May 13/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
Jesus touched their eyes and said, ‘According to your faith let it be done to you & their eyes were openedChrist is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful in you
Second Letter to the Corinthians 12/21/13/01-05/: “I fear that when I come again, my God may humble me before you, and that I may have to mourn over many who previously sinned and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and licentiousness that they have practised. This is the third time I am coming to you. ‘Any charge must be sustained by the evidence of two or three witnesses.’I warned those who sinned previously and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again, I will not be lenient since you desire proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful in you. For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God. Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you? unless, indeed, you fail to pass the test!”

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 12-13/18
Lebanon's Corrupted Politicians/Elias Bejjani/May 12/18
By winning Baghdad vote Iran could recoup losses from US-Israeli beatings/Dabka File/May 12/18
Iran Targets the Gulf/Richard Miniter/Gatestone Institute/May 12/18
What to make of Mahathir’s return to power in Malaysia/Cornelia Meyer/Arab News/May 12/18
Why North Korea could be Trump’s first big foreign policy win/Andrew Hammond/Arab News/May 12/18
Trump's nuclear decision should not hinder a greater vision for the Arab region/Raghida Dergham/The National/May 12/18
Merkel, Macron’s pro-Iran stance will push more chaos in the region/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/May 12/18
North Korea: China holds the key to a successful US agreement/Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/May 12/18
Was there ever a unified Arab stance towards Iran?/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/May 12/18
Hope fades for Qatar’s long wait/Sawsan Al Shaer/Al Arabiya/May 12/18
Radicalism: The Real Shock Was the Reaction of the Americans/Majid Rafizadeh/Gatestone Institute/May 12/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on May 12-13/18
Lebanon's Corrupted Politicians
Lebanon: Hariri Rejects Preconditions on Cabinet Seats
Hariri tells Jumblatt to 'leave Future Movement alone'
Berri Calls for Quick New Government
Hariri, Jumblat Trade Remarks on Twitter
Report: LF, FPM Not Decided on Speaker Re-Election
Hariri Dissolves Election Commission, Coordinates over ‘Election Results’
Bukhari visits Jisr, congratulates him on elections victory
PSP apologizes to Hariri, responds to Arslan
Jreissati: Choueifat incident is under justice control
Jumblatt: Strange how some losers claim victory, others resort to media hype
Geagea to LF partisans in Australia: We are preparing well for responsibilities
Karam expects delay in cabinet formation
Franjieh confers with newly elected MP's Khazen, Samad over parliamentary bloc formation
Bassil inaugurates "Emigrants Houses" at the end of Diaspora Energy Conference: No hand will tamper with Lebanese Diaspora!
Hashem meets with UNIFIL French Contingent Commander
Shbib, Shorter, Baroudi inaugurate "Beirut Here" with the British Embassy's support
Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 12-13/18
By winning Baghdad vote Iran could recoup losses from US-Israeli beatings
One person killed in Paris knife attack, attacker shot dead
Eleven Iranians among Dead in Israel Strikes on Syria Thursday
Washington Calls for Pressure on Iran to Change its ‘Dangerous Behavior’
US accuses Iran of destabilizing the Middle East
Israel closing Gaza cargo crossing after weekly protests
Iran Minister on Diplomatic Tour to Save Nuclear Deal
Iraq Holds First Nationwide Election since IS Defeat
Syria Fight against IS in Damascus Stalls, Dozens Dead
Backed Into a Corner, Hamas Adopts Peaceful Pose
Observatory: 19 Iranians Killed in 2 Days of Israeli Strikes on Syria
Defeated Malaysian Leader, Wife Barred from Leaving Country
US Pullout from Nuclear Deal Amplifies Iranians' Suffering
Iraq Tightens Noose on Baghdadi after Aide’s Arrest
US Fighter Jets Intercept Russian Bombers Off Alaska
Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on May 12-13/18
Lebanon's Corrupted Politicians
Elias Bejjani/May 12/18
Sadly all the Lebanese political parties with no one exception are mere puppets and Trojans. They all succumbed to the Hezbollah occupation in exchange for marginal power gains (ministers and MP's). They all forged a dirty deal with Hezbollah and accepted cowardly to practice under the umbrella of its hegemony and occupation. No hope from all the current corrupted politicians and parties. Lebanon needs a new breed of patriotic leaders.
Opportunist and puppets in the Lebanese political arena do not have the guts or the decency to take clear and overt stances against the occupier Hezbollah. Sadly 99% of the Lebanese Politicians and in particular our Maronites ones fall in this shameful category

Lebanon: Hariri Rejects Preconditions on Cabinet Seats
Beirut- Asharq Al Awsat/Saturday, 12 May, 2018/Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri rejected on Friday that political parties demand in advance certain portfolios in the next cabinet lineup, directly responding to Speaker Nabih Berri, who previously announced that a Shi’ite minister should head the Ministry of Finance. Meanwhile, Hezbollah Deputy Secretary-General Naim Qassem called for forming a new cabinet that respects national unity as well as the results of the parliamentary elections, adding that all the Lebanese parties must cooperate to build their country and confront enemies.
Following his meeting with President Michel Aoun at Baabda palace Friday, Hariri told reporters that a cabinet session will convene next Wednesday, without confirming whether it would be the last session of the current government. “I recognize one custom in Lebanon: The presidency of the Republic and that of parliament and the cabinet. I am not willing to acknowledge other customs. Preconditions on ministerial portfolios are worthless,” Hariri said. In Lebanon, there is a custom stipulating that the president be a Maronite Christian, the Prime Minister a Sunni Muslim and the speaker of parliament a Shi’ite Muslim. However, following last week’s Parliament elections, Berri, who is a Shi’ite, repeatedly spoke about a custom of a Shi’ite figure heading the Ministry of Finance. Hariri rejected this demand. In response to a question about the speakership, Hariri said: "If Speaker Nabih Berri is a candidate, then I am with him." Concerning the next cabinet lineup, Hariri said, “Let us first elect a new Speaker and then await the results of binding consultations to see what would happen.” After the new Parliament elects its Speaker, President Michel Aoun should hold binding consultations with legislators to name the next PM, who will negotiate with leading political parties and figures the lineup of the country’s next cabinet.

Hariri tells Jumblatt to 'leave Future Movement alone'

Annahar/May 12/2018/BEIRUT: Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) head Walid Jumblatt traded barbs on Saturday on Twitter as the Future Movement celebrated what its leader dubbed success in Lebanon's parliamentary elections. "It's strange that some of the losers of the elections are claiming victory, while others are creating some sort of media hype instead of respecting the law," Jumblatt tweeted. The PSP head was referring to the Future Movement parliamentary bloc losing over a third of its seats compared to the 2009 elections, securing only 20 seats in parliament from their prior 34 seats. Hariri got back at Jumblatt tweeting "I wish that you would leave the Future Movement alone, and stop blaming all your problems on us, and thank you."Jumblatt and Hariri's relationship has deteriorated over the increasingly close ties between the Future Movement leader and President Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic Moveme
Berri Calls for Quick New Government
Associated Press/Naharnet/May 12/18/The formation of a new Cabinet in Lebanon that represents all factions should take place quickly because of growing regional tensions and the fragile country's struggling economy, Speaker Nabih Berri said. Berri spoke in an interview with The Associated Press in his office in Beirut days after Lebanon held its first parliamentary elections in nine years. In the vote, Berri's Amal group, along with its allies including Hizbullah, won more than a third of the seats, giving them the power to veto any legislation against them in the future. Berri, 80, has held his post for more than 25 years and is widely expected to be re-elected when the new parliament reconvenes later this month. Lebanon has been suffering for years from spillover of Syria's seven-year civil war and the flow of more than a million refugees, or nearly a quarter of the tiny country's population, putting pressure on an already crumbling infrastructure. On Friday, Berri received a big boost from Prime Minister Saad Hariri who named him as his candidate for the country's second top post that Berri has been holding since 1992. Support from Hariri, whose bloc has 21 seats of the 128-member legislature would guarantee that Berri is re-elected for the post that he has been holding since 1992. Berri did not say who his candidate for prime minister is, since the government will have to resign within days following the elections. After the new parliament's four-year term begins on May 21 and a new parliament speaker is elected, President Michel Aoun will call for consultations with legislators to name their candidate for forming the new government. "The situation around us (in the region) pushes the Lebanese to hurry as much as possible to form a Cabinet, a government that represents everyone," Berri said. Berri said that this is his opinion and that of Aoun and Hariri as well. "The devil is in the details but we should hurry up," Berri said, adding that the formation of a Cabinet should not take months as in the past. "It used to take us seven to eight months to form a Cabinet and this is dangerous," Berri said, mentioning tension on Syria's borders with Israel. "There is another war that we are fighting without noticing, and this is the economic war in Lebanon, and it has been ongoing for a while."Lebanon has a national debt of $80 billion making it one of the highest in the world, standing at 150 percent of the country's gross domestic product.
Berri said that Lebanese authorities should have direct contacts with the Syrian government so that refugees start heading back to their country, criticizing anti-Syrian Lebanese politicians who refuse any dealings with the Syrian government. Berri referred to last month's return of hundreds of Syrian refugees to Syria after government forces retook areas they came from. "This makes Syrians who are returning to their country happy and also reduces pressure on the Lebanese," Berri said. "This should be going on daily basis. We should not say that we do not contact the Syrian brothers," Berri said. "There should be always contacts between the Lebanese and Syrian governments," said Berri, a close ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad. "Such contacts are for the good of Lebanon."

Hariri, Jumblat Trade Remarks on Twitter
Naharnet/May 12/18/Prime Minister Saad Hariri replied to remarks made by Progressive Socialist Party MP Walid Jumblat on Saturday, telling him to “leave al-Mustaqbal Movement alone.”“I wish you would leave al-Mustaqbal Movement alone, Walid Beik, and stop blaming us for your problems,” said Hariri in a tweet. Jumblat had earlier hinted at Hariri’s Movement without naming the party, he said: “Now that the elections are over, it is weird how some losers claim victory and others resort to media hype instead of respecting the law.”

Report: LF, FPM Not Decided on Speaker Re-Election

Naharnet/May 12/18/The Lebanese Forces and Free Patriotic Movement have not yet disclosed whether they will re-elect Speaker Nabih Berrii for a sixth term, as they prepare for consultative meetings with their party members. In that regard, Foreign Minister and FPM chief Jebran Bassil assured that each positive “signal” from Berri’s end (AMAL Movement chief) will be met by a similar one from the FPM’s side. Asked whether he considers as “positive” the Speaker’s reference describing Bassil as “someone who moves a lot,” the Minister said: “Every positive sign is met with a positive sign, words by words, action by action, voting by voting, participation with participation.” Relations are strained between Berri and Bassil against the latter’s “thug” remarks, which ignited a series of clashing positions between the two men. On the other hand, the LF is set to decide on the nomination of Berri during the meeting of its bloc, the “Strong Republic bloc,” when the session to determine the new speaker, his deputy and parliament bureau is set, said al-Joumhouria daily.
LF sources told the daily: “We are preparing, at this new political stage, to keep up with the upcoming entitlements at the level of the Parliament elections and the formation of the new government. Internal consultations have started in preparation for this stage. “The head of the party (Samir Geagea) will call the "Strong Republic bloc" to the meeting when the parliamentary election session is set to take the appropriate position in that regard," added the sources on condition of anonymity. The new parliament will hold a session on May 22, reportedly to re-elect Berri to a sixth term as Parliament Speaker.

Hariri Dissolves Election Commission, Coordinates over ‘Election Results’
Naharnet/May 12/18/Prime Minister and al-Mustaqbal Movement leader Saad Hariri decided to “dissolve the electoral campaign commission and Mustaqbal’s coordinators of Beirut, Bekaa, Koura and Zgharta,” over the latest “parliamentary election results.”The Mustaqbal chief decided to dissolve the coordinates of Beirut, West Bekaa, Central Bekaa, Koura and Zgharta, and to disband the commission that was tasked with organizing the Movement's electoral campaign for the country’s parliamentary elections held last Sunday. Mustaqbal official Moustafa Allouch said, in a televised phone call to al-Jadeed, that Hariri’s decision is “linked to the latest parliamentary results,” emphasizing that such decisions are carefully studied. “Mustaqbal Movement consistently reviews its speeches and choices on the basis of the reality,” said Allouch, assuring that “decisions taken by the base are thoroughly studied and assessed.”
On Monday, Hariri admitted that his Mustaqbal Movement had lost a third of its seats in parliament following the country's first general election in nine years, while noting that it faced “a scheme to eliminate it from political life.”
The elections credited Mustaqbal with 21 of parliament's 128 seats, a drop from the 33 it controlled in the outgoing legislature.

Bukhari visits Jisr, congratulates him on elections victory
Sat 12 May 2018/NNA - Saudi Chargé d'Affaires Walid Al Bukhari visited Saturday MP Samir Jisr at his Tripoli residence, congratulating him on his achieved victory in the Lebanese parliamentary elections. The encounter was a chance to dwell on local and regional developments. Jisr expressed his gratitude to Al Bukhari, who in turn, expressed his appreciation and admiration for the city of Tripoli.

PSP apologizes to Hariri, responds to Arslan
Sat 12 May 2018/NNA - In an issued statement on Saturday, the Progressive Socialist Party responded to the press conference by Lebanese Democratic Party Chief, MP Talal Arslan, saying, "The Progressive Socialist Party confirms that it will not be dragged into pointless debates nor engage in futile discussions, the aim of which is to veer away from the main incident that took place in Choueifat and led to the martyrdom of Alaa Abu Faraj." The statement underlined the Party's firm position that the official sides concerned assume their responsibilities in order for justice to take its toll; hence, all those involved in this regretful incident would receive their punishment in accordance with the law. The Party statement concluded with an "apology to the first man of the State of Lebanon, Saad Hariri," making it clear that the Party "solely aims at drawing his attention to the Choueifat incident, which requires his close follow-up and the implementation of law and justice."

Jreissati: Choueifat incident is under justice control
Sat 12 May 2018/NNA - "After the press conference held by Minister Talal Erslan and for those living in Choueifat, I call upon you to remain calm, as the judiciary has put its hand on the recent events in Choueifat," Minister of Justice, Selim Jreissati, reassured via Twitter on Saturday.

Jumblatt: Strange how some losers claim victory, others resort to media hype

Sat 12 May 2018/NNA - "Now that the parliamentary elections are over, it is strange how some losers claim victory while some others resort to media publicity instead of respecting the law," tweeted Democratic Gathering Chief, MP Walid Jumblatt, on Saturday.

Geagea to LF partisans in Australia: We are preparing well for responsibilities
Sat 12 May 2018/NNA - Lebanese Forces Party Chief, Samir Geagea, deemed that opponents have succeeded in covering up LF's real size through various means in the past, most prominently by dissolving the Party, and continued to do so until the legislative elections of 2018, which finally revealed the Party's true size. "We are preparing well for responsibilities ahead," added Geagea in a televised speech from Me'rab addressing LF partisans in Sydney, Australia. Celebrating the accomplished victory in the elections, Geagea praised the efforts exerted by all Lebanese Forces electoral machine members, who reflected the Party's best image. "We deserved this victory way back...but the circumstances prevented it from happening...It is true that this victory took a long time and a lot of injustice and imprisonment, but in the end the truth prevailed and everyone saw the outcome," he reiterated. Geagea concluded by vowing to aim for the rise of the efficient, strong and capable state, free of corruption and one that works for the equal interests of its citizens.

Karam expects delay in cabinet formation
Sat 12 May 2018/NNA - "Strong Republic" Parliamentary Bloc Secretary, MP Fadi Karam, anticipated Saturday a delay in the formation of the government, ensuring that the Lebanese Forces will apply the principle of separation between ministerial function and parliamentary mandate. Karam, whose words came during an interiew to "Free Lebanon" Radio Station, reminded that all those who think that Hezbollah will control the new parliament "are wrong". "Lebanon will remain in danger as long as Hezbollah's involvement in foreign projects persists," the lawmaker added, noting that the state, the people and the Republic will pay the price. Asked about the relationship between the Lebanese Forces and Speaker Berri, Karam said that LF-Amal relation is based on mutual respect, despite political differences.

Franjieh confers with newly elected MP's Khazen, Samad over parliamentary bloc formation
Sat 12 May 2018/NNA - Al-Maradah Movement indicated in an issued statement on Saturday that in preparation for its parliamentary bloc formation, the Movement Chief Sleiman Franjieh met at his residence in Bnichi'i with newly elected Deputy Farid Haikal al-Khazen, with talks touching on the latest developments. Following the meeting, al-Khazen confirmed his support for Franjieh's "national march," stressing "constant mutual cooperation and solidarity." "MP Franjieh briefed us on the deliberations underway to form a parliamentary bloc, which will soon see the light. This gathering is perhaps one of few in the country not characterized by sectarianism," said al-Khazen. "A balanced bloc with an effective national presence will be formed, which will work on the unity of Lebanon, bringing political forces closer together to serve Lebanon's national interests," he added. The Maradah statement also indicated that Franjieh met in the same context with newly elected MP Jihad al-Samad, with current developments and the issue of forming a broad parliamentary bloc topping their discussion.

Bassil inaugurates "Emigrants Houses" at the end of Diaspora Energy Conference: No hand will tamper with Lebanese Diaspora!

Sat 12 May 2018/NNA - Foreign Affairs and Emigrants Minister Gebran Bassil concluded the works of the Diaspora Energy Conference on Saturday by inaugurating the Lebanese-Mexican, Lebanese-African and Lebanese-Australian Houses, in addition to the "Emigrants Museum at the House of Emigrants" in the old Qalaa alley within the region of Batroun. In his address on the occasion, Bassil stressed that "no hand will be allowed to tamper with or have control over the Lebanese Diaspora." "We are meeting for the fifth consecutive year in this place, renewing our commitment to restoring the relationship between the Lebanese resident and Lebanese emigrant...and what we are seeing today concerning the restoration of these houses is part of the restoration of this relationship," Bassil added reassuringly. "The communication between the Lebanese resident and emigrant needs continuous follow up, in order to fully reconnect between us and consolidate this mutual bond...This project must be spread across all regions. We must find houses for emigrants in every town and village. We must take the initiative to disseminate this model," he emphasized.
Bassil praised the efforts of "all those who worked on the launching of this project model and everyone who contributed to its completion." The event was attended by State Minister for Republic Affairs Pierre Raffoul, MP's Naamtallah Abi Nasr and Farid al-Khazen, alongside a number of ambassadors and diplomatic missions, and a crowd of Lebanese expatriates and prominent dignitaries from the Batroun region. Following the inauguration of the Emigrants Houses, the attending guests moved to "Batrouniyat" where Bassil held a luncheon in honor of Lebanese expatriates and residents who took part in the event.

Hashem meets with UNIFIL French Contingent Commander
Sat 12 May 2018/NNA - MP Kassem Hashem met Saturday with Commander of the French Contingent operating within the UNIFIL peacekeeping forces in the South, Colonel Bode Olivier, heading a delegation of Contingent officers. Hashem praised the "good relations that bring together the people of the South region with UNIFIL forces, a relationship that is developing positively day by day." He also commended UNIFIL's efforts to assist the Lebanese army, noting that the South and borderline areas are the most stable thanks to the awareness and cooperation of its people. "This stability is not shaken by the Israeli provocation through its occupation of parts of our land in Shebaa Farms and the hills of Kfarshuba, alongside its daily violations of our land, sea and national airspace," added Hashem.In turn, Commander Olivier thanked the people of the South for their "excellent relations with UNIFIL and cooperation that contributes to stability."

Shbib, Shorter, Baroudi inaugurate "Beirut Here" with the British Embassy's support
Sat 12 May 2018/NNA - Beirut Governor Ziad Shbib, British Ambassador Hugo Shorter and "March Association" Head Lea Baroudi inaugurated Saturday the "Beirut Here" cultural center in the Horsh-Tayouneh area, with support and funding by the British Embassy in Beirut. The opening ceremony was attended by Ghubairi Municipality Head Maan Khalil, members of the British Embassy and Beirut Municipal Council, representatives of security forces and various intellectual and cultural figures. In his word on the occasion, Ambassador Shorter said, "We are in a place that used to be a line of demarcation between two warring areas, and today Beirut is embracing all those living within its borders." He pointed out that "the event today is a bridge of communication between all the Lebanese, especially young people from Beirut and those from Tripoli, as ambassadors for peace and coexistence."
"Through instability, one can see the light, especially that the Lebanese have confirmed that the logic of violence has deceived them...and their duty is to seek peace," Shorter affirmed. He disclosed that project aims at "spreading the culture of peace and the policy of coexistence and acceptance of the other."
The British Ambassador concluded by thanking Governor Shbib and the Municipality of Beirut for offering the piece of land on which to establish the cultural center, calling for "greater involvement of women in Lebanese political life, especially following the parliamentary elections results."In turn, Shbib expressed gratitude for the British Embassy's support in making this project a reality. "Beirut deserves to have similar initiatives in this region, which is full of historical symbolism," emphasized Shbib. "Today's generation and the group of young men and women who will fill this place with vitality will add life and beauty to Beirut," he asserted. Shbib hailed Association Head Baroudi for her relentless efforts and for being "a model of Lebanese women capable of doing a great job that deserves appreciation and support outside the known political frameworks."

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published
on May 12-13/18
By winning Baghdad vote Iran could recoup losses from US-Israeli beatings
Dabka File/May 12/18
But an election loss by its Iraqi pawn on Saturday, May 12, would land more misfortune on Tehran after US/Israeli serial blows. The Iranians hope that the outcome of the Iraqi election will reverse their fortunes after the blows landing on their heads since President Donald Trump announced the US withdrawal from the nuclear pact on May 8. US sanctions rolling out since are targeting the Revolutionary Guards, Iran’s central bank and its oil exports. Israeli air strikes are meanwhile wiping out their military assets around Damascus and southern Syria. Iran’s leaders will watch with dismay the triumphant dedication of the US embassy in Jerusalem on Monday, May 14, while waiting impatiently for the wheel to turn back in their favor when the results of Iraq’s general election are published the next day. A win by the pro-Iranian Shiite group of Iraqi militias headed by Hadi al Amiri will be hailed in ringing tones as Iran’s conquest of Baghdad and a counter-blow for the American-Israeli triumph in Jerusalem.
The first step of an Amiri-led government would be an announcement in the new parliament of an order for the immediate evacuation of US forces from Iraqi soil, DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources report. He has been provided with a detailed timeline for the US withdrawal. Our sources add that the collapse of the US military presence in Iraq would put at grave risk the key American military position in northern and eastern Syria. It may also incidentally provide North Korean ruler Kim Jong-un with a strong card for demanding the evacuation of US forces from Korea, when he meets President Trump in Singapore on June 12. In a word, Iran’s takeover of Baghdad through a strong military proxy would badly shake Trump’s strategy for containing Iran as well as Israel’s military campaign for demolishing Tehran’s platform of aggression in Syria. While the US force would lose its Iraqi back-up, Tehran’s Syrian venture would gain strong backing from a pro-Iranian Iraqi government and army.
Washington and Tehran therefore have strong conflicting stakes in the Iraqi election. The US, Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia all shudder at the prospect of being hemmed in by the Iranian pawn Al-Amiri in Baghdad and across the border to the west, Syria in the clutches of Al Qods commander Qassem Soleimani and Lebanon controlled by another Iranian pawn, Hassan Nasrallah. In the past week, Trump administration and Saudi agents have been shelling out millions of dollars to win local leaders of Iraq’s majority Shiite community and their votes – either for incumbent prime minister Haydar al-Abadi’s Victory party or Al Amiri’s other leading challenger, the popular Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr’s alliance. Shortly before polling, Al-Abadi was estimated to be pulling ahead, but it would not be the first time that informed forecasts have been proven wrong.

One person killed in Paris knife attack, attacker shot dead
Reuters/May 13/18/Paris police shoot dead assailant who went on stabbing spree near French capital's Opera landmark; at least four reported wounded, one killed; attacker reportedly yelled 'Allahu akbar' during attack.
A man killed a passer-by in a knife attack in the heart of Paris Saturday night and wounded four others before being shot dead by police, French authorities said. The Europe 1 network reported the assailant cried out "Allahu akbar" during the attack. pierre Gaudin, a senior official at the Paris prefecture, told reporters, "A person attacked five people in the second district of Paris. Police intervened immediately.""The individual died. Another person, seriously injured (by the attacked) died from their injuries."French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb called it an "odious" attack while extolling officers' "swift response in neutralizing the attacker."The Paris prefecture had earlier said a person had carried out a knife attack in the second arrondissement—or district—of the French capital. Paris's opera and landmark retail stores are located in that area. Eyewitness described a panic in the streets of central Paris, saying people were attempting to hide in restaurants and cafés. According to unconfirmed reports, police attempted to use a taser gun to incapacitate the attacker, but later fired two bullets at him, killing him. "I left a performance near Place de l'Opera in central Paris and was immediately told to go back inside because there was a madman with a knife," a local reporter recounted. "When I went back in, we heard sirens and two gunshots. I spoke with eyewitnesses then who told me a man stabbed a lot of people." A man who resides on the street where the attack took place described seeing the "body of a man whose hands were bloodied." France has been on high alert as a series of attacks commissioned or inspired by Islamic State have hit the country over the past three years in which dozens of people have been killed.
Eleven Iranians among Dead in Israel Strikes on Syria Thursday
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 12/18/At least 11 Iranians were among those killed in unprecedented Israeli strikes on Syria this week, a monitor said Saturday. "At least 27 pro-regime fighters were killed" in Thursday's strikes, said Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. He said "six Syrian soldiers and 21 foreign fighters, including 11 Iranians" were among the dead. That updates the monitor's initial toll of 23, which did not specify the number of Iranians. "The new report is due to the death of wounded or missing persons whose deaths have been confirmed," Abdel Rahman said. Israel says it struck dozens of Iranian targets inside Syria early on Thursday in response to a salvo of rockets allegedly fired by Iranian forces into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Iran had "crossed a red line" and that Israel's bombardment against targets in Syria was "a consequence". The Jewish state has long warned it will not accept Iran entrenching itself militarily in neighbouring Syria, where the Islamic Republic backs Assad's regime in the country's seven-year civil war. Israeli forces have been blamed for a series of recent strikes inside Syria that have killed Iranians, though it has not acknowledged those raids.Israel says it has conducted dozens of operations in Syria to stop what it says are advanced arms deliveries to one of its main foes, Iran-backed Hezbollah.
Washington Calls for Pressure on Iran to Change its ‘Dangerous Behavior’
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 12 May, 2018/The Trump Administration on Friday slammed Iran for its "reckless actions,” calling on “responsible nations” to put pressure on the country. The White House said that Iran "pours resources into exporting destabilizing influence throughout the Middle East, even as the Iranian people are victims of a struggling economy." "Already this week, the IRGC has fired rockets at Israeli citizens, and Iran's proxies in Yemen have launched a ballistic missile at Riyadh. "These actions are further proof that the Iranian regime's reckless actions pose a severe threat to regional peace and security. "It is time for responsible nations to bring pressure on Iran to change this dangerous behavior."The statement came after Iranian forces in Syria were accused by Israel of launching some 20 missiles into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, prompting Israeli strikes against positions held by the Revolutionary Guard Corps inside Syria.

US accuses Iran of destabilizing the Middle East

AP/May 12, 2018/A prominent Iranian cleric is threatening two Israeli cities with destruction if the Jewish state “acts foolishly” and retaliates against it again.
White House calls on “responsible nations” to pressure Iran to “change this dangerous behavior.”
WASHINGTON/TEHRAN: The White House on Friday condemned Iran’s “reckless actions,” accusing the country of “exporting destabilizing influence throughout the Middle East.”White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a statement citing actions in Syria and Saudi Arabia. She called on “responsible nations” to pressure Iran to “change this dangerous behavior.”An Iranian rocket barrage on Israeli positions in the Golan Heights prompted an Israel attack Thursday on Iranian targets in Syria. Saudi Arabia is also accusing Iran of providing missiles that Yemeni rebels have fired toward Riyadh.
Trump spoke with British Prime Minister Theresa May Friday. The White House said both condemned the rocket attacks. Downing Street also said May reiterated support for the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump withdrew from this week. In Tehran, a prominent Iranian cleric threatened two Israeli cities with destruction if the Jewish state “acts foolishly” and retaliates against it again. The comments by Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami followed a week of escalating tensions that threaten to spill over into a wider conflict between the two bitter enemies. Israeli airstrikes struck Iranian military installations inside Syria on Thursday — its biggest coordinated assault on Syria since the 1973 Mideast war — in retaliation for an Iranian rocket barrage on Israeli positions in the occupied Golan Heights. The remarks from Khatami drew chants of “Death to America!” from those gathered for Friday prayers in Tehran. Thousands later demonstrated across the country to protest President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal. The Iranian government warned that it will take “whatever reciprocal measures it deems expedient” if it is not fully compensated for the US withdrawal from the nuclear agreement as provided for in the accord. A lengthy government statement issued Friday said the other parties to the agreement — especially Britain, France and Germany — must safeguard the accord, implement their commitments, and “proceed from giving pledges to taking practical action without any preconditions.”Iran reiterated that no provisions or timeframes in the 2015 agreement “are negotiable in any manner.” It also reiterated that the foreign minister is seeking “required guarantees” from the five other parties to the agreement as well as Iran’s other economic parties. At the same time, the government said it has tasked the president of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran with “taking all necessary steps in preparation for Iran to pursue industrial-scale enrichment without any restrictions, using the results of the latest research and development of Iran’s brave nuclear scientists.”The statement was sharply critical of President Donald Trump, calling his administration “extremist” and the US withdrawal from the accord “unlawful.” The government said the US pullout damages US credibility on the world stage and the credibility of accords the US has signed, and puts “the present system of international law in serious danger.”
Free trade pact with Russia
Moscow, meanwhile, said Russia and its ex-Soviet allies will sign a free trade pact with Iran. Putin’s foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov said Friday the deal between Iran, Russia and other members of the Moscow-dominated Eurasian Economic Union is set to be signed next week. The grouping includes Kazakhstan, Belarus, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. While Ushakov noted that the pact’s signing had been planned for long time, the move coincides with the US exit from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran that set the stage for re-imposing painful economic sanctions against Iran and rattled many US allies.
Ushakov said Putin will discuss the US withdrawal from the Iranian deal with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, who are set to visit Russia later this month. European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini says the EU is determined to make sure the Iran nuclear agreement is respected despite US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out. Mogherini said Friday that “our determination is to keep this agreement in place. Obviously we need the only country that can unilaterally destroy this agreement to stay committed, which is Iran.”Mogherini says she has been reassured about Iran’s intentions by the declarations of President Hassan Rouhani. She added that the US cannot undo the agreement by pulling out, saying: “this deal is not a bilateral treaty. It’s a UN Security Council Resolution and it belongs to the entire world.”
Mogherini will chair talks between the British, French, German and Iranian foreign ministers in Brussels on Tuesday.

Israel closing Gaza cargo crossing after weekly protests
AP/May 12, 2018/The military said on Friday that a group of Palestinians, as part of their weekly protests, burned a fuel complex and conveyor belt on their side of the crossing. The Kerem Shalom crossing will be closed until “extensive damage” is repaired. JERUSALEM: The Israeli military says it is shutting down its main cargo crossing into Gaza because of damage caused to it by Palestinian protesters. The military says Saturday that the Kerem Shalom crossing will be closed until “extensive damage” is repaired. The military said on Friday that a group of Palestinians, as part of their weekly protests, burned a fuel complex and conveyor belt on their side of the crossing, causing more than $9 million in damages and disrupting the import of diesel fuel and building materials. It says the attack rendered the main fuel and gas lines unusable. Palestinians in Gaza have been staging weekly protests at the border fence against a decade-old blockade of the territory. Since March 30, 41 protesters have been killed and more than 1,800 wounded.
Iran Minister on Diplomatic Tour to Save Nuclear Deal
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 12/18/Iran's foreign minister was due to leave Saturday for a whirlwind diplomatic tour as world leaders scramble to salvage something from the wreckage of a key nuclear deal after Washington withdrew. Mohammad Javad Zarif's tour starts two days after unprecedented Israeli strikes in Syria which a monitor said killed at least 11 Iranian fighters, triggering fears of a broader conflict between the two arch-enemies. He will visit Beijing, Moscow and Brussels, a spokesman said, holding meetings with all of the remaining parties to the 2015 agreement. Before leaving, Zarif published a government statement on his Twitter page, slamming the "extremist administration" of US President Donald Trump for abandoning "an accord recognised as a victory of diplomacy by the international community". It reiterated that Iran was preparing to resume "industrial-scale" uranium enrichment "without any restrictions" unless Europe provided solid guarantees that it could maintain trade ties despite renewed US sanctions. Zarif's delicate diplomatic mission was complicated by reports of clashes between Iranian and Israeli forces in Syria on Thursday. The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights said Saturday that 11 Iranians were among the 27 pro-regime fighters killed in strikes by Israel, which has vowed to prevent Iran gaining a military foothold in neighbouring Syria. Tehran, which has sought to avoid an escalation in regional conflict that could alienate its European partners, has not commented on whether its forces were hit. Israel and its allies have blamed the Iranian Revolutionary Guards for initiating Thursday's exchange by launching missiles into the occupied Golan Heights. The White House backed Israel's claims, accusing Iran of "reckless actions" that posed a "severe threat" to stability in the Middle East. "Already this week, the IRGC (Revolutionary Guards) has fired rockets at Israeli citizens, and Iran's proxies in Yemen have launched a ballistic missile at Riyadh," it said. Saudi Arabia is another of Iran's key regional rivals. Trump spoke with British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday, and "both leaders condemned the Iranian regime's provocative rocket attacks from Syria," the White House said. Iran denies that version of events, saying the Israeli strikes were launched on "invented pretexts".
Angry diplomats
Meanwhile, European diplomats in Tehran fumed that Trump's decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal could undermine years of patient work to restore commercial and diplomatic ties with the Islamic Republic. "Since the signing of the JCPOA (nuclear deal), we have gone from an atmosphere like a gold rush, to one of utter depression," said a Western trade diplomat on condition of anonymity. "We are waiting now for how the decision-makers in the European Union will react. If the EU leans towards accommodating the US, all the progress we have made since 2015 will be lost.",But she emphasised that many of the problems began long before Trump's move last Tuesday. "Decisions on the Iranian side took longer than expected, international banks were reluctant to work with Iran and the recent decline in the value of (Iran's currency) made international business even more difficult," she said. Iranian hardliners are already mobilising against the government's efforts to save the nuclear deal. Demonstrators rallied in Tehran following Friday prayers to protest Trump's move. "Officials shouldn't trust France and Britain. They will never abandon the US for us," said housewife Poormoslem. A photo on the official Instagram site of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei showed him reading a Farsi translation of Michael Wolff's scabrous account of the Trump White House, "The Fire and the Fury", quickly picking up more than 100,000 likes. Analysts said Iran was determined to maintain the moral high ground in the coming weeks. "For the first time, Iran has the chance to show the world they are not the rogue nation they are always presented as, that they negotiated in good faith and keep to their commitments," said Karim Emile Bitar of the Institute for International and Strategic Studies in Paris. But the government of President Hassan Rouhani faces political challenges at home, where the economy was already suffering high unemployment and inflation before Trump's decision. Many say sanctions allow the government to blame outsiders for its own bad decisions. The Western trade diplomat gave the example of Iran's recent restrictions on transferring funds to the EU -- an effort to control the rapid slide of the rial -- that caused huge problems for importers. "It's really annoying that the Iranian government is never blamed for the really bad decisions they have taken lately concerning business, and only the sanctions are blamed," she said.

Iraq Holds First Nationwide Election since IS Defeat
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 12/18/Iraq headed to the polls Saturday for its first parliamentary election since declaring victory over the Islamic State group, with the country hoping to shore up a fragile peace and rebuild. Voters across the war-scarred nation cast their ballots under tight security, as the jihadists still pose a major security threat despite a sharp fall in violence. The poll comes with tensions surging between key powers Iran and the United States after Washington pulled out of a key 2015 nuclear deal, sparking fears of a destabilising power struggle in Iraq. Roughly 24.5 million voters face a fragmented political landscape five months after IS were ousted, with the dominant Shiites split, the Kurds in disarray and Sunnis sidelined. Over 15 blood-sodden years since the US-led ouster of Saddam Hussein, disillusionment is widespread and politics is dominated by old faces from an elite seen as mired in corruption and sectarianism.
At a polling station in the Baghdad district of Karrada, 74-year-old Sami Wadi appealed for change "to save the country". "I call on all Iraqis to participate in the elections to prevent those who have controlled the nation since 2003 from staying in power," the retiree told AFP. In the former IS bastion, second city Mosul -- still partially in ruins from the months-long fight to oust the group -- residents hoped for an uptick in their fortunes as they struggle to put their lives back together. "I am voting for security and the economy to stabilise and for a better future," said labourer Ali Fahmi, 26. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi -- who took office as IS rampaged across Iraq in 2014 -- is angling for a new term, claiming credit for defeating the jihadists and seeing off a Kurdish push for independence. But competition from within his Shiite community, the majority group dominating Iraqi politics, should divide the vote and spell lengthy horse-trading to form any government. Whoever emerges as premier will face the mammoth task of rebuilding a country left shattered by the battle against IS -- with donors already pledging $30 billion (25 billion euros). More than two million people remain internally displaced and IS -- which has threatened the polls -- maintains the capacity to launch deadly attacks. Iraq has long been a crucible for the rivalry between Iran and the US, with Tehran exerting influence over Shiite politicians and Washington deploying troops to fight IS.
Shiite camp divided
Overall, just under 7,000 candidates are standing and Iraq's complex system means no single bloc is likely to get anything near a majority in the 329-seat parliament. Abadi -- who has balanced the US and Iran -- is facing two leading challengers to his Victory Alliance. Ex-premier Nuri al-Maliki is widely reviled for stirring sectarianism and losing territory to IS, but draws support from hardliners. "I wish for all to go to the ballot boxes to make their choice," Maliki said after casting his ballot, demanding authorities stop "attempts at falsification through the pressuring of voters". Another frontrunner, former transport minister Hadi al-Ameri, led Iran-backed paramilitary units that fought IS alongside Baghdad's troops and heads a list of ex-combattants. Votes in the Sunni heartlands once dominated by IS -- including Iraq's devastated second city Mosul -- are up in the air as traditional alliances have been shredded by the fallout of jihadist rule. Political forces in the Kurdish community -- often seen as potential kingmakers -- are also in disarray after a September vote for independence spectacularly backfired. The Kurds look set to lose some of their clout on the national stage after Baghdad unleashed a battery of sanctions and seized back disputed oil-rich regions. Putting on a brave face, the prime minister of autonomous Kurdistan, Nechirvan Barzani, insisted the political process would not succeed "without Kurdish participation". "No party can form the next government without alliances," he said in televised comments after voting.
A senior security official told AFP that some 900,000 police and soldiers are on high alert to protect the vote, with airports and borders shut for the day.
Polling stations are open until 6:00 pm (1500 GMT) and initial results are expected in three days.

Syria Fight against IS in Damascus Stalls, Dozens Dead
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 12/18/At least 86 pro-regime fighters were killed in Syria over the past week in battles against the Islamic State group as regime forces push to clear jihadists from their last stronghold in Damascus, a monitor said Saturday. The jihadists have lost 57 fighters in the clashes in the Hajar al-Aswad district on the outskirts of Damascus since May 5, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Since mid-April, forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have pounded IS in its last Damascus bastion. Retaking the area, which includes Hajar al-Aswad and the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmuk, would place the regime in full control of the capital and its surroundings for the first time since 2012. "The clashes continue. Despite its firepower, the regime has been unable to achieve any significant advance on the ground for a week," Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said. "IS is entrenched in tunnels and underground shelters and it has been conducting counter-attacks since Saturday." At least 203 pro-government fighters have been killed along with 159 IS jihadists since April 19, according to the Observatory. Government forces have retaken 60 percent of Hajar al-Aswad, but jihadists still control 80 percent of Yarmuk, the monitor said. Once a thriving district home to some 160,000 Palestinians and Syrians, Yarmuk's population has fallen to just a few hundred people. The regime continued to pound the area with air strikes and artillery fire on Saturday, the Observatory said. IS has been expelled from most of the country since it declared a "caliphate" across large swathes of Syria and neighbouring Iraq in 2014. But it still holds around five percent of Syrian territory, in eastern and central desert holdouts and on the edge of Damascus. Syria's war has killed more than 350,000 people since it started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests before spiralling into a complex conflict involving world powers and jihadists.

Backed Into a Corner, Hamas Adopts Peaceful Pose
Renowned for taking on Israel's military might, Hamas is keeping its guns silent for a change as it backs border protests, a move analysts say is more opportunistic than a switch to peaceful ideology. The Palestinian Islamist movement's normally secretive Gaza head Yahya Sinwar gave a first ever briefing to international journalists this week, ahead of a major protest along the Israel-Gaza border to coincide with the United States moving its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv on May 14. Sinwar stressed the movement would not give up its weapons but committed its full backing to weeks of border protests against Israel. Since March 30 thousands of Palestinians have gathered weekly along the border to demand a right to return to their historic homelands now inside Israel. While some have thrown rocks and rolled burning tyres at Israeli snipers along the border, there has been almost no gunfire -- despite the presence of members of Hamas's vast armed wing. Fifty-three Palestinians have been killed, while no Israelis have been hurt. "If we have a way to potentially resolve the conflict without death, we're ok with that," Sinwar said on Thursday, calling the protests purely peaceful. Israel says it is protecting its borders and only fires when all other means of deterrence have failed. Jamal al-Fadi, a professor of political science in Gaza, said Hamas was searching for a way to refocus pressure on the decade-long Israeli blockade of the enclave and its humanitarian implications without risking another devastating war with the Jewish state. Three confrontations since 2008 have battered Gaza while causing comparatively little damage to Israel, and Israeli officials have threatened further destruction in the event of a fourth round.
Lack of options
"Hamas has resorted to peaceful protests because other options are expensive for it," Fadi said. "If the people hold peaceful protests it rallies international opinion to the Palestinian cause." The protests are officially organised by civil society organisations but they have Hamas's explicit support and a number of the dead have been members of Hamas's armed wing. Sinwar pointed out they had not been carrying weapons when killed. Seven weeks of marches are due to culminate on May 14 and 15, with thousands of protesters expected to gather and potentially seek to break the fence into Israel. On Thursday Sinwar indicated his support for such a step, despite potential bloodshed. "The fence is not a holy cow or a taboo that no one should touch," he said. "What's the problem with hundreds of thousands breaking through a fence that is not a border?"Israel enforces a crippling blockade of Gaza it says is necessary to isolate Hamas, but critics say it amounts to collective punishment for the strip's two million residents. Hamas maintains a large armed wing and military arsenal, but in recent years the Iranian-backed movement has found itself increasingly isolated.
Gulf Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia have appeared to privately soften their position regarding Israel in the face of the perceived joint threat of Iranian aggression, while Qatar, another longtime supporter of Hamas, has been blockaded by its neighbours. Wars in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere have dragged global attention away from the Palestinians, while the election of Donald Trump in the United States brought to power a government he vowed would be the most pro-Israeli in US history. Hamas is considered a terrorist movement by Israel, the United States and the European Union.
Armed resistance 'useless'
Sinwar, who came to power in February 2017, has been seeking largely unsuccessfully to improve Hamas's strategic position. The party adjusted its founding charter to tone down some of its anti-Semitic rhetoric, though without retracting its call for Israel's destruction. Sinwar also pushed for an ultimately unsuccessful reconciliation deal with the West Bank-based Palestinian government.Mukhaimer Abu Saada, professor of political science at Gaza's Al-Azhar University, said Hamas has realised armed resistance is "useless" currently as a new war with Israel would result in "unprecedented destruction" in Gaza. But he said it was unclear whether Hamas could ever genuinely embrace a peaceful strategy "because there are elements that did not abandon armed resistance". Sinwar himself came from the movement's armed wing and was serving multiple life sentences in Israel for murder before being released in a controversial 2011 prisoner exchange. Israeli officials dismiss any changing strategy as window dressing and the army accuses Hamas of seeking to use the protests to carry out attacks. What happens after the protests are officially due to end on Tuesday remains unclear. Hugh Lovatt, Israel-Palestine fellow with the European Council for Foreign Relations, said so far mass protests in Gaza had not been met with similar confrontations in areas outside Hamas control. "The big question (over a wider escalation) is whether large-scale protests erupt next week in the West Bank."Sinwar vowed action would continue."This is an intifada for the right of return. It can continue until we achieve our rights."

Observatory: 19 Iranians Killed in 2 Days of Israeli Strikes on Syria
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 12 May, 2018/At least 11 Iranians were among those killed in unprecedented Israeli strikes on Syria on Thursday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Saturday. "At least 27 pro-regime fighters were killed" in Thursday's strikes, said Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Britain-based Observatory. He said "six Syrian soldiers and 21 foreign fighters, including 11 Iranians" were among the dead. That updates the monitor's initial toll of 23, which did not specify the number of Iranians. "The new report is due to the death of wounded or missing persons whose deaths have been confirmed," Abdel Rahman said. In strikes near the capital on Wednesday, the Observatory said at least 15 were killed, including eight Iranians. That brings to 42, including 19 Iranians, the total killed during the two days of strikes. Israel says it struck dozens of Iranian targets inside Syria early on Thursday in response to a salvo of rockets allegedly fired by Iranian forces into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The Observatory also said Saturday that at least 86 pro-regime fighters were killed in Syria over the past week in battles against ISIS as regime forces push to clear militants from their last stronghold in Damascus. The extremists have lost 57 fighters in the clashes in the Hajar al-Aswad district on the outskirts of Damascus since May 5, according to the Observatory.

Defeated Malaysian Leader, Wife Barred from Leaving Country
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 12 May, 2018/Malaysia's Immigration Department said Saturday that former Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife are barred from leaving the country, media reported.This came shortly after Najib announced plans for a short holiday with family. Malaysian authorities barred ousted Najib and his wife from leaving the country on Saturday, amid reports that the government was reopening investigations into a multi-billion-dollar graft scandal at a state fund he founded, according to Reuters. Najib's coalition suffered a shocking electoral defeat this week that ended its 60 year-rule. Following strong calls from the party for him to step down, Najib told a news conference that he was stepping down with immediate effect as president of the United Malays National Organization as well as chairman of the National Front coalition, AP reported. The Immigration Department issued a statement banning Najib from leaving the country without giving further details. "The Malaysian Immigration Department would like to confirm that Najib Razak and Rosmah Mansor have just been blacklisted from leaving the country," the agency said on its official Facebook page. It gave no . Najib responded instantly in Twitter by confirming that he respected the department's decision and will stay with his family in the country. In a Twitter message on Friday, Najib said he was praying that, "after this divisive period", Malaysia would unite. "I apologise for any shortcomings and mistakes, and I thank you, the people, for the opportunity to lead our great nation," he tweeted.

US Pullout from Nuclear Deal Amplifies Iranians' Suffering

Tehran- Faraz Safaei/Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 12 May, 2018/Right off the side of one of Tehran’s streets sits a 40-year-old Mohammed wearing a denim jeans shirt and holding a stack of banknotes. Fitting the character of a currency exchange dealer, I approach Mohammed asking for dollar bills. “It’s nowhere to be found,” he responds with echoed frustration. “These days everyone is intimidated by vague currency and police prices,” he continued explaining. He insisted on its unavailability despite his pressing need for a US buck. But unwavering urgency finally tempted him to make an offer set at an outrageous 74,000 Iranian riyals. His sole attempt at selling the rate was short to a warning, saying that rocketing rates will make the cost of securing a dollar even steeper an hour later. “There is no news here about government promises, and everyone made Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri’s announcement of pumping dollars into the markets at a fixed price a laughingstock,” said Mohammed. These days, the dollar is selling at double the government's market price. “Markets have been in burning anguish for days since the US announced withdrawing from the nuclear agreement and from the markets—it has not calmed down since.”“The Trump exit from the nuclear agreement has sparked fires that are devouring markets.” On the other hand, gold traders say the metal’s rates change at rapid rates, sometimes with windows as tight as less than an hour. Although more expensive gold might provide security to the buyer, it hampers the dealer’s operations. “It harms the trader, as they have to keep money in banks…. By and by they purchase less gold with their capital to survive against a declining currency,” said one of Tehran’s gold shop owners. Iranian currency fell within 25 weeks, losing almost 100 percent of its value. Last December, the dollar stood at 36,000 Iranian riyals. now, it sells at rates over 70,000 riyals. But senior officials insist on denying the market struggle. “Who says that the price of the dollar has shot up?” Jahangiri said a few days ago. After denying everything, he insisted that the dollar was at 42,000 Iranian riyals, saying that other prices were mere rumors. Debunking authorities’ claims on the markets doing fine, both the public and rising commodity prices say a lot about Iran’s economic standing today. Samsung devices, for instance, have experienced a 90 percent increase in rates within a week.
The market is so volatile that salespeople are forced at points to halt dealings as long as hours, said a Tehran shop owner. Economics Professor at a Tehran university says the government has pumped up dollars to prevent its prices from exploding. However, the market is inflamed. Warning that this is only the beginning, the academic who chose to remain unnamed, says that it’ll be far worse in two weeks later, as some of the sanctions will go into implementation. Since Monday, another pain has been added to the suffering of the people. As for the Iranian-Israeli confrontation in Syria, the Iranians are concerned that the skirmishes turn into war. Iran’s public being spread too thin has expressed no appetite for war, especially after being left with international media reports saying that an Iran-Israel direct confrontation can be right around the corner. Instead, Iranians are praying that war doesn’t break out saying that it will only exhaust the people further. “No war! God is keeping us from war; our backs will split (referring to a harsher economic environment) if war begins,” said another Tehran gold shop owner.

Iraq Tightens Noose on Baghdadi after Aide’s Arrest
Baghdad- - Hamza Mustafa/Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 12 May, 2018/Iraq announced on Friday arresting five top ISIS leaders, one of which suspected to be one of ISIS-founder Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s aides. The captures are a tight move against the terrorist organization’s leader.In a statement, Iraqi authorities listed the names of those captured. Saddam Hussein Hussein al-Jamal, dubbed Abu Rukaya al-Ansari, believed to handle security for ISIS’ self-proclaimed Euphrates caliphate and commander of the terror group’s eastern brigade was among those arrested. Mohammed Hussein Hadar, Issam Abdul Qader Ashour al-Zobaie, Omar Shahab Hammad Karbouli were also arrested. Ismail al-Eithawi, who also uses the alias Abu Zaid al-Iraqi, was captured in February in Turkey by Turkish authorities and handed over to Iraqi agents, Iraqi security advisor Hisham al-Hashimi told Reuters on Thursday. Authorities explained that these were arrested inside Syrian territory bordering Iraq. More so, interrogating the five bigshot ISIS leaders revealed information which proved helpful and was the cornerstone of a military air strike which took out no less than 40 ISIS leaders. “This operation launched with leads shared by Turkey, where another ISIS senior commander, Eithawi, was arrested,” Iraqi Government Security Adviser Dr. Hisham al-Hashemi told Asharq Al-Awsat. Eithawi’s phone was used to contact the other four leaders through Telegram. Following Eithawi’s capture, Iraqi and American intelligence agents were able to uncover bank accounts used by the group and also secret communication codes Eithawi used, Hashimi said. They then used the app on the mobile phone to lure the other men across the Syrian border and into Iraq where they were arrested. This qualitative operation uncovered crucial details on Baghdadi, such as possible whereabouts. “Iraqi and US authorities used to believe Baghdadi could be located in one eight areas, but now it is narrowed down to one of two areas only ", Hashemi said. However, the security official refused sharing any further details. The arrests were the culmination of elaborate US-Iraqi joint intelligence operations. The ISIS commanders’ confessions were broadcast on Iraqi television Thursday morning. One by one the men admitted to being top ISIS leaders. On the other hand, US officials say ISIS leadership has been decimated but they believe Baghdadi is still operating on the border between Syria and Iraq.

US Fighter Jets Intercept Russian Bombers Off Alaska
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 12 May, 2018/Two US fighter jets intercepted two Russian bombers in international airspace off the coast of Alaska on Friday, media reported. The Russian TU-95 "Bear" bombers flew into a so-called Air Defense Identification Zone located about 200 miles off Alaska's west coast, at about 10 a.m. EST (1400 GMT), North American Aerospace Defense Command spokesman Canadian Army Major Andrew Hennessy said in a statement to CNN. Two Alaska-based NORAD F-22 fighter jets intercepted and visually identified the Russian bombers until they left the identification zone and the Russian aircraft never entered US airspace, CNN reported, citing the statement. Russian bombers TU-95 and TU-142 were escorted by two F-22 fighter jets in international airspace for 40 minutes, the RIA news agency cited the Russian Defence Ministry as saying on Saturday. The US fighter jets did not get closer then 100 meters to the Russian bombers, the Russian military was quoted as saying.
Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 12-13/18
Iran Targets the Gulf
إيران تستهدف دول الخليج العربي
Richard Miniter/Gatestone Institute/May 12/18
Our allies are finally becoming force multipliers -- joining with America to use its talent and technology finally to defeat the jihadist threat. We should assist and encourage the UAE and Saudi Arabia, not abandon them.
More than 7,000 miles from Washington and far from America's headlines, a war in Yemen is rewriting America's strategy against Iran and terrorism.
The three-sided civil war pits two radical Islamist forces -- Al-Qaeda's largest surviving army and Iran's biggest proxy force -- against each other and six of America's Arab allies. U.S. Special forces carry out covert raids and CIA drones rain down missiles on terror leaders.
The outcome of the Yemen war matters: U.S. forces are fighting there and a new strategy against terrorism is now being tested in the Middle East's poorest nation.
Since Britain's Royal Marines marched out of their Aden Protectorate in November 1967, Yemenis have killed each other over nearly every international ideology: colonialism, communism, and radical Islamism. Add in the tribal rivalries and the religious divides between competing versions of Sunni and Shia Islam -- and the stage is set for perpetual war. Indeed, Yemen, in every decade since the 1960s, saw bombings, bloodshed and barbarism.
Iran has also seemingly been trying to form a "Shi'ite Crescent" across the Middle East, through Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to the Mediterranean.
According to nearly half a million computer files released by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency late last year, captured from Osama bin Laden's compound, Iran had also offered "support to al-Qaeda in exchange for targeting the Gulf."
The Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi. Iran offered "support to al-Qaeda in exchange for targeting the Gulf," according to CIA documents captured last year from Osama bin Laden's compound.
In addition, Iran has been sponsoring Shia uprisings in Bahrain. The US ambassador to Bahrain during the Obama administration evidently turned a deaf ear to pleas from Bahraini officials for help; he presumably feared upsetting the president's Iran deal, just as Obama had, by failing to act after his "red line" on the use of chemical weapons was crossed in Syria.
Meanwhile, Iran has been referring to Bahrain as "the 14th province of Iran" in its state-run broadcasts; Saudi Arabia has said Iran was behind Shia uprisings in the oil-rich "Empty Quarter," and the UAE has placed nine Iranian entities and individuals on its terrorism list.
Following the 2011 Arab Spring, outsiders also beat the war drums. Al-Qaeda In the Arabian Peninsula -- the terror network's deadliest branch since the death of Osama bin Laden -- struck police stations and army barracks while convulsing cities with improvised bombs and sniper attacks. Yemen's elected government begged U.S. President Barack Obama for help.
Given his public statements about the Iraq War and his professed ideology about foreign intervention, Obama faced a tough decision: letting an American ally fall to al-Qaeda in the months before a presidential election or making a major military commitment that might alienate his anti-war supporters. As usual, he chose a middle course: special forces and drone strikes.
This middling effort produced middling results. Al-Qaeda forces were scattered and driven back into the arid mountains and desert wastes, but they were only beaten back, not beaten. Indeed, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula still holds roughly one-quarter of Yemen.
Meanwhile, Yemen's government and US forces had to face an even deadlier foe: Iran-backed militias mostly populated by Houthis, an off-shoot of Shi'ite Islam.
With a common religious bond, Iranian agents built political alliances with Houthi clans with flattery, funds and strategic marriages. Their shared goal, according to Reuters, is to "'strengthen their hand in the region,' create a Hezbollah-like militia in Yemen, and "encircle the Saudis..., expand its influence and power projection in the region and develop levers of unconventional pressure."
The Houthis' effective use of small-unit tactics -- similar to how U.S. infantry units learn to choreograph their movements as squads and platoons while centralizing their fire -- soon routed the undisciplined government troops. The Houthis captured the capital in 2014 and have held it ever since. They dissolved the parliament in 2015, replacing it with a Supreme Revolutionary Committee later that same year.
The stakes are high. Yemen's neighbors know that if Yemen fell to Iran's allies, uprisings in Shia-majority pockets in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arab states would soon follow. America's allies could suffer civil wars of their own, distracting them from U.S. efforts to destroy ISIS and al-Qaeda in Syria and Iraq.
The economic effects might also sap the will to fight Iran's ambitions. Oil and gas prices would climb and Western economies would slow.
What's more, Yemen could give terrorists a new Afghanistan, a secure base from which to map and stage attacks across Africa, America, and Asia.
So, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates dispatched troops, tanks, and planes. For most of those nations, it was the largest deployment of their troops, outside their borders, in their history.
America, as usual in the Obama years, provided largely "soft" assistance: snatches of phone conversations, medicine, and pallets of Meals-Ready-To-Eat.
The initial result? An appalling stalemate, in which the amount of blood-spilled per acre-regained shocked both diplomats and military planners. One Saudi military adviser told this author in 2017: "The butcher's bill is as high as the Iran-Iraq War [was in the 1980s] and, five years later, we still have less than half of the countryside."
Yemen's cities reminded him of Beirut in the 1970s. "Snipers, bombs... civilians slaughtered, artillery shells landing in apartment blocks." The career officer shook his head. He didn't ever want to go back.
Now, the tide may be turning against the Islamist rebels.
United Arab Emirates' aircraft smashed a key Houthi command and communications center near a strategic crossroads some 15 miles from coast.
The UAE, with Chinese missiles, has built a considerable drone force. From a room that resembles NASA's Mission Control, more than 900-miles north of the battlefield, the UAE can now key Houthi leaders with its drones. A UAE drone killed Saleh al-Samad, president of the Houthi's Supreme Political Council, as he exited a Toyota Land Cruiser in 2016. Many more have followed.
What does this mean for American decision-makers? Our Arab allies are working on becoming effective ground fighters, capable of expelling experienced jihadists from fortified positions, in both Yemen and Iraq. Additionally, the UAE's new generation of drones can deliver "death from above" as efficiently as their U.S. counterparts, although it is not known for how long.
Although it might be tempting to copy this model in Afghanistan, Syria-Iraq, and across North Africa, "the problem," as U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis pointed out this week, "is it's only a matter of time before the threat manifests in a violent way."
Once Arab government forces can help to vanquish the lands of Islamist fighters, the balance of power could shift against the terrorists.
This does not mean that the U.S. can withdraw from the Middle East, as Sen. Rand Paul sometimes suggests. It means that our allies are finally becoming force multipliers -- joining with America to use its talent and technology finally to defeat the jihadist threat. We should assist and encourage the UAE and Saudi Arabia, not abandon them.
**Richard Miniter has written three New York Times bestsellers on foreign policy, including "Leading From Behind."
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What to make of Mahathir’s return to power in Malaysia
Cornelia Meyer/Arab News/May 12/18
On May 11, the 92-year-old veteran politician and former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad was sworn in as the seventh prime minister of Malaysia. What preceded was quite unprecedented: ever since independence in 1961, Malaysia had been ruled by the Barisan Nasional (National Front), a right-wing alliance of various ethnic parties led by the UMNO (United Malays National Organization), the MCI (Malaysian Chinese Association) and the MIC (Malaysian Indian Congress), which had, on and off, been joined by other groupings. Malaysia’s UMNO had been crippled by corruption and the incumbent Prime Minister, Najib Razak, was particularly weighed down by the 1MDB (Malaysia’s Sovereign Wealth Fund) money laundering/corruption scandal, which had the Swiss and Singaporean authorities investigating the involvement of senior politicians. This was not good for the image of Malaysia and clearly bothered the people. So when the UMNO veteran Mahathir launched his campaign to run the country in the last election, the people responded, giving his new political home the Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) a single majority. The surprising thing is that even the young came out in droves supporting the nonagenarian.
Dato Seri Mahathir Mohamad is an unusual man who had been a towering figure in the UMNO since the early 1970s. Some of the thinking behind Malaysia’s National Economic Policy (NEP) was based on thoughts in his controversial book "The Malay Dilemma," which he had written in 1970. The NEP sought to achieve economic empowerment of the ethnic Malay majority. It was launched against the backdrop of the bloody racial riots in 1969 in which the economically deprived Malay underclass had taken to the streets. The NEP was a huge economic and social engineering project, and very controversial as it was built on positive discrimination in favor of the Malays. On the flipside, it brought about better social cohesion in the country. There were no racial riots after 1969.
When Mahathir became prime minister in 1981 he put Malaysia firmly on the global economic map. Looking at Japan’s economic ascent and the successes of the four Asian tigers, he launched the “Look East" policy, seeking to emulate how Japan had achieved its hitherto unparalleled growth. The plot worked and Malaysia became one of the favored destinations for foreign direct Investment in the 1980s and 1990s.
The surprising thing was that even the young came out in droves supporting the nonagenarian in the last election.
Mahathir was a visionary, but he had his flaws. His three main disciples were Anwar Ibrahim, Najib Razak and Abdullah Bedawi. The latter followed Mahathir as prime minister, but his tenure was not successful. Najib followed his elder, leaving a legacy of mismanagement and corruption scandals. Mahathir’s greatest failing was going against his former deputy Anwar Ibrahim, because he felt threatened by the younger man’s rising popularity. Anwar paid dearly for falling out with Mahathir as it left him imprisoned twice. (He currently sits in jail on trumped-up charges.) In the meantime Anwar’s wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, and his daughter, Nurul Izzah, kept the flag of the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (People’s Justice Party) flying.
In the latest twist Mahathir has promised to pardon his old foe and bring him back into the fold of politics. In the meantime, Anwar’s wife will serve as the deputy PM.
What are we to make of these extraordinary developments? For one, people will in the end go against corrupt elites and leaders, as we have seen time and time again. It is also refreshing to see that Malaysian democracy is alive and kicking and the electorate is capable of overthrowing the status quo in not returning to power a coalition that has ruled for 47 years.
And what about Mahathir? He is an extraordinary man who had brought economic success to his country during his 22-year rule. He also is an autocrat who more often than not refused to tolerate dissenting views. He objected to the potential of his disciple (Anwar) eclipsing him in popularity.
However, Mahathir is under the current circumstances a safe pair of hands. We can hope that he has mellowed and understands that, given his age, he has to hand over power sooner rather than later. Anwar Ibrahim would certainly be a good candidate, but there may also be others. For the sake of Malaysia, let us hope that what happened serves as a warning for future leaders not to engage in corruption and to put the good of the country before the good of self.
**Cornelia Meyer is a business consultant, macroeconomist and energy expert. Twitter: @MeyerResources
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view

Why North Korea could be Trump’s first big foreign policy win
Andrew Hammond/Arab News/May 12/18
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met in Washington on Friday with his South Korean counterpart Kang Kyung-wha to help prepare for the landmark June 12 summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un. With positive mood music now surrounding the Trump-Kim session, and the US president’s earlier May 22 summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, the Korean peninsula offers the potential to become the US president’s first big foreign policy win.
Any final, comprehensive deal between Washington and Pyongyang is possibly years away. Yet, it is already clear that it would be a remarkable achievement if Trump were to help preside over denuclearization of the Korean continent; help seal a peace treaty between North and South to supplement the armistice ending the 1950-53 Korea War; and in the process de-escalate tensions in the world’s last Cold War-era frontier.
Should Kim ultimately decide to abandon North Korea’s nuclear program in exchange for economic aid and security guarantees, the reason why this would – potentially – be so central to Trump’s eventual foreign policy legacy is that almost a year and a half into office, the president’s international actions have been much more defined by the dismantling of policies of previous presidents, especially Barack Obama, rather than building something new. He has, for instance, this week withdrew US participation from the nuclear agreement between Iran and the United States, China, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and Germany. Prior to that decision he scrapped US involvement in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal with key allies in Asia-Pacific and the Americas; withdrew Washington from the Paris climate change deal agreed by over 170 nations; and launched a review of the North America Free Trade Agreement, which may yet collapse in 2018. The first three of these initiatives (Iran, TPP and Paris) were Obama-era signature policies, and Trump has also partially rolled back other key measures from the previous administration, including the Cuba liberalization policy.
“The president’s international actions have been much more defined by the dismantling of policies of previous presidents, especially Barack Obama, rather than building something new.”
Yet, for all this diplomatic action, thus far the new administration has failed to forge any clear, coherent and comprehensive new Trump doctrine, centered around his “America first” vision. When Trump moved into the White House, he promised a radical platform that could have reshaped US foreign and trade policy more radically than at any point since the beginning of the Cold War, the time that Harry Truman helped build a consensus around US global leadership.
To be sure, Trump has made some moves to shift away from this post-war orthodoxy – pursued by both Democratic and Republican presidents – such as building US-led alliances to expand the liberal democratic order. But in practice, much of the last year and a half has also been characterized by policy incoherence and U-turns on issues such as military action in Syria, a departure from Trump’s 2016 campaign rhetoric; and whether key international alliances like NATO are “obsolete” or “not obsolete.”
These flip-flops reflect not just the ad-hoc nature of the new president’s style of governing, and his contrarian character, but also the divisions within his team on key foreign policy issues. Take the example of the Paris climate deal, the Iran nuclear agreement and TPP, where then-secretary of state Rex Tillerson was just one of the senior members of his team urging Trump to remain in the accords rather than leaving them.
Yet, as the president enters mid-2018, he now appears to have in place a foreign policy personnel much more aligned to his political instincts. Former CIA director Pompeo has replaced Tillerson as secretary of state, and the conservative hawk John Bolton has taken over as national security adviser from the more pragmatic General H.R. McMaster.
This changing of the guard could be very important to Trump, almost 18 months into office, in the context of the fact that his political window of opportunity to put an enduring stamp on US foreign policy may soon narrow rapidly, unless he wins a second term in 2020. With this in mind, he and his new team will now seek to double down on other foreign policy priorities. These include the ambition to do the “deal of the century” in the Middle East with Israel and the Palestinians, which will become more complicated by the US president’s decision to move the US Embassy this week to Jerusalem; and forging renegotiated economic relationships with key countries like Japan and China, which are seen by the president as less one-sided and detrimental to the United States.
It is also to be hoped that Trump’s new team will prove better foils than Tillerson and McMaster were for the president’s ad hoc style of governing, which regularly exposes lack of experience and knowledge of international issues. If so, this will help serve as a compass for the White House in helping to navigate the significant uncertainties of international affairs in 2018 and beyond.
Taken overall, the historic potential opportunity offered by the Korea negotiations could become a central part of Trump’s foreign policy legacy. However, in this high-stakes gamble for glory, the president could yet emulate many others who have failed to bring a sustained, peaceful diplomatic outcome to one of the key international challenges facing the United States.
**Andrew Hammond is an associate at LSE IDEAS at the London School of Economics.

Trump's nuclear decision should not hinder a greater vision for the Arab region
Raghida Dergham/The National/May 12/18
As decision-makers meet in Abu Dhabi, it is important for this vital bloc not to retreat into its tragedies or be consumed by anger, writes Raghida Dergham
Just because there are alarming political and security developments in the Arab region hindering its ambitions does not mean it has to stop thinking in visionary terms and start planning in strategic terms. It is unhealthy for this vital bloc to retreat into its tragedies or to be consumed by anger from what others are doing to and in it.
It is from this standpoint that the Beirut Institute think tank was launched, to leverage the diversity, creativity and capacity of the region in its search for solutions and bring together stakeholders to discuss how to shape the future.
Yet the Beirut Institute is an Arab think tank with a global dimension. Its goal is to exert positive influence in both directions, through frank and constructive engagement that does not ignore facts but takes them into account in order to devise new approaches.
Over the next two days, a distinguished group of Arab and international decision-makers will meet at the second Beirut Institute summit in Abu Dhabi, whose focus will be “to construct the Arab region’s engagement in the emerging global future”. This is less of a theme and more of a duty that thinkers, leaders and ordinary people must assume to move us from despair to hope for the future.
However, none of this is to downplay the seriousness of political developments and their impact on the summit. Indeed, the gathering comes in the aftermath of US President Donald Trump withdrawing his country from the nuclear deal with Iran – a development that will impact the Arab region both in the present and the future and requires profound consideration of its immediate and strategic implications.
When current and ex-Arab League chiefs Ahmed Abulgheit and Amr Moussa sit on the same platform as current and ex-GCC security general Abullatif Al Zayani and Abdullah Bishara, they will inevitably hold an important talk about the odds of either direct military confrontation with Iran or genuine reconciliation with the Islamic Republic in the future of the Middle East.
Another session on new priorities for the region will bring together Prince Turki Al Faisal, general David Petraeus, Lebanon’s interior minister Nouhad El Machnouk and Libyan former prime minister Mahmoud Jibril. This session must tackle in depth what US goals currently are in the Arab region, from the Gulf to Libya via Lebanon, compared to US policies under former president Barack Obama.
What Mr Trump has done with Mr Obama’s nuclear deal is a dangerous gamble, unless he is confident in and ready for the necessary next steps. Indeed, one of the strongest cards Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps has is sabotage and terrorism across the Arab landscape and beyond, if Tehran should feel cornered. This would also embolden hardliners in Iran and prompt the IRGC to escalate against Israel and step up its foreign incursions in Bahrain, Lebanon, Yemen, Syria and Iraq.
The Europeans in particular are amplifying this very real threat, as they seek to maintain the nuclear deal becausetearing it apart has huge costs for them. The Arab region also faces high costs for the end of the deal, albeit from a different angle.
Mr Trump effectively challenged Germany, France and Britain to end their political hypocrisy under the guise of commercial interests. He has given the three European powers that co-signed the deal with the US, Russia and China an opening. He has said he did not care how the “bad deal” is reformed as long as its flaws and shortcomings are addressed. Nevertheless, Europe’s leaders dismissed Trump’s clear warnings that he was intent to withdraw from the deal unless he obtained European commitments to address the flaws, only to wake up too late to his seriousness and the risks for their companies, which are engaged in massive contracts with Iran.
It is these business dealings that had motivated the Europeans to cave to Iran’s demands, including allowing the IRGC to expand militarily in Iraq, Syria and Yemen and dominate Lebanon through Hezbollah.
So what happens now? The onus is on the Europeans primarily. Mr Trump has exposed Europe’s harmful duplicity and it is up to them to make a move.
For their part, the Arab countries are divided. Some support Mr Trump’s decision and some oppose or fear its repercussions. However, they are almost united in their resentment of Europe’s behaviour in the Arab landscape over the past few decades. This means that the current moment of truth could be an opportunity to engage in a reform process with multiple goals, including mending the imbalance in the European-Iranian-Arab dynamic.
Discussing how to induce a positive shift in these troubled relations, including Arab-Iranian relations, is part of what the Beirut Institute is trying to do. What is unacceptable in all cases, however, is to freeze the Arab region’s march towards progress and surrender by fear from the likes of Al Qaeda and ISIS or possible reprisal from the Islamic Republic. We must not reduce the Arab region to conflict and terrorism for it is a fertile land for talent, ambition and determination, despite all appearances.
Beirut Institute is a workshop for ideas and actions, bringing together multiple generations to speak in the language of empowerment and resolve. When I founded this think tank eight years ago, I enlisted my daughter, who was still a university student at the time. As I set out to continue the institute’s work and overcome the many hurdles facing it, I was not alone but was fortunate to have an excellent board of directors, led by Prince Turki, who put his faith in us.
We were also lucky and grateful to be hosted for our summits by the UAE in October 2015 and now again this week, a testimony that the institute works for the entire Arab region.
Beyond geopolitical challenges, the summit will hold sessions titled "beyond fear: toward a pragmatic embrace of tomorrow" and "innovative government: excellence in the public sphere".
Participants from the US, Russia, China, Europe and the Arab region will hold both closed and open meetings to discuss the next chapter in the Middle East’s story but the question remains: who authors the future in the region?
*The Beirut Institute Summit will run today and tomorrow in the St Regis hotel, Abu Dhabi Corniche

Merkel, Macron’s pro-Iran stance will push more chaos in the region
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/May 12/18
The siren drills in a number of Saudi cities is not a routine amid the tense circumstances of the region as Iran continuous firing ballistic missiles targeting populated Saudi cities through their Houthi agent in Yemen, which shows the danger facing everyone.
Despite this and the spread of the organized violence by the Iranian regime, both governments of Germany and France are promoting the idea to overlook the Iranian wars and respect the nuclear agreement with it.
For the first time and bluntly, German Chancellor Angela Merkel talked about strengthening her country’s military defense policy away from the United States, telling the Iranian president over the phone that she is committed to the agreement and cooperating with Iran. Along with Merkel, the French president also chose to be separated from Washington, promising the regime in Tehran to trade with it, announcing their desire to become more independent of their permanent American ally.
The positions opposing the US president’s decision to break the nuclear deal with Iran poses a series of perceptions that seems positive, but in reality it is drastically negative. France and Germany commitment to the agreement might be out of believing that it is the lesser of two evils. They claim that their position gives Iran an opportunity to think and interact positively so as not to lose Europe, after it had lost the US. Germany and France are promoting their biased positon to Tehran as if to prevent the regime from re-building nuclear weapons and rationalize its policies.
Both Germany and France are giving wrong indicators to the Iranian supreme leader that he was right in his position against Washington and that he does not need to reform his regional policies. We are afraid that the Merkel-Macron’s messages is what is going to push more chaos and wars in the region.
On the other side of this open positon, the Germans and French do not have enough guarantees for Tehran’s military and economic behavior. Thus, both countries give wrong indicators to the Iranian supreme leader that he was right in his position against Washington and that he does not need to reform his regional policies. We are afraid that the Merkel-Macron’s messages is what is going to push more chaos and wars in the region.
Creating more chaos
The US president Trump may not be tactful, but in this case he is right.
The nuclear agreement is the worst one in the modern age and it must be modified. The Middle East region, even with its bad standards, never knew wars, violence and dangers like those occurred after signing the agreement. The future would be worse as long as the Iranian regime sees that the major powers had abandoned its charging means. The Israeli- Iranian confrontation in Syria was only the result of this agreement which provides the regime with money, allowed it to spread and makes it fee free in the region. The Europeans has temporary solutions for huge wars, like in Syria, they donate more tents and blankets, they are wrong in this. Syria would create more worries due to the imbalances of powers in the region. As they tried in Libya, which is located directly in their security area, the Southern Europe security. Europe, whether as a combined or single powers, could only handle the Civil war in Libya, by deploying the maritime police to prevent immigrants. Thus due to absence of central authority and not enabling peace there, Libya became a passage to thousands of Africans, who are ready to drown in order to immigrate to Europe. Europe’s sleeping policy needs one of two solutions; either that US would bear the burden of the military confrontation or let the countries to region burn. Europe is not capable of making any war decision, it does not have the ability to agree on a joint military work. If it had not been for the US interference in Bosnia, the crisis might have been there in Europe itself until today!
Can the Germans and the French let us know their solution for what Iran is doing in Iraq, Syria, Gaza and Yemen? They do not anything but seeking to sell weapons, but they refuse to send forces or offer information or logistical services! With exception of a symbolic French force in Syria, we could not say that it makes a difference on the ground! Thus, The Europeans submission to the Iranian regime is at the expense of the restless Iranian people and the countries of the region which are all targeted by Iran. The only choice left is to get ready for wider wars.

North Korea: China holds the key to a successful US agreement
Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/May 12/18
Just like Russia seems to be holding the key as an arbitrator between warring parties like Iran and Israel in Syria , China is playing an important background role to get North Korea reach a successful outcome with the USA .
The objective of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s hurried last minute trip to Pyongyang was to lay the groundwork for a successful historic summit between the US and North Korean leaders that will be held in Singapore on 12 June, marked by the release of three US hostages held by the North Korean regime. But there was more behind the showcase hostage release tv drama, as the White House also timed Pompeo’s trip to ensure that upcoming nuclear negotiations with North Korea would not be derailed by President Donald Trump’s controversial decision yesterday to withdraw completely from the 2015 JCPOA nuclear accord with Iran. Despite what is likely to be a prolonged and contentious fallout now between the US and key allies over Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA accord and re-imposition of sanctions on Iran, all the major parties to the North Korea talks are ready to proceed as planned with the summit and negotiations over the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and it is here that China’s critical role has come into play.
Kim assured
At a two-day meeting hosted in Dalian, in northeast China’s Liaoning Province, China’s President Xi Jinping assured North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un that the Iranian nuclear issue was different from the Korean nuclear issue. Xi assured Kim that were the US to cancel or suspend an agreement with North Korea, under any pretext, China would firmly support and stand with North Korea. In a way, that means China would ultimately backstop the DPRK’s nuclear program. In their discussions, Kim stressed that the US must work with his country to take “phased and synchronous measures,” in a responsible manner, to eventually achieve denuclearization and lasting peace on the peninsula, and Xi agreed. While President Trump has stated that he hopes for a “ great outcome “ , but that he can also walk out if no immediate denuclearisation is achieved , Kim has also stressed that if Trump were to refuse to abide by the “phased and synchronous” roadmap, talks would fail. Xi assured him he would persuade the US President to do so putting China in a position to inform the US accordingly, as many commentators are pointing out that the summit has been hurriedly set up with little planning from the US side except demanding a total denuclearisation of North Korea. So long as relevant parties agreed to abolish their hostile policies and remove security threats against the North Korea, there would be no need for North Korea to be a nuclear state.
From all accounts following the historic meeting between the two Korean leaders and Kim’s meetings with the US officials, and with the Chinese leadership, he has stressed that it has been his consistent and clear desire and stance all along to achieve the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
However, this will not be a one-way street. So long as relevant parties agreed to abolish their hostile policies and remove security threats against the North Korea, there would be no need for North Korea to be a nuclear state, and denuclearization could be realized, but that any roadmap for de-escalation with the US would have to be “phased” and “synchronous.”
China’s support becomes critical and in addition to coordinating positions on the upcoming nuclear summit and the impact on North Korea of Iran, Kim and Xi discussed the North Koreas “open policy” and cooperation between the two countries on the economic and trade fronts.
The Chinese have reconfirmed China’s support for the North Korea, and for Kim’s efforts to shift strategic focus on economic construction, promising that China would surely be the biggest investor in North Korea in the future. In conclusion, the forthcoming Singapore summit is not only going to be of huge importance for a domestically embattled US President, and an economically isolated and sanctioned North Korean leader, but also important for the Chinese leadership that would like to resolve this potential flash point problem nearer to home so as to concentrate on the wider and looming trade war with the USA.

Was there ever a unified Arab stance towards Iran?
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/May 12/18
American President Donald Trump’s harsh blow by withdrawing from the “bad” agreement with the Iranian regime shocked many parties across the world and turned heads. The Europeans had bet on playing on Trump’s character and influencing his decision via some special ways, like when French President Emmanuel Macron courted Trump. German chancellor Angela Merkel tried to pressure Trump, and many others tried to change his mind but he neglected all the Europeans’ statements. He had given them time to pressure the Iranians to “amend” this destructive agreement which Obama and his global networks brag about. The essence of the amendment which Trump had demanded was: ending the ballistic missiles program and halting evil Iranian interferences in the Middle East. The Europeans however did nothing. As to why the Europeans are dying to preserve the Iranian deal then this is something else as today I want to comment on the Arab stance – if it’s right to talk about an Arab stance – in general regarding the major American withdrawal from the Iranian deal. The story is clear for Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. Trump’s measure is excellent and they can only support him for reasons that pertain to their views of the nature of the Iranian threat which was neglected by the leaders of the countries that signed the deal in 2015 without the presence of any Arab party.
What about the rest of the Arabs?
Egyptian stance
There is the Egyptian stance as expressed by the foreign ministry’s statement. This part attracted my attention: “Egypt confirms the importance of the participation of the concerned Arab parties in any dialogue about the future of the situation in the region, particularly any dialogue that’s linked to the possibilities of amending the nuclear deal with Iran.”Great, but does this request include the attendance of, for example, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria? Qatar which embraces American military bases and which has excellent relations with Iran is in a bad fix especially after the anti-terror quartet’s boycott. These countries, or to be more accurate the “actual” ruling authorities in these countries, are biased to Iran in varying degrees so how can we talk about one Arab stance in this case? There is also the Kuwaiti stance, as expressed by the foreign ministry, which falls in the “middle” as it neither strongly supported Trump’s move nor clearly objected to it. After explaining Kuwait’s justifications for supporting the deal in the past, the statement said: “Kuwait respects and understands America’s withdrawal from the deal.” Qatar which embraces American military bases and which has excellent relations with Iran is in a bad fix especially after the anti-terror quartet’s boycott. Commenting on the American move, the foreign ministry said in a statement: “It’s in all parties’ interest to act with restraint and deal wisely and patiently with the situation and attempt to resolve current disputes via dialogue.”We do not know what is meant here by wisdom or the “patience” it calls for. In short, there’s nothing called a unified Arab stance but there are several Arab interests and perhaps contradictory ones. This is how the situation is whether you like it or not.

Hope fades for Qatar’s long wait
Sawsan Al Shaer/Al Arabiya/May 12/18
American President Donald Trump’s harsh blo
It’s been more than a week since US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Saudi Arabia. He has returned to the US after being reassured that the support his country needs from Gulf countries, whether it’s logistical or military, is available to maintain regional security without a need to end the boycott with Qatar.
US-Gulf security ties
This US conviction is due to Saudi Arabia’s astuteness in keeping the Qatari participation in the Gulf Shield’s military drills, which the US participated in, and in not minding American presence at Al Udeid Air Base in Doha. This is what worried Americans the most as everything else is finalized and well-arranged. There is a high level of coordination between Gulf and American troops and everyone is on stand-by for any kind of cooperation as the boycott has had no effect at all in this sphere.
Pompeo thus returned to the US convinced that the boycott will not affect American interests in the region, as the issue with Qatar is an internal matter among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, and that if it has to be resolved, it must be an intra-GCC solution. What’s important is that this boycott does not influence any security cooperation or coordination between GCC states and US troops, whether on air, sea or ground. Everyone, including those who disagree with each other, agree not to involve this dispute with any security interests with the US. This approach also serves their interests. It seems Pompeo is convinced that the row between the boycotting countries and Qatar is outside the scope of US-Gulf interest. Therefore, no statements seeking an end to the boycott were made. The maximum that was said to address the dispute with Qatar during the press conference, which Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir held with his American counterpart Pompeo, was an American “desire” for Gulf unity to confront challenges and threats surrounding the region. We share this US desire with Pompeo, however what we disagree with here is that this time we insist it being on a sound and strong basis. Apart from it, the dispute with Qatar was not on the agenda of bilateral talks.
Qatar’s euphoria peters out
Those who followed up with the euphoria that Qatar had raised during and after Pompeo’s visit would have thought that the US had intimidated the kingdom and that everyone in Saudi Arabia was afraid and that the next day they would announce lifting the “blockade,” as the Qatari news channel put it! This scenario was based on a New York Times report that said Pompeo told Saudi Arabia “enough is enough” and that the Saudis “must stop Qatar blockade.” This account supposedly came from an American official who is not authorized to be named.
Pompeo has returned to the US convinced that the boycott of Qatar is an internal matter of the GCC . However, we did not see anything close to this report. The statements made by Pompeo, the White House, the spokesperson of the US Department of State did not show any sign of this being true. This was not even conveyed in the press conference held between Pompeo and Jubeir. On the contrary, we sensed deep respect and appreciation from the US for the kingdom, and the word ‘Qatar’ was not even mentioned!
Qatar’s last hope?
So what will Qatar do now especially that this visit may have been its last hope over the possibility of American “pressure” on the boycotting countries? If Al-Jazeera television channel reflects how the Qatari regime thinks then what lack of perception does it suffer from? What naiveté is this? How long does it need to wake up and end its crisis and tragedy? How many messages, visits and new attempts will it take for it to understand the reality of the situation? Does the Qatari regime, which dreams of the end of its nightmare, still hope things will be better after Trump’s presidential term ends? Does it rely on waiting another year and a half in the hope that a new Democratic administration will come to finish fulfilling the dream brought about by Obama to topple countries and restore his glories and his suspicious role in this project? The current administration has exhausted its attempts, and more importantly, it’s convinced that this local dispute will not influence American interests and will not affect joint military cooperation. If this is the Qatari regime’s only hope, then it might as well wait. The completion of a year and a half is nigh, if you wait for it.

Radicalism: The Real Shock Was the Reaction of the Americans...
Majid Rafizadeh/Gatestone Institute/May 12/18
Many extremist Muslims believe that their religious desire is coming true in in the US. Religiously speaking, for extremist Muslims, ruling America is Allah's (God's) word. To them, a sacred promise is coming to fruition.
What does being the second-largest religion in a country mean? Voters impact local and national politics, swing domestic elections, elect more representatives from the same religious affiliation, are influential enough to determine who the next president of the United States may be, and change the laws of the land.
This sense of immunity and dismissal led to the downfall of many countries throughout time.
"Soon," said the letter, "America Will Be Ours".
The writer, it became clear, was an extremist Muslim in the U.S. who claimed to be a reputable religious preacher. With each new word, concern grew.
He pointed out, throughout the letter, the "sinful" ways of the West: dancing, drinking, dating...
He expressed disgust that most women did not wear the hijab or participate in prayer five times a day. Then he got straight to the point: "Ours," he explained, represented Muslims like him.
The sentiment is hardly a new one. A person hears similar proclamations from many Muslim extremists throughout the years. The real shock was not letter but the reaction of many Americans after seeing it.
Such a thing, they said, could never happen. The writer's words were "just bluster," nothing to be taken seriously. Most surprisingly, they stated -- honestly -- that Muslims who speak of such intentions do not really mean what they say, so these threats should not be cause for concern.
The history of the two nations where I grew up -- Iran and Syria -- taught all of us there a big lesson about living in this kind of ignorance: the reality of how quickly a nation can be consumed by the philosophies of a religious state. An authoritarian and malicious regime, as exists now in Iran -- the world's leading sponsor of terrorism and brutal even to its own people -- is something we cannot forget.
In a few centuries, in Syria, where more than 90% percent of the population were Christians, and in Iran where an overwhelming majority of citizens were Zoroastrians, the demography drastically shifted to majority-Muslim. Neither nation could have anticipated such a change.
While many may underestimate the radical preacher's claims that "Soon, America Will Be Ours", for extremist Muslims these beliefs are strongly and deeply rooted.
Many extremists believe that their religious desire -- for a "Muslim takeover of the White House, a directive from Muhammad himself " -- is coming true in the US. Religiously speaking, for these Muslims, ruling America is Allah's (God's) word, a sacred promise is coming to fruition.
A recent survey and demographic research released by the Pew Research Center found that Muslims will soon overtake members of other religions, including Jews, as the second-largest religious group in the United States.
This issue should not be taken lightly. What does being the second-largest religion in a country mean? Voters impact local and national politics, swing domestic elections, elect more representatives from the same religious affiliation, are influential enough to determine who the next president of the United States may be, and change the laws of the land. All it takes is a subtle shift in power for the entire society, political system and culture of a nation to be changed.
The number of Muslims in the US has increased by 40% in just five years -- between 2010-2015 -- while in the same period the non-Muslim population of the US has grown by only five percent. This means that the Muslim population is growing almost eight times faster than the non-Muslim population in the US.
As an adult, in the Muslim world, I came to hear verses and hadiths frequently used by extremists and carved into their minds. To them, these are the true instructions and predictions of the most powerful being. Those Muslims strongly believe that these verses and hadiths (sayings of Muhammad) will come true because they are issued by Allah (God) or by his messenger, Muhammad. Allah, for instance, says in the Qur'an Chapter (9:33) sūrat al-tawbah (The Repentance):
"It is he (Allah) who has sent his Messenger with guidance and the religion of truth (Islam), in order for it to be dominant over all other religions, even though the Mushrikoon (disbelievers) hate it."
A popular hadith is: "Verily Allah has shown me the eastern and western part of the earth, and I saw the authority of my Ummah (nation) dominate all that I saw"
Some extremist Muslims believe that Allah and Muhammad predicted that they would rule over America even before America was discovered by Europeans. As a certain radical Muslim activist said on ABC news, "Indeed, we believe that one day, the flag of Islam will fly over the White House." He quoted a saying of Muhammad, from the Muslim scholar Al-Tabarani in the 10th-century. "The final hour," he said, "will not come until Muslims conquer the White House."
Many extremists also insist that Muslims do not need to be the majority in a country in order to take over the government: "A small portion of Muslims will rise and conquer the White House."
In the belief of fundamentalist Muslims, it is the obligation of every Muslim to pave the way for Islam to dominate America. They are encouraged to use various methods to ensure that this occurs -- these include force, violence and waging jihad (holy war).
Any action taken for the purpose of accomplishing that goal is applauded by Muslim extremists worldwide. Islamists and Islamist states, for instance, heavily praised, and quoted Louis Farrakhan when he predicted that, "God will destroy America at the hands of the Muslims. God will not give Japan or Europe the honor of bringing down the United States; this is an honor God will bestow upon Muslims."
There is historical proof of great nations succumbing to the ideals of extreme and determined radical groupsy. History has often taught hard lessons to powerful nations. Before one dismisses the danger America faces, take the time to learn about the past and just how easily and swiftly irreversible changes can happen: Russia in 1917, Germany 1933, Egypt in 1952, Iran in 1979, and so forth. Do not underestimate the ability of radical Islam to take over your government and impose Sharia law throughout this once free nation.
Americans should not think that they will somehow be an exception to that historical rule. This sense of immunity and dismissal led to the downfall of many countries throughout time. If Americans do not take the issue seriously, history may teach them the hard way that what once seemed impossible is here.Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, is a business strategist and advisor, Harvard-educated scholar, political scientist, board member of Harvard International Review, and president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He has authored several books on Islam and US Foreign Policy. He can be reached at Dr.Rafizadeh@Post.Harvard.Edu
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