June 19/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
It is to your credit if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly
First Letter of Peter 02/18-25: "Slaves, accept the authority of your masters with all deference, not only those who are kind and gentle but also those who are harsh. For it is to your credit if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, where is the credit in that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls."
Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on June 18-19/18
Fathers’ Day: The Holy Gift Of Fatherhood/Fathers on Earth are God’s servants/Elias Bejjani/June 17/18
Ex-‘Israeli NSA’ chief: Target Iran, Hezbollah energy infrastructure first/Jerusalem Post/June 18/18
Jumblatt’s Tweet and Aoun’s Immunity/Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al-Awsat/June,18/18
Saudi Arabia attempts a political comeback in Lebanon/Paul Khalifeh/MEE/June 18/18
Mystery surrounds overnight airstrikes on pro-Syrian regime fighters/Jerusalem Post/June 18/18
Palestinians: Victims of Arab Apartheid/Khaled Abu Toameh/Gatestone Institute/June 18/18
Gaza Media Coverage: Snipers and Lies/Ruthie Blum/Gatestone Institute/June 18/18
Kim Jong Un Pulls Off a Magic Trick/David Ignatius/The Washington Post/Asharq Al Awsat/June 18/18
On Trade, Merkel Joins Trump on the Low Road/Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg/Asharq Al Awsat/June 18/18
How Expensive Is The World Cup/Maude Lavanchy and Willem Smit/Bloomberg/Asharq Al Awsat/June 18/18
Are Netanyahu's Messages To The Iranians Working/Herb Keinon/Jerusalem Post/June 18/18
Will Russia play Iran card during Syria reconstruction talks/Shehab Al-Makahleh/Al Arabiya/June 18/18
Music: Attracting souls by beauty and perfection/Hassan Al Mustafa/Al Arabiya/June 18/18
ISIS festering amid tribalism, sectarianism in Pakistan/Dr. Azeem Ibrahim/Al Arabiya/June 18/18
Jordan emerges safely from its crisis/Mohammed Al Shaikh/Al Arabiya/June 18/18
Hodeidah and nothing else/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/June 18/18
Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on June 18-19/18
Fathers’ Day: The Holy Gift Of Fatherhood/Fathers on Earth are God’s servants
Lebanon's Interior Ministry reinstates passport stamps for Iranian travellers
Lebanon's Foreign Ministry denies obstructing extradition of alleged Hezbollah financier
Machnouk May Cancel Decision Not to Stamp Iranian Passports
Ibrahim Says Naturalization Decree Vetting Proved Ineligibility
EDL Extends Lease of Two Power Barges
Hariri receives cables from Sisi, Essebsi and Abbas
Army commander, interlocutors talk general situation
Baalbek Hermel bloc visits army commander
Hamade says will determine date of Brevet results' announcement Tuesday
Othman, Qerawi talk general situation
One killed, three injured in road accident on Sidon Tyre highway
Ex-‘Israeli NSA’ chief: Target Iran, Hezbollah energy infrastructure first
Lebanon’s Roukoz Proposes 3 Solutions to Speed Up Return of Displaced
Jumblatt’s Tweet and Aoun’s Immunity
Saudi Arabia attempts a political comeback in Lebanon

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on June 18-19/18
UAE minister: Arab coalition’s full control of Hodeidah only a matter of time
Police Arrest Hit-and-Run Driver in Dutch Music Festival
US official: Israel conducted air strike near Abu Kamal, Pro-Iranian Iraqi militia targeted
Strike on east Syria killed 52 pro-regime fighters
Syria state media says US bombs military positions, Washington denies
Israeli jets strike nine Gaza targets in response to ‘explosive kites, balloons’
Israel’s Netanyahu meets King Abdullah in Jordan for rare talks
Former Israeli minister Gonen Segev charged with spying for Iran
Turkish military patrols outskirts of Kurdish-militia dominated Syrian city
Iran executes Sufi opposition member accused of running over police officers
Palestinian killed by Israeli fire in Gaza
Erdogan in major Istanbul rally ahead of Turkey vote
Turkish, U.S. units begin patrols near northern Syria's Manbij
Trump blasts migration in Europe as causing 'culture' change
Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on June 18-19/18
Fathers’ Day: The Holy Gift Of Fatherhood/Fathers on Earth are God’s servants
Elias Bejjani/June 17/18
“Blessed indeed is the man who hears many gentle voices call him father!” (Lydia M. Child, U.S. Author)
Canadians observe Father’s Day on the third Sunday of June. It is a day for people to show their appreciation for fathers, grandfathers, godfathers and fatherly figures. Father figures may include stepfathers, fathers-in-law, guardians, foster parent, and family friends. Hopefully, all men will have the blessed grace of being fathers. Being a father is a heavenly endowment, a great satisfaction, and a fulfilling Godly obligation as the Holy Bible teaches us: “Genesis 1:28 “God blessed them. God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it.”
Almighty God has blessed both parents, fathers and mothers and recommended that they be honored, respected, cared for, and obeyed by their children. God’s fifth commandment delineates this heavenly obligation and duty: “”Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land which The Lord your God gives you.” (Exodus 20:12 ).
God is our Holy Father, and we all, men and women, are His beloved children. Fathers on Earth are God’s servants who are entrusted by Him to safeguard, raise, embrace, support, provide and teach their children. Meanwhile fathers are required to carry their holy duties in raising their children in the fear of God, with the best of their knowledge, all their resource and means, full devotion and with all required sacrifices.
Fathers are the cornerstone of their families upon which children depend, learn, nurture, hold fast and shape their lives. Caring, devoted and righteous fathers are always given a hand by God and blessed for their rearing and erection of boundaries. Today we are celebrating “Fathers’ Day”, with all those who cherish fathers, appreciate their sacrifices and honor their Godly role. Best wishes to all fathers hoping they will be shown today all the due gratitude from their sons and daughters. On this very special day our deceased fathers’ and mothers’ spirits are roaming around sharing with us our joy and happiness, God bless their souls.
Attitudes of gratitude or ingratitude towards fathers on Fathers’ Day, are very sensitive issues that affect and touch the hearts and minds of many people. These two contradicting attitudes exhibit how much a person is either appreciative or ungrateful. The majority of people hold on dear to their fathers and do all that they can to always show them their great and deeply felt gratitude, while sadly there are those odd ones out who show no gratitude, abandon them and even at times endeavour to ruin their lives and inflict harm and pain on them. By doing so and negating God’s commandments that stress an utmost respect for parents, these people make themselves enemies of Christ Himself. Definitely God will be angry about such condemned conduct. This deviation from all human norms occur because of ignorance, selfishness, lack of faith and hope. These people fall into temptation, become proud of what they should be ashamed of, worship things that belong to this world and forget all about “Judgment Day”.
Colossians 3/20: “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord”.
Leviticus 20/09: “For anyone who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death; he has cursed his father or his mother; his blood is upon him”
Fathers no matter what must be loved, honored, dignified and respected. God Himself is a Father and He will not bless those who deny their fathers’ heavenly right of fatherhood and respect. In this context, Billy Graham says: “A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society.” The Holy Bible in tens of its verses warns and puts on notice all those with callous hearts and numbed conscience who show no gratitude to their fathers and break their hearts.
Isaiah 46:4: “Even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.”
Even when fathers are abandoned by their children and denied their heavenly rights, they never ever hold any grudges, feelings of hatred or hostility against them. No matter what, fathers always wish their children health, prosperity and success. One of our Lebanese deeply rooted sayings portray how fathers constantly feel towards their ungrateful children: ” My heart beats for my son no matter what, while my son’s heart is callous like a rock”. Many verses in the Holy Bible overtly call on the children to treat their parents with love, endurance, affection and utmost care. At the same time the Bible instructs parents to value the Godly delegation to them to raise their children with all means of righteous, protection and provision.
Proverbs 23/22: “Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old”.
Ephesians 06/01-02: “Children, it is your Christian duty to obey your parents, for this is the right thing to do. Respect your father and mother is the first commandment that has a promise added: so that all may go well with you, and you may live a long time in the land”.
Many grown-up men and women do not appreciate their parents’ sacrifices unless they themselves have become parents. Back home in Lebanon where the family has always been sacred, we have a saying that shows how important it is in the eyes of the God that parents are always to be respected, honored and loved. “God will not bless or facilitate the life of those who mistreat their parents and He will reply to the parents’ wrath when they ask for punishment for their ungrateful children”. Good, loving , faithful and God-fearing fathers know no hatred, grudges or despair. They remain, always, hopeful and keep on praying to Almighty God that their children, (grateful or ungrateful ) are constantly healthy, prosperous, happy, and successful .
Philippians 04/04-07: “May you always be joyful in your union with the Lord. I say it again: rejoice! Show a gentle attitude toward everyone. The Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart. And God’s peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus.”.
Happy Fathers’ Day to all Fathers.
N.B: This above piece is republished with minor changes

Lebanon's Interior Ministry reinstates passport stamps for Iranian travellers

Annahar Staff/June 18/ 2018
Lebanon and Iran waived visa requirements for their respective citizens in 2015 in the wake of the now-defunct Nuclear Agreement, making travelling between both countries easier.
BEIRUT: Interior Minister Nohad Machnouq overturned Monday a decision by the General Security agency to issue Iranian travellers entering Lebanon with landing slips instead of stamping their passports has raised eyebrows, a source close to the minister told Annahar. Despite the Foreign Ministry issuing a statement Sunday arguing that such decisions fall within entirely within the General Security's jurisdiction, Machnouq later overruled the decision which "can only be taken by the Cabinet." Lebanon and Iran waived visa requirements for their respective citizens in 2015 in the wake of the now-defunct Nuclear Agreement, making travelling between both countries easier.  According to the source, the General Security implemented the new proceedings a "week ago without consulting with Machnouq."

Lebanon's Foreign Ministry denies obstructing extradition of alleged Hezbollah financier
Georgi Azar/ Annahar/June 18/ 2018 /Farhat is alleged to be a member of the Business Affairs Component, the branch of Hezbollah’s External Security Organization in charge of running overseas illicit finance and drug trafficking operations, according to Foreign Policy.
BEIRUT: Lebanon's Foreign Ministry has rejected claims that it is obstructing the extradition of a Lebanese national in Paraguay for his alleged drug trafficking and money laundering activities, arguing that the "contents of a Foreign Policy article are inaccurate and out of the scope of reality."
In an article published Saturday, Foreign Policy disclosed information that the Lebanese Embassy and its charge d’affairs Hassan Hijazi are attempting to block the extradition of alleged Hezbollah financier Nader Mohamad Farhat to the U.S after he was arrested "for his alleged role in a $1.3 million drug money laundering scheme." Farhat is alleged to be a member of the Business Affairs Component, the branch of Hezbollah’s External Security Organization in charge of running overseas illicit finance and drug trafficking operations, according to Foreign Policy.
The article then underscores that Hijazi, in coordination with the Foreign Ministry, is looking to thwart the attempts of the U.S to extradite Farhat while sending a "letter to Paraguay’s attorney general intimating that she should reject the U.S. request to extradite" the Lebanese national.
Machnouk May Cancel Decision Not to Stamp Iranian Passports
Kataeb.orgMonday 18th June 2018/Caretaker Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk will likely scrap the decision to exempt Iranian nationals from passport stamping at the Beirut airport, Ministry sources told MTV. Iranian travelers would reportedly have their entry cards stamped, instead of passports. General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim had defended the decision not to stamp Iranian passports upon arrival in Beirut, downplaying criticism given that all entries and exits are automatically registered in a database once the traveler's passport is scanned at the Beirut airport.
Ibrahim deemed the measure as "normal", adding that travelers can ask that their passports would not be stamped for specific reasons as per international laws and the freedom of movement.

Ibrahim Says Naturalization Decree Vetting Proved Ineligibility 18th June 2018/General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim said that the scrutiny of the names listed on the controversial naturalization decree will be finalized this week, revealing that vetting has so far indicated that many of them do not deserve to be granted the Lebanese citizenship.
"If any of the listed individuals does not meet the required conditions, then we will ask that the person would be deprived of the Lebanese citizenship," Ibrahim told Al-Joumhouria newspaper. "The outcome of our scrutiny shows that many of those who obtained the citizenship must be excluded from the decree for security and legal reasons," he added. Ibrahim said that a batch of Syrian refugees is set to repatriated soon, noting that the exact number depends on the logistic preparedness of the Syrian authorities.

EDL Extends Lease of Two Power Barges
The Daily Star/Monday 18th June 2018/Electricite du Liban has agreed to extend by three years the lease of two power barges owned by Turkish company Karadeniz Holding and is waiting for finances to be provided, an EDL source told The Daily Star Sunday. The extension was approved by the now-caretaker Cabinet in its final session last month and was recently OK’d by EDL’s board of directors. It includes a provision stipulating that Karadeniz will also provide 200 megawatts of electricity “for free” for three months via an additional power barge, the source confirmed.
EDL was now waiting for the finances for this contract to be provided by “the relevant agency,” which in this case is likely the Finance Ministry.

Hariri receives cables from Sisi, Essebsi and Abbas

Mon 18 Jun 2018/NNA - Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri received a letter from the Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi congratulating him on his designation to form the new government.  Sisi also expressed his appreciation for "the pioneering role of Prime Minister Hariri and his noble message as a symbol of moderation and supporter of the state of law and institutions." Separately, Hariri received cables of congratulations on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr, most notably from Tunisian President Béji Caid Essebsi, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Qatari Prime Minister and Interior Minister Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al-Thani and Deputy Prime Minister of Oman Fahd Ben Mahmoud Al Said.

Army commander, interlocutors talk general situation
Mon 18 Jun 2018/NNA - Army Commander General Joseph Aoun, on Monday met at his Yarzeh office with Palestinian Ambassador to Lebanon, on top of a delegation, with talks reportedly touching on the general situation in Lebanon and the region. A delegation from Baalbek-Hermel bloc, led by Caretaker Minister, Hussein Hajj Hassan, also visited General Aoun, at his Yarzeh office, with whom they discussed the overall situation in the country.

Baalbek Hermel bloc visits army commander

Mon 18 Jun 2018/NNA - A delegation from Baalbek-Hermel bloc, led by Caretaker Minister, Hussein Hajj Hassan, visited on Monday Army Commander General Joseph Aoun, at his Yarzeh office, with whom they held lengthy discussion over the current security situation in the province.
Baalbek Municipality head, Hussein Lakkis, President of the Union of Baalbek Municipalities, Nasri Othman, and President of Baalbek Merchants' Association, Mohammed Kenaan, were also present. The delegation said in a statement that the visit comes in the context of their diligent follow-up of the deteriorating security situation in the province of Baalbek Hermel. The commander voiced serious and full readiness for the implementation of concrete steps to maintain security in the province, statement said. Conferees also underlined full cooperation between the army and Hermel-Baalbek dignitaries in this regard.

Hamade says will determine date of Brevet results' announcement Tuesday
Mon 18 Jun 2018/NNA - Caretaker Minister of Education and Higher Learning, Marwan Hamade, said that he will determine the date of the Brevet results' announcement tomorrow (Tuesday).
Hamade made these remarks while inspecting the course of official exams' correction process in Bir Hassan.

Othman, Qerawi talk general situation

Mon 18 Jun 2018/NNA - Internal Security Forces (ISF) chief, Emad Othman, received on Monday at his Barracks office MP Mohammed Al-Qerawi, with talks between the pair reportedly touching on the general situation in the country.

One killed, three injured in road accident on Sidon Tyre highway
Mon 18 Jun 2018/NNA - One was killed and three others were injured in a car accident that took place on the highway linking Sidon to Tyre this afternoon, National News Agency correspondent reported on Monday.

Ex-‘Israeli NSA’ chief: Target Iran, Hezbollah energy infrastructure first
Jerusalem Post/June 18/18
Energy is a major pillar of economies, and for some it is their cardiovascular system.
The first cyber target that Israel should go after in any future conflict with Iran or Hezbollah should be its adversaries’ energy infrastructure, former Unit 8200 “the Israeli NSA” chief Brig.-Gen. Ehud Schneorson said on Sunday. Speaking at a cyber conference at Tel Aviv University, Schneorson said: “Energy is a major pillar of economies, and for some it is their cardiovascular system,” seemingly emphasizing the importance, especially to Iran’s economy.He said that this kind of attack would have a greater, broader impact in a conflict than neutralizing the weapons systems of Israel’s adversaries, which he said was important in gaining tactical superiority, but would not have as big a strategic impact.
Schneorson’s comment was notable as traditionally, Israeli officials, even out of service, have avoided discussing major cyber attack targets.
The former-IDF Unit 8200 chief said, “There were still targets which should never be put into cyber operations” for ethical reasons, including the water, food and healthcare sectors. He also advised against attacking adversaries’ banking sectors “due to the butterfly effect” it could incidentally have on the global economy. On cyber defense, he said, Israel’s biggest priority is blocking cyberattacks on its anti-missile defense shield, such as the Iron Dome and Arrow missile systems, as well as its “C4I systems, which bring efficiencies to the battlefield” in networking the IDF’s targeting and “collaboration between differences forces.”During the same panel, top Defense Ministry official and retired Brig-Gen. Dan Gold said that a major focus of cyber operations is fighting back against “enemies trying to jam our radars for finding aircraft.” He said that Israel has a cyber “technique to clear jamming, to stop hundreds of fake targets, which really look like real aircraft,” from overloading its radar system that tracks enemy aircraft. Amidror, who is now a fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Security Studies, said that Israel “must presume that its cyber defense line will be penetrated by the enemy.”
He explained that classical warfare had two major moves for when you anticipated that an enemy could penetrate your defense line. “One answer was multiple defense lines to lead the enemy into a killing zones where you have the chance to destroy it,” he said. “But if you are smart, you don’t destroy the enemy. You set a honey trap. You give him some information, so he thinks he is in the right place... You manipulate the enemy into thinking he had a huge success.”
Amidror said that if the cyber enemy thinks it hacked into the right area, it will not realize that it should be planning another attack and will try to stay in the fake cyber deception system, where it has been contained. Retired IDF cyber official, Brig.- Gen. Yaron Rosen, emphasized the importance of fighting cyber adversaries “asymmetrically.”“We need SWAT teams in cyberspace, a national level division of responsibilities and accountable forces... When I ask who is accountable and see more than one hand, I know that” no one is really accountable, he said.
Rosen also highlighted the importance of figuring out a system of “deterrence in cyberspace” against potential enemies, though he said that this was a very tough challenge due to potential, unpredictable escalation.

Lebanon’s Roukoz Proposes 3 Solutions to Speed Up Return of Displaced
Beirut- Asharq Al Awsat/18 June, 2018 /Member of Strong Lebanon parliamentary bloc MP Chamel Roukoz underlined the need for Syrian refugees to return to their homeland, especially that most Syrian territories were now safe and stable. “The displaced fled their homes due to certain security conditions; with the return of stability to the largest part of Syrian territories, it is time for them to return to their country,” Roukoz said in an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat. He noted that Lebanon’s experience with Palestinian refugees was not encouraging, also with internally displaced Lebanese during the war, because the majority of those were late to return to their villages, and some of them stayed. The international community and the United Nations organizations should encourage the return of the Syrians to their country, not discourage them, according to Roukoz, who said: “The UNHCR tells them that there is no security, no stability, and no safe areas in Syria, which is not true.” He went on to say: “Many have returned to Idlib as well as government-controlled areas, which account for about 80 percent of all Syrian territories; that in addition to the reconciliation process under the auspices of the Russians, which is supposed to be a catalyst for their return.” “Lebanon is no longer able to absorb the consequences of the Syrian emigration due to the great pressure on infrastructure and the struggle for jobs," said Roukoz, the newly elected deputy, who is the son-in-law of President Michel Aoun and the former chief of the Lebanese Army commandos. “There are 35,000 Lebanese university graduates, while the labor market cannot cope with more than 5,000,” he stated. Roukoz put forward three proposals to ensure a speedy return of the displaced: “Direct contact with the Syrian government through the director general of General Security or others; the adoption of the method used in the south, which in this case would be the holding of meetings between representatives of Lebanon, Syria and the United Nations. The third method is to assign Moscow with the refugee file to complete their return.”“Let them choose the way they deem fit; what’s important for us is to secure their return,” he added. The new deputy talked about stalling in the formation of the government, which he said was due to the demands of some of the blocs of quotas exceeding their parliamentary size. “The country’s economy is not good; economic incentives are needed,” he said, stressing the importance of implementing the projects adopted at the CEDRE conference and fighting corruption.
“The people are also required to take progressive positions to urge officials to carry out their duties,” he added.

Jumblatt’s Tweet and Aoun’s Immunity

Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al-Awsat/June,18/18
This is the tweeters’ time. From Donald Trump to Muqtada al-Sadr, Saad al-Hariri and Anwar Gargash. Politicians no longer need a long press interview or a major television appearance. A few attractive words suffice. And if the words are sharp and timely, they will spread like wildfire.
It was not simply that the world’s greatest economy leader and the highest commander of the strongest army in history chose to address the world via Twitter. A few words can worry allies and rivals alike and shake markets and stock exchanges. Trump imposed a method of communication in the global village and many joined it. Twitter is an opportunity to express, promote and distort. It is a typical place to air dirty laundry.
When we reached this thorny profession, the controller had the right to apprehend the newspaper, deny the reader’s access to it, and even prevent it from entering the country because of a phrase, an article or a sentence lining confusion. The technological revolution has changed the rules of the game, pushing the limits, the scissors and the red pen into mandatory retirement. Every citizen has turned into a journalist, and the corridors of social media outlets welcomed the beautiful and the ugly, the correct and the incorrect. The revolution blew pages and screens away and got rid of information ministers and editors-in-chief. Walid Jumblatt quickly realized the importance of this incoming weapon. His traditional tendency to brevity and to launching arrows in his words has made his tweets the focus of interest of his friends and nemeses. He knew that a tweet could be tougher than a shell and stronger than a dagger. Jumblatt Bek is already an ingenious player. He is good at stealing the lights. He wisely selects time for silence and time for revelation. Jumblatt tries in vain to convince his visitors that he has retired or is about to quit. His departure from Parliament in favor of his son Taymur never meant leaving the ring. He cannot live outside of it even if he wished so. His relationship with politics is a state of addiction. He is a professor in anxiety and in reading wind directions. He has both excessive flexibility and extreme rigidity.
He is sometimes driven by bitterness to surpass boldness in the direction of recklessness and losing battles. He is an expert in clashes and truces. A perseverant boxer, who only takes rest during the exchange of punches. He is used to fighting in the adults’ club. If a new boxer harasses him, he is quick to correct the game and hit the big player. It’s Twitter’s fault. God fight it. Jumblatt was tweeting about the dire situation of the Syrian refugees, especially after Gibran Bassil’s tweets and violations. He concluded by writing: “Our misfortune is in a tenure that has failed since its first moment”.
Sites and platforms went fiery. The Aounists did not tolerate the phrase that targeted the president sitting in the palace. They attacked the Jumblatti leader with the harshest accusations. This is their right on Twitter. But they went further than what the tenure can bear when some of them started digging the “Mountain War” and the ancient times. They ignored the fact that the warrior must keep his wrenching arms to the harshest battles, which would come sooner or later.
Jumblatt cannot deny the fact that Michel Aoun is the legitimate president of the country, and that he represents at least half of the Christians or slightly more based on the last parliamentary elections.
Aoun, on the other hand, cannot deny that Jumblatt is the leader of the overwhelming majority of the Druze. Because the country is a tent of components that do not allow for write-offs and marginalization, it is imperative for the two men to co-exist, even if they are forced to drink the poison and keep dancing.
The truth is that the story between the two men is old. They fought each other over the hills of Souk al-Gharb in the 1980s. Much blood was shed.
Jumblatt has spent most of his political life fighting those who battled over the legacy of Bashir Gemayel in his community, region and republic. These are Amin Gemayel, Samir Geagea, Elie Hobeika and Michel Aoun. He believes that if Bashir entered the palace due to a climate created by the Israeli invasion, Michel Aoun arrived in an atmosphere created by the storm of resistance. Jumblatt did neither approve Aoun’s ambiguous position in the wake of the assassinations that hit Lebanon in the last decade nor his willingness to manipulate the balance of powers established by the Taif Accord. Jumblatt suspects that Aoun is carrying out a project to confine him. Another reluctant general, Emile Lahoud, tried to implement it, but the wind did not help him. Months before the election of Aoun as president, Jumblatt made a clear position. If Samir Geagea supports Aoun’s arrival, he will have no choice but to agree to prevent a clash with the Christian bloc and for the sake of the Mountain reconciliation, which was concluded during Aoun’s exile and Geagea’s imprisonment.
Because the palace deserves reconciliation, even with the first enemy and the top competitor, Aoun sipped the poison of the “Maarab agreement” and won the support of Geagea and later Jumblatt, after receiving the backing of Saad al-Hariri. But the palace is difficult in Lebanon. The apparatus is already disabled. Neither corruption has receded nor has the State’s dream progressed. Those holding power are doing more harm to the tenure than their rivals. In Lebanon, you have to remember that you are in Lebanon. Michel Aoun dreamt of seeing the hammer of the Lebanese parliament out of the hands of Speaker Nabih Berri. He soon realized that Hezbollah, which offered him many gifts including the presidency, was not prepared to offer a gift of this size. Berri, who had dreamed of avoiding seeing Aoun in the palace, did not get such a gift from the party. It is the poison season, and Jumblatt has drunk a lot of it, especially on May 7, 2008, from Hezbollah’s hands.
The Lebanese equation is an old atelier of poison making. Poison in the disputes between the components and within them. More than ever, the immunity of Aoun’s reign appears to be hanging on his agreement with his arch-foe, Samir Geagea, whose parliamentary size has doubled after the recent elections. When divorce occurs between the two men, a battle will actually begin to confine the tenure, because it will not be regarded as a confinement to the community itself. Berri is an expert in time selection, and Jumblatt will not hesitate to tweet.
Saudi Arabia attempts a political comeback in Lebanon
Paul Khalifeh/MEE/June 18/18
After the fiasco of the forced resignation of Saad Hariri, Saudi Arabia stepped back but now is pushing hard to keep its allies in government
After months of keeping a low profile, following the unexpected resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri and his ambiguous stay in Riyadh in November, Saudi Arabia is attempting yet again to intervene in Lebanese politics.
Longstanding relations between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia suffered a serious blow following Hariri's surprise resignation while in Riyadh in November and the imposition of restrictions on the movement and freedom of the Lebanese prime minister in Saudi Arabia.
A dramatic episode
The wounds caused by this dramatic episode have yet to heal, particularly among certain groups of Lebanese Sunnis. Since then, Saudi policy in Lebanon has been a series of blunders and mishaps.
A few days after Hariri's release, following a French diplomatic intervention under the initiative of Emmanuel Macron, the kingdom dispatched Walid al-Yaacoub as ambassador to Lebanon. The diplomat presented his credentials to President Michel Aoun on 3 January.
However, a few weeks later, he disappeared from the scene, and was replaced by the chargé d'affaires, Walid al-Bukhari.
Following the Hariri incident, Saudi Arabia adopted an unusually low profile regarding Lebanon
Thamer al-Sabhan, the Saudi minister of state for Gulf affairs, was another persona non grata in Lebanon. Notorious for making incendiary and threatening tweets against Hezbollah and Lebanese leaders, this special police force general, promoted to the rank of minister by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, was a character either courted or hated by the Lebanese political class.
Said to be behind the surprise resignation of Hariri, Sabhan was held responsible for the political and diplomatic fiasco at any rate, and was duly removed from Lebanese affairs.
Following the Hariri resignation incident, Saudi Arabia adopted an unusually low profile regarding Lebanon. The Saudi press stopped showing an interest in the country, while, at the same time, the virulent rants against President Aoun and his minister of foreign affairs, Gebran Bassil, ceased. The tone was one of indifference."Lebanese-Saudi relations are no longer that clear-cut, due to changes within the kingdom by MBS [Mohammed bin Salman]. Confusion prevails," said Sarkis Abi Zeid, editor of Tahawolat magazine.
The Saudi agenda
It was only in the run-up to the legislative elections, which took place on 6 May, that Lebanon began to once again show up on the Saudi agenda. A royal emissary, Nizar Alaoula, landed in Beirut in February and began making a frenzied round of visits to Lebanese political figures and parties.
A politician close to Hezbollah told MEE that Alaoula had tried, in vain, to resurrect the former anti-Syrian and anti-Iranian March 14 alliance. Faced with the refusal of the Druze leader, Walid Jumblatt, and of Saad Hariri, as well as the reticence of many other Lebanese personalities, the royal emissary gave up. The prime minister was then "summoned to Saudi Arabia," the same source told us. Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri greeted by supporters upon returning to Beirut after being retained in the Saudi capital of Riyadh for several days in November 2017 (AFP)
The head of the Lebanese government was received by King Salman on 28 February and by the crown prince immediately afterwards.
No one knows for sure what was said during Hariri's first visit to the Saudi capital since the humiliation inflicted on him four months earlier, but speculation is rampant in political and media circles across Lebanon.
However, the upshot of the visit was evidenced in last-minute programme changes that occurred a month before the elections: Saad Hariri did not join Gebran Bassil’s Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) in most districts as he had originally planned.
"The Saudis pressured Hariri not to get involved in the process of isolation of the Lebanese Forces [LF], the other Christian party close to Saudi Arabia," explains Abi Zeid. The LF, fiercely hostile to pro-Iranian Hezbollah, managed to double the size of its parliamentary bloc, from eight to 15 members, in a 128-member house.
No one knows for sure what was said during Hariri's first visit to the Saudi capital since the humiliation inflicted on him four months earlier, but speculation is rampant in political and media circles across Lebanon
Other sources who have requested anonymity claim that Saudi Arabia provided substantial financial support to Hariri in return for adjusting his electoral alliances.
However, the kingdom denies having interfered in the Lebanese elections. During a fast-breaking meal on 19 May, to which a large number of political figures were invited, Alaoula declared that Riyadh would not comment on the Lebanese political process.
'Unprecedented' interference
These words did not convince Hezbollah. Sheikh Nabil Qaouk, a member of Hezbollah's central council, accused Saudi Arabia of "interfering in the legislative process through candidacies, list forming, vote buying and even party organisation".
"Saudi interference in Lebanese affairs has reached an unprecedented level. Riyadh is now working to form a parliamentary bloc to confront the Resistance, to tighten the stranglehold around it and to weaken it," he added.
For Abi Zeid, Saudi interference has also taken the form of economic pressure and sanctions. In this context, on 16 May, the US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, in cooperation with Saudi Arabia and several Gulf countries, added Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, a leading deputy of Sheikh Naim Qassem's party, and nine other political leaders to its list of "terrorists".
But the most significant indication of Saudi interference was the surprise resignation of Saad Hariri's chief of staff, his cousin Nader Hariri. Nader Hariri was the architect of the rapprochement between the prime minister and the president, which allowed the latter to be elected president of the republic and the former to return to the head of the government. Nader Hariri was not a favourite with the entourage of MBS.
The prime minister also dismissed another personality who does not enjoy the graces of Riyadh: his interior minister, and close consort, Nouhad Machnouk. Hariri had to resort to subterfuge to get rid of this cumbersome supporter by prohibiting the accumulation of mandates between the legislative body and the ministry."Hariri gave in to Saudi pressure by removing from his inner circle members seen by Riyadh in an unfavourable light," concludes Abi Zeid.
Regional tensions
Another worrying signal for those who fear Saudia Arabia's comeback in Lebanon was Saad Hariri’s visit to Riyadh just three days after he his re-election as head of government. His visit, which took place in complete secrecy, lasted five days and few details filtered through to the press about who he met with and the content of the interviews conducted in the Saudi capital. For Qaouq, there is no doubt that the objective of the Saudi leaders was to convince the prime minister not to include members of Hezbollah in his government.
"The Saudi regime is far too weak to prevent us from being represented in government by competent ministers. Hezbollah’s presence in the new government cabinet will be strong, efficient and influential," said Hezbollah's central council member. On 3 June, Qaouq claimed yet again that Saudi Arabia’s interference in [Lebanon’s] parliamentary elections and government formation was “shameful and suspicious”.
Sarkis Abi Zeid believes that the Saudis' goal is not to prevent the appointment of Hezbollah ministers - a goal he considers impossible to achieve. "They want to protect the presence of the Lebanese Forces (LF), their strongest ally at this juncture, in the executive branch," the analyst claims.
Whether excluding Hezbollah or protecting the Lebanese Forces, Saudi Arabia's interference marks a return to Lebanon in a context of rising regional tensions with Iran and an upsurge in Israeli military activity in Syria.
*/*Paul Khalifeh is a Lebanese journalist and foreign correspondent. He teaches at universities in Beirut.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on June 18-19/18
UAE minister: Arab coalition’s full control of Hodeidah only a matter of time
Arab News/June 18/18/The UN envoy for Yemen carried a plan to halt fighting around the key aid port of Hodeidah where Houthi militia have been battling a regional coalition as he arrived Saturday in the militia-held capital Sanaa.
DUBAI: The Saudi-led coalition fighting Iran-backed Houthi militia for control of Yemen’s main port city of Hodeidah will take a “calculated and gradual” approach to the battle, a senior United Arab Emirates official said on Monday.The comments came after witnesses said eight villagers had been killed and 15 others wounded when Houthi militia shelled a village in the center of the country called Haglan Maris.Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said the military alliance led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE was taking into consideration a “fragile humanitarian situation,” avoiding civilian casualties in addition to military calculations. Gargash, speaking to reporters in Dubai, estimated the number of Houthi fighters in Hodeidah at between 2,000 to 3,000. He declined to reveal the size of coalition forces but said they had “numerical superiority.” He said that the Arab coalition’s full control of Hodeidah only a matter of time. “From our perspective, three years of war is enough. It is time for the political process,” Gargash told journalists. “If the Houthis don’t want to start the political process, we will force them to start the political process.”Gargash added that the Hodeidah port is a “major artery” for weapons smuggling from Iran to the Houthis. “The liberation of Hodeidah is a major step in freeing Sanaa,” the UAE minister said, adding that “the roads leading to the port are filled with mines.” France is said to be helping the Arab coalition in de-mining the roads. The port remains open for incoming ships and Gargash said the UAE had plans for “airdrops” of food if necessary. Hodeida International Airport, which has seen days of intense fighting, has been bombed and closed for years. Gargash said Emirati forces also fear the Houthis mining channels leading to the port. For now, he said he hoped the campaign would aid UN special envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths’ efforts to get a cease-fire and have the Houthis leave Hodeida. “We are still counting on the UN attempt to try and pull a rabbit out of the hat,” Gargash said. Martin Griffiths was expected to propose to militia leaders that they cede control of the Red Sea port to a UN-supervised committee and halt heavy clashes against advancing government troops backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. (With AFP, AP & Reuters)

Police Arrest Hit-and-Run Driver in Dutch Music Festival
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 18 June, 2018/Dutch police on Monday arrested the driver of a delivery van that hit pedestrians near a campsite at a huge music festival in the Netherlands, killing one and injuring three, a statement said. "The police found the white van that was involved in the incident and a suspect has been detained," it said. No further details were provided. Officers said it was not clear whether the van driver had hit the group of four pedestrians at the Pinkpop event intentionally or by accident. "This investigation is still underway and we cannot say whether this was something intentional or an accident," said police spokesman Hub Haenen. A police statement said the street where the incident took place, one of two exits from the concert grounds, had been closed for forensic investigation. The Pinkpop festival was launched in 1970. This year as well as R&B artist Bruno Mars, who closed the event on Sunday, other major bands including Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, Snow Patrol and Noel Gallagher performed to sell-out crowds. The festival has drawn around 67,000 fans a day since opening on Friday, according to director, Jan Smeets, quoted by the Dutch news agency ANP. The organization said in a statement on Facebook that it was "shocked, and our thoughts are with victims and their families."

US official: Israel conducted air strike near Abu Kamal, Pro-Iranian Iraqi militia targeted
DEBKAfile/June 19/18/A US official disclosed that the airstrike on Sunday, June 18, which killed dozens of fighters near the Syrian-Iraqi border town of Abu Kamal, was conducted by Israel. Syrians sources reported that between 40 and 50 Syrian army and Shiite Iraqi militia fighters were killed. DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources disclose that the Israeli air strike, if the US official’s account is confirmed, was a major operation for stemming the influx of several brigades of the pro-Iranian Iraqi Kata’ib Hizballah militia as they crossed into Syria from Iraq. This militia is part of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMU) umbrella organization, which takes its orders from Iran’s Al Qods chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Our sources add that the Kata’ib Hizballah brigades were on their way to southwestern Syria to deploy along the Israeli and Jordanian borders. The air strike caused major havoc in their ranks and a larger number of casualties than reported. As a result, the Iraqi brigades withdrew from Syria and pulled back across the border to Iraq.
Strike on east Syria killed 52 pro-regime fighters
AFP, Beirut/Monday, 18 June 2018/At least 52 foreign fighters allied to Syria’s regime were killed in an overnight bombing raid near the country’s eastern border with Iraq, a monitor said on Monday. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the strike on the town of Al-Hari was one of the deadliest on forces allied with Syria's government, but could not immediately identify who carried it out. Syrian state media reported the attack overnight and accused the US-led coalition against ISIS, saying a number of people were killed.

Syria state media says US bombs military positions, Washington denies
Reuters, Beirut/Monday, 18 June 2018/Syrian state media said on Monday that US-led coalition aircraft bombed an army position in the east, causing deaths and injuries, but the US military denied it was responsible. The attack took place in al-Harra, southeast of the town of Albu Kamal, state media said citing a military source. There were no immediate details on casualties. A commander in the alliance fighting alongside Damascus told Reuters that drones which were “probably American” bombed positions of Iraqi factions between Albu Kamal and Tanf, as well as Syrian military positions. The commander, who is not Syrian and spoke on condition of anonymity, said the strike killed and injured some Iraqi fighters, but did not give a toll. A fighter aircraft of the US-led coalition flies over Mursitpinar in the outskirts of Suruc, at the Turkey-Syria border, as it approaches Syria to deliver an airstrike in Kobani, during fighting between Syrian Kurds and the militants of Islamic State group. (AP) “No member of the US-led coalition carried out strikes near Albu Kamal,” Major Josh Jacques, a US Central Command spokesman, told Reuters. The US-led coalition uses air power and special forces to back an alliance of Syrian Arab and Kurdish militia fighting Islamic State northeast of Albu Kamal. US forces are also based around the Tanf crossing, southwest of the town in the Syrian desert near the borders of Iraq and Jordan. President Bashar al-Assad’s army, with the help of Iran-backed militias including Hezbollah and Iraqi groups, drove Islamic State from Albu Kamal and its environs last year, but the jihadists have since staged attacks there.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said unidentified planes had struck Lebanon’s Shi’ite Hezbollah and other allied foreign militias around Albu Kamal. The UK-based war monitor said the strikes killed 40 people. Reuters could not independently verify the Observatory’s report of casualties. Asked about the reported air strikes, an Israeli military spokeswoman said: “We do not comment on foreign reports.”Throughout Syria’s seven-year war, Israel has carried out scores of strikes within the neighbouring country against what it describes as Hezbollah or Iranian targets. Israel, alarmed about the clout of arch enemies Iran and Hezbollah, has pressed Russia, Assad’s other key ally, to make sure Tehran does not entrench its military sway in Syria.Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet he had “repeated and clarified” his Syria policy in weekend phone calls with Russian President Vladimir Putin and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “First of all, Iran must clear out of all of Syria,” Netanyahu said on Sunday, according to a statement from his office. “Secondly, we will take action, and are already taking action, against the attempted military entrenchment of Iran and its proxies, both close to the border and deep within Syria.” In an interview last week, Assad called Hezbollah “a basic element” in the war and said “the need forthese military forces will continue for a long time.” He said the United States was an occupying power in Syria and that his state supports “any act of resistance, whether against terrorists or against occupying forces, regardless of their nationality.”

Israeli jets strike nine Gaza targets in response to ‘explosive kites, balloons’

Reuters/Monday, 18 June 2018/Israeli jets struck nine targets belonging to the Islamist Hamas group in the northern Gaza Strip early on Monday in response to incendiary kites and balloons Palestinians sent from the territory that have damaged Israeli property, the military said. “The strikes were conducted in response to arson and explosive kites and balloons that have been launched into Israel. These are terrorist acts that endanger Israeli residents living in southern Israel and damage extensive areas in Israeli territory,” said the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit in a statement. Sirens also sounded in Israeli areas near the Gaza Strip at daybreak and the army said three rockets had been launched towards Israeli territory but one fell short in the Gaza Strip. No casualties were reported from the rockets or air strikes. In recent weeks, Palestinians have sent kites dangling coal embers or burning rags across the Gaza border to set fire to arid farmland and forests, others have carried small explosive devices in a new tactic that has caused extensive damage. The Israeli military has fired warning shots from the air and destroyed property belonging to the kite launchers but has refrained from targeting them. Some Israeli ministers have called for those launchers to be targeted directly. Israel has drafted in civilian drone enthusiasts as army reservists, instructing them to fly their remote-controlled aircraft into the kites, an Israeli general said, but an effective means to stop the kites has yet to be found. At least 125 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops during mass demonstrations along the Gaza border since March 30 and the men sending the kites over the fence believe they have found an effective new weapon. Israel’s deadly tactics in confronting the weekly Friday protests have drawn international condemnation. Palestinians say they are a popular outpouring of rage against Israel by people demanding the right to return to homes their families fled or were driven from on Israel’s founding 70 years ago. Israel says the demonstrations are organized by the Islamist group Hamas that controls the Gaza Strip and denies Israel’s right to exist. Israel says Hamas has intentionally provoked the violence, a charge Hamas denies. Around two million people live in Gaza, most of them the stateless descendants of refugees from what is now Israel. The territory has been controlled by Hamas for more than a decade, during which it has fought three wars against Israel. Israel and Egypt maintain a blockade of the strip, citing security reasons, which has caused an economic crisis and collapse in living standards there over the past decade.

Israel’s Netanyahu meets King Abdullah in Jordan for rare talks
AFP, Amman/Monday, 18 June 2018/Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held rare talks with King Abdullah II of Jordan during an unannounced visit to Amman on Monday, official sources in the two countries said. The two leaders discussed the stalled peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, the Jordanian royal court said in a statement. Jordan and Egypt are the only Arab countries to have peace treaties with Israel, and Monday’s visit was Netanyahu’s first to the kingdom since 2014. “The king and the prime minister discussed regional developments as well as advancing the peace process and bilateral relations,” the Israeli leader’s spokesman Ofir Gendelman tweeted. “Prime Minister Netanyahu reiterated Israel's commitment to maintaining the status quo at the holy sites in Jerusalem,” he added. Under the status quo agreement, only Muslims are allowed to pray at the Al-Aqsa/Temple Mount site, while Jews may visit but not pray -- instead worshipping at the Western Wall. Israel and Jordan signed a treaty ending 46 years of aggression in 1994 that recognizes the kingdom’s “historic role” in the management of holy Muslim sites in Jerusalem.

Former Israeli minister Gonen Segev charged with spying for Iran
AFP, Jerusalem/Monday, 18 June 2018/Former Israeli government minister Gonen Segev, 62, has been charged with spying for Iran following last month’s arrest on his return to Israel after being refused entry to the West African state of Equatorial Guinea, Israeli security officials said on Monday. The Shin Bet domestic security agency said in a statement that Segev was charged on Friday with “offences of passing information to the enemy in time of war and espionage against the state of Israel” after an investigation showed that spied on behalf of Iranian intelligence. The agency also said that Segev had been in contact with Iranian embassy officials in Nigeria, in which he previously lived, and later visited Iran to meet with his intelligence “handlers.”"Segev gave his handlers information related to the energy market, security sites in Israel, buildings and officials in political and security bodies, and more," it said. A statement from Segev's lawyers said that most details of the charges were under a state-imposed blackout. Little information has been released, giving a misleading impression, they said. The facts which have been cleared for publication "give the appearance of acts of the gravest kind," they said.
"However from the contents of the charge sheet, whose full details are blocked, a different picture emerges," they said.

Turkish military patrols outskirts of Kurdish-militia dominated Syrian city

AFP, Istanbul/Monday, 18 June 2018/In corporation with US troops, Turkish armed forces have begun patrolling the Kurdish-held city of Manbij in northern Syria on Monday, in conformance with a US agreement to reduce tensions in the region. The Turkish army released a statement saying that “patrol activities had begun” between Manbij and an area it controls after a 2016-2017 military incursion. State-run news agency Anadolu, headquartered in the capital, Ankara, said that Turkish armored vehicles have been patrolling “on the Manbij frontline.”Manbij is controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish militia-dominated umbrella group that Turkey considers a terror group but is supported by the US, which has made the city a major flashpoint between the two states. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo agreed on a road map for reduced tensions in the city earlier this month. The move comes as Turkey prepares for tight presidential and parliamentary elections on Sunday, with many analysts noting that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants a major foreign policy success to give him a final boost.

Iran executes Sufi opposition member accused of running over police officers
Staff Writer, Al Arabiya English/Monday, 18 June 2018/Judicial sources in Iran said they upheld the death sentence of a Sufi opposition member Mohammad Reza Salas on Monday morning, after being accused of running over three Iranian police officers during Sufi protests earlier this year.
On Sunday, 97 members of European Parliament have requested Iranian authorities to suspend the decision of Salas, a member of the Gonabadi dervishes, who follow the mystical Sufi strain of Islam. Salas has confessed before the court that he unintentionally ran over a number of police officers during clashes with protesters from the religious order last February. However, after the end of court sessions, an audio recording being circulated stated that Salas was not the driver of the bus that ran over a number of police officers, but the confession extracted from him came under torture. The case has gained local and international attention, with the banned Iranian rights organization “Harana” saying that Salas’s “confession of killing three police officers was extracted following hours of torture in Evin Prison, north of Iran.” A Sufi activist, Waheed Bahshti, said Iranian judicial authorities have carried out Salas’s execution early Monday morning after ilsoating him from other prisoners about a a week ago. On Sunday, authorities allowed his family to see him for the last time, the sources added. His daughter has appealed to authorities to suspend the death penalty and consider the information in the audio recording saying he did not commit the crime.

Palestinian killed by Israeli fire in Gaza
AFP, Gaza city/Monday, 18 June 2018/A Palestinian was killed by Israeli fire on Monday near the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel, the health ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory said. An Israeli army statement said “several terrorists were injured” in an explosion as they attempted to carry out sabotage near the border fence, but made no mention of troops opening fire. The health ministry said in a statement that “Sabri Ahmed Abu Khader, 24, was killed by bullets of the (Israeli) occupation forces.”It did not add further details on the circumstances of the incident.
At least 131 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli gunfire since major border protests broke out at the end of March. No Israelis have been killed. The Israeli army said five “terrorists” had “attempted to sabotage a security infrastructure in the area of the barrier in the northern Gaza Strip”.“The security infrastructure exploded,” it said in English. “Subsequently, several terrorists were injured.”Earlier Monday, Israeli warplanes conducted strikes against nine Hamas “military targets” in the northern Gaza Strip in response to incendiary kites being sent into Israeli territory, the army said. The attacks targeted two Hamas military sites and a munitions manufacturing site, the military said in a statement, without specifying whether the raids had resulted in casualties.
Palestinian security sources said nobody was wounded in the morning air strikes.

Erdogan in major Istanbul rally ahead of Turkey vote

AFP, Istanbul/Monday, 18 June 2018/Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday was cheered on by tens of thousands of supporters at a rally in Istanbul ahead of next weekend’s election, after facing tough opposition in the campaign. Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) which he co-founded in 2001 are seeking a second term in power in snap parliamentary and presidential polls on June 24. “Are you in for a strong government on June 24?” Erdogan asked the crowds who filled the Yenikapi rallying ground on the European side despite the heavy rains earlier in the day. “Are you in for a strong Turkey on June 24? Will you make history on June 24?,” he said, with the crowd replying “yes” in harmony. “I believe this job is over in Istanbul. With Allah’s permission, Istanbul has made its decision,” Erdogan told his supporters waving Turkish flags. Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan gather for an election rally in Istanbul. (Reuters) Erdogan is a clear favorite to win Sunday’s elections but analysts say the victory is a not foregone conclusion and that the vote could go to a run-off. “When we already have a true servant of the people, I don’t care about the utopia of his rivals,” Ali Beral, a fervent supporter of Erdogan, told AFP during the rally. “God willing, we will win again and we will emerge stronger,” he said. The Turkish leader is up against increasing pressure from rival Muharrem Ince of the secular Republican People’s Party (CHP) who has brought dynamism to the heated contest with his rhetorical skills matching those of Erdogan. Erdogan has boasted of his mega projects for Istanbul during the Yenikapi rally including a third bridge across the Bosphorus slated to open in October, as well as Canal Istanbul -- an alternative sea route aimed at taking pressure off the waterway. “I am not fabricating dreams but talking of what we have done,” he added. Erdogan and Ince are both holding several rallies daily, in what appears to be the biggest ballot box challenge of Erdogan’s career. In an address to his supporters in northern Anatolian city of Tokat, Ince said: “An exhausted man cannot help Turkey get out of hole. Turkey is need of fresh blood.”

Turkish, U.S. units begin patrols near northern Syria's Manbij
Mon 18 Jun 2018/NNA - Turkish and U.S. soldiers have started independent patrols in northern Syria along the line separating Turkish-controlled areas from the town of Manbij where Ankara says Kurdish militia fighters are based, Turkey's military said Monday. Earlier this month Turkey and the United States endorsed a tentative deal to overcome months of dispute over the town. "As per the Manbij Roadmap and Safety Principles previously agreed upon, independent patrol activities by soldiers of Turkish Armed Forces and U.S. Armed Forces have begun on the line between (the Turkish-controlled) area and Manbij," Turkey's armed forces said on Twitter. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkish soldiers would enter Manbij step by step, without elaborating.--Reuters

Trump blasts migration in Europe as causing 'culture' change
Mon 18 Jun 2018/NNA - U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday blamed migrants in Europe for what he inaccurately described as a rise in crime in Germany and for violently changing the culture, adding that what was happening with immigration there presented a similar threats to the United States. "The people of Germany are turning against their leadership as migration is rocking the already tenuous Berlin coalition. Crime in Germany is way up. Big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!" Trump, said in a tweet. Trump's administration is facing strong criticism from rights activists, Democrats and some in his own Republican Party for separating children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexican border, a policy aimed at deterring illegal immigration. Crime has fallen off dramatically in Germany, with the country's internal ministry reporting last month that criminal offenses in Germany totaled 5.76 million in 2017, the lowest number since 1992, leading to the lowest crime rate for the country in more than 30 years. Merkel's open-door migrant policy is widely blamed for the rise of the right-wing AfD, now the main opposition party in Germany's federal parliament. More than 1.6 million migrants, mostly Muslims fleeing wars in the Middle East, have arrived in Germany since 2014. ---Reuters

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on June 18-19/18
Mystery surrounds overnight airstrikes on pro-Syrian regime fighters
Jerusalem Post/June 18/18
After Syrian regime blamed US, and US denied the attacks, questions remain over who carried out airstrikes in strategic Euphrates valley that allegedly killed pro-Iranian militia members.
Just after midnight in the first hours of Monday morning air strikes hit Syrian regime targets in the Euphrates valley near the Iraqi border. The strikes hit in the proximity of Syrian military positions near Albu Kamal in a village called Al-Hari. They reportedly killed members of Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias.
Syrian state media reported almost immediately that the strikes were carried out by the US and pointed to the US-led anti-ISIS coalition as the culprit. Within hours, the claims that the US had struck Syrian regime troops was downgraded a bit to “probably” but headlines in pro-Syrian regime media, including in Iran, claimed the US was targeting Syria.
Major Josh Jacques, A US Central Command spokesman, told Reuters that “no member of the US-led coalition carried out strikes near Albu Kamal.” The US does not usually deny involvement in air strikes that it has carried out. The clear denial indicates the US was not involved. In the past the US has struck at pro-regime units to support its Syrian Democratic Forces partners who have sometimes been targeted by the Syrian regime and its allies. Later, the press affairs office of the coalition said the US is “aware of reports of a strike near Albu Kamal, Syria, that killed and wounded several Katai’b Hezbollah members. There have been no strikes by US or coalition forces in that area.”
Kata’ib Hezbollah is an Iraqi paramilitary group. Its leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis served alongside the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in the 1980s and is close to Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani. In January 2017 he told Al Mayadeen TV that Lebanese Hezbollah was active in Iraq and provided evidence for Iran’s deep influence from across Iraq to Syria and Lebanon. Since 2017, Kata’ib Hezbollah has been an official paramilitary force of the Iraqi government under the Popular Mobilization Units. So who would carry out an air attack on an Iraqi Shi’ite paramilitary group in Syria? There are other air forces that operate in the skies over Syria capable of carrying out air strikes. In April, the Iraqi government carried out air strikes against ISIS pockets in Syria near the border. It coordinated with the Syrian regime and coordinated closely with the coalition, which is in Iraq to support the central government’s anti-ISIS campaign. The Iraqi government wouldn’t knowingly target its own paramilitaries in Syria. Syrian state media has blamed the US for air strikes before. In April, missiles hit a Syrian base near Homs. Later foreign reports placed responsibility on Israel for that air strike. The full details of the April air strike are not known, but the pattern, in which the regime quickly blamed the US, is similar to what happened Monday morning.
Why would the regime falsely attribute an attack to the US? One reason is because Syrian air defense might not know who was carrying out the attack but would know from which direction the attack came. Planes flying into the Euphrates valley would be assumed to be coalition planes. The regime also wants to blame the US in order to ramp up Russia-US tensions Iraq-US tensions. It may also and wants to downplay the ability of Israel to strike deep in Syria. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) claims that “sites and points of the Lebanese Hezbollah militias – and other militias loyal to the regime forces of non-Syrian nationalities – were targeted by warplanes, which are still unknown.” SOHR initially said 40 militia members were killed while Orient News media group says it was around 30. Other sources said 38 foreign fighters were killed in the air strike.
Several Twitter accounts have pointed the finger at Israel. IntaNewsAlerts claims that “reports now surfacing that this attack should actually be attributed to Israel.” Reuters asked about the reported air strikes and an Israeli military spokeswoman said that “we do not comment on foreign reports.”
However the air strike comes a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Israel would continue to take action against Iran’s attempts to entrench itself in Syria. “We will take and have already taken action against efforts to establish a military presence by Iran and its proxies in Syria.”
The area near Albu Kamal where the air strikes were carried out is a strategic corridor and border crossing from Iraq to Syria. It is an area where Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias have operated for more than a year. They have been present to fight ISIS but there are also concerns that Iran is seeking a “land corridor” via Iraq to Syria and that this area would be used as a way to transport militias and weapons. A strike on an Iraqi unit like Kata'ib Hezbollah, which is part of the Iraqi government's paramilitary, could be a message to Baghdad to refrain from letting its militias cross the border.
The presence of Kata’ib Hezbollah in Syria points to the way the network of Iranian-backed Shia militias, including those that are officially part of the government in Iraq, create a network from Beirut to Tehran

Palestinians: Victims of Arab Apartheid
Khaled Abu Toameh/Gatestone Institute/June 18/18
Tens of thousands of Palestinians are now living in a Lebanese ghetto called Ain Al-Hilweh, and the world seems to be fine with that.
No one cares when an Arab country mistreats and discriminates and kills Palestinians. But when something happens in the West Bank or Gaza Strip, the international media and community suddenly wake up. Why? Because they do not want to miss an opportunity to condemn Israel. One can only imagine the uproar in the world were Israel to pass a law denying Arabs jobs or the right to inherit property.
There are no protests on the streets of London or Paris. The UN Security Council has not -- and will not -- hold an emergency session to condemn Lebanon. Of course, the mainstream media in the West is not going to report about Arab apartheid and repressive measures against Palestinians. As for the leaders of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, they do not have time to address the problems of the camp residents. The Palestinian Authority and Hamas are too busy fighting each other, and the last thing they have on their minds are the interests and well-being of their people.
Lebanon is one of several Arab countries where Palestinians are subjected to discriminatory and apartheid laws and measures. The plight of Palestinians in Arab countries, however, is apparently of no interest to the international community, and pro-Palestinian activists and groups around the world.
Recently, the Lebanese authorities placed electronic screening gates at all entrances to Ain Al-Hilweh, the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. The move has sparked a wave of protests in Ain Al-Hilweh and among Palestinians living in other refugee camps in Lebanon, who are describing the installation of the electronic gates as collective punishment.
Until a few years ago, Ain Al-Hilweh had a population of 75,000. However, with the influx of refugees from Syria, which began in 2011, the camp's population is now estimated at more than 160,000.
About two years ago, the Lebanese army began building a security fence around Ain Al-Hilweh as part of an effort to combat jihadi terror groups that were reported to have infiltrated the camp. With the completion of the fence, the Lebanese authorities, in a move that has surprised the Palestinians, decided to install electronic gates to screen all those entering and leaving the camp. The Lebanese authorities say the gates are critical to discovering explosives and other types of weapons.
A July 2015 street celebration in Lebanon's Ain al-Hilweh camp. (Image source: Geneva Call/Flickr)
The installation of the electronic gates came during the holy month of Ramadan -- a move that has further exacerbated tensions inside Ain Al-Hilweh and drawn strong condemnations from the camp residents and other Palestinians.
Leaders of several Palestinian factions in Lebanon who held an emergency meeting earlier this week to discuss the installation of the electronic gates called on the Lebanese government to ease security restrictions on the camp residents. Some of the leaders claimed that the new gates were part of a US-led "conspiracy" targeting Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. "We fear that the recent Lebanese measures are in compliance with US pressure on the Lebanese government to impose punitive measures against the Palestinian camps [in Lebanon]," said a Palestinian official who attended the emergency meeting. He claimed that most of the terrorists wanted by the Lebanese authorities had left Ain Al-Hilweh in spite of the tough security measures surrounding the camp, and as such there was no justification for the electronic gates.
According to residents of Ain Al-Hilweh, the electronic gates have turned their lives into misery, resulting in long lines and delays as Lebanese soldiers conduct thorough searches on Palestinians leaving and entering the camp. They claim that the gates were placed at all the entrances to the camp, although only after the security situation inside the camp had relatively improved and recently been calm. "Such security measures are unjustified and serve to only increase anger and frustration," argued Yasser Ali, an official with a group that represents Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. "Why are they dealing with Ain Al-Hilweh as if it were an island full of diseases?"
In the past few days, residents of the camp have staged a number of protests against the electronic gates, and demanded an end to the Lebanese authorities' harsh measures against Palestinians in Ain Al-Hilweh in particular and Lebanon in general. "We prefer to die than to be humiliated," and "The people in the camp challenge the gates," the protesters chanted.
A Palestinian human rights organization condemned the Lebanese army's decision to place electronic gates at the entrances to the camp. He said the measure turns all the residents of Ain Al-Hilweh into suspected terrorists. "This measure is an insult and humiliation to the camp residents and an assault on their dignity," the organization said in a statement.
"Such electronic gates are used at airports and international borders, and it is hard to understand why they are being used to screen residents of a camp. Clearly, this is collective punishment that affects tens of thousands of people. The security measures, including the electronic gates and the concrete fence have turned the camp into a real prison. The residents have become prisoners who are permitted to enter and leave only with the permission of the military, which is standing at the entrances."
Some Palestinians have called out Lebanon's leaders for their hypocrisy. "In whose interest is it to humiliate the Palestinians in Lebanon?" asked Palestinian political commentator Ahmed Al-Haj Ali. "How can Lebanese officials experience schizophrenia when they talk about liberating Palestine while they are imposing strict measures against the Palestinians?"
On June 13, a delegation representing Palestinian factions met with Bahia Hariri, a Lebanese parliament member who happens to be the aunt of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and appealed to her to intervene to have the gates removed from the entrances to Ain Al-Hilweh. The delegation complained to her that the gates have had a negative impact on the lives of the camp residents and urged her to use her influence with the Lebanese authorities to ease restrictions imposed on Palestinians in Lebanon.
Here it is worth noting that the 450,000 Palestinians in Lebanon have long been suffering from a policy of systematic discrimination and marginalization by the Lebanese authorities in all aspects.
Until 2005, Palestinians were barred from 70 different categories of qualified professions, such as medicine, law and engineering. Although the Lebanese Minister of Labor issued a memorandum in 2005 permitting Palestinians to work legally in manual and clerical jobs, the ban on Palestinians seeking professional employment has remained in place. In 2001, the Lebanese parliament passed a law that prevents Palestinians from owning and inheriting property. In addition, Palestinian refugees have no access to Lebanese government hospitals. As one Palestinian pointed out:
"The Palestinians in Lebanon and other Arab countries are treated as if they are not human beings. The Arabs hold us in ghettoes and deny us basic human rights. In Lebanon, Palestinian refugee camps are like a zoo or a prison. This is shameful that Arabs are capable of treating their fellow Arabs in such a manner. Even more shameful is the silence of the international community and the UN."
As if that were not enough, in 2007 the Lebanese army launched a large military operation against another refugee camp, Nahr Al-Bared, killing hundreds of people and destroying most of the houses there. Most of the 32,000 camp residents were forced to flee their homes. According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), "the effects of this displacement have compounded the already severe socioeconomic conditions facing these refugees and constitute a chronic humanitarian crisis."
The residents of Ain Al-Hilweh now fear that the tough security measures around their camp, including the placement of the electronic gates, mean that they could meet the same fate.
That is why they are planning to step up their protests in the coming days and weeks. However, the Palestinians in Lebanon would be mistaken to pin high hopes on the international community or Palestinian leaders.
The international community pays attention to the Palestinians only when it is possible to blame Israel. The only Palestinians who seem to win the attention of the international community and media are those living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and who are in direct conflict with Israel. Palestinians living in ghettos in the Arab world and who are being killed and displaced by Arab armies do not attract any attention from the international community or mainstream media.
No one cares when an Arab country mistreats and discriminates and kills Palestinians. But when something happens in the West Bank or Gaza Strip, the international media and community suddenly wake up. Why? Because they do not want to miss an opportunity to condemn Israel.
The residents of Ain Al-Hilweh would have been fortunate had Israel placed the electronic gates at the entrances to their camp. Then, dozens of foreign journalists and human rights activists would have converged on the camp to document an Israeli "violation of Palestinian human rights." One can only imagine the uproar in the world were Israel to pass a law denying Arabs jobs or the right to inherit property.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians are now living in a ghetto called Ain Al-Hilweh, and the world seems to be fine with that. In fact, most Palestinians in Lebanon have long been living in ghettos surrounded by the Lebanese army.
There are no protests on the streets of London or Paris. The UN Security Council has not -- and will not -- hold an emergency session to condemn Lebanon. Of course, the mainstream media in the West is not going to report about Arab apartheid and repressive measures against Palestinians. As for the leaders of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, they do not have time to address the problems of the camp residents. The Palestinian Authority and Hamas are too busy fighting each other and the last thing they have on their minds are the interests and well-being of their people.
*Khaled Abu Toameh, a journalist based in Jerusalem, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.
© 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.

Gaza Media Coverage: Snipers and Lies
Ruthie Blum/Gatestone Institute/June 18/18
"We will take down the border [with Israel] and we will tear their hearts from their bodies." — Yahya Sinwar, Hamas political leader.
"[W]hen we talk about 'peaceful resistance,' we are deceiving the public. This is a peaceful resistance bolstered by a military force and by security agencies, and enjoying tremendous popular support." — Mahmoud Al-Zahar, senior Hamas official, on Al Jazeera.
When a doctor in Gaza announced that a congenital heart defect was likely the cause of her death, the Gaza health ministry removed her name from the list of those killed in clashes with Israel, pending an autopsy.
"Hamas' goal is to have Israel kill as many Gazans as possible so that the headlines always begin, and often end, with the body count. Hamas deliberately sends women and children to the front line, while their own fighters hide behind these human shields." — Alan Dershowitz, Esq.
On May 14, as United States officials ceremoniously relocated the American Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza -- many of them members of Hamas and Iran-linked Islamic Jihad, along with other residents paid to participate -- engaged in violent demonstrations along the Gaza-Israel border fence. Dubbed the "Great March of Return," these protests were launched on March 30 and timed to crescendo six weeks later, on the day of the U.S. Embassy move, which coincided with the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the state of Israel.
For weeks, rioters stormed the border, firing weapons and hurling Molotov cocktails and rocks at the Israeli soldiers who guard the area to prevent terrorist incursions into southern Israel.
The weeks of continuous rioting -- planned by Hamas as part of its admitted campaign to destroy Israel through terrorism and delegitimization -- has left dozens of Palestinians dead and hundreds wounded. The numbers were widely reported in the liberal media in Israel and abroad, and were accompanied by condemnations of Israel for its "excessive use of force" against "peaceful protesters."
Although Hamas official Salah Bardawil announced that of the 62 people "martyred," 50 were members of Hamas -- while Islamic Jihad claimed another three -- many journalists, opinion writers, international organizations and so-called human rights groups with a fixed idea about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in general and the current unrest in Gaza in particular did not let such information permeate their articles or declarations. Those who did include the statistic downplayed the fact that Hamas was paying impoverished Gaza residents to descend on the border of a neighboring country with the purpose not only of killing or kidnapping its residents, but also to get killed or wounded by sniper fire. In so doing, Hamas would be able to accuse its neighbor of the very war crimes Hamas itself has been committing.
To this end, Hamas even sent buses to transport Gaza residents to the border they were ordered to breach, and jailed bus drivers who refused to comply. Yet there still seems to be an avoidance on the part of much of the media of seeing that the plight of the Palestinians killed and wounded in the riots is caused by Hamas itself.
As the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) has documented extensively, leftist fellow travelers in the media have been accepting and propagating Hamas propaganda that the "March of Return" was a plea for Palestinian human rights. They also bought into the terrorist organization's claim that the U.S. Embassy move was the catalyst for its latest assault, which has come to include a renewed wave of rocket and mortar fire from Gaza into Israel (launched by Islamic Jihad with the full support of Hamas); attempts to infiltrate the border to kill Israelis; and mass arson, through the use of helium balloons and flaming kites (some painted with swastikas) that have succeeded so far in burning down more than 6,000 acres of Israeli farmland and nature reserves, in a country roughly the size of New Jersey.
Tellingly absent from most reportage from liberal news outlets on this "kite jihad" has been outrage on the part of environmentalists who are normally so eloquent. This blanket inaccuracy may be why U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman went on the offensive against the false coverage of the riots. During a "Press and Policy" breakfast in Jerusalem on June 4, hosted by the American news agency The Media Line, Friedman said:
"It would seem to me that in a journalistic environment where nine out of ten articles that are written about the Gaza conflict are critical of Israel, you'd think that some journalists would take the time and go and meet with experts and try to understand what could have been done differently or better before they criticize. And I just haven't seen it."
Friedman went even further, telling reporters:
"...keep your mouths shut until you figure it out. Because otherwise, all you're doing is creating impressions that have no basis in fact. They fit a narrative. They fit an opinion. They fit an agenda. But it's not reporting, because it's not based on hard, factual analysis."
Three stories that were highlighted in the media as evidence of Israeli brutality in the face of the "peaceful" demonstrations in Gaza illustrate what Friedman was talking about.
One of these incidents occurred on April 6, when 30-year-old Palestinian photojournalist Yaser Murtaja was shot in the stomach during the second weekend of the protests, and died of his wounds the next morning. Details of Murtaja's death circulated widely, with photos of his "Press" jacket prominently displayed. The Washington Post portrayed him as a "young journalist [who] shot drone images and video for Ain Media, a small Gaza-based news agency he started five years ago," and published his last Facebook post, which read, "I wish that the day would come to take this shot when I'm in the air and not on the ground... I'm 30 years old. I live in Gaza City. I've never traveled!"
The IDF promptly launched an investigation, which revealed that Israeli soldiers had not targeted Murtaja; but he had, in fact, been a long-time Hamas activist, who -- according to reports -- had attempted in 2015 to use a drone to help the terrorist organization gather intelligence across the border with Israel. So much for his having been a bona fide member of the media merely trying objectively to cover the conflict.
As soon as the truth about Murtaja was exposed, the story of his death was no longer of interest to Western journalists, certainly not those who identified with him as an actual reporter. In any event, within a few weeks, another death upstaged that of Murtaja, giving the media an even greater opportunity to paint Israel, not Hamas, as the true victimizer of the Palestinians in Gaza.
On May 15, Layla Ghandour -- an 8-month-old girl described in the New York Times as having "sparkling green eyes" -- died in her grandmother's arms in a Gaza hospital, allegedly from "tear-gas inhalation," after being taken by her teenage uncle to the border fence to join her mother at the site of the protests. The infant instantly became a "symbol of Gaza." Reports of her death and funeral -- at which her tiny body, wrapped in a Palestinian flag, was paraded around Gaza City -- spread far and wide on the internet. One such report quoted the baby's aunt saying: "They [the Israelis] did not have mercy on a girl; they threw gas bombs at her; they killed her with tear gas... What is she guilty of to die like this?"
Two days later, however, the spokesman of the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza -- who initially claimed in a post on Facebook that baby Layla had died of tear-gas inhalation -- acknowledged that the cause of her death had yet to be determined. When a doctor in Gaza announced that a congenital heart defect was likely the culprit, the Gaza health ministry removed her name from the list of those killed in clashes with Israel, pending an autopsy. It has failed, so far, to release the findings of her autopsy.
The question is: Why did the baby's family take her to a violent riot in the first place?
Most likely, her tragic end is part of what the eminent lawyer Alan Dershowitz has called Hamas's "dead baby strategy":
"Hamas' goal is to have Israel kill as many Gazans as possible so that the headlines always begin, and often end, with the body count. Hamas deliberately sends women and children to the front line, while their own fighters hide behind these human shields."
This brings us to the third Gaza story that went viral not only before all the facts had emerged, but afterwards, as well: the death of Razan al-Najjar, a 21-year-old female Palestinian paramedic referred to by Hamas as an "angel of mercy."
Here again, the IDF announced that it had not targeted the young woman -- who was in the field clad in a white paramedics' coat -- and immediately opened an investigation into the circumstances of her death. This probe revealed that al-Najjar had boasted about her mission to serve as a "human shield" for wounded Palestinians. In other words, as an IDF video shared on social media pointed out, "This medic was incited by Hamas to give up her life for their goals."
Razan al-Najjar, a 21-year-old Palestinian paramedic who was killed during a violent riot along the Gaza-Israel border, declared during a television interview at the scene of the riot that she was there to "act as a human shield" for the rioters. (Image source: IDF video screenshot)
What these goals are was spelled out clearly in April by Hamas political leader Yahya Sinwar. "We will take down the border [with Israel] and we will tear their hearts from their bodies," he said.
On May 13, the eve of the six-week "March of Return," a different senior Hamas official, Mahmoud Al-Zahar, told Al Jazeera: "[W]hen we talk about 'peaceful resistance,' we are deceiving the public. This is a peaceful resistance bolstered by a military force and by security agencies, and enjoying tremendous popular support."
Much of the media appears to be allowing itself to be deceived by a terrorist organization that uses the people over whom it rules as disposable cannon fodder.
As Dershowitz writes, "Many in the media are complicit in these [Palestinian] deaths, because their one-sided reporting encourages Hamas to send innocent women and children to the front line."
At this point, members of the media actually seem willing to be duped, which makes them accessories after the fact to the terrorist mission of a jihadist group.
*Ruthie Blum is a journalist and author of "To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the 'Arab Spring.'"
© 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.

Kim Jong Un Pulls Off a Magic Trick

David Ignatius/The Washington Post/Asharq Al Awsat/June 18/18
Credit President Trump for seizing the diplomatic moment at the Singapore summit. But the person who most shaped this extraordinary encounter was North Korean leader Kim Jong Un — who is indeed, as Trump said, a “very talented” young man who has achieved something that “one out of 10,000 probably couldn’t do.” It’s almost a magic trick, what Kim has accomplished: He has obtained Trump as a partner in rebranding his poor, brutally autocratic country as a modern condo-resort investment project. He has offered a vague promise to “work toward complete denuclearization” and somehow persuaded Trump to describe the thin, half-page summit communique as a “very comprehensive” agreement. Perhaps this deal will lead eventually to the complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization the president had proclaimed was his goal. But for now, Kim has given up very little militarily, in return for a public embrace from the world’s most powerful nation. Most important, Kim has received, again at minimal cost, a pledge that the United States will halt joint military exercises with South Korea, undercutting the most significant check against his regime. Trump celebrated his skill as a dealmaker after their summit: “That’s what I do. My whole life has been deals, I’ve done great at it.” But more striking was this latest demonstration of his calling as a reality-television star, with a born actor’s flair for the dramatic and a self-mesmerizing ability to speak every line, however dubious, as if it were true.
Maybe this is “The Apprentice: Korean Dictator Edition,” in which Trump is the mentor for an up-and-coming “big guy.” Watching the clasped elbows and back pats, you could almost forget that Kim had killed an uncle and a half brother on his road to Singapore. Trump explained his respect for “anybody that takes over a situation like he did at 26 years of age and is able to run it and run it tough.” Kim, you’re hired!
I don’t mean to minimize the summit’s potential benefit for the world. The world is safer than it was a week ago, and Trump is getting some deserved global applause. But we should see the Singapore meeting for what it is: Kim set this ball rolling five years ago, with a little- ­noticed call for “denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” and “high-level talks” with the United States. Since then, Kim has deftly maneuvered the twists and turns — defying a threat of “fire and fury” obliteration from Trump last year to complete development of a nuclear-tipped missile that could threaten America. Once Kim had obtained this capability in November, he began to pivot toward negotiations.  It was a breathtaking piece of mutual audacity for Kim and Trump to push each other to the edge of the cliff and then walk back. But by Tuesday, it was clear that Kim was getting more than he was giving, and that Trump wanted the summit so badly, he was prepared to swallow some of his earlier demands. This seems like the sort of deal — opening the door for Pyongyang in exchange for unanchored promises — that national security adviser John Bolton has been warning about for 25 years.
I think Trump is right in betting that American-led modernization and economic growth will, over time, bring political changes that can diminish a potential nuclear threat to the United States and its allies. But I wonder: Does it occur to Trump that this is precisely the bet that President Barack Obama made with the Iran nuclear agreement, also known in Trump-speak as “the worst deal ever made”? The main difference is that Obama got a real, verifiable commitment to destroy Iran’s nuclear stockpile before making any major American concessions.
A final, astonishing aspect of the summit was Trump’s gratuitous swipe at South Korea, a faithful democratic ally. I don’t just mean Trump’s sudden decision to shelve “provocative” US-South Korean military exercises; America still has plenty of military power nearby, if needed. And let’s even accept Trump’s insistence that “at some point” the United States should remove its roughly 30,000 troops — though their presence reassures South Korea, Japan and even China.
No, the truly amazing Trump insult was to suggest that South Korean President Moon Jae-in made his bold opening to Kim to reduce a threat to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics and thereby make money. “They weren’t exactly selling tickets,” Trump said at a news conference. “It sold like wildfire” after North Korea agreed to participate, said Trump. Diplomacy isn’t always pretty. Dubious people sometimes do very good things. So let’s celebrate Trump’s success in Singapore and hope someone can translate President Ronald Reagan’s injunction to “trust but verify” into Korean.

On Trade, Merkel Joins Trump on the Low Road
Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg/Asharq Al Awsat/June 18/18
After failing to persuade President Donald Trump that punitive tariffs on European imports aren’t a good idea, Chancellor Angela Merkel has apparently decided to fight back by taking a page from his playbook and manipulating facts. “Trade surpluses are still calculated in a relatively old-fashioned way, based only on goods,” Merkel told a business conference organized by her party on Tuesday. “But if you include services in the trade balance, the US has a big surplus with Europe.” That sounds like the reverse of Trump’s inaccurate complaint that Europe is running a huge trade surplus with the US thanks to unfair market practices. In fact, the barriers, of the tariff and non-tariff varieties, are pretty evenly aligned, with Europe at a slight advantage. Trump cherry-picks specific imbalances, such as Europe’s higher import duty on cars. Merkel is doing the same, and her statements aren’t necessarily true, either.
The US Census Bureau estimates the US-EU trade balance in both goods and services at $101.2 billion in favor of Europe for 2017 and $30.4 billion in favor of Europe for the first quarter of 2018. There are no equivalent European data yet, though, and official numbers on the two sides of the Atlantic have differed for years. The EU has tended to report lower services exports to the US than US sources.
To make her point, the chancellor seems to rely on data that more closely track US estimates of the trade relationship than the numbers provided by European Union or German record-keepers. When it comes to services alone, the US Trade Representative put the surplus with the EU at $55 billion in 2016. But Eurostat’s number for that year is starkly different: According to the agency, Europe’s services trade deficit with the US only amounted to 1.3 billion euros ($1.5 billion). That’s not a huge imbalance. At a briefing on Wednesday, Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said the chancellor was referring to broader measures of economic interaction. He said the focus shouldn’t be on the trade balance, but on the current account, which includes investments, income from investments and other international transfers. On that basis, Seibert said, the US has a current account surplus of $14 billion vis-a-vis the EU. The data come from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis. But they’re also contradicted by Eurostat figures, which estimated that the EU had a 170 billion euro surplus with the US in 2017. Eurostat has promised to address the discrepancies with US statisticians.
Even the data for Germany alone contradicts Merkel's narrative of victimization on trade. The Bundesbank estimates that Germany had a current account surplus of 51.5 billion euros vis-a-vis the US last year. That includes a goods trade surplus of 54.5 billion euros and a services surplus of 3.4 billion euros, offset by a negative income balance. But then, data sources and the data themselves don’t matter in the current environment. As Europeans have found out after months of trying to stave off Trump’s tariffs, numbers don’t sway the US president. There’s no way to discuss a messy, complex picture of mutual investment, trade and tax avoidance schemes, marred by huge statistical discrepancies, with a leader who has promised voters to negotiate better terms of trade with the rest of the world.
The only thing Merkel can conceivably do is fight back. “We have been challenged,” she said in her speech on Tuesday. So Merkel the conscientious academic, known for her studiousness and careful preparation, is showing Trump that two can play the cherry-picking game with numbers whose greatest value is as rhetorical devices to please the domestic political base. She’s treating the trade war between Europe and the US as a contest of wills rather than an academic dispute. That’s a bad sign. This sort of contest is sure to escalate before the parties are tempted to look for a compromise, and escalation means the trade war will hurt more industries, and ultimately more workers, than it has already affected both in Europe and the US. It would be a far better idea to let statisticians work out their differences first, so that everyone can at least operate with the same set of numbers -- but it may be too late.

How Expensive Is The World Cup?
Maude Lavanchy and Willem Smit/Bloomberg/Asharq Al Awsat/June 18/18
Every four years, as football fans gear up for the World Cup, researchers engage in a game of their own: trying to determine just how costly the tournament is to employers and economies. Our own contribution to this genre suggests that the calculation is a bit more complex than is generally acknowledged.
To calculate the number of productive hours at risk in this year's tournament, we assume local office hours are between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., and that 50 percent of each country's workforce will be interested in watching the games. We estimate that a total of $14.5 billion in gross domestic product worldwide could be at risk in the first two weeks of the tournament.
From there, though, the story gets more complicated.
Perhaps counterintuitively, watching football could actually make for a more productive workday. As one recent paper demonstrates, watching soccer can affect a fan's happiness an hour before kickoff and up to three hours after the players disappear down the tunnel. Other research has shown that boosting people's happiness can make them about 10 percent to 12 percent more productive at work -- implying that a good day on the pitch will lead to a good day at the office. The catch is that the negative effect of seeing your team lose is twice as big as the boost to happiness of watching them win.
So what does this tell us about the World Cup?
Using these figures as a baseline, we calculated how much the expected outcome of each game -- based on odds from UK bookies -- would affect workers' productivity. In all, we found that half of the 48 group-stage games could have economic consequences. Although such calculations are inherently speculative, they can nonetheless tell a useful economic story. And in this case, it doesn't look good.
Take the France-Peru game. That match is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. (France time) on a Thursday, meaning that French workers will be on the job an hour before and after the game. Because France has a high probability of winning this game, we estimate that French workers will be 4.4 percent more productive that day, which implies a $354 million boost in GDP. That may sound like good news. Yet this boost doesn't come close to compensating for the $2 billion lost during the two hours of the game itself -- to say nothing of the blow to productive work if France lost in an upset.
Brazil offers another cautionary tale. Its games against Serbia and Costa Rica both seem likely to be costly, since they interrupt workdays. Although Brazil is among the favorites to win the Cup, the increased productivity from these wins would not be significant or lasting enough to compensate for those lost working hours. An unexpected loss, meanwhile, could be a disaster: If Brazil were defeated by Costa Rica, productivity could decline by 14.4 percent in the hours after the match.
Since these games are likely to act as a net drag on productivity, what steps should be taken to prepare?
Brazil's government has come up with one approach. It said recently that it will allow state workers to adjust their hours when the national team competes. For the first round of games, most public agencies will let employees leave early when there's an afternoon match or come in late when Brazil plays in the morning, an approach that at least recognizes economic reality.
Outside of soccer-mad Brazil, though, few countries are likely to take such a step. So it will be up to employers to decide how to deal with the games. Given what we know about how sports affect happiness and productivity, what should they do?
One option is to just ignore the whole thing and expect employees to show up like normal. Another might be to negotiate: Let workers adjust their schedules to watch the games in return for making up the lost time in some other way. Both these tactics would minimize disruptions to the workday. But they also might be a missed opportunity.
A third approach is to take a cue from the Dutch football legend Johan Cruyff, who once said: "The attack is the best defense." In that spirit, why not turn on the office TV and invite employees to watch the games together? True, not much work will get done. But think of it as an opportunity to improve engagement, cultivate a stronger sense of community, and build up some goodwill for the longer term.
The benefits of such an approach would be harder to quantify than lost working hours. But remember that the highest satisfactions of football, and of sports more generally, are usually intangible -- and that the true costs and benefits of the World Cup almost certainly can't be measured in dollars.

Are Netanyahu's Messages To The Iranians Working?
هل رسائل نيتنايهو للإيرانيين هي فاعلة

Herb Keinon/Jerusalem Post/June 18/18
The current video was able to trigger a discussion in Iran and annoy the leaders because it is dealing with a very acute and sensitive problem now for Iran: water issues.
Some six million people, including hundreds of thousands of Iranians, have viewed a video uploaded last week of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pouring himself a glass of water, taking a gulp, and offering Israeli water technology to the drought-hit Iranian people.
According to officials in the Prime Minister’s Office, this is one of the most widely viewed videos Netanyahu has yet placed on various social media platforms.
The video has Netanyahu sitting behind his desk – a pitcher of water on the table, a portrait of his family behind his right shoulder and a set of the Talmud on the bookcase behind him – making an “unprecedented offer” to Iran.
“The Iranian people are the victims of a cruel and tyrannical regime that denies them vital water,” he said. “Israel stands with the people of Iran and that is why I want to help save countless Iranian lives.”
In the two-minute video, Netanyahu relates that Iran’s meteorological organization said nearly 95% of Iran suffers from some level of drought, and that a former agriculture minister said some 50 million Iranians could be forced out of their homes because of Iran’s ecological crisis.
Israel, he says, has developed cutting-edge technological solutions to water problems, and wants to share that information with the Iranian people. He announces that Israel is launching a website in Farsi with detailed plans on how Iranians can recycle their waste water.
“We will show how Iranian farmers can save their crops and feed their families. The Iranian regime shouts, ‘Death to Israel.’ In response, Israel shouts, ‘Life to the Iranian people,’” Netanyahu says. “The people of Iran are good and decent – they shouldn’t have to face such a cruel regime alone.”
Netanyahu’s English-language spokesman David Keyes – who prior to coming to the PMO in 2016 worked using online platforms to promote human rights – had his fingerprints all over this video. It is one of more than half-a-dozen the prime minister has posted about Iran over the last several months. The five most-watched videos on Netanyahu’s Facebook page in 2018 all deal with Iran.
There are a number of goals in putting out these videos, Keyes said, with the primary one being: “Reach out directly to the Iranian people and show them that Israel is their friend, not – as the Iranian regime says – their enemy.”
He said the goal is to “recapture the spirit of friendship between the two peoples” that existed before the Islamic revolution in 1979, adding that the current Iranian regime is the “only barrier in what could be a wonderful and fruitful relationship.”
Keyes had difficulty hiding his satisfaction that the video annoyed the Iranian leadership and succeeded in hitting a nerve, as seen by angry reactions by top officials – from the Foreign Ministry to the ministers of energy and agriculture.
The video was widely reported on in Iranian media, and generated thousands of responses, ranging from calls for “death to Israel” and amazement that Israel would offer water assistance to Iran while people were “dying of thirst” in Gaza, to comments such as “God bless Israel” and that this is a debt “you owe us from the time of Cyrus, when we helped the Jewish people.”
The semi-official Fars news agency reported that Iranian Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian blasted Netanyahu, and said Iran does not need Israel’s help.
“The prime minister of this regime [Israel] or any other person who claims to have the ability to manage water resources is aware that Iran is among the countries whose several-thousand-year record of water management has been recognized, and we can be a source for other world regions in this regard and promote methods to cope with water shortage and optimum use of water,” he was quoted as telling reporters.
And Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi slammed Netanyahu as a “deceitful showman,” and said that before trying to save the Iranian people, Netanyahu should stop killing Palestinians.
“It is not the first time that he makes such remarks. He had better stop the massacre of the Palestinian people and the crimes which are committed every day,” he said.
These types of comments – and the degree to which the Iranian media, including the semi-official media, covered and reacted to the video – show that it hit a nerve with the regime, with Keyes saying Israel’s offer of help “undermines the regime’s whole narrative about Israel, and they are terrified exactly of that.”
Keyes said Netanyahu will continue in this manner of directly addressing the Iranian people, “twinning a strong message with the most powerful social media technologies out there today.”
BUT IS it effective?
Raz Zimmt, a research fellow at the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) specializing in Iran, who acknowledged that he is “not identified as a Netanyahu supporter,” said the “intention is good.”
“It is praiseworthy that he is trying to make a distinction between the Iranian people and the government,” he said. “And it certainly has some influence – though it is difficult to say how much – on that part of the Iranian public, which does not identify with the Iranian regime’s obsession against Israel. So when Israel turns directly to the Iranians with positive messages, there are certainly those who see that positively.”
The problem, Zimmt says, has to do with Netanyahu himself, and the fact that he is perceived by large parts of the Iranian public as being the one responsible for the sanctions policy against Iran, which is hurting them. “Since they see Netanyahu as someone standing behind this policy [regarding sanctions] over the last few years, there is something problematic for them about his holding out offers to now help the Iranians,” Zimmt maintained.
“Part of the responses you have seen is that it is good that you [Netanyahu] are making a distinction between the Iranian people and the regime, but that your policy [regarding sanctions] is hurting the Iranian people.”
Zimmt said it is very difficult to measure the influence of these types of videos because it is difficult to know if the number of viewers, responses and talkbacks are coming from inside Iran or are posted by Iranians in exile. He said if the goals of the video are to portray the positive face of Israel and get under the skin of the Iranian regime, “I am all in favor.”
But, he added, if the goal is to try to increase the gap between the regime and the people, then that would constitute “overreaching,” and “I’m not sure it will succeed.”
Zimmt said that the current video was able to trigger a discussion in Iran and annoy the leaders because it is dealing with a very acute and sensitive problem now for Iran: water issues.
“The timing was excellent because the Iranian media is dealing with this issue. We are in the summer, and it is coming against the background of protests of farmers because of water problems,” he said. “The issue of the drought is a very timely topic.”
Zimmt said he was very much in favor of positive messages to the Iranian people – about how Israel can help – and that those messages were more effective than the ones about how the Iranians lack freedom and democracy, and hang gays from cranes.
Israel has no chance of turning the hearts and minds of those who are die-hard supporters of the Islamic regime, nor does it need to concentrate on those abroad who are strongly opposed to that regime, Zimmt said.
“You have to turn to the average citizens, and it is better do that through positive messages – where you can help them – rather than talk again about a lack of freedom or democracy. They know that the regime is corrupt. They know that the economic situation is difficult. And they know that they don’t have democracy. They don’t need the prime minister of Israel to remind them.”
Zimmt said there is no real way of measuring whether these videos succeed or have an impact. But, he added, “When it became clear that this video triggered a discussion – and it has – then that was a sign that it achieved its goal.”

Will Russia play Iran card during Syria reconstruction talks?

Shehab Al-Makahleh/Al Arabiya/June 18/18
After seven years of war in Syria, which has already thwarted the Chinese and the Iranian attempts to reach to the Mediterranean, Russia started planning the next phase of reconstruction process of Syria, which is estimated at $400-500 billion.
Though Russia has sent its troops to Syria, which cost billions of Russian financial budget, China was waiting to see the outcome of the war as the Chinese government has never been in a rush because they are sure they will have a share in the construction process as no other country would be able to fund rebuilding Syria.
There is no competition between China and Russia in Syria; there is a tough competition between Russo-Chinese axis and the Iranians.
The obstacles to Russian, Chinese and Western ambitions in Syria are the presence of Iranian and other troops on the ground. China, Iran, Russia consider Syria a strategic hub on the crossroads to the Middle East, Europe, Asia and Africa. China is poised to earn ample contracts and to multiply its economic benefits not only in Asia but also elsewhere in the world, starting from Syria.
With the Syrian war almost at final stage, concerns of the reconstruction of Syria are on the table. Russia and China seek to launch the process as soon as possible, benefiting from stability and peace in most of Syria. Both Moscow and Beijing are trying to convince Western countries that the situation in Syria is stable and safe to start the reconstruction process, which is estimated at $500 billion.
This, of course, cannot be achieved while Iranian influence is increasing. This has prompted Russians to use the Iranian card to jumpstart negotiations with the West regarding the reconstruction process. Moscow has the potential to reduce the strategic presence of Iranian troops and advisers in Syria because Russians are the most prominent force on the ground in the war-torn country.
Just recently, Russia has repeatedly demanded other countries to be ready to start the reconstruction process of Syria. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has earlier asked other countries to be ready to take part in the peacemaking process in the war-ravaged country through humanitarian aid and reconstruction process of the country’s infrastructure.
After Russian military intervention in Syria in September 2015, it has become apparent that security in the region and mainly in Syria can only be achieved through concerted efforts.
Moscow has the potential to reduce the strategic presence of Iranian troops and advisers in Syria because Russians are the most prominent force on the ground in the war-torn country
Financial resources
The war in Syria and the expenses that the Russian army had to bear have caused significant losses in financial resources for the Russian government, if not depleting, most of the military budget.
This has been heavy on the Russians. Thus, Moscow has started to invite other countries to participate in the reconstruction process of Syria.
Given the fact that the Syrian government has three main allies: Russia, China and Iran, the Russians want to have the lion’s share in Syria; however, the Iranians seek to have a corridor to the Mediterranean Sea, while China seeks to have a better economic and strategic presence in Syria that facilitates its own Silk Road project.
The main focus of Russia and China will be to start with housing and infrastructure projects including energy, telecommunications and transportation, leaving the construction of buildings and houses to regional countries including those in the Gulf.
Thus, for Russia and China to succeed in their businesses in Syria, they should remove the barrier: Iran. This has become clear in the recent few weeks when Moscow called for pulling out foreign troops from Syria: This applies to Iran, the US and Turkey.
Though the Syrian government will be giving priority to Russian companies, the Chinese will be also the ones to fund the process. In mid-April, the Syrian government estimated the cost of reconstruction at $400 billion and that the reconstruction process will take up to 15 years.
Reconstructing Syria
However, Beijing seeks a double opportunity to reconstruct Syria, to proceed with its Silk Road and to reach the Mediterranean Sea to have more economic and political power. Since September 2015, Russia has spent almost $4 billion on military operations in Syria while Iran has spent over $24 billion.
This depletion of financial resources of both Russia and Iran will pave the way for China to lead in terms of investments the war-torn country as Western nations also have major financial deficits in budgets, with expectations to witness major fiscal shortfalls due to tariffs rift with the US as the European returns and revenues from exports to the US will decline.
Chinese business officials started negotiations with their Syrian counterparts last April. Both Syria and China look forward to increasing trade exchanges from 2 billion to US$30 in the coming five years.
A big Chinese delegation visited Homs province early 2018 and discussed means to enhance investments including reconstruction contracts, guaranteeing public works, communications and technology deals. At present, Beijing considers Syria as the best arena for proxy war for control of Syria when war is over to exercise more pressure on Washington economically, seeking further American concessions.
As for Iran, features of a Russian-Iranian conflict, mainly in terms of reconstruction, have come on scene recently. Major Iranian media outlets close to the government have covered such issues. Some of them have also expressed disappointment, saying that Syrian government’s agreement with Russians has excluded Iran and its companies from the reconstruction process.
Iranians complain that Russians have made good use of the Iranian presence in Syria, they benefit from Iranian forces to expand the Syrian army’s control over areas which were controlled by the armed opposition.
Russia knows that Western countries and the Arab Gulf states will only incept the reconstruction of Syria if a lucrative settlement and a rewarding deal are reached; this cannot be achieved unless Iran is excluded from the scene in Syria. Also, Russia cannot avoid the security of Israel. This requires keeping Iranian presence in Syria to the minimum and under Russian surveillance.

Music: Attracting souls by beauty and perfection
Hassan Al Mustafa/Al Arabiya/June 18/18
Back in 2004 in Downtown Beirut, my friend Abdou Wazen, the Lebanese poet who wrote Nar al Awda (The fire of return), a poetry book that is so dear to my heart, and I had walked out of the building where the Al Hayat newspaper was based. As we walked out, we saw the daughter of Sidon with her usual smile. It was Hiba Kawas, the musician and opera singer, whose mother wrote in her memoirs that her daughter who was only two years old at the time woke up the neighbors with her opera voice.
Before coming to Beirut, I had read about Kawas’s experience and listened to some of her work. At the time she had only released one music CD. This was because her personal involvement in her work and her focus on details makes the production process take a long time, sometimes even years. She writes her own music, composes it and talks with the poets, most of whom she has old friendships and relationships with, since it is crucial that there is harmony between the poetic text, the music and the operatic singing performed by Kawas.
The nature of fast culture, music that is written in a rush, and the consumptive music of satellite channels, make Hiba Kawas and similar artists appear as if they live in isolation, not wanting to be close to the general public. However, it is quite the opposite actually
Meeting Kawas
The quick meeting was an opportunity to get to know Hiba Kawas, with whom I have met again several times later. Because I didn’t come to Beirut very often, my absence would increase the distance between many of my friends and I in the city that has never left the soul of its lover, and that remained like a permanent tattoo and a tank full of memories, comfort and delightful wishes.
Kawas belongs to a group of Arab artists who are unknown to the public because of the nature of the musical field, which is seen by many as elitist in character: the opera.
In its essence, opera attracts a specific crowd of people, who have a special taste and accept art not just as music one can enjoy, but as a lifestyle, a special perspective of existence around us, a personal taste, and an aesthetic education. It is also a discipline with roots and rules. And before all, it is a transparent spirit that takes one towards the light that he sees within himself.
Uplifting musical taste
The nature of fast culture, music that is written in a rush, and the consumptive music of satellite channels, make Hiba Kawas and similar artists appear as if they live in isolation, not wanting to be close to the general public. However, it is quite the opposite actually, as every artist wants to be in touch with people and hold many concerts attended by thousands of fans.
The nature of the “market” is what created this obstacle and forced us to listen to “cabaret songs, not folk songs,” as described by Kawas who added: “I think the natural sense never ends, instead it sleeps and ends up in dust and dirt; (thus) it only needs cleaning to reach it once again.”
“Few are seriously working to protect our humanitarian (sense),” she said. Out of these few, the General Authority for Culture in the Kingdom organized a music concert for Kawas in the capital Riyadh among the celebrations of Eid Al-Fitr.
These kinds of initiatives must increase in more than one city and on more occasions. People should be introduced to the arts that do not only offer pleasure but also improve their musical culture so they acquire a new taste that reflects on people’s lifestyle. It is the role that is calmly and deeply carried out by arts without claiming it or loudly announcing it!

ISIS festering amid tribalism, sectarianism in Pakistan
Dr. Azeem Ibrahim/Al Arabiya/June 18/18
ISIS has largely been removed from its territorial claims in both Iraq and Syria, but that does not mean that it has been completely eradicated.
There are many groups throughout the Muslim world who have previously pledged allegiance to the “caliphate” and which continue to operate under that label. And there are, of course, many ISIS fighters who have escaped the Levant before the collapse of the organisation there and have moved to other theatres.
In both cases, the losses the group has suffered in the Levant will not have dampened their radicalism, or their violence. Quite the opposite: in order to remain relevant in the global militancy pecking order, those affiliated with the group will feel compelled to continue and, if possible, escalate the levels of brutality typical of their brand.
And there remain plenty of areas in and around the Muslim world where that brand of political violence will flourish.
Libya remains a broken country with a viable ISIS enclave thriving in between the territory of the two belligerent sides of that civil war, the Philippines’s Muslim areas have seen plenty of recruits in a political climate which normalises large scale, arbitrary violence for political purposes.
And of course, as always, the volatile cocktail of tribalism, sectarianism and Islamism that is Pakistan is also proving fertile ground.
For all the Islamist poison in Pakistan’s political discourse it is worth noting that political violence has been on the decline in the past three years after the military crackdown on radical groups
Attack on Christians
In recent news, ISIS in Pakistan has claimed responsibility for attacks on Christians. Of course the targeting of religious minorities such as Pakistan’s Christians and Shiite Muslims has been par for the course for many of the country’s other extremist Sunni groups.
But even in the Pakistani swamp of radicalism and violence where the Taliban and many others like them fester freely, there is genuine concern over the rising influence of ISIS. ISIS affiliates in the country could number anywhere between hundreds and a few thousands recruits, and they are beginning to stamp their influence in the wider ecosystem of Islamism.
The concern is not necessarily that these relatively small numbers of committed terrorists will become the dominant group in the country, but rather that their presence and example will compel other more established groups in the country such as the Pakistani Taliban, groups with established infrastructure and clearly defined political aims and means, to ratchet up their activities as well as the levels of violence in order to continue to dominate the discourse.
This could set off something like an “arms race” between the established groups as each vies for a greater share of the attention economy in Pakistan’s poisonous political environment, in the hope of radicalizing and recruiting new fighters to their respective causes. And it is indeed worth noting that some of the more extreme elements of the Taliban are already on record welcoming these developments.
Political violence
For all the Islamist poison in Pakistan’s political discourse it is worth noting that political violence has been on the decline in the past three years after the military crackdown on radical groups in the wake of the 2014 Peshawar school massacre.
Even as political leaders continue to cynically exploit ethnic and sectarian tensions for personal gain, there has been an broader understanding that ostentatious displays of violence will attract the attention of country’s notorious military and intelligence agencies, along with their typically uncompromising manner of crackdowns.
This has kept the levels of violence in check, and the volatile tussle for power between the various extremist groups had to be fought by other means – for example by disrupting the country’s infrastructure during organised political protests.
The increasing presence of ISIS, who have no regard for such subtleties, threatens to upend this recently established, delicate power play between the established players and plunge the country once again into an orgy of violence.
And it is not yet obvious whether the military and the intelligence agencies are either willing or able to snuff this trend out before it becomes entrenched.

Jordan emerges safely from its crisis
Mohammed Al Shaikh/Al Arabiya/June 18/18
The participants at the Mecca Summit brought the curtain down on the economic crisis in Jordan. All bets which conspirators had made to harm Jordan and have it join the ranks of the Arab Spring states had failed. It was also proved, beyond any doubt, that the Qataris had, as usual, failed and did not gain anything after trying to separate Jordan from its traditional allies, led by Saudi Arabia, and make it join the Turkish-Iranian-Qatari alliance.
You can gage the Qatari government’s orientations through their Al-Jazeera channel which clearly showed how there are scoundrel opportunists, headed by the Muslim Brotherhood, working hard to achieve this goal by inciting unrest, protests and rebellion against the regime, as they did during the so-called Arab Spring. Their goal is to turn the table against the ruling regime, like they did in Syria, Libya and Egypt, as perhaps the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood may find a foothold in Jordan.
Indicators undoubtedly warn that Qatar will face tough years in the near future, especially if the US decides to strike the nuclear reactors in Iran. Iran will definitely not stand idly by, and it will respond by bombing the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar
Qatar's failed attempts
However, these desperate attempts have been crushed by the initiative of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait, and have completely ended. Qatar, which rebelled against its Gulf surroundings, has appeared this time like a small lame duck that’s trying to gather its strength to jump out of the water basin it has found itself in. But Qatar failed and it continues to fail because it simply lacks the power to get out of this “basin.”
Indicators undoubtedly warn that Qatar will face tough years in the near future, especially if the US decides to strike the nuclear reactors in Iran. Iran will definitely not stand idly by, and it will respond by bombing the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar. As it is known, the Iranians do not own precision-guided munition systems, and this means it is very possible to shell Doha, especially that Qatar is a small state that is surrounded by water from all directions, after cancelling the Salwa canal project and digging the water canal on its western borders.
Therefore, the Qataris especially the wealthy among them, began to seek safe refuges outside Qatar after their “island” has become fraught with danger from all neighboring countries. Meanwhile, their politicians led by Hamad bin Khalifa who has all the reins of power under his control, still insist, with unmatched foolishness, that Hamad bin Khalifa can defy and resist what is happening. He carries this belief although all he has of the required capabilities is a television channel, which is managed by expatriates who will be the first ones to abandon him if they find that the end is inevitable.
All what I mentioned previously makes this disastrous end around the corner amid this absolutely irrational escalation which the Velayat Faqih state has resorted to in order to face the threats which worsen by the day. There is no solution for the Qatari crisis, and for the Qataris, except to get rid of this mad troublesome man called “Hamad bin Khalifa.” This imbecile, as well as those around him, seems to have zero forecasts for the dangers surrounding his small state.
Jordan got out of its crisis because of the wisdom of its leaders, and Qatar’s attempts have failed. Is there any rational man in Qatar that can prevent this imbecile man, who is like those living in an arid desert that is surrounded by mirages from all sides, from pursuing this behavior?

Hodeidah and nothing else
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/June 18/18
We are now before a real moment in Yemen since the Decisive Storm Operation was launched to liberate Yemen from Iran’s Houthi gangs and the fighters of Ali Abdullah Saleh who eventually returned to his senses but the Houthis later pounced on him in such a public brutal and ritualistic scene. The real moment is that liberating Hodeidah, the province, the city and its airport and port, has neared. For those who do not follow up on the news, the Hodeidah Port represents the main passage for Houthi supplies of food, weapons and others.
The UN has repeatedly declined to be handed over the port from the Houthis and control what goes out of it and what comes into it. The UN had reiterated the moral warning pertaining to the humanitarian situation. These warnings have been in only one direction, towards the coalition, the legitimate Yemeni forces, the national resistance forces or the Republican Guards (Tareq Saleh) and of course the Giant's Brigade.
We have not heard the UN, the west and human-rights organizations make these same enthusiastic warnings against the Houthi militia. God bless organizations like the British Oxfam, platforms like the BBC and others!
There are unremitting efforts by the Houthis to create a storm to obstruct the efficient advance of the coalition, legitimate and resistance forces. This storm is called “the humanitarian situation.” The Houthis have been playing this card and using civilians as shields. They have intentionally cut aid and food supplies to people in Hodeidah to further deepen their deteriorating livelihood conditions. There’s no surprise in this as everything is permissible for these clerical mythical gangs.
The Houthis as well as those who scheme plots for it in the West and East work on inciting the West’s fears of new waves of immigrants. They play on the tune of “the West has enough!”
Cutting the supply
The coalition’s military work is accompanied with humanitarian work as it’s concerned over looking after innocent people and also wants to prevent the Houthis and those who support it from making the Yemeni people suffer.
According to military experts, liberating the Hodeidah Airport means controlling the Kilo 16 Road, which links between Hodeidah and the capital Sanaa, thus cutting the route of supplies to militias and cracking down on them in the center of Hodeidah and its port.
What’s important or rather more important today is to advance and invest in every minute, not just in every day, to make more military gains and create realities on the ground before the imperturbable or prevaricators from among foreigners in the East and the West are “distracted” with us!