacekeepers Really Keep the Peace/Arnon Grunberg/Haaretz/June 06/2019
US commander says he believes Iran threat still ‘very real’/AFP/Arab News/June 07/2019
Saudi Arabia, UAE, Norway tell UN Security Council tanker attacker ‘most likely a state actor/Reuter/Arab News/June 07/2019
The Jihad on the Christian Cross/Raymond Ibrahim/June 07/2019
The Transatlantic Relationship on the 75th Anniversary of D-Day/Con Coughlin/Gatestone Institute/June 07/2019
The Priorities of Palestinian Leaders/Khaled Abu Toameh/Gatestone Institute/June 07/2019
Khartoum's Deadly Crackdown Part Of An Internal Struggle For Power/Alberto M. Fernandez/MEMRI/June 07/2019
Jacksonian approach leaves Trump with Middle East paradox/Dr. John C. Hulsman/Arab News/June 07/2019

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on June 07-08/2019
President Aoun meets officials participating in Diaspora Energy conference, stresses increased communication with expatriates

Fri 07 Jun 2019/NNA - President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, held talks in Baabda with several personalities who took part in the Diaspora Energy Conference inaugurated in the morning. In this context, the head of state received the Prime Minister of Nova Scotia, Stephen McNeil. The president said the Lebanese have a wide culture and are able to adapt to various civilizations without renouncing their belonging to their country of origin. He emphasized the importance of strengthening relations between Lebanon and Canada, including Nova Scotia. McNeil, for his part, stressed the importance of being in Lebanon and working with the Lebanese ministers to consolidate communication with the Lebanese Diaspora around the world. He praised the role played by the Lebanese Diaspora in the Canadian province, underlining their considerable impact, economically and culturally, without forgetting their roots. President Aoun also met with Lebanese-born Swedish MP Roger Haddad with whom he discussed the conditions of the Lebanese Diaspora in Sweden and the prospects of bilateral relations. He also received a Brazilian delegation chaired by Senate member Nelson Trad Filho and several Brazilian deputies of Lebanese origin. Senator Trad pledged to work for the signing of an agreement between Lebanon and Mercosur, which includes Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia and Venezuela. "I am ready to defend Lebanese interests," he added. The president, in turn, said that the purpose of such conferences was to bring the Lebanese Diaspora closer together. "We are aiming at strengthening relations with Brazil and Mercosur, and the Lebanese Foreign Minister has signed an agreement with the South American countries in this context," said the head of state.Aoun thanked Brazil for its contribution to the UNIFIL, emphasizing the importance of a direct flight route between Beirut and Madrid, thus facilitating travel to South American countries.

Hizbullah Advises Bassil to Pacify Standoff with Hariri
Naharnet/June 07/2019/Hizbullah has advised Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Jebran Bassil to pacify his standoff with Prime Minister Saad Hariri, a media report published Friday said. “The Foreign Minister has decided to visit Dar al-Fatwa on Tuesday while the Prime Minister will visit the Baabda Palace once he returns from his vacation, to meet his direct partner in the presidential settlement,” al-Akhbar newspaper reported. A Mustaqbal Movement-FPM war of words has been raging for several days now over several issues. The two parties have bickered over remarks attributed to Bassil in some media reports as well as over the Military Court’s controversial acquittal of Lt. Col. Suzanne al-Hajj, and lastly over the Tripoli deadly attack.

Palestinian president praises Saber Murad’s courage amid terrorist attack in Tripoli
Fri 07 Jun 2019/NNA - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas contacted by phone Palestinian young man, Sabr Murad, to check on him and congratulate him on the courage he proved during the terrorist attack in Tripoli, preventing an explosion that could have killed many innocent people in the city, as reported by Wafa.Abbas praised the "heroism shown by the young man", and decided to award him the Medal of Courage. He also instructed the Ambassador of Palestine, Ashraf Dabour, "to care for him, monitor his treatment, and provide his family with whatever they may need, as a result of this courageous and heroic deed."

Al-Hassan: Dangerous to Exploit Terrorist Crime for Sectarian Incitement
Naharnet/June 07/2019/Interior Minister Raya al-Hassan on Friday warned that “it is dangerous to exploit a terrorist crime for sectarian and political incitement,” in reference to the deadly Tripoli attack on security forces by an Islamic State-influenced militant.Speaking at a press conference, al-Hassan said the gunman, Abdul Rahman Mabsout, roamed Tripoli’s streets on a motorbike after leaving his house carrying six hand grenades and a machinegun.“He was born in 1991, he hailed from the al-Haddadin neighborhood and had a criminal record of drug abuse, assault and battery,” she added.
Defending remarks that she and Internal Security Forces chief Maj. Gen. Imad Othman had voiced in the wake of the attack, which were criticized by several political parties and segments of the public opinion, the minister said “the lone wolf expression is used by all security agencies to indicate that a person had carried out a criminal act, including terrorist operations.”“This type of operations happens in all countries in the world and criminals who kill in cold blood are mentally unbalanced in the metaphorical and not the medical sense of the term,” al-Hassan added. “Tripoli has proved, before and after the terrorist operation, that it renounces all forms of extremism and it has been shown that there is no incubator for terrorism,” she went on to say. Al-Hassan also revealed that it has been decided to set up an operations room in every region for overseeing any security crisis.
The meetings would take place “under the judiciary’s supervision and in the presence of a judge,” she noted. Riding a motorcycle, Mabsout fired on police and army vehicles in different parts of Tripoli on Monday night, killing two police officers and two soldiers and wounding several others before blowing himself up later when confronted by troops. Some media reports say Mabsout was a former member of the Islamic State group who fought with the extremist movement in Syria while other reports say that he had not managed to join the jihadists. He was, however, detained upon returning to Lebanon in 2016 before being released a year later.

Mustaqbal-PSP Row Erupts as MP Accused of 'Insulting' Hariri

Naharnet/June 07/2019/An exchange of tirades broke out Friday between the Progressive Socialist Party and al-Mustaqbal Movement over the municipality of the Sunni-majority Chouf town of Chehim and actions by Mt. Lebanon's pro-Mustaqbal governor."Mr. Prime Minister Saad Hariri, your interference in Chehim is unwelcome and condmened," MP Bilal Abdullah of the PSP tweeted, accusing the PM of "impeding a rotation of seats agreement" in the town's municipality and "using the method of blackmailing the members with their incomes so that they meet a fate similar to that of hundreds of Saudi Oger victims.""Our morals, values and customs condem your descent to this position. It is not worth it, I believe you have more important things to tackle!" Abdullah added. PSP leader Walid Jumblat for his part lamented that Mt. Lebanon Governor Mohammed Mekkawi "has become a little employee for a political movement that is lost and confused in its general choices but adamant on fighting the PSP in Iqlim al-Kharroub at any price." "It is ignoring the struggle history of Mt. Lebanon and Iqlim al-Kharroub. May God have mercy on the statesmen of yesterday such as Ghaleb al-Turk and Samih al-Solh," Jumblat added, referring to Mustaqbal. MP Mohammed al-Hajjar of al-Mustaqbal snapped back on Twitter. "Neither you Dr. Bilal nor anyone else, no matter their position, has the right to insult Lebanon's premier and al-Mustaqbal Movement leader Saad Rafik Hariri," Hajjar said. "Remove what you have posted on your account and on the PSP's account before you oblige us to remind of the chapters that everyone knows," the MP threatened.

8 Arrested in Tripoli as Reports Say Mabsout Briefly Held 2 Months Ago
Naharnet 07/2019/Eight people have been arrested in the wake of the deadly Tripoli attack on security forces, as new details have emerged about the assailant’s activities over the past few months. After detaining Abdul Rahman Mabsout’s father and brother and another person who had ties to the gunman, army intelligence agents have arrested in the northern city five young men who media reports said belong to “Sheikh Kanaan Naji’s group.”The reports said the five had links to Mabsout. Other media reports meanwhile said that Mabsout had been detained two months ago when he sought to be employed at Tripoli’s port. “He visited the directorate of Tripoli’s port but his application was rejected after the assessment of his criminal record and his joining of the ranks of Daesh in Syria,” al-Hayat newspaper said. “Mabsout was infuriated when he heard the negative response, which prompted him to start cursing and threatening the port’s administration,” the daily added. “The General Security agency arrested him at the port and handed him over to the Military Police, which released him after interrogation,” al-Hayat said. Riding a motorcycle, Mabsout fired on police and army vehicles in different parts of Tripoli on Monday night, killing two police officers and two soldiers and wounding several others before blowing himself up later when confronted by troops. Media reports said Mabsout was a former member of the Islamic State group who fought with the extremist movement in Syria. The reports say he had been detained upon returning to Lebanon in 2016 before being released a year later.

'Tachtouch' Returns to Lebanon after Monkeying Around in Israel
Agence France Presse/Naharnet 07/2019/A Lebanese monkey who breached the border with Israel was returned to its owner Friday by United Nations peacekeepers after cavorting for more than a week in enemy territory. Its owner, a French nun who describes herself as a "virgin hermit", was quick to see the primate's escapade across one of the world's most tense borders as a message of peace. Tachtouch escaped late last month, prompting its owner Beatrice Mauger who runs a peace project in southern Lebanon to launch an appeal on Facebook. "Please Tachtouch come back to Ark of Peace!" she wrote on June 1, with a promise that the village children would hand out bananas as a reward. But Tachtouch was far away, having slipped across the militarized frontier into Israel. The monkey was spotted in multiple locations but evaded capture for more than a week. "We have captured the Lebanese monkey in good health," the Yodfat Monkey Forest in northern Israel said on Facebook late Thursday. The capture took five days of stalking by three women with "determination, love and faith", the post said, including a video of the three sitting with the monkey in a cage in the boot of a car. "He took the drama out of the border by ignoring the wall and the barbed wire," Sister Beatrice told AFP Friday on a phone messaging application after being reunited with Tachtouch. "This vervet is a peace messenger," she said, referring to the type of monkey Tachtouch is. "Peace to all of Tachtouch's fans who helped him to cross a sealed border, a prophetic sign of the reopening of the Israeli-Lebanese border," she added. The return voyage across the fortified border had to be undertaken with help from the U.N.'s peacekeeping force UNIFIL. An Israeli army spokesman told AFP earlier in the day the monkey was "handed over to United Nations forces to be returned to its owners in Lebanon."Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000 but the two states remain technically at war. The U.N. deployment is supposed to monitor the border area between the two states as well as the ceasefire.

Lebanese-American Mueller Report Witness to Remain Jailed in Child Porn Case

Associated Press/Naharnet 07/2019/A businessman who served as a key witness in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation will remain in jail at least for now on charges he transported images of child pornography.Lebanese-American businessman George Nader, 60, made an initial appearance Thursday in federal court in Alexandria. Prosecutors want him detained pending trial. Nader's lawyers say he's in poor health and should be released. Nader's lawyers filed a motion seeking his conditional release, but it is filed under seal so its details are not public. After a bench conference of several minutes at Thursday's hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge Ivan Davis ordered that Nader remain jailed, but expedited a detention hearing for Friday afternoon, where the issue can be discussed further. Davis also scheduled a preliminary hearing for Monday. Nader was arrested earlier this week after flying to New York from the United Arab Emirates. At an earlier hearing in New York, Nader's lawyer, Christopher Clark, said his client came to the U.S. to receive treatment for heart disease. Clark declined to comment after Thursday's hearing. Nader's name shows up more than 100 times in Mueller's recently released report. It details his efforts to serve as liaison between a Russian banker close to Russian President Vladimir Putin and members of President Donald Trump's transition team. Nader also served as an adviser to the United Arab Emirates, a close Saudi ally, and in April 2017 wired $2.5 million to a top Trump fundraiser, Elliott Broidy, through a company in Canada, The Associated Press reported last year. The goal was to persuade the U.S. to take a hard line against Qatar, a longtime American ally but now an adversary of the UAE. The images depicting child pornography and bestiality were discovered on Nader's phone last year after they were confiscated under a search warrant apparently connected to the Mueller probe. Nader pleaded guilty to an identical charge of transporting child-pornography images in Virginia in 1991. He was also convicted in the Czech Republic by Prague's Municipal Court of 10 cases of sexually abusing minors and sentenced to a one-year prison term in 2003.

Environment Minister Hails Bickfaya's Waste Management Initiative 07/2019/Environment Minister Fady Jreissati on Thursday visited the Bi-Clean waste sorting facility in Bickfaya as part of his Metn tour, praising the remarkable work that said plant has been doing over the past few years. Jreissati called on other municipalities to follow suit and opt for the same sorting concept, noting that the Article 80 of the government's waste plan clearly stipulates the decentralization of waste management. Speaking following a guided tour along with Bickfaya's mayor Nicole Gemayel, the minister hailed the Bi-Clean plant as a source of pride, stressing that there’s no excuse for any municipality to claim not to be able to do the same. “Despite facing several obstacles, the municipality of Bickfaya has been able to conduct waste sorting at source without having any government support,” he highlighted. Bi-Clean is a waste sorting plant established in 2016 and which treats the garbage collected from the towns of Bickfaya, Mhaydse, Sekiat al-Misk and Bhersaf.

German Parliament Rejects Ban Of Hezbollah, Snubbing US And German Jews
جيروزاليم بوست: البرلمان الألماني يسقط طلب حظر حزب الله رافضاً بذلك مطلب اليهود الألمان وأميركا
Jerusalem Post/June 07/2019
The parties Christian Democratic Union, Christian Social Union, The Left, The Greens and Free Democrats opposed an anti-Hezbollah bill authored by the far-right party Alternative for Germany party.
Germany’s Bundestag rejected a bill on Thursday to outlaw the Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah in the federal republic.
An array of parties comprising the Christian Democratic Union, Christian Social Union, the Social Democratic Party, the Left, the Greens and Free Democrats opposed an anti-Hezbollah bill authored by the far-right party Alternative for Germany party.
The mainstream German parties’ rejection of the motion to ban Hezbollah comes a week after an urgent appeal from the Central Council of Jews in Germany to outlaw Hezbollah amid rising Jew-hatred in the federal republic. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requested last Friday that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s administration proscribe Hezbollah as a terrorist entity.
The Jerusalem Post reported on Wednesday that a German intelligence report from the state of Lower Saxony asserts the number of Hezbollah members and supporters in Germany has climbed from 950 in 2017 to 1,050 in 2018.
“For a long time we have been calling for a ban on the antisemitic terrorist organization #Hezbollah,” the American Jewish Committee’s Berlin office tweeted on Thursday. “It is regrettable that this topic is now being taken up by the right-wing populists. We hope that all democratic parties will finally seek this prohibition. #Bundestag.”
Kathrin Vogler of the Left Party – widely considered an anti-Israel party – spoke against the anti-Hezbollah bill during the debate. The Left party’s MP Christine Buchholz has defended the “legitimate resistance” of Hezbollah against the Jewish state. Buchholz has also showed support for the EU and US designated terrorist entity Hamas.
The Green Party’s Omid Nouripour, who played a role in a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions initiative against Israel in 2013, voiced his opposition to the anti-Hezbollah resolution.
A leading Green Party MP Jürgen Trittin has shown sympathy for Hezbollah, declaring: “We must speak with Hezbollah.”
The Christian Democratic Union’s Christian de Vries voiced his opposition to the anti-Hezbollah bill, saying there should be an “EU solution” for a ban of Hezbollah.
The German government, however, can unilaterally designate Hezbollah a terrorist organization, but Merkel has vehemently opposed a full ban of Hezbollah.
The German government and the EU have merely outlawed Hezbollah’s so-called military wing.
Hezbollah’s “political wing” operates in Germany by raising funds, recruiting new members and spreading antisemitic and jihadi ideologies.
Benjamin Strasser rejected the anti-Hezbollah bill on behalf of the Free Democrats. His Free Democratic colleague Frank Müller-Rosentritt tweeted on Saturday in response to the pro-Iranian regime, pro-Hezbollah al-Quds Day march: “Thousands demonstrate for the expulsion of the Jews from Jerusalem and the destruction of Israel. Hezbollah and Nasrallah are celebrated. Because Germany does not classify Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, it may continue to collect donations and propaganda. That must have an end.”
The United Kingdom outlawed all of Hezbollah in February. The US, Canada, the Arab League, Israel and the Netherlands have classified all of Hezbollah a terrorist organization. The US Congress has called on Europe over the years to designate all of Hezbollah a terrorist entity.
The 192-page intelligence report authored by the intelligence agents from Lower Saxony’s state security service noted 150 Hezbollah operatives are situated there. The report covering 2018 was released on May 22.
“Hezbollah denies the right of existence of the State of Israel and fights it with terrorist means,” the intelligence report stated. “In Germany, the followers of Hezbollah maintain organizational and ideological and cohesion in local mosques associations that are financed primarily by donations.
Hezbollah is against the idea of ​​international understanding and the peaceful coexistence of peoples. The ‘party’ of Hezbollah was founded under the authority of the Islamic Republic of Iran, representing the most radical party of the Lebanese Shi’ite community.”

Opinion/Between Hezbollah, Israel and Another War: Can UN Peacekeepers Really Keep the Peace?
أرنون غرونبرغ/هآرتس: في أي حرب جديدة بين إسرائيل وحزب الله هل قوات اليونيفل ستكون قادرة فعلاً على حفظ السلام
Arnon Grunberg/Haaretz/June 06/2019
The multinational force keeping Israel and Hezbollah apart has managed 13 years without major conflict. I went to southern Lebanon to see this small miracle up close – just as that winning streak is in danger of ending.
In April 2007, I landed at Beirut’s airport almost a year after the last big conflict between Hezbollah and Israel had ended – the war of the summer of 2006 that ended in a tie. At the same time, a deployment of Italian UNIFIL soldiers arrived on a peacekeeping mission. They were headed to southern Lebanon, near the Israeli border.
Virtually no-one expected the peacekeepers to succeed. Most of the Lebanese that I spoke to were convinced that a new war with Israel would break out within a year, a handful even feared another civil war.
In 2007, the editor-in-chief of the Naharnet newspaper Nafal Daou, a representative of the Lebanese Forces, a Maronite nationalist movement, made the most accurate prediction. He told me that the next great war in the Middle East would be between the Sunnis and the Shias. He added that he didn’t expect a peaceful resolution, neither in the short nor the long term.
The Arab Spring flowered and shriveled, followed by the war in Syria – a cataclysm that appeared to be precisely a great war between Shias and Sunnis – and a catalyst for an unprecedented flow of refugees across the region and beyond. Politicians in Europe used the refugee crisis for electoral gain, fanning unrest among their citizens.
But despite several mostly aerial skirmishes between Hezbollah and Israel on Syrian soil, the border between Lebanon and Israel remained remarkably stable. A small miracle. And in spite of the arrival of about a million-and-a-half Syrian refugees moving toward Lebanon, the country stayed relatively calm. Another small miracle.
The Palestine-Israel conflict might be less of a hot topic in the West than a few decades ago, and the war in Syria may be one of its forgotten wars – people tend to forget at an alarming rate – but the Middle East bears far more weighty significance than being just the periphery of Europe.
The ill-advised American-led invasion of 2003 in Iraq had many unintended consequences, the birth of ISIS being just one of them. And it is the existence of ISIS and its terror that helped the extreme-right in Europe so enormously, fueling their portrayal of Muslim citizens as a danger and potential threat to Europe and its “real” citizens.
In the same way, in the first decades of the twentieth century, the Jews were portrayed as Bolsheviks and anarcho-terrorists – a threat to peace and prosperity in Europe.
The Middle East is still Europe’s back garden. If the region goes up in flames. Europe won’t be able to pretend that it’s business as usual.
Lebanon is one of the few countries in the Middle-East where Christians, Shias and Sunnis can still – or one might say: once again – coexist in a situation of relative peace. Yet, the country is also home to all the problems of the Middle East in general: the conflict with Israel, the issue of Palestinian refugees, often already third-generation, Syrian refugees, the conflict with Iran.
Since President Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and the consequent escalation of tensions with Tehran, all eyes are now on Iran’s military proxies in the region. Because of Hezbollah’s close Iranian ties, it’s not inconceivable that this conflict will be fought out on Lebanese territory.
There was another reason for this visit. The idea of multilateralism might sound boring and bureaucratic, but a multilateral stake in de-escalation and keeping at least a baseline of peace – especially in the current climate – isn’t something that can just be dismissed.
I wanted to see the workings of this multilateral worldview, by visiting one of the longest surviving UN peacekeeping missions: UNIFIL. The Interim Force in Lebanon was established in 1978, to keep the border between Israel and Lebanon stable. It wasn’t supposed to last this long.
When I embedded with the Dutch army in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007, I was escorted by a Captain Cynthia. When I visited Lebanon in 2018, she is the only Dutch national deployed at UNIFIL, as a military gender advisor, and she invited me to visit her, to see UNIFIL itself, but also to see what a gender advisor actually does on a day-to-day basis.
If I have learned anything from my time in Afghanistan and Iraq it is that war, including the prelude and aftermath, is a tragic form of absurdism complete with the necessary comic intermezzos. Still, the question should be asked: Is a peacekeeping mission more than the tragic absurdism that multilateralism’s opponents so eagerly accuse the UN of generating?
And the question that follows: If the Middle East really buckles, can life in Europe remain business-as-usual?
Getting permission to visit UNIFIL bases turns out to be quite complicated. Like many institutions, if not all, the UN fears the possibility of negative publicity. Perhaps the UN’s anxiety on this matter is more palpable than in other institutions, bearing in mind that the multilateral worldview is under fire.
The second time I visited Lebanon, in 2018, I landed in Beirut in the third week of October. This time, there are no UNIFIL soldiers in sight: after all, UNIFIL is not extending its reach or headcount as it did after the war in 2006. My 14 year-old godson and his mother accompany me. It seemed appropriate to give the adolescent the opportunity to see the region for himself.
Because the application procedure for permission for my visit to UNIFIL and Captain Cynthia went through the Dutch Ministry of Defense, the ambassador to the Netherlands in Lebanon, Jan Waltmans, got wind of my arrival and was kind enough to invite me for coffee.
Despite the fact that diplomats can’t necessarily talk openly – although it appears that even diplomats speak more freely now than before – I couldn’t rule out that he had something interesting to say. So I decided to begin my visit to Lebanon with him.
Waltmans, a tall man in his fifties with a white button-down shirt, the top button undone, welcomes me to the embassy with a glass of water and takes me down to a bookshop and/or cafe where we drink coffee and eat cake.
“Lebanon is a gorgeous country,” Waltmans says. “They don’t need anything from me, but sometimes you do end up in an argument because people here want to pay for everything for you. At a certain point I told them: “If you want to us to remain friends, you really have to stop being the first to snatch the bill every time.””
The ambassador and I savor our pieces of cake.
“The sectarian system in Lebanon doesn’t encourage solutions to be found efficiently,” he continues. “Their main interest is not the country itself but the communities or families they represent. More than a billion and a half dollars of electricity is wasted. The quality of drinking water in Lebanon is among the worst on the planet.”
Political power in Lebanon is divided by the constitution among the country’s various ethnic and religious groups to ensure fair representation and to prevent the monopoly of power by any one sector. The Sunnis put forward a Prime Minister, Shias elect the Speaker, and Christians choose a President.
Lebanon has frequent power outages. The rich have their own generators, but most Lebanese are dependent on the owner of a generator in their street or district. Across the country, there are faint whispers that the owners of generators are partly responsible for the bad electricity in the country.
“We have to reform,” says the ambassador. “The public sector is unwieldy. And the job market is strained due to the arrival of the Syrians.” By “we,” he means Lebanon.
“Can the region shelter them temporarily?” I ask. We have nearly finished eating our pieces of cake.
“That is possible,” he answers. “Fifteen percent of the refugees live in so-called tented settlements because they’ve lost everything, they are mostly from rural areas in Syria. But if you compare it to what I encountered in Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Liberia, it’s not so bad here. And take Iraq, we asked the Iraqi refugees what they needed to return to their homes. They told us: “Electricity, no more landmines, a system of health-care, schools, and then we’ll take care of rebuilding our houses ourselves.”
Syrian refugees in the camp outside the Bekaa valley town of Saadnayel, east Lebanon. Lebanon hosts over a million refugees from Syria. April 23, 2019
“We have allocated 100 million for this, a quarter of which is a Dutch investment. And one million people have returned home. In Lebanon, we try to support the Lebanese armed forces to focus the monopoly on violence with them. In Tripoli, which saw people shooting at each other from balconies, we’ve set up a football pitch. Since then, no one fires from the balconies anymore.
“I see a lot of young people. And they can tell me anything, they’re not used to that. The most frequently asked question is, “How can we get out of here?” It’s agonizing.”
We finish our coffees. Yes, there are small miracles, but none big enough to quench the deeply rooted presumption that things are better elsewhere.
On our way to the embassy, the ambassador points out several buildings that illustrate why Beirut was once called the Paris of the Middle East. He adds that the luxury storefronts remain empty because tourists from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States have stopped visiting. Despite the praise that the ambassador gave the country in which he is stationed, faded glory appears to be the only glory left.
Back in 2007, the way south was a relatively adventurous endeavor. The Israeli air force had bombed the bridges between Beirut and the south and they were yet to be repaired. Still, even then, we managed to get to our destination – the Lebanese villages close to the Israeli border.
Eleven years later, the same journey is a smooth taxi-ride, despite being stopped at a checkpoint just south of the city of Tyre. Here, the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) are basically a toothless army, because the presence of active non-state militia in the area remains overpowering. Not least Hezbollah, with its links to Iran and their weapons and political weight.
Political power and weapons are still closely tied in Lebanon, a remnant of the civil war. The southernmost tip of Lebanon is not accessible to anyone, in an attempt to suppress the flow of weapons and fighters to an area that is officially supposed to be a demilitarized zone.
I am accredited so I’m allowed to visit the area, which is not yet the case for my fellow travelers. After a few phone calls to the colonel of the LAF in the city of Saida, they’re also allowed to join me.
Naqoura is a seaside town, a few kilometers north of the border with Israel. It is where UNIFIL is headquartered. UNIFIL began in 1978 to guarantee peace between Lebanon and Israel, but couldn’t prevent the Israeli invasion of 1982 nor the war of 2006. Its mandate was subsequently expanded after 2006.
Across from HQ, my travel companions and I stay at the somewhat luxurious, but largely empty, Hotel Rêve de la Mer. The swimming pool is grandiose, but out of service. It seems likely that this hotel wouldn’t have been built without the presence of the UN troops and their HQ. The drawn-out presence of foreign troops, peacekeeping forces or otherwise, always impacts its surroundings’ economics. The army generates its own economy, whether we like it or not.
My first day with UNIFIL happens to coincide with “UN Day.” There is a holiday for most anything in the world, so why not the United Nations? The head of mission at UNIFIL, the Italian Major-General Stefano del Col, gives a short speech and decorates employees who have worked for the UN for 20, 25 and 30 years, respectively. A peacekeeping mission doesn’t solely run on military personnel, but also people that carry out support duties.
Maj-Gen Del Col dedicates a moment to those that fell in service of UNIFIL, over 250 people over the years, among whom are several Dutch soldiers.
After this he quotes former UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld, who once said that the UN wasn’t intended to create heaven on earth, but to protect humanity from its own hell.
The ceremony is followed by food and non-alcoholic beverages. Here we meet George, a soldier from Ghana. Cynthia taught George to swim, for which he expresses gratitude to her. Cynthia mentions that there was a time when they could swim in the sea on Saturdays, but this has since been prohibited because a UNIFIL employee had almost drowned.
She also says that they have made efforts to make the pool at UNIFIL more female-friendly. As a woman you would get stared at by the men. She sent out a survey among female UNIFIL staff and most of the female staffers shared her position. Only the French and Austrian women felt that the claim was nonsense.
42 countries supply troops to UNIFIL (as of May 2019). Indonesia supplies the most soldiers (1310), but also Nepal (871), Malaysia (825), India (780) and Spain (630) send a considerable numbers. UNIFIL’s jurisdiction is split across an area of two sectors: eastern and western.
We have lunch at HQ in the French-Lebanese restaurant La Terrace, informally also referred to as Chez Joseph et Marcelle, with Renaud, a Belgian stationed here since 2009 who heads the Joint Mission Analysis Center. Marcelle warmly welcomes Renaud with the words: “Comme l’habitude?” Here they know that Renaud enjoys his steak au poivre with fries.
Once we’re seated he says: “Although I have a French name, but I’m actually Flemish, I was an officer in the Belgian army.”
When the steak arrives, he talks about his work analyzing geopolitical developments that could impact their mission.
“If you would’ve told the Lebanese in 2010 about what would happen in the region over the past eight years, they’d think all hell would break loose [here]. This hasn’t happened.
“We have here what I call a balance of terror. Bearing in mind that small things can spiral out of control fast, which is what happened in July of 2006. The price of conflict is too high for either party.
“Israel tells us that when a conflict with Hezbollah occurs, they will evacuate their population near the border. But how do they do that when they’re under fire? And if they evacuate before the conflict they can kiss their element of surprise goodbye.”
Renaud talks so much that he barely touches his steak.
“The Lebanese elite want to keep the official Lebanese army on a tight leash, this benefits them,” he says. The weaker the state and its army, the more power the elites have for themselves. They don’t want the army to interfere with their militias.
“We have no mandate to search every house individually [for weapons], but taking all the countries involved into account, like Italy, Spain, France, Ireland, Germany, Austria, China, etc., a level of peace is maintained.
“At the moment there are in excess of 10,000 UNIFIL soldiers on active duty. Even if you wouldn’t have the brightest of soldiers, it would still be very difficult to hide arms under their noses, given the relatively small area of operations for which UNIFIL and the LAF are responsible. Besides, rockets that aren’t stored under the proper conditions will eventually deteriorate.”
For now, the price of war is too high, and that is the good news, but this can change at the drop of a hat. Prices fluctuate.
On my second day with UNIFIL, I attend a workshop that Cynthia has organized on gender roles. This is accompanied by a drill from Turkish Army Lieutenant-Colonel Akif, which he himself refers to as a lecture. There are about 40 soldiers from various countries in the room.
Akif is a charming, gentle man who talks about cultural differences, leadership, and gender in military operations. He bases this on six cultural dimensions as laid out by the Dutch organizational psychologist Geert Hofstede: masculinity versus femininity, individualism versus collectivism, avoiding unpredictability and distance of power. Based on these dimensions, the culture of one country can be compared to a host of other countries.
Akif suggests that Finnish culture is less hierarchical than Malaysian culture. “Yes, in the sauna we’re all equal,” a Finnish soldier confirms.
Akif explains: “Gender equality occurs when women are able to perform outside of the parameters ascribed to their sex.” He then says there are feminine and masculine styles of leadership. A female Croatian officer heading a platoon protests: “I have 25 people under my command, all men, I exercise masculine leadership.”
Akif delves into the topic and says: “But you deliberate with your subordinates, which is feminine, you have a feminine style of leadership but you’re unaware of it.” He doesn’t mean that her leadership is feminine because she is a woman, but because she is deliberating with her subordinates. A rather ironic cliché in this context: “masculine” leadership, apparently, is just giving orders.
Not all attendees have a firm grasp on the English language, which is challenging for the follow-up discussion. Akif closes with the remark: “If I have confused you, this was good.”
The soldiers thank Cynthia for the workshop, the Indonesian soldiers want to take a picture with her and Akif.
That afternoon Akif hands me a keyring. He also has a sheet with a beautiful calligraphy of my name, so flawless that I initially suspect it to have been made by a computer. He hands me the piece of paper.
I ask if he has a feminine style of leadership and without hesitation he replies: “Yes.”
I wanted to probe him about Turkey but I acknowledge the sensitivity of the subject. All he says is: “The attempted coup cost us many officers, the following day I went to the office and there was virtually nobody there.”
That night Lebanon endured heavy bouts of rain and hail. Together with Cynthia and my travel companions I dine in an almost empty Chez Joseph et Marcelle. There’s a solitary Colombian soldier devouring a pizza. My godson utterly enjoyed his time at the UNIFIL headquarters because there are so many dogs around.
“Yes,” Cynthia replies, “many Lebanese drop off their unwanted pets at UNIFIL.”
A peacekeeping mission can be put to so many uses.
*Arnon Grunberg is the author of the recent novels “Good Men” and “Birthmarks.” He was born in Amsterdam and lives and works in New York. Twitter: @arnonyy

The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on June 06-07/2019
US commander says he believes Iran threat still ‘very real’

AFP/Arab News/June 07/2019
BAGHDAD: Iran has chosen to "step back and recalculate" after making preparations for an apparent attack against US forces in the Persian Gulf region, but it is too early to conclude the threat is gone, the top commander of American forces in the Mideast said.
In an interview with three reporters accompanying him to the Gulf, Gen. Frank McKenzie said he remains concerned by Iran's potential for aggression and he would not rule out requesting additional US forces to bolster defenses against Iranian missiles or other weapons.
"I don't actually believe the threat has diminished," McKenzie said Thursday. "I believe the threat is very real."
McKenzie, the head of US Central Command, and other military officials are trying to strike a balance between persuading Iran that the US is prepared to retaliate for an Iranian attack on Americans, thus deterring conflict, and pushing so much military muscle into the Gulf that Iran thinks the US plans an attack, in which case it might feel compelled to strike preemptively and thus spark war.
Tensions between the US and Iran have worsened since President Donald Trump withdrew from a 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and several world powers and reinstated sanctions on Tehran. Last month, in response to what American officials characterized as an imminent threat, the US announced it would rush an aircraft carrier and other assets to the region.
The US also blamed Iran for last month's attacks on oil tankers in a United Arab Emirates port.
On Thursday, United Nations ambassadors from the Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Norway told UN Security Council members that investigators believe those attacks were led by a foreign state using divers on speed boats who planted mines on the vessels. They did not name Iran.
Earlier, the Saudi ambassador to the UN, Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, said Saudi Arabia also blames Iran for the sabotage.
Iran has consistently dismissed allegations that it was involved in the recent attacks on the oil tankers or was preparing to attack American troops in the region.
In Baghdad, McKenzie told reporters from The Associated Press and two other media organizations that US redeployments to the Gulf have "caused the Iranians to back up a little bit, but I'm not sure they are strategically backing down."
The general said the US is showing enough force to "establish deterrence" without "needlessly" provoking its longtime adversary. He said he is confident in the moves he has made.
"We've taken steps to show the Iranians that we mean business in our ability to defend ourselves," he said, referring to the accelerated deployment to the Gulf area of the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group, four Air Force B-52 bombers and additional batteries of Army Patriot air-defense systems.
Trump, speaking beside French President Emmanuel Macron in Caen, France, said US sanctions are crippling Iran's economy, possibly yielding a diplomatic opening.
"And if they want to talk, that's fine," Trump said. "We'll talk. But the one thing that they can't have is they can't have nuclear weapons."
Speaking at the Baghdad headquarters of the US-led coalition fighting Daesh in Iraq and Syria, McKenzie said he also has repositioned surveillance aircraft to more closely monitor the situation in the Gulf and in Iraq, where the US has 5,200 troops on the ground, and has given Iran a "new look" by introducing more aerial patrols by land- and carrier-based fighters.
"Cumulatively, all of these have caused them to sort of step back and recalculate the course that they apparently were on," he said.
McKenzie did not mention it, but other officials have said that in early May Iran had cruise and perhaps short-range ballistic missiles configured for potential use aboard a small number of dhows sailing off its coast. More recently, those missiles, which were deemed a potential threat, were offloaded, officials have said. McKenzie stressed that the danger of conflict with a decades-old American adversary has not passed.
"I hesitate to say that deterrence has been established," he said. "We continue to see possible imminent threats" of a potential Iranian attack.
He said he could not be more specific due to the classification of the intelligence, which he said is as clear and compelling as any he has seen in years.
McKenzie, a veteran of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, took command of Central Command in late March, shortly before the onset of the latest surge in tensions with Iran. He previously directed the staff that supports the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The general said he, not the White House, initiated the May 5 moves to accelerate the deployment of the Abraham Lincoln carrier group and to dispatch B-52 bombers.
He said the intelligence on Iranian threats in the first days of May was "compelling" and that the threats were "advanced, imminent and very specific."
The pattern of intelligence on Iranian preparations for potential attacks emerged as the Trump administration took a pair of highly public actions meant to penalize Iran. The first was the State Department's designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization. The second, perhaps more consequential, move was a April 22 announcement that waivers for American sanctions on buyers of Iranian oil would not be renewed when they expired May 2, meaning Iran lost vital oil export revenues.
US intelligence was then picking up what Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last week looked like a pattern of Iranian plotting against US and other targets in the region. Dunford said that on May 3, the US sent a message to Iranian officials "just to make it clear they understood that we would hold them accountable should something take place in the region."Two days later, Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, announced the movement of the carrier, prompting an explosion of questions about what new threats Iran had posed to prompt such a highly unusual White House declaration. McKenzie said the carrier request was his, in consultation with Dunford, and that he faced no political pressure to make the request.

Saudi Arabia, UAE, Norway tell UN Security Council tanker attacker ‘most likely a state actor’
Reuter/Arab News/June 07/2019
NEW YORK: The United Arab Emirates told United Nations Security Council members on Thursday that attacks on four tankers off its coast on May 12 bore the hallmarks of a “sophisticated and coordinated operation,” most likely by a state actor. In a document on the briefing to Security Council members, the UAE, joined by Norway and Saudi Arabia, did not say who it believed was behind the attacks and did not mention Iran, which has been accused by the United States of being directly responsible. The attacks required expert navigation of fast boats and trained divers who likely placed limpet mines with a high degree of precision on the vessels under the waterline to incapacitate but not sink them, according to the preliminary findings of the countries’ joint investigation. “While investigations are still ongoing, these facts are strong indications that the four attacks were part of a sophisticated and coordinated operation carried out by an actor with significant operational capacity, most likely a state actor,” the three countries said in the document. They believe it was the work of several teams of operatives, which coordinated the timed detonation of all four explosive charges within less than an hour. The May 12 attacks targeted two Saudi tankers, an Emirati vessel and a Norwegian tanker, causing no casualties but fueling tensions between the United States and Iran during weeks of escalating rhetoric. US national security adviser John Bolton said on May 29 that the attacks were the work of “naval mines almost certainly from Iran.” Tehran denied the accusations. A few days earlier in May, at the Pentagon, US Rear Admiral Michael Gilday accused Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) of being directly responsible for the attacks. Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United Nations, Abdallah Y. Al-Mouallimi, laid the blame squarely on Iran.“We believe that the responsibility for this action lies on the shoulders of Iran. We have no hesitation in making this statement,” he said.
Threat to global energy supplies
US President Donald Trump’s administration, acting on concerns of a potential attack by Iran on US interests, has deployed 1,500 more troops to the Middle East, accelerated the movement of an aircraft carrier strike group to the region and sent bombers and additional Patriot missiles. The tanker attacks occurred off the UAE emirate of Fujairah, which lies just outside the Strait of Hormuz, a vital global oil and gas shipping route that separates the Gulf Arab states — allies of the United States — and Iran. The three countries said the attacks endangered commercial navigation and the security of global energy supplies. They planned to share the findings of their probe with the London-based International Maritime Organization. In the weeks before the attacks, the Trump administration hardened its policy against Iran by fully reimposing sanctions on Iranian oil exports and designating the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization. Trump reiterated this week that he wants to sit down with Iran’s leaders to negotiate a new deal, a year after Washington pulled out of an accord between Iran and global powers to curb Tehran’s nuclear program in return for lifting international sanctions.
Irani Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday that Tehran would not be “deceived” by Trump’s offer.

US targets Iran’s petrochemical industry with sanctions over support for IRGC
Arab News/.Agencies/June 07/2019/JEDDAH: The US imposed new sanctions on Friday on Iran’s petrochemical industry because of its financial support for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The sanctions target the Persian Gulf Petrochemical Industries Company and its network of 39 subsidiary companies and foreign-based sales agents. “By targeting this network we intend to deny funding to key elements of Iran’s petrochemical sector that provide support to the IRGC,” US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said. In April, the US declared the IRGC a foreign terrorist organization. The Pentagon has also accused the Guards of carrying out attacks off the UAE coast on May 12 that damaged two Saudi tankers, an Emirati vessel and a Norwegian tanker. The UAE told UN Security Council members late on Thursday that the attacks bore the hallmarks of a “sophisticated and coordinated operation,” probably by a state actor. Divers placed limpet mines on the vessels under the waterline to incapacitate but not sink them, according to the preliminary findings of a joint investigation by the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Norway. The report did not name Iran – but Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the UN, Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, said there was no doubt about who was to blame. “We believe the responsibility for this action lies on the shoulders of Iran. We have no hesitation in making this statement,” he said. The IRGC specializes in such tactics, the security analyst Dr. Theodore Karasik told Arab News. “It’s part of part of Iran’s larger asymmetric warfare approach,” said Karasik, senior adviser at Gulf State Analytics in Washington, DC. “A small team within a command-and-control structure is deployable quickly and quietly, as we saw on the night of the attacks, and is a continuing danger in sealanes. That command-and-control structure goes straight up the leadership chain.”

New US sanctions target Iran’s petrochemical industry
Reuters, AFP, Washington/Friday, 7 June 2019/New US sanctions imposed on Friday target Iran’s petrochemical industry, including the country’s largest petrochemical holding group over its financial support for Tehran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Treasury Department said in a statement. The US hit Iran’s petrochemical group PGPIC with economic sanctions due to its ties with the country’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), the Treasury Department announced on Friday. The sanctions prohibit the firm and its subsidiaries from accessing the US market or financial system, including through other foreign companies, and blocks all funds or property that is in the United States or held by a US firm. The PGPIC group holds 40 percent of Iran’s total petrochemical production capacity and is responsible for 50 percent of the country’s petrochemical exports, the Treasury said. The move aims to choke off financing to the country's largest and most profitable petrochemical group and extends to its 39 subsidiaries and “foreign-based sales agents,” the Treasury Department said in a statement. “This action is a warning that we will continue to target holding groups and companies in the petrochemical sector and elsewhere that provide financial lifelines to the IRGC,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the statement. “By targeting this network we intend to deny funding to key elements of Iran’s petrochemical sector that provide support to the IRGC,” he added .“Maximum pressure on Iran’s regime continues today,” tweeted Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State. “The US Treasury imposed sanctions on Iran’s petrochemical sector, which funds the IRGC. The US will deny the regime the money it needs to destabilize the Middle East.”

Iran rejects French call for wider talks beyond nuclear deal: state TV
Reuters, Dubai/Friday, 7 June 2019/Iran rejected French calls for wider international talks over its nuclear and military ambitions, saying on Friday it would only discuss it existing 2015 atomic pact with world powers, state TV reported. French President Emmanuel Macron had said a day earlier that Paris and Washington both wanted to stop Tehran getting nuclear arms and new talks should focus on curbing its ballistic missiles program and on other issues. But Iran’s foreign ministry said it would not hold any discussions beyond the 2015 pact which US President Donald Trump abandoned last year as he pressed for tougher restrictions. “Under this circumstances, talking about issues beyond the deal ... will lead to further mistrust among the remaining signatories of the deal,” foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said in a statement. The United States pulled out of the 2015 agreement - under which Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear work in exchange for sanctions relief- saying it did was not permanent and did not do enough to control Iran’s missiles and regional influence. France and other European signatories to the deal have said they wanted to save it, but many of their companies have canceled deals with Tehran, under financial pressure from the United States. “The Europeans have so far failed to fulfill their commitments under the deal and ... to protect Iran’s interests after America’s illegal withdrawal,” Mousavi added in his statement, according to state TV. Trump said on Thursday that Iran was failing as a nation, under the pressure of his sanctions, and repeated his call for talks with the leadership in Tehran. Mousavi dismissed Trump’s comments as “repetitive, groundless and paradoxical” and said they did not merit a response. Iran’s top authority Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has dismissed Washington’s call for negotiations. However, Iran’s pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani has signaled Iran’s willingness to hold talks if the US showed its respect and returned to the nuclear accord.

US will not accept more Turkish F-35 pilots over Russia defenses
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Friday, 7 June 2019/The United States has decided to stop accepting any additional Turkish pilots who planned to come to the United States to train on F-35 fighter jets, US officials say, in a clear sign of the escalating dispute over Ankara’s plans to purchase Russian air defenses. The two NATO allies have sparred publicly for months over Turkey’s order for Russia’s S-400 air defense system, which Washington says poses a threat to the Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 stealthy fighters, which Turkey also plans to buy. The United States says Turkey cannot have both but has avoided taking steps until now to curtail or halt planned training of Turkish pilots in the program, a reprisal that could be seen as an embarrassment in Turkey. The two US officials, who spoke to Reuters this week on condition of anonymity, left open the possibility the decision could be reversed, perhaps if Turkey altered its plans. They said the decision so far only applied to upcoming rounds of Turkish pilots and maintenance crews who would have normally come to the United States. There has not yet been a formal decision to halt the training of the Turkish pilots and maintenance crews now at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, the sources said. Still, Reuters reported last week that the step was being seriously considered. Four Turkish pilots are currently training at Luke. Two additional Turkish pilots are at the US base working as instructors. Beyond those six Turkish officers, there are an additional 20 Turkish aircraft maintainers at the base undergoing training as well, the US military says. Turkey has expressed an interest in buying 100 of the fighters, which would have a total value of $9 billion at current prices.
Letter to Turkey
Foreign Policy has reported on a letter from acting US Secretary of Defense, signed June 6, to Hulusi Akar, Turkey’s defense minister, which states that 42 Turkish students attending F-35 training at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona and Eglin Air Force Base in Florida will be required to depart by July 31. Two US defense officials confirmed that Shanahan signed the letter and submitted it to Turkey, according to Foreign Policy, which reviewed a detailed list of actions attached to the letter stipulating the steps the United States is planning to take if Turkey moves forward with purchasing the S-400. The list also included that the training for the 34 Turkish students scheduled to arrive in the United States later this year will be suspended. “This training will not occur because we are suspending Turkey from the F-35 program; there are no longer requirements to gain proficiencies on the system,” according to the document. Also on July 31, Turkish Air Force personnel will no longer be permitted to enter facilities belonging to the F-35 Joint Program Office. The letter, reviewed by Foreign Policy, also mandates that Turkey reassign its personnel from the office by this date. The United States also will not plan on Turkey participating in the next CEO roundtable, a meeting in which all program government and industry leaders come together to discuss the performance and direction of the program, according to Foreign Policy.
Strained relationship
If Turkey were removed from the F-35 program, it would be one of the most significant ruptures in recent history in the relationship between the two allies, experts said. But strains in ties between Washington and Ankara already extend beyond the F-35 to include conflicting strategy in Syria, Iran sanctions, and the detention of US consular staff in Turkey. The disclosure of the decision on the pilots follows signs that Turkey is moving ahead with the S-400 purchase. Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said on May 22 that Turkish military personnel were receiving training in Russia to use the S-400 and that Russian personnel may come to Turkey. President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday it was “out of the question” for Turkey to back away from its deal with Moscow. Kathryn Wheelbarger, one of the Pentagon’s most senior policy officials, said last week that Turkey’s completion of the transaction with Russia would be “devastating,” dealing heavy blows to the F-35 program and to Turkish interoperability within the NATO alliance. “The S-400 is a Russian system designed to shoot down an aircraft like the F-35,” said Wheelbarger, an acting assistant secretary of defense. “And it is inconceivable to imagine Russia not taking advantage of that (intelligence) collection opportunity.” The Pentagon has stressed discussions are taking place with Ankara on potentially selling Turkey Patriot missile defenses, which are made by Raytheon Co. Erdogan said on Tuesday, however, that the United States had not “given us an offer as good as the S-400s.”With Agencies

Syria Flare-Up Leaves 83 Fighters Dead
Agence France Presse/Naharnet 07/2019/Fierce clashes between Russia-backed government forces and jihadists have left 83 combatants dead in northwestern Syria in the past 24 hours, a Britain-based war monitor said Friday. The clashes on the edge of the jihadist-controlled Idlib region have killed 44 government loyalists and 39 jihadists and Islamist fighters since Thursday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The region of some three million people -- almost half of them displaced from other parts of the country -- is dominated by the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance led by al-Qaida's former Syrian affiliate. The alliance administers a region that spans most of Idlib province as well as adjacent slivers of the neighboring Latakia, Aleppo, and Hama provinces. The region has seen a spike in bombardment since late April, with regime forces seizing several towns on the region's southwestern flank. Late Thursday, the jihadists and allied rebels launched a counterattack against regime forces in the northwest of Hama province. They have since seized the villages of Tal Maleh and Jibeen there, the Observatory said.
"Violent clashes are ongoing, accompanied by regime and Russian air strikes," Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said. The fighting is raging near Christian and Alawite areas under regime control, he said. In the Idlib province, two children were killed overnight -- one in regime rocket fire in the village of Frike and another in an airstrike in the town of Khan Sheikhun, the Observatory said. The jihadists who took part in the counterattack include some from the Al-Qaeda-linked Hurras al-Deen and Turkistan Islamic Party. Idlib is supposed to be protected from a massive regime offensive by a September buffer zone deal signed between regime ally Russia and rebel backer Turkey. But it was never fully implemented as jihadists refused to withdraw from the planned demilitarised zone. The government and Russia have upped their bombardment of the region since late April, killing more than 300 civilians, according to the Observatory. The United Nations say more than 270,000 people have fled their homes.A total of 24 health facilities and 35 schools have been hit in the latest escalation, according to the UN's humanitarian office. Analysts predict that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his allies will continue to chip away at the area, but not unleash a major assault that would create chaos on Turkey's doorstep. Eight years into Syria's civil war, two regions largely remain beyond regime control: a large northeastern swathe held by the country's Kurds, and Idlib. The war, which started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government demonstrations, has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions.

Militants kill 21 regime forces in Syria’s northwest
AFP, Beirut/Friday, 7 June 2019/Militants in northwestern Syria on Thursday launched an attack on government forces killing at least 21 fighters, a war monitor said, following a series of regime advances in the area. The deadly assault in a northern strip of Hama province comes amid an escalation in violence in parts of the country’s northwest held by Syria’s former al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). Damascus and its ally Russia have since late April ramped up deadly air strikes and rocket fire on the region, and fighters have clashed on its edges. Thursday’s attack by HTS militants and allied groups on the village of Jibeen, follow a series of regime advances in the region in recent weeks, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said. “The insurgents are launching a counterattack,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP. “They are making strategic advances,” he said, adding that they have seized several hilltops. He said at least 14 militants were killed in ensuing clashes. State news agency SANA said that militants launched rocket attacks on a number of villages in northern Hama, destroying homes. Syrian state television said that Syrian troops thwarted the assault on the villages of Tal Maleh and Jibeen. Meanwhile, regime airstrikes pounded the neighboring province of Idlib and nearby areas on Thursday, as battles raged, the Britain-based Observatory said. One civilian was killed in the bombardment, according to the monitor. More than 300 people have been killed by regime air strikes and shelling in the area since late April, according to the Observatory. The bombardment has also displaced nearly 270,000 people in May alone, according to the UN.

Ethiopian PM stresses unity amid Sudan mediation efforts
The Associated Press, Khartoum/Friday, 7 June 2019/The office of Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said that the premiere stressed unity during his efforts to mediate between Sudan’s ruling military and the country’s protest leaders. The office posted photos of a smiling Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed meeting with leaders of the Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change, a coalition of political groups and parties representing the protesters. He also held talks earlier Friday with Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the head of Sudan’s ruling military council, in Khartoum. Ahmed’s office said the PM stressed that “a prerequisite for restoring peace in Sudan is unity.” Meanwhile, a leader in Sudan’s protest movement said his group and Ethiopia’s prime minister have exchanged proposals on how to resolve the ongoing conflict with Sudan’s ruling military council. In an interview with Al Arabiya, the head of the Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change Gaafar Hassan refused to reveal details of the discussion, saying they will be unveiled at a news conference. Hassan added that Ahmed listened to protesters’ version of the latest deadly developments in Sudan. Hassan has reiterated the FDFC’s strong objections to holding any “direct” or “indirect” talks with the ruling military council, which took over the country after mass protests drove longtime dictator Omar al-Bashir from power in April. The visit by the Ethiopian leader comes a day after the African Union continental body, based in Ethiopia, suspended Sudan over this week’s deadly crackdown on protesters. Sudanese protest leaders are demanding the dismantling of a paramilitary unit they hold responsible for the violent crackdown on their rallies this week. The Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change, said in a statement late Thursday that the Rapid Support Forces should be dissolved and their weapons handed over to the army.
The Arab League calls on Sudanese to exercise restraint
The Secretary-General of the Arab League, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, on Friday called on the Sudanese parties to “exercise restraint” and avoid “the abandonment of the peaceful approach” on the transfer of power in the country, following the violence in Khartoum that killed dozens of people.Aboul Gheit called on “all Sudanese parties to exercise restraint and avoid any actions that would contribute to fueling the situation and escalating it or lead to a deviation from the peaceful approach to complete the process of political transition in the country.”UAE concerned with ‘massacre’ in Sudan, supports investigation. The United Arab Emirates is concerned about the “massacre” seen in Sudan and supports calls for an investigation, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said on Friday. The opposition says 113 people were killed in the storming of a civilian protest camp on Monday and a subsequent wider crackdown. The government put the toll at 61 people, including three security personnel.

Ethiopia PM in Sudan to broker talks between generals, protesters
Reuters, Nairobi/Friday, 7 June 2019/Ethiopia’s prime minister arrived in Khartoum on Friday to meet the chief of Sudan’s ruling military council in a bid to mediate in the political crisis that has followed the overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir in April. “Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, together with his delegation, arrived in Khartoum, Sudan, this morning for talks,” Abiy’s office said on Twitter. A diplomatic source said on Thursday that Ethiopia planned to meet members of both the ruling Transitional Military Council headed by Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and the opposition. Abiy’s exact schedule for Friday was not known. The Ethiopian initiative follows the worst bloodshed in Sudan since Bashir was ousted by the military after four months of protests against his repressive three-decade rule. The opposition says 108 people were killed in the storming of a civilian protest camp on Monday and a subsequent wider crackdown. The government put the toll at 61 people, including three security personnel. The African Union on Thursday suspended Sudan until the establishment of civilian rule, intensifying global pressure on the military leaders to stand down. Both sides had been in talks over a civilian-led transition to democracy. But the already faltering negotiations collapsed in the wake of the crackdown. Abiy Ahmed, who took office in Ethiopia last year and introduced political and economic reforms, has won wide praise for his diplomacy skills, including brokering peace with his country’s neighbor and long-time foe Eritrea.

US gives Turkey up to July 31 to backtrack on Russia missile deal
AFP, Washington/Saturday, 8 June 2019/The United States on Friday gave Turkey until the end of July to abandon a deal made with Russia to buy an S-400 missile defense system, which Washington considers incompatible with Ankara's participation in the F-35 fighter jet program. If by July 31 Turkey does not give up on the S-400 system, Turkish pilots currently training in the United States on the F-35 will be expelled, and agreements with Turkish firms sub-contracted for manufacturing the F-35 stealth warplane will be cancelled, Ellen Lord, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, told reporters. Lord said the deadline “will allow sufficient time for Turkish personnel associated with the F-35 program to be reassigned and depart the United States... to facilitate an orderly cessation of Turkish participation.”She justified the US ultimatum by the fact that Turkey, a NATO ally of the United States, had already sent its personnel to Russia to start training with the S-400. On Tuesday Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country was “determined” to proceed with the Russia deal. US officials have said they expected Turkey to opt for the American Patriot system instead, arguing that would allow the F-35 program to continue. Turkey plans to buy 100 US F-35s. Erdogan said he told the US that Ankara would buy Patriots only if Washington's conditions of delivery were as positive as Moscow's. “But unfortunately we haven’t received a positive proposal from the American side on the subject of Patriots like the S-400s from Russia,” he said. Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said he had sent a letter to his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar informing him of Washington’s decision. The US offer for the Patriots was “very competitive,” Shanahan told reporters.

UK's May Quits as Party Leader, Starting Succession Race
Agence France Presse/Naharnet 07/2019/British Prime Minister Theresa May steps down as leader of her Conservative Party on Friday, formally triggering the race for a successor who will try where she failed to deliver Brexit. May will remain prime minister until a new leader is chosen, likely in late July, but has relinquished control over the direction of Britain's tortuous departure from the European Union. Brexit is still scheduled for October 31 but while her rivals thrash it out, the project remains stuck, with the only divorce plan agreed with Brussels stuck in parliament. May took office after the 2016 referendum vote to leave the EU and has spent the past three years working on the plan, delaying Brexit twice to try to get it through. But she finally acknowledged defeat in a tearful resignation speech last month, the culmination of months of political turmoil that has slowly sapped all her authority. Eleven Conservative MPs are currently vying to replace her, including former foreign minister Boris Johnson, but some are expected to drop out before Monday's deadline for nominations. The winner will have only a few months to decide whether to try to salvage May's plan, delay Brexit again -- or sever ties with Britain's closest trading partner with no agreement at all. They are under pressure from euroskeptic figurehead Nigel Farage, who has called for a "no deal" option and whose Brexit party topped European polls last month. His party suffered a setback on Friday after narrowly missing out on winning its first parliamentary seat, losing to Labor in a by-election in the eastern city of Peterborough. Despite winning, Labor's vote share fell by 17 percent while the Tories plummeted by 25 percent, highlighting the task facing May's successor.Polling guru John Curtice told the BBC that the result showed Britain was now in a "different political world"."A lot of constituencies are now looking at four-party politics, and perhaps in others five-party politics," said a disappointed Farage.
Power shift
May will formally relinquish her leadership in a private letter to her party on Friday, but no official events are planned to mark the day. She put on a brave face this week when hosting US President Donald Trump for a state visit, before joining him and other world leaders to mark 75 years since the D-Day landings. But Trump used the trip to speak with Johnson and other candidates to replace her, emphasizing where the political power in Britain now lies. "She remains prime minister for a good few weeks yet," May's spokesman insisted, noting that any successor must meet Queen Elizabeth II and assure the monarch they have the support of enough lawmakers to take over. He said May would focus on domestic issues, but "in relation to Brexit, the prime minister said it wouldn't be for her to take this process forward." Trump has been highly critical of May's Brexit strategy and ahead of his visit to Britain, urged her successor to leave the bloc with no deal if necessary. Johnson, a leading campaigner in the 2016 referendum who quit the government last year over May's plan, is among several would-be candidates who say they are willing to do this. But Environment Secretary Michael Gove, another frontrunner, is open to another Brexit delay, while Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said leaving with no deal is "political suicide."Trump had a phone call with Johnson this week and met both Hunt and Farage, although a planned meeting with Gove never materialized. Nominations for the contest must be submitted on Monday, and the 313 Conservative MPs -- including May -- will hold the first of a series of secret ballots on June 13. With the worst performers eliminated each time, the goal is to have two candidates left by June 20. They will then be put to a ballot of an estimated 100,000 party members. The contest should be completed by the week commencing July 22.

The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on June 07-08/2019
The Jihad on the Christian Cross
ريموند إبراهيم: الجهاد ضد الصليب
Raymond Ibrahim/June 07/2019

A 37-year-old Muslim migrant in Rome was recently arrested for homicide after he stabbed a Christian man in the throat for wearing a crucifix around his neck. “Religious hate” is cited as an “aggravating factor” in the crime.
This is hardly the first “religious hate” crime to occur in the context of the cross in Italy. Among others,
A Muslim boy of African origin picked on, insulted, and eventually beat a 12-year-old girl during school because she too was wearing a crucifix.
A Muslim migrant invaded an old church in Venice and attacked its large, 300-year-old cross, breaking off one of its arms, while shouting, “All that is in a church is false!”
After a crucifix was destroyed in close proximity to a populated mosque, the area’s mayor said concerning the identity of the culprit(s): “Before we put a show of unity with Muslims, let’s have them begin by respecting our civilization and our culture.”
The fact is, Islamic hostility to the cross is an unwavering phenomenon—one that crosses continents and centuries; one that is very much indicative of Islam’s innate hostility to Christianity.
For starters, not only is the cross the quintessential symbol of Christianity—for all denominations, including most forms of otherwise iconoclastic Protestantism—but it symbolizes the fundamental disagreement between Christians and Muslims. As Professor Sidney Griffith explains, “The cross and the icons publicly declared those very points of Christian faith which the Koran, in the Muslim view, explicitly denied: that Christ was the Son of God and that he died on the cross.” Accordingly, “the Christian practice of venerating the cross … often aroused the disdain of Muslims,” so that from the start of the Muslim conquests of Christian lands there was an ongoing “campaign to erase the public symbols of Christianity, especially the previously ubiquitous sign of the cross.”
This “campaign” traces back to the Muslim prophet Muhammad. He reportedly “had such a repugnance to the form of the cross that he broke everything brought into his house with its figure upon it,” wrote one historian (Sword and Scimitar, p. 10). Muhammad also claimed that at the end times Jesus (the Muslim ‘Isa) himself would make it a point to “break the cross.”
Modern day Muslim clerics confirm this. When asked about Islam’s ruling on whether any person—in this case, Christians—is permitted to wear or pray before the cross, Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Tarifi, a Saudi expert on Islamic law, said, “Under no circumstances is a human permitted to wear the cross” nor “is anyone permitted to pray to the cross.” Why? “Because the prophet—peace and blessings on him—commanded the breaking of it [the cross].”
Islamic history is a reflection of these sentiments. For instance, the aforementioned Sheikh al-Tarifi also explained that if it is too difficult to break the cross—for instance, a large concrete statue—Muslims should at least try to disfigure one of its four arms “so that it no longer resembles a cross.” Historic and numismatic evidence confirms that, after the Umayyad caliphate seized the Byzantine treasury in the late seventh century, it ordered that one or two arms of the cross on the coins be effaced so that the image no longer resembled a crucifix (Sword and Scimitar, p. 54).
Testimonies from the very earliest invasions into Christian Syria and Egypt of Muslims systematically breaking every crucifix they encountered abound. According to Anastasius of Sinai, who lived during the seventh century Arab conquests, “the demons name the Saracens [Arabs/Muslims] as their companions. And it is with reason. The latter are perhaps even worse than the demons,” for whereas “the demons are frequently much afraid of the mysteries of Christ,” among which he mentions the cross, “these demons of flesh trample all that under their feet, mock it, set fire to it, destroy it” (Sword and Scimitar, p. 27).
Reminiscent of the recent drawing of a cross in fecal matter on a French church, in 1147 in Portugal, Muslims displayed “with much derision the symbol of the cross. They spat upon it and wiped the feces from their posteriors with it.” Decades earlier in Jerusalem, Muslims “spat on them [crucifixes] and did not even refrain from urinating on them in the sight of all.” Even that supposedly “magnanimous” sultan, Saladin, commanded “whoever saw that the outside of a church was white, to cover it with black dirt,” and ordered “the removal of every cross from atop the dome of every church in the provinces of Egypt” (Sword and Scimitar, pp. 171, 145, 162).
Lest Muslim hostility to the cross still seem aberrant—limited to some obscure saying of Muhammad or “ancient history”—below is a very partial list of examples of how the crucifix continues to throw even “everyday” Muslims into paroxysms:
Egypt: A young Coptic Christian woman named Mary was mauled to death when her cross identified her as a Christian to Muslim Brotherhood rioters. Similarly, 17-year-old Ayman, a Coptic student, was strangled and beaten to death by his Muslim teacher and fellow students for refusing to obey the teacher’s orders to cover his cross.
Pakistan: When a Muslim man saw Julie Aftab, a Christian woman, wearing a cross around her neck, he attacked her, forced battery acid down her throat, and splashed it on her face—permanently damaging her esophagus, blinding her in one eye, and causing her to lose both eyelids and most of her teeth.
Turkey: A 12-year-old boy in Turkey wearing a silver cross necklace in class was spit on and beaten regularly by Muslim classmates and teachers.
Malaysia: A Christian cemetery was attacked and desecrated in the middle of the night by unknown persons in the Muslim-majority nation. Several crosses were destroyed, including by the use of “a heavy tool to do the damage.” Separately, a Muslim mob rioted against a small Protestant church due to the visible cross atop the building of worship. It was quickly removed.
Maldives: Authorities had to rescue a female Christian teacher after Muslim “parents threatened to tie and drag her off of the island” for “preaching Christianity.” Her crime was to draw a compass—which was mistakenly taken for a cross—as part of a geography lesson in class.
As Islam’s presence continues to grow in Europe, it should come as no surprise that attacks on crosses are also on the rise. Aside from the aforementioned attacks in Italy, the following occurred either in France and Germany, where attacks on churches and crosses have become endemic:
A Muslim man committed major acts of vandalism at two churches, including by twisting a massive bronze cross. (Click for images.)
Christian crosses and gravestones in a cemetery were damaged and desecrated by a Muslim (see his handiwork).
A Muslim man who checked himself into a hospital for treatment went into a sudden frenzy because there were “too many crosses on the wall.” He called the nurse a “bitch” and “fascist” and became physically aggressive.
After Muslims were granted their own section at a cemetery, and after being allowed to conduct distinctly Islamic ceremonies, these same Muslims began demanding that Christian symbols and crosses in the cemetery be removed or covered up during Islamic funerals.
A German language report from notes that in the Alps and in Bavaria alone, some 200 churches have been attacked and many crosses broken: “The perpetrators are often youthful rioters with a migration background.”
In light of the above, it should come as no surprise that groups such as the Islamic State also make hostile references to the cross in their communiqués to the West: “We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women, by the permission of Allah[.] … [We will cast] fear into the hearts of the cross-worshipers[.]” The Islamic State even once disseminated a video showing its members smashing crosses in and atop several churches in territories under its sway (since taken down by YouTube); it beheaded and stabbed a man with his own crucifix; and it published pictures of its members destroying Christian crosses and tombstones in cemeteries under its jurisdiction.
Similarly, in post “Arab Spring” Libya, a video of a Muslim mob attacking a commonwealth cemetery near Benghazi appeared on the internet. As the Muslims kicked down and destroyed headstones with crosses on them, the man videotaping them urged them to “break the cross of the dogs!” while he and others cried “Allahu akbar!” Toward the end of the video, the mob congregated around the huge Cross of Sacrifice, the cemetery’s cenotaph monument, and started to hammer at it, to more cries of “Allahu akbar.” Other Christian cemeteries in Libya have suffered similarly.
In Iraq, pictures emerged from a Christian cemetery that was vandalized by the Islamic State. Broken and scattered crosses appear. In one picture, the jihadis broke into a coffin, snapped off the head of the withered corpse, and threw the crucifixes surrounding it on the ground.
Such is the history and continuity of Islamic hate for the cross—that symbol which represents the heart of the Christian faith, namely the death and resurrection of Christ, two events Islam vehemently denies.
The jihad on the cross began with Muhammad, was carried out by early caliphs, and continues to this day by the jihadis of the world, not to mention the occasional “everyday” Muslim.

The Transatlantic Relationship on the 75th Anniversary of D-Day
Con Coughlin/Gatestone Institute/June 07/2019
US officials were shocked when Angela Merkel said she had no intention of meeting the target [of minimum defence spending of 2 percent of GDP] by 2024, but that Germany might be able to reach it by 2030. Given the closeness of Germany's relationship with Russia, particularly over the construction of the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline which will supply Berlin's energy needs for decades to come, this attitude suggests Germany is more interested in its relations with Russia than sustaining the NATO alliance.
For a president who is already critical of the Europeans' failure to pay for defending their continent, this cavalier attitude can hardly be deemed constructive.
What the free world needs is a strong NATO to defend democracy against autocratic regimes like China and Russia, not one that is distracted by unnecessary internal squabbles, lest the transatlantic alliance one day cease to exist.
US President Donald Trump's attendance at this week's commemorations to mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in northern France comes at a time when the future of the transatlantic relationship between the US and Europe is under unprecedented strain.
The Normandy landings, which began on June 6 and resulted in Allied forces achieving the remarkable feat of delivering 156,000 troops on to the shores of northern France, unquestionably represents the high water mark of the transatlantic relationship.
Not only did it ultimately result in the defeat of Nazi Germany and end the reign of terror it had instituted over much of Europe. It also led to the formation of the close alliance between the Western democracies of the free world in the existential battle with the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
And yet, despite the significant victories the alliance achieved against these two significant foes, serious concerns are now being raised as to whether the alliance has the resilience to meet future challenges, from the emergence of China to the destabilizing policies of rogue states like Russia and Iran.
It is not just the personal dislike many Europeans claim to have for Mr Trump himself that threatens the future well-being of the relationship, although the childish antics of anti-Trump protesters in Britain this week, where the president is on a three-day state visit, hardly help the cause of transatlantic cooperation.
While the British government literally rolled out the red carpet for the 45th US President, with Mr Trump receiving a warm welcome from the Queen at Buckingham Palace, the magnificent pomp and ceremony of the royal occasion will have been somewhat undermined by the appearance of the "Trump baby" balloon in the skies over London.
If the balloon's re-appearance -- it made its debut during Mr Trump's brief visit to London last year -- signifies the deep dislike many left-wing politicians, such as Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, and Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn have for Mr Trump, there are other, more worrying trends, that raise questions about whether the alliance can survive in years to come.
Foremost among these remains the refusal of a number of European countries, such as Germany, to pay their fair share towards the cost of maintaining NATO, the military alliance whose origins date back to the close cooperation forged between the Allies during World War II.
Even though European leaders, at the 2014 NATO summit in Cardiff, pledged to meet NATO's minimum defence spending requirement of 2 percent of GDP by 2024, the Trump administration is becoming increasingly frustrated by the failure of a number of European leaders to fulfil their obligations.
For example, at a recent meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Washington, US officials were shocked when Mrs Merkel said she had no intention of meeting the target by 2024, but that Germany might be able to reach it by 2030.
Given the closeness of Germany's relationship with Russia, particularly over the construction of the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which will supply Berlin's energy needs for decades to come, this attitude suggests Germany is more interested in its relations with Russia than sustaining the NATO alliance.
For a president who is already critical of the Europeans' failure to pay for defending their continent, this cavalier attitude can hardly be deemed constructive.
Iran is another issue where the Europeans' insistence of going their own way over the 2015 nuclear deal has caused unnecessary friction with Washington. As signatories to the deal that former President Barack Obama helped to negotiate with the ayatollahs in 2015, Britain, France and Germany continue to insist that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) remains the best means of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
To that end they have encouraged European firms to continue trading with Tehran even if, by so doing, they run the risk of being penalised by the US.
The divergence of opinion between Europe and the US over Iran is likely to deepen further if Washington fulfils its promise to present the UN this week with clear evidence that Iran was involved in recent acts of terrorism in the Gulf, including planting four explosive devices on oil tankers anchored in the Gulf.
If, as seems increasingly likely, it can be proven that Iran was responsible for the recent escalation in tensions in the Gulf region, then Europe's insistence on trying to save the nuclear deal will be even harder to justify.
And the longer such differences of opinion exist between the US and Europe on key policy areas, whether it is NATO funding or Iran's nuclear programme, the greater the tensions within the transatlantic alliance are likely to be. Therefore, in order to prevent irrepairable damage to this vital relationship, this approach is short-sighted on the part of the Europeans. What the free world needs is a strong NATO to defend democracy against autocratic regimes like China and Russia, not one that is distracted by unnecessary internal squabbles, lest the transatlantic alliance one day cease to exist.
*Con Coughlin is the Telegraph's defence and foreign affairs editor.
© 2019 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

The Priorities of Palestinian Leaders
Khaled Abu Toameh/Gatestone Institute/June 07/2019
Let us consider some of those "other priorities...." Last week, Palestinian sources revealed that the ministers of the Palestinian Authority government have given themselves a $2,000 raise in their monthly salary... at a time when the Palestinian leadership is claiming that it is suffering from a financial crisis.
Hardly a day passes without another Palestinian reported killed in Syria. The latest victim died under torture in a Syrian prison last week. The victim's family has requested that his name not be published out of concern for their lives... His death brings to 606 the number of Palestinians who died under torture in Syrian prisons in the past eight years.
When was the last time a senior Palestinian official talked about the torture and arrest of Palestinians in an Arab country? They really don't have the time: they are too busy condemning Israel and the US administration to take note of the fact that thousands of their people are being killed, displaced and tortured in Arab countries.
Palestinian ministers take yet more money for themselves from the pockets of their own people. Hamas leaders are obsessed with gagging anyone who dares to call them out for their violent and despotic behavior.... This is the Palestinian leadership in action. When, one might ask, might we see some reaction on the part of the international community and media?
According to the Action Group For Palestinians of Syria, 3,987 Palestinians have died in Syria since the beginning of the civil war in that country in 2011. Some 18 Palestinian journalists, political and social activists, and academics have been killed in Syria in recent years. This revelation, however, did not make it onto the radar of the international community or "pro-Palestinian" groups in Western countries. Pictured: Palestinian men sit amid the bombed-out rubble in Yarmouk refugee camp, Syria. (Image source: UNRWA)
Some 18 Palestinian journalists, political and social activists, and academics have been killed in Syria in recent years, while dozens of others have been arrested. This figure was recently revealed by the Action Group For Palestinians of Syria, a London-based human rights watchdog organization that monitors the situation of Palestinian refugees in war-torn Syria.
This revelation, however, did not make it onto the radar of the international community or "pro-Palestinian" groups in the US, Canada, Britain and other Western countries. The most probable reason: Israel had nothing to do with the deaths of the Palestinian journalists, political activists and academics. They died in an Arab country (Syria). They were killed by their own Arab brothers, not by Israelis.
Had the Palestinians been killed or injured or arrested by Israel, their plight would have been immediately criticized by the international community, foreign journalists and media outlets. Yet, why should major media organizations report on these Arabs when they are victims of Arab brutality and repression?
The human rights group said that the Palestinians were killed in several parts of Syria while they were covering the civil war that erupted there in 2011. Nine were killed in shelling, five under torture in Syrian prisons, and four were fatally shot by snipers, according to the group.
It named the victims as: Fadi Abu Ajjaj (photographer), Jamal Khalifeh (photographer), Ahmed al-Sahli (media activist), Bassam Hamidi (media activist and photographer), Ahmed Taha (photographer), Bilal Saeed (media activist and photographer), Jihad Shehabi (photographer), Yamen Thaher (media activist), Tareq Ziad Khader (journalist), Niraz Saeed (photojournalist), Khaled Bakrawi (photographer), Hassan Hassan (artist), Ala'al-Naji (political activist), Bilal Ahmed (journalist), Eyas Farhat (journalist), Ghassan Shehabi (media activist and academic), Ahmed Kusa (media activist), and Muneer al-Khatib (media activist).
The whereabouts of scores of Palestinian journalists, also according to the human rights group, writers and media personalities who were arrested by the Syrian authorities in the past few years remain unknown. Among the missing Palestinians, who are presumed to be dead, are the following journalists and writers: Muhanad Omar, Ali al-Shehabi, Rami Hejjo, Ali Musleh, and Ahmed Jaleel.
"It's worth noting that the killings of the Palestinian journalists have not drawn an official Palestinian reaction," the human rights group pointed out. It also noted that Palestinian leaders have failed to call for "bringing the perpetrators to justice on charges of murder and torture of civilians who carried cameras or mobile phones as part of their work."
By wondering why Palestinian leaders were not paying attention to the plight of their people in Syria, the human rights group is either being naïve or has yet to realize that these leaders have other priorities than caring for their own people.
Let us consider some of those "other priorities." Palestinian Authority leaders in the West Bank, for example, are more concerned about their salaries than the suffering of their people. Last week, Palestinian sources revealed that the ministers of the Palestinian Authority government have given themselves a $2,000 raise in their monthly salary. The decision has triggered a wave of protests among Palestinians, who say it came at a time when the Palestinian leadership is claiming that it is suffering from a financial crisis.
The Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip, on the other hand, have no time to think about their people in Syria. These leaders are too busy worrying about how to silence and intimidate critics of Hamas.
Recently, Hamas decided to ban the distribution of the Palestinian newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida in the Gaza Strip on charges of "incitement and fomenting discord" among Palestinians. The newspaper, which belongs to Hamas's rivals in the Palestinian Authority, has long been critical of the rulers of the Gaza Strip.
Hamas sources said the ban came after the newspaper allegedly "incited" Palestinians during last March's widespread protests over economic hardship in the Gaza Strip. Hamas, they added, is also considering banning the Palestinian Authority's Palestine TV from operating in the Gaza Strip. Hamas is apparently furious because Palestine TV reported that tons of meat donated by Saudi Arabia to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were stolen by Hamas officials.
According to the human rights group, 3,987 Palestinians have died in Syria since the beginning of the civil war in that country in 2011. The 18 journalists, activists and academics were among the victims. It is probably safe to assume that the total figure of those killed will reach 4,000 very soon.
Hardly a day passes without another Palestinian reported killed in Syria.
The latest victim died under torture in a Syrian prison last week. The victim's family has requested that his name not be published out of concern for their lives. Their son, they say, was held in prison for five years before he died under torture. The Syrian authorities gave the family a death certificate, but the body has yet to be delivered to them. His death brings to 606 the number of Palestinians who died under torture in Syrian prisons in the past eight years.
One doubts whether Palestinian leaders in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are even aware of these disturbing figures. When was the last time a senior Palestinian official talked about the torture and arrest of Palestinians in an Arab country? They really don't have the time: they are too busy condemning Israel and the US administration to take note of the fact that thousands of their people are being killed, displaced and tortured in Arab countries.
Palestinian ministers take yet more money for themselves from the pockets of their own people. Hamas leaders are obsessed with gagging anyone who dares to call them out for their violent and despotic behavior -- even when it has to do with the meat that they stole from the plates of their own people. This is the Palestinian leadership in action. When, one might ask, might we see some reaction on the part of the international community and media?
*Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem, is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at Gatestone Institute.
© 2019 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Khartoum's Deadly Crackdown Part Of An Internal Struggle For Power
Alberto M. Fernandez/MEMRI/June 07/2019
The honeymoon is over in Khartoum. There was a short period of ambiguity and hope between April 11, 2019 when Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir was removed from power by his own generals and June 3, 2019 when security forces brutally killed over a hundred peaceful demonstrators and subsequently called for snap elections in seven months.
During that short seven-week period, there was a chance, and even some real indications, that a very Sudanese solution – fragile, confused, but hopeful – would have been found along the lines of previous transitions from military dictatorship to civilian rule. Hopes that 2019 would be something of a repeat of 1964 and 1985 have, at least for now, been dashed although it should not be forgotten that both previous transitions to democracy were brief and led back to dictatorship after a few years. Sudan is closer to the edge and it seems that a much more violent future could be in the cards if another misstep is made.
The #SudanMondayMassacre (as activists dubbed it) underscored internal tensions within the cupola of the ruling Transitional Military Council and in the region. The killings were widely blamed on the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), former Janjaweed irregular forces, led by Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (Hemeti) and there is no reason to doubt this.
Made up of members of Darfur's camel-herding Arab tribes (some are not even Sudanese but hail from Chad or elsewhere), the RSF had developed from shock troops to be used in breaking resistance in Darfur to Bashir regime "firemen" to be used in all of Sudan's brush wars. Their utility for the regime was further enhanced as Sudan's contribution to the Arab coalition force in Yemen fighting Iranian proxies.
However, in the past six months, the RSF and Hemeti seemed to ably maneuver in Khartoum's volatile politics, refusing Bashir's orders to crush civilian demonstrators and even trying to identify with civilian demonstrators as several of Bashir's generals were forced from the TMC. Sudan's Defense Minister and the head of its feared National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) were ostensibly swept from power and a general, Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, who had actually met with demonstrators, was chosen as the new TMC Chairman. Al-Burhan is technically in charge with Hemeti as his deputy.
Hemeti's tone has hardened, warning against "chaos" as Al-Burhan has attempted to appear more flexible. Sudan's opposition has also hardened its position, refusing to return to negotiations until there is accountability for the TMC's actions, return to full civilian rule, and the disarming of the RSF.
If Al-Burhan is truly in charge, then Hemeti's days should be numbered. On paper, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) are much stronger than RSF. Popular anger and international condemnation has coalesced around the RSF and its commander, who already have such a bloody track record. The massacre was, as Fouché once said, worse than a crime, a mistake. Using Sudanese history as a model, the military could have patriotically come to a real compromise, burnishing its credentials as a national institution. Even if the real intention was merely the cynical holding on to power, it could have been done differently. The TMC, holding all power, should have been able to string civil society along for months and engineer a political solution to its liking sooner or later. It could have, as the NCP did for years, find ways to divide and weaken the political opposition and find collaborators among a feckless political class. The blatant slaughter in the streets of Khartoum makes all of this much harder.
If Hemeti is not removed and the RSF suffer no punishment, it will only underscore what many already believe, that Hemeti's RSF have been able to transform themselves into the new-old regime's Praetorian Guard and that Hemeti's ambitions go further than TMC Deputy. While this is bad for Sudan's prospects for democracy, it is an interesting political development with the RSF perhaps attempting to follow a path blazed in a neighboring country. Sudan's neighbor Chad has been ruled since 1990 by Idriss Deby who ironically came to power with the help of the Sudanese regime but has generally been a fierce rival to Bashir.
Like Hemeti, Deby came from humble circumstances, from a marginal community on his country's periphery. While Deby is better educated than Hemeti, both have followed a similar path of using a key regime protection force to accumulate power. Deby is a Zaghawa, an ethnic group which makes up a tiny percentage of Chad's population. There are more Darfuri Arabs than Zaghawa in the world, but they too are a tiny minority population among Sudan's 41 million. It is entirely possible that Hemeti does indeed arrogantly dream of becoming another Deby. But if so, he may be in over his head in the current phase of the struggle for power in Sudan: powerful enough to be a major player but not strong enough to impose his will on a population that has tasted freedom.
Another key to unlocking this question may be the role of Sudan's security services in all of this, rather than SAF or RSF. The manipulation of political forces, public opinion and disinformation in Sudan is largely the work of NISS rather than that of crude Darfuris in Toyota Landcruisers. It is NISS, not the RSF, that is turning off internet access in Sudan to isolate the civic opposition and prevent more images of mass murder from emerging. The intention is to make the victims of Khartoum as invisible as the victims of marginalized areas turned into free fire zones like Jebel Marra and Nuba Mountains have become in the eyes of the world. In this scenario, Hemeti is not so clever but actually being manipulated by NISS and will serve as a convenient scapegoat when the time comes. Al-Burhan may not be a front for Hemeti but rather for a hegemonic Khartoum national security apparatus that maybe fraying. He could still change course and become the Sudanese general who embraces the banner of reform and change but that window is closing. And looming behind this internal jostling for control is the fear that Sudan could become chronically chaotic and more susceptible to Salafi-Jihadi subversion than it already is.
While a four-sided struggle for power – SAF, NISS, RSF, and everybody else – rages in Khartoum, another struggle is being waged on a pan-Arab and international level to define a narrative for what is happening inside Sudan. In an incredibly cynical media ploy, Qatar, through its media proxies in Arabic and English, is pushing propaganda placing the blame for events in Sudan at the feet of its bitter enemies in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt.
The reality is more complicated. Yes, those countries are supporting the TMC Junta. But Qatar and its ally Turkey were supporters of the Bashir regime as well. They empowered the same regime that created the RSF and forged close ties with the same ruling elite for years. If anything, they were closer to Bashir than their rivals, hoping that the kleptocratic Khartoum regime retained some of its old MB-inspired Islamist fervor.
The bitter truth is that Bashir and his offspring in SAF, NISS, and RSF were supported or coddled by all regional powers concerned principally about regional correlation of forces not about Sudanese domestic politics. None of them ever cared about human rights and democracy in Sudan (they do not care about them at home) and Qatar uses these issues now as a club to bludgeon its rivals. It is telling that Bashir and the Emir of Qatar were the only two Arab heads of state to attend Turkish President Erdoğan's inauguration in 2018.
* Alberto M. Fernandez is President of Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN). The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official views of the U.S. Government.

Jacksonian approach leaves Trump with Middle East paradox

Dr. John C. Hulsman/Arab News/June 07/2019
As the managing partner of a prominent political risk consulting firm, I can say with great confidence that the worst thing one analyst of global affairs can say about another is to accuse them of lacking intellectual coherence; of not understanding the basics of the world we all operate in. More often than not, this intended swipe really means that the accuser does not much like the views of the accused, rather than that they actually lack intellectual coherence. In other words, the accuser is basically saying: “If you don’t agree with me, you must be deeply confused.”
Of course this arrogant nonsense amounts to dire political risk analysis of the worst sort. And being the lightning rod that he is, US President Donald Trump has drawn a great deal more than his share of this all-too-typical charge.
But you can easily disagree with someone who actually has an internal logic to their ideas. Such is the case with Trump, the current disruptor-in-chief. So let us instead think again, go back to first principles and look at what Trump actually (and surprisingly coherently) thinks about the vexing, challenging world we all presently live in.
For Trump does indeed fit coherently into a standard American foreign policy school of thought, espousing a Jacksonian world view that has been around since the 1820s and that almost no one outside the US has any real knowledge of. Yet there is a reason that Steve Bannon urged Trump to place a portrait of Andrew Jackson, the seventh US president, next to him in the Oval Office.
What do Jacksonians think? They believe that America’s expansive globalist foreign policy in the Cold War was a specific response to a specific Soviet threat. With this danger passing from the scene, the US should now retrench and run a far less overweening foreign policy, worrying more about problems at home than abroad.
Jacksonians believe US foreign policy should prioritize American national sovereignty and internal coherence, and independence of action. Jacksonians do not want to order far-away people’s lives but are determined to protect their own lives, values, traditions and dignity from outside interference.
Trump has rejected the Obama administration’s approach and returned the US to the path of working with valued allies through thick and thin.
For followers of this school of thought, their loyalty and sympathy moves outwards from those closest to home. For the supporters of the president, their first concern is family, then state or region, then country, and only then do they worry over-much about the international order.
Jacksonians see the three major foreign policy priorities as: Tamping down on illegal immigration; seeing the US stop paying the exorbitant costs of being the ordering power and being taken advantage of by friend and foe alike; and ending American free trade “losses.” Looked at through the Jacksonian prism, the Trump administration’s very different overall foreign policy begins to make sense.
In his reticence to militarily intervene around the world and his skepticism of nation-building, Trump rejects the neoconservative foreign policy of George W. Bush. And, in his assertion of American sovereignty and disavowal of multilateralism, he rejects the Wilsonian foreign policy of Barack Obama.
Finally, in true Jacksonian fashion, Trump is highly transactional with the rest of the world. Allies still matter, but only if they add immediate and perceived value to what the US is attempting to do.
So it is vital to truly understand the Jacksonian nature of the Trump revolution, for only then does the president’s overall Middle East foreign policy begin to make sense.
Trump’s Jacksonianism pulls him in two different directions in the region at the same time. On the one hand, mindful of the fact that the Middle East has been the graveyard of recent presidencies, and acutely aware that his base (in striking contrast to traditional Republican Party beliefs) is adamantly opposed to fighting “wars of choice,” as the Iraq conflict is increasingly seen to have been, Trump is extremely wary of making any significant troop commitment to the region, risking yet another disastrous war for little or no national interest gain.
On the other hand, Jacksonianism is not an isolationist belief system. In a region with five great regional powers (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Israel, and Iran), the Trump White House — in lieu of yet another increased American military commitment — has placed its eggs in the strategic basket of its long-time allies, particularly Saudi Arabia and Israel, vigorously supporting them in the face of what is universally seen as increased Iranian regional provocations.
It is precisely because of the president’s wariness about being ensnared in another Middle Eastern morass that he has rejected the Obama administration’s approach and returned the US to the path of working with valued allies through thick and thin, adding real strategic value on the ground by bolstering American national interests. Jacksonianism explains the paradox of why the US cares less overall about the Middle East, while at the same time is more closely embracing its long-term allies to sustain its interests in a region that still matters.
*Dr. John C. Hulsman is the president and managing partner of John C. Hulsman Enterprises, a prominent global political risk consulting firm. He is also senior columnist for City AM, the newspaper of the City of London. He can be contacted via
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