June 08/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
Seek the things that are above, where Christ is 
Letter to the Colossians- 03/01-11: "If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. But now you must get rid of all such things anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on June 07-08/18
Syria: Deployment of Russian Forces in Qusayr Causes Friction with Hezbollah/Beirut, London - Asharq Al-Awsat/June 07/18
Beware of a Lebanese national defense strategy on Iran’s terms/Elias Sakr/Annahar/June 07/18
Netanyahu warns Assad: If he fires at us, we'll destroy his forces/Ynetnews/June 07/18/
NATO rejects Qatar membership ambition/Arab News/June 07/18/
Palestinians: "Burn the Jews!"/Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/June 07/18
The Swamp Strikes Back/J. Christian Adams/Gatestone Institute/June 07/18
How Russia Angered Iran in Syria and Had to Pull Its Troops From the Lebanese Border/Reuters/Haaretz/June 07/18
Get Ready for a Future With a Genetic Crystal Ball/Cass R. Sunstein/Bloomberg/June 07/18
Jordan’s Protests: Economic or Political/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/June 07/18
Could Trump’s Zig-Zag Course to a North Korea Summit Actually Work/David Ignatius/The Washington Post/June 07/18
America’s Cash-for-Genocide Program in Syria/Lee Smith/Tablet/June 07/18
Block 9: Flashpoint for the Next Lebanon War/ Andrew Norris/Tablet//June 07/ 2018
Qatar enters the second year of boycott/Mohammed Al-Hammadi/Al Arabiya/June 07/18
Trump and Congress: The policy ends don’t justify means/Walid Jawad/Al Arabiya/June 07/18
Iraq must act to ward off water security crisis/Diana Moukalled/Arab News/June 07/18
Trump welcomes Arab ambassadors to his first White House iftar/Arab News/June 07/18
Iranian regime will not change its destructive behavior/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/June 07/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on June 07-08/18
Syria: Deployment of Russian Forces in Qusayr Causes Friction with Hezbollah
Constitutional Council Says 17 Election Appeals Filed
Report: Debate Lingers over Number of Govt. Portfolios
Report: Jumblat to Travel to SA, Insists on Full Druze Share in Cabinet
Al-Sayyed Says U.S., Israel Killed Hariri, Slams 'False Witnesses'
Khoury: Banning Entry of Turkish Items Has No Political Background
Some of naturalized foreigners "under suspicion", says Interior Ministry
Interior Ministry Discloses Naturalization Decree
German Chancellor to Visit Lebanon for First Time
Report: Refugees Fearing Return Following Meeting with UNHCR Representatives
Beware of a Lebanese national defense strategy on Iran’s terms

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on June 07-08/18
Netanyahu warns Assad: If he fires at us, we'll destroy his forces/
Netanyahu Warns Syrian Regime, Says it's ‘No Longer Immune’ from Retaliation
Putin Takes Aim at West in Marathon Phone-In
Putin Says Russia to Stay in Syria 'as Long as Beneficial'
Macron, Trudeau Support 'Strong Multilateralism' ahead of G7 Summit
Iraq Hits ISIS Targets in Syria
Manbij Military Council 'Will not Accept' Turkish Military Presence in Region
NATO rejects Qatar membership ambition
Iraqi Parliament Amends Electoral Law
Jordan: Professional Unions Choose Escalation Under Street Pressure
Al-Sisi Tasks Housing Minister to Form New Government
Sisi Underlines Special Relations between Saudi Arabia, Egypt
Saudi Condemns Four to Death for Forming 'Iran Cell'
'Onus on Qatar' to End Gulf Standoff, UAE Says
At Least 16 Dead as Arms Depot Blows Up in Baghdad
US to Release American 'Enemy Combatant' Held in Iraq
Eight Years On, Syria Army Conscripts Pack Bags for Home
Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on June 07-08/18
Syria: Deployment of Russian Forces in Qusayr Causes Friction with Hezbollah
Beirut, London - Asharq Al-Awsat/June 07/18
A Russian troop deployment in Syria near the Lebanese border this week caused friction with Iran-backed forces including "Hezbollah" which objected to the uncoordinated move, two officials in the regional alliance backing Damascus told Reuters. One of the officials, a military commander, told Reuters on condition of anonymity, the situation was resolved on Tuesday when Syrian army soldiers took over three positions where the Russians had deployed near the town of Qusayr in the Homs region on Monday. It appeared to be a rare case of Russia acting without coordinating with the allies of Syrian head of regime Bashar al-Assad. The commander described it as an "uncoordinated step".
“Now it is resolved. We rejected the step. The Syrian army - Division 11 - is deploying at the border,” said the commander, adding Hezbollah men were still located in the area.
Israel called Russia to control Iran in Syria, where Israel has mounted numerous attacks against Hezbollah and other Iran-backed targets.
“Perhaps it was to assure the Israelis,” said the commander, adding that the move could not be justified as part of the fight against the Nusra Front or ISIS because Hezbollah and the Syrian army had defeated them at the Lebanese-Syrian border. The second official said the “resistance axis”, a reference to Iran and its allies, was studying the situation after the uncoordinated Russian move.
Russia and Iran-backed forces such as Hezbollah have worked together against the insurgency.
In 2012, Hezbollah deployed to Syria in 2012 and three years later, Russian air force arrived in support of Assad. But, different agendas in Syria have become more apparent as Israel presses Russia to ensure Iran doesn't expand its presence in the country. Israel wants Iranian and Iran-backed forces away from its border and, more generally, from Syria entirely.
Last month, Israel said Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) launched a missile attacks from Syria into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Back then, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said it marked a “new phase” of the war in Syria. Some believe Russian calls for all non-Syrian forces to leave southern Syria is partly aimed at Iran, in addition to US forces based in al-Tanf area at the Syrian-Iraqi border. Lebanese TV station al-Mayadeen, which is close to Damascus and its regional allies such as Hezbollah, reported the Qusayr incident saying the number of Russian forces was small.
On May 24, a military air base in the same area came under missile attack and Israeli military declined to comment on that attack.
The United States wants to preserve a “de-escalation” zone that has contained the conflict in southwestern Syria. The zone, agreed last year with Russia and Jordan, has helped to contain fighting in areas near the Israeli frontier. Damascus-based al-Dorar opposition network quoted the Italian news agency Aki as saying that Iran was planning to return to the southern region of Syria with the help of the regime. Iranian military militias began withdrawing from areas north of Daraa near Damascus last Saturday, while some thought it was a withdrawal of these militias, but later turned out to be a withdrawal to return to the south of Syria under the umbrella of the regime, reported Dorar.
It quoted local sources as saying that "the Iranian military convoys that withdrew from the Syrian south towards north of Daraa, on the roads of Daraa - Damascus and the highway of Suweida - Damascus, changed positions and moved to barracks belonging to the regime forces."Spokesman of Iranian army Brigadier Masoud Jazayeri denied on Sunday the withdrawal of Iranian and Hezbollah Lebanese forces from southern Syria, according to Russian news agency Sputnik. A senior military commander in the southern front said a senior Iranian military commander was killed in the southern Syrian province of Daraa on Tuesday.
The military commander, who asked not to be identified, told the German news agency: "IRGC commander in Daraa, Khalil Takhti Nejad, and a number of IRGC members were killed during an exchanged shelling between our forces and Iranian groups in Deir al-Adas, known as Triangle of death."The military commander indicated that Iranian forces and elements of Hezbollah are still in Daraa and southeast Damascus, and have headquarters in several villages. He also explained that they wear uniforms with Syrian government forces logo and hoisted the Syrian flag on their vehicles.
The United States has demanded that Iran withdraw its forces from southern Syria, prompting Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem to link the withdrawal of Iranian troops from southern Syria with the withdrawal of US troops from al-Tanf in eastern Syria.
Constitutional Council Says 17 Election Appeals Filed
Naharnet/June 07/18/Head of the Constitutional Council Issam Suleiman announced on Thursday that 17 appeals have be filed to the Council contesting the results of the parliamentary elections. Suleiman said the appeal “does not stop the results of the elections. Elected candidates are considered lawmakers as soon as the results are announced,” he said during a press conference one day after the deadline for submitting appeals expired. “The Council is going to seriously address all appeals,” pointing out that it is “waiting for the report of the Electoral Supervisory Committee to expand investigations in order to verify the information and violations reported.”Lebanon held its first general elections in nine years on May 6 with candidates across several electoral districts seeking to overturn the recent results.

Report: Debate Lingers over Number of Govt. Portfolios
Naharnet/June 07/18/In spite of “optimistic atmospheres” of Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri that he is putting “maximum effort” to line-up the government, the formation path “has not witnessed any announced contacts” since his return from Riyadh, amid indecisiveness on whether it should include 32, 30 or 26 portfolios, al-Joumjouria daily reported on Thursday. Sources of al-Mustaqbal Movement told the daily “although consultations are still young, but they are in progress.” They said Hariri wants to balance between the aspirations of political parties and the need to form a government."Other sources following up on the issue said that Hariri and President Michel Aoun still have to decide on the number of Cabinet members. Discussions are still centered on whether the Cabinet shall include 30 ministers as suggested by Hariri, or if it shall be comprised of 32 or 26 members to include minority portfolios for the Syriac and Alawite, said the sources. Shall a Cabinet of 26 ministers be formed, it would be divided equally between Muslims and Christians, 13 Christian ministers including a Syriac, and 13 Muslim ministers including a Alawite.

Report: Jumblat to Travel to SA, Insists on Full Druze Share in Cabinet

Naharnet/June 07/18/Progressive Socialist Party chief Walid Jumblat reportedly will lead a delegation to Saudi Arabia later this week, the pan-Arab al-Hayat daily reported on Thursday. A senior PSP source told the daily that “Jumblat will travel to Riyadh in the weekend leading a PSP delegation that will likely include MP Taymour Jumblat” --his son and political heir. As for the party’s stance regarding the formation of the new government, sources of Jumblat’s Democratic Gathering bloc said they insist on allocating the three Druze portfolios as the PSP’s share. Jumblat’s Druze rival, MP Talal Arslan also insists on being granted a ministry for a Druze politician of his backing. PM-designate Saad Hariri completed parliamentary consultations last week to explore the demands of the parliamentary blocs regarding the line-up and policies of the new government.

Al-Sayyed Says U.S., Israel Killed Hariri, Slams 'False Witnesses'
Naharnet/June 07/18/MP Jamil al-Sayyed on Thursday accused the United States and Israel of being behind the 2005 assassination of ex-PM Rafik Hariri, on the third and last day of his testimony at the U.N.-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon. “The U.S. and Israel were behind the assassination of martyr premier Rafik Hariri,” al-Sayyed told the STL, noting that “it was his assassination that led to Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon and not (U.N. Security Council) Resolution 1559.” “The tribunal is a political tribunal... In Iraq George Bush and Tony Blair killed 1.5 million Iraqis under the excuse of weapons of mass destruction and they displaced 10 million Iraqis. Don't they deserve a trial?” al-Sayyed added. The newly-elected MP was the director of Lebanon's General Security agency during the last years of Syria's military presence in Lebanon. He was detained months after the murder along with three other generals but released nearly four years later without charges. The tribunal later indicted five members of Hizbullah in the truck bombing that killed Hariri and 21 others. The five indicted and later put on trial in absentia included one of Hizbullah's top military commanders, Mustafa Badreddine, who was killed in Syria in 2016. Hizbullah denies involvement in the murder and the group's leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has denounced the court as a conspiracy by his archenemies — the U.S. and Israel. Al-Sayyed was called to the stand in the Netherlands as a witness for Hassan Oneissi, one of the four defendants on trial. All four are at large and are being tried in absentia. On Thursday, he told the tribunal that “through the elections and the extension for the (then-)president (Emile Lahoud), Hariri was bestowing legitimacy on the Syrian presence, Lahoud and the Resistance.”“This all is a reason for Israel to assassinate him, because had Hariri stayed alive, all the events that happened later would not have happened,” the major general added. He also noted that “they tried to assassinate Marwan Hamadeh” in order to “provoke Walid Jumblat.”Al-Sayyed added: “I came to the court to defend two things: the right of the Lebanese to know the truth and my personal right. The Lebanese people have the right to know the truth but not according to the method of March 14 and its sympathizers, and also not through the STL, which approaches things in a politicized manner. The truth cannot be reached through false witnesses but rather through the presence of conclusive evidence.” “Why was the international investigation misled for four years and who had an interest in that? Twelve false witnesses misled the investigation into Hariri's assassination and the court is saying that that does not fall under its jurisdiction,” the former spy chief added. An altercation happened at the end of Thursday's session when al-Sayyed approached the Prosecution's representative to shake hands with him. “You have no manners and you don't deserve to be respected,” al-Sayyed told the representative when he refused to shake his hand. STL Presiding Judge David Re meanwhile said that al-Sayyed made an inappropriate gesture towards the Prosecution's representative.

Khoury: Banning Entry of Turkish Items Has No Political Background
Naharnet/June 07/18/Caretaker Economy Minister Raed Khoury assured on Thursday that banning the entry of some Turkish products into the Lebanese market aims at safeguarding the economy, as he assured that Lebanon’s ties with Turkey are “very good.”“The Cabinet’s decision to protect Lebanese products does not have any political background, but an economic one,” said Khoury at a joint press conference with head of the Association of Lebanese Industrialists Fadi Gemayel. “The primary aim of the decision is to protect the Lebanese industries and all other sectors,” he added noting that illegal competition has made several plants around Lebanon shut their doors down. "So we have taken the decision to prevent the import of biscuits, wafers and detergents from Turkey to protect the Lebanese industry,” he said, stressing strict measures to curb smuggling through illegal ports. Khoury also noted that the devaluation of the Turkish lira has made these products very cheap which in return affected Lebanese industries that produce similar items.
Some of naturalized foreigners "under suspicion", says Interior Ministry
Georgi Azar/Annahar/June 07/18/The Ministry released the names of the almost 400 naturalized foreigners in the wake of the nationwide backlash over the naturalization decree, signed by President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Machnouq.
BEIRUT: A number of naturalized foreigners are "under judicial and security suspicion" according to a statement released Thursday by the Interior Ministry, casting doubt on Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouq's previous assertion that all those granted citizenship were thoroughly vetted by the Internal Security Forces, INTERPOL and judicial authorities. The Ministry released the names of the almost 400 naturalized foreigners in the wake of the nationwide backlash over the naturalization decree, signed by President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Machnouq.  The decree, signed on May 11 and ten days before Cabinet entered its caretaker mode, granted the Lebanese nationality to large swaths of Syrians and Palestinians, as well as GCC nationals and businessmen from the Americas and Europe. Despite Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil attempting to deny allegations of bribery, saying that those granted citizenship "were worthy of Lebanese nationality", the resolution drew widespread condemnation from opposition groups including the Kataeb and Lebanese Forces parties.

Interior Ministry Discloses Naturalization Decree 07th June 2018/The Interior Ministry on Thursday disclosed the naturalization decree, which triggered a wide controversy over the past days, as it got it published on its official website following repeated demands made by several political forces. The Ministry said in a statement that preliminary investigations indicated that there are security and judicial suspicions regarding some of the individuals mentioned in the decree. The collected information are being scrutinized by the General Security so as to assess their credibility, the statement noted.

German Chancellor to Visit Lebanon for First Time 07th June 2018/German Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to visit Lebanon for the first time later this month, Al-Hayat newspaper reported. According to Lebanese sources, Merkel will arrive in Beirut on June 21 to meet with the country’s top officials.

Report: Refugees Fearing Return Following Meeting with UNHCR Representatives 07th June 2018/Lebanon has voiced reservation over the approach that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is adopting to deal with the refugees return to Syria, the National News Agency reported on Wednesday. UNHCR representatives have been meeting with Syrian refugees in Arsal, Flita and other villages to check whether they want to return back to their homeland. However, NNA reported, the UNHCR representatives are asking questions that are believed to imply a message cautioning the refugees against returning home. The refugees are reportedly asked if they are aware that Syria is still not under international auspices, that young men will have to serve in the army, that their houses might be no longer habitable, that it might take them a long time to find a job and that they will no longer receive any aids.
Beware of a Lebanese national defense strategy on Iran’s terms
Elias Sakr/Annahar/June 07/18
While previous calls for a national defense strategy, under former President Michel Sleiman, have fallen on deaf ears, Hezbollah has now a staunch ally in the country’s top post but more importantly, allies who control an almost two-thirds majority in Parliament.
BEIRUT: U.S President Donald Trump’s decision to exit the nuclear deal and re-impose sanctions on Iran coupled with ever more frequent Israeli strikes against forces loyal to the Islamic Republic in Syria, mainly the Lebanese militant group, Hezbollah, are leaving Tehran with only a few options.
The Islamic Republic could try to contain the economic repercussions of renewed U.S sanctions and bear the burden of Israeli strikes in Syria. These sanctions, however, would further plunge Tehran’s economy into stagnation and increase the risk of domestic instability as both U.S and European multinationals are practically forced out of Iran. The failure to retaliate against Israeli attacks, on the other hand, would further embolden the Jewish state to continue targetting Iran’s proxies in Syria.
This unsustainable scenario, in the long run, might prompt Iran to retaliate, through its proxies, by targeting U.S forces in Syria, Israeli forces in the occupied Golan Heights or even Israel itself; a move that could draw a fierce U.S and Israeli response and risk an all-out war on both the Lebanese and Syrian fronts.
This leaves Iran with a third and last option: to seek a compromise deal with the U.S that would involve, not only new restrictions on its nuclear and ballistic missile programs but also seeks to limit Tehran's military interventions across the Middle East as U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo suggested in May.
"I'm hopeful in the days and weeks ahead we can come up with a deal that really works, that really protects the world from Iranian bad behavior, not just their nuclear program, but their missiles and their malign behavior as well," Pompeo said.
Under this scenario, Lebanese President Michel Aoun’s call for dialogue over a national defense strategy might this time resonate with Iran and Hezbollah who might, at some point, find in such a strategy a straw to clutch at.
While previous calls for a national defense strategy, under former President Michel Sleiman, have fallen on deaf ears, Hezbollah has now a staunch ally in the country’s top post but more importantly, the party and its allies now control an almost two-thirds majority in Parliament.
This could pave the way for the legitimization of Hezbollah’s weapons within the framework of a national defense strategy that resembles the deal that led to the institutionalization rather than integration of the mostly Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization (PMF) Forces in Iraq.
Instead of incorporating PMF fighters into the command chain of Iraq’s armed forces, the largely Iranian-sponsored paramilitary group have become an autonomous force as of November 2016 when Iraq’s parliament passed a law recognizing the PMF as “an independent military formation as part of the Iraqi armed forces and linked to the Commander-in-Chief.”
The law positions the PMF as a legitimate armed entity under the National Security Council on par with the Ministries of Defense and Interior rather than placing those forces under the authority of one of these two ministries. In other words, the law paves the way for the PMF to infiltrate state institutions and secure government funding, yet continue to act to a large degree independently from the state’s chain of command. A similar deal in Lebanon could very well suit Hezbollah as the U.S ramps up pressure on the party. Potential U.S sanctions targeting key Hezbollah allies and members of the Lebanese government might further accelerate this process in a bid to protect the Iranian-backed party and its associates. While the West might welcome such a deal, Lebanese should be wary of a national defense strategy on Iran’s terms.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on June 07-08/18
Netanyahu warns Assad: If he fires at us, we'll destroy his forces
Ynetnews/June 07/18/
Syrian president 'is no longer immune' now that he invited Iran into his country, Prime Minister Netanyahu says at London conference; on the use of lethal force in Gaza, he says: 'if you found non-lethal means to deal with such a situation, I would be the first to want to use it.'
Ynet|Published: 06.07.18 , 15:52
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Syrian President Bashar Assad on Thursday, saying if he fires at Israel, the IDF will "destroy his forces."
"When they waged this horrific civil war, Israel did not intervene. We built a hospital. Now the war is nearly over, he invites Iran in? He is no longer immune. If he fires at us, we'll destroy his forces," Netanyahu said at the Policy Exchange Institute in London, after visiting France and Germany to discuss Iran.
Discussing his relationship with former US President Barack Obama, Netanyahu said "The main disagreement with Obama was on Iran and I was quite forthright about it," adding "there is no disagreement between President Trump and me on Iran, and I appreciate that very much."
Despite his disagreements with Obama, Netanyahu noted, he signed a 10-year $38 billion military aid agreement with the former president.
The prime minister praised Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and move the US embassy there. "Any conception of peace will have Jerusalem as Israel's capital, so why not recognize facts?" he argued.Netanyahu was asked why the IDF has not been using other methods to deter Palestinians from trying to breach the border fence, such as rubber bullets or shooting at instigators' lower extremities.
"Everything you suggested has been tried. Hamas's goal was to have many casualties, ours was to minimize casualties. If you had a similar situation here and you found non-lethal means to deal with it, I would be the first to want to use it," he responded.
He was also asked whether he believed the Syrians would reduce Iranian influence in their country.
"Iran is trying to move its army a thousand miles, so it can threaten Israel. They want to bring in precision-guided rockets with half a ton warheads and submarines to the Mediterranean," Netanyahu said, warning Israel would not tolerate such moves.
Commenting on a planned "Al Quds Day" march in London in three days, Netanyahu described it as "wrong."
"Both wings of Hezbollah seek the destruction of not only Israel but also of Jews. These are horrible people, the worst theocratic gangsters in the world. Why are progressive forces behind one of the least progressive forces in the world? It's because they oppose Israel. There's a word for that. It begins with A: anti-Semitism," he charged. "The idea of aligning with the forces of barbarism against one of the most modern pluralistic states in the world, it's horrific.
"Why are they not protesting against other countries? This is not because of any wrongdoing by Israel, this is because Israel exists. They're leaving aside all the wrongs in the world and focusing on the one Jewish State."
Netanyahu Warns Syrian Regime, Says it's ‘No Longer Immune’ from Retaliation
Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 07 June, 2018/Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Syria's head of regime Bashar al-Assad, during a visit to London on Thursday, saying his regime is “no longer immune” from retaliation. “He is no longer immune, his regime is no longer immune. If he fires at us, we will destroy his forces,” Netanyahu said. “I think there is a new calculus that has to take place and Syria has to understand that Israel will not tolerate the Iranian military entrenchment in Syria against Israel,” he added while speaking at an event organized by the Policy Exchange think tank. According to AFP, "Israel has been pledging for months to prevent its main enemy Iran from entrenching itself militarily in Syria, where Tehran is backing Assad's regime." Back in May, Israel launched a large-scale attack on what it said were Iranian targets in Syria. Israel had been blamed for a series of recent strikes inside Syria that killed Iranians, though it has not acknowledged them, AFP reported.
Putin Takes Aim at West in Marathon Phone-In
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 07/18/President Vladimir Putin on Thursday lashed out at U.S. trade tariffs and Western sanctions against oligarchs during an annual televised phone-in that also saw him address the concerns of ordinary Russians. The event, which this year lasted almost five hours, allows Russians to submit questions on any theme and has in the past seen the president talk on topics as varied as his love life, Crimea and the state of provincial roads. The phone-in was Putin's first since being re-elected to a historic fourth Kremlin term in March, and comes just a week before Russia is set to host the World Cup. "Overall, we are moving completely in the right direction. We are on track for durable growth in the economy," he said in opening remarks to two moderators introducing questions from the public. "There are, of course, a number of problems to address," he said of an economy that continues to stall after a crash in 2014 following sanctions introduced by the West over the annexation of Crimea. He also slammed the "persecution" of Russian business people abroad after billionaire industrialist Oleg Deripaska was targeted in U.S. sanctions and Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich faced delays to his British visa application. Putin also compared the trade tariffs announced by President Donald Trump on U.S. allies to Western sanctions against Russia. "This is the imposition of sanctions, expressed in a different way," he said, adding that he had warned other Western nations years ago they would suffer from U.S. dominance.
Sedatives in hand'
The Q&A on Thursday was more subdued than usual, with no studio audience. The only uncomfortable questions were projected onto screens on either side of Putin rather than put to him directly. On the international front, Putin also took the opportunity to say that Russia would remain in Syria for as long as it was beneficial to Moscow. "Our military is there to ensure Russia's interests in an important region of the world," he said. The president added the continued presence of Russian troops in the country would provide "invaluable experience" in the testing of new Russian weapons.
He meanwhile boasted Russia's new hypersonic intercontinental missile would enter service next year and guarantee Moscow maintains military parity with Washington. State television ran a breathless countdown to the session, updating the number of questions submitted -- some two million as the program began. In contrast to previous phone-ins, this year Putin called on ministers and regional leaders to stand by, ready to go live on air to discuss practical issues with callers. "They will be sitting by the television with bated breath... with a phone in one hand and a sedative in their pocket," the Komsomolskaya Pravda tabloid joked. A governor was called on to engage with a group of residents from a town in the Vladimir region, near Moscow, who were complaining about the state of their local health services.
A stable ruble?
Putin has in the past stepped in fairy godmother-like to solve problems that might otherwise be thought beneath him and this year was no exception. On Thursday, he promised Russian citizenship to a Ukrainian woman seriously injured by an explosive device in Syria and who lost an arm and leg.
Irina Barakat said she was wounded in 2016 while living in the city of Aleppo with her Syrian husband and children and was evacuated by Russian forces. Lacking a Russian passport, Barakat said she cannot bring into the country her husband and three children, who are still living in Syria and whom she has not seen in two years. "It falls within the remit of the Russian president to grant citizenship, you'll get it," he told her, after saying she would ask the defence ministry to bring her relatives to Russia. Putin also touched on the subject of the World Cup, saying that stadiums built for the event could not be allowed to turn into "markets" as sports facilities did in the turbulent 1990s. While the questions moderators selected for the president were relatively softball, others briefly flashed on the screen expressed dissatisfaction at his 18-year rule. "Will there ever be a stable ruble?" one asked, while another questioned if Russians themselves would be seeing a part of the country's vast wealth anytime soon. Other unanswered questions were more specific, such as one complaining about the lack of toilets in the Moscow metro system.

Putin Says Russia to Stay in Syria 'as Long as Beneficial'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 07/18/President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said Russian forces would remain in Syria as long as it was in Moscow's interests, despite earlier announcing Russia's mission in the war-torn country was largely completed. "Our military is there to ensure Russia's interests in an important region of the world," Putin said in a response to a question during an annual televised phone-in with the Russian public. "They will stay there as long as it is beneficial to Russia and to ensure our international obligations. We are not planning to withdraw yet," he said. The president said the continued presence of Russian troops in the country would provide "invaluable experience" in the testing of new Russian weapons. But he added that large-scale hostilities had ceased and a peaceful settlement was on the agenda. The Russian president first launched a military intervention in Syria in 2015, turning the tables in the multi-front civil war in favour of ally President Bashar al-Assad. In December last year, Putin made a surprise visit to Russia's Hmeimim airbase in Latakia, Syria where he ordered a partial pullout of the country's troops, saying their mission there was mainly completed. Putin first said in March 2016 that the country's military campaign in Syria was coming to an end. In March this year, the defense ministry said a total of 2,954 Russian troops in Syria had voted in presidential polls, giving an idea of current numbers. Officials and observers also point out the presence of a "shadow army" of Russian mercenaries in Syria, including those working for a private military company called Wagner.

Macron, Trudeau Support 'Strong Multilateralism' ahead of G7 Summit
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 07/18/French President Emmanuel Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed support for "strong multilateralism" in Ottawa Wednesday before the G7 summit, where US President Donald Trump's aggressive trade policies are sure to raise hackles. Displaying a united front, the two leaders in their 40s said in a statement they "support a strong, responsible, transparent multilateralism to face the global challenges."The pair were scheduled to hold formal talks and a private dinner on Wednesday, followed by a joint news conference early Thursday.
Those discussions are likely to focus on Trump's decision last week to impose punishing tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum from Washington's closest allies, including Canada, the European Union and Japan. In retaliation, all of them have either hit back with their own tariffs on US goods or threatened to do so, as well as challenging the US trade measure at the World Trade Organization. Both Trudeau and Macron had tried to persuade Trump not to impose the tariffs. "There will be frank and sometimes difficult discussions around the G7 table, particularly with the US president on tariffs," Trudeau told reporters. His private meeting with Macron, he said, "will be an opportunity to talk about the relations between Canada and France that are going very well, but also to highlight the challenges that we are going to have around the G7 table, and to make sure we are aligned."
Economic order 'under attack'
The EU and Canada were originally shielded from the aluminum and steel tariffs, but Trump ended that exemption last week. Since then, Trudeau, Macron and other European leaders have toughened their tone, lamenting what they see as rising US protectionism. "The world economic order is... under attack," Canada's Trade Minister Francois Philippe Champagne commented. Trump economic advisor Larry Kudlow, however, framed the trade spat as a "family quarrel" which he said would be "worked out," while adding that his administration "will do what is necessary to protect the United States, its businesses and its workforce." Macron -- who had formed an unlikely bond with Trump -- declined to characterize his last conversation with the US leader, but unnamed White House insiders told US media it was "terrible."Still, the French leader pledged to have a "productive and frank discussion with President Trump at the G7," the Group of Seven industrialized democracies. "It does not detract from the friendship we have for each other and the friendship between our two countries," he said. Trudeau, who has been cordial with Trump, said in March he had received assurances that Canada would be spared as they worked toward a revamp of a 1994 continental trade pact with the United States. But that all changed with the announcement of the US levies, and Trudeau retaliated with Can$16.6 billion (US$12.9 billion) in tariffs on US goods. The two sides are also deadlocked on negotiations over the future of their North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Mexico. Ottawa refuses to grant US demands for a clause that would end the trade deal after five years unless it is renewed by the parties. Canada has also rejected "for now" a proposal floated by the White House for new separate US trade deals with Canada and Mexico. The left-leaning Trudeau and Macron see each other as natural allies in a world increasingly shaped by right-wing nationalism. That bond should only grow deeper ahead of the G7 in Quebec. According to a statement, they settled on the creation of an international working group to advance research and best practices in artificial intelligence, as well as a new defense alliance. The French-Canadian Council for Defense Cooperation will meet by year's end and look at boosting cooperation between their respective armed forces, including conducting joint military operations and partnering on UN missions.
Focus on trade
The GSeven summit on Friday and Saturday in La Malbaie, a small town 140 kilometers (87 miles) from Quebec City, will bring together the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States. Trudeau hoped to put the focus on jobs, security concerns, cleaning up the world's oceans and empowering women. But officials concede the agenda is likely to be overtaken by trade disputes. "I think it's fair to expect that any discussions on the global economy... in the current environment will quickly turn into a discussion about trade," a senior Canadian official said.
The other six members of the G7 are holding out hope they can find common ground with Trump, but are prepared to stand up to US protectionism. "The challenge is to try to preserve a form of unity within the G7, but not hesitate to express firmly and strongly the interests of France and of Europe," Macron's office said.
Iraq Hits ISIS Targets in Syria
Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 7 June, 2018/Iraq said its air forces conducted strikes against ISIS in Syria on Thursday.A statement by Iraqi military said F-16 fighter jets destroyed a building where ISIS militants were operating. "Iraqi F-16 jets bombed this morning on Thursday a so-called command and control center containing leaders and fighters belonging to ISIS terrorist gang in the Hajin inside Syrian territory," the statement reported by Reuters said. The Iraqi air force carried out several airstrikes against ISIS in Syria since last year. A while ago, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said he would “take all necessary measures if they threaten the security of Iraq,” referring to ISIS militants who just three years ago overran a third of Iraq. Abadi declared final victory over ISIS in December but, according to Reuters, it still operates from pockets along the border with Syria and has continued to carry out ambushes, assassinations and bombings across Iraq.

Manbij Military Council 'Will not Accept' Turkish Military Presence in Region

Beirut, London- Asharq Al Awsat/Thursday, 7 June, 2018/Syria’s Manbij Military Council, a militia allied to the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northern Syria, said on Wednesday that it will not accept a Turkish military presence in the town after Ankara and Washington said they had reached an agreement for administering the area. “We will not accept that,” council spokesman Sharfan Darwish told Reuters in response to the question whether the council would accept a Turkish military presence in the Manbij area. Darwish said the council had not yet been officially informed of the mechanisms of a Turkey-US roadmap for Manbij announced on Monday, but said the council was capable of preserving the security and borders of the town against any external threats.
“We are awaiting high-level visits by coalition officials to inform us of the details, and for consultations and discussions,” Darwish added.
The fate of Manbij has been a focus of friction between the United States and Turkey because of the presence there of the YPG, a Syrian Kurdish militia that forms the largest part of the US-backed SDF. The YPG said on Tuesday its military advisers would leave the town. The Manbij Military Council on Wednesday said this would occur “in the coming days”. Ankara has been angered by Washington’s support for the YPG-dominated SDF, and pledged earlier this year to drive the Kurdish group from Manbij by force, raising the possibility of confrontation with US forces in the area. In a related matter, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday said he welcomed the Turkish-US roadmap for the northern Syrian city of Manbij foreseeing the removal of the YPG from the area. The secretary-general’s comment on the highly anticipated deal came during a press conference ahead of a meeting between NATO defense ministers in Brussels. The roadmap on Manbij was announced on June 4 in Washington after a meeting held between Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The roadmap on the YPG’s removal includes three stages, with the first 10 days devoted to initial preparations between the militaries and intelligence agencies of the two sides for the withdrawal of the Syrian-Kurdish forces and actions to be taken by the two sides in Manbij, Çavuşoğlu said on June 5, speaking to Ankara bureau chiefs of media outlets in the Mediterranean resort town of Antalya. In the second stage, he said, teams from both sides will hold meetings to conclude preparations. In the third stage the implementation of the roadmap will be carried out, the minister added. Meanwhile, a US spokesperson said the roadmap is actually “conditional.”“Look, the secretary endorsed, along with the foreign minister of Turkey, a general roadmap,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Tuesday (June 5). “I want to be clear that this is going to be conditions-based. That means that things can change over time as conditions change on the ground,” Nauert said.
NATO rejects Qatar membership ambition
Arab News/June 07/18/
NATO has declined an overture by Qatar to join the Western military defense alliance, saying membership was reserved to the United States and Europe. (AFP)
“According to Article 10 of the Washington Treaty, only European countries can become members of NATO,” an official of the 29-country alliance said
Defense Minister Khalid bin Mohamed Al-Attiyah said Qatar wanted to become a full member of NATO
BRUSSELS: Qatar’s hopes of joining NATO have been well and truly quashed by the 29-member alliance. NATO said that membership was restricted to the nations of Europe and North America, as specified in its founding treaty of 1949. New membership is restricted to Europe only.
And a Middle East defense expert dismissed Qatar’s aspirations as “mere posturing.”The hope of NATO membership was raised by the Qatari defense minister Khalid bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah in a recent interview. But an official at the organization’s headquarters in Brussels said that there was no possibility of the Gulf nation becoming a full member. “According to article 10 of the Washington Treaty, only European countries can become new members of NATO. Qatar is a valuable and long-standing partner of NATO. It has contributed to our past ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) mission in Afghanistan and it has offered airlift to our Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan.”Al-Attiyah told “Altalaya,” the official magazine of the Qatari defense ministry: “Qatar today has become one of the most important countries in the region in terms of the quality of armament.” “Regarding the membership, we are a main ally from outside NATO … The ambition is full membership if our partnership with NATO develops and our vision is clear.”He added: “NATO appreciates Qatar’s contribution to combating terrorism and its financing.”Qatar is accused by other Arab countries of supporting terror groups and has been under a boycott from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt for more than a year. The Qatari defense minister — who is also deputy prime minister — was speaking on the first anniversary of the boycott, and the timing was no accident, said Michael Stephens, research fellow for Middle East Studies at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) think-tank in London. “Everyone is feeling pumped up and flexing their muscles and trolling each other. None of this should be taken seriously.”Al-Attiyah had suggested Qatar could “host one of NATO’s units or one of its specialized centers.”  But Stephens said that was neither likely nor necessary. United States Central Command (Centcom) already has a forward headquarters in Doha and “is already plugged into NATO,” he said. He added: “The GCC as a bloc would be more able to contribute. The idea that nobody else in the region except Qatar can … well, it’s just not possible.” Qatar could try to play up its role as a close ally of Turkey, which is a NATO member, but has increasingly strained relations with other nations in the alliance, particularly over its conduct in Syria. Turkey has also benefited economically from the crisis between Qatar and its neighbors. With Qatar’s only land border with Saudi Arabia closed, goods are being flown in from Turkey. But the emirate does not need military help. “Qatar’s security architecture is already adequate. It does not need to be frameworked in this way,” Stephens said. “With the conflict between Qatar and the GCC now entrenched, this is just posturing.”

Iraqi Parliament Amends Electoral Law
Baghdad - Hamza Mustafa/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 7 June, 2018/Iraq's parliament on Wednesday voted in favor of amending the country's election law to allow a manual ballot recount for the parliamentary elections held on May 12 on allegations of voter fraud. During its session, 173 lawmakers ordered the vote recount from all polling stations and referring members of Iraq’s Independent High Elections Commission (IHEC) to the integrity commission. The parliament appointed nine judges to supervise the manual recount instead of the current members of the Commission, according to Kurdish MP Sarwa Abdulwahid. She told Asharq Al-Awsat that the parliament’s majority passed the law on Wednesday ordering a nationwide manual recount of votes in the election. The amendment also canceled the results of overseas voting and the votes of the displaced in some provinces. The amendments to the electoral law included "re-counting and manual counting of the results of the elections" and the suspension of the work of the Board of Commissioners and directors of UNHCR offices in the provinces and replacing them. The legislature’s move came after recommendations from the Special Ministerial Inquiry Committee, which confirmed the occurrence of major violations, and made several recommendations, namely partial manual recount and preventing UNHCR officials from traveling abroad until the completion of investigations. In his opening remarks, Speaker Salim al-Jubouri stressed that the purpose of the extraordinary session was "to correct the electoral process". Legal expert Ahmad al-Abbadi told Asharq Al-Awsat that the process of manual counting and re-counting needs to be amended because the law approved by the parliament in 2013 stipulated that counting and sorting should be electronic. He asserted: "This ambiguity must be resolved." A parliamentary source, who asked not to be named, considered that the biggest beneficiaries of this process were al-Jubouri and Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi. Turkmen MP for the province of Kirkuk, Hassan Turan indicated that the high attendance during the parliamentary session confirmed beyond any doubt that all political blocs want to distance themselves from fraud. He told Asharq Al-Awsat that the amendments of the law are important at this stage, especially that the government and parliament challenged the election results. MP Mishaan al-Jubouri also told the newspaper that the parliament’s move “prepares the legal ground for the judiciary to take action.” He added that his bloc will accept whatever decision that the judiciary takes.

Jordan: Professional Unions Choose Escalation Under Street Pressure

Amman- Mohamed Al-Daameh/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 7 June, 2018/Professional unions in Jordan chose on Wednesday to escalate, in response to street pressure, a few hours after they announced the cessation of protests. Addressing the crowds, who responded to calls for a sit-in on Wednesday, the head of the Professional Unions Association, Ali Al-Abous said that the association decided to suspend sit-ins and strikes in order to give the new government the opportunity to announce its plan. But the protesters rejected his decision, shouting slogans against him, accusing him of “selling their case” and threatening to break into the headquarters of the association. In light of mounting pressure by around 3,000 protesters, Abous held a second emergency meeting with union representatives and decided afterward to respond to popular demands. Amid different opinions by the unions, Abous reiterated his call to withdraw the draft income tax law, which is supported by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and to amend the civil service system. He also stressed that escalating measures would be announced during the coming hours and days. Around 33 business, economic and banking unions announced two days ago their withdrawal from the sit-ins, after King Abdullah II designated Omar al-Razzaz, a former economist at the World Bank, to form a new cabinet and launch dialogue on the controversial income tax law. The various Jordanian cities witnessed a general strike in government hospitals and health centers, which resulted in total paralysis and as the staff refused to handle any medical condition other than emergencies. Some shops were closed in rejection of the income tax bill, while some directorates and ministries saw a partial suspension of work as some employees. The bill to increase the income tax, which came under IMF guidance, increased consumer goods prices and sparked the country’s biggest protests in years. On Tuesday, King Abdullah II called for a review of the draft law and charged Razzaz – a Harvard graduate - with forming a government.

Al-Sisi Tasks Housing Minister to Form New Government

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 07/18/Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Thursday tasked his housing minister to form a new government after the resignation of prime minister Sherif Ismail, a spokesman for the presidency said. Ismail stepped down Tuesday just days after Sisi was sworn in for a new term, in line with the tradition in Egypt of premiers resigning at the onset of a new presidential term. Mostafa Madbouli, who was asked to form the new government, had served as housing minister since 2014. The 52-year-old stood in as prime minister for nearly two months from November when Ismail traveled to Germany for medical treatment. Ismail oversaw tough economic reforms tied to $12 billion in loans from the International Monetary Fund which Cairo secured to ease a fiscal crisis that saw its deficit balloon to 12.5 percent of gross domestic product in 2015-16. Sisi on Saturday was sworn in for a second four-year term after winning 97 percent of valid votes in March's presidential election, for which all serious contenders either dropped out or were sidelined or arrested. Sisi defeated lone rival Moussa Mostafa Moussa, who was relatively unknown and a fervent supporter of the president. Critics said Moussa was a token candidate to try to legitimize the president's re-election.

Sisi Underlines Special Relations between Saudi Arabia, Egypt

Cairo - Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 7 June, 2018/Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi met on Wednesday with Saudi Minister of State for African Affairs Ahmed al Qattan, in the presence of Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri and Acting Chief of General Intelligence Abbas Kamel.
Ambassador Bassam Radi, spokesman for the Egyptian presidency, said that the Saudi minister of state conveyed the greetings of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, pointing to the strong historic relations between the Kingdom and Egypt, and expressing Saudi Arabia’s keenness to further develop the horizons of cooperation in various fields, thus contributing to strengthening solidarity, promoting joint Arab action and confronting various challenges facing the region. Sisi, for his part, hailed strategic and deep-rooted relations between Egypt and Saudi Arabia. He also underlined Egypt’s keenness to strengthen various bilateral cooperation frameworks, maintain consultations and coordination with the Kingdom on various regional issues and means to address the challenges facing the Arab and Islamic nations for the sake of their people.

Saudi Condemns Four to Death for Forming 'Iran Cell'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 07/18/A Saudi court has sentenced four people to death for links to regional rival Iran, alleging that they were plotting the assassination of "prominent figures", state media said Thursday. "The criminal court has sentenced four terrorists to death for forming a cell for Iran," the state-owned Al-Ekhbariya TV reported. "The terrorists were trained in camps in Iran" and "planned to assassinate prominent figures," Al-Ekhbariya said, without giving any more details on those convicted. Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia and Iran, the predominant Shiite power, have a long history of rivalry. They today stand on opposing sides of conflicts in the Middle East, from Syria to Yemen. In December 2016, a Saudi court sentenced 15 people to death for spying for Iran, according to local media. A source told AFP then that most of them were members of the kingdom's Shiite minority. Earlier in 2016, regional tensions spiked when Riyadh executed prominent Sasudi Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, a driving force behind anti-government protests, for "terrorism". The ultra-conservative kingdom has one of the world's highest rates of execution, with suspects convicted of terrorism, homicide, rape, armed robbery and drug trafficking facing the death penalty. Rights experts have repeatedly raised concerns about the fairness of trials in the kingdom, governed under a strict form of Islamic law. The government says the death penalty is a deterrent for further crime.

'Onus on Qatar' to End Gulf Standoff, UAE Says
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 07/18/The four Arab states facing off against Qatar in the Gulf diplomatic crisis will not ease up pressure one year after launching their boycott, the United Arab Emirates said Thursday. "The four countries have made their point. They don't have to escalate. We have become more or less accustomed to dealing with our region through isolation of Qatar," Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash told Abu Dhabi-based The National newspaper. "The onus is on Qatar if it really wants to come out of its current isolation." Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt cut all ties with Doha on June 5, 2017, 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 not fulfilled any of these, but Gargash insisted they remain a basis for talks even as a "deficit of trust" continues. Gargash in the interview accused Qatar of "undermining the Bahraini regime" and "systematically supporting Saudi opposition" by providing a "platform to try and play a seditious role". He called on Doha to halt its alleged support for extremism and links to Iran's Revolutionary Guards, insisting "it can change its policies and end this crisis. We hope that it will". Qatar has denied all the allegations against it and remains defiant. "One year on and Qatar and its people are stronger," Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani tweeted on Tuesday.

At Least 16 Dead as Arms Depot Blows Up in Baghdad
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 07/18/At least 16 people were killed and dozens injured after an arms depot exploded in the Sadr City district of the Iraqi capital late Wednesday, security and medical sources said. "An arms depot exploded... The security forces have opened an inquiry to determine the cause," Baghdad's security operations command said in a statement. A senior police source told AFP on condition of anonymity that the blast was caused by heavy weapons, including rocket-propelled grenades and shells, belonging to an armed group and stored in a house. He said at least 16 people were killed and some 32 injured in the explosion. Medical sources confirmed the toll and said that women and children were found among the victims. Sources said the blast struck near a Shiite mosque in the district of northeast Baghdad. Witnesses reported heavy material damage to homes and other buildings in the Sadr City district, which is a stronghold of populist Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr.

US to Release American 'Enemy Combatant' Held in Iraq
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 07/18/The US Justice Department announced Wednesday that an American alleged Islamic State group combatant held in Iraq for over eight months would be released, potentially defusing a troubling detainee test case for the Trump administration. After being blocked by a Washington court from handing over the dual US-Saudi citizen, identified only as "John Doe" to Saudi Arabia, the Justice Department said in a filing that it had decided to release the man in Syria, where he was originally taken prisoner. But his legal representative, the American Civil Liberties Union, immediately said it would fight the release into war-torn Syria, which it called a "death warrant" for the man. The release decision was an unexpected reversal after the government spent the months since the man was captured in September defending its power to hold him indefinitely, on grounds that he had been a "enemy combatant" in Syria, fighting for the Islamic State group (IS). That made him the first American alleged member of IS caught on the battlefield, and the first known foreign member of a jihadist group taken into custody by the Trump administration. Yet "John Doe" was never charged, and he said he was not involved with IS when he was detained in Syria. The case raised questions about whether the Trump administration would introduce his case into the US justice system, hand him over to Saudi Arabia, or, as Trump had in the past threatened, send him to the Guantanamo military prison in Cuba. Allowed to represent him, the ACLU successfully fought the decision two months ago to transfer him to another country -- understood to be Saudi Arabia -- without his agreement. The court agreed with the ACLU's argument that that would violate the US constitutional rights of the man, who was born in the United States to a Saudi family. In the filing Wednesday, the Justice Department said the US military had offered "John Doe" the choice of being released in an unnamed town in Syria or outside a Syrian camp for internally displaced persons. But the man "did not identify a preference between the two locations and would not agree to the release" as proposed to him, the filing said. "Accordingly, out of an abundance of caution, the department is filing this notice of its intent to release petitioner (Doe) in the town specified," it said. The release would take place after a 72 hour waiting period ordered by the court.
In a statement, ACLU lawyer Jonathan Hafetz called the move "a disgraceful way to treat an American citizen.""The government has effectively admitted that it has no reason to continue detaining our client and that he does not pose a threat. But, instead of offering a safe release, they want to dump an American citizen onto the side of the road in a war-torn country without any assurances of protection and no identification.""What the government is offering our client is no release -- it's a death warrant."

Eight Years On, Syria Army Conscripts Pack Bags for Home
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 07/18/After eight years of military service, Syrian conscript Sonel Ali swapped his drab army uniform for bright civilian clothes last week as he packed his things one last time. Ali was among thousands of young men who was enlisted in 2010, a year before the brutal repression of anti-government protests in Syria spiralled into one of the worst conflicts of the century. He thought he was joining the military for a maximum of two years, but instead ended up serving in Syria's war until now. His drawn-out deployment ended last Friday, after the army ordered 2010 conscripts to demobilise. "I'm finally leaving guns and dirt barricades behind," said the ecstatic 34-year-old, who hails from the central city of Homs but was last deployed hours away in Syria's south. As he packed, Ali's phone buzzed with calls from loved ones congratulating him, but also from comrades for whom the good news had not yet arrived. "We're the first ones and you will join us," he reassured a friend over the phone. "The biggest battles are over."The number of frontlines has diminished now and Syria's regime has retaken more than half of the country with Russian backing, this year notching up a string of victories against rebels near Damascus. Before he zipped up his black canvas bag, Ali dropped in the gourd and traditional straw he had used to slurp bitter mate tea throughout the seven-year war. "I'm keeping" these, he said. "They were my companions throughout my military service." All packed, he posed with fellow fighters for their first group picture out of army slacks, before heading their separate ways back to civilian life.
Hero's welcome
Before Syria's conflict erupted in 2011, men 18 and older had to serve up to two years in the armed forces, after which they remained part of the reserves. But when war began, anyone enlisted stayed on active duty. The government's 300,000-strong army is estimated to have been nearly halved by deaths, injuries and defections, and conscripts kept having their deployments extended. Mohammad Damour had always wanted to become a reporter, but his dreams were postponed when his 18-month deployment turned into an eight-year tour. "War set me back 10 years, but I was demobilised today," Damour told AFP in a bustling market in Damascus, snapping pictures of sweet stands with his camera. "I was supposed to have graduated at 22. But I'm 27 and still in the first year of journalism school," he said. On the edge of Syria's second city Aleppo, Maher Daro's family had prepared a hero's welcome. His father was waiting to ferry the returning soldier home in a sleek black Mercedes, specially festooned with red and white flowers. He had even hired a drumming band. As soon as Daro pulled up in his car, the drums kicked off, celebratory gunfire rang out, and relieved relatives broke into a traditional Arabic circle dance. Daro's mother and sisters let off shrill ululations typically heard at weddings and other celebrations. "It's like a new birth," Daro said. "Those who go to war are lost, and those who return are born again." Grinning from ear to ear, he embraced long-lost friends and distributed sweets to those who had come to greet him. Late at night after most guests had left, he regaled his closest friends with stories from the front, including the former rebel bastion of Eastern Ghouta outside Damascus that the regime recaptured in April.
'Where will I go?'
Syria's government has recovered more than half the country, bolstered by air strikes from its Russian ally, by local militias and regional fighters. The army has replenished its ranks with thousands of young men living in these areas who had not completed their compulsory service. "It's a five-star war now," said Daro. "Everywhere I fought is safe now: Damascus, Homs, Latakia."But such a warm welcome was not in store for all. In a military barracks outside Damascus, Mohammed Ala, 31, huddled in a corner of his room after hearing he would be among those demobilised. "Where will I go?" he asked again and again, cupping his forehead in his palm. Ala, speaking under a pseudonym, said he was cut off from his northern home city of Raqa after it was overrun by rebels and then the Islamic State group, before falling to US-backed fighters. His family had fled to Turkey, and he had no way to reach his childhood home and beloved farmland. "I would spend all my leaves at the barracks," he told AFP on the eve of the demobilisation order. "But in a day's time, I have no idea where I will sleep, or what I will eat or drink."Ala gazed nostalgically at an old picture of his mother, fretting over what awaited him. "For those without shelter, military service was the closest thing to a fixed job with a decent salary," he said.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published
on June 07-08/18
Palestinians: "Burn the Jews!"
Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/June 07/18
There are two important factors that the international community needs to notice regarding the fire kites that the Palestinians are sending to Israel from the Gaza Strip. First: those who are launching the kites are making it clear that their ultimate goal is to kill as many Jews as possible and bring about the obliteration of Israel. Second: the Palestinians see all Jews living in Israel as "settlers.
The Palestinians are now also telling us that the terror kites they are sending to Israel accord with what the Quran orders Muslims to do in the fight against the "infidels." They apparently see the flaming kites as part of the jihad (holy war) against the enemies of Allah and Islam.
"We want to set fire to Israel so that the Jews will be burned or forced to leave their country." -- Abu Al-Majd, terrorist.
The jihad of the Palestinians against Israel is the same jihad that ISIS, the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic jihadi groups have also been waging on the "infidels" and "enemies of Islam" in the US, EU and other non-Muslim countries. We are witnessing a well-organized campaign of terror orchestrated by terrorists and activists belonging to Hamas and other Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinians, who have been sending flaming kites from the Gaza Strip into Israel the past few weeks, say that their real goal is to "burn the Jews" and destroy Israel. They see the kites as a new weapon to achieve their goal. They are disappointed, they say, that no Jew has been hurt yet as a result of the fires triggered by the flaming kites.
The kites have ignited dozens of fires in Israeli fields and forests adjacent to the border with the Gaza Strip, much to the satisfaction of the Palestinians and their supporters in the Arab and Islamic countries, who took to various social media platforms to celebrate the "success" of the Palestinian terror kites.
Firefighters and soldiers attempt to extinguish a fire in a wheat field in Nahal Oz, Israel, after it was set alight by Palestinians who sent firebombs attached to kites across the border from Gaza, on May 15, 2018. (Photo by Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)
The same Palestinians who are openly stating that the flaming kites are aimed at "burning the Jews" and eliminating Israel are also arguing that this new form of terrorism is in the context a "peaceful and nonviolent protest" by the residents of the Gaza Strip.
The international community, together with mainstream media in the West, appears to have fallen for this deception by the Palestinians and keep endorsing the bogus claim that the residents of the Gaza Strip are engaging in a peaceful and popular "resistance" against Israel.
All that the foreign journalists and governments around the world need to do to understand the true intentions of the Palestinians behind this latest wave of terrorism is to listen carefully to what is being said in the Gaza Strip, even if it does not fit in with their "narrative."
There are two important factors that the international community needs to notice regarding the flaming kites that the Palestinians are sending to Israel from the Gaza Strip. First: those who are launching the kites are making it clear that their ultimate goal is to kill as many Jews as possible and bring about the obliteration of Israel. Second: the Palestinians see all Jews living in Israel as "settlers."
The reports in various Palestinian media outlets on the fires in Israel refer to Israeli towns as "settlements." Even media outlets that are affiliated with the "moderate" Palestinian Authority, which has ostensibly recognized Israel's right to exist, are referring to the Israeli communities near the border with the Gaza Strip as "settlements." Even two Israeli agricultural communities, such as Sderot, which have been targeted by the flaming kites, are described as "settlements."
What does this show? The Palestinians do not distinguish between a Jew living in the West Bank and a Jew living in Israel proper. For the Palestinians, all Jews are "settlers." It does not matter whether they live in a settlement in the West Bank, or in Tel Aviv, Haifa or Jerusalem. For the Palestinians, there is no difference between a Jewish settlement in the West Bank and any city in Israel, including Tel Aviv.
Israel actually evacuated all Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip in 2005 and withdrew totally to the international border. No Jews live inside the Gaza Strip. There are no "settlements" inside the Gaza Strip. Prior to the Israeli unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip, the Palestinians used to launch almost daily terror attacks on the Jews living inside the Gaza Strip. In 2005, the Palestinians got what they wanted: Israel left the entire Gaza Strip after often forcibly evacuating more than 8,000 Jews from their homes and lands.
The events of the past few weeks along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel show that the Palestinians' true goal is not to "liberate" the Gaza Strip, but to eliminate Israel and replace it with an Islamic state. Until 13 years ago, the Palestinians told everyone that all they wanted was to drive the Jewish settlers out of the Gaza Strip. All the settlers did leave the Gaza Strip. Now, the Palestinians are telling us that they want to drive the "remaining settlers" out of Israel. To them, all Jews in the area are legitimate targets, no matter where they live.
The Palestinians are now also telling us that the terror kites they are sending to Israel accord with what the Quran orders Muslims to do in the fight against the "infidels." They apparently see the flaming kites as part of the jihad (holy war) against the enemies of Allah and Islam. To back up their argument, the Palestinians are quoting the verse from the Quran that states:
"And prepare against them whatever you are able of power and of steeds of war by which you may terrify the enemy of Allah and your enemy and others besides them whom you do not know [but] whom Allah knows. And whatever you spend in the cause of Allah will be fully repaid to you, and you will not be wronged." (Al-Anfaal Sura, 8:60).
The jubilant reactions of Palestinians and other Arabs and Muslims to the reports about the kite fires that have destroyed thousands of acres of fields and agricultural lands in Israel also leave no doubt that this tactic is a violent jihad waged with the goal of destroying Israel and killing Jews. Each time a report about another blaze surfaces, many Palestinians take to Facebook and Twitter to shout the Islamic battle cry "Allahu Akbar!" ["Allah is Greatest"], echoing calls from ISIS, Al-Qaeda and other jihadi terror groups when they launch terror attacks against non-Muslims. The Arabs and Muslims are now referring to the kite launchers as "mujahideen" (warriors) - a sign that these terrorists are soldiers of Islam engaged in a jihad against the infidels, including, of course, the Jews.
In case anyone had doubts as to why the flaming kites are being sent to Israel, here is what one of the terrorists, Abu Al-Majd, had to say: "We are sending these kites because we want to tell the world that we are determined to return to the homes we lost 70 years ago." In other words, what Abu Al-Majd is saying is, "We want to set fire to Israel so that the Jews will be burned or forced to leave their country."
The jihad of the Palestinians against Israel is the same jihad that ISIS, the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic jihadi groups have also been waging on the "infidels" and "enemies of Islam" in the US, EU and other non-Muslim countries. Jihad is a religious duty imposed on Muslims to spread their religion by waging war. The word "jihad" is mentioned several times in the Qur'an, where Muslims are told that they must do their utmost to spread Islam and fight the non-Muslims.
Consider, for example, this reference to jihad in the Quran (Al-Mumtahanah S 60:1):
"O you who believe! Do not take My enemy and your enemy for close friends, offering them love while they disbelieve what has come to you of the truth, [and] rive out the Messenger and yourself because you believe in Allah - your Lord - if you have gone forth waging jihad in My name and seeing My pleasure."
Or another verse from the Quran (Al-Maidah Sura 5:54):
"O you who believe! Whoever from among you turns back from his religion, then Allah will bring a people whom He loves and who love Him; who are humble toward the believers, are proud toward the disbelievers, do jihad in the way of Allah, and do not fear the blame of any blamer."
When talking about this latest attempt to set Israel on fire and burn Jews, we are not talking about children who are playing with kites. We are witnessing a well-organized campaign of terror orchestrated by terrorists and activists belonging to Hamas and other Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip. The terrorists have even attached explosive devices to some of the kites. They have also formed a terror cell called the Kites Unit, similar to the gangs that fire mortars and rockets at Israel every now and then. This is the real jihad where the Palestinians are fulfilling their duty as Muslims to wage war on Jews.
The flaming kites should be seen in the context of the ongoing Palestinian terror campaign that began decades ago and the goal of which is to kill Jews and eliminate Israel. There is no difference between the kites and rockets and mortars. There is no difference between the kites, suicide bombings, stabbing and car-ramming attacks. There is no difference between the kites and drive-by shootings. There is no difference between the kites and the slaughtering of a Jewish family during a meal. The techniques may vary, but the goal remains one: to see Israel wiped off the face of the earth.
The flaming kites flying from the Gaza Strip are another act of war, another phase of the jihad launched by Palestinians and their Arab and Muslim brothers against Israel and Jews on two fronts. While the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are trying to set all of Israel on fire, the Palestinian Authority and its president, Mahmoud Abbas, are continuing to wage another type of war on Israel: that one in international forums to delegitimize Israel and demonize Jews.
*Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

The Swamp Strikes Back
J. Christian Adams/Gatestone Institute/June 07/18
The culture of the D.C. metropolitan area is one of wealth, privilege and self-proclaimed sophistication. The bureaucrats and insiders know what is best for you, best for your business, best for themselves, and they can make a nice living without being disrupted. Trump campaigned on disrupting this comfortable power perch; that is what they most hate about him.
The Russian collusion investigation has not found any collusion because the investigation was never about collusion. It was always about an out-of-control federal government, emboldened by the lawless age of Obama, and flexing its newfound muscle. The Russian collusion investigation is about a clash of cultures, with one culture being the culture of D.C. insiders, and the other being the folks who pay their salaries.
Each week, Robert Mueller's Wonderlandian investigation into "Russian Collusion" appears "curiouser and curiouser". Each week, it appears that the entire investigation never really had anything to do with Russian collusion, at least in the Trump campaign; only in the Hillary Clinton campaign, where all the investigators have been conscientiously not looking.
First, Mueller indicted General Michael Flynn for not telling the truth to an FBI squad that appeared unexpectedly at the White House to question him, when now it turns out that Peter Strzok, who interrogated him, said he had not lied. It also now turns out that former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe may later have altered Strzok's interrogation notes, and then destroyed the evidence.
Mueller then indicted Paul Manafort for allegedly laundering money through an Alexandria, Virginia, oriental rug store -- a "process crime". Notably absent from it in any indictment was mention of Russia, collusion or even elections.
Moreover, the order from the Department of Justice, signed by Rod Rosenstein, stipulated one more directive:
"(ii) any matters that arose or may arise directly om the investigation; and
(iii) any other matters within the scope of 28 C.F.R. § 600.4(a).
As well as:
"(d) Sections 600.4 through 600. l 0 of Title 28 of the Code of Federal Regulations"
As Judge T.S. Ellis said to Mueller on May 4:
"You don't really care about Mr. Manafort's bank fraud. You really care about getting information that Mr. Manafort can give you that would reflect on Mr. Trump and lead to his prosecution or impeachment or whatever."
Mueller's only indictments that did relate to Russia were directed at a nest of Russian sock-puppets who, in an apparent effort to influence public opinion, pushed pro-Trump tweets during the 2016 election. The crimes alleged were that the sock-puppets were foreign agents trying to influence American elections through social media. In other words, the Russians were doing what they have internationally for decades -- attempting to influence domestic American politics through fronts and propaganda. When the sock puppets, incidentally, had the nerve to ask for proof, Mueller asked for a delay, which the judge refused to grant. As Andrew McCarthy, former Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, noted, "as all prosecutors are taught from their first day on the job: Never indict a case unless you are prepared to try the case."
If the Democrats seem suddenly concerned about foreigners influencing an election, that is what the previous administration did as recently as 2015 -- to Israel. Then, the Obama State Department funneled $350 thousand U.S. taxpayer dollars to OneVoice, an anti-Netanyahu political operation during Israel's parliamentary elections. OneVoice used American tax dollars to build a political voter database, train activists, and hire a political consulting firm with ties to President Obama's campaign apparatus.
American tax dollars were funneled through Netanyahu's foes and eventually ended up back in the pockets of Obama's political machine. Now the same gang that used American power to try to bring down the Israeli Prime Minister is sanctimoniously objecting to Russian interference-by-tweeting.
The frenzy about the Russian tweets also has a sinister side.
The singular lesson for history of the seemingly widespread corruption at the senior levels of the FBI, Department of Justice, and the State Department is that a phony "dossier" about then-presidential candidate Donald Trump was used to obtain -- by misrepresenting its contents to a judge -- Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants against private citizens. The dossier was cooked up and paid for by Democrat political operatives with ties to the presidential campaign of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National Committee.
When Representative Devin Nunes (R-CA) suspected that the admittedly "unverified" phony dossier was used to obtain wiretap warrants of American citizens, he was right. But it gets worse.
After the warrants were obtained and telephone calls of private citizens were tapped by the FBI, Obama Department of Justice officials, and some people yet unnamed inside the Obama White House, authorized the unmasking of the content of those conversations. Unmasking means that the transcripts and identities of Americans were revealed, violating their Fourth Amendment right to privacy. For good measure, Obama officials even changed the rules about how widely those unmasked transcripts could be distributed inside the DOJ, thus expanding the universe of potential leakers.
And leak they did.
In short, Democrats produced a phony document to make candidate Trump look creepy, then Obama DOJ officials working with sympathetic FBI staff and outside political operatives, obtained FISA search warrants by lying to FISA judges four times in order to target the Trump campaign in an apparently unlimited fishing expedition for a crime -- none ever having been specified as is required by law -- even after the president was duly elected.
If all of this were not enough, a small core of powerful FBI senior staffers -- as opposed to the FBI's remarkable rank and file -- was steering this entire affair, while simultaneously texting each other about their hatred for candidate Donald Trump.
The central item to understand is that Swamp actors inside the DOJ and FBI used their powers first to do what could be done to exonerate at least 13 possible crimes committed by Hillary Clinton. That, at least was the number committed before information emerged that her campaign and the DNC had funded the dossier; later findings must have added a few more.
The Swamp actors' other objective was apparently to sabotage Trump's presidency if Trump won. Peter Strzok wrote, "I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy's office—that there's no way he gets elected—but I'm afraid we can't take that risk. It's like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you're 40..." by using their powers in the Russia probe to destroy the president politically.
It is precisely the sort of subversion that takes place in banana republics -- where political differences are criminalized and weaponized -- and is fundamentally anti-Constitutional. It appears to be -- on the part of some of the heads of the FBI, the Department of Justice, the State Department and President Obama's White House -- part of a criminal conspiracy to obstruct justice and abuse power in order -- as former U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Joseph diGenova put it, "to illegally exonerate Hillary Clinton and, if she didn't win the election, to then frame Donald Trump with a falsely created crime."
The fraud on the court, and by extension, on the American people, appears an attempt to convert power over the ministerial state into political power.
Instead of graciously allowing his successor to get his sea legs and govern -- a courtesy traditionally extended by Presidents of both parties -- former President Barack Obama lingers and supports the "Resistance" movement.
What you see happening when Rep. Nunes threatens to hold Justice Department officials in contempt for hiding the basis for the FBI to obtain FISA warrants, when you read indictments about Russian sock puppets, it is something more than the good old-fashioned Beltway scandal.
What you are seeing is Constitutional political warfare unleashed by the bureaucracy against a President the bureaucracy apparently loathes.
The bureaucracy seems now to believe that it is in charge, not the president. The bureaucrats make a good living, have comfy retirement plans, can buy life insurance at rates more reasonable than a private sector employee can, and likely think that Trump is a threat to their power. The bureaucrats have created a culture in Washington D.C. that extends beyond the hallways of their Departments.
The culture of the D.C. metropolitan area is one of wealth, privilege and self-proclaimed sophistication. The bureaucrats and insiders know what is best for you, best for your business, best for themselves, and they can make a nice living without being disrupted. Trump campaigned on disrupting this comfortable power perch; that is what they most hate about him.
The Russian collusion investigation has not found any collusion because the investigation was never about collusion. It was always about an out-of-control federal government, emboldened by the lawless age of Obama, and flexing its newfound muscle. The Russian collusion investigation is about a clash of cultures, with one culture being the culture of D.C. insiders, and the other being the folks who pay their salaries.
*J. Christian Adams is the President of the Public Interest Legal Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public interest law firm dedicated to election integrity and preserving the Constitutional structure of American elections.
© 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.

How Russia Angered Iran in Syria and Had to Pull Its Troops From the Lebanese Border
Reuters/Haaretz/June 07/18
A rare case of Russia acting out of sync with President Bashar al-Assad's Iran-backed allies in the war
A Russian troop deployment in Syria near the Lebanese border this week caused friction with Iran-backed forces including Hezbollah which objected to the uncoordinated move, two non-Syrian officials in the regional alliance backing Damascus said.
The situation was resolved on Tuesday when Syrian army soldiers took over three positions where the Russians had deployed near the town of Qusair in the Homs region on Monday, one of the officials, a military commander, told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
It appeared to be a rare case of Russia acting out of sync with President Bashar al-Assad's Iran-backed allies in the war. Iranian and Russian support has been critical to Assad's war effort.
"It was an uncoordinated step," said the commander. "Now it is resolved. We rejected the step. The Syrian army - Division 11 - is deploying at the border," said the commander, adding Hezbollah fighters were still located in the area.
There was no comment from the Russian military about the incident. Russia has faced calls from Israel to rein in Iran in Syria, where Israel has mounted numerous attacks against Hezbollah and other targets it has described as Iran-backed.
"Perhaps it was to assure the Israelis," said the commander, adding that the move could not be justified as part of the fight against the Nusra Front or Islamic State because Hezbollah and the Syrian army had defeated them at the Lebanese-Syrian border.
The second official said the "resistance axis" - a reference to Iran and its allies - was "studying the situation" after the uncoordinated Russian move.
Russia and Iran-backed forces such as Hezbollah have worked together against the insurgency. Hezbollah deployed to Syria in 2012. The Russian air force arrived in 2015 in support of Assad.
But their different agendas in Syria have become more apparent of late as Israel presses Russia to make sure Iran and its allies do not entrench their military sway in the country.
Turning point
Israel wants Iranian and Iran-backed forces kept away from its border and, more broadly, removed from Syria entirely.
Last month, Israel said Iran's Revolutionary Guards launched a missile salvo from Syria into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said it marked a "new phase" of the war in Syria
Recent Russian calls for all non-Syrian forces to leave southern Syria have been seen aimed partly at Iran, in addition to U.S. forces based in the Tanf area at the Syrian-Iraqi border.
The town of Qusair was the scene of a major battle in the Syrian civil war in 2013, when Hezbollah fighters played a major part in turning the tide of the conflict in Assad's favour by defeating rebels.
Some details of the Qusair incident were reported by the Lebanese TV station al-Mayadeen, which is close to Damascus and its regional allies such as Hezbollah. It said the number of Russian forces was small.
A military air base in the same area came under missile attack on May 24. The Israeli military declined to comment on that attack.
Syrian rebl-held areas of southwestern Syria at the frontier with Israel have come into focus since Damascus and its allies crushed the last remaining besieged rebel pockets near the capital. Assad has vowed to recover all Syrian territory.
The United States wants to preserve a "de-escalation" zone that has contained the conflict in southwestern Syria. The zone, agreed last year with Russia and Jordan, has helped to contain fighting in areas near the Israeli frontier.

Get Ready for a Future With a Genetic Crystal Ball
Cass R. Sunstein/Bloomberg/June 07/18
Would you like your doctor to give you the results of genetic tests, informing you if you are susceptible to serious diseases, such as cancer and heart disease?
Before long, that question is going to be relevant to millions of people. Primary-care doctors will increasingly be in a position to offer genetic testing as part of routine care – just as they check your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
In most contexts, it’s tempting to think: the more information, the better. But that’s much too simple.
Do you want to know the end of the mystery novel you’re now reading? Or what you’re going to get for your birthday next year? Or what all of your colleagues really think about you?
To learn what people would like to know, I recently conducted a survey of about 400 Americans, with the help of Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. The survey was not nationally representative, but it did have significant demographic diversity, and thus provides some important clues about what Americans think. For information that relates to health, there is a lot of division out there. Slightly less than half of participants (47 percent) want to know whether they will get Alzheimer’s disease. A majority (58 percent) want to know whether they have a genetic predisposition to specific forms of cancer. By contrast, only about a quarter (27 percent) want to know the year of their likely death – the lowest percentage for any question that I asked.
In deciding whether to receive health-related information, many people appear to be focusing on a single question: If I get bad news, can I do anything about it? If you have a genetic predisposition to heart disease, you might be able to do something to stay healthy – which is a good reason to find out.
If you learn that you will get Alzheimer’s, by contrast, there’s not a whole lot that you can do. The same is true once you learn your likely year of death.
Despite these points, some people do want to know. Different people make different tradeoffs between the pain of receiving bad news and the potential benefits of living life differently in light of it.
The survey uncovered other puzzles as well. The U.S. government has just put into effect a regulation mandating calorie labels at chain restaurants. In nationally representative surveys, overwhelming majorities of Americans are in favor of that federal requirement. But in my survey, only 43 percent of people want the information for themselves personally – perhaps because it will make them enjoy their meals less, perhaps because they trust their own judgment about what’s good and bad for them.
Almost three-fifths (58 percent) have no interest in learning how much warmer the planet will be in 2100. Surprisingly, most of the participants (53 percent) do not want to know who the U.S. president will be in 2022. Amazingly, only 54 percent want to know how the stock market will be doing on January 1, 2020. Maybe the rest think this information will not much affect them – and do not realize how valuable it would be.
Would you like to know where you will be living in 10 years? About half of the participants do not. They might well be thinking: Why spoil the surprise?
Would you like to know whether your spouse or partner ever cheats on you? About 57 percent said yes. More surprising is that over two-fifths of participants just don’t want to know.
On this question as well, people are probably making a tradeoff. The majority might be thinking that if their partner is cheating, they want to get out of the relationship -- or fix it. The minority might be thinking that the knowledge would mean a lot of pain and little or no gain.
This is a preliminary survey, of course, and it only skims the surface of some fundamental questions. But two points are clear. First, there’s a ton of disagreement out there. No consensus could be found on any of the items that I tested.
Second, a lot of people think that more information can be a terrible idea, at least when it threatens to eliminate the pleasures of serendipity and surprise, or to cause sadness, fear or distress. This is a major lesson for doctors and other health-care workers in particular -- and for the rest of us as well.

Jordan’s Protests: Economic or Political?
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/June 07/18
“The Arab Spring returns to the Arab streets” and “What’s happening in Jordan refutes the narrative that royal regimes are spared from street revolutions.” These are some of the quick reactions to the participation of thousands of Jordanians in protests.
However, the Fourth Circle in Amman is not Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Jordan’s protests are not a political spring, even though Muslim Brotherhood groups among others, and Qatari television stations picture the demonstrations against taxes and prices as anti-regime movements.
I met with some of those concerned with the local situation during my two-day visit to Amman Tuesday. Jordan’s problems are economic - prices, jobs and taxes- and not political.
There is a pragmatic political leadership in Jordan that’s close to the people and ready to ditch the government when it fails in its relationship with the masses. This is what happened to the government of Hani Al-Mulki, who paid the price for refusing to scrap the new tax bill, and was replaced by Omar al-Razzaz.
There are different opinions. Someone told me that Razzaz and Mulki are both originally Syrians from Hama. Another told me that Mulki brought Razzaz and a third said the reason for the tension lies within the government itself. However, the problem is clear. The majority is against the taxes and the unemployment rate that has reached more than 18 percent, and has expressed anger at the decline of foreign support.
Managing crises in Jordan is based on the “street’s pulse,” i.e. via dealing with the protests before their start and if they already begun, dealing with them before they escalate. Eliminating the prime minister is the Jordanian way of dealing with crises when they worsen.
The other options available to the Jordanian leadership are limited, especially that it has no control over the factors that sparked the people’s anger. The World Bank, for instance, refuses to give Jordan loans without lifting subsidies and decreasing government spending. Aid has also declined due to a drop in the revenues of oil-rich states. The economy is the engine that fuels a political crisis.
Let’s not forget that Jordan has been the refuge of people for half a century. There are the Syrian refugees who were preceded by the Iraqis who were preceded by the Palestinians. The Jordanians themselves are less than half of the population.
And although the majority took to the street to protest living conditions, the tax hike and lack of jobs, only a handful of protesters had a political agenda.
Based on the pragmatic approach that’s common in Jordan, conciliatory solutions have been proposed to limit tensions. However, solutions to calm demonstrators will not resolve the chronic problem. Jordan’s resources are scarce compared to its neighbors, Iraq, the Gulf and even the Palestinians and Arab citizens of Israel.
The infrastructure, such as the airport, ports, hospitals, water and highways, is relatively good in Jordan. The country’s living conditions are better than others; for example Amman is cheaper than Beirut and according to the quality of life index, rent in Jordan is cheaper.
Amman has 24-hour electricity while Beirut suffers several-hour power outages. The quality of infrastructure, however, does not put food on the table. It does not increase jobs or improve a family’s limited income. The government is incapable of creating additional resources, and is failing in limiting bureaucracy, a main complaint of many investors facing long procedures.
The Jordanians are the greatest wealth of Jordan, which beyond phosphates has limited natural resources. Compared with other countries in the region, education is known to be the best. It’s what enabled many Jordanians to get jobs in the Gulf, Europe and the US as engineers, technicians, lawyers and accountants. This helped them support their families back in Jordan.
King Abdullah II personally handles the task of marketing Jordan and getting support from governments abroad and international organizations. The government, however, is an expenditure center as the different levies they collect are not enough to spend on municipal, healthcare and other necessary services.
It has invested in tourism and made it the pillar of its economy, but it quickly collapsed because of terrorism and regional wars. It tried building a chain of industries but it was faced with the restraints of the region’s countries and the competition of cheaper states in Asia.
Even exporting skillful workers, which Jordan is distinguished for, can become the victim of politics as Qatar blackmails Jordan with the 45,000 Jordanians who work there in case there is rapprochement with Saudi Arabia or if it (Jordan) obstructs its ties with the Muslim Brotherhood there.
Countries that suffer from the Dutch Disease, lack of resources, are in more need of an efficient administrative system and more specialized programs. They need a serious fight against corruption and also high transparency. All states and institutions need to improve their performances but Jordan, Tunisia and similar countries require more action.

Could Trump’s Zig-Zag Course to a North Korea Summit Actually Work?
David Ignatius/The Washington Post/June 07/18
Are you on the road or in the ditch?” That’s the question labor reporters used to ask about big contract negotiations back when I covered the United Steelworkers union 40 years ago in Pittsburgh — and it’s the right one to pose now as President Trump zigs and zags toward a summit meeting with Kim Jong Un.
Trump and Kim appear to be firmly back on the road to a June 12 meeting in Singapore, after a near-death experience last week. Trump sent his coy breakup letter last Thursday (“very much looking forward” to seeing Kim but hurt by his “tremendous anger”). North Korea wafted back a flattering appeal to reconsider (“We have inwardly highly appreciated President Trump”). Result: summit back on.
Trump’s temperamental swings along the way are familiar to anyone who has covered labor talks. (Maybe real estate negotiations are the same way, too.) Over the past year, we’ve seen the full repertoire of bombastic bargaining: threatened walkouts, 11th-hour reversals, oscillating taunts and flattery, and unbridgeable gaps that mysteriously get bridged.
A volatile negotiating style is sometimes a sign of an inexperienced or uncertain bargainer, notes the chief negotiator for one of America’s major unions. He explains in an interview that inconsistency and changing priorities are “inevitably taken as lack of commitment to the process and a sign of weakness” by negotiators and mediators. But it’s Trump’s approach, and however bizarre the route, he’s nearing a diplomatic breakthrough.
Through it all, Trump has kept returning to his baseline: He wants a deal, but he isn’t willing to alter his demand for denuclearization. North Korea made a series of concessions, including releasing hostages, without any reciprocal US easing of sanctions. “We’re controlling the pace,” insists one key US official. And, for now, this approach seems to be working.
What comes next? What are the fixed “red lines” for each side, and where’s the wiggle room? How will an initial framework agreement be translated into specific commitments, and how will these be monitored? How will North Korea be rewarded for its compliance — in removal of sanctions and in foreign investment? I couldn’t get clear answers from US or South Korean officials, maybe because there aren’t any yet.
The summit seems to have two framing ideas, which are likely to be at the heart of any final communique. North Korea will commit to “complete denuclearization.” The United States will pledge to help transform North Korea into a modern, prosperous nation. Trump has conceded that denuclearization won’t happen instantly. As he put it last Wednesday: “I’d like to have it done immediately. But, you know, physically, a phase-in may be a little bit necessary.”
Phasing is necessary partly because the denuclearization process could take a decade, according to a report released Monday by Stanford University. But the US official cautions against assuming this “phasing” will follow “the old playbook” — the “synchronicity” and “freeze for freeze” ideas that animated previous deals with North Korea that failed. “We will know what reciprocated good faith looks like when we see it,” says this official, stressing Trump’s desire that the United States not be tricked again by North Korea’s promises, as it was in the past.
US officials indicate that it’s too early to talk about easing sanctions or rewarding North Korean behavior. The trust isn’t there yet.
The Trump-Kim dynamic has developed enough momentum over the past year to survive last week’s shock. From his first day in office, Trump has seen North Korea as his biggest test, and he hungers for the deal that escaped his predecessors. This desire (the inner voice chanting “Nobel Prize!”) leaves Trump vulnerable to compromise, but with his breakup letter, he has shown that he can walk away from the table if the terms aren’t right.
For Kim, the momentum is embedded in the process of modernization and change he began outlining in 2013, two years after becoming leader. His images of a modern nation were shaped by his teenage years as a student in Switzerland; clearly, this idea of transformation remains powerful for him. Building nuclear weapons was part of the vision; but he told the Korean Workers’ Party in April that it was now time to pivot and focus “all efforts” on economic development.
Will Kim really give up the bargaining chip that brought him to the door of a meeting with an American president? It sounds unlikely. But that’s the Singapore bargain, and if it can’t be reached, well, one thing you learn covering labor negotiations is that although strikes can bring devastating harm to both sides, they happen if talks collapse.

America’s Cash-for-Genocide Program in Syria
برنامج أميركا النقدي مقابل الإبادة الجماعية في سوريا

By Lee Smith/Tablet/June 07/18
Agents of Influence: Obama and his advisers, now seeking to shape his legacy, say they are proud they ditched the ‘Washington playbook’ and decided to stay out of the Sunni-Shia conflict in the Middle East. Only they didn’t. They intervened on behalf of Iran.
Like the president he served, Ben Rhodes wanted to stop Bashar al-Assad from gassing little children. But it was complicated.
In an excerpt from his new book, The World As It Is, published in The Atlantic, Barack Obama’s former deputy national security adviser explains the decision-making that led Obama to choose against bombing Assad targets in late summer 2013. Among other issues, writes Rhodes, the White House didn’t know if it could trust the assessment coming from the American intelligence community claiming that Assad had used chemical weapons against his own people. U.S. spies got Iraq wrong. Obama was elected because he got Iraq right.
With that in mind, Obama told Rhodes that “it is too easy for a president to go to war.” Also, the White House could find no legal basis to strike Syria. The Europeans backed off at the last minute, and Senate Republicans like Marco Rubio, who talked a tough game, refused to vote for the authorization of military force.
Endowed with a tragic sense of life, Obama knew that in the end there was little he or anyone could do to stop the slaughter in Syria. As Rhodes writes: “I was also wrestling with my own creeping suspicion that Obama was right in his reluctance to intervene militarily in Syria. Maybe we couldn’t do much to direct events inside the Middle East; maybe U.S. military intervention in Syria would only make things worse.”
Obama himself has said that his decision not to bomb Assad was the moment that he broke with what he derisively called the “Washington playbook.”
“I’m very proud of this moment,” Obama told The Atlantic two years ago. “The fact that I was able to pull back from the immediate pressures and think through in my own mind what was in America’s interest,” said Obama, “was as tough a decision as I’ve made—and I believe ultimately it was the right decision to make.”
Instead of bombing Syrian regime targets, the White House struck an agreement with Assad’s patron, Russia, to rid him of his chemical weapons. That the arsenal was never entirely destroyed and Assad has continued to use it partly explains why the Rhodes piece downplays what former Secretary of State John Kerry once showcased as an example of Obama’s tough-minded diplomacy. Still, in Rhodes’ telling, the chemical weapons deal was as good as it was going to get. “The war would continue,” writes Rhodes. “Barack Obama would continue to keep the United States out of it.”
Not exactly.
It’s true that Obama did not intervene against Assad, but that’s not the same as staying on the sidelines. In fact, Obama intervened massively—on behalf of Iran.
Rhodes’ book seems to be part of a larger effort, along with his appointment to the Holocaust Museum board, to shape how history will retroactively judge Obama’s Syria policy, which even Rhodes acknowledges was a subset of the administration’s Iran policy. “If we would have gone full-bore into Syria,” Rhodes explained in the recently released documentary, The Final Year, “we’d have no Iran agreement.”
As The Atlantic excerpt makes clear, Rhodes’ job is to whitewash the White House’s role in the most devastating humanitarian catastrophe of the 21st century. And that was only part of the price that the administration paid for the nuclear deal with Iran. Had the United States moved against Assad, there would have been no deal. As journalist Jay Solomon explained in 2016: “Iranian officials told me that even had the diplomats doing the negotiations wanted to stay in talks, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps would have pulled the plug.”
Obama’s decision to leave Assad alone came at a pivotal moment during negotiations. A key date that Rhodes leaves out of his timeline was June 13, 2013, when the United States first acknowledged that Assad forces had used chemical weapons. The next day, Hassan Rouhani was elected president of Iran. Even though Iran did not prioritize the nuclear deal like Obama did, the White House saw the election of the so-called reformist candidate as an opening—Rouhani badly needed the money that only Obama could make available.
When Rouhani came to power, he found an economy in desperate shape. Sanctions had punished Iran but there were other factors, too. According to Solomon’s 2016 book The Iran Wars, Rouhani’s advisers found that “the government’s balance sheet had a black hole of more than $200 billion, much of the money assumed to have been lost to corruption.”
On top of that, the Iranian regime was at war. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was already based in Syria long before peaceful demonstrators took to the streets in March 2011 to protest against Assad’s depredations. By the time the opposition picked up arms months later, the Iranians dispatched the Quds Force, the IRGC’s expeditionary unit.
While the regime in Tehran has shipped to Syria tens of thousands of its allies from around the region—in Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen, forming what Israeli scholar Shimon Shapira calls the Shiite International—the number of Iranian nationals deployed there has remained relatively low. Estimates vary between 2,500 and 5,000. Nonetheless, the high casualty rates for senior officers, including roughly a dozen brigadier generals, and most recently a commander from the IRGC Aerospace Force’s UAV unit, show that the war in defense of what one cleric had called Iran’s 35th province is a vital regime interest.
War is the most expensive of human enterprises, costing men, weapons, ammunition, food, transportation, and oil to move them all. Estimates are that Iran has spent between $6 billion and $15 billion annually on its Syria campaign.
“The only solution to Iran’s financial woes,” one of Rouhani’s financial advisers told Solomon, “was accessing the more than $100 billion of Iranian oil revenues frozen in overseas banking accounts because of the U.S. sanctions.”
Obama had the Iranians on the hook. If they wanted that money, they’d have to negotiate over the nuclear program.
In November 2013, two months after Obama refrained from attacking Syrian regime targets, the administration and its partners struck an interim deal with Iran, the Joint Plan of Action. That agreement stipulated that, starting in January, Iran would receive roughly $700 million in sanctions relief monthly until the two sides reached a permanent deal. From January 2014 to July 2015 when the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was struck, sanctions relief totaled more than $10 billion, enough to cover most or all of Iran’s war budget in Syria during that period.
When the Obama administration and its partners struck the JCPOA with Iran in July 2015, key sanctions on the energy and financial sectors were lifted. Senior Obama administration officials like John Kerry made like Tehran’s chamber of commerce and lobbied European industries to invest in Iran. In other words, Kerry encouraged Europe to join America in paying for Iran’s war.
Why didn’t Iran use the money it got from America to pay for new hospitals and schools and roads for its own people instead of murdering men, women, and children and reducing large cities in a foreign country to rubble? The simple answer is that a regime at war spends its money on war. Losing a war endangers the survival of the regime.
In the case of Syria, the strategic position of the Iranian regime depends entirely on its ability to project power on the border of a major American ally, Israel, through Hezbollah. The Assad regime is the supply line linking Iran to Hezbollah. Without Assad, Iran is a second-rate regional actor. Therefore, it had to fight for Assad, less to preserve the Syrian despot’s regime than to maintain the international status and bargaining power that Hezbollah has earned Iran, and which are essential to the regime’s standing among its own hardcore followers. For Iran, those strategic benefits that Hezbollah, through Assad, has earned are vital and irreplaceable—at least until the regime acquires a nuclear weapon.
The money that Obama sent to Iran was never going to benefit the Iranian people—and the administration knew it. Even Kerry admitted that sanctions relief would be spent on the war in Syria. “I think that some of it will end up in the hands of the IRGC or other entities, some of which are labeled terrorists,” said Kerry. “You know, to some degree, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that every component of that can be prevented.”
Fair enough. Except the administration did not even try to prevent it. Instead, it further emboldened Iran. In January 2016 the White House sent another $1.7 billion of U.S. taxpayer money in exchange for Americans held hostage by the regime. The deal was in cash, $400 million of which was shipped on wooden pallets, suggesting the money was intended for illicit purposes. The anti-regime demonstrations and strikes that started in the late fall of 2017 protesting the economic situation are further evidence of the priority that the Syrian war had on the regime’s resources.
Former Obama officials and its supporters continue to argue that the $1.7 billion and the hundreds of billions in frozen revenues that the Iranians received belonged to Iran anyway, and the United States had no choice but to release those funds. That argument is a questionable one. It also entirely abandons any moral consideration of what those funds would clearly be used for. After all, Iran was prosecuting a campaign of sectarian slaughter in Syria. Hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians had already been mowed down by Iran and its allies and hundreds of thousands more had been ethnically cleansed by the time the JCPOA was struck, in a genocidal campaign that was even more deadly and destructive than the Balkan wars of the 1990s. Why wouldn’t the United States cut off Iran’s cash flow to slow down or even stop the killing?
When Obama and his advisers and flacks warned America that the only alternative to their nuclear deal with Iran was war, no one bothered to ask how even the worst premonition of that war would look any different than the war that we were already funding in Syria.
In Rhodes’ telling, Obama made a tough but necessary decision in a hard world where Monday morning quarterbacks get all the easy choices. But Obama didn’t stay out of Syria. He backed Iran. Rhodes’ narrative is a cover story for those Americans who knew exactly what was happening and said nothing.

Block 9: Flashpoint for the Next Lebanon War?
أندرو نوريس: البلوك 9 البترولي بين لبنان وإسرائل: نقطة تفجير لحرب لبنان التالية
By Andrew Norris/Tablet//June 07/ 2018
Israel and its neighbor are embroiled in a dispute over the boundaries of resource-rich maritime territories. Which country’s claims are better supported by international maritime law?
Israel and its neighbor are embroiled in a dispute over the boundaries of resource-rich maritime territories. Which country’s claims are better supported by international maritime law?
The discovery of vast hydrocarbon reserves in the Levant Basin, estimated by the United States Geological Survey in 2010 to contain an estimated 122 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas and 1.7 billion barrels of recoverable oil, holds the promise of a significant economic boom to nations in the region, particularly Cyprus, Israel, and Lebanon. Yet this seeming windfall also has the potential to create, or exacerbate, tensions in the region, as the beneficiary nations wrangle over the ownership of, and concomitant ability to exploit and profit from, these gas reserves. One possible conflict—over the right to exploit a gas field called Block 9 that is located in a disputed boundary area between Lebanon and Israel—has generated heated rhetoric between those two countries in recent months. After establishing some basic concepts, this article will examine the nature of the dispute, the law that applies to the delimitation of maritime boundaries, and international dispute resolution mechanisms that provide the best means of peacefully resolving this knotty dispute.
The principal sources of the international law of the sea relevant to this dispute are the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) of 1982, which came into effect in 1994, and the decisions of international tribunals. Among other things, UNCLOS provides the law as to the maritime zones nations may claim off their coasts, and also the governing principles applicable to the delimitation of maritime boundaries between neighboring nations. A complication related to citing to UNCLOS is that Israel, like the United States but unlike 168 other states, including Lebanon, is not a state party to the convention. Thus, Israel is not bound by UNCLOS’s provisions, nor can it invoke those provisions against other states. However, Israel, like the United States, has accepted that most of UNCLOS’s provisions, including all those implicated in the dispute that is the subject of this article, constitute or are reflective of customary international law, and are thus binding.
UNCLOS permits a coastal state such as Lebanon and Israel to claim a territorial sea extending from its baseline (typically, the low-water line on its shores) out to 12 nautical miles (NM) from the baseline. A coastal state has sovereignty over the waters of its territorial sea, including the airspace above it and the seabed below it. This sovereignty includes “ownership” of all the resources, living and nonliving, of the water column, and on and below the seabed. Both Israel and Lebanon have claimed a 12 NM territorial sea.
UNCLOS also permits coastal states to claim an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) extending from the outer edge of its territorial sea to a point up to 200 NM from its baseline. A coastal state is not “sovereign” over its EEZ, as it is over its territorial sea. Instead, within it, the coastal state is entitled to exercise “sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources, whether living or nonliving, of the waters superjacent to the seabed and of the seabed and its subsoil.” Both Israel and Lebanon have claimed EEZs, which is the underlying legal basis for them to exploit the subterranean gas fields, extending more than 12 NM from their coasts.
The specific dispute on which this article will focus is conflicting claims between Lebanon and Israel as to where the maritime boundary, and thus the extent of each nation’s maritime zones, is; and more particularly, in whose maritime zone, either wholly or in part, lies an offshore area designated by Lebanon as Block 9.
The Rival Claims
In January 2007, a bilateral agreement was signed between Lebanon and Cyprus in which the EEZ boundary between the two nations was depicted by six coordinates judged to be equidistant between the two countries. The agreement itself has not been submitted to the United Nations, and is not otherwise officially published. Point 1, at latitude 33° 38’ 40” north, longitude 33° 53’ 40” east, was selected by the parties as the point marking the southern terminus of their agreed-upon EEZ boundary. This agreement left open the possibility of amending Point 1 at a later date as warranted by future maritime boundary delimitation agreements between either party and Israel. This agreement was ratified by Cyprus in 2009, but not by Lebanon.
The Lebanese-Cyprus Agreement
On Dec. 17, 2010, Cyprus and Israel entered into an agreement delimiting their shared EEZ boundary. This agreement utilized the same Point 1 as in the Cyprus-Lebanon agreement as the northern terminus of the Israel-Cyprus EEZ boundary line, though both parties explicitly agreed that Point 1 was subject to review or modification “as necessary in light of a future agreement regarding the delimitation of the EEZ to be reached by [Lebanon, Cyprus, and Israel] with respect to such point.” Notwithstanding this temporization, Israel used Point 1 as the terminus of the line Israel claimed as its northern EEZ border in a submission provided to the United Nations on July 12, 2011.
The government of Lebanon, in submissions to the United Nations on June 20 and Sept. 3, 2011, protested the agreement between Cyprus and Israel (referred to as the “occupying power”), as well as Israel’s use of Point 1 as the terminus of its claimed maritime border with Lebanon. According to Lebanon, a point further south that it refers to as Point 23, at latitude 33° 31’ 51.17”, longitude 33° 46’ 08.78”, is the true point at which the three nations’ EEZs meet (a so-called tripoint, which will be discussed later), and thus, in its view, should serve as the terminus of the Lebanese-Israeli maritime boundary, not Point 1. Israel’s use of Point 1, according to Lebanon, would cause Israel to “absorb” part of Lebanon’s EEZ, an action which “constitutes a flagrant attack on Lebanon’s sovereign rights over that zone.” As a result, Lebanon requested that the secretary general “take all measures that he deems appropriate, with a view to avoiding conflict.”
Lebanon cemented its understanding of the Israel-Lebanon maritime boundary by adopting the coordinates of its claimed EEZ in Decree No. 6433, “Delineation of the boundaries of the exclusive economic zone of Lebanon,” of Oct. 1, 2011. These coordinates superseded EEZ coordinates Lebanon had provided to the United Nations on July 14, 2010 and Oct. 19, 2010, and were deposited with the United Nations on Oct. 19, 2011. The coordinates submitted for the median line between Cyprus and Lebanon include, in addition to Points 1-6, which presumably correspond to the points agreed with Cyprus in the December 2010 delimitation agreement, a Point 7 in the north, which Lebanon claims as the terminus of its maritime boundary with Syria, and three additional points (23, 24, and 25) in the south. As mentioned above, Lebanon claims the southern-most of these three points, Point 23, as the terminus of the “southern median line” between Lebanon and “Palestine.” Significantly, Article 3 of Decree No. 6433 recognizes that “[a]s needed, and in the light of negotiations with the relevant neighboring states, the borders of the exclusive economic zone may be refined and improved and, consequently, the list of its coordinates amended, if more precise data becomes available.”
The net effect of each nation’s unilateral claim is a wedge of disputed maritime territory of approximately 860 square kilometers, as depicted below:
Why the Dispute Has Heated Up, and the Dangers
The existence of a disputed maritime boundary, in and of itself, is not unusual, nor is it necessarily worrisome. Such disputes exist in many areas, including between the United States and Canada in the Beaufort Sea north of the Alaska-Yukon border, without affecting diplomatic relations between the involved states. Such was the situation presented by the Lebanon-Israel maritime boundary dispute between 2011 and 2017; though undoubtedly irksome to both states, particularly in view of their troubled past history, the dispute remained relatively quiescent.
This state of affairs changed in January 2017, when Lebanon issued Decree No. 43, a “Tender Protocol for the Award of Exploration and Production Agreements.” This tender protocol set out the bidding process to be followed by prequalified companies for the “First Offshore Licensing Round for Hydrocarbon Exploration Within the Offshore of the Lebanese Jurisdiction,” which had been approved by the council of ministers of the Lebanese Republic by decision number 41 dated Dec. 27, 2012. This first round of offshore hydrocarbon exploration was to make available for leasing no less than five of the 10 blocks (Blocks 1-10) into which the Lebanese offshore area has been divided, as depicted below.
Publication of this tender protocol raised eyebrows and concern in Israel, and resulted in Israel notifying the United Nations on Feb. 2, 2017, of its “serious concern” regarding this development, and of Israel’s continued “openness to dialogue and cooperation” regarding the disputed maritime boundary. In this communication, Israel stated that Lebanon’s Blocks 8, 9, and 10 are in maritime waters that “belong to the State of Israel.” Lebanon responded to this Israeli communication with a note verbale of its own on March 20, 2017. In this note, Lebanon “object[ed] to the contentions and threats of the government of Israel and reaffirm[ed] Blocks 8, 9, and 10 are located within maritime areas that belong to Lebanon.” Lebanon concluded by asserting that the government of Israel is not entitled in any way to interfere with Lebanese economic activity in what it claims as its zone, nor to conduct any economic activity of its own.
The situation went from bad to worse in December 2017, when the Lebanese council of ministers approved the awards of two exclusive petroleum licenses for exploration and production in Blocks 4 and 9. According to this award, the exploration phase in each block will start upon the approval of the exploration plan and will last up to five years with the possibility of having a one-year extension. The ultimate goal of the exploration phase is to strike a commercial discovery, hence the awarded consortium is committed to implement an exploration programme based on the petroleum industry highest standards and practices.
This award led Israel, in a Dec. 21, 2017 communication to the United Nations, to express its “grave concern regarding the decision of the government of Lebanon, dated 14 December 2017, to purport to grant, without Israel’s consent, offshore licenses … in Israel Block 2 (also referred to as so-called Lebanese Block 9) in maritime areas that are under Israeli sovereignty and jurisdiction.” These developments “have taken place despite Israel’s repeated and explicit objections to this tender process and in direct violation of Israel’s sovereign rights.” The State of Israel, so the communication continued, “will not allow any nonconsensual, unauthorized, economic activity in its maritime areas,” and is “committed to pursuing available and relevant options to protect its sovereign rights.”
Not to be outdone, Lebanon submitted a letter to the United Nations on Jan. 26, 2018, to “respond to and protest” Israel’s Dec. 21 submission. In it, the government of Lebanon expressed its “grave concern regarding the barely concealed threat by Israel that it is ‘committed to pursuing available and relevant options to protect its [so-called] sovereign rights.’ ” The government of Lebanon pronounced that it “will not hesitate to avail itself of its inherent right to self-defense if an armed attack occurs against the economic activities carried out in its maritime areas. It will not hesitate neither to take all appropriate measures”—a term of art in United Nations parlance meaning the use of force, up to and including armed force—“against Israel or its private concessionaires … should they decide to exploit … the natural resources of the Lebanese seabed by way of directional drilling.”
There are two principal means of resolving boundary disputes: through diplomatic means, or through recourse to an international dispute resolution tribunal.
As for diplomacy, the lack of direct diplomatic relations between Lebanon and Israel presents an obvious challenge. Efforts by the United States to mediate a solution, even a temporary one, have not, to date, borne fruit. These include the proposal by State Department envoy Fredrick Hof in December 2012 of a line (the “Hof Line”) that would “vest” ownership of 60 percent of the disputed wedge in Lebanon, thus freeing it to begin exploitive activities in the majority of the zone, while leaving for further diplomatic resolution the status of the remaining 40 percent. This proposal was revived in 2018 by David Satterfield, the acting U.S. assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, who has engaged in shuttle diplomacy between the two countries in an effort to mediate the crisis. Satterfield’s proposal was reportedly characterized as “unacceptable” by Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. The U.S. embassy in Lebanon reports that Satterfield “continues to engage” on regional issues and on helping Lebanon develop its resources in agreement with its neighbors. (Multiple attempts to contact both nations’ embassies for comment went unanswered.)
In view of the extraordinary challenges that exist in “solving” this boundary line dispute, another means of diplomatic resolution, that of a joint development agreement (JDA), might be the best option. Under such an agreement, the parties effectively shelve, or obviate the need for, resolution of a dispute by agreeing to work around it by cooperatively and jointly exploiting the resources and sharing in the resultant windfall. In the Asia-Pacific region, this model has been effectively utilized through agreements between Malaysia and Thailand (1979); Cambodia and Vietnam (1982); Malaysia and Vietnam (1992); Cambodia and Thailand (2001); Malaysia and Brunei (2009); China and Vietnam (2000); Japan and South Korea (1974); Japan and China (2008); Australia and Indonesia (1989); and Australia and East Timor (2002). Even in the South China Sea, uncomfortable neighbors China and Vietnam have agreed on the delimitation of the northern part of the Gulf of Tonkin, and to establish a joint fishing regime in that area. Some sort of JDA between Lebanon and Israel could provide for a win-win resolution that avoids the need to conclusively “solve” the boundary-line issue.
If diplomatic efforts were to prove fruitless, the dispute could be submitted to an international dispute resolution tribunal. Tribunal options include the International Court of Justice, or some form of arbitral tribunal; the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, formed by UNCLOS, would be unavailable, since Israel is not a state party. Under the international system, both sides would have to agree to resort to the chosen adjudicative forum; there is no means under international law of forcing another nation to submit a dispute for adjudication. Were both sides to agree to adjudicate the dispute, the selected tribunal would apply the law of maritime boundary delimitation to reach an equitable solution.
UNCLOS Article 15 provides that, in the absence of special circumstances or agreement to the contrary, the territorial sea boundary between adjacent states such as Lebanon and Israel is to be “the median line every point of which is equidistant from the nearest points on the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial seas of each of the two states is measured.” As for the EEZ, Article 74 rather unhelpfully prescribes that boundary delimitation is to be based on international law “in order to achieve an equitable solution.”
UNCLOS’s sparseness with respect to the law of maritime-boundary delimitation is not the product of carelessness of its drafters, nor reflective of a judgment that legal guidance in this area is not important. Rather, it is a recognition of, and deferral to, a rich body of law in this realm that had emanated from various adjudicative forums by the time of UNCLOS’s drafting, and that has continued to evolve since. This law was refined and applied as recently as Feb. 2, 2018, when the International Court of Justice (ICJ) announced its decision in Maritime Delimitation in the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean (Costa Rica v. Nicaragua). The principles enunciated and utilized by that tribunal will be summarized here, as these same principles would likely be applied by any adjudicative forum concerning itself with the Israel-Lebanon maritime boundary.
As to the territorial sea, in accordance with established jurisprudence, the tribunal would proceed in two stages: First, it would draw a provisional median (equidistance) line; then second, it would consider whether any special circumstances exist which justify adjusting such a line. In constructing the provisional median line, the court would select base points on the coast from which the equidistance lines are to be drawn. For this, the court would select as base points “salient points” on the natural coast, which may include points placed on islands or rocks, that are situated on solid land and thus have a relatively higher stability than points placed on sandy features. Special circumstances that may warrant adjustment of the provisional median line include such things as an unstable coastline, the presence of offshore islands or rocks, disproportionality in the size of the respective coastlines relevant to the boundary delimitation, concavities in the coast that would produce a cutoff effect, and the like. In the Costa Rica-Nicaragua case, the ICJ considered a special circumstance to be the “high instability and narrowness of the sandspit near the mouth of the San Juan River, which constitutes a barrier between the Caribbean Sea and a sizable territory appertaining to Nicaragua,” which “does not allow one to select a base point on that part of Costa Rica’s territory … or to connect a point on the sandspit to the fixed point at sea for the first part of the delimitation line.” As a result of this, the court selected a point on the provisional equidistance line 2 NM from the coast, and from there drew the delimitation line “landwards to the point on the low-water mark of the coast of the Caribbean Sea that is closest to point Pv.” This is depicted on the court’s adjusted median line, as depicted below:
As to delimitation of the EEZ, the tribunal would first identify and assess several factors: (1) the “relevant coasts;” that is, those areas of the respective coastlines that “generate projections which overlap with projections from the coast of the other party;” (2) the “relevant area,” i.e., that part of the maritime space in which the potential entitlements of the parties overlap;” and (3) the effect of bilateral treaties and judgments involving third states. This latter consideration would impact any Israel-Lebanon delimitation, as the bilateral agreements with Cyprus would limit the seaward extent of both Lebanon’s and Israel’s EEZs.
Once these factors are accounted for, the tribunal would then proceed toward an “equitable solution” in three stages. First, it would draw a provisional equidistance line that begins at the outer point of the territorial-sea delimitation line. Next, it would consider whether there exist relevant circumstances that are capable of justifying an adjustment of the equidistance line as provisionally drawn. Finally, it would assess the overall equitableness of the boundary resulting from the first two stages by checking whether there exists a marked disproportionality between the length of the parties’ relevant coasts and the maritime areas found to appertain to them. By applying these principles, the ICJ in the Costa Rica-Nicaragua case adjudged the EEZ boundary between those two nations, beginning at point Lx (the outer edge of the territorial sea boundary), to be as depicted below (note—from point V, the delimitation line continues along the geodetic line starting at an azimuth of 77° 49’ 08”):
Whose Claim Is Best?
In the abstract, putting aside rhetoric, politics, grievances, and ancient enmities, whose version of the maritime boundary is more correct, Israel’s or Lebanon’s? In the estimation of this author, Lebanon’s claim is both legally and “morally” superior to Israel’s, as further explained below.
First of all, all parties involved in this boundary dispute acknowledge equidistance as the overriding consideration in boundary delimitations. Cyprus has done so in its domestic legislation declaring an EEZ in 2004, in its published boundary delimitation agreements with Egypt and Israel, and, as evidenced by its public statements, in its EEZ delimitation agreement with Lebanon. Lebanon has done so in its agreement with Cyprus (as evidenced by public statements made by both parties), and by its reference to the “median line” in its list of coordinates of its claimed EEZ boundaries with Syria, Israel, and Cyprus in Decree No. 6433. Points 1 through 12 of the Israel-Cyprus delimitation agreement of 2010 are specifically identified as those that define “the median line between the government of the State of Israel and the government of the Republic of Cyprus.” Israel and Jordan based their 1996 maritime-boundary-delimitation agreement in the Gulf of Aqaba on the “median line of the Gulf.” In short, equidistance/median line appears to be the accepted delimitation methodology of all parties to maritime boundaries generally, and in the case of Lebanon, to the particular disputed boundary at issue.
Secondly, there do not seem to be any significant relevant or special circumstances that would justify a departure from reliance on equidistance as the governing delimitation principle. The coastlines of Lebanon (~139 miles) and Israel (~168 miles) are sufficiently similar so as to foreclose the need for an equidistance-line adjustment due to concerns of disproportionality. Neither Israel nor Lebanon have large islands or other offshore features that would complicate the delimitation. The relevant coastlines are relatively straight and stable. In short, at least in terms of physical features, the Lebanon-Israel boundary is on the less-complicated end of the boundary dispute spectrum, and thus less warranting of considerations of special circumstances warranting deviation from equidistance as the governing delimitation principle. A related conclusion is that the relative lack of complexity suggests that reliance on an equidistance tripoint would not lead to an inequitable result.
Assuming, then, that equidistance is accepted as the governing legal standard, only one claim, that of Lebanon, purports to base its claim on the tripoint that is equidistant from Cyprus, Israel, and Lebanon. Lebanon claims it as such in its Decree No. 6433, and in its June 20, 2011 submission to the United Nations (Point 23 is “equidistant between the three countries concerned”).
In contrast, Israel, in its “List of Geographical Coordinates for the Delimitation of the Northern Limit of the Territorial Sea and Exclusive Economic Zone of the State of Israel” submitted by Israel to the United Nations on July 12, 2011, states that “Point 1 above is derived from the Agreement Between the State of Israel and the Republic of Cyprus on the Delimitation of the Exclusive Economic Zone, dated Dec. 17, 2010.” So, in short, Israel does not tie the terminus of its claimed maritime boundary with Lebanon to any principle of law; rather, it ties it to a point in the Cyprus-Lebanon agreement.
Of course, just because Lebanon claims Point 23 to be the tripoint equidistant from Cyprus, Israel, and Lebanon does not make it so. But there is evidence that that claim is backed up by some intellectual rigor. Specifically, in its July 14, 2010 submission to the United Nations—which, incidentally, claimed Point 23 as the southernmost point of the “southern limit of Lebanon’s EEZ”—Lebanon provided details about the methodology it used to arrive at that point. That submission indicated:
¶ The land origin of the delimitation line, which derived from the Paulet-Newcombe agreement of 3 February 1922, which entered into force on 10 March 1923, delimiting the southern border of Lebanon from Ra’s Naqurah at Point 1B;
¶ That Lebanon referenced the U.N.-published Handbook on the Delimitation of Maritime Boundaries in its delimitation;
¶ That the baseline Lebanon utilized for its southern coast in making the delimitation used admiralty nautical chart No. 2634 (Beirut to Gaza, 1:300,000) produced by the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office; admiralty nautical chart No. 183 (Ra’s at Tin to Iskenderun, 1:1,100,000) produced by the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office; and Chart B-1 (area of Naqurah, 1:20,000) produced by the Office of Geographic Affairs, Lebanese Armed Forces Command, updated in June 2004 on the basis of aerial photographs taken in 2001-2002;
¶ That using that baseline, and with reference to the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the southern limit of Lebanon’s exclusive economic zone was determined as the median line every point of which is equidistant from the nearest point on the baselines of Lebanon and the neighboring state; and
¶ That the southern limit of Lebanon’s exclusive economic zone was then plotted on admiralty nautical chart No. 183, and a list of its coordinates was compiled and submitted.
According to Lebanese sources, the delimitation process was assessed in September 2011 by the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office, which confirmed the geographic coordinates and charts submitted by Lebanon. Also, according to Lebanon, in March 2011, Israel was provided (through the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) a report of the Lebanese process by which it arrived at its claimed southern EEZ; and thus, presumably, Israel has had the opportunity to review and, as warranted, refute Lebanon’s methodology. No such refutation seems to have occurred.
If Point 23 represents the true equidistance tripoint, then what is Point 1? Lebanon claims, and Cypriot sources and independent commentators confirm, that Cyprus and Lebanon, in order to respect the rights of absent third parties (Israel and Syria), deliberately ended their agreed-upon mutual delimitation line at points short of both the actual northern and southern tripoints, claimed by Lebanon to be Points 7 and 23, respectively. As such, as phrased by one commentator, the Lebanon-Cyprus delimitation agreement “determined the breadth of their respective EEZs, but not the width.” The southern point “short of … the actual … southern tripoint” in the delimitation agreement is, of course, Point 1.
Such a methodology—ending a bilaterally agreed-upon delimitation line short of an equidistance tripoint when the third party is not involved in the negotiation—is endorsed by the U.N.’s Handbook on the Delimitation of Maritime Boundaries, and has been used in actual state practice, as evidenced by the 1974 continental shelf-delimitation agreement between Spain and Italy that deliberately stopped short of the tripoint with France to the north, and Algeria to the south (see depiction below). That all parties recognize Cyprus’ and Lebanon’s intent is reflected by the statements in both the Lebanon-Cyprus and the Israel-Cyprus agreements to the effect that Point 1—which would more accurately have been stated as “the equidistance tripoint”—was subject to future determination and agreement.
In conclusion, it appears that Lebanon may have committed a strategic blunder by entering into an agreement with Cyprus that accounted for the interest of absent third parties by defining the southern and northern endpoints of the agreed-upon EEZ boundary between Cyprus and Lebanon by points that were not the southern and northern tripoints. Bilateral agreements between states that define a boundary all the way to the tripoint involving an absent neighbor are common and uncontroversial, and thus could—and probably should, in Lebanon’s retroactive calculus—have been used by Cyprus and Lebanon; for example, the 1978 Colombia-Dominican Republic boundary delimitation agreement utilized as its western terminus the equidistance tripoint with Haiti, and Haiti later agreed to a boundary delimitation with Colombia that utilized the same tripoint terminus. By failing to do so in this case, Lebanon left an opening for Israel to do just what it has done in this case, which is to utilize the very same point Lebanon agreed to as the southern terminus of its agreed-upon maritime boundary with Cyprus as the northern terminus of its shared EEZ boundary with Cyprus. And with Point 1 being the mutually agreed-upon terminus, Israel can plausibly argue, how can Lebanon then complain about Israel’s use of it as the terminus of its claimed maritime boundary with Lebanon?
There is some fogginess here to be sure. Nonpublication of the Cyprus-Lebanon agreement hampers independent review of the intent behind adoption and utilization of Point 1, Lebanon has not published its methodology for arriving at Point 23 as the equidistance tripoint, and Lebanon provides some doubt as to the conclusiveness of its position by the rather nebulous statement in its July 14, 2010 submission that “[t]here is a need to conduct a detailed survey, using a global positioning system, of the shore contiguous to the southern limit, including all islands and spurs, with a view to updating the nautical charts and the baseline accordingly in the future.” However, unless and until there is fact- and evidence-based refutation of Lebanon’s methodology for determining Point 23 as the true equidistant tripoint, or a serious, supported claim by Israel that Point 1 is the true equidistant tripoint and not, as claimed by Lebanon in its June 20, 2011 submission to the U.N., simply “just one point like any of the others” on the line separating Cyprus’ maritime claim in the west from Israel’s and Lebanon’s to the east, only one nation, Lebanon, can reasonably claim, with fair support, that its declared boundary line comports with international law.
*This article is part of a Tablet series on the consequences of The Six-Day War, which began on June 5, 1967.

Qatar enters the second year of boycott
Mohammed Al-Hammadi/Al Arabiya/June 07/18
Qatar’s crisis with its Arab neighbors is now into its second year, after ending one full year of severed political, economic and diplomatic ties. The four boycotting countries, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain, tried to bring the Qatari regime back to its senses, to make it a responsible player in the region and have it share the concerns and the challenges faced by the region. However, Qatar rejected such overtures before the boycott and after it, and this has put it in a very difficult position. The Qatari regime has become alone in a region which it’s supposed to be a part of, and instead of doing something that would bring it back to the Arab fold, it insisted on distancing itself further and chose to go to foreigners and to throw itself in the bosom of Tehran and Ankara. It has completed 365 days of stubbornness, arrogance, dissemination of lies and failure to listen to the voice of reason. For 12 months it has been chasing illusions and looking for unrealistic solutions with countries and people who do not have a solution and do not know how to end the problem.
The Qatari regime went to the East and the West and sought a solution with the US over the boycotting issue, which it is suffering from a lot. In fact, the regime’s officials travelled thousands of kilometers and forgot that the solution is only a few hundred kilometers away!
One whole year has exposed all of Qatar’s actions and tricks, and what its regime has done against countries of the region and against the future of its peoples. There is no doubt that the world was greatly surprised with Qatar, specially countries and people who did not know the reality of Qatar’s regime and the reality of its actions, behaviors and goals. Doha is now certain that the four countries were not making empty statements when they said that they would not mind if the boycott continues for a year or for several years
Regime exposed
The Qatari regime is now exposed in front of everyone. As for those who still have ties with it, they have maintained these relations for financial benefits for the time being, and nothing more. There is no doubt that Qatar’s arrogance, stubbornness and continuous disturbance did not harm anyone except Qatar itself. Qatar is the one which paid a hefty price during the past year, although it pretends otherwise. Truth is manifest in quantifiable terms – related to present trade, investment and present economic ills, and what remains of liquidity in its sovereign funds. At the end of the first year of boycott, Qatar pretends to enjoy this boycott and to show that it is not affected by it. Doha is now certain that the four countries were not making empty statements when they said that they would not mind if the boycott continues for a year or for several years and that they were not exaggerating or being sarcastic when they said that Qatar’s crisis is very, very small. Everyone sees that that the boycotting countries are no longer concerned with the Qatar crisis in recent months and they are preoccupied with a lot of internal and foreign issues that concern them, their people and the region.
If Qatar wants to take a decision today, it should know that the right, short and effective route is the Doha-Riyadh route, and that any other way offers no solution.

Trump and Congress: The policy ends don’t justify means
Walid Jawad/Al Arabiya/June 07/18
In this bipolar political climate where objectivity is dismissed as pandering to the other side, I find myself needing a prologue before expressing any views on parties or players in the US political landscape. At the risk of being dismissed as kowtowing to one side or the other, I will share my observations on the interesting dynamic between President Donald J. Trump and his Republican party. Trump holds the loyalty of his base while Republican ideologues are pandering to him out of fear of political demise. Though, this doesn’t translate very well to votes in this coming midterm elections where Republicans are going to lose their majority as a foregone conclusion. Historically, the president’s party loses in the first midterm election. What is noticeable here is the discontent within the Republican Party. By taking a step back to observe the political landscape without emotional investment, we will be able to better assess the dynamic between Trump and his Republican party.
As Trump renegotiate the Iran nuclear deal by pulling the US out of the JCPOA, as he negotiates bilateral trade relations with China, and as he finalize the North Korea summit some critical voices from within his own Republican party are becoming louder. The question becomes, what is prompting this dissension in the ranks? The Trump presidency is unique in more ways than one. True, “Donald” approaches his presidency as a CEO of a company. Suffice it to say, running a business is markedly different from leading a country. One can draw parallels equating Congress to a board of directors, and the American people to shareholders. But operating within the parameters of such assumptions leads to a frustrated CEO, Board-of-directors, and Shareholders. This is evident in Trump’s inability to deliver on many of the big election promises. Among others, the courts struck down his travel ban multiple times, which was deemed as tantamount to a “Muslim ban.” He was unable to repeal Obama Care. By taking a step back to observe the political landscape without emotional investment, we will be able to better assess the dynamic between Trump and his Republican party
Mexico’s wall
Mexico is not paying for the wall, and full funding has not been forthcoming. The big investment in infrastructure is yet to take shape, nor did he defund Planned Parenthood. All of these and others need two things to succeed: Congressional support, and secondly, for the courts not to rule against them in the event the government is sued. The track record has been frustrating for a CEO approach, but not as much for an American president. And Trumps has been effective in touting his successes keeping his base energized and engaged. In this dual approach to successfully bring presidential promises to fruition, the legal dynamic is the concern of government lawyers as they make the case in support of White House decisions, focusing their energy on finding loopholes and supporting precedence to avoid unfavorable court rulings. Making this side of the equation similar to that of the corporate world; i.e. operating within a legal framework and regulatory guidelines. As for the legislative approach, both House and Senate should be able to deliver favorable legislation as they are controlled by the Republican Party. still, Congress has been failing Trump.
Statements made by Republican legislators who are serving their last term in office; i.e. those who are free to speak their mind without the threat of political retribution, are particularly revealing. While invested Republicans are calculating the pros and cons of their declared positions, they are losing sight of their ideological principles. Toeing the Republican party line is paramount in this midterm elections. Trump’s base is committed and Trumpism provides the only hope for winning.
Case in point
Both Republican senators Bob Corker and Jeff Flake are not on the November ballots and are free to say what they think without reservations. Corker criticized on Thursday Trump’s move to slap steep tariffs on America’s neighbors and allies; Mexico, Canada, and the European Union, describing the White House decision as “an abuse of authority intended only for national security purposes.”Indeed the US lost over $500 billion last year in revenue due to trade imbalances. As for Flake, he opposed Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal. His concern was not the bilateral relation with Iran, rather the US standing with its European allies. The senator said in May “The JCPOA had many flaws but withdrawing now does not serve our national interest. Iran has already realized the benefits of sanctions relief and the release of frozen assets,” Flake continued saying on CNN “If we’re not seen as a reliable partner then we’re going to have a hard time moving ahead.”
In both of these cases, the Senators voiced opposition to Trump, yet they are in agreement with him on the end result. Republicans agree (as well as Democrats) that they would like to fix US trade imbalances to prevent unfair losses.
There is no argument by anyone to the contrary. Similarly, Republicans would like for Iran to end its nuclear enrichment, stop its ballistic missile program, and cease its malign activities in the Middle East.
So if they are in agreement with White House on the “ends,” their opposition can only be understood as a rejection of Trump’s tactics. The conclusion is that as far as Congress is concerned, the end doesn’t justify Trump’s means.
But can the president’s style and behavior have such a negative impact within his own party? Indeed it has. Trump will gradually shift from the “CEO of the US” to the mentality of the President of the United States of American for which he was elected.

Iraq must act to ward off water security crisis
Diana Moukalled/Arab News/June 07/18
There is no value to any verbal assurances about Iraq’s water security, which is being threatened by Turkey and Iran. Images showing the interruption of the flow of the Tigris River through the destroyed city of Mosul due to the starting of operations at Turkey’s Ilisu Dam, which holds more than half of the river’s water from Iraq, are shocking and show the extent of the disasters in this country. The Tigris is no longer the historical river that was associated with Iraqi literature, poetry and life. It has become a stagnant area surrounded by ruined neighborhoods and huge destruction.
Particularly for Mosul, which suffered the destruction of nearly 90 percent of its old neighborhoods last year because of the war on Daesh, the dryness of the Tigris has come to complete the task of killing the town, while its people live in refugee camps in its surroundings.
Turkey has decided to operate the dam and has stopped the flow of water. And the Tigris, which represents an Iraqi sentiment penetrating the city and forms a divide between the two sides, has now become a swamp. The Turkish move has an impact on this city in particular. The five bridges that linked the banks of the river had already been blown up by Daesh, which made the Tigris a divide between two Mosuls, then came the siege and war to complete the mission of destruction. Today, with the river dried up, the city will be subject to a dramatic transformation that promises nothing but further destruction.
This is what the images of thousands of dead fish and stagnant water on the banks of the ruined city show.
While Turkey is seeking to build a dam on every drop of water emanating from its territory during the next 10 years, as its projects show, its ambassador to Baghdad says that his country does not seek to harm the Iraqi people. But the truth is quite the opposite. And another truth is that Iran is also contributing to depriving Iraq of water. Tehran is constantly cutting off every watercourse that ends up in Iraqi territory as part of a clear strategy. This has been repeated many times over the years, yet Iranian officials say they support water security for Iraqis.
Turkey's Ilisu Dam has reduced the river Tigris in Mosul to a stagnant area surrounded by ruined neighborhoods and huge destruction.
The disaster that surrounds the Tigris and Euphrates rivers is certain, and it is increased by the absence of any commitment from the upstream countries to respect global agreements on the use of international rivers and the failure and negligence of successive Iraqi governments. This opens the door to future conflicts that are constantly being warned against by the international community.
The Tigris has become smaller than its original size. All the assurances obtained by Iraq over its water security are inaccurate: They are political attempts to calm the situation and avoid provoking Iraqi public opinion, which has realized, for the first time, the extent of the catastrophe for which the operation of the Ilisu Dam is just a prelude.
It is hard to convince Iraqis as they watch their rivers dry up, the death of their fish and the demise of their environment that these steps are “friendly.” Future Iraqi generations will bear the consequences of these crises.
Extraordinary wars have been fought on the lands of Iraq and Syria, and the countries that are making these two nations thirsty today are those that caused a large part of this destruction. Talking about confronting Iraqi crises in a manner that has been tried and failed repeatedly over the past years is futile and ineffective for the future. Will Iraqi officials face up to the realities or be swept away by political and regional biases at the expense of their country?
So far, there have been no serious steps in the face of drought, especially in this hot summer. And the disaster that began to loom will not be dispelled by the words of Recep Tayyip Erdogan or the smiles of Hassan Rouhani.
Iraq is entering a new tragedy, one that will affect other countries and peoples if not remedied.
*Diana Moukalled is a veteran journalist with extensive experience in both traditional and new media. She is also a columnist and freelance documentary producer. Twitter: @dianamoukalled

Trump welcomes Arab ambassadors to his first White House iftar
Arab News/June 07/18
Saudi ambassador Prince Khalid bin Salman was in attendance and seated at Trump’s table
WASHINGTON, DC: US President Donald Trump welcomed Arab ambassadors on Wednesday to an iftar dinner hosted at the White House, the first he has hosted since taking office 17 months ago, where he referred to his time in Saudi Arabia as “one of the great two days of my life.”
An hour to sunset, the road leading to the White House was cordoned off as guests from the diplomatic community began arriving.
Around a dozen Arab ambassadors joined the dinner, according to a press pool report, including Saudi Arabia’s, Prince Khalid bin Salman. Also in attendance were ambassadors from the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Morocco and Algeria.
Prince Khalid was seated at Trump’s table, along with the Jordanian and Indonesian ambassadors.
“Tonight, we give thanks for the renewed bonds of friendship and cooperation we have forged with our valued partners from all across the Middle East,” Trump said in his remarks, before referring to his trip to Saudi Arabia last year, where he made his first foreign state visit.
“So many of you I spent time with not so long ago — about a year ago. That was one of the great two days of my life. That was one of the most fabulous times, and I think we accomplished a lot together.”The White House dinner was also attended by President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, Vice President Mike Pence, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. While press secretary Sarah Sanders on Tuesday capped the guest list at 40, the press pool reported that 50 guests attended the dinner.
The White House did not host an iftar dinner last year, breaking a tradition upheld since 1996. But when news emerged that it would resume the tradition, questions arose as to who would be attending as the White House kept the list quiet. On social media, a number of American Muslims even called on other Muslims to boycott the dinner. Many demanded an apology from the president for anti-Muslim rhetoric which they blamed for a rise in Islamophobic attacks.
To protest the event, several Muslim groups gathered outside the White House to host a parallel dinner held on the lawn of Lafayette Square, under the slogan “Not Trump’s Iftar.”
“We are hoping to share Ramadan and iftar with the American people and point out the hypocrisy,” Robert Stephen McCaw, director of government affairs at the Council of American-Islamic Relations, said outside the White House. He added that if the Trump administration wanted a dialogue with American Muslims then “why are they meeting with foreign leaders?
Hannah Wahaid, a North Virginia resident who joined the iftar, voiced disapproval that those who “work” for the country were not included. Last year when Trump opted against hosting an iftar dinner, he was also under fire as the American Muslim community had grown accustomed to attending dinners under previous administrations, including presidents Barack Obama and George W Bush. McCaw said that he was not surprised that the president had cancelled the dinner last year, following an increase in Muslim surveillance and Islamophobic incidents. “Under the Trump leadership, Muslims have been more harassed than ever,” he said. “In 2017, there was around 2,600 incidents.”Rose Aslan, from Los Angeles, attended the rally with her husband and son who came to Washington for the summer. “I heard about this iftar on Facebook,” she said. “I want to show my objection to the Muslim ban and other policies targeting minority groups in the country.”
Read the full text of the speech by President Donald Trump before the White House iftar:
Please sit down. Thank you. Good evening, and thank you all for joining us — this iftar dinner —as we celebrate the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. It's a great month. A lot of friends, a lot of great friends. I want to thank Vice President Pence, Secretary Mnuchin, Secretary Ross, Secretary Chao, Secretary Azar, and Administrator Linda McMahon for being with us tonight. Thank you all very much. Appreciate it. We had a very busy day, a very successful day in Washington, D.C. A lot of great things are happening. Tremendous economy — best we've ever had. And we have a wonderful administration; they're doing a lot of great things. So that's really terrific.
I also want to thank the members of the Muslim community at home and abroad for joining us. And a special thanks to Imam Agbere and all of the folks at the US Army. Imam, where are you? Imam? Very nice. Thank you very much for being with us. It's a great honor. Thank you. (Applause.)
At tonight's dinner, we especially are pleased to welcome members of the diplomatic corps, representing our friends and partners across the globe. And a very warm welcome to all of the ambassadors here tonight representing Muslim-majority nations. We're greatly honored by your presence, and thank you very much for being here. Some very good friends. To each of you and to the Muslims around the world: Ramadan Mubarak.
In gathering together this evening, we honor a sacred tradition of one of the world's great religions. For the Islamic faithful, the iftar dinner marks the end of the daily period of fasting and spiritual reflection that occurs throughout the holy month of Ramadan. Iftars mark the coming together of families and friends to celebrate a timeless message of peace, clarity and love. There is great love. It's a moment to call upon our highest ideals, and to give thanks for the many blessings we enjoy. Thank you very much.
Tonight, we give thanks for the renewed bonds of friendship and cooperation we have forged with our valued partners from all across the Middle East. So many of you I spent time with not so long ago — about a year ago. That was one of the great two days of my life. That was one of the most fabulous times, and I think we accomplished a lot together.
Only by working together can we achieve a future of security and prosperity for all. For this reason, I was proud to make my first foreign trip as President to the heart of the Muslim world, where I addressed an assembly of more than 50 leaders of Muslim-majority countries. That was something.
The partnership and solidarity that we established over the past year has only deepened with time. So many friendships. So many meetings, even in the Oval Office. And we've made a lot of progress, I think, a lot of tremendous progress.
So tonight, as we enjoy a magnificent dinner at the White House, let us strive to embody the grace and goodwill that mark the Ramadan season. Let us pray for peace and justice, and let us resolve that these values will guide us as we work together to build a bright and prosperous future that does honor and glory to God.
Thank you very much, and enjoy your evening. Have a very blessed Ramadan. Thank you very much for being here. It's a great honor. (Applause.) (Inaudible.) Thank you.

Iranian regime will not change its destructive behavior
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/June 07/18
Several world governments have been working ceaselessly and calling for the remaining members of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — China, the United Kingdom, Russia, France and Germany — to uphold the Iran nuclear deal.
The Islamic Republic is also not sitting idly by.
President Hassan Rouhani has been dispatching the regime’s experienced diplomats in order to negotiate and lobby the European countries, plus Russia and China.
At the same time, Iran’s hardliners, specifically Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and senior cadres of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, are continuing to pressure and threaten the international community that Tehran will pull out of the nuclear agreement if the world powers do not act swiftly to preserve the pact. Tehran also wants to ensure the signatories maintain Iran’s major sanctions reliefs and fulfill Khamenei’s five demands, including no interference by the world powers and the UN in Iran’s domestic and regional policies or its ballistic missile program.
From the perspective of the Iranian leaders, their strategy is working well due to the fact that several world leaders have recently vowed to protect the nuclear deal and address the demands of Iran’s ruling clerics. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini are currently the key players and are among the most vocal world leaders who are assuring the Iranian regime that the nuclear pact will stay in place and sanctions relief will persist.
When examining the arguments of the proponents of the nuclear deal, there appears to be two predominant thoughts as to why the nuclear deal ought to remain intact. The first argument lies in the premise that the international community has the power to change Iran’s behavior only through means such as offering economic incentives, close cooperation, concessions, allowing it to re-enter the global financial market, and other appeasement policies.
The second argument is based on the idea that, if the international community continues to cooperate closely with Iran, giving it worldwide legitimacy through international agreements, Tehran will be compelled to alter its destructive behavior domestically, regionally and globally. The argument contends that the ongoing diplomatic rapprochements, sanctions reliefs and international agreements are empowering the “moderate” forces in Iran, such as Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, who would ultimately alter the regime’s destabilizing behavior.
Arguing that Iran's regime will alter its attitude with concessions and financial rewards is nothing more than wishful thinking. Not only do such arguments appear to be idealistic and unsophisticated, but they also fail to meticulously examine the underlying pillars of Iran’s clerical establishment.
Treating the Iranian regime like every other modern nation-state is a critical political gaffe because the Islamic Republic is essentially a revolutionary regime. This means that it governs and operates on different parameters compared to a rational state. The Iranian regime rests on the bedrock of the ruling mullahs’ 1979 revolutionary principles and ideological fanaticism, which include anti-Western sentiments, anti-Semitism, anti-Americanism, anti-Arabism, and seeks to export such revolutionary ideals to the rest of the world.
Regardless of status, influence and political affiliation, any individual or group that demonstrates discontent toward these revolutionary principles will be brutally crushed by the clerical establishment. Iran’s history has shown us that even founding fathers or presidents of the Islamic Republic are not immune to this underlying rule.
In addition, it is not the first time that world powers are resorting to appeasement policies in an attempt to alter the destructive behavior of the Iranian regime and turn it into a rational and constructive player at home and abroad. For nearly four decades, the international community has ignored Iran’s military adventurism, support for terrorism and egregious human rights violations.
Instead of changing their aggressive behavior, the ruling mullahs have been leading in various fields, such as being top in the world when it comes to executing people per capita, being the world’s leading executioner of juveniles, according to Amnesty International, and being the top state sponsor of terrorism in the world.
Based on almost 40 years of history of Iran’s theocratic establishment, any astute observer of the nation’s politics can see that none of the efforts by the international community has compelled the regime to alter its destructive behavior. This is due to the fact that Iran’s current policies are the raison d’etre of this revolutionary regime.
From the mullahs’ perspective, if they make any fundamental changes in their policies, their establishment will lose its revolutionary identity, its nature, its ideology, and ultimately it will lose its hold on power.
Arguing that the Iranian regime will alter its attitude with concessions and financial rewards is nothing more than wishful thinking. Wishful thinking might be convenient and comfortable for some politicians, but the truth is that neither wishful thinking nor appeasement policies will compel Iran’s ruling clerics to alter their behavior.
As long as the Iranian regime’s theocratic oligarchy is in power, and as long as the concepts of “Velayat-e Faqih” or the “Supreme Leader” govern the political establishment, Tehran will not change its belligerent and destructive behavior, neither inside Iran nor abroad.
**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
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