June 23/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

The Bulletin's Link on the lccc Site

 News Bulletin Achieves Since 2006
Click Here to go to the LCCC Daily English/Arabic News Buletins Archieves Since 2016

Bible Quotations For Today
I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and am going to the Fathe
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 16/25-28/:‘I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures, but will tell you plainly of the Father. On that day you will ask in my name. I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and am going to the Father.’

When Moses was abandoned, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son
Acts of the Apostles 07/17-29/:"‘But as the time drew near for the fulfilment of the promise that God had made to Abraham, our people in Egypt increased and multiplied until another king who had not known Joseph ruled over Egypt. He dealt craftily with our race and forced our ancestors to abandon their infants so that they would die. At this time Moses was born, and he was beautiful before God. For three months he was brought up in his father’s house; and when he was abandoned, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. So Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in his words and deeds. ‘When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his relatives, the Israelites. When he saw one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. He supposed that his kinsfolk would understand that God through him was rescuing them, but they did not understand. The next day he came to some of them as they were quarrelling and tried to reconcile them, saying, "Men, you are brothers; why do you wrong each other?" But the man who was wronging his neighbour pushed Moses aside, saying, "Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?" When he heard this, Moses fled and became a resident alien in the land of Midian. There he became the father of two sons.

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on June 22-23/17
Dear Lebanese politicians: If you want to honour Roy Hamouch, start showing respect for the law/Mona Alami/Middle East Eye/Thursday 22 June 2017
Lebanon: A Nation Postponed/Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al-Awsat/June 22/17/
Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi Ruling System/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al-Awsat/June 22/17
A Lesson in Saudi Arabia’s Royal Reshuffle/Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al-Awsat/June 22/17
A Visionary, a Generation and Upcoming Times/Ghassan CharbelAsharq Al-Awsat/June 22/17
The Ongoing Drama of Palestinian Lies/Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/June 22/17
U.S.: Strategic Objectives in the Middle East/Peter Huessy/Gatestone Institute/June 22/17
Take Action on Muslim Brotherhood Bill/Ryan Mauro/Clarion Project/Thursday, June 22, 2017
Qatar’s tendency to cross the red lines/Faisal Al-Shammeri/Al Arabiya/June 22/17
Has Russia really killed al-Baghdadi/Dr. Azeem Ibrahim/Al Arabiya/June 22/17
A young Saudi Arabia, Mohamed bin Salman appointed crown prince/Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran/Al Arabiya/June 22/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published on June 22-23/17
Israel Accuses Hizbullah of 'Dangerous Provocation'
Israeli Major-General: Syrian War Delays Conflict with ‘Hezbollah’
Aoun: Elections will be Held on Time
Michel Aoun convenes selected party leaders
Political Leaders Meet in Baabda, Agree on Political-Economic Vision
Qatar Adds Lebanon to Countries Exempt from Visa Requirements
Report: LF Says Goal to Provide Low Cost Electricity without 'Procrastination'
Army Refers Nusra-Linked Detainee to Judiciary
Lebanese, Saudi Authorities Foil Captagon-Smuggling Attempt
47-Year-Old Shot and Killed East of Sidon
Loyalty to Resistance: New election law qualitative step toward correcting representation
Army Refers Nusra-Linked Detainee to Judiciary
Wallace after meeting Mashnouq: UK committed to maintaining Lebanon's sovereignty
Dear Lebanese politicians: If you want to honour Roy Hamouch, start showing respect for the law
Lebanon: A Nation Postponed

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on June 22-23/17
Seven Linked to Anti-Christian Violence Killed by Egyptian Police
Ankara Hints About Military Operation Against Syrian Democratic Forces in Aleppo
US, Russia Agree To Keep Iran Away From Jordan
Turkey Sends First Cargo Ship with Aid for Qatar
Saudi Allegiance Council…A Composed Governance-Organizing Institution
UAE-French Rapprochement on Challenges Facing Gulf Security
Kushner meets with Abbas in bid to renew peace process
Reports: In Yemen's Secret Prisons, UAE 'Tortures' and U.S. Interrogates
Jihadist Destruction in Iraq and Syria
Egypt Pumps Fuel to Gaza Power Station as Israel Deepens Cuts
U.N. Experts Urge Egypt to Halt Executions after 'Flawed Trials'
Official Says U.S.-Led Coalition Building Jihadist Database
UAE declares a list of demands to Qatar
Qatar Emir Congratulates Saudi Crown Prince
Trump Factor' Seen in Naming of New Saudi Crown Prince
France's Macron Sees No Clear Successor for Assad
FBI Probing Michigan Airport Stabbing as 'Terrorism'
After London Fire, 600 Tower Blocks Thought to Have Similar ‘Combustible’ Cladding
Brexit: Theresa May arrives at European Council to lay out plans for EU citizens' rights
At least 29 dead as car bomb hits bank in southern Afghanistan

Latest Lebanese Related News published on June 22-23/17
Israel Accuses Hizbullah of 'Dangerous Provocation'
Agence France Presse/Associated Press/Naharnet/June 22/17
Israel on Thursday accused Hizbullah of expanding observation posts along Lebanon's border under the cover of an environmental NGO, in what it called a "dangerous provocation." The Israeli military published pictures of a building near the frontier supposedly controlled by an organization called Green Without Borders. "Hizbullah is thus conducting observation missions by claiming they are activities of this environmental organization," General Hertzi Halevi, who heads the military intelligence services, told a security conference at Herzliya near Tel Aviv. According to Israeli media reports, the organization is controlled by Hizbullah, which Israel considers among its top threats and against which it fought a devastating 2006 war. Israel's ambassador to the U.N., Danny Danon, sent a letter of protest to the Security Council with images of the alleged observation posts and maps locating them. "The well-documented proof of Hizbullah's dangerous provocation verifies that Hizbullah conducts reconnaissance activity near the Blue Line (U.N. border demarcation) and disguises it as civilian activity, in clear violation" of U.N. Security Council resolutions, said Danon. "Hizbullah's continued military buildup and destabilizing activities in southern Lebanon have serious repercussions on both regional stability and the ability of the Lebanese government to effectively control its country," Danon added. "The international community cannot continue to turn a blind eye to Hizbullah's flagrant violations" of its commitment to keep out of the border zone, he said. Israel says the environmental group has received funding in the past from Hizbullah. A blog connected to the group says "for the sake of realizing our aims, we have an agreement of understanding and cooperation" with Industry Minister Hussein al-Hajj Hassan, who represents Hizbullah in the Lebanese Cabinet. The blog has not been updated since 2015, and a message sent by The Associated Press to a contact was not immediately returned. UNIFIL, the U.N. peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon, said it was looking into the Israeli allegations. There was no immediate comment from Lebanese authorities or Hizbullah. Israel and Hizbullah fought a monthlong war in 2006 that ended in a stalemate. Hizbullah, an Iranian-backed group, has since built up an arsenal that is now believed to include well over 100,000 missiles and rockets aimed at Israel. Although Hizbullah has suffered heavy losses backing up the forces of President Bashar Assad in the Syrian civil war, Israel considers the group to be a serious threat. Israel is believed to have carried out a number of airstrikes in Syria on suspected arms shipments bound for Hizbullah. Addressing a security conference on Thursday, Maj. Gen. Halevy called on UNIFIL to carry out its "duties" — "not only in keeping the peace, but in removing the possibility of war."

Israeli Major-General: Syrian War Delays Conflict with ‘Hezbollah’
Asharq Al-Awsat/JUne 22/17/ Jerusalem- Israel would use all its strength from the start in any new war with the Lebanese “Hezbollah”, chief of the Israeli air force Major-General Amir Eshel said on Wednesday, sending a firm warning a decade after their last conflict. He noted that the Syrian war is delaying the conflict with “Hezbollah”. At the annual Herzliya security conference near Tel Aviv, Eshel said qualitative and quantitative improvements in the air force since the 2006 Lebanon war meant it could carry out in just two or three days the same number of bombings it mounted in those 34 days of fighting. “If war breaks out in the north, we have to open with all our strength from the start,” he said, pointing to the likelihood of international pressure for a quick ceasefire before Israel can achieve all its strategic goals. Israeli politicians and generals have spoken often of an intention to hit hard in Lebanon if war breaks out, in an apparent bid to deter Hezbollah. Eshel said in 2014 that another conflict could see Israeli attacks 15 times more devastating for Lebanon than in 2006. But at the conference, Eshel noted that “many elements busy achieving their goals” in Syria’s civil war were interested in preventing any fresh hostilities in Lebanon, where Israel says Hezbollah has built up an arsenal of more than 100,000 rockets. Since early in the six-year-old Syria war, Hezbollah’s energies have been focused on propping up regime president Bashar al-Assad in alliance with Iran and Russia, throwing thousands of its fighters into battle against Syrian rebels.

Aoun: Elections will be Held on Time
Asharq Al-Awsat/JUne 22/17/Beirut– Lebanese President Michel Aoun said that the new electoral law “might not fulfill all our ambitions, but represents a major breakthrough in the political path and a shift to the [proportional] system after 91 years of majoritarian systems.”Aoun also stressed that the parliamentary elections would be held on time. For his part, Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri said that the Lebanese have, for the first time, produced an electoral law that was “made in Lebanon”, stressing that the current law was the fruit of a “deep Lebanese political dialogue. The statements of Aoun and Hariri came during a Cabinet session held on Wednesday at the Baabda Palace. A meeting between the president and the premier preceded the session. The two officials tackled latest developments in the country and the region. In a statement, Information Minister Melhem Riachi quoted Aoun as saying that the elections would be held on time. He also called for an awareness campaign to explain the new law for the public. On a different note, the Lebanese president underlined the need to implement the electricity plan in the nearest time possible. Hariri, for his part, called for a positive approach to the electricity issue.

Michel Aoun convenes selected party leaders
Gulf News/Joseph A. Kechichian/June 22/17
Beirut: President Michel Aoun invited leading political leaders to a meeting at Baabda Palace on Thursday and issued a declaration that encompassed various initiatives to focus on executive and legislative work over the course of the next few months. Aoun pledged that obstacles that prevented accountability would henceforth be eliminated to reactivate the work of state institutions that, for many, were hopelessly ineffective. Importantly, the gathering approved a working paper presented by the head-of-state that, beyond pressing economic issues, included the necessity to agree on a new National Charter document that will maintain Lebanon’s pluralistic system as it transitions to a comprehensive civil state. Aoun thus stressed on attendees the importance of reiterating the equality of spiritual affiliations in public life, which will probably require the formation of a National Commission for the Abolition of Sectarianism, though no timetable was advanced as to when such a body may convene. Attendees further agreed to maintain the country’s pluralistic system and how to best improve the state while preserving its demographic identity—which is optimistic given birth rate discrepancies between Muslims and Christians—that, inevitably will have an impact on various administrative posts. The last non-economic point rejected the resettlement of all non-Lebanese refugees, Palestinians as well as Syrians, in Lebanon. Beyond these wishes, the Baabda Declaration concentrated on improving the country’s economy, the need to implement a comprehensive plan that will generate additional resources to balance the budget, secure economic growth, create jobs and promote balanced development. Aoun called for the revival of the Economic and Social Council as soon as possible, though he did not specify how the government could secure electricity 24/7 and preserve water as Lebanon’s principle strategic asset. Leaders accepted the president’s desire to accelerate the completion of off-shore oil/gas field explorations and to accelerate various propositions to create an efficient infrastructure. They welcomed the adoption of transparency as the first standard of action in public institutional life as well as to activate the administration starting with appointments according to efficiency and merit. Finally, the Declaration focused on the work of supervisory bodies along with that of the state security apparatus, precisely to maximize state resources to better serve the public interest.
The Thursday meeting was attended by Speaker Nabih Berri, Prime Minister Sa‘ad Hariri, Education Minister Marwan Hamadeh—who represented the leader of the Progressive Socialist Party Walid Jumblatt—the head of the Free Patriotic Movement and Foreign Minister Jibran Bassil, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party leader and State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Qansou, the Head of the Lebanese Democratic party and Minister of the Displaced Talal Arslan, the Head of the Tashnag Party Hagop Pakradounian, deputy Mohammed Raad representing Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, the Marada leader Suleiman Franjieh and the Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea. Franjieh’s visit to Baabda was the first since Aoun’s election on October 31, 2016, which effectively ended the Marada leader’s boycott. The Baabda meeting was widely criticized, led by the Phalange Party leader Sami Gemayel, who said that the “opposition should have been invited to the meeting as well”. Former President Michel Suleiman considered that the gathering should have been far more comprehensive and include many others.

Political Leaders Meet in Baabda, Agree on Political-Economic Vision
Naharnet/June 22/17/Political parties represented in the government convened in a consultative meeting on Thursday at the Presidential Palace in Baabda at the invitation of President Michel Aoun.
A closing statement said the conferees agreed on "continuing the implementation of the Document of National Accord (Taef Accord), especially in terms of harmonizing between preserving our democratic, pluralistic system and devising a clear vision with a specific timeframe for a full transition to a complete civil state.”The conferees said such a plan should start with “consolidating equality and equal (Christian-Muslim) power-sharing before moving to the formation of the national commission for the abolition of sectarianism.”The leaders also agreed on “preserving the country's structural foundations especially in terms of demography and geography, and holding onto Lebanon's social fabric.”“We will confront any attempt to naturalize any non-Lebanese group on Lebanon's soil and we will work on preventing any internal migration whether from the rural areas or through the transfer of personal status records across regions,” the statement added. The conferees also stressed the need to “approve administrative decentralization as soon as possible and preserving the civil state.”
On the economic front, the political leaders said Lebanon needs to implement “a comprehensive economic plan, approve a state budget, secure economic growth, create jobs, achieve balanced development, create a productive economy, protect domestic markets and production, forbid monopoly, encourage individual initiatives, and benefit from Lebanon's grand fortune which includes its innovators, intellectuals and civil society.”
“The government is required to follow up on this plan through a ministerial committee aimed at providing the necessary infrastructure for the rise of the national economy, such as providing 24/24 power supply, protecting Lebanon's water resources, creating dams, cleaning river streams, and utilizing oil resources through finalizing the legal framework for land and offshore drilling,” the statement added. The conferees also called for “expediting the process of providing high-speed internet for the cheapest possible prices, devising a public transportation plan, and securing the necessary funds for wrapping up the file of those who were displaced during civil war.”
As for reform, the country's political leaders underscored the importance of “endorsing transparency in the work of state institutions, reactivating public administration through restructuring it with competent and specialized appointments, helping the judiciary immunize its independence, activating the work of inspection authorities to fight corruption, and modernizing and implementing laws especially those pertaining to the judiciary, investment and commerce.”
“These points represent a host of national goals on which all Lebanese agree and their success would be a success for the whole country, that's why they must be pursued and implemented through a unified national will,” the conferees concluded. The meeting was attended by Speaker Nabih Berri, PM Saad Hariri, Education Minister Marwan Hamadeh representing leader of the Progressive Socialist Party MP Walid Jumblat, Head of the Free Patriotic Movement and Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, Syrian Social Nationalist Party leader and State Minister of Parliament Affairs Ali Qansou, Head of the Lebanese Democratic party and Minister of the Displaced Talal Arslan, Head of the Tashnag party Hagop Pakradounian, MP Mohammed Raad representing Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, Marada leader Suleiman Franjieh and Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea.

Qatar Adds Lebanon to Countries Exempt from Visa Requirements
Naharnet/June 22/17/Qatar on Thursday added Lebanon to its list of countries whose citizens are exempt from visa requirement to enter the Gulf country, Lebanon's National News Agency said. A memo issued by Qatar's Airport Passports Department said “the Lebanese nationality has been added to the list of nationalities that are granted instant tourist visas upon arrival.” The memo was signed by the director of the Airport Passports Department, Mohammed Rashed al-Mazroui. The development comes amid an unprecedented diplomatic crisis between Qatar and several Gulf countries that has seen Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt sever all links with Qatar over accusations that Doha supports extremism.

Report: LF Says Goal to Provide Low Cost Electricity without 'Procrastination'
Naharnet/June 22/17/The Lebanese Forces stressed on Thursday that their basic request was to refer the electricity file to the Tender department of the Central Inspection Bureau to be thoroughly studied and assessed and referred to the government according to the norms, al-Joumhouria daily reported. “Our basic request in the electricity file was to refer it to the tender department. We look positively that the government will send the whole file, including the book of conditions and unsealing the bidding offers, to the related authority where each stage will be coordinated with the government,” unnamed LF sources told the daily. They confirmed that the basic objective of the LF is to "provide electricity 24/24" and to end this file as soon as possible “away from procrastination.” They also encouraged to achieve this goal with the "lowest cost possible for the citizens and the State." The LF's comments came one day after the council of ministers decided during a session in Baabda on Wednesday to refer the thorny file of renting power generation ships to the public bidding administration. According to reports, Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil –who has initially suggested renting the power ships-- had sent a memo to cabinet, detailing what has been accomplished so far in the call for tenders and suggesting that the council of ministers choose one of two options: putting the file in the hands of a ministerial panel or referring it to the bidding administration for it to unseal the financial offers.

Army Refers Nusra-Linked Detainee to Judiciary

Naharnet/June 22/17/A suspect linked to the jihadist al-Nusra Front group has been referred to the Lebanese judiciary, the army said on Thursday. “The Intelligence Directorate has referred to the competent judicial authorities Abdullah Mohammed Ammoun on charges of having ties to the terrorist al-Nusra Front group and transporting funds and foodstuffs to the aforementioned group in the outskirts of the town of Arsal,” a statement issued by the Army Command said. Nusra militants and others from the rival jihadist group Islamic State are entrenched in the outskirts of Arsal and other towns on the Lebanese-Syrian border. The two groups overran Arsal in 2014 before being ousted by the Lebanese army after days of deadly clashes. The army regularly shells their posts while Hizbullah and the Syrian army have engaged in clashes with them on the Syrian side of the border.

Lebanese, Saudi Authorities Foil Captagon-Smuggling Attempt
Naharnet/June 22/17/In coordinated efforts between Lebanese and Saudi authorities, an attempt to smuggle 6 million pills of Captagon has been thwarted, the Internal Security forces said in a statement on Thursday. “In pursuit of international networks involved in the manufacture and smuggling of Captagon pills, and as a result of follow-up by the Central Anti-Drug Bureau of the Judicial Police Unit and in close coordination with the competent security authorities in Saudi Arabia, an attempt to smuggle a massive amount of Captagon has been foiled,” an ISF statement said. “Parties involved in the operation have been detained. Investigations are ongoing under the supervision of related judicial authorities in order to arrest parties involved in the ring,” read the statement.No further details were reported.

47-Year-Old Shot and Killed East of Sidon
Naharnet/June 22/17/A Lebanese national was fatally shot and killed in cold blood inside his car Wednesday evening in the southern town of Majdelyoun east of Sidon, media reports said Thursday. The victim was identified as Maroun Nohra, 47. He was in his car when an unidentified assailant approached the vehicle's side window and shot him four times, twice in the chest, once in the face and shoulder. He was transported to a nearby hospital but later succumbed to his wounds. Video footage from a street surveillance camera showed Nohra parking his vehicle on the side of the road when the attacker approached him. The latter exchanged some words with the victim, then pulled out his gun and shot Nohra. The National News Agency reported later during the day that the assailant was identified by his initials as W.Aa. Security Forces raided his place of residence in Majdelyoun but he was no where to be found. His parents were taken to detention pending interrogation. Mother of the assailant confessed that her son had recently discovered that she had a relationship with the victim. Investigations are ongoing and the search for the killer continue.

Loyalty to Resistance: New election law qualitative step toward correcting representation
Thu 22 Jun 2017/NNA - The "Loyalty to the Resistance" parliamentary bloc held its periodic meeting at its headquarters in Haret Hreik, under the chairmanship of MP Mohammad Raad and in the presence of bloc members. The bloc discussed a number of issues and concerns related to the internal scene and developments in the region, and concluded the following: "The bloc welcomes the adoption of the new electoral law, and deems it a saving step that protected Lebanon from the dangers of vacuum and moved the country towards a new stage in political life, in which different forces and movements compete to achieve the Lebanese people's aspirations," according to the bloc statement. "The new electoral law represents a qualitative step forward in the process of correcting and developing the effectiveness of popular representation," the statement read. The bloc affirms to the government the need to give utmost attention to the vital services sectors that serve the citizens, and called for transparency in undertakings, out of keenness on public interests, and to prevent monopolies. "The current internal political climate should strengthen the efforts of the security and military services to control security and stabilize the situation in various regions, through intensified prosecution of criminals, (...) as well as by tightening the ring around terrorists, both in Arsal mountains or around their sleeper cells in other areas," the statement went on. "The rapid developments in Syria and Iraq point to a significant decline in the Takfiri terrorist project and its groups, which would have a positive effect on Lebanon," Loyalty MPs concluded.

Army Refers Nusra-Linked Detainee to Judiciary
Naharnet/June 22/17/A suspect linked to the jihadist al-Nusra Front group has been referred to the Lebanese judiciary, the army said on Thursday. “The Intelligence Directorate has referred to the competent judicial authorities Abdullah Mohammed Ammoun on charges of having ties to the terrorist al-Nusra Front group and transporting funds and foodstuffs to the aforementioned group in the outskirts of the town of Arsal,” a statement issued by the Army Command said. Nusra militants and others from the rival jihadist group Islamic State are entrenched in the outskirts of Arsal and other towns on the Lebanese-Syrian border. The two groups overran Arsal in 2014 before being ousted by the Lebanese army after days of deadly clashes. The army regularly shells their posts while Hizbullah and the Syrian army have engaged in clashes with them on the Syrian side of the border.

Wallace after meeting Mashnouq: UK committed to maintaining Lebanon's sovereignty
Thu 22 Jun 2017/NNA - British Secretary of State for Security, Ben Wallace, stressed the UK commitment to maintaining Lebanon's sovereignty, from the border regions at Tfail to the streets of Beirut. Minister Wallace was speaking on Thursday in the wake of his visit to Interior and Municipalities Minister, Nuhad Mashnouq, at his ministerial office. Wallace hailed "the excellent success that Lebanon is taking on the frontline in fighting terrorism."The meeting took place in the presence of British Ambassador to Lebanon, Hugo Shorter, and a British security delegation. On emerging, Wallace said: "It is a great privilege to have met the minister of interior and to be hosted by the Lebanese government over my trip to see the excellent success that Lebanon is taking on the frontline in fighting terrorism and security threats in the area and also keeping the stability which is so important to this part of the world."The British official added: "More than ever, the UK is committed to working with countries in this region and around the whole world to tackle head on the threat from terrorism and violent extremism." Wallace said: "We have already committed over $100m of security assistance to Lebanon since 2011 and we are determined to continue to do so. Our investment in security will help safeguard stability we think and ensure the state has the means to defend itself 24/7, 365 days a year. This is important in Lebanon remaining as a strong and effective partner for the UK on security and counter-terrorism."He concluded: "the UK and Lebanon have a shared interest in security, stability and prosperity, standing shoulder to shoulder in the face of the current terrorist threat." Minister Mashnouq, for his part, said that the Lebanese-British coordination is at its highest level, noting that Lebanon has greatly benefited from the British aids in reinforcing its security and maintaining stability. "Part of the success of the security services is due to the British aid which has never stopped," Mashnouq said. Mashnouq also lauded the "ongoing and successful" coordination in the issues of community police, technical cooperation and the ISF strategy for the coming five years.
After the meeting, the two ministers moved to the headquarters of the ISF General Inspectorate, where they toured the Inspectorate's Information Analysis Bureau and Human Rights Section. Then they held a meeting at the General Inspectorate, where they took up prospects of bilateral cooperation and means of bolstering ISF affiliated sectors in terms of modernization and upgrading. On the other hand, Mashnouq chaired a meeting for his administration team, devoted to discussing preparations underway for the forthcoming legislative elections according to the new vote law.

Dear Lebanese politicians: If you want to honour Roy Hamouch, start showing respect for the law
Mona Alami/Middle East Eye/Thursday 22 June 2017
The murder of the 24-year-old is the most recent in a spate of road rage killings involving assailants who thought they were above the law. Politicians should put an end to the days of wasta and impunity .In recent weeks, Lebanese President Michel Aoun, Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berry, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, you have all called for the toughest punishment to be handed down to the killers of Roy Hamouch. These senseless killings have not been committed because the death penalty has not been enforced in Lebanon. Hamouch, an engineering student who was days away from graduating, was brutally gunned down on the Dora Highway in Beirut on 7 June after his car reportedly bumped into another car whose passengers believed they were above the law. After the incident, Interior Minister Nohad Maachnouk even called for restoring the use of the death penalty. The death of Roy is tragic, but it is not surprising. Under your leadership and the power sharing between your parties, Lebanon has turned into a jungle. One month before Hamouch was killed, Sara Sleiman, a teacher who was also 24, was killed on a street outside a nightclub in Zahle. An accident outside the club had blocked the road and a man reportedly started shooting at people as he attempted to drive through and got into an argument with someone at the scene. Sleiman was killed and another person was injured. In July 2015, 45-year-old George Rif, a father of four, was stabbed to death in Gemmayzeh by a man who thought Rif had cut him off while driving. His wife watched as he was repeatedly stabbed. His killing came after a series of other gruesome murders, many linked to cases of road rage, including those of Yves Naufal, Adib Mohammad Hizan, Marcelino Zamata and many others. In some of these cases, like George Rif’s, whose killer was reportedly a bodyguard for "an influential figure", the killers were also connected to influential people.
Thugs with egos
These senseless killings have not been committed because the death penalty has not been enforced in Lebanon. They were committed by thugs with an inflated sense of ego because they had wasta (Arabic slang for influence), a common infliction in a country where nepotism is king. This feeling of impunity and entitlement that everyone with wasta has is a direct result of the Lebanese system’s lack of accountability, from security institutions to the highest echelons of the state. Wasta takes you a long way in Lebanon. It provides you a right to carry a weapon, drive cars with tinted windows and scare drivers you bypass at crossroads, with car speakers blasting. Wasta presents you with a get-out-of-jail-free card and shortened sentences, whether you have been arrested for medical malpractice, killing someone in an act of road rage or beating a spouse for years. This is not something we just see on local television. It is something we experience in our daily life. A few years ago, an acquaintance of mine argued with the passengers of another car over who had to right of way. They shot at each other. No one was arrested and both got off with a slap on their wrist. My acquaintance had, after all, the backing of a government minister. This feeling of impunity and entitlement that everyone with wasta has is a direct result of the Lebanese system’s lack of accountability, from security institutions to the highest echelons of the state. Two weeks ago, as I was leaving the American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC), one of Beirut’s most prominent hospitals, I noticed two general security cars were blocking the road leading to the emergency room. When I asked the hospital’s security guards why they allowed it, I was told, “We can’t do anything about it because we would be beaten up.” When I asked the uniformed officer to move the car, they brushed me off, laughing at my request. Similarly a year ago, when my family took a relative of mine to the AUBMC because he was having symptoms of a heart attack, the car of a former health minister - yes himself a doctor - was blocking the road to the emergency room. The convoy was only moved after I took a picture of it and threatened to put it on social media.
Impunity galore
These people who act like they own the country and have no respect for normal citizens do so because you, dear politicians, allow them to. If they are not state employees like those who blocked the emergency room, they are family members and friends of people in government or in security services. Your people. These killings won’t stop if you start using the death penalty. They will stop the day you start to lead by example. They are under your authority and immune to the state of law because you allow it, because members of the Lebanese state from security officials to ministers to heads of states and parliamentarians protect those close to them, even when others are killed as a result. And because ultimately they follow the example of politicians in power. Lebanon has gone from sitting at the 18th position in the failed state ranking in 2008 to the 40th position in 2016, thanks to the ill-management of your parties that have been sharing power since 2008. These killings won’t stop if you start using the death penalty. They will stop the day you start to lead by example. When your convoys don’t push everyone off the road to pass and your bodyguards do not wave their guns at random passers-bys on the country’s highways. When you start respecting the citizens who have elected you, maybe then, these crimes will stop. This is when the death of Roy Hamouch will stop being senseless. By setting an example, and only then, will you show and prove real respect for his death.
**Mona Alami is a researcher and journalist covering Levant politics. She is a non-resident-fellow at the Atlantic Council. Her primary focus is radical organisations. She holds a BA and an MBA in management.
Photo: A recent photo of Roy Hamouch, 24, who was killed on 7 June 2017

Lebanon: A Nation Postponed

Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al-Awsat/June 22/17/
As it is well-known, there is a basic difference between an ‘examination’ and a ‘contest’. In the first, all entrants may pass, not so in the second which must end with ‘winners’ and ‘losers’.
In schools and universities, examinations are the norm unless there is a need to fill a limited number of vacancies in highly selective advanced or specialized courses. In such cases, these examinations become contests – or ‘concours’ whereby even those who achieve passing grades would not make it to the final desired number chosen to fill available vacancies.
The occasion for this is what is supposed to be the much hoped for – but what has been an elusive – agreement among Lebanese politicians on a new electoral law. This ‘agreement’ has been farcical, to say the least, especially, that it has emerged while all concerned parties are talking of ‘winners’ and ‘losers’!
Wrangling, maneuvering, impossible demands and counter demands have dominated the Lebanese political scene, becoming like other issues, ranging from energy crises to garbage collection, into ‘red herrings’ designed to occupy people in a country that refuses to acknowledge that it is suffering from a ‘governmental crisis’ if not an ‘existential debacle’. Indeed, what is even more noteworthy is that the Lebanese legislators have continued talking about ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ among religious and political blocs openly throughout the media after reaching the ‘agreement’!
Sure enough, for ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ to emerge from adopting a certain electoral law is not an exception in any proper democracy; but the notion of ‘winning’ and ‘losing’ in Lebanon implies marginalization and exclusion.
However, in a proper democracy, election results are not predestined or guaranteed in advance, and no fair and free elections can be conducted while one of the country’s constituent community is exclusively allowed to carry and use heavy weapons, and in de facto control of its own territories, while still imposing its influence in others’ territories.
Furthermore, sectarian apportionment in the Lebanese political system is enshrined in the law of the land. Religious/Sectarian identity precedes citizenship in Lebanon in most fields related to rights and duties, since the Lebanese Constitution deals with the Lebanese when they become candidates for government posts – be they civilian or military – as ‘members of sectarian flocks’ not equal citizens before the law. Yet, under the silly and barely credible slogan of ‘national unity’, it was deemed necessary to show respect to diversity by equally distributing government posts between Christians and Muslims, regardless of population figures and demographic rates of changes.
Given the above, it would be obvious to talk of ‘winners’ and ‘losers’; first, as long as Lebanon remains a hostage to institutionalized sectarianism; and second, as long as political parties remain blocs with sectarian identities, loyalties, and interests. Such a situation means that any increase in a certain sect’s share would surely be at the expense of another sect, simply because parliamentary seats are limited and earmarked or reserved for particular sects, and so are senior government posts in the judiciary, civil service, diplomatic service, armed forces and security forces.
On the other hand, the immense influence political Lebanese religious leaders wield and practice is not something new, but today, in the era of NGOs and Internet, even religious occasions have become political platforms. In the Christian camp, the regular meetings of Maronite bishops chaired by the Patriarch are almost always concluded by political statements, the same applies to weekly Sunday sermons. While in the Muslim camp it has been the habit of Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah to deliver fiery speeches, calls to arms, and engage in political arguments and threats in Shi’ite religious festivals and landmarks; and recently, Ramadan Iftars (breaking the Ramadan fast) on the Sunni side have been turned into opportunities to settle political scores and mobilize political supporters.
Thus, in the final outcome, while most Lebanese claim to be striving for a healthy civil society based on true consensus and accords, the forces which speak on their behalf spare no moment in undermining any move toward that goal. It may not be far off to say that the Lebanese today are more extremist and more sectarian than they were during the 1970s (when the Lebanese War broke out). Indeed, to make matters worse, Lebanese youth who are now calling for lowering the voting age and are active in various NGOs, do not – to some extent – possess a strong political memory, and are unable to comprehend the dynamics that dominate and control the political realities of the country.
Actually, talking of ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ from approving the electoral law, in conditions as those prevalent in Lebanon, destroys several notions in one go:
1- It destroys the notion of ‘national consensus’, underlining the fact that it is nothing but a lie exploited by political merchants from all religious communities.
2- It destroys democracy, as it is being deprived of its true spirit while using its ‘ready-to-order’ technicalities into tools in the hands of those possessing real power at the expense of true co-existence.
3- It destroys the notion of a common destiny for the Lebanese through temporary factional and sectarian deals reached in the shadow of the current competition for ethnic, religious and sectarian hegemony between regional powers.
4- It destroys the last opportunity to build a real ‘homeland’ all Lebanese have a vested interest in building together and live in it together, not at the expense of each other.
Not building a ‘homeland’ whose inhabitants are supposed to have learned from the mistakes and tragedies of a devastating war which lasted for 15 years, and insisting on escaping forward, is very damaging.
More so, in a region already paying a heavy price of wars and foreign interventions, in the absence of wise and capable leaders, it would have been better safeguarding Lebanon instead of throwing it in the quagmire of nations’ collapse, hatred, and seeking foreign protection.
Alas, Lebanon’s political class seems to be still living in the past, and for the past.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on June 22-23/17
Seven Linked to Anti-Christian Violence Killed by Egyptian Police
Asharq Al-Awsat/June 22/17/Egyptian police have killed seven people in connection to recent violence against Christians that included three church bombings and a shooting which left around 100 people dead, the Interior Ministry said on Thursday. Police found militants hiding in a desert training camp “as part of the ministry’s efforts to track down fugitive terrorist elements involved in violence witnessed by the country recently, including targeting the Christian community and their places of worship,” it said in a statement. Security forces attempted to arrest the men who opened fire. Police returned fire and have so far found seven bodies as well as weapons, a motorcycle, and military uniforms. Last April, a horrendous attack took place on Palms day mass which left at least 27 Christians killed in an explosion inside a church in the Egyptian Nile Delta city of Tanta, state media reported. Another blast killed 16 in front of a church in the coastal city of Alexandria. Terror group ISIS had claimed both attacks.

Ankara Hints About Military Operation Against Syrian Democratic Forces in Aleppo
Asharq Al-Awsat/June 22/17/Beirut, Ankara- In the past few hours, the option of a military solution advanced on the talks sponsored by Washington between Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Ankara-backed opposition factions in the countryside of northern Aleppo. While all efforts failed to reach a deal in which Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) would hand over Arab-majority villages to Liwa al-Mutassim, Ankara decided to allude about a military operation, even if such a decision was still not final. A military opposition source in north Syria told Asharq Al-Awsat that Turkey has not yet informed the factions fighting in the countryside of Aleppo about its decision to open a combat in the face of the SDF. However, the source said that such an operation could kick off at any time. “Turkey granted the SDF two much time to withdraw from the Arab villages it entered. There was even an agreement in the past months to hand over those villages to Liwa al-Mutassim. However, the Kurdish forces withdrew from the deal,” the source said. The source also said that “Ankara sent reinforcements to the countryside of northern Aleppo in a first step towards the start of a military operation,” adding that “in case the battle kicks off, it would not be managed by the same operation room that handled the Euphrates Shield operations. “There is a new and independent operation room,” the source said. Meanwhile, a leading Kurdish official said his forces refuse to hand over any area, village or farm previously liberated by the SDF to Turkey, the Syrian regime or the opposition factions. “We will not back out of our decision,” the official told Asharq Al-Awsat. The Kurdish source warned that in case any force or group advances towards SDF-controlled areas, those forces would be treated as an occupying power.

US, Russia Agree To Keep Iran Away From Jordan
Asharq Al-Awsat/June 22/17/London- Russia, US and Jordan agreed on a memorandum of understanding that includes the principles of establishing safe zones in Deraa and its countryside and the absence of non-Syrian forces in the area stretching 30 kilometers from the Jordanian borders, in a sign to “Hezbollah” and other Iranian-backed militias. Western sources told Asharq Al-Awsat on Wednesday that the US-Russian-Jordanian talks, which started mid-May in Amman, produced late last week an agreement that includes the principles of a safe zone southern Syria, the absence of non-Syrian forces near the Jordanian border, and a ceasefire between regime forces and the Free Syrian Army factions, which means extending a truce between those forces announced two days ago. The agreement also tackles the presence of local councils, the delivery of humanitarian aid, and the return of refugees from Jordan. In return, the Syrian regime is allowed to fly its flag and have a symbolic presence in the area. The regime is also allowed to move from the city of Deraa to the Ramtha crossing at the Jordanian border and to open the commercial line, which is also used to transfer products from Lebanon to Jordan. The Syrian regime and the opposition factions should also pledge to fight terrorist organizations, in a sign to the ISIS-linked Jaish Khalid ibn Al-Walid extremist group, and Jubhat al-Nusra. The sources said that Russia played the role of a mediator between Washington and each of Tehran and Damascus to demarcate the conflict lines near the Iraqi border, which led to the dismantling of al-Zakaf military base north al-Tanf camp. Meanwhile, officials said that Moscow further intensified its military efforts in the last few days to achieve small deals between Washington and Tehran and help contain any escalation.

Turkey Sends First Cargo Ship with Aid for Qatar
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 22/17/Turkey on Thursday sent a first ship loaded with aid for its embattled regional ally Qatar, which has been hit by sanctions from Gulf powers led by Saudi Arabia, state media said. Almost two dozen Turkish troops also arrived in Qatar as Ankara ramps up military support for Doha, even as it tries not to irritate Riyadh. Turkey has already sent over 100 planes with food and other aid for Qatar, but this is the first time a cargo ship has embarked on the voyage to Doha. The ship left the Aegean port of Aliaga in Izmir province with around 4,000 tonnes of fruit, vegetables and other foodstuffs on board, the Anadolu news agency said. It should arrive in 10 days. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain broke off relations with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of supporting "terrorism" and leaving Doha economically and politically isolated. But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan immediately vowed to support Qatar and vehemently rejected the accusations -- already strongly denied by Doha -- that Qatar supports terrorism. Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci said Wednesday that Turkey had already sent 105 cargo flights to Qatar loaded with aid to help the country through the crisis. A bill was also fast-tracked through the Turkish parliament this month allowing Ankara to send up to several thousand troops to a base in Qatar. A contingent of 23 soldiers and five armored vehicles arrived in Qatar on Thursday, the Turkish army said in a statement. The Hurriyet daily said that there were now 113 Turkish soldiers in Qatar, while adding that the armored vehicles did not include tanks. The crisis has put Turkey in a delicate position as Ankara regards Qatar as its chief ally in the Gulf, but is also keen to maintain its improving relations with the key regional power Saudi Arabia. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu made a tour of Gulf capitals last week, including Riyadh and Doha, in the hope of finding a solution but his visit appeared not to bear any fruit. Ankara has stopped short of directly criticizing Saudi Arabia's actions, merely calling on Riyadh to take a lead role in solving the crisis. In a sign of the importance of the relations with Riyadh, Erdogan held phone talks late Wednesday with Saudi King Salman after the sudden appointment of his son Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince in place of Mohammed bin Nayef. Erdogan also spoke with Mohammed bin Salman himself and offered his congratulations over the move, Anadolu said. Both sides expressed a commitment to further strengthening relations between Ankara and Riyadh and to "step up efforts" to end the tensions concerning Qatar, it added. Relations between Saudi Arabia and Turkey had been damaged by Riyadh's role in the 2013 ousting of Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, a close ally of Ankara. But ties thawed considerably after the accession of Salman to the throne in 2015, with the king warmly welcomed on visits to Turkey.

Saudi Allegiance Council…A Composed Governance-Organizing Institution
Asharq Al-Awsat/June 22/17/Jeddah- Choosing Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz to become Saudi Arabia’s crown prince proved the important role the Allegiance Council plays in the Kingdom to organize governance affairs. Of the 34 council members, 31 voted for Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a first of its kind majority of supporting votes in the body that was established in 2006 following a royal decree by the late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz. The Allegiance Council had previously been a major decider in different matters related to the elements of government in the country. It supported King Abdullah’s decision to choose the late Prince Nayef bin Abdulaziz as the successor to his brother late Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz in October of 2011. Back then, the royal decree said that King Abdullah informed the Allegiance Council and decided to appoint Prince Nayef as the crown prince, deputy premier and minister of interior. In April 2015, after exempting Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz from his post as a crown prince, at his request, the council played an important role in appointing Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz as the crown prince at that time, which led to the appointment of Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud as the deputy crown prince. Prince Mohammed bin Nayef nominated Prince Mohammed bin Salman and received support from the majority of the council’s members. The Allegiance Council operates under an independent system to organize and arrange the governance and choose the king or the crown prince. In early 2014, late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz referred to the council to approve his candidate Prince Muqrin to become the deputy crown prince and received the approval and votes of more than half of the members. The Saudi governing system is characterized by great flexibility that allows the government administration, with the activity of the private sector and several civil society institutions, to work an unconventional manner to maintain political stability and diversify the sources of income to achieve sustainable development.

UAE-French Rapprochement on Challenges Facing Gulf Security
Asharq Al-Awsat/June 22/17/Abu Dhabi – Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, met on Wednesday in Paris with French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss bilateral relations and latest regional and international developments. The Abu Dhabi crown prince is on a two-day visit to the French capital to highlight the strong ties between the Emirate and the European country. During the meeting, Sheikh Mohamed conveyed the greetings of UAE President Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan to Macron and the French people, reiterating his continued support to France in the wake of the current security challenges. He noted that the UAE grants special importance to enhancing bilateral relations between the two countries, and deploys all efforts to develop these ties in the different cooperation fields. He also stressed that the UAE-French relations were based on understanding, mutual respect and common interests. “Bilateral relations between the UAE and [France] are not limited to the political military and economic arenas. Rather, they include culture, education, and scientific research,” Sheikh Mohammed said. “This provides a greater depth for our two friendly countries because culture and knowledge can help achieve rapprochement and enhance ties between people,” he added. The Abu Dhabi crown prince also said the UAE and France shared close views on risks to security in the Arabian Gulf, Middle East, and the world. “Extremist and terrorist forces work to sabotage relations between people, religions, cultures, and civilizations to serve a suspicious agenda that damages global security and peace,” he stated. Macron, for his part, said he hoped Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed’s visit would contribute to closer cooperation between the two countries. He also underlined the need to maintain discussions on regional and international issues of mutual concern.

Kushner meets with Abbas in bid to renew peace process
Jerusalem Post/June 22/17/Earlier on Wednesday, Trump's top advisor met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. "President Trump is committed to working to reach a serious peace deal," Jared Kushner said, according to Wafa, the official Palestinian Authority news site. US President Donald Trump's top advisor and son-in-law, along with Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt, met on Wednesday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the president's residence in Ramallah. Nabil Abu Rudeinah, Abbas's spokesperson, said that all issues were discussed in-depth including final status issues such as refugees and prisoners and that Abbas affirmed during the meeting his support for a two-state solution with the establishment of a Palestinian state along 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital. "The President renewed his commitment to achieving a just and comprehensive peace based on international legitimacy and the Arab peace initiative," Abu Rudeinah told Wafa. Earlier on Wednesday, Kushner, Greenblatt, and US ambassador to Israel David Friedman met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. Following the meeting, the White House issued a statement saying “the three United States officials discussed Israel's priorities and potential next steps with Prime Minister Netanyahu, acknowledging the critical role Israel plays in the security of the region.” In addition, the statement said that the Israeli and American officials “underscored that forging peace will take time and the importance of doing everything possible to create an environment conducive to peacemaking.”

Reports: In Yemen's Secret Prisons, UAE 'Tortures' and U.S. Interrogates
Agence France Presse/Associated Press/Naharnet/June 22/17/Hundreds of men swept up in the hunt for al-Qaida militants have disappeared into a secret network of prisons in southern Yemen where abuse is routine and torture extreme — including the "grill," in which the victim is tied to a spit like a roast and spun in a circle of fire, an Associated Press investigation has found. Senior American defense officials acknowledged Wednesday that U.S. forces have been involved in interrogations of detainees in Yemen but denied any participation in or knowledge of human rights abuses. Interrogating detainees who have been abused could violate international law, which prohibits complicity in torture.
The AP documented at least 18 clandestine lockups across southern Yemen run by the United Arab Emirates or by Yemeni forces created and trained by the Gulf nation, drawing on accounts from former detainees, families of prisoners, civil rights lawyers and Yemeni military officials. All are either hidden or off limits to Yemen's government, which has been getting Emirati help in its civil war with rebels over the last two years. The secret prisons are inside military bases, ports, an airport, private villas and even a nightclub. Some detainees have been flown to an Emirati base across the Red Sea in Eritrea, according to Yemen Interior Minister Hussein Arab and others. Several U.S. defense officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the topic, told AP that American forces do participate in interrogations of detainees at locations in Yemen, provide questions for others to ask, and receive transcripts of interrogations from Emirati allies. They said U.S. senior military leaders were aware of allegations of torture at the prisons in Yemen, looked into them, but were satisfied that there had not been any abuse when U.S. forces were present.
"We always adhere to the highest standards of personal and professional conduct," said chief Defense Department spokeswoman Dana White when presented with AP's findings. "We would not turn a blind eye, because we are obligated to report any violations of human rights."In a statement to the AP, the UAE's government denied the allegations. "There are no secret detention centers and no torture of prisoners is done during interrogations."
Inside war-torn Yemen, however, lawyers and families say nearly 2,000 men have disappeared into the clandestine prisons, a number so high that it has triggered near-weekly protests among families seeking information about missing sons, brothers and fathers. None of the dozens of people interviewed by AP contended that American interrogators were involved in the actual abuses. Nevertheless, obtaining intelligence that may have been extracted by torture inflicted by another party would violate the International Convention Against Torture and could qualify as war crimes, said Ryan Goodman, a law professor at New York University who served as special counsel to the Defense Department until last year At one main detention complex at Riyan airport in the southern city of Mukalla, former inmates described being crammed into shipping containers smeared with feces and blindfolded for weeks on end. They said they were beaten, trussed up on the "grill," and sexually assaulted. According to a member of the Hadramawt Elite, a Yemeni security force set up by the UAE, American forces were at times only yards away. He requested anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter.
"We could hear the screams," said a former detainee held for six months at Riyan airport. "The entire place is gripped by fear. Almost everyone is sick, the rest are near death. Anyone who complains heads directly to the torture chamber." He was flogged with wires, part of the frequent beatings inflicted by guards against all the detainees. He also said he was inside a metal shipping container when the guards lit a fire underneath to fill it with smoke. Like other ex-detainees, he spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being arrested again. The AP interviewed him in person in Yemen after his release from detention.
The AP interviewed 10 former prisoners, as well as a dozen officials in the Yemeni government, military and security services and nearly 20 relatives of detainees. The chief of Riyan prison, who is well known among families and lawyers as Emirati, did not reply to requests for comment.
Laura Pitter, senior national security counsel at Human Rights Watch, said the alleged abuses "show that the U.S. hasn't learned the lesson that cooperating with forces that are torturing detainees and ripping families apart is not an effective way to fight extremist groups." Human Rights Watch issued a report Thursday documenting torture and forced disappearances at the UAE-run prisons and calling on the Emirates to protect detainees' rights. HRW said the United Arab Emirates runs at least two "informal detention facilities" in Yemen.HRW added that UAE officials appeared to have "moved high-profile detainees outside the country" including to a base in Eritrea.
The rights group said it had documented 49 cases, including those of four children, who had been "arbitrarily detained or forcibly disappeared" -- at least 38 of them by UAE-backed forces. The New York-based group said the UAE also runs detention facilities in southern provinces home to Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and a local affiliate of the Islamic State group. Children are among those detained in the centers, it said. It said Shiite Huthi rebels and their allies, forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, had also "arbitrarily detained and disappeared scores of people in northern Yemen."The World Health Organization estimates more than 8,000 people have been killed in two years of conflict in Yemen, which also faces a deadly cholera outbreak and the threat of famine.
All parties in Yemen's war have drawn harsh criticism for causing civilian suffering.
The United Nations and HRW have said air strikes by the Saudi-led alliance have killed many civilians and may amount to war crimes. U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis has praised the UAE as "Little Sparta" for its outsized role in fighting against al-Qaida.U.S. forces send questions to the Emirati forces holding the detainees, which then send files and videos with answers, said Yemeni Brig. Gen. Farag Salem al-Bahsani, commander of the Mukalla-based 2nd Military District, which American officials confirmed to the AP. He also said the United States handed authorities a list of most wanted men, including many who were later arrested. Al-Bahsani denied detainees were handed over to the Americans and said reports of torture are "exaggerated." The network of prisons echoes the secret detention facilities set up by the CIA to interrogate terrorism suspects in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. In 2009, then-President Barack Obama disbanded the so-called "black sites." The UAE network in war-torn Yemen was set up during the Obama administration and continues operating to this day.
"The UAE was one of the countries involved in the CIA's torture and rendition program," said Ryan Goodman, a law professor at NYU, who served as special counsel to the Defense Department until last year. "These reports are hauntingly familiar and potentially devastating in their legal and policy implications."The UAE is part of a Saudi-led, U.S.-backed coalition meant to help Yemen's government fight Shiite rebels known as Houthis, who overran the north of the country. At the same time, the coalition is helping the U.S. target al-Qaida's local branch, one of the most dangerous in the world, as well as Islamic State militants.
A small contingent of American forces routinely moves in and out of Yemen, the Pentagon says, operating largely along the southern coast. Under the Trump administration, the U.S. has escalated drone strikes in the country to more than 80 so far this year, up from around 21 in 2016, the U.S. military said. At least two commando raids were ordered against al-Qaida, including one in which a Navy SEAL was killed along with at least 25 civilians. A U.S. role in questioning detainees in Yemen has not been previously acknowledged.
A Yemeni officer who said he was deployed for a time on a ship off the coast said he saw at least two detainees brought to the vessel for questioning. The detainees were taken below deck, where he was told American "polygraph experts" and "psychological experts" conducted interrogations. He did not have access to the lower decks. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared retaliation for discussing the operations. Senior U.S. defense officials flatly denied the military conducts any interrogations of Yemenis on any ships. "We have no comment on these specific claims," said Jonathan Liu, a CIA spokesman, adding that any allegations of abuse are taken seriously.
The Yemeni officer did not specify if the 'Americans on ships' were U.S. military or intelligence personnel, private contractors, or some other group. Two senior Yemen officials, one in Hadi's Interior Ministry and another in the 1st Military District, based in Hadramawt province where Mukalla is located, also said Americans were conducting interrogations at sea, as did a former senior security official in Hadramawt. The three spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the U.S. role. The AP learned the names of five suspects held at black sites who were said to have been interrogated by Americans. The Yemeni official on the ship identified one of the detainees brought there. Four others were identified by former detainees who said they were told directly by the men themselves that they were questioned by Americans. One detainee, who was not questioned by U.S. personnel, said he was subject to constant beatings by his Yemeni handlers but was interrogated only once. "I would die and go to hell rather than go back to this prison," he said. "They wouldn't treat animals this way. If it was Bin Laden, they wouldn't do this."

Jihadist Destruction in Iraq and Syria
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 22/17/Iraqi officials say jihadists have blown up Mosul's iconic leaning minaret and the mosque where the Islamic State group's leader appeared in 2014 and urged Muslims to join his "caliphate". The Islamic State group (IS) says the Nuri mosque, where jihadist supremo Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi gave his first sermon as "caliph", was destroyed by a US air strike. Since 2014, IS has waged a campaign described by the UN as "cultural cleansing", razing ancient relics and looting artefacts to sell on the black market. The jihadists cast the destruction of such sites as a religious duty to wipe out idol-worship, but they have shown no qualms about trading in smaller pieces to fund their rule.Here are some other important Iraqi and Syrian historical sites destroyed or damaged by IS militants.
- Iraq -- Mosul: On July 24, 2014, IS fighters levelled Jonah's tomb, also known as Nabi Yunus -- one of Mosul's best-known shrines. They rigged the popular pilgrimage site with explosives and blew it up in front of a large crowd. In February 2015, an IS video showed militants armed with sledgehammers and pneumatic drills rampaging through the Mosul museum and destroying statues. They also defaced a towering granite Assyrian winged bull at the city's Nergal Gate and burned thousands of rare books and manuscripts at the city's vast library.
- Nimrud: A jewel of the Assyrian empire south of Mosul, founded in the thirteenth century BC, Nimrud was recaptured from IS last year after suffering serious damage under the jihadists.
An IS video released in April 2015 showed bulldozers and explosives demolishing the site.
- Hatra: Jihadists also attacked the ancient city of Hatra, which withstood Roman invasions nearly 2,000 years ago in northern Nineveh province.
- Syria -- Palmyra: IS captured the UNESCO-listed world heritage site northeast of Damascus twice before Syrian forces reseized it in March.
Jihadists blew up three of Palmyra's best preserved and most treasured funerary towers.
In July 2015, it destroyed the statue of the Lion of Athena, which stood more than three metres (10 feet) high in front of Palmyra museum.They also destroyed the 2,000-year-old Temple of Bel.IS is not the only party responsible for damage to Syria's cultural heritage sites -- battles involving heavy artillery by all sides have also taken a toll. - Aleppo: A blaze swept through ancient shops in the northern city's ancient souk in September 2012. In April 2013, the minaret of the historic Omayyades mosque collapsed during fierce fighting. In July 2015, a blast destroyed some of the ramparts around the Aleppo citadel, a famous example of mediaeval Islamic military architecture. A UNESCO report said that "some 60 percent of the Old City of Aleppo has been severely damaged, with 30 percent totally destroyed". Meanwhile, the heavily fortified Crusader fortress near Homs in central Syria known as the Crac des Chevaliers and used as a rebel base was damaged by army shelling. Syrian forces have also been accused of pillaging sites after recapturing them from IS or rebels fighting the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad.

Egypt Pumps Fuel to Gaza Power Station as Israel Deepens Cuts
Asharq Al-Awsat/June 22/17/Ramallah– For the first time in years, Egypt has provided Gaza Strip with industrial diesel to generate power, as Israel continued to reduce the electricity flow in the area for the third consecutive day. Fuel trucks were seen Wednesday passing through the Rafah border, which was specially opened for this purpose.Deputy Minister of the Hamas-run Interior Ministry Tawfiq Abu Naim said that he hoped fuel from Egypt would continue to enter Gaza. In a news conference, he said: “We support and appreciate the Egyptian attitude towards Gaza.”“There are also promises about opening Rafah border as well as providing other facilitations,” he added. The Egyptian diesel will help activate Gaza’s single power plant, which would increase the hours of electricity supply and ease the Palestinian enclave’s desperate power crisis. Salim al-Kayali, head of the financial sector in Gaza’s high administration committee, announced the arrival of 11 Egyptian fuel trucks carrying around one million liters of industrial diesel. The official said he expected that another million would be received on Thursday morning. The authorities in Gaza have estimated that the Egyptian fuel would increase the electricity supply hours from four hours to eight hours per day. At least two million residents in Gaza were receiving only a few hours of mains power before this week, as the power station was shut down in April due to fuel shortages. In response to Egypt’s decision to supply Gaza with fuel, Israel has continued to reduce the electricity flow in the Palestinian enclave. According to Mohammed Thabet, director of public relations, said that the occupation authorities reduced the output of al-Shaaf grid, which feeds the Gaza City district, from 12 to 6 megawatts, while the output of Line 8, which feeds the Khan Yunis district in the southern Gaza Strip, was also reduced from 12 to 6 megawatts.

U.N. Experts Urge Egypt to Halt Executions after 'Flawed Trials'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 22/17/A group of U.N. human rights experts on Thursday demanded that Egypt halt the planned executions of six men sentenced to death on the basis of forced confessions. The six men, who were convicted in 2015 of terrorism-related charges linked to the killing of a police officer a year earlier, saw their death sentences upheld by Egypt's highest criminal court on June 7. The men -- Basem Mohsen Elkhorieby, Khaled Askar, Mahmoud Mamhouh Wahba, Ibrahim Yahia Azab, Abd Elrahman Attia and Ahmed al-Waleed al-Shal -- have all reported being tortured and forced to confess, the U.N. rights office said in a statement. Three of the men were forced to confess on national television, it added. "To proceed with the executions of the six men on the basis of these flawed trials would violate international human rights law and constitute arbitrary executions," the experts said. "It is extremely worrying that while all six men recanted their forced confessions in court and indicated that they had been obtained under torture, these were still used as the basis for their convictions." The experts also stressed that evidence used against the men, including testimonies from members of the state security forces showed "major inconsistencies."Some witness statements for instance did not match video footage of the alleged crime scene, they said. The experts pointed out that capital punishment is only permitted under international law if there is "full respect for stringent due process guarantees." "The government must halt these executions and ensure a retrial in compliance with international law and standards," they insisted.

Official Says U.S.-Led Coalition Building Jihadist Database
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 22/17/The U.S.-led coalition battling the Islamic State group is building a database of foreign fighters to track jihadists returning from Iraq and Syria at home, a senior U.S. official said Thursday. Brett McGurk, the White House envoy to the anti-IS coalition, told an Israeli security conference the effort aimed to help prevent attacks like those recently carried out in Europe. "Our coalition is building a global database of foreign fighters, through information-sharing networks and Interpol, to ensure that anyone who fought with ISIS in Syria and Iraq can be identified in either routine traffic stops, border entry points or in the course of routine police work," McGurk said. Speaking at the annual Herzliya security conference near Tel Aviv, McGurk said the coalition was also having success in preventing more foreign fighters from joining IS, also known as ISIS or Daesh, in Syria. "On foreign fighters we've largely halted the flow into Syria from Turkey; from hundreds a week to now a handful at most a month," he said.

UAE declares a list of demands to Qatar
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Thursday, 22 June 2017/The UAE state minister for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash declared a list of demands in order for the Gulf countries and Egypt to end boycotting Qatar. The demands include ending Doha’s support of terrorists and abandoning internationally and regionally listed figures, reported Al Arabiya. Gargash told Al-Hayat newspaper that if Qatar seeks to restore relations, it must abide by the decisions of the Gulf Cooperation Council, and to stop its financing of extremism and terrorist movements in Syria and Libya and to abandon hosting listed figures.He added that Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad abandoned his father's policies when signing the Riyadh agreement in 2014, especially after he was embarrassed by the tapes that showed Gaddafi's plans to assassinate King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz. Gargash questioned Qatar’s exchange of hostages in Iraq and Syria in return for large sums of money that later were distributed to Shiite and Sunni terrorist groups. “If Qatar is seeking a separation with its policies, the ‘divorce’ will happen” even if its facilities and airport remain open to the world, it will remain detached from its surroundings, he added.

Qatar Emir Congratulates Saudi Crown Prince
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 22/17/Qatar's emir congratulated Saudi Arabia's newly-appointed Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Wednesday and called for "brotherly relations" between the two countries, currently locked in a bitter diplomatic dispute. State media in the gas-rich Gulf state said Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani had sent a cable of congratulations to the Saudi leadership.The message was sent to King Salman "on the occasion of the selection of his royal highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud as Crown Prince", said the Qatar News Agency. The statement also expressed hopes "brotherly relations between the two brotherly countries". A message of congratulations was also posted on social media. Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia and a number allies including the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt severed all links with Qatar over accusations that Doha supports extremism.As well as diplomatic isolation, other measures taken included the closing of Qatar's only land border, which it shares with Saudi. Qatar denies the charges of supporting extremism. Despite efforts at mediation from Kuwait, Turkey and the United States, the dispute between the Gulf countries has now entered its third week.

Trump Factor' Seen in Naming of New Saudi Crown Prince
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 22/17/Closer ties between Saudi Arabia and U.S. President Donald Trump's administration helped pave the way for a succession shake-up making a 31-year-old prince the kingdom's de facto ruler, analysts say.
On Wednesday King Salman, 81, named his son Mohammed bin Salman crown prince and heir to the throne after firing Mohammed bin Nayef, whose counter-terrorism expertise had made him a favorite of previous American administrations. Over the past two years Mohammed bin Salman accumulated vast powers at the expense of Mohammed bin Nayef, 57, a veteran law enforcer who served as both crown prince and interior minister. Mohammed bin Salman chipped away at his authority but Mohammed bin Nayef's popularity with the previous U.S. administration of Barack Obama had prevented his ouster, said Stephane Lacroix, associate professor at Sciences Po university in Paris.
"This all changed when Trump came to power," he said. After assuming office in January, Trump made it clear that his Middle East partners are Mohammed bin Salman, Abu Dhabi crown prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan and Egyptian president Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, Lacroix said.
Riyadh welcomed Trump's more aggressive attitude towards its rival Iran, which Saudi Arabia accuses of interference throughout the region. Mohammed bin Salman was an early visitor to Washington, where he met Trump in March before the president last month made the first overseas trip of his presidency to Saudi Arabia. Trump received a royal welcome from Mohammed bin Salman and others. In a speech, the president urged Muslim leaders assembled in Riyadh from around the world to "drive out" extremists and "terrorists."He singled out Iran as a culprit. Trump's approach emboldened Mohammed bin Salman and the Abu Dhabi crown prince who seized the chance this month to cut ties with their Gulf neighbor Qatar, analysts and diplomats said. They accused Doha of supporting groups, including some backed by Iran, "that aim to destabilize the region."Trump has made statements siding with Saudi Arabia on the Qatar crisis.
'Deep instability'
With his Trump connection established, Mohammed bin Salman "knew that the U.S. wouldn't mind him sidelining MBN," Lacroix said, referring to the ex-crown prince by his initials. "I think the Trump factor matters tremendously," he said. On Wednesday Trump telephoned the new Saudi crown prince to congratulate him on his appointment. Frederic Wehrey, of the Middle East Program at Washington's Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said "a lot of signaling" from Washington -- including a more activist regional foreign policy -- influenced the appointment of Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince. "I think that matters," Wehrey said. The Saudis were not "waiting for a nod from the (United) States" but the warming of relations played a role alongside domestic Saudi factors, he said.
By making Mohammed bin Salman "de facto ruler" heading the kingdom's most important portfolios, King Salman created "a solid foundation" for his son's policies, said Andreas Krieg of the Defense Studies Department at King's College London. It signals to Washington that the kingdom is committed to reform "and is the most important partner for the Trump administration" against both Iran and Islamic State group jihadists, Krieg said. His appointment "is purely about demonstrating a degree of certainty in times of uncertainty," Krieg added. Mohammed bin Salman must also have "full support" from Saudi royals as pressure mounts from a series of challenges, he said.
These include the relations with Qatar, a military intervention that has continued for more than two years in Yemen, an economy adjusting to the loss of oil revenue, and attempts at social reform in a deeply conservative Islamic nation. Lacroix said that among the thousands-strong royal family there does not seem to be much opposition to Mohammed bin Salman's appointment, which has concentrated power in one man. "This is a very new thing... the Saudi regime was always built upon a balance of power between different actors, different factions," he said. "This is the most autocratic version of the Saudi regime we've seen until now." With the Saudi royal succession "a done deal," the real issue is how to create the best possible working relationship between the White House and the Saudi royals "at a time of really deep instability and trouble" in the Middle East, said Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

France's Macron Sees No Clear Successor for Assad
Associated Press/Naharnet/June 22/17/President Emmanuel Macron says France is no longer pushing for the departure of Syrian President Bashar Assad, a shift in French policy throughout the Syrian war. Macron said in an interview with eight European newspapers published on Thursday that he wants to work more closely with Russia for a solution in Syria and says foreign powers were too focused on Assad as a person. Macron says: "The new outlook I have on this issue is that I haven't stated that Bashar Assad's departure is a necessary condition for everything. Because no one has shown me a legitimate successor."Macron's predecessors were among the most vocal Assad opponents. However, Macron warned France would attack Syria if the government uses chemical weapons. French warplanes are already targeting Islamic State extremists in Syria.

FBI Probing Michigan Airport Stabbing as 'Terrorism'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 22/17/A knife attack on a Michigan airport police officer on Wednesday by a man yelling "Allahu Akbar" is being investigated as an act of terrorism, the FBI said. The stabbing at Bishop International Airport, in the city of Flint, comes amid a wave of jihadist-inspired attacks in Europe, most recently a foiled bomb assault at a train station in Belgium. US officials identified the suspected assailant, who is in custody and cooperating with investigators, as a 49-year-old Canadian resident from Quebec named Amor Ftouhi. "We're investigating this incident today as an act of terrorism," FBI special agent David Gelios told a news conference, detailing Ftouhi's actions on Wednesday morning based on security camera footage. Ftouhi was seen lingering with luggage around the airport's non-secured public areas, including at a second-floor restaurant and a bathroom, before pulling out a 12-inch serrated-blade knife, yelling "Allahu Akbar" -- "God is greatest" in Arabic -- and stabbing an officer in the neck, police said. During the attack, Ftouhi "referenced killings in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan," according to a press release from the US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Michigan. He also expressed "hatred for the United States" during questioning in custody, Gelios said. "He was cooperative and has talked to us about what his motivations were," he added. The injured officer was identified as Jeff Neville, a 16-year airport police force veteran. Neville wrestled Ftouhi to the ground during the assault until others could arrest him, police said. He was hospitalized and is in a stable condition. "Lieutenant Neville never stopped fighting until I handcuffed this person," airport police chief Christopher Miller said. No passengers were harmed in Wednesday's assault, Bishop International officials said. The airport was evacuated and remained closed until 5 pm (2100 GMT). Ftouhi faces charges of committing an act of violence at an airport, and is expected to appear at a federal court in Flint. US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement that an attack on law enforcement would be "investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law." "President Trump has prioritized the safety of all law enforcement officers, and this Department of Justice is committed to that goal," he said. - US, Canada probe attack -Ftouhi's Canadian citizenship led to joint operations in Canada and the US, as authorities probed the incident.
Canadian media reported that police searched Ftouhi's home in Montreal and made three arrests in connection with the attack. Police had cordoned off the four-story building where Ftouhi reportedly lives, in the Rosemont area of Montreal. Local television footage showed three people, their faces concealed by blankets, being led away by Canadian gendarmes and provincial police officers. "We are investigating all of the details," said Canada's Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale. "Obviously Canada condemns this heinous and cowardly attack."Since the US investigation is ongoing, "it is impossible for us to confirm or identify any suspects whatsoever," added Montreal police spokesman Benoit Boisselle. Ftouhi legally entered the United States in Lake Champlain, New York on June 16, Gelios said. "We're trying to develop further information as to his timeline and where he went after he entered the United States," he said.
'Understanding and tolerance' -Flint is near the Detroit area, home to a large Muslim-American community. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder responded to news of a possible link to terrorism by sounding a note of caution. "Even with this attack, we must continue to balance our need for increased security with understanding and tolerance," Snyder tweeted. The stabbing comes the day after a suspect with apparent jihadist sympathies set off a bomb in a foiled attack at a Brussels train station. A day earlier in Paris, a suspected Islamist on a terror watch list rammed a car laden with weapons into a police vehicle, and a man drove a van into a group of Muslims near a London mosque. In the United States, an attack attributed to anger over politics seriously wounded top Republican congressman Steve Scalise week, when a rifle-wielding critic of President Donald Trump opened fire on lawmakers practicing for a charity baseball game. In this latest incident, the FBI's Gelios said the Flint attacker was unknown to authorities. "Preliminary indications are we had no visibility on this individual," he said.

After London Fire, 600 Tower Blocks Thought to Have Similar ‘Combustible’ Cladding
Asharq Al-Awsat/June 22/17/An estimated 600 high-rise buildings in England contain cladding similar to that used on a London tower block which caught fire, killing at least 79 people, officials said on Thursday. Flames spread rapidly up the 24-story residential Grenfell Tower last week, trapping people inside, in what was Britain’s worst blaze since World War Two. Exterior cladding added during a refurbishment may have played a part, residents have said. The disaster in the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea heaped pressure on Prime Minister Theresa May, already fighting for her political survival after her party lost its parliamentary majority is this month’s snap election. The Grenfell tragedy has acted as a focal point for anger at local authority funding cuts. There has been accusations of criminal negligence and the government faces an uphill task to rehome people within the country’s stretched social housing scheme. “The estimate provided to us by councils is that there are approximately 600 high-rise buildings with similar cladding,” May’s spokeswoman told reporters. Government had no estimates yet for Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, she said. “In terms of the people who are living in those buildings, we will do a further test to make sure the buildings are safe – obviously nobody will be living in buildings that are unsafe.”The spokeswoman said people would be rehoused if necessary. Earlier May announced that cladding used on some buildings had been found to be combustible. Her spokeswoman said three had tested as combustible. “(We) should of course be careful on speculating what caused this fire, but as a precaution the government has arranged to test cladding on all relevant tower blocks,” May told parliament. “I was informed that a number of these tests have come back as combustible.”
She said local authorities and fire services were taking steps to make affected buildings safe and to inform residents. May has launched a public inquiry into the fire and police have announced a criminal investigation. May said tests on the cladding of Grenfell Tower would be made public in the next 48 hours. Leaders of the council in the London borough of Camden said it would remove external cladding panels from five tower blocks on a local estate after finding they were not to the standard it had commissioned. The council said it was informing the contractor which installed the cladding, made up of aluminum panels with a polyethylene core, that it was taking urgent legal advice. It said that until the panels have all been removed, there will be round-the-clock fire safety patrols on the estate. “This has been a wake-up call for the whole country,” said Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party. “Residents of tower blocks all over the country are concerned, worried and frightened for their own safety. What we need is a step change in our attitude towards housing in this country.”After apologizing for a slow state response to the fire, May said it was right that Nicholas Holgate, chief executive of Kensington and Chelsea council, had resigned. He said he was forced out by the government. Holgate said in a statement that Communities Minister Sajid Javid had pressured other council officials to seek his resignation. “Despite my wish to have continued, in very challenging circumstances, to lead on the executive responsibilities of the council, I have decided that it is better to step down from my role, once an appropriate successor has been appointed,” he said. May said support for families in the initial hours after the fire was not good enough. “That was a failure of the state, local and national, to help people when they needed it most,” she told Parliament. “As Prime Minister, I apologize for that failure and as Prime Minister, I’ve taken responsibility for doing what we can to put things right.”

Brexit: Theresa May arrives at European Council to lay out plans for EU citizens' rights
Thu 22 Jun 2017 /NNA - Theresa May has arrived at her first European Council summit since her election gamble saw her stripped of a Commons majority in the UK. The Prime Minister spoke as she entered the Council building, choosing to ignore the thrust of reporters' questions in favour of repeating three times how she intends to table proposals on EU citizens' rights. She also argued that the start of withdrawal talks earlier in the week had been "constructive", despite her Brexit Secretary David Davis being forced into an embarrassing U-turn. Ms May had called her election while promising to strengthen her hand so that she could better negotiate Brexit, and then caused outrage by accusing European leaders of trying to swing the vote. But with talks under way she is due to use a dinner event on Thursday evening to outline how she intends to ensure the rights of EU and British citizens are protected after Brexit. Asked how talks would go with her new weakened Government, she said it had been a "very constructive start", adding: "But it's also about how we will build a future special and deep partnership with our friends and allies in Europe. "Today, I'm going to be setting out some of the UK's plans, particularly on how we propose to protect the rights of EU citizens and UK citizens as we leave the European Union." -- INDEPENDENT

At least 29 dead as car bomb hits bank in southern Afghanistan
Thu 22 Jun 2017/NNA - At least 29 people were killed Thursday when a powerful car bomb struck a bank in Afghanistan's Lashkar Gah city as people were queueing to withdraw salaries, the latest bloody attack during the holy month of Ramadan. Sixty wounded people were rushed to hospital after the bombing at New Kabul Bank which upturned vehicles, left the area littered with charred debris, and sent a plume of smoke into the sky. No group has claimed responsibility for the brazen attack, but it comes as the Taliban ramp up their nationwide spring offensive despite government calls for a ceasefire during Ramadan. The bomb tore through a queue of civilians and government employees who had lined up outside the bank to collect their salaries ahead of the Eid holidays marking the end of Ramadan. "At least 29 people were killed and 60 others wounded in today's bombing," Mullah Dad Tabidar, head of Bost government hospital, told AFP as bloodied victims were rushed in on makeshift stretchers.Tabidar said civilians and policemen were among the fatalities, warning that the toll could rise further.--AFP

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on June 22-23/17
Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi Ruling System

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al-Awsat/June 22/17
The ability of any political system to arrange governance when positions are changed is what determines its strength – this was embodied on Wednesday in Saudi Arabia when Prince Mohammed bin Salman replaced Prince Mohammed bin Nayef as a crown prince.
Bin Nayef congratulated Bin Salman, wishing him luck in his smoothly assigned task. Observers see that the kingdom is changing rapidly – this calls on the governing administration to keep up with what’s expected from it. Change, however, must not be at the expense of stability. Pledging allegiance to Mohammed bin Salman as Crown Prince came within the framework of the political system and its traditions, i.e. the decision was made by the king, with the support of the royal family, and the pledge of allegiance by different sections of the society. On Wednesday, the decision was announced and everything went normal. This is uncommon in the Middle East as change always passes through a period of difficulties. For 80 years, the Saudi political system has been stable and capable of making transitions under the leadership of the king who enjoys full loyalty.
We have seen transitions happen smoothly in Saudi Arabia as there have been five crown princes in seven years – whether in the case of death or assignments, transitions were carried out according to the same rules and royal traditions, different to what may happen in other regimes.
Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s age and experience in the modern government administration has made his assignment a new development – he provides the vitality, which Saudi Arabia needs in its modernizing projects launched under his direct supervision.
Since the 1970s, several researches and books have been written and have raised questions about Saudi Arabia’s ability to survive changes which time brings about, different generations and decrease of resources, not to mention the continuous challenge of how to balance continuity and modernization.
Those familiar with royal systems’ nature -especially the Saudi royal system – are aware that the most important characteristic is the kingdom’s ability to adapt. The king wants to bring youth to the fore so they are in harmony with the society.
Saudi Arabia has a young population – as much as 60 percent of them are below the age of 30. They expect the government to act upon their needs. As a result, modernizing projects mainly target the youth. There are no many options for the government that has inherited a difficult legacy, in which development projects and managing of affairs are mainly based on oil revenues. For some time, oil revenues can be depended on but it is risky to continue relying on them and is a conspiracy on future generations.The other option is to develop the state’s administrative capacity and reinterpret its tasks –This briefs the concept of modernization led by Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The new assignment also ends frequent questions about the state, the family, the position of the crown prince and the political future, cementing stability in this significant country in a disturbed region. We cannot neglect former crown prince Mohammed bin Nayef’s phase since he has developed Saudi security institutions and improved their work to susbsequently win the war on terror after the 2003 explosions. Finally, the kingdom’s stability matters for the entire region’s stability and serves the interest of the region countries, including those that may disagree with Saudi policies. Chaos is contagious and it can spread just like stability.

A Lesson in Saudi Arabia’s Royal Reshuffle
Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al-Awsat/June 22/17
The video clip, which showed the allegiance of former Crown Prince Prince Mohammed bin Nayef to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was no longer than 26 seconds, yet it was enough to send strong messages to Saudi Arabia and other countries on the Royal house’s stability and ability to move forward amid harsh conditions. It also showed how the Saudis were able to decide on the succession of governance smoothly, like no other country would have managed. By appointing a new crown prince in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, the Kingdom has sent a strong message for the world countries confirming its stability and capability of moving forward in then same moderate approach. It also proved that a country of the size of Saudi Arabia, the value of its economy and the wide range of its relations and alliances will always stay stable and secured, as it always has been, and in trustworthy leadership.
Its rulers change, yet its compass never deviates. It moves steadily in an area full of chaos, it is Saudi Arabia. King Salman bin Abdulaziz descends from a royal family. Few hours after taking over the rule in January 2015, he was quick to complete the transition process, taking a historic decision to hand over the reins, for the first time in the history of the state, to the second generation of the family of the House of Saud. That step was huge and awaited by everyone in Saudi Arabia and abroad, and when the time came for it to be made, King Salman carried it out swiftly in keeping with the circumstances and the state’s need for it at this stage.
Throughout the two and a half years, the Saudi King has been able to establish a new generation of Al Saud working in harmony and led by Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a new and emerging phase of the history of the Kingdom. That was clear whether through the decisions to appoint deputies of the princes in different areas or the last of those who were appointed on Wednesday. With the clarity of the future vision for Saudi Arabia, this new generation is expected by the citizens to make many achievements, and they have a huge responsibility to make the wishes of the citizens come true. The Saudi stock market hit a rise that was the largest in two years at 5.5 percent just a few hours after the appointment of Prince Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince. This was the natural response and the positive interaction of the market forces with the historic decision. There is no clearer, more explicit indicator for the stability of any country than the stock market, or one that can not be manipulated over time as the capital markets; thus, the reaction of the Saudi stock market reflected the optimism of most Saudis about the change in their country.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman succeeded in developing the “Saudi Vision 2030” to achieve sustainable development, reduce the Kingdom’s dependence on oil and lead an unprecedented challenge to create a new face for the state that has to grow with the help of its people, not only oil.
Saudis have been accustomed since the establishment of this state 300 years ago to their monarchy system, which stipulates that the king is the one who chooses his crown prince. This mechanism continued even after the establishment of the third Saudi state by King Abdulaziz.When the Allegiance Council was established, the 34 sons of the founding King participated in the selection of the Crown Prince under the banner of the Council, which is an integrated system for the appointment or exemption of the Crown Prince. Undoubtedly, the choice is the exclusive responsibility of the ruling family, and the Saudi citizens trust what the family of Al Saud decides on. The Saudis have also been accustomed to pledge allegiance to the chosen king or crown prince. What is certain is that the choice has always been up to people’s trust, and this time won’t be different.
Saudi Arabia’s internal front proves every day that it is the magic formula for the stability of the kingdom, a front that harmonizes in a balanced rhythm whenever it needs to be strengthened more firmly. At the same time, this country affirms its own unique characteristic: it grows older but never ages. Saudi Arabia has also become accustomed throughout its history to the fact that it is a cornerstone of stability.

A Visionary, a Generation and Upcoming Times
Ghassan CharbelAsharq Al-Awsat/June 22/17
The past three decades have been eventful and turbulent with developments happening across the spectrum and all over the world. Berlin’s wall collapsed and along with it went those who took shelter by it. As the Soviet Union fell apart, new spheres of influence emerged reshaping international politics.
Reviewing the Middle East we realize that as Iraq fell into disarray, Iran aggressively pursued its ‘export revolution’ agenda. Soon after, the ‘Arab Spring’ wave hit the region, with Arab states descending, one by one, into chaos as disorder takes toll and civil wars break out. Alas, the nomad fighters infested the region and exploited turmoil.
It was as if the Arab world had missed the train. The prospects were dim and painted dark with amassing refugees and rocketing unemployment rates. Pessimists would point out that the Arab world is unable to keep up with the rapidly developing world. They would say that it is a world shackled by archaic tradition and ancient ideology at a time when research, technology, and knowledge have been racing towards scientific revolutions and embarking on ultimate frontiers.  Looking from the top, it seemed that the ‘future’ was exclusively the business of others as Arabs were consumed in fighting over history.
A young generation, to which the Saudi 31-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman belongs, has come into view of a world engulfed in whit-crest and roaring waves. And it was only natural for this generation to wonder about where does Saudi Arabia stand from all of what is going around.
In an ever-changing world, patience can no longer secure stability. For stability to endure in the modern age, change is a condition. Mindsets and approaches must be reviewed and altered. Strength is key to reserving a place in today’s global scene.
Importantly, a dynamic and adaptive economy is an inescapable requirement to be strong. Patch-like solutions are no longer enough. Instead, a comprehensive vision must be made into a concrete plan.
The concept of ‘change’ must be polished in specialized workshops so that it interests the society which is concerned with its success. A vision must encompass plans, programs, stages, assessment, and accountability. But before all that, the page of despair, frustration, fear, and hesitation must be once-and-for-all turned for hope to prevail. Restoring hope is not an easy task—it requires a man with uncontended knowledge of the ins and outs of his people, the challenges facing society, and national demands. In other words, the task demands a good listener who could spot the faintest cries and hidden ambitions of the people. A man who can appeal to the voice of consciousness and the dreams of his people. A man who is forthcoming, does not shy away from confrontation, and has a knack to persuade and harness potentials. He should rise to the occasion, and undertake the protection of core principles and the course of change. More so, bringing back hope needs a man who takes a decision and is able to materialize it. In short, a man of his word.
The challenge also needs a man who knows the world and the forces driving it. He must also realize how heavy the economy weighs in today’s world.Understanding the decisive role technology plays in future industries, and the importance of partnerships and investments are also a condition to thriving.
This guardian of hope must also promote confidence both at home and abroad, bringing average citizens to realizing their full potential, supporting decision makers in big countries and aiding visionaries inside giant companies. All of the abovementioned specifications were met in one man who enjoyed undisputed legitimacy. Attesting to his qualification for guarding the process of change is years spent within the walls of the royal house. His record is filled with stances reserving to fundamental principles and values.
Unlike many others, his legitimacy goes undoubted by the intense attentiveness he afforded his people and sleepless nights he spent making sure that the Kingdom’s best interest is put first. Further bolstering his position is the unparalleled popularity and charisma he enjoys with a young generation sharing him his dreams and aspirations. Prince Mohammed bin Salman has managed to move the debate to the future. The Kingdom’s plan for transformation, “Vision 2030,” has become the day-to-day topic of discussion for Saudis. What is remarkable is that those hopes are followed and reflected by real-time figures. Confidence is placed in the ability of Saudi youth to bring about a much-needed renaissance and to move into the heart of modern-day institutions.There is a clear-cut attention being directed towards development, knowledge, and progress— of which are vital to divert the people’s attention away from the devious lure of extremism that molds future terrorists.
Open-mindedness has taken the center of attention, and the scenario of head-on impact with the world has been put to rest. Saudi Arabia today is emerging as a confident country advancing its interests and using the language of terms of progress with the world. The kingdom now endeavors on fostering positive partnerships founded on knowledge and expertise manifesting as self-sustaining wealth which breaks the country from oil dependence. Journalists who toured world capitals over the last two years have seen a change in the relations countries shared with Saudi Arabia. Talk of “Vision 2030” is being heard in meetings across the world, such as Washington, Beijing, Tokyo, Moscow and elsewhere. Holding negotiations with these countries is a matter of precision and political tact which the Saudi partaker practices through grasping what his country desires and what it is able to bring to the table. Saudi Arabia had to launch this major workshop amid a volatile region in which it is considered a prime target for being a safety valve for Gulf, Arab and Islamic countries. It was inevitable for Saudi Arabia to recognize the importance of modernizing its economy in order to bolster its immunity and develop its diplomatic, military and security strengths. Here comes in Prince Mohammed bin Salman with a major role in overcoming challenges, efficiently investing capacities, forging alliances and promoting the policy of building bridges. As Saudis pledge their allegiance to the new Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman a new era of seizing opportunities and strengthening bridges is dawning. The people’s confidence will aid in the decision-making process, fostering stability and carving the path to prosperity.

The Ongoing Drama of Palestinian Lies
Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/June 22/17
The current policy of the PA leadership is to avoid alienating the Trump administration by continuing to pretend that Abbas and his cronies are serious about achieving peace with Israel. This is why Abbas's representatives are careful not to criticize Trump or his envoys.
When Israel does not comply with their list of demands, the Palestinians will accuse it of "destroying" the peace process. Worse still, the Palestinians will use this charge as an excuse to redouble their terror against Israelis. The Palestinian claim, as always, will be that they are being forced to resort to terrorism in light of the failure of yet another US-sponsored peace process.
No doubt, Abbas cannot find it within himself to clarify to the American envoys that he lacks a mandate from his people to make any step toward peace with Israel. Abbas knows, even if the American representatives do not, that any move in that direction would end his career, and very possibly his life. Abbas also does not wish to go down in Palestinian history as the treacherous leader who "sold out to the Jews." Moreover, someone can come along later and say, quite correctly, that as Abbas has exceeded his legitimate term in office, any deal he makes is illegal and illegitimate.
US envoys Jason Greenblatt and Jared Kushner, who met this week in Jerusalem and Ramallah with Israeli and Palestinian Authority (PA) officials to discuss reviving the peace process, have discovered what previous US Middle East envoys learned in the past two decades -- that the PA has not, cannot, and will not change.
During their meeting in Ramallah with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, the two US emissaries were told that the Palestinians will not accept anything less than an independent state along on the pre-1967 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital.
Abbas also made it clear that he has no intention to make concessions on the "right of return" for Palestinian "refugees." This means he wants a Palestinian state next to Israel while flooding Israel with millions of Palestinian "refugees" and turning it, too, into another Palestinian state.
At the meeting, Abbas also reiterated his demand that Israel release all Palestinian prisoners, including convicted murderers with Jewish blood on their hands, as part of any peace agreement. The release of terrorists in the past has only resulted in increased terrorism against Israel.
According to Abbas's spokesperson, Nabil Abu Rudaineh, the PA president told Kushner and Greenblatt that a "just and comprehensive peace should be based on all United Nations resolutions (pertaining to the Israeli-Arab conflict) and the (2002) Arab Peace Initiative." Translation: Israel must withdraw to the indefensible pre-1967 lines and allow armed Palestinian factions to sit on the hilltops overlooking Ben Gurion Airport and Tel Aviv.
Abbas's position reflects accurately the policy of the PA leadership over the past two decades -- a policy that has been regularly relayed to all previous US administrations, successive Israeli governments and the international community.
To his credit, Abbas has been nothing short of consistent. He has never, ever, displayed a willingness to offer any concessions to Israel. He misses no opportunity to reaffirm his demands to all world leaders and government officials, with whom he meets on a regular basis.
Nonetheless, some in the international community still believe that Abbas or any other Palestinian leader will be able to make concessions in return for peace with Israel.
Incredibly, Kushner and Greenblatt seem to believe that they can succeed where all others have failed.
The two inexperienced US envoys are laboring under the illusion that they will persuade Abbas and the PA leadership to drop demands such as the "right of return," the release of imprisoned terrorists and a cessation of construction in settlements.
Why President Trump's envoys are creating the dangerously misleading impression that peace is possible under the current PA leadership is nothing short of a mystery.
Creating such an impression is likely to boomerang with a vengeance; the higher the expectations, the greater the disappointment. Giving the Palestinians the feeling that the Trump administration holds a magic wand for solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will eventually increase Palestinian bitterness and hostility towards both the Americans and Israel. When the Palestinians wake up to the fact that the Trump administration will not strong-arm Israel to its knees, they will resume their rhetorical attacks against Washington, accusing it once again of being "biased" in favor of Israel.
This was precisely the fate of previous US administrations and presidents who disappointed the Palestinians by failing to impose dictates on Israel. The Palestinians are still dreaming of the day that the US or any other superpower would force Israel to comply with all their demands.
When Israel does not comply with their list of demands, the Palestinians will accuse it of "destroying" the peace process.
Worse still, the Palestinians will use this charge as an excuse to redouble their terror attacks against Israelis. The Palestinian claim, as always, will be that they are being forced to resort to terrorism in light of the failure of yet another US-sponsored peace process.
The Trump administration is making a colossal mistake in thinking that Abbas or any of his Palestinian Authority cronies can exhibit any flexibility whatsoever toward Israel, particularly concerning Jerusalem, settlements and the "right of return."
No doubt, Abbas cannot find it within himself to clarify to the American envoys that he lacks a mandate from his people to make any step toward peace with Israel. Abbas knows, even if the American representatives do not, that any move in that direction would end his career, and very possibly his life.
Abbas also does not wish to go down in Palestinian history as the treacherous leader who "sold out to the Jews."
Despite the best intentions of the US envoys and others in the international community, Abbas knows full well the fate of any Palestinian leader who even considers "collaboration" with the "Zionist entity."
Abbas, whose term in office expired in 2009 and is seen as an illegitimate president by many Palestinians, is not even in a position to offer Israel any concessions for peace. First, someone can come along later and say, quite correctly, that as Abbas has exceeded his legitimate term in office, any deal he makes is illegal and illegitimate.
Abbas also cannot halt anti-Israel incitement; he cannot stop payments to convicted murderers and their families and he cannot accept Jewish sovereignty over the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
Even if some of his aides sometimes come out with statements suggesting that the PA leadership is prepared to consider some concessions on these issues, these remarks should not be taken seriously: they are only intended for Western audiences.
The PA's declared position is that it has already made enough concessions by merely recognizing Israel's right to exist and dropping Palestinian claims to "all of Palestine." This position argues that it is Israel, and not the Palestinians, that needs to make concessions for peace.
"We have reached the red line with regards to making concessions [to Israel]," explained Ashraf al-Ajrami, a former PA cabinet minister. "We have already made a series of concessions on the core issues, while Israel has not presented us with anything."
It might be recalled that this statement by the former PA official is a staggering lie, given the generous offers, gestures and concessions made by successive Israeli prime ministers and governments over the past two decades.
Again and again, all Israeli initiatives have been met with Palestinian rejectionism and stepped-up violence.
The offer made by Prime Minister Ehud Barak at Camp David in 2000 to withdraw from most of the territories Israel captured in 1967 was met with the Second Intifada.
The Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip five years later was misinterpreted by Palestinians as a sign of weakness and retreat, and resulted in thousands of rockets and missiles being fired at Israel.
Another generous and unprecedented offer by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert fell on deaf ears.
The current policy of the Palestinian Authority leadership is to avoid alienating the Trump administration by continuing to pretend that Abbas and his cronies are serious about achieving peace with Israel. This is why Abbas's representatives are careful not to criticize Trump or his envoys.
Abbas wants to deceive the Trump administration into believing that he has the courage, will and mandate to make peace with Israel, the same way he lied to previous Israeli prime ministers. This is the same Abbas who, for the past 10 years, has not been able to even go back to his private residence in the Gaza Strip, which remains under Hamas control.
But in private, some senior Palestinian officials have been criticizing the Trump administration for simply daring to make demands of the PA leadership, such as halting anti-Israel incitement and the payment of salaries to imprisoned terrorists and their families. In other words, what the Palestinian officials are saying is that either Trump accepts our demands or he can go to hell.
"The Americans have actually endorsed the Israeli position," complained Hanna Amireh, a senior PLO official. "The Palestinian leadership rejects the demand to stop financial aid to the prisoners and their families... Instead of setting preconditions for the Palestinians, the Americans must demand an end to Israeli settlement construction and incitement."
In the twisted world of the Palestinian Authority leadership, Israeli demands for an end to the Palestinian glorification of murderers is itself an act of "incitement."
How dare Israel demand that the PA leadership halt funds to imprisoned terrorists and their families? How dare Israel expose incitement and glorification of murderers and terrorists?
The PA leadership simply cannot fathom the problem with naming streets, public squares and youth and women's centers after murderers of Jews.
It is only a matter of time before the PA leadership begins openly to accuse the Trump administration of being biased in favor of Israel. In the world of Abbas and his cronies, any US administration that does not swallow their lies and fabrications is a "hostile" party that is controlled by Jews and Zionists.
This is precisely what the Palestinians said about Trump and his team during the US presidential election campaign.
The PA leadership has indeed softened its tone against Trump and his advisors since they won the election. Yet this modified tone has one goal: for the PA to avoid accusations of being anti-peace.
In fact, the PA leadership has changed its tone, not its tune. We are witnessing a tactical and temporary move on the part of the Palestinians. This play-acting will end soon enough. The question remains, will the West notice that the curtain has gone down on the show?
**Bassam Tawil is a Muslim based in the Middle East.
© 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.: Strategic Objectives in the Middle East
Peter Huessy/Gatestone Institute/June 22/17
The new "test" of our alliance will be whether the assembled nations will join in removing the hateful parts of such a doctrine from their communities.
What still has to be considered is the U.S. approach to stopping Iran from filling the vacuum created by ridding the region of the Islamic State (ISIS), as well as Iran's push for extending its path straight through to the Mediterranean.
The tectonic plates in the Middle East have shifted markedly with President Trump's trip to Saudi Arabia and Israel, and his announced new regional policy.
The trip represented the beginning of a major but necessary shift in US security policy.
For much of the last nearly half-century, American Middle East policy has been centered on the "peace process" and how to bring Israel and the Palestinians to agreement on a "two-state" solution for two peoples -- a phrase that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas refuses to say.
First was shuttle diplomacy during 1973-74 in the Nixon administration; then second, in 1978, the Camp David agreement and the recognition of Israel by Egypt, made palatable by $7 billion in new annual US assistance to the two nations; third, the anti-Hizballah doctrine, recently accurately described by National Security Advisor General H.R. McMaster, as Iran, since 1983, started spreading its terror to Lebanon and elsewhere in the region. This last effort was often excused by many American and European analysts as a result somehow, of supposed American bad faith. Fourth, came the birth, in 1992, of the "Oslo Accords" where some Israelis and Palestinians imagined that a two-state solution was just another round of negotiations away.
Ironically, during the decade after Oslo, little peace was achieved; instead, terror expanded dramatically. The Palestinians launched three wars, "Intifadas," against Israel; Al Qaeda launched its terror attacks on U.S. Embassies in Africa; and Iran, Hizballah, and Al Qaeda together carried out the forerunner attacks against America of 9/11/2001.
Since 9/11, despite wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, terrorism has not only failed to recede; on the contrary, it has expanded. Iran has become the world's biggest state sponsor of terrorism, and the Islamic State (ISIS) has tried to establish a transnational "Islamic caliphate." Literally tens of thousands of terror attacks have been carried out since 9/11 by those claiming an Islamic duty to do so. These assaults on Western civilization have taken place on bridges, cafes, night clubs, offices, military recruitment centers, theaters, markets, and sporting events -- not only across the West but also in countries where Muslims have often been the primary victims.
Particularly condemnable have been the improvised explosive device (IED) attacks against U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, perpetrated to a great extent by Iran, according to U.S. military testimony before Congress.
All the while, we in the West keep trying to convince ourselves that, as a former American president thought, if there were a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, most of the terrorist attacks we see in Europe and the United States "would disappear."
No matter how hard we may rhetorically push the "peace process", there is no arc of history that bends naturally in that direction. Rather, nations such as the United States together with its allies must create those alliances best able to meet the challenges to peace and especially defeat the totalitarian elements at the core of Islamist ideology.
If anything, the so-called Middle East "peace process" has undercut chances of achieving a sound U.S. security policy. While the search for a solution to the Israel-Palestinian "problem" dominated American thinking about Middle East peace for so many decades, other far more serious threats materialized but were often ignored, not the least of which was the rise of Iran as the world's most aggressive terrorist.
The United States has now moved in a markedly more promising and thoughtful direction.
The new American administration has put together an emerging coalition of nations led by the United States that seeks five objectives:
(1) the defeat of Islamic State;
(2) the formation of a coalition of the major Arab nations, especially Egypt and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, to clean up in their own back yards financing terrorism and providing terrorists with sanctuary. As Elliott Abrams, an adviser to former U.S. President George W. Bush, cautions us, however, this will not be an easy effort: "Partnerships with repressive regimes may in some cases exacerbate rather than solve the problem for us" but, Abrams says, "gradual reform is exactly the right approach...";
3) "driving out" sharia-inspired violence and human rights abuses from the region's mosques and madrassas;
(4) a joint partnership with Israel as part of an emerging anti-Iran coalition -- without letting relations with the Palestinian authority derail United States and Israeli security interests; and
(5) the adoption of a strategy directly to challenge Iran's quest for regional and Islamic hegemony, while ending its role in terrorism.
Defeating Islamic State
Defeating ISIS began with an accelerated military campaign and a new American-led strategy to destroy the organization rather than to seek its containment. According to the new U.S. Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, "Our intention is that the foreign fighters do not survive the fight to return home to North Africa, to Europe, to America, to Asia. We're going to stop them there and take apart the caliphate."
So far, the United States coalition has driven ISIS from 55,000 square kilometers of territory in Iraq and Syria.
A New Coalition
Apart from a strategy to counter ISIS, the Trump administration also called on our allies in the Middle East to put together a new joint multi-state effort to stop financing terrorism. Leading the multi-state effort will be the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States, which together will supposedly open a new center dedicated to the elimination of terrorist financing. Positive results are not guaranteed, but it is a step in the right direction.
According to Abdul Hadi Habtoor, the center will exchange information about financing networks, adopt means to cut off funding from terrorist groups, and hopefully blacklist Iran's jihadist army, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). These measures in turn will help eliminate the sanctuaries from which terrorists plot and plan.
This move also places emphasis on the responsibility of states to eliminate terrorism. As President Trump said, each country -- where it is sovereign -- has to "carry the weight of their own self-defense", be "pro-active" and responsible for "eradicating terrorism", and "to deny all territory to the foot soldiers of evil".
This determination was underscored by many Arab countries breaking diplomatic relations with Qatar for its support of Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS. Most of Qatar's Arab neighbors, including the Saudis, Egypt, and the UAE did so, while the US, although denouncing Qatar's support of terrorism, continues to maintain access to, and use of, its critical military base there.
In short, the U.S. is playing good-cop, bad-cop in the region, while U.S. allies are putting together what Josh Rogin of the Washington Post described as "a regional security architecture encompassing countries on the periphery of Iran."
Such an approach is not without risk: Turkey, allied with Iran and Qatar, has already has pledged to help Qatar defy the Gulf States' trade cut-off. If Turkey, for example, seeks to move its promised aid shipments to Qatar through the Suez Canal, the ships could possibly be blocked by Egypt or attacked on the high seas. Does the U.S. then come to the assistance of a NATO member -- Turkey -- against an ally in the strategic coalition?
Drive Hateful Ideology Out
A companion challenge by the new American President underscored this new security effort. President Trump said to the assembled nations of the Islamic conference that they have to expel the ugly Islamist ideology from the mosques and madrassas that recruit terrorists and justify their actions.
Trump said: "Drive them out of your places of worship". Such words had never been spoken so clearly by an American president, especially to the collection of nearly all the Islamic-majority countries (minus the Shi'ite bloc) gathered together.
The president's audience doubtless understood that he was speaking of the doctrine of sharia (Islamic law). The new "test" of our alliance will be whether the assembled nations will join in removing the hateful parts of the doctrine from their communities. It was a sharp but critical departure from the previous American administration's message in Cairo in 2009, and placed the Islamic doctrine that seeks to establish the sharia throughout the world in a contained context.
New Israeli Partnership
With Israel, the administration has cemented the next part of its strategy. Here the Trump administration successfully improved our political and military relations with Israel. Markedly so. One part of that effort was enhanced missile-defense cooperation called for in the FY18 United States defense budget, specifically to deal with Iranian and Iranian-allied missile threats.
On relations with the Palestinian Authority, the administration has moved to improve matters but has not moved to advocate a two-state solution -- for which there is no contemplated security framework sufficient to protect Israel.
Challenge and Roll Back Iran
The final part of the administration's strategy starts with a thorough review of our Iran strategy and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or "nuclear deal", with Iran. As Max Singer recently wrote, even if we discount what secretive nuclear capability Iran may now have, the Iranian regime will at the very least be much closer to producing nuclear weapons down the road than when the JCPOA was agreed to.
As Ambassador John Bolton has warned the nuclear deal with Iran did nothing to restrain Iranian harmful behavior: "Defiant missile launches... support for the genocidal Assad regime... backing of then Houthi insurgency in Yemen... worldwide support for terrorism... and commitment to the annihilation of Israel" continue.
In addition, uranium enrichment, heavy water production, the concealed military dimensions of warhead development and joint missile and nuclear work with North Korea all lend a critical urgency to countering Iran's lethal efforts. The United States did not make these counter-efforts any easier by providing to Tehran $100 billion in escrowed Iranian funds, equivalent to nearly one quarter of the Islamic Republic's annual GDP.
The United States' and Europe's easing of sanctions on Iran has helped reintegrate Iran into global markets via mechanisms such as the electronic payment system run by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT). That, in turn, has helped Iran expand dramatically its military modernization budget by 33%, including deals worth tens of billions of dollars in military hardware with China and Russia.
Added to that is Iranian financial- and weapons-support for foreign fighters in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and Afghanistan. Iran's significant support to the Houthi rebels in Yemen includes weaponry, financing and logistical support, including advanced offensive missiles. The Houthis regularly attempt to carry out missile attacks against Saudi oil facilities.
Such Iran activity is described by the Commander of U.S. Central Command, General Joseph Votel, as "the most significant threat to the Central Region and to our national interests and the interest of our partners and allies".
As such, it can only be challenged through exactly the kind of military, political, and economic coalition the Trump administration is seeking to band together, which would include the Gulf Arab nations, especially Saudi Arabia, as well as Egypt, Jordan, and Israel.
The administration's five-step strategy has a chance to work. It creates a policy to destroy ISIS; oppose Islamic terrorism and specifically the imposition of sharia; adopt measures to go after the financing of such terrorism; implement improvements in Gulf allies' military capabilities -- including missile defenses -- parallel with pushing NATO members to meet their military spending obligations; put back into place a sound and cooperative relationship with Israel; and specifically contain and roll back Iranian hegemonic ambitions and its terror-master ways.
What still has to be considered, however, is the U.S. approach to stopping Iran from filling the vacuum created by ridding the region of ISIS, as well as Iran's push for extending its path straight through to the Mediterranean.
If successful, some modicum of peace may be brought to the Middle East. And the arc of history will have finally been shaped toward America's interests and those of its allies, rather than -- however inadvertently -- toward its mortal enemies.
**Dr. Peter Huessy is President of GeoStrategic Analysis, a defense consulting firm he founded in 1981, and was the senior defense consultant at the National Defense University Foundation for more than 20 years.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Take Action on Muslim Brotherhood Bill
Ryan Mauro/Clarion Project/Thursday, June 22, 2017
Two more congressmen have cosponsored the Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist Designation Act, bringing the number to 61 representatives and five senators.
The increasing tally is encouraging, but it is still far less than what the previous bill received. And that reality is terribly disappointing because, unlike the previous bill, this bill could actually pass since the GOP controls both chambers of Congress and the White House. An opportunity like this may not come again, especially if the Democrats win control of the House in 2018.
Voters must remind their members of Congress who supported the previous bill to cosponsor the new bills (HR377 and S68).
The two new cosponsors are Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX). The former is significant because he is on the Judiciary committee that must approve the bill.
The House bill is currently stuck with the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations. The only cosponsor on the subcommittee is Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), vice chair of the committee and an original cosponsor of the bill.
The Senate version is stuck with the Foreign Relations Committee, where only one committee member has cosponsored the bill, Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI).
Read here about how officials in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen and Mauritania all recently condemned the Brotherhood.
Attention should now be focused on the six Republican members of the Judiciary subcommittee who voted in favor of the previous bill and are likely to cosponsor the current one if they are pushed to do so.
These six of immediate concern are:
Chairman Trey Gowdy (SC)
Jim Sensenbrenner (WI)
Steve Chabot (OH)
Ted Poe (TX)
Jason Chaffetz (UT)
John Ratcliffe (TX).
The second push should be on the four other Republicans on the Judiciary Committee who voted to approve the bill last time and have not cosponsored the current one.
These are:
Chairman Bob Goodlatte (VA)
Tom Marino (PA)
Doug Collins (GA)
Ken Buck (CO).
Below is an alphabetical list of the cosponsors of the Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist Designation Act bills. If your representative hasn’t taken a stand, now is the time to urge him or her to act.
Abraham, Ralph Lee (R-LA)
Babin, Brian (R-TX)
Barletta, Lou (R-LA)
Benacci, James (R-OH)
Black, Diane (R-TN)
Brady, Kevin (R-TX)
Brat, Dave (R-VA)
Cheney, Liz (R-WY)
Cramer, Kevin (R-ND)
Davidson, Warren (R-OH)
Dent, Charles (R-PA)
DeSantis, Ron (R-FL)
DesJerlais, Scott (R-TN)
Diaz-Balart, Mario (R-FL)
Donovan, Daniel (R-NY)
Duncan, Jeff (R-SC)
Farenthold, Blake (R-TX)
Fleishcmann, Chuck (R-TN)
Franks, Trent (R-AZ)
Frelinghuysen, Rodney (R-NJ)
Gaetz, Matt (R-FL)
Garrett, Thomas (R-VA)
Gohmert, Louie (R-TX)
Gosar, Paul (R-AZ)
Granger, Kay (R-TX)
Grothman, Glenn (R-WI)
Harris, Andy (R-MD)
Hice, Jody (R-GA)
Hudson, Richard (R-NC)
Hunter, Duncan (R-CA)
Johnson, Sam (R-TX)
Jordan, Jim (R-OH)
Kelly, Trent (R-MS)
King, Steve (R-IA)
Lamborn, Doug (R-CO)
Lance, Leonard (R-NJ)
Loudermilk, Barry (R-GA)
Marchant, Kenny (R-TX)
McCaul, Michael (R-TX)
Olson, Pete (R-TX)
Palazzo, Steve (R-MS)
Perry, Scott (R-PA)
Posey, Bill (R-FL)
Rohrabacher, Dana (R-CA)
Rokata, Todd (R-IN)
Ros-Lehtinen, Ileana (R-FL)
Ross, Dennis (R-FL)
Rouzer, David (R-NC)
Royce, David (R-OH)
Russell, Steve (R-OK)
Rutherford, John (R-FL)
Scott, Austin (R-GA)
Smith, Lamar (R-TX)
Trott, David (R-MI)
Walberg, Tim (R-MI)
Weber, Randy (R-TX)
Wenstrup, Brad (R-OH)
Williams, Roger (R-TX)
Yoder, Kevin (R-KS)
Yoho, Ted (R-FL)
Zeldin, Lee (R-NY)
Cruz, Ted (R-TX)
Hatch, Orrin (R-UT)
Inhofe, James (R-OK)
Johnson, Ron (R-WI)
Roberts, Pat (R-KS)
**Ryan Mauro
Ryan Mauro is's Shillman Fellow and national security analyst and an adjunct professor of counter-terrorism. He is frequently interviewed on top-tier television and radio.

Qatar’s tendency to cross the red lines
Faisal Al-Shammeri/Al Arabiya/June 22/17
The current state or relations between Qatar and The Gulf Cooperation Council are not good. They have not been good for a little while nor is there the prospect of improvement in the short term. At the recent summit in Riyadh between The United States, The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the heads of state from the 55 nations presented a unanimous and abundantly clear articulated statement of purpose.
That the region, world, and especially the Islamic world, would no longer be indifferent to terror, those who sponsor it, and those who willing host in exile hostile and destabilizing elements for the region. The United States and The Middle East both know the feelings of the aftermath of terror and share the firm resolve to purge it from the face of the earth.
A momentary reflection on events since 2011 should be presented to provide proper context allowing while allowing clarity for the situation as it exists today. There are limits to what any sovereign country can tolerate regarding security concerns of the highest order and the sponsors of terrorism. Especially when there is a sustained and premeditated pattern of activity that emanates from a single source.
In 2011, the decision was made to deploy The Peninsula Shield Force in which 800 soldiers from The United Arab Emirates and 1,200 from The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, representing the consensus of the individual members of The Gulf Cooperation Council, were used to eliminate a direct and serious security threat aimed directly at The Arabian Gulf by Tehran.
The two most dangerous ideologies that have been in the Middle East and Arab world are those espoused by the Muslim Brotherhood and Khomeinism, which emanates from Iran
Sovereign state
Publicly Iran has claimed Bahrain as a province, which is a rather curious position for a country to take over an universally and internationally recognized sovereign state. It is a rather direct statement in which no subtlety needs to be applied since there are no difficulties in understanding what this means. To put it bluntly Tehran is a revisionist power who uses terror to destabilize the region to tilt power decisively in its favor.
A second attempt was initiated embarking on the same pattern of behavior in which Iran directly intervened to support and develop a strategic security concern of the highest magnitude for the region in Yemen that could potentially disrupt one of the most significant international shipping lanes which lies in the Red Sea.Ultimately Saudi Arabia decided to intervene in Yemen based on a combination of factors, but not limited to, a direct attempt by Iran to place a hostile and belligerent entity directly on the border of the Kingdom, to prevent the importing of and subsequently eliminate lethal weaponry that can target cities inside the country and to eliminate the threat of terrorism directed against it and the region at large originating from inside Yemen.
The two most dangerous ideologies that have been in the Middle East and Arab world are those espoused by the Muslim Brotherhood and Khomeinism, which emanates from Iran. Both have been partners in terror and both seek to destabilize countries in the region, seize power by force if necessary, and ultimately provide a legitimate security for the world at large should they be able to achieve their nefarious ambitions.
And both have used terrorism to attack heads of state in Egypt (IG and EIJ), diplomats from The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (Iran), soldiers and civilians from The United States (Iran, IRGC, Quds Force, Hezbollah), and being the ideological sponsors of the most radical terrorist groups the world has ever known (al-Qaeda/ISIS).
Brotherhood and Khomeinism
The Muslim Brotherhood and Khomeinism do not seek to live in peace with those outside of their chosen constituency. Both are like snowballs, they can only flourish in the dark and cold. Bring them to light and they will melt away. Qatar has for a long time been the sanctuary o exile for some of the most extreme ideologies that have ever existed including the Muslim Brotherhood and Taliban. Qatar has given Iran and by extension the radical ideology of Khomeinism a platform as well while allowing a not inconsiderable presence of IRGC and Quds Force personnel in country. Qatar continues to support in exile the leadership who represent a destabilizing presence to Egypt, The Gulf Cooperation Council and Afghanistan. Qatar has been the most decisive source of funding for al-Qaeda while providing it substantial lethal weaponry that has allowed for the terrorist group to substantially regenerate itself in the slaughterhouse of The Syrian War. Qatar from the beginning was one of the main sponsors of ISIS.Qatar recently gave a ransom of nearly one billion dollars where the majority went directly to Tehran, while their sectarian proxy arm in Iraq Ka’taaib Hezbollah (responsible for an ongoing sectarian genocide in Diyala Province), with another $200-$300 million going to Al Qaeda linked groups in Syria, Tahrir Al Sham and Ahrar Al Sham. A red line was crossed in Bahrain. After careful and serious assessment of the situation they were addressed. A red line was crossed in Yemen and it too was addressed. Qatar is rapidly approaching a red line, for the region and the world. To remain casually indifferent to this is no longer an option.

Has Russia really killed al-Baghdadi?
Dr. Azeem Ibrahim/Al Arabiya/June 22/17
Spoiler alert: It is too early to say. However, I would not be surprised to find that they did not. The ISIS leader has already been “killed” over a dozen times only to emerge somewhere else. In much the same way that Osama bin Laden was “killed” many, many times.
But the fact of whether he has indeed been killed is, until we know for sure, really besides the point. Either way, this is good propaganda war. And for as long as there is a question mark over the facts of the matter, the mere possibility that it is true ensures that the claim serves its purpose.
Firstly, the claim is credible. It certainly is possible that Russia did manage to kill al Baghdadi. As the ISIS infrastructure is collapsing around their ears, the possibility that their Caliph has been killed is likely to deal a serious blow to the morale of the remaining foot soldiers still fighting.
It is also extremely helpful that as things stand ISIS cannot do much to counter the claim – the communications channels between the leadership and the remnants of the fighting force are severely hampered, not least by the fact that the much of the leadership has already evacuated from the Levant.
Psychological shock
Whether al Baghdadi is dead or is in hiding, or has fled the region, the ISIS command chain will have a tough time persuading the foot soldiers that their leader is still standing behind them. And without the leader, there is no kingdom.
Without a so-called Caliphate, much of the appeal of the group is lost. Not to mention the psychological shock it must be to a religious fanatic to discover that perhaps their God is not on their side and will not deliver them to victory.
But for Russia this serves another purpose. The justification for their intervention in Syria was that they were there to fight terrorism.
They conveniently happened to define terrorism as all opposition to the Assad government, and they mostly used the cover to attack the Western- and Gulf-backed “moderate” opposition, while ISIS was largely left to its own devices, but the notion that they were in there to fight the same terrorism the West was supposed to be waging war on still had rhetorical value.
Do not forget that Russia has been at pains to prolong the conflict for as long as it could financially afford to, to keep the wave of refugees flowing toward Europe in order to destabilize the Old Continent politically
Russia’s position
The claim that it was they who finally killed al Baghdadi will be used to justify Russia’s position in the war, both to its domestic audience and to the international one. They will suggest this vindicates their claim that they are in Syria to fight terrorism and ISIS all along.
Never mind the hospitals, humanitarian convoys and civilian populations that the also bombed to dust in rebel areas of the country which had nothing to do with ISIS. Never mind the starvation sieges and the chemical attacks carried out by Assad, which they have provided cover for.
Is al Baghdadi really dead? Perhaps sooner or later we will find out. And if Russia has indeed managed to kill him, that is no bad thing. But do not let this cloud our understanding of the situation: Russia is not our friend in this conflict. This is what has made the Syria conflict so difficult to parse. In this conflict, the enemy of our enemy is by no means our friend.
Do not forget that Russia has been primarily fighting our allies in the conflict. Do not forget that Russia is responsible for either carrying out atrocities, or for defending their ally Assad when he committed atrocities against civilians every bit as horrific as ISIS themselves.
Do not forget that Russia has been at pains to prolong the conflict for as long as it could financially afford to, to keep the wave of refugees flowing toward Europe in order to destabilize the Old Continent politically.
And be in no doubt that Russia will continue to heap as much misery on the Syrian people as will help Vladimir Putin’s cold, political calculations for the region.

A young Saudi Arabia, Mohamed bin Salman appointed crown prince
Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran/Al Arabiya/June 22/17
After 31 out of 34 members of the Allegiance Council voted in favor of assigning Prince Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince, King Salman assigned the latter to succeed Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. It all seemed smooth as the predecessor pledged allegiance to his successor through the best and the worst.
This was effortlessly carried out thanks to the procedures which the Saudi system has established. Major governmental assignments are made within a legal framework that cannot be infiltrated or partially followed.
The post was thus assigned to Prince Mohammed bin Salman despite some people’s attempts to criticize the move. Some criticized assigning a young crown prince although he has gradually progressed in his work in the government and his experience is diverse.
Empowering youth
The young prince who studied law and who loves history developed a social and political personality that not many had before him. This made him the most capable prince to lead his society towards change and to confront challenges.
The royal orders included appointing more than ten young princes to several posts such as assigning Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef as interior minister, Khaled bin Bandar bin Sultan as ambassador to Germany, Faisal bin Sattam bin Abdul Aziz as ambassador to Italy and Bandar bin Faisal bin Bandar as assistant to the chief of the General Intelligence Directorate.
Choosing Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince restores Saudi Arabia’s unlimited ambitions especially that he created Vision 2030 and directed the economic sector to overcome financial crises which resulted from decrease in oil prices.
All these appointments reflect the ambitious royal will to hand over the country to the young generation which realizes the aspirations of the Saudi people to keep up with modernity and be open to the future. Saudi youths look forward to seeing more young faces in the government as they are the most capable to understand their conflicts with traditions and the best to devise a plan to exit inherited crises and restraints. The young administrative generation which King Salman picked will be capable of achieving most of the Saudi youths’ wishes, dreams and hopes.
Saudi Arabia has gotten used to blames since it’s been established. The founder king governed the country and restored his fathers’ and grandfathers’ rule while he was in his 20’s. Kings assumed power when they were young and time has shown the advantages of this vitality.
Overcoming challenges
Choosing Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince restores Saudi Arabia’s unlimited ambitions especially that he created Vision 2030 and directed the economic sector to overcome financial crises which resulted from decrease in oil prices.
The crown prince contributed to taking measures that saved the Saudi economy within few months. Things thus became better than before as the causes of austerity and the crisis ended and a royal order was issued announcing the retroactive reinstatement of civil servants’ allowances.
Saudi Arabia has been through several phases and wars and many regional countries still have greedy ambitions as they try to crush the Saudi kingdom and humiliate its people. However, Saudi Arabia has fought all these plots for an entire century as it stood up for rivals during many battles.
The legacy goes on
The administrative foundation of Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman was solid and his sons and grandsons followed suit. Proof to that is how the Saudi state’s major principles are still the core and basis of governance and how the recent appointments were made by King Salman after he successfully imagined what his founder father would have done if he were in his place and acted upon this.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is well-known for his sharp intelligence and hard work. He believes the sky is the limit for the Saudi people’s ambitions. He confirms he knows the young Saudi generation well as he studied with them and suffered what they have suffered from in the field of education or in society in general or due to bureaucratic complications.
He wants his generation to enjoy the fortunes of this rich country and not to live in the past or suffer from the chains of inherited legacies.
In a famous interview with the Washington Post in April, the prince said: ““I’m young. Seventy percent of our citizens are young. We don’t want to waste our lives in this whirlpool that we were in the past 30 years (due to the Khomeini revolution which produced extremism and terrorism.) We want to end this epoch now. We want, the Saudi people, to enjoy the coming days, and concentrate on developing our society and developing ourselves as individuals and families, while retaining our religion and customs. We will not continue to be in the post 1979 era. That age is over.”
The time when history subjugated and chained the society is over. The society will kick off its work with its young manpower and endeavor into the world with all its charming and modern trends.