May 13/2019
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
We are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh for if you live according to the flesh, you will die but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
Letter to the Romans 08/12-18:”We are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.”

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on May 12-13/19
Happy & Blessed Mathers Day To All Mothers
Lebanon’s former Maronite Christian patriarch Sfeir dies
Ex-Maronite Patriarch Sfeir Dies Days before Turning 99
Thursday Declared National Vacation for Sfeir's Farewell
Maronite Patriarch: We Now Have a Patron in Heaven
Lebanese Leaders Mourn Death of ex-Patriarch Sfeir
Former President Amine Gemayel Hails Late Cardinal as 'First Resistance Fighter'
Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel Mourns Patriarch's Passing: We Have Lost a Man Who Never Compromised
MP Geagea Says Sfeir 'Stood by LF in Darkest Circumstances'
Rest In Peace - Patriarch and Cardinal Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir
Patriarch Sfeir stood for unity and reconciliation
Lebanese Cabinet Meets Sunday Evening and Monday in Bid to Finalize Budget
Retired Servicemen to Block Vital Facilities Monday Morning

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 12-13/19
French FM Urges Iran to Show 'Political Maturity' over U.S. Nuclear Deal
Iranian commander threatens to hit America ‘in the head’ if it makes military move
Four commercial vessels targeted by ‘sabotage’ near UAE waters: Foreign ministry
Pompeo Heads to Russia as U.S. Diplomacy Turns Schizophrenic
Israel Reopens Gaza Crossings as Calm Restored
Netanyahu Says Needs More Time to Form New Govt.
Belgian Leaders Mull Suspension of Saudi Arms Sales
8 'Terrorist' Suspects Killed in Saudi Arabia
Yemen Government Blasts Rebel 'Deception' over Port Pullout

Titles For The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 12-13/19
Happy & Blessed Mathers Day To All Mothers/Elias Bejjani/May 12/2019
Rest In Peace - Patriarch and Cardinal Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir/Eblan Farris/Face Book/May 12/2019
Patriarch Sfeir stood for unity and reconciliation/Peter Welby/Arab News/May 12/2019
Pakistan PM Slams Hotel Attack as Bid to Damage Economy
Can Islam Be Rescued from Islamism/Mordechai Nisan/AMERICAN THINKER/May 12/2019
Egyptian-German Scholar Hamed Abdel-Samad: Islamic Extremism Stems From The Core Of Islam; Tens Of Thousands Of ISIS Supporters Live Among Us/MEMRI/May 12/2019
Opinion/ America Must Not Back Down Against Iran/Emily B. Landau/Haaretz/May 12/ 2019
Analysis/Iran and U.S. Perched on Warpath, but Israel May Bear Brunt of Standoff/Amos Harel/Haaretz/May 12/2019
Jared Kushner’s Peace Plan Would Be a Disaster/Robert Satloff/American Interest/The Washington Institute/May 12/2019
More proof of cooperation between Iran, Al-Qaeda/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/May 12/ 2019
Why transition in Iran requires a global effort/Baria Alamuddin /Arab News/May 12/ 2019

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on May 12-13/19
Happy & Blessed Mathers Day To All Mothers
Elias Bejjani/May 12/2019

Today while in Canada and USA we are happily and joyfully celebrating the Mothers’ Day, let us all pray that Almighty God will keep granting all mothers all over the world the needed graces of wisdom, meekness and faith to highly remain under all circumstances honoring this holy role model and to stay as Virgin Merry fully devoted to their families.
For all those of us whose mothers have passed away, let us mention them in our daily prayers and ask Almighty God to endow their souls the eternal rest in His heavenly dwellings.
In Christianity Virgin Merry is envisaged by many believers and numerous cultures as the number one role model for the righteous, devoted, loving , caring, giving, and humble mothers.
The Spirit Of My mother who like every and each loving departed mother is definitely watching from above and praying for all of us. May Almighty God Bless her spirit and the Spirits of all departed mothers.
In all religions and cultures all over the world, honoring, respecting and obeying parents is not a favor that people either chose to practice or not. No not at all, honoring, respecting and obeying parents is a holy obligation that each and every faithful individual who believes in God MUST fulfill, no matter what.
Almighty God in His 10 Commandments (Exodus 20:2-17 ) made the honoring of both parents (commandment number five) a holy obligation, and not a choice or a favor.
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you”. (Exodus 20:12)
Reading the Bible, both the Old and New Testament shows with no doubt that honoring parents is a cornerstone and a pillar in faith and righteousness for all believers. All other religions and cultures share with Christians this holy concept and obligation.
“Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, so that your days may be long and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” (Deuteronomy 5:16)
“You shall each revere your mother and father, and you shall keep my Sabbaths: I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 19:3).
Back home in Lebanon we have two popular proverbs that say:“If you do not have an elderly figure in your family to bless you, go and search for one”. “The mother is the who either gathers or divides the family”
How true are these two proverbs, because there will be no value, or meaning for our lives if not blessed and flavored by the wisdom, love and blessings of our parents and of other elder members.
He who does not honor the elderly, sympathize and empathize with them, especially his own parents is a person with a hardened heart, and a numbed conscience, who does not know the meaning of gratitude.
History teaches us that the easiest route for destroying a nation is to destroy, its cornerstone, the family. Once the family code of respect is belittled and not honored, the family is divided and loses all its Godly blessings.
“Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and a house divided against itself falls” (Luke 11-17)
One very important concept and an extremely wise approach MUST apply and prevail when reading the Holy Bible in a bid to understand its contents and observe the Godly instructions and life guidelines that are enlisted. The concept needs to be a faith one with an open frame of mind free from doubts, questions and challenges.
Meanwhile the approach and interpretation MUST both be kept within the abstract manner, thinking and mentality frame, and not in the concrete way of interpretation.
We read in (Matthew 15/04: “For God said, Respect your father and your mother, and If you curse your father or your mother, you are to be put to death).
This verse simply dwells on The Fifth Biblical Commandment: “Honor your Father and Mother”. To grasp its meaning rightfully and put it in its right faith content one should understand that death in the Bible is not the death of the body as we experience and see on earth. DEATH in the Bible means the SIN that leads to eternal anguish in Hell.
The Bible teaches us that through His crucifixion, death and resurrection, Jesus defeated death in its ancient human, earthly concept. He broke the death thorn and since than, the actual death became the sin. Those who commit the sin die and on the judgment day are outcast to the eternal fire. Death for the believers is a temporary sleep on the hope of resurrection.
Accordingly the verse “If you curse your father or your mother, you are to be put to death”, means that those who do not honor their parents, help, support and respect them commit a deadly sin and God on the Judgment Day will make them accountable if they do not repent and honor their parents.
God is a Father, a loving, passionate and caring One, and in this context He made the honoring of parents one of the Ten Commandments.
In conclusion: The abstract and faith interpretation of Matthew 15/04 verse must not be related to children or teenagers who because of an age and maturity factors might temporarily repel against their parents and disobey them.
Hopefully, each and every one of us, no matter what religion or denomination he/she is affiliated to will never ever ignore his parents and commit the deadly SIN of not honoring them through every way and mean especially when they are old and unable to take care of themselves.
Happy Mothers’ Day to all mothers

Lebanon’s former Maronite Christian patriarch Sfeir dies
Associated Press/May 12/2019/The former patriarch passed away early Sunday at a Beirut hospital. The church issued a statement saying “The Maronite church is orphaned and Lebanon is in sadness.”
BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Maronite Christian church said its former patriarch, Cardinal Nasrallah Butros Sfeir, has died after several days in hospital. He was 98.Sfeir, an outspoken and feisty personality, served as spiritual leader of Lebanon’s largest Christian community through some of the worst days of the 1975-90 civil war.He then played a key role in shaping the country’s postwar politics as one of the most prominent Christian leaders in the mostly Muslim region. The former patriarch passed away early Sunday at a Beirut hospital. The church issued a statement saying “The Maronite church is orphaned and Lebanon is in sadness.”Cardinal Bechara Rai, who succeed Sfeir in 2011, called on churches to ring their bells and hold prayers for the late leader.

Ex-Maronite Patriarch Sfeir Dies Days before Turning 99
Agence France Presse/Associated Press/Naharnet/May 12/2019/
Lebanon's former Maronite patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, who wielded considerable political influence during the country's civil war and was an ardent advocate of a Syrian troop withdrawal, died Sunday, the church said.
Sfeir, who was about to turn 99 on May 15, died at 3:00 am (0100 GMT) "after days of intensive medical care," said a statement by the Maronite church in Bkirki. "The Maronite church is orphaned and Lebanon is in sadness," the statement added. Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi, who succeed Sfeir in 2011, called on churches to ring their bells and hold prayers for the late leader.
The National News Agency said Sfeir's coffin will be moved from the
Hôtel-Dieu De France Hospital in Ashrafieh to Bkirki on Wednesday and that the funeral service and burial will take place on Thursday at 5:00 pm.
Sfeir became the leader of the church in 1986 until he resigned in 2011 due to his declining health, and held the title "76th Patriarch of Antioch and the Whole Levant". He was a respected power broker during the 1975-1990 civil war, which saw bitter infighting between rival militias including opposing Christian factions. Sfeir, who spoke fluent Arabic and French, was made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 1994. Born in 1920 in Rayfoun, a village in Lebanon's Keserwan mountains, Sfeir studied theology and philosophy but was never shy to delve into Lebanon's tumultuous politics. His backing of the 1989 Taef agreement that brought the 15-year civil war to an end bolstered Christian support for the accord. Sfeir also spearheaded the opposition to Syria's three decades of military and political domination over Lebanon.
"His biggest struggle was to end the Syrian presence in Lebanon, which we all thought was impossible because of the divisions in Lebanon," his biographer Antoine Saad told AFP. "But he worked on it steadily, objectively, meticulously and quietly," he said. Sfeir refused to visit Syria during his time as patriarch, even when John Paul II made a trip to the country in 2001. His outspokenness helped swell the anti-Syria movement in 2000. It eventually led to the withdrawal of thousands of Syrian troops from the country five years later, following the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri, whose murder the opposition blamed on Damascus. Sfeir's opinion and advice continued to be sought by politicians of all stripes, not only Christians, after he stepped down.
"He was completely against war," Saad said of the cleric who enjoyed hiking in nature until his late years. "His loss can't be compensated for."

Thursday Declared National Vacation for Sfeir's Farewell
Naharnet/May 12/2019/The Premiership has announced that Wednesday and Thursday will be national mourning days over the death of former Maronite patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir. According to the decree, flags will be flown at half-mast and radio and TV programming will be adjusted to suit the situation.
All public administrations and municipalities and public and private institutions will meanwhile close on the burial day on Thursday.

Maronite Patriarch: We Now Have a Patron in Heaven Sunday 12th May 2019/Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rahi on Sunday mourned the death of his predecessor, Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, praising him as an icon. "We now have a patron in heaven," Al-Rahi said during a mass he officiated in Bkirki to pray for the late Patriarch. On another note, Al-Rahi said it is the duty of all political officials to work responsibly on forming a society that is based on diversity and unity, adding that no one must be excluded or neglected. “If officials in the parliament and government had had these principles in mind, they would have come out with a budget that promises reform, economic growth, financial stability and a decent social life,” he said.

Lebanese Leaders Mourn Death of ex-Patriarch Sfeir
Naharnet/May 12/2019/Lebanon's leaders and politicians on Sunday mourned the death of former Maronite patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, an influential figure in Lebanon's modern history."The national arena will miss a man who was firm in his defense of Lebanon's sovereignty and independence and its people's dignity," President Michel Aoun said. Prime Minister Saad Hariri meawhile remembered how Sfeir cooperated with his slain father, ex-PM Rafik Hariri, over "the same national cause," adding that they defended "independence, full sovereignty and the freedom of decision."
Hariri also hoped "patriarch Sfeir's image will remain an icon for those working loyally for their country." Free Patriotic Movement chief and Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil described Sfeir as one of the Maronite church's most prominent patriarchs. "We are very saddened and we are deeply determined to continue with (Maronite) Patriarch (Beshara) al-Rahi the path of preserving freely diverse existence and the final entity with its humanitarian message," Bassil tweeted. Progressive Socialist Party leader ex-MP Walid Jumblat meanwhile said: "Farewell to the patriarch of independence, reconciliation, love and peace."
Jumblat was referring to the historic reconciliation between Druze and Christians in Mount Lebanon which was sponsored by Sfeir. Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Daryan meanwhile described Sfeir as "a role model for moderation, openness, wisdom, dialogue, love and coexistence between Muslims and Christians." Kataeb Party chief MP Sami Gemayel said Sfeir's "smile, wisdom and firmness will remain carved in our heart and mind."Higher Islamic Shiite Council chief Sheikh Abdul Amir Qabalan meawhile lauded Sfeir's "patriotic stances" and said he was "a partner in immunizing national unity, deepening coexistence and preserving Lebanon."

Former President Amine Gemayel Hails Late Cardinal as 'First Resistance Fighter' Sunday 12th May 2019/Former President Amine Gemayel on Sunday mourned the death of Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, hailing him as the first resistance fighter. “He was our guide to the second independence and the one who sparked its start," he said. "He was an essential pillar in the Lebanese resistance." "Amid the hardships that the country is currently facing, we are in dire need of adhering to Sfeir's teachings and experience in order to save Lebanon from the quagmire it is stuck into and from the blatant neglect of the foundations of the Lebanese entity," Gemayel stressed. "Any settlement must not be sealed at the expense of basic postulates and sanctities because we must hold onto our constants in order to save Lebanon in the present and future," he added.

Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel Mourns Patriarch's Passing: We Have Lost a Man Who Never Compromised Sunday 12th May 2019/Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel on Sunday hailed the late Patriarch Emeritus Nasrallah Sfeir as an exceptional man who will be greatly missed, saying that the latter had not once compromised his constants and values. “Patriarch Sfeir was our main resort as a student resistance movement during the Syrian occupation era. He served as a catalyst for the Lebanese people's opposition to the Syrian occupation,” Gemayel told MTV. “We lost a symbol of a noble and honorable phase in the history of Lebanon,” he said. “Sfeir will always be a role model to all of us." “The Patriarch was like a father to me. He was an exceptional person who we are all going to miss,” he said. “We hope we would rise up to the struggle fought by the late Cardinal in the difficult times, and pledge to remain loyal to his teachings and the political path he had paved during his mandate as patriarch," he affirmed.

MP Geagea Says Sfeir 'Stood by LF in Darkest Circumstances'
Naharnet/May 12/2019/MP Sethrida Geagea on Sunday described late Maronite ex-patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir as a "saint" who "stood by the Lebanese Forces party in the darkest circumstances, especially after the Taef Accord and between the years 1990 and 2005.""He carved irreversible marks in our history," she said in a statement mourning the late spiritual leader. "His role was essential as a resistant patriarch who raised the voice against tyranny, especially when Samir Geagea was arrested together with Lebanon as a country," the MP added. She also hailed Sfeir's role in the Bkirki Declaration in the year 2000 and the Mt. Lebanon reconciliation, saying he stood by "right and truth in the face of hegemony and in support of the LF's cause."Geagea finally called on the Lebanese state to declare Sfeir's burial day a national mourning day because "he worked for the sake of entire Lebanon."

Rest In Peace - Patriarch and Cardinal Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir

Eblan Farris/Face Book/May 12/2019
Rest In Peace - Patriarch and Cardinal Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir. He was the Patriarch of Antioch and all the East - a seat that was established and first occupied by the Apostle St. Peter.
Patriarch Sfeir passed away this morning at 2:55am Beirut time.
I met with the Patriarch at his seat in Bkerke many times, he invited me to dine with him and we talked a lot. He pulled out a list of those who have held the seat of Patriarch of Antioch and all the East and showed me his name, then he said look who the first one is that occupied this seat? It was the Apostle St. Peter's name listed under number 1., at that point I choked up and had chills running down my spine.
The history is amazing as it is a direct lineage all the way back to Jesus and his Apostle St. Peter. This is the main reason I am so proud of being a Catholic and will never ever entertain anything but this faith that has it's lineage going all the way back to Jesus and the Apostle's.
When Jesus ascended into heaven, the Apostles felt that they were under risk, as such St. Peter, St. Simon and St. Jude went to Beirut Lebanon - St. Simon and St. Jude built a Church in Beirut and developed the Mass there, St. Peter focused on developing the hierarchy of the Church by splitting it into 5 seats - 1st one Antioch and all the East, then Jerusalem, Alexandria Egypt, Constantinople, and finally Rome. To 3 of the Seats, he would elevate to Patriarch status, to 2 Bishop status.
“...And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” ACTS 11:26
The First Seat was established as Patriarch of Antioch and all the East. The history of this seat is one of continued persecution and survival of the faith. The seat continued in Antioch till 682 when it came under attack, the Pope at the time ordered John Maron to move the seat from Antioch to the protection of the Mountains of Lebanon - St. John Maron established the Patriarch of Antioch and All the East next door to my Mother and Father's home in Kfar Hey, Lebanon - deep in the mountains. My Father and Msgr. Uncle went to school there. St. John Maron was the first Maronite Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, a seat that was later occupied by Boutros Sfeir - who passed away this morning at 2:55am Beirut time. May God Rest His Soul in Heaven. Eblan

Patriarch Sfeir stood for unity and reconciliation
بيتر ولبي/عربنيوز: البطريرك صفير ساند ودافع عن الوحدة والمصالحة
Peter Welby/Arab News/May 12/2019

The former Maronite patriarch of Antioch, the religious leader of Lebanon’s Maronite Christians, died on Sunday, three days before his 99th birthday, according to a statement by the Maronite Church. Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir had played an instrumental role in the resolution to Lebanon’s civil war, and in securing the withdrawal of Syrian troops from the country in 2005.
Born in 1920, the only boy among six children, Sfeir studied philosophy and theology at St. Joseph’s University in Beirut, before being ordained to the Maronite priesthood shortly before his 30th birthday.
He returned to his hometown of Rayfoun, north of Beirut, to serve as a priest until 1955. He was also appointed secretary to the Diocese of Damascus, which served the approximately 4,000 Maronite Christians in Syria, an experience that would serve him well later in his career.
Sfeir was swiftly identified as suitable for promotion, and by 1961 he had been consecrated bishop and appointed patriarchal vicar, a deputy to the patriarch. This succession of roles gave him an insight into key parts of the Maronite Church, and the politics of Lebanon and Syria, which would later serve him well.
His time as patriarchal vicar saw the rise in tensions in Lebanon that led to the outbreak of civil war in 1975, and in 1976 he welcomed the intervention of Syria, which prevented Maronite forces from being overwhelmed by Muslim factions. But as it became apparent that Syria wished to do more in Lebanon than simply keep the peace, Sfeir turned against its role.
In April 1986, he was elected patriarch of Antioch and all the East by the synod of the Maronite Church, a position that would be crucial in gathering support for the Taif Agreement that ended the civil war in 1989.
Following the announcement of Sfeir’s death, Aoun released a statement praising him for his “defense of Lebanon’s sovereignty and its independence.”
His support for the agreement came at some cost to his support among Lebanese Maronites, as it provided for Syria’s continued influence in Lebanon, and downgraded the position of the latter’s Maronite community from the pre-war status quo. It is thought that the Vatican leaned on the patriarch in order to bring the civil war to an end (the Maronite Church is under the authority of the Catholic pope).
Sfeir’s opposition to fighting between the different Christian factions had already led to a rift with the prominent Maronite Gen. Michel Aoun (now Lebanon’s president). Aoun went on to oppose the Taif Agreement.
Following the announcement of Sfeir’s death, Aoun released a statement praising him for his “defense of Lebanon’s sovereignty and its independence.” Sfeir’s opposition to intra-Christian rivalries remained a feature of his public profile for the rest of his patriarchate.
Following the war, he devoted his energies to securing reconciliation in Lebanon, particularly between the Maronites and the Druze. The Druze civil war leader Walid Jumblatt, whose father was assassinated early in the war, tweeted that Sfeir was a “patriarch of independence, reconciliation, peace and love.”
Sfeir continued to oppose the Syrian presence, most vocally in the early 2000s. He is regarded as an instrumental figure in securing international support for Syria’s withdrawal both before and after the Syrian-sponsored assassination of Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005.
Sfeir’s opposition to Syrian interference in Lebanon continued after the 2005 withdrawal. His refusal to visit Syria has been contrasted to the current patriarch’s visits, most recently in 2015, by the latter’s opponents.
Sfeir retired as patriarch in 2011 on the grounds of old age. He was replaced by Bechara Boutros Rai. Sfeir was fluent in Arabic and French, and spoke a number of other languages including English, Aramaic, Latin and Syriac. He wrote several books on liturgical and theological issues, and within the Maronite Church was behind a reform of the liturgy in 1992.
**Peter Welby is a consultant on religion and global affairs, specializing in the Arab world. He is based in London, and has lived in Egypt and Yemen. Twitter: @pdcwelby

Lebanese Cabinet Meets Sunday Evening and Monday in Bid to Finalize Budget
Naharnet/May 12/2019/The Cabinet will hold a session at 9:30 pm Sunday and another on Monday morning in a bid to finalize the 2019 draft state budget. "The government will try to finalize the main points pertaining to essential files such as the salaries of state employees and pensioners and other pending topics," ministerial sources told An-Nahar newspaper in remarks published Sunday. "The government and its Prime Minister Saad Hariri are clearly determined to pass the budget as soon as possible although without rushing it," the sources added. Sunday evening's session is expected to be lengthy according to An-Nahar. In recent days, large segments of public sector employees have been protesting a decision to slash their benefits as part of an austerity package being studied by Cabinet for this year's budget. Lebanon has vowed to slash public spending to unlock $11 billion worth of aid pledged by international donors during an April 2018 conference in Paris. Last month, Hariri vowed to introduce "the most austere budget in Lebanon's history" to combat the country's bulging fiscal deficit, sparking fears among public sector employees that their salaries may be cut. Lebanon is one of the world's most indebted countries, with public debt estimated at 141 percent of GDP in 2018, according to credit ratings agency Moody's.

Retired Servicemen to Block Vital Facilities Monday Morning

Naharnet/May 12/2019/A grouping of retired servicemen on Sunday vowed to stage protests and block vital facilities on Monday morning to warn the government against "touching retirement salaries or social aid stipulated by the law." "This major protest is the beginning of other steps that will paralyze all Lebanese regions," the grouping added. It also called on civilian retirees to take part in the prorests, warning them that they are "on the same boat."The grouping also apologized to citizens for the inconvenience that will be caused by the protests and urged them to "stand by those who were yesterday the guardians of the country."

The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 12-13/19
French FM Urges Iran to Show 'Political Maturity' over U.S. Nuclear Deal
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 12/2019/French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has described Tehran's threat to resume nuclear work -- in what would be a contravention of its commitments under the 2015 Iran nuclear deal -- as a "bad reaction", calling on Tehran to show "political maturity."
"Iran has had a bad reaction, faced with a bad U.S. decision to withdraw from the Vienna agreements and impose sanctions," Le Drian said in an interview published online by Le Parisien, referring to the 2015 deal signed in Vienna. "It is a pity that the United States is not honouring its commitments, Iran must show its political maturity," Le Drian added. Iran announced earlier this month that it will stop respecting some limits on its nuclear activities imposed under the landmark 2015 deal. The announcement came exactly a year after the U.S. withdrew from the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), with further measures threatened if the agreement's other signatories fail to mitigate the impact of renewed American sanctions within 60 days. Le Drian also warned against a "bellicose spiral", stressing the "responsibility" of the Americans and the importance of dialogue with Tehran.

Iranian commander threatens to hit America ‘in the head’ if it makes military move
Arab News/May 12/2019//LONDON: A commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard threatened Sunday to hit America “in the head” if it made a military move, the Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA) reported.
Amirali Hajizadeh, the head of the Guard's aerospace division, also said that America’s military presence in the Gulf used to be a serious threat but now it’s an opportunity. "An aircraft carrier that has at least 40 to 50 planes on it and 6000 forces gathered within it was a serious threat for us in the past but now...the threats have switched to opportunities," Hajizadeh said. The US military has sent forces, including an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers, to the Middle East to counter what the Trump administration says are “clear indications” of threats from Iran to US forces there.
The USS Abraham Lincoln is replacing another carrier rotated out of the Gulf last month. Earlier on Sunday, an Israeli cabinet minister warned of possible direct or proxy Iranian attacks on Israel should the stand-off between Tehran and Washington escalate. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, which supports Trump’s hard tack against its arch-foe, has largely been reticent about the spiralling tensions.Parting with the silence, Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said that, in the Gulf, “things are heating up.” “If there’s some sort of conflagration between Iran and the United States, between Iran and its neighbors, I’m not ruling out that they will activate Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad from Gaza, or even that they will try to fire missiles from Iran at the State of Israel,” Steinitz, a member of Netanyahu’s security cabinet, told Israel’s Ynet TV. Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad are Iranian-sponsored guerrilla groups on Israel’s borders, the former active in Syria as well as Lebanon and the latter in the Palestinian territories. The Israeli military declined to comment when asked if it was making any preparations for possible threats linked to the Iran-US standoff. Israel has traded blows with Iranian forces in Syria, as well as with Hezbollah in Lebanon and Palestinian militants. But it has not fought an open war with Iran, a country on the other side of the Middle East. (With Reuters)

Four commercial vessels targeted by ‘sabotage’ near UAE waters: Foreign ministry
Arab News/May 12/2019/DUBAI: Four commercial vessels were targeted by "acts of sabotage" near the territorial waters of the United Arab Emirates on Sunday morning, the UAE foreign ministry said in a statement amid rising tensions between neighboring Iran and the US. The statement added the vessels, that were targeted near Fujairah and at a distance of 115 kilometers from Iran, were “civilian trading vessels of various nationalities”, and that the UAE was investigating the incident with local and international bodies. Rumors about ships inside the port being sabotaged were unfounded, the ministry added. The port of Fujairah continues to operate as normal and there were no victims of the sabotage incident. The ministry added that targeting merchant ships and threatening the lives of crew members is a “dangerous development,” and that the government considers the acts of sabotage to be a threat to the safety and security of the UAE. The country called on the international community to prevent any party from compromising maritime safety and security. The ministry statement was tweeted by the official news agency WAM.
Lebanon’s pro-Iran satellite channel Al-Mayadeen falsely reported that a series of explosions had struck Fujairah’s port, and the reports were repeated by state media in Iran. Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, head of the Iranian Parliament’s national security committee, said the “explosions” showed that the security of Gulf states was “like glass.”The sabotage incident follows a US Maritime Administration warning last week that Iran could target commercial sea traffic. “Since early May, there is an increased possibility that Iran and/or its regional proxies could take action against US and partner interests, including oil production infrastructure, after recently threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz,” the organization said. “Iran or its proxies could respond by targeting commercial vessels, including oil tankers, or US military vessels in the Red Sea, Bab El Mandeb or the Arabian Gulf.”Bahrain condemned the acts of sabotage, saying it was a "criminal act" that threatened maritime traffic in the region. The kingdom said it stood with the UAE. The US deployed the Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group and B-52 bombers to the region on May 4 in response to what it said was an “escalated threat” from Iran.
A senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander issued a veiled threat on Sunday to the US military presence in the Gulf. “An aircraft carrier that has at least 40 to 50 planes on it and 6,000 forces gathered within it was a serious threat for us in the past but now it is a target and the threats have switched to opportunities,” said Amirali Hajjizadeh, head of the Guards’ aerospace division. “If they make a move we will hit them in the head.”Earlier on Sunday, the UAE emirate of Fujairah denied media reports that claimed a series of explosions had rocked its port on Sunday. Claims from a number of news outlets, which were then shared on social media, said there had been explosions on Sunday morning and that fires had broken out on some of the docked oil tankers in the port. Fujairah government’s media office tweeted a statement on Sunday denying there had been any explosions and that operations were continuing as normal. It also called on media organizations to be “accurate” in their reporting and to only publish information once it was “confirmed by official sources.”The harbor master of Fujairah port, who had been on shift at the time, also confirmed that there was no truth to the reports.

Pompeo Heads to Russia as U.S. Diplomacy Turns Schizophrenic

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 12/2019/U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is heading to Russia with an unusual and thankless task -- standing firm against the rival power even as his boss, President Donald Trump, reaches out to reconcile. Pompeo will meet Tuesday with Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, in the highest-level U.S engagement with the Russian leader since a July summit in Helsinki after which Trump faced wide scorn at home for his trustful embrace of the Russian leader. The top U.S diplomat's trip comes less than two months after Special Counsel Robert Mueller wound up an investigation that found that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election -- but that the Trump campaign did not collude with Moscow. After spending the first two years of his presidency under the cloud of Mueller's probe, Trump chatted for more than an hour by telephone with Putin on May 3, in what he hailed as a "very positive" conversation. Trump said that Putin had assured him that Russia was not involved in Venezuela -- directly contradicting Pompeo and other top officials who for weeks have demanded that Moscow stop backing leftist leader Nicolas Maduro, whom Washington is trying to topple. Venezuela is only one of a slew of issues where the United States and Russia have clashed. Others include the Syrian war, arms control commitments and the conflict in Ukraine, where Western powers have been attempting for five years to little avail to end Moscow's support for armed separatists. Jonathan Katz, a former U.S. official focused on Central and Eastern Europe, believed that Russia was looking to see if the end of Mueller's probe would allow a new beginning with Trump, whom Putin supported over Hillary Clinton in 2016. "I think this is Moscow testing whether there is a new modus operandi in Washington, (after) the release of the Mueller report," said Katz, now a senior fellow at The German Marshall Fund of the United States. Despite heading the U.S. government, Trump is a major outlier in Washington, with virtually all senior administration officials including Pompeo and lawmakers across party lines advocating a harder stance on Russia, including sanctions over election interference and its 2014 takeover of Crimea from Ukraine. For Pompeo, "it's incredibly difficult because the interlocutors on the other side don't know who speaks for the United States," Katz said.
Progress sought on arms control
A State Department official said Pompeo, who will also meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for the second time in as many weeks, would push for progress in particular in one area -- arms control. The New START treaty, which caps the number of nuclear warheads well below Cold War limits, is set to expire in 2021 and Trump has called for a broader successor that will include a rising China. Even Pompeo has acknowledged that those goals may be too optimistic. Another key accord, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, just collapsed, with the United States pulling out over charges that a new Russian missile system violated it. Despite deep rifts on many hotspots, the State Department official said that Russia and the United States, if not seeing eye-to-eye, had developed "constructive" relationships on Afghanistan and North Korea. "It is in our interest to have a better relationship with Russia," the official told reporters on condition of anonymity. "Where we have concerns, we're going to raise them directly, narrow those differences and find areas where we can cooperate to protect and advance our interests." But Victoria Nuland, who championed a tough line on Russia as an assistant secretary of state during Barack Obama's administration, voiced doubt on whether hopes for a better relationship could be realized under Putin's increasingly autocratic rule. She said that a "lack of leadership, unity and consistency" in the United States was the greatest challenge to countering a resurgent Russia. "What we don't know, and what we have to continue to test, is whether Russian President Putin truly wants to improve relations," she recently testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "It may well be that his psychology and leadership model are too dependent on an enemy abroad to change course -- and we have to steel ourselves for what may be a very long game that outlasts Putin."

Israel Reopens Gaza Crossings as Calm Restored
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 12/2019/Israel reopened Sunday its crossings with the blockaded Gaza Strip after closing them during a deadly escalation earlier this month, an official said, as a fragile truce held. Both the Erez crossing for people and Kerem Shalom crossing for goods were open and operating, a spokeswoman for COGAT, the defence ministry unit that oversees the crossings, said in a statement. Both had been closed on May 4, when Gaza rulers Hamas and its ally Islamic Jihad fired hundreds of rockets at Israel, with the army striking dozens of targets in Gaza in response. Four Israeli civilians and 25 Palestinians, including at least nine militants, were killed in the two-day flare-up, which ended on Monday in a tentative truce. Palestinian officials said Israel had agreed to ease its crippling decade-long blockade of the impoverished enclave in exchange for calm.
Israel did not publicly confirm the deal, but on Friday lifted the ban it had imposed on Palestinian fishing boats operating off Gaza. Israel says its blockade is necessary to isolate Gaza's Islamist rulers Hamas, with whom it has fought three wars since 2008. But critics say it amounts to collective punishment of Gaza's two million residents.

Netanyahu Says Needs More Time to Form New Govt.

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 12/2019/Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday he would ask President Reuven Rivlin for more time to form a new coalition government, citing recent holidays and the Gaza flare-up.
Netanyahu's Likud won 35 seats in the April 9 general election, with most party chiefs represented in the 120-seat parliament recommending that he forms the next governing coalition. On April 17 Rivlin formally tasked him with the mission, which by law needs to be completed within 28 days -- although a 14-day extension is automatically granted upon request. "As in past instances of forming a government, I intend on asking an extension from the president," Netanyahu said in the opening remarks of the weekly cabinet meeting. "Such an extension is not only acceptable but also required due to scheduling problems," he said citing a busy holiday season, including Passover and Israeli Independence Day, as well as the Gaza flare-up. On May 4, militants in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip fired hundreds of rockets at Israel, prompting the army to striked dozens of targets inside the blockaded coastal enclave in response. Four Israeli civilians and 25 Palestinians, including at least nine militants, were killed in the two-day flare-up, which ended on Monday in a tentative truce. Netanyahu has been conducting low-intensity meetings with heads of the parties expected to join his coalition. It is expected to include the 16 members of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties, the far-right national religious union, Avigdor Lieberman's nationalistic Israel Beitenu and the center-right Kulanu. Netanyahu's lawyers were meanwhile negotiating with the justice ministry when the premier's pre-trial hearings would take place. The attorney general announced in February his intention to indict Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust -- pending a hearing. Netanyahu is not required to resign if indicted, only if convicted with all appeals exhausted.

Belgian Leaders Mull Suspension of Saudi Arms Sales

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 12/2019/Belgian leaders are mulling the suspension of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, national broadcaster RTBF said Saturday after it was reported they had been used in Yemen. Foreign Minister Didier Reynders told RTBF: "I think it would be good to suspend arms deliveries to Saudi Arabia" if it were shown they had been used "in an ongoing conflict, such as in Yemen," in which case he said the regional Walloonian government "must" take that decision. Belgium's constitution places responsibility for such decisions on the producer region, in this case Wallonia, which owns the arms manufacturer FN Herstal. Regional president Willy Borsus told RTBF it "could go as far as suspending existing arms export licenses" if conditions under which they were granted had been violated. Belgian newspaper Le Soir said Wednesday an investigation showed Ryad had used Belgian arms and technology in operations against Huthi rebels in Yemen, where more than four years of fighting has killed tens of thousands of people, relief agencies say. The fighting has triggered what the United Nations describes as the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with 3.3 million people still displaced and 24.1 million -- more than two-thirds of the population -- in need of aid. The issue of Saudi arms sales divides European governments, with French President Emmanuel Macron defending such sales Thursday as part of "the fight against terrorism."Germany however suspended arms sales to Riyad after the killing last year of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, posing a problem for European partners because it can affect weapons produced jointly. A diplomatic source said the issue would be discussed Monday by EU foreign ministers in Brussels, because Saudi Arabia is also backing Libyan rebel leader Khalifa Haftar in his bid to overthrow a government in Tripoli that has EU backing. The EU has committed to enforcing a U.N. arms embargo in Libya.

8 'Terrorist' Suspects Killed in Saudi Arabia
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 12/2019/Eight members of a "terrorist" cell were killed on Saturday in a police raid in Saudi Arabia's eastern Qatif region, a Shiite minority stronghold, state media reported. The recently-formed cell was preparing to carry out "terrorist" activities against the security of the country, the official Saudi Press Agency reported citing a state security spokesman. He said the men were killed after they fired shots at security forces, who had surrounded a residential apartment in the Sanabis neighborhood. "They were called on to surrender, but they did not respond and opened fire at the security forces... which resulted in their killing," said the spokesman. No civilians or security forces were injured in the operation, he added. Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province -- which includes Qatif -- has seen bouts of unrest since 2011 when protesters emboldened by the Arab Spring uprisings took to the streets. The demonstrators have demanded an end to what they say is discrimination by the Sunni-dominated government, a charge Riyadh denies. One of the leaders of the protest movement, prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, was executed in 2016 for "terrorism". Nimr's execution exacerbated sectarian tension both across the Gulf and with Saudi Arabia's main regional rival, Shiite Iran. The Shiite community is estimated to make up between 10 and 15 percent of the kingdom's population of 32 million, but the government has released no official statistics.

Yemen Government Blasts Rebel 'Deception' over Port Pullout

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 12/2019/Yemen's government on Sunday accused rebels of a "policy of deception" after they announced a pullout from a string of Red Sea ports in a long-delayed move agreed under a ceasefire deal last year. The docks serve as a lifeline for millions in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country, which has been pushed to the brink of famine by more than four years of devastating war. According to the United Nations, the Huthi insurgents began to withdraw from the ports of Hodeida, Saleef and Ras Issa on Saturday. The pullback is considered a first step in implementing a hard-won truce agreement for Hodeida struck in Sweden in December between Yemen's Saudi-backed government and the Iran-aligned Huthi rebels. The flashpoint city is the main entry point for Yemen's imports and humanitarian aid. But government officials cast doubts over the handover process, saying it was unclear who was taking control of the ports, and experts said it was too soon to say if the move represented genuine progress. "The (Sweden) agreement is very difficult to execute because the lines are blurry and each side interprets it the way it wants to," said Yemen expert Farea al-Muslimi, a visiting fellow at the London-based Chatham House think tank. "Overall, the next two weeks will show if this is a handover or a yet another hangover," he told AFP.
'Theatrical play'
Yemen's information minister accused the rebels of faking the pullout. "What the Huthi militia did is a repeated theatrical play of handing over control of the port to its own forces (in different uniforms)," Moammer al-Eryani tweeted on Sunday. "This shows its continued manipulation and evasion to implement the Sweden agreement... by adopting a policy of deception."The governor of Hodeida, Al-Hasan Taher, said Saturday the insurgents were merely reshuffling personnel. "The Huthis are staging a new ploy by handing over the ports of Hodeida, Saleef and Ras Issa to themselves without any monitoring by the United Nations and the government side," said the official, appointed by the internationally recognised government. "This is totally rejected by us, and the agreement must be implemented in full, especially with regards to the identity of the troops that will take over from the Huthis," he added. Sources close to the Huthis said the ports were handed over to coastguard personnel who were in charge before the rebels took over Hodeida almost five years ago.
'Potential breakthrough'
According to Adam Baron, a Yemen expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank, the Huthi withdrawal represents a "potential breakthrough". "That being said, it remains to be seen how significant it can truly be," he told AFP. "Trust between both parties borders on non-existent, something that continues to hamper any efforts toward deconfliction. "Even an implementation of the deal only signals progress on one part of the deal and one aspect of the conflict. It's key to remember that Yemen is not Hodeida and even amidst the relative calming there, the conflict continues to burn." The U.N. Security Council is due to hear a briefing on Hodeida on Wednesday -- a day after the rebel withdrawal is expected to be completed. Last year's deal was hailed as a breakthrough that offered the best chance so far of ending the war in Yemen, where a coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates is fighting on the government's side. But although the violence has largely stopped in Hodeida, there have been intermittent clashes and the promised redeployment of the warring parties away from the front lines has failed to materialise.
A peace deal for the rest of the country also remains elusive. "The agreement in Sweden only stopped the fighting in Hodeida, the challenge is to turn it into an all-inclusive national agreement," said Muslimi. The military coalition led by Riyadh intervened in March 2015 when President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi fled into exile in Saudi Arabia after the rebels captured swathes of the country. Yemen's conflict has killed tens of thousands of people, many of them civilians, relief agencies say. The fighting has triggered what the U.N. describes as the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with 24.1 million -- more than two-thirds of the population -- in need of aid.

Pakistan PM Slams Hotel Attack as Bid to Damage Economy
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 12/2019/An attack on a luxury hotel in the southwestern city of Gwadar was a bid to "sabotage prosperity", Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan said Sunday, as police confirmed all the attackers had been killed. At least one person was shot dead Saturday after gunmen stormed a luxury hotel in the southwestern Pakistani city of Gwadar, the centrepiece of a multi-billion dollar Chinese infrastructure project. A Baloch separatist group, the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), claimed responsibility for the attack via Twitter. "Such attempts especially in Balochistan are an effort to sabotage our economic projects and prosperity. We shall not allow these agendas to succeed," Khan said in a statement issued by his office. The Chinese embassy in Islamabad also strongly condemned the incident. Local police said four gunmen who had stormed the hotel, shooting dead a security guard, had been killed overnight by security forces."All four terrorists were killed and security forces had taken complete control of the hotel building," a local police official in Gwadar told AFP via telephone. His account was confirmed by a security source in Islamabad. The military had said on Saturday that there were three gunmen. Mohammad Aslam, a police official in Gwadar, told AFP Saturday that only staff were present in the building at the time of the attack. The BLA is one of a myriad of insurgent groups fighting in tightly-guarded Balochistan province, which has been rocked by separatist, Islamist and sectarian violence for years.
'The next Dubai'
The Pearl Continental, part of Pakistan's largest five-star hotel chain, is the only luxury hotel in Gwadar, frequented by foreign and Pakistani business delegations as well as diplomats. It sits isolated on a ridge overlooking the Arabian Sea port city that was formerly a small fishing village, but now touted by officials as "the next Dubai" thanks to the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Part of China's Belt and Road initiative, CPEC seeks to connect the western Chinese province of Xinjiang with Gwadar, with the development of the port as the plan's flagship project. Gwadar will provide China with safer and more direct access to the oil-rich Middle East than the waterway trade route it currently uses through the narrow Malacca Straits. But it has also drawn its share of attacks -- particularly from separatists who have long complained that residents of Pakistan's poorest and largest province do not receive a fair share of profits from its resources. The BLA has targeted Chinese workers in Pakistan multiple times, including during a brazen daylight attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi which killed four people in November last year. At the time, the BLA branded Beijing "an oppressor". Balochistan is tightly guarded by the Pakistani military, who have been targeting insurgents there since 2004. The army has been repeatedly accused by international rights groups of abuses there, but denies all allegations. The attack was the second deadly attack in a prominent Pakistan city this week, after a suicide blast claimed by the Pakistani Taliban at one of the country's oldest and most popular Sufi shrines killed at least 12 people in the eastern city of Lahore.

Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 12-13/19
Can Islam Be Rescued from Islamism?
Mordechai Nisan/AMERICAN THINKER/May 12/2019
Islamic terrorism in its violent expressions coexists with Islamic terrorism in thought. The blatant and barbarous aspect of Islamism, its murderous activities in New York and Jerusalem, Bali and London, Paris and Nairobi, Argentina and the Philippines, Madrid and Mumbai, Syria and Sri Lanka, mesmerizes world attention. Yet the terror of thought is no less, and perhaps more, menacing and paralytic: it constricts freedom of consciousness, intimidates free speech, and submits and smothers society under conformist Islamist religious forces. Islam from its beginning promoted both jihad warfare “in the path of Allah” and dawa missionizing to advance the new religion and make it supreme, if not exclusive, in the world.
Salim Mansur, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Western Ontario, is a believing but dissident Muslim. Among Muslim reformers and free thinkers in the West, like his fellow-Canadian Irshad Manji, also Nonie Darwish and Boualem Sansal, are those who categorically denounced Islam, pointing to the obscenity of compulsory female genital mutilation and “honor killings,” beheadings, and brutal massacres. Some left the fold; among these apostates are Ibn Warraq, Mohamed Sifaoui, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Some dissidents in Muslim lands fled into exile and required police protection. A noteworthy and particular case was that of Nobel Literature laureate Naguib Mahfouz, a Muslim secularist, who was assaulted by fanatics in Cairo, survived the attack, and remained in his country.
In The Qur’an Problem and Islamism, published by Mantua Books in Canada, Salim Mansur offers an exceptionally courageous and principled Muslim narrative of his personal beliefs and philosophy of life in a world where Khomeinism, Al-Qaeda, Wahhabism, the Muslim Brotherhood, and ISIS, dominate and suffocate the Islamic conversation. Islamism is a “monstrosity,” affirms Mansur, reflecting the rot in the Muslim world. Its savagery in murdering thousands of innocent human beings in Nigeria and Pakistan, France and Spain, Egypt and Iraq, has brought shame upon many good Muslims globally.
Which Islam?
As a classic liberal and modern-day political conservative, Mansur is an intellectual savant whose worldview includes rationalism, individualism, and enlightenment, buoyed by loyalty to Canada and her roots in liberty and law. In his quest to sustain Islam as a religion embodying morality and humanism, Salim Mansur reads, with an open and critical eye, the Qur’an and the life of Muhammad, who spread “the Word of God.” Manifestly explicit passages in the Islamic holy book call upon believers to practice righteousness, to give alms to the poor, to treat orphans with fairness, and honor and show kindness to parents; faith demands belief in Allah and the final Day of Judgment. Muslims are to attend to their prayers and reject idolatry. They are obligated to refrain from imposing their faith on non-Muslims.
With support from the Qur’an, Mansur reaches out to “one human family” with a universalism to encompass all people and believers – not only Muslims — in the One God. The Qur’an that “makes things clear” is part of the prophetic legacy in monotheism. Islam is one path and not the only one toward this truth. In his writings and interviews, Salim conveys his love for humanity whatever people’s background or faith. This is for him the message of Islam writ large in daily life.
So where is the problem? It is in the totalitarian ideology of Islamism, this “crippling of Islamic culture and civilization,” which abandoned philosophy and reason, and formulated a “fascistic” and perverted version of Islam. Great Muslim thinkers like Al-Ghazali, Ibn Rushd (Averros), and Jalaluddin al-Rumi, have been ignored or rejected. The infamous preachers advocated jihad, militancy, and martyrdom. Among the radical fundamentalists were Ibn Taimiyya, Hasan al-Banna, and Sayyid Qutb. Islam, now reduced to warfare and blood, metastasized into Islamism. This is Mansur’s central claim and he is therefore at one with non-Muslim authors like Bat Ye’or, Robert Spencer, and Andrew Bostom, who have elucidated the warlike and expansionist ambitions of a conquering Islam pursuing the vision of a world caliphate.
One chapter in the book deals with Muslim anti-Semitism that, for Mansur, is a diabolical strand that has no inherent foundation in the Qur’an and Islam. Anti-Jewish bigotry is foreign to the holy text and Jews indeed survived and even sometimes flourished in Muslim lands. There are ways to interpret the Qur’an through the method of abrogation (naskh) and contexualizing to invalidate the contemporary relevance of harsh Qu’ranic verses. The text then becomes subject to the meaning the reader gives to it. Yet, radical Muslim preachers today are rife with blistering Qur’anic-based attacks against Jews as cursed, vile people, murdering prophets and breaching agreements, to the crescendo of likening them to apes and monkeys. For Mansur, the Qur’anic demand that Jews be reduced to “humiliation and misery” (Ch.9, 29) is limited to an earlier period of history alone.
When Muslims promote hatred for Jews and Christians, this is in the view of Mansur a deviation and distortion of Islam’s basic tolerance for other monotheistic religions.
Is There a Non-Political Islam?
Salim Mansur and other Muslims who share his frustration and rage confront the Islamist domination of Islam’s agenda and activity that possess vast financial and educational networks with a radical program to Islamize the world, America and Europe included. Over a thousand years ago, the fanatical Hanbali Muslims in Baghdad raided houses if they found wine and poured it away; if they found a singing girl they beat her; if they saw a man going with a woman, they charged them with immorality and dragged them to the police. These scenes of oppression sound familiar in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan of today.
However, other Muslims a millennium ago evoked a very different sensibility. Avicenna, born in Bukhara (Uzbekistan), was educated in the Qur’an and jurisprudence, also in mathematics and logic, Aristotelian philosophy, astronomy, geometry, and medicine. He was a man of learning and open to acquiring knowledge from whoever could teach him. In Baghdad Islamists hounded the people in the name of Islam, in Bukhara and beyond Avicenna sought the horizons of scholarship in tandem with Islam. The debate regarding the true version of Islam continues until today.
Salim Mansur is a modern man, valuing reason while not discarding revelation, though choosing the former over the latter. He seeks coherence and comprehensiveness in knowledge, without sacrificing his deep faith in Islam. Perhaps he is trying to square the circle, hold the rope from both ends. He confidently recognizes the cultural continuity in evolving revelations, Muhammad’s included, throughout history. As a Muslim believer, he seems drawn to the softness and individuality embedded within the Sufi track, as in the thought of Ibn ‘Arabi who identified the “Oneness of Being” for the mystical climb to be at one with God. This is an invitation for all human beings regardless of their particular religious affiliation. God transcends all, and distinctions among men dissolve with the common quest for a god-like experience and life. Mansur’s is a personal religion rather than a political religion; the classic characterization of Islam as din wa-dawla (religion and state) is alien to Salim’s sensibility.
His nobility of character in an age of extremism is exceptionally admirable. He feels engaged in the vortex of a historical moment that imperils both Islam and the West. In Ontario, where he lives, he had to change the mosque he attends. He was threatened for his ‘unorthodox’ ideas. No less, he is a spiritual brother to the Jews and a vigorous supporter of Israel. These convictions fly in the face of the ideological rigors of Islamism.
Overall, Mansur wants an Islam of “many faces.” He chooses the West for its modernity and openness, individual liberty and the rule of law. This he found in Canada, the country he adopted and embraces. He hopes to enter Canadian politics; as a Member of Parliament he could be a commanding voice for moderation and common sense to challenge the vagaries of multi-culturalism, religious fanaticism, and anti-Semitism.
As of today, the chicanery of Islamophobia and Political Correctness control much of the language and discussion. The West has been artfully and partly disarmed of its heritage – including Christianity, and values of equality and liberty, progress for all — choosing to privilege Islam by accommodating its parallel society separatism, sharia courts, and execrable youth marriages (as in parts of Europe today). In the East, Islam has persecuted and terrorized the Christians; but in the West, Islamist Muslims have been free to advance an Islamist agenda – in schools, in mosques, in public and political fora, in the media – successfully intimidating the weak-willed while glorifying the supremacy of Islam over all other cultures and religions.
* Dr. Mordechai Nisan is a retired lecturer in Middle East Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His most recent book is The Crack-Up of the Israeli Left, published by Mantua Books in Canada.

Egyptian-German Scholar Hamed Abdel-Samad: Islamic Extremism Stems From The Core Of Islam; Tens Of Thousands Of ISIS Supporters Live Among Us
MEMRI/May 12/2019
Egyptian-German scholar Hamed Abdel-Samad said that Islamic extremism and terrorism stems from the "core of Islam" – from its texts, its history of conquests, its founder, and its ideology – and that the problem does not lie only with the returning ISIS members, but with the "multiple layers of radicalization," with which the governmental and Islamic structures are not equipped to deal. "There are thousands, tens of thousands, of them living among us," he warned, calling to try ISIS fighters in international tribunals and to impose harsher punishments. Abdel-Samad, who was participating on a talk show on the Austrian Servus TV channel on February 21, talked about the dangers to the child’s worldview posed by the victim’s mentality, by violence in the family, by mixed messages on sexuality, and by the clash of cultures. He discussed the violence and lack of freedom suffered by Muslim women, saying: "How often has this imaginary god ruined people!"
To view the clip of Egyptian-German scholar Hamed Abdel-Samad on MEMRI TV, click here or below.
"Many Muslims From Every Muslim Country Joined ISIS, The First Group Came From Saudi Arabia, I Don't Think Islamophobia Exists There, The Second Group Came From The Middle Class Of Tunisia. There Is Not Much Islamophobia There Either"
Hamed Abdel-Samad: "Many Muslims from every Muslim country joined ISIS. The first group came from Saudi Arabia. I don't think Islamophobia exists there. The second group came from the middle class of Tunisia. There is not much Islamophobia there either. There is not a single Islamic country that is devoid of terrorism and of increasing radicalization. Saying that the main and only reason [for terrorism], in your view, is that these young people face Islamophobia is not the way to solve the problem. First, we can start with what Muslims are doing wrong – what is being preached [in mosques] here, the worldview that mosques are teaching these young people. [They teach them] to have a victim's mentality – and unfortunately, you are part of this. What kind of victim's mentality? This mentality encourages these people in their inferiority complex and their victim's mentality, and then it creates an illusion so that they will join jihad – so they can save the Muslims, as well as themselves, and ultimately, reach Paradise. This ideology stems from the core of Islam and is the primary source [of terrorism]. Without this, there would be no Islamism or terrorism in any Muslim country or community anywhere in the world. There are no longer any countries on Earth that are free of Islamism and terrorism."
Host: "But what you are saying is that the original reason for this movement is not a separate, extremist, Islamist part of Islam, but that it basically stems from the core of the religion itself. That's what you are saying."
Hamed Abdel-Samad: "These are the texts of Islam, the history of Islam, and the role model and founder of Islam. ISIS is doing nothing different than Muhammad and his successors, at the time. They brought an ideology into the world, using weapons and the subjugation of peoples. As an Egyptian, I would never have been born a Muslim, if Muhammad's successors had not behaved like ISIS does. The same holds true for Morocco, Iran, and, in fact, anywhere Islam spread. The entire history of Islam is a history of conquest.
"[Muslims say:] We are victims – if I cannot subjugate you now, I am your victim."
"There Are ISIS Fighters, And There Are People Who Approve Of This Ideology, But Did Not Go To Syria – There Are Thousands, Tens Of Thousands, Of Them Living Among Us"
"The problem is not that a few hundred [ISIS fighters] are returning, but that the governmental and Islamic structures here are not at all able to absorb these people. Radicalization is increasing on a daily basis. The state cannot monitor potential terrorists 24 hours a day. It's not possible. And then we wake up and learn that one of them drove a truck into a crowd. We wake up and discover that someone has committed a terrorist attack in a Christmas market. And we have to live with this.
"I suggest that we put these people before an international tribunal, and inflict harsh punishment on them. But they have realized that our judiciary is very lax in dealing with them. They know that there are various [legal] loopholes. They hate democracy, they fight against democracy, yet they take advantage of our democracy against us, in order to expand their infrastructures, and even in order to kill us.
"I find it extremely dangerous that we are always talking about these 'popular' 300 or 400 people, and the rest of the Muslims and Islam, in general, are okay. There are multiple layers of radicalization. There are ISIS fighters, and there are people who approve of this ideology, but did not go to Syria. There are thousands, tens of thousands, of them living among us. There is also a conservative Islamic theology, which does not directly say: 'Go there and fight,' but it shares the same worldview. It shares the same sentiment towards Christians, disbelievers, and so on, and it feeds this victim's mentality as well.
"Of course, there is also the violence these people experience within their families – when a child grows up and sees that the first strategy of communication between his father and mother is violence. In other words, the first solution to a problem is violence. The child grows up with this trauma, but also with this nature – violence is the first option in such a situation. When a child wants to deal with problems involving sexuality in a healthy way, this requires outlets. This is well known in psychology. When a child receives mixed messages from school, the family, and the mosque, that is extremely dangerous for their personal worldview. You need an established worldview.
"When the Quran or Islam sometimes says that tolerance is okay, altruism is okay, but in the next sentence there is another war, and [non-Muslims] are 'sinners,' 'hypocrites,' and 'disbelievers,' when the world is divided into believers and disbelievers – that is intrinsic to Islamic theology – then we actually do have a role model. The Prophet himself must not be questioned in Islam, although he was a warlord and treated women in a strange way. When this man is considered a role model by young Muslims, who study Kant, Spinoza, and Voltaire – they go crazy."
"He Was Married To 13 Women, He Waged 80 Wars In The Last Eight Years Of His Life, He Took Women As Prisoners Of War – Why Should An Enlightened Person In The 21st Century Not Criticize This Man? Why Does He Deserve Immunity From Criticism?"
Muslim Panel Member: "You have now insulted Muslims on many, many levels in a single sentence. First of all, if you want to criticize the Prophet Muhammad, you have the right to do so. I will not forbid you. But please do so objectively and honorably. You offend Islam on many levels, and you don't have to wonder why Muslims take this personally and reject your activity."
Hamed Abdel-Samad: "I am criticizing a man who has been dead for 1,400 years. He was married to 13 women. He waged 80 wars in the last eight years of his life. He took women as prisoners of war. Why should an enlightened person in the 21st century not criticize this man? Why does he deserve immunity from criticism?"
"Go To Any Women's Shelter In Austria Or Germany, And See Who The Majority Are... Read Studies About Women Committing Suicide, And Ask Yourselves Why Muslim Women Commit Suicide Twice As Much" As Non-Muslim Women
"When we talk about violence against women in Islam, we have empirical data. Go to any women's shelter in Austria or Germany, and see who the majority are. You will be surprised! Read studies about women committing suicide, and ask yourselves why Muslim women commit suicide twice as much [as non-Muslim women]. There are empirical studies.
"It is always due to lack of freedom. The daughter wants to study somewhere and is not allowed, and she kills herself. She wants to marry a non-Muslim, but good old Islam, the imaginary god of Islam, has whispered that this is impossible. So love must die, and a young woman dies. How often has this imaginary god ruined people!"

Opinion/ America Must Not Back Down Against Iran
إميلي لانداو/هآرتس: لا يجب أن تتراجع أميركا في مواجهتها مع إيران
Emily B. Landau/Haaretz/May 12/ 2019

The U.S. is not initiating hostilities. It is not bullying Iran. It is responding to Tehran’s recent threats – and to years of lying and cheating about its nuclear capabilities. The aim of Trump's maximum pressure on Iran is negotiations, not war.
Recent developments surrounding the Iran nuclear crisis – including the Trump administration's designation of Iran's Revolutionary Guards as a terror organization, further U.S. sanctions placed on Iran and Europe’s inability so far to significantly circumvent them - have led to rising tensions between Iran and the United States. The effects of the maximum pressure campaign are being felt acutely in Iran, and it is desperately trying to find a way to push back.
Iran has threatened to end some of its commitments according to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and to exit the nuclear deal within 60 days if the U.S. and Europe do not cave to its demands to moderate sanctions. In addition, Iran is issuing military threats against U.S.interests, and threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz.
In response, the Trump administration has sent the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and a U.S. bomber task force to the Gulf. A new deployment of Patriot missiles to the Middle East has also been approved.
This is not the first time Iran has issued threats - whether to increase its uranium enrichment capabilities or to close the Strait of Hormuz - against both Europe and the U.S. since the JCPOA was concluded in 2015. It is the language Iran always uses to try to pressure and intimidate the other side - a sign of desperate posturing.
But the United States’ show of force is indication that it is taking an Iranian attack scenario seriously.
There has been a tendency of late in the media and among staunch Iran deal supporters to relate only to these most recent events, and to portray Iran as the victim of U.S. bullying. They claim that due to the latest sanctions, the Trump administration has left Iran no choice but to begin stockpiling enriched uranium and heavy water.
This ignores the entire history of how we got where we are today. Indeed, these events are just the latest episode in the ongoing saga of confronting Iran’s illicit nuclear weapons aspirations, confirmed beyond doubt by the nuclear archives extracted from Tehran in January 2018. Iran blatantly violated the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty by working on a nuclear weapons program, and deceived the IAEA for years.
The U.S. is not initiating hostilities. It is responding to Iran’s threats, and aggressive regional and bad faith behavior. Despite the JCPOA having created the illusion that a give and take was necessary with Iran, the international community owes Iran nothing on the nuclear front - the burden of proof is on Iran alone, to demonstrate that it is worthy of trust after lying and cheating for years.
It has not done so. In fact, Iran has remained uncooperative as far as inspections at military facilities, any further discussions regarding its missile program and regional profile, and has become more aggressive in its activities across the region. That includes entrenching its forces in Syria, and stepping its weaponizing of Hezbollah as its strike arm through attempts to transfer precision-guided technologies.
The issues being faced now also underscore the problematic nature of the JCPOA itself. They are a direct result of the blatant flaws in the nuclear deal - in this case the fact that the deal dangerously and ill-advisedly legitimized Iran’s enrichment program after having sanctioned Iran for years for this very program.
So now Iran is insisting on its right to enrich and transfer the excess amounts of enriched uranium abroad (in order to remain underthe 300kg limit) – a transfer that has been made impossible by the newly-imposed U.S. sanctions. This is the sad result of having granted Iran’s enrichment program special status.
The stated aim of the Trump administration is to get Iran back to the negotiating table through a campaign of maximum pressure. Now that the strategy is beginning to bear fruit, it is not the time to back down or relent. The U.S. and Europe should be firm in their response, and not allow Iran to hold them hostage to its ultimatum, or to dictate terms to the international community.
The initial European reaction to Iran’s intended nuclear steps is correct - Iran cannot be allowed to deepen the wedge between the U.S. and Europe, the familiar "divide and conquer" tactic that Iran has employed since 2003. And firm Trump administration counter threats, including a demonstration of force by bringing military force to the Gulf, are necessary in order to deter Iran from any thoughts of initiating military action.
Iranian worshippers burn a representation of a U.S. flag during a rally after Friday prayer in Tehran, Iran. May 10, 2019
Iranian worshippers burn a representation of a U.S. flag during a rally after Friday prayer in Tehran, Iran. May 10, 2019Ebrahim Noroozi,AP
The scenario of a possible military confrontation, while currently moving to the forefront, is nevertheless a sideshow to the central dynamic which focuses on Iran’s nuclear, missile and regional activities.
Neither Iran nor the U.S. has an interest in war. If there is escalation to military attacks due to miscalculations, it might overtake all other issues, but until then, fanning the flames of imminent war - in the media and among analysts - is a strongly ill-advised message.
At the end of the day, Iran’s threats are a desperate attempt to push back against the U.S. and Europe, and U.S. threats and military preparations are meant to deter Iran from any thoughts of initiating war, and not to provoke conflict.
Israel is currently not part of this dynamic, although if miscalculations lead to military exchange there could be serious implications. Placing the threats in their proper context is important. That means underscoring that negotiations are the goal - and war is in no one’s interest.
*Dr. Emily B. Landau is a Senior Research Fellow at Israel's Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) and head of its Arms Control and Regional Security Program. She is the author of "Decade of Diplomacy: Negotiations with Iran and North Korea and the Future of Nuclear Nonproliferation" (2012). Twitter: @EmilyBLandau

Analysis/Iran and U.S. Perched on Warpath, but Israel May Bear Brunt of Standoff
عاموس هاريل/هآرتس: إيران وأميركا يطفوان على مسار الحرب، ولكن إسرائيل هي من ستتحمل عبء المواجهة
Amos Harel/Haaretz/May 12/2019

Whether Tehran is driven by fear of sanctions or concern over Trump's reelection, it seems to be changing policy ■ Unclear if White House heads toward negotiations or confrontation
As far as is known, neither side wants a war, but a series of misunderstandings and miscalculations could still lead to a confrontation. This analysis, which has an all-too-familiar ring from recent rounds of fighting between Israel and Hamas, as well as the balance of deterrence that has existed for years between Israel and Hezbollah, refers this time to a different front: the one between the United States and Iran. That’s the conclusion reached by David Ignatius, a foreign affairs columnist for The Washington Post, in a piece Thursday.
This assessment followed the dramatic rise in tensions in the Persian Gulf in the past several days: the claims of Iran’s plans to attack targets of the United States or its allies in the Middle East, the U.S. warnings to Iran, the deployment of the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier to the region, and Tehran’s announcement that it would withdraw from parts of the nuclear agreement.
According to Ignatius, who has excellent relations with U.S. defense officials, the intelligence community in Washington changed its assessment regarding Iran’s intentions some two weeks ago. Until then, the Americans believed the Iranians would try to ride out the economic and political pressure from Washington to remain within the nuclear deal (which the Trump administration pulled out of a year ago), and to wait out the next 20 months in the hope that President Donald Trump would lose his reelection bid.
As Ignatius sees it, “the United States concluded that the Iranians had decided to reset their strategy,” either because the U.S. sanctions are biting too hard or because the Iranians “concluded that Trump might be reelected.” In addition to Iran’s doubts about the continued implementation of the nuclear agreement, the Americans receive intelligence about plans for imminent attacks on U.S. targets in the region, either by Iranian forces or their proxies (such as Shi’ite militias in Iraq or Houthi rebel forces in Yemen).
Ignatius mentioned the possibility of attacks on the more than 5,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. Other assessments, reported by Israel’s Channel 13 News, hold that Israel passed along intelligence warnings of Iranian plans to attack installations linked to Saudi Arabia’s petroleum trade, in an indirect act of revenge for the U.S. cancellation of exemptions for eight countries that continued to buy oil from Iran. The Houthis, for their part, fired missiles at a tanker carrying crude oil from Saudi Arabia to Egypt through the Bab El-Mandeb Strait last July.
Late last week, the U.S. Maritime Administration warned that Iran could target U.S. commercial ships, including oil tankers, as well as “U.S. military vessels in the Red Sea, Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, or the Persian Gulf.”
In addition to deploying the aircraft carrier, which according to some reports had been planned in advance, the U.S. announced a new deployment of Patriot anti-aircraft missiles in the region and sent a few B-52 bombers to a U.S. base in Qatar. These moves are not that dramatic because the deployments are limited, but the way the administration announced them and the extensive media coverage they received made them seem like saber-rattling.
That raises the questions of whether the Americans are following a written script, and what they hope to accomplish. Does Trump, who is not keen to launch new wars in the Middle East, seek to return the Iranians to the bargaining table, in a bid to reach a new nuclear agreement more favorable to the United States than the one signed by the Obama administration in Vienna in 2015? Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu characterized that one as a “disaster.” (CNN reported Saturday that the White House gave Trump’s private phone number to Iran, via Switzerland.)
Or do the hawks in the administration, who include John Bolton, the national security adviser, want to go to war against Iran in order to achieve regime change there?
There are plenty of historical examples of governments and intelligence agencies manipulating raw intelligence. The most traumatic of these for Americans in the past few decades came in 2002 when the administration of President George W. Bush claimed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, shortly before invading the country and bringing down the regime of Saddam Hussein.
For now, Israel is not at the center of the front between the United States and Iran. If such a military confrontation does happen, which currently seems unlikely, it will have indirect implications for Israel. That is presumably the reason that nearly every conversation with a high-ranking military official in recent weeks began with the situation in the Gaza Strip but quickly jumped to the events in the Gulf. Iran could go on to use other arenas closer to Israel – Gaza, Lebanon, Syria – as diversions or to damage the interests of Washington and its allies in the region. That may have figured into the calculus behind last week’s decision to end the round of fighting with Hamas and Islamic Jihad quickly, despite the deaths of four Israelis and the firing of 700 rockets into southern Israel.

Jared Kushner’s Peace Plan Would Be a Disaster
Robert Satloff/American Interest/The Washington Institute/May 12/2019
The only way to protect the long-term viability of the plan's best aspects is to kill it. Last week, I interviewed White House adviser Jared Kushner on the Middle East peace process at The Washington Institute’s annual conference, an event broadcast live on C-SPAN. Given that I had recently written an article calling his forthcoming peace plan a “lose-lose-lose proposition” that President Trump should shelve in order to avoid facing embarrassing failure, Kushner was a good sport for agreeing to the interview. For 45 minutes, we jousted—I thrust, he parried—and throughout the discussion, he was poised, personable, and disciplined. While he clarified key aspects of his thinking about Middle East diplomacy, he kept major revelations to a minimum.
Still, we learned a lot. Specifically:
The U.S. plan will provide detailed proposals to answer all core issues on the Israeli-Palestinian agenda, including suggestions for the final borders of Israel, the disposition of the disputed city of Jerusalem, the future of Palestinian refugees, the security arrangements that will protect the peace agreement, and the ultimate political relationship between Israelis and Palestinians. This will not be a plan about how to create a new negotiating process; rather, he boldly declared that its goal is to offer “solutions.”
The U.S. plan will highlight the equation of security for Israelis and enhanced quality of life for Palestinians, with less emphasis on the “political aspirations” of the Palestinians. When he was given the opportunity of endorsing the idea of demilitarized statehood—“state-minus”—that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself once proposed, Kushner said he was eschewing the term “state” altogether: “If you say ‘two-states’ it means one thing to the Israelis, it means one thing to the Palestinians, and we said, let’s just not say it,” he explained—although why he would propose answers to all peace process issues but punt on providing a U.S. definition of “statehood” was left unclear. Indeed, it was like pulling teeth to extract from Kushner much empathy for Palestinian political aspirations, however defined. (At one point, he did use the word “countries” when referring to Israel and the Palestinian entity-to-be, but it seemed more of a slip of the tongue than a politically laden reference.)
The U.S. plan will focus heavily on making the Palestinian area a magnet for investment as a way to improve Palestinian lives. But sequencing here is critical: Kushner noted that achieving that goal will require delineation of borders followed by fundamental political reform of the Palestinian Authority, a thorough anti-corruption effort, and the establishment of effective rule of law, including property rights. In other words, in addition to money—“other people’s money,” he noted, implying only a modest American contribution—it will take a lot of time before Palestinians see living standards improve.
If those three points constituted the lyrics of the Kushner plan, the melody was in line with his father-in-law’s trademark brashness and bluster, though with more charm and affability than the family patriarch normally musters. Speaking to a room full of Middle East experts, Kushner was boldly dismissive of the concept of expertise. Asked about his definition of success and the potential implications of failure, he brushed it off as a “Washington question”—though he then went on to concede that failure was the most likely option, calling it the “smart money bet”—while offering various definitions of diplomatic success: “Success can look like a lot of different things. It can look like an agreement, it can look like a discussion, it could lead to closer cooperation, maybe resolve a couple of issues,” he said. He even seemed impatient with the idea that history—historical memory, historical legacy, historical grievance—might play a role in a conflict most observers believe is laden with history.
Rather, he made the case for himself as a cross between truth-teller and practical problem-solver by citing his unexpected achievements—trade deals with Mexico and Canada, a legislative breakthrough on criminal justice reform—and he extolled the business pedigree of the trio of real estate and bankruptcy attorneys responsible for the “peace process” portfolio in the Trump Administration: himself, his top aide Jason Greenblatt, and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. And, in a bit of news, Kushner admitted that the President himself had not yet read the draft peace plan, which he said is still going through revisions. “When you work for a President, you try hard not to disappoint, but you can disappoint.” He continued, “When you work for your father-in-law, you can’t disappoint.”
Add it all up and Kushner presented a novel, though not wholly unprecedented, approach to Middle East peacemaking. The Kushner Plan—if it is endorsed and proposed by Trump—would be the first since the abortive Reagan Plan of 1982 in which the United States issued its own ideas for the permanent resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, unconnected to ongoing peace talks. In so doing, it would run against the longstanding U.S. policy of favoring direct negotiations between the parties as the best way to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement. Moreover, the exclusion of statehood from the U.S. formula would itself be a major step away from the bipartisan consensus that emerged following President George W. Bush’s endorsement of the goal of Palestinian statehood in 2002.
Ironically, in terms of form, Kushner’s emphasis on defining a final outcome and then working with the parties on the best way to implement it mirrors the traditional Arab approach to peacemaking. This is best reflected in the Arab Peace Initiative, an idea put forward by Saudi Arabia in 2002 that called for full Israeli withdrawal from all territory occupied in 1967 in exchange for full recognition by all Arab states. The API was criticized by Israel—and rightly so—because it offered no room for negotiation, just discussion on implementation. On substance, however, Kushner’s proposal seems designed to avoid political minefields that could complicate Netanyahu’s life, such as the legitimacy of Israeli settlements deep in the heart of the West Bank, to sidestep longstanding Palestinian demands such as statehood, and to incorporate Israeli-centric ideas on security arrangements. The result is a case of diplomatic cognitive dissonance—a proposal that the current Israeli government should reject on form but is likely to welcome on substance.
But any attempt to view the Kushner plan through the prism of past diplomacy misses its real innovation. In my view, it is far more instructive to view Kushner and his colleagues as developers applying to the Middle East lessons from the New York real estate market than as diplomats trying to solve a thorny, longstanding international dispute. Reading between the lines, it seems as though they view the peace process as the functional equivalent of turning a rent-controlled apartment building in midtown Manhattan into luxury condominiums. For the Kushner team, a key element of the strategy is to lower Palestinian expectations about what they will receive in the American plan, especially after rejecting so many previous proposals from Israel. While there are sound reasons for Trump to have repaired ties with Israel after the strains of the Obama years, one cannot fault Palestinians for seeing the Administration’s approach to them—from cutting aid to shuttering the representational office in Washington—as punitive; it seems to have been lifted from the playbook of a bankruptcy lawyer reacting to an adversary’s recalcitrance by offering 30 cents on the dollar today and only 20 cents on the dollar tomorrow.
Anyone who knows the Middle East knows that the analogy between the peace process and a New York real estate transaction quickly breaks down. If past is prologue, most Palestinians—and certainly their leaders—would prefer to wait out the developers rather than accept a lowball offer; after all, they rejected far more attractive offers before, which is what Abba Eban’s quip about “never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity” was all about. Ultimately, Palestinians know they have an extremely valuable asset to offer Israel—psychological and political acceptance—and are confident that the Israelis will eventually come around to offering a lot more for a final resolution to their century-old conflict than the Kushner Plan apparently envisions.
Moreover, unlike a real estate transaction in which one party gets the property and the other party gets the cash, a Middle East peace deal starts and ends with the two parties as neighbors, stuck with each other sharing a duplex for eternity. And whereas New York presents boundless possibilities, a place where there is always another plot to develop, another building to buy, another apartment complex to go condo, there is only one piece of land at stake in the Israeli-Palestinian arena, and Palestinians have nowhere else to go. This doesn’t mean Israel has to accede to 100 percent of Palestinian demands, but it does mean the conflict will never truly end unless each side believes the other has made good-faith effort to reconcile its needs to the desires of the other side—a situation which certainly does not obtain in the current circumstances.
A key fact that seems missing from the Kushner formula is that Israelis and Palestinians are not starting from zero. They are currently 25 years into their own contractual relationship, the Oslo process, and, despite periods of conflict and tension, neither side has found the status quo so objectionable that it has decided to blow it up. Indeed, for all its faults, the Palestinian Authority has evolved over this time into something akin to a normal Arab state—less corrupt, dysfunctional, violent, and authoritarian than some; more corrupt, dysfunctional, violent, and authoritarian than others. And since Israel’s suppression of the second intifada 15 years ago and the loss of Gaza to the extremists of Hamas three years later, the post-Arafat Palestinian Authority, led by Mahmoud Abbas, has more-or-less kept the peace with Israel, maintained security cooperation with the Israeli army, and ensured that the West Bank did not fall into the hands of Islamist radicals.
Any intelligent U.S. peace proposal should begin with how to build upon the existing edifice, taking pains to ensure that nothing is done to risk the fragile status quo. But Kushner’s remarks lacked any appreciation for this gray reality. At one point during our conversation, Kushner used a medical metaphor to boldly assert his plan will “cure the disease” fueling Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but his real challenge will be to ensure his proposal doesn’t violate the Hippocratic Oath—do no harm.
This indifference to the potential implications of failure is why I not only believe that his plan poses a danger to U.S. interests but that it is reckless for the Administration to even give it a try. While the United States should certainly be prepared to offer its own ideas to help the parties close the final gap in negotiations—as Jimmy Carter did at Camp David in 1979, after Menachem Begin, Anwar Sadat, and their teams had already spent 17 months in intensive bargaining—the chasm between Israelis and Palestinians today is so wide that no conceivable bridging formula exists. Viewed this way, the specific details of what Kushner and Co. are preparing to put on the table don’t really matter because, in the current political environment, there is no possible overlap between the most Israel will offer and the least the Palestinians will accept (and vice versa). Giving it the ol’ college try—which is essentially what Trump has empowered Kushner to do—is not admirable; it is irresponsible.
If failure is the “smart money bet,” there is still another reason why friends of Israel—including friends of the current Israeli government—should think twice before urging President Trump to formally pursue his son-in-law’s peace plan: the risk that failure will delegitimize Kushner’s best ideas. Indeed, Kushner may think that his plan will survive as the new reference point for future negotiations even if it fails to achieve a peace breakthrough, but it is at least as likely that those ideas—even if they are solid, worthy, valuable ideas—get tossed in the diplomatic dung-heap by Trump’s successors. Given America’s deeply tribal political partisanship, it is not difficult to imagine a future administration—especially a Democratic one—refusing to reconsider proposals on such issues as security arrangements, refugee resettlement, Palestinian political reform, and regional economic development if they bore the Trumpian stamp. And because the Kushner team approaches these issues with a deep affinity for Israel, this is likely to harm ideas that seem especially friendly to the Jewish state. This is why I hope that Netanyahu comes to his senses and does what he can to scuttle the “deal of the century” before it becomes formal U.S. policy.
Of all the characters in this emerging tragicomedy, the most puzzling is not Kushner, who seems genuine in wanting to craft a plan that would satisfy his father-in-law’s desire to be a Middle East peacemaker. Nor is it Abbas, who seems to be playing to script, preferring to tread the tired path of seeking meaningless UN resolutions and applause in European capitals. (If only Abbas had Sadat’s imagination and backbone, he would realize that the best way to torpedo a U.S. plan that threatens his interests is by boldly proposing direct talks with Israel.) Rather, the most confounding character is Netanyahu.
Soon to become Israel’s longest serving Prime Minister, Netanyahu’s longevity owes to a combination of ruthless political skill and innate aversion to risk. No democratic leader today matches his natural talent for figuring out how to win elections, even if victory involves skating perilously close to the political, legal, and moral edge. And no leader on the world stage today has registered his success in combining bold, creative diplomacy with restrained, judicious use of military power to improve his country’s strategic position.
Under normal circumstances, the last thing Netanyahu would want is for the President of the United States to propose a detailed plan for the permanent resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He is a champion of incrementalism, step-by-step diplomacy that tests both the other side’s true intentions and the political flexibility of his own core supporters—and he has been right to shy away from big, “Made in America” ideas about what’s best for Israel.
Why, then, does Netanyahu appear sanguine about the coming peace plan? Why does he seem willing to legitimize a dangerous strain of know-it-all American solutionism and welcome, even encourage, Trump to propose precisely what he has long opposed?
There are many possible explanations. After Trump’s decisions to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, to scuttle the detested Iran nuclear deal, and to recognize Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights, perhaps Netanyahu views the Trump presidency as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enshrine the Administration’s pro-Israel inclination as official U.S. government policy. Perhaps Netanyahu is confident that Abbas will flub the leadership test and that Palestinian miscues will open the door for Israel to annex key parcels of West Bank territory without triggering either outrage in Washington or much opposition in the wider Arab world. Perhaps Netanyahu is so deeply burdened by his own legal woes that he views the “deal of the century” as a political life preserver.
Whatever the rationale, I hope that “Bibi the strategic thinker” wins out over “Bibi the political tactician,” and that he uses whatever tools at his disposal to abort the Kushner plan in the few weeks left before Trump releases it as his own. This may demand a direct appeal to the President. Alternatively, it may require enlisting the support of someone the President respects—prominent Republican donor Sheldon Adelson or Trump-whisperer Lindsey Graham come to mind—to make an appeal on his behalf. For Israel and its friends, the key point remains: The only way to protect the long-term viability of the best aspects of the Kushner plan is to kill the plan.
*Robert Satloff is executive director of The Washington Institute.

More proof of cooperation between Iran, Al-Qaeda
د.ماجد رافيزاد/عرب نيوز: المزيد الدلائل والإثباتات تؤكد على تعاون إيران مع منظمة القاعدة
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/May 12/ 2019

It is a common misconception that since Iran’s theocratic establishment is Shiite, it will not cooperate with non-Shiite terrorist groups and militias. For example, some policy analysts, scholars and politicians continue to promote the argument that Tehran and Al-Qaeda are not natural allies due to their religious differences. Analyses that view the Iranian regime solely through the prism of religion are extremely simplistic.
Tehran pursues a sectarian agenda in the region, pitting Shiite against Sunni in order to divide and conquer. But the sectarian division between Sunni terrorist groups and the Iranian regime was never an issue for the latter as long as these groups shared common strategic and geopolitical interests with it.
Tehran has always been willing to shake hands with terrorist groups as long as they can help accomplish its revolutionary principles (such as anti-Americanism, anti-Semitism and opposition to Gulf states, primarily Saudi Arabia), destabilize the region and achieve its hegemonic ambitions.
Recently, a former spokesman for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Said Qasemi, surprisingly disclosed that Tehran sent agents to Bosnia and Herzegovina to train Al-Qaeda members. He added that Tehran’s operatives were hiding their identity by acting as humanitarian workers for Iran’s Red Crescent.
Last month, the IRGC was hit with sanctions as the US designated it a foreign terrorist organization. “The IRGC actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft,” said US President Donald Trump. “The IRGC is the Iranian government’s primary means of directing and implementing its global terrorist campaign.”
Intriguingly, Iranian official Hossein Allahkaram, who is believed to be one of the operatives sent to Bosnia and Herzegovina, confirmed the accuracy of Qasemi’s statement, saying: “There used to be an Al-Qaeda branch in Bosnia and Herzegovina … They were connected to us in a number of ways. Even though they were training within their own base, when they engaged in weapons training they joined us in various activities.”
Tehran most likely continues to support Al-Qaeda in Iraq and other countries, with the goal of pushing out forces that are rivals to Iran.
In late 2017, a trove of 470,000 documents released by the CIA revealed close ties between Tehran and Al-Qaeda. The late Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden advised his followers to revere Tehran, and wrote that Iran was the “main artery for funds, personnel and communication” for the group.
For more sophisticated training, Al-Qaeda members traveled to Lebanon. According to the documents, Iran offered Al-Qaeda fighters “money and arms and everything they need, and offered them training in Hezbollah camps in Lebanon, in return for striking American interests in Saudi Arabia.” Most likely, three Iranian institutions have been instrumental in helping Al-Qaeda: The IRGC, its elite Quds Force and the Intelligence Ministry.
Iran was also implicated in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Before the attacks, Tehran allowed Al-Qaeda operatives to cross through Iran without visas or passports. Robust evidence, including a US federal court ruling, found that “Iran furnished material and direct support for the 9/11 terrorists.”
Eight of the hijackers passed through Iran before coming to the US. Tehran provided funds, logistical support and ammunition to Al-Qaeda leaders, and sheltered several of them, in exchange for attacks on US interests.
Tehran most likely continues to support Al-Qaeda in Iraq and other countries, with the goal of pushing out forces that are rivals to Iran. This alliance clearly explains why Al-Qaeda has never attacked Iran.
As the Trump administration continues to impose maximum pressure on Iran, the latter may seek help from Al-Qaeda members in order to attack American bases, damage US national security interests, and scuttle the regional policy objectives of Washington and its allies.
Whenever the Iranian regime is under pressure, it reacts with the only modus operandi that it has been familiar with since 1979: Further defying international norms and laws, and pursuing more aggressive and confrontational policies. The international community must take appropriate and proactive measures to counter Tehran’s threats.
**Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman, and president of the International American Council. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh

Why transition in Iran requires a global effort
بارعة علم الدي/عرب نيوز: لماذا التغيير في عقلية ونمط عمل النظام الإيراني هو بحاجة لجهود دويلة
Baria Alamuddin /Arab News/May 12/ 2019

Tensions between Tehran and Washington have blundered into a new phase, including the terrorism designation of the Islamic Republican Guard Corps; cancelation of oil sanctions waivers; President Hassan Rouhani threatening partial withdrawal from the nuclear deal; reported missile deployments and threats against US troops in Gulf waters; and US national security adviser John Bolton announcing the dispatch of military planes and warships. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s unscheduled trip to Iraq is a further indication of tension, with him threatening a “swift and decisive US response” to any attacks on American interests.
Given Bolton’s ultra-hawkish reputation, observers speculate that he and like-minded hardliners could trigger momentum toward a confrontation, even if Donald Trump apparently wants to avoid this. The US president’s ambivalent attitude is evidenced by off-the-cuff comments last week indicating a readiness to drop sanctions in exchange for talks focused narrowly on the nuclear issue, although the ayatollahs repeatedly rebuffed his previous pleas to talk to him.
The anti-Trump liberal media reacts excitably against anything associated with this administration, making it difficult to have a sensible discussion about Iran policy. Yet now is the time to question what the consequences of conflict would be. We used to ridicule the Bush administration for its primitive understanding of the region and ham-fisted approach to the 2003 Iraq war. The current administration inspires a hundred times less confidence that it could successfully implement regime change.
No regime on the planet is more deserving of being deposed than the terrorist, malevolent, expansionist regime in Tehran — but even its most partisan opponents don’t want Iran to explode into anarchy, with unpredictable long-term regional ramifications. Fifteen years after the disastrous Iraq war, we aren’t even close to the horrific consequences of this debacle fully playing out, including allowing Tehran to become an untrammeled regional force. The ayatollahs would be no more capable than Saddam of standing up to invasion, but once again it is the aftermath we should fear.
Even if Trump is stampeded by his generals into some hare-brained invasion, this is a man who couldn’t stomach the presence of a measly 2,000 US troops in eastern Syria for a few extra months. This is not an administration with the vision or tenacity to embark on a decade-long stabilization and nation-building enterprise. This is the man who suggested that America should compensate itself for the $2.4 trillion price-tag of the war by stealing all Iraq’s oil; his leading a major Middle Eastern military adventure is the stuff of nightmares.
There is also the prospect of a more limited military conflagration. Confrontation between Israel, Hezbollah and other proxies could draw in the US. When Iraqi militants fired mortars at a US diplomatic compound last year, Bolton requested options for a possible strike on Iran. Rouhani’s announcement of a return to prohibited activities, including producing highly enriched uranium (which has no peaceful purpose), makes future strikes against Iranian nuclear sites far more likely.
The ideal regime-change scenario would be effected by Iranians themselves. Given continuing high levels of civil unrest, such an aspiration is in the air, particularly if intensified sanctions go further toward making everyday life unlivable. Recent political transitions in Algeria and Sudan are a reminder that the domestically hated Tehran regime is long past its expiry date. However, removing the ayatollahs could pave the way for a Republican Guard takeover, led by megalomaniacal Persian supremacists such as Qassim Soleimani and Hossein Salami. Successful transition would thus require root-and-branch removal of this terrorist infrastructure.
Rogue regimes such as the Islamic Republic really do understand only the language of military force; when Obama took that option off the table, the ayatollahs viewed it as an opportunity to get away with murder.
If other global powers are disconcerted by Pompeo and Bolton’s belligerence, they must articulate an alternative vision for producing an Iran that isn’t a dynamo for regional militancy and global terrorism. European states should abandon unworkable efforts toward a sanctions-evasion mechanism, and contribute to pressure on the regime to change course. Just as European leaders in the 1930s paved the way for war by appeasing and condoning Hitler’s encroachments across Central Europe, the same states today consider they can live with Iranian expansionism, and perhaps the ayatollahs will be satisfied after devouring four Arab states. They are wrong.
Beijing and Moscow enjoy using Iran as a bogeyman to scare the West, yet they are the primary powers inconvenienced by Iranian expansionism in Central Asia and the Levant. Iranian efforts to destabilize Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain must be blocked. The unambiguous message must be that the regime must cease its meddling or cease to exist.
Rogue regimes such as the Islamic Republic really do understand only the language of military force; when Obama took that option off the table, the ayatollahs viewed it as an opportunity to get away with murder. The 2015 nuclear deal coincided with a massive upscaling of Iran-backed paramilitary activity in these afore-mentioned states. along with narcotics operations, money laundering and assassination attempts provocatively staged in the US itself. Nobody wants to resort to force, but no deterrent means no deterrent.
We nowadays scarcely even notice Trump’s ceaseless Twitter rants against Venezuela, Iran, Cuba and NATO. Instead, Tehran must hear the international community speaking responsibly with one voice, setting out red lines and credible consequences for malevolent overseas actions. The objective is to prevent Tehran and Washington embarking on a mutually-escalatory death-roll of provocations, paving the way for war.
Just days before his death in 2010, the Saudi intellectual and diplomat Ghazi Al-Gosaibi told me that Iran was a “cowardly nation” that sought to avoid direct military threats by arming proxies across Arab states to act as cannon fodder in defense of the Islamic Republic. Yet Iran’s warmongering rhetoric and actions will ultimately bring down war upon itself. Rational Iranians realize this and fear suffering the same cataclysms as Iraq as the price of their leaders’ recklessness. We don’t want Iranians to endure war. However, we should not be squeamish about setting out international commitments to supporting Iranians in implementing a successful democratic transition.
We used to talk about the now-departed restraining influences within Trump’s administration as the “adults in the room.” The world today needs adults in the diplomatic field to articulate a realistic policy for containment and transformation in Iran as the only means of heading off the unseemly desire of Trump’s hawks for fireworks over Tehran.
If we want to avoid Iran and the Middle East being at the center of the oncoming storm, let’s not wait passively for that storm to hit us. Change is coming to Iran. It is up to responsible global actors to proactively influence whether this change is for better or worse.
**Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed numerous heads of state.