June 21/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
Are you discussing among yourselves what I meant when I said, "A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 16/16-19/:"‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me.’Then some of his disciples said to one another, ‘What does he mean by saying to us, "A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me"; and "Because I am going to the Father"?’They said, ‘What does he mean by this "a little while"? We do not know what he is talking about.’Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, ‘Are you discussing among yourselves what I meant when I said, "A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me"?

Gos said to Abraham, "Leave your country and your relatives and go to the land that I will show you
Acts of the Apostles 07/01-08/:"Then the high priest asked him, ‘Are these things so?’And Stephen replied: ‘Brothers and fathers, listen to me. The God of glory appeared to our ancestor Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, "Leave your country and your relatives and go to the land that I will show you." Then he left the country of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After his father died, God had him move from there to this country in which you are now living. He did not give him any of it as a heritage, not even a foot’s length, but promised to give it to him as his possession and to his descendants after him, even though he had no child. And God spoke in these terms, that his descendants would be resident aliens in a country belonging to others, who would enslave them and maltreat them for four hundred years. "But I will judge the nation that they serve," said God, "and after that they shall come out and worship me in this place." Then he gave him the covenant of circumcision. And so Abraham became the father of Isaac and circumcised him on the eighth day; and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs.

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on June 20-21/17
Lebanon's civil society groups gear up for 2018 elections/Bachir el-Khoury/Al Monitor/June 20/17
Israeli Army (IDF) prepares for future of war in region/Ben Caspit/Al Monitor/June 20/17
Iran Missiles Struck Isis, But It Is Also Aimed At US, Saudis, Israel/Jerusalem Post/June 20/17
Qatar without its Three Weapons/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/June 20/17
Kushner's Arrival Ups the Ante In Trump's Opening Peace Bid/Jerusalem Post/June 20/17
Pre-Schoolers Stage Terror Display At A Gaza Kindergarten Graduation Ceremony/MEMRI TV/June 20/17
Bangladesh Turning More Radical/Mohshin Habib/Gatestone Institute/June 20/17
U.S. Trying to Criminalize Free Speech - Again/Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/June 20/17
Helmut Kohl’s Unfinished Business/Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg/June 20/17
US attack on Syrian jet puts Putin under pressure/Maxim A. Suchkov/Al Monitor/June 20/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published on June 20-21/17
Aoun calls Parliament into extraordinary session
Report: Aoun Invites Nasrallah to Baabda Meeting
UNIFIL Head Chairs Regular Tripartite Meeting with LAF and Israeli Officials
Hariri Slams 'Populists' who 'Use Rafik Hariri's Name for Political Gain'
Harb: Baabda Meeting Shouldn't be Confined to Ruling Authority
Gulf Diplomatic Activity Expected in Beirut
France Jails Lebanese Conman who Posed as Secret Agent
State Security Arrests 'Emir' of Islamist Syrian Rebel Group
Geagea Hails Vote Law, Says State Can't Grow Strong in Presence of Illegal Arms
Hajj Hassan Says Electoral Law 'Flaws' Must be Discussed in Institutions
Ghassan Salameh Agrees to Be Nominated as UN Envoy to Libya
Lebanon's civil society groups gear up for 2018 elections
Israeli Army (IDF) prepares for future of war in region
Iran Missiles Struck Isis, But It Is Also Aimed At US, Saudis, Israel

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on June 20-21/17
Russia Threatens to Target US Warplanes in Syria
Sisi, Mohammed bin Zayed Discuss Qatar Crisis in Cairo
King Salman, Iraqi PM Agree to Intensify Joint Efforts in Terrorism Fight
Iraqi Forces Fight Door-to-Door in Old Mosul
Bahrain: Execution to Terrorism Convict, Life-Sentence to Another
At Least 10 Killed in Shabab Bombing in Somali Capital
Israel Starts Work on New Settlement Regardless of US Peace Efforts
Australia's Military Suspends Air Operations over Syria
Explosion Rocks Brussels Train Station, One Suspect Shot

Latest Lebanese Related News published on June 20-21/17
Aoun calls Parliament into extraordinary session

Hussein Dakroub/The Daily Star/June 20/17
BEIRUT: Emboldened by the endorsement of a landmark new vote law, President Michel Aoun Monday signed a decree calling for an extraordinary four-month Parliament session to act on a host of urgent bills, including the 2017 draft state budget and the public sector’s salary increase bill. The move along with Aoun’s call for heads of political parties represented in the government to meet at Baabda Palace Thursday clearly reflected the president’s determination to forge ahead with plans to revive the functions of the legislative and executive powers following months of paralysis and deadlock caused by rivals’ disagreements over a new electoral law.The decree, which sets the extraordinary parliamentary session between June 21 and Oct. 16, was also signed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri. It stated that the agenda of the session should include the 2017 draft state budget and annexed budgets that have been referred to Parliament; draft laws that have been referred or those to be referred to Parliament; and all draft laws, proposals and texts that the legislature’s Secretariat decides to refer to the chamber, according to a statement released by the president’s media office. Parliament’s regular sessions convene in two cycles: from mid-March to the end of May and from mid-October to the end of December.
Earlier this month, Aoun signed a decree opening an extraordinary Parliament session between June 7 and 20 to give rival politicians more time to agree on a new electoral law to replace the disputed 1960 majoritarian system used in the last elections in 2009.
Parliament last week approved the country’s first proportional vote law with an overwhelming majority, putting the country on the road to holding the first legislative elections in nine years in May 2018.
Following the passage of the vote law, Berri expressed hope that the Cabinet would open an extraordinary term for the legislature to act on pending draft laws, including the 2017 draft budget and the public sector’s wage scale bill.
The ratification of the draft vote law came just days before Parliament’s term expires on June 20, thus sparing the country the consequences of a vacuum in the legislative body.
The opening of the extraordinary parliamentary session comes as Aoun is gearing up to host a meeting Thursday of leaders of political parties represented in the government to lay down his plan on how to make the coming months before the elections productive at the legislative and executive levels. Explaining the motives for the all-party talks at Baabda Palace, Aoun promised that his six years in office would be productive.
“The meeting at Baabda Palace is aimed at discussing a number of issues that concern the Lebanese, particularly the economic and development projects that have not yet been implemented, in order to study them and program their implementation,” Aoun said during meetings with visitors at Baabda Palace. “This is in addition to discussing draft laws and proposals that are beneficial to the Lebanese and the national economy,” he added, according to a statement released by his media office.
Aoun stressed that there would be “no time lost” during his term, but “six years of productive work.” He added that administrative decentralization, stipulated in the 1989 Taif Accord, is one of the issues whose achievement has been delayed despite its significance at the national level.
Aoun said the new vote law that divides Lebanon into 15 electoral districts using a proportional voting system would reduce differences between sects and achieve just representation. “The new electoral law will bring about a change in the voting system that has been in effect for 91 years, that is the majoritarian system, change the inherited political concept and make Lebanon an advanced democratic state,” Aoun said.
The Central News Agency, quoting political sources, said the agenda of the “consultative meeting” at Baabda Palace would focus on seven key topics: the creation of a senate; administrative decentralization; reactivation of state institutions, particularly the legislative and executive powers; the public sector’s wage hike bill; financing of the draft budget; the two decrees approved by the Cabinet earlier this year paving the way for exploration of offshore oil and gas resources; and decisions to shield Lebanon in the face of world pressure and U.S. sanctions against Hezbollah and its affiliates.
Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil has estimated the cost of financing the proposed salary scale for public employees at LL1.2 trillion ($800 million).
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil vowed to continue the political battle to ensure the election of half of Parliament’s 128 members by Christian voters, in an implicit criticism of the new vote law to which the Free Patriotic Movement has agreed. Announcing the FPM’s electoral campaign for next year’s parliamentary elections, Bassil told a news conference: “The battle will go on to have 64 Christian MPs elected. Our joy is completed with the continued demand [for Christian representation].”
Paying tribute to the FPM’s allies, mainly the Future Movement, the Lebanese Forces and Hezbollah for supporting the proportional vote law, Bassil said: “We are ready for elections and we have accepted an extension [of Parliament’s term] to give time to finish the magnetic voting card.”
The magnetic voter cards were introduced as part of the new electoral law to allow Lebanese to cast votes from any location. Bassil lamented that the vote law did not approve a quota for women’s representation in Parliament and did not allow military personnel to vote.“Our next electoral battle is that we want electricity,” Bassil said, referring to the chronic power rationing Lebanon has experienced since the end of the Civil War in 1990. “It is shameful that in 2017 we are talking about the dream of [having] electricity and water. This dream will come true. We want electricity and there are some who don’t because they want to prevent us from winning in the elections. Corruption is preventing us from achieving this.”

Report: Aoun Invites Nasrallah to Baabda Meeting
Naharnet/June 20/17/President Michel Aoun invited political parties represented in the government for a consultative meeting in Baabda on Thursday and he addressed an invitation to Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Tuesday. “Political parties represented in the government have received official invitations from the President. It is noteworthy that Aoun has also addressed a direct invitation to Nasrallah but nothing has been confirmed so far whether the Hizbullah leader will personally take part in Thursday's meeting,” said the daily. Meanwhile, unnamed partisan sources told the daily that the possibilities of Nasrallah's personal participation or not are almost equal, “although a chance that he dispatches a representative is more probable.”“Anyway the invitation was addressed to Nasrallah on behalf of the President. He will decide whether he will attend in person or send a representative. He might dispatch his deputy Sheikh Naim Qassem, his political aid Hajj Hussain Khalil or head of the Loyalty to the Resistance bloc MP Mohammed Raad,” they said. Aoun's unprecedented meeting with the political leaders is reportedly 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, after an agreement on an electoral law was reached. Media reports said the conferees will discuss the pending Taef Accord articles, especially in terms of abolishing political sectarianism as a prelude to creating a Senate. They will also tackle “vital projects that need to be executed” and will address “the rifts that were caused by the electoral law” negotiations, reports said.

UNIFIL Head Chairs Regular Tripartite Meeting with LAF and Israeli Officials
Naharnet/June 20/17/UNIFIL Head of Mission and Force Commander, Major General Michael Beary, chaired a regular tripartite meeting on Tuesday with senior officials from the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Israeli army at the UN position at Ras Al Naqoura, a press statement said. Discussions centered on issues related to the implementation of UNIFIL’s mandate under UN Security Council resolution 1701 (2006), air and ground violations, the situation along the Blue Line and its ongoing visible marking, as well as the issue of withdrawal of Israeli forces from northern Ghajar. During the meeting, concerns were raised on the presence of unauthorized weapons in the UNIFIL area of operations on 20 April 2017, as well as Israeli army works in the general area of the Shabaa Farms. UNIFIL Head of Mission noted UNIFIL’s ongoing discussions with the LAF on further steps to ensure that the area is free from any unauthorized armed personnel, assets or weapons in accordance with the provisions of resolution 1701. In this context, Major General Beary praised the commitment shown by the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri who, along with the Minister of Defense Yaaqoub Sarraf, LAF Commander Gen Joseph Aoun and a senior LAF delegation, paid a visit to the Blue Line on 21 April 2017 and reaffirmed Lebanon’s commitment to resolution 1701. The UNIFIL head reiterated his call to the parties to exercise calming influence on their respective sides and make the most of UNIFIL’s liaison and coordination arrangements in order to de-escalate tensions and boost confidence-building, including by avoiding any unilateral action along sensitive parts of the Blue Line. “I received encouraging support for UNIFIL and for the work we are doing here together with both the parties to keep the calm along the Blue Line in a very challenging regional context,” said Major General Beary. He also hailed the recent progress on the Blue Line marking process with the LAF. “I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to keep momentum on marking and to use the assets that we have at our disposal to support the process,” he said. “Not only does it reduce violations and unnecessary frictions, but it also provides us the opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to find solutions to the long overdue issues that are solvable.” Tripartite meetings have been held regularly under the auspices of UNIFIL since the end of the 2006 war. They have become an essential conflict management and confidence building mechanism between the parties.

Hariri Slams 'Populists' who 'Use Rafik Hariri's Name for Political Gain'

Naharnet/June 20/17/Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Tuesday lashed out at parties whom he described as “populist Trojan horses,” accusing them of using slain ex-PM Rafik Hariri's name for political gain. “The merchants of slogans and populist speeches are similar to the merchants of extremism and they have one job which is to attack al-Mustaqbal Movement and Saad Hariri,” Hariri said at a Mustaqbal iftar banquet at Beirut's BIEL exhibition center. “The use of Rafik Hariri's name in the rhetoric of some parties will not give them political legitimacy and Rafik Hariri would not have tolerated this type of overbidders, instigators, opportunists and disloyal people,” Hariri added, in an apparent jab at Mustaqbal minister-turned-political rival Ashraf Rifi. “Everyone knows very well that al-Mustaqbal Movement was and will always be strong in the national equation. Many forces tried to break it and failed. They failed through weapons, political pressure, isolation and exclusion,” Hariri went on to say. The prime minister accused Mustaqbal's rivals in the Sunni community of offering “free services to known opponents at the expense of al-Mustaqbal.”“They take the name of Rafik Hariri to work for the interest of those who killed Rafik Hariri. They are Trojan horses,” Hariri charged. He stressed that “nothing in the world can drag al-Mustaqbal Movement towards extremism” and that “no one can remove al-Mustaqbal Movement from the equation.” “You are the first line of defense of moderation in Lebanon, of coexistence, of Lebanon’s Arab identity, of the rise of the state of law and of the right of every Lebanese citizen to live decently,” Hariri added, addressing supporters. “I will be with you in defending this until the end and I will not abandon the role of al-Mustaqbal Movement in protecting Lebanon and preventing its use in the regional struggle,” he said. Reiterating that “settlements are not concessions,” the premier noted that “all politicians owe it to the country to make concessions.”“We reached a settlement that achieved two of the most important achievements in the history of the country in the last thirty years: the election of a president made in Lebanon and an electoral law made in Lebanon. These achievements are now engraved in the record of al-Mustaqbal Movement,” Hariri added.

Harb: Baabda Meeting Shouldn't be Confined to Ruling Authority
Naharnet/June 20/17/MP Boutros Harb said on Tuesday that an invitation for a consultative gathering at the Baabda Palace should have been extended to all political parties instead of confining it to those in power, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Tuesday. “The invitation should not have been limited to the parties in power, it should have been extended to those outside the authority. Only then would the meeting at the Presidential Palace be chaired by the leader of the the entire Lebanese instead of leader of the ruling authority,” said Harb in an interview to the daily. The MP added that it would be a good thing “if the President's invitation will lead to an improved ruling performance, respect for the constitution and motivates political parties in the government to work for public welfare. But, I hope this meeting never happens if they have an understanding to pass things contrary to the constitution.”President Michel Aoun invited the country's top political leaders to a consultative meeting in Baabda on Thursday. 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 conferees will discuss the pending Taef Accord articles, especially in terms of abolishing political sectarianism as a prelude to creating a senate. They will also tackle vital projects that need to be executed and will address the rifts that were caused by the electoral law negotiations, it was reported. 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.

Gulf Diplomatic Activity Expected in Beirut
Naharnet/June 20/17/Several gulf envoys are expected to visit Beirut this week, media reports said on Tuesday.Kuwait's Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah al-Mubarak al-Sabah will arrive in Beirut on Tuesday, reports said. Dispatched by Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah, the Minister is carrying a special message on Kuwait's preparedness to help Lebanon on various levels. On Wednesday, a Saudi delegation led by Gulf Affairs Minister Thamer al-Sabhan is expected to arrive in the country.

France Jails Lebanese Conman who Posed as Secret Agent
Naharnet/June 20/17/A Lebanese man who posed as a secret agent for a decade to swindle millions of euros from his victims was jailed for five years in France on Tuesday. A court in Versailles, west of Paris, also ordered Dany Hadid to pay 1.3 million euros ($1.5 million) in damages and interest to six plaintiffs, including an Egyptian restaurant-owner he had reduced to financial ruin. Hadid, 42, was sentenced to a five-year prison term for fraud and money-laundering and further fined 80,000 euros. He has been barred from running companies for the next 10 years. He had managed to extract large sums for himself and his accomplices from personal and professional contacts by convincing them that he was an intelligence agent who could offer them services in exchange for cash, the court heard. The money would then be transferred to Hadid, sometimes using opaque Lebanese bank accounts. Hadid, who lived in Rambouillet west of Paris, denied the accusations, saying he was the victim of a "cabal" launched against him by the alleged victims and his own co-defendants. His main accomplice, a former musician in a police brass band who worked on the scam as a driver and courier, has already been jailed for two years. Four other co-defendants including an accounting expert were handed suspended sentences of between six and 18 months.

State Security Arrests 'Emir' of Islamist Syrian Rebel Group
Naharnet/June 20/17/State Security on Tuesday announced the arrest in the Bekaa province of a “former emir of the Ahfad al-Hamza Battalion of the Ahrar al-Sham Front.”Identifying the detainee as Syrian national M.H., State Security said he was arrested after surveillance and after he raised suspicion that he had ties to terrorist groups. “During interrogation, he confessed to being a former emir of the Ahfad al-Hamza Battalion of the Ahrar al-Sham Front and that he had maintained communication with the group's members in (Syria's) Idlib,” State Security said. It added that the 41-year-old detainee had entered Lebanon illegally via the southern border town of Shebaa on August 20, 2015. “He then resided in the town of Majdal Anjar in the Zahle district,” State Security added. “The suspect was detained on charges of belonging to a terrorist group and he was later handed over to the Intelligence Directorate of the Lebanese Army at the request of the military prosecution,” the security agency added.

Geagea Hails Vote Law, Says State Can't Grow Strong in Presence of Illegal Arms
Naharnet/June 20/17/Lebanese Forces Leader Samir Geagea described on Tuesday the newly agreed vote law system as a “historical" achievement, but warned that the state cannot grow strong in the presence of illegal arms. “It is impossible to have a strong state and republic in Lebanon as long as weapons and strategic decisions are not under the state's control,” said Geagea during the LF annual Iftar on Tuesday. He regretted “the presence of a group in Lebanon that deems corruption as a normal part of the state's activity.” The LF leader warned against corruption saying: “It is going to be a big battle, corruption is an imminent threat to the state.”On the newly approved electoral law, he praised it and said: “It is a historical accomplishment that was made in Lebanon. It carries great positive aspects.”

Hajj Hassan Says Electoral Law 'Flaws' Must be Discussed in Institutions
Naharnet/June 20/17/Industry Minister Hussein al-Hajj Hassan of Hizbullah admitted Tuesday that the new electoral law contains “a lot of flaws,” while stressing that these defects should be discussed “in state institutions and not through the media.”“We have passed a modern and reformative electoral law and the supposed date for holding the elections is May,” Hajj Hassan said in an interview on MTV. He added: “Experience has proved that when we want to find solutions we can find them, and the electoral law and state budget are the proof.” As for President Michel Aoun's call for a Baabda consultative meeting on Thursday, the minister said “inviting the heads of the political blocs to a meeting at the Baabda Palace is something positive and the unanimous willingness to attend is also something positive.” Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil had noted Monday that the electoral law “should be enhanced with more restraints in the future, including the qualification threshold, the qualification round and other demands,” although the new law was ratified by Parliament on Friday. The law, which is based on proportional representation and 15 electoral districts, was approved after months of political wrangling during which Bassil and the FPM insisted on “improving Christian representation.”The new 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.

Ghassan Salameh Agrees to Be Nominated as UN Envoy to Libya
Cairo – Lebanon’s former Culture Minister Ghassan Salameh said that he accepted to be appointed as the new UN envoy to Libya, succeeding the German diplomat Martin Kobler, whose term would expire end of this month. A Security Council session on Tuesday is expected to witness Salameh’s appointment by unanimous vote. He will then become the second Arab and Lebanese diplomat to occupy this post, following former Minister Tarek Mitri. In remarks to Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, Salameh said: “I have agreed that the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, submits my name for this mission; and now we shall wait and see.”The Lebanese diplomat declined to talk about his new mission and the challenges that would face him, saying that in line with the United Nations’ work processes and the respect to the current envoy, he was required “to wait until my actual appointment day before I express my views.”
The search for a successor to Kobler, who has served as the UN representative in Libya since November 2015, began in February when Guterres proposed former Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad for the job. However, the US rejected Fayyad because of his nationality. Salameh, who has been chosen by Guterres on Friday, is a professor of International Relations and Conflict Resolution at Sciences-Po in Paris. The Security Council must agree by consensus on the appointment of special envoys. Traditionally, the UN chief informally discusses candidates with the 15-member body to ensure agreement before officially proposing a name.Diplomats quoted by Reuters said that objections were unlikely and the UN Security Council will give its green light for the appointment on Tuesday.

Lebanon's civil society groups gear up for 2018 electionsالحراك المدني يستعد لخوض الانتخابات في لبنان
Bachir el-Khoury/Al Monitor/June 20/17
Lebanon's parliament approaved a new electoral law June 16, and several political activists and “alternative” parties are already preparing themselves for the next elections, expected in May 2018.
After Lebanon’s long-awaited electoral law was ratified, civil society movements and members are getting ready to join the elections that are scheduled to be held May 2018.
Lebanon's civil society has actively called over the last few months for a law based on proportional representation, as well as a series of reforms that are considered to be necessary for the transparency of the electoral process. With the new law in place and with the parliament's term expiring June 20, Lebanese civil society is now preparing itself for the second phase of its battle: participation in the upcoming elections, expected in 11 months, after the current parliament extended its term for the third consecutive time since 2013.
"This is definitely a positive step, yet insufficient," said Zeina el-Helou, the secretary-general of the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections. "The parties in power have minimized the effect of the proportional representation and sustained confessionalism through the number and division of districts. This is not to mention that several essential reforms, such as the female quota, lowering the voting age from 21 to 18 or the creation of an independent authority, were not included in the law."
She continued: “In addition, the electoral expenditures have been effectively increased; in fact, to the individual $100,000 allowed disbursements — that are yet to be capped now, while there was no explicit ceiling before — another $100,000 was added, that can be disbursed by the electoral list on each candidate. A third reform is the rise of the permitted variable expenditure per voter to 5,000 Lebanese pounds, [compared to] 4,000 Lebanese pounds in 2009.” Concretely, this translated into more than $500,000 of legal expenditures in a district of 100,000 voters.
Despite these failures and the postponement of elections until May 2018, the battle to break through the next parliament is already underway.
Nadine Moussa is an active member of Lebanese civil society who will participate in the elections as an “independent candidate,” she told Al-Monitor. "My decision is in line with my personal struggle for years in favor of a state of law, but it is also motivated by a deep conviction that the Lebanese are more than ever thirsty for a serious and solid alternative to the current feudal, confessional and corrupt system of governance that has been in place for decades," she added. "I also decided to run in the elections in order to contribute to a feminine dynamic against the traditional ‘men’s club.’”
In 2013, Moussa, a lawyer and mother of two children, submitted her candidacy with other members of the Take Back Parliament movement, before the Lebanese Assembly decided not to hold any elections and to extend its term.
Other activists within civil society are also potential candidates. Artist Nada Sehnaoui had already run in the 1998 municipal elections before appearing again in 2016 as a candidate on the Beirut Madinati list, which included 12 women and 12 men from different professional backgrounds. The list was pitted against another that was supported by all the political parties in power.
Against the odds, Beirut Madinati gathered nearly 40% of the votes — a “civil” phenomenon observed for the first time in a country that has always been dominated by traditional confessional parties. Beirut Madinati has quickly become a label of alternative governance and progressivism among the Lebanese. If the coalition officially decides not to participate in the legislative ballot, some of its members will run individually or within a group of Beirut Madinati.
"I have not yet made my final decision, but this is secondary. My candidate is the political program that will be adopted by a united civil society,” Sehnaoui told Al-Monitor.
Since July 2016, an informal team of activists that Nada Sehnaoui joined has been working on this front. "The idea is to create the nucleus of a broad coalition that would include all individuals, movements and parties wishing to run in the elections on the basis of a program that would encompass all the dimensions of public life, including economic, social and environmental policies and reforms," she said.
While some activists are still hesitant, emerging parties, such as Sabaa (Arabic for seven), have already started their battle and are forging their electoral lists in several parts of the country. "Sabaa has now more than 2,000 members, a large network of contacts and key members with substantial experience in policymaking," Ziad Hayek, the director of the party's board, told Al-Monitor.
Hayek has been the secretary-general of the High Council for Privatization since 2006, a highly ranked public position he maintained despite his decision to rally and actively contribute to the Social Movement in 2015, amid an unprecedented waste crisis in the country.
"I don’t intend to run in the elections, but I fully support the current driving energy among some groups. … I have been living an internal dilemma, not to say a revolt, for several years now because no public policy issue has ever been taken seriously since I joined office," he said.
While the proliferation of new movements and parties is, no doubt, the proof of an anti-establishment pulse gaining ground year after year since the waste crisis in the summer of 2015, this buoyant socio-political phenomenon in Lebanon may nevertheless play against civil society during the next elections through the risk of dispersion.
Lebanon's civil society lacked momentum after the garbage crisis, partly because of the absence of a unique structure bringing together all the groups under one banner.
"That’s why a common platform gathering all progressive forces is more than necessary. This is a condition if we really want to break through. We must be united and inclusive but tightly hermetical to opportunists and hidden faces of the establishment [who use the label of] civil society,” said Wadih el-Asmar, one of the founders of the You Stink movement.
"We are actively working to make this platform emerge," he added.
Many activists share Asmar’s point of view. "If the civil society doesn’t unite, we won’t get anywhere. We saw what happened with the Syrian opposition, despite the nobility and the legitimacy of its cause, or with the Palestinians. … The road to reach this objective is definitely not easy, especially since beyond the principle of uniting everyone, the real challenge on the ground will be to create a proper governance structure for this coalition, a common brand, secure financing through one single fund and having electoral delegates,” said Asmar.
But this last battle is worth it, insisted Moussa, especially since "the chances of success are big if we manage to impose ourselves as one united alternative” for voters. She referred to a secret poll conducted by Lebanon Statistics for the National Democratic Institute that was only disclosed to political parties and civil society groups. She said, “47% of the Lebanese say they will not vote for any of the political parties in power” after years of recurrent political vacuums and paralysis, economic recession, increasing corruption and, most importantly, two illegal extensions of parliament’s term.

Israeli Army (IDF) prepares for future of war in region الجيش الإسرائيلي يستعد للحري القامة في المنطقة
Ben Caspit/Al Monitor/June 20/17
Translator: Sandy Bloom
June 14 saw the completion of an enormous Israel Defense Forces (IDF) commando brigade exercise in Cyprus. It was jointly conducted by the Cypriot army and hundreds of Israeli commando fighters and involved 10 Blackhawk helicopters from the Israeli air force, dogs and dog handlers from the IDF Special Forces Canine Unit (Oketz) and fighters from additional IDF units, such as combat engineering and intelligence. The drill was conducted in the Troodos Mountains. The Israeli soldiers were flown first to the Cypriot city of Paphos on IDF air force transport aircraft and from there to the mountains on Blackhawks. They practiced fighting in built-up environments (urban warfare), battling in mountainous areas and landing forces using helicopters in harsh terrain and at high altitude while working in close cooperation with foreign forces in unfamiliar arenas.
After conducting military exercises in Cyprus, the Israel Defense Forces are trying to anticipate all possibilities of warfare on Israel's borders, including a ground confrontation in Lebanon with Hezbollah.
It is clear that the mountain range chosen for the drill closely resembles the topographic conditions in Lebanon, although no Israeli spokesperson has confirmed it. The last ground exercise conducted by Israel in Lebanon took place 11 years ago, in 2006, and was not very successful. In what Israelis call the Second Lebanon War, the IDF sent three armored divisions into extensive mountainous territory, which meant that its soldiers were exposed to Hezbollah rockets for hundreds of conspicuous meters. Since then, the IDF has been working on a new outline for ground maneuvers more closely adapted to the current reality and balance of power. “Next time, things will look completely different,” an army source told Al-Monitor, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
The IDF of 2017 is completely different from the IDF that fought Hezbollah in July 2006. Years of cutbacks had caused the 2006 army to become a withered, untrained body lacking operational experience and precise goals. In the Lebanon war, the IDF unsuccessfully searched for its opponent on land, while Hezbollah fighters avoided all possible direct contact with Israeli armored divisions. Instead, the fighters confined themselves to targeting Israeli tanks and soldiers with Kornet missiles from afar with a certain degree of success.
This asymmetrical warfare took its greatest toll on the IDF — a cumbersome, heavy and highly visible entity fighting flexible guerrilla forces hidden on territory with which the latter were familiar. Israel learned its lesson in the decade that has passed. Its reserves deployment has been rehabilitated and enlarged. Its training-exercise system has been improved and upgraded. A commando brigade was established, with one of its units (Egoz) taking part in the Cypriot maneuver. Sophisticated training sites were created, and regional alliances were struck. These allow the IDF to train repeatedly with foreign forces and on territory with physical features like those on which future battles may well be fought.
A significant shift has occurred in the IDF's perception in regard to fighting in a coalition of forces. Until recently, the Israeli army did not often conduct combat exercises with foreign forces, with the exception of the Americans. Israel focused on joint maneuvers with the US army, but no other countries. This has changed. The IDF’s operational view today does not negate, and perhaps even encourages, the creation of international coalitions and joint combat. The IDF of 2017 conducts maneuvers with the Greeks, the Cypriots and other armies while upgrading its inter-army cooperation abilities.
At this point in time, it is difficult to envision real fighting against real enemies in which additional forces would join those of the IDF. As people know in the Middle East, however, never say never. Against the backdrop of recent reports about feelers between Israel and Saudi Arabia on establishing economic relations and the half-secret alliance between Israel and the Sunni states, one must prepare for any possible scenario.
The commando unit maneuver in Cyprus was geared toward a possible future confrontation with Hezbollah, but not only that. The way things are developing on Israel's northern front, scenarios now appear possible that one could not have imagined only a few years ago. Under certain circumstances, it is possible that the IDF would need to maneuver in Syrian, not Lebanese, territory.
As strange as it might sound, maneuvers in Syria at this point in time would be totally different from what the IDF prepared itself for in the past. Since the Syrian army has disintegrated, and Syrian armored units no longer feature in significant numbers, the IDF's outlook on maneuvers has changed accordingly. This is the reason the light commando brigade was founded. The brigade moves about on helicopters, jeeps and other light forms of transport.
Israel does not preclude a future scenario involving a commando force maneuvering in Syria or in Lebanon to remove one kind of threat or another to Israeli national security. The days of maneuvers by armored divisions of hundreds of tanks have become obsolete. Now the territory belongs to those using fast, light and concealed forms of movement with the ability to deliver a powerful, unexpected blow with perfect timing to a precise location. That is, in essence, the story of the new Israeli commando brigade.
Still, the biggest threat currently facing Israel is not Syria, but Hezbollah’s arsenal of rockets and missiles. Despite the exhaustive training exercises being conducted with an eye on land maneuvers in Lebanon, the top Israeli conceptual hypothesis, backed by the current chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, does not view this as the most decisive element for winning a future skirmish. Eizenkot served as head of the Operations Directorate during the 2006 war. In post-factum analyses, Eizenkot felt that the war should have been halted after the first three days, during which Israel scored several important operational achievements as well as a hearts-and-minds victory. This, he felt, would have saved many lives and achieved a similar deterrence effect similar to what was gained after 33 days of warfare.
Nonetheless, Eizenkot is leading massive Israeli preparations geared toward the option of ground maneuvers. As far as we know at present, the chances that Israeli armored divisions will again invade southern Lebanon are not high. The next maneuver, if such takes place, will be much more rapid and flexible, a lot less armored and make much better use of the element of surprise. At least, that is what Israel hopes, and those are the skills that the IDF is developing toward a possible flare-up on the northern front. According to intelligence reports, the probability of such a flare-up is not high. Hezbollah is mired in Syria up to its neck, and Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah has no desire to open a second front at the moment. In the Middle East, however, logic, intelligence assessments and probabilities are not absolute. Anything and everything can happen at any given moment. Israel hopes that this time, it will be prepared.

Iran Missiles Struck Isis, But It Is Also Aimed At US, Saudis, Israelصواريخ إيران التي استهدفت داعش أيضاً استهدفت أميركا والسعوديين وإسرائيل
Jerusalem Post/June 20/17
That Iran would verbally threaten ISIS, Saudi Arabia, the US and Israel is not new. That it would launch six Zolfaghar ballistic missiles more than 600 kilometers into another country is.
Although Iran’s ballistic missiles hit ISIS in Syria on Sunday, the audience for the strike explicitly included the US and Saudi Arabia and, implicitly, Israel.
Recently, tensions have escalated on multiple fronts, between the US and the Saudis on one side and Iran on the other. The US and Saudi Arabia were specifically mentioned by an Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps spokesman as part of its audience for the “message” it sent by firing the missiles.
Israel, although not explicitly mentioned, has been the focus of constant threats by Iran – both directly and indirectly – via its support for Hezbollah and Hamas.
That Iran would verbally threaten ISIS, Saudi Arabia, the US and Israel is not new. That it would launch six Zolfaghar ballistic missiles more than 600 kilometers into another country is.
The question is how new, and does it transform Israel’s threat estimate? The argument – that firing the missiles greatly enhanced the threat Iran presents to Israel – would say its use of such powerful long-range weapons makes it more likely that it would use them again.
Going one step further, the argument would note: Even if Iran’s nuclear program is currently delayed by its deal with the West, in around another eight years, Iran could be launching ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads attached.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seemed to take Iran’s missile launch seriously, saying on Monday: “We are following their actions and we are following their words. I have one message to Iran: ‘Don’t threaten Israel.’”
While the threat is nothing to scoff at, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman appeared to downplay it on Monday saying: “Israel is not worried, Israel is ready for any development. We are not concerned.”
Those arguing that Iran’s missile launch is not a serious change for Israel and is primarily one for ISIS, and possibly Saudi Arabia, can note that Iran has for years had the capability to hit Israel with its less advanced Shabab 3 and other missiles.
The longer range of the Zolfaghar might matter for US bases in the Middle East and for Saudi Arabia, but it adds no new threat for Israel.
Also, past conduct suggests that Iran’s missile strike, even as it shocked most of the world, is predictable behavior and may even have been understated.
According to both Iran and the anti-Iranian Mujahidin-e Khalq Organization (MEK), on April 18, 2001, Iran hit the Iraq-based MEK with between 44 and 77 missiles in as many as six locations.
Iran’s onslaught on the MEK came following the MEK’s launch of more than a dozen mortar attacks around Tehran.
Sunday’s six missiles against one ISIS location were a response to Islamic State’s June 7 audacious, simultaneous terrorist attack on Iran’s Parliament and the Ayatollah Khomeini shrine in the heart of Tehran.
So, in that sense, Iran’s attack on ISIS was far more modest than its last firing of ballistic missiles on the MEK.
Finally, in both the MEK and ISIS cases, Iran fired missiles on a weaker enemy to “teach a lesson” when it believed they had crossed some lines in confronting Iran deep in its territory.
Saudi Arabia has far more sophisticated firepower than ISIS or the MEK to hit back at Iran from a long distance; and the US and Israel each have even greater firepower than the Saudis to rain down on Iran if attacked by missiles.
Ultimately, though Iran’s missile strikes raised some eyes and were probably meant to show some toughness to the US and Saudi Arabia, for Israel, they did little more than confirm Iran as an ongoing and relevant threat that must be carefully monitored.
*Gil Hoffman contributed to this story.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on June 20-21/17
Russia Threatens to Target US Warplanes in Syria
Asharq Al-Awsat/June 20/17/ Moscow, Washington– US Marine General Joseph Dunford said on Monday that the United States was working to restore a communications line with Russia in order to avoid an accidental clash over Syria. Moscow had cut off the “deconfliction” communications line after the US downed a Syrian military jet on Sunday. In a press briefing, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said: “We’ll work diplomatically and military in the coming hours to reestablish deconfliction.” Russia has warned that it will treat US warplanes operating in parts of Syria where its air forces are also present as “targets”. Tensions between the two countries escalated on Sunday as the US military brought down a Syrian military jet near Raqqa for bombing near US-allied forces on the ground. In response, Russia’s defense ministry said it would track US-led coalition aircraft with missile systems and military aircraft. The ministry added that a communications line set up between Russia and the US to prevent mid-air collisions would also be suspended. “All kinds of airborne vehicles, including aircraft and UAVs of the international coalition detected to the west of the Euphrates River will be tracked by the Russian SAM systems as air targets,” the Russian defense ministry said in a statement. “The shooting down of a Syrian Air Force jet in Syria’s airspace is a cynical violation of Syria’s sovereignty,” it added, noting that the repeated combat operations by the US under the pretext of combating terrorism “against the legitimate armed forces of a UN member-country are a flagrant violation of international law and an actual military aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic.”Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov called on the United States and all other countries involved in the Syria conflict to “coordinate their actions.” “We urge everyone to avoid acting unilaterally, to respect the sovereignty of Syria,” he stated. UK Prime Minister Theresa May, for her part, urged Russia to continue the use of “deconfliction” measures over the skies of Syria to reduce the risk of misunderstandings. Earlier on Monday, the US Central Command issued a statement saying that the downed Syrian military jet had been dropping bombs near US-backed SDF forces, which are seeking to oust ISIS from the city of Raqqa. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said: “We do not seek conflict with any party in Syria other than ISIS, but we will not hesitate to defend ourselves or our partners if threatened.”

Sisi, Mohammed bin Zayed Discuss Qatar Crisis in Cairo

Asharq Al-Awsat/June 20/17/ Cairo- Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi crown prince and deputy commander of the UAE Armed Forces, held talks over bilateral relations, the fight against terrorism and developments on the Qatari crisis. They both underlined the importance of concerted regional and international efforts to fight terrorism on all levels, especially to stop the flow of funds to terror organizations and the use of political and media covers. Sisi received Sheikh Mohammed – who arrived in Cairo on Monday – and they highlighted during their discussions the importance of uniting international community efforts to find peaceful resolutions for conflicts in the region and to contribute to achieving stability of Arab nations. They also underlined importance of intensifying efforts to reinforce joint Arab work for the best of Arab nations – they added that it is necessary to reach political solutions for the current crises in some regional states. Spokesperson for Sisi’s office Alaa Yousif confirmed that the bilateral meeting was followed by a session of extensive talks between the two countries’ delegations, during which the Egyptian president welcomed Abu Dhabi’s crown prince and praised the distinguished Egyptian-Emirati relations and the level of coordination and continuous consultation between the two countries on various issues of common interest. Sisi asked Sheikh Mohammed to convey his greetings to Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, hailing UAE’s role in reinforcing joint Arab work – Abu Dhabi’s crown prince in his turn also conveyed Sheikh Khalifa greetings and expressed his delight to visit Cairo.

King Salman, Iraqi PM Agree to Intensify Joint Efforts in Terrorism Fight
Asharq Al-Awsat/June 20/17/Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi voiced on Tuesday Riyadh and Baghdad’s determination to continue their successful efforts in combating terrorist organizations, especially ISIS, whose criminal acts have affected the security of both countries, reported the Saudi Press Agency (SPA). The two leaders agreed to “intensify their joint efforts in confronting challenges, starting with combating extremism and terrorism in all of its forms,” said a statement issued at the end of their meeting in Saudi Arabia. Abadi had arrived in Saudi Arabia on Monday on an official visit. Meetings between King Salman and Abadi stressed the ties that bind the Kingdom and Iraq, underlining the need to hold regular meetings between officials from the two sides. As part of the constructive summit that pervaded the bilateral talks, regional issues and political and security challenges facing the Arab and Islamic ummahs were discussed. The challenge of terrorism should be faced with drying up the financing of terror groups and committing to agreements and pledges that bind countries to this goal. Saudi Arabia and Iraq condemned all acts that violate the security and stability of either country and the region, stressing the need to reject the spirit of hate, violence and sectarianism, added the joint statement. They also asserted their keenness on bolstering their fraternal ties to achieve joint interests and bolster regional security. Furthermore, the two sides agreed to establish a coordination council to develop ties and shift them towards the strategic level and open new horizons of cooperation in various fields, including politics, security, economy, development, trade, investment, tourism and culture. Abadi expressed the Iraqi government’s appreciation for the role of Saudi Arabia in its role in supporting efforts to rebuild Iraq. He also praised the efforts of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and the Saudi government in catering to Hajj and Umrah pilgrims. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior and a number of other officials were present at the meeting between King Salman and Abadi. Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, had also held talks with Abadi.

Iraqi Forces Fight Door-to-Door in Old Mosul
Asharq Al-Awsat/June 20/17/ Erbil- Iraqi forces began storming ISIS-held Old City of Mosul on Sunday, in an assault they hope will be the last in the eight-month-old campaign to seize the militants’ stronghold.Commanders said that the terrorists are putting up fierce resistance and there are fears for more than 100,000 civilians believed to be trapped in the maze of narrow streets. For his part, Staff Major General Maan al-Saadi, a top commander in Iraq’s elite Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS), told AFP that heavy fighting had resumed at dawn on Monday. “At 6:00 am. we pushed deeper into the Old City and took control of new areas in the Faruq neighborhood,” Saadi said. “ISIS resistance has been fierce,” he added. “They have blocked every entrance, planted IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and booby trapped houses our forces might be near,” he said. “Penetrating was very difficult. Today the fighting is face to face.”The push into Mosul’s historic heart on the west bank of the Tigris River marks the culmination of a months-long campaign by Iraqi forces to retake the terrorist group’s last major urban stronghold in the country. The US-led coalition battling ISIS in Iraq and neighboring Syria has backed the offensive with months of airstrikes. The loss of Mosul would mark the effective end of the Iraqi portion of the cross-border “caliphate” which ISIS declared in the summer of 2014 after seizing swathes of land in Iraq and Syria. Sheltering from relentless fire and explosions near a sniper position on the edge of the Old City, CTS Captain Ahmed Jassem described a bitter fight. “We can’t bring our vehicles into these narrow streets. It means they can’t use as many car bombs either, but they use motorcycle bombs and even IEDs mounted on remote-controlled toy cars,” he said. Iraqi forces stationed Humvees by the Grand Mosque on the retaken east side of Mosul, facing the Old City and mounted with speakers. The loudspeakers blared messages to ISIS fighters, telling them: “You have only this choice: surrender or die.” Late on Sunday, Iraqi forces dropped nearly 500,000 leaflets over the city, warning that they had “started attacking from all directions.”The leaflets urged civilians to “stay away from open places and… exploit any opportunity that arises during the fighting” to escape. The United Nations said Friday that ISIS may be holding more than 100,000 civilians as human shields in the Old City.On Monday, the French national broadcaster France Televisions and Reporters Without Borders said three French journalists were wounded in a landmine blast in Mosul and their Iraqi fixer Bakhtiyar Addad killed. Only a few hundred meters from the heaviest fighting, small groups of civilians gathered. “We moved to a camp in Hammam al-Alil when the neighborhood was liberated, but homes were being looted so we came back to protect our property,” said Nabil Hamed Khattab, a 56-year old who did not flinch when a mortar round came crashing down a few blocks away. Commanders have said the fighting is expected to be very difficult and could last weeks. Surrounded by Iraqi forces on three sides and blocked on the other by the Tigris that runs through Mosul, ISIS militants are cornered.

Bahrain: Execution to Terrorism Convict, Life-Sentence to Another
Asharq Al-Awsat/June 20/17/ Manama- A criminal court in Bahrain issued an execution sentence in the case of a terrorism convict and a life-sentence in the case of another convict as well as a 3-year in prison for seven others convicted in the same case. The court also ordered to revoke nationality from the first and second convicts and to fine them with the losses caused by the terrorist attack. On June 30 2016, a terrorist attack took place in the street of Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah in Bahrain and killed one Bahraini woman – investigations revealed the committer. They showed that a wanted man – currently a fugitive in Iran and working for Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – assigned the convicted to carry out the terrorist attack and target police patrol. Ahmad al-Hammadi, the head of the anti-terrorism public prosecution, said that 10 suspects were involved in the case for accusations of: intentional murder, having ties with a foreign state, possession of unlicensed weapons, carrying out blasts, subjecting public and private transportation to danger as well as getting trained over the use of arms and explosions to conduct terrorist crimes and get involved in them. Director-General of Criminal Investigation and Forensic Science said that relevant security bodies headed to the site of the terrorist attack where required procedures were taken through preliminary inspection, gathering pieces of evidence and commencing investigations that led to identifying a number of suspects. On May 23, the Ministry of Interior conducted a security operation in Diraz to break up illegal groupings that led to the death of five and the arresting of 286 wanted individuals.

At Least 10 Killed in Shabab Bombing in Somali Capital

Asharq Al-Awsat/June 20/17/At least ten people were killed in a car bombing in the Somali capital Mogadishu. The attack, claimed by the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabab group, targeted a government building, a government official said.“More than 10 persons died, 20 others were wounded. The explosion destroyed the building of Wadajir District headquarters. More than 10 cars were destroyed in the explosion,” Abdifatah Omar Halane, spokesman for the Mogadishu mayor, said. Police meanwhile put the death toll to at least 15. A suicide car bomber posing as a milk delivery van carried out the attack. The death toll may rise, as some of the at least nine people wounded were badly hurt in the explosion, Captain Mohamed Hussein told The Associated Press. Most of the dead were civilians, he said. The blast comes less than a week after al-Shabab gunmen carried out an overnight siege on a popular restaurant in the Somali capital, killing at least 31 people. The Somalia-based al-Shabab often targets high-profile areas of Mogadishu, including hotels, military checkpoints and areas near the presidential palace. It has vowed to step up attacks after the recently elected government launched a new military offensive against it. Al-Shabab last year became the deadliest extremist group in Africa, with more than 4,200 people killed in 2016, according to the Washington-based Africa Center for Strategic Studies. The extremist group also faces a new military push from the United States after President Donald Trump approved expanded operations, including airstrikes, against al-Shabab.

Israel Starts Work on New Settlement Regardless of US Peace Efforts
Asharq Al-Awsat/June 20/17/Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the start of work Tuesday on a new settlement in the occupied West Bank on the eve of a peace mission pushed for by the White House.“Today, the work on the ground has begun, as I promised, to establish a new settlement for the Amona settlers,” Netanyahu tweeted over a picture of a small bulldozer and a digger working on a rocky hill overlooking a vineyard. The Amichai settlement, in the northern West Bank, will house some 300 settlers evicted in February from the Amona outpost after Israel’s Supreme Court ruled their homes had been built illegally on privately-owned Palestinian land. It is the first new Jewish settlement in the West Bank in some 25 years. The extensive construction in the meantime has focused on expanding existing settlements. “After dozens of years, I have the privilege to be the prime minister building a new settlement in Judaea and Samaria,” Netanyahu tweeted, using the Hebrew biblical term for the West Bank. No date has been announced for actual housing construction. Netanyahu’s announcement comes a day after Trump’s special representative Jason Greenblatt arrived for talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials on relaunching peace talks that collapsed in 2014. Yet, highlighting the earth-moving work suggests he believed he had little to fear from US President Donald Trump’s administration over settlement building that has drawn Palestinian and international condemnation. Greenblatt is to be joined by Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner on Wednesday. Together they will “spearhead the peace effort” the US administration believes is possible, a White House official said. During a meeting at the White House in February, Trump asked Netanyahu to “hold back on settlements for a little bit”, a request seen as part of an effort to build trust with the Palestinians ahead of a renewed push for peace. Jewish settlements in the West Bank, including Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem, are illegal under international law and are considered one of the main obstacles to peace. Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, called the ground-breaking “a grave escalation and an attempt to foil efforts by the American administration to revive negotiations”, especially (before) the arrival of the US envoys”. Ahead of the arrival of the two envoys, the White House urged Israelies and Palestinians to “create an environment conducive to peacemaking”.

Australia's Military Suspends Air Operations over Syria
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 20/17/Australia's military on Tuesday said it was temporarily halting air missions over Syria, following the shooting down of a Syrian jet by US forces. "As a precautionary measure, Australian Defence Force strike operations into Syria have temporarily ceased," a defence spokeswoman said in a statement.

Explosion Rocks Brussels Train Station, One Suspect Shot
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 20/17/An explosion rocked the central train station in Brussels on Tuesday and a man was shot by police during the incident, prosecutors told Belgian media. The incident took place around 1900 GMT, causing the city's Gare Centrale to be evacuated. The nearby Grand Place, a major tourist destination, was also evacuated. "A crowd panicked in the station and ran for the tracks after an incident," said Arnaud Reyman, spokesman for Infrabel, the Belgian railway operator. Firemen were called to the scene after a report of a small explosion, RTBF broadcaster reported. The incident in Belgium comes a day after a man mowed down Muslims near a mosque in London, and a radical Islamist on a terror watch-list rammed a car laden with weapons and gas into a police vehicle in Paris. Brussels has been on high alert since Islamic State suicide bombers struck the city's airport and metro in March 2016, killing 32 people and injuring hundreds more. The Islamic State group claimed the attacks, which were carried out by the same jihadist cell behind the November 2016 Paris attacks that killed 130 people.Soldiers have been stationed at railway stations, government buildings and European Union institutions in Brussels since the aftermath of the Paris attacks when a link to Belgium was first established. elgium suffered a further shock last August when a machete-wielding man shouting "Allahu akbar" (God is greatest) attacked two policewomen in the industrial town of Charleroi, before being shot dead.The country's law enforcement agencies and intelligence services came under intense scrutiny after the attacks for apparently missing a series of leads after the Paris attacks that could have led to the Brussels bombers.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on June 20-21/17
Qatar without its Three Weapons
/عبد الرحمن الراشد/قطر من دون أسلحتها الثلاثة
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/June 20/17
Authorities in Doha enjoyed three features: media, money and an effective diplomacy. These elements helped compensate for Qatar’s small size, small population and weak army. In its crisis, however, Qatar appears small, weak and an easy target. So what happened?
Before answering, we have to say that Qatar managed with great efficiency in imposing itself through its three characteristics and other reasons, such as exploiting the vacuum in the region. Egypt under former President Hosni Mubarak avoided getting involved in conflicts. It responded to Doha’s blatant meddling and incitement with calm diplomacy and limited media coverage. Instead of confronting it directly, Saudi Arabia was busy dousing fires that Qatar ignited in Afghanistan, Lebanon, Yemen and within the Kingdom itself.
We do not mean to undermine Qatar when we speak of its small size and population. Singapore is a small and great country and it is 12 times smaller than Qatar and has twice its population. Qatar is also bigger than Lebanon.
What we are criticizing is the Qatari government’s belief that it is a major regional force that wants to change the region and impose its policy without taking into consideration its own size or respecting the countries themselves.
Qatar wants to change the region and it does not implement anything that it is trying to impose by force on others. It supports and funds contradictory ideologies, from democracy to Islamic extremism, on Egypt and Tunisia.
These multiple and contradictory personalities or the Qatari schizophrenia has cost it its credibility in the world where it has a liberal front on the internal scene and an extremist Brotherhood one in its foreign policy.
A capital of contradictions, between its support and financing of extremists in al-Anbar in Iraq and its hosting of leaders, who reside side-by-side in Qatar with the US military base that is the launchpad for jets shelling Falluja and al-Ramadi on a daily basis. Along with Iran, Qatar is responsible for supporting the Palestinian division and supporting Hamas against the Palestinian Authority. It hosted Hamas leaders and the Israeli office in Doha.
For years, Doha sought to back Saudi Arabia’s enemies in Yemen, Houthi extremists and some northern Yemen tribal leaders, who fought the Kingdom at the end of the last decade. It funded Saudi opposition figures inside and outside of the country.
At the same time, Qatar spoke of brotherly ties and other rubbish and empty speeches. The silence and patience of regional countries over the Qatari government allowed it to go too far until four countries finally decided to turn to the source of the chaos instead of confronting its pawns.
Qatar’s three features of media, money and diplomacy have become the features of the four countries that gave Doha a taste of its own medicine.
Qatar suddenly found itself the figure of scorn and ridicule. It sensed the isolation and fear over its security and existence. As time passes and as the problems increase, it will gradually discover that it is indeed a small country, that it is worthless without its Gulf and Arab brothers and that it cannot live in peace.
Qatar discovered that the al-Udeid base will not protect it. Its threats to turn to Iran, its invitation to the Turks, its Brotherhood media, its investment of $170 billion in the West and its contacts in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Kuwait will not intimidate its rivals. All this will not grant Doha peace of mind.
Qatar needs to understand the truth of the hard world. It needs to realize the truth that it created chaos in the region not because it was strong, but because its neighbors have been patient.
Qatar’s three features have been stripped by the four countries. Combined, they have a stronger media, more money and a faster and more vital diplomacy.
The extent of Qatar’s crisis and failure can be seen after its government resorted to exiled Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem, who is residing in Washington, and how he had to relay a message through CNN to US President Donald Trump.

Kushner's Arrival Ups the Ante In Trump's Opening Peace Bidزيارة صهر ترامب، كوشنر لإسرائيل تُسرِّع عملية السلام
Jerusalem Post/June 20/17
Former US ambassador Dan Shapiro, in a conference call on Monday organized by the Israel Project, said these visits are further signs of Trump's seriousness “in trying to achieve the ultimate deal.”
US President Donald Trump, in the thick of all kinds of investigations at home, has managed to create leverage in the Middle East. But it is the type of leverage that needs to be used quickly before it dissolves.
That at least is how former US ambassador Dan Shapiro looks at the Trump administration’s continuing diplomatic push in the region – one that will be reinforced Wednesday with the arrival of Trump’s son-in-law, adviser and all-around trouble-shooter, Jared Kushner.
Kushner and his wife, Ivanka, joined Trump on his visit here last month, but this will be his first stab at the type of Israeli-Palestinian shuttle diplomacy that up until now under this administration has been carried out by Jason Greenblatt, who himself arrived on Monday.
While Greenblatt is scheduled to hold meetings in Jerusalem and Ramallah until Thursday, Kushner will be here only one day.
Shapiro, in a conference call on Monday organized by the Israel Project, said these visits are further signs of Trump’s seriousness “in trying to achieve the ultimate deal.”
According to Shapiro, Trump laid a good foundation for these efforts with positive interactions he has had with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and the leaders of the Sunni states he has met since his inauguration in January.
Trump, said Shapiro, has made clear that he has expectations of all sides. These expectations include: Israel restraining settlement construction; the Palestinians halting payments to the families of terrorists and the terrorists themselves; and the Arab countries showing an openness to gestures of normalization toward Israel, such as economic ties and civil aviation links.
“It seems to me that these preliminary conversations led to the point where the time is coming for him and his administration to put forth their own ideas, perhaps a proposal of principles to guide negotiations on final status, and the steps each side can take to support that effort,” Shapiro said.
The former envoy advised the administration to move quickly, saying Trump is presently at his point of maximum leverage in the region and that none of the parties – after those initial positive meetings – wants those initial positive meetings – wants to say “no” to the US president.
Trump had a successful visit in the Middle East, both in Saudi Arabia and Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and gained the trust of the leaders, Shapiro maintained. “He has established friendly relations and each side wants to do more to deepen the positive relations with him.”
Shapiro said Trump also made clear that “he has ‘asks’ of those leaders as well, and because of his known unpredictability, including his Twitter feed, he is very difficult to say no to.” Concern about how he would respond on Twitter, if spurned, gives him additional leverage, Shapiro said.
It is into this breach that Kushner is now stepping.
Kushner’s arrival and involvement in the process “raises the stakes for everyone,” Shapiro said, with the president’s son-in-law essentially daring each of the parties to say no.
“My guess is that they won’t,” he maintained. “Under the Kushner- Greenblatt leadership on behalf of the president, they put forward a set of proposed steps by each side to launch negotiations and support them with steps on the ground. My supposition is that no party will want to say ‘no.’ They may say, ‘yes, but,’ or ‘yes, with reservations.’ But I think they have a real opportunity if they move quickly to capitalize on the leverage the president has attained.”
But leverage has a tendency to dissipate over time, Shapiro said, as small disagreements with each party can gradually lower the cost of each subsequent disagreement, with the sides then finding it easier to say no. Trump’s domestic problems may also erode the leverage, another reason the administration may feel the impetus to act on this issue quickly.
“I think it is certainly possible for presidents to continue to conduct foreign affairs while dealing with domestic political troubles, and we have seen examples of that over many administrations in the past,” said Shapiro. “But it is true that if the investigation drags on for a long, long period of time, and there begin to be questions raised about the future of the administration, that will contribute to a lessening of his leverage.”

Pre-Schoolers Stage Terror Display At A Gaza Kindergarten Graduation Ceremony
MEMRI TV/June 20/17
In a graduation ceremony at the Al-Hoda Islamic Kindergarten in Gaza, pre-schoolers, wearing uniforms and carrying mock guns and posters of Islamic Jihad leaders, staged a display of terror attacks against Israelis. The footage, which was posted on the kindergarten's YouTube channel on May 29, includes Hebrew lyrics threatening Israelis with missiles and terror attacks and mocking IDF soldier Oron Shaul, whose body has been held by Hamas since 2014. The graduating class is called "Pioneers of Tomorrow." For MEMRI TV clips of similar displays, see here and here. The ceremony is held annually at the Al-Hoda kindergarten, which is affiliated with the Islamic Jihad. Omar Fora, the head of the kindergarten association and a leader of the Islamic Jihad, delivered an address, and Islamic cleric Taher Al-Lulu slammed Saudi Arabia for "standing behind Israel and America."
Singer (in Hebrew): "Oh, for my Zionist enemy I have prepared all kinds of missiles, which will reach him where he lives. He will die if he does not leave my country immediately. I will make him drink from the cups of death – oh, what a bitter drink! You have reached Gaza, you have reached your death. If you haven’t been killed yet, captivity is all yours. Fida'i... Prepare to shoot. Oh Zionist, a missile will reach you where you live. You are dead, whether you are asleep or awake at home, or on a mountaintop.
"I will make you drink from the cup of death – what a bitter taste! You have reached Gaza, you have reached your death. If you haven't been killed yet, I will tear you to pieces.
"Shoot accurately... You will hit the Kirya [IDF base in Tel Aviv]. Whether Nahal Brigade or Golani Brigade, whoever you may be, I will surprise you real good until you will beg for your life.
"I will eat you without salt, Zionist, because you are most tasty this way. Yes, you, I'm talking to you: I have cooked death for you. You have sinned, made a mistake, so taste your bitter fate."
Audience: "Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday, dear Oron. Happy birthday to you."
The children perform a choreographed routine featuring mock weapons and riot shields as well as basic military concepts such as moving in formation, reloading a weapon, and dropping down on the ground. At one point a small drone can also be seen flying over the stage.
Taher Al-Lulu: "You may have heard a few days ago how they describe Jihad and resistance. They describe the murabiteen on the land of the Prophet's ascent to the heavens as terrorists. As for the millions and billions [of dollars] – they are given [by KSA] to the U.S., the number one criminal, which supports Israel."We are satisfied with the company of Allah, and we do not want millions and billions [of dollars] from the traitors and hypocrites who stand behind Israel and America."

Bangladesh Turning More Radical
Mohshin Habib/Gatestone Institute/June 20/17
"Bangladesh is a Muslim country, no culture of statue establishment would be allowed by the people here... all of them must be removed." — Nur Hossain Quashemi, president, Dhaka branch of Hefazat-e-Islam.
"The Quran says: You [women] should stay at your home... Your duty is to stay at the husband's house and safeguard property. Your primary duty is to stay home and look after your family and children only. Do not go out even for shopping." — Shah Ahmed Shafi, chief of Hefazat-e-Islam.
Millions of Bangladeshi youths are increasingly wearing Islamic attire; and freedom of speech and freedom of movement are fast becoming a luxury -- if not a threat to the safety -- of Bangladesh's more secular-minded people, already feeling themselves a minority of sorts.
The government of Bangladesh, led by historically known secular political party Awami League, has completely surrendered to the country's radical forces regarding the demands, made by Hefazat-e-Islam and some other Islamic political and religious organizations, including the removal of the sculpture that was designed with the theme of the Greek goddess of justice. The statue was installed in last December following a decision taken by the Chief Justice. On May 26, at night, Bangladeshi authorities, in the name of the "consent of the chief justice", removed the sculpture from the front side of the Supreme Court. The current chief justice, incidentally, is the ever first non-Muslim to hold the constitutional post.
In reaction, the next day, after Friday prayers, Islamists, led by Hefazat-e-Islam, arranged a rally and expressed joy and satisfaction over removal of the sculpture and demanded further removal of all existing idols/statues/sculptures -- whatever one might call them -- across the country. "Bangladesh is a Muslim country, no culture of statue establishment would be allowed by the people here... all of them must be removed," said Nur Hossain Quashemi, the president of Dhaka branch of Hefazat-e-Islam, to the media.
Before the removal of the sculpture, a group of Islamist leaders, on April 11, led by Hefazat-e-Islam, met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at her official residence in Dhaka and demanded that she remove the sculpture.
"I don't like it myself," the prime minister said. "It is being called a Greek statue, but how will a Greek statue get here?"
She also said, "I will sit with the Chief Justice very soon. Have patience and don't create a situation about the issue. Have some faith in me; I will do whatever necessary about the matter." In the same meeting, she also recognized Dawra degree of Qawmi Madrasa education as equivalent to Master's degree of general education, even though it does not allow science or technology. The system is basically based only on Arabic-language learning.
The statue was eventually returned to the court, although on its rear side, but the problem remains.
Hefazat-e-Islam, a pressure group based in Chittagong, the second largest city of Bangladesh, has become the most aggressive voice in the country. In 2013, half a million Islamists in Dhaka and demanded implementation of 13 points that they launched including banning sculptures in public places. They were supported by almost all the Islamist organizations. Their points were:
Reinstate the phrase "Absolute trust and faith in the Almighty Allah" in the constitution as one of the fundamental principles of state policy.
Pass a law keeping a provision of capital punishment for maligning Allah, Islam and Prophet Muhammad and smear campaigns against Muslims.
Punish the "atheist" leaders of Shahbagh, bloggers and anti-Islamists who make "derogatory comments" about Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
Stop killing, attacking and shooting Islamic scholars and madrasa students.
Free all the arrested Islamic scholars and madrasa students.
Lift restrictions on mosques and remove obstacles to holding religious programmes.
Declare Qadianis (Ahmadiyyas) non-Muslim and stop their publicity and conspiracies.
Ban all foreign culture including free mixing of men and women and candlelit vigils.
Stop setting up sculptures at intersections, colleges and universities across the country.
Make Islamic education mandatory from primary to higher secondary levels after scrapping women's policy and education policy.
Stop threatening teachers and students of Qawmi madrasas, Islamic scholars, imams and khatibs.
Stop creating hatred against Muslims among young generation by misrepresentation of Islamic culture in the media.
Stop anti-Islam activities by NGOs, evil attempts by Qadianis and conversion by Christian missionaries at Chittagong Hill Tracts and elsewhere in the country.
Common people as well as followers hear the sermons of Hefazat's leaders. In his preaching, Hefazat chief, Shah Ahmed Shafi, tells his followers not to educate girls and not to let women become financially independent:
"The Quran says: You [women] should stay at your home... Your duty is to stay at the husband's house and safeguard property. Your primary duty is to stay home and look after your family and children only. Do not go out even for shopping".
Considering the politics of voting and the Islamic sentiment, the government has omitted poems and stories from textbooks written either by secular writers or non-Muslims. Bangladesh now resembles the beginning of Iran's revolution. Millions of Bangladeshi youths are increasingly wearing Islamic attire; and freedom of speech and freedom of movement are fast becoming a luxury -- if not a threat to the safety -- of Bangladesh's more secular-minded people, already feeling themselves a minority of sorts.
According to the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), Southeast Asian and Bangladeshi extremism are becoming increasingly intertwined. The latest report of the institute examines how extremists come together in different ways. The report says:
Radicalized Bangladeshi migrant workers in Singapore and Malaysia are forming cells to plan violence at home (they apparently are not interested in attacking their host countries);
Bangladeshi students in Malaysia are forming partnerships with pro-ISIS groups in Bangladesh;
Bangladeshi and Southeast Asian ISIS fighters are meeting in Syria;
Pro-ISIS Malaysian and Filipinos are recruiting Bangladeshis to fight in southern Philippines; and
Indonesians and Malaysians are seeking to assist persecuted Muslims in Myanmar through contacts with members of the Bangladesh-based Rohingya.
Many fear that the country may soon be pressured into allowing more and more extreme versions of Islam.
**Mohshin Habib, a Bangladeshi author, columnist and journalist, is Executive Editor of The Daily Asian Age.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

U.S. Trying to Criminalize Free Speech - Again
Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/June 20/17
The law already prohibits violence and threats of violence, and law enforcement authorities are supposed to prosecute those -- intimidation, destruction, damage, vandalism, simple and aggravated assault. What "hate crimes" are not already covered by the law?
Why would the House of Representatives find it necessary to make such redundant statements, if not in order to redefine the concept of a hate crime? Perhaps by including "hate speech"? The current resolution includes most of the major ethnic and religious minorities in the United States, so it will have a far better chance of passing, as it will more easily fool Representatives into thinking that the contents of the resolution are harmless.
Would it not be appropriate for the politicians sponsoring and voting for these resolutions first of all to find out what drives the organizations responsible for drafting them? The Investigative Project on Terrorism has authored a damning 88-page report about the Muslim Public Affairs Council. American politicians do not seem to have taken much interest in it.
On April 4, 2017, the US Senate passed Senate Resolution 118, "Condemning hate crime and any other form of racism, religious or ethnic bias, discrimination, incitement to violence, or animus targeting a minority in the United States". The resolution was drafted by a Muslim organization, EmgageUSA (formerly EmergeUSA) and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC). On April 6, 2017, EmgageUSA wrote the following on their Facebook page:
"Thanks to the hard work of Senator Marco Rubio, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Susan Collins and Senator Kamala Harris we have achieved the approval of Senate Resolution 118, an anti-hate crimes bill drafted by Emerge-USA. It is days like this that Americans are reminded of this country's founding principles: equal opportunity, freedom, justice. We are proud to help support the protection of these rights #amoreperfectunion #theamericandream".
Senate Resolution 118 calls on
"...Federal law enforcement officials, working with State and local officials... to expeditiously investigate all credible reports of hate crimes and incidents and threats against minorities in the United States and to hold the perpetrators of those crimes, incidents, or threats accountable and bring the perpetrators to justice; encourages the Department of Justice and other Federal agencies to work to improve the reporting of hate crimes; and... encourages the development of an interagency task force led by the Attorney General to collaborate on the development of effective strategies and efforts to detect and deter hate crime in order to protect minority communities..."
The resolution refers to hate crimes against Muslims, Jews, African-Americans, Hindus, and Sikhs and was sponsored by Senator Kamala Harris and co-sponsored by Senator Marco Rubio, Senator Dianne Feinstein, and Senator Susan Collins.
On April 6, almost the exact same text was introduced as House Resolution H.Res. 257, "Condemning hate crime and any other form of racism, religious or ethnic bias, discrimination, incitement to violence, or animus targeting a minority in the United States". A House Resolution can be reintroduced as legislation.
H.Res. 257 urges
"...the development of an interagency task force led by the Attorney General and bringing together the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Education, the Department of State, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to collaborate on the development of effective strategies and efforts to detect and deter hate crime in order to protect minority communities". The House Resolution was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary on April 6 and from there it was referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations on April 21.
Americans should be concerned about these resolutions, especially the part of the House Resolution, which urges the establishment of an "interagency task force led by the Attorney General ... on the development of effective strategies and efforts to detect and deter hate crime in order to protect minority communities."
What is a hate crime in this context? The law already prohibits violence and threats of violence, and law enforcement authorities are supposed to prosecute those -- intimidation, destruction, damage, vandalism, simple and aggravated assault. What do "strategies and efforts to detect and deter hate crime" entail, and again, what "hate crimes" are not already covered by the law? In other words, why would the House of Representatives find it necessary to make such redundant statements, if not in order to redefine the concept of a hate crime? Perhaps by including "hate speech"?
The US has been in a similar situation before. In December 2015, House Resolution H.Res. 569 "Condemning violence, bigotry, and hateful rhetoric towards Muslims in the United States" was introduced. That resolution never went any farther, but it was problematic: it favored Muslims over everyone else. The current resolution includes most of the major ethnic and religious minorities in the United States, so it will have a far better chance of passing, as it will more easily fool Representatives into thinking that the contents of the resolution are harmless.
The drafters of Senate Resolution 118 and House Resolution 257, are two Muslim organizations, EmgageUSA (formerly known as EmergeUSA) and the Muslim Public Affairs Council. This is what EmgageUSA published on its website on April 6, 2017:
"We are excited to report that EmergeUSA and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) worked with Senator Kamala Harris to introduce Senate Resolution #118, which was passed unanimously today. The historic resolution is the first of its kind to condemn hate crimes and other forms of racism. The hate crimes extend beyond targeting just Muslim and Jewish Americans to also include religious minorities such as Hindu and Sikh Americans... EmergeUSA is committed to engaging, and empowering the Muslim American community via the political process by working towards making federal and state legislation and policies more equitable for the Muslim American community".
EmgageUSA goes on to tell its members to thank senator Kamala Harris and her co-sponsors, as well as to urge their congressmen to support "similar resolutions" when they come up, and to also urge their local representatives to adopt such resolutions. In other words, this campaign is to be a nationwide effort.
In a blog post in The Hill, Chief Executive Officer of EmgageUSA, Wa'el Alzayat, wrote:
"On April 5, the Senate unanimously adopted Resolution 118... As a Muslim American, I am grateful for this welcome gesture to help address the troubling rise in hate crimes against immigrants and ethnic and religious minorities... The Muslim American community has been on the receiving end of a long-running campaign of Islamophobia that pre-dates the current political climate... Senate Resolution 118 is a welcome and necessary step from our national leaders, but much more needs to be done; not only by our government, but also by average citizens, especially Muslim Americans..."
On May 6, EmgageUSA published the following on its Facebook page:
"Representative Barbara Comstock, second term Republican from Virginia's 10th District is teaming up with EmergeUSA and MPAC to successfully pass a House Resolution which condemns ethnic, religious and racial hate crimes. The bi-partisan resolution was co-sponsored by Representatives Dingell, Taylor and Curbelo and mirrors its Senate Counterpart, S. Res. 118... The Resolution is now in the House and we need you to help pass it. Take action and contact your Representatives today and urge them to sign on to pass this resolution".
Would it not be appropriate for the politicians sponsoring and voting for these resolutions first of all to find out what drives the organizations responsible for drafting them?
EmgageUSA likes to describe itself as a civil rights style organization, "non-partisan" with the innocent sounding purpose of:
"...develop[ing] the capacity of the Muslim voter to ensure that our narrative is part of the American fabric. Our programs include civic educational events such as issue forums and town halls, voter initiatives including Get Out The Vote (GOTV), and specific programs for the youth in order to mentor and support the next generation of leaders".
The co-founder of EmgageUSA (founded in 2006 as EmergeUSA), Khurrum Wahid, a South Florida attorney, is the organization's National Board Co-Chair. In a 2011 interview with The Intelligence Report, the magazine of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Wahid listed the numerous cases in which he has represented terrorists, including members of Al Qaeda, such as Omar Ahmed Abu Ali, who was sentenced to 30 years in prison in 2006 for joining al-Qaeda and plotting to assassinate President George W. Bush, Shahawar Matin Siraj, who was sentenced to 30 years in prison in 2007 for conspiring to plant bombs in New York City; Dr. Rafiq Sabir, who was convicted of conspiring to treat injured al-Qaeda fighters and was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2007; Syed Hashmi, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2010 for providing supplies and money to a senior al-Qaeda commander in Afghanistan. He also represented Hafiz Khan, who was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison in 2013 for funneling tens of thousands of dollars to the Pakistani Taliban.
Khurrum Wahid appears to have a positive view of the terrorists he has represented, despite their proven guilt. According to a 2012 interview with Miami New Times:
He [Wahid] believes terrorism cases are, in many ways, the civil rights battles of his generation. While outsiders might paint his clients as criminals, he says people... are being prosecuted for giving money to groups the U.S. government doesn't like. "I think these things are not so black-and-white... I think innocent people get caught up in the politics."
In 2011, Wahid himself was put on a terror list. Asked by the Miami New Times about this fact Wahid said, "It tells me that the system is broken."
Khurrum Wahid is a former board member of the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). CAIR has repeatedly been identified as a Muslim Brotherhood front group.
EmgageUSA has hosted Islamic lecturer Sayed Ammar Nakshawani repeatedly at its yearly events. Nakshawani, has called for the destruction of Israel, saying "It is barbaric that this Zionist state is allowed to continue".
EmergeUSA has collaborated with the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) to "engage American Muslims" in last year's elections. Like CAIR, ISNA was one of the unindicted co-conspirators of the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) named by the US government in the HLF, with offenses including conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization, namely, Hamas.
According to the Investigative Project on Terrorism:
"Far from being the zealous champion of civil rights that it presents itself to be, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) has followed a consistent pattern of defending designated terrorist organizations and their supporters, opposing U.S. counterterrorism efforts and spouting anti-Semitic rhetoric".
The Investigative Project on Terrorism has authored a damning 88-page report about MPAC. American politicians do not seem to have taken much interest in it.
The question that all Americans ought to ask their representatives is this: Why do they let themselves be duped by policy initiatives driven by terrorist sympathizers and activists associated with Muslim Brotherhood front groups?
*Judith Bergman is a columnist, lawyer and political analyst.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Helmut Kohl’s Unfinished Business
Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg/June 20/17
Former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who died at the age of 87 on Friday, was the man who put German history to bed. It was also he who, with his idealism, helped lay the groundwork for the current confrontation between Russia and the West.
A local dialect speaker from Rhineland Palatinate, Kohl was once summed up by Margaret Thatcher with a sigh and three words, “He’s so German.” He was a local politician, an activist for the Christian Democratic Union since his teens, who was ultimately brought low by a very local scandal that involved illegal slush funds. But in the 1980’s, he was reluctantly thrust into the international limelight by the historic opportunity to reunite Germany. He did the best he could for his country, though, like other major players at the time, he was overtaken by events. The world he helped to shape baffled him and didn’t quite turn out as he dreamed.
On Nov. 10, 1989, U.S. President George H.W. Bush asked for Kohl’s impressions of what was going on in Berlin, where the wall was no longer stopping people from crossing the border. Kohl reported:
At Checkpoint Charlie, thousands of people are crossing both ways. There are many young people who are coming over for a visit and enjoying our open way of life. I expect they will go home tonight.
Even at that point, when Communism was all but dead, Kohl was thinking in terms of two Germanys, in terms of the East reforming itself or losing its best people to westward migration. Soon, however, it was clear that the imploding Soviet Union was in no position to prop up the German Democratic Republic any longer.
Less than a year later, Kohl flew to Moscow to negotiate with Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, on whether a united Germany could be a North Atlantic Treaty Organization member. Kohl thought Gorbachev would demand that the country remain neutral — or ask for money to consent to NATO membership. Kohl’s advisers later named all kinds of numbers Germany would have accepted as a fair price — 50, 80 billion Deutsche marks. Kohl himself later said even 100 billion wouldn’t have been too much. Kohl got off with a promise to spend some 300 million marks to send Soviet troops back home from Germany and help build housing for them.
The Russian troops’ retreat was personally important to Kohl. His wife Hannelore had been raped by Soviet soldiers at the age of 12. She couldn’t stand to meet with Gorbachev or hear the sound of Russian.
There was all this history to take care of. Kohl the local politician did his best to make sure it was buried. He arranged emergency funding for the foundering Soviet Union and then, after its collapse, for the bankrupt Russia. He negotiated the 1992 Maastricht treaty, which relieved tensions sufficiently enough for a freshly-united Germany to join a united Europe. Even the Deutsche mark would cease to exist as part of the deal. Germany would just wipe the slate clean and lead a quiet life as a European province in America’s shadow. It would be a peaceful country once and for all, after paying all its dues.
But Kohl didn’t factor in what his efforts to resolve cold war rifts with the West would do to the giant to the East.
He always distrusted Gorbachev — he considered him an unreconstructed Communist who was simply forced to bow to adverse circumstances. But he became friends with Russia’s first president, Boris Yeltsin — even going to the bathhouse together. Yeltsin dreamed of a Europe that would include Russia as it included Germany. At an informal meeting with French President Jacques Chirac and Kohl in 1998, Yeltsin tried to discuss with them his concept of “greater Europe,” including an overland transport corridor to link London with Moscow and even steps toward a common labor market such as mutual degree recognition. In a memoir, Yeltsin quoted Kohl as saying at the meeting:
France and Germany bear a special responsibility for European Union policy and they want to do everything so that no one — globally or in Moscow — would get the impression that the processes under way in Europe lead to the isolation of Russia.
Yeltsin soon realized, though, that the Europeans weren’t interested in integrating Russia. They just wanted him to acquiesce to their project. That missed opportunity is at the heart of the tension between Russia and Europe today.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly mentioned a Western promise not to expand NATO beyond the borders of united Germany. That promise — a vague one, to be sure — is attributed to Kohl and his foreign minister, Hans-Dietrich Genscher. But Germany couldn’t really stop the NATO expansion, any more than he could expand the EU to encompass Russia. The quiet, post-historic Germany he was building didn’t do that kind of thing. He wasn’t responsible for the Western rejection of Yeltsin’s impoverished, corrupt, brash and naive Russia — but it has held firmly to the German leader’s assurances.
In 1998, the year he met with Yeltsin and Chirac “without ties,” he lost an election to Social Democrat Gerhard Schroeder. A year later, the party funding scandal broke, and Kohl retired from politics. Angela Merkel, his protege and disciple, took over the party and defeated Schroeder in 2005; in his last years, Kohl, in a wheelchair and speaking with difficulty, wasn’t happy with what he saw as her adversarial style, including with Russia. He grumbled that she was “destroying his Europe.” In 2014, Kohl’s former biographer published a book of interviews that included a quote his reminiscing disdainfully about Merkel’s lack of skill with a fork and knife at official receptions. (Two months ago, Kohl won 1 million euros in compensation from the book’s author; he didn’t deny saying what was in it, just that he ever allowed the publication of these quotes).
Indeed, under Merkel, German history has resumed, though perhaps she has been as reluctant an agent of this history as Kohl himself. For better or for worse, the chancellor has increasingly come to be seen as united Europe’s leader, a role that will be almost institutionalized after the U.K. leaves the EU. A recent Pew Research poll shows that most Europeans have a positive view of Germany and confidence in Merkel, though majorities in Greece, Italy, Spain and Poland believe Germany wields too much influence in Europe. That’s something Kohl did his best to avoid. Lately, he has been warning Europeans, particularly Germans, not to take a punitive approach to the U.K. as it exits.
Kohl’s legacy of peace and soft power is still strong. But, like Yeltsin before him, he took a lot of unfinished business with him. I can’t help regretting that, even though I understand it’s probably unfair.

US attack on Syrian jet puts Putin under pressure
Maxim A. Suchkov/Al Monitor/June 20/17
On June 18, a US Navy fighter jet downed a Syrian government warplane — the first such incident between the United States and Syria in more than six years of war in the country. The Pentagon said the Syrian jet had attacked US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters near the north-central Syrian town of Ja’din. Syria had a different narrative, saying the plane was downed “in the Raqqa countryside” while Damascus “was carrying out a military operation” against the Islamic State (IS), thus condemning the US attack as an affirmation of its “real stance in support for terrorism.”
Russia’s response to the US downing of a Syrian plane Sunday was more measured than some observers seem to realize, but the Kremlin’s patience does have its limits.
The Syrian narrative was almost immediately picked up by Russia. However, the tone of Moscow’s statements was different. The initial response of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov — who is in China for the meeting of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) foreign ministers — was rather measured. On June 19, Lavrov reiterated the necessity to fully respect Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and called on the United States and “all others who have their forces or their advisers” in Syria to coordinate their efforts. He also emphasized that actions should be coordinated with Damascus.
Russia’s Defense Ministry was much tougher in its response. It first slammed the US attack as “cynical” and said it could be considered “an act of aggression.” What seemed particularly disappointing for the Russian side, according to the statement, was that “the command of the coalition forces did not use the existing channels of communication between the command of al-Udeid air base (Qatar) and the Khmeimin air base command to prevent air incidents in the airspace of Syria” — an important point from Moscow’s perspective, since Russian forces were also performing combat missions in Syrian airspace at the time.The Russian Defense Ministry interpreted the US action “as an intentional failure to fulfill its obligations” under a 2015 memorandum about preventing such incidents and decided “to stop the cooperation with the American party within the memorandum.” The ministry demanded a thorough investigation and accounting from the US command.
Halting the memorandum — although a serious measure — isn’t in itself something new or unfixable. Following US airstrikes on a Syrian air base earlier this year, Russia moved to suspend the memorandum. The remarkable difference with that incident was that Russia had been informed several hours in advance of the attack, and the Russian military stayed in touch with its American counterparts. Thus, Russia’s suspension of the memorandum back then looked like a decision Moscow had to take so it didn’t seem as if the US attack was going unanswered. In fact, the agreement was resumed just a little more than a month later, in May. What makes the current situation more ambiguous in terms of how far Russia might go in its response to the US attack is this section of the Russian Defense Ministry statement: “In the combat mission zones of the Russian aviation in the airspace of Syria, all kinds of airborne vehicles, including aircraft and [drones] of the international coalition detected to the west of the Euphrates River, will be tracked by the Russian SAM [surface-to-air missile] systems as air targets.” The words aren’t Moscow’s commitment to shoot at American planes flying over Syria — as some suggested in the early rush to interpret them. Yet it’s meant to serve as a virtual deterrent should the United States consider any further move from “a position of strength” — the approach it seems to have adopted in dealing with Russia in Syria.
In his recent column for Al-Monitor — published days before the US attack and subsequent Russian response — Paul Saunders accurately suggested that despite frequent American attacks on Syrian government forces, the Kremlin is focused on cooperating with the administration of US President Donald Trump and “is unlikely to respond to US actions as long as that is the case.” Indeed, Moscow still bears hope that Washington will — in words Trump might use — come to its senses and cooperate more willingly against IS. Despite continuous public grumbling, Moscow sees effective dealings with the United States as a key to a successful Syria settlement, even if it’s not always certain what “effective dealings” should mean.
Some high-profile Russian decision-makers confirm that hypothesis, as Moscow apparently doesn’t view the memorandum suspension as something that will lead to a direct confrontation with the United States. Viktor Ozerov, chairman of the Committee on Defense and Security in the Federation Council (the upper house of Russia’s parliament), told the Russian government-owned media outlet Sputnik that the Russian Defense Ministry's stern reaction to the US attack gave him confidence that “neither the US nor anyone else will take any actions that would threaten our aviation.”
“In this regard, the threat of direct confrontation between the aviation of Russia and the US does not arise,” he said.
Yet if Washington is counting on Russia’s restrained response and willingness to cooperate — even as the United States continues to test the limits of the Kremlin’s patience through more direct hits on the Syrian army — it’s important to bear in mind at least the three following factors shaping Russia’s decision-making at the moment.
First, Moscow’s image suffers every time such attacks happen. If Russia doesn’t see a face-saving opportunity for itself, the pressure on President Vladimir Putin will grow. It will grow internationally as Russia’s partners in the Syrian war — President Bashar al-Assad and his supporters, as well as Iran and others across the region — begin to question whether Moscow really means it when it says “Russia doesn’t give up on its folks.” Pressure would also grow domestically, from Putin’s own security establishment and the “patriotic forces” that have been even more galvanized lately by the new US sanctions on Russia.
This represents a second important point to consider. At this stage, Russia’s Syria policy is being determined primarily by the Russian Defense Ministry, meaning that the more such US-led coalition attacks occur, the less that moderate voices such as Lavrov’s will be heeded, since real crisis situations “demand deterrents and other responses on the ground, not just diplomatic condemnations,” as a Kremlin adviser speaking to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity put it. Putin is the type of person who would rather raise the stakes than yield under pressure; Russia’s policies over the years have repeatedly shown this to be the case. In such situations, reactions — even overreactions — might be much more serious than the very instances that triggered them.
In this respect, some in Moscow urge Putin to “extend the combat scope” of Russia’s S-300 and S-400 missile systems stationed in Syria. The systems were originally deployed not to provide air cover for Assad, as some might have assumed, but to protect Russia’s own military infrastructure in the country — the Khmeimim air base and the naval facility in Tartus. After this downing of the Syrian jet, Moscow is pondering whether it should make more flexible use of the systems.
Finally, Russian decision-makers and experts are also discussing the roles different Washington factions play in Syria. The key question is how much control does Trump himself have over US actions there? Has he outsourced the decision-making to Defense Secretary James Mattis and the senior military command to the point where they can make independent decisions on attacking Syrian government forces? If so, the much-awaited July meeting between Putin and Trump at the G-20 summit in Germany may fall short on concrete results.
The clashes between US-supported forces and Russia-supported Syrian government troops seem to mark the beginning of a new combat stage in the Syrian civil war. Moscow and Washington face the major challenge of melding their respective strategies. Until this happens, however, the biggest winners will be IS and other terrorist groups operating in Syria and Iraq.