June 21/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called that you might inherit a blessing
First Letter of Peter 03/01-12: "Wives, in the same way, accept the authority of your husbands, so that, even if some of them do not obey the word, they may be won over without a word by their wives’ conduct, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.Do not adorn yourselves outwardly by braiding your hair, and by wearing gold ornaments or fine clothing; rather, let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God’s sight. It was in this way long ago that the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves by accepting the authority of their husbands. Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham and called him lord. You have become her daughters as long as you do what is good and never let fears alarm you. Husbands, in the same way, show consideration for your wives in your life together, paying honour to the woman as the weaker sex, since they too are also heirs of the gracious gift of life so that nothing may hinder your prayers. Finally, all of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called that you might inherit a blessing. For ‘Those who desire life and desire to see good days, let them keep their tongues from evil and their lips from speaking deceit; let them turn away from evil and do good; let them seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.’"
Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on June 20-21/18
Turkey: Erdogan's "Holy War" Obsession/Burak Bekdil/Gatestone Institute/June 20/18
Switzerland Welcomes Radicalization/Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/June 20/18
Turkey: Election Time Again/Burak Bekdil/BESA Center Perspectives/June 20/18
The Robot Farm Is Here/Adam Minter/Bloomberg/June 20/18
Blurring the border, Turkey deepens roots in northern Syria/AL-BAB, Syria (AP)/June 20/18
‘Manu’ or Emmanuel Macron/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/June 20/18
Why liberating the airport is critical for Hodeidah/Mohammed Al-Hammadi/Al Arabiya/June 20/18
EU should think twice before choosing Iran over the US/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/June 20/18/
Gaza warfront cannot be detached from Israel’s Syrian arena/DEBKAfile/June 20/18
U.S. ambassador asks Germany: Stop Iranian airline from use of airspace/Jerusalem Post/June 20/18
Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on June 20-21/18
Aoun Meets Salameh, Affirms Monetary Stability
Berri Says Some Aim to ‘Distort’ Bekaa’s Image, Urges Aoun to Take Action
Kataeb Asks President to Revoke Nationality from ‘Unworthy’ Individuals
LF Challenges Controversial Citizenship Decree
Report: Security Plan Underway to Control Bekaa Chaos
Army Chief inspects border units: Terrorist threat largely thwarted yet schemes continue to be plotted
EU Syria Trust Fund Approves Largest Ever Aid Package for Lebanon
Gemayel: Government's Structure Is What Matters the Most

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on June 20-21/18
Hodeidah offensive: Coalition forces seize weapons supplied by Iran to Houthis
In Rebel Syria, a Race to Save Precious Property Deeds
Khamenei objects Iran’s joining anti-terror treaty
Huge Firms to Exit Iran
Taliban Strikes After Ceasefire, Kills 30 Afghan Soldiers
Egyptian 'Bread' Survives Reforms
U.S. Leaving UN's Human Rights Council, Cites Anti-Israel Bias
Trump Urges Republicans to Fix Family Separation Crisis
Biggest Iraqi Tribe Calls for Arms to Defend against IS
Israeli Says Could Get Tougher on Gaza after Warplanes Hit Hamas
U.N. Palestinian Refugee Agency to Pare Down Operations in Gaza
US Withdraws from UN Rights Council over ‘Hostility to Israel’
Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on June 20-21/18
Aoun Meets Salameh, Affirms Monetary Stability
Naharnet/June 20/18/President Michel Aoun on Wednesday held talks with Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh at the Presidential Palace in Baabda who affimed that Lebanon is enjoying monetary stability, the State-run National News Agency reported. "The Lebanese pound is stable, and Lebanon remains immune to crises," Salameh said. President Aoun also met with Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon Mohammed Fathali whose visit came marking the end of his diplomatic mission in Lebanon.

Berri Says Some Aim to ‘Distort’ Bekaa’s Image, Urges Aoun to Take Action

Naharnet/June 20/18/Speaker Nabih Berri on Wednesday urged President Michel Aoun to put the efforts needed in order to impose the State’s control in the cumbersome northern region of Bekaa, criticising years of “idleness” and attempts to “distort” its image. “Our people in Bekaa need a State to carry its identity,” said Berri in a statement. “Attempts have been going on for years to distort the image of Bekaa and showing it as seeking to escape the rule of law. All of that was happening while Lebanon was watching. What is the main goal behind all of this?” Berri asked. The Speaker also said: “It is not convincing that the security apparatuses, the Lebanese army and State are unable to arrest the outlaws.”Security conditions occasionally deteriorate in the Bekaa district of Baalbek-Hermel where reports of crime, theft and gunfire are not uncommon. Residents of the area have long demanded a solution for the rampant chaos in their city. Conditions deteriorated further in May and reports of shootouts, and revenge operations --a phenomenon that tribes cling to as one of the old customs-- were reported. On Wednesday, media reports said the Lebanese army was preparing a strict plan for the region to put things into order.

Kataeb Asks President to Revoke Nationality from ‘Unworthy’ Individuals

Naharnet/June 20/18/The Kataeb party on Wednesday called upon President Michel Aoun to withdraw the Lebanese nationality from “non-deserving” individuals under the new citizenship decree, and stressed the need for an effective plan to solve the controversial file of Syrian refugees in Lebanon. “Kataeb affirms the right of the President to grant Lebanese nationality through decrees that are the core of his powers. The party hails his move to suspend the decree’s implementation wishing that the Lebanese nationality be withdrawn from unworthy individuals,” a party statement said. Kataeb emphasized “the need for a practical and effective plan of the Syrian refugees file in order to speed up their return to their homeland through coordination with international bodies that can play a mediator role in that regard.”“The Russian leadership has expressed readiness, during talks with Kataeb chief Sami Gemayel, to take the role of a mediator between the Lebanese State and Syrian parties in order to repatriate the Syrians,” it added. On the formation of the Cabinet, Kataeb said the government “must be lined up soon,” and urged political parties to refrain from obstructing the formation or raising the ceiling of their demands in light of the economic and educational crises the country is witnessing.

LF Challenges Controversial Citizenship Decree
Naharnet/June 20/18/The Lebanese Forces on Wednesday filed an appeal before the State Shura Council protesting a controversial citizenship decree granting Lebanese nationality to foreigners. MP George Oqais, heading a delegation of LF MPs, said the appeal aimed at “revoking the decree in whole. It is not meant to only scrap some names,” he emphasized. “The Lebanese citizenship must not granted as a gift. It must be granted based on law. The Shura Council will have the final word on this,” he told reporters. The LF stresses that the “decree violates the Constitution's stipulations and the applicable laws.” The Interior Ministry published the highly controversial decree earlier this month, after politicians and ordinary citizens alike fumed over the secrecy that initially shrouded the move. The list published on the ministry's website comprised more than 400 names of various nationalities, including a quarter of Syrians and just over a quarter of Palestinians. Its most notable include one of Iraq's two vice-presidents, Iyad Allawi, who is also British and whose mother was Lebanese, as well as his wife and three children. From Syria, those on the list include the three sons of Syrian steel and flour mogul Farouq Joud, powerful industrialist Khaldun al-Zoabi and Mazen Mortada, the son of a former Syrian minister. The decree's critics have slammed the secrecy that surrounded the move and said it adds insult to injury for thousands unable to acquire nationality because they were born to Lebanese mothers and foreign fathers. Although it was issued on May 11, according to the an Interior Ministry statement, news of the decree's existence only emerged when dozens of names allegedly included in the edict were leaked to the media. The president's office confirmed the decree's existence, but said it had submitted the names to the General Security agency to verify they all have "the right" to become Lebanese. That agency, in turn, established a hotline and encouraged citizens to call in any relevant information about named individuals. Lebanese media has reported the list may include businessmen known to be close to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. General Security is currently reviewing the backgrounds of the individuals included in the decree.

Report: Security Plan Underway to Control Bekaa Chaos

Naharnet/June 20/18/Classic security plans are “no longer feasible” after the situation in the northern Bekaa region "deteriorated to unprecedented levels" where the Lebanese army prepares to implement a “strict security” plan, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Wednesday. Senior military sources revealed to the daily “the army is in the process of preparing for a painful blow to lawless and security abusers. The plan will be beyond traditional,” they said. “Preparations are in full swing, we just need some time because the area to be covered by the operation is broad and must be briefed from all sides,” added the source who spoke on condition of anonymity. Security conditions occasionally deteriorate in the Bekaa district of Baalbek-Hermel where reports of crime, theft and gunfire are not uncommon. Residents of the area have long demanded a solution for the rampant chaos in their city. Conditions deteriorated further in May and reports of shootouts, and revenge operations --a phenomenon that tribes cling to as one of the old customs-- were reported. “The army will not stand idle and watch the security deteriorate in Bekaa. Its decisive move has become a matter of only a short time,” affirmed the source.

Army Chief inspects border units: Terrorist threat largely thwarted yet schemes continue to be plotted
Wed 20 Jun 2018/NNA - Army Chief, General Joseph Aoun, inspected the LAF units deployed on the southern border, where he toured the front lines along the Blue Line and was briefed on its defense and security measures aimed at dealing with any possible Israeli aggression and thus maintaining the stability of the border area. He stressed during his meeting with officers and the military that "Lebanon faces three challenges: the Israeli enemy, terrorism and drugs," adding that "the LAF is armed with the right to defend the land and borders against Israeli ambitions."
He pointed out that "the terrorist threat has been largely thwarted, but its schemes continue to be plotted, and this requires utmost readiness and vigilance," noting, separately, that "drugs are a deadly scourge spreading in the society and reaching the Lebanese of all ages. It thus requires concerted security and social efforts to eliminate its sources and raise awareness of its destructive effects."General Aoun concluded his word by reassuring that "the Army puts stability at the top of its priorities, and will remain the backbone of the homeland no matter the cost or the sacrifices."

EU Syria Trust Fund Approves Largest Ever Aid Package for Lebanon
European Commission/Wednesday 20th June 2018
The European Union's Regional Trust Fund in Response to the Syrian Crisis on Wednesday approved new projects to support refugees and local communities in Lebanon and Jordan. The new projects include the public schooling of refugee children in Lebanon and social assistance for refugees and local communities affected by the Syrian crisis in Lebanon and Jordan.The new aid package brings the overall value of projects under the Trust Fund to over €1.4 billion. "The EU is continuing to deliver on its pledge to help Lebanon and Jordan, which host the largest per capita refugee population in the world. The new projects will substantially boost social protection and access to education for both Syrian and Palestine refugees from Syria, as well as for local communities," said EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn. The new €167 million aid package includes the following actions:
- €100 million to guarantee access to education for Syrian refugee children in Lebanon
- €52 million to provide social protection and assistance to vulnerable refugees and host communities affected by the Syrian crisis in Lebanon
- €13 million to strengthen the resilience of Palestine Refugees from Syria, in Lebanon
- €2 million to strengthen the resilience of Palestine Refugees from Syria, in Jordan

Gemayel: Government's Structure Is What Matters the Most 20th June 2018/Kataeb MP Nadim Gemayel said that it is still early for the Kataeb to discuss ministerial portfolios, stressing that what matter the most are the new government's structure as well as harmony between the party and the prime minister-designate. "The Kataeb's participation is linked to the adoption of an anti-corruption approach, relinquishment of all forms of political heresy and the implementation of real reforms," he told Al-Hayat newspaper.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on June 20-21/18
Hodeidah offensive: Coalition forces seize weapons supplied by Iran to Houthis
Arab News/June 20/18/The arsenal included drones, a sniper rifle, roadside bombs disguised as rocks and even a “drone boat” which had been filled with explosives that failed to detonate. Equipment used to produce and load fuel for rockets that target Saudi Arabia contained Iranian labels. JEDDAH: Saudi-led coalition officials on Tuesday displayed weapons and explosives supplied by Iran to Houthi militias in the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah. The arsenal included drones, a sniper rifle, roadside bombs disguised as rocks and even a “drone boat” which had been filled with explosives that failed to detonate. Equipment used to produce and load fuel for rockets that target Saudi Arabia contained Iranian labels. The weapons were captured on the battlefield in Hodeidah and displayed at a military base in the UAE. “Unsurprisingly, there are advanced military components in the Houthi militias’ hands,” said Talal Al-Teneiji, an official at the UAE Foreign Ministry. “We took time to inspect and disassemble these to figure out the source ... and we can say that these elements are military-grade materials imported from Iran to the Houthi militias.”As the week-long offensive in Hodeidah intensified on Tuesday, coalition forces consolidated their grip on the city’s airport and there was new fighting on the main coast road leading to the city center, with Apache helicopters providing air support to the coalition. “We can hear the sounds of artillery, mortars and sporadic machinegun fire. The Houthis have been using tanks,” one civilian on the coastal strip said. “Water has been cut off to many of the areas near the corniche area because the Houthis have dug trenches and closed water pipes.”At the airport, which the coalition has controlled since Saturday, their forces stormed the main compound and took full command. UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said: “We are waiting for the Houthis to realize the sort of military and psychological blow that they got with the airport ... we are giving them time to decide if they want to save the city ... and pull out.”Oubai Shahbandar, a strategic communications adviser, told Arab News that “without the sea and airport of Hodeidah, the Houthi militia has effectively lost the war.”They should agree to UN-hosted peace talks and not prolong the fighting. “The tide in this conflict has clearly turned in favor of the Arab coalition and the welfare of the Yemeni people ought to be paramount,” he said.
In Rebel Syria, a Race to Save Precious Property Deeds
The external hard drive had been smuggled from Syrian regime territory through jihadist-held towns and into Turkey. When Ghazwan Koronful finally got his hands on it, he sighed in relief. Loaded onto the disk were pictures of thousands of title deeds from towns in central Syria recently recaptured by government troops and largely emptied of their residents. Fearing Syria's regime would expropriate abandoned properties or tamper with deeds, a network of activists and lawyers set their covert plan into motion. "It was our most complex operation yet," said Koronful, a 65-year-old Syrian lawyer who heads the network from Turkey, where he has lived in exile since 2012. For nearly five years, Koronful's Free Syrian Lawyers (FSL) have been working to preserve property deeds and other civil paperwork in Syria's opposition areas. They enter town registries, photograph the documents, carefully log and organise them, then smuggle the hard drives across Syria's sealed northern border into Turkey. "In total, we've got eight terabytes of documents, about 1.7 million documents -- court records, wills, birth, marriage, and death certificates," said Koronful. Among them are up to 450,000 land-related documents from northern and central Syria -- title deeds, contracts, and other papers that displaced Syrians could use to prove property ownership. These documents are crucial now, Koronful explained, as the government passes a series of laws that rights defenders fear may unfairly dispossess Syrians from their homes. "Our work simultaneously protects against hostilities that could damage the deeds, and against the regime's attempts through these new laws to tamper with people's properties," he told AFP.
"Those files represent the hope of return."
 Race against air strikes -FSL sprang into action after Homs city's registry was destroyed in a fire in 2013, which activists suspected was a regime bid to strip oppositionists of their land. Smuggling out original deeds from other towns was risky and could be considered tampering, so the FSL's 15 lawyers opted for the next best thing: digital copies. With help from civil society group The Day After, they travelled to Turkey to learn how to handle, photograph, and archive documents. Back in Syria, they began working through abandoned registries in northern rebel towns: Harem, Azaz, Saraqeb. "We set up a little studio in the room with the most light," said an FSL lawyer still in Syria who identified himself as Samer. With just four Canon digital cameras, two laptops, flashes, and tripods, they photographed thousands of deeds, making sure names and dates were clearly visible. "As soon as we'd finish one 200-page ledger, we'd upload the SD card onto the computer. Meanwhile, the camera didn't stop. We'd put a new card in and start photographing again," Samer, 43, told AFP. Each month, they emptied their computers onto external drives which they sent to Koronful in Turkey. They raced against air strikes that damaged cameras and wounded staff members, worrying registries would be bombed to pieces before they could finish. "When we reached the last page, we'd be so happy to be finished. Whatever happens now, if we get bombed, we have a drive with everything on it," said Samer. Sometimes they lost the race. In 2013, days before FSL was to begin photographing deeds in the northern town of Al-Bab, the Islamic State group swept in and destroyed the registry, Koronful said. They now struggle to get permission to enter registries from suspicious rebels, especially in jihadist-run Idlib, occasionally photographing in secret.
- A chance to return -Since Syria's war erupted in 2011, more than six million people have been internally displaced and another five million have fled the country. More than 920,000 have been displaced this year alone, the UN said, the fastest rate yet in the seven-year war. A vast majority leave behind property-related papers, the Norwegian Refugee Council found in polls last year. That puts them at risk of losing access to their land through decrees like Law 10, which allows for property expropriation for urban development. Koronful fears the regime could also dispossess refugees through legislation on re-issuing damaged deeds. A set of laws allows for missing titles to be restituted using digital copies, but it remains unclear if the government would accept a version produced by opposition-affiliated lawyers. "We're expecting a lot of people to ask for copies," said The Day After's Amr Shannan, pointing to similar post-conflict property disputes in Lebanon and Bosnia as precedents. For now, the digital titles remain tucked away on a pair of hard drives, one in Turkey and another in an undisclosed European city. They aren't yet searchable, but are archived in the same order as the originals.  "If there's going to be a return of refugees, one of the most important factors is that they have homes or land to return to," said Shannan.
Khamenei objects Iran’s joining anti-terror treaty
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishWednesday, 20 June 2018/Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei announced his objection of Iran’s joining an International treaty put forward by the global Financial Action Task Force “FATF”. In a speech to members of parliament on Wednesday, Ali Khamenei advised them to prepare their own draft law. The Iranian parliament has failed last month to pass a law based on requirements by the global Financial Action Task Force “FATF” to fight money laundering and financing terror. "Some of these treaties have useful parts, it's not a problem" Aytollah Ali Khamenei said in a speech to members of parliament, according to a transcript published on his official website.He said: "The solution for this issue is that the parliament should make up its own law. For example, a law for fighting money laundry. There is no need for us to accept things that we don't know where they will end up" as reported by Reuters. Iranian hardliners considered “FATF” law a “colonial” treaty and will ban Iran’s continuous support for allied militias under accountability of terrorist organizations. Whereas the European countries are pressing the Iranian government during talks to join “FATF” which is considered part of the clauses in the Iranian nuclear deal, which Iran has failed to implement. The hardliners in the Iranian regime consider the treaty as against the Islamic revolution and its ideology and system, and that by signing this treaty, it will jeopardize Iran’s connections with extremists groups which it supports financially, logistically and military, and which makes it possible to hold Iran responsible for supporting these groups, which will be soon declared as international terrorist groups, like Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Houthi militias in Yemen, other factions of the Iraqi popular mobilization units and others.
Huge Firms to Exit Iran
Paris - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 20 June/2018 As the US firms prepare to exit Iran to avoid the sanctions, most French companies hoping to keep doing business in Iran after the US imposes new sanctions on the country will find it impossible to do so, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Tuesday. These companies "won't be able to stay because they need to be paid for the products they deliver to Iran, and they cannot be paid because there is no sovereign and autonomous European financial institution" capable of shielding them, Le Maire told BFM television.
"Our priority is to build independent, sovereign European financial institutions which would allow financing channels between French, Italian, German, Spanish and any other countries," Le Maire said. "It's up to us Europeans to choose freely and with sovereign power who we want to do business with," he added. Washington announced in the beginning of May that it will withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal and decided to impose sanctions on Tehran and any firms that deal with it. Washington granted a period of 90 to 180 days to withdraw from this country.
"The United States should not be the planet's economic policeman,” he added. Several French firms have already announced their withdrawal from Iran including BSE Auto after it sold 446.6 thousand vehicles in the past year in Iran.
US Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Sigal Mandelker affirmed that these sanctions will lead to prevent the Iranian regime from misusing the global financial regime.

Taliban Strikes After Ceasefire, Kills 30 Afghan Soldiers
Kabul- Asharq Al Awsat/Wednesday, 20 June, 2018/Taliban militants killed on Wednesday at least 30 Afghan soldiers in an attack on two checkpoints in the western province of Badghis, the provincial governor said, their first major attack since a ceasefire for the Eid al-Fitr holiday. The three-day Taliban ceasefire ended on Sunday. Provincial governor Abdul Ghafoor Malikzai said the Taliban attack happened in the early hours. Abdul Aziz Bek, head of the Badghis provincial council, said one military base was targeted, in the district of Balamerghab. “Large numbers of Taliban came from several directions,” Bek said. “After hours of heavy fighting 30 Afghan security forces were killed and the Taliban captured the base.”Fifteen Taliban were killed in other areas of the province overnight, he said, adding that the militants prepared their attacks and did reconnaissance of the area during their ceasefire. In a separate report from the same province, the Taliban launched another attack on a local police checkpoint, killing one and wounding four others in Ob Kamari district, Beg added. Naqibullah Amini, spokesman for the Badghis police, confirmed the death of 30 soldiers and said the Taliban killed four soldiers in separate attacks on security checkpoints in the same district. The government also called a ceasefire for the holiday and Taliban fighters headed into cities across the country over the weekend as both sides celebrated the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. President Ashraf Ghani extended his unilateral ceasefire, initially due to end on Wednesday, by 10 days. Some have criticized his ceasefire, which allowed the Taliban to freely enter government-held areas, including the capital, Kabul. “The consequences could be disastrous,” a senior Western diplomat in Kabul said this week. The Taliban are fighting to oust US-led NATO forces and defeat Ghani’s US-backed government after their ouster by US-led forces in 2001.

Egyptian 'Bread' Survives Reforms
Cairo - Mohammad Nabil Helmi/Asharq Al-Awsat/June 20/18/Egyptians and successive governments agree since the Bread Riots of 70s that the subsidized bread is a major reason for the continuity of stable living in the country. This old relation between Egyptians and the bread might justify why the price of bread survived continuous government procedures. One of the latest procedures was the decision to increase fuels prices which the bakeries depend on in producing around 275 million loaves of breads in all Egyptian provinces so that around 80 million Egyptians who have ration cards would benefit from them. In Khatem El-Morsaleen street, Mokhtar Hamed who is his fifties was on his usual way to get his daily portion of bread loaves for his five-member family. Hamed is used to walk to the bakery near his house but as a result of suffering from diabetes he had to take the auto rickshaw for a short distance. However, he was shocked that the fare has rose to EGP5. Hamed told Asharq Al-Awsat that the fixation of the bread price at EGP5 is good to the majority of Egyptians whose meals contain bread but it can’t be the sole source for nutrition. He added that he couldn’t know whether to feel happy that the bread price is fixed or to get angry that he is paying the difference and maybe more on transportation. It is right that the latest reforms had tough impact on various sectors of services from the increase of water and electricity prices to the relapse of Egyptian pound against the dollar, but this didn’t raise the price of bread. Egypt consume annually 14.6 million tons of wheat including 9.6 million for producing subsidized bread. The government announced that it purchased 3.4 million tons of domestic production since the beginning of the current season.

U.S. Leaving UN's Human Rights Council, Cites Anti-Israel Bias
Associated Press/Naharnet/June 20/18/The United States is leaving the United Nations' Human Rights Council, which Ambassador Nikki Haley called "an organization that is not worthy of its name." It's the latest withdrawal by the Trump administration from an international institution. Haley said Tuesday the U.S. had given the human rights body "opportunity after opportunity" to make changes. She lambasted the council for "its chronic bias against Israel" and lamented the fact that its membership includes accused human rights abusers such as China, Cuba, Venezuela and the Democratic Republic of Congo. "We take this step because our commitment does not allow us to remain a part of a hypocritical and self-serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights," Haley said. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, appearing alongside Haley at the State Department, said there was no doubt that the council once had a "noble vision."But today we need to be honest," Pompeo said. "The Human Rights Council is a poor defender of human rights."The announcement came just a day after the U.N. human rights chief, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, denounced the Trump administration for separating migrant children from their parents. But Haley cited longstanding U.S. complaints that the 47-member council is biased against Israel. She had been threatening the pull-out since last year unless the council made changes advocated by the U.S. "Regrettably, it is now clear that our call for reform was not heeded," Haley said. Still, she suggested the decision need not be permanent, adding that if the council did adopt reforms, "we would be happy to rejoin it." She said the withdrawal notwithstanding, the U.S. would continue to defend human rights at the United Nations. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office called the U.S. decision "courageous," calling it "an unequivocal statement that enough is enough." The move extends a broader Trump administration pattern of stepping back from international agreements and forums under the president's "America First" policy. Although numerous officials have said repeatedly that "America First does not mean America Alone," the administration has retreated from multiple multilateral accords and consensuses since it took office. Since January 2017, it has announced its withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, left the U.N. educational and cultural organization and pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal. Other contentious moves have included slapping tariffs on steel and aluminum against key trading partners, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital and moving the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv. Opposition to the decision from human rights advocates was swift. A group of 12 organizations including Save the Children, Freedom House and the United Nations Association-USA said there were "legitimate concerns" about the council's shortcomings but that none of them warranted a U.S. exit.
"This decision is counterproductive to American national security and foreign policy interests and will make it more difficult to advance human rights priorities and aid victims of abuse around the world," the organizations said in a joint statement.
Added Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch: "All Trump seems to care about is defending Israel." On Twitter, al-Hussein, the U.N. human rights chief, said it was "Disappointing, if not really surprising, news. Given the state of #HumanRights in today's world, the U.S. should be stepping up, not stepping back."And the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank close to the Trump administration, defended the move, calling the council "notably incurious about the human rights situations in some of the world's most oppressive countries." Brett Schaefer, a senior fellow, pointed out that Trump could have withdrawn immediately after taking office but instead gave the council 18 months to make changes. Haley has been the driving force behind withdrawing from the human rights body, unprecedented in the 12-year history of the council. No country has ever dropped out voluntarily. Libya was kicked out seven years ago. The move could reinforce the perception that the Trump administration is seeking to advance Israel's agenda on the world stage, just as it prepares to unveil its long-awaited Israeli-Palestinian peace plan despite Palestinian outrage over the embassy relocation. Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, is visiting the Middle East this week as the White House works to lay the groundwork for unveiling the plan. Israel is the only country in the world whose rights record comes up for discussion at every council session, under "Item 7" on the agenda. Item 7 on "Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories" has been part of the council's regular business almost as long as it has existed.
The United States' current term on the council ends next year. Although the U.S. could have remained a non-voting observer on the council, a U.S. official said it was a "complete withdrawal" and that the United States was resigning its seat "effective immediately." The official wasn't authorized to comment publicly and insisted on anonymity. That means the council will be left without one of its traditional defenders of human rights. In recent months, the United States has participated in attempts to pinpoint rights violations in places like South Sudan, Congo and Cambodia. The U.S. pullout was bound to have ripple effects for at least two countries at the council: China and Israel. The U.S., as at other U.N. organizations, is Israel's biggest defender. At the rights council, the United States has recently been the most unabashed critic of rights abuses in China — whose growing economic and diplomatic clout has chastened some other would-be critics, rights advocates say. There are 47 countries in the Human Rights Council, elected by the U.N.'s General Assembly with a specific number of seats allocated for each region of the globe. Members serve for three-year terms and can serve only two terms in a row.The United States has opted to stay out of the Human Rights Council before: The George W. Bush administration opted against seeking membership when the council was created in 2006. The U.S. joined the body only in 2009 under President Barack Obama.

Trump Urges Republicans to Fix Family Separation Crisis

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 20/18/US President Donald Trump told Republican lawmakers Tuesday he backed their efforts to craft an immigration solution that ends the politically toxic practice of separating families on the US-Mexico border. Just hours after doubling down on his administration's much-derided policy that triggers separations of migrant children from their parents, Trump braved frustrated and in some cases angry fellow Republicans to assure he wanted their swift resolution to the crisis. While top officials have stood by Trump's "zero tolerance" approach, insisting children are being held in humane conditions, criticism has swelled from international rights groups, Christian evangelicals, former US first ladies and the president's own Republican Party. Democrats who have visited minors in detention in Texas and California describe crying children held in cage-like conditions behind chain-link fencing, with no idea when they will see their parents again. An audio recording purported to feature Central American children separated from their parents sobbing and wailing has also struck a nerve. With emotions running high, a handful of House Democrats protested the Trump meeting, yelling out at Trump in a rare face-to-face demonstration against a president by sitting members of Congress. "Quit separating the kids!" Juan Vargas, a Democrat from southern California, shouted as Trump exited the meeting. "Mr President, don't you have kids?" Republican lawmakers emerged from the 45-minute huddle energized that Trump was giving his backing to legislation that House leaders expect to bring to a vote this week. It contains several of Trump's main priorities, including border wall funding, protecting young "Dreamer" immigrants who were brought to the country as children and curbs on legal immigration programs such as an end to the visa lottery. House Republican Mario Diaz-Balart said the priority of ending the separations has been slotted into a compromise bill currently under consideration and favored by GOP moderates. "Not only does he support the compromise bill, but he backs it all the way," Diaz-Balart said of Trump.
But even after the meeting, it was unclear whether Trump favored that bill over a more hardline measure supported by conservatives.
White House spokesman Raj Shah said Trump "endorsed both House immigration bills" during the meeting, adding that they "solve the border crisis and family separation issue by allowing for family detention and removal." "I'm with you 100 percent," Trump said, according to Shah. Several Republicans have said the more conservative plan is doomed, and that Trump's address was helpful in unifying the divided caucus. "We're going to have work to do" to get the compromise across the finish line, said number three House Republican Steve Scalise. On Tuesday evening, protesters heckled US homeland security chief Kirstjen Nielsen as she dined at a Mexican restaurant in Washington. They chanted "shame!" repeatedly at the woman who has become the frontline defender of the Trump administration's widely condemned practice of taking kids from their parents. "How can you enjoy a Mexican dinner as you're deporting, imprisoning tens of thousands of people who come here seeking asylum in the United States?" one of the activists cried out. Earlier in the day, a defiant Trump sounded unfazed by the mounting pressure to alleviate the situation before it ruptures into a public relations disaster for his party.  'Take the children away' -"I don't want children taken away from parents," he told a gathering of small business owners, before adding: "When you prosecute the parents for coming in illegally, which should happen, you have to take the children away." Trump has accused Democrats of provoking the current crisis by blocking legislation to combat illegal immigration. But Democratic leaders have pushed back. Senator Chuck Schumer said the president "continues to try to use these separated families as hostages in the legislative process."Calling for an immediate fix, Schumer added: "The president can end this crisis with the flick of his pen, and he needs to do so now." Senate Republicans are also moving to block Trump's policy. A group led by Senator Orrin Hatch wrote Attorney General Jeff Sessions demanding a pause in separations, while Senator John Cornyn was drafting "emergency" legislation to allow families to remain intact while their cases are adjudicated. The United Nations has slammed the separation practice as unconscionable, while Amnesty International blasted it as "nothing short of torture." Mexico's foreign minister condemned it as "cruel and inhuman."The issue risks becoming a political nightmare several House Republicans who face tough re-election fights in November. Some may worry that public outrage over the family separations could hurt their chances.
- 'Outcry' -Democrats say the crisis is of Trump's own making, and accuse him of using children as pawns.
"This has caused an outcry throughout the country," said Senator Chris Van Hollen, who visited a detention facility in McAllen, Texas over the weekend where some 1,500 children are being held. US officials say more than 2,300 children have been separated from their parents or guardians since early May, when the administration announced its "zero tolerance" push to arrest and charge anyone illegally crossing the US-Mexico border, regardless of whether they were seeking asylum. Since children cannot be sent to the facilities where their parents are held, they are separated from them. Separated children make up a minority of immigrant minors in US custody. The Department of Health and Human Services said there are currently 11,700 children under its care in 100 shelters across 17 states. Most crossed the border without their parents. US public opinion appears divided along partisan lines on the family separations, with two thirds of all voters opposed, but 55 percent of Republicans supporting the policy, according to a Quinnipiac University National Poll.

Biggest Iraqi Tribe Calls for Arms to Defend against IS
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 20/18/Iraq's biggest tribe has appealed for weapons to defend itself against the Islamic State jihadist group after several of its members were abducted and killed in a central desert region. The Shammar are a particular target for IS because they sided with the government in the battle with the jihadists, who were expelled from their last urban strongholds last year. "We hold the security forces responsible for protecting civilians... failure to do so is a failure of duty," Shammar leader Sheikh Abdallah Hmeidi Ajeel al-Yawar said in a statement late Tuesday. "If the security forces are unable to control these areas inhabited by the Shammar and other tribes... the commander-in-chief (of the armed forces Prime Minister Haider Abadi) should open the door for volunteers to join the ranks of the army and form a brigade of sons of the region to protect themselves." A minibus driver was the latest member of the Shammar tribe to go missing on Tuesday in Wadi al-Safa in Salaheddin province, according to the police. On Sunday, IS attacked several Shammar villages in Jazira, the vast desert stretching from the west of Baghdad right up to the Syrian border, and abducted 30 people. The bodies of seven of them were later found. Despite the government's declaration in December of victory over IS, the jihadists have continued to carry out attacks in remote desert areas.

Israeli Says Could Get Tougher on Gaza after Warplanes Hit Hamas

Israeli warplanes pounded Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip early Wednesday in a new flare-up of hostilities that saw dozens of rockets and mortar shells fired from the Palestinian enclave, the army said. A military spokesman said all targets belonged to Hamas's military wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, and the strikes were more intense than in previous sorties. "We struck at a greater intensity, with the intended message for Hamas to understand that we will not allow this situation to continue," spokesman Jonathan Conricus told reporters. The latest spike in tensions follows weeks of deadly protests and clashes along the Gaza-Israel border as well as the worst military escalation last month since a 2014 war. It comes as US President Donald Trump's special envoy Jason Greenblatt and adviser Jared Kushner visit the region to discuss issues including the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. Israeli planes initially targeted three Hamas military positions overnight in Gaza in response to kites and balloons carrying incendiary and explosive devices launched into Israel from the Palestinian territory, the army said.
"They may look like toys but I can assure they are not toys, they are weapons intended to kill and to inflict damage," Conricus said. He said that so far Israel had sought to warn off those launching the airborne devices but that could change.
"We have warned verbally, we have fired various munitions in close proximity to (them), we have fired various munitions on various related supporting infrastructure and equipment, vehicles etcetera, related to efforts to launch kites -- that may not remain the situation," Conricus said in English. "Hamas and other terrorists, but mainly Hamas" hit back after the first air raids with more than 45 rockets and mortar rounds fired from Gaza towards Israel, seven of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defence system, he added. Three more landed inside the Jewish state, he said, but did not account for the remainder.
In response, Israeli planes carried out more raids against 25 "terror objectives" including an underground training compound, according to the army. Gaza medical sources said that five people were lightly injured in the strikes. Conricus said that more than 200,000 Israeli civilians live within range of the short-range rockets fired from Gaza. "Most if not all of those spent the night in bomb shelters," he said. Tensions have soared in Gaza since mass protests and clashes broke out along the border on March 30. At least 132 Palestinians have been killed. There have been no Israeli fatalities. Palestinians are demanding the right to return to the homes their families fled or were expelled from during the 1948 war surrounding the creation of Israel. - Deteriorating path -The Gaza Strip is controlled by Hamas which Israel considers its bitter enemy. Israel maintains the use of live ammunition is necessary to defend its borders and stop infiltrations. It accuses Hamas of seeking to use the protests as cover for attacks. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has warned that Gaza is close to the brink of war. The most serious military escalation since the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas last month raised fears of yet another full-blown conflict in the Palestinian enclave. Israel said in late May it targeted some 65 militant sites in the Gaza Strip. It also said around 100 rockets and mortars fired from Gaza either exploded in Israel or were intercepted by air defences. Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008 and observe a tense ceasefire that is regularly shaken by hostile acts. Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been stalled since 2014. On Tuesday Greenblatt and Kushner met with Jordan's King Abdullah II in Amman to discuss the Palestinian-Israeli peace process during a regional tour that will also take them to Israel, Egypt, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Trump's controversial December decision to recognise the disputed city of Jerusalem as Israel's capital sparked anger across the Arab world and prompted Palestinians to freeze all contacts with US officials.

U.N. Palestinian Refugee Agency to Pare Down Operations in Gaza
Facing a major funding shortfall, the U.N. Palestinian refugee agency is planning to defer payment of salaries and suspend some of its operations in Gaza, an official said Tuesday. The U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian refugees was thrown into severe financial crisis after the United States cut $250 million from its budget. U.N. envoy Nickolay Mladenov told a Security Council meeting that UNRWA is "weeks away from painful cuts to its emergency assistance for Gaza and elsewhere in the region." "In Gaza, this would include a deferral of salaries to some of its workforce in July and the start of suspending core operations in August," he added. The United Nations on Monday will host a pledging conference for UNRWA in New York - the second such donors' meeting in three months. In March, it raised $100 million for UNRWA during a conference in Rome but fell short of the $446 million needed to keep the agency afloat. The United States is the biggest single donor to UNRWA, which provides schools and health clinics to 5.3 million refugees in the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. The cuts to UNRWA services in Gaza come amid warnings from the United Nations that the enclave is close to the brink of war after scores of Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire during protests near the border fence with Israel. In January, President Donald Trump's administration announced that it was reducing its contribution to the agency, arguing that UNRWA was in need of reform. U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley has said Washington will not restore the aid until the Palestinians agree "to come back to the negotiation table" with Israel.
US Withdraws from UN Rights Council over ‘Hostility to Israel’
Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 20 June, 2018/The United States withdrew on Tuesday from the United Nations Human Rights, citing “hostility toward Israel” and drawing international criticism. Standing with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the State Department, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley pointed to the “disproportionate focus and unending hostility toward Israel” in “clear proof that the council is motivated by political bias, not by human rights.” Both insisted the United States would remain a leading champion of human rights but, for many, the decision will reflect Trump's general hostility to the world body and to multilateral diplomacy in general. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the US decision. The announcement came after the top UN human rights official criticized Washington for separating migrant children from their parents who are seeking asylum after crossing into the country from Mexico. Haley and Pompeo stressed the decision had been made after a long year of efforts to shame the council into reform and to remove member states that themselves commit abuses. "These reforms were needed in order to make the council a serious advocate for human rights," Haley said. "For too long, the Human Rights Council has been a protector of human rights abusers, and a cesspool of political bias. Regrettably, it is now clear that our call for reform was not heeded."Washington’s withdrawal is the latest US rejection of multilateral engagement after it pulled out of the Paris climate agreement and the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein on Monday called on Washington to halt its “unconscionable” policy. “Look at the council membership, and you see an appalling disrespect for the most basic rights,” said Haley, citing Venezuela, China, Cuba and Democratic Republic of Congo. Among reforms the United States had pushed for was to make it easier to kick out member states with egregious rights records. Currently a two-thirds majority vote by the 193-member UN General Assembly is needed to suspend a member state. The United States is half-way through a three-year term on the 47-member Geneva-based body and the Trump administration had long threatened to quit if it was not overhauled. Rights groups have criticized the Trump administration for not making human rights a priority in its foreign policy. Critics say this sends a message that the administration turns a blind eye to human rights abuses in some parts of the world. “Given the state of human rights in today’s world, the US should be stepping up, not stepping back,” Zeid said after Haley announced the US withdrawal. Reuters reported last week that talks on reforming the council had failed to meet Washington’s demands, suggesting the Trump administration would quit. “The Human Rights Council enables abuses by absolving wrongdoers through silence and falsely condemning those that committed no offense,” Pompeo said. Haley said the withdrawal “is not a retreat from our human rights commitments.” Twelve rights and aid groups, including Human Rights First, Save the Children and CARE, warned Pompeo the US withdrawal would “make it more difficult to advance human rights priorities and aid victims of abuse around the world.” Jamil Dakwar, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Human Rights Program, said Trump’s “misguided policy of isolationism only harms American interests.”The EU said Washington’s decision “risks undermining the role of the US as a champion and supporter of democracy on the world stage.”British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said it was regrettable and that the council was the “best tool the international community has to address impunity.”Russia said the US exit reflects Washington's unilateralist approach to global affairs. Russia's UN mission responded in a statement that the US had tried but failed to turn the Council into an "obedient instrument for advancing their interests and punishing the countries it dislikes."It added that the US criticism of the council for failing to make changes advocated by Washington appears "cynical." The Human Rights Council meets three times a year to examine human rights violations worldwide. It has mandated independent investigators to look at situations including Syria, North Korea, Myanmar and South Sudan. Its resolutions are not legally binding but carry moral authority. When the Council was created in 2006, US President George W. Bush’s administration shunned the body. Under President Barack Obama the United States was elected for a maximum two consecutive terms on the council by the UN General Assembly. After a year off, Washington was re-elected in 2016 for its current third term. UN officials said the United States would be the first member to withdraw from the council. “The UN Human Rights Council has played an important role in such countries as North Korea, Syria, Myanmar and South Sudan, but all Trump seems to care about is defending Israel,” said Human Rights Watch executive director Ken Roth.
Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on June 20-21/18
Turkey: Erdogan's "Holy War" Obsession
Burak Bekdil/Gatestone Institute/June 20/18
When non-Muslims deny Muslim minorities the rights that Muslim-majority countries systematically deny non-Muslim minorities, extremist Muslims in Turkey seem to have the habit of threatening non-Muslim lands with holy war.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who spoke of "a war between the cross and the crescent" because the Austrian government closed down seven mosques, does not seem to bother with any of those visible, documented cases of religious discrimination against non-Muslims and against Islam's minority sects.
Muslim leaders complain of travel bans on some Muslim nations, but many Muslim countries have travel bans against other Muslims in addition to banning Israelis.
When non-Muslims deny Muslim minorities the rights that Muslim-majority countries systematically deny non-Muslim minorities, extremist Muslims in Turkey seem to have the habit of threatening non-Muslim lands with holy war.
"Soon religious wars will break out in Europe. You are taking Europe toward an abyss. That's the way it's going," Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, predicted in a 2017 speech. The minister was angry with the European states that had banned Turkish Islamist political shows in their territories.
On June 10, Erdoğan said: "These measures taken by the Austrian prime minister are, I fear, leading the world toward a war between the cross and the crescent."
So, once again, we are hearing promises of holy war, and an angry Islamist threatening a Christian state because a Christian state had decided to close down seven mosques and expel some 60 Turkish-funded imams as part of a crackdown on extremist Islam.
The Austrian authorities had already launched a probe after images emerged in April showing children in a Turkish-funded mosque playing dead and re-enacting the World War I battle of Gallipoli. The photos of children, published by the weekly Falter, showed the young boys in camouflage uniforms marching, saluting, waving Turkish flags and then playing dead. Their "corpses" were then lined up and draped in flags.
Turkish Islamists' understanding of religious freedoms is limited to freedom for the Islamic cause only, for example here, here, here and here. Their understanding of religious pluralism is limited to defending pluralism in Muslim-minority lands -- and majoritarianism in Muslim-majority lands, again as, for example, here, here, here and here.
Muslim leaders complain of travel bans on some Muslim nations, but some Muslim countries have travel bans against other Muslims, in addition to banning Israelis.
In a 2017 report, Turkey's Association of Protestant Churches noted that hate speech against the country's Christians had increased in both the traditional media and social media. Hate speech against Protestants, the report said, had persisted throughout 2016, in addition to physical attacks on Protestant individuals and their churches.
Andrew Brunson, an American pastor, has been in a Turkish jail for more than a year and a half on spurious charges of terrorism and espionage. He faces up to 35 years in prison.
American Pastor Andrew Brunson, pictured with his wife Norine, has been in a Turkish jail for more than a year and a half on spurious charges of terrorism and espionage. He faces up to 35 years in prison.
In Saudi Arabia deportation and a lifetime ban is the minimum penalty for non-Muslims trying to enter the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. In 2013, the Saudi Minister of Justice, Mohamed el-Eissi, insisted that "the cradle of the Muslim sanctities will not allow the establishment of any other places of worship".
The Saudis ban non-Muslim religious houses of worship. This ban comes from a Salafi tradition that prohibits the existence of two religions in the Arabian peninsula. Under the Saudi law all citizens must be Muslims; there is no legal protection for freedom of religion; and the public practice of non-Muslim religion is prohibited.
In Iran, where even non-Muslim female visitors must wear the Islamic headscarf, the government continues to imprison, harass, intimidate and discriminate against people based on their religious beliefs. A 2014 U.S. State Department annual report noted that non-Muslims faced "substantial societal discrimination, aided by official support".
Also in Iran, marriages between Muslim women and non-Muslim men are not recognized; the government does not ensure the right of citizens to change or renounce their religious faith. Furthermore, apostasy, specifically conversion from Islam, can be punishable by death. In 2013, 79 people from religious minorities were sentenced to a total of 3,620 months in prison, 200 months of probation, 75 lashes and 41 billion rials in fines [approximately $1.3 million].
Enter Erdoğan's Turkey again. The U.S. State Department's International Religious Freedom Report 2017, released this year, found that:
[The Turkish government's] Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) governs and coordinates religious matters related to Islam. Its mandate is to promote and enable the practice of Sunni Islam.
The government continued to prosecute individuals for "openly disrespecting the religious belief of a group" and continued to limit the rights of non-Muslim minorities, especially those not recognized under the 1923 Lausanne Treaty.
The government continued to treat Alevi Islam as a heterodox Muslim "sect," and continued not to recognize Alevi houses of worship.
The government closed two Shia Jaferi television stations based on allegations of spreading "terrorist propaganda."
Religious minorities said they continued to experience difficulties obtaining exemptions from mandatory religion classes in public schools, operating or opening houses of worship, and in addressing land and property disputes.
The government restricted efforts by minority religious groups to train their clergy.
The legal challenges of five churches, whose lands the government expropriated in 2016, continued; members of the churches said they still did not have access to their buildings.
The government did not recognize the right to conscientious objection to military service.
Alevis continued to face anonymous threats of violence. Threats of violence by ISIS and other actors against Jews, Protestants, and Sunni Muslims also continued.
Anti-Semitic discourse continued, as some pro-government news commentators continued to publish stories seeking to associate the 2016 coup plotters with the Jewish community.
These commentators also sought to associate the Orthodox ecumenical patriarch with the coup attempt.
Unidentified assailants vandalized some Protestant, Orthodox, Catholic, and Alevi places of worship, including marking red "X"s on the doors of 13 Alevi homes and attacking a Protestant church in Malatya.
Erdoğan, who spoke of a war between the cross and the crescent because the Austrian government closed down seven mosques, does not seem to bother with any of those visible, documented cases of religious discrimination against non-Muslims and against Islam's minority sects. This is vintage Erdoğan: Europe must treat its Muslim minorities well and with respect, or we will fight a holy war; for non-Muslim minorities in our Muslim lands, we give them two choices: convert to Islam or suffer the persecution.
*Burak Bekdil, one of Turkey's leading journalists, was recently fired from Turkey's leading newspaper after 29 years, for writing what was taking place in Turkey for Gatestone. He is a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
© 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.

Switzerland Welcomes Radicalization
Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/June 20/18
There are approximately 250 mosques in Switzerland, but the authorities do not know who finances them. By rejecting the proposal compelling mosques to disclose who finances them, the Swiss authorities can now remain willfully blind.
The Muslim World League is behind "a whole network of radically-oriented mosques in Switzerland... with the clear intention of spreading Salafist thought here". — Saïda Keller-Messahli, expert on Islam in Switzerland.
Above all, the Swiss government seems not to have considered the rights of Swiss non-Muslim citizens, who are the ones left to live with the consequences of the government's ill-thought-out policies.
Switzerland has just rejected a proposed law preventing mosques from accepting money from abroad, and compelling them to declare where their financial backing comes from and for what purpose the money will be used. According to the proposal, imams also would have been obliged to preach in one of the Swiss national languages.
While the proposal narrowly passed in the lower house of parliament already in September 2017, the upper house recently rejected it. The proposal was modeled on regulations in Austria, where already in 2015, a law banning foreign funding of religious groups was passed. The Austrian law aims to counter extremism by requiring imams to speak German, prohibiting foreign funding for mosques, imams and Muslim organizations in Austria, and stressing the precedence of Austrian law over Islamic sharia law for Muslims living in the country.
The Federal Council, which constitutes the federal government of Switzerland, was also against the proposal, and claimed that it constituted 'discrimination': "We must not discriminate against Muslim communities and imams and put them under general suspicion," Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga said. The Federal Council noted that in Austria, Islam is officially recognized, whereas it is not in Switzerland. According to the Swiss government, therefore, the model applied in Austria does not apply to Switzerland, as "One cannot demand obligations without rights". Instead, the Federal Council evidently believes that the risks posed by extremist Islamist preachers and communities can be combated within existing law.
There are approximately 250 mosques in Switzerland, but the authorities do not know who finances them. The authorities have no jurisdiction to collect data on the financing of Muslim associations and mosques apart from exceptional cases in which internal security is threatened. By rejecting the proposal compelling mosques to disclose who finances them, the Swiss authorities can now remain willfully blind.
Several experts have pointed out the foreign Muslim networks at work in Switzerland. In 2016, Reinhard Schulze, professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Bern, pointed out that donations from the Muslim World League, based in Saudi Arabia, and other funds from Saudi Arabia were flowing to "those mosques and organizations that are open to the Wahhabi tradition". Another expert on Islam in Switzerland, Saïda Keller-Messahli, has spoken and written widely on how "Huge sums of money from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait and Turkey are flowing to Switzerland", and how the Saudi-based Muslim World League is behind "a whole network of radically-oriented mosques in Switzerland... with the clear intention of spreading Salafist thought here".
In addition to the Salafist influence, there are an estimated 35 Turkish mosques, financed by Turkey's official Religious Affairs Directorate, known as Diyanet. (Previous reports have mentioned 70 Turkish mosques in Switzerland).
According to a report published by Diyanet in 2017, Islam is "superior" to Christianity and Judaism and "Interfaith dialogue is unacceptable". Turkey supports the Muslim Brotherhood and its terrorist off-shoot Hamas.
In fact, the building of another Turkish mosque was just given the go-ahead in the Swiss town Schaffhausen. The people behind it reportedly claim that the 1.5 million Swiss francs (approx. $1.5 million) will be collected locally, and not from Turkey, but the imams for the mosque will nevertheless be sent from Turkey. None of these facts, however, appears to bother the Swiss government, which seems to want to continue the flow of foreign funding of mosques and Islamic centers into the country.
Above all, the Swiss government seems not to have considered the rights of Swiss non-Muslim citizens, who are the ones left to live with the consequences of the government's ill-thought-out policies.
One such consequence was recently on display in Swiss courts, as three board members of the Islamic Central Council of Switzerland (ISSC) were on trial for charges of having produced illegal propaganda for al-Qaeda and related organizations. One of them, Naim Cherni, was given a suspended prison sentence of 20 months for publishing an interview he conducted with Saudi cleric Abdullah al-Muhaysini in Syria in 2015, in which al-Muhaysini called on young Muslims in Europe to join the jihad. The two other board members, chairman Nicolas Blancho and Qaasim Illi, were acquitted.
In contrast to Switzerland, Austria recently announced plans to shut down seven mosques and expelling up to 60 imams belonging to the Turkish-Islamic Union for Cultural and Social Cooperation in Austria (ATIB), a Muslim group close to the Turkish government, on the grounds of receiving foreign funding.
The response from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman was that the policy was part of an "Islamophobic, racist and discriminatory wave" in Austria.
The strong message that the Swiss government is sending to those Muslim states and organizations that are fueling radicalization in Switzerland by funding Salafist, Turkish and other radical mosques, is that they are welcome to continue doing so; the Swiss government has no intention of stopping them, let alone asking any unpleasant questions. It might as well put up a sign, saying, "Radicalization Welcome".
(Switzerland photo by Monk/Wikimedia Commons)
Judith Bergman is a columnist, lawyer and political analyst.
© 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.

Turkey: Election Time Again
Burak Bekdil/BESA Center Perspectives/June 20/18
Turkey’s Islamist strongman, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has not lost a single election since his Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in November 2002. On June 24, the Turks will go to the ballot box for the sixth time in four years. Because the people show signs of weariness over a plummeting national currency and slowing economy, and at a time when an opposition figure is gaining popularity, Election 2018 has the potential to be a bigger-than-expected challenge to a politician who has remained unchallenged for the past 16 years.
Election timetable
In a referendum on April 16, 2017, the Turks narrowly voted in favor of landmark constitutional amendments that gave the country’s president almost limitless powers without effective checks and balances. Under the changes, the president would be head of state, head of government, and head of the ruling party, all at the same time. He would be able to rule by decree. Turkey would hold presidential and parliamentary elections in November 2019.
a surprise move, Erdoğan decided to call for a snap election, possibly fearing the ballot-box implications of the plunging economy. Waiting until November 2019 entails the risk that economic management will have spiraled completely out of control by then.
The cast
Erdoğan and his AKP have allied with a nationalist party (the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP), and a splinter nationalist-conservative party (the Grand Unity Party, or BBP), hoping to form a solid right-wing bloc to appeal to an increasingly nationalist society. This coalition is known as the Alliance of the People. The opposition, led by the social democrat Republican People’s Party (CHP), quickly put together a rival alliance, the Alliance of the Nation. This brings together a center-right newcomer (the IYI Party, or the Good Party), and a splinter conservative party (Felicity, or SP).
The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP) has not joined either alliance. The election will thus see competition among three blocs: the People, the Nation, and the Kurds.
An unfair race
The government bloc is using rich state resources to run its campaign. It has announced several investment incentives, tax breaks, tax reductions, subsidies, mega-projects, and new jobs to consolidate votes. Operation Olive Branch, the Turkish military’s incursion into northwest Syria, and the capture of a Kurdish enclave there may bring in extra votes to the government from nationalist constituencies, as opinion polls have found that nearly 85% of Turks supported the military campaign that began on January 20. Erdoğan’s government also makes systematic use of a massive propaganda machine, as it controls nearly 90% of the media. For instance, state broadcaster TRT has allocated 117 minutes to Erdoğan’s campaign against a mere 16 minutes allotted to the campaign of his main presidential rival, Muharrem Ince.
On the negative side, the Turkish lira fell by more than 17% between the beginning of the year and May 23 amid concerns about the Central Bank’s inability to rein in double-digit inflation. According to Remres, a pollster, 67.8% of Turks expect the economy to be in worse shape in the future.
None of that will matter if, as the opposition fears, there is ballot box fraud on June 24. European observers suspected that up to 2.5 million votes may have been rigged in the April 2017 referendum.
With or without vote-rigging, Remres found that 60.8 percent of Turks think Election 2018 will not be a fair race.
Presidential candidates
Five candidates will race against Erdoğan in the first round of the vote on June 24. They are: CHP’s Muharrem Ince, IYI’s Meral Akşener, SP’s Temel Karamollaoğulları, HDP’s Selahattin Demirtaş (who is running his campaign from his prison cell), and Doğu Perinçek, an eccentric former Maoist who is now a leftist-nationalist. The successful candidate should win 50% plus one vote in the first round. Most polls expect Erdoğan to fail to win in the first round. They estimate the first-round ranking to be in this order: Erdoğan, Ince, Akşener, and Demirtaş. Should that occur, Erdoğan will face Ince in the second round, with IYI and SP most likely uniting behind the opposition candidate. That would make Demirtaş’s Kurdish voters the kingmaker.
There are four post-election possibilities:
Erdoğan wins the presidency and AKP wins a parliamentary majority
Erdoğan wins, but AKP loses a parliamentary majority
Erdoğan loses the presidency but his AKP wins a parliamentary majority
Erdoğan and AKP both lose
An electoral defeat for Erdoğan and his party is the least likely outcome.
The fourth option is the least likely, and few observers view the third as likely either. The hot bet is either 1 or 2. If, however, option 4 materializes, Turkey will go through a painful period of regime change, with street violence and a near civil war emerging as potential dangers in a perilously polarized society. Erdoğan fans, who often gather in violent groups, would not believe the vote count had been fair (even if it was) and would take to the streets to clash with the “traitors” who went against their “great leader.”
The first option would mean simply business as usual: Turkey descends further into Islamist one-man rule, and the nation – now further polarized along secular and conservative lines – turns less manageable. The second option would be the most interesting: it would not please Erdoğan and may leave his hands tied. In theory, Erdoğan could rule by decree, but an opposition-majority parliament might always pass laws nullifying his decrees (as the constitution states). Erdoğan would in that case be forced to abolish parliament (and his office) and call for early elections to be held within a minimum 90 days. The Turks could find themselves at the ballot box once again later this year.
The ‘Gaza factor’
Trouble in Gaza – indeed, any Israel-related conflict, like the Israeli-Lebanese war in 2006 – has always benefited Erdoğan, who is Turkey’s anti-Zionist, pro-Hamas strongman. Erdoğan is invariably the quickest and fiercest Turkish politician to rush to bash Israel every time the Arab-Israeli dispute turns violent. His election rallies were filled with party loyalists who waved Palestinian along with Turkish flags.
Erdoğan has extensively abused the Turks’ pro-Palestinian sentiment and turned it into votes. It took the opposition more than a decade to discover the “Palestinian ammunition” and challenge Erdoğan’s abuse. Once again, as in 2014, the news of “our Muslim brothers dying with Jewish bullets” came ahead of a Turkish presidential election, with Erdoğan calling Israel an apartheid state and a terror state, labelling the deaths of 60 Gazans “genocide,” calling for an emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and hastily putting together a public rally “in solidarity with our Palestinian brothers.”
But this time, he lost his monopoly power over general anti-Israeli sentiment in the country when the opposition bloc enthusiastically took up that rhetoric, sometimes even surpassing it. The opposition parties joined a non-partisan parliamentary statement that condemned “Israeli violence in Gaza.” CHP even proposed that the government downgrade its diplomatic ties with the Jewish state and abolish the reconciliation accord of December 2016. When the Turkish government decided to temporarily recall Ambassador Kemal Ökem, the CHP said that was not enough – he should be recalled indefinitely.
During his campaign, Erdoğan has promised to further consolidate power in a regime based on unity of powers (legislative, executive, and judicial). Ince promises to undo Erdoğan’s executive presidential system by returning to the separation of powers. With the April 2017 referendum, the Turks decided to give away their democracy. Now, just over a year later, they may decide to take it back.
*Burak Bekdil is a fellow at the Middle East Forum

The Robot Farm Is Here
Adam Minter/Bloomberg/June 20/18
As rich countries welcome autonomous cars, trucks and boats onto their roads and waterways, the developing world is grappling with a humbler revolution: automated farming. What was once the world's most labor-intensive profession may be soon run by smartphones. And that could change agriculture as profoundly as mechanization did last century.
This shift will affect how food is grown and consumed everywhere. But its greatest impact will be in the developing world, where subsistence farms account for most of the arable land and populations are booming. China, home to 1.4 billion appetites, is embracing this technology earlier and more vigorously than its peers — and will consequently have to face up to its challenges, too.
This month, China is launching a seven-year autonomous agriculture pilot program in Jiangsu Province. Much like state efforts to boost driverless cars, robotics and other technology, the program will experiment with new equipment and methods in an effort to bring China's millions of polluting and unproductive farms into the information age. That could have immense benefits.
Autonomous farming dates to at least 2002, when Deere & Co. introduced a GPS-based guidance system for its tractors. The feature addressed a specific problem: When traditional tractors would lay seeds in a field, the rows tended to overlap, thereby wasting land and fuel. Deere's new system not only drove the tractor straight during planting but could "remember" crop paths during harvest. Farmers now use GPS to tag areas with variable soil or pest infestations, then feed the data into a tractor's computer to help make planting and harvesting decisions. Increasingly, these efforts are supplemented by aerial drones.
One result is that tasks that once relied on a farmer's eyes and instincts, such as irrigation and herbicide application, now unfold almost automatically. Last year, a UK group claimed to have achieved a world's first by planting, tending and harvesting a crop entirely with autonomous equipment. By one estimate, the global market for such gear could exceed $180 billion by 2024.
From China's viewpoint, all this looks especially promising. Thanks to rising incomes, Chinese are eating more of everything, including resource-intensive foods. Milk and dairy consumption quadrupled among city dwellers between 1995 and 2010. But this growth in demand is running up against some long-term supply constraints. Urbanization has plowed under millions of acres of arable land, while almost 20 percent of what remains is dangerously contaminated. Much of rural China is also heavily fragmented — the average household cultivated a mere 1.2 acres in 2013 — and thus highly inefficient.
Automated agriculture could help solve all these problems. It should boost yields, slash the cost of producing food, and alleviate China's chronic rural pollution by reducing the need for fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides. Some experts reckon that the technology may actually work best on smaller plots, as swarms of light, inexpensive robotic tractors could help farmers supercharge productivity on the cheap.
Amid all the optimism, though, some problems are already looming.
Most obvious is the threat to jobs. The percentage of China's workforce employed on farms has fallen drastically, from 55 percent in 1991 to 18 percent last year. But that's still some 250 million people, many of whom could well be displaced. Odds are, automation will create plenty of jobs elsewhere in the economy by improving productivity. But that will be small comfort to farmhands who will need to find new work. China, like other countries dealing with automation's fallout, will need to have a plan for those workers.
A similar challenge concerns skills. Rural workers — in China and throughout the developing world — simply aren't prepared for the powerful technology that will soon be in their hands. Farming, among the oldest professions, will soon require cutting-edge capabilities. To realize the full promise of rural automation, governments will need to build vocational education programs focused on robotics, intelligent systems and agronomy.
None of this will be easy, for China or any other country. And ancient ways of life will surely be upended. But looking ahead a few years, I'd bet the farm that the benefits of automated agriculture will outweigh all these challenges and more.

Blurring the border, Turkey deepens roots in northern Syria
AL-BAB, Syria (AP)/June 20/18
A newly paved road links the Turkish town of Elbeyli to the Syrian town of al-Bab, across the border. In al-Bab, Turkish and Syrian flags line the streets, and signs on government buildings are in Arabic and Turkish. One of the first billboards honors Turkish soldiers killed in the battle to liberate this town from Islamic State militants. Al-Bab, still scarred by war, is busy with construction. A large Turkish-funded hospital is nearly complete. A huge tree-encircled plot on the main highway will be the town’s first industrial zone. A census and registration of land deeds are underway.
Overseeing the beehive is a veteran Turkish provincial official, Senol Esmer, deputy governor of the Turkish city of Gaziantep, sent here to direct al-Bab’s development. His office is in the local police station which swarms with Turkish security alongside construction workers building an extension.
The main reason for Turkey’s support “is humanity,” Esmer said. “We call it ‘justice of fraternity’ because we have been living together with these people for 600 years, since Ottoman times. And after that, as neighbors,” he said, referring to Syria’s longtime place in the Ottoman Empire, which fell with World War I.Turkey is growing long-term roots in its northern Syrian enclave, nearly two years after its troops moved in, modeling the zone on its own towns and bringing in its own administrators and military, financial and security institutions.
Turkey now holds sway over more than 4,000 square kilometers (1,500 square miles) of Syrian territory. Almost a quarter of Syria’s population is under Turkish control indirectly or directly — including 3.6 million refugees in Turkey, around 600,000 people living in the enclave, most of them displaced from elsewhere in Syria, and the 2 million people in Idlib, the last remaining rebel-held province, where Turkey has gained a major say. The major Turkish investment has raised speculation Ankara has ambitions to revive old imperial claims to Syrian provinces. But there are strategic goals behind its deepening hold. Fundamentally, Turkey aims to keep out its nemesis, the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish militia known as the YPG. Also, Turkey, presenting itself as the protector of the Syrian opposition, is now positioned to be the main negotiator along with Russia over shaping Syria’s future. Moscow may be open for that: It gave a green-light for Ankara’s move into Syria. Turkey hopes its weight will lure Washington away from the alliance with the Kurds to rely on it as a bulwark against Iranian influence in Syria.
The Turkish intervention is the “most important development” in the Syrian conflict since Russia threw its military might behind President Bashar Assad in 2015, said Nicholas Heras, of the Washington-based Center for New American Security. Having troops on the ground and controlling large parts of the Syrian population “definitely means no solution is possible without Turkish cooperation,” said Heiko Wimmen, project director for Iraq, Syria and Lebanon with the International Crisis Group. The zone is the latest phase in the evolution of Turkey’s aims in Syria’s war. At first, it joined a Western and regional alliance funding and arming rebels with the aim of ousting Assad. Then it said it needed to protect its own security, fearing the growing clout of the Kurdish militia. Ankara considers the YPG a front for its own domestic Kurdish insurgency. The United States allied with the militia to fight the Islamic State group, and it now holds nearly 25 percent of Syria, including much of the border with Turkey and Syria’s richest oil fields.
In the summer of 2016, Turkey launched its military incursion alongside allied Syrian fighters to drive out both the Islamic State group and the YPG.
It took more than three months of fighting for the Turkish-led forces to take al-Bab district, killing more than 70 Turkish soldiers. But the battle cemented the working relationship with Moscow: For the first time, the Russian air force backed Turkish forces advancing on the town. Al-Bab’s strategic location allowed Turkey earlier this year to uproot the YPG from its westernmost stronghold Afrin, thwarting a contiguous Kurdish entity along the border. That secured Turkey’s hold on northwest Syria, but also brought it close to Syrian government forces. Now Ankara is installing a Turkish-European style government in what it calls the Euphrates Shield area. Esmer, the Turkish official, oversaw the formation of a 21-member governing body in al-Bab, which employs nearly 150 staff, most paid by Turkey. He estimated the council will collect some $1.7 million in revenues from rents, taxes and municipal fees in 2018. “We provide the flour, but they (Syrians) process it to make bread. With a small profit, they organize the distribution,” Esmer said. Most Turkish spending goes to health and education. Thousands of teachers are paid by Turkey. Schools are being rehabilitated and new ones are coming up. A new $17-million hospital financed by the Turkish Health Ministry opens this month in al-Bab. A Turkish university plans a branch in the town, and others held tests here for Syrian students wanting to enroll in Turkey.
Turkey has moved its troops out of towns, positioning them mostly on nearby hills. In al-Bab, it trained some 2,000 Syrian security, including 100 women, to police checkpoints in al-Bab.
New courts are overseen by Turkish judges and prosecutors but use former Syria government judges, following Syria’s French-inspired code. A terrorism court opened in Azaz. Al-Bab boasts a modern correction facility.
To facilitate financial transactions, Turkish post offices — which serve as banks — transfer salaries and funds to Syrian towns, in Turkish liras.
Ahmed Hussein Taher, a school principal in Jarablus, said that means the 1,300 teachers in the town get salaries far more quickly and efficiently. Taher was promoted to principal by the Turkish-backed administration, a post he said he never would have had under Assad since he wasn’t a ruling party loyalist.
“We teach Turkish language classes to first and second graders. Hopefully in the coming years we’ll offer it to all grades,” he said. “Turkish language is a must. Our Turkish brothers have given us everything and we work with them.”
In al-Bab, engineer Zakaria Haj Hassan ordered pipes from Turkey to install in a new industrial zone that he hopes will attract Syrian investors, both here and in Turkey.
Dependency on Turkey, he said, is natural and historic.
“I remember our grandparents singing: ‘from Aleppo to Antep’,” he said, using the old Ottoman name for Gaziantep. “We still have relatives in Turkey.”
As for the future, he said, “Are we going to be part of Turkey? Are we going to be a small independent statelet? We don’t know. Those who are nationalists would call it colonialism. Those who are religious would say we are all Muslims. We have no problem. In the old days, we were one nation from Istanbul to Yemen to Morocco.”
A big test for Turkey is keeping security.
Thousands of Syrian fighters worked with the Turkish military to liberate these areas. Thousands more flooded in since then as the Syrian government seized rebel-held areas elsewhere. Turkish officials estimate that now up to 60,000 Syrian gunmen operate in the Turkish zone, with nowhere else to go and no other supporter but Turkey. Bloody clashes have frequently broken out among them, mostly triggered by lack of resources, competing leadership and disputes between locals and newly arrived fighters.
Violence paralyses towns for days.
One battle erupted in al-Bab when a gunman claimed an empty lot of land, claiming it had been IS property, and the local owner protested, prompting clashes with heavy machine guns. The newly-trained local security didn’t interfere. Days later, a gunman beat a nurse in a hospital, setting off fighting that ended when his commander offered to hand him over. There have also been reports of radicalism among the militias, with some seeking to impose strict Islamic dress on women and others seizing and looting homes of Kurdish residents. A senior Turkish official blamed the Syrian government, saying it seeks to “destabilize” the Turkish zone by flooding the area with the thousands of gunmen transferred from other areas. “But we are not going to let that happen. It is part of our military planning,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government regulations. Turkey’s objective is “to get Syria back on its feet. If there is a power vacuum and social structures are weakened, it will end up back where it was.”The challenge is greater in neighboring Idlib, where a “witch’s brew” of more extremist organizations, including al-Qaida, are in control, said Heras. Turkey, in agreement with Russia, has set up observation posts around Idlib, protecting the area as it seeks to remodel rebels there into a more moderate force. But those posts also bring it into potential friction with Syrian troops. Mohammed ElSheikh, 25, a humanitarian worker in al-Bab, said he expects Turkey’s control of northern Syria to last for a decade. He said Turkey is serving “the Syrian revolution” and that it and Moscow will work out a new system that keeps Syria together but doesn’t include Assad. But ElSheikh said Turkish control can be heavy-handed as well. He said it took him months to wade through Turkish bureaucracy and security checks for approval of his organization, which supports school drop-outs. Turks, he said, “must help Syrians, not rule them. Right now, they are ruling.”
This story has been corrected to say that the Turkish town directly across the border from al-Bab is Elbeyli, not Cobanbey. Cobanbey is the Turkish name for the Syrian border town of al-Rai, north of al-Bab.,-Turkey-deepens-roots-in-northern-Syria

‘Manu’ or Emmanuel Macron?
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/June 20/18
I have recently read a news report about French President Emmanuel Macron that fits in the category of “light” news. In brief, while President Emmanuel Macron was attending a ceremony North of France to commemorate General Charles de Gaulle’s call for popular resistance during World War II, a “boy” standing among the crowds behind a barrier addressed him while he was passing by them. The boy appeared on LCI television channel singing the socialist anthem before telling the president: “How’s it going, Manu?” The boy used a nickname to address him.
This angered the 40-year-old president who told the boy: “No, you can’t do that, no, no, no, no,” adding: “You’re here, at an official ceremony and you should behave.” Here is the difficult question. Who guarantees maintaining the values that regulate any human gathering – the values which humans have followed for centuries and which are the summary of ethics, developed over time to venerate the old. They embody having mercy on the young and respecting people? In other words, who is raising whom today? We are asking this question at a time when the youth, both girls and boys, are being fed hybrid opinion and chaotic and dangerous values
Hybrid opinion
We’re asking this question at a time when the youth, both girls and boys, are being fed hybrid opinion and chaotic and dangerous values. This is in addition to introducing them to political orientations, which unbridle their souls and charge them with courage but without relying on the awareness that protects them from the bumpy paths. The French boy who did not know and who did not even care to know how to properly address others, whether a president or whoever – and whose parents are perhaps like that as well – cannot be blamed. There is an entire system which contributed to this scene. The one who sent the boy to this place is the one to be blamed. There is this story I remember from our ancient history. Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr was in Muawiyah Bin Abu Sufyan’s assembly after the latter was appointed king. Muawiyah was aware of Ibn Zubayr’s secret ambitions to attain power so he wanted to anger him.
While sitting at the council, a boy walked around and played with those present. When he arrived to Ibn al-Zubayr, he slapped him on his face like any annoying child would do. Ibn al-Zubayr, who is described as strong, strongly slapped the boy back so Muawiyah told him: “Abu Khubayb, he is just a boy!” Ibn Zubayr thus replied: “But whoever sent him is not a boy!”
Whoever sent the French boy to that scene and other similar millions of boys across the world is not a boy.

Why liberating the airport is critical for Hodeidah
Mohammed Al-Hammadi/Al Arabiya/June 20/18
Following their terrible defeat at the Hodeidah Airport on Tuesday and their expulsion, the Houthis directed their weapons and tanks toward residential neighborhoods in the area. They have begun to terrorize innocent civilians and nothing has deterred them from using them as human shields to prevent the Yemeni and the Arab coalition forces from attacking them. This Houthi behavior is nothing new as they have relied on subjugating people in Hodeidah via siege, starvation and exploitation of their humanitarian tragedy. However, the people of Hodeidah have proven their legendary steadfastness over the past three years.
The victory achieved by the al-Amalaqah Brigade (Giants’ Brigade) and the Yemeni forces, aided by the UAE armed forces within the Arab coalition, is a great victory that confirms that the coalition along with Yemen’s men are capable of triumphing and restoring lands and cities which the Houthi militias have seized with Tehran’s direct support. The soldiers who headed to liberate Hodeidah were full of confidence that they will win. Therefore they steadily advanced despite the terror strikes carried out by the Houthis in Hodeidah and the media war launched to distort the role of the Yemeni resistance, the joint Yemeni forces and the Arab Coalition. When Hodeidah and its port are liberated, Houthis will have to sit on the negotiation table and accept the political solution they have long rejected
First victory
The first victory was thus achieved and they restored the airport. The important phase of the Hodeidah battle, i.e. liberating the port which the Houthis use to receive weapons and loot resources to prolong the war, has now begun. The Houthi militias and their Iranian contractors are aware that the forces fighting to liberate Hodeidah have the capability to end the operation quickly. However, their priority to protect civilians and vital and public facilities makes them assess their moves well and avoid civilian casualties. There is no doubt that they are waiting for the date of the upcoming battle which to liberate the Hodeidah port.
When Hodeidah and its port are liberated, the Houthis will have to sit on the negotiations’ table and accept the political solution they have long rejected and acted arrogantly in compliance with Iran’s orders not to end the war and as they thought they’re the stronger party on the ground.
What will happen in the next few days will dismay Iran and the Houthis as the routes used to smuggle weapons to the latter will be cut. During a press conference, attended by local and international reporters in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, the UAE Armed Forces presented evidence that showcased advanced weapons that consist of rockets, drones, ballistic missiles and other weapons found in the Houthi militias’ possession in Yemen. These weapons give conclusive evidence of Iran’s involvement in the war in Yemen. Therefore, the international community must bear its responsibilities and apply international laws on this regime, which has been igniting the war in Yemen and nurturing it for years.

EU should think twice before choosing Iran over the US
على الإتحاد الأوروبي أن يفكروا ملياً قبل الوقوف مع إيران ضد أميركا

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/June 20/18/
The European Union continues to work on avenues that can preserve the multilateral Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreement, which is known as the Iran nuclear deal. The major aim appears to be additional normalization of trade and economic relations between the EU and the Iranian regime.
Such a move is sending a strong message to the international community that the EU is taking the side of the Islamic Republic rather than that of the US. Washington pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, reimposed unilateral sanctions, and is warning Tehran that tougher sanctions are on the way. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pointed out that, if the Iranian regime does not alter its destructive behavior in the Middle East, it will be hit with “the strongest sanctions in history.”
The EU’s one-sided and concerted attempts to fulfill Tehran’s economic and political demands are unprecedented. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has set out additional conditions for Iran to stay in the deal. He said that “unless Europe guarantees Iran’s oil sales will not suffer, Tehran would resume enrichment activities that are currently prohibited.”
This is the first time since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979 that the EU is tilting significantly toward the mullahs rather than its old transatlantic partner, the US.
By conducting a thorough cost-benefits analysis, the European leaders ought to think twice before splitting with the US over the Iranian regime. Do the benefits of siding with Iran outweigh the costs? Is the EU-Iran relationship more important than the multifaceted EU-US ties?
This is the first time since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979 that the EU is tilting significantly toward the mullahs rather than its old transatlantic partner, the US. Due to the following reasons, such a striking move ought to be regarded as a political miscalculation by the EU.
First of all, this is exactly what the Iranian leaders desire to see: A clash between the EU and the US. The EU is falling into the divide and conquer political trap that the Iranian regime has been contemplating for a long time. In other words, in a calculated move, Tehran is tactically pitting the US against the EU.
Iran has also been empowered and emboldened by several factors, including the EU’s increasing trade and enhanced ties with Tehran; additional revenues from rising oil exports thanks to the nuclear deal and sanctions reliefs; and the disregard of the international community in holding the regime responsible and accountable for Tehran’s deployment of hard power and military adventurism in the region.
In addition, the EU is endangering its geopolitical ties with the US over the Iranian regime. For more than six decades, the transatlantic partnership between the US and Europe has been one of the most powerful alliances in the world. Together, they have played a dominant role in making vital global decisions, and determining which direction international politics should take.
When it comes to providing security, the EU is still dependent on the US. Washington has long been a reliable partner in preserving the EU’s national security, in addition to being a founding member and playing a leading role in NATO. The US has come to the EU’s aid in the face of many economic and political threats, including Soviet expansionism, under which Eastern Europe fell into the hands of communism; the fall of communism in Europe; and the collapse of the Soviet Union. In addition, after the Second World War, the Marshall Plan was essential to restoring economic and political health in Western Europe.
Furthermore, by tilting toward Iran over the US, the EU is shifting the global balance of power in favor of its old rival, Russia, which has historically attempted to divide Europe. The US, not Russia or China, is the only superpower with which the EU shares many common interests.
Even from a financial perspective, the EU’s trading partnership with the US is considered the bedrock of its economy. European goods and services trade with the US was worth more than one trillion dollars in 2017 — roughly $500 billion of imports and nearly $600 billion of exports. Such a trade imbalance creates a deficit for the US and favors Europe since the EU has long exported more goods and services to the US — sometime nearly twice as many exports compared to imports — than vice versa.
On the other hand, although in 2017 EU imports from Iran rose by 83.9 percent and exports increased by 31.5 percent, EU-Iran trade was totally insignificant compared to the EU-US relationship. EU-Iran trade totaled nearly $20 billion; the European goods and services trade with Tehran saw roughly $10 billion of imports, and more than $10 billion of exports. This shows that EU-US trade is approximately 50 times larger than EU-Iran trade.
Finally, terrorism has become a grave threat to the EU’s security, peace and stability. The EU needs the US to continue their alliance as both share common interests in combating radical and terrorist groups such as Daesh. On the other hand, Iran is the top state sponsor of terrorism.
As illustrated above, the costs of dealing with the Iranian regime considerably outweigh the benefits. The EU is making a critical political error if it chooses the Islamic Republic over its old transatlantic partner, the US. Geopolitically, strategically, militarily, and economically speaking, the EU-US relationship is significantly much greater than EU-Iran ties.
**Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh

Gaza warfront cannot be detached from Israel’s Syrian arena
DEBKAfile/June 20/18
By playing down the Hamas assaults from the Gaza Strip, Israel’s leaders hope to gloss over the IDF’s mounting involvement in two if not three battlefronts. The IDF has therefore long been restrained from hitting back hard for Hamas’ flaming kites and balloons. On Tuesday night, June 19, the Israeli Air Force strafed 25 Hamas structures, sparking a 45-rocket barrage against the Israeli communities around the Gaza Strip. Following the same policy with regard to the Syrian front, Israel also held back from confirming the US disclosure that its warplanes early Monday, June 18, stopped the passage of Iraqi Shiite Kata’ib Hezbollah militia brigades into eastern Syria. DEBKAfile’s military sources name the chief of this militia as Qais al-Khazali, who serves under Iran’s Al Qods chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani, and is connected with the Lebanese Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah through the Iranian-Hizballah war room outside Damascus. This interaction came to light seven months ago, when Khazali was sighted touring the Lebanese-Israeli border in company of Nasrallah’s officers. His tour was planned to check the future positions of his Iraqi militiamen when they reached Lebanon from Iraq via Syria. At the time, the IDF, although registering the Iraqi militia chief’s presence on the border, decided not to target him then.
The urgent need to halt his militia’s passage into Syria on June 18 was not the only challenge facing the IDF. For nearly a week, the Syrian army and Hizballah have been massing a large force in southwestern Syria around Quneitra – opposite Israel’s Golan border – and Daraa – facing the Jordanian border. This buildup followed an announcement from Damascus of a forthcoming offensive to capture the two border regions from rebel hands. Until now, the Assad regime has not given the order to go forward, while waiting for Russian approval. However, when these troops do advance, neither Israel nor Jordan can afford to sit on their hands and allow two hostile armies to reach their borders. This predicament was at the heart of the conversation Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu held with Jordan’s King Abdullah in Amman on Monday.
It is becoming increasingly evident that the Gaza and Syrian battlefronts are interactive. The argument that Hamas hopes by escalating the violence from Gaza to cash in economically to sustain its rule is old hat. It has been overtaken by events. The rockets, mortar shells, kites and balloons of recent days point at one objective: to pile on Israel an extra active war front and so force the IDF to divide its strength between the two arenas. Therefore, the challenge of a multiple-front war has become a reality for Israel’s armed forces. How this could have been prevented is no longer relevant. The IDF must now concentrate on grappling with the various fronts and organize its priorities in the best way possible. For now, the the aggression from Gaza continues to be relegated to a secondary challenge compared with Syria. And so, on Tuesday night, Israeli air strikes continued to bomb empty Hamas buildings after Hamas and other Palestinian terrorists had a chance to escape harm; while Hamas, for its part, is still confining its rocket and mortar volleys to nearby Shear Hanegev, Eshkol district and Hof Ashkelon councils, causing damage but no casualties. Those populations were advised the next day to send their children to school and keep to their usual routines. At the same time, Israel’s government and military leaders are under no illusions. An escalated level of military clashes in Syria will bring forth a heightened threat from the Gaza Strip. The rockets will be more precise and of longer range for reaching populations outside the immediate neighborhood, including the southern cities of Ashkelon, Ashdod and Beersheba or further north. Maybe it would be preferable for the IDF to prioritize the task of smashing Palestinian war capabilities in the Gaza Strip now before the Syrian front spirals into a major showdown.

U.S. ambassador asks Germany: Stop Iranian airline from use of airspace
Jerusalem Post/June 20/18
The envoy is working to stop EU bias against Israel and combat antisemitism.
The new US ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, requested the German government to block Iran’s Mahan Air from flying within German airspace and deny it landing rights in the country because of the airline’s material support for terrorism.
In a meeting last week with a senior delegation from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Grenell said: “Here in Germany, I have asked the German government to support our efforts to stop an airline called Mahan Air from utilizing German airspace and airports. We know that Mahan Air has been used by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps [IRGC] as a mode of transport for weapons, resources and fighters, so we’re asking our allies to help us put a stop to it.”
The Trump administration designated the IRGC a terrorist organization in October. Canada’s House of Commons called last week for the IRGC to be classified a terrorist entity. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s administration and the Bundestag have declined to take action against the IRGC.
“For 70 years, Israel has overcome every challenge it has faced,” Grenell said. “The miracle of Israel is an inspiration to the world. Jewish communities are defined not by their fears of the past, but by their hopes for the future.”
Grenell, who has also spearheaded efforts to stop the spread of antisemitism, is widely considered one of the most pro-Israel envoys in the US diplomatic corps. He has a long history of defending the security interests of the Jewish state.
In a June commentary in the New York Post, columnist Benny Avni wrote: “A Washington source tells me the US ambassador in Berlin, Richard Grenell, has advised the Germans against interfering in their neighbors’ deliberations over embassy location. Other US envoys should also advocate the move to Jerusalem.”
Avni noted that “Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila visited Israel’s capital recently and her government tentatively approved moving its embassy there. For that, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis called on Dancila to resign, accusing her of making ‘secret deals’ with the Jews.
“And Germany, once a top Israel booster, privately sided with Iohannis and against recognizing Israel’s capital. After Romania moves its embassy, Berlin fears, the Czechs, Bulgarians and others may also break ranks with the European Union.”
Grenell told the AIPAC delegation: “The alliance between America and Israel has never been stronger. Seventy years ago the United States became the first nation to recognize the State of Israel. Ever since, Jerusalem has been the seat of the modern Israeli government, including the parliament, the Supreme Court, the president, and the prime minister. The bipartisan 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act urging the move of the embassy to Jerusalem was reaffirmed by the US Senate unanimously in 2017.
“When President Trump fulfilled the long-standing US policy that our embassy would be moved to Jerusalem,” Grenell added, “he was recognizing the reality of Israel, and keeping his promise. Taking this long-overdue step of moving our embassy is not a departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace deal. Rather, it is a necessary condition for it. Old challenges demand new approaches, and new ideas with new courage.”
Grenell said “the United States is fully committed to achieving a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and I know President Trump is personally focused on it.”
Grenell has laser-beam-like focus on combating the rise of modern antisemitism in Germany and across Europe. “The recently released International Religious Freedom Report highlights another growing concern we are working on: antisemitism,” he said. “Political leaders in Germany and other countries have reiterated their commitments to combating antisemitism, and we are committed to working with them to address these issues immediately. We must work together to fight for the universal human right of religious freedom.
“As a new friend of mine so aptly stated this week, ‘Antisemitism is not a Jewish problem – it’s a human problem,’” said Grenell.
He outlined the US policy toward Iran’s regime in his speech to the AIPAC delegation.
“We are also focused on the mounting menace posed by Iran. It has been laid bare for all to see. The Iranian drone that breached Israel’s borders in February was a brazen act of aggression. And as we all know, the regime in Iran continues to develop advanced ballistic missiles that can threaten Israeli soil and the lives of all her citizens. Last year alone, Iran spent more than $4 billion to achieve its ends. And at this very hour, it aids and abets terrorist groups that sit on Israel’s doorstep,” Grenell.
He added that “President Trump withdrew from the JCPOA, more commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, because its fatal flaws put the world at risk. Now we are pursuing the president’s Iran strategy by working with allies to counter the regime’s destabilizing activities in the region, block the financing of terror, and address Iran’s proliferation of weapons systems that threaten peace and stability. And we know that these concerns are broadly shared by our European friends.”