May 02/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them.

Matthew 06/05-15/"Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. ‘When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. ‘Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not bring us to the time of trial, but rescue us from the evil one. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 01-02/18
Our Incoherent Lebanon Policy/Tony Badran/Tablet/May 01/18
Iranian Defense Chief Warns Israel: Stop Your Dangerous Behavior, Response Will Surprise You/Haaretz/May 01/18
Analysis Israel Braces for Iranian Retaliation for Syria Strike – but War Isn’t Inevitable/Amos Harel/ May 01/18
Iranian-Israeli War Looming on Horizon/Asharq Al/May 01/18
U.S. Officials: Israeli F-15s Struck Syrian Base Storing Iranian Anti-aircraft Missiles/Haaretz/May 01/18
Iraq Needs Elections to Bring Stability, Prosperity/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al-Awsat/May 01/18
Don’t Get Too Excited About the Korea Summit/Wendy R. Sherman/The Washington Post/May 01/18
A Brexit Choice Between Bad and Worse/Michael R. Bloomberg/Bloomberg View/May 01/18
Iran nuclear deal must be fixed before it is too late/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/May 01/18
Ukraine: Is Russia Planning A New Invasion/by Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/May 01/18
Flooding the Voter Rolls in US and Greece/Maria Polizoidou/Gatestone Institute/May 01/2018
Analysis Israel's Double Front Against Iran: Military Strike in the Morning, Press Conference at Night/Amos Harel/Haaretz/May 01/18
Are the wars in Sinai and Yemen necessary/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/May 01/18
Killing of Saleh al-Sammad, the beginning of the end of our war in Yemen/Mohammed Al Shaikh/Al Arabiya/May 01/18
If Trump brokers peace in Korea, he deserves the Nobel Peace Prize/Dr. Azeem Ibrahim/Al Arabiya/May 01/18
US, Europe Must Convince Each Other To Pursue The Right Goals In Iran/Dr.Walid Phares/Daily Caller site/May 01/18
Iran should learn lessons of Korean peace talks/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/May 02/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on May 01-02/18
Union leader celebrate Labor Day
Lebanese Parliamentary Polls Sees Expatriate Voting Limited to Party Members
Lebanon Awaits Implementation of 'Cedre' Deals as Int’l Community Bets on Reforms
Aoun on Labor Day: Will Protect You from Foreign Labor Competition
Qassem Says Hizbullah ‘Undecided’ on Future Premier Figure
Qassem Says 'Not in Hizbullah's Interest' to Start War with Israel
Hariri Visits al-Hassan Memorial, Wraps Up Northern Tour
Airport Police Arrest Man for Smuggling of Drugs in Shoes
Sayyed Nasrallah: Your Votes Protect the Resistance, Preserve Achievements
Our Incoherent Lebanon Policy

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 01-02/18
Iranian Defense Chief Warns Israel: Stop Your Dangerous Behavior, Response Will Surprise You
Analysis Israel Braces for Iranian Retaliation for Syria Strike – but War Isn’t Inevitable
Iranian-Israeli War Looming on Horizon
U.S. Officials: Israeli F-15s Struck Syrian Base Storing Iranian Anti-aircraft Missiles
Khamenei Refuses to Abandon Iran’s Regional Role
Iran Calls Netanyahu 'Infamous Liar' over Nuclear Allegations
US Walks Back Claim Iran 'Has' Arms Program
Donald Trump slams ‘horrible’ Iran nuclear deal as May 12 deadline looms
France: Israeli information on Iran could prompt long-term monitoring
US-backed Syrian forces resume battle against ISIS
Morocco severs ties with Iran over alleged ties with Polisario Front
Armenian Protest leader Warns of 'Political Tsunami' If Not Elected PM
Iran Displaces Foua, Kefraya Residents in Exchange for Nusra in Yarmouk
France: Israel’s Iran Intelligence Shows Need for Longer-Term Assurances on Nuclear Program
Kuwait, Philippines Move to Defuse Domestic Worker Row
Abbas Launches PLO National Council: Dhahran Summit Was Indeed Jerusalem Summit
Condemnations Pour in after 10 Journalists Killed in Afghan Attacks

Latest Lebanese Related News published on May 01-02/18
Union leader celebrate Labor Day
The Daily Star/May 01, 2018
BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun and President of the General Confederation of Lebanese Workers Bechara Asmar Tuesday applauded workers on the occasion of Labor Day, but warned that improvements to working conditions are still needed. "Today is an opportunity to pay tribute to this component of our society, which contributes to our economy and production, despite the difficulties they face," Aoun said, according to a statement from his media office. The president added that he would attempt to boost workers’ conditions, preserve their rights and "protect them from competition from foreign hands," presumably in reference to refugees and immigrants. "This [competition] negatively affects our social stability. It's a red line," Aoun said. The president expressed his eagerness to transform Lebanon’s stagnant economy into a productive one, and to promote balanced development and create jobs, "especially for young people." "Every worker and employee, from the public or private sector, whose actions are in service to the community, should be a role model for integrity and sincerity as it leads to transparency. This moral foundation makes [Lebanon] a prosperous state," Aoun said. He added that the government also needs to work in parallel with the labor force, and to strengthen the principle of accountability, with no exceptions. Asmar held a news conference later Tuesday, calling for the Socio-Economic Council to conduct comprehensive studies of all government projects before they can be passed. "We are afraid because we do not trust the existing economic model. We call on Parliament not to pass any project without the approval of the council," Asmar said. He said that candidates running for parliamentary seats in the polls to be held Sunday have espoused sectarian programs that will ruin the economy, and warned that the confederation would be watching the results closely. "A wage correction must be done immediately after the elections," Asmar said, adding that an increase in salaries would have a knock-on effect, stimulating the economy. Workers have been protesting for the implementation of the recently passed salary scale law and an increase in salaries and benefits for some grades of employment.

Lebanese Parliamentary Polls Sees Expatriate Voting Limited to Party Members
Beirut - Caroline Akoum/Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 1 May, 2018/Concerned parties unevenly assessed Monday the turnout in the expatriate voting in parliamentary elections that concluded over the weekend. They were in agreement on the positive development that expatriates were allowed to vote in the polls for the first time in the country’s history. The Interior and Foreign Ministries, in addition to monitoring organizations, agreed that the operation was effective, while other observers highlighted the low turnout. Although 60 percent of the registered voters had participated in the polls, the number shows that only 5 percent of the overall Lebanese living abroad had participated in the process. This 5 percent is also mainly only comprised of party members. Foreign Ministry Secretary General Hani Shmeitli told Asharq Al-Awsat that the number of expatriate voters is expected to rise in the next elections. “The low number of registered Lebanese voters is related to their doubts that the Foreign Ministry is capable of achieving such an operation,” he said, adding that he expects 300,000 Lebanese to register in the 2022 elections. Lebanon’s new proportional representation law allowed some 82,900 registered expatriates to vote in 39 countries for the first time ever. About one million Lebanese live abroad, according to Shmeitli. Researcher at Information International Mohammed Shamseddine told Asharq Al-Awsat there are 1.3 million expatriates, including 900,000 eligible voters. He acknowledged the low turnout, saying those voters are mainly party members and their families, while the non-partisans Lebanese opted not to head to the polls. Shamseddine stated that the voting of expatriates is not expected to affect the outcome of the May 6 elections, except in the third north electoral district that includes the towns of Zgharta, Bsharri, Koura and Batroun where an estimated 12,500 people had voted from abroad.

Lebanon Awaits Implementation of 'Cedre' Deals as Int’l Community Bets on Reforms
Beirut - Youssef Diab/Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 1 May, 2018/Lebanon’s economic and financial sectors are eagerly awaiting the translation of the outcome of the Cedre Conference - which was held last month in Paris – into effective results. The international community, meanwhile, is betting on reforms pledged by the government, in particular the reduction of the deficit in the general budget and the implementation of the partnership law between the public and private sectors. Despite the achievement of Prime Minister Saad Hariri at the Paris-hosted conference and promises of $11.5 billion, Lebanese officials do not hide their concern that the outcome of the meeting would be lost if the government failed to implement the required reforms. In this regard, Minister of State for Planning Michel Pharaon stressed that the economic vision developed by the government must be put into effect, warning against attempts by some political parties to disrupt the reform plans, similar to what happened to the Paris 3 conference. In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, he said: “We urgently need the funds of Cedre and we must meet the desire of the international community to stand with Lebanon and support the security, economic and financial stability.” However, the minister revealed that the results of the conference would not see any actual translation before 2019, because the international community is waiting for the implementation of reforms, and the execution of the law of partnership between the public and private sectors. The government is expected to implement the Cedre projects based on a 10-year plan, in order to complete projects worth $11.5 billion over the next five years. It will receive grants and loans of about the same value for the second phase. Hariri promised to provide 90,000 jobs a year to Lebanese youth by employing them in the upcoming projects. Economic Expert Dr. Sami Nader underlined the importance of Lebanon’s gain from this conference, but pointed out that the translation of these gains “depends on the ability of the Lebanese government to comply with the reforms and the adoption of new project laws related to infrastructure and partnership between the public and private sectors.”
Aoun on Labor Day: Will Protect You from Foreign Labor Competition
Naharnet/May 01/18/President Michel Aoun addressed Lebanese workers on Labor Day assuring them that efforts are underway to protect them from foreign labor competition. “Efforts are being exerted to protect workers from foreign labor competition,” the Presidency media office quoted the President as saying on Tuesday. Aoun promised that he would be working on achieving the aspirations and protecting the workers so that their dignity remained intact. "I will spare no effort to promote the conditions of workers, preserve their rights and protect them from the competition of foreigners, which are negatively affecting the social security," Aoun added. Shedding the light on skills in crafts and the job opportunities they carry, Aoun “encouraged Lebanese youth to turn to craftsmanship and benefit from it before someone else does,” he said. He was hinting at the competition from Syrians in the Lebanese working market. “Transforming the economy into a productive sector promotes development and creates new jobs,” added the President. Syrian refugees are competing with Lebanese citizens for jobs, access to public services and infrastructure and, in particular, already scarce and fragile natural resources, such as land, water and forests. The situation threatens the country’s delicate sectarian balance, institutional and political stability, and regional peace and security., the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said in a report.

Qassem Says Hizbullah ‘Undecided’ on Future Premier Figure
Naharnet/May 01/18/Hizbullah deputy chief Sheikh Naim Qassem said “it is best” to re-elect Nabih Berri, leader of AMAL Movement, as parliament speaker, adding that it is “still unclear who shall be the right person for the premiership.”In remarks he made Monday in an interview with Iranian news agency IRNA, Qassem said: “Through (Hizbullah’s) experience and alliance with AMAL, it is clear that it’s best to have president Nabih Berri as Speaker.”As for the party’s opinion on who should fill the premiership post after the parliamentary elections, he said: “The premiership issue is postponed until after the elections because it is unclear who will be the right person for the premiership,” he said. Hizbullah and AMAL have struck an electoral alliance to run in the upcoming legislative elections that will held on May 6. Berri has served as parliament speaker since 1992. Early in April, Berri said he would vote for Prime Minister Saad Hariri to stay in his position in the post-election Cabinet. Separately, Qassem assured that Hizbullah will “face corruption regardless of individuals, even if they were allies. We will set a detailed plan to reach the highest possible degree.”

Qassem Says 'Not in Hizbullah's Interest' to Start War with Israel
Naharnet/May 01/18/Hizbullah deputy chief Sheikh Naim Qassem announced Monday that his group has no plans to “start” a war with Israel despite the high tensions between Iran and Israel. “Israel takes the initiative to start wars and taking Lebanon to war is not in Hizbullah's interest and is not part of its plans,” Qassem said in an interview with LBCI TV when asked about the current Israeli-Iranian standoff and its possible repercussions on Lebanon. He also noted that Hizbullah will accept to discuss the issue of its arsenal of arms in any national defense strategy talks, although he said that the weapons are linked to “Israel's existence.” As for Hizbullah's military presence in Syria, Qassem said his group's fighters would return to Lebanon when a “political solution” is reached in the war-torn country. “We will return because we do not have ambitions there. We went there in defense of Lebanon and considered that the forefront in Syria would protect our front in Lebanon in the face of Israel,” Hizbullah number two explained.

Hariri Visits al-Hassan Memorial, Wraps Up Northern Tour
Naharnet/May 01/18/Prime Minister Saad Hariri visited Monday evening a memorial honoring slain Major General Wissam al-Hassan in Btouratij, Koura, as he wrapped up an electoral tour of north Lebanon. Hariri placed the wreath in the presence of Deputy Speaker Farid Makari, MP Nicolas Ghosn, al-Hassan's father and a crowd of citizens. Earlier, Hariri attended a lunch at the house of Makari in Las Salinas, in the presence of Ghosn, former minister Bassem al-Sabeh, Hariri’s chief of staff Nader Hariri, the candidate for the Maronite seat in Tripoli George Bkassini and Adnan al-Hassan, the father of the slain general. Also on Monday, Hariri met at the Quality Inn Hotel in Tripoli with a delegation of retired military officers, in the presence of the candidate Dima Jamali and Tripoli al-Mustaqbal Movement coordinator Nasser Adra. Hariri also met with families of Islamist detainees. He said that the amnesty law is being “carefully studied” and hoped that it will be “completed soon.”Earlier in the day, Hariri visited the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Tripoli. “Our project for the North is to pull it out of marginalization and economic deterioration. The cornerstone of motivation is to make a qualitative leap on the size of public investments,” Hariri said in a speech at the Chamber. “This means $3 billion investments in infrastructure for the North in the project that was presented to the donors and the private sector at the CEDRE Conference, and we secured the funding for its first phase in Paris. It also means attracting new investments for productive projects in a number of sectors for which the north and Tripoli present an advantage,” the premier added. He noted that Tripoli has economic and human capacities that allow it to play “an effective role in improving the economy and putting Lebanon back on the map of foreign and domestic investment.”
“Among the advantages of Tripoli is its strategic location and its proximity to the Syrian border. It has also the second largest port in Lebanon, which is witnessing the development of services and logistics, and a special economic zone under construction in addition to large facilities and a relatively economical labor force,” Hariri added. “We want to turn the quality of graduates and the entrepreneurial culture of young people in Tripoli into a favorable environment for start-ups by launching the Knowledge and Innovation City at the Rashid Karami International Fair,” he said. He said his plan for Tripoli is founded on seven pillars:
“- First: A project to promote Tripoli and return it to the tourist map on the local, Arab and international levels.
- Second: Enhancing the role of Tripoli as a logistics platform.
- Third: A favorable environment for start-ups through the establishment of Incubators/Accelerators.
- Fourth: Improving public services in Tripoli, Minieh and Dinniyeh through fiber optic networks.
- Fifth: Rehabilitating the old city in Tripoli to attract investments and tourists
- Sixth: Revitalize the Rashid Karami International Fair
- Seventh: Initiatives to enhance professional and technical skills and prepare them for new sectors through Vocational Training Programs.”
Hariri also visited several towns in Koura and Batroun.

Airport Police Arrest Man for Smuggling of Drugs in Shoes
Naharnet/May 01/18/Customs police at the Rafik Hariri International Airport on Tuesday, thwarted a drug smuggling bid and seized six kilograms of drugs carefully hidden inside shoe soles, the National News Agency reported on Tuesday. Police was informed that a drug trafficker identified by his initials as Aa.A would try to smuggle drugs through the airport, NNA. The suspect, a Lebanese, was flying from South America and bound for Lebanon early at dawn on Tuesday. He had hidden the drugs in the shoes soles in a professional manner, said NNA. The smuggler was arrested and transferred to the Anti-Narcotics Bureau.
Sayyed Nasrallah: Your Votes Protect the Resistance, Preserve Achievements
Al-Manar Website/May 01/18/Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah announced from Bekaa that votes in the upcoming parliamentary elections shall preserve the achievements and sacrifices of resistance martyrs in face of regional and international conspiracies.
“The victories and achievements for which a very high cost was paid should be protected with your votes,” Sayyed Nasrallah addressed people of Bekaa region, calling on them to preserve those achievements.
In an electoral ceremony organized Tuesday by Hezbollah in Baalbek and Rayak, Sayyed Nasrallah thanked all people who sent letters and trophies of their ancestors who fought occupiers to express their support and loyalty to the resistance path.
“I’m speaking via video screen because of your supportive positions throughout the last days which were all preventing me from attending in person in Baalbek area fearing this would expose me to danger,” Sayyed Nasrallah said.
Concerning Zahle region, Sayyed Nasrallah said the list we supported there is formed of political figures and forces “We have only one candidate, so it should not be called Hezbollah list.”
However, “Hope and Loyalty (Hezbollah-Amal) list in Baalbek-Hermel expresses the identity of the political and the resistance region and its position on national issues,” Sayyed Nasrallah indicated.
“The Bekaa region in general has been and still has a sectarian diversity that must be preserved and people of all denominations and sects suffer from the same deprivation and tough security situation affecting us all,” Sayyed Nasrallah said.
Tackling the living conditions in the history-deprived region, Sayyed Nasrallah said: “The region of Baalbek-Hermel suffered from deprivation since the establishment of the State of Greater Lebanon same as the rest of the regions in the south and north and this confirms that the pretext is not sectarian.”“Services provided by Hezbollah since 1992 were substantial, yet we call on those who talk about development to compare between the region now and then,” His eminence said. “Hezbollah and their allies will address serious shortcomings and make up for mistakes made in the past, God willing,” Sayyed Nasrallah said.
Sayyed Nasrallah slammed the rival Future Movement which has long failed to respond to public demands, and said it must be held responsible for impoverishment in Lebanese regions, particularly the Baalbek-Hermel Governorate.
“The “Second List” in Baalbeck is supported locally by Al-Mustaqbal (Future Movement) and Lebanese Forces and regionally by Saudi Arabia, what did they provide for this area?” he said, adding that the Future Movement had been in the cabinet since that time and didn’t provide anything for the Baalbeck-Hermel region. “The Future Movement is responsible for your deprivation and neglect. Would you elect those who were at your service as much as possible and were busy fighting regional threats or would you choose those who turned their back for you?” Sayyed Nasrallah asked.
Hezbollah, his eminence said, “came with its Mujahideen (resistance fighters) from all regions and this Eastern outposts witness your martyrs who fell in defending the Bekaa.”Hezbollah leader continued by asking: “On the 6th of May, who will you vote for, who defended you or who conspired with armed groups to occupy your towns?” “The “Second list” reflects the political parties that stood by the terrorist groups that wanted to invade Bekaa,” he said.
“Unfortunately, the asphalt has become more expensive than blood. What is the benefit of all blessings if citizens were slaughtered, killed or humiliated?”
Sayyed Nasrallah called on people to cast their votes in the right ballots, “to those who offered blood, you must protect this blood with your voice, victories and achievements must be protected by your voices, the resistance needs political protection because of the international and regional conspiracy. The Saudi crown prince is ready to pay billions of dollars to incite US and ‘Israel’ to wage war on the region.”“Defense is secured by your voices, and we are in front of a new phase of war almost ending with proxies in Syria but we do not know whether it may start with the main powers,” Hezbollah S.G. affirmed.
US, ‘Israel’ and Saudi Arabia will not remain silent about the failure of their scheme in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, his eminence said. “The “Second list” is for those who declare that they want to disarm you and say that it is illegal and that it belongs to the other axis,” Sayyed Nasrallah said in reference to political figures who call day and night for disarming Hezbollah. “Anyone who provoke regional sensitivities is serving ‘Israel’ whether he knows that or not and serves the enemies of Bekaa and South and the enemies of the resistance,” the Hezbollah leader confirmed.The elections results in Baalbek-Hermel and Zahle depend on your votes and the sixth of May is the day of announcing the loyalty to martyrs, Sayyed Nasrallah ended his speech by saying, calling on people from all walks of life to participate in the forthcoming parliamentary elections.
Our Incoherent Lebanon Policy
سياستنا الأميركية غير المترابطة في لبنان
By Tony Badran/Tablet/May 01/18
Why would an administration that instinctively mistrusts state-building funnel millions to Hezbollah-run institutions?
State building is the core of US policy in Lebanon. As part of this chimeric policy, now over a decade old, Washington has been throwing hundreds of millions of dollars at Lebanon. The State Department proudly recalled last month at a donor conference for Lebanon in Rome, that in 2017 the US gave the Hezbollah-run country $250 million in assistance, and announced it will complete delivery of more weapons systems to the Hezbollah-aligned Lebanese Armed Forces as part of a $340 million aid package.
Like its predecessors, the administration justifies this policy of state building with surreal talking points. The latest of those can be seen in a statement by President Trump earlier this month in support of yet another donor conference for Lebanon. The statement commended the Hezbollah puppet government in Beirut, held out the prospect of American companies investing in the Hezbollah-contaminated economy, and expressed support for strengthening Lebanon’s “state institutions.” This commitment of support was pegged to Lebanon’s parliamentary elections next month. The statement went so far as to describe this impending farce as “historic,” so as to underscore the urgency of giving Lebanon hundreds of millions of dollars. The idea is that by building “state institutions” we—somehow—combat Hezbollah’s and Iran’s influence. And of course elections are essential to this state building project. The US has convinced itself this is all real and that the election actually matters—it’s historic! Never mind the reality that the so-called “anti-Hezbollah” parties have held the majority in parliament since 2005, a fact which has not had even a marginal effect on Hezbollah’s absolute control over the country, the government, and its “state institutions.”
What makes this odder still is that president Trump instinctively recognizes these state-building fantasies are for suckers. Over the past several weeks, he has publicized this conviction repeatedly. The instance which received most attention was an address in Ohio last month, where the president vented his frustration with spending American taxpayer money in the Middle East on such futile projects. It was during this event that Trump made public his desire to get US troops out of Syria “very soon,” which riled the Pentagon and drew much criticism in Washington.
But the speech was about more than Syria. For instance, Trump was likely voicing his displeasure with the Afghanistan venture, which he has begrudgingly agreed to maintain, at the urging of his generals and against his gut instinct. In recent weeks, he has twice (three times if you count his Tuesday presser with the president of France) referenced the 17-year timeframe — the duration of the US presence in Afghanistan. It was likely Afghanistan the president had in mind when he sarcastically quipped to the audience in Ohio how “We’d build a school, they’d blow it up. We’d build it again, they’d blow it up. We’d build it again — hasn’t been blown up yet, but it will be.”
To be sure, the president’s preference was reflected in his decision making on Syria. Right after the Ohio event, Trump reportedly ordered the State Department to freeze some $200 million in funds for recovery and stabilization efforts in Syria. Whatever Trump decides on the status of US troops deployed in the north and east of that country, he is opposed to anything that smacks of state-building in the weak, fractured and failed states of the region.
Which begs the question: If the president wants to end ill-conceived, wasteful investments in the Middle East, then why continue this state-building approach in Lebanon? It’s an incoherent policy.
The ready back-up pretext is—what else?—ISIS. Only this is as fantastical an argument as the notion of “strengthening Lebanese state institutions.” Lebanon is not really a front or a meaningful partner in the anti-ISIS campaign. Using ISIS as justification for throwing money at Lebanon compounds the policy incoherence. Moreover, it shines the spotlight on a serious problem with US counterterrorism policy. Counterterrorism campaigns, and some of the doctrines attached to them, have intersected with open-ended commitments, which is precisely what has irked the president. But aside from being a gateway to state-building projects, counterterrorism has also exacerbated America’s strategic confusion in the region, boosting the geopolitical position of its adversaries. Former president Obama understood well that the anti-ISIS campaign could serve to reinforce his policy of realignment with Iran in the region. As such, ISIS became a useful cover for shoring up the Iranian order in Lebanon.
By continuing this policy in Lebanon, Trump is not only violating his own stated principle on misspending American taxpayer money building castles in the sand, but also, he is putting himself in the awkward position of continuing his predecessor’s policy of propping up Iranian regional holdings. It makes no sense. If president Trump is fundamentally opposed to underwriting Middle Eastern mirages, then the first place to start is to quit funding the Iranian satrapy in Beirut.
**Tony Badran, Tablet magazine's Levant analyst, is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He tweets @AcrossTheBay.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 01-02/18
Iranian Defense Chief Warns Israel: Stop Your Dangerous Behavior, Response Will Surprise You
وزير الدفاع الإسرائيلي لإسرائيل: اوقفوا تصرفاتكم الخطيرة والرد سيفاجئكم

Haaretz/May 01, 2018
After Netanyahu's speech and what Iran calls 'provocations', top Iranian defense official warns Israel will 'regret it'
Iranian Defense Minister Amir Khatami responded Tuesday with a threat to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech on the country's nuclear program and what the Iranian official described as "Israel's provocative actions."
"This is our warning to the regime occupying Jerusalem and its supporters – stop your dangerous behavior. The Iranian response will be surprising and you will regret it," Khatami.
Iran's state-run media is mocked Netanyahu's latest allegations that Tehran once pursued nuclear weapons.
Iran's state-run IRNA news agency said Netanyahu is "famous for ridiculous shows." The semi-official Fars news agency, believed to be close to the Revolutionary Guard, dismissed Netanyahu's speech as a "propaganda show."
Iranian military sites in Syria were bombed from the air on Sunday, in an attack that was again attributed to Israel. Earlier last month, Russia and Syria blamed Israel for attacking an Iranian military compound in the T4 base near Homs. Iran vowed revenge.
Iran's foreign minister Javad Zarif tweeeted that Netanyahu was just exploiting the timing of the upcoiming May 12 Iran deal deadline to "rehash old allegations."
"Pres. Trump is jumping on a rehash of old allegations already dealt with by the IAEA to 'nix' the deal. How convenient. Coordinated timing of alleged intelligence revelations by the boy who cries wolf just days before May 12. But Trump’s impetuousness to celebrate blew the cover," he tweeted.
Netanyahu on Tuesday invited Britain, France and the U.K. to see the materials Israel obtained and that the European countries will be sending delegations of experts to Israel over the weekend.

Analysis Israel Braces for Iranian Retaliation for Syria Strike – but War Isn’t Inevitable
إسرائيل تستعد للرد الإيراني على خلفية هجماتها على الإيرانيين في سوريا - لكن الحرب الشاملة ليست حتمية

Amos Harel/ May 01/2018
There could be a lull before Lebanon's May 6 election and the Americans' May 12 decision on the Iranian nuclear deal, but revenge could come from Lebanon, Syria, Iran or further afield
About two and a half weeks after the bombing in which seven members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards were killed at the T4 base in Syria, Israel is apparently still waiting for the other shoe to drop. The Iranians’ response, despite their frequent threats of revenge, is being postponed. It’s also possible that as time passes, Tehran is becoming more aware of the possible complex consequences of any action. Still, the working assumption of Israeli defense officials remains that such a response is highly probable.
The Iranians appear to have many options. Revenge could come on the Syrian border, from the Lebanese border via Hezbollah, directly from Iran by the launch of long-range missiles, or against an Israeli target abroad. In past decades Iran and Hezbollah took part, separately and together, in two attacks in Argentina, a suicide attack in Bulgaria and attempts to strike at Israeli diplomats and tourists in countries including India, Thailand and Azerbaijan.
In any case, Lebanon seems all but out of bounds until the country’s May 6 parliamentary elections, and amid Hezbollah’s fear of being portrayed as an Iranian puppet. The firing of missiles from Iran would exacerbate the claims about Tehran’s missile project a moment before a possible U.S. decision on May 12 to abandon the nuclear agreement. Also, a strike at a target far from the Middle East would require long preparation.
Despite the tension fueled by warnings from both sides, a war with Iran in Syria is far from inevitable at present. The clash of intentions is clear: Iran is establishing itself militarily in Syria and Israel has declared that it will prevent that by force.
On this issue, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is showing unusual resolve, which for a change is being supported by an equally belligerent top brass, which firmly rejects any Iranian presence. The fate of T4 far inside Syria, about 250 kilometers (155 miles) from the Israeli border, is the same as that of the Syrian Golan Heights; the fate of a Shi’ite militia base is the same as a deployment of Iranian long-range missiles, anti-aircraft systems and drones.
The question is whether this could eventually become nothing more than a bargaining position. In November, Israel tried in vain to influence the agreement for reducing friction in southern Syria that was crafted by the United States, Russia and Jordan. Israel demanded that the Shi’ite militias be sent eastward, to the Daraa-Damascus highway, about 60 kilometers from the border in the Golan. In return it received a faint promise – and even that’s not being fully implemented – that the militias would not reach five to 20 kilometers from the border, depending on the front between the regime and the rebels.
Presumably there’s an opening here for renewed negotiations over the original demand, after Israel made clear its determination regarding every location in Syria. One problem is getting the Americans to agree.
The United States, while helping the Kurdish fighters, still holds the Tanf enclave in eastern Syria, which constitutes a kind of bottleneck making it hard for Iran to establish control over the main highway from Tehran via Iraq to Damascus and Beirut. For Israel this could be an excellent bargaining chip in exchange for a demand to keep the Iranians far from the Golan. But the Americans are so focused on withdrawing the rest of their forces from Syria that it seems there’s nobody to talk to at the moment.
Israeli defense officials boasted this week of a two-and-a-half-day visit by the head of U.S. Central Command. The visit, which was first reported on by the Kan public broadcaster, is important for coordinating positions with Washington on Iran and Syria, but it doesn’t change the Americans’ plan to leave the region, which is clear to all players involved.
That leaves us with Russia as the great power in charge of decisions on Syria. In fact, this week there were separate meetings with emissaries from Israel and Iran in Sochi. But Israel finds it hard to rely on Moscow as an unbiased intermediary when Russia and Iran are in the same camp supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Meanwhile, both Russia and Israel are exchanging indirect threats. Russia intends to provide S-300 missile systems to the Assad regime, and Israel is threatening to destroy them. When Israeli spokespeople are so inclined, they even threaten to endanger the Assad regime itself.

Iranian-Israeli War Looming on Horizon
الحرب الإيرانية -الإسرائيلية تحوف في الأفق

Tel Aviv, Washington, London/Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 1 May, 2018
Less than 24 hours after missiles struck an Iranian base in Aleppo and Hama in Syria, presumably by Tel Aviv, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed several documents that he says prove that Tehran is still pursuing its nuclear ambitions.Diplomatic sources said the latest developments signal the gathering of clouds of an imminent Israeli-Iranian war.
Russia has however been exerting efforts to contain such a possible confrontation and to prevent it from developing into a wide regional war.
On Sunday, Syrian regime forces said rockets had struck several military bases in the Hama and Aleppo countryside in what it said was new “aggression” by its enemies. A day later, Netanyahu unveiled “new and conclusive proof", compiled in thousands of documents and files, of a secret nuclear weapons program that Iran has been hiding for years from the international community.
Speaking in front of reporters from the Israeli military headquarters in Tel Aviv, the PM said: “Iran lied big time, when it signed the nuclear deal in 2015.”
“Iran is brazenly lying when it says it never had a nuclear weapons program.”
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump, who has until May 12 to decide whether to walk away from the nuclear deal, wrote on his twitter account Monday that he did not rule out talks on a new nuclear deal with Tehran.
Separately, Hossein Naqavi Hosseini, the spokesperson for the Committee on National Security and Foreign Policy admitted the killing of a number of Revolutionary Guards members in the missile attack on Hama and Aleppo.
He refused however to confirm the exact number of casualties, saying that Syria should instead announce the number.

U.S. Officials: Israeli F-15s Struck Syrian Base Storing Iranian Anti-aircraft Missiles
رسميون أميركيين: إسرائيل هاجمت قواعد إيرانية في سوريا لتخزين الصواريخ

Haaretz/May 01/2018
Israel behind Sunday strike near Homs, three sources confirm in NBC News report; Israeli defense chief: Iran is trying to harm Israel, we'll respond
Israeli F-15 fighter jets struck a military base near Hama on Sunday after Iran had transferred a shipment of anti-aircraft missiles there, three U.S. officials told NBC News. The officials said Israel seems to be preparing for open warfare with Iran and is seeking U.S. support.
The Syrian army said early on Monday that "enemy" rockets struck military bases belonging to Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime. According to several outlets, the strikes targeted the 47th Brigade base in the southern Hama district, a military facility in northwestern Hama and a facility north of the Aleppo International Airport.
Citing unnamed American sources, the report said Iran has delivered wepons to the military base, including surface-to-air missiles, adding that Iran in the past two weeks has increased cargo flights to Syria with weapons shipments, which includes small arms and anti-aircraft missiles. The report says two U.S. officials believe that the shipments are intended for Iranian ground forces that would attack Israel.
An official from a regional alliance including Iran, Hezbollah and Syria, said Monday that the strikes killed 16 people, among them 11 Iranians, according to a New York Times report on Monday. The report said the bombardment also destroyed 200 missiles. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity, as he was permitted to speak to the press.
"On the list of the potentials for most likely live hostility around the world, the battle between Israel and Iran in Syria is at the top... right now," one senior U.S. official is quoted in the NBC News report as saying.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Tuesday that Israel on Tuesday morning had four problems, one more than the day before: "Iran, Iran, Iran and hypocrisy."
The comment came one day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed a cache of documents the Mossad stole from Iran detailing the country's nuclear program.
"This is the same Iran that cracks down on freedom of expression and on minorities. The same Iran that tried to develop nuclear weapons and entered the [nuclear] deal for economic benefits,” Lieberman said.
“The same Iran is trying to hide its weapons while everyone ignores it. The state of Israel cannot ignore Iran's threats, Iran, whose senior officials promise to wipe out Israel,” he said. “They are trying to harm us, and we’ll have a response.
Iran's Defense Minister Amir Khatami threatened Israel on Tuesday, saying it should stop its "dangerous behavior" and vowing that the "Iranian response will be surprising and you will regret it." Khatami's remarks came Following Netanyahu's speech which Khatami described as Israeli "provocative actions," and two days after the strikes in Syria.

Khamenei Refuses to Abandon Iran’s Regional Role
London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 1 May, 2018/Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei closed the door to any international attempts to negotiate Tehran’s regional role and ballistic missile program, accusing the US administration of waging an economic war against his country run by the US Treasury Department.Khamenei criticized the positions of US President Donald Trump without naming him, pointing out that years ago he addressed a letter to former US President Georges Bush, in which he said that the “hit-and-run era is over.”
“They know that if they get into a military conflict with Iran, they will be struck multiple times over,” he stated. Commenting on the international move aimed at containing Iran’s regional threats, Khamenei said the Middle East wars were “the result of the American presence.” “The United States, not Iran, should withdraw from West Asia,” he stressed. According to Khamenei, Iran is engaging in an “economic and cultural” confrontation with the United States, claiming that the Treasury Department was leading the war against Iran, in a tacit reference to the possibility of imposing new international sanctions if Washington withdrew from the nuclear deal. Meanwhile, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi told state media that his country was “fully prepared” for any scenario in case Trump decided to withdraw from the nuclear deal. “Iran [is] fully prepared for any US scenario on the 2015 nuclear deal,” he said. Iran’s nuclear chief said that Tehran was technically ready to enrich uranium to a higher level than before, Reuters reported. According to the agency, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, said Iran was able technically to enrich uranium to a higher level than it could before it signed the 2015 deal designed to curb its nuclear program.

Iran Calls Netanyahu 'Infamous Liar' over Nuclear Allegations

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 01/18/Iran on Tuesday branded Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu an "infamous liar" over his allegations of a secret Iranian nuclear weapons programme. Foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi called the accusations that Tehran lied about its nuclear ambitions "worn-out, useless and shameful". Netanyahu's comments came from a "broke and infamous liar who has had nothing to offer except lies and deceits," Ghasemi said in a statement. "Netanyahu and the notorious, child-killing Zionist regime must have reached the basic understanding that the people of the world have enough awareness and cognisance," he added. Netanyahu said in an elaborate televised presentation on Monday that he had new "proof" of an Iranian nuclear weapons plan that could be activated at any time. But he did not provide evidence that Israel's main enemy had actively worked to obtain an atomic weapon since the 2015 agreement between Tehran and six world powers. His accusations came as the United States considers whether to pull out of the atomic accord with Tehran. Iran has always denied it sought a nuclear weapon, insisting its atomic programme was for civilian purposes.

US Walks Back Claim Iran 'Has' Arms Program

Associated Press/Naharnet/May 01/18/Has or had? The White House is quietly walking back a charge that Iran maintains an active nuclear weapons program, saying it really meant that Iran had one before the 2015 nuclear agreement. A statement sent to reporters Monday by Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said a cache of Iranian documents released by Israel is "consistent with what the United States has long known: Iran has a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program."But intelligence agencies in the U.S. and overseas have stated that the 2015 nuclear deal has frozen Iran's nuclear program.
The version of Sanders' statement posted to the White House website has been modified to make clear Iran "had" such a program. The White House is calling it a "clerical error."U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the Iranian documents obtained by Israel show that Iran lied about its pursuit of nuclear weapons and its deception undercuts the international nuclear deal it signed in 2015. In a statement Monday night, Pompeo says he "personally reviewed many of the Iranian files" and U.S. experts consider the documents they have reviewed so far to be authentic. He says that "the documents show that Iran had a secret nuclear weapons program for years" while it was denying it was pursuing such weapons. Pompeo says the Iranians lied to the six nations who negotiated the Iran nuclear deal. In his words, "What this means is the deal was not constructed on a foundation of good faith or transparency. It was built on Iran's lies."President Donald Trump has been a fierce critic of the 2015 nuclear deal and is weighing pulling the U.S. out of the agreement. He is expected to unveil his decision by May 12. The White House says it is examining information released Monday by Israel allegedly detailing Iranian efforts to cover up the extent of its nuclear efforts before signing onto a 2015 accord meant to freeze the program.
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says in a statement that the "information provides new and compelling details about Iran's efforts to develop missile-deliverable nuclear weapons."She adds: "These facts are consistent with what the United States has long known: Iran has a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program that it has tried and failed to hide from the world and from its own people."
President Donald Trump has been a fierce critic of the 2015 nuclear deal and is weighing pulling the U.S. out of the agreement. He is expected to unveil his decision by May 12. The European Union's foreign affairs chief says Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's latest allegations that Tehran once pursued nuclear weapons do not appear to show Iran is currently violating the 2015 international nuclear agreement. Federica Mogherini said late Monday in a first reaction that "what I have seen from the first reports is that Prime Minister Netanyahu has not put into question Iran's compliance" of the deal. She insists it is "first and foremost" the International Atomic Energy Agency that must make the assessment whether Iran is abiding by the deal. She says that's because "the IAEA is the only impartial, international organization that is in charge of monitoring Iran's nuclear commitments."
Iran's state-run media is mocking Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's latest allegations that Tehran once pursued nuclear weapons. In a presentation Monday that made use of large visual aids, Netanyahu said Israeli intelligence had uncovered a trove of documents from Iran's "nuclear archives." Iran's state-run IRNA news agency says Netanyahu is "famous for ridiculous shows." The semi-official Fars news agency, believed to be close to the Revolutionary Guard, dismissed Netanyahu's speech as a "propaganda show."Iran has denied ever seeking nuclear weapons. President Donald Trump has praised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's presentation of documents that Netanyahu says show Iran lied about pursuing nuclear weapons. Trump said Monday the presentation and other recent events show that Trump has been "100 percent right" about Iran. He says he watched part of Netanyahu's presentation and that it was "good." Trump says Iran's behavior is "just not an acceptable situation." He pointed to missile tests, saying Iran is "not sitting back idly."
Trump has declined to say whether he will withdraw the U.S. from the 2015 nuclear deal. But he says if the U.S. does pull out, he still may negotiate a "real agreement."
Trump says the U.S. "got nothing" for the sanctions relief granted Iran under the accord. Israel's prime minister says his government has obtained "half a ton" of secret Iranian documents proving the Tehran government once had a nuclear weapons program. Calling it a "great intelligence achievement," Netanyahu said Monday that the documents show that Iran lied about its nuclear ambitions before signing a 2015 deal with world powers. Iran has denied ever seeking nuclear weapons. In a nationally televised address, Netanyahu said Israel recently uncovered 55,000 documents and 183 CDs of information from Iran's "nuclear archives." Speaking in English, perhaps with an international audience in mind, he says the material is filled with incriminating evidence showing the Iranian program, called "Project Amad," was to develop a weapon. President Donald Trump is to decide by May 12 whether to pull out of the international deal with Iran. Netanyahu has led calls for Trump to withdraw.

Donald Trump slams ‘horrible’ Iran nuclear deal as May 12 deadline looms

AFP, Washington Tuesday, 1 May 2018/US President Donald Trump once more attacked the Iran nuclear deal as "horrible" Monday, as he faces a May 12 deadline to decide on the fate of the accord. "In seven years, that deal will have expired and Iran is free to go ahead and create nuclear weapons," Trump told a joint press conference with his Nigerian counterpart Muhammadu Buhari. "That is not acceptable," Trump charged. "This is an agreement that wasn’t approved by too many people. And it’s a horrible agreement for the United States."The US president has been threatening for months to pull out of the 2015 deal negotiated between Tehran and six world powers, rejecting it as "insane" partly because its restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities begin expiring in 2025. Most world powers say the deal is working as intended for now and is the best way to keep Iran from acquiring the bomb.
"I’m not telling you what I’m doing, but a lot of people think they know," Trump said. "On or before the 12th, we’ll make a decision."Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- a fierce critic of the accord who has called for it to be altered or scrapped -- asserted earlier he had new "proof" of an Iranian nuclear weapons plan that could be activated at any time. Netanyahu leveled the accusations in a televised address, but did not provide evidence that Tehran had actively worked to obtain an atomic weapon since the 2015 deal was struck. The US president remained evasive when asked about the new Israeli charges. "What Israel has done today in the news conference was right," Trump said, without elaborating. The White House later issued a statement about Netanyahu’s speech. "These facts are consistent with what the United States has long known: Iran had a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program that it has tried and failed to hide from the world and from its own people," the statement said. "The Iranian regime has shown it will use destructive weapons against its neighbors and others. Iran must never have nuclear weapons."The US president also rebutted the suggestion that walking away from the Iran deal would send a disastrous signal to North Korea -- as Washington seeks to persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons. "No, I think it sends the right message," Trump said.

France: Israeli information on Iran could prompt long-term monitoring

Reuters Tuesday, 1 May 2018/France’s Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that information provided by Israel of Iran’s past nuclear weapons program could be a basis for long-term monitoring of Tehran’s nuclear activities. The ministry said Israeli intelligence information presented on Monday in part confirmed the non-civilian nature of the program revealed by European powers in 2002, but that it merely proved the need to ensure the nuclear deal and UN inspections remained. France said Tuesday that new claims about Iran's nuclear program presented by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reinforced the importance of a 2015 deal that imposes controls on the Islamic republic. "The pertinence of the deal is reinforced by the details presented by Israel: all activity linked to the development of a nuclear weapon is permanently forbidden by the deal," said a foreign ministry spokesperson. (With AFP)
US-backed Syrian forces resume battle against ISIS
ReutersTuesday, 1 May 2018 /US-backed Syrian militias on Tuesday relaunched their offensive to seize the last territory ISIS controls in the east near the border with Iraq. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias, had paused the battle after Turkey launched an assault in January against their northwestern Afrin region. “We have rearranged our ranks,” said Lilwa al-Abdallah, spokeswoman for the offensive in oil-rich Deir al-Zor province. ISIS militants stepped up attacks there in recent weeks in a bid to reorganize; she told a news conference at an oilfield on the eastern bank of the Euphrates river. “Our heroic forces will liberate these areas and secure the border...We welcome the support of the Iraqi forces.” Ahmed Abu Khawla, commander of the Deir al-Zor military council fighting under the SDF, said they were working with the Baghdad government and Iraqi army “through a joint operations room” to defeat the militants. Joint efforts had increased, but neither side would cross the border, he told Reuters. US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said last week that he expected a “re-energized” effort soon against the ultra-hardline militants in eastern Syria. Syrian fighters, backed by US air strikes and troops, have dealt heavy blows to ISIS but the militants still hold a swathe of land along the desert frontier with Iraq. They are widely expected to revert to guerrilla tactics if they lose the last remnants of their once self-styled “caliphate”. The SDF alliance, spearheaded by the Kurdish YPG militia, has seized vast tracts of territory from ISIS in north and east Syria. US support for Kurdish forces there has infuriated Turkey, which sees the YPG as an extension of an outlawed Kurdish insurgency at home. Ankara’s offensive to expel the YPG from Afrin - where the United States has no presence - led to a pause in the campaign against ISIS, the Pentagon has said. Arab SDF militias redeployed 1,700 fighters from eastern fronts against ISIS to help fight Turkish forces, which then captured Afrin in March. Abu Khawla said those SDF forces have now returned to the east. The assault on Afrin “distracted from eliminating ISIS”, he said. “It had a very big and wide impact on the liberation, which was stalled for months.”

Morocco severs ties with Iran over alleged ties with Polisario Front

ReutersTuesday, 1 May 2018/Morocco will sever diplomatic ties with Iran over Tehran's support for the Polisario Front, a Sahara independence movement, the Moroccan foreign minister said on Tuesday. The Polisario Front have fought a guerrilla war for independence for the Sahrawi people until a UN-backed ceasefire. Morocco will close its embassy in Tehran and will expel the Iranian ambassador in Rabat, Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita told reporters. He said that Iran and its Lebanese Shiite ally Hezbollah were supporting the Polisario by training and arming its fighters. It was not immediately possible to get Iranian reaction to the Moroccan accusation.

Armenian Protest leader Warns of 'Political Tsunami' If Not Elected PM
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 01/18/Armenia's hugely popular protest leader Nikol Pashinyan warned lawmakers of the prospect of major unrest if they did not elect him prime minister during a parliamentary vote on Tuesday. "There is information that (former presidents) Serzh Sarkisian and Robert Kocharyan -- the famous tandem -- are planning to take back power," Pashinyan said during a nail-biting session of parliament in the capital Yerevan. "I want to warn them -- gentlemen, the mistaken interpretation of people's leniency as weakness can lead to a genuine political tsunami." "I call on everyone to take to the streets because once again they want to steal the people's victory," he added. Pashinyan, the leader of mass protests that forced former president turned prime minister Sarkisian from power in the impoverished South Caucasus nation, is the only candidate for the post of prime minister. He however is a handful of votes short of a majority and lacks the crucial support of the ruling party to get elected. Speaking to his supporters in the early hours of Tuesday, Pashinyan said that the ruling party planned to derail the vote and urged hundreds of thousands to take to the streets. A source familiar with the negotiations told AFP on Tuesday that the situation was febrile, saying Pashinyan could still be elected prime minister if several lawmakers from the Republican Party defected and voted for him. Pashinyan is six votes short of the 53 he needs from the 105-seat legislature, where the Republican Party has a majority. Ex-Soviet Armenia has been in the grip of a severe political crisis for the past few weeks, with leader Sarkisian stepping down last week after a decade in power in the face of peaceful protests.

Iran Displaces Foua, Kefraya Residents in Exchange for Nusra in Yarmouk
Beirut - Paula Astih/Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 01 May/2018/An agreement reached between Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and between the Syrian regime, Iran and Russia on the evacuation of residents from the villages of al-Foua and Kefraya took effect on Monday. The deal called for the evacuation of the predominantly Shi’ite residents of the two villages in return for the evacuation of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham fighters from the northern parts of the Yarmouk camp in southern Damascus. The Nusra Front is the backbone of the Hayat group. Some 1,200 residents will be taken out of al-Foua and Kefraya and transported to Aleppo. The Hayat fighters and their families will be taken to Idlib, Jarablus and Daraa. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the deal was struck between the armed group and Russia, but the Ibaa agency, which is affiliated with Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, said that the deal was negotiated directly with Iran. Hayat official Khaled al-Homsi said: “The Iranian militias resorted to pressuring the Yarmouk residents in order to entrap them and later force them to hold negotiations to evacuate all residents and fighters from al-Foua and Kefraya.”
“After our initial adamant rejection to succumb to such pressure and with the continuation of the fierce assault against the camp, we reached a conditional agreement with the Iranian enemy,” he added. Some 1,000 people, including fighters, will be evacuated from al-Foua and Kefraya, said Homsi, in return for evacuating all the besieged people in the Yarmouk camp.Hayat Tahrir al-Sham will also release some 40 people it had imprisoned from the Eshtabraq village. Three years ago, the group had jailed 85 people from the village, located in the Idlib countryside.

France: Israel’s Iran Intelligence Shows Need for Longer-Term Assurances on Nuclear Program
Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 1 May, 2018/France on Tuesday said that it was assessing the Israeli intelligence haul on Iran’s nuclear activity, saying they could form the basis for long-term assurances. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unveiled on Monday what he said was evidence of a secret Iranian nuclear weapons program that could encourage the United States to pull out this month of a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. “This information should be studied and evaluated in detail,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll said in a statement. “The new information presented by Israel could also confirm the need for longer-term assurances on the Iranian program, as the president has proposed.” Since traveling to the United States last week, French leader Emmanuel Macron has spoken to leaders in Israel, Russia, Britain, Germany and Iran to propose a new negotiation on a wider agreement. That would tackle Iran’s nuclear activities post-2025 when the existing deal begins to expire, as well as Iran’s ballistic missile program and its regional influence. Intelligence experts and diplomats said Netanyahu’s presentation, in a prime-time television presentation, did not seem to have a “smoking gun” showing a violation by Iran but it could strengthen the hand of advisers to US President Donald Trump who want to scrap the nuclear agreement. Von der Muhll said the information presented by Netanyahu confirmed in part the non-civilian nature of the program revealed by European powers in 2002, but that it merely proved the need to ensure the nuclear deal and UN inspections remained, given they were among the “most comprehensive and robust in the history of nuclear non-proliferation.”
“It is essential that the IAEA can continue to verify Iran’s respect for JCPOA (nuclear deal) and the peaceful nature of its nuclear program,” she said.
She added that a commission of the countries that agreed the deal - China, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and the United States and Iran - could review the Israeli information. The IAEA declined on Tuesday to directly address Netanyahu’s accusations against Iran. “In line with standard IAEA practice, the IAEA evaluates all (nuclear) safeguards-relevant information available to it,” said an agency spokesman. “However, it is not the practice of the IAEA to publicly discuss issues related to any such information.” In a report issued in December 2015, shortly before the pact went into effect, the IAEA said “a range of activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device were conducted in Iran prior to the end of 2003 as a coordinated effort”. Those activities continued after 2003, though in a less coordinated manner, and there was no credible indication of any beyond 2009, the IAEA said at the time. The spokesman’s statement on Tuesday reiterated the 2015 report’s findings. Under its 2015 with world powers, Iran curbed its enrichment of uranium for nuclear fuel to allay concerns it could be put to developing bomb material, and Tehran won relief from most international sanctions in return. UN nuclear inspectors have repeatedly reported that Iran is heeding the terms of the deal.
Earlier, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Netanyahu’s information showed that Iran’s leaders lied to their people about a nuclear weapons program known as “Project Amad”. He declined, however, to say whether the documents provided evidence of a violation of the nuclear deal.
As he traveled back from Amman, Jordan, to Washington on Monday, Pompeo told reporters he and Netanyahu discussed the documents in Tel Aviv during a meeting on Sunday. Pompeo said that while the existence of the Amad nuclear project was known for some time, the new material discovered by the Israelis will help better understand the scope and scale of the program. He added that the documents make “very clear that at the very least the Iranians have continued to lie to their own people.”Asked whether the information indicated a violation of the Iran nuclear agreement, Pompeo responded: “I’ll leave that to lawyers. The president will ultimately have to make a determination about that too.”Trump has threatened to pull the United States out of the international deal unless it is renegotiated by May 12. After Netanyahu spoke, Trump repeated his criticism of the deal, suggesting he backed the Israeli leader’s remarks.
Netanyahu had informed Trump of the documents during a meeting in Washington on March 5, said a senior Israeli official. The White House later acknowledged receiving the information from Israel, saying it was examining it carefully. “This information provides new and compelling details about Iran’s efforts to develop missile-deliverable nuclear weapons. These facts are consistent with what the United States has long known: Iran had a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program that it has tried and failed to hide from the world and from its own people,” the White House said in a statement.

Kuwait, Philippines Move to Defuse Domestic Worker Row
Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 01 May/2018/Kuwait announced on Monday that it will set up a special commission to address the employment of housemaids in the Gulf state, in what was interpreted as an olive branch extended to the Philippines over the migrant labor row. Manila announced on Monday that it was prepared to dispatch a delegation to Kuwait to contain the escalating dispute over domestic foreign workers in Kuwait. The development stood in stark contrast to President Rodrigo Duterte’s announcement over the weekend that Manila’s ban on sending domestic workers to Kuwait was permanent.
Duterte in February prohibited workers heading to Kuwait following the murder of a Filipina maid whose body was found stuffed in her employer's freezer. The resulting row deepened last week after Kuwaiti authorities ordered Manila's envoy to leave the country over videos of Philippine embassy staff helping workers in Kuwait flee their employers. During its weekly meeting, the Kuwaiti government on Monday said it was opposed to any move "aimed at undermining its sovereignty and its laws", the official KUNA news agency reported. The government added however that it will set up a special commission chaired by the minister of social affairs and labor to follow up "on cooperation with friendly states" on the employment of housemaids in Kuwait. "This is largely a misunderstanding and exaggeration of some minor or one-off cases," Deputy Foreign Minister Nasser al-Subaih told reporters in Kuwait City.
"We have taken a serious stance ... but we do not believe in escalation and want to remain in direct communication to resolve the problem," Subaih added. Kuwait and the Philippines had been negotiating a labor deal that could have resulted in the lifting of the ban on Filipinos working in the Gulf state.
The Philippines on Tuesday welcomed Kuwait’s olive branch in the migrant labor row. Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said: "This gesture on the part of Kuwait, a country with which we have a shared history and strong people-to-people ties, will allow us to move forward.”
"We affirm our friendship with the government of Kuwait and its people. The strength of that friendship will withstand this misunderstanding," he added. Around 262,000 Filipinos work in Kuwait, nearly 60 percent of them domestic workers, according to the Philippines' foreign ministry.
Duterte said workers returning from Kuwait could find employment as English teachers in China, citing improved ties with Beijing. The Philippines has sent millions of its people to work abroad, seeking salaries they cannot get in their relatively impoverished nation.  The money they send back home accounts for about 10 percent of the Philippine economy.

Abbas Launches PLO National Council: Dhahran Summit Was Indeed Jerusalem Summit
Ramallah, Amman - Kifah Ziboun and Mohammed al-Daameh/Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 01 May/2018/Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas confirmed on Monday that Saudi Arabia remains supportive of the Palestinian people. Speaking at the launch of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s Palestinian National Council (PNC) in Ramallah, he lauded the strong Arab support for the Palestinian people and their rights, as expressed during the Arab League summit that was hosted by the Kingdom in April. The Dhahran Arab Summit was indeed the “Jerusalem Summit” where the Palestinian Authority accomplished all it set out to achieve, Abbas continued. The summit was dubbed the “Jerusalem Summit” in wake of the tensions that emerged after US President Donald Trump announced last year his intention to relocate his country’s embassy in Israel to the holy city, sparking outrage in the Palestinian territories and Arab and Muslim worlds. The four-day PNC, which last convened in 1996, will include the election of new members. Abbas expressed gratitude to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman's backing of the PA. On a possible peace deal being drafted by the US, he said: "We hear lots of rumors. Don't believe them.”
The president asserted that a peace deal that overlooks the question of Jerusalem, refugees and Israeli settlements would not be accepted by the Palestinians. Abbas criticized the US, saying that if Washington wants to offer a deal, then it should be a two-state solution with East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state. “We will not accept anything else,” he said. Meanwhile in Amman, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stressed: “The Israelis and Palestinians need to have political engagement.”He made his remarks after holding talks with King Abdullah II.
Condemnations Pour in after 10 Journalists Killed in Afghan Attacks
Asharq Al-Awsat//May 01/2018/Outrage mounted across the world on Tuesday a day after ten journalists were killed in ISIS-claimed attacks in Afghanistan.
A double suicide blast in Kabul left 25 people dead including AFP photographer Shah Marai and eight other journalists, while a BBC reporter was killed in a separate attack in eastern Khost province. The second Kabul bomber disguised himself as a journalist and detonated himself among the crowd, police said, in what Reporters Without Borders said was the most lethal single attack on the media since the fall of the Taliban. Journalists from Radio Free Europe and Afghan broadcasters Tolo News and 1TV were among the others killed. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was "outraged" by the suicide blasts, which left another 49 people wounded. "The deliberate targeting of journalists in the attack highlights once again the risks media professionals face in carrying out their essential work," he said. In a third strike on a bloody day for Afghanistan, 11 children were killed and 16 people wounded, including Romanian and Afghan soldiers, when another suicide attacker exploded his car near a NATO convoy in southern Kandahar province. US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said that the weakened militants were targeting journalists in Afghanistan in order to undermine the electoral process ahead of an expected vote in October. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also condemned the "senseless and barbaric attack". "The vibrant media landscape that has developed in Afghanistan will endure, in large part due to those journalists and media professionals who tragically died in today's attack, but whose courageous and steadfast work helped lay the foundation for Afghanistan's thriving and resilient independent media," he said.
The BBC confirmed that its reporter, 29-year-old Ahmad Shah who had worked for the broadcaster for more than a year, was shot by unidentified armed men in Khost and that police were investigating the motive. The attacks came days after the Taliban began a spring offensive, in an apparent rejection of a peace talks overture by the Afghan government. Afghanistan was last year ranked the third most dangerous country in the world for journalists by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and on Monday the watchdog urged the international community to guard the media from future attacks.
"It is high time that the UN send a strong signal to the international community and to local protagonists by appointing a Special Representative for the protection of journalists," the group's chief Christophe Deloire said.
Human Rights Watch also warned that a deliberate attack on civilians was a "war crime", adding in a statement Tuesday: "Journalists have long paid a high price for covering Afghanistan's armed conflict."RSF said that since 2016, it has recorded the killings of 34 journalists in Afghanistan.
AFP's Marai joined the agency as a driver in 1996, the year the Taliban seized power. He soon began taking pictures on the side, covering stories including the US invasion in 2001. In 2002, he became a full-time photo stringer, rising through the ranks to become the bureau's chief photographer.
During his career he was beaten and threatened by the Taliban, and suffered devastating personal loss including in 2014 when AFP senior reporter and his good friend Sardar Ahmad was killed along with his wife and two of his children in a Taliban attack. Marai, 41, left behind six children, including a newborn daughter. He was buried near his home village in the Shomali Plain, north of Kabul, later Monday in a ceremony attended by heartbroken relatives, friends and colleagues.
Amid the deteriorating security, the US government’s top watchdog on Afghanistan revealed that the number of Afghan security forces decreased by nearly 11 percent in the past year. In a report released on Tuesday, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, said the number of forces in the Afghan National Defense and Security forces (ANDSF), which includes the army, air force and police, totaled an estimated 296,400 personnel as of January. That was a drop of 10.6 percent compared to the same month in 2017. The authorized strength of the ANDSF is 334,000 personnel.
The United States has for nearly two decades been seeking to build Afghan security forces capable of defending and holding territory.“Building up the Afghan forces is a top priority for the US and our international allies, so it is worrisome to see Afghan force strength decreasing,” John Sopko, the head of SIGAR, told Reuters. Publicly, US officials have presented an optimistic view of the situation in Afghanistan. The top US general in Afghanistan said late last year that the country had “turned the corner.”Privately, however, US officials have been more circumspect.
US intelligence officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that despite extensive US training and support, the vast majority of Afghan forces are incapable of preventing the Taliban from retaking much of the territory the militant group lost after the United States invaded the country in 2001.
Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 01-02/18
Iraq Needs Elections to Bring Stability, Prosperity
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al-Awsat/May 01/2018
The situation is heating up in Baghdad with less than two weeks to go until the Iraqi parliamentary elections, which will also decide who will be the nation’s prime minister for the next four years.
These will be the fourth elections since the fall of the regime of Saddam Hussein, but they have been described by many as distorted democracy because of the influence of religious actors, foreign interference and political corruption. However, it is relatively better than other democracies in the Arab region.
Although many had predicted that the parliamentary system would collapse after the withdrawal of the United States, who engineered it, this is the second round of post-American elections. The US built the political system in Iraq to be federal parliamentarian, not presidential, in order to contain the spectrum of differences in Iraq, with its various ethnicities, languages and religious beliefs, and avoid autocracy, allocating one seat in parliament for every 100,000 citizens.
For one candidate to be prime minister, they would need 165 votes from the 329 MPs, which is impossible to achieve without coalitions due to the nation’s political pluralism. Of course, the Baghdad Province is the most important by far, as it enjoys 69 seats in parliament.
Iraq has been home to a long political history alongside the greatest civilizations, competing with the Romans, the Greeks and Pharaonic Egyptians. They are the ones who invented the first written language and drafted the first laws. Unfortunately, civilization cannot be inherited, not even the history of the recent past. Who could have imagined, when Iraq was a monarchy, that Iraqis would participate in 10 rounds of legislative elections in the first half of the 20th century?
In the 1920s, Baghdad was a prosperous city; full of life, modern and quasi-European. After defeating the Ottomans, the British established two chambers: A parliament elected from the citizens and an appointed Senate. The British established the modern Iraq within its actual borders and chose a political system similar to theirs by instituting a monarchy in 1921. Eleven years later, Iraq gained its independence, and the prosperity of the Iraqi monarchy continued until 1958, when the region was stormed by military coups that brought nothing but destruction and instability.
Iraq has always been a target for invaders and a passage for invading forces, as well as being home to local civilizations such as the Sumerians and Babylonians. The Romans attacked it from the west, the Sasanian Persians from the east, the Arab Christian Lakhmids from the north, the Mongolians from the outskirts of China and the Arabs of the Peninsula from the south, as well as the Turks (Ottomans) and the British.
The Iraqis themselves are a mixture of many nations, which is why they need this federal parliamentary system, within a delicate balance, in order to be able to preserve Iraq. It isn’t strange to see the relentless efforts of Ali Khamenei’s Iran to occupy most of its neighbor, thinking that this would bolster its influence and bring durability to its theocratic regime, even though it is only bringing about its own demise. All those who attempted to ride or tame this Iraqi horse where thrown off it, including Iraqis like Saddam Hussein, the megalomaniac who thought that he could impose his influence on Iran and the Arab countries of the Gulf. That is why the current American administration has repeated its warnings to Tehran against any attempt to take control of Iraq as a strategic asset.
What happened in the previous Iraqi election was not the complete story, as the Iraqi forces and the Americans soon decided to get rid of Nouri Al-Maliki, the prime minister who had paved the way for his own triumph by any means necessary. He was left isolated and taken out in a pseudo coup, while his loyal Republican Guards were contained. Only one courageous man from his Dawa Party accepted his seat, Haidar al-Abadi. All other candidates had fled in fear of Maliki’s revenge. He threatened his opponents by bringing them to trial over corruption charges (among others) in order to regain a mandate as prime minister for a third term, and maybe for life. The upcoming elections are important to stabilize the Iraqi political system, but they won’t be enough to bring prosperity to a country that needs to focus on development, reducing militarization and curbing the influence of Khamenei’s regime.

Don’t Get Too Excited About the Korea Summit
Wendy R. Sherman/The Washington Post/May 01/2018
We should all be glad that Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, and Moon Jae-in, the president of South Korea, had a positive summit — and that Kim literally took a historic step into the South, as did Moon, briefly, into the North. Dialogue is certainly better than a march to war. That said, we all need to keep our expectations in check. Although the leaders agreed in the Panmunjom Declaration to work together toward a permanent peace rather than the current armistice and declared a commitment to “denuclearization,” we cannot know whether this statement of principles will be of lasting worth until the details are hammered out. This is certain to be a long and difficult process.
Similarly, we should all welcome the Trump-Kim summit expected in May or June. But no summit declaration on that occasion will be meaningful regarding North Korea’s nuclear arsenal if the definition of the term “denuclearization” is left blurry and no robust verification regime is put in place. We need to see concrete steps. That would include, in the first instance, allowing the International Atomic Energy Agency back into North Korea to begin an assessment of Pyongyang’s nuclear program and ensure, if possible, that North Korea is not advancing the program while talks continue.
Any US-North Korean declaration must also include a detailed definition of “denuclearization” to ensure that we are all talking about the same thing. In 1992, when the North and South issued a joint declaration, this term was born because “disarmament” was considered unacceptable terminology. Pyongyang has long used denuclearization as a proxy for ensuring that its security was guaranteed and not threatened by US military power and nuclear weapons. The United States, and the rest of the world, are looking for quite a different outcome: the destruction of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and permanent constraints on its missiles. President Trump must also concern himself with Americans held in North Korea, Pyongyang’s cybercrimes and its disastrous human rights record.
In testimony just this week, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis opined that he had read the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — better known as the Iran deal — three times and was impressed by the robust verification and monitoring it includes, easily the most extensive in history. But we knew where the assets were in Iran. In North Korea, neither is the case, circumstances that demand a verification and monitoring regime that goes beyond even the Iran agreement. Kim has grasped the hand of Moon, and soon that of Trump, principally because he now has nuclear weapons and the delivery system for those weapons and can afford to turn his attention to the economic future of North Korea. No doubt the many years of sanctions, further intensified in the past months, have had an impact, but Kim remains in the driver’s seat. He has now signed a commitment to get to a peace agreement in the coming year, he has invited Moon to Pyongyang, he’s had a state visit with the president of China, and he is soon to sit down with the president of the United States. Not a bad set of plays for the leader of the world’s most isolated regime.
However, if these summits are to become more than glossy photo ops, it will take technically skilled negotiating teams, a presence in North Korea by inspectors and months of sober, hard work. Illustrative of the complexity is the fact that the North and South have committed to getting to a peace agreement this year, which would logically include a complete, irreversible and verifiable dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear program. Getting all that done is more than a steep climb, given all the parties involved, the required technical assessments, and the mismatch in definitions and expectations. In addition, vigorous rings of consultation with South Korea, Japan, China and even Russia will be needed since any such negotiation is ultimately about the future of Northeast Asia and the balance of power in the region. Already South Koreans and Japanese worry that Trump may surrender their security in pursuit of “America First.” And China, wishing to assert its primacy in Asia, will undoubtedly want a major role in any outcome, since China, the United States (acting on the United Nations Command’s behalf) and North Korea were the only signatories to the armistice reached in 1953.
Dealing with North Korea demands precision and persistence more than pomp and circumstance. The latter may usher in hope, but only the former can get the job done.

A Brexit Choice Between Bad and Worse
Michael R. Bloomberg/Bloomberg View/May 01/2018
Theresa May's government is still promising to quit Europe's customs union when Brexit happens next year. The prime minister's position is politically understandable, yet entirely indefensible. And it perfectly captures the bind Britain has gotten itself into. Staying in the European Union's customs union after Brexit, or joining some specially tailored version of it, would leave the UK with a worse deal than the one it currently enjoys as a full member of the EU. All Remainers think so, and a good many Leavers would probably agree. Proposing such an outcome comes close to admitting that the whole Brexit project has gone wrong. It has gone wrong — but, understandably, that's something May and her colleagues are unwilling to say. For all the limitations of a customs-union arrangement, crashing out of the EU with no deal at all — a so-called hard Brexit, and the future to which the country is drifting — would be much worse. It would throw Britain's trade relations into disarray and inflict grave harm on the economy. It would also jeopardize peace in Northern Ireland by requiring a hard border between the North and the Republic of Ireland. Staying in the customs union would lessen all these risks, which is why refusing to countenance it is indefensible. Members of a customs union apply a common external tariff on goods, and trade with each other tariff-free. This wouldn't maintain the UK's frictionless commerce with the EU — for that, full regulatory compliance and membership in the single market are needed as well. By itself, therefore, a customs union wouldn't solve the border issue. But it would help. Meanwhile, British exporters would be relieved to know that business with the EU would not come to a screeching halt.
The problem is that a customs union stops the UK from striking new deals of its own, negating one of the main supposed benefits of Brexit. Worse, Britain would be bound by EU trade deals with third parties, despite having no vote on them, and no guarantee of sharing in the reciprocal benefits the deals would confer on EU partners. Membership in the EU is already unpopular with roughly half the country. Such a grossly asymmetrical arrangement would be even more toxic. Brexit supporters also have reason to suspect that advocates of the customs-union approach have a hidden agenda. This compromise would tacitly acknowledge that the Brexit decision was wrong, and thus looks like the first step in a campaign to reverse it altogether. But those same Brexit supporters have no right to complain. Led by a government lacking faith in its own policy, they've failed to give any remotely plausible account of how their preferred hard Brexit can succeed. The essential point hasn't changed. The Brexit vote was a mistake, and ought to be reversed now, not later. Britain's members of parliament are mostly opposed to Brexit, yet can't bring themselves to do their jobs and act on that conviction. The country and its legislators are therefore left squabbling over the choice between a bad result and a terrible one. Exactly how this catastrophic failure of leadership will be resolved is hard to say. No forthright pro-EU candidate for the highest office has emerged in either party. The country seems exhausted, and calls for a second referendum to reverse the Brexit choice are falling on deaf ears. Nothing short of a major political crisis seems capable of breaking the collective paralysis. It's come to something when such a dire and unpredictable prospect starts to look appealing.

Iran nuclear deal must be fixed before it is too late
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/May 01/18
President Donald Trump will make a decision on whether the US will leave or stick with the Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, by May 12. It has been almost three years since the nuclear accord was reached between the Islamic Republic and the UN Security Council’s five permanent members — Russia, the UK, China, France, and the US — plus Germany (the P5+1).
Since the JCPOA’s implementation day on Jan. 16, 2016, the Iranian regime has been receiving various benefits that can be divided into four categories. Based on the terms of the JCPOA, four rounds of the United Nations Security Council’s economic sanctions against Tehran were lifted immediately.
The regime also received unilateral sanctions relief from individual countries in exchange for halting its nuclear activities and dismantling some sections of its nuclear program. For instance, the United States lifted oil and financial sanctions, while the EU removed several Iranian entities, companies and individuals from its sanctions lists. The US and its European allies released roughly $100 billion of assets to Tehran.
One of the critical tenets of the nuclear deal is that it grants more rewards and bonuses to the Iranian regime as time passes. For instance, sanctions against controversial and powerful people and entities are due to be lifted a few years after implementation of the JCPOA. These individuals include Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force and the general in charge of Iran’s militias and proxies abroad, and Ahmad Vahidi, a former head of the IRGC who is wanted by Interpol over his alleged role in the bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in 1994, as well as Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi, who is suspected of having links to a clandestine nuclear weapons program.
In addition, the deal paved the way for further rapprochement between Tehran and Washington, which mostly benefited the Iranian regime rather than the US. For example, in a secret agreement between the Obama administration and Tehran, the US gave further sanctions relief to Iran, such as the lifting of sanctions against Bank Sepah and Bank Sepah International, which are reportedly behind the financing of the regime’s ballistic missile program.
More importantly, one of the most controversial elements of the JCPOA, which is highly contested by the Trump administration and critics of the deal, is linked to its “sunset clauses” — the expiration dates that mean the nuclear deal’s restrictions will be lifted on specific dates. For instance, in 2025, limits on first-generation and more advanced centrifuges will expire, allowing Tehran to have as many of these as it needs for its research and development.
Such provisions are extremely dangerous for several reasons. The first issue is related to international law. As soon as the sunset clauses kick in, the UN Security Council is essentially granting the Iranian regime a powerful legal platform to pursue many nuclear activities, which Tehran was banned from pursuing in the past, with no supervision or inspections. It is important to point out that this process is irreversible. The international community will lose its legal leverage to hold the Iranian regime responsible.
How can Iran be trusted over nuclear weapons program when it has disguised its activities in the past?
This brings us to the second issue, which is trust. Can the international community genuinely trust the Iranian regime to such an extent that it is willing to place such power in the hands of the ruling clerics? Can Tehran be trusted that it will not abuse such legal power granted to it by the members of the P5+1? Can the Iranian regime be trusted that it will pursue nuclear activities solely for civilian purposes rather than building a nuclear bomb?
Any astute observer of Iran’s politics is cognizant of the fact that Iran’s nuclear program, which was revived by the ruling mullahs in the 1990s, has been filled with fraud, violations and mistrust. Whenever the international community or the International Atomic Energy Agency neglected Iran’s nuclear activities, Tehran clandestinely violated the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Whenever the Iranian regime had the chance, it built clandestine sites to pursue its nuclear ambitions.
Let us refresh our memories in this regard. Iran hid two secret nuclear sites that were later exposed by the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, which is affiliated with the National Council of Resistance of Iran. The first site was Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment plant and the second was a heavy water facility in Arak. After this incident, Iran did not respect the law. It again conducted secretive nuclear activities, which were revealed in 2009, at a uranium enrichment facility close to the city of Qom.
All these revelations raise a major concern: If the Iranian regime is not aiming to weaponize its nuclear program, why has it repeatedly concealed its nuclear activities? Why would it frequently violate the law by not disclosing its nuclear sites?
Finally, it is worth noting that the main decision-makers behind Iran’s nuclear program — including the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and high-ranking IRGC generals — have remained the same for the last two decades. This ought to highlight the notion that Iran’s nuclear ambitions are likely to remain the same as well. This suggests that the international community is left with one option and only one option: Fixing the loopholes and flaws of the nuclear deal before it is too late.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh

Ukraine: Is Russia Planning A New Invasion?
Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/May 01/2018
Russia's aggression into Ukraine came in direct violation of its obligations under the 1994 Budapest Memorandum.
"After four years of war, Russia has at least 260,000 troops deployed along the Ukrainian border," ready to advance. — Oleksandr Turchynov, Chairman of Ukraine's National Defense and Security Council, April 13, 2018.
The First Deputy Head of the Ukrainian Security Service, Viktor Kononenko, recently reported that Russia might be planning another attempt to destabilize Ukraine in the fall "under the pretext of protecting the Russian-speaking population".
This April marks the fourth year of the ongoing war in Ukraine between the Ukrainian military and Russian backed separatists in the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics in eastern Ukraine, also known as the Donbas region. Prior to the beginning of the war in eastern Ukraine in April 2014, Russia annexed Crimea.
Russia's aggression into Ukraine came in direct violation of its obligations under the 1994 Budapest Memorandum. Under the memorandum, in exchange for Ukraine giving up its nuclear weapons, Russia reaffirmed its "obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine" and promised that none of its weapons would ever be used against Ukraine except in self-defense or otherwise in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.
Now, the question of further Russian or Russian-backed military operations in Ukraine has surfaced. In March, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko asserted that Russia has been strengthening its military presence on the border of Ukraine. According to Poroshenko:
"For more than one year, we have been repelling Russia's military aggression on the front line... In his latest report General Zabrodsky reported in detail on the strengthening of the military presence of the Russian Federation along our border and continued stay of Russia's regular troops in the occupied territories".
Poroshenko explained that the Russians have, since 2014, deployed and reorganized their forces in a way that will be able to support a rapid invasion both from the north and from east of Ukraine. "Several mechanized divisions are fully prepared for intervention," he said.
In April, Ukrainian Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak also claimed that Russia "has massed 19 battalion tactical groups of the combat echelon and reserve forces with over 77,000 troops," adding that they have almost 1,000 tanks, 2,300 combat vehicles, over 1,100 artillery systems and about 400 multiple rocket launchers. According to Poltorak, 40,000 Russian troops, which he detailed as an integral part of the Southern Military District of the Russian Armed Forces, are stationed in the Donbas. Also according to Poltorak, in 2017 Russia's military forces shelled Ukrainian army positions in Donbas more than 15,000 times.
There appears to be some internal disagreement on the exact number of Russian forces amassing on Ukraine. At the Kyiv Security Forum, on April 13, the chairman of Ukraine's National Defense and Security Council Oleksandr Turchynov noted:
"After four years of war, Russia has at least 260,000 troops deployed along the Ukrainian border, in addition to another 35,000 troops in the Donbas and 30,000 in Crimea, who could be used to conduct a large-scale continental war... The Russian aggressor is preparing a powerful force in Crimea -- and not only to protect its presence there. And the two occupation army corps in the Donbas have been positioned to provide cover and buy time for the main force to deploy at the borderline."
Turchynov also warned that the 260,000 Russian troops near the Ukrainian border are ready to advance with 3,500 tanks, 11,000 soft-skin vehicles, 4,000 artillery units, and over 1,000 multiple launch rocket systems. Russia, according to Tuchynov, has also fielded four guided-missile brigades in the region. The brigades, he says, are armed with Iskander-K cruise missile systems, which have a range of up to 2,500 kilometers. Apart from investing in conventional arms, Russia is also enhancing its hybrid warfare capabilities, "including terror attacks and subversive actions," in Ukraine, Turchynov said.
First Deputy Head of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), Viktor Kononenko, also recently reported that Russia might be planning another attempt to destabilize Ukraine in the fall. He said that the SBU has information on Russia's plans, including "the existence of a group in Putin's entourage, which has as goal to create prerequisites for the introduction of Russian troops to Ukraine in autumn under the pretext of protecting the Russian-speaking population". He added that Moscow allegedly plans to use criminals and other criminal-related structures "for beating participants of pro-Russian events and religious processions."
The war in Ukraine has already exacted a steep price. On April 21, UN representative to Ukraine, Neal Walker, announced that, "After four years of conflict, 3.4 million people in Ukraine are struggling to cope with the impact of the humanitarian crisis and urgently require humanitarian assistance and protection". More than 2,500 civilian men, women and children have been killed, and more than 9,000 injured in the past four years, according to the UN. Landmines in eastern Ukraine are affecting1.9 million people. "Last week," Walker said, "landmines killed a family of four in eastern Ukraine. In 2017, over 235 civilians were killed or injured by landmines and other explosive remnants of war."
In December 2017, humanitarian agencies launched a US$187 million appeal to reach more than 2.3 million of the most vulnerable people in Ukraine with assistance. 97% of this funding appeal remains unfunded. The world at large has forgotten the war in Ukraine.
Despite the humanitarian toll on the region, the United States for the first four years of the war, refused to supply the Ukrainian government with lethal weapons. The Obama administration reportedly feared that sending lethal weapons to Ukraine might escalate the conflict with Russia.
Arguably, this lack of forceful response to Russian aggression against its "near abroad" only emboldened Russia further. So much so, apparently, that Russia felt confident launching airstrikes in 2015 on behalf of Syria's President Bashar Assad against the people opposing him in the Syrian civil war. Undeterred by the US in both Ukraine and Syria, Russia had returned as a substantial military and political actor, not only in what has become known as the "post-Soviet space" -- the area inhabited by the former republics of the Soviet Union, such as Ukraine -- but in the Middle East, as well.
The Trump administration, in a timely departure from the Obama administration's refusal to grant Ukraine lethal weapons with which to defend its territory, approved the sale of defensive weapons -- 210 Javelin anti-tank missiles and 37 launchers worth $47 million -- in December 2017. In March, the US administration made the sale official "This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by improving the security of Ukraine," the Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency said. "The Javelin system will help Ukraine build its long-term defense capacity to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity in order to meet its national defense requirements".
Russia, however, has warned the weapons sale will "force" a conflict in the region. "Americans, in fact, directly push Ukrainian forces to war", Frantz Klintsevich, a member of the Russian parliament said. Grigory Karasin, Russia's deputy foreign minister said that the sale "raises the danger of derailing the process of peaceful settlement in Ukraine".
Administration officials have dismissed such arguments. "Defensive weapons are not provocative unless you're an aggressor, and clearly, Ukraine is not an aggressor, since it's their own territory where the fighting is happening," Defense Secretary James Mattis said last year during a trip to Kiev.
Russia, for its part, claims that it is not the aggressor. After the Ukrainian parliament, in January 2018, adopted a new law, which described the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk as "temporarily occupied" by Russia, and classified Russia as an "aggressor country", Russia refused to accept any responsibility for the ongoing war in Donbas. "Russia is neither a side nor a party to this conflict. This is stated in [the] Minsk agreements [which established a ceasefire and a 13 point-plan for resolving the conflict], and Minsk agreements are signed by President of Ukraine Poroshenko" said Dmitry Peskov, Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman in January. The Russian foreign ministry also said that the January 2018 law constituted "preparation for a new war," and warned that the move "risked a dangerous escalation in Ukraine with unpredictable consequences for world peace and security."
*Judith Bergman is a columnist, lawyer and political analyst.
© 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.

Flooding the Voter Rolls in US and Greece
Maria Polizoidou/Gatestone Institute/May 01/2018
In principle, the idea is no different from George Soros's 220-page guide seemingly to create a permanent voting majority for the Democratic Party by "enlarge[ing] the U.S. electorate by 10 million voters by 2018."
Greece's ruling Syriza coalition appears to be adopting a strategy of garnering votes from immigrants by expediting their naturalization process. It will be easier to obtain Greek citizenship than a fishing license.
A total of 800,000 immigrants -- almost one-tenth of the native Greek population -- will soon become citizens. Transposed to the United States, that would be the equivalent of 32,000,000 new voters.
As Greece struggles with accelerating economic decline and an increasing lack of public faith in the political leadership, the ruling Syriza coalition appears to be adopting a strategy of garnering votes from immigrants by expediting their naturalization process.
According to a recent report in the Greek daily Parapolitika, Interior Minister Panos Skourletis is laying the groundwork to enable hundreds of thousands of immigrants to become citizens and vote in the next elections. Although the mandate of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras ends in September 2019, some analysts have been predicting a call for elections by the end of 2018.
Until now, candidates for Greek citizenship had to be vetted by a committee. Under the new system, applicants will be granted citizenship automatically if they correctly answer 20 out of 30 questions online. In addition, the government is planning to allow immigrants over the age of 65 to obtain Greek IDs, without testing their knowledge of the Greek language. In other words, it will be easier to obtain Greek citizenship than a Greek fishing license. As a result, a total of 800,000 immigrants -- almost one-tenth of the native Greek population -- will soon become citizens. Transposed to the United States, that would be the equivalent of 32,000,000 new voters.
In principle, the idea is no different from George Soros's 220-page guide, released by DC Leaks, seemingly to create a permanent voting majority for the Democratic Party by "enlarge[ing] the U.S. electorate by 10 million voters by 2018."
Easing citizenship requirements may be a calculated electoral ploy, but it is also in keeping with an overall European multiculturalism. The current leadership is not interested in the origins of the country's illegal immigrants, many of whom hail from Afghanistan, Pakistan and sub-Saharan Africa and do not respect the Judeo-Christian roots and culture of modern Greek civilization. Nor does the government appear to concern itself with the danger involved in allowing huge numbers of migrants from terrorist-ridden Muslim-majority countries to become citizens, without vetting them.
Meanwhile, as its immigrant population increases, Greece is simultaneously undergoing a brain-drain. Over the past 8 years, for example, 500,000 skilled and educated young people left the country and have chosen to remain abroad rather than return home and contribute to the economy, the culture and society in general.
According to recent opinion polls, if elections were held in Greece today, the opposition party, New Democracy, would win. It is likely for this reason that the incumbent Syriza coalition has been stepping up its efforts to stay in power. Let us hope that its maneuver to do so by hastily granting voting rights to immigrants will fail. If not, the future of Greece and other countries where there are visible efforts to undermine democratic processes -- as in America's politicized, seemingly criminalized Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation and the efforts of U.S. Democrats to try to prevent the president from forming a government -- could be dangerously bleak.
**Maria Polizoidou, a reporter, broadcast journalist, and consultant on international and foreign affairs, is based in Greece. She has a post-graduate degree in "Geopolitics and Security Issues in the Islamic complex of Turkey and Middle East" from the University of Athens.
© 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.

Analysis Israel's Double Front Against Iran: Military Strike in the Morning, Press Conference at Night
هآرتس: جبهة إسرائيلية مزدوجة ضد إيران: ضربة عسكرية في الصباح ومؤتمر صحفي ليلا
Amos Harel/Haaretz/May 01/2018
As Netanyahu urges Trump to quit the nuclear deal, Israel acts freely in Syria's sky, assuming Iran would be afraid to react. But what happens if it miscalculates?
The conflict between Israel and Iran entered a new phase on Monday, which combines a number of dimensions – military and intelligence, diplomacy and public diplomacy. In the evening Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed the “Iranian nuclear archive,” tens of thousands of secret documents that reached Israeli hands by covert means. Less than 24 hours earlier, Iranian military sites in Syria were bombed from the air, in an attack once again attributed to Israel
Netanyahu is conducting a campaign to achieve two different goals. In the international arena, it seems as if he wants to give U.S. President Donald Trump another little push toward an American decision to abandon the Iran nuclear agreement. And in Syria, Israel looks more determined than ever to prevent Iranian military entrenchment. There is a certain connection between the two tracks. Israel apparently believes that the pressure the Iranians are under as Trump’s announcement gets closer, together with economic distress and increasing protest at home will make it difficult for Tehran to respond immediately and forcefully to the bombings.
In the hours that passed between the attack and the prime minister’s press conference there was a certain fear among the public, which was fanned by fake news reports spreading on WhatsApp that a war with Iran was imminent. That concern proved to be exaggerated, and in the evening Netanyahu put on the performance of the year. One can assume that displaying the binders from the Iranian archives on live TV left no small impression on at least some Israeli viewers.
Beyond the impressive intelligence achievement, there remains the question of the significance of the revelations. In short, Israel is saying that it has new, persuasive proof of its old claim that the Iranians were lying through the negotiations process with the large powers and was operating a secret military program all along. These documents, Netanyahu said, had been shown to the Americans and would soon be submitted to other countries.
The debate from here on in becomes interpretive: Is there a smoking gun that proves that the Iranians continued their development efforts after 2015? Retired senior Military Intelligence officials who watched the press conference couldn’t discern any such proof at this point. In an interview with Haaretz in early April, Chief of General Staff Gadi Eisenkot argued that the Iranian nuclear agreement, despite its flaws, “Is working now.” One can imagine that his assessment was not greeted with great enthusiasm in Netanyahu’s office.
The army is with him
After the attack on Syria attributed to Israel on Sunday night, at least the fifth since September, there seems to be little room for doubt. Israel is determined to uproot the Iranian military presence from Syria.
Following the previous attack at the T4 airbase by Homs on April 9, in which 14 people died including seven members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran threatened severe retaliation. Israel's defense establishment braced accordingly, but nothing has happened so far. Instead, now there has been another belligerent move against Iran's interests in Syria.
Based on Syrian reports, the raid on military targets between Hama and Aleppo in Syria's north caused powerful explosions – one media outlet reported that the intensity was akin to a small earthquake. Some were killed, apparently Syrian soldiers and pro-Iranian Shiite militia people.
Last week the TV network CNN reported that American and Israeli espionage are closely watching the movement of Iranian arms into Syria that could be used to "close accounts" with Israel. The attack on Sunday night – at this time, with such force – could attest that a major weapons cache was hit. In turn, that could attest to an attempt to foil a potential Iranian reaction.
The confrontation with Iran in Israel's north is direct: Israel drew a line in the sand, and is prepared to enforce it with force. Since the Iranians object to both Israel's prohibition on its presence and the means Israel is employing, and in the absence of a mediator between the sides, this conflict could yet escalate. The week is young.
Afraid of provoking Trump
Over the last year, two trends have become evident in the Middle East: Syrian President Bashar Assad camp won the bloody civil war in Syria, and the U.S. is scaling back its presence in the region. Even its recent punitive attack against the Assad regime felt like a symbolic gesture of farewell. Meanwhile, two other trends are taking shape: Israel's effort to expel Iran from Syria, and Washington preparing for a resolution to ditch the nuclear agreement between Iran and the powers, which should happen around May 12.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government seems to tie between these last two trends. The thinking is that Iran is restraining itself from reacting against Israel for its latest alleged moves in Syria, because it's afraid of making a mistake that would provoke U.S. rage. According to that view, U.S. President Donald Trump could respond to escalation between Iran and Israel by abandoning the nuclear agreement even earlier, and later, it might even attack the Iranian nuclear sites itself (which would be incalculably more painful than a theoretical Israeli attack). The authorities in Tehran are also worried about various threats at home, from financial crisis to stormy protests. The requisite ostensible conclusion is that Israel can continue to flail at Iranians in Syria as it pleases.
Indeed the U.S. is behaving very differently than during the Obama days. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo came to Israel upon taking the job and took off for Jordan just before the first reports came in about the Israeli attacks in Syria. Concurrently, Trump and Netanyahu talked by phone, reportedly also discussing Iran. That is a clear back-wind from Washington for the winds of war blowing in Jerusalem. One might think that if Pompeo could only have stayed in Israel a few more hours, they'd have suggested he clamber into a cockpit and fire some missiles himself.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu, as we wrote some weeks ago, is in a particularly Trumpian mood, quite different from his normal behavior. His interest in security incidents has trumped even his preoccupation with political infighting within the coalition. He is prepared to undertake uncharacteristic risks, bordering on gambling. Unusually, the defense establishment is with him. In contrast to the dramatic argument over bombing nuclear sites in Iran at the start of the decade, this time Israel's defense chiefs are leading a hard, aggressive line regarding Iran's presence in Syria.
The annoying but necessary question this morning is what happens if an Israeli move fails.
True, Iran doesn't want to annoy the U.S. right now. It is invested in protecting its nuclear program from yet more pressures, and is concerned about exposing its forces to harm in Syria. A fight in Syria wouldn't suit the Russians either as they set about stabilizing Assad's regime.
But Israel's calculations could go completely haywire if the flames in Syria blaze out of control, and if Iran decides, in contrast to assessments, to toss Hezbollah into the conflagration, for example after the Lebanese elections scheduled for May 6. Hezbollah has gained extensive operational experience in Syria. It has an arsenal of more than 100,000 missiles and rockets. Hezbollah certainly isn't stronger than the Israel Defense Forces, but in the event of war, it could wreak real damage on the Israeli home front, and ground fighting in Lebanon would cost the Israeli army dearly.
A conflict like that could drag in Hamas in Gaza, as Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has warned time and again (there seems to be a discrepancy between the confident tones emanating from Jerusalem, including Lieberman's, in public, and their actual fears). So far Israel has managed to establish and maintain coordination with the Russian air force to prevent friction in the Syrian skies. But couldn't Moscow decide at some point that it's sick of receiving diktats from Jerusalem?
Israel has a justifiable purpose in Syria. Iran's presence is developing into dangerous potential that could weigh on the IDF in the future. Even so, this morning, questions beg to be asked. Is the blanket goal of expelling all Iranian forces from Syria even attainable, as the prime minister, defense minister and chief of staff seem to think? Are they taking into account that things can go wrong, to the point of a broader conflict that will exact a far heavier price? There has been no real public discussion on this so far, nor has dispute surfaced over the policy taking shape in the north – not in government, and not among the top security brass.

Are the wars in Sinai and Yemen necessary?
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/May 01/18
It is easy to criticize anything, especially complex political, security and military operations that affect the lives of people.
This is what some has been doing toward the operations in Yemen against Houthi-Iranian militias and in Egypt where the Egyptian army and police have launched an operation against ISIS fighters in Sinai, specifically in north Sinai.
It is quite easy to ask: Then what? How long will we stay the course? Where are we going? When will the roar of cannons, the whizzing of airplanes, the firing of the machine guns and the costly bills of war come to an end?
However what is difficult is to answer such questions: Can one living in the southern Saudi border with its mountain ranges and plains coexist with the Houthi gangs which are an organ of the Khomeini body which has taken it upon itself to destroy the Saudi state as we’ve seen since 1979?
Is it “normal” for Saudi Arabia to remain silent and ignore the Houthis until the damage is done?
Is the Egyptian state required to ignore the existence of ISIS, al-Qaeda and Brotherhood gangs that explicitly announce that their goal is to destroy the Egyptian state, demolish the borders for the sake of their parent organization and dive with the country’s fate into the sea of darkness?
Are the Egyptian state and its army required to be paralyzed regarding this situation?
The war to liberate Yemen from the gangs of Khomeini and Egypt from the gangs of ISIS is a war of necessity
Mistakes committed
Have mistakes been committed? Yes. Mistakes were made, but this is the nature of work and the characteristic of activity.
Last Saturday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi vowed that the military operation, which has been carried out by the army in cooperation with the police in Sinai since February, will be finalized as soon as possible.
In a gathering organized by the Egyptian army, Sisi told the people of Sinai that a development plan is currently being implemented in Sinai and will complete by 2022.
He then stressed: “We will finish the mission as soon as possible.” Sisi was keen on venerating the people of Sinai, saying: “Terrorism is present in all the governorates of Egypt,” adding: “If we had not taken these measures (in Sinai), we will have lost Sinai.”
The Egyptian president made these statements to respond to intimidation campaigns, not the ones emanating from the Muslim Brotherhood through its Turkish or Qatari channels, but from certain international human rights organizations that one does not know not what they exactly want! What do they want? For Egypt to hand over Sinai to ISIS?
Egyptian Army spokesman Tamer Rifai has criticized a Human Rights Watch report about a “looming humanitarian crisis” in Sinai due to the anti-terrorism operation conducted by the military.
The report included massive exaggerations about the situation of the people in North Sinai. Of course, their situation is not good and it’s certainly difficult as a war is being fought!
The war to liberate Yemen from the gangs of Khomeini and Egypt from the gangs of ISIS is a war of necessity, even if it angers sensitive groups and the new Hashishin.

Killing of Saleh al-Sammad, the beginning of the end of our war in Yemen

Mohammed Al Shaikh/Al Arabiya/May 01/18
The death of Saleh al-Sammad the president of the so-called Supreme Political Council of the Houthis in Yemen is, in my opinion, considered as the beginning of the Houthis’ end in Yemen. Killing this agent will weaken the Houthi fighters in the raging fronts, especially that the civil war there has recently witnessed several victories in favor of the legitimate forces and their allies on almost all fronts.
Houthis’ fall, an inevitable destiny
I have known since the beginning of the war that the Houthis’ inevitable destiny would be a huge defeat and a terrible fall as all rational and objective signs clearly indicate this. The long duration of the war does not mean that it is in favor of the Houthis, as some believe, as it has rather drained their resistance and limited their ability to resist falling and defy legitimacy which has all the reasons and justifications to achieve political and military victories as it has the power and the international community and the UN resolutions support it.
Only the mullahs of Iran support the Houthis, and they are now facing international negative circumstances that exhausted them, specifically economic ones, and especially after American President Donald Trump voiced his intention to withdraw from the nuclear agreement.
These mullahs know well that in the end they cannot defy the US and all of the Gulf states, primarily Saudi Arabia. Therefore, they are employing the Houthis, standing with them and using them as a card to exert political pressure – a card they will dispose of whenever they realize that it achieved its purposes of which the most important one today is to be a price to keep the nuclear agreement as it is.
Iran’s blackmail plans
It seems that things did not go as planned by Iran’s blackmail schemes. The Houthis are currently going through rough times and their militias have been retreating and weakening by the day. Killing al-Sammad is a powerful sign that indicates the Houthis’ continuous defeats in most fighting fronts. Given the Houthis’ exhausted situation, Iran will not be able to bet on them or use them as a bargaining chip in regional disputes as it had hoped.
Needless to say that the Houthis are mere pawns in the conflict, and the Iranians will not hesitate to sacrifice them whenever they achieve even part of their goals. Iran will simply dump them in the bin of history once it realizes that sacrificing them will serve the interests of its regional battles, especially that there are other pawns that are more important than the Houthis, like Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq.
Betting on the Houthis and supporting them after al-Sammad’s death, the deterioration of the Houthis’ situation and the increase of news about defections in their camps, in addition to the fact that the Iranians will not stand with them forever due to the international pressures they are facing because of their expansions are all factors that will eventually come together and force the Houthis to look for a way out to preserve at least a small part of what they had achieved in the political arena.

If Trump brokers peace in Korea, he deserves the Nobel Peace Prize
Dr. Azeem Ibrahim/Al Arabiya/May 01/18
US Presidents have a higher probability of receiving the Nobel Peace Prize than any other political leader in the world. Four have received the Prize to date along with one Vice President. The first was Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 who successfully mediated the end to the Russo-Japanese war.
This was followed shortly after by Woodrow Wilson in 1919 who founded the League of Nations – the precursor to the United Nations. Jimmy Carter’s lifelong commitment to find solutions to intractable international conflicts earned him his Prize in 2002.
Al Gore was the only Vice President to receive the Prize in 2007 for his efforts to educate the world on climate change. Obama, ironically, was the most controversial recipient having received his for “strengthening international diplomacy” but was really awarded it for not being George Bush.
Unlike Obama who still enjoys huge popularity around the globe, Donald Trump’s brashness has been hard to swallow by world opinion. Any Prize, irrespective of it’s merit, will therefore be a hard sell by the Norwegians.
And unlike the Prize for say chemistry or medicine, where a handful of global experts can validate the distinction of the discovery or contribution, the Peace Prize is significantly more subjective.
Controversy has surrounded almost every recipient from Henry Kissinger, Yasser Arafat to Aung San Suu Kyi – who in an unprecedented move has been condemned by a dozen of her fellow Laureates for her role in Myanmar’s genocidal policies. Add to this the recent sexual abuse allegation against the Committee for the Nobel Prize for Literature and you have a situation that does not lend itself to making unpopular choices.
Despite many wanting to see Trump fall flat, it would be criminal not to want him to succeed. Particularly, when the alternative is so perilous
Denuclearize and secure peace
But if Trump manages to convince Comrade Kim to denuclearize and secures peace in the Korean peninsula, he will undoubtedly be more deserving than any recipient in living memory.
He will have neutralized the world’s most dangerous situation, solidified his legacy, even if he only serves one term, and will rightly go down in presidential history as the “greatest deal maker” – a label he has always craved. He will have proven all his critics wrong and his army of supporters right.
Despite many wanting to see President Trump fall flat, it would be criminal not to want him to succeed. Particularly, when the alternative is so perilous. But what are the chances of seeing The Donald in Oslo?
The answer to that depends on whether Kim Jong-Un is sincere when he says he really is open to give up his nuclear weapons if a suitable deal can be struck. Unfortunately, we have seen this movie before and it seems quite unlikely.
Kim Jong-un may be an unpleasant character, but he is by no account crazy. And, it seems, he has learnt from history. Saddam gave up his nuclear and other WMD programmes in the Oil for Food programme, and less than ten years later he was hanged by a US-installed Iraqi government.
Qaddafi gave up his nuclear programme in order to trade oil with the West, and again, less than ten years later he was killed in a Western-supported uprising. Ukraine voluntarily gave up the the nuclear arsenal it inherited from the Soviet Union by 1996, and not two decades later, Russia, the recipient of those missiles, invaded and annexed Crimea.
Repeating history
There is nothing to suggest that Kim intends to repeat this history. In fact, the reason he has pushed on with the nuclear program in recent years despite unprecedented pressure from the West and his neighbours, including the North’s longstanding ally, China, is because Kim and his regime are convinced that nukes are the only thing that can sustain their regime. And it is difficult to argue against their case: every regime which has given up their nuclear programme under pressure from the West has suffered the consequences; while now that Kim’s nuclear programme is on its feet and largely successful, “the most isolated regime in the world” gets to meet face-to-face with the leader of the free world. But the optics for Trump are much worse that that. It’s not just that Trump’s administration is rewarding Kim with a visit for decades of defiance and for breaking international rules on nuclear proliferation. The details of the meeting will also be hugely relevant. Any meeting will be an unbelievable propaganda coup for the regime: after decades of delirious and fantasist news coverage in the North about how powerful the regime is to stand along against all the world’s great powers, now the American president comes to Korean to “seek terms” with Supreme Leader Kim. Never in their life would the officials at the propaganda ministry would have expected such a prize to land in their lap.
So best case scenario, the meeting between Trump and Kim will result in the North giving up it’s nuclear weapons and thawing relations with their neighbours which means we are likely to see both Kim and Donald in Oslo soon. Worst case scenario is a humiliating set back for Trump meaning there are no longer any further cards to play.

US, Europe Must Convince Each Other To Pursue The Right Goals In Iran
Dr.Walid Phares/Daily Caller site/May 01/18
د.وليد فارس: من الضرورة ان تكون القناعة متبادلة بين اوروبا وأميركا للوصل لنفس الأهداف بما يتعلق بإيران
French President Emmanuel Macron held talks with his American counterpart last week in Washington. He was followed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel as the Europeans make a last ditch effort to convince President Trump to step back from his possible withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement.
It’s not surprising that the world is closely watching this issue as that deadline, May 12, ticks closer. But we should all be deeply concerned if the spectacle of the nuclear issue distracts attention away from broader concerns regarding Iran’s conduct in the region and around the globe. This is something that both Macron and Trump have clearly been taking seriously throughout their respective tenures.
In other words, we should all hope that the Western leaders would address the Iranian activities that threaten the world not just five or ten years from now, but right at this moment.
Among European leaders, Macron has been bringing attention to the need for constraints on Iran’s ballistic missile program, which contributes to regional instability. Macron has also been decidedly vocal about the danger that the Iranian regime poses in Syria, where it is the most loyal and longstanding backer of Bashar al-Assad and his collective violence against the Syrian people.
It bears mentioning that Trump’s aversion to the nuclear deal and Macron’s commitment to countering Iranian influence in Syria are clearly based on the same correct understanding of the Islamic Republic. That is to say, both men seem to recognize that Iran’s behavior will not change in any meaningful way until it undergoes a change of government. So while nuclear negotiations might limit the current government’s ability to develop the most destructive weapons, the nuclear issue will never be fully resolved as long as that government continues to set policy for the nation.
Meanwhile, the persistence of Iran’s regional intransigence serves to safeguard the theocratic regime, complete with its belligerent, nuclear ambitions. By contrast, multilateral efforts to push Iran out of Syria and other regional conflict zones would weaken the regime and force it to face domestic problems, which include a restive population and a protest movement that quite possibly poses a greater challenge to the regime than it has ever faced before.
Iran’s domestic uprising is of particular significance to Macron in light of the fact that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called him on January 2 and urged the French government to crack down on the main Iranian opposition movement, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (MEK), which has a presence in France and is reported to be a significant player in the proliferation of Iran’s anti-government protests in recent months.
A week after that call, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei delivered a speech in which he explicitly blamed the MEK, for planning and initiating the protests that spanned every major Iranian town and city in December and January, leading to explicit calls for regime change.
Macron naturally rebuffed Rouhani’s appeal, and this speaks to the common ground that the French and American presidents are establishing as they work together on charting the future course for Western policy toward Iran.
Multilateral sanctions are the first and most natural option for supporting and promoting those voices, especially as they continue to speak out loud on the streets of cities like Isfahan, Kazerun, and Ahvaz, where protesters recently clashed with security forces even three months after the violent suppression of the January uprising. With their collective tools of economic and diplomatic pressure, the US and Europe share a responsibility to keep international attention focused on the human rights abuses that often meet such protests, and to hold the perpetrators of those abuses to account.
And now more than ever, it is incumbent upon American and European leaders to establish a plan of action. Many experts on the Middle East have suggested that a resurgent uprising by the Iranian people may be just around the corner.
In March, on the occasion of the Iranian New Year celebration Nowruz, the Iranian opposition leader, Maryam Rajavi delivered a speech in which she urged the Iranian activist community to turn the year ahead into “a year full of uprisings.” The latest protests show that that progress is already being made toward that goal, which Rajavi predicted to lead to ultimate victory over the widely despised clerical regime.
When that victory comes to pass, and only then, the issue of Tehran’s nuclear ambitions will finally be resolved. This is something the Europeans must keep in mind as they fret over the future of the nuclear agreement. But at the same time, the Trump administration must be encouraged to recognize that complete disengagement from the Middle East in the face of the Iranian regime imperialism would only strengthen the regime and mitigate the threat it faces at this moment.
In this sense, it is clear that the Trump administration and its European counterparts have important lessons to learn from each other.
*Dr. Walid Phares is a professor of international relations and served as a foreign policy advisor to Donald Trump in 2016. He is the author of many books including The Lost Spring: US Policy in the Middle East and Catastrophes to Avoid @walidphares

Iran should learn lessons of Korean peace talks
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/May 02/18
A few months ago, peace on the Korean Peninsula was unthinkable, with many experts, scholars and policy-makers projecting that any diplomatic rapprochement between North Korea and South Korea was idealistic.
But the political landscape appears to have altered drastically in a short period of time. Now it is not an overstatement to argue that the recent political breakthrough between the two old rivals could be recorded among the world’s most significant historic events.
This is an instructive moment for Iran, which enjoys a friendly relationship with North Korea, to draw several comparative and critical conclusions from Pyongyang’s moves; lessons that could steer the Middle East drastically toward a positive path.
By making a political analogy and developing an analytical strategy, four lessons become apparent should the Islamic Republic genuinely want to promote peace.
If Iran makes peace with its neighbors and the Gulf states, as well as scales back its nuclear ambitions, it would be respected as a rational and instructive regional power by the Arab world and the international community as a whole
The first lesson is to de-escalate regional conflicts and tensions. In order to accomplish such an objective, Iran needs to make peace with its neighbors and other countries in the region by taking several steps. Tehran should give heed to other nations’ security concerns and people’s fear, which emanates from its foreign policy, behavior, expansionist policies, military adventurism, and threatening and incendiary rhetoric.
It follows that Iran should assure other countries in the region that it will cease its interference in their domestic affairs. For example, in Bahrain, Tehran must put aside its sectarian agenda of pitting the Sunnis against the Shiites. Media outlets that are controlled by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, such as Fars News, ought not to spread sectarian messages in order to divide and provoke the Bahraini people against each other.
Iran can take steps to improve its relationships with Saudi Arabia and Yemen if it puts an end to its military adventurism and support for the Houthis, including delivering weapons to the militia in violation of a UN resolution, and training as well as financially and politically assisting the Houthis. With respect to Kuwait, encroaching on its sovereignty, such as with the establishment of a “terror and spying cell,” has become a source of major tension between the two nations, which used to enjoy a friendly relationship.
Tehran can also promote peace by pulling its IRGC and Quds Force from other countries, specifically Iraq and Syria, and stopping its sponsorship of militias, proxies and terrorist groups. Infiltrating and dominating the Iraqi and Syrian security and political establishments, and creating Shiite militias and incorporating them into these states’ political apparatuses — such as the Popular Mobilization Forces —are strategies detrimental to peace and stability in the region.
The second lesson that the Islamic Republic can draw from the Korean peace talks is to curtail its nuclear ambitions by totally shutting down its controversial nuclear sites and taking robust steps to demonstrate denuclearization. Iranian leaders should be cognizant of the fact that their clandestine nuclear sites and activities are a major cause of tension, insecurity and instability in the region. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he would additionally “invite experts of South Korea and the US, as well as journalists, to disclose the process to the international community with transparency,” according to Seoul’s presidential spokesman Yoon Young-chan. Tehran could take similar steps to build trust, promote transparency and avoid triggering a nuclear arms race in the region.
The third lesson for the Islamic Republic is anchored in the fact that making peace with other countries in the region is not a complex process. As we are witnessing in the case of North Korea, it just requires a political will. In the last few days, the world has observed how swiftly the regional and international dynamic can potentially shift toward a better world once Pyongyang demonstrated the political will to do so.
The fourth lesson is that the benefits of pursuing such measures are numerous for Iran and the region. If Iran makes peace with its neighbors and the Gulf states, as well as scales back its nuclear ambitions, it would be respected as a rational and instructive regional power by the Arab world and the international community as a whole.
In addition, a move that promotes stability, security and peace in the region would help resolve Tehran’s economic crisis, which has become a major source of discontent, and improve the lives of its citizens. Resolving tensions with other nations will bring about more trade, business deals and investments for Iran. With its rich and deep-rooted culture, grand cultural vestiges and ancient civilization, Iran could once again become a major tourist destination. A booming tourism industry is a valuable source of income to revitalize the economy, create jobs, and address the ordinary people’s concerns.
To conclude, Iran can draw significant lessons from the latest developments on the Korean Peninsula. If Tehran truly curtails its nuclear ambitions, and makes peace with other nations in the region, it would lead to what could be a major historic event. It would drastically alter the balance of power in the region. It would also address Iran’s economic crisis, improve the living standard of Iranian citizens, and promote stability and security in the region.
More importantly, it will make the region and the rest of the world a safer, more secure and more peaceful place for everyone.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh

Analysis Israel's Double Front Against Iran: Military Strike in the Morning, Press Conference at Night
هآرتس: جبهة إسرائيلية مزدوجة ضد إيران: ضربة عسكرية في الصباح ومؤتمر صحفي ليلا
Amos Harel/Haaretz/May 01/2018

Six Reports addressing the Loming Israeli-Iranian War in Syria /تقارير بالإنكليزية 6 تتناول الحرب الوشيكة بين إيران وإسرائيل في سوريا ومواقف البلدين

Iranian Defense Chief Warns Israel: Stop Your Dangerous Behavior, Response Will Surprise You
وزير الدفاع الإسرائيلي لإسرائيل: اوقفوا تصرفاتكم الخطيرة والرد سيفاجئكم
Haaretz/May 01, 2018

Analysis Israel Braces for Iranian Retaliation for Syria Strike – but War Isn’t Inevitable
إسرائيل تستعد للرد الإيراني على خلفية هجماتها على الإيرانيين في سوريا - لكن الحرب الشاملة ليست حتمية
Amos Harel/ May 01/2018

Iranian-Israeli War Looming on Horizon
الحرب الإيرانية -الإسرائيلية تحوف في الأفق
Tel Aviv, Washington, London/Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 1 May, 2018

U.S. Officials: Israeli F-15s Struck Syrian Base Storing Iranian Anti-aircraft Missiles
رسميون أميركيين: إسرائيل هاجمت قواعد إيرانية في سوريا لتخزين الصواريخ
Haaretz/May 01/2018

U.S. Officials: Israeli F-15s Struck Syrian Base Storing Iranian Anti-aircraft Missiles
رسميون أميركيين: إسرائيل هاجمت قواعد إيرانية في سوريا لتخزين الصواريخ
Haaretz/May 01/2018

France: Israel’s Iran Intelligence Shows Need for Longer-Term Assurances on Nuclear Program
فرنس: المخاربات الإسرائيلية بما يخص إيران تظهر الحاجة إلى تطمينات طويلة الأمد بما يخص البرنامج الإيراني النووي
Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 1 May, 2018