June 24/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin.
First Letter of Peter 04/01-11: "Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same intention (for whoever has suffered in the flesh has finished with sin), so as to live for the rest of your earthly life no longer by human desires but by the will of God. You have already spent enough time in doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry. They are surprised that you no longer join them in the same excesses of dissipation, and so they blaspheme. But they will have to give an account to him who stands ready to judge the living and the dead. For this is the reason the gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that, though they had been judged in the flesh as everyone is judged, they might live in the spirit as God does. The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power for ever and ever."
Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on June 23-24/18
Joseph Cobin, A distinguishable Lebanese Christian Martyr/Elias Bejjani/June 22/18
Hezbollah clip shows 2006 kidnappng of IDF soldiers/Ynetnews/June 23/18
Could ‘Tough Love’ Salvage Lebanon? – OpEd/Franklin Lamb/Eurasia Review/June 23/18
The question of Syrian refugees highlights political callousness in Lebanon/Ali al-Amin/The Arab Weekly/June 23/18
Iran Revolutionary Guards: Our frontlines are in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon/Al Arabiya/June 23/18
Pompeo: Iran to face 'wrath of world' if it resumes nuclear activity/Ynetnews/June 23/18
Spain: Ground Zero for Europe's Anti-Israel Movement/Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/June 23, 2018
Hodeidah, Iran, Washington and China/Mohamed Kawas/The Arab Weekly/June 23/18
Our beautiful past is a lie/Mohammed Al Shaikh/Al Arabiya/June 23/18
When Hamas covers for the Syrian regime/Khairallah Khairallah/Al Arabiya/June 23/18
OPEC: In the shadow of NOPEC/Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/June 23/18
Will the Houthis participate in Yemen’s future/Amal Abdulaziz Al–Hazani/Al Arabiya/June 23/18
As countdown to Paris protest begins, is ‘Free Iran’ the only alternative/Reza Shafiee Special to Al Arabiya English/Friday, 23 June 2018
The split dynamic between the White House and State Department means Trump's tough talk on Iran could be hot air/Raghida Dergham/The National/June 23/18
How conspiracy theories hold the Arab world back/Hafed Al-Ghwell/Arab News/June 23/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on June 23-24/18
Joseph Cobin, A distinguishable Lebanese Christian Martyr
Aoun, Khalil Discuss Economic Situation
Berri: Bekaa Must Not Be Left to Hooligans to Rule
Report: Cabinet Formation Negotiations Proceed
Hezbollah clip shows 2006 kidnappng of IDF soldiers
Could ‘Tough Love’ Salvage Lebanon?
The question of Syrian refugees highlights political callousness in Lebanon
Iran Revolutionary Guards: Our frontlines are in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on June 23-24/18
Pompeo: Iran to face 'wrath of world' if it resumes nuclear activity
Iranian General nicknamed ‘TOW missiles trainer’ killed in Syria
Iraq conducts air strike in Syria, killing top ISIS miltants
Iran accuses rights lawyer Nasrin Sotouded of state security offences
UN chief says upsurge in Syria violence poses ‘risks to regional security’
Syrian Army Gains Ground in Rebel South
Indonesia Court Sentences ISIS-Linked Cleric to Death for 2016 Attack
Over 530 Migrants Rescued in Separate Operations off Spain, Italy
Erdogan Trudges after Rallying Supporters on Eve of Heated Elections
Scores Hurt in Grenade Attack at Ethiopian PM’s Rally
US Indefinitely Suspends more Training Exercises with Seoul
Split Families in Limbo amid Trump Immigration Chaos
Five Migrants Die, Nearly 200 Rescued off Libya
Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on June 23-24/18
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.
Aoun, Khalil Discuss Economic Situation
Naharnet/June 23/18/President Michel Aoun on Saturday held talks with Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil at the Baabda Palace where talks focused on the financial and economic situation and the preparations for the upcoming 2019 State budget, the National News Agency reported.
“I have briefed the President on the international reports regarding the country's monetary and financial situation, which reflected a general stability despite the difficulties Lebanon is facing,” said Khalil after the meeting. He did not elaborate on the subject, but stressed the need to “speed-up the government formation to meet the existing challenges,” he said. Commenting on the Syrian refugees' file, Khalil assured that "Aoun has the full backing of AMAL Movement in this context,” noting that it has been expressed earlier through AMAL chief and Speaker Nabih Berri.

Berri: Bekaa Must Not Be Left to Hooligans to Rule
Naharnet/June 23/18/Speaker Nabih Berri reiterated concerns on Saturday over the security situation in the eastern Bekaa region, saying it “must not be left under the mercy of hooligans while its people keep on suffering,” al-Joumhouria daily reported. “It is totally unacceptable to have 120 barbarians control the fate of a dear area of Lebanon. Addressing this abnormal situation only requires an initiative,” said Berri. The Speaker said the State must impose its control, pointing out that “AMAL Movement and Hizbullah have lifted the political cover on security violators,” in their Baalbek-Hermel stronghold. “What do they want more than the announcement I made with (Hizbullah leader) Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah that we have lifted the (political) cover? Why this negligence in addressing the situation as if Bekaa is some remote area outside Lebanon’s boundaries?” he asked. The Bekaa Valley, specifically the Baalbek region, remained in shambles for over a month now. Berri has reiterated calls on security and military leaders to take serious measures to save the area. The daily said shall the situation remain out of control, the Speaker “could visit Bekaa to inspect the situation closely.” It quoted him saying: “Shall this shameful situation continue on without decisive steps to end it, i will then take another action.”Security conditions occasionally deteriorate in Baalbek-Hermel where reports of crime, theft and gunfire are not uncommon. Residents of the area have long demanded a solution for the rampant chaos in their city. Conditions deteriorated further in May and reports of shootouts, and revenge operations --a phenomenon that tribes cling to as one of the old customs-- were reported.

Report: Cabinet Formation Negotiations Proceed
Naharnet/June 23/18/As negotiations continue to form the country’s new government, Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri and President Michel Aoun have reportedly “agreed on having six Sunni ministers, one of them of Aoun’s share, while a Christian minister would be named of Hariri’s share,” LBCI channel reported on Saturday. March 8 alliance sources told LBCI that “AMAL Movement insists on allocating the finance portfolio to a minister of its backing, while Hizbullah wants to get the health ministry. The Marada Movement will not be given any of the portfolio they asked to allocate.”
They added: “The Progressive Socialist Party (of Walid Jumblat) reiterated that the whole Druze share comprised of three ministerial seats be given to the PSP,” which leaves his Druze rival MP Talal Arslan, of the Strong Lebanon bloc, out of the equation. “None of the political parties are willing to engage in a battle for Arslan’s sake,” said the sources. “Negotiations regarding the Lebanese Forces’ share resumed,” they added, “where it is likely to give them ministries of justice, education and agriculture in addition to another unspecified portfolio.”
On Friday, Hariri said after talks with President Michel Aoun in Baabda that government formation negotiations have become “very close” to the final line-up “equation.”

Hezbollah clip shows 2006 kidnappng of IDF soldiers
Ynetnews/June 23/18,7340,L-5293789,00.html
New video published on Twitter account affiliated with Lebanon-based terror group shows Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev—whose kidnappings led to the Second Lebanon War—lying on the ground next to an IDF Humvee before it explodes; Hezbollah terrorists dressed as IDF soldiers are seen running from the blast.Another video was published on a Hezbollah-affiliated Twitter account on Friday showing the 2006 kidnapping of IDF soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev.
In the video the soldiers’ bodies can be seen near an IDF Humvee when several Hezbollah terrorists dressed in what resemble the Israeli military’s uniform run away from it before it explodes.As the video continues, the terrorists are seen fleeing the scene both on foot and by car.
Two years ago, the Lebanese news channel Al Mayadeen, which is also affiliated with the Hezbollah group, published the dramatic footage of the kidnapping of the two soldiers in a three-part series containing testimonials on the kidnapping from the Israel-Lebanon border, which led to the Second Lebanon War in 2006. In the first episode, fighters for the organization are seen training for the kidnapping in the summer and in the winter. Imad Mughniyah, Hezbollah's international operations chief who was assassinated in 2008 in a joint Mossad-CIA operation in Damascus, is present in the last training drill before the kidnapping in an area that was similar to the actual scene. He is filmed giving instructions to terror cell. In addition, footage is shown from Hezbollah operatives that followed IDF patrols along the route used for the kidnapping. In this episode, Khaled Bazzi, the commander of the cell that captured the two soldiers and who was killed in fighting in the ensuing war, also appears. Al Mayadeen also broadcast voices from IDF radio communications in which Ehud Goldwasser is heard a short time before the car in which he was travelling was taken.
In 2012, the Beirut-based TV channel broadcast a video in which a Hezbollah cell is seen crossing the northern border an opening fire on an IDF hummer. The picture freezes as they reach the vehicle from which smoke rises. There was no recorded footage, however, of Goldwasser and Regev.

Could ‘Tough Love’ Salvage Lebanon? – OpEd
Franklin Lamb/Eurasia Review/June 23, 2018
“You could qualify for U.S. and Western aid to salvage Lebanon or you can cede what’s left of your country’s sovereignty to Iran. But you cannot do both.” A US Congressional staffer after his boss recently introduced legislation to cut off all aid to Lebanon until it “cleans its house of Iranian militia and restores Lebanese sovereignty.”
Increasingly these days on Beirut’s streets of Hamra and across much of Lebanon one hears a Sanskrit like mantra that: “Lebanon was never a real country, it is not now a real country and will not be a real country during the lifetimes of its current citizenry.” It’s become a bit of a truism worth some contemplation.
A couple of days ago there was reportedly bit of a kafuffle at Beirut Rafik Hariri, which fortunately did not come to blows. It occurred as travel weary Lebanese and tired international travelers arrived in Beirut for the beginning of tourist season and queued for the normally long wait to have their passports stamped. They reportedly learned that they were obliged to be welcoming hosts and to stand aside for Iranians fighters who it was decided no longer need passport stamps or apparently even passports. “We are pilgrims visiting Shrines to Zeinab in Lebanon” one young militiaman explained to an incredulous and soon furious expanding Lebanese assembly.
This was not news to some who work at the airport and have been aware that on instructions from Lebanon’s reputed leader, Al Quds leader Qassim Solemani, the “Resistance” is using Beirut Airport as their base of operations according to a Washington Times report on 6/15/18. Lebanese citizens witness first hand or are regularly informed by relatives and friends who work at the airport and observe the smuggling of drugs and weapons and in allowing Iranian fighters to move freely without passport stamps into other countries.
The problem arose when on 6/17/18 pro-Iranian Lebanese General Security Chief, Abbas Ibrahim, without bothering to consult Lebanon’s Cabinet, issued a controversial decision allowing Iranian passengers to enter Lebanon without having their passports stamped. Within 48 hours, Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq scrapped the “Resistance” edict insisting that “such decisions must be taken by the Cabinet. not by Ibrahim. Many Lebanese consider Ibrahim, along with “President” Michel Aoun, FM Jebran Bassil, Lebanon’s Army Chief, General Joseph Aoun, plus the head of the Amal Militia, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, among other current officials, essentially gofers for Iran’s Al Quds leader Qassim Soleimani.
As noted above, when the public learned of Ibrahim’s decision to grant Iranian fighters free airport entry “to make pilgrimages”, they and many Lebanese officials as well as the international public were up in arms despite Ibrahim’s and President Aoun’s panicked assurances that such a practice “was normal.”
Many begged to differ. From a fast-growing number of international visitors standing in long slow passport lines as Lebanon’s tourist season begins, and the sight of Iranian fighters jumping and heading to the front of the queue. In addition to airport employees, security staff, airport taxi drivers and airport shopkeepers and baggage handlers, this was one more example of ceding what is left of Lebanese sovereignty to Tehran. “Persians return to Persia” was reportedly a common dismissive insult directed at the young men.
Reports quickly emerged accusing Hezbollah of allowing the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to essentially take over Lebanon’s airport to use as a base for the Iranian regime to store and transport weapons and expedite fighters to locations and countries serving Tehran’s strategy for regional intervention.
Calls for Ibrahim to be fired from his position will surely be blocked by his powerful sponsors but the public will presumably closely monitor “Resistance” rumored plans to remodel and deepen the airport. Suspicions are rife that bunker-buster proof sub-terraranan facilities and missile storage are to be installed deep underground.
But problems for Lebanon’s economy and political status continue to mount. From millions of concerned Lebanese who left the country and comprise roughly 75 percent of Lebanon’s pre-civil war (1975-1989) population, to international aid NGO’s, UN Agencies, specialists at the IMF, World Bank and global money market administrators, among many others, including the Arab League, Lebanon may well be a lost cause.
But as most of us would agree Lebanon is worth salvaging as an independent country and some things can be done even short-term toward an urgent salvage operation. Many argue that much can be achieved to salvage Lebanon over the coming six months with serious, sustained, and closely public monitored political and economic tough love.
One US and EU proposed first step would include immediately cutting off all foreign military and economic aid to Lebanon until the beginning of 2019. This period to be followed by a six-month intensive study and review of corruption that has plagued the “country” over the past nearly three decades since the “end” of the so-called “civil war.” It is the post-civil war period which has seen the war-lords become entrenched political-lords, eliminating rivals and dividing up Lebanon’s Parliament cabinet portfolios based on each Cabinet posts total of personal cash for its “Minister”. Today once again, no government has been formed post the May election because certain sinecures are not yet satisfactorily in place. If that fails to happen then Lebanon’s election would again have been largely for naught.
Several of Lebanon’s political party officials are wringing their hands mouthing that the sky is falling, and Lebanon is “on the brink of Abyss!” As a regular “chicken little”, Lebanon’s nearly three-decade Speaker of Parliament, Amal militia leader Nabih Berri, known in Lebanon as “the Thug’ and sometimes as “Mr. 50 percent” for Lebanon’s annual budget he is accused of pocketing over the decades, announced again, with tongue in check, on 6/18/18 that: “Forming a new government has become an imminent necessity. Lebanon is on the verge of the abyss and the economy threatens great dangers that the country may not be able to bear.” It is Speaker Nabih Berri who will block the formation of a Lebanese government for however long it takes for him and Hezbollah to create what Tehran wants to put in place for Lebanon.
Meanwhile, ambassadors of many pledged donor countries have reportedly informed Lebanese officials that decisions of this springs Cedar Conference are subject to deadlines and that Lebanon must form a balanced government for the conference’s pledged assistance to start taking effect in the coming months. The World Bank has released several reports on the seriousness of the economic situation in Lebanon as it still waits for reforms to start providing Lebanon with donations and loans.
Undeterred by such warnings, Hezbollah MP Mohammed Raad on 6/18/18 insisted that “Hezbollah was now in a better position than ever before, following the parliamentary elections, and “Our situation is at its best compared to the past. Things have become better. We are not pressured, neither regarding a permanent majority at the Parliament, nor about forces that can impose any decision on the country without consulting us.”
Below are a few briefly noted measures being urge locally and internationally to salvage Lebanon.
The observer submits that as these tough subjects are tackled and hopefully solutions implemented, that it is critical that Lebanon’s ‘new blood’ youth play the defining role and to lead this country replacing of the current lifetime political lords. One of the many tragedies of the ‘political lords for life’ running Lebanon as their private business, is that the brilliant, committed young people, who grew up observing the corruption first hand and daily, have been shunted aside and denied any meaning role in salvaging Lebanon. As with Iran and Syria, the youth are fully capable and ready to rebuild their homelands.
Specific actions Lebanon’s friends can insist be taken to salvage Lebanon in addition to cutting off all aid over the next six months while it evaluates Lebanon’s future, include a detailed examination of its budgetary practices and performance for the past quarter-century with sanctions implemented and carried out for violations and corruption.
Placing Lebanon’s governmental functions and cabinet files in the hands of public servants proven to be honest and not controlled by foreign or regional powers.
Demand monthly accounting for the income of governmental officials.
All the above to be achieved before any further economic or military aid is granted to Lebanon.
On a related urgent subject, drugs are destroying Lebanon. The government must top supplying or allowing the supply of Lebanon’s 12 Palestinian camps and 156 Gatherings with addictive drugs from politically projected dealers based in the Bekaa Valley.
All would-be donors must insist on the end of Lebanon’s support for the Cocaine Trade both domestically and in Latin America in the Triple Frontier, where Paraguay intersects with Argentina and Brazil.
The government of Lebanon must stop the selling of Captagon pills from Lebanon’s Bekaa dealers to ISIS units in Syria. The amphetamine-based Captagon is a stimulant to keep the user awake for long periods of time and to dull pain. It also has hallucinogenic properties. It has been nicknamed the “jihadists’ drug.” 300,000 of the pills worth approximately $1.4 million, was confiscated by US-backed forces 5/31/18. Drug dealers in the Bekaa Valley with political cover regularly sell the drugs to ISIS and other Jihadis for primality two reasons. The sales raise much-needed cash and energize the Jihadists to fight rebel-backed forces for long periods of time. Nearly monthly a large stash is discovered at Beirut’s airport.
If salvaging Lebanon is possible, it will take tough love to reign in the massive corruption of her political leaders, re-build a fragile economy, pressure outside governments to end their efforts to absorb the small state for their hegemonic political purposes and for former western colonial powers to follow suit.
Lebanon is particularly vulnerable regionally but in their own continents so are tens of the other 192 members of the UN. The population of Africa, just on the other side of the Mediterranean is predicted to climb to 2.5 billion by 2050. And by 2100, Africa will be home to half of all the people of the planet with an estimated quarter of this planets countries having nuclear weapons.
If Lebanon, unique in many ways can be salvaged with tough love from friends it can potentially become a regional model of sorts with potential applicability to countries in this region and beyond.
The observer avers that salvaging Lebanon is worth a try. But time is running short.
Iran Revolutionary Guards: Our frontlines are in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Saturday, 23 June 2018
Iranian officials occasionally boast about their meddling in the affairs of neighboring countries, but the most recent example of this was seen when the deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guard Corp, Brigadier General Hussein Salami, described the interference as an art practiced by the Islamic Republic in the region.Iranian students’ News Agency (ISNA) reported Salami's statement during an event on Basij Day at Fardusi University in Mashhad city, northeast of Iran. General Salami said his country succeeded in taking the battle with the “enemy” to far distances, describing Iraq, Lebanon and Syria as the frontlines of Iran’s war with its “enemies,” according to his statement. The elite Quds Force unit, the military arm of the Revolutionary Guards, has openly allied with militias and provided them with weapons in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq in recent years. Salami said that as time progresses, “our revolution” has grown and "enemy" frontlines have widened. The Iranian general said Iran lacked an organized force and that "the art of the revolution lies in its strength to engage the enemy in large areas," in reference to Iranian military intervention in other countries, referring indirectly to Lebanon's Hezbollah and claiming that Hezbollah could shift the balance of power in the Middle East and become a deterrent element for Iran’s interests and by that, "Israel’s hopes will diminish." Salami boasted about the militias his country created in Syria, noting that Israel sees the manifestations of this force when it hears the various languages of Urdu, Afghani, Indian, Yemeni and Farsi, and that Israel feels the existence of what he described as “the International Islamic Force” near its borders, adding that America and Europe are powerless in the face of this force.
The question of Syrian refugees highlights political callousness in Lebanon
علي الأمين/اللاجئون السوريون في لبنان وسياسة الهروب إلى الأمام
Ali al-Amin/The Arab Weekly/June 23/18
There is in Lebanon a populist and sectarian approach to the question of the refugees.
There are European fears that the million-plus Syrian refugees in Lebanon might be forced to migrate to Europe or do it by their own choosing through illegal ways. This is why the international community, in general, and the European Union, in particular, are closely monitoring the situation and diligently collaborating with the Lebanese government.
Rula Amin, spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency in the Middle East and North Africa, said the Lebanese government receives 40% of the international financial aid earmarked for Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The refugees also receive direct aid from other sources.
The presence of a Syrian population in Lebanon has turned into a political crisis, especially between Lebanese Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants Gebran Bassil and the UN agency’s representation in Beirut.
Bassil accused the United Nations of stopping refugees from returning to Syria. The UN refugee agency said it cannot stop any refugee from returning home if he or she wished to do so and that it cannot guarantee the refugees’ safe return to Syria.
There is no doubt that the issue of the refugees is a burden for the Lebanese government. On many occasions, however, the issue has looked like an opportunity for political investment in internal politics. Officials who have complained about the economic, financial and administrative drain caused by the refugees’ file are those who care not less about taking measures to stop the systematic looting and draining of Lebanon’s treasury through quota-based policies and clientelism.
So far, authorities in Lebanon have not indicated they are interested in doing the minimum to stop the downward economic spiral in the country, let alone that they have serious plans for kick-starting development, attracting investors and reducing unemployment.
The refugees’ question in Lebanon is thus not just a demographic and economic issue; it is for many politicians the perfect alibi to run from facing the fundamental challenges to Lebanon: those provisions and practices that prevent the state from being the sole party in charge of running the affairs of the country’s constitutional and legal institutions.
For some politicians and for some Lebanese, the refugees have become Lebanon’s central problem while other issues, such as becoming militarily involved in the Syrian conflict, are irrelevant and with minor consequences for the whole state and its institutions.
The Syrian refugees are the least of Lebanon’s problems. One should instead look at the issue of seizing control of the justice system and preventing it from dealing with the rampant mismanagement in institutions and society at large.
What about the scandal related to the suspicious naturalisation of about 400 individuals?
Let’s not even bring up the subject or details of corruption in the electricity and oil sectors, nor talk about the systematic destruction of the communications sector. It might be the last competitive public sector bringing important revenues to public finances. Yet, it is systematically weakened through cronyism, corruption and carelessness.
There is in Lebanon a populist and sectarian approach to the question of the refugees. The real danger lies in the risk of allowing the return of Syrian influence in Lebanese affairs through the pernicious use of the issue.
The Syrian regime has always had a tremendous appetite for power and influence. Only an international and Arab umbrella can protect Lebanon from the regime’s greed. Lebanon cannot afford the luxury of gambling with its international relations, especially given its economic situation. Not long ago, international donor conferences in Paris and in Rome promised Lebanon $11 billion in financial and military aid.
Not only does the framing of the question of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon open breaches for the Syrian regime to exploit, it highlights Lebanese authorities’ reluctance to deal with their internal weaknesses. As long as officials hide behind the slogan of economic and financial burdens, corruption and mismanagement will thrive.
This is the real issue in Lebanon today or else how can it be explained that the country lacks a serious development plan and cannot control its borders with Syria?
Unfortunately, the question of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon remains for some in power the easiest way to cover their failure to ensure conditions for a strong state or their own involvement in cases of corruption. By pegging all of the Lebanese citizens’ problems and frustrations on the question of the refugees, these dishonest politicians deepen the wounds between Lebanon and Syria rather than heal them.
The irony is that both the Syrian people and Lebanese people are victims of evil powers ready to sacrifice them for personal, partisan or sectarian gains.
Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on June 23-24/18
Pompeo: Iran to face 'wrath of world' if it resumes nuclear activity
Ynetnews/June 23/18
US secretary of state says he's not talking about military action against Tehran, which he says he 'truly hopes is never the case,' but rather 'the moral opprobrium and economic power that fell upon them.'
WASHINGTON - US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday warned Iran not to pursue nuclear weapons, saying it would face the "wrath of the entire world" if it did so, but added that he hoped it would never be necessary for the United States to take military action against the country.
In an interview with political columnist Hugh Hewitt conducted on Friday and broadcast the following day on MSNBC, Pompeo said that whatever the fate of the international nuclear deal with Iran, it would not be in Tehran's interest to seek nuclear arms.
"I hope they understand that if they begin to ramp up their nuclear program, the wrath of the entire world will fall upon them," he said. "Wholly separate from if they spin a couple of extra centrifuges, if they began to move to a weapons program, this is something the entire world would find unacceptable and we'd end up down a path that I don't think is in the best interests of Iran," Pompeo said. He said, however, he was not talking about a US military response.  "When I say wrath, don't confuse that with military action. When I say wrath, I mean the moral opprobrium and economic power that fell upon them. That's what I'm speaking to. I'm not talking to military action here. I truly hope that that's never the case. It's not in anyone's best interests for that."Pressed on whether the United States would do whatever it had to do to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, Pompeo said: "President Trump has been unambiguous in his statements that say Iran will not be able to obtain a nuclear weapon."
Iranian General nicknamed ‘TOW missiles trainer’ killed in Syria
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Saturday, 23 June 2018/Iranian media have reported on Saturday the killing of Brigadier General Shahrokh Dayeepour, one of the Iranian field commanders in Syrian Aleppo. FARS News Agency reported that the General who fought in the Iranian-Iraqi war in the late eighties was killed early Friday in the Syrian town of Albu Kamal in Southeastern Deir Ezzur, without giving further details. According to FARS, the Iranian General was an expert in using and training on “TOW missiles” and anti-armored missiles, and used to train Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia over the past years. He was sent from the Iranian province of Kermanshah to fight in Syria. Along with him, 15 others were also killed, mostly from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the Basij forces. While the Iranian news agency claimed that the General was killed “in confrontations with ISIS remnants”, Iranian activists said on social media that General Dayeepour was killed in an Israel airstrike on Friday targeting a position of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Iraqi and Afghani militia near the Iraqi-Syrian border. The Iranian forces are positioned on the Iranian-Iraqi border since 2015 to secure the establishment of a strategic land passage between Tehran and Baghdad all the way to both the Syrian and Lebanese capitals and consequently impose Tehran's military and security control over Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Social media activists also added that tens of soldiers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and allied militias were killed in the continuous Israeli air strikes in the last few weeks, while the Iranian regime has been completely silent. The International coalition in the fight against ISIS, along with the Israeli air force, have intensified their raids on the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and its militias since Russia declared last month the necessity of the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Syria, including the Iranian forces and backed militias which escalated the disagreements on the Syrian situation between Moscow and Tehran.
Iraq conducts air strike in Syria, killing top ISIS miltants
Reuters, Baghdad/Saturday, 23 June 2018/Iraq has conducted an air strike on three houses in the Syrian town of Hajin where ISIS leaders were meeting, killing 45 members of the militant group, its military said on Saturday. “Iraqi F-16 jets carried out a successful air strike that targeted a meeting of ISIS leaders ... in the Hajin area within Syrian territory. The operation resulted in the complete destruction of the targets, and the killing of around 45 terrorists,” the military's joint operations command said. Iraqi jets hit three houses connected by a trench, the military said, adding that those killed included the group’s ‘deputy war minister’, one of its “media emirs”, its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s personal courier and its chief of police.

Iran accuses rights lawyer Nasrin Sotouded of state security offences
AFP, Tehran, Iran/Saturday, 23 June 2018/Award-winning Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh faces prosecution on state security charges following her arrest in the capital last week, her husband said on Saturday. Sotoudeh, 55, denies the charges but remains in the women’s wing of Tehran’s notorious Evin prison after refusing to post bail of $95,000 Reza Khandan told the ISNA news agency. “My wife is accused of conspiracy, assembly and propaganda against the system” of rule of the Islamic republic, Khandan said. “My wife considers the accusations against her to be baseless and made up, and the bail demand to be disproportionate,” he added. Sotoudeh, who is one of the few outspoken advocates for human rights in Iran, was detained in her Tehran home on June 13. Her arrest has been condemned by the US State Department and human rights group Amnesty International, which both called for her immediate release. Earlier this year, Sotoudeh represented several women arrested for protesting against the mandatory wearing of headscarves in Iran. Tehran police said in February that 29 women had been detained for posing in public without their headscarves. Winner of Sakharov rights award
Sotoudeh won the European Parliament’s prestigious Sakharov rights award in 2012 for her work on high-profile human rights and political cases, including those on death row for offences committed as minors. She spent three years in prison between 2010 and 2013 for “actions against national security” and spreading “propaganda against the system” and remains banned from representing political cases or leaving Iran until 2022. Sotoudeh has defended journalists and activists including Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi and several dissidents arrested during mass protests in 2009 against the disputed re-election of hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. She had recently spoken out against a new criminal code that allowed only a small number of lawyers -- just 20 in Tehran -- to represent individuals charged with state security offences. During her previous spell in Evin, Sotoudeh staged two hunger strikes in protest at the conditions and over a ban on seeing her son and daughter. She was released in September 2013 shortly before Iran’s then newly elected President Hassan Rouhani, who had campaigned on a pledge to improve civil rights, attended the UN General Assembly.

UN chief says upsurge in Syria violence poses ‘risks to regional security’
AFP, United Nations/Saturday, 23 June 2018/UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday called for an immediate end to a military escalation in southwest Syria and a return to ceasefire arrangements agreed by Russia, the United States and Jordan. US Ambassador Nikki Haley separately urged Russia to pressure its Syrian ally to uphold the truce. Guterres is scheduled to hold talks Saturday in Washington with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. President Bashar al-Assad has set his sights on retaking rebel-controlled parts of southern Syria. Over the past three days, areas in eastern Daraa have been bombarded, forcing thousands of civilians to flee, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Guterres said he was "gravely concerned" by the recent upsurge in fighting from the Syrian government offensive, saying it posed "significant risks" to regional security. He called for "an immediate end to the current military escalation" and urged all sides to uphold the ceasefire commitments "as a matter of priority." Jordan, Russia and the United States agreed last year to set up a de-escalation zone for the region that includes Daraa, Quneitra and Sweida. The area borders Jordan and the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights. Haley said in a statement earlier: "The Syrian regime's violations of the ceasefire in southwest Syria need to stop.""We expect Russia to do its part to respect and enforce the ceasefire it helped establish, and to use the influence it has to stop the Syrian regime's violations and any further destabilizing actions in the southwest and throughout Syria." More than 11,000 people have been displaced in the upsurge of violence that has included air strikes, artillery, barrel bombs and rocket attacks, according to the US statement. Assad's forces have retaken large parts of Syria from opposition fighters since Russia intervened militarily on its side in 2015. The UN Security Council is scheduled to discuss Syria on Wednesday.

Syrian Army Gains Ground in Rebel South

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 23/18/Syrian regime forces on Saturday made their first gains on the ground against rebel fighters in the southern province of Daraa after several days of intensified bombardment, a monitor said. Since Tuesday, regime troops have been ramping up shelling on opposition-held areas in Daraa's eastern countryside ahead of an apparent military offensive against rebels there. "Regime troops made their first advance in the area since the military escalation on Tuesday, seizing the villages of Al-Bustan and Al-Shumariya in the eastern part of Daraa province," said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The shelling and clashes are currently focused on a wedge of rebel territory between Daraa's eastern countryside and the western part of the neighbouring province of Sweida. The army seems to want to split that wedge into a northern and southern section, Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said, "to facilitate their operations and increase the pressure on rebel factions, allowing it to advance more quickly."Syrian state news agency SANA also reported the advance, saying army units edged forwards against rebels in Daraa's east. After securing the capital Damascus, Syrian troops have turned to the country's south, where rebels still hold a majority of the provinces of Daraa and Sweida. Southern Syria is a particularly strategic zone: it borders both Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, and also lies close to Damascus. Military reinforcements have been streaming into the south, despite it being designated a de-escalation zone last year where violence is supposed to be reduced. The Observatory has noted an "ongoing escalation of shelling and clashes in eastern and northeastern parts of Daraa province."The regime has used air strikes and artillery and has even resumed dropping notorious barrel bombs on Daraa province. Barrel bombs slammed into the town of Al-Herak on Friday in the first use of the weapon on Daraa in nearly a year, according to the Observatory. The escalation has left at least 17 civilians dead since Tuesday across rebel areas, according to the Britain-based monitor.
Some 12,000 people have been displaced from Daraa province in recent days, the Observatory said. The United Nations has also warned that increasing violence is putting the lives of 750,000 people in rebel parts of the south at risk. Even as the regime hints at a looming assault, talks between international brokers may see a negotiated settlement for Syria's south.
Indonesia Court Sentences ISIS-Linked Cleric to Death for 2016 Attack
Jakarta- Asharq Al Awsat/Saturday, 23 June, 2018/An Indonesian court is set to decide Friday (June 22) whether to sentence a radical cleric to death for his role in a 2016 terror attack that was the first claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group in South-east Asia. “The defendant Aman Abdurrahman was proven legally and convincingly guilty of committing a crime of terrorism,” said the presiding judge, Ahmad Zaini, at the South Jakarta District Court on Friday, June 22. “The court sentences the defendant to death,” he said. Aman Abdurrahman is suspected of masterminding the gun and suicide attack in downtown Jakarta which left four attackers and four civilians dead. The assault in the capital saw dramatic scenes as a suicide bomber blew himself up in a Starbucks while security forces battled gun-toting militants. Last month, prosecutors demanded that Abdurrahman be executed for the attack. Abdurrahman - considered the de facto head of all ISIS supporters in Indonesia - is also the spiritual leader of local extremist network Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD). Authorities said JAD was behind the 2016 attack and a wave of suicide bombings in Indonesia's second-biggest city Surabaya last month. Two families - including girls aged nine and 12 - blew themselves up at churches and a police station, killing 13. All had ties to JAD, with the father of the church suicide bombers identified as a local leader in the group. Authorities have not charged Abdurrahman, who is in jail on a separate terror conviction, over the Surabaya attacks. Despite being in jail since 2010, Abdurrahman has recruited militants to join ISIS, is thought to have been in communication with leaders of the jihadist group, and is the main translator for ISIS propaganda in Indonesia, according to analysts and authorities. Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-majority nation, has long struggled with extremist militancy, including the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people - mostly foreign tourists - in the country's worst-ever terror attack.

Over 530 Migrants Rescued in Separate Operations off Spain, Italy
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 23 June, 2018 /More than 530 migrants seeking to reach Europe have been rescued off Spain and Italy, officials said Saturday. A total of 418 migrants were rescued in three operations off Spain, the country's national rescue service said. In the largest of the operations, 262 people on 15 vessels were rescued in the Strait of Gibraltar, Salvamento Maritimo said on Twitter. Twenty-seven others were found in the Mediterranean between Spain and Morocco and 129 more off the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean, added Maritimo. The world's leading container shipping company Danish Maersk Line also said on Saturday that one of its vessels rescued 113 migrants off the coast of southern Italy. The container ship called Alexander Maersk changed its course after picking up a distress signal on early Friday, Mikkel Elbek Linnet, spokesman at Maersk Line, told AFP. The vessel is currently situated off the coast of the Sicilian town of Pozzallo and awaiting instructions from the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination Center (MRCC Rome). The Maersk container's move to rescue the migrants is part of "an ancient code of conduct," according to Linnet. "It's not the first time...they have picked up migrants two or three times before in recent years," he told AFP. Italy's new populist government has threatened to seize several other ships carrying migrants, sparking a row with the EU.

Erdogan Trudges after Rallying Supporters on Eve of Heated Elections
Ankara - Saeed Abdelrazek/Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 23 June, 2018/Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan doubled down efforts on his pre-election rallies in hopes of gathering supporters, and is expected to continue doing so until Saturday night, the eve of the parliamentary and presidential polls. For the first time ever, Erdogan’s political future faces disturbing doubts. Erdogan, who faces five different competitors, is most threatened by the popular nominee and former science teacher Muharrem Ince of the Republican People's Party (CHP). “We have only one day and we are ready to go from one door to another,” Ince urged his supporters after taking a shuttle between the mass rallies across Istanbul. Most of Ince’s public speeches focused on women and youth. “I trust my people, I love my people, and my people will give the necessary response to the opposition on Sunday,” he said. The election is fierce and unprecedented, and is one of the most difficult entitlements in Turkey since the ruling AK Party came to power 16 years ago. Following elections, Turkey will formally move to a much-contested presidential system following a referendum that was held on April 16, 2016 and endorsed by a slim majority of 51.4 percent. This system gives the president unmatched executive powers never seen in the history of the Turkey, and abolishes the post of prime minister. At least 56,322,632 voters will cast their ballots in 180,000 polling stations inside the country, while another 3,047,328 voters are expected to cast their ballots abroad. Women make up 50.76 percent of voters at home. The largest number of voters is located in Istanbul and stands at a whopping 10,559,686, followed by the capital Ankara with 3,904,585 voters. The northwestern city Izmir also packs a substantial concentration of voters amounting to 3,227,032 voters. Observers review Erdogan as accustomed to confronting weak candidates easily, but Ince is a fierce opponent who does not hesitate when discussing sensitive topics like his talk about former cooperation between Erdogan’s ruling party and Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara now accuses of terrorism and masterminding a coup attempt in 2016.

Scores Hurt in Grenade Attack at Ethiopian PM’s Rally

Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 23 June, 2018/Scores were injured on Saturday in a grenade explosion at a rally for Ethiopia's new reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed attended by thousands in Addis Ababa. The rally was being held in Ethiopia's capital in support of the 41-year-old ex-soldier who has outlined a series of radical reforms since taking office in April. His chief of staff Fitsum Arega said: "As of now, based on reports from police and hospitals, 83 people are injured. Of the 83 injured, six are in critical condition.""No death so far has been reported," said Arega after earlier reports of deaths among the crowds at the capital's Meskel Square. Abiy described the incident as "an unsuccessful attempt by forces who do not want to see Ethiopia united." He spoke in a televised address following the explosion, which occurred minutes after he finished his speech at the rally. The rally began as a show of exuberance, with supporters wearing clothes displaying Abiy's image and carrying signs saying "One Love, One Ethiopia."In a cowboy hat and T-shirt, Abiy told the tens of thousands of supporters that change was coming and there was no turning back. "For the past 100 years hate has done a great deal of damage to us," he said, stressing the need for even more reforms. After the explosion the state broadcaster quickly cut away from coverage of the rally, which broke up with people singing, chanting and going back to their homes. Abiy stunned Ethiopians this month by saying he was prepared to fully implement a peace deal with Eritrea signed in 2000 and meant to end a two-year war between the country and its neighbor that devolved into a stalemate resulting in huge military build up by both countries. It is one of many policy shifts announced since Abiy took office, moves that could reshape Ethiopia’s relations with its neighbors and have equally dramatic impacts inside the country of 100 million people.

US Indefinitely Suspends more Training Exercises with Seoul
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 23 June, 2018/The US and South Korea have agreed to indefinitely suspend two exchange program training exercises, to support diplomatic negotiations with North Korea although US President Donald Trump cited "an unusual and extraordinary threat" from Pyongyang's nuclear arsenal. The US and South Korea have already announced the shelving of the large-scale Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises slated for August, making good on a pledge by Trump during his summit with North Korea's leader. Friday's decision by the Pentagon followed a high-level meeting between Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joe Dunford, and National Security Advisor John Bolton. "To support implementing the outcomes of the Singapore Summit, and in coordination with our Republic of Korea ally, Secretary Mattis has indefinitely suspended select exercises," Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said in a statement. Two Korean Marine Exchange Program training exercises scheduled to occur in the next three months have now been shelved. Despite the historic summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, a presidential declaration sent to Congress on Friday explained why the administration would keep in place tough economic restrictions first imposed by former president George W. Bush. "The existence and risk of proliferation of weapons-usable fissile material on the Korean Peninsula and the actions and policies of the Government of North Korea continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States," it said. "I am continuing for one year the national emergency with respect to North Korea," added the statement. 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 US demands for North Korea to give up its atomic arsenal in a "verifiable" and "irreversible" way. After flying back to Washington last week, boasting of success, the US leader tweeted: "There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea."

Split Families in Limbo amid Trump Immigration Chaos
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 23/18/The fate of 2,300 children wrested from their parents at the US border with Mexico remained unclear Friday two days after Donald Trump ordered an end to migrant family separations, as the president accused Democrats of spinning "phony" tales of suffering for electoral gain. While the US leader bowed to global outrage over the splitting of families, conflicting messages were contributing to a sense of chaos in the handling of the crisis. Government agencies were unable to say what would happen to the children already sent to tent camps and other facilities spread across the country while their parents were charged with immigration offenses.Having been forced into a climbdown on the hot-button issue of immigration, Trump swung back into fighting mode -- insisting he remained committed to the "zero tolerance" policy that aims to deter the flow of migrants from Central America. "We must maintain a Strong Southern Border. We cannot allow our Country to be overrun by illegal immigrants as the Democrats tell their phony stories of sadness and grief, hoping it will help them in the elections," he tweeted.In a possible indication of the scope of the crackdown the Trump administration envisions, Time magazine reported that the US Navy is preparing plans to build detention centers for tens of thousands of immigrants on remote bases in support of the "zero tolerance" policy. Trump also met at the White House with parents of victims killed by undocumented immigrants.
The parents standing with Trump have been "permanently separated from their loved ones," the president said, "because they were killed by criminal illegal aliens." Trump continued to make political hay out of the crisis, accusing Democrats of "playing games" and not supporting tougher border policies. To fellow Republicans, his message was to "stop wasting their time on Immigration" until after the November midterm congressional elections. On Thursday, divided congressional Republicans failed to pass one immigration reform bill, and a second proposal that includes language ending family separations was put off until next week. While Melania Trump sought to demonstrate concern with a surprise visit to migrant children at the border on Thursday, the administration remained under siege amid continued accounts of parents unable to find their children and no system in place for reuniting them. Lawyers working to reunite families said they were struggling to navigate a labyrinthine process. "It's very difficult to reunite children with their parents because these government agencies were not prepared, and they're not designed, for family separation," said Efren Olivares, a lawyer with the Texas Civil Rights Project that represents 381 migrant parents.
'How is she?'
Near Washington, protestors shouting "Shame!" demonstrated early Friday outside the home of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, two days after Trump announced her department would take over the handling and processing of families at the border.
Some reunifications were taking place, though it was unclear whether they involved the 700 children taken from parents between October and April, or the 2,300 since the mandatory prosecution of illegal border-crossers, whose children were taken away as a result, began in early May. Others remained in painful limbo. One woman, Cindy Madrid from El Salvador, repeatedly dictated her US-resident sister's phone number to her six-year-old daughter before she crossed the border and the family was separated. The child was one of those heard crying out -- and reciting the number -- in an audio recording reportedly made inside a detention center, which galvanized opposition to the separations. "It's maddening because at every moment I ask myself, 'How is she? Has she eaten? Are they taking care of her? Do they shower her?'" Madrid told CNN Thursday from a detention center in Port Isabel, Texas. "There are many more rooms full of women going through the same thing," she said.
Going back 'not an option'
A senior Salvadoran government official, Liduvina Magarin, said she will travel next Sunday "to investigate the situation" of children from her country separated from family and held in McAllen, Texas. The crisis has exposed bitter divisions on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers accused one another of political grandstanding -- and at least one used the ProPublica audio recording to hammer his point home. As Democratic congressman Ted Lieu derided the separations as "a functional equivalent of kidnapping," he played the audio into a microphone, to a startled House chamber. The presiding officer ordered Lieu to stop, but Lieu played the wails for four full minutes. "I think the American people need to hear this," he said. After several Democrats visited multiple facilities in recent days, Republican senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz went to government-run centers housing separated children to see conditions for themselves. "Won't be easy to house families together, but we must do it," Rubio tweeted after visiting a facility in Homestead, Florida."Because we can never again go back to policy of either separating families or releasing everyone."Tens of thousands of people from impoverished, violence-stricken Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and parts of Mexico have crossed the US border since last year requesting asylum. Trump's crackdown hasn't deterred them, at least not yet. "We don't see going back to where we came from as an option," Jose Abel Mendez, 28, who traveled from El Salvador with his wife and children, aged 10 months, six and 10, told AFP in the border city of Tijuana. The Mendezes have been waiting two weeks for US officials to let them formally request asylum. The delay pushes many to cross the border illegally, activists say.

Five Migrants Die, Nearly 200 Rescued off Libya
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 23/18/Five migrants died and nearly 200 were rescued off the coast of Libya while trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe in two boats, the Libyan navy said Saturday. Three children and nine women were among 94 migrants rescued on Friday when their inflatable dinghy sank 12 nautical miles from Garabulli, east of the capital Tripoli. Five migrants --- from Sudan, Nigeria, Chad and Egypt -- aboard the same vessel lost their lives, said navy spokesman Ayoub Kacem. Another 91 migrants travelling in another boat were rescued in the same area, the spokesman said. A total of 900 migrants have been intercepted or rescued by the Libyan navy since Wednesday as departures pick up due to favourable weather. Usually in such cases the migrants are taken to detention centres pending repatriation. Libya is a key departure point for thousands of migrants hoping to reach Europe, although hundreds drown each year attempting the crossing.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on June 23-24/18
Spain: Ground Zero for Europe's Anti-Israel Movement
Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/June 23, 2018
The proliferating anti-Israel activism, driven by the rise to power of the political far-left, is establishing Spain as the EU member state most hostile towards the Jewish state.
A Madrid-based organization, Action and Communication on the Middle East (ACOM), which is fighting the anti-Israel BDS movement in Spain, said that Valencia's motion was anti-Semitic and an incitement to hatred.
"The BDS movement in Spain acquired its current virulence with the emergence of Podemos, a 'Chavist' far-left party financed by Venezuela and Iran.... As Podemos gained control of the municipal governments in the main Spanish cities, the anti-Israel movement had access to multiple economic, human and organizational resources.... Podemos has driven over 90 such declarations in Spain in jurisdictions covering a population of over eight million people" — Ángel Más, president, ACOM.
Valencia, the third-largest city in Spain, has approved a motion to boycott Israel and slander it by declaring the city an "Israeli apartheid-free zone." The move comes days after Navarra, one of Spain's 17 autonomous communities, announced a similar measure. In all, more than 50 Spanish cities and regions have passed motions condemning Israel. The proliferating anti-Israel activism, driven by the rise to power of the political far-left, is establishing Spain as the EU member state most hostile towards the Jewish state.
The Valencian measure, introduced by the far-left party València en Comú, was approved during a plenary session of the city council on May 31. The motion, which commits the city to refrain from engaging in business contacts or cultural events with Israeli authorities or companies, aims at establishing Valencia as "a global reference for solidarity with the Palestinians."
The city of Valencia, Spain has approved a motion to boycott Israel and slander it by declaring the city an "Israeli apartheid-free zone." (Image source: Ben Bender/Wikimedia Commons)
The motion, which libelously describes Israel as an "apartheid regime," accuses the Jewish state of "colonialism," "racism," "ethnic cleansing," "tyranny," and "genocide."
The measure, which claims to reflect the "dignity, solidarity and justness" of the Valencian people, was introduced by Neus Fábregas Santana, a city councilor whose Twitter feed reveals an obsession with demonizing and delegitimizing Israel.
Santana works closely with a group called BDS País Valencia, the local branch of a worldwide movement trying to delegitimize Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East.
BDS País Valencia is currently promoting a Spanish documentary about the Gaza Strip called "Gas the Arabs," a title that alleges, falsely, that the Jews in Israel are doing to the Arabs today what the Nazis in Germany did to the Jews during the Second World War.
An activist with BDS País Valencia, Mireia Biosca, said the motion in Valencia had three objectives:
"The first is the dismantling of the apartheid wall and the return to the borders of 1967. The second is the end of apartheid both in Palestine and in Israel, and the third is the right of return."
Biosca also said BDS País Valencia would work to prevent the Eurovision song contest from being held in Israel in 2019:
"There is a very clear line: first to ensure that states do not participate in the festival, and obviously a campaign to prevent the festival from being in Jerusalem. For me it is equally boycottable if it is decided that Eurovision will be held in Tel Aviv...."
A Madrid-based organization, Action and Communication on the Middle East (ACOM), which is fighting the anti-Israel BDS movement in Spain, said that Valencia's motion was anti-Semitic and an incitement to hatred. It said it was studying whether to take legal action against the City Council of Valencia for violating the Spanish Constitution and promoting discrimination based on religion, ethnicity or national origin:
"The declaration is full of lies, manipulations and libels, whilst it calls for the city to formally adhere to the BDS movement and declare itself 'free of Israeli apartheid' (a known euphemism in Spain for Judenrein [free of Jews], where any perceived sympathizer of the Jewish State is demanded to publicly denounce the policies of the only democracy in the Middle East in order to be admitted to social, political, economic or civic activities in the municipality) ....
"We informed the local press of the illegality of the BDS campaign, detailing dozens of judicial cases won by ACOM in the Spanish Courts that proved the unconstitutionality of exclusionary measures."
ACOM has filed more than twenty lawsuits against provincial and town councils which have enacted boycotts of Israel.
Much of the BDS activity in Spain is being promoted by Podemos (translated in English as "We Can"), a neo-Communist party founded in March 2014 to protest the economic austerity measures put into place after the European debt crisis. Podemos received more than 20% of the vote in the national election held on December 20, 2015 and is now the third-largest party in Parliament.
Podemos head Pablo Iglesias and his deputy, Íñigo Errejón, served as advisors to the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, and have been accused of receiving more than €7 million ($8 million) from Chávez to fund their political activities in Spain. Podemos has also been accused of receiving funding from the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Iglesias has a long history of anti-Semitism: he has downplayed the Holocaust, describing it as "a bureaucratic and administrative decision"; compared the Gaza Strip to the Warsaw ghetto; and described Spanish police who apprehend illegal immigrants as being the same as SS guards.
Iglesias hosts a television program, "Fort Apache," which is broadcast on HispanTV, a Spanish-language cable television network owned by the Iranian government. He has been accused of using his show to repeat anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and tropes.
In a June 7 interview on RTVE, a leading state-owned television and radio broadcast network, Iglesias, said that Israel was an "illegal" country: "We need to act more firmly against an illegal state like Israel. Israel's actions are illegal. The apartheid policies of Israel are illegal."
València en Comú, the political party which sponsored the BDS motion in Valencia, is a local offshoot of Podemos. The motion was approved with support from Compromís, a coalition of Communist and left-wing nationalist parties, as well as the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE), which recently took over the central government in Madrid.
BDS motions have also been approved in: Abrera, Alcoi, Alhaurín de la Torre, Artés, Badalona, Barberà del Vallès, Barcelona, Benlloch, Campillos, Casares (Malaga), Castrillón, Castro del Río, Catarroja, Concentaina, Córdoba, Corvera, El Prat, Gijón, Gran Canaria, La Roda Llangreu, Los Corrales, Madrid, Mairena del Aljarafe, Molins de Rei, Montoro, Muro, Navalafuente, Navarra, Oleiros, Olesa de Montserrat, Onda, Pamplona, Petrer, Ripollet, Rivas-Vaciamadrid, Sabiñánigo, San Fernando, San Roque, Sant Adrià del Besòs, Sant Cebriá de Vallalta, Sant Celoni, Santa Eulària (Ibiza), Sant Boi de Llobregat, Sant Feliu de Llobregat, Sant Pere de Ruidebitlles, Santiago de Compostela, Sant Quirze del Vallès, Seville, Telde, Terrassa, Trebujena, Velvez-Málaga, Viladamat, Viloria del Henar, Xeraco and Zaragoza, among others.
ACOM President Ángel Más explained the dynamics behind the rise of the BDS movement in Spain:
"The BDS is a global phenomenon that is born from the modern anti-Semites' acceptance of the improbability of defeating Israel through military confrontation or terrorist attacks. The objective is the same: the annihilation of the Jewish homeland, 'from the river to the sea.' But now, BDS tries to push the international community to condemn Israel as a pariah state and ostracize all those that support her: Zionists. Jews.
"The delegitimizers, as old-time bigots, mask their thuggery, presenting themselves as victims and hiding their true intentions. They appeal to public feelings against oppression or abuse and the sympathy for underdogs and suffering minorities.
"The BDS movement in Spain acquired its current virulence with the emergence of Podemos, a 'Chavist' far-left party financed by Venezuela and Iran. Podemos won 25% of the votes in Spain's 2015 local elections. Before those elections, BDS was a marginal confederation of small groups focusing on academic and cultural boycotts of Israel. The core group that formed Podemos had been active in the BDS initiatives for years, and hostility against Israel was a top priority in their political agenda.
"As Podemos gained control of the municipal governments in the main Spanish cities, including Madrid, Barcelona, Zaragoza and Cadiz, the anti-Israel movement had access to multiple economic, human and organizational resources. When those far-left groups occupied public institutions, they didn't distinguish between their own sectarian agenda and the government's agenda.
"Local administrations (provincial and municipal) formally joined the BDS movement and declared their territories 'free of Israeli apartheid.' In effect, Judenrein. Stickers were distributed to be exhibited in shops and offices, public companies were instructed not to work with Israeli firms or individuals and Spanish citizens suspected of being associated or sympathetic to the Jewish state were demanded to repudiate it publicly in order not to be excluded from social, political, economic and civic life.
"Podemos has driven over 90 such declarations in Spain in jurisdictions covering a population of over eight million people. Its plan was to create an oil spill of hatred reaching the majority of Spain in 18 months. This was an existential threat, and we had to act....
"No local boycott is too small to go unchallenged. BDS groups carefully manipulate the information reaching political decision makers, spend massive resources on media campaigns and are masters at social media intoxication. In general, pro-Israel groups are lagging behind in the application of analysis and action in those fields."
**Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Hodeidah, Iran, Washington and China
Mohamed Kawas/The Arab Weekly/June 23/18
Washington and a growing anti-Iranian current will not agree to leave Iran’s case alone in light of what has been achieved with North Korea.
Saturday 23/06/2018
The decision to begin the battle for Hodeidah was a turning point on the path towards ending the war in Yemen. What was new this time was that the battle had needed political cover from the world’s major powers.
Those power centres had hesitated, prevaricated and imposed legal, political and humanitarian hurdles to delay a fight that is crucial to liberating Yemen.
The Hodeidah operation has exposed an inconsistent international mood towards Iran. Yemen is one of many areas in the Arab world that Tehran boasted of controlling. The administration of former US President Barack Obama considered Yemen one of the available spoils in the area in which there was an influence war between Iran on one side and Saudi Arabia and its allies on the other.
According to the famous "Obama doctrine," there was no option for Saudi Arabia but to “share influence with Iran” in Yemen.
A year ago, Hodeidah was a controversial topic in Washington, Paris and London. Those capitals polled Yemeni personalities and security, military and political experts about opinions concerning the liberation of Hodeidah and its port. Western diplomats listened carefully without giving the impression that the international mood was on the side of a military solution in Yemen. To further hide their game, Western capitals raised the spectre of a humanitarian crisis.
What happened to justify this political turnabout by the major powers? They are now, in one way or another, parties to the battle of Hodeidah, providing logistical and intelligence support. Having second thoughts and reservations was left to the humanitarian organisations.
In reality, the give-and-take over the battle of Hodeidah a year ago was not just in the West, it also took place behind closed doors among the Arab coalition. It looked as if Riyadh and its allies were sensitive to the commotion created at the UN Security Council, the reservations expressed by the major powers and fears of a major humanitarian crisis.
On the US side, the Obama administration was not happy when then Saudi Ambassador to the United States Adel al-Jubeir announced that Operation Decisive Storm had begun at dawn on March 25, 2015. The United States, of course, did not oppose the Saudi decision but also did not provide the support expected from an ally.
With President Donald Trump, the US approach to Yemen took a 180-degree turn, particularly regarding the US position on Iran.
The US administration has removed -- stone by stone -- the “containment wall” built around Iran by previous US administrations since the establishment of the Islamic Republic. The concept of US strategic security has taken other dimensions such that Iran has become not only a threat to Washington’s allies in the Middle East but a direct threat to the United States’ strategic security.
Speaking at the Detroit Economic Club on June 18, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told of the relationship between foreign diplomacy and business growth in the United States. He said: “Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1790 that it was central for him to protect American trade in the Mediterranean and noted that it was suffering because North African pirates were attacking our commercial ships. A little different problem today but the theft of our stuff remains a central challenge for America.”
To Trump and his team, “America First” implies the use of US might worldwide. Pompeo goes even further: “President Trump’s strategy says that economic security is indeed national security. They are, as he has described it, synonymous.” It is clear that fulfilling Trump’s campaign promise of a US economic miracle will have to go hand in hand with using America’s might abroad.
Trump pulled his country out of the Iran nuclear deal and Pompeo listed conditions to forestall economic sanctions that can only be understood as a recipe for bringing down the Iranian regime. The demands for rehabilitating the famous deal were broad and incidental, relative to specific ones, which simply amount to a fundamental change in the political regime in Tehran.
Iran will never acquiesce to Pompeo’s conditions but Washington and a growing anti-Iranian current -- with, perhaps, Russia’s consent -- will not agree to leave Iran’s case alone in light of what has been achieved with North Korea.
Concerning Yemen, the United States now says Yemen’s sovereignty is the business of the Yemenis alone and that the country is a security backyard for Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries so Iran has nothing to do there and there are no “spoils” to be negotiated.
The battle of Hodeidah is in line with the logic of liberating Yemen and the region from Iranian influence. The Yemeni people, Saudi Arabia and the Arab coalition have their own reasons for kicking out Iran from the area, as do Washington, Paris and London.
At the Detroit Economic Club, Pompeo stated: “If the US government does not participate in robust international economic engagement, we will lose out to places like China but we can never lose our economic sovereignty in doing so.”

Our beautiful past is a lie
Mohammed Al Shaikh/Al Arabiya/June 23/18
One of the characteristics of the Arab nation, which distinguishes it from other nations, is the nostalgia it harbors for the past. The past is regarded as beautiful or at least better than the present, as the latter is filled with the fear of the unknown. However, the question is: Was this past always beautiful in all its details, or is it at least better than the present if we look at it without the lens of romanticism?
I am over 60 years old now. Thus, I have witnessed part of the past, and now I find that the past, at least for us in Saudi Arabia, was not as beautiful and as full of benefits when we compare it to the standard of living and services we are enjoying now. The level of modern luxury, services and amenities have made life like heaven for us compared to what we had experienced in the past. Maybe when a person is young and then gradually enters old age, he feels nostalgic about his youth — when he was active and vigorous, able to overcome life’s problems, but this is not because of the times, but due to physiological differences in the stages of human life.
Therefore, we need to be realistic and say that the past which some describe as beautiful is not like this at all. The present and the achievements we have made now are far better at various levels when compared with the past which was mostly insufferable, full of diseases and epidemics and fraught with difficulties of life, making life miserable in every sense of the word.
The level of modern luxury, services and amenities have made life like heaven for us compared to what we had experienced in the past.
For the youth to know about this past which old people praise and feel nostalgic about, one can visit small towns in the African jungle, where people live in houses made of clay infested with insects and deprived of basic amenities. They should ask themselves: Can we live in such conditions? Riyadh in the 1960s and early 70s was very similar to these urban areas.
The beautiful past that some of the elderly feel nostalgic about and master describing its simplicity and the purity of its people back then is a mere illusion and a conception of dreams that never existed. The development which Saudi Arabia has witnessed in the past four decades with all its positives and negatives is far better in all fields from the underdeveloped past we have lived in.
I would have given you examples of living conditions in the past in Riyadh where I was born and where I lived my entire life if there’s enough space here. Why fake the facts and present an angelic image of an ideal past that was not like that at all? Our present, by all means, is far better than the miserable and poor past, which was poor in every sense of the word.

When Hamas covers for the Syrian regime
Khairallah Khairallah/Al Arabiya/June 23/18
All that was left for Ismail Haniyeh, the head of the political bureau of Hamas, to do was to ask the people of Al-Yarmouk refugee camp to apologize to the Syrian regime for the destruction of their own camp.
Apology by the victim
Al-Yarmouk refugee camp is situated near Damascus and was established in 1957, unlike other camps in Syria and Lebanon that were set up after the 1948 Nakba. Over a period of time, Al-Yarmouk became the largest gathering for Palestinians in Syria. The camp has been completely destroyed and its Palestinian inhabitants —who are numbered in the thousands — fell victims to the war launched by the Syrian regime against its people.
Unfortunately for the people of the camp, not all residents were Palestinians. Over the years, as poverty spread across the country, poor citizens also came to live in the camp and adjoining areas. It was natural for Syrians — who seek a dignified life — to join the revolution which broke out against the regime in March 2011. What wasn’t normal was for ISIS to enter the camp and deploy there.
Does Haniyeh who lives in Gaza and who does not know anything about what’s happening in the world know that ISIS was commissioned by the Syrian regime and that its infiltration into Al-Yarmouk came in the context of the policy the Syrian regime adopted since its establishment in 1970, or even before that when Hafez al-Assad was still minister of defense? This policy is based on exploiting Palestinians, especially people of the camps, and using them to maintain the status of “no war” and “no peace” in the region. This status is the best service the Syrian regime can provide to Israel and also serves as justification for the regime’s existence.
Haniyeh’s praise of Assad regime
It seems Haniyeh is shameless. If that’s not the case then how else do we explain his remarks that he did not voice support for the Syrian revolution and his statement that the “Syrian regime has stood by Hamas during important phases.”
Haniyeh did not specify these important phases. However, the Syrian regime has encouraged Hamas to carry out suicide bombings to prevent any peace process so that Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu can say “there is no Palestinian partner we can negotiate with.”
Hamas, like any other organization that belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood, is greedy for power. This is why Haniyeh did not find it disgraceful to dabble with contradictions and to play on them while overlooking the fact that the Gaza Strip is in real crisis, which does not allow practicing this game of fooling people.
For example, Haniyeh said: “At the time when Hamas heads towards strong ties with Egypt, it maintains strong relations with Qatar and Iran,” adding: “Iran is an important pivotal state in the region and Hamas’ relations with it has a strategic dimension.” Haniyeh also said: “Iran gave a lot in the interest of the Palestinian people and their valiant resistance.”
Haniyeh went even further claiming that Hamas “intersects with Tehran in everything related to Palestinian affairs in vision and (purposes).” He added: “The relation with Iran today is in a special and advanced phase.”
When Haniyeh talks like that about the Syrian regime and Iran, it’s no longer surprising what happened to the Yarmouk camp and to the Palestinians residing there and who are now displaced again. He who does not care about what happens to Palestinians residing in Gaza will not care when the Syrian regime destroys an entire refugee camp under the excuse of fighting ISIS which is a product of the regime itself.
There are irresponsible practices which convey a clear desire that views the Palestinian people as a mere commodity. Yesterday, Hamas had to choose between Qatar and the Syrian regime so it chose Qatar. Today, it no longer needs to make such choices in this regard as it seems Qatar is no longer hostile to the Syrian regime. What’s important for Hamas is to attain help and support. Everything is of little importance in exchange of getting support that can be used to maintain the Islamic emirate which Hamas established in Gaza.
Everything is of little importance for the sake of staying in power, even if it includes providing a Palestinian cover to the Syrian regime which in the past purposely involved Palestinians in Lebanon’s war. Does Hamas know that it’s covering up for a regime that is on the Nakba’s 70th anniversary, completing Israel’s mission which originally relied on displacing the Palestinians and keeping them outside Palestine?
It’s difficult for Hamas to be aware of the threat of providing a cover for another displacement of the Palestinian people, which this time is carried out by the Syrian regime. What’s more difficult is to realize and understand that this is the task which the current Syrian regime has been found for. Hamas thinks Egypt’s stance towards the Syrian regime allows it to play some tricks. Yes, there’s some sort of understanding between the Syrian regime and Cairo. Among the basis of this understanding is the Egyptian stance over the Muslim Brotherhood. But to what extent can Hamas combine developing relations with Egypt on one hand and with Iran and Qatar on another?
Hamas’ chaos
What’s certain amid all these developments is that Hamas’ first victim due to this approach is the Palestinian people. We cannot ignore the fact that Hamas carried out its coup in Gaza 11 years ago. Everything that Hamas has done since that date has inflicted misery on Gaza. It spread the chaos of weapons to pave the way for its coup then launched rockets against Israel so that the latter justifies its siege on the strip.
Everything Hamas did strengthened Palestinian division. There is a gap between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank amid the presence of a national authority that resides in Ramallah and whose task has become limited to security coordination with Israel.
When reviewing Hamas’ achievements over the last 11 years, only one achievement can be added to its record and that would be its ability to combine, at least theoretically, Egypt on one hand and Qatar and Iran on the other while standing with the Syrian regime in its war against its people and against the Palestinians residing in Syria.
When Hamas, a Palestinian party, plays such a role, it’s no longer possible to ask why Israel is this comfortable these days! What would Israel’s problem be when Hamas has supported the Syrian regime which has for over half a century devoted all its efforts to prevent any reasonable and acceptable settlement in Palestine and which has involved the Palestinians in domestic wars which eventually led them to seek new places of refuge? These new places of refuge are more miserable than the refugee camps which hosted them for years following the Nakba. Who said the camps symbolize the peak of misery the Palestinians have reached?

OPEC: In the shadow of NOPEC

Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/June 23/18
After a tense few days, the OPEC Vienna June meeting concluded on a successful note with all parties – Russia and Saudi Arabia on the one hand and Iran, Venezuela, and Iraq on the other – claiming that they can live with the final agreement made. However, the devil is in the details and the final communiqué was a masterful document in ambiguity. All things considered, Saudi Arabia with Russian support did a pretty impressive job in the messaging of OPEC meeting to satisfy sharply juxtaposed demands.
The maths first . Despite the nominal one million bpd of added crude supply cited, the actual additional crude that OPEC plus will be bringing to market is more likely to be between 600,000bpd to perhaps as much as 800,000 bpd . More importantly, Gulf Arab producers are indicating an implicit near-term price cap target around $70-75 a barrel, subject to review at OPEC’s extraordinary meeting in September in Algiers to celebrate the two-year OPEC production agreement that has set the stage for managing output .
rt to boost output
It would seem that all 11 OPEC member states will make a best effort to increase their collective output on a pro rata basis to bring down the “over-compliance” to the 2016 Vienna output cuts to 100%. That roughly translates into about 700,000 bpd of OPEC oil, to which Russia and the other non-OPEC oil producers are expected to add another 300,000 bpd which is how one got to the one million headline nominal figure.
More importantly, the one million bpd figure did not make its way into the official OPEC statement, nor did any mention of by when or which OPEC member producers would be increasing output, in deference to objections. Only Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the UAE in any case have enough spare capacity to get anywhere near 700,000 bpd, and in theory output above their pro-rata share would require the blessing of the other OPEC members.
Although the added OPEC plus output formally begins on July 1, both the Saudis and the Russians have already been increasing output and will continue to do so, albeit gradually. The lower 600,000 bpd was the figure most frequently cited by the Saudis in their earlier briefings on the meeting side-lines and was repeated in the meeting. It seems likely the additional Saudi-Russian led output will be closer to 800,000 bpd by year-end.
Review in September
The agreement today will be reviewed at the extraordinary OPEC meeting in September. Output could be adjusted up, or down, depending on the review of global demand and supply. In particular, further declines in Libyan and Venezuelan output could easily offset increases from Saudi Arabia and Russia. That could mean the need for a considerable output increase by Saudi Arabia, especially as the imposition of the US sanctions on Iran approaches.
The agreement today will be reviewed at the extraordinary OPEC meeting in September. Output could be adjusted up, or down, depending on the review of global demand and supply. In particular, further declines in Libyan and Venezuelan output could easily offset increases from Saudi Arabia and Russia. That could mean the need for a considerable output increase by Saudi Arabia, especially as the imposition of the US sanctions on Iran approaches
All said and done, President Trump was an exceptionally influential factor in the OPEC deliberations, much to Iran’s annoyance. The OPEC countries were no doubt thankful Trump’s threatening tweets during their Vienna meeting were aimed at the Germans and the European Union. This Trump factor drew nearly as much attention in the both the meeting itself and on the sidelines as the actual agreement. It is widely understood, for instance, that some countries put the one million figure into the media primarily to deflect or at least delay public tweets or comments by President Trump during the OPEC meeting that would have seriously undermined the fragile consensus that Saudi and Russian officials , who were pushing for a higher level of 1.5 million bpd , were struggling to pull together.
Iran was the primary hold-out, though its anger over the US factor is widely shared by the other non-GCC OPEC members like Venezuela. At one point , Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh threatened to derail the deal altogether as he stormed out of the Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee meeting after being denied the floor to question the estimated supply shortfalls.
Iran was also understood to have demanded the final OPEC statement to include a formal OPEC condemnation of US sanctions being imposed on OPEC member countries, which Tehran clearly did not get.
Dark cloud
There is another concern hanging like a dark cloud over OPEC going forward: not only is the close Saudi and Gulf attention to US desires for low oil prices amid the confrontation with Iran a factor, but so is the US threat to press ahead with the “No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act,” or NOPEC bill. The bill, which proposes making the cartel subject to the Sherman antitrust laws, has been stalled in Congress since 2007.
Both President Bush and President Obama threatened to veto the bill for its threat to commerce and international relations in potentially tying up a few dozen other countries as defendants in US courts and US lawyers seeking damages.
President Trump, however, is much more of a wild card, and could voice his support for the bill especially if oil prices continue to top to the $80 levels.
The odds that NOPEC passes are small but rising. Neither House Speaker Paul Ryan nor Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell were in positions of power when a similar bill passed both houses of Congress in 2007 with strong margins. Majority Leader McConnell is an internationalist by experience and stubborn by nature, and may move to block the bill.
Analysts are uncertain whether retiring Speaker Paul Ryan, who is now a lame duck, will stand against the pressure to schedule a House vote, especially if the President is pushing for the bill. The US legislative threat, as damaging as it might be more broadly if it ever became law, is nevertheless likely to hang over the next round of OPEC deliberations in September, especially if prices are again surging. If this happens, then the future of OPEC itself as an organisation will be under threat and it may pave the way for a new international energy realignment between countries, especially between Saudi Arabia and Russia to go their own way, along with a few like-minded Gulf allies.
For the time being, OPEC has served its purpose as a useful venue for compromise but the fractures are there.

Will the Houthis participate in Yemen’s future?
Amal Abdulaziz Al–Hazani/Al Arabiya/June 23/18
Ever since the war in Yemen erupted three years ago, it has been subject to several variables on the level of military or political work or on the level of international positions. The most important and influential variable was late President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s announcement in December last year of his split with his ally, the Houthis, and his decision to join legitimacy after armed clashes and disputes between the two parties. This practically pushed the Houthis to square one as a rogue minority and as a lone party supported by Iran.
Battle for Hodeidah
Saleh’s last position proved more influential than his assassination by the Houthis - it was like he who reveals his will before he dies. He settled his position and those of his followers who represent a majority competing for legitimacy. Saleh’s assassination incensed his followers, made them feel insulted and encouraged them to follow the roadmap drawn by their leader and inspirer.
Everyone now feels that finalizing the military situation in Yemen has neared with the advance of the Yemeni national forces under the umbrella of the coalition in support of legitimacy in Hodeidah. The battle in Hodeidah is the largest and most important battle since the beginning of the liberation considering the importance of its port’s location overlooking the Red Sea.
Hodeidah’s port controls navigation and Bab al-Mandab Strait to a large extent. It is also a valuable resource for the Houthis as they use it to collect taxes on goods and receive Tehran’s supplies of missiles, weapons, fuel and money. Hodeidah also turned into an international flashpoint since it is the main port for delivering humanitarian aid. The controversy surrounding it makes it harder to resolve the issue. The UN refused several times to supervise the port to ensure that humanitarian aid is delivered to those who deserve it and to make sure that the ships and tankers are free of weapons. Due to this negative position, coalition forces had to resolve the Hodeidah issue before Sanaa and Saada with the arrival of the national army forces to it. Truth is Hodeidah’s liberation is crucial for cutting off Iran’s head in Yemen. As for Saada and Sanaa, they will be the Houthis’ last choice for wars of attrition and street wars.
Two options for the Houthis
The Houthis have two options. The first one is to put their weapons aside as per UN Security Council Resolution 2216, the outcome of the national dialogue and the Gulf initiative; thus ending the war and joining the political process immediately. The second option, which is more probable, is for the Houthis to continue fighting till the last minute. In this latter case, Iran will continue to direct them to use civilians as human shields and manage their fight within the residential districts in Sanaa. This is the common Iranian tactic. This is in addition to the international community’s attempts in cooperation with the corrupt and complicit Arab media, like the Qatari media and others, to picture battles of Hodeidah, Sanaa and Saada as humanitarian violations. However, if the Hodeidah Port is liberated and the pipe of Iranian support is closed, Ansar Allah militia will weaken and in this case it will lose the war.
In both scenarios, Iran will not stop directing the Houthis with a remote control. If it decides that the Houthis are to hand over their weapons, it will set conditions and create obstacles to delay a political solution as Houthis are a minority that does not constitute more than 5% of the Yemen population. If the Houthis are defeated and hand over their weapons, Iran will stick to three tools of the solution, the outcome of the national dialogue, the Gulf initiative and the Security Council resolution, and which presented many structural and political privileges to Saada.
The Griffiths plan
The question is will the Houthis participate in ruling Yemen?
All sides — the Yemenis, the Gulf and the international community — agree that all components of the Yemeni society should be partners in ruling Yemen without exception, through a transitional phase during which a constitution is drafted and fair elections are planned. Even the Muslim Brotherhood with their pragmatic nature have stood silent during the war, watching how the battles are going and waiting for the end to join the political process.
UN envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths’s plan includes three known tools for a solution and which include forming a transitional government with an agreed leadership and balanced ministerial representation for each political or religious party. Perhaps the most important element of Griffiths’s plan is forming a national military council representing all parties, to supervise the execution of the planned process of which the most important part is handing weapons over. Actually, the solutions have been the same since the beginning of the war. However, circumstances have changed because the impact and role of the UN envoy in the negotiation process mainly depend on what happens in the battlefield. The more there is balance and rapprochement between the fighting forces, the lower the negotiating will and the more difficult the international role are considering that each party does not want to hand over its weapons. But now, since the situation is in favor of the Yemeni national army and the prospects of the Houthis are diminishing as their presence is limited to the north, there is a better chance for a peaceful solution.
Although reaching the end is not easy, it will be the first defeat for Iran in the areas of its intrusion.

As countdown to Paris protest begins, is ‘Free Iran’ the only alternative

Reza Shafiee Special to Al Arabiya English/Friday, 23 June 2018
The Iranian regime showed its true color once again by executing 51-year-old Sufi, Mohammad Reza Salas despite repeated calls from human rights groups and governments to call it off.
Salas was forced into confusion, an old tool used by the regime. A self-incrimination confusion of running over three members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Croup (IRGC) with a bus in the heat of February protests by Dervishes in Tehran. According to witnesses Salas’ lawyer cited, he was already in custody for three hours when the bus ran over the three IRGC members.
Salas’ execution brought international condemnation for the regime. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo tweeted: “We condemn the #Iran regime’s execution of Mohammad Salas, a member of the long-persecuted Iranian Gonabadi Sufi Dervish community. We call on our partners & allies to join us in condemning his brutal & unjust execution. Iranian people deserve respect for human rights & freedoms.”
Heather Nauert, spokesperson for the US State Department said: “The application of the death penalty, without affording Mr. Salas the fair trial and appeal guarantees to which he was entitled, is a clear violation of Iran’s international human rights obligations”.
Rule of law
“The Iranian people deserve rule of law, transparent and accountable governance, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, not the callous impunity that continues to define the regime,” she added. In a statement Amnesty International (AI) condemned the execution of Salas in “strongest term” and called it “vengeance and not justice”.
“The Iranian authorities have a deplorable track record when it comes to the use of the death penalty. This execution is a travesty of justice that is abhorrent and unconscionable. It flies in the face of the huge public outcry in the country and is vengeance, not justice,” added the right group.
Ramin Hossein Panahi, a Kurdish activist is also in imminent danger and he may be executed any time in Iran. A big prison riot broke out on June 15th at the Central Prison in the northwestern city of Sanandaj following an attempt by security forces to transfer Ramin Hossein Panahi to solitary confinement in preparation for his execution.
About 20 prisoners including Ramin Hossein Panahi were wounded and the entire facility is under lockdown. Like Salas’ case AI and other rights groups have campaigned to save him. AI’s Middle East advocacy director Philip Luther said: “Mr Hossein-Panahi’s case had been a “breathtaking miscarriage of justice from start to finish.”
Since January, Iranian regime has executed 96 prisoners. On average the regime has executed 16 prisoners per day. It is obvious that the number of hangings in Iran is far more that the official account.
Iran is suffering heightened geopolitical tensions over its nuclear program and the effects of draconian Western sanctions which are hitting its economy. (Reuters)
On the verge of bankruptcy
Since December, Iran has been vulnerable to change. Hossein Naghavi-Hosseini, spokesman for Majlis (Parliament) Commission on Security and Foreign policy said on June 17: “Iran is running 80 percent inflation”.
He then settles a score with President Hassan Rouhani and added: “While the government is busy toying with idea of permitting women into the sports stadiums, the people’s back broke under economic hardship in this country”.
Vahid Shaghaghi, an economist and lecturer at Kharazmi University compares the predicament to an “economic stroke”. He says that the ratio of liquidity to GDP is between 60-70 percent on a global scale whereas in Iran, it is a shocking 110 percent, which places it at a “warning border”.
Shaghaghi also believes that of a “weak banking system” is the cause of a “destructive wandering of liquidity”, i.e., the lack of production.
Looming environmental disaster
Head of Iran’s Environmental Protection Organization (IEPO) Isa Kalantar says: “Today, 70 percent of Iran’s population is facing severe water shortage; to the extent that the current water resources have less than 500 m3 in them. According to the global standard, anything less than 1000 m3 is indicative of crisis”.
Kalantari says: “So far, 10 major cities of Iran are facing serious air pollution. Aggregates of wastes have also buried three provinces and subsequently, it is impossible to live in the northern regions too. With the 10-meter land subsidence in Hamedan, we have extracted as much water as possible from the underground”.
Is there a way out?
Iranian people have made it clear that they wand change. Unstoppable protests over the past seven months are visible signs of which direction Iran is headed.
To back up protesters in Iran, the main Iranian opposition the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) has dedicated this year’s meeting in Paris to the cause: “#Free Iran; the Alternative”
In her last year’s address, Maryam Rajavi, President of the NCRI said that the regime is “besieged by the poor and unemployed youths who additionally want regime change”. A year on Change is imminent.
On June 30, Iranians from all over the world will gather in Paris to show their support for protesters and strikers in Iran. According to media reports, the event has attracted over 100,000 Iranian diaspora each year.
The history of the rallies shows that it has been a thorny issue for the Tehran regime. Like every other year, the regime’s official, and in this case Hassan Rouhani, kick up some dust with French government, blaming it for “having double standards” when it comes to the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI).
Reza Shafiee is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). He tweets @shafiee_shafiee.

The split dynamic between the White House and State Department means Trump's tough talk on Iran could be hot air

Raghida Dergham/The National/June 23, 2018
Raghida DerghamFounder and Executive Chairman at Beirut Institute
What does the wooing of a former aide to Obama mean for the Iran nuclear deal? asks Raghida Dergham
The biggest issue with US foreign policy right now is that friends and allies find themselves lacking assurance of its coherence and continuity while adversaries are fully betting on this weakness as they develop their strategies.
The internal division in the US between the camp of Republican president Donald Trump and the camp of Democratic former president Barack Obama is bitter to the point that Americans in general now distrust each other in a very unhealthy way.
And the foreign policy implications of the divergent doctrines of the two presidents have split the Middle East itself into two polarised sides. The Obama-philes are led by Iran, which benefited greatly from the former president’s fixation on concluding a nuclear deal at any cost and effectively gave it the tools to execute its projects for regional expansion.
The second camp is led by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt, which together believe “Obama-ism” produced the most antagonistic US policy towards them to date, deliberately marginalising and sidelining them – and even destabilising them, at least from Egypt’s point of view, as Mr Obama and Hillary Clinton were accused of boosting the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo.
Today Mr Trump has a clear stated policy to curb and contain Iran and its allies, such as Lebanese Hezbollah. His official strategy has overturned Mr Obama’s on the Arab Gulf countries and Egypt, reinstating them as strategic allies.
However, chronic American inconsistency has in the end reassured those same foes and left US allies anxious, including the Gulf states. Now some are calling for self-reliance, with limited reliance on the US, to avoid the fallout from the America’s incoherent policies.
For its part, Iran is pursuing patience as a policy, watching out for the smallest details, including in the important appointments in the US State Department, which is known for its Democratic sympathies.
So when news leaks of a meeting between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and ambassador David Hale, a career diplomat sympathetic to Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton’s policies, questions immediately emerge about what the Trump administration has in mind and the seriousness of its threats to Iran and Hezbollah. If the rumours are true about Mr Pompeo’s intention to appoint Mr Hale as undersecretary for political affairs, this could mean that the Trump administration wants to give Iran a proposal similar to the one given to North Korea.
According to informed sources, Mr Pompeo has offered Mr Hale the same post that was occupied by Thomas Shannon. Unconfirmed reports say Mr Hale has accepted in principle but the final decision rests with Mr Pompeo. While sources say Mr Hale is not the only name being considered, he seems to be the most serious contender.
What we know about Mr Pompeo is that his interests and passion are not focused on the Middle East but rather, that he is keen on what is known in Washington circles as the grand prize, namely North Korea and China. According to talk in Washington, he has presidential ambitions and has been advised that his success as secretary of state is instrumental to them. Since the pool of talents among Republicans in the State Department remains inadequate, while the most experienced diplomats happen to be Democrats loyal to the policies championed by Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton, he has to adapt.
r, this would mean Mr Pompeo could diverge from the decisions of the Trump White House. Indeed, those loyal to Mr Obama are therefore loyal to the nuclear deal with Iran and Mr Obama’s approach to the Arab Gulf states, which Mr Trump flatly rejects.
Mr Hale is a veteran diplomat with a lot of experience in the Middle East, serving as ambassador to Pakistan after postings in Lebanon, Jordan, Tunisia, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the UN. He also served as undersecretary working on Israel, Egypt and as envoy for Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, succeeding George Mitchell.
In Lebanon, Mr Hale is known as a shrewd architect who helped convince Prime Minister Saad Al Hariri to agree to a deal to restore him to power with Hezbollah ally Suleiman Franjieh as president. This deal was accepted by Hezbollah but with a modification, replacing Mr Franjieh with current president Michel Aoun, a closer ally.
At the time, there was a belief that Mrs Clinton would become president and that the US’s Middle Eastern policy would continue down the path laid down by Mr Obama, especially with regard to the nuclear deal - but then Mr Trump became president.
The US State Department under Mr Obama sought to distinguish between Hezbollah’s political and military arms, in line with the approach used with the IRA during negotiations with Britain on Northern Ireland.
There would be nothing wrong with the fact that Mr Hale or US ambassador to Lebanon, Elizabeth Richard, are faithful to Mr Obama’s policies if he was still president or if Mr Trump had chosen to continue his predecessor’s policies. The problem is with the contradictory messages coming from the Trump administration. On the one hand, Mr Pompeo has made 12 demands of Iran while Mr Trump threatened unprecedented sanctions on the regime in Tehran and Hezbollah. On the other hand, the Trump administration is keeping Mr Obama’s ambassadors while Mr Pompeo seems to have picked a veteran Obama camp diplomat for the third highest post in the State Department – and second most important job in terms of foreign policy.
The question here is this: is Mr Trump pursuing a good cop, bad cop routine because he wants to ultimately woo rather than strongarm Iran? Or is there a schizophrenic dynamic between the White House and the State Department?
The least the Republicans in the US and Gulf leaders, especially in Saudi Arabia, can do about this is to ask for an explanation. Iran and its partners no doubt welcome this confusing ambiguity but the US national interest and the interests of its allies require this ambiguity not to be deliberate, unless Washington really wants to confuse both foes and friends because its incoherence and inconsistency are now a feature, not a bug.

How conspiracy theories hold the Arab world back

*Hafed Al-Ghwell/Arab News/June 23/18
Roger Cohen, a prominent author and well-traveled journalist, once wrote that in the Arab world conspiracy theories are “the ultimate refuge of the powerless.” In fact, conspiracies have become a prevalent component of Arab culture and politics; elaborate theories circulate widely as all members of society debate the sources of the turmoil that has rocked the Arab world.
That a society would seek to understand the roots of social, economic, and political developments in its region or the world at large is of course only reasonable. However, in the Arab world, trying to figure out why the British, French, and Israelis came to be at odds with Egypt during the Suez Crisis in 1956, for instance, has been hamstrung by conspiracy theories to the point where the obvious economic, social, and political reasons are ignored in favor of intrigue and the seemingly unstoppable dark forces of the world. The same can be said about broader issues such as the Arab-Israeli conflict, civil wars, regime changes, the constant shifts of politics and economics, and society’s endless mutability. As a result, it becomes impossible to separate fact from fiction, reality from fantasy, and conspiracies from an impassioned search for actual solutions to and/or sources of society's ills.
Unfortunately, in a part of the world where the public is largely at a distance from the levers of power and influence, and a lack of any real transparency in government is often coupled with state-controlled media and intellectual laziness, it is no wonder that most cling to vast, elaborate conspiracies to explain a country’s ills. This vulnerability to conspiratorial thinking goes deeper, as most educational curriculums in the Arab world do not emphasize self-questioning, critical thinking, research, and preparing eager, young minds to be worldly wise. Thus, when the time comes for the countries of the Arab world to tackle the major issues that plague them or to engage with other nations, these occasions become mired in suspicion, doubt, and recriminations rather than opportunities for constructive debate, self-reflection, or the execution of plans for the realization of mutually beneficial goals.
The difference between conspiratorial beliefs in the US and in the Arab world is a matter of degree rather than kind.
Conspiracy theories are, of course, not specific to the Arab world. In the US, even before the birth of the nation, some early settlers believed Native Americans were conspiring against them with the Devil himself. Later, conspiracy theories circulated about the moon landing, the assassination of President Kennedy, the CIA, and many other topics. The difference between conspiratorial beliefs in the US and in the Arab world is a matter of degree rather than kind. In the US, such thinking is marginal and limited to small circles. In the Arab world, unfortunately, such conspiratorial explanations are far more dominant and widespread, even among the educated. Some verge on the ridiculous; for example, the widespread theory about Israel being behind the shark attacks in Sharm El-Sheikh in 2010, or the theories about the September 11, 2001, attacks in New York, or those concerning who is behind Daesh, or why Iraq was invaded, and so on. Even Coca-Cola and Pepsi are not immune; theories assert that these brands maliciously include pork and alcohol, and that their names carry pro-Israel and anti-Islamic messages.
The most devastating aspect of this widespread resignation to simple conspiratorial answers in the face of complicated and long-term problems is that it reflects a broken spirit and a complete loss of confidence. It makes Arabs think of themselves as slaves and puppets in the hands of the “all-powerful West” and helpless victims of “Zionism.” Such thinking suggests that the entire modern history of the Arab world was decided by foreign powers intent on “weakening Islam and destroying the Arab world.”
This way of thinking has real and tangible consequences in politics, economics, and society as a whole. For one, if everything is controlled by an undefined, general, and loosely described “Them,” then there is no point exercising reason, logic, and will to determine anything. This resignation and sense of helplessness paralyzes the Arab mind and limits its capacity to think critically and pragmatically about important issues. Believing that the future is the logical result and consequence of designs and actions taken today becomes completely forgotten. The future, then, becomes nothing more than dreams and wishful thinking. Another consequence is that such thinking characterizes domestic politics and economics as a “puppet show”; this approach undermines and discredits national governments, which are seen as without agency, moved only by the strings of foreign powers. Finally, it simply confuses facts with opinions and rumors that have no basis in fact and sets the region on the track of combating imaginary and fictional enemies.
As the region’s reality becomes more complex and the avalanche of information becomes more constant, fake news, disinformation, wishful thinking, and outright propaganda spread wider and deeper. They find a home in uncritical minds, which look for simple explanations and more reasons to blame the other, rather than using critical thinking and self-reflection to understand what went wrong and how to make things better.
**Hafed Al-Ghwell is a senior adviser at the international economic consultancy Maxwell Stamp and the geopolitical risk advisory firm Oxford Analytica, a member of Strategic Advisory Solutions International in Washington DC and a former adviser to the board of the World Bank Group.