June 30/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life
John 06/22-27: "The next day the crowd that had stayed on the other side of the lake saw that there had been only one boat there. They also saw that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. Then some boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the lake, they said to him, ‘Rabbi, when did you come here?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.’
Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on June 29-30/18
Stories of successful Lebanese expats in the U.S./Maria Matar/Annahar/June 29/18
Nasrallah vows to facilitate return of Syrian refugees/Georgi Azar/Annahar/June 29/18
Hariri dismisses rumors of fraying ties with Aoun/Ghinwa Obeid/The Daily Star/June 29/18
A Village (Arab al-Aramshe) Sliced in Two by the Israeli-Lebanese Border/Aviad Tal/Haaretz/June 29/18
Trump lets Putin have Syria for a summit, Iranian/Hizballah gain access to Israel’s border on refugee backs/Debka File/June 29/18
Trump-Putin Understandings on Syria: Regime Returns to South in Return for Iran Exit/London - Ibrahim Hamidi/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 29 June, 2018
Exclusive: Iran Protests Give Big ‘No’ to Both Turban and Military Cap/London/Asharq Al-Awsat/ 29 June, 2018
Why Turkey Will Not Be Another Iran/Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/June 29/18
Putin and Trump Have Nothing to Talk About/Leonid Bershidsky/Asharq Al Awsat/June 29/18
How to Solve the Plastic Crisis/Adam Minter/Bloomberg/June 29/18
Arab Leaders Asked U.S. Not to Reveal Mideast Peace Plan, Palestinians Say/Jack Khoury/Haaretz/June 29/18
Analysis/ Angela Merkel Is Losing to the Orban-Trump-Netanyahu Camp/Anshel Pfeffer/Haaretz/June 29/18
Israel Transferred Aid to Syrians Seeking Refuge Near Border in Overnight Mission/Noa Shpigel, Yaniv Kubovich and Jack Khoury/Haaretz/June 29/18
Replacing Justice Kennedy: What kind of Conservative Will President Trump Pick/Alan M. Dershowitz/Gatestone Institute/June 29/18
The Netherlands Approves Burqa Ban/Soeren Kern//Gatestone Institute/June 29/18
Is Trump handing Putin a victory in Syria/David Ignatius/The Washington Post/June 29/18
Accepting Regime Forces in South Syria Will Only Further Iran’s Goals/Hanin Ghaddar and Phillip Smyth/The Washington Institute/June 29, 2018
Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on June 29-30/18
Aoun Says Tourism Improved 'Thanks to Security, Stability'
Lebanon: New Government Depends on FPM’s Vetoing Third
Visiting UK Minister Announces New LAF Training Facility
Aoun Says Lebanon to Defend Itself if Israel Attacks
Report: Berri, Hariri Agree LF Success in Elections Must Reflect in Govt.
Ibrahim: More Refugees Will Be Willingly Returning to Syria
Kanaan Affirms Again ‘Christian Reconciliation Unbroken’
Stories of successful Lebanese expats in the U.S.
Hizbullah Denies 8 Fighters Killed in Yemen
Nasrallah Says Trump 'Monster' for Migrant Family Separations
Nasrallah vows to facilitate return of Syrian refugees
Hariri dismisses rumors of fraying ties with Aoun
A Village (Arab al-Aramshe) Sliced in Two by the Israeli-Lebanese Border
Titles For The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on June 29-30/18
Trump lets Putin have Syria for a summit, Iranian/Hizballah gain access to Israel’s border on refugee backs
Trump-Putin Understandings on Syria: Regime Returns to South in Return for Iran Exit
Who are the Rebels in Southern Syria?
Battered South Syria Towns in Talks on Regime Takeover
Canada gravely concerned by situation in southwest Syria
UN Rights Chief Warns of ‘Catastrophe’ in Daraa Battle
UN Criticizes Iranian Missiles: Nuclear Deal at Crossroads
Rouhani Calls on Iranians to Be Prepared to Face US Sanctions
Exclusive: Iran Protests Give Big ‘No’ to Both Turban and Military Cap
Iran Reopens Uranium Plant in Preparation to Boost Enrichment
EU Leaders Seal Migration Deal after Marathon Talks
Gaza Teen Shot Dead on Israel Border
The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on June 29-30/18
Aoun Says Tourism Improved 'Thanks to Security, Stability'
Beirut/Asharq Al Awsat/29 June, 2018/President Michel Aoun underlined the need to build “the new Lebanon” and boost its economy after achieving security stability in the country. He emphasized ongoing work “to overcome the economic situation that I have always warned of since I was in Paris when I said that Lebanon is not broken but stolen.” “Conferences will not help achieve growth if things continue as they are,” he added. During a series of meetings held at Baabda Palace on Thursday, Aoun said that thanks to security and stability the country is witnessing, “this year may be one of the best years on the tourist level.” The president also disclosed that Lebanon was about to issue an economic plan and identify the productive sectors that are favorable for investments. He underlined in this regard that economic reforms required “people, who do not yield to despair, but rather exert every possible effort to realize such an end.”

Lebanon: New Government Depends on FPM’s Vetoing Third
Beirut- Youssef Diab/Asharq Al Awsat/29 June, 2018/Ongoing consultations to form a new Lebanese government have not achieved any tangible progress. Sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that President Michel Aoun and Foreign Minister in the caretaker government Gebran Bassil were insisting on guarantying the vetoing third in their governmental share. However, presidential sources denied these reports, stressing that Aoun was working to facilitate the mission of Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri in forming the new government with a fair representation of all the parties. Aoun and Hariri met at the Baabda Palace on Thursday to discuss ongoing efforts to form the new government. “The government will include 30 ministers,” Hariri told reporters, stressing that some issues still need to be addressed carefully, but “we will certainly reach a solution.” “The government must be formed as soon as possible. There are things we could not resolve, but we are close to reaching solutions, and everyone is cooperating in this regard,” he added. Meanwhile, sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Druze knot would be soon resolved by giving the three Druze seats to the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) and putting MP Talal Arslan, an ally of the Free Patriotic Movement, outside the ministerial structure. “The new government formation is stalled by President Aoun, who rejects any formula that does not give him with the Free Patriotic Movement, the blocking third,” the sources said, adding that the president “wants 11 ministers for him and the FPM, three for the Lebanese Forces and one minister for Al-Marada, headed by Suleiman Franjieh. Any other formula is rejected.” However, presidential sources denied talks on “the insistence of President Michel Aoun on the blocking third.”“President Aoun’s position has been announced since the first day of the consultations when he said that he wanted a government in which everyone will be represented according to the size of the parliamentary blocs,” they said.

Visiting UK Minister Announces New LAF Training Facility
Naharnet/June 29/18/On his second visit to Lebanon in less than a year, the British Minister of State for Middle East and North Africa, Alistair Burt, reiterated “the UK’s long standing support to Lebanon.”Burt met Lebanese officials and visited UK funded security, humanitarian and education projects, the British embassy said in a statement. In his meetings with President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri and caretaker Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, Burt encouraged “the swift formation of a government to implement economic policies that will further stabilize Lebanon,” the embassy said. Burt also reiterated the UK’s “ongoing support to Lebanon and its host communities to alleviate the burden of refugees, and discussed with the President, PM-designate and caretaker Foreign Minister the impact on Lebanon of hosting such significant numbers of refugees.”Laying the first stone for the new Lebanese Armed Forces Border Training Center in Bekaa's Riyaq – for which Burt had announced funding at the Rome Security conference earlier this year – the minister saw the building of training facilities. And at an Informal Tented Settlement in the Bekaa, Burt had the opportunity to meet a refugee family benefiting from the UK-funded cash program delivered in partnership with the U.N.’s World Food Program. “This program is providing a lifeline to 10,000 of the most severely vulnerable families living in Lebanon, and is helping them buy essential items such as food, household supplies and vital medicine for their families,” the UK embassy said. Burt also took part in a mini-football game with kids living inside the ITS. The minister's last stop was a visit to a public school in the Chouf region in which he was “pleased to hear that Lebanon has launched its child protection policy and is taking steps towards more inclusive education systems in Lebanon,” the British embassy said. “Minister Burt also saw first-hand the results of the cooperation between local NGOs, such as the Youth Association for the Blind, with the Ministry of Education to promote inclusive learning in classrooms. During the school visit, Minister Burt met with three blind Lebanese students who are striving for success at school,” the embassy added. In addition, Minister Burt met with Joelle Badran, the Chevening scholar who is the first recipient of the Rebecca Dykes scholarship.
“Joelle will leave this summer to study for her MSc in Children, Youth and International Development at Birkbeck University in London. The scholarship was set up in Rebecca’s name to continue her commitment work to support vulnerable communities,” the embassy said.
At the end of his visit, Burt said: “I am pleased to be back in Lebanon and see how the UK – as a strong supporter of Lebanon -- is delivering its commitment to stand shoulder to shoulder with Lebanon now and into the future, providing impactful support and partnership with Lebanon.”
“I held constructive meetings with President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister=designate Saad Hariri and caretaker Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil. I congratulated all three on the recent elections. I said I looked forward to the swift formation of a government that will deliver much needed reforms, especially on the economy. I also told them that the UK recognizes the enormity of the challenges faced by Lebanon, in providing, at no small cost, shelter, education, and opportunities to work for so many who have fled appalling violence, fear and destruction in Syria,” Burt added. He said Britain will continue to ensure that Lebanon receives the international support it deserves. “And we want to see Syrian refugees return to Syria, as soon as it is safe for them to do so,” he emphasized. Burt added: “I was also pleased to hear that Lebanon has launched its child protection policy and is taking steps towards more inclusive education systems in Lebanon. “It was also an opportunity to announce the start of construction of the new UK funded LAF Border Training Center in the Bekaa, and thrilled to see myself the progress that is being made on building this important training facility. The center, another example of the UK’s partnership and commitment to Lebanon, will allow a new and specialized facility to train the Land Border Regiments, and contribute to the UK’s public commitment to train 11,000 LAF troops for urban and rural operations by 2019, and 14,000 troops by 2021,” Burt went on to say.

Aoun Says Lebanon to Defend Itself if Israel Attacks
Naharnet/June 29/18/President Michel Aoun has underlined that Lebanon is “obliged to defend itself” in the event of Israeli aggression, as he denied that Syrian refugees are being pressured to return home. “I will work with the new government on improving the economy, continuing the reforms and combating corruption,” Aoun told visiting British Minister of State for Middle East and North Africa Alistair Burt. As for the thorny issue of Syrian refugees, the president said the return of the refugees is taking place “voluntarily,” denying the presence of any “pressures” on them. Separately, Aoun emphasized that Lebanon is “committed to the truce and Resolution 1701” while underscoring that it is also “obliged to defend itself should Israel attack its territory.”

Report: Berri, Hariri Agree LF Success in Elections Must Reflect in Govt.

Naharnet/June 29/18/A suggestion to form a 24-member Cabinet instead of 30 has been raised in the last few days as a way to find a solution for “the Christian and Druze representation” that have been reportedly delaying the Cabinet formation process, the pan-Arab al-Hayat daily said on Friday. However, the suggestion, which automatically reduces the number of ministers of the six main political parties, has been dropped under the pretext that all political parties must be represented in the Cabinet which calls for a 30-portfolio Cabinet, a political source following on the formation process told the daily. The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Speaker Nabih Berri supports Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri’s view on the representation of the Lebanese Forces, noting that “it should reflect their win in the parliamentary elections.”The LF insists on proper representation in the new Cabinet in light of the parliamentary elections outcome, which produced dramatic success for the party almost doubling its national seats. Furthermore, Berri reportedly agrees with Hariri that Druze ministers must be strictly named by the Progressive Socialist party chief Walid Jumblat.
“His position differs with President Michel Aoun on what is now known as the Christian representation and the Druze representation,” said the daily. Jumblat insists that PSP ministers allocate the three Druze seats in the new government. While Druze MP Talal Arsal also demands a share. “Before he traveled from Beirut, Berri frankly told his visitors that he supports Hariri’s position on these two points,” said the daily. “It must be recognized that the Lebanese Forces have made significant progress in the recent parliamentary elections which must be reflected in the size of their representation in the government,” Berri was quoted as saying.

Ibrahim: More Refugees Will Be Willingly Returning to Syria

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 29/18/General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim affirmed that more Syrian refugees will be “voluntarily” returning back to their country after several hundreds left the Lebanese border town of Arsal to return home a day earlier, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Friday. “Further voluntary repatriation of syrian refugees will follow,” in the future, he told the daily, pointing out that some logistical difficulties have delayed the return of others and that the problem will be solved in the future. “Those who could not return (on Thursday) was because of logistical obstacles. They will return at the earliest opportunity,” he said, explaining that they did not get to the location where the buses have gathered. Referring to the statements made by the UNHCR representative in Lebanon Mireille Girard that “90 per cent of the refugees are willing to go back home,” he said “this desire proves that they are willingly returning home which will facilitate the mission of the General Security and refugees alike.”Hundreds of refugees left Arsal on Thursday to return home, as part of a coordinated operation between authorities in Beirut and Damascus. As fighting fronts in some parts of Syria have died down, Lebanese authorities have become increasingly insistent on returns, more of which are expected in the coming weeks.
Arsal hosts some 36,000 displaced Syrians according to the United Nations refugee agency, many of them from Syrian villages just across the border. Around 370 left Arsal on Thursday afternoon for Syrian territory under an agreement reached between Lebanon's General Security and Syrian authorities, said the Lebanese National News Agency. They gathered at the arid Lebanese-Syrian border before moving together in a convoy across the frontier. Syrian state media confirmed they had begun arriving into Syrian territory.
Lebanese authorities had presented to Damascus a list of 3,000 people who wanted to return, of whom just 450 were approved, NNA said. The UNHCR said the refugee agency had a team on the ground but was not involved in the operations, their spokeswoman said. "Our position hasn't changed. We haven't organised returns and we did not organise this one," said Lisa Abou Khaled. UN teams in Syria have requested access from Damascus to reach the towns and villages to which refugees would be returning, most of them in the Qalamun region, but had yet to receive permission, she told AFP. Lebanon hosts nearly a million registered Syrian refugees but authorities estimate the real number is higher. Officials have been increasingly calling for refugee returns with or without a political solution to Syria's seven-year-old conflict. Earlier this year, around 500 refugees left southern Lebanon for Syria in a return organised by both Lebanese and Syrian authorities. Several thousand have independently gone back to their homeland from towns around the border in recent years. Lebanese officials have stressed that they are not forcing returns, and that refugees are doing so voluntarily. Syrians began seeking refuge in Arsal early in their country's war, setting up tents along the border and renting homes in the town itself. In 2014, jihadists overran Arsal and clashed with Lebanese security forces, kidnapping 30 of them and subsequently killing four.

Kanaan Affirms Again ‘Christian Reconciliation Unbroken’
Naharnet/June 29/18/Free Patriotic Movement MP Ibrahim Kanaan of the Strong Lebanon parliamentary bloc affirmed there will be “no turning back” on the Christian reconciliation with the Lebanese Forces, the National News Agency reported on Friday. In reference to the disagreements between the LF and FPM, the most recent over the Cabinet formation, Kanaan said: “The inter-Christian reconciliation has been achieved and communication is not broken. “The is no turning back, and communication is ongoing, especially with (LF ) Minister Melhem Riachi; however, we need to reassess the previous stage to identify the gaps which shook this agreement in a bid to reach common political grounds,” said Kanaan. Kanaan’s statement is his second this week after remarks made by FPM chief Jebran Bassil saying the agreement with LF (Maarab Agreement) “no longer exists.” The Cabinet formation process faces some obstacles one of which is the Lebanese Forces representation.

Stories of successful Lebanese expats in the U.S.

Maria Matar/Annahar/June 29/18
Despite succeeding in the U.S., some encourage the Lebanese people to stay in Lebanon.
BEIRUT: Two flags, two lands, and two homes in one heart; that is the situation of many Lebanese people who immigrated to the U.S. and embarked on a journey of success there. Their roots are in Lebanon, but their fruits flourished in the U.S.
“America is the land of dreams and opportunities. However, to reach the point where you succeed there, you have to go through a long procedure,” said Hikmat Brassitos, a young Lebanese who is an immigrant in the U.S.
After receiving a Master’s degree in economics, he found himself a jobless graduate; which then prompted him to leave to the U.S. in 2013 in the pursuit of a career.
There, he and his brother, who also immigrated with him, came up with the idea of serving Frollz, which is a Thai concept of ice cream rolls. After witnessing their business’ online presence, they decided to establish a shop to serve it on Square One Mall in Saugus. Ever since, it has been rolling in success and the shop became popular. Stretching the business to their homeland, his sister opened a branch in Lebanon.
“One should have a good amount of credit, start a small business and then expand. It is essential to have the patience to stand until the end, since it’s a rough road, especially as an immigrant,” he told Annahar.
Similarly, Joseph Bou Khalil immigrated to the U.S. back in 1985, aiming for a better life.
After settling down, he started his own business, Joseph Jewelry, making high-end custom design jewelry in a small shop in a building in Bellevue Washington.
A few years later, he expanded his business and purchased all the retail spaces in the building. He has also recently established a second location in Seattle Washington.
“It was exciting to learn and adapt to a foreign culture and expand my horizon. In the U.S., one can grow personally and economically. With a will to succeed and unperishable enthusiasm, it’s impossible to fail,” he said.
On the flipside, despite succeeding in the U.S., Chantale Charo encourages the Lebanese people to stay in Lebanon.
“The grass always seems greener on the other side, until you actually reach the other side. Both countries have their advantages and disadvantages. But, in the end, if we all immigrate, Lebanon will no longer exist. It is the people, not the land, which make a country,” she said.
After studying in the American University of Beirut, she went to the U.S. in 2003, after receiving a scholarship from the MD Anderson cancer center in the University of Texas.
She was then offered a job as a professor at the University of Miami, despite being just 24 years old. She soon realized, however, that this job will hinder her from visiting her family in Lebanon whenever she wants.
So, in 2008, she created the Hottie Detox, providing people with products that help with weight loss. Her online selling website has reached great success.
She currently visits Lebanon from time to time, since her business grew in her homeland too.
“It’s in our blood, as Lebanese people, to fight for what we want and work hard for it; our ambitions can lead us anywhere. My capital at first wasn’t money, it was my sweat and hard work. It feels great to make my country proud, since the foundation of my dreams was laid in it,” she said. Similarly, though dreaming and studying to become an architect in Lebanon, Ala Tannir eventually ended up working in the world famous Museum of Modern Art in NYC. She applied for an internship there, and due to her skills, she was later offered a job as a researcher.
The Museum of Modern Arts in New York is one of the top museums in the U.S. and Tannir works there with Paola Antonelli, one of the most successful designer curators in the world. Tannir believes that New York contains a huge diversity in terms of interests, backgrounds, and pursuits, which, she believes, enriches one’s mind. Still, Tannir feels homesick away from her country and plans to return and contribute to improvement, as she finds it hard to do that now from afar.
“I no longer live in Lebanon, but it still lives in me,” Tannir told Annahar.

Hizbullah Denies 8 Fighters Killed in Yemen
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 29/18/Hizbullah on Friday denied that any of its fighters were killed in Yemen after claims by the Saudi-led coalition that it killed eight of its members there. The coalition battling Shiite Huthi rebels in Yemen on Monday said its forces killed eight members of Hizbullah, including a commander, in the northern Maran province. Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on Friday hinted that his group may have experts but not fighters in Yemen while denying any had been killed. "We've recently said that for certain reasons and interests, we do not say whether we have a presence in Yemen," Nasrallah said during a televised address. "But whether we're there or not, I categorically deny that there are Hizbullah martyrs in Yemen -- not in the last few days nor in recent years," he said. Nasrallah has denied sending fighters or weapons to Yemen in the past. "Is there something else? We do not deny, we do not confirm," he said on Friday. The Saudi-led coalition has repeatedly accused Hizbullah and its backer Iran of providing help to Huthi rebels, including ballistic missiles from Tehran that have targeted Saudi Arabia. Iran denies arming the Huthis. Monday was the first time the coalition officially announced Hizbullah deaths in Yemen, although its spokesman Colonel Turki al-Maliki said they were not the first Hizbullah fighters killed there. Nearly 10,000 people have died in the Yemen war since 2015, when Saudi Arabia and its allies joined the government's fight against the Huthis. The United Nations has called Yemen the world's largest humanitarian crisis.

Nasrallah Says Trump 'Monster' for Migrant Family Separations

Associated Press/Naharnet/June 29/18/Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has blasted U.S. President Donald Trump as a "wild monster" over the policy of separating children from their parents for migrants caught illegally entering the U.S. Nasrallah said in a televised speech Friday that the policy shows Trump's "real image." More than 2,300 children have been separated from their parents in recent weeks as they sought to enter the U.S. illegally. Some were placed in government-contracted shelters hundreds of kilometers away from their parents. "Doesn't the image of immigrant children separated from their fathers and mothers and put in isolated places clearly express the brutality of President Trump and his administration?" asked Nasrallah. "Had people been able to see the real image of Trump he would appear a wild monster," he added.

Nasrallah vows to facilitate return of Syrian refugees

Georgi Azar/Annahar/June 29/18
Nasrallah's comments came during a televised address during which he called for "equal representation of all political parties based on the recent parliamentary election results."
BEIRUT: Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah blamed the delays in forming a new Cabinet on the lack of "standard based on the parliamentary election results," while casting aside accusations that his party is seeking a swift formation of the Cabinet due to "fears over regional developments."
Nasrallah's comments came during a televised address during which he called for "equal representation of all political parties based on the recent parliamentary election results.""If the standard is not the parliamentary results, then we should be aware of that," he said, before maintaining that his bloc, alongside Amal, will not rule out demanding more than six ministries. Hezbollah, alongside its Shiite allies Amal, secured 30 seats during the May 6 parliamentary elections. Touching on the Syrian refugee crisis, Nasrallah reiterated that those who elected to return did so of their own accord without any form of pressure while blaming "international organizations of intimidating them."
On Thursday, dozens of Syrian refugees, who had been living in Arsal, Baalbek, departed Lebanon after requesting permission from the Lebanese and Syrian governments.About 470 Syrians crossed the border, making their way back to Syria after years of exile as result of the bloody civil war.
Nasrallah said his party is willing to play a leading role in facilitating the return of refugees given its close relationship with the Syrian government, vowing to form committees in order to draft lists of individuals seeking to return to be presented to Syrian authorities in coordination with Lebanon's General Security.
Lebanon has been feuding with the United Nations Higher Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), with Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil accusing the refugee agency of attempting to dissuade refugees from returning through fearmongering. Nasrallah also discussed the recent naturalization decree that stirred nationwide controversy due to its lack of transparency, saying that his party "had no prior knowledge of its existence." The bill is laden with allegations of bribery and corruption as it grants the Lebanese nationality to a large number of wealthy GCC nationals including Palestinians and businessmen from the Americas and Europe, as well as Syrian President Bashar Assad loyalists. Nasrallah did acknowledge however that he has "information regarding some of the names but will refrain from discussing them out of respect to Michel Aoun's presidency."
The Hezbollah leader also denied certain media reports alleging that eight Hezbollah fighters have recently perished in Yemen, labelling the claims a ludicrous.
"If one day that does happen, we will proudly confirm them," he said.

Hariri dismisses rumors of fraying ties with Aoun
Ghinwa Obeid/The Daily Star/June 29/18
BEIRUT: Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri Thursday dismissed rumors that ties with President Michel Aoun were fraying, and urged for political calm to allow the Cabinet formation process to proceed smoothly. Hariri went to Baabda Palace as part of ongoing consultations aimed at forming a new government, in a move that dispelled fears of rising tensions between the two leaders. The sit-down followed a strong statement issued by the presidential palace earlier this week that appeared to toughen Aoun’s position against the Lebanese Forces’ demand for key ministerial posts in the new Cabinet, including that of the deputy premier position.However, Aoun made it clear that it was his right to pick a deputy prime minister as well as other ministers through whom he monitors the Cabinet’s work. The statement was also understood to be a message to Hariri, who supposedly supported the LF’s request for wide representation in Cabinet. “The constitution is clear regarding the president’s role and my role in the formation process,” Hariri told reporters after the long meeting. “I hope that there will be no mistake on this issue because I have an understanding with the president on all the details.”
The prime minister-designate also underscored that his political settlement with Aoun is unbroken, noting that it should be protected for the good of Lebanon’s safety. The political settlement between the two led to Aoun’s election as president in 2016, in exchange for Hariri’s reappointment as a prime minister. Touching on the government formation process, Hariri admitted there were certain hurdles he was still working to overcome.
Nevertheless, he struck a positive tone and assured that the new Cabinet will be formed soon, but didn’t set a timeframe. “I assure you that we are going to reach a solution. All political sides are in agreement on the need for a quick government formation, so we are close to resolving the issue and every side to getting their share as they should,” Hariri said. He reiterated that the new Cabinet would be comprised of 30 ministers, after reports suggested that Hariri might decide to form a 24-member Cabinet. Political sources, however, told The Daily Star Hariri did not present Aoun with a Cabinet lineup. “My work is confined to forming a government where everyone is comfortable with their representation, and in order to reach this point, we should put an end to tension and escalation. Then, we can see concessions from all sides,” Hariri added.
Sources said Aoun and Hariri agreed on the need for de-escalation and that both will make an effort to facilitate the formation process.
Since Hariri was tasked last month to form a government, his mission has faced numerous hurdles, mainly from the Progressive Socialist Party and the LF.
PSP leader Walid Joumblatt has insisted his bloc be allocated all three ministerial posts reserved for the Druze sect in a 30-member Cabinet.His demand was apparently aimed at preventing his Druze rival, Talal Arslan, from being named minister. The political sources said that Hariri took the lead to resolve this issue, offering that the PSP gets two Druze ministers and the third go to an independent, which would decrease Arslan’s chances of becoming a minister. As for the LF’s demands, the sources said that it is now out of the question that the deputy prime minister position will be held by the party, so it remains to be seen which ministries the LF will gain control of. Hariri has also been facing demands by Sunni lawmakers, not affiliated to his Future Movement, to be represented in Cabinet. Hariri was reported to have said that he would name all six Sunni ministers, rejecting demands from independent Sunni lawmakers. But after his meeting with Aoun, Hariri downplayed reports of conflict over Sunni representation and indicated that it was not a major issue.
Despite the premier’s optimistic attitude in his remarks, PSP MP Wael Abu Faour noted that his party’s relationship with Aoun has been “cold.” Joumblatt and several officials from the Free Patriotic Movement – founded by Aoun – traded barbs earlier this month, reflecting mounting tensions between the parties.
The PSP has claimed that it was targeted by the FPM in the May 6 parliamentary elections. “I can say that the relationship with the president is cold. There has been no relationship after we were targeted by people in his circle during the parliamentary elections and government formation,” Abu Faour told reporters after meeting with Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian Thursday morning. Touching on the government formation saga, Abu Faour said the PSP and Joumblatt support all of Hariri’s efforts in the Cabinet formation process.
“The prime minister-designate is doing all he should be doing, but intimidating him by saying that his designation will be withdrawn or setting unconstitutional deadlines [for the government formation] is constitutional heresy,” Abu Faour said regarding reported pressures on Hariri.
Separately, Hezbollah’s Loyalty to the Resistance bloc said the current political phase in Lebanon requires cooperation between all sides and constituents. “The understanding between Lebanese on a vision for the government and between all constitutional institutions is a national necessity in order to resolve internal matters and confront external challenges ... in a way that achieves social stability and safeguards national sovereignty,” the bloc said after its weekly meeting. “Based on this, the bloc sees that the government that guarantees the largest participation of factions that resulted from the elections ... is the Cabinet that is mostly capable of confronting the [challenges] of the current phase.” – Additional reporting by Hasan Lakkis
A Village (Arab al-Aramshe) Sliced in Two by the Israeli-Lebanese Border
هآررتس: قرية عرب العرمش على الحدود اللبنانية الإسرائيلية المقطعة إلى قسمين

Aviad Tal/Haaretz/June 29/18
A shepherd who vanquished the last leopard in the Galilee, a woman surrounded by white doves and one Snow White. A visit to a village that's half in Israel and half in Lebanon
I first heard of the Bedouin village Arab al-Aramshe nearly 20 years ago when I did a year of service working as a tour guide in the Galilee before joining the army. There were many stories about the isolated village that sat right on the border with Lebanon, with some of its inhabitants living in Israel and some on the other side, in Lebanese territory. When I heard about Abed al-Hamid, the famous shepherd from Arab al-Aramshe who had vanquished what was thought to be the last leopard in the Galilee with his bare hands in 1965, and about his daughter, Taljia (“Snow White,” in Arabic), who walked dozens of kilometers each day with her goats, collecting wild herbs and spring water – I decided I wanted to go there.
The first time I visited, passing slowly through rocky outcrops dotted with sparse Galilean vegetation, I felt I had come to a place where the pace of life is different, slower, almost desert-like. I visited Arab al-Aramshe several times that year, but my induction into the army and the years I lived abroad, meant that it was only two years ago, when I returned to Israel, that I also returned to the village.
Arab al-Aramshe has some 1,600 residents, nearly all of whom live in its Aramshe neighborhood, on the hill of the same name. The remainder reside on the Nuwakar and Jordiyyah hills, which are located right next to the border fence between Israel and Lebanon.
In the mid-1980s, most of the town’s residents lived along the border itself, but for security reasons the State of Israel decided to move them away; promises of improved infrastructure and additional development convinced most of them to relocate. Nevertheless, a few families decided to remain in their homes. The houses of those who left were demolished in short order so that residents who agreed to move would not change their minds and ask to return home. The state’s promises were indeed kept and thanks to that, the Aramshe quarter is today the beating heart of the entire village, where most of the important services are located: a school, a clinic, a kiosk that sells falafel and doubles as a bridal salon, and several bus stops.
A woman living in the Bedouin village Arab al-Aramshe, which is split in two by the Israel-Lebanon border. Aviad Tal
In the days of the Ottoman Empire, the people of Arab al-Aramshe were accustomed to roving freely with their flocks over the hills that are now divided between Israel and Lebanon. Subsequently, they had to become flexible, adapting to a dynamic reality on the ground. The broad pastures that once served them mainly for grazing have dwindled significantly, and are now confined to relatively small areas close to the village.
In the more recent past, residents on the Israeli side could talk with and even visit their relatives in Lebanon, but the Israel Defense Forces’ withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 effectively canceled the security zone that had existed since 1985 – a 10-kilometer strip of land north of the border that had allowed contact between the two parts of the split village. Today contact between the sides is minimal and maintained largely by means of telephones social media.
Years ago, on one of my first visits to the village, I met someone I will call Omar, who lived with his sister and his mother in an old stone house just meters from the border fence, in the Jordiyyah neighborhood. Their house was one of the few that remained after most of their neighbors moved away; his family also eventually moved to the main part of town. Having been away so long, I though that seeing Omar, today in his mid-50s, would be a good starting point for catching up on developments during the intervening years.
The drive from the Aramshe quarter to Jordiyyah took about 10 minutes on a winding road alongside the fence, with a view of southern Lebanon stretching out to my right. As my car began to climb the hill to Jordiyyah, the road became narrow and rutted. I parked not far from Omar’s house, next to an old and neglected stone tomb. Hearing my car approach, Omar came out to welcome me. His sister, Dalia, who is in her mid-40s, came out, smiling, and then returned inside to make coffee.
The Bedouin village Arab al-Aramshe, on the Israel-Lebanon border. Aviad Tal
In the meantime, since the visibility was excellent, Omar suggested that we head to the observation point near his house that overlooks Lebanon. We walked out of his gate and began to climb up a pile of mostly broken stones, which Omar said was what remained of the houses demolished during the resettlement in Aramshe. A clear and impressive view of southern Lebanon greeted us at the top of the hill. All that separated us from the Lebanese farmers cultivating their lands and three chatty United Nations soldiers was about 100 meters and the border fence. We stood in silence for a few minutes and between the breezes could hear the soldiers talking and giggling on the other side.
Pointing to the large and well-kept villas on the other side, Omar explained that they belonged to wealthy Arab al-Aramshe residents from the Lebanese side. Most of them live abroad most of the year, so the homes stand empty most the time.
On our way back, we met Omar’s neighbor Amira (also a pseudonym; none of the interviewees wanted to be identified). Amira, who is in her 40s, is a lover of cats and white doves. She likes to greet the few tourists who come to Jordiyyah, usually with a cat in one hand and a thermos of black coffee in the other, and generally they give her a tip before departing.
In my many conversations with villagers over the years, they have often voiced frustration about making a living in the area, and from what they say this problem has only gotten worse recently. For a long time now, herding sheep has not been a popular pursuit in Arab al-Aramshe: Apart from a handful of families that raise cattle and sheep, residents have been forced to find work outside, mainly in the packing houses and factories of nearby kibbutzim Hanita and Idmit. And as the kibbutzim, in recent years, have closed factories for financial reasons, they have cut back on workers, and that has had a direct impact on a substantial number of the Bedouin villagers.
The Bedouin village Arab al-Aramshe, on the Israel-Lebanon border. Aviad Tal
According to Latif Suweidan, 67, the former principal of the local elementary school, many residents must now go as far as the cities of Nahariya, Acre and even Haifa to find work.
The tranquil atmosphere of the Galilee and the fact that the neighboring moshavim are full of bed-and-breakfasts and other tourism enterprises made me wonder why there isn’t a single tourism enterprise in the village. Suweidan said that there have been attempts to develop a local tourism industry by opening guest houses and restaurants, but they didn’t succeed because most of the locals lack the economic means required to establish such projects. Plus, being on the border with an enemy country doesn’t help either.
It turns out that the pastoral atmosphere around Arab al-Aramshe is somewhat deceptive. Most of the time, the security situation is fairly calm, but in 2006, during the Second Lebanon War, when a single rocket landed in the yard of the Juma’a family, it killed the mother and two daughters on the spot. In the wake of that incident, the state finally decided to build bomb shelters next to almost every home in the village.
There’s a problem, though, notes Suweidan. Aramshe’s proximity to rocket-launching sites in Lebanon means that residents will not have sufficient time to reach the shelters once the missiles are detected. The Second Lebanon War – and more recent developments – have made perfectly clear the extent to which the security situation is problematic here, but every time I mention the subject to villagers, they express faith in Israel’s strength and in its ability to deal with the threat from the north in general and to defend Arab al-Aramshe in particular. According to Latif Suweidan, during the years Israel’s army was involved in activities in southern Lebanon, local men developed a reputation as outstanding IDF soldiers. The village was particularly famous for the skilled trackers that came from there and faithfully served the state, he said. Local men still serve in the army, but in lower numbers today.
The Bedouin village Arab al-Aramshe, on the Israel-Lebanon border. Aviad Tal
The time had come to find out whether there was any truth to the stories that initially prompted me to visit the village. Perhaps they were all part of a kind of local mythology? When I asked Suweidan about the courageous shepherd who fought the leopard and his daughter Talija, he replied confidently that it was all completely true. Abed al-Hamid died in 1997, he explained, adding that I could go to the museum in Hanita, the neighboring kibbutz, and see the leopard for myself.
There is indeed a stuffed leopard in the little museum at Hanita, and at least according to the kibbutzniks, it is the very same unfortunate leopard that fell into Abed al-Hamid’s hands.
As for Talija, he told me that she lives not far from Arab al-Aramshe, in a small tin shack, in the company of her goats. He also told me that exactly one month earlier, Talija’s brother, Ali Mahmid, fell to his death as he was herding his flock of goats near the steep cliffs alongside the Namir Stream – the same stream where his father had wrestled with the leopard so long ago.
A short time later, I left Arab al-Aramshe. As I departed the village, the setting sun had been almost entirely swallowed up by the sea. From the steep road leading down from the village, it was still possible to make out the now mostly dried-up stream, leading almost all the way to the main highway. I could not help but think about Abed al-Hamid and his two children who had such a fateful connection to the environment in which they lived, and to the stream itself, which in the twilight looked like a far more palpable testimony to the heritage of the people of Arab al-Aramshe than the stuffed leopard in the neighboring kibbutz.
*Aviad Tal is an artist and photographer who is engaged in projects that focus on environmental and social concerns, in Africa and the Middle East.

The Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on June 29-30/18
Trump lets Putin have Syria for a summit, Iranian/Hizballah gain access to Israel’s border on refugee backs
ترامب يسلم سوريا لبوتين مقايل لقاء قمة معه، وإيران وحزب الله بحصلان على مدخل إلى حدود إسرائيل من خلال اللاجئين
Debka File/June 29/18
Israel’s armed forces are distributing tents, food, water and medicines to the tens of thousands of Syrian refugees reaching its Golan border in flight from the incredibly brutal Russian and Syrian air strikes on southern Syria. The figures are staggering – 342 air strikes on Thursday night, June 28, against rebel-held towns near the Israeli and Jordanian borders – of which 299 were conducted by the Russian air force and 43 by Syrian pilots. Nawa, a town opposite the Israeli Golan border took the heaviest bombardment.
Israel’s military correspondents, playing ball with the IDF, are withholding these horrific figures from the public, and so people don’t understand how 60,000 refugees fleeing from Nawa are suddenly fetching up on Israel’s northern border and joining the 20,000 already encamped there. While the IDF’s humanitarian conduct is laudable, the reason for the disaster is not. This new human catastrophe could have been prevented had the IDF acted in time to preempt the threat to Israel’s borders, and countered the onslaught on Daraa mounted by Assad’s army and allies with Russian air support 10 days ago.
However, Israeli inaction was part of another development not shared with the Israeli public: President Donald Trump quietly decided to let Syria go to Russia in the interests of a successful summit with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on July 16. Israel, Jordan, the Syrian rebel and Kurdish groups hitherto backed by the United States were left to fend for their own security as best they could. As a last concession, the US turned a blind eye to Putin’s pass for Iranian and Hizballah forces to move in along with the Syrian army.
The Russian president grabbed the opportunity By unleashing heavy air bombardments for clearing the rebels still holding out in southern Syria from the path of Assad’s army – he trampled the pledges he gave Israel and Jordan and triggered an exodus of Syrian refugees who, finding the Jordanian border shut against them, headed for Israel’s Golan border.
The tens of thousands settling on Israel’s doorstop could swell, according to some estimates, to 200,000 or 250,000. Israel finds itself saddled with a mounting new security and humanitarian burden in the north, on top of the Gaza Strip in the south. Middle East reality is such that the tent encampments the IDF is providing as makeshift havens for refugees will in no time accommodate infestations of dangerous Syrian, Iranian and Hizballah agents. Desperate refugees will accept a few dollars to support their families for donning bomb belts and blowing themselves up against Israeli positions on the border fence.
It is already happening on the Syrian-Jordanian border. Syrian military intelligence has seized control of the large Rubkan refugee camp in Daraa and Jordanian security services are helpless to keep Iranian and Hizballah agents out.
How is the IDF going to prevent this disastrous security calamity from developing on Israel’s northern border? As word spreads across Syria that food, shelter and medical treatment are available, the refugee population sitting on Israel’s border around Quneitra will swell to unmanageable proportions. For Iran and Hizballah, a large refugee camp is the perfect lair from which to reach and terrorize northern Israel.

Trump-Putin Understandings on Syria: Regime Returns to South in Return for Iran Exit

London - Ibrahim Hamidi/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 29 June, 2018
The Syrian regime’s offensive, with Russian aerial cover, on the southern Daraa province is part of a series of understandings between Washington and Moscow over the war-torn country, revealed western diplomatic sources to Asharq Al-Awsat. The two sides agreed to return the regime forces to the South in return for the departure of opposition factions to Idlib and Iran’s complete exit from Syria. The understandings on southern Syria will be on the agenda of the upcoming summit between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on July 16. US National Security Adviser John Bolton was in Moscow on Wednesday where he met Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov ahead of next month’s Trump summit, which will be held after a NATO meeting in Brussels scheduled for July 11 and 12. Trump and Putin are expected to give priority for the formation of a government, opposition and civil society committee and for carrying out constitutional reforms to pave the way for presidential and parliamentary elections in 2021. They will also voice support for the efforts of United Nations special envoy to Syrian Staffan de Mistura to form a constitutional committee that can tackle these reforms. The current American and Russian agreement implicitly means accepting the continuation of Bashar Assad at the head of the Syrian regime despite ongoing statements opposed to his rule. The latest of these remarks came on Wednesday from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said that there can be no peace with Assad and Iran in Syria, said the western sources. Moreover, they revealed that the European Union and majority of European countries were not at ease with the understandings reached between Washington and Moscow. They are likely to remain committed to their stance that rejects Assad’s presence and refuses to contribute to Syria’s reconstruction until a political transition is achieved there. Many countries have also expressed their doubt that Russia was willing or even capable of weakening Iran in Syria.
Trump was keen to dispatch Bolton to Europe to inform his allies of his administration’s upcoming approach on Syria. This new policy was a product of a series of internal consultations, as well as discussions with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli official played a central role in convincing Putin to accept some factors of the understandings, the essence of which was the need for the Syrian regime to return to the South and weaken and later end Iran’s role in the country. Netanyahu had paid a visit to Moscow in early May. His trip was soon followed by a comprehensive Israeli strike against Iranian positions in Syria, meaning that this move was approved by the Kremlin and coordinated with the Russian Hmeimim air base in Syria. Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman declared at the time that Assad must end Iran’s presence in Syria. Contacts between Washington and Tel Aviv soon followed. They agreed to launch the regime’s military offensive on Daraa, reaching all the way to the Nassib border crossing with Jordan. Attacks on Quneitra and the western part of the de-escalation ceasefire zone would be postponed. Washington also informed opposition factions in the South that it will not intervene militarily in Daraa and Jordan announced it will not receive any Syrians fleeing the southern offensive. This American message will pressure Moscow to commit to the de-escalation zone agreement that it signed with the US and Jordan in July 2017. The message also signifies the abandonment of the opposition and commitment to arrangements between Washington, Moscow and Amman, possibly even Tel Aviv, that call for returning the regime to the South and keeping both Iran and the opposition out of the area.
These American-Russian understandings are part of a wider US strategy on Syria. The western sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Trump is still committed to withdrawing his country’s troops out of northeastern Syria as soon as the ISIS terrorist groups is defeated. The organization still controls 2 percent of Syrian territory. Northeastern Syria will also be tackled by Trump and Putin in Helsinki where they will address the non-engagement agreement between their troops. Ankara may likely enter the picture after it returned in Washington’s good favor as demonstrated in the recent deal on the northeastern Syrian city of Manbij. The sources stated, however, that question marks still remain over the opposition-held Idlib province and the fate of Turkish forces there. Ankara has stated that it wanted to keep its influence there and northern Syria for the long-term.

Who are the Rebels in Southern Syria?

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 29/18/The rebels in southern Syria targeted by a major government offensive were long supported by Washington and seen as symbolizing relatively moderate opposition to Damascus. Seven years after the conflict erupted, they are a constellation of small, mostly local groups scattered across a highly sensitive region bordering Jordan and the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights.
- Rise -
A number of factions united in 2014 to form the "Southern Front", a 30,000-strong coalition of 55 brigades that soon seized a string of bases and positions in Daraa and Quneitra provinces.
The groups had close links with the United States as well as neighboring Jordan, where many fighters were trained. The United States and Jordan negotiated directly with Russia in July 2017 when a now defunct so-called de-escalation deal was reached. "Israel has also provided support to southern armed factions since either 2013 or 2014 in an apparent attempt to cultivate local partners and secure a buffer zone on its border," the International Crisis Group (ICG) said in a recent report.
- Split -
Unity crumbled gradually within the rebel coalition and the south is now home to myriad separate outfits, unlike the Eastern Ghouta former rebel bastion near Damascus that long remained ruled by three main groups. "Southern rebels have no single command, although they continue to coordinate laterally to some extent," the ICG think tank wrote. According to Rami Abdel Rahman, who heads the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, around 30,000 armed men remain in southern Syria. He estimated that more than half of them had received U.S. or Jordanian training, adding that the best staffed and equipped among them were Jaish al-Thawra and Shahab al-Sunna. The Salafist group Ahrar al-Sham, which has received backing from Saudi Arabia, also has a presence in Daraa province.
- Jihadists -
According to the Observatory, rebels control about 60 percent of Daraa province, whose capital is split in four rebel districts and one held by the government. Rebels control about 70 percent of the neighboring province of Quneitra, wedged between Daraa and the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, while the government holds almost all of Sweida province, further east. Jihadist groups also have a presence on the southern front, in the form of Jaish Khaled bin al-Walid, an organization that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group. According to the Observatory, it has around 1,000 men and its bastion is located in the southwest of Daraa province. Its leaders have been repeatedly targeted in Israeli air strikes. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a group made up mostly of ex-members of the former al-Qaida affiliate in Syria, also has a few hundred men in the region.

Battered South Syria Towns in Talks on Regime Takeover
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 29/18/Rebels controlling several towns in southern Syria were on Friday considering a deal for a regime takeover in exchange for an end to fierce bombing, state media and a monitor said. Since June 19, Russian-backed government forces have been battering opposition-held parts of Daraa province with air strikes and barrel bombs, simultaneously calling on rebels to surrender. Syrian state news agency SANA has reported that rebels in three towns in Daraa's eastern countryside had already agreed to a regime takeover over the last two days. On Friday, it carried preliminary reports that rebels in four more towns had "agreed to hand over their weapons... and reconcile."Syria's army on Friday organized a press tour of recently recaptured towns in the south, including Al-Soura. A military commander, speaking on condition of anonymity, told journalists that the army's advance left opposition fighters with "no choice" but to surrender. "The terrorist groups are heading towards settlement and reconciliation," the commander said. The strategy is one the government and its Russian ally have used across Syria: bombing, isolating rebel towns with ground attacks, and ultimately securing their surrender. They have already divided rebel territory in the south -- which forms a rough U-shape spanning Daraa and neighboring Quneitra province -- into several chunks.  Lebanon's Hizbullah, which has fought alongside Syrian regime forces in the south, said on Friday that rebels were "collapsing.""Many of these groups are reassessing, starting to ask for settlements and entering into reconciliation deals," Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said. "We are facing a very big victory in southern Syria," he said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, said on Friday that as many as eight towns were in negotiations over a potential regime takeover. "There are talks between the Russians on one side and opposition factions on the other, through local mediators, over the fate of eight towns in Daraa's countryside," it said. Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said members of Russia's military police were leading the talks for each town separately. "Most of them appear willing to reconcile with the regime, which will see rebel fighters hand over their heavy weapons," he said. Syrian and Russian warplanes on Friday continued air strikes across Daraa province and the provincial capital of the same name, the Observatory said. Nearly 100 civilians have been killed since the assault began a week ago, the monitor said. The United Nations says around 66,000 people have fled their homes, many of them towards the border with Jordan, which remains closed.
Canada gravely concerned by situation in southwest Syria
June 29, 2018 – Ottawa, Ontario - Global Affairs Canada
Global Affairs Canada today released the following statement regarding the ongoing situation in southwest Syria:
“Canada is gravely concerned by the Syrian regime’s offensive in southwest Syria and unequivocally condemns attacks on civilians, including airstrikes on hospitals.
“The regime’s actions and those of its ally—Russia—are having a catastrophic impact on civilians, including the displacement of tens of thousands of people.
“Canada calls on the Syrian regime to immediately end the violence and to allow for rapid and unimpeded humanitarian access, and urges all parties to the conflict to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law. Canada also calls on Russia to uphold the commitments it made to help maintain a de-escalation zone in the area.
“Canada continues to pursue accountability for those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria.
“We will also continue to provide humanitarian assistance for the most vulnerable people of Syria.’’
UN Rights Chief Warns of ‘Catastrophe’ in Daraa Battle
Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 29 June, 2018/The United Nations human rights chief warned on Friday that civilians in Syria's southwestern Daraa province may be trapped in a siege situation and subjected to bombing and shelling that would lead to a "catastrophe". In a statement, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said his office had reports that ISIS militants trying to control Yarmouk basin in Daraa province are "not allowing civilians to leave areas under their control". Zeid said that some regime-run checkpoints were charging people several hundred dollars to pass through and he appealed to all sides to provide safe passage to those wishing to flee. On Thursday, a barrage of Russian strikes on towns in southern Syria killed at least 25 civilians, the bloodiest day yet of the regime’s offensive in the strategic region. 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. At the UN 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". Israel's military said Friday it has delivered about 60 tons of humanitarian aid and medicine to thousands of displaced Syrians in the Golan Heights who flocked to the area, fleeing the heavy bombardment in southwestern Syria. It said it can't allow Syrians to enter Israel.
UN Criticizes Iranian Missiles: Nuclear Deal at Crossroads
New York - Ali Barada/Asharq Al-Awsat/ 29 June, 2018/UN Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo alerted members of the Security Council that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran's nuclear program was "at a crossroads" in light of US withdrawal. This was the first meeting for the Security Council since US President Donald Trump announced on May 8 that his country would withdraw from the agreement, which was signed by the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council—China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States—plus Germany) with Iran. During the session on UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ latest report on the implementation of sanctions against Iran, DiCarlo said since the agreement came into force on January 16, 2016, the International Atomic Energy Agency had consistently reported that Iran was abiding by its commitments. She reiterated the secretary-general's regret at the United States' announcement, as well as his call upon Tehran to carefully consider the concerns of member states about activities allegedly contrary to the restrictions set out in the resolution. DiCarlo said the secretariat had received information from two unidentified member states on the supply, sale, transfer or export to Iran of dual-use items that might be contrary to Security Council resolution 2231. The UN official added that “the report reflects information from Saudi Arabia on the launch of two Iranian missiles in January 2018.” She added: "The conclusions are consistent with those of the international organization regarding the firing of ballistic missiles by the Houthis in Yemen at Saudi territories." US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, for her part, criticized Tehran ahead of the UN session. Guterres' report "includes troubling, but not surprising, evidence that Iran has‎ and continues to violate UN Security Council resolutions,” said Haley in a statement. “This report lays out the strongest evidence to date that the Iranian regime continues to send weapons across the Middle East and blatantly violates Security Council resolutions,” she stated.
“From the Houthis to ‘Hezbollah’, to Hamas and (Syrian regime leader Bashar) Assad, the Iranian regime has made a habit of devoting considerable resources, away from its domestic needs, to supporting terrorism and destabilizing the region,” she added. She said the US would not allow “Iran’s violations and destructive actions to go unchecked”, urging Security Council members “to do the same”. “The evidence in this latest report shows us all too clearly the consequences of inaction in the face of Iranian defiance,” she stressed.

Rouhani Calls on Iranians to Be Prepared to Face US Sanctions
London/Asharq Al-Awsat/ 29 June, 2018/Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expected Thursday that the sanctions would impose severe pressure on the Iranians. For the second consecutive day, Rouhani called on Iranians to renounce internal differences and stand up against the US sanctions. He was speaking on the sidelines of the opening of a refinery in the south of the country, a day following the speech in which he announced that he is not willing to resign or declare the government to step down. “If anyone thinks the administration will resign, they are mistaken,” Rouhani said during a speech on Wednesday at a meeting of administration officials. Rouhani has been facing a number of economic troubles at home as 107 parliamentarians signed a letter urging the president to change his economic team, and 70 parliamentarians signed a letter asking the Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani to question Rouhani about the economy, specifically the exchange rate. Rouhani stressed the need to work with parliament and other officials, saying, “We have to show the world that we can tolerate the difficulties and the problems, and we will not trade away our independence, we will not trade away our freedom, we will not trade away our Islamic system, but we will tolerate the difficulties, standing alongside one another.”Conservative newspapers responded Thursday to three scenarios proposed by Rouhani for internal parties to reach an internal agreement on dealing with US administration policies, particularly the return of nuclear sanctions and its withdrawal from the nuclear deal. The first option is to submit to the United States and do exactly as the Donald Trump administration demands. The second option is to stand up to the USA but continue domestic quarrels, and the third option is to stand up to the USA, protect “our honor and bring America to its knees.”For instance, the IRGC mouthpiece, Javan newspaper, welcomed the "third option" without commenting on the Iranian president's refusal to resign or change his government team. While Chief Director of the Revolutionary Guards' economic arm, Khatam al-Anbia, Abadullah Abdullahi said that "Iran can overcome the current situation with conciliation and cooperation," expressing the readiness of his forces to cooperate with the Iranian government in the economic field.

Exclusive: Iran Protests Give Big ‘No’ to Both Turban and Military Cap
London/Asharq Al-Awsat/ 29 June, 2018
“Who is behind all this?” Iran’s “Supreme Guide” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reportedly asked on Wednesday when he received several judges in special audience. The “all this” in his question referred to protests that led to the closure of Tehran’s Grand bazaar followed by similar shutdowns in at least 30 other cities.
However, the bazaar protests were not all that was there. Apart from the Bazaaris, who had their own organization and pursued clear objectives mostly linked to the dire economic situation, there were other elements pursuing other strategies. Some clandestine opposition activists, using the protests as cover, briefly came into the open to set fire to official cars, street dustbins, and, in at least five occasions, buildings suspected of belonging to security forces. They were also responsible for emptying a truckload of rubbish in front of the “Islamic Majlis” (parliament) building, and bringing in large quantities of pebbles, rocks and stones for people to throw at security units. Among them were elements clearly trained in street “hit-and-run” politics. A third group, mostly belonging to the so-called intelligentsia also joined the protest and provided many of the slogans, catch phrases and limericks popular in all political demonstrations in Iran. They were largely responsible for the overtly political profile that the protests adopted in their third or fourth day. They also set up communication centers, spreading information, including thousands of video-documentaries through the social media to heighten the profile of the revolt.
More worrisome from Khamenei’s point of view was the presence of a large number of the “urban poor” who joined the protests as eddies pouring into a river. They had no recognizable leadership and no slogans of their own. They wished to indicate their unhappiness with a “Revolution” that had promised to end poverty in Iran but had ended up multiplying it.
At any rate, the “all this” that worried Khamenei evolved into a mass movement cutting across class, age, education, and other barriers- a truly popular uprising. It showed that if and when a large number of Iranians decide to really go for “the kill” against the regime, something that many experts believe they have not done yet, they would have the manpower, the method and the means needed for a serious challenge to the authorities. What the surprise revolt lacked, however, was an overall leadership and a precise goal that could be summed up in one sentence. Many protesters simply looked for curbs on corruption, an end to economic crisis, a punishment of incompetence in high places and plans to relieve the pressure on the estimated 30 million Iranians who live below-the-poverty-line.
There is doubt that some protesters were sympathizers, or as their opponents might claim, hired hands of the more radical Khomeinist factions that believe President Hassan Rouhani and his “New York Boys” are a sort of Trojan Horse for the United States at least when ruled by the Democrats.
The most outspoken among the protesters, however, could be categorized as the “regime change” coalition, those who would settle for nothing less than the dissolution of the “Islamic Republic.”  Broadly speaking, the Iranian opposition could be divided into two big camps: those who want regime change and those who seek change of behavior. The surprise announcement by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the Trump administration is seeking only behavior of change on a few specific issues has helped deepen that divide. Those exile opposition groups that have closely worked with the US and its regional allies, including Israel, for decades, have been forced to distance themselves from the regime change narrative, thus giving the regime added space in which to maneuver. Thanks to its international connections, experience in campaigning and ability to raise funds, the exiled opposition is still slated to play a major role in any future national revolt. However, it is unlikely to be in the van if and when Iran moves towards genuine regime change. A series of recent conferences held in London, Hamburg and Washington DC ended in acrimony and chaos as exile groups fought each other over such issues as ethnic rights and the choice between monarchy and a republican system with classical right-left fissures apparent in the background.
Waiting in the wings are some members of the military in the ruling elite. Newspapers and websites controlled by various active or retired officers of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) harp on the claim that successive governments, headed by mullahs or civilians, have failed and that the military remains the only power capable of leading the nation out of the impasse created by 40 years of misrule and incompetence. For example, Gen. Muhammad Hussein Baqeri, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, says his men are ready to “help the government in any difficult situation, to solve problems and remove hurdles.” The subtext is that the government itself, headed by a mullah or a civilian, is incapable of doing that. Their senior officers, among them Gen. Qassem Soleimani who commands the Quds (Jerusalem) Corps, and the former IRGC chief, Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, have already embarked on a self-promotion drive that resembles the early phases of a presidential campaign.
One curious fact is that the clergy, who have been the face of the regime for four decades, are adopting a low profile. This may be because they are deeply divided with many, perhaps even a majority, anxious to distance the mosque from government to avoid a tsunami of anger that could sweep them all away. Whatever happens next, analysts agree that the next “Savior” in Iran would be wearing neither a turban nor a military cap. The Iranian protest movement is rich in tactical leadership with hundreds of trade unionists, association leaders, bazaar elders, feminist mascots, intellectuals and even religious scholars capable of spearheading uprisings in more than 200 cities, something never seen before in Iranian political history. What is lacking is an overarching leadership to transform that tactical advantage into a strategic one. However, necessity is the mother of invention, as the saying goes.

Iran Reopens Uranium Plant in Preparation to Boost Enrichment
London/Asharq Al-Awsat/ 29 June, 2018/Iran has reopened a "major" nuclear plant idle for nine years, its atomic energy agency (AEOI) said on Wednesday, as Tehran prepares to increase uranium enrichment capacity if a nuclear deal with world powers falls apart after the US withdrawal. US-Iranian tensions have resurged since President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of the 2015 nuclear accord, calling it deeply flawed. Under the deal, Iran restricted its enrichment program to ease concerns it could not be put to developing nuclear weapons and in return won relief from sanctions. European signatories are trying to save the accord, which they see as crucial to forestalling an Iranian nuclear weapon. However, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered the AEOI this month to start preparations to upgrade enrichment capacity in case the European efforts fail. The AEOI said on Wednesday that in response to Khamenei’s order and Trump’s renunciation of the deal, a plant for the production of UF6, the feedstock for centrifuge machines that enrich uranium, had been relaunched and a barrel of yellow cake has been delivered there. Uranium ore, known as yellow cake, is converted into a gas called uranium hexafluoride (UF6) before enrichment. The UF6 factory, which had been inactive since 2009 due to a lack of yellow cake, is part of the Isfahan uranium conversion facility, according to AEOI’s statement on its website. “Iran has imported a huge amount of yellow cake since the nuclear deal” in 2015, and had also produced some domestically. Iranian comments about the Isfahan plant appeared aimed at pressuring Europeans and others to come up with a way to circumvent new American sanctions. Already, many international organizations are pulling back from promised billion-dollar deals with Tehran and the country's currency has entered a free-fall against the dollar. The International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog that is policing Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal, said on June 5 that the AEOI had informed it of “tentative” plans to resume production of UF6. The move is symbolic and permissible under the nuclear deal, which allows Iran to enrich uranium to 3.67 percent, far below the 90 percent of weapons-grade uranium, and caps its stock of enriched uranium hexafluoride at 300 kilograms (660 pounds). President Hassan Rouhani has written to counterparts in France, Germany and Britain, warning that time to salvage the nuclear deal is running out. Rouhani’s chief of staff, Mahmoud Vaezi, was quoted as saying on Wednesday by the government’s website that Rouhani had expressed Iran’s demands “very clearly” in this letter. Washington will start reimposing some economic penalties on Tehran in August and more in November. The tightening of US sanctions pressure has set Washington and Tehran, adversaries since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, back on a course of confrontation after a period of cautious detente under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama. Rouhani urged Iranians on Wednesday to “bring America to its knees”.

EU Leaders Seal Migration Deal after Marathon Talks

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 29/18/EU leaders clinched a hard-won migration deal during all-night talks Friday that Italy's hardline new premier said meant his country was "no longer alone" in shouldering the responsibility for migrants. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who heads a month-old anti-immigration government, had vetoed joint conclusions for the entire agenda of the summit in Brussels until his demands were finally met before dawn. Italy has turned away a series of migrant boats in recent weeks, sparking a fresh political row three years after the bloc faced its biggest ever migration crisis. "Today Italy is no longer alone. We are satisfied," Conte, a former law professor who until recently was a virtual political unknown, told reporters following nine hours of talks described as "virulent". The 28 leaders agreed to consider setting up "disembarkation platforms" outside the bloc, most likely in north Africa, in a bid to discourage migrants boarding EU-bound smuggler boats. Member countries could also set up migrant processing centres -- but only on a voluntary basis -- to determine whether they returned home as economic migrants or admitted as refugees in willing states.
'A lot to do' -The leaders also offered a concession to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who faces a rebellion from within her own coalition government, with moves to stop migrants registered in Italy and other EU countries from moving to Germany. Merkel welcomed the deal, but acknowledged the hard work needed with some hard choices left for later.
"I am optimistic after today that we can now really continue to work, although we have a lot to do, even bridging the different views," Merkel said. She had earlier warned that "migration could end up determining Europe's destiny" if it failed to reach an agreement. The summit conclusions called on member countries to take "all necessary" steps to stop migrants initially arriving in countries such as Italy and Greece from moving on to Germany. After allowing more than one million asylum seekers into Germany since 2015, Merkel faces an end-of-month deadline from her own interior minister to seal pacts to curb so-called secondary migration. Italy's stance has revived political tensions in the EU, despite the fact that arrivals have dipped by 96 percent since the peak of Europe's migration crisis in 2015, and sparked warnings that authoritarian movements will take advantage of any failure to tackle migration.
Conte came to Brussels emboldened by the announcement of an upcoming visit to US President Donald Trump, who has hailed Rome's tough stance, and who himself blocked the conclusions of a recent G7 leaders meeting on trade. The Italian government demanded "concrete action" from other countries to help in the same way that they had after it refused to admit the rescue ships Aquarius, which docked later in Spain, and Lifeline, which went to Malta.
- 'Really tough guys' -EU President Donald Tusk issued a fresh warning on the need for action on migration to stave off rising populism and authoritarianism, saying that "the stakes are high and time is short". "Some may think I am too tough in my proposals on migration, but trust me, if we don't agree on them, then you'll see some really tough proposals from some really tough guys," the former Polish premier added. But the leaders failed to agree on long-stalled plans to overhaul the bloc's asylum rules, which say that migrants must be dealt with by the first country in which they arrive. The plans include a permanent scheme to share migrants arriving in Italy and Greece around all other EU countries. Former communist countries in Eastern Europe, particularly the authoritarian governments of Hungary and Poland, implacably oppose the plan. Brexit was meanwhile largely relegated to the sidelines of this summit, with British Prime Minister Theresa May set to update leaders after admitting the need to make "faster" progress as she arrived at the venue. EU leaders are expected on Friday to say that talks, which have stalled on the issue of the Irish border, are running out of time to get a deal. But in a light-hearted bid to ease tensions, Belgian premier Charles Michel surprised May with a gift of a Belgian football shirt. A World Cup clash between Belgium and England coincided with the summit on Thursday night. Belgium won 1-0.

Gaza Teen Shot Dead on Israel Border
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/June 29/18/Israeli troops shot dead a Palestinian youth aged about 13 on Friday in border clashes near the town of Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip, the Hamas-ruled territory's health ministry said. Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra told AFP the name and exact age of the boy, who was shot in the head, were not known. The Israeli army could not immediately confirm or deny the report. Since protests broke out along the Gaza border on March 30, at least 136 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire. The majority were involved in protests but others were seeking to breach or damage the border fence. No Israelis have been killed. On Thursday, Abdel Fattah Abu Azoum, 17, was hit in the head by fire from an Israeli tank near Rafah in southern Gaza. The Israeli army said he and a companion were trying to breach the border fence.
The Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on June 29-30/18
Why Turkey Will Not Be Another Iran
Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/June 29/18

Is Turkey going to be another Iran? With President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s latest electoral victory the question is making the rounds in Western political circles. Despite the fact that Sunday’s election gives Erdogan immense new powers, my short answer to the question is a firm: no!
In analyzing the nature of political power in any form the first question to ask concerns the provenance of that power. For where does power comes from determines where it may go.
In Iran in 1979 power was like a box of jewels thrown in the street, ready for anyone to pick up. The Shah had left the country and most members of the Council of Monarchy he had appointed were in the French Riviera, while the army Top Brass had declared “neutrality” which meant the military wouldn’t stop anyone from picking up the box of jewels in the street.
By a fluke of fate and a combination of bizarre circumstances, it was Ayatollah Khomeini who had the nerve and the imagination to pick up the box after the Shah’s last Prime Minister Shapour Bakhtiar had also gone into hiding waiting to be spirited out of Tehran to Paris.
However, Erdogan, unlike Khomeini has obtained his box of jewels in the form of 52 per cent of the votes cast in an election boasting one of the highest turnouts in Turkish history. Even if we make allowances for abstentions and real or alleged irregularities in the process, none could deny that Erdogan enjoys a solid support base from at least 32 per cent of the Turkish electorate.
In contrast, unlike Erdogan who has been on the Turkish political scene for almost three decades, including 15 years at the top, Khamenei, when he seized power, was a largely unknown figure to most Iranians. The best surveys we had at the time was that the exiled mullah would not collect more than five to 10 percent of the votes in any free and fair election.
Khomeini’s support came from Tehran and a few other big cities, notably Isfahan, while Erdogan’s support base is in rural areas and small and medium cities. The uprising that brought Khomeini to power was a largely urban middle class affair while Erdogan depends on the rural population, the working classes and the petty-bourgeoisie for support.
Khomeini was solidly backed by all shades of leftist parties and ideologies from social democrats to Maoists to Islamic-Marxists. Erdogan, on the other hand, is the bete-noire of the Turkish Left.
While Khomeini and his entourage adopted a good chunk of the lexicon of the left, including such worn-out clichés as “the downtrodden (Mustazafin) and “Imperialism” (Istikbar), Erdogan’s political vocabulary owes more to populism than to proto-Marixm.
Khomeini’s entourage featured numerous theologians and so-called Islamic scholars while a variety of violent Islamist groups, including the Fedayeen Islam, the Hezbollah (founded in 1975), the Islamic Coalition and the Hojjatieh Society.
In contrast there are hardly any theologians or religious scholars in Erdogan’s entourage. Despite his occasional penchant for Islamist shibboleths, Erdogan faces stiff opposition from a wide range of Islamist groups, starting with the Hizmet, khidmah in Arabic (Service) movement led by exiled preacher Fethullah Gulen, not to mention the 100 or so Sufi fraternities and the crypto-Shiite Alawite community.
In fact, Turkey’s Islamic networks fear the take-over of their organizations and businesses by the state while Erdogan adopts a pious pose and makes occasional noises against Kemalist secularism.
To most Iranians, Khomeini was an unknown quantity and his seizure of power more like a lottery than a rational choice. Warts and all, Erdogan, however, is well-known to Turks who have had time to see him in action as party leader, Mayor of Istanbul, Prime Minister and President.
Khomeini showed disdain for economic issues, once declaring that “economics is for donkeys” and boasting that his revolution was not meant to bring prosperity but a chance for martyrdom.
In contrast, Erdogan played the card of economic development from the start when he transformed Istanbul from a decrepit almost bankrupt urban sprawl into a bustling megapolis with global ambitions.
Under the Khomeinist system, Iran today is at least 40 per cent poorer in real terms than it was under the Shah, according to surveys by the central Bank of Iran. Under Erdogan’s stewardship, in contrast, the Turkey has experienced a doubling of its annual Gross Domestic Product, a performance better than the so-called “Chinese miracle.”
Right from the start, Khomeini’s message met with thinly disguised hostility by Iran’s ethnic minorities. Ad for years after seizing power the ayatollah and his clan had to use utmost violence to crush the minorities through mass executions, widespread arrests and even full-size military operations against Iranian-Arabs in Khuzestan, Iranian Kurds in three provinces, Iranian-Turcomen in Golestan province and Iranian Baluch in Sistan-and-Baluchistan.
In contrast, Erdogan owed his initial access to power to massive support among Turkey’s Kurdish minority. The subsequent wars he has waged against armed Kurdish groups, mostly linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), does not nullify the fact that even in the latest election and his AKP party did well in most Kurdish-majority areas of Anatolia.
Under Khomeini and his successors more than a million Iranians have died in foreign wars, war against domestic opponents and ethnic minorities, and mass executions. The victims of similar deviations under Erdogan, however, run into thousands, still far too many but nowhere near as bad as the Iranian mullahs’ record. While at least 40,000 people have been
executed under Khomeini and his successors, Erdogan refuses to bring back the death penalty in Turkey.
Right now, according to Islamic Chief Justice Ayatollah Amoli Larijani, there are 15000 Iranians under death sentence in prison, waiting to be executed.
Khomeini banned all political parties while Erdogan has been prepared, at least until now, to contest multi-party elections in a pluralist system.
Corruption has been a feature of both the Khomeinist regime and the Erdogan stewardship. However, there, too, there are differences. Khomeini sized over 165000 private properties and distributed them among his entourage and supporters and relatives. He also presided over the privatization of numerous public companies, transferred to his minions at nominal prices.
Under Erdogan, however, corruption has taken a more classical form as kickbacks, shady contracts and dubious business practices. In Khomeini’s Islamic Republic, corruption has become structural, affecting all organs of the state. Under Erdogan, corruption more resembles an ivy sucking sustenance from a still healthy tree.
Khomeini was an antediluvian fanatic unique in contemporary political history. Erdogan is a run-of-the-mill populist of the kind now fashionable in many countries.
Both types could do damage, and often do, but the type to which Erdogan belongs could still be tolerated, or confronted and opposed within some rational parameters. The Khomeinist type, however, belongs to a surrealistic sphere of transcendental pretensions in the service of earthly violence, corruption and greed.
By most estimates there are 1.5 million Iranian asylum-seekers in Turkey but not a single Turk seeks asylum in the Islamic Republic in Iran.

Putin and Trump Have Nothing to Talk About
Leonid Bershidsky/Asharq Al Awsat/June 29/18
BloombergThe meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, which was confirmed by Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, would serve two purposes: The U.S. president loves playing the international statesman and Putin likes to look reasonable and constructive. They will have an opportunity to inhabit those roles. But there is no agenda for them to discuss, much less a substantive goal for their talks. And even if they appear to agree on something, it will likely be dialed back by Trump’s advisers and Congress.
The two leaders could discuss Trump’s suggestion that Russia should rejoin the G-8.
The agenda could also cover the U.S. president’s reported stance on Crimea, which he said belonged to Russia because its residents speak that language (and not because Putin annexed the peninsula in 2014). But Trump doesn’t have the authority to extend invitations on behalf of the other members of the group of industrialized nations, which have been explicit about not wanting Putin in the club. In addition, Putin doesn’t seem eager to rejoin that group; he appears happy to be part of the G-20 format along with other non-Western leaders such as Xi Jinping of China, Narendra Modi of India and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.
Nor is Trump authorized to recognize the Crimea annexation even if he wanted to. It’s up to Congress, which could also lift Crimea-related sanctions, and there’s no chance either will happen. At a news conference in Moscow after his meeting with Putin, Bolton said the U.S. didn’t regard Crimea as part of Russia. Nor did Bolton dangle the possibility of any sanctions being lifted before the Russian-Ukraine conflict is resolved.
Still, there are other things Putin might want from Trump, including a pullback of North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces from Russian borders, a U.S. recommitment to the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, a withdrawal from Syria, a return to the Iran nuclear deal and the end of U.S. support for Ukraine. None of those concessions are on the table.
The reason the U.S. can’t concede anything to Putin has little to do with principles and values, or with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into putative collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign in 2016. Instead, no give and take is possible because Putin has nothing to offer the U.S. as there is no part of the Trump agenda that Russia could help advance.
That meeting wasn’t meant to produce a specific result, just to break the Cold War ice (though that didn't prevent a multitude of severe clashes over the subsequent 30 years). Trump and Putin might be able to take some of the heat out of what the former U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul has termed a “hot peace.”

How to Solve the Plastic Crisis

Adam Minter/Bloomberg/June 29/18
Since Jan. 1, when China stopped accepting the rich world's recyclable plastic waste, it's gotten a ton of criticism for worsening the already deep crisis of ocean plastic pollution. But China isn't the only culprit here. This is a crisis made — and growing worse — throughout developing Asia.
Just eight countries in the region are responsible for about 63 percent of total plastic waste flowing into the oceans. Little of that junk has been exported by rich economies. Instead, it's almost solely generated by Asia's newly minted consumer classes, the vast majority of whom lack access to garbage collection, modern landfills and incineration. Any progress in reducing ocean plastic will have to start with them.
A boom in garbage is almost always the result of two related phenomena: urbanization and income growth. Rural dwellers moving to the city shift from buying unpackaged goods to buying stuff (especially food) wrapped in plastic. As their incomes rise, their purchases increase. That growth in consumption is almost never matched by expanded garbage collection and disposal. In typical low-income countries, less than half of all garbage is collected formally, and what little is picked up tends to end up in unregulated open dumps. In 2015, scientists estimated that as much as 88 percent of the waste generated in Vietnam is either littered or tossed into uncontained dumps. In China, the rate is about 77 percent. By comparison, the U.S. rate is 2 percent.
Every big city in developing Asia faces this problem. Jakarta's waterways are choked with plastic trash. In Kuala Lumpur, instances of open dumping line the high-speed train route to the airport. On the outskirts of any Chinese city, loose plastic bags and instant-noodle cups litter every road's shoulder. Much of this junk ends up in waterways — and, eventually, the ocean. One study found that eight of the 10 rivers conveying the most plastic waste into the oceans are in Asia. China's Yangtze alone delivers 1.5 million metric tons of plastic to the Yellow Sea each year. Solutions to all this have proved chronically elusive. China has prohibited retailers from providing free plastic bags for a decade, to almost no effect. In Indonesia, longstanding efforts to tax plastic bottles and containers have run into the reality that few locals have access to piped or uncontaminated water. Although recycling is common in Asia, plastic presents an often insurmountable challenge: Technical and environmental factors render much of it unrecyclable, especially in developing regions. In fact, only about 9 percent of plastics are recycled globally.
Yet there's another, far more promising option: Improve regular old trash collection. A recent study by the Ocean Conservancy and the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment found that boosting trash collection rates to 80 percent in just five Asian countries — China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam — could reduce ocean plastic waste by a whopping 23 percent over a decade. No other solution can promise such an immediate or lasting impact.
Pulling it off won't be easy. Garbage collection and disposal is often the most expensive line-item on city budgets in the developing world, and achieving the study's goal would require $4 billion to $5 billion per year. But that's not impossible: In the U.K., aid organizations are pushing the government to spend 3 percent of its annual foreign aid on waste collection and disposal in the developing world (currently, it spends 0.3 percent). If that goal were adopted by other rich countries, it could be a game-changer for ocean plastics.
The private sector could also help. An American advocacy group called Closed Loop Ocean is raising $150 million from global corporations — including 3M Co., Coca-Cola Co., and Procter & Gamble Co. — to invest in scalable waste collection and disposal businesses in India and Indonesia. Petrochemical and plastics companies should be next to join.
All this is just a start, of course. Developing Asia will eventually need many more modern landfills, incinerators and self-funding recycling programs. But for now, one reform could have a bigger global impact than just about any other: Start picking up the trash.

Arab Leaders Asked U.S. Not to Reveal Mideast Peace Plan, Palestinians Say
هآررتس/الفلسطينيون يدعون أن القادة العرب قد طلبوا من أميركا عدم الكشف عن خطة السلام ..صفقة العصر

Jack Khoury/Haaretz/June 29/18
According to Palestinian officials, Arab representatives warned Kushner and Greenblatt that disclosing a plan that doesn't meet Palestinian expectations could disturb regional stability.
Arab nations have asked the White House to refrain from revealing its Mideast peace plan spearheaded by U.S. President Donald Trump's senior adviser Jared Kushner and Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt, senior Palestinian officials told Haaretz.
One senior official said that representatives of Arab countries warned members of the U.S. delegation to the Mideast of the ramifications of detailing the plan. The Arab officials cited the fact that their countries are dealing with internal challenges in a landscape marked by Syria's civil war and Iranian interference.
Thus, the Arab officials told the Palestinian leadership, any plan which does not meet Palestinian expectations could just increase tensions in the Mideast.
"Egypt isn't short on internal issues, along with fighting terror in Sinai; Jordan is dealing with many difficulties on the home front and repercussions from the Syrian war don't simplify things and the Saudis with the challenges in Yemen and the struggle against Iran," a Palestinian official told Haaretz. "If the (Trump) administration present a plan without Jerusalem and without the refugees it will be an earthquake whose repercussion will undermine stability in the entire region and not one is ready for that."
According to the Palestinian official, this explains the focus by the involved parties on the Gaza Strip, said the official, and the attempt to promote projects aimed at improving humanitarian conditions, which would prevent a collapse without presenting a plan without any diplomatic prospects.
Kushner and Greenblatt have been on a tour of the Middle East in recent days, visiting Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt.
The duo is reportedly seeking regional approval for their proposed deal.
The U.S. is seeking to raise hundreds of millions of dollars from Gulf nations to improve conditions in Gaza. The Palestinian Authority expressed opposition to this plan, saying it was aimed at separating Gaza and the West Bank.

Analysis/ Angela Merkel Is Losing to the Orban-Trump-Netanyahu Camp
هآررتس: ميركل تخسر في مواجهة فريق اوربان وترامب ونيتانياهو

Anshel Pfeffer/Haaretz/June 29/18
Merkel has gone from leader of Europe to near isolation – and the EU summit now taking place may be her last chance to stop the forces of illiberal democracy
In the joint press conference during Benjamin Netanyahu’s fleeting visit to Berlin three weeks ago, the prime minister warned about Iran’s actions in Syria. One of the implications, he said, could be another wave of Syrian refugees arriving in Europe.
“And we all know where they will come to,” he added. Standing beside him, Chancellor Angela Merkel looked even more mournful than usual. Netanyahu had hit her weakest spot, and he had learned to do so from his best European friend – who’s due to arrive in Israel next month.
Over the last few years, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been waging a war of attrition against Merkel over Europe’s future. It may sound absurd that a modest-sized country with economic problems is taking on Europe’s superpower. But based on events in recent weeks, Orban looks like he’s winning – mainly thanks to the immigration issue.
This weekend they’ll both be at the European Union Leaders Summit in Brussels. The desperate attempt to agree on an EU-wide solution to the immigration crisis is at the top of the agenda.
Orban, arriving in Brussels, was forthright. “The invasion should be stopped,” he said of the refugees at the Continent’s borders, “and to stop the invasion means to have strong border control, and we have that.”
Merkel, in a speech in Berlin before leaving, sounded almost apologetic. “Our decision to open doors to refugees in 2015 was not unilateral,” she said. “We acted to help Austria and Hungary.”
Merkel and Orban were both born and raised under Communist regimes. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, they both learned the rules of democracy and became all-powerful leaders of their countries.
This is where the resemblances end. The apolitical Merkel who swiftly reached the leadership of the conservative CDU party is now seen as the last guarantor of the post-Cold War liberal world order. Orban, who burst onto the public scene in Hungary as an anti-Communist activist, is the standard-bearer of “illiberal democracy,” a term he invoked in a speech in 2014.
Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside
George Soros, the Hungarian-American financier now the most hated man in Orban’s Hungary, said in 2016 that Orban is “challenging Merkel for the leadership of Europe.” According to Soros, the Hungarian prime minister “attacks the values and principles on which the European Union was founded. Orban attacks them from the inside, [Vladimir] Putin from the outside.”
It was a showdown that Merkel, backed up by Germany’s economic might and a near consensus among EU leaders, was winning. In early 2015, she visited Budapest and forced Orban to cancel a tax his government had levied on German companies. But two weeks later, the Russian president visited Budapest as well, and Merkel should have read the signs. She was about to make a series of decisions that would lead to her current predicament.
Throughout 2015, she led the EU’s tough line against the cash-strapped Syriza government in Greece. Merkel insisted on severe austerity measures in return for a bailout. She broke Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, despite the referendum in which a large majority of Greek voters rejected the EU’s terms. The price was bolstering her domineering and coercive image, and that of the EU. A year later, things would end very differently in another referendum.
But before that, Merkel would make another fateful decision – in September 2015, when she decided that Germany would open its borders and welcome the stream of Syrian refugees crossing the Aegean from Turkey to Greece. Despite the Dublin Treaty that stipulates that refugees will be processed in the EU member state where they first arrive, she agreed to accept the over 1 million refugees who were reaching Greece and from there crossing the Balkans into Hungary and Austria.
Merkel had sown the seeds of the current crisis and would begin to counter growing opposition from other EU members who were asked to take in a quota of refugees.
In 2016, in a series of meetings with British Prime Minister David Cameron, Merkel refused to grant any concessions on the EU’s freedom-of-movement principle for immigrants. Without her support, Cameron had no chance with the EU, and though he continued to support remaining in the union, immigration was to become a main issue used by Brexit-supporters, motivating 52 percent of British voters to support leaving on June 23.
Dominoes fall
Brexit was to be the wind in Donald Trump’s sails, who five months later promised his supporters on Election Day a “Brexit-plus-plus.” With Trump’s surprising election, Merkel had two alternatives. She could swallow her pride and try to embrace the vainglorious president, or stand for her principles. She chose the second option and won glowing headlines as “the new leader of the free world.” But she also began to lose supporters in Europe.
The three other members of the Visegrad Group – Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia – rallied to Orban, as did Bulgaria and then Austria under its new right-wing-populist government, which has taken a much tougher line on immigration. The most damaging blow was to come last month when Italy’s new populist government began blocking boats from Libya carrying immigrants. But the greatest danger lay at home.
Orban has long been building his relations with the CDU’s sister party, Bavaria’s CSU, and especially its leader, Horst Seehofer. The more conservative and wealthy Bavarians were much less excited by Merkel’s friendly welcome to the refugees thronging in their thousands at Munich’s main train station. Seehofer, who has hosted Orban at CSU meetings where Merkel’s immigration policy has been criticized, is now demanding that Germany block at its borders refugees who have passed through other EU countries.
Merkel refuses to budge, and this weekend’s summit is her last chance to try to deliver a new EU policy that will not only gain the support of the other member states but also placate the CSU. She’s on the brink of losing the party necessary for her tenuous majority in the Bundestag.
In three years, Merkel has gone from leader of Europe to being almost isolated. Even French President Emmanuel Macron, nominally her ally, has been discreetly distancing himself. The photograph of Merkel at this month’s G-7 summit confronting Trump made liberal hearts soar across the Western world, but it also underlined how the West is now divided into two camps. And the Orban-Trump-Netanyahu camp is swiftly gaining ground.

Israel Transferred Aid to Syrians Seeking Refuge Near Border in Overnight Mission
إسرائيل في مهمات ليلية تنقل المساعدات للسوريين الساعين إلى اللجوء قرب الحدود

Noa Shpigel, Yaniv Kubovich and Jack Khoury/Haaretz/June 29/18
Army says it provided tons of food, medicine and clothing to Syrians living in makeshift encampments on Golan border, but says will not allow them entry to Israel
The Israeli army said on Friday that it transferred overnight humanitarian aid to Syrians fleeing fighting in Syria and to those currently living in makeshift encampments not far from the border with Israel.
The shipment was made to camps in the south and center of the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement. These camps, the army said, are located along the border and are currently housing a few thousand Syrians fleeing fighting in the Daraa region. According to the UN, over 120,000 Syrians have fled the area in recent days.
The army said the living conditions in the camps were dire, with no access to electricity, water or food. The army also said that recent days have seen a rise in the number of Syrians living in the encampments.
According to a statement by the IDF, aid was transferred to four different sites on the Syrian side of the Golan during the operation. They said over 300 tents, 13 tons of food, 15 tons of baby formula and three large shipments of medical equipment and clothing had been delivered.
Israel is monitoring developments in southern Syria while it is preparing for various scenarios, including continued humanitarian assistance to fleeing Syrians. The IDF will not allow Syrians fleeing the country into Israel and will continue to defend Israel's national security interests, the army said.
The IDF has been providing life-saving humanitarian assistance, alongside a non-intervention policy, for a number of years during the international conflict in Syria, the army said in a statement.
The Syrian media reported that tens of thousands of people have fled the Daraa region due to heavy airstrikes against the rebels by the Syrian and Russian air forces. Many residents have headed south to the Jordanian border, but Jordan isn’t letting them enter.
Haaretz has learned that officers from the Free Syrian Army, that is operating in the Dara area, have sent messages to Syrian government forces in recent days saying that they will lay down their weapons if they are allowed to stay in their villages and homes. A Syrian opposition official who spoke with Haaretz said refugees from the area were not marching directly toward Israel and people were leaving through the corridors opened up by the Syrian army, mostly toward the east and north.
“Some people turned toward Jordan and set up in the border area and a few hundred made their way in the direction of a [refugee] camp that already existed in the Quneitra area, not far from the cease-fire lines with Israel,” the opposition official said. “Some went out to open areas. The main thing is to be far from the bombing.”
The IDF raised Thursday its alert level in the Golan Heights in light of the recent escalation in the fighting in southern Syria between the Assad regime and rebel militias and the Syrian army’s increasing proximity to the Israeli border.
Israel isn’t expecting a direct confrontation with the Syrian army, but it is preparing for possibility of spillover effects from the regime’s attack, with Russian and Iranian assistance, on the Daraa region, which is just sixty kilometers from the Israeli border.
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot flew to Washington on Thursday for a quick meeting with his U.S. counterpart. On Sunday, the security cabinet will meet to discuss the home front’s preparedness for a war in the north.
Eisenkot’s meeting with the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, was arranged over the past few days. The two will mainly discuss events in Syria, as well as their countries’ joint effort to restrain Iran’s military intervention in the region.

Replacing Justice Kennedy: What kind of Conservative Will President Trump Pick?
Alan M. Dershowitz/Gatestone Institute/June 29/18
They [potential nominees to the Supreme Court] should be asked about the criteria they apply in determining whether to be bound by past decisions.
As the late Justice Antonin Scalia frequently pointed out, his oath of office required him to apply the Constitution, not the decisions of his predecessors on the bench, if those past decisions were wrong.
The second position is that Roe v. Wade was wrong when decided but it has been the law for 45 years, and the nation has come to rely on it as governing law. Accordingly, it should not be overruled, but nor should it be expanded. This is the most likely position that a successful nominee might take.
The two key words in assessing the President's nominee to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy are stare decisis. This ancient Latin phrase, which means let the decision stand, represents a conservative approach to judging: that precedent imposes constraints on judicial innovation. Put another way, that judicial innovation should be balanced against the need to maintain stability in our legal system. But like most legal terms, stare decisis can easily be manipulated to benefit both conservatives and liberals. Traditionally it has been conservatives who have embraced stare decisis, allowing the dead hand of the law to constrain the living constitution. But liberals, too, embrace the concept when they seek to preserve old precedents that are important to them.
Today, liberals want to use stare decisis to preserve Roe v. Wade, gay marriage and other iconic liberal decisions of the past. Many conservatives would like to see these decision overruled. When the President interviews potential nominees, and when the Senate advises and consents on the nomination, these nominees will be questioned about their positions on important cases of the past and their likely votes in the future. They will decline to be specific claiming the need for judicial independence. But one area of legitimate inquiry will be their institutional views regarding stare decisis.
All judicial nominees, whether liberal ore conservative, will always throw a bone to stare decisis. They will claim, quite correctly, their legal system depends on stability, certainty and predictability. But they will also point out that the law must sometimes change to suit the times. So the questioning of these potential nominees must be more probing and substantive. They should be asked about the criteria they apply in determining whether to be bound by past decisions.
The Supreme Court, unlike the lower courts, is not technically bound by stare decisis. As the late Justice Antonin Scalia frequently pointed out, his oath of office required him to apply the Constitution, not the decisions of his predecessors on the bench, if those past decisions were wrong.
Just this week liberals applauded when the Supreme Court finally and decisively overruled the disgraceful Japanese-American cases of the 1940s. Conservatives applauded when the Supreme Court overruled the old compulsory dues for public union's case and ruled that public employees could not be required to pay union dues if they object to the union's political positions.
Every justice through history has applied stare decisis in many cases and refused to apply it in some. For some justices, it is difficult to discern a coherent pattern. They apply precedent when it serves their interests, and refuse to apply it without articulating why they have done so, in some cases and not in others.
Among the key issues that may influence President Trump's decision on whom to nominate will be the candidates' view on Roe v. Wade. These views can fall into several categories: the first is that Roe v. Wade was wrong when decided, it is wrong now, and it should be overruled. President Trump has suggested that he expects his nominee to take that position, but any such nominee may have difficulty being confirmed, because at least two Republican Senators opposed reversing Roe v. Wade.
The second position is that Roe v. Wade was wrong when decided but it has been the law for 45 years, and the nation has come to rely on it as governing law. Accordingly, it should not be overruled, but nor should it be expanded. This is the most likely position that a successful nominee might take.
Then there is the extreme position, hinted at by Justice Clarence Thomas: Not only is there no right for a woman to have an abortion, but it is unconstitutional for the state to allow abortion, since abortion violates the right to life of the fetus. Such a radical view would dramatically change both constitutional law and politics in America, but the Supreme Court's decision interpreting the second amendment granting the personal right to own guns also reversed long standing precedents and changed the nature of law and politics in our country. It is unlikely that any nominee with such an extreme view concerning abortion could be confirmed, if he or she acknowledged that they would vote to prevent states from keeping abortion legal.
So the next several months may be a civics lesson for all Americans as we observe the President making his decision about whom to nominate and we watch Senators make their decision as to whether they confirm the nominee. We need such a lesson because the vacancy that occurred when Justice Scalia died provided an object lesson in politics trumping decency and constitutionality, as Senate Republicans violated their duty to advise and consent, by refusing even to consider any nominee put forward by President Obama in his last year. Let us hope that the process of replacing Justice Anthony Kennedy will provide a more ennobling lesson for all Americans.
*-Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law Emeritus at Harvard Law School and author of "The Case Against BDS."
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

The Netherlands Approves Burqa Ban
Soeren Kern//Gatestone Institute/June 29/18
"People's faces should not be hidden in society, for it is our faces that give us our identity and our fundamental means of communication with others." — Geert Wilders, Party for Freedom (PVV).
Dutch Interior Minister Kajsa Ollongren said the new law represents "a fair balance" between "the freedom to dress as one wishes" and "the general interest of communication and security." She also said that far from violating fundamental rights, the ban will enable Muslim women "to have access to a wider social life" because if they do not cover the face "they will have more possibilities for contact, communication and opportunities to enter the job market."
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) twice has ruled that burqa bans are legal, making it unlikely that the Dutch ban could be overturned in court.
The Dutch Senate has approved a law that bans the wearing of "face-covering clothing" in public buildings, including hospitals, schools and government offices, as well as on public transportation.
Although the ban does not extend to public streets, the law authorizes police to ask individuals to remove face-covering clothing to establish their identity.
Those found flouting the ban — which includes Islamic veils and robes such as burqas (which cover the entire face) and niqabs (which cover the entire face except for the eyes), as well as balaclavas and full-face helmets — will be subject to a fine of 410 euros ($475).
The new law, previously adopted by the Dutch House of Representatives in November 2016, was approved on June 26 by 44 to 31 votes in the 75-seat Senate.
In a statement, the government, which has not yet said when the law will enter into effect, explained its purpose:
"In a free country like the Netherlands, everyone has the freedom and space to behave and dress as he or she desires. Sometimes, limits can and must be imposed on that freedom. In the case of face-covering clothing, this applies in particular if mutual communication is impeded or safety is jeopardized.
"Mutual communication whereby people can look each other in the face is so important that uniform rules have now been laid down by law. This makes it clear to everyone what is and is not allowed in those situations."
A Muslim activist group called "Stay away from my Niqab!" said the ban is unconstitutional. In an open letter sent to Dutch lawmakers, the group, which has more than 5,000 followers on Facebook, asked:
"Why is it not realized that this law leads to people being isolated from society? This ban leads to women who wear face-covering clothing, who like to participate in society, no longer to be able to do this effectively because they now have a restriction on education, license applications, travel with public transport, visiting a doctor and much more....
"Is the constitution no longer applicable to women with face-covering clothing? What about the right that everyone is free to dress how he/she wants, regardless of race, gender, religion or belief?
"What about Article 6 of the Constitution which sets out freedom of religion and belief? Is there a problem in which everyone does not have the right freely to confess their religion or belief, individually or in community with others?"
The group's spokeswoman, Karima Rahmani, added:
"We feel that we are being wronged with a repressive measure, which is why we trying to make our voices heard. It is getting harder and harder to be on the street with a niqab. I myself have been threatened with death, and other women have even been physically attacked.
"There is a lot of talk about me, but no one comes to me to ask: 'Why do you actually wear that niqab?' It is part of my religion and I want to be free to make that choice. It is a spiritual experience that I personally experience."
The Council of State, an independent advisor to the government on legislation, said that the ban was unnecessary and potentially unconstitutional. In a November 2015 report, it said that the Dutch Cabinet had been guided too much by "subjective feelings of insecurity" that "do not justify a ban." It added:
"The Council of State points out that the bill primarily seems to have been motivated by objections to wearing Islamic face-covering clothing.... Insofar as face-covering clothing (for example a burqa) is worn to express a religious clothing prescription, this falls under the constitutionally-protected freedom of religion. The ban proposed by the government does not, according to the Council of State, justify restricting the right to freedom of religion."
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), however, twice has ruled that burqa bans are legal, making it unlikely that the Dutch ban could be overturned in court.
In July 2017, for example, the ECHR upheld a Belgian ban on wearing the burqa in public spaces. It said that the government had been responding "to a practice that it considered to be incompatible, in Belgian society, with social communication and more generally the establishment of human relations, which were indispensable for life in society...essential to ensure the functioning of a democratic society." In July 2014, the ECHR upheld France's burqa ban, accepting the French government's argument that it encouraged citizens to "live together."
The Dutch government has repeatedly insisted that the ban is not about restricting religion but about promoting communication and public safety. It has described the new law as "religion neutral" because it is not limited just to the burka and niqab, but also includes the balaclava and full-face helmet.
Dutch Interior Minister Kajsa Ollongren said the new law represents "a fair balance" between "the freedom to dress as one wishes" and "the general interest of communication and security." She also said that far from violating fundamental rights, the ban will enable Muslim women "to have access to a wider social life" because if they do not cover the face "they will have more possibilities for contact, communication and opportunities to enter the job market."
A complete ban was originally proposed in December 2005 by Party for Freedom (PVV) leader Geert Wilders, who argued that burqas and niqabs are barriers to the integration of women in the Netherlands: "We must ban the burqa. People's faces should not be hidden in society, for it is our faces that give us our identity and our fundamental means of communication with others."
The Netherlands is the sixth European country to approve a burqa ban, after France, Belgium, Bulgaria, Austria and Denmark. Bavaria in Germany, Catalonia in Spain, Lombardy in Italy and Ticino in Switzerland also have imposed regional burqa bans, while Norway has tabled a law to ban burqas in public schools. Latvia has proposed a burqa ban, but it has not yet been enacted.
*Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Is Trump handing Putin a victory in Syria?
دايفيد اغناطيوس: هل يهدي ترامب لبوتين انتصاراً في “جنوب” سورياً

David Ignatius/The Washington Post/June 29/18
The catastrophic war in Syria is nearing what could be a diplomatic endgame, as the United States , Russia and Israel shape a deal that would preserve power for Syrian President Bashar al -Assad in exchange for Russian pledges to restrain Iranian influence.
Checking Iranian power has become the only major Trump administration goal in Syria, now that the Islamic State is nearly vanquished. President Trump appears ready to embrace a policy that will validate Assad, an authoritarian leader who has gassed his own people, and abandon a Syrian opposition that was partly trained and supplied by the United States.
Trump’s Syria policy has bounced back and forth like a ping-pong ball. The most consistent feature has been his mistrust of Middle East military commitments made by his predecessors George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Step by step, he seems to be undoing them.
The diplomatic discussions about Syria come as Trump prepares for a July 16 summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Foreign diplomats and administration officials are unsure just what will be on the agenda, but the Syria package will probably be in play.
An intriguing aspect of the possible Syria deal is that it’s driven by close cooperation between Russia and Israel. The Israeli agenda, like Trump’s, is narrowly focused on blocking Iran — and Israelis seem to have concluded that Putin is a reliable regional partner.
Israeli, European and U.S. experts outlined some likely elements of the framework. In exchange for U.S. withdrawal of its demands for a political transition in Syria, Russia will support various measures to contain Iranian power, including:
● Iranian-backed forces will stay at least 80 kilometers from the Israeli border on the Golan Heights.
● Israel will have tacit Russian permission to attack threatening Iranian targets in Syria, so long as Russian troops aren’t harmed. Israel has exercised this freedom of action in recent weeks to strike secret Iranian bases and block Tehran’s attempt to open a Syrian “second front” against Israel that would complement Hezbollah in Lebanon.
● Assad’s army, backed by Russian air power, will consolidate control in southwest Syria and retake posts on the Jordanian border. Jordan favors Assad’s control of the border because it might allow truck traffic to resume, boosting the cash-strapped Jordanian economy. Opposition forces in the southwest apparently will be left to fend for themselves. As thousands of new Syrian refugees flee toward a closed Jordanian border, a new slaughter of trapped civilians is possible.
● Russian military police will patrol areas of southwest Syria and perhaps other regions, in an effort to stabilize those zones. But a European diplomat cautions that any expectation that Russian power will mean security is “based on wishful thinking rather than reality.” The United States, for now, will retain its garrison at al-Tanf, in southern Syria, to block any Iranian advance there.
● Russia and the Assad regime will expand their outreach to Syrian Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria, in areas where the Kurds have partnered successfully with U.S. Special Operations forces to defeat the Islamic State and restore stability. U.S. commanders hope American troops can remain for 18 more months or so. But Trump has voiced his impatience with this mission.
Syrian opposition leaders are bitterly disappointed at the deal that’s taking shape, and one warned me that the American “betrayal” will be an incubator for future jihadist movements. European countries, which have been key covert allies in Syria, are deeply skeptical that the anti-Iran plan will work. “Britain and France have warned the U.S. that it’s highly improbable that Russia has the presence on the ground to get the Iranians to shift out” of areas they now dominate, a European diplomat told me.
Trump’s willingness to accede to Russian power in Syria — and to give up hard-won U.S. gains — troubles many Pentagon officials, but they seem to be losing the argument.
As Putin makes his way toward the summit stage, it’s worth pausing a moment to appreciate how deftly he has played his hand. Russia is becoming the indispensable regional balancer, playing a role once proudly claimed by the United States. Russia somehow maintains good relations with both Iran and Israel; it has growing ties with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates; it talks with Syrian Kurds and their bitter rivals in Turkey.
Putin has a reputation as an ex-KGB thug. But his Syrian strategy evokes the subtler Chinese precept of subduing the enemy without fighting. Putin has taken a decisive position in Syria at minimal cost — with a deferential Trump now seeming ready to confirm his victory.

Accepting Regime Forces in South Syria Will Only Further Iran’s Goals
القبول بقوات نظام الأسد في جنوب سوريا سوف بالتأكيد يسهل تحقيق الأهداف الإيرانية
Hanin Ghaddar and Phillip Smyth/The Washington Institute/June 29, 2018
Whether openly or in disguise, Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies are deploying to the south in large numbers, greatly increasing the potential for cross-border escalation.
When Hezbollah sends its elite Radwan division to a battlefront in Syria, it usually means that intense fighting is expected, and that the unit’s forces will be heavily involved. This pattern has been witnessed throughout Hezbollah’s intervention in the war, from al-Qusayr to Aleppo to Deir al-Zour. Radwan fighters were also temporarily deployed to the 2017 battle of Deraa before a de-escalation agreement stopped that offensive. Today, they are returning to Deraa.
According to sources on the ground, Iran has been redeploying its Shia militia proxies to south Syria since April, particularly between Suwayda, Deraa, and Quneitra. In the past, Israel and Jordan have issued warnings against the presence of Iranian-allied forces so close to their borders, but rather than withdraw, many of these fighters are simply merging with Assad regime forces. Hezbollah units have integrated with the army’s 4th Division and Republican Guard, while fighters from militias such as Liwa al-Fatemiyoun have been spotted within the Tiger Forces under the leadership of Syrian general Suhail al-Hassan, even adopting their uniforms and insignia.
Whether hiding within regime units or deployed separately, Iran’s proxies and partners seem to be heavily involved in the latest Deraa offensive. They are also deploying around the Deir al-Adas area of Quneitra, located a scant fifteen kilometers from the Golan Heights. For instance, the pro-Assad Palestinian militia Liwa al-Quds, which has fought alongside Iranian-controlled forces since 2013, boasted of its large presence near Quneitra in May. Syrian Hezbollah factions such as Liwa al-Imam al-Mahdi—which are largely controlled by their Lebanese parent organization—may well be operating in the area as well given their combat role there in 2016. Even Hezbollah-trained Druze groups might be involved in the southern campaign, further complicating efforts to sift out Iranian influence.
Meanwhile, Russian officials have been busy meeting with Jordanian and Israeli authorities, offering deals and making promises regarding Iran’s withdrawal. President Vladimir Putin and President Trump are expected to focus on the same issue during their planned mid-July summit in Paris.
As the battle for Deraa develops, two issues need to be watched closely. First, can Russia actually guarantee the departure of Iranian forces and proxies from the south, one of the most strategically important areas in all of Syria? Second, assuming Bashar al-Assad manages to expel the Syrian opposition from Deraa, can his forces stop Iranian proxies from infiltrating and controlling the borders?
Determining whether and how Iranian proxy forces are switching attire to integrate with Assad’s forces can be difficult given the diversity of uniforms used in Syria, not to mention the many different ways groups cooperate with one another. Long before the war, the Syrian army was awash in basic civilian clothing items, and even units within the same division would sometimes sport uniforms that did not match. By 2011, the growing militia trend among pro-Assad forces resulted in many Syrian fighters regularly donning military gear mixed with sneakers, jeans, and T-shirts.
Since Hezbollah entered the war in 2012, its fighters have been pictured in similarly mixed gear on a regular basis, making it difficult to differentiate them from Syrian units. Starting in 2013, some Hezbollah fighters were seen in modern woodland- and desert-patterned digital camouflage, but most used other styles until more recently.
In addition, as the group tried to market its image, it emphasized the display of specialized patches, though fighters have eschewed wearing them on many occasions. By mid-2013, certain forces on the ground were also wearing different colored ribbons to denote their origin, according to videos posted online and comments by former Iraqi Shia fighters who deployed alongside Hezbollah. Yet some Iraqi Shia fighters and Hezbollah members would regularly wear the same color ribbons as their Syrian army counterparts.
In other cases, Hezbollah forces and Iraqi fighters were seen wearing a style of camouflage close to the U.S. 1980s-era M81 woodland pattern—a style also adopted by the Syrian Republican Guard and some army units. This includes Liwa al-Imam al-Hussein, a Damascus-based militia that identifies as part of the Syrian army’s 4th Division, which is now widely deployed in the Quneitra area.
By 2016, digital camouflage had become a more regular addition to Hezbollah kits, as the group heavily promoted this style on social media to show off its modern gear and setup. Even so, many fighters still wear mixed gear.
Another Shia militia, the Damascus-based Liwa Abu Fadl al-Abbas (LAFA), has also been seen wearing the same uniforms as Hezbollah, including modern digital camouflage. In the past, members of the group were teamed with Ali Jamal Jishi (aka Hamza Ibrahim Haidar), a late Hezbollah commander who was regularly pictured wearing the same uniform and insignia as Syrian Republican Guard officers (the photos have since been removed from accessible social media sources). LAFA has likewise branded itself as a subsection of the Republican Guard.
Similar uniform switching has been seen among Iraqi Shia fighters from the group Liwa Assad Allah al-Ghalib. As early as 2016, they were spotted deploying north of their Damascus bases wearing patches and clothing from the Desert Hawks (Liwa Suqur al-Sahara), a Syrian militia. Many LAFA fighters did the same when fighting in the north.
Besides the difficulty of distinguishing Iranian proxies from Syrian regime forces, Russia’s general inability or unwillingness to keep its promises in Syria warrants skepticism about its latest security guarantees in the south. For example, when Assad used chemical weapons against civilians in 2013 and the United States was poised to launch military strikes in retaliation, Putin helped convince Washington to hold off by guaranteeing that the regime would surrender its chemical arsenal. Yet Assad kept some of that arsenal and has since used it repeatedly against civilians.
Even more tellingly, Russian forces were rebuffed earlier this month when they accompanied the Syrian army’s 11th Division to push Hezbollah forces out of their positions in the border town of al-Qusayr. The plan—which was not coordinated with Iran or Hezbollah—was to take over the Jusiyah crossing with Lebanon, then move closer to Syria’s Qalamoun region. Yet Hezbollah forces refused to leave their positions; instead, Russian and Syrian troops turned around and left less than twenty-four hours after they arrived, and Hezbollah soon reinforced its presence around al-Qusayr. This small incident—which was probably a Russian attempt to test Iran’s reaction—shows that Moscow would probably be unable to budge Iranian proxies once they become entrenched in south Syria (or, at least, unwilling to exert heavy enough military pressure to force the issue).
Currently, Israel and Jordan seem willing to allow a Syrian army presence in the south. Although it is no secret that Iran’s proxies are integrated with regime forces, this does not seem to bother the two neighbors so long as all such proxies separate themselves from the army and withdraw after the Deraa offensive.
Yet the presumed guarantors of this withdrawal do not seem capable of actually guaranteeing it. Russia has shown that it cannot move Iranian proxies on the ground. And even if Hezbollah and other militias do withdraw a few kilometers away from the frontier, this would not resolve broader concerns about Tehran’s long-term strategic game in Syria. Iranian forces have withdrawn and redeployed many times in many places in Syria, and any move they make to appease Russia would no doubt be temporary.
As for the notion that Assad will push Iran out after achieving victory, the return of his forces to the south means just the opposite. In a major step toward fulfilling Tehran’s long-term goals, the presence of Syrian forces would serve as a conduit for Hezbollah and other militias to quietly redeploy in the south anytime they like, without having to deal with opposition pockets.
Therefore, to avoid escalation in south Syria, Assad’s forces should not be allowed to reoccupy the area after the battle for Deraa, and Russian forces should not be trusted to act as guarantors of Iranian withdrawal. The only guaranteed way of keeping Iran out of the south and far from the Golan and Jordan would be a third-party buffer zone along Syria’s southern borders. Formulating the contours of such a force would of course be challenging, since the Trump administration is set against keeping U.S. troops in Syria, and past international peacekeeping missions designed to constrain Hezbollah elsewhere have failed (e.g., the UN Interim Force in Lebanon). Yet the line distinguishing Iranian and Syria forces grows ever thinner every day, so the need to pursue such alternatives is urgent.
**Hanin Ghaddar, a veteran Lebanese journalist and researcher, is the Friedmann Visiting Fellow at The Washington Institute.
*Phillip Smyth is a Soref Fellow at the Institute and author of its 2015 study The Shiite Jihad in Syria and Its Regional Effects.