May 14/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness
Letter to the Romans 06/12-23/Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification. When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death.  But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 13-14/18
Mother’s Day: Love, Sacrifices and Commitment/Elias Bejjani/May 013/18
Lebanon's Corrupted Politicians/Elias Bejjani/May 13/18
Lebanon: Whoever You Vote For, Hezbollah Wins/Jonathan Spyer/Jerusalem Post/May 13/18
No crisis’ in Hariri's Future Movement: party member/Najia Houssari/Arab News/May 13/18
The issue of Hezbollah’s domination of Lebanon/Nadim Koteich/Al Arabiya/May 13/18
Bolton: US sanctions ‘possible’ on European firms over Iran/Reuters/May 13/18
White House calls on Qatar to stop funding pro-Iranian militias/Con Coughlin, defence editor/The Telegraph/May 13/18
Iran Just Overplayed Its Hand In Syria/Jerusalem Post/May 13/18/
How Trump’s Iran deal decision may lead to war/Amanda Erickson/Washington Post/May 13/18
Is France Really an Ally of the United States/Guy Millière/Gatestone Institute.May 13/2018
Turkey in Syria: Ruling Kurdish Afrin by Sharia Law, Ethnic Cleansing/Sirwan Kajjo/Gatestone Institute.May 13/2018
Israel's Celebrations of U.S. Embassy Move/Noa Landau/Haaretz/ May 13, 2018
What Does Brexit Mean? UK Still Can’t Decide/Therese Raphael/Bloomberg/May 13/18
Maybe this is as Good as Innovation Gets/Noah Smith//Bloomberg/May 13/18
‘My’ Burma was a Lie Woven from the Nationalist Nostalgia of its Exiles/Alex Wagner/The Washington Post/May 13/18
Khamenei and the North Korean precedent/Mohammed Al Shaikh/Al Arabiya/May 13/18
How Iran is extending its ‘Shiite crescent’ to Africa/Dr. Azeem Ibrahim/Al Arabiya/May 13/18
On philosophy and its crucial role for society/Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran/Al Arabiya/May 13/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on May 13-14/18
Mother’s Day: Love, Sacrifices and Commitment
Lebanon's Corrupted Politicians
Ferzli: Presidential Term Has Started, Let Geagea Prepare Himself for Opposition
PSP Seeking to Contain Dispute with Hariri
Alloush Accuses Jumblat of Taking Part in '2011 Conspiracy'
Hariri Fires More Mustaqbal Officials as Nader Hariri Quits
Lebanon’s Hariri replaces chief of staff after election setback
Lebanon: Whoever You Vote For, Hezbollah Wins/Jonathan Spyer
No crisis’ in Hariri's Future Movement: party member/Najia Houssari
The issue of Hezbollah’s domination of Lebanon

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 13-14/18
Bolton: US sanctions ‘possible’ on European firms over Iran
Suicide bombers attack three churches in Indonesia, at least three dead
White House calls on Qatar to stop funding pro-Iranian militias
Hamas Delegation Heads to Cairo before US Embassy Move
Arab League Denounces Turkish Statements on Relocating US Embassy to Jerusalem
Netanyahu At Embassy Ceremony: President Trump Is Making History
For Angry Palestinians, US Embassy Move a Show of Pro-Israel Bias
Jerusalem marks 51th anniversary as Israel’s united capital. Large US delegation here for embassy dedication
A Look at Jerusalem before US Embassy Relocation
U.S. Envoy Sees Peace Hope after Israel Embassy Move
U.S. Says Wants to Work with Europeans on New Iran Deal
Iran FM Hopeful of Forging 'Clear Future' for Nuclear Deal on Diplomatic Tour
Iran Sentences Eight Alleged IS Members to Death
At Least 5 Killed as Militants Storm Govt. Building in Afghan City
UN Chief Calls for ‘Suitable Environment’ for Libya Elections
Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on May 13-14/18
Mother’s Day: Love, Sacrifices and Commitment
الياس بجاني/عيد الأم: محبة وإلتزام وتضحية
Elias Bejjani/May 013/18
The Spirit Of My mother who like every and each loving departed mother is definitely watching from above and praying for all of us. May Almighty God Bless her spirit and the Spirits of all departed mothers.
In Christianity Virgin Merry is envisaged by many believers and numerous cultures as the number one role model for the righteous, devoted, loving , caring, giving, and humble mothers.
Today while in Canada we are happily and joyfully celebrating the Mothers’ Day, let us all pray that Almighty God will keep granting all mothers all over the world the needed graces of wisdom, meekness and faith to highly remain under all circumstances honoring this holy role model and to stay as Virgin Merry fully devoted to their families.
In all religions and cultures all over the world, honoring, respecting and obeying parents is not a favor that people either chose to practice or not. No not at all, honoring, respecting and obeying parents is a holy obligation that each and every faithful individual who believes in God MUST fulfill, no matter what.
Almighty God in His 10 Commandments (Exodus 20:2-17 ) made the honoring of both parents (commandment number five) a holy obligation, and not a choice or a favor.
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you”. (Exodus 20:12)
Reading the Bible, both the Old and New Testament shows with no doubt that honoring parents is a cornerstone and a pillar in faith and righteousness for all believers. All other religions and cultures share with Christians this holy concept and obligation.
“Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, so that your days may be long and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” (Deuteronomy 5:16)
“You shall each revere your mother and father, and you shall keep my Sabbaths: I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 19:3).
Back home in Lebanon we have two popular proverbs that say: “If you do not have an elderly figure in your family to bless you, go and search for one”. “The mother is the who either gathers or divides the family”
How true are these two proverbs, because there will be no value, or meaning for our lives if not blessed and flavored by the wisdom, love and blessings of our parents and of other elder members.
He who does not honor the elderly, sympathize and empathize with them, especially his own parents is a person with a hardened heart, and a numbed conscience, who does not know the meaning of gratitude.
History teaches us that the easiest route for destroying a nation is to destroy, its cornerstone, the family. Once the family code of respect is belittled and not honored, the family is divided and loses all its Godly blessings.
“Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and a house divided against itself falls” (Luke 11-17)
One very important concept and an extremely wise approach MUST apply and prevail when reading the Holy Bible in a bid to understand its contents and observe the Godly instructions and life guidelines that are enlisted. The concept needs to be a faith one with an open frame of mind free from doubts, questions and challenges.
Meanwhile the approach and interpretation MUST both be kept within the abstract manner, thinking and mentality frame, and not in the concrete way of interpretation.
We read in (Matthew 15/04: “For God said, Respect your father and your mother, and If you curse your father or your mother, you are to be put to death).
This verse simply dwells on The Fifth Biblical Commandment: “Honor your Father and Mother”. To grasp its meaning rightfully and put it in its right faith content one should understand that death in the Bible is not the death of the body as we experience and see on earth. DEATH in the Bible means the SIN that leads to eternal anguish in Hell.
The Bible teaches us that through His crucifixion, death and resurrection, Jesus defeated death in its ancient human, earthly concept. He broke the death thorn and since than, the actual death became the sin. Those who commit the sin die and on the judgment day are outcast to the eternal fire. Death for the believers is a temporary sleep on the hope of resurrection.
Accordingly the verse “If you curse your father or your mother, you are to be put to death”, means that those who do not honor their parents, help, support and respect them commit a deadly sin and God on the Judgment Day will make them accountable if they do not repent and honor their parents.
God is a Father, a loving, passionate and caring One, and in this context He made the honoring of parents one of the Ten Commandments.
In conclusion: The abstract and faith interpretation of Matthew 15/04 verse must not be related to children or teenagers who because of an age and maturity factors might temporarily repel against their parents and disobey them.
Hopefully, each and every one of us, no matter what religion or denomination he/she is affiliated to will never ever ignore his parents and commit the deadly SIN of not honoring them through every way and mean especially when they are old and unable to take care of themselves.
For all those of us whose mothers have passed away, let us mention them in our daily prayers and ask Almighty God to endow their souls the eternal rest in His heavenly dwellings.
Happy Mothers’ Day to all mothers

Lebanon's Corrupted Politicians
Elias Bejjani/May 13/18
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

Ferzli: Presidential Term Has Started, Let Geagea Prepare Himself for Opposition
Naharnet/May 13/18/Elected MP and ex-deputy speaker Elie al-Ferzli announced that the new presidential term "has started now," as he suggested that Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea should be part of the opposition. "The presidential term has started now and it will take its momentum from the representation that was corrected in these elections via the proportional representation law, through which Christians have managed to elect 57 MPs with their own votes," Ferzli, who is close to President Michel Aoun and the Free Patriotic Movement, said. "If LF leader Samir Geagea does not agree with (Prime Minister Saad) Hariri should the latter be tasked with forming the government, let him prepare himself for opposition, because parliamentary democracy requires an opposition," Ferzli added during a TV interview. The LF has opposed several projects proposed by FPM ministers in Cabinet, which has strained its relation with Aoun and the FPM and put the landmark Maarab Agreement in jeopardy. The latest elections saw the LF enlarge its parliamentary bloc from 10 to 16 seats, which heightens the probability of bickering with the FPM over ministerial portfolios allocated to Christians.

PSP Seeking to Contain Dispute with Hariri
Naharnet/May 13/18/There are instructions to contain the dispute with al-Mustaqbal Movement rather than aggravate it, parliamentary sources from the Progressive Socialist Party have said. "The most notable message that the party wanted to send to PM Saad Hariri was clearly stated in the statement that called on him to shoulder his responsibilities over the Choueifat crime," the sources said in remarks published Sunday by Asharq al-Awsat newspaper. The sources were referring to the clash between the PSP and supporters of Minister Talal Arslan in Choueifat, in which a PSP member was killed. Political sources meanwhile said that dispute between Hariri and MP Walid Jumblat will soon be contained seeing as the current period "requires forming a new government as soon as possible.""Perhaps rapprochement with Jumblat must be Hariri's top priority in the coming days, because he is the leading candidate for the PM post and he will have to talk to everyone," the sources added.

Alloush Accuses Jumblat of Taking Part in '2011 Conspiracy'
Naharnet/May 13/18/Al-Mustaqbal Movement senior official ex-MP Mustafa Alloush has lashed out at Progressive Socialist Party chief MP Walid Jumblat in connection with the latest row between the two parties. "MP Walid Jumblat is insisting on complaining and addressing accusations to al-Mustaqbal Movement at every juncture," Alloush lamented. He noted that Prime Minister Saad Hariri "has always tolerated the PSP leader's criticism and actions seeing as he was the first person who stood by him upon the martyrdom of his father, ex-PM Rafik Hariri." "But things have reached a level where we cannot remain silent anymore, knowing that we remained silent in 2009, when he decided to withdraw from March 14, and in 2011, when he took part in the conspiracy that led to toppling PM Hariri's government," Alloush added. He was referring to Jumblat's endorsement of Najib Miqati for the premiership after Hariri's government was toppled by the resignation of Hizbullah and its allies. Jumblat's decision was reportedly influenced by Hizbullah's so-called 'black shirts' show of force. "Walid Beik must realize that the era of appeasement is over, although this does not mean that the relation between the two parties has reached the extent of conflict," Alloush went on to say. He also pointed out that "the two parties will come together anew when their political interest requires so, especially that the disputes between them can be resolved."

Hariri Fires More Mustaqbal Officials as Nader Hariri Quits
Naharnet/May 13/18/Prime Minister Saad Hariri has sacked two more al-Mustaqbal Movement officials, the movement said on Sunday, hours after the premier's chief of staff Nader Hariri submitted his resignation. Mustaqbal's general coordinator for elections, Wissam Hariri, and the head of the follow-up dept. at the movement leader's office, Maher Abu al-Khudoud, were relieved of their duties in connection with Mustaqbal's peformance in the latest parliamentary elections, the movement said in a statement. Hariri had on Saturday dissolved his movement's electoral affairs committee and electoral campaigning body as well as Mustaqbal's regional departments in Beirut, West Bekaa, Rashaya, Central Bekaa, Koura and Zgharta. The development was followed by the reaignation of Hariri’s chief of staff, Nader Hariri. Nader Hariri "has resigned from all his functions at the office of Prime minister Hariri," the office said in a statement. PM Hariri thanked Nader Hariri for "his efforts throughout his tenure and wished him success in everything he aspires to," the office added. "It was decided to appoint Mr. Mohammed Mnaimneh as acting chief of staff of Prime Minister Hariri," it said. Hariri admitted Monday that his al-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.” Hariri said the results credit his movement with 21 of parliament's 128 seats, a drop from the 33 it controlled in the outgoing legislature. Hariri -- and other senior politicians -- blamed an unexpectedly weak voter turnout on a new electoral law which appears to have confused or disappointed voters.
Lebanon’s Hariri replaces chief of staff after election setback
Reuters/May 13/18/BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri has replaced his chief of staff after his Future Party lost more than a third of its seats in parliamentary elections a week ago. The Future Party won 20 seats, down from the 33 won in the country’s last elections held in 2009. In a post-election speech last week Hariri said the party had been expecting a better result and there had been “gaps” in how it conducted its campaign, for which people would be held responsible. Hariri’s office announced the resignation of Nader Al-Hariri, a cousin of the prime minister, late on Saturday. It said Mohamed Mnaimne had replaced him in a temporary capacity. Despite Future’s losses, Hariri is still the frontrunner to form the next government, as the Sunni Muslim leader with the biggest bloc in parliament. Lebanon’s prime minister has to be a Sunni under its sectarian power sharing system. The Iran-backed Hezbollah group and factions and individuals that support its possession of weapons made significant gains last Sunday, winning more than half the seats in parliament. Hezbollah’s powerful arsenal has been a point of contention in Lebanon for years. The staunchly anti-Hezbollah Lebanese Forces won 15 seats, almost doubling their MPs. The current parliament’s term expires May 20, and difficult negotiations are expected over the division of positions in the new government.
Lebanon: Whoever You Vote For, Hezbollah Wins
جوناسن سباير/جيرازولم بوست: في لبنان لا يهم لمن تصوت لأن الفائز هو حزب الله

Jonathan Spyer/Jerusalem Post/May 13/18
The biggest losers were the Future Movement of Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri.
Lebanon’s May 6 elections have resulted in the further consolidation of Hezbollah and its associated movements within the legal frameworks of the state. The movement and its allies won over half of the seats in the 128-seat parliament. At the same time, the 2018 elections do not appear set to usher in any fundamental alterations to the status quo in Lebanon.
The majority achieved was not sufficient as a basis for constitutional change to alter the rules of the game related, for example, to the sectarian power-sharing agreements that underlie Lebanese political life.
However, Hezbollah and Amal and co will have comfortably more than their own “blocking third” in parliament, sufficient to prevent any changes not to their liking.
Hezbollah and Amal swept the boards in the Shia parts of the country, confirming and consolidating their domination of this sector. Hezbollah general secretary Hassan Nasrallah declared himself satisfied with the results, saying they confirmed Beirut as a “capital of the resistance.”
The biggest losers were the Future Movement of Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri. This list saw its representation in parliament decline from 34 seats to 21, with Hariri-supported candidates losing to Hezbollah supported Sunnis in Beirut and Tripoli.
The decline in Hariri and al-Mustaqbal’s levels of support reflect the sense that the March 14 project of which they were a part is a busted flush.
Following the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, and the subsequent assassination of then-prime minister Rafiq Hariri, March 14 sought to stand for a notion of Lebanon as a sovereign state, run by its institutions, and with weaponry kept out of politics.
This is a project that has clearly failed. Its first testing point was in 2006 when Hezbollah carried out the attack on an IDF patrol on the Israeli side of the border which precipitated the 2006 war. This incident indicated that despite March 14’s nominal role as the governing authority, it was incapable of preventing a political party with its own militia and backed by a foreign power (Iran) from going to war at a time and in a manner of its choosing.
Its second testing point came in May of 2008 when it was established that March 14 had no ability to challenge Hezbollah writ within Lebanon, as well as on the matter of the movement’s violent campaign (or “resistance” as it prefers to term it) against Israel.
At that time, the March 14 led government sought to act against Hezbollah’s de facto control of the Beirut International Airport.
Amal and Hezbollah then took over west Beirut in 48 hours, forcing the government to reverse its planned measures.
The third and final burial of the March 14 project for the normalization of Lebanon came with the Syrian civil war. At that time, Hezbollah was tasked by Iran with helping to make up for the Assad regime’s shortfall in manpower.
It proceeded to do so, placing the population of Lebanon including its Shia constituency at acute risk, again with no permission sought.
All these facts explain the eclipse of March 14 and Hariri.
They are, quite simply, a project that has failed.
What will result from the elections will be a coalition government likely to include both Hezbollah and its allies, and the defeated remnants of the March 14 alliance, whose main component, the Future Movement, is led by Sa’ad Hariri. It is possible that Hariri will himself return as prime minister in the new coalition to be formed. But because of the new parliamentary arithmetic, Hezbollah and its allies will have a higher representation in the new coalition.
Analyses by Lebanese commentators of the elections have been as ever characterized by nuance, subtlety and sophisticated understanding of the sometimes labyrinthine nature of Lebanese politics.
As ever, however, they have tended to focus on the minutiae of levels of support and hence of representation in the next coalition, noting the role of a new election law this time in necessitating new tactical electoral alliances, and hence breaking down the old clear structures of March 14 and its rival March 8 movement.
Analysis of minutiae and process, while worthwhile, can also play the role of obscuring the larger picture and its implications. It is therefore important also to note these.
THE FORCED resignation and then rapid non-resignation of Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri in November 2017 demonstrated the essential powerlessness of the Lebanese Prime Minister on crucial matters.
The elements other than Hezbollah and its allies in the Lebanese governing system are there to play the role of convincing the world that something of the state remains, and that the country has not simply become a fully fledged puppet of Tehran and its militias.
For this purpose, elections are held, in line with international norms, parties contest constituencies, real issues are also at stake.
There is a large swathe of national policy entirely off limits to the political discussion, and not contested by it. This is the sphere of foreign policy and “national security.”
In this regard, a governing coalition in which Hezbollah is stronger will play the role of further integrating national institutions with those of the “resistance.” But even if this were not the case, the “resistance” bodies are already stronger than those of the state, these bodies are decisive in the decision of when and with whom to make war, and this is not a reality subject to change at the ballot box. That is the salient truth regarding Lebanon today, and its presence should not be obscured by a focus of discussion on electoral laws, constituencies and alliances.
This has been the reality for some time. Israeli planners are well aware of it. In the West, however, there are those who have yet to acknowledge the situation, despite its plainness. From this point of view, Lebanese parliamentary elections are not quite the empty charade of polls in autocratic countries – but like such sham elections, they serve to obscure the core truths of who wields power in the system, and who does not. That is, in Lebanon, in 2018, whoever you vote for – Hezbollah (i.e. Iran) wins

No crisis’ in Hariri's Future Movement: party member
Najia Houssari/Arab News/May 13/18
Spate of resignations, sackings are 'part of re-evaluation process,' says Moustafa Allouch
After the results, Hariri said: “Our political movement’s performance level was not as required and we will deal with this matter internally.”
BEIRUT: Moustafa Allouch, a member of the Future Movement's political bureau, said the spate of resignations and sackings in the party are “part of the re-evaluation process carried out in the light of the recent parliamentary elections.”As soon as the election results were announced last Tuesday, Future Movement leader and Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri said: “Our political movement’s performance level was not as required and we will deal with this matter internally.”
The Future Movement is the largest Lebanese party, formed after the assassination of the late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005, and the majority of its members and supporters are from the Sunni sect. Describing the movement, Allouch said: “This is neither an ideological nor a sectarian party. Its ambition is to improve people’s lives in Lebanon. It’s a patriotic party that seeks to have a liberal nature.” The first outcome of the movement’s re-evaluation process was Nader Hariri stepping down as head of the PM’s office on Saturday evening.
Nader Hariri announced his resignation from “the responsibilities he assumes” and the PM accepted it, thanked him for his efforts during his tenure and wished him success in the future. Saad Hariri decided to appoint Mohammed Mneimneh, a former close associate of Rafik Hariri, as acting chief of staff to assume Nader’s responsibilities.
On Sunday, the Future Movement announced that “the general coordinator for elections, Wissam Hariri, and the head of the follow-up department at PM Hariri’s office, Maher Abu Al-Khudoud, were relieved of their duties.”
Allouch told Arab News: “What’s happening inside the Future Movement is not a crisis, and if there were a crisis, there wouldn’t be a re-evaluation process. It is normal for a party to admit that errors have taken place — some of which were intentional — and to work on making changes.”
Allouch pointed out that the errors were in the management of the electoral process in certain regions and were not innocent mistakes. He also said that some errors were “the result of negligence.” He said that the mistakes happened in Beirut, Mount Lebanon and Bekaa. Allouch confirmed that no slander targeted the Future Movement list’s candidates and that “Hariri went through the elections without exploiting money or seeking support.”
He stressed that: “What’s happening inside the Future Movement is a strictly organizational matter and no interference from an outside party has taken place.” He also pointed out that he believes “accountability and re-evaluation make people convinced of the movement’s credibility and that the Future Movement is ready to hold itself accountable.”On the responsibility of Nader Hariri in the re-evaluation process, Allouch said: “Maybe there are personal reasons that drove Nader Hariri to resign, and these may be his future choices.”
Nader Hariri is Saad Hariri’s cousin — the son of his aunt, MP Bahia Hariri. He is known as the keeper of PM Hariri’s political secrets and one of the very few who took it upon themselves to protect the secrecy of the political deliberations.
On the protests carried out on social media websites by people who worked on the Future Movement’s election campaign and did not receive their payments, Allouch told Arab News: “Everything that is documented will be paid while fake claims won’t be paid.”
The Future Movement election results did not match the expectations of Saad Hariri. It won 21 seats in the Parliament but also lost votes.
In Beirut — and specifically in Beirut I — the candidate of the Future-backed Armenian Hunchakian Party, Sebouh Kalpakian, was defeated. In Beirut II, Hezbollah’s candidate, Amin Sherri, won more preferential votes than Hariri.
Hariri's electoral list did not won more than six seats (out of 11), and among the victors was an MP for the Progressive Socialist Party, which is headed by Walid Jumblatt.
On the other hand, the electoral list of the alliance of Hezbollah, the Amal Movement, the Free Patriotic Movement and Al-Ahbash won four seats, while the National Dialogue Party, led by businessman Fouad Makhzoumi, won one.
PM Hariri was unable to secure the victory of the candidate on his Beirut II list, Zaher Eido, the son of former MP Walid Eido, who was assassinated in a car bomb in 2007.
In the Sidon-Jezzine district in southern Lebanon, the Future Movement lost the second Sunni seat in Sidon to Hezbollah ally Osama Saad. The movement also lost the Catholic seat in Jezzine to the Free Patriotic Movement.
In Zahle in the Bekaa, the Future Movement won the Sunni seat but lost its battle for the Shiite and Armenian seats to a list backed by Hezbollah and the Amal Movement.
In the Western Bekaa, the seats were divided equally — the Future Movement’s list won three and the list of Abdul Rahim Murad, an ally of Syria, won three. The winning Sunni candidate on the Future Movement’s list was not MP Ziad Qadri, but Mohammed Qar'awi, who in 2009 was a candidate on Murad’s list. In the north, where most of the Future Movement’s supporters are based, its Koura District candidate, Nicolas Ghosn, lost.
In Tripoli, Minya and Dhinniyyah, former PM Najib Mikati’s Al-Azm list won four seats, while Faisal Karami’s list won two and the Future Movement took five out of the 11.In Akkar, the Free Patriotic Movement managed to snatch two seats from the Future Movement’s list.
The issue of Hezbollah’s domination of Lebanon
Nadim Koteich/Al Arabiya/May 13/18
In recent days, the question of Hezbollah’s domination of Lebanon has emerged especially following the results of the recent parliamentary elections as Saad Hariri’s bloc lost seats while Hezbollah made serious electoral infiltrations in more than one area while gaining full control over the number of Shiite deputies in parliament. For anyone looking from the outside, it would not be difficult to jump to the conclusion that Hezbollah through these elections now dominates Lebanon, and it would be difficult for people living in the country to not take such convictions in jest.
Polls no impediment for Hezbollah
Hezbollah did not need these elections to announce to the world that a huge part of the country's decision making process lies in its own hands, by virtue of the power of its weapons and its hegemony. There was nothing that Hezbollah wanted to do before these elections and couldn’t just because at that time it didn’t have enough MPs. There was nothing difficult for Hezbollah to achieve because of Lebanon's internal dynamics and which it will be able to do now because it has acquired a new deputy here or a group of deputies there. Let's be honest about Lebanese democracy! In Lebanon, there are vestiges of a democratic system, of a state and institutions and among these leftovers; there are those who are resisting to preserve the minimum of the Lebanese system’s structure and state and institutions.Ever since the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on February 14th, 2005 to this day, democracy has never been a guarantor for the Lebanese people and it was never an obstacle for the project of Hezbollah. The March 14 Alliance won parliamentary majority twice in the 2005 and the 2009 elections, yet only in rare cases did the alliance succeed in exercising its political majority in the face of the project of Hezbollah. As a leader of the opposite camp, Hezbollah shut down the parliament in which they didn’t enjoy majority for two years by exploiting weak arguments about the charter and other Lebanese political polemics. Then they modified the majority by forcing Druze leader Walid Jumblatt in 2011 to appoint Sunni MP Najib Miqati as a successor to Hariri after his government was toppled. The majority didn’t come to the rescue of the March 14 Alliance nor did it prevent Hezbollah from pursuing its coup stratagems, which it will later discover is not feasible in Lebanon. As usual, thanks to the national balance between the sects, Hezbollah will slowly move towards a consensus with Hariri.
Elections not significant
I will hazard a claim that these elections have little political value except for infusing some soul into the structure of the Lebanese state, its institutions and political system, and reaffirming the international faith in Lebanon as the remnants of a state that could be rebuilt in the destroyed and strained East. And this is important, especially in light of the new debt program proposed by Hariri after consulting with the president to keep Lebanon from the edge of economic, financial and monetary collapse, which is where it now stands. The most important balance is the balance outside the institutions and not within them — at the heart of society and not in the heart of the state. In this sense, the political results of Saad Hariri's election campaign were immensely more important than the results of the ballot box. Hariri toured all the regions of Lebanon and all the Sunni regions, from Hasbaya in the south to Akkar in the north, through Sidon, Beqaa, Tripoli and Beirut. He received exceptional popularity for a Sunni leader, counting on the respect for his father. Hariri devoted his leadership that reaches all Lebanese areas to the Sunni community, and it’s an undisputed leadership even by those who achieved local results such as Abdel Rahim Murad in the Beqaa, Najib Miqati in Tripoli, or businessman Fuad Makhzoumi in Beirut.
Ballots vis-à-vis bullets
According to the recent elections which were held based on a proportional representation system, the number of MPs in Hariri’s bloc decreased. However, this is only a numerical decline for Hariri but not a political one as the largest Sunni bloc in Lebanon gave him its popular confidence, and gave him 60% of the Sunni deputies in parliament; meaning that he has the majority of the two thirds, even with the worst possible law. Forget about how the law tests the Sunni and Christian pluralism in the Lebanese collective and does not give an accurate picture of the Shiite diversity because the Shiite community in Lebanon is practically still outside the real electoral mechanisms thanks to the power of arms. This makes me certain of the lack of political significance of elections that takes place in two third of the country while the other third is practically left outside even if it participates in electoral practices. It’s unnatural, according to all the rules of the human sciences, that a sect who is being involved in wars, like the Syrian, Yemeni and Iraqi wars, and who suffers from material and human costs does not have or produce any rational pluralism - unless the ammunition boxes do not give the ballot boxes a real chance to display plurality.
So why did Hariri agree on a law whose consequences he was aware of? It’s because the variable that still governs this decision, as well as other decisions, is to go through the transitional period that the region is passing through without blowing up Lebanon. As for the problem of Hezbollah, it is no longer a Lebanese problem, so whoever has a solution may he please step up and share it, we would be grateful.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 13-14/18
Bolton: US sanctions ‘possible’ on European firms over Iran
Reuters/May 13/18
I think at the moment there’s some feeling in Europe — they’re really surprised we got out of it, really surprised at the reimposition of strict sanctions: Bolton
US President Donald Trump on May 8 announced that the United States was withdrawing from a 2015 deal negotiated by the Obama administration
WASHINGTON: White House National Security adviser John Bolton on Sunday said US sanctions on European companies that do business with Iran were “possible, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he remained hopeful Washington and its allies could strike a new nuclear deal with Tehran. Bolton struck a more hawkish tone with his comments in an interview with CNN’s “State of the Union than Pompeo did when he was interviewed on “Fox News Sunday.”US President Donald Trump on May 8 announced that the United States was withdrawing from a 2015 deal negotiated by the Obama administration. So far, China, France, Russia, the UK, EU and Iran remain in the accord, which placed controls on Iran’s nuclear program and led to a relaxation of American economic sanctions against Iran and companies doing business there. Bolton, asked whether the United States might impose sanctions on European companies that continue to do business with Iran, told CNN: “It’s possible. It depends on the conduct of other governments.” Pompeo said he was “hopeful in the days and weeks ahead we can come up with a deal that really works, that really protects the world from Iranian bad behavior, not just their nuclear program, but their missiles and their malign behavior as well.”Washington’s withdrawal from the Iran deal has upset European allies, cast uncertainty over global oil supplies and raised the risk of conflict in the Middle East. Germany’s minister for economic affairs, Peter Altmaier, said on Sunday that Berlin will try to “persuade the US government to change its behavior.” In an interview with ZDF public television, Altmaier noted that the United States has set a 90-day deadline for foreign firms to comply with the return of sanctions and that this period can be used to convince Washington to change course. This week, Israel and Iran engaged in an extensive military exchange on the heels of Trump’s decision to leave the deal. On Saturday, French President Emmanuel Macron told Trump in a telephone call that he was worried about stability in the Middle East, according to Macron’s office.
As a private citizen, Bolton in the past has suggested that the United States push for a change in government in Iran. But in an interview aired on the ABC program “This Week,” Bolton said, “That’s not the policy of the administration. The policy of the administration is to make sure that Iran never gets close to deliverable nuclear weapons.”In the CNN interview, Bolton did not respond directly when asked whether Trump might seek “regime change” in Iran, or whether the US military would be ordered to make a preemptive strike against any Iranian nuclear facility.
“I’m not the national security decision maker,” Bolton said, adding that Trump “makes the decision and the advice that I give him is between us.”When pressed by CNN on whether the administration would sanction European firms that continue to do business with Iran, Bolton said, “I think the Europeans will see that it’s in their interest ultimately to come along with us.”Bolton said Europe was still digesting the May 8 move by Trump. “I think at the moment there’s some feeling in Europe — they’re really surprised we got out of it, really surprised at the reimposition of strict sanctions. I think that will sink in; we’ll see what happens then,” Bolton said.

Suicide bombers attack three churches in Indonesia, at least three dead
Agustinus, Beo, Da, Costa/JAKARTA (Reuters) - Suicide bombers attacked three churches in Indonesia’s second-largest city of Surabaya on Sunday, killing at least three people and wounding 15 others, police said. Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim-majority country and has seen a recent resurgence in homegrown militancy. Police told media the attacks were carried out by “suicide bombers”.“The victims are still being identified,” said Frans Barung Mangera, East Java police spokesman. Media reports said at one church, a woman with a younger child and a teenager had just entered the church and was being questioned by security when the bomb exploded. Television images showed toppled motorcycles and debris scattered around the entrance of one church and police cordoning off areas as crowds gathered. Authorities were also investigating whether there was an explosion at a fourth church. Police ordered the temporary closure of all churches in Surabaya, and a large food festival in the city was canceled. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks. The bombings come days after Islamist militant prisoners killed five members of an elite counter-terrorism force during a 36-hour standoff at a high security jail on the outskirts of the capital, Jakarta. Indonesia has had some major successes tackling militancy inspired by al Qaeda’s attacks on the United States in 2001. But there has been a resurgence of Islamist activity in recent years, some of it linked to the rise of Islamic State.
The most serious incident was in January 2016 when four suicide bombers and gunmen attacked a shopping area in central Jakarta. Churches have also been targeted previously, including near-simultaneous attacks on churches there at Christmas in 2000 that killed about 20 people.
Reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor and Lincoln Feast; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore. Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
White House calls on Qatar to stop funding pro-Iranian militias
Con Coughlin, defence editor/The Telegraph/May 13/18
The Trump administration has called on Qatar to stop funding pro-Iranian militias following revelations about the Gulf state’s dealings with terror groups in the Middle East. US security officials have expressed concern about Qatar’s links to a number of Iranian-sponsored militias, many of them regarded as terrorist organisations by Washington. It follows the disclosure of a number of emails said to be from senior officials in the Qatari government to leading members of groups such as Hizbollah, the Iranian-backed Shia militia that operates in southern Lebanon, as well as senior commanders in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
The emails, transcripts of which have been seen by the Sunday Telegraph, show that senior members of the Qatari government are on friendly terms with key figures in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard such as Qasem Soleimani, the influential head of of the Iranian Quds Force, and Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Hizbollah. Details of these previously undisclosed conversations between Qatari officials and the heads of several Iranian-backed terror groups show that Doha paid hundreds of millions of dollars - one report puts the figure as high as $1 billion - as part of ransom payments to secure the release of hostages held by Shia militias in southern Iraq. Such payments are in direct contravention to Washington’s long-standing policy of not paying ransom demands to terrorist organisations. Following US President Donald Trump’s decision last week to pull out the nuclear deal with Iran, the administration is now calling on Qatar to review its relations with Iran, as well as its ties with Iranian-sponsored terrorist groups. “What these emails show is that a number of senior Qatari government officials have developed cordial relations with senior figures in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, as well as a number of Iranian-sponsored terrorist organisations,” said a senior US security official. “At a time when the US government is trying to persuade Iran to end its support for terror groups in the Middle East, we do not believe it is helpful that Qatar continues to have ties with such organisations.” Washington regards Qatar as an important ally in the war against Islamist-inspired terrorism, and the US based its command headquarters for the recent military campaign to defeat Islamic State (Isil) at Qatar’s Al Udaid air base. The Qataris say they opened communications with Iran and a number of the terror organisations Tehran supports to secure the release of members of the Qatari royal family who were kidnapped while on a hunting expedition in southern Iraq. In one of the emails, that are believed to have been intercepted by foreign governments, a senior Qatari official reports that £50 million was paid to Mr Soleimani in April 2017, while another £25 million was paid to an Iraqi Shia terror organisation that is accused of killing scores of American troops in southern Iraq.

Hamas Delegation Heads to Cairo before US Embassy Move
Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 13 May, 2018/Hamas chief Ismail Hanieh traveled to Cairo on Sunday a day before the United States is expected to relocate its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. The Palestinian movement has planned major rallies in Gaza in protest against Washington’s controversial move.
In Egypt, Hanieh and other Hamas members are set to meet with the head of Egypt's security services, Hamas sources said, amid mounting speculation that Egypt is seeking to negotiate a deal with the movement to ease potential violence on Monday. Hamas declined to comment on Hanieh’s departure.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians are expected to gather along the border between Gaza and Israel Monday to protest as the US opens its embassy. Hamas leaders have voiced support in recent days for attempts to break the fence into Israel, despite the possibility of it leading to bloodshed.
Arab media have speculated that Egypt could ease border restrictions with Gaza and offer economic relief in exchange for protesters not trying to breach the fence. Fifty-four Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since mass protests broke out along the border on March 30. No Israelis have been injured. The moving of the embassy, a campaign pledge by US President Donald Trump, has infuriated Palestinians, who view the eastern part of Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.  Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed it in a move not recognized internationally. The Palestinians want east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state and view the relocation of the embassy from Tel Aviv as a blatantly one-sided move that invalidates the US as a Mideast peace broker. Trump will not attend the embassy opening Monday, but his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner will. Hanieh is expected to return to Gaza late Sunday ahead of the protests. Last week, Hamas' leader in Gaza, Yehya Sinwar, said international and regional mediators have come up with offers "to control" weeks of deadly protests.

Arab League Denounces Turkish Statements on Relocating US Embassy to Jerusalem
Cairo, Ankara - Sawsan Abu Hussein and Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 13 May, 2018 /Arab League spokesman Mahmoud Afifi denounced on Saturday Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s recent statements about the US relocating its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. The minister had stated from Istanbul that there was a “decline and hesitation” within the Muslim world, especially within the Arab League, regarding the decision to relocate the US Embassy to occupied Jerusalem. “We need to take a common stance against this wrong decision. We are seeing some hesitance within the Arab League recently, which is a mistake,” Cavusoglu stated. Afifi expressed regret at the Turkish minister’s “insistence on negatively targeting the Arab League.” The statements once again raise real questions about Turkey’s real stance on the regional Arab system, which the Arab League reflects, especially in wake of Turkey’s intervention in Arab territories, which was recently condemned by the Arab Summit in Dhahran, he said. “Those issuing belligerent statements on the Palestinian cause should have first followed up the matters in a more balanced way to recognize the intense efforts made by the Arab League and its member states,” Afifi added. He added that these efforts have been ongoing since the extraordinary ministerial meeting of the Council of the Arab League, which was held in December in wake of the US administration’s announcement that it was relocating its embassy. At the end of his statement, Afifi noted that “such Turkish statements certainly do not serve the goal of establishing normal relations between the Arab League and Turkey during this stage.”Cavusoglu had criticized on Saturday the US move on Jerusalem, saying it was wrong and that Ankara will continue to defend the Palestinian cause.
Netanyahu At Embassy Ceremony: President Trump Is Making History
Jerusalem Post/May 13/18/The US Presidential Delegation arrived in Israel on Sunday afternoon ahead of the embassy opening. "President Donald Trump's 'bold decision' to move the US embassy to Jerusalem affirms a simple truth, that Jerusalem was, is and will always be the capital of the Jewish people," a buoyant Prime Minister Netanyahu said Sunday evening. "This is a momentous time, President Trump is making history, we are deeply grateful and our people will be eternally grateful," Netanyahu said, speaking at a reception in the foreign ministry in honor of the US delegation in town for the embassy move. Diplomats from thirty-three counties, including four EU countries, were among the hundreds who took part in the gathering. Four US senators were on hand, as was Sheldon Adelson. The US delegation included Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan. This is "an incredible historical moment," Mnuchin said. The Treasury Secretary also discussed Trump's decision to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal, saying that "Iran must never be able to get a nuclear weapon."The Treasury will be firm in cutting off terrorists' access to the financial systems "until they change their behavior." He also said "this is a momentous time in the history of the US-Israel relationship." Israel is a rising power, in "cyber, IT, water, judo and singing," Netanyahu said in reference to the Netta Barzilai victory at the Eurovision contest. "Those who didn't want Jerusalem in Eurovision will get Eurovision in Jeruslaem," the prime minister said.

For Angry Palestinians, US Embassy Move a Show of Pro-Israel Bias
Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 13 May, 2018
Monday's opening of the US Embassy in contested Jerusalem, cheered by Israelis as a historic validation, is seen by Palestinians as an in-your-face affirmation of pro-Israel bias by President Donald Trump and a new blow to dreams of statehood, said an Associated Press report on Sunday. The festive inauguration helps harden Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' rejection of Washington as a future mediator in the conflict with Israel, likely ushering in a prolonged period of diplomatic vacuum in which other powers are unwilling or unable to step up as brokers. Such paralysis and loss of hope have been major drivers of Palestinian unrest. Underscoring the conflict's volatility, thousands of Gaza residents plan to march Monday toward Israel's border and possibly breach it in an attempt to break a decade-old blockade of their territory. Israel has vowed to stop any breach by force, raising the possibility of major bloodshed at a time when Trump's daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner preside over the embassy ceremony just 70 kilometers (45 miles) away.
From Tel Aviv to Jerusalem
Tel Aviv is the customary base for foreign embassies in Israel, with the US and other countries having avoided Jerusalem because of its contested status. Over the years, a few countries set up embassies in Jerusalem and then left it again. From 2006 until this week, the city didn't host a single foreign embassy.
Israel captured east Jerusalem, along with the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in the 1967 Mideast war. It annexed the eastern sector to its previously declared capital in the western part of the city, a move not recognized at the time by the US and most other nations. The fate of the city has been a central issue in years of intermittent US-brokered negotiations. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, taking a harder line than two predecessors, has said he will not give up any part of Jerusalem, home to 883,000 people, 38 percent of them Palestinians. Abbas wants east Jerusalem to be the capital of a Palestinian state that would include the other war-won territories. In December, Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital, saying he was simply acknowledging reality, while omitting any mention of Palestinian claims to the city. Trump said at the time he is not taking a position on the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty that are to be determined in negotiations. But just a month later Trump told Netanyahu he had taken Jerusalem "off the table" and that "we don't have to talk about it anymore."Abbas, who for years had banked on the US to persuade Israel to cede land for a Palestinian state, felt betrayed and halted contacts with the Trump administration, reported the AP.
No to Kushner’s deal
Abbas recently laid out conditions for coming back to the table that — based on Trump's past statements — seem unlikely to be met. Abbas says the US must explicitly support a two-state solution, recognize east Jerusalem in principle as a Palestinian capital and allow other powers to join as mediators.
In the meantime, Abbas vows to reject any US proposal for an Israeli-Palestinian agreement, arguing that there's nothing to talk about because of the US policy shift on Jerusalem and its failure to rein in Israeli settlement expansion on lands sought for a Palestinian state. "We will not accept the deal," Abbas told a PLO convention two weeks ago, referring to the plan reportedly being prepared by Trump's Kushner-led Mideast team.
No alternatives
Abbas, a staunch opponent of violence, has not offered an alternative to statehood through negotiations with Israel or found a world power willing to challenge Washington. European foreign ministers, while opposed to the US policy shift, have urged Abbas to give Washington's peace plan a chance. Even European criticism of the US Embassy move will likely be diluted, with Hungary, the Czech Republic and Romania reportedly having blocked a joint EU statement on the issue. Monday is bound to be one of the worst days in office for Abbas since the Hamas movement seized Gaza in a 2007 takeover, said the AP.
Irreversible move
Moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem has enjoyed bi-partisan support in Congress, as expressed in the 1995 bill requiring its relocation, though until now presidents used a waiver every six months allowing them to put off the move on security grounds. It would be politically difficult for any Trump successor to move the embassy back to Tel Aviv, though the next administration could theoretically still try to broker talks on the future of Jerusalem, said Nathan Thrall of the International Crisis Group think tank. Yet the partition option may no longer exist a few years from now as settlements expand. Some 600,000 Israelis already live on war-won lands, including several tens of thousands in the West Bank's heartland, east of the Israeli separation barrier, reported the AP. Veteran Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath thinks there is still hope, citing long-term trends he believes favor the Palestinians, including growing disagreements between the Trump administration and traditional US allies, and demographic pressure on Israel as the numbers of Arabs and Jews in the Holy Land approach parity. He hopes for a change of direction by Washington, particularly if Republicans suffer a setback in November's midterm elections. "Rejecting Trump's policy and afterward rejecting Trump himself would open the door for change," Shaath told reporters as he led a field trip to the embassy site last week.

Jerusalem marks 51th anniversary as Israel’s united capital. Large US delegation here for embassy dedication
Debka File/May 13/18
The formal dedication of the US embassy in Jerusalem Monday, May 13, is the centerpiece of Jerusalem’s 51st anniversary celebrations. The delegation here for the event is headed by deputy secretary of state John Sullivan and includes President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner, along with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and 12 members of Congress. Israel marked the anniversary Sunday with a festive cabinet meeting at the Bible Museum in Jerusalem. The ministers allocated NIS2 billion (app. $800,000) for a five-year program to improve the school system in East Jerusalem and adjust it to the Israeli curriculum. Two state memorial ceremonies came next. On Mt. Herzl, Ethiopian Jews who died during their perilous journey to the holy land were remembered and and tribute was paid to the fallen men and women who fought in the Six Day War. During the afternoon, tens of thousands were to take part in the traditional flag parade through the streets of Jerusalem, the Old City up to its finale at the Western Wall. The official US embassy dedication ceremony Monday takes place at the US Consulate’s visa section in Jerusalem’s Arnona neighborhood – which will then officially become the US Embassy. About 30 of the 86 ambassadors accredited to Israel accepted the invitation to the Foreign Ministry gala reception for the US delegation Sunday evening in Jerusalem. Most European Union ambassadors are boycotting the party, excepting Hungary, the Czech Republic, Austria and Romania, whose envoys will be there in defiance of Brussels, which takes strong exception to the US move. The Russian, Egyptian and Mexican ambassadors are not expected to attend. Guatemala and Paraguay have both promised to move their embassies to Jerusalem.
The streets of Jerusalem are decked with American and Israeli flags. The most important US and European television networks have sent over special crews for live coverage of the occasion. Needless to say, security and police contingents have been heavily reinforced to safeguard all these events.

A Look at Jerusalem before US Embassy Relocation
Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 13 May, 2018/On Monday, the United States moves its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the holy city at the explosive core of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and claimed by both sides as a capital. The inauguration comes five months after President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital. The Associated Press offers a snapshot of the city:
Recent history
Jerusalem was partitioned after the Mideast war over Israel's 1948 creation, with Israel controlling the west and Jordan the east, including major shrines of Islam, Judaism and Christianity. In 1967, Israel captured east Jerusalem, along with the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It expanded the municipal boundaries into the West Bank, increasing the size of east Jerusalem and annexing it to its capital, a move not recognized by most of the international community. Since the 1990s, the fate of the city has been a core issue in US-brokered talks on setting up a Palestinian state alongside Israel, with the Palestinians seeking east Jerusalem as a capital. Intermittent negotiations have failed, most recently in 2014, and chances of resuming them are slim. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he will not give up any part of the city, while Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says Trump's policy shift on Jerusalem disqualified the US as a broker.
In 2016, Jerusalem was home to almost 883,000 people, 62 percent of them Jews and non-Arabs and 38 percent Palestinians. The Arab share of the population has grown steadily since 1967, in part because of a higher birth rate. After 1967, Israel built a ring of settlement neighborhoods in east Jerusalem to deepen its hold over the annexed area, where 207,000 Jews now live. More than a decade ago, Israel built a West Bank separation barrier that slices through Arab neighborhoods in east Jerusalem, forcing tens of thousands of Palestinian residents of the city to cross crowded checkpoints to get to downtown areas. Israel says the barrier, which in urban areas is mainly made up of cement walls, is a defense against militants. Palestinians say it is a land grab.
US policy
Most of the international community, including the US, did not recognize Israel's 1967 annexation of east Jerusalem. The prevailing view, including by the European Union, is that the fate of the city must be determined in negotiations. In 1995, Congress passed a bill with bi-partisan support that recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital and required the US Embassy to move there. Until now, presidents had signed a waiver every six months that put off the move on security grounds. The US stance on east Jerusalem now has been thrown into confusion. In its December announcement, the Trump administration emphasized that recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital does not change its stance that the two sides must work out the city's final status. But Trump quickly appeared to contradict that, declaring, "We took Jerusalem off the table."
Embassy's location
In their 1949 armistice agreement, Israel and Jordan drew a "Green Line" of partition through the city. In one area of southeastern Jerusalem, they could not agree and created a pentagon-shaped "area between the lines."
The new embassy will operate temporarily from the US Consulate compound, which is partially located in the old no man's land and partially in west Jerusalem. The UN considers the area of the pentagon to be occupied territory because neither Israeli nor Jordanian forces were supposed to enter it after 1949, according to a senior UN official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the politically touchy issue with the media. The State Department, presenting a defense of the location, argues that in practice, part of the no man's land has been in continuous Israeli use since 1949.

U.S. Envoy Sees Peace Hope after Israel Embassy Move
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 13/18/Despite Palestinian outrage over Monday's opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, Washington's ambassador to Israel said that there is still hope for peace in the region. "They are not reacting well," Ambassador David Friedman said saturday of the Palestinians, who view the eastern part of Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital. President Donald Trump's decision to move the embassy from Tel Aviv broke with generations of international consensus that Jerusalem's status should be settled as part of a two-state peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. Tens of thousands of Palestinians are expected to gather along the border between Gaza and Israel on Monday to protest the embassy opening. But Friedman told Fox News host Jeanine Pirro that the Palestinian mood "will change over time because they will understand that the United States continues to extend its hand in peace and people need to focus on what's important, the quality of life, more infrastructure, more security, better hospitals."He said the U.S. "is there to help the Palestinians" and "there is no basis" to think the embassy move will work against peace.
"I think we're gonna make progress," he told Pirro who is in Jerusalem for the embassy opening. Friedman in the past has been a supporter of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. The Palestine Liberation Organization has decried Washington's embassy move as a "provocation to all Arabs," and the opening falls on May 14 which this year marks 70 years since Israel's declaration of independence -- which Palestinians call Naqba, their "day of catastrophe." Fifty-four Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since mass protests broke out along the border on March 30. No Israelis have been injured. Friedman confirmed that Trump will "be there on video" at the embassy ceremony and that Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, a senior White House aide, will speak in person.

U.S. Says Wants to Work with Europeans on New Iran Deal

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 13/18/The U.S. wants to work with its European partners on a new agreement to counter Iran's "malign behavior" after its withdrawal from a landmark nuclear deal, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday. "I'm hopeful in the days and weeks ahead we can come up with a deal that really works, that really protects the world from Iranian bad behavior, not just their nuclear program, but their missiles and their malign behavior as well," he told Fox News.
"And I will work closely with the Europeans to try and achieve that."

Iran FM Hopeful of Forging 'Clear Future' for Nuclear Deal on Diplomatic Tour

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 13/18/
Iran's foreign minister said Sunday he was hopeful of forging a "clear future design" for the nuclear deal facing collapse after Washington's withdrawal, at the start of a diplomatic tour aimed at rescuing the agreement. "We hope that with this visit to China and other countries we will be able to construct a clear future design for the comprehensive agreement," Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters after talks in Beijing with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. Zarif will later fly to Moscow and Brussels to consult the remaining signatories to the 2015 agreement denounced by U.S. President Donald Trump. Washington's decision to withdraw from the deal and reimpose sanctions angered its European allies as well as China and Russia. China was one of the six powers -- with the United States, Russia, France, the UK and Germany -- that signed the historic pact, which saw sanctions lifted in return for the commitment by Tehran not to acquire nuclear weapons. As he arrived in Beijing, Zarif said Tehran was "ready for all option(s)", according to the semi-official ISNA news agency. "If the nuclear deal is to continue, the interests of the people of Iran must be assured," he added. After their meeting, Zarif and Wang hailed the "comprehensive strategic partnership" between their countries, with the Chinese minister saying: "I hope and believe that these visits to multiple countries will... help protect Iran's legitimate national interests and peace and stability in the region." Tehran's chief diplomat embarked on the tour as regional tensions spiked just 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.
Extremist administration
Before leaving, Zarif published a government statement on his Twitter page, slamming Trump's "extremist administration" for abandoning "an accord recognized 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 it could maintain trade ties despite renewed U.S. sanctions. Trump hit back Saturday evening, tweeting that the accord had failed to contain Iran's militarism. "Iran's Military Budget is up more than 40 percent since the Obama negotiated Nuclear Deal was reached... just another indicator that it was all a big lie," he wrote. Zarif's delicate diplomatic mission was complicated by the 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 pro-regime fighters killed in strikes by Israel, which has vowed to prevent Iran from gaining a military foothold in neighboring Syria. Tehran, which has sought to avoid an escalation in a regional conflict that could alienate its European partners, has not commented on whether its forces were hit. Israel and its allies have blamed Iran's Revolutionary Guards for initiating Thursday's exchange by launching missiles into the occupied Golan Heights.Iran denies the claims, saying the Israeli strikes were launched on "invented pretexts."
Allies fume at Trump
Meanwhile, European diplomats in Tehran fumed that Trump's decision to withdraw from the 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 U.S., all the progress we have made since 2015 will be lost." Iranian hardliners -- who have long opposed President Hassan Rouhani's moves to improve ties with the West -- are already mobilising against the efforts to save the nuclear deal. Mohammad Ali Jafari, head of the Revolutionary Guards, said the country could not rely on the West. "We hope recent events will lead us not to trust in the West and even Europeans," he said Sunday, according to the conservative-linked Fars news agency. "The Europeans have repeated on several occasions that they will not be able to resist U.S. sanctions."He added if the European powers were unable to make guarantees, "we must choose the path of self-sufficiency and nuclear industry with our own capabilities."The sentiment was echoed on the streets. "Officials shouldn't trust France and Britain. They will never abandon the U.S. for us," said housewife Poormoslem at a protest against Trump on Friday. A photo on the official Instagram site of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei showed him reading a Farsi translation of Michael Wolff's blistering account of the Trump White House, "Fire and Fury", quickly picking up more than 100,000 likes. Khamenei said last week he was highly doubtful that Europe would provide the "real guarantees" needed for Iran to stay in the nuclear deal. But 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.

Iran Sentences Eight Alleged IS Members to Death
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 13/18/Iran has sentenced to death eight alleged members of the Islamic State group in connection with deadly twin attacks in Tehran in June last year, the judiciary's news agency said on Sunday. The attacks -- the first on Iranian soil to be claimed by IS -- targeted parliament and the shrine of revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, killing 17 people and injuring dozens. "The eight defendants have been found guilty of rebellion," the president of the court said, quoted by Mizan Online. The trial began on April 28 and those convicted can appeal against the verdict.
Five perpetrators died during the attacks on June 7 last year. Some of those convicted were found guilty of helping the attackers. The judiciary's press agency reported after an initial hearing in late April that 26 people were on trial following arrests after the attacks.
Some of the accused had joined IS abroad before coming back to Iran to carry out the attacks, Mizan Online said. Iran has provided military support to the Syrian and Iraqi governments in the fight against IS, sending military advisers and Iranian and Afghan "volunteers" to the two countries.

At Least 5 Killed as Militants Storm Govt. Building in Afghan City
Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 13 May, 2018/Militants detonated bombs and stormed a government building in eastern Afghanistan, leaving at least six civilians dead, officials said. Two explosions rocked Jalalabad’s directorate of finance, the Nangarhar provincial governor's spokesman Attaullah Khogyani told AFP, adding that "a number of attackers" had entered the building. "Security forces are in the area chasing and fighting them," he said. "So far six civilians (have been) killed and 33 wounded. One attacker is also down. The clearing operation is ongoing." Earlier, health department officials in the city said hospitals had received at least four dead bodies and 20 wounded people. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. One attacker appeared to have blown himself up at the gate of the building in the center of the city, allowing the gunmen to enter, Sohrab Qaderi, a member of the provincial council, told Reuters. More explosions were then heard coming from inside the building, he added. He said at least four attackers, armed with rocket propelled grenades and machine guns still appeared to be fighting police. Jalalabad is the capital of restive Nangarhar, which borders Pakistan. Some areas of the province are a stronghold of the ISIS group but Taliban fighters are also active there. It was the latest deadly violence to strike Afghanistan as militant groups step up attacks and US-backed Afghan forces intensify air strikes and ground offensives. The assault comes days after suicide bombers and gunmen launched apparently coordinated attacks on two Kabul police stations Wednesday, killing at least ten people. April saw a series of attacks across the country targeting voter registration centers as the country gears up for long-delayed legislative elections due in October. The Taliban and ISIS have made clear their intentions to disrupt the elections. Officials are concerned that a low voter turnout will undermine the credibility of the poll. The Taliban recently launched their annual spring offensive, in an apparent rejection of a peace talks overture by the Afghan government. Their Operation Al Khandaq will target US forces and "their intelligence agents" as well as their "internal supporters", a Taliban statement said on April 25. But ISIS has also stepped up its attacks in recent months, particularly in Kabul. Nine journalists, including AFP's chief photographer in Kabul Shah Marai, were among the 25 people killed in a double suicide blast claimed by ISIS in the capital on April 30. Kabul has become one of the deadliest places in the country for civilians as security forces struggle to keep the militants at bay following the withdrawal of NATO combat forces at the end of 2014.

UN Chief Calls for ‘Suitable Environment’ for Libya Elections
New York - Ali Barada/Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 13 May, 2018/UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged officials to ensure a "suitable environment" for elections in Libya, calling on the parliament to consult with the High Council of Libya to "urgently finalize the necessary electoral legislation."
Moreover, Guterres encouraged the Libyan authorities to "cooperate fully" with the International Criminal Court to activate accountability for crimes under international law. He also expressed "deep concern" over reports of continued human trafficking, calling for "the identification and prosecution of those responsible for the heinous crimes." In a report sent to state members of the UN Security Council, which Asharq Al-Awsat received a copy of, Guterres welcomed the "progress achieved in major elements" of the UN Action Plan. He was optimistic about "great participation" in the process of updating the voter lists, considering it a strong indicator of the Libyans' desire to participate in electoral processes. In an effort to "create a suitable environment" for the elections, the UN chief called on the parliament to "expeditiously prepare the necessary electoral legislation", in consultation with the High Council, noting the importance of establishing a constitutional framework to provide the necessary conditions for elections. Guterres also welcomed the launching of the National Congress, saying that these meetings "are an important factor to encourage Libyan citizens to express their ideas and views" and to establish a "unified national governance system." He also welcomed the progress achieved in "civil reconciliation initiatives led by Libyan parties throughout the country" because these efforts play a crucial role in reducing tensions and avoiding further conflict.
Guterres asserted the UN’s insistence on its established commitments to provide support through the Peace-building Fund.  He positively viewed the direct interaction between parliament and the High Council in order to agree on a mechanism to form a new executive authority in order to "improve the conditions of the Libyan people, prepare for national elections and encourage participation in the elections and accept its results.""It is essential that all displaced people... be able to return to their places of origin in a voluntary and secure manner that preserves their dignity," Guterres confirmed, praising the efforts made by Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) Ghassan Salameh to address the return of citizens of Tawergha.
In the report, Guterres said the continued and effective participation of Libyan women in political processes "is an encouraging sign for the advancement of gender equality and women's participation in political life."He expressed his concerns about the lack of security in various areas of Libya, noting that he was worried by the repeated escalation of tensions and violence especially in Sabha. He called on all parties to "respect international law, stop all acts of violence and commit to dialogue to address the root causes of grievances." There are increasing fears about ISIS activities and other terrorist organizations in the South, according to the Guterres, who asserted the urgent need to establish the rule of law in the region to ensure a cessation of hostilities between warring factions and develop more effective ways to control the border. The report also stressed importance of reforming and unifying the Libyan military and security forces under civilian leadership in order to stabilize the country. Guterres voiced his concerns about the deterioration of the humanitarian situation throughout Libya, referring to "ongoing human rights violations and ill-treatment in detention, and prolonged arbitrary detention without due process of law." He stressed that these violations harm attempts to make Libya a stable country. "The authorities must give priority to release all men, women and children arbitrarily detained," he said, while encouraging Libyan authorities to "fully cooperate with the International Criminal Court, in accordance with Security Council Resolution 1970." He expressed "deep concern" over reports of continued human trafficking in Libya, urging the authorities "to spare no effort in identifying the persons responsible for these heinous crimes and prosecuting them."He hoped the newly established joint task force of the African Union, European Union and UN would help address the problem of migration in a comprehensive manner. The report concluded that it is still very important that the international community stand united in supporting a peaceful settlement of the Libyan crisis. "In the coming months, there is an opportunity to be seized in the best interest of the Libyan people," stated Guterres, who called for continuous positive cooperation with the UN to "put an end to the protracted transitional period in the country and work together to create new unified institutions based on the principles of democracy and the rule of law."

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 13-14/18
Iran Just Overplayed Its Hand In Syria
Jerusalem Post/May 13/18/
The problem for Tehran is that it cannot risk a major conflict with Israel.
Iran’s drive to retaliate against Israel led it to badly underestimate Jerusalem’s resolve and resulted in unprecedented destruction wrought on its infrastructure in Syria. On May 10, the Israel Air Force carried out precision strikes against dozens of targets in Syria, including those of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force. Israel was responding to a barrage of 20 missiles it says the IRGC fired toward the Golan Heights. Iran gambled in Syria; it is now showing that its growing regional influence actually acts as a restraint against its ability to carry out attacks. Since clashes in February in which numerous Iranian personnel were killed at a base in Syria during an alleged Israeli raid, Tehran has vowed to retaliate. Likewise, in April, further Israeli raids targeting Iranian missiles and personnel upped Tehran’s need to do something to respond.  However, the IRGC was cautious because it has other interests in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq that it doesn’t want to jeopardize. As Iran’s power has grown in the region in recent years – in part due to Iranian-backed militias playing a key role in the war against Islamic State in Iraq, and due to Iran’s long-term relationship with the Bashar Assad regime in Damascus and with Hezbollah in Lebanon – Tehran is in a bind about confronting Israel. The more Iranian power grows and its allies, such as Hezbollah, seek to engage in governing institutions, the more an Israel-Iran conflict imperils these carefully managed gains.
Iran is too powerful now to risk a large-scale confrontation with Israel.
Jerusalem has used this to its advantage, striking targets of opportunity, such as missiles, convoys and other threats that Iran has been unable to hide in Syria.
This shadow war – in which Israel has dominated and which has involved more than 100 air strikes in five years – has increased as US President Donald Trump got closer to canceling the Iranian nuclear deal. One of the central concerns when Trump announced that Washington was leaving the Iran deal was that it could lead to a new phase of conflict in the Middle East.  On May 8, former secretary of state John Kerry wrote that Trump’s announcement “puts Israel at greater risk, empowers Iran’s hardliners and reduces our global leverage to address Tehran’s misbehavior.” The problem for Iran is that it does not view its goals in the region as misbehavior. In Iraq, the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Units, a group of mostly Shi’ite militias, has been integrated as an official force into the Iraqi Security Forces. Hadi al-Amiri, who worked with the IRGC in the 1980s when he was in exile in Iran, is now leading a list called “Fateh” in Iraq. He hopes that his Shi’ite group, the Badr Organization, which helped fight ISIS, will play an even greater role after this past weekend’s elections. Like with Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Iranian model in Iraq is a combination of armed militia and political clout, with religious sectarian overtones.
Iran wants to construct a network of organizations like Badr and Hezbollah, together with the Assad regime, to cement its influence in the region. Israel sees this as a fundamental threat. “The Iranian octopus is trying to strangle us and break our spirit,” Israel’s Education Minister Naftali Bennett warned in April.
IRGC commander Hossein Salami claimed that Tehran’s “hands are on the trigger and missiles are ready.”The problem for Tehran is that it cannot risk a major conflict with Israel or risk losing all the work it has put into propping up the Syrian regime.
Since 2011, when protests broke out against Assad, Tehran has been one of the regime’s main backers. Up to 80,000 volunteers have been trained by Iran and Syria, some of them brought from as far away as Afghanistan and Pakistan. This has been a massive financial investment at a time when Iran is just recovering from the sanctions relief of the Iran deal and its currency is trading at all-time lows.
The more Iran builds and invests in Syria, the more it stands to lose. It found that out in the first hours of May 10, when Israel attacked numerous Iranian targets, carrying out its largest operations in recent history. This was in response to the firing of 20 missiles at Israel by Iranian forces in Syria. Reports indicated that “nearly all of Iran’s military infrastructure” in Syria was hit, totaling between 30 and 50 sites. Tehran badly miscalculated and likely realized that it must think carefully about using Syria as a base of operations against Israel. Besides overplaying its hand, a major flaw in Iran’s thinking has been not taking into account the Russian role in Syria. Russia has been working with Iran and Turkey to deescalate the conflict in Syria, both through talks in Astana and also trilateral talks in November 2017 and April 2018. In addition, Russia helped broker a cease-fire in southern Syria with Jordan and the US in July 2017 and Russia has held frequent meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the Syrian situation.
Iran’s rocket fire at Israel risks destabilizing Syria just when the regime has some breathing room after seven years of civil war.  Likewise, Russia opposes anything that might imperil the Assad regime, leaving Iran with less options.
Thus, by attacking Israel from Syria, Iran is risking its relationship with Russia. Threatening Israel through proxies in Lebanon risks Hezbollah’s hard-won status in the government, recently acquired again through elections in which Hezbollah allies performed well. Iraq is too far away to really threaten Israel, except by sending Iraqi Shi’ite militias to Syria. In addition, Hamas has been badly weakened in Gaza. Having overplayed its hand, Tehran must now consider that conflict with Israel and with other countries, such as Saudi Arabia, are not in its interest. Therefore, if it wants to keep its influence, it will deescalate the rising tensions near the Golan.

How Trump’s Iran deal decision may lead to war
Amanda Erickson/Washington Post/May 13/18
After meeting with President Trump last week, French President Emmanuel Macron made two predictions: The United States would pull out of the Iran nuclear deal — and that decision would lead to war.
He could soon be proved right on both counts.
Just hours after President Trump reimposed sanctions on Iran on Tuesday, dealing a body blow to the nuclear agreement, tensions escalated between Iran and Israel. On the night of Trump’s announcement, Israel put its troops on "high alert," perhaps anticipating a strike on Israeli targets in Syria. Officials called up reservists and warned the residents of the Golan Heights, which borders Syria, to prepare public bomb shelters.
By Thursday, things had only gotten worse. Israeli officials blamed Iran for an unsuccessful rocket attack on Wednesday aimed at Israeli forces in the Golan Heights. That evening, Israeli jets struck back at Iranian forces in Syria, bombing dozens of targets. Israel’s defense minister, Avigdor Liberman, told reporters that the strikes had hit "nearly all" of Iran's military infrastructure in Syria.
Tension between Israel and Iran is nothing new, of course. But the speedy acceleration of violence between the two countries is cause for concern. And it’s almost certainly a result of Trump's decision. “While Israel and Iran have been conducting a shadow war in Syria for months under the cover of the civil war there,” the New York Times wrote, “the conflict has now burst into the open.” It’s anyone's guess how far things may now go.
Israel and Iran’s proxy war in Syria has been going on for years. As my colleague Ishaan Tharoor explained, Iran’s "presence in Syria is a legitimate defense of their beleaguered ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. And they see their capacity to threaten Israel from next door as a potential deterrent against a long-standing regional foe."
That’s unacceptable to Israel. Since 2012, the Israelis have allegedly launched more than 100 strikes on supposedly Iran-linked positions in Syria. It’s necessary, they argue, to keep Iran away from their borders and stop the flow of weapons to Hezbollah, Iran's Lebanese ally.
But the existence of the accord seemed to help stave off the worst. Iran threatened retaliation last month after an Israeli strike killed seven Iranian soldiers last month, but it had never directly struck back against Israel — at least not until after Trump’s announcement.
Now, without the involvement of the United States, said Ian Bremmer, the founder and president of the Eurasia Group, a political consultancy, “it is more likely that we see military strikes.”
Bremmer told Vanity Fair that “the Iranians have not responded, and I am sure a part of the reason for that is that they don’t want to give the Americans any reason to leave the deal. Now that they have done so, I assume that the gloves are off for the Iranians, and it makes mutual military escalation between the Israelis and the Iranians much more likely.”
A flare-up between Iran and Israel also isn’t the only — or even the biggest — threat. Last weekend, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned that his country might restart its nuclear program in the face of new American sanctions. “We have put a number of options for ourselves, and those options are ready including options that would involve resuming at a much greater speed our nuclear activities,” Zarif told Margaret Brennan on CBS’s "Face the Nation."
If Iran can’t wrangle enough economic concessions from Europe to keep the nuclear agreement intact, it might see a nuclear program as its only option. If that happens, "you get a nuclear race in the Middle East," said James Dorsey, a Middle East specialist at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, to the Atlantic.
The prospect of a nuclear arms race in an increasingly fractured and volatile region is terrifying. Even a whiff of nuclear activity in Iran might be enough to create a disaster. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made no secret of the fact that he’s willing to intervene in Iran directly, launching targeted strikes to blow up Iran’s nuclear facilities.
The Obama administration opposed such intervention, favoring diplomacy and focusing on keeping the United States from plunging into another Middle Eastern war. In Trump, though, Netanyahu has an ally who shares his aggressiveness. As retired U.S. Army Gen. Wesley Clark wrote for CNBC, "Israel has several times sought U.S. help, or at least U.S. support and backup in striking Iran’s nuclear program. Under the Obama Administration, the answer was, No. Under President Trump, and with the emerging condominium of interests between the Saudi’s and the Israeli’s, the possibility of war between Israel and Iran is rising."
And if that happens, Trump might find himself unable to stay out of the fight. “President Trump’s actions in quitting the Iran accord would place a large share of the responsibility on the United States, increasing the likelihood that the U.S. would, in fact, support and reinforce Israel," Clark wrote.
So the worst-case scenario may not be a brutal regional war with thousands of lives on the line. It could be an American intervention with tremendous global consequences. As The Post’s editorial board put it earlier this week: “The Saudis and Israelis may hope that Mr. Trump’s decision will draw the United States back into the Middle East through a confrontation with their enemy. The president has frequently said that he has no wish for further Mideast wars; his decision has made one more likely.”Want smart analysis of the most important news in your inbox every weekday along with other global reads, interesting ideas and opinions to know? Sign up for the Today's WorldView newsletter.

Is France Really an Ally of the United States?
Guy Millière/Gatestone Institute.May 13/2018
No-go zones are growing rapidly in the suburbs of all of France's main cities. Shanty towns built by illegal migrants from Africa and the Middle East have sprung up in parts of Marseilles and Paris in the last few years. Islamization is everywhere. In hundreds of mosques, imams deliver fiery anti-Western speeches. Churches are vandalized. The number of rapes is rapidly increasing. Groups of veiled women roam the streets and insult the "immodest", unveiled, women.
Macron's most important project since he was elected has been the creation of new Islamic institutions destined to adapt France to Islam -- not to adapt Islam to France. Many more mosques will be built, financed with taxpayer money; departments of Islamic culture will open in universities, and imam training centers created.
Macron's main advisor on this subject is Hakim El Karoui, the author of a book ("Islam, a French Religion") explaining that Islam is now the main religion in the country; that prejudices of non-Muslims are the source of most troubles, and that helping Muslims to have access to more important positions in French society is of the utmost urgency.
Sadly, it will also be difficult for President Macron, Prime Minister May and Chancellor Merkel to hide that they are appeasers of Islam and the weak commanders of countries they are allowing to decay.
During his recent State visit in Washington, French President Emmanuel Macron spoke of the "long friendship" between France and the United States, and tried to present himself as a reliable ally. His statements, essentially empty words, should be taken with extreme caution.
Today in France, repeated strikes in the public transportation systems degrade economic activity and create an atmosphere of permanent unrest. Riots are frequent and every protest now ends with dozens of cars burned and many shops ransacked. Terrorist attacks continue to take place: 250 people killed in the last six years, more than in any other European country. No-go zones are growing rapidly in the suburbs of all main cities. Shanty towns built by illegal migrants from Africa and the Middle East have sprung up in parts of Marseilles and Paris in the last few years. Islamization is everywhere. In hundreds of mosques, imams delivery fiery anti-Western speeches. Churches are vandalized. The number of rapes is rapidly increasing. Groups of veiled women roam the streets and insult the "immodest", unveiled, women. Jews by the thousand hide or flee the country.
The government appears to have lost all hope of restoring order; it limits itself to trying to avoid the worst, without even being sure it can. A climate of creeping submission holds sway.
The corrosion that eats away at the country is never identified and, unhindered, continues its devastation.
When asked recently what was France's main problem, French Secretary of the Interior Gérard Collomb spoke of the feeling of "exclusion" among many "youths". He said the solution was "social projects" -- billions of euros more will be spent. Collomb did not say that hundreds of millions of euros have already been lavished on "social projects" with nothing to show for the expense. French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe spoke of the need to create "deradicalization" centers, where instructors will explain that Islam is supposedly compatible with the "values of the republic". He did not mention that "deradicalization" centers were created years ago and had less than no effect.
Macron's most important project has been the creation of new Islamic institutions, apparently to adapt France to Islam -- not to adapt Islam to France. Many more mosques will be built, financed with taxpayer money; departments of Islamic culture will open in universities, and imam training centers created. His main advisor on this subject is Hakim El Karoui, the author of a book (L'islam, une religion française; "Islam, a French Religion") explaining that Islam is now the main religion in the country; that prejudices of non-Muslims are the source of most troubles, and that helping Muslims to have access to more important positions in French society is of the utmost urgency.
Organizations subsidized by the government and the European Union track down any sign of disrespect for the Muslim faith. The bullying works. Journalists and writers who criticize Islam are prosecuted and cast aside.
Sometimes, some of them publish a petition to try to make their voices heard despite the quashing and censorship. Most often, they arouse only indifference, or the anger of a few judges. Once in a while, they manage to create a brief scandal out of it.
A text published in a Parisian daily not long ago spoke of an "Islamic anti-Semitism" and "ethnic cleansing" that were chasing Christians and Jews out of many areas. Three hundred people signed the text. Those who wrote it, carefully did not mention Islam itself, but "Islamist radicalism" instead.
It became immediately clear that they had gone way too far. Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Great Mosque of Paris, said that the text was "insane" and vile. Amar Lasfar, president of "Muslims of France" (the French branch of the Muslim Brotherhood), added that the authors of the text were "maleficent ignoramuses" who had insulted all Muslims. Intellectuals on the left (many of them Jews) published an article saying that "Islam is not guilty", and that those who do accuse Islam create the risk of civil war. Silence quickly returned.
Pluralism has almost completely disappeared. President Macron's popularity is fading, but the country's political parties are in ruins. The population seems to have lost all reference points; no leader embodies a vision likely to bring improvements. A Marxist left, still dreaming of a "proletarian revolution", persists in conflict with an extreme right mired in failed socialist ideas. Those include increased spending on public services and calls for more "social justice". The moderate right has not recovered since its disastrous defeat in last year's elections. For the first time under the Fifth Republic, the moderate right was eliminated in the first round of the presidential election; it is still disintegrating.
The pervasive decomposition of the country and the exhausted leadership of those who are supposed to rule has affected foreign policy as well.
France contributed to the destruction of the Islamic State in Syria, but when French leaders spoke about it, including Macron, they rushed to deny the existence of an enemy. Instead, they used the Arabic acronym Daesh for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) -- and emphasized that Daesh was not Muslim, but supposedly just the embodiment of a strange "ideology".
The participation of the French military in the recent limited bombing of chemical weapons facilities in Syria was unanimously criticized by French politicians, who said that France should not behave like a "poodle of the United States" and bomb a "sovereign nation". Macron said it was a one-time action and would not happen again.
In Washington, Macron denounced terrorism in general, but avoided the words "Islamic terrorism". When he spoke to students, he did not hide the existence of hatred towards the Jews in France, but attributed it only to the far right.
In his speech to Congress, Macron weirdly said that terrorist attacks are "the price we pay for freedom". He added that he wants France to contribute to a "sustainable peace in a united Syria". He never said that the country has been totally devastated, emptied of half of its population, and under the control of Russia and Iran, which are busy populating the place with military bases. Macron also said, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, that with some adjustments, the Iran nuclear agreement could prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons.
French President Emmanuel Macron addresses a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress in Washington, DC on April 25, 2018.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showed the world documents proving that Iran had not stopped its secret nuclear weapons program. Macron still did not modify his position. He published a statement enumerating "steps taken towards an enlarged agreement on the surveillance of Iran's nuclear activity". He added that the deal is necessary to "ensure regional stability and avoid escalation". It was a way of saying that France preferred to keep the agreement and that it oddly considered the region stable.
Macron remained silent during the popular unrest in Iran in December 2017. He contented himself with postponing the official visit he was supposed to make in 2018.
He never said in Washington, or anywhere else, that Iran threatens Israel and has the explicitly stated purpose of erasing the Jewish state from the map
He never said that France has close business ties with Iran, and concrete interests in new sanctions against Iran not being adopted. French businesses such as car makers Renault and PSA operate large factories in Iran. A year ago, the French oil company Total and the National Iranian Oil Company signed a contract for the development and production of South Pars, the world's largest gas field. France is offering euro-denominated credits to Iranian buyers of its goods to bolster trade while trying to keep the offer outside the reach of possible new U.S. sanctions.
For more than four decades, France never stopped supporting -- politically and financially -- the "Palestinian cause". All politicians know that the presence of millions of Muslims in France, the intimidating weight of Islam in the country and a hegemonic spirit of submission could make any position favorable to Israel lead to nationwide mayhem. Macron is no exception.
Every time there is a terrorist attack in Israel, the French government speaks of a "cycle of violence" that has to stop, and warns Israel not to react "disproportionately". A press release mentions that the Palestinian people have the "right to a state".
For more than a month, the Islamic terrorist movement Hamas has been organizing marches to cross from Gaza into Israel, using force. Hamas knows perfectly well that the Israel Defense Force will protect its country and that invaders will be shot. Hamas terrorists hide behind civilians, using them as human shields. America's ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, asked Hamas to stop "using people as cannon fodder". France reacted as if Hamas were not involved. It urged Israel to "show restraint" and to respect the "Palestinians' right peacefully to protest". So far, 200 acres of Israeli farmland has been destroyed by "peaceful" Palestinian fire-kites.
In December 2017, a few hours after President Trump announced his decision to move America's embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, an official statement by the French government announced that the French embassy in Israel will remain in Tel Aviv, and that "East Jerusalem" must be the capital of the future "Palestinian State". Macron called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan; together they decided to try to persuade President Trump to reconsider his decision. Since then, Macron has stipulated that President Trump's decision supposedly "goes against international law" and that the United States has lost its position of "honest broker" in the Middle East. In fact, the embassy move does not "go against international law".
When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Paris, in December, 2017, Macron told him undiplomatically that Israel must stop the "colonization of the Palestinian territories".
A few months earlier, Macron had welcomed Mahmoud Abbas to Paris and emphasized that France "knows" Abbas's "constant commitment" to peace and "non-violence". He kissed Mahmoud Abbas as warmly as he kissed Donald Trump at the White House. He did not react to Abbas's most recent anti-Semitic rant. When Abbas has praised the murderers of Jews, Macron never said anything.
An American delegation of 250 people will come to Jerusalem on May 14 to inaugurate the American Embassy. No official representative of France will be present. France is boycotting the ceremony.
At the end of his revelations about Iran's nuclear projects, Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu said he believed that President Trump would "do the right thing". On May 8, President Trump announced his decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement and restore sanctions on Iran. Iran's President Hassan Rouhani replied that "Iranian uranium enrichment may resume", and that Iran will now negotiate with countries remaining in the agreement.
Macron said that he "regrets" President Trump's decision, and added illogically that "the international fight against nuclear proliferation is at stake". He recently spoke of a "risk of war", overlooking that Iran is already at war in much of Middle East -- Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon -- and even with its own citizens. In a joint statement, Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Theresa May spoke of their "continuing commitment" to the deal, and added that Iran "meets its own obligations under the deal". They overlooked that these "obligations" were minimal, to say the least.
It will be difficult for Macron to repeat that he is an ally of the United States, or that he is reliable. Sadly, it will also be difficult for Macron, May and Merkel to hide that they are appeasers of Islam and the weak commanders of countries they are allowing to decay.
**Dr. Guy Millière, a professor at the University of Paris, is the author of 27 books on France and Europe.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Turkey in Syria: Ruling Kurdish Afrin by Sharia Law, Ethnic Cleansing
Sirwan Kajjo/Gatestone Institute.May 13/2018

At the onset of the Turkish offensive, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government declared it a "jihad" against Syrian Kurds. Turkish preachers gave sermons justifying the assault as a "holy war."
Turkey and jihadist groups are now forcing non-Muslim minorities in Afrin to convert to Islam. Yazidi temples, for example, have been destroyed by militants. Yazidi residents have been forcibly taken to mosques to convert to Islam.
Kurdish groups have accused the government of Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of carrying out a campaign to create a demographic change aiming at dislodging native Kurdish civilians from their lands and replacing them with Sunni Arabs from Turkish-based refugees camps.
After little more than a month since capturing the Kurdish city of Afrin in northwestern Syria, the Turkish government and its jihadist allies are discussing plans to rule the city by Islamic sharia law.
A meeting recently took place between Turkish authorities and rebel leaders of the al-Rahman Legion to decide how to build an Islamic police force, sharia courts and other religious centers.
Al-Rahman Legion is one of the largest Islamist rebel groups that was in control of the eastern Ghouta, the last rebel-held area in Damascus. The group was recently expelled from the area after a Turkish- and Russian-brokered deal between the Syrian regime and groups rebelling against it, such as Al-Rahman. It has since resettled in the city of Afrin, along with hundreds of families from the Damascus suburban area.
Since 2012, Afrin had been run by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), a U.S.-backed group that had a secular system of governance which rejected political Islam and promoted relatively liberal ideals.
Turkey, however, apparently views the group as an extension of the Turkish-based Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) which has been engaged in a 30-year insurgency against Turkish forces in an effort to attain greater Kurdish rights. The United States and the European Union consider the PKK to be a terrorist organization.
The U.S., however, makes a clear distinction between the PKK and YPG; the U.S. views the YPG as the most effective fighting force in the war against ISIS terrorists in Syria.
Supported by a U.S.-led coalition, the YPG has liberated large swaths of territory from ISIS.
Prior to the Turkish invasion, Afrin was home to more than 500,000 people – mostly Kurds but with sizable Christian, Yazidi and Alawite minorities. The enclave also hosted more than 300,000 Syrians fleeing violence in other parts of the war-torn country.
At the onset of the Turkish offensive, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government declared it a "jihad" against Syrian Kurds. Turkish preachers gave sermons justifying the assault as a "holy war."
Turkey and jihadist groups are now forcing religious minorities in Afrin to convert to Islam. Yazidi temples, for example, have been destroyed by militants. Yazidi residents have been forcibly taken to mosques to convert to Islam.
Kurdish groups have accused Turkey's government of carrying out a campaign to create a demographic change aimed at dislodging native Kurdish civilians from their lands and replacing them with Sunni Arabs from Turkish-based refugees camps.
During its military offensive on Afrin, the Turkish government settled several thousand Syrian refugees in border villages that were recently taken from the YPG. The Turkish military forced Kurdish residents and Syrian rebel fighters to leave their homes and lands. After removing Kurdish forces in Afrin, however, Turkey continued its campaign to displace the residents of Afrin, and brought more Sunni Arab and Turkmen families to Afrin. Jihadists view the Kurdish-speaking minority as kufar ("infidel unbelievers"), Women have been forced to wear the hijab and strictly adhere to Islamic dress codes -- practices similar to those of ISIS during its brutal rule in cities across Iraq and Syria. Women who refuse are subject to persecution and kidnapping.
Setting up sharia courts and a sharia police force would be merely formalizing a practice that Turkey and its jihadist proxies in Afrin have already begun.
*Sirwan Kajjo is a Syrian-Kurdish Washington-based journalist and author.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Israel's Celebrations of U.S. Embassy Move
Noa Landau/Haaretz/ May 13, 2018
Though Egypt and most EU nations will skip event, there will be representatives from all parts of the word
The United States will relocate its embassy to Jerusalem on Monday in a highly anticipated move that has sparked Palestinian anger and raised the ire of the European Union. However, Sunday's gala in honor of the embassy move, hosted by Israel's Foreign Ministry, will see representatives from across the world, including four from the EU which voiced opposition to the move.
These are the countries that will attend tonight's event together with a U.S. delegation that includes U.S. President Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka and son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, who landed earlier today: Albania, Angola, Austria, Cameroon, Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Georgia, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Kenya, Macedonia, Burma, Nigeria, Panama, Peru, the Philippines, Romania, Rwanda, Serbia, South Sudan, Thailand, Ukraine, Vietnam, Paraguay, Tanzania and Zambia.
Netanyahu is currently meeting with Kushner. The official U.S. delegation is headed by deputy secretary of state, John J. Sullivan, and will also include Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and 12 members of Congress.
The event will be boycotted by most European Union ambassadors in Israel.
Some 32 of the 86 envoys accepted the invitation to the reception Sunday evening. At least four of those attending will be from EU nations - Hungary, Czech Republic, Austria and Romania - though Brussels has strongly come out against the embassy move. The rest of the European delegates are not expected to attend, nor are representatives of Russia, Egypt or Mexico.
The entire Israeli cabinet will attend the reception, along with the chairpersons of the Knesset committees, all the members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, and the rest of the coalition lawmakers. This means that most of the members of the opposition (except for opposition chairman MK Isaac Herzog and the opposition members who are on the foreign affairs committee).
Unlike the gala, which is organized by Israel, no foreign envoys were invited to the embassy's opening ceremony itself, which is being organized by the U.S. administration. Only the highest-ranking Israeli officials were invited, as well as leaders of Israel's political parties. Meretz leader Tamar Zandberg and Joint List head Aymen Odeh will not attend the ceremony.
Israeli Arabs and Palestinians from East Jerusalem will protest the embassy move, which comes days ahead of Nakba Day.
Ayman Odeh, the lawmaker that heads the Joint Arab List, Israel's sole Arab party, said "there is nothing to celebrate with the embassy moving to Jerusalem. This is a provocative step that destroys he idea of peace. The Trump-Netanyahu alliance continues to deepen the conflict, and the thuggish manner these two leaders conduct themselves sets the tone for the radical right and fuels racism, hatred and violence. East Jerusalem will be the capital of Palestine and the West will be Israel's capital. There is no other way.
The head of the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, Mohammad Barakeh vowed to "raise our voice against the U.S. policy, which supports the occupation and the settlements and kills the possibility of setting up a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital within the 1967 borders."

What Does Brexit Mean? UK Still Can’t Decide
Therese Raphael/Bloomberg/May 13/18
It's been nearly two years since the UK voted to leave the European Union. But the intervening period has done nothing to resolve the question of what that should mean.
Consider the latest Brexit-related fracas, which has seen members of Prime Minister Theresa May's cabinet publicly squabbling about Britain's future trade relationship with Europe. For many Brexit supporters, the debate has become a test of whether the UK is really leaving, or just pretending to.
This isn't a polite disagreement: "Bonkers," "cretinous" and "crazy" are adjectives recently used by three leading figures in May's own Conservative Party, two of them cabinet ministers, to characterize her preferred option for resolving the dispute. There are thinly veiled threats of a coup against her if she doesn't change course.
One of the central promises made by the Leave camp in the 2016 referendum campaign was that the UK should be free to strike its own trade agreements with the US, Canada and India. That wouldn't be allowed if the UK decided to stay in a customs union with the EU, which imposes a common set of import tariffs for outside countries.
So from the pro-Brexit standpoint, if Britain doesn't leave the EU customs union, Brexit becomes pointless. By any standard, if it leaves entirely, trade becomes more costly and difficult.
The threats to May come from hardline Brexiters — those who want the cleanest break from EU laws and regulations — such as Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Environment Secretary Michael Gove. Their preferred approach would use technology to reduce customs controls with the EU and relies on measures such as a "trusted trader" scheme to keep trade flowing. They call it maximum facilitation, or max fac. Critics say the details are too fuzzy, the prospect of "frictionless trade" too optimistic, and that it would take years to put such a system in place.
Less ferocious Brexiters in the Conservative camp, including Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, proposed a "new customs partnership," whereby the UK would collect EU tariffs for goods destined for the continent, and vice versa. How that's done is fiendishly complex. Hardline Brexiters, who see the Hammond side's proposals as a Trojan horse, warn that it would require the jurisdiction of the hated European Court of Justice and too much regulatory harmonization.
All this furious arguing has been over plans that the EU has already ruled out anyway. From the EU perspective, you are either in or out of the customs union. If you are out, those pesky border checks return.
May's allies will meet on Tuesday, reportedly to agree on a third option that tries to address each side's concerns. If they all come out looking satisfied, then the Fudge Phase of Brexit hasn't quite ended yet.
Fudges have been useful for May so far — they have kept a veneer of Conservative Party solidarity and the impression that progress is being made. But time is running out before the UK officially leaves the bloc in March 2019. By October, the parties are supposed to agree on a range of issues, including the customs arrangement, the terms of a transition period and the broad outlines of a new UK-EU trade relationship.
Perhaps most importantly, without agreement on the customs relationship there will be a politically contentious physical border dividing the Republic of Ireland, an EU member, from Northern Ireland, part of the UK The border issue was fudged with a promise that it would remain open, if necessary by keeping Northern Ireland in "regulatory alignment" with the EU, something that is anathema to most British politicians as it effectively creates a physical border within the UK itself.
That's the thorny thing about Brexit; all these issues are linked. As EU negotiator Michel Barnier never tires of repeating, "Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed."
Barnier has optimistically noted that the UK can change its mind about any of this, even up to the end of the transition, which would run through 2020. But Britain would have to make up its mind in order to change it. Paralyzing divisions will persist until the Brexiters' fear of never-ending EU membership, which grips half the government and country, is fully dispelled.
That can't happen until the UK is out of Europe. Britain may have to have a messy, drawn-out, expensive break before it will be able to have a productive conversation about the kind of relationship with Europe it wants.
If May's government doesn't come up with a workable option, then either Parliament will force its hand (Britain's legislative bodies skew toward remaining in the customs union) or else the EU will do so by holding other parts of the deal hostage. Expect more fudge, maybe in the form of an extended transition limbo. Nobody is ready yet to say that the UK is either in or out.

Maybe this is as Good as Innovation Gets
Noah Smith//Bloomberg/May 13/18
One of the scariest ideas in the world is the possibility that technological progress is petering out. Without it, there can be no long-run economic expansion or ongoing improvement in the human condition. Modern societies and economies are built on the assumption of growth, but even if they were to be reorganized to adapt to a static world, it could be very bad. The return to a zero-sum world could bring back the constant warfare and strife that prevailed in the distant past, if the only way for people to prosper was at other people’s expense.
But what does it mean for innovation to slow down? Technology isn’t just one thing — progress can be rapid in some areas but slow in others. Economists typically measure a society’s overall level of technology by looking at total factor productivity, a measure of how much an economy produces relative to inputs of capital and labor. Here, we do see a worldwide slowdown in developed countries since the mid-2000s.
Productivity isn’t just technology — it also takes into account institutions, like taxes and infrastructure. But the fact that the slowdown is happening in so many countries, with very different institutions, implies that something deeper than the quirks of local policy is at work.
One possibility is that the rise of free digital services is causing productivity to be under-measured, since official numbers don’t include the value of things that people get for free. But even if this is true, research by economist Chad Syverson shows that adding back the missing productivity probably wouldn’t change the story much.
The most ominous possibility is that new scientific and technological ideas are simply getting harder to find. This possibility was raised by my Bloomberg View colleague Tyler Cowen in his 2011 book “The Great Stagnation.” Economist Robert Gordon elaborated on the thesis five years later in his magisterial work, “The Rise and Fall of American Growth.”
The scary idea is that easy-to-discover technology is a finite, exhaustible resource. You can derive some of the basic laws of physics by rolling balls down ramps in your house. You can deduce the idea of biological inheritance by playing with pea plants in your garden. Because these things are so easy to research, they get discovered first. But to develop lithium-ion batteries, invasive neuro-technology, or gene therapy requires hundreds or thousands of researchers, strung out in a massive network of academic, government and corporate labs all over the world, using billions of dollars of equipment. Once the universe’s low-hanging fruit has been picked, it takes ever more money and manpower to pick the next bushel.
That daunting prospect has received some support from a new paper by economists Nicholas Bloom, Charles I. Jones, John Van Reenen and Michael Webb, entitled “Are Ideas Getting Harder to Find?” They look at several areas in fields like semiconductors, agriculture and medicine, and find that while steady progress continues, keeping it going has required an ever-increasing army of researchers. That’s true whether productivity is measured economically, or in more concrete terms like crop yields, new drug discoveries, transistor density on computer chips, or the number of academic publications.
Even the fabled Moore’s Law — the tendency of the number of transistors in an integrated circuit to double every 1.5 to 2 years — is requiring a rising number of semiconductor researchers to sustain.
I think Bloom et al.’s paper paints too dismal a picture. In reality, technology doesn’t only grow by improving old products and ideas, but by inventing totally new ones — progress is qualitative as well as quantitative. Innovation is sort of like mining — researchers are always hitting new veins of ideas that they rapidly exploit, but old veins get exhausted. Forty years ago, fields such as gene therapy and machine learning were niche areas, while solar power was stuck in slow mode due to high costs. Now, those are some of the hottest areas in all of science. By focusing more attention on older, mature areas of incremental innovation, Bloom et al. under-emphasize the new.
But even so, the economy-wide numbers are discouraging. That the number of researchers keeps increasing while productivity stagnates suggests that the old veins of technological progress are being mined out faster than the rich new veins are being discovered. Spectacular progress in a few high-profile technologies is worth cheering, but it doesn’t necessarily make up for slowdowns in a much larger number of less-glamorous fields.
If this is the case, what can humanity do about it? There probably is room for marginal improvements in research programs. The grant-approval process can be tweaked to favor potentially transformative, risky research over safe bets, or to reduce the time scientists have to allocate to writing grant proposals. Rich countries can admit more skilled immigrants from poor countries, so that they have access to better-funded labs. The patent system can be reformed so that patents don’t block new innovation.
But these moves, although good, will have a limited effect. If the productivity stagnation really is due to most of the easy ideas having been discovered, rich countries have no choice but to stay on the research treadmill — keep hiring more and more researchers, in order to keep progress going.
Meanwhile, there’s always the hope that a transformative new technology — perhaps machine learning, or even true artificial intelligence — will power a dramatic acceleration in research productivity and a flood of cheap new discoveries. It wouldn’t be the first time humanity has been saved by a lucky break — the Scientific Revolution of the 1600s and the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s and 1900s led to big, sustained increases in the rate of innovation. There’s always the chance that something equally amazing and unexpected lies in our future.

‘My’ Burma was a Lie Woven from the Nationalist Nostalgia of its Exiles
Alex Wagner/The Washington Post/May 13/18
For Burmese Americans like me, children of exiles who left the country in the 1960s or 1970s as a brutal military regime seized power, nationalized industries and expelled non-ethnic Burmese, it was hard to know Burma, or Myanmar. This was a country that closed itself off to the rest of the world and slowly sank in the decades after our families fled, taking with it the left-behind artifacts of our existence — silverware and photographs and books — that might have provided some greater detail about who we had been, what life had been like. It was all swallowed up in darkness, lost to us in the West.
Instead, my family reminisced wistfully about the scent of frangipani blossoms and the charming traditions of the British middle schools that remained even after British rule ended. They instructed me in the rudimentaries of the Good Burma (primarily made up of educated, cosmopolitan Burmese) and the Bad Burma (uneducated, brutish soldiers). I accepted these stories as fact: Burma was golden, until something went rotten and my family had to leave.
Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the country’s pro-democracy movement, represented the Good Burma, and she was our totem. My grandmother could be found protesting in front of the Burmese Embassy in Washington, pounding the hot pavement for a few days every August for the anniversary of the 8-8-88 student-led uprising, in solidarity with her countrymen and -women who, like Suu Kyi, were either incarcerated or denied the right of public protest. Suu Kyi’s infallibility for my Burmese family was akin to JFK’s infallibility for my father’s Irish-Catholic clan. There was no questioning her decency, because there was no question that she might be anything but decent. This unswerving belief was a form of Burmese identity, something concrete fashioned from negative space.
How, then, do we Burmese Americans understand what has happened in recent months, what Suu Kyi has sanctioned through inaction and denial and obfuscation? Burma, led by both its military and civilians, is engaged in genocide, a systematic slaughter of its Muslim minority. In the past eight months alone, some 14,000 ethnic Rohingya have been killed. Seven hundred thousand have fled a terrifying brutality: babies stabbed to death or tossed alive into fires, grenades thrown through the front doors of homes, mothers gang-raped and slaughtered. Suu Kyi alone could not have stopped this killing, but that is beside the point: She has refused even to acknowledge it. “I don’t think there is ethnic cleansing going on,” she said last year. “I think ethnic cleansing is too strong an expression to use for what is happening.”
Instead she has questioned whether the Rohingya are even citizens of Burma: In 2016, her spokesman, U Kyaw Zay Ya, told the New York Times, “We won’t use the term Rohingya because Rohingya are not recognized as among the 135 official ethnic groups.”
Last month, as the Burmese government sentenced seven of its soldiers to 10 years in prison for the killing of 10 Rohingya men last year, the victims were still described as “terrorists.” And the Burmese reporters who uncovered the slaughter remain in jail: On April 11, a court refused to dismiss charges against U Wa Lone and U Kyaw Soe Oo for supposedly violating the country’s Official Secrets Act. They face up to 14 years in prison.
Suu Kyi is among the many Burmese who consider the Rohingya to be Muslim outsiders from India and Bangladesh, despite the fact that they have been in Burma, by some accounts, since the 7th century. The implication is that these outsiders somehow deserve their expulsion, that their religion marks them as terrorist threats worthy of a gruesome demise.
That such a bloodthirsty campaign is being waged by Buddhists has sometimes been a source of shock to the rest of the world. But for those of us in the West who had pinned a part of our national identity on Suu Kyi and her struggle, it has prompted introspection: Where did this violent strain of Burmese nationalism come from, and what does it mean for us?
As it turns out, the roots of this particular Burmese intolerance run deep. For the better part of the last century, ethnic Burmese saw Indians, many of whom were Muslim, as intruders. While Suu Kyi’s celebrated father, Aung San, helped secure independence from the British, he was complicit in demonizing Burma’s Indian minority as a scourge on society. He co-signed pamphlets that painted Indians as rapacious outsiders, stooges of the British who were greedy to control the Burmese economy while remaining a “privileged minority.”
Never mind that Indian labor actually propelled much of the Burmese economy at the turn of the 20th century and that these Indian workers often lived in squalid conditions. Unknown thousands of them were systematically targeted and hundreds killed in riots in the 1930s, a sick foreshadowing of what would become of the Rohingya nearly a century later. This feeling, that there was something poisonous about this subgroup, and that they fundamentally did not belong, was a belief freely espoused by Good Burma.
My family had not yet left Burma when this sustained violence gripped the capital city — we could not offer immigration as our defense. But in all the nostalgia I grew up with, this chapter was never mentioned, nor did we ever consider what became of Burma’s Indians. Could we not have known that the seeds of Burma’s present despair had been planted in our time, by our heroes?
For as long as I can remember, we imagined ourselves to be free of Burma’s failings, as if we had somehow been able to leave all the darkness behind when we started anew on American shores. But that same nationalism that gave us an identity and supplied us with righteous cause is now bringing shame and horror upon the country and on our house. It pinpoints our heroine in its bull’s eye and forces us to acknowledge that the monster lies in us, however dormant. After all, Good Burma today supports Suu Kyi’s position — her sanction of genocide may have cost her globally, but in Burma it remains good politics — and aren’t those people us, in some way? For my Burmese family in the West, this has been a time of reckoning and confusion. We are shamed, but where is the outrage from our fellow exiles, our former countrymen?
When Burma remained shrouded, Suu Kyi was an icon whose struggle allowed me to forge something personally meaningful out of the fury of her saga. Only now do I realize how lax was my accounting, how fraudulent my indignation: I had never bothered to look deeper than the slogans and placards, the keychains and T-shirts that bore her beatific image. Like so many children of immigrants, I romanticized what we’d left behind, believing only America, not our homeland, to be a broken place with a cresting wave of dark nationalism.
Here, then, is the rot on the underside of our Burmese story, a decay that attends any truthful accounting of a place and people. No country can merely be the province of frangipani blossoms and golden light, after all. If there is something to learn from this mournful episode, it is the danger that we, as a society, repeat these horrors and injustices, decade after decade, when we construct identities that are too rooted in simplicity, too reliant on nostalgia, too ready to embrace heroes who stand atop pedestals fashioned from lies.

Khamenei and the North Korean precedent
Mohammed Al Shaikh/Al Arabiya/May 13/18
Did you know that South Korea’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is to the tune of $1.5 trillion, whereas the North Korean GDP is not more than $28 billion? It’s true that North Korea is a nuclear country and it can fire ballistic missiles against the US. In spite of this military strength, North Korea decided to engage in peace talks with the US and its neighbor South Korea that will end with the declaration that it would give up its nuclear weapons arsenal to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. The question is, why did the North Korean leader take such a decision? All the objective indicators suggest that the North Korean president apparently realized that his nuclear weapons will neither help feed his people nor solve the country’s several economic problems, but abandoning his nuclear arsenal may help resolve these issues.
Poverty and hunger in Iran
Iran, under Khamenei, suffers from similar economic woes, particularly extreme poverty which continues to increase by the day. But Khamenei does not care about these issues as he only cares about Iran becoming a regional power and about spreading Shiism among the peoples of the region, which is a goal typical to any theocratic country. He thus thinks that he can only achieve these goals by having a strong military that is protected by a nuclear deterrence mechanism to impose whatever he wants, whenever he wants. In fact, he has started splurging Iranian economic revenues on sectarian Shiite militias, moving them from one place to another and investing in any foreign political dispute. He neglected Iran’s domestic affairs and as a result poverty increased and entrapped more than half of the population. According to statistics this percentage is still increasing. This means that there are 40 million hungry people out of a total population of about 80 million.
What if Khamenei and the theocrats abandon their expansionist ambitions and decide to become objective and rational? What if they benefited from the North Korean experience, and decided to cooperate with countries of the world, instead of destabilizing global security?
The politicized Persian theocrats are not aware that the world standards today differ from those in the past — when invasion, jihad and dominance and exporting ideological revolutions by force controlled the relations of peoples. It has become impossible to invade nowadays. Today’s world would never, I repeat never, let a theocratic state expand and act like terrorist militias, which it’s working to combat and to eradicate their culture.
The option of development
On the other hand, what if Khamenei and the theocrats abandon their expansionist ambitions and decide to become objective and rational? What if they benefitted from the North Korean experience, and decided to cooperate with countries of the world, instead of destabilizing global security?
I am almost certain that Iran would witness massive development if it adopts such a stance because of its rich natural resources. Investors will invest in Iran and develop it economically and help its citizens catch up the 21st century. By the way, first among these countries would be the neighboring Gulf states, headed by Saudi Arabia. But such a brave decision needs a man like Mohammed bin Salman, someone with his awareness, determination and courage. Khamenei does not have the ability, the qualifications or the mindset, which is still stuck in the past, to execute such a decision. Opportunists around the mullahs are aware that any real economic development and reform and eradication of corruption will turn Iran into a civil state. When civilians rule, the mullahs will return to their mosques and hawzas (seminaries).

How Iran is extending its ‘Shiite crescent’ to Africa
Dr. Azeem Ibrahim/Al Arabiya/May 13/18
The war against ISIS in Iraq was won by a combination of Iraqi Shiite militias, Iraqi Kurdish militias and Iranian forces and logistical support. As a result of their essential aid, the government in Baghdad has been effectively captured by Iran.
In the Syrian civil war, Russia may be the most powerful actor fully engaged in the conflict, but arguably, Iranian-backed Hezbollah and Iranian personnel and materiel have had at least as much bearing on the trajectory of the conflict as even the Syrian government.
All the while, in Yemen, Iranian backing is enabling the Houthi rebels to withstand the combined onslaught of all the other Arab gulf states, and their Western arsenals.
What is remarkable about these conflicts is just how effective Iran is at projecting power in its region of interest, and how it manages to maintain an upper hand in the face of much better funded and more technologically advanced opposition from the US and Israel.
A tale of US strategic idiocy
The comparison with the US is particularly stark. America has the world’s undisputed strongest military and nearly infinite financial and logistical resources by comparison, but in the Middle East at least, it has recently been much less effective at promoting its strategic interests than Iran.
In fact, much of the history of Iran’s growing influence in the last two decades is also a tale of US strategic idiocy. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were supposed to encircle Iran with a thick cordon of US military bases and permanently contain it. The result was the exact opposite: the US has removed two strong Sunni regimes opposed to Iran’s Shiite influence, it has made friends of Iran and the Afghan Taliban, and has handed the government in Baghdad to Iran-allied Shiite clerics. Iran now dominates, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria, and may also end up doing so in Yemen. It is is successfully extending the ‘Shiite crescent’.
Against this background, President Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal can be understood as a tantrum of impotence in the face of an adversary who actually knows what it wants and knows how to get it. Iran is increasingly the dominant force in the Middle East, despite opposition from the stronger Israel, Saudis, and the fact that its Shiite branch of Islam remains clearly in the minority in the region. What Iran and its allies have, and what their opponents lack, is unity of purpose, clarity of vision and unwavering commitment. And this combination is now allowing them to set their sights beyond the Middle East itself. President Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal can be understood as a tantrum of impotence in the face of an adversary who actually knows what it wants and knows how to get it. In the last few weeks, a new front in the Iran/Saudi conflict seems to be emerging in Morocco. Relations between the two countries have been strained in the past, not least because of Morocco’s support of the Sunni ruling dynasty in the Shiite-majority, Iran-neighbour, Bahrain. But now there are allegations that Iran is actively support the separatist Polisario Front in Morocco’s disputed southern provinces, through their Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah. As a consequence, Morocco has swiftly broken diplomatic relations with Tehran. The irony of the situation is that despite our dim view of the Tehran regime in the West, if anything will contain Iran’s growing regional and global influence, it seems unlikely that it will be us. Rather, the most likely break on these developments is likely to come from the Iranian people, who had been putting pressure on their government for redirecting the windfall from the last few years of sanctions relief towards foreign adventures, rather than improving the economy and the livelihoods of the people at home.
In any case, the resumption of open diplomatic hostilities between the US and Iran, and increasing Israeli and Saudi belligerence, are both likely to be counterproductive to stopping Iran’s growing influence. The defence of the nation will take precedence over economic grumblings, and the Iranian people will rally behind the more assertive hardliners, instead of putting pressure on their government in the opposite direction towards regional peace and economic development at home. In ratcheting up the pressure on Tehran, the Western/Israeli/Saudi hawks will have only succeeded in validating Iran’s strategy, and entrenching its gains.

On philosophy and its crucial role for society
Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran/Al Arabiya/May 13/18
In the 12th century, the intellectual conflict among scholars and philosophers had peaked. With a surfeit of translations in the field of science, philosophy and logic, the realm of human knowledge underwent crucial transformations, as debate, polemic and the language used to address facts changed and the means for making interpretation expanded. It was necessary for philosophers to defend themselves against a plethora of accusations. Averroes played an important role in this battle. He not only took on al-Ghazali but also addressed all the jurisprudential schools that viewed philosophy as heresy and as a diversion from religion.
Averroes on religion
Averroes and others focused on refuting the conflict between sharia and philosophical wisdom so he wrote a book against the accusations of religious scholars, entitled The Book of the Decisive Treatise Determining the Connection between the Law and Wisdom.
The book included a compromise based on the saying: “Truth does not contradict truth.” Both religion and philosophy have functions that do not overlap or object to each other. Discussing Averroes’ methodology in the book, al-Jabri wrote: “In his new methodological interpretation of the relationship between religion and philosophy, Averroes started from a fundamental principle previously accentuated, namely, the radical separation between the world of the unseen and the world of the seen as this is based on the fact that each one of them has at its nature which is substantially different from the other. From here, the separation became a basic methodological issue echoed in Averroes’ assertion that it would be wrong to measure the abstract with the evident when approaching the relationship between religion and philosophy. Consequently, he underlined the flaw that lies in trying to combine religion with philosophy, or the inverse, because according to Averroes this integration can only be achieved by sacrificing either the origins of religion and its principles, or the origins of philosophy and its principles. Averroes believes that religion has its own specific principles and foundations and so does philosophy, which inevitably results in a difference between the religious fundamentals and the philosophical ones. Therefore, Averroes believed it was wrong to integrate segments of the foundations of one into the foundations of the other, or interpreting segments from this foundation using the tools of the others.” (Jabri, We And Our Heritage, p 238).
The teaching of philosophy does not destroy faith and does not defy religion. In fact, if it weren’t for logic and the study of philosophy, many of the fields of Sharia, such as the principles of ‘fiqh’, the purposes of Sharia and the forms of interpretations wouldn’t have grown. Husserl said that the philosopher carries in his expression of a specific meaning a silent experience.
The methodological response gradually developed, but it peaked with al-Ghazali's sentimental and captivating book Deliverance from Error, which was well received among scholars and became an argument on the story of an imam who embarks on philosophy and comes out shattered. In the book, it is clear that the journey is full of hardship, and the Imam doesn’t hide his grief that the light of truth dimmed by the journey in philosophy. The truth is al-Ghazali advanced the link between philosophy and misguidance, but he was not alone in this. He was within a jurisprudential course that conquered philosophy. As such, Ibn Khaldun would attack philosophy in Muqaddimah in the 14th century.
Greek heritage
The traditional antagonists of the philosophers argued that Avicenna, Avempace, Al-Kindi, Al-Farabi and Averroes were imitating Greek philosophy, but they were not. They actually assisted in crafting a curricula and the sculpting of their own concepts that resulted in the interest of a 20th century philosopher Gilles Deleuze in Avicenna. We can read about that in an important study by Hussein Zawahiri entitled, Deleuze and Avicenna.
Employing the historical position towards philosophy to be a determining factor in our present, using the entire legacy of that conflict and investing in the victory of ‘fiqh’ over philosophy to inhibit the teaching of any philosophical curriculum in high schools or universities will weaken the intellect of generations, destroy their critical capabilities and paralyze their individualities.
Teaching philosophy doesn’t result in forming philosophers, but it strengthens the capacities of criticism and gives students tools and instruments to face their existence and the world.
Philosophy matters
“Why philosophize?” This is a question chosen by Jean-François Lyotard as the title of a captivating book, which is based on four lectures he gave to preparatory class students at the Sorbonne in October and November of 1964, where he noted that: “Philosophy is born at the same time that something is dying. This something is the power of unifying. What this power unified was oppositions that, under this power, were in a living relationship and interaction.”
In terms of education, philosophy is a workshop for deliberating facts, with an environment of accountability and examination of standard convictions, a training lesson for the formulation and refinement of the question, and a field to throw bright ideas and specific rare approaches.
The teaching of philosophy does not destroy faith and does not defy religion. In fact, if it weren’t for logic and the study of philosophy, many of the fields of Sharia, such as the principles of ‘fiqh’, the purposes of Sharia and the forms of interpretations wouldn’t have grown. Husserl said that the philosopher carries in his expression of a specific meaning a silent experience.