ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani
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Bible Quotations For it is God’s will that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish
Lebanon’s Foreign Ministry Denies U.S. Magazine Report
Naharnet/June 17/18/Lebanon’s Foreign Ministry on Sunday slammed as “unfounded” allegations published in the American Foreign Policy magazine claiming that Hassan Hijazi, the Lebanese charge d’affairs in Asunción, Paraguay is attempting to block the extradition of an alleged Hizbullah financier to the United States, the Ministry said in a statement.“An article published in the FP magazine, in which the charge d’affairs in the Embassy of Lebanon in Paraguay, Hassan Hijazi, is accused of obstructing the return of a citizen to the United States on charges of drug trafficking and laundering of funds for Hizbullah is inaccurate," the Ministry said in the statement. The statement added “the duty of the diplomat is to follow up the consular affairs of the community. The content of the article, linking the intervention of the Chargé d'Affaires and Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil to the case are unfounded and irrelevant to reality.” The Ministry urged “media outlets to stick to accuracy before publishing any piece of information.”FP magazine published an article on June 15 alleging that the “Lebanese Embassy in Paraguay is attempting to block the extradition of Hizbullah financier Nader Mohamad Farhat.”It claimed that on “May 17, Paraguayan authorities arrested Farhat for his role in an alleged $1.3 million drug money laundering scheme. Farhat is alleged to be a member of the Business Affairs Component, the branch of Hizbullah’s External Security Organization in charge of running overseas illicit finance and drug trafficking operations.”
“U.S. authorities want to extradite Farhat,” it added, alleging that “Hijazi has sent a letter to Paraguay’s attorney general intimating that he should reject the U.S. request to extradite Farhat.”
Report: Bids to Calm PSP-FPM Rhetoric
Naharnet/June 17/18/Several efforts have reportedly been made to suppress a new political row between Lebanon’s political parties, this time between the Progressive Socialist Party and the Free Patriotic Movement, reports said Sunday. “Sources involved in the formation of the new government,” reportedly told pan-Arab al-Hayat daily that some ministers have made “intensive contacts” with PSP, FPM and Mustaqbal officials in a bid to “de-escalate growing tension on a number of files, most notably the disagreements as per their shares and representation in the upcoming Cabinet.”They said senior political sources of the Mustaqbal Movement have made the contacts with FPM and PSP officials.On Friday, Druze leader and PSP head Walid Jumblat said the tenure of President Michel Aoun (FPM founder) has been a "failure. His tweet is linked to the latest row over Syrian refugees and the calls for returning them to their country, as well to Aoun’s disapproval of Jumblat’s demand to allocate the whole Druze share in the Cabinet for the PSP, which distances Druze MP Talal Arslan --of the FPM’s Strong Lebanon bloc-- from the equation. FPM ministers were quick to snap back at Jumblat. Caretaker Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil lashed at him saying “the Lebanese are witnesses to your failure and corruption in all the files you handled.” FPM Caretaker Justice Salim Jreissati described Jumblat’s comments on Saturday as “suspicious” in terms of timing after his return from Saudi Arabia.
Foreign Ministry says article published on "Foreign
Policy" magazine inaccurate
Sun 17 Jun 2018/NNA - Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants issued on Sunday a statement rejecting the article published in the "Foreign Policy" magazine, in which it accused the Acting Chargé d'Affaires at the Lebanese Embassy in Paraguay, Hassan Hijazi, of "obstructing the return of a citizen to the United States on charges of drug trafficking and money laundering for Hezbollah."The Foreign Ministry pointed out that "it is the duty of a diplomat to pursue the consular affairs of the Lebanese community."The statement also staunchly rejected contents of the article linking the intervention of Acting Charge d'Affaires Hijazi and Foreign Affairs and Emigrants Minister Gibran Bassil in this respect. Finally, the Ministry concluded its statement by urging local and foreign media "to be accurate [when publishing any news] and check with the Ministry to clarify any related information prior to publication."
Pharaon says risk of surrendering to corruption great, calls for dialogue, strong life pulse
Sun 17 Jun 2018/NNA - Caretaker State Minister for Planning Affairs Michel Pharaon pointed to the great risk of surrendering to corruption and intimidation, highlighting the need for continuous dialogue and a strong pulse of life. Speaking at the inauguration of the "Live Ashrafieh" Festival taking place for the eighth year in a row with the support of the Beirut Municipality, Pharaon called on the Lebanese to have "strong faith and adherence to all the values of civilization that distinguish us and prevent us from giving up our rights, and push us to look up, reminding us of our message in this region and the world.""Every festival highlights a region, its opportunities and its development, security, economic and cultural needs...and in the Ashrafieh region there is movement, civilization and opportunity, yet its needs are also great," he added. "Many projects have been delayed, but thanks to the joint effort by the Municipality of Beirut, Governor Ziad Shbib and its Municipal Council head and members, projects have begun and are ready for implementation in the coming months, and we will follow-up on them all," vowed Pharaon.
Lebanese Army receives third batch of 'Bradley' armored vehicles
Sun 17 Jun 2018/NNA - The Lebanese Army received Sunday the third batch of armored fighting vehicles of "Bradley' model (eight in total), within the framework of the US military assistance program for the Army.
Geagea during an election honoring ceremony in Marjayoun: Country is in need of your work and efforts
Sun 17 Jun 2018/NNA - "The country is in need of your work and efforts," said Lebanese Forces Party Chief Samir Geagea, addressing partisans during a dinner banquet in honor of LF's electoral machine in Marjayoun Casa on Saturday evening. In his recorded message, Geagea commended the Party's electoral machine for the honorable outcome achieved in the recent parliamentary elections in the "Nabatieh-Bint Jbeil-Marjayoun-Hasbaya" district, in which citizens practiced their legal and democratic right. "There can be no sound society without a real democratic political life," stressed Geagea. "I believe that the electoral battle is not over but has actually started, and this year was just a glimpse of a full political life to be witnessed in the months and years to come," he added. "The country needs your efforts, especially in these delicate and difficult circumstances...It needs the best and sovereign people with clean hands, even if scarce, and requires continuous work," Geagea concluded. In turn, Caretaker Deputy Prime Minister, Public Health Minister Ghassan Hasbani, who attended the event, delivered a word in which he urged citizens and partisans to work relentlessly to build a strong and capable State for the future generations. "When you say that you are the children of this land, this means that you have a duty towards it, and it is your responsibility to take care of it, to remain deeply-rooted in it and to ensure its growth and development...and to be a role model of partnership, coexistence, cooperation and openness for all those who want to build this land," said Hasbani.
Riachy patronizes graduation ceremony for Lycee Charlemagne students in Roumieh
Sun 17 Jun 2018/NNA - Caretaker Information Minister Melhem Riachy's Advisor, Emile Geagea, indicated Saturday that "the responsibility falls on the government to help postgraduate students find job opportunities to build their future in Lebanon instead of pushing them to emigrate."
Geagea's words came as he represented Minister Riachy at a graduation ceremony for the Lycee Charlemagne students in Roumieh, attended by MP Elias Hankash and representative of the French Embassy, Educational Advisor Serge Tillman.
Geagea pointed out that Minister Riachy always sought during his tenure at the Ministry to "develop the concept of information and speak the language of the youth by turning the Ministry of Information into the Ministry of Communication and Dialogue, so that it can become a platform for youth through which they can communicate with authorities to identify their problems and concerns."Finally, French Embassy Representative Tillman delivered a word in which he lauded the historical friendship between France and Lebanon, particularly in the cultural and educational fields.
Former Grand Mufti Of
Lebanon Sheikh Qabbani: The Jews Who Came Following The Balfour Declaration Must
Return To Where They Came From Or 'Meet Their Fate'; Jews Placed 'In A Position
Harsher Than The Holocaust... If That Holocaust Was Real'
Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani, the former grand mufti of Lebanon, said that "one day, the Jews of the Balfour Declaration will have to choose whether to go back to where they came from or to meet their fate here." He further said that their situation in Palestine is "harsher than the Holocaust that Hitler perpetrated against them," adding: "if that Holocaust was real, as they claim." The interview aired on Mayadeen TV on June 7.
Mohammed Rashid Qabbani: "The way I see it, there is only one solution for Palestine, and it is not related to the various blood fatwas. The only solution is for the Jews of the Balfour Declaration to return to where they or their parents came from. That day will come.
"I have said this to the British and U.S. ambassadors, when they were visiting the religious authorities [in Lebanon]. I was the Grand Mufti back then. I met them separately, but told them the same thing. I said to them: 'You in the West have placed the Jews of the world in a position harsher than the Holocaust that Hitler perpetrated against them' – I mean, if that Holocaust was real, as they claim, or if it is cast in doubt."
Mohammed Rashid Qabbani: "Their situation in Palestine is harsher than the Holocaust, because the day will come when those Jews of the Balfour Declaration will face a choice... There is no problem with the Arab Jews. They are from Palestine. The Jews, Christians, and Muslims of Palestine are all the sons of Palestine, but one day, the Jews of the Balfour Declaration will have to choose whether to go back to where they came from or to meet their fate here."
Iran and the American-Russian pincer from Syria to
Ali Al-Amin/Al Arabiya/June 17/18
While Russian-Israeli communications are still active for setting up a ground agreement in south of Syria, a new factor has emerged in relation to the Lebanese border with occupied Palestine. Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has revealed that the United States proposed to arrange negotiations between Lebanon and Israel over the border dispute between them. The new highlight of these communications is not the principle of negotiating with Israel over the maritime borders that has caused conflict between the two countries for years and dominated the media headlines as Lebanon prepares to extract oil from the sea and specifically from blocks near the borders and which are disputed with Israel.
The new element is that Israel has suggested that to demarcate all land and sea borders, including those close to the Shebaa farms, which were undetermined after Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 and were kept under the occupation authority that demanded both Lebanon and Syria should agree on the ownership of the territory in order to withdraw from it. If these areas are Syrian, then they would come under UN Resolution 242 provisions, and if they are Lebanese, then they would fall under Resolution 425 which Israel has alleged it executed.
Lebanon and Syria haven’t been successful in finalizing this dispute over the Shebaa Farms. The status of this territory remains undetermined for many reasons that have to do with strategic interests related to Hezbollah’s arms. It is in favor of Syria and Iran to keep this dispute over the Shebaa Farms to justify the incomplete implementation of international resolutions related to confiscating illegal arms, in reference to Hezbollah’s arms, according to Resolutions 1559 and 1701.
Today, there are high level communications being carried out to resolve the problem of demarcating the borders between Lebanon and Israel starting from the Shebaa Farms. Western diplomatic sources in Beirut point out that Israel has sent messages to Lebanon through more than one party indicating that it is ready to draw the border and solve this point of dispute with Lebanon. These sources emphasize that Tel Aviv is working on two non-conflicting lines, one through Washington and the other through Moscow. The latter has invested into extracting gas from the sea, thus supporting an agreement between Israel and Lebanon to draw the maritime border. The second line is through Washington where a State Department team has been communicating with the two countries for months to set up a meeting to discuss an agreement to draw borders.
Russian pressure on Iran
Berri’s recent announcement about the land and sea borders included the condition that the negotiations are conducted under the auspices of the United Nations. What’s happening in southern Syria and the diplomatic communications regarding Lebanon’s southern border show that there are Israeli efforts to not separate reaching understandings under Russian supervision with Lebanon and Syria. Furthermore, Israel hopes to go back to the cease-fire agreement that it had with Syria after the 1973 war and which enabled it to calmly control Golan. In this sense, Russia aims to forge this agreement by having the Syrian army gain influence in areas next to the Golan, and without any Iranian presence. This marks an intersection point between Israel and Russia and responds to the path of rehabilitating the Syrian regime both regionally and internationally.
In this context, Iran appears to be in an unenviable position, and Hezbollah is aware that withdrawing from Syria will influence its control over the border issue with Israel. Hezbollah is thus aware that it will have to take decisive options in the near future. Hezbollah’s adopted strategy in shielding itself in Lebanon in conditional on maintaining trust with Russia. Israel, which has succeeded to a great extent in building confidence with Russia on Syrian affairs related to its security, seems more reassured today regarding the future of demarcating borders with Lebanon , especially since the Russian-American intersection in this issue pertaining to Israel's borders and security is based on what Israel sees fit. This makes Lebanon in danger of being left out of any international protection if the Lebanese position seems indifferent in resolving its border issue with Israel and is unresponsive to the Israeli offer that seems strong as long as it appears willing to finalize the border conflict with Lebanon starting with the Shebaa Farms after determining its ownership between Lebanon and Syria.
Iran’s moment of truth
Lebanese and other Western diplomatic sources agree that the agreement being drafted regarding South Syria under Russia’s supervision will not be separate from the border demarcation agreement between Lebanon and Israel. Therefore the activity along Israel’s northern border is not separate from limiting Iranian influence in Syria first and in Lebanon next. Iran will not easily accept being put into a corner in these two countries, so we cannot really say that the Israeli aspirations regarding its security arrangements on its northern border are going at a steady pace, even if the general framework has been internationally set up under the auspices of the United States and Russia. Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah who is starting to realize the dangers of withdrawing his party and the Iranian militias from Syria after scarifying a lot to preserve the Syrian regime, announced in his last speech on the occasion of Jerusalem Day that only President Bashar al Assad, and no one else, can impose the withdrawal from Syria. This came after skirmishes happened between Hezbollah and Russian forces in Syrian areas in the region of Qalamun near the borders with Lebanon, and in the course of a Russian path that is becoming clearer day after day and that is calling for the withdrawal of Iranian militias from Syria.
Iran and Hezbollah have very few options left. Today, they can either both escape forward by opening a military confrontation with Israel – a confrontation that everyone knows it will not be limited to Syria but will also include Lebanon. Or they can make concessions that ensure the implementation of most Israeli conditions. This latter option also entails difficulties for Hezbollah and Iran if they both cede to the importance of respecting strategic commitments that are related to the formal recognition of Israel's security on its northern border.
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who in the past has been successful in conveying the Iranian point of view pertaining to Lebanon in his own way to those concerned at the international level, was keen to underline a few days ago and in unprecedented position that the withdrawal of Hezbollah and Iran from Syria would not take place before the liberation of Syria. Some observers said this reflects that Iran’s state of desperation due to international and regional pressures in Syria. On the other hand, Berri, who conveys an Iranian and hence a Hezbollah message, seeks not to link any agreement between southern Syria and southern Lebanon, even if this would put the border problem with Israel on hold along with the gas extraction project which he had hopes for to improve the Lebanese economy.
What power is left for Lebanon’s Prime Minister?
Eyad Abu Shakra/Al Arabiya/June 17/18
It is quite normal for an ambitious politician to exploit internal political imbalance to his/her advantage; especially, in a fragile state that lacks proper institutions and traditions of accountability.
Furthermore, it is not strange in the Arab world that a large sector of the population has become religiously extremist and overtaken by desire of defeating and suppressing those it regards as enemies; nor is it rare in the ‘Third World’ that one sect or group monopolizes patriotism, civilization, national ‘resistance’, even being close to God Almighty, to the extent of giving itself exclusive rights and freedoms that it claims are taboos to others. Still, what happened in Lebanon recently has been truly noteworthy. Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil, decided on his own, as if he was not a cabinet member, to declare war on the UNCHR (a UN agency) after he accused it of “inciting Syrian refugees based in Lebanon to refuse to return home, through scaring them of what is in store for them in Syria if they did!”. This, as far as I can make out, is unprecedented! Yes, the same UN which we have seen how its envoy to Syria ‘undersold’ the Syrian people since his unfortunate appointment to the post in July 2014, is now being accused by Bassil of inciting the refugees not to return home while Assad regime remains in power. The UN, in fact, has been since July 2014 almost a ‘false witness’ to the conspiracy of systematic uprooting and displacement of 13 million Syrians carried out after a series of massacres committed by the military forces of the regime and its allies. Yet the Lebanese minister thinks that the UNHCR needs to ‘scare’ the refugees from a regime they have experienced its ‘interaction’ with its people since 2011!
On the other hand, the minister knows that the UN knows that he and the party he leads – i.e., the ‘Free Patriotic Movement’ (The Aounists) – are ‘allies’ of Hezbollah whose active participation in the Syrian war was a main cause of the refugees’ plight. Indeed, the ongoing ‘alliance’ between Hezbollah and Bassil’s Party, forced on the Lebanese the ‘election of General Michel Aoun as president of Lebanon, and that Aoun – Bassil’s father-in-law – was among the first leaders to declare their support of Assad, in accordance with the ‘alliance’. Moreover, both the UN and the Lebanese people are quite aware of the overt and unabated contacts between the Lebanese coalition that includes Aoun and Bassil – of course, is led by Hezbollah – and the Assad regime, among which the communications between Bassil and the regime’s counterpart Walid Al-Moallem. Thus, if one may give the UN the benefit of the doubt with regard to the fate of the refugees, this does not apply to a minister who leads a party that is a member of an openly pro – Assad coalition, and is actively backing it in the conflict!
Assad cronies and henchmen
As if this was not enough, the overall scene became even more ‘surrealistic’ after the naturalization ‘scandal’, whereby a large number of Assad cronies, henchmen, financial backers and front men were granted the Lebanese citizenship; while some in the Lebanese government are sparing no effort in expelling poor helpless refugees and displaced under the pretext of ‘preventing resettlement’ of Syrians! The Assad cronies and henchmen still have the palaces, money and influence in Syria and hence are not threatened by a regime that they serve, and enjoy its protection, which is a far cry from the tent-dwelling displaced who have lost everything but fear and hunger.
Unlike global businessmen and wealthy people who are usually granted citizenship in several countries all over the world in return for previous proof of investment, there are no guarantees that Assad’s cronies and henchmen are going to invest in Lebanon. Indeed, among many of these are suspects or people accused internationally of crimes of corruption, including bribary and dubious deals. As such it was necessary to wonder about the reasons for a naturalization bill prepared secretly and only came to light officially after a media and political onslaught. Even then, the ‘clarification’ included in official reaction was self-defeating as it stated that the suspects’ names would be referred to the Directorate of Internal Security which would carry out the required ‘investigations’, although the conventional wisdom would have been to investigate before signing the naturalization bill.
What is known so far is that the naturalization bill carried the signatures of Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri and his political ally Interior Minister Nuhad Al-Mashnouq, in addition to President Michel Aoun. Therefore, Hariri and Mashnouq share the moral and political responsibility for such a bill. Both Hariri and Mashnouq, although now politically close to Aoun, still claim to be against the Syrian regime. On the other hand, sources with Hariri’s Future Movement’ accuse certain elements with Aoun’s and Bassil’s FPM to have been the driving force behind the naturalization bill, and that the Prime Minister and his Interior Minister are not connected to it, but they only signed it because they did not want to appear to deny the President one of his constitutional rights, among which is granting nationality or citizenship.
This may well be true; however, the problem with such excuse is that while Hariri is so keen to uphold the President’s constitutional rights and privileges, the Aounists are doing their best to belittle and cut down the Prime Minister’s rights and privileges in what seems to be a ‘silent but serious accelerated coup’.
Many Lebanese feel today that the post of Prime Minister is back to what it was before ‘The Taif Accords’; i.e., a powerless valueless post, as the President insists on attending all ministerial meetings, and nibble either directly or indirectly – through the FPM ministers and MPS – at the Prime Minister status and role. In this context, the Foreign Minister flagrant disregard and disrespect to the cabinet’s collective responsibility and solidarity is not actually new. He has been doing this for some time now buoyed by the President’s support, Hezbollah’s de facto security hegemony, and Hariri’s declaration that his solid political strategy is now based on ‘stability’ and ‘moderation’! The strategy of ‘stability’ and ‘moderation’ has been the ‘weird’ justification used by Hariri for ‘following’ Aoun, voting for him in the Presidential elections, and agreeing on his choice (and Hezbollah’s choice) of an electoral law based on proportional representation. In reality, Harari has accepted that his only role in government is now to seek foreign aid while the ‘Aounists’ – and Hezbollah, in the background – take the important strategic, political and military decisions in Lebanon.
This, regardless of Hariri’s good intentions, is nothing short of yielding to the clear-cut conspiracy to undermine ‘The Taif Accords’, destroy national consensus, and get rid of Lebanon’s last chance of true co-existence.
on June 17-18/18
Woman injures two people in SE France
Sun 17 Jun 2018/NNA - A woman injured two people with a cutter by shouting "Allahu akbar" Sunday in France's southeast department of Var, French media reported, adding that the suspect was under custody now. A woman dressed in black assaulted a customer at a supermarket in the town of La Seyne-sur-Mer in Var at around 10 a.m. (local time) Sunday, slightly wounding the chest, while a cashier was also hurt slightly, reported French TV channel BFMTV. The customer has been hospitalized and is currently out of danger, it reported. The suspect was quickly controlled by the supermarket staff, BFMTV said, adding that she would be a French born in 1994, and she would be unknown to the intelligence services. A search of the woman's home was underway Sunday afternoon, to know whether "she has links or not with Daesh," said BFMTV. --- Xinhuanet
Taliban Says Will Not Extend Afghan Ceasefire
Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 17 June, 2018/The Taliban announced on Sunday that it will not extend a three-day ceasefire in Afghanistan, saying the fighting will resume. "The ceasefire ends tonight and our operations will begin. We have no intention to extend the ceasefire," spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP in a WhatsApp message. His comments come after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced Saturday a government truce with the militants would be extended. He asked the group to reciprocate. The first formal, nationwide ceasefire in the country since the 2001 US invasion had been met with jubilation across the country as Afghans -- Taliban, security forces and civilians -- celebrated Eid, the holiday that caps the fasting month of Ramadan. Later on Sunday, an explosion outside the governor's office in the eastern province of Nangarhar killed 10 people and wounded 30, a security official said. Earlier, Najibullah Kamawal, director of the health department in Nangarhar, announced that the death toll from a suicide bombing against a gathering of Taliban fighters celebrating the ceasefire had risen to 36. Another 65 people were wounded in Saturday's attack. The ISIS group, which was not included in the ceasefire and has clashed with the Taliban in the past, claimed responsibility for the attack.
South Korea, US Expected to Suspend Military Drills Next Week
Asharq Al Awsat/June,17/18/South Korea and the United States will announce next week the suspension of “large-scale” military drills this week, reported the Yonhap news agency on Sunday. Citing an unnamed government source, the South Korean news agency said the suspension was likely to affect only major joint exercises, not more routine military training. They would restart if North Korea failed to keep its promise to denuclearize, it added. US President Donald Trump surprised officials in Seoul and Washington when he pledged to end “war games” after his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore last week. Immediately after the announcement, US forces in Korea said they had received no guidance on stopping any drills, and South Korean officials said they were trying to figure out which exercises Trump was referring to. However, in a sign Seoul may be open to suspending drills, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Thursday his government would need to be flexible when it came to applying military pressure on North Korea if it was sincere about denuclearization.
Moon said South Korea would carefully consider joint military drills with the United States and he asked his officials to cooperate with the United States on the issue, his office said in a statement at the time. Trump’s nominee to be ambassador to South Korea on Thursday backed the idea of a “pause” in major military exercises between US and South Korean forces, while talks on North Korea’s nuclear program continue. “The whole landscape has shifted, and I believe that we should give exercises, major exercises, a pause to see if Kim Jong Un is in fact serious about his part in negotiations,” retired Admiral Harry Harris, who just stepped down as head of the US military’s Pacific Command, told a Senate hearing. Harris said his understanding was that any suspension would involve only major military exercises and that regular training of US forces in South Korea would continue, although final decisions were up to the Department of Defense.
“I’m convinced that our alliance commitments to South Korea remain ironclad and have not changed,” he told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Trump on Wednesday hailed his meeting with Kim as having removed the North Korean nuclear threat, but Harris told the panel “I think we must continue to worry about the nuclear threat.”Harris also said he believed sanctions on North Korea should stay in place while denuclearization talks continue, echoing comments earlier on Thursday by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Pompeo, speaking in Seoul, said tough sanctions would remain until North Korea’s complete denuclearization, apparently contradicting the North’s view that the process agreed at the Trump-Kim summit would be phased and reciprocal. Yonhap also reported on Sunday that during military talks between the two Koreas on Thursday, South Korean officials asked their northern counterparts to relocate artillery 30 to 40 kilometers away from the heavily fortified military demarcation line that divides the two countries. The South’s defense ministry denied it made such a request, Yonhap said.
The talks, the first in more than a decade, held in the border village of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone (DMZ), followed an inter-Korean summit in April at which leaders of the two Koreas agreed to defuse tensions and cease “all hostile acts”. North and South Korea failed to reach any concrete agreement during those talks, officials said. North Korea proposed to Seoul to disarm, on a trial basis, the Joint Security Area in Panmunjom, the only site in the DMZ where both countries’ soldiers stand almost face to face, the South’s presidential spokesman said on Friday. About 28,500 US troops are stationed in South Korea, a legacy of the Korean War, which ended in 1953 in an armistice that left the two Koreas technically still at war.
The US-South Korean exercise calendar hits a high point every year with the Foal Eagle and Max Thunder drills, which both wrapped up last month.
The next major drill, Ulchi Freedom Guardian, is planned for the end of the summer. 17,500 American and more than 50,000 South Korean troops participated in the Ulchi Freedom Guardian drills, although the exercise is mostly focused on computerized simulations rather than live field exercises that use weapons, tanks or aircraft.
Cambodian Prince Injured in Car Crash that Kills Wife
Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 17 June, 2018/Cambodia's Prince Norodom Ranariddh was seriously injured, and his wife killed, in a head-on collision on Sunday in the southwestern coastal city of Sihanoukville, police said. Ranariddh's sports utility vehicle was hit by a taxi driving in the opposite direction, said Chuon Narin, police chief of the province of Preah Sihanouk. "The prince was taken in a helicopter for an emergency rescue in Phnom Penh," Chuon Narin told Reuters. "He is seriously injured but he will be fine." Ranariddh's wife, Ouk Phalla, 39, an exponent of traditional dance, died in a hospital in Preah Sihanouk, Chuon Narin said, adding that both SUVs involved in the crash had been speeding. "A taxi with many passengers crashed into the convoy and hit the prince’s car," an official from Ranarridh's political party who was accompanying him told AFP.
A report on the national police website showed badly damaged cars and victims on the roadside. Seven people were reported injured. Ranariddh, 74, was travelling from the riverside town of Kampot to Preah Sihanouk as part of campaigning for controversial national elections set for July 29. His party Funcinpec is taking part despite widespread complaints that the poll will be neither free nor fair after the main opposition group the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) was banned late last year.
Iran loses long-time ally North Korea to the ‘Great
إيران تفقد حليفها القديم، كوريا الشمالية لمصلحة الشيطان الأكبر
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab Newsw/June 17/18
The Iranian state-controlled Persian media outlets were filled with warnings and alarm this week. Iranian leaders sent messages to North Korea and lashed out at US President Donald Trump with respect to the Singapore summit.
Iran reacted swiftly to the Trump-Kim summit, with the IRNA news agency quoting the regime’s spokesman Mohammad Bagher Nobakht as saying: “We don’t know what type of person the North Korean leader is negotiating with. It is not clear that he would not cancel the agreement before returning home.”
It is interesting that, while Iranian leaders repeatedly warn other countries, leaders and international organizations not to interfere in Iran’s decisions regarding both domestic and foreign policy issues, Tehran is blatantly interfering in North Korea’s decision to negotiate with the US.
Another paradox that also highlights the Iranian regime’s double standards and hypocrisy is linked to the objective of the US-North Korea summit in light of the vehement opposition of the clerical establishment of Iran to the historic meeting between Trump and Kim Jong Un. On the one hand, the objective of this historic summit was nuclear disarmament. On the other hand, the Iranian regime frequently claims that Tehran is not pursuing a path to obtaining nuclear bombs and that it is opposed to nuclear weaponization for religious reasons.
Just a few days after the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei delivered a speech putting significant emphasis on his fatwa against nuclear weapons: “The Americans say they stopped Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. They know it’s not true. We had a fatwa (religious ruling) declaring nuclear weapons to be religiously forbidden under Islamic law. It had nothing to do with the nuclear talks.”
Iran's authorities are deeply concerned they have lost a long-time friend and ally in North Korea to their long-time enemy, the US.
So, if the ruling mullahs are truly against the supply or deployment of nuclear weapons, why is the regime so robustly standing against the US and North Korea’s agreement, efforts and pledges to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula while Washington provides security guarantees to North Korea? Many people would wonder that such an objective ought to be totally in compliance with Khamenei’s declared fatwa of denuclearization. But Khamenei’s fatwa was most likely the exploitation of religion in order to conduct a tactical and political move, while hiding Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
In addition, Iran’s opposition to such a historic agreement for nuclear disarmament suggests that Tehran is against denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and the advancement of peace, security and stability across the world.
Furthermore, Iran’s strong opposition to the rapprochement between the US and North Korea is due to several other reasons.
To begin with, from the Iranian leaders’ perspective, a nuclearized North Korea has been a model to follow for a long time. In fact, Khamenei clearly expressed in a speech why countries that give up their nuclear programs are irrational. Khamenei, who has the final say on major matters of state, previously blamed Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi for giving up his nuclear program and pointed out that Gaddafi’s decision was the paramount factor in his later overthrow. He pointed out after Gaddafi’s fall that the deposed dictator had earlier “wrapped up all his nuclear facilities, packed them on a ship and delivered them to the West and said, ‘Take them’.”As a result, Iranian leaders have long viewed North Korea as a real example of how and why a country must possess nuclear weapons, not only as a deterrent against “enemies,” but also as a powerful tool to easily pursue the country’s hegemonic ambitions. But the US-North Korea summit has shattered Iran’s argument. In addition, it is critical to point out that, to Iranian leaders’ eyes, the North Koreans were capable of defying the international community, even frequently conducting nuclear tests without concern about foreign intervention, simply due to the fact Pyongyang is already a nuclear state. Therefore, Iran viewed the North Korean model as an example of how a nuclear program and weapons can bring political success and advance a state’s ambitions.
In addition, for Iranian leaders, North Korea is one of its staunchest allies on the global stage; a nuclear state that would come to the regime’s aid in case it was caught red-handed violating international laws or was pressured by the international community. If North Korea follows up with a nuclear disarmament treaty, Tehran will lose a powerful partner in international politics.
Finally, the “special bond” and the agreement between North Korea and the US is the second significant blow to the Iranian regime this year, after the decision of the Trump administration to withdraw from the JCPOA. Iranian authorities are deeply concerned that they have lost a long-time friend and ally in North Korea to their long-time enemy, the “Great Satan.” This can potentially shift the balance of power against the mullahs. But this does not mean that the Iran regime will halt its attempts at interfering in this historic agreement and the improving relationship between North Korea and the US.
**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
Arab coalition’s stance in Hodeidah needs to be lauded
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/June 17/18
Although the US government rejected an Emirati request to support the coalition few days ago, according to The Washington Post, the airport and the outskirts of Hodeidah had been overtaken by about 21,000 fighters of the joint Yemeni and coalition forces. Thousands of mines, which were being planted in the roads leading to the city and port in order to hinder their march, were being cleared. Fortunately, Washington refused the coalition’s request to support it in intelligence, aerial photography, and mine scanning, or else these victories would have been for its benefit and it would have turned into a political battle against Donald Trump’s administration. Despite the coalition fighter jets’ activity, it was keen to keep the port out of the battles, allowing the navigation there. It even allowed the presence of the Houthi fighters there. Two ships unloaded their cargo which carried humanitarian aid, and three other ships landed in the port, under the control of the coalition forces. position; in not providing justifications for the human rights organizations and the supporters of the Houthis by allowing mediations to take place for a limited time. Either it would achieve what is required without fighting, or at least it would diminish the pretext of those who opposes war. Unless the Houthis surrender and handed over the port and the rest of the city - as safe passages were open for their fighters to get out safely - they would suffer the biggest number of deaths since the beginning of the war three years ago.
The coalition intends to free Hodeidah entirely, the port, the city and the rest of the governorate.
Houthi deafeat inevitable
The Houthis’ defeat in Hodeidah is almost inevitable, but the leadership of the coalition, does not want to win the war and lose the international public opinion, which is exposed to propaganda of groups that challenge the coalition’s goals, trying to stop its victories and impose a political solution that will enables the coupists to stay in power. Thus the coalition accepted the international envoy’s request to give the Houthis a chance to withdraw before attacking the airport. So, they suspended their operations for 48 hours. When this solution was rejected, it was overtaken in almost one day.
For the same reason, we see that the coalition is taking away all the pretexts of the coalition of international organizations and the countries supporting Iran. It gave the international envoy another chance to reach a solution for Hodeidah and prevent deaths on both sides.
The UN envoy Martin Griffiths went to Sana’a with a plan for Houthis fighters’withdrawal from Hodeidah and hand over the port peacefully, in return of the safety of their fighters and ensure that humanitarian aid reaches them through the port.
We know previously that the Houthi leaders are very similar to the leaders of the terrorist organizations, like al-Qaeda and ISIS. It prefers to sacrifice the largest number of its fighters, rather than losing its positions. It is even ready to sacrifice the citizens and take refuge behind women and children to resist as long as possible. The Houthis are a typical terrorist group. What they did in Yemen does not differ much from actions by al-Qaeda, except that they do not use the social media or the television to publish their crimes. The Hodeidah battle was the beginning of the victory in Yemen to end the rebellion which corrupted the political process in Yemen and threatened the security of the countries in the region. We support the coalition in its position; in not providing justifications for the human rights organizations and the supporters of the Houthis by allowing mediations to take place for a limited time. Either it would achieve what is required without fighting, or at least it would diminish the pretext of those who opposes war.
Hodeidah: Cutting the head of the snake
Salman al-Dosary/Al Arabiya/June 17/18
The suffering of 700,000 Yemenis living in Hodeidah will end as soon as their city is liberated by the rapid advance of the legitimate Yemeni forces, supported by the Arab coalition. The coalition managed in a short period of time in capturing Hodeidah airport on Saturday, which is an important strategic step in its mission to liberate the province’s main port. Seventy percent of Yemen’s imports pass through the port, which has been the Iran-backed militias’ source of income for three years (they have imposed a fee of some $100,000 on each ship seeking to dock and unload its food or oil cargo). Ending the militias’ hold on the port will restore valuable income to Yemen’s budget and ensure that employee salaries are paid after a 20-month halt. The capture of the port will also stop the smuggling of Iranian missiles, 130 of which were used to target Saudi territory.
The Arab coalition is following a humanitarian strategy alongside its military one in order to protect civilians and infrastructure in a manner that would liberate the city with minimal losses
Most importantly though, the liberation of the port will be a decisive step that forces the Houtihs to return to the negotiations table to discuss a political solution based on the Gulf initiative, national dialogue and Security Council resolution 2216.
Hodeidah is the Houthis’ last remaining city stronghold after the capital Sanaa.
The coalition's humanitarian focus
All signs indicate that the Houthis will have a very hard time retaining Hodeidah. Such a feat is beyond their capabilities as they only have some 2,000 fighters in the city, many of whom are foreign outcasts who are alien to the city. These fighters are surrounded by 700,000 Yemeni residents and 25,000 Yemeni army and resistance members. The Arab coalition will seek to wage a lightening battle and it will emerge victorious in a short period of time. It will not allow false humanitarian claims made by the UN and its agencies to be politically exploited by the Houthis to prolong the crisis in Hodeidah and the suffering of the people. The Guardian, quoting UN officials, meanwhile, predicted that civilian casualties may reach 300,000. What sort of nonsense is this? The Arab coalition is following a humanitarian strategy alongside its military one in order to protect civilians and infrastructure in a manner that would liberate the city with minimal losses. The coalition was right in waiting three years before launching its military operation. It waited three long years on the UN to intervene and take control of Hodeidah port. It did neither this nor that. It instead allowed the Houthis to capture the port.
The military operation will push the Houthis to the negotiations table, an achievement that was not reached by the UN through its long silence. The liberation of Hodeidah will create enough massive pressure to bring the Houthis to negotiations.
Trump's two nuclear deals involve a carrot-and-stick approach
Raghida Dergham/The National/June 17, 2018
While North Korea is on the receiving end of his charm offensive, the US president is using a stick approach with Iran – but it won't succeed without co-operation from Europe, Russia, and China, writes Raghida Dergham
The US president is using a carrot approach with North Korea to persuade them to denuclearise, the carrot being the promise of a shift in security and economic ties with the US. Meanwhile, the stick remains on the table if the carrot doesn’t work.
With Iran, Donald Trump is using the stick – sanctions and political isolation – to convince the regime to reform, rein in its appetite for regional expansion and re-negotiate the nuclear deal to address its shortfalls. But that is not to say there is no carrot for Iran. Indeed, Mr Trump has left it to European powers to try to persuade Iran to enter negotiations on its nuclear programme and curtail its incursions via its proxies into Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.
Either way, the US president has never said anything to rule out a North Korean approach with Iran’s leaders, just as a summit with Kim Jong-un was once in the realm of fantasy.
Today the ball on Iran is in Europe’s court but the Europeans have not yet grasped it. They risk losing a historic opportunity if they do not overcome the myopia that has marked their recent foreign policy, especially on Iran’s role in Syria and Yemen, where they have turned a blind eye to Tehran’s violations.
By comparison, the Russians are more pragmatic on Iran, particularly in their relations with the Gulf, especially Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
The Russians have not commented on the major operation in Hodeidah, which came less than 10 days after Saudi Arabia and the UAE signed a strategy of resolve. Washington also appears to have consented to the offensive, although it has not declared its open support.
In truth, success in Hodeidah will intensify the two states’ bid to confront Iran’s scheming. For the Gulf, Yemen is a priority in this regard, just as Syria is a priority for the US and Israel, which is determined to prevent Iranian expansion on its borders.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has had two productive weeks, hosting the opening of the Fifa World Cup in Moscow, during which he received about 40 heads of state and senior officials, including Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Mr Putin also received a gift from Mr Trump, who humiliated his G7 allies by demanding they welcome Russia back into the club to make it the G8 again. Alongside China, Mr Putin helped facilitate the historic summit between Mr Trump and Mr Kim, which could lead to North Korean denuclearisation. China would gain if North Korea transformed from a source of chaos to a stable neighbour while the process could also end up reducing the US military footprint in the region as relations are normalised with North Korea.
Mr Kim himself appeared elated beside Mr Trump, who made sure to add his personal touch to the summit, showing the North Korean leader “the beast” – his armoured presidential limousine.
Not many are fond of Mr Trump’s unique charms. He has cultivated many enemies at home and abroad and his allies in Canada and Europe are infuriated by his trade policies and political attitudes.
The Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau got a personal taste of Mr Trump’s wrath while German Chancellor Angela Merkel is not pleased about having to rally her European partners in the face of American stubbornness. The fact that German firms are defying her policies on Iran by choosing instead to comply with US threats of sanctions if they continue operating there is another source of anger.
Ms Merkel is also aware that she is vulnerable if she continues to embrace the Iranians and exempt them from accountability as an aggressor while Tehran's meddling in other countries is executed through the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and proxies, rather than its own armed forces.
It is this incoherent logic that Mr Trump categorically rejects, a logic expressed by the German ambassador to Lebanon, Martin Hoth. Speaking at the American University of Beirut, Mr Hoth said: "Iran is too big to fail, too big to contain and too big to be defeated." The ambassador was participating in a session with former Iranian diplomat Seyed Hossein Mousavian, who claimed Mr Trump’s actions were emboldening “resistance” in the region.
Some say Mr Trump’s stick approach to Iran will not succeed without co-operation from Europe, Russia, and China. Others believe it will be effective because European firms will pressure their governments and because Mr Putin and Mr Trump might reach an accord.
Either way, Trump is determined to see through his policy on Iran, from Syria to Lebanon to Yemen.
Regarding Iraq, there is plenty of uncertainty surrounding the recent election outcome and new political alliances. It is not yet clear what Moqtada Al Sadr's alliance with Hadi Al Amiri will mean for the rest of the region as Mr Al Amiri is a former minister, commander of the Popular Mobilisation militia and the Badr organisation and a close associate of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.
It appears that the US has dropped Iraq from its bid to confront Iranian expansion. But is it merely part of a practical sorting of priorities or rather a deeper strategy that would allow Iran to have an influence in Iraq in return for scaling back in Yemen, Syria and Lebanon and agreeing to reform the nuclear deal and its own regime? Is there a grand bargaining chip behind this or is this all part of a provisional tactic?
Some believe Iran will not choose any military confrontation with the US or Israel in Syria but will make do with the status quo and the sanctions. By working to contain the fallout, Tehran can wait out the Trump administration, biding its time until another Barack Obama-type figure takes the White House. However, the cost of this strategy is exactly what Mr Trump is betting o, as he sets out to make the costs for Iran so high as to cancel out the gains from "patience".
Former Israeli Defence Forces IDF intelligence chief Amos Yadlin: Trump moves will bring Israel closer to war
Jerusalem Post/June 17/18
Former IDF intelligence chief Amos Yadlin claimed Trump pushes Iran to get nuclear bomb.
US President Donald Trump’s recent foreign policy moves make it more likely that Iran will attempt to make a nuclear bomb and bring Israel closer to war, former IDF intelligence chief Amos Yadlin said on Sunday.
Speaking at a Tel Aviv University conference on national security and cyber issues, Yadlin said the North Korea summit will push Iran to renew its uranium enrichment and eventually pursue a nuclear bomb.
He said the same thing about Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal.
Yadlin said he hoped Iran will wilt under the pressure of renewed US sanctions, saying, “We do not know if new sanctions will be as effective as in 2013. If they are not effective, we achieve nothing. Let’s hope the sanctions will be crippling... [maybe] Iran will need to choose between regime collapse or… come back to the negotiating table.”
He added, “Knowing Iran very well, I think they will choose something else. They will renew enrichment after they see Singapore. They will go for the bomb. Then [we should ask] have the US president and prime minister of Israel thought about what they will do?
“President Trump will not order an attack on Iran, it will come back to Israel – this time with a green light and not a red light. But is that smart [to have to attack Iran sooner as opposed to letting the Iran deal play out]? I’m not sure,” said Yadlin.
Sitting on a panel with Yadlin, former US senator Joseph Lieberman was asked what he would advise if Iran tried to break out toward a nuclear bomb.
He said, “The sanctions are working so far” and listed Peugeot, Boeing and Total as major companies that pulled out of Iran after Trump took the US out of the Iran nuclear deal.
In that light, Liberman expressed hope that the sanctions would succeed in motivating the people of Iran to demand regime change.
“Iran didn’t expect Trump to pull out,” Lieberman said. “They thought it was a campaign promise.... It is not impossible that there could be an uprising against the regime. I think that is the ultimate answer.”
However, he added, “If Iran tries breaking out of the NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty], I really cannot predict what the president would do.”
Lieberman said he would recommend “taking military action or letting Israel do it. I would advise… military action in coordination with our allies in the region – probably in coordination with Israel.”
Giving a more hopeful view, former CIA director, retired Gen. David Petraeus spoke at an earlier panel, stating, “I welcome a US withdrawal from the [Iran] nuclear agreement [to the extent that] it will see much greater pressure on Iran, not just in areas covered by the nuclear deal, but also with regard to its missile program and Iran’s malign activities… in the rest of the Middle East.”
Speaking about national security threats in the cyber arena, Petraeus said, “Actions in that domain could prove to be the most important because it allows one side to disable GPS and command and control networks and to hack into intelligence systems,” adding that “all current and future wars will be some form of hybrid between the cyber domain and land, air, sea and space.”
When asked to give President Trump advice, Petraeus answered, “Focus on the threats to America’s critical infrastructure. My biggest worry… is the idea of a cyber weapon of mass destruction in the hands of an entity that’s very hard to deter.
“How do you deter elements like ISIS who are willing to blow themselves up on the battlefield if they have the ability to shut down the electrical grid for the whole Eastern Seaboard and keep it down?” he asked.
Petraeus suggested mitigating the threat by creating a new cybersecurity agency that would focus 100% of its energy on the issue, instead of it being divided all over the intelligence community.
Israel ties IDF’s hands as Hamas kites burn fields and Iran uses World Cup to repair its Syrian bases
Debka Files/Jun 17, 2018
Israel is holding back from using its superior high tech against Hamas’ terror-by-arson and Iran’s resupply of its damaged bases in Syria during the World Cup finals.
An impressive graph depicting the decline of Palestinian terrorist operations in the past three years and a map showing the Iranian military array in Syria illustrated the address delivered by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to the Homeland Security Forum last week. Initiated by Internal Security Minister Gilead Erdan, the forum was attended by his counterparts from 20 countries, including US Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.
Israel owes much of its success, Netanyahu explained, to advanced radar systems capable of precisely “reading” the target’s intentions and providing early warning of attacks in the making. One such tool, FOPEN (made by ELTA Systems) operates an L-band wavelength to detect targets through tens of meters of dense jungle, shrub or forest foliage, from a distance of several kilometers. FOPEN exposes secret Palestinian terrorist training drills or preparations for attack in remote areas covered with dense vegetation. This system was also found to be effective on the northern fronts for tracking Hizballah units using dense vegetation on the Syrian and Lebanese borders to conceal their stealthy approach to Israeli security barriers.
What the prime minister neglected to mention was the violent onslaughts Hamas has staged for the past three months on the Gaza-Israel border fence, or the hundreds of rockets and mortars fired against Israeli civilian targets on June 3. And, most strikingly he omitted to refer to the Palestinian terror-by-arson, a Hamas campaign in which thousands of dunams of Israeli field crops, farmland, natural vegetation and nature preserves are being laid to waste by burning kites and incendiary balloons. For this low-tech campaign of wanton destruction, the Palestinian terrorists have no need of advanced radar or weapons systems. Already cheap to manufacture, their makers have plenty of helium on hand for the balloons, because it is supplied by Israel to Gaza for medical purposes. After inflating them, an explosive device is attached to make a toy balloon to make it an efficient weapon.
For two-and-a-half months of these attacks, the IDF was under orders not to shoot the kite and balloon crews or hit the vehicles delivering them to the “protesters” rampaging on the Israeli border fence. After a consultation with legal authorities, on Saturday, June 16, an IDF aircraft finally struck one of the trucks delivering the kites to the Gaza front. According to the military spokesman, the truck was empty, while another aircraft attacked “near” one of the teams assembling the flaming kites for tossing into Israel. These statements confirmed that the IDF is still handling the terror-by-arson campaign with kid gloves, while despairing Israel farmers and local inhabitants watch their livelihood and landscape go up in flames and dozens of exhausted fire fighters scurry back and forth to salvage islands of green and keep residential areas safe.
A strange silence has meanwhile descended on Israel’s northern front after systematic IDF strikes over several weeks demolished Iranian military bases in Syria. It doesn’t take a strategic genius to understand what has caused the pause. The prime minister and chief of staff Gen. Gady Eisenkott appear to have decided to hold their fire during the World Cup soccer finals taking place in Russia. According to some sources, Putin extracted a concession from Netanyahu during their phone call last Friday, June 15, not to start trouble in Syria until the games were over. After all, the Russian troops and officers posted there deserve a respite for watching the games in peace on television.
If this is what happened, Israel’s leaders are doubly at fault. This pause in Israel’s attacks in Syria afforded Iran time to repair the demolished military facilities and import new weapons to replace the damaged ones, without fear of Israel hindering their delivery. Putin was apparently not asked to make Iran reciprocate by stopping those deliveries or ordering its Palestinian pawns in the Gaza Strip to hold off on their attacks, in return for the halt in Israel’s military action on the two fronts.