June 15/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on June 14-15/18
UN should sanction Lebanon’s Bassil/Diana Moukalled/Arab News/June 14/18
120 UN Members Slam Excessive Israeli Force against Palestinians in Gaza/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 14 June, 2018
Netanyahu: In Fighting Iran, We serve Security & Peace Beyond Mideast/Jerusalem Post/June 14/18
Israeli Strikes on Iranian Targets in Syria Slowed Refugee Flow to Europe, Claims Netanyahu/Haaretz/.Reuters/June 14/18
Trump’s new Middle East agenda: Iran before Palestinians/Amir Bogen|/Haaretz/June 14/18
The Final Nail in the ACLU's Coffin/Alan M. Dershowitz/Gatestone Institute/June 14, 2018
Who Sanctions Russia? Not Germany/Shoshana Bryen and Stephen Bryen/Gatestone Institute/June 14/18
Sweden: "It's Fun to Build a Mosque"/by Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/June 14/18
Putin Is Costing Russia an Opportunity in Europe/Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg/June, 14/18
Can We Be Optimistic About Singapore/Robert Ford/Asharq Al-Awsat/June, 14/18
We’re Worrying about the Wrong Kind of AI/Mark Buchanan/Bloomberg/June, 14/18
War with Israel would be a fatal blow for Iranian regime/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/June 15/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on June 14-15/18
Refugee stay temporary, ISG reassures Aoun
Aoun: Lebanon Can't Wait for Political Solution to Get Refugees Back Home
Report: British Minister Plans to Outlaw Hezbollah
Netanyahu: Israel Has Bombed Iranian-backed Militias in Syria
Lebanon’s Hariri, Putin Discuss Syrian Refugee File in Moscow
Assad Says He Needs Iranian, Hizballah Forces To Stay In Syria
Saudi Arabia declares Friday first day of Eid El Fitr
Hariri tweets greetings to Lebanese on Eid El Fitr
Geagea to Girard: We back Aoun position on Syrian refugees' return
Geagea Says Bassil Attacking LF for Impeding 'Power Ships Deal'
Bassil meets de Mistura, Gurry in Geneva
Bassil after meeting Grandi: We do not seek problems with UN
Hariri Asks Putin to Help in Returning Refugees to Syria
Sami Gemayel meets Armenian Ambassador
Ferzli from Bnachii: To bolster cooperation in favor of common and strategic goals
Army commander, Shorter tackle overall situation
Lebanon wants UN to facilitate return of Syrian refugees
UN should sanction Lebanon’s Bassil

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on June 14-15/18
World Cup kicks off in Russia
Parts of missiles fired at Saudi Arabia came from Iran — UN chief
120-8 Voted to Condemns Israeli Violence Against The Palestinians In Gaza
120 UN Members Slam Excessive Israeli Force against Palestinians in Gaza
Israeli Strikes on Iranian Targets in Syria Slowed Refugee Flow to Europe, Claims Netanyahu
Rouhani Defends Iranian Military Presence in Syria
Syria UN Envoy Invites Astana ‘Guarantors’ to Geneva
Large Turnout Urged in Marches Calling for Lifting Gaza Sanctions
Ankara Predicts YPG Withdrawal from Manbij Next Month
'Iraq: Abadi, Maliki Likely to Join Sadr, Amiri Alliance
Yemen President’s Abu Dhabi Trip Bolsters Arab Coalition Support
OPCW Confirms Sarin, Chlorine Attacks in Syria
Damascus Wants to Coordinate with Baghdad to Open Al-Qaim Crossing Border
New Jordan Govt. Sworn in before King
Putin Meets Saudi Crown Prince in Moscow Amid Soaring Oil Prices
New York Sues Trump for 'Illegal Conduct' at Family Foundation
Yemen Forces Launch Major Assault on Hodeida Port City

Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on June 14-15/18
Refugee stay temporary, ISG reassures Aoun
The Daily Star/ June 14, 2018/BEIRUT: The International Support Group for Lebanon reassured President Michel Aoun Thursday that the stay of Syrian refugees in Lebanon was temporary.
Tensions have risen in recent weeks between the Lebanese government and the United Nations refugee agency, after caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil accused the UNHCR of "scaring" refugees out of returning to Syria and claimed the international community was complicit. The minister recently ordered a freeze on residency renewals for UNHCR staff. "The return of Syrian refugees to their homeland cannot wait until a political solution for the Syrian crisis is reached, which could take some time,” Aoun said at Baabda Palace while meeting with the ambassadors of the ISG’s participating countries and international bodies - China, Germany, France, the U.K., Russia, the U.S., Italy, the EU and U.N. “Lebanon’s capabilities no longer allow them to stay on Lebanese soil for an unspecified period of time." Aoun also emphasized Lebanon’s interest in maintaining a good relationship with the U.N. and the international community, "especially the countries that have given aid – we are always grateful for this."U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Pernille Dahler Kardel reassured Aoun that the Syrian refugees’ presence in Lebanon was temporary. “We agreed on the need to improve the partnerships between Lebanon and its international partners in a constructive and productive manner to deal with this issue,” Kardel told reporters after the meeting. Meanwhile, Reuters quoted German Ambassador to Lebanon Martin Huth as saying he was "dismayed by repeated false accusations" that the international community was working to resettle refugees in Lebanon. Huth said in an emailed statement to Reuters that the international community was "fully aware of the heavy burden Lebanon is bearing" through hosting over a million refugees. "Many of us are doing all we can to alleviate the situation," he added, citing assistance and commitments made to Lebanon through international donor conferences and U.N. agencies. He said the international community and the U.N. were "fully committed to an eventual return of refugees to Syria." "At the same time, and while we do not oppose voluntary returns to Syria, conditions in that country, in our view, do not allow for a general and comprehensive return of refugees at this time," Huth added. Aoun told those at the ISG meeting that "past experiences have taught us that political solutions to crises take years and years." "There is a difference between the return of refugees and the political solution, and Lebanon sees this return as possible, in phases, to different areas that are safe and stable inside Syria," he added. Aoun claimed that these “safe zones” alone are five times the size of Lebanon. During the meeting, Aoun said that Lebanon’s economic loss due to the Syrian refugee crisis exceeded $9.77 billion. Research previously reported by The Daily Star suggests that despite the poverty suffered by many refugees, their presence in the country – and the attendant aid money flowing into Lebanon – has a number of quantifiable positive effects on the economy.
Aoun: Lebanon Can't Wait for Political Solution to Get Refugees Back Home
Kataeb.orgظThursday 14th June 2018ظPresident Michel Aoun on Thursday said that Lebanon cannot wait for a political solution to be reached in Syria in order to get the refugees back to their homeland, reiterating that the country can no longer endure their indefinite presence given the repercussions it has caused so far. "Political commitments change based on field developments. Therefore, we are unable to wait for a political solution to the Syrian crisis so that we would start returning refugees back. Past experiences taught us that solutions to political crises get so many years to be devised," Aoun said in a meeting with the ambassadors of countries that are part of the International Support Group for Lebanon. “Lebanon considers that the gradual return of Syrian refugees is possible now that there are safe zones in Syria; a country that is five times the size of Lebanon. Most of the refugees in Lebanon hail from these safe areas,” he pointed out. Aoun stressed that Lebanon is committed to its pledges towards the UN and the international community, stressing keenness to maintaining strong ties especially with countries that keep supporting Lebanon. For her part, UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Pernille Dahler Kardel reaffirmed the temporary presence of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon. “We agreed that there is a need to push the partnership between Lebanon and the international community forward in a constructive and fruitful manner to deal with this issue,” Kardel stated.

Report: British Minister Plans to Outlaw Hezbollah
AgenciesThursday 14th June 2018/UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid plans to outlaw Hezbollah in Britain later this year, according to a report in the London-based Jewish Chronicle. Javid pledged to take “decisive action” against the terrorist organization, according to the Tuesday report, which cited a senior Conservative Party source. The Jewish Chronicle said Javid made his decision to crack down on Hezbollah “ahead of last weekend’s Quds Day march in London, where Hezbollah flags were once again flown.” “Sajid is a very different beast to the home secretary he has just replaced,” said a Tory source to the Chronicle. Sajid has vowed to take decisive action on the matter. He will make this very clear over the forthcoming weeks.” The United Kingdom banned only Hezbollah’s military wing in 2008 because Hezbollah attacked British troops in Iraq. The only European country to have imposed a full ban on Hezbollah is the Netherlands.

Netanyahu: Israel Has Bombed Iranian-backed Militias in Syria
Reuters/Thursday 14th June 2018/Israel has attacked Iranian-backed Shi’ite Muslim militias in Syria, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday, casting such actions as potentially helping to stem a Syrian Sunni Muslim refugee exodus to Europe. Israeli officials have previously disclosed scores of air strikes within Syria to prevent suspected arms transfers to Lebanon’s Shi’ite Hezbollah guerrillas or Iranian military deployments. But they have rarely given detail on the operations, or described non-Lebanese militiamen as having been targeted. Netanyahu accused Iran, which has been helping Damascus beat back a seven-year-old rebellion, of bringing in 80,000 Shi’ite fighters from countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan to mount attacks against Israel and “convert” Syria’s Sunni majority. “That is a recipe for a re-inflammation of another civil war - I should say a theological war, a religious war - and the sparks of that could be millions more that go into Europe and so on ... And that would cause endless upheaval and terrorism in many, many countries,” Netanyahu told an international security forum. “Obviously we are not going to let them do it. We’ll fight them. By preventing that - and we have bombed the bases of this, these Shi’ite militias - by preventing that, we are also offering, helping the security of your countries, the security of the world.”Netanyahu did not elaborate. About half Syria’s pre-war 22 million population has been displaced by the fighting, with hundreds of thousands of refugees making it to Europe. Syria’s population is mostly Sunni Muslim. President Bashar al-Assad is from the Alawite religious minority, often considered an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam. Under recent deals between Assad’s government and mainly Sunni rebels, insurgents have left long-besieged areas sometimes in exchange for Shi’ite residents moving from villages surrounded by insurgents. The political opposition to Assad says the deals amount to forced demographic change and deliberate displacement of his enemies away from the main cities of western Syria. The Damascus government says the deals allow it to take back control and to restore services in the wrecked towns.
Lebanon’s Hariri, Putin Discuss Syrian Refugee File in Moscow
Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 14 June, 2018/Lebanon’s Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri arrived in Moscow on Wednesday, where he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and discussed latest developments in Lebanon and the region and bilateral relations, as well as Russia’s role in helping the country deal with the Syrian refugee crisis. A statement issued by the premier’s office said that the meeting was attended by Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, Putin’s assistant for foreign affairs, Yury Ushakov, Minister of Economic Development, Maxime Oreshkin and Hariri’s advisor for Russian affairs, George Shaaban. The Russian president congratulated Hariri on his re-appointment as prime minister and underlined the importance of maintaining the growing mutual trade. “I would like to note right off that we have an upward trend in mutual trade: in 2017, trade increased by over 17 percent. We need to maintain this pace and not allow it to backslide – there were some alarming signs in the first quarter – we need to prevent a reversal of the trend that has developed over the past year,” Putin stated. He also stressed the need to concentrate on the intergovernmental commission. “The commission has been successful so far. A large number of companies on both sides are interested in cooperation,” he said. For his part, Hariri expressed his happiness with his presence in Moscow, describing the economic relations between Lebanon and Russia as being below the required level. “We certainly have ongoing projects we need to work on in the future. But we have also noted progress, and with the new government, Lebanon intends to continue these efforts,” Hariri said. “I hope that the World Cup in Russia will be a success. I also hope that we will have an opportunity to discuss the situation in the region in detail,” he added. The two leaders discussed the issue of Syrian refugees. The prime minister-designate said in this regard: “We talked about the Syrian refugees and their return to Syria and Russia’s help in this regard, especially concerning Law number 10. It was extended for one year but must be further clarified.”
“The Syrian regime has to explain this issue better, so as not to suggest that the refugees in Lebanon are not entitled to return to Syria. The rights of the Syrian refugees in their country must be permanent,” he added.

Assad Says He Needs Iranian, Hizballah Forces To Stay In Syria
Radio Free Europe/June 14, 2018
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said he needs the assistance of Iranian and Hizballah forces in Syria and they will stay for as long as they deem necessary. In an interview with Iran's Al-Alam TV late on June 13, Assad said Iran does not have any military bases in Syria, unlike Russia, but he said that if there is "a need for Iranian military bases, we will not hesitate" to provide them. "Iran is an allied country,as [is] the case with Russia," he said. Assad said he has received critical support from Iranian advisers and fighters as well as Iraqi Shi'ite militias and the Lebanese fighters in Hizballah's militia in his seven-year civil war against Sunni rebels, which has killed more than a half million people. He said those fighters are still needed for the government to regain control an estimated 40 percent of the country that is still controlled by rebel forces. "Hizballah is a basic element in this war. The battle is long, and the need for these military forces will continue for a long time," Assad told Al-Alam. Assad stressed that he invited the allied fighters into his country and he would never ask them to leave as the United States and Israel are demanding, even as part of any peace settlement. Israel sees Tehran as a mortal foe and has pressed for removal of the Iranian military presence in Syria in talks with Russia and the United States as well as targeted Iranian fighters and facilities in Syria in a series of deadly air raids this year. Assad told Al-Alam that Syria's relationship with Iran "will not be part of any settlement" and is "not in the international bazaar."
He said friendly forces will remain in Syria until "terrorism" has been rooted out. Assad frequently refers to his armed rebel opponents as "terrorists," even those not designated as "terrorists" by the United Nations or other official organizations. "When Iran or Hizballah sees that terrorism is eliminated, they will tell us that they want to leave back to their homelands," he said. Iranian President Hassan Rohani said during a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron earlier this week that he has not ruled out the withdrawal of Iranian troops from Syria if what he called the "roots of terrorism" are destroyed there.
"That would mean there was no need for the presence of foreign troops in Syria," he said during the call, according to a statement from his office. *With reporting by AP, dpa, and Reuters

Saudi Arabia declares Friday first day of Eid El Fitr

Thu 14 Jun 2018/NNA - Saudi Arabia has declared Friday, June 15, the first day of Eid Al Fitr following the sighting of the Shawwal crescent moon.

Hariri tweets greetings to Lebanese on Eid El Fitr
Thu 14 Jun 2018/NNA - In a tweet via his Twitter account, Prime Minister-designate, Saad Hariri, extended heartfelt greetings and congratulations to the Lebanese, in general, and the Muslims, in particular, on the holy Eid El Fitr.

Geagea to Girard: We back Aoun position on Syrian refugees' return
Thu 14 Jun 2018/NNA - Lebanese Forces' leader, Samir Geagea, informed the UNHCR representative in Lebanon, Mireille Girard, that his party backs the position of President Michel Aoun regarding the return of the Syrian refugees to their country. "The LF party backs the position of President Michel Aoun as to the necessity of the Syrian refugees' quick return without awaiting a political solution to the crisis in Syria, which might take time," Geagea told the UNHCR representative, who visited him at his Maarab residence. "This a sovereign Lebanese decision and the UNHCR is only concerned with the humanitarian aspect of the crisis," Girard said.

Geagea Says Bassil Attacking LF for Impeding 'Power Ships Deal'
Naharnet/June 14/18/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea has lashed out at Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Jebran Bassil, saying the latter is “attacking” the LF's ministers in connection with their role in blocking what he called the “power ships deal.”“If you want to know the motive behind Bassil's attack on the LF's ministers, from health to social affairs, look for the power ships deal. The more we stand our ground in the face of the shady deal, the more the campaigns against us increase,” Geagea said in an interview with al-Markazia news agency. “Amid his impotence in addressing the refugee file, and the procrastination of the defense, interior and foreign affairs ministries, he is throwing the entire crisis at the Social Affairs Ministry, whose jurisdiction in this regard is limited to following on the refugees' social situations exclusively,” the LF leader added. He noted that returning the refugees to Syria requires a “sovereign Lebanese decision.”“It should task the competent ministries with the implementation,” Geagea added, noting that Bassil should talk to Turkey and Jordan on the issue of returning anti-regime refugees to northern and southern Syria. “What has he done in this regard? Nothing other than exploiting such a dangerous file to attack the Social Affairs Ministry and divert attention from his negligence,” the LF leader went on to say. He however noted that the LF's communication will continue with President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri and “even Bassil.”“The relation between the LF and the FPM is bigger than persons and individuals and no one has the right to manipulate it for personal gains. We are exerting utmost efforts to distance this relation from bickering,” Geagea added.

Bassil meets de Mistura, Gurry in Geneva

Thu 14 Jun 2018/NNA - Caretaker Foreign Affairs and Emigrants Minister, Gebran Bassil, on Thursday met in Geneva with the UN envoy to Syria, Stefan de Mistura, with talks reportedly touching on the current situation in Syria and the Syrian refugees' crisis. On the other hand, Minister Bassil met with the Director General of World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Francis Gurry, with whom he discussed means of cooperation with the Organization in the aim of bolstering the national economy and creating new job opportunities.

Bassil after meeting Grandi: We do not seek problems with UN

Thu 14 Jun 2018/NNA - Caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil on Thursday maintained that Lebanon does not seek any problem with the United Nations and its high refugee commission, calling to encourage the safe return of the Syrian refugees to their homeland. Bassil made these remarks during his meeting with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, in Geneva. He said that he was ready to lift his ministry's procedures towards the UNHCR if he saw changes in its policy; equally, Bassil said he would step up the measures if its policy remained unaltered.
"Preventing refugees' early return to their country is a rejected policy," he underlined.

Hariri Asks Putin to Help in Returning Refugees to Syria
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 14/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri held talks Wednesday at the Kremlin with Russian President Vladimir Putin. “The one-hour meeting tackled the various developments in Lebanon and the region and the ties between the two countries,” Hariri's office said. The meeting was also attended by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Putin, for his part, said: “We must continue to enhance commercial exchange between the two countries, especially that there is an inadequacy in this regard, so we must exert efforts to strengthen exchange.”“We must also intensify the works of the joint governmental committee, and in the framework of this committee, there are Russian firms that are working actively and there are intensified efforts in other fields,” Putin added. Hariri acknowledged that the Lebanese-Russian economic ties are below the required level while citing “some progress.” “We will achieve a bigger progress, especially with the new government,” he added. Speaking to reporters after the meeting, the PM-designate said he and the Russian leader extensively discussed the issue of Syrian refugees, their return to Syria and whether Russia can help in this regard. Hariri's meeting with Putin comes on the eve of the FIFA World Cup that Russia is hosting. Hariri will attend the football tournament's inaugural match on Thursday, pitting Russia against his longtime backer, Saudi Arabia. Riyadh has been a key ally of Hariri for years, but the relationship appeared to falter in late 2017 when Hariri announced his surprise resignation during a trip to the kingdom. He subsequently rescinded the decision and in May was appointed for a new term as prime minister following parliamentary elections. He is now in talks to form a coalition government. Hariri, 48, had met Putin in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi in September 2017.

Sami Gemayel meets Armenian Ambassador

Thu 14 Jun 2018/NNA - Kataeb party leader, MP Sami Gemayel, on Thursday met with Armenian Ambassador to Lebanon, Samvel Mkrtchian. According to a statement issued by the party's press office, the pair highlighted the importance on the bilateral ties between Lebanon and Armenia, in addition to the latest developments on the local and regional scenes.

Ferzli from Bnachii: To bolster cooperation in favor of common and strategic goals

Thu 14 Jun 2018 /NNA - Marada Movement leader, Sleiman Frangieh, received at his Bnachii residence on Thursday, Deputy House Speaker, MP Elie Ferzli. Speaking to reporters following the meeting, Ferzli highlighted the necessity to bolster cooperation between allies "in favor of the same common and strategic goals which Frangieh always speaks of."

Army commander, Shorter tackle overall situation
Thu 14 Jun 2018/NNA - Army Commander General Joseph Aoun, on Thursday received at his Yarzeh office British Ambassador to Lebanon, Hugo Shorter, with talks between the pair reportedly touching on the general situation in Lebanon and the broader region. Discussions also covered means of cooperation between the armies of both countries. The current situation on the local arena topped discussions today between General Aoun and MP Assaad who visited him in Yarzeh. The army commander also met with the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Bernell Dahler Cardel, with most recent developments featuring high on their talks. Later, Aoun received an American delegation of Defense Governance and Management Team, with cooperation ties between the Lebanese and US armies highlighting their talks. The Major General also discussed the current situation along the Lebanese-Syrian borders with the Secretary-General of the Lebanese-Syrian Supreme Council Nasri Khoury.

Lebanon wants UN to facilitate return of Syrian refugees
Bassil said he is ready to lift the measures "if I see tangible steps."
Lebanese Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil, escorted by the Lebanese army, visits a Syrian refugee

Georgi Azar/Annahar/June 14/18
BEIRUT: Lebanon's caretaker Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil threatened to increase pressure on the U.N. refugee agency if it does not change its policies, which he says discourage Syrian refugees from returning to their country. Bassil made his comments in Geneva following a meeting with Filippo Grandi, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, days after the Lebanese official ordered a freeze on the renewal of residency permits for UNHCR staff in response to the agency "systemic campaign to dissuade refugees from returning home." "We explained to Grandi what has been taking place on the ground, which has stoked the fears of refugees," Bassil said.
The Foreign Minister asked the Commissioner for cooperation in facilitating the return of refugees willing to return home, which he classified into three categories. "There are those who go back and forth from Syria for economic reasons and benefit from their refugee status by receiving aid which they aren't supposed to receive," Bassil explained. There are also those "who have all the financial capabilities to return, "including housing and approval from the Syrian government," he said, maintaining that his Ministry and the UNHCR will work closely to facilitate their return.
Touching on refugees who have lost all their belongings as well as their properties as a result of the almost decade-long conflict, Bassil called for the UNHCR to include "them in the assistance program within Syria instead of threatening of cutting aid if they elect to return." Bassil said he is ready to lift the measures "if I see tangible steps," adding that he is also ready to take further steps if things continue as they are. Lebanon is home to more than a million Syrian refugees, or about a quarter of the country's population, putting a huge strain on the economy. Lebanon's political parties across the board have been calling for the return of those displaced to areas deemed "safe," with President Michel Aoun maintaining that "they must return irrespective of a resolution to the conflict," a point reiterated by Bassil during his meeting in Geneva. With AP

UN should sanction Lebanon’s Bassil
Diana Moukalled/Arab News/June 14/18
Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil enjoys unlimited support from his father-in-law, President Michel Aoun, despite making one mistake after another. We in Lebanon have been floundering because of Bassil’s resolutions and positions, and he has become one of the most divisive characters in the country.
The latest thing that Bassil has come up with is that he wants to punish the UN because it is doing its duty by alerting Syrian refugees as to what they might be exposed to if they return to their dangerous home cities and regions. This is at the heart of the work of the international organization — namely protecting refugees from danger — yet he decided to stop the renewal of residency permits for UN High Commissioner for Refugees staff in Lebanon.
Bassil, who is a minister in the caretaker government, has decided that Lebanon should collide with the highest international body in the world. He has taken that decision alone, without consulting Prime Minister Saad Hariri. Bassil has been engaged in a demonization campaign against the UN by claiming that the UNHCR was obstructing the decision of the Lebanese state to return Syrian refugees to their home country.
What is shocking is not only that the minister has decided not to renew the residency permits of international staff, but also his announcement that the Lebanese state has decided to repatriate the refugees. This has not been announced by the government.
The demonization campaign against the UN by Bassil and his Free Patriotic Movement party — accusing it of working against Lebanon and trying to resettle the Syrian refugees where they are — is a kind of idiocy and villainy under the guise of alleged patriotism.
Bassil and his party deliberately ignore the fact that international law and institutions do not take into account sectarian viewpoints and reproduction rates in Lebanon and their impact on the demographic balance, for these are the calculations of a narrow-minded, right-wing group. This group, for sectarian reasons and under political pressure from its regional axis, wants one thing: That the refugees leave Lebanon, regardless of their fate and their endangered lives, and their host country’s political and ethical responsibility.
It is also no coincidence that Bassil’s campaign against the UN came just after the approval of Lebanon’s controversial naturalization law, which granted citizenship to some Syrian businessmen and financial figures who are close to the Assad regime. Bassil wants the poor refugees to return and perhaps die while, in contrast, he wants to restore and strengthen Beirut’s relationship with the regime that caused the displacement of these refugees in the first place.
Bassil is fighting his mean battle against the UN in the name of Lebanese “sovereignty.” But this so-called sovereignty is based on a specific sensitivity: Sectarianism and demographic balance. In other words, it is a campaign of hatred and intimidation against Syrian refugees, whose presence undermines the nation’s Islamic-Christian balance. Bassil wants to say to his Christian audience that he is a “strong” character, reflecting the slogan adopted by his political group: “Strong Lebanon,” which carries populist connotations based on an alleged force that is void of any moral values.
Bassil, who is a minister in the caretaker government, has decided that Lebanon should collide with the highest international body in the world.
So Lebanon has decided to engage in a confrontation with the UN. Lebanon, whose sovereignty has been violated, which is unable to control its borders and has been forced to follow Hezbollah’s decision to fight alongside a regime that has killed and displaced the Syrians. Lebanon, whose economy is threatened and is steeped in the corruption of its political class. A nation that is incapable of controlling militants who have been wreaking havoc in its countryside and cities, and which is choking with a naturalization scandal, is taking on the UN.
This issue will be contained, of course, and the minister will provide the international staff with their residency permits, but the negative repercussions of this issue will remain for Lebanon as a state and a community, and will certainly affect the reputation of Lebanese diplomacy. This raises the question of whether Bassil really believed that the return of the refugees depended on his decision and not on a major settlement deal that is yet to be achieved in the region.
As a matter of fact, those who love Lebanon, including myself, who do not wish to see it involved in a new crime by causing the deaths of refugees, should call upon the UN to sanction and punish Bassil for the sake of both Lebanon and the refugees.
· 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

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on June 14-15/18
World Cup kicks off in Russia
Thu 14 Jun 2018/NNA - The World Cup kicked off in Russia Thursday as the host nation took on Saudi Arabia in front of 80,000 people in Moscow after President Vladimir Putin officially declared the tournament open. Russia is spending more than $13 billion on hosting football's showpiece, the most important event in the country since the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics. Minutes before the game started in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Putin said: "I congratulate all of you at the start of the most important championship in the world." Excitement has been steadily building in Moscow, with thousands of Saudi fans in green and white arriving in the city for the match. British pop star Robbie Williams performed at the opening ceremony at the Luzhniki, which will also host the final on July 15. The World Cup favourites enter the fray this weekend. Brazil and their superstar Neymar are seeking a sixth global crown while Germany, who won their fourth World Cup in Brazil four years ago, will be determined to draw level with the Brazilians. Russian authorities have gone to great lengths to ensure nothing soils the country's image.--AFP
UN. Votes Down U.S.A Bid To Condemn Hamas Violence Against Israel

Parts of missiles fired at Saudi Arabia came from Iran — UN chief
Reuters/June 14/18/The UN chief's June 12 report is a further blow to US efforts to hold Iran accountable over accusations it violated UN resolutions on Yemen and Iran by supplying weapons to the Houthis.
Independent UN experts separately reported to the Security Council in January that Iran had violated a separate sanctions regime covering Yemen. UNITED NATIONS: Debris from five missiles fired at Saudi Arabia by Yemen’s Houthi group since July 2017 “share key design features with a known type of missile” manufactured by Iran and some of the components were manufactured in Iran, UN chief Antonio Guterres wrote in a confidential report to the Security Council. However, the United Nations has not been able to determine when the missiles, components or related technology were transferred from Iran and if they violated UN restrictions, Guterres said in a biannual report on the implementation of UN sanctions on Iran. The June 12 report, seen by Reuters on Thursday, is a further blow to US efforts to hold Iran accountable over accusations it violated UN resolutions on Yemen and Iran by supplying weapons to the Houthis. In February Russia vetoed a western attempt to have the Security Council call out Tehran. A proxy war is playing out in Yemen between Iran and US ally Saudi Arabia. A Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015, backing government forces fighting Iran-allied Houthi rebels. Iran has denied supplying the Houthis weapons. The coalition pounded Houthi positions in Yemen’s Hodeidah for a second day on Thursday during a military assault aimed at seizing the main port to prevent the Houthis from bringing in missiles from Iran. Iran told Guterres in a letter that it “neither has a policy nor seeks to transfer arms or military equipment in Yemen or manufacture them therein.” Independent UN experts separately reported to the Security Council in January that Iran had violated a separate sanctions regime covering Yemen. Most UN sanctions imposed on Iran were lifted in January 2016 when the UN nuclear watchdog confirmed that Tehran fulfilled commitments under a nuclear deal with Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia and the United States. But Iran is still subject to a UN arms embargo and other restrictions. Guterres said UN officials also examined arms and related materiel seized in Bahrain and an unmanned surface vessel laden with explosives recovered by United Arab Emirates forces. “In both instances, the Secretariat is confident that some of the arms and related materiel it examined are of Iranian manufacture. However, it has found no indications of whether these items were transferred from the Islamic Republic of Iran after 16 January 2016,” he wrote. The UN sanctions and restrictions on Iran are contained in a resolution that also enshrines the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which US President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from in May. European powers have been scrambling to salvage the deal.
 120-8 Voted to Condemns Israeli Violence Against The Palestinians In Gaza
الأمم المتحدة تسقط مسعى أميركي لإدانة عنف حماس ضد إسرائيل
Jerusalem Post/June 14/18
If the United Nations General Assembly supported the US against Hamas, it would mark the first time it has issued such a condemnation.
In a public relations blow to Israel’s right to self-defense the United Nations General Assembly voted not to condemn Hamas violence and in favor of international protection for the Palestinian people along the Gaza border, in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
The dramatic three hour debate in New York ended on Wednesday evening with resounding applause for the Palestinians as a resolution that censured Israeli actions in Gaza passed by 120-8, with 45 abstentions. The text made no mention of Hamas, a terrorist group which controls the Gaza Strip and which has a long history of violent attacks against Israel. The six nations who joined Israel and the US in opposing the pro-Palestinian measure were Australia, Micronesia, Nauru, Togo, Solomon Islands and the Marshall Islands. The European Union was split with 12 member states, including Belgium, France and Spain, supporting the Palestinians. The other 16 member states, including Germany and the United Kingdom, abstained by way of standing with Israel and the US. Switzerland, New Zealand, Iceland and Norway supported the Palestinian call for international protection against Israel, while Canada abstained.
The European Union was split with 12 member states, including Belgium, France and Spain, supporting the Palestinians. The other 16 member states, including Germany and the United Kingdom, abstained by way of standing with Israel and the US. Switzerland, New Zealand, Iceland and Norway supported the Palestinian call for international protection against Israel, while Canada abstained.
An American amendment condemning Hamas was struck down, even though it had a slim majority, 62-58 and 42 abstentions.
The vote fell short of the required two-thirds majority to pass. US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley challenged General Assembly President Miroslav Lajcak's ruling on the matter. Lajcak asked the UN General Assembly to choose between his interpretation of UN rules and that of Haley’s. The UNGA voted 73-66, with 26 abstentions, to support Lajcak, thereby dooming the US attempt to condemn Hamas. Haley lashed out at the UN following the vote which occurred after almost 11 weeks of Hamas-led violent riots along Israel’s border, during which the IDF killed over 100 Palestinians and injured over 13,000.
During one particularly violent day, Palestinians in Gaza launched over 180 rockets and mortars into Israel, which caused physical damage but few injuries. “Today the UN made the morally bankrupt judgment that the recent Gaza violence is all Israel’s fault. It is no wonder that no one takes the UN seriously as a force for Middle East peace,” Haley said.  “But the common practice of turning a blind eye to the UN’s anti-Israel bias is changing. Today, a plurality of 62 countries voted in favor of the US-led effort to address Hamas’s responsibility for the disastrous conditions in Gaza. We had more countries on the right side than the wrong side,” she said. Prior to the vote Haley said that her country’s amendment “reflects the minimum truth of what is going on in Gaza. It is the least that any self-respecting international organization or nation can do for the cause of peace.”“To those who are unsure about how to vote, I ask, what part of our amendment is objectionable? Is it objectionable to condemn Hamas for firing the rockets at civilians?” Haley asked. “Today’s choice for the General Assembly is simple. It is the choice between using our time here to advance peace and security, or using it to stoke hatred and conflict. This vote will tell us much about which countries are serious about accuracy and reconciliation and which countries are bound by their political agendas,” she said.
Palestinian Ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour argued that his people had the same right to protection as any other nation.
“We cannot remain silent in the face of the most violent crimes and human rights violations being systemically perpetuated against our people,” Mansour said. It’s not enough to be concerned or condemn, Mansour said. “We need action. We need protection of our civilian population."
“And why should that offend anyone. We are just asking for our civilian population to be protected. Is that a crime to ask for?” Mansour said. “We ask for your invaluable solidarity and support in this endeavor,” he said. “The General Assembly always stood with people who were under oppression, oppressed and struggling to end colonialism,” he said.
Mansour made a number of pointed comments against the United States. He charged that they had acted in “bad faith” in an attempt to deflect the focus away from the initial resolution. Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon told the General Assembly prior to Haley's statement that if the UN approved the Palestinian resolution, “it will have signed in writing its unequivocal support for terrorism against Israel.” “Let us not pretend,” Danon said. “If ISIS were to attack Stockholm tomorrow, ISIS would be held responsible for the attack. If al-Qaeda assaulted Paris, the UN would issue the strongest condemnation of al-Qaeda,” he added.
“Only when Hamas attacks Israel does the UN seek to blame Israel,” Danon said.  “The moral majority in this chamber should not tolerate a different standard for Israeli victims of terror,” he said. “I have a simple message for those who support this resolution. You are the ammunition for Hamas’s guns. You are the warheads for Hamas’s missiles,” Danon said. The European Union’s Deputy Head of Mission, Ambassador Joanne Adamson, delivered a statement that took both Israel and Hamas to task but did not state a clear opinion as its 28-member body was split on the issue.
EU countries that abstained were Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and the United Kingdom. EU countries who supported the Palestinians were Belgium, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. Adamson told the plenum that “Israeli security forces must refrain from the excessive use of force against unarmed civilians. Lethal use of force should be exercised with maximum restraint, and only as a last resort to protect life. The use of force taken must be proportional at all times.”
She added that “those leading the protests in Gaza, including Hamas and other groups, have a responsibility to avoid provocations and ensure that they remain strictly non-violent. We condemn the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel.”The UN General Assembly debate was called by the Palestinian Authority and Algeria on behalf of the Arab Group and Turkey on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. They put forward a resolution that supported the idea of a UN protection force for Palestinians against the IDF. The Palestinian Authority turned to the UN General Assembly after the Security Council rejected a similar resolution two weeks ago. The resolution called on UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to submit a written report within 60 days with recommendations on how to ensure the safety of the Palestinian population “under Israeli occupation” including “recommendations regarding an international protection mechanism.” The Palestinian Authority called for the session through a mechanism called the Uniting for Peace Resolution, designed in the Cold War era to circumvent Security Council vetoes by the former Soviet Union. There are those who contend that the resolution gives the General Assembly the ability to act in cases where the Security Council is deadlocked. That would mean that in this specific case the General Assembly could deploy a UN protective force for the Palestinians. The UN has rejected that interpretation, arguing that the assembly lacks such powers. It has contended that short of ordering a study on the matter, the assembly's stance on this issue can only be advisory.
120 UN Members Slam Excessive Israeli Force against Palestinians in Gaza
  في الأمم المتحدة 120 عضواً يدينون استعمال إسرائيل القوة المفرطة ضد الفلسطينيين في قطاع غزة
Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 14 June, 2018
A strong majority of 120 countries at the UN General Assembly voted on Wednesday in favor of an Arab-backed resolution condemning Israel for its excessive use of force against Palestinian protesters in Gaza. The resolution deplores Israel's use of "excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate force" against Palestinian civilians and calls for protection measures for Palestinians in Gaza and the occupied West Bank. The gatherers also rejected a US bid to blame the Hamas movement for the violence in the coastal strip. At least 129 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire during protests near the border with Gaza that began at the end of March. No Israelis have died. Presented by Algeria and Turkey on behalf of Arab and Muslim countries, the measure won a decisive 120 votes in the 193-member assembly, with 8 votes against and 45 abstentions.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley dismissed the resolution as "one-sided".An amendment presented by the United States that condemned Hamas for "inciting violence" along the border with Gaza failed to garner the two-third majority needed for adoption.  Arab countries backing the measure turned to the General Assembly after the United States used its veto in the Security Council to block the resolution on June 1. Unlike the Security Council, resolutions adopted by the assembly are non-binding and there is no veto. The resolution tasks UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres with the drafting of proposals for an "international protection mechanism" for the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.
These could range from setting up an observer mission to a full-blown peacekeeping force, but action on any option would require backing from the Security Council, where the United States has veto power. “We need protection of our civilian population,” Palestinian UN envoy Riyad Mansour told the General Assembly before the vote, adding that the resolution was “intended to contribute to a de-escalation of the volatile situation.”“We cannot remain silent in the face of the most violent crimes and human rights violations being systematically perpetrated against our people,” he said.
Turkey's Ambassador Feridun Hadi Sinirlioglu defended the resolution, saying it was "about taking sides with international law" and showing the Palestinians that the world "does care about their suffering."Taking the podium, Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon assailed the measure as an "attempt to take away our basic right to self-defense." He warned ambassadors that by supporting the resolution "you are empowering Hamas."France was among 12 EU countries that backed the resolution, but Britain abstained along with Italy, Poland and 13 other EU member-states. Russia and China voted in favor.
Australia, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, the Solomon Islands and Togo joined the United States and Israel in voting against the resolution. The resolution asked Guterres to report back within 60 days on proposals “on ways and means for ensuring the safety, protection and well-being of the Palestinian civilian population under Israeli occupation, including ... recommendations regarding an international protection mechanism.” The General Assembly last held a similarly contentious vote on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in December, when 128 countries defied President Donald Trump and voted in favor of a resolution calling for the US to drop its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Netanyahu: In Fighting Iran, We serve Security & Peace Beyond Mideast
Jerusalem Post/June 14/18
Netanyahu also outlined how Israel is fighting the threat of the Islamic State, saying that Israel has stopped dozens upon dozens of attacks.
In fighting Iran, Israel "serves the cause of security and peace beyond the Middle East," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday, in his address to the the International Homeland Security Forum in Jerusalem.
“We ask for the support of your governments,” he added, appealing to the 20 Ministers at the conference hosted by Israel’s Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan.
“After the Iran deal, it took the money and started expanding its empire, trying to put military in Syria, trying to attack Israel - we are of course resisting it,” Netanyahu said, comparing the threat of the Islamic State and that of another branch of militant Shia Islam, led by Iran, which he said is trying to create an empire. The latter, he said, is a “much bigger” threat.
Iran is trying to colonize Syria, as part of its first goal of defeating Israel, Netanyahu said. "It wants to use 80,000 Shia militants in Syria. Syria is 90% Sunni - their goal is to convert the Sunnis. This is the recipe for another civil war... by preventing that we are also helping the security of other countries in the world," he asserted.
Netanyahu also outlined how Israel is fighting the threat of the Islamic State, saying that Israel has stopped dozens upon dozens of attacks.
The Islamic State group is trying to start a state in Sinai he said, adding that "we are preventing a mass migration and an ISIS state in Sinai...we don’t want another ISIS state"
Netanyahu also discussed the "nightmare" situation created by drones. "All you need is a $50 contraption and 5 kilos of hit the White House."
This he said, has immense consequences. "We have to harness technology against technology. It’s a huge challenge," the prime minister remarked.
Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich also discussed the changing face of terror in the opening speech of the sessions on Thursday.
"The Israeli Police carries out classic policing and law enforcement operations, but we are also responsible for public safety by law. In the past, the security threats were mainly of wars, conducted by armies within the borders of the state,” he told the audience. “The security burden has gradually shifted to the shoulders of the Israel Police, and today we are unfortunately faced with terrorism that has no political or organizational limits. Terrorists are less vulnerable because they do not occupy a defined territory and they represent a radical ideology making decisions sporadically.”
“Through cyberspace and the knowledge that is available, this process has also created a blurring of the boundaries between crime and terrorism. In our case we are dealing with the phenomenon of 'lone wolf', which requires all the police for a rapid response capability at any time and anywhere, no matter what the role," he continued.
"As a police force that faces numerous complex challenges in the fight against terrorism and law enforcement, we have chosen to place the law-abiding normative citizen at the center of our organizational attention and we always prefer to prevent crime as much as possible and not to fill prisons," Alsheich said.
"This process is even more demanding for the policeman in the field, since it compels him to take the initiative, to distinguish between a criminal and a normative citizen, all taking into account the differences and cultural characteristics of every population. This reform, called the Trust Reform, was presented in the Stockholm Convention on Criminology, and recently one of Israel's senior researchers has praised the system that supports it as the most advanced system in evidence-based policing.”
Israeli Strikes on Iranian Targets in Syria Slowed Refugee Flow to Europe, Claims Netanyahu
Haaretz/.Reuters/June 14/18
Netanyahu did not elaborate. About half Syria's pre-war 22 million population has been displaced by the fighting
Israel has attacked Iranian-backed Shi'ite Muslim militias in Syria, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday, casting such actions as potentially helping to stem a Syrian Sunni Muslim refugee exodus to Europe.Israeli officials have previously disclosed scores of air strikes within Syria to prevent suspected arms transfers to Lebanon's Shi'ite Hezbollah guerrillas or Iranian military deployments.But they have rarely given detail on the operations, or described non-Lebanese militiamen as having been targeted. In early May, Israeli defense officials were bracing for the possibility of an Iranian revenge attack from Syria in the form of rocket and missile launches at northern Israel. Officials believe Iran is determined to retaliate for the April 9 airstrike on Syria’s T4 airbase, which killed seven Iranian military advisers and members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Iran blames Israel for this attack.
Netanyahu accused Iran, which has been helping Damascus beat back a seven-year-old rebellion, of bringing in 80,000 Shi'ite fighters from countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan to mount attacks against Israel and "convert" Syria's Sunni majority. "That is a recipe for a re-inflammation of another civil war - I should say a theological war, a religious war - and the sparks of that could be millions more that go into Europe and so on ... And that would cause endless upheaval and terrorism in many, many countries," Netanyahu told an international security forum. "Obviously we are not going to let them do it. We'll fight them. By preventing that - and we have bombed the bases of this, these Shi'ite militias - by preventing that, we are also offering, helping the security of your countries, the security of the world."Netanyahu did not elaborate. About half Syria's pre-war 22 million population has been displaced by the fighting, with hundreds of thousands of refugees making it to Europe. Syria’s population is mostly Sunni Muslim. President Bashar al-Assad is from the Alawite religious minority, often considered an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam. Under recent deals between Assad's government and mainly Sunni rebels, insurgents have left long-besieged areas sometimes in exchange for Shi'ite residents moving from villages surrounded by insurgents. The political opposition to Assad says the deals amount to forced demographic change and deliberate displacement of his enemies away from the main cities of western Syria. The Damascus government says the deals allow it to take back control and to restore services in the wrecked towns.

Rouhani Defends Iranian Military Presence in Syria
London- Asharq Al Awsat/Thursday, 14 June, 2018/Iranian President Hassan defended Iran’s growing military presence in Syria, claiming that the Islamic Republic was engaged in “fighting terrorism.”During a telephone conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday, both parties discussed bilateral relations, regional affairs and issues related to the nuclear deal. On the Syrian issue, Rouhani told Macron that “unlike the illegitimate presence of certain states in that country, the presence of Iranian advisers in Syrian is quite legal and based on the official request of the Syrian government with an aim of fighting terrorism.”He expressed hope that with the joint efforts of pro-government forces and the Syrian people, terrorism will be eradicated from the country and there would be no need for foreign military presence. He went on to refer to the good progress made in drafting the new constitution of Syria and welcomed continuation of consultations between Iran and France to establish stability and peace in the country.
Syria UN Envoy Invites Astana ‘Guarantors’ to Geneva
Geneva, London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 14 June, 2018/Senior officials from Iran, Russia and Turkey will meet in Geneva on June 18-19 for consultations with the United Nations about setting up a constitutional committee for Syria, UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said in a statement on Wednesday. He will invite other countries for relevant discussions in due course, the statement said. De Mistura is tasked with choosing the members of the committee, which is expected to rewrite the Syrian constitution, paving the way for new elections as part of a post-war political reform.The UN envoy recently embarked on a regional tour that covered Turkey, Iran and Egypt.

Large Turnout Urged in Marches Calling for Lifting Gaza Sanctions
Ramallah - Kifah Ziboun/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 14 June, 2018/The Palestinian Authority banned any protests in the occupied Palestinian territories, in anticipation of a demonstration aimed at lifting sanctions off the Gaza Strip. This would be the third march called for by the “Movement for Lifting Sanctions Imposed on Gaza”. The movement, Palestinian factions and civil society organizations responded to the PA by calling for the greatest participation possible in the peaceful rallies. The decision came hours before a planned march in central Ramallah to demand that the PA lift sanctions off the Gaza Strip and dispense salaries to all employees. Civil society organizations held an urgent meeting Wednesday to address the issue. They stressed in a statement the citizens’ right to hold peaceful gatherings and to freedom of expression as stipulated by Palestinian law and international human rights. They also underlined the importance of ending political divisions and achieving Palestinian reconciliation to ease the people’s suffering. Hamas, meanwhile, decried the PA’s decision to ban demonstrations in the West Bank.  The movement’s spokesman Hazem Qassem deemed the move a violation of Palestinian law and an act repression. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine denounced the ban, describing it as a violation of the law, which guarantees freedom of speech and the right to gather peacefully. It said that the governing authority has no capacity, according to the law, to prevent any peaceful marches.

Ankara Predicts YPG Withdrawal from Manbij Next Month

Ankara - Saeed Abdul Razek/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 14 June, 2018/Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu predicted on Wednesday that the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) may begin withdrawing from the Syrian city of Manbij next month based on a recent roadmap reached between Ankara and Moscow. Cavusoglu said: “We cannot say that the YPG started to withdraw from Manbij. They may begin leaving the area in July.”Meanwhile, Turkish Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli said that had it not been for Turkey’s operations Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch in northern Syria, Ankara would not have found a place for itself at the negotiations table on Syria, especially those linked to Manbij.Turkish and American officials are expected to tackle the execution of the Manbij roadmap during a meeting in Germany later this week, announced Canikli and US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.
Canikli stressed that the YPG will withdraw from Manbij according to the roadmap that was reached on June 4. Its implementation will be overseen by the Turkish and US militaries. The deal also calls for the Kurdish fighters to hand over the weapons that were provided to them by Washington during the battle to combat the ISIS terrorist organization in Syria.A civil council that reflects Manbij’s population will also be formed. Canikli stated that Mattis had informed him that there will be no stalling in the implementation of the roadmap. Furthermore, the minister stressed that the understanding with the US over the Syrian city will pave the way for cooperation in future efforts to rid other Syrian regions of terrorist groups. Such a roadmap could not have been reached had the US not been convinced that the YPG was part of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), added the Turkish official. Both Ankara and Washington deem the PKK as terrorist.

Iraq: Abadi, Maliki Likely to Join Sadr, Amiri Alliance

Baghdad – Hamza Mustafa/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 14 June, 2018/Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi and former Premier Nouri al-Maliki are likely to join the political alliance that was announced on Tuesday between head of the Sadrist movement Moqtada al-Sadr and head of the Fateh alliance Hadi al-Amiri. Abadi, who heads the Victory alliance, and Maliki, who heads the State of Law coalition, will probably join the newly announced alliance “within certain conditions,” informed Iraqi sources told Asharq Al-Awsat. “It remains to be seen if the new alliance will facilitate or complicate the appointment of a prime minister,” they added. The forging of the Sadr-Amiri will prevent the eruption of any confrontation between the two Shiite figures in wake of the parliamentary elections results that saw Sadr emerge victorious, they continued. The program or goals of the new alliance have not been declared yet, but Iraqi political circles said the partnership was likely formed under “Iranian pressure.” They noted in this regard a recent visit paid to Baghdad by commander of the Iranian Quds Force Qassem Soleimani, “who brought the two Shiite figures together.”Sadr and Amiri surprised the Iraqi political scene when they announced their alliance given that the Fateh coalition leader had intensified talks in recent days with other Iraqi leaders to form a political bloc. Tuesday’s announcement, said observers, had Iran’s hallmarks given the influence it wields over Shiite officials in Iraq. Sunni, Kurdish, Christian and Turkmen forces were quick to voice their concerns over the alliance, saying the sectarian nature of the partnership aborted all previous claims that a “political majority” was being sought to form the largest parliamentary bloc. Minister of Displaced and leading member of the Kurdish Movement for Change Jassem Mohammed al-Jaf told Asharq Al-Awsat: “It was too early to speak about forming alliances between parliamentary blocs.”“All the current developments are simply initial understandings and political meetings aimed at achieving narrow interests,” he said. Leading member of the Sunni Decision Alliance Atheel al-Nujaifi told Asharq Al-Awsat: “We reject the partial sectarian alliance. We do not believe it will be overcome during this time.” He predicted that the internal scene in Iraq “will witness more changes in the balance of power and the emergence of forces at the expense of others.”“As we have said from the start, we must accept the result of Shiite alliances and deal with them. We have no role to play among the Shiites. Our role will begin when the Shiite blocs are completed and when they start negotiating with others,” he explained. “More importantly, we should address the repercussions of the constitutional vacuum, American-Iranian conflict and reemergence of ISIS as dangers that require concessions from all sides,” he added. “They must arrange their internal affairs before the situation unravels,” stressed Nujaifi.

Yemen President’s Abu Dhabi Trip Bolsters Arab Coalition Support

Riyadh - Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 14 June, 2018/The visit by Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi to Abu Dhabi has been deemed “very successful,” informed Yemeni government sources told Asharq Al-Awsat. Hadi had held talks in the capital of the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan. The meeting was the culmination of intense Saudi efforts to bolster support for the Arab coalition in its battle against the Iran-backed Houthi militias in Yemen. The sources said that Hadi achieved the goals of his visit in cementing cooperation and coordination between the legitimate Yemeni forces and the UAE, which is part of the Saudi-led Arab coalition. His visit succeeded in eliminating the misunderstandings that some local and regional parties were seeking to exploit to drive a wedge between Abu Dhabi and Yemen’s legitimate forces, added the sources. Hadi hailed during the meeting the UAE’s stances towards Yemen and its participation in the Arab coalition. For his part, Sheikh Mohammed underlined his country’s “fraternal and honest positions towards Yemen’s leadership and people.” He also voiced support to Hadi’s efforts to achieve the coalition’s goals of liberating Yemen from Houthi clutches.Head of Hadi’s press office Abdullah al-Uleimi said in a series of tweets that Tuesday’s Abu Dhabi meeting crowned Saudi efforts “to unite all positions to achieve the goals of the Arab coalition.”
The Emirati and Yemeni leaderships proved that “they are above all challenges and that the security and stability of the region are the most important goals of their leaderships.”Prior to his departure to Abu Dhabi, Hadi had held talks with UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed in Makkah.
Yemeni Interior Minister Ahmed al-Maysari had also visited Abu Dhabi earlier to tackle joint coordination and support with the UAE to rebuild Yemeni security agencies in Aden and other liberated regions.

OPCW Confirms Sarin, Chlorine Attacks in Syria

Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 14 June, 2018/The global chemical watchdog confirmed on Wednesday that the banned nerve agent sarin and chlorine were used in attacks in Syria in 2017. the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said in a statement that sarin had been used south of the city of Ltamenah in the Hama area on March 24, 2017. It also “concluded that chlorine was very likely used as a chemical weapon at Ltamenah Hospital and the surrounding area on 25 March 2017”. The findings in Ltamenah were based on witness testimony, epidemiological analysis and environmental samples, it said. The OPCW did not assign blame for the attack, but the Syrian regime is widely suspected to using chemical weapons against its own people. The March 24 sarin attack comes almost two weeks before the deadly strike on the then opposition-held and nearby village of Khan Sheikhun that left more than 80 people dead. The Khan Sheikhun attack on April 4 last year was previously believed to have been the first use of Sarin by the Syrian regime since the deadly August 2013 attack in and around Damascus which killed hundreds of people. Two days after Khan Sheikhun, the United States fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase from which it said the attack was launched. On April 7 of this year it launched a chemical attack against the town of Douma near Damascus that left dozens of people dead and prompted international outcry. A week later, the United States, France and Britain launched air strikes against Syrian regime chemical installations. The OPCW has issued several reports on the use of toxic agents in Syria’s ongoing conflict. It is also investigating the Douma attack and the results of that inquiry are expected later this month.

Damascus Wants to Coordinate with Baghdad to Open Al-Qaim Crossing Border

London- Asharq Al Awsat/Thursday, 14 June, 2018/Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari received Wednesday a letter from his Syrian counterpart Walid al-Moallem on increasing the efforts to reopen the border-crossing between Syria and Iraq that connects the Syrian city of Boukamal and the Iraqi city of al-Qaim. The Iraqi Foreign Ministry’s website said that the letter was delivered during a meeting with Syria’s Ambassador in Baghdad Sattam Jadaan al-Dandah. At the meeting, Jaafari reiterated the necessity for coordinating the stances and enhancing cooperation between the two countries for solving Arab problems through adopting political solutions and non-interference in states’ affairs. Observers say that the re-opening of the border is dangerous since ISIS is still in the border town of Boukamal, which is located on the right bank of the Euphrates River, east of Syria, about eight kilometers from the Syrian-Iraqi border.

New Jordan Govt. Sworn in before King
Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 14 June, 2018 /The new Jordanian government, headed by Prime Minister Omar al-Razzaz, was sworn in before King Abdullah II on Thursday. The new cabinet includes 28 ministers, including seven women. The swearing in ceremony took place at the al-Husseiniya palace in Amman, said a statement from royal court. King Abdullah appointed Razzaz, a Harvard-educated economist outside the ranks of the traditional political elite, last week to replace Hani Mulki, a business- friendly politician who was dismissed to defuse public anger that led to some of the largest protests in years. Thousands of Jordanians took to the streets in Amman and in provincial towns earlier this month against a series of tax rises since the start of the year. Protesters called for sacking the government and scrapping a tax bill which unions and civic groups blamed for worsening poverty and unemployment. Official sources said the government is expected to maintain traditional support for US policies in the region and continue with International Monetary Fund-guided reforms, reported Reuters.

Putin Meets Saudi Crown Prince in Moscow Amid Soaring Oil Prices

Haaretz/.Reuters/June 14/18/Crown Prince Mohammed is one of many world leaders visiting Russia for the soccer World Cup, which opens later on Thursday. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday that Saudi Arabia wants to continue cooperation with Russia on global oil markets, adding that this cooperation was beneficial for the whole world. Putin told the prince at their meeting in Moscow that he was happy to see him at the opening of the soccer World Cup, which kicks off on Thursday with a match between the Russian and Saudi Arabian national teams.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has previously said that the two delegations would discuss an agreement on cutting global oil production which Saudi Arabia and Russia are leading, but did not plan to discuss an exit from the deal.

New York Sues Trump for 'Illegal Conduct' at Family Foundation

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 14/18/New York State filed suit Thursday against President Donald Trump, his sons and daughter, alleging a pattern of "persistently illegal conduct" at their family foundation and seeking the charity's dissolution. The lawsuit accused the Donald J. Trump foundation of "extensive unlawful political coordination with the Trump presidential campaign, repeated and willful self-dealing transactions to benefit Mr. Trump's personal and business interests, and violations of basic legal obligations for non-profit foundations." It says the real estate tycoon elected president in 2016 used charity funds from the foundation to pay his legal bills, promote his Trump-branded hotels, and for personal spending. The lawsuit also claims that Trump used the foundation illegally to raise $2.8 million to support his presidential campaign in a televised fundraiser on January 28, 2016 -- held as he skipped a Republican presidential primary debate. Trump quickly responded with tweets in which he called the suit a "ridiculous case" and indicated he will fight it. He accused "sleazy New York Democrats" of "doing everything they can to sue me on a foundation that took in $18,800,000 and gave out to charity more money than it took in, $19,200,000." "I won't settle this case!" he said. The suit names the president, sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, and daughter Ivanka Trump, who were on the board of the foundation. It seeks restitution of $2.8 million and the shutdown of the foundation, as well as a 10-year ban on Trump serving on the board of any other New York charity. A one-year ban is asked for his three children. "As our investigation reveals, the Trump Foundation was little more than a checkbook for payments from Mr. Trump or his businesses to nonprofits, regardless of their purpose or legality," said New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood. "This is not how private foundations should function and my office intends to hold the foundation and its directors accountable for its misuse of charitable assets," she said in a statement.

Yemen Forces Launch Major Assault on Hodeida Port City
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 14/18/Yemeni forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition launched a major offensive on Wednesday to retake the rebel-held port city of Hodeida, despite U.N. warnings of a "catastrophic humanitarian impact."Field commanders told AFP that troops pushed towards Hodeida airport after Yemeni pro-government forces received a "green light" from the coalition.The offensive is controversial because the port serves as the entry point for 70 percent of Yemen's imports as the country teeters on the brink of famine. The coalition accuses the Huthi rebels of using the port to secure Iranian arms, notably the ballistic missiles the militants have increasingly fired into Saudi territory. Coalition sources said the alliance carried out 18 air strikes on Huthi positions on the outskirts of Hodeida on Wednesday. According to medical sources in the province, 22 Huthi fighters were killed by coalition raids, while three pro-government fighters were killed in a rebel ambush south of Hodeida. The port city, home to 600,000 people, was captured by the Iran-backed insurgents in 2014 along with the capital Sanaa. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and a bloc of other countries intervened in Yemen the following year with the goal of restoring the government to power. Yemen's government said on Tuesday that negotiations had failed to force the rebels from Hodeida, and that a grace period for U.N.-led peace efforts was over. "All peaceful and political means of removing the Huthi militia from Hodeida port have been exhausted," the government said in a statement carried by Yemen's state news agency Saba. The United Nations on Monday withdrew its international staff from Hodeida, saying an attack would "impact hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians." The U.N. has warned that the likely "catastrophic humanitarian impact" would be worsened due to Hodeida's key role as an entry point for aid and commercial goods. "Cutting off imports through Hodeida for any length of time will put Yemen's population at extreme, unjustifiable risk," Lise Grande, U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, said.
A new reality
The UAE, a pillar of the anti-Huthi coalition, says retaking Hodeida is necessary to force the rebels to make concessions. "The current & illegal Huthi occupation of Hodeida is prolonging the Yemeni war. The liberation of the city & port will create a new reality & bring the Huthis to the negotiations," Emirati State Minister for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash tweeted Tuesday. Ahead of the offensive, the UAE sought to project unity with the Yemeni government after months of strained relations -- most recently over its military activities on the Yemeni island of Socotra. Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi held rare talks in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday night with Emirati Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed. "Our destiny and that of Yemen will continue to be one, and our shared pain and bloodshed will draw us closer," the UAE strongman told Hadi, Yemen's state news agency Saba reported. Hadi, who lives in exile in Riyadh, was also seeking to repair relations with Abu Dhabi, which has sidelined him over the past year by backing rival forces. "In the meeting, President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi hailed the positions of the UAE leadership ... in defending a common destiny," Saba said. Yemeni forces massing around Hodeida are a mix of local fighters, those loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, and supporters of the ex-head of state, Ali Abdullah Saleh.
They are backed on the ground by the UAE, while Saudi Arabia has been leading a campaign of air strikes. Analysts say anti-rebel forces are determined to drive the Huthis from the key port, having failed to score any major victories since the first year of the war.
Children in the crossfire
The U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) has raised alarm over the plight of Hodeida's 300,000 children and the risk that drinking water supplies will be disrupted. "UNICEF has pre-prepositioned supplies in Hodeida: over 20,000 basic hygiene kits (one kit per family). 40,000 additional kits are in the pipeline. We hope we don't need to use them," UNICEF Yemen representative Meritxell Relano said on her Twitter account. The Huthi leadership on Tuesday called on the international community to "pressure a halt to the escalation", warning an assault on Hodeida would put Red Sea navigation at risk. Saudi Arabia's ambassador in Washington Khaled bin Salman also on Tuesday said the retaking of Hodeida was critical, tweeting that the Iran-backed rebels posed a "growing threat" to maritime security. On Wednesday, the Huthis said they targeted a coalition warship off the coast of Hodeida with two missiles, with rebel outlet Al-Masirah claiming a direct hit.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on June 14-15/18
Trump’s new Middle East agenda: Iran before Palestinians
هاررتس: أجندة ترامب للشرق الأوسط هي أولاً إيران ومن ثم الفلسطينيين
Amir Bogen|/Haaretz/June 14/18
A New Yorker report describes evolution of President Trump’s Middle East policy, secret talks between Israel and Gulf States, Abbas’s rejection of ‘best possible deal’, and how one US official warned Israel ‘don’t take advantage of us.’
The New Yorker published Monday an article thoroughly reviewing US President Donald Trump’s foreign policy regarding the Middle East, describing how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought to forge a relationship with him prior to his ascent to the White House, and detailing Israel’s relationship with Arab states in a front against Iran.
The review by by Adam Entous examines the White House’s up to date strategy concerning Israel, the Palestinians, and the Gulf states. The article cites selected quotes from official talks held between the US administration and the government in Jerusalem, and between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Donald Trump.
Overt and covert complex relationship are also detailed between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and its leader Mohammed bin Zayed since the Oslo Accord to the present day..
Israel and the UAE have forged unofficial and economic ties over the years but they have not evolved into a full and open diplomatic relationship. However, Iran—considered as Israel and UAE’s mutual enemy—has fomented the merging of the countries to form a united front against it.
Saudi Arabia—that previously distanced itself from Israel—joined the front against Iran and now its Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman who also serves as the deputy prime minister is cooperating with Israel behind the scenes against Iran’s Ayatollahs regime.
Despite the fact that President Trump had showed little interest in the Middle East, he was perceived as a savior by Netanyahu, bin Zayed and Bin Salman after pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, signed by his predecessor Barack Obama.
“He quite honestly had very little interest in meddling in the Middle East in general and very little interest from a philosophical point of view,” a Trump confidant said. As far as Trump was concerned, “all of this was an annoyance,” he went on. Nevertheless, the Iranian threat lurking on the one hand and the Middle East leaders knocking on the White House’s doors on the other, compelled Trump to establish its Middle East policy. According to the article, Netanyahu had invested significant effort to tighten his relationship with Trump prior to his inauguration as president. The Israeli prime minister had taken the bold step of quietly dispatching Yossi Cohen, the head of Mossad, Israel’s foreign-intelligence agency, to Washington.
Cohen briefed then candidate for National Security advisor Michael Flynn on the Iranian threat in an attempt to ensure that the two governments would be closely aligned in their approach—while Obama still served as president. Adam Entous, the article’s author, says that “Intelligence veterans said that Cohen’s visit was a breach of protocol” and stressed that the visit was meant to further tighten US-Israel ties which were damaged amid the grave rift between Obama and Netanyahu. Trump, did in fact put Jared Kushner in charge of Middle East policy. The choice for Ambassador to Israel was David Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer from Long Island who held right-wing views on the Middle East and contributed money in support of the same West Bank settlement as the Kushners did. The chief envoy to the region would be Jason Greenblatt, a graduate of Yeshiva University and an attorney who worked for the Trump Organization.
Netanyahu could be confident that Trump would look out for his interests and share his opposition to Obama’s policies in the region, according to Entous. tous’ review argues that Israel and the UAE’s joint concerns about Iran obtaining nuclear weapon triggered the renewal of a relationship between the two countries, without the knowledge of the US.
“US intelligence agencies learned of phone calls between senior UAE and Israeli officials, including calls between a senior Emirati leader and Netanyahu. Then US intelligence agencies picked up on a secret meeting between senior UAE and Israeli leaders in Cyprus. US officials suspect that Netanyahu attended the meeting, which centered on countering Obama’s Iran deal,” according to the report.
According to a former US State Department official, “They were not telling the truth (Israel and the UAE). It’s one thing to be secret from the public. It’s another thing to be secret from the US, supposedly the closest ally of both.”
Bin Zayed and Bin Salman coordinated their stances and forged an alternative plan regarding the Palestinians.
Bin Salman agreed to postpone the resolution of the Palestinian problem to which his father King Abdullah—who promoted the Arab Peace Initiative—was committed. “While Bin Zayed and Bin Salman made it clear to Trump’s advisers that Iran was their most urgent priority, they said that progress toward ending the Palestinian conflict was mandatory for them to have a more open relationship with Israel,” the article charges. By May, 2017, when Trump met with Arab leaders in Riyadh, Kushner and Bin Salman had agreed on the outlines of what they called a Middle East strategic alliance. Israel would, for now, remain a ‘silent partner.’
“The US committed to taking a harder line on Iran. And the Gulf Arabs promised to help get the Palestinians to go along with the new program.”in Salman described to an American visitor what he believed the division of labor should be. “We’re going to get the deal done. I’m going to deliver the Palestinians and he—Trump—is going to deliver the Israelis,” Bin Salman planned.
The secret allies also aligned when it came to Russia that tightened its grip on the Middle East as Iran and Syria’s ally. “In recent years, the Emiratis and the Saudis sought to pull Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, out of Iran’s orbit by investing billions of dollars in the Russian economy,” the article explains. “An even more critical reason for Netanyahu to curry Putin’s favor was to ensure that the Israeli military could fly in Syrian airspace, which was partly controlled by Russia, to carry out operations without ending up in a conflict with Moscow,” it continued. Netanyahu, it claims, understood that Putin could be the key to getting Iran to eventually withdraw its forces from Syria, an objective shared by Trump and his team.
Entous writes in his article that “Trump initially tried to ease tensions with Putin, but those efforts only fuelled questions about his motivations, given Russia’s meddling on his behalf during the 2016 campaign. US lawmakers and European allies gradually prevailed on Trump to take a harder line.”Putin’s advisor and Trump’s advisor had been in contact, and their communications later became a focus of the investigation undertaken by Robert Mueller, the special counsel, into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Meanwhile the secret cooperation between the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Israel had tightened, and according to a former US official “one would-be contractor who is close to the Emiratis, the Saudis, and the Israelis presented a plan to use cyber weapons planted inside Iran’s critical infrastructure.” Despite that, the official meeting with Bin Zayed and Bin Salman was never on the agenda, and Netanyahu understandingly accepted that. “The Gulf leaders represented Israel’s best hope in generations for securing acceptance in the region. The last thing the prime minister wanted was for a mere photo op to spark a popular revolt against,” writes the New Yorker.
This newly formed strategic partnership in the region, amid the Iranian threat, left the Palestinians in the dark. The New Yorker reports that the White House’s approach towards them was akin to that of Wall Street.
“Like in life—Oh, I wish I bought Google twenty years ago. Now I can’t. I have to pay this amount of money. It’s not that I’m being punished. I just missed the opportunity,” the official from the Trump administration is quoted as saying.
This metaphor is also being repeated by Ambassador David Friedman, and according to them the plan that is being offered to the Palestinians is a “bankruptcy-type deal”. Interestingly, Friedman, as a former bankruptcy lawyer, used to “structure bankruptcy deals” for his clients, one of which was Donald Trump.
Saeb Erekat, a senior PLO official who was in charge of the negotiations also reported a similar approach from the Trump Administration, which manifested itself during his conflict with Jared Kushner, when the latter announced that he opposes the possibility of direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. “If I don’t take thirty cents on the dollar now, I’ll get fifteen cents next year,” Erekat described the manner in which he was treated by the Trump’s team.
The New Yorker article describes the first conversation between Mahmoud Abbas and Donald Trump after the elections. Two months have passed between the inauguration of the president and the initial contact with the Palestinian leader. The interaction between them was short, sharp and disconnected from reality. “We’re talking about a historic peace deal,” Trump said at the beginning of the conversation on March 10, 2017. When Abbas said “We believe that through negotiations we can achieve peace with the Israelis,” and underlined his willingness to talk with Netanyahu in order to jumpstart the negotiations, Trump replied “Oh, that’s very good.
”Entous emphasizes that at this point the conversation took an unexpected turn when Trump asked Abbas whether he thinks Netanyahu wants a peace deal, to which dumbfounded Abbas replied “He is the prime minister of Israel. We don’t have any other option.”Trump then stated that in light of him becoming president, there is a real opportunity for peace. Trump vowed, as a neutral party, to “give it my one-hundred-per-cent efforts,” adding “it’s going to happen.” For his aprt, Abbas replied: “We count on you, Mr. President, we believe you can do it.”
Almost one year has passed since that call and Trump and Abbas no longer talk. Their latest conversation took place moments before the US Embassy move to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv was announced. Trump apparently promised Abbas “the best possible deal” if the latter was to stay committed and repeated multiple times that Palestinians would get a “better” deal than what was promised to them by the previous US administration, according to the the New Yorker.
After 15 minutes of talking, Trump stopped in order to hear Abbas’ response but by that time the call had already disconnected, unclear at which point exactly, and the call hasn’t been renewed ever since.
Although the new Middle East, as Trump and his team envision it, tends to favor Israel and the Gulf States, Entous describes several scenarios which are a lot less pleasant for Israel, at least according to the experiences of Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer.
Senior White House officials opposed what they described as Dermer’s subversive tactics. “This is our fu**ing house,” exclaimned one official. The general feeling in the White House apparently is along the lines of “there is a lot of good will, but don’t take advantage of us.”
At a certain point Kushner even went as far as cursing Dermer in his West Wing office in front of White House personel, saying he wasn’t going to service him only because he was Jewish. “You’re not going to tell us how to run these things. Don’t try to push us around. Don’t try to jam us.” In response to the alleged incident, Dermer replied, “I have a very good relationship with Jared, but we don’t always agree on everything.”
First published: 06.14.18, 14:17

The Final Nail in the ACLU's Coffin
Alan M. Dershowitz/Gatestone Institute/June 14, 2018
The director of the American Civil Liberties Union has now acknowledged what should have been obvious to everybody over the past several years: that the ACLU is no longer a neutral defender of everyone's civil liberties; it has morphed into a hyper-partisan, hard-left political advocacy group. The final nail in its coffin was the announcement that for the first time in its history the ACLU would become involved in partisan electoral politics, supporting candidates, referenda and other agenda-driven political goals.
The headline in the June 8, 2018 edition of The New Yorker tells it all: "The ACLU is getting involved in elections – and reinventing itself for the Trump Era." The article continues:
"In this midterm year, however, as progressive groups have mushroomed and grown more active, and as liberal billionaires such as Howard Schultz and Tom Steyer have begun to imagine themselves as political heroes and eye Presidential runs, the A.C.L.U., itself newly flush, has begun to move in step with the times. For the first time in its history, the A.C.L.U. is taking an active role in elections. The group has plans to spend more than twenty-five million dollars on races and ballot initiatives by Election Day, in November."
Since its establishment nearly 100 years ago, the ACLU has been, in the words of The New Yorker, "Fastidiously nonpartisan, so prudish about any alliance with any political power that its leadership, in the 1980's and 90's, declined even to give awards to likeminded legislators for fear that it might give the wrong impression." I know, because I served on its National Board in the early days of my own career. In those days, the Board consisted of individuals who were deeply committed to core civil liberties, especially freedom of speech, opposition to prosecutorial overreach and political equality. Its Board members included Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, right-wingers and left-wingers -- all of whom supported neutral civil liberties.
The key test in those days was what I have come to call "the shoe on the other foot test": would you vote the same way if the shoe were on the other foot, that is if the party labels were switched? Today the ACLU wears only one shoe and it is on its left foot. Its color is blue. And the only dispute is whether it supports the progressive wing of the Democratic party or its more centrist wing. There is little doubt that most Board members today support the progressive wing, though some think that even that wing is not sufficiently left. There is no longer any room in the ACLU for true conservatives who are deeply committed to neutral civil liberties. The litmus test is support for hard-left policies.
To be sure, the ACLU will still occasionally take a high-profile case involving a Nazi or Klan member who has been denied freedom of speech, though there are now some on the board who would oppose supporting such right-wing extremists. But the core mission of the ACLU -- and its financial priority -- is now to promote its left-wing agenda in litigation, in public commentary and now in elections.
If you want to know the reason for this shift, just follow the money. ACLU contributors, including some of its most generous contributors, are strong anti-Trump zealots who believe that the end (getting rid of Trump) justifies any means (including denying Trump and his associates core civil liberties and due process).
Anthony Romero, the current radical leftist who directs the ACLU, refers to those of us who favor the ACLU traditional mission as "the old guard." The leading critic of the ACLU's newfound partisan mission is Romero's predecessor, Ira Glasser who was the executive Director of the ACLU from 1978 until 2001. Glasser believes that this transformation in the way the ACLU has operated since 1920 "has the capacity to destroy the organization as it has always existed." Glasser points out that some of the greatest violations of civil liberties throughout history have come from "progressive politicians, such as President Franklin D. Roosevelt who interned 110,000 Japanese-American citizens. He worries, and I worry, that when the ACLU supports candidate's parties and partisan agendas, it will become less willing to criticize those who it has supported when they violate civil liberties.
The Presidency of Donald Trump has introduced a new dynamic. Trump himself has denied fundamental civil liberties by his immigration policies, his attitude and actions regarding the press, and his calls for criminal investigations of his political enemies. The ACLU will criticize those actions, as it should. But the Trump presidency has also pushed the ACLU further to the left and into partisan politics. President Trump is so despised by contributors to the ACLU that they have increased their contributions, but also demanded that the ACLU be on the forefront of ending the Trump presidency, either through impeachment, criminal prosecution or electoral defeat.
The move of the ACLU to the hard-left reflects an even more dangerous and more general trend in the United States: the right is moving further right; the left is moving father left; and the center is shrinking. The center-left is losing its influence in organizations like the ALCU, and the center-right is losing its influence in conservative organizations. America has always thrived at the center and has always suffered when extremes gain power.
The ACLU's move from the neutral protector of civil liberties to a partisan advocate of hard-left politics is both a symptom and consequence of this change. If America is to remain strong, its major institutions must move closer to the center and reject the extremes of both sides. If the ACLU does not return to its core values, a new organization must be created to champion those values.
Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law Emeritus at Harvard Law School and author of "Trumped Up, How Criminalization of Political Differences endangers Democracy."
**This article was first published in The Hill.
© 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.

Who Sanctions Russia? Not Germany.
Shoshana Bryen and Stephen Bryen/Gatestone Institute/June 14, 2018/
While claiming to be appalled by Russia's behavior in Syria, Germany continues to push trade not only with Russia, but with Russia's partner in the Syrian genocide, Iran.
A 2018 German intelligence report confirms that Iran is currently seeking nuclear technology in Germany.
Perhaps it would be better to leave the hypocritical Germany out in the hallway.
President Trump is taking flak for having introduced a subject to the G-7 meeting that our European friends wanted to keep under the table. Russia. The allies expressed horror when Mr. Trump said, "Why are we having a meeting without Russia? We have a world to run... We should have Russia at the negotiating table."
Aside from the hyperbole over who actually runs the world, his comment and the allied response are only shocking if one thinks the Europeans have been boycotting Russia. There are sanctions on Moscow since it illegally invaded and seized Ukraine and Crimea, but sanctions are one thing and trade is another. Germany leads the pack in trade with Russia.
This may have something to do with the fact that Germany, in particular but not only, stays warm in the winter with Russian natural gas meeting about 40% of its requirements.
This is an old story. The Reagan administration objected to Russian-European plans to build the natural gas Yamal Pipeline from Siberia to Germany from which gas would be distributed to much of Western Europe. The American position was that, In the middle of the Cold War, having the USSR control a majority of the supply of natural gas to Germany's industrial heartland would make it difficult for Germany to resist Russian political and military demands. But the Europeans wanted to sell Russia the machinery for the pipeline, making money as they mortgaged their energy future to Moscow.
After a bitter fight, the Yamal pipeline was partially blocked and only one strand of two was built. Post-Soviet, the Russians were able, with European support, to build the second strand. In the early 2000's Europe bought into yet another Russian-originated pipeline -- an undersea project called Nord Stream -- again providing manufacturing jobs and pipeline work for Europe as well as gas.
Early in 2018, Bloomberg reported, "Russia, which shipped some $38 billion of gas to its most lucrative markets in Europe last year, has diminished thoughts that other suppliers could ensure supplies in Europe anytime soon." Nord Stream, and its successor Nord Stream 2, will give Russia the same influence its predecessor, the USSR, would have had.
Russia is now a fine partner for Europe. The Vice President of the Bundestag Thomas Opperman said, "Nord Stream 2 is an important economic project, which we support and it should not be threatened by sanctions from third countries." Mrs. Merkel would agree, no doubt, not only for the warmth, but because the pipeline will enter Germany at Greifswald in the old East Germany, part of her constituency.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel greets Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 economic summit on July 7, 2017 in Hamburg, Germany. (Photo by Morris MacMatzen/Getty Images)
The underwater Nord Stream 2 will reduce the price of natural gas by about 40% compared to overland pipelines, benefitting Germany, the UK, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands -- among the countries most outspoken about the invasion of Ukraine. But to make Nord Stream 2 work, Gazprom has to get out of old contracts with Ukraine and Poland. Gazprom is presently suing Ukraine in the international arbitration court in Stockholm to cancel both its gas supply and transit contracts, stiffing Kiev. Ukraine won the first round, but Russia appealed. In the wake of the Ukrainian victory, the EU offered to "mediate" between the two.
Mediate away a favorable judgment for Ukraine? Isn't this whole Russia-boycott project about Putin's interference in Ukraine's march to democracy? Talk about collusion.
So, now that we are clear on Germany and the EU's interest in maintaining economic ties with Russia, consider why they are pretending to keep Putin out in the hallway. Russia, they say, is out because of its horrendous behavior in Ukraine, but -- while no additional sanctions have been imposed for Russian support for the Syrian war criminal regime of Bashar Assad (which may make Moscow complicit in war crimes) -- Syria is on European minds.
Germany, in particular, has had harsh words for Russia over its veto of 12 UN Security Council Resolutions on Syria. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters, "We can't go on like this... So, we're keeping up the political pressure on Russia and we'd like to increase it further. Getting Russia to change its behavior is a condition for solving the Syria conflict." Germany has backed allied air strikes on Syria as "necessary and appropriate."
While claiming to be appalled by Russia's behavior in Syria, however, Germany continues to push trade not only with Russia, but with Russia's partner in the Syrian genocide, Iran.
European firms raced to enter Iran under the terms of the 2015 JCPOA; American firms were less aggressive. But since the U.S. has withdrawn from the never-signed deal, major European companies have been winding down or winding up operations in Iran. At the same time, though, the EU has begun to update its " blocking statute," the most powerful response it has to prevent European companies from complying with impending Iran sanctions.
In what Mrs. Merkel has said is a bid to "protect European companies" in Iran, the statute will nullify in Europe punishment the U.S. imposes for sanctions violations and allows EU companies to sue for damages caused by leaving Iran for fear of U.S. sanctions.
So, the EU will use its leverage to keep companies in a country, Iran, that hangs gay people from cranes in the street, holds American hostages, threatens democratic Israel with annihilation, participates fully in the Syrian genocide, and actively seeks nuclear weapons and ballistic missile technology. And as Iran seeks military technology, Germany obliges.
In 2016, with government permission, the German company Krempel sold electronic press boards to Iranian companies. The German newspaper Bild reported that Krempel parts were discovered at the site of a Syrian government chemical attack on its civilian population. The Jerusalem Post said the technology was used in the rockets that delivered the chemicals. Krempel didn't deny it, telling Bild the company was "shocked" to find its product in Syria.
A 2018 German intelligence report confirms that Iran is currently seeking nuclear technology in Germany. Since the 2015 JCPOA, Germany, has been Iran's largest European trading partner: 2.9 billion euros in 2016 according to the German government and 3.6 billion euros in 2017. Interestingly, the trade goes only one way: in 2016, Germany exported 2.6 billion euros worth to Iran and took back only 300 million euros. According to Deutsche Welle, Germany imports dried fruits, pistachios, rugs and industrial raw materials from Iran and sends machinery and equipment, cars, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and medical products, and takes back
Chemicals, machinery, industrial raw materials for Iran's mullahs. What could go wrong?
In sum, then, President Trump's faux pas appears to be having the temerity to suggest that Russia -- a key German trading partner -- have a place at the table for international trade talks. Perhaps it would be better to leave the hypocritical Germany out in the hallway.
**Stephen Bryen is President of SDB Partners, LLC. Shoshana Bryen is Senior Director of The Jewish Policy Center.
© 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.

Sweden: "It's Fun to Build a Mosque"
Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/June 14/2018
The desire of Swedish authorities that the content of the Muslim call to prayer, also known as the Adhan, can be ignored and that the issue is only of noise levels is symptomatic of the way Swedish authorities in general approach the increasing Islamization of Sweden: that is continually to deny or ignore the scope of the problem.
In 1993, when the Catholic Church wanted to build a tower for ringing church bells in Växjö, the municipality advised the church to refrain, as the neighbors had complained that they would be bothered by church bells. Rinkeby subway station was recently categorized as a place too dangerous to work unless escorted by the police, due to the security risk created by stone-throwing and hostile gangs. Some Muslims in Sweden want to be able to broadcast public calls to prayer throughout the country. They have already succeeded in obtaining permission for this in three cities -- Botkyrka, Karlskrona and Växjö. "We want to have calls to prayer in more places. There are many Muslims who are Swedish citizens, who have the same rights as everyone else" said Avdi Islami, Press Officer of the Växjö Muslim Foundation, after the police recently gave permission for the Växjö mosque to make a roughly 4-minute-long prayer call every Friday around noon. A March poll of 1,000 Swedes showed that a majority of Swedes -- 60 percent -- are against public Muslim calls to prayer. "We do not consider the contents of the loudspeaker broadcast, but [only] the potential noise that it makes," said Magnus Rothoff, unit commander of the southern Swedish police region, in explaining the decision-making process of the police.
"Therefore, we chose to refer it to the municipality's environmental management, where there is expertise on the [noise] level that should apply. Then we came to the conclusion that we are not disturbed to the extent that one can make a different decision than to approve."
The municipality also did not consider the content of the call to prayer.
The desire of Swedish authorities that the content of the Muslim call to prayer, also known as the Adhan, can be ignored and that the issue is only of noise levels is symptomatic of the way Swedish authorities in general approach the increasing Islamization of Sweden: that is continually to deny or ignore the scope of the problem. The content of the Adhan prayer, from a Western point of view, is deeply problematic. Its purpose is not only a neutral call to prayer -- such as church bells, which consist only of musical notes. Here is the translation of the prayer: "Allah is the greatest (Allahu akbar). I testify that there is no God but Allah (Ashhadu anna la ila ill Allah). I testify that Mohammed is Allah's Prophet (Ashhadu anna Muhammadan rasul Allah). Come to prayer (Hayya alas salah). Come to security/salvation. Allah is the greatest (Allahu akbar). There is no God but Allah (La ilah ill Allah)". "Allahu akbar" means "Allah is greatest" or "Allah is greater " -- presumably meaning than other deities. In 1993, when the Catholic Church wanted to build a tower for ringing church bells in Växjö, the municipality advised the church to refrain, as the neighbors had complained that they would be bothered by church bells.
As recent decisions by Swedish authorities in Växjö and Karlskrona have undoubtedly created a legal precedent, however, Avdi Islami's wish to have calls to prayer from mosques all over Sweden is likely to succeed. The Swedish authorities, therefore, are themselves creating the conditions for further Islamization. Apart from wanting to spread the call to prayer to mosques all over Sweden, new mosques continue to be planned and built. In Rinkeby, a suburb of Stockholm, the construction of the Rinkeby Mosque is about to begin. With 18 domes and at an estimated 5,000 square meters --1500 of which are dedicated to the mosque, and the rest to a restaurant, classrooms and a library -- the mosque will be among Scandinavia's largest, comparable to the Malmö mega mosque, which opened in April 2017. The Rinkeby mosque, designed by the Swedish architect Johan Celsing, will be constructed by NCC, a major construction company in Sweden. The firm estimates that the complex should be ready in 2020 at a cost of around 100 million Swedish kroner ($11.4 million). "It's going to be fun to build a mosque, from a construction point of view," said Fredrik Anheim, Head of Division at NCC Building.
"For eight years, we have been trying to get funding, but now we are as close as you can get," said Ibrahim Bouraleh, Vice President of the Rinkeby Mosque Collection Foundation, who refutes claims that the mosque is being funded by foreign donors. The foundation, however, has only collected 3 million out of the 100 million Swedish kroner needed, so the question arises, who indeed is funding the project?
The organization behind the mosque is the Islamic Association of Järva (Islamiska förbundet i Järva), part of the Islamic Association in Sweden (Islamiska Förbundet i Sverige, IFSI), considered an organizational front for the Muslim Brotherhood. As IFSI clearly states (at the bottom of the linked page and in its statutes), it is a member of the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe (FIOE), which is generally acknowledged as an umbrella organization for local Muslim Brotherhood groups from all over Europe.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal in 2005, then-president of FIOE, Ahmet al-Rawi, said, when asked about ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, "We are interlinked with them with a common point of view. We have a good close relationship."
The area of the future mega mosque, Rinkeby, is considered an "especially vulnerable area" -- known as a no-go zone -- defined by the police as an area "characterized by a social problem and criminal presence that leads to a widespread unwillingness to participate in the judicial process and difficulties for the police to fulfill its mission. The situation is considered acute".
Rinkeby subway station was recently categorized as a place too dangerous to work unless escorted by the police, due to the security risk created by stone-throwing and hostile gangs.
Rinkeby subway station, in Stockholm, Sweden, was recently categorized as as a place too dangerous to work unless escorted by the police, due to the security risk created by stone-throwing and hostile gangs. (Image source: Tricia Wang/Flickr)
In December 2017, Lise Tamm, Head of the National Unit against International and Organized Crime, said, "Rinkeby is almost like a war zone. When the police work there, they work as the military defense would".
Sweden's Islamization of itself barrels on.
Judith Bergman is a columnist, lawyer and political analyst.
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Putin Is Costing Russia an Opportunity in Europe
Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg/June, 14/18
President Donald Trump’s contemptuous treatment of the US’s European allies has created a unique opportunity for warmer relations between the European Union and Russia. There’s just one very big obstacle: Vladimir Putin.
Post-Cold War Europe has anchored itself to the US, especially to its military might. More recently, however, these ties have increasingly had a downside, including pressure to take part in iffy American military adventures in the Middle East and Trump’s imperious demands that Europeans pay more for protection. The Trump administration gave Europeans every reason to doubt the president’s commitment to alliances and international rules as he pulled out of one painstakingly constructed deal after another. The most recent demonstration of the US’s perception of its new role on the continent came from the ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, who said he’s trying to “empower” right-wing forces in Europe.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called on Europeans to take their fate into their own hands, but that’s much easier said than done: The EU is unable to ensure its security, and the U.S. has a powerful influence over its financial system.
But imagine for a moment that Russia was a democratic nation run by a liberal government committed to the same deals as Europe, such as the Iran denuclearization agreement and WTO trade rule (if a specific image helps, picture President Alexei Navalny or President Boris Nemtsov sitting in the Kremlin). This Russia would still be a fearsome military power, but it would have a fast-growing, competitive economy that has turned its natural-resource wealth into a surge of innovation. This fantastical Russia -- which, of course, wouldn’t have invaded any neighboring countries -- would naturally offer itself as a more reliable partner to Europe than the US Europeans would be tempted to do a win-win deal, providing Russia with access to the enormous EU market in exchange for security cooperation, for example in setting up a European military. There would even be areas of immediate compatibility: Some Eastern European armies continue to use Russian-made and designed equipment.
Gradually, an alternative to the capricious US hegemony would emerge. The new superpower could compete in economic terms (the EU plus Russia would control about 27 percent of the combined GDP of the G-20, while the US would command 28 percent), military might, resource wealth and technological talent (Russia’s digital expertise would be used for peaceful purposes rather than to hack adversaries’ networks). Russia would be a much more logical partner for the EU than China, which is actively looking to step up cooperation with Europe because of Trump’s threatening behavior.
Putin senses the historic opportunity. At the recent St. Petersburg Economic Forum, which featured a group of national leaders who had been slighted by Trump, Putin half-joked to French President Emmanuel Macron: “Europe depends on the U.S. for security. But don’t worry about that, we’ll help, we’ll provide security.”
In an interview with the Austrian TV channel ORF on Monday, Putin went out of his way to assure Europeans that he wasn’t out to undermine the EU, if only because Russia keeps 40 percent of its international reserves in euros: “We want to see a united and prosperous European Union, because the European Union is our biggest trade and economic partner. The more problems there are within the European Union, the greater the risks and uncertainties for us.”
But Putin is incapable of delivering an alternative to the US, just because he is who he is -- a thuggish, dissembling authoritarian ruler. That’s why Macron bristled at the Putin quip, saying that France could protect itself and that it had obligations to its European allies. That’s why Putin’s pitch left his Austrian interviewer, Armin Wolf, unimpressed. The journalist proceeded to grill him about Ukraine, his support of the Assad regime in Syria and the suppression of the opposition in Russia.
Putin’s record of aggression, his habitual evasions, the difficult-to-explain wealth of his friends and the obvious plight of his political opponents make a European rapprochement impossible. “Both hardliners and Russia-friendly voices in the EU tend to equate dialogue and engagement with compromise and even appeasement,” Andras Racz and Kristi Raik wrote in a recent report for the Estonia-based International Center for Defense and security.
There’s more stigma attached to appeasing Putin than to appeasing Trump. One reason is that waiting for the Trump presidency to be over looks like a better strategy than waiting for a post-Putin Russia that would align with European values. There’s a chance the next US president wouldn’t be much better than Trump. On the other hand, it’s not clear Putin intends to cede power when his current term ends in 2024. He wouldn’t give Wolf a straight answer.
Russia and Europe are natural allies for a multitude of geographic, economic, cultural and military reasons. This was widely acknowledged during Russia’s brief experiment with freedom in the 1990s, even if European leaders had few reasons then to seek alternatives to the US or to draw a destitute, messy Russia into the EU’s orbit.
Of all the misdeeds history will lay at Putin’s door, this one will probably be judged the most profoundly damaging to Russia’s true national interests. Even if Russia changes course after he’s gone, an opportunity for a union with Europe like the opening provided by Trump’s anti-European policies may not present itself again for a long time.

Can We Be Optimistic About Singapore?
Robert Ford/Asharq Al-Awsat/June, 14/18
On Tuesday we watched the big political show as American President Donald Trump met with People’s Democratic Republic of Korea President Kim Jung Un in Singapore. A year ago Last year Trump and Kim were threatening to launch nuclear war against the other. Now they will smile and shake hands and talk for hours. We just saw the summit of the big Western countries in Canada that was supposed to be relatively easy explode. What happened with the more difficult summit between Trump and Kim Jung Un ?
The United States already has a long experience negotiating with North Korea without success. The former American ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, who is close to Barak Obama, asked on twitter, “How can Trump reach a deal about North Korean nuclear weapons if he cannot even negotiate a simple deal about trade of milk products with our friends in Canada?”
The Singapore meeting, however, is not about a final deal. American President Trump acknowledged that he didn’t prepare for the meeting very much. Other presidents I have seen had big folders full of briefing papers with complicated details. Donald Trump is not interested in details. For Trump, the meeting is about his personal relationship with the North Korean leader. Trump told the American media that he works mainly by instinct. He said that he will know in five minutes whether it will be possible to achieve with time a final agreement with Kim Jung Un. His final analysis to the American people was “We will see what happens.”
If the American-North Korean meetings are good, we next will see the launch of a long negotiating process. Starting that negotiating process would be a good step because continued negotiations and communication between experts and diplomats should reduce tension in the Korean Peninsula.
Kim Jung Un fears an American attack against his regime. The security guarantees he wants would go together with a peace treaty but what do the expressions “peace treaty” and “security guarantees” really mean? For the Americans, a peace treaty is to replace the 1953 truce that stopped the fighting of the Korean War. North Korea thinks a peace treaty means all the American forces in South Korea would leave. North Korea also wants American nuclear forces in Asia that could hit North Korea in retaliation for a North Korean attack to be removed. Are South Korea, Japan and the United States ready for this? And what is the role of China with respect to security guarantees in the Korean Peninsula?
The Americans want the complete elimination of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and a strong system of inspections and verification in North Korea. Would this include missiles – as Washington said the Iran nuclear weapons agreement should also include? Is North Korea ready to destroy all its missiles and accept international inspections without warning at any place and at any time? Is North Korea going to accept Trump administration conditions that Iran refused?
And perhaps most important if there are future negotiations, who is responsible to make the first concession? Will North Korea accept in principle the complete elimination of its nuclear weapons program and take some small, initial concrete steps or will it insist that the Americans first make concessions and take concrete steps with regard to security guarantees? These are the kinds of details in the briefing books that Trump didn’t read. Those are the kinds of details which North Korea and America must still discover a means to resolve.
When I was a young diplomat in 1986, President Ronald Reagan met the leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev in the Iceland capital Rekyavik. The summit was arranged quickly to discuss nuclear weapons and disarmament. Reagan, like Trump, didn’t like details, and before his arrival in Iceland there was no agreement between the American and Russian negotiators. There were two days of intense, difficult talks between Reagan and Gorbachev. Their summit ended without any agreement and Reagan and Gorbachev each blamed the other for the failure.
But history shows that the Rekyavik summit in the end was not a failure really. Instead, Reagan and Gorbachev developed a personal relationship; they talked openly with each other. And they discovered that they both wanted to reduce nuclear weapons even if their negotiators hadn’t agreed on the details. In 1987 and 1991 Washington and Moscow signed important nuclear arms agreements whose origin was the summit in Rekyavik.
Trump is no Ronald Reagan of course. The G-7 countries summit in Canada would never have exploded as it did on Sunday if Ronald Reagan was the American president now. Trump is, however, happy to be at the center of the political stage where he thinks he is a great leader. We will see what happens.

We’re Worrying about the Wrong Kind of AI
Mark Buchanan/Bloomberg/June, 14/18
No computer has yet shown features of true human-level artificial intelligence much less conscious awareness. Some experts think we won't see it for a long time to come. And yet academics, ethicists, developers and policy-makers are already thinking a lot about the day when computers become conscious; not to mention worries about more primitive AI being used in defense projects.
Now consider that biologists have been learning to grow functioning “mini brains” or “brain organoids” from real human cells, and progress has been so fast that researchers are actually worrying about what to do if a piece of tissue in a lab dish suddenly shows signs of having conscious states or reasoning abilities. While we are busy focusing on computer intelligence, AI may arrive in living form first, and bring with it a host of unprecedented ethical challenges.
In the 1930s, the British mathematician Alan Turing famously set out the mathematical foundations for digital computing. It's less well known that Turing later pioneered the mathematical theory of morphogenesis, or how organisms develop from single cells into complex multicellular beings through a sequence of controlled transformations making increasingly intricate structures. Morphogenesis is also a computation, only with a genetic program controlling not just 0s and 1s, but complex chemistry, physics and cellular geometry.
Following Turing's thinking, biologists have learned to control the computation of biological development so accurately that lab growth of artificial organs, even brains, is no longer science fiction. A typical example of what's being done is the organoids recently grown in the lab of biologist Sergiu Pasca and colleagues from Stanford University. They started with stem cells, which have the remarkable ability to develop into any cell type in the human body, including brain cells. Put a collection of these in a dish, add the right molecular signaling factors to initiate development, and they will grow, divide and differentiate into an array of cells with distinct functions, the mass self-organizing into something like real brain tissue. After developing in culture for about 10 weeks, the resulting brain organoid displayed functional characteristics of the cerebral cortex of a mostly developed human fetus, including neurons with spontaneous electrical activity and working synapses.
Of course it lacks real brain size and other kinds of specialized cells found in real brains, including blood cells, and cells able to sense the external world, but such things won't be too far away. The aim of this research is to better understand human neurological and psychiatric disorders, which are hard to study in real patients. Research on treatments would be much easier in model brains grown to closely mimic the brains of people with specific brain disorders.
But the closer these organoids come to being like real brains, the more this research approaches an ethical crossroads. Technology that unthinkingly tramples over moral boundaries risks public rejection. Hence, researchers are openly discussing the ethical challenges likely to arise. Almost no one thinks a single cell is conscious, and today's organoids aren't either, but there's a continuous arc of increasing complexity that technology looks certain to traverse on the way to fully realistic human brains. What if a cherry-sized organoid of 10 million neural cells gains awareness of itself, or shows signs of distress? At what point does it become clear that organoids have crossed the boundary into beings deserving of rights, or warranting the appointment of a legal guardian?
Right now, no one even knows how to reliably measure attributes of consciousness or thought in a piece of neural matter. We can do so in real brains, but what about things that are only partially like brains? Things may get weirder still with bits of artificial brain tissue implanted into the brains of other organisms, resulting in chimeras – organisms not fully of any one species, but part human and part mouse, pig or dog. Like AI based on computing, this research is racing ahead at alarming speed. We need a few more minds thinking about where it's likely to end up.

War with Israel would be a fatal blow for Iranian regime
الدكتور مجيد رفيع زاده/الحرب مع إسرائيل سوف تكون ضربة مميتة للنظام الإيراني

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/June 15/18
Tensions between Israel and the Islamic Republic of Iran have reached an unprecedented level. Relations between the Iranian regime and Israel are at breaking point not only because of tough rhetoric, but also due to the heightened geopolitical, military and strategic tensions between the two countries.
For the first time since Iran’s clerical establishment assumed power in 1979, the two old rivals recently engaged in military combat in a third country: Syria, Iran’s staunchest ally. Last month, Iranian forces used Syria’s backyard to attack and bombard Israel with rockets. The next day, Israel responded by targeting the military bases of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Syria.
Iranian leaders, including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the senior cadre of the IRGC and its various military branches, have long claimed that they have the capability to destroy Israel. Most recently, Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami, commander-in-chief of the IRGC, said that any military war between Iran and Israel would result in the latter’s annihilation. To come out triumphant in such a battle, the Commander-in-Chief of Iran’s army, Maj. Gen. Abdolrahim Mousavi, said: “The army will move hand-in-hand with the IRGC so that the arrogant system will collapse and the Zionist regime will be annihilated.”
Putting aside the rhetoric of its leaders, can Iran win a direct and fully fledged military war with Israel? To answer this question, the military capabilities of the two nations ought to be meticulously examined.
The Iranian regime boasts about its manpower, and views the size of the country and its population as an advantage. Iran’s population is roughly 10 times larger than that of Israel: Iran has a population of 80 million, while Israel’s is about 8 million. Iran’s surface area is approximately 80 times bigger than Israel, at about 1.7 million square kilometers compared to Israel’s 22,000.
When it comes to manpower, Iran’s active and reserve personnel is approximately 1 million, while Israel’s is roughly 650,000. It is believed that Israel could conscript up to 3 million soldiers if needed, while the total manpower available for Iran is about 47 million, which is considered to be the largest national available manpower in the Middle East.
But it is important to point to three crucial caveats here. First of all, Iran cannot totally rely on its available manpower because many young people are disaffected and disenchanted with the regime. Recent protests are strong indications of the youth’s disenchantment with Iranian politicians. Roughly 60 percent of Iran’s population is under the age of 30. Not only may the youth not join the regime’s forces in a war with Israel, but they may view the war as an opportunity to rise up and overthrow the theocracy from within. This could pose a significant threat for the ruling mullahs, as it would mean they would have to fight two battles at the same time if they go to war with Israel.
More importantly, the nature of modern warfare has altered dramatically in the last few decades, in the sense that the most important issue is which country has the more advanced combat and military technology. Third, since the two countries do not share a border, manpower becomes less of a key factor. As a result, the most important elements are the air force, air defense systems and their related advances in technology.
Putting aside the rhetoric of its leaders, can Iran win a direct and fully fledged military war with Israel? When it comes to advancements in military technology, there is no comparison between Tel Aviv and Tehran, because Israel is considerably superior. The Israeli Air Force is considered to be one of the best in the world, partially due to the combat experience of its pilots, who have operated in various wars. Israel’s technologically advanced fighter jets, such as the F-4 Phantom II, F-15, and F-35 Lightning II, are much superior to Iran’s jets, which were either bought from the US before the 1979 revolution or obtained from Russia.
Another criteria to measure military capability is linked to the nations’ defense systems. While Iran has recently obtained the Russian-made S-300 system, Israel relies on three sophisticated systems: The Iron Dome, the US-made Patriot system, and the Magic Wand missile interception system.
Finally, the game-changer is linked to Israel’s nuclear capabilities. It is believed that Israel has about 80 nuclear warheads, which can be delivered through ballistic missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles (known as drones), or combat aircraft.
Although Iran boasts of its military capabilities and threatens that it can easily annihilate Israel, it has no chance of winning a direct military war. The Iranian leaders are indeed aware of such a fact, as they have resorted to using proxies and third countries to target Israel for almost four decades. Iranian leaders are cognizant of the fact that any direct war with Israel would be a fatal blow to the regime and would endanger the hold on power of the mullahs.
*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