June 04/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
If Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain
First Letter to the Corinthians 15/12-26: "If Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on June 03-04/18
Alleging corruption, Lebanese parties to challenge president on citizenship decree/David Enders/The National/June 3, 2018
Samir Kassir Award lauds those who strive for freedom of the press/Ghadir Hamadi/Annahar/June 03/18/
The dilemma of corruption in Lebanon/Ali Al-Amin/Al Arabiya/June 03/18
Israel, Damascus Deny Deal Reached On Southern Syria/Jerusalem Post/June 03/18
Rape Gangs: A Story Set in Leafy Oxfordshire/Douglas Murray/Gatestone Institute./June 03/18
UN Has Only Recommended Tiny Token Numbers of Syrian Christians for Resettlement in the UK/Raymond Ibrahim/Gatestone Institute./June 03/18
In Saudi Arabia, Structural Reform Does not Stop/Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al Awsat/June 03/18
From tunnels of extremism towards horizons of tolerance/Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran/Al Arabiya/June 03/18
Sanaa must be seen to, however long the journey/Mohammed Al Shaikh/Al Arabiya/June 03/18
Decline in Israel-Turkey relations has Armenia back on the agenda/Yasar Yakis/Arab News/June 03/18
Mediterranean hotspots a threat to entire region/Kerry Boyd Anderson/Arab News/June 03/18
EU shares no common ground with Tehran/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/June 03/18
Syria links talks on south to US withdrawal/AFP/June 03, 2018

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on June 03-04/18
American Mideast Coalition for Democracy Backs Pompeo's Call for Review of Aid to Lebanon
Pro-Syrian Regime Officials Top Lebanon’s Controversial Naturalization Decree
Report: Bassil, Nader Hariri 'Blamed for Naturalization Decree’
Syria Extends Deadline for Contentious Property Law that Worried Lebanon
Rahi presides over Sunday Mass service in Harissa
Bassil, Nasrallah confer over domestic, international affairs
Lebanese delegate to UN holds reception on 40th commemoration of UNIFIL's entry into Lebanon
Nadim Gemayel: Several moves underway to cancel naturalization decree
Ferzli: Republic President has the right to grant Lebanese nationality to whomever he pleases
Khreiss: To accelerate the formation of a national unity government to face lurking dangers
Matar salutes Riachi on World Day of Social Communication
Bou Assi: Minister Bassil is not the one who determines LF's size in government, but rather the Prime Minister
Hobeish: Akkar is one of Hariri's priorities, deserves to be represented by more than one ministry
Alleging corruption, Lebanese parties to challenge president on citizenship decree
Samir Kassir Award lauds those who strive for freedom of the press
The dilemma of corruption in Lebanon

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on June 03-04/18
Iranian officers withdraw from Syria’s Tall Rifaat, object Russia, Turkey deal
Deal Sought to Allow Lieberman to Temporarily Replace Netanyahu in Exchange for Early Polls
New Deal Reached on Southern Syria
No N. Korea Relief until Verifiable Denuclearisation Steps, Says Mattis
Saudi Arabia Says 17 Detained in Sweeping Crackdown
Jordan Protests Snowball over IMF-Backed Austerity
Iraq Court Sentences French Woman to Life for IS Membership
Qatar Crisis Creates 'New' Gulf with No Winners
Weary Libyans Remain Wary of Leaders' New Pledges
North Korea state media says Syria’s Assad wants to meet Kim
Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on June 03-04/18
American Mideast Coalition for Democracy Backs Pompeo's Call for Review of Aid to Lebanon
Naharnet/June 03/18/The American Mideast Coalition for Democracy has announced that it supports U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s call for a review of U.S. aid to Lebanon's security and military forces.
AMCD in conjunction with The World Council of Cedars Revolution (WCCR) suggests that any support from the U.S. be based on the following stipulations:
"1. A clear announcement by the Lebanese cabinet, ministry of defense and army command that they do not support or endorse Hizbullah.
2. A clear announcement of support for U.N. resolution 1559 which called for the full withdrawal and disarming of all militias in Lebanon including Hizbullah.
3. That the Lebanese government and Lebanese army implement a security plan to create a safe zone in Lebanon where Hizbullah cannot deploy nor obtain permits to carry arms. The army and security forces would have sole responsible for security in these areas."
The American Mideast Coalition for Democracy (AMCD) describes itself as a "non-partisan, grass-roots organization dedicated to empowering the estimated 10 million Americans of Middle Eastern descent to promote greater understanding and beneficial policies for both America and for the countries of the Middle East."
“It is our sincere hope that these steps will begin the process of civil society wresting back control from Hizbullah, but it will be a struggle,” said AMCD Co-Director John Hajjar.
“Hizbullah has slowly, but steadily taken control of Lebanon politically because they had already taken control of Lebanon’s security forces. In this situation, whoever wins elections is irrelevant. Hizbullah, and thus Iran, is in control of Lebanon,” Hajjar added.

Pro-Syrian Regime Officials Top Lebanon’s Controversial Naturalization Decree
Beirut - Nazeer Rida/Asharq Al Awsat/Sunday, 03 June/ 2018
Lebanon’s controversial naturalization decree has included former Syrian officials and wealthy warlords close to the Syrian regime, according to information released on Saturday. Minister of Education in the caretaker government Marwan Hamadeh accused President Michel Aoun of conspiring with the Syrian regime. In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, Hamadeh said the decree, “regardless of the powers of those who signed it, indicates a serious complicity between the Lebanese governance, in particular the current term, with the Syrian authorities that massacred the Syrian people.”
“The decree entails more threats than the mere naturalization of some of the suspicious people of the Bashar Assad regime, who will certainly be hit by international and Arab sanctions sooner or later,” he added. Hamadeh called on Prime Minister Saad Hariri to give answers to his friends and allies about the truth behind this decree. Meanwhile, in an official presidential statement on Saturday, Aoun requested that anyone with evidence of the ineligibility of members of the list of people to be granted Lebanese citizenship bring the information to General Security. “The President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, requests anyone who has definite information about any person included in the above-mentioned decree and does not deserve Lebanese nationality to submit this information to the Ministry of the Interior,” the statement read. Three parliamentary blocs, including the Democratic Gathering, headed by Taymur Jumblat, the “Powerful Republic”, led by the Lebanese Forces, and the Kataeb Party, are preparing to challenge the decree before the Constitutional Council. Some information and photos posted on Twitter revealed that those who were granted Lebanese nationality include Farouk al-Joud, vice president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Lattakia. He is the owner of the largest fleet of ships and is close to the Syrian regime. The family of former Syrian Minister Hani Murtada, Samer Fawz, who is very close to Maher al-Assad and Iyad Ghazal, former governor of Homs, have also been included in the decree.
It is not yet confirmed whether some of these names have been mentioned on the lists of international and Arab sanctions, since the naturalization decree has not yet been officially released. However, the Lebanese nationality is an outlet for Syrian individuals and investors to open bank accounts, given that their country is subject to sanctions that hinder their work. The decree needs the signature of the prime minister and interior minister to take effect.
Report: Bassil, Nader Hariri 'Blamed for Naturalization Decree’
Naharnet/June 03/18/A controversial naturalization decree granting Lebanese citizenship to foreigners has reportedly been “blamed on Free Patriotic Movement Jebran Bassil and former head of the premier’s office Nader Hariri,” the Kuwaiti Asseyasah daily reported Sunday.
The daily said that “political circles have held Bassil and Hariri accountable for bringing the naturalization law to the spotlight as part of the presidential settlement in Lebanon.”“Other political leader had no knowledge about the law,” they told the daily on condition of anonymity. Noting the contradiction between said law and the calls to return Syrian refugees back to their hometowns, they asked: “How does the (presidential) term call for the return of Syrian refugees out of naturalization fears, while at the same time embarks on selling the nationality to Bashar Assad’s aides?”Reports have emerged lately that President Michel Aoun has signed the controversial decree one day before the government turned to its caretaker capacity. The law grants citizenship to some 300 people mostly including names of Syrian figures close to Syrian President Bashar Assad who are also subject to US financial sanctions, to Palestinians, Western and Gulf businessmen, as well as a number of stateless applicants. The decree has provoked criticism, especially since it will be issued by a caretaker government. Kataeb party leader, MP Sami Gemayel emphasized that he will “obtain a copy of the decree from the Interior Ministry to take the action needed.”
The Democratic Gathering bloc said they will challenge the law in front of the Constitutional Council. Head of the Progressive Socialist Party Walid Jumblat published on Twitter the names of some Syrian figures whom he said have “obtained the Lebanese nationality.”

Syria Extends Deadline for Contentious Property Law that Worried Lebanon

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 03/18/Syria has amended a controversial property law criticized by several Lebanese officials as “hindering the return of 1.5 million Syrian refugees who have sought refuge in Lebanon.”Syria amended the law to allow people a year instead of a month to prove ownership of land seized for development, the foreign minister said Saturday. The law, known as Decree 10, allows Syria's government to seize private property for zoned developments and compensate proven owners with shares in the new projects. Critics, including rights groups and neighbouring Lebanon, have warned the law could prevent millions of Syrians displaced by the seven-year war from ever returning home. Owners inevitably lose their property under the decree, but after an amendment now have up to a year -- instead of 30 days -- to claim shares after a new zone is announced if they prove ownership.
"The time period has been amended and become a year," Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said at a press conference in the Syrian capital. Muallem said the nationwide law was "necessary" after the regime regained control of the former rebel bastion of Eastern Ghouta outside Damascus in April, through a military assault and evacuation deals that displaced tens of thousands from their homes. "Property regulation was necessary to restore the rights of the owners," he said, accusing rebels of "burning real estate records" and "manipulating" property deeds when they held the region. But critics have raised concerns about the repercussions of such a law, especially for those affiliated to anti-government groups who will likely not dare to make a claim. Human Rights Watch has said the law amounts to "forced eviction". Last week, Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri said the law “concerns Lebanon because it tells thousands of Syrian families to stay in Lebanon,” should their homes be confiscated by the Syrian government. Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil also warned that Decree 10 could hinder the return of an estimated 1.5 million Syrian refugees who have sought refuge in his country. But Muallem on Saturday dismissed such charges as unfounded. "We are keen for displaced Syrians to return to their hometowns and we will provide all necessary facilitations to those who wish to return," he said, adding he would send a reply to Bassil on Sunday. Syria's war erupted in March 2011 and has since forced more than five million people to flee outside the country and has displaced over six million internally.

Rahi presides over Sunday Mass service in Harissa
Sun 03 Jun 2018/NNA - Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rahi, presided over Sunday Mass in the Basilica of "Our Lady of Lebanon" in Harissa, commemorating the consecration of Lebanon to the immaculate heart of Mary. The Prelate called in his homily to eradicate corruption and to ensure citizens' best interests, eliminating the burdens that affect their lives and families' needs. He also called upon citizens to practice their rights in a fair and free manner, away from the interference of politicians, while demanding justice for employees who were collectively and arbitrarily dismissed from institutions where they worked, sacrificing their time and energy. "In order to promote a nation that is under debt and threatened of bankruptcy, a new government of technocrats must be formed to reform the country's sectors," Rahi asserted, noting that this is a condition for obtaining donations pledged to Lebanon during CEDRE conferences in Rome and Brussels. The Patriarch highlighted the importance of respecting public opinion, particularly concerning the decree on naturalization, which provoked "a justified outcry because of the concealment of its content." According to the Patriarch, the principle of granting the Lebanese nationality must be based on the link of blood, not on services and residence.

Bassil, Nasrallah confer over domestic, international affairs
Sun 03 Jun 2018/NNA - The Free Patriotic Movement Media Bureau indicated in a statement released on Sunday that "a long meeting took place on Friday night between Hezbollah Secretary-General, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, and FPM Chief, Caretaker Foreign Affairs and Emigrants Minister Gebran Bassil, in the presence of Hezbollah's Liaison and Coordination Unit, Wafiq Safa."The statement disclosed that discussions during the meeting focused on "the domestic and foreign political situations, in addition to evaluating the results of the recent parliamentary elections, taking into account all positive and negative lessons learnt." The two leaders also broached the issue of the displaced Syrians, as well as fighting corruption and giving top priority to the parliamentary and governmental work in the country. "It was agreed to set a preliminary plan to combat corruption and adopt a common mechanism afterwards," the statement said. Finally, Bassil and Nasrallah discussed the necessity of forming a new government in accordance with the Constitutional and Democratic Charter, and in line with the recent parliamentary elections outcome.

Lebanese delegate to UN holds reception on 40th commemoration of UNIFIL's entry into Lebanon
Sun 03 Jun 2018/NNA - Lebanese representative at the United Nations, Amal Moudallali, held a reception at her residence in New York on Sunday, marking 40 years since the entry of UNIFIL into Lebanon. Addressing a crowd of UN officials who attended the reception, including President of the UN General Assembly Miorslav Lajcak, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammad, and various senior diplomats and UN officers, Moudallali thanked the UN for its ongoing cooperation with Lebanon. She added that after all these years, UNIFIL is now considered part of the Lebanese society's components. In the same context, Moudallali praised the dedication of the UNIFIL members who, she said, made sacrifices to bring peace to the world. Moudallali also thanked the UNIFIL for its contribution to ensuring security in Lebanon since 1978, while losing 313 of its soldiers from several countries, namely France, Ireland, Fiji, Ghana, Bangladesh, Nepal, Senegal, Spain, Sri Lanka, Turkey, the United Kingdom, India, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Poland, Nigeria, the Philippines, Norway, El Salvador, Iran, Indonesia, Denmark, Italy, Sweden, Belgium, and Finland. She saluted the souls of UNIFL's fallen martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the sake of peace in Lebanon. The diplomat recalled that the situation in southern Lebanon was stable, but fragile, as Lebanon has not yet managed to achieve a permanent ceasefire in accordance with UN Resolution # 1701. Moudallali added that the United Nations could have, during 40 years of UNIFIL presence on Lebanese territory, approached the problem of Lebanon reflected by the Israeli occupation, and put an end to the Israeli daily land, air and sea violations of Lebanese sovereignty. Finally, she confirmed Lebanon's cooperation with the UN peacekeeping forces, and her personal collaboration as an ambassador, to support the role and mission of UNIFIL in Lebanon.

Nadim Gemayel: Several moves underway to cancel naturalization decree
Sun 03 Jun 2018/NNA - MP Nadim Gemayel deemed Sunday that "the Lebanese nationality should not be underestimated," adding, "The Kataeb Party will appeal against the naturalization decree."Speaking in an interview to Radio "Voice of Lebanon" this morning, Gemayel added, "We are in the process of revoking the naturalization decree and the Lebanese people must be aware of the seriousness of this stage.""This decree is invalid and a legal heresy," he emphasized. Gemayel outlined a number of defects in the decree in question, wondering what criteria were adopted for the naturalization of Syrians and Palestinians.

Ferzli: Republic President has the right to grant Lebanese nationality to whomever he pleases

Sun 03 Jun 2018/NNA - Deputy House Speaker Elie el-Ferzli stated Sunday that "the President of the Republic has the right to naturalize whoever he wishes," referring herein to the recently issued naturalization decree that has triggered controversy in the country. In an interview to "Voice of Lebanon" Radio Station earlier today, Ferzli disclosed that "the government will be formed the soonest possible in order to preserve the State." Over the corruption issue, Ferzli considered that "Kataeb Party Chief, MP Sami Gemayel, has won his fight against corruption, reflecting a unique case of an interceptor."

Khreiss: To accelerate the formation of a national unity government to face lurking dangers
Sun 03 Jun 2018/NNA - "Development and Liberation" Parliamentary Bloc Member Ali Khreiss called Sunday for expediting the formation of a national unity government to play its role in tending to citizens' concerns and burdens, and to confronting the surrounding risks.
Speaking at a memorial ceremony held in the town of Burj Rahal in the South, Khreiss stressed on "the need to get rid of political sectarianism by seeking to form a national body to abolish it.""After the parliamentary elections, the election of the House Speaker and the appointment of PM Saad Hariri to form a government, I hope that this government will see the light as soon as possible...a government of national unity that includes the various parliamentary blocs to confront all the dangers that beset the region and Lebanon", Khreiss went on. "The conflict with the Israeli enemy cannot end as long as parts of our land are occupied, similar to Palestine," he asserted. "We, as a political team, will assume responsibility and work for the stability, security and safety of our people," assured Khreiss, vowing to exert all efforts to provide every uninsured citizen in Lebanon with a hospitalization card.

Matar salutes Riachi on World Day of Social Communication

Sun 03 Jun 2018/NNA - Beirut Maronite Archbishop, Head of the Episcopal Commission for Media, Boulos Matar, paid tribute Sunday to Information Minister Melhem Riachi, for being a pioneer in the Arab countries region to adopt the word of communication and render it at the heart of political, social and cultural thought. Matar, who presided over Sunday Mass at St. George's Cathedral in Central Beirut this morning, with prayers devoted to journalists and media professionals on the occasion of the 52nd World Day of Social Communication, welcomed Minister Riachi's approach to changing the name of the Ministry of Information to become "Ministry of Human, Social and Spiritual Communication" between citizens. "Minister Riachi, you were avant-garde in the Arab society to adopt the term 'communication', a term endowed with a religious dimension, and placing it at the heart of political, social and cultural thought," said Matar addressing Riachi. According to the Archbishop, Minister Riachi, in his decision that awaits the approval of higher authorities, has launched the spirit of dialogue and the converging of ideas, bringing viewpoints closer together and triggering a new national life. At the end of Mass, Director of the Catholic Center for Information, Father Abdo Abu Kassem, delivered a word in which he thanked the Information Minister for his participation in the Mass service devoted to journalists and media professionals. The Center later distributed to those present the text of the message addressed by Pope Francis on the 52nd World Day of Social Communication.

Bou Assi: Minister Bassil is not the one who determines LF's size in government, but rather the Prime Minister
Sun 03 Jun 2018/NNA - Caretaker Social Affairs Minister Pierre Bou Assi touched Sunday on the Lebanese Forces Party's share in the upcoming government, saying, "It is not Minister Gebran Bassil who determines the size of LF in cabinet, but PM-designate Saad Hariri," adding that they have discussed the issue with the PM-designate and provided him with the Bloc's views on the subject. "Matters at the government level cannot continue as is...The country needs a unified and common vision. We should not have 30 ministers, but an integrated government of 30 ministers," emphasized Bou Assi during an interview with "New TV" Channel earlier today. Over the recent naturalization decree, Bou Assi said, "Any citizen has the right to know all the decrees and laws without exception, and it is not permissible to separate between the politician and the citizen who has the full right to know."He declared herein that "the Strong Republic Bloc will demand Monday to read the decree of naturalization officially," adding, "There is a wave of popular rejection of the decree and many concerns about it." "Our duty is not to please others but to satisfy the Lebanese people, and when there is any defect, the Bloc will not hesitate for a moment to submit appeals," he asserted. On the relationship with the "Free Patriotic Movement," Bou Assi said, "The Lebanese Forces largely separates between the relation with President Michel Aoun - the President of the Republic whom we greatly respect - and the relation with Minister Gebran Bassil...and we do not regret aiding in President Aoun's reaching Presidency and consecrating the Presidency position to a strong Christian." He expressed the Lebanese Forces "commitment to all the provisions stipulated by the Mehrab Agreement, for which reason the Strong Republic Bloc declared in its first statement the need to restore the relationship [with FPM] despite the pitfalls." "Adhering to the spirit of the Mehrab Agreement, which brought us out of the previous unrest and problems and hatred, is the compass of the next stage," Bou Assi added, noting that the Free Patriotic Movement did not abide by a part of said Agreement. Over the Syrian refugees' issue, the Caretaker Social Minister reiterated that "the return of the displaced is not the duty of the Ministry of Social Affairs, but the work of the ministerial committee in charge of the matter and the government combined." "The Lebanese Forces advocates the return of the displaced the soonest, but not through negotiations with the Syrian regime," Bou Assi underscored.

Hobeish: Akkar is one of Hariri's priorities, deserves to be represented by more than one ministry

Sun 03 Jun 2018/NNA - Future Parliamentary Bloc Member, MP Hadi Hobeish, indicated Sunday that the region of Akkar ranks amongst PM Saad Hariri priorities and is worthy of being represented in cabinet by more than one ministerial portfolio. Hobeish was quoted on the above statement by "Civil Council for the Development of Akkar" delegation head, Hamed Zakaria, who visited Hobeish at his Qobayat residence to congratulate him on his re-election. Zakaria disclosed that talks during the meeting centered on the needs of Akkar region and the demands of its people. "The next stage will witness development projects, mainly the re-operation of Qlay'aat Airport, following the appointment of the Board of Directors of the Civil Aviation Regulatory Authority, which in turn will supervise the rehabilitation and operation of the airport," he added. "We also called for raising the voice together to demand a minimum ministerial quota and a ministry of services for Akkar to contribute to its development in various fields," Zakaria concluded.

Alleging corruption, Lebanese parties to challenge president on citizenship decree
على خلفية اتهامات بالفساد احزاب لبنانية تتجه لتحدي مرسوم التجنيس الذي وقعه الرئيس عون
David Enders/The National/June 3, 2018
Despite only 375 names being included in Mr Aoun's proposal, the subject is so contentious it sparked a major response
Two major Lebanese political factions say they will undertake separate legal challenges against a presidential decree to grant citizenship to over 300, alleging that financial favours had been exchanged for passports.
The decree was signed by Lebanese president Michel Aoun last month, but only became public in the last week. It was also signed by prime minister Saad Hariri and interior minister Nohad Machnouk.
On Saturday, Mr Aoun’s office issued a statement challenging critics to present evidence that anyone had been unfairly granted Lebanese citizenship, and urged “anyone in possession of definite information regarding any person covered by the aforementioned decree who is unworthy of the Lebanese nationality to forward said information to the General Security Directorate for verification.”
The statement defended the decree as having “been issued through legal channels”.
“The law says the people must have done an extra special favour to the country, which none of them did,” said Elie Al Hindy, who is in charge of foreign affairs for the Lebanese Forces, one of the two major parties that have said it will sue to block the naturalizations. “Some people included have good connections with Lebanon and Lebanese spouses.”
The 375 names on the list have not been made public, but some have been leaked. Among the names believed to be included were at least five prominent Syrian businessmen and politicians.
While it is not uncommon for Lebanese presidents to grant citizenship to non-Lebanese and persons with Lebanese ancestry who do not possess it, such decrees are generally made at the end of a president’s term.
Lebanese president Michel Aoun is currently in the second year of his six-year term.
In Lebanon, even such a small number of naturalizations can also stir existing debates over demographics. The country has gone for more than 80 years without an official census, in part because its Christian community fears its numbers are in reality far fewer than the numbers upon which seats in government are apportioned.
“The number [on the list] is small but fear is high,” said Imad Salamey, a professor of political science and international affairs at Lebanese American University. “A precedent in granting citizenship ignited demographic fears among different confessions.”
The fear of demographic change is particularly acute among many Christians, now a considerably smaller population than the joint Sunni and Shiite populations. The Free Patriotic Movement, which Mr Aoun founded and is now run by his son in law caretaker-foreign minister Gebran Bassil, has been vocal in its drive to ‘restore’ the rights of Christians in Lebanon. While most presidents passing such decrees attempt to maintain a semblance of sectarian balance in their picks between Christian and Muslim, Mr Aoun’s proposals are reportedly overwhelmingly Christian.
Those demographic fears also sparked debate and recriminations among politicians earlier this year, when they struck down a proposal within Lebanon’s budget – only the second agreed by Parliament in the last decade - that would have loosened rules on foreigners owning property in Lebanon and allowed property owners the right to remain in the country.
One of the chief objections to the law, known as Article 49, was that it might create an avenue to naturalization for refugees from other countries to remain in Lebanon permanently. Mr Hariri denied the claims, saying it was an effort to boost foreign investment in the country – long a major source of revenue with thousands of high-end properties owned by Gulf and Western nationals.
“Concern stems from the fact that the country is hosting a large number of refugees, Syrians and Palestinians,” Mr Salamey said. “Naturalization may upset the demographic balance among confessional groups.”
There are just under 1 million Syrian refugees registered with the UN agency, although the government estimates upwards of 1.5 million are in the country. There are also officially some 450,000 Palestinians in Lebanon, forced out by the creation of Israel, although a census last year found only 174,422 actually remain living in Lebanon. The majority of both Syrian and Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are Sunni Muslim, although there are a small number of Christian and other denominations among the communities.
Article 49 was annulled last month after it was challenged by the Kateab party, whose leader, Samy Gemayel, has also requested the list of all 375 persons naturalized.
"The Presidency of the Republic refused to give us a copy of the naturalization decree, even though it was the issuing body. We have been referred to the interior ministry, i.e. the implementing authority. We will go to the interior ministry on Monday," he tweeted on Saturday.
There have also been debates in the last year over the laws allowing Lebanese women to pass citizenship to children born to non-Lebanese men, which they are currently not allowed to do. That measure – which received a backlash from groups campaigning on the issue - failed to pass after disagreements over whether children with a Syrian or Palestinian father would be included.
Mr Gemayel has also requested more clarity on the process that led the Mr Aoun’s naturalization proposals.
Whether the president’s office might revoke some of the recently-granted citizenships was an open question on Sunday.
“Samer Fawwaz is being mentioned,” Mr Salamey said, referring to a prominent businessman from the city of Lattakia who is considered to be close to Syrian president Bashar Al Assad. Analysts have suggested Mr Fawwaz’s network of companies could help the Syrian government evade international sanctions.
Hani Mourtada, a former minister in the Syrian government, is also among the names that have been mentioned. Another is a prominent Syrian pro-government journalist.
“If true, this is a clear political deal that favours president Bashar Al Assad and helps him manoeuvre economic sanctions,” Mr Salamey said, adding it could also “indicate the return of Syrian influence in the new parliament.”
Even after Syria’s yearslong military occupation of Lebanon that ended in 2005, the spectre of greater Syrian domination in Lebanon’s political sphere has been a constant fear for many Lebanese. But the decree also speaks to other problems in Lebanon’s political system.
“It is about financial corruption,” said Hilal Khashan, a political science professor at the American University of Beirut. Lebanon is consistently ranked internationally as having endemic and entrenched corruption, where money and influence allow the wealthy to circumvent laws and regulations.
The LF was joined in its opposition by the Progressive Socialist Party, led by Walid Joumblatt.A PSP statement released on Saturday called for “the competent official authorities to clarify all the circumstances of the issuance of this decree … and asks: What about the thousands of deserving Lebanese poor who have been ignored for the benefit of some of the privileged?”

Samir Kassir Award lauds those who strive for freedom of the press

Ghadir Hamadi/Annahar/June 03/18/
 Launched in 2005 and funded by the European Union, the Samir Kassir Foundation returned this year to honor three journalists for work they submitted under three categories: investigative, opinion, and audiovisual news report.
BEIRUT: A glimpse of hope for the future of journalism echoed Thursday in the garden of Sursock Palace, Ashrafieh, at the 13th Samir Kassir Award for the Freedom of the Press.
Launched in 2005 and funded by the European Union, the Samir Kassir Foundation returned this year to honor three journalists for work they submitted under three categories: investigative, opinion, and audiovisual news report. These three emerged from an applicant pool 193.
Ambassador of the EU to Lebanon, Christina Lassen, said that this award was created “to honor the name and life of Samir Kassir who stood as a symbol of freedom of expression.”
Lassen noted that “free press is as necessary as ever to journalists who have courageously worked across the Middle East and North Africa and who have sometimes even put their lives at risk to voice issues of concern in their societies.”
Risk-taking journalists receive 2017 Samir Kassir Award for Freedom of Press
The EU believes that the freedom of press is the foundation of any democracy, and therefore it sees this award as a priority to it.
Unlike previous years, the ceremony took place this year on May 31 rather than June 2, the day Samir Kassir, an Annahar correspondent and opinion writer, professor at the University St. Joseph, and a prolific book writer, was assassinated. The change in date was a result of the holy month of Ramadan.
Gisele Khoury, journalist and widow of Samir Kassir, thanked attendees and the jury members describing them as former friends of Samir Kassir.
“After 13 years of his assassination, Arabs remain struggling and their chance to build a democracy is long lost as we are living an unstable situation and the press is playing a role in spreading this situation further through the fake news machine that is playing non-stop,” said Khoury. “In spite of all that, we own nothing beyond the right to hold on to our freedom and democracy and to break the wall of fear inside of us in order to speak up and say what we believe democracy is.”
“This is our only way to face these destructive phenomena.”
Seven jury members from different journalistic backgrounds assessed the work of 193 contestants from 12 different Arab countries based on style, content, and topic.
The winner of the Opinion Piece Category was Miloud Yabrir, Doctor, novelist, and journalist, from Algeria. His article titled “A seat in the dark: The Algerian political system, born in a cinema hall” discusses the way politics run in Algeria using a cinematic setting and metaphors.
“The goal of each person is to reach happiness,” said Yabrir as tears started filling his eyes. “I would like to thank the organizers of this ceremony for giving this moment of pure happiness.” He ended his statement after stopping several times to wipe his tears by presenting the trophy to his home country and giving his love for Algeria credit for all the hard work he has placed in making this article real.
The winner of the Investigative Report Category was Asmaa Shalaby from Eygpt, journalist for the Egyptian outlet Al-Youm al-Sabea, and the only female winner of the 13thceremony for her article “Women of Fayoum: Tragedies of early marriage, rape and harassment.”
“I present this award to Women of Fayoum and I wish that their future will get better,” said Shalaby. “I would like to thank all nominees because it was there top notch work that gave this award more meaning.”
The winner for the Audiovisual News Report was announced last and for the second year in a row, Asaad Al Zalzalee from Iraq, general manager of Maraya Media for media development and Maraya Media news agency, took home the prize for the same category. His winning piece for this year is titled “Children of ISIS.”“It is said that maintaining one’s success is harder than reaching it,” said Zalzalee. “Winning for two years in a row this award is huge achievement and I am very thankful.”

The dilemma of corruption in Lebanon
Ali Al-Amin/Al Arabiya/June 03/18
It is no secret that the recent parliamentary elections in Lebanon have brought no qualitative change whatsoever in terms of parliamentary representation as the parties represented in the new parliament are the same as the previous one. One of the few changes is that figures who are known for their apparent loyalty to the Syrian regime and Hezbollah have become MPs yet this does not alter anything because authority in Lebanon does not come from the size of the ruling forces within parliament, but comes from a source that is outside the parliament and institutions of power.
Non-parliamentary power
In Lebanon, having a parliamentary bloc that is twice the size of Hezbollah’s bloc does not mean that you would have a say in decision making proportionate to your bloc’s size. For instance, Hezbollah does not have more than 15 MPs, yet the party plays a leading role in decision making at the level of the government and parliament. In Lebanon, power comes from institutions outside the state as the latter possesses a weak structure when compared to the power of the statelet. This latter power is coercive and not democratic and it’s not an outcome of any political balances resulting from elections or voluntary political agreements. Power here is imposed on the state and its institutions within a context that does not resemble the usual models adopted in ordinary states, whether they are democratic or dictatorial. In fact, one of the conditions for the continuity of such a model in Lebanon is the necessity of having this representation of different parties in parliament. Yet, this representation is but a formality that does not allow these members to become real partners in the management of public affairs. This partnership is limited to non-sovereign matters and no say in security, foreign policy or war-related affairs.The partnership here strictly entails issues related to sharing general public functions or providing certain services or partnership that’s based on corruption which provides the needed strength and protection for the statelet’s authority over the state since corruption is a source of energy and an excuse for the existence of the statelet.
Indeed, the state-statelet duo cannot survive or extend without the consolidation of corruption since the first objective condition to fight corruption in any country is the existence of an authority that has the sole right to use force and that bears its responsibility and that can be held accountable by citizens.
In Lebanon, such an authority is almost absent if we are not to say completely absent. The Lebanese government as a constitutional institution with executive power is incapable of monopolizing the power of violence and is even incapable of saying that it is the one that bears responsibility for managing the security and military affairs in the state.
The monster of corruption
This reality is the pretext used to evade the responsibilities of the governing constitutional institutions as it creates gaps on the level of authority. The absence of responsibility and accountability and the incompetence, which is maliciously maintained, unleash the monster of corruption, with the encouragement, motivation, and partnership of the power of the statelet which wants to convey to the Lebanese people the message that their state is not qualified to govern. What is more surprising is how Hezbollah launched a campaign against state corruption. The party’s secretary general promoted this campaign during the recent parliamentary elections.This is surprising because throughout its time in the executive and legislative authority, Hezbollah forged alliances and agreements with different political powers in Lebanon based on the rule that says “turn a blind eye to my weapons and do as you please with matters of the state.” What confirms this arrangement is that Hezbollah has never launched a battle against corruption. It has always talked about corruption issues worth billions of dollars involving a number of state officials, but it never took any action to pursue these allegations until the end. These files have in fact always been used as a means for extortion to keep opponents silent over the statelet’s project and domination. This does not mean that Hezbollah is not involved in corruption. It used its weapon when the Lebanese government decided to cut off a branch of its private communication network, while it did not do anything when it witnessed – that is if it hadn’t supervised – corruption in the government.
Porosity of borders
The Lebanese are waiting for the approach that will be adopted by Hezbollah to fight corruption that has exhausted the Lebanese economy and public finances and increased public debt. They shall watch how smuggling activities that have made the borders open to criminal activities under the eyes of Hezbollah and the security bodies, which have surrendered to the idea that they are not the first decision makers on Lebanese soil or at the illegal border crossings, will be stopped. Furthermore, Hezbollah has weaved most of its alliances in power and in parliamentary elections with parties and forces whom most of them are suspected to have been involved in corruption, if not fully drowned in corrupt deals.The Lebanese people’s wishes that Hezbollah succeeds in its campaign against corruption are because despair controls the society which lost hope that the authority, in its current composition, can limit the spread of corruption. Wishes are one thing and reality is another. Reality stipulates that reform and the fight against corruption should be based on a major pillar which is the state – a state that does not accept the existence of any authority over it, whatever the justification for its existence may be.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on June 03-04/18
Iranian officers withdraw from Syria’s Tall Rifaat, object Russia, Turkey deal
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Sunday, 3 June 2018/Iranian officers have withdrawn from Tall Rifaat in the northern countryside of Aleppo and headed to al-Zahraa following a disagreement over a Russian offer to hand over the area and its surroundings to Turkish forces, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. During the Russian-Turkish talks, it was agreed that the hand over would take place in exchange for a Syrian opposition withdrawal from the triangle of west Jesr al-Shugur in the northeastern countryside of Latakia. The withdrawal of the Iranian officers coincided with the arrival of Russian military vehicles, accompanied by Assad regime vehicles to the Tall Rifaat area. According to the observatory, consultations are underway over the completion of the opening of Gaziantep road, which connects Turkey to the southern border of Syria with Jordan, and ending the presence of the Kurdish Forces in the northern countryside of Aleppo after their withdrawal from Afrin. The observatory report added that the agreement provoked the Iranian side following its previous refusal in March 2018 of the entry of Turkish forces and opposition factions to the Tall Rifaat area. It added that talks are still underway between the Russians and Iranians to reach a consensus about this new deal.
Deal Sought to Allow Lieberman to Temporarily Replace Netanyahu in Exchange for Early Polls
Tel Aviv – Nazir Majali/Asharq Al Awsat/Monday, 28 May, 2018/At a time when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been stirring up an atmosphere of war against Iran, contrary to the desire of the army and the majority of intelligence services, efforts are being exerted in Tel Aviv to bring forward the date of parliamentary elections. This will help boost his image before the public as he battle corruption cases that have been piling up against him by the police and prosecution. Given the fierce opposition Netanyahu is facing from his closest allies on the right and the far-right, he has been trying to reach a deal with Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman that will provide him with the required majority to dissolve the Knesset (Israeli parliament) within the next two months and head towards new elections.The deal relies on the position of religious parties that oppose mandatory military service being imposed on religious Jews.According to the expected scenario, these parties will insist on drafting a law that reduces the chances of imposing mandatory enlistment on religious youths. Lieberman will be expected to vote against it and withdraw from the government coalition, granting Netanyahu a minority government that relies on 61 of the 120 deputies.To this end, Lieberman wants a deal under which Netanyahu promises to include his party in the Likud to form a single bloc. He also wants the creation of the post of "acting prime minister", to which he will be appointed, while also retaining his post as defense minister.
Should the police and the prosecution insist on trying and indicting Netanyahu in corruption cases, Lieberman will then replace him as premier and vow to back him in his judicial fight.
Circles close to the two officials confirmed that the deal is viable, but key sources in the ruling Likud party have strongly rejected it. They explained that a Likud-Lieberman alliance was struck in the 2012, but failed miserably in the elections, winning no more than 31 seats. Both parties were represented by 42 seats before the elections, 27 for the Likud and 15 for Lieberman. The alliance fell apart in 2014. Key Likud leaders oppose an alliance because it will eliminate their chances of replacing Netanyahu. They have declared that such a deal, and under this condition, will bring about the end of the Likud as a historic party for the right, in favor of Lieberman, the opportunist. Despite the opposition, Netanyahu is insisting on trying to find a way to bring forward the date of the elections. He does not want to repeat the mistake of his predecessor, Ehud Olmert, who resigned as soon as the prosecution announced its intention to indict him for corruption. He believes that the best way for him is to confront the police and the prosecution from his position as prime minister, and according to opinion polls, the elections will allow him to boost his power.
He is trying to confront the party's internal opposition and believes that even if he was put on trial, he needs a prime minister loyal to him. In such a scenario, he will find no figure more loyal than Lieberman, who himself had waged a long bitter battle with the police and prosecution over corruption cases.

New Deal Reached on Southern Syria
London - Ibrahim Hamidii/Asharq Al Awsat/Monday, 28 May, 2018/New military arrangements for southern Syria may include the dismantling of the al-Tanf US military base on the Syrian-Iraqi-Jordanian border in exchange for Iran and its militias to withdraw from the South. However, the dispute remains over the timetable for implementing the terms and how far back the Iran-backed groups would withdraw. US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield had come up with a list of ideas over southern Syria, which he proposed to Russian, Turkish and Jordanian officials. Sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that his suggestion included the withdrawal of all Syrian and non-Syrian militias to a depth of 20-25 kilometers from the Jordanian border, noting that the US-Russian-Jordanian agreement barred the presence of non-Syrian forces, meaning Iranian militias, from the region.
The suggestion also said opposition fighters and their families must move to Idlib in northern Syria and hand over their heavy weapons to the Russians. Regime forces would return to the Jordanian border and state institutions would be restored in Daraa. A border crossing between Syria and Jordan would be reopened, Russian military police points would be set up and an American–Russian mechanism to control the implementation of these items would be put in place.
Satterfield included the dismantling of the al-Tanf base, which transformed into a military base protected by a 55-kilometer-wide missile system. The US demanded that this be implemented after verifying that Iran withdrew its Syrian and non-Syrian militias from the border.
Given this new US reality, direct Israeli-Russian negotiations were held to discuss arrangements for the Golan Heights and the South.Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and his Russian counterpart Sergei Schoigu met earlier this week and agreed to keep Iranian-backed groups away from the Damascus-Suweida axis. In return, regime forces would withdraw to three points: Tall al-Hara in the Daraa countryside, the Nassib border crossing with Jordan, and Basr al-Hariri in the Daraa countryside. A Western official said on Saturday there are two points that will determine the fate of the deal: providing guarantees of the withdrawal of the Iranian militias and ensuring they will not return. The second point centers on the fate of the US base.
Washington will not dismantle al-Tanf base before confirming the departure of Iranian forces, according to the official. Damascus has, meanwhile, been demanding that it be dismantled before the withdrawal. Syrian regime Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem told a press conference in Damascus Saturday that US troops should leave Syria, and particularly al-Tanf, before any talks about the future of the southern region can be held.However, Russia’s Hmeimim Air Base announced on its Facebook page that the agreement on southern Syria clearly stipulated the withdrawal of Iranian forces supporting the Syrian regime and expected its implementation within a few days. Western diplomats, meanwhile, reported that the past few days have witnessed a "re-deployment" of Iranian groups that saw the return of militias and Lebanon’s “Hezbollah” to within a few kilometers of the border with Jordan.
Members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) moved from Daraa city, but remained on the northern battlefronts. The Palestinian al-Quds Force moved from the Yarmouk camp to Daraa. On the northern front, communication intensified in recent days between Washington and Ankara, on one hand, and Ankara and Moscow, on the other, on arrangements for the cities of Tel Rifaat and Manbij in northern Syria. Washington and Ankara continued to finalize a roadmap for Manbij under the US-led international coalition after ISIS was defeated in the area.
The draft agreement calls for the withdrawal of the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) to the east of the Euphrates River, formation of US-Turkish patrols in Manbij 45 days after the signing of the agreement and forming a local administration within 60 days of signing the deal.

No N. Korea Relief until Verifiable Denuclearisation Steps, Says Mattis

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 03/18/North Korea will not get any sanctions relief until it has demonstrated "irreversible" steps to denuclearisation, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Sunday.
Speaking at a security conference in Singapore ahead of a planned summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Mattis said it is vital that the international community keeps UN Security Council sanctions in place for now. "North Korea will receive relief only when it demonstrates verifiable and irreversible steps to denuclearisation," Mattis said during public remarks at a meeting with the South Korean and Japanese defence ministers. "In this moment we are steadfastly committed to strengthening even further our defence cooperation as the best means to preserving the peace." South Korean Defence Minister Song Young-moo said that given recent developments in North Korea, "one can be cautiously optimistic as we go forward". Mattis has tended to stay away from commenting publicly on the upcoming summit, which Trump has confirmed will take place in Singapore on June 12, and instead deferred to the State Department. The key task ahead of the summit is to settle the agenda. The main stumbling block is likely to be the concept of "denuclearisation" -- both sides say they are in favour 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. "We can anticipate at best a bumpy road to the negotiations," Mattis said. "As defence ministers we must maintain a strong collaborative defensive stance so we enable our diplomats to negotiate from a calm position of strength in this critical time."

Saudi Arabia Says 17 Detained in Sweeping Crackdown

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 03/18/Saudi Arabia on Saturday said it detained 17 people for "undermining" the kingdom's security, in what campaigners have dubbed a sweeping crackdown against activists just weeks before a ban on women driving ends. Rights groups earlier reported arrests of at least 11 people last month, mostly identified as women campaigners for the right to drive and to end the conservative Islamic country's male guardianship system. Without naming anyone, the public prosecutor's office said the number of detainees stood at 17, adding that eight of them had been "temporarily released" until the investigation is completed. Nine suspects, including four women, remain in custody after they "confessed" to a slew of charges such as suspicious contact with "hostile" organisations and recruiting people in sensitive government positions, it said in a statement released by the Saudi Press Agency. The statement accused the detainees of "coordinated activity undermining the security and stability of the kingdom". Previous reports in state-backed media branded some of the detainees traitors and "agents of embassies". Campaigners have dismissed the reports as a "smear" campaign. The crackdown has also sparked a torrent of global criticism, casting a shadow on the kingdom's much-publicised liberalisation push launched by powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The self-styled reformer has sought to break with long-held restrictions on women and the mixing of the genders, with the decades-old driving ban on women slated to end June 24. The European Parliament last week approved a resolution calling for the unconditional release of the detained activists and other human rights defenders, while urging a more vocal response from EU nations. "The Saudi Arabian authorities' endless harassment of women's rights activists is entirely unjustifiable, and the world must not remain silent on the repression of human rights defenders in the country," Samah Hadid, Amnesty International's Middle East director of campaigns, said last week. "Saudi Arabia's allies -- in particular the US, UK and France -- must push Saudi Arabian authorities to end their targeted repression of human rights activists in the country."

Jordan Protests Snowball over IMF-Backed Austerity
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 03/18/Angry protests rocked cities across Jordan overnight against IMF-backed austerity measures including a new income tax draft law and price hikes, hours after the government and unions failed to reach an agreement to end the standoff.
Around 3,000 people faced down a heavy security presence to gather near the prime minister's office in central Amman until the early hours of Saturday morning, waving Jordanian flags and signs reading "we will not kneel". Protests have gripped the country since Wednesday, when hundreds flooded the streets of Amman and demonstrated in other cities to demand the fall of the government.Last week the government proposed an income tax draft law, yet to be approved by parliament, aimed at increasing taxes on employees by at least 5 percent and on companies by between 20 and 40 percent. It is the latest in a series of economic reforms and repeated price hikes on basic goods since Amman secured a $723-million three-year credit line from the International Monetary Fund in 2016. The Economist Intelligence Unit earlier this year ranked Jordan's capital as one of the most expensive in the Arab world. Since January, Jordan -- which suffers high unemployment and has few natural resources -- has seen repeated price rises including on bread, as well as tax hikes on basic goods. Overnight, protestors outside premier Hani Mulki's office shouted slogans including "the ones raising prices want to burn the country" and "this Jordan is our Jordan, Mulki should leave". The prime minister met on Saturday with trade union representatives who demanded the income tax law be revoked, but failed to reach an agreement. The head of Jordan's federation of unions, Ali Obus, demanded that the state "maintain its independence and not bow to IMF demands".King Abdullah II called on parliament to lead a "comprehensive and reasonable national dialogue" on the new tax law. "It would not be fair that the citizen alone bears the burden of financial reforms," he told officials on Saturday evening. A majority of 78 out of parliament's 130 representatives have pledged to vote against the income tax law introduced by the government last month. The speaker of Jordan's senate called a consultative meeting for Sunday. Mulki told reporters on Saturday that meetings would continue, adding: "Sending this bill to the house of representatives does not mean that the house of representatives will approve it".

Iraq Court Sentences French Woman to Life for IS Membership

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 03/18/An Iraqi court on Saturday sentenced a French woman to life in jail for membership of the Islamic State jihadist group, an AFP reporter at the courthouse said. Melina Boughedir was sentenced last February to seven months in prison for "illegal" entry into the country and was set to be deported back to France, but another court ordered her re-trial under Iraq's anti-terrorist law. She was found guilty on Sunday of belonging to IS.

Qatar Crisis Creates 'New' Gulf with No Winners

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 03/18/The year-old acrimonious dispute between Qatar and its neighbours is forging a "new" Gulf, potentially transforming what was a stable region of the Arab world, experts warn. It has shattered old alliances and rendered the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council practically obsolete, pushing Qatar towards Turkey and Iran. And with no sign of a resolution, it is unclear if any party has benefitted. "In its impact on the regional unit in the Arab Gulf, the crisis is likely to be as disruptive and as era-defining as Saddam Hussein's invasion and occupation of Kuwait was in 1990," said Kristian Ulrichsen, a fellow at Rice University's Baker Institute. "It is very difficult to see how the Arab Gulf can come back together." The crisis between some of the world's richest countries erupted on June 5, 2017 as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt suddenly cut all ties with Doha, accusing it of supporting terrorism and Iran. Qatar, a small peninsula nation, found its only land border closed, its state-owned airline barred from using its neighbours' airspace, and Qatari residents expelled from the boycotting countries. Doha was handed a list of 13 demands, including closing broadcaster Al Jazeera, removing Turkish troops from the country, and scaling back its cooperation with Iran, with which it shares the world's largest gas field. Qatar has done none of these. Instead it has responded defiantly by dismissing the charges and courting new diplomatic and trading links.The cold war in the desert has lingered, although Qatar still supplies the UAE with gas. As new axes emerge, Qatar has increasingly tied itself to Turkey -- while straining relations between Riyadh and Ankara -- and extended its reach far beyond the Gulf. Last month, Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani thanked Iran for its support during the crisis. "I don't think it is too far-fetched to say that new power centres in the Middle East are emerging," said David Roberts, assistant professor at King's College London.
No winners  
Widely seen as a bid by Saudi Arabia and the UAE to bring to heel Qatar and its support for the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, the gamble has not paid off -- yet. While their regional ambitions may have been overstretched, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi have indicated this is a power-play for the long haul. According to Le Monde newspaper, Saudi Arabia has written to French President Emmanuel Macron warning of "military action" if Qatar goes ahead with its planned purchase of a Russian air defence missile system. Qatar is already picking up the tab, as it absorbs the huge costs of regional isolation, despite its vast wealth in gas resources. "As for winners and losers, there are clearly no winners thus far, and in many ways everyone has been a loser," said Christopher Davidson, a Middle East politics professor at Durham University. Ulrichsen said that despite its "resilience", Qatar has "not eliminated the costs of the crisis". Without a clear winner in sight, the Gulf crisis is largely seen by the outside world as a bewildering spat between indistinguishable former allies.
Shattered trust
Mediation efforts have been led by Kuwait and the US, which has its largest Middle East air base in Qatar. Kuwait's deputy foreign minister, Khaled al-Jarallah, said diplomatic efforts are "ongoing".
"The latest of these efforts and ideas will be presented during a Gulf-American summit in September, and this summit will be an opportunity to end this crisis," he told AFP. US President Donald Trump seemed firmly behind the Saudis at first, but has since called Sheikh Tamim a "great gentleman" and urged a peaceful outcome. In the muddle, corruption allegations against Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, have surfaced over his dealings with the Gulf states, notably Qatar. Diplomacy may eventually be supplanted by imperatives such as Saudi domestic concerns or weariness over its joint military efforts with the UAE in the Yemen war. The crisis has impacted east African states with alliances to the Gulf, rewarded defence contractors, and may have massive ramifications for Qatar's 2022 football World Cup. With nationalism in the Gulf on the rise, Roberts said "the crisis has been an opportunity for Qataris to demonstrate their national fervour". Saudis, for their part, have used social media to poke fun at their tiny neighbour, while Qataris mutter darkly about Emiratis. It "has created animosities that may take years, even a generation, to overcome", said Ulrichsen.

Weary Libyans Remain Wary of Leaders' New Pledges
sharq Al Awsat/Monday, 28 May, 2018/For Abdelhakim al-Saadi, the latest meeting of Libyan leaders plays "like a broken record", with few people from Tripoli to Benghazi willing to put their faith in new promises, said an Agence France Presse report.
Doing his shopping in Tripoli's fish market, which is bustling during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Saadi doesn't want to get his hopes up about his country's prospects.
"If this conference succeeds in something concrete, I will inevitably know about it because my daily life will change, for the better," he told AFP. Speaking after the first meeting of Libya's rival leaders in Paris, the retired academic remembered the UN-backed deal signed in 2015 which was intended to lead the country on the path to stability. "The meetings of these (Libyan) politicians, are like a broken record: repeating the same thing that comes to nothing," he said.
The UN accord was never fully implemented and Libya remains divided between an array of rulers and militias, who have been vying for power since leader Moammar Gaddafi was ousted and killed in 2011. "After the euphoria, there was the disappointment," said Saadi.
Tripoli was represented at the Paris conference by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, head of the UN-backed unity government, and Khalid al-Mishri who leads the High Council of State.
From the east of the country came Aguila Saleh Issa, the parliament speaker based in the city of Tobruk, and Libyan National Army commander Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.
Together they agreed to hold elections on December 10 and accept the results, as well as unify state institutions including the central bank. One thousand kilometers (600 miles) east, in the coastal city of Benghazi, Hawwa Abdesaalem al-Aguri waited in line outside a bank. She harbors little hope that the Paris conference will improve things. Attendees "didn't even mention the suffering of Libyans or how to improve their daily lives," she said. For Moftah bin Mabruk, a 49-year-old banker, elections slated for the end of the year will matter little if the country's laws aren't also updated, reported AFP.
"I was happy to see the different parts getting together in Paris. It gave me a little hope to see them at one table. But one thing I am sure about is that if there is no constitution, I'm not going to vote," he said.Grace Berma, 47 and originally from Ghana, hopes bickering leaders can but their differences aside for the sake of her adopted homeland. "Seeing Libyan leaders get together in Paris was a good thing but watching their faces, none of them seemed to want to let go of what he controls for the sake of his people," she said. "Life is more and more risky for us foreigners, especially Africans. We love this country and its people. They have been very good to us and we hope never to be forced to leave because we no longer feel safe," said the mother of three.

North Korea state media says Syria’s Assad wants to meet Kim
Reuters, Seoul/Sunday, 3 June 2018/Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said he plans to visit North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, North Korean state media reported on Sunday, potentially the first meeting between Kim and another head of state in Pyongyang. “I am going to visit the DPRK and meet HE Kim Jong Un,” Assad said on May 30, North Korea’s KCNA news agency reported, using the initials of the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. There was no immediate comment from the Syrian president’s office. Assad reportedly made the remarks as he received the credentials of North Korean Ambassador Mun Jong Nam. Pyongyang and Damascus maintain good relations, and United Nations monitors have accused North Korea of cooperating with Syria on chemical weapons, a charge the North denies. Both countries have faced international isolation, North Korea over its nuclear weapons program, and Syria over its tactics during a bloody civil war. Since the beginning of the year, however, North Korea’s Kim has launched a flurry of diplomatic meetings with leaders in China and South Korea, and is scheduled to hold a summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore on June 12. Since taking power in 2011, Kim has not publicly met with another head of state in North Korea. “The world welcomes the remarkable events in the Korean peninsula brought about recently by the outstanding political caliber and wise leadership of HE Kim Jong Un,” Assad said, according to KCNA. “I am sure that he will achieve the final victory and realize the reunification of Korea without fail.” According to South Korea’s foreign ministry, North Korea established diplomatic relations with Syria in 1966, opening its embassy in Damascus. Syria opened its mission in Pyongyang in 1969. Close military cooperation between the two countries began when North Korea sent some 530 troops including pilots, tank drivers and missile personnel to Syria during the Arab-Israeli war in October 1973. “The Syrian government will as ever fully support all policies and measures of the DPRK leadership and invariably strengthen and develop the friendly ties with the DPRK,” Assad said, as quoted by KCNA.
Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on June 03-04/18
Israel, Damascus Deny Deal Reached On Southern Syria
Jerusalem Post/June 03/18
Netanyahu: We maintain right to strike at Iran.
Jerusalem and Damascus rejected reports that a deal had been reached under which foreign forces, including Iran and Hezbollah, would withdraw from southern Syria near Israel’s border.
“Israel denies reports that an understanding has been reached,” a diplomatic source said on Saturday.
The source added that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had spoken last week with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about Syria and Iran.
Netanyahu “emphasized that Iran must withdraw from all of Syria and that Israel would continue to maintain its freedom to act against Iranian military entrenchment anywhere in Syria,” the source said.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moualem said that an agreement on southern Syria must include a US withdrawal of its forces from the Tanf base in the south.
He added that Damascus had not engaged in talks over the country’s southern region.
“Do not believe any statements that talk about agreements in the south unless you see the United States withdraw its forces from Tanf base.
It must withdraw its forces from Tanf base. This is Syrian land and there is no doubt of Syria’s sovereignty over it,” Moualem said.
Russia has already called for all foreign forces to leave Syria.
On Friday, the London-based Arabic newspaper Asharq al-Awasat reported that Israel and Russia had agreed to keep Iran out of southern Syria.
Just one day earlier, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it had seen a Russia-backed plan to return government forces to the country’s border areas with Israel and Jordan. It further reported that Iran and its proxy forces, such as Hezbollah, were preparing to withdraw from southern Syria.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who visited Moscow briefly on Thursday to meet with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu, said that he felt that Israel’s security concerns were understood.
At the UN on Friday, Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya indicated that an agreement had been reached with regard to southern Syria.
“I heard news that were in the press and elsewhere about an agreement reached on certain disengagement in the southwest of Syria and I think my understanding is that the agreement was reached. Whether it has been implemented as of now I cannot answer, but I understand that the parties that were involved in reaching the agreement are satisfied with what they reached,” he said, according to the Russian media site TASS.
“If it has not been done by now, it will be done in the near future,” he added.
The Syrian government wants to recapture insurgent territory in the southwest through a settlement in which fighters accept state rule or leave.
Southwest Syria, near the borders with Jordan and Israel, remains one of the big chunks of Syria still outside the control of the state, which has recovered swathes of the country with the help of Russian jets and Iran-backed militias.
Rebel factions hold stretches of Quneitra and Deraa provinces in the southwest, bordering the Golan Heights, while Syrian army troops and allied forces control nearby territory.
Moualem said Damascus had communicated with the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) but no negotiation process had started over the fate of their territory in the north and east.
He added that Raqqa city, which the Kurdish-led SDF militias seized from Islamic State with US support, “must be rebuilt and liberated” from any foreign presence.
Syrian government forces, in their strongest position since the early months of the seven-year conflict, have driven rebels out of all territory near Damascus this year.
For weeks there have been reports that the government’s next target would be the zone in the south, one of only two large areas left in the hands of fighters seeking to topple President Bashar Assad.
Washington says any offensive in the area would violate a cease-fire it has jointly sponsored with Moscow for that part of Syria, and has warned it would take “firm measures” in response.
The secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, told the Shargh daily that his country had no military advisers in southern Syria.
“We have said before that Iranian military advisers are not present in southern Syria and have not participated in recent operations,” Shamkhani said.
“We strongly support Russian efforts to drive terrorists out of the Syria-Jordan border and to bring the area under Syrian army control,” he added

Rape Gangs: A Story Set in Leafy Oxfordshire
Douglas Murray/Gatestone Institute./June 03/18
What price has been paid, is being paid, or might be paid at some stage, by all those public officials who tacitly or otherwise allowed these modern-day atrocities to go on, doing nothing to stop them?
Families of some of the abused girls related that they had tried consistently to raise the alarm over what was happening to their daughters, but that every door of the state was closed in their faces.
If Britain is to turn around the disgrace of its culture of 'grooming gangs', it should start by changing the risk-reward ratio between those who identify these monstrous crimes and those who have been shown to have covered them up.
Since the arrest of Tommy Robinson on May 25, the presence generally -- and incorrectly -- referred to as 'Asian grooming gangs' has been back in the news. This has reignited a debate about whether victims are getting justice and whether perpetrators are encountering it.
In all this at least one key element is missing. What price has been paid, is being paid, or might be paid at some stage, by all those public officials who tacitly or otherwise allowed these modern-day atrocities to go on, doing nothing to stop them? The policemen, politicians, council workers and others who were shown to have failed time and again. They have never been sentenced to prison for any of their oversights -- and perhaps criminal charges (not even charges of criminal negligence) could never be brought against them. It is worth asking, however, if any of these people's lives, career paths, or even pension plans were ever remotely affected by their proven failure to confront one of the greatest evils to have gone on in Britain. That is the mass rape of young girls motivated by adults propelled by (among much else) racism, religiosity, misogyny and class contempt.
Perhaps the post grooming-gang career of just one public official might help to answer that question. Her name is Joanna Simons. In 2013 she was the Chief Executive of the Oxfordshire County Council. She had been at the centre of that Council's 'care' programme for nearly a decade: that is, throughout the period in which the mass rape of local girls (subsequently investigated under the name 'Operation Bullfinch') was carried on. The barbarism, which was carried out by local men of what is erroneously described as 'Asian' origin, included branding one of the girls with an 'M' on her body. The abuser's name was 'Mohammed' and the Mohammed in question wanted people to know that this girl 'belonged' to him and as such was his property.
Others among the hundreds of local victims endured equally horrific abuse. A number were in the care of the local authorities. Among the stories that came out in the 2013 court case at the Old Bailey was that one of the girls was drugged and raped by a gang of men. She managed to escape and hail a taxi which drove her to the care home she lived in. Staff at the care home refused to pay the taxi fare, so the taxi driver took the girl straight back to the property from which she had just escaped, where the gang then raped her again. This is not a nightmare set in some far distant land, or even a town in one of the towns in the north of England which the London media rarely get to, but a story set in leafy Oxfordshire. Families of some of the abused girls related that they had tried consistently to raise the alarm over what was happening to their daughters but that every door of the state was closed in their faces.
After details such as the above came out in the criminal trial at the Old Bailey, Simons made a video, which was posted online by the Oxfordshire County Council. Over the last five years fewer than 2,000 people have watched this 48-second apology. But it deserves a wider audience. In it, Ms Simons looks into the camera and gives an apology to the people who the Council has let down, which tells a huge amount about the attitude that prevailed for years in Britain. From start to finish, everything about it is wrong. Its tone and content suggest that Ms Simons is apologising for a delay in local bin collections, or for delays in providing pavement-salt during inclement weather. Nothing about it fits the appallingness -- the sheer, unimaginable horror -- of what had gone on in leafy, lovely, dreaming-spires Oxfordshire on her watch.
When Simons subsequently appeared on the BBC's Newsnight, she faced some excellent questioning from the BBC's Emily Maitlis. Simons responded by saying not only that she was once again very sorry for the breakdown in services but also came with the reassuring message that she and her colleagues from the council in Oxfordshire 'have learnt a lot.' When Maitlis asked if Simons thought she should resign, Simons replied 'I have asked myself some very hard questions' but 'I'm not going to resign because my determination is that we need to do all that we can to take action to stamp this out.' When Maitlis asked Simons if she would resign if the victims or their families thought she should, Simons came up with one of those beautiful political dodges of not remotely answering the question, thus saying (louder than if she had actually said it) that she had no intention of resigning even if every victim and every family called on her to do so.
Perhaps there were other motives for her desire to stay in place. At the time that Operation Bullfinch broke, Ms Simons was receiving an annual salary of over £196,000, before other benefits were included. To put this into some context, the average annual salary in the UK sits at just over £27,000. The annual salary paid to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom for running the country stands at just under £150,000 per annum. So for her pains at Oxfordshire County Council, Ms Simons was receiving a salary considerably higher than that of the Prime Minister and more than six times the average national salary.
Although she resisted pressure to resign in 2013, events moved on. A review into the whole case concluded that social workers and police had been aware of the abuse of hundreds of young girls in Oxfordshire since 2005 but that they had failed to investigate or even to record this as a crime.
In 2015, the Oxfordshire County Council chose to abolish Simon's role, apparently to save money. This decision, after some internal squabbling, was then reversed. Simons eventually stood down in 2015, at which stage she received a pay-off from the Council amounting to the sum of £259,000. Which, again to put this into context, is worth more than the price of the average house in the UK. The average UK house price in the year following Simons's pay-off was £220,000. So the investment most British people spend their working lives paying off could have been covered by Simons with a single year's haul.
Many people might assume that such a person would not reappear in public again, or would sit on their winnings and go away. But Oxfordshire did not lose Simons for long. Last July, the organisation which promotes tourism in the area -- 'Experience Oxfordshire' -- announced Joanna Simons as the new head of their board. A press release announcing her appointment quoted her citing her experience at Oxfordshire County Council as the qualification for taking up this role. She also said how much she was looking forward to 'helping to promote the wonderful place that Oxfordshire is to work, visit and live in.' The former chairman of the board, one Graham Upton, declared that Simons brought a 'wealth of experience' to the role.
Ms Simons is just one person -- one of the many people in the UK who for years turned a blind eye to the mass rape of young girls in their area. But of course these people are not in prison. They are rarely if ever vilified or even mentioned in the national press. They have not had their lives turned upside down. They have not been persecuted at every turn. Instead -- if Joanna Simons is anything to go by -- they have been able to keep their heads down briefly, cash in and then fall upwards again. If Britain is to turn around the disgrace of its culture of 'grooming gangs' it should start by changing the risk-reward ratio between those who identify these monstrous crimes and those who have been shown to have covered them up.
Douglas Murray, British author, commentator and public affairs analyst, is based in London, England. His latest book, an international best-seller, is "The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam."
© 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.

UN Has Only Recommended Tiny Token Numbers of Syrian Christians for Resettlement in the UK

Muslim Persecution of Christians, November 2017
Raymond Ibrahim/Gatestone Institute./June 03/18
Critics accused the United Nations in general and the British government in particular of continuing to discriminate against Christian refugees in favor of Muslim refugees from Syria. Barnabas Fund said it had "finally obtained figures proving that the UN has only recommended tiny token numbers of Syrian Christians ... for resettlement in the UK," whereas the "overwhelming majority of refugees recommended by the UN have been Sunni Muslims who form the majority in Syria. But Christians, and other minorities, have been repeatedly targeted for attack by Islamist groups such as IS... Disturbingly, UK officials tried to prevent the release of this information." - United Nations and the United Kingdom; Barnabas Fund.
"After several reports showed that Christians were being systematically persecuted in German asylum homes, the problem has now moved from the homes to the streets..." – Germany; Chris Tomlinson, Breitbart.
"Showing repentance will no longer prevent the death penalty from being applied for blasphemy and apostasy..." – Mauritania; News 24.
Muslim Attacks on Christian Churches
Germany: According to a November 11 report in The European, approximately 200 churches have been attacked and desecrated in the Alps and Bavarian regions alone. Large summit crosses atop mountains have also been felled and destroyed by axes and saws. "Young Islamists" are believed to be behind the widespread vandalism.
Philippines: Supporters of an Islamic militant group desecrated and tried to torch a Catholic chapel in the Mindanao region on Friday evening, November 10. According to the report, Archbishop Quevedo said "This criminal act is an abhorrent desecration of a place of Catholic worship." The Muslim governor, Esmael Mangudadatu of Maguindanao insisted the act had nothing to do with Islam: "Islam teaches respect for religions and worship sites. Islam teaches religious tolerance. We have a principle in our religion that says there is no compulsion in religion." (He neglected, however, to add that some Muslim scholars claim this sura, 2:256, has been abrogated.)
Similar incidents occurred in May 2017, when "Islamic State-inspired gunmen burned the St. Mary's Cathedral in Marawi," notes the report; and in June 2017, Muslim militants "also desecrated a chapel in the neighboring province of North Cotabato."
Egypt: As in the previous month of October, when Muslim mob riots and attacks on churches prompted authorities to close at least four churches, the Pope Kerlis VI and Archdeacon Habib Gerges church continued to be threatened and was eventually shut down. On November 16, "workers from the national electricity company reportedly tried to cut the church building's power," says a report. "Coptic priests and youths stopped them before they cut the main power cable," and Christians refused to leave the church building and spent the night inside it..." On the following day, the local Muslim governor warned the local bishop to close the church down, as terror attacks against it were imminent. The bishop obliged.
Algeria: On November 9, authorities shut down another church as well as a Christian book store. According to the report, "police raided the bookshop, accusing its owner of illegally printing Bibles and evangelistic brochures. They confiscated books and equipment but returned them when no proof of the allegations was found. Despite that, police issued and implemented a closure order for both the church and the bookshop. The order, which wrongly identifies the bookshop owner as the pastor of the church, repeated the earlier accusations and also alleges that he uses his private car to distribute illegal Christian material. The closure order also claims the Ain Turk church is illegal, despite its affiliation with the officially recognized EPA (L'Église Protestante d'Algérie). Churches in Algeria faced long-standing legal difficulties. Permission is required before a building can be used for non-Muslim worship, however authorities have always failed to grant such permission to churches."
Nigeria: A decade after Muslims attacked, slaughtered, and displaced Christians in a northern town—and then destroyed their churches—authorities continue to forbid returned Christians from rebuilding their eight destroyed (Catholic and Protestant) churches because local Muslims reject it. "Christians who have braved it and returned after the attacks in 2007 have no worship buildings up to today," explained a local Christian, because "the government of Kano state has banned us from rebuilding our churches." In such a "hostile environment, the few Christians there continue to "conduct services under trees." Even when asked where such-and-such church meets and worships, officials often respond by saying, "Do you see that tree over there? That's where the ... church is." The original 2007 attacks were sparked by false accusations of "blasphemy" against a Christian high school student (he supposedly drew a cartoon of Muhammad): "The Muslim students attacked Christian students, and soon they were joined by Muslims in this town. All eight churches were destroyed, Christians were displaced, and many Christians were also killed. I personally saw three corpses of members of the St. Mary's Catholic Church who were killed by the Muslim attackers."
Muslim Hate for and Abuse of Christians
Syria: Rita Habib Ayyub, an Assyrian Christian woman sexually enslaved by ISIS and other Muslims for over three years until rescued by the Syrian Democratic Forces, shared her experiences in an interview:
My name is Rita. The terrorists changed my name to Maria [indicating her Christian identity]. I am 30 years old. In the hospital in Mosul, we women were subjected to the most degrading abuse. Three children from my people were with me, and I witnessed them being sold to emirs in Mosul. I was sold to Abu Mus'ab al-Iraqi. In his home, there was also a Yazidi girl from Sinjar named Shata...she was only 14 years old. He raped the both of us over and over again. He made us watch videos with terrorists slaughtering non-Muslims. In one of them, they were beheading Shata's brother.... After six months, Abu Mus'ab sold me to another terrorist, and I was transported to Raqqa, Syria. But he did not keep me...he sold me to a third terrorist, a Saudi named Abu Khalid al-Saudi. Abu Khalid was married to a woman from Morocco. I was beaten and tortured by her every day. She would not give up until I was bleeding, from my head, for example. They made me read the Quran and threatened to kill me if I did not convert to Islam.
Months later she was sold again, transported to several regions between Iraq and Syria, until she was taken near Deir ez-Zur, where she was eventually rescued.
Nigeria: A comprehensive report—riddled with accounts of abduction, rape, sadistic torture, murder, and wholesale massacres—substantiates its charge that Muslim Fulani herdsmen are engaged in the "ethnic cleansing" of Christians. In one case, "A 13 year old girl was gang-raped and abandoned in the bush for hours before local vigilante group came to her rescue." In another, "A 10 year old boy" was "whipped severely with different sizes of cane and was abandoned in a shallow pit." One of the more telling portions of the report follows:
Some of the tactics used by the Hausa-Fulani Muslim herdsmen include abduction, rape and other forms of assault on women and children. Another strategy used by the Hausa-Fulani Muslim herdsmen ... is the disemboweling of pregnant women, to ensure that both mother and baby are killed. On the few occasions, when men are captured ... their limbs are cut off and they are then shot in the presence of their family. Sometimes, the family members are made to run and are then shot at; those lucky enough to escape the bullets are pursued. What lends credence to the perceived complicity of stakeholders from the Muslim north, is the silence and inaction of the Federal Government of Nigeria in the face of the massive atrocities committed against indigenous Christian communities in Benue State.
The authors of the report conclude that the data presented "gives clear indications of ethnic cleansing based on religious affiliation."
Philippines: New documents and reports made clear that, contrary to some initial reports, the Islamist siege of Marawi last summer, which included the slaughter of at least 25 Christians, was fundamentally fueled by an anti-Christian bias. According to Amnesty International,
The civilian victims were nearly all Christians, and most – if not all – were targeted because they were not Muslim. Militants often gave civilians a de facto religious test prior to killing them; they were asked to recite the Shahada, which is an expression of Muslim faith, or to respond to Muslim greetings. Civilians who did not recite the Shahada or failed to respond appropriately were often summarily executed.
Pictured: A building burns in the city of Marawi, Philippines on June 15, 2017, as the Philippines military battles Islamist terrorists for control of the city. At least 25 Christians were slaughtered in the city during an Islamist siege last summer, and "Islamic State-inspired gunmen burned the St. Mary's Cathedral." (Image source: Mark Jhomel/Wikimedia Commons)
Egypt: The Wafa Media Foundation, a jihadi propaganda network affiliated to the Islamic State issued a message aimed at inciting the nation's Muslims to rise against Christians and their churches. Agenzia Fides summarized the message contained in a dossier as follows: "Coptic Christians in Egypt do not accept the condition of submission imposed on Christians in Islamic societies: they continue to build churches and even promote television networks to spread the Christian proclamation. This is why they must be attacked as 'infidel fighters,' and their churches must be blown up." The Catholic report concludes by noting that "In 2017 alone, Jihadist terrorism committed three massacres regarding Coptic Christians, as well as several murders. On April 9, Palms Sunday, attacks were carried out on two Coptic churches ... causing 45 deaths and more than 130 wounded. On May 26, a terrorist assault against a coach of pilgrims in the governorate of Minya caused the death of 28 Copts."
Separately, Rasha Magdi , a non-veiled, Western-looking Egyptian female television news host inadvertently showed just how ingrained contempt for Egypt's Christians is among the general populace, when she went off script during her show and suggested that Islamic terror attacks against Christians are understandable whereas those against Muslims are not: "These radical groups have attacked a number of churches and we said, 'Ah, they see it as a religion other than the religion of Islam, and an enemy to them,' and we said, 'Fine'—but [to kill] Muslims, how?!" Magdi said. Due to the outrage her comments provoked, the owner of Sada al-Balad Media Group suspended Magdi and issued the following statement: "We in Egypt are one people, there is no difference between a Muslim and a Christian. All of us are equal. We live together in safety. [...] terrorism and aggression against the [people] are criminal acts." That is not the first time this secular looking but radicalized woman incited against Christians. "When Magdi worked for the state television network, several legal cases were filed against her for inciting hatred against Egypt's Coptic Christians," says a report, "particularly regarding the killing by the Egyptian army of more than 25 Christians during what has become known as the Maspero massacre."
Pakistan: The father of Sharoon Masih, a Christian teenager who a month earlier was beaten to death by a group of Muslim classmates during school for being a "filthy Christian" spoke out after police and local authorities, supported by various Pakistani media, said the case was isolated and had nothing to do with the slain 17-year-old's Christian faith:
"My younger children are frightened and are bullied in their schools, since their brother died they have all expressed that they do not want to go to school .... Speaking up about bullying and harassment in the schools in Pakistan brings about absolutely no change. Our Government presents no help and obstructs it in fact by building teaching material that target minorities."
A local Christian councilor, Pervaiz Masih, confirmed the grieving father's contentions:
"It is totally true that the other Christian children have suffered discrimination, as a local Councillor I recently resolved a similar issue when a Christian boy in BTM school in Burewala was beaten because he refused to convert to Islam. The boys who attacked the Christian boy were suspended for a few days but then resumed their attacks as soon as they returned to school. I suffered the same when I was at school, nothing changes despite the efforts of Christian leaders who often highlight these concerns. This is one of the many reasons Christians fail to excel in education."
United Nations and United Kingdom: Critics accused the United Nations in general and the British government in particular of continuing to discriminate against Christian refugees in favor of Muslim refugees from Syria. Barnabas Fund said it had "finally obtained figures proving that the UN has only recommended tiny token numbers of Syrian Christians ... for resettlement in the UK," whereas the "overwhelming majority of refugees recommended by the UN have been Sunni Muslims who form the majority in Syria. But Christians, and other minorities, have been repeatedly targeted for attack by Islamist groups such as IS." The new statistics, obtained through a Freedom of Information Request to the UK's Home Office revealed:
In 2015 out of 2,637 refugees there were only 43 Christians, just 13 Yazidis and only one Shia Muslim. In 2016 the statistics were even worse. Out of 7,499 refugees there were only 27 Christians, five Yazidis and 13, Shia Muslims. It is widely accepted that Christians made up 10 per cent of Syria's pre-war population... Disturbingly, UK officials tried to prevent the release of this information.
The rest of the report accuses officials of going to great lengths not to provide the information, which they were "legally required to release"; they "repeatedly stalled or simply did not answer correspondence" until a formal complaint caused them to comply: "Even then, the information was only released at the very last minute..."
Muslim Attacks on Christian Freedom
Kenya: A group of Muslims attacked and seriously injured a Christian widow's three children—aged 13, 17 and 21—on the charge that the family had apostatized from Islam. According to the report, "Hadiya (surname withheld), an immigrant from Somalia, had not yet returned from a trip to a funeral when the assailants of Somali descent broke into her home at a town (undisclosed for security reasons) outside of Nairobi, at 5:30 a.m. on Nov. 17." Her children were still asleep when the Muslim gang began knocking on the door. When the brothers inquired who it was, they smashed a window. "We have warned you several times to stop taking the children to church," a voice shouted. "You have become an embarrassment to our clan as well as the entire Muslim community. We are here today to finish you and your children." Then the Muslims stormed the house and beat the three siblings, "so much that blood was found throughout the front room," notes the report. Neighbors intervened in time to save the children's lives; two of the three were so wounded as to require a four day hospital stay and were last reported as being "in continuous pain." According to the report, "Somalis generally believe all Somalis are Muslims by birth and that consequently any Somali who becomes a Christian can be charged with apostasy, punishable by death." The Christian widow says, "We are living in great fear and experience sleepless nights. It is not safe for us to stay in this particular place. We need prayers and financial help at this difficult moment."
A separate report chronicles the trials and tribulations that Muslim converts to Christianity—in this case, in Kenya.—experience. Rahma, a young Muslim girl, raised in strict Muslim households, continuously doubted the things she was taught, and on some occasions was abused by family members, particularly her father and an aunt (her mother died early on). "Islam was a yoke to my heart. I felt as if I was forced to believe in things that were a heavy burden to carry." She began to sneak out and attend church services: "My desire to become a Christian was gaining momentum as well as having a very strong dislike for Islam, but I wanted to know exactly what Christianity is all about and who could understand me and help me change my faith." She eventually secured a Bible and began reading it. One night, while "I was deep in reading and meditation," her aunt came into her bedroom "and found me doing my devotion. She was so mad at me and asked me when I started bringing Bibles into her house. I gathered my courage and told her that I had given my life to Christ. She was struck by a hard reality and shock, and everybody in the house was awakened to come and hear what I just said. I reiterated that I had given my life to Christ...." The report concludes, "At the time of ICC's interview, Rahma [21] has been completely rejected by her family. They do not want to be associated with her because she is seen as a disgrace to their community. According to Sharia law, she is now an apostate. Her family took Rahma's possessions including her telephone, clothes and shoes," though she shows little regret: "It's as if a load has been lifted off my back... [even though] my conversion to Christianity has made my family view me as a kafir (infidel) and they have chased me out of the house."
Uganda: A Muslim man who had been posing as a Christian teacher at a Christian elementary school attacked the school director and terrorized students after he was exposed. Mugooda Siraji, the Muslim, had earlier lied to the board by giving them a false name and saying he was Christian. After being hired as a teacher, "Siraji came to our class and openly said he was a Muslim, and that his real name was Mugooda Siraji and not Simon Siraji," a fourth-grade child told a school official. "He has been introducing to us Islamic ablution and how to be a true Muslim by believing in Allah and Muhammad." The board responded by asking him to take a leave of absence: "We as the board learned that you did not provide to us the right profile of yourself, and that you have been propagating Islamic religion, which is against the school's principles, which are based on Christian foundations. Therefore, the school administration recommends that you step aside as we carry on further investigations." The report continues:
Siraji forced his way into the office shouting "Allah Akbar" and hit Muwanguzi with a blunt object, Kakonge said. "Muwanguzi suffered face and right hand injuries, with serious bleeding from the face," Kakonge said. Teachers managed to overpower Siraji, but he managed to escape, sources said.
Siraji is one of many local Muslims trying "to form a strategy of how to stop activities on the Christian school and terminate it. The school has an enrollment of 162 children." "The Muslims have complained that the school every evening makes noise in praising, worshiping and praying," Kakonge said. "We need prayers at this trying moment for quick recovery for our school director, and that this criminal act will be brought to book."
Mauritania: "Showing repentance will no longer prevent the death penalty from being applied for blasphemy and apostasy, Mauritania said on Friday [November 17], as the conservative Muslim nation hardens up its religious laws," is how a report explained the west African nation's announcement that it is introducing a new bill that would "harden up expected sentences for blasphemers": "Every Muslim, man or woman, who mocks or insults Mohammed (peace be upon him), his angels, books," the Ministry of Justice statement reads, "is liable to face the death penalty, without being asked to repent. They will incur the death penalty even if they repent." Because Mauritania is 99 percent Muslim, critics suggest that the new law is meant to target those Muslims who are rethinking their Islam or considering conversion to Christianity (which accounts for the remaining one of the nation). "Although Mauritania's Constitution guarantees freedom of expression and thought," notes a separate report, "in practice this is not guaranteed and prosecutors have appealed the court's decision."
Germany: "After several reports showed that Christians were being systematically persecuted in German asylum homes," says a report, "the problem has now moved from the homes to the streets," where growing numbers of Christians, especially those from Muslim backgrounds ("apostates") have been attacked and in one notable instance (in May 2017) killed. Observers, such as Rosemarie Götze (AKA Sister Rosemarie) say the problem is much more worse than previously thought, particularly as many of those who are attacked never report it because they "are afraid that they will continue to be attacked or that families who are still abroad may learn that they have become Christians" with dire repercussions for loved ones.
Christian "Blasphemers" in Muslim Pakistan
Muslim threats prompted five Christian families to abandon and flee their homes after an 18-year-old youth among them was falsely accused of, and portrayed as, engaging in blasphemy against Islam. The perpetrators had created a fake Facebook page attributed to the youth and with a picture of him, prompting the Muslims in the area to call for his and his family's death. According to the report, however, police said "there was no proof of the Christian boy named Arshad had submitted any blasphemy whatsoever. It was a phony campaign." A Christian counselor involved in the case said that "he had no clue where were the Christian families who had fled the area to save their lives and what conditions they are in. He additionally had no idea of why Arshad Masih was being encircled for this case."
Separately, on the same day of his son's funeral, another Christian man suffering from mental illness was arrested on the charge that he had blasphemed against Islam. Whenever he failed to take his medicine Iqbal Masih, 65, a retired father of nine was known to "go out into the street and shout abuse at passers-by" or suddenly "start calling names in the middle of the night," say locals. That is what he did when his young son, Bobby, died of illness. "Bobby's body was at home and people from the neighbourhood were visiting to pay their condolences when Iqbal started shouting abuse, after which the women left his home," said a man involved in the case. "Iqbal then recited the kalima [or shahada, Islamic declaration of faith] and shouted abuse. Realising that he was not behaving normally, the police were called to take him away so that tension between Christians and Muslims of the area might not arise." Local clerics and others, however, were initially unsatisfied with this approach: "Some of them," notes the report, "wanted to set him on fire, but other sensible people suggested that Masih be handed over to the police as he was experiencing a mental health crisis."
In addition to those events, Mukhtar Masih, a 70-year-old Christian man accused of blasphemy, died of gastro-internal bleeding before his trial. He was originally arrested in January 2017, after a "blasphemous" letter was found pinned on the door of a local mosque. "Mukhtar insisted he was innocent of the crime and expressed that any language expert could recognize that the writing on the letter was not his," says the report. "Moreover he also maintained that no Christian in Pakistan would be foolish enough to take such a risk with his life." The accusations are believed to have been concocted as a way to appropriate his property. A spokesman for the deceased said, "we were extremely confident that Mukhtar would be exonerated and that his reputation would once again become unsullied. His distraught family have expressed great disappointment that Mukhtar Masih died with charges of blasphemy over his head. We are challenging our local MP's to call for a posthumous exoneration for a man who did not commit any crime. Mukhtar's only offence was the hurt he apparently caused to Muslims for adhering to the Christian faith."
About this Series
While not all, or even most, Muslims are involved, persecution of Christians by Muslims is growing. The report posits that such Muslim persecution is not random but rather systematic, and takes place irrespective of language, ethnicity, or location.
**Raymond Ibrahim is the author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War on Christians (published by Regnery with Gatestone Institute, April 2013).

In Saudi Arabia, Structural Reform Does not Stop

Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al Awsat/June 03/18
The structural reforms in Saudi Arabia have been ceaseless since January 2015. They have transformed the Kingdom into a huge workshop. Development and modernity have reached all aspects of the country.
The structural reform, which targets all state agencies and institutions, seeks to achieve the greatest goal of eliminating crippling bureaucracy. This was demonstrated in Friday’s royal decrees that called for establishing a culture ministry and a royal commission for Mecca and appointing lawmakers and minister aides. These developments cannot be separated from the reforms that have been taking place over the past three years.It is not strange whenever such decrees are issued for some to believe that the restructuring operation has been complete.
The reality is that such restructuring actually never ends. It is an ongoing process that aims to reach a higher purpose that would see the Saudi government establish a more competent system. Such a system would eliminate bureaucracy, which is burdensome on any government in the world. Under such a system, state ministries and institutions would no longer operate as isolated islands.The greatest example of the government bureaucracy is a story that is well known to Saudis. In 2011, the state approved the construction of 500,000 residential units throughout the Kingdom to tackle a housing crisis, dedicating an estimated SR250 billion (66.67 billion dollars) for the project. The Housing Ministry was tasked with its implementation, but what ended up happening instead?
Useless bureaucracy at the ministry thwarted the spending of these funds despite the state’s keenness at the time to find a permanent solution to the crisis. In 2015, the government once again sought to resolve the problem after it had eliminated some aspects of the bureaucracy. This led to a rise in housing without even resorting to the SR250 billion. Over the past three years, housing rose from 47 to 50 percent and the government has vowed to raise this number to 60 percent by 2020 and 70 percent by 2030. The government plans to spend between SR600 billion and SR700 billion to during the next ten years to reach its goal. Of course, had it not been for an effective government agency that was able to eliminate the flaws of bureaucracy, the Housing Ministry would not have been able to single-handedly achieve a breakthrough in the crisis.
The Saudi state is convinced that there is a dire need for a policy that would correct or reform the administrative structure of the government and its institutions and agencies. This effort is being led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, which would help the state speed up its measures to reach its goals. This can be accomplished by having state ministries and institutions adopt a set of administrative tools that would help achieve society’s economic and social goals. No state can handle crisis-management without adopting structural reforms that meet the aspirations of the people. I believe that structural reform is not about painting a house on the outside, but it is linked to arranging its internal affairs. This is the best way to reach the desired goal of all the reforms, which is building a different economic structure that would lead to and guarantee real, strong and sustainable growth.

From tunnels of extremism towards horizons of tolerance
Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran/Al Arabiya/June 03/18
Almost every day, seminars on extremism, its paths, consequences, formations and concepts are conducted around the world. Extremism is not a temporary or incidental problem and it’s not easy to overcome it. It’s indeed too early to declare the end of terrorism, even after the partial decimation of ISIS or after announcing the end of Sahwa after lifting the cover off it or after the relative absence of the Muslim Brotherhood after civil powers dominated over them or the disintegration of Al Qaeda. It’s good to hold on to hope and to look forward to a life with less bloodshed, hatred and elimination but on the analytical level, one must be prepared for the worst possibilities.
ISIS’ threat persists
It is true that ISIS has shrunk in the Gulf, Levant and Iraq, but it is still vigorous in Libya and certain parts of the African coast and regions of North Africa. This means an obituary of it would be a grave mistake. As for the Muslim Brotherhood, it headed towards covert work in Gulf countries. It has always followed this path after every crackdown against it. After it was besieged, Sahwa invested heavily in electronic applications to instill doubts about the government and mobilize the public opinion. As for Al Qaeda, it has made a strong presence and will seek to wrest control back from ISIS. Therefore, governments, media outlets and cultural institutions should keep a close eye as sudden attacks can be carried out by these organizations on ground, via operations and recruitment or on the intellectual level via the revival of sleeper cells. Few days ago, ministers of information of the anti-terror quartet held discussions on coordinating their stances and developing the mechanism of cooperation to confront supporting, funding and embracing extremism and terrorism. In his speech, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed highlighted how combating terrorism is serious no matter what the extent of military victories is.
“The media plays a vital role in countering hate speech and extremist thought. Countering terrorism lies in tearing its deviant intellectual roots and exposing the falsehood of the terrorist organizations’ discourse and their exploitation of the religion of Islam to subvert youth in the Arab region and the world. Fighting terrorism and extremism on the media (front) and at the ideological level is no less important than fighting them on the military and security levels, and it may be more significant considering the media’s direct influence in spreading the values of tolerance, co-existence and acceptance of the other as well as in terms of reinforcing positivity in societies. It is important to work on preemptive strategies based on explaining the concepts and content of the moderate and open-minded Islamic discourse which calls for peace, tolerance, and spreading the spirit of hope and goodness in societies, while exposing the parties and organization that distorted the noble meanings and values of Islam,” he said.
The ideological dimension
This vision shows the role that can be carried out regardless of military triumphs. Facing terrorism intellectually requires scholars and intellectuals to fight on several fronts such as developing the mechanisms of Islamic law (Fiqh) that are filled with detailed provisions to save it from ideological domination. For thirty years, Islamist groups have succeeded in turning religious institutions into a political tool for their ends. Therefore, the development of the mechanisms for comprehending matters of Fiqh by moderate religious institutions is no longer a luxury but has become a duty.
On the intellectual level, extremism is often addressed within the context of academic seminars, facile analyses and negligence of information. This prevents understanding the reasons behind the expansion of the terrorist phenomenon.
The duty of intellectuals is not only to talk about intelligence conspiracies regarding why organizations like Al Qaeda, ISIS, Hezbollah, the Popular Mobilization Forces or Hamas were born but they must also address the intellectual reasons, the principles and the concepts embodied in their speeches, recordings, pulpits and publications. Terrorism cannot be struck in depth without being fully aware of these groups’ approach and concepts and without examining the ideological and jurisprudential map that dictates their moves.
Enlightened approach
Eradicating terrorism is not easy. We may succeed in attacking it militarily and by employing security measures, but completely eradicating it, requires courage, determination and perseverance to confront this ugly reality and challenge it. We should start with education and review all the curricula from the first grade to the topics of the graduate studies’ thesis and the approaches for discussion, and we must proceed to make strong discussions about the nature of the Islamic stance towards the relationship with those from different religions, and to educate the generations on the principles of tolerance, the forms of dialogue and the ethics of coexistence. This calls for enlightened scholars who can solve the disagreement between religion and reality, between man and the other and between one religion and another.
Establishing for civil jurisprudence that is concerned with the purposes of sharia rather than with the form of legislation is the bridge that can draw Muslim societies out of the tunnels of extremism and towards the horizons of tolerance.

Sanaa must be seen to, however long the journey
Mohammed Al Shaikh/Al Arabiya/June 03/18
Hodeidah is about to be liberated from the Houthis. This is what news reports from the city indicate. The Saudi kingdom and its allies could have finalized the war in Yemen and restored legitimacy there within few days or say months but rushing victory would have costed a huge price of human and property losses on both sides. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman noted this early in one of his interviews. This is in addition to the fact that the real enemy, i.e. the Persian mullahs, would only suffer a little from these losses in case victory is rushed because it fights via its proxy, the Houthis.
Therefore, patience has been relatively the best and most peaceful option. The signs of victory loom in the horizon as liberating Hodeidah is a pivotal phase in finalizing the war and cutting supplies to the rebels. When Hodeidah is liberated, liberating the capital Sanaa will only be a matter of time as the Houthis only represent a small number on the map of political and ideological powers. If the mullahs’ republic hadn’t supported them with money and arms, the Houthis would not have been able to attract other opportunist powers which fought along their side despite the ideological and other radical differences between them.
I am certain that the Houthis’ collapse and that clipping their wings will have positive effects towards ending many problems that have worried the Gulf people especially the Saudis for long decades.
The Saudis, in all their categories, agree that we did not choose the war in Yemen and that we only engaged in it only when we had to and after we felt that Iran is targeting us and has ambitions in our territories, especially in the two holy cities. This is why confronting Iran was inevitable and an existential matter no matter what the cost is. The only option we had was the confrontation. Therefore, Operation Decisive Storm was the only choice which may be painful and costly but it will lead to ending this suffering on our southern borders once and for all.
Iran’s defeat in Yemen
Not to mention that defeating the Houthis in Yemen and restoring legitimacy via the power of weapons represent in the end a defeat of Iranian schemes. Iran’s defeat in Yemen will certainly encourage Iraqi national categories to engage in a confrontation and liberate Iraq from the clutches of the Persian occupation.
The war itself has strengthened and deepened the Saudis’ sense of patriotism and pride in such an unprecedented manner. We really needed to strengthen this national affiliation especially that during the ominous phase of Sahwa in the past four decades, the sense of belonging to the nation came before the sense of belonging to one’s homeland. This sense of belonging to the nation was strongly present among the youths who lived through that dark stage in our history. Saudis used to go and fight in other Muslim countries and they thus became the firewood of foreign conflicts that we have nothing to do with. The Sahwa definition of the “homeland” was all the countries of the Islamic world from Indonesia until Morocco.Liberating Hodeidah and then liberating Sanaa from Persian defilement is just around the corner. Following four years of fighting, we have the right to echo the early Arabs’ proverb which reflects determination that does not know hesitation: Sanaa must be seen, however long the journey.

Decline in Israel-Turkey relations has Armenia back on the agenda
Yasar Yakis/Arab News/June 03/18
Until recent weeks, Israel was one of the few countries that resisted pressure from Armenia to recognize as genocide the 1915 events in Ottoman Turkey.
Turkey acknowledges the hardship suffered by the Armenians, but refuses to recognize it as genocide. In 1915, the Ottoman state was fighting allied powers in the Dardanelles and Russia in the east. Gangs of Ottoman citizens of Armenian origin were destroying the communications lines of their own army by blowing up bridges and cutting telephone lines. They were attacking ammunition stores and stealing arms to deliver them to the Russian army. When the measures taken by the state proved to be ineffective, the Ottoman government decided to relocate the Armenians to provinces far from the battle front. During this relocation, the civilian Armenians endured untold suffering because of the lack of transport, winter conditions, epidemics and attacks by relatives of the Muslim population that were massacred by Armenian terrorists.
The measures taken by the Ottoman government are based on the same logic as the measures taken by the US during the Second World War after the Pearl Harbor attack. The US government relocated and incarcerated in internment camps American citizens of Japanese origin who lived on the west coast.
The Republic of Turkey denies the claim that the Ottoman state committed genocide. The UN’s “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide” defines it as an act committed “with the intent to destroy a national, ethnic or religious group.” Turkey says that the Ottoman state never intended to destroy the Armenian community. If it wanted to do so, it would have started by destroying the Armenian community in its capital, Istanbul, before doing so in the eastern provinces.
In Israel, the Knesset rejected a bill asking for the recognition of genocide in February. Another motion was tabled and was due to be debated last week, but it was withdrawn from the agenda despite strong support from Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein. His spokesperson said the motion was withdrawn “to avoid an embarrassment to the Knesset, because it was unclear there would be a majority in favor.”
Turkey acknowledges the hardship suffered by the Armenians, but refuses to recognize it as genocide.
The issue was due to be raised again yesterday, but Israel’s government postponed any vote until after Turkey’s elections on June 24 over concerns that its advancement could benefit Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The late President of Israel, Shimon Peres, explained Israel’s position on this subject in 2001, saying: “We reject attempts to create a similarity between the Holocaust and the Armenian allegations. Nothing similar to the Holocaust occurred. It is a tragedy what the Armenians went through but not a genocide.” This logic may have prevailed again, but the Azerbaijan factor may have played an important role in the current mood. Israel regards Azerbaijan as a strategic ally, important for its security. The motion may have been shelved for the moment, but the risk of it being brought back to the agenda will always remain around the corner as long as there are powerful supporters for it in the Knesset.
Sometimes Turkey considers Israel as a small country of 8.5 million inhabitants and ignores the role that it can play in shaping public opinion in the US and beyond.
A new milestone has now been reached with the frequent attempts made in the Knesset to bring the question back on to the agenda. And this happens at a time when Turkey has withdrawn its ambassador in Tel Aviv in protest against the clashes on the Gaza border.
Turkey’s isolation in the international arena has alleviated the pressure on national parliaments not to recognize the 1915 events as genocide. Exactly for this reason, Armenia and the Armenian diaspora worldwide have intensified their efforts to add new parliaments to those which have already recognized it.
As a result of the pressure by the Armenian diaspora, there has always been a tendency in the US Congress to recognize the Armenian genocide, and the State Department and the Pentagon used to try to counter this pressure in order to avoid harming Turkish-American relations. New US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that he will review this attitude and will not involve the State Department in what Congress does. For Turkey, this means losing another fortress in the US. There are very few congressmen that Turkey can count on to put their weight behind its case. This may be a by-product of the American Jewish community’s diminishing support for Turkey.
When several countries disagree with Turkey on various issues, this disagreement is reflected in almost all aspects of their relations. This is what happened in Israel and in the US. Turkey cannot protect itself from a hurricane other than with an umbrella.
*Yasar Yakis is a former foreign minister of Turkey and founding member of the ruling AK Party. Twitter: @yakis_yasar

Mediterranean hotspots a threat to entire region
Kerry Boyd Anderson/Arab News/June 03/18
Rather than seeing the Mediterranean as it was in ancient times — a “liquid continent” more important to trade and travel than land routes — today people tend to view the sea as a dividing line between discrete land areas: North Africa, the Middle East and Europe. While the Mediterranean is no longer the unifying sea that it was in Roman times, nonetheless it remains important. Thousands of refugees and migrants attempt to cross it or its adjacent smaller seas every year, creating political and humanitarian crises but also cultural and economic links. Goods and people cross the Mediterranean through sea and air routes. Gas pipelines connect North Africa and Europe beneath the waves, with potential plans for new gas pipelines in the eastern Mediterranean.
With all this connectivity, areas of instability around the Mediterranean Sea create risks for the entire region. As the previous flood of Syrian refugees into Europe via the Aegean Sea and the constant steam of refugees and migrants across the sea from Libya to Europe clearly show, political and economic instability or collapse around the sea affects the broader region. Conflicts can reduce the flow of natural gas. Various factors affect trade, travel and other connections.
Therefore, it is useful to take a look at existing or potential hotspots around the Mediterranean and to consider the risks for the region.
In the 1990s, the Balkans, along the Adriatic Sea, experienced some of the worst violence the modern Mediterranean region has seen. Concerns about the Balkans today are increasing, especially in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Elections are scheduled for Oct. 7, but problems with the country’s electoral law are mixing with other factors — including nationalistic, even separatist, rhetoric; growing involvement from Turkey, Russia and regional actors; and neglect by the United States and the EU — to create a combustible situation. Multiple experts have warned that Bosnia-Herzegovina could collapse.
Further south, Turkish and Greek politicians have been ratcheting up tensions. Turkey will hold significant elections on June 24 and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has increased his nationalist rhetoric, including revisiting disputes with Greece over ownership of certain islands and waters. Some Greek politicians have responded in their own nationalist tones. Media reports suggest a significant increase in incursions by Turkish military ships and planes into Greek territory. Greece refuses to extradite eight Turkish military officers that Erdogan accuses of participating in the attempted coup of 2016, and Turkey in turn is holding two Greek border guards. The two countries have a long history of escalation ending in mediation, and it is likely that tensions will cool after Turkey’s election if Erdogan successfully consolidates power. However, brinksmanship is always risky, and any significant conflict between Turkey and Greece would present major risks for the Mediterranean region, as well as for the EU and NATO.
The Syrian civil war and refugee crisis represents the bloodiest development and most profound risk in the Mediterranean region in recent years. The war within Syria is bad enough, but it has also demonstrated that modern conflict is seldom contained, as massive refugee flows significantly affected European politics and Daesh used Syria as a base for terrorist activities. If the Syrian conflict or other issues destabilize vulnerable Lebanon, the effects on security and politics around the Mediterranean would be severe.
Events in recent weeks have reminded the world that the crisis in Gaza is far from resolved, as Israeli forces killed more than 100 Palestinian protesters. The ongoing Israeli siege of Gaza has created a humanitarian emergency, and electricity shortages have led to the pumping of untreated sewage from Gaza into the sea, polluting Gaza’s beaches and creating problems for Israel too. Israeli policies have undermined Palestinians’ ability to tap into the fishing and, most importantly, natural gas resources along Gaza’s coast.
Libya remains a divided country with multiple militias and competing administrations in Tripoli and eastern Libya, as well as being the major point of departure for African migrants trying to reach Europe. A meeting hosted by France last week produced a plan for elections in December, but there is significant uncertainty about whether the elections will occur and how various powerful players would respond.
The war within Syria is bad enough, but it has also demonstrated that modern conflict is seldom contained, as massive refugee flows significantly affected European politics and Daesh used Syria as a base for terrorist activities
The Mediterranean region faces other risks as well. The dispute between Turkey and Greece over Cyprus is unresolved. Tensions over rights to gas and oil fields in the eastern Mediterranean continue to simmer. The Egyptian government continues to battle Daesh and insurgents in Sinai, including near the Mediterranean coast. Tunisia and Algeria are relatively stable today, but both face significant long-term political risks.
One major theme in this scan of Mediterranean hotspots is the decreased presence of the US. Bosnia-Herzegovina is heating up in part because Washington has lost interest. The US mediated the last major crisis between Greece and Turkey but may have less leverage or willingness to engage today. US decisions early in the Syrian civil war to avoid significant involvement made it easier for Russia and Iran to bolster the Assad regime and extend the war. The Gaza crisis peaked as the US embassy opened in Jerusalem.
The EU has direct interests in a stable Mediterranean and might pick up some of the leadership vacuum left by Washington. The Union for the Mediterranean is an existing institution designed to facilitate development and relations between the EU and the rest of the Mediterranean, but it has struggled to make significant achievements and to adapt to political change in North Africa. Nonetheless, at a time of increasing risk around the sea, diplomatic efforts are more necessary than ever to reduce risks — to the benefit of all countries that boast a Mediterranean shore.
Kerry Boyd Anderson is a writer and political risk consultant with more than 14 years’ experience as a professional analyst of international security issues and Middle East political and business risk. Twitter: @KBAresearch

EU shares no common ground with Tehran
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/June 03/18
The Iranian leaders and their state-controlled Persian media outlets continue to significantly emphasize Iran’s economic, diplomatic and political ties with the European Union. The predominant narrative that the Iranian regime is spreading presents itself in the following three ideas: That the EU is left with no option other than backing Iran politically; that many European nations will persist in investing their political capital in preserving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also referred to as the Iran nuclear deal; and that the EU will continue to provide sanctions reliefs to the Islamic Republic.
Furthermore, the ongoing efforts of some EU members to maintain their heightened rapprochement with Tehran’s ruling clerics are surprising for many scholars, policy analysts and politicians.
It is worth noting that the theocratic establishment of Iran shares almost no common interests with the EU. Let us take a meticulous look at the geopolitical and strategic landscapes as well as political ideologies between the Islamic Republic and the EU.
With respect to Iran’s clerical ideology, one of the core pillars of the Islamic revolution has been the export of the revolution and the establishment of a political system similar to that of the Iranian regime in other nations. In fact the rulings mullahs frequently and publicly state their intentions and commitment to promoting such a revolutionary objective, and they have incorporated this critical mission in the Islamic Republic’s constitution. The preamble of the Iranian constitution stipulates that “the mission of the constitution is to create conditions conducive to the development of man in accordance with the noble and universal values of Islam” and that the Iranian constitution “provides the necessary basis for ensuring the continuation of the revolution at home and abroad.”
The Iranian regime’s disrespect for the principles of national sovereignty and its ongoing interference in the internal affairs of other countries — such as Bahrain, Yemen, Syria and Iraq, to name just a few — are crystal clear. Such pursuit of hegemony in the region directly undermines and scuttles the EU’s foreign policy objectives in the Middle East, and stands against the EU’s commitment and belief in self-determination and respect for the key principle of national sovereignty and non-interference in the domestic affairs of other nations.
Groups such as Hezbollah — which are supported by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its elite Quds Force — view terrorism as a powerful instrument in advancing their ideological and geopolitical goals, and pose a terrorist threat to Europe, having killed many Europeans
Considering the role of non-state actors, Tehran sponsors, supports, trains and arms numerous militia groups, proxies and terrorist-designated groups that pursue anti-European and anti-Western policies. Groups such as Hezbollah — which are supported by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its elite Quds Force — view terrorism as a powerful instrument in advancing their ideological and geopolitical goals, and pose a terrorist threat to Europe, having killed many Europeans. The negative implications of Iran’s expansion of its foreign militia networks are a serious threat to Europe’s security.
Regarding humanitarian issues, while the European Convention on Human Rights strives to protect human rights, the Iranian regime is blatantly violating fundamental human rights. Iran is the world leader in executing people per capita. It is also, according to Amnesty International, a leading executioner of children. In addition, it continues to crack down and systematically discriminate against religious and ethnic minorities including Christians, Sunnis, Arabs, Kurds and Afghans.
In fact, the regime has also systematically resorted to different methods of assassinations to silence its dissidents in Europe and other Western nations. A German court previously concluded that Tehran had orchestrated the assassination of four Iranian Kurdish dissidents in Berlin. In addition, the US accused Iran’s Quds Force in the botched 2011 plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States, after seeking the help of a Drug Enforcement Administration agent who was posing as a Mexican drug cartel member. Most recently, Iran was accused of murdering Arab-Iranian activist Ahmad Mola Nissi, who was assassinated in the Netherlands.
In addition, when it comes to political ideology, not only do the EU and Iran share no common interests, but they stand on totally the opposite sides of the spectrum. While the EU is representative of democracy, Iran’s political establishment is a Shiite theocratic oligarchy and one unelected man, the supreme leader, enjoys ultimate legal, constitutional and religious authority over the entire nation. More importantly, all forms of freedom (including press, speech and assembly) are heavily restricted, and any opposition to the Shiite theocracy is suppressed with brute force and the iron fist of the regime’s forces.
These parameters suggest that if the EU, or any European government, stands with the ruling clerics of Iran, it will be making vital miscalculations from geopolitical, strategic, and even economic standpoints.
The strategic, geopolitical and ideological gaps and differences between Iran and the EU are too deep to be bridged. There is hardly any convergence of interests between the EU and Iran. The Iran regime’s policies are designed to robustly undermine the EU’s national security interests, and the ruling mullahs have not changed their anti-Western political ideology for 40 years, since the establishment of their theocratic oligarchy. It is the time for the EU to revisit its dealings and policy toward Iran’s theocratic regime.
*Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh

Syria links talks on south to US withdrawal
AFP/June 03, 2018
More than 350,000 people have been killed in Syria’s war since it started in 2011
The US is present in the north of Syria, where it has been backing a Kurdish-led alliance
BEIRUT: Syria’s foreign minister on Saturday linked any talks on the future of a opposition-held southern region with the departure of US forces from another area bordering Iraq and Jordan.
Regime ally Russia has called for a meeting with the US and Jordan on the future of the southern provinces of Daraa and Quneitra, bordering Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.
In recent weeks, Damascus has sent military reinforcements to the two provinces, which comprise some of the closest opposition-held areas to the capital.
President Vladimir Putin has spoken with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about proposed talks.
“We have not yet entered into negotiations over the southern front,” Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said at a press conference in Damascus.
“The indicator will be the withdrawal of the United States from our land in At-Tanaf” near the Iraqi and Jordanian borders, Muallem said.
The US and its allies have used a base in the area to train a force fighting the Daesh group.
“Don’t believe anything that is said about an agreement on the south until you see that the United States has withdrawn its forces from the At-Tanaf base,” he said.
“It must withdraw its forces from At-Tanaf.”
“We have strived from the start to resolve the issue in the ways that we are used to, which are reconciliations,” he said. “If it is not feasible, we will see what will happen.”
Moscow-brokered reconciliation deals have seen rebels withdraw from several areas of Syria including opposition strongholds close to the capital, often after blistering regime offensives and sieges. Last month, Washington warned Damascus it would take “firm” action if the regime violated a cease-fire deal for southern Syria that was negotiated with Russia and Jordan last year.
The warning came after regime aircraft dropped leaflets on Daraa, urging the rebels who control most of the province to lay down their weapons or face an offensive.
The US is also present in the north of Syria, where it has been backing a Kurdish-led alliance fighting IS. Muallem also criticized a US-Turkish roadmap for “security and stability” in the Kurdish-held city of Manbij near the Turkish border.
The agreement came after forces led by Turkey, who considers Syria’s Kurdish militia to be “terrorists,” in March seized the enclave of Afrin west of Manbij.
That had raised fears of a confrontation between Turkish troops and American forces based in Manbij. “Not just in Manbij but also in Afrin and on every inch of Syrian soil, we consider Turkey to be an aggressor,” the foreign minister said.
“Neither the United States nor Turkey has the right to negotiate over a Syrian city,” he said, describing any such deal as “infringing on Syrian sovereignty.”
12 killed in US air raids
At least 12 civilians — members of the same family — have been killed in US-led coalition raids on Daesh in northeastern Syria, a monitor said Saturday.
“The airstrikes and artillery fire (Friday night) by the international coalition on the village of Hidaj, held by IS (Daesh) in the southern sector of Hasakah province, killed at least 12 people,” the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The civilians — including two women and their children — belonged to the same family, it added.
The deaths bring to “20 the number of civilians killed by the coalition in 24 hours east of the Euphrates River,” said the Observatory, which relies on a network of sources across Syria for its reports.
On Thursday, eight other civilians were killed in coalition strikes in Deir Ezzor province, south of Hasakah.
Daesh militants have lost most of the large parts they once controlled in Syria and neighboring Iraq since 2014. Today, the militants hold less than 3 percent of Syria, according to the Observatory.
In Deir Ezzor, the mainly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces — supported by the US-led coalition — are trying to dislodge militants from the east bank of the Euphrates.
The coalition said on Friday its airstrikes in Syria and Iraq had “unintentionally” killed 892 civilians since its bombing campaign began nearly four years ago.
More than 350,000 people have been killed in Syria’s war since it started in 2011 with a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests.
It has since spiralled into a complex conflict involving world powers and foreign militants.
Recapturing southwest
Meanwhile, the Syrian regime wants to recapture insurgent territory in the southwest through a settlement in which fighters accept state rule or leave, the foreign minister said on Saturday.
Walid Al-Moualem also said the US must withdraw from the Tanf base in the southeast. Damascus has not engaged in talks about the country’s south, and any agreement over that region must include the pullout of US forces, he said.
The southwest, near the borders with Jordan and Israel, remains one of the big chunks of Syria still outside the control of the state, which has recovered swathes of the country with the help of Russian jets and Iran-backed militias.
Opposition factions hold stretches of Quneitra and Daraa provinces in the southwest, bordering the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, while Syrian regime troops and allied forces control nearby territory.
A “de-escalation” deal, which Russia, the US and Jordan brokered, has contained fighting there since last year. Washington voiced concern about reports of an impending army offensive, and warned it would take “firm and appropriate measures” in response to any violations of the cease-fire.
US forces are based in a southern desert pocket further east at Tanf, a strategic highway border crossing with Iraq.
Moualem said the Syrian military had dropped leaflets calling on insurgents in the southwest to either surrender their weapons and settle with the state, or leave.
“We seek, initially, to solve this issue in the ways we have got used to working with, which are reconciliations. If it does not work, that’s a different conversation,” he told a news conference in Damascus.
Russia has said only Syrian regime troops should be at the southern border with Jordan and Israel, which has waged airstrikes in Syria to curb what it fears is Iran’s expanding influence.
Tehran supports Moscow’s effort to impose Syrian government control over the south, a senior Iranian security official was quoted as saying on Saturday.
Moualem also said Damascus had communicated with the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) but no negotiation process had started over the fate of their territory in the north and east.
He said Raqqa city, which the Kurdish-led SDF militias seized from Daesh with US support, “must be rebuilt and liberated” from any foreign presence.