June 27/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
Speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together
Letter to the Ephesians 04/10-16.: "He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and from and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on June 26-27/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on June 26-27/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on June 26-27/18
Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on June 26-27/18
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

Suspected Israeli Missiles Target Position near Damascus Airport
Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 26 June, 2018/Two Israeli militias targeted on early Tuesday a position near Damascus international airport, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The strike “targeted weapons depots and warehouses belonging to non-Syrian militias loyal to the (Syrian) regime,” the Britian-based monitor said, adding it had no information about casualties or damage. Observatory director, Rami Abdel Rahman, told AFP that "the Israeli missiles hit arms depots for ‘Hezbollah’ near the airport". Syrian air defense systems failed to intercept the missiles, it added. The war monitor said an explosion heard at 1 a.m. near the airport was caused by missiles fired by Israeli planes from the direction of the Golan Heights. Syrian state news agency SANA confirmed the strike without giving more details, Israel, concerned that Iran’s growing presence in Syria is a threat to its safety, has struck dozens of Iranian and Iran-backed positions in Syria over the course of the seven-year conflict. Asked about the report, an Israeli military spokesman said: “We do not comment on foreign reports.”

Hariri to visit Aoun in 'next two days'

Prime Minister Saad Hariri arrives for a Cabinet session in Baabda, Monday, May 21, 2018. The Daily Star/June 26/18/BEIRUT: Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri told local media Tuesday that he will visit the president in the next couple of days to discuss the formation of a new government.Hariri was quoted as saying by news outlet LBCI that progress will not be impeded by the absence of Speaker Nabi Berri, who is away with his family on vacation. "Berri traveling doesn’t mean communications to form a government are suspended, because I am staying in constant contact with him and I will visit the president in the next two days," Hariri said. The prime minister-designate also responded to reported demands from his longtime rival in the Sunni community, MP Abdel Rahim Murad. The MP has reportedly said that 40 percent of Sunnis in the country would be ignored if Hariri does not appoint a Sunni minister from the opposition to Cabinet. “I am the prime minister-designate and I form the government,” Hariri told LBCI.

Lebanon’s President: Israel Refuses to Agree on Maritime Borders
Reuters/June 26/18/Dispute is over 860-square-kilometer triangle with potential gas, oil reserves
Lebanese President Michel Aoun said Tuesday that Israel was refusing to agree a final maritime border between the two countries, a month after Lebanon began exploring for its first offshore oil and gas reserves. Lebanon has an unresolved maritime border with Israel that involves a triangular area of sea of around 860 square kilometers extending along the edge of three of its 10 offshore energy blocks.In February, Lebanon signed its first exploration and production agreements for offshore Blocks 4 and 9 with a consortium of France’s Total, Italy’s Eni and Russia’s Novatek. Block 9 contains an area of water claimed by both Israel and Lebanon, but the consortium has said it has no plans to drill in the disputed part. “Israel still refuses the demarcation of the maritime borders near the Exclusive Economic Zone where exploration for oil and gas has begun,” Aoun said on Twitter. He did not specify the nature of what he called Israel’s refusal. Lebanon, which began its first offshore exploration in May, is on the Levant Basin in the eastern Mediterranean, where a number of big undersea gas fields have been discovered since 2009 in Cypriot, Israeli and Egyptian waters. U.S. officials have been mediating between Lebanon and Israel about the maritime border dispute. Keep updated: Sign up to our newsletter. Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said earlier this month that new ideas proposed in the U.S. back-channel mediation raise the prospect of a partial deal this year.

Syrian Media: Two Israeli Missiles Strike Near Damascus Airport
Jerusalem Post/Reuters/June 26/18/Syrian state TV said late Monday night that two Israeli missiles struck near Damascus international airport, without giving further details. The pro-Syrian regime online newspaper Al-Masdar News (AMN) cited reports stating that missiles targeted an Iranian cargo plane being unloaded at the airport. According to the reports, regime forces' air defense systems subsequently intercepted an Israeli drone in south-western Syrian airspace. The head of the British-based monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdulrahman, told AFP that "Israeli missiles hit arms depots for Hezbollah near the airport," adding that Syrian air defense systems failed to prevent the alleged Israeli strikes. Israel has regularly refused to confirm or deny mounting overnight raids in Syria, but has repeatedly stated that it is unwilling to accept Iranian military presence in Syria. In May, however, Israel said it struck 50 Iranian targets in Syria after 20 rockets were fired towards Israel’s front defensive line in the Golan Heights by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp’s Quds Force. The targets all belonged to the Quds Force and included intelligence sites, logistics headquarters, a military compound and logistics complex in Kiswah near Damascus; weapons-storage sites at Damascus International Airport; and intelligence systems and installations, as well as observation, military posts and military hardware in the buffer zone. According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 11 Iranians were among the 46 killed in Israel’s strikes. In April, Syria, Iran and Russia all said Israel was responsible for carrying out an attack at the T-4 air base near Homs. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that at least 14 people were killed in the strike, with Iran's semi-official Fars news agency saying that four Iranian soldiers were among the casualties. The Israeli military last February accused Iranian-backed militias of operating at the base, from where it said an Iranian drone that was shot down over northern Israel had been launched.

President Aoun marks World Drug Day
The Daily Star/June. 26/2018/BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun called on the Lebanese public to turn away from drugs and help those who are struggling with drug addiction, as he marked International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking on Tuesday. "There is no salvation [in drugs], but hell for the individual, their family, surroundings and homeland," Aoun wrote in a tweet posted to his personal account, using the hashtags #WorldDrugDay and #ListenFirst. "Let us transform ... and become a society that fights drugs instead of its victims. The fight is everyone's responsibility, and the duty of every citizen and security official." The United Nations international day, also known as World Drug Day, has been observed on June 26 annually since 1989. The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime also launched the Listen First initiative, under the slogan, “Listening to children and youth is the first step to help them grow healthy and safe," in its fight to prevent drug use and support youth well being.

Lebanon’s New Cabinet Falls Victim to LF-FPM Tension
Beirut - Paula Astih/Ashgarq Al Awsat/June 26/18/Cabinet formation efforts stumbled on Monday after President Michel Aoun rejected a draft lineup presented by PM-designate Saad Hariri last week, considering that the proposal would offer the Lebanese Forces a share from his ministers and that of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM). FPM parliamentary sources warmed from any “attempt to hold President Aoun responsible for the delay in cabinet formation.” The sources said some parties are trying to benefit from the FPM’s efforts to speed up the cabinet formation which is required in light of the dire economic situation in the country. “We will not abandon our rights and we will not surrender to some parties that are trying to enforce new regulations in the government formation process,” the sources told Asharq Al-Awsat on Monday. Leading sources from the Mustaqbal Movement said the version presented by Hariri to Aoun last Friday was not a final proposal, rather a draft aimed at testing the reaction of all parties. “Cabinet formation is still paralyzed by the struggle between the two Christian parties- the LF and the FPM - from one side, and Aoun on the other side, the sources told Asharq Al-Awsat. They added that Hariri is responding to the LF demands in his attempts to form an efficient and balanced government, which guarantees a successful presidential term. The cabinet seat allocated to the deputy Prime Minister constitutes another obstacle to the birth of the new government. Also, Hezbollah insists that the 10 Sunni MPs who are close to the party get a ministerial seat in the new government. Sources from the “Shi’ite duo” (Hezbollah and Amal Movement) told Asharq Al-Awsat that no government could be formed if one side is isolated, particularly that the last parliamentary elections proved that the Sunni representation is not restricted to Hariri.
Report: U.S. Prepares ‘Unprecedented’ Sanctions on Iran, Hizbullah
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 26/18/A new batch of “unprecedented” U.S. sanctions on Iran and Hizbullah is underway as part of efforts to take a tough line against Tehran and the Iran-backed party, media reports said on Tuesday. “Western diplomats revealed to Lebanese officials that the sanctions have gone a long way in Congress and will hit Iran and Hizbullah mainly,” al-Joumhouria daily reported. Describing the sanctions as “unprecedented,” they noted that “ it will be issued in parallel with a batch of harsh sanctions against Iran,” said the daily. In May, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Tehran would be hit with the "strongest sanctions in history" and cautioned European firms against continuing to do business with it, toughening up Washington's policy line after its withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. Instead of suggesting a re-negotiation of the Iran deal, Pompeo outlined 12 tough conditions from Washington for any "new deal" with Tehran to make sure it "will never again have carte blanche to dominate the Middle East." These essentially address every aspect of Iran's missile program and what the US calls its "malign influence" across the region, including support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Hizbullah and Huthi rebels in Yemen.

Hariri, Al-Sayyed, clash over Cabinet formation delay
Al-Sayyed, a close ally of Hezbollah, accused the PM-designate of delaying the Cabinet formation under pressure from Saudi Arabia.
Annahar Staff/June 26/18/BEIRUT: Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri lashed out at the former head of Lebanon's General Security agency, MP Jamil Al-Sayyed, after the latter called for the nomination of a new Prime Minister.
Al-Sayyed, a close ally of Hezbollah, who was detained in 2005 for his alleged role in the assassination of Hariri's late father former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, accused the PM-designate of delaying the Cabinet formation under pressure from Saudi Arabia.
"(Lebanese Forces Samir) Geagea previously failed in detaining Hariri in Saudi Arabia to force his Cabinet's collapse, today Geagea and (Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid) Jumblatt, with the support of Saudi Arabia has succeeded in detaining Hariri in Lebanon to obstruct the formation of the Cabinet," Al-Sayyed tweeted in reference to Hariri's abrupt resignation from Saudi Arabia last November, reportedly orchestrated by the Gulf Kingdom. Hariri was also alleged to have been detained during his ordeal in the Kingdom. Both Geagea and Joumblatt have recently visited Saudi Arabia, and met with high ranking officials. Negotiations over the makeup of the new Cabinet are ongoing, with the Lebanese Forces and Progressive Socialist Party demanding a sizeable chunk of ministerial posts, a claim continuously rebuked by Aoun and his son-in-law and current Free Patriotic Movement leader Gebran Bassil. Hariri, who was designated PM after the recent parliamentary election, had rescinded his resignation upon his return to Beirut a few weeks later after the intervention of French President Emmanuel Macron. "Till when will the second detention last," All Sayyed asked, adding that "we represent the majority, maybe a petition from 65 MPs to the President could end Hariri's designation, in light of the alternatives (candidates)." Al-Sayyed's remarks prompted Hariri to hit back, telling Al-Sayyed that his statement has no impact whatsoever. Hariri was designated by a sweeping majority of lawmakers including allies of Hezbollah, whose parliamentary bloc abstained from nominating a candidate.

Presidency Says Aoun 'Has Right to Pick Deputy PM, Several Ministers'
Naharnet/June 26/18/President Michel Aoun has “the right to pick the deputy prime minister and several ministers” in the new government, the Presidency's press office stressed on Tuesday. “Although he is not interfering in the formation mechanism, the president does not intend to ignore the powers vested in him by the Constitution and the norms that have been in force since the adoption of the Taef Accord, especially in terms of the president's right to pick the deputy premier and several ministers through whom he can follow up on the Cabinet's work and performance,” the Presidency's press office said in a statement. “Those seeking privately and publicly to usurp the president's enshrined right must review their calculations, correct their bets and refresh their memories,” the office added. It noted that the latest parliamentary elections had “defined the political weights of the political forces.” “These forces must respect these weights in order to facilitate the government formation process,” the Presidency urged. It added: “Those claiming to be keen on the Taef Accord and warning against 'the threat of toppling it' are asked to stop spreading falsehoods.”And stressing that President Aoun “has always reiterated his commitment to the Taef Accord,” the Presidency urged other parties to “respect this Accord and all its stipulations instead of being selective in approaching it according to their personal calculations, partisan interests and ambiguous bets.”

Mustaqbal Says Aoun Has 'Key Role' to Play in Expediting Govt. Formation
Naharnet/June 26/18/President Michel Aoun has a “key role” to play in expediting the stalled government formation process, al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc said on Tuesday. “The bloc is looking forward to President Michel Aoun's key role in overcoming the state of anticipation and waiting, in order to devise the final format of the government's line-up, in coordination with the premier-designate,” the bloc said in a statement issued after its weekly meeting. The meeting was presided over by PM-designate Saad Hariri. Mustaqbal also called on all forces to facilitate the efforts of Aoun and Hariri and denied the presence of any “foreign pressures or preconditions” that are delaying the formation process. Hariri was tasked with forming a new government on May 24.

Gen. Aoun Laments that Some are 'Questioning Army's Role'
Naharnet/June 26/18/Army Commander General Joseph Aoun has lamented that some Lebanese parties are “questioning” the army's role and performance. “The army will continue to perform its missions in protecting the border and internal stability although some are unfortunately questioning its role and performance,” Aoun said. “We are carrying on with our mission, armed with our faith in our cause and our people's admiration of us, which are the most important weapons,” the army commander added, at a reception in the United States organized by Lebanese Ambassador to the U.S. Gabriel Issa.

Army Launches Security Plan in Baalbek, North Bekaa
Naharnet/June 26/18/The Lebanese army kicked off a long-awaited security plan in Baalbek and North Bekaa region as it tightened security measures in a bid to control rampant chaos escalating since May, the National News Agency reported on Tuesday. Military and security reinforcements were called in to Sheikh Abdullah barracks in Baalbek, said NNA. The army conducted patrolling missions along the main highway in Baalbek-Hermel district and North Bekaa and inside several towns, coupling them with strict security measures at checkpoints erected around the area, added NNA. Security conditions occasionally deteriorate in Baalbek-Hermel where reports of crime, theft and gunfire are not uncommon. Residents of the area have long demanded a solution for the rampant chaos in their city. Conditions deteriorated further in May and reports of shootouts, and revenge operations --a phenomenon that tribes cling to as one of the old customs-- were reported.

Report: Attempts to Convince PSP, LF Waiver Govt. Demands

Naharnet/June 26/18/Efforts are reportedly being exerted in order to persuade the Lebanese Forces and Progressive Socialist Party “to give up part of their demands in the new government,” in order to facilitate the formation process, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Tuesday.
Sources close to the Presidential Palace said negotiations are focusing on “prompting the Lebanese Forces to agree on allocating only four portfolios instead of five, and to give up a demand for the deputy premiership post.”The sources said shall the LF insist on five portfolios it would make its Strong Republic bloc get at least 9 or 10 seats. The LF insists on “proper representation in the new Cabinet in light of the parliamentary elections outcome,” which produced dramatic success for the party almost doubling its national seats. Meanwhile, talks are aiming to solve the controversy over the Druze share in the government in light of PSP chief Walid Jumblat’s insistence to get the whole three seats for his party. They are trying to persuade the former MP to waive the nomination of the third Druze minister, adding that “an understanding would be reached on the identity afterwards shall he agrees.” The new government to be formed by Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri faces three obstacles. The first is the representation of the Sunni opposition within the government, second is the LF share which demands five ministries in addition to the deputy prime minister, and the third is Jumblat’s adherence to three Druze ministerial portfolios amid Druze MP Talal Arslan’s demands to get a seat.
Bassil Says Maarab Agreement No Longer Exists
Naharnet/June 26/18/Free Patriotic Movement chief MP Jebran Bassil on Tuesday said that the FPM's landmark agreement with the Lebanese Forces “no longer exists.”The distribution of shares in the new government “should be proportional in order to form a national unity cabinet and if a party wants to voluntarily give up seats they are free to do so,” said Bassil after the weekly meeting of the Strong Lebanon bloc. “But if there is a party that does not want to give up seats because a political agreement no longer exists, no one can force it to do so,” Bassil added, in an apparent reference to the deputy PM post that was given to the LF in the previous government. The FPM and President Michel Aoun argue that there is a norm that allocates the deputy premier post to the president in any government. “Our bloc won 55% of the popular vote as the LF got 31%, Kataeb 7% and Marada 6%. People's will must be respected,” Bassil added.

Geagea Expects Govt. to be Formed within 'a Few Weeks'
Naharnet/June 26/18/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea on Tuesday said he expects the new government to be formed within “a few weeks.”“In a pluralistic country that resembles a mosaic, the formation of governments takes some time,” Geagea noted in an interview with al-Arabiya al-Hadath TV. “According to my estimation, the formation of the government will not be delayed for more than a few weeks,” Geagea added. He also pointed out that all obstacles can be resolved. “We're not dealing with an impossible to resolve problem but the obstacles are also not very easy to resolve,” Geagea noted. The political parties are still wrangling over the shares that will be allocated to every party, especially the Christian shares. There are also other obstacles related to Druze and Sunni representation. Saad Hariri was tasked with forming a new government on May 24.

Shorter Meets Osman, Discusses British Policing Support Project
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 26/18/U.S. Ambassador Hugo Shorter and Director General of the ISF Major General Imad Osman discussed the British Policing Support Project (BPSP) within the framework of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for £13 million agreed in June 2016, a press release said. The Strategic Project Management Committee formed of Ambassador Shorter, Major General Imad Osman, Head of ISF Academy General Ahmad Hajjar, Head of Mobile Forces General Fouad Khoury, Head of Beirut Police General Mohamad Ayoubi, and Inspector General Joseph Kallas aims to ensure effective strategic governance and oversight of British Embassy/ISF project implementation. Shorter highlighted the full endorsement by the President, Prime Minister, Minister of Interior, and the High Council of Defence of the ISF Strategic Plan 2018-2022 representing a major milestone to the ISF and to Lebanon. In March 2018, the Strategic Plan was presented to the international community at the Rome II Conference. Further, the Director General made the public launch on ISF Day in June 2018. The UK is supporting the ISF to lead and implement its Strategic Plan, to improve Human Rights compliance and to respond to the security needs of Lebanon. As well as an update on ISF activity, Osman and Shorter discussed the ISF’s community policing strategy. The roll out of the model to Raouche and Ramleh El Bayda Police stations is gaining momentum as officers are being recruited for the police stations to become operational in October 2018. These along with Ras Beirut Police and Ashrafieh Police stations will allow the ISF to better deliver policing services that complies with human rights standards in Beirut and gain the trust of the Lebanese people. Gender and Human Rights are central elements of the UK’s support mainstreamed across all activities with Inspector General, Mobile Forces, ISF Academy, Police of Beirut. After the meeting Ambassador Shorter said: ‘I am very pleased to meet with Major General Osman and discuss our continuing support to the Internal Security Forces. The UK is working closely with this institution that is striving to become a modern, professional and accountable police force that has the trust of the community it serves. General Osman is committed to implement the ISF Strategic Plan and ensure internal security is properly delivered to all Lebanese. We fully support the plan and we are providing the necessary support to help in its implementation. The roll out of community policing covering a third of Beirut by the end of summer will allow the ISF to demonstrate a higher level of professionalism and engagement with the community, and is great news for many Beirutis.”

Lebanon: FPM Confronts West over 'Displaced' File
Beirut - Youssef Diab/Ashgarq Al Awsat/June 26/18/The Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) accused US President Donald Trump and western countries of punishing Lebanon economically because of the crisis of the displaced. FPM official and former MP Nabil Nicolas said the Lebanese were “now facing two options: either accept the Syrian displaced in Lebanon until the achievement of a political solution, alike the Palestinian way with financial enticements, or allow their return to safe areas in Syria and help them in their country.” The former deputy noted, however, that Trump and western countries were against the second solution, and were “punishing Lebanon economically.”This position indicates that the FPM, which is considered to be affiliated with President Michel Aoun, chose to resort to a political confrontation with the West over the issue of the displaced, which would entail negative repercussions on the economic situation and the aid that was approved for Lebanon during the Cedre Conference held in Paris. Nicolas’ remarks followed a campaign launched by the head of the FPM, Foreign Minister in the caretaker government Gebran Bassil, against the UNHCR, in response to what he described as the international agency’s attempts to “discourage the displaced Syrians to return to their homeland.”In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, FPM member and deputy in Strong Lebanon bloc Mario Aoun, said that the FPM separated “between the US and foreign aid to Lebanon and its firm stance towards the return of the displaced to Syria.” “Lebanon cannot regain its health if this amount of displaced remained on its territories. We are dealing with this file based on the country’s higher interests,” Aoun said, noting that the Lebanese government would deal with this file and not solely the FPM.
Despite the sharp tone used by the FPM, MP Mario Aoun stressed that Lebanon would not challenge the international community, “which is helping us economically through the Cedre Conference and other.”Director of the Middle East Institute for Strategic Affairs and Economic Expert Dr. Sami Nader warned that Lebanon “does not have the economic and strategic capabilities to enter into a confrontation with the West.”“It’s like a political and economic suicide,” he said. Nader told Asharq Al-Awsat that Lebanon “cannot launch a campaign against the West over the issue of the displaced, because the country knows that the only way for their return is through the Russian side, which has the political decision in Syria.”He stressed that the return of the displaced would only be achieved through a Russian-US plan.
Lebanon’s Army Commander Conducts Third Visit to US since His Appointment
Beirut - Nazeer Rida/Asharq Al-Awsat/June 26/18/The visit of Lebanese Army Commander General Joseph Aoun to the United States reflected a US commitment to empower the Lebanese Army and develop its military capabilities, as a strategic partner of the US military in the region to fight terrorism. Aoun began on Monday an official visit to the United States, during which he will meet with a number of military and civilian officials to discuss ways of enhancing cooperation between the armies of the two countries. This is the third visit of the LAF commander to Washington since taking office in the spring of 2017. Aoun made his first visit after taking command of the army and the second when he was honored after the successful battle against terrorist organizations on the eastern border with Syria. Well-informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the recent visit “confirmed that there was no change in the US policy towards Lebanon, contrary to claims that emerged over the past months that Washington was reviewing its support to the Lebanese army.” “The US army regards the Lebanese military as a strategic partner in the region and in the efforts to fight terrorism and consolidate stability,” the sources said. “Washington believes that investing in Lebanon’s security is made through the army because it represents the first line of defense against terrorism,” the sources added. Military sources said the visit was aimed to review and evaluate the US assistance to Lebanon, determine its effectiveness and the need for future additional aid to the army.

Angie hits Jordan and Lebanon
Thierry Meyssan/Voltaire Network/June 26/18
Throughout her voyage of the Levant, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel (Angie), is presenting herself as a person with a good heart, who wants Germany to play its part to helping the Syrian refugees. But the people that she is speaking see her as a fallen angel, who is masking her true intentions which are to wage war against Syria.
he German Chancellor, Angela Merkel (Angie), is making an official visit to Jordan and Lebanon. Officially, she intends to prevent a fresh round of refugees arriving in Europe by helping Jordan and Lebanon respond to the Syrian crisis.
This visit is taking place while the US plan is being drawn up to unlock the Israeli-Arab conflict.
Angie was accompanied by a delegation of CEOs of German companies that hope to negotiate contracts, in particular, for the “reconstruction” of Lebanon.
In Amman, the Chancellor was received by King Abdallah II. His concern was that the pro-Iranian Hezbollah might lay down roots in South Lebanon which would threaten both Israel and Jordan. Angie released a 100 million dollar loan to help the Kingdom address its economic crisis, attributable in part to its welcoming 650 000 Syrian refugees and its responding to IMF demands. It appears that Angie supported the US Plan to establish a New Jordan that would bring together all the Palestinian territories (Cisjordan and Gaza).
The Chancellor also visited the German troops based at Al-Asrak after they withdrew from Turkey.
Whilst Jordan is an authoritarian monarchy, Lebanon is a State whose governance is divided into three:
• the President of the Republic (Christian),
• the President of the government (Sunni Muslim) and
• the President of the Assembly (Shiite Muslim).
When she got to Beirut, Angie was received by the following dignitaries, one after the other: Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the President of the Assembly Nabih Berry and the President of the Republic, Michel Aoun. During their first meeting, she stressed the burden that the influx of Syrian refugees has for little Lebanon, pledged to help stabilize this population and to develop the Lebanese economy. Saad Hariri thanked Germany for participating in the Special Tribunal tasked with trying those that masterminded the assassination of his father, Rafiq Hariri (this tribunal with its vague mandate had been initially established to inculpate the Lebanese and Syrian presidents, Émile Lahoud and Bashar al-Assad respectively).
The President of the Assembly, Nabih Berry, a pedagogue, petitioned for improved coordination with the Syrian government in order to organize for the refugees to return.
You cannot compare the arrival of Syrians in Lebanon with the influx of Syrian in Germany. This is because Lebanon and Syria were historically the same country until the Second World War. If you must make a comparison, it is with German reunification, although today, noone is making any attempt to reunify Great Syria. Today the number of Syrians in Lebanon is well over a million. However not all are refugees.
The third meeting did not prove nearly so fruitful. President Aoun stressed the burden that the refugees presented for his country and requested their return to Syria, to areas which have now been liberated. The issue is that Germany, does not consider that the liberated zones are controlled by democratically elected authorities but by “moderate opposition” that President Aoun classes as jihadists. Michel Aoun’s position is that by proposing to help Libya welcome the Syrians, Berlin is seeking to make Lebanon participate in Germany’s anti-Syrian policy.
During the CEDRE conference, in April at Paris, Germany had promised to donate 61 million dollars to Lebanon. At the time, the same polemic had arisen and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Gebran Bassil (son-in-law of President Aoun) had threatened to refuse this money if it was conditioned on the naturalization of refugees.
The German Ambassador, Martin Huth, has assured the Lebanese media that his country had never envisaged forcing Lebanon to naturalize anyone. However, Angie stressed that, in her opinion, the refugees could only return to Lebanon under the responsibility of the United Nations (thus not the democratically elected authorities).
Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on June 26-27/18
King of Jordan, US President Discuss Middle East Peace Plan
Washington - Heba El Koudsy/Asharq Al Awsat/June 26/18/US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania received Jordan's King Abdullah II and Queen Rania at the White House on Monday, where they held talks focused on bilateral relations, regional and international issues, and the US-Israeli peace plan. Following the meeting, Trump said that significant progress has been made in the Middle East, but he declined to say when the White House would propose his peace plan between Israelis and Palestinians. When asked by reporters about the release date of the plan, Trump replied: “We’re doing very well in the Middle East. A lot of progress has been made in the Middle East. A lot. And it really started with the end of the horrible Iran deal. That deal was a disaster, and things are a lot different since we ended that. A lot different.”The US president praised Jordan's efforts to host refugees and push forward peace efforts. He told the King Abdullah: “You have done an incredible job on the refugees and the camps and taking care of people.”For his part, King Abdullah expressed Amman’s appreciation for the United States’ support in economic and military areas. US and Jordanian officials held closed-door talks on fighting terrorism, Iranian threats and the Syrian crisis, as well as pushing for lasting peace between Palestinians and Israelis, said White House officials. King Abdullah II's visit to Washington comes after he received Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner and Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt in Amman last week. Talks centered on Washington’s Middle East peace plan, known as the "Deal of the Century", which the US administration is yet to reveal. Following his meeting with Kushner, the Jordanian King received Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who made a rare visit to Amman. The two leaders stressed the need to make progress in resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on the basis of the two-state solution and in accordance with international law, relevant UN resolutions and the 2002 Arab peace initiative. Kushner met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi and Netanyahu during his five-day regional tour. The visit did not include meetings with Palestinian officials, who have boycotted the US administration after it declared Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December and moved its embassy from Tel Aviv in May. According to US reports, Kushner received the same assurance during his meetings with Arab leaders, who insisted on a two-state solution and the establishment of a Palestinian state as a basis for peace between the two sides. King Abdullah aims to convince the Trump administration to support the two-state solution and put an end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, but the administration does not seem to embrace this approach, and it is not clear whether a Palestinian state will be part of Trump's plan. King Abdullah II had arrived in Washington on Friday where he met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Defense Secretary James Mattis and National Security Adviser John Bolton.
In Israel, Prince William Tastes Somber and Lighter Sides
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 26/18/Britain's Prince William paid a somber visit to Israel's Holocaust memorial on Tuesday then took part in a seaside soccer game, tasting two of the country's many faces. Wearing an open-necked shirt and sunglasses, he strolled along the sunny Mediterranean shoreline in Tel Aviv chatting with surfers about marine pollution. "Beautiful beach, I should have brought my swimsuit," he remarked. In the mixed Jaffa neighborhood, he joined Arab and Jewish youngsters in a football kick-about organized by the Peres Center for Peace in a program to encourage inter-communal understanding, scoring penalties against a 13-year-old goalkeeper. He waved to a group of women outside the sports ground who called through the fence, "Prince William we love you, we love Diana," referring to his late mother. Coming at the start of the first official trip by a British royal to both Israel and the Palestinian territories, it was in striking contrast to his earlier visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in western Jerusalem. There, he wore a dark suit and a black Jewish skullcap as he rekindled the eternal flame and laid a wreath at the memorial as a youth choir sang. The 36-year-old, who is the second in line to the British throne, also toured the museum at the site perched on a forested hillside. His visit comes at a particularly sensitive time after U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as capital of Israel, outraging Palestinians and sparking deadly clashes on the border with Gaza. Britain governed the region under a League of Nations mandate for almost three decades until Israel's independence 70 years ago, and is still blamed by both sides for sowing the seeds of the ongoing conflict. William met with two Holocaust survivors, Paul Alexander and Henry Foner, who as children had escaped from Nazi Germany to Britain as part of the "Kindertransport" program. "We must never forget the Holocaust," the prince wrote in the visitors' book in neat italic script.
'True horrors' of Holocaust -
"We all have a responsibility to remember and to teach future generations about the horrors of the past so that they can never reoccur."While in Jerusalem, William will also visit the grave of his great grandmother, Princess Alice, who was honoured as among the "Righteous among the Nations" by Yad Vashem in 1993 for sheltering Jews in Greece from the Nazis during World War II. "I am honored that my own great-grandmother is one of these Righteous among the Nations," he wrote in the book. He later met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara and then called on President Reuven Rivlin, where he spoke of the deep impression his visit to the Holocaust memorial had made upon him. "I had a very moving tour round Yad Vashem this morning which really taught me quite a lot more than I thought I already knew about the true horrors of what happened to the Jews in the war," he told Rivlin in front of journalists.
William arrived in Israel from Jordan on Monday evening without his wife Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, who gave birth to their third child two months ago. He is staying in Jerusalem at the King David Hotel, former headquarters of the British administration during the mandate in Palestine before the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. On Wednesday he is scheduled to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, before meeting Palestinian refugees and young people. "I know that you are going to be meeting president Abbas," Rivlin told him.
"I'd like to send him a message of peace and tell him that we have to find a way together to build confidence as a way to build understanding."
- 'Not a political visit' -
On Thursday, he is to complete his stay by visiting historical and religious sites in Jerusalem.
"We know this is not a time when we can celebrate progress in the Middle East peace progress, but we believe that engagement is just as important in challenging times as it is in good times," Philip Hall, Britain's consul general in Jerusalem, said on Monday. "We know some of the politics are difficult, but this is not a political visit." Israel defines Jerusalem as its "eternal and indivisible" capital, while the Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. The Israelis seized the West Bank and east Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War. Some right-wing Israeli politicians have criticized the fact that William's visit to east Jerusalem is being organized by the British consulate-general, which deals with the Palestinians. But as the prince arrived at Rivlin's official residence in a limousine flying the royal standard, residents of apartment buildings opposite crowded their balconies, cheering and applauding enthusiastically.
Israel May Reconsider UNESCO Exit
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 26/18/Israel's ambassador to UNESCO said Tuesday he was urging his government to reconsider its decision to quit the U.N. cultural body, saying it had halted its "anti-Israeli resolutions" over the past year. Israel and the United States both announced on October 12 that they would leave the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization over resolutions critical of the Jewish state. But ambassador Carmel Shama-Hacohen said there had been a change of tone under the Paris-based agency's new chief Audrey Azoulay, a former French culture minister who was elected last year. "What I'm going to recommend to my ministry and my government is at least to reconsider our decision," Shama-Hacohen told journalists by telephone. "It could be postponing the date of leaving for one year or something like that," he suggested, which would delay the scheduled departure until at least December 2019. He spoke as Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian officials adopted amended versions of last year's decisions by UNESCO's world heritage committee to list the Old City of Jerusalem and its walls, as well as Hebron in the West Bank, as endangered sites. The new resolutions -- adopted through a rare consensus -- keep the two sites on the list, but remove phrasing which Israel had considered aggressive. Shama-Hacohen said that under Azoulay's leadership there had been a "new spirit and new energy," noting: "We haven't had any anti-Israeli resolutions at UNESCO for one year."Staying put would be "a miracle", he added, "but there is an option for it."Azoulay welcomed Tuesday's consensus between the usually feuding parties, calling it "a win-win situation".She said she hoped it would "allow a period with less tension that should open the way for more UNESCO work on the ground." Tensions have bubbled since UNESCO controversially admitted Palestine as a member state in 2011 -- a move opposed by the U.S. and Israel, who argue that any recognition of Palestinian statehood must await a negotiated Middle East peace deal. The U.S. cut funding to UNESCO over the decision, before announcing its departure last year in a move that underlined a drift away from multilateral institutions under President Donald Trump.
Hamas Sparks Battle over Abbas's Interim Succession
Ramallah - Kifah Ziboun/Asharq Al Awsat/June 26/18/Hamas sparked the battle over the successor of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas by declaring that Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council Aziz Duwaik will succeed him in case of his absence, in accordance with the Basic Law of the Palestinian Authority. Abbas’ Fatah movement responded by saying that Duwaik is no longer at the head of the “illegal” council, hinting that it will take firm decisions over the matter. Duwaik, himself, argued that in case the president was unable to carry out his duties or was absent under any excuse or circumstance or in case of his death, the next president shall be the head of the Legislative Council, in accordance with the law and the constitution. “I am now the speaker of the Legislative Council, and, therefore, I or anyone else holding this position will be the next president,” he told SAMA local news agency. Duwaik warned that chaos will prevail if the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its constituents bypass the Palestinian constitution and the Basic Law. He called on all the parties to respect the law and constitution and avoid violating them otherwise chaos will prevail. According to the Basic Law, the president of the Legislative Council shall assume the presidency of the PA temporarily, in case of any compulsory absence by the president, for a period not exceeding 60 days during which presidential elections will be held.
In 2004, when former President Yasser Arafat died, his successor, Rawhi Fattouh, replaced him before the Palestinians voted for Abbas to become president of the PA. However, a legal and political dispute persists between Fatah and Hamas over the dissolved Legislative Council and its presidency. Hamas insists that Duwaik is the head of the council, while Fatah says that his tenure had ended and that a new president must be elected. Moreover, the council has been inactive for some 10 years now and its fate must be decided through the Palestinian Central Council. Head of Fatah’s Information Department in the Office of Mobilization and Organization Munir al-Jaghoub told Asharq Al-Awsat that Duwaik is fully aware that he is no longer Speaker of the Legislative Council. “His term ended in 2007 and has not been renewed.” “The matter of the presidency of the Legislative Council is currently legally void because a new session of the Council is required at the invitation of the president. The Council did not convene, and its chairmanship was not renewed,” he explained.

Rouhani Says Iran Will Not Give In To Pressure From Trump
Jerusalem Post/June 26/18
On Monday, police patrolled Tehran’s Grand Bazaar as security forces struggled to restore normality after clashes with protesters angered by the rial's collapse.
LONDON - President Hassan Rouhani promised Iranians the government would be able to handle the economic pressure of new US sanctions, a day after traders massed outside parliament to protest against a sharp fall in the value of the national currency. Washington is to start reimposing economic penalties on Tehran in coming months after US President Donald Trump quit an agreement between major world powers and Iran in which sanctions were lifted in return for curbs on its nuclear program. This may cut Iran's hard currency earnings from oil exports, and the prospect is triggering a panicked flight of Iranians' savings from the rial into dollars. On Monday, police patrolled Tehran’s Grand Bazaar as security forces struggled to restore normality after clashes with protesters angered by the rial's collapse, which is disrupting business by driving up the cost of imports. Defending his economic record, Rouhani said the government’s income had not been affected in recent months, and the fall in the rial was the result of "foreign media propaganda."
"Even in the worst case, I promise that the basic needs of Iranians will be provided. We have enough sugar, wheat, and cooking oil. We have enough foreign currency to inject into the market," Rouhani said in a speech broadcast live on state television. The International Monetary Fund estimated in March that the government held $112 billion of foreign assets and reserves, and that Iran was running a current account surplus. These figures suggested Iran might withstand the sanctions without an external payments crisis. Iran's judiciary chief warned on Tuesday that the "economic saboteurs," who he said were behind the fall of rial, would face severe punishment, including execution or 20 years in jail.
"The enemy is now trying to disrupt our economy through a psychological operation. In recent days some tried to shut down the Bazaar, but their plot was thwarted by the police," Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani was quoted as saying by Fars news agency.
The Iranian government is implementing new plans to control rising prices, including banning imports of over 1,300 products, preparing its economy to resist threatened US sanctions. Rouhani said the fresh US sanctions were part of a "psychological, economic and political war," adding that Washington would pay a high price for its actions. "Withdrawal was the worst decision he (Trump) could make. It was appalling. It hurt America's global reputation," he said. In late December, demonstrations which began over economic hardship spread to more than 80 Iranian cities and towns. At least 25 people died in the ensuing unrest, the biggest expression of public discontent in almost a decade. Demonstrators initially vented their anger over high prices and alleged corruption, but the protests took on a rare political dimension, with a growing number of people calling on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to step down.

Egypt Studying Preemptive Strategy to Deter Terrorists
Cairo - Mohammed Abdo Hassanein/Asharq Al Awsat/June 26/18/Egypt’s newly appointed Minister of Interior, Major General Mahmoud Tawfiq, held an expanded meeting with all the country’s security leaders on Monday to “review the security strategy in light of regional changes.”Tawfiq underlined the adoption of a new strategy aimed at deterring terrorists by intensifying preemptive strikes. He noted that the security services have made great strides in the war against terrorism and have succeeded during the past period in aborting many hostile schemes. Egypt has been witnessing, for years, sporadic terrorist acts, especially in the province of North Sinai, which has become a terrorist hub since the ousting of former President Mohammed Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood. Since February 9, army and police have been waging a major security operation in northern and central Sinai to purge the region of ISIS militants. Tawfiq said the country’s police and armed forces were dealing with such threats with a high level of readiness, in an effort to protect the country from terrorism. “We have come a long way in our war against terrorism, especially during the national operation, in which the ministry’s agencies partnered with the armed forces to combat terrorists in Sinai,” he said, calling for a periodic review of the security strategy to meet national interests in wake of regional changes. Tawfiq also called for the development of the ministry’s abilities to collect and analyze data and for the integration an information exchange system for state bodies, in order to dismantle the terrorist networks.

Russia, Syria Clash with West on Boosting Chemical Watchdog

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 26/18/In a bitter diplomatic battle, Russia, backed by Iran and Syria, Tuesday sought to head off a Western push to endow the world's global chemical watchdog with new powers to identify those behind toxic arms attacks. Delegates from 143 countries gathered in The Hague for a special meeting of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) called by Britain and other allies, including France and the United States. It comes as the body is expected to unveil soon its report into an alleged sarin and chlorine gas attack in April in the Syrian town of Douma. Medics and rescuers say 40 people were killed, blaming the attack on the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was expected to address the rare special session of the OPCW's top policy-making body later, as London seeks to overcome the lack of an effective way of holding perpetrators to account. "We want to strengthen the Organization entrusted with overseeing the ban on chemical weapons," the British delegation said in a tweet. "We want to empower the @OPCW to identify those responsible for chemical weapons attacks."The talks come in the wake of the nerve agent attack in March on former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the English town of Salisbury, which Britain and its allies have blamed on Russia. There has been growing international concern about repeated allegations of the use of poison gases in the Iraq and Syria conflicts, as well as alarm at the 2017 assassination of the North Korean leader's half-brother in a rare nerve agent attack in Kuala Lumpur airport.
Need for accountability
"If accountability is avoided the potential re-emergence and acceptance of chemicals as weapons of war and terror will not be deterred," outgoing OPCW head Ahmet Uzumcu warned. Speaking for the EU, Bulgarian delegate Judit Koromi said: "We firmly believe that it is the international community's task ... and responsibility to identify and hold accountable individuals, entities, groups or governments responsible for the use of chemical weapons.""The question of attribution can and should be addressed by the OPCW," she added, stressing "there can be no impunity and those responsible for such acts must be held accountable."But tensions ran high from the start. It took three hours of a heated back-and-forth between the delegates of Russia, Syria and Iran in a three-pronged attack on the ambassadors from the United States and Canada just to adopt the agenda. There was no early consensus on the British draft decision, meaning the delegates have to wait 24 hours before voting on it behind closed doors on Wednesday. Russia's delegation head, Georgy Kalamanov, said Moscow would not support the draft and will unveil its own, state news agency RIA Novosti reported. "We believe that the powers that Britain wants to give to the OPCW are the powers of the U.N. Security Council and this is the only body which has a right to make such decisions," he said. Backed by Iran and Syria, Russian ambassador to the Netherlands Alexander Shulgin sought time after time Tuesday to bog down the debate in procedural matters.
- Eliminating toxic arms -
But opening the session, the conference chairman, Abdelouahab Bellouki, argued those responsible for chemical weapons attacks "need to be punished on the basis of true and strong evidence.""In spite of different and divergent positions and opinions, we are all committed to constructive cooperation... in order to rid once and for all the world of chemical weapons."A two-thirds majority, minus any abstentions, is needed for Britain's draft to pass. But Russia was reportedly working hard behind the scenes to try to defeat Britain's proposal. "We are quietly confident that the vote will go through," a Western diplomat told reporters on the sidelines of the talks, adding it was not an East-West battle but about "broader reform" of the OPCW. Moscow has already wielded its veto power at the U.N. Security Council to effectively kill off a previous joint U.N.-OPCW panel aimed at identifying those behind attacks in Syria.
Before its mandate expired in December, the panel known as the JIM (Joint Investigative Mechanism) had determined that the Syrian government used chlorine or sarin gas at least four times against its own civilians. The Islamic State group used mustard gas in 2015.

Syria Army Begins Assault on Daraa City
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 26/18/Syria's army is launching its assault on rebel districts of the flashpoint southern city of Daraa, state media said on Tuesday, following a week of escalating operations in the countryside. Russian-backed Syrian troops have been ramping up their bombardment and ground operations against rebels during the past week in eastern parts of Daraa province. On Tuesday, state media said the army was launching an "operation" on the city itself. "Syria's army is carrying out targeted air strikes against terrorist positions and fortifications in Daraa," state television reported. Government news agency SANA said the strikes were a prelude "before military units advance into the southeastern quarter of the city." Rebel groups mainly hold the southern half of the city while loyalists control the north. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said also reported bombing and clashes in the city on Tuesday. "Russian and Syrian air strikes, as well as barrel bombs, targeted rebel areas in Daraa city," said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman. The monitor said it was the first ground operation inside the city since the escalation began. Syria's army is pursuing a divide-and-conquer strategy against rebels in the south, seeking to chop up the horseshoe-shaped territory that the opposition holds. "The regime is seeking to take control of a military base south of the city, which will allow it to cut the route between Daraa city and the Jordanian border, as well as further divide the rebel areas," said Abdel Rahman.

Algerian President Sacks Influential Police Chief
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 26/18/Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on Tuesday sacked the country's police chief, Abdelghani Hamel, until now seen as a likely successor to the head of state. Bouteflika "today signed two decrees, the first putting an end to the duties of Abdelghani Hamel, as director general of national security forces (DGSN), and the second on the nomination of Mustapha el-Habiri as the head of the DGSN," the president's office said in a statement published by APS news agency. The unexpected decision comes against the backdrop of a cocaine trafficking scandal which has tarnished numerous officials including magistrates. The DGSN has denied media reports of Hamel's personal chauffeur being embroiled in the affair, instead pointing the finger at "a driver from the management's fleet." Hamel has gained influence in recent years as Algeria's police chief and was seen as a possible contender for Algeria's presidency. Originally trained as a computer engineer, he joined Algeria's gendarmerie -- a police force that is part of the army -- and rose through the ranks to become general and head of the Republican Guard in 2008. Two years later he was named head of the national security service, after his predecessor was shot dead during a row with a subordinate in his office.

Cocaine Scandal Rocks Algeria’s Government
Algiers- Asharq Al Awsat/June 26/18/The Algerian government was forced to break its silence after nearly a month of media speculation and political controversy over allegations of senior government officials being involved in smuggling of over 700 kilograms of cocaine, a shipment seized by the Coast Guard on May 29 at sea. The shipment was seized en route from the port of Valencia, Spain, to the port of Oran in western Algeria. Justice Minister Tayeb Louh told journalists that prosecution ordered the arrest of 12 suspects in the drug case. It is worth noting that drugs were boarded on back of a Liberian ship from Brazil, which also transported tons of red meat, imported by a well-known Algerian businessman. Among those arrested in the case are the cargo owner, Kamal Shekhi, as well as two of his brothers and one of his partners in large real estate projects. The Justice Minister threatened legal action against media outlets publishing rumors on judges assigned to the case being compromised, receiving bribes and exploiting their positions to win over Shekhi’s favor. “They are innocent and have been slandered because of the publication of their names in the press, which has caused them and their families moral harm, and they have the right to launch legal proceedings against those who insulted them, namely journalists,” the minister said. Louh also made a case on a money laundering scandal being a part of the case, revealing that the value of cocaine seized stands at a whopping 70 million dollars. Among those suspected of involvement in the second part of the case were the son of a former housing minister and a security man who worked as a personal driver for a senior police official. The Minister of Justice stressed that Algeria’s president “will not accept impunity of anyone who is found involved in this case.” “As minister, I will ensure that the law takes its course in this case,” Louh said.

Coalition-forming Fever Grips Iraq’s Sunni Blocs
Baghdad – Hamza Mustapha/Asharq Al Awsat/June 26/18/At a time Iraq’s three top Shiite blocs Sairoon, Nasr and Fatah successfully formed a coalition claiming to be nationally open to other Iraqi components, Sunni and Kurdish parties are still discussing options on involvement in the next government’s decision-making process. Despite deep differences driving a wedge between main parties in the past four years, Kurds began considering chances of forming a unified Kurdish position on Baghdad. The Iraqi capital and government has continuously failed Kurdish people over the years in several crucial issues such as the referendum and budget allocation to run the Kurdistan autonomous region. Sunnis, after demanding several times to postpone parliamentary elections held against their will on May 12, have now become the victims of accusations of fraud exploitation of large-scale displacements at home and abroad. Sunni leaders from various blocs said Iraq’s Sunni movement aims at forming a unified Sunni bloc whose goal is not to merely “participate in the upcoming government,” but to participate in Baghdad’s political decision-making, Baghdad Alliance’s winning lawmaker Mohammed Karbouli told Asharq Al-Awsat. Karbouli, who won over Anbar province Sunni seat, said that a Sunni movement has existed for some time even before election results were announced. “Our vision stems from the fact that Sunnis suffered most from atrocities carried out by ISIS in Sunni-majority provinces and therefore must stand unified to prevent tragedies that cost us greatly from reoccurring,” he said. As for when a Sunni parties’ alliance will be announced, Karbouli said that “it is imminent and can be announced at any moment.”He pointed out that “the new Sunni alliance includes more than 45 deputies from all the Sunni blocs, including the current parliament speaker Salim al-Jubouri and head of the National Movement for Development and Reform party Jamal Al-Karboli.”For his part, former Nineveh governor Atheel al-Nujaifi said the chief theme of discussions on programs set on countering corruption is still a stumbling block for dialogue between winning blocs. “We are keen not to have any Sunni gathering in a sectarian sense, because we are confident that the strength of our society, even in Sunni areas, depends on rebuilding state,” said Nujaifi. “It is regrettable that this understanding is not clear to everyone,” he added.
U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Trump Travel Ban
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 26/18/The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld Donald Trump's controversial travel ban restricting entry to people from five Muslim-majority countries, delivering the president a major victory in a tortuous legal battle. The win follows two embarrassing climbdowns for the administration's "zero tolerance" policy on migrants crossing the Mexico border and with Trump under mounting pressure to legislate a solution to the immigration crisis, one of the most polarizing debates in U.S. politics. Conservative jurists prevailed over liberals in Tuesday's majority opinion from America's highest court. The 5-4 ruling validated the most recent version of the ban, which the Trump administration claims is driven by national security. Trump pounced on the decision as a victory for his authority to defend national security. "Wow!" he tweeted just minutes after the ruling. "The proclamation does not exceed any textual limit on the president's authority," wrote Chief Justice John Roberts in the majority opinion, capping a battle that began just days after Trump took office in January 2017. "The government has set forth a sufficient national security justification to survive rational basis review. We express no view on the soundness of the policy."In a statement, Trump called the ruling "a moment of profound vindication following months of hysterical commentary from the media and Democratic politicians who refuse to do what it takes to secure our border and our country."The decision relates to Trump's third travel ban, which applies to travelers from North Korea and five mainly Muslim nations -- Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen -- or about 150 million people. A week into his presidency, Trump enacted a campaign promise and announced a 90-day ban on travelers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Discriminatory policy'
He had repeatedly questioned the loyalty of Muslim immigrants and after a 2015 terror attack in San Bernardino, California, used his campaign to propose a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States."Prepared in secret, the sudden order created chaos as hundreds of travelers were blocked at airports. Tens of thousands of visas were canceled and protesters took to the streets saying the president was banning Muslims in violation of the constitution's religious freedom protections. Courts in several states ruled the measure illegal, and did so again in March 2017 after the administration slightly amended the original order, dropping Iraq from the list. The U.S. president was angered, but was forced to recast the ban again. Issued in September, the latest version was open-ended, dropped Sudan, and added North Korea and a selection of Venezuelan officials. Opponents -- and the court's liberal-leaning justices -- decried what they saw as a measure targeting Muslim countries, and referred back to Trump's anti-Muslim statements during his election campaign. The worst attacks in the United States since the al-Qaida hijackings on September 11, 2001 have been committed either by Americans or immigrants from countries not affected by the travel ban. In a scathing dissenting opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote: "Based on the evidence in the record, a reasonable observer would conclude that the Proclamation was motivated by anti-Muslim animus."She accused her colleagues of "blindly accepting the government's misguided invitation to sanction a discriminatory policy motivated by animosity toward a disfavored group, all in the name of a superficial claim of national security."
'History will judge harshly'
The American Civil Liberties Union, which has been at the forefront of the fight against the ban, led an avalanche of criticism from liberals as activists rallied supporters for planned protests later on Tuesday. "This is not the first time the court has been wrong, or has allowed official racism and xenophobia to continue rather than standing up to it. History has its eyes on us -- and will judge today's decision harshly," it tweeted. Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU's Immigrant Rights Project, said the ruling would "go down in history as one of the Supreme Court's great failures."
"This is a backward and un-American policy that fails to improve our national security," said top Democrat, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer. Immigration has been one of the thorniest issues in American politics for decades and the Trump administration has rolled back its "zero tolerance" border policy that had triggered international outcries over family separations. Five days after halting the separation of children from their parents, on Monday it suspended its policy of automatically arresting and prosecuting every adult who crosses the border from Mexico without authorization. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was scheduled to address a criminal justice foundation in Los Angeles on Tuesday, with rights groups planning protests. Sessions, who announced the "zero tolerance" policy in May, has said violent Central American gangs send children across the border illegally. The House of Representatives intends to vote Wednesday on a broad immigration bill to end family separations, but its fate is in doubt. Should the bill fail, it would be a dramatic embarrassment for Republicans, who control Congress.

Cyprus Mulls Israeli Request of Port for Gaza
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 26/18/Cyprus said Tuesday it is examining an Israeli request to build a port facility on the island for the delivery of goods to Palestinians of the blockaded Gaza Strip. "There is no agreement on this issue" but "there is a relevant request that is under consideration", deputy government spokeswoman Klelia Vassiliou told reporters. According to Israeli media, Israel's Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman made the proposal for the Palestinian territory during a visit last week to the eastern Mediterranean island. Under the plan, a special pier would be constructed for cargo ships carrying goods bound for Gaza, around 400 kilometers (250 miles) from Cyprus. "They would be checked with the help of an Israeli monitoring mechanism to ensure that no weapons were being smuggled" into Gaza, controlled by the Islamist movement Hamas, the Jerusalem Post newspaper said. It said the cargo would then likely be sent to Gaza directly by ferry since the enclave lacks a port large enough for the docking of cargo ships. Lieberman's office commented on the proposal on Tuesday. "The defense minister and security establishment, along with elements in the international community, are leading many initiatives aimed at changing the reality in the Gaza Strip," a spokesman for his office told AFP. "Any idea presented to improve the humanitarian situation would be conditioned on solving the issue of the captives (Israelis held in Gaza) and MIAs," or soldiers gone missing there since 2014.
"Beyond that we can’t provide details."Israel controls two land crossings into Gaza and Egypt controls a third. The Rafah crossing on the Egyptian border is often closed, and it is not designed for the passage of cargo as most commercial and humanitarian goods enter Gaza through the Kerem Shalom post with Israel. Goods that arrive by ship travel by truck from Israeli ports to the Strip. The international community has heavily criticized the restrictions, including security curbs that Israel has imposed on Gaza since Hamas seized control of the territory in 2007.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on June 26-27/18

Government Phone Tracking Scares Justice Roberts, Too
Noah Feldman/Bloomberg/June 26/18
The U.S. Supreme Court has taken an important step away from the “1984”-style surveillance state — barely. The court held, 5-4, on Friday that the government can’t use your mobile-phone-location data to figure out where you have been unless it gets a warrant first.
The big surprise is that Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s four liberals to preserve us from a world where the government could track you wherever and whenever it wanted, without probable cause to suspect you of a crime. Most of Roberts’s moments of high moderation have come in decisions that exercise judicial restraint. This one came in the form of judicial activism, interpreting the Fourth Amendment privacy right to extend to a new form of technology, as it should.
Carpenter v. U.S. was so close, legally speaking, because existing judicial doctrine paved the way for courts to permit government access to cell-site location data. Historically, the court has long held that if you share information with a third party, you can’t demand that the information be treated as private.
Thus, the records of which numbers you have called, which are necessarily in the hands of your phone provider, aren’t constitutionally private. (The content of your calls is, though.) That means the government can “pull your LUDs” without a warrant, to use the classic jargon of “Law & Order.”
In the Carpenter case, the government used the data that the defendant’s phone sent to cell towers to triangulate his location, without a warrant. As it turned out, he was close to the location of four robberies at the time they occurred.
The government’s theory was that if your calling information isn’t private, neither is the location your phone sends to your carrier’s cell towers.
Roberts’s opinion rejected that conclusion, holding instead that you have a “reasonable expectation of privacy” in where you are at any given time. He pointed out that five justices had previously taken the view that GPS data could not be acquired without a warrant.
But the truth is that judicial precedent isn’t the key to Roberts’s decision. Social policy is.
Roberts understands that a government allowed to keep track of your location without a warrant probably will. Thus, even law-abiding citizens could effectively find themselves under surveillance, at low or even near-zero cost. The government might start by tracking people it finds vaguely suspicious but cannot track via warrant. But it might easily end up keeping tabs on us all.
It’s striking that Justice Anthony Kennedy didn’t join the opinion. His dissenting opinion fretted that the court’s judgment might endanger other instances in which the government obtains business records without a warrant. And he argued that cell-site location data isn’t geographically precise enough to count as a privacy violation, because it doesn’t track as closely as GPS data. He reasoned, too, that mobile-phone users wouldn’t assume that they “owned or controlled” location data.
That view would be reasonable enough if everyone understood the law of “third-party” privacy or if everyone actually thought through what privacy we have from corporations. But as recent months have shown us, the public is still new at understanding what privacy we have online, and from whom.
Above all, privacy from the government isn’t and shouldn’t be the same as privacy from the providers or platforms we use. Otherwise the privacy compromises we make with Apple and Facebook and Google would lead us to give up privacy from the state.
So why did Roberts make the progressive decision here? One possible, and possibly cynical, reading would be that Roberts is, as usual, deeply concerned about the public reputation and perception of the court.
Had the justices held that we lack privacy in our phone location data, there could have been a public backlash against the court. So when Kennedy wouldn’t provide the fifth vote to the liberals, Roberts stepped in to save the day.
This theory compares Roberts to his predecessor as chief justice (also his old boss as a law clerk) William Rehnquist. A statist conservative, Rehnquist nevertheless famously balked at rolling back the Miranda warnings, reasoning that “Miranda has become embedded in routine police practice to the point where the warnings have become part of our national culture.”
That was a kind of concession to TV norms of defendants being told, “You have the right to remain silent.” Rehnquist didn’t want it said that his court had taken away Miranda rights.
In parallel, Roberts may not have wanted his court to be seen as violating mobile-phone privacy.
The other possibility — not incompatible with the first — is that the conservative Roberts is looking ahead to a post-Kennedy era when the court will have a solid five-vote conservative majority. He might then have to become the court’s most centrist swing voter.
That role tends to move its occupant leftward. It did so for Kennedy and for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor before him. If it ends up having the same effect on Roberts, the Carpenter case may have been the harbinger.

Who Doesn’t Love a Trade War?

Mihir Sharma/Bloomberg/June 26/18
US President Donald Trump rode to power declaring that China had twisted the world trading system out of shape -- and plenty of people around the world murmured in agreement, if very quietly. The first shots in Trump’s trade war, however, have been indiscriminate. His steel and aluminium tariffs are the equivalent of firing into a curious crowd of onlookers. This is a terrible idea for many reasons, not least because every member of the crowd is armed.
On Thursday, it was India’s turn to shoot back. Tariffs were raised on the usual complicated list of imports from the US, such as walnuts, phosphoric acid and apples (but not, as initially feared, Harley-Davidson motorcycles). The move underscores a key truth about trade wars: Everybody loses. In India as in many countries, responsible economists in the government were already fighting a losing battle against the ruling party’s protectionist instincts. Last year, India and the US imposed more new trade restrictions than any other countries. In the last federal budget, tariffs were raised across the board for the first time in decades. One of the unspoken dangers of Trump’s actions is that protectionists everywhere have been emboldened – and now have the alibi that they’re acting in self-defense.
The truth is that India needs trade with America, and on favorable terms. If it’s to increase its current, abysmally low share of world trade, it needs to export more to the US, as well as to Europe and China.
Unfortunately, Indian officials have been remarkably cavalier about the diplomacy required to keep trade going. They’ve been particularly dismissive about US concerns. Last year, for example, they introduced a populist and counter-productive set of restrictions on the sale of cardiac stents and knee implants in India. Medical equipment isn’t the largest sector, but it is influential. Even worse, the restrictions and price caps came across as completely arbitrary. In fact, US commercial groups have complained to Congress that they were misled by senior Indian government officials about their intentions.
These tensions have arisen, too, just when India’s membership in the Generalized System of Preferences program is threatened. GSP allows India to export about 3,500 different products to the US at low tariffs. It accounts for a quarter of Indian exports to America, a proportion that’s been growing over the years. India can’t afford to see those exports dwindle to nothing.
Yet its trade diplomats appear to be losing no sleep over that possibility -- literally. One of them told lobbyists in the US that “in the grand scheme of things, GSP is not a big deal,” and so he “wasn’t going to lose sleep over it.” I wonder how grand your “scheme of things” has to be to dismiss $6 billion worth of exports as irrelevant. The diplomat was, I suppose, just mirroring the politicians at home who openly and inaccurately claim India’s vast size means its domestic market is large enough for its manufacturers to prosper.
This is the larger problem with Trump’s provocations: The US has for so long tried to be the grown-up in the room when it comes to world trade, things might well fall apart when it behaves like a toddler. Right now, Trump’s counterparts around the world are still saying all the right things; even Modi has defended globalization at Davos. But, in most countries, protectionist impulses lie very close to the surface. All it will take for them to emerge is a few more wild shots and poorly aimed tariffs from Trump.
The truth is that, if there is discontent with how world trade is organized, then there’s only one fair target. It isn’t India, it isn’t the US and it definitely isn’t Canada. The problem is and has always been the People’s Republic of China, which has prospered off the great expansion of world trade while simultaneously keeping large and profitable sections of its own economy off-limits. There needs to be a civilized and careful discussion of how greater openness is in China’s interests as well as the world’s. Instead, we’re learning again how easily a trade war can spread, leaving the fundamental imbalances in world trade untouched and all of us a lot poorer.

Canada Supports, Infantilizes Jihadis

Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/June 26/18
The Canadian government is willing to go to great (and presumably costly) lengths to "facilitate" the return of Canadian jihadists, unlike the UK, for example, which has revoked the citizenship of ISIS fighters so they cannot return.
Attempts at deradicalization elsewhere have frequently turned out to be ineffective. In the UK, for example, a new government report shows that the vast majority of deradicalization programs are not only ineffective, but even counterproductive, and that those tasked with executing the programs "...would refuse to engage in topics over fears of bringing up matters of race and religion without appearing discriminatory"
In France, the country's first and only deradicalization center closed in September 2017 after just one year, without having "deradicalized" a single individual. On the contrary, three participants reportedly behaved as if the center were a "Jihad academy".
Canadians who go abroad to commit terrorism – predominantly jihadists, in other words – have a "right to return" according to government documents obtained by Global News. They not only have a right of return, but "... even if a Canadian engaged in terrorist activity abroad, the government must facilitate their return to Canada," as one document says.
According to the government, there are still around 190 Canadian citizens volunteering as terrorists abroad. The majority are in Syria and Iraq, and 60 have returned. Police are reportedly expecting a new influx of returnees over the next couple of months.
The Canadian government is willing to go to great (and presumably costly) lengths to "facilitate" the return of Canadian jihadists, unlike the UK, for example, which has revoked the citizenship of ISIS fighters so they cannot return. The Canadian government has established a taskforce, the High Risk Returnee Interdepartmental Taskforce, that, according to government documents:
"... allows us to collectively identify what measures can mitigate the threat these individuals may pose during their return to Canada. This could include sending officers overseas to collect evidence before they depart, or their detention by police upon arrival in Canada."
Undercover officers may also be used "to engage with the HRT [High Risk Traveler] to collect evidence, or monitor them during their flight home."
In the sanitizing Orwellian newspeak employed by the Canadian government, the terrorists are not jihadis who left Canada to commit the most heinous crimes, such as torture, rape and murder, while fighting for ISIS in Syria and Iraq, but "High Risk Travelers" and "High Risk Returnees".
The government is fully aware of the security risk to which it is subjecting Canadians: According to the documents, "HRRs [High Risk Returnees] can pose a significant threat to the national security of Canada". This fact raises the question of why the government of Canada is keen to facilitate these people's "right of return" -- when presumably the primary obligation of the government is to safeguard the security of law-abiding Canadian citizens.
The government also does not appear hopeful that the returning terrorists will face criminal charges. By the end of 2017, the Trudeau government had only charged two returned ISIS fighters, and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said at the time, "This is an issue that is bedeviling countries around the world in terms of how you actually... move from intelligence to evidence and make a case stick".
The documents describe terrorism cases as "complex and resource intensive," citing the difficulties of terrorism investigations and caution that "there may not be sufficient evidence for charges", and that, therefore, the government will have to "mitigate the threat through efforts outside the criminal justice system."
Such efforts might include sending an "intervention team" that can "engage with the returnee and the returnee's family to open up dialogue with the individual and to help support the returnee's disengagement from their radical ideology and past behavior... While they may have engaged in terrorism abroad and broken the law, not all returnees continue to post [sic] a threat — they may now be disillusioned with the cause" or "...may no longer be interested in violence."
How comforting for Canadians that their government is pandering to terrorists while pretending that there is a chance that returning jihadis will suddenly change their ways.
Attempts at deradicalization elsewhere have frequently turned out to be ineffective. In the UK, for example, a new government report shows that the vast majority of deradicalization programs are not only ineffective, but even counterproductive, and that those tasked with executing the programs "...would refuse to engage in topics over fears of bringing up matters of race and religion without appearing discriminatory". In France, the country's first and only deradicalization center closed in September 2017 after just one year, without having "deradicalized" a single individual. On the contrary, three participants reportedly behaved as if the center were a "Jihad academy".
The Canadian government is willing to go to great lengths to "facilitate" the return of Canadian jihadists. But attempts at deradicalization in Western countries have frequently turned out to be ineffective. In France, the country's first and only deradicalization center (pictured) closed in September 2017 without having "deradicalized" a single individual. (Image source: 28 minutes - ARTE video screenshot)
Some members of the Canadian government are evidently aware of the near-futility of such deradicalization efforts. In November 2017, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said "You have to prevent the problem before it exists. Once a person has been in a war zone, once they've been actively engaged in terrorist-related activities, the capacity to turn them around is pretty remote."
These facts, however, are unlikely to bother Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who appears to compare returning ISIS fighters to Italian and Greek immigrants who settled in Montreal in the post war years. Trudeau has said, "We know that actually someone who has engaged and turned away from ... hateful ideology can be an extraordinarily powerful voice for preventing radicalization" -- but he appears to disregard the evidence that few actually turn away from jihadism.
Perhaps the Trudeau government simply cares more for jihadists and Islamists than for Canada. In early May, the Toronto Sun revealed that the Muslim Association of Canada (MAC), which has ties to terrorist organizations, would receive 10 grants from the government's Canada Summer Jobs Grant[1] to fund its activities across Ontario.
According to the Toronto Sun, "MAC provided $296,514 between 2001 and 2010" to IRFAN-Canada. Within that period, from 2005 and 2009, "IRFAN-Canada transferred approximately $14.6 million worth of resources to various organizations associated with Hamas". Both MAC and IRFAN-Canada are considered linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. In 2014, Canada's government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper designated IRFAN-Canada a terrorist entity.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government is facilitating the return of ISIS terrorists and granting government funds to Islamist organizations who end up funding banned terrorist groups. So, whose interests is the Canadian government really looking out for?
**Judith Bergman is a columnist, lawyer and political analyst.
[1] Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ), according to the government website, provides wage subsidies to employers to create employment for secondary and post-secondary students. It welcomes applications from small businesses, not-for-profit employers, public sector and faith-based organizations that provide quality summer jobs for students.
© 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.

Will Iran's economy collapse?
Bijan Khajehpour/Al-Monitor/June 25, 2018
Article Summary
The best remedy for Iran to solve its economic crisis is greater transparency and a focus on technocratic remedies.
Iranian shops were closed at the ancient Grand Bazaar in Tehran, Iran, June 25, 2018.
Turbulent developments in the past few months on the foreign exchange and gold markets in Iran and the government’s failure to manage runaway prices has compelled some economists to start using the term “bubble economy.”
The interrelationship among various markets within the country’s economy was explained in a June 14 Al-Monitor piece. In this article, however, we will focus on the root causes and complexities of behaviors by economic players. Regardless of whether these acts are driven by economic, psychological or political factors, they are damaging to the economy as a whole and compound the government's challenges in managing the economy. At the same time, it is clear that a continuation of the current conditions will increase the likelihood of an economic crisis with unprecedented social and political consequences. The current wave of strikes and demonstrations by traders and other economic actors is an example of how the problem will be amplified if the authorities do not develop proper responses.
It is not a secret that in the past few decades the country’s economy has continuously been undermined by internal factors such as mismanagement and corruption and external uncertainties such as sanctions, threat of war and regional insecurity. However, the intensity of the recent events supersedes the collapse of the Iranian rial in 2012, when a similar confluence of internal and external challenges was faced under the Mahmoud Ahmadinejad administration, including the threat of war over the collapse of the then nuclear negotiations. In trying to explain the price hikes, Iranian officials have also referred to “bubbles” extensively and have stated that the price developments could not be explained by economic fundamentals.
An economic bubble is usually generated if there is optimism about the future value of a specific commodity such as property, gold, oil, etc. However, in the case of Iran, the driving force for various bubbles in the economy is a confluence of different factors, including an anticipation of inflation, unsustainable financing practices and misguided government policies. The best description of the current situation is that the economy is in a state of limbo. Some may even argue that the whole country is in a state of limbo more than it was in 2012. This is very damaging and confuses the society at large, in particular economic players. The recent actions of the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) are a good indication why key stakeholders distrust the CBI and other relevant authorities. In response to the rial devaluation on the open market in March and April, the CBI announced the unification of exchange rates, clamped down on foreign exchange bureaus, but then failed to provide the needed hard currency to satisfy the market. In the meantime, a three-tiered exchange rate system is emerging — an embarrassing outcome, considering the process started as a path to unify the previous two-tiered system.
While economic analysis always focuses on visible markets, such as hard currency, gold or the stock exchange, the key shortcoming in the Iranian economy is the nonexistence of a proper capital market. This forces economic players to use financing approaches that are harmful to the economy as a whole. For example, property developers pre-sell their housing units and build in an anticipated inflation into their pre-sale price. The same approach happens in the automotive market with liquidity being absorbed by companies from nonbanking sources. Furthermore, an established method of financing internal trade is delayed payments by bank checks — sometimes postdated by 10-12 months — here again with a built-in inflation. These financing gaps are then hedged against through speculation in the hard-currency and gold markets. In the meantime, banking liquidity is being invested in other markets, pushing up prices. In other words, there is a chain of ill-structured interdependency among economic players that can collapse if the economy experiences high levels of volatility.
Economic expert Albert Baghzian believes that the key responsibility of the current distortions in the market lies with the CBI. He says that as long as Iranian society feels as it is in a crisis mode, there will be a push toward parallel markets.
In the meantime, the government is also incapable of managing the uncertainties and volatilities. Instead of taking responsibility and being a regulator to calm key actors, the government blames other authorities and corrupt networks, while being accused of protecting its own proteges. Other institutions, such as the judiciary and the intelligence apparatus, also do not employ initiatives to calm the situation, but rather engage in factional and institutional blame games. A recent high-profile case of smuggling of 5,000 expensive cars into the country serves as an example to see how different players act and how corrupt practices have made governance structures dysfunctional. In this case, the state prosecutor has admitted the existence of corrupt networks and has announced that the responsible persons will be prosecuted. However, a long host of similar past promises and lack of action on behalf of the authorities has eroded even the minimal level of confidence in the state structures.
Though one can identify many reasons for the current economic ills in the country, it is valid to argue that political instability and the consequent short-termism in economic decision-making are key problems. The push for quick gains and short-term economic cycles creates bubbles in the various markets and does not allow for medium- to long-term economic stability. It is a vicious cycle that none of the governments has managed to address effectively. Some experts put the blame on the government, but the roots are deeper and probably in the prevalent win-lose mentality in Iranian culture that leads to tensions in the political as well as economic spheres.
Clearly, the best remedy against such economic crises is greater transparency and a focus on technocratic remedies. This would mean that the government and CBI should start exposing the elements and networks that benefit from artificial price developments and corrupt practices. For example, the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology on June 24 announced the names of those entities that imported mobile phones at the official exchange rate, assuming that most of them sold their items at the unofficial free market rate. It is this type of windfall that has financed a number of corrupt networks in Iran.
Furthermore, the regime as a whole has to stop its passivity and go after the corrupt interests. Recently, prominent financial auditor Abbas Hoshi correctly opined that the only way to fix the country’s economic crisis is to fight the underground economy, which is out of government control, and to let the CBI become truly independent.
There is also increasing pressure on President Hassan Rouhani to reshuffle his economic team. However, past experiences have shown that such shifts won’t address the core issue. If an economic collapse is to be prevented, the government has to stop playing the role of the victim and start regulating various markets based on a clear economic doctrine along the provisions in the various state strategy documents, including Vision 2025 and the sixth five-year development plan.
Found in: Economy and trade
**Bijan Khajehpour is an economist and a managing partner at Atieh International, a Vienna-based international strategic consulting firm.

Turkey's Election: Stockholm Syndrome at Its Worst
Burak Bekdil/Gatestone Institute/June 26/18
Despite Erdoğan's clear victory, his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) performed worse than expected.
Erdoğan may not be too happy having to share power.
The national joy over the re-election of a man known best to the rest of the world for his authoritarian, sometimes despotic rule, is not surprising in a country where average schooling is a mere 6.5 years.
Millions of anti-Erdoğan Turks are now terrified of the prospect of further torment under an Islamist-nationalist coalition show run by a president with effectively no checks and balances.
Nothing could have better explained the Turks' joy over their president's election victory on June 24 than a cartoon that depicts a cheering crowd with three lines in speech balloons: "It was a near thing," one says. "We would almost become free." And the last one says: "Down with freedoms!"
Turkey's Islamist strongman, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, won 52.5% of the national vote in presidential elections on June 24. That marks a slight rise from 51.8% he won in presidential elections of August 2014. More than 25 million Turks voted for Erdoğan's presidency. His closest rival, social democrat Muharrem Ince, an energetic former schoolteacher, won less than 16 million votes, or nearly 31% of the national vote.
The opposition candidate admitted that the election was fair. There have been no reports of fraud from international observers, at least so far.
Despite the defeat, Ince was one of the many winners of Election 2018. For the first time since 1977 a social democrat politician won more than 30% of the vote in Turkey. Ince's party, the Republican People's Party (CHP) won only 22.6% of the vote in the parliamentary race.
Despite Erdoğan's clear victory, his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) performed worse than expected: It won 42.4% of the vote in parliamentary elections, down eight percentage points from the 49.5% it won in the previous parliamentary race in November 2015.
That decline deprived the AKP of winning parliamentary majority, with 295 seats in Turkey's 300-member house. Instead, AKP's right-wing partners, the National Movement Party (MHP) unexpectedly won 49 seats, bringing the total number of seats controlled by the governing bloc up to 344, a comfortable majority.
The AKP-MHP alliance marks the official birth of Turkey's new ruling ideology: A bloc of Islamists and nationalists that traditionally represent Turkey's lowest educated rural population. Erdoğan may not be too happy having to share power with a party that was last in a coalition alliance in 2002 but with his AKP lacking a parliamentary majority he will have to keep the nationalists in partnership. He may also have to give them high-profile seats like vice-president and/or ministerial positions.
After election results on June 24 Turkey will be further dragged into authoritarian politics with the blend of Islamism and nationalism emerging as the new state ideology. Deep polarization in the Turkish society will probably get deeper. There are already signs. In a victory speech in the evening hours of June 24 Erdoğan's foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, said that the losers of the election were the "terrorists". In this politically-divisive, pathetic logic, 47.5% of Turks are terrorists: that makes about 38.5 million people.
The national joy over the re-election of a man known best to the rest of the world for his authoritarian, sometimes despotic rule, is not surprising in a country where average schooling is a mere 6.5 years. As recently as April 2017, the Turks had already given up the remaining pieces of their democracy when they voted in favor of constitutional amendments that made Erdoğan head of the state, head of government and head of the ruling party all at the same time. The amendments gave the president almost unchecked powers and the authority to rule by decree.
In its "Freedom in the World 2018" report, Freedom House categorizes Turkey as a "not free" country due to "due to a deeply flawed constitutional referendum that centralized power in the presidency, the mass replacement of elected mayors with government appointees, arbitrary prosecutions of rights activists and other perceived enemies of the state, and continued purges of state employees, all of which have left citizens hesitant to express their views on sensitive topics". Turkey also tops Freedom house's list of countries where democracy has been on decline for the past decade. Ironically, even civil war-torn Syria is at the bottom of the list (meaning its democracy has declined the least among the countries surveyed).
Erdoğan's Turkey was galloping toward dictatorship even before the Turks gave him the powers he wanted in the April 2017 referendum. Millions of anti-Erdoğan Turks are now terrified of the prospect of further torment under an Islamist-nationalist coalition show run by a president with effectively no checks and balances. Ince, the opposition candidate against Erdoğan has vowed to fight back. Let us hope he does not have to fight back from where many Erdoğan opponents have been locked up.
Burak Bekdil, one of Turkey's leading journalists, was recently fired from Turkey's leading newspaper after 29 years, for writing what was taking place in Turkey for Gatestone. He is a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Palestinians: The Only Acceptable Peace Plan

Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/June 26/18
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.
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The defeated Houthis and the chance to end the war
Mohammed Al-Hammadi/Al Arabiya/June 26/18
The Houthi militias have been sipping from the cup of defeat like they never have for days now. The liberation of the Hodeidah Airport by Al Amalaqah Brigade aided by the Arab coalition revealed to the Houthis the reality of their situation and made them see the power of the Yemeni army and the coalition.
The airport fell within days and the Houthis fled and scattered everywhere but given their cowardice they hid behind innocent civilians. They thus stationed their tanks in residential neighborhoods and between people’s houses because they know that the coalition forces and the joint Yemeni forces avoid hitting civilians as they’ve come together to save them and protect them.
This exposes the truth which the world must realize and it is that those besieging Hodeidah are the Houthis by using civilians as human shields, planting mines everywhere and closing the cities’ exits to implement their threats of a humanitarian tragedy.
During these few weeks, the world has a huge opportunity to change the course of the war in Yemen and put an actual end to the crisis there as liberating the city of Hodeidah and its airport and completing this with liberation the port are strategically important and will push the Houthis to submit to international decisions and go back to serious and practical negotiations.
The international community must stand with the legitimate government of Yemen and with the Arab coalition in their advance towards liberating Hodeidah which also means liberating the port, ending Houthis’ threats to international navigation and ending the Houthis’ smuggling of weapons and looting of humanitarian aid.
The world can then begin helping the Yemeni people in Hodeidah and other areas through Hodeidah’s airport and port. This is what must be focused on during the current phase. International and regional efforts must be focused on ending the state of war not its continuation.
As for international reports demanding to stop the advance towards Hodeidah under the pretext that the humanitarian situation is affected and by claiming they want to protect civilians then it must be clarified that meeting these demands means prolonging the duration of the fighting in the city and around it. This worsens people’s suffering and creates a real humanitarian catastrophe that is caused by UN agencies and not the opposite.
Therefore, the international community must stand with the legitimate government and with the Arab coalition in their advance towards liberating Hodeidah which also means liberating the port, ending Houthis’ threats to international navigation and ending the Houthis’ smuggling of weapons and looting of humanitarian aid that’s supposed to be delivered to citizens.
Finally, the world must not overlook two important things about Yemen. First of all it is important to implement the UN Security Council decisions which aim to liberate the areas that the Houthis control in order to end the people’s suffering and open international relief passages for international organizations and UN agencies through Hodeidah’s airport and port. The second thing is to affirm the right of the local Tihamah resistance to expel the Houthis from their areas considering they are illegitimate occupation forces that the entire city rejects.