May 04/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, "One does not live by bread alone."

Luke 04/01-13: "Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, "One does not live by bread alone." ’Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, ‘To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours. ’Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, "Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him." ’Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, "He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you", and "On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone." ’Jesus answered him, ‘It is said, "Do not put the Lord your God to the test." ’When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 03-04/18
Candidacy, conflict and territorial claims: Lebanon’s election posters/India Stoughton/The National/May 03/18
Lebanon election 2018: A bloody history that encapsulates the country's woes/Arthur MacMillan/The National/May 03/18
Outsiders face uphill battle in Lebanese elections/Gulf News/May 03/18
What Did The Mossad Actually Get From Iran/Yonah Jeremy Bob/Jerusalem Post/May 03/18
Iran's Proxy Wars: The Four Battlegrounds Iran Uses to Threaten Israel and the Middle East/Haaretz/May 03/18
Trump Has All but Decided to Withdraw From Iran Nuclear Deal, Sources Tell Reuters/Haaretz and Reuters/ May 03/18
Opinion Netanyahu Claims 'Iran Lied' About Its Nuclear Program, but Israel Has Been Lying for Decades/Gideon Levy/Haarz/May 03/18
Beware the Korean Peace Trap/Eli Lake/Bloomberg/May 03/18
A Nobel for Trump/Ruthie Blum//Gatestone Institute/May 03/18
Turkey: Erdoğan's World of Terrorists Includes Everyone but Terrorists/Burak Bekdil/Gatestone Institute/May 03/18
Why Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey Are Battling Over Somalia/Haaretz/Reuters/May 03/18
Armenia escapes its post-Soviet malaise/David Ignatius/Washington Post/May 02/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on May 03-04/18
Aoun pleads for Arab intervention in refugee return
Election Day security measures in place: Army chief
Lebanon Polling Station Employees Cast Ballots
Rabat: We Weren't Pressured by Other Countries to Sever Ties with Iran
Berri Says 'Shiite Duo' MPs to 'Defend Coexistence, Fight Corruption'
Hariri Hits Back at Nasrallah over Terror Support Remarks
Cabinet Hails Lebanese Expat Vote 'Achievement'
Mustaqbal-Ahbash Dispute Erupts into Gunfire in Beirut
Israeli Spy Device Found in Southern Town
Free Rides on May 6, Uber Unveils Election Day Promo Code
Electoral Supervisory Committee Reminds of ‘Binding’ Pre-Election Silence
Polling Station Employees Cast Early Vote
Candidacy, conflict and territorial claims: Lebanon’s election posters
Lebanon election 2018: A bloody history that encapsulates the country's woes
Outsiders face uphill battle in Lebanese elections

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 03-04/18
King Salman, Moroccan king, discuss coordinating efforts to contain Iran threats
Iran Says Will Quit Nuclear Deal if U.S. Walks Away
Hundreds Prepare to Exit Rebel Areas near Damascus, Says State Media
Merkel Calls for Discussion on Iran Missile Program, Regional Role
Tehran Mobilizes Syria’s Kurds against International Coalition
Exclusive: Iran Celebrates World Press Freedom Day with Regime-Imposed Shackles
Birds’ Bring Down Russian Fighter Jet Off Syria, 2 Dead
Bosnia Refuses to Extradite a Person 'Involved' in Assassination of Hamas Official
Kuwaiti Government Stands Still During Vote of No Confidence Session
Turkey Hands over Baghdadi-Linked ISIS Leader to Iraq
Bahrain Questions 37 Security Men Based on Complaints from Prisoners, Detainees
Russian Fighter Jet Crashes Off Syrian Coast; Both Pilots Killed
Latest Lebanese Related News published on May 03-04/18
Aoun pleads for Arab intervention in refugee return
Joseph Haboush/The Daily Star/May 03, 2018
BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun Wednesday stepped up his call for the return of Syrian refugees to their homeland as he appealed for intervention from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. “He asked them for help because the international community has not responded to the Lebanese government’s request to facilitate the return of refugees,” a Baabda Palace source told The Daily Star. Aoun requested the three Arab states’ help to secure the return of Syrian refugees to their country, “to stop their [sufferings] on the one hand, and, on the other, to end the repercussions of this displacement on Lebanon socially, economically, educationally and in terms of security,” a statement from the presidency said, after Aoun met with diplomats from the three countries.
During the discussions, the four spoke about developments in Lebanon and the region, including the refugee crisis.The source suggested that these three Arab countries, in particular, have the ability to exert influence on the international community concerning this issue.
The president demanded that action be taken to put an end to competition in the Lebanese labor market – presumably in a reference to refugees – and to protect the country’s productive sectors. But it remained unclear how the countries would be able to help with the areas that have been called “safe zones” inside of Syria, as they are under the control of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime. Refugees have reportedly fled out of fear of both Daesh (ISIS) fighters and Syrian army members. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been openly vocal in their criticism of Assad and his allies, while Egypt has maintained a line of communication with the Syrian government. Lebanon, on the other hand, is sharply divided over whether or not to communicate with the Syrian government to coordinate the return of refugees. To manage this, an international humanitarian source suggested outside countries mediate. “You have so many influential countries [involved in] Syria now, so perhaps Russia,” the source said, could intervene between Lebanon and Syria to discuss allowing refugees back into certain areas deemed safe. “With 6 million internally displaced, I’m not sure that Assad wants more [refugees outside Syria] back,” the source said. Some Lebanese sides have suggested that since there are diplomatic ties between Beirut and Damascus, there should be coordination between the two countries over refugees’ return. Others reject any communication with the Assad regime and advocate for a tripartite line with UNHCR in the middle.
Meanwhile, the U.N. and some Western states have stated that returns should not be undertaken in the absence of a political solution to the conflict. As a result of the failure by the Lebanese government to draft a unified and comprehensive policy for dealing with the Syrian refugee crisis’ impact in the country, tensions are increasing between organizations working with the displaced, both international and local. UNHCR and the Lebanese Foreign Ministry have been at odds in recent weeks, with the ministry lashing out at the aid body for “scaring” refugees from returning to Syria.
Separately, General Security head Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim said that international aid to Lebanon “was and continues to be minor” relative to the social and economic burden placed on the country by the roughly 1 million Syrian refugees in the country. In an interview published Wednesday in General Security’s monthly magazine, Ibrahim suggested that aid is needed for refugees who have returned to Syria and “not just conferences to support the refugee crisis.”Ibrahim defended the return of some 500 Syrians who left Lebanon’s Shebaa to Syria’s Beit Jin on April 18, describing it as completely “voluntary and safe.”He suggested that a general amnesty allowing all refugees back to Syria could be a solution, “but coordination between the Lebanese and Syrian governments, with the participation of the international community, is the best solution.”During Wednesday’s meeting, Aoun also noted that Lebanon was keen on maintaining the best relations with Arab countries, saying, “Lebanon cannot be [used as] an arena for interference into the concerns of any Arab country.”

Election Day security measures in place: Army chief
The Daily Star/May 03/18/BEIRUT: Lebanese Army chief Gen. Joseph Aoun said Thursday his forces were aiming to “prevent the exploitation of delicate conditions that the country is going through,” as Lebanon gears up for its first parliamentary elections in nine years amid heightened security. Aoun also warned the military against “being dragged into provocations” as Election Day – now just three days away – draws nearer. The Army commander’s comments, released in an official statement from the Army, come as thousands of polling station employees cast their ballots across Lebanon Thursday in an early vote preceding the general election slated for May 6. Our country “is preparing to enter the elections ... in all Lebanese regions,” Aoun said while speaking of security preparations Thursday, though he did not provide details of the particular procedures that had been put in place.
“The appropriate measures have been taken to keep pace with this national event, especially in terms of providing citizens with security, to enable them to move and express their opinions at the ballot boxes in an atmosphere of freedom, tranquility and democracy,” Aoun said. Aoun has asserted in recent days the Army’s neutrality regarding the elections, saying in a statement last Friday that his forces were at “one distance from many different parties and candidates.” “[The Army’s] only concern is to preserve security and stability both before and during the election process.”

Lebanon Polling Station Employees Cast Ballots
Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 3 May, 2018/Thousands of polling station employees began casting their ballots on Thursday, three days ahead of the countrywide parliamentary elections. Polling stations maintained a “calm and organized atmosphere,” the state-run National News Agency reported.
The polls are set to close at 7:00 pm, NNA said. On Wednesday, Interior Minister Nohad al-Mashnouq said during a press conference following a meeting with security officials in Baalbeck that he had given clear instructions to security forces to remain neutral. The country has not held a parliamentary poll since 2009. Sunday’s elections will be the first under a new law based on proportional representation under which voters will choose one list of allied candidates, as well as a preferred candidate from among them. The law also allows Lebanese living abroad to vote.
During his press conference, Mashnouq mentioned the expatriate voting that took place over the weekend, calling the preliminary overseas polling a "huge success that we must learn from and carry out on the same level inside Lebanon."

Rabat: We Weren't Pressured by Other Countries to Sever Ties with Iran

Rabat - Algiers - Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 3 May, 2018/Morocco accused Iran on Tuesday of providing military support to the Polisario Front and denied that its decision to sever diplomatic relations with Tehran was the result of pressure from some countries. The Moroccan Foreign Ministry said in a statement that following Morocco’s decision to cut off diplomatic relations with Iran, “some circles claimed, without any arguments, that the Kingdom made this decision under pressure from some countries.” The statement added that Morocco was among the few Islamic countries that normalized ties with Iran, when the Moroccan ambassador returned to his post in Tehran in November 2016, while Tehran’s crisis with some Arab and Western countries was at its peak. It also said that Morocco has shown in a number of regional and international crises that its positions were taken independently, in full conformity with its principles and with its own assessment. On Tuesday, Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita told reporters that his country would close its embassy in Tehran and would expel the Iranian ambassador to Rabat. He said that Iran and the Lebanese “Hezbollah” were supporting Polisario by training and arming its fighters, via the Iranian embassy in Algeria. The ministry stressed that the Moroccan decision was not in any way against Iranian and Lebanese citizens, who are not involved in “such hostilities, which are committed by Hezbollah in collusion with the Polisario Front and with the blessing of Iran.”Meanwhile, the Iranian embassy in Algiers said in a statement that it “categorically denies Moroccan allegations about its relationship with the Polisario activities.”“The accusations are false and the [embassy] confirms its commitment to exercise its legal and natural role in consolidating and deepening the good relations between the two brotherly countries, Iran and Algeria,” the statement said. The Algerian foreign ministry has summoned the Moroccan ambassador in the wake of the recent measures.

Berri Says 'Shiite Duo' MPs to 'Defend Coexistence, Fight Corruption'
Naharnet/May 03/18/Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri on Thursday urged a massive turnout in the upcoming parliamentary elections, saying the MPs of his AMAL Movement and its ally Hizbullah will “defend coexistence” and “fight corruption” after being elected to the new parliament. “Be great in your democracy the same as you were great in your resistance,” Berri said in a call to voters three days before the parliamentary polls, the first that Lebanon organizes in nine years. “You are asked to participate heavily in this fateful event and to vote for the Hope and Loyalty lists,” the Speaker added. He said the MPs of the two Shiite parties will express their electorate's aspirations and hopes and will “defend unity, coexistence, the rise of the state of institutions and equal opportunities.”They will also “fight corruption and preserve the army-people-resistance equation of strength,” Berri went on to say.
“They will be lawmakers for the sake of entire Lebanon and they will work on preserving the dignity of the human, liberating the land and defending sovereignty,” the Speaker added.

Hariri Hits Back at Nasrallah over Terror Support Remarks
Naharnet/May 03/18/Prime Minister and al-Mustaqbal Movement leader Saad Hariri on Thursday snapped back at Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, who has accused his movement of supporting terrorist groups.
“Days ago, al-Mustaqbal Movement was accused of backing Daesh (Islamic State group) and the terrorist groups. This is a totally baseless accusation, because we are the ones who rescued the country, offered martyrs and stood in the face of Daesh before anyone else did,” Hariri said during an electoral rally.
“Al-Mustaqbal Movement is the movement of moderation and it has protected the country. Had someone other than al-Mustaqbal Movement and Saad Hariri been in power, the country would have descended into the abyss,” the premier noted.
He added: “Accordingly, Hizbullah has no right to accuse us of funding extremism, seeing as if someone is funding extremism, it would be Hizbullah itself, through its actions and behavior.”Nasrallah had on Tuesday accused Mustaqbal and the Lebanese Forces of “having ties” to the terrorist groups that had been entrenched in the outskirts of some eastern border towns.

Cabinet Hails Lebanese Expat Vote 'Achievement'
Naharnet/May 03/18/The Lebanese government convened on Thursday to discuss several items on the agenda, as the ministers hailed what they described as “achievement” that allowed Lebanese expatriates to cast their votes from abroad in the country’s general elections. The ministers praised the Lebanese expat vote that took place for the first time from abroad on April 27 and 29, as they discussed other items on the agenda, the National News Agency said. They have collectively hailed the “achievement” that paved way for Lebanese expats to practice their constitutional right.
Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq and Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil meanwhile presented a joint report to the Cabinet detailing the voting operation.
As for other issues on the agenda, Minister of Social Affairs Pierre Bou Assi said in a statement he read to reporters after the meeting: “The Cabinet has approved to appoint 14 employees to 14 vacant posts at the Economic and Social Council.”

Mustaqbal-Ahbash Dispute Erupts into Gunfire in Beirut
Naharnet/May 03/18/An elections-related dispute escalated into gunfire Thursday in Beirut's Tariq al-Jedideh area. The National News Agency said the clash between al-Mustaqbal Movement and the Association of Islamic Charitable Projects (al-Ahbash) broke out when an electoral convoy belonging to al-Ahbash was roaming the area's Hamad street. “When the convoy passed by an office belonging to al-Mustaqbal Movement, the clash erupted and escalated into gunfire,” NNA said. “An army patrol immediately arrived on the scene and worked on containing the clash,” the agency added. MTV meanwhile said stones were hurled and knives were used during the clash, adding that several people from both sides were wounded in the incident. The capital Beirut has witnessed several electoral clashes in recent weeks. All clashes pitted supporters of al-Mustaqbal against others loyal to rival electoral lists. Al-Mustaqbal Movement later issued a statement distancing itself from the clash. It said its electoral office in Burj Abi Haidar was attacked after a clash pitting supporters of an al-Ahbash candidate against residents of the Tariq al-Jedideh area. The movement said the clash was sparked by “the behavior of some of those who participated in the rally” of al-Ahbash in Tariq al-Jedideh.A spokesman for al-Ahbash meanwhile confirmed that the Association's office in Qasqas was attacked by stone-hurling Mustaqbal supporters.

Israeli Spy Device Found in Southern Town
Naharnet/May 03/18/An Israeli spy device was found Thursday in a southern Lebanese town, state-run National News Agency reported. “The Lebanese Army found an aerial reconnaissance device belonging to the Israeli enemy in the outskirts of the town of Touline in Marjeyoun district,” NNA said. The device was transported to a military post for inspection, the agency added. Israeli spy devices are frequently discovered in south Lebanon.

Free Rides on May 6, Uber Unveils Election Day Promo Code
Naharnet/May 03/18/Following its social elections day initiative launched few weeks ago, Uber, the leading ride-sharing technology that connects drivers with riders at the push of a button, announced today the related promo code that will allow users to benefit from free rides on Lebanese elections day.
Upon entering the promo code (Sawwet18) on Uber’s mobile app, citizens will avail of free rides around Beirut, Metn, and Baabda on May 6, to get to their polling stations and cast their ballots. Uber’s decision to take part in this important day comes to further anchor the commitment of a company that has always strived to make a positive change in the communities it serves. Through this initiative, Uber aims at contributing in a smoother voting process, limiting traffic jam around the polling stations saving voters the hassle of finding nearby parking lots. The company hopes this will further encourage Lebanese citizens to take part in the first parliamentary elections since 2009 and express their right. It’s not the first time Uber demonstrates the important role of technology in regards to social issues. The company had launched several initiatives in the past, among which the #UberRecycle initiative in response to the garbage crisis erupted in Lebanon in July 2015.Regional General Manager for Uber in the Middle East, Mr. Anthony Khoury considered that “this initiative is an opportunity to emphasize the positive impact of technology on our city. We pride ourselves to be trend-setters in that field, specifically at this crucial elections momentum, by making our platform accessible to all Lebanese” It’s worth mentioning that the promotion will cover the areas of Beirut, Metn (stretching to Mansourieh, Mtayleb, Dbayeh) and Baabda, and will include two free rides up to $7 per ride credit on each.
How does it work?
- Download the Uber app
- Enter the promo code (Sawwet18)
- Request a ride to and from your polling location
- Enjoy your free ride from 7am to 7pm, knowing that each ride cannot exceed the value of $7.

Electoral Supervisory Committee Reminds of ‘Binding’ Pre-Election Silence
Naharnet/May 03/18/Head of the Electoral Supervisory Committee, Judge Nadim Abdul Malak reminded parliamentary hopefuls to observe the period of pre-election silence in accordance with the law ahead of Sunday’s general elections, the National News Agency reported on Thursday.
The campaign silence allows a period for voters to reflect on events before casting their votes. Abdul Malak pointed out to Article 78 of the electoral law which stipulates that “starting 12:00 a.m. on the day before elections, until the closing of ballot box, media outlets are prohibited from broadcasting any declaration or direct electoral promotion, except for sounds and/or images that are difficult to avoid during direct coverage of the polls.”On polling day, media coverage is limited to the transmission of the actual electoral process on the ground.
During election silence, no active campaigning by the candidates is allowed. Often polling is also banned. The silence is generally legally enforced.
Lebanon launches its legislative elections on Sunday in 15 electoral districts.
This time, the country is holding the elections based on a complex proportional representation system replacing a majoritarian winner-takes-all system.

Polling Station Employees Cast Early Vote
Naharnet/May 03/18/Thousands of polling station employees started casting their votes on Thursday in an early election, two days before the country launches its first legislative elections in nine years on Sunday. Polling stations opened at 7:00 a.m. for employees assigned as polling station heads and polling station clerks, said the National News Agency. 14,000 employees are scheduled to vote today, before the polling stations close at 7:00 p.m. Observers from the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections (LADE) were seen standing inside the polling stations in different voting districts.
Governor of the South, Mansour Daou, praised the state’s measures ensuring a calm electoral process, and said: “Sidon Serail is fully prepared for today’s and Sunday’s election,” urging people to “practices their constitutional right."
For his part, North Lebanon Governor Ramzi Nohra said: “The security situation is under control and no one will be allowed to violate the laws in force and undermine security."He explained “the ballot boxes will be transferred to the Banque du Liban under strict security when the voting closes at 7 p.m.”Lebanon will hold its general elections based on a complex proportional representation system replacing a majoritarian winner-takes-all system. Lebanese expats, who cast their votes from abroad for the first time in Lebanese history, have also cast early votes late in April.

Candidacy, conflict and territorial claims: Lebanon’s election posters
India Stoughton/The National/May 03/2018
What Lebanon’s election campaign posters reveal about the country’s complex political system
In the weeks running up to May 6, the date of the first parliamentary elections to be held in Lebanon for nine years, walls, billboards and the sides of buildings all over the country have become foot-soldiers in a silent battle.
Election posters are affixed to private balconies, the walls of derelict buildings, the sides of bridges and the facades of skyscrapers still under construction, some towering up to 10 storeys high. Posters are prominently displayed at major urban intersections and along the coastal highway, where people from across the country are likely to see them, reflecting the fact that Lebanese citizens are required to vote in the district where their birth was registered, rather than where they live. “If you’re a candidate you put your posters where you are running but also where your voters are potentially living,” says Ammar Abboud, a political scientist and co-founder of the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections.
The Cain and Abel law
Although at first sight most of these posters are unremarkable – and occasionally unintentionally comic – collectively they provide insight into the nuances of an election complicated by a convoluted new law and characterised by unlikely alliances between parties and candidates determined to exploit the system.
Most election posters feature a headshot of the candidate standing for office, accompanied by a name, a small logo denoting the candidate’s party or list, and occasionally a simple campaign slogan. Little attention has seemingly been given to design or originality, beyond the colour palettes that candidates use to associate themselves with a particular party.
The prevalence of individual posters is a departure and reflects the new electoral law. Combining proportional representation with Lebanon’s complex religious system, whereby a certain number of seats are allotted to each sect, the new law means that voters will be asked to vote not only for a list consisting of an alliance of candidates from different sects and parties, but also to express a preference for one candidate on their chosen list.
In Arabic, voters have started referring to the new system as “the Cain and Abel law”, says Lokman Slim, an activist, political commentator and the founder of Hayya Bina, an organisation set up during the 2005 elections to promote citizen involvement in politics. This reference to the biblical fratricide reflects the way the preferential vote pits candidates on the same list against each other. The prevalence of individual posters is “a literal reflection of the electoral law with its preferential vote”, he says.
Some of the independent candidates who have banded together to form lists in an alliance known as the Tahalouf Watani (National Coalition), however, are bucking the trend.
Many of them are part of a civil society movement that grew out of the anti-government protests held amid the rubbish crisis in 2015 and have based their platforms on a series of liberal reforms, including human rights and environmental improvements.
Muscle flexing
In the Beirut I district, comprising the Christian east of the city, the Kollouna Watani (We Are All National) list, made up of candidates linked to civil society groups including You Stink, LiBaladi and the Sabaa Party, is one of the few to have produced collective posters, capturing the candidates standing shoulder to shoulder in a show of solidarity. Some of the candidates, such as television presenter Paula Yacoubian, running with the Sabaa Party, have also produced individual posters targeting the preferential vote. By contrast, politicians associated with entrenched political dynasties are focusing on self-promotion. In the Beirut neighbourhood of Tariq Al Jadideh, a Sunni stronghold in the Beirut II district, portraits of Prime Minister and leader of the Future Movement Saad Hariri stare down from buildings and bridges. On the motorway heading south, posters of Parliament Speaker and head of the Amal Movement Nabih Berri are displayed near election posters for Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose troops have been fighting alongside Hezbollah in Syria.
Posters aggrandising leaders fall into a long tradition stretching back before war time, according to academic Zeina Maasri. In her 2009 book, Off the Wall: Political Posters of the Lebanese Civil War, she tells how the Arab tradition of the za’im, or leader, is part of a historical model whereby political allegiance is linked more to individuals than to organisations.
This is evidenced in the election posters that play on family dynasties. Many of Saad Hariri’s posters include a portrait of his father, former prime minister Rafik Hariri, who was assassinated in 2005. A controversial banner in Beirut’s Ashrafieh district, meanwhile, features a portrait of Bashir Gemayel, a Lebanese Forces leader during the civil war who was assassinated in 1982, alongside his famous speech calling for Syrians to leave Lebanon. Originally made in reference to the Syrian occupation, it resonates very differently amid the current refugee crisis. Portraits of his son, Nadim Gemayel, the incumbent Kataeb party candidate in Beirut, cover walls all over the east of the city. Maasri describes political posters as “symbolic sites of struggle” – a tool used to legitimise political messages and lay claim to certain neighbourhoods. “It is a form of marking territory spatially – on the street, in public spaces,” she says.
Slim agrees that election posters are a way of asserting power and dominance. “When you have these huge posters in large quantities, it’s a kind of muscle flexing, more than anything else,” he says, adding that they tend to be more prominent in districts where the outcome is uncertain. “It’s where the demarcation lines are deep or when you need to encourage voters to go to the polling station.”
In the run-up to Sunday’s election, campaign posters have been torn down and burned and have even led to physical confrontation.
Popularity contest or battle of ideologies?
On April 22, Ali Al Amin, an independent Shiite candidate running against a Hezbollah-Amal alliance in south Lebanon was putting up campaign posters in his village when he was beaten by a group of Hezbollah supporters and ended up in hospital. Later the same day, supporters of rival Druze parties were involved in an altercation over electoral posters in Choueifat, south of Beirut. Machine-guns were fired into the air before the army arrived to break up the confrontation.
Why Hezbollah will be paying close attention to Sunday's elections in Lebanon
“The culture of posters by political parties – especially armed political parties – doesn’t permit any alternative or any dissent being expressed. Any poster that is not theirs is an affront to them,” says Abboud. “In other areas, where the dominant faction is not that dominant, there is more of a balance. You tend to see various posters, which could sit side by side.”
The incidences of violence reveal the tensions bubbling beneath what – on the surface – is an unusually bland visual campaign, more of a popularity contest than a battle of ideologies. In the absence of the clear political divide that characterised the last two elections, parties have formed diverse alliances of convenience in different districts, making it difficult for candidates to criticise other parties or to express strong opinions about the election’s contentious issues.
A new discourse
“I made an effort to look [to see] if any of the candidates, be they individuals or parties, talked about the refugee issue. This is totally absent,” says Slim. “Regarding the arms of Hezbollah, it’s almost absent… People are less interested in big issues and much more interested in day-to-day issues.
“I would say that the political discourse is becoming more and more casual. It’s departing from the formal language… to messages which are much easier to be seized by the public, and sometimes they try to be funny… They are no longer talking about blood, about truth, about justice – all these concepts which were used in 2005 and a bit in 2009.”
At the same time, the growth of the civil society movement has influenced the campaigns of entrenched politicians and parties. “Everyone is taking ownership of the slogans that the so-called civil society promoted in 2015,” says Slim. “For example, the main slogan, ‘We need to fight corruption’. This wasn’t part of the Lebanese discourse… What’s interesting is that politicians are appropriating the slogans of those who should be their foes, and I think this is the evil genius of the Lebanese politicians, that they can turn things upside down.”
The gender imbalance in visual campaigning
An analysis of election posters is also revealing when it comes to the role of female candidates. A total of 86 women are standing for election this year, alongside 511 men, a significant increase on the 2009 elections, which featured 12 female candidates.
The dominance in the number and scale of election posters featuring male candidates, however, supports Abboud’s theory that many established parties are fielding female candidates as a token gesture, while intending male candidates to win the available seats.
“Unfortunately, the increase in women’s candidacy is not an indication of the decrease in macho behaviour in the political system,” he says. “Actually, it’s an indication of a big increase in the macho culture, because in their minds – ‘We’ll put women in the list because they are less of a competitor pertaining to the preferential vote than men… It’s good for a poster and she doesn’t represent a danger to me later on when we are competing for the preferential vote.’”
The imbalance in visual campaigning may also be symptomatic of the disparity in funding available to established male politicians – many of whom are millionaires in their own right – and first-time female and independent candidates, some of whom have resorted to crowdfunding to raise money for poster campaigns and work on social media outreach. “The new law does not place adequate limits on campaign spending, skewing the balance in favour of traditional political parties and leaders with greater resources,” says Mona Khneisser, a researcher at the American University of Beirut’s Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs.
Slim estimates that the total amount spent on campaigning exceeds $700 million [Dh2.6bn]. Wandering the streets of Beirut, where enormous posters bearing the smiling faces of candidates hang from walls riddled with bullet holes on buildings that have stood derelict since the civil war, the irony of this kind of expenditure in a country with struggling infrastructure and debts of almost $80 billion is hard to miss. No wonder so many of these slogans on billboards around the city evoke the same keywords: loyalty, corruption, change.
Lebanon election 2018: A bloody history that encapsulates the country's woes
Arthur MacMillan/The National/May 03/18
When the dealmaking begins after Sunday’s elections, one party will remain frozen out of government
For a country whose modern political history is written in blood, perhaps no family has suffered as much tragedy as the Gemayels.
The name is synonymous with Lebanon’s Maronite Christian community and the civil war that tore the nation apart between 1975 and 1990. The patriarch, Pierre Gemayel, an opponent of France’s mandate over Lebanon, founded the Phalange political party in 1936, advocating for an independent state, free from foreign control. He did so in reaction to the formation of the Syrian Socialist Party, created years earlier to try and influence Lebanon towards the interests of Damascus.
Since independence in 1943, he has been regarded by all Lebanese as a founder of the republic.
His son, Bachir Gemayel, commander of the Christian militias, was elected president in August 1982, only to be assassinated nine days before his official inauguration. The bomb in Beirut that killed him also left 25 others dead. The killers, Syrian nationalists, were sentenced to death in absentia only last year by a court in Beirut. The judge said they had committed an act of terrorism that derailed efforts to stabilise the country which were coming to fruition at the time, under the president elect. An assassination attempt two years earlier had failed; he was not in his car when a bomb targeted it. But his 18-month-old daughter, Maya, was, and died.
Today in Achrafieh, the Beirut neighbourhood in which his father was killed, Nadim Gemayel’s political office is emblazoned with memorials. One large wartime photograph carries the caption, "Le President Martyr Bachir Gemayel 1947-1982."
It is difficult to avoid wondering why politics would appeal, after so much loss, and with Lebanon again in the maelstrom of a fight among outside powers for control.
“Passion,” comes the reply, when asked why on Sunday he will try to return to parliament in the country’s first legislative elections since he took office in 2009, then aged 26. “At stake are the same things we stood for nine years ago: independence, freedom and sovereignty.”
Nadim was only four months old when his father was killed. He entered parliament three years after another family figure – Pierre Amine Gemayel, an MP widely expected to become president – was assassinated. Lebanon’s constitution says the head of state must be a Maronite. Nadim’s cousin, Sami Gemayel, leads the Kataeb Party, a successor to the Phalange, that they both represent. But their influence has diminished in recent years, with the rise of Hezbollah, the Shiite militia and political party currently dominant in Lebanese politics.
Some prominent Maronites have struck deals with Hezbollah – the current president Michel Aoun, founder of the Free Patriotic Movement took office in 2016 among them.
That party is now led by Mr Aoun’s son-in-law, Gebran Bassil, the foreign minister who has twice failed to become an MP but is considered likely to be elected on Sunday.
In contrast, the Gemayels and their supporters stand outside the increasingly fractured inner circle that rules Lebanon. They say there will be no compromise, as long as Hezbollah retains its arsenal of weapons outside the authority of the Lebanese state.
“There is a group that is completely affiliated to Iran, to Syria, that includes Hezbollah, Amal, Aoun and all his team,” Mr Gemayel said, referring to the present government.
“These are the people who want the influence of Iran and Syria to control Lebanon, under their vision of dictatorship. This is the main problem.”
A new electoral law has made it difficult to predict the outcome of Sunday’s polls. But it is accepted that no party will win outright, meaning renewed manoeuvring between Hezbollah, Amal, and the Free Patriotic Movement, a grouping collectively known as March 8. A list of independents are also expected to back Hezbollah, which could push them collectively toward 65 seats, and a parliamentary majority.
As such, the Kataeb Party finds itself isolated. Yet, to Gemayel, this is for the right reasons.
“Unfortunately, they have the power of arms, of assassination, and throughout the years have killed all the people and all the symbols of freedom, such as Pierre Gemayel, Gebran Tueni, like Mohamad Chatah,” he said of March 8.
“They killed them, one after one. So this created a kind of fear, throughout the entire sovereign entities. So some of them surrendered. Some of them changed and at the end it has weakened our state.”
Lebanon is never far from political crisis. In November last year the Prime Minister Saad Hariri, a Sunni Muslim, vanished from Beirut only to turn up in Riyadh and announce his resignation, following condemnation from Saudi Arabia, his longtime backers, of Hezbollah.
He later returned to Beirut and rescinded it.
Since December 2016, Mr Hariri, like Mr Aoun, has also had a partnership with Hezbollah in government. But the prime minister’s rival election grouping, known as March 14, is expected to lose seats to Amal, potentially bringing uncertainty about whether their political understanding can hold. The ramifications of the new electoral law mean that every political group’s numbers may change but the powerbrokers will not.
Such trading over seats, said Mr Gemayel, is likely to play into Hezbollah’s hands.
“We stand against the entire hegemony of Hezbollah, which has taken the presidency and has imposed Michel Aoun after two years of vacancy. Hezbollah has taken the government and imposed itself, controlling all the important institutions and ministries, including defence and justice,” he said.
“Now remains the third legal entity: the parliament. With this law, Hezbollah will obtain 45 per cent, and along with Aoun and their other stakeholders, they’ll have 55 per cent, and full control of the state entities. This, for me, is unacceptable.”
Pressed on how there can be any change to the current situation in Lebanon, Mr Gemayel was hesitant. But the mood among many Lebanese is that it is not a matter of if, but when, another war may affect the country. It is the inability of the Lebanese citizenry to dictate their own future, he says, that has bred the apathy that is expected to see less than half the electorate vote this weekend.
Asked about whether a stronger stance from Saudi Arabia against Hezbollah, and an offer of greater international engagement, would change the current situation, he said he and his colleagues, estimated to take only three to five seats on Sunday, would work with anyone to achieve goals of security, economic development but, above all, sovereignty, whenever the time comes. “The Christian DNA is based on sovereignty. After 2005, all these martyrs who have been assassinated, they stood against tyranny. I don’t know what can break the current equilibrium, but we cannot have a strong state while a Kalashnikov is pointed at our head.”

Outsiders face uphill battle in Lebanese elections

Gulf News/May 03/18
Political outsiders form ‘We Are All Patriots’ coalition hoping to provide an alternative to country’s traditional powers
Beirut: With campaigning in full swing for Lebanon’s first national election in nine years, parliament candidate Laury Haytayan was trying to rope in passers-by with her message: She and other political outsiders are running in a new coalition that aims to be an alternative to the country’s traditional powers.
Some were clearly reluctant to engage, but that didn’t stop the irrepressible Haytayan.
“Hello! Are you registered to vote in Beirut?” she asked as she canvassed the capital’s Ashrafieh neighbourhood one recent afternoon.
“That’s no problem,” said Haytayan, as she handed out brochures about the coalition, Kulna Watani — ‘We Are All Patriots,’ in Arabic. Explaining that it was a break with the politicians who have run Lebanon for decades since the 1975-1990 civil war, she urged them to vote for it in their own districts.
Watani is hoping to ride a wave of discontent over the country’s failing public services, its daily water and power cuts, and its pervasive corruption to create an independent bloc in parliament.
But short on money and campaigning to an electorate doubtful that change is even possible, it is unlikely to win more than a handful of seats in Sunday’s parliamentary election.
“We are going to the streets and meeting lots of people who say to us, ‘We can’t change anything in Lebanon,’” the 42-year-old Haytayan said. “Their experience is right because every time they vote for the same individuals and same people and same political class, because there was no alternative. But today, we created an alternative.”
Their experience is right because every time they vote for the same individuals and same people and same political class, because there was no alternative.”
Pierre Choueiry, 27, said he agreed it was time for a change, but wouldn’t promise his vote. He said he thought the Lebanese Forces, a former Christian militia during the civil war, was needed to protect Lebanon’s Christian population.
“We hope one day we can have someone like you with us,” he told Haytayan.
Philippe Aoun, who greeted Haytayan with a smile at his hair salon, said he was voting for the party of incumbent President Michel Aoun. He said he was confident Aoun, who has been in office for 18 months, would steer the country out of its many crises. The two are not related.66
candidates have been fielded by Kulna Watani in elections
Fielding 66 candidates in nine of Lebanon’s 15 election districts, Watani is the largest coalition of political outsiders and independents to run for office since the civil war.
Many are civic activists who rose to prominence as organisers of protests over a 2015 trash collection crisis that left garbage in the streets for months and laid bare the extent of the public sector mismanagement plaguing Lebanon. And many were active well before that, struggling to chip away at the complex political patronage networks that have kept the country’s civil war-era warlords and their sons in power since 1990.
Other candidates are businessmen, engineers and former journalists like Haytayan, who used to be a reporter on a 1990s TV political news programme that has since gone off air. Today she is a manager at the Natural Resource Governance Institute, an international non-profit group.
Haytayan has made a run for parliament twice before, in 2013 and 2014, but those votes were cancelled by politicians who extended their own mandates, citing security concerns caused by the war in neighbouring Syria.128
are the total seats in Lebanon’s national assembly
Despite a climate ripe for change in this election, polls indicate the Watani coalition’s only hope for victory is in a small Beirut district represented by eight seats in the 128-seat national assembly, according to political analyst Abdo Sa’ad, the director of the Beirut Centre for Research and Information.
Aware of the challenges, Haytayan and other Watani candidates have adjusted their expectations.
“There will be pressure on the incumbents for them to change their ways,” even if few political outsiders get in, Haytayan said.
Sunday’s election is the first since the reorganisation of Lebanon’s electoral map, which consolidated 23 districts into 15 and awarded seats by the share of the vote received, instead of on the principle of winner-takes-all.
Politicians sold it as a more flexible map. But the biggest winner appears to be Hezbollah and its allies, who look set to scoop up some of the seats lost by Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri’s coalition.
For outsiders and independents to win big, there would have to be a single electoral district for the whole country, where their influence can’t be diluted through gerrymandering, said Beirut Centre for Research and Information’s Sa’ad.
Facing political dynasties that have raised fortunes through political deal-making, the Watani coalition and another list of political outsiders, Sawt Al Nas, or ‘The Voice of the People,’ are finding themselves hopelessly outspent in the contest for airtime and votes.
The main news channels, which once showered the 2015 garbage pick-up demonstrations with favourable coverage, are now charging candidates tens of thousands of dollars for interviews.
Just registering a candidacy costs $5,300 in fees.
And many voters are expecting to be compensated for their vote by establishment candidates promising $200 and sometimes many times more, Sa’ad said.
“In Lebanon, we have nothing called fair and equal. Our elections are for the rich,” said Naamet Badr Al Deen, 37, a candidate for Sawt Al Nas and a former leader of the 2015 demonstrations over the trash crisis.
Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 03-04/18
King Salman, Moroccan king, discuss coordinating efforts to contain Iran threats
Arab News/May 03/18
Morocco on Tuesday announced that it was severing ties with Iran after finding that Tehran was arming and training Polisario separatists via Lebanon's Hezbollah militia
In addition to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have also expressed their support to Morocco
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia's King Salman and Morocco's King Mohammed VI spoke on Thursday to emphasize the need to unite their positions and coordinate efforts to counter the aggressive tendency of the Iranian regime.King Salman called the Moroccan king and confirmed that Saudi Arabia stands with Morocco "against what could jeopardize its security, stability and territorial integrity," the Saudi Press Agency said. "The two leaders underscored the importance of unifying their positions and coordinating the efforts to confront the aggressive tendency of the Iranian regime, its intervention as well as that of its agents in the affairs of Arab countries and its policies aiming at destabilizing the security of the Arab world," said the report. Morocco on Tuesday said it was cutting ties with Iran over Tehran’s support for the Polisario front, which is seeking independence from Rabat. Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita said Morocco will close its embassy in Tehran and will expel the Iranian ambassador in Rabat after finding out that the Iran-backed Lebanese militia Hezbollah have been training Polisario militants. Morrocco also accused the Algerian government of being complicit with Polisario militants and Hezbollah. Bourita had said that "a first shipment of weapons was recently" sent to the Polisario Front via an "element" at the Iranian embassy in Algiers. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain have expressed their support to Morocco's move to sever its ties with Iran, whom the Gulf allies have accused of causing chaos and instability in the region by arming militias such as the Houthis in Yemen and Shiite militias in Iraq. Iranian agents have also been accused of inciting Shiites in Kuwait and Bahrain into committing acts of sedition.

Iran Says Will Quit Nuclear Deal if U.S. Walks Away
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 03/18/Iran warned on Thursday that it will quit a landmark nuclear deal with world powers if President Donald Trump pulls the United States out of the accord. "If the United States withdraws from the nuclear deal, then we will not stay in it," Ali Akbar Velayati, foreign policy adviser to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was quoted as saying by the state television website. Trump has threatened to abandon the agreement when it comes up for renewal on May 12, calling it "insane." Iran has always denied it sought a nuclear weapon, insisting its atomic program was for civilian purposes. Velayati warned against any move to try to renegotiate the deal signed by Iran and six world powers in 2015 curbing Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. "Iran accepts the nuclear agreement as it has been prepared and will not accept adding or removing anything," he said. "Even if countries allied with the United States, especially the Europeans, seek to revise the nuclear agreement... one of our options will be withdrawing from the accord," Velayati added. Britain, France and Germany -- the three European countries that signed the deal -- have repeatedly tried to persuade Trump not to abandon it. French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday reiterated his commitment to the accord but admitted that it needed strengthening. "I don't know what the U.S. president will decide on May 12," Macron said during a visit to Sydney. "I just want to say whatever the decision will be, we will have to prepare such a broader negotiation and a broader deal, because I think nobody wants a war in the region, and nobody wants an escalation in terms of tension in the region," he said.

Hundreds Prepare to Exit Rebel Areas near Damascus, Says State Media
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 03/18/Hundreds of rebels and civilians prepared to leave Thursday from three districts south of Syria's capital, state media said, under a negotiated withdrawal to secure the last opposition holdouts of Damascus. The departures come two days after a similar deal was reached to evacuate fighters once linked to Al-Qaeda from Yarmuk, a Palestinian camp in southern Damascus. Syrian state news agency SANA reported on Thursday that empty buses were entering the towns of Babila, Yalda and Beit Saham, to be filled up with rebels and civilians who would head to opposition-held parts of northern Syria. "Around 5,000 terrorists and their families are expected to leave, fulfilling an agreement reached on Sunday between the Syrian government and terrorist groups," the agency said. It did not specify which rebel factions were among the evacuees, but Syria's government refers to all armed opponents as "terrorists." The deal was reached after "negotiations between figures from the three towns on one side, and Russia and the regime on the other," according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor. Those rebels who wanted to leave for the north could do so, and those who wanted to stay would abandon their weapons and have their status with the Syrian state regularised. Beit Saham, Yalda, and Babila had for several years fallen under a "reconciliation" agreement with the Syrian state, meaning they remained in rebel hands but a local ceasefire was enforced. But after capturing the Eastern Ghouta rebel stronghold outside Damascus last month, regime forces have sought to secure the entirety of the capital and its surroundings with a blend of military operations and negotiated withdrawals. They first seized control of other "reconciled" towns east of Damascus, then began a military operation against Yarmuk. The camp was mostly held by the Islamic State group but also had a small presence of fighters from Al-Qaeda's former Syrian affiliate, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). Under military pressure, HTS fighters agreed to quit Yarmuk with their families earlier this week. HTS said late Wednesday the deal saw 141 of its fighters reach northern Syria. In exchange, it said, 18 wounded people and their relatives were allowed to leave a pair of regime-controlled villages besieged by hardline rebels in northwest Syria. That deal is still expected to see some 5,000 people leave the two villages, Fuaa and Kafraya, according to SANA.

Merkel Calls for Discussion on Iran Missile Program, Regional Role
London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 3 May, 2018/German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday that Iran’s missile program and its political influence in Syria needed to be discussed, adding that this was a widespread position in the European Union. Speaking to reporters in Berlin, Merkel said it was important for Israel to quickly make the information it has on Iran available to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Reuters quoted her as saying that the nuclear deal with Iran should not be canceled but its negotiating framework needed to be broadened. “We will continue with our argumentation, namely keeping the JCPOA (nuclear deal) plus expansion of the negotiating framework,” Merkel said. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave details on Monday of what he said was evidence of a secret Iranian nuclear weapons program, in a bid to encourage the United States to pull out this month of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. US President Donald Trump is reportedly poised to scrap the agreement ahead of a May 12 deadline for Washington to renew its support for the deal. European leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron, have been pressing Trump to strengthen rather than abandon the three-year-old deal that took more than a decade to reach. "I don't know what the US president will decide on May 12," Macron said Wednesday during a two-day visit to Sydney, speaking alongside Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Tehran Mobilizes Syria’s Kurds against International Coalition
London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 3 May, 2018/Damascus and Tehran have begun mobilizing tribes and Kurds against the US-led international coalition in northeast Syria, in parallel with letters sent by Damascus to the Security Council against the alliance. Russia Today quoted on Wednesday Iran’s Adviser for International Affairs Ali Akbar Velayati as saying that the Syrian Kurdish tribes were fighting the United States and would expel it from the area east of the Euphrates in northeast Syria. “Tehran is confident that if the Americans did not come to their senses and leave Syria, the Kurds will expel them,” he added.
Velayati’s comments came during his talks with representatives of Syrian tribal sheikhs in Tehran. This coincided with a meeting between Chairman of the Committee on National Security and Foreign Policy in the Iranian Shura Council Alaeddin Boroujerdi and the head of the Syrian regime Bashar Assad. “We will respond (to Israel) in the right place and time,” Boroujerdi said at a press conference at the end of a visit to Damascus. “Iran’s military presence in Syria was based on a request from the Syrian government,” he stressed. On Sunday night, military bases were attacked in the cities of Hama and Aleppo, regime media said, without specifying the source of the missiles. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that Israel could be responsible for the strikes, pointing out that weapons were stored at the targeted bases that were manned by Iranian forces. The strikes killed 26 pro-Damascus gunmen, most of them Iranians, according to the Observatory. Meanwhile, regime media also reported that the Foreign Ministry addressed a letter to the UN Secretary-General and the President of the Security Council, saying the US-led international coalition “has committed a new massacre against innocent Syrians.”“We call for ending the illegal presence of the US and other foreign forces on Syrian territory and preventing the United States from implementing its plans aimed at dividing Syria,” the ministry said.

Exclusive: Iran Celebrates World Press Freedom Day with Regime-Imposed Shackles

Tehran - Firaz Safai/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 3 May, 2018/Guarding press freedoms, freeing detained journalists and establishing a journalists union are promises Iranian President Hassan Rouhani made when running for a second term in office. On World Press Freedom Day, progress on those promises is harder to spot than ever. A long list of journalists and freedom speech activists can rule out any effort exerted by Rouhani being fruitful. Human rights activists shed light on a government crackdown on small town journalists that go undocumented for the fact that they occur in rural areas. Only months ago, journalists became the prime target in raids taking place after conservatives took control over the board of founders and the board of trustees of the Islamic Azad University. Ali Akbar Velayati, a top adviser to Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on international affairs, now heads the university’s board. The new board head began a far-reaching screening of university-affiliated media outlets. Velayati’s campaign so far saw the firing of over 30 journalists because of political alignments and intellectual differences with the ultra-conservative regime led by Khamenei. In contrast, journalists and the media industry cling tightly to their profession despite facing security threats. Perhaps over half of media workers don't have contracts or insurance, but are still devoted to the practice. For this, journalists are fighting to reopen the national union for journalists, a body that defends rights and provides health insurance and pensions for press workers. Rouhani had pledged five years ago to restore the Association of Iranian Journalists, but no license has been issued so far to re-establish the body. The organization was created in 1997 at the onset of the presidency of reformist Mohammad Khatami. With the inauguration of the presidency of ultra-hardline conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the association faced systematic harassment from authorities, which culminated in its shutdown in 2009. The media in Iran today is at a crossway, either to be part of the pro-regime propaganda “machine” that receives authority validation and financial support, like dozens of newspapers and news agencies linked to the Revolutionary Guards, or possibly face criminal charges in their pursuit of truth.

Birds’ Bring Down Russian Fighter Jet Off Syria, 2 Dead
Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 3 May, 2018/Russia's Defense Ministry said Thursday that one of its warplanes, an advanced multi-role fighter jet, has crashed in the Mediterranean Sea off Syria and that both pilots aboard were killed. State news agency Tass cited the ministry as saying the Su-30 crashed on Thursday morning while climbing after takeoff from the Russian airbase at Hmeimim in Syria’s Latakia Province. The ministry said the plane did not come under fire and that preliminary information indicates the crash could have been caused by a bird being sucked into one of the plane's engines. “According to preliminary information, the reason for the aviation disaster could have been birds getting into the engine," it said. The most recent acknowledged Russian military loss came when a transport plane crashed on landing at the Hmeimim airbase in March, killing all 39 people on board.

Bosnia Refuses to Extradite a Person 'Involved' in Assassination of Hamas Official
Tunisia - Al Munji Saidani/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 3 May, 2018/The Bosnian authorities have refused to extradite a person suspected of involvement in the assassination of Tunisian national Mohamed Zaouari, a member of the Palestinian Hamas Movement. Zaouari, a 49-year-old engineer and Tunisian citizen, was murdered at the wheel of his car outside his house in Tunisia’s second city, Sfax, in December 2016. Tunisia’s Prosecution Spokesman Sofiene Al-Sliti said on Wednesday that one of the two Bosnian suspects was arrested in Croatia, adding that the two people who carried out the assassination were identified -- both were of Bosnian nationality. Al-Sliti noted that the Tunisian judiciary has sent international letters rogatory to seven countries in coordination with the Interpol, namely Turkey, Egypt, Cuba, Croatia, Lebanon, Bosnia and Sweden. In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, Al-Sliti said that one of the perpetrators of the assassination was arrested on March 13, but the Bosnian state refused to extradite the main suspect, to the Tunisian authorities, and justified its refusal by the fact that its laws prevent the extradition of its nationals to other countries. Zaouari was shot dead on December 15, 2016 in front of his home in the city of Sfax. Security investigations conducted by the Ministry of the Interior revealed that two persons were involved in the assassination. Hamas’ Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades revealed that Zaouari was one of its members and a key component in its weapons development, especially in the area of unmanned drones. The brigade accused the Israeli Mossad service of being behind the assassination.

Kuwaiti Government Stands Still During Vote of No Confidence Session

Kuwait - Mirza al-Khuwaildi/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 3 May, 2018/The Kuwaiti government easily passed Wednesday one of three obstacles during a marathon session to discuss three interrogation requests. While Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber al-Mubarak survived the questioning, both the government and the speaker of the National Assembly seemed satisfied with the outcome of the vote of confidence for Oil and Electricity Minister Bakheet al-Rashidi and Minister of State for Economic Affairs Hind al-Sabeeh on May 10. Following a 24-hour marathon session, which witnessed the discussion of three government-directed interrogations, 10 lawmakers filed a no-confidence motion against Rashidi and Sabeeh. Speaker of the National Assembly Marzouq al-Ghanim said that the two ministers would not resign during next week’s session. Ghanim told reporters the first no-confidence request was submitted by MPs Abdul Wahab al-Babtain and Omar al-Tabtabaei against Rashidi. A no-confidence motion has been filed against the minister and the voting on the motion will take place during Thursday’s session on May 10, Ghanim added. He said that if a request is submitted for the formation of a commission of inquiry in this regard, then the issue will be voted on at the same session. Meanwhile, Rashidi told the press on Wednesday that he will continue working to make oil prices stable. He said he has no intention of resigning before the vote of confidence session. The second request was filed by MP Hamdan Azemi against the Prime Minister, and the government submitted a request for a closed-door session followed by the disciplinary procedures, which were announced at the session and approved by a majority of MPs present. Ghanim said that following the session, no request for non-cooperation was filed against the premier. The third request, however, was submitted by MP Saleh Ashour against Sabeeh. In a related issue, Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah sent a cable to the premier in which he praised his excellent democratic practice and distinguished performance on the discussion sessions during the interrogations. He also praised the MPs for showing the spirit of responsibility and sound parliamentary practice within the framework of their constitutional rights.

Turkey Hands over Baghdadi-Linked ISIS Leader to Iraq
Baghdad - Hamza Mustafa/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 3 May, 2018/A militant commander, held in Baghdad, confessed on Wednesday having been in direct contact with ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. He added that he met Baghdadi in the summer of 2017 for the last time. Iraq’s judiciary announced that the Central Criminal Court of Iraq, or CCCI, has upheld confessions given by the detained ISIS official, whose name was not disclosed. He was first arrested in Turkey and then handed over to Iraq following extensive Iraqi intelligence efforts. Judge Abdul Sattar al-Birqdar, in an official statement, said the CCCI has issued the documented confessions of the detained suspect, in which he admits affiliation with ISIS and meeting with Baghdadi. Baghdadi disappeared after ISIS’ defeat in its main Syria and Iraq strongholds. Many reports claimed his death, but none were confirmed. “The arrest was made by virtue of joint efforts of Iraqi intelligence service and the Turkish security services,” Birqdar declared. “The suspect confirmed that the last meeting between them (Baghdadi and the suspect) was in July last year,” Birqdar said. He added that the detainee was a member of the general committee overseeing ISIS affairs after dividing the organization into five “caliphates” in Iraq, the Levant, Africa, Europe and the Gulf. The suspect also claimed responsibility for a terrorist attack which targeted Iraq’s Al Tarmia town, located north of Baghdad, in the hopes of shaking up national security prior to elections scheduled for next week.
Strategic and military experts told Asharq Al-Awsat that what happened in Al Tarmia is a clear breach of security. “There is an imbalance, whether in the nature of investigating intelligence efforts or the speed of response by the security services,” said Dr. Moataz Mohieddin. “There are still sleeper cells in these areas."

Bahrain Questions 37 Security Men Based on Complaints from Prisoners, Detainees
Manama - Obeid Al Suhaimi/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 3 May, 2018/Bahraini concerned authorities have questioned 37 security men after complaints from prisoners and detainees for maltreatment and excessive violence against them. The Special Investigation Unit (SIU), a monitoring body that investigates complaints by prisoners and detainees in security facilities, disclosed legal violations in the case of citizens sentenced to death. This prompted the Bahraini Attorney General to request the Minister of Justice to revoke the death sentence and reopen the case file and trial. The SIU dealt with 43 complaints during the first four months of 2018, involving torture, maltreatment and excessive violence attributed to servicemen affiliated with the public security. Judge and SIU member Mohammed Youssef al-Zebari said that the panel had launched inquiries to investigate all the complaints. Zebari said that the unit heard 50 complainants and 113 witnesses during the same period, questioned 37 accused servicemen from the public security and referred 10 complainants to medical examiner. Five other complainants were referred to the SIU psychiatrist to examine them. The unit inquired into the complaints filed by Hussein Ali Moussa and Mohammed Ramadhan Isa, who were sentenced to death for killing a policeman and attempting to murder others in a terrorist explosion. The unit demanded the retrial of the two convicts, taking into account the new elements in the case. The Public Prosecutor approved the proposal and referred the case to the Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments Minister. The unit has also finished investigating two other separate cases and referred two servicemen affiliated with the public security to the relevant criminal court. The lower criminal court has also acquitted a suspect accused of assaulting a complainant during his arrest. It has also convicted 10 out of 13 public security affiliates and sentenced them to six months in jail. The panel has also investigated complainant filed by tenants at a rehabilitation center, who claimed that policemen assaulted them physically. Punitive disciplinary measures were also taken against three people accused of involvement in two separate cases. The unit followed up the cases, which were referred to the military courts at the Ministry of Interior.
Russian Fighter Jet Crashes Off Syrian Coast; Both Pilots Killed
The Associated Press and Jack Khoury/Haaretz/May 03/2018/Putin is a main ally of Assad and has bases in the coastal areas of Syria. Russia's Defense Ministry said one of its fighter jets crashed off the coast of Syria Thursday morning and that both pilots aboard were killed.
State news agency Tass cited the ministry as saying the Su-30 crashed while climbing after takeoff from the Russian air base at Hemeimeem in Syria. The ministry said the plane did not come under fire and that preliminary information indicates the crash could have been caused by a bird being sucked into one of the plane's engines. Russian President Vladimir Putin is a main ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad and has bases in the coastal areas of Syria, a stronghold of Assad. According to reports in the Russian media last week, the Kremlin is planning to give Syria its advanced S-300 air defense system. The S-300 has become almost a byword over the last decade for a strategic advantage, also sought by Iran to counter Israel’s dominance in the air. For years, Israel has lobbied the Kremlin not to supply the system to the Syrian regime. In an interview last week, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman sent a message to the Kremlin: “One thing should be clear – If someone fires on our planes, we will destroy them.”
*The Associated Press

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 03-04/18
What Did The Mossad Actually Get From Iran
بالحقيقة ماذا تمكن الموساد من احضاره من إيران
By: Yonah Jeremy Bob/Jerusalem Post/May 03/18
What was actually presented, and second, how does it matter or not matter?
Everyone has an opinion about the importance or irrelevance of the secret nuclear documents that the Mossad appropriated from Iran, but does anyone have a clue as to what they are talking about? Do people know what it was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu actually presented in his PowerPoint presentation, what was really old news and what was clearly new? Let’s break it down. First, what was actually presented, and second, how does it matter or not matter? Based on a careful analysis of the slides and a comparison to past IAEA reports, and without putting down the Mossad’s extraordinary spy-craft achievement, the majority of the Mossad Iran documents presented were from the period 1999-2003 – meaning not new.
The Amad program and Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh emphasized by Netanyahu in slide 19 and other slides, appear in paragraphs 22-23 of the IAEA’s December 2015 report summarizing Iran’s past nuclear activities.
Many of the other elements presented by Netanyahu could also be found in the same IAEA report. Slide 24 about developing nuclear cores can be found in paragraphs 33-35 of the report.
In Slide 25, when the prime minister explains that Iran was designing a multipoint initiation (MPI) system – a system for multiple detonations of a warhead – he is echoing paragraphs 41-46 of the report.
Likewise, Netanyahu rattled off a list of specific claims Iran made to the IAEA that the new documents disproved.
Slide 37 showed the documents contradicted Iranian claims that they had not done work conducted with MPI technology in making calculations related to the hemisphere and geometry. But the IAEA had figured that out on its own in paragraph 41.
The same is true about Slide 39 about hydronamic testing – testing the impact of the compressive shock on a simulated core of a nuclear explosive device – the IAEA said it recognized Iran had put obstacles in its way to understanding its activities back in paragraphs 48-57.
Slide 23 in which the prime minister describes Iran’s development of a nuclear weapons design, specifically implosion simulations, can be found in paragraphs 58-62 of the report.
An impressive breakdowis and others are citing as old news where the new twists could be quite important.
For example, Lewis is correct that an and comparison between Netanyahu’s speech and past reports was done by top nuclear expert Jeffrey Lewis from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies.
Some of the comparison certainly dents the shine in part of Netanyahu’s presentation.
BUT THERE ARE items that Lewnyone who read the IAEA report already knew from paragraph 66 that Iran had performed “preparatory experimentation relevant to testing a nuclear explosive device.” From this perspective, it might seem that Netanyahu’s announcement that the treasure trove of secret Iran nuclear documents shows five sites where Iran was considering testing a nuclear device was also old news. But that misses the point.
Knowing that Iran was looking into nuclear test sites versus knowing the exact locations of the five sites – two in the Semnan Region in the northern center of the country and three in the Lot Desert in country’s central east – are night and day different. Also, now Western intelligence agencies can invest more in following suspicious developments at these sites. This was new information.
Further, the prime minister’s presentation gave the specific number of five warheads of 10 kilotons each as the Iranian goal. There is nothing small about this information.
Experts have long debated whether Iran was looking to make one dirty bomb, a full mature nuclear arsenal or something in between. This information indicates that Iran’s nuclear weapons goals over the years, while dangerous, were also modest – which is valuable to know for either diplomacy or any strike on those capabilities.
In contrast, there are wide-ranging informed estimates about how many nuclear weapons North Korea has and may want, but no one has a real clue.
There is another potentially important piece of information in Netanyahu’s presentation.
Paragraphs 81 and 85 of the IAEA report contend that Iran continued aspects of its nuclear weapons program between 2005 and 2009, but that these aspects were “not a coordinated effort” like during the 1999-2003 period. They also contend that there is no information about new Iranian nuclear activities after 2009.
First, this IAEA determination is based on a limited view. Iranian ballistic missile testing, which has continued after the 2015 nuclear deal since it was left out of the agreement, can help Iran with the weaponization and delivery of enriched uranium, but is not being looked at by the IAEA.
But beyond that, Netanyahu and an anonymous Israeli intelligence official have added into the mix that the Mossad started following where Iran was hiding the documents, which prove it lied about not pursuing nuclear weapons, in February 2016.
Furthermore, they have said that the documents were moved and concealed at the Shirobad district warehouse in southern Tehran in 2017.
No Israeli government official will explain why the files were moved specifically then, but Netanyahu has proved that the Iranians concealed the documents in multiple locations after they were supposed to have come clean in 2015, and moved the files in 2017 to avoid detection.
None of this proves new violations of the 2015 deal, but this level of organization undermines the idea that Iran’s nuclear efforts after 2003 were not coordinated from the top.
Toward the end of the period covered by the nuclear deal, key restrictions would expire if the IAEA formally reaches a “broader conclusion” that Tehran’s nuclear program is entirely peaceful.
The evidence presented by Netanyahu could impact this broader conclusion.
Also, it can indirectly impact whether the US and the EU affirm that the limits on Iran’s nuclear program can be lifted as mandated under the deal’s “sunset provisions,” or whether they must stay in place due to the lying.
Similarly, the prime minister presented a slide about integrating a nuclear warhead to be placed on a Shahab-3 missile.
This is not new and comes up in paragraph 69 of the IAEA report.
But how one looks at that report and whether Iran can even attempt a claim with a straight face that it is continuing to test ballistic missiles with no thought about using them for nuclear weapons, is certainly impacted by the details of Iran’s continued efforts to hide its program.
There are other possible reasons, besides a desire to develop nuclear weapons, why Iran might hide its past activities.
But it is extremely incriminating.
The bottom line is that the lion’s share of what Netanyahu presented could have been gleaned from the IAEA’s 2015 report. But some of the points he added could influence key aspects of the nuclear deal if it continues, and could influence the shape of the debate if the deal is nixed or fixed.
**click on the link below to enter the report page on the Jerusalem Post..You can watch Netanyahu's presentation

Iran's Proxy Wars:  The Four Battlegrounds Iran Uses to Threaten Israel and the Middle East
حروب إيران بالوكالة: الجبهات الأربعة التي تستعملها إيران لتهديد إسرائيل والشرق الأوسط
Haaretz/May 03/2018
One of Donald Trump's main arguments for cancelling the Iran nuclear deal has been Iran's role in devastating conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon
Iran and Saudi Arabia have been locked in a proxy war for almost 40 years, competing for regional supremacy from Iraq to Syria and Lebanon to Yemen.
U.S. President Donald Trump has strongly backed Saudi Arabia in its efforts to counter Iran's influence in the region. On multiple occasions, Trump has cited constraining Iran’s influence in the Middle East as cause for canceling the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which he claims allows Iran to continue to terrorize the region. French President Emmanuel Macron offered a proposal last week at the White House to both save the Iran nuclear deal and address Trump’s issues with the deal. Under Macron’s proposal, the United States and Europe would agree to block any Iranian nuclear activity until 2025 and beyond, address Iran’s ballistic missile program and generate conditions for a political solution to contain Iran in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.
Saudi Arabia and Iran are locked in battle for regional control as the Sunni majority Saudis try to expand influence to match and overtake the Shi'ite majority Iranians. Saudi Arabia has vowed to pursue nuclear weapons in the event the Iranians restart their nuclear program.
Israel and the U.S. fear Iran could fall back on its regional militant allies or proxies to retaliate against alleged air strikes on Iranian targets in Syria, a strategy Iran has used with great success since its ruinous 1980s war with Iraq.
After the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, the U.S. blamed Iran for training Iraqi militants to build so-called explosively formed projectiles, which penetrated armored vehicles to maim and kill soldiers. Tehran denied doing this. Western nations and U.N. experts also say Iran has supplied the Shiite rebels now holding Yemen’s capital with weapons, from small arms to ballistic missiles, something Tehran also denies.
Iran’s greatest proxy achievement is Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group and political organization that pushed occupying Israeli forces out of Lebanon in 2000. Since then, Hezbollah has remained an adversary of Israel and fought one war against it in 2006. Southern Lebanon’s rolling hills bordering Israel remain Hezbollah’s stronghold. Iran could retaliate through Hezbollah, but the group has been battered in the Syrian war. Supporting embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad has seen hundreds of its fighters killed and wounded.
Hezbollah also wants to further integrate into local Lebanese politics as the nation votes on Sunday for a new parliament for the first time in nine years. Launching a new war could endanger its political support base, including possibly among its Shi’ite constituency, which is wary of another ruinous war with Israel.
After the surprise and temporary resignation of Lebanese prime minister Saad al-Hariri in November 2017, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir said Hezbollah had been "calling the shots" in the Hariri government, which included two Hezbollah ministers and was formed last year in a political deal that made Michel Aoun, a Hezbollah ally, head of state. Hezbollah and its allies will struggle to form a government without Hariri or his blessing, leaving Lebanon in a protracted crisis that could eventually stir Sunni-Shi'ite tensions, though there is no sign of this yet as all sides urge calm.
Announcing his resignation, Hariri cited an assassination plot against him and slammed Iran and Hezbollah for sowing strife and trying to "kidnap" Lebanon away from the Arab world. The declaration came as a surprise even to Hariri's aides.
It is not clear what comes next: Saudi-backed efforts to weaken Hezbollah in Lebanon failed badly a decade ago, ending with a bout of Sunni-Shi'ite fighting on the streets of Beirut that only underlined Hezbollah's military dominance.
Iraq is unique in the Middle East as it is both a U.S. ally and an Iranian ally. In Iraq, Tehran-backed militias and Iranian commanders have often seemed as powerful as the U.S.-backed Iraqi military, most recently in an operation to retake Kirkuk from Kurdish forces.
So emboldened was Iran that top Iranian official Ali Akbar Velayati trumpeted his regional alliance's success from Beirut early November 2017, declaring victories in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. His statement to the media after a meeting with Lebanon’s Hariri was seen as a major provocation to regional Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia. Iraq votes in a May 12 election, which could complicate and delay the formation of a government, threaten gains against Islamic State and let Iran meddle further in Iraq's politics.
About 60 percent of Iraqis are 27 or younger and many young people in urban areas say they want a secular government, underscoring the split within the Shi'ite voter base.
Since at least 2012, Iran has provided vital support for Syria's military. Tehran says its goal is battling extremist Sunni militancy. Its critics say it seeks to cement regional power extending through Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.
Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran's elite Quds Force - an overseas arm of the IRGC - has appeared on frontlines across Syria, and coordinated with Moscow over its deployment in Syria in 2015. Iran says its forces are in Syria in an advisory role.
More than 1,000 Iranians have been killed in the war, including senior members of the Guards.
Iran-backed Shi'ite militias have come to Syria from around the region including from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, to fight on the side of government forces. They have often been led in battle by Hezbollah.
Earlier this month, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Saudi Arabia would be prepared to send troops into Syria under the U.S.-led coalition if a decision is taken to widen it.
Asked about Saudi troops on the ground in Syria, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: "We will sit down and talk about... how to best make sure that this is not America alone working on this, it's the Gulf states working alongside us."
Their manpower has helped pro-government forces hold ground in various battles, helping fill gaps in the Syrian army's capacities.
Yemen's armed Iranian-aligned Houthi movement, which took out the Saudi-backed government in Yemen in March of 2015 and now controls northern Yemen, has fired over 100 missiles into Saudi Arabia, the latest salvo killing a man on Saturday in the southern Saudi province of Jizan. Those missiles have targeted the Saudi capital and key oil production facilities near Yemen - as well as Saudi oil tankers.
The United States and the Saudi-led coalition that intervened in Yemen's civil war in 2015 accuse Iran of providing the missiles to its Houthi allies, which Tehran denies.
The war in the Arabian Peninsula's poorest country, which pits a coalition of Sunni Arab states friendly to the West against a Shi'ite armed movement sympathetic to Iran, has unleashed one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.
The Houthis control the north of Yemen, including the capital Sanaa. Saudi Arabia and its allies have been fighting on behalf of an exiled government with a foothold in the south
The Saudi-led coalition has launched thousands of air strikes on Yemen in the past three years, some of which have hit hospitals, schools and markets, killing hundreds of civilians while bringing Riyadh little closer to military victory.
The kingdom has said hundreds of its own soldiers and civilians have been killed in Houthi mortar and short-range missile attacks across their rugged southern border.
The United Nations says 10,000 people have died in the conflict so far, and millions face potential famine and disease because of disruption to food and medical supplies.
Around 22 million civilians, or 75 percent of Yemen's population, require humanitarian aid, according to latest U.N. data. The conflict has caused the worst cholera outbreak in modern history, with over 1 million reported cases.
**Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report

Trump Has All but Decided to Withdraw From Iran Nuclear Deal, Sources Tell Reuters
لم يعد على ترمب سوى أن ينسحب من الإتفاق النووي الإيراني
Haaretz and Reuters/ May 03, 2018
Europeans losing hope for a compromise to keep the deal
Days after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a presentation arguing for the end of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, U.S. President Donald Trump has all but decided to withdraw on May 12, two White House officials and a source familiar with the administration's internal debate told Reuters on Wednesday. Nevertheless, it remains unclear how exactly Trump will do so
There is a chance Trump might choose to keep the United States in the international pact under which Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief, in part because of "alliance maintenance" with France and to save face for French President Emmanuel Macron, who met Trump last week and urged him to stay in, the source said.
A decision by Trump to end U.S. sanctions relief would all but sink the agreement and could trigger a backlash by Iran, which could resume its nuclear arms program or "punish" U.S. allies in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon, diplomats said.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned on Thursday against scrapping an international deal onIran's nuclear program unless there was a good alternative in place
Technically, Trump must decide by May 12 whether to renew "waivers" suspending some of the U.S. sanctions on Iran. One of the White House officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said it was possible Trump will end up with a decision that "is not a full pullout" but was unable to describe what that might look like.
A presentation by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday about what he said was documentary evidence of Tehran's past nuclear arms program could give Trump a fresh argument to withdraw, even though UN inspectors say Iran has complied with the terms of the deal
Iran has denied ever seeking nuclear weapons and accuses its arch-foe Israel of stirring up world suspicions against it.
The pact between Iran and six major powers - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States - was among former U.S. President Barack Obama's signature foreign policies but has been described by Trump as "one of the worst deals I have ever witnessed."
The White House official said Trump was "most of the way there toward pulling out of the deal but he hasn't made the decision" and that he "seems poised to do it but until a decision is made by this president it is not final."
Top aides are not seeking aggressively to talk Trump out of withdrawal because he seems intent on it, a second White House official said.
Europeans losing hope
Trump gave Britain, France and Germany a May 12 deadline to fix what he views as the deal's flaws - its failure to address Iran's ballistic missile program, the terms by which inspectors visit suspect Iranian sites, and "sunset" clauses under which some of its terms expire - or he will reimpose U.S. sanctions.
While European officials continue to work toward such a "fix," they believe the odds are against reaching one.
One of the main sticking points has to do with the "sunsets," where the United States in effect wishes to find a way to extend some of the limits onIran's nuclear program beyond their expiration dates under the agreement.
The source familiar with the debate said U.S. negotiators are hamstrung by the fact that they do not really know where Trump's "red line" is and so they cannot tell the Europeans what would secure Trump's blessing.
Trump could refuse to renew the waivers but give new U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo time to negotiate more with the Europeans, exploiting the deal's dispute resolution mechanism or the time before the most draconian sanctions take effect.
Several sources familiar with the negotiations said that if Trump pulls out, a question for the Europeans will be whether this would be the start of a much harder U.S. line toward Iran, including military confrontation.
"The Europeans are not keen to be dragged into a regional conflict by the U.S.," said one source familiar with the talks.
Two U.S. intelligence officials said they were particularly concerned about Iranian retaliation in harder-to-trace actions such as cyber attacks on the United States or its allies and attacks on soft targets by people without obvious ties to Tehran.
Such attacks are considered more likely than actions that might trigger a U.S. military response against Iranian nuclear and military targets.

Opinion Netanyahu Claims 'Iran Lied' About Its Nuclear Program, but Israel Has Been Lying for Decades

Gideon Levy/Haarz/May 03/2018
Shimon Peres made up the official disclaimer that ‘Israel won’t be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East,’ which was the fraud of the century
Let’s leave aside our discomfort at the sight of the prime minister’s Office Depot performance. That’s a matter of style and taste. But it’s impossible to ignore the new records Israel keeps setting, again and again, for lack of self-awareness, or one might say double standards and hypocrisy.
Israelis really and truly believe it’s shocking to discover how Iran brazenly lied to the world, just as they really and truly believe it’s terrible when dictatorships shoot live bullets at demonstrators, when tyrannical regimes imprison political opponents without trial, when apartheid states maintain two penal systems, when residents of dictatorships are kept in their own country as if in a cage, when people are persecuted for their religion or nationality, when societies close their doors to refugees, when countries scoff at international law. The nation of morality can’t remain indifferent to such shocking developments.
And indeed, it is periodically shocked, and sometimes even raises an outcry. Until it comes to itself.
When Benjamin Netanyahu proved with file folders that Iran lied about its nuclear program, not one person thought Israel was the last country on earth that should have had the nerve to complain about this. After all, how has Israel acted on this very same issue for decades? Iran’s nuclear archive doubtless looks like a neighborhood lending library compared to Israel’s nuclear archive.
But Israel doesn’t sign conventions, it doesn’t allow inspections and it lies. It mocks and winks – 60 years of continuous nuclear lies. In fact, it has never said a single true word about its nuclear program. It’s all for peaceful purposes, just as Iran claims its nuclear program is. The Dimona reactor was built for lifesaving PET/CT scans at Ichilov Hospital’s nuclear medicine department.
Israel is allowed to lie. Israel is a special case. “Israel won’t be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East,” Shimon Peres said. He was proud of making up this claim, which was the fraud of the century. What is Israel’s policy of nuclear ambiguity if not a series of refusals to tell the truth?
Every time someone tries to expose Israel’s nuclear lies, whether in Israel or overseas, he’s denounced as an enemy and a traitor. Only Iran’s lies must be exposed. Israeli nuclear scientists win the Israel Defense Prize.
Dr. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, according to the daily Yedioth Ahronoth, is a “dangerous mind” and a “Dr. Strangelove,” “a sought-after lecturer by day and a secret agent by night,” “the chairman of the department of death.” And what about his Israeli counterparts? Are they Janusz Korczak? Or Mother Teresa? The admired Prof. Ernst David Bergmann didn’t lecture by day and work as a secret agent by night? Yuval Neeman wasn’t Dr. Strangelove? And Prof. Israel Dostrovsky didn’t work for departments of death? Doubtless they were all involved in preserving rare species of endangered wildflowers.
What’s the difference between them and the terrible Dr. Fakhrizadeh, whom Israel will undoubtedly assassinate someday? The difference is huge. It’s okay for us to do it. After all, we’re a special case. We’re just defending ourselves. We’re in danger of being destroyed. We’re always in danger of being destroyed, by Tehran of course, but also by kites from Gaza (which is why it’s permissible for us to execute the kite-flyers).
But perhaps the regime in Tehran also feels that it’s in danger of being destroyed? Perhaps it, too, knows that regimes with nuclear weapons are regimes with a life insurance policy?
Can Israel, a fairly violent and aggressive country – in fact, one of the most violent and aggressive in the world today – really convince anyone that nuclear weapons are safe in its hands? In the hands of Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avidgor Lieberman on a bad day? In the hands of their successors?
We need to fight Iran’s nuclear program insofar as possible, even though it’s apparently less dangerous than its hysterical depiction here. But we should also periodically examine the hump on our own back.
Netanyahu tried to shock the world by proving that Iran lied. But if the world had been shocked by Tehran’s lies, it would have had to be shocked by Jerusalem’s lies as well. For when it comes to nuclear lies, there’s no difference between them. In fact, Israel’s lie is bigger.

Beware the Korean Peace Trap
Eli Lake/Bloomberg/May 03/18
On the surface it looks like the doubters were wrong.
North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un, traveled into South Korea on Friday to meet his counterpart. They agreed in principle at least to formally end the war that has divided the peninsula they share. Kim even agreed to a joint statement calling for the denuclearization of the peninsula. What's not to like?
Plenty. To understand why, examine the "Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula" issued by Kim and President Moon Jae-in Friday after their meeting.
Let's start with the issue most important to America and North Korea's neighbors, the nuclear file. The joint communique says, "South and North Korea confirmed the common goal of realizing, through complete denuclearization, a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula." It also says the two states "shared the view that the measures being initiated by North Korea are very meaningful and crucial for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and agreed to carry out their respective roles and responsibilities in this regard."
Finally it pledged that both would seek help and cooperation from the international community to achieve the goal of denuclearization.
That sounds pretty good, but it isn't. North Koreans have historically used the phrase "denuclearization" to mean the US should no longer extend its nuclear umbrella to protect South Korea. As former senior State Department official Evans Revere explained in a recent policy brief for the Brookings Institution, North Korean interlocutors have explained the concept in talks to US officials and experts as "the elimination of the 'threat' posed by the US-South Korea alliance, by US troops on the Korean Peninsula, and by the U.S. nuclear umbrella that defends South Korea and Japan."
Revere goes on to say that in return for those steps that would undermine the US-South Korean alliance, North Koreans have offered to "'consider denuclearization in 10-20 years' time if Pyongyang feels 'secure.'" Maybe they mean something different this time around. But it's a red flag that Kim is agreeing to the same phrase that in past discussions has meant something very different than verifiable disarmament.
Then there is the strange language about how Kim's recent announcement to pause missile tests is considered by both leaders "very meaningful and crucial for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula." It isn't.
As Kim himself said in his New Year's Day address, he no longer sees a need to test its intercontinental ballistic missiles.The real test of Kim's commitment for denuclearization will be measured in the level of transparency he provides to weapons inspectors.
Along those lines it's particularly troubling that South Korea appears to agree to stop allowing its citizens to send leaflets over the border to break North Korea's information monopoly over its citizens. The communique says, "The two sides agreed to transform the demilitarized zone into a peace zone in a genuine sense by ceasing as of May 1 this year all hostile acts and eliminating their means."
This is hugely detrimental to the North Korean people.
Finally, President Donald Trump should be careful about next steps. He needs to make sure South Korea will not seek a separate peace with its rival. He also needs to get a better sense of the real steps Kim will take to disarm. Until then, Trump should slow the diplomacy down and wait. Kim has shown he is adept at getting optimistic headlines. That is a testament to his connivance, not his intentions.

A Nobel for Trump!
Ruthie Blum//Gatestone Institute/May 03/18
"President Trump's peace through strength policies are working and bringing peace to the Korean peninsula. We can think of no one more deserving of the Committee's recognition in 2019 than President Trump for his tireless work to bring peace to our world." — 18 Members of the US Congress to the Norwegian Nobel Committee, May 2, 2018.
US President Donald Trump was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize by a group of 18 members of Congress. In a letter to the Norwegian Nobel Committee, dated May 2, Rep. Luke Messer (R-Ind.) and 17 other House lawmakers -- including Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), Diane Black (R-Tenn.) and Steve King (R-Iowa) -- wrote that Trump has worked "tirelessly to apply maximum pressure to North Korea to end its illicit weapons programs and bring peace to the region."
The letter further stated that the Trump administration
"successfully united the international community, including China, to impose
one of the most successful international sanctions regimes in history. The sanctions have decimated the North Korean economy and have been largely credited for bringing North Korea to the negotiating table. Although North Korea has evaded demands from the international community to cease its aggression for decades, President Trump's peace through strength policies are working and bringing peace to the Korean peninsula. We can think of no one more deserving of the Committee's recognition in 2019 than President Trump for his tireless work to bring peace to our world."
Although the letter constituted a formal nomination, it was not the first suggestion that Trump might, or should, win a Nobel Peace Prize. On May 1 -- mere days after an historic summit between Moon and North Korean ruler Kim Jong-un, during which the two leaders vowed to work toward "complete denuclearization" of the Korean Peninsula -- Moon was quoted by a Blue House official as saying, "President Trump should win the Nobel Peace Prize. What we need is only peace."
As she walked the red carpet of the White House Correspondents' dinner on April 30, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was asked by a Pajamas Media reporter whether Trump would be eligible for a Nobel Peace Prize in the event that North Korea actually agrees to denuclearize, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) replied:
"We're a long way from that, but let's see. There's always an opportunity for a president of the United States to qualify. Let's see how it goes."
Pelosi and other Trump detractors are in an uncomfortable position where the Nobel Peace Prize is concerned. Former US President Barack Obama was awarded the prize in 2009, "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The Committee has attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons."
In 2015, however, the non-voting Director of the Nobel Institute until 2014, Geir Lundestad, published a memoir -- "Fredens sekretær. 25 år med Nobelprisen" ("Secretary of Peace: 25 years with the Nobel Prize") -- in which he expressed regret about the decision to give the prize to Obama, "as it did not achieve what the committee had hoped for."
However the upcoming discussions between the US and North Korea turn out, regardless of whether one is Republican, Democrat or independent, the US president's historic initiative to denuclearize the Korean peninsula deserves this recognition.
*Ruthie Blum is the author of To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the 'Arab Spring.'"
© 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.

Turkey: Erdoğan's World of Terrorists Includes Everyone but Terrorists

Burak Bekdil/Gatestone Institute/May 03/18
Anyone who freely thinks for himself regarding Turkish President Erdoğan's one-man rule, at home or abroad, can get the label "terrorist."
On April 25, a Turkish court sentenced 14 staff members of the opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet to prison on charges of "terrorism," and handed down sentences ranging from 2½ years to 7½ years.
When Erdoğan is not fighting hundreds of millions of "terrorists," including almost the entire European continent, the U.S. and probably half his own nation, he is busy cultivating deeper ties with countries such as Russia, Sudan and Iran.
Many Middle East despots have historically accused the free world of being terrorists.
For Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, for instance, the entire Western civilization is a terrorist machine programmed to spill Muslim blood. Turkey's strongman, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is no exception.
In an April speech Erdoğan, evidently overcome with amnesia regarding Turkey's invasions of Northern Cyprus and, a few weeks ago, Syria's Afrin, called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a "terrorist." Erdoğan told party loyalists:
"We don't have the shame of invading on us, Netanyahu. You are an invader and right now are present in those lands as an invader. At the same time, you are a terrorist."
In another speech, again apparently succumbing to amnesia regarding decades of Arab and Muslim wars against Israel, he said: "You [Israel] are a terrorist state. It is known what you have done in Gaza and what you have done in Jerusalem. You have no one that likes you in the world." -- as if the entire world were a fan of Erdoğan.
On April 7, Erdoğan accused France of abetting terrorists by "hosting them" at the Élysée Palace, amid a diplomatic row between NATO allies Turkey and France over Paris's support for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the main, Kurdish-dominated ground force that defeated Islamic State swathes of land in Syria. SDF also is an ally of the U.S. troops fighting in Syria. But Erdoğan said:
"You [France] will not be able to explain this. You will not be able to rid yourself of this terror burden... As long as the West nurtures these terrorists, you will sink".
Then, there is the United States that "works with the terrorists:" In February Turkey warned American soldiers in Syria of the possibility of being treated as terrorists if they keep backing Kurdish militants. Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ threatened that U.S. soldiers risk being caught up in clashes and that Turkish troops would not make a distinction if Americans appear in Kurdish uniforms.
In the worldview of the Turkish government, almost the entire continent of Europe is made up of terrorist states. In an April 25 speech, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım accused European nations, with the exception of Spain, of supporting terrorist organizations. A few weeks earlier, Yıldırım warned Bosnia-Herzegovina, a state friendly to Turkey, that it could be a target if it supported the "Gülenist terror organization," a reference to the Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gülen, who was once Erdoğan's staunch ally, but now is in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania.
Anyone who freely thinks for himself regarding Erdoğan's one-man rule, at home or abroad, can get the label "terrorist." On March 24, Erdoğan criticized anti-war students at one of Turkey's best universities, Boğaziçi, calling some of the people there terrorists after a fight that erupted on campus over Turkey's military incursion into a Kurdish enclave in neighboring Syria. He called the protesting students "communist, traitor youth" protesting a "religious, nationalist, local youth." The "communist, traitor youth" were immediately detained.
On April 25, a Turkish court sentenced 14 staff members of the opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet to prison on charges of "terrorism," and handed down sentences ranging from 2½ years to 7½ years. Another defendant in the case, who was not employed by Cumhuriyet and had been charged for his activities on Twitter, got the stiffest sentence, 10 years. "It has been journalism itself that has been in the dock and today's verdicts defy logic and offend justice," said Milena Buyum, Turkey campaigner at rights group Amnesty International. "These politically motivated sentences are clearly intended to instill fear and silence any form of dissent."
All that is insane. When Erdoğan is not fighting hundreds of millions of "terrorists," including almost the entire European continent, the U.S. and probably half his own nation, he is busy cultivating deeper ties with countries such as Russia, Sudan and Iran. During a December visit to Sudan, Erdoğan called his host, President Omar al-Bashir "his brother". Sadly, Erdoğan's brother, al-Bashir, is a man who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide and war crimes against his people. Erdoğan, meanwhile, is allying with Russia and Iran, ironically, to topple Syria's Russia- and Iran-backed dictator, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and to "bring peace to Syria" while invading the Kurdish enclaves in the country's north.
In Erdoğan's ideological divide, the world consists of "terrorist" countries such as the entire continent of Europe (minus Spain), plus the U.S. and half of his own country -- as opposed to "noble" countries such as Russia, Sudan and Iran.
*Burak Bekdil, one of Turkey's leading journalists, was recently fired from Turkey's leading newspaper after 29 years, for writing what was taking place in Turkey for Gatestone. He is a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Why Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey Are Battling Over Somalia
الأسباب التي من اجلها تتواجه السعودية وقطر وتركيا في الصومال
Haaretz/Reuters/May 03/18
At stake: not just the busy waters off the Somali coast but the future stability of the country itself
A battle for access to seaports is underway in one of the world's unlikeliest places: Somalia, now caught up in a regional struggle between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on one side, with Qatar backed by Turkey on the other.
At stake: not just the busy waters off the Somali coast but the future stability of the country itself.
Somalia has been at war for decades and until the last few years it has struggled to attract foreign investment. But rivalries in the nearby Arabian peninsula are resulting in serious inflows into Somalia.
A year ago, a company owned by the United Arab Emirates government signed a $336 million contract to expand the port of Bosaso, north of Mogadishu in the semi-autonomous Somali region of Puntland.
Less than a year before that, another UAE-owned firm took control of the Berbera port in the breakaway northern region of Somaliland and pledged up to $440 million to develop it. In March, Ethiopia took a stake in the port for an undisclosed sum.
At the same time, Turkey, an ally of UAE rival Qatar, is ramping up a multi-billion dollar investment push in Somalia. A Turkish company has run the Mogadishu port since 2014, while other Turkish firms have built roads, schools, and hospitals.
The rivalries have intensified since June, when the most powerful Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia and including the UAE, cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting Iran and Islamist militants.
That Middle Eastern feud is driving the desire to control the Horn of Africa and its waters, according to diplomats, businessmen, scholars and Somali officials.
Somalia is close to vital oil routes and its ports could also serve landlocked Ethiopia, which has a population of 100 million.
Gulf nations have had trade and religious ties with Somalia for centuries, but those relationships are now up in the air as new rivalries emerge.
"Somalia has been caught in the middle of this effort to try to expand influence, commercial and military, along the coast," said Rob Malley, president of the International Crisis Group, a think-tank.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE increasingly view the Somali coastline - and Djibouti and Eritrea to the north - as their "western security flank", according to a senior western diplomat in the Horn of Africa region.
Qatar and Turkey, whose investments are almost all in Mogadishu, are focussed on supporting President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed. He and his chief of staff are widely viewed in Somalia and by western diplomats as loyal to Doha after receiving funds for their 2017 election campaign.
A Qatari official told Reuters Doha had provided $385 million in infrastructure, education and humanitarian assistance to the central Somali government.
The official said making deals directly with regional governments in Somalia, as the UAE has done, undermined the central government.
Somali finance minister Abdirahman Duale Beileh agreed
"The Gulf region has a lot of money and if they want to invest in Somalia we welcome them with open arms," he told Reuters. "But it's a question of going through the right doors."
The federal government in Mogadishu has long been at odds with the semi-autonomous regions of Puntland and Somaliland. The latter operates virtually as an independent state and has for years sought to secede from Somalia, but has not won international recognition.
Detrimental effect
Less than a decade ago there was virtually no commercial interest in Somalia.
That began to change in 2011 when al Qaeda-backed al Shabaab militants retreated from Mogadishu. Months later, Turkey launched famine relief operations, opening the door for projects that now make it Somalia's biggest foreign investor.
The government hopes new investment, especially in infrastructure, can help the country rebuild.
Better tax collection is boosting government revenues, but this only covers public sector salaries. Huge amounts of capital are needed for roads, schools and other basics. Middle Eastern companies and charities could provide some of it.
However, the money could also destabilise the country further by deepening tensions between the central government, aligned with Turkey and Qatar, and Puntland and Somaliland, which both receive money from the UAE.
"These investments are having a detrimental effect on our political stability and worsening the relationship between our federal government and the regions," said former national security adviser Hussein Sheikh-Ali.
"This could cause a constitutional crisis that only al Shabaab will benefit from."
The Gulf crisis has already deepened rifts in Somalia. The central government has stayed neutral, to the annoyance of the UAE and Saudi Arabia, which Puntland and Somaliland have backed against Qatar.
"Getting out of this mess is very difficult," Sheikh-Ali said. "Without unity we cannot."
The Somali presidency and the UAE government did not immediately respond to requests for comments.
Western nations fear the Gulf rivalries playing out in Somalia could sideline their multi-billion dollar, U.N.-led efforts to build a functional Somali army to fight Shabaab before the withdrawal of African Union peacekeepers in 2020.
Political crises between Mogadishu and the regional authorities are undermining government efforts to strengthen financial systems and embark on other core tasks of a state, diplomats say.
The Gulf rivalry is also being felt on the ground in Somalia.
In mid-April, Somalia and the UAE ended military cooperation. Since 2014, the UAE had trained and paid the salaries of Somali troops in Mogadishu and built an anti-piracy force in Puntland. Hundreds of weapons were looted from the training centre in Mogadishu as it shut down.
This came after Somali security forces seized nearly $10 million flown in from the UAE to pay soldiers and temporarily held the plane which brought the cash. The UAE also closed a hospital that offered free care.
Last week Puntland officials travelled to Dubai to meet UAE counterparts and P&O, the state firm developing its port.
"Investing millions of dollars in Somalia at this critical juncture in history is very important for us," Puntland President Abdiweli Mohamed Ali said.
Similarly, Somaliland officials hosted UAE diplomats last week to discuss "enhancing bilateral ties".
"For Somalis themselves, this kind of geopolitical game of chess, where Somalia is solely a proxy conflict to the trouble in the Gulf, this is obviously bad news," said Harry Verhoeven, professor at Georgetown University in Qatar.

Armenia escapes its post-Soviet malaise
David Ignatius/Washington Post/May 02/18
Armenia appears at last to be breaking with its post-Soviet malaise and embracing democratic change, thanks to a grass-roots movement that has found a way, for now, to straddle Russia and the West.
Tens of thousands of people thronged Yerevan’s central square Wednesday night, chanting “Victory! Victory!” in what one Armenian reform supporter in the United States told me was “a celebration of the country as much as a protest.” The movement’s mass street demonstrations over the past month have deposed the prime minister, Serzh Sargsyan, and this week appeared ready to topple his long-entrenched ruling party.
Videos circulating on social media Wednesday captured a country embracing the reform movement headed by Nikol Pashinyan, who is seeking to replace Sargsyan. Responding to Pashinyan’s call to shut down the capital, conservatory students played classical music at one intersection; protesters did a line dance at another; a small boy blocked a street with a lineup of toy cars, in a photo circulated by CNN.
Pashinyan made what sounded almost like a victory statement Wednesday, when he told the crowd, “Now, we will stop our actions for a while and rest.” On Tuesday, the Armenian parliament, controlled by Sargsyan’s party, had narrowly defeated Pashinyan’s bid to form a new government. But another vote is scheduled for May 8, and the ruling Republican Party signaled it won’t oppose the reformer.
If Pashinyan succeeds in establishing a new government, it will be in large part because the police and army refused to open fire on the protesters who turned out in huge numbers to support him. This refusal to kill fellow citizens is often the fulcrum of social change; it’s especially powerful in Armenia, which last month commemorated the anniversary of the 1915 genocide by Ottoman Turks that left more than a million Armenians dead.
Armenia’s basic political dilemma over the past 25 years has been how to reconcile its pro-Western political sympathies with its military dependence on Russia. This impasse helped foster a circle of pro-Moscow oligarchs around Sargsyan, who siphoned much of the country’s wealth. For all the entrepreneurial spirit of its people, a corrupt and authoritarian Armenia never achieved the capitalist takeoff of some other former Soviet republics and Warsaw Pact countries following the Soviet Union’s demise in 1991.
Reformers asked why Armenia ranked below many other former Soviet-bloc countries in measures of political freedom, rule of law and economic growth. The Policy Forum Armenia, an activist group based in Washington, has compiled a series of well-documented reports on corruption, human rights and legal-reform issues.
The popular uprising has been tolerated, so far, by Russian President Vladimir Putin. He seems to have decided that it was better to sacrifice his ally, Sargsyan, than to risk losing Armenia itself. “He wanted to avoid another Ukraine,” a reform leader told me Wednesday. Because of the long kinship between Russia and Armenia, the images of protest in Yerevan may have a galvanizing effect in Russia, too.
Pashinyan broke through the post-Soviet morass for several reasons, his reform movement colleagues argue. First, his movement has been nonviolent and broadly based, from young people to grandmothers; “Arms up,” symbolizing civil disobedience, became a slogan of the protesters who joined Pashinyan’s march on Yerevan last month that culminated in Sargsyan’s resignation. Second, Pashinyan avoided taking sides between Russia and the West. He has walked a narrow line in what one reform leader told me was an “Armenia-centric” approach. He has reassured Moscow by saying that he doesn’t intend to withdraw from military and trade pacts with Russia if he becomes prime minister. At the same time, his pro-democracy movement has roused sympathy in Europe and the United States, offering the prospect of wider friendships for the small, embattled nation.
The Armenian reform movement has been building for the past two years, ever since armed protesters seized a police station in Yerevan in July 2016 and held it for two weeks, to protest what rebels claimed was the government’s political repression, corruption and vacillation on the emotional issue of Karabakh, an Armenian-populated enclave seized from Azerbaijan in a bloody war in 1994.
“We refuse to become a region of Russia,” proclaimed one of the rebels allied with Jirair Sefilian, a Lebanese-born former Armenian military leader who was one of the organizers of the 2016 protest, which took the name “Founding Parliament.” Sefilian would be a candidate for defense minister if Pashinyan succeeds in forming a new government, though his strong pro-Western sympathies might antagonize Moscow.
Pashinyan’s movement promises change, but as is often the case with grass-roots uprisings, the details are fuzzy. His group is called “Civil Contract,” built on a pledge that a new government will deliver specific reform commitments to the people. Even his movement’s supporters admit they aren’t sure yet what that agenda might include. But in the excitement of Wednesday’s mass protest, the details could wait.
*David Ignatius writes a twice-a-week foreign affairs column and contributes to the PostPartisan blog. Follow @ignatiuspost

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