July 02/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 14/22-33: "Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’ Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’"

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on July 01-02/18
Custodians of the Maronite Church and the owners of the Christian Political Commercial" parties: Indifference and alienation because the role exists but the leadership is missing/Elias Bejjani/July 01/18
What Message From Lebanon Did Eisenkot Get In DC/Jerusalem Post/July 01/18
IDF boosts Golan lines with tank, artillery, rocket units, marks out security zone/DEBKAfile/July 01/18
Is Guilt Killing the West from Within/Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/July 01/18
Damascus Friday Sermon By Dr. Muhammad Ali Al-Malla: The World Cup Is Implementing 'Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion' – By Distracting Muslims From Gaza Bloodshed/MEMRI/June 01/18/"
One Little Kick and It's Done' Senior Trump Advisers Believe It’s Possible to Hasten Collapse of Iranian Regime/Amir Tibon and Amos Harel/Haaretz/July 01/18
Opinion Should Israel Open Its Borders to Desperate Syrian Refugees/Peter Lerner/Haaretz/July 01/18
Central Bankers Shouldn’t Have to Rescue Democracy/Ferdinando Giugliano/Asharq Al Awsat/July 01/18
The Bazaaris' Revolt in Iran: Who is Behind It/The Bazaaris' Revolt in Iran: Who is Behind It?
Amir Taheri/Gatestone Institute/July 01/18
A Trump deal with Putin could leave Europe in the cold and weaken Nato/Raghida Dergham/The National/July 01/18
Assad walking in his father’s footsteps/Nadim Koteich/Al Arabiya/July 01/18
Corruption in Iraq erodes its core/Hazem al-Amin/Al Arabiya/July 01/18
Controlling unruly fatwas/Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran/Al Arabiya/July 01/18
Battle for Hodeidah – the beginning of the end/Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi/Al Arabiya/July 01/18
The American gamble on Russia in Syria/Khairallah Khairallah/Al Arabiya/July 01/18
Iran entering a new phase of discontent/Dr. Theodore Karasik/Arab News/July 01/18
The Iranian alternative supports recent protests/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/July 01/18
Trump's Firesale of U.S. Interests to Appease Putin Will Backfire on Israel/Daniel B. Shapiro/Haaretz/July 01/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 01-02/18
Custodians of the Maronite Church and the owners of the Christian Political Commercial" parties: Indifference and alienation because the role exists but the leadership is missing
Al-Rahi Slams Attack on Aqoura Police, Urges Return to 1936 Ruling
Hariri Reportedly behind Idea of Aoun-Geagea Meeting
Pan-Arab Paper al-Hayat Closes Bureau in Birthplace Lebanon
New Group of Syrian Refugees Returns Home from Lebanon
What Message From Lebanon Did Eisenkot Get In DC
More Syrians leave Lebanon for home
Hezbollah’ Uses its Ties with Syrian Regime to Return Refugees from Lebanon
Former PM Mikati calls for ‘emergency plan’ upon govt. formation

Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 01-02/18
Rajavi: Regime Change in Tehran is within Reach Now More than Ever
Several Injured during Iran Water Protests
Rebels, Russia Pursue Talks over Battered South Syria
Israel Boosts Military Positions in Golan Heights
Trump: US will sanction European companies in business with Iran
Will North Korea hide ‘ongoing nuclear program’ from the US?
Put back on terror-financing watch list, Pakistan vows to improve
IDF boosts Golan lines with tank, artillery, rocket units, marks out security zone
Israeli Media: Americans Lower Expectations of Success of ‘Deal of the Century’
Egypt’s Sisi Promises Rapid Growth
Iraqi Govt. Enjoys Complete Jurisdiction, but Lacks Legislative Power
Fatah: Iran Has Not Offered a Dime to the Palestinian People
Statement by Minister of Foreign Affairs on 50th anniversary of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
Assault on Yemen's Hodeida Halted as U.N. Pursues Talks
The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on July 01-02/18
Custodians of the Maronite Church and the owners of the Christian Political Commercial" parties: Indifference and alienation because the role exists but the leadership is missing
Elias Bejjani/July 01/18
Sadly the Church and the owners of the Christian "commercial" so called  political parties stance in facing Hezbollah's terrorist and confiscating war targeting Christian real estate in Aqoura and elsewhere is burying their heads in the sand.

Al-Rahi Slams Attack on Aqoura Police, Urges Return to 1936 Ruling
Naharnet/July 01/18/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi on Sunday waded into the recurrent land dispute between the Yammouneh and Aqoura regions, condemning the recent attack on municipal police from Aqoura. Welcoming Aqoura's municipal chief, its mayors and an accompanying delegation, who attended the Sunday Mass in Bkirki, al-Rahi said he regrets “the renewed conflict between the residents of Yammouneh and Aqoura over the land lot in Aqoura's mountainous outskirts, as well as the attack on Aqoura's municipal police members.” He said the attack “requires handing over the assailants to the judiciary.”As for the land dispute, al-Rahi called for returning to “the ruling of the arbitration committee headed by Judge Abdo Abu Kheir, which on Nov. 16, 1936 issued a final ruling declaring this disputed land as part of the outskirts of the town of Aqoura.”
“This ruling has been in effect for 82 years now but the state's relevant authorities should anyway send specialized experts to highlight the borders that were delineated back then and put an end once and for all to this unjustified disputed,” the patriarch added.

Hariri Reportedly behind Idea of Aoun-Geagea Meeting

Naharnet/July 01/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri is the one who has proposed that a meeting be held between President Michel Aoun and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea to “facilitate his mission” of forming a new government, LF sources have said. In remarks to Asharq al-Awsat newspaper published Sunday, a senior LF official said the Aoun-Geagea meeting is supposed to explore the possibility of agreeing on the main issues related to the cabinet line-up, “especially the distribution of the Christian seats.” The sources also said the talks will address the prospects of “reviving the Maarab Agreement.”Hariri was tasked with forming a new government on May 24. The main obstacles hindering his mission are the issues of Christian and Druze representation, with Aoun and the Free Patriotic Movement wrangling with the LF over seats and the Progressive Socialist Party demanding that it be allocated all three Druze portfolios.

Pan-Arab Paper al-Hayat Closes Bureau in Birthplace Lebanon
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 01/18/Prestigious pan-Arab newspaper al-Hayat closed its offices in birthplace Lebanon Saturday, as the Saudi-owned publication continued to downsize its operations. The newspaper closed its bureau in the Lebanese capital seven decades after it was founded there, with a source at the paper citing "financial reasons.""This closure is part of a decision to close all foreign bureaus for financial reasons and transfer the headquarters to Dubai," the source said. In January, the newspaper closed its head office in London ahead of moving to the Gulf emirate. And the printing presses stopped earlier this month in Beirut, several sources said, leaving the international edition only available online until further notice. It could soon be printed in the Gulf only for readers in that region, they said. The Beirut bureau employed around 100 people, around half of them journalists writing for the international edition and a variety magazine. It is unclear what will happen to these employees. Lebanese journalist Kamel Mroueh founded the newspaper in 1946 before he was assassinated two decades later. The newspaper closed its doors in Lebanon for the first time in 1976, a year after Lebanon's 15-year civil war broke out. It reopened in London in 1988, and was bought up two years later by Saudi Prince Khaled bin Sultan. Traditionally liberal, al-Hayat has published opinions pieces by some of the Arab world's greatest intellectuals. The press in Lebanon has been in crisis for several years, both as it struggles to adapt to the digital era and faces economic difficulties. In late 2016, Lebanese newspaper As-Safir shuttered 42 years after it published its first edition, with the founder saying they had run out of funds.

New Group of Syrian Refugees Returns Home from Lebanon
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 01/18/A new group of Syrian refugees returned to their country on Sunday, in an operation organized by Lebanon's General Security and coordinated with Syrian authorities. LBCI television said around 50 people returned to Syria's Moadamiyat al-Sham through the Masnaa border crossing. They left in three buses brought from Syria in addition to a number of private cars. Al-Jadeed TV said representatives of senior Syrian general Maher al-Assad, the U.N. and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent accompanied the refugees home. Mohammed Nakhla, 58, was anxious to set foot in his home country for the first time in six years. "I've never felt better," he said, as he waited to return with 10 family members to Moadamiyet al-Sham. Damascus has approved the return of 450 Syrian refugees from Lebanon from a list of 3,000 requesting to do so, Lebanon's state news agency NNA said this week. Lebanon hosts just under one million registered refugees from the conflict in neighboring Syria, although authorities say the real number is much higher. As some battlefronts in Syria's devastating seven-year war have quietened, Lebanese officials are ramping up demands that refugees go home. On Thursday, several hundred Syrian refugees left the Lebanese border town of Arsal, returning to their hometowns around Damascus. The operation was also coordinated between Lebanon's General Security and Syrian authorities. On Friday, the head of Lebanon's Hizbullah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, said his powerful movement was creating a mechanism to help Syrian refugees return home, in coordination with Lebanese authorities and Damascus. Nasrallah said the group was setting up centers with phone numbers and social media accounts where refugees could sign up to return home. Earlier this year, around 500 refugees also left southern Lebanon for Syria in a return organized by Beirut and Damascus. Several thousand have independently left in recent years.

What Message From Lebanon Did Eisenkot Get In DC
جيروزاليم بوست: ما هي الرسالة اللبنانية التي حصل عليها رئيس الأركان الإسرائيلي غادي ايزنكوت في واشنطن
Jerusalem Post/July 01/18
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot visited Washington DC over the weekend and met with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford for talks about the Middle East.
What was not published was that just a few days earlier Dunford had met with Lebanese Armed Forces commander Lt. Gen. Joseph Aoun for similar talks at the Pentagon.
According to the IDF, Eisenkot held working meetings with senior security and military officials in Washington to “discuss aspects of military cooperation in light of the significant security challenges in the Middle East and other issues.”
A Pentagon readout of the Eisenkot-Dunford meeting on Friday said that the “two leaders continued their ongoing conversation on several issues of mutual concern including Iran’s malign activities in the region and the broader regional security situation. The US and Israel enjoy a strong military-to-military relationship as key partners committed to peace and security in the Middle East region.”
What the IDF did not mention is that just three days earlier, Dunford sat down for a similar meeting with Aoun, who was on his third trip to Washington since assuming his position in the spring of 2017.
According to the Pentagon, the “two leaders discussed challenges and security concerns in the region, including combating terrorism. They also discussed continued US-Lebanese military cooperation. The partnership between the United States and Lebanon is a crucial element to peace and security in the Middle East region.”
Earlier this month, House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade Subcommittee held a hearing on the Trump administration’s arms sales to various countries including Lebanon.
The United States has provided some $1.7 billion worth of military equipment to the Lebanese Armed Forces since 2006 to bolster the Middle Eastern country from the threats posed by terrorist groups.
In December, US Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard stated that the US will supply $120 million worth of new systems to the LAF, including six new MD-530G light attack helicopters, six new Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicles, and leading-edge communication and night vision devices.
In early June, four A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft were formally handed over to Lebanon by the US, completing an order of six planes two months ahead of schedule.
The Departments of State and Defense also work closely with the LAF to support the provision of training and equipment, including fixed and rotary-wing aircraft, vehicles, arms, and munitions.
Some 120 US military personnel are also deployed to Lebanon at the request of the Lebanese government to enhance Beirut’s counterterrorism capabilities.
According to Defense News, Congressman Ted Poe, the subcommittee chairman, asked Pentagon and State Department officials for assurances that US arms sold to Lebanon were not making their way into Hezbollah hands.
“We watch extremely carefully, and we are confident thus far that no weapons have been transferred from the Lebanese government or armed forces into the hands of those who should not get them, including Hezbollah,” said Tina Kaidanow, acting assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs.
Israel and Hezbollah fought a deadly 33-day war in 2006, which came to an end under UN Security Council Resolution 1701 which called for disarmament of Hezbollah, for withdrawal of the Israeli army from Lebanon, for the deployment of the Lebanese army and an enlarged UN force in the south.
But Hezbollah’s influence in Lebanon is nothing new and last October, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman warned that Lebanon’s army has “lost its independence and has become an integral part of Hezbollah’s network,” stating that the next war on Israel’s northern border will not be confined to one front but will see conflict with both Syria and Lebanon.
According to IDF assessments, Hezbollah has increased its military capabilities due to its fighting in Syria and has spread its troops across the entire Middle East. In addition to a massive arsenal of rockets and missiles, Hezbollah is able to mobilize close to 30,000 fighters and has flouted its tunnel system, complete with ventilation, electricity, and rocket launchers.
Some 200 villages in south Lebanon have also been turned into “military strongholds” from which Hezbollah terrorists are able to watch Israeli soldiers at any moment.
More Syrians leave Lebanon for home
AFP/July 01, 2018/A total of 42 Syrians returned voluntarily from Lebanon through the Masnaa crossing to areas in Syria, Lebanese authorities said/Lebanon hosts just under one million registered refugees from the conflict in Syria
MASNAA: Several dozen Syrian refugees left Lebanon for neighboring Syria on Sunday as part of returns coordinated between both countries, an AFP reporter and authorities said.
A total of 42 Syrians returned voluntarily from Lebanon through the Masnaa crossing to areas in Syria, Lebanese authorities said. A Lebanese coordinator said they were headed for areas including Moadmiyet Al-Sham, a suburb of Damascus where the regime retook control from rebels in October 2016. An AFP reporter saw men and women dressed in crisp clothes board a bus, some carrying bags or young children. Mohammad Nakhla, 58, was anxious to set foot in his home country for the first time in six years.“I’ve never felt better,” he said, as he waited to return with 10 family members to Moadmiyet Al-Sham. Lebanon hosts just under one million registered refugees from the conflict in Syria, although authorities say the real number is much higher. More and more are returning however as the regime reasserts its control over larger parts of the country. Damascus has approved the return of 450 Syrian refugees from Lebanon from a list of 3,000 requesting to do so, Lebanon’s state news agency NNA said this week. On Friday, the head of Lebanon’s Hezbollah said his powerful movement was creating a mechanism to help Syrian refugees return home, in coordination with Lebanese authorities and Damascus. Hassan Nasrallah said the group was setting up centers with phone numbers and social media accounts where refugees could sign up to return home. On Thursday, 294 Syrian refugees headed home from the Lebanese border town of Arsal. Earlier this year, around 500 refugees also left southern Lebanon for Syria in a return organized by Beirut and Damascus. Several thousand have independently left in recent years. More than 350,000 people have been killed and over half the country’s population displaced since Syria’s war started with the brutal repression of anti-government protests in 2011.
Hezbollah’ Uses its Ties with Syrian Regime to Return Refugees from Lebanon
Beirut - Paula Astih/Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 1 July, 2018/The issue of the return of displaced persons from Lebanon to Syria has seen some progress, although the number of people who have left or are preparing to leave is very small compared to the total number of Syrian refugees, which amount to around 1.5 million distributed throughout Lebanon since 2011. In a recent television appearance, “Hezbollah” Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah announced the formation of a party committee to facilitate the return of those wishing to go back to their country. He noted that the committee will be formed of several popular sub-committees located in different areas to communicate with the displaced. Nasrallah explained that “Hezbollah’s” decision to intervene in this file was due to “the presence of certain complications that have so far hindered a political solution to the issue” between Beirut and Damascus. Sources close to “Hezbollah” said that logistics work would begin next week, adding that the first office would be opened in the eastern Bekaa town of Baalbek to receive requests for displaced people wishing to return to their homeland.
In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, the sources emphasized that the party has decided to benefit from its relations with the Syrian regime to deal with the crisis. “The regime is responsive with us to the highest degree. We will first facilitate the return of those whose areas were not destroyed and later work on the return of the rest of the displaced,” they added. More than 2,500 displaced people are currently in the northeastern town of Arsal on the Syrian border, preparing to leave for their towns and villages in the coming days, after 295 people crossed the border on Thursday.
Rima Karnabi, deputy mayor of Arsal, confirmed that the 3,000 people, who had previously registered with the Syrian special committees that coordinate the return process with the Syrian regime have been granted approval for their departure, which will take place in batches.
According to available information, the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) has completed the preparation of a clear vision and plan to resolve the crisis of displaced persons and facilitate their return them to Syria. The movement, headed by Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, is waiting for the formation of the new government to submit its plan for approval. Bassil has long demanded that the refugees return to their homeland due to the burden their presence is having on Lebanon.

Former PM Mikati calls for ‘emergency plan’ upon govt. formation
The Daily Star/July 01/18/BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Najib Mikati Saturday called for accelerated efforts in forming a government, adding that an emergency plan should be announced when the process is completed. Mikati called for the “immediate initiative after formation to announce an emergency plan to address pressing challenges and risks, especially on the social, economic and financial levels,” a statement from the former premier’s office said. Mikati made the comments during a graduation ceremony held for baccalaureate students at the Tripoli Technical Institute. He claimed that the formation was not taking place at the required speed, accusing government leaders of being “unaware of the general economic downfall in Lebanon,” especially given what he described as “external storms,” seemingly referring to foreign pressures.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 01-02/18
Rajavi: Regime Change in Tehran is within Reach Now More than Ever
Paris - Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 1 July, 2018/Hours before the annual conference of the Iranian opposition in Paris that was held on Saturday, Iranian spiritual leader Ali Khamenei said on his official website that the US economic pressure on Tehran was aimed at inciting the people against their government. “They are exerting economic pressure to sow division between the nation and the regime,” he said. “Six US presidents have tried before him to achieve this, but they have given up,” he added, referring to US President Donald Trump. The Iranian leader also accused the United States of trying to destabilize the government in Tehran. In Paris, the head of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, Maryam Rajavi, said the fall of the Iranian regime was certain, emphasizing a number of indications, including street protests and mounting calls for change at the political, social and economic levels.
“The change of the regime is within reach now more than ever,” she stressed during Iran’s annual opposition conference, “Free Iran”, which kicked off on Saturday in Villepinte in Paris. Rajavi based her statements on recent developments across Iranian cities, quoting Masoud Ravaji, whom she described as the leader of the opposition, as saying: “If Iran resisted, the world will stand with us and on our side.” She also underlined the need for an “organized movement and a leading organization”, referring to the council that she currently chairs. Addressing high-level delegations from dozens of regional and foreign capitals, Rajavi called for “a free and non-nuclear Iran that lives in peaceful coexistence with regional and international cooperation.”This message was also emphasized by other speakers, who denounced the current regime and called for support for the uprising of the Iranian people and for the establishment of a “different Iran.”Trump’s personal lawyer and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said, as quoted by Reuters: “We are now realistically being able to see an end to the regime in Iran.”“Trump doesn’t turn his back on freedom fighters,” he added. The Conference speakers included representatives from France, Belgium, the United States, Canada, Britain, Italy, Germany, Albania, Switzerland, Romania, Yemen, Jordan, Palestine, Morocco and many others.
Several Injured during Iran Water Protests
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 01/18/Several people were injured in the southwestern Iranian city of Khorramshahr late Saturday when demonstrators protesting against water pollution clashed with police, Iranian state media reported. The protesters set fire to rubbish bins and damaged public property, prompting police to fire tear gas to disperse them, state-run IRNA news agency said Sunday. At least one protester was seriously injured in the clashes and "a few policemen" were hurt, the agency said, quoting Khorramshahr deputy governor Valiollah Hayati. The governor denied reports carried by Saudi media that Iranian security forces had shot and killed at least four protesters. "No one has been killed," IRNA said, quoting Hayati. The unrest erupted after some 500 people, mostly youth, gathered at a main square in the city to protest against pollution that is seeping into the city's drinking water network, IRNA said. Protesters also gathered outside a mosque, the agency added. According to IRNA, there have been several protests against water pollution in Khorramshahr and the neighboring city of Abadan over the past three days. Iran has been facing mounting economic woes since the United States in May pulled out of a 2015 accord between Tehran and world powers that had lifted international sanctions in exchange for a scaling back of the Islamic republic's nuclear program. Iran's currency has plunged almost 50 percent in value in the past six months against the U.S. dollar and inflation is on the rise. Traders in Tehran's Grand Bazaar held a rare strike on Monday against the collapse of the rial on the foreign exchange. Brief scuffles had also broken out on Monday between protesters and police in the capital. On Sunday, Vice President Eshagh Jahangiri said in statements broadcast on state television that Iran is suffering from several problems, not just U.S. sanctions. Among Iran's "woes", he cited its dependence on oil revenues along with a weak private sector and a fragile banking sector. Industry Minister Mohammad Shariatmadari told a news conference in Tehran on Saturday that the situation was not "critical" but "special."He urged foreign firms working in Iran to resist U.S. "threats" of sanctions and to continue doing business in the country.

Rebels, Russia Pursue Talks over Battered South Syria

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 01/18/Syrian rebels and local officials pursued talks with regime ally Russia on Sunday over the fate of a key southern region facing a government offensive, a Britain-based monitor said. The Jordan-backed talks came as a tentative calm reigned over most fronts in the southern province of Daraa, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said. A "ceasefire has largely held since Saturday at 7:00 pm (1600 GMT) to facilitate the ongoing negotiations," Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said. Since June 19, Russia-backed regime forces have ramped up bombardment against opposition fighters in southern Syria as Damascus pushes to retake the area. The region borders Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights and is considered to be the cradle of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad seven years ago that sparked the civil war. The regime has chipped away at rebel-held territory in Daraa since the escalation began almost two weeks ago.Most fronts were quiet Sunday with the exception of areas near Tafas in Daraa's northwest hit by regime air strikes, the Observatory said. Clashes between rebels and regime forces in the same area killed four opposition fighters, it said. Russia is seeking the rebel handover of heavy and medium-sized weapons, and the deployment of Russian military police and Syrian police into towns retaken by government forces, Abdel Rahman said. Damascus and Moscow are pushing for a deal that would see regime forces take over the Naseeb border crossing with Jordan and deploy along the frontier with the Golan Heights, he said. An AFP correspondent outside Daraa city -- part of which is held by rebels -- said Saturday night had been quiet, with only intermittent bombardment. After retaking control of eight towns under Russia-mediated deals on Saturday, Assad's regime now controls more than half of Daraa province, up from just 30 percent before the escalation, according to the Observatory. State news agency SANA said Sunday the national flag had been hoisted in one of these towns, Dael, while Syrian state television showed images of people celebrating. Regime forces have retaken large parts of the country lost to rebels since Russia intervened on its behalf in 2015. The conflict has killed more than 350,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011.

Israel Boosts Military Positions in Golan Heights

Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 1 July, 2018/The Israeli army bolstered on Sunday its positions in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights in response to intensified fighting across the border. The military said that it deployed the additional tank and artillery forces on the Syrian front as a precaution. "The forces deployed this morning as part of preparations and readiness in light of developments on the Syrian Golan Heights," the military said on Twitter, adding that Israel was holding to a policy of non-intervention in Syria's civil war. On Saturday, the Syrian regime pressed its offensive in the country's south under the cover of airstrikes as opposition factions said Russia has put forward conditions to end the violence that are hard to accept. Syrian regime media said more areas in Daraa province were captured and in others opposition groups agreed to hand over their weapons and reconcile with Damascus. The regime offensive that began June 19 has killed scores of people, wounded hundreds of others and forced more than 50,000 to flee to areas close to the Jordanian border and the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Ibrahim Jabawi, spokesman for the opposition factions’ joint operations room, revealed that the Russian conditions are that factions hand over everything and in return all areas will come under Bashar Assad's control. "All people who carried arms will be put on trial." Jabawi said the Russian conditions "cannot be accepted" adding that to pressure the opposition, intense airstrikes have been targeting southern villages and towns that have escaped much of Syria's seven-year conflict. Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the negotiations between opposition and the Russians aim to find "a full solution" for the future of Daraa. It said negotiations aim to reach a ceasefire as well as opposition factions handing over their heavy weapons then later their light weapons. It added that in return for Russian guarantees, the rebels would hand over the Nassib border crossing with Jordan and return state institutions to opposition-held areas in the south.

Trump: US will sanction European companies in business with Iran
Reuters, Washington/Sunday, 1 July 2018/President Donald Trump accused OPEC of manipulating world oil markets and warned it to stop, while also saying the United States will sanction European companies that do business with Iran. Asked on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo” if someone was manipulating oil markets, Trump said, “OPEC is and they better stop it because we’re protecting those countries, many of those countries. OPEC is manipulating.” Trump also was asked on the news program that aired on Sunday if he will sanction European companies if they do business with Iran. He said, “Yep, of course. That’s what we’re doing, absolutely.”

Will North Korea hide ‘ongoing nuclear program’ from the US?
AFP, Washington/Sunday, 1 July 2018/North Korea intends to maintain some of its nuclear stockpile and production facilities while potentially concealing them from the United States, The Washington Post reported Saturday, citing US officials. The assessment comes on the heels of a landmark meeting between the North's leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump, who has since the June 12 summit in Singapore buoyantly declared "there is no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea."Evidence collected since the pair's historic meeting points to secret production facilities and the development of methods to conceal weapons creation -- implying Pyongyang is aiming to hide plans to continue its nuclear program from the US, having made contrary, if ambiguous, commitments to Washington. Over the weekend NBC News first reported that Pyongyang has in fact recently been increasing fuel production for nuclear weapons at several hidden sites. The US network, citing intelligence officials, said North Korea's regime was readying to "extract every concession" from the White House rather than giving up its atomic arsenal. "There's no evidence that they are decreasing stockpiles, or that they have stopped their production," NBC quoted one US official as saying. "There is absolutely unequivocal evidence that they are trying to deceive the US," the official said, despite Pyongyang's recent curtailment of missile and nuclear tests. The only uranium enrichment spot North Korea has acknowledged publicly exists is Yongbyon -- though reports of secret facilities have surfaced. Experts have voiced fear that Washington may accept a lukewarm deal centered exclusively on Yongbyon that disregards known underground sites. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said he plans to meet with Kim to "flesh out" details of the nuclear disarmament promise, but has insisted the North Korean leader is serious. "There's a lot of work between here and there. My team is already doing it. I'll likely travel back before too terribly long," the top US diplomat said recently. "We still need to flesh out all the things that underlay the commitments that were made that day in Singapore." US Defense Secretary James Mattis meanwhile has reassured key East Asian allies that the US commitment to Seoul is "ironclad" -- despite Trump's unilateral suspension of military exercises with South Korea and his lauding of Kim as a "talented guy."

Put back on terror-financing watch list, Pakistan vows to improve
Reuters, Islamabad/Saturday, 30 June 2018/Placed back on a terror financing watch list this week, Pakistan vowed on Saturday to tighten regulations and follow an action plan to curb money laundering and terror financing. Pakistani officials attending a meeting in Paris had tried in vain to persuade the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to keep Pakistan off a list of nations with inadequate controls to prevent terror financing and money laundering. Western allies have long pushed Islamabad to do more to curb militant groups on its soil, and the United States, United Kingdom, France and Germany all argued back in February for Pakistan to be reinserted on the watchdog’s “grey list”. Various anti-Western, anti-Indian Islamist militant groups are based in nuclear-armed Pakistan, while Afghanistan and western military officials have repeatedly complained about covert support in Pakistan for the Afghan Taliban and its cohorts, like the Haqqani group. Pakistan was included on the watch list for three years until 2015, and FATF has told the government what needs to be done in order to be taken off again. Finance Minister Shamshad Akhtar, who is part of the technocratic administration running the country until a general election on July 25, told FATF members in Paris that Pakistan plans to take a “whole-of-government” approach to strengthen counter-terrorism financing measures. The finance ministry said Akhtar has set up an “institutional coordination and monitoring mechanism” to ensure that the action plan is implemented. The return to a watch list could further handicap chances of attracting Western investment in Pakistan’s fragile economy, but it has China’s support for major infrastructure projects.

IDF boosts Golan lines with tank, artillery, rocket units, marks out security zone
DEBKAfile/July 01/18
The IDF Northern Command Sunday, July 1, upgraded the preparedness of the Golan Bashan Division with tanks, artillery and rocket units after evaluating the level of fighting on the Syria side of the border. This was announced by the military spokesman. His announcement went on to stress “the high importance the IDF attaches to maintaining the disengagement of forces agreement on the Golan concluded in 1974 by Israel and Syria.” He added: “Israel abides by a policy of non-involvement in Syrian affairs, along with a firm response to violations of its sovereignty and possible harm to its citizens.”
DEBKAfile adds: This statement provides advance notice that Israel will not tolerate the entry of Hizballah and pro-Iranian Shiite forces to the Quneitra region opposite IDF Golan lines, and further emphasizes non-acceptance of their entry into the historic disengagement zone between Quneitra and the Israeli border.While boosting its defensive stance on the Golan, Israel by this statement marks out a security zone based on the 1974 disengagement lines for accommodating the tens of thousands of Syrian refugees massing on its border, as well as rebel forces retreating from Quneitra. This zone covers 235 between southern Golan and Mt Hermon. It is inside the disengagement line, which runs east of the Israeli border and is between a few meters wide at Nahal Roked in the southern Golan, up to 6 kilometers broad at its northern tip and widens out to 10km on Mt. Hermon.
The question is whether the Russian and Syrian forces taking part on the southwestern Syrian offensive will honor the security zone Israel has marked out, when the objective of their current offensive is to restore Syrian government authority to all the southern border regions.
Opening the Sunday cabinet session in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said: “We shall persist in defending our borders and extending humanitarian aid, but will not let ‘anyone’ step across into our territory. I am in constant contact with the Kremlin and White House on this question.”
On Saturday, the IDF transferred 6 injured Syrians, four of them children whose parents were killed in the fighting, to Israel hospitals for treatment.

Israeli Media: Americans Lower Expectations of Success of ‘Deal of the Century’
Ramallah - Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 1 July, 2018/Israeli media confirmed that the American officials have lowered their expectations of the success of the so-called "deal of the century" because of the Palestinian boycott. Meanwhile, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami al-Hamdallah said, in an additional message addressed to the United States, that the Palestinian leadership would not compromise the rights and principles of the Palestinian people. “Our people are aware of the position of President Mahmoud Abbas, who is adhering to the original national principles, and we will not accept dropping, canceling or bypassing them at any cost," he stressed. His statements were made a day after demonstrations swept the Palestinian territories in rejection of the US peace plan, also known as the “Deal of the Century.” “The National Campaign to Thwart the Deal of the Century,” which has launched mass protests against the agreement, said Saturday: “Our rebellious people, who have thwarted all other suspicious projects, will end the deal of the century.” The US has not yet published its plan, but the PA refuses to listen to it in advance because of the US declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the transfer of the US embassy to the city. The PA also accuses the United States of removing the Jerusalem and refugee files from the negotiating table and turning the issue into a humanitarian one. Spokesman for the PA presidency Nabil Abu Rudeineh, for his part, said that the Americans have turned the deal into a humanitarian one in Gaza and “the Palestinians will not deal with it.” Due to this continued boycott, the Americans have lowered their expectations of the success of this deal. In this context, Israel Hayom newspaper said that Senior Adviser to the US President Jared Kushner and Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt have announced at the end of their tour in the region last week that the likelihood of a successful rollout of the US upcoming Mideast peace plan are very low. The newspaper said that the main reason behind the pessimistic outlook is the Palestinians’ ongoing boycott of the US administration in the wake of its Jerusalem move. Israel Hayom also pointed out that Kushner and Greenblatt have said in private conversations that they are planning to revise the plan in light of their recent visit. A significant part of the plan will focus on economic development within the PA, the newspaper said, explaining that it will not be limited to political affairs. It revealed another difficulty encountered by Trump’s team in the region, which is the refusal of some Arab leaders to bypass the Palestinians. “Jordan's King Abdullah II was particularly against such a move and expressed this during his visit to the White House this week. Abdullah reportedly said that unveiling the plan without coordinating with the Palestinians would be a catastrophe,” it said. Haaretz, on the other hand, stressed that representatives of Arab countries warned members of the US delegation to the Mideast of the ramifications of detailing the plan. The Arab officials cited the fact that their countries are dealing with internal challenges in a landscape marked by Syria's war and Iranian interference, the newspaper reported. Thus, the Arab officials told US envoys that any plan, which does not meet Palestinian expectations, could just increase tensions in the Middle East.

Egypt’s Sisi Promises Rapid Growth
Cairo - Mohammed Nabil Helmi/ Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 1 July, 2018/Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al Sisi pledged to his citizens to target rapid growth rates of at least seven percent over the next few years. He said that this goal will contribute to "changing the reality of life in Egypt as a whole and putting it on a rapid economic path."In a televised speech on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the June 30, 2013 Revolution, Sisi said: “No doubt the reform path is tough and difficult and it causes a lot of suffering. What is certain, though, is that the suffering resulting from lack of reform is even greater and worse.”“Reform has been delayed so much that it has become a necessity, not a luxury,” he explained, promising Egyptians a better future for them and their children. For years now, Egypt has been implementing measures adopted by various governments within the framework of the so-called "economic reform plan". In successive stages, it gradually approved the gradual cut of subsidies on a number of transport, electricity and water services. It announced in mid-June a rise in fuel prices by an average of 60 percent. “Egypt celebrates the fifth anniversary of the revolution of June 30, 2013, when the great Egyptian people spoke in a loud and audible voice, making the world bow with respect to their will, which changed the course of the region from the path of evil, exclusion and terrorism to peace, security, and development,” Sisi told Egyptians. The president said that this day was a remarkable one in Egypt's history, and that "Egyptians must be proud of the achievements."“On this remarkable day, millions of Egyptians, men, women, elderly and youth stood up to say their word loud and clear: there is no place for a traitor or conspirator among them, and to stress that they have nothing but loyalty to this homeland,” he stressed. He added that the events of June 30 changed the whole region and redirected its destiny away from “terrorism and sectarianism.” “On this great day, Egyptians stopped the wave of extremism and division that would have plagued the region,” Sisi said, expressing his respect and appreciation to the people for their patience and persistence and unity with their national institutions to confront one of the biggest challenges in their history. The president reviewed what has been achieved since June 30, 2013, starting from stabilizing the pillars of the state and rebuilding its national institutions, such as its constitution, executive and legislative authorities and judiciary.

Iraqi Govt. Enjoys Complete Jurisdiction, but Lacks Legislative Power
Baghdad - Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 1 July, 2018/Officials and legal experts made light of fears over the fate of political life in Iraq after the tenure of parliament ended on Saturday, amid fears of a so-called “vacuum” in the legislative authority. Minister of Migration and Displacement Jassem al-Jaff told Asharq Al-Awsat that the current government will continue operating with full jurisdiction, except when it comes for decisions that need parliament’s approval. Asked about the constitutional vacuum in wake of the end of parliament’s term, he said: “There is no such thing as constitutional vacuum. This is not so much a legal term as it is a political one.” “All that will happen is a temporary absence of the legislative authority,” he added. Iraq had experienced such situations before. In 2010, the government of then Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki spent eight months without an acting parliament. In 2014, a similar absence lasted three months until a government headed by PM Haidar al-Abadi was formed. Legal expert Tareq al-Harb told Asharq Al-Awsat that the current government will continue to operate normally in all fields. Several sides expressed, however, their concerns over the impending political impasse, calling for protests to confront what they described as “constitutional vacuum” that could pave the way for a military coup or formation of an emergency government. The Interior Ministry countered these stances, saying that it opposes any rallies that do not obtain official permits.

Fatah: Iran Has Not Offered a Dime to the Palestinian People

Ramallah - Kifah Ziboun/Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 1 July, 2018/The Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared on Saturday that the current Iranian government and previous ones have never presented a “dime” to the Palestinian people.
He made his remarks in wake of recent anti-government protests in Tehran in which demonstrators chanted “death to Palestine.” They also condemned all countries that receive Iranian support at the expense of their own interests. Fatah condemned the “cheap” chants, asking: “Do the Iranian believe that their governments have ever offered a dime to the Palestinian people? This is absolutely false.” Fatah official spokesman Usama al-Qawasimi said in a statement: “It is shameful for some to believe that the economic crisis in Iran was caused by support to the Palestinian people. Iran has never presented anything to the Palestinians even though Fatah and the Palestinian Liberation Organization supported the 1979 Kohmeini revolution.”“We have never insulted them by words or actions and we have never meddled in their internal affairs,” he stressed. “We have never heard of Iran contributing to the construction of a school, university or hospital. We have never seen any development project,” he continued.
The Iranians are very wrong in believing that Tehran’s support for a party means that it supports the Palestinian people, he added. Qawasimi stated: “Iran has never supported the Palestinian people through its backing for Hamas.”
Moreover, he underlined Fatah and the Palestinian people’s “respect and appreciation” for the Iranian people, condemning the “misleading voices” that do not represent the Iranians, “who support the rights of Palestinians.”Iranians took to the streets of the capital Tehran earlier this week to protest their country’s poor economic situation. Videos posted on social media showed them chanting against Palestine, as well as the Gaza Strip and Lebanon. They called on the authorities to “leave Syria and think of us.” They also chanted: “We do not want the Ayatollah” and “death to the dictator.”In addition, they condemned the authorities for providing financial support for the Palestinian Hamas and Jihad movements, Lebanon’s “Hezbollah”, Yemen’s Houthi militias, Iraqi Shiite groups and the Syrian regime. The Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah have long rejected Iranian support for any Palestinian faction, saying it would be aimed at stoking division. Tehran’s support for Hamas has led to major tensions between the PA and Iran in the past. In March 2009, Abbas made the first open demand to Iran to cease its meddling in Palestinian affairs, accusing it of deepening divisions. Iran must instead turn its attention to its own issues, he added.

Statement by Minister of Foreign Affairs on 50th anniversary of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

July 1, 2018 - Ottawa, Ontario - Global Affairs Canada
The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today issued the following statement:
“Fifty years ago today, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty [NPT] was opened for signature, establishing a crucial cornerstone in efforts to limit the spread of the world’s most destructive weapons. The NPT is a foundational international treaty that has made the world more secure and stable. It now enjoys near universality, counting 191 countries as parties.
“In accordance with the NPT, the International Atomic Energy Agency oversees a robust global safeguards regime, enhancing confidence that states’ nuclear energy programs are exclusively peaceful in nature. As a result of the treaty, far fewer states currently possess nuclear weapons than had been predicted half a century ago.
“The NPT sets out legal obligations for the five nuclear-weapon states concerning the reduction of their nuclear arsenals, an area in which notable progress has been made since the height of the Cold War. It also is the only legally binding global treaty promoting nuclear disarmament.
“While these achievements should not be understated, it is clear that the nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament regime requires further strengthening. From North Korea’s illicit nuclear weapons development to ongoing violations of key arms control agreements, the world now must confront troubling developments in this sphere.
“Canada continues to believe that a world without nuclear weapons is achievable and is committed to doing its part to strengthen this important element of the rules-based international order.”

Assault on Yemen's Hodeida Halted as U.N. Pursues Talks

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/July 01/18/The United Arab Emirates on Sunday announced it had halted the offensive it is backing against Huthi rebels in Yemen's port city of Hodeida, to give a chance to U.N. diplomatic efforts. In a series of tweets, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said the pause was aimed at pursuing negotiations for an unconditional rebel withdrawal from the port but warned that full military action could resume. The weeks-long offensive on Hodeida -- Yemen's main port -- has raised fears of further suffering and deprivation in a country already deeply shaken by years of war between the Iran-backed Huthis and President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi's Gulf-backed government. Pointing to a renewed push for a negotiated settlement by U.N. envoy Martin Griffiths, Gargash said: "We have paused our campaign to allow enough time for this option to be fully explored. We hope he will succeed."He said the pause had been in effect since June 23 and while there was continued "pressure on the parameter," pro-government forces were awaiting the results of an upcoming visit by Griffiths to the rebel-held capital Sanaa. Griffiths met with Hadi in the southern city of Aden on Wednesday and is reported to be pushing for the Huthis to cede control of Hodeida to the United Nations. Hadi demanded a full rebel withdrawal from the city, which has been the target of a weeks-long military offensive by the Yemeni government and its regional allies, led by the UAE on the ground. The rebels have said they may be willing to share control of Hodeida's port with the United Nations but say their forces must remain in the docks and the rest of the Red Sea city.
Forcing concessions
The Huthis have controlled Hodeida and its port since 2014, when they drove the Hadi government out of the capital and seized large swathes of northern Yemen. On June 13, the UAE and its allies, including Saudi Arabia, launched a massive military operation -- dubbed "Golden Victory" -- to drive the rebels out of the port. Pro-government forces managed to seize control of Hodeida's airport in mid-June after days of heavy fighting but did not immediately push forward into the city, home to some 600,000 people and about 150 kilometers (90 miles) west of Sanaa. Gargash said the operation has succeeded in "forcing the Huthis to make concessions" but said it remained to be seen "whether the Huthis are engaging seriously with this process or using it as a tactic to buy time." "Failing these patient efforts we believe that continued military pressure will ultimately bring the liberation of Hodeida and force the Huthis to engage seriously in negotiations."Some 70 percent of imports to Yemen, where eight million people face imminent famine, flow through the port of Hodeida. Nearly 10,000 people have died in the Yemen war since 2015, when Saudi Arabia and its allies joined the government's fight against the Huthis. The United Nations has called Yemen the world's largest humanitarian crisis. More than 30,000 residents of Hodeida and the province of the same name had fled their homes since the start of the offensive.
The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on July 01-02/18
Is Guilt Killing the West from Within?
Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/July 01/18
"The fact is that we have no idea what would have become of the world's 'looted' antiquities if they hadn't been preserved in Western collections. Would the treasures of Beijing's Summer palace have survived Mao's Cultural Revolution? Would the Elgin marbles have survived Turkish tour guides chopping off chunks to sell as souvenirs? Would Daesh [ISIS] have spared those Middle Eastern artefacts that survive in European museums?" — Zareer Masani, historian.
When Christians in Iraq were exiled, murdered or persecuted en masse by the so-called Islamic State, the West stood silent -- as if these Christians were the agents of Western colonialism and not the legitimate and oldest inhabitants of the Middle East, long before the Arabs converted to Islam.
When a mob destroyed the French Institute in Cairo, burning books and collections, those who now want to return the "colonial artifacts" stood silent. Where are our Monuments Men now?
A "sense of guilt" for colonialism is debasing the West from within, according to Professor Bruce Gilley, and authoritarian regimes such as Iran, Russia, China and Turkey are profiting from this weakness.
The Romans called it damnatio memoriae: the damnation of memory that resulted in destroying the portraits and even the names of the fallen emperors. The same process is now underway in the West about its colonial past. The cultural elite in the West now seem so haunted by feelings of imperialist guilt that they are no longer confident that our civilization is something to be proud of.
A sense of guilt now seems a kind of post-Christian substitute religion that seduces many Westerners. The French scholar Shmuel Trigano suggested that this ideology is turning the Westerners into "post-colonial subjects" who no longer believe in their own civilization, but instead what will destroy it: multiculturalism. In France, for example, a manifesto was launched for "a multicultural and post racial republic". The result would be, in the words of the anthropologist Jean-Loup Amselle, a "war of identities" and a clash between communities. Last month, the UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said that, if elected Prime Minister, he would order the British Museum to return to Greece the Elgin Marbles, the frieze that had surrounded the Parthenon of Athens and one of the major attractions of the British Museum. "This whole campaign is sheer lunacy," wrote Richard Dorment. But it is a lunacy spreading all over Europe.
Pictured: Figures from the East Pediment of the Parthenon, exhibited as part of the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum. (Image source: Andrew Dunn/Wikimedia Commons)
French President Emmanuel Macron announced that he wants to change the rules that make French public collections untouchable, and allow the return to Africa of dozens of historical artifacts now in the Louvre Museum. Macron has appointed two commissioners, the writer Senegalese Felwine Sarr and the art expert Bénédicte Savoy, to prepare a report.
Tanzania is asking for the return of the famous skeleton of a prehistoric Brachiosaurus, the main attraction of Natural History Museum of Berlin. New guidelines guide on restitution of "colonial objects" were recently unveiled by Germany's Minister of Culture, Monika Grütters.
Most historians are now taking the side of the campaign for returning these objects. One is David Olusoga, a historian of Nigerian origins, who has claimed that these colonial artifacts were "thefts" committed by the colonial powers at the time. Writing in The Telegraph, Zareer Masani, a historian of Indian origins, took a different position. It was the colonialists, he said, who had a decisive role in preserving the antiquities of the civilization:
"It was their dedication, often at huge personal sacrifice, that unlocked the wonders of many lost classical civilisations... The fact is that we have no idea what would have become of the world's 'looted' antiquities if they hadn't been preserved in Western collections. Would the treasures of Beijing's Summer palace have survived Mao's Cultural Revolution? Would the Elgin marbles have survived Turkish tour guides chopping off chunks to sell as souvenirs? Would Daesh [ISIS] have spared those Middle Eastern artefacts that survive in European museums?".
In 1969, the BBC aired Kenneth Clark's "Civilization", the series exploring Western art and culture. Then, civilization was something to be glorified. In 2018, the BBC aired the remake of Clark's classic, "Civilizations" -- note the plural. "This year, the 21st century version of the landmark show is to turn a critical eye to the history of British civilisation, questioning whether it is built on 'looting and plunder' and who, really, are the barbarians," writes Hannah Furness in The Telegraph. One of the new presenters is David Olusoga, the historian who called the Elgin Marbles "a very clear case of theft".
Thirty years ago, in a book, The Tears of the White Man, the French philosopher Pascal Bruckner wrote that, "the remorseless and self-righteous critic who endlessly denounces the deceptions of parliamentary democracy is suddenly rapt with admiration before the atrocities committed in the name of the Koran, the Vedas, the Great Helmsman..." Since then, Western elites have excused many crimes committed in the name of political Islam, as if these were the consequences of our own colonial crimes.
When Christians in Iraq were exiled, murdered or persecuted en masse by the so-called Islamic State, the West stood silent -- as if these Christians were the agents of the Western colonialism and not the legitimate and oldest inhabitants of the Middle East long before the Arabs converted to Islam. When a mob destroyed the French Institute in Cairo, burning books and collections, those who now want to return the "colonial artifacts" stood silent. When Iran's President Rouhani visited Rome, the Italian authorities covered the naked statues in the Capitoline Museums. Are we covering our own culture to please the Islamic world?
Unfortunately, what we are "returning" are not only the colonial artifacts, but our very pride in Western civilization. A new "damnation of the memory" is taking place in our own museums, academia and chattering classes -- and it has deep consequences for our ability to deal with the enemies of civilization. "Postcolonial material provides an important fuel for jihadism," stated France's most important scholar of Islamism, Gilles Kepel.
"The Monuments Men", a film made in 2014 by George Clooney, is about a group of Western curators and art experts who traveled to Europe to rescue the artistic masterpieces stolen by the Nazis. It was a story of Western bravery and moral clarity during the Second World War. In 2015, ISIS destroyed Palmyra, one of the most important cities of the ancient world. But the West watched this cultural destruction passively and no "Monuments Men" were dispatched to save Palmyra and other threatened sites. The Russians, profiting from the Western passivity, entered Palmyra and Russia's most famous conductor, Valery Gergiev, on performing a triumphal concert in the Palmyra arena, said: "We protest against barbarians who destroyed wonderful monuments of world culture". The Westerners then recreated a banal copy of the arch of Palmyra in London.
Where are our Monuments Men now?
*Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author.
© 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.

Damascus Friday Sermon By Dr. Muhammad Ali Al-Malla: The World Cup Is Implementing 'Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion' – By Distracting Muslims From Gaza Bloodshed
MEMRI/June 01/18/"
In a June 22, 2018 Friday sermon at the Lala Pasha Mosque in Damascus, Dr. Muhammad Ali Al-Malla said that the World Cup was part of a plot outlined in The Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion, in that it is distracting the Arabs and the Muslims from the defiling of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the bloodshed in Gaza. According to Al-Malla, "the Europeans have taken [it] upon themselves to distract the Arabs," and "you will never see... the U.S. or China" at the World Cup because "their responsibility lies elsewhere" – in the selling of weapons to the Muslims. The sermon was posted on the mosque's YouTube channel.
"When The Jewish Organization Was Established, One Of The Articles [Of The Protocols]... Stated: 'We Shall Distract The Arabs Using Arts And Sports' – Indeed, They Have Done Just That" Dr. Muhammad Ali Al-Malla: "We find ourselves in the obsession and madness of the world of soccer. I was thinking what title to give this sermon, and I decided to call it: 'No Voice Is Louder than the Voice of Soccer and the World Cup.' This is the truth these days, to be honest.
"I would like to shed light on some matters. People's lives have come to a standstill. If there is a game at three o'clock, at two o'clock, nobody is left at work and the roads are totally deserted. 'What's happened?' you ask. 'There must be a match,' they tell you. 'Who's playing who?' you ask. An examination will show that these countries are sworn enemies of Islam – countries that conspire against the Arabs and the Muslims day and night.
"The Protocols of the Elders of Zion... When the Jewish organization was established, one of the articles [of The Protocols] article 29, I think – stated: 'We shall distract the Arabs using arts and sports.' Indeed, they have done just that, and that's how we got to where we are today."
We watch the games for hours on end. We are interested in the players. We focus on defense. People develop theories: 'Why wasn't this or that player sent in?' 'What kind of coach is this?' People develop theories upon theories, while the Al-Aqsa Mosque is being defiled and Gaza is being hit, but nobody is paying attention. Dear brothers, most of the bloodshed that befell the Arabs and the Muslims occurred during the World Cup tournaments. In 2006 and 2010, people were watching the matches while Israel was bombing Gaza.
For three days I've been contemplating how come the U.S. does not excel at soccer. Have you ever heard of the U.S. qualifying for the round of 16 or the quarter-finals, or winning the World Cup? Either the U.S. or China? Those countries have a different specialty. It seems that the countries of the world are divided into different specialties. The Europeans have taken upon themselves to distract the Arabs, whereas [the U.S. and China] have another responsibility. They have all reached an agreement among themselves. That is why you will never see Israel, the U.S., or China [at the World Cup]. China has never qualified, and neither has the U.S. Well, maybe just once, but they were eliminated after two days. Nor do they spend money on players, although they could buy up both the Real Madrid and Barcelona clubs. The price would be inconsequential to them. Why don't they do that? Ask yourselves. The reason is that their responsibility lies elsewhere: the selling of weapons to the Arabs."

One Little Kick and It's Done' Senior Trump Advisers Believe It’s Possible to Hasten Collapse of Iranian Regime

Amir Tibon and Amos Harel/Haaretz/July 01/18
Senior U.S. and Israeli sources tell Haaretz that White House is divided over Iran strategy, with John Bolton pushing for regime change and James Mattis striving for new agreement with Islamic Republic.
Some of President Donald Trump’s senior advisers and cabinet members believe there is now a rare opportunity to bring about the collapse of the Iranian regime, according to Israeli and American sources who spoke with Haaretz in recent weeks.
However, there is division over what the administration’s strategic goal should be regarding Tehran, with other advisers believing the United States should be aiming for a new comprehensive agreement with Iran.
The White House has recently increased its economic pressure on Iran with a set of crushing sanctions, accompanied by diplomatic efforts to diminish Iran’s oil exports to Asian and European countries. The administration’s official line is that this pressure has only one objective: Bringing Iran back to the negotiating table, where a new agreement should be constructed.
The desired agreement, according to senior administration officials, should address not only Iran’s nuclear program but also its aggressive behavior across the Middle East.
Yet not everyone around Trump believes this is the right objective, according to the Israeli and American sources. These sources specifically pointed to Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, as someone who is behind the scenes advancing the option of collapsing the Iranian regime.Bolton had publicly advocated such a line for many years and even did so as late as January, shortly before he replaced H.R. McMaster in the White House.
According to Haaretz’s sources, Bolton views the demonstrations that have broken out in Iran in recent months over the state of the country’s economy as an indication of the regime’s weakness. He has told Trump that increased U.S. pressure could lead to the regime’s collapse.
One person who recently spoke with senior White House officials on the subject summarized Bolton view in the words: “One little kick and they’re done.”
However, Secretary of Defense James Mattis is pushing a different line and is skeptical about the wisdom of pushing for regime change, say the sources. He is concerned that such action could lead to all-out war with Iran, causing harm to the world economy and putting America’s allies in the Middle East in grave danger. Mattis, the sources stated, supports increasing pressure on Iran, but with the clear objective of bringing the Iranians back to the table for a better agreement – one that would roll back their regional aggression.
A retired general in the Marines, Mattis was considered a hawk on Iran during his last role in the military, as head of U.S. Central Command from 2010 to 2013. Back then, the Obama administration viewed him as a “warmonger against Iran,” said one former senior U.S. official who spoke with Haaretz on the issue. “Now, as Trump’s secretary of defense, he is being accused by people close to the president of not being tough enough against Iran. It’s absurd,” the U.S. official said.
In between Mattis and Bolton lies Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, who entered the State Department in May and has mostly been dealing with the North Korean file.
Pompeo is also considered hawkish on Iran. As a congressman, he was one of the fiercest critics of the 2015 nuclear deal signed by the Obama administration. However, the sources who spoke with Haaretz said that since becoming secretary of state, Pompeo has inched closer to Mattis’ position that the United States should seek a new and improved agreement with Iran. However, he did express public support for the demonstrators in Iran last week, stating, “The people of Iran are tired of the corruption, injustice and incompetence from their leaders.”
In May, Pompeo gave a detailed speech on Iran, presenting 12 conditions for a new agreement with the Islamic Republic. He emphasized that the United States will ask Iran to withdraw its forces from Syria; stop its involvement in Yemen; and end all support for terror groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah.
Pompeo hinted that if Iran would agree to the 12 terms he presented, it could reap major benefits in a future agreement, perhaps even larger than those offered to Tehran in the previous nuclear agreement.
A National Security Council spokesperson told Haaretz over the weekend that “almost everywhere we see a problem Iran is behind it” – whether through the development of missiles that are supplied to terrorists, the support it gives to the Assad regime in Syria, or Iran’s cyberattacks against the United States and its allies. “All nations must hold Iran accountable and raise the costs of unlawful behavior,” the spokesperson added.
According to the NSC spokesperson, the administration is “working with allies to create a new coalition to counter the full range of Iranian threats. This coalition will bring all necessary pressure on Iran to change its behavior. In return, the United States is prepared to end sanctions, normalize relations and reintegrate Iran into the global economy. These are far-reaching actions that will benefit the Iranian people. This relief will only come when the United States sees tangible, demonstrated and sustained shifts in Tehran’s policies,” the spokesperson added.
Another reason for the uncertainty surrounding Trump’s Iran policy is the influence of “external” advisers with whom the president regularly discusses policy issues, even though they are not officially part of the administration.
This weekend, Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, spoke in Paris at the annual conference of the National Council of Resistance of Iran – the political wing of the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK) – and stated that the Iranian regime was about to collapse.
The MEK was actually designated a terrorist organization by the United States from 2003 until 2012, and has paid both Bolton and Giuliani to advocate on its behalf in the past and speak at its events.
Saturday was the second time in recent months that Giuliani had spoken at an MEK event. In March, he told an audience in Albania that Trump was committed to regime change in Tehran. Administration officials later denied that Giuliani was speaking on behalf of the U.S. government and said regime change is not the Trump administration’s policy.
But some in Washington remain unconvinced. “Those who listen to Mattis and Pompeo on the Iranian issue, but ignore the influence of people like Giuliani and Sheldon Adelson, don’t truly understand how the Trump administration works,” a senior European diplomat told Haaretz at the weekend.
While the Trump administration is having this internal debate, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also weighed in on the matter. In recent weeks, Netanyahu has published a number of videos addressing the Iranian people, praising the demonstrators in Iran’s streets and highlighting the economic benefits that Iran could see from cooperation with Israel. The videos could suggest an Israeli attempt to further promote the notion that the Iranian regime is on the verge of collapse because of the economic situation.

Opinion Should Israel Open Its Borders to Desperate Syrian Refugees?

Peter Lerner/Haaretz/July 01/18
Thousands of Syrians, fleeing Assad's airstrikes, are taking refuge on Israel's northern border. Israel must base its response not only on its national security interests, but on the moral imperative to aid desperate people on our doorstep.
For a full week now, the Syrian regime - together with its Russian and Shi'ite militia allies - have embarked on an offensive to retake rebel-held southern Syria. This is a battle Israel cannot ignore.Israel has watched as a major influx of displaced people escaping the Assad regime's relentless bombardments mass on its border on the Golan Heights. According to the UN, by the middle of last week, the Daraa campaign had already left at least 45,000 people internally displaced. While most of those have fled towards the border with Jordan, an estimated 11,000 have taken refuge on the border with Israel, on the Golan Heights. That's an unexpected development, bearing in mind the long history of Syria regarding Israel as its arch enemy.
Since 2013, some 5800 Syrians have been treated in Israeli hospitals in northern Israel. Since 2017, approximately 6000 Syrians have been treated in a field hospital established by Israel and operating in an abandoned IDF position on the border with Syria and operated by an American NGO. These activities combined with the transfer of thousands of tons of humanitarian goods, medicine, clothes and food have been called by the IDF "Operation Good Neighbor." The question that the current events raise is: What must Israel do?
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman tweeted on Friday that though Israel is willing to continue transferring humanitarian goods, not one Syrian refugee will be permitted to enter Israel. Jordan, according to the United Nations refugee agency, already hosts 660,000refugees; it closed its borders two years ago and continues to maintain that policy, despite calls and a robust Jordanian social media campaign calling on the government to #OpenTheBorder.
Meanwhile the IDF announced Friday that six Syrians, including four children, were transferred to Israeli hospitals for medical assistance. And that 300 tents, thirteen tons of food, 15 tons of baby food, 30 tons of clothes, medical supplies and medicines had been transferred to people in need on the Syrian Golan Heights. Our compassion can not only be at a distance. Our neighbors in Syria have endured, and are still enduring, a devastating civil war, and while Israel has been considered Syria's mortal enemy since 1973, our humanitarian gestures must be broadened.
While Lieberman’s zero refugee policy is morally questionable, the reasoning behind it may be reports in Israel last week citing intelligence sources suggesting Iran is trying to abuse operation Good Neighbor to infiltrate terrorists into Israel.
Israel should make exceptions to its 'no entry' policy for refugees, especially orphaned children who are in dire need.
But if Israel is unwilling to permit refugees to enter its territory, the government now needs to establish a safe zone on the eastern side of the border. On the international front, the success of a safe zone for displaced Syrians will only be successful if it can truly be safe. Russia alone can secure the required assurances that Assad’s troops and its militias keep at a safe distance. The IDF will have to protect the people that flee to the sanctuary, supply food, shelter, sanitation and medical aid.
Israel must also appeal to UNDOF (the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force), the UN peacekeeping force to review its mandate. UNDOF was established in 1974 to monitor and supervise the ceasefire between Israel and Syria that ended the Yom Kippur War. In the absurd reality of the Middle East, that is what they continue to do today. There are over 1000 deployed UN personnel that could immediately assist the people in need. However, since the Syrian civil war began, UNDOF has vacated most of its observer camps in the Syrian Golan Heights.
Israel's strategic and national security interests in Syria remain the same. No Iran in Syria, and as far away as possible. Israel must maintain its operational access to thwart Iran’s intentions - setting up a forward operating base on our doorstep.
However, our moral interests are just as important. We must send a clear message of an outstretched hand to people in need. Since the State of Israel was established, we’ve sent aid and search and rescue missions to every continent to address dire humanitarian situations. We must do the same for the desperate people on our doorstep. **Lieutenant Colonel (ret.) Peter Lerner is a crisis communications consultant. He served for 25 years in the IDF as a spokesperson and a liaison officer to international organizations in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Twitter: @LTCPeterLerner

Central Bankers Shouldn’t Have to Rescue Democracy

Ferdinando Giugliano/Asharq Al Awsat/July 01/18
The history of the financial crisis tells a disturbing tale for those who hold dear prosperity and democracy.
Although this should have been the moment for representative governments to rise to the occasion, too often political leaders failed to take the actions needed to preserve the welfare of those who elected them. The institutions that did the most to help economies recover were the most technocratic and without a direct popular mandate: the central banks.
The feeble response by democratically elected government, and the resulting ascent of the central banks, has produced two results. Mainstream politicians have squandered their moral authority, giving rise to populist forces both in Europe and in the US.
Meanwhile, the world’s leading monetary authorities have faced accusations of overreach, which will not go away so long as central bankers keep the powers and the instruments they have obtained. As Paul Tucker, a former deputy governor at the Bank of England, has written in a new book, “Unelected Power,” “Central bankers have become ‘overmighty citizens’ of whom too much is expected.”
From Japan to the US, central banks around the rich world slashed interest rates and bought vast amounts of assets as they sought to ward off deflation and restore growth. It has taken some time for this flood of cheap money to generate enough growth to heal the post-recession wounds, particularly in the euro zone. But most economists agree that in the absence of decisive intervention by the world’s leading monetary authorities, the Great Recession would have been much worse and lasted longer.
The record of democratically elected governments during the crisis was, by comparison, a lot patchier. True, after the initial decision to let Lehman Brothers fail, the US moved swiftly to recapitalize its banks and to provide fiscal stimulus to the economy. However, in other developed economies the reaction was less decisive: In the UK, for example, the Labor administration initially passed a program of spending increases and tax cuts to help restore the economy to health. However, this was quickly withdrawn by the coalition government of the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives, who embarked on a punishing austerity drive that delayed the recovery.
The European Central Bank didn't exactly shine in its initial response to the crisis. Under Jean-Claude Trichet, the ECB chose not to embark on a large-scale asset purchase program, caving in to opposition from Germany. In 2011, it increased interest rates twice — a move that is now widely judged to have been premature and may have contributed to worsening the incipient sovereign-debt crisis.
However, as soon as Mario Draghi took over from Trichet, the ECB shifted gear. The new president quickly moved to soothe fears that the euro could collapse, famously saying that the central bank would do “whatever it takes” to keep the single currency intact. This calmed markets and helped the euro zone climb back from the economic crisis. The ECB then embarked on a program of quantitative easing, which avoided the risk of a deflationary spiral. If the euro zone is now finally in full recovery mode, the merits belong largely to its central bank.
Unlike the ECB, politicians did little to shake off their torpor. At the height of the sovereign debt crisis, troubled governments in countries such as Spain, Italy or Greece had to tighten their fiscal belts as they faced skyrocketing borrowing rates. Germany should have provided more fiscal stimulus for longer: Some of it would have spilled over to its euro-zone partners via higher exports, which would have helped to limit the extent of the recession.
Other countries shied away from passing much-needed structural reforms to boost the economy’s growth potential: In particular, Italy did little to reform its snail-paced justice system and public administration, which to this date severely limits its ability to attract foreign and domestic investment.
Supporters of democratic institutions could argue that the problem is not democracy per se, but the quality of politicians. Maybe Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, was just not brave enough to embark on a prolonged fiscal stimulus. Similarly, Mario Monti, Italy's prime minister at the height of the crisis, was quick in putting the public finances in order, passing a landmark pension reform, but then lacked the political courage to take steps that would boost his country’s competitiveness.
However, the problem limiting the ability of rich democracies to intervene in a crisis run deeper than a lack of leadership. Government debt levels have soared to almost 90 percent of gross domestic product in the euro area and more than 100 percent in the US, which severely limits the room to boost spending and cutting taxes during a future recession. Of course, this doesn’t mean that politicians cannot intervene if the necessity arises. However, they still need the crucial support of their central bankers, who will need to slash interest rates and, perhaps, restart their program of quantitative easing to keep borrowing costs low.
So the power of central bankers is here to stay. When the next crisis hits, politicians — even those with popular mandates — will depend more than ever upon the whims of unelected technocrats.

The Bazaaris' Revolt in Iran: Who is Behind It?
Amir Taheri/Gatestone Institute/July 01/18
The Grand Bazaar is not just a mega shopping mall; it is the core of a whole way of life. It contains six mosques, 30 hotels, more than 20 banks, six libraries, 9 religious seminaries,13 primary and secondary schools, and is the source of direct or indirect employment for more than 600,000 people.
Since 1979, the Grand Bazaar's enthusiasm for the Khomeinist regime has cooled somewhat without turning into open hostility. Thus, the current events must be regarded either as a fleeting aberration or as a serious sign that the Khomeinist regime may be losing one of its major bases of support.
One thing is certain: The Grand Bazaar has well-established and tested mechanisms for popular mobilization and a show of force in the streets. If it is angry, it can show its anger. And when it does, it would be foolish for anyone not to take notice.
Last week, Tehran's Grand Bazaar was shut, with its example imitated in the capital's other business districts such as Maqsud-Shah, Qaysarieh, Khayyam, Sayyed Vali and Pachenar, among others. At the same time, bazaars in several other cities, notably Isfahan, Mash'had, Bandar Abbas, Kerman and Tabriz also organized token strikes in sympathy with Tehrani merchants. Shutting the Grand Bazaar is not easy and had not happened since the heady days of 1978-79, when the uprising against the Shah was heading for its peak.
The Grand Bazaar consists of over 40 interlinked passages covering a total distance of 10.6 kilometers. The passages are divided into 20 segments, each specializing in some trade, from food-shops, to goldsmith workshops to carpet show-rooms to whatever a mega-city of almost 15 million inhabitants might need. However, the Grand Bazaar is not just a mega shopping mall; it is the core of a whole way of life. It contains six mosques, 30 hotels, more than 20 banks, six libraries, nine religious seminaries, 13 primary and secondary schools, two theaters, and a "House of Force" (zurkhaneh) where actual or putative "tough guys" practice traditional wrestling and body-building. Bazaar merchants also provide a good chunk of the income reaped by the Shi'ite clergy in the form of "khoms" (one-fifth of revenue), "sahm-Imam" (Imam's share), and a whole range of other voluntary donations. Without money from the bazaar and similar institutions in the provinces, the Shi'ite clergy might not have been able to maintain its status through many ups-and-downs in Iran's stormy history. Traditionally the Grand Bazaar has also played a key role in fostering social cohesion, mostly through associations representing people from Iran's 31 provinces. The largest of these are the Azerbaijani Association, followed by the Association of Isfahanis in the capital.
More than 500 charities depend on support from Grand Bazaar, which is also linked with countless Sufi fraternities. The Qaemiyah Movement, that organizes the birthday of the Hidden Imam on 15 Shaaban on the lunar calendar, has an estimated 1.2 million members in Greater Tehran. The same organization flexes its muscles every year in the mourning months of Muharram and Safar by fielding over 500 mourning processions (known as dasteh sineh-zani) in all parts of Tehran, the sprawling capital which covers an area of 662 square kilometers. Its provincial associations maintain networks all over Iran and, if and when necessary, can bring additional "muscle" to the capital from hundreds of towns and thousands of villages near and far.
More importantly, perhaps, the Grand Bazaar is the source of direct or indirect employment for more than 600,000 people.
The early history of the Grand Bazaar dates back to some 400 years ago in the Safavid Era. But the main structures of the present network were built some 200 years ago under the Qajars. Under Reza Shah the Great, the founder of the Pahlavi Dynasty, the Grand Bazaar adopted a critical profile towards the new regime because of its modernization project that included clipping the wings of the clergy and promoting European-style trading companies. Under the last Shah, relations initially improved but only slightly, and from 1978 onwards ended up with open hostility towards the Pahlavi regime. Most Iran experts agree that without strong financial and manpower support from the Grand bazaar, the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and his Communist allies would not have been to seize power without much of a fight.
Since then, the Grand Bazaar's enthusiasm for the Khomeinist regime has cooled somewhat, without turning into open hostility. Thus, the current events must be regarded either as a fleeting aberration or as a serious sign that the Khomeinist regime may be losing one of its major bases of support. Of course, since nothing in Iran is ever what it seems to be, the protests may well be part of the power struggle within the Khomeinist establishment.
If that is the case, one must assume that the more radical faction, presenting the "Supreme Guide" Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as their mascot, helped foment the protest as a coup de grâce to President Hassan Rouhani's moribund administration.
To be sure, there are facts that underline such a theory.
Radical members of the Islamic Majlis , among them Ahmad Amir-Abadi, Fatemeh Zolqadr and Ayatollah Mujtaba Zolnur, are openly talking about impeaching Rouhani or forcing him to resign. In fact, 71 radical Majlis members signed a motion yesterday, giving Rouhani 15 days to offer a new policy or face impeachment.
They think that with the so-called "nuclear deal" concocted by the former US President Barack Obama now virtually dead, Rouhani has lost his administrations political "jewel in the crown".
The fact that some top military figures, among them former Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) General Yahya Rahim Safavi and former Baseej (Mobilization) Commander Gen. Ghayb-Parvar have also indirectly criticized Rouhani gives weight to that theory.
Several radical members of the clergy, among them Ayatollah Nuri Hamadani and Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi, have come out in support of the bazaaris and emitted dire warnings to Rouhani and his team.
Other analysts, however, believe that the bazaar is reflecting wider concerns within the Iranian society at a time of growing economic hardship and socio-political repression. Similar concerns caused last winter's nationwide uprising that spread to over 1250 cities across the country.
Several facts lend credence to that analysis. To start with, the official media are not branding the current protest as "another Zionist-CIA plot" as they have always done since 1979. Some outlets claim that the protests were fomented by "troublemakers" or "economic saboteurs" but no attempt is made to link them with exiled groups or traditional nationalist or Islamist-Marxist opponents of the regime.
One thing is certain: The Grand Bazaar has well-established and tested mechanisms for popular mobilization and a show of force in the streets. If it is angry, it can show its anger. And when it does, it would be foolish for anyone not to take notice.
Amir Taheri was the executive editor-in-chief of the daily Kayhan in Iran from 1972 to 1979. He has worked at or written for innumerable publications, published eleven books, and has been a columnist for Asharq Al-Awsat since 1987.
*This article was originally published by Asharq al-Awsat and is reprinted by kind permission of the author.
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A Trump deal with Putin could leave Europe in the cold and weaken Nato
Raghida Dergham/The National/July 01/18
Europeans want to avoid cracks in the ranks at next month's Nato summit before the US president goes to meet Russia’s strongman, writes Raghida Dergham
US President Donald Trump will take his art of the deal to the Nato summit on July 11, then to Helsinki days later for his first official summit with the Russian leader Vladimir Putin, on July 16. Mr Trump might decide to be confrontational and stand-offish at one of the summits or both and could use one to get what he wants from the other.
The European leaders are anxious that the man in the White House might cut a deal with the master of the Kremlin, one that would leave Europe by the wayside, weaken Nato and produce economic dynamics that are unfavourable for their countries. For their part, the Russians distrust US intentions and the lack of coherence of Mr Trump’s policies.
In truth, Mr Putin himself might be the first to pay the price should the post-Second World War global order, including Nato, collapse, as this could mean German and Japanese re-armament. Either way, the two summits are of major importance, not only in terms of relations with Washington but also for Nato’s internal dynamics, ties with Russia and position on key issues including Iran.
US Defence Secretary James Mattis has been on a tour of Asia and Europe to reassure allies, even as the US National Security Adviser John Bolton was in Moscow ahead of the two summits. In truth, however, Mr Mattis, a career military man, is no dove and is as much of a hawk as Mr Bolton, a civilian militant with isolationist tendencies, yet one who understands well the merits of pragmatism. Today the mood in the White House tends towards strengthening the civilians because the generals have been trying to contain the ambitions and policies of their rogue president.
Yet there are concerns in Europe that the White House could sideline Mr Mattis, an advocate of a strong Nato, who believes weakening the alliance would harm western interests and US leadership in the world. As such, Mr Mattis is seen as the voice of reason in the Trump administration when it comes to transatlantic relations, as well as the Iranian issue, because despite his fiery statements, he, like the military, does not want war with Iran.
In Asia, the US’s allies are concerned that the bid for a denuclearisation agreement with North Korea could result in downsizing US military commitment after Mr Trump declared an end to joint drills with South Korea as part of the diplomatic engagement with its northern neighbour. One implication of this could be Japanese re-armament.
Mr Mattis flew to Asia and Europe to reassure friends and allies but the man in the Kremlin must be equally concerned, not because he is fond of US military overreach but because Russia does not benefit from the prospect of Japanese and German militarisation. The world order has benefited Russia and still benefits Mr Putin’s vision, despite the presence of US military stationed near Russia’s borders.
But Mr Trump believes this global order is costly to the US and benefits other nations more. He believes the US is subsidising collective security at the expense of its treasury and interests while others in Europe and Asia produce better technology and goods, secure under the US umbrella. For this reason, Mr Trump has sent a tough message to Nato members to say the US has grown tired of funding European defence and that the time has come to share the costs.
As the Nato summit takes place before Mr Trump’s summit with Mr Putin, the Europeans want to avoid the emergence of cracks in the ranks of the alliance and do not want Mr Trump to show its weakness when he goes to meet Russia’s strongman. But perhaps Mr Trump is using this dynamic deliberately to extract concessions from his allies in terms of both sharing the burden and European policies that are hindering key strategies pursued by the administration, most notably on Iran.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has finally realised that Iran is her problem too and that there is no way to continue accommodating Tehran at any cost. Indeed, Mr Trump’s pressures have already forced German firms to diverge from Mrs Merkel’s policies. In turn, this seems to have prompted her to use a new language during her meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah, when she called for an urgent solution to “Iran's aggressive tendencies”. However, Mrs Merkel also stressed the importance of preserving the nuclear agreement with Iran, despite its activities in Syria.
Mr Trump does not see this logic because he takes a more binary view and does not understand half-measures. Some Germans fear reprisals against Germany as a result, including by leveraging Russia against them. German newspaper Die Welt ran an article saying that any deal between Mr Trump and Mr Putin that excludes Europe could bring catastrophic scenarios. The article expressed concern the summit would lead to Washington ending its participation in Nato drills in eastern Europe in return for Russia suspending its war games in its western flank, which it said would weaken the alliance and raise question marks over its fundamental principles. The article also expressed fear over the possibility of the two leaders agreeing on easing sanctions against Russia, which would force Europe to follow suit.
Mr Putin is prepared to turn his meeting with Mr Trump into an inflection point in ties with the US. Russia’s envoy to the UN, Vasily Nebenzya, said Russia was prepared to discuss Iran’s role in the Middle East, although this does not mean Moscow is ready for a divorce with Iran, especially in Syria. However, Russia is indeed suggesting it is willing to parley about the issue. The price might not be too high for Washington because Mr Trump does not object to Russia maintaining its bases and interests in Syria - only to a Russian monopoly of that nation’s strategic affairs.
There is a lot of speculation about a putative deal between the two men. Some say Washington could accept Bashar Al Assad staying on in return for Moscow securing the exit of Iran and its allies from Syria.
According to the Kremlin, the talks between Mr Trump and Mr Putin will address the current situation and the prospects for developing Russian-American relations. According to the White House, the two presidents will discuss relations between the US and Russia, in addition to a number of national security issues. The key words here are “developing” the relationship and “national security” as the basis for accords.
As the preparations indicate, the climate surrounding the US-Russia summit suggests less of a boxing match and more of a duel, with a view to launching a set of agreements as a prelude to that elusive grand bargain. It is still not clear today whether that outcome is imminent or completely off the table.

Assad walking in his father’s footsteps
Nadim Koteich/Al Arabiya/July 01/18
The so-called ‘axis of resistance’ would need a pile of lies to cover up its scandal in Syria. Equating the Syrian war with fighting Israel no longer fools anybody, even the most naïve. This lie was repeatedly discredited during the turmoil of the Syrian war that started seven years ago, but its most dramatic exposure was in Daraa.
The Daraa understanding
Although the features of the major understandings in Daraa between the parties influencing the conflict and the parties influenced by the conflict are not quite clear, its general orientation is not ambiguous, and its content has to do with an understanding between America, Russia, Israel, Jordan and other Arab states on replacing the Iranian militia with Assad’s army. This understanding seems to have replaced the de-escalation zone agreement - which was reached during the first meeting between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg a year ago - ever since it collapsed last week. Developments on the ground in Daraa did not prevent the Americans and Russians from moving forward with preparations for the Trump-Putin summit, which means that the collapse of the de-escalation agreement in Daraa, was authorized by the United States. Furthermore, leaks reveal that the US administration has via its embassy in Jordan told the armed groups in Daraa, via a WhatsApp text message, to do what is best for themselves and their people and not to base their decisions on the assumptions that American troops will intervene to help them because this will not happen!
For its part, Israel — the most skeptical party with regards to the agreement and the most willing to put it to the test — called for an area free of Iran and its militia extending 40 kilometers from the Israeli-Syrian cease-fire line signed on May 31st, 1974. Israel also maintained the need to have freedom of movement in the Syrian airspace and the freedom to launch strikes on Iranian targets, which is actually what it did a few days ago by targeting bases and warehouses in the vicinity of Damascus airport, without any Russian objection worth mentioning or reaction from Syria or Iran.
Israel, Syria security equation
This incident exposes the lie of resistance and fighting against Israel, especially when it comes to the function of Assad’s Syria, which Iran has said since the first day of its intervention that it is only protecting the resistance there. Why does Israel accept that the Assad army is close to it but rejects the Iranians and their Lebanese, Iraqi, Afghan, Pakistani and other militias? And why is this Russian backed reassurance towards Assad amid a complete alertness against Iran and its tools? The truth is that there is an ongoing serious process of rehabilitating the Assad regime to restore Syria’s original task as the guardian of the borders of Israel and the guarantor of its security, while keeping at the same time a margin of maneuver and skirmish for Hezbollah, before it turns into one of the most complex non-state organizations in the region.
Rami Makhlouf, the former corner stone of the Syrian economy, has spoken about this task since the first weeks of the Syrian crisis. In his interview with the New York Times, he said: “As long as Syria lacks stability, Israel will too.” This means that Syrian stability is Israeli stability, which can be deduced by any observer, if he would look at the situation at the borders between the two countries since 1974 until 2011.
In the first two years of the revolution, the Israeli press was full of articles and analysis written by the most esteemed Israeli observers who considered that the fall of Assad or the collapse of Syria into chaos was a strategic disaster for Israel. Before that, it was Israel who opened the door to Assad to take him out from the isolation he entered after the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005, as proven by the testimony of former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman at a seminar in Washington. The meetings which Imad Moustapha, the Syrian ambassador, held with Jewish lobbies in the American capital since 2006 have opened the channels for peace talks with Israel under the patronage of Turkey, a fact that was later revealed in 2008. This expedited inviting Assad to the Annapolis peace conference a year earlier (2007)! The position of Israel remained the same regarding the historical role of the Assad family in relation to Israel's security, until it appeared that Assad himself had changed and become a puppet in Iran’s hand. At this point, Israel started dealing with Syria as an Iranian base in the absence of Assad and his role.
Curtailing Iran’s role
Soon after Russia intervened in the Syrian crisis and the relative release of Assad from Iran’s hands, Tel Aviv returned and chose the Assad option again, making Benjamin Netanyahu the politician talking to Vladimir Putin the most, and Israel the most coordinating state with Moscow in Syria.
In Daraa, the circle has been completed, and time is turning back slowly. Assad is being rehabilitated at the peak of the US assault on Iran in Iran and of the Israeli attack on Iran in Syria. Assad is gradually going back to walking in his father’s footsteps. However, this time it would be without the imagined regional roles, and without the exaggerated status as he will just be a guard at Israel’s gates and Syria’s ruins.

Corruption in Iraq erodes its core
Hazem al-Amin/Al Arabiya/July 01/18
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.

Controlling unruly fatwas
Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran/Al Arabiya/July 01/18
Anyone with an interest can notice the chaos related to the issuance of Fiqh rulings in the past few years. The revolutionary tide, the formation of fundamentalist movements and the resurgence of political Islam groups have coincided with the fragmentation of many countries’ structure, unrest in their institutions and breakdown of their relations to the point that large areas of the region ended up being managed by militias and other countries. Despite their great history, several countries are losing the essential prerequisites of statehood to eventually end up as failed states and enter into a dark history where officials in these countries adhere to the order of the ‘Wali al Faqih’. Nevertheless, the most dangerous aspect related to the issuance of fatwas and rulings by ISIS, al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood is the latter’s establishment of Fiqh groups claiming they represent the Ummah. They attempt to break down religious institutions in each country in order to issue their disastrous fatwas and terrorist rulings. The positive thing in light of all of this chaos is how moderate countries have stepped in to strengthen the work of local religious institutions and to revamp them in a way that is relevant to the different facets of life and developments. The UAE cabinet issued a decision on June 25 to form the Emirates Fatwa Council under the chairmanship of Sheikh Abdallah bin Bayyah.
As reported by the UAE News Agency (WAM), the Council "will aim to combine relevant efforts, visions and objectives, and organize the work of government authorities, institutions and individuals related to fatwas. The Council will issue general fatwas concerning various topics, upon the request of official authorities, institutions or individuals. It will also grant licenses to issue fatwas, train muftis and develop their skills, and conduct related studies and research.” It will also oversee the Fatwa Center in the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments, WAM added.
This council restrains the chaotic fatwas issued by the ignorant and extremists and restores the prestige of Fiqh after many charlatans have taken it as their profession. Issuing fatwas has its conditions. Not everyone who has memorized Sharia or Hadith can issue fatwas. Indeed, there are personal conditions related to the understanding and knowledge of the signs and purposes of the Sharia, along with having interpersonal wisdom. Terrorist groups try to break down religious institutions in each country to issue their disastrous fatwas
Many of the problems facing Muslims today are because of the Fiqh renewal, like some did in terms of issuing provisions including their exaggerated opinions about jihad. This approach has been adopted by groups of extremists and theorists such as Sayyed Qutb.
In the end, if Islamic countries want to take the route to development, they will first need to control the disruptive religious rhetoric coming from Ifta and speech platforms, and media programs that describe themselves as legitimate religious sources, while they are purely fundamentalist movements. Without this restraint, bitter experience will repeat itself. The experience of the UAE should be praised and highlighted. Allah has full power and control over His Affairs, but most men know not.

Battle for Hodeidah – the beginning of the end
Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi/Al Arabiya/July 01/18
The battle of Hodeidah is fierce and its results are crucial in managing the war that’s been raging in Yemen for more than three years. There have been a lot of successes, achievements and victories which have led to the liberation of over 80 percent of Yemeni territory, with more victories and progress for the Yemeni state and people.
Unusual supporters
The Houthi militia in itself is a small force and has had little impact, but it has some major supporters. As is well known, the first one is Iran, but it might come as a surprise that among its other supporters are some international institutions and officials, some Western countries and human rights organization, especially western ones. This is in addition to countries that publicly support it like Qatar and a regional country that has chosen to support fundamentalism throughout the Arab world. The Yemeni state and its political and military leadership are devoted towards their citizens. The coalition leadership puts the safety of Yemeni citizens on top of its priorities list as conveyed by its spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki. This is very important as it reflects the humanitarian dimension in managing wars and battles. The humanitarian dimension was thus taken into consideration by the Yemeni state, its army, the Arab coalition and resistance. However, it was used by Iran and some international institutions to obstruct finalizing the war and its battles and the Hodeidah battle is only one example. On the side of the Arab coalition, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been working through King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center and the Red Crescent Society of the UAE to ensure the safety, security, rescue and support of innocent Yemeni citizens in addition to providing supplies of food, water, medicine and healthcare, and all the special requirements needed in the battle scene. Providing this aid is one of the repeatedly announced principles of the coalition.
Houthi war crimes overlooked
On the other hand, the statements of some European officials, international humanitarian institutions and human rights organizations put a spoke in the wheels of such efforts as they seek to obstruct any serious orientation to save Yemen from this Iran-backed Houthi militia. Meanwhile, these organizations almost entirely ignore all Houthi crimes in the war — such as its recruitment of children, using civilians as human shields, stealing people’s money in addition to torture, imprisonment, assassinations and brutal murder. They also overlook the use of Iranian ballistic missiles and the declaration of the Houthis’ political loyalty to Iran and smuggling weapons from Hodeidah port and receiving training trainers from the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group and other crimes.
Agenda of external forces
These institutions, officials and associations do not understand that the Houthis are not a state but a militia. They are not loyal citizens but a group with an external agenda. The Yemeni people’s rights are not their priority by any means. The Houthis are fully loyal to the ideology of Iran’s regime. Thus, killing, torturing, and humiliating poor Yemeni citizens are part of their established policy and declared ideology. They do not differ from groups like the Taliban, al-Qaeda or ISIS. The Houthis are going to be thrown out of Hodeidah, either willingly by a political agreement or by the might of military force. It is only a matter of time. If the UN and its new envoy have a role, it would be to convince the Houthis to abandon their bloody ideology and become convinced with practical and political solutions. Apparently, the Houthis are playing them in order not to reach a real solution as they aim to gain more time to prevent their collapse. In the end, military heroes of the army, the Yemeni resistance and the Arab coalition are advancing in their glorious and victorious battles, while the Houthis are running away. The only option is that the Yemeni state, people and territory should be regained, whether politically or militarily.

The American gamble on Russia in Syria
Khairallah Khairallah/Al Arabiya/July 01/18
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.

Iran entering a new phase of discontent
Dr. Theodore Karasik/Arab News/July 01/18
As Iran continues to churn internally, the forces at play reveal unique fault lines in society and the revolution stagnates into deep economic, political and social crisis. Street protests — which have now spread to the “bazaari” class — are a deep, perhaps fatal wound to the Islamic Republic. The protests held since the waning days of 2017 and early 2018 represent the largest public display of discontent in Iran since before the 1979 revolution. Unlike the 2009 Green Movement, which was largely a product of the urban middle-class youth in Tehran, today’s unrest reflects the economic grievances of the lower and working classes, which are alienated from Iranian institutional politics and are suffering from the consequences of a broken economy maintained by a broken ideology. The protests are driven by disaffected young people in rural areas, towns, small cities and larger urban centers, who are seizing the moment to express their frustrations with the country’s moribund system. As the US imposes stiff new sanctions on Iran’s economy, the rial continues its death plunge. And, with prices soaring, the potential for economic collapse is becoming greater, thereby putting pressure on the government to act in a positive way, if it can.
Tehran’s Grand Bazaar, the city’s central meeting place and traditional business center, has been filled with tens of thousands of angry protesters nearly every day. Anti-government slogans including, “the enemy is here. They (the regime) lie that it is the US” are new and gaining momentum. Importantly, the bazaari class played a crucial role in the 1979 Islamic revolution, when traders joined forces with the clergy to overthrow Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi.
To be sure, the country is entering a phase of discontent with the existing regime and its Vilayat-e Faqih. The protests are getting louder and more violent and increasingly targeting the regime itself. No longer are protests about America and Israel, they are instead about the ills of the regime, foreign adventures in Syria, and the plight of the Palestinians. These voices are organic and indicative of the rapidly growing unhappiness with the system. They indicate a desire for change as the current Iranian economic model, managed by the clerical elites and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, begins to crumble.
Importantly, protests and the closures of bazaars throughout the country were at the heart of not only the 1979 revolution, but also the Tobacco Protests and concession of 1890-91 and the Constitutional Revolution of 1905 to 1911. Make no mistake, the manifestations of discontent throughout Iran are a direct challenge to the country’s leadership and governance style, which cannot continue as normal.
There is more: The growing generational gap between the Islamic state and the Iranian youth, particularly young women, has never been wider. In the last 25 years, Iran has been on a course of major political and societal evolution, as the increasingly young population is becoming more rebellious and secular.
The manifestations of discontent throughout Iran are a direct challenge to the country’s leadership and governance style, which cannot continue as normal. The government’s authorization to the IRGC to begin mass arrests will only beget further violence. At the same time, the crunch over money will continue to divide the country. As riots in cities around Iran reveal, despite systematic arrests or killings by the authorities, the tensions between society and regime will continue.  Iranians are now unreconciled with their theocratic state — it is a wholesale rejection. To them, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and his followers did not establish an Islamic theocracy in order to safeguard a revolution; they made a revolution in order to establish an Islamic theocracy. Importantly, the widespread waves of protests that seem to erupt in Iran in roughly 10-year cycles suggest the gradual failure of Iran’s theocratic state.
As the Trump administration pushes for cutting off Iran from the international financial system, the ability for the Iranian state to maintain order will become increasingly difficult. While President Hassan Rouhani called on the country to “remain calm,” calls for him to resign or reshuffle his economic and diplomatic team are getting louder as the days go by. Rouhani’s opponents within the ruling establishment plan to use the economic crisis as a launching pad for holding early presidential and parliamentary elections. But, in the coming months, many factories will close down and tensions will build between those who are affiliated with the working class and youth versus those allied to the clerical elite. It is almost as if the seeds of resistance as represented by an amorphous and leaderless revolt in Iran are being spread quickly due to collapsing legitimacy in a time of dramatic change.
• Dr. Theodore Karasik is a senior adviser to Gulf State Analytics in Washington, D.C. He is a former RAND Corporation Senior Political Scientist who lived in the UAE for 10 years, focusing on security issues. Twitter: @tkarasik

The Iranian alternative supports recent protests
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/July 01/18
The main Iranian opposition held a rally near Paris on Saturday to support the recent protests in Iran and to offer a democratic alternative to the current regime. Tens of thousands of supporters of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) rallied in support of the overthrow of the clerical regime and democratic change in their homeland. They were joined by a stellar and unprecedented group of officials from around the world, including from the US, Europe, and the Middle East. The main message of the event was that the Iranian crisis has a solution and that there is an alternative to the backward and fundamentalist regime. Chants of “down with the velayat-e faqih” (absolute clerical rule) filled the huge exhibition hall in the suburbs of Paris as the president-elect of the NCRI, Maryam Rajavi, gave a rousing keynote address.
“The ‘velayat-e faqih’ lacks legitimacy. Khamenei’s standing has plummeted dramatically,” Rajavi exclaimed, as the crowd rose up and shouted “Death to Khamenei!” The two chants have become commonplace during the recent uprisings. In fact, most of the slogans chanted by the protestors inside Iran have been formulated and echoed by the NCRI and its pivotal organization, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK). The MEK’s popularity inside the country is growing and many of the speakers and analysts I talked to at the event believe the organization is coordinating the protests.
Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei publicly cited intelligence reports earlier this year and said that the MEK has been organizing the nationwide uprisings. He said the MEK has been calling for demonstrations in their media outlets for months.
In December and January, more than 140 cities in Iran saw massive and unprecedented protests against the clerical rulers. Since then, farmers, religious minorities, truck drivers, taxi drivers, students, and laborers have increased their protests against the regime, especially as the economy deteriorates substantially.
In her speech, Rajavi said the continuing protests and strikes over the past several months will ultimately lead to the overthrow of Tehran’s clerical rulers.
US President Donald Trump’s legal adviser and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was also on hand to speak at the international event. Giuliani said: “This president does not intend to turn his back on freedom fighters,” Giuliani said. “We have an alternative” in the form of the NCRI that respects human rights, democracy, women’s rights, and a non-nuclear Iran. “That’s what Madame Rajavi stands for.”Bill Richardson, former governor and US ambassador to the United Nations, said: “The end (of the mullahs) is near. What you’re seeing is enormous change.”He addressed the cheering crowd and said: “You are the source of change in Iran, the young people, the women, the resistance. Is there an alternative to the mullahs? Yes, it’s the resistance, the MEK, Mrs. Rajavi.”In December and January, more than 140 cities in Iran saw massive and unprecedented protests against the clerical rulers.
The former Democratic senator said: “We stand here as Democrats and Republication, liberals and conservatives, we may have our differences, but listen to my voice in Tehran, make no mistake, everyone of us stands behind Donald Trump in seeing the destruction of the mullahs to the end.”
Mayor Giuliani said the protests in Iran do not take place spontaneously. “Protests are happening because they’re being coordinated (unlike 2009) by many of our people in Albania [where MEK members reside], many of our people here and around the world.” He added: “This woman will be the face of a new moderate liberated Iran.”
Former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper said: “The executioners work relentlessly” in Iran. “The protests in the streets rise in the streets and they will rise until the regime is gone.”Former Canadian foreign minister John Baird said: “Today, we join Madame Rajavi, a woman of great courage and great determination.”Other speakers and attendees included a former FBI director, a former US attorney general, two former French foreign ministers, a former Italian foreign minister, diplomats, and parliamentarians from around the world.Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the US House of Representatives, said: “Our goal is not to renegotiate. Our goal is to have a free democratic Iran that respects the right of every individual.” The NCRI is a democratic coalition of Iranian opposition groups. The organization has a mandate to transition power peacefully to the Iranian people following the toppling of the current regime.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh

Trump's Firesale of U.S. Interests to Appease Putin Will Backfire on Israel
عرض ترامب للبيع الرخيص والعاجل لاسترضاء بوتين سوف يأتي بنتائج عكسية على إسرائيل

Daniel B. Shapiro/Haaretz/July 01/18
Israelis focused on the Iranian threat in Syria can be forgiven for placing hope in the path Trump is beating to the Helsinki summit. But that's wishful, if not delusional, thinking.
If you believe in diplomacy as a means to solve, or at least mitigate problems, it generally means welcoming even eyes-wide-open diplomacy conducted with adversaries.
So it is perfectly natural for the President of the United States to meet with the President of Russia, even one as troublesome and cynical as Vladimir Putin. Presidents from Eisenhower to George H.W. Bush met with Soviet leaders throughout the Cold War.
But what is not natural at all is the degree to which both sides seem to want to use such a summit to serve Russian interests.
Administration spokespeople, in discussing President Donald Trump’s upcoming meeting with President Putin in Helsinki, have offered scant indication of what Trump wants to achieve from this summit, what interests of the United States he seeks to advance. He wants a "good relationship" with Putin, we are told.
Meanwhile, it is perfectly clear what interests of Russia Putin aims to advance.
First, he wants to ease pressure and sanctions on Russia imposed in response to its aggression against Ukraine.
And sure enough, at the G-7 summit in Canada last month, Trump advocated including Russia in the gathering, and went so far as to justify Russia’s illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula - because there are many Russian speakers there. In recent days, he has refused to rule out U.S. recognition of Russia’s land grab.
Second, Putin seeks to weaken the Western alliance and take steps toward breaking up a united Europe, both of which he perceives as a threat and challenge to Russia. These are longstanding Russian goals.
As if on cue, as Trump prepares to attend the NATO summit ahead of his meeting with Putin, he lobs nearly daily verbal assaults at the United States’ closest allies.
He has downplayed NATO’s value and even floated the outlandish notion that the United States should withdraw from the alliance. Moreover, after cheering on Brexit he has encouraged other nations to leave the European Union, reversing decades of American strategy to support a united Europe as a source of stability on the continent. To top it off, he launched a needless trade war, imposing tariffs against our European and Canadian trading partners.
Third, Putin hopes the world will forget, or overlook, that Russia interfered in the U.S. elections in 2016.
Trump’s response? He testifies on Twitter that "Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!" He seems to believe Putin’s claims more than the unanimous conclusions of America’s intelligence agencies. And his administration is doing next to nothing to prevent more Russian intervention in the 2018 elections.
Finally, Putin wants the world to accept that the genocidal Assad regime has returned to stability and is restoring its rule over the vast majority of Syrian territory.
And Trump has made clear, despite the objections of his advisers, that he wants U.S. forces to leave Syria, the sooner the better. Already, the United States has sent messages to the moderate opposition groups in southern Syria that they should no longer count on American assistance, and that they resist Assad’s forces at their own risk. Predictably, Russian airstrikes are wiping them out.
But wait. Maybe here, at least, we can detect a U.S. interest, and even an Israeli one, that could be served by this summit.
There are suggestions that Russia can be convinced to push Iran out of Syria, or at least substantially limit its military presence. If that were to take place, it could dramatically reduce the risk posed to Israel from Iranian missiles, drones, and Shia militia based in Syria.
Such an arrangement could be accompanied by Russian guarantees of Israeli freedom of action against Iranian, or other, threats in Syria, provided no Russian troops are harmed and the Assad regime is not put at risk.
For three years, thanks to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s skillful diplomacy with Putin and the IDF’s precise operations, Israel has, with U.S. support under both Obama and Trump, successfully targeted Iranian weapons and forces in Syria - while avoiding Russian blowback that could constrain Israel’s ability to strike.
If he secures such understandings, Trump would be able to explain his decision to accommodate Russia in Europe and withdraw U.S. troops from Syria as a win: he ends a U.S. military engagement in the Middle East and Iran’s regional ambitions are rolled back, protecting Israel from a clear and present danger.
It sounds too good to be true. It is.
Two problems: First, the cost. Such a deal, even if it held, would come at unimaginable harm to U.S. interests in Europe. More than one senior Israeli official has suggested to me that the United States should, in effect, "trade Ukraine for Syria": look the other way at Russia’s takeover of portions of Ukraine as the price for Russia expelling Iran from Syria. I can understand why Israelis, focused on regional dynamics and the threats they face, would embrace such a calculus.
But I cannot imagine any U.S. strategist willingly giving Russia a free hand in Eastern and Central Europe, even for the noble cause of constraining Iran. Unless that "strategist" seeks to dismantle the Western alliance. It won’t stop with Ukraine. Without the alliance that has anchored European security for 70 years, dark days could lie ahead for the Baltic states and others Putin seeks to dominate. Even Israelis should have pause if the price of removing Iran from Syria is the dismantlement of NATO.
Second, the reliability. The "deal" imagined here leaves Russia as the sole actor determining what is allowed to take place in Syria. If it serves Putin’s interests for now to constrain Iran, he will do so. And if he recalculates his interests - if he sees he could gain further regional advantage by being more permissive to Iranian ambitions - nothing would stop him. Israel will still be able to act in its own self-defense.
But the strategic gains of an Iranian rollback are dependent on a single factor: Putin’s word. Who wants to base any strategy on putting trust in that?
Securing Russia’s commitment to expel Iran from Syria is a worthy goal. Sacrificing decades-old U.S. interests is not the way to get it.
Israelis focused on the Iranian threat can be forgiven for placing hope in the path Trump is beating to Helsinki. But the course he is on will produce only one winner: Russia.
And Netanyahu, an admirer of Churchill, would be wise to remember his words: "An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last."
*Daniel B. Shapiro is Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. He served as U.S. Ambassador to Israel, and Senior Director for the Middle East and North Africa, in the Obama Administration. Twitter: @DanielBShapiro