July 01/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
The will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from fornication; that each one of you knows how to control your own body in holiness and honour, not with lustful passion
First Letter to the Thessalonians 04/01-12: “Finally, brothers and sisters, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus that, as you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God (as, in fact, you are doing), you should do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from fornication; that each one of you knows how to control your own body in holiness and honour, not with lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one wrongs or exploits a brother or sister in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, just as we have already told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God did not call us to impurity but in holiness. Therefore whoever rejects this rejects not human authority but God, who also gives his Holy Spirit to you. Now concerning love of the brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anyone write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another; and indeed you do love all the brothers and sisters throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, beloved, to do so more and more, to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we directed you, so that you may behave properly towards outsiders and be dependent on no one.

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on July 01/18
Accepting Regime Forces in South Syria Will Only Further Iran’s Goals/Hanin Ghaddar and Phillip Smyth/The Washington Institute/June 29, 2018
Why Britain's Deradicalization Programs Are Failing/A. Z. Mohamed/Gatestone Institute/June 30/2018
Analysis Erdogan Wanted an Empire but Must Suffice With an Unloved Country/Zvi Bar'el/Haaretz/June 30/18
Opinion Why Trump and Kushner Will Never Get the Palestinians to the Negotiating Table/Jonathan S. Tobin/Haaretz/June 30/18
Sorry, Iran, China Isn’t Going to Save You/Geneive Abdo/Bloomberg View/June 30/18
Corruption in Iraq erodes its core/Hazem al-Amin/Al Arabiya/June 30/18
The American gamble on Russia in Syria/Khairallah Khairallah/Al Arabiya/June 30/18
What does women driving mean for Saudi Arabia/Hassan Al Mustafa/Al Arabiya/June 30/18
Has there been a divorce between Russia and Iran/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/June 30/18
Tehran Grand Bazaar protests are a warning from history/Camelia Entekhabifard/Arab News/June 30/18
Turkey at a crossroads under all-powerful Erdogan/Talmiz Ahmad/Arab News/June 30/18
The Rebellion at Twilight/Jonathan Spyer/Jerusalem Post/June 30/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 01/18
No End in Sight in Lebanon’s Cabinet Formation Impasse
Fears over Repression of Journalists in Lebanon
Aoun Meets Khoury, Discusses Cabinet Formation Process
Report: FPM Seeking 'Veto Power, Future Presidency'
Geagea Says Maarab Agreement Doesn't Stand for Accepting 'Corruption' in Govt.
Report: Geagea Likely to Visit Baabda
Sarraf Freezes Arms Licenses in Baalbek-Hermel
Those Who Inspire: Honoring 60 Lebanese influential figures

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 01/18
Trump ally Giuliani says end is near for Iran's rulers
Russia Negotiates with Opposition to Reach a ‘Settlement’ in South Syria
Guterres Calls for End to Military Ops in South Syria, Jordan Source Reports Truce
Syrian rebels say peace talks with Russia over southwest Syria failed
UN Security Council calls for armed groups to leave Golan ‘area of separation’
Battered South Syria Towns in Talks on Regime Takeover
Israel Says 'Won't be Dragged' to Reoccupy Gaza Strip
Maryam Rajavi: Regime overthrow is certain, Iran will be free
Hamas to Consider 3 Proposals on Gaza’s Humanitarian, Security Situation
Turkey Hints at Reopening its Consulates in Mosul, Basra
Iraq to Begin Manual Recount of May Election Votes on Tuesday
Iraqi Parliament Will not Extend Term
Cairo Court Delays Verdict in ‘Rabaa Sit-in’ Mass Trial
New Initiative to End Tunisia’s Political Crisis
Haftar Warns Against Foreign Military Presence in Southern Libya
Trump Says Saudi King Agrees to Ramp Up Oil Production
Protests Planned Nationwide over Trump Immigration Policy
Egypt’s Sisi: June 30 changed the nation, ended waves of extremism
The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on July 01/18
No End in Sight in Lebanon’s Cabinet Formation Impasse
Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 30 June, 2018/Recent efforts exerted by Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri have failed to make a breakthrough in the government formation process. The stalled talks came as an MP from the Strong Lebanon parliamentary bloc of Foreign Minister and FPM leader Jebran Bassil said, “We are about to remove all obstacles facing the cabinet formation process.”In light of the stalemate, Hariri issued on Friday a circular, clarifying circular 21/2018 issued on June 7, and which calls on caretaker ministers to comply with article 64 of the Constitution in performing their governmental duties. MP Salim Aoun from the Strong Lebanon bloc said on Friday that the cabinet formation is not the responsibility of one team. “All parties have the right to present their demands, and the solution remains in the hands of President Michel Aoun and PM-designate Saad Hariri,” he explained. Speaking about the ties between the FPM and the Lebanese Forces, Aoun said that an agreement previously struck between the two sides is still holding. The delay in the cabinet formation process is mainly due to the representation of Christians amid conflicting demands by the LF from one side and the FPM and President Aoun from another side. The LF wants the seat of the deputy Prime Minister, whereas the president says it is his right to appoint him and some other ministers in order to monitor the cabinet’s work. Also, Bassil, who is Aoun’s son-in-law, wants the FPM to retain the strongest Christian representation in the new cabinet by strongly rejecting demands by the LF to be represented by more than three ministerial portfolios. Member of the Strong Republic parliamentary bloc MP George Okeiss said the LF has offered several proposals in the past two days to facilitate the formation of the government. “What are the reasons preventing the LF from getting the seat of the deputy PM?” he asked. The lawmaker stressed that the current phase is not about political disputes and constitutional powers, but should rather be aimed at solving economic problems and the issue of Syrian refugees. “Those difficulties require the swift formation of a unified government,” Okeiss said.

Fears over Repression of Journalists in Lebanon

Beirut - Youssef Diab/Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 30 June, 2018/A judicial sentence against journalist Fidaa Itani has raised fears over repression of media figures and restrictions on freedom of the press in Lebanon. Baabda judge Nadine Najem on Friday sentenced Itani for defaming caretaker Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil on social media. He was sentenced to four months with a fine of LL10 million ($6,550) to compensate for alleged damages. Asharq Al-Awsat learned that the Council of Syndicate of Editors will hold an extraordinary meeting to discuss the verdict on Itani and issue a statement.
Friday’s ruling came amid a similar one-year sentence against activist Jerry Maher in a lawsuit filed against him by a lawyer for defaming “Hezbollah.”Following the sentences, which raised fears over growing restrictions on media freedom in Lebanon, a judicial source told Asharq Al-Awsat that the ruling against Itani does not contradict with the press law. Itani had failed to appear in court, said the source. So, he received the maximum penalty required for suspects on trial in absentia. The person involved can resort to certain judicial measures to appeal his sentence, the source added. Bassil sued Itani over a Facebook post on June 30, 2017, in which the journalist commented on “random killings,” “hundreds of arrests” and "forced return" of Syrian refugees to Syria. He later used a derogatory Arabic-language expression against Bassil.

Aoun Meets Khoury, Discusses Cabinet Formation Process
Naharnet/June 30/18/President Michel Aoun received caretaker Culture Minister Ghattas Khoury at the Baabda Palace where talks focused on the Cabinet formation process and several other issues, the National News Agency reported on Saturday.
“Negotiations will intensify in the upcoming hours, particularly following the consultations held between the President and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri about the government formation,” said Khoury after the meeting. Khoury pinned hopes on what he described as “positive atmospheres” that could fall in the interest of the formation process. Noting that “some initiatives could be made in the few coming days.” The formation process faces some obstacles regarding the representation of the Lebanese Forces party, the Druze share and the representation of the Sunni opposition.Aoun and Khoury also reportedly touched on the current political situation.

Report: FPM Seeking 'Veto Power, Future Presidency'

Naharnet/June 30/18/Difficulties facing the formation of the new government over ministerial quotas have political objectives, not only related to the size success of each party in the parliamentary elections, but also related to the Free Patriotic Movement’s “aspirations for veto power,” the pan-Arab al-Hayat daily said on Saturday. The “tacit intentions behind the differences is the main drive for tensions between the Lebanese Forces, FPM and Progressive Socialist Party (over the Druze representation),” senior parliamentary sources told the daily. They said the FPM’s demands to obtain eight portfolios in the government in addition to another three as part of the President’s share would grant them (11 out of 30-Cabinet seats) the so-called “blocking-third, a power to veto government decisions.”Parties must be “vigilant in light of the aspirations of FPM chief Jebran Bassil” -President Michel Aoun’s son-in-law- to “control the government's decisions” mainly “when the time comes for the election of a new president in light of his ambitions to run for presidency when his uncle's terms comes to an end.” The sources added: “Although there will be a new parliament in 2022 that will elect a new president, thus we can not predict the balance of power then, but controlling the government decisions through the blocking-third pressures other parties to accept the election of Bassil just as it did before Aoun’s election to the post of presidency when the FPM, in alliance with Hizbullah, obstructed the State institutions for two and a half years to push for his election.”"Political parties came to realize the real objectives behind the FPM’s demands for ministerial portfolios and have therefore warned against the consequences," they explained. The government formation process faces two obstacles one represented in the LF demand for “proper representation that reflects their success in the parliamentary elections.”Another obstacle is the representation of the Druze which PSP chief Walid Jumblat insists it be strictly part for his party.

Geagea Says Maarab Agreement Doesn't Stand for Accepting 'Corruption' in Govt.

Naharnet/June 30/18/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea stressed Friday that the LF's Maarab Agreement with the Free Patriotic Movement does not stand for accepting “corruption” in the government. “The era of marginalization has ended and the era of correct representation has started,” Geagea underlined during an LF ceremony in Maarab. “The size of our current parliamentary bloc is neither a coincidence nor an exception. It is the reality that the hand of hegemony and its biased electoral laws had prevented us from exhibiting,” Geagea added. “The LF respects all parties, movements and political factions that are currently present in the Lebanese arena and it is not seeking to eliminate anyone's role. It is only asking others to respect its presence and to halt the attempts to isolate it and besiege it. These attempts proved futile in the past and will prove futile today and everyday,” the LF leader emphasized. He underscored that the constitutional process through which the government is formed should “meet and complement the popular will that was embodied in ballot boxes.”“It should not be a means to bypass it, paralyze it or restrict it,” Geagea added. “We will not accept to exchange our presence in the government for our silence over the waste of public money, the lack of productivity and corruption, because our presence is in the first place aimed at combating corruption and not at reaping posts,” he went on to say. Turning to the issue of the controversy over the LF's landmark Maarab Agreement with the FPM, Geagea said: “We are not clinging to the Maarab Agreement to create two-, three- or four-party alliances in the Christian arena, but rather to create a climate of stability and accord in the community.”“We support the (agreement with the FPM) until the end but we also want to protect the state's sovereignty, people's interests and the bread of the poor and to combat the waste of public money and corruption,” the LF leader added. He also stressed that the LF's “opposition against the waste of public money, corruption and shady deals” are not targeted against “a certain minister or a certain political group, but rather against the entire political order that has been ruling Lebanon since its independence.”
Report: Geagea Likely to Visit Baabda
Naharnet/June 30/18/In light of conflicts lingering between the Lebanese Forces and Free Patriotic Movement over government shares, LF chief Samir Geagea will likely visit President Michel Aoun (FPM founder) at the Baabda Palace, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Saturday. The possibility of “Geagea’s visit to Baabda does stand, but the date has not been set yet,” LF sources told the daily on condition of anonymity. “Some preparations must be completed in order to make this visit happen and it may take place anytime,” they added. On the other hand, the daily said that a suggestion has been made to grant four portfolios to the Lebanese Forces, including the ministry of defense. The LF insists on having five portfolios in the new Cabinet to be formed by Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, a demand which the FPM contests. The LF insists on “proper representation in the new Cabinet in light of the parliamentary elections outcome,” which produced dramatic success for the party almost doubling its national seats. Ties have been strained between the two political parties, who joined their efforts under the so-called landmark Maarab Agreement that brought Aoun to the presidential post. However, talks between the FPM and LF representatives have appeased tension and dissipated fears “threatening” the agreement. On Friday, Geagea referred to the controversy over the agreement with the FPM, saying the LF “support the agreement until the end but we also want to protect the state's sovereignty, people's interests and the bread of the poor and to combat the waste of public money and corruption.”

Sarraf Freezes Arms Licenses in Baalbek-Hermel
Naharnet/June 30/18/Caretaker Minister of Defense Yaacoub Sarraf on Saturday freezed all arms licenses in the province of Baalbek-Hermel until further notice, the National News Agency said. However, the decision exempted all diplomats, security guards of current and former ministers and MPs and heads of parties and religious figures, staff of foreign embassies, from the license suspension. The decision warned that all violators will be subject to strict measures. The Lebanese army launched a security plan early this week in Baalbek-Hermal to control deteriorating security situation. Rampant chaos prevailed in said area since May, and residents of the district were up in arms demanding strict State measures to control it.
Those Who Inspire: Honoring 60 Lebanese influential figures
Sally Farhat and Karim Wazzan/Annahar/June 30/18
The international book in its Lebanese version includes 140 pages, covering stories of 60 Lebanese people that earned their title as inspirational.
BEIRUT: After one year of work, Those Who Inspire Ltd. team launched “Those Who Inspire Lebanon,” the international book’s Lebanese version in a press conference held at the Ecole Superieure des Affaires on June 28. “Those Who Inspire” is an international movement that aims at highlighting the most inspirational personnel in a specific country. Stories of people from different backgrounds and fields are combined in one book to be later distributed to millennials, giving them mentorship opportunities and thus, building a bridge between aspiring youth and achieved profiles from their country. “In this book, you will find endless inspirations, which allows the youth to know more about their culture,” said Alejandro Andres, Co-Publisher and Co-Editor of TWI Lebanon. “It also includes all the emails of those who are in the book allowing the youth a golden key to access the book’s mentors,” he added. The international book in its Lebanese version includes 140 pages, covering stories of 60 Lebanese people that earned their title as inspirational. “I didn’t do any research to choose Lebanon’s inspirational people,” Andres told Annahar. “I started interviewing Lebanese people suggested by my Lebanese friends, and each of them suggested other names.” Although word of mouth was the main source for choosing the featured profiles, founders and publishers of the book did not fail to make sure that those included are from different backgrounds and fields. Among the 60 featured profiles were Georges Khabbaz, Ayad Nasser, Ray Bassil, Michael Haddad, Rindala Beydoun, and May Chidiac. “It means something that you are an inspiration,” Chidiac told Annahar. “It also shows that after all the things one goes through, they are being recognized,” she added. Also, a tribute to the late May Arida, President of Baalbeck Festival, is included in the book among its first pages. “We kept the profile of Arida as a tribute, and because it’s one of the last interviews she made,” Andres added. Also, the book provides equality among the two sexes and even tips the scale in females’ favor, as 31 of the featured profiles are for females. “I traveled the world and the seven seas but, I can assure you that very seldom have I found a territory with so much talent and integrity,” Andres said. “My words will soon fade but, this book will remain, so let this first edition of ‘Those Who Inspire Lebanon’ be a document that certifies and guarantees what I just said.”
-- Tala Ramadan also contributed to this article.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 01/18
Trump ally Giuliani says end is near for Iran's rulers
VILLEPINTE, France (Reuters/June 30, 2018) - U.S. President Donald Trump will suffocate Iran’s “dictatorial ayatollahs”, his close ally Rudy Giuliani said on Saturday, suggesting his move to re-impose sanctions was aimed squarely at regime change. The former New York mayor who is now Trump’s personal lawyer was addressing a conference of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an umbrella bloc of groups of exiled Iranians opposed to the Islamic Republic. “We are now realistically being able to see an end to the regime in Iran,” Giuliani said, pointing to recent protests in the country sparked by a currency collapse after Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal.  “When the greatest economic power stops doing business with you then you collapse ... and the sanctions will become greater, greater and greater,” he said. At the same conference last year, John Bolton, who was appointed Trump’s National Security Advisor in April this year, told NCRI members they would be ruling Iran before 2019. Bolton, who at the time was with the American Enterprise Institute think tank, told Fox News in January: “Our goal should be regime change in Iran.”But, freshly appointed to the Trump administration, he told ABC’s “This Week” in May: “That’s not the policy of the administration. The policy of the administration is to make sure that Iran never gets close to deliverable nuclear weapons.” European countries which signed the 2015 Iran deal along with the United States, Russia and China, are sticking with it, saying the agreement prevents Iran developing weapons-grade nuclear fuel. But Giuliani said Europe should be “ashamed” of itself. “This president doesn’t intend to turn his back on freedom fighters. The end of appeasement is over,” he told the conference of the NCRI, whose main faction is the People’s Mujahideen Organization of Iran (PMOI) once deemed a terrorist group by Washington and Europe. Maryam Rajavi, who heads the group, told reporters: “Regime change in Iran is within reach as never before ... The wheels of change have started turning.”
In Tehran, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Trump would fail in any attempt to turn the Iranian people against the ruling system. “They bring to bear economic pressure to separate the nation from the system ... but six U.S. presidents before him (Trump) tried this and had to give up,” Khamenei said on his website. Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Robin Pomeroy
Russia Negotiates with Opposition to Reach a ‘Settlement’ in South Syria
Amman - Moscow - London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 30 June, 2018/The Russian Army and a Syrian opposition delegation have discussed ways to restore a ceasefire in southern Syria and reach an agreement, several sources told Asharq Al-Awsat on Friday. A Jordanian official source told Reuters there were confirmed reports of a ceasefire in southern Syria that would lead to "reconciliation" between opposition and regime forces. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said several meetings were held in a number of towns in Daraa province on Friday between Russian officers and the Syrian opposition to discuss a possible ceasefire. Reliable sources told the Observatory that a new round of negotiations, via intermediaries, is expected Saturday to discuss a full solution on the future of Daraa, which has witnessed 11 days of escalating aerial, rocket and artillery bombardment by the regime forces and allied fighters. “The terms which are being debated, include full and extensive ceasefire in Daraa and handing over the heavy weapons held by the factions,” the Observatory said. On Friday, Reuters quoted a State Department official as saying that the United States could not confirm the truce report, and the situation in southern Syria remained “grim” with Russia and Syrian regime forces continuing to bomb the area. The monitoring group had said the offensive already uprooted more than 120,000 civilians in the southwest since it began last week. Tens of thousands of people have fled toward the border with Jordan and thousands more to the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Separately, Israeli Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot arrived in the United States to meet with US military and defense officials and discuss “military cooperation in the face of significant defense challenges in the Middle East," the Israeli Army said in a statement.
Guterres Calls for End to Military Ops in South Syria, Jordan Source Reports Truce
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 30 June, 2018/UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a new call Friday for "an immediate cessation" to military operations in southwest Syria amid claims of a ceasefire between the Syrian regime and rebels. Guterres is "deeply alarmed by the military offensive in southwestern Syria and its devastating toll on civilians," said a statement from his spokesman Stephane Dujarric. "The secretary-general recalls that the southwest area of Syria is part of a de-escalation agreement agreed between Jordan, Russia and the United States," the statement said. Guterres "calls on all parties to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights law, protect civilians and facilitate safe, unimpeded and sustained humanitarian access." The UN chief had made a similar call earlier this month, after Russian-backed Syrian regime forces began attacking opposition-held parts of Daraa province on June 19. A Jordanian official source told Reuters on Friday that there were confirmed reports of a ceasefire in southern Syria that would lead to "reconciliation.” The source did not elaborate. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based war monitoring group, said the regime's military campaign had killed at least 98 civilians since June 19. The chief Syrian opposition negotiator Nasr al-Hariri has decried "US silence" over the offensive and said only a "malicious deal" could explain the lack of a US response. The Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump will have a detailed discussion about Syria when they meet in July.

Syrian rebels say peace talks with Russia over southwest Syria failed

Reuters, Amman/Saturday, 30 June 2018/Syrian rebels meeting Russian officers in a southern Syrian town on Saturday said negotiations for a peace deal with the government ended in failure after they rejected Moscow's demands to surrender, their spokesman said. “The meeting ended in failure. The Russians were not ready to listen to our demands. They offered one option, to accept their humiliating demand to surrender, which was rejected,” Ibrahim Jabawi, spokesman for the Free Syrian Army.

UN Security Council calls for armed groups to leave Golan ‘area of separation’

AFP, United NationsSaturday, 30 June 2018/The UN Security Council on Friday unanimously renewed for six months its mission to observe the ceasefire in the Golan Heights, calling for armed groups to leave the area separating Syrian and Israeli forces. UNDOF, which comprises nearly a thousand personnel, was created in 1974 after an agreement on the departure of Israeli and Syrian forces from Golan. In 1981, Israel annexed part of Golan in a move unrecognized by the international community, while a smaller part of the area is under Syrian control.
"There should be no military forces in the area of separation other than those of UNDOF," reads the resolution drafted by the United States and Russia.c. The text condemns "the continued fighting in the area of separation" and calls on "all parties to the Syrian domestic conflict to cease military actions in the UNDOF area of operations." It "stresses the obligation on both parties to scrupulously and fully respect the terms of the 1974 Disengagement of Forces Agreement.""There should be no military activity of any kind in the area of separation," either by the Syrian military or opposition forces, it said.
Battered South Syria Towns in Talks on Regime Takeover
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 30/18/Rebels controlling several towns in southern Syria were on Friday considering a deal for a regime takeover in exchange for an end to fierce bombing, state media and a monitor said. Since June 19, Russian-backed government forces have been battering opposition-held parts of Daraa province with air strikes and barrel bombs, simultaneously calling on rebels to surrender. Syrian state news agency SANA has reported that rebels in three towns in Daraa's eastern countryside had already agreed to a regime takeover over the last two days. On Friday, it carried preliminary reports that rebels in four more towns had "agreed to hand over their weapons... and reconcile." Syria's army on Friday organized a press tour of recently recaptured towns in the south, including Al-Soura. A military commander, speaking on condition of anonymity, told journalists that the army's advance left opposition fighters with "no choice" but to surrender."The terrorist groups are heading towards settlement and reconciliation," the commander said.  The strategy is one the government and its Russian ally have used across Syria: bombing, isolating rebel towns with ground attacks, and ultimately securing their surrender.
They have already divided rebel territory in the south -- which forms a rough U-shape spanning Daraa and neighboring Quneitra province -- into several chunks. Lebanon's Hizbullah, which has fought alongside Syrian regime forces in the south, said on Friday that rebels were "collapsing."
"Many of these groups are reassessing, starting to ask for settlements and entering into reconciliation deals," Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said. "We are facing a very big victory in southern Syria," he said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said on Friday that as many as eight towns were in negotiations over a potential regime takeover. "There are talks between the Russians on one side and opposition factions on the other, through local mediators, over the fate of eight towns in Daraa's countryside," it said.
Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said members of Russia's military police were leading the talks for each town separately. "Most of them appear willing to reconcile with the regime, which will see rebel fighters hand over their heavy weapons," he said. Syrian and Russian warplanes on Friday continued air strikes across Daraa province and the provincial capital of the same name, the Observatory said. Nearly 100 civilians have been killed since the assault began a week ago, the monitor said. The United Nations says around 66,000 people have fled their homes, many of them towards the border with Jordan, which remains closed.

Israel Says 'Won't be Dragged' to Reoccupy Gaza Strip
Tel Aviv - Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 30 June, 2018/Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman affirmed their rejection to drift to a war against Gaza Strip. While Netanyahu said that the air force will be decisive in the coming battle with the Palestinian factions in Gaza Strip, Lieberman focused that Israel wont drift to reoccupy Gaza, announcing that this contradicts with the Israel national reconciliation. Israeli officials’ statements came as a response to ministers demanding occupying Gaza and ousting the ruling of Hamas there. They also came in response to analysis that appeared in the past days in the media speaking about the imminent deterioration of conditions through a war between Israel and armed groups in the strip. Netanyahu sources reported him saying that who drags Israel into a military confrontation will regret. Lieberman stated that the citizens in Israel can be assured since the leadership is acting responsibly and is not being dragged to wars. He added, as he spoke to a group of new military officers, that he now stands infront of the best defense force in the world, and the strongest army in the Middle East. Lieberman continued that the Israelis are impatient and they want everything on the spot, war now, peace now, decisiveness now. But the serious security policy shouldn’t be responsive to media and people's pressure. Dozens of residents in Jewish Israeli towns surrounding Gaza held a demonstration on Friday demanding the government to act against the burning kites that have led to starting fire in 30,000 donums of fields so far. Protesters demanded that Hamas should pay a costly price to make it stop launching these kites.

Maryam Rajavi: Regime overthrow is certain, Iran will be free
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Saturday, 30 June 2018/Iran’s opposition conference “Free Iran” headed by the National Council of Resistance of Iran started its annual forum on Saturday in Villepinte in Paris with a brief press conference by Maryam Rajavi, the head of the exiled council, during which she called for the “accountability of the Iranian regime and for supporting the popular uprising in order to overthrow the regime of “Wilayat al-Faqih.”Rajavi said spoke on the ongoing protests that first erupted in the areas surrounding Tehran’s Grand Bazaar and has led to a domino effect on other cities as well. “The first thing that must be said today is that flames of the auspicious and liberating uprising are again rising in Tehran and across Iran: Again, Mashhad and Shiraz, Bandar Abbas and Qeshm, Karaj and Kermanshah, Shahriar, Islamshahr, Kashan, Arak, Isfahan, Ram Hormuz, and many other towns and cities,” Rajavi said. The President-Elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran headed by the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MeK), said that “Indeed, the uprising cannot be extinguished and will continue without respite, constantly expanding and deepening”. “The second sign that the phase of the regime’s overthrow has arrived is that for the past six months the Iranian people have waged an uprising and a protest movement despite maximum suppression, despite the so-called suicides by the detainees in the mullahs’ prisons and despite daily arrests and executions designed to intimidate the public,” she said.
The Iranian leader stressed that “the people of Iran determined to topple the regime and establish a Republic based on pluralism, the voices of the people, and separation of religion and state.”Also in a message addressed to the Iranians she said “the change of the regime is within reach now more than ever, a bright future without execution, torture, discrimination and suppression.”She also addressed the international committee demanding “the recognition of the Iranian people struggle and resistance to put an end to the religious dictatorship” and also for the “support of Iranians to topple the regime in order to prevent the dangers of nuclear weapons, missiles and terrorist Iranian regime and its meddling in the region,” according to Rajavi. Rajavi also called to hold the Iranian regime accountable for the human rights violations through imposing full financial and oil sanctions.
The Iranian leader living in exile also called for the halt in trade with members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and with institutions belonging to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The conference which will run for three days is expected to host a number of regional and international speakers to express solidarity with the Iranian opposition.

Hamas to Consider 3 Proposals on Gaza’s Humanitarian, Security Situation
Gaza - Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 30 June, 2018/Hamas movement is considering three main proposals from mediators of various Arab and international parties on resolving the humanitarian and security situation in Gaza Strip, stating that it refuses to link any proposal to the issue of missing Israelis and insists that this should be done through an “exchange deal” that also includes the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, according to close sources. Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, the sources indicated that one of the proposals was suggested by UN Secretary General’s Personal Representative and Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov. Another proposal was submitted by Arab officials close to Hamas and, third one, by a foreign country also linked to Hamas. The sources pointed out that Hamas viewed some of the proposals as "incomplete", including Mladenov’s, noting that the latter occasionally changes his proposals based on contacts with various parties, including Israel, Hamas, the Palestinian Authority (PA), and Arab and international figures. The sources added that Hamas sees Mladenov's proposal as purely humanitarian that does not help improve the economic situation in a radical manner, but rather temporarily. The proposal also doesn't include any clear security agreement that would guarantee its implementation by the Israeli occupation. Some of Mladenov’s suggestions relate to introducing fuel to the Gaza power plant with international support, the permanent opening of the Strip’s crossings and allowing all necessary goods to enter Gaza while preserving Israel's right to security, according to the sources. The sources said that the movement considers all these as temporary solutions and wants stable economic projects and a final solution to the electricity crisis in Gaza. Hamas is also asking for completely lifting the siege on the Strip, while rejecting any Israeli attempts to establish blacklists to prevent the introduction of goods.
As for the proposals presented by Arab and foreign officials, they include full humanitarian assistance to Gaza Strip, opening of crossings and the entry of all goods, provided there is a clear security agreement on the field situation by reaching a truce agreement that includes a swap deal on missing Israelis believed to be prisoners of Hamas.
The sources pointed out that Hamas rejects any proposal that does not include a clear swap deal of prisoners in exchange for prisoners, under clear terms and international supervision ensuring the implementation of all of its provisions. Hamas considers all these proposals as incomplete and need further developments to become viable, according to same sources. The movement also wants its weaponry outside the deal, which Israel is trying to include in some of the proposals presented by the same figures. The sources pointed out that Hamas informed all those who have submitted proposals that marches along the borders will continue until it achieves its goals in breaking the siege and rejecting any political projects that undermine the rights of the Palestinians. Israel refuses to publicly address any proposals for an exchange deal with Hamas. Every now and then, Israeli sources indicate there are contacts with several parties to bring back missing soldiers and Israeli civilians detained in Gaza. The Israeli government and the cabinet are considering proposals to alleviate the severe humanitarian crisis in Gaza Strip, including the expansion of fishing area, introduction of more goods, and the construction of a solar power plant to solve the electricity crisis and other economic projects. Palestinian Authority fears that these proposals suggested by several parties with US cooperation could lead to passing the "Deal of the Century".

Turkey Hints at Reopening its Consulates in Mosul, Basra

Ankara - Saeed Abdelrazek/Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 30 June, 2018/Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced Friday that Ankara began taking measures to reopen its consulates in Mosul and Basra that have remained shut for years due to security threats. Turkey closed its consulate in Mosul in 2014, shortly after ISIS advanced on the city and stormed the mission on June 11 of that year, kidnapping 48 people including the Turkish consul. Among the captives were also employees at the consulate and their family members, including three children, as well as members from the Turkish special operations force. The captives were released after three months. Later, the former Turkish consul accused Ankara of handing him over, along with the consulate staff, to ISIS. As for the Turkish consulate in Basra, the Iraqi foreign ministry announced on January 21 that it had struck an agreement with Turkey to reopen it following its closure in 2014 due to security threats. In April, Turkey's ambassador to Baghdad Fatih Yıldız said that the Basra consulate will reopen soon. In remarks to Turkish media, he said that Turkey is a huge country and can’t be restricted to specific parts of Iraq. Turkey has a border with southern Iraq, and has sent humanitarian aid to provinces in central Iraq, he said. He added that the Turkish consulate building in Basra is still there and that talks must be held with local figures and tribal leaders before reactivating the diplomatic mission.

Iraq to Begin Manual Recount of May Election
zzzzz Al-Awsat/Saturday, 30 June, 2018/Iraq will begin a manual recount of May national election votes on Tuesday, Reuters reported a spokesman for the Independent High Electoral Commission as saying in a statement on Saturday. Only those problematic ballots flagged in formal complaints or official reports on fraud allegations will be recounted, the statement said. The recount will start in Kirkuk province on Tuesday. Reuters reported that it will extend to six further provinces: Sulaymaniyah, Erbil, Dohuk, Nineveh, Salaheddin and Anbar, the statement said.

Iraqi Parliament Will not Extend Term

Baghdad - Hamza Mustafa/Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 30 June, 2018/After several sessions held last week, the Iraqi parliament was unable to hold a full session of the quorum in order to vote on the fourth amendment to the electoral law, which included extending its term. The session was scheduled to be held on Saturday, as announced by a number of deputies who are called “loser members of parliament”, in order to ensure the presence of 165 deputies to pass the law. However, according to parliamentary sources, no more than 15 deputies were present in the parliament’s hall at the absence of Speaker Salim al-Jubouri, who sources said had traveled to Turkey on a short visit. First Deputy Speaker Hammam Hamoudi, who announced his rejection of the extension of the parliament’s term, was also absent from the session. According to political circles as well as the movement associated with political alliances, leaders of large blocs announced their refusal to extend the term, which shocked a large number of loser MPs of those blocs. In their last attempt, the MPs announced they had dropped extending the term from the parliament’s agenda on its last day. MP of State of Law Coalition Awatif Nemah indicated that the parliament failed in holding a session on Thursday to vote on the fourth amendment to the law of the elections because some blocs and political figures opposed the article on extending the term. The parliamentary legal committee worked to amend the proposed law by deleting the article on the extension of the work of parliament and kept articles on the manual vote counting, she explained. Nemah justified the insistence on holding the session and vote by saying that fraud levels were very high during the elections, and member of Commissioners Board Riyad al-Badran admitted there were over 800 thousand canceled cards in Baghdad representing 8 parliamentary seats.
“We expect these eight seats that were canceled were of the State of Law Coalition, and by announcing them again, will have a significant impact on the size of the blocs after the total manual counting and sorting,” she added. Fatah Alliance led by Hadi al-Amiri denied allegations claiming they withdrew from their coalition with Saeroon, backed by the leader of Sadrist movement Moqtada al-Sadr. Fatah spokesman, Ahmad al-Asadi, denied in a statement on Saturday reports of some news agencies and media outlets claiming they withdrew from the alliance, stressing both Fatah and Saeroon will continue with their meetings and joint committees to discuss practical steps to ensure the success of their joint project.
On the other hand, Anbar MP Mohammed al-Karbouli told Asharq al-Awsat Sunni leaders from various blocs said Iraq’s Sunni movement aims at forming a unified Sunni bloc whose goal is not to merely “participate in the upcoming government,” but to participate in Baghdad’s political decision-making. He pointed out that “the new Sunni alliance includes more than 45 deputies from all the Sunni blocs. Speaking to Asharq al-Awsat, independent politician Ibrahim al-Sumaidaie explained that after elections, Shiite parties were keen to form alliance in an attempt to bring together the remaining Shiite bloc, which means reforming the Shiite National Alliance once again. Sumaidaie went on to say that there are no signs of a bigger bloc yet, given that alliances are not united yet, and nothing has been developed. In addition, Sumaidaie indicated that establishing a Sunni alliance depends on many things, namely the fact that some political forces handle this as a “political business” and nothing more, which can not lead to the formation of a solid political framework.

Cairo Court Delays Verdict in ‘Rabaa Sit-in’ Mass Trial
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 30 June, 2018/The Cairo Criminal Court on Saturday delayed a final ruling against 739 people, including top Muslim Brotherhood leaders, in the so-called “Rabaa sit-in” case. The court had been expected to issue its final verdict in the case on Saturday. But a judge said security concerns had stopped the defendants being transferred to the court and set a new hearing for July 28. The case, which involves top leaders of the banned Muslim Brotherhood, including the group's leader Mohamed Badie, relates to the 2013 sit-in at Cairo's Rabaa Square in support of former president Mohammed Morsi after the army toppled him.Some of the defendants could face the death penalty if convicted on charges ranging from murder to incitement to violence.

New Initiative to End Tunisia’s Political Crisis

Tunis - Al Munji Al Saidani/Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 30 June, 2018/Tunisia’s Institute for Strategic Studies headed by foreign education minister Neji Jalloul announced a new political initiative that includes a cabinet ministerial reshuffle. The initiative is said to bring together political parties and organizations under a collective project in the name of national sovereignty and construction for the year 2019. More so, it envisages the formation of a new government of 15 ministers, cutting off division of shares, a statement issued by the institute said. It will also put forward a proposal for merging several ministries into a single body that will hold equal accountability for operating tasks. The move is aimed at limiting the huge number of portfolios which has been a consistent character over successive governments since 2011. On the other hand, Tunisian Foreign Minister Khamis Al-Jahnawi confirmed on Friday that the establishment of zones by some European countries to round up unregistered immigrants in a number of southern Mediterranean countries has not been proposed toTunisia so far. Jahnawi said that Tunisia has on several occasions confirmed its opposition to the establishment of such zones. “The issue of migration cannot be tackled by rejecting the other, or by establishing zones for gathering immigrants. This issue requires all sides to come together to talk,” he said in a media statement following a meeting at the Foreign Ministry's headquarters with UN envoy to Libya Ghassan Salamé. “There are other ways to encourage legal migration, at a time when Europe needs demographic support from outside its borders,” said Jahnawi. On the other hand, in an initiative that is the first of its kind in the Arab world, Tunisian lawmakers began drafting a law for protecting refugees. It is expected to be approved by the cabinet soon before being referred to the parliament for adoption. The draft-law defines refugees based on the 1951 International Convention for the Protection of Refugees. It was prepared by the legal and judicial research center of the Tunisian justice ministry, which deals with all laws and draft-laws introduced by the government.

Haftar Warns Against Foreign Military Presence in Southern Libya
Cairo - Khaled Mahmoud/Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 30 June, 2018/Head of Libyan National Army (LNA) commander Khalifa Haftar warned on Friday that some international parties, which he did not specify, are attempting to create a military presence south of Libya, to countering illegal immigration. In a statement issued, Haftar announced they received information about the desire of some international forces to establish a military presence in some areas of southern Libya in order to counter illegal migration. “The command of the Libyan armed forces warns these parties against such actions, which are considered as a violation of international law and an attack on the Libyan state and its sovereignty," asserted Haftar. The statement noted that LNA was ready to take any measures aimed at protection of the country’s sovereignty. The statement pointed out that the leadership desires to establish “warm relations, and balanced strategic partnerships” with all international parties. After liberating Derna from terrorist groups, LNA sources stated the army’s next goal is the city of Sabha where armed gangs and groups of African mercenaries, are located, as well as some remnants of terrorist groups. On Thursday, Field Marshal Hafter announced the ‘‘liberation’’ of the city of Derna. Meanwhile, National Oil Corporation (NOC) Chairman Mustafa Sanalla reiterated that this legal institution, recognized by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and by the international community, is the entity responsible for the Libyan oil production and export operations, under the supervision of Fayez al-Sarraj’s government. Speaking at the “1st Libyan-European Oil & Gas Summit” in Vienna, Sanalla asserted: “We are confident the international legal regime will hold and NOC East will not be able to export,” adding: “only NOC can sell Libyan oil on global markets,” and support from international powers including the US “underscores our position,” he said. Sanalla also indicated that the Company had begun to plan to attract large-scale investments from the world's largest companies. However, sources at the Libyan oil port Zueitina said in return that the port officials did not allow the deployment of a tanker contracted by NOC. An oil official said a tanker in Harika oil port was unable to unload completely because it did not have the proper permits from authorities in the east of the country. On Thursday, a parallel NOC in the eastern city of Benghazi started blocking tankers booked by the Tripoli-based NOC from loading at Zueitina and Hariga. “We took delivery of the ports and we have authority over them now,” head of the parallel NOC in Benghazi, Faraj Said, told Reuters, adding that orders had been issued to prevent the entry of any tanker that was not following its instructions. In other news, more than 100 migrants are feared to have drowned off Libya’s western coast after their overloaded boat capsized, coastguard officials said on Friday. The coastguard picked up 14 survivors from the boat just east of Tripoli, one of whom said the vessel had set off with 120-125 migrants on board, according to a coastguard statement.

Trump Says Saudi King Agrees to Ramp Up Oil Production
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 30/18/US President Donald Trump on Saturday said Saudi Arabia's King Salman had agreed to his request to ramp up oil production. "Just spoke to King Salman of Saudi Arabia and explained to him that, because of the turmoil & disfunction in Iran and Venezuela, I am asking that Saudi Arabia increase oil production, maybe up to 2,000,000 barrels, to make up the difference," Trump announced in an early morning tweet, adding "Prices to high! He has agreed!"

Protests Planned Nationwide over Trump Immigration Policy

Associated Press/Naharnet/June 30/18/Liberal activists, parents and first-time protesters motivated by accounts of children separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border plan to rally in hundreds of cities nationwide Saturday to press President Donald Trump's administration to reunite the families quickly. More than 600 marches could draw hundreds of thousands of people across the country, from immigrant-friendly cities like Los Angeles and New York City to conservative Appalachia and Wyoming under the banner Families Belong Together.
Though many who show up will be seasoned anti-Trump demonstrators, others will be new to immigration activism, including parents who say they feel compelled to show up after heart-wrenching accounts of children forcibly taken from their families as they crossed the border illegally. In Portland, Oregon, for example, several stay-at-home moms have organized their first rally while caring for young kids. "I'm not a radical, and I'm not an activist," said Kate Sharaf, a Portland co-organizer. "I just reached a point where I felt I had to do more."
Immigrant advocacy groups say they're thrilled — and surprised — to see the issue gaining traction among those not tied to immigration. "Honestly, I am blown away. I have literally never seen Americans show up for immigrants like this," said Jess Morales Rocketto, political director at the National Domestic Workers Alliance, which represents nannies, housekeepers and caregivers, many of whom are immigrants. "We just kept hearing over and over again, if it was my child, I would want someone to do something."
Saturday's rallies are getting funding and support from the American Civil Liberties Union,, the National Domestic Workers Alliance and The Leadership Conference. But local organizers are shouldering on-the-ground planning, many of them women relying on informal networks established during worldwide women's marches on Trump's inauguration and its anniversary. Tyler Houlton, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, welcomed interest in the immigration system and said only Congress has the power to change the law. "We appreciate that these individuals have expressed an interest in and concern with the critical issue of securing our nation's borders and enforcing our immigration laws," Houlton said. "As we have indicated before, the department is disappointed and frustrated by our nation's disastrous immigration laws and supports action."White House spokesman Hogan Gidley didn't respond to a request for comment. In Portland, Sharaf and other mothers who organized the rally hope to attract 5,000 people.
Right-wing activists with the group Patriot Prayer also have a permit to march later in the day Saturday and the Portland Police Bureau said Friday they planned to have a heavy police presence. Sharaf and co-organizer Erin Conroy have coordinated with immigrant advocacy groups. "This is not my wheelhouse," Conroy said. "As far as I'm concerned, this is a national emergency that we all need to be focused on right now." That passion is heartening for the broader anti-Trump coalition, which hopes marches will attract people who have otherwise been on the sidelines, said David S. Meyer, a political science professor at the University of California, Irvine, who has authored books on U.S. political protest. "There are people who have all kinds of other grievances or gripes with the Trump administration and they're quite happy to use this one as the most productive and salient for the moment," he said. Immigration attorney Linda Rivas said groups have met with U.S. authorities, congressional representatives and other leaders to discuss an escalating immigration crackdown that they say began decades ago. But the family separation policy has been a watershed for attracting a broader spectrum of demonstrators, she said. "To finally have people on board wanting to take action, marching, taking to the streets, it's been motivating for us as advocates because we have to keep going," Rivas said.

Egypt’s Sisi: June 30 changed the nation, ended waves of extremism
Ashraf Abdulhameed/Al, 30 June 2018/Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared in a speech on Saturday that the June 30 protests, in which Egyptians took to the streets to rally, changed the nation from one on the path of evil, exclusion, and extremism to one on the path of good, peace, and growth. Speaking on the fifth anniversary of 2013 mass protests that ousted former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s President Sisi added that millions of Egyptians rose to proclaim that there was no place for conspirators among them.
He considered the occasion as the day Egyptians stopped the waves of extremism and division that were sweeping the region. The president said the turbulent years that Egypt and the region’s countries experienced since 2011 have produced three major detrimental results: the absence of security and political stability, the spread of terrorism and violence, and the collapse of the economy. Sisi added that in terms of security and stability, Egypt has reestablished its institutions, including its constitution and executive and legislative authority along with its judicial authority, to rebuild political stability in the country. He also affirmed that the police and armed forces were successful in suppressing and persecuting terrorism and all those involved despite considerable political support from abroad that terrorist groups were receiving. He added that Egypt could not have done so without the help of its people who sacrifised themselves to protect their country. ‘We are walking on the right path’ In regards to the economic conditions, al-Sisi said that Egypt’s foreign exchange margin had reached less than $15 billion in June 2013, which was less than the population growth rate, indicating that the Egyptian economy was shrinking in size.
The rates indicated that the economic situation needed to be addressed and reforms undertaken as soon as possible. However, the president added that Egypt was on the right path, with its foreign exchange reserves rising from about $15 billion to $44 billion, the highest level achieved by Egypt in its history. The economic growth rate has also increased from 2 percent five years ago to 5.4 percent, and Sisi said that the government aims that the rapid growth will touch 7 percent in the next few years. According to Sisi, this will change the way of life in Egypt and will put the country on a rapid economic path.
The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 01/18
Accepting Regime Forces in South Syria Will Only Further Iran’s Goals
القبول بقوات نظام الأسد في جنوب سوريا سوف بالتأكيد يسهل تحقيق الأهداف الإيرانية
Hanin Ghaddar and Phillip Smyth/The Washington Institute/June 29, 2018
Whether openly or in disguise, Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies are deploying to the south in large numbers, greatly increasing the potential for cross-border escalation.
When Hezbollah sends its elite Radwan division to a battlefront in Syria, it usually means that intense fighting is expected, and that the unit’s forces will be heavily involved. This pattern has been witnessed throughout Hezbollah’s intervention in the war, from al-Qusayr to Aleppo to Deir al-Zour. Radwan fighters were also temporarily deployed to the 2017 battle of Deraa before a de-escalation agreement stopped that offensive. Today, they are returning to Deraa.
According to sources on the ground, Iran has been redeploying its Shia militia proxies to south Syria since April, particularly between Suwayda, Deraa, and Quneitra. In the past, Israel and Jordan have issued warnings against the presence of Iranian-allied forces so close to their borders, but rather than withdraw, many of these fighters are simply merging with Assad regime forces. Hezbollah units have integrated with the army’s 4th Division and Republican Guard, while fighters from militias such as Liwa al-Fatemiyoun have been spotted within the Tiger Forces under the leadership of Syrian general Suhail al-Hassan, even adopting their uniforms and insignia.
Whether hiding within regime units or deployed separately, Iran’s proxies and partners seem to be heavily involved in the latest Deraa offensive. They are also deploying around the Deir al-Adas area of Quneitra, located a scant fifteen kilometers from the Golan Heights. For instance, the pro-Assad Palestinian militia Liwa al-Quds, which has fought alongside Iranian-controlled forces since 2013, boasted of its large presence near Quneitra in May. Syrian Hezbollah factions such as Liwa al-Imam al-Mahdi—which are largely controlled by their Lebanese parent organization—may well be operating in the area as well given their combat role there in 2016. Even Hezbollah-trained Druze groups might be involved in the southern campaign, further complicating efforts to sift out Iranian influence.
Meanwhile, Russian officials have been busy meeting with Jordanian and Israeli authorities, offering deals and making promises regarding Iran’s withdrawal. President Vladimir Putin and President Trump are expected to focus on the same issue during their planned mid-July summit in Paris.
As the battle for Deraa develops, two issues need to be watched closely. First, can Russia actually guarantee the departure of Iranian forces and proxies from the south, one of the most strategically important areas in all of Syria? Second, assuming Bashar al-Assad manages to expel the Syrian opposition from Deraa, can his forces stop Iranian proxies from infiltrating and controlling the borders?
Determining whether and how Iranian proxy forces are switching attire to integrate with Assad’s forces can be difficult given the diversity of uniforms used in Syria, not to mention the many different ways groups cooperate with one another. Long before the war, the Syrian army was awash in basic civilian clothing items, and even units within the same division would sometimes sport uniforms that did not match. By 2011, the growing militia trend among pro-Assad forces resulted in many Syrian fighters regularly donning military gear mixed with sneakers, jeans, and T-shirts.
Since Hezbollah entered the war in 2012, its fighters have been pictured in similarly mixed gear on a regular basis, making it difficult to differentiate them from Syrian units. Starting in 2013, some Hezbollah fighters were seen in modern woodland- and desert-patterned digital camouflage, but most used other styles until more recently.
In addition, as the group tried to market its image, it emphasized the display of specialized patches, though fighters have eschewed wearing them on many occasions. By mid-2013, certain forces on the ground were also wearing different colored ribbons to denote their origin, according to videos posted online and comments by former Iraqi Shia fighters who deployed alongside Hezbollah. Yet some Iraqi Shia fighters and Hezbollah members would regularly wear the same color ribbons as their Syrian army counterparts.
In other cases, Hezbollah forces and Iraqi fighters were seen wearing a style of camouflage close to the U.S. 1980s-era M81 woodland pattern—a style also adopted by the Syrian Republican Guard and some army units. This includes Liwa al-Imam al-Hussein, a Damascus-based militia that identifies as part of the Syrian army’s 4th Division, which is now widely deployed in the Quneitra area.
By 2016, digital camouflage had become a more regular addition to Hezbollah kits, as the group heavily promoted this style on social media to show off its modern gear and setup. Even so, many fighters still wear mixed gear.
Another Shia militia, the Damascus-based Liwa Abu Fadl al-Abbas (LAFA), has also been seen wearing the same uniforms as Hezbollah, including modern digital camouflage. In the past, members of the group were teamed with Ali Jamal Jishi (aka Hamza Ibrahim Haidar), a late Hezbollah commander who was regularly pictured wearing the same uniform and insignia as Syrian Republican Guard officers (the photos have since been removed from accessible social media sources). LAFA has likewise branded itself as a subsection of the Republican Guard.
Similar uniform switching has been seen among Iraqi Shia fighters from the group Liwa Assad Allah al-Ghalib. As early as 2016, they were spotted deploying north of their Damascus bases wearing patches and clothing from the Desert Hawks (Liwa Suqur al-Sahara), a Syrian militia. Many LAFA fighters did the same when fighting in the north.
Besides the difficulty of distinguishing Iranian proxies from Syrian regime forces, Russia’s general inability or unwillingness to keep its promises in Syria warrants skepticism about its latest security guarantees in the south. For example, when Assad used chemical weapons against civilians in 2013 and the United States was poised to launch military strikes in retaliation, Putin helped convince Washington to hold off by guaranteeing that the regime would surrender its chemical arsenal. Yet Assad kept some of that arsenal and has since used it repeatedly against civilians.
Even more tellingly, Russian forces were rebuffed earlier this month when they accompanied the Syrian army’s 11th Division to push Hezbollah forces out of their positions in the border town of al-Qusayr. The plan—which was not coordinated with Iran or Hezbollah—was to take over the Jusiyah crossing with Lebanon, then move closer to Syria’s Qalamoun region. Yet Hezbollah forces refused to leave their positions; instead, Russian and Syrian troops turned around and left less than twenty-four hours after they arrived, and Hezbollah soon reinforced its presence around al-Qusayr. This small incident—which was probably a Russian attempt to test Iran’s reaction—shows that Moscow would probably be unable to budge Iranian proxies once they become entrenched in south Syria (or, at least, unwilling to exert heavy enough military pressure to force the issue).
Currently, Israel and Jordan seem willing to allow a Syrian army presence in the south. Although it is no secret that Iran’s proxies are integrated with regime forces, this does not seem to bother the two neighbors so long as all such proxies separate themselves from the army and withdraw after the Deraa offensive.
Yet the presumed guarantors of this withdrawal do not seem capable of actually guaranteeing it. Russia has shown that it cannot move Iranian proxies on the ground. And even if Hezbollah and other militias do withdraw a few kilometers away from the frontier, this would not resolve broader concerns about Tehran’s long-term strategic game in Syria. Iranian forces have withdrawn and redeployed many times in many places in Syria, and any move they make to appease Russia would no doubt be temporary.
As for the notion that Assad will push Iran out after achieving victory, the return of his forces to the south means just the opposite. In a major step toward fulfilling Tehran’s long-term goals, the presence of Syrian forces would serve as a conduit for Hezbollah and other militias to quietly redeploy in the south anytime they like, without having to deal with opposition pockets.
Therefore, to avoid escalation in south Syria, Assad’s forces should not be allowed to reoccupy the area after the battle for Deraa, and Russian forces should not be trusted to act as guarantors of Iranian withdrawal. The only guaranteed way of keeping Iran out of the south and far from the Golan and Jordan would be a third-party buffer zone along Syria’s southern borders. Formulating the contours of such a force would of course be challenging, since the Trump administration is set against keeping U.S. troops in Syria, and past international peacekeeping missions designed to constrain Hezbollah elsewhere have failed (e.g., the UN Interim Force in Lebanon). Yet the line distinguishing Iranian and Syria forces grows ever thinner every day, so the need to pursue such alternatives is urgent.
**Hanin Ghaddar, a veteran Lebanese journalist and researcher, is the Friedmann Visiting Fellow at The Washington Institute.
*Phillip Smyth is a Soref Fellow at the Institute and author of its 2015 study The Shiite Jihad in Syria and Its Regional Effects.

Why Britain's Deradicalization Programs Are Failing
A. Z. Mohamed/Gatestone Institute/June 30/2018
The two effective initiatives were, "one defying political correctness and tackling difficult issues head-on and the other directly addressing extremism in religious [Islamic] texts." — The Times.
Unwittingly, Home Secretary Sajid Javid showed just why the deradicalization programs he is defending do not work. He said nothing about the boy's family's religious faith, radical Islam or the narrative of hate and intolerance founded on a "radical" interpretation of the Quran and Sunna to which the boy may well have been exposed at home, at the mosque and over the internet.
The trouble with Javid's tribute to those Muslims who "stand up against all forms of extremism" is that bigotry and bloodlust are not merely figments of Islamist extremists' minds. They stem from an authentic interpretation of Quranic verses and hadiths, which currently dominates the Muslim world.
The vast majority of deradicalization programs in the UK are at best ineffective and at worst counter-productive, according to a recent study by the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT, also known as the "nudge unit"), a social purpose company partially owned by the UK government, but that works in partnership with the Cabinet Office.
As the Times reported recently, BIT examined 33 deradicalization programs across Britain, in schools, youth centers, sports clubs and English-language classes. Most of these are part of Prevent -- a strategy presented in 2011 to the UK Parliament by the Secretary of State for the Home Department -- designed to keep vulnerable citizens from becoming terrorists or supporting any form of violent extremism inspired by radical Islamist or right-wing ideologies. BIT found that only two of the programs have been successful.
The main reason for the failure of the other 31 programs, according to the Times' report on the study, is:
"...that facilitators were uncomfortable dealing with sensitive topics and would often refuse to engage if they were brought up. BIT found that teachers in particular were afraid to bring up matters of race and religion with their students without appearing discriminatory, often causing them to refuse to talk about these topics entirely."
The two effective initiatives, according to the Times, were "one defying political correctness and tackling difficult issues head-on and the other directly addressing extremism in religious [Islamic] texts."
In Britain, the majority (82%) of the 228 people in custody for terrorism-related offenses espouse Islamist extremism. In August 2017, the EU's counter-terrorism coordinator, Gilles de Kerchove, said that the UK has more radicalized Muslims than any other European country. He added that Britain "has identified 20,000 to 35,000 radicals. Of these, 3,000 are worrying for MI5, and of those 500 are under constant and special attention."
In a speech in London on June 4, Britain's recently appointed Home Secretary, Sajid Javid MP, said that the UK's
"... biggest threat [today] is from Islamist terrorism – including Al Qa'ida, but particularly from Daesh.
"While the so-called caliphate is a thing of the past, Daesh continues to plan and inspire attacks both here and abroad as well as recruiting British citizens to fight.
"Over the past 5 years, our law enforcement and intelligence agencies have foiled as many as 25 Islamist-linked plots."
"But the threat doesn't only come from Daesh.
"Extreme right-wing terrorism is also an increasing threat... Daesh and the extreme right wing are more similar than they might like to think.
"They both exploit grievances, distort the truth, and undermine the values that hold us together.
"And they don't hesitate to learn lessons from each other."
"The Prevent strategy will remain a vital part of our counter-terrorism work.
"Yes, I recognise the criticisms, but I absolutely support it.
"Misapprehensions around Prevent are often based on distortions.
"They are based on a lack of understanding about the grassroots work that is involved, and the efforts by civil society groups and public-sector workers to protect vulnerable people.
"We have a moral and social obligation to safeguard vulnerable people from the twisted propaganda of those seeking to radicalise them.
"And Prevent is about doing just that."
To illustrate the benefits of Prevent programs, Javid told the story of a 13-year-old boy:
"He witnessed domestic abuse at home and suffered from racist bullying at school. He started to watch violent propaganda online and to show an interest in fighting for Daesh. But he was given the mentoring and support that he needed to stop him from going down that wrong path. Now his mum says, and I quote, 'he's no longer on the path to radicalisation and all he wants to be is a car salesman.'"
Unwittingly, by recounting this tale, Javid showed just why the deradicalization programs he is defending do not work. He reduced the radicalization of a Muslim teenager to domestic abuse, racist bullying at school and online violent propaganda. He said nothing about the boy's family's religious faith, radical Islam or the narrative of hate and intolerance founded on a "radical" interpretation of the Quran and Sunna to which the boy may well have been exposed at home, at the mosque and over the internet. Instead, Javid provided a politically correct narrative to back up his assertion that Prevent is not only a success, but part of the "new counter-terrorism strategy" he was unveiling.
Javid then devoted a whole section of his speech to his fellow Muslims in Britain:
"After any [terrorist] attack, a lot of well-meaning people will line up to say it has nothing to do with Islam. That the perpetrators are not true Muslims. I understand this reaction. I know they are not true Muslims. But there's no avoiding the fact that these people they self-identify as Muslims.
"Let me be very clear. Muslims are in no way responsible for the acts of a tiny minority who twist their faith. And I know that there is no such thing as a single, homogenous Muslim community. Muslims live and thrive in all walks of British life and society.
"Globally, Muslims are by far the biggest victims of Islamist terrorism. And Muslims are fighting and dying on the frontline of the battle against terrorism every day.
"It would be absurd to say that the actions of a tiny handful in any way represent a peaceful, wonderful religion shared by a billion people worldwide.
"That's exactly why, although we all share the responsibility for tackling terrorism, there's a unique role for Muslims to play in countering this threat.
"British Muslims up and down the country are leading the fight against Islamist extremists by throwing them out of their mosques and by countering poison online and on the streets. It is incredibly powerful when a young Muslim man turns their back on the preachers of hate, and say: 'Your bigotry and bloodlust have no place in the modern world.'
"I want to say to all those who stand up against all forms of extremism that this government stands with you..."
The trouble with Javid's tribute to those Muslims who "stand up against all forms of extremism" is that bigotry and bloodlust are not merely figments of Islamist extremists' minds that lead to their violent conduct. They stem from an authentic interpretation of Quranic verses and hadiths, which -- according to Londonistan author Melanie Phillips -- "although millions of Muslims don't subscribe to it, currently dominates the Islamic world." Sadly, worldwide, Muslims, too, are often victims of Muslim violence.
For deradicalization programs -- and counter-terrorism initiatives -- to work, they must first defy political correctness, tackle the root causes of Islamist extremism and address all related sensitive issues, including those which appear in Islamic texts. British Muslims should not only participate in this endeavor, but be on the front lines, monitoring early signs of radicalization and ceasing to show sympathy for or to rationalize violence.
*A. Z. Mohamed is a Muslim born and raised in the Middle East.
© 2018 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.

Analysis Erdogan Wanted an Empire but Must Suffice With an Unloved Country
 أردوغان أراد إمبراطورية ولكن يجب أن تتصالح مع بلد غير محبوب
Zvi Bar'el/Haaretz/June 30/18
Turkey’s alliance with Iran, Qatar and Russia, and its incursion in northern Syria versus the Kurds are just some of the moves that ruined its ‘zero problems with neighbors’ policy
The Sheraton Hotel in the Qatari capital of Doha was lit up in the colors of the Turkish flag Sunday. Qatar’s ruler, Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, was one of the first to congratulate Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on his electoral victory and that of his party.
Erdogan and the emir are close friends. Turkey was the first country to offer assistance to Qatar a year ago when Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates imposed a brutal economic boycott on it. Turkey lambasted the boycott, rushed goods to Qatar and beefed up its military presence in the emirate to warn the other Gulf states not to attack it. Ankara also pressured Washington to mediate between Qatar and the Gulf states.
The economic benefits of Turkey’s ties with Qatar aren’t substantial for a country whose gross domestic product is almost $900 billion. But its close relationship with Doha, an Iranian ally, is an important element of Erdogan’s effort to boost Turkey’s status as an influential power in the Middle East.
Turkey’s strategy of seeking to shape, or at least be party to shaping, a new Mideast order wasn’t born with Erdogan’s election as president. Its ties with Qatar are part of a network of relationships Ankara has been working on for almost eight years since the Syrian civil war began.
Before the war, Turkey’s “zero problems with neighbors” policy was supposed to turn it into a bridge between East and West, between Europe, America and the Middle East, and thereby into a country capable of leading moves in the region. But the war taught it the limitations of this strategy.
Erdogan’s severance of his personal ties with Syrian President Bashar Assad and his new policy of trying to oust the Assad regime due to its massacre of its own people symbolized the revolution in Erdogan’s approach. It also put Turkey in opposition to Iran.
Yet the expected rift between Turkey and Iran was avoided, mainly due to shared economic interests. Iran, at that time still under harsh international sanctions, needed an ally like Turkey, which skirted the sanctions by buying oil from Iran and paying it in gold via the UAE. Both countries also had a long-standing interest in blocking Kurdish aspirations for independence and agreed on the need to fight the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the PKK.
Nevertheless, Erdogan’s ties with Tehran created a dilemma for him. In 2015, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman formed a “Sunni coalition” against Iran and embarked on a war in Yemen, led by his son Mohammed. Salman then recruited Turkey into the coalition, giving it, for the first time, the status of a partner in the Arab Middle East, which had traditionally seen Turkey as alien at best and hostile at worst. The common denominator between the secular Turkish republic and the Wahhabi kingdom was loathing for Assad and a desire to oust him.
Saudi and Egyptian enmity
But Turkey never agreed to serve as a brake on Iran, it didn’t join the war in Yemen, and Salman soon realized that their partnership empowered Turkey without making any real contribution to advancing his own interests. The Saudi media began “reconsidering” the alliance with Turkey and describing Erdogan as an authoritarian ruler. Recently, a UAE ambassador even declared Turkey a threat to the region and said the Americans didn’t understand the gravity of this threat
Arab hostility to Turkey was led by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi. Shortly after taking over the presidency in July 2013, Sissi not only began persecuting the Muslim Brotherhood, but also imposed an economic boycott on Turkey, which refused to accept his rule as legitimate. Erdogan said Sissi had taken power in a military coup and demanded the restoration of the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood government. Sissi canceled Egypt’s trade agreements with Turkey, urged Egyptians not to travel to Turkey or fly with Turkish airlines, and blew up Turkey’s hopes of using Egypt as a commercial bridge to Africa.
Not much was left of the “zero problems with neighbors” policy created and led by a political science professor, Ahmet Davutoglu, who served as Erdogan’s foreign minister and then, after Erdogan became president in 2014, as his prime minister. Turkey’s rift with Syria and Egypt, its chilly relations with the Gulf states and its hostile relations with Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which stemmed from its support for Hamas, all distanced Erdogan’s dream of becoming a pivotal country, if they didn’t utterly destroy it.
It’s simplistic to say Erdogan aspired to reestablish the Ottoman Empire and make himself sultan. Still, Turkey’s poor relationships with other countries in the region, its declining influence on regional conflicts, its alliance with Iran, Qatar and Russia – which at least for now are considered the nemeses of the Arab Middle East – and its takeover of land in northern Syria in its battle against the Kurds have all made Arab states increase their efforts to thwart Ankara. Thus no new Ottoman Empire will ever be born of Erdogan’s dream; his “sultanate” will end at Turkey’s borders.
But it’s not only Mideast leaders who loathe Erdogan. He has also been engaged in a bitter feud with the United States that has descended into mutual threats. In fact, “duel” would be a better word than “relationship” to describe the ties.
Turkey’s list of grievances starts with the refusal of both the Obama and Trump administrations to extradite preacher Fethullah Gulen, whom Erdogan accuses of plotting the failed coup against him in July 2016. Next, Erdogan assailed the American legal system and the U.S. administration over a court ruling convicting the vice president of Turkey’s state bank of circumventing sanctions on Iran. And finally, Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. Embassy there drove Erdogan wild.
Russian missiles for Turkey
But the heart of Erdogan’s spat with Washington is the assistance America gave the Syrian Kurds in the war against the Islamic State. Erdogan sees this close relationship as a plot to abet Kurdish terror against Turkey
He could make a similar accusation against Russia, which also sees the Kurds as essential allies in any diplomatic process to end the Syrian civil war. But having been burned by the economic boycott Russia imposed on Ankara after Turkey downed a Russian plane near the Turkish-Syrian border three years ago, Erdogan has been very careful not to antagonize Moscow. To reconcile with Russia, he had to withdraw his adamant opposition to Assad remaining in power and join the coalition Moscow formed with Tehran to launch a diplomatic process in Syria.
Washington, which didn’t get too upset over Erdogan’s suppression of intellectuals and political rivals or his massive violations of human rights, was furious when Turkey signed an agreement to buy Russia’s S-400 surface-to-air missile system. A battle is now being waged on Capitol Hill to prevent Turkey from buying the F-35 fighter jet in order to punish Ankara for the S-400 purchase, which Turkey’s American opponents say will undermine NATO’s defense coordination.
The one ray of light in Turkey’s relations with Washington in recent weeks was a deal over control of the Syrian city and province of Manbij, which had previously been controlled by the Kurds. Under this agreement, Turkish and American forces will conduct joint patrols of the city and the province once the Kurds, whose presence was the reason Turkey threatened to capture the city, have withdrawn.
The city and province of Afrin, however, are still under Turkish control, and Turkey even opened a branch of Harran University there, staffed by Turkish and Syrian faculty. The Kurds had to accept the American dictate, but they found a way to even the balance. With Russia’s support, they began direct negotiations with the Assad regime over their future in Syria. One likely result is that the Kurdish minority, acting in cooperation with the Syrian government, will deprive Turkey of its pretext for being in Syria.
Turkey’s intervention in Syria has also enraged Iran, which rejected Ankara’s request for cooperation in its war against the PKK in Iraq’s Qandil Mountains. “Military action against the territory of another state is illegal,” Iran said in a statement, hinting broadly that it also considers Turkey’s military presence in Syria unacceptable.
Thus Erdogan’s electoral victory won’t help him conduct a foreign policy that could extricate him safely from the thicket of regional interests that has entangled him. For now, Turkey’s international relevance rests on its role in the Syrian war and on the European Union’s dependence on an agreement with Ankara that largely blocked the flow of Syrian refugees to its member states.
Yet even Europe is sick of Turkey. “Turkey has been moving further away from the European Union,” EU foreign ministers said in a statement after a recent meeting in Brussels. “Turkey’s accession negotiations have therefore effectively come to a standstill,” and “no further work ... is foreseen.”

Opinion Why Trump and Kushner Will Never Get the Palestinians to the Negotiating Table
جونسن توبين/هآررتس: لهذه الأسباب لن يتمكن ابداً ترامب ومعه كوشنر من اخذ الفلسطينيين إلى طاولة المفاوضات
Jonathan S. Tobin/Haaretz/June 30/18
When the Trump team’s maladroit diplomacy meets the Palestinians’ inexhaustible supply of resentment, the result is combustion. But beyond the regular exchanges of insults, there's an even deeper and unbridgeable disconnect
The latest exchange of insults between Jared Kushner and Saeb Erekat is hard to distinguish from the general sound track of foreign policy in the age of Trump.
The tough talk about the Palestinian leadership from the presidential son-in-law/point man on the Middle East is in keeping with President Donald Trump’s style of communication in which foes, rivals and those reluctant to do his bidding are subjected to pressure and abuse.
The furious over-the-top responses from Palestinian Authority negotiator Erekat have been equally Trumpian in their bitterness at both the style and the substance of the U.S. negotiating stance. It’s easy to see the back and forth between these two sides - in the prelude to the expected release of the American peace plan this summer - as just one more example of the Trump team’s maladroit diplomacy and the Palestinians’ seemingly inexhaustible supply of resentment at the slights they feel the world has dumped on them.
But the problem here goes deeper than the fact that Kushner is a diplomatic novice that his father-in-law had no business saddling with the portfolio for Middle East peace, or that Erekat has made a career out of spewing bile and spin about the conflict that are often as false as anything coming out of Trump’s mouth.
The real disconnect between the Americans and the Palestinians right now is primarily a matter of real estate. Or rather, the former’s conception of the Israel-Palestinian conflict as a problem that is little different from the sort of real estate transactions on which all of the Trump team made their livings, before the surprising results of the 2016 presidential election put them in charge of the world’s sole superpower.
For all of the ink that has been spilled lately in trying to analyze the prospects for the Trump peace plan, perhaps the best came in the latest issue of The New Yorker in which Adam Entous devoted several thousand words to examining the efforts of Israel, the Gulf States and Trump to reverse President Obama’s approach to the Middle East.
The article, "Donald Trump’s New World Order," devotes far too much space to telling us what we all already knew about the tension between Obama and the Netanyahu government as well as the Saudis and the Emirates. Nor was its intricate unraveling of the contacts between the Israelis and Trump prior to the election, with a particular emphasis on Kushner’s role, particularly revelatory.But The New Yorker’s Entous nevertheless mined some real journalistic gold when he got one “senior Trump administration official” to let their hair down and candidly discuss the way the White House thinks about the Palestinians.
One anecdote is particularly telling. Erekat told Kushner that he felt like he was dealing with "real-estate agents" instead of White House officials. Kushner responded: "Saeb, you haven’t made peace with politicians. Maybe you need a real-estate agent."
When the Palestinians turned down peace deals - that would have given them statehood as well as a share of Jerusalem - from Ehud Barak and Bill Clinton in 2000 and 2001, and then an even more generous offer from Ehud Olmert with the backing of George W. Bush, they believed time was on their side.
Even assuming, as perhaps we shouldn’t, that Yasser Arafat or Mahmoud Abbas would have made peace on any terms, the party line from Ramallah and its foreign apologists has always been that they would never accept anything less than full sovereignty with no Israeli security presence over 100 percent of the West Bank as well as all of the Arab sections of Jerusalem. Moreover, they assumed that eventually the Americans and the rest of the world would force the Israelis to acquiesce to all of their demands.
But that’s not the way the Trump team looks at it.
As far as they are concerned, Israel’s economic and military strength, combined with the declining support for the Palestinians from much of the Arab world - and their focus on Iran, has altered the terms of the conflict.
Trump, Kushner, chief negotiator Jason Greenblatt and Ambassador David Friedman all view the Palestinians as the moral equivalent of a landlord stuck with an overpriced, run-down property that nobody wants.
If they expect to get anything from either the Americans and the Israelis, they’re going to have to take less than they initially hoped, not more. Privately, David Friedman compared the Trump Administration’s approach to structuring a "bankruptcy-type deal" for the Palestinians.
As one Entous interviewee described Kushner's message to the Palestinians: "If you want to work with us, work with us. If you don’t want to work with us, we’re not going to chase after you."The Trump team see the Palestinians’ walking away from Barak and Olmert’s offers as akin to missing out on a chance to buy Google stock 20 years ago. Much as they would like to get that bargain price they might have had before, if they want independence, they will need to pay a lot more for it now.
That’s why Kushner’s deal entails a state that is likely to be demilitarized and burdened with Israeli security provisions that will limit its sovereignty. Just as bad for Abbas, the U.S. deal envisions a Palestinian capital in the suburb of Abu Dis, and not East Jerusalem.
Though the Saudis have reportedly already repeatedly urged Abbas to accept what Trump will offer, the Palestinians have made it clear they regard this deal as an insult. Having turned down sweeter bargains in the past, they see no reason to end the conflict for the crumbs the Americans have put on the table.
Part of the reason for this is political. With Hamas disingenuously reviving interest in the right of return, Abbas knows he and Fatah couldn’t possibly survive if they ended 100 years of war with Zionism for so little in return, especially with respect to the fate of the descendants of the 1948 refugees. Moreover, they see their demands as absolute and rooted in justice, not assets to be traded in a real estate transaction.
That sounds principled. But, though Kushner’s criticisms of Abbas and the P.A. were undiplomatic, they were very much on target. Spewing anti-Semitism, attacking Israel’s legitimacy and subsidizing terrorists has undermined support for the peace camp in Israel.
More to the point, Abbas wasted Obama’s presidency. Obama was more sympathetic to the Palestinians and more inclined to pressure Israel than any of his predecessors, yet Abbas never even met him halfway and actually undermined his efforts with feints toward unity with Hamas and futile forays at the United Nations. Abbas squandered that opportunity and the abandonment of the Palestinians by their Arab allies means his position really is that of a bankrupt.
All of which means that if the Palestinians do want a state of any kind they’re going to have to swallow their pride and deal with Kushner.
Of course, that won’t happen.
Because the Palestinians are right about one thing: The conflict with Zionism has never been about real estate or drawing lines on a map. After a century of Palestinians contesting Israel’s right to be there, it’s not clear Abbas has the will or the ability to accept a state on any terms, let alone the discounted ones Trump has put on the table. That means Trump’s "ultimate deal" is, as Erekat has promised, dead on arrival.
But the sad truth for the Palestinians is that rather than their refusal being a stepping stone to more pressure on Israel for better terms, the value of what they are likely to be offered in the future is going down, not up.
A firesale-for-a-state deal might seem a humiliation that can never be accepted. But it is likely to be the best one available to them for the foreseeable future.
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS (the Jewish News Syndicate) and a contributing writer for National Review. Twitter: @jonathans_tobin

Sorry, Iran, China Isn’t Going to Save You
Geneive Abdo/Bloomberg View/June 30/18
The Donald Trump administration’s determination to squeeze Iran economically after withdrawing from the nuclear deal is already succeeding on one front: frightening European investors out of making deals with Tehran.
Yet Iran’s leadership thinks it has a secret weapon: to use Chinese investment and oil purchases as a way to compensate for the loss from the West.
Given China’s high energy needs and the trade war now on between Washington and Beijing, this may seem a realistic scenario. But it’s almost certainly a fantasy: While China can indeed take some of the sanctions heat off Iran, it is neither able nor willing to be Tehran’s economic savior.
For the Iranian government, the situation is getting critical: The currency has now dipped to perhaps an all-time low on unofficial markets of 90,000 rials to the dollar — less than half its value at the beginning of this year. Last weekend saw the largest public protests in Tehran since 2012. And US sanctions won’t actually be reinstated until August.
To make matters worse, OPEC’s decision last week to increase oil production — a move Trump supported — places more economic pressure on Iran. The country is in no position to increase production, due to both pending US sanctions and its creaky infrastructure, and now that the price of oil will certainly dip, what petroleum it does sell will bring in much less desperately needed hard currency.
But is the Plan B on China enough to get Iran out of a severe economic crisis?
There is extensive debate in Washington over this question. New US sanctions will not affect the Chinese private sector to the same degree as they likely will the Europeans. But as Iran’s options become more limited, it is clear that Chinese investment, exports and oil purchases can only help the Iranians so much.
First, recall that after the US pulled out of the nuclear deal this spring, Iran turned to Europe. In an effort to keep the pact alive, European Union officials have encouraged companies to keep trading with and investing in Iran. Europe’s governments have offered to grant special business waivers and seek US exemptions for companies doing business with Tehran.
Yet European companies are not listening. On the investment front, the PSA Group (maker of Citroen and Peugeot cars) is the most recent firm to buckle, shutting down planned joint ventures with two Iranian auto manufacturers. On the oil side, French giant Total says it will cancel a multibillion-dollar deal with Tehran unless it receives a special sanctions waiver from the US, which is unlikely. Nearly a dozen other European firms have also canceled or suspended trade and investment deals with the “Islamic Republic.”
It's true that Iran and China already enjoy a robust relationship. After the nuclear deal was signed in 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed on a wide-ranging 25-year plan to broaden relations. This included increasing bilateral trade by tenfold, to $600 billion, in the next decade. China also has the option, for example, to take over the canceled Total deal.
But many experts believe that Chinese investment cannot compensate for what Tehran will lose from the West. For example, to effectively rehabilitate its oil infrastructure and reduce production costs, Iran will need to import advanced technology available only in Europe and the US. As Daniel Glaser, who enforced sanctions and counterterrorism efforts at the US Treasury for two decades, explained to me: “Chinese technology is simply not as good as Western technology with respect to exploration and extraction, so the reliance on the Chinese for this would place the Iranians at a huge competitive disadvantage.”
In addition, some expected Chinese investment may fail to materialize. Larger Chinese companies and banks that have an interest in doing business in the US or transacting business in dollars will be just as deterred from dealing with Iran as the European firms. The so-called extraterritoriality of US sanctions applies to any firm, including Chinese companies, carrying out transactions in US dollars, even if these transactions are with non-US firms or branches.
The Treasury has announced that there will be deadlines before sanctions on Iran are fully imposed. The first deadline, Aug. 6, will affect any purchase of US dollars, trade in gold and certain other metals, aviation and the motor vehicle industry. Major Chinese corporations cannot afford to bypass these restrictions.
As for the lifeblood of Iran’s economy, oil exports, Tehran is going to need to find alternative markets.
When US sanctions were in effect, Iran’s production dipped from nearly 4 million barrels a day in 2010 to 2.5 million barrels per day in 2013, according to the Central Bank of the “Islamic Republic.” Once sanctions were lifted in 2016, after the nuclear deal was signed, production climbed back to nearly 4 million barrels a day. Iran’s gross domestic product also grew from 3 percent to 12 percent after sanctions were lifted.
At present, Iran exports approximately 2.62 million barrels of this crude oil per day. Approximately 38 percent of these sales are to European companies, according to the Financial Tribune, an Iranian economic publication. Even if Europe doesn’t “snap back” the heavy sanctions it enforced on Iranian crude before the nuclear deal was reached, there is no question that its imports will shrink.
Iran may be able to make up for some of the loss by selling additional barrels to China (before the nuclear deal was signed, it shipped just under 1 million barrels per day to Asia). But in any negotiation with the Chinese, Tehran’s lack of viable alternatives would put it at a clear disadvantage.
"If Iran is offering discounted oil or preferential investment opportunities, China will seek to take advantage," said Glaser. "China is not going to alter its long-term energy strategy or become overly reliant on Iranian oil based upon a short-term diplomatic dispute."
A reduction in oil sales would lead to a decline in Iran’s foreign currency reserves and make it difficult for Tehran to meet its balance of payment obligations.
There is additional domestic pressure from Iran’s hard-liners to withdraw completely from the deal, which would serve the interests of the Revolutionary Guard Corps. The IRGC is deeply rooted in Iran’s economy, maintains dozens of companies across multiple industries, and would benefit from a virtual monopoly over Iran’s (vastly shrunken) economy when sanctions are reimposed.
All of this is affecting Iran’s internal dynamics. Despite the spike in GDP growth that followed sanctions relief, the Iranian people saw few material benefits. Wages remained stagnant and unemployment and prices high.
Those who engineered the deal, President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, are increasingly unpopular — as is the IRGC, which is seen as diverting scarce capital from Iran’s economy to foreign adventurism. Thus even if the latter stands to profit financially from the reimposition of the sanctions regime, all parties could lose politically unless the economic picture improves.
For that to happen, Iran will need foreign investment and viable export markets for its crude. If Tehran is looking to China for a lifeline, it’s likely to be disappointed.

Corruption in Iraq erodes its core
Hazem al-Amin/Al Arabiya/June 30/18
Commenting on the scandal over the leaked questions of the Islamic studies exam for the secondary level in Iraq, my friend Kamran Karadaghi said: “An independent high commission should be formed in Iraq to supervise the exams to prevent cheating, forgery, leaking of questions and their sale.”
Despite the hint of sarcasm in this sentence, the tragedy has taken the appearance of a black comedy as you will see a scandal that produces a tragedy no matter how you turn your face in Iraq. There was the massive forgery scandal during the recent elections and the burning of ballot-boxes.
What were leaked were the questions of the Islamic studies exams. Leaking the exams in this case is a “dramatic” act, stripping political Islam groups of any morality they may claim. The religious identity is part of this massive mixture that makes up the components of decline, and religious powers are its center and its key component. Nothing in Iraq is immune from corruption — be it security, economy, education, oil, sectarian and ethnic relations, army, electricity and water, etc! The issue here is related to the core of everything, not how it is handled or processed.
Corruption is not exclusive to the ‘Shiite’ government. The Kurdish federalism experience is also witness to cases of corruption. The Sunni groups — both loyalists or from the opposition — benefit from the corruption of the central government.
In Mosul, dozens of tribal leaders who send lists of fictitious fighters receive their salary from the government, without having any real presence in their formations.
No inhibitions
Corruption in Iraq is part of the political life cycle and is indulged in openly without any inhibition. It is somehow part of the electoral program in which the politician displays to voters his ability to innovate corrupt methods. For example, holding on to the Popular Mobilization is part of the substantial corruption because the salaries paid to its fighters are paid in half between illegitimate fighters and sectarian leaders whose militias are funded by the government.
One of the peaks of corruption was what happened in the elections. Not only votes were bought but some electoral constituencies were also entirely bought off, i.e. you do not buy a vote outside the vote center but buy off all the ballot boxes like what happened in elections that took place abroad.
Corruption is draining the national wealth of Iraq. This failure is in no way less serious than political and security failures.
Iraq is a poor oil country, just like Iran but the former’s deposits of oil are larger than the latter’s. Iraq’s population is less than a third of Iran’s. Moreover, there is nothing in Iraq similar to the ideological use of the Iranian wealth and the poverty it has brought to the Iranians. Corruption is really draining the national wealth of Iraq. This extent of failure is in no way less serious than political and security failures.
However, this time corruption has reached a new level, i.e. students who are supposed to be the last beacon of hope in an alternate future. This is a new indicator that someone is investing in the possibility of transforming corruption into an educational value in order to alter its characterization as a negative value and raise generations on the fact that corruption is available and that it is part of normal life. This means corruption would become part of the convictions and an ideal for achieving goals.

The American gamble on Russia in Syria
Khairallah Khairallah/Al Arabiya/June 30/18
The Daraa battle raises plenty of questions, especially in the wake of a change in the American position regarding the advancing forces of the regime towards Daraa, which are coming close to the Jordanian border and from where the Syrian revolution began.
It is not clear what changed and made Americans tell Syrian rebels in that area that they will not be intervening. The message has left the rebels to fend for themselves and leaves them all alone, as it tells them: “You should not base your decisions on the assumption or expectation of a military intervention by us.”
Will Russia force Iran out of Syria?
The message received by the factions that are defending Daraa and its surrounding areas — and which the Americans call southwest Syria to differentiate between it and the Golan front which is proscribed — is more than clear. It seems that American talk about maintaining de-escalation in the Syrian south has become a thing of the past. There’s no value in the agreements reached between US, Russia and Jordan on the matter. There was certainly implicit Israeli approval on these agreements that seem no longer suitable these days.
There is a new American policy regarding dealing with Syria. This policy is based on letting Russia handle South Syria within the context of an American-Russian-Israeli agreement. It’s not clear whether Russia, which has sought to seal a deal with the Trump administration for a long time now, will implement what’s required from it in Syria, i.e. get rid of Iranian presence in the country whose leaders always criticized Arabs who spoke of reaching a settlement with Israel while they were actually maintaining its security!
The basis of the new American policy which has begun to crystallize depends on Russia and its ability to force Iran out of Syria, fully aware that Iranians and sectarian militias affiliated with them have infiltrated the Syrian regime’s regular army units and wear their military uniforms. Is this American gamble right or will Russia manage to take the American administration to where it wants like what President Vladimir Putin did in the summer of 2013?
How Putin duped Obama
In August 2013, the Syrian regime used chemical weapons in its war against its people. It used these weapons in the surroundings of Damascus a few days after President Barack Obama warned the regime of crossing “red lines,” primarily in terms of using chemical weapons. The Russian president intervened and succeeded in convincing Obama not to strike at the Syrian regime, thus saving the latter. It would have been enough to order a series of strikes against some sensitive positions, including the military airports, for the Syrian regime to go where it should go, i.e. into exile.
However, Putin who displayed a great amount of shrewdness and acumen on how Obama thinks knew how to manipulate the situation. He proposed the idea of getting rid of chemical weapons storage facilities under international supervision to the then US president. Obama was calmed down but it turned out that the Syrian regime never got rid of all of its chemical weapons. Thus, resorting to these weapons every now and then became even more frequent in the future.
Will Trump be different than Obama in Syria? This is what the Daraa battle will reveal. Will Iran stay in Syria under the cover of the regime and its army, or not? This is simply what’s on the line these days amid talk of a meeting between Trump and Putin soon.
In order for Donald Trump to appear different from Obama, he ordered two air strikes against the Syrian regime because of its use of chemical weapons. The strikes had a symbolic importance but nothing more, and they showed an absence of US seriousness in weakening the regime and putting an end to its evil practices against its people. The US, however, took strategic measures represented in controlling “the beneficial Syria,” i.e. east of the Euphrates, where there is water, agricultural wealth, oil and gas. It’s also strategic in terms of nearness to the Kurds and for controlling the road that links Iraq with Syria and which Iran aims to control.
Will Trump be different than Obama in Syria? This is what the Daraa battle will reveal. Will Iran stay in Syria under the cover of the regime and its army, or not? This is simply what’s on the line these days amid talk of a meeting between Trump and Putin soon.
Iran cannot stay in Syria
The Daraa battle will show whether it’s possible to rely on Russia to get Iran out of Syria. It seems that not only the US is betting on Russia, but even Israel is betting on it. Israel prefers that Iran withdraws from Syria without having to engage in a war that may be costly, especially if Iran decides to open the south Lebanese front through Hezbollah.
In all cases, Iran cannot stay in Syria. What’s certain is that Russia understands this formula and comprehends it better than anyone else. The party which seems incapable of dealing with this formula is the Syrian regime which knows well that it does not have any margin to maneuver in case Iran withdraws. Without Iran, Bashar al-Assad’s only option would be that of an obedient student. This choice is close to a role which Assad knew how to play when he did during one of Putin’s visits to the Khmeimim Air Base near Latakia. One remembers how a Russian officer prevented Bashar from being near the Russian president when he checked out of the base?
The American option in Syria may be right. Russia may use the bet placed on it to launch a policy of its own. This, however, is unlikely for two reasons. First of all, the Kremlin needs an understanding with Washington and the second one is that there is a desire to avoid a war that seems inevitable if Iran insists on staying in Syria.
What’s certain is that Israel is not the only party that cannot co-exist with Iran’s presence in Syria. There is another problem called Jordan which knows well what it means if the Syrian regime forces – which are approaching its borders if Daraa falls – are infiltrated by Iran and its militias.
The Daraa litmus test
Actually, Russia will for the first time have to be very clear. Is it capable of implementing its pledges in south Syria or will it let Israel strike Iranians and non-Iranians wherever they are in Syria?
Changing American policy regarding what’s happening in Daraa and its surroundings will provide a chance to know the extent of Israeli-US-Russian coordination. What’s more important than all this is that it will be revealed whether Iran has the desire to bear the consequences of withdrawing from Syria and the results of the Syrian regime’s transformation into a mere Russian puppet after it has spent years playing both Iran and Russia simultaneously.

What does women driving mean for Saudi Arabia?
Hassan Al Mustafa/Al Arabiya/June 30/18
A friend asked me why we were celebrating the decision lifting the ban on women’s driving in the Saudi kingdom when it’s a normal issue that’s nothing new?
Social, cultural significance
The question would make sense if this is just about women taking the wheel but it’s actually much more than that. Many believe this measure is an insignificant normal thing in most countries across the world but it’s a milestone for a new Saudi phase that has social, cultural and economic significance. The most important aspects are: 1. The decline of hardline religious movement’s influence: This movement has had the upper hand for years and it had the power to influence the thoughts and practices of wide categories in the society. This movement with its outdated ideas had a negative stance regarding women’s participation in the public sphere and promoted the concept that what’s best for women is “to sit home.” It intimidated the society from women’s participation in work or mixing with men, as if massive corruption will reign in the country and among its people.
Women’s driving means that this red line drawn by extremists has collapsed and that it was actually a virtual red line that lacks religious legitimacy and which is simply a chauvinistic stance that exploited religion to influence people.
The decline of hardliners’ influence will mean that the kingdom’s general sphere will be more open and that activities which were prohibited because of this movement’s influence will resume, and they’ve actually staged a comeback via the entertainment authority and the authority for culture.
2. The change of social culture: The society which many claimed it obstructed change and reform and that it’s in solidarity or in support of extremist thought is allowing women to learn how to drive, get driving licenses and buy cars. This means that social objections were not as many as promoted by many conservative and hesitant parties. This also reflects a social tendency to change.
3. Practicing freedom of choice: The significance of this step is that it restores a right which women were deprived of. Saudi women can today practice their freedom of choice. Therefore, whoever wants to drive has the right to drive and those who don’t want to drive simply won’t, and no one will force them to do something they don’t want to do. 4. Wider participation in development and change: Women’s participation in the general sphere will be wider now and will open more doors to her on the level of work, education and contributing to developing the society and Vision 2030. The kingdom cannot be a modern state without women’s efficient participation in the change which the country is currently working on. There are plenty of upcoming changes in which Saudi women will be among the top participants in especially that there are young competent women leading important administrative sectors in several Saudi medium-sized and large companies, banks and others, and they will certain be the driving power of the new Saudi Arabia.

Has there been a divorce between Russia and Iran?
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/June 30/18
Has American President Donald Trump, who is an expert in business, reached a meeting point in terms of the Syrian dilemma with “pragmatic” Russian President Vladimir Putin at the expense of the destructive Iranian role?
There are hints to that. Al-Hayat daily quoted a western diplomatic source as saying that the American administration will negotiate with Moscow on a complete Iranian withdrawal from Syria. The daily added that the topic will be among the top priorities of the summit which will be held next month between Trump and Putin.Ever since the Russian-Iranian “alliance” against the interests of Arabs – or most Arabs – emerged, it seemed like one day they will reach this crossroads.
Old and recent history narrates a record of enmities between Iran and Russia during the Czar’s rule in Russia and the Soviet era. There are still lands in the north, which the Iranian subconscious political mind still thinks was stolen from Iran’s territories
Collapsing relationship
Regarding Russia, there are no pure religious ideological illusions behind its intervention in Syria. It’s just a frank intervention and not a religious, vengeful one with expansion aims like the case is with the strange Khomeini regime.
Iranian MP Behrooz Bonyadi, who represents Kashmar, perhaps expressed this when he warned of the consequences of Syrian-Russian rapprochement at Iran’s expense and said the two countries were sacrificing Iran, as he put it.
Bonyadi said during the Islamic Consultative Assembly’s public session: “Today, we see Assad increasing his harmony with Putin (in such) a rude way,” adding that Assad does not only underestimate the significance of the “martyrs of the shrines” in Syria, but also denies it.
The term “martyrs of the shrines” which Bonyadi used sums up the nature and the perception of the Khomeini invasion of Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
Old and recent history narrates a record of enmities between Iran and Russia during the Czar’s rule in Russia and the Soviet era. There are still lands in the north, which the Iranian subconscious political mind still thinks was stolen from Iran’s territories.
Amir Taheri, who is an expert in Iranian affairs and history, has written several rich opinions in this daily about the nature of historical relations between Russia and Iran and they are a good source of knowledge.
Back to the angry Iranian MP Behrooz Bonyadi who drew a bleak picture of the current Iranian scene and spoke about “corruption, prostitution, hypocrisy, child molestation, wife beating, rape in schools and Quran classes, sale of kidneys and other shameful acts.”
The question is when will the great divorce between Iran and Syria happen in the Syrian arena? What happened to “the most honorable people and the purest people” who follow Hassan Nasrallah when Bashar waves goodbye to them, the Russian way?

Tehran Grand Bazaar protests are a warning from history
Camelia Entekhabifard/Arab News/June 30/18
The Iranian President Hassan Rouhani put an end last week to rumors that he might resign. In a speech broadcast live on state TV, he tried to address the issues that led to the recent chaos in Tehran, but insisted he would “not surrender to the United States.”
Rouhani wanted to calm the Iranian people down and prevent another national demonstration like those in early January. He also wanted to make it clear to his rivals that he would not give up power, leading to the early election that they may have hoped for. “If anyone thinks the government will resign or go away, they are wrong,” he said. However, there was no real point to his speech. His words were slogans without logic, and he offered no principled solution to Iran’s economic crisis. The US withdrawal from the nuclear deal has placed Iran under enormous economic pressure, which manifested itself as several days of strikes and protests at the Grand Bazaar in Tehran. The 1979 revolution in Iran began in the Grand Bazaar, when merchants went on strike and closed their businesses in protest against the rule of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, and for 200 years it has been the financial pulse of Iran’s capital.
Rouhani wanted to calm the Iranian people down and prevent another national demonstration like those in early January. Now, for the first time in 40 years, the bazaaris have gone on strike again — and this time, astonishingly, against the clerical system that they have done so much to support.
The collapse of the Iranian rial against the US dollar has pushed up the cost of imports, making business increasingly difficult. The bazaaris complained about the lack of economic stability, and fluctuations on the currency exchange markets that caused financial losses. They went on strike last Sunday and the protest soon spread to merchants in Isfahan, Arak and Kermanshah.
The bazaaris did not join either the Green Movement protests in 2009 or the widespread demonstrations against the regime early this year. Because of their importance to Iran’s economy, their protests are more significant, and more dangerous for the system, than demonstrations by ordinary Iranians.
The support of Tehran’s Grand Bazaar merchants for Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979 was the key to his success against the Shah. This time the strikes were overcome and controlled by the security services and police, but with all the economic challenges ahead for Rouhani and his government, who is to say there will not be further protests? Despite public pressure on Rouhani over his inability to tackle the economic crisis and to fight the systematic corruption and mismanagement in the system, he has made it clear he will not resign. Impeachment by parliament is a possibility, but that would require the approval of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Perhaps if there are more public demonstrations the president will be unable to remain in office, but his departure alone is not the solution Iranians are looking for. From the economy to foreign affairs, and the aggression the regime practices against its own people and the international community, the people want everything to be changed. If the regime takes these demonstrations seriously as a threat against their rule, they may concede some changes in the next couple of months. The regime’s behavior over that period will determine whether it can survive for another decade.

Turkey at a crossroads under all-powerful Erdogan

Talmiz Ahmad/Arab News/June 30/18
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ruled Turkey for 15 years, first as prime minister from 2003 and then as president from 2014. In May this year, he called for snap elections on June 24, nearly a year-and-a-half before they were due. The elections would take place in a state of emergency, declared in the wake of the attempted coup in July 2016. Erdogan had already obtained popular support for major changes in the country’s constitutional set-up, which have now been realized thanks to these elections. The country now has a presidential rather than a parliamentary system; the size of the national assembly has increased from 550 to 600; and the minimum age to stand as a candidate is now 18 instead of 25. Not surprisingly, Erdogan’s critics at home and abroad saw in these changes an attempt by the president to consolidate his authoritarian rule in the country.
Opposition parties made a major effort to present a united front. Though there were six presidential candidates, Erdogan’s principal opponent was Muharrem Ince, who heads the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and campaigned on a secular platform. The other candidates included Meral Aksener, of the newly formed Good Party, and Selahattin Demirtas, of the Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), who has been in prison since 2016 as he is accused of backing a Kurdish insurgency.
The opposition campaign consisted of severe criticisms of the president’s dictatorial approach and promises to return the country to parliamentary rule, end the state of emergency and, in the case of the Kurdish candidate, establish local democracy in place of strong central rule.
In the event, opposition hopes were dashed: In a voter turnout of 87 percent, Erdogan obtained 53 percent of the vote, while Ince got 31 percent. In parliament, Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) got 295 seats, just short of a majority. However, his electoral ally, the right-wing Nationalist Action Party (MHP) got 49 seats, giving Erdogan a comfortable majority in parliament. The CHP and Meral’s Good Party got 146 and 43 seats, respectively. The Kurdish party did well to get 67 seats.
Erdogan had already obtained popular support for major changes in the country’s constitutional set-up, which have now been realized thanks to these elections.
Erdogan’s success has been ascribed to his ardent nationalism and his military forays in Syria to confront the expanding territorial gains of the Kurds, while standing up to the Americans who were backing them.
The election results have also exposed the hostility that sections of the Western political establishment and media have for Erdogan personally, projecting him as a hard-line Islamist, largely on account of his tough posturing toward the EU, his criticisms of US support for the Kurds in Syria, his overt shift toward Russia, and his participation in the Russia-led peace process in Syria alongside Iran.
A month before the elections, the London Review of Books published a long essay by a commentator on Turkey, Ella George, where she spoke of “repression and fear” in Turkey, the “capriciousness of arbitrary power” exercised by Erdogan, and the “deeply traumatized society” he had created.
The New York Times, meanwhile, published an opinion piece strongly supportive of the opposition alliance as the champion of Turkish democracy. A detailed report in Time magazine published after the election result described Turkey’s “deeply polarized society” and pessimistically predicted the “marginalization of nearly half of Turkey’s voters.”Despite dire warnings from such observers, Erdogan is unlikely to be either capricious or dictatorial: His authoritarian instincts will be restrained by his dependence on an ally for majority support, the strong presence of the opposition in parliament, and the clearly asserted democratic values of the Turkish people. But there are formidable challenges before the newly elected president. Erdogan, with five years in power ahead of him, will need to urgently address the economy, where the currency has lost much of its value and inflation and unemployment have dealt serious blows to the very people who see him as “our father” and depend on him for salvation. Turkey is also facing the impact of hosting more than three million Syrian refugees.
Erdogan will also need to heal the divisions in his country, mainly between his government and the Kurds. He has long seen their aspirations for political, economic and cultural space in their country as a security threat, without accepting that perhaps his own high-handed policies could have added to their sense of alienation. Erdogan enjoys certain advantages as well. Large numbers of Turkish people accept his narrative relating to the “Gulenist conspiracy” that tried to overthrow him in 2016, with the help of foreign powers. Most Turks are also comfortable with his vision of Turkey as neither European nor Asian, but in the vanguard of shaping a new “Eurasian” identity, which would give Turkey more deeply anchored ties with Russia and China, while maintaining a close political and economic relationship with the EU.
We will know soon enough whether Erdogan uses his new mandate to further polarize Turkey or emerge as a statesman who shapes a new vision and global role for his nation and lead it into a new era.
*Talmiz Ahmad author is a former Indian diplomat.

The Rebellion at Twilight
Jonathan Spyer/Jerusalem Post/June 30/18
Deraa offensive marks endgame for the Syrian rebellion – but strife in Syria set to persist
The Syrian regime’s offensive on the rebel held areas of Syria’s Deraa province commenced on June 25th. The Syrian Arab Army’s premier units are among the forces engaged. The Tiger Forces of Colonel Soheil Hassan, and the 4th Armored Division are in Deraa. So too are fighters from Lebanese Hizballah, in Syrian army uniform, according to a Hizballah associated website.
This offensive is of symbolic as well as practical significance. Deraa, after all, was where the Syrian rebellion began. It was demonstrations by schoolchildren in this south west Syrian province, and the Assad regime’s brutal response to them, which set in motion the chain of events that set Syria on the road to civil war. Now, six years on, and with 500,000 dead in the war, the final battle of the independent Syrian insurgency has begun, in the very same province.
Its outcome is known in advance. Sources close to the rebels, however, indicate that there will be no mass surrender. They have chosen to fight it out to the end.
The significance is not only symbolic, of course. The details emerging regarding the campaign have implications for Israel’s hope that Russian good offices can prevent the arrival of Iranian and Iran-associated forces to the border with the Golan Heights.
Deraa had been the subject of a ceasefire agreement brokered by the US, Russia and Jordan last year. It differs, though, from other areas in Syria currently lying outside of the control of the Assad regime in that there was and is no state clearly prepared to stand behind its continued defense from the regime.
As a result, the regime evidently assessed that despite various US ‘warnings’ against a regime incursion in recent weeks, no serious efforts would be made to prevent or resist an advance in the area.
The US had sought to deter the regime, warning that any attempt to violate the ‘de-escalation’ zone would result in ‘serious repercussions’ and ‘firm and appropriate measures.’
These words did not have the presumably desired effect (of deterring the regime and the Russians). They did, however, result in widespread hopes among the rebels of Deraa that US intervention on their behalf would take place in the event of a determined regime attempt to re-conquer their enclave.
In order to tamp down this enthusiasm, a further message from Washington to the leaders of rebel groups (leaked to Reuters) advised the insurgents that while “We in the United States government understand the difficult conditions you are facing and still advise the Russians and the Syrian regime not to undertake a military measure that violates the zone…you should not base your decisions on the assumption or expectation of a military intervention by us”.
This was as clear as it gets. Washington did not deny the message. Despite earlier statements, the southern rebels were on their own. Their fate was sealed.
In addition to the Deraa/Quneitra area, there are three other parts of Syria outside of regime control, which together constitute roughly 40% of the territory of the country.
These are: the area around the US-maintained base at al-Tanf, in the south of Syria. This is a desert area, in which the US is cooperating with a small rebel group called Maghawir al-Thawra.
The densely populated area of north west Syria controlled by Islamist rebels and partially under the direct control of Turkey.
The large area east of the Euphrates currently administered by the self-declared, Kurdish-dominated Federation of Northern Syria, with the presence of at least 2000 US troops.
These areas are at present directly guaranteed by the military forces of foreign states – of Turkey in the case of the north west, and the US in the case of the area east of the Euphrates and that surrounding al-Tanf. Assad is on record as intending to conquer all of them. But the patron-less and hence most vulnerable and exposed Deraa/Quneitra area was the natural next target for the regime’s attentions.
At present, regime forces are massing for an assault on Deraa city itself. Russian air power is backing Assad’s forces. With no air power, and precious little anti-aircraft capacity, artillery or heavy armor, the rebel controlled area’s fate appears clear.
So what are the implications of the likely fall and eclipse of the remaining rebel held areas in Deraa and neighboring Suweida provinces?
Firstly, the fall of Deraa and Suweida, and then neighboring Quneitra will mark the end of the rebellion as an independent force. As noted above, all the other enclaves named above are either controlled by foreign powers who use the rebels effectively as military contractors (al-Tanf, the Turkish controlled north west) or else involve fighters other than the Sunni Arab rebels (the areas east of the Euphrates, where the Kurdish YPG predominates).
As such, the battle currently beginning will conclude with the end of the Sunni Arab rebellion that began in late 2011 with the intention of toppling the Assad regime, and which came close to victory in 2013 and then again in 2015, but which was thwarted by Iranian and then Russian intervention.
This will not, however, mean the reunification of the country under Assad’s rule. That will depend on the will of Turkey and the US regarding whether they wish to maintain their areas of control, and the role of Russia, whose involvement alone makes regime offensives feasible, but which permitted the Turkish incursions in August 2016 and January 2018, and which is unable to dislodge the US unless it wants to go.
Secondly, given the apparent presence of Hizballah fighters re-badged as SAA personnel in the offensive, the latest events must cast doubt on the ability of Russia to enforce the non-arrival of pro-Iran elements with the advancing SAA as it enters Quneitra, which it surely must.
This means that direct confrontation between Israel and the pro-Iranian element in southern Syria is likely to continue. On June 18th, tens of members of a pro-Teheran militia, the Iraqi Ktaeb Hizballah, were killed as a result of an air raid on a facility maintained by the group close to the Syria-Iraq border. US Central Command, which has never attacked the Shia militias, flatly denied any involvement. Israel was silent.
The apparently imminent final eclipse of the rebels in southern Syria, the evident inability of the Russians to prevent pro-Iranian elements from joining the advancing regime forces, and the possible involvement of Israel in a direct strike on militia personnel indicate that while the Sunni Arab rebellion seems nearly over, strife in Syria looks set to remain.