June 23/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
Rejoice in so far as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed
First Letter of Peter 04/12-19: "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, a criminal, or even as a mischief-maker. Yet if any of you suffers as a Christian, do not consider it a disgrace, but glorify God because you bear this name. For the time has come for judgement to begin with the household of God; if it begins with us, what will be the end for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And ‘If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinners?’ Therefore, let those suffering in accordance with God’s will entrust themselves to a faithful Creator, while continuing to do good."
Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on June 22-23/18
Joseph Cobin, A distinguishable Lebanese Christian Martyr/Elias Bejjani/June 22/18
Return of refugees must take place in coordination with aid agencies, says German Chancellor/Georgi Azar/Annahar/June 22/18
Monitor Group: Hezbollah Pulling Back From Israel-Syria Border/Newsweek/June 22/18
Lebanon Listed Among Best Summer Destinations for 2018/National Geographic/June 22/18
Analysis: Why Jordan Is Worried About Trump’s Peace Plan/Amos Harel/Haaretz/June 22/18
Trump hurls a wrecking ball at the transatlantic alliance/David Ignatius/The Washington Post/June 21/18
Business Should Brace for the Worst Kind of Brexit/Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg/June 22/18
Iraq: The Banker, The Mullah, The Militia and The Cook/Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/June 22/18
A New Democratic Revolution in Iran/Eli Lake/Bloomberg View/June 22/18
Palestinians: How to Achieve a Better Life/Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/June 22/18
Germany's Migrant Policy: Why Trump was Right/Vijeta Uniyal/Gatestone Institute/June 22/18
Houthi negotiations should not be limited to Hodeida/Dr. Manuel Almeida/Arab News/June 22/2018
Failed Israeli-Russian deal opens SW Syria to Syrian bombardment, Iranian/Hizballah presence/DEBKAfile/June 22/18
Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on June 22-23/18
Joseph Cobin, A distinguishable Lebanese Christian Martyr
Return of refugees must take place in coordination with aid agencies, says German Chancellor
Merkel Tells Lebanon Refugee Returns Must be Coordinated with U.N.
Merkel Visits Lebanon School with Syrian Refugees
Aoun: Levant Christians Not Newcomers, Govt. to Reflect People Aspirations
Hariri, Merkel Agree on 'Safe' Return of Syrian Refugees
Hariri: We've Become Very Close to Final Govt. Equation
Hariri: Obstacles Hindering Government Formation Can be Solved
International Monetary Fund (IMF) urges Lebanon to make ‘immediate and substantial’ fiscal adjustment
British Embassy Beirut Celebrates The Queen's Birthday
Army Dismantles Israeli Spy Device in Kfarshouba
1 Dead, 1 Hurt as Army Foils Masnaa Smuggling Attempt
Monitor Group: Hezbollah Pulling Back From Israel-Syria Border
Lebanon Listed Among Best Summer Destinations for 2018/National Geographic

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on June 22-23/18
Iran regime is criminal, suppresses its people and supports terror, says US Secretary of State
Israel’s Security Minister Calls for Targeting Hamas, 'Jihad' Officials
Iraq: Supreme Court Settles Debate over Amendment of Electoral Law
At Least One Syrian Soldier Killed in 'Coalition Strike'
OPEC Agrees Output Rise of 'about 1 Million' Barrels
Trump Says N. Korea 'Already Starting' Denuclearization
Saudi Arabia Gears Up to End Women Driving Ban
Conservative Saudi Arabia Loosens Up
British Royals' Enduring Middle East Ties
Britain's Prince William on Historic Trip to Israel and West Bank
Iraqis Fill the Mosul Airwaves after IS Radio Silence
Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on June 22-23/18
Joseph Cobin, A distinguishable Lebanese Christian Martyr
Elias Bejjani/June 22/18
May Almighty God Bless Joseph's soul and secure him a place in heaven alongside with Saints, angels and the holy ones. World and earth wise generous and great Heroes like Joseph do not die due to the fact that they remain vivid and living for ever in the patriotic and faithful Lebanese peoples' minds, hearts, history and conscience. It is worth mentioning that sacrifices of Heroes kept Lebanon an independent country, safeguarded and protected its people honour, existence and dignity.

Return of refugees must take place in coordination with aid agencies, says German Chancellor
ميركل للمسؤولين اللبنانيين: عودة اللاجئين السوريين يجب أن تتم بالتنسيق وبمساعدة منظمات الإغاثة

Georgi Azar/ Annahar/June 22/2018
BEIRUT: German Chancellor Angela Merkel maintained Friday that the “return of Syrian refugees must take place in coordination with aid agencies,” as she held deliberations with top Lebanese officials over the country’s refugee policies.
During her day-long visit to Lebanon, Merkel held talks with President Michel Aoun, Speaker Nabih Berri, and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri. Discussions touched on a bevy of issues, yet the topic of the country’s refugee policies is what most defined her trip.“The return of refugees will begin as soon as the necessary conditions are met and Germany is committed in its support for Lebanon,” she said, adding that she “aspires for a political solution in Syria and the return of those displaced.”Her comments came during a news conference at the Grand Serail alongside Hariri, with the PM underscoring that “the Syrian refugee crisis is far greater than what Lebanon can handle” before thanking Germany for its assistance.Germany, alongside the U.S, is the second biggest donor to Lebanon since the war broke out, donating around €1.2 billion in aid between 2012 and 2017. Touching on the CEDRE IV donor conference which took place in Paris, Hariri reiterated that his government will “implement the reforms” that were agreed upon while Merkel vowed to “help Lebanon carry out the promises made to Lebanon.” On April 6, the international community pledged over $11 billion dollars in soft loans and grants to help the debt-ridden country revamp its ailing infrastructure and bolster its economy, provided that the government implements wide-scale reforms across the board.
Meanwhile, Aoun asked Merkel for her country’s support “in securing the gradual return of refugees to areas” deemed safe in Syria. “We don’t want to die before seeing refugees return,” he is reported to have told the Chancellor. Merkel touched down in Beirut on Thursday following her visit to Jordan, where she met with King Abdullah II and promised a $100 million loan to the troubled kingdom. Discussions with Berri at his Ain al-Tineh residence also focused on the Syrian refugee crisis, which has similarly impacted Germany given Merkel’s open borders policy. Lebanon is bearing a heavy burden as a result of the almost decade-long conflict in Syria, hosting over 1.5 million refugees according to estimates or about a quarter of the country’s population, putting a huge strain on the economy and infrastructure. Merkel’s visit comes at a time when Lebanon has escalated its measures against the United Nations Higher Refugees Commissioner (UNHCR), with Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil vowing to increase pressure on the agency if it does not change its policies, which he says discourage Syrian refugees from returning to their country. The Foreign Minister has already suspended the residency application process for the UNHCR in response to “a systemic attempt by the agency to intimidate refugees and dissuade them from returning home.”In response, the UNHCR dispatched a letter to the Foreign Ministry Friday expressing its desire to hold a series of meetings with the relevant departments and bodies, yet stopped short of agreeing to help facilitate the return of displaced as things currently stand. The letter did, however, declare that the U.N refugee agency “will not discourage those who wish to return voluntarily.”Merkel also met with students in a mixed public school where Lebanese and Syrian students learn together. Merkel told one student in English: “We try to help you get an education.” The chancellor passed out jerseys from Germany’s national soccer team, currently competing for the World Cup, and tossed a ball with the students.—With AP
Merkel Tells Lebanon Refugee Returns Must be Coordinated with U.N.
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 22/18/The return of Syrian refugees to their homeland can only happen in coordination with the United Nations, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday during her two-day visit to Lebanon. Refugee returns have been a hot-button issue in Lebanon, a small country that has the world's highest number of refugees per capita. "We want to contribute to reaching a political solution in Syria, that will allow refugees to return to Syria," Merkel told reporters on Friday, after meeting with Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri.  "I confirmed with officials that returns can only happen in agreement and talks with U.N. organizations," she added. Around 500 refugees left southern Lebanon earlier this year for Syria in a return organized between Lebanese and Syrian authorities, and several thousand have gone back to their homeland from towns around the border in recent years.  The U.N.'s refugee agency (UNHCR) says it is not involved in the return process and does not yet consider Syria safe enough for refugees to return.  Lebanese officials have been increasingly calling for refugee returns with or without a political solution to Syria's seven-year-old crisis. Merkel said it was "understandable" that the large refugee influx had caused tensions in Lebanon but expressed hope they could be resolved. Her comments come at a rocky time for ties between Lebanon's government and the UNHCR. This month, caretaker Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil ordered a halt to new residency permits for UNHCR's foreign staff, accusing them of "intimidating the displaced who wish to return voluntarily."The U.N. has said it hopes Bassil will rescind his decision. Hariri, who has been appointed for a third term as Lebanon's premier, said Lebanon is still seeking refugee returns "as quickly as possible." "The only permanent solution for Syrian refugees is their return to Syria in a safe and dignified manner," he told reporters. According to the UNHCR, more than 5.6 million people have fled Syria since 2011 and another 6.6 million are currently internally displaced.The U.N. last week said it noted at least 920,000 displacements since the beginning of the year, the highest in that time frame in Syria's war.

Merkel Visits Lebanon School with Syrian Refugees
Associated Press/Naharnet/June 22/18/German Chancellor Angela Merkel tossed a ball with students and passed out jerseys from Germany's national soccer team Friday during a visit to a public school in the Lebanese capital, where many of the students are Syrian refugees. There are over a million Syrian refugees living in Lebanon, representing nearly a quarter of the population. This makes Lebanon the largest host country in the region, putting a huge strain on the economy. In 2017, Germany gave Lebanon 370 million euros to help with the refugees. Merkel, who arrived in Beirut from Jordan on Thursday, is visiting amid a serious domestic row over migration that's straining her ruling coalition. Bavaria's Christian Social Union party demands that some migrants should be turned back at Germany's borders, and has given her two weeks to reach agreement with European partners. German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, the CSU's leader, is threatening to go ahead unilaterally with his plans if she doesn't — potentially threatening the governing coalition. Leaders from a group of European Union countries, led by Germany and France, will meet Sunday to thrash out possible solutions. In Beirut, Merkel is meeting with Lebanese officials, business leaders and representatives of United National agencies. She met Friday with students in a mixed public school where Lebanese and Syrian students learn together. Merkel told one student in English: "We try to help you get an education." The chancellor passed out jerseys from Germany's national soccer team, currently competing in the World Cup, and tossed a ball with the students.

Aoun: Levant Christians Not Newcomers, Govt. to Reflect People Aspirations

Naharnet/June 22/18/President Michel Aoun stressed Friday that the Christians of the Levant are not “newcomers to this land,” as he noted that the new Lebanese government will reflect “the people's aspirations and balances.”Aoun was speaking at the inauguration of the new headquarters of the Syriac Orthodox Church in the Metn town of al-Atshaneh. “The opening of this patriarchate seat is a response to all the attempts to empty the Levant of some of its components and it is a clear message to those who abducted the dear bishops Youhanna Ibrahim – the son of this church -- and Boulos al-Yazigi,” Aoun said. He underlined that the Christians of the Levant “are not newcomers to this land” and that “they cannot allow any circumstances or suffering to uproot them from it.”Turning to the latest wave of terrorism in the region, the president said “Christians during the war of terrorism were the victims of a systematic and organized campaign to uproot them from their countries and roots, especially in Iraq and Syria, and previously in Palestine, amid the silence of the international community.”As for the domestic situation, Aoun said he will “defend the experience of coexistence, balance and mutual respect among the components of this people.”“Together with everyone, I will seek the formation of a government that reflects the aspirations and balances of the Lebanese people, a government that presents to the world a bright image about our determination to press on with the project of reviving the country, implementing reforms and transparency, and confronting corruption and corrupts,” the president added.
Hariri, Merkel Agree on 'Safe' Return of Syrian Refugees
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 22/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri stressed Friday that “the sustainable and only solution” for Syrian refugees in Lebanon is their “safe” return to their country. “The sustainable and only solution for Syrian refugees is their return to Syria in safety and dignity,” Hariri said at a joint press conference in Beirut with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “Chancellor Merkel's visit to Lebanon at this critical time is evidence of the importance that Germany gives to Lebanon's political and economic stability. The visit is also an occasion to consolidate the historic ties between our countries,” the PM-designate added. He said he emphasized to Merkel “Lebanon's commitment to U.N. resolution 1701 and thanked her for Germany's contribution to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).” “I also thanked her for Germany's support for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon that is looking into the crime of the assassination of martyr premier Rafik Hariri and his companions,” Hariri added. He said he discussed with Merkel the role that Germany could play to help Lebanon implement the priorities raise by the Lebanese government at the Brussels II conference, through “backing the plan for alleviating poverty in Lebanon and supporting the strategic national framework for technical and vocational education and training.”Hariri also told Merkel that Lebanon's government is “committed to all the reforms that were recommended at the CEDRE conference,” adding that it is important for the international community to lay out a follow-up mechanism. “I thank Chancellor Merkel for the major support that Germany is offering Lebanon, especially in terms of the humanitarian aid that is aimed at easing the repercussions of the Syrian refugee crisis. In this regard, there is a need to expand the basic humanitarian assistance in a continued manner so that it includes the host communities,” the PM-designate went on to say. Merkel for her part noted that the CEDRE conference provides a good groundwork for cooperation. “Our aim is to boost economic ties between Lebanon and Germany,” she added, describing Lebanon as a “good launchpad for activities in the region.”“Germany is committed to helping and assisting Lebanon,” the Chancellor pledged, noting that her country “wants to contribute to reaching a political solution in Syria to secure the return of refugees.”Acknowledging that Lebanon is “facing difficult circumstances,” Merkel described the country as “a model for the world about the coexistence of religions.”“The refugees will return when the circumstances are appropriate for such a return,” the German leader reassured, revealing that she told Lebanese officials that “the solution is to coordinate with international organizations in order to reach an agreement.”
Merkel also held talks Friday with President Michel Aoun and Speaker Nabih Berri.
The National News Agency said Berri discussed with Merkel "the dire and pressing economic situation in Lebanon that has resulted from the situations in Syria and the burden of the Syrian refugee influx on Lebanon and the Lebanese."He also called for "raising the level of coordination between the Lebanese and Syrian governments to address this issue."An official statement was not issued after Merkel's meeting with Aoun but TV networks quoted the president as telling the German leader that Lebanon "cannot await a political solution in Syria to return the refugees.""The experience with the Palestinian refugees is still present before our eyes," Aoun reportedly told Merkel. Merkel had held talks with Hariri on Thursday, on the second leg of a Middle East trip that comes amid an acrimonious debate in Germany over refugee policy. Hariri's office said they discussed the latest developments in Lebanon and the region. Before Lebanon, Merkel was in Jordan, where she met King Abdullah II. The pair of small countries have the world's two highest numbers of refugees per capita. With anti-immigrant sentiment spreading across Europe, Merkel has been criticized by hardliners in her own governing coalition for allowing more than one million asylum seekers into Germany in 2015. Many of them were from Syria, whose seven-year-old conflict is also responsible for the massive influx of refugees to Jordan and Lebanon.
Hariri: We've Become Very Close to Final Govt. Equation
Naharnet/June 22/18/Government formation negotiations have become “very close” to the final line-up “equation,” Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri said Friday after talks with President Michel Aoun in Baabda. “The meeting was very positive and I discussed with the president the cabinet formation process and the representation of the various parties. I hope consensus will soon be reached on this matter, especially that the president has shown high positivity in this regard,” Hariri told reporters. “I will continue consultations with all political parties over this issue and I believe that we can finalize the matter very quickly should we continue on this track,” he added. Asked about ministerial portfolios, Hariri said: “We are working on the government's shape and shares and we've become very close to the final equation. Only a few consultations are still needed and I will not clarify further in order not to obstruct the current progress.”
Asked what specific points were discussed in the meeting, the PM-designate said: “We discussed the share that every political party is demanding.”“The issue requires consultations that I will immediately carry on with and I'm still optimistic,” he added.
Hariri: Obstacles Hindering Government Formation Can be Solved
Beirut - Caroline Akoum/Asharq Al Awsat/Friday, 22 June, 2018/Lebanon’s Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri has ruled out the presence of “foreign obstacles” hindering the formation of the new government. In remarks on Thursday, Hariri said: “There are no external obstacles but internal ones; and they can be solved.”“Now we opened the turbo to form a government as soon as possible. And we will certainly gather everyone, it is my duty to do so,” he added. Member of the Free Patriotic Movement MP Alain Aoun said that with Hariri’s announcement, the formation of the cabinet should be completed within days.
Ministerial sources told Asharq Al-Awsat said that the political blocs were now dealing with the issue with a more “realistic approach”. “Difficult demands have declined and the serious phase has begun,” the sources said, adding that officials were studying the means to fairly distribute the ministerial portfolios, revealing a solution to the Christian obstacle by granting the Lebanese Forces (LF) four ministries, including two key portfolios, while the position of deputy premier is given to the FPM and President Michel Aoun. However, stances recently made by LF officials underlined the party’s attachment to its demand regarding the deputy premier’s post. “Let the deputy PM be in exchange for the ministry of defense or the ministry of foreign affairs, or let them form a government the way they want,” a senior LF official told Asharq Al-Awsat. Alain Aoun, for his part, emphasized that his party would not relinquish the post of deputy prime minister, saying: “Now we are more committed to it than we were before, while respecting the Lebanese Forces’ right to ask for what they want.”“We will not veto their demands, but we are sticking to ours,” he added. With regards to the Druze share in the government, the president and the FPM are still insisting on granting former Minister Talal Arslan a ministerial portfolio, while the leader of the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP), Walid Jumblat, has reiterated his bloc’s right to have the full share of the Druze community, which is represented by three ministries, based on the gains made in the parliamentary elections. Well-informed sources said the Druze obstacle would possibly be resolved by granting Jumblat a “key Christian ministry.”
International Monetary Fund (IMF) urges Lebanon to make ‘immediate and substantial’ fiscal adjustment
Reuters/June 22, 2018/Lebanon’s debt to GDP ratio is the third largest in the world
Donor states and institutions are looking to Lebanon to implement the reforms in order to release billions of dollars worth of financing pledged at a conference in Paris in April
BEIRUT: Lebanon requires “an immediate and substantial” fiscal adjustment to improve the sustainability of public debt that stood at more than 150 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) at the end of 2017, the IMF executive board said. An IMF (International Monetary Fund) statement released overnight said IMF executive directors agreed with the thrust of a staff appraisal which in February urged Lebanon to immediately anchor its fiscal policy in a consolidation plan that stabilizes debt as a share of GDP and then puts it on a clear downward path. Lebanon’s debt to GDP ratio is the third largest in the world.
“Directors stressed that an immediate and substantial fiscal adjustment is essential to improve debt sustainability, which will require strong and sustained political commitment,” the IMF executive board statement said. It reiterated estimates of low economic growth of 1-1.5 percent in 2017 and 2018. “The traditional drivers of growth in Lebanon are subdued with real estate and construction weak and a strong rebound is unlikely soon,” it said. “Going forward, under current policies growth is projected to gradually increase toward 3 percent over the medium term.” Lebanon’s economy has been hit by the war in neighboring Syria. Annual growth rates have fallen to between 1 and 2 percent, from between 8 and 10 percent in the four years before the Syrian war. Two former pillars of the economy, Gulf Arab tourism and high-end real estate, have suffered. Caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri has been designated to form a new government following parliamentary elections last month, Lebanon’s first since 2009, and has stressed the need for the state to see through long-delayed economic reforms. Donor states and institutions are looking to Lebanon to implement the reforms in order to release billions of dollars worth of financing pledged at a conference in Paris in April. In Paris, Hariri promised to reduce the budget deficit as a percentage of GDP by five percent over five years. The directors “noted that a well-defined fiscal strategy, including a combination of revenue and spending measures, amounting to about 5 percentage points of GDP, is ambitious but necessary” to stabilize public debt and put it on a declining path over the medium term. They recommended increasing VAT rates, restraining public wages, and gradually eliminating electricity subsidies. Last year the government spent $1.3 billion subsidizing the state power provider — 13 percent of primary expenditures.

British Embassy Beirut Celebrates The Queen's Birthday
Naharnet/June 22/18/The UK remains “a strong partner to Lebanon investing in its future stability, security and prosperity,” British Ambassador Hugo Shorter said, during a ceremony celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s 92nd birthday. Shorter spoke with his heart about his three years in Lebanon as he addressed his guests in his last Queen’s Birthday Party speech, seeing as his mission as ambassador to Lebanon comes to an end this summer. To his Lebanese friends and hosts, he said: “Laura and I will take with us the memory of the enormous warmth, hospitality and sense of fun of our hosts, and the genius for enterprise, the energy and the creativity of the Lebanese people, our wonder for Lebanon’s resilience... And we will take with us unforgettable images of your amazing country, Lebanon.”Shorter said the UK's partnership with Lebanon and its army, Internal Security Forces, Ministry of Education and other partners would not have been possible without “the hard work done by the many Lebanese who want to build a better country for their children.” Remembering Becky Dykes, the British embassy employee who was killed by a Lebanese Uber driver six months ago, Shorter added; “…We are extremely proud to support the Rebecca Dykes Foundation, who are here tonight, in their mission to continue Becky’s commitment work to support vulnerable communities.”And reiterating the UK’s “continued partnership and investment in the country’s stability, security and prosperity,” Shorter hoped that a government be formed as soon as possible focusing on “essential economic reforms.” The ambassador also called on the new government to distance Lebanon from regional turmoil, asking the Lebanese to “take their future into their own hands.” Hosted in the spectacular backdrop of Beirut Container Port, the event was attended by Minister Raed Khoury, representing President Michel Aoun, MP Ibrahim Azar, representing Speaker Nabih Berri, Minister Jean Oghassabian, representing Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, as well key figures from the political, business and media worlds. Guests flooded the British Village set-up at Beirut port, which the British embassy described in a statement as “a prime example of the UK’s largest investment in Lebanon.” The ceremony was held under this year’s theme ‘GREAT Britain....Beautiful Lebanon’ as One Lebanon star Tania Kassis sang the national anthems. “Guests had a taste of the finest fusion of British and Lebanese cuisine, explored some of the greatest British engineering in the world through one of the 350 donated Land Rovers by the UK to the Lebanese Armed Forces, McLaren and Lotus supercars, and had the opportunity to leave their message in graffiti style of what does “GREAT Britain, beautiful Lebanon” mean to them,” the British embassy said. Beirut container port operated by Beirut Container Terminal Consortium (BCTC) is a joint venture between Lebanese and UK companies and has in 15 years “created more than 3000 local jobs, boosted container handling four-fold to 1.2 million, and employs a genuinely cross-confessional workforce,” the embassy added. “It has never been busier in its 3,500-year history, and is now the busiest Port in the Eastern Mediterranean,” it said.

Army Dismantles Israeli Spy Device in Kfarshouba

Naharnet/June 22/18/The Lebanese Army on Friday dismantled an Israeli spy device on the Kfarshouba hills inside Lebanese territory, TV networks said. Al-Jadeed TV said the device was found near the Rweissat al-Alam post and the Kfarshouba pond on the Line of Withdrawal inside Lebanese territory. “A team from the Lebanese Army's Engineering Regiment arrived on the scene and dismantled the device before transferring it to a military post,” al-Jadeed added.It said the device is consisted of two telecommunications parts linked to a power cable.

1 Dead, 1 Hurt as Army Foils Masnaa Smuggling Attempt
Naharnet/June 22/18/One person was killed and another was wounded as the Lebanese Army foiled an infiltration and smuggling attempt in the border region of al-Masnaa on Friday, the military said. “An army force thwarted at dawn an attempt by a group of smugglers to infiltrate into Lebanese territory at the Masnaa area of Tallet al-Manara,” an army statement said. It added: “The smugglers fired at army troops, who responded in kind, which resulted in the death of one of them (smugglers) and the wounding of another, who was arrested and transferred to a hospital in the region for treatment, as the rest fled to Syrian territory.” “Army units are taking the necessary security measures to preserve security and stability and control the border in the region,” the army reassured.'
Monitor Group: Hezbollah Pulling Back From Israel-Syria Border
Newsweek/ Friday 22nd June 2018
Iran, Hezbollah and other Tehran-backed militias in Syria have begun withdrawing from the disputed Golan Heights border with Israel, a watchdog group announced Thursday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said that the militants were headed 40 kilometers (25 miles) away from the border, in response to Russian demands following previously reported negotiations between Moscow and Israel. Earlier this month, a delegation of senior Russian officials traveled to Israel, where the two countries discussed the future of Syria and a plan to move Iran’s militias away from the region of southern Syria that borders Israel. Moscow and Tehran are deployed in Syria to provide military and other support to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his fight against rebel groups.
In the past few months, Israel has stepped up strikes on Iranian forces and Iranian-backed groups, such as the Lebanese militant organization Hezbollah. Although these groups are in Syria to support Assad, they are also openly hostile to Israel. As a result, the Israeli military has moved to preemptively target Iran and its allied militias.
Following the initial reports on Russia and Israel’s agreement, a top Iranian general brushed aside the possibility of withdrawal. “The Zionist regime’s greatest fear is the proximity of Muslim fighters near its border. It has come to pass. Now that this has come true, the U.S. and Israel are making desperate efforts to change the situation. But they should know that this condition is not going to change,” Iran’s Brigadier General Masoud Jazayeri said. The SOHR’s report suggests that the condition did change, however. Israeli Energy Minister and cabinet member Yuval Steinitz recently appeared to threaten that his nation could kill Assad if necessary to stop Iran. "If Syrian President Bashar Assad continues allowing the Iranians to operate out of Syria, it would be the end of him, the end of his regime," Steinitz said last month. Iran’s withdrawal also comes as Assad’s forces have launched an offensive on Syria's rebel-held southwest region. Syrian military helicopters dropped leaflets over the region on Tuesday, warning of pending attacks. Damascus also called on local civilians to help Assad’s forces remove rebels from the region. However, the region was one of the first in Syria to rise up against the government at the start of the war, seven years ago. Since Tuesday, thousands of civilians have escaped the region, Al Jazeera reported. Most have fled to other rebel-held strongholds still unaffected by the offensive. Assad’s military has turned its attention to the south following successful campaigns to take back control of Damascus and the surrounding regions. For their part, rebels fighting in the south have vowed to put up a major defense in response to Assad’s advance. “We have made up our minds. There will be no retreat from the principles of the revolution or surrender of a single inch of the Syrian south,” Nassim Abu Arra, commander of one of the main Free Syrian Army groups in southern Syria, told Reuters. “If the regime launches any attack on any sector of the south, it will be faced by volcanoes of fire.”

Lebanon Listed Among Best Summer Destinations for 2018

National Geographic/Friday 22nd June 2018
June 21 marks the first day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, and vacation season is in full swing—with plenty of destinations to choose from, no matter your style or speed. To make decision time go as smooth as that beachside sangria, take a look at our list of 2018's best summer trips.
If you love pygmy elephants, glow-in-the-dark mushrooms, floating markets, secret gardens hidden in caves, and the rehabilitation of endangered orangutans—then Borneo is the summer trip for you. After a day of spelunking in Borneo’s Gunung Mulu National Park, visitors can stick around to observe the “Bat Exodus,” as over three million bats swoop into the fading sky from Deer Cave, the largest cave chamber on the planet. Borneo is also the place to spot Irrawaddy dolphins, proboscis monkeys, soft-shelled turtles, clouded leopards, the world’s longest insect, and 15,000 species of plants—including carnivorous pitcher plants; the famous corpse flower; and monster flowers, the largest known blossoms on the planet.
Iceland is so much more than a quirky layover or winter Northern Lights site. From May through June the midnight sun provides plenty of daylight hours for soaking in thermal pools, hiking on glaciers in Skaftafell National Park, and sidestepping tide-washed icebergs on black-sand Diamond Beach. In Iceland, mosquitoes don’t exist; the temperature hasn’t gone above 87°F since 1939; and the tap water, filtered underground through ancient lava fields, is some of the purest drinking water in the world. Spend the afternoon beside bubbling mudpots, the black basalt falls of Svartifoss,the magic mossy cascades of Skógafoss … and you’ll see exactly why most Icelanders still believe in elves.
Brazil’s Ilha Grande may only be a 15-minute boat ride from Jacareí (or a roughly hour-long ferry from Rio), but its 106 quiet beaches, musical rainforests, and car-free streets feel a world away. Most of the island is protected within Ilha Grande State Park, meaning the jungle hikes to Parnaioca and Lopes Mendes Beach offer sightings of many endangered tropical species, including maned sloths, brown howler monkeys, and the red-browed amazon parrot. Stay in a breezy pousada, drink passionfruit caipirinhas lagoon-side, or visit one of the island’s over 30 restaurants for a bowl of traditional shrimp moqueca—a bright stew of fresh seafood steeped in coconut milk and palm oil.
Strung between the islands of Sumatra and Timor-Leste, the Indonesian islands of Bali, Java, and Nusa Tenggara are ripe with coffee farms, Buddhist temple ruins, Komodo dragons, and coral reefs. Sway to the sounds of a bamboo instrument orchestra, learn the art forms of rattan weaving and batik in Java, or bike through lime-green rice terraces in Bali. Visit color changing lakes in the mountains of Nusa Tenggara. And when you need to catch your breath, head to the Bogor Botanical Garden, a world-renowned center for tropical botany with 13,983 different kinds of trees and plants, including 500 species of orchid.
The Spaniards argue that crème brûlée is just a French version of crema catalana. Welsh historians claim Arthur Guinness smuggled his famous stout recipe from a Welsh tavern to Dublin. And Lebanon … Lebanon wants their hummus back. Often overlooked as a culinary destination, Lebanon crafts the ideal summer mezze table in an equally ideal temperate climate. Stroll open air markets in Byblos, one of the world’s oldest cities. Cool off at the Baatara Gorge Waterfall. Then settle in beneath the cedars for a feast of local wine, tabbouleh, tiny rounds of hot sesame pita, baba ghanoush sprinkled with pomegranate seeds, and plates of herb-y cheese, all drizzled in bright swoops of local olive oil.
There are few African safari lands that get as up-close-and-personal as Masai Mara, an expansive and fenceless preserved savannah that stretches between Kenya and Tanzania. The region is home to a dream team of wildlife including lions, cheetahs, zebras, elephants, giraffes, gazelles, rhinos, leopards, and baboons. July through September is the best time to visit, when two million wildebeest bravely storm across crocodile-clogged rivers and grassy plains on their annual migration to the Serengeti. Witness the tension by safari car or on horseback, sail over hippos in a hot air balloon, visit a local Maasai community, then snorkel off that savannah sand in the coral reefs off of Kenya’s peaceful Diani Beach.
Medical anthropologist and National Geographic explorer, Carroll Dunham, and her family have spent sixteen blue-sky summers living among nomadic tribes in Mongolia—one of the least population-dense, and most hospitable, countries in the world. And while Dunham loves camping in a traditional ger, watching archery displays at local Naadam festivals, and horseback riding through wild poppies—she says the main reason her family returns is for the people. “No one can sing from the depths of their being and bellies like the Mongols,” she writes. Landlocked Mongolia is known for its 1,000-foot-high singing dunes, crystal clear rivers, cool summer nights, ancient dinosaur fossils, bad cell service, exquisite cashmere, Buddhist lamas, and golden mountains. One spirited horseback ride through these green steppes and we’re sure you’ll be throat singing too.
May marks the end of the rainy season in Papua New Guinea, making summer the best, and least slippery, season for hiking the Kokoda Track—a historic 60-mile mountain trek along waterfalls, rope bridges, and vibrant villages. Further north, in Mount Hagen, more than 70 tribal groups gather every August for the Sing-Sing Festival, a joyful celebration of ancestral song and dance with lizard-skin drums, swishing grass skirts, conch-shell necklaces and stunning feather headdresses. A dream destination for snorkeling, diving, and birding, PNG claims over 600 islands, 800 native languages, and almost all 43 unbelievably colorful species of birds-of-paradise, including the stunning, neon-blue-feathered Vogelkop, just identified this year by ornithologist Edwin Scholes and National Geographic photographer Tim Laman.
Peru enjoys its dry season from May through October, meaning clear skies and sun are likely for Inti Raymi, one of the biggest festivals in South America. Every year, the climax of the festival falls on June 24: Hundreds of dancers in handwoven ponchos descend on Cusco to sing, burn fires, and call upon the Sun God in a stunning day-long ritual that has been performed since the early Incan empire. If crowds in the thousands-plus unnerve you, an August trip to similar, smaller festivals in Wiracochapamp and Huamachuco promise firework displays, fewer tourists, and equally colorful turco and campesino performances.
This year California’s Yosemite National Park will complete a four-year-long ecological restoration of the Mariposa Grove. On June 15, the magnificent stand of over 500 giant sequoias will reopen with restored hydrology, accessible shuttles and trails, and better-protected habitats for both the trees and their resident weasel-like Pacific fishers. Yosemite’s towering Sequoiadendron giganteumcan survive for thousands of years—thanks in part to their virtually fireproof bark and naturally insect-resistant tannins. The largest trees by volume on Earth, some sequoias measure up to 154 feet in diameter. After a day of tree-gawking, opt for a May Lake picnic at the base of Mount Hoffmann, or take a hike along Yosemite’s 11.5-mile Valley Loop Trail for gigantic views of El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Cathedral Rocks. Yosemite is the perfect summer place to get outside and feel oh-so-gloriously small in the most delightful way.
Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on June 22-23/18
Iran regime is criminal, suppresses its people and supports terror, says US Secretary of State
Arab News/June 22/2018/LONDON: The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has attacked the Iranian government, calling it a criminal regime that suppresses its people. In a tweet on his Twitter account Pompeo said the “Tehran regime is criminal and suppresses its citizens and does not respect their rights.”This regime, he added, “funds terrorism while Iranians are hungry and in need.”The tweet also stated that “5,000 Iranians were arrested during protests in January; 30 women were put in prison for protesting against wearing the veil; in addition to the imprisonment of Sufis and environmental activists. The regime also arrested 430 farmers in Isfahan Province.”Pompeo added that “Iranians deserve respect for their human rights.”In another tweet, Pompeo publishes a photo of Major Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards Quds Brigade, with a comment saying “Iran’s corrupt regime has enriched the IRGC, Hezbollah and Hamas and squandered the country’s wealth on foreign proxy wars while Iranian families struggle.”
Israel’s Security Minister Calls for Targeting Hamas, 'Jihad' Officials
Tel Aviv – Nazir Majali/Asharq Al Awsat/Friday, 22 June, 2018/As Israeli military and political officials are increasingly threatening to launch a new military operation against the Gaza Strip, Israeli tanks were seen moving from the central and southern bases to the vicinity of the coastal enclave, accompanied by trucks carrying dozens of batteries for the “Iron Dome” anti-missile defense system. Military sources in Tel Aviv said the military move was intended to demonstrate to Hamas and “Islamic Jihad” leaders how serious the threats were, and that they had a last chance “to stop the firing of incendiary kites and explosive balloons.”Although political sources have confirmed that Arab and international efforts were currently focused on preventing the deterioration of the situation into a war, Israeli political leaders continue to threaten Hamas and other factions. Israeli Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan revealed on Thursday the possibility to launch a major military operation in Gaza in “the next few months” with the aim to deter Hamas. He noted that a large-scale operation against Gaza in the next weeks or months was very likely and that it would be aimed to stop Palestinian factions from firing rockets on southern Israel. The minister also called for returning to the policy of assassination of Hamas and “Islamic Jihad” officials, and “whoever launches incendiary kites.”The Israeli foreign ministry has launched a global media campaign to reproach Hamas and the rest of the armed factions in order to gain international public support in the event of the deterioration of the situation and the eruption of war. The Israeli army has also begun targeting kite launchers, while in the past it used to fire missiles in a way that does not kill any of them. A military spokesman announced on Thursday that his forces bombed a site in the southern Gaza Strip near where a group of young men were preparing to launch incendiary kites.

Iraq: Supreme Court Settles Debate over Amendment of Electoral Law
Baghdad - Hamza Mustafa/Asharq Al Awsat/Friday, 22 June, 2018/The Supreme Federal Court of Iraq has upheld Parliament’s decision to manually recount votes of the May 12 elections, but rejected the annulment of IDP and diaspora votes, thus ending a heated debate between the country’s political blocs since the announcement of elections' results. Earlier this month, Parliament had amended the election law in an extraordinary session, because of doubts over “widespread fraud” due to the adoption of the electronic counting and sorting system. The amendment provided for a manual counting of votes and the cancellation of the votes of IDP committees and Iraqis living abroad. In response, the High Electoral Commission challenged the amendment before the Supreme Court, which announced its ruling on Thursday.
“Parliament’s session to amend the election law is legal, as per Article 60 (1) and (2), of the Constitution, and the rules of procedure of the House of Representatives, which has exercised its authority in accordance with the Constitution,” said the Court chairman, Medhat al-Mahmoud, in a press conference. He explained that the Court has decided, “after studying the articles of this law in its final version and the proceedings of the parliamentary session,” that “the manual recount of the results was in line with the Constitution,” adding that Parliament’s move was aimed at reassuring the voters. Constitutional Expert Jamal al-Asadi told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Federal Court has approved new constitutional principles, “including the right for Parliament to enact laws in an extraordinary session and not to send them to the President of the Republic.”
Iraqi Minister of Migration and Displacement Jassem al-Jaff expressed his support for the decision of the Federal Court. He told Asharq Al-Awsat that the decision was fair and in conformity with the Constitution, “which reaffirms the neutrality of the Supreme Court and the Iraqi Judiciary.” Several political blocs have also welcomed the Court’s ruling, including the Wataniya coalition, led by Iyad Allawi, the Victory coalition, headed by Haider Al-Abadi and the Decision alliance, led by Osama al-Nujaifi.

At Least One Syrian Soldier Killed in 'Coalition Strike'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 22/18/At least one Syrian soldier was killed and seven others wounded in a U.S.-led coalition strike in central Syria late Thursday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The Britain-based monitor said the bombing raid targeted a Syrian government position in a desert area in the central province of Homs. "There was a vehicle moving around that gathering point, which lies just 20 kilometers away from Al-Tanf," the Observatory's director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP. "The vehicle and the position were both targeted," he told AFP. One Syrian soldier was killed and another seven were wounded, according to Abdel Rahman. Al-Tanf is a garrison located along Syria's southeastern border with Jordan and is used by U.S.-led coalition forces to train Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State group. But there are Syrian government troops and allied fighters from Iran, Iraq and Lebanon positioned near the zone. To keep them from interfering with the anti-IS efforts, the coalition has agreed with regime ally Russia to a 55-kilometer de-confliction zone around Al-Tanf. The U.S. has carried out raids against regime forces and its allies if it found they were getting too close to the zone. On Thursday, the Pentagon told AFP there was a brief clash but denied it had carried out a strike and said there were no casualties. Spokesman Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway said fighters from the U.S.-backed Syrian rebel group Maghawir al-Thawra and coalition advisers "within the de-confliction zone near al-Tanf were engaged by an unidentified hostile force located just outside the de-confliction zone."The rebels and coalition advisers "returned fire in self-defense, at which time the hostile force disengaged," Rankine-Galloway said. The incident came after a deadly air strike on Sunday evening on the border town of Al-Hari in eastern Syria, near the frontier with Iraq. Fifty-five fighters including Syrians and Iraqis were killed. A U.S. official speaking anonymously in Washington blamed Israel. The raid was particularly deadly for the Iraqi fighters working alongside the Syrian regime. Iraq's powerful Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force said 22 of its members were among those killed. Placed under the authority of the Iraqi premier, these forces include groups close to Iran, including the Hezbollah Brigades, which lost fighters in the strikes. In recent months, Israel has stepped up its military incursions against arch-foe Iran's forces in Syria. On May 24, 12 pro-regime fighters died in an air raid against Syrian army positions south of Abu Kamal, a town a few kilometers from the Iraq border. The Syrian Observatory and Syrian state media had attributed the strike to the coalition although this was denied by the Pentagon. On February 7, the coalition admitted to killing at least 100 pro-regime fighters in the eastern Deir Ezzor province, including Russians. It has been bombing IS in both Syria and neighboring Iraq since 2014.

OPEC Agrees Output Rise of 'about 1 Million' Barrels
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 22/18/OPEC members have agreed on a combined increase in crude oil output of one million barrels per day, the oil minister of the cartel's kingpin Saudi Arabia said Friday. "I am pleased that at the end of the day we reconciled around the one million figure that we have been talking about," said Khaled al-Faleh after a meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. Support for the increase, which had been proposed by Saudi Arabia against objections from Iran, was unanimous, he said. Saudi Arabia, backed by non-member Russia, has argued that it is time to raise production in order to meet growing demand and appease major consumer countries like the United States, India and China who have complained about a sustained increase in prices since output was cut back from January last year. "I think it will contribute significantly to meet the extra demand that we see coming in the second half," the Saudi minister said. The 24 nations in the supply-cut pact, known as OPEC+, agreed in late 2016 to trim production by 1.8 million barrels a day but they have actually been keeping some 2.8 million barrels per day off the market. World oil prices, which had already stood higher earlier Friday, continued to rise after OPEC's decision, commodities traders reported.

Trump Says N. Korea 'Already Starting' Denuclearization

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 22/18/North Korea has already begun its denuclearization, U.S. President Donald Trump said Thursday, after many observers greeted with skepticism the results of his historic meeting with the North's leader Kim Jong Un. "They've already blown up one of their big test sites. In fact, it was actually four of their big test sites. And the big thing is, it will be a total denuclearization, which is already starting," Trump said at a cabinet meeting. In late May, before the June 12 Trump-Kim summit in Singapore, Pyongyang said it had fully demolished its only known nuclear test site. Foreign journalists invited to the Pungyye-ri test facility in North Hamgyong province described a series of explosions throughout the day, three of them in entry tunnels, followed by blasts that demolished a nearby barracks and other structures. Punggye-ri has been the staging ground for all six of the North's nuclear tests, including the latest and by far most powerful one in September last year which Pyongyang said was an H-bomb. Experts are divided over whether the demolition will render the site inoperable. Skeptics say the facility has already outlived its usefulness with six successful nuclear tests and can be quickly rebuilt if needed. At their summit, Kim and Trump signed a pledge "to work towards complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," a stock phrase favored by Pyongyang that stopped short of longstanding U.S. demands for North Korea to give up its atomic arsenal in a "verifiable" and "irreversible" way. The summit pledge was followed by the US military's postponement of major joint exercises with its ally South Korea following a pledge by Trump to halt the drills which have aroused repeated anger in the North. Trump and Kim also agreed on the repatriation of the remains of American soldiers killed during the 1950-1953 Korean War. The president said at the cabinet meeting that "they've already sent back, or are in the process of sending back, the remains."A U.S. official had said Tuesday that Pyongyang may soon begin returning remains from among up to 200 sets the North says it has recovered.

Saudi Arabia Gears Up to End Women Driving Ban
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 22/18/Saudi Arabia will allow women to drive from Sunday, ending the world's only ban on female motorists, a historic reform marred by what rights groups call an expanding crackdown on activists. Overturning the decades-long ban, a glaring symbol of repression against women, is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's much-trumpeted reform drive to modernize the conservative petrostate. Potentially thousands of female drivers are set to take the wheel on Sunday, a long-awaited rite of passage for women in the kingdom that many say could usher in a new era of social mobility. "It is a very important step and essential for women's free mobility," Hana al-Khamri, author of the forthcoming book "Female Journalists in Gender Apartheid Saudi Arabia", told AFP. "Women in Saudi Arabia live under patriarchal structures. Allowing them to sit behind the wheel will help challenge social and gender norms that hinder mobility, autonomy and independence." For many women the move should prove transformative, freeing them from their dependence on private chauffeurs or male relatives and resulting in big family savings. "It's a relief," Najah al-Otaibi, a senior analyst at pro-Saudi think-tank Arabia Foundation, told AFP. "Saudi women feel a sense of justice. They have long been denied a basic human right which has kept them confined and dependent on men, making it impossible to exercise a normal life."
Coffee and ice cream
The kingdom earlier this month began issuing its first driving licenses to women in decades, with some swapping their foreign permits for Saudi ones after undergoing a practical test. Some three million women in Saudi Arabia could receive licenses and actively begin driving by 2020, according to consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. A handful of female driving schools have cropped up in cities like Riyadh and Jeddah, training women to drive cars and also Harley Davidson motorbikes -- scenes that were unimaginable even a year ago. Many Saudi women have ebulliently declared plans on social media to drive their mothers for coffee or ice cream as soon as the ban ends on Sunday, a mundane experience elsewhere in the world but a dazzling novelty in the desert kingdom. For decades, hardliners cited austere Islamic interpretations to justify the driving ban, with some asserting that women lack the intelligence to drive and that lifting the prohibition would promote promiscuity. The decision to lift the ban was catalyzed in large measure by what experts characterize as economic pain in the kingdom owing to a protracted oil slump. The move is expected to boost women's employment, and according to a Bloomberg estimate, add $90 billion to economic output by 2030. Many women fear they are still easy prey for conservatives in a nation where male "guardians" -- their fathers, husbands or other relatives -- can exercise arbitrary authority to make decisions on their behalf. The government has preemptively addressed concerns of abuse by outlawing sexual harassment, with a prison term of up to five years and a maximum penalty of 300,000 riyals ($80,000).
'Not a criminal or traitor'
Prince Mohammed, appointed heir to the most powerful throne in the Middle East a year ago this month, has also lifted a ban on cinemas and mixed-gender concerts, following his public vow to return the kingdom to moderate Islam. But much of the initial optimism over his reforms appears to have been dented by a sweeping crackdown on women activists who long opposed the driving ban. Authorities have said that nine of 17 arrested people remain in prison, accused of undermining the kingdom's security and aiding enemies of the state. The detainees include three generations of activists, among them 28-year-old Loujain al-Hathloul, also held in 2014 for more than 70 days for attempting to drive from neighboring United Arab Emirates to Saudi Arabia, and Aziza al-Yousef, a retired professor at Riyadh's King Saud University. State-backed newspapers have published front-page pictures of some of the activists, the word "traitor" stamped across them in red. Human Rights Watch this week said the kingdom has arrested two more women activists -- Nouf Abdelaziz and Mayaa al-Zahrani, in what it denounced as an "unrelenting crackdown". "I am not a provoker, not a vandalizer, not a terrorist, a criminal or a traitor," Abdelaziz said in a letter before her arrest, which was cited by HRW. "I have never been (anything) but a good citizen who loves her country and wishes for it nothing but the best."Both women are being held incommunicado, HRW said. Saudi authorities did not respond to requests for comment. Even some of the prince's ardent supporters have labeled the crackdown a "mistake."It has been seen as a calculated move both to placate clerics incensed by his modernization drive and also to send a clear signal to activists that he alone is the arbiter of change. But many Saudi women nevertheless credit decades of fearless activism for the end of the driving ban. "These activists should be credited for this historical change, not jailed," Khamri, who is currently based in Sweden, said. "It is sad that these women who have been fighting for the right to drive won't be there to witness this historic moment."

Conservative Saudi Arabia Loosens Up

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 22/18/Saudi Arabia, one of the world's most conservative countries, is undertaking major social and economic reforms including allowing women to drive from June 24. Here is an overview of the ancient kingdom's far-reaching modernization drive under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Curbing oil addiction
Even before he is named heir to the throne in June 2017, the powerful young prince initiates a major reform plan to reduce the kingdom's dependence on oil, of which it is the world's top exporter. Vision 2030, approved in April 2016, includes privatizing part of oil giant Aramco and creating a $2 trillion sovereign wealth fund. It will also elevate the role of women in the workforce and massively invest in the underdeveloped entertainment sector to boost domestic spending. In August 2017 Saudi Arabia announces a major tourism project to turn 50 islands and a string of sites on the Red Sea into luxury resorts. It plans to issue tourist visas in 2018, another first for the desert kingdom though no firm date is announced.
Women stepping out
In September 2017 a royal decree announces the end of a ban on women driving -- the only one of its kind in the world -- to take effect in June 2018. In other reforms, women are allowed to enter a football stadium to watch a match for the first time in January 2018, an easing of rules separating the sexes. In February Riyadh announces women will be allowed to open their own businesses without the consent of a male relative. The same month, a scholar on the kingdom's highest religious body says on television women should not have to wear the abaya. It is the first such comment from a senior religious figure. In May Riyadh adopts a law outlawing sexual harassment. Restrictions remain though, including that women need permission from a male relative to study and travel.
End of 'destructive ideas'
In October 2017 Prince Mohammed pledges a "moderate, open" Saudi Arabia. "We will not spend the next 30 years of our lives dealing with destructive ideas," he says. Saudi society has been dominated by Wahhabism, a harsh strain of conservative Islam, since the 1979 seizure of the Grand Mosque of Mecca by around 400 extremists. They were angered at what they saw as society's plunge into immorality, with Muslims embracing "Western" entertainment. After the men were dislodged in a bloody military assault, their influence remained. Religious leaders took measures such as banning cinemas and imposing restrictions on women, requiring them to be covered in a full-length black abaya in public and limiting their role.
Catwalks and cinema
In February 2018 the kingdom announces it will invest $64 billion in boosting its lagging entertainment sector, including for new venues and flying in Western acts. The first concerts are held in December, followed by the country's first-ever jazz festival in February and an opera that draws crowds at Riyadh University. In April Riyadh hosts its first Fashion Week, although the event is women-only. It also holds its first public film screening in more than 35 years, with what theater owners say is a sold-out showing of Hollywood blockbuster "Black Panther".
In June 2018 the government announces the arrest of 17 people, casting a pall on its much-publicized liberalization push. They are mostly identified by rights groups as women campaigners for the right to drive and to end the male guardianship system. State security says they had conspired to "destabilize the kingdom" and collaborated with foreign parties. Eight are provisionally released until the investigation is completed.

British Royals' Enduring Middle East Ties
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 22/18/From the Crusades to childhood sing-song, British royals have a lengthy and often unusual history in parts of the Middle East that Prince William will visit in the coming days. William leaves Britain on Sunday for a tour of Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories. Here are a few facts behind the British royals' connections in the region:
British and Jordanian royals have been closely connected in recent decades, with numerous visits on both sides since Amman declared independence in 1946 after 25 years as part of a British protectorate. The grandfather of Jordan's King Abdullah II, Walter Percy Gardiner, was British. He saw his daughter Antoinette marry the late King Hussein and take the name Princess Muna.
As well as personal ties between the two countries, the royals have a shared history at Britain's Sandhurst Military Academy. Prince William and his brother Harry both trained at the elite academy, as well as Jordan's Crown Prince Hussein and his father King Abdullah.
In 1999 the Union Jack was flown at half-mast to mark the death of another important Jordanian alumnus -- King Hussein. Some of the royals also have similar fashion tastes. Queen Rania of Jordan's wedding dress was made by British designer Bruce Oldfield, a favorite of William's mother Diana. As a baby the British prince was baptized at Buckingham Palace with water from the River Jordan, a tradition for British royals based on the Christian belief that Jesus was baptized there. Third in line to the throne, William married Kate Middleton who as a child lived in Jordan with her family. During the two-year stay she attended a nursery school in Amman and could reportedly sing "Happy Birthday" in Arabic before English. A family photo shows four-year-old Kate standing with her father and sister among the ancient ruins in Jerash, a site her husband will visit during his tour.
Israel and Palestinian territories
William will be the first senior British royal to make an official visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories. The most recent visit to the latter was made by the Duke of Gloucester, the queen's cousin, on an unofficial trip to an eye clinic. He and another of the monarch's cousins, the Duke of Kent, have made separate official visits to Israel. Prince Charles, William's father, attended the funerals of assassinated Israeli premier Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 and former president Shimon Peres in 2016, when he also visited his grandmother's grave in Jerusalem, but they were unofficial visits.
The British royals had fewer qualms about heading to Jerusalem centuries ago. The most influential of William's ancestors to set his sights on the city was Richard I -- more commonly known as Richard the Lionheart. England's Crusader king has been described by many historians as a warmonger, who slaughtered thousands of hostages in his failed attempt to take Jerusalem in the 12th century before striking a truce with Muslim leader Saladin. A more recent relative made a far more positive impression and William will take time to go to the tomb of his great-grandmother, Princess Alice, during his tour of Jerusalem. She has been honored by Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial site the prince will also visit, for saving a Jewish family in Greece during World War II.
Although William's family stays out of politics, his planned stop at a peace center is a reminder of the British government's historic role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The British government was behind the Balfour Declaration of 1917, which called for "a national home for the Jewish people" in Palestine. It shocked the Arab world and paved the way for the creation of Israel in 1948.

Britain's Prince William on Historic Trip to Israel and West Bank
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 22/18/Prince William will next week become the first member of Britain's royal family ever to pay an official visit to both Israel and the Palestinian territories. Britain governed the region under a League of Nations mandate for almost three decades until Israel's independence 70 years ago, and is still blamed by both sides for sowing the seeds of a conflict that continues to wrack the region. Second in line to the British throne, the 36-year-old will arrive Monday without his wife Kate, who in April gave birth to their third child, Prince Louis. William's visit comes at a particularly sensitive time after US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as capital of Israel and moved Washington's embassy there, sparking Arab outrage and deadly clashes on Israel's border with Gaza.Dror Zeigerman, a former Israeli ambassador to London, said the Jewish state has long sought a royal visit. "We asked many times for a visit of Prince Charles or the Queen and we were refused," he told AFP. "I assume that it's not the queen or the prince, it's the Foreign Office... I don't know why they changed their mind, maybe it's time."Official visits by British royals take place at the request of the government, but statements from the prince's household have given little explanation for the timing of next week's trip. Kensington Palace has underlined the "non-political nature of His Royal Highness's role -- in common with all royal visits overseas." But west of the Jordan River, everything is political.
The official schedule's reference to east Jerusalem as "in the Occupied Palestinian Territories" has sparked particular anger among some right-wing Israeli politicians. "United Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel for more than 3,000 years," Jerusalem Affairs Minister Zeev Elkin, of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right-wing Likud party, wrote on Twitter. "No distortion in the briefing document for this or that tour will change reality," said the minister, who is running for mayor of Jerusalem. Israel defines the entire city as its "eternal and indivisible" capital, while the Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. Israel seized the West Bank and Arab east Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day war. It later annexed east Jerusalem in a move never recognized by the international community and condemned as "a violation of international law" in a 1980 UN Security Council resolution. But the Jerusalem Post newspaper shared Elkin's view. "Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people since the time of King David," it wrote. "It deserves more than a royal snub by the Duke of Cambridge."
The Post did however describe the visit as "a welcome, and long overdue, gesture after 70 years of Israeli independence."
Packed schedule
Other members of William's family have made unofficial visits to Israel and east Jerusalem in the past. His father, Prince Charles, attended the 1995 funeral of assassinated Israeli premier Yitzhak Rabin and that of former president Shimon Peres in 2016. In 1994 the Duke of Edinburgh, William's grandfather, attended a ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in honor of his own mother, Princess Alice of Greece, who sheltered Jews from the Nazis during World War II. Charles and his father have both visited the tomb of the princess on the Mount of Olives in east Jerusalem.
William will do the same. He arrives on Sunday in Amman, where he will stay at King Abdullah's private residence, although he is not expected to meet the monarch. Kensington Palace says the visit aims at "building relations" with the heir to the Hashemite throne, 23-year-old Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah.
Hussein, like his father and Prince William, is a graduate of Britain's Sandhurst military academy. He has a British-born mother. William's packed schedule includes meetings with young Jordanians, British servicemen and Syrian refugees. On Monday he will fly to Israel and stay at Jerusalem's King David hotel, which was Britain's administrative headquarters during its rule of Palestine prior to Israeli statehood in 1948. In 1946 militant Jews waging violent resistance against British rule bombed the building, killing and wounding scores of people, many of them British civil servants or military personnel. On Tuesday, June 26, William will visit Yad Vashem and lay a wreath. He will then have talks with Netanyahu and meet President Reuven Rivlin. The following day he will call on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah and meet Palestinian refugees and young people. On the final day of his visit, Thursday June 28, he will visit Jerusalem's Mount of Olives.

Iraqis Fill the Mosul Airwaves after IS Radio Silence
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 22/18/During the Islamic State group's rule in Mosul, radio stations were banned and replaced with broadcasts of jihadist propaganda. Today, young Iraqis are filling the city's airwaves. One budding presenter is Nour Tai, who at 16 years old faces the microphone with a confident tone and a professional style. She hosts a weekly program on One FM, a Mosul station launched in February that broadcasts a mix of music, entertainment and current affairs debates. Her career began a year ago thanks to a talent show organized by Al-Ghad, a station in the Kurdish city of Arbil which hosted many of those displaced from Iraq's second city. She told AFP at the time that she was passionate about radio because "it touches everyone.""I want to be part of it," she said. She now sits in the One FM studio, accompanied by her father, as a degenerative illness left her blind three years ago. She says her aim is to "give people hope, especially those who suffer from a handicap.""I want to tell everyone that we can all contribute something and that we can realize our dreams," she says from the cramped studio.
Erasing 'terrorist ideology' -
The launch of One FM came six months after Iraqi forces declared victory over IS following three years of brutal jihadist rule in Iraq's second city. IS had shut down independent radio stations and anyone caught tuning in could expect severe physical punishment. The emergence of stations such as One FM is a step in the city's transformation since IS was ousted following a vast, months-long operation. Young presenters are busy 24 hours a day, producing and broadcasting shows which are also filmed for broadcast on the radio's website and social media accounts. The channel is run by volunteers who bought the necessary equipment by pooling their savings, some selling their own belongings to fund the station. Yassir al-Qaissi, One FM's head of communications, says their aim is to "denounce violence and extremism, and broaden people's minds."There is a need to "erase the terrorist ideology and end the sickness of our society, such as sectarianism and racism," the 28-year-old says. Ahmad al-Jaffal, 30, says the jihadist occupation "created a vacuum of thought." "With my program, I try to promote ideas of coexistence, of mutual understanding, and of acceptance of the other," says Jaffal, who worked as a journalist prior to the IS takeover in 2014.
Volume up
One FM is not the only ambitious new station on the local airwaves.
Mosul residents who took refuge in Arbil after the IS takeover of their city launched two stations: al-Ghad and Start FM. After Iraqi forces drove the jihadists from Mosul, One FM was launched and Mosul FM started broadcasting from the nearby region of Dohuk.
That means it has more radio stations than the two state-run channels it had under former dictator Saddam Hussein. All currently broadcast analogue signals and can only reach Mosul and its surroundings. The U.S. invasion in 2003 brought a multitude of new options for listeners, although these were co-opted by American occupying forces or political parties. The period before the IS offensive was risky for journalists and presenters in Mosul, who were regularly targeted by al-Qaida and other jihadist groups. Mohammad Salem, a sociologist, says the new stations will need government supervision to ensure that this time they are not misused for political or religious purposes -- "especially as some of their funding sources are unknown."On the streets of Mosul, the radio shows bring a distraction from the struggles of life in the war-scarred city. Taxi driver Mohammad Qassem, 27, says the music and entertainment shows are a welcome addition to his long days. "We can finally listen to all the songs that IS deprived us of for three years," he says happily, before pushing the volume up to maximum on his car radio.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on June 22-23/18
Analysis: Why Jordan Is Worried About Trump’s Peace Plan
لماذا الأردن قلق من خطة ترامب للسلام

Amos Harel/Haaretz/June 22, 2018
Any change to Jordan’s custodianship over the holy sites in Jerusalem could undermine King Abdullah
Earlier this week, Israel and Jordan made an unusual announcement – that Netanyahu would meet in Amman with King Abdullah. Just a year ago, there was a major, public crisis between the two countries over the stationing of metal detectors on the Temple Mount and an incident in which an Israeli security guard shot two Jordanians to death in Amman.
Relations have been repaired since then, and security coordination continued throughout that time. But the king’s decision to host Netanyahu is no trivial matter considering the anti-Israel mood in the kingdom, and especially the widespread demonstrations against Abdullah’s government
Nevertheless, what hung in the balance was simply too important: Israel and Jordan have a shared interest in getting the Iranians out of southern Syria and preparing for the fallout of U.S. President Donald Trump’s planned peace initiative.
The president’s special envoy, Jason Greenblatt, and his adviser son-in-law, Jared Kushner, conducted an intensive campaign in regional capitals this week. The target date for unveiling the initiative is uncertain, and all previous speculation about the matter has proven wrong. Gradually, however, details about what the plan is expected to include, which seem to be fairly credible, are beginning to pile up.
The Americans are indeed planning to offer the Palestinians Abu Dis rather than East Jerusalem as the capital of their state. In exchange, Israel will withdraw from three to five Arab villages and neighborhoods east and north of Jerusalem. The Old City will remain in Israel’s hands.
Trump’s proposal also apparently won’t include the evacuation of isolated Israeli settlements, and certainly not a compromise on the settlement blocs. The Jordan Valley will remain under full Israeli control, and the Palestinian state will be demilitarized, with no army or heavy weaponry.
If this is indeed the final offer, it will be seen as a “state-minus,” which is very far from what the Palestinians are demanding. Therefore, Ramallah will apparently view it as a nonstarter. The sweeteners the administration will offer the Palestinians are mainly economic – a huge package of incentives, undoubtedly partly funded by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.
The Jordanians are worried about the possibility of another provision being included in the plan – one that would give the Saudis and the Gulf states a foothold on the Temple Mount, for instance, by managing the entrances to the Mount. That would be a blow to the king’s status as defender of Jerusalem’s holy places. This status is one of the cornerstones of his rule’s legitimacy at home, which is constantly being challenged (and Jordan is far from being a democratic exemplar for the region, contrary to what was claimed in one recent Haaretz op-ed).
While in the Gulf, Greenblatt and Kushner also discussed financing for projects to improve infrastructure in the Gaza Strip. But approval of those projects – of which the most urgent is strengthening Gaza’s power supply – is proceeding lackadaisically, even as Israel and Hamas trade blows and slide continually toward another major military conflict.
Hamas has evidently erred in evaluating Israel’s considerations. Netanyahu, in diametric contrast to the left’s claims, has demonstrated considerable caution in recent months and refrained from warmongering. Even now, due to his assessment of the nation’s priorities, he would prefer not to escalate in Gaza so as not to disrupt efforts against Iran, especially in Syria.
But the incessant friction along the border – the demonstrations with their mass Palestinian causalities, the incendiary kites and, recently, heavy rocket and mortar barrages as well – reduce his political room to maneuver. Ministers in the security cabinet, like Gilad Erdan (on Thursday), are already speaking openly about the possibility of a large-scale military operation in Gaza in the near future.
When the area near Gaza is burning, Netanyahu’s patience – which is seconded by Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and senior IDF officers – will eventually come to an end. This likelihood is bolstered by the information that the kite launchings have switched from being the private start-up of some young men in Gaza to an organized operation by Hamas’ military wing. Operatives from the organization’s brigades and battalions have set up manufacturing and distribution systems for the incendiary kites and the booby-trapped helium balloons, which are delivered regularly to the people who actually put them in the air.
Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, has what he views as pretty good negotiating cards in his hand: two Israeli civilians and the bodies of two IDF soldiers. But instead of starting negotiations that would exploit this advantage to obtain a deal that would ease Gaza’s humanitarian distress, he has insisted on playing with fire, which is liable to bring another disaster down upon the territory.

Trump hurls a wrecking ball at the transatlantic alliance
David Ignatius/The Washington Post/June 21/18
A bright banner at NATO’s lavish new headquarters here proclaims the core conviction of the transatlantic alliance: “We are together. We are strong.” But the words seem a bit hollow these days, as President Trump escalates his attacks on America’s traditional European partners.
Trump’s “America First” policies have shaken many of the nations that looked to Washington as their ally and protector. He has imposed steep tariffs on European steel and aluminum imports and is said to be preparing similar tariffs against European automakers. He hectored European leaders at this month’s Group of Seven summit meeting and refused to sign the communique — and suggested that Russia rejoin the elite group, even as Europe tries to resist Moscow’s aggressive policies.
Europeans were dazed and in denial during the first year of Trump’s presidency, but they’re now talking about ways to fight back. That was the message of a gathering here this week of European and American foreign policy experts to discuss the “Crisis across the Atlantic.” Conference participants described the rupture as “toxic,” “an electric shock,” “an unraveling” and a possible “train wreck.”
“This is the most serious transatlantic crisis in 70 years, because the Europeans do not believe Trump is committed to the European Union, NATO or the democratic values that are the foundation of the alliance,” argued Nicholas Burns, a former undersecretary of state who directs the Aspen Strategy Group, which helped organize the meeting. The sessions weren’t for attribution, but some of the speakers agreed to comment on the record. (I was invited as a member of the strategy group.)
Europeans and Americans say they fear that transatlantic tension may disrupt the NATO summit planned here next month. Trump is scheduled to attend, but his possible meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, before or after, may overshadow the NATO session. And Trump may use the Brussels gathering to lecture Europeans anew, widening the fissure.
“A NATO summit has only one deliverable, which is cohesion and solidarity,” notes Douglas Lute, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO. “The likelihood is that we’ll come out with disagreements on the communique,” which could produce a “destructive summit.”
Trump’s pique at Europe has been evident since the first days of his presidency. As one conference attendee put it, the European Union represents everything Trump hates: It’s multilateral, liberal in its social policies, committed to free trade, anxious about climate change and, worst of all, unwilling to pay enough for its defense.
A special Trump target has been German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who leads Europe’s strongest economy. With Merkel facing unrest within her governing coalition, Trump this week took the astonishing step of attacking her government in what amounted to a presidential intervention in German politics. “The people of Germany are turning against their leadership as migration is rocking the already tenuous Berlin coalition,” Trump tweeted. Even by Trump’s standards, this was a shocker.
What’s new is that Europeans are pushing back. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas last week blasted Trump’s “egoistic policy of ‘America First,’ ” and said that “the Atlantic has become wider” during his presidency. “That world order that we once knew . . . no longer exists,” he lamented.
Europe’s retaliation starts with what Maas called “appropriate countermeasures” against the steel and aluminum tariffs. Europeans here talked of a broader effort to develop independent European security policies, so that nations are less dependent on a newly unreliable America. Francois Heisbourg, a French security expert, urged Europeans to “speak softly and build a big stick.”
Mark Leonard, who heads the European Council on Foreign Relations, argued that Europe should stop “appeasement” of Trump and focus on its own security interests. This stance was endorsed by Philip Zelikow, a former State Department official who teaches at the University of Virginia. He cautioned against fretting before the NATO summit: “Will the good Donald Trump show up or the bad one? Will he praise us or spank us? This is infantilism.”
The Euro-American confrontation will deepen if the Trump administration follows through on its threat to impose secondary sanctions against European companies that do business with Iran, after the United States has withdrawn from the nuclear deal. One former senior E.U. official argued that Europe should respond not simply with a “blocking statute” that checks American reprisals but with its own countersanctions against American companies.
If you’ve grown up in the benign shadow of the transatlantic alliance, and viewed this partnership as a pillar of global peace and prosperity, these are strange times indeed. It took seven decades to build this structure, but the wrecking ball that is the Trump presidency is assaulting it, piece by piece. Here’s hoping Trump fails.

Business Should Brace for the Worst Kind of Brexit
Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg/June 22/18
When European Union heads meet at the end of this month, they are likely to issue a warning to bureaucracies and firms to step up preparations for a no-deal Brexit, also known as a “hard” or “cliff-edge” Brexit, because that’s where things appear to be heading in the talks between the EU and the U.K.
At this point, it’s calming to view such signals in a game theory context. U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May has an incentive to take things to the edge — possibly beyond October, the current deadline for a deal — so she can get her version of any exit agreement through parliament; she’s more interested in a last-second cliffhanger vote than in a protracted debate. The EU, frustrated by a U.K. side that has nothing to offer, has been talking about the likelihood of a hard Brexit for more than a year, but that could be just a demonstration of willingness to walk away from the table.
If there’s no deal, the U.K. will drop out of the EU in March 2019 without a transition period. That’ll create gaps in regulations and the capacity to enforce them, mainly in the U.K. The FT recently reported that the U.K. government isn’t doing much about that because it doesn’t consider “no deal” a realistic scenario. But believing that the sides are bluffing can result in nasty surprises because the negotiations aren’t exactly poker. It’s a game in which the interests of some of those at the table — at least when it comes to many Conservative Brexiters — are not aligned with those they represent.
It is businesses that really need to prepare for trading across the Channel according to World Trade Organization rules, which mean 2 percent tariffs on most goods but 10 percent on cars and 20 percent on agricultural products. Customs barriers will also spring up, increase costs and slow down deliveries.
Last year, Wen Chen of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands and his international team of collaborators analyzed which regions in EU countries were most exposed to Brexit. Because of the deep level of the data, this is probably the best analysis of the exposure to date.
Chen’s calculations, however, assume that Brexit will set U.K.-EU trade to zero (there’s no other way to get at the full share of GDP that could potentially be affected). In real life, though, a 2 percent tariff, slightly longer delivery times and the added cost of customs clearance (estimated, for example, at 500 million euros [$578 million] a year for Germany, the EU’s biggest economy) won’t affect trade volumes much. The economic actors who really do need to prepare for a cliff-edge Brexit are primarily in the auto industry, agriculture and finance, where U.K. and European firms would be cut off from operating in each others’ markets directly by the end of passporting.
In the financial services industry, a no-deal Brexit is considered a serious threat. In March, the global Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, whose members work in the entire range of financial companies and banks, published the results of a Brexit-themed survey. Three quarters of its participants work outside the U.K.; 77 percent of those asked said a hard Brexit would be damaging to their business, and 6 percent said their firms would no longer have a viable business model. At the same time, preparations have been going too slowly: 23 percent of the ACCA members (and 31 percent of those working in small firms) said their companies hadn’t even begun planning for Brexit. Only 8 percent said they’d begun to implement their plans, a measly three percentage point increase from March 2016.
That would appear to make the financial services industry a particularly important audience for the upcoming EU warning. A just-released Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development report on the EU downplays the risk — but still notes the potential that a lack of preparedness can cause adverse consequences. “EU entities will probably retain sufficient access to wholesale and retail financial services post-Brexit, as most financial services are currently already provided in the EU-27 and relevant U.K. entities can relocate part of their activities to other EU member states,” the OECD said. “On the other hand, moving from a wholesale banking centered in London to a potentially more fragmented banking landscape might increase the cost of capital for households and non-financial corporations, as the economies of scale and scope of the London industry may diminish.”
It’s somewhat harder for industrial and agricultural firms to Brexit-proof their operations. Finding other markets for products can be a tough task. According to Deloitte, a hard Brexit would cut German car exports to the U.K. by 255,000 a year, worth some 6.7 billion euros or 5 percent of sales. About 18,000 jobs would be endangered. European automakers in total would lose some 8.7 billion euros in sales. Car part sales wouldn’t be hurt as badly because the tariff on them would be 4.5 percent, not 10 percent as for cars, but thousands of jobs could still evaporate as imports from the rest of the world become more economically viable for the U.K.
A survey of German enterprises by the national association of industry and commerce chambers, published earlier this year, showed only 14 percent of firms considered themselves well-prepared for Brexit’s consequences. In particular, the German car industry, the biggest potential loser, is heavily invested in pushing the government and the EU to make a deal. It has assumed too much, and it should focus more on no-deal preparations.
The Irish government and Ireland’s agricultural producers, who stand to lose 39 percent of their exports, worth 4.8 billion euros a year, if the U.K. leaves without a deal, hope for a favorable outcome, too, but at least they’re working visibly to get ready for a cliff-edge Brexit. The Irish Agriculture Ministry has sent special missions to Japan, South Korea, the U.S., Mexico, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates with a view to shifting some of the exports there. And some firms are already changing their product mix to suit new markets, retooling, for example, to produce Norwegian Jarlsberg cheese for the U.S. and Australia rather than cheddar for the U.K.
Not believing in the possibility of a no-deal outcome could cost businesses billions of dollars in lost revenue. Regardless of whether the U.K. and the EU are only playing a game, it’s a dangerous one. The quality of the players on the U.K. side and the EU’s multitude of other concerns make the worst outcome entirely possible. So all the warnings the parties issue as they try not to blink should be taken extremely seriously.

Iraq: The Banker, The Mullah, The Militia and The Cook
Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/June 22/18
“How is Iraq?” we asked a friend just back from Baghdad the other day.
“Bad, very bad, my friend,” was the reply. “Even my cook has an opinion about how to form the new government.”
The Iraqi friend is a prominent banker who spent his youth in exile in the West and returned home only after the fall of Saddam Hussein. However, he seems to have retained the traditional mindset of many of us, Middle Easterners, who see ourselves as victims of despotism and yet fear any system in which even the cook has an opinion.
To be fair to our friend, the current political scene in Baghdad isn’t exactly reassuring. The general election failed to produce an outright majority and the formation of a new government could take weeks if not months.
We are used to see governments formed and reshuffled in hours, if not minutes, with narrow elite of “usual suspects” playing musical chairs in and out of ministerial posts. In that system any hitch in forming a government could be dealt with by having some ministers shot, as did Saddam Hussein in his heyday, or exiled into ambassadorial posts with a golden handshake.
It is not only our friend’s cook who has an opinion on shaping the next government. In a bigger slot are a number of figures whose political CV wouldn’t fill half a page.
There is Muqtada al-Sadr, a maverick Shiite cleric who has recast himself as a talented political maneuverer, trying to captain a team that brings together antediluvian Communists on the one hand and shadowy Shiite militiamen on the other. Then there are a dozen or so other political and military baritones with American, Iranian and other song- masters inspiring their lyrics. In the background are tribal chiefs and grand ayatollahs who could nudge the field-players this way or that with a shaking of their beards.
“What do the Communists have in common with al-Sadr?” our friend demanded. “And what do both of them have in common with militia chief Hadi al-Ameri?”
The answer is that they all have at least three things in common.
The first is that they are all Iraqis, just like the opinionated cook in question.
The second is that they all accept that Iraqi governments should be based on results of elections. The third is that they are all forced to acknowledge Iraq’s ethnic, religious and sectarian diversity which means that no single element should monopolize power in the name either of religion or ideology.
In its manifesto published back in the early 1960s the Iraqi Communist Party, which had a mostly Shiite membership at the time, stated its objective to be the establishment of the dictatorship of proletariat and the elimination of religion from Iraqi politics. Today, the party, at least in its current epiphany, talks of power-sharing, pluralism, secularism, and coalition, terms that didn’t exist in the Iraqi lexicon before 2003.
To repay the compliment paid to them by the Communists, the Iraqi ulema frequently called for the imposition of total ban on Marxism in any form or shape and cheered when the despot of the moment launched a witch-hunt against the left.
Today, however, the ulema know that any attempt at banning parties that they don’t like will not be tolerated by public opinion.
The thinking brain of al-Sadr’s distinguished clerical family was his father-in-law Ayatollah Muhammad-Baqir al-Sadr who founded the ad-Da’awa Party with a dream of putting Iraq under clerical rule inspired by the model of Ali Ibn Abi-Talib. And, yet, Muqtada’s chief adversaries today are in ad-Da’awa with former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki the most vociferous. However, even al-Maliki dares not preach the old gospel for fear of being laughed out of the rostrum by our cheeky cook.
The young technocrats around Muqtada get their ideas, especially on economics, more from Milton Friedman’s texts than Muhamad-Baqir al-Sadr’s “Our Economy” (Eqtesadena).
Iraq is , perhaps, the most diverse society in the region, something that caused it much grief under despots but could become an asset in the future.
Substantial segments in each of the ethnic, religious and sectarian communities that together form Iraq know that none of them alone could claim and effectively exercise power. The next step should be to also accept ideological and political diversity. I believe that in the past 15 years, Iraq has made significant progress in that direction.
It is too early to guess the final outcome of the current coalition talks among the top vote-winners in the recent general election. Muqtada’s decision to engage al-Ameri’s faction in coalition talks may be a clever move. The future government which is bound to face enormous problems cannot allow al-Ameri to emerge as the leader of the opposition in the new parliament thus exploiting whatever setback Iraq may suffer in its zigzag path to sustainable democratization.
Many Iraqis suspect al-Ameri of being “Iran’s man” and a puppet for General Qassem Soleimani. Part of that view is due to Soleimani’s propaganda. The Iranian general is a master of self-promotion. A savvy manipulator of the modern media. However, al-Ameri was also close to the Americans and acted as go-between for General David Petraeus, then US Commander in Iraq, and various Shiite factions. Even if keen on defending Tehran’s interests in Baghdad, al-Ameri is intelligent enough to know that propagating an Iranian-style system in Iraq would mean political suicide. Bringing him into the tent could reduce Tehran’s ability to do mischief from outside the tent.
In any case, even together, Muqtada and al-Ameri don’t have the numbers needed to form a government. They would need to bring in a chunk of the Kurdish bloc plus at least elements of the Sunni Arab groups to form a credible coalition.
That would leave a bloc of Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish smaller parties to form the opposition. With the government coalition transcending ethnic and sectarian boundaries the opposition will also be freed from the same constraint. That would make it possible for Iraqi politics to become a forum for competing political programs not rival religious and ethnic identities or abstract ideological divides.
In a system of down-to-earth politics, Iraq would be liberated from utopian illusions that have caused it so much tragedy, and focus on bread-and-butter issues closer to the concerns of both our banker friend and his cook.

A New Democratic Revolution in Iran

Eli Lake/Bloomberg View/June 22/18
In another era, Reza Pahlavi, the son of the last shah of Iran, would be an ideal candidate to lead an Iranian government in exile.
After all, the CIA helped his father retain power in the 1953 coup against the elected prime minister, Mohammed Mossadegh. Now, as Iran is reeling, why wouldn't the US get the old band back together?
There are two reasons. President Donald Trump himself says his goal is not to change Iran's regime, but to change its behavior. The other more important reason is that Pahlavi himself is not interested in the gig.
"I have always said to my compatriots: It's not the form that matters, it's the content; I believe Iran must be a secular, parliamentary democracy. The final form has to be decided by the people,” he told me in an interview this month.
In the 1980s, Pahlavi as a young man had a relationship with the CIA, according to reporting at the time from the Washington Post's Bob Woodward. But even then, the Reagan administration was not trying to change the new regime in Iran; it was trying to negotiate with it. As the Iran-Contra affair showed, Reagan's advisers were selling the mullahs Israeli weapons to free hostages in Lebanon.
Pahlavi himself for more than 20 years has consistently said he is not seeking the throne. Today he takes no money from any foreign governments. Instead, Pahlavi sees himself as someone who can bring attention in the free world to the struggle for freedom in his native land.
"I am not running for office," he said. "I have no personal ambitions other than to help the liberation of the Iranian people from the mullahs. If they say we need you to stick around, maybe in this role or that role, maybe. But that is not up to me."
Pahlavi's father was widely despised by the time he was toppled in 1979. Had the “Islamic revolution” failed in 1979, Pahlavi would have been the heir to that kingdom. Instead he has spent the last 40 years living in America. He first came to train as an Air Force pilot in 1978, at the age of 17. He studied briefly at Williams College after the revolution. And while he still considers himself an Iranian patriot, he believes his homeland should emulate the open society of his adopted land.
"I am the kind of person that looks at the glass as half full," he said. "Imagine if I was ushered in as the crown prince. I don't think I would have had 1 percent of the experience and knowledge of living in a free society and a democratic country has given me." He said his experience of living in America is the best gift he can give to Iranians organizing today for a transition out of their tyranny.
This has led Pahlavi to lead an interesting life. For example, he was a friend of the late Gene Sharp, the great theorist of nonviolent social change and founder of the Albert Einstein Institute. Pahlavi said Sharp's ideas for how to organize a nonviolent revolution have influenced his own thinking on what to do now to assist Iran's democracy movement.
The influence becomes apparent in the conversation. For example, Pahlavi says a major component of his strategy is "the reintegration of the majority of the non-corrupt, non-criminal members of the existing paramilitary forces." This follows Sharp's own teachings on people-power movements. He stressed the importance of making it safe for members of the dictator's police and security services to join the revolution. "They need to know they will not be victims of regime change. Some of the top leaders will have to answer, but most of the people should not pay a penalty," Pahlavi said.
Pahlavi also says he wants to build a bridge between Iran's democratic activists and their counterparts in the West. "It's about time for Western democracies to engage in open, transparent dialogue with the democratic opposition," he said.
But Pahlavi also says this is a process that must be driven by Iranians themselves. He said he opposes any American military intervention in Iran. He also says it's a pipe dream for the US to support the People's Mujahedin or MEK, an opposition group once allied with the 1979 revolution until it was purged in the 1980s by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
"I have spoken to former MEK members," Pahlavi said. "They force women to wear the Hijab." He added that most Iranians still despise the MEK for siding with Saddam Hussein's Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war. "I cannot imagine Iranians ever forgiving their behavior at that time," he said "If the choice is between this regime and the MEK, they will mostly likely say the mullahs."
Many have said the same thing about the Pahlavi dynasty. His father's regime tortured dissidents, suppressed the press and wallowed in corruption.
Nonetheless, there is now some nostalgia for the days of the shah. When construction workers earlier this year accidentally discovered the mummified corpse of Pahlavi's grandfather, Iranian social media lit up with excitement. It caused a minor stir in Iran, after the regime refused to say whether they would lay the former leader to rest in a proper burial. Reuel Marc Gerecht, a retired CIA officer who worked the Iran file, told me there has always been a constituency inside Iran that remembers the Shah fondly. He said he once met an Iranian dissident in Turkey in the 1980s who proved her devotion to the Pahlavis by showing him that she had taped a photo of the crown prince to her chest. In this respect, Pahlavi told me he is primarily focused on reaching out to Iranians living outside the country to help solve the coming shortage of drinking water. He wants to convene a network of talented emigres to develop policies to address the many problems — ranging from the currency crisis to the desertification of the country — that have been allowed to fester under the current regime. That shows maturity and wisdom. Pahlavi does not present himself as the savior of Iran. He does not seek to restore the dynasty that was snatched from him in the 1979 revolution. No, the son of the late shah seeks a new revolution in Iran to emulate the democratic nation that has become his home away from home.

Palestinians: How to Achieve a Better Life
Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/June 22/18/
"It's become safer to demonstrate against Israel than against Abbas or the Palestinian Authority. Israel is at least a country of law and order and they have human rights organizations and a powerful media and judicial system. We can only continue to dream of having something like what the Jews have." — Palestinian activist.
At the end of the day, Palestinians know that the power struggle between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas is not between good guys and bad guys, but between bad guys and bad guys. These bad guys are no different from other Arab dictatorships that enslave and kill their people. Anyone who thinks that Mahmoud Abbas is eager to go back to the Gaza Strip is living in a dream world.
If the Palestinians ever wish to seek a better life, the first thing they need to do is rid themselves of the "leaders" who have destroyed their lives.
In the past two weeks, Palestinians received yet another reminder that they are living under undemocratic regimes that have less than no respect for public freedoms.
The regimes of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip never miss an opportunity to remind their people of the dire consequences that await anyone who speaks out against the leaders. The two Palestinian regimes have been forcing it down the throats of their people for many years.
Still, some Palestinians seem surprised each time the PA or Hamas send their police officers to break up (or, more precisely, to break bones in) a demonstration in Ramallah or the Gaza Strip.
The streets of Ramallah and Gaza City showcase, yet again, that the Palestinians' true tragedy over the past five decades has been failed and corrupt leadership -- one that keeps dragging them from one disaster to another; one that never offers them any hope; one that has been radicalizing and brainwashing its people; one that steals large portions of the financial aid provided by the international community, and one that has brought them nothing but dictatorship and repression.
The Palestinian Authority is nearly 25 years old, but it continues to act as a corrupt dictatorship. Like most Arab regimes, the PA and its leaders have zero tolerance for any form of criticism.
Ask Palestinian journalists, bloggers and pundits in the West Bank and they will tell you (in private and anonymously; they would like to save their skins) how the Palestinian Authority cracks down on them and imposes severe restrictions on their work. In the past year alone, at least 11 Palestinian journalists and political activists have either been arrested or summoned for interrogation by Palestinian security forces in the West Bank. The charge: voicing various forms of criticism against the Palestinian Authority or one of its senior officials, including, of course, President Mahmoud Abbas.
Earlier this month, the Palestinian Authority went one step further in demonstrating to its constituents what dictatorship looks like. Hundreds of Palestinians were staging a peaceful demonstration in the center of Ramallah to call on Abbas to lift the sanctions he had imposed on the Gaza Strip a year earlier. The sanctions, which severely aggravated the economic crisis in the Gaza Strip, included firing thousands of PA civil servants and cutting off social assistance to many families. Abbas has also refused to pay for the electricity and medical care that Israel supplies to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
Abbas placed the sanctions on the Gaza Strip in the hope that affected Palestinians would revolt against his enemies in Hamas. So far, however, his measures seem to have backfired. Hamas is still in power and there is almost no real challenge to its rule over the Gaza Strip. Also, Abbas does not want to bear any responsibility for his people in the Gaza Strip; he wants the Gaza Strip to be the problem of Israel, Egypt and the rest of the world. Anyone who thinks that Abbas is eager to go back to the Gaza Strip is living in a dream world. (Hamas expelled the Palestinian Authority and Abbas from the Gaza Strip in 2007).
Abbas does not like to be reminded of his responsibility for what many describe as a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, and he does not want any Palestinians to protest the punitive measures he imposed on the Gaza Strip.
First, Abbas issued a directive banning Palestinians from protesting in the major cities in the West Bank.
His directive, however, did not stop hundreds of Palestinian activists from taking to the streets of Ramallah on June 13 to condemn Abbas's sanctions. What was supposed to be a peaceful protest turned out to be one of the most violent clashes between Abbas's security forces and demonstrators, whose only crime was that they were calling on their leader to lift the sanctions he imposed on the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinians in the West Bank are also trying to show solidarity with their brothers in the Gaza Strip. They seem to be beginning to realize that Abbas, instead of helping the people in the Gaza Strip, is actually punishing them by cutting off their salaries and denying them medical and humanitarian aid. The Ramallah protest also came amid growing criticism (mainly from the Gaza Strip) that the Palestinians of the West Bank are indifferent to the suffering of their brothers in the Gaza Strip.
On instructions from Abbas, dozens of Palestinian policemen, both in uniform and civilian clothes, attacked the protesters with brute force, using clubs and tear gas. More than 44 protestors were arrested and 20 injured. The brutality, however, did not end there. Palestinian policemen later raided hospitals and medical clinics in Ramallah to arrest injured Palestinians suspected of taking part in the peaceful protest. At least five Palestinian and foreign journalists were wounded during the police assault, while many others had their cameras and other equipment confiscated.
Hundreds of Palestinian protesters took to the streets of Ramallah on June 13 to condemn the sanctions placed on the Gaza Strip by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. On instructions from Abbas, dozens of Palestinian policemen attacked the protesters with brute force, using clubs and tear gas. (Image source: Wattan video screenshot)
"The Palestinian Authority has crossed all red lines," said a Palestinian protester who was beaten up by Palestinian policemen during the demonstration. "They treated us as if we were the biggest enemy of the Palestinians. We have no idea why they used such force against us. This is a real crime and a violation of Palestinian human rights."
The Palestinian Authority has defended its brutal assault on the peaceful protesters by arguing that the demonstrators had failed to obtain a permit for their protest. But since when do Palestinians need a permit from their leaders to demonstrate? Well, in this instance they do need a permit because the protest was directed against the Palestinian Authority and Abbas.
Demonstrating against Israel or the US and burning their flags and posters of Israeli and American leaders do not require a permit from the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah. In fact, the Palestinian leaders in Ramallah have played a major role in initiating anti-Israel and anti-US demonstrations, especially in recent months. It is one thing to shout chants against the US and Israel, but it is a completely different story when a Palestinian shouts chants against his leaders. Such a Palestinian would be lucky indeed if he winds up in hospital with only with a broken limb.
So Abbas, who is already punishing his people in the Gaza Strip under the pretext of fighting Hamas, is now telling his people in the West Bank to keep their opinions to themselves or pay for the impudence with broken heads and broken bones.
Abbas's warning was echoed by one of his senior officials, Akram Rajoub, who serves as "governor" of the West Bank city of Nablus. In a video posted on social media after the violent Ramallah incident, Rajoub is seen and heard threatening any Palestinian who demonstrates against President Abbas:
"We will curse the father of anyone who protests... From now on, we're not afraid and we don't care. We will strike back at anyone who curses us and harms our dignity. Cursed be the fathers of those who say bad things about us!"
Rajoub's threats, which sound more like the language of a street thug than a senior official, came in response to widespread criticism of the Palestinian Authority's brutal violence against the Ramallah protesters. His threat is seen as an attempt to deter other Palestinians from speaking out against Abbas's sanctions on the Gaza Strip.
Rajoub's threats represent a massive mockery of truth on the part of the Palestinian Authority. On the one hand, Abbas and his officials continue to hold Israel responsible for the misery of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and are calling on the international community to condemn Israel for its policies in defending itself against attacks (from the Gaza Strip), while it is, in fact, Abbas himself who is largely responsible for the current crisis. It is because of Abbas, and not Israel, that the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip get only four or five hours of electricity every day. It is because of Abbas, and not Israel, that tens of thousands of Palestinian employees have not been receiving salaries for the past few months. It is because of Abbas, and not Israel, that hospitals in the Gaza Strip lack medicine and medical equipment.
These are only some of the inconvenient truths that Abbas and his cronies in Ramallah do not want the world to know or the Palestinians to talk about. That is why Abbas sent his police officers to Ramallah to beat up the protesters, whose only crime was that they had dared to call on their leader to remove the sanctions on the Gaza Strip.
For now, Abbas appears to have achieved his goal of silencing and intimidating his critics. The violent scenes on the streets of Ramallah on June 13 served as a sufficient deterrent. As one Palestinian activist commented:
"It's become safer to demonstrate against Israel than against Abbas or the Palestinian Authority. Israel is at least a country of law and order and they have human rights organizations and a powerful media and judicial system. We can only continue to dream of having something like what the Jews have."
The fact that Abbas is running a one-man show in the West Bank and is cracking down on public freedoms does not mean that his rivals in Hamas are any better. Sometimes, in fact, it is hard to distinguish between Abbas's regime and that of Hamas. The two often use the same tactics to impose terror and intimidation on their people. Hamas is bad, but who said that the Palestinian Authority is good?
The scenes we witnessed on the streets of Ramallah in mid-June were replicated in Gaza City a few days later, when Hamas used the same tactic to break up a peaceful protest. On June 18, Hamas policemen and militiamen attacked a group of Palestinians who were holding a peaceful protest to call for Palestinian unity. Again, several Palestinians ended up in hospital, while scores of others were arrested by Hamas. Hamas also justified the use of force by arguing that the protesters had failed to obtain a proper permit.
In both Ramallah and Gaza, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas managed to send a message to their people that anyone who speaks out against his or her leader will have his bones or skull smashed. Hamas and the PA despise each other and have been ripping each other to pieces -- figuratively and literally -- for the past decade. At the end of the day, however, Palestinians know that the power struggle between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas is not between good guys and bad guys, but between bad guys and bad guys. These bad guys are no different from other Arab dictatorships that enslave and kill their people.
If the Palestinians ever wish to seek a better life, the first thing they need to do is rid themselves of the "leaders" who have destroyed their lives.
**Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Germany's Migrant Policy: Why Trump was Right
Vijeta Uniyal/Gatestone Institute/June 22/18
According to the narrative peddled by the mainstream media, after a series of horrendous migrant crimes and string of deadly terrorist attacks perpetrated by newly-arrived Muslim migrants, towns and cities across Germany were reverting to some sort of idyllic harmony.
According to Germany's 2017 crime statistics, more than 1,100 foreigners were charged with murder or manslaughter, as opposed to around 1,500 suspects holding German passports. Given that Germany was home to roughly 10 million foreigners as opposed to 70 million German nationals, these are staggering numbers.
"The number of homicides rose by 3.2%" and "the number of sexual assaults had risen as well," the Süddeutsche Zeitung disclosed, while correctly maintaining that the crime report showed an overall drop of 9.6%.
US President Donald Trump attacked German Chancellor Angela Merkel's migrant policy this week. The people of Germany are turning against their leadership as migration is rocking the already tenuous Berlin coalition," he tweeted on June 18. "Crime in Germany is way up. Big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!" he added.
President Trump's comments come at a time when Merkel is facing the biggest crisis of her career. She is struggling to hold her government together, with the Bavarian Catholic party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), threatening to leave the governing coalition over immigration. The CSU wants the police to have the authority to turn away illegal migrants at the border, a move bitterly opposed by Merkel.
While Trump slammed Merkel's handling of the migrant crisis during his presidential campaign, until now, he has refrained from publicly criticizing her over the issue.
US President Donald Trump attacked German Chancellor Angela Merkel's migrant policy on June 18, writing, "Crime in Germany is way up. Big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture!" Pictured: Trump and Merkel meet in Washington, DC, on April 27, 2018. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Predictably, the mainstream media were quick to criticize President Trump for his remarks.
"Trump falsely claimed that crime in Germany is on the rise," wrote The New York Times.
The Washington Post ran a "fact-checking" story entitled, "Trump says crime in Germany is way up. German statistics show the opposite."
"Statistics contradict Trump's remarks," German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported.
"Trump's comments are certain to irk German ministers, especially as Europe's largest economy recently reported the lowest crime figures in more than 25 years. The number of crimes fell almost 10 percent in 2017 over the previous year."
CNN, BBC, Vox and even the youth fashion magazine Teen Vogue published similar reports.
With major media outlets on both side of the Atlantic reciting the same talking points in unison, millions of viewers and readers across the globe could come to believe that the Trump had made a false claim while attacking Merkel's open borders policy that let millions of migrants into Europe since the autumn of 2015.According to the narrative peddled by the mainstream media, after a series of horrendous migrant crimes and string of deadly terrorist attacks perpetrated by newly arrived Muslim migrants, towns and cities across Germany were reverting to some sort of idyllic harmony.
All the media reports were based on the 2017 police crime statistics that registered a drop of almost 10% in the crime rate over the previous year. Speaking to reporters in May 2018, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer cited the report to assert that "the number of crimes committed in Germany is the lowest since 1992."
Let us examine that report closely.
On April 22, 2018, writing for the German newspaper Die Welt, Ansgar Graw challenged the much-quoted crime report in an article entitled, "The Reality Behind the New Statistics on Crime":
"When all [categories of] crimes are taken into consideration, then the crime has certainly gone down (by 9.6%) over the previous year. In case of violent crimes -- that particularly lead to fear -- the picture is nuanced. There was, however, a slight improvement compared to 2016 (and as well as to 2011 or 2012). But in general terms, violent crimes subjected to high fluctuation are above the levels [recorded] between 2013 and 2015."
Cases of murder. manslaughter, rape and sexual assault have risen measurably. In 2014, for example, a total of 180,955 acts of violence were reported, in previous year they were 188,946.
As Graw concludes, "the crime statistics drop only when compared to 2016, but have risen in comparison to the period before the refugee crisis." Addressing the issue of migrant crime, he wrote that "the proportion of non-German suspects across the board, and particularly when it came to violent crimes, was disproportionately high."
According to the 2017 crime statistics, more than 1,100 foreigners were charged with murder or manslaughter, as opposed to around 1,500 suspects holding German passports. The previous year's statistics showed a similar correlation: 1,137 foreigners were charged with homicide-related crime, compared to 1,638 German suspects. These are staggering numbers given the fact that Germany was home to roughly 10 million foreigners as opposed to 70 million German nationals.
In an article meant as a rebuttal to President Trump's tweets, the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung on June 19, 2018 admitted that the police crime report of 2017 showed a rise in homicide and sexual assault across the country. The Süddeutsche Zeitung, while correctly maintaining that the crime report showed an overall drop of 9.6%, disclosed that, "The number of homicides rose by 3.2%" and "the number of sexual assaults had risen as well."
On June 8, 2018, German public broadcaster Südwestrundfunk (SWR) admitted that there was a "correlation between refugee influx and rising crime."
Concerning violent crimes, the 2017 government crime report found that the police charged 69,163 foreigners for such crimes compared to 112,346 Germans. In 2016, the report showed a ratio of 67,869 non-German, compared to 110,494 for German suspects.
There is nothing new about the mainstream media seizing an opportunity to ridicule and discredit the US President. However, the issue of mass migration into Europe is bigger than a fresh round of Trump-bashing or finding delicacies for the next news cycle. By shielding Merkel's migrant policy from legitimate scrutiny and criticism, and hushing up a public debate, the mainstream media have become an accessory to the seriously flawed open-door migrant policy pushed by Merkel and the rest of European political elite.
*Vijeta Uniyal, a journalist and news analyst, is based in Germany.
© 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.

Houthi negotiations should not be limited to Hodeida
Dr. Manuel Almeida/Arab News/June 22/2018
In the past few days, the pace of military and diplomatic developments surrounding the battle for Hodeidah has accelerated. Last week, pro-government forces and the Arab coalition launched operation “Golden Victory” to retake the key port and city. On Saturday, UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths was back in the capital Sanaa to try and push forward the proposal for a Houthi withdrawal in exchange for an international or a joint administration of the port. This week, the Yemeni army, backed by UAE forces, confirmed that it had taken full control of the city’s airport.
The battle for the port city could prove decisive in the overall fate of this war. For the Houthis, losing Hodeidah would affect but not necessarily break their chances of continuing down the war path, at least in the short-term. But foregoing Hodeidah would certainly represent the defeat of Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi and the militia leadership’s grand geopolitical ambitions.
At first sight, the inflexibility of the Houthis to negotiate their control of the port remains. Commenting on Griffiths’ visit to Sanaa in early June, a Houthi spokesman declared the envoy had failed in his purpose of reaching an agreement for an international administration of the port and a Houthi withdrawal. However, Griffiths revealed he had received positive signals and his return to the capital this weekend for further talks is an indication that the plan is not dead yet.
In parallel, there are provisions to mitigate the impact of the battle for Hodeidah on civilians. An offer by the Yemeni army to open safe corridors for people looking to abandon the city to escape the fighting, which was extended to Houthi fighters willing to put down their weapons, has so far been rejected. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 5,000 families from the province have been displaced this month alone.
Saudi Arabia’s UN Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi explained: “Our desire in Hodeidah is not to infuriate the Houthis or to kill as many of them as we possibly can. To the contrary, we have allowed them safe passage to the north of the city if they want to drop their arms and leave.”
The biggest concern, echoed non-stop by aid groups working in the area, is the impact a battle that could last beyond the coalition’s expectations, and a potential siege on Hodeidah, would have on the flow of humanitarian aid. The port supplies food, medical aid and fuel not only to the city’s estimated 600,000 residents — tens of thousands have abandoned it in recent months — but also much of the population in the north, the country’s most populated area. Famine and the aggravation of the cholera epidemic would be likely consequences of prolonged fighting in the area.
Another concern that has gone under the radar is the way the Houthis are preparing to use Hodeidah’s civilian population as protection and human shields.
The Arab coalition has responded by releasing a five-point plan addressing the issue. The plan reportedly includes dedicated shipping lanes from Saudi Arabia and the UAE to guarantee supplies of food, fuel and medicine to be distributed by teams on the ground.
Another concern that has gone under the radar is the way the Houthis are preparing to use Hodeidah’s civilian population as protection and human shields — a tactic that has been used by Lebanon’s Hezbollah in its wars with Israel. The Houthis have now imposed a state of emergency across Hodeidah, preventing civilians from abandoning the area, and deployed their fighters in residential neighborhoods.
Hezbollah operatives have long been involved in Iranian efforts to improve the Houthis’ fighting and technical capabilities (among other organizational aspects of the militia, such as media and communications). The latest evidence of Iranian military support for the militants came this week, when the Arab coalition seized from the battlefield drones, explosives, and equipment used to produce and load fuel for the rockets that have been targeting Saudi Arabia: All of Iranian origin.
At the moment, it seems unlikely that the Houthis will agree to abandon the port and the city. Levying taxes and tariffs on imports (especially commodities) entering through Hodeidah quickly became a key source of funding for the Houthi war effort, even more so after the coffers of Yemen’s central bank were depleted. According to estimates by UAE authorities, the Houthis make $40 million of revenue per year by controlling and impeding the flow of aid at Hodeidah port .
Control over Hodeidah has probably been on the Houthi wish list for a long time. Before the present conflict erupted, the National Dialogue Conference, in which all groups and main political factions participated, devised a six-region federation as Yemen’s future roadmap. The Houthi leadership was alone in its rejection of this outcome, and highlighted lack of access to the sea and distribution of national resources as major issues. Seeing their demands to alter the six-region federation plan unmet, the Houthis used force to take over the control of various governorates, such as Hajjah and Al-Jawf, adjacent to their landlocked stronghold of Saada.
The Houthi offensive eventually reached Sanaa in 2014, when the militia found the city gates open courtesy of loyalists to late President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who used the Houthis to take down the transitional government led by Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, Saleh’s former vice-president. From there, the first target was Hodeidah, sitting southeast of the capital. Control of the key port city — which is the entrance for roughly 70 percent of the country’s imports — offered everything the militia was missing when its reach was mostly reduced to Saada.
The strategic and economic importance of the port for the Houthis means that a negotiation that only focuses on Hodeidah will have little chance of succeeding, at least until the Houthis see their grip on the area being more seriously undermined. A broader proposal to reach a political solution to the conflict as a whole will be more likely to achieve a Houthi withdrawal.
Dr. Manuel Almeida is a political analyst and consultant focusing on the Middle East. He is the former editor of the English online edition of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper and holds a Ph.D. in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Twitter: @_ManuelAlmeida

Failed Israeli-Russian deal opens SW Syria to Syrian bombardment, Iranian/Hizballah presence
فشل الإتفاق الروسي إلإسرائيلي يفتج في المجال القصف الإسرائيلي لقوات الجيش السوري وإيران وميليشيات حزب الله المتواجدة في الجنوب الغربي من الحدود السورية في القنيطرة ودرعا

DEBKAfile/June 22/18
Syria’s moves in the southwest this week followed Russia’s failure to persuade Israel to stand aside and allow Assad’s army to take charge of the Quneitra and Daraa regions on the Israeli and Jordanian borders. Moscow hoped that the Syrian rebel forces defending the two areas would lay down their arms and go over to Bashar Assad’s army.
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the Netanyahu government spurned Russia’s plan – not least for lack of trust, suspecting that the Syrians would cheat and let Hizballah reach its border. Last month, an attempt was made to trick Israel, after its consent to a previous Russian plan to hand the Beit Jinn enclave on Mt Hermon to Syria, by providing Hizballah troops with Syrian Army 4th Division uniforms.
The same deception is being practiced at present in the southwest regions of Daraa and Quneitra. Russian and Syrian propaganda machines claim that Hizballah and pro-Iranian Shiite militiamen are being withdrawn from the Israeli and Jordanian borderlands, when in fact they are not moving after being disguised in Syrian army uniforms. The Russians don’t mention an Iranian withdrawal because Moscow pretends they don’t exist, when in fact an Iranian command center is fully operational in that part of Syria.
The statements coming from the Russian ambassador to Beirut, Alexander Zasypkin, to Hizballah medium outlets add to the perplexity in Jerusalem about Moscow’s intentions in Syria. He declared a few days ago: “We say that the Syrian army now, with support from Russian forces, is recovering its land in the south and restoring the authority of the Syrian state.”
Jerusalem tried to find out what is really going on, according to our intelligence sources. Does the Russian ambassador include Hizballah troops disguised as Syrian soldiers and officers in his comment? No answer came from Moscow.
The Netanyahu government and the Trump administration are keeping close watch on events in southern Syria in close interaction, because the Russians are trying to sell the same sort of deal to the US as they did to Israel. While Israel was being lobbied to drop its support for the Syrian rebel groups holding Quneitra, the Russians seek US consent to ditch the rebel Syrian Free Army holding Daraa on the Jordanian border. This concession would produce a chain reaction, forcing the US to abandon its key outpost at Al Tanf at the border junction between Syria, Jordan and Iraq.
In response to Russia’s machinations and trickery, the Trump administration on Thursday, June 21, sternly warned Moscow and Damascus that Syrian military movements in the southwest would have “serious repercussions,” because they violate the Trump-Putin accord reached in Hamburg in July 2017 to set up deescalation zones in the Daraa and Quneitra regions.