June 29/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


The Bulletin's Link on the lccc Site


News Bulletin Achieves Since 2006
Click Here to enter the LCCC Arabic/English news bulletins Achieves since 2006


Bible Quotations
The loaves and two fish Miracle
John 06/01-15: "After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming towards him, Jesus said to Philip, ‘Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?’He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do.Philip answered him, ‘Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.’One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, ‘There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?’ Jesus said, ‘Make the people sit down.’ Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, ‘Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.’So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, ‘This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.’When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself. 

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on June 28-29/18
For Syrian Refugees in Lebanon, Fear of Conscription Prevents Return Home/agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 28/18
Lebanon real estate market: The worst is yet to come/Georgi Azar/Annahar/June 28/18
Iranian-Hizballah forces join Syria’s South offensive – contrary to Russian pledges/DEBKAfile/June 28, 2018
Analysis The Iranian Regime Is in Trouble, but Will the Latest Round of Protests Topple It/Zvi Bar'el/Haaretz/June 28/18
Everyone Should Hate Google Glass/Cathy O'Neil/Bloomberg/June 28/18
Jordan, Saudis and Palestinians Warn Israel: Erdogan Operating in East Jerusalem Under Your Nose/Amir Tibon and Yaniv Kubovich/Haaretz/June 28/18
Will Russia accept Putin’s victories/Hazem Saghieh/Al Arabiya/June 28/18
Saudi women will now drive and lead in larger arenas/Amal Abdulaziz Al–Hazani/Al Arabiya/June 28/18
Saudi Arabia’s OPEC victory/Waleed Shwaila/Al Arabiya/June 28/18
Iranians are under no illusions about a regime that has squandered its resources to spread terror/Con Coughlin/The National/June 28, 2018
Erdogan's Victory Could Actually Improve U.S.-Turkish Relations/James F. Jeffrey/The Washington Institute/June 28/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on June 28-29/18
Syrian Refugees Living in Arsal Start Returning to Syria
For Syrian Refugees in Lebanon, Fear of Conscription Prevents Return Home
Hariri Presents Cabinet Lineup Amidst Low Hopes
Hariri Watches England-Belgium Match with Visiting UK Minister
Brazil Fan Stabbed in Hay Sellom for Celebrating Germany’s Exit from World Cup
Aoun: No Immunity, Cover for Anyone Involved in Drugs
Jumblat Slams Int'l Community, Arabs for 'Handing Over Daraa' to Regime
Lebanon: Judicial, Security Officials Move to End a Real Estate Dispute, Avoid Sectarian Conflict
400 Syrian Refugees Leave Lebanon to Western Qalamoun
Kataeb's Keserwan District Slams Chaotic Waste Dumping Practices
Hankache: Kataeb Awaiting President's Decision on Naturalization Decree
Sami Gemayel Meets Aggrieved Apartment Buyers
Lebanon real estate market: The worst is yet to come
Iranian-Hizballah forces join Syria’s South offensive – contrary to Russian pledges

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on June 28-29/18
Several Dead in U.S. Newsroom Shooting
Bloodiest Day Yet in South Syria Offensive
Syrian regime bars Daraa’s displaced from crossing to safety
22 civilians killed in air strikes on Southern Syria
Bodies of eight Iraqis abducted by ISIS found
Harper blindsides Trudeau PMO, plans visit to White House
Canada welcomes OPCW actions to counter impunity for use of chemical weapons
Legality Insists on Houthi Withdrawal from Hodeida
Arab Quartet Raises Dispute File with Qatar to International Court of Justice
Egypt Says 10 Militants Killed in Raids, 2 Arrested
Iraq PM Orders 'Immediate' Execution of Death Row Jihadists
Nunes is demanding new information on Trump campaign and FBI informants
US presses UN Security Council to sanction Iran
Iranian MP: Syria and Russia are sacrificing Iran
After US Pressure, Asian Refineries Seek Iran Oil Alternatives
Rouhani Shows Readiness to Negotiate with Washington
Trump Administration Begins Dismantling Iran Sanctions Relief
Putin-Trump summit set for July 16 in Helsinki
The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on June 28-29/18
Syrian Refugees Living in Arsal Start Returning to Syria
Naharnet/Associated Press/Agence France Presse/June 28/18/Several hundred Syrian refugees who fled the war ravaging their country and took refuge in the border town of Arsal are expected to return back to their hometowns in the Qalamoun Mountains located northeast of the Syrian capital Damascus. A number of Syrian vehicles and pickup trucks had transported around 400 refugees from Wadi Hmayyed in Arsal --reportedly hosting around 61,000 displaced Syrians-- after having requested permission from the Lebanese and Syrian governments. It's the first batch of refugees to return to Syria from Arsal. A refugee managing the return of the refugees has registered the names of those willing to go home and delivered them to Lebanon’s General Security forces which in return completed the preparations, He said only a few hundred have voiced the desire to go back to their hometowns, explaining that living in refugee tents and sheltering from the searing sun in summer and cold weather conditions in winter was difficult. The repatriation comes amid a row between the Lebanese government and the U.N. refugee agency. Beirut accuses the agency of trying to discourage refugees from returning home, accusations the UNHCR rejects. The refugees gathered in the Wadi Hmayyed area in Arsal, where a Lebanese security officer checked their IDs against a list, before allowing them to cross into Syria. Most of those returning are farmers, some on pickup trucks and tractors.

For Syrian Refugees in Lebanon, Fear of Conscription Prevents Return Home
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 28/18
Eking out a living in a ramshackle camp in east Lebanon has been hell for Syrian refugee Mohammed, but the alternative is far worse -- going home means taking up arms. "Who would voluntarily choose to go on a death march?" says the slim 18-year-old, sheltering from the searing sun under the white tarp of a refugee tent.Now that he is of age, stepping back into Syria would mean compulsory military service.Mohammed fled his native Aleppo in northern Syria seven years ago, seeking sanctuary in Lebanon with his parents and four siblings when the civil war in his homeland was in its infancy.
But Lebanese citizens are increasingly demanding the approximately 1.5 million Syrian refugees hosted by their tiny country go home, as fighting has abated in areas Syria's military has retaken from rebel groups.
Yet with few jobs, no basic services and clashes continuing on multiple fronts, returning to Syria is not attractive for many refugees. And for men above 18 years of age, one deterrent dwarfs all others -- the fear of conscription. - 'Who will feed my family?' -"No one forgets their country. But if we go back now, I'll have to join the army. Who will feed my family?" says Mohammed.
He and his father work six days a week in the potato orchards of Lebanon's eastern Bekaa valley. Between them, they earn about $400 (340 euros) per month. Returning to battered Aleppo would mean swapping potato sacks and a steady salary for rifles and bloody front lines. Before Syria's conflict erupted in 2011, men aged 18 and older had to serve up to two years in the army, after which they became reserves available for call-up in times of crisis. But in the past seven years fatalities, injuries and defections have sapped President Bashar al-Assad's once 300,000-strong army.
To compensate, the government has relied on the reservists and militias, while indefinitely extending service for young conscripts. Now, as it retakes rebel territory, the military is replenishing its ranks with newly accessed reservists and locals who did not complete their mandatory service.Thousands have been enlisted this way, most recently in the former rebel bastion of Eastern Ghouta, near Damascus.
- 'They'll take me' -Syrian refugee Hassan Khleif, 23, dreams of escaping the rows of makeshift homes -- haphazardly assembled from plastic sheeting, corrugated iron and wooden planks -- and going home to Idlib province. "I'd return today if I could," sighs the father of two.
But the fear of conscription keeps him in Lebanon, he says. "Of course they'll take me", he says of Syria's military. "And when they do, who's going to feed my children?""Will my relatives? They've each got four or five kids to take care of already," adds Khleif, his voice full of anguish. A 2018 poll by the United Nations' refugee agency found that nearly 90 percent of Syrian refugees in Lebanon hope to return home.
But many identified security and financial worries as obstacles. "For refugee families to feel confident to return, breadwinners... need... assurances that they will be able to provide for their family upon return and not be sent to front lines, leaving families" on their own in a destroyed environment, says the UN survey.
In an effort to facilitate refugee returns, Lebanon's Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil sent a formal letter to his Syrian counterpart demanding a "fair solution" to the conscription issue. There has been no response, a Lebanese official told AFP. In the interim, Lebanon has indicated it will organise piecemeal returns, like an operation in April coordinated with Syrian authorities that saw 500 refugees leave southern Lebanon for home. Lebanese security officials have said they hope "thousands" more will follow.
Abu Hassan, 30, won't be among them.
With a third child on the way, the former chef is taking on as many jobs as he can in Lebanon to feed his family. "You can't go home if the war isn't over. There's no security, you can't work, you can't move around," he says. Abu Hassan completed his military service, but as a reservist he'd be called up to fight. "Go to Syria and see for yourself. There are no more young men," he says."If you go inside the homes, you'll see women, children, elderly. Where are the young men? They all fled to Europe and Lebanon -- or they're in the army."

Hariri Presents Cabinet Lineup Amidst Low Hopes
Beirut- Nazeer Rida/Asharq Al Awsat/Thursday, 28 June, 2018/Amid feeble chances to reach a solution regarding the new Cabinet formation in light of obstacles related to the Christian and Druze knots, Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri is expected to present Thursday his new version of the cabinet lineup to Lebanese President Michel Aoun, in his latest efforts in this regard. Despite the presence of extensive contacts between political forces and a phone call between Hariri and Aoun to discuss developments related to the lineup, the level of optimism remained unchanged vis-à-vis announcing a quick formation of the new cabinet. A leading official from the Future Movement told Asharq Al-Awsat on Wednesday “there are new proposals, but a speedy cabinet formation is rather linked to the reaction of President Aoun to the version, which Hariri will present today.”The official ruled out the chance of Aoun accepting this version. “The President’s requests are impossible,” he said, in a sign to demands that Aoun and his Free Patriotic Movement get 11 ministers in the new Cabinet. “It is not necessary that Hariri’s new version suits Aoun’s requests,” the official said, adding that obstacles hindering the government birth were rather linked to issues that could not be easily solved. “The insistence of the President and the FPM on having 11 ministers will lead all efforts to a dead-end,” the official added. The knot hindering the government formation remains at the level of the LF representation and the PSP insistence not to allow MP Talal Arslan be part of the new government lineup. Also, Hezbollah insists that the 10 Sunni MPs who are close to the party get a ministerial seat in the new government. Meanwhile, Aoun met Wednesday with Caretaker Information Minister Melhem Riachi at the Baabda palace. Riachi gave no statement to media representatives, but he described his meeting with the President as "very positive."

Hariri Says Each Party to Get 'Right Share', Denies Rift with Aoun
Naharnet/June 28/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri reassured Thursday that the cabinet formation process is “inching closer to a solution” and that “every party will get the right share.”“We will soon reach a solution regarding the government and I'm still optimistic. All parties want the government to be formed. There are things that we haven't managed to resolve but we are inching closer to a solution and every party will get the right share,” Hariri said after pre-scheduled talks with President Michel Aoun in Baabda. He also denied reports that a 24-minister Cabinet is being mulled as a possible solution. As for his relation with Aoun, Hariri noted that “the Constitution is clear regarding government formation as well as the powers of the prime minister.”“President Aoun and I are in agreement on all minor and major issues,” Hariri emphasized, dismissing recent media reports. “The settlement with President Aoun is still ongoing and I will do everything needed to protect it for the sake of the country. Whoever tries to manipulate this settlement will be in a confrontation with the president and the premier-designate,” Hariri warned. He added: “The country is witnessing a good security situation and we must preserve it.”Near-simultaneous statements issued by the Presidency's press office and Hariri's al-Mustaqbal bloc on Tuesday had sparked speculation about a possible rift between the two leaders, who have enjoyed good ties since the so-called presidential settlement was reached. Aoun had reportedly rejected a Cabinet line-up format submitted Friday by Hariri. The three obstacles hindering the final line-up are the share that should be allocated to the Lebanese Forces and the representation of MP Talal Arslan and the so-called Sunni opposition.
Hariri was tasked with forming the new government on May 24.

Hariri Watches England-Belgium Match with Visiting UK Minister

Naharnet/June 28/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri met Thursday evening at the Center House with Alistair Burt, the British Minister of State for Middle East and North Africa.
The meeting was held in the presence of British Ambassador to Lebanon Hugo Shorter, caretaker Culture Minister Ghattas Khoury and Hariri’s Adviser for Affairs of the Displaced Nadim Munla. Talks focused on the current situation and the bilateral relations between Lebanon and Britain, Hariri's office said. “During the meeting, Minister Burt offered Prime Minister Hariri the English team's shirt with the name of Premier Hariri and the number 10 printed on it,” the office added. “They also agreed to watch the match between the English and Belgian teams this evening during a work dinner hosted by Prime Minister Hariri in the honor of his guest,” the office said.

Brazil Fan Stabbed in Hay Sellom for Celebrating Germany’s Exit from World Cup

Naharnet/June 28/18/Two assailants have stabbed and killed a young man late on Wednesday in the southern Hay el-Sellom area for cheering for Germany’s exit from the World Cup games, media reports said on Thursday. Mohammed Zaher, a resident of Hay el-Sellom was stabbed by two of his neighbors against the backdrop of Brazil’s win and Germany’s exit from the 2018 World Cup games, said the reports. Zaher was reportedly cheering for Brazil’s win when the assailants from the Shamas and Braytaa families, who turned out to be Germany fans, stabbed and killed him leading to his instant death. Later during the day the army intelligence arrested one of the suspects. He was identified as Hussein Khodr Bratyaa. Germany exited the group stage of the 2018 World Cup in Russia after a shock defeat to South Korea while Brazil topped its group. The rivalry between Germany and Brazil is behind one of the largest rifts among football fans in Lebanon, which has never qualified for the World Cup itself.

Aoun: No Immunity, Cover for Anyone Involved in Drugs

Naharnet/June 28/18/President Michel Aoun stressed Thursday that “there will be neither immunity nor a cover for anyone involved in drugs,” urging all parties, institutions and citizens to show “societal solidarity to fend off this scourge.”Speaking at a ceremony marking the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, Aoun said: “Drugs do not help but rather destroy. These poisons do not contain any solution for any problem; they are rather all the problem and suffering. They are the hell that every family experiences when a member falls into the trap of drugs.”He emphasized that “a drug addict is not a criminal but rather a victim.”“They need all the possible support in order to win their battle,” Aoun added, warning that “any abandonment would push them to surrender.”The president noted that “the drug dealer is not the only criminal,” emphasizing that “the transporter, the protector and the kingpin are all criminals and must be held accountable.”“There will be neither immunity nor protection nor a cover for anyone. Everyone proved to be involved in drugs will be held accountable,” Aoun went on to say, adding that “the war against drugs must be global.”“We are seeking to turn the battle against drugs into an all-out national war in which every citizen takes place. We are concerned with the confrontation, seeing as withholding information and failing to report dealers are all part of the crime,” the president said. Aoun also called on drug addicts to expose dealers as he urged that the issue of drugs should not be “exploited for political ends.”“Those who possess information must present them to the relevant authorities,” the president said.

Jumblat Slams Int'l Community, Arabs for 'Handing Over Daraa' to Regime
Naharnet/June 28/18/Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat on Wednesday accused the international community and the Arab League of “handing over” the southern Syrian province of Daraa to the Syrian regime. “What a sad and tragic coincidence. After the peaceful uprising that Daraa's children staged seven years ago, and after legendary resilience in the face of the regime of brutality, the so-called international community and the futile Arab League are handing over Daraa to the jailer of torture, arrests, disappearances and murder,” Jumblat tweeted. “Long live the resilience of Daraa's children,” he added. Deadly air strikes pounded rebel-held towns across southern Syria on Wednesday, as relief groups sounded the alarm over a Russian-backed push for the region and its main city Daraa. The south is meant to be protected by a ceasefire put in place last year by Russia, Jordan, and the United States, but Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has set his sights on retaking the area. After a week of air strikes and artillery fire on rebel towns across Daraa province, his troops turned to the opposition-held half of the provincial capital on Tuesday. The bombing continued into Wednesday, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Rebels hold a horseshoe-shaped band of territory in the south, and government troops have already isolated one end of it by capturing two strategic villages. In that encircled zone, around 1,000 people have "regularized" their status with the government, according to state news agency SANA, including several hundred rebels who laid down their arms. But in the nearby town of al-Nahta, captured Wednesday by the regime, rebels appeared to be resisting. A car bomb killed 12 regime forces there Wednesday afternoon, the Observatory said.The U.N. has warned that more than 750,000 lives are at risk in the south, with more than 45,000 people already displaced.
Lebanon: Judicial, Security Officials Move to End a Real Estate Dispute, Avoid Sectarian Conflict
Beirut - Youssef Diab//Asharq Al Awsat/Thursday, 28 June, 2018/Judicial, security and political officials are working to contain the repercussions of an attack by armed men from the town of Yamouneh in the Bekaa against police officers of the municipality of Aqoura in Mount Lebanon. The attack provoked angry reactions among the village residents and the mayor held militiamen responsible for the incident, hinting at Hezbollah without naming it. The head of the Lebanese Forces Party, Samir Geagea, said in a statement that the clash between the towns of Aqoura and Yamouneh was not sectarian or political, but rather a real estate dispute. He called for resolving the dispute through legal means, not through violence. “Resorting to real estate records and laws are the only way to solve the real estate problem between the two towns,” Geagea said. “We strongly condemn the use of violence and call upon the relevant judicial and security authorities to take the legal measures against perpetrators so the case will be a lesson to all that the use of violence between us as Lebanese is strictly prohibited,” he added. More than 20 armed men from the Shiite town of Yamouneh, which is part of the Bekaa region, attacked a police patrol of the Christian village of Aqoura (Jbeil, Mount Lebanon) on Monday. The attackers beat police officer, fired at their vehicles and confiscated their weapons, accusing the patrol members of wandering the land of Yamouneh. In response, Aqoura residents gave the state authorities a few days to arrest the aggressors.
In a press conference, the head of Aqoura municipality Mansour Wehbi called for “putting an end to militia attacks and handing over the aggressors to the judiciary, including the head of Yamouneh municipality, Talal Sharif. Officials in Jbeil are trying to contain the incident and prevent it from being diverted into sectarian dispute.A judicial source told Asharq Al-Awsat that the incident “is being investigated by the judiciary.”The Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), Hezbollah’s ally, is the most party embarrassed in this incident, especially that the mayor of Aqoura is a political supporter of the movement. However, sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the “security, safety and dignity of the children of Aqoura are ahead of all political calculations.

400 Syrian Refugees Leave Lebanon to Western Qalamoun

Bekaa- Hussein Darwish/Asharq Al Awsat/Thursday, 28 June, 2018/Only 400 Syrian refugees left Lebanon on Thursday from the town of Arsal to eastern Qalamoun, after the registration of some 3,000 people in the lists of those wishing to return to Syria. However, Syrian authorities refused to grant hundreds of refugees security approvals to return, under the pretext of “non-coordination with the Syrian government.”This move comes amid calls by the Lebanese authorities for the return the displaced, whose presence in Lebanon have put heavy economic burdens on the country. On Wednesday, President Michel Aoun underlined the need to find the necessary solutions to the crisis of the displaced, hoping that the Arab and international communities would “help us achieve this goal and help the displaced return home as soon as possible.” The National News Agency (NNA) reported that a convoy carrying a group of Syrian refugees left Arsal on Thursday morning bound for Al-Zamarani crossing to return to Syria. The convoy was the first following tensions between the Lebanese authorities and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), which was blamed for discouraging the displaced from leaving to Syria. But the efforts that resulted in the registration of three thousand Syrians to leave collided with the Syrian regime’s refusal to give security approvals for all those registered, hence decreasing the number of departures from 3000 to 500, which then reduced to 400 people.

Kataeb's Keserwan District Slams Chaotic Waste Dumping Practices
Kataeb.orgThursday 28th June 2018/Kataeb's Keserwan district on Thursday slammed the chaotic waste management policy in Lebanon, saying that turning sea dumping into a trend is a dangerous matter that needs to be addressed. The district posted a footage showing a truck dumping barrels loaded containing oil derivatives originating from the power plant in Zouk along the nearby coast. “We call on the regulatory and judicial bodies to take the necessary measures, arrest the owner of the truck and enforce the most severe punishment against him as well as the owners of the barrels," the Keserwan district said.

Hankache: Kataeb Awaiting President's Decision on Naturalization Decree

Kataeb.orgThursday 28th June 2018/MP Elias Hankache on Thursday refuted claims that the Kataeb party did not challenge the naturalization decree in order to secure its participation in the new government, noting that it was the Kataeb who reached out to the Lebanese Forces and Progressive Socialist Party to coordinate actions regarding this issue."We haven't contested the decree because we are still waiting to see what the President will decide on the report set out by General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim," Hankache told MTV. "We preferred to await the President's move because we are not a reckless and random opposition force; we rather want to reach tangible results."

Sami Gemayel Meets Aggrieved Apartment Buyers
Kataeb.orgThursday 28th June 2018/Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel on Thursday met with a delegation of apartment buyers who have been affected by the recent scandal that rattled Badawi Group. Gemayel promised to following up on this case until the end, pledging to seek a fair solution that would end this bottleneck. Weeks after the Sayfco Holding embezzlement scandal made the headlines, another crisis has shaken the real estate sector amid reports about the fake promises and the unhonored contracts of Badawi Group. Many sad stories are being told by young men and women who gave all they have to purchase apartments from said real estate company. Unfortunately, the dreams, plans and money of those people just faded away as they found Badawi Group's projects stalling. The company failed to turn the megabucks it has been earning, whether as down payments or monthly installments, into tangible projects, thus leaving scores of clients in a total financial distress. In a statement issued earlier this month, Badawi Group issued a statement stressing unwavering commitment to the pledges it had made to customers, noting that it has always been known for its credibility as all its previous projects had been accomplished without any delay or procrastination. The company, however, blamed the "deteriorating economic situation" in Lebanon for the delay in completion or execution of its new projects, adding that the real estate sector is being very badly impacted. The statement assured that all of the company's projects will be re-launched "very soon" according to plans and the timetable agreed upon with customers. Badawi Group – Construction & Development is a family-owned business that was founded in 1969 by George Badawi. The company specializes in land development, excavation and site construction for residential, commercial and industrial projects. The company inaugurated offices in Montreal, Canada in December 2011.

Lebanon real estate market: The worst is yet to come
Georgi Azar/Annahar/June 28/18
Today, El Hokayem is adamant that if prospective buyers wait longer, they’ll snatch three properties for the price of one in 2020.
Demand for real estate can be split into three categories: foreign investors, Lebanese expatriates residing in the Gulf and across Africa, and locals.
BEIRUT: In 2016, when the majority of developers and households remained confident, casting aside the possibility of property prices dropping, Chief Financial Market Strategist Jihad El Hokayem went against mainstream analysts and rang alarm bells, predicting a ‘two for the price of one' free-fall.
Two years on, and El Hokayem is of the belief that the situation is much more dire than what he initially thought, telling Annahar that he expects to miss his initial forecast. “Hold and you will buy two for the price of one,” he said back in October 2016. Today, El Hokayem is adamant that if prospective buyers wait longer, they’ll snatch three properties for the price of one in 2020.  El Hokayem’s logic hasn’t wavered since and is based on the most basic economic theory, that the market is oversupplied and demand is shrinking, with all signs pointing towards a downward spiral.  Demand for real estate can be split into three categories: foreign investors, Lebanese expatriates residing in the Gulf and across Africa, and locals.
The foreign demand, however, has been steadily declining in recent years, with investment from wealthy businessmen based in the Gulf almost non-existent today. In fact, demand from Gulf nationals has shifted into the supply column. The reason being the macroeconomic and political landscape of the country, he says. Lebanon's macroeconomic environment ranks 136 out of 138 countries, while its ease of doing business metric comes in at 133 out of 190. Meanwhile, its budget deficit skyrocketed to $4.8 billion in 2018 with the government slow to implement reforms. “So why would anyone want to invest in Lebanon and not Cyprus, for example?” he asks. The political turmoil in Lebanon is also another hindering block, with the Syrian refugee crisis taking its toll on the country’s already "anaemic economic performance and crumbling infrastructure." Another indicator is the price of crude oil which has similarly taken a hit, not nearly recovering to its 2014 peak of $110 per barrel and valued at an average of $67 in 2018. This has sent ripples across the Gulf and Africa, impacting the spending power of both governments and citizens, with Lebanese expats unable to maintain the flow of remittances into Lebanon, El Hokayem says.
For instance, remittances were valued at $701 million in January 2018, a fraction of the $1.3 billion deposited the same month of last year.
On the local level, El Hokayem questions the wisdom of investing in real estate as things currently stand. He notes that prices are expected to continue to drop, while the rental yield - the income generated as a percentage of the property's value - is also decreasing given the market imbalance between supply and demand. “In a state of equilibrium, investing in real estate should give you a higher return than depositing your money in a bank or purchasing bonds, which is not the case now,” he says, before highlighting that investing in Eurobonds yields an average return of 10 percent, while the rental yield currently stands at around 3 percent.  El Hokayem also expects another interest rate hike in the U.S, which will translate into new increases in interest rates in Lebanon given “our dollarized economy, making investing in real estate even less appealing.”
Figures released by the Ministry of Finance show that real estate transactions decreased by 21 percent in the first five months of 2018, with 22,707 properties exchanging hands compared to 28,768 during the same period of 2017.How did Lebanon find itself in this predicament?  El Hokayem lays the blame at the mismanagement of the crisis, by policymakers with "ostensibly laudable intentions implementing measures that actually aggravated the situation." Witnessing the real estate market stagnating, with developers scrambling to find buyers, billions of dollars were injected for subsidized housing loans of up to LBP 800 million for a single apartment, with a “significant share being handed out to affluent individuals who did not need this help, leaving minimal funds for people who were really in need.” This prompted developers to buckle down even further on their stance instead of “adjusting prices to meet the purchasing power of those they were targeting.” In March, another $500 million was injected for subsidized housing loans to support limited-income-families - who mostly acquired small apartments outside Beirut - after banks stopped providing housing loans at subsidized rates, arguing that funds for this type of loans had been depleted. The funds then ran out in just one month.
This artificial median of real estate prices was unsustainable, Hokayem explains, after “Banque Du Liban found itself short of U.S dollars to finance the twin deficits, and stuck between a rock and a hard place; either to support the real estate market or support the Lira peg.” Millennials ageing into homeownership now find themselves priced out of the market, with wages stagnating and youth unemployment “estimated at 37 percent”, much higher than unemployment in the U.S at the height of the Great Depression of 1929. This, coupled with “the tax hike implemented by the Lebanese government in 2017 to fund a public wage increase,” will further clamp down on the already low demand for real estate in Lebanon. But there is a silver lining, says El Hokayem, and that is the amount of money Lebanese youth, first-time buyers, and young families managed to save by waiting before purchasing a property, no matter its value.
A 350,000$ apartment in 2013 is currently valued at $210,000, or at a 40% price decrease.
A simple calculation by El Hokayem shows that $35,000 was saved by each homebuyer, which translates to a total of $933,000 when taking into account the 40,000 apartments anticipated to be sold. Real estate prices are expected to drop by another 15 percent by 2020 with drastic reforms needed to be implemented to pull the market out of its slump, El Hokayem says, calling on BDL to “stop encouraging the rentier economy.”The rentier economic model has stifled the spirit of entrepreneurship and the desire to invest in Lebanon, he says, diminishing the ability of the private sector to create job opportunities.
“This economic model incentives individuals to buy properties hoping for a price increase, or simply deposit their money in a bank while accumulating interest.” These quick-payback investments of the last decade and financial speculation came at the expense of productive investments in promising, high-value investments across the board, be it in the industrial, agricultural, or knowledge-based sector, El Hokayem explains.
To stimulate growth, attract foreign investment, and create decent paying jobs, which then translates into a higher demand for real estate, El Hokayem expects a change in the country’s fiscal policy. “They should put forth tax incentives to attract foreign investment as well as investment at the local level,” he says, adding that this would limit volatile and unstable patterns of growth while rejuvenating the appeal of real estate. Failing to take corrective action would exacerbate the crisis, Hokayem notes, pointing to another worrying trend. These concerns are fueled as Lebanese buyers who purchased a property through an instalment plan, begin to realize that their investment value is gradually dropping, prompting them to ponder the possibility of relinquishing ownership of the property only to buy it later at a lower price. “If someone bought an apartment valued at $200,000 two years ago and is now valued at $120,000, what’s to stop him to him from forgoing the $30,000 he already paid and give the apartment back to the bank?” he asks. “It feels a lot like the subprime mortgage crisis of 2008, but on steroids, due to the lack of transparency.”
*Jihad El Hokayem is an MBA lecturer at Université Saint-Joseph in Oil & Gas Exploration and Production and Management Programs in partnership with IFP & TOTAL, as well as an EMBA lecturer in Real estate Investment Strategy at the Lebanese American University.

Iranian-Hizballah forces join Syria’s South offensive – contrary to Russian pledges
خلافاً للوعود التي اعطيت للروس، قوات إيرانية وأخرى من حزب الله تشارك قوات الأسد في الهجوم على الجنوب السوري

DEBKAfile/June 28, 2018
In breach of Russian guarantees to the US, Israel and Jordan, Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Shiite and Hizballah forces are taking part in Syria’s offensive to capture Daraa and Quneitra. Video clips published on June 26 by social media depicted members of the Iraqi Shiite Liwa Zulfiqar militia in the main square of Busra al-Harir north of Daraa city celebrating their victory over Syrian rebel forces. DEBKAfile’s military sources report that it was only a matter of time before the Russian pledges were proved hollow and pro-Iranian and Hizballah forces reached the Syrian-Jordanian and Syrian-Israeli borders. Th Liwa Zulfiqar militia, which came from Iraq, has been revamped for the operation as a mixed force including also Hizballah and Syrian fighters. They serve under the overall command of the Revolutionary Guards Regional Command Center which is based at the southern Syrian town of Izra.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is in charge of US policy for Syria, made some harsh comments to the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday, June 27. He admitted that president Bashar Assad had come out well from Syria’s seven years of civil war, but he also called Iran’s presence in the country “the greatest threat.” Pompeo accused Hizballah, which is totally bankrolled by Tehran, of being “active on multiple fronts and running efforts for external plotting including in the United States.”
However, the Secretary did not specify what action, if any, the US was taking to counter Iranian and Hizballah’s nefarious presence in Syria.
The Syrian operation meanwhile drew closer to Israel’s Golan border with an air strike on Wednesday night, June 27, against rebel positions around Quneitra to soften their resistance to the coming ground offensive.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on June 28-29/18
Several Dead in U.S. Newsroom Shooting
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 28/18/Several people were feared killed Thursday in a shooting at the building that houses the Capital Gazette, a daily newspaper published in Annapolis, a historic city an hour east of Washington. A reporter for the Capital Gazette, Phil Davis, tweeted that a "gunman shot through the glass door to the office and opened fire on multiple employees." He said several people were killed."There is nothing more terrifying than hearing multiple people get shot while you're under your desk and then hear the gunman reload," Davis said. Up to four people had been killed, according to CBS News quoting two sources. The newspaper is located in a four-story office building in Annapolis, the capital of the U.S. state of Maryland. The White House said President Donald Trump had been briefed. "ATF Baltimore is responding to a shooting incident at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis," the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, and Tobacco said on Twitter. The local Anne Arundel police force added: "Confirming active shooter at 888 Bestgate Road in Annapolis. Building evacuated. Officers continuing to search building.""Absolutely devastated to learn of this tragedy in Annapolis," Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said. "Please, heed all warnings and stay away from the area. Praying for those at the scene and for our community."

Bloodiest Day Yet in South Syria Offensive
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 28/18/A barrage of Russian strikes on rebel-held towns in southern Syria killed 22 civilians on Thursday, the bloodiest day yet of the government's latest offensive in the strategic region. With Russia's help, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's army has battered the south for more than a week with air strikes, rocket fire and crude barrel bombs. The bombardment has forced more than 45,000 people to flee in search of safety, according to the United Nations, while others huddle in their basements to wait out the raids. On Thursday, dozens of air strikes identified as Russian killed 22 civilians, a monitor said, mostly in the town of Al-Mseifra. "One of them hit a basement where people were taking shelter, killing 17 civilians, including five children," said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Russian air raids struck near the hospital in Al-Mseifra on Tuesday night, causing damage that forced medics to close it down, the Observatory said. The monitor determines who carried out strikes based on the type of aircraft and munitions used, locations and flight patterns. Another five civilians were killed in other rebel-controlled areas of Daraa, the main province in southern Syria. "This is the highest toll since the escalation began on June 19," said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman, adding that it brought the overall civilian toll since then to 93.
Pressure on Russia
A doctor in Daraa's western countryside said his staff were preparing for an influx of critically wounded from Al-Mseifra."Because there are no medical services in the eastern countryside and because of the security situation, most of the wounded will be brought to us in the west," said Baha Mahameed, who manages the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations (UOSSM)'s operations in the south. UOSSM said one of its medical staff was killed late Wednesday in an air strike in Daraa province, the third killed there in less than a week. The government offensive has already forced five hospitals to close in the past week, including three in the past 48 hours, the Observatory said. Syria has become infamous for attacks on health workers, with more facilities hit so far this year than in all of 2017. Rebels hold a horseshoe-shaped band of territory in the south spanning most of Daraa and Quneitra province to west.
They also control southern districts of the city of Daraa, known as the cradle of Syria's seven-year uprising. The rest is held by government forces, who also control most of Sweida province to the east. Despite an internationally brokered ceasefire in place since 2017, the regime began ramping up bombardment of rebel-held towns in Daraa on June 19. Russian warplanes began raids on Saturday and on Tuesday the two air forces launched bombing operations against rebel-held neighborhoods of the provincial capital. At the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday, Britain, France and the United States condemned Russia's role in the offensive. French ambassador Francois Delattre called on "everyone, starting with Russia, to uphold their commitments so that this offensive ceases immediately."
Displacement 'en masse'
Adopting a divide-and-conquer strategy that served them well across Syria, troops have already lopped off the northeastern arm of the rebel horseshoe. Thursday's strikes were focused on Daraa's east, with White Helmets rescuers saying dozens of raids hit the towns of Busra al-Sham and Herak and pushed waves of people to flee. The Observatory said raids were increasingly targeting urban areas. "The shelling is aimed at cutting off all means of life and to push people out en masse," said analyst Ahmad Abazeid who hails from Daraa. "The regime and Russians are focusing on areas packed with residents and refugees, to produce the highest number of victims and push these areas to surrender or reconcile," he said. Rebel-held neighborhoods of the provincial capital were practically drained of residents. "All the residents and civilians left. There are no civilians here," said Ahmad Abu Hazem, 26, a rebel fighter inside the city. Most of the 45,000-plus people who already fled have headed to the sealed Jordanian border. Officials in Nawa, a rebel-held town heavily hit in strikes on Thursday, issued a statement asking Jordan to take in refugees. But Amman has said the border will remain closed. The kingdom already hosts more than 650,000 registered Syrian refugees and estimates the actual number is closer to 1.3 million. To avoid greater bloodshed, Russia is leading talks involving Syria, Jordan, Israel and the United States, but so far there has been no public progress.

Syrian regime bars Daraa’s displaced from crossing to safety
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Wednesday, 27 June 2018/With the Syrian regime’s continuous bombardments and airstrikes on southwestern Daraa, thousands of displaced civilians are trying to escape to safety away from the military operations and near the Jordanian border and the areas close to the occupied Golan Heights. Some of the displaced civilians sought shelter at thehomes of family and friends, while others took shelter in schools. Even then, a large number of the displaced were left stranded in the bushes without any shelter. The United Nations estimated the number of those displaced near the Jordanian border at 45,000, while the number of the displaced from all areas in Daraa is far more than the UN figure. According to local sources, some of the displaced took shelter in areas close to the occupied Golan Heights as the Syrian regime avoided shelling this area which is close to Israel. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights quoted sources as saying that the Syrian regime is banning civilians from entering areas under its control, and neither is it allowing them to go to the capital Damascus by putting barracks and security checkpoints on the roads and imposing fines of up to $500 on those wanting to enter areas under Bashar Assad’s control.

22 civilians killed in air strikes on Southern Syria

AFP, Beirut/Thursday, 28 June 2018/A barrage of Russian air strikes on rebel-held areas of southern Syria killed 22 civilians on Thursday, a monitoring group said, most of them in a single battered town. “At least 35 Russian air strikes hit the town of Al-Mseifra,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. “One of them hit a basement where people were taking shelter, killing 17 civilians, including five children,” the Britain-based monitor said. The Observatory says it determines who carried out particular strikes based on the type of aircraft and munitions used, the locations and the flight patterns. The hospital in Al-Mseifra had been put out of service by Russian strikes on Tuesday night, the Observatory said. Another five civilians were killed in other rebel-controlled areas of Daraa, the main province in southern Syria. “This is the highest toll since the escalation began on June 19,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman. Government forces have been ramping up their bombardment of rebel-held areas of the south since June 19, and allied Russian warplanes carried out their first raids on the region in a year on June 23. In July last year, Russia, the United States and Jordan had agreed on a de-escalation zone for rebel-controlled parts of the south. After that, Russian warplanes- active in Syria since 2015- had refrained from bombing rebel positions in the region.
Bodies of eight Iraqis abducted by ISIS found
Reuters, IraqWednesday, 27 June 2018/Iraqi security forces have found the bodies of eight men, two days after a deadline set by ISIS expired, a local commander told Reuters on Wednesday. The militants had kidnapped members of Iraq’s security forces and showed six of them in a video posted online on Saturday, threatening to kill them within three days if the government did not release female Sunni Arab prisoners. The bodies were found mutilated and rigged with explosives, said Lieutenant General Muzher al-Azawi, Commander of Diyala Operations. Security and medical sources said the bodies were taken to a hospital in Tuz Khurmato, a town south of the oil city of Kirkuk, where they were being prepared for burial. Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi declared final victory over the hardline militants in December but the group still operates from pockets along the border with Syria and has continued to carry out ambushes, assassinations and bombings across Iraq. There has been an uptick in attacks by the group in recent weeks, especially on a highway connecting the capital Baghdad with the country’s north where the men had been taken.

Harper blindsides Trudeau PMO, plans visit to White House
CTV/June 27, 2018
OTTAWA -- Former prime minister Stephen Harper is planning a trip to the White House next week, and hasn’t notified the current Canadian government of his visit, CTV News has learned.
According to emails obtained by CTV News, American officials are expecting Harper to visit D.C. on July 2, the day after Canada’s retaliatory tariffs on imports of U.S. goods and American-made steel and aluminum are set to come into effect.
It is unclear what the purpose of Harper's visit is, and how long it has been in the works, but officials say he is planning to meet with American National Security Advisor John Bolton, who was the U.S. ambassador to the UN when Harper was prime minister.
In planning his visit, the former prime minister has effectively blindsided the current Canadian government, bucking convention by not notifying Prime Minister Justin Trudeau or his office about the visit. Harper also did not reach out to the Canadian embassy in D.C., Global Affairs Canada, or the Privy Council Office. This move comes amid heightened tensions in the Canada-U.S. relationship with the prospect of a full-blown trade war on the horizon, including new tariffs on autos. U.S. President Donald Trump and his officials have also engaged in personal attacks on Trudeau via televised appearances and social media.
CTV News has reached out to Harper’s office for comment, but has not received an answer. After avoiding the spotlight in the months after his defeat in the 2015 federal election, Harper has made a return to the international scene. He got international headlines in the last year over his comments about the Canada-U.S. relationship and the American administration, some of which have been in stark contrast with the current Canadian government’s policy, while other times he’s defended Canada’s position.
In October, The Canadian Press reported on a leaked memo from the former prime minister to clients of his firm Harper & Associates. In the memo, titled “Napping on NAFTA,” Harper criticized Trudeau’s approach after returning from a trip to D.C.
Then in May he raised eyebrows for being among several former international leaders and diplomats to co-sign a full-page advertisement in the New York Times hailing Trump's decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal.
At that time, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan described Harper weighing in publicly as “not helpful.”In an interview on CTV’s Power Play, Sajjan said that in his view, Canada should be speaking with one voice when it comes to U.S. policy, citing the ongoing NAFTA talks. His take was a departure from the message track of Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, who said as a private citizen Harper was entitled to his opinion. Earlier this month, Harper appeared on Fox News where he weighed in on the state of NAFTA talks. He said he understood Trump’s position, but also highlighted the American trade surplus, saying Canada was the wrong target for a trade fight. On Wednesday, he was speaking at a Five Eyes panel discussion in London, U.K., where he said he thinks Trump’s “America First” policy will outlast the president’s tenure and that the “rapid, unorthodox, populist political change” will be part of the American fabric after Trump leaves office. With a report from CTV News’ Ottawa Bureau Chief Joyce Napier

Canada welcomes OPCW actions to counter impunity for use of chemical weapons

June 27, 2018 - Ottawa, Ontario - Global Affairs Canada
The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today issued the following statement:
“Any use of chemical weapons is an abhorrent breach of international law and Canada strongly supports efforts to ensure that perpetrators of such crimes are held to account.
“Canada welcomes today’s decision by the special Conference of States Parties of the Chemical Weapons Convention to task the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Technical Secretariat with identifying those who use chemical weapons in Syria.
“These findings will be reported to the United Nations Secretary General and will ensure that the perpetrators of attacks using chemical weapons in Syria will not be able to hide behind anonymity. The decision also authorizes the OPCW Director-General to help attribute responsibility for chemical attacks on the territory of member states.
“The Conference of States Parties recognized the results of the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism’s last report, which attributed the use of the sarin nerve agent in Khan Shaykhun to Syrian government forces. This is an important step towards holding the Assad regime accountable for its horrific attacks against the people of Syria.
“This follows the disappointing actions by Russia to block the renewal of the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism and to shield the murderous Assad regime from accountability for its actions. Canada will continue to support the international rules-based order in the face of these actions.
“Canada has consistently demonstrated its support for the OPCW, not only with words but with concrete actions. I am pleased to announce today a contribution of $7.5 million over three years to help build the OPCW’s new Centre for Chemistry and Technology.”

Legality Insists on Houthi Withdrawal from Hodeida
Riyadh, Jeddah, Aden - Abdulhadi Habtour, Asmaa Ghaberi, Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 28 June, 2018/Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi has affirmed that the plan presented by UN special envoy for Yemen regarding Hodeida should be a complete package based on full withdrawal of Houthis from Hodeidah port and city and the entrance of interior ministry forces to guarantee security and stability. Yemeni sources revealed that the UN envoy brought to the Yemeni president a proposal by the Houthi militias to accept a UN supervision of the port under the condition that the armed men would remain. Hadi informed Martin Griffiths, the United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen, during his meeting Wednesday in Aden that implementing this package will guarantee the continuity of relief works and ongoing trade works in Hodeida port as well as protect humanitarian and civil establishments. Further, implementing this package will pave the way to execute UN resolution 2216 through militias withdrawal and weapons handout. After this attempt by the UN envoy to persuade the legit Yemeni government, Griffiths and his team started to focus on an anticipated briefing to be made infront of the Security Council next Monday. Yemen’s foreign minister Khaled al-Yamani said that the Yemeni president welcomed the huge efforts exerted by the UN special envoy to implement clauses of Hodeida initiative submitted on May 31 in light of amendments already carried out within the Yemeni government vision. Yamani noted that Hadi urged the UN special envoy to continue efforts until reaching the implementation of resolution 2216 and agreed upon references as well as obligations mentioned in the international law, humanitarian law and the presidential data issued by the Security Council.

Arab Quartet Raises Dispute File with Qatar to International Court of Justice
Jeddah - Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 28 June, 2018/Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt said Wednesday they would file a complaint at the highest UN court against Qatar over alleged airspace violations. International Civil Aviation Organization revised during its regular session two files presented by Qatar demanding activating clause 84 “disputes settlement” of Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago 1944) in settling the dispute regarding Chicago convention with Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, especially regarding closing the skies of the Arab states in face of airplanes registered in Qatar. Qatar also demanded activating the second clause regarding settling the dispute about interpreting and implementing international crossing services agreement against UAE, Bahrain and Egypt. Raising this matter to the International Court of Justice follows the decision of International Civil Aviation Organization to listen to the demands of Qatar – the Arab quartet decided to object over this because it sees that the organization has completed its technical specialization through the cooperation of the Arab states with the regional office of the organization in Cairo in putting alternative international airlines of Qatari airplanes in the international skies. The four states see in a statement on Wednesday that the essence of the topic is that Qatar is conducting continuous violations of all sovereign rights of the four states, in addition to its intervention in the internal affairs and supporting terrorism, which makes this dispute political and security in the first place. The four states revealed that their objection over International Civil Aviation Organization will be through an appeal to the International Court of Justice.
Egypt Says 10 Militants Killed in Raids, 2 Arrested
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 28/18/Ten suspected Islamic militants were killed and two arrested in police raids across Egypt as they hunted down the perpetrators of a deadly car bomb attack, the interior ministry said Thursday. It said those targeted were members of Hasam, a jihadist group which the authorities have linked to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. They were allegedly involved in a March 24 car bombing on the eve of elections targeting a security chief for Alexandria in northern Egypt that killed two policemen. Six militants were killed and a weapons cache unearthed as security forces raided a hideout in Beheira province, northwest of Cairo, the ministry said. It said a suspect was arrested in a residential apartment in Alexandria where arms and explosives were also seized. A shootout in Assiut province, south of Cairo, left four other suspects dead, it said, adding that a Hasam member who had allegedly acquired the car used in the Alexandria attack was also arrested. The ministry's statement did not specify when the raids and arrests took place. Police accuse Hasam of being an armed wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was banned after the army ousted Egypt's Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 following mass protests against his one-year rule.The Brotherhood denies any links with militancy and asserts it has solely political aims.

Iraq PM Orders 'Immediate' Execution of Death Row Jihadists
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 28/18/Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Thursday ordered the immediate execution of all convicted jihadists on death row, in swift retaliation for the Islamic State's execution of eight captives. Abadi ordered "the immediate punishment of terrorists condemned to death whose sentences have passed the decisive stage", his office said, referring to convicts whose appeals have been exhausted. More than 300 people, including around 100 foreign women, have been condemned to death in Iraq and hundreds of others to life imprisonment for membership of the Islamic State group, a judicial source said in April. Most of the convicted women are Turkish or from former Soviet republics, while a Russian man and a Belgian national are also on death row. Abadi vowed Thursday to avenge the deaths of the eight IS captives, a day after their bodies were found along a highway north of Baghdad. "Our security and military forces will take forceful revenge against these terrorist cells," he told senior military officials and ministers. "We promise that we will kill or arrest those who committed this crime," he said. The corpses, found at Tel Sharaf in Salaheddin province, were decomposing and had been strapped with explosive vests, the army said. They included six abductees who had appeared in an IS video with badly bruised faces. IS claimed they were Iraqi police officers or members of the Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary force. In the video posted Saturday by the Amaq propaganda outlet of IS, the jihadists threatened to execute their captives unless Baghdad released Sunni Muslim women held in its prisons within three days. But Abadi said that autopsies indicated the captives were already dead when the video was posted. Iraq declared victory over IS in December after expelling the jihadists from all urban centers including second city Mosul in a vast military campaign. But the Iraqi military has kept up operations targeting mostly desert areas along the porous border with Syria.

Nunes is demanding new information on Trump campaign and FBI informants
CNN Digital Expansion 2017
By Laura Jarrett, CNN
(CNN)House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes is showing no signs of de-escalating a conflict with the Justice Department over the Russia investigation, hitting the department late Tuesday with an expansive new request for "any contacts" between FBI intelligence sources and over a dozen Trump campaign associates, according to a letter obtained by CNN. The new request seeks information not only on "FBI informants," but also on "undercover agents, and/or confidential human sources" who interacted with former Trump associates before July 31, 2016 -- the start of the FBI's counterintelligence investigation into connections between the Trump campaign and Russia. The list of Trump associates Nunes indicated he's interested in includes: Michael Caputo, Sam Clovis, Michael Cohen, Michael Flynn, Corey Lewandowski, Stephen Miller, Peter Navarro, Sam Nunberg, George Papadopoulos, Carter Page, Walid Phares, Joseph Schmitz, Roger Stone and Donald Trump Jr. On Monday, the Justice Department told Nunes, a California Republican, that he already had the answer to his question about whether the FBI had used informants "against" members or associates of the Trump campaign.
For weeks, President Donald Trump and his allies on Capitol Hill have cried foul over reports that an FBI intelligence source reportedly met with at least three Trump campaign aides during the campaign. The public outcry has largely subsided from public view since the Justice Department agreed to a series of classified briefings with lawmakers on the issue, but this latest request from Nunes -- whether it bears fruit or not -- will likely add fuel to the embers left over from that fight. Tuesday's request from Nunes is also part and parcel of an effort by Republican lawmakers to ramp up pressure on the Justice Department's No. 2 official -- Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein -- who is overseeing the special counsel's Russia investigation. Earlier Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee approved a resolution that demands the Justice Department fork over the outstanding documents Congress has subpoenaed related to the FBI's actions during the 2016 election campaign. House Speaker Paul Ryan had previously promised a floor vote on the resolution this week if the Justice Department did not fully comply, but the Wisconsin Republican did not indicate Tuesday whether he's prepared to move that swiftly.
CNN's Jeremy Herb contributed to this report.

US presses UN Security Council to sanction Iran

AFP, United Nations, United States/Thursday, 28 June 2018/The United States urged fellow UN Security Council members on Wednesday to punish Iran for “malign behavior” in the Middle East, at a meeting on implementation of the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran. “When confronted with a country that continually violates this council’s resolutions, it is imperative that we pursue meaningful consequences,” said Jonathan Cohen, the US deputy ambassador to the United Nations. “That is why we urge members of this Council to join us in the imposition of sanctions that target Iran’s malign behavior in the region,” he stressed. It was the first meeting of the Security Council since US President Donald Trump announced on May 8 that the United States was withdrawing from the nuclear agreement with Tehran. On May 24, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) concluded for the eleventh time Tehran had met its commitments. Iran supplying missiles to Houthi militias .In his remarks, Cohen once again accused Iran of supplying missiles to the Houthi militias in Yemen in violation of an international arms embargo. In a recent report, the United Nations said that missile components fired at Saudi Arabia had been manufactured in Iran, but that UN officials were unable to determine if they had been delivered before or after the July 2016 imposition of an arms embargo on Yemen.

Iranian MP: Syria and Russia are sacrificing Iran
Masoud al-Zahed, Al, 28 June 2018/Iranian MP Behrooz Bonyadi warned of the consequences of Syrian-Russian rapprochement at Iran’s expense, and said Syria and Russia are “sacrificing” Iran. “Today, we see Assad increasing his harmony with Putin (in such) a rude way,” Bonyadi who represents Kashmar, Bardaskan and Khalilabad said at the Islamic Consultative Assembly’s public session. Bonyadi added that Assad does not only underestimate the significance of the “martyrs of the shrines” in Syria, but also denies it. “Martyrs of the shrine” is the term used by Iran to refer to its members killed in Syria and to the killed members of militias in support of it. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force has trained and armed thousands of sectarian militiamen from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Lebanon to fight in Syria. “It’s not unlikely that these two political pawns sacrifice us at the Netanyahu-Trump altar,” he said in reference to Assad and Putin.
Iran’s economic crisis
Bonyadi commented on the currency crisis in Iran saying trade between China and Russia was the reason behind it. “The large number of imports and the exit of the currency are imposed on us by powers (like) China and Russia. The final outcome is gain (for them) and loss (for Iran). Poverty and lack of trust has thus increased,” he said, adding that addressing matters in Iran must not be within the military context but within the economic-political context in order to achieve a winning formula on the level of foreign policy. “At the beginning of the revolution, it did not occur to people’s and officials’ minds that they will witness embezzlement, administrative corruption, poverty, favoritism, prostitution, hypocrisy, child molestation, wife beating, rape in schools and Quran classes, sale of kidneys and other shameful acts,” he added. Bonyadi, a medical specialist and a reformist MP, warned the Iranian regime and called for “unity and for listening to the voices of the oppressed people who grave officials a chance of 40 years and tolerated (all these) problems.” His statements are a first at the Iranian parliament and they come at a time when Iran is facing wide-range protests due to the collapse of the Iranian currency against foreign currency.
Protests have reached several Iranian cities as well as the Bazaar, the heart of Iran’s commercial economy, which played a significant role in the fall of the Shah’s regime in 1979. He criticized the “security atmosphere, dealing with protestors outside the context of law and not tolerating those who voice opposition” and said this was all tantamount “to the first bell rung on the path to decadence.”Commenting on the house arrest imposed on opposition leaders which the country’s supreme leader insists on upholding, Bonyadi said: “Some who have committed several mistakes enjoy immunity while others who enjoy national popularity and who are honorable live under house arrest (Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi) and they prohibit publishing their images (reformist Mohammad Khatami). People (can) see this behavior that’s filled with grudge and hatred.”

After US Pressure, Asian Refineries Seek Iran Oil Alternatives
Kuwait - Wael Mehdi/Asharq Al Awsat/Thursday, 28 June, 2018/Asian oil importers are stepping up efforts to diversify crude sources and Iranian oil payment mechanisms after the US announced it is pressing buyers to completely eliminate Iran imports by November 4. As refineries companies in Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and UAE seek to reduce imports, in which the ban on Iranian oil has become imminent amid US strictness not to give exemptions to any state to import any Iranian packages, the companies in India are still waiting for the government’s decision to stop the importing of Iranian oil or not.
An official from the United States Department of State stated Tuesday that the US demanded from all countries to halt Iranian oil imports starting November 4.

Rouhani Shows Readiness to Negotiate with Washington
London - Adil Alsalmi/Asharq Al Awsat/Thursday, 28 June, 2018/Iranian President Hassan Rouhani showed Wednesday Iranian readiness to carry out negotiations with the US under the condition of bona-fide, announcing at the same time rejecting internal pressures to submit his resignation or the government stepping down. More than one third of the parliament sent a letter to Rouhani, demanding that he conducts amendments in the government formation and changes his economic team given the deteriorated economic conditions. Iranian president stated, during a meeting for high-rank figures in Tehran, that his government members will continue to work until the last minutes – he urged Iranians to bear difficulties following the US call to stop purchasing Iranian oil. He added that anyone who thinks that the government will resign or withdraw is wrong.

Trump Administration Begins Dismantling Iran Sanctions Relief
Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 27 June, 2018/The US administration began on Wednesday to dismantle the sanctions relief that was granted to Iran according to the 2015 nuclear deal. Wednesday’s move followed US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the pact in May and in re-imposition of sanctions. The Treasury Department announced it had revoked licenses that allowed US-controlled foreign firms to export commercial aircraft parts to Iran as well as permitted Americans to trade in Iranian carpets, pistachios and caviar.  It said businesses engaged in any such transactions have to wind down those operations by August 6 or face penalties under US sanctions. Another set of licenses covering other types of commerce, including oil purchases, will be revoked in coming weeks, with firms given until November 4 to end those activities. The step had been expected since May when Trump pulled the US out of the landmark agreement under which Iran was given relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.  Trump said the accord, a signature foreign policy achievement of his predecessor, President Barack Obama, was the worst deal ever negotiated by the United States because it gave Iran too much in return for too little. Trump also complained that the agreement did not cover Iran's non-nuclear malign behavior. Other parties to the deal — Britain, China, Germany, France, Russia and the European Union — have criticized the US withdrawal, which has left the agreement at risk of collapse.  The Trump administration has meanwhile been stepping up efforts to isolate Iran and its faltering economy from international financial and trading systems. On Tuesday, the administration said it was pushing foreign countries to cut their oil imports from Iran to zero by November 4.  Previously, the administration had said only that countries should make a "significant reduction" in their imports of Iranian oil or be subject to separate US sanctions prohibiting all transactions between their central banks and Iran's central bank. A senior State Department official said the administration is now telling European and Asian countries that the US expects their imports to hit zero by the time the grace period ends. Wednesday’s decision will likely be felt in Iran where rallies broke out in the capital Tehran on Sunday and earlier this week over the country’s deteriorating economy and collapse in the local currency. Nearly two-thirds of Iran's MPs have written to President Hassan Rouhani demanding he change his economic team to deal with the country's worsening financial woes, state media said Wednesday. "The poor performance of senior officials in charge of the economy over the past few years has led to the population's increased distrust," wrote 187 of the Iranian parliament's 290 lawmakers, in a letter published by IRNA news agency. In their letter, the members of parliament urged Rouhani to act "as a matter of urgency", calling on the president to make changes "in the management of the economic team". The overhaul must bring "dynamism" and an "understanding" of the economic situation, they wrote, before parliament "takes a decision on the matter". The government's economic team is made up of vice-presidents and ministers, as well as Rouhani's economic advisers and the central bank president. The situation has worsened since the US pullout from the nuclear deal. Iranians have also been hit by rising prices, while record levels of unemployment have left a third of under 30-year-olds out of work

Putin-Trump summit set for July 16 in Helsinki
AFP, Moscow/Thursday, 28 June 2018/A long-awaited summit between US President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin will take place in Helsinki on July 16, the Kremlin and the White House said in simultaneous statements Thursday. “An agreement has been reached that on July 16 in Helsinki there will be a meeting between the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and the President of the United States Donald Trump,” the Kremlin said. The talks will see the two leaders discuss “the current state and prospects for development of Russian-US relations,” according to the release. A statement from the White House said the men would also broach “a range of national security issues”. Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election! Where is the DNC Server, and why didn’t Shady James Comey and the now disgraced FBI agents take and closely examine it? Why isn’t Hillary/Russia being looked at? So many questions, so much corruption!
Bolton in Moscow
Trump's national security advisor John Bolton met Putin in Moscow on Wednesday. The two discussed the details of the first full summit between the presidents. US-Russian relations have hit lows not seen since the Cold War over Moscow's annexation of Crimea, its involvement in eastern Ukraine and allegations of political meddling, as well as disagreement over the Syrian conflict. Since coming to power last year, Trump has sought to improve relations with Putin amid tensions between Moscow and the West. Trump said this month that Russia should be re-admitted to the G7 group of industrialized democracies from which it was suspended after annexing Crimea in 2014. That comment came at a summit which ended in sharp disagreement between Trump and his G7 allies. The last, brief meeting between Putin and Trump took place in November 2017 in Vietnam during an APEC summit. Trump is due to attend the July 11 and 12 NATO summit in Brussels before heading to Britain to meet with Prime Minister Theresa May and Queen Elizabeth II on July 13.
The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on June 28-29/18
Analysis The Iranian Regime Is in Trouble, but Will the Latest Round of Protests Topple It?
زافي برال في الهآررتس: النظام الإيراني في ورطة ولكن هل المظاهرات الأخيرة سوف تسقطه؟

Zvi Bar'el/Haaretz/June 28/18
As Iranians lose their patience with the economic crisis, Khamenei and Rohani need to get creative to stem popular distrust and frustration
Judging by the enthusiastic reactions in Israel to the renewal of the demonstrations in Iran this week, you’d be forgiven for inferring that the Islamic Republic is nearing collapse, soon to be replaced by a Western-style democracy, and that the nuclear deal will be abrogated and Iran will withdraw its forces from Syria and sign a peace agreement with Israel.
But going by the blogs and the traffic on the social media that haven’t been blocked in Iran, the Israeli-American dream is far from coming true.
This week’s protests were not the biggest in Iran this year. At least two dozen Iranians were killed in massive demonstrations in many cities in January. They were followed by strikes and work stoppages in the intervening months, as well as sit-ins outside government offices. There’s no reason to see the voluntary closure this week of shops in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar and protesters shouting “death to the dictator” and “death to Khamenei and Rohani” (as they also did six months ago) as a sign that the entire country is about to shut down.
But just as the strikes and demonstrations didn’t begin this week, the economic crisis is also the result of four decades of corruption, dysfunctional government, political power struggles and international sanctions. The numbers aren’t pretty. The rial plunged to 90,000 to the dollar; the official unemployment rate is 12 percent; oil exports have declined by about half a million barrels a day and might decline even further as the effect of the renewed U.S. American sanctions increases.
The European Union, meanwhile, is making no effort to keep its promise to comply with the terms of the nuclear agreement even after the United States pulled out. Iran’s national debt is climbing, foreign companies are leaving and inflation is eroding consumers’ buying power.
On the other hand, Iran is not a poor country. Its foreign currency reserves are estimated at over $140 billion. The country’s sovereign wealth fund, the National Development Fund of Iran, receives 20 percent of all revenues. Its reserves exceed $50 billion. China and Russia have promised to maintain their trade with Iran. China, Iran’s biggest oil customer, has said it will increase its purchases and even invest in developing new oil fields. Turkey will also avoid complying with the renewed U.S. sanctions for now, and Tehran’s plans to cut national spending should help keep the economy afloat.
But the economic crisis can’t be measured by macro data alone. Iran is mired in a crisis of confidence and a crisis of frustration. The former stems from the fact that President Hassan Rohani has been unable to keep most of his promises: to create new jobs, to implement economic reforms and to improve human rights.
Even before the United States abandoned the nuclear deal, Iranians’ confidence in their government was eroded by the cancellation of some subsidies, the removal of millions of people from the welfare rolls and the spending of billions of dollars on wars in Syria and Yemen instead of at home.
Added to that is frustration that the nuclear deal did not bring about the promised economic revolution. Iranians were willing to wait patiently for economic renewal when it seemed nearer than ever. After the nuclear deal was signed in 2015, multinational companies began opening local headquarters. The purchase of Boeing and Airbus passenger planes signaled the opening of the skies and tourism development. The partnership with Peugeot and Citroen, the bonanza enjoyed by car dealers, the plans for a new port that would connect India and China via Iran and the shelves filled with imported merchandise gave Iranians the feeling the nuclear treaty was bearing fruit.
The main cause of the frustration that fueled the demonstrations in January was the slow pace and insufficient scope of economic development and recovery. U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal and the predictions of impending disaster as a result spoiled the party. The government prohibited the import of over 1,400 items, claiming that there were local substitutes. Iranians were asked not to buy dollars and to limit their foreign travel. Money changers were arrested for allegedly running up the dollar exchange rate, car prices soared by tens of percentage points when Peugeot and Citroen left the Iranian market and the panic to maintain the value of their money pushed civilians into purchasing more dollars, more gold, and for anyone who could afford it, real estate, which caused housing prices to speak.
This fear had an immediate effect on the dollar exchange rate that spoiled the government’s plan to combine the official dollar rate with the black market rate, and to peg it at 42,000 rials per dollar. In order to deal with the dollar crisis, the government came up with an idea of dubious efficacy, which was opposed to official policy — to introduce a parallel foreign exchange market with three dollar rates: 40,000 rials, 60,000 rials and the black market rate. It’s unclear how the market will work and whether it will succeed in calming the rush for dollars that causes price rises every day.
Government spokesmen claim the crisis is psychological rather than due to genuine economic ills, and are now trying to bring down the price of the rial. The president will probably announce a change of government officials, like that carried out in Jordan and Egypt. But in Iran, the economy is not managed only by the president. There is also a Resistance Economy council established by Supreme Religious Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is deeply involved in the crisis, which means that any public complaint about the economy is targeting Khamenei as well as Rohani.
Khamenei is in a dilemma and must decide on his priorities. For him, Iran’s involvement in Syria and Yemen is not only a matter of national security, but a matter of prestige, especially due to his fight with Saudi Arabia. These wars cost billions of dollars, but pulling out could pit Khamenei against the Revolutionary Guards, who hold half and more of the Iranian economy. He will face a similar threat if he cuts their budget, which has soared since last year. Reducing government expenditures would cause the unemployment of hundreds of thousands of officials, and the loss of billions in taxes. A greater cut in subsidies is liable to lead to violent rebellion.
Rohani hopes that the present crisis will cause the supreme leadership to allow him to implement the necessary reforms, but Khamenei may try to oust him, in order to blame him and his government for the crisis. A few members of parliament have urged him to resign or to dismiss his economy ministers and economic advisers.
In that case radical elements would probably run a replacement, and some are talking about Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, as the next president. So when in the West they’re talking about the chances of bringing down the regime, in Iran they’re talking about replacing the leadership, in order to preserve the regime.

Everyone Should Hate Google Glass
Cathy O'Neil/Bloomberg/June 28/18
I hate Google Glass, and I think I’ve hit upon a way to get everyone to understand the dystopic future this eyewear augurs: Give it to flight attendants.
The summer of 2014 was a turning point for me. I had always considered myself a genuinely nice person who would never consider violence against a stranger. But then, at a conference in Silicon Valley, I saw a guy wearing the Google glasses with the little camera attached. I had to suppress the urge to punch him in the face. It gave me a visceral understanding of the Luddites. I hated the guy for his smug assumption that everyone should submit to his digital intrusion. After the device failed as a consumer item, Google started marketing it to industry, where it’s actually showing signs of becoming useful. In healthcare, for example, it can help doctors and nurses with the high-stakes task of dealing with myriad patients and getting all their details right. It wouldn’t even need to use creepy facial-recognition technology, relying instead on hospital wristbands that emit identifying signals. Of course there are privacy concerns — the glasses should show only need-to-know information such as whether patients need meds or speak English, not whether they’re married or HIV positive. But the potential payoffs are enticing: fewer errors, better triage, fewer unnecessary deaths. Such upsides, though, don’t mean that Google Glass will, on balance, be good for humanity. Consider flight attendants, whose work has some similarities to nursing. Precise knowledge of individual passengers can be very valuable. As the Wall Street Journal has reported, frequent fliers sometimes want their birthdays acknowledged, always want their favorite drink served immediately, and never want their marriage status mentioned in front of other passengers, especially if they’re attractive. Now imagine those flight attendants using Google Glass. This time we’ll turn on the facial recognition, which will work pretty well considering that people’s identities are hardly a secret when they’re flying. The attendants will know everything about you. Commercial airplane flights are a perverted subcultural experience, where everyone is ranked and treated accordingly. We’re pitted against each other for scarce resources to make us feel insecure and pay more to raise our rank. What better way to fine-tune the experience than with Google Glass? The goal: Make every aspect of the consumer experience as jealousy-inducing as walking through the first-class cabin on an international trip. This can be accomplished pretty efficiently, even in coach. Serving preferred guests sooner, perhaps with their favorite cocktail and one extra tiny bag of cheezits, should induce enough jealous rage to compel the most tightwad passengers to pay for an upgrade in status. The glasses could even add a new level of stratification to the boarding experience, allowing gate agents to scan the crowd for the “currently highest ranked remaining unboarded passenger,” or CHRRUP. That should do it. If it’s not enough to make everyone want to punch those glasses (please people, don't actually punch the flight attendants), I don’t know what is.

Jordan, Saudis and Palestinians Warn Israel: Erdogan Operating in East Jerusalem Under Your Nose
Amir Tibon and Yaniv Kubovich/Haaretz/June 28/18
Israel is 'sleeping at the wheel,' they caution
Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority have all separately warned Israel over the past year about growing Turkish activity in East Jerusalem, which they say is part of an attempt by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to “claim ownership over the Jerusalem issue.”
Senior officials in Amman and Ramallah told Israel that Turkey was extending its influence in the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem. Israeli defense officials told Haaretz they are aware of the situation and that the issue is now receiving more attention.
Turkey’s attempts to gain influence in East Jerusalem have been monitored by Israel’s security services for more than a year. Israeli sources pointed to a number of ways in which Turkey is increasing its presence in the city.
These include donations to Islamic organizations in Arab neighborhoods; organized tours arranged by Islamist groups in Turkey, some closely affiliated with Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), which have brought thousands of Turkish citizens to Jerusalem over the past year; and the prominent presence of Turkish activists in demonstrations around the Temple Mount (known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif).
Jordanian officials have accused Israel of “sleeping at the wheel” with regard to the phenomenon. They have also claimed Israel was slow to react to Turkey’s growing presence in East Jerusalem because of the reconciliation agreement signed between the two countries in early 2016, which they say Israel didn’t want to endanger by acting more forcefully against Turkish activity in the city.
Israeli defense officials told Haaretz that both Jordan and the PA have expressed concern about the phenomenon. However, the same defense officials rejected the idea that Israel hadn’t taken swift action.
According to these officials, the phenomenon reached its peak last year when hundreds of Turkish citizens became a regular presence in and around the Old City, becoming involved in clashes with police officers during Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The defense officials said the Israeli authorities handled the problem with a combination of arrests and deportations of some of the Turkish activists – barring some of them from reentering Israel.
The officials admitted, however, that even though the Turkish activity has quietened in recent months, it is still an ongoing concern. They said Turkey is still striving for influence by investing in organizations and institutions in East Jerusalem, including through Islamist groups related to the AKP.
“They’re trying to buy real estate and strengthen their political standing,” said a source in the Israel Police. “It’s also a source of concern for the PA, which doesn’t want to have another country claiming responsibility for East Jerusalem.”
Last month, shortly after Turkey ordered the Israeli ambassador to leave Ankara following the death of some 60 Palestinian protesters on the Gaza border on May 14, Israel retaliated by instructing the Turkish consul general in Jerusalem to leave the country. Israeli sources claimed that the consul – a longtime member of AKP – was involved in Turkish efforts to increase the country’s standing in East Jerusalem, including by assisting Islamist groups that have ties to IHH, the organization behind the 2010 Turkish flotilla to Gaza. That attempt to break a naval blockade of the Palestinian enclave resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish activists after Israeli forces raided the lead ship, the Mavi Marmara.
Jordan’s concerns about Turkey’s activities are mostly because of its own standing as the custodian of Islam’s holy sites in Jerusalem. Jordanian officials told their Israeli counterparts that they suspect Erdogan is trying to undercut that position.
For the PA, the main source of concern is that Turkey’s support will boost Islamist groups that oppose the PA, and are closer ideologically and politically to its rival in Gaza, Hamas.
Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, has expressed concern over Erdogan trying to mobilize the Jerusalem issue in order to boost his image across the Arab and Islamic world, and present himself as the only leader truly standing up to Israel and the Trump administration.

Will Russia accept Putin’s victories?
Hazem Saghieh/Al Arabiya/June 28/18
The World Cup held in Russia is being currently projected as a victory for the country’s president Vladimir Putin who recently secured a new presidential term. Although it is true that Western leaders have not attended World Cup matches, it is also true that Russia has hosted this major international sports event and has overcome all the expected obstacles. For instance, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Boris Johnson had threatened to boycott the World Cup in response to the poisoning former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England. However, the British national team has participated in the tournament, just as any other national team. It is noteworthy that while Western leaders engaged in petty squabbles at the summit in Quebec, China was celebrating another harmonious summit and Putin was the first man honored there as Chinese leader Xi Jinping awarded him the “Friendship Medal”
Putin’s successes
Earlier, Italy had bestowed another honor on Putin. Following recent elections, a populist government came to power in Rome — with the ‘Lega Nord’ Party (the Northern League) forging a coalition with the ‘MoVimento 5 Stelle’ (the Five Star movement) whose leaders compete with each other in admiring the Russian president. At the G7 summit in Quebec, Putin scored three consecutive victories. First, and amid the opposition of his partners, US President Donald Trump suggested that Russia could join the G7 and the bloc could again become G8 (reversing the decision a few years back to expel the country from bloc following its occupation of Crimea). Second, the summit witnessed a major fissure emerging within the G7 over Trump’s policies leading to his withdrawal from signing the final communiqué of the Summit. The fact is that every difference between the US and the EU is a net gain for Putin.
Third, there was no action taken over accusations of the Kremlin’s interference in some European elections and the American elections, influence over the UK’s Brexit referendum and its use of several methods like piracy and bribery for achieving these goals. This confirms that the West has come a long way in normalizing relations with Kremlin, although the process is still not complete. It is noteworthy that while Western leaders engaged in petty squabbles at the summit in Quebec, China was celebrating another harmonious summit and Putin was the first man honored there as Chinese leader Xi Jinping awarded him the “Friendship Medal” to express their flourishing relations. Jinping said President Putin is his “best, most intimate friend.” It is worth mentioning that the two leaders have so far met each other 20 times.
Acceptance of Crimea’s occupation
Meanwhile, Russia’s occupation of Crimea has gained acceptance unless it’s proven otherwise, and it seems the continuance of Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria is now only opposed by the Syrians. These are two major achievements for Russian policy – achievements fulfilled via blatant interferences and occupations. There is no doubt that the situation of the current American policy and troubled West-West relations have been the main factor behind Putin’s successes. This does not take the credit away from Putin’s astuteness as he has been able to take advantage of his adversaries’ weaknesses and contradictions. One still wonders whether “the small Russian stomach” can digest these major victories which have taken place in a relatively short period. Here we are referring to Russia’s economic conditions, which Putin bets on saving via hosting the World Cup. Russia has spent $14 billion on this event, most of which were allocated for expanding the country’s infrastructure (airports, stadiums and roads) in order to receive an estimated 570,000 foreign visitors as well as 700,000 Russians who are travelling between cities to watch the matches. Therefore, there is reliance that the revenues from this investment are huge and rewarding. However, a closer look at all this excludes this possibility as the aforementioned amounts do not change much on the long run for a $1.3 trillion economy which is dependent on oil and gas prices and which is also reeling under international sanctions. Thus, those are patient and who have reservations concluded that Putin’s happiness over his victories and successes may not last long.

Saudi women will now drive and lead in larger arenas

Amal Abdulaziz Al–Hazani/Al Arabiya/June 28/18
From the beginning of time, thousands of emperors, sultans, kings, princes and caliphs have ruled several lands and territories of the earth. Yet, history only immortalized those who made a difference in people’s lives and whose compass was always directed towards enlightenment.
Succeeding generations thus memorized their names and their legacies extended beyond history books.
Leadership qualities
At first glance, managing states seems like it’s all about the implementation of commands due to the power of authority, but the mechanism of governance is complicated, and may be a bane for those in power. The leadership of states requires courage without recklessness, patience without indifference, modesty without humiliation and power without authoritarianism. Only the fortunate ones are gifted with these qualities. Such leaders bring fortune and prosperity to the land they rule. This is an introduction to the talk about the new era ushered in Saudi Arabia, or the new Saudi Arabia, as some like to call it.
What’s new is that it changed economic foundations which first pillars were established at the hands of the founder King Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rahman al-Faisal (may God have mercy on him) who started building a modern state by relying on wells full of black oil. His sons completed this project after him.
The Saudi woman is not only celebrating the decision to allow her to drive, she is celebrating her departure from the prison of extremism which restricted, belittled and despised her for decades. However, this foundation changed and so did cultural, intellectual and social foundations which have negatively impacted the modern state during eight decades. There were world wars and destructive events taking place close to the kingdom’s borders and difficult political and intellectual tests that changed a great deal of the cultural composition of Saudi society – the most important of which is what is known as Al Sahwa born out of Muslim Brotherhood and which founded an extremist religious thought and rigidity of faith.
Since it is the land of the Two Holy Mosques, it has always been targeted by those who make a living out of religion. All this has reflected on the society that used to practice its religious life with a pure faith before them.
‘New’ Saudi Arabia
The term the ‘new’ Saudi Arabia refers to a change brought about by two factors — the first factor is economic and springs from the belief that oil will not last, and that investing in young minds can produce creative ideas which is the only way to build a productive and lasting economy. The other factor is that the new Saudi Arabia has chosen to follow moderate Islam, just as it was followed during the times of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), 14 centuries ago. We must recall that extremists made a living out of intimidating people through their lectures, recordings and speeches until their bank accounts got full at the expense of the good souls who love and fear God, so they ingenuously started believing and following them. They believe, by their own admission, that women are their secure fortresses. If women would slip away from their hands, they would lose their strength. Thus, most of their theories were centered around women. They have set restrictions for her at work, school and even within her family. They underestimated her and belittled her mind. Some say that if a woman is educated, she would rebel against men and liberate herself from his chains or if she becomes financially independent through work, she would no longer need him so he will have no authority over or if she drives a car she would run away from him! These ideas and messages were at the center of their discourse, narratives and speeches. It is not only the point of view of male chauvinism but it is also tantamount to enslavement, just like those who feel ashamed about being parent to a daughter, thinking she is a disgrace and hoping a day would come when she will get married and will cease being a responsibility and become the responsibility of another man.
It is really weird how someone can have such a troubled thought at a time when people in the West are rapidly developing to the extent of successfully operating on a fetus inside the womb. This is in addition to the West’s ambitions to land on Mars, cloud seeding and heart, eye and liver transplant.
Status of women in Vision 2030
In the new Saudi Arabia, ruled by King Salman bin Abdul Aziz and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a road map called Vision 2030 has been drawn. This comprehensive strategy pledges to ensure great development for the Kingdom, where every member of the society — male or female — can enjoy a dignified life, both equal in rights and duties. The Saudi woman is not only celebrating the decision to allow her to drive, but she is celebrating her departure from the prison of extremism which restricted, belittled and despised her for decades. She will not run away because she can operate a vehicle and go, but she will be freed from the fake restrictions imposed on her by hardline forces. The political leadership has finally brought her justice by granting her the right to drive and having an independent identity. It’s also expanded her space to work in the labor market and appointed her in high office positions. After she was humiliated by the uncivilized, she gained her place and status at the hands of the generous godfather of Vision 2030 who reassured her that she is half of the society that relies on her to achieve the qualitative changes he has planned.
Saudi women continue to aspire and want more. They believe in the Crown Prince and feel that they will not only drive from their residence to work or to the school of their children, but will lead with their fellow men to larger arenas, as a partner in the wheel of development thanks to her strong will and the confidence bestowed on her.

Saudi Arabia’s OPEC victory
Waleed Shwaila/Al Arabiya/June 28/18
Saudi Arabia’s delegation, led by Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih, found success during Friday’s OPEC meeting in Vienna, Austria.
The meeting resulted in the unanimous decision to increase global oil production, with an unofficial target of an added one million barrels per day.
But why was this decision made? And who are the true winners of the deal?
Reason for the decision
The fact of the matter is that the market is demanding more oil as we enter the second half of 2018. A supply shortage in crude oil would be a very real and global issue without Friday’s decision to increase production. Some of the world’s largest nations, such as the United States, China and India previously urged oil producers to increase supply to avoid an oil deficit that could threaten global economic growth. And with that, a background story comes to light. Last year, a strategy was implemented among OPEC and non-OPEC members to cut production by 1.8 million in an effort to re-balance the market. However, that number was unexpectedly surpassed. Due to further output constrictions in troubled states such as Venezuela, Libya, and Nigeria, the planned 1.8-million-barrel reduction hit 2.8 million instead. And hence, a shortage concern arose for OPEC to deal with. With Venezuela’s political mayhem, Libya’s civil chaos, and Nigeria’s pervasive internal violence, a lot of crude oil can no longer be counted on to be a part of global output. Therefore, implementing a strategy involving an increase in oil production is the obvious choice. Also due to these conditions, a different course of action is required in terms of policy. In the past, those who exceeded production targets were reprimanded and a close eye was kept on them. With Friday’s agreement, over-production will be somewhat encouraged in order to make up for any unexpected geopolitical or social conditions that may prevent the targets from being achieved.
Furthermore, some nations will continue to decrease production and not take part in the agreement due to their political situation in terms of limitations of resources and overall under-investment. That is understandable and to be expected. OPEC has done an outstanding job of being very inclusive, by not focusing simply on the giant oil-producers, but also including consumers, stakeholders, NGOs, and the world economy in the discussions
Raising conformity
The OPEC and non-OPEC nations involved in the debate and agreement definitely have the capacity to achieve the objectives of this decision. We can expect an increase of around 800,000 barrels per day to be injected into the industry, and raising conformity levels to 100 percent is indeed foreseeable.
OPEC has done an outstanding job of being very inclusive, by not focusing simply on the giant oil-producers of the world, but also including consumers, stakeholders, non-government organizations, and the world economy in the discussions. Targeting production-amounts as a group of nations seems to be the latest trend in the oil industry, rather than the traditional scheme of every country having its own production-targets. This new trend will create a larger task for OPEC, but at the same time greater results are anticipated. Aside from avoiding supply shortages, maintaining oil prices is another concern to take into account. With supply shortages increasing prices, OPEC has yet another task. While that may sound positive to the average person, it can be catastrophic to the world economy. Keeping leveled pricing within a stable market while producing at a higher rate is much healthier and durable than a sudden increase in oil prices within an unstable market, while producing at a lower rate. And that brings us to the winners of this decision.
Winners of the decision
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is clearly the biggest winner in this deal. The Russian delegation, led by Energy Minister Alexander Novak, is surely thrilled with the deal as well, having been very supportive of the proposal and Saudi Arabia’s efforts. These two oil-rich nations have been given the chance to increase their crude oil output, while also benefiting from a more stable and balanced market. The lack of supply in the market needs to be filled during the second half of the year, and these two oil giants will gladly do their part in filling the gaps. But at the end of the day, the world economy as a whole shall find victory in the agreement. After all, it was unanimously approved for a reason. Saudi Arabian Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih was firm and confident in his approach at the recent OPEC meeting, as he is at all OPEC gatherings. A suggestion was placed on the table to increase production, and Saudi Arabian politics came out on top. Persuading even the Iranians to agree, al-Falih handled the meeting to perfection. Under the instruction and support of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, the Energy Minister was able to leave the crucial meeting with a Saudi Arabian victory, while benefiting the world economy at large. Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman’s desire for a stronger and grander Saudi Arabia is leading to these achievements. The young competent leader is implementing non-oil sources of prosperity, but at the same time finding success in the oil industry. Since his appointment as Crown Prince, Saudi Arabia has revived its place in the industry at a remarkable pace. As stated in Vision 2030: “We will continue to manage effective oil production to ensure a rewarding flow of oil revenue and reinvestment.”

Iranians are under no illusions about a regime that has squandered its resources to spread terror
Con Coughlin/The National/June 28, 2018
From a collapsing economy to street protests, Iran's rulers are confronting a crisis of their own making, writes Con Coughlin
Ever since Iran’s Green Revolution in 2009, the ruling regime has been desperate to crush any hint of dissent to its authoritarian rule. Nine years ago, this took the form of units from the Republican Guard Corps and the Basij, the so-called people’s militia, being deployed to confront the pro-democracy protesters who had taken to the streets in their tens of thousands to vent their anger at president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s surprise election victory, which many believed had been rigged.
The official death toll from the regime’s brutal suppression of the Green Revolution is hard to estimate, not least because many of those detained during the protests were subsequently tried on a variety of different charges, from indulging in un-Islamic activities to outright treason. But human rights organisations put the death toll in the thousands, with many of those who perished dying of injuries sustained after being subjected to torture in the regime’s infamous detention facilities.
While the methods might have been uncompromising, they did nonetheless succeed in achieving the regime’s goal of crushing the revolt, thereby silencing the voices that rose against the ayatollahs’ authoritarian rule. And that, by and large, is how the situation has remained, apart from a brief uprising in 2012 that was suppressed using the same ruthless tactics. But now the protesters are back, as shown by this week’s dramatic scenes at the Iranian majlis, or parliament, when the police were obliged to use tear gas against demonstrators who had marched on the parliament building to express their deep dissatisfaction over the government’s handling of the current economic crisis. Of even more concern for the ayatollahs should be the closure of Tehran’s Grand Bazaar, the country’s economic centre where Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution originated. The bazaaris have long been considered one of the most influential constituencies in Iran, having the ability to make or break governments, be they run by Shahs or ayatollahs.
And the fact that the bazaaris now appear to be bringing their considerable weight to bear on the latest wave of protests is a development the ruling regime should regard with alarm. At the root of the new political turbulence lies the dire state of the country’s economy, a crisis that, to a large extent, is self-inflicted.
The economic effects of US President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal – taken in response to Tehran’s failure to comply with the spirit of the agreement – is now having a serious impact on the Iranian economy, with the rial exchange rate falling to around 90,000 to the dollar on Iran’s thriving black market this week. This compares with a rate of 65,000 rials before Mr Trump’s announcement in May. The official exchange rate is 42,000 rials, but the dire shortage of foreign exchange, one of the main consequences of Mr Trump’s decision to quit the nuclear deal, means that ordinary Iranians are increasingly forced to deal on the black market.
Iran’s worsening economic predicament has already led to sporadic protests taking place in towns and cities around the country. In all, there have been demonstrations in around 75 cities and towns – the largest protest seen since 2009, and activists say at least 25 people have been killed and 5,000 arrested.
Now the protests have moved to the Iranian capital, and the message emanating loud and clear from the protestors is that they want to see a radical change in policy from their government, one where the regime stops wasting billions of dollars on its overseas military adventures and instead concentrates its efforts on rebuilding the Iranian economy. That, after all, was the main driving force behind Iran’s decision to enter negotiations with a number of leading world powers on its nuclear programme. Indeed, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani’s election in 2013 owed much to his promise to repair relations with the West and get the punitive economic sanctions lifted.
And to that end, the 2015 nuclear deal could be deemed a success. In return for Iran scaling down its nuclear activities, the sanctions were lifted and the regime was given the opportunity to restore the country’s economic well-being. But instead of concentrating its efforts on domestic policy, the regime instead decided to invest much of the estimated $150 billion it received from the sanctions being lifted in numerous overseas adventures in countries such as Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
Yet, for all the money Iran has spent on its foreign interventions, Tehran has little to show for its multi-billion dollar investment. In Syria, for example, the Iranians are under intense pressure to dismantle the military infrastructure they have constructed while spending $35 billion annually defending the president, Bashar Al Assad. It is a similar picture in Yemen, where fighters from Hezbollah, on whom Iran has spent an estimated $700 million a year, are fighting alongside Houthi rebels. The Arab-led coalition’s efforts to recapture the vital port of Hodeidah have inflicted a serious defeat against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, making many Iranians question the wisdom of backing them in the first place.
By re-imposing economic sanctions against Iran, the Trump administration no doubt hopes they will have the same sobering effect on Tehran as they have had on North Korea, where the threat or renewed economic hardship –together with the Trump administration’s very serious threat to launch military action to destroy Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme – persuaded North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un to enter peace talks. The uncompromising nature of Iran’s Islamic revolution, as well as the regime’s visceral anti-Americanism, suggests that a similar resolution of the long-standing hostility between Tehran and Washington is unlikely. Any failure, though, by Tehran to resolve the diplomatic stand-off with the Trump administration over the nuclear deal and get the sanctions lifted could have serious repercussions. The country’s increasingly restless population are under no illusions about who is really to blame for the country’s dire economic plight.
*Con Coughlin is the Daily Telegraph’s defence and foreign affairs editor

Erdogan's Victory Could Actually Improve U.S.-Turkish Relations
James F. Jeffrey/The Washington Institute/June 28/18
Turkey’s decisive election results and shaky geopolitical situation could make it more amenable to addressing U.S. concerns about Russian weapons sales, Iranian adventurism, and other key security issues.
At first glance, the June 24 electoral sweep by Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s coalition did not go over well in the United States. In response to his renewed grasp on the executive branch and parliament, many observers expressed regrets that the West-leaning opposition did not garner more votes, along with suspicions of ballot-box stuffing and angst over what he might do with broader presidential powers under the amended constitution. Yet as Turkey moves on from its contentious election cycle in the coming weeks, the results may augur a better midterm future for Washington’s stormy relationship with Ankara. The most important plus for U.S. policymakers is that the decisive voting results will presumably spare Turkey a protracted period of post-election turmoil—an advantage that should not be underestimated given the imposing agenda of unresolved bilateral issues, the tumultuous state of Turkey’s neighbors, and the increasing pressure Russia has been bringing to bear on Ankara. Dramatic scenarios such as presidential runoff elections and parliamentary coalition negotiations would likely have postponed any progress on crucial foreign policy initiatives and promoted political histrionics aimed at the United States, further fraying the bilateral relationship. A stable Turkish government is invariably a better U.S. partner, at least in terms of near-term strategic interests in a war-torn Middle East.
Furthermore, the political price that Erdogan had to pay to secure victory could make him more amenable to compromise on certain issues. His Justice and Development Party (AKP) was so threatened in the run-up to election day that it had to form a coalition with the Nationalist Action Party (MHP) just to secure a majority, and his 52 percent presidential win was only marginally better than his performance in 2014. Meanwhile, one of his most bitter opponents—the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), seen by many Turks as the political wing of the insurgent Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)—handily vaulted the 10 percent national vote hurdle required to enter parliament. This mixed result could compel him to work with more actors inside and outside Turkey, including the United States—though it should be noted that this “more moderate after elections” formula has not always applied to him.
Whatever Erdogan’s post-election tack, Washington is in good position to take advantage of a more stable Turkey, having played its cards well with Ankara of late. Earlier this month, officials reached an agreement on the Manbij area of Syria involving U.S.-Turkish military cooperation and withdrawal of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), a Syrian Kurdish group linked to the PKK. Erdogan has also made clear that he wants U.S. troops to remain in northeast Syria to help contain various perceived threats there, from the PYD and Islamic State remnants to Iranian elements and their Assad regime allies. In addition, Washington allowed the transfer of Turkey’s first F-35 fighter aircraft despite congressional threats to halt such sales due to Ankara’s purchase of Russian S-400 air defense systems. These accommodations indirectly supported Erdogan’s campaign pitch that only he could protect the homeland. And through all this, President Trump has maintained a seemingly good relationship with him.
No one knows where Erdogan might take Turkey now, and he is a difficult partner under any circumstances. But in economic and military terms, Turkey is one of the strongest, most stable states in the Middle East, and a partner that has cooperated with the West on issues ranging from Afghanistan and Ukraine to Syrian refugees and NATO defenses against Iranian missiles. Most Turks remain Western-oriented, and their government has largely acted as a status quo power that shares U.S. concerns over Russian and Iranian expansionism. If the Trump administration is serious about the priorities expressed in the National Security Strategy it released last December—namely, focusing on competition with hostile states—it needs strong allies like Turkey, even when they come with major domestic baggage on human rights and other issues.
Turkish contacts and media close to Erdogan appear open to a closer relationship, but Washington will reasonably expect him to take substantive steps toward resolving several problems, and sooner rather than later. These include the S-400 purchase—in addition to congressional ire about a NATO member buying weapons from Moscow, placing the S-400 in Turkish hands with Russian technical support may allow the Kremlin to soak up vital intelligence on Turkey’s F-35s, potentially compromising F-35 fleets and their supporting systems in other countries. Senior Turkish officials do not seem fully aware of these consequences, but they will have to work rapidly with the Trump administration to limit the damage from any congressional sanctions. Ankara should also reconsider its provocative legal action against individuals such as American pastor Andrew Brunson and Turkish employees of the U.S. diplomatic mission.
Even if Turkey takes these steps, its worrisome human rights record, administrative tilting of campaign processes in favor of Erdogan’s faction, and accused electoral irregularities will continue to roil the bilateral relationship. Although President Trump appears to have no qualms about engaging with illiberal leaders, much of his administration, Congress, public opinion, and U.S. allies expect Turkey to behave as a liberal democratic NATO ally, and they may decide to challenge bilateral cooperation if it does not.
Yet the elections made clear that Erdogan will remain Turkey’s leader for the foreseeable future, so Washington should reach out to him on those issues that require imminent action to avoid dire regional consequences. Given the turmoil to Turkey’s south (from Iraq and Syria to Yemen) and north (in the Caucasus and Ukraine), the two nations need each other.
**James Jeffrey is the Philip Solondz Distinguished Fellow at The Washington Institute and former U.S. ambassador to Turkey.