June 26/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
Pray for us; we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honourably in all things
Letter to the Hebrews 13/18-25: "Pray for us; we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honourably in all things.I urge you all the more to do this, so that I may be restored to you very soon. Now may the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, make you complete in everything good so that you may do his will, working among us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen. I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly. I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been set free; and if he comes in time, he will be with me when I see you. Greet all your leaders and all the saints. Those from Italy send you greetings. Grace be with all of you."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on June 25-26/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on June 25-26/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on June 25-26/18

Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on June 25-26/18
No One can Help a Person Who Does Not Want To Help Himself
Elias Bejjani/June 25/18
At times we might find ourselves crippled, frustrated and helpless while witnessing serious but trivial problems taking place between people whom we love and care much about them. We know we can give them a hand and help in solving their problems or at least preventing their altercations from becoming more deep and more complicated, But sadly they (those who are having the problem) block all our efforts and abort them stupidly while making their difficulties worse and worse. By the end no one can help any person no matter what if this person does not wish to help himself. In summary, life in general is a set of choices and when we take any choice no matter big or small we have to carry the consequences. All what we can do in such a situation is to pray for those who are not helping themselves and at the same time not allowing any body else to help them

Saudi-led Coalition Says It Killed Eight Hezbollah Militants in Yemen
ثمانية قتلى لحزب الله في اليمن

DPA/June 25/18
Coalition says Saudi air defenses intercepted two ballistic missiles fired by Houthi rebels from Yemen
The Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen said on Monday that it has killed eight members of Lebanon's Shi'ite Hezbollah group in the northern Yemeni province of Saada. "Forty-one terrorists were killed in Saada and their vehicles and equipment were destroyed," the coalition said in a statement.
"Among the dead are a Hezbollah leader and seven other members," it added. Late on Sunday, the coalition said that Saudi air defenses intercepted and destroyed two ballistic missiles fired by the Iranian-allied Houthis from Yemen over the capital Riyadh. The Houthis have recently stepped up missile attacks on Saudi Arabia, which has been leading an air campaign against them in Yemen's war. Yemen, one of the Arab world's poorest countries, has been embroiled in a devastating power struggle between the Saudi-backed government and the Houthis since late 2014. The conflict has intensified since March 2015, when the Houthis advanced on the government's temporary capital of Aden, prompting Saudi Arabia and Sunni allies to start an air campaign against the Shi'ite group. Saudi Arabia fears that the rebels will give its regional rival, Shi'ite Iran, a strategic foothold on the Arabian Peninsula.
Cabinet formation hits standstill
Georgi Azar/Annahar/June 25/18
Despite last week's meeting at Baabda Presidential Palace, Hariri's effort to form a new government failed to come to fruition.
BEIRUT: The optimism surrounding the formation of a new Cabinet in the wake of last week's meeting between President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri fizzled out, as it became evident that the parties involved in the widescale negotiation process have yet to see eye to eye on the distribution of ministerial portfolios. At the heart of the conflict are the Lebanese Forces and Progressive Socialist Party's demand for a sizeable chunk of ministerial posts, which have continuously been rebuked by Aoun and his son-in-law an current Free Patriotic Movement leader Gebran Bassil.
The LF, who saw their bloc expand to 15 MPs during the recent parliamentary elections, has been pushing for a significant share of ministries including one of four key portfolios (Interior, Defense, Foreign and Finance Ministries) to rival the FPM. The FPM, with its 29 MPs however, remains the biggest Christian coalition in Parliament. Aoun has been adamant in his refusal to grant the LF's wishes and limit their representation despite Hariri's commitment to an all-inclusive Cabinet. The President has also been trying to secure at least three other ministries to go alongside the FPM's seven, including that of the deputy premier position which is currently occupied by the LF.

Lebanese Army Arrests Wanted Men in Bekaa following Clan Clashes
Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 25 June, 2018/The Lebanese army arrested two people involved in shooting incidents between families in the eastern Bekaa region last week as part of a security plan to end chaos and restore stability along the border with Syria. The Army Command announced in a statement Sunday that the intelligence unit arrested in the city of Hermel Nidal Hamadeh, who was wanted for shooting and injuring one person, and for recently inciting disputes between two families in the city. The Army Intelligence also arrested Marwan Shamel Jaafar for taking part in shootouts, while an unspecified amount of various types of drugs were found in his possession, according to the statement. Lebanon’s National News Agency (NNA) said that Jaafar was arrested at an army checkpoint in the area and had not been carrying identity documents. The arrests coincided with agreements reached by the reconciliation committees of clans in the northeastern most point of Lebanon, which resulted in the hand over of two wanted persons to the army intelligence. Violent clashes sparked by inter-clan disputes had broken out between the Jaafar and Al-Jamal clans in the Bekaa region on the Lebanese-Syrian border on June 20. The army intervened and implemented a security plan to arrest the perpetrators and maintain security in the region. A group called “Together for the Hermel” had held a sit-in in front of the government Serail in Beirut to protest the chaos and demand better security.

Aoun Asks Baalbek-Hermel Residents to Cooperate with Army
Naharnet/June 25/18/President Michel Aoun has called on the residents of Baalbek-Hermel to cooperate with the army in order to rein in the security chaos in their region. Aoun also reassured the MPs of Baalbek-Hermel whom he met Monday at the Baabda Palace that “the security measures that will be taken in the region to strengthen security and security in it will be accompanied by integrated developmental work that fits the region's economic and social needs.”He, however, warned that “there will be no leniency with those who sow chaos and anxiousness among residents and those whose practices are detrimental to the region's economic life.”Aoun also reminded that the Higher Defense Council had taken decisions in its latest session that are “being gradually implemented.” “The region's political parties have announced that they do not cover security violators and offenders,” the president pointed out.

Army Removes Ain el-Hilweh's Electronic Gates
Naharnet/June 25/18/The Lebanese Army has removed the electronic gates it had installed at the entrances of the Ain el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp, replacing them with other security measures. In a statement issued Monday, the Army Command said the move comes out of its “sympathy with the suffering of the Palestinian people in Lebanon, especially those who live in the Ain el-Hilweh and Mieh Mieh camps, and in line with the plan that has been devised by this Command to preserve security inside camps.” The step also follows “a series of contacts and meetings with those keen on the security of the camps' residents, which resulted in positive cooperation,” the Command added. It noted that the taken measures are “not against the Palestinian people” but rather aimed at “confronting the threat of a group of terrorists who pose a burden to the residents of the camps in particular and the Lebanese in general.”National and Islamist Palestinian leaders in the Sidon region meanwhile thanked “everyone who contributed to the removal of the gates.” “From the very first moment of the installation of the electronic gates on the entrances of the Ain el-Hilweh camp, which were not befitting of our people from the political, national and humanitarian aspects, and were also not befitting of Lebanon and its people and army, the unified political leadership exerted efforts to remove them,” the leadership said in a statement. It also thanked Speaker Nabih Berri, Sidon's two MPs, Army Commander General Joseph Aoun and the Palestinian embassy in Lebanon.

Army Chief Begins Official U.S. Visit
Naharnet/June 25/18/Army Commander General Joseph Aoun began an official visit on Monday to the United States where he is scheduled to hold talks with military and civilian officials, the National News Agency reported. Talks are set to focus on strengthening cooperation between the armies of the two countries, NNA said. It added that the visit which will last a few days. Media reports meanwhile said that discussions are expected to focus on “assessing” the U.S. military aid to the Lebanese army, to help it to pursue its mission in “safeguarding Lebanon’s territory.”

Kataeb Says Talking to Everyone 'regardless of Govt. Participation'
Naharnet/June 25/18/The Kataeb Party announced Monday that it is communicating with all political parties, including the Free Patriotic Movement, regardless of whether or not it will join the new government. “Some media outlets and websites are circulating a lot of talk and analyses about negotiations and initiatives between the FPM and Kataeb over the issue of participating in the government, especially after the latest meeting between Kataeb Party chief MP Sami Gemayel and MP Elias Bou Saab in Saifi,” Kataeb said in a statement. It added: “Kataeb stresses that communication with all parties, including the FPM, is normal and ongoing.” “It is revolving around the means and possibility of working together for the sake of Lebanon amid these critical circumstances at the political and economic levels, regardless of the issue of joining or staying out of the government,” Kataeb clarified. It emphasized that the Gemayel-Bou Saab meeting is part of this policy. “It falls under the usual communication with everyone and it did not involve specific initiatives,” Kataeb added.

Katicha Accuses FPM of ‘Monopolizing’ Power, Pushing LF Out of Govt.
Naharnet/June 25/18/MP Wehbe Katicha of the Strong Republic parliamentary bloc denied accusations that the Lebanese Forces is hampering the formation of the Cabinet, as he reversed the blame on parties he said were “monopolizing" power in the country, Saudi Asharq al-Awsat reported on Monday. “Those monopolizing everything are trying to embarrass us out (of the government), but we won’t. We insist on proper representation,” he said in an apparent reference to the Free Patriotic Movement accusations against the LF. The LF are seeking an equal Cabinet share to that of the FPM which includes five ministerial seats including a so-called sovereign portfolio in addition to the deputy prime minister post. “Shall we waiver any of our demands, it must be met with a similar step by the other party (FPM). The Maarab Agreement specifies that, and the public opinion will hold them accountable because the people have tasked us to represent them,” said Katicha. The LF insists on getting an equal share to that of the FPM in the new government, judging their demand as the “right for proper representation based on the outcome of the parliamentary elections.”Their demands are reportedly delaying the Cabinet formation process, as Bassil has has made an outright rejection of such a request.

Geagea Says Bassil Sees Partnership as 'Single-Handed Act'
Naharnet/June 25/18/Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea lashed out at Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil saying his concept of partnership is that “he works single-handed” while everyone else follows, the Saudi Asharq al-Awsat daily reported on Monday. “The concept of partnership for Foreign Minister and FPM head Jebran Bassil is that he works alone while we are supposed to back him. He accuses us of obstructing the government whenever we make a criticism, and considers it an infringement on the (presidential) term,” criticized Geagea. He said the LF’s stances regarding power generating vessels must not perceived as obstruction, “obstruction should only be seen as such when we reject issues we have both agreed on in advance,” said Geagea. The Maarab Agreement with the FPM “is not a political alliance,” the LF chief added, “we have an agreement with the FPM that each party maintains its own political positioning.”On another note, the LF leader said besides his alliance with the FPM, he welcomes strengthening alliances with al-Mustaqbal Movement, the Progressive Socialist Party and AMAL Movement “away from limited tactical interests and temporary gains.”The LF insists on getting an equal share to that of the FPM in the new government, judging their demand as the “right for proper representation based on the outcome of the parliamentary elections.”Their demands are reportedly delaying the Cabinet formation process, as Bassil has has made an outright rejection of such a request.

Hariri at launch of TVET national framework: Vocational education is essential for building the country and for its economic development

Mon 25 Jun 2018/NNA - Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri sponsored today at the Grand Serail the launching ceremony of the "National Strategic Framework for Technical Vocational Education and Training in Lebanon (TVET) 2108-2022". The framework responds to evolving labour market needs, by seeking to increase youth access to TVET and improve the quality of education and training in the sector. The Minister of Education and Higher Education Marwan Hamade, the Minister of State for Women Affairs Jean Ogassapian, the Regional Director of the International Labor Organization Ruba Jaradate, and the Acting Representative of UNICEF Lebanon Violet Speek-Warnery, attended the ceremony. Hariri said: "Good morning and welcome to the Grand Serail for the launching of the National Strategic Framework for Technical and Vocational Education and Training in Lebanon (TVET).
This framework is the result of a joint effort between the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Social Affairs, in collaboration with UNICEF and the International Labor Organization.
As you know, during the Brussels 1 and 2 conferences, the Lebanese government asked the international community to go beyond providing humanitarian assistance to displaced Syrians, and to contribute to the support of the national economy, particularly the host communities. Within this framework, we put forward several priorities, the first of which is the Capital investment program that was launched at the CEDRE conference in Paris, in addition to providing vocational and technical education and training opportunities for our young men and women. The strategy we are launching today focuses mainly on providing high quality technical and vocational education and training to our young men and women, taking into account market requirements to help the private sector secure specialized and trained work force. It is no longer acceptable to look negatively at the vocational and technical education and training, and to turn every pupil who fails in his studies to vocational or technical education. No. The issue is not like that at all. Vocational education is essential for building the country and for its economic development because it will increase the sense of creativity and the skills of labor. In a quick look at the countries that are considered superior in their industries and technologies such as Germany, America, Japan and other major countries, we see that the percentage of students in vocational schools is very high, sometimes higher than that of students in general education.
It is time to change the mentality of our society that says that my daughter or son should be a doctor, an officer or an engineer regardless of whether there is demand in the market for these professions.
There are many other professions for which there is demand, like nurse, executive assistant, or skills related to the construction and engineering sector, and we will soon be asking for technical skills in the oil and gas sector. The subject surely needs raising awareness from the state, especially the Ministry of Education, and with the active participation of the private sector because our concern is to have productive generations and not generations that have graduation degrees but no work. Yes, we need doctors, engineers and lawyers, but the country also needs trained young men and women. It also needs technicians and professionals to open up their own work, help develop their regions and meet their needs, especially outside the big cities. In this way, we will also be fighting high poverty rates in remote areas and contributing, with the national program for targeting the poorest families, to drag them out of poverty.
Thus, the citizens of Akkar, Tripoli, Baalbek or other regions will not be forced to go to Beirut to find a job. They will have the choice to remain in their villages and be productive at the same time. We should not also forget that the next phase is that of implementation of the Capital investment program that includes more than 280 projects across all sectors that will create thousands of jobs.
This is why we need to have the specialized human cadre that will be prepared to manage and implement these projects. The only possible way for this to happen is by raising the level and quality of education and vocational and technical training to be able to respond to the needs of the market and the requirements of the private and productive sectors. With the launching of this strategy today, the implementation of the Capital investment program, and after the completion of the production sector strategy and the implementation of the reforms that the Lebanese government has committed to, we would have taken steps towards the activation of growth, the creation of job opportunities for our young men and women, and raising the productivity of our economy. I want to ask our partners in the international community who are present with us today to support the strategy we are launching and help the Lebanese government implement it. Many countries expressed their willingness like the United States, Canada and Australia. There are also countries that are continuously supporting the sector of education and vocational and technical training in Lebanon, primarily Germany and we discussed this issue during our meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel.
In the end, I want to thank all the ministries and administrations that participated in preparing this strategy. My special thanks go to UNICEF and the International Labor Organization for their continuous support for the efforts of the Lebanese government."For her part, the Acting Representative of UNICEF Lebanon Violet Speek-Warnery said: "We believe that the investment is critical to help reform and shift the educational system to new forms of content and delivery, one that is more relevant, and responsive to job opportunities, an investment that plays a critical role in equipping youth with the right skills to meet labor market needs, fueling competitiveness, reducing unemployment and contributing to breaking the cycle of inter-generational poverty." The ILO Regional Director for Arab States Ruba Jaradat said: "The launch of this framework is a key achievement for the Government of Lebanon and lays the foundations for prioritizing the support of TVET as a means to grow the economy and better support youth and the private sector. These reforms outlined in the Strategic Framework will help ensure youth have the skills, knowledge and linkages to gain employment and access to work in Lebanon, as well as provide hard data on labor market needs and improve the connectivity of the TVET system to the private sector." Minister Hamade said: "This framework will serve as a basis for improving cooperation between government institutions and establishing strong partnerships with the private sector. It will also be the main national reference to the work plans of each ministry, which will include strong partnerships with the private sector employers. And this plan of action will integrate the main outputs to be achieved along with clear indicators for the monitoring and evaluating progress."

Abra detainees' families protest outside Information Ministry, urge Riachi to intervene
Mon 25 Jun 2018/NNA - Female relatives of Abra detainees on Monday staged a sit-in outside the Ministry of Information, protesting against MTV program that discussed Abra's case. After urging media outlets "to deal with the [Abra's] case objectively", they asked Caretaker Information Minister, Melhem Riachi "to intervene to this effect". Protesters hoisted banners expressing their refusal of "conspiratorial media" and attempts to deceive public opinion. "No hegemonic media, no racist media," they maintained. Minister Riachi dispatched his advisor, Adham Mansour, who confirmed that "the minister will follow up on this matter with media outlets and the National Audiovisual Council."

Berri, interlocutors tackle overall situation
Mon 25 Jun 2018/NNA - House Speaker, Nabih Berri, on Monday met at his Ain Tineh residence with Norwegian Ambassador to Lebanon, Lene Natasha Lind, with whom he discussed the general situation in Lebanon and the broad region, in addition to the bilateral ties.
Speaker Berri also met with Kuwaiti Ambassador to Lebanon, Abdel Aal Al Qenai, with talks reportedly touching on most recent developments and the bilateral ties between Lebanon and Kuwait. A delegation of the Board of Directors of the Lebanese Tobacco and Tunbac Monopoly Department (Regie), led by its Chairman and General Manager Nassif Seklawi, who briefed him on the recommendations of the Anti-Illicit Trade Conference held on April 22.

Embassy of Japan funds clearance of lands with unexploded cluster munitions in Tyre
Mon 25 Jun 2018/ NNA - The Embassy of Japan funds the Lebanese Association for Mine and Natural Disaster Action (LAMINDA) for their clearance operations in the Caza of Sour, in order to provide a safer living environment and improve the livelihood opportunities of the residents.
Marking the completion of the project on June 25, 2018, H.E. Mr. Matahiro Yamaguchi, Ambassador of Japan to Lebanon, attended a ceremony organized by LAMINDA, where the cleared lands were handed over to their owners. The ceremony was also attended by Mr. Anwar Jammal, the CEO of Jammal Trust Bank, Brigadier General Ziad Nasr, Director of Lebanon Mine Action Center (LMAC) and the Mayor of Zebqine. Through the Grant Assistance for Grass-roots Human Security Program (GGP), LAMINDA was able to provide a safer and better living environment to at least 25,000 residents of the villages of Hinnieh and Zebqine that suffered from the presence of cluster munitions during the wars. During the ceremony, H.E. Ambassador Yamaguchi congratulated the land owners and praised LAMINDA’s efforts in implementing the project and highlighted Japan’s strong commitments to assist the local communities. Meanwhile, Ret. Brig. Gen. Badwi El Sakkal, President of LAMINDA, expressed his deep appreciation for the Japanese support to people in Lebanon over the years. In addition, Mr. Anwar Jammal, introduced the microfinance scheme that JTB offers to assist the owners to re-invest in their recently cleared lands.
In turn, Brigadier Nasr gave a word thanking
Japan for its bounteous contributions in Lebanon, hoping that Japan’s long standing support for the country will continue until the South is totally mine-free in 2020 — a set date on which South Lebanon should be declared free of cluster bombs. Nasr also thanked the other associations which have been contributing to de-mining activities in Lebanon, stressing the need to continue joint efforts until Lebanon is totally mine-free.

Mount Lebanon Prosecutor hears Yaacoubian's testimony over Bourj Hammoud waste dump
Mon 25 Jun 2018/NNA - Mount Lebanon State Prosecutor, Judge Ghada Aoun, on Monday heard the testimony of MP Paula Yaacoubian in the case related to Bourj Hammoud garbage dump and the waste crisis, National News Agency correspondent reported.

Aoun receives invitation to attend Cedars International Festival 2018
Mon 25 Jun 2018/ NNA - President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, on Monday received at the Baabda palace MP Sethrida Geagea, who extended to him an invitation to attend the Cedars International Festival 2018. MP Sethrida Geagea thanked President Aoun for his patronage of the Cedars' International Festival "in view of his constant concern to encourage art and culture in all Lebanese regions." "We extended an invitation to President Aoun to attend the concert of the great Singer, Magida Roumi, on July 28, 2018, with the aim of raising Lebanon's name up high and recognizing its universal status through its five archaeological sites inscribed on the World Heritage List," MP Sethrida said on emerging. President Aoun, in turn, highlighted the political and cultural importance of the Cedars International Festival, which he described as a "tourism pillar in Lebanon".

Lavrov, Bolton to meet in Moscow on June 27
Mon 25 Jun 2018/NNA - Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US National Security Adviser John Bolton are due to meet in Moscow on June 27, the Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed on Monday. "The Russian Foreign Ministry confirms information on a working meeting between Lavrov and Bolton in Moscow on Wednesday, June 27," the ministry said. On June 25-27, Bolton will visit London and Rome to discuss national security issues and will later travel to Moscow to hold consultations on a possible meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump. ---TASS

Lebanon’s summer in action with another good cause
Ryme Alhussayn/Annahar/June 25/18
This experience transmitted the excitement, happiness and warmth that the Lebanese people yearn for.
BEIRUT: From golden sunshine to a thousand colors in a parched landscape, the future looks more promising under the clear blue sky of Beirut striving for new opportunities.
Under the patronage of Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri and the presence of his representative Minister of Tourism Avedis Guidanian, with the support of Beirut Municipality and Solidere, and along with the representative of Beirut Mayor, Suleiman Jaber, In Action Events launched “Summer In Action,” in collaboration with Explore Lebanon Tours and Himaya NGO. The event, which took place at Beirut Waterfront on Friday, was aimed at supporting a good cause: raising awareness on child abuse. This experience transmitted the excitement, happiness and warmth among many Lebanese who showed up to voice support for a humanitarian cause. “This kind of occasions brings out the best image out of Lebanon because the rest of the world only sees the clashes and disagreements; so we are here today to stand against them and to reassure them that Lebanon is living in peace,” Minister of Tourism, Avedis Guidanian, told Annahar. From mega-events to seminars and workshops, In Action Events never seems to fail people’s expectations; as it succeeded in gathering more than 50 designers to support the cause, along with numerous restaurants and coffee shops; and not to forget the fun zone for kids to get the chance to enjoy handcrafts, inflatables, pool tables, exhibitions and many shows. “We expect that people know more about Himaya, who they are and what they do; so the main goal behind this event is raising awareness and funds for Himaya,” said Cynthia Warde, the founder of In Action Events, to Annahar. Apart from the humanitarian aspect of this event, exhibitors also get the chance to display their work, whether it’s jewelry, clothing, or any kind of personal business, for marketing purposes, “we love events, they are very casual, and the aim of the company is to provide affordable prices with high quality, and here we get the chance to show our products to as many as people as we can,” said one of the sales associates of Vestiti store. The event offered activities for different age ranges. It included shopping for mothers, extreme sports for fathers, music, and entertainment for the youth, and amusing games for kids. “We wanted everyone to come, this is why we made sure to create a happy environment for families and children and get them sensitized on the topic,” Maria Shaaya, communication coordinator of Himaya, told Annahar. The role of Summer In Action is to raise money for the protection of all children in need in Lebanon. It’s the responsibility of the society to build up a better vision for its people, participants told Annahar. The exhibitors that come from different regions are all working on selling their products to participate in the fundraising, “usually up to 50% of our gain goes to charity; so today, the amount we make is going to Himaya,” said the owner of Anaka store to Annahar.
Lebanon’s image and the stamping of Iranian passports
Nadim Koteich/Al Arabiya/June 25/18
There have been several political interpretations of the Lebanese general security’s measure not to stamp Iranian passports upon arrival in Beirut and stamp entry cards instead. The Lebanese general security based its decision on a law issued in 1970, which allows the Director General of the General Security or the interior minister to take those steps in special circumstances. However, the surprising part is that this recent measure expanded the category of these special cases to cover all Iranians entering the country. This couldn’t have been the purpose of those who passed the law! Imagine the enormity of this catastrophe! There are Iranians who think that visiting Lebanon may give them a bad reputation which better be avoided to ensure that they keep their image unsullied in front of the embassies of other countries!
Lebanon’s reputation
What further escalated the controversy around this issue is that an Iranian news agency broke the news. This directly raised doubts and suspicions. Consequently, Interior Minister Nohad al-Machnouk requested to put this new measure on hold until consultations take place with caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri on the matter. Some explanations suggest that this step came in the context of facilitating the movement of Iranians going to Syria and protecting their personal information, which appears an exaggerated explanation. Iranians coming to Lebanon, especially to fight in Syria, will not be greatly affected if their passports are stamped since entry and exit data is kept in the general security database and this procedure won’t grant any confidentiality to their movements. The second explanation, that I have personally confirmed its accuracy, links the procedure to what is worse for Lebanon and its reputation. According to one of the narratives explaining why this measure was adopted, Iran’s ambassador to Lebanon sent a letter to the Lebanese Foreign Ministry conveying the complaints of some Iranians, including businessmen and tourists, saying that having the Lebanese stamp on their passports complicates the possibility of obtaining visas to other countries, which makes them avoid going to Lebanon! Imagine the enormity of this catastrophe! There are Iranians who think that visiting Lebanon may give them a bad reputation which better be avoided to ensure that they keep their image unsullied in front of the embassies of other countries! According to those familiar with the complaint, the complaining Iranians said that when Iranians who visited Lebanon travel to other countries or apply for visas, they are being asked innumerable questions about the reasons behind the visit to Lebanon and whether this visit has anything to do with Hezbollah’s activity inside or outside Lebanon. Those who made the complaints said these questions are due to suspicions that the only reason an Iranian would visit Lebanon is his supposed security or military activity within Hezbollah! This is what Lebanon’s reputation has come to, as a military base for Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Guards. Visiting Lebanon, which was a destination for tourism, has become almost a crime, at least for the Iranians whom, by the way, 2.5 million of them visit neighboring Turkey.
Under Iran’s shadow
I frankly do not care about Iranians’ visits to Lebanon even if they are important to open necessary relations between Lebanon and this category of the Iranian society that refrains from visiting Lebanon because of its Western priorities and to protect their visas to Britain, the United States and Europe. This is an interesting Iranian category and its visits to Lebanon may weaken the stereotypical image about the Iranians and the Lebanese and which is mainly formed by the visits of the Revolutionary Guards or the ideological pilgrims. What concerns me the most is the impression that is being strengthened in the world about Lebanon that it has become a security and military base for Iran, as conveyed by the Iranians’ complaints communicated by Iran’s envoy in Lebanon to the relevant authorities – an impression that Tehran does not hesitate to solidify and affirm. Before this storm pertaining to Iranian visitors, Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force was informing the world that Hezbollah had won at least 70 seats in the parliament and concluded that Lebanon had grown from a country that embraces the “Resistance” into a full “Resistance” state. This is another confirmation for those who wish to equate Lebanon with Hezbollah as per Israel’s analysis after the conclusion of the elections.
Correcting the image
However, this is not the case. Only a few days ago, the representatives who were celebrated by Soleimani were publicly insulted and humiliated by the people of Baalbek-Hermel governorate because they believe that Hezbollah has not been successful in improving their lives despite all the sacrifices they made in support of their cause. There is something about this decline that resembles what’s happening in Iran itself where the Iranians have had enough of the lies related to the ‘Resistance,’ Hezbollah, Gaza and Jerusalem. Consequently, they disposed of donation boxes allocated to Jerusalem on Quds Day and chanted in the street “Not Gaza and not Lebanon.” Khamenei himself had to directly debate them in his recent speeches. Lebanon is actually in a moment of serious conflict over its image as there is the image which most of the Lebanese people want for their country and the image of the state as an operations room like very few parties want. This is a fateful moment which nothing expresses best than an Iranian telling us: Visiting Lebanon is a burden on me!
If this is what some Iranians think then what does the rest of the world think of us? Thank you ‘Resistance.’
Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on June 25-26/18
Syria launches comprehensive assault on Daraa. Quneitra under threat next
DEBKAfile/June 25/18
The Syrian army on Monday, June 25, launched an all-out assault on Daraa – a symbolic operation since it was there that the seven-year anti-Assad war first erupted. The Syrian army’s 4th Division’s guns and its Tigers Forces’ tanks pounded the town with heavy artillery and Golan 1000 missiles, each of which carries a 500kg explosive warhead. The mobile Golan 1000 system mounted on Russian T-72 tanks proved its lethal properties in the recent battles for eastern Damascus. There is no way the Syrian rebel groups defending Daraa can withstand the fury of this assault, especially when it is boosted by carpet bombing inflicted by Syrian and Russian air forces. According to some sources close to the scene, the rebels tried early Monday to mount a counter-attack on the Syrian army and were repelled with heavy casualties. Rebel chiefs in the Daraa region are still putting a brave face on their predicament and pledging to fight to the end and never surrender They refuse to be discouraged by the US embassy’s message from its Amman embassy on Sunday warning the South Syrian rebels not to expect US intervention on their behalf. The immediate objective of the Syrian assault appears to be a group of tall buildings in the Al Balad district of Daraa, from which to gain elevation for commanding the rest of the city and so cutting short the battle for its conquest. Like the United States, Israel too appears to have decided to stand aside and let the Syrian army finish its offensive for the capture of Daraa up to the Jordanian border. However, DEBKAfile’s military analysts maintain that this is a serious strategic error. Israel’s strategists must be fully aware that, after Daraa, the Syrian army will soon go for Quneitra and knock over rebel-held positions opposite Israel’s Golan border within view of IDF defense lines. Israel’s policy-makers are also fully apprised of the trick of disguising the Hizballah and pro-Iranian Shiite militias spearheading the Syrian offensive in Syrian army uniforms. Therefore, notwithstanding American and Russian promises to prevent this happening, Israel will soon find itself facing Hizballah and pro-Iranian forces sitting on its northern border.
Families Flee as Regime, Russia Pummel Syria's South
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 25/18/Syria's government ramped up its bombardment of the southern city of Daraa on Monday, forcing dozens of families to flee an expected assault on the cradle of a seven-year uprising. After a string of wins elsewhere in the country, President Bashar al-Assad has set his sights on recapturing the country's strategic south, which borders Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. His forces have been battering rebel-held towns in Daraa province for nearly a week, leaving at least 28 civilians dead, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. They then turned to the provincial capital of the same name, launching air strikes and barrel bombs on opposition-held districts in the early hours of Monday. More than 55 surface-to-surface missiles slammed into those neighborhoods after midnight, followed by four barrel bombs, the Britain-based Observatory said. "It is the first time they drop barrel bombs on Daraa city in more than a year," said monitor chief Rami Abdel Rahman.The city was struck again around noon, this time with air strikes by Syria's ally Russia, which has helped Assad's troops recapture swathes of territory since 2015. The attacks prompted dozens of terrified families to stream out of Daraa city. Many set out in the dead of night to seek shelter in olive groves on the city limits, AFP's correspondent there said. Leaving on foot or by motorbike, they took refuge in small shacks or tents among the trees. "We don't know what happened. We were sleeping with the children when all of a sudden, we heard heavy shelling," said Ahmad al-Musalima, 31. "The kids started shaking in fear," he said. He and his family fled overnight, joining an estimated 20,000 people displaced by the past week's escalating violence, according to the Observatory.
Divide and conquer
"We left the house and didn't know where to go. We headed towards the plain with the kids crying and heavy shelling overhead," Musalima told AFP. Syrian rebels hold the western half of Daraa city and most of the surrounding province, as well most of the adjacent governorate of Quneitra to the west. That territory roughly forms a horseshoe, whose bottom curve borders Jordan and includes a military base held by rebels since 2014. Syrian troops meanwhile hold Daraa city's eastern half and nearly all the adjacent province of Sweida. Frontlines had been relatively quiet for nearly a year under a "de-escalation" deal agreed in July 2017 by Russia, the U.S., and Jordan. But now, the regime and its Russian allies are pursuing a divide-and-conquer strategy against rebels. On Monday, Russian bombing raids hit the military base near the border with Jordan, said the Observatory. Ousting rebels from it would divide the opposition horseshoe into a western and eastern section. Russian strikes and 20 regime barrel bombs on Monday also hit the key town of Basr al-Harir in Daraa's eastern countryside, rocked by clashes for nearly a week. "Capturing the town would allow troops to divide rebel territory to smaller pockets," Abdel Rahman said. The heavy strikes on Daraa's eastern countryside forced rescue workers to stop operations in the town of Al-Laja. "The civil defence teams have not been able to reach targeted areas because of the intense bombing," the local civil defense center said in an online statement.
U.S. holds back
The United Nations has warned that the renewed hostilities could put 750,000 lives at risk and urged all sides to respect last year's de-escalation agreement. "Any humanitarian crisis in south Syria must be averted first by sparing civilians the pains of fighting, and second, be responded to swiftly from inside and outside Syria," said Ali al-Zaatari, U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Syria. Jordan said on Sunday it could not absorb a new wave of refugees across its border.  In an effort to avoid a bloody onslaught, Russia is leading negotiations with Syria, Jordan, Israel, and the U.S. in a bid to reach a settlement. The uptick in violence could be tied to those talks, said Sam Heller of the International Crisis Group. "It seems the air strikes have two aims: exerting pressure in order to get negotiations, either international or local, and paving the way for a wider attack in case the negotiations don't make progress," he told AFP. Although it had a key role in the original de-escalation deal, Washington has yet to put its political or military weight behind a solution for the south, he said. "The Americans haven't gotten seriously involved in the talks over the south, and they're not expected to intervene militarily," Heller said.
Demonstrators Take to Tehran Streets to Protest Deteriorating Economy
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 25 June, 2018/Rallies swept the Iranian capital for a second day on Monday with demonstrators protesting the deteriorating economic situation. They swarmed the historic Grand Bazaar, forcing shopkeepers to close their stalls. On Sunday, protests forced two major shopping centers for mobile phones and electronics to close in Tehran. Iran's semi-official ISNA news agency described the protests as erupting after the Iranian rial dropped to 90,000 to the dollar on the country's black market, despite government attempts to control the currency rate. Videos posted to social media showed protesters at the bazaar heckling shopkeepers who refused to close, shouting in Farsi: "Coward!" Others chanted “death to the dictator.”Special police forces have since cordoned off the parliament building at Baharestan Square to impede the protesters’ advance. Videos posted on social media showed demonstrators confronting the police. The footage showed tear gas in the air and protesters screaming, "They attacked us with tear gas!" Another man is heard shouting: "Come back!" Iran's latest economic troubles come against the backdrop of international firms pulling away from the country after President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw America from Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers. At the end of last year, similar economic protests roiled Iran and spread to some 75 cities and towns, becoming the largest demonstrations in the country since its 2009 disputed presidential election. The protests in late December and early January saw at least 25 people killed and nearly 5,000 people arrested by authorities.

Navy: Nearly 1,000 Migrants Rescued off Libya Coast

Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 25 June, 2018/Libyan coastguards have rescued nearly 1,000 migrants who were on inflatable boats in distress in the Mediterranean on their way to Europe, the navy said on Monday. Three separate operations took place on Sunday with the coastguard bringing ashore in Libya a total of 948 migrants, navy spokesman Ayoub Kacem said. The migrants were on dinghies which were facing difficulties in the Mediterranean off the coast of Garabulli east of the capital Tripoli, navy officer Rami Ghommeidh said. A first group of 97 migrants were rescued, while a second operation brought 361 migrants -- including 88 women and 44 children -- ashore and late in the evening a final group of 490 migrants were rescued, said Kacem. In all a total of 2,000 migrants trying to make the perilous journey to Europe, often on unseaworthy boats, were either intercepted or assisted by the Libyan navy since Wednesday. Officials and a witness at a naval base also said that Libyan coastguards recovered 10 bodies on Sunday. Monday's announcement by the navy came as Italy's far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini was en route to Libya for talks on the migrant crisis.
Libya is a key departure point for thousands of migrants hoping to reach Europe, although hundreds drown each year attempting the crossing.

Erdogan Wins Turkey’s Presidential Election
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 25 June, 2018/Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has won tightly-contested presidential polls, the election authority said Monday, overcoming the biggest electoral challenge to his 15-year rule. Turkish voters had for the first time cast ballots for both president and parliament in the snap elections, with Erdogan looking for a first round knockout and an overall majority for his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). The stakes were particularly high as the new president will be the first to enjoy enhanced powers, without even a prime minister, under a new constitution agreed in an April 2017 referendum strongly backed by Erdogan but which opponents say grants autocratic powers. Erdogan defeated his nearest rival Muharrem Ince with an "absolute majority" of more than half the vote without needing a second round, said the chief of Turkey's election authority, Sadi Guven.
"I have been entrusted by the nation with the task and duties of the presidency," Erdogan said in a victory address at his Istanbul residence, vowing that the new presidential system would be implemented "rapidly". "Turkey has given a lesson in democracy to the entire world," he added, pointing to an 88 percent turnout.Erdogan won 52.5 percent in the presidential poll while Ince, of the secular Republican People's Party (CHP), was on 31.5 percent, state-run Anadolu news agency said, based on a 99 percent vote count. If confirmed, the figures would show Erdogan polling on a similar rating or even stronger than his 2014 election victory where he won his first mandate after over a decade as prime minister. Trailing were Selahattin Demirtas of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) with over eight percent in third and Meral Aksener of the nationalist (Iyi) Good Party with over seven percent. Erdogan also declared victory in the parliamentary election saying that the alliance led by the AKP and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) had won the majority in parliament. A count of 99 percent of the votes showed that Erdogan's AKP and the MHP would win 293 and 50 seats respectively, enough for an easy majority in the 600-member chamber.

Egypt Extends State of Emergency for 3 Months
Cairo - Mohammed Abdo Hassanein/ Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 25 June, 2018/Egypt’s parliament approved on Sunday the extension of a nationwide state of emergency for three months, starting from July 14. Egypt imposed the emergency in 2017 after two church bombings killed at least 45 people. It was last extended in April. Egypt faces an ISIS insurgency in the remote North Sinai region that has killed hundreds of soldiers and policemen in recent years and has expanded to include attacks on civilians. The Egyptian constitution stipulates that the extension of the state of emergency requires the approval of the parliament by a two-thirds majority. Parliament Speaker Ali Abdelaal announced on Sunday that President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi’s decision on the state of emergency was approved by more than two thirds of lawmakers, meaning the required conditions were met. “The circumstances that first led to the imposing of the emergency state still stand and it was therefore necessary to extend it,” he explained. For years, Egypt witnessed bombings and violence in various parts of the country, especially in the border province of North Sinai, which has become a terrorist hotbed since the overthrow of former President Mohamed Morsi, of Muslim Brotherhood. Ansar Beit al-Maqdis is one of the most active terror groups in Sinai. In 2014, it pledged allegiance to ISIS and renamed itself ISIS-Sinai Province. Since February, the army and police have been waging a major security operation in northern and central Sinai to clear the area of militants. The operation is known as the "Comprehensive Operation - Sinai 2018". During a parliamentary session Sunday, lawmakers praised the efforts of the army and police forces in fighting terrorism, stressing that "the extension of the state of emergency aims to protect the country and its borders, ensure security and freedoms of citizens and eliminate terrorists and outlaws."Abdelaal paid tribute to the armed forces and police and saluted fallen soldiers, stressing that parliament must always support the military. A state of emergency law greatly extends police powers of arrest and can allow restrictions on freedom of movement. First deputy chairman of the Egypt's Support coalition MP Taher Abu Zeid said that it is crucial to take into consideration current developments in the region. He pointed out that the armed and security forces are bravely fighting terrorism and outlaws.

Iran: Protests Erupt as Rial Plunges to Record Low
London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 25 June, 2018/As the Iranian rial plunged to a record low against the US dollar, several merchants at a shopping center in the capital Tehran took to the streets to protest the gap between the official and unofficial market rates. “Aladdin Shopping Center” merchants converged on Jomhuri Street to voice their anger, amid fears over a return of US sanctions following President Donald Trump’s withdrawal in May from the 2015 deal on Iran’s nuclear program. News agencies and websites posted videos of merchants as they protested the rapid depreciation of the rial by shutting down their shops on Sunday. They denounced the rise in the price of the dollar, calling on the Iranian authorities to end regional interference, particularly in Syria, and turn their attention to Iran’s internal affairs. The police intervened to disperse the protesters, reported the Jamaran news website. Information and Communications Technology Minister Mohammad Javad Azari-Jahromi said on Twitter that he visited the protesting merchants after a cabinet session. “I will try to help provide hard currency for (mobile) equipment (imports),” Azari-Jahromi wrote, adding: “The merchants’ activity has now gone back to normal.”Reuters quoted, which tracks unofficial market, as saying the dollar was being offered for as much as 87,000 rials, compared to around 75,500 on Thursday, the last trading day before Iran’s weekend. ISNA news agency said the dollar had climbed to 87,000 rials on the black market on Sunday from about 74,000 before the weekend. Several Iranian websites carried similar reports, however, other news agencies said the dollar exceeded 90,000 rials. ISNA quoted dollar traders and sellers as saying the price hike in informal markets was caused by the government and the central bank's failure to pump the dollar in the past few days. Iran’s currency has been sliding for months because of a weak economy, financial difficulties at local banks and heavy demand for dollars among Iranians, who fear Washington’s pullout from the nuclear deal and renewed sanctions that could shrink the country’s exports of oil and other goods. Some of the US sanctions against Iran take effect after a 90-day “wind-down” period ending on August 6, and the rest of the sanctions, mostly targeting the petroleum sector, will begin after a 180-day “wind-down” period ending on November 4. Before Trump’s announcement of the US withdrawal in early May, the rial weakened from around 65,000 rials and from 42,890 at the end of last year. Such a decline threatens to boost inflation, hurt living standards and reduce the ability of Iranians to travel abroad. In an effort to halt the slide, Iranian authorities announced in April that they were unifying the dollar’s official and black market exchange rates at a single level of 42,000, and banning any trade at other rates. However, this measure did not deter the unofficial market because authorities have been supplying much less hard currency through official channels than consumers are demanding. Free market trade simply went underground. Traders say all that has happened is that the free market has become a secret. Government spokesman Mohammad Reza Nobkhat said on Saturday that the government has since mid-March pumped 9.7 billion dollars to contain the crisis.

Zarif Warns of Dangers Facing Iran Should Nuclear Deal Collapse

London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 25 June, 2018/Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif warned that Iran would face great risk should the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) collapse, but stressed that his country will still withdraw if it found itself forced to do so.
“Failure of the JCPOA (nuclear deal) would be very dangerous for us,” Zarif told members of the Iran Chamber of Commerce, quoted by the official IRNA news agency. “This is certainly not the (Iranian political) system's choice,” he added. Zarif also attacked internal bodies that are inciting the market by falsely boosting rumors and promoting pessimism concerning an exit of all foreign companies from Iran. In an unprecedented attack, Zarif accused Reuters of spreading 50 “false” reports a day about the Iranian economy. He criticized the pressure placed on the Rouhani government, saying that all sits “in one boat,” whether conservative of reformist. He implicitly responded to recent calls made by political figures for Rouhani's resignation. The top diplomat went on saying that a Rouhani exit and a conservative overtake of office will not lead to success. Zarif reiterated his call for preserving national unity. The Iranian government fears that problems facing Iranian banks encouraging domestic and foreign investment will be further exacerbated if financial watchdog organizations hunt them down in light of returning international sanctions. Zarif also relayed Iranian government intentions on submitting a draft-law which takes into consideration Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's recommendations into consideration regarding financial transparency and the debate on whether Tehran should join the international Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF) or not.FATF monitors terrorist financing and money-laundering activities. On the other hand, Zarif warned against the return of trade stigma to Iranian economic activity, saying that it partly caused a traders and foreign companies’ exodus from Iran, strongly advocating the cleric-led country joins FATF.

Iran: Rouhani Govt. Calls for National Solidarity to Confront ‘Economic War’

London - Adil Al-Salmi/Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 25 June, 2018/Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri urged parliament to discuss the country’s worsening economic conditions and defend President Hassan Rouhani’s government, accusing the US administration of “conspiring” against his country by launching an “economic war.” Deputy parliament Speaker Masoud Pezeshkian called for the formation of a crisis cell to tackle the economic crisis, while prominent cleric Hossein Nouri Hamdani described the situation as “regrettable.”Jahangiri called on internal parties, officials and people to unite and support the Iranian government against the “American economic war.”He said that his country is facing a new situation, attributing the anger expressed by some officials and public circles against deteriorating economic conditions to a lack of overall transparency between the government, parliament and people. Before opening a closed-door session on price rises, Jahangiri stated that the US is looking to pressure Iran back to the negotiating table through economic pressure. Moreover, he underlined to lawmakers the need to reshuffle the cabinet and establish new ministries capable of confronting the challenges facing the country. The Iranian currency continued on Sunday its months-long downward trajectory. Lawmaker and member of the parliament’s budget committee Shahbaz Hassanpour told the ISNA news agency that Jahangiri gave a detailed explanation of government measures addressing rises in prices. He noted that the Vice President assured attendees about economic and living concerns, saying that the government “has undertaken solutions to meet people's needs.” “The current situation, particularly on the economic level, requires more coordination among parties,” state news agencies quoted parliament Speaker Ali Larijani as saying. He stressed that in addition to the US agenda, “internal problems have partly caused bad conditions.”Meetings are ongoing to discuss proposals to reform the economic situation, he said.
Iran opposition urges youth to join Tehran Bazaar protests
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Monday, 25 June 2018/Iran’s opposition leader Maryam Rajavi has used the social networking site, Twitter, in solidarity with the protesters who filled the streets of the capital Tehran on Monday. The protesters took to the streets objecting the rise of the dollar to the Iranian currency. Rajavi confirmed via Twitter that the high prices crises, which left the Iranian people in a problematic situation, is a result of the Iranian regime’s policy who plundered hundreds of billions or spent money suppressing its people and engaging in war in Syria and the rest of the region. A large-scale popular campaign was launched by activists on social networking sites. The campaign called for a change in the economic team members, and the search for solutions to rid of the crisis that burdens the Iranians. Protesters chanted against Iran’s intervention in Syria, which led to heavy damages to the economy and exhausted citizens. Therefore, Protesters demanded for an immediate withdrawal. On Monday, traders protested on the Hafez Bridge in the Iranian capital of Tehran. The dollar has reached an unprecedented price in Iran’s history in the past 40 years.

Iraq makes arrests in kidnapping of security men by ISIS
Reuters, BaghdadMonday, 25 June 2018/Iraq’s security forces said on Monday they had made arrests related to the kidnapping and holding hostage of six of their members by ISIS militants. The militants had kidnapped six men and on Saturday threatened to kill them in three days unless the government released Sunni Muslim female prisoners. In a video released by the group, the six men identify themselves as members of the police or the Popular Mobilization Unit militias, an umbrella grouping of mostly Shiite Iran-backed militias that fought with government forces against ISIS and nominally report to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. They were kidnapped on the highway connecting Baghdad to Iraq’s north, a road that has seen an uptick in attacks by the ISIS in recent weeks. Abadi met security and intelligence leaders on Sunday and ordered the formation of a special force to secure roads and protect travelers, the security forces said in a statement. “This force was able to arrest elements from the terrorism and crime gangs that are related to the recent kidnapping incident on the road to Kirkuk province recently,” it said. Abadi declared final victory over the hardline militants in December but the group still operates from pockets along the border with Syria and has continued to carry out ambushes, assassinations and bombings across Iraq.

In election victory speech, Erdogan says Turkey will advance in Syria

Agencies/Monday, 25 June 2018/Turkey will continue to "liberate Syrian lands" so that refugees can return to Syria safely, President Tayyip Erdogan said in an election victory speech on Monday. Speaking to supporters from the balcony of his ruling AK Party's headquarters in Ankara after Sunday's presidential and parliamentary elections, Erdogan said Turkey would also act more decisively against terrorist organizations . Erdogan won a new mandate in presidential elections in the first round of voting by winning more than half of the votes, the chief of Turkey's election authority said Monday. "President Recep Tayyip Erdogan received the absolute majority of all valid votes," the head of the Supreme Election Committee (YSK) Sadi Guven told reporters in Ankara, without giving further details or numbers after Sunday's polls. Results released by Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency based on data from the YSK also gave Erdogan a clear majority of votes. Erdogan won 52.5 percent in the presidential poll while his main rival Muharrem Ince, of the secular Republican People's Party (CHP), was on 31.7 percent, Anadolu news agency said, based on a 99 percent vote count. The YSK is to announce final results on Friday. (With AFP and Reuters)

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on June 25-26/18
Nuclear Deterrence: Adopting the Reagan Approach
Mark B. Schneider and Peter Huessy/Gatestone Institute/June 25/18
President Reagan's successful policies involved not the elimination of all nuclear weapons, but the simultaneous modernization of all legs of America's nuclear Triad, while significantly reducing the size of the strategic nuclear arsenals of both the U.S. and the Soviet Union.
The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review confirms reports going back to 2004 that, "Russia is in violation of its... political commitments that directly affect the security of others, including... the 1991 Presidential Nuclear Initiatives." These eliminated America's battlefield nuclear weapons and many other nuclear capabilities, while Russia violated its reciprocal pledge to do the same.
Today, Russia and China not only have massive nuclear modernization programs, but also precision nuclear missiles, while the U.S. does not. Let it be a cautionary tale for the current administration in Washington.
Ronald Reagan, one of the most important presidents in American history, advanced a defense policy based on "peace through strength," and "reducing nuclear dangers." In so doing, he dramatically altered the United States' approach to dealing with the Soviet nuclear threat.
President Reagan's successful policies involved not the elimination of all nuclear weapons, but the simultaneous modernization of all legs of America's nuclear Triad in a manner that enhanced national security and strategic stability, while significantly reducing the size of the strategic nuclear arsenals of both the U.S. and the Soviet Union. He further enhanced America's deterrent by deploying nuclear cruise missiles (SLCMs) on naval ships, and medium-range nuclear missiles and new nuclear artillery in Europe.
Reagan also fundamentally changed the way in which the U.S. negotiates and enforces arms-control agreements. In 1988, his Department of Defense (DoD) submitted a "Report to the Congress on the Analysis of Alternative Nuclear Force Postures for the United States (Unclassified Version)," which contained four possible START treaty force postures, all of which involved having 4,900 ballistic missile warheads and 1,099 accountable bomber weapons. This number of warheads was roughly half of the amount deployed by the U.S. at the time, and those stabilizing reductions were at the heart of the Reagan arms-control revolution. [This report is not available online, but is available from the authors upon request.]
This arms posture vastly differed from that of the SALT agreement process, which had begun in 1972 between the U.S. and U.S.S.R., and was scheduled to allow the number of deployed warheads to reach at least 12,000. Of course, the START postures were totally antithetical to the Soviets' proposed nuclear freeze, which would have left a completely modernized Soviet nuclear force in place while the United States nuclear force was "rusting to obsolescence."
Reagan's 1983 Strategic Defense Initiative also revived the moribund U.S. missile defense program of the Carter-era, and began the development of the technologies that today protect the United States against a North Korean nuclear missile attack and defend its forward-based forces and allies against considerable and growing theater missile threats. The U.S. still has a long way to go before achieving a fully capable defense, but it would have none at all if it had remained stuck in the ABM Treaty of 1972, which prohibited a defense of the country – with the exception of a single program to develop no more than 100 short-range interceptors to defend a military base of Minuteman ICBMs.
The 1988 DoD reported cited above stated the following with regard to the Strategic Defense Initiative:
"...if effective defenses prove feasible, the United States intends to alter the strategic relationship with the Soviet Union with a relationship based on a greater reliance on defenses and on less reliance on offensive retaliation.... Furthermore, initial strategic defenses would offer the United States and its allies some protection should deterrence fail, or in the event of an accidental launch.... Finally, given the Soviet Union's record of treaty violations... Defenses will make U.S. security more robust against possible Soviet Union violations of START."
Remember, the world that President Reagan inherited in 1981 was bipolar and very dangerous. Many of the new threats America faces today were already developing then, but they were not considered by most observers at the time as serious threats. The Soviet Union was an ideologically hostile Communist dictatorship in the process of spending itself into oblivion in war preparations made worse by the debilitating effects of socialism.
During the administration of President George W. Bush, then-Russian Defense Minister Colonel General Sergei Ivanov stated that the Soviet military budget in the 1980s reached 40% of its GNP. To compare, peak U.S. military spending in World War II reached 43% of the GNP in one year; it was 10% in the 1950s and declined to 5% under President Jimmy Carter, who created what was called the "hollow army."
Reagan reversed this decline. During his presidency, defense spending peaked at 7% percent of America's GNP. The U.S. used technology to compensate for a massive disparity in the level of effort underway in the Soviet Union. At a critical point in human history, Reagan presented the Soviets with a military challenge that convinced them they could not win, although they never gave up trying. Reagan did not "end history," but he did create the circumstances that ended Communism in Russia and the Soviet empire as a major force in the world.
Faced with a massive Soviet nuclear buildup, Reagan engaged in the most comprehensive U.S. nuclear modernization program since the 1950s. This included programs such as the MX ICBM (later called Peacekeeper), the AGM-86B nuclear ALCM, the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines and the Trident II missile.
The Reagan administration added the B-2 stealth bomber, SRAM II defense suppression weapons for bombers and tactical aircraft, and the single warhead Midgetman ICBM. While limited compared to those of the Soviets, these programs formed the core of a very effective deterrent.
Reagan's planned U.S. strategic nuclear force was eventually reduced by 85% in terms of warhead numbers under the Moscow Treaty and the New START Treaty between the United States and Russia. But while a fully modernized strategic deterrent could have been built even at these lower warhead numbers, many systems -- such as the Peacekeeper, the Advanced Cruise Missile, the nuclear capability of the B-1 bomber, the B-2 bomber (stopped at 20 planes rather than 120) and the SRAM II program -- were terminated by subsequent administrations.
We believe that while Reagan would have adjusted our nuclear deterrence requirements downward at the end of the Cold War, he never would have allowed a more than 20-year gap in U.S. deterrent modernization or never would have allowed Russia to get a 10-fold advantage in non-strategic nuclear weapons.
The current dangerous Russian 10-to-1 advantage in non-strategic nuclear weapons is largely the result of the unilateral Presidential Nuclear Initiatives (PNIs) of 1991-1992. According to General (ret.) Colin Powell, in his autobiography My American Journey, when he proposed the unilateral elimination of U.S. nuclear artillery, all four service chiefs of staff of the armed forces opposed it. Powell also said that the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) policy staff, from "Wolfowitz all the way down," as well as then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, "rejected my proposal." According to Powell, President George H.W. Bush "began pushing us for more fresh thinking on arms control." The "fresh thinking" involved important but unilateral nuclear weapons reductions without: (1) legal obligations to secure complimentary Russian cuts; (2) verification measures; or (3) Congressional approval of the cut in American nuclear forces. Indeed, most of the weapons that were pulled out of Europe and dismantled as a result of the PNIs -- including ship-launched cruise missiles -- had been built and put there by the Reagan administration. The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review confirms reports going back to 2004 that, "Russia is in violation of its...political commitments that directly affect the security of others, including... the 1991 Presidential Nuclear Initiatives." These eliminated America's battlefield nuclear weapons and many other nuclear capabilities, while Russia violated its reciprocal pledge to do the same.
The PNIs have contributed to the current security crisis in Europe, as well. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea 2014, NATO Deputy Commander Lt. General Sir Adrian Bradshaw stated that the NATO rapid deployment force must be armed not only with conventional weapons, but also with the same weapons that Russia has. Thanks to the PNIs, tactical nuclear weapons exist in the Russian Army but not in that of the U.S. Perhaps, if the Reagan non-strategic nuclear deterrent existed in Europe today, even in much smaller numbers, Russian President Vladimir Putin would not have said in 2014, "If I wanted, Russian troops could not only be in Kiev in two days, but in Riga, Vilnius, Tallinn, Warsaw or Bucharest, too."
Reagan took deterrence of nuclear war very seriously. He saw both nuclear weapons and missile defense as part of America's deterrent strategy and as a hedge against arms control violations. His nuclear modernization programs were not created to finance the military industrial complex, as some have alleged; the modernization effort was undertaken for deterrence purposes. The Soviet nuclear threat was very real. In fact, it was even worse than we thought at the time. Since the end of the Cold War, significant portions of the Warsaw Pact war plan have become available online, and as a result, we know that the Soviets planned on a large-scale first use of nuclear weapons against NATO in support of a ground offensive designed to win and conquer Western Europe. It exercised this capability in its war games. In 2005, Polish Defense Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said, "The objective of the exercise on this map is to take over most of western Europe -- all of Germany, Belgium and Denmark."
In January 1983, in his annual report to the Congress for Fiscal Year 1984, then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger stated, "If we are to maintain a responsible nuclear deterrent against attacks on our allies, as well as against nuclear attacks on the United States, we will need to continue to exploit our comparative advantage in technology." Since that time, however, the United States has allowed the deployed technology to regress through program terminations, the retirement of some of the most of advanced of the Reagan-era nuclear deterrent systems and the complete lack of modernization. Due to the underfunding of the Defense Department during the presidency of Barack Obama, the Pentagon warned that the U.S. was losing its lead in technology -- and not merely nuclear technology. The Obama administration left office with a military in a condition of degraded combat readiness. In contrast, the Reagan administration left office with a military that in 1991 demolished Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's army in four days of ground-fighting and a subsequent decade of relative peace.
Today, Russia and China not only have massive nuclear modernization programs, but also precision nuclear missiles, while the U.S. does not. Russian deployment of low-yield nuclear weapons on its strategic missiles was reported in the Russian state media as early as 2008. In 2016, the Obama administration told Congress that the Chinese had announced the existence of a nuclear version of the DF-26 IRBM, which would give China "...nuclear precision strike capability against theater targets."
Who would have believed in the 1980s that this was going to happen? Who would have believed that the U.S. government, in 2010, would list the deterrence of nuclear attack as the third of five nuclear weapons-related objectives? The answer is: anyone who understood the significance of America's foolishly abandoning Reagan's sensible and realistic policies on nuclear deterrence.
Let it be a cautionary tale for the current administration in Washington.
*Dr. Mark B. Schneider is a Senior Analyst with the National Institute for Public Policy. Dr. Peter Huessy is President of GeoStrategic Analysis, a defense consulting firm he founded in 1981, as well as Director of Strategic Deterrent Studies at the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.
© 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.

Palestinians: The Only Acceptable Peace Plan
Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/June 25/18
The Palestinians want nothing to do with President Trump's plan: they know it will never satisfy their demands. The Palestinians are not opposed to the peace plan because of a dispute over a border or a settlement or a checkpoint or the status of Jerusalem. They are against Trump's plan -- and any other peace initiative -- because the Palestinians have something else in mind.
The two Palestinian parties, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, may disagree on everything -- except the elimination of Israel. The only peace plan acceptable to current Palestinian leaders would be one that facilitated their mission of pursuing jihad against Israel to obliterate it.
If Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt wish to learn more about the true ambitions of the Palestinians, they would do well to take in a sermon at a mosque on some Friday or stop into a school in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Perhaps then they would see for themselves that no peace plan in the world can, at the moment, counter the poison that is injected daily into the hearts and minds of the Palestinians and their children.
The Palestinians have never laid eyes on US President Donald Trump's plan for peace in the Middle East. The Palestinians know nothing about the plan, which still has not been made public.
That fact, however, has not stopped them from categorically rejecting the yet-to-be-announced plan -- a stance the Palestinians repeated this week as US Middle East envoys Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt visited Israel and a number of Arab countries to discuss the plan.
The Trump plan has not even been finalized and, as such, has not officially been presented to any of the parties to the Israeli-Arab conflict. Kushner and Greenblatt have been working on the plan for several months; their current tour of the region comes in the context of Jordan and Egypt.
It is only the Palestinians who are boycotting the US administration. In the past six months, the Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership has refused to have any dealings with the US administration -- except, of course, when it comes to receiving financial aid from the US. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his senior associates in Ramallah have not only refused to meet with any official from the US administration, they have also been waging a smear campaign of hate and incitement against President Trump and top US administration representatives and officials.
Most of the Palestinian attacks have thus far been directed against Trump's "Jewish and Zionist" advisors, including Kushner, Greenblatt and US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman.
In the past six months, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his senior associates have not only refused to meet with any official from the US administration, they have also been waging a smear campaign of hate and incitement against President Trump and top US officials. Pictured: US presidential envoys Jason Greenblatt (left) and Jared Kushner (center) speak with Abbas (right) on June 22, 2017 in Ramallah. At the meeting, Abbas rejected their demand that he halt payments to terrorists and their families. (Photo by Thaer Ghanaim/PPO via Getty Images)
The vicious attacks on Trump and the senior US administration officials have also been accompanied by statements from Abbas and other Palestinian officials concerning the US president's Middle East peace plan. In these statements, the Palestinians have not only voiced their rejection of the plan that does not yet exist, but have also, on almost a daily basis, been condemning it, dubbing it a "conspiracy" designed to eliminate Palestinian rights. In the most recent Palestinian attack on the plan, Palestinian Authority leaders are now claiming that it is actually aimed at "dividing the Palestinian people" by establishing two separate Palestinian entities -- one in the West Bank and another in the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinian position regarding this unseen Trump plan, is largely based on rumors and media speculation. Palestinian officials have admitted that they get their information mostly from the media.
So, the Palestinians have rejected something they know nothing about. What, then, is bothering the Palestinians about the Trump plan or any other peace initiative? Attempts by the US administration to arrange meetings with PA leaders in Ramallah to consult with them about the proposed plan have fallen on deaf ears. The Palestinians express zero interest in even seeing if they might find something good in the plan.
The Palestinians want nothing to do with Trump's plan: they know it will never satisfy their demands. The Palestinians are not opposed to the peace plan because of a dispute over a border or a settlement or a checkpoint or the status of Jerusalem. They are against Trump's plan -- and any other peace initiative -- because the Palestinians have something else in mind.
The kind of "peace" that the Palestinians are seeking is one that no peace initiative would ever provide. The Palestinians want a peace without, not with, Israel. The reason the Palestinians have a problem with the Trump plan is that they see it as an obstacle to their plan to eliminate Israel. The Palestinians know that the Trump plan -- regardless of its details -- will not facilitate their mission to destroy Israel. The Palestinians, in fact, see any peace plan presented to them - whether by Trump or anyone else - as an obstacle hindering their effort and dream to continue the jihad (holy war) against Israel and Jews. They do not want to have to say "No" to the Trump Administration; it is safer just to duck the issue, stall and buy time until a friendlier US administration comes along.
When the Palestinians denounce the Trump plan as a "conspiracy," they mean that this is a US conspiracy to thwart their efforts to annihilate Israel. What the Palestinians are saying is: "Who are these Americans to come and preach to us about peace with the Jews living here when our real goal is to drive the Jews out of this land?"
In the summer of 2000, Yasser Arafat walked out of the Camp David summit (with President William Jefferson Clinton and then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak) after realizing that the proposals on the table did not satisfy the Palestinian aspirations and dreams – of destroying Israel. What Arafat wanted was Israel to give him control over the entire West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem. What he wanted was to establish a Palestinian state on these territories so that the Palestinians could use it as a launching pad to "liberate the rest of Palestine" – that is, to destroy Israel. When a furious Arafat realized that he would not get what he wanted, he returned to Ramallah and incited Palestinians to wage against Israel another wave of terrorism, called the Second Intifada.
Now Mahmoud Abbas is sitting in Arafat's seat. Abbas does not like the Trump peace plan, sight unseen: he knows that it will not advance his goal of fulfilling the "phased solution," in which Palestinians would take land bit by bit of and use it as launching pads to pursue the jihad against Israel.
The Palestinian position is and has been very clear: Israel must give us as much land as possible so that we can continue to build our power, force and energies to continue the struggle to achieve our ultimate goal – eliminating Israel. The Trump plan, as far as Abbas and his associates are concerned, is a bad deal because it does not require Israel to surrender completely and abandon territories that would be later occupied by Hamas, Islamic State, Iran and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
There is only one peace plan that the Palestinians will accept; it is the plan that enables them to achieve the "phased solution" of wiping Israel off the face of the earth.
Abbas is opposed to Trump's plan because Abbas wants a temporary Palestinian state that would be used in the future as a launching pad for Arab armies and Palestinian and Islamist terror groups to wage attacks on Israel. The Trump plan, as far as he is concerned, does not take into consideration the Palestinian dream of eliminating Israel -- and this omission goes way over his red lines.
The world already saw what happened the last time Israel gave Abbas land. That was in 2005, when Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip and handed it over to Abbas and his security forces.
Within a few months, Abbas and his cronies fled the Gaza Strip after Hamas and had thrown Palestinian Authority members to their deaths from the top floors of tall buildings, and handed the entire area over to Hamas. The rest, as they say, is history. If Israel withdraws from the West Bank, the same scenario would likely repeat itself there. This time, however, Hamas would take over the West Bank not within months, but days or weeks.
In addition, no Palestinian leader is in a position to accept any peace agreement with Israel -- especially not after both Abbas in the West bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip have spent an entire lifetime radicalizing their people against Israel through incitement and indoctrination.
Decades of incitement in mosques and in the media have turned Israel, in the eyes of most Palestinians, into one large settlement that needs to be uprooted. Consequently, the Palestinian public is not prepared to hear about any peace plan, not from Trump and not even from Prophet Mohammed.
The Palestinians have a problem with Israel's presence in the Middle East: most of them have still not come to terms with the Jews' right to live in a secure and sovereign state of their own anywhere in the Middle East.
Undoubtedly, Trump and his envoys come with the best intentions about making peace between Arabs and Jews in our part of the world. However, what they do not seem to see, however, is that as things stand today, there is no partner on the Palestinian side for any deal with Israel.
The Palestinians are divided into camps -- one that openly states that it does not want to make peace with Israel because its goal is to destroy Israel and replace it with an Islamic state, and a second camp that, even if it wanted to make peace with Israel – and it does not – could never do it because it has trained its own people to accept only a mandate for murder.
The first camp is called the "radical camp." This is the camp that is opposed to Israel's presence in the Middle East.
The second camp is what the Palestinians call the "Abbas camp," which is corrupt and weak and sends conflicting messages to its people and speaks in more than one voice.
The two Palestinian parties, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, may disagree on everything -- except the elimination of Israel. The only peace plan acceptable to current Palestinian leaders would be one that facilitated their mission of pursuing jihad against Israel to obliterate it.
If Kushner and Greenblatt wish to learn more about the true ambitions of the Palestinians, they would do well to take in a sermon at a mosque on some Friday or stop into a school in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Perhaps then they would see for themselves that no peace plan in the world can, at the moment, counter the poison that is injected daily into the hearts and minds of the Palestinians and their children.
*Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Engines of the Saudi Future
Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al Awsat/June 25/18
It is not strange for senior journalists from the world’s media to converge on Saudi Arabia to witness women go behind the wheel for the first time. It is not odd for this development to draw the world’s attention. The landmark that was witnessed in Saudi Arabia concerns the Saudis and the whole world alike. It is an important country due to is role in the Arab, Muslim and international scenes. Its economic, political and religious weights have driven many people to follow up on its developments, especially at this time.
The recent end of the driving ban against women cannot be separated from what the Kingdom has been experiencing for nearly two years. I believe that the most important thing that it has witnessed is the revival of hope in society, especially among the youth, who represent the vast majority of the population. Without this hope, challenges could not be overcome and policies could not be implemented and fortified. This state of hope is garnering potential in order to invest it in the battle for the future.
Those who know Saudi Arabia are aware that this state of hope is the backbone of the ambitious Vision 2030 program. The worst thing a country can endure is the despair of its youth and sense that nothing can be changed or developed.
Those who know Saudi Arabia realize that the youth no longer sit idly by as the world around them changes. They are completely part of what can be considered a comprehensive reform and modernization workshop that will inevitably be felt in all walks of life.
The most dangerous thing a people can endure is a sense of hopelessness or that safety demands that matters be kept unchanged and that opening new doors will lead to the unknown. The most dangerous thing they can believe is that the future will not be much better than the past. Surrendering to such feelings push some countries towards retirement and old age where they will be forgotten.
Saudi Arabia chose to go against the current of despair that has taken root throughout the Middle East. The Saudi leadership realized that the battle for the future begins now and waiting can no longer be the best option. The world is fast moving towards the future and booking a seat on this trip demands decisions, regardless of how difficult they may be. It is clear that the leadership listened attentively to the messages that were being sent to it from the future. It also listened to the aspirations of the people and their yearning for an improvement in their every day lives and fortification of their country.
The Saudi leadership succeeded over the past two years in setting the future as the priority for the Saudi people. The future concerns every single one of them as it touches on education, job opportunities, a better life and the building of an economy that does not strictly rely on oil. It also means becoming part of a workshop of progress in the world that is witnessing unprecedented successive technological and scientific revolutions. Victory in a battle of this size requires a change in methods, mentalities and norms.
This led to discussions over Saudi Arabia’s national transformation and Vision 2030. Achieving the goals requires a different way of thinking and working and introducing new legislation and conditions that would attract investors and tourists. It is not enough to change texts, but a change in deep-rooted norms and convictions is necessary - meaning an entire society needed to be reformed because its compliance is the first condition for achieving major programs.
This is a case of reciprocity where the leadership trusts the people and is good at listening to their concerns. The people in turn trust their leadership and entrust it with their interests and the fate of the country. Based on this mutual trust, ambitious programs were proposed and which quickly began shaping the features of a new Saudi Arabia that does not hesitate to confront problems, some of which were deemed untouchable in the past.
Such a major transformation could not succeed without the people being fully on board with all of their energy. In order to ensure this wide participation, obstacles needed to be eliminated. It is no secret that norms and traditions had acted as unyielding barriers before the Saudi woman in playing a greater role in the family and society. It was necessary to turn to Saudi women who wanted to play a full role in the workforce and build a better future for their selves, family and nation. King Salman bin Abdulaziz’s decision to allow women to drive came as a first step in empowering women.
The reactions to seeing Saudi women driving their cars in the Kingdom cannot be separated from the state of hope that was launched by the Saudi leadership and which has been cemented by the internal and foreign dynamism of the Crown Prince.
Saudi Arabia has taken a strong vow to look to the future. This explains the ambitious programs, giant projects and bold decisions. It was no surprise that the Kingdom has drawn the attention of the world given that this Saudi push towards a new future is taking place in a region that has been torn apart by wars or economic failure. Everything that has taken place over the past two years is part of collecting potential and turning on the engine towards building the Saudi future. It is only natural for such a move to garner the attention of the region and the world.

Italy: Where Would Salvini’s Strategy Lead him?

Ferdinando Giugliano/Bloomberg View/June 25/18
If an alien landed in Rome today, he would think Matteo Salvini was running Italy. The leader of the right-wing League has seized the center stage of Italian politics, even though he is merely deputy prime minister, interior minister and head of the junior party in its governing coalition.
Five Star, the League’s senior partner in the new populist administration, is entirely to blame for this. The movement has been outmaneuvered comprehensively since Italy’s government was formed three weeks ago. Unless it finds a way to manage its unruly ally, Italy will keep drifting rightward and Five Star will keep losing ground. Salvini has adopted the Donald Trump tactic of making outrageous statements daily. In the past few days, he has said he wants to hold a census of Roma people, “close” tax arrears for those owing the government less than 100,000 euros ($116,000), and threatened to remove police protection from Roberto Saviano, a writer on the mafia who dared to criticize immigration policy. There’s been action too. Last week, Salvini turned away a boat carrying 629 migrants from Africa. He followed this up on Thursday by saying he won’t let rescued migrants disembark from the foreign NGO ships operating between Sicily and North Africa. This puts Italy at odds with much of the rest of the EU — to the delight of the euro-baiting Salvini.
One holdout against his radicalism is the finance ministry. Giovanni Tria, the technocratic minister, says he intends to keep Italy in the euro and the budget deficit under control. But Salvini has succeeded in promoting two opponents of the monetary union, Claudio Borghi and Alberto Bagnai, to run key economic committees in parliament. That spooked investors, who sent Italian bond yields higher. Prime minister Giuseppe Conte and Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio are missing in action. Conte mixed with world leaders at the G-7 meeting in Canada, but has failed to stamp his authority on Salvini at home. Di Maio, who is industry and labor minister, has tried some headline-grabbing ideas of his own, such as a proposal to give greater protection to gig economy workers. But he has been overshadowed completely by Salvini in the battle for the airwaves, and has proven incapable of making any concrete change in government. Five Star’s golden boy looks leaden. The League’s dominance is already affecting the polls. In the March general election, Five Star won 33 percent of the votes, and the League 17 percent. Now the two parties are neck-and-neck in opinion surveys, with one putting the League ahead. This hands Salvini an even greater advantage. If he were to collapse the government, perhaps by claiming it’s not radical enough, he would have wind in his sails for a new election.
He could reassemble the failed center-right alliance (with Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia and the Brothers of Italy) and might even dream of an outright majority. Conversely, the Conte administration may be the best chance that Di Maio and Five Star has to govern. In a way, they are in a lose-lose situation. If they attack their ally, they risk a government collapse and going back to the polls in a position of weakness. If they stay silent, they risk falling further behind. Salvini’s strategy has risks, of course. His constant TV presence may backfire. That happened to former prime minister Matteo Renzi, who was always on the airwaves before Italians decided they’d had enough of him. In the event of an accident involving a migrant ship, Salvini would no doubt be blamed. Italians may question eventually why he spends so much time on Facebook Live rather than governing.
Still, Five Star can’t just sit and hope that Salvini implodes. Di Maio is callow, but after his resounding election victory, Five Star must show voters that it can deliver some of the change it’s always promised.

Video Replay for Refs Is Making the World Cup Better
Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg View/June 25/18
2018 Soccer can be annoying, especially to those who watch only the big tournaments. There are too many fouls, baffling referee errors and players without a scratch on them rolling in the grass as if in unbearable pain — and too few goals. But the 2018 World Cup has been surprisingly different (with a few exceptions). The improvement probably comes down to a single rule change: Referees now have access to video replays. A little more than a week into the monthlong competition, it’s too early to know for sure how much the technology called Video-Assisted Referees will change the game. But there are signs it’s making it better. So far, there have been fewer serious fouls than usual and no referee errors that affected match outcomes. In addition, compared with previous World Cups, the players appear to be more singularly focused on scoring or preventing goals, and less on hurting and intimidating opponents or trying to trick referees into favorable decisions.
The introduction of Video-Assisted Referees, know as VAR, to the World Cup for the first time this year was hotly contested, though. Soccer is a defiantly analog, pointedly democratic game that’s played and loved as much in poor countries as rich ones. VAR is a rich-country addition. It has been tested, for one season, in some wealthy leagues, including in Germany and Italy, where it wasn’t an unqualified success. In both countries, fans complained about long decision times of two minutes or more while referees stopped play to consult monitors.
By mid-season, delays had been reduced. Still, in one German game, after reviewing play thanks to VAR, the referee recalled the teams from the halftime break to take a penalty kick. In a high-stakes game in Australia, the technology broke down at a crucial moment, and a winning goal that should have been disallowed was counted. In Italy, a stubborn referee repeatedly overruled the technology, making outcome-changing errors. Nonetheless, statistics from the trials show that VAR has achieved some important results. In the Italian Serie A last season, it reduced the percentage of mistaken referee decisions to 1 percent from 6 percent. At the same time, the number of fouls dropped by 8.8 percent, the number of yellow cards for serious fouls by 14.7 percent and the number of dives, or fake fouls, by 43 percent.
The technology seems to be paying off in the 2018 World Cup. There is no talk of the kind of disastrous referee errors that plagued previous tournaments. VAR doesn’t remove all subjectivity from the decisions of referees, who assess the situation on the screen as best they can. Bit it gives them the capacity to have the same vantage point as fans watching TV at home, ensuring that there are no blatant miscalls or oversights. A Leuven University paper published just before the World Cup shows that referees who watch bits of the game in slow motion tend to be stricter when meting out punishment: They are more likely to see fouls as reckless or intentional than accidental. If players sense that nothing will escape the referee, they should be less likely to commit fouls. Anyone who has watched most of the games so far will have noticed that players spend less time simulating injuries than at previous World Cups, and that there’s surprisingly little dirty play (though the Brazilian star Neymar would probably object: In his team’s first game against Switzerland, he was fouled on 10 times, the most of any player in World Cup history). Nonetheless, yellow and red card statistics indicate that this may turn out to be the nicest World Cup in at least two decades.

Mohammed bin Salman and the End of a 70-year Ban
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/June 25/18
The ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia could have continued for another ten years, or even 20 years, if it wasn’t or Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who was tasked by the king with the project of development and change.
The decision to end the ban on women driving is one of many decisions pertaining to women, like allowing them to enter sports stadiums, attend concerts, and work in various different sectors. Since the 1970s, we kept waiting for the moment when banning women would end, which was an idea that is not justified by logic or religion, merely a societal tradition. Year after year, our hopes were crushed, and the calls of local women failed. The ban continued for long centuries as no one dared to anger the governors or society. This also included several other unjustified prohibitions, from cinemas to concerts to women participating in public community events. I say this to clarify a truth that we learned from these century-long bans: That this was a brave step taken by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who did not have to do it. He could have left Saudi Arabia to go forth as it had been for the past 70 years, by banning women from diving cars. And it is not true that there were external factors pressuring him, as foreign governments have tried this and failed. There is also no large local group calling for change, as some claim, as the number of women who did actually try to break this barrier and drive their cars in the past years is very little. Saudi Arabia has witnessed two years of massive changes, and after a year of becoming crown prince, it must be said that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is a man with a vision and a brave leader. He challenged expectations that betted on him going back on his promises, as no other Saudi ruler dared to do this before. He proved wrong many analysts who believed that his statements and promises were for propaganda and wouldn’t see the light. All the promises were executed.
The truth is, he didn’t have to do it if it weren’t for his personal belief in change. Perhaps his wishes reflect his belonging to the younger generation, or his conviction that the kingdom could not develop economically without being developed socially. It is no secret that we are aware about his thoughts on change since about four years.
Allowing women to drive cars, ending the ban on cinemas, and other shockwaves that he sent through Saudi Arabia which is the most traditional society in the world, were all issues that were discussed before King Salman bin Abdulaziz assumed power, and was entrusted with being crown prince.
Everything we see is drawn out in the promised project of change and development, by freeing society from obstacles that hinder it from moving forward. Those who try to portray this change, especially the ending of the ban on women driving cars, as a consequence of internal pressures are a minority living in their own world that has nothing to do with Saudi Arabia’s reality. The truth is completely opposite to this. The pressures came from governors and traditionalists who refused changing the status quo, and tried making the government go back on its decision, either directly or through social media. And as I mentioned at the beginning of this article, the crown prince could have left things as they are, by continuing to ban women for ten, maybe 20 more years, but he chose the opposite.
He chose to be responsible for this decision, just as he did with other socially sensitive decisions in Saudi Arabia. For this, we have to acknowledge his courage, and salute him for this step and others, while being aware that he has the trust and guidance of the king.
By ending the ban, Saudi Arabia is ending a lot of the “privacy” that specialized and isolated it from the world, and it is time for it to be a normal state. With giving women a lot of their rights, and opening up more opportunities for them in the last two years, we look forward to more in the future. All of these decisions are part of the larger Vision 2030, which aims to transport Saudi Arabia from being one of the only oil-producing countries, to being an able country economically, politically and militarily.

Thoughts On Southern Syria
Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi/Syria Comment/June 25/18
The remaining rebel-held areas of Deraa and Quneitra are currently witnessing the beginning of a military campaign by the Syrian government to retake those areas, with heavy bombardment and displacement in the eastern Deraa countryside in particular. How did we get to this stage and what is the likely outcome? Perhaps the foremost issue for discussion is Russia’s role in this matter. In my view, there has been an analytical failure in understanding Russia’s goals in the “de-escalation” arrangement for southern Syria. The first step in the arrangement was a ceasefire for the region that was agreed between Russia, the U.S. and Jordan in July 2017. The ceasefire was followed up by a “Memorandum of Principles” between the three powers in November 2017.
To be sure, there are no copies of the texts of the ceasefire agreement and “Memorandum of Principles” in the open source realm, but it cannot be plausibly argued that Russia’s intention in particular was simply to freeze indefinitely the frontlines and zones of control in the south as part of a balancing act between different parties. An example of this misconception can be found in an article in Foreign Policy a month ago. The article argued that “a frozen conflict” in Syria may have been the goal all along for Russia. On the southern situation in particular, the article painted a simple portrait of Iran pushing the government for a military assault on the south, whereas Russia supposedly had no interest in that outcome.
Such an analysis is superficial on multiple levels. For example, when it came to the south, the Syrian government did not presume that military assault was the only option to bring back areas under its control. Instead, the government has promoted what one might call “soft reconciliation” as a model for the south, as could be observed in the town of al-Sanamayn in north Deraa, which never entirely fell out of government control and was located within a wider zone of government control. The reconciliation agreement in al-Sanamayn at the end of 2016 did involve application of some siege pressure in response to the violation of a de facto truce, but there was no full-on assault, contrasting with (for example) East Ghouta and east Aleppo city. Under the reconciliation, the factions in al-Sanamayn have largely been left as they were prior to the reconciliation. Thus, these factions are mostly responsible for running internal security in the town. There are some serious problems surrounding the al-Sanamayn reconciliation. For example, though some people underwent taswiyat al-wad’ (“sorting out affairs/regularizing status”) as part of the reconciliation, that does not permanently resolve the problem of being wanted for military service. In addition, al-Sanamayn continues to witness security problems on account of clan issues and the presence of multiple armed groups. No unified security force has been formed by the factions of al-Sanamayn to impose law and order despite repeated discussions of the matter. Earlier this year, tensions between the government and the rebels in al-Sanamayn escalated on account of the disappearance of a non-commissioned military officer. Further, the car of the commander of the 9th division of the Syrian army was targeted with gunfire. As a result, the 9th division, whose main base is located in the al-Sanamayn area, threatened an assault against the rebel factions in the town. There was also talk of imposing a second, more comprehensive reconciliation (i.e. requiring more weapons to be handed over and for more people to undergo taswiyat al-wad’). Yet the 9th division backed down in the end, and the second reconciliation never happened.
Nevertheless, these details- and the wider debates about the pros and cons of reconciliation agreements and their final status- do not detract from the point that the Syrian government saw a way forward in reconciliation agreements for the south that would have local rebel faction buy-in and not necessarily require a full-blown military campaign. It is unlikely that Russia, which also gets involved in reconciliation agreements, has not been encouraging such initiatives and negotiations as the preferred option for dealing with the rebel-held areas of the south.
More broadly, it needs to be understood that Russia’s involvement in de-escalation for the south has been predicated on the idea of advancing the interests of its ally- the Syrian government- in that area in some form, even as it is correct to note that the concerns of Jordan and Israel were also being taken into account.
Indeed, one can see hints of the Russian goals in the limited public material on the ideas behind the southern de-escalation. For instance, consider the joint U.S.-Russia announcement on the November 2017 memorandum. The announcement affirms that de-escalation is an “interim step to reduce violence in Syria, enforce ceasefire agreements, facilitate unhindered humanitarian access, and set the conditions for the ultimate political solution to the conflict.” One can dismiss the last point as a political trope, and different parties will have differing views of what a “political solution” means. But the inclusion of that point shows an intention to build on the southern de-escalation for a final status resolution for that region. Notable as well is the commitment in the memorandum to Syria’s sovereignty, unity, independence and territorial integrity. Again, one could dismiss all that as a political trope, but from Russia’s perspective, it does illustrate a desire to bring back those rebel-held areas in the south under formal government control in some way.
Ultimately though, there was no progress for the southern de-escalation beyond the November 2017 memorandum. Nor did reconciliation agreements along the al-Sanamayn model make headway beyond Deraa localities in similar geographic/strategic circumstances to al-Sanamayn (most notably Mahajja and Ghabaghib) that are not applicable to the wider rebel-held south. One can discuss in detail the reasons for lack of progress in resolving the south’s political status and lack of acceptance of reconciliation deals, but the Russian and Syrian government perspective is that the U.S. and the West are to blame for the impasse. In April 2018, Maria Zakharova, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, claimed that southern rebels were aiming for the “creation of a territorial entity there [in the south] with the capital in Deraa, under the auspices of the United States, which will be independent from Damascus, similar to the areas controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces in the northeast of the country.” Bashar al-Assad, in an interview with the Mail on Sunday earlier this month, commented on the failure of last-ditch efforts to achieve reconciliation in the south. Assad claimed that “the West interfered and asked the terrorists not to follow this path [of reconciliation] in order to prolong the Syrian conflict.” In other words, the Syrian government and its Russian allies consider the southern rebellion to be a separatist project undermining Syria’s unity and territorial integrity: a perception that has not been taken seriously enough in the analytical picture.
Map illustrating the locations of al-Sanamayn, Ghabaghib and Mahajja in the wider south.
The point here is not to justify the Syrian government and Russian views and narratives. Rather, the discussion here simply illustrates why the idea that Russia was going to enforce the southern status quo indefinitely and bar Syrian military action under all circumstances for the sake of “upholding the ceasefire” and/or in deference to other outside powers like Israel was folly. From the outset, Russia would not have entered into the southern de-escalation arrangement if it did not think it could ultimately serve the interests of the Syrian government.
For the U.S., there are only three policy options for the south:
1. Military intervention to deter an offensive against the rebels and maintain the previous status quo. At the very minimum, this would mean airstrikes against Syrian government forces.
2. Pursue negotiations for a diplomatic resolution to the southern situation.
3. Do nothing.
Whatever course is pursued, the goals and future visions have to be articulated clearly, honestly and consistently. In the case of option 1, it does no good to issue vague commitments to “upholding the ceasefire” without any action to back it up. As far as the long-term future outlook goes in the option 1 scenario, it would be questionable why indefinite rebel-held zones in the south should even be considered part of Syria. As for option 2, it should be frankly acknowledged that the end outcome of it is the return of Syrian government control to the south. Of course, the government presence never entirely vanished from the rebel-held areas in the south- note that school teachers were still receiving salaries from the government, for example- but the negotiations would inevitably lead to a more extensive government presence and functioning in the south, displacing the influence of opposition local councils and the interim government. Option 3 likewise leads to a return of the Syrian government to the south, though at a much greater humanitarian cost and under harsher reconciliations than option 2.
I am not so much in the business of policy recommendations. My own analytical outlook is that option 3 is the scenario that will be realized, and so the rebel-held south is doomed. The final confrontation in the south will therefore be between the Syrian government and the Islamic State affiliate Jaysh Khalid bin al-Waleed (JKBW), whose supporters have long condemned the rebels at war with JKBW for supposedly holding JKBW back from fighting the government. Indeed, JKBW appears to be anticipating the end of the rebel-held south (which has proven incapable of defeating JKBW) and a forthcoming fight with the government, as a JKBW recruitment form for fighting the Syrian government recently surfaced. Of course, the persistence of JKBW adds to a Syrian government/Russian casus belli, in that the argument can be made that only the Syrian army and its allies can truly defeat the Islamic State in southern Syria.
As a more general lesson, I would caution against assuming a strict dichotomy of “Syrian government and Iranian desire for military reconquest vs. Russian pragmatism.” As outlined above, military campaigns are not viewed as the sole means for regaining territory. Further, Russian complaints of violation of Syrian sovereignty and territorial integrity should not be dismissed as mere rhetoric. Nor should it be thought that Russia enters into negotiations and agreements with other outside powers like the Astana process and disregards the Syrian government’s desire to reassert control over all of Syria.
It does not follow from the preceding that the Syrian government and its allies are all perfectly aligned with each other. Nor is it the case that there is a brilliant Russian master-plan for the Syrian government to retake all of Syria’s territory. Indeed, there cannot be such a master-plan, as there are certain circumstances that have arisen in the Syrian civil war that are ultimately beyond Russia’s control (e.g. the question of whether U.S. maintains its presence in the north and northeast of Syria, which the U.S., if it so desires, can impose unilaterally for an indefinite period). But at the same time, it is implausible that there was a Russian master-plan all along to keep Syria stuck in de facto partition and frozen conflict.

The Ultimate Deal’: Crushing the Palestinian People Grain by Grain

Odeh Bisharat/Haaretz/June 25/18
The mission is not just to smash them, but to grind the Palestinian people up finely, grain by grain, each individual separated from his brethren.
It’s happening right now. The governor of the empire, Jared Kushner, and his assistant, Jason Greenblatt, have come to the region to do what the central Zionist stream has dreamed of doing for many years: Crush the Palestinian people – and not just its national movement, as Saeb Erekat believes.
The first blow was in 1948, when the Palestinian people were broken into four parts: those inside Israel, in the West Bank, in Gaza; and in refugee camps around the world. Now the mission is not just to smash them, but to grind the Palestinian people up finely, grain by grain, each individual separated from his brethren – the West Bank separately, Gaza separately, and then within the West Bank, Ramallah separately and Jenin separately, while abroad the Palestinians in Jordan will be separated from the Palestinians in Lebanon.
And this whole project is being labeled “the ultimate deal.” I suggest we change the name to more suitably reflect the reality. How about “the ultimate crime” or “the ultimate destruction,” or maybe both of them together? There’s no doubt: the disgrace here is not just limited to those who are working to implement the “deal,” whatever it’s called, but belongs to the entire world, which remains silent. In the past there were those who thought that it was possible to establish two entities here based on principles of justice, at least partial ones, and others who believed that it would be impossible not to have at least pinch of fairness here and a handful of good intentions to mitigate the evil decree. But reality proved the opposite to be true. For each stone built into a wall of an Israeli house, a stone was removed from an Arab house; for every Jewish community built, a Palestinian village was destroyed. Now the village of Khan al-Ahmar is next in line to be uprooted. Let’s congratulate the leaders of the mainstream Zionist enterprise for their tremendous achievement.
Forgive me for using the term “Zionism” even though there are Zionists who believe in a different path, the one of peace and reconciliation between peoples. But the painful truth is that more than 90 percent of the Zionist parties, whether in silence or with enthusiastic encouragement, watch the crushing of the Palestinians sympathetically and applaud everything the empire’s representatives do. Indeed, once again the Israeli leadership is choosing the dark side, turning its back on the peoples of the region. In 1956 David Ben-Gurion hooked up with the dying empires of France and Britain against the Egyptians, whose leader dared to announce the nationalization of the Suez Canal. Later Israel upheld the Shah of Iran’s reign of terror against the Iranian people, a regime that led, because of its brutality, to an even more brutal regime.
Now Israel is an ally of Saudi Arabia, that vanguard of defense of human rights; of Egypt’s military dictatorship, and of everything that seems benighted in the Arab world. Israel is so absorbed in this role that it has adopted the extreme Wahhabist movement – the ideological basis of fanatic Islamic groups whose only message is hatred and violence.
In a video, Maj. Gen. Avihai Edrei, head of the Arab media department at the IDF Spokesperson’s Office, called on the residents of Gaza to adhere to Wahhabism against the Shi’ite threat embodied by Iran and its supporters. One can only be dazzled by the gospel of light that the Jewish state brings to the Arab peoples. In a previous video, Edrei asked Gaza’s women to stay at home. It seems that the only stumbling blocks on the way to implementing this plan are the Palestinians, this time headed by the Palestinian leadership, and the progressive Arab and Jewish public in Israel, which includes many Zionists whose Zionism is different from that of Yair Lapid and Avi Gabbay. And I promise you that in a few years’ time, the respected Prof. Shlomo Avineri will write that this time the Palestinians also missed an opportunity. The opportunity to be crushed.

Finally, the Saudi woman drives her car!

Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/June 25/18
At midnight on June 24, Saudi women drove their cars in Riyadh, Jeddah and other Saudi cities bringing an end to one of the strangest controversial issues which lasted for about three decades consuming the Saudis’ energy.
Ever since a group of female activists drove their cars and held a protest in November 1990 in support of women’s driving during the tense phase which accompanied Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait and the tension in the region due to the war and during the phase of the Sahwa’s sedition, i.e. of politicized fundamental groups which worsened the situation by exploiting some causes and confronting women and those who support them, the issue of women’s driving turned into a debatable subject between Sahwa supporters and those who support women’s “natural” right to drive cars and the decision to allow them to drive because it has economic and social benefits...etc.
The state’s usual rhetoric, as conveyed by its officials, said this decision pertaining to women’s driving is the society’s business and not its own. However, the situation developed thanks to the era of decisiveness as King Salman finalized the issue and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman promised to solve the problem and he did. The move thus deprived the kingdom’s rivals of the excuse they often used to continuously criticize it.
These developments reminded me of some of the articles I wrote in this daily several years ago.
Preventing women from driving cars represents an important symbolic significance pertaining to preventing her from participating in leading life or at least leading her own fate
In my article “She will drive the car” published on May 28, 2010, I wrote about those who oppose women’s driving and how their intimidations “are nothing more than snow statues that melted under the snow of reality.”
On May 24, 2005, I wrote the article “Women and driving… the car or politics?” about the significance of preventing women from enjoying this right to drive.
“Preventing women from driving cars represents an important symbolic significance pertaining to preventing her from participating in leading life or at least leading her own fate.”
I inquired: “Are women worthy of trust or not? Why do some like to bury their heads in the sand and leave the matter for time, for that time that does not (really) come except for those (who make things happen)?”
All these statements are now from the past. We are now before a new phase. There is a group of people who must be thanked at the end of this journey such as “few” former and current Shoura council members, writers, journalists and patriotic pioneer women. However the first and final gratitude is to the country’s leader the king of decisiveness Salman bin Abdulaziz and his crown prince, the brave leader, Mohammed bin Salman.
With this decision lifting the ban on women driving, we further head towards a natural situation and close this faucet which seditious people used to water the trees of sedition which they planted like demons’ heads. Let’s head further towards the future and the enlightening path.
Iraq: Recounting votes or waste recycling?
Adnan Hussein//Al Arabiya/June 25/18
The parliament’s approval of the third amendment to the elections law and the federal court’s ruling that this amendment is valid provide conclusive evidence that the recent parliamentary elections in Iraq were forged from the beginning of the process till the very end. It’s no longer possible to debate this or argue about it. This is not the first or second time that elections were forged. Forgery has been frequent in all electoral processes ever since the first elections were held. The components of the influential political category had some sort of agreement among each other so they covered up wrongdoings and forgery. They all contributed to forging the elections, just like they forged degrees and documents. Some bought vote cards in advance and used them on the elections’ day in favor of certain candidates and some employees at the electoral center “helped” voters, specifically the elderly, the sick and the illiterate, and forged their votes The Parliament formed a new commission to recount and sort votes manually and the federal court approved this; however neither the parliament nor the court explained how exposing forgery will be guaranteed and how the authentic votes will be maintained! Is there evidence that there are forged results in specific ballot boxes and in specific vote centers in this or that governorate or area?
Electronic counting
The forgery was not caused by the electronic counting and sorting devices like they want to imply. The forgery was carried out by humans, in this case by the employees of the electoral commission in vote centers. Influential political powers and the electoral commission members that appointed these employees and their supervisors stand behind them. How can the nine judges who were tasked with managing the electoral commission find out who is a forger and who was honest and patriotic and refused to commit this crime of forgery?
How can the nine judges guarantee that the commission’s employees who were the tools of forgery in favor of the parties which appointed them will not go back to their old habit while performing the manual recounting and sorting? In the previous elections, the recounting and sorting process was manual and there were forgery and manipulation. In addition to all that, there is forgery that can never be discovered by just adopting a manual recount as for example some political parties and militias forced voters in some areas to vote for certain candidates. Some parties and candidates bribed voters with money or by making promises that they will provide them with jobs. Some bought vote cards in advance and used them on the elections’ day in favor of certain candidates and some employees at the electoral center “helped” voters, specifically the elderly, the sick and the illiterate, and forged their votes in favor of the candidates which belong to the parties they (the employees) are affiliated with. The most important question is: How do nine judges guarantee that forgery won’t happen this time and that they won’t be clueless? The real problem is not in the electronic recounting and sorting devices and not in the high electoral commission and not in the commission’s employees. The problem is in the political system which has been built on a false basis: quotas. What is built on illegitimacy is illegitimate. Therefore, this whole “mess” which began with holding the elections and concluded with amending the electoral law and the federal court’s approval of this amendment will only yield one result which is recycling the waste of the political process which has been corrupt and false from the very beginning.