June 01/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, so that they might not look with their eyes, and understand with their heart and turn and I would heal them

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 12/37-43/:"Although he had performed so many signs in their presence, they did not believe in him. This was to fulfil the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah: ‘Lord, who has believed our message, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’ And so they could not believe, because Isaiah also said, ‘He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, so that they might not look with their eyes, and understand with their heart and turn and I would heal them.’ Isaiah said this because he saw his glory and spoke about him. Nevertheless many, even of the authorities, believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they did not confess it, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human glory more than the glory that comes from God."

No fornicator or impure person, or one who is greedy (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God

Letter to the Ephesians 05/01-07/:"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But fornication and impurity of any kind, or greed, must not even be mentioned among you, as is proper among saints. Entirely out of place is obscene, silly, and vulgar talk; but instead, let there be thanksgiving. Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure person, or one who is greedy (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes on those who are disobedient.Therefore do not be associated with them."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on June 01/17
Lebanon bans Wonder Woman movie over Israeli Actress/Ynetnews/May 31/17
Revisiting The Purported Antagonism between Hezbollah and the Lebanese State/Edited by Inga Schei and Lokman Slin/Hayya Bina/ShiaWatch Team//May 31/17
UK: The Lessons of Manchester/Robbie Travers/Gatestone Institute/May 31/17
Analysts Sound New Alarms on North Korea Missile Threat/Peter Huessy/Gatestone Institute/May 31/17
Canada/Fleeing Tyranny or Bringing it with Them/Khadija Khan/Gatestone Institute/May 31/17
Iraqi PM Haider Al-Abadi Compares Shi'ite Militias To ISIS: We Did Not Fight The Baath Regime Only To Be Ruled By Gangs/MEMRI/May 31/17
Kuwaiti Journalist: No 'Essence Of Freedom' In Islam; The Brainwashed Islamic Peoples Are Time Bombs/The Middle East Media Research Institute/May 31/17
Six Days that Changed the Face of the Middle East in 1967/Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 31/17/

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published on June 01/17
Aoun calls for strict measures against unlicensed workers
Lebanon: Efforts to Resolve ‘Rift’ Between Aoun, Berri
March 14 Activists Slam 'State Terrorism' after 'Lawsuit against 400 People'
Report: Presidential Iftar to Accelerate Agreement on Electoral law
Berri hopes agreement on vote law will be realized soon
Hariri chairs Cabinet meeting, optimistic about achieving electoral law
Berri: Will Call for Extraordinary Session if Necessary, Redistribution of Seats Impermissible
Harb Requests Lifting His MP Immunity: I Will Defend Those Accused by Abi Khalil
Adwan Meets FPM Officials, Says 'Closer than Ever' to Electoral Law
Shorter Discusses with Othman UK's Partnership with ISF
Dangerous' IS Militant Arrested in Dahieh
EU Ambassador meets with Minister Mashnouq
Osman meets Abi Ramia over general situation
Army Commander, interlocutors tackle current developments
Sayegh refers Nader Saab video for investigation
Lebanon bans Wonder Woman movie over Israeli Actress
Lebanon – Debt sustainability: What we need to know
Revisiting The Purported Antagonism between Hezbollah and the Lebanese State

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on June 01/17
Massive Kabul Truck Bomb Kills 80, Wounds Hundreds
Statement by Foreign Affairs Minister on bombing in Kabul
Saudi-Russian Agreement over Oil Policy, Settling Regional Crises
Russian Warships in Mediterranean Hit IS Positions in Syria
Egypt’s Airstrikes Target Cities in Central Libya
Regime Forces, Iranian Militias Mobilize in Syrian ‘South Triangle’
Macron Discusses Political Transition in Syria with ‘Supreme Committee’
US: We Want to Partner with KSA to Face Threats, Specifically Malign Iranian Influence
Russia Fires Cruise Missiles at ISIS Targets Near Palmyra
Turkey: US Arming of Syrian Kurds ‘Extremely Dangerous’
UNHCR Urges Morocco and Algeria to Help Stranded Syrians
Saudi Arabia: Blacklisting Terror Groups Raises Social Awareness on their Dangers
Two Killed in Shooting at Saudi School
Police Patrol Targeted by IED in Awamiya, 2 Security Officials Injured
Barghouti: Battle for Recognizing Palestinian Inmates as War Prisoners is Shaping Up
U.N. Says Israeli Rule 'Key Cause' of Palestinian Hardship
Kuwait Court Condemns 7 to Death for Raping Disabled Boy
Macron defends minister assailed by financial misconduct charges

Latest Lebanese Related News published on June 01/17
Aoun calls for strict measures against unlicensed workers
The Daily Star/ May 31, 2017/BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun Wednesday demanded authorities to take strict measures against laborers who haven't obtained a work permit.Aoun made his remarks during a meeting with Labor Minister Mohammad Kabbara at the Baabda Palace. He said that the unlicensed workers have greatly jeopardized the jobs of the Lebanese. Kabbara briefed Aoun on the work of his ministry, saying it is necessary to “enhance” the role of inspectors to combat the increase in unlicensed workers. The president demanded that the ministry crack down on unlicensed laborers, especially those who impact their Lebanese counterparts. The Lebanese government estimates that around 1.5 million Syrian refugees live in unofficial camps around the country in deteriorating economic conditions – which Lebanon was already suffering prior to the refugee crisis. UNHCR has 1.03 million Syrian refugees registered in Lebanon. Refugees are required to sign notarized pledges barring them from work in Lebanon when registering for residency permits. Some Syrians have also been requested to sign documents vowing to return to Syria following the expiration of their residency documents.
In addition to the refugees, many Syrians are legal residents who are allowed to work from a pre-defined list of professions issued by the Ministry of Labor, to avoid foreign competition to the local labor force.

Lebanon: Efforts to Resolve ‘Rift’ Between Aoun, Berri
Caroline Akoum/ASharq Al Awsat/May 31/17/Beirut – With the end of the Lebanese Parliament’s ordinary cycle on Wednesday, attention is focused on the session scheduled by Speaker Nabih Berri on June 5, which is expected to witness disagreements over “authorities” and the interpretation of the Constitution by President Michel Aoun and Speaker Nabih Berri. Parliament convenes in two ordinary cycles from mid-March till the end of May and from mid-October through the end of December, according to the Lebanese Constitution. As the ordinary cycle ended today, deputies can no longer convene to pass laws unless the president and the prime minister agree to open an extraordinary parliamentary cycle. Berri said on Monday that Parliament could extend its regular sessions beyond May 31 after Aoun suspended sessions for one month. On Tuesday, Aoun reiterated that the parliamentary elections would be based on a proportional law, upon the agreement of the different political factions. For his part, Lebanese Forces Leader Samir Geagea said that 95 percent of the latest electoral law proposal – based on the proportional representation in 15 districts – has been finalized and “the remaining 5% will not be an obstacle.”In remarks to the Central News Agency, Geagea said that there would be no return to the 1960 electoral law despite what he described as a “dangerous political rift” between Aoun and Berri. The LF leader said all possible efforts would be deployed to guarantee a final agreement on the proposal. “We are conducting intensive contacts aimed at easing or ending the presidential political clash” between Aoun and Berri, Geagea said. Hezbollah parliamentary bloc MP Mohammed Raad said that many factors have signaled some progress in the negotiations over the electoral law. Raad noted that political parties have agreed on key convergent views, adding that other debated details could be surpassed. The head of the Change and Reform parliamentary bloc and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil reiterated on Tuesday his rejection to parliamentary vacuum or extension. In remarks following the bloc’s weekly meeting, Bassil said that the president could not allow vacuum to take place in parliament. He also stressed the bloc’s support to a proportional system.

March 14 Activists Slam 'State Terrorism' after 'Lawsuit against 400 People'
Naharnet/May 31/17/The March 14 Moustamerroun group of activists denounced Wednesday what they called “political terrorism” and “state terrorism,” after Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil of the Free Patriotic Movement filed a lawsuit against those who have “launched accusations against the energy minister and his political group” in connection with the power ships file.“The ruling class in Lebanon has invented a new type of political terrorism represented in the lawsuit filed by the 'ruling party' against 400 politicians, journalists and citizens in connection with the political confrontation between the ruling class and its opponents over the files of corruption and public funds waste,” said the group in a statement issued after its weekly meeting. Calling for “immediate and decisive steps to confront the blatant coup against the law and Constitution,” the activists warned that “the reluctance of syndicates, civil society groups and political parties and forces from confronting the state's terrorism would require resorting to the international community, human rights institutions and international courts to rein in the Lebanese ruling class.”The group decried that the first months of “the rule of the settlement government” was characterized by “its clear intention to control social media.”The activists also accused the ruling class of seeking to “employ the judiciary in the service of its own interests in contravention of the Constitution and the law,” adding that “such practices are reminiscent of the practices of the Lebanese-Syrian security apparatus that controlled Lebanon and the Lebanese for 15 years.”

Report: Presidential Iftar to Accelerate Agreement on Electoral law
Naharnet/May 31/17/Countdown towards an agreement on a new voting system has reportedly begun, as attention turns to an official annual Ramadan banquet hosted by President Michel Aoun at the Presidential Palace on Thursday, after a 4-year break, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Wednesday. “Aoun has invited top Lebanese officials to an Iftar including Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Speaker Nabih Berri, Muslim and Christian religious authorities, former Presidents and PMs, ministers, deputies, military and security leaders, economic and social bodies and others,” well-informed sources told the daily. “The President is expected to deliver a speech touching on the latest developments in the country, mainly the electoral law and the circumstances that accompany the discussions in addition to the latest developments in the region,” they added. Meetings expected to be held by the country's top leaders on the sidelines of the Iftar are expected to ease an agreement on an electoral law. Discussions took a positive turn on Tuesday, after a heated rhetoric between Aoun and Berri over who between the two of them has the jurisdiction to call for an extraordinary parliament session, sources said. According to intermediaries who participated in the contacts between the two men, they said the parties have shown flexibility and a desire not to escalate rhetoric any further. Berri and Aoun are “in agreement that what matters is to reach a new electoral law and stage the elections out of respect for the constitutional entitlements and the democratic system.”A tripartite meeting between Aoun, Berri and Hariri today is expected to put things on the right track and focus on the electoral law issue, the sources said. They added that the fate of Wednesday's mediation is expected to be culminated during Thursday's presidential Iftar.The last presidential Iftar was held during the term of President Michel Suleiman in 2013, after which the country was plagued with a presidential vacuum until Aoun's election.

Berri hopes agreement on vote law will be realized soon
Wed 31 May 2017/NNA - Within the framework of "Wednesday Gathering", visiting deputies quoted House Speaker, Nabih Berri, as saying that he is "awaiting the outcome of ongoing contacts regarding the vote law based on 15 districts."Visiting MPs also relayed the Speaker's hope that an agreement would be realized on a new vote law as soon as possible.On the other hand, Berri met with former Minister, Rashid Derbas, and Tawfiq Sultan, with talks reportedly touching on the overall situation in the country, notably the long simmering election law. On emerging, Derbas voiced rejection of the re-distribution of parliamentary seats from one district to another, especially the Maronite seat in Tripoli for the City clings to its diversity characteristic as he said.

Hariri chairs Cabinet meeting, optimistic about achieving electoral law
Wed 31 May 2017/NNA - The President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri chaired today at the Grand Serail the meeting of the Council of Ministers during which the agenda was discussed and most of it was approved. At the end of the meeting, Culture Minister Ghattas Khoury said: "The Council of Ministers held a meeting today chaired by the President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri, who spoke about the electoral law, and said: We still have 19 days to agree on a new electoral law. I am optimistic about reaching a solution, and this is what we must work to achieve, and we are working day and night to overcome the remaining difficulties."Khoury added: "Prime Minister Hariri also addressed the issue of governmental solidarity, and stressed that the door is open for the discussion of any opinion or idea in the council of ministers. He called on the ministers to abide by what was agreed to preserve this solidarity, especially the political groups represented in the government. After that, the cabinet discussed the agenda and approved most of it".
'Question: Is there any progress concerning the draft electoral law? Khoury: We are very close to an agreement, as Prime Minister Hariri said, and we are working towards the final agreement.
Question: Are you optimistic about the results of the Iftar tomorrow at the Presidential Palace?
Khoury: We are optimistic about the entire month of Ramadan and about the iftar.
Question: What about the idea of moving Parliamentary seats?
Khoury: This topic was not discussed in today's meeting.

Berri: Will Call for Extraordinary Session if Necessary, Redistribution of Seats Impermissible
Naharnet/May 31/17/Speaker Nabih Berri reiterated on Wednesday rejection of any attempt to reallocate parliamentary seats from one electoral district to another, pointing out that he would call for another extraordinary parliament session if the June 5 meeting fails to convene, al-Joumhouria daily reported. The Speaker stressed in front of his visitors on Tuesday that he still refuses moving parliamentary seats from one electoral district to another, “this is division,” he said adding “it cannot be accepted at all.”The political parties have almost agreed on a law based on full proportional representation and 15 districts but the Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces are reportedly demanding the reallocation of three Maronite seats from Muslim-majority districts to Christian-majority districts. The FPM and the LF believe that moving a Maronite seat from Tripoli to Batroun, another from West Bekaa to Jbeil and another from Baalbek-Hermel to Bsharri would raise Christians' ability to elect MPs with their own votes to 50 out of 64 seats. Berri said he is still waiting for the final version of the law format -based on 15 districts- from LF MP George Adwan. He is also waiting the response of the Change and Reform bloc on the suggestions he made about the law. On the June 5 extraordinary parliament session, Berri assured that shall the legislature fail to convene on that date, he would call for another extraordinary session. Berri and President Michel Aoun have traded jibes lately over who between them has the jurisdiction to open an extraordinary legislative session.

Harb Requests Lifting His MP Immunity: I Will Defend Those Accused by Abi Khalil
Naharnet/May 31/17/MP and lawyer Boutros Harb stated on Wednesday that he will request lifting his immunity as an MP in order to defend those accused of “defaming” Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil with regard to a deal to lease power generating ships. “I will ask the Speaker to lift my immunity as an MP and I hereby announce as a lawyer that I will offer my pro bono services to defend all those who have been accused by Minister Abi Khalil,” LBCI quoted Harb as saying. Abi Khalil, on Tuesday asked Minister of Justice Salim Jreissati, to initiate legal pursuit of some 400 individuals involved in the campaign leveled against him and his political party, regarding powerships and EMI company. A tender to lease power generating ships was approved by the Energy Ministry in May, in light of accusations voiced by some political parties dubbing the procedure as an “illegal deal.” In the wake of the tender, Kataeb Party chief MP Sami Gemayel submitted an official request to form a parliamentary panel of inquiry to probe suspected violations in the file of power generation ships. He said the panel should “probe suspicions and violations against the applicable Lebanese laws and public funds that have marred the awarding of contracts and the work of the power ships since 2013 as well as suspicions and violations related to the ships that will be rented for 2017.” Abi Khalil's legal pursuit reportedly involves some 400 individuals including Harb, Gemayel, several MPs and a former minister in addition to media and non-media figures.

Adwan Meets FPM Officials, Says 'Closer than Ever' to Electoral Law
Naharnet/May 31/17/Lebanese Forces deputy chief MP George Adwan held talks on the electoral law Wednesday with Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil and other FPM officials. “We are closer than ever before to reaching an electoral law,” said Adwan after the meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Ashrafieh. “It is not true that the FPM is putting obstacles,” he added. “The atmosphere is really positive and tomorrow's iftar banquet in Baabda will carry a positive atmosphere to all Lebanese and everyone will realize that we are advancing steadily towards the approval of a new electoral law,” Adwan went on to say. And stressing that the LF is “closely coordinating” with the FPM regarding the electoral law's “rules and restraints,” Adwan said the FPM has agreed to his proposal which is based on proportional representation and 15 districts. “It has a point of view regarding the reallocation of seats” from Muslim-majority districts to Christian-majority districts, the LF official added.

Shorter Discusses with Othman UK's Partnership with ISF
Naharnet/May 31/17/In his first Strategic Project Management Committee meeting with newly-appointed Internal Security Forces chief Maj. Gen. Imad Othman, British Ambassador to Lebanon Hugo Shorter discussed the British Policing Support Project (BPSP) within the framework of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for £13 million agreed in June 2016, the British Embassy said. The funding supports refurbished police stations, spreads best practice in community policing, and fully incorporates human rights into the ISF's training program with 8,000 officers graduating last year, the Embassy said in a statement. “It will help create a modern, professional police force that complies with human rights standards and has the trust of the community it serves,” it added. The Strategic Project Management Committee formed of Othman, Head of ISF Academy Gen. Ahmed Hajjar, Head of Mobile Forces Gen. Fouad Khoury, Head of Beirut Police Gen. Mohammed Ayoubi, and Inspector General Joseph Kallas aims to ensure “effective strategic governance and oversee timely project implementation,” the Embassy said.As well as an update on ISF activity, Othman and Shorter discussed the ISF’s new Strategic Plan – to reform the ISF over the next 5 years. They also discussed the ISF’s community policing strategy, and the ISF plan to transform into a police force responsive to community issues across Beirut. “Human Rights was a consistent theme throughout, particularly the UK’s active support to the Inspector General and his role in inspecting the ISF and investigating human rights complaints,” the statement said. After the meeting, Shorter said: “Our work with the ISF, which started in 2008, is supporting General Othman’s vision to build a compassionate, accountable, human-rights focused police force that is responsive to people’s needs.”“As one of the first visible changes, the ISF are now rolling out a new community policing model across the whole of Beirut, and all Beirutis will benefit from the new community-led approach,” the ambassador added.

Dangerous' IS Militant Arrested in Dahieh
Naharnet/May 31/17/After surveillance and investigations, a patrol from the Directorate General of State Security managed to arrest the Palestinian refugee A.M., one of the most dangerous militants of the Islamic State terror group, media reports said on Wednesday.
"Following further investigations, it turned out that he was wanted by all security agencies in Beirut's southern suburbs,” MTV reported.Two of his associates had been previously arrested on charges of “forming an IS cell” and “having ties to terrorist fugitives in the Ain el-Hilweh camp,” the TV network added.

EU Ambassador meets with Minister Mashnouq
Wed 31 May 2017/NNA - In a press release by the Delegation of the European Union to Lebanon, it said: "EU Ambassador to Lebanon Christina Lassen met today with Minister of Interior and Municipalities Nouhad Machnouq. Discussions focused on the political and security situation in the country, in particular the progress in reaching a new electoral law."Ambassador Lassen stated that the EU and its Member States encourage Lebanese political parties to reach agreement on a new electoral law. "There is still time for the political leaders to come together and reach consensus on a new electoral law to govern the upcoming parliamentary elections," she said. The EU Ambassador added that conducting parliamentary elections according to the Constitution is an important step to ensure the normal functioning of the Lebanese democratic institutions, in the interest and for the benefit of the Lebanese people. She also said that a democratically elected Parliament is important for the international community supporting Lebanon in its strive for stabilisation and economic development. The EU Ambassador said that the EU is ready to provide support for the preparation and the organisation of the elections, including by deploying an Election Observation Mission."

Osman meets Abi Ramia over general situation

Wed 31 May 2017/NNA - Internal Security Forces chief Imad Osman on Wednesday received at his Barracks office MP Simon Abi Ramia, with talks between the pair reportedly touching on the overall situation on the local arena

Army Commander, interlocutors tackle current developments

Wed 31 May 2017/NNA - Army Commander Joseph Aoun on Wednesday welcomed at his Yarzeh office Head of the "Loyalty to the Resistance" bloc MP Mohammad Raad and Wafic Safa, who congratulated him on the occasion of the Resistance and Liberation Day and applauded the army's role in defending the country's borders and ensuring its security and stability. General Aoun also met respectively MPs Ahmed Fatfat, Abbas Hashem and Nabil Nicholas, in addition to former MP Mosbeh Ahdab. Talks reportedly touched on most recent developments on the local arena. Australian Ambassador to Lebanon, Glenn miles, also visited General Aoun at his Yarzeh office, where they discussed the general situation and the bilateral relations between the armies of both countries.

Sayegh refers Nader Saab video for investigation
Wed 31 May 2017/NNA - Head of the Beirut Order of Physicians, Raymond Sayegh, on Wednesday referred to the Syndical investigation the circulated video showing Dr Nader Saab with one of his patients in the framework of a medical examination, a statement by the Physicians' Order said.

سلطات الرقابة في لبنان تمنع عرض فيلم بطلة اسرائيلية
Lebanon bans Wonder Woman movie over Israeli Actress

Ynetnews/May 31/17
Lebanon’s Interior Ministry has officially banned the new Wonder Woman film from cinemas because an Israeli actress—and more specifically a former Israeli soldier—plays the lead role in the film.
Lebanese authorities banned the new Wonder Woman movie Wednesday hours before it was due to premiere in the capital and following a campaign against its lead actress, Gal Gadot, who served in the Israeli army, a security official and activists said.Cinemas in Beirut began removing the movie posters and cinema executives said the movie will not be shown because of the ban.
Lebanon is officially at war with Israel and the two countries have been through a number of wars. A particularly devastating 2006 war battered Lebanon’s infrastructure and left hundreds of civilians killed. The ban is in accordance with a decades-old law that boycotts Israeli products and bars Lebanese citizens from traveling to Israel or having contacts with Israelis. The official says the ban issued by the minister of interior Wednesday has been relayed to the distribution company, which in turn have to inform the theaters planning to show the movie.
A premiere later Wednesday in Beirut was canceled. An executive at the Grand Cinema chain said the company was planning to show the movie in 16 out of its 18 theaters around the country, but it would now be removed.
The security official said violators of the ban will have to face legal consequences, though he did not specify further. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision has not yet been published. A campaigner against the movie, Rania Masri, hailed the decision to ban Wonder Woman, saying it signaled respect for the law. She said there was much anticipation as the decision was last minute, just before the official launch of the movie. “Still, it was a joyous moment the minute the law was implemented,” Masri, of the Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel-Lebanon, told the Associated Press.
A similar campaign against another movie where Gadot played the role of Wonder Woman last year, “Batman v Superman,” never turned into an outright ban. Masri said it was “different” this time because of a major media campaign against the movie that has helped push for the ban.
On its front page Wednesday, the leading al-Akhbar newspaper had a column titled: “The Israeli soldier. She has no place in Lebanon.” The column featured a picture of Gadot carrying her Wonder Woman shield.
Warner Bros., which has released the film, declined comment.
Lebanese Hezbollah-affiliated newspaper Al-Akhbar: 'Israeli soldier: no place in Lebanon!'
Lebanese Hezbollah-affiliated newspaper Al-Akhbar: ‘Israeli soldier: no place in Lebanon!’
Economy Ministry official Alia Abbas told the AP that her department, which is responsible for enforcing the boycott of Israel, had delivered a request to ban “Batman v Superman” last year. But the ban didn’t come together. This time they presented their petition to the security agencies on Monday, she said.Tensions have been rising between Israel and Hezbollah, with Israel reportedly bombing several Hezbollah targets in Syria in recent months. Israel has signaled that the targets were smuggling sophisticated weapons to Lebanon. Hezbollah officials said recently that they are not seeking war but are ready for it. On her Facebook page, Gadot had praised Israel’s military during the 2014 Gaza-Israel war, sending prayers to soldiers “who are risking their lives protecting my country against the horrific acts conducted by Hamas.”
Masri said the campaign to boycott is about “self-respect” and “resisting” normalizing relations with a state that is at war with Lebanon and occupies Palestinian land. “First and foremost she is Israeli. We don’t distinguish between a good Israeli and a bad Israeli,” Masri said of the boycott campaign. The movie, based on the DC Comics character, has earned acclaim for Gadot for landing the first leading role for a woman in a super hero movie.
Even though Lebanon enjoys greater freedom of expression than other Arab and Muslim countries in the region, prior censorship remains in place, particularly regarding material relating to Israel, religion and homosexuality.Some in Lebanon criticized the call for the ban, but their voices were faint compared to the boycott campaign that featured in primetime television in Lebanon.
“We sold many tickets and we had to cancel now,” said Isaac Fahed, sales and distribution manager for Grand Cinemas, the company which had the movie scheduled for 16 of its 18 movie houses. He said his company would abide by the law, despite the losses it would suffer. “We have to respect that, but we have a few questions.”Fahed said previous movies with Gadot were shown in Lebanese theaters and her new film will be viewed online and sold on DVD. “The end result will only … affect the cinemas,” Fahed said.
(Translated & edited by Lior Mor)

Lebanon – Debt sustainability: What we need to know
Lebanon’s public debt (147% of GDP) has long been dubbed unsustainable, based on standard models
Its macrofinancial structure – domestically held debt funded by deposit inflows – limits solvency risks
Growth in non-resident deposits fell to a decade-low in 2016, prompting the BdL to step in with a swap
We highlight risks to the ‘virtuous cycle’, despite a recovery in deposit growth after the BdL swap
Deposit inflows are key for the ‘virtuous cycle’
Lebanon’s debt has long been dubbed unsustainable. Solvency metrics are weak. Public debt levels are approaching the 150% of GDP mark, and interest payments to government revenue are at 50%. Despite its public debt overhang, the country maintains a track record of having never defaulted on external debt or deposits. Anecdotal evidence on the ground suggests that government debt is repaid a day in advance. This track record is important. Our in-house external vulnerability index, Icarus, highlights that countries that faced crises in the past are more likely to face problems again in the future.
Lebanon’s track record is supported by its unique macrofinancial structure, which relies on the banking sector’s ability to attract deposits. Public debt is mostly held by the banking system, which in turn is funded by non-resident deposits from the large Lebanese diaspora. This is termed the “virtuous cycle”. Non-resident deposits make up c.20% of deposits, but they may be significantly understated due to a classification discrepancy. Deposits are classified as ‘resident’ on provision of a Lebanese address, which most of the diaspora hold. In this note, we highlight risks to this “virtuous cycle”. A sharp slowdown in non-resident deposit growth prompted the 2016 Banque du Liban (BdL) swap. In our view, the risk of repeated weakness should not be downplayed, as the Africa and Middle East (AME) region, an important source of remittances, faces a protracted period of slow growth. In the absence of short- and medium-term fiscal planning (the 2017 budget is pending parliament approval), Lebanon could illustrate a case of debtor moral hazard, where the borrowing government has reduced incentives to pursue policies consistent with debt sustainability.
Figure 1: Non-resident deposit fluctuations mirror MENA per capita GDP
Source: Banque du Liban, IMF, Standard Chartered Research

Safe Borders Or an Unsafe Future?
Revisiting The Purported Antagonism between Hezbollah and the Lebanese State

Edited by Inga Schei and Lokman Slin/Hayya Bina/ShiaWatch Team
Translation by A. Z. Foreman
Until a couple months ago, Lebanon’s supposed political crisis could be described as its parliament's inability to convene and elect a new president. However, on October 31 last year, General Michel Aoun, the one-time Lebanese army commander-in-chief and the (former) fickle head of the Free Patriotic Movement, was finally elected president in yet another eye-roll-inducing and unmistakably Lebanese desperate deus ex machina reversal. While the result of that election was based largely on Hezbollah's determination to see its candidate fill the only office in the Middle East, as such earmarked for a Christian, some credit (or blame, depending on one’s perspective) must be given as well to Saad Hariri. After all, because the political and financial durability of the son of the late former Prime Minister, Rafic Hariri, (whose 2005 assassination has been blamed on Hezbollah and the Assad regime) had waned considerably, the younger Hariri has had little choice but to abandon his standing veto of Aoun's election. As part of the "deal," and to give the impression that some degree of normalcy had returned to Lebanon, Saad was given the responsibility for forming yet another “national unity government” where most of the Lebanese political spectrum is represented. Unfortunately, the impression of normalcy was short-lived….
Just weeks afterwards, flagrant disagreements began chipping away at the harmony being asserted by the architects of Aoun's election. Soon enough, the situation in Lebanon took on an even greater and more clamorous dimension when the messianic promises associated with the election of Aoun, the appointment of Hariri, and the formation of a new government, began unraveling even faster than expected. It quickly became apparent that the Lebanese establishment, whether its president, the parliament, or the “Recovering Confidence” government, was incapable of addressing the many imperative and overdue agenda items, such as agreeing on a budget law, revising the wage scale, or passing a new electoral law. Moreover, despite assurances given periodically by that establishment about Lebanon's promising future, it had become clearer than ever that the fate of the country was in the hands of Hezbollah, and more specifically, it depended on the “goodwill” of Iran.
It is true that out of its 30 ministers, the government has only two members who are officially Hezbollah, but where minor or major decisions are concerned, these are not made within the cabinet but brokered, first, outside the cabinet, then formalized within it. In this sense, the actual balance of power is not in the number of ministers that any “party” has in the cabinet, but in the level and nature of extra-institutional pressure that a “party” can exert. In this regard, it is a fact that none could compete with Hezbollah!
Talking about this, it is perhaps worth remembering that it was only in 2005, following the assassination of PM Rafiq Hariri, that Syrian troops withdrew from Lebanon, and through the subsequent parliamentary elections Hezbollah enter the cabinet for the first time. This move was naively praised as “good behavior” signaling the beginning of a transition from “armed organization” to “political party.” However, in Hezbollah’s own justification, with the Syrian regime no longer on the ground to defend the “Resistance,”it was obliged to dabble in the lowly business of governance. Additionally, over the last 12 years, it has done precisely that, and has never hesitated to use rogue means whenever needed—the most famous illustration of the use of “non-democratic” means being the punitive military campaign of May 2008 which reasserted its primacy. Now, 12 years later, Hezbollah has gone from newcomer to ultimate decider in the formation or dissolution of any cabinet. As of 2016, Hezbollah can also add "keeper of the presidency" to its list of self-assumed prerogatives. In short, today we can say that Hezbollah is, in fact, over-participating in the country's political processes to the point of redefining them.
Considering the balance of power which currently influences domestic and regional conditions, it seems the Hezbollah "cartel" is especially keen on preserving Lebanon’s relative stability and appearances of normalcy. After all, it utilizes Lebanon as the headquarters of its regional expeditions and, whenever needed, freely uses its borders with Israel to send comminatory messages on behalf of Iran, since the country is immune to serious challenges from other domestic groups and regional heavyweights. Saudi Arabia, for instance, the cartel's major competitor, made it clear years ago that aside from Lebanon being a lost cause owing to the total absence of reliable allies, the country cannot serve as a battlefield on which the Saudis could feasibly challenge Iranian expansionism. In line with this, it is interesting to note that Major General Asiri (newly appointed vice-director of Saudi General Intelligence after having served as spokesman for the coalition fighting in Yemen) said that Saudi Arabia would not tolerate the Houthis becoming another Hezbollah in an indirect recognition of Hezbollah as an Iranian success story and of its achievement.[1] Similarly, the current U.S. administration continues to make bellicose statements about Iran and the evil role it plays in the Middle East, and threatens new sanctions against Hezbollah. Aside from considering Lebanon simply one front among many in the war against violent Sunni extremism, the United States has yet to demonstrate any real interest in Lebanon…
While the assistance that the U.S. offers to the Lebanese army is the only tangible expression of political support to Lebanon, this assistance plays into the hands of Hezbollah as it is Hezbollah that finally takes credit for protecting Lebanon’s eastern borders from the “takfiri” threat to the east, in addition to the “Zionist threat” to the south…[2 ,3]
By extension, as the EU continues its vigorous efforts to prevent the additional headache represented by the million-plus Syrian refugees who currently call Lebanon home, it has become preoccupied with investing in so-called “humanitarian” efforts and continually urges the Lebanese actors to demonstrate—genuinely or by sleight of hand—that the country is among the few in the Middle East that enjoys the presence and function of “democratic institutions.”
In light of these premises, it indeed seems a stretch to categorize this "revised" Lebanese situation as a “new reality.” However, based on Lebanon’s recent past, and more specifically on the precedent of the pre-civil war era, the situation in which Lebanon finds itself today is indeed a “new reality” in comparison to what the country has gone through since its pacification in 1990 in the wake of the Taef Agreement, by putting it under the Syrian tutelage, and since 2005 when the Syrian tutelage status quo was revised. Never, since 2005, has one single party, in the larger sense of the word as opposed to its organizational sense, commanded freely and without any serious opposition over the fate of the country and has been able to impose its version of stability, from outside the state institutions and also from within them. In this sense, the use of “political crisis” and other “democratic” metaphors and allegorical devices to describe Lebanon’s situation nowadays is just a semantic tolerance or, worse, a way to postpone or neglect addressing this odd situation.
Regardless of any conclusion to the ongoing “crisis,” such as deciding on a new electoral law, ongoing debates in Lebanon speak volumes about the societal and political chaos currently facing the country, and which is likely to get worse. Only during the height of Lebanon's 15-year civil war, a time of rampant and divisive sectarian orientation, did official records include overt sectarian references. Today, these have surfaced again to argue the validity of one approach to a revised electoral law over another. Correspondingly, it is difficult to find an equal degree of nonchalance about "taking the fight to the streets" or actually doing so (albeit in the small and manageable doses demonstrated recently) in historical Lebanese records. Further, as if words alone could not be trusted to incite the public sufficiently, recurrent clashes in Ain-Helwe, the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, prove that it, and other such camps, represent yet more sources of worry. These conditions are particularly disconcerting, especially when they are reinforced by violent sectarian incidents, triggered by insignificant reasons, among fellow Lebanese or between Lebanese and Syrian refugees.
Remarkably, however, the foregoing represents the true order of things in Lebanon. After all, in a country beset by an exceptionally weak and ineffective government, burdened by the ghosts of violent conflict and lacking any vision for the future, a slow but steady general relapse is the most likely outcome. Moreover, given today's regional landscape and emerging patterns, it is easier than ever to imagine such a relapse occurring in the shadow of a full collapse. Unfortunately, the worst alternative would be clinging to the status quo, which holds that for better or worse, Lebanon's political system, despite its limitless defects, corruption and poor functioning, will guarantee the country's survival! Of course, this panacea begs a question. If this diagnosis is accurate, then how long can this Lebanese system, one that is demonstrably unable to self-calibrate and self-correct, much less resist regional and domestic pressures and "depreciation," continue passing itself off as belonging to a stable country? In addition, once that depreciation reaches the predictable breaking point, what form will Lebanon's collapse take?[4]
Some observers of the Lebanese situation may consider these questions to be absolutely baseless. Au contraire. Those who advanced the notion of promoting stability in Lebanon over every other conceivable and deserving priority deserve little more than censure. To be precise, Lebanon has arrived at the point where the sine qua non-condition of safeguarding the “state” demands indulging its alter ego, Hezbollah—not to mention its Iranian patrons—to act as the sole credible interlocutor for “Lebanon.” While that eventuality is understandable, particularly considering the situation (for instance) in south Lebanon, where estimates about the likelihood of peace or war depend on the Israeli and Iranian calculus, the same applies to the country's internal affairs. Notwithstanding its regional military activities and financial problems, Hezbollah is indeed acting as that of sole arbitrator—despite being, at the same time, the major player!
Clearly, this situation may endure for quite some time. Hezbollah may see fit to use all of its soft and hard tools, including those in the state's own toolbox, to slow down the depreciation affecting Lebanon at large and Lebanon's political system, and forestall the kind of breakdown that would prevent it, or its Iranian patrons, from reinventing this small Mediterranean country. An insightful observer of the Hezbollah phenomenon once opined that Lebanon's social porosity and inherent governmental weakness, combined with the anticlimactic conclusion to its lengthy "civil" war, enabled Iran's nascent Khomeini regime to successfully export its revolution to Lebanon. While it may seem superfluous to be reminded of this genealogical progression, the existential decay that is steadily consuming Lebanon should be reason enough to wonder if relying on partisan-oriented (enforced) stability, which is Hezbollah’s stability, might actually be the most direct path to instability…or worse!
[1] Statement made on April 14, 2017 during a seminar held in Paris.
[2] See, for instance, the speech delivered on May 2 by Hassan Nasrallah on the Wounded Day.
[3] Clearly Saudi Arabia do no more share, for the moment at least, the US view regarding the LAF as a “reliable” institution. On April 1, al-Hayat reported Assiri as saying that while asked about the frozen Saudi grant via France to the Lebanese Armed Forces, “It’s useless to provide Lebanon with arms which will end up in the hands of Hezbollah and being used in Syria to kill the Syrian people.”
[4] On April 1, on the eve of Brussels’ "Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region" (4-5 April 2017), Saad Hariri, speaking to foreign media, warned that Lebanon is close to "breaking point" due to strains of hosting more than one million Syrian refugees, fearing that unrest could escalate due to tensions between refugees and local communities. In Nasrallah’s abovementioned speech at the occasion of the Wounded Day, (footnote 2), he described Lebanon as standing on the brink of a precipice. These political warnings are coupled with serious economic warnings from the World Bank. One doesn’t need to be an economic pundit to understand from the “Call for Action” released recently by the Lebanon Economic Monitor that things are not going in the right direction.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on June 01/17
Massive Kabul Truck Bomb Kills 80, Wounds Hundreds
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 31/17/At least 80 peoplewere killedand hundreds wounded Wednesday when a massive truck bomb ripped through Kabul's diplomatic quarter, bringing carnage to the streets of the Afghan capital and shattering windows hundreds of metres away. Bodies littered the scene and a towering plume of smoke rose from the area, which houses foreign embassies, after the blast in the morning rush hour blew out the windows of several missions and residences.Witnesses described dozens of cars choking the roads as wounded survivors and panicked schoolgirls sought safety. Men and women struggled to get through security checkpoints to search for loved ones. It was not immediately clear what the target was. But the attack underscores spiralling insecurity in Afghanistan, where a military beset by soaring casualties and desertions is struggling to beat back the insurgents. Over a third of the country is outside government control. Hours after the explosion ambulances were still at the scene as rescue workers were digging bodies from the rubble. "Unfortunately the toll has reached 80 martyred (killed) and over 300 wounded, including many women and children," said health ministry spokesman Waheed Majroh, adding the figures would continue to climb as more bodies are pulled from the debris. The interior ministry, which put the number of wounded at 320, said a suicide bomber had detonated an explosives-packed vehicle in Zanbaq Square around 8:30 am. "More than 50 vehicles were either destroyed or damaged," it said in a statement. The ministry called on Kabul residents to donate blood, saying hospitals were in "dire need".There was no immediate claim of responsibility. The Taliban -- currently in the midst of their annual "spring offensive" -- tweeted that they were not involved and "strongly condemn" the attack. The insurgent group rarely claims responsibility for attacks that kill large numbers of civilians. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for several recent bombings in the Afghan capital, including a powerful blast targeting an armoured NATO convoy that killed at least eight people and wounded 28 on May 3.
- Embassies damaged -Manpreet Vohra, India's envoy to Afghanistan, told the Times Now television channel the bomb went off around 100 metres from India's embassy, one of several in the area. "We are all safe, all our staff, all our personnel are safe. However, the blast was very large and nearby buildings including our own building have considerable damage in terms of broken glass and shattered windows and blown doors etc," he said. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: "We strongly condemn the terrorist blast in Kabul. Our thoughts are with the families of the deceased & prayers with the injured." The explosion also shattered windows at the Japanese embassy. "Two Japanese embassy staffers were mildly injured, suffering cuts," a foreign ministry official in Tokyo told AFP. France also reported damage to its own embassy and the German one, but there was no information on possible casualties. Bulgaria said its mission had been damaged and its staff evacuated. Pentagon chief Jim Mattis has warned of "another tough year" for both foreign troops and local forces in Afghanistan. Afghan troops are backed by US and NATO forces, and the Pentagon has reportedly asked the White House to send thousands more soldiers to break the deadlock in the battle against the Taliban. US troopsin Afghanistan number about 8,400 now, and there are another 5,000 from NATO allies. They mainly serve in an advisory capacity -- a far cry from the US presence of more than 100,000 six years ago.Wednesday's blast was the latest in a long line of attacks in Kabul. The province surrounding the capital had the highest number of casualties in the first three months of 2017 due to multiple attacks in the city, with civilians bearing the brunt of the violence

Statement by Foreign Affairs Minister on bombing in Kabul
May 31, 2017 - Ottawa, Ontario - Global Affairs Canada
The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today issued the following statement after a bomb exploded in Kabul, Afghanistan:
“We are deeply saddened by the news that dozens of people have been killed and hundreds others injured in a suicide attack in close proximity to the diplomatic quarter of Kabul. Our thoughts are with the front-line workers who are responding to the traumatic scene and we grieve with the families affected.
“All our Embassy employees have been accounted for and are safe. Our Canadian embassy sustained significant damage to its first floor and there was minimal impact on the rest of the building.
“The timing of this cowardly attack during the holy month of Ramadan was deliberate and intended to target civilians and foreign service workers from some of our closest allies. Canadian diplomats and our local staff, today and every day, continue to show the utmost resolve and courage in their work, which is essential.
“Together with our international partners we will never cease in our efforts to prevent violent extremism and to bring perpetrators of such violence to justice. Today, I also say to the Afghan people that they can continue to count on Canadians’ unwavering support.”
Media Relations Office/Global Affairs Canada/343-203-7700

Saudi-Russian Agreement over Oil Policy, Settling Regional Crises
Asharq Al-Awsat/May 31/17/ Riyadh- Russian-Saudi talks held between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minster Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz addressed bilateral ties, political stances and economic agreement regarding oil policy. Speaking from the Kremlin, Putin announced on Tuesday that his country looks forward to hosting Saudi Arabian King Salman bin Abdulaziz. Upon receiving Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed in Moscow, Putin said that Russia and Saudi Arabia, together, may arrive at a solution for the ongoing crisis in Syria. The two sides also reviewed the Saudi-Russian cooperation in the field of petrochemical industries and a number of oil industries, as well as the partnership and uniting efforts to combat terrorism and extremist thought in Central Asia, regional issues and the Syrian crisis, said the Saudi Press Agency (SPA). For its part, Russian news agency (TASS) said that Saudi Arabia and Russia are amid discussions for cooperation in over 25 economic projects. Putin stressed the importance of ties with Saudi Arabia, expressing appreciation towards Riyadh promoting and endorsing a unanimous effort between OPEC and non-OPEC states.
For his part, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed reassured that Saudi Arabia and Russia together have achieved a lot, with more laying ahead. All the more, he confirmed that both countries are in agreement with what regards oil market policy. During the meeting, Putin and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed discussed ways of enhancing Saudi-Russian oil agreement, which was led by the Kingdom, among non-OPEC oil producing countries, especially Russia, and discussed means of stimulating their market dynamic to achieve positive returns, stabilizing oil markets. The meeting was attended by Foreign Affairs Minister Adel Al-Jubeir; Trade and Investment Minister Dr. Majid Al-Qassabi, Energy Minister Eng. Khalid Al-Faleh, and a number of officials from Saudi and Russian sides.

Russian Warships in Mediterranean Hit IS Positions in Syria
Associated Press/Naharnet/May 31/17/The Russian military says its warships in the Mediterranean Sea have fired four cruise missiles at the Islamic State group's positions in Syria. The Russian Defense Ministry says in a statement on Wednesday that the Admiral Essen frigate and the Krasnodar submarine launched the missiles at IS targets in the area of the ancient city of Palmyra. It says the missiles successfully hit IS heavy weapons and fighters whom the group had deployed and moved to Palmyra from its stronghold of Raqqa, the de facto capital of IS and it's self-proclaimed caliphate. The ministry says it had notified the U.S., Turkish and Israeli militaries beforehand of the coming strike. It added the Russian strike was promptly executed following the order, a testimony to the navy's high readiness and capabilities.

Egypt’s Airstrikes Target Cities in Central Libya
Asharq Al-Awsat/May 31/17/Egyptian-Libyan borders, Cairo – Egypt stretched the scope of airstrikes against Libyan cities on Tuesday to reach extremists’ military bases in the central areas of Jafra and Hawn. Egypt’s air force began the attacks earlier this week, just hours following an attack against civilians in the province of Minya, which led to the death of 29 people and the injury of others. Libyan military commanders said Egyptian jets hit the Libyan city of Derna on Monday. One air strike hit the western entrance to Derna and two others hit Dahr al-Hamar, south of the city. Since the fall of Muammar Gadhafi’s regime, the African country has been witnessing the spread of extremist militant groups in different areas across the country, especially in the city of Derna, which is located near the Egyptian borders and represents a threat to the neighboring country’s security. States supporting peace in Libya are currently seeking to forge an agreement between the country’s two major political leaders, Army Commander Khalifa Haftar and the head of the UN-backed presidential council, Fayez al-Sarraj. While the recent strikes by the Egyptian army have raised concerns over the surge of angry Libyan reactions towards their neighbor, a senior tribal leader, Mahmoud Bou Issa, said that citizens in eastern Libya, including Derna, have voiced their support to Egypt, hoping that the airstrikes would put an end to the presence of extremist militants in the region. According to Economic Researcher Ayman Ghazi, who lives in a nearby city, “there are many reasons to be optimistic about an economic recovery of the Libyan market, especially with Egypt’s airstrikes against extremists’ bases in the country.”Ghazi added that several developments have indicated that the region would witness a positive change, including the recent visit of US President Donald Trump to Saudi Arabia and the outcome of the Riyadh summits, as well as the meeting between Haftar and Sarraj in the United Arab Emirates early May. He also said that world powers have not yet opposed the Egyptian military operations in the African country, which has increased international businessmen trust in Libya’s economy and revived the value of the Libyan currency. For Amro Farkash, Libyan economic expert and regional director at the European Bank, Egypt’s latest military operations were a “sort of breakthrough” in the Libyan crisis. “People are optimistic that the situation can improve; this modest optimism can positively influence the currency,” he stated. On a different note, Sarraj said on Tuesday that NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg have expressed full support to the Libyan government, during a phone call between the two officials. A statement issued by Sarraj’s office said that Stoltenberg has told the Libyan leader that NATO appreciated efforts to build a unified military institution in the country and that it would support Libya in strengthening its defense and security institutions.

Regime Forces, Iranian Militias Mobilize in Syrian ‘South Triangle’
Asharq Al-Awsat/May 31/17/Beirut-The Syrian regime has called for reinforcements from its forces and an Iranian militia to the axes of the “Triangle of Death” that links Daraa to Quneitra and Damascus in preparation for a broad attack on areas under control of the opposition, trying to regain what it had lost during the latest battles. Meanwhile, armed opposition factions announced their preparations to face any advance by the regime forces on these axes, and the escalation on the fighting fronts reached the northern and eastern Hama rural areas, which were the target of dozens of raids. The “Southern Front” factions in the Syrian Free Army has announced in a statement its readiness for an anticipated military operation by the regime in the ‘Triangle of Death.’Activists from the opposition in Daraa outskirts said the regime has sent “huge military reinforcements to the front including tanks and dozens of Lebanese Hezbollah militants in conjunction with aerial and artillery bombings over several Syrian towns and villages. For its part, the opposition Shaam News Network revealed that a large number of military ranks, armored personnel, carriers, and soldiers went to Daraa as part of a plan to reoccupy the Manshiyya neighborhood, which was taken over by the opponents a few days ago. The network stressed that all the militants are from Shiite militias, who were done with controlling Aleppo and have moved forward to the South to carry on another battle. “The large military crowds of Assad and Shiite militias seek control over Manshiyya neighborhood and would even go further to take over Daraa al-Balad,” a military opposition leader in Daraa said. The Southern front is part of an agreement signed in the Astana meetings to reduce the tension and make this area safe under the Russian-Turkish-Iranian agreement.

Macron Discusses Political Transition in Syria with ‘Supreme Committee’
Asharq Al-Awsat/May 31/17/Beirut-The Higher Negotiation Committee (HNC) has convened a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron and Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian during a visit to Paris where it also met with UN Envoy to Syria Staffan De Mistura, two weeks after its meetings in Berlin following the last round of talks in Geneva. The meeting between the HNC delegation, led by Riad Hijab, and the French President came one day after the latter hosted Russian President Vladimir Putin. The meeting wasn’t scheduled earlier, yet it was added to the agenda of the visits few hours before it was held in response to a request by the HNC delegation. The unannounced meeting came as Macron seeks to review French policy on the six-year civil war. Sources close to the matter told Asharq Al-Awsat that Macron’s positions in supporting the Syrian opposition to reach a solution for the Syrian crisis were positive and the European support for the HNC has not changed either. “Macron recalled his personal commitment to the Syrian issue and his support to the Syrian opposition in view of a political transition in Syria,” Sources said that HNC’s meeting with De Mistura was fine, noting that he stressed the importance of continuing the negotiations and activating them. The committee, for its part, announced that its delegation, which included Monzer Makhous, George Sabra, Basma Kodmani, has discussed with Macron and his Foreign Minister means of carrying out the political transition process. During the two meetings, Hijab stressed the opposition’s commitment to the political process and its support for any agreement that contributes to the implementation of UN resolutions and enhancement of humanitarian situation in Syria. “It is important to adopt a new strategy for the negotiations process that reduces the suffering of Syrians and gives them some hope,” Hijab added. Hijab expressed his gratitude for France’s positions that support the Syrian revolution and the Syrian people’s rights and called for an active European role in the diplomatic track.

US: We Want to Partner with KSA to Face Threats, Specifically Malign Iranian Influence
Asharq Al-Awsat/May 31/17/The United States affirmed the strategic partnership for the 21st century with Saudi Arabia in the security realm to face threats in the region, specifically the malign Iranian influence, Acting Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Stuart Jones said.
In a special briefing on the US President Donald Trump trip to the Kingdom, Jones highlighted the “US commitment to expand our decades-long security relationship with the Saudis”, saying that the military and commercial agreements with Saudi Arabia aimed at supporting the long-term security of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, thus bolstering the kingdom’s ability in facing terrorism operations across the region, and reducing the already heavy burden on the US. “We want our security partner, the Saudis, to have the – what they need to secure their borders and to secure their region, and also to send a strong message that we will stand by our security partners,” Jones added. Speaking on the ETIDAL center, which is the Global Center for Countering Extremist Ideology, Jones said the United States is still elaborating on how exactly it is going to participate in this Saudi project. Jones said the US should respond to the Saudi invitation to participate in this center and decide on a way to contribute, adding that the US would “certainly benefit from the Saudi expertise in this area”. Moreover, the Assistant Secretary underscored the importance of the statement that followed the GCC-US summit, describing it as “a very strong message” to deter Iran’s malevolent interventions in the region, especially in Bahrain, Yemen, and Syria. Jones also praised the Arab-Islamic-US summit during which the entire Islamic world came together and the United States expressed respect for Islam. 55 states came together with the United States and jointly condemned extremism, he added. Jones said he was also taken by the “tremendous spirit” that day and the very positive statements against extremism by Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz, prime minister of Indonesia, and King Abdullah of Jordan.

Russia Fires Cruise Missiles at ISIS Targets Near Palmyra
Asharq Al-Awsat/May 31/17/A Russian warship and submarine have fired four cruise missiles from the Mediterranean Sea at ISIS positions around the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, the Defense Ministry in Moscow said on Wednesday. The strike, which Russian news agencies said was the first of its kind since November, was carried out by the frigate “Admiral Essen” and the submarine “Krasnodar,” and targeted militants and equipment in an area east of Palmyra. There was no information on when the missiles were launched. The defense ministry said the hardware and forces struck had previously been deployed by ISIS in Raqqa. “All targets were destroyed,” it said in a statement. Russia had warned the United States, Turkish and Israeli militaries before launching the missiles, the ministry said. Russian news agencies quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying that Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu had personally told President Vladimir Putin about the military action late on Tuesday.Syrian troops backed by Russian airstrikes captured Palmyra in March last year and Moscow even flew in one of its best classical musicians to play a triumphant concert at Palmyra’s ancient theater. Jihadists, however, recaptured Palmyra eight months later before Syrian regime troops drove them out again in March this year.
Fighting around Palmyra continues.
Russia, a staunch Damascus ally, has been providing air cover to Bashar Assad’s offensive on the terrorist organization and rebels since 2015. The last time Russia fired Kalibr cruise missiles from its ships at militant targets in Syria was in November last year, the RIA news agency said. Separately, photographs published on Wednesday by Turkish bloggers for their online Bosphorus Naval News project showed a Russian Syria-bound ship passing through the Bosphorus carrying a consignment of military trucks.

Turkey: US Arming of Syrian Kurds ‘Extremely Dangerous’

Asharq Al-Awsat/May 31/17/Turkey on Tuesday said the US arming of a Kurdish militia force deemed a terror group by Ankara was “extremely dangerous”, a day after Washington announced that it started distributing arms to the militia. The Pentagon on Tuesday said it had begun to transfer small arms and vehicles to the Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish-Syrian Arab alliance fighting ISIS and containing Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) fighters. The weapons include AK-47s and small-caliber machine guns, Pentagon spokesman Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway said.
“Such steps are extremely dangerous for Syria’s unity and territorial integrity,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said. “If we are looking for stability in Syria, we should row back from those mistakes,” he told a press conference with Slovenian counterpart Karl Erjavec in Ankara.
Turkey views the YPG as a “terror group” and an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, waging an insurgency inside Turkey since 1984 that has killed more than 40,000 people. But Washington believes the YPG is the most effective fighting force against ISIS jihadists in Syria, causing tensions between the NATO allies. The US weapons transfers began ahead of an upcoming offensive to recapture Raqqa, the last major bastion and ISIS’ de facto capital in Syria. The SDF have now advanced to within a few miles of Raqqa on several fronts, and this month captured the strategic town of Tabqa and the adjacent dam from the jihadists. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with US counterpart Donald Trump in Washington for the first time where the issue of US support for the YPG was discussed on May 16, the Turkish foreign minister said. Less than a week before Erdogan’s visit, Trump approved arming fighters from the YPG. “The president clearly expressed our position and concerns during his Washington visit. It was stressed how risky and dangerous the support given to the YPG was,” Cavusoglu said. “These weapons could be used against all humanity, not just Turkey.”
US officials have told Reuters that Washington was also looking to boost intelligence cooperation with Turkey to support its fight against the PKK. It was unclear if the effort would be enough to soothe Turkey, however.

UNHCR Urges Morocco and Algeria to Help Stranded Syrians
Asharq Al-Awsat/May 31/17/Rabat- The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has urged Morocco and Algeria for “prompt action” to provide safe passage for more than 40 Syrian refugees trapped since mid-April in no-man’s land between the two countries. “Prompt action by both governments is needed in facilitating the immediate and safe passage of the forty-one vulnerable Syrian refugees,” the UNHCR said Tuesday. “We urge Algeria and Morocco to work with us on ending this dangerous and untenable situation for these stranded desperate Syrian refugees,” it said in a statement. The group includes “children, babies and women — including at least one pregnant woman reportedly in need of urgent Cesarean section”, the statement said. The Syrians have been stranded in the area “exposed to the elements and the serious threat of scorpions and snakes” since April 17, it added. At the time, Morocco accused its neighbor Algeria of expelling the refugees to “sow trouble” and “generate an uncontrollable flow of migrants”. Algeria “categorically” rejected the allegations as false. According to AFP, the UNHCR said it understood neither country considered the Syrians to be in their territory, but called “for action to bring the group to safety on humanitarian grounds”. The UN agency was “ready to offer its ‘good offices’ to coordinate this life-saving evacuation,” it said. The land zone between the two countries has been closed since 1994. The North African rivals have very difficult relations, especially over the question of Western Sahara.

Saudi Arabia: Blacklisting Terror Groups Raises Social Awareness on their Dangers
Asharq Al-Awsat/May 31/17/ Riyadh- Deputy Minister of Islamic Affairs in Saudi Arabia Dr. Tawfiq al-Sudairy confirmed that the kingdom’s strict intolerance and criminalization of terrorist organizations, including the Muslim Brotherhood, played a great part in raising community awareness. Dangers presented by these terror organizations are now known well across the kingdom. Consequently, such groups have been gaining less sympathy in light of the decisive media and awareness campaigns promoting national unity against rifts that undermine peace and security in Saudi Arabia, said Sudairy. The rate of extremist rhetoric used in Friday sermons has fallen drastically across Saudi Arabia over the last few years, he added. By emboldening tolerance as a core Islamic value and norm to Arab societies, extensive efforts spent by responsible government authorities has aided in fighting extremism, explained Sudairy. Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, the deputy minister stressed that only a united Saudi Arabia exists and would prevail, and that actions pursued by groups seeking a separatist agenda are illicit and considered a crime by law. Fighting extremism should be made part and parcel of a broader culture, and all slices of society are required to contribute to combating extremism, each according to their own abilities, said Sudairy. “It is important that the fight against this disease becomes a widely held culture among Arab and Islamic societies. It is one of the most important means of protecting young people who have not yet fallen into the trap of extremism,” he added.  Addressing Gulf Cooperation Council discussions on the role of mosques in promoting intellectual security, Sudairy said that coordination between Islamic affairs ministries in the GCC is good with signs of increasing efficiency. He pointed out that the last meeting of ministers of Islamic affairs of GCC states had examined the role of mosques in promoting intellectual security, and reviewed significant proposals provided by experts and approved by ministers. Those proposals can be a good starting point for cementing cooperation and coordination and the exchange of information and experiences of the GCC countries with respect to countering terrorism and extremism.

Two Killed in Shooting at Saudi School
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 31/17/A gunman killed two staff at a private school owned by a prominent Saudi billionaire in Riyadh on Wednesday, a security source told AFP. The school was closed and no children were there at the time, said the U.S. embassy in Riyadh. Police were hunting a suspect of Iraqi origin who worked at the school, the security source said, after the rare shooting. "A teacher took a gun and then he went to the school room and he killed the assistant school principal and one of the employees," said the source who asked not to be identified because a formal statement would come later from Riyadh police. Investigators are treating the case as a criminal matter and "not a terrorist incident," the source said. Saudi media spoke of "disagreements" between the suspect and victims. "There has been a shooting at Kingdom School in Riyadh," the U.S. mission said on its Twitter account. "School (is) closed, no children present. Please avoid area," the Twitter post said, without elaborating on casualties or motives behind the shooting. By late afternoon an AFP photographer observed only one police car entering the school grounds, which were quiet, and nobody answered the school's main phone line. Most schools in Saudi Arabia are on holiday. Kingdom School is part of a group owned by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, chairman of Kingdom Holding Co whose diversified investments include Citigroup and Time Warner. The school, located in central Riyadh, opened in 2000 and offers boys' and girls' education from kindergarten to high school, according to its website. The school has both a Saudi curriculum and an international program leading to an American diploma. Kingdom Holding says on its website that the schools group has more than 4,000 students and 300 teachers at various locations in Riyadh.

Police Patrol Targeted by IED in Awamiya, 2 Security Officials Injured
Asharq Al-Awsat/May 31/17/Dammam- A police patrol was targeted by an improvised explosive device (IED) in al-Awamiya, leaving two security officials injured and causing damages to the vehicle. The terrorist act happened two weeks after a security armored vehicle was targeted with a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG). Security Spokesman of the Saudi Ministry of Interior Major General Mansour al-Turki has said that “further to the statement issued on May 16 on the martyrdom of a security man and the injury of five others as a result of their patrol being hit by an RPG while performing their duties in maintaining the public order in the surrounding area of al-Masoura neighborhood in Qatif Governorate, a security patrol was attacked by an IED on Monday while it was carrying out its tasks near the roundabout of the Rif neighborhood in al-Awamiya in Qatif.” The blast resulted in the injury of two security men who were taken to hospital. “The security authorities have launched an investigation into that terrorist crime, which is still under security follow-up,” the spokesman added. Turki told Asharq Al-Awsat that these terrorists are carrying out what they are told to do from abroad, including staying in abandoned houses in the neighborhood of al-Masoura and using them to store weapons and explosives, which constitute a very serious threat to the lives of citizens and residents.In early November 2016, the Interior Ministry added Mahmoud Ali Abdullah to its wanted list, which includes eight other individuals wanted by Saudi security.

Barghouti: Battle for Recognizing Palestinian Inmates as War Prisoners is Shaping Up
Asharq Al-Awsat/May 31/17/Ramallah- Palestinian prisoner in Israeli jails Marwan al-Barghouthi has vowed that the recently ended hunger strike was a “turning point” in the Palestinian prisoners’ relationship with Israeli prison officials. The Fatah leader, in a statement he issued on Tuesday, warned Israeli authorities that prisoners would resume their strike if their commitments were not fulfilled. Barghouthi said that forming a unified leadership among prisoners is a preparation being taken towards the battle to wrest recognition of the inmates as political prisoners and prisoners of war, recognition found in third and fourth Geneva Conventions. Barghouthi was held in solitary confinement throughout the strike’s duration, while Israeli authorities attempted to discredit the leader by releasing a video of Barghouthi purportedly eating in his solitary cell during the hunger strike, which Palestinian leaders quickly denounced as “fake” and an attempt by Israeli authorities to delegitimize Barghouthi. Israeli authorities had refused to negotiate with Barghouthi up until the 11th hour of negotiations between the Israel Prison Service (IPS), the Palestinian Authority, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), while the hunger strikers had insisted that any negotiations that did not include Barghouthi were illegitimate and “aimed at breaking the hunger strike in exchange for empty promises.”On the other hand, Barghouthi said that resuming political negotiations should be conditioned by first releasing prisoners. He also offered his condolences and expressed pride in martyrs who had died for regaining the rights of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. Barghouthi praised the prisoners and their families, Palestinians at home and abroad, the media, institutions and individuals, but he did not thank his fellows in the Fatah Central Committee or Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in an indication of differences over how to deal with the strike. About 1,000 men had taken part in the strike, and Israeli officials said this past week that nearly every prisoner had needed hospital care, including Barghouti.Barghouti was sentenced in 2004 to five life terms. Surveys show many Palestinians want him to be their next president.

U.N. Says Israeli Rule 'Key Cause' of Palestinian Hardship
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 31/17/Fifty years after Israel occupied the Palestinian territories, its policies in the West Bank and Gaza are at the root of Palestinian hardship, the United Nations said Wednesday. "Occupation policies and practices remain the key cause of humanitarian needs in the occupied Palestinian territories," the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a report. West Bank and Gaza residents suffer from a lack of basic security, it said, adding that the split between President Mahmoud Abbas' West Bank-based administration and the rival Islamist movement Hamas in Gaza also restricts humanitarian work. "At its heart, the crisis is one of a lack of protection for Palestinian civilians –- from violence, from displacement, from restrictions on access to services and livelihoods, and from other rights violations." Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip during the 1967 Six-Day War. Repeated efforts to negotiate a solution to the conflict and establish an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel have stalled. A wave of unrest that broke out in October 2015 has claimed the lives of 266 Palestinians, 41 Israelis, two Americans, two Jordanians, an Eritrean, a Sudanese and a Briton, according to an AFP tally. Israeli authorities say most of the Palestinians killed were carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks. Others were shot dead during protests or clashes, while some were killed in Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip. OCHA's 15-page Humanitarian Overview for 2016 notes a sharp fall in bloodshed over the year compared to 2015. "Palestinian fatalities from conflict-related violence in the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel declined by 37 percent compared with 2015," it said. "The decline in Israeli fatalities was 48 percent."However, Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes in the West Bank, including annexed east Jerusalem, had peaked, it said. "In the West Bank, more Palestinians were displaced in 2016 (1,601, including 759 children) due to demolitions of their homes by the Israeli authorities than in any year since OCHA began recording the phenomenon in 2009," it said. In the Gaza Strip, where unemployment is among the highest in the world, a strict Israeli blockade has been in force for over a decade. "Israeli restrictions on the entry of national staff of aid organizations to and from Gaza intensified in 2016, with 31 percent of permit applications to enter or exit Gaza denied," OCHA said. That is up from an average of four percent in 2015, it added. It said humanitarian operations in Gaza were impeded by restrictions imposed by the Hamas authorities, donors blocking contact with them, the ongoing closure of the Rafah crossing with Egypt and the internal Palestinian divide.

Kuwait Court Condemns 7 to Death for Raping Disabled Boy
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 31/17/A Kuwaiti appeals court on Wednesday sentenced seven young men to death for the abduction and rape of a disabled 13-year-old boy, the victim's lawyer said. Ibrahim al-Bathani told AFP that the court overturned a 10-year jail term handed in April by a lower court against the seven accused. He said the seven defendants, aged 18-23, abducted the victim in September last year to a chalet where they sexually assaulted him. The victim is a Kuwaiti citizen suffering from partial mental disability, the lawyer said. "This is a historic verdict," Bathani said. The convicts, four Kuwaitis, a Yemeni, an Iraqi and a stateless person, filmed part of the rape and threatened to post it on social media if the boy spoke of his ordeal, Bathani said. Prosecutors found the videos on the phones of some of the defendants. The ruling is not final as the case must go to the Kuwaiti supreme court whose verdicts are final. The death penalty in Kuwait is carried out by hanging.

Macron defends minister assailed by financial misconduct charges
Wed 31 May 2017/NNA - French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday expressed support for a government minister who is under pressure to resign over alleged impropriety in financial dealings, even as an opinion poll showed most French voters thought the minister should quit.Richard Ferrand, who directed Macron's successful election campaign and is now urban planning minister, is battling media reports of financial misconduct six years ago when he managed a health insurance fund in the Brittany region. He denies wrongdoing and has refused to quit. The Ferrand affair and that of a junior minister, Marielle de Sarnez, who denies far-right accusations that she acted wrongly in hiring an assistant for her work as a member of the European Parliament, comes at an awkward time for the newly elected Macron as he gears for parliamentary elections in less than two weeks. Macron, a centrist, hopes the two-round vote in June will give his Republic on the Move party control of parliament to enable him to consolidate power after his presidential victory. A Harris poll published on Wednesday said 70 percent of respondents believed Ferrand should step down, while 62 percent felt the same way about Europe Affairs minister de Sarnez. Macron's opponents are relishing his government's discomfort after its pledge to curb corruption in politics, and given that scandals involving his presidential rivals helped him to victory over the far right's Marine Le Pen. Macron, presiding over a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, came out in support of Ferrand, calling on his colleagues to show solidarity, the government's spokesman told journalists. "Only the courts are equipped to pass judgment ... Things are not always good when the press becomes the judge," Macron was quoted as saying by spokesman, Christophe Castaner. Ferrand himself earlier on Wednesday repeated he saw no reason to resign and said his work as manager of a Brittany health insurance fund had been above board and transparent. "I am not two-faced," he said. "If I am here it's to tell listeners nobody's being hoodwinked," he told France inter radio. -- REUTERS

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on
June 01/17
UK: The Lessons of Manchester
Robbie Travers/Gatestone Institute/May 31/17
While Corbyn seems to be saying that Britain's foreign policy is the reason the United Kingdom is being targeted by Islamists, this view seems to be at odds with what the Islamists themselves have said. The Islamic State's propaganda magazine, Dabiq, explained perfectly clearly: "The fact is, even if you were to stop bombing us, imprisoning us, torturing us, vilifying us, and usurping our lands, we would continue to hate you because our primary reason for hating you will not cease to exist until you embrace Islam."
Defending what we value would seem the better choice.
Here we are again. According to the analysis of the newly elected Mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham, the Manchester suicide bomber "was a terrorist, not a Muslim" -- despite all evidence to the contrary. After yet another mass casualty terrorist attack, elected leaders seems unable to attribute any of these attacks to the supremacist ideology that caused it: radical Islam.
At what point does an individual cease to be a Muslim and start to become a terrorist? Is there a definitive moment? Why can an individual not be a Muslim and a terrorist. Especially if that individual says he is?
Or is this just a racism of lowered expectations?
Refusing to name the problem also takes power away from Muslim reformers who are seeking to remove violence and bigotry from Islam, as well as other religious demands under which they would prefer not live -- such as the lack of free speech, lack of separation of powers, subjugation of women and death penalty for apostasy.
Also, how come no one makes a distinction between religion and violence with any other faith? During the Inquisition, no one would ever claim that Torquemada was not a Christian. Why should this distinction apply only to radical Islam?
Perhaps it is just easier to put short-term political futures ahead of national security, and short term political gains ahead of addressing harsh political truths. That attitude only imperils the rights and Judeo-Christian values we may prefer to keep.
No one wants to blame the entire Islamic community for the actions of a few of its members -- just as all Germans were not Nazis -- but why can one not call Islamic terrorism exactly that and still emphasize that not all Muslims are terrorists?
Many would have it that in the wake of massive bombings and other terrorist attacks -- from America's 9/11, to London's 7/7, multiple attacks in Paris, Nice, Toulouse, Berlin, Westminster, Copenhagen, Brussels, Orlando, Manchester, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and so on -- that the major crime is "Islamophobia" and not the attacks themselves. Worse, the silence of so many Muslims in the wake of those attacks does not help to dispel an impression of indifference. "Qui tacet consentit": He who is silent consents.
Britain's leader of the Labour Party opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, stated the attacks were the fault of the West:
"Many experts... have pointed to the connections between wars our government has supported or fought in other countries and terrorism here at home. An informed understanding of the causes of terrorism is an essential part of an effective response that will protect the security of our people, that fights rather than fuels terrorism."
So, the conquests of Persia, the Byzantine Empire, the Middle East, North Africa, Greece, northern Cyprus, Spain and most of Eastern Europe do not count? Only our wars count? Who is doing the counting?
What "foreign intervention" prompted the fatwa of a multi-million dollar bounty on the head of Salman Rushdie for writing a novel? What "foreign intervention" provoked bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania before 9/11? What "foreign policy" prompted the bombing of a Yemeni hotel in 1992? What prompts Islamists to kill thousands of fellow Muslims and Yazidis -- what offence did their foreign policy commit?
While Corbyn seems to be saying that Britain's foreign policy is the reason the United Kingdom is being targeted by Islamists, this view seems to be at odds with what the Islamists themselves have said. The Islamic State's propaganda magazine, Dabiq explained, perfectly clearly:
"The fact is, even if you were to stop bombing us, imprisoning us, torturing us, vilifying us, and usurping our lands, we would continue to hate you because our primary reason for hating you will not cease to exist until you embrace Islam."
That is pretty succinct. Who might know better what Islamists think, Corbyn or Islamists? Our foreign policy is not the problem; our values are. We are seen, it seems, as degenerate, gender-unsegregated, music-loving, idolators. Western nations and their citizens refuse to become Muslim, accept Allah and bow to the demands of Islamic law, sharia. End of story.
As long as Western nations remain man-made democracies and not divinely-made Islamic States, these nations will be the major target for Islamists.
There seem to be two choices: either become more like Islamists, adopt sharia, and continue not to address the coercion out of fear that we might be further attacked -- we will be anyway -- or to confront the threat, now, before it becomes larger and costlier to contain, in lives and treasure.
The entire aim of terrorism is to achieve political change by using violence to intimidate. Do we really want to change our way of life just to appease terrorists, allowing them to win?
Corbyn presents a choice of fighting against Islamism and thereby making ourselves into targets, or failing to do so in order to appease Islamists and thereby surrendering to a religious autocracy. As Islamists highlight that, regardless of our policies, they will attack us unless we embrace Islam, defending what we value would seem the better choice. It is time for Europe's leaders to face up to the reality.
Robbie Travers, a political commentator and consultant, is Executive Director of Agora, former media manager at the Human Security Centre, and a law student at the University of Edinburgh.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute

Analysts Sound New Alarms on North Korea Missile Threat
Peter Huessy/Gatestone Institute/May 31/17
The North Koreans now have the range capability to strike the United States with a ballistic missile. "It is a matter of physics and math." — USAF General John Hyten, Commander of United States Strategic Command, May 9, 2017.
"A major headache for the United States is that much of the financial and technological support for North Korea's weapons programs comes from China." — Joseph Bosco, Senior Fellow at the ICAS Institute for Korea-American studies.
North Korea just conducted its seventh missile test launch so far this year. No one should expect this activity to cease, and no one should be surprised by North Korea's progressively more advanced weapons capabilities, analysts said at a recent Mitchell Institute forum on Capitol Hill, hosted by the author.
"During Kim Jung Un's five years in power he has done twice, perhaps three times, as many launches of missiles as his father did in 18 years," said Bruce Klingner, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation.
The North Korean dictator is not showing any signs of slowing down, and he is determined to push forward the country's program to enhance the medium and long-range missiles and nuclear warheads that now threaten the United States and its allies.
Klingner estimates that North Korea has 16 to 20 nuclear weapons. "And then, of course, the question or the debate is how far along they are," he said. "I think it is pretty clear they've weaponized and miniaturized the warhead, that right now the Nodong medium-range ballistic missile is already nuclear capable." This means U.S. allies Japan and South Korea are under a nuclear threat today, he stressed. "It is not theoretical, it is not several years in the future as some analysts or experts will tell you."
The threats posed by North Korea are wide ranging, Klingner noted. "They've got, we estimate, 5,000 tons of chemical warfare agents." And it has a sophisticated army of cyber warriors. "They are, perhaps, in the top five or top three countries in the world for cyber attack capabilities."
Missile attacks are, it seems, what worries U.S. policy makers the most. A rising concern are submarine-launched ballistic missiles because of the immediate risk they create for South Korea. "The North Korean subs can come out on the east or west coast and threaten South Korea," Klingner said.
North Korea successfully tested a Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile last year, and they "flew it to an unusually high trajectory," he said. "Had they lowered the trajectory and fired it for effect, the estimates are it could have ranged Guam. So that's a new threat to a key node for the U.S. defense of the Pacific."
Keeping U.S. officials up at night is the possibility of an ICBM launch. North Korea has developed several systems. One of its most advanced systems is a space launch vehicle, Klingner said. "But it's the same technologies you would need to fire off an ICBM warhead."
As USAF General John Hyten, Commander of United States Strategic Command, said on May 9th at a Strategic Deterrent Coalition nuclear symposium, that the North Koreans now have the range capability to strike the United States with a ballistic missile. "It is a matter of physics and math" he explained.
The news media and independent experts have pointed out that North Korea's ICBMs could reach Alaska, Hawaii or even the Pacific Northwest. But these missiles are said to have a range of 10,000 kilometers, which means they would hit Missouri, or 40 percent of the continental United States, said Klingner. "After they did the successful launch last year, now the estimate is probably 13,000 kilometers, which is all the way down to Miami, the entire continental U.S."
Another cause for alarm is the number of rocket engine tests, he said. "They took the first stage of a solid fuel ICBM, to see if it works." Rocket scientists, just by looking at the photos, were able to say that they're using two engines, which are better than the ones U.S. experts thought they were using. By the size and shape and color of the exhaust plume, analysts concluded, the North Koreans are "using a much-improved propellant than we thought."
At the same forum, Joseph Bosco, a Senior Fellow at the ICAS Institute for Korea-American studies, noted "A major headache for the United States is that much of the financial and technological support for North Korea's weapons programs comes from China".
"Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s," Bosco further explained, "North Korea began its program to develop nuclear weapons. China provided the necessary startup technology through the A.Q. Khan network in Pakistan....Today China accounts for 90% of North Korean trade with the outside world. Let's face it, China keeps the Kim regime afloat, alive and well, and capable of continuing to invest in advancing it's nuclear and missile programs." Bosco said. "There is significant evidence that it directly facilitates the ongoing nuclear and missile programs through China's banking system and the use of Chinese ports and airports for the trans-shipment of prohibited North Korean parts and technologies."
Bosco further said that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had told the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2012 that China was irrefutably providing advanced technology for North Korea's ballistic missile program.
"It has been clear for 60 years that the sole cause of tension and instability between the Koreas has been Pyongyang's own bizarre and dangerous behavior. Despite substantial aid and concessions from an accommodating South Korean government, China alone has the power to change that."
Klingner said it remains to be seen how the Trump administration deals with these foreign policy predicaments. "When I've talked to folks in the administration they have described the policy as a heavy emphasis on sanctions and pressure and targeted financial measures." The administration also apparently wants to augment ballistic missile defense and has indicated a "willingness to have our diplomats talk with their diplomats," Klingner said. "The door has always been open, but it is North Korea that repeatedly closes the door."
As Bosco emphasized, it is China that has to come clean.
It is also evidently China that has created a neighboring Frankenstein monster that keeps escaping from its nuclear laboratory. Reining-in North Korea is possible, but without strong Chinese economic and military pressure, which the Chinese seem loath to give, the North Korean nuclear challenge may be insurmountable.
A model of the North Korean Unha-9 long-range rocket on display at a floral exhibition in Pyongyang. (Image source: Steve Herman/VOA News/Wikimedia Commons)
Dr. Peter Huessy is President of GeoStrategic Analysis, a defense consulting firm he founded in 1981, and was the senior defense consultant at the National Defense University Foundation for more than 20 years.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute

Canada/Fleeing Tyranny or Bringing it with Them?هاربون من انظمة الطغيان إلى كندا أو يحملونها معهم
Khadija Khan/Gatestone Institute/May 31/17
Many newcomers to Canada and Europe are demanding laws similar to those from which they claim to be seeking refuge.
Newcomers soon start demanding privileges. They ask for gender segregation at work and in educational institutions; they ask for faith schools (madrasas), and demand an end to any criticism of their extremist practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM), forced marriages, child marriages and inciting hatred for other religions. They call any criticism "Islamophobia". They seek to establish a parallel justice system such as sharia courts. They are also unlikely, on different pretexts, to support any anti-terror or anti-extremism programs. They seem to focus only on criticizing the policies of West.
It is now the responsibility of Western governments to curb this growing turbulence of religious fundamentalism. Western governments need to require "hardline" Muslims to follow the laws of the land. Extremists need to be stopped from driving civilization to a collision course before the freedoms, for which so many have worked so hard and sacrificed so much are -- through indifference or political opportunism -- completely abolished.
Terror attacks and other offshoots of Islamic extremism have created an atmosphere of mistrust between Europe's natives and thousands of those who entered European countries to seek shelter.
The situation is turning the Europeans against their own governments and against those advocating help for the war-torn migrants who have been arriving.
Europeans are turning hostile towards the idea of freedom and peaceful coexistence; they have apparently been seeing newcomers as seeking exceptions to the rules and culture of West.
In an unprecedented shift in policy after public fury about security, the German government decided to shut down the mosque where the terrorist who rammed a truck into a shopping market in Berlin, Anis Amri, was radicalized before hecommitted the crime.
The mosque and Islamic center at Fussilet 33 in Berlin had apparently also been radicalizing a number of other youths by convincing them to commit terror attacks in Europe and to join the terror group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The authorities had the mosque under surveillance for a time but did not make a move before 12 innocent civilians were butchered by Amri on December 19, 2016, while leaving around 50 others injured.
The police and counter terror authorities also conducted raids in 60 different German cities and searched around 190 mosques to target kingpins of another group called "The True Religion".
Europeans appear to be seeking an alternative way to control this social disruption.
Many Muslims want to live in segregated areas where they strive to create the kind of culture they left behind before settling in the West. This preference, however, seems to lead to a rise in extremism and is proving counterproductive for the society as a whole.
The newcomers soon start demanding privileges. They ask for gender segregation at work and in educational institutions; they ask for faith schools (madrasas), and demand an end to any criticism of their extremist practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM), forced marriages, child marriages and inciting hatred for other religions. They call any criticism "Islamophobia". They additionally seek to establish a parallel system of justice such as sharia courts.
Hardliners have been delivering sermons across the Europe preaching hatred and intolerance of other religious groups.
Most newcomers also seem reluctant to condemn the terror attacks committed by jihadis or the inhumane activities of totalitarian regimes such as Saudi Arabia or Iran. Most newcomers are also unlikely, on different pretexts, to support any anti-terror or anti-extremism program.
These groups seem only to focus on criticizing the policies of West towards the Middle East and Muslim countries and blame the West for everything wrong with the Muslim world.
The Muslim Council of Britain -- a non-government organization claiming to represent British Muslims, and affiliated with over 500 mosques, charities and schools -- introduced its own so-called counter-terrorism campaign, instead of following the one launched by the government.
In the U.S., the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) also shocked many when its leaders demanded the district attorney of Louisiana cancel an ongoing anti-terrorism training program and accused the organizer of being a "notorious Islamophobe".
"We are not a pro-abortion march, we are a pro-women march," one of the advocates for sharia in the West, Linda Sarsour, stated while addressing a feminist event in Washington D.C.
The event was organized right after President Donald Trump's inauguration and was supposed to criticize his anti-abortion stance and seek equal rights for women.
Sarsour, however, seemed less interested in the cause of these women and sounded hungrier for attention and publicity to market her brand of sharia.
Sarsour , who appears to have been seeking imposing sharia on West – in a plan that would entail taking away most of the rights from these liberal women -- was instead standing next to them as if she were the champion of their rights.
Sarsour,known for desiring to slice off the genitals of girls, merely tweets for general Muslim across the globe.
Sadly, we now have in the West extremists who seem hell-bent on dragging civilization back to repression and violence in the name of sharia.
These hardliners are projecting a dogma that implies the advantages of killing and persecuting apostates, non-Muslim minorities, homosexuals, and inflicting the same brutalities on women and minors as we have been seeing in many Muslim majority countries in Middle East, Asia and Africa – as well as, unofficially but increasingly, in Europe and the West.
The British government recently announced a posthumous pardon for thousands of people who were penalized by the state for homosexual activities decades ago.
In the same Britain, however, more than half the Muslim population still believes that in the U.K., homosexuality should be completely illegal.
The cracks between the Muslim and European cultures seem to be widening even in the most harmonious places.
In Canada, a resolution by a Muslim MP seeking special laws to condemn freedom of speech about Islam, has led to scores of Canadians taking to the streets calling on the government to avoid bending rules in favor of a specific religious group in the country.
Many newcomers to Canada and Europe are demanding similar laws to those from which they claim to be seeking refuge.
Khadija Khan is a Pakistani journalist and commentator currently based in Frankfurt, Germany.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute

Iraqi PM Haider Al-Abadi Compares Shi'ite Militias To ISIS: We Did Not Fight The Baath Regime Only To Be Ruled By Gangs
MEMRI/May 31/17
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi blasted the Shi'ite militias in his country and compared them to ISIS. "Did we fight the bloody Baathist regime only to be ruled by gangs?" he said in a TEDxBaghdad speech. Abadi warned the Shi'ite militias not to try to "fool" him by reminding him that they belong to the same sect as him. This is what ISIS said to the Sunnis, Abadi explained, before it killed them, burned their cities, and banished them. The comments were made on May 20 and posted on YouTube.
Haider Al-Abadi: "Without unity, we cannot offer anything to society or to the world. In an atmosphere of disputes, conflicts, protectionism, nepotism, and corruption, there is not much we can offer, because all the good we do will be devoured by the evil. When I talk about unity, I mean unity that is based on truth and justice, not on falsehood. There are many gangs that work together for falsehood, in order to break society, and in order to plunder the public funds. This is not the unity I am talking about. That is cooperation for the sake of evil, not for the sake of the public good and development.
"They want to make the state and society as weak as possible in order to control them. They want their gangs to become stronger than the state and society, so they can control the resources of the people by force, by threat of weapons. If you raise your voice against them, they will kidnap you.
"Did we fight the bloody Baathist regime only to be ruled by gangs? Is this even conceivable? No, we fought it to live as free people. We will never let anybody - no matter who it is - rule us. Don't try to fool us by saying that we belong to the same sect.
"Didn't ISIS say that they were protecting the Sunnis? Wasn't this their method? Weren't these their lies? But then they killed the Sunnis, destroyed their cities, and banished them. They are all liars."
Former Lebanese President Émile Lahoud Reveals How The Right Of Return Was Forced Into The Saudi Peace Plan In The 2002 Arab Summit (Archival)
Former Lebanese President Émile Lahoud revealed behind-the-scenes negotiations in the 2002 Arab summit. The original initiative of Prince Abdullah, brought to the Arab summit, did not include the Right of Return, and it was added at the summit meeting due to pressure by Lahoud himself and several other Arab delegations, thus turning the Saudi Peace Plan into what is known today as the Arab Peace Plan. Lahoud was speaking in an interview on the Lebanese OTV channel on December 11, 2014.
Émile Lahoud: "The Arab summit in Beirut was based on the initiative of [Crown] Prince Abdullah."
Interviewer: "We are talking about March 2002."
Émile Lahoud: "Right, 2002. [Saudi Foreign Minister] Saud bin Faisal came to visit me. He said to me: 'This is the initiative of Prince Abdullah. I am showing it to you a week before [the summit], because you are the chairman of the summit and you should see it beforehand.' I read the initiative of Prince Abdullah like this, and then I said to [Saud bin Faisal]: 'But where is the Right of Return?'"
Interviewer: "The Right of Return of the Palestinians..."
Émile Lahoud: "He said to me: 'What right? That is something nobody talks about.' I said to him: 'Look, there is Resolution... The first of them, Resolution 194...' I said to him: 'It should be included if you want to make peace.' He said to me: 'Talk to your friends.' It is as if he was saying that we were receiving orders..."

Kuwaiti Journalist: No 'Essence Of Freedom' In Islam; The Brainwashed Islamic Peoples Are Time Bombs
The Middle East Media Research Institute/May 31/17
On an Al-Jazeera TV show, Kuwaiti journalist Abd Al-Aziz Alqenaei said that while democracy, human rights, and secularism were universal principles, there was no "essence of freedom" in Islam. It would be better to have no democracy than a "demagogic democracy," which ultimately would evolve into corruption, he argued, adding that he was talking about the entire Arab and Islamic world. Speaking on the network's "Opposite Direction" show on April 25, he said that Western countries were "justifiably" afraid of the Islamic peoples. "These peoples are undergoing Islamic brainwashing. They are time bombs," he said, getting into a shouting match with the show's other guest, Tunisian Professor at Sorbonne Muhammad Hneid, who argued that intelligence agencies were carrying out the terror attacks in Europe and that Islam was a religion of tolerance that does not advocate death.
Abd Al-Aziz Alqenaei: "The West teaches us about democracy and spreads it, and we learn about it through our curricula and the social media, as well as through our books of philosophy and other books. It teaches us about human rights, democracy, and secularism, but does it force each and every one of us to learn about these notions and values? No. It leaves it up to the people. The principles and values of democracy, human rights, and secularism are universal principles..."
Interviewer: "Not just Western ones."
Alqenaei: "That's right. The world has gone through globalization, and (ideas) are not restricted to a specific group of people... It's not that democracy and secularism are strictly American, whereas the Arabs - or others - are not allowed to enjoy them. No, these ideas are open for all. Take them, and put them to good use. You tell me that (Arab) peoples are demanding freedom. Brother, the Arabs can't even stand in line. They do not know how to ride a bus or stand in line for bread. What freedom are you talking about?
"They are demanding the 'freedom' of the Islamic shari'a, which calls for criminal and repugnant 'rights,' like stoning criminals and chopping off hands. Are these human rights? What 'essence of freedom' is there in Islam? I see none."
Interviewer: "98 or 99 percent of the population of the Arab and Islamic region are Muslims. Are we supposed to round them up and drive them out of the region, and replace them with secular peoples to your liking? Brother, the culture of these people is Islamic and Arab. Turkey is a Muslim country. 99 percent of its people are Muslims. Are you criticizing Erdogan and the Turks for praying and practicing Islam? When will these attacks stop? These Western attacks are anti-Islam, not pro-democracy. You say that in Turkey, they want to change (the constitution), but who is behind this? It was voted for by the Turkish society."
Alqenaei: "The people who voted for this lack a culture of democracy. If there was an established culture of democracy... True the vote was real, but when it is a demagogic democracy that brings about the change..."
Interviewer: "Are you talking about the entire Arab and Islamic world?"
Alqenaei: "Yes. Thousands of years ago, Plato and Aristotle warned us that a culture of demagogic democracy will evolve into a corrupt democracy. In such a case it would be better to have no democracy at all."
Interviewer: "The West does not want us to have democracy. Look how the West supported the new democracies in Eastern Europe, when they revolted against the communist system. They embraced them, gave them money, and supported them. But what did the West do in our own countries? These are peoples who have given rise to terrorism."
Alqenaei: "What terrorism are you talking about? The western countries are afraid of the Islamic peoples, and justifiably so. Most of these (Muslim) nations are criminal. These peoples are undergoing Islamic brainwashings. They are time bombs."
Muhammad Hneid: "Didn’t Mufti (of Syria) Hassoun and Bashar say that they would send people to carry out bombings in Europe? Who is doing the bombings? Who is carrying out the terror attacks in Europe? They are being carried out by (intelligence) agencies."
Alqenaei: "None of it is done by agencies, brother. It is done by Muslims."
Hneid: "Islam does not advocate death. 'Whoever kills another person - unless it be for manslaughter or corruption on Earth - it is as if he killed all mankind.' 'Whoever does not rule according to what Allah revealed - they are infidels."'
Alqenaei: "Just as there are verses in the Quran that call for tolerance."

Six Days that Changed the Face of the Middle East in 1967
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 31/17/
The Arab-Israeli war of June 1967, or Six-Day War, radically changed the map of the Middle East. Between June 5 and 10, Israel defeated Egypt, Jordan and Syria and occupied Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, east Jerusalem, and Syria's Golan Heights. Although Israel has since withdrawn from Sinai and the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and east Jerusalem have been annexed and the West Bank remains occupied by the Jewish state.The conflict was preceded by several weeks of mounting tensions. Israel vowed on May 10 at the United Nations not to stand by when faced with incursions from Syria. On May 16 Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser demanded that U.N. peacekeepers in the Sinai withdraw from Israel's border. He then blocked the Gulf of Aqaba to Israeli shipping, cutting off the Israeli port of Eilat. On May 30, King Hussein of Jordan signed a mutual defense pact in Cairo with Nasser.Here is a day-by-day account of the war:
Egypt's air power destroyed
At dawn on Monday, June 5, Israel stages an air assault that destroys more than 90 percent of Egypt's air force on the tarmac. Its armored vehicles head for Egypt.Arab countries declare war with Israel and Jerusalem comes under mortar fire.
Gaza falls
On Tuesday, June 6, the Israeli army seizes Gaza, which at the time is under Egyptian administration, pushing forward into the Sinai Peninsula. Israeli troops enter Jerusalem's Arab zone. After lengthy discussions between the United States and the Soviet Union, the U.N. Security Council unanimously adopts a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire.
Israeli forces enter east Jerusalem
On Wednesday, June 7, armored vehicles clash in the heart of the Sinai, as the Israeli army occupies the east bank of the Suez Canal. Its navy seizes Sharm el-Sheikh and clears the Gulf of Aqaba for Israeli ships."Most of the Egyptian army is fleeing in disarray and we have occupied most of the Sinai," Israel's army chief, General Yitzhak Rabin, later to become premier, tells a news conference in Tel Aviv. Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem are bombarded. Israeli forces enter Jerusalem's Old City and Prime Minister Levi Eshkol visits the Western Wall. Israeli forces take most of the West Bank of the Jordan River, including the towns of Bethlehem and Jericho. "We have achieved our political and security objectives," Israeli Defense Minister General Moshe Dayan says.Jordan accepts the ceasefire.
Egypt capitulates
On Thursday, June 8, the Israelis reach the Suez Canal, signaling the end of the battle for Sinai. Overnight, Egyptian radio says Cairo is accepting the U.N. ceasefire.The White House says the hotline directly linking the U.S. president and the Kremlin has been used several times during the crisis. Artillery fire continues at the Israeli-Syrian border.
Nasser steps down
On Friday, June 9 Israel launches an assault on the fortified Golan Heights, capturing it from Syrian forces after a day of heavy fighting. Towards 6:00 pm Nasser announces on television that he is stepping down from the Egyptian presidency, causing consternation in the Arab world. He does a temporary U-turn three hours later when citizens go into the streets and ask him to stay. Israel accepts the ceasefire.
- Syria ceases fighting -
On Saturday, June 10, fighting rages on the Syrian-Israeli front. Israel brings its whole military arsenal into play to wipe out Syria's fortified positions. After the fall of the town of Kuneitra, Syria, which had already accepted the ceasefire, gives in and ceases fighting.
The war is at an end and the Arab world is in a state of shock.