June 19/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 14/15-26/:"‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. ‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.
They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.’ Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, ‘Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me. ‘I have said these things to you while I am still with you.
But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.

You are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone
Letter to the Ephesians 02/11-21/:"Remember that at one time you Gentiles by birth, called ‘the uncircumcision’ by those who are called ‘the circumcision’ a physical circumcision made in the flesh by human hands remember that you were at that time without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, so that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God,
built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord;"

Question: "What does it mean that love is patient?" First Corinthians 13 is the most beloved chapter in the Bible on love. Often recited at weddings, this chapter serves as a pattern for the ideal marriage. Yet many have not reflected on the larger context and its implications for today. In verse 4 we read, “Love is patient.” Three words fraught with meaning. After making the point that love is a necessary ingredient in all ministry (verses 1-3), the apostle Paul begins to describe love. “Patient” is at the top of the list—“long” patience or “endurance,” according to some other translations. Godly love and a patient spirit go hand in hand.
Patience is noted as part of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. Love is also mentioned there, revealing the close connection between these two attributes. Both love and patience are products of the Spirit’s presence in one’s life. Since God is love (1 John 4:8), He is necessarily patient. “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6; see also Psalm 86:15; 103:8; 145:8). Even in judgment, God’s patience is evident: “God’s patience waited in the days of Noah” (1 Peter 3:20). The Corinthians needed patience. Their sin of improperly taking the Lord’s Supper, for example, was partly the result of impatience and refusing to wait for others (chapter 11). Arguments regarding spiritual gifts (chapters 12 and 14) were likewise partly attributable to a lack of patience.
An insistence on one’s own schedule is selfish, and it is opposed to godly love. Patient endurance and long-suffering are hallmarks of a loving character. Love melts away the impatience and frustration that so often hamper one’s dealings with others. When the object of one’s love fails or disappoints in some way, what is the proper response? According to 1 Corinthians 13:4, the loving response is patience.

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on June 18-19/17
Fathers’ Day: The Holy Gift Of Fatherhood/Elias Bejjani/June 18/17
Crimes in Lebanon/Diana Moukalled/ArabNews/Saturday 17 June 2017
How Iran exploited Tehran terror attacks for its own gain/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/ArabNews/Friday 18 June/17
A mechanism for US mediation in the Gulf/Raghida Dergham/Al Hayat/ Saturday 18 June 2017
Qatar’s Diplomatic Crisis Going Downhill/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/June 18/17
The Series of Qatari Conspiracies, this Time in Bahrain/Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al Awsat/June 18/17
Soft Sharia in Turkey/Burak Bekdil/Gatestone Institute/June 18/17
Germany: Police Powerless Against Middle Eastern Crime Gangs/Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/June 18/17
Israel-Palestine From Both Sides of the Mirror/Roger Cohen/The New York Times/June 18/17
Plot to assassinate a King/
Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/June 18/17
Saudi-Russian energy cooperation: A balancing act/Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/June 18/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published on June 18-19/17
Fathers’ Day: The Holy Gift Of Fatherhood
Crimes in Lebanon
Aoun Brings together Lebanese Party Leaders for ‘Reform Workshop’
Aoun to Discuss 'Sectarianism, Senate' with Leaders, Govt. to Tackle Key Issues
Bou Assi Says Electoral Law Averted Vacuum and Threats
Bassil Urges Hariri to be 'Spearhead' in Anti-Corruption Fight
Rifi Questions Electoral Neutrality of Government, Interior Ministry
Eid al Fitr begins June 25, Fadlallah office says
Rahi calls on State authorities to find solutions for economic, social and security crisis
Derian: Our project is a strong and fair state, Relation with PM Hariri is solid
Taimur Jumblat Tours Chouf Churches to Honor Christians Slain in 1977
Egyptian Ambassador congratulates Lebanon on the new election law

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on June 18-19/17
Iran Fires at Militants in Syria in First Use of Mid-range Missiles in 30 Years
Egyptian officer killed and four injured in Cairo explosion
Truce in Syria’s Daraa between Washington, Moscow
Riyadh: We Will Not Allow Turkish Bases on our Soil
Tillerson Cancels Mexico Trip to Focus on Gulf Crisis
Allawi Accuses Qatar of Having Tried to Divide Iraq
Iraqi forces launch assault to retake Mosul’s Old City from ISIS
Egypt Sentences 19 Brotherhood Members to Life in Jail
Saudi, UAE, Egypt Diplomats Discuss Qatar Crisis with Sudanese FM
Turkey Condemns US Warning of Possible Istanbul Terror Attack
Iran’s Zarif Kicks Off Algeria, Tunisia, Mauritania Tour
Detained Migrants Show World Signs of their Abuse in Libya
Royal Decrees Revamp Saudi Public Prosecution Now Functioning Under King Salman
Hamas, PFLP, ISIS Buck over Claiming Recent Jerusalem Attack
Egyptian on terror list says those boycotting Qatar are ‘allied with crusaders’
Israel revokes Ramadan goodwill measures after attack
Kuwait Commutes Death Sentence of Alleged 'Hizbullah Operative'
Macron Eyes Next Stage in Revolution in Parliament Polls
Huge Portugal Forest Fires Kill 43, Injure Scores
Explosion in Bogota shopping center kills three, wounds nine
USS Fitzgerald: missing sailors found dead in flooded area of ship

Latest Lebanese Related News published on June 18-19/17
Fathers’ Day: The Holy Gift Of Fatherhood/عيد الأب في كندا/نعمة الأبوة المقدس
Elias Bejjani/June 18/17
“Blessed indeed is the man who hears many gentle voices call him father!” (Lydia M. Child, U.S. Author)
Canadians observe Father’s Day on the third Sunday of June. It is a day for people to show their appreciation for fathers, grandfathers, godfathers and fatherly figures. Father figures may include stepfathers, fathers-in-law, guardians, foster parent, and family friends. Hopefully, all men will have the blessed grace of being fathers. Being a father is a heavenly endowment, a great satisfaction, and a fulfilling Godly obligation as the Holy Bible teaches us: “Genesis 1:28 “God blessed them. God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it.”
Almighty God has blessed both parents, fathers and mothers and recommended that they be honored, respected, cared for, and obeyed by their children. God’s fifth commandment delineates this heavenly obligation and duty: “”Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which The Lord your God gives you.” (Exodus 20:12 ).
God is our Holy Father, and we all, men and women, are His beloved children. Fathers on Earth are God’s servants who are entrusted by Him to safeguard, raise, embrace, support, provide and teach their children. Meanwhile fathers are required to carry their holy duties in raising their children in the fear of God, with the best of their knowledge, all their resource and means, full devotion and with all required sacrifices.
Fathers are the cornerstone of their families upon which children depend, learn, nurture, hold fast and shape their lives. Caring, devoted and righteous fathers are always given a hand by God and blessed for their rearing and erection of boundaries. Today we are celebrating “Fathers’ Day”, with all those who cherish fathers, appreciate their sacrifices and honor their Godly role. Best wishes to all fathers hoping they will be shown today all the due gratitude from their sons and daughters. On this very special day our deceased fathers’ and mothers’ spirits are roaming around sharing with us our joy and happiness, God bless their souls.
Attitudes of gratitude or ingratitude towards fathers on Fathers’ Day, are very sensitive issues that affect and touch the hearts and minds of many people. These two contradicting attitudes exhibit how much a person is either appreciative or ungrateful. The majority of people hold on dear to their fathers and do all that they can to always show them their great and deeply felt gratitude, while sadly there are those odd ones out who show no gratitude, abandon them and even at times endeavour to ruin their lives and inflict harm and pain on them. By doing so and negating God’s commandments that stress an utmost respect for parents, these people make themselves enemies of Christ Himself. Definitely God will be angry about such condemned conduct. This deviation from all human norms occur because of ignorance, selfishness, lack of faith and hope. These people fall into temptation, become proud of what they should be ashamed of, worship things that belong to this world and forget all about “Judgment Day”.
Colossians 3/20: “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord”.
Leviticus 20/09: “For anyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death; he has cursed his father or his mother; his blood is upon him”
Fathers no matter what must be loved, honored, dignified and respected. God Himself is a Father and He will not bless those who deny their fathers’ heavenly right of fatherhood and respect. In this context, Billy Graham says: “A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society.” The Holy Bible in tens of its verses warns and puts on notice all those with callous hearts and numbed conscience who show no gratitude to their fathers and break their hearts.
Isaiah 46:4: “Even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.”
Even when fathers are abandoned by their children and denied their heavenly rights, they never ever hold any grudges, feelings of hatred or hostility against them. No matter what, fathers always wish their children health, prosperity and success. One of our Lebanese deeply rooted sayings portray how fathers constantly feel towards their ungrateful children: ” My heart beats for my son no matter what, while my son’s heart is callous like a rock”. Many verses in the Holy Bible overtly call on the children to treat their parents with love, endurance, affection and utmost care. At the same time the Bible instructs parents to value the Godly delegation to them to raise their children with all means of righteous, protection and provision.
Proverbs 23/22: “Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old”.
Ephesians 06/01-02: “Children, it is your Christian duty to obey your parents, for this is the right thing to do. Respect your father and mother is the first commandment that has a promise added: so that all may go well with you, and you may live a long time in the land”.
Many grown-up men and women do not appreciate their parents’ sacrifices unless they themselves have become parents. Back home in Lebanon where the family has always been sacred, we have a saying that shows how important it is in the eyes of the God that parents are always to be respected, honored and loved. “God will not bless or facilitate the life of those who mistreat their parents and He will reply to the parents’ wrath when they ask for punishment for their ungrateful children”. Good, loving , faithful and God-fearing fathers know no hatred, grudges or despair. They remain, always, hopeful and keep on praying to Almighty God that their children, (grateful or ungrateful ) are constantly healthy, prosperous, happy, and successful .
Philippians 04/04-07: “May you always be joyful in your union with the Lord. I say it again: rejoice! Show a gentle attitude toward everyone. The Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart. And God’s peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus.”.Happy Fathers’ Day to all Fathers.

Crimes in Lebanon
Diana Moukalled/ArabNews/Saturday 17 June 2017
Crime has increased in many Lebanese areas. In Baalbek in the east, accessible weapons are becoming part of daily life, manifested by crimes committed by shameless people who do not hesitate to appear in public. For example, a young man was filmed shooting a food vendor because his order was delayed.
Weapons that are accessible to everyone are concentrated in areas under Hezbollah’s rule. Baalbek is famous for being a hub for Hezbollah and tribalism. Excuses for the accessibility of weapons, which is threatening social security, include the situation in Syria and fear of terrorists infiltrating Lebanon.
Murder has dominated headlines and public life in the past two weeks. The debate focuses on the issue of armed sects and the sense that killers enjoy impunity. The murder of a young man in a traffic dispute is an extension of a spreading culture of militarization. The young man who shot a food vendor relies on protection from a sectarian system that has protected many murderers previously. Weapons that are accessible to everyone are concentered in areas under Hezbollah’s rule. Baalbek is famous for being a hub for Hezbollah and tribalism.
The accessibility of weapons in Lebanon is not new. As much as armed militias, particularly Hezbollah, are to blame, political and sectarian elites are also involved via their silence, compliance, corruption and interest-based networks. These forces are likely to be re-elected soon by the very people who suffer from their corruption, as if Lebanese are voting for their killers. In Lebanon, sectarianism is stronger than hope and ambition for a better future.
• Diana Moukalled is a veteran journalist with extensive experience in both traditional and new media. She is also a columnist and freelance documentary producer. She can be reached on Twitter @dianamoukalled.

Aoun Brings together Lebanese Party Leaders for ‘Reform Workshop’

Asharq Al-Awsat/June 18/'17/Beirut – Soon after Lebanese President Michel Aoun’s success in adopting a new parliamentary electoral law, he called on political parties to take part in a “reform workshop” aimed at breathing new life in state institutions and putting an end to corruption in the country.
Aoun is expected to invite the heads of the political parties that are part of the government for a meeting at the presidential palace in Baabda to “activate the work of cabinet and let all sides assume their responsibility.”
Political powers earlier this week succeeded in adopting a new electoral law that saw parliament extend its term for a year in order to prepare for the polls that have been scheduled for May 6, 2018.
This is the third time that parliament extends its term.
Presidential sources told Asharq Al-Awsat: “We entered a new phase after the adoption of the new law. The phase should not be limited to preparing for the elections, but it should witness the revival of state institutions, starting with the government and parliament.”This entails the adoption of a series of laws and tackling sensitive development issues. The extension of parliament’s term to May 2018 also led to the extension of the government’s term.
Legal and constitutional expert, former Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar told Asharq Al-Awsat that the extension “turned things back to normal at parliament and cabinet.”
“It consequently completely restored normalcy in constitutional life,” he added.
Furthermore, he hoped that officials in the upcoming phase would prioritize restoring the trust of investors and tourists, especially Arabs, in Lebanon and attempt to revitalize the economy.
“What has so far been achieved does not meet the expectations of the Lebanese people. Regaining the trust of investors and tourists should take place simultaneously with a major workshop that puts an end to corruption,” declared Nahjjar.
Meanwhile, civil society activists, who clashed with security forces when parliament adopted the new electoral law on Friday, voiced their condemnation of the extension of parliament’s term.
They added that they will be suspending their activities until next year’s elections.
The “You Stink” campaign revealed that it will start taking “escalatory measures from now on and until the May 6 elections.”
“Accountability will take place at the ballot boxes and until then, we will continue. The next step will be on June 20 where we will announce the end of parliament’s term,” it said during a press conference.
“The time of fear is over,” it said.
The campaign activists also vowed to pursue the lawmakers “to pelt them with rotten eggs in a hope that they will learn their lessons.”
“The next choice is the choice of the nation, real change and the building of a democratic state,” they stressed.
Before the extension, parliament’s term was supposed to end on June 20.
Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi condemned the crackdown on protesters on Friday, saying that the people have the right for their demands to be heard.
Condemnations of the adopted electoral law also continued to pour in, with “Hezbollah’s” Loyalty to the Resistance bloc MP Kamel al-Rifai saying: “Sects are the winner in this law and the loser is Lebanon.”
MP Mohammed al-Safadi described the law as a “monster.”
Kataeb MP Elie Marouni said: “After a ten-year wait, a monster law is born. Where is the proportionality in this law?”

Aoun to Discuss 'Sectarianism, Senate' with Leaders, Govt. to Tackle Key Issues
Naharnet/June 18/17/President Michel Aoun intends to invite the country's top political leaders to a meeting in Baabda next week while the government is preparing to address important issues during the Wednesday Cabinet session, media reports said on Sunday. “Aoun intends to invite the leaders of the parties represented in government to a consultative meeting in Baabda and the presidential palace staff have started preparing for it,” the reports said. The meeting is aimed at “discussing the previous phase and its obstacles as well as the upcoming phase and the means to reactivate the work of state institutions,” the daily said. The conferees will “discuss the pending Taef Accord articles, especially in terms of abolishing political sectarianism as a prelude to creating a Senate,” ad-Diyar added. They will also tackle “vital projects that need to be executed” and will address “the rifts that were caused by the electoral law” negotiations, the newspaper said. “The president will put the leaders of the parties in the picture of his vision and reform ideas for the upcoming years of his tenure,” ad-Diyar added, noting that Speaker Nabih Berri “will contribute to President Aoun's efforts.”The Cabinet will meanwhile convene on Wednesday to discuss an agenda consisted of 67 items, topped by the Energy Ministry's call for tenders that is aimed at renting power generation ships, al-Mustaqbal newspaper said. The government is also preparing to tackle a host of key projects and laws in the upcoming period, most importantly “an economic plan, state budget, electricity, new administrative, diplomatic and judicial appointments, and an anti-corruption plan,” the daily added. These preparations come a few days after Parliament approved a new electoral law following months of political wrangling and several years of political stalemate. The new law paves the way for the first parliamentary elections in nine years. Parliament had extended its term twice since the last elections in 2009. Under the agreement, the current parliament's term will be extended once again, but this time for just 11 months to prepare for elections under the new rules in May 2018.
The new law replaces the existing winner-takes-all voting system with proportional representation and reduces the number of electoral districts.

Bou Assi Says Electoral Law Averted Vacuum and Threats
Naharnet/June 18/17/Social Affairs Minister Pierre Bou Assi of the Lebanese Forces has stressed that the approval of a new electoral law has spared the country political vacuum and several threats. “Certainly it is not the best law, but had we not achieved this law... we would have been talking today about vacuum, the destruction and paralysis of institutions and social, economic and security threats,” Bou Assi said. “I salute our comrade, MP George Adwan, on all the efforts he exerted,” the minister added. Adwan, who is the LF's deputy leader, had played a key role in promoting the new electoral law, which is based on full proportional representation and 15 electoral districts. The law was ratified by Parliament on Friday after months of political wrangling. It paves the way for the first parliamentary elections in nine years. Parliament had extended its term twice since the last elections in 2009. Under the agreement, the current parliament's term will be extended once again, but this time for just 11 months to prepare for elections under the new rules in May 2018.

Bassil Urges Hariri to be 'Spearhead' in Anti-Corruption Fight
Naharnet/June 18/17/Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil has called on Prime Minister Saad Hariri to be the “spearhead” in what he called the fight against corruption. “Today, we are looking forward to achieving drastic change in the country, and the same as the premier joined forces with us and did everything to facilitate the production of the electoral law, we are now greatly relying on him to cooperate with us and to be the spearhead with us in fighting corruption,” Bassil said during an FPM iftar banquet in the Akkar town of Minyara. Bassil also acknowledge that the civil society is “right about a lot of issues” regardless of “its means and methods of expression.”

Rifi Questions Electoral Neutrality of Government, Interior Ministry
Naharnet/June 18/17/Former justice minister Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi has questioned the electoral neutrality of Prime Minister Saad Hariri's government and the Interior Ministry, calling for the formation of a technocrat cabinet that would oversee the upcoming parliamentary elections. In remarks to Kuwaiti daily al-Seyassah published Sunday, Rifi, who achieved a stunning victory in Tripoli's 2016 municipal polls, demanded “an objective and neutral management of the upcoming parliamentary vote.”“More than half of the government's members will run in the elections and it is normal that they will seek to achieve their personal interests,” Rifi noted. “We have demanded an elections government and the resignation of the current government,” the ex-minister added, stressing that he questions “the integrity of Prime Minister Saad Hariri's government in the upcoming parliamentary elections.”“We have the experience of the last municipal polls, when the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities was not neutral, independent or objective in the management of the elections,” Rifi explained. “We highly suspect that the Beirut and Tripoli polls were rigged under the same interior minister, and this pushes me to question the neutrality of the government and the neutrality of the Interior Ministry,” the ex-minister added. On Friday, the parliament approved a long-awaited electoral law after months of political wrangling. The law paves the way for the first parliamentary elections in nine years. The deal comes after a stalemate that has seen the country's parliament extend its term twice since the last elections in 2009. Under the agreement, the current parliament's term will be extended once again, but this time for just 11 months to prepare for elections under the new rules in May 2018. The new law replaces the existing winner-takes-all voting system with proportional representation and reduces the number of electoral districts.

Eid al Fitr begins June 25, Fadlallah office says
Sun 18 Jun 2017/NNA - The office of late Senior Shiite Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah announced Sunday that the first day of the Fitr Feast falls on Sunday, June 25, 2017.It is to note that Fadlallah’s office relies on scientific, astronomical calculations to determine the start and end of the holy month.

Rahi calls on State authorities to find solutions for economic, social and security crisis
Sun 18 Jun 2017/NNA - Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rahi, called on Lebanese officials to find solutions for the economic, social and security crisis in the country. "Now that we approved a new electoral law, it is time to exert utmost efforts to find solutions for the daily living, economic, social and security crisis, and the repercussions of the increased number of refugees and displaced in the country," Rahi said during Sunday's Mass on the occasion of Father's Day. Rahi urged the International and Arab communities to put an end to the wars in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Palestine, in addition to engaging in the fight against terrorist organizations and guaranteeing the return of all refugees to their homelands.

Derian: Our project is a strong and fair state, Relation with PM Hariri is solid
Sun 18 Jun 2017/NNA - Mufti of the Republic, Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian, stressed that Muslims in the country are keen on having a strong, fair and capable state of rights and duties, one that equally belongs to all its citizens without discrimination, while describing his relationship with Prime Minister Saad Hariri as "solid." Speaking at an "Iftar" ceremony held in his honor by Middle Beqaa Municipalities Union Head, Mohamad al-Bast, at Sama Shtoura, Derian asserted that "the security of the Beqaa is the security of all of Lebanon," calling on Lebanese authorities to prevent any passive or self-security attempts in any part of the Beqaa region. Over the new election law, the Mufti deemed that "it is not the best law, yet it must take its course to implementation so that the Lebanese can feel relieved as they find themselves in the upcoming months before a parliament whose members they have chosen to the best interests of Lebanon."

Taimur Jumblat Tours Chouf Churches to Honor Christians Slain in 1977
Naharnet/June 18/17/Taimur Jumblat, the son of Druze leader MP Walid Jumblat and his declared political heir, on Sunday toured several churches in the Chouf region to honor Christian residents who were slain on March 16, 1977 in the wake of the assassination of Druze leader Kamal Jumblat.
“Coexistence remains the guarantee for us all amid the regional situation and the blazes that are surrounding us,” Taimur said. “We must turn the page on the painful past and look towards the future,” he added. Taimur laid wreaths of flowers at the churches he visited.
According to the National News Agency, the tour took Taimur to the Chouf district towns of Botmeh, Maaser al-Chouf, Mazraat al-Chouf and Barouk.

Egyptian Ambassador congratulates Lebanon on the new election law
Sun 18 Jun 2017 /NNA - Egyptian Ambassador Nazih al-Najari Sunday congratulated Lebanon on "the presidential mandate's achievements, the latest of which being the approved electoral law." "This proves the capability of the Lebanese community to deal with various internal and external factors in a manner that preserves this diverse country from the repercussions of the deteriorating regional situation, continuously ensuring its stability and welfare based on the relentless work of its distinguished institutions," added al-Najari. In this context, the Egyptian diplomat hailed the "great efforts exerted by the Lebanese parliament, government, authorities and political leaders in reaching this outcome that has pleased the Lebanese and all those interested in Lebanon's wellbeing."

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on June 18-19/17
Iran Fires at Militants in Syria in First Use of Mid-range Missiles in 30 Years
Haaretz/Reuters/June 18/17 /The Iranian Revolutionary Guards has fired ground-to-ground missiles from western Iran into eastern Syria, aiming at the bases of militant groups Iran holds responsible for attacks in Tehran which left 18 dead last week, the Tasnim news agency reported. "The spilling of any pure blood will not go unanswered," the Revolutionary Guards said in a statement, according to Tasnim. The Guard's website, as well as semi-official news agencies, reported the strikes Sunday on Deir el-Zour, Syria. The Guard's website said it launched surface-to-surface medium-range missiles targeting the area. It did not immediately offer other specifics, other than to say the missiles were launched from Iran. This was the first operational use of mid-range missiles by Iran since the war with Iraq, which ended in 1988. Five Islamic State-linked attackers stormed Iran's parliament and a shrine to revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini this month, killing at least 18 people and wounding more than 50.

Egyptian officer killed and four injured in Cairo explosion
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Sunday, 18 June 2017/An Egyptian police officer was killed and four others were injured in an explosion targeting a security patrol in the Maadi area south of Cairo. The Egyptian Interior Ministry said that at around 1:00 am on Sunday morning, a group of officers and a member of the Central Security Forces were passing by Al-Basatin Police Station when a roadside bomb exploded. The ministry said that the incident resulted in the killing of the first lieutenant Ali Ahmed Shawki Ali Abdul Khaliq, and wounding four others: an officer and three recruits. It added that the injured were immediately taken to the hospital for treatment, and the security services stepped up their efforts to arrest the perpetrators.

Truce in Syria’s Daraa between Washington, Moscow
Asharq Al-Awsat/June 18/17/Beirut, Baghdad, Moscow, London – A temporary truce was announced on Saturday between the Syrian regime and opposition forces in Daraa. The announcement was made after intense talks between American and Russian officials in the Jordanian capital Amman. At the same time, Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces reached al-Walid crossing near al-Tanf military camp that is used by the US to train opposition forces. The Syrian news agency SANA reported according to a regime forces statement that they had halted military operations in Daraa for 48 hours, starting Saturday afternoon, “to back the national reconciliation efforts”. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights later confirmed the ceasefire, reporting that three hours of calm had passed since the announcement of the truce. The quiet was interrupted however by intermittent shelling by the regime, it added. An opposition commander refuted to Reuters however that the attacks had stopped. He said that the opposition was not informed of the truce and the regime is still continuing its attacks. A media source noted that the situation on the ground “is tipped in favor of the rebels and the ceasefire is like a victory for the factions that have persevered for weeks against the barbaric military machine of the regime and its militias.”The truce announcement is tantamount to a “partial withdrawal by the regime so that it could save face before its supporters,” it added. Washington hailed the ceasefire, calling on Damascus to commit to its pledges and urging the opposition to stop its attacks. Meanwhile, the Israeli ambassador in Moscow, Harry Koren, revealed that Tel Aviv is carrying out contacts with Russia over setting up “de-escalation” zones in southwest Syria. The zones would include Daraa, which lies on the border with Jordan, and al-Quneitra, which lies adjacent to the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The Observatory said on Saturday that foreign special forces are fighting on the frontlines of the US-led international coalition against ISIS. Some 400 American and French soldiers are taking part in the battle for the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, said activist Abou Mohammed al-Raqqawi.

Riyadh: We Will Not Allow Turkish Bases on our Soil
Asharq Al-Awsat/June 18/17/Jeddah – Saudi Arabia cannot allow Turkey to set up military bases on its territories, an official security source said according to the Saudi Foreign Ministry on Twitter. The source explained that the kingdom does not need foreign bases on its land because its own armed forces are at their top level. These forces themselves are present abroad, including Incirlik base in Turkey, for the purpose of combating terrorism and protecting security and stability in the region. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had on Friday proposed that Ankara set up a military base in Saudi Arabia, reported Anadolu news agency and Agence France Presse.

Tillerson Cancels Mexico Trip to Focus on Gulf Crisis
Heba El Koudsy/Asharq Al-Awsat/June 18/17/Washington – US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson cancelled his participation at next week’s Organization of American States meeting in Mexico to instead remain in Washington to focus on the crisis in the Arab Gulf. The State Department said: “The secretary of state will continue his efforts to de-escalate tensions in the Middle East region through in-person meetings and phone conversations with Gulf and regional leaders.” Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan will represent the United States at the regional meeting scheduled for Monday to Wednesday in the resort city of Cancun. Tillerson “has made more than a dozen phone calls and participated in several in-person meetings” in efforts to tamp down the crisis, the State Department said. “The secretary will continue these efforts.” Tillerson had held talks on Tuesday with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan on Wednesday night. On Friday, he met with Qatari investment Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamed bin Khalifa Al Thani at the State Department. The US official also held talks with his Omani counterpart Youssef bin Alawi on ways to resolve the diplomatic crisis with the backing of the Kuwaiti mediation seeing as it is the best way to avoid escalation. A State Department official told Asharq Al-Awsat that Washington is trying to remind Qatar of the importance of the Gulf Cooperation Council and the need to comply with the demands of its neighbors. So far, nine Arab and Islamic countries have severed their diplomatic ties with Qatar as the crisis entered its third week with no solution in sight. Washington has called on Qatar to carry out a series of steps to achieve change in its political policies. It realizes that Doha does not have any other options but to comply with the demands of its neighbors. The US shares Arab fears over Qatar’s behavior and its sponsoring of extremist individuals and groups.

Allawi Accuses Qatar of Having Tried to Divide Iraq
Sawsan Abu-Husain/Asharq Al-Awsat/June 18/17/Cairo – Iraqi Vice President Iyad Allawi accused on Saturday Qatar of having previously backed a project, which he had strongly confronted, to divide Iraq. During a press conference held in Cairo, Allawi said Qatar supported a project to split Iraq into a Sunni region in exchange for a Shi’ite region. “I told the Qataris, I would not allow this,” he noted. The Iraqi vice president said it was important to speak and make things clear to the Qataris about all their mistakes and violations. “Unfortunately, some Arab states were silent when it came to Qatar,” he said. During his three-day visit to Cairo, Allawi met with Egyptian leaders, including President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. He also warned about the Iranian and Turkish interferences in the internal affairs of Arab states. UAE Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan held during his visit to Washington several meetings on Saturday with senior members of Congress, including Senator Chris Murphy, Representative Mark Meadows, Senator Chris Coons, Senator Michael Bennet, Senator Tim Kaine (Virginia) and Representative and House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer. Sheikh Abdullah briefed them on the diplomatic and economic measures taken by his country and each of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt against Qatar, “in order to stop its financial support for extremist organizations and its interference in the affairs of other countries.”Separately, Reuters quoted two informed sources saying that Qatar’s efforts to force its Gulf neighbors to reopen their airspace to its flights were left unresolved after Saudi Arabia argued the closure was part of a bigger political rift that could not be fixed by the United Nation’s aviation agency. The news agency said that two days of technical talks involved transport ministers and aviation officials from several Gulf states and Egypt, along with senior officials from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a specialized agency of the UN that supports the development of global aviation.
It added that Qatar had asked the ICAO to intervene after its national carrier was denied access to its neighbors’ airspace as part of economic sanctions.

Iraqi forces launch assault to retake Mosul’s Old City from ISIS
Agencies Sunday, 18 June 2017/Iraqi forces on Sunday started their assault on Mosul's Old City as they press their battle to retake the northern city from ISIS, an army commander said. "The army, counter-terrorism forces and federal police launched an attack on the Old City", Staff Lieutenant General Abdulamir Yarallah said in a statement. The historic district is the last still under control of the militants in the northern Iraqi city, which used to be their capital in Iraq. The US-backed Iraqi offensive to capture Mosul entered its ninth month on Saturday. (AFP and Reuters)

Egypt Sentences 19 Brotherhood Members to Life in Jail
Asharq Al-Awsat/June 18/17/Nineteen Muslim Brotherhood members in Egypt have been sentenced to life in prison for rioting and staging demonstrations against the state, judicial sources in the eastern district criminal court announced on Sunday. The verdict was released in absentia against the suspects, who include one woman. The court also sentenced others in the case to three years in prison. One was acquitted. These four detainees were present at the court sentencing. The accused were originally referred to trial in 2015 on charges of rioting, possession of arms and pamphlets of incitement and organizing rallies against the state, police and army. The accused were arrested in wake of the demonstrations that were organized by the banned Muslim Brotherhood against the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi in 2013. The sentenced have right to appeal the ruling before the highest civil court in Egypt. Those tried in absentia have the right to a retrial if they are caught or if they turn themselves over to the authorities. They do not need to appeal the ruling.

Saudi, UAE, Egypt Diplomats Discuss Qatar Crisis with Sudanese FM

Ahmed Younis/Asharq Al-Awsat/June 18/17/Khartoum – Diplomats from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt held a series of discussions with Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour over the Gulf region and crisis with Qatar. Prior to the meeting, it was said that the diplomats wanted to meet with the Sudanese official to inquire about his government’s stance on the crisis. Secrecy prevailed over the outcomes of the talks and very little information was released about it even though it was held on Friday. Foreign Ministry spokesman al-Qariballah al-Khodr said in a statement on Saturday that Ghandour met at his Khartoum office with the ambassadors of the UAE and Egypt and acting ambassador of Saudi Arabia. Khodr said that the three officials expressed their appreciation of Sudan’s position and his role in bolstering and protecting national Arab security. The statement added that the gatherers addressed the Gulf crisis, with Ghandour saying that Sudan’s stance stems from its keenness on reconciling Arab brothers through supporting the initiative of the Emir of Kuwait. No further details were disclosed. Sudan looks at the Gulf Cooperation Council as an “example of Arab solidarity and unity,” said Ghandour. President Omar al-Bashir has faith in the “wisdom and ability of the Gulf to overcome the crisis” in a manner that would ensure its interests and unity, he added.

Turkey Condemns US Warning of Possible Istanbul Terror Attack
Saeed Abdelrazek/Asharq Al-Awsat/June 18/17/Ankara – A spokesman for the Turkish Foreign Ministry slammed on Saturday a US consular warning of a possible terrorist attack in the city of Istanbul. Hussein Mufti Oglu condemned the warning as not being based on any tangible intelligence, but on the activity of Turkish police and the intensified security forces patrols in the neighborhoods of Mecidiyekoy and Sisli. “US authorities made this statement based on normal precautions taken by our security forces rather than any concrete intelligence.”A US Consulate in Turkey has alerted its citizens of heightened security in the central Istanbul neighborhood of Mecidiyekoy and Sisli because of a possible terror threat. The statement released late Friday said the Turkish security presence was increased in Mecidiyekoy and cited a specific street. It said the consulate didn’t have additional information on the specifics of the threat and asked American citizens to remain vigilant.Istanbul is witnessing numerous security campaigns aimed at establishing stability and arresting terrorist suspects. In a related development, security forces detained 11 suspected ISIS extremists in the southern Gaziantep district by the border with Syria. The detainees, who include Syrians, were plotting a terror attack aimed at creating media uproar.

Iran’s Zarif Kicks Off Algeria, Tunisia, Mauritania Tour
Asharq Al-Awsat/Asharq Al-Awsat/June 18/17/London – Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif will kick off on Sunday a tour of North Africa that includes Algeria, Mauritania and Tunisia. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said that the two-day visit will tackle regional developments, including Syria and the Arab Gulf. Regional developments demand more solidarity, said spokesman Bahram Qasemi. Separately, a delegation of Afghan officials, diplomats and negotiators began a trip to Iran to carry out negotiations on strategic cooperation with Iranian officials. Zarif had paid a visit to the Afghan capital Kabul in May to kick off the negotiations that are aimed at reaching a strategic cooperation document. Based on his talks, the two sides agreed to form five committees that cover security, economy, culture, water and immigrant affairs. The foreign ministers of Iran and Afghanistan will chair these committees. Meanwhile, Iranian and Chinese warships are set to carry out on Sunday a joint military drill in the Hormuz Strait and Oman Sea, reported the Iranian news agency IRNA. The purpose of the exercise is to trade security expertise and preserve stability in the Indian Ocean and waterways in the area.

Detained Migrants Show World Signs of their Abuse in Libya
Asharq Al-Awsat/June 18/17/Geneva – A number of migrants suffering from hunger, torture and sexual abuse at the hands of human-traffickers presented filmed evidence of these crimes in a video of the area where they are being held. The Geneva-based International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that the video shows 250 migrants from Somalia and Ethiopia who are in haggard shape and in obvious shock. The United Nations had in November said that as many as 7,000 detained migrants suffer tragic conditions similar to the detainees in Libya. The video that was posted on Facebook days ago was direct and clear evidence of its claims. One of the detainees said that he has been in the detention center for a year and that he is beaten on a daily basis. His statement was recorded by a Somali journalist in Turkey. The relatives of the detainees often receive short video footage through social media of their loved ones. The recordings are means to extract a ransom that could reach as much as 10,000 dollars for the release of the migrant. The IOM and UN had urged social media companies to take the necessary measures to ensure that their platforms are not abused in such ways. The IOM and Libyan authorities are still trying to locate the detention center to free the detainees. Meanwhile, the Libyan coastguard rescued more than 900 African and Asian migrants attempting to reach Europe, a navy spokesman said on Saturday. “A coastguard patrol from Zawiya (west of Tripoli) intercepted five inflatable boats and a wooden vessel carrying 906 migrants at dawn on Friday,” General Ayoub Qassem said. He added that 25 children and 98 women, including seven who were pregnant, were among those rescued. “One of the rubber boats was holed and on the point of sinking, while the wooden one did not have a motor,” he said.

Royal Decrees Revamp Saudi Public Prosecution Now Functioning Under King Salman
Asharq Al-Awsat/June 18/17/Riyadh- Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud on Saturday released a number of royal orders which revamped the kingdom’s public prosecution offices. The offices, previously called “The Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution” now are to be known as “the Public Prosecution” and its chairman will be given the title of “Public Prosecutor”. Public prosecution functions directly under the King’s auspices, whilst enjoying full independence, said the Saudi Press Agency SPA. The national Cabinet was also directed to review regulations and bylaws the bureau and other related legislation function under. Within the period of 90 days, any amendments that are in accordance with the directives present in the royal decree must be proposed. King Salman also relieved BIP’s head, Sheikh Mohammed Al-Oraini, replacing him with Sheikh Saud bin Abdullah Al-Meageb as public prosecutor with the rank of minister. The decree also ordered the retirement of the director of general security, Lt. Gen. Othman bin Naser Al-Muhrij, who was replaced by Lt. Gen. Saud bin Abdul Aziz Hallal. Abdulhakeem bin Mohammed Al-Tamimi was appointed president of the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) with the rank of minister, and Suhail Mohammed Abanumai was named in the decree as governor of the General Authority of Zakat and Tax (GAZT). The royal decrees also appointed Faisal bin Abdul Aziz bin La as adviser at the Royal Court at the rank of general, and Abdul Aziz Al-Hamed as director of Prince Sattam bin Abdul Aziz University. Uqla bin Ali Al-Uqla was named deputy chief and Fahd bin Abdullah bin Abdullatif Al-Mubarak as adviser at the Royal Court at the rank of minister. The decree also appointed Tamim bin Abdul Aziz Al-Salem as assistant special secretary to King Salman at the rank of minister. Other appointees at ministerial rank include Aqla Bin Ali Al-Aqla as deputy chief of the Royal Court, Dr. Fahd Bin Abdullah Bin Abdul Latif Al-Mubarak as adviser at the Royal Court, Musaed Bin Nasser Al-Barrak as adviser at the Royal Court, Turki Bin Abdulmohsen Al-Asheikh as adviser at the Royal Court. Dr. Hamad Bin Mohammed Bin Hamad Al- Asheikh was named adviser at the Royal Court at the excellent rank.

Hamas, PFLP, ISIS Buck over Claiming Recent Jerusalem Attack
Kifah Ziboun/Asharq Al-Awsat/June 18/17/Ramallah- Each of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine PFLP, Hamas and terror group ISIS have claimed involvement in the attack staged by three young Palestinian nationals in Jerusalem which killed a police officer. Three Palestinians armed with an automatic weapon and knives attacked Israeli officers on duty near Jerusalem’s Old City in twin attacks at two locations on Friday evening, critically wounding one before they were shot and killed. All three perpetrators were later shot down by Israeli soldiers. Terror group ISIS claimed responsibility of the attack, reaffirming that the attack was premeditated and not improvised. Later on, Gaza Strip ruling party Hamas said that ISIS’ proclamation is incorrect and an attempt to distort the political scene. “The three heroes, now martyrs, who have stage the Jerusalem attack are not affiliated with ISIS and are Hamas and Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine members,” senior Hamas leader and spokesman Izzat al-Rishq tweeted. For its part, the PFLP issued a statement taking pride in and praising the operation, saying that Baraa and Osama –two of the three who had staged the attack- belonged to its ranks. It also mentioned that the two young Palestinians had been jailed in Israeli prisons before. A wave of Palestinian street attacks began in October 2015 but has since slowed. Israel blames the violence on incitement by the Palestinian leadership. The Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank, denies that and says assailants have acted out of frustration over Israeli occupation of land sought by Palestinians in peace talks that have been stalled since 2014. On the other hand, Israeli authorities responded to the attack by revoking the visas of over half a million Palestinians which were previously granted in the observance of the Muslim Holy month of Ramadan and the upcoming holidays. More so, Israeli authorities have transformed Jerusalem to a military garrison and raided the Ramallah village known as Deir Abu Mash’al, where the three perpetrators were based.

Egyptian on terror list says those boycotting Qatar are ‘allied with crusaders’
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Sunday, 18 June 2017/Egyptian fugitive Wagdy Ghoneim, who is on the Qatar-linked terror list and who had fled to Qatar, slammed Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates and described them as “demons.”In response to these countries’ decision to cut ties with Qatar and to their list of designated individuals and entities whom Qatar supports or harbors, he said via a YouTube video that these four countries are hostile to Islam and support “crusaders and infidels.”Ghoneim also defended Qatar and its policy and voiced gratitude that Doha protected him and others.
He added that those who accuse him of terrorism were “God’s enemies,” and mocked Gulf countries’ support of Egypt and President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi.
Ghoneim’s relation with Qatar began after he was expelled from Bahrain and Britain due to his takfiri fatwas (religious edicts).
Since he was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, he headed to Qatar in 2013. An Egyptian security source told that Ghoneim dealt with Qatari institutions which supported and funded terrorists under the pretext of aid, adding that Ghoneim and his family lived in a villa in Doha where he nominated the terrorist entities and groups which could receive financial support from Qatar. Following GCC pressures on Doha in 2014, the latter had to send Ghoneim away, so he went to live in Turkey. Doha pledged to fund him while he continued to pick and choose the entities and individuals who receive Qatari financial support.

Israel revokes Ramadan goodwill measures after attack

The Associated Press, Jerusalem Sunday, 18 June 2017/Israel’s prime minister says he has revoked visitation rights for Palestinians that were approved for the holy month of Ramadan following a deadly attack on an Israeli servicewoman. Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that preparations are underway to destroy the homes of the attackers and tighten security at the entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem. Three Palestinians armed with knives and an automatic weapon carried out near simultaneous attacks at two locations Friday night. Police Staff Sgt. Maj. Hadas Malka, 23, was stabbed to death.
At his weekly Cabinet meeting, Netanyahu lashed out at Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas for not condemning the attack. Israel had previously announced a series of goodwill measures for Ramadan that included access for 100 Gaza residents to attend prayers at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Kuwait Commutes Death Sentence of Alleged 'Hizbullah Operative'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 18/17/Kuwait's supreme court on Sunday reduced the death sentence of a Shiite citizen convicted of forming a pro-Iranian cell and of plotting attacks to life in prison. Hasan Abdulhadi Ali was sentenced to death by the lower and appeals courts last year after he was convicted of being "the mastermind of a cell" of 26 Shiites accused of links to Iran and of plotting attacks in the Sunni-ruled emirate. Members of the cell had been charged with spying for Iran and hiding large quantities of arms, explosives and ammunition in underground warehouses. Ali was also found guilty of having been an operative of Lebanon's Hizbullah since 1996 and of smuggling significant amounts of arms and explosives from Iran into Kuwait. The supreme court judges, whose rulings are final, sentenced 20 other members of the cell to between five and 15 years in jail and acquitted two. The cases of the remaining three members were not taken up by the supreme court because they remain fugitives. They include the only Iranian member of the cell, Abdulredha Haider, who was handed the death penalty in absentia by the lower court in January last year. The court had accused Haider of ties to Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard and of recruiting the Kuwaiti Shiites and facilitating their travel to Lebanon, where they received military training from Iran-backed Hizbullah. The 23 defendants present at the trial have denied the charges and said that their confessions were extracted under torture. Iran has denied any links to the group. Around a third of Kuwait's native population of 1.35 million is Shiite.

Macron Eyes Next Stage in Revolution in Parliament Polls
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 18/17/French voters went to the polls on Sunday in a parliamentary election set to hand a landslide victory to the centrist party of President Emmanuel Macron which would complete his stunning reset of national politics. The new assembly is due to be transformed with a new generation of lawmakers -- younger, more female and more ethnically diverse -- winning seats in the afterglow of Macron's success in last month's presidential election. The scale of the change is forecast to be so large that some observers have compared the overhaul to 1958, the start of the present presidential system, or even the post-war rebirth of French democracy in 1945. It is also entirely unexpected: Macron was unknown three years ago and initially given little chance of emerging as president, but he and his 15-month-old Republique en Marche (Republic On the Move, (REM) party have tapped into widespread desire for change. And yet despite the zest for renewal the vote has failed to generate much excitement. Official statistics showed turnout at midday down more than three points over the last election in 2012 at 17.75 percent, revealing a degree of election fatigue. REM and its allies are forecast to win 400-470 seats in the 577-strong parliament, one of the biggest post-war majorities that would give the pro-EU Macron a free hand to implement his business-friendly program.
'Desperately seeking an opposition'
Sunday's voting is the decisive second round of the election after a first round last weekend that was topped by REM and which was also marked by low turnout. If confirmed, REM's crushing win will come at the expense of France's traditional parties, the rightwing Republicans and Socialists, but also the far-right National Front which faces major disappointment. The Socialists are set to be the biggest victim of voters' desire to reject establishment figures associated with years of high unemployment, social unrest and lost national confidence. Pollsters predict the party will lose well over 200 seats after its five years in power under former president Francois Hollande, leaving them with only around 20. "People are tired of always seeing the same faces," said Natacha Dumay, a 59-year-old teacher voting in the northeastern Paris suburb of Pantin where Socialist former justice minister Elisabeth Guigou was voted out a week ago. "Even if we don't know the new faces it's not important. We're not voting for individuals but for a program," she added. The main concern for observers and critics is the likely absence of any political counterweight to Macron, leading some to forecast that opposition could be led through street protests or in the media. "Desperately seeking an opposition," declared the front page of Saturday's Le Parisien newspaper.
Virtual unknowns
Turnout will be closely watched after it hit a nearly 60-year low in the first round, leading some to warn Macron that his mandate is not as strong as he thinks. REM won 32 percent of the total number of votes cast in the first round, but this represented only about 15 percent of registered voters. "Go and vote!" Prime Minister Edouard Philippe urged on Thursday, calling it both "a right and a responsibility."Around half of REM's candidates are virtual unknowns drawn from diverse fields of academia, business or local activism. They include a mathematician, a bullfighter and a former Rwandan orphan. "You could take a goat and give it Macron's endorsement and it would have a a good chance of being elected," political analyst Christophe Barbier joked recently. In some areas of Paris, the comment prompted a guerrilla campaign to replace photographs of REM candidates with a picture of a goat on their posters outside voting stations. The other half of Macron's loyalists are a mix of centrists and moderate left- and right-wing politicians drawn from established parties including ally MoDem.
Le Pen in action
Key battles on Sunday include far-right leader Marine Le Pen's attempt to win her first seat in parliament in the northeastern former coal mining town of Henin-Beaumont. Her victory would be a rare bright spot for Le Pen's nationalist and anti-EU party which was once hoping to emerge as the principal opposition to Macron in parliament. The firebrand and influential leader of new far-left party France Unbowed, Jean-Luc Melenchon, is also seeking a seat representing the Mediterranean port of Marseille. Macron's program includes radical labor market reforms, measures to deepen European integration and an overhaul of the social security system. He has vowed to take on French unions by creating a system of "flexi-security" inspired by Scandinavian countries which combines a solid state-funded safety net with company-friendly legislation. His confident start at home, where he has concentrated on trying to restore the lost prestige of the president, and his decisive action on the international stage has led to a host of positive headlines. The European front cover of The Economist magazine this week asks whether Macron is "Europe's savior" and depicts him walking on water.

Huge Portugal Forest Fires Kill 43, Injure Scores
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 18/17/Raging forest fires in central Portugal have killed at least 43 people, most of whom burned to death in their cars, and injured scores of others, the government said Sunday. Nearly 600 firefighters and 160 vehicles were dispatched late Saturday to tackle the blaze, which broke out in the afternoon in the municipality of Pedrogao Grande, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Coimbra, before spreading fast across several fronts. "Unfortunately this seems to be the greatest tragedy we have seen in recent years in terms of forest fires," a visibly moved Prime Minister Antonio Costa said. "The number of fatalities could still rise," he said at the Civil Protection headquarters near Lisbon. "The priority now is to save those people who could still be in danger."Portugal was sweltering under a severe heatwave Saturday, with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in several regions. Some 60 forest fires broke out across the country during the night, with around 1,700 firefighters battling to put them out. Secretary of State for the Interior Jorge Gomes said 43 people burned to death, mostly trapped in their cars engulfed by flames in the Leiria region. At least 59 were injured. The flames spread "with great violence", moving out on four fronts, Gomes said. "It is difficult to say if they were fleeing the flames or were taken by surprise."
EU offers assistance
Dry thunderstorms could have been the cause of the fatal blaze, according to the prime minister.
A number of villages were affected by the main fire and evacuation procedures had been put in place for some of them, Costa added. Officials were not immediately able to comment on the extent of the damage. Spain dispatched two water-bombing planes on Sunday morning to aid the Portuguese fire service on the ground, Costa said. He added a period of national mourning would be announced shortly. "My thoughts are with the victims in Portugal," EU commission head Jean-Claude Juncker tweeted. "I commend the bravery of the firefighters. EU civil protection mechanism activated & will help."President Marcelo Rebelo went to the Leiria region to meet families of the victims, "sharing their pain in the name of all the Portuguese people," he said. Firefighters did "all they could" when faced with the blaze, he added. Dozens of people who fled their homes were taken in by residents of the nearby municipality of Ansiao. "There are people who arrived saying they didn't want to die in their homes, which were surrounded by flames," Ansiao resident Ricardo Tristao told reporters. Portugal was hit by a series of fires last year which devastated more than 100,000 hectares (1,000 square kilometers) of the mainland.
Fires on the tourist island of Madeira in August killed three people, while over the course of 2016 around 40 homes were destroyed and 5,400 hectares of land burned.

Explosion in Bogota shopping center kills three, wounds nine
Sun 18 Jun 2017/NNA - Three women were killed and nine wounded after an explosive device detonated in a restroom in a busy upscale shopping center in Colombia's capital on Saturday. The Andino shopping mall in an exclusive area of Bogota was evacuated after the blast, which occurred around 5 p.m. local time (2200 GMT) in the women's toilet. The commercial center was packed with people buying gifts ahead of Father's Day celebrations on Sunday. Police said the device was placed in a toilet bowl in the second-floor restroom. President Juan Manuel Santos denounced the attack and promised to bring those responsible to justice. "We won't let terrorism frighten us," Santos said from inside the shopping center. "Bogotanos should feel safe and protected. We won't let our guard down but we mustn't panic. That's what terrorists want."One of the victims was a 23-year-old French woman who had been volunteering in a poor area of the city, Bogota Mayor Enrique Penalosa told reporters. Streets surrounding the shopping center were closed and buildings cleared as ambulances raced to the scene and security officials tried to establish who was responsible for the blast. Bomb squad specialists combed the area for additional devices. Photographs on social media showed a woman slumped against the wall in a pool of blood and what appeared to be a shard of metal piercing her back. In front of her was another woman with her leg torn apart above the knee. Another image showed the destroyed toilet cubicle with a blood-splattered handrail and debris strewn over the floor. Santos ordered an investigation into the incident. Security has improved in Bogota over the past decade as police and military increased surveillance and put more armed officials on the streets. At one time all bags were checked at the entrance to shopping malls, but that has been vastly scaled back in recent years. Sniffer dogs still check cars at parking facilities in the capital. A peace accord signed last year with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the country's biggest guerrilla group, raised confidence bomb attacks might cease.
The country's second-largest insurgent group, the National Liberation Army (ELN), in February exploded a bomb in Bogota, injuring dozens of police. The Marxist ELN, currently negotiating peace with the government, in a tweet condemned the attack against civilians. Authorities said there have been threats of attacks in Bogota by the so-called Gulf Clan, a group of former right-wing paramilitary fighters who traffic drugs. ---Reuters

USS Fitzgerald: missing sailors found dead in flooded area of ship
Sun 18 Jun 2017/NNA - The bodies of some of the seven US navy sailors missing after their destroyer collided with a container ship off the east coast of Japan have been found. US and Japanese ships and aircraft launched a huge air and sea search for the crew but “a number of bodies” were found on Sunday in the flooded quarters of the damaged destroyer USS Fitzgerald, the US 7th fleet said in a statement. “As search and rescue crews gained access to the spaces that were damaged during the collision, the missing sailors were located in the flooded berthing compartments,” it said. “They are currently being transferred to naval hospital Yokosuka where they will be identified. The families are being notified and being provided the support they need during this difficult time. The names of the sailors will be released after all notifications are made.”The Fitzgerald, with the help of tugboats, had arrived back at its home port of Yokosuka naval base, south of Tokyo, on Saturday evening. The other vessel involved in the pre-dawn collision, the Philippine-flagged ACX Crystal, berthed at Tokyo’s Oi wharf, where its crew was questioned by investigators. Three people aboard the destroyer were medically evacuated, including Commander Bryce Benson, who was reportedly in a stable condition after being airlifted to the US naval hospital at the Yokosuka base, the navy said. The other two injured crew members were treated at the hospital for cuts and bruises. The US 7th Fleet said the collision damaged two berthing spaces, a machinery room and the ship’s radio room. Most of the more than 200 sailors aboard the Fitzgerald would have been asleep at the time of the incident. Water had to be pumped out of flooded areas before the crushed mid-right side of the ship could be searched, the statement said. “This has been a difficult day,” said vice-admiral Joseph Aucoin, commander of the 7th Fleet on Saturday. “I am humbled by the bravery and tenacity of the Fitzgerald crew. Now that the ship is in Yokosuka, I ask that you help the families by maintaining their privacy as we continue the search for our shipmates.”Rear-admiral Charles Williams, commander of the naval taskforce in the area, said: “I want to highlight the extraordinary courage of the Fitzgerald sailors who contained the flooding, stabilised the ship, and sailed her back to Yokosuka despite the exceptionally trying circumstances.”Donald Trump tweeted thanks to Japan for its assistance in the search mission, saying: “Thoughts and prayers [are] with the sailors of USS Fitzgerald and their families.”Initial fears that the guided missile destroyer was at risk of sinking receded after US navy officials said flooding in three damaged sections of the vessel had been brought under control.
While the cause of the accident has yet to be determined, Japan’s public broadcaster NHK said the ACX Crystal had made a sharp turn shortly before the collision. Nippon Yusen KK, the Japanese company that charters the container ship, said in a statement it would cooperate fully with the coastguard’s investigation. All 20 Filipino crew members aboard the ship were safe, it added. Japanese and US officials were discussing how to conduct the investigation. Japan is permitted to investigate since the collision happened in its waters, but under the countries’ status of forces agreement the US has primary jurisdiction over incidents involving vessels such as the Fitzgerald. ---The Guardian

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on June 18-19/17
How Iran exploited Tehran terror attacks for its own gain

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/ArabNews/Friday 18 June/17
This week, Iran’s state-owned media made outlandish accusations and vigorously lashed out at the US and Saudi Arabia over the attacks in Tehran. They were following Tehran’s agenda as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani and other Iranian leaders escalated anti-US and anti-Saudi sentiment by issuing incendiary statements.
After Friday prayers, the government staged demonstrations during a funeral ceremony, with chants of “death to the US” and “death to Saudi Arabia.” Khamenei said the attacks in Tehran will only hurt the US and Saudi governments, and “will not damage the Iranian nation’s determination.”
This is part of Iran’s broader agenda to fuel hatred of the US, Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab nations, and thereby create more instability that will enable Tehran to further expand its regional influence. Iran is also taking advantage of the Tehran attacks to crack down on domestic opposition, including minorities such as the Kurds and Sunni Arabs. Tehran’s sectarian agenda is anchored in deepening the gap between Sunnis and Shiites.
Government seeks to advance its regional ambitions, suppress opposition and fuel anti-American, anti-Saudi and anti-Sunni sentiment.
Iran will use the Tehran attacks to dispatch more of its forces to Syria and Iraq, and to send more financial and military aid to militias and proxies across the region. Khamenei is exploiting the attacks to buttress his long-held, three-pronged narrative that Iran has enemies, it is a victim, and it is a force against terror groups, particularly Sunni ones.
This narrative is totally inaccurate. Iran is listed as the top state sponsor of terrorism by various intelligence reports. Even the State Department under former US President Barack Obama said Iran “remained the foremost state sponsor of terrorism… providing a range of support, including financial, training, and equipment, to groups around the world,” particularly Hezbollah.
It added: “Iran continued to be deeply involved in the conflict in Syria, working closely with the (Assad) regime to counter the Syrian opposition, and also in Iraq where Iran continued to provide support to militia groups.” It was also “implicated for its support to violent Shia opposition group attacks in Bahrain.”
My research at Harvard University revealed that roughly 40 percent of world-designated terrorist groups are supported by only one government: Iran’s. More fundamentally, the argument that Shiite Iran is at the opposite end of the spectrum regarding Sunni extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda and Daesh is totally inaccurate.
There is plenty of credible and substantiated evidence that Iran not only supports Shiite fundamentalist groups, but has backed leaders of other extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda. For example, a bipartisan 9/11 commission report pointed out that there was “strong evidence that Iran facilitated the transit of Al-Qaeda members into and out of Afghanistan before 9/11, and that some of these were future 9/11 hijackers.”
Iran supports any terror and extremist group that shares its anti-American and anti-Saudi agenda. It is deplorable that whenever there is a terrorist attack in another country, Iranian leaders and media blame the grieving nations. It is despicable to display jubilance over such attacks and to try to score political points.
For example, when the Paris attacks occurred, Kayhan newspaper — considered a mouthpiece of Khamenei, who appoints the editor in chief — had a front-page headline that read: “The rabid dog of the Islamic State (Daesh) bit the leg of its owners.”
Iran is blatantly taking advantage of the Tehran attacks and people’s suffering to advance its regional ambitions, suppress opposition and fuel anti-American, anti-Saudi and anti-Sunni sentiment.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated, Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. He serves on the boards of the Harvard International Review, the Harvard International Relations Council and the US-Middle East Chamber for Commerce and Business. He can be reached on Twitter @Dr_Rafizadeh.

A mechanism for US mediation in the Gulf
Raghida Dergham/Al Hayat/ Saturday 18 June 2017
The current crisis between heavyweight Arab countries and Qatar requires exceptional and decisive US mediation. It should be led by a veteran high-level envoy well experienced in Arab affairs, who is respected and supported by President Donald Trump and top members of his administration.
The envoy’s mission must be clearly articulated and well defined as part of a specific mechanism and timetable for tit-for-tat measures by Qatar. Only this kind of approach will be able to contain the crisis and mend intra-Gulf ties.
It may be prudent to consider Gen. David Petraeus given the confidence he enjoys in Washington, and the fact that he understands the language of decisiveness in the Arab world.
It is encouraging that all the parties concerned with the spat with Qatar have been keen not to close the door to mediation, welcoming in particular Washington’s central role that has complemented Kuwaiti-led Gulf mediation. The main parties involved — Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar — have approached and sought to convince the Trump administration of the veracity of their positions, while affirming their commitment to US interests in the region.
The messages sent by Trump and his top aides have suggested support for Saudi and Emirati measures against Qatar, for which he took credit as part of his efforts against terrorism. But they also sent messages encouraging de-escalation. This is not necessarily contradictory. It may be an attempt to defuse the situation while upholding key principles affirmed in the American-Arab Summit in Riyadh.
Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad has pursued intensive efforts to find necessary common ground to launch his mediation efforts, but he was met with rigid positions despite verbal commitments to what he is trying to achieve.
While Gulf mediation is certainly distinctive and valuable, it appears the climate surrounding Kuwait’s efforts is one of frustration and hopelessness.
Kuwaiti mediation needs a push from US mediation in order to lead to a breakthrough. Perhaps there is room for both to complement one another, but there is no alternative to American leadership and a US-led implementation mechanism.
So far, Doha’s priority seems to be to persuade the Trump administration that its best interests lie in maintaining equal distance from all parties to the crisis, as Qatar’s former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim said on his way to Washington. He said those accusing Doha of backing terrorism must provide proof, and expressed disappointment with the US position that had endorsed such allegations.
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al-Baker was furious with Trump’s positions, accusing his administration of bias and prejudice. Qatar’s ambassador to the US, Meshaal Hamad Al-Thani, left the door open to mending ties with the US despite Trump’s surprising tweets supporting the measures against Qatar.
Forging an exceptional relationship with the US will require Doha to set the record straight on its ties to Iran and controversial groups. This is not a hegemonic matter but one of shared interests, and Qatar’s interests lie in ties with the US and its Arab and Gulf surroundings.
The Trump administration will not remain at an equal distance from the main parties to this crisis. The US is determined and committed to maintaining its major base in Qatar. This continues to have the support of Saudi Arabia and the UAE as the latter’s US envoy Youssef Al-Otaiba, who is leading a media campaign to highlight Qatar’s alleged support for terrorism, has made clear.
But those who favor a deeper rift with Doha — believing it will not change course or keep its promises — say the closure of the base would be the only way to isolate Qatar, and all that is being said about the advantages of keeping it there is lip service for the time being.
Closing the base is the nuclear option that the Trump administration is unlikely to use unless Doha forces it to, if it decides to escalate and forge an alliance with Iran, and continues to back entities Washington designates as terror groups.
At this stage, the main thrust seems to be to keep the base and preserve bilateral relations, but with US conditions based on what was agreed at the Riyadh Summit. The outcomes of that summit are crucial for Trump, who launched a new front against terrorism with Arab-Islamic partnership and cannot afford to have holes in it.
For this reason, emotion and intransigence are a wrong approach in this important juncture in the relationship with the US. Rational pragmatism is the best possible path for Qatar and the wider Gulf region.
While all parties have the financial wherewithal to withstand the cost of escalation, this could completely blow up what the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has achieved in terms of economic and security cooperation. Undermining these gains would benefit Iran first and foremost, as well as Turkey, further eroding Arab weight in the regional balance of power.
For Qatar, wisdom means understanding the danger of what some stubborn voices are urging, namely to forge an alliance with Iran, step up cooperation with the likes of the Muslim Brotherhood branches in Egypt and the UAE, and financing fundamentalist Shiite groups in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, and extremist groups in Libya and Palestine. This is not in Qatar’s long-term interest, which lies in remaining a full-fledged GCC member, equal in rights and privileges with all other member states.
This inevitably detracts from a strict and traditional notion of sovereignty. Indeed, every state in a collective framework like the EU or the GCC by default accepts a modern understanding of sovereignty as part of collective collaboration. There is no need to fear hegemony if each state commits to integration. The alternative is withdrawal.
Forging an exceptional relationship with the US will require Doha to set the record straight on its ties to Iran and controversial groups. This is not a hegemonic matter but one of shared interests, and Qatar’s interests lie in ties with the US and its Arab and Gulf surroundings.
These issues are the foundation of any mediation, be it US- or Kuwait-led. The difference lies in the tools used for influence, and it is here where the US should come in, because it has the means to apply pressure on both sides of the crisis. The Trump administration must not delay, because prolonging the crisis will increase its complexity and dangers.
The first step must be a decision by Trump to play a vital role not just to contain the crisis but to develop the foundations of a solution, showing determination and firmness in positions and conduct. It will make a great difference if he appoints a special envoy with good ties to the Department of State, Department of Defense, National Security Council and all other relevant departments in the US as well as the White House.
He or she should be a presidential envoy, and should understand the complex dynamics of the region. Petraeus seems a natural choice, but there are other candidates if he is not available or if there are other obstacles to his appointment.
The US role must be based on quid-pro-quo measures from those involved, as part of a timetable with strict monitoring and guarantees, and a list of priorities put together by either the envoy or whatever other entity is chosen to address the crisis. For example, Qatar’s demand to lift airspace restrictions could be met in return for ending its support for the Brotherhood.
These are crucial details, and delivering on them will require opening back channels in some cases to save face, while others may need public commitments.
• Raghida Dergham is a columnist, senior diplomatic correspondent, and New York bureau chief for the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper since 1989. She is the founder and executive chairman of the Beirut Institute. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and an honorary fellow at the Foreign Policy Association. She has served on the International Media Council of the World Economic Forum. She can be reached on Twitter @RaghidaDergham.
— Originally published in Al-Hayat.

Qatar’s Diplomatic Crisis Going Downhill
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/June 18/17
Qatar’s government moved last week to sign a deal on buying 36 top-notch F-15 fighter jets. After securing this purchase, Doha will possess a massive air force at its disposal.
It is worth remembering that in November 2016 the Gulf peninsula also sealed a deal adding to its fleet another 72 F-15 jets. But there remains a catch-22 binding Qatar’s aerial military might—despite a large and capable air fleet, it lacks a sufficient and accessible airspace for its pilots to conduct much needed drills. More so, Qatar’s airspace has been sizably trimmed after Saudi Arabia and Bahrain –neighboring Gulf states – closed off their air and land routes for the country’s role in funding extremist groups.
Unless Doha seeks Iran’s help or travels abroad to train, fighter jet drills remain a far reach.
What faces Qatar today is a boycott of political, social and economic ties which it won’t be able to withhold. And since this is not a military standoff, F-15 jets are of no relevance to finding a solution.
Increasingly authorities in Doha complain against the recently-imposed punitive measures Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates pushed for after patience running out with the destabilizing actions Qatar has upheld in the region ever since its former emir, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, staged a power grab and counting till this very day.
For years the peninsula engaged in risky ploys the former emir managed over the phone and from a distance, safe in the knowledge Arab governments will not dare punish his country. But everything ultimately has a price.
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE, want Qatar to be held accountable should it insist on adopting a hostile political agenda. Qatar may endure the diplomatic boycott for a few months, keeping in mind that Doha does not share Iran its tough skin against embargo.
In the end, Qatar will succumb and give up on funding anarchist parties. It will eventually shut down most rabble-rousing media outlets it created when evading commitments it made to the Riyadh agreement.
Some of Doha’s problems can be solved. For example, they can import fruits and vegetables from Europe, meat from Australia and dairy products from Turkey, and they would pay more money to get these by plane.
However, there are problems which Doha cannot solve through money or developed means of transportation. Confidence in the political system will shake. As threats and costs increase, Qatar’s government will not be able to reassure its citizens and residents, nor be able to end tensions which affected them and major companies.
In the last two weeks, Qatar’s government attempted reassuring citizens and residents by falsely claiming that disputes are soon to be resolved.
At some point, it went as far as forging statements and attributing some of them to Washington officials, including to the US President Donald Trump. It exaggerated talks and repeated news to reassure its citizens that the American military base will remain in Qatar.
Two days ago, Qatari state-owned media outlets falsely said that American troops carried out a joint military drill with Qatari troops. The Pentagon soon after issued a statement denying the news.
People in Qatar began to realize the bitter truth that their government got them biting off more than what they can chew. They realized that the crisis isn’t going anywhere, and that the boycott will restrain them as disputes worsen and more bridges burn down.
Countries harmed by Qatar’s policies said they intend on having Qatar pay a high price so long that it threatens their security and stability.
All tricks up Doha’s sleeve have failed—particularly when it attempted driving a wedge between Riyadh and Abu Dhabi and inciting the US against Saudi Arabia.
Mobilizing Doha-hired social media and media mouthpieces in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE also proved useless as those countries’ governments preemptively cracked down on all Qatar-linked outlets, blocking them in their territories.
All the more, Saudi, Egyptian, Bahraini and UAE governments now closely monitor all financial transactions and communications coming into or out of their counties and are –even remotely- linked to Qatar. Practically, they have obstructed any plans which Doha authorities had invested in inside their countries.
This time, breaking the ice goes beyond a warm opening of arms or a call for traditional Arab tolerance and kindness. Doha needs to seriously rethink its detrimental policy in the region.
Even though not partaking the boycott, the majority of the region’s countries agree that Qatar’s regime has crossed all red limits, causing grave destruction, threatening the region’s entire security and aiding terrorist groups and hostile countries like Iran.
These countries together will support penalizing Qatari authorities until it alters its practices and raises the white flag.

The Series of Qatari Conspiracies, this Time in Bahrain

Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al Awsat/June 18/17
No country has suffered from Qatari violations as much as Bahrain. No country suffered pain and was dealt blows time after time from a sister and neighbor as much as Bahrain.
It all started with the historic dispute over the Hawar islands that International Criminal Court ruled to be Bahraini. Years after the verdict, Qatar dreamed of controlling the islands that are geographically closer to Bahrain than the emirate. The islands are historically, as proven by British documents, Bahraini.
Qatar’s complex with Bahrain however did not end with the International Criminal Court, but we can say that it started there.
Then Prime Minister of Qatar Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem launched a diplomatic attack against the neighbor, Bahrain, accusing it of meddling in Qatari internal affairs.
Doha continued in its ill-intentions towards Bahrain, in secret and sometimes in the open, until the decisive moment arrived in the kingdom with a dark incident in its history in February 2011. At the time, the country’s Shi’ite opposition became divided between a moderate one that had grown confused and an armed one that demanded the establishment of a Khomeini-like Islamic republic and the ouster of the monarchy.
Perhaps the impact of the shock was great on Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf after Qatar stood from day-one with the chaos. Doha attempted to portray its stance as neutrality and its former Premier Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem was making initiatives between Bahrain and Qatar. These were initiatives that Manama did not ask for and never accepted to be begin with.
He did not know that Bahrain was aware of his secret contacts with the armed opposition. In fact, Doha was communicating with the armed opposition with complete ease, without caring about the possibility that its talks were being heard by Manama because it believed that the overthrow of the regime was only a matter of time.
Sheikh Hamad continued his attempts to implement a roadmap, form a “national salvation government” and organize new elections that would serve the extremist opposition. It goes without saying that King Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa rejected this initiative and thank God he did, otherwise Iran would have swallowed Bahrain with its militias.
It is completely untrue what Doha said that Bahrain allowed Qatar to carry out a mediation or propose an initiative at the time. Bahrain completely rejected them and considered Qatar’s behavior meddling in its internal affairs.
I should point out here to two important developments. The first was when a major Saudi official angrily told Hamad bin Jassem “to know his place” while meeting him in Manama. The second was Hamad bin Jassem’s audacity to head to the former “Pearl” roundabout, the site of the protests, which was met with the ire of several senior Bahraini officials.
The new recordings that Bahrain revealed over the contacts carried out by the Qatari emir’s advisor and a hardline Bahraini opposition member have turned the spotlight again on Doha’s long history of conspiracies.
Even though I am convinced that many more details will be revealed in the future, what has been uncovered so far is enough to indicate that the threads of the conspiracy are larger and more complicated than can be resolved by avoiding the issue or baseless justifications as Doha is doing so right now.
Qatar’s quest to take control of the region cannot take place without targeting Saudi stability and sparking a revolt there, revealed the so-called Gadhafi recordings. Doha sought to harm Saudi Arabia, but Bahrain was able to end its crisis with the least damage possible through the help of its real brothers in the Saudi leadership.
Doha saw the historic opportunity wasted and Bahrain did not become part of the infamous Doha-backed Arab Spring.
After the armed Bahraini opposition announced its mission to change the regime and establish an Islamic republic, protesters stormed Manama’s financial center. I remember those moments very well. It was 8:00 am and I was watching al-Jazeera English channel as it was broadcasting the developments live. I still remember the reporter as she rejoiced that Bahrain’s monarchy was toppled and that the revolt was a success. “We are witnessing a new regime in Bahrain,” she said.
What took place on al-Jazeera summed up the truth of the Qatari plot that was really supporting the overthrow of the regime of its sister Bahrain. This explains Doha’s refusal later to take part in the Jazeera shield force that entered Bahrain. It is also the only country from among Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait to fail to pay its dues in regards to the Gulf Cooperation Council’s approval of the Marshall plan to back Bahrain and Oman.
What other shocks can we expect from Qatar?

Soft Sharia in Turkey
Burak Bekdil/Gatestone Institute/June 18/17
The bad news about the Turkish justice system is that it is increasingly religiously ideological, reminiscent of the Ottoman justice system where non-Muslims were legally inferior to the Muslims and were constantly reminded of their inferiority to the dominant community through restrictions and markers.
The legislation reads that law enforcement officials cannot "intentionally marry a person who is known to be impure, or to stay in a marriage, or continue to live with such a person."
In addition, the decree covers stricter rules against drinking, gambling, the vague and emphatic "going to places that would ruin your reputation," as well as "excessive spending".
The good news about Turkish justice is that despite 15 years of not-so-creeping Islamization, court verdicts do not yet sentence wrongdoers to public lashing, stoning, amputations or public hangings in main city squares. The bad news about the Turkish justice system is that it is increasingly religiously ideological, reminiscent of the Ottoman justice system where non-Muslims were legally inferior to the Muslims and were, in principle, expected to be constantly reminded of their inferiority to the dominant community through restrictions and markers.
In 21st century Turkey, fortunately, there are not [yet] markers revealing non-Muslim citizens or laws discriminating against non-Muslims. Nevertheless, with or without markers, there is positive discrimination in favor of pious Muslims and against the others. Turkish law enforcement is embarrassingly pro-pious Sunni Muslim.
Turkey, nominally, is not a Sharia state. But it is becoming one on a de facto basis. In January, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government issued a decree stipulating that law enforcement officials, including security officials, police and coast guard officers, could lose their jobs if they marry a "known adulterer." The legislation reads that law enforcement officials cannot "intentionally marry a person who is known to be impure, or to stay in a marriage, or continue to live with such a person." The offense is punishable by up to 24 months' suspension from work. In addition, the decree covers stricter rules against drinking, gambling, the vague and emphatic "going to places that would ruin your reputation," as well as "excessive spending," all while off duty.
In January, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government issued a decree stipulating that law enforcement officials could lose their jobs if they marry "a person who is known to be impure."
What do those new offenses have in common? Adultery, impurity, drinking, gambling and excessive spending? They are all sins mentioned in the holy book of Islam. This is not only problematic from the viewpoint of modern state and public administration, but also from a technical point of view. When the offense is defined in such vague and holy scriptural language, judgment will inevitably become arbitrary. Who is a "known adulterer," for instance? Who is a person "known to be impure?" How will the Turkish state define "purity" or "a pure person?" How would an officer know beforehand that a place he goes for the first time will "ruin his reputation?" And what percentage of one's salary will mean "excessive spending?"
Last year a Turkish man stood trial for seriously injuring [with the intention to kill, according to the indictment] his ex-wife by stabbing her with a screwdriver. The court sentenced the man to an aggravated life sentence. The judges then gave the defendant a shocking reduction: Just 11 years in jail instead of life. Why the generosity? Because the court found out that the victim had the habit of going out with her "divorced lady friends and drank alcohol". In other words, the Turkish court ruled that the woman had half-deserved to be murdered because of that.
In April, an apparently conservative Turk addressed Selina Dogan, a Turkish-Armenian opposition MP, with the words: "You are all whores ... You are the servants of Byzantium." Dogan sued the man for hate-speech and insult. A Turkish court admitted that the content shared in social media indeed was insulting but acquitted the defendant. Dogan said: "This [ruling] is a free pass for hate speech".
More recently, Nurettin Yildiz, a columnist for the Islamist Milli Gazete, declared that in Islam it was permissible for children at the age of six to get married. Normally one would expect psychiatric examination for the man or prosecution for pedophilia. But Turkish justice can sometimes be generously tolerant to freedom of speech -- as long as the content is Islamist. A prosecutor, citing freedom of expression, dropped charges against Yildiz. Meanwhile, a secular news site, Odatv, outraged by Yildiz's statement, placed the man in the news with the headline: "Religious Fanatics Perverting." This time, the prosecution was not as generous as in the case of Yildiz. A prosecutor is now demanding up to 28 months in jail for Baris Terkoglu, editor of Odatv, for insulting Yildiz. Defending the marriage of six-year-olds is fine, but calling that a perversion is an offense punishable by jail.
One important difference between a modern state and a religion-based state is that the former punishes offenses harmful to the public interest while the latter tends to punish the "sin". Turkey, once a semi-modern state, is now drifting fast into the Sharia order -- without the name Sharia.
**Burak Bekdil, one of Turkey's leading journalists, was just fired from Turkey's leading newspaper after 29 years, for writing what was taking place in Turkey for Gatestone. He is a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
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Germany: Police Powerless Against Middle Eastern Crime Gangs
"The clans simply have no respect for the authorities."
Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/June 18/17
Observers have surmised that the real reason for the judge's leniency was that he feared his family might be subjected to retribution from the clan.
"In their concept of masculinity, only power and force matter; if someone is humane and civil, this is considered a weakness. In clan structures, in tribal culture everywhere in the world, ethics are confined to the clan itself. Everything outside the clan is enemy territory." — Ralph Ghadban, Lebanese-German political scientist and leading expert on Middle Eastern clans in Germany.
"The state promotes organized crime with taxpayer money." — Tom Schreiber, a member of the Berlin House of Deputies.
A court in Hanover has handed suspended sentences to six members of a Kurdish clan who seriously wounded two dozen police officers during a violent rampage in Hameln. The court's ruling was greeted with anger and derision by police who said it is yet another example of the laxity of Germany's politically correct judicial system.
The case goes back to January 2014, when a 26-year-old clan member, arrested for robbery, tried to escape from the magistrate's office by jumping out of a seventh-floor courtroom window. The suspect was taken to the hospital, where he died. Members of his clan subsequently ransacked the hospital, as well as the court, and attacked police with rocks and other projectiles; 24 police officers and six paramedics were injured.
The judge said he was lenient because the defendants witnessed the death of the 26-year-old and were traumatized. The judge also revealed that he had reached a deal with the clan, which among other effects prevented police from testifying in court.
Dietmar Schilff, chairman of the GdP police union in Lower Saxony, said that the ruling had left many police officers shaking their heads in disbelief: "All police forces expect protection and support from the state." He added:
"If we want to protect those who ensure public security, it must be clear that anyone who attacks police officers attacks the state — and has to fear appropriate consequences. It does not matter from which milieu the perpetrators come."
Observers have surmised that the real reason for the judge's leniency was that he feared his family might be subjected to retribution from the clan.
Middle Eastern crime syndicates have established themselves across Germany, where they engage in racketeering, extortion, money laundering, pimping and trafficking in humans, weapons and drugs.
The syndicates, which are run by large clans with origins in Lebanon, Turkey, Syria, among other places, operate with virtual impunity because German judges and prosecutors are unable or unwilling to stop them.
The clans — some of which migrated to Germany during Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war and have grown to thousands of members — now control large swathes of German cities and towns — areas that are effectively lawless and which German police increasingly fear to approach.
Ralph Ghadban, a Lebanese-German political scientist and a leading expert on Middle Eastern clans in Germany, said that the Hanover ruling was a massive failure of the German judicial system. He added that the only way for Germany to achieve control over the clans is to destroy them:
"In their concept of masculinity, only power and force matter; if someone is humane and civil, this is considered a weakness. In clan structures, in tribal culture everywhere in the world, ethics are confined to the clan itself. Everything outside the clan is enemy territory."
In an interview with Focus, Ghadban elaborated:
"I have been following this trend for years. The clans now feel so strong that they are attacking the authority of the state and the police. They have nothing but contempt for the judiciary.... The main problem in dealing with clans: state institutions give no resistance. This makes the families more and more aggressive — they simply have no respect for the authorities....
"The state must destroy the clan structures. Strong and well-trained police officers must be respected on the street. It is a poor example if clan members are allowed seriously to injure 24 policemen and six others without having to fear real consequences. In addition, lawyers and judges must be trained. The courts are issuing feeble judgments based on a false understanding of multiculturalism and the fear of the stigma of being branded as racist....
"The clans adhere to a religious group, a kind of sect with an Islamic orientation. The Islamic understanding of their spiritual leader, Sheikh al-Habashi, who died a few years ago, justifies violence against unbelievers. He taught that there is only the house of ​​war [Dar al-Harb], which justifies plundering unbelievers and possessing their wives...."
In Berlin, a dozen or more Lebanese clans dominate organized crime in the German capital, according to Die Welt. They effectively control the districts of Charlottenburg, Kreuzberg, Moabit, Neukölln and Wedding. The clans are committed to counterfeiting, dealing in drugs, robbing banks and burglarizing department stores. Experts estimate that around 9,000 people in Berlin are members of clans.
The clans reject the authority of the German state. Instead, they run a "parallel justice system" in which disputes are resolved among themselves with mediators from other crime families. A classified police report leaked to Bild described how the clans use cash payments and threats of violence to influence witnesses whenever German police or prosecutors get involved.
The clans are now canvassing refugee shelters in search of young and physically strong men to join their ranks. State Prosecutor Sjors Kamstra explained:
"The refugees come here with no money. They are shown how inexpensive money can be obtained very quickly. Poverty makes this seductive. Many of them cannot speak German and are naturally vulnerable when they are addressed by someone in their native language. For the clans, the refugees are welcome newcomers, because they are new here and are not known to the police."
The clans have also entered the refugee business by buying real estate and renting those properties to asylum seekers at exorbitant prices. Focus magazine reported that they are laundering dirty money while at the same time getting paid by the German state to house migrants.
Focus reporters visited a dilapidated apartment in Berlin in which five Syrian refugees were accommodated in 20 square meters (215 square feet). On the regular rental market the apartment would barely have yielded €300 ($335) a month in rent, but the clan collects around €3,700 ($4,125) per month from the German state, which pays landlords to house migrants. "Business with the refugees is now more profitable than drug trafficking," said Heinz Buschkowsky, a former mayor of Neukölln.
The Berlin Criminal Police Office (Landeskriminalamt) confirmed that "proceeds from criminal offenses, including organized crime, were invested in real estate by the persons concerned or by third parties." Tom Schreiber, a member of the Berlin House of Deputies, said the clans have exposed the moral bankruptcy of the German government: "The state promotes organized crime with taxpayer money."
"Berlin is lost," said Michael Kuhr, a well-known Berlin-based security consultant. "These clan structures have established themselves in all areas of organized crime. We will never go back to how things were 20 years ago. In addition, these people are highly dangerous and have lost all respect for the power of the state."
In Duisburg, a leaked police report revealed that in the Marxloh district, the streets are effectively controlled by Lebanese clans that reject the authority of German police. They have taken over entire streets to carry out illegal business activity. New migrants from Bulgaria and Romania are contributing to the problems. Marxloh's streets serve as invisible boundaries between ethnic groups, according to Die Welt. Residents speak of "the Kurdish road" or "the Romanian road."
Police say they are alarmed by the aggressiveness and brutality of the clans, which are said to view crime as leisure activity. If police dare to intervene, hundreds of clan members are mobilized to confront the police. A local woman interviewed by Deutschlandfunk radio said she was afraid for her safety: "After dark I would not stand here because there are a lot of conflicts between foreigners, especially between Lebanese and Turks."
A 17-page report prepared for the state parliament in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) revealed that Lebanese clans in Duisburg divide up neighborhoods in order to pursue criminal activities. These clans do not recognize the authority of the police. Their members are males between the ages of 15 and 25 and "nearly 100%" of them are known to police.
The report also described the situation in Duisburg's Laar district, where two large Lebanese families call the shots: "The streets are actually regarded as a separate territory. Outsiders are physically assaulted, robbed and harassed. Experience shows that the Lebanese clans can mobilize several hundred people in a very short period of time by means of a telephone call."
Peter Biesenbach of the Christian Democrats (CDU) said: "If this is not a no-go area, then I do not know what is." He has called for an official inquiry to determine the true scope of the criminal clans in NRW.
NRW Interior Minister Ralf Jäger rejected that request because such a study would be politically incorrect:
"Further data collection is not legally permissible. Both internally and externally, any classification that could be used to depreciate human beings must be avoided. In this respect, the use of the term 'family clan' (Familienclan) is forbidden from the police point of view."
In nearby Gelsenkirchen, Kurdish and Lebanese clans are vying for control of city streets, some of which have become zones that are off-limits to German authorities. In one incident, police were patrolling an area in the southern part of the city when they were suddenly surrounded and physically assaulted by more than 60 members of a clan.
In another incident, two police officers stopped a driver after he ran a red light. The driver stepped out of the car and ran away. When police caught up with him, they were confronted by more than 50 clan members. A 15-year-old attacked a policeman from behind and strangled him to the point of unconsciousness.
Senior members of the Gelsenkirchen police department subsequently held a secret meeting with representatives of three Arab clans in order to "cultivate social peace between Germans and Lebanese." A leaked police report revealed that the clans told Police Chief Ralf Feldmann that "the police cannot win a war with the Lebanese because we outnumber them." The clan members added: "This applies to all of Gelsenkirchen, if we so choose."
When Feldman countered that he would dispatch police reinforcements to disrupt their activities, the clan members laughed in his face and said: "The government does not have enough money to deploy the numbers of police necessary to confront the Lebanese." The police report concluded that German authorities should not harbor any illusions about the actual balance of power: "The police would be defeated."
Another leaked police report revealed that the clans are the "executive body of an existing parallel legal system to self-adjudicate matters between large Kurdish and Lebanese families in the western Ruhr area." These clans "despise the police and German courts" and "settle their matters on their own terms."
The Frankfurter Neue Presse reported that Kurdish, Lebanese and Romanian clans have divided up the Gelsenkirchen districts of Bismarck, Rotthausen and Ückendorf, including around the central station, and have "claimed individual streets for themselves."
Arnold Plickert, the head of the police union in North Rhine-Westphalia, warned: "Several rival rocker groups, as well as Lebanese, Turkish, Romanian and Bulgarian clans, are fighting for supremacy of the streets. They make their own rules; the police have nothing more to say."
In Düsseldorf, two members of a clan brutally assaulted a 49-year-old woman who witnessed a car accident in the Flingern district. Her mistake, apparently, was to corroborate the "wrong" version of what she saw. The Rheinische Post called on the German government to fight the clans:
"The threat remains, in particular wherever large families, mostly immigrants, place the supposed need for the protection of their loved ones above all else. The readiness for violence is great, the inhibition threshold is low. The punishment of existing laws hardly deters anyone."
In Naumburg, police confiscated the driver's license of Ahmed A., a 21-year-old member of a Syrian clan, during a traffic stop. Almost immediately, police were surrounded by a mob of other clan members. The police retreated. The mob then marched to the police station, which they proceeded to ransack.
Ahmed A., a serial offender whose asylum application was rejected but who remains in Germany, said: "Lock me up. I have nothing to lose. I am going to put a bullet in the head of every single police officer. I will make your life feel like hell. Then I'll just be a cop killer." He also warned the police officer who seized his license: "I will destroy his life. I know exactly where he lives." He then explained what he would do to the officer's wife and daughter. Ahmed A. was allowed to walk free; police said there were insufficient grounds for his arrest.
Naumburg police have defended their weak response as being due to a lack of personnel, but regional parliamentarian Daniel Sturm pointed to the big picture: "We are talking about resistance to the power of the state." The Interior Minister of Saxony-Anhalt, Holger Stahlknecht, said that it appeared as though the Syrian clan had established a "parallel society" in Naumburg. A local newspaper noted that the police's failure to act "sounds like the capitulation of the state of law (Rechtsstaat)."
In Mülheim, around 80 members of two rival clans got into a mass brawl following a dispute between two teenagers. When police arrived, they were attacked with bottles and stones. More than 100 police backed up by helicopters were deployed to restore order. Five people were taken into custody but then released.
In Munich, police arrested 20 female members of a Croatian clan believed to be responsible for up to 20% of all the burglaries committed in Germany. Investigators believe that the clan has at least 500 members throughout Germany.
In Bremen, police effectively surrendered to clans from Kurdistan and the Balkans because of the need to conserve limited personnel resources for the fight against spiraling street crime by migrant youths.
Rainer Wendt, head of the German Police Union (DPolG), criticized city officials for their lack of resolve. "Bremen has capitulated to extremely dangerous clans. The state's monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force [Gewaltmonopol des Staates] is now becoming the law of the jungle. Security continues to go down the drain."
*Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter.
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Israel-Palestine From Both Sides of the Mirror
Roger Cohen/The New York Times/June 18/17
This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Israeli victory in the 1967 war and of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. The jubilation of military victory, quicker and more comprehensive than seemed possible, has long since subsided into a grinding status quo: the oppression of 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank, the confrontation with 1.8 million in encircled Hamas-run Gaza and the corrosion of Israeli democracy that accompanies this extended exercise in dominion. Often called unsustainable, the occupation has proved altogether sustainable.
Jews need no instruction in the agony of exile. Yet their modern statehood, achieved after the millennia of diaspora existence and persecution, has come to involve the statelessness of another people. I asked four friends — two Israelis and two Palestinians — to write briefly of their feelings on this anniversary. I will write of my own in a subsequent column.
Salam Fayyad, former Palestinian Authority prime minister:
At 50, the occupation remains highly oppressive to us and corrosive to Israel. Yet it lingers on. Arresting this highly adverse dynamic requires that we Palestinians genuinely seek to empower ourselves and take full agency in our own liberation. This entails unifying the Palestinian polity and mobilizing grassroots support around the central objective of projecting the reality of Palestinian statehood on the territory Israel occupied in 1967, in spite of the occupation.
Some would say that the pursuit of empowerment in the face of a capricious occupation regime designed to disempower the occupied is doomed to failure, or that even if we manage to attain some progress toward building our state, we merely succeed in normalizing the occupation. This dangerous combination of defeatism and self-doubt is a perfect prescription for paralysis and entrapment.
We must break away from this inaction trap. We must, under all conditions, persist and persevere in our pursuit of empowerment. That said, it should be realized that the political viability of this endeavor would be highly questionable in a context in which our national rights remain unrecognized and settlement activity, military raids, land confiscation and home demolitions continue.
This is the way forward. After all, Palestinian empowerment and ending the Israeli occupation are two sides of the same coin.
Itamar Rabinovich, Yitzhak Rabin’s ambassador to Washington and author of a biography of him:
“The Cursed Blessing” was the perceptive title that the Israeli historian Shabtai Teveth gave to his book about the impact of the Six-Day War on Israel. A blessing it was; it released Israel from a dangerous crisis, consolidated its standing vis-à-vis the Arab world, turned it into a regional power and transformed its relationship with the United States. Most important, it provided Israel with the bargaining chips for peacemaking with its Arab enemies.
Another decade was needed to convert the abstract principle of “territories for peace” into peace with Egypt and another 15 years for the peace process to be renewed and to produce peace with Jordan and the Oslo compromise with Palestinian nationalism. But the Oslo process, an attempt to resolve peacefully two peoples’ claim to the same land, was only implemented in part and suspended. An Israeli zealot assassinated Yitzhak Rabin. Fifty years after June 1967, Israel is still encumbered with the occupation of the West Bank and with the perception of lingering control of Gaza.
Both Israelis and Palestinians pay dearly for the impasse. Keeping the settlement project in the West Bank saps Israel’s resources, compromises its international legitimacy and injects negative norms into Israel proper. It is time to seek a final status agreement that will separate the two peoples or at least stop the current drift into one-statehood.
We all know what the shape of a final status agreement should and would look like. Realistically we may not be able to achieve it now. The state of Israeli and Palestinian politics, the upheaval in the region and the question marks regarding the Trump administration could prove insurmountable. But there is a way to stop the gradual sliding into the abyss through an interim agreement that would give Palestinians a provisional state in a large part of the West Bank territory. This is anathema to both the Israeli right and the Palestinian leadership, but is the only realistic option today for those who seek to salvage a two-state solution.
Joyce Aljouny, director of the Ramallah Friends School:
I was barely 2 years old when my mother clutched me close to her chest when we saw the Israeli soldiers taking control of our street in Ramallah; it was June 1967. Fifty years of a life tarnished by injustice, subjugation and daily anxieties ensued.
Living under military occupation meant coping with the shooting of my best friend in high school, turning a fearful blind eye when seeing soldiers beating a Palestinian boy with a baton, rescuing my husband from the grip of soldiers on a cold winter night, contending with my 10-year-old son’s night terrors after weeks of relentless bombardment, not being allowed to enter the city of my birth, Jerusalem, and living in daily anguish knowing that my people remain refugees after more than 70 years and have lived under siege for decades.
Myriad human rights abuses by brutal Israeli occupation forces have not been sufficient to amplify solidarity with Palestinians to a level that would fundamentally change American foreign policy. The double standard, complacency and failure of the international community to acknowledge the authenticity and morality of my people’s struggle are disheartening. The Palestinian plight, grounded in decades of ethnic cleansing, dispossession and apartheid, is brushed off with baseless counterarguments — claims that there is no partner for peace, that Palestinians teach their children to hate Jews, that Israel’s excessive force is retaliatory, that settlements are a legal right.
As is the case for many Palestinians, it seems that despite my belief in nonviolence and coexistence in one democratic state, I have been dehumanized and deemed an anti-Semite — a non-partner — even before I utter a word.
Dan Meridor, former Likud Israeli deputy prime minister:
Until 1967, the Arab goal was to wipe Israel off the map. Given the dramatic asymmetry between Israel and the Arab states in territory, population and natural resources, the Arabs were not irrational in assuming that in the long run they may succeed. The united Arab position was: No recognition, no negotiation and no peace. The Arab means included diplomacy, terrorism and economic boycott.
On the eve of the Six-Day War, when Egypt marched its forces into the Sinai Peninsula, blocked Israel’s southern port, created a united Arab military command with Syria and Jordan and declared it wanted to destroy us, Israel faced an immediate existential threat.
The decisive Israeli victory against all its enemies within six days changed the Middle East dramatically.
Not only was Israel victorious, but also it was understood to be a strong nation that cannot be defeated. Arab rulers who earlier had attacked Israel began to understand the need to find a way to accept Israel. Some eventually chose the road to peace.
President Sadat met Prime Minister Begin. Both showed remarkable leadership and signed the first Arab peace treaty with Israel. King Hussein and Prime Minister Rabin followed in signing the second peace treaty.
The Oslo accord was signed with the P.L.O., negotiations for peace have been held with Syria, other Arab states developed informal economic and touristic relations with Israel. There is Israeli-Arab cooperation in intelligence and security areas.
This process of relinquishing the aim to defeat Israel and of accepting Israel in the Middle East is a direct result of the strong Israel that emerged from the Six-Day War. Present turmoil in the Arab world offers a unique opportunity to further enhance this trend with more Arab states.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is still unresolved. Occupation is damaging to Israel, but even a dovish Israeli government proved unable to find agreement with the Palestinians. The “creeping status quo” is hurting both sides. It moves in a dangerous direction. It urgently calls for courageous leadership on both sides to resolve it.

Plot to assassinate a King!
Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/June 18/17
Saudi artist Talal Salamah said he will not take a residential unit offered to him by Qatar, saying that he does not need it. This stance shows the extent of Qatar’s infiltration of soft power in Saudi Arabia.
Qatar’s infiltration is not limited to preachers as it also includes popular artists. Doha seeks to influence artists and exploit athletes to serve bigger purposes which is imperial expansion, until it controls countries like Saudi Arabia, Libya, Egypt and Tunisia. The dream seems funny but this is the truth. This is what the hidden scheme is about. The hideous conspiracy to assassinate King Abdullah showed the Saudis the power of patience which the Saudi kingdom had enjoyed. Some talk about “harmony,” “peace” and “compassion.”This is the how the situation is between the Saudi and the Qatari people.
Only solution
However, in terms of the regime, the only solution is to alter the political behavior, respect laws and states’ sovereignty and be disciplined within the context of international charters.
After there was a conspiracy to kill a King, someone talks about a ‘fitna’ (strife)!

Saudi-Russian energy cooperation: A balancing act
Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/June 18/17
While current Qatar related regional tensions are dominating the headlines, there are some long-term Saudi strategic realignments taking place. President Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia certainly seemed to herald a new military and economic bond that had been temporarily shaken under the previous US Administration.
In another bold move, the Kingdom has also moved swiftly to cement an evolving relationship that is just as important as the mega defence deals with the USA, which will help to underpin these deals as well as the economic transformation that is taking place.
This is specifically in the oil market, where Saudi Arabia has once again assumed the mantle as undisputed leader of OPEC producers and has joined forces with Russia, the other non -OPEC oil superpower.
The visit of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to see President Putin in Russia , coming on the heels of Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia , has sent a strong signal that the Kingdom will cooperate with all powers as long as this is done on a mutually beneficial basis and where all parties’ interests are taken into account.
President Putin was very pleased with the visit, after feeling that the blossoming Saudi-US relations was marginalizing Russia, and welcomed Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Kremlin , with both men stating they would deepen cooperation in oil and work on narrowing their differences over Syria, where Moscow and Riyadh are backing opposing sides in a civil war.
“The most important thing is that we are succeeding in building a solid foundation to stabilize oil markets and energy prices,” said Prince Mohammed. Putin said the countries would work together to resolve a “difficult situation” and extended an invitation for King Salman to visit Russia.
The good bond
The meeting was the second time that both men had met and it would seem a good bond was struck, whereby President Putin felt assured that Saudi Arabia would commit and honour its obligations to stabilize the oil market prices and this led to the Russians to go along.
This is despite some reservations from the partly privatised Russian oil giants like Rosneft that felt that market forces should be left to determine prices and not production cuts and quotas.
By all accounts, even Rosneft’s CEO. Igor Sehchin is now fully on board and visited Saudi Aramco to further cement this relationship, but the key drivers of the cooperative spirit have been the energy ministers of both countries, Saudi Arabia’s Khaled Al Falih and Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak who seem genuinely to respect and like working with each other to overcome obstacles in terms of compliance with the historic December 2016 production quota between OPEC and non OPEC producers.
Novak and Falih reiterated in Moscow they would do “whatever it takes” to stabilize oil markets, borrowing a famous phrase used by European Central Bank President Mario Draghi five years ago to defend the euro.
Analysts are now viewing this energy cooperation, as well as higher level political relationships as heralding a Saudi-Russia entente and a new oil order. This will be closely watched by big oil consumers around the world, which have long relied on the hot rivalry between their top suppliers to secure better deals and play one party off against the other, which was the situation before the December 2016 agreement, with competition between the Kingdom and Russia increasing their respective market share in Asia, particularly in China and India, the only regions of the world that has so far sustained an increase in oil demand.
Analysts are now viewing this energy cooperation, as well as higher level political relationships as heralding a Saudi-Russia entente and a new oil order. This will be closely watched by big oil consumers around the world, which have long relied on the hot rivalry between their top suppliers to secure better deals and play one party off against the other, which was the situation before the December 2016 agreement, with competition between the Kingdom and Russia increasing their respective market share in Asia, particularly in China and India, the only regions of the world that has so far sustained an increase in oil demand.
In a sign of their white-hot Asian rivalry, Rosneft outbid Aramco to buy India's refiner Essar last year and boost its share in the world’s fastest growing fuel market. This new found cooperation is a complete reversal of the statements from both Saudi Arabia and Russia following the previous Saudi decision to opt for a market led strategy, with former Saudi Oil Minister Ali Al Naimi and Igor Sechin declaring that they would not mind if oil prices fell to $30 or even lower levels.
The markets took them at their word and prices collapsed, and the rest is history as they say. Much has changed since then, however, both economically and politically - and the unlikely partnership between Moscow and Riyadh has been born out of necessity.
When oil prices collapsed, both economies were driven into deficit after years of high spending and are only now slowly recovering. With Russia heading for a presidential election in early 2018, and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman having pledged to reform the Saudi economy, and partially list Saudi Aramco, neither country can afford another oil price shock. It is amazing what an oil crash can do.
Consortium of investors
Now Saudi Arabia and Russia say they will remain in partnership long after the current output reduction deal expires, and the Saudi Public Investment Fund signed a memorandum of understanding with the Russian Direct Investment Fund to explore joining a consortium of investors in a Moscow real estate project.
The Russian fund said both parties are also evaluating possible projects in retail, alternative energy projects, transportation, and logistics infrastructure worth $10 billion.
This is not to say that it is all sweetness and light between Saudi Arabia and Russia as the Kingdom still remembers Russia’s broken promises to curb production but only to renege, and has a history of free-riding on prior OPEC cuts, and the two countries are also at odds over some not-so-minor topics such as Syria and Iran. However there is now talk of their temporary and often frayed alliance becoming “institutionalized.”
The crucial test for both countries and the energy market comes next March, when the newly agreed production cuts agreement is currently due to end. By then, if the cuts hold, most of Russia's oil majors such as Rosneft, will have clocked up a full year of lower production, and their timetables for development and investment in new fields could be put at risk if the agreement with OPEC is extended.
Crucially, however, Russia's presidential election will also be out of the way, taking some immediate pressure off the government in terms of managing the budget and political uncertainty, if President Putin is re-elected as is expected, while in Saudi Arabia, the planned IPO of Saudi Aramco should be imminent and the markets will have factored in an oil price level it can live with for the IPO.
Will the pact to maintain current production quotas hold, or both countries decide that having lost market share to unchecked US shale producers, it was not worth it anymore and go their separate way and opt for higher production?
That is the question that few can predict with certainty, given current weak oil price levels, but the pact could still survive if the “institutionalized” relationship takes on a wider geo- political perspective to suit both countries interests in the region, and not just on the energy front.