June 01/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet
Letter to the Hebrews 12/12-21: "Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and through it many become defiled. See to it that no one becomes like Esau, an immoral and godless person, who sold his birthright for a single meal.You know that later, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, even though he sought the blessing with tears. You have not come to something that can be touched, a blazing fire, and darkness, and gloom, and a tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that not another word be spoken to them. (For they could not endure the order that was given, ‘If even an animal touches the mountain, it shall be stoned to death.’Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, ‘I tremble with fear.’)

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on June 01/18
Assad’s land grab has Lebanese allies worried/Makram Rabah/Al Jumhuriya/May 31/18
Canada responds to U.S. steel, aluminum tariffs with countermeasures of its own/Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press/May 31/18
Do ‘we die slowly or quickly?’ Gazans ask as war with Israel looms/Arab News/May 31/18/
Report: Iranian Forces, Hezbollah Prepare To Leave Southern Syria/Jerusalem Post/May 31/18
Ex-Israeli spy chief: Netanyahu planned Iran strike in 2011/Jerusalem Post/May 31/18
UK "Justice": "Silencing the Silencing"/Bruce Bawer/Gatestone Institute/May 31/18
EU and Palestinian Illegal "Facts on the Ground"/Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/May 31/18
After Elections, What Kind of Government for What Lebanon/Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al Awsat/May 31/18
Hodeidah: Houthis’ Last Terminal/Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al Awsat/May 31/18
Trump Is Making Trade Less Fair/Michael Schuman/Bloomberg/May 31/18
The US has started confronting IRGC’s Quds Brigade/Saleh Hamid/ Al 31/ 2018
Iran offers Yemen up for negotiation/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/May 31/18
Why is it difficult for the Iranian regime to survive/Hazem Saghieh/Al Arabiya/May 31/18
Four countries combating /Mohammed Al-Hammadi/Al Arabiya/May 31/18
Putin does not like the sight of Russian coffins/Ghassan Charbel/Al Arabiya/May 31/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on June 01/18
Juge Refers Hajj, Ghabash to Military Court
Ibrahim: Contacts Underway with Syria to Return Refugees
Mashnouq Urges Aoun’s Intervention to Curb ‘Rampant Chaos’ in Baalbek
Machnouk: government must tackle Baalbeck violence
Lebanon: Negotiations with Syrian regime ongoing to facilitate return of refugees
Lebanon working for return of thousands of Syrian refugees: security official
Sources to Asharq Al-Awsat: Hariri Demands Separate 'Ministerial Share'
Maronite Patriarch Asks the World to Encourage Syrian Refugees to Return Home
Beirut's dapper barber-on-a-bike offers curbside cuts
Public Health Ministry's preliminary water test results show no epidemic widespread in Kfaraabida
Turkish Embassy says visa requirements for Lebanese unchanged
Berri meets Hamas Movement delegation
Khoury, Dutch Ambassador discuss bilateral economic ties
Ibrahim on inspection tour to Metn new General Security Center: This post constitutes model of complementarity between civil society, state
Yacoubian tackles trash, corruption dossiers with Ambassador of Norway
Rahi meets in Paris with LF, Future and FPM representatives
Hankache: Naturalization Decree Seems to Be Part of Systematic Campaign
Nadim Gemayel: Naturalization Decree Poses a Real Threat
Assad’s land grab has Lebanese allies worried

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on June 01/18
Canada responds to U.S. steel, aluminum tariffs with countermeasures of its own
Pmpeo Plans Summit over Steak Dinner with Top North Korean Official
Moscow Demands Immediate Withdrawal of All ‘Foreign Troops’ from Southern Syria
Direct conflict between Russian, US forces ‘narrowly avoided’ Assad claims
Group claims responsibility for assassination of Assad regime officer
Assad says US must leave Syria, vows to recover SDF areas
Washington Hints at Vetoing Kuwait’s Draft Resolution that Seeks UN Protection of Palestinians
New Iraq government must overcome sectarian divide: UN
Abbas: We are Seeking to Promote the Culture of Institutions
Do ‘we die slowly or quickly?’ Gazans ask as war with Israel looms
Calm in Gaza after Egypt’s Intervention
Iraq Annuls Votes from over 1,000 Polling Stations
Yemen: Battles Around Hodeidah Airport
US Denies Reports of Deal with Turkey over YPG Withdrawal from Syria’s Manbij

Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on June 01/18
Juge Refers Hajj, Ghabash to Military Court
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 31/18/First Military Investigative Judge Riad Abu Ghaida has issued an indictment in the case involving Lieutenant Colonel Suzanne al-Hajj, prominent actor Ziad Itani, and hacker Elie Ghabash, the State-run National News Agency reported on Thursday. The indictment referred both Hajj and Ghabash to the permanent military court, while prevented the retrial of now-acquitted Itani, said NNA. On Wednesday, Abu Ghaida had released Hajj pending investigation, while charging her with "fabricating" evidence that Itani had been illegally conspiring with Israel, a judicial source had said.Lebanon, which technically remains at war with its southern neighbour, upholds a boycott of Israeli products and of contact with its nationals. Al-Hajj "was charged with fabricating the case of collaboration with Israel brought against Itani, as well as hacking websites and inventing non-existent crimes", the judicial source said. Hajj, who headed a unit in the Internal Security Forces tasked with fighting cybercrime, was detained for questioning in March over suspicions she had enlisted the help of a hacker to fabricate conversations between Itani and an Israeli woman. She remained in detention until Tuesday, and was released on the condition that she would continue to appear at the military tribunal for hearings, the source said. The charges against her are yet another chapter in the strange case. Lebanese were shocked when news broke in November that Itani had allegedly confessed to having been "tasked to monitor a group of high-level political figures" and their associates on behalf of Israel. People close to the actor said his "confession" was extracted under duress, though the authorities have denied the accusation. Lebanese authorities released him in March and simultaneously issued an arrest warrant for Hajj, who they suspected of having framed him. At the time, a source close to the investigation said Hajj had sought revenge against Itani after he shed light on her liking a controversial post on Twitter last year, after which she was demoted. Itani has shot to prominence in recent years because of a series of comedy plays on Beirut, its customs an the transformations it has undergone in recent decades. The works -- particularly "Beirut Tariq al-Jdideh", which refers to a majority-Sunni neighbourhood of the city -- have been very well-received. Before becoming an actor, Itani worked as a journalist with Lebanon's Al-Mayadeen television channel and with various regional newspapers.

Ibrahim: Contacts Underway with Syria to Return Refugees
Naharnet/May 31/18/General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim said on Thursday that contacts are in progress with the Syrian government in order to repatriate the Syrian refugees back to their homeland. “Contacts with Syrian authorities are underway in a bid to return thousands of refugees back to their homes. The issue is imminent,” said Ibrahim during the inauguration ceremony of the General Security center in Jdeideh. He also said that tens more General Security centers will be established specifically to receive Syrian nationals to alleviate the pressure on main centers. Lebanon is hosting around 1.5 Syrian refugees while its own population stood at just four million before neighboring Syria's civil war broke out in 2011, sending tens of thousands of Syrians fleeing across the border in search of safety. Lebanese politicians are divided over whether Lebanon should coordinate efforts directly with the Syrian government over the return of refugees. Prime Minister Saad Hariri stresses that Lebanon will only coordinate with the United Nations to return the refugees.

Mashnouq Urges Aoun’s Intervention to Curb ‘Rampant Chaos’ in Baalbek
Naharnet/May 31/18/Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq has urged President Michel Aoun on Thursday to hold intensive meetings with political and security officials in order to control the deteriorating security situation in the eastern Bekaa town of Baalbek. “I have asked President Michel Aoun to hold successive intensive meetings with political and security officials in order to put an end to the rampant chaos in Baalbek,” Mashnouq told reporters after the meeting. He said the situation in the city has become “unacceptable.”The meeting focusing mainly on the latest aggravating clashes in the region was held in the presence of Baalbek-Hermel governor Bachir Khodr. The National News Agency reported later during the day that a man identified by his initials as Aa.S.,aka Sniper, has fired gunshots at a store in the old market in Baalbek and efforts are underway to arrest the perpetrator. Armed clashes erupt frequently in the city in the absence of practical security measures by the Lebanese security forces and army to prevent further deterioration
Machnouk: government must tackle Baalbeck violence
The Daily Star/May. 31, 2018/BEIRUT: Caretaker Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk called Thursday for “intensive meetings” to end ongoing violent crime in eastern Lebanon’s Baalbeck-Hermel, telling reporters after a meeting in Baabda with President Michel Aoun it was time to end the “chaos.”A string of violent crimes, including a number of suspected murders, have shaken Baalbeck residents in recent months, driving local protests over the lack of security in the city. Machnouk Thursday requested from Aoun “intensive meetings on the matter, in order to solve the chaos going on in Baalbeck.”“The security situation in Baalbeck is unacceptable,” Machnouk said, adding that Aoun was set to consult with Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri on the issue upon his return from Saudi Arabia in the coming days. Machnouk’s comments Thursday come after the Higher Defense Council decided at a meeting in Baabda Palace earlier this month to take “necessary security measures” to stem violent crime in Baalbeck, which is located 10 km west of the Syrian border. Attendees, including President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Saad Hariri, discussed “the security situation in Bekaa, particularly the Baalbeck area,” council head Maj. Gen. Saadallah Hammad was quoted as saying in a statement following the meeting.
Lebanon: Negotiations with Syrian regime ongoing to facilitate return of refugees
Annahar Staff /May 31/18
Aoun’s comments came during his meeting with U.S House representatives Darrell Issa and Stephen Lynch at the Baabda Presidential Palace to ask for the western power’s “continued support in helping return those displace to areas deemed safe.”
BEIRUT: The head of Lebanon’s General Security Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim announced Thursday that communications with Syrian authorities to facilitate the return of Syrian refugees are ongoing, a day after President Michel Aoun reiterated to U.S officials that their return should not be tied to a broader resolution to the conflict.  Aoun’s comments came during his meeting with U.S House representatives Darrell Issa and Stephen Lynch at the Baabda Presidential Palace to ask for the western power’s “continued support in helping return those displace to areas deemed safe.” Last month, the Syrian government issued law 10, which potentially confiscates the homes, properties and lands of thousands of refugees. The law, enacted in April, stipulates that Syrians must register their properties within 30 days or risk having their homes reappropriated once a new development zone has been designated. Under the new rules, Syrians need to provide the necessary documents to local administrators or have relatives do so on their behalf, with experts warning that the tight deadline would complicate the return of refugees who might have nothing left to return to. U.S ambassador Elizabeth Richard was also in attendance, with talks touching on regional and national developments.  Aoun maintained that negotiations with the United Nations are ongoing to put an “end to Israeli aggression along the southern border,” adding that negotiations would continue until “a desired outcome is reached.” “Lebanon has always adhered to U.N resolution 1701 while Israel continues to breach the agreement.”Touching on Lebanon’s recent parliamentary elections, which yielded a sizable win for Hezbollah and its allies, Aoun told those gathered that he’s “confident Prime Minister Saad Hariri can put together a national unity Cabinet to preserve the country’s stability.” In a separate meeting with Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouq, Aoun “promised to restore peace and stability in Baalbek” after weeks of drug-related clashes that have descended the region into chaos.

Lebanon working for return of thousands of Syrian refugees: security official
BEIRUT (Reuters)/May 31/18/Lebanon is working with Damascus for the return of thousands of refugees who want to go back to Syria, a Lebanese official said on Thursday.
As the Syrian army backed by Iran and Russia has recovered territory, Lebanon’s president and other politicians have called for refugees to go back to “secure areas” before a deal to end the war - at odds with the international view that it is not yet safe. Lebanon hosts around 1 million registered Syrian refugees according to the United Nations, or roughly a quarter of the population, who have fled the war in neighboring Syria since 2011. The government puts the number at 1.5 million. “There are contacts with the Syrian authorities about thousands of Syrians who want to return to Syria,” Major General Abbas Ibrahim, a top Lebanese state figure and the head of the General Security agency, told reporters on Thursday. “The stay of Syrians in Lebanon will not go on for a long time. There is intensive work by the political authority.”He did not give a time frame for returns, but suggested at least some would take place soon.
UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency, said it was “aware of several return movements of Syrian refugees being planned to Syria”. “UNHCR is in regular contact with the General Directorate of the General Security on this issue,” it said in an emailed statement in response to a question from Reuters, referring to a Lebanese security agency. In April, several hundred refugees were bussed back to Syria from the Shebaa area of southern Lebanon in an operation overseen by General Security in coordination with Damascus. UNHCR, in a statement at the time, said it was not involved in organizing “these returns or other returns at this point, considering the prevailing humanitarian and security situation in Syria”.A conference on Syria hosted by the European Union and co-chaired by the United Nations in April said conditions for returns were not yet fulfilled, and that present conditions were not conducive for voluntary repatriation in safety and dignity. President Michel Aoun has called the crisis an existential danger to Lebanon, reflecting a view that the presence of the mainly Sunni Syrian refugees will upend the balance between Lebanese Christians, Sunni Muslims, Shi’ite Muslims and other sectarian groups. Saad al-Hariri, who is prime minister of the outgoing Lebanese government and has been designated to form the next one, has said Lebanon is against forced returns of refugees. Aoun has said that “many” areas of Syria are now secure, though he has also said the principle of voluntary return must be respected. Lebanon’s General Security was also setting up 10 special centers where Syrians could legalize their status, Ibrahim said. UNHCR said it was working closely with General Security to equip centers to process “the legal stay of refugees in the country”.Reporting by Tom Perry, Laila Bassam and Angus McDowall; Editing by Alison Williams/Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Sources to Asharq Al-Awsat: Hariri Demands Separate 'Ministerial Share'
Beirut - Caroline Akoum/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 31 May, 2018/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri requested a ministerial share separate from that of his Mustaqbal Movement, alike President Michel Aoun, who is demanding to have a ministerial share separate from his allied bloc, the Strong Lebanon, sources close to the PM said. Echoing voices that support the customarily request of presidents to have a separate ministerial share in any cabinet based on norms followed since the Taef Accord, those sources said that not receiving a separate number of portfolios in previous cabinets does not mean that Hariri should not demand his own share now. “On the contrary, Aoun and Hariri should each receive three portfolios instead of the President having five ministers,” the sources said. Contradictory reactions surged on Wednesday concerning Hariri’s new proposal. Sources close to the Lebanese Presidency said that Aoun wasn’t yet officially informed about the PM’s suggestion, saying the the President does not oppose it. However, Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) deputy Mario Aoun described the proposal as the “start of chaos.” Hariri’s sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that such a request should not embarrass the President, adding there “will be no recourse to customary practices at the expense of the PM or the President.”The sources said, “President Aoun’s request to have a ministerial share separate from the Strong Lebanon bloc is a demand not stipulated in the Constitution. Therefore, it is necessary that Hariri also gets a share separate from his Mustaqbal Movement, in respect to the country’s balance of power.” Last Monday, Hariri ended consultations in Parliament with the parliamentary blocs and MPs to discuss the form of his new government. The sources denied that the two shares of the President and the PM would negatively affect on the distribution of portfolios among parliamentary blocs. “Instead of giving five ministers to the President, Aoun could receive three portfolios and PM Hariri another three,” the sources said. At the Constitutional level, Dr. Paul Morcos, the head of Justicia legal organization told Asharq Al-Awsat there are no constitutional texts allocating a ministerial share to any reference or parliamentary bloc.Therefore, he said, Hariri and Aoun have no rights to demand such shares.

Maronite Patriarch Asks the World to Encourage Syrian Refugees to Return Home
Paris - Michel Abu Najm/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 31 May, 2018/Maronite Patriarch Bshara Al-Rai will return to Lebanon on Thursday following an official visit to France, where he met with President Emmanuel Macron and called for encouraging the Syrian refugees to return to their homeland. The issue of refugees was one of the main topics addressed by Rai with French officials, based on the Lebanese people’s fear of an international “desire” to keep the displaced persons in their hosting countries. The Maronite patriarch told Asharq Al-Awsat that when international conferences on Syrian displaced and refugees “insist on integrating them into the communities in which they are located, and facilitating their entry into the labor market, this indicates a tendency to keep them where they are,” describing such “insistence” as a threat to the Lebanese demographic balance. In a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Rai said that Lebanon was under the burden of the huge number of refugees, warning that their continued presence in Lebanon would change the country’s demographic structure. In figures, the patriarch said that one third of the Lebanese people lived below the poverty line. In addition, 60 percent of Syrian displaced, according to specialized international agencies, suffered from the same situation. Therefore, the patriarch called for solutions to the problem of the refugees “to save Lebanon”, so that the Lebanese “do not find themselves strangers in their homeland” and to preserve the country as a “message” to the Arab and Islamic worlds. Rai underlined his rejection of two statements: the first is calling for a “forced” return of displaced and refugees, and the second is the commitment to their voluntary return. In this regard, he called on French officials to “encourage the Syrians” to return to areas that have become safe in Syria, and not to link their departure to a political solution and reconstruction.
Beirut's dapper barber-on-a-bike offers curbside cuts
AFP,/Beirut Thursday, 31 May 2018/Dressed in an old straw hat and navy suspenders, Abo Tawila pedals around a southern district of Beirut. A rare sight in modern-day Lebanon, the young barber-on-a-bike is looking for his next customer.Everything he needs for a trim on the pavement is in a handmade trunk attached to the back of his pushbike: scissors, combs, electric razors and brushes. "It's a beautiful idea because it's a really old one," says the dapper 18-year-old as he makes his way through the buzzing district of Burj al-Barajneh. His real name is Mohammad Khaled Jahjah, but he prefers the name Abo Tawila -- "the Tall One" in Arabic. "People like this, and I love everything old. If I ever have the chance to open a barbershop, it'll be a vintage one," he says. Mobile barbers were once ubiquitous in Beirut, but regular salons have since become more popular. Abo Tawila works in both, spending most of his day in a barbershop before hitting the tarmac on his bike.Some stop him for a haircut, but others hail him down to catch up or introduce themselves. "I used to love watching the barber near my parent's house. I'd come back from school, drop off my backpack, and go to his shop," Abo Tawila says. "He told me to come to the salon after school if I like this job. But I decided to leave school altogether to work with him. He taught me the trade and introduced people to me."
Loyal to his bicycle
The handsome hairdresser has become something of a celebrity in southern Beirut. He is slender, stylishly dressed, and has a sharp wit. "I'm so happy he's here," says Abo Saeed, one of his favourite curbside customers. "He's talented and always available. When I have some time, I call him and he comes immediately, so I never have to leave work to go to the barber," he tells AFP. "On top of all of that, he reminds us of the barbers of the old days." Abo Tawila wakes up at 9:00am every day, puts together an outfit and goes down to the coffee shop near his house before beginning his day at the salon.In his free time or when his shift is done, he heads out on his bike to find customers, grooming between five and 30 people a day. "The situation changes depending on the day," he says. "There's not much work now during Ramadan, because people are waiting for Eid", the feast which marks the end of the Islamic fasting month and triggers a flurry of trade. "Before Eid, we have three days where we don't sleep from all the customers coming in," he says. While he dreams of opening his own shop, Abo Tawila insists he'll stay loyal to his bike. "If I open a salon, I'll still keep it, because that's what got me here," he says.

Public Health Ministry's preliminary water test results show no epidemic widespread in Kfaraabida

Thu 31 May 2018/NNA - The preliminary test results conducted by the Ministry of Health on the water in the town of Kfarabida showed that there was neither epidemic widespread in the town nor pollution in its waters. The state of utter panic witnessed in the northern town of Kfaraabida after the doubtful death of an elderly man and then an elderly woman's admitted to hospital of the same symptoms, was merely a public commotion caused by baseless info on social networking sites. Kfaraabida Municipality head, Tannous Feghali, stressed that "the water of the town is clean, sound and free of contaminants." He stressed that there is no need for panic in the town. District Doctor, Wissam Saadeh, who is following up on the dossier, said: "The patient's condition began to improve after 4 days of the necessary medication." He also noted, "Despite the similarity of the medical symptoms of the deceased person and the patient, we can not be sure that there is a correlation between the two cases until now."It is worth mentioning that a meeting was held between the town's dignitaries and health observers who visited the patient at the hospital as well.

Turkish Embassy says visa requirements for Lebanese unchanged
Thu 31 May 2018/NNA - The Turkish Embassy in Beirut indicated in a statement on Thursday, that no change will be made to the visa requirements for the Lebanese citizens wishing to travel to Turkey for tourism or transit passage, as of today. "As of today, there is no change in the visa granting system for the Lebanese citizens. There is no need for a visa for those wishing to travel to Turkey for tourism or transit passage," the statement read.

Berri meets Hamas Movement delegation
Thu 31 May 2018/NNA - House Speaker, Nabih Berri, on Thursday afternoon received at his in Tineh residence a received a delegation from the Palestinian "Hamas" Movement, led by Politburo member, head of Arab and Islamic Relations, Izzat al-Risheq. The delegation congratulated Speaker Berri on the accomplishment of the recent parliamentary elections. They also felicitated the Speaker on his re-election as head of the legislative council. Speaking on emerging, Al-Risheq hailed Speaker Berri's significant role as a "crucial need to Lebanon, the Palestinians and the Arabs alike." He said that talks covered the various issues related to the Palestinian situation, including the recent Israeli escalation in Gaza strip and the present conditions of Palestinians in Lebanon. He hoped that laws to grant humanitarian and civil rights to Palestinians in Lebanon would be worked out. Al-Risheq wished Lebanon stability, progress and wellbeing.

Khoury, Dutch Ambassador discuss bilateral economic ties

Thu 31 May 2018/NNA - Caretaker Minister of Economy and Trade, Raed Khaoury, on Thursday held talks with Dutch Ambassador Jan Waltmans, over the means to bolster the bilateral economic cooperation between Lebanon and the Netherlands. Both agreed to form a joint committee to devise a plan on developing partnership and investments. Ibrahim on inspection tour to Metn new General Security Center: This post constitutes model of complementarity between civil society, state

Ibrahim on inspection tour to Metn new General Security Center: This post constitutes model of complementarity between civil society, state
Thu 31 May 2018/ NNA - General Security chief, Abbas Ibrahim, on Thursday held an inspection tour amongst the various sections of the new Metn Regional General Security Center in Jdeideh. Jdeideh Municipality head, Antoine Gebara, municipal and mayoral dignitaries as well as General Security officers were present. Speaking in the wake of the inspection tour, Major General Ibrahim deemed the center as an exemplary model of complementarity between civil society and the state. Maj. Gen. Ibrahim had firsthand look at the facilities provided by the Center to citizens. "This Center is part of a strategic plan devised ed by the General Directorate of General Security to improve the performance of the administration in the Directorate," Ibrahim corroborated. Ibrahim vowed that the Center is built for the service of the Lebanese. On the displaced Syrians' issue, Ibrahim said that the General Security established centers special for the Syrians in Lebanon in order to facilitate their transactions and regulate their administrative and security conditions in the country and thus to legalize their presence in the country. "We are planning to set up ten additional centers exclusive for the Syrians throughout the Lebanese territories so as to ease pressure on already existing General security centers," Ibrahim said. The Major General emphasized that legalizing the presence of the displaced Syrians' in Lebanon does not mean that their stay will be prolonged.

Yacoubian tackles trash, corruption dossiers with Ambassador of Norway
Thu 31 May 2018/NNA - MP Paula Yacoubian on Thursday welcomed at her House of Parliament office Norwegian Ambassador to Lebanon, Lynn Natasha Lindh. The meeting had been an occasion to discuss the best means to combat corruption and resolve the trash crisis in Lebanon in cooperation with the European Union. For her part, Yacoubian stressed the paramount importance of halting acts of dumping wastes in the sea, and to oblige those involved to opt for sanitary landfills, pending a sustainable solution that ends this crisis.

Rahi meets in Paris with LF, Future and FPM representatives
Thu 31 May 2018/NNA - Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Mar Bechara Boutros Rahi received at his residence in Paris, in the context of his official and pastoral visit to the French capital, representatives of the Lebanese Forces party, the Future Movement and the Free Patriotic Movement. The delegation discussed with Rahi the outcomes of his visit and his meetings with the French officials, the general situation in Lebanon, especially after the parliamentary elections, in addition to the issue of Syrian refugees, the suffering of Lebanon and the solutions on the table.

Hankache: Naturalization Decree Seems to Be Part of Systematic Campaign 31st May 2018/Kataeb MP Elias Hankache on Thursday cast doubt over the subsequent "coincidences" that occured over the past period, deeming them as part of systematic campaign to impose the naturalization of refugees in Lebanon. "It is as if there is a methodical thing taking place with all the concidences that have been accumulating lately, starting with the Article 49 of the state budget, Syria's property law number 10 and now the naturalization decree that everyone has been talking about," Hankache told MTV channel. Hankache noted that the international community is not showing any willingness to get the Syrians back to their country, demanding the Lebanese state to provide clarifications regarding the scandalous naturalization decree.

Nadim Gemayel: Naturalization Decree Poses a Real Threat 31st May 2018/Kataeb MP Nadim Gemayel lashed out at the plan to ink a decree that grants Lebanese citizenship to several Palestinian and Syrian nationals, deeming it as a real threat that cannot be tolerated. "The naturalization decree poses a real threat as it leads to sectarian imbalance in the country; usually such a move is done at the end of a president's term," Gemayel told the MTV website on Thursday. "It is totally unacceptable to have naturalization as a scandalous business to make up for electoral expenditures as well as other spendings."Gemayel stressed the need to provide clarifications and detailed information on the identities of those who will be granted citizenship, affirming that this issue will not go unnoticed. "We will considering challenging this decree before the Shura Council once it is inked and published in the official Gazette," he said. Earlier on Wednesday, Gemayel warned that said law paves way for a large-scale naturalization scheme. "This issue is utterly rejected," Gemayel wrote on Twitter. The decree, as shown in the pictures posted by MP Gemayel, includes around at least 52 foreign nationals, including Syrians, Palestinians, apatrides, Jordanians and others.

Assad’s land grab has Lebanese allies worried
مصادرة الأسد لممتلكات السوريين اللاجئين خارج سوريا طبقاً للقانون رقم 10 تقلق خلفاءه في لبنان

Makram Rabah/Al Jumhuriya/May 31/18
For years, the Syrian regime’s allies in Lebanon have spread crackpot conspiracy theories about plots to prevent the country’s more than 1 million refugees returning. Now they belatedly realize Assad’s own actions may turn their scarecrow into reality.
Since the start of the Syrian revolution in 2011, the Bashar al-Assad regime has framed all of its actions, including the countless heinous massacres it has committed, as typical of a so-called legitimately-elected state fighting both Islamic terrorism as well as Western hegemony.
In the past, Assad, in an act of complete denial, launched an international media campaign to promote tourism in Syria at a time when whole cities were under siege, their populations bombed and starved to death by the regime and its Iranian allies. This business-as-usual approach is not, however, merely a mental disorder, but rather a tactic meticulously employed by the regime to advance its goals; the infamous Law No. 10 passed recently by the Syrian parliament being a case in point.
Signed into effect by Bashar al-Assad himself on April 2nd, this law ostensibly claims to be a first step towards the reconstruction of areas destroyed by the conflict, requiring landowners to present themselves with the required deeds to prove ownership. Failure to execute the aforementioned provisions would result in the confiscation of the property by the Syrian government, which will incorporate them into the master reconstruction plan.
Naturally, Law No. 10 will result in the expropriation of these properties, as many of their owners; now refugees both inside and outside Syria; originally fled because of their fear of governmental reprisal, making their return within the thirty-day deadline highly unlikely. This illegal appropriation of land doesn’t only confirm earlier allegations against Assad of sectarian demographic engineering, but also has direct irreparable repercussions on Syrian refugees’ right of return, particularly for the 1.2 million of them who have called Lebanon their temporary home.
Repeatedly, the Assad regime has used ethnic cleansing, including by means of chemical weapons attacks and demographic transfers, not only to subdue the opposition, but also to create a safe zone that stretches from Damascus through Homs all the way to the Alawite-dominated coast. It happens that the majority of the refugees in Lebanon hail from areas Assad wishes to keep deserted, or alternatively occupied by regime loyalists, and here is where Law No. 10 is pertinent.
On a moral level, there is nothing atypical in Assad’s pursuit of Law No. 10 and its ramifications. Politically, however, one peculiar feature of it is the burden it will place on Assad’s own allies in Lebanon, particularly President Michel Aoun and his son-in-law Gebran Bassil, Lebanon’s Foreign Minister and head of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM). Both Aoun and Bassil have obsessively exploited the refugee crisis as a scare tactic to mobilize their Christian constituency by hyping a fictitious threat of refugee naturalization, something that would greatly disrupt Lebanon’s sensitive sectarian setup.
Ironically, Bassil has realized perhaps a bit too late that Law No. 10 has transformed his naturalization scarecrow into a reality. Contrary to what Assad claims, the law seals the fate of Lebanon’s Syrian refugees who now, like their Palestinian counterparts, have no land to return to; and will have to wait for a regional settlement, one that with the passage of time seems more and more far-fetched.
Bassil, having realized the severity of the situation, responded on Saturday by dispatching letters to both his Syrian counterpart, Walid al-Muallim, and the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, protesting this law and demanding that the Syrian state and the international community protect the refugees’ property in order to facilitate their return. Bassil’s gentle tone in addressing the Syrian regime is particularly curious, as it diverges from his previously strident rhetoric and attacks against the West and some of the Gulf States, which Bassil and his allies accused of plotting to naturalize the Syrian and Palestinian refugees. In the past few years, Bassil and Aoun have insistently demanded an immediate return of refugees after subjectively deeming the hostilities in Syria were finally over. Bassil’s plot to literally deport these refugees has hit a snag with Law No. 10, as the majority of Syrian refugees in Lebanon will soon become landless and perhaps eventually stateless.
Complicating matters further is the fact the Lebanese state and its successive governments have failed to muster up a viable plan to address this grave humanitarian crisis. Assad and Iran’s allies in Lebanon, including Bassil, preferred to continue to play the Assad regime blame game and claim that these refugees were not the victims of state terrorism but rather of the opposition groups, a myth that has finally been shattered by Law No. 10.ny of Assad’s chemical attacks against his people took place, or that the demands of the thousands who took to the streets in 2011 for political reform were sincere.
Ultimately, Law No. 10 does not only further expose Assad for the true criminal he really is, but it also shines a bright light on his many Lebanese accomplices who will stop at nothing to become president, even if it comes at the expense of both the Lebanese and their 1.2 million Syrian guests.
Many of Assad’s Lebanese mouthpieces and lackeys have tried to downplay Law No. 10 as a natural progression of the war and the start of reconstruction, a phase they claim will bring fruitful business opportunities for the Lebanese economy. Coincidentally, in the past these same apologists have denied that a
**Makram Rabah is a lecturer at the American University of Beirut's Department of History, and at the Lebanese American University. He is the author of A Campus at War: Student Politics at the American University of Beirut, 1967-1975. He tweets @makramrabah.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on June 01/18
Canada responds to U.S. steel, aluminum tariffs with countermeasures of its own
Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press/May 31/18
WASHINGTON — Canada is imposing dollar-for-dollar tariff "countermeasures" on up to $16.6 billion worth of U.S. imports in response to the American decision to make good on its threat of similar tariffs against Canadian-made steel and aluminum.The tariffs, which apply to a long list of U.S. products that includes everything from flat-rolled steel to playing cards and felt-tipped pens, will go into effect July 1, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told a news conference Thursday."This is $16.6 billion of retaliation," Freeland said.
"This is the strongest trade action Canada has taken in the post-war era. This is a very strong response, it is a proportionate response, it is perfectly reciprocal. This is a very strong Canadian action in response to a very bad U.S. decision." Freeland made the announcement alongside Prime Minister Justin Trudeau following word from the White House that the U.S. will slap tariffs on Canadian, Mexican and European Union steel and aluminium as of midnight Thursday night. She called the U.S. measures illegal and counterproductive, and both she and Trudeau expressed how hard it is to imagine how Canada could ever be a national-security threat to an ally as close and important as the United States. "That Canada could be considered a national-security threat to the United States is inconceivable," said Trudeau, adding that the people of the U.S. are not Canada's target , and that the federal government would far prefer that its hand not be forced. Canada, Mexico and Europe had been exempted from import duties of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum when they were first imposed in March, but those exemptions will expire as scheduled on Friday. "The government of Canada is confident that shared values, geography and common interests will ultimately overcome protectionism," Trudeau said.
"We will always protect Canadian workers and Canadian interests."
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross confirmed Thursday that the United States would end the temporary exemption on Canadian, Mexican and European Union steel and aluminum as of midnight, as scheduled. That means that President Donald Trump will be face to face with a number of leaders who have taken retaliatory action against the U.S. when he makes his closely watched Canadian debut at the G7 next week in Quebec. While the tariffs have had "major, positive effects" on industry jobs and workers, "the Trump Administration’s actions underscore its commitment to good-faith negotiations with our allies to enhance our national security while supporting American workers," the White House said in a statement. Canada, Mexico and Europe had been exempted until June 1 from import duties of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminum when they were first imposed in March. Barring an 11th-hour reprieve, those exemptions will expire as scheduled. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, campaigning in advance of the June 7 provincial election, savaged the U.S. president as she called the tariff measure short-sighted and urged Trudeau "to take the strongest retaliation possible to protect our workers" and industry.
"I think that we've all had just about enough of Donald Trump.... He doesn't seem to get that his bluster and his bullying are costing people real jobs — in his own country, in Canada and in Ontario," Wynne said. "I really believe that now the time for talk is done. Donald Trump is a bully and the only way to deal with a bully is to stand up and push back and we have to do that." During a conference call early Thursday, Ross shrugged off questions about the U.S. facing possible retaliation, or whether the move would negatively affect the G7 meeting. And he said that while he was looking forward to continuing negotiations, the U.S. is making its decision on national security grounds — a justification Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has dismissed as absurd. In the case of Canada and Mexico, Ross said the decision was based on a lack of progress in the ongoing talks to update the North American Free Trade Agreement. "As to Canada, Mexico, you will recall that the reason for the deferral had been pending the outcome of the NAFTA talks," he said.
"Those talks are taking longer than we had hoped. There is no longer a very precise date when they may be concluded" so they were added to the tariff list, he said. If Canada and Mexico choose to take retaliatory measures, it will not affect the ability to keep renegotiating NAFTA as a separate track, he added.
"If any of these parties does retaliate, that does not mean that there cannot be continuing negotiations," Ross said. "They're not mutually exclusive behaviours."The long-threatened tactic is sure to cast a pall over the G7, with some observers saying a G6-plus-one scenario is already shaping up, with Trump as the outlier. Ross played down the divisions. "There are periodic disagreements between any two countries on any given set of topics. That doesn't necessarily mean that it derails other discussions at all," he said. "It all depends on how the various parties react to the circumstances." European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who will be at the G7 table with the seven other country leaders, expressed strong opposition to Thursday's decision. "The EU believes these unilateral U.S. tariffs are unjustified and at odds with World Trade Organization rules. This is protectionism, pure and simple." Trump had been widely expected to impose tariffs on European steel and aluminum imports after failing to win concessions from the European Union. Canada and its European allies have spent recent days making a concerted effort to head off the move. Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron made their cases separately Wednesday to dissuade Trump, who is using a national-security clause in U.S. trade law to justify the move. Trudeau and Macron will meet next week in Ottawa before the G7 to talk strategy.
Pmpeo Plans Summit over Steak Dinner with Top North Korean Official
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 31/18/US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and a top North Korean official met in New York on Wednesday over a steak dinner to try to salvage next month's summit between the North Korean and US leaders. Kim Yong Chol, considered the right-hand man of leader Kim Jong Un, was the most senior North Korean official to visit the United States in 18 years. Pyongyang's envoy joined Pompeo at the apartment of a US diplomat on Manhattan's East side for the evening meal that lasted about an hour and a half. Two more meetings are scheduled for Thursday.
Asked about the working dinner, Pompeo told reporters afterwards: "It was great". "Good working dinner with Kim Yong Chol in New York tonight," he later tweeted. "Steak, corn, and cheese on the menu."It was the third meeting between the two officials who are working to finalize planning for a June 12 summit designed to end a nuclear standoff that once threatened to plunge Korea back into war.
"They are meeting to see what needs to be done in the two weeks that remain," a senior US official said. The United States wants North Korea to agree to "complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization" of the Korean peninsula.
US and North Korean envoys have also been meeting in Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, and an American team is in Singapore to make logistical arrangements for the rapidly planned meeting. - Trump to decide on summit -Earlier this month, President Donald Trump suddenly announced a cancellation of the summit after North Korea issued a sharp rebuke of what it saw as threatening language from the US side, and Washington has warned talks could be postponed if Kim is not serious about disarmament. "Between now and if we're going to have a summit, they're going to have to make clear what they're willing to do," said the official. The decision to hold the summit "is 100 percent in the hands of the president," he added.
The State Department released photos of a smiling Pompeo shaking hands with Kim Yong Chol, pointing out New York landmarks to him by a window and toasting his guests. The menu featured burrata salad, filet mignon with corn puree, blanched celeriac and pan-wilted spinach. There was homemade vanilla ice cream for dessert. Pompeo has scheduled a news conference on Thursday, at the end of his meetings with Kim. Also on Thursday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is due to travel to North Korea to discuss Pyongyang's nuclear program. Pompeo and Lavrov spoke by telephone for the first time Wednesday. Pompeo called his South Korean and Singaporean counterparts over the weekend and Japan is also keenly watching summit preparations. Trump will meet its Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Washington on June 7. On Sunday, US negotiators, headed by Washington's ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim, began meeting North Korean counterparts in the truce village of Panmunjom that divides the two Koreas.
First US visit -Kim Yong Chol, who is making his first US visit, is the most senior North Korean on US soil since Vice Marshal Jo Myong Rok met then-president Bill Clinton in 2000.
The general has played a front-seat role during recent rounds of diplomacy aimed at ending the nuclear stalemate on the Korean peninsula. He sat next to Trump's daughter Ivanka, who is also a White House aide, during February's closing ceremony for the Winter Olympics in South Korea, an event that was seen as a turning point in the nuclear crisis. He also accompanied Kim Jong Un on both of his recent trips to China to meet President Xi Jinping, and held talks with Pompeo when he travelled to Pyongyang. Kim's journey to the US caps a frenetic few days of meetings between North Korean and American officials. An AFP photographer saw Kim Chang Son, Kim Jong Un's de facto chief of staff, in Singapore Tuesday for preparatory discussions there.
The key task is to settle the agenda. The main stumbling block is likely to be the concept of "denuclearization" -- both sides are in favor of it, but there is a yawning gap between their definitions.
Washington wants North Korea to quickly give up all its nuclear weapons in a verifiable way in return for sanctions and economic relief. But analysts say North Korea will be unwilling to cede its nuclear deterrent unless it is given security guarantees that the US will not try to topple the regime.
Moscow Demands Immediate Withdrawal of All ‘Foreign Troops’ from Southern Syria
Moscow - Raed Jabr/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 31 May, 2018/Moscow has moved closer to defining its moves in the southern Syrian region as a tripartite Russian-US-Jordanian meeting is scheduled to be held soon to draft a new deal in the region.
Meanwhile, Russian media reported that a Russian-Israeli agreement is on its way to be held and would free the region from Iranian presence and extend control of the regime over the borders. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stressed Wednesday on the necessity of the withdrawal of all non-Syrian forces from Syria's de-escalation zone south Syria as soon as possible. “Russia is still working with the United States and Jordan to ensure stability at the Southern borders of Syria with Jordan and Israel,” Lavrov explained. The Russian Foreign Ministry announced that the tripartite meeting to be held in Amman will discuss ceasefire means in southern Syria. Mikhail Bogdanov, the Russian deputy foreign minister, for his part, stated in a press conference that Jordan suggested holding a triple meeting about Syria in the Jordanian capital of Amman on ministers level. Bogdanov added that Russia is waiting for the US response to agree on the details of the meeting. Earlier, Russian sources pointed to the preparations made by Moscow through several weeks of negotiations with the US and Jordanian sides to develop the features of a comprehensive agreement in the southern region, based on the exit of the Iranian militias, handing over of the rebels’ heavy weapons to Russian forces and the extension of the regime control over the border. They said that in return, Russian police will make sure cease fire is maintained and will manage the area. In the meantime, Russian media suggested that Moscow and Tel Aviv will agree on broad understandings on the situation in the southern region during the visit initiated Wednesday by Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman to Russia. It is noteworthy that Lieberman, who is carrying out the widest part of the negotiations with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu, is likely to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin,
 suggesting the importance of the files to be discussed between the two sides.

Direct conflict between Russian, US forces ‘narrowly avoided’ Assad claims
AFP & Reuters/May 31, 2018
*Assad said the US forces should learn the lesson of Iraq and leave Syria
*During the interview Assad also said the regime was "open to" negotiations
Syrian President Bashar Assad has told Russian television that direct conflict between his ally Russia and the United States in Syria was narrowly avoided. "We were close to have direct conflict between the Russian forces and the American forces," Assad said in English in an interview with Russia Today, aired Thursday, without giving further details. During the interview he also said his regime would also take back areas held by US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and that US forces should learn the lesson of Iraq and leave the country. Assad said the government had “started now opening doors for negotiations” with the SDF, a Kurdish dominated militia alliance that controls parts of northern and eastern Syria where US forces are stationed. “This is the first option. If not, we’re going to resort to... liberating those areas by force,” he said, adding “the Americans should leave, somehow they’re going to leave.” Responding to US President Donald Trump’s description of him as “Animal Assad,” the Syrian leader said: “What you say is what you are.”
Group claims responsibility for assassination of Assad regime officer
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Thursday, 31 May /The Syrian regime buried on Thursday an officer known for his brutal history in the city of Aleppo, after his assassination.
Though conflicting reports regarding the circumstances of the assassination of officer Somer Zidane were circulating, a group known as 'Abu Amara Brigade for Special Operations' claimed responsibility on Wednesday in Aleppo’s Khanaser area. The Syrian regime declared his death only on Thursday and where a funeral procession of the officer who carried the rank of a lieutenant colonel was held in Aleppo, in the presence of a high military delegation representing the Bashar al-Assad regime. Later, his body was transferred to his hometown of the Mediterranean city of Latakia - a stronghold of the Assad family - for burial. Zidane was known to be one of the Syrian regime's fiercest and bloodiest officers in dealing with dissidents, torturing and detaining them in the prisons of Aleppo, where he wiped out a large number of them, according to sources in the Syrian opposition, who commented following the news of his death.

Assad says US must leave Syria, vows to recover SDF areas
Reuters, Beirut Thursday, 31 May 2018éPresident Bashar al-Assad said the United States should learn the lesson of Iraq and withdraw from Syria, and promised to recover areas of the country held by US-backed militias through negotiations or force. In an interview with Russia Today, Assad said the government had “started now opening doors for negotiations” with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish dominated militia alliance that controls parts of northern and eastern Syria where US forces are stationed. “This is the first option. If not, we’re going to resort to ... liberating those areas by force. We don’t have any other options, with the Americans or without the Americans,” he said. “The Americans should leave, somehow they’re going to leave”. “They came to Iraq with no legal basis, and look what happened to them. They have to learn the lesson. Iraq is no exception, and Syria is no exception. People will not accept foreigners in this region anymore,” he said. Responding to US President Donald Trump’s description of him as “Animal Assad”, the Syrian leader said: “What you say is what you are”. Trump called Assad an animal after a suspected poison gas attack on a rebel-held town near Damascus in April. Assad reiterated the government’s denial that it carried out the attack in the eastern Ghouta town of Douma, saying that the government did not have chemical weapons and it would not have been in its interest to carry out such a strike. The Douma attack triggered missile strikes on Syria by the United States, Britain and France which they said targeted Assad’s chemical weapons program.
Assad confirms Iran presence in Syria
Assad has recovered swathes of Syrian territory with military backing from Russia and Iran and is now militarily unassailable in the conflict that began in 2011. Large areas however remain outside his control at the borders with Iraq, Turkey and Jordan. These include the SDF-held parts of the north and east, and chunks of territory held by rebel forces in the northwest and southwest. Israel, which is deeply alarmed by Tehran’s influence in Syria, earlier this month said it destroyed dozens of Iranian military sites in Syria, after Iranian forces fired rockets at Israeli-held territory for the first time.
Iran-backed militias including Lebanon’s Hezbollah have played a big role in support of Assad during the conflict. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have also deployed in the country. Assad said Iran’s presence in Syria was limited to officers who were assisting the Syrian army. Assad, apparently referring to the May 10 attack, by Israel said “we had tens of Syrian martyrs and wounded soldiers, not a single Iranian” casualty. Asked if there was anything Syria could do to stop Israeli air strikes, Assad said: “The only option is to improve our air defence, this is the only thing we can do, and we are doing that”. He said that Syria’s air defences were now much stronger than before thanks to Russia.

Washington Hints at Vetoing Kuwait’s Draft Resolution that Seeks UN Protection of Palestinians
New York – Ali Barda/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 31 May, 2018/Kuwait’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Mansour al-Otaibi told Asharq Al-Awsat that his country would ask for a vote in the Security Council on Thursday on a revised draft resolution calling for international protection for the Palestinian people living under Israeli occupation or under its siege. In parallel, Otaibi’s US counterpart Nikki Haley hinted that she would veto this effort hours after Kuwait hampered a US-drafted statement that condemned “in the strongest possible terms” Hamas and Islamic Jihad, ignoring dozens of Palestinian civilians, who were killed by Israeli fire on the Gaza Strip borders and thousands of wounded. The United States Permanent Mission to the United Nations distributed the draft statement, hoping to receive an approval before the emergency meeting it had requested. However, Kuwait disrupted the US project, which needed the approval of all 15 members of the council. Diplomatic sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Kuwait “broke the silence procedure” to disrupt the issuance of the US statement because the members of the Security Council “are studying a Kuwaiti draft resolution dealing with the issue of protecting civilians in the occupied Palestinian territories and the Gaza Strip in its entirety.”The US representative said that her country rejected the “destructive” and “terrorist” activities carried out by “Hamas in Gaza,” noting that “Hamas wants to remove Israel from existence.” She also sharply criticized Kuwait’s disruption of the US draft statement. The Kuwaiti revised draft-resolution calls for full respect by all parties of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, including the protection of the civilian population, stressing the need to take appropriate steps to ensure the safety and well-being of civilians and to ensure their protection, as well as to guarantee accountability for all violations. The draft-resolution also condemns the “excessive use of force by Israeli forces against Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, particularly in the Gaza Strip, including the use of live ammunition against civilian demonstrators, including children, as well as against health workers and journalists. It also expresses “deep concern over the loss of innocent lives.”

New Iraq government must overcome sectarian divide: UN
Arab News/May 31/18/UNITED NATIONS: Following elections, Iraq must move quickly to form a government that can overcome sectarian divisions and push ahead with badly-needed reforms, the UN envoy said Wednesday. An alliance led by nationalist cleric Moqtada Sadr won the biggest share of seats in parliamentary elections on May 12, the first polls held since the defeat of Daesh. The election saw a record number of abstentions as Iraqis snubbed the corruption-tainted elite that has dominated the country since the 2003 toppling of Saddam Hussein. “The post-election phase represents a crucial time for Iraq,” UN envoy Jan Kubis told a Security Council meeting on Iraq, calling for the swift formation of a new government. “It is essential that the new government works as one across the sectarian and ethnic divides in pursuing much-needed political, economic and social reforms,” he said. The new government will face the daunting task of rebuilding the country, just five months after the defeat of the IS group. Sadr is working to form a government of technocrats and has called for less foreign meddling, raising tensions with the United States and Iran. US Ambassador Nikki Haley said the government formation talks represented a “key moment in Iraqi history.”“Iraq’s next government is going to make a series of important decisions that will set Iraq’s course for decades to come,” Haley told the council. The new government “will have to decide whether Iraq is serious about elevating female leaders” and set policies that “will allow Iraq to close the door on the extremism and the sectarian politics that have cause so much suffering before,” she added. The council last month postponed a planned visit to Iraq that had been proposed by the United States, at the request of the former government. No new date for a visit has been proposed, diplomats said.

Abbas: We are Seeking to Promote the Culture of Institutions
Ramallah - Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 31 May, 2018/Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said that he was working to establish the culture of institutions, instead of the individual-based system. “If the institution is working, all things will be fine and there will be no need to worry” he said during a meeting of the Fatah Central Committee following his exit from hospital. “If we believe in our institutions, we will be able to continue our work, and this is what happened over the past few days,” Abbas added.“We have noticed that the PLO, the Fatah movement and others are working as a powerful smooth machine, which reassures us that things are going well,” he stressed, adding: “When I entered the hospital for 11 days, the institution was still operating, the country was not harmed. We were able to build the culture of the institution, not the culture of the individual.”Abbas’ comments appeared to be a response to rumors linked to his succession in power. The opponents of Abbas - during the latter’s hospital stay - issued many rumors about his health condition and his possible successor, taking advantage of the absence of a well-known replacement, amid a wide political and legal dispute between Fatah and Hamas over the crippled legislative council, which is supposed to resolve any problem resulting from a presidential vacuum. Under Palestinian Basic Law, the president of the Palestinian Legislative Council shall assume the presidency of the Authority temporarily for a period not exceeding 60 days until the holding of presidential and legislative elections.According to Hamas, the speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council is Abdel Aziz Dweik - a Hamas member - who won the post after Hamas achieved victory in the 2006 legislative elections and who is supposed to replace Abbas. However, Fatah considers the entire council to be dysfunctional and does not acknowledge its presidency.
Do ‘we die slowly or quickly?’ Gazans ask as war with Israel looms
Arab News/May 31/18/
The attacks came after Hamas and Islamic Jihad fired rockets and mortars at southern Israel
There is now widespread trepidation among residents of Gaza that another escalation is inevitable
GAZA CITY: Residents of the Gaza Strip fear another war with Israel is looming after the most intense airstrikes on the enclave for four years.
Israeli fighter jets, helicopters, drones and tanks hit dozens of military targets in the area on Tuesday and the early hours of Wednesday, terrifying Palestinian civilians in nearby residential neighborhoods. There were no reports of casualties.
The attacks came after Hamas and Islamic Jihad fired rockets and mortars at southern Israel. Both groups have since declared that a cease-fire has been agreed following Egyptian mediation, but Israel denied the existence of any such deal. Iman Abu Zaher, a 25-year-old student, was among the residents who thought Tuesday’s bombing “was war again.” Currently waiting for the travel documents she needs to complete her master’s degree abroad, she told Arab News that she is torn between wanting to stay in the strip with her family and wanting to flee before the next round of bloodshed begins.
“I was thinking could I leave my family here to face their fate alone if there is a war or should I stay with them and share their suffering?” she said. In the end, she decided that “I have to run away from here.”
Her friend Sahar Al-Khatib told Arab News that she stayed awake all night as the sounds of the Israeli airstrikes and the Hamas rockets echoed across Gaza.
“My husband and I were talking about our scenario in the event of war. What would we do? Would we stay at home or run away somewhere else?” she said. “We agreed to put our valuables in one place so that we could escape quickly if something difficult happened.”
Hamas and Islamic Jihad said that their rocket attacks were in retaliation for recent Israeli strikes on their positions. Israel claimed about 100 rockets and mortars were fired from the strip, with many of them intercepted by its Iron Dome air defense system.
There is now widespread trepidation among residents of Gaza that another escalation is inevitable.
Israel last went to war in Gaza in 2014, when the UN found that 2,251 Palestinians were killed, including 1,462 civilians, in a conflict that lasted just 50 days. Up to 500,000 residents were displaced. Earlier conflicts took place in 2012 and 2008-2009. Ibrahim Khalil, a 47-year-old father of six, said that wars with Israel were “like the World Cup” and happened every four years. “I want to see my children living in peace and security. I have spent a few years in Israel jails and I do not want my children to suffer what I have suffered in the past,” he said. He told Arab News that Hamas and the other Palestinian factions did not want another conflict with Israel and defended their use of rockets and mortars. “They had to stop the repeated attacks of the occupation — the bombing and killing — without a response. We also have dignity,” he said.
Home to around 2 million people, Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas in the world and has been under an Israeli air, land and sea blockade since 2007, when Hamas took control of the strip from its main political rival,
The blockade has plunged the economy into recession and devastated local infrastructure. Recent reconciliation talks between Hamas and Fatah have stalled, adding to the sense of anger and frustration among people here. Israeli forces have killed dozens of Palestinians since mass protests against the occupation began in Gaza on March 30, with the worst of the violence coming on May 14, when 60 Palestinians died. Ahmed Shawa told Arab News that he hoped there would be another war with Israel because the “Gaza Strip cannot tolerate the cruelty of life anymore.”
He said, “Israel must suffer as we suffer. It must think carefully about everything it does against us.”
The unemployed university graduate added, “We die anyway, so the question is do we die slowly or quickly?”

Calm in Gaza after Egypt’s Intervention
Ramallah - Kifah/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 31 May, 2018/Calm prevailed over the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, after Egypt succeeded in putting into effect a ceasefire agreement in the early morning hours. Palestinian factions refrained from firing rockets at Israel, which in turn stopped raids on the Gaza Strip, after a long day in which Israel hit about 70 targets in Gaza, while Palestinians fired more than 80 shells and rockets at Israeli towns and settlements near the border. Member of Hamas Political Bureau Khalil al-Hayya announced reaching a ceasefire understanding, stressing that the Palestinian factions were committed to this agreement, as long as the occupation forces did not breach it. “After the factions succeeded in repelling the Israeli aggression… many mediations occurred over the past few hours and a consensus was reached to return to the ceasefire understandings in the Gaza Strip,” Hayya said. Officials in the Islamic Jihad, which started the confrontation early Tuesday, also stressed commitment to the ceasefire agreement. “In the light of the Egyptian contacts with the Islamic Jihad and Hamas, there has been agreement on the implementation of the understandings of the ceasefire of 2014,” said Daoud Shehab, spokesman for the movement. He added: “Palestinian factions will abide by the truce agreement as long as the Israeli occupation commit to it.”The ceasefire agreement was signed in 2014 and sponsored by Egypt, to end the longest war on Gaza, which lasted 51 days.
Israeli raids on Gaza stopped at 5 am on Wednesday, and the factions refrained from firing rockets from the Gaza Strip. As life in the streets of the Gaza Strip rebounded, children went to school in Israeli communities near the border. There were no violations by the parties until Wednesday evening, in a clear indication of the parties’ unwillingness to escalate the situation. However, Israel refused to acknowledge understandings with Hamas and Jihad, which it considers as “terrorist organizations”, and merely said that calm would be met with calm. Israeli Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz denied any ceasefire agreement, saying: “There is no ceasefire. Israel has a clear policy of not allowing fire and terrorist attacks against it.” “Israel does not want the situation to deteriorate, but the side that started violence must stop it,” he added.

Iraq Annuls Votes from over 1,000 Polling Stations
Baghdad – Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 31 May, 2018/Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission cancelled on Wednesday voting results in the May 12 parliamentary elections from more than 1000 polling stations in 10 provinces and six countries, after verifying violations. It was not clear how this step would directly affect the final results of the Iraqi elections, in which Muqtada al-Sadr emerged with the largest bloc of seats and won the right to form a new government, the Iranian-backed Fatah alliance came in second and the current government, headed by PM Haider al-Abadi, came in third.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, the Commission said it was cancelling voting results in the recent parliament elections from 1,021 polling stations, adding it would hold violators accountable. The Commission said its teams voluntarily scrutinized 2000 stations, out of which 852 proved to have witnessed breaches, and therefore the cancellation of results. It also said that 67 stations for expatriate voters had their results cancelled due to violations, including in the US, Germany, the UK, Sweden, Jordan and Turkey. The IHEC said that its technical and legal committees labeled 102 polling stations as "red,” due to serious complaints that affect results of Those polling stations include votes from 7 polling stations in Erbil, 51 polling stations in Anbar, 17 in Baghdad-Karkh, 11 in Salahudin and 16 in Nineveh. They included votes from the early voting of security members, voting of refugee camps and some of the general polling stations, the statement said. The IHEC step coincided Wednesday with a parliament session attended by 30 MPs who held their first reading of an amendment to the election law. The session lasted only 10 minutes following a decision to hold a second reading next Saturday, with a vote next Wednesday, if parliament meets quorum. If passed, the amendment will commit the electoral commission to recounting all votes manually. Two days ago, the Iraqi parliament had approved manual recounting of 10 percent of votes in the May 12 parliamentary election amid allegations of fraud and forgery.

Yemen: Battles Around Hodeidah Airport
Jeddah - Saiid Al-Abiad/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 31 May, 2018/As joint forces of the Arab coalition were rapidly moving closer to Hodeidah, battles intensified Wednesday around six kilometers away from the city’s airport, military sources said. Meanwhile, the Yemeni Army said units from the “rapid support forces” were currently positioned in Al-Durayhmi, ahead of entering the strategic port city of Hodeidah from the south. At least 53 rebels died in fighting around the port city, while seven pro-government fighters were killed and 14 wounded, according to medical sources in Hodeidah province. Yemeni army spokesman Abdo Abdullah Majali told Asharq Al-Awsat on Wednesday that the rapid forces are trained on fighting inside small neighborhoods, and on chasing militias hiding in fortified buildings. “Those forces will work on cleaning the buildings before Army personnel enter Hodeidah and completely liberate the city without causing civilians damages,” Majali said. The spokesman said the liberation of Hodeidah would contribute in helping the rapid move of the Army to several other Yemeni cities, particularly that the province has joint borders with Taiz, Ibb, Al-Mahwit, Dhamar and Hijjah, in addition to being close to the international navigation. Those advancements came as a military source told Asharq Al-Awsat that Houthi militias suffer from an unprecedented state of confusion, panic and major collapse at the fronts of Al Saada district. The sources confirmed that those collapses prevented the rebels from sending military reinforcements that were needed to face joint forces heading towards Hodeidah from the western coastline. On Wednesday, in a phone call to Hodeidah governor, Prime Minister Ahmed bin Dagher praised Yemen’s National Army and the Popular Resistance, both backed by the Saudi-led military for their competent role in facing the Houthi militia, which is losing strength every day. He said fighting was still underway in the province, Yemen’s government-run SABA news agency quoted bin Daghr as saying. The “liberation of Hodeidah will allow us to secure navigation and maintain security in international waters,” the PM added.

US Denies Reports of Deal with Turkey over YPG Withdrawal from Syria’s Manbij
Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 30 May, 2018/The United States denied on Wednesday media reports that said a deal had been reached between it and Turkey on a roadmap for the withdrawal of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) from Syria’s Manbij. “We don’t have any agreements yet with the government of Turkey,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement in Washington. “We’re continuing to have ongoing conversations regarding Syria and other issues of mutual concern,” she said, adding that American and Turkish officials had met in Ankara last week for talks on the issue. Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency said on Wednesday Ankara and Washington had reached a technical agreement on the withdrawal plan, a move Turkey has long sought from the United States. Turkey is outraged by US support for the YPG militia, considering them a terrorist organization. Ankara has threatened to push its offensive in northern Syria’s Afrin region further east to Manbij. Manbij is a potential flashpoint. The Syrian regime, Kurdish militants, Syrian rebel groups, Turkey and the US all have a military presence in northern Syria. Under the terms of the plan to be finalized during a visit by Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to Washington on June 4, the YPG will withdraw from Manbij 30 days after the deal is signed, Anadolu said, quoting sources who attended meetings at which the decisions were made. Turkish and US military forces will start joint supervision in Manbij 45 days after the agreement is signed and a local administration will be formed 60 days after June 4, Anadolu said. Earlier on Wednesday, Cavusoglu told broadcaster AHaber that a timetable for the Manbij plans could be set during talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington, and that it could be implemented before the end of the summer. Cavusoglu was also quoted by media on his return flight from Germany saying that, if finalized, the plan for Manbij could be applied throughout northern Syria. However, a local Manbij official later told Reuters that Cavusoglu’s assertions that US and Turkish forces would temporarily control the region were “premature” and lacked credibility.
Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on June 01/18
Report: Iranian Forces, Hezbollah Prepare To Leave Southern Syria
Ex-Israeli spy chief: Netanyahu planned Iran strike in 2011
قوات إيران وحزب الله يستعدون للخروج من الجنوب السوري
جاسوس إسرائيلي سابق يفيد بأن نيتانياهو خطط لمهاجمة إيران سنة 2011
Jerusalem Post/May 31/18
Report: Iranian Forces, Hezbollah Prepare To Leave Southern Syria
Jerusalem Post/May 31/18
قوات إيران وحزب الله يستعدون للخروج من الجنوب السوري
Iran-backed forces, including Hezbollah, are preparing to withdraw from southern Syria against the backdrop of regional and international negotiations currently underway between the United States, Russia and Jordan over the war-torn country's future, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Thursday. Specifically, the London-based organization reported, Iran and Hezbollah are planning to withdraw forces from the Dara and Kuneitra areas near Israel's northern border. The report comes after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced Monday that the Syrian army should be the only force on the southern border of the country. Iran-backed forces, including Hezbollah, are preparing to withdraw from southern Syria against the backdrop of regional and international negotiations currently underway between the United States, Russia and Jordan over the war-torn country's future, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Thursday. Specifically, the London-based organization reported, Iran and Hezbollah are planning to withdraw forces from the Dara and Kuneitra areas near Israel's northern border. The report comes after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced Monday that the Syrian army should be the only force on the southern border of the country. "All the forces that are not Syrian should withdraw, and there must be a situation in which only the forces of the Syrian army will be stationed on the Syrian side of the border with Israel," Lavrov said. Earlier Thursday, the Syrian opposition newspaper Zaman al-Wassul reported that a Syrian army commander had decided in recent days to prevent the use of aircraft hangars, which until now had been used to store ammunition by Iranian militias. According to the report, "the decision followed the recent Israeli attacks."The Syrian commander's decision indicates the regime's decision to demand that Iran close shop on the southern border is a first step in a broader policy of booting Iranian forces completely from Syria, according to the source in the Syrian army.

Ex-Israeli spy chief: Netanyahu planned Iran strike in 2011
جاسوس إسرائيلي سابق يفيد بأن نيتانياهو خطط لمهاجمة إيران سنة 2011
Jerusalem Post/May 31/18
(AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave the order in 2011 for the military to prepare to attack Iran within 15 days, a former Mossad chief said in remarks released on Thursday.
Tamir Pardo, who served as head of the Israeli intelligence agency from 2011 to 2016, told Israeli Keshet TV’s investigative show Uvda that the order was not given “for the sake of a drill,” according to excerpts of the interview released ahead of the broadcast on Thursday evening.
“When he tells you to start the countdown process, you know that he isn’t playing games with you,” Pardo is quoted as saying. “These things have enormous significance.”
There was no immediate comment from Netanyahu’s office on Pardo’s claim.
On Wednesday, Netanyahu said Israel “will not allow Iran to arm itself with nuclear weapons. We will continue to act against its intentions to establish itself militarily in Syria besides us, not just opposite the Golan Heights, but any place in Syria.”
Pardo’s claim comes as archenemies Israel and Iran are fighting a shadow war in Syria, which briefly threatened to burst into full-blown conflagration this month after Israel bombed Iranian positions in Syria, killing Iranian fighters after an alleged Iranian rocket barrage toward the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.
In February, Israel shot down what it said was an armed Iranian drone that entered Israeli airspace. Israel responded by attacking anti-aircraft positions in Syria, and an Israeli warplane was shot down during the battle.
Israel has increasingly warned that it sees Iranian influence in Syria as a threat, pointing to Iran’s military presence inside the country as well as that of Iranian-backed militiamen.
Netanyahu has long been a strident critic of Iran and has accused Tehran of attempting to develop nuclear weapons and long range ballistic missiles. Ex-prime minister Ehud Barak, who served as Netanyahu’s defense minister in 2011, has previously claimed Netanyahu sought to bomb Iran in 2010 and 2011, but was opposed by senior Israeli officials.
Pardo said that upon receiving the command, he sought “clarifications about everything I could, I checked with legal advisers, I consulted with everyone I could to understand who is authorized to give the order concerning launching a war.”
According to the excerpts, Pardo said he wanted “to be certain that if, heaven forbid, something incorrect happened, even if the mission failed, that there won’t be a situation where I carried out an illegal operation.”
It wasn’t clear from the preview what happened after Netanyahu’s purported order but Israel never carried out a strike on Iran in 2011.
Netanyahu has recently intensified his criticism of the nuclear agreement reached between world powers and Iran in 2015. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from that deal earlier this month.
There is also a concerted effort by Netanyahu’s administration to convince Russia to pressure Iran to withdraw its forces from war-torn Syria.

UK "Justice": "Silencing the Silencing"

Bruce Bawer/Gatestone Institute/May 31/18
The charge against Robinson declared by the police at the time of arrest, "breach of peace," was changed to "contempt of court." Apparently, the former offense would not constitute a violation of the terms of Robinson's suspended sentence from last year and thereby justify immediate imprisonment. But by declaring Robinson guilty of "contempt of court," the judge was able to ship him straightaway to prison.
In fact, it is clear to people all over Britain what is really going on here. Their country is being steadily Islamized, and their government is abetting this process. Muslims commit outrageous crimes, and police treat them respectfully -- then turn around and arrest ordinary British citizens for daring to complain.
"Judicial power never been used before to silence a journalist in Britain and then to silence the silencing.... This lie came directly from Theresa May's government.... and it was planned to the last detail. A courtroom and a judge were waiting to immediately sentence him. A prison cell was booked in his name.... This combined is the action of a totalitarian state, in all its brutal horror." — Paul Weston, Pegida UK.
First the good news: on Wednesday, at about noon London time, Tommy Robinson's former lawyer, Helen Gower, reported on Twitter that "Tommy has just rung me and is well." He had been receiving e-mails of support and was humbled by them. "He did inform me of some of the things that happened on Friday," Gower wrote, "but I don't want to put anything out and I will leave that to his Solicitor."
Well, there it stands: the media gag order on the Tommy Robinson case has been lifted, but Robinson himself remains in Hull Prison, having been arrested on the street in Leeds, hauled into a kangaroo court, and then sent off to jail. Incidentally, in a YouTube video, Canadian activist Lauren Southern and a member of Robinson's team have provided a plausible explanation of why the charge against Robinson declared by the police at the time of arrest, "breach of peace," was changed to "contempt of court." Apparently, the former offense would not constitute a violation of the terms of Robinson's suspended sentence from last year and thereby justify immediate imprisonment. But by declaring Robinson guilty of "contempt of court," the judge was able to ship him straightaway to prison.
But this is all a bunch of judicial mumbo-jumbo -- a cagey use of legal technicalities to betray the very spirit of the law. In fact, it is clear to people all over Britain what is really going on here. Their country is being steadily Islamized, and their government is abetting this process. Muslims commit outrageous crimes, and police treat them respectfully -- then turn around and arrest ordinary British citizens for daring to complain. Of all those ordinary citizens, Robinson is the most prominent. More than anyone else in Britain, he has risked his own safety and freedom to awaken the dormant patriotism and sense of responsibility in the hearts of his fellow British subjects -- and to keep the reprehensible reality of mass child rape by Muslim gangs in the public eye. For these transgressions, the British establishment must see him punished.
Videos and commentaries that have been posted online in recent days by ordinary British citizens give the distinct impression that millions of his countrymen deeply respect Robinson for saying and doing things that they themselves dare not say or do. They are greatly upset by his arrest, trial, and imprisonment -- all of which took place within what must be a record-setting time of four hours -- and are genuinely alarmed by the seemingly unprecedented and unjust way in which the whole thing was pulled off. Thanks to Islam, Britain has been becoming more and more unrecognizable to them -- more and more dangerous, undemocratic, unequal, and unjust -- and this episode appears to have brought that process to a crisis point, and brought many Britons' anger to a boil.
One of those Britons is a friend of my British source "L." Concerned about Robinson's imprisonment, she wrote a polite e-mail to her Member of Parliament, a recently elected Labourite who is an ally of Labour honcho Jeremy Corbyn and who, according to Wikipedia, is gay. The MP's hostile reply to his constituent provides a stark insight into the mentality of at least some of the UK's governing elites. It begins:
Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, aka Tommy Robinson, is not a martyr of free speech.
He is a convicted fraudster and former football hooligan....
This is nonsense. Yes, Robinson is a working-class boy from Luton. If part of young Muslim male culture is forming "grooming gangs" and raping children, part of young male culture in working-class English places like Luton is what is known as "laddish behavior" at soccer matches. Sometimes it shades over into violence; usually it is just a matter of being loud and boisterous outside stadiums and at nearby pubs. In any event, Robinson has written candidly about this aspect of his youth in his book Enemy of the State. To some readers, the MP's description of Robinson as a "former football hooligan" may seem to reek of class condescension. There has, in fact, been good reason throughout Robinson's career as a public figure to wonder how much of the British authorities' shabby treatment of him can be ascribed to his working-class status. Would an Islam critic with an Oxbridge background, a job at a respected London think tank, and an upper-class accent ever be treated the way Robinson is?
As for Robinson being a "fraudster," this charge, as "L" puts it, "stems from a time when it did appear as if the police were scrutinising him and his family for everything they could find. They took away loads of documents and scrutinised his wife's tax affairs, for instance." Eventually he was arrested for lending his brother-in-law £20,000 to help him qualify for a housing loan. A year later, the brother-in-law sold the house for £30,000 and repaid Robinson. As "L" says, "it was a completely victimless crime." Robinson "pleaded guilty for what his lawyer (somewhat understandably) thought would be a non-custodial sentence" and, according to Robinson, on the promise by police had "that if he pleaded guilty they would not go after him financially." Instead, they sent him to prison for eighteen months and was made to pay £125,000. "There are thousands and thousands of people who technically commit mortgage fraud all the time -- e.g. parents who lend deposits to their children and then later get the deposit paid back," says "L." The difference is that Robinson was punished severely for it.
Back to the MP's e-mail. Robinson, he charges, broke strict reporting rules which exist in court cases for a very good reason: if they are broken, that can lead to the collapse of trials of those alleged to have committed serious crimes such as rape or murder, meaning alleged rapists would walk free.
He was by his actions allowing rapists to get off and this is unacceptable!
More nonsense. Robinson did not break any reporting rules. No rapists got off.
If you believe Tommy Robinson shouldn't be arrested, you are saying the law shouldn't apply to him because you agree with his obsessive anti-Muslim hatred.
On the contrary, Robinson has repeatedly made it clear that he doesn't hate Muslims -- his problem is with Islam. Every brave, halfway intelligent Briton who sees what Islam is doing to his country feels the same way. Note, incidentally, that the MP, in this reply to one of his own constituents -- one of his employers -- is essentially calling her a bigot. This, even though he does not know her at all, and all she did was to express her concern about what, by any measure, was an exceedingly irregular arrest, trial, conviction, and imprisonment.
The MP concludes his reply as follows:
I didn't see [Robinson] trying to break reporting restrictions around the trial of a senior English Defence League member who groomed a 10 year old girl, did you? That's because his agenda is bigotry and hatred, and nothing more.
Once again, ridiculous. A single isolated case of rape by a non-Muslim has nothing whatsoever to do with the almost exclusively Muslim phenomenon of "grooming gangs," which involve sexual abuse by gangs of men of large stables of girls over a period of years. The contempt for infidels and disrespect for females that make these atrocities possible are part and parcel of the perpetrators' culture and religion.
Yes, of course non-Muslims in Britain kill and rape, too -- and if the police find out about it, they arrest the suspect and put him on trial. Robinson's whole point is that for decades Muslim rapists have not been treated in the same way. All too many British police officers and judges will use any excuse to let a Muslim rapist go. In 2014, for example, an imam who had sexually abused an eleven-year-old girl was given a suspended sentence because his six children "were so dependent on him" and because he had "kidney problems." To explain why his presence at home was so urgent, the imam's lawyer said that the imam's wife "doesn't work and speaks very little English." But to criticize any of this, in the eyes of that Labour MP, is to have an "agenda" of "bigotry and hatred."
Notably, the MP's full support for the way in which the police and court handled the Robinson case is not shared by the editors of the Independent -- the British broadsheet that, along with Leeds Live, spearheaded the media campaign against the gag order. In an editorial on Tuesday, the day that order was lifted, the editors accepted the absurd proposition that Robinson was guilty of "contempt of court" and pronounced his thirteen-month sentence "justified and proportionate." That much is predictable enough from a newspaper that is every bit as left-wing as the Guardian. The surprising part is the Independent's acknowledgment that whatever one thinks of Robinson,
It cannot be right, whatever else, that a British citizen can be deprived of their liberty "in the dark," the very fact of their whereabouts made a secret. It feels wrong, and, in spirit at least, partly in breach of the ancient principle of habeas corpus.
The answer to the question "Where's Tommy?" cannot be: "We know but we cannot tell you because a court says so."
Well, that's something, anyway. But millions of Britons reject entirely the Independent's assurances that Robinson has received justice. One of them is Paul Weston of Pegida, who, in a new video, maintains that "judicial power never been used before to silence a journalist in Britain and then to silence the silencing." That police and the Luton court to have taken such an action so quickly, Weston theorized, proves that this was not the work of some rank-and-file cop or some mid-level constabulary paper-pusher. "This lie came directly from Theresa May's government," charged Weston.
"This lie came from the very top down and it was planned to the last detail. A courtroom and a judge were waiting to immediately sentence him. A prison cell was booked in his name.... This combined is the action of a totalitarian state, in all its brutal horror."
Given the swiftness with which Robinson was snatched up off the street, transported to a courtroom, tried without his own counsel present, and then taken to a waiting prison cell -- a brazen series of events that it is hard to imagine anyone below the highest of levels having the power or the nerve to orchestrate -- it is hard to challenge Weston's suggestion that Theresa May herself is behind this travesty of justice. If that is what happened, then it certainly helps to clarify just what Britain, and the Free World, are up against.
*Bruce Bawer is the author of the new novel The Alhambra (Swamp Fox Editions). His book While Europe Slept (2006) was a New York Times bestseller and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. His other books include A Place at the Table (1993), Stealing Jesus (1997), Surrender (2009), and The Victims' Revolution (2012). A native New Yorker, he has lived in Europe since 1998.
© 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.

EU and Palestinian Illegal "Facts on the Ground"
Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/May 31/18
The real story is the land. Building on it was key to taking possession of an otherwise unattainable piece of territory, and making this possession appear irreversible.
The basis of "The Fayyad Plan" (Official title: "Palestine: Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State") was, and remains, the creation of a de facto state -- without the need for negotiation with Israel -- through facts on the ground in areas under full Israeli administrative and security administration.
Jahalin West would offer services that these Bedouin have never had -- services the Palestinian Authority has never offered them: running water, electricity, permanent homes they themselves are free to design, health clinics, public transportation, schools, access to employment, and more.
What the Palestinian Authority, the European Union, Israel's High Court of Justice, three Israeli towns, and the Jahalin tribe have in common is the Bedouin settlement of Khan al-Akhmar.
The battle for this Arab settlement has been waged in the international media and the Israeli Supreme Court for more than a decade, and its story is a microcosm of the Arab-Israel conflict, complete with alternative narratives, shifting alliances, unclear lines of responsibility and murky vested interests.
The first problem is that Khan al Akhmar is located in an area, unpoetically named Area C, where, according to the United Nations, "Israel retains near exclusive control, including over law enforcement, planning and construction."
This small cluster of Bedouin homes is actually sitting on land in an Israeli township, Kfar Adumim, at a strategic crossroads between Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, and the outlying Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem, making it crucial both to the Israelis and the Palestinians.
Until fairly recently, the residents of the Arab settlement -- a branch of the Jahalin tribe of Bedouin -- had lived in southern Israel. At some point in the 1970s, a feud broke out between different branches of the tribe, and the Jahalin fled northward, and arrived in the Maaleh Adumim region in the late 1970s, where they have remained ever since.
Like almost all other Bedouin in the Middle East, they began to abandon their nomadic lifestyle in favor of more permanent settlements and livelihoods not dependent on shepherding. Unfortunately, this branch of the tribe set up camp in a strategically critical area near a major highway, and began tapping into municipal water and electricity lines for subsistence.
Here is the other problem: since the 1980s, when their squatter's camp began to take shape, it has always been illegal as well as impractical. Its proximity to the highway has been posing a safety hazard for the Bedouin children who play alongside it, as well as for the motorists who must avoid being hit by the rocks thrown at their vehicles. Out of literally dozens of these incidents reported in the press, here are a few examples:
From the day the Jahalin set up camp on this spot, they knew that they were squatting inside an Israeli municipality, and that it was not a long-term solution for their housing needs.
What they did not know was that the Palestinian Authority had designs on the same piece of land, but for different reasons, and that international forces would soon begin to use them as chess pieces in a high-stakes game against Israel.
An internationally-funded and school building for Khan al-Akhmar, with Israeli Highway 1 in the background. (Image source: TrickyH/Wikimedia Commons)
On August 23, 2009, Salim Fayyad, then Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority (PA), published his master plan for the creation of a Palestinian State. The basis of "The Fayyad Plan" (officially titled "Palestine: Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State") was -- and remains -- the creation of a de facto state without the need for negotiation with Israel, through facts on the ground in areas under full Israeli administrative and security administration. One of the key areas in the "facts on the ground" vision of Palestinian statehood, as opposed to the mutually agreed-upon negotiations of the Oslo Accords, is precisely the region near the highway. The Jahalin Bedouin squatters presented a perfect means of establishing an extra-judicial foothold there.
For the Palestinian Authority, the best interests of the Jahalin Bedouin were beside the point. The real story was the land. Building on it was key to taking possession of an otherwise unattainable piece of territory, and then making this possession appear irreversible. So while the PA and the European Union continue to pay lip service to their commitment to a negotiated settlement, their behavior indicates that this is not their intention: The Palestinians have no interest in a negotiated settlement, and the EU's continued bankrolling of illegal construction in Area C actually encourages the Palestinians not to sit down and to talk to the Israelis. Why should they negotiate, if they can get everything they want by simply replicating the story of Khan al Akhmar in strategic points throughout Area C?
Like it or not, the Oslo Accords -- which the Palestinian Authority signed and the European Union witnessed -- clearly state that Israel has sole responsibility for issuing building permits, zoning and planning. Even without the Oslo Accords, the Hague Conventions -- the accepted basis for international law -- place sole responsibility for issuing building and zoning permits on the State of Israel.
Back to the Bedouin: some of them Bedouin in neighboring clusters signed relocation agreements; others simply pulled up stakes and moved elsewhere to avoid the construction and traffic around the highway; all of them understood that they could not remain where they were.
Then, the Palestinian Authority and the European Union jumped in, giving this cluster of tents and shacks a name, pumping money into "Khan al Akhmar," and kicking up a vast media storm about destitute Arabs being dispossessed from their "historic" community. An Italian NGO, Vento de Terra, built a school on the site to serve Bedouin children from across the region. They bombarded the media with images of barefoot Bedouin children living under the threat of dispossession and ethnic cleansing by Israel, and pressured the Jahalin to cooperate (as reported in the High Court decisions on the case).
The Bedouin buckled under the pressure and allowed their new "representatives" to take charge: The residents of Khan al Akhmar remained where the PA wanted them. The Jahalin Bedouin were "represented" by the PA and the EU in four separate lawsuits, stalling the relocation of the squatters for more than a decade. In each case, Israel's Supreme Court confirmed that the Bedouin encampment at Khan al Akhmar was illegal and needed to be evacuated to a State-sponsored alternative location.
For ten years, the Israeli government suspended the demolition and evacuation orders, considered any and all alternatives, and eventually created a new, legal option to relocate the Bedouin on State-owned land only five miles away near Abu Dis, an Arab neighborhood on the outskirts of Jerusalem. The new neighborhood, "Jahalin West," offers a package worth more than half a million shekels (nearly $140,000) for each wife in each of the many-wived Jahalin households. Each wife would receive, free of charge, a large plot of land, completely developed and zoned for residential construction, with water and electricity. Jahalin West would offer services that these Bedouin have never had -- services the PA has never offered them: running water, electricity, permanent homes they themselves are free to design, health clinics, public transportation, schools, access to employment, and more.
Jahalin West is ready and waiting; it has been lying dormant for years. The "representatives" of the Jahalin have repeatedly rejected the State's relocation package and refused to allow the Jahalin to rebuild their lives in a new neighborhood if it means losing their grip on the land they are presently occupying.
After allowing the Jahalin's lawyers one last chance to come up with a feasible alternative to Jahalin West, which they were unable to do, the Supreme Court closed the book on Khan al Akhmar. The High Court's recent decision rejected two petitions that had been filed on behalf of the Bedouin. "There are no legal grounds to justify intervention in the Minister of Defense's decision to enforce the demolition orders that were issued against the illegal structures in Khan al Akhmar," wrote Justices Sohlberg, Willner and Baron.
"This decision does not make light of the complex human aspects that are unavoidable in a large-scale evacuation of illegal construction, despite its illegality. Law enforcement is important, as is the attempt to reach a resolution through dialogue and peaceful means.
"When all is said and done, we are long past the 'zero hour.' Demolition orders, we should recall, were first issued for these structures in 2009, and the calls we have heard in this courtroom for cooperation and dialogue, as worthy as they may be, should by all rights have been raised in real time, over the course of the intervening years, and should have been directed to policy- and decision-makers."
The judges criticized the plaintiffs' conduct, noting that they had repeatedly taken advantage of the State's willingness to reach an agreed-upon solution by presenting futile, unfeasible suggestions.
"The impression is that the aim of these alternative suggestion was to 'buy time.' ... Raising unrealistic suggestions at this point, after years in which the State postponed enforcement of demolition orders in order to consider alternatives, is unacceptable."
The decision denied the plaintiffs' request that the Court intervene in the State's decision to enforce the law, and expressed the hope that the matter could be resolved peacefully and in an atmosphere of cooperation.
The Palestinian Authority has already announced its intention to resist the relocation of the Jahalin to their new, legal neighborhood near Abu Dis "by all available means," and the international uproar has begun.
Israel is being condemned for "cruel and inhumane" treatment of the Jahalin, and for its attempts to commit supposed "ethnic cleansing" and "forced population transfer." The French government (which has a rather poor record of summarily deporting nomadic groups en masse) has declared Israel's High Court decision a violation of international law, while at the same time explaining that Khan al Akhmar is of "critical strategic importance to the contiguity of the future Palestinian State."
The coming weeks will be a test of Israel's sovereignty and resolve. At the same time, the weeks ahead will also expose the real intentions of the PA and the European NGOs and governments who continue to bankroll illegal construction and land seizure in areas recognized by international law to be under Israeli jurisdiction.
*Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

After Elections, What Kind of Government for What Lebanon
Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al Awsat/May 31/18
My advice to anyone attempting to analyze Lebanon’s latest Parliamentary elections, without taking into consideration the regional and international scenes, is simply to look for something more worthwhile.
To begin with, since the period of ‘fake entente’ that preceded the current period of ‘de facto occupation’, it was quite impossible to come out with a useful reading of Lebanon’s political coalitions and tactics; so one can imagine the situation today in a country whose political system is absurd, and the ‘raison d’etre’ of its political selective discretion, opportunism and peddling illusions.
On this subject, before I decided to write this article, I thought of reviewing some opinion pages of leading Lebanese papers; but I found myself reading contradictory views and pontifications in the same opinion page of the same newspaper, which perfectly underlines the peddled illusions.
In one paper I read an ultra-realistic pained view, and next to it there was an in-denial view insisting that it would be wrong to assume that Hezbollah and the henchmen of the ex-‘Syrian-Lebanese security apparatus’ have won the elections; they have only won a battle but not the war. The latter argument then went on to suggest that Iran was in deep trouble and time does not go back.
Be it as it may, faced with such contradiction in analysis, I believe there remains one undisputable fact which is that Lebanon was, and will continue to be, a small fish in a large pond; in the absence of real political and institutional life, the country will remain a helpless hostage to the fortunes of the region, which itself is in a dangerous and volatile state.
Obviously, it is no more possible to separate Hezbollah’s actual hegemony in Lebanon from Iran’s regional project, more so since Hezbollah is a vital ingredient of that project. Time has proven, particularly since 2006, that the word ‘resistance’ touted by the Party - with all different attributes - means nothing but ‘Tehran’s interests and regional project’.
Furthermore, Hezbollah has been the fruit of a hegemony that took root in Hafez Al-Assad’s Syria, before it was extended to include Lebanon. Although Assad Sr – just like the pseudo ‘reformers’ in Tehran – was more capable of outmaneuvering, lulling and neutralizing his enemies than Assad Jr and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) generation that dominates the scene in Tehran, Syria actually assumed its role as Party’s ‘nanny’ under Al-Assad Sr..
Indeed, when the Damascus regime forces had to withdraw from Lebanon in 2005 in the aftermath of Rafic Al-Hariri’s assassination, it became clear that Syria was nothing but a ‘nanny’ to Iran’s baby. Hezbollah wasted no time to unmask its face in the Lebanese arena when it opposed setting up the international tribunal to try Hariri’s assassins. Later on, it refused to cooperate with it; and after accusing five of its members of carrying out the crime, Hezbollah rejected the summons or any negotiations regarding the five accused, although it had negotiated with Israel – albeit through a third party – to secure the release of its hostages and the bodies of Israeli soldiers.
An even stronger proof was the 2006 war which Hezbollah instigated against the Israelis. The most significant outcome of that war was that the Party left Lebanon’s southern border areas, only to point its guns toward the Lebanese interior in 2008, and later the Syrian interior since 2011. It went on to interfere in Yemen too, doing its part in executing with Iran’s regional strategy which does not care less about ‘resisting’ Israel, and the liberation of Palestine… including Jerusalem!
In the latest Lebanese elections, Hezbollah scored a spectacular victory by imposing its favorite electoral system. The international community, in turn, knew beforehand that adopting ‘proportional representation’ – as per the new system – would mean ensuring ‘penetrations’ of all major sectarian blocs and parties except the Shi’ite bloc as long as Hezbollah. This is the case because only Hezbollah among Lebanon’s parties and militias retains its military arsenal, and maintains its alliance with ‘Amal’ movement. In this ‘alliance’ between the two largest Shi’ite parties, ‘Amal’ provides Hezbollah with a comfortable room for maneuver as well as a ‘shock absorber’ between the Party and other communal parties.
Come election day, this is exactly what happened. The Shi’ite bloc made up of Hezbollah and ‘Amal’ simple ‘closed shop’ in its sectarian strongholds in northeast Lebanon, south Lebanon and Beirut winning all but one of the Shi’ite seats, while the Party’s henchmen nicknamed until recently by ‘the orphans of the ‘Syrian-Lebanese security apparatus’ from winning seat in the sectarian strongholds of other community.
Last week, ‘Amal’s leader Nabih Berri, as expected, was re-elected as Parliamentary Speaker (Constitutionally reserved for the Shi’ite community) for a sixth term. But if Berri’s election was a foregone conclusion, given the fact the Shi’ite bloc all but has a monopoly on Shi’ite seats, and that he has always enjoyed a wide non-sectarian political support, the election of the Deputy Speaker was pretty significant.
Elected to the post was Elie Firzli, a former Deputy Speaker (before 2005) and a well-known supporter of Damascus and the Lebanese President Michel Aoun; and thus, Hezbollah. It was interesting that Firzli declared his stance by saying “What has happened is the correction of a historical mistake that happened in 2005!”
This means that Lebanon, after the elections whose system was imposed by Hezbollah and Aoun, is returning to where it was before 2005! It is returning to Syrian-Iranian ‘trusteeship part2’.
This would not have been possible had the international community adopted a different position toward Tehran’s regional project; noting that as yet, there are no open differences between the official policies of Damascus and Tehran.
President Barack Obama when concluding his historic nuclear agreement (JCPOA) with Iran was quite aware that he was sacrificing the Syrian people, but still never hesitated. The international community, particularly the major Western European governments, too, racing race to appease Tehran and solicit for contracts does not care much about the fate of Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. As for Russia, it does not seem to mind reclaiming regional foothold if the price was rivers of blood. And, finally, Israel knows what it wants, and is quite satisfied to see across its borders a state of disintegration, sectarian animosities, and ‘border guards’ who shout, threaten and outbid, but do nothing.
Thus, Lebanon is now facing a future that looks like its recent past, as long as major international capitals believe that the Tehran regime must survive provided it “changes its behavior”, and the Damascus regime may also stay as long as it can co-exist with everybody but not with its own people.
However, what would happen to Lebanon if the Tehran regime unexpectedly falls?

Hodeidah: Houthis’ Last Terminal
Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al Awsat/May 31/18
Abdul Malik al-Houthi frankly admitted his militias’ successive losses after Yemeni forces have become less than 20 kilometers away from the port of Hodeidah, which has been exploited by the Houthi militias to receive Iranian weapons, carry out piracy operations and looting of aid ships.
His statements revealed his militias’ military bankruptcy and reflected a clear and unprecedented spirit of defeatism. This is perhaps because the decisive period for the liberation of Hodeidah from rebels has come close, especially that Houthis have acknowledged the difficulty of maintaining the governorate, where the most important Yemeni port is located.
The Houthi leader called on the militia elements not to panic and leave the battlefields, and begged the tribes in his speech not to disperse and leave his side.
The Saudi-led coalition and the legitimate forces will be able to tighten the siege on the coup militias and close the last important port it controls after the liberation of Hodeidah governorate and its strategic harbor. Moreover, developments in Hodeidah indicate that the Yemeni crisis was entering a decisive military phase after the Houthis had rejected all the political opportunities given to them by the Arab coalition to end this war. The coupists expressed their intransigence towards all UN roadmaps to resolve the conflict. Despite the relentless attempts by all UN envoys to end the crisis, the Houthi arrogance has made it impossible to reach a political solution.
Even with the visit of the UN envoy to Yemen on Saturday, whom the Houthis refused to receive for a long time, the chances of reaching a political solution unfortunately diminish day after day.
All previous experiences prove that Houthis’ intransigence is backed with its insistence to prolong the crisis and increase human suffering, hoping to exploit those sufferings to gain the world’s sympathy and incite against the Arab coalition as the party leading the war against Yemenis.
However, the truth is that the party fighting Houthis on the ground is represented by the Yemeni legitimate forces, who are backed by the coalition and control 85 percent of the total area of Yemen.
And all these attempts by Iran to exploit the war for other purposes hide the fact that the first reason for this war is the Houthi coup against the legitimate government.
It is important to note here that the US strategy has succeeded in hindering Iranian expansion in the region, whose model in Yemen is clearly suffering following the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal and its imposition of unprecedented sanctions on Tehran because of its aggressive policy.
Washington's announcement that it will continue to work with its allies in the Arab coalition and train its pilots on the accuracy of strikes and the prevention of civilian casualties is not to be overlooked, in addition to its explicit support for the Arab Coalition to eliminate Houthis within President Donald Trump's new strategy.
The Yemeni legitimate forces, with the support of the Saudi-led coalition, are on the verge of decisive days in light of successive military victories in the fighting fronts on the west coast.
This puts pressure on the Houthis, who will eventually surrender to all the conditions and resolutions of the international community to hand over the arms, withdraw from Sanaa and then engage in political negotiations, even if against their desire.

Trump Is Making Trade Less Fair
Michael Schuman/Bloomberg/May 31/18
From the beginning of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, he has said he wants to make trade “fair.” For too long, he argued, American companies and workers suffered as trading partners used tactics that stole jobs, damaged U.S. industry and widened deficits. The implication was that he’d work to strip away the remaining tariffs and other hurdles that tilted the playing field.
Now we’ve seen Trump’s policy in action, it turns out he’s doing the opposite. Rather than knocking down state-imposed barriers, he’s pressuring governments to intervene to achieve specific outcomes — for the most part, protecting or aiding specific U.S. industries and companies. The result isn’t freer trade, but more unfair trade.
Look at the relationship with China. Trump is threatening to impose broad tariffs on imports to compel Beijing to reduce its surplus with the U.S. The ultimatum is: Intervene to manipulate trade in our favor, or we’ll intervene to manipulate trade in our favor. China’s negotiators appeared to cave on this point by offering to buy more from the U.S., most likely energy and agricultural products, though the outlines of a compromise are in flux.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin recently said that “this is not a giant purchase order government to government.” But let’s not pretend Beijing isn’t directly involved. Chinese officials are making the promises, not private parties, meaning any deals will be state-organized, not market-driven. The energy sector is dominated by state-owned enterprises, so any decision to buy more U.S. oil, for instance, is a matter of national policy. There are already reports that such enterprises are being prodded to buy American oil and soybeans.
The U.S. did the same with South Korea, a key ally. In agreeing to revise a free-trade pact, Seoul was in effect blackmailed into a self-imposed quota on steel exports to avoid high tariffs. Again, Trump asked a government to achieve a specific result that the market wasn’t bringing about.
Negotiations over the North American Free Trade Agreement show the same tendency. Trump had the gall to ask Mexico for changes that could force it to do something he’d never consider at home — effectively increase wages to a set minimum. The aim was to press the government to boost automobile manufacturing costs and push factories back into the U.S. Mexico has said it’s prepared to be flexible on wages and auto content.
The bottom line is that Trump is capitalizing on the leverage provided by his giant home market to alter trade in ways that benefit targeted industries – which is what China does. He’s using state intervention to tilt the playing field toward the U.S. and away from countries that include close allies.
The pattern of Trump’s demands also suggests that the true motivation behind his policies is not economic but political. The sectors he consistently targets for protection and perquisites — autos, steel, agriculture and energy — are all important to states that voted for him, or whose votes he’ll need. In his quest to protect the car industry, he’s even considering throwing up new tariffs on vehicle imports, making the (ridiculous) assertion that they’re necessary for national security.
In short, it seems, Trump is using trade policy to bolster his own prospects and not necessarily those of the economy.
The way ahead is to remove the state intervention that distorts markets, not encourage more of it. Only by breaking down artificial barriers can trade become truly fair. By opening foreign markets to U.S. business, Trump would break the fetters that prevent competitive American companies from expanding, and boost sales, profits — and jobs.
Trump and his Republican colleagues say they favor private enterprise and the free markets that allow it to thrive. But the president is abusing the power of the state to play favorites. Does that sound fair?

The US has started confronting IRGC’s Quds Brigade
كيف بدأت أميركا مواجهة فيلق القدس الإيراني عمليا؟

Saleh Hamid/ Al 31/ 2018
Political analyst Dr. Karim Abdian Bani Saeed, the consultant of the Democratic Solidarity Party of Ahwaz, told Al that American troops in the region has started confronting the activity and deployment of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Brigade in the region’s countries via military, logistical and intelligence aid to powers that oppose Tehran.
Bani Saeed, who resides in Washington, also said that the 12 conditions detailed by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the Iranian nuclear deal are a comprehensive strategy to respond to Iranian interferences in the region and which threaten the interests and security of the US and its allies.
Bani Saeed, who is the head of the foreign relations’ committee at the Congress of Nationalities for a Federal Iran and the director of Ahwaz Human Rights Organization (AHRO), also said that America’s new strategy serves the ongoing protests in Iran because the strict sanctions will weaken the regime’s capabilities to suppress protests.
“America’s new strategy also deals with Iran’s lack of transparency regarding the project to design a nuclear bomb. The US knows all of the details of this project which is why Iran has not allowed the International Atomic Energy Agency to visit sensitive military and nuclear sites.
This strategy also deals with other issues such as the release of Americans detained in Iran, ending the presence of Iran’s troops in Iraq and preventing Iran from continuing to provide aid to terrorist organizations,” he said.
With the Iranian administration severely weakened, it could find itself facing another revolution, which would cause the IRGC to step in.
Regime institutions
Commenting on whether the new sanctions on the Revolutionary Guards and the Iranian regime institutions will affect the protests in country, Bani Saeed said: “For a country like Iran, whose the majority of its revenues comes from oil, the sanctions will weaken the regime’s oppressive capabilities. This is because the state utilizes its resources to suppress popular protests and gives oil revenues to the Revolutionary Guards and its militias to buy equipment and weapons.”
He added that Iran “will not be able to resume” its interferences in the region’s countries, especially in Syria, Yemen and Iraq, without oil revenues as it uses the latter to pay the wages of thousands of Iranian forces, mercenaries and Shiite militias.
“This new American strategy will allow the region’s countries, especially those who import American weapons, to confront Iran because the sanctions will include military, logistical and intelligence aid to these countries against Iran and its activity in the region. This will be useful, and this means that the US troop’s confrontation of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Brigade that is responsible for Iran’s military interferences in these countries has already begun,” Bani Saeed said.
Regarding the ongoing protests in Iran, Bani Saeed said the Iranian people want the international community to know that reformists and hardliners are “two sides of the same coin,” as they’re the same in terms of persecution, discrimination and corruption.
“Although no one knows when and how the regime will fall, the Iranian people are more optimistic that it will fall after the recent protests which are being held amid economic and political deterioration and increased international support,” he said.
Bani Saeed also said that changing the regime must happen from within, adding: “If protests resume in Iran, unite across the country and raise slogans of democratic change and respecting freedoms, minorities’ rights and all religions and Iranians ethnicities while avoiding violence, they will certainly gain international support and reach the stage of civil disobedience which will definitely exhaust and topple the regime.”

Iran offers Yemen up for negotiation
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/May 31/18
While Yemeni legitimate forces march towards Hodeida, which is the most important port for the rebels, Tehran is offering its desire to negotiate on Yemen.
Abbas Araghchi, the Iranian deputy foreign minister, said they reject Washington’s demands to link the nuclear deal and their manufacturing of ballistic missiles with their influence in the region, but they are ready to negotiate over Yemen.
The Iranian government is trying to dance around Washington’s demands and only execute them superficially. It’s negotiating over Yemen because it has become a losing card as the coalition advances and Iran’s ally, the Houthis, suffer from accelerated losses.
Iran and the 12 US demands
Meanwhile in Syria, we can see Iran retreating as it vows not to head south which contradicts what it said following its final victory. After it destroyed the Palestinian Yarmouk camp on Damascus’ outskirts, Iran announced that it will lead its militias towards Daraa, adjacent to Jordan.
Notice how Iran's tactic is first based on selling what it loses, as for instance the Houthi defeat will make it necessary for Iran to give them up
Iran backed down and its ambassador to Amman said his country will not be stationed in areas close to Jordan or even in areas close to Israel. This comes, of course, due to the massive losses Iran suffered during the past two weeks as a result of the Israeli shelling and the new Russian stance to no longer provide an air cover for Iran.
It is clear that the Iranians, with their well-known realism, respect power more than they respect international agreements and customs. They would not have accepted to agree over Yemen if it hadn’t been for their ally’s accelerating losses there. They would not have repositioned their forces away from northern Jordan and eastern Israel if it hadn’t been for the painful losses they suffered.
This means we have to expect Tehran to make a series of “concessions” in the next phase to convince the US to halt or mitigate economic sanctions and reactivate the nuclear deal.
There are three major demands in the 12 conditions the US set and they are: halting the production of ballistic missiles, like those which targeted Saudi cities from Yemen, withdrawing from fighting zones that target US allies, i.e. Syria, Yemen and Lebanon, and the third is for Iran to stop interfering in Iraq’s affairs.
These three conditions in particular represent a major challenge to the core of Iran’s foreign policy. Notice how its tactic is first based on selling what it loses, as for instance the Houthi defeat will make it necessary for Iran to give them up.
Iran's strategy
Syria, however, is more precious to Tehran than to give up on it as Iran has invested billions of dollars in its war there and lost a large number of its commanders and militia fighters there. Withdrawing from Syria will threaten its influence in Lebanon where it spent at least $30 billion since the 1980’s and which it deems essential to its policy to have a regional balance with Israel and the US.
We will probably witness Iran rearranging the deployment of its troops and militias in Syria in agreement with Israel and in influence zones that Iran is far from. This is what the news website Elaph published about indirect secret negotiations between the two parties in Amman. Iran’s ambassador to Jordan confirmed this in an interview with the Al Ghad daily adding that they do not plan to fight in the South.
The Iranian negotiator’s tactic may be to give up these red zones because they cannot be present there and to commit that its forces and militias will not attack Israel, making the same pledge which the Syrian regime has made during the disengagement negotiations after the 1973 war. Syria has not attacked Israel since then and it chose Lebanon to be the alternative arena for confrontation.
We must not forget that Iran, through its proxy Hezbollah, has engaged in negotiations and agreed to pull out its fighters, vowing not to deploy beyond the Litani River towards Israel’s borders during the agreement to stop the war in 2006.
Iran holds on to Syria and views it as a strategic regional fulcrum to protect its influence in Iraq and Lebanon and increase its negotiating capabilities against Israel and the US. It must try to propose its ideas to prevent the disaster that will ensue as a result of sanctions, through a series of messages via countries like the Sultanate of Oman and Switzerland or mediators like France.
We expect from Iran to propose ideas that specify the nature of its military presence and positions in Syria and claim that it is to support the Damascus regime that has a weakened military and security authority. Iran will find justifications for this and say Egypt rejected America’s call to send troops there to replace them. The other option is that Iran will accept to fully withdraw from Syria but after an average period of time, three years, under the excuse of rehabilitating the regime’s military and security capabilities. As for Yemen, we do not rule out the possibility that Tehran will repeat its two demands in order stop the fighting: to give the Houthis a share in the government and parliament seats, a share bigger than their size, and allowing the Houthis to keep their heavy weapons. These two demands are certainly rejected by the Yemenis and the coalition countries.

Why is it difficult for the Iranian regime to survive?
Hazem Saghieh/Al Arabiya/May 31/18
Following the success of the Khomeini-led revolution in 1979, many who were familiar with the situation in Iran did not expect the regime to last long.
The signs included the regime’s premature recourse to brutal repression that did not only target supporters of the Shah and his regime, but also targeted forces of the revolution itself.
The latter included People’s Fedaian, People’s Mujahedin, communists of the Tudeh Party as well as moderate Islamist factions or factions that opposed the Khomeini dictatorship which was represented by leaders such as Mehdi Bazargan, the first prime minister during the revolutionary period, and Abolhassan Banisadr, the first president of the republic at that time.
Saddam Hussein’s greatest folly was to launch a war against Iran as this was tantamount to a gift for the regime since Khomeini was able to seize control over all aspects of Iranian life and politics
Saddam’s blunders
Saddam Hussein’s greatest folly was to launch a war against Iran as this was tantamount to a gift for the regime since Khomeini was able to seize control over all aspects of Iranian life and politics and was able to promote a false correlation between Iranian nationalism and his own continuity.
He thus worked to serve his own interests and tighten his grip on power. When Saddam attempted to put an end to the war, it was Khomeini and those surrounding them that held firmly to the continuity of war. The war, which lasted eight years and caused enormous economic devastation and hundreds of thousands of fatalities, ironically provided longevity to the regime. Saddam’s second blunder was his invasion of Kuwait. This put Iraq in a confrontation with the world and allowed Iran, for the second time, to be an acceptable part of the world order.
And finally, the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, followed by the withdrawal of US forces, came as a great gift for the Khomeini regime.
Countdown begins
Iran’s sense of power peaked via direct interferences in Syria. However, the countdown against the regime may have begun in recent months. On the international level, two major developments have taken place: the appointment of two “hawks” to the Trump administration, Pompeo and Bolton, and the US’ decision to withdraw from the nuclear agreement with Iran.
Although Europe still defends the deal, the US’ withdrawal from it makes it ineffectual due to the disparity of economic weight. On the other hand, it is quite clear that Russian President Vladimir Putin does not mind diminishing Iran’s role in Syria, as he has publicly called on foreign powers to withdraw their troops from Syria.
This was interpreted as a call on the Iranians and their militias to withdraw from Syria. Strong evidence in this respect is the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Moscow and his attendance of the celebration of victory over fascism during World War II, just a day before his bloody celebration of moving the US embassy to Jerusalem.
Rise of Muqtada Al Sadr
On the regional level, there are two more developments. First the Iranian military’s prestige suffered a setback after the Israeli military strikes in Syria, which Tehran did not retaliate against. If the Israeli army’s narrative that it destroyed the Iranian military infrastructure there is proven true, it will mean that Iran’s claims about “liberating Jerusalem” and “wiping Israel out” are closer to a cheap and ridiculous propaganda.
The second development is the outcome of the recent Iraqi elections as Muqtada Al-Sadr and his alliance won the lion’s share. Sadr is known for being one of the shrillest voices against Iran and its policy in Iraq, and he has defied Iran’s influence within the Shiite sect.
If we add Iran’s domestic problems to all these factors, the dark picture appears complete. Iran’s economy is witnessing its worst days which is apparent in the daily fall in the value of its currency. Needless to say that reinstating sanctions will lead to further economic deterioration thus public discontent.
It is not unlikely that the conflict between the “moderate” Rouhani faction, that is afflicted by the annulment of the nuclear agreement, and the Revolutionary Guard hardliners, who want to take advantage of this cancellation, will widen on the ideological level.
In this context, Mike Pompeo made his recent statement warning Tehran that it would suffer from the “toughest sanctions in history”. This is why he demanded Iran’s withdrawal from Syria and the rest of the Middle East. Regardless of any opinion on this last count, it is indisputable that the position of the Iranian regime is currently an unenviable one.

Four countries combating terrorism
Mohammed Al-Hammadi/Al Arabiya/May 31/18
The information ministers of the anti-terror quartet which consists of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain, held a meeting in Abu Dhabi on Monday. The meeting was attended by a number of media figures and writers from the four countries.
Abu Dhabi meeting
The significance of this meeting lies in the fact that it included countries that have taken a serious decision to combat terrorism without waiting for the rest of the world.
These countries certainly cooperate and work with the international community to fight terrorism but at the same time they decided not to wait until the world decides when to act or until it categorizes who the terrorist is and who practices terrorism. The quartet has thus taken upon itself the responsibility of combating terrorism
There is no doubt that the media plays an important role in combating terrorism, or rather an essential role. However it’s also true that terrorist organizations’ most important tool is the media which they use to spread their extreme ideas. This is in addition to their presence on social media where they broadcast their hate messages and recruit youths. These are the traditional methods of terrorists’ use of the media, while their indirect exploitation of the media and infiltration of it has different forms.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain have taken upon themselves the responsibility of combating terrorism
Media’s role
The importance the media’s role was highlighted in the speech of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed during his meeting with the information ministers of the four countries. He said: “Combating extremism and terrorism intellectually and through the media is not less important than fighting them on the military and security (fronts). There must be pre-emptive strategies based on explaining the concepts and contents of the Islamic discourse that calls for peace and tolerance and spreading the spirit of hope and positivity.”
The media’s effort should increase and be more organized in the next phase, and we must also increase the number of allies to fight this evil disease.
Forms of terrorism
In addition to terrorism which exploited religion, there is another form of terrorism which is perpetrated by states and groups, like Iran which supports terrorism, Qatar that funds it and Hezbollah which promotes it and spreads it. Thus, it’s important to coordinate efforts to produce works that expose terrorism and terrorists and establish institutions and centers that expose Iran and its terrorist regime to the West and “some” Arabs.
We need powerful media for this Arab quartet which is combating extremism and terrorism, especially after the success it achieved in exposing Qatar’s support for terrorism. It is certain now that the media’s war against terrorism has become essential and of top priority on both the short and the long terms.

Putin does not like the sight of Russian coffins
Ghassan Charbel/Al Arabiya/May 31/18
Russian President Vladimir Putin hates the sight of Russian coffins coming from Syria. He has sought since the beginning to avoid such images. He knows that coffins stir fears of deep involvement, even if Moscow has higher tolerance than Washington in this regard.
This is why he engineered the Russian military intervention in a way that would help avoid such scenes or remind his people of the Afghan war period. Russia intervened by air and did not send soldiers to the battleground. It dispatched aides to accompany the Syrian regime troops and deployed military police in safe areas. We can say that the master of the Kremlin has succeeded. He realized early on that Barack Obama had no intention of ensnaring Russia in Syria and that his attention was focused on the nuclear deal with Iran. This is why he did not provide the Syrian opposition with anti-aircraft weapons and did not allow his allies to send such arms to Syria. This meant that Obama did not want to drown Moscow in a new Afghanistan.
The Russian strikes could not alone shift the balance of power in Syria in favor of the regime. Russia had to take into consideration the pro-Iran militias. This is how this triangle of Russia, Iran and its allies, and the regime emerged to change the balance and ISIS was their main target.
The Russian intervention helped change the rules of the game. The toppling of the regime was no longer part of the equation. In fact, the regime was expected to expand areas that it controls and recapture many it had retreated from.
The truth is that the Syrian opposition was dealt a fatal blow by ISIS and al-Qaeda before it was dealt a similar blow by Russia and its allies. The world could not tolerate the idea of Syria living under ISIS’ control. The regime itself could not coexist with such a Syria. This therefore paved the way for the counter-strike that allowed the regime to seize the reins and deal defeat after defeat against the opposition.
Moscow, Damascus and Tehran have a complex network of relations. They have mutual needs, but lack united visions and goals
Two fronts
Russia moved on two fronts. First, it focused on enabling the regime to regain the initiative on the battlefield. Second, it broke up the opposition and regional and international front that supported it. In this context, one can understand some Russian ideas over the de-escalation zones and its simultaneous efforts to weaken the Geneva talks through the Sochi and Astana paths.
One has to credit Russia in this regard for taming Ankara’s stance and transforming it into a partner in the Astana talks. In return, Turkey received the right to discipline the Syrian Kurds in Afrin and break the Kurdish belt that was being formed along its border with Syria. It also received the right to set up military positions in Syria. Ankara will likely use this issue as a bargaining chip when serious negotiations over the withdrawal of foreign forces from Syria are launched.
Russia and Iran allied together in battle against the opposition and ISIS in an attempt to change the balance of power. This does not mean that they see eye-to-eye. Whereas Russia was focused on tilting the military balance in the regime’s favor, Iran was concerned with entrenching itself in Syria and bringing it into the “Iranian crescent”. It had shifted its attention to removing obstacles in the formation of a smooth land corridor that connects Iran to the Lebanese Mediterranean coast through Iraq and Syria.
Donald Trump’s arrival to the White House did not flip the game on its head, but he simply created some confusion. His administration does not have an agenda to defeat the coup Russia is leading on the ground. It only possesses the means to delay or obstruct it. The United States is not really that preoccupied with who rules Syria. It, along with Israel, is only looking at Syria because of the Iranian presence there.
In wake of the battle against ISIS and the West’s reluctance to pay the price of a wide military intervention in Syria, western and regional countries opted for accepting the “Russian Syria” if it prevents the establishment of an “Iranian Syria.” Israel has sought to obtain guarantees from Moscow that Iran and its allies would not come near Israeli positions in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. Putin showed great interest in preserving the strong relationship with Israel and understanding what it considers as its security needs. He could not, however, provide the necessary guarantees.
Iran nuclear deal
Israel realized that Trump was leaning towards withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal. It therefore, raised the roof of its demands from Russia and increased its raids against what it says are Iranian arms transfers to Lebanon’s “Hezbollah.”
As tensions once again soared between Washington and Tehran, Israel moved on towards the phase of directly targeting Iranian military presence in Syria and killing Iranians. Benjamin Netanyahu’s government exploited a “limited” Iranian attack on the Golan to launch a wide strike against the Iranian military infrastructure in Syria.
For now, Putin has succeeded in preventing a wide-scale war from erupting. This success, however, remains vulnerable. He does not want to sever ties with Iran in Syria, which would not be easy if he wanted to. He also can not not go along with the Iran agenda and withstand its consequences. The game has become more complicated after the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal. Perhaps this is why Putin focused during his latest talks with regime leader Bashar Assad on the need for a political solution in Syria. Assad showed a willingness to go along with his demands. However, the political solution according to Syria and Russia does not fall in line with the spirit of the Geneva peace path because the field developments have eliminated several of its elements, including talk of a transitional period.
Moscow, Damascus and Tehran have a complex network of relations. They have mutual needs, but lack united visions and goals. Whenever they near a solution, disputes become clearer. These complex ties exist during a time when American-Iranian tensions have grown more strained and when Israel announced that it wants to uproot Iranian military presence in Syria. A small war is going on and Russia is becoming a simple witness to it. What will happen after the balance of power on the field in Syria has changed? What does Moscow want now and what can it do? How does the regime, which holds the Russian and Iranian wings, think? Is Iran using Syria as a trial area to test American will? Or has Syria turned into a trap that is depleting the Iranian role?
Putin does not like the image of coffins coming from Syria, but keeping Syria without a real solution means that more are sure to come. It is clear that waging a war against the opposition and ISIS is easier than making peace in Syria.