May 18/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
Why do you pass judgement on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgement seat of God. For it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God
Letter to the Romans 14/01-13/"Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarrelling over opinions. Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgement on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgement on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand. Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Those who observe the day, observe it in honour of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honour of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honour of the Lord and give thanks to God. We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. Why do you pass judgement on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgement seat of God. For it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.’So then, each of us will be accountable to God. Let us therefore no longer pass judgement on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling-block or hindrance in the way of another."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 17-18/18
Hezbollah Is An Iranian Military Proxy That Occupies Lebanon Elias Bejjani/May 27/18
What is being witnessed in Gaza is a new asymmetric kind of warfare strategy that relies onظRoger Bejjani/Face Book/
Calling into question Hezbollah’s electoral “takeover”/Sami Atallah/An Nahar/ay 17/18
Drugs, diamonds and used cars: the Hezbollah network the US destroyed/The National/May 17/18
What happened to Trump, the American Mussolini/Mamdouh AlMuhaini/Al Arabiya/May 17/18
Will Trump’s move on Iran bring focus on denuclearization/Sabena Siddiqui/Al Arabiya/May 17/18
Is China making Pakistan a client-state with ‘debt-book diplomacy/Dr. Azeem Ibrahimi/Al Arabiya/May 17/18
Iran’s security threat must be curtailed before trade talks/Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg/Arab News/17 May 2018
Two-Face Traders Exploiting Palestinian Bloodshed/Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 17 May,

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published 
on May 17-18/18
Hezbollah Is An Iranian Military Proxy That Occupies Lebanon
What is being witnessed in Gaza is a new asymmetric kind of warfare strategy that relies on
Salameh Says Elections Resonated Well in Financial Circles
Aoun meets newly elected MP Farid Boustany
Berri meets Obeid, Kardel, and Frangieh, receives congratulatory call from Kuwaiti counterpart
Sami Gemayel, France’s Bonnafont tackle formation of new government
Report: Mustaqbal-LF Turn New Leaf, Aim to Restore Confidence in New Government
Hariri Urges Zakka Release in Talks with Iran Envoy
Rahi Calls for Plan to Protect and Preserve Lebanese
Clash Erupts in Mieh Mieh Palestinian Refugee Camp
Calling into question Hezbollah’s electoral “takeover”
Drugs, diamonds and used cars: the Hezbollah network the US destroyed

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 17-18/18
Israel launches new air raid on Hamas in Gaza
EU to Launch Moves to Block U.S. Sanctions on Iran Friday
Diplomats Face Consequences in Ankara-Tel Aviv Spat
Iran Denounces U.S. and Saudi Sanctions against Hizbullah
One Dead, 6 Injured in South Iran Violence
Has Turkey violated UN sanctions by selling Israeli equipment to Iran?
Maersk says US sanctions make doing business in Iran impossible
19 militants killed in Egypt’s anti-terror drive in Sinai
Egypt president Sisi says in talks with Palestinians, Israel
Israeli air raids target Hamas facility in Gaza, Turkey seeks UN motion
Denmark to Pull Special Forces Out of Iraq
Judging Jihadists in Syrian Kurdistan: A Political Hot Potato
EU Countries Agree Iran Deal 'Not Perfect', Says Merkel
Rise of Sadrists Undermines Chances of Islamists in Ruling Iraq
De Mistura Warns from Syria Crisis Causing "Explosion" in the Region
Mueller Concedes He Can't Indict Trump, Says Giuliani
Libyan army says terror leaders ‘reside in Turkey’
Statement by Foreign Affairs Minister on the release of Anwar Ibrahim
Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on May 17-18/18
Hezbollah Is An Iranian Military Proxy That Occupies Lebanon
Elias Bejjani/May 27/18
Hezbollah is 100% an Iranian armed proxy and a Persian denominational organization on all levels and in all domains. Any Lebanese official or politician who approaches its occupation with Dhimmitude, fishy deals, and does not recognize it as an occupier is totally abandoning all that
is Lebanese constitution sovereignty, identity and independence

What is being witnessed in Gaza is a new asymmetric kind of warfare strategy that relies on:
Roger Bejjani/Face Book/May 16/18
1. Border crossing by tens of thousands of hostile civilians.
2. Provoke an unavoidable violent response since containing those numbers with tear gas and riot policing is impossible.
3. Embarrass Israel throughout a mega media uproar (expected).
This strategy designed by the revolutionary guards in Iran and adopted by Hamas is the only possible response still available to the camp spreading death and chaos in the Middle East and supporting the mass killer Assad, against Israel. They are unable to fight them in the air or on land in Syria while Hezbollah is totally paralyzed in Lebanon and its aim is avoiding any kind of clash with Israel; knowing that if it happens this time, the response will be devastating.
What is left for those losers is sending poor Palestinian unarmed civilians to die while trying to force the Gaza Israeli border and use their death as a modern media weapon.

US, Gulf states slap new sanctions on Hezbollah leadership
Arab News/17 May 2018/The US Treasury Department said four other individuals were also sanctioned, as was the group Daesh in the Greater Sahara, which was designated as a foreign terrorist organization. Wednesday’s sanctions targeted members of the primary decision-making body of Hezbollah
WASHINGTON: The United States and Gulf partners imposed additional sanctions on Lebanon’s Hezbollah leadership on Wednesday, targeting its top two officials, Hassan Nasrallah and his deputy, Naim Qassem. The US Treasury Department said four other individuals were also sanctioned, as was the group Daesh in the Greater Sahara, which was designated as a foreign terrorist organization. It was the third round of sanctions announced by Washington since the United States pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal last week. Wednesday’s sanctions targeted members of the primary decision-making body of Hezbollah, Treasury said in a statement. “By targeting Hezbollah’s Shoura Council, our nations collectively rejected the false distinction between a so-called ‘Political Wing’ and Hezbollah’s global terrorist plotting,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said. The move expands US sanctions against Nasrallah, who was sanctioned by Washington in 1995 for threatening to disrupt the Middle East peace process and again in 2012 over Syria. It is, however, the first time that the US Treasury has acted against Qassem, who is being listed for his ties to Hezbollah. The measures were imposed jointly by Washington and its partners in the Terrorist Financing and Targeting Center (TFTC), which includes Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and United Arab Emirates, it said. The Gulf states targeted four of the movement’s committees and ordered individuals’ assets and bank accounts frozen. On Tuesday, the US imposed sanctions on Iran’s central bank governor and an Iraq-based bank for “moving millions of dollars” for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Last week, the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions against six individuals and three companies it said were funneling millions of dollars to the Revolutionary Guard’s external arm, Quds Force.
Salameh Says Elections Resonated Well in Financial Circles
Naharnet/May 17/18/Central Bank (BDL) Governor Riad Salameh said on Thursday that staging the parliamentary elections has had a positive impact in the international and domestic financial circles. “The reactions were good. Holding the elections has had a positive effect in financial circles,” Salameh told President Michel Aoun during their meeting at Baabda Palace. The governor pointed out saying “the Lebanese pound is stable. Discussions to find the best ways to address the rise in global interest rates and oil prices are underway.”He also said that Banque du Liban maintained its high foreign exchange reserves and recorded steady growth of deposits in the banking sector.

Aoun meets newly elected MP Farid Boustany
Thu 17 May 2018/NNA - NNA - President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, received at Baabda presidential on Thursday newly elected MP, Farid Boustany. Talks between the pair mainly touched on issues related to the Aley and Chouf region, highlighting as well importance of the Syrian refugee dossier.

Berri meets Obeid, Kardel, and Frangieh, receives congratulatory call from Kuwaiti counterpart
Thu 17 May 2018/NNA - Speaker of the House, Nabih Berri, welcomed at his Ein Teeneh residence on Thursday newly elected Member of Parliament, Jean Obeid, with whom he discussed the political situation in the country, particularly the post-election period. Berri then met with United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Pernille Kardel. Discussions between the pair focused on developments in Lebanon and the region. Also, newly elected MP, Toni Frangieh, visited the head of Parliament. “We are the first to support Berri's re-election as head of Parliament,” he said, hoping that alliances between the new MPs would be made clear in the near future. Berri also received newly elected MPs Adnan Traboulsi and Abdel Rahim Mourad, with whom he broached the political situation in the country. On another level, the House Speaker received a phone call from his Kuwaiti counterpart, Manchanda al-Ghanem, in which the latter congratulated him on the results of legislative elections. Sheikh Akl of the Druze sect, Naïm Hassan, also contacted Berri to offer him well-wishes marking the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan.

Sami Gemayel, France’s Bonnafont tackle formation of new government
Thu 17 May 2018/NNA - “Kataeb" party leader, MP Sami Gemayel, met on Thursday, Director of North Africa and the Middle East at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jérôme Bonnafont, accompanied by French Ambassador to Lebanon, Bruno Foucher. The meeting had been an occasion to assess the electoral process that took place in Lebanon, and which has given birth to a new parliament. The pair also engaged in talks pertaining to the next constitutional deadlines, including the formation of the new government. For his part, Bonnafont stressed the importance of the implementation of reforms undertaken by the Lebanese Government to donor countries at Rome Conference, which emphasizes support to the Lebanese army and the exclusivity of arms in the hands of the Lebanese state. Finally, discussions focused on the regional and international developments, on the importance of strengthening the situation in Lebanon facing the impact of current events in neighbouring countries, as well as on the Syrian refugee case in Lebanon.

Report: Mustaqbal-LF Turn New Leaf, Aim to Restore Confidence in New Government
Naharnet/May 17/18/A new leaf in relations has been turned over between the Lebanese Forces and al-Mustaqbal Movement following the Geagea-Hariri meeting at the latter’s residence early this week, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Thursday. LF sources told the daily, “the meeting between LF chief Samir Geagea and Mustaqbal head PM Saad Hariri has turned the page on previous differences and opened a new leaf based on a joint alliance”Adding, that the parliamentary elections have “formed a dividing line between the previous and next stage,” assuring that talks between the two men “did not touch on contentious issues that may have started well before Hariri’s resignation.”The sources who spoke on condition of anonymity, emphasized that “Geagea went directly to explaining his vision for the new phase, stressing the need to restore confidence in the new government.”
After around eight months of strained ties, Geagea met Hariri on Tuesday at the Center House, a move perceived as an attempt to repair relations between the two men following Hariri’s resignation from Riyadh.
Some Mustaqbal officials accused the LF of encouraging Saudi leaders to press Hariri to resign in November. The row was also linked to Geagea's statement following Hariri's shock resignation from Saudi Arabia that the premier should have resigned earlier and that "no self-respecting person would stay in the government after all the events of the past few months."

Hariri Urges Zakka Release in Talks with Iran Envoy
Naharnet/May 17/18/Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Thursday called on Iran to release Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese IT expert and advocate of Internet freedom who has been sentenced in Tehran to ten years in jail on espionage-related charges, media reports said. Zakka has a green card and was a permanent resident of the United States. Hariri made his appeal during a meeting with Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon Mohammed Fathali, who visited him at the Grand Serail. The state-run National News Agency said talks between the two men tackled “the general situations and the bilateral ties” between the two countries. Lebanon's electoral commission has recently disqualified Zakka's attempted candidacy for the parliamentary elections under the excuse that the required paperwork was out of date. The nomination move was an attempt to draw the attention of Lebanese authorities and the public opinion to Zakka's case.
A Lebanese citizen and U.S. permanent resident detained for a year in Iran over spying allegations has been sentenced to 10 years in prison and a $4.2 million fine, his supporters said Tuesday, the latest move in a crackdown on those with foreign ties following last year's nuclear deal.
Zakka, whose nonprofit group did work for the U.S. government, was sentenced to ten years in jail and a $4.2 million fine on September 20, 2016. A statement from Jason Poblete, a U.S. lawyer representing Zakka, said a Revolutionary Court in Tehran handed down the sentence in a 60-page verdict. Amnesty International has said Zakka had only two court hearings before the ruling and received only limited legal assistance. The closed-door tribunal handles cases involving alleged attempts to overthrow the government.
Supporters say Judge Abolghassem Salavati heard Zakka's case. Salavati is known for his tough sentences and has heard other politically charged cases, including one in which he sentenced Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian to prison. A prisoner swap in January 2016 between Iran and the U.S. freed Rezaian and three other Iranian-Americans. Zakka, who lived in Washington and holds resident status in the U.S., led the Arab ICT Organization, or IJMA3, an industry consortium from 13 countries that advocates for information technology in the region. Zakka disappeared Sept. 18, 2015, during his fifth trip to Iran. He had been invited to attend a conference at which President Hassan Rouhani spoke of providing more economic opportunities for women and sustainable development. On Nov. 3, 2015 Iranian state television aired a report saying he was in custody and calling him a spy with "deep links" with U.S. intelligence services. It also showed what it described as a damning photo of Zakka and three other men in army-style uniforms, two with flags and two with rifles on their shoulders. But that turned out to be from a homecoming event at Zakka's prep school, the Riverside Military Academy in Georgia, according to the school's president. The Associated Press reported in May 2016 that Zakka's IJMA3 organization had received at least $730,000 in contracts and grants since 2009 from both the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, USAID. Zakka's supporters have written the U.S. State Department stating that Zakka traveled to Iran "with the knowledge and approval of the U.S. State Department, and his trip was funded by grants" from it. Neither American nor Lebanese officials, who the U.S. says are responsible for providing consular assistance to Zakka, have publicly acknowledged Zakka's work with the U.S. government.

Rahi Calls for Plan to Protect and Preserve Lebanese
Naharnet/May 17/18/ Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi sounded the alarm over a looming education crisis following the wage increase of Lebanon's private school teachers, as he called for devising plans that make Lebanese youth dismiss thoughts of emigration, the National News Agency reported on Thursday. The Patriarch also voiced calls for devising a “strategic plan to protect the Lebanese people from the ailing economic and livelihood conditions.” Rahi’s remarks came during his meeting with the Maronites institutions held in Bkirki. “Our people suffer from unemployment, poverty and deprivation. Our youth are leaving Lebanon to countries that have respect for the human, allow them to achieve, and appreciate their potentials,” said Rahi. Adding, that an “economic plan must be devised to secure growth and eradicate corruption and looting of public funds.”

Clash Erupts in Mieh Mieh Palestinian Refugee Camp
Naharnet/May 17/18/A clash broke out on Thursday at the Mieh Mieh Palestinian refugee camp near the southern city of Sidon, the state-run National News Agency reported. The agency said the clash erupted in the camp's al-Wadi neighborhood between members of the Fatah Movement and members of the al-Kaoush family. “The dispute broke out over the installation of security cameras and it involved heavy gunfire,” NNA added.

Calling into question Hezbollah’s electoral “takeover”
Sami Atallah/An Nahar/May 17/2018
Turnout for the election was low despite voters casting their ballots according to a new hybrid proportional representation system, under which turnout is usually higher
BEIRUT: On May 6, Lebanon held its first parliamentary election in nine years. To average Lebanese citizens, the results cannot be described as anything other than anti-climactic.
Turnout for the election was low despite voters casting their ballots according to a new hybrid proportional representation system, under which turnout is usually higher; only a slightly higher number of women will enter the next parliament compared to 2009; and new, independent groups were not able to propel more than a single candidate to victory.
Despite all these issues surrounding the elections and its results, some foreign observers and domestic actors have reduced the outcome to an abrupt and final Hezbollah takeover of the country. This interpretation is both misleading and largely misses the point of what Hezbollah has in fact gained.
Lost in this maze of analysis is the fact that the party which scored the biggest win is the Lebanese Forces (LF), an anti-Hezbollah party. The LF managed to double their number of seats from eight to sixteen and expanded their representation from five districts in 2009 to thirteen in 2018.
By snatching ten Maronite seats, they have deluded the Free Patriotic Movement’s (FPM) claim of being the party which best and most powerfully represents Christian interests across the country.
On the other end of the spectrum, the current prime minister’s party, the Future Movement, saw its bloc dwindle from being the largest with thirty-four seats to twenty. The loss of five Sunni seats weakens the prime minister’s leadership in the Sunni community as his party controls only seventeen out of twenty-seven Sunni seats. In Beirut II district, his party lost five out of the eleven seats, four of them to Hezbollah and Hezbollah-allied parties.
Although the FPM increased the size of its bloc by two seats to reach twenty-nine, making it the largest bloc in parliament, its victory is not as ironclad as claimed by Gebran Bassil, the FPM’s leader. The party controls only thirteen Maronite seats, six fewer than in 2009. The party was also compelled to nominate eleven non-party members to ensure victory in various districts.
Hezbollah, where all foreign eyes are trained, gained one seat. Although Hezbollah and its allies won a seat in Zahle and Beirut II, it lost a few seats in Baabda and Baalbeck, its own backyard. Its victory rests not in the size of its bloc but in sweeping all twenty-seven Shiite seats with the Amal movement, which itself grabbed seventeen seats. It secured victory for five Sunni MPs who provide it with cross-sectarian cover.
In terms of the popular vote, Hezbollah and Amal lists garnered 35% of ballots cast in 2018. While a large section of its constituents willingly supports it, Hezbollah’s success lies in its organizational capacity to mobilize voters on election day.
Indeed, Hezbollah, Amal, and other smaller parties hold one-third of parliament seats. Adding the FPM to their camp would numerically give them the upper hand in parliament but the nature of politics in Lebanon dictates that Hezbollah and their allies will not simply run roughshod over the country using the parliament.
For one, President Michael Aoun’s agenda may deviate from that of Hezbollah now that he resides in Baabda and is entitled to name a share of the government’s cabinet posts. He will likely be keen to preserve the state and its institutions, possibly to a degree that might not be convenient for Hezbollah.
Two, the contemporary iteration of the FPM reached an agreement with the Future Movement only last year, according to which Aoun was elected president and in return Hariri headed the government. In the last year and a half, this relationship evolved in such a way that both parties worked closely on several issues. Even electorally, Hariri called on his supporters in Batroun to give their preferential vote to Bassil, who has struggled to win a parliamentary seat since 2005.
Furthermore, the tension between the FPM and the Amal movement will further complicate the FPM’s relationship with Hezbollah in the coming weeks, not the least because it remains unclear whether the FPM will endorse Amal leader Nabih Berri’s candidacy to become, once again, the parliament speaker.
All signs point to anything but smooth sailing in the formation of a government, a process which could very well last late into the summer if political haggling and wrangling are employed to full effect. Hezbollah’s largely coherent bloc will strengthen its bargaining position and it will be able to veto nominations and laws that are not to its liking. However, the nature of the political system will force it to engage in wheeling and dealing with other parties.
Its ability to control the state is constrained by rival parties as well as the confessional quota of the country. Also, it is not in the interest of Hezbollah to try to dominate the political scene for two reasons. One, pushing too hard may antagonize other political groups to Hezbollah’s own detriment. Engaged in Syria, Hezbollah would likely not want to aggravate the domestic situation. This could lead to instability which is something to be avoided domestically for its own sake. Two, assuming too much control of state institutions via ministerial portfolios may backfire, especially if they fail to deliver.
During the election, Hezbollah made several promises to fight corruption—reflecting unease among its constituents—but an anti-corruption battle is very hard to win in Lebanon.
In the sense that Hezbollah derives its power, not from the number of seats it holds in the parliament, but from its ability to mobilize its followers and partisans; its strong and consistent foreign backing; and its special—albeit often opaque—relationship with state security and intelligence agencies, the party has fortified itself with this win. How the party uses this power, which it possessed prior to Sunday’s election, will determine the course of future events.
To see the election outcome through the prism of an outright Hezbollah victory is reductionist and misses the point. Earlier this week, Israel carried out its largest military operation targeting Syrian soil in decades, an action which comes at the heels of Trump declaring that the United States will no longer adhere to its commitments under the Iran nuclear deal.
The tacit argument being made by those touting the notion that Hezbollah has seized control in Lebanon, and explicitly by many Israeli political and military leaders, is that the Lebanese state is a legitimate target in any future conflict between Israel and Hezbollah. Apart from engaging in lazy and incomplete analysis, there can be no other informed interpretation of attempts to promulgate the flawed assertion that Lebanon is now, suddenly, under the control of a single political party.
Granted, the majority in parliament among Hezbollah and their allies likely means that the party’s weapons will not be a focus of action in the legislature but that begs the question of whether they ever were in the first place. Hezbollah’s accumulation and retention of arms stem from the signing of the Taef Accord, consecutive governments that tacitly approved of the party keeping their weapons, in addition to regional actors such as Iran supporting the party both materially and rhetorically.
So, where does this largely non-contextualized focus on Hezbollah’s electoral achievements leave us? Indeed, Hezbollah has solidified its position in parliament. However, this is a marginal addition to its power given the unwillingness of MPs to fully exercise the parliament’s legislative and oversight roles.
No keen Lebanon watcher should gloss over the fact that their ability to dictate policy is limited by a range of factors, prime among them Lebanon’s confessional system and fluid party politics. While the next ministerial statement will likely not denounce Hezbollah’s arms, let’s not lose sight of the fact that a regional consensus would first be necessary to level a final decision on that contentious matter.
Sami Atallah is the executive director for the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies (LCPS)

Drugs, diamonds and used cars: the Hezbollah network the US destroyed
The National/May 17, 2018/
With leaders under fresh sanctions, a 2010 investigation shows how the group's finances can be hit
The GCC and the US have Hezbollah’s senior leadership firmly in their crosshairs with new sanctions against the Lebanese group's top officials. “By targeting Hezbollah’s Shura Council, our nations collectively rejected the false distinction between a so-called ‘political wing’ and Hezbollah’s global terrorist plotting,” US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday. The sanctions target leader Hassan Nasrallah, his deputy Naim Qassem and four other leaders. The US Treasury had previously sanctioned Mr Nasrallah for disrupting the Middle East peace process in 1995 and again in 2012 over its involvement in Syria. Past investigations into Hezbollah financing have had far-reaching consequences. In the case of the now-defunct Lebanese Canadian Bank, what was once one of Beirut’s major financial institutions folded and later forfeited $102 million (Dh375m) in assets after it was blacklisted by US authorities for its part in what the US said was a vast Hezbollah money-laundering network. The investigation offered a rare glimpse into a secretive network linking Colombian cocaine cartels, West African conflict diamonds and North American used car lots through which Hezbollah-linked Lebanese businessmen worked around sanctions to bring assets from underworld sources into legitimate global financial systems. In the past Hezbollah was believed to have received up to $200m annually from Iran, but that amount diminished as Iran’s economy struggled under sanctions aimed at its nuclear programme. The militant group – which also maintains expensive social services – needed to diversify its funding sources. A 2010 US Drug Enforcement Administration investigation found that account holders at the Lebanese Canadian Bank were receiving the profits from smuggling South American cocaine to Europe. Expatriate Lebanese businessmen were then channeling those profits into other businesses, including buying used cars in North America to sell in West Africa and the purchase of rough diamonds. After another Lebanese bank, Societe Generale de Banque au Liban, agreed to buy Lebanese Canadian’s assets in 2011, an audit uncovered nearly 200 accounts involved in the money-laundering scheme, at the centre of which was Hezbollah. In August 2012, the US government seized $150m of the Lebanese Canadian Bank’s assets, with the bank later agreeing to a $102m settlement. While the case put businesses on notice that they dealt with Hezbollah at their own risk, some have questioned the efficacy of sanctions. While there has been no official reaction by Hezbollah or Iran, an editorial by the the pro-Hezbollah Al Akhbar newspaper on Thursday argued the new sanctions were a politically motivated response to Hezbollah’s strong showing in the recent Lebanese parliamentary elections. “The sanctions imposed on the Hezbollah leadership will not affect their lives or their work for the party operates outside the Lebanese and international banking system,” it said. “Therefore, the effect of these sanctions is political and nothing more and the target is not Hezbollah, but its partners in the next government.”
Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 17-18/18
Israel launches new air raid on Hamas in Gaza
AFP/17 May 2018/The Israeli military hit Hamas targets in the in the northern Gaza Strip according to a spokesman.The attack comes just days after 60 Palestinian protesters were killed during Nakba day demonstrations
JERUSALEM: Israel said Thursday it launched an overnight air raid on a Hamas facility in Gaza after gunfire from the territory targeted its soldiers and damaged a building. “The Israeli army struck targets belonging to Hamas in the northern Gaza Strip, including terrorist infrastructure and weapons-making facilities,” the military said in a statement. On Wednesday, Israeli tanks fired at three Hamas positions after shots from Gaza were fired at Israeli soldiers and bullets from a heavy machine gun hit a house in the town of Sderot.The exchanges of fire came after weeks of mass protests and clashes on the Gaza border, which peaked on Monday when some 60 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces. During the war surrounding Israel’s creation in 1948, more than 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes. Israel and militants in Gaza have fought three wars since 2008.

EU to Launch Moves to Block U.S. Sanctions on Iran Friday
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 17/18/The EU will on Friday begin moves to block the effect of U.S. sanctions on Iran in the bloc, European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said, as part of efforts to preserve the nuclear deal with Tehran. "We will begin the 'blocking statute' process, which aims to neutralize the extraterritorial effects of U.S. sanctions in the EU. We must do it and we will do it tomorrow morning at 10:30," Juncker said at a summit in Sofia on Thursday.
Diplomats Face Consequences in Ankara-Tel Aviv Spat
Israeli - Tel Aviv, Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 17 May, 2018/Turkish relations deteriorated further on Wednesday after a bitter exchange over Gaza violence, Ankara harshly criticized the high death toll in clashes on the Gaza border between Palestinians and IDF.This is the first time of multiple tit-for-tat spats where Turkey and Israel have a number of politicians threatening to cut back on economic relations and trade between the two countries. These relations have hone unaffected in previous crises.

Iran Denounces U.S. and Saudi Sanctions against Hizbullah
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 17/18/Iran's foreign minister on Thursday lashed out on Twitter at the US and Saudi Arabia for imposing sanctions on leaders of its Lebanese ally Hizbullah. "Israeli snipers shoot over 2,000 unarmed Palestinian protestors on a single day," Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a tweet referring to protests and clashes in the Gaza Strip that killed some 60 people this week. The "Saudi response, on eve of Ramadan? Collaboration with its US patron to sanction the first force to liberate Arab territory and shatter the myth of Israeli invincibility. Shame upon shame," he said. The United States and six Gulf Arab states announced sanctions Wednesday on the leadership of Hizbullah, as Washington seeks to step up economic pressure on Iran and its allies in the region after President Donald Trump withdrew this month from the 2015 nuclear deal. The US and Saudi-led Terrorist Financing and Targeting Center said the sanctions were aimed at Hizbullah's Shura Council, led by its secretary general Hassan Nasrallah. Nasrallah, Hizbullah Deputy Secretary General Naim Qasim, and three other Shura Council members were listed under the joint sanctions, which aim at freezing vulnerable assets of those named and blocking their access to global financial networks. At the same time, the six Gulf members of the TFTC -- Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates -- declared sanctions on another nine individuals and firms part of or linked to Hizbullah that were already blacklisted by the US Treasury. Hizbullah is a key player in Lebanese politics, and it maintains its own arsenal of weapons and fighting force. The group is fighting in Syria alongside President Bashar Assad's military, and it has trained Iraqi Shiite militias which participated in retaking territory from the Islamic State group. The sanctions by Gulf states follow two US moves this month to put pressure on Iran's financial networks, including sanctions announced Tuesday aimed at an alleged financial pipeline that moved "hundreds of millions of dollars" from Iran's central bank through an Iraqi bank to Hizbullah. The European Union has viewed Hizbullah's armed wing as a "terrorist" organisation since 2013. In 2016, the six Arab Sunni powers of the Gulf Co-operation Council -- Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman - designated Hizbullah a "terrorist" organisation.

One Dead, 6 Injured in South Iran Violence

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 17/18/One person was killed and six others injured in violence in a city in southern Iran that has seen several protests in recent months, the Fars news agency reported Thursday. It said a group of people gathered in Kazerun on Wednesday evening to chant "subversive slogans" and set fire to a local police station. Videos of the incident were shared on social media overnight. Residents of Kazerun have held sporadic demonstrations for weeks against a government decision to establish a administrative division in the region. Wednesday's scuffle was the first reported unrest in the town in two weeks after a decision to shelve the reform initiative, Fars said. At least 25 people were killed in a wave of social unrest that swept towns and cities across Iran between December 28 and January 1.

Has Turkey violated UN sanctions by selling Israeli equipment to Iran?
Jerusalem- Ziad Halabi/Al Arabiya/hursday, 17 May 2018/ Israeli political sources told local newspapers that Turkey sold Iran electronic equipment purchased by a Turkish company from an Israeli company based in West Jerusalem.This comes amid the diplomatic crisis that has plagued the Israeli-Turkish relations, where both countries have expulsed the respective ambassadors and exchanged insults. Also, United Nations is investigating whether Turkey shipped Israeli-made electronic equipment to Iran in violation of UN Security Council sanctions on Tehran, the Yedioth Aharonoth daily reported on Thursday, adding that the UN has asked Israel for more information on the matter. Sources added that the electronic capacitors cap-180-300, which can be used in enrichment process to produce a nuclear weapon, is an internationally prohibited material under Security Council Law No. 2231 of 2015. In July 2017, according to the report, a shipment of electronic capacitors produced by Celem Power Capacitors of Jerusalem was seized in the United Arab Emirates. Sources at the company said the equipment was sold to a Turkish company. "We don’t sell to enemy countries. If the shipment did in fact reach Iran, the Turkish purchaser defrauded us," the Israeli company said. The Israeli company refused to give any other statement other than the previous one stating that: “it has already sold this electronic equipment to a Turkish company after having verified its credibility and received the price of the deal in advance,” adding “it had no idea that these materials would be sent to Iran.”The company stressed that it would cooperate with any investigation because it could prove that there were no wrongdoing from its side, meaning that the Turkish buyer is the party that committed fraud.

Maersk says US sanctions make doing business in Iran impossible
Reuters, CopenhagenThursday, 17 May 2018/The world’s largest container shipping firm A.P. Moller-Maersk said Thursday it would shut down its business in Iran to abide with re-imposed sanctions after Washington pulled the United States from a nuclear accord. “With the sanctions the Americans are to impose, you can’t do business in Iran if you also have business in the US, and we have that on a large scale,” Soren Skou told Reuters in an interview following the firm’s first-quarter report. “I don’t know the exact timing details, but I am certain that we’re also going to shut down (in Iran)”. The move comes one day after French energy giant Total joined other European companies in signaling they could exit Iran, casting doubt on whether European leaders meeting to try to salvage the Iran nuclear deal can safeguard trade with Tehran. President Donald Trump’s withdrawal of the United States from the nuclear accord and his order that sanctions be re-imposed on Tehran have left European allies scrambling to keep the deal alive and protect their Iranian trade. French President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday that the European Union must protect EU companies doing business with Iran from US sanctions.

19 militants killed in Egypt’s anti-terror drive in Sinai

AFP, CairoThursday, 17 May 2018/Egypt’s army said Thursday it killed 19 presumed militants in the Sinai peninsula during a large-scale “anti-terror” operation. Egyptian forces launched operation “Sinai 2018” in February in the peninsula where soldiers and security forces have been battling ISIS. A military statement said 19 suspected extremists were killed in gun battles with army and security forces in the central and northern Sinai in recent days. Around 200 militants and at least 33 soldiers have been killed since the operation was launched, according to official figures. President Abdelfatah el-Sisi, on a visit to the Sinai last month, promised residents the operation would be finished “as soon as possible”.
Military statements
According to a Reuters report, the statement said the militants were killed over the past few days. Their deaths bring the total of those killed since the beginning of the operation to at least 296 including 35 military personnel, according to Reuters calculations based on military statements. Militants in Sinai intensified their attacks after the ousting by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and the military in 2013 of Egypt's first freely elected president, Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood. Defeating militants and restoring security after years of unrest that followed Egypt’s 2011 popular uprising has been a promise of Sisi, who was re-elected in March in a landslide victory against no real opposition. (With Reuters inputs)

Egypt president Sisi says in talks with Palestinians, Israel
AFP, Cairo Thursday, 17 May 2018/Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Wednesday urged Israel and the Palestinians to abstain from further steps that could lead to more Palestinian deaths, following Monday's deadly violence on the Gaza-Israel border. Israel has come under international pressure after its border forces on Monday killed some 60 Palestinians protesting against the transfer the same day of the US embassy to Jerusalem. “I hope that this message reaches our Palestinian brothers that self-expression and protest over this decision does not lead them to measures that could lead to more victims,” Sisi said. “On the other side, I hope that the Israelis understand that the Palestinian reactions towards this issue are legitimate and that they deal with it with extreme care over the lives of Palestinians,” he added. Speaking in a live youth conference on state TV, Sisi spoke on Egypt’s role in the conflict, stating its previous peace efforts, saying that Egypt was in communication with both sides "so that this bloodshed would stop". The Egyptian president said he had previously warned that the US embassy move “will have negative implications in the Arab and Muslim public opinion”. More than 100 Palestinians have been killed in seven weeks of protests, mainly from Israeli sniper fire. Arab foreign ministers are to hold an “extraordinary” meeting Thursday in Cairo to discuss their future steps over the issue.

Israeli air raids target Hamas facility in Gaza, Turkey seeks UN motion
AFP/Reuters, JerusalemThursday, 17 May 2018/ Israel said Thursday it launched an overnight air raid on a Hamas facility in Gaza, after gunfire from the territory targeted its soldiers and damaged a building. In a statement, the Israeli Defense Forces said, “the Israeli army struck targets belonging to Hamas in the northern Gaza Strip, including terrorist infrastructure and weapons-making facilities.” On Wednesday, Israeli tanks fired at three Hamas positions after shots from Gaza were fired at Israeli soldiers and bullets from a heavy machinegun hit a house in the town of Sderot. The exchanges of fire came after weeks of mass protests and clashes on the Gaza border, which peaked on Monday when more than 60 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces. During the war surrounding Israel’s creation in 1948, more than 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes. Israel and militants in Gaza have fought three wars since 2008. According to the Associated Press, the Palestinian health ministry says a man was moderately wounded by shrapnel, but didn’t say whether he was inside a militant site or nearby.
Turkey seeks UN motion
Meanwhile, Turkey has said it wants the United Nations General Assembly to pass a motion regarding Jerusalem, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday, as the discomfort over Palestinians killed in Gaza by Israeli forces grows. Speaking in an interview to state-broadcaster TRT Haber, Cavusoglu also said that an independent commission needs to prepare a report on the violence in Gaza and that Israel needs to stand in the face of law. Israeli troops shot dead dozens of Palestinian protesters on the Gaza border on Monday as the United States opened its embassy to Israel in Jerusalem. (With AP/Reuters inputs)

Denmark to Pull Special Forces Out of Iraq
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 17/18/NATO-member Denmark said Thursday its special forces taking part in the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group in Iraq would be withdrawn following the IS defeat. "We have now reached a point where we can begin withdrawing our special forces because (IS) no longer has control over large areas in Iraq," Danish foreign minister Anders Samuelsen said in a statement. Up to 60 special forces were sent to Iraq in 2016 to train and advise Iraqi soldiers after a vote by the Danish parliament.
The forces also took part in operations on the Iraqi-Syrian border, providing intelligence and ad hoc air support. "Their Iraqi partners are now ready to stand on their own two feet," Danish defense minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen said in the statement. "(IS) have been forced away from virtually all the areas which the terrorist organization occupied in Iraq," he added. The Scandinavian nation currently has around 180 troops stationed at the Al-Asad air base near Baghdad, where they have been training Iraqi soldiers and Kurdish security forces.

Judging Jihadists in Syrian Kurdistan: A Political Hot Potato
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 17/18/Shunned by both their Western governments and their Kurdish jailers, foreign men and women who joined the Islamic State group are lingering in detention in northern Syria. When IS' self-proclaimed caliphate crumbled in 2017, the Kurdish forces that govern swathes of Syria's north rounded up thousands of IS fighters from 40 different countries. It was up to local courts to try them, but so far only native hardliners have been sentenced. Last year, judge Rasho Kanaan and his colleagues tried more than 800 alleged jihadists, all Syrian, in the Kurdish-run town of Qamishli. Sitting in his office in an unremarkable rectangular building, Kanaan says he is not keen to process the foreigners. "We already have plenty of other prisoners to manage," Kanaan tells AFP. He says the legal system in northern Syria, which operates independently of regime institutions based in Damascus, "is made to judge locals, not foreigners". The Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), the military force that controls much of northern Syria, is more direct. "All these foreign prisoners are a burden for us," YPG spokesman Nuri Mahmud says. But the Kurds appear stuck with them. With European public opinion hostile to repatriating homegrown jihadists, governments are not eager to reclaim radicalized citizens detained abroad. "Denmark, Canada and Switzerland say they are ready to take women and children. But on condition that it's not done publicly," says Nadim Houry, director of terrorism and counter-terrorism for Human Rights Watch. The watchdog estimates there are thousands of foreigners in Kurdish detention, including around 800 women and 1,200 children. According to the Kurds, only Russia and Indonesia have agreed to take back their detainees, mostly women and children.
Prisoners 'not priority'
France insists any adults among the more than 40 French nationals held by Kurdish authorities should be tried where they are, so long as they face a "fair trial". Among them is Thomas Barnouin, an alleged IS fighter who was captured in December by Syrian Kurdish forces. The 36-year-old "was part of the most radical branch of IS", according to a source close to his case. "Barnouin and several others are potential dangers and also mines of information on IS," the source adds. Kurdish forces also captured British citizens Alexanda Amon Kotey and El Shafee el-Sheikh, part of the infamous "Beatles" quartet accused of beheading around 20 hostages. But Kurdish officials say they would rather pass off the foreigners to their own countries so they can focus on defending their territory from their arch-enemy Ankara. "Our priority is not the prisoners -- it's Turkey," says Mahmoud. They feel betrayed after Western powers, namely the U.S., failed to halt a Turkish-led offensive on the Kurdish enclave of Afrin earlier this year. "Why continue to keep foreign prisoners, particularly Western ones, if their countries don't support us against the Turks?" asks another local official. Could the Kurds' frustration result in thousands of foreign jihadists being let loose? "Our position remains to investigate and process these files, in cooperation with the authorities" of prisoners' home countries, says Khaled Issa, a Kurdish representative in France.
Reconciliation rules
The overwhelming number of both foreign and local suspects means that those that are tried do not get due process. The accused appear directly in front of judges without a local lawyer or an appeals process. If found guilty, they are generally sentenced to between five and seven years in prison, with the most extreme facing 20 years. But HRW says the punishments are often reduced for good behavior or by amnesties. Sentences can also be cut short if the accused belongs to an influential Syrian Arab tribe which acts as a guarantor, promising the ex-jihadist will stay on the right side of the law.
"The Kurds have to manage a mosaic of different communities on their territory," says HRW's Houry. The guiding principle, he says, is reconciliation: "We must all live together -- we therefore have no other choice." Finding proof of active IS membership is difficult, especially when it comes to the hundreds of female suspects, who include women from Russia, Tunisia and Turkey. While few have seen combat, some worked in police and religious units. Many married IS fighters and have two or three children, who are technically stateless. "Last year, we judged 10 (Syrian women). We released half, the other half were sentenced to less than 10 years," says Kanaan. The rulings are in stark contrast to those in the West, where sentences for terror-linked offenses are only getting tougher. As foreign fighters linger in detention, some have suggested using them as leverage. "The Kurds can use this as a bargaining chip to get aid," says Fabrice Balanche, an academic expert on Syria. But time may be running out. With the fight against IS ending, Kurds worry their U.S. ally will abandon them -- a fear compounded by President Donald Trump's insistence on withdrawing from Syria. "Without American support, the Kurds cannot hold back the Turks or another well-equipped army," says Balanche. If the Kurdish administration in northern Syria subsequently collapses, what could happen to foreign prisoners? Such questions were already being raised in the aftermath of Afrin's capture by Turkish-backed rebels. While experts believe there were few, if any, foreign jihadists held in Kurdish-run prisons there, local jihadist detainees seem to have vanished without a trace, with Kurdish officials saying they have no knowledge of their fate.

EU Countries Agree Iran Deal 'Not Perfect', Says Merkel

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 17/18/German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday that EU countries agreed the Iran nuclear deal was "not perfect" but insisted it should be preserved, after the US withdrawal threw the accord into doubt. EU leaders meeting in Sofia have backed a "united" approach to keeping the deal alive after US President Donald Trump pulled out and reimposed sanctions, complaining the accord did nothing to stop Iran's ballistic missile programme or interference in Middle East conflicts. "Everyone in the European Union shares the view that the agreement is not perfect, but that we should remain in this agreement and conduct further negotiations with Iran on the basis of other issues such as the ballistic missile programme," Merkel said as she arrived for the summit. French President Emmanuel Macron said the bloc was working to keep the existing agreement alive "so that our businesses can remain" in Iran. This effort would run alongside work to "pursue negotiations on a vital broader agreement," Macron said. "The 2015 agreement needs to be completed by a nuclear agreement beyond 2025, an agreement on ballistic activities and (Iran's) regional presence," Macron said. Tehran has warned it is prepared to resume "industrial-scale" uranium enrichment "without any restrictions" unless Europe can provide solid guarantees that it can maintain the economic benefits it gained from the nuclear agreement despite Washington reimposing sanctions. EU experts have begun work drawing up measures to shield the deal from US sanctions, focusing on nine key issues including ensuring Iran can sell its oil and gas products and have access to international finance. But given the global reach of US government sanctions it is not clear how effective these measures can be, or whether the EU will try to leverage them as a bargaining chip with Washington.

Rise of Sadrists Undermines Chances of Islamists in Ruling Iraq

Baghdad- Hamza Mustafa/Tel Aviv, Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 17 May, 2018/Although the final results of the Iraqi elections were not revealed because of significant problems in the counting mechanism, the political movement has not calmed down, not for the formation of the largest bloc but for what seems to observers as something else. Traditional Islamist political forces have been trying to absorb the shock that has revived the hopes of civil forces as the Sadrist movement swept the initial results and sought to become a larger bloc through the alliances, undermining the chances of Islamists to remain at the forefront of Iraq's political scene. “Two political projects have existed before the elections, and they still exist,” independent Iraqi politician and former MP Izzat al-Shabandar told Asharq Al-Awsat, explaining that each has its supporters and opposers. The first calls for a political majority on the condition that the next prime minister is chosen according to certain specifications and not necessarily from the same bloc. The second project, said Shabandar, calls for keeping the situation as it is and maintain the political consensus among the components that ultimately lead to the sharing of power and influence. This means the extension of the term of current Prime Minister Haider Abadi and the continuation of the Dawa Party in the rule of Iraq for another round. “The political majority is the best project to save Iraq from its suffering,” said Shabandar, adding “the previous experience of consensual rule in Iraq over three previous parliamentary rounds, which is a joint American-Iranian project, has failed, and it bears the results we have all reached today.” “This made the majority of political forces consider a national alternative represented in the political majority and the bloc that is formed on this basis.”“The political majority project provides the Sunni and Kurdish forces with better opportunities to participate in the ruling, especially that the Shiite group that advocates the political majority does not insist that the next prime minister necessarily be from the Dawa Party,” he stressed.

De Mistura Warns from Syria Crisis Causing "Explosion" in the Region
New York– Ali Bardi/Tel Aviv, Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 17 May, 2018/UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan De Mistura warned, in his latest briefing to members of the Security Council, that the crisis in Syria faces major challenges and could lead to the explosion of the entire region. The intensity of international confrontations over Syria during the last month was unprecedented since 1973, De Mistura said, underscoring the need for “careful diplomacy” to support de-escalation, avoid miscalculations and facilitate genuine communication about sustainably ending the conflict. "The political solution in Syria would open the way for the reconstruction of the areas that have been destroyed over the past seven years since the beginning of the conflict," he said. “We must push forward the political process and peaceful negotiations." He called for robust international dialogue and consensus on de-escalation, confidence-building and creating minimum conditions for a credible peace process. “That process itself must be revived, in terms of the constitutional committee and initial steps towards the establishment of a safe, neutral environment. We stand ready to facilitate discussions on both,” he said. Regarding the northern rebel-held area of Idlib, De Mistura said that if the Syrian government’s previously-used tactic of bombing a rebel territory followed by negotiations and then mass evacuations is repeated in Idlib, it could affect “six times” more people than the battle to retake the suburbs of Ghouta, near the capital Damascus. “If we see a Ghouta scenario in Idlib, this could be six times worse, affecting 2.3 million people,” he said. He underscored the need for robust international dialogue and consensus on de-escalation, confidence-building and creating minimum conditions for a credible political process. Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres called for self-restraint, avoiding escalation and for alleviating the suffering of the Syrian people. He pointed out that the UN is working to determine the responsibility of all parties for the success of the peace process. For her part, US Representative for Economic and Social Affairs Ambassador Kelley Currie accused Iran of building up the infrastructure to create another Hezbollah in Syria, stressing that her country “refuses to stay quiet.”

Mueller Concedes He Can't Indict Trump, Says Giuliani
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 17/18/Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team has told the White House that whatever evidence it comes up with in the Russian meddling probe, it cannot indict President Donald Trump, according to Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani told CNN and Fox News on Wednesday that Mueller's team had accepted a longstanding, though never tested Justice Department legal interpretation that a sitting president is immune from indictment. "All they get to do is write a report," Giuliani told CNN. "They can't indict. At least they acknowledged that to us after some battling, they acknowledged that to us."Mueller's spokesman Peter Carr refused to comment on Giuliani's remarks, which came on the eve of the one-year anniversary of Mueller's appointment in charge of the probe into possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia. But if correct, it would only confirm widespread belief in the legal community that the president is protected from indictment while in office. As Giuliani said, if Mueller does find wrongdoing by the president, he is confined to submitting a report to the Justice Department.  But that report, and the evidence behind it, could serve as the basis for impeachment of the president in Congress. Mueller's probe has already indicted 19 people, including top Trump campaign officials. No one knows whether Mueller's team has any strong evidence of collusion with the Russians, or of Trump actively obstructing the investigation, another evident thrust of Mueller's probe.
- 'Get it over with' -The special prosecutor, a former FBI director, has for months been in talks with Trump's legal team over whether the president would agree to be interviewed, as have at least 20 other White House officials and 28 Trump campaign workers. "We're demanding from him -- tell us what you have to get from an interview that you don't already have. Because he has all the facts to make a decision," Giuliani said later on Fox News' "The Ingraham Angle." "There would be a narrow area where we might agree if they could tell us why they need it."If Trump refuses an interview, Mueller could be forced to issue a subpoena to force him to testify, which could spark a legal battle of its own. Giuliani, on a media blitz since joining Trump's legal team a month ago, said the year-old Mueller probe should be ready to wrap up. "If you're going to write a fair report, fine, write it. If you're going to write an unfair report, write it and we will combat it," he said on the Fox News program. "We're ready to rip it apart, and we're ready to rip them apart, if that's what they want. We would rather peacefully settle this and get it over with." Although the precedent of the 1970s Watergate case says that presidential records can be subpoenaed, some scholars say that precedent might not extend to forcing the president himself to testify. If there is a battle over the issue, it would likely end up in the Supreme Court.

Libyan army says terror leaders ‘reside in Turkey’
Mohammed al-Araby, Al Arabiya.netThursday, 17 May 2018/Libyan army spokesman Ahmed al-Mesmari called on people in Derna to withdraw their sons from the battle the army is fighting against terrorism and said many youth fighting in the ranks of terror groups have been influenced by the calls of terror leaders who reside in luxurious hotels in Turkey. “Those issuing fatwas (religious edicts) to fight the army in Derna reside in Turkey and push youth to fight in a losing battle,” Mesmari said, noting that the army is steadily advancing towards terrorist strongholds. He also called on people to not allow terrorists to deploy weapons above rooftops or in the streets because “any sources of gunfire on the armed forces will be targeted.”
According to Mesmari, army forces “are now inside Derna on several axes,” and terror groups which were stationed in al-Zohr al-Homr and al-Heela fled and “got stationed in the mountains but they were expelled and a large number of (their members) was killed.” Abdel-Karim Sabra, the spokesman for the Omar Mukhtar Operations Room, told Al that the army seized control of new posts in the eastern and southern axes which terror groups had used as bastions considering the protection provided by highlands. Sabra added that the army now supervises areas that are only a few kilometers away from the center of the city. Meanwhile, a local source told Al that terror groups began fortifying their new posts inside the city, adding that a dispute erupted between residents in the Shiha neighborhood and armed terrorists because the former refused to allow them to fortify in their neighborhood. The source added, however, that terror groups managed to position themselves in several other neighborhoods. A video and footage obtained by Al showed military vehicles destroyed by the shelling and trenches used by terrorists.

Statement by Foreign Affairs Minister on the release of Anwar Ibrahim

May 16, 2018 - Ottawa, Ontario - Global Affairs Canada
The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today issued the following statement:
“Canada is delighted that Anwar Ibrahim has been released from prison today with a full pardon.
Mr. Anwar’s pardon is a welcome development, and one that comes shortly after Malaysia’s historic election on 9 May, which saw the first transfer of power since Malaysia achieved independence in 1957.
Canada had grave concerns about Mr. Anwar’s trial and conviction, a process which raised questions about judicial independence and selective prosecutions in Malaysia. The rule of law and an independent judiciary are essential to the flourishing of democracy and to the institutions of a peaceful and prosperous society. We look forward to working with the new government of Malaysia to further deepening our bilateral partnership to the mutual benefit of our citizens.”

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 17-18/18
What happened to Trump, the American Mussolini?
Mamdouh AlMuhaini/Al Arabiya/May 17/18
It is said that American President Ronald Reagan did not like to talk about foreign policy and instead preferred to tell jokes and narrate stories about him and his wife Nancy. Despite this, his administration changed the face of the world as we know it today and plenty has been written about the Reagan Doctrine.
This almost applies to Trump who spends a lot of time posting on Twitter and fighting the media. Despite this annoying fuss, the structures of Trump’s doctrine on foreign policy have began to form in a clearer way than before, especially after firing Tillerson and McMaster. In order to understand this doctrine we must highlight previous wrong analyses and we must also compare it to the doctrines of his predecessors Obama and George W. Bush. Trump did not become the Mussolini of America but his foreign doctrine, despite its flaws, proved it’s more realistic than Bush’s and braver than Obama’s
How Trump differs from his predecessors
After Trump’s speech on inauguration day, many panicked and thought they entered an isolationist and populist era. They thought Trump was the American Mussolini and that time would prove this. They said Trump’s speech was frightening and had a terrifying tone that indicates the nearing of Doomsday and “the end of America as we know it,” as one writer put it. Those who hate the US rejoiced that Trump is the leader who will sink the ship to the bottom of the sea. This is a wrong sentimental analysis that ignored the fact that his foreign policy team consists of figures who are well known as hawks and for their international tendencies. It was not long until the opposite was proven. The administration that was accused of isolationism struck Assad twice, fought ISIS, withdrew from the nuclear agreement with Iran and is preparing to seal a historic deal with North Korea.
If we compare Trump’s foreign doctrine with that of his two predecessors, we will find major and clear differences. Bush’s doctrine believed in the idea of changing regimes, exporting democracy and building nations. These are all values which the current administration does not believe in.
There’s a rumor that actually became a reality with time which stipulates that the neoconservatives whose doctrines were formed in the 1940s believed in changing political regimes. But in fact, they are against this, because they think that interfering in countries’ affairs and socially engineering them using foreign hands worsens the situation.
This was seen in Iraq as America withdrew after a tough experience, and it did not build the state which it had wanted to be a model, like Germany, for the entire region to look up to. The common belief then was that democracy is the medicine that heals the region’s chronic illnesses.
Now, however, only few believe in this solution, not out of hatred for democracy but because the absence of the traditions of freedom, fragility of states and the rise of extremist groups and the ISIS caliphate make the experience itself catastrophic. Trump’s doctrine is completely distant from Bush’s romantic doctrine, and he did not mention democracy in his speeches except for a few times.
Comparing Trump to Obama
However, this doctrine is still incomplete if we do not also compare it with Obama’s doctrine. Obama who published the famous book Audacity of Hope was reclusive and isolationist to a great extent. The Iranian nuclear deal reached during his term did not aim to intervene but to withdraw further more because he thought that the deal will discipline Iran’s behavior. Thus, he thought the region will be void of crises and we will not hear calls demanding American forces to intervene to resolve disputes. Obama’s vision was not right, however, his doctrine was solid and deep. He abstained from intervening despite the thousands killed in Syria. What about Obama’s vision of the liberal international order that’s guarded by American forces after World War II following the collapse of the power of Great Britain? Obama was not among those who believed in this idea and he preferred the idea of international axes that maintain the world’s stability and balance. Why not have more than one policeman or more than one police station for the world?
Trump’s foreign doctrine is greatly different. A writer criticized him saying to understand Trump’s doctrine, just recall everything that Obama believes in and think of the complete opposite. This is true as the doctrine of Trump and his foreign policy team is against the principle of intervening and changing rogue regimes (which the Bush doctrine believed in) but it’s also against rewarding them and is with punishing and suffocating them. We’ve clearly seen this with the Iranian regime which will face tough economic sanctions that will have major repercussions.
In 2009, Obama did not say a single word to support the Green Movement, but Trump tweeted and supported the recent protests in Iran, where momentum is less than that of the Green Movement’s, because his administration incites and supports change but leaves the action for the Iranians themselves.
What about protecting the international order which the Obama administration neglected? Trump’s doctrine is the opposite. In this context comes besieging Iran, the upcoming dialogue with North Korea and punishing Assad. In his two speeches when he decided to target the Assad regime, he repeated that it’s not possible to keep silent over some acts and that any violation of the laws of the international order will be decisively confronted.
It’s a mixture of ethics that defend the weak and realism that defends the stability of the world order without being dragged into toppling regimes thus producing bigger problems. Another major difference is how the Trump administration restored strong alliances with the traditional allies in the region, of course if we ignore his local fiery speeches that aim to maintain momentum in his electoral base. Obama confronted terrorists like James Bond by hunting them using drones, but at the same time, he did not mind the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood which is the deep center of extremism and terrorism. Trump’s administration includes men like John Bolton who are aware of this truth. Bolton once said that the Brotherhood is the smiling face of terrorism. Trump did not become the Mussolini of America but his foreign doctrine, despite its flaws, proved it’s more realistic than Bush’s and braver than Obama’s.

Will Trump’s move on Iran bring focus on denuclearization?

Sabena Siddiqui/Al Arabiya/May 17/18
Since pulling the plug on the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, the US has put the EU, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany in a quandary regarding why it ended. Showing no clear road-map since then, Trump has his European allies on nail-biting edge while China and Russia have taken the news with some equanimity. Right now, the US is on one side while all the other signatories are trying to resolve the crisis in their own way. Having entered the agreement as sovereign entities, the EU, France, Britain and Germany are trying to salvage the JCPOA and Iran has responded positively by not dumping the deal as yet.
Having gained more experience after dealing with North Korea, maybe the US will focus on lasting denuclearization this time. A major indicator is that Washington expects Iran to “want to make a new and lasting deal” with the US, in the words of Trump.
The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also offered to negotiate a new nuclear deal with Iran with the European Union. Upping the ante, the US President said at a cabinet meeting recently that there will be “serious consequences’ if Iran resumes nuclear activity, if it does not then “they’ll negotiate or something will happen.”
Apart from putting economic pressure on Iran to cause a regime change, no other option is on the table yet but considering the new trend towards ‘denuclearization’, this might be the reason for wanting a new agreement.
Having gained more experience after dealing with North Korea, maybe the US will focus on lasting denuclearization this time
A threshold nuclear state
According to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran is seen as a ‘threshold nuclear state’, after completing some years under observation it could be permitted to produce nuclear weapons. Restricting the formation of further nuclear states can be the real reason the deal has been dumped.
The US opted out of the nuclear deal and it seems it would not want the deal revised just to impose more sanctions. Does it want to revise the deal just to enforce a more permanent denuclearization of Iran? Such a proposition might not be agreeable to the rest of the parties in the deal which are trying to continue with the original document. Enforcing non-proliferation in this manner would not go down so well even with the European Union, which finds itself at a crossroads. The European Union is also arranging a crisis meeting with Iran as soon as possible to save the accord without Washington as a party.
Adding to the anxiety, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani has said that Europe has “very limited opportunity”, meaning there is a window of some weeks before it restarts its uranium enrichment program. Trying to “save the deal” is no easy task as Iran’s economic benefits have to be safeguarded and avoiding stringent US sanctions is the major hurdle as the US Treasury Department expects companies to stop dealing with Iran within the time period of 90 to 180 days.Facing prosecution and massive fines in the US, European banks and business executives would not be let off the leash by Washington.
Calm China
While the European Union and Britain are facing the music, China calmly continues with the deal saying it was approved by the United Nations Security Council. Unmoved by the prospect of US sanctions and an intensifying trade war, for both China and Russia it is business as usual and an increase in yuan-denominated trade is expected. There are signs that European international companies could use the euro for business dealings and Iran has already switched from dollar to the euro as its official reporting currency. This January, Bpifrance bank had already unveiled a plan offering euro-dominated export guarantees for Iranian businesses to avoid US economic jurisdiction. Apparently, all the other parties to the JCPOA will continue to keep it live and find ways to overcome any impediments. In this current scenario, pressing for the denuclearization of Iran needs some convincing argument.
Nevertheless, it is uncertain whether the EU can take the pressure for long as Washington is not going to make it easy. As White House National Security adviser John Bolton has said, “I think the Europeans will see that it’s in their interest ultimately to come along with us.”
North Korea will be the test case now, if the US achieves success in its denuclearization, it might try the same with Iran. At the end of the day, including any clause for denuclearization in the revised Iran nuclear deal can either strengthen US influence or cause its allies to scatter away.

Is China making Pakistan a client-state with ‘debt-book diplomacy’?
Dr. Azeem Ibrahimi/Al Arabiya/May 17/18
In Pakistan, China is the most active and positive economic force. So much so that continued cooperation between the two countries is supported by virtually all sides of this otherwise deeply divided country. Everyone from the Taliban to the secularist military leaders view Chinese investment as a boon to the country, the main source of job creation, and, in all truth, the most promising source of kickbacks for themselves. It certainly is the case that the infrastructure projects part of China’s Belt and Road initiative are the most significant economic development stimulus in the economically underdeveloped country, and the most likely to also have significant upsides for the people themselves, not just a handful of corrupt officials. But it must also be acknowledged that China is not doing this out of the goodness of their heart. One aspect of this is quite uncontroversial: the strategic rival of China in Asia is India, India and Pakistan are historically opposed to each other, so it makes sense to both China and Pakistan that they should align themselves geopolitically. The investments along the Indus river both strengthen Pakistan, and entrench the country firmly in the Chinese sphere of influence, much to the perceived benefit of both parties.
There is a reason why Pakistan is becoming increasingly dependent on Chinese loans. That is because the normal financial channels for sovereign debt would not extend such loans to Islamabad
Cost of cooperation
What is less well advertised is the terms of the cooperation, and the costs. Many of the infrastructure projects are financed through debt. They are Chinese projects built for China’s geopolitical and economic advantage, but they will be ostensibly owned by the Pakistani state, so the Pakistani state will pay for them – with loans from China. By June 2019, Pakistan will owe Beijing $19 billion. But the interest rate on those loans average an astronomical 7 percent per annum, payable over 25-40 years. According to experts’ calculations, the cost of servicing the debt owed to China will average $7-8 billion per year, for the next 43 years, starting from now. To begin with at least, that will be between 0.5-1 percent of Pakistan’s GDP. There is a reason why Pakistan is becoming increasingly dependent on Chinese loans. That is because the normal financial channels for sovereign debt would not extend such loans to Islamabad. No Western investor would expect Pakistan to be able to pay off these kinds of debts on these kinds of terms. Well, nor does China. But that is not an issue. In fact, that is the point. China has been extending loans on unsustainable terms throughout South-East Asia and the Pacific region. So what happens when things come to a head?
Beijing’s point of view
Beijing will extend payment terms, or underwrite those parts of the debt, which the debtor countries cannot afford – provided the local governments understand Beijing’s point of view on this issue of infrastructure, or that issue of geopolitical alignment, and so on. Should any of the 16 countries identified by the US State Department as already under the sway of Chinese “debtbook diplomacy”, 17 now if we include Pakistan, try to wiggle free of Chinese impositions, they will most likely be confronted by the prospect of sovereign debt default – which would make any further economic development virtually impossible, and severely undermine their political stability in a region which is already volatile enough. Pakistan, like so many other countries in the region, has its own good reasons for wanting closer relations to China at this moment in time. But if things go along the current trajectory, “cooperation” with China will become much less voluntary in the near future. For now, this serves the interests of Pakistan, and especially the interests of the political decision-makers in Islamabad. But when China will come in and ask for concessions, Pakistan will have no choice but to acquiesce. And when that happens, the price will, of course, not be paid by the political elite. As always, it will be paid by the average citizen.

Iran’s security threat must be curtailed before trade talks
Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg/Arab News/17 May 2018
A battle is brewing not only between the United States and Iran, but also across the Atlantic. In response to the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal, the EU is marshalling efforts to salvage as much of the agreement as possible, working overtime to counter the effects of reimposed US sanctions. The EU’s dispute with the Trump administration has exposed the underlying reasons behind the deal: Promoting EU business interests in exchange for allowing Iran a free hand in the region. That became clear on Tuesday in Brussels, when Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign affairs chief, together with the foreign ministers of France, Germany and the UK, met with their Iranian counterpart Mohammed Javad Zarif. The ministers agreed to conduct a study, not on the security aspects of the deal, but to identify ways to help European companies continue to do business in Iran and avoid American sanctions. The EU and Iran are trying to maintain oil shipments, minimize transport disruptions, keep banking channels open to Iran, and help protect European companies from the reach of US sanctions. While couching their intentions in security terms, the real purpose has become clearly economic: To help European companies do business in Iran despite its gross violations of human rights, support for terrorism, ballistic missile program, and its continued destabilization of the Middle East. The fact that Iran is the principle force behind the mayhem in Syria has not figured in the ministers’ calculus, despite the spillover effects of the Syrian conflict on Europe itself.
There is no mention of ballistic missiles, terrorism or anything other than economics in the statements coming after the meeting in Brussels. Despite evidence to the contrary, EU officials have claimed that ending the nuclear deal would be a “major threat” to security in the Middle East. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Wednesday: “We don’t want to see this agreement destroyed because it is important for maintaining peace in the region and also for peace in the whole world. Ending this agreement would be a major threat to security in this region.” In fact, the opposite is true. The deal has contributed significantly to the instability of the Middle East. Since the deal was signed, Iran has expanded its ballistic missile program and increased its support for terrorism. Almost from day one after the deal was signed, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps increased its activities in the Gulf, Syria and elsewhere. Much of the funds released by the deal are believed to have made their way to IRGC coffers. While couching their intentions in security terms, the real purpose has become clearly economic.
The real purpose of EU efforts appears to be rather mercantile. European Commission officials have made no pretense about this, even threatening to take legal action (using the “blocking statute,” for example) to protect EU companies doing business in Iran. Juncker himself hinted at this when he said “we have the means and resources and we will use them.” The EC is working on “concrete, practical solutions” to protect EU “economic operations,” including “applying our blocking statute,” European Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said this week. Mogherini’s spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic indicated similar objectives, saying: “We are exploring options to protect the economic operators from the… effects of reimposed sanctions,” adding: “We will work with all the partners to address possible negative impacts on economic operators of any reimposition of sanctions by the US.”
On the other hand, the US and its GCC partners have focused on security and put teeth to their opposition to the deal. Immediately after the US withdrawal, the US Department of Treasury announced new targeted sanctions against Iranian officials and proxies.
Last week, the Terrorism Financing Targeting Center met in Kuwait and agreed to a number of classified measures to disrupt terrorism financing in the region. The center was established following the GCC-US summit in Riyadh last year. During the days following the Kuwait meeting, in which the seven founding members — UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait and the US — took part, new sanctions were announced against Hezbollah officials and affiliated entities, including its chief Hassan Nasrallah, his deputy Naim Qassem and three members of its “Shura” council. They also targeted several other operatives and businesses.
Then, on Tuesday, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control imposed sanctions on the governor and a senior official of the Central Bank of Iran, the chairman of the Iraq-based Al-Bilad Islamic Bank, and a key Hezbollah official, all of whom it says moved millions of dollars to Hezbollah on behalf of the IRGC. US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said: “Iran’s Central Bank governor covertly funneled millions of dollars on behalf of the IRGC-QF through Iraq-based Al-Bilad Islamic Bank to enrich and support the violent and radical agenda of Hezbollah. It is appalling, but not surprising, that Iran’s senior-most banking official would conspire with the IRGC-QF to facilitate funding of terror groups like Hezbollah, and it undermines any credibility he could claim in protecting the integrity of the institution as a central bank governor.”
The lines of battle are clear between the two sides of the Atlantic, as they are between the two shores of the Gulf, but a candid discussion between the US, the GCC and the EU has to take place. Any approach to Iran should not be based on short-term trade interests, but on security terms. To be taken seriously by its neighbors and the international community, Iran has to be ready to abandon its military nuclear ambitions for good, limit its ballistic missile program, tame its rogue Revolutionary Guards, and end support for terrorism. Without a clear commitment to following international norms, it is extremely risky to enter into any deal with Iran.
**Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg is the GCC Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs & Negotiation, and a columnist for Arab News. The views expressed in this piece are personal and do not necessarily represent GCC views. Email: Twitter: @abuhamad1

Two-Face Traders Exploiting Palestinian Bloodshed

Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 17 May,
Washington’s decision to transfer of the US embassy to Jerusalem, without any concessions from the Israeli government in exchange was an unfair move and a huge mistake.
The embassy move happened without Israel offering anything in return—not even showing the slightest sign of advancing the peace process—is in serious violation of international law and UN resolutions that declare Jerusalem an occupied territory since 1967. States transferring their embassies to the debated territory is prohibited.
Saudi Arabia has already warned of the “grave consequences” of such an unjustified move and how it “infringes the feelings of Muslims worldwide.”
The embassy transfer serves as a major gift to Israel, emboldening its arrogance. Palestinians suffering isolation and brutality at the hand of occupied forces is not unheard of and has been in practice since the occupation’s onset in 1948.
Exploiting Palestinian blood in political trades and propaganda is also practiced by many countries, parties and groups.
The Palestinian cause has always has been molded and shaped differently at different times, at some points it was defined as a source for formative resistance and an inspiration to popular movements and at other times it was seen as a bargaining chip politicians can trade over in a deal.
However, times have changed in ways that now the public is less prone to buying into cheap political talk and see past lies and deceit weaved by exploiters. Selling out Palestinian rights for personal gains is no longer acceptable. Doubts and opportunism headline many countries taking advantage of the Palestinian cause.
However, as former US President Ronald Reagan put it: “Facts are stubborn things.” Even though Qatar champions Palestinian rights, it is the first Gulf state to have a deal with Tel Aviv on normalizing ties—a move which goes against Arab consensus. The peninsula is also the first Gulf state to raise an Israeli flag in its capital’s skies.
On one hand, Doha outspokenly supports Palestinian rights, but then moves closer to grotesquely normalizing ties under the table with Tel Aviv.
In February, Qatari diplomat Mohammed Al-Emadi was kicked out during a hospital tour in Gaza by a rally of angered Palestinians. Fury took over after Emadi trumpeted visiting Israel and signs of ties being established.
The senior diplomat said he has visited Israel twenty times over the last four years-- all these trips were made covertly.
What about Turkey's close political and economic relationship with Israel ?! After recent IDF –Gaza violence, Ankara asked the Israeli ambassador to leave Turkey ‘temporarily’. But ruling party AKP deputies objected to a draft resolution presented by the opposition bloc to parliament stipulating the cancellation of all political, commercial and military agreements with Israel. Turkish-Israeli trade exchange amounted to about $5 billion in 2017 alone. Countries nurturing ties with Israel are clearly the first to sell out on Palestinian blood in order to preserve personal political and commercial interests, unlike other countries working both secretly and openly to unite Palestinian ranks and find a real solution to their cause.
It goes without saying that the Palestinian cause is the first and foremost affected by other states playing on their cause. Chanting anti-Israel slogans and adopting heated rhetoric is easy, but upholding firm and decisive positions is difficult. Passing in its darkest moment in the upshot of Arab Spring protests, the Palestinian cause, now more than ever, needs to bring the exploitation misleading Arab peoples’ positions and lowering their sympathy to an end.
Without a unified Arab front corroborating the true interests of the Palestinian people, there will never be peace with Israel.
At the April 15 Arab league summit hosted by Saudi Arabia and dubbed the “Jerusalem Summit,” Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz affirmed that “the Palestinian cause is a priority and will remain so until Palestinians obtain their legitimate rights.” History will only remember facts.Israeli minister Yisrael Katz said he saw “no reason morally and historically” not to recognize the Armenian genocide, adding that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who recalled the Turkish ambassador in response to the Gaza killings, “is truly an enemy”.
Israel's Ambassador to Ankara Eitan Naeh was publically humiliated over gruesome IDF violence against Gaza protestors.
Naeh was put through a strict security screening at Istanbul International airport, including removing his shoes, in front of media cameras.
On the other hand, the Israeli Foreign Ministry summoned acting Turkish ambassador to Israel, Umut Deniz, for a reprimand hearing.
Before he entered, he waited a long time and was searched and checked. The Turkish consul handling Palestinian issues in the West Bank in Jerusalem was expelled. Diplomatic representation between the two countries has declined massively in light of the new crisis. The spat erupted between the two countries after dozens of Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli soldiers at the border fence with the Gaza Strip. Erdogan issued statements condemning Israel, saying that the hands of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were stained with the blood of innocent Palestinians, considering Israel an apartheid and terror state. Immediately afterwards, Netanyahu responded by saying that whoever kills innocents in Syria and Iraq has no right to accuse others. Netanyahu also accused Erdogan of “supporting Hamas terrorism.” The statements then turned into actions with both administrations expelling and humiliating diplomats from both countries.