May 21/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honour your father and mother’ this is the first commandment with a promise
Letter to the Ephesians 06/01-09: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honour your father and mother’ this is the first commandment with a promise: ‘so that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.’ And, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ; not only while being watched, and in order to please them, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. Render service with enthusiasm, as to the Lord and not to men and women, knowing that whatever good we do, we will receive the same again from the Lord, whether we are slaves or free. And, masters, do the same to them. Stop threatening them, for you know that both of you have the same Master in heaven, and with him there is no partiality."
Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 20-21/18
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres Demands Lebanese Government to Prohibit 'Hezbollah' from Acquiring Weapons/Asharq Al Awsat/May 20/18
What’s Next with Iran/David Ignatius/The Washington Post/May 20/18
Russia Sets Out to Sanction Western Sanctions/Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg/May 20/18
Abadi and Sadr: The path towards an Iraqi national cabinet/Hassan Al Mustafa/Al Arabiya/May 20/18
Santa Fe, Texas: Another ‘terrorist’ school shooting/Walid Jawad/Al Arabiya/May 20/18
Secularism: Differences among academics, radicals and Orientalists/Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran/Al Arabiya/May 20/18
How the Iraq war undermined the Responsibility to Protect doctrine/Kerry Boyd Anderson/Arab News/May 20/2018
Iran's Leaders at War with Western Civilization/Why is the West Putting Up with It?/Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/May 20/18
Trump ME peace plan: Half West Bank for Palestinians, Abu Dis as capital/DEBKAfile/May 20, 2018

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published 
on May 20-21/18
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres Demands Lebanese Government to Prohibit 'Hezbollah' from Acquiring Weapons
Saudi Arabian embassy in Lebanon hosts Iftar in honor of Prime Minister Saad Hariri
Hariri speaks at Saudi embassy iftar: ‘Lebanon’s Arabism is a red line’
Lebanon’s Nadine Labaki Wins Jury Prize at Cannes Film Festival
Maronite Patriarch Warns of State of Economic Emergency
Berri Sources: Vote Plunged Lebanon into Dangerous Phase
Jumblat Meets Berri, Endorses Ferzli for Deputy Speaker
LF Says Hariri-Geagea Talks 'Turned Page on Disagreement'
Qaouq: Saudi Doesn't Want Hizbullah in New Govt.
Nadine Labaki Dedicates Her Cannes Prize to Poor Kids
Hariri Says 'Entire Lebanon Proud' of Labaki's Cannes Win
Report: Franjieh, Miqati Won’t Join Parliament Blocs
'Phoenician Ship' made of plastic bottles sails from Byblos to Beirut Port
ElKhalil: Internal, regional challenges entail acceleration of national unity government formation
Bou Assi says transparency and sovereignty are Lebanese Forces objectives
Sanctions on Hezbollah will hinder cabinet formation
Batroun Festivals launch their activities for Summer 2018, Guidanian, Bassil confirm their international standards
Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May on May 20-21/18
In first US foreign policy speech, Pompeo to discuss ‘totality of Iran’s threats’
First ISIS fighters evacuate south Damascus around Yarmouk Camp
Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr meets PM Abadi, hinting at coalition
Europe, China, Russia discussing new deal for Iran
Iraq: Battle for Largest Parliamentary Bloc Heats Up
Iran Relies on Europe for Saving its Oil Exports
Saudi Air Defenses Intercept Houthi Ballistic Missile
4 Rebels Dead in Attack on Church in Chechnya
U.S., French Fire Backs Advance against IS in East Syria.
Syria Rehab Center Seeks to Tame 'Caliphate Cubs'
South Syria Factions Renew Fighting ISIS-affiliated Group
Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on May 20-21/18
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres Demands Lebanese Government to Prohibit 'Hezbollah' from Acquiring Weapons
New York - Ali Barda/Asharq Al Awsat/May 20/18
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres demanded the Lebanese government to take “all necessary measures to prohibit 'Hezbollah' from continuing to acquire weapons,” warning from the severe repercussions of the ongoing involvement of the pro-Iranian party in the Syrian crisis.
Asharq Al-Awsat received on Saturday an advanced version of Guterres’ latest report on the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1559 related to the withdrawal of foreign forces from Lebanon and the disarmament of militias. In his report, the UN Secretary-General cautioned that the widespread proliferation of weapons outside the control of the State, combined with the continued existence of heavily armed militias, undermines the security of Lebanese citizens. Guterres said he was “extremely concerned” that Hezbollah continues to operate outside the control of the Lebanese state by possessing weapons outside government control. He said he was also warned from the repercussions of Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syrian war, saying that such interference reveals “the failure of Hezbollah to disarm and its refusal to be responsible in front of Lebanese state institutions.”
Guterres also expressed his concerns about information reporting the involvement of Hezbollah and other Lebanese members in fighting spread across other regional areas, a development which carries the threats of implicating Lebanon in regional conflicts. Referring to the tours conducted by leaders from the Iranian-backed Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia and other Iraqi Shiite militias at the border area between Lebanon and Israel, Guterres said, “The unauthorized visits of foreign militia members to southern Lebanon undermines the state authority and contradicts the spirit of the dissociation policy.”
He demanded Hezbollah and all concerned parties to stop any military activities inside or outside Lebanon. The UN Secretary-General then called on the Lebanese government to take all measures necessary to prohibit Hezbollah and other armed groups from acquiring weapons and building paramilitary capacity outside the authority of the State.

Saudi Arabian embassy in Lebanon hosts Iftar in honor of Prime Minister Saad Hariri
Arab News/May 20/2018 /BEIRUT: The Saudi Arabian Charge d’Affaires in Lebanon, Walid bin Abdullah Bukhari, held a Ramadan Iftar banquet at his residence in Al-Birzeh on Saturday evening in honor of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri in presence of Adviser at the Saudi Royal Court Nizar Al-Alula. Bukhari delivered a speech welcoming all, praising the distinguished relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Republic of Lebanon. For his part, the Lebanese Prime Minister also delivered a speech in which he stressed the depth of relations between the two countries.
“All the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia wants from Lebanon is to remain united in facing the challenges and to maintain our Arabism and our commitment to the Taif Agreement,” he said, adding that “the history of the Kingdom with Lebanon is good and full of cooperation.”Hariri expressed his thanks and appreciation to Saudi leaders for their permanent standing alongside Lebanon, saying: “The Kingdom has always wanted stability, safety, development and peace for Lebanon.”

Hariri speaks at Saudi embassy iftar: ‘Lebanon’s Arabism is a red line’
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Sunday, 20 May 2018/The Saudi embassy in Lebanon on Saturday held an iftar (meal to break the Ramadan fast) banquet attended by Lebanon’s diplomats, representing a mix of political parties and all sectarian components in the country. Among the attendees were Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri and Saudi envoy Nizar Al Alula. Saudi Charge d'Affaires in Lebanon Walid al-Bukhari welcomed the invitees, saying: "Welcome to the House of Saudi Arabia in Lebanon, home of all the Lebanese."On the occasion, Hariri said: “This Saudi home brings together all the Lebanese and does not differentiate between them … What Saudi Arabia wants from the Lebanese is to remain unified and preserve our Arabism and our commitment to the Taif agreement." He called on Lebanon to distance itself from problems in the region and to protect the country’s Arab identity, in a reference to the Iranian-backed Hezbollah and its creeping influence in Lebanese politics."Saudi Arabia’s history with Lebanon is full of greatness and love, and we cooperate with all the honorable people in the country to honor this history and adhere to the best relations with brotherly Arab countries. Interference in our internal affairs, and we are required in return to distance ourselves from interfering in the affairs of brotherly countries, and to consider the Arabism of Lebanon a red line that can not be avoided. "He added: "The history of the Kingdom with Lebanon is full of good and love, and we cooperate with all the honorable people in the country on our time to honor this history and our adherence to the best relations with the brotherly Arab countries. Gulf Arab states have stood by Lebanon in its weakest moments, without interference in our internal affairs. In return, we are required to distance ourselves [from regional problems] and to consider the Arabism of Lebanon a red line that cannot be overstepped."

Lebanon’s Nadine Labaki Wins Jury Prize at Cannes Film Festival
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 19 May, 2018/Lebanese director Nadine Labaki won on Saturday the Jury Prize at the 2018 Cannes film festival for “Capernaum”, the story of a destitute Beirut boy who takes his parents to court for bringing him into a miserable existence. She was only the second Arab woman to have a film in the running for the Palme d'Or, after Lebanon's Heiny Srour in 1974 (the year of Labaki's birth). The Palme d'Or ultimately went on Saturday to Hirokazu Kore-eda of Japan for his touching film "Shoplifters". Labaki’s third feature, which won a 15-minute standing ovation at its premiere, catapults her into the big league after "Caramel", her intimate debut about a Beirut beauty parlor, and "Where Do We Go Now?", about women on a mission to end sectarian violence in their village. This time the main protagonist is a foul-mouthed 12-year-old street kid. Labaki told Agence France Presse that in the past she found herself amplifying women's voices because "it was a subject I was more versed in than men" but "never really felt pressure to talk about women just because I am a woman.""There are other things bothering me now," she said, citing the dense thicket of issues tackled in "Capernaum". "I'm thinking of the notion of borders, of having to have papers to exist, of being completely excluded from the system if you don't have them, of the maltreatment of children, modern slavery, immigrant workers, Syrian immigrants -- all these issues where people find themselves completely excluded from the system because it is not capable of finding solutions." Labaki does not spare the rod with her homeland, at the risk of being accused by the Lebanese of washing their dirty laundry in public.  "Obviously it's a huge risk but we must stop making excuses, it's a reality that exists and we cannot continue to bury our heads in the sand," she insisted. For the director who turned to films for escapism during Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war, "cinema is not only about making people dream." "It's about changing things and making people think." Labaki found the idea for the film staring her in the face one night when she was driving home from a party and saw a child half-asleep in the arms of his mother begging on the pavement. "It became an obsession for me... I did more than three years of research. I was trying to understand how the system fails these kids."This year's festival, which featured five directors from North Africa and the Middle East, is one of the best in half a century for Arab cinema. Three of the filmmakers are women but gender equality takes a back seat to poverty, class and social stagnation in this crop. Labaki is lukewarm about the campaign for gender quotas in film casts and crews fronted by Hollywood actresses, including jury president Cate Blanchett, in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. "It's not just because we decide that there should be parity in a given domain that it is truly merited. Whether it's a man or a woman it must be truly on merit."The glamorous director, who was a red-carpet guest of French President Emmanuel Macron at a dinner in Paris last year, started out making advertisements and music videos for artists like Lebanese pop icon Nancy Ajram.

Maronite Patriarch Warns of State of Economic Emergency 20th May 2018/Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi warned that Lebanon is facing a state of economic and financial emergency which requires an anti-corruption plan, stressing the need to clear all the hurdles that would delay the formation of a new government. “Parliamentary seats and ministries are not owned by anyone; they belong to the people,” Al-Rahi said in his Sunday sermon. “Lebanon is suffering from many internal crises. Now that the parliamentary elections are over, Christians forces ought to work on building unity,” he added.

Berri Sources: Vote Plunged Lebanon into Dangerous Phase
Naharnet/May 20/18/The latest parliamentary elections have plunged the country into a dangerous phase due to the “sectarian incitement” that marred the electoral campaigns, sources close to Speaker Nabih Berri have said, while noting that “there is insistence on overcoming this situation after the polls.”“The Baabda meeting between President Michel Aoun and Speaker Berri focused on key issues such as the Syrian refugee crisis, the economic situation and the regional situation,” the sources told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper in remarks published Sunday. The two leaders “stressed that Lebanon should not waste the chance that was provided by the CEDRE conference,” the sources added, referring to an international meeting for supporting Lebanon's economy that was held in Paris. “Speaker Berri had already discussed these topics with Prime Minister Saad Hariri,” the sources revealed.
Berri and Hariri “fully agreed on the need to accomplish two essential events: the election of a Speaker and a Parliament Bureau and the formation of a new government, especially that the president had previously announced that his term would only kick off after the elections.”The sources also noted that “the shape of the parliamentary and political blocs has not yet crystallized,” adding that the picture might become clearer with the formation of the new government.

Jumblat Meets Berri, Endorses Ferzli for Deputy Speaker
Naharnet/May 20/18/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat on Sunday held talks in Ain el-Tineh with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. Jumblat was accompanied by MP Ghazi Aridi of his Democratic Gathering bloc. After the meeting, Jumblat confirmed that the PSP's MPs will vote for Berri in a parliamnetary session widely expected to see the Speaker re-elected for a sixth term as head of parliament, a post he has occupied since 1992. Jumblat also announced that he will instruct his bloc's MPs to vote for veteran politician Elie al-Ferzli for the deputy speaker post.
Ferzli, who is now close to President Michel Aoun, had served as deputy speaker in the past. Berri and Jumblat have maintained good ties since the days of the 1975-1990 civil war.

LF Says Hariri-Geagea Talks 'Turned Page on Disagreement'
Naharnet/May 20/18/The latest meeting between Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geageaa “has turned the page on the disagreement of the past months” between the two parties, an LF official said. Geagea “wanted the meeting to be the beginning of a new and productive political phase that can improve people's lives and restore confidence with the formation of the new government, after benefiting from the positive shock that was created by the elections,” LF spokesman Charles Jabbour told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper in remarks published Sunday.
He noted that the meeting at the Center House “laid the foundations for the new phase, starting by keenness on sovereignty, the rise of a real state and rapprochement and communication with the sovereign forces over issues related to sovereignty.”Jabbour added: “The relation between al-Mustaqbal Movement and the LF has been restored and coordination mechanisms have been devised based on the belief in sovereignty that both Hariri and Geagea share.” He also noted that “there is an agreement between the two parties in the government and regarding the general policies, which starts with issues related to sovereignty and involves social issues among other files.”Relations between the LF and Mustaqbal were strained after some Mustaqbal officials accused the LF of encouraging Saudi leaders to force 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."

Qaouq: Saudi Doesn't Want Hizbullah in New Govt.
Naharnet/May 20/18/A senior Hizbullah official on Sunday accused Saudi Arabia of seeking to keep his group out of the new Lebanese government. "Saudi Arabia's declared and undeclared wish is to see Hizbullah outside the new Lebanese government, but the coming days will prove that the Saudi regime is weaker than being able to prevent Hizbullah from joining the government with proactive ministers," Hizbullah Central Council member Sheikh Nabil Qaouq said. He stressed that "Lebanon is not the right arena for Saudi Arabia to achieve gains at the expense of the resistance," adding that "the Lebanese arena will remain immune to Saudi diktats and orders."The Hizbullah official also charged that "the same as Saudi Arabia interfered in the parliamentary elections, today it is involved in efforts to form a parliamentary front aimed at confronting and besieging the resistance in order to weaken it and exhaust it."

Nadine Labaki Dedicates Her Cannes Prize to Poor Kids
Naharnet/May 20/18/Lebanese filmmaker Nadine Labaki, who won one of the top prizes at Cannes on Saturday with a story of dirt poor children and migrants, dedicated her award to her impoverished amateur cast and her homeland. Labaki is the first Arab woman to have won a major prize at the festival and only the second to have had a film competing for the Palme d'Or. Her stirring film "Capernaum", whose 13-year-old Syrian refugee lead captured hearts in Cannes, had been tipped to win the Palme in a bumper years for films from North Africa and the Middle East. Accepting the third-placed Jury Prize, Labaki said her thoughts were with a 12-year-old cast member, who she discovered selling tissues on the street, and who had probably again spent the day with "her face pressed against car windows." "I really think about them (the cast). I hope the film will enable the voices of these children to be better heard and trigger a debate," she told reporters. The glamorous 44-year-old added that she was "almost ashamed to be wearing such beautiful dresses" to promote her film about a boy who takes his parents to court for bringing him into a miserable, loveless existence. "Capernaum", which won a 15-minute standing ovation at its premiere, catapults her into the big league after "Caramel", her intimate debut about a Beirut beauty parlor, and "Where Do We Go Now?", about women on a mission to end sectarian violence in their village. In an interview with AFP this week she said that while she had previously amplified women's voices she "never really felt pressure to talk about women just because I am a woman." "There are other things bothering me now," she said. "I'm thinking of the notion of borders, of having to have papers to exist, of being completely excluded from the system if you don't have them, of the maltreatment of children, modern slavery, immigrant workers, Syrian immigrants."She does not spare the rod with her homeland in "Capernaum", at the risk of being accused by the Lebanese of washing their dirty laundry in public. But as she triumphed at Cannes, Labaki was gracious with her country, "which, despite everything it is accused of, gets by as best it can," she said. "It has welcomed the most refugees in the world (relative to its population), despite not having have the means to meet the needs of its own population." But, she appealed: "We cannot continue to turn our back and remain blind to the suffering of these children who try their best to make their way in this capernaum (confused jumble) that the world has become."
Father's dream fulfilled
Labaki grew up during Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war to a father who missed out on his dream of becoming a filmmaker. "I said to my father, 'One day I will go to Cannes. So I have helped my father fulfill his dreams'," she said Saturday. She came face-to-face with the idea for her feature when she was driving home from a party and saw a child half-asleep in the arms of his mother begging on the pavement. "It became an obsession for me... I did more than three years of research. I was trying to understand how the system fails these kids." Zain Al Rafeea, who has been working as a delivery boy in Beirut until recently -- and who has only just learned to write his name -- turns in a performance in "Capernaum" that had critics brushing away tears. Being a mother helped Labaki craft some of the most moving scenes, featuring a gurgling breast-fed baby for which Zain has to fend after its migrant mother is arrested. But she expressed reservations about the campaign for gender quotas in film casts and crews spearheaded by Hollywood actresses in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. "It's not just because we decide that there should be parity in a given domain that it is truly merited. Whether it's a man or a woman it must be truly on merit," she told AFP.

Hariri Says 'Entire Lebanon Proud' of Labaki's Cannes Win
Naharnet/May 20/18/Prime Minister Saad Hariri was quick to congratulate Lebanese filmmaker Nadine Labaki on winning one of the top prizes at the Cannes festival overnight Saturday. “Congratulations to the director Nadine Labaki and all the crew of the film Capernaum on winning the Jury Prize at the Cannes cinema festival,” Hariri tweeted. “Entire Lebanon is proud of your success, Nadine,” the premier added. Labaki dedicated her award to her impoverished amateur cast and her homeland. Labaki is the first Arab woman to have won a major prize at the festival and only the second to have had a film competing for the Palme d'Or. Her stirring film "Capernaum", whose 13-year-old Syrian refugee lead captured hearts in Cannes, had been tipped to win the Palme in a bumper years for films from North Africa and the Middle East. Accepting the third-placed Jury Prize, Labaki said her thoughts were with a 12-year-old cast member, who she discovered selling tissues on the street, and who had probably again spent the day with "her face pressed against car windows."The glamorous 44-year-old added that she was "almost ashamed to be wearing such beautiful dresses" to promote her film about a boy who takes his parents to court for bringing him into a miserable, loveless existence. "Capernaum", which won a 15-minute standing ovation at its premiere, catapults her into the big league after "Caramel", her intimate debut about a Beirut beauty parlor, and "Where Do We Go Now?", about women on a mission to end sectarian violence in their village. As she triumphed at Cannes, Labaki was gracious with her country, "which, despite everything it is accused of, gets by as best it can," she said. Lebanon "has welcomed the most refugees in the world (relative to its population), despite not having have the means to meet the needs of its own population," Labaki said.

Report: Franjieh, Miqati Won’t Join Parliament Blocs

Naharnet/May 20/18/The Marada Movement of MP Suleiman Franjieh said that negotiations with ex-PM and MP-elect Najib Miqati to form a joint parliamentary bloc “did not lead to positive results,” al-Akhbar daily reported on Saturday. “Discussions with the former prime minister about joining the parliamentary bloc which Franjieh seeks to form in the parliament did not heap positive results,” Marada sources told the daily. MP-elect Toni Franjieh, son of Suleiman, and Miqati have won seats in Tripoli’s parliamentary elections. “Miqati refuses to join a bloc that is not under his chairmanship,” they said, adding “he is a former prime minister and has big popularity in the north which made him the first winner in his electoral district.” Al-Joumhouria daily on the other hand said, “the two men were in perfect agreement during a meeting they held on Friday, and that they have agreed to put efforts together in the interests of the North.”However, at the political level they reportedly agreed to work as two separate blocs.“Mikati will continue his contacts to form a parliamentary bloc with independent deputies,” said al-Joumhouria.

'Phoenician Ship' made of plastic bottles sails from Byblos to Beirut Port
Sun 20 May 2018 / NNA - A Phoenician-style boat made of plastic bottles embarked Sunday morning from the shores of the Port of Byblos, sailing towards the Port of Beirut, in a novel environmental initiative by the Chreek Society, in cooperation with the Lebanese American University - Byblos Campus and Byblos Municipality. Partaking in this cultural-environmental event was Culture Ministry Director-General Ali Samad, representing Culture Minister Ghattas Khoury, Mayor of Jbeil Wissam Zaarour, Lebanese American University President Joseph Jabbra, and Chreek Association Head George Ghafari, alongside Lebanese Red Cross and Civil Defense officials, LAU faculty and students and Byblos residents. In his word marking the event, Zaarour described the initiative as "an environmental symbol because the boat is made of 50,000 plastic bottles aimed at raising awareness about the dangers of this type of waste, in addition to its cultural symbolism by embodying the Phoenician vessels that were used for trade and export of Lebanese Cedar wood through the Jbeil coast."Zaarour named the vessel as, "Phoenician Ship", for its distinctive symbolism, praising the efforts of the Chreek Association and LAU students who worked relentlessly to yield this achievement. Outlining the initiative objectives, Zaarour said the project aims at drawing attention to the environmental damage caused by non-sorting of waste, especially plastic waste that does not decompose in nature, and reviving the history of Phoenician Lebanon, which was famous for its manufacture of ships, contributing to the development of civilizations.

ElKhalil: Internal, regional challenges entail acceleration of national unity government formation
Sun 20 May 2018/NNA - Member of the "Development and Liberation" Parliamentary Bloc, MP Anwar El-Khalil, deemed Sunday that "the internal and regional challenges render it imperative to accelerate the formation of a strong national unity government." Speaking before official and popular delegations who came to congratulate him on his re-election, El-Khalil said, "The Development and Liberation Bloc, headed by House Speaker Nabih Berri, is determined to push the internal political movement towards forming a government of national unity, capable of facing the internal economic, political and financial challenges, alongside the serious challenges at the regional level." He confirmed that under these circumstances, Lebanon will stick to its elements of strength, namely its national unity and its "army, people and resistance" golden equation, until the cloud of threats and greed towards our land and sovereignty withers away. Referring to US President Donald Trump's decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, Khalil deemed it "a historic mistake that will not change any equation," adding, "Israel is a usurping state and Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Palestine...the American decision does not give the occupying state any legitimacy." El-Khalil concluded by stressing that the "Development and Liberation" Bloc and other political allies are open to dialogue over the national defense strategy in light of surrounding threats, and is determined to implement the full provisions of the Taef Accord and the Constitution en-route to "building a state of citizenship and the abolition of political sectarianism."

Bou Assi says transparency and sovereignty are Lebanese Forces objectives
Sun 20 May 2018/NNA - Social Affairs Minister, Deputy-elect Pierre Bou Assi, said Sunday that transparency and sovereignty were the objectives of the Lebanese Forces Party. In an interview to "Radio Orient" Station, Bou Assi said that there is no point in involving Lebanon in regional conflicts, especially as the country suffers from a socio-economic crisis. He added that the self-distancing policy serves Lebanon's national benefit, deeming it a "sacred national duty." Referring to relations between Saudi Arabia and the Lebanese Forces, Bou Assi described them as "good and in favor of Lebanon, without any interference in internal affairs," noting that LF partisans were working to defend the self-distancing principle in service of the country's higher interests. Asked about LF's relation with the "Future Movement", Bou Assi said, "What brings us together is a thousand times more than what separates us...and supporters of the two parties have proved their desire for both leaders to establish mutual understanding." Reiterating that the two main objectives of the Lebanese Forces were transparency and sovereignty, he said that this position meant attachment to the State. "We want to anchor the concept of the State and total sovereignty, by which we refuse to have any armed party inside Lebanon, regardless of its affinity," Bou Assi underscored. The Social Affairs Minister stressed that "the needs and priorities of the State must be defined so that the government becomes productive and homogenous." He also highlighted the need to build the State in terms of harmony and coordination, in order to fortify unity and coexistence in the country.

Sanctions on Hezbollah will hinder cabinet formation
Sun 20 May 2018/NNA - Minister of Education and Higher Learning, Marwan Hamadeh, deemed Sunday that "the new U.S. sanctions on Hezbollah will hamper the government formation." Hamadeh, whose words came during an interview to "Voice of Lebanon" Radio Station this morning, urged the Lebanese counterparts to exert effort to "keep Lebanon away from political disputes in order to preserve its security and stability."

Batroun Festivals launch their activities for Summer 2018, Guidanian, Bassil confirm their international standards

Sun 20 May 2018/NNA - Batroun International Festivals Committee launched Sunday its program for the Summer of 2018 in a press conference held at the "Emigrants House" in Batroun, in presence of Foreign and Emigrants Minister Gebran Bassil and Tourism Minister Avedis Guidanian and several prominent dignitaries. In his word on the occasion, Minister Guidanian said, "The diversity and excellence that Batroun and every town and city in Lebanon offers is the most important...because the festival is the place where we share in portraying what is of value, significance and distinction." Guidanian commended the Batroun Festivals and all other international festivals taking place in various parts of Lebanon, "a nation that enjoys profound elements of nature, civilization, history and culture...a nation in which we may find something special in every corner, knowing that there are numerous other countries that do not have 10% of our cultural treasures, heritage, religious, historical and tourism resources," he asserted. In turn, Bassil deemed that today's gathering is a "new expression of the Batrounis' love for life and their desire to live in their city and nation the life they ought to live." "Summertime this year carries all goodness, tourism, stability and prosperity, and this is our hope," he added. "The Lebanese are thriving to confront all difficult and critical challenges, and are turning out victorious in the end, capable of preserving Lebanon, the nation of beauty and life," Bassil underscored. He concluded by thanking the Tourism Minister for partaking in today's launching event and for his support and contribution to all tourism activities, especially such remarkable festivals of world standards taking place on Lebanese soil.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 20-21/18
In first US foreign policy speech, Pompeo to discuss ‘totality of Iran’s threats’
Reuters, Washington/20 May 2018
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will outline a “diplomatic road map” and call for broad support from European and other allies to apply pressure on Iran to force it back to the negotiating table, a senior US official said on Friday, as Washington seeks to chart a course after it pulled out of a landmark nuclear deal. Rebuffing appeals from France, Germany and Britain, U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States 10 days ago from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers and ordered that sanctions be reimposed on Tehran. In his first foreign policy speech on Monday, Pompeo will call for broad support to address “the totality of Iran’s threats,” said Brian Hook, senior US policy advisor. Hook said US officials hoped economic pressure from renewed sanctions would lead Iran back to the table as it did a few years ago, leading to the 2015 nuclear accord. But it was not immediately clear whether the Europeans would support the plan as they try to salvage investment and trade ties with Tehran that followed the accord.
Hook said Washington was seeking a diplomatic outcome with Iran and sanctions were part of that. “The goal of our effort is to bring all necessary pressure to bear on Iran to change its behavior and to pursue a new framework that can resolve our concerns,” Hook told reporters. “We very much want to be, to have a kind of up-tempo diplomacy, one that’s very focused and very determined to achieve our national security objectives,” he said, adding: “We need a new ... framework that’s going to address the totality of Iran threats.”A senior European official whose country is party to the deal said there were concerns that the Trump administration was interested in pursuing “the maximum pressure and brutal show of strength idea” instead of negotiating. “We say that there has to be a negotiating method but if they are purely in the maximum pressure and brutal show of strength idea and they believe it will work because they believe it worked with North Korea then we will have a major problem,” the official said. The threat of US sanctions has already forced some European companies to pull back from Iran. German lender DZ Bank said it will suspend its financial transactions with Iran in July, while French gas and power group Engie also said it would end its contracts in Iran by November. This week, the US Treasury imposed sanctions against Iranian finance officials and financiers it said were linked to Iran-backed Hezbollah. Hook played down differences between the United States and Europe over Iran.
“We have a period of opportunity to work with our allies to try to come up with a new security architecture, a new framework,” he said, adding: “I think people are overstating the disagreements between the US and Europe.”Trump said the 2015 agreement did not adequately curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions or address Iran’s ballistic missile program and what the Trump administration views as its destabilizing role in the region.
Under the agreement Tehran agreed to limits on its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of sanctions against it. Iran has denied it sought in the past to develop an atomic weapon, saying its nuclear program has always been for purely peaceful purposes. Hook said the Iran nuclear accord had given countries a false sense of security and the United States wanted to ensure any new agreement covered not only Iran’s nuclear and missile capabilities, but also curbed its regional activities. “This involves a range of things around its nuclear program, missiles, proliferating missiles and missile technology and support for terrorists and its aggressive and violent activities that fuel civil wars in Syria and Yemen,” said Hook.In recent days, US officials have highlighted protests in Iran to illustrate economic discontent among Iranians and a reason Iran should return to talks. At least one person was killed and six others wounded in the southern city of Kazeroon, according to the semi-official Fars news agency on Thursday. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has assured Iranians that their oil-reliant economy can withstand new sanctions. “You have seen the protests in Iran and people have publicly expressed their dissatisfaction with a lot of the policies of the regime, which have not helped the Iranian people,” said Hook. Later, as he met his Dutch counterpart at the State Department, Pompeo also tweeted about the protests.

First ISIS fighters evacuate south Damascus around Yarmouk Camp
AFP, BeirutSunday, 20 May 2018 ظA first batch of Islamic State group fighters left their final stronghold in Syria’s capital early Sunday under a deal struck after weeks of fierce combat, a monitor said. “At dawn, six buses of ISIS fighters and their relatives left the Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp and adjacent district of Tadamun,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Abdel Rahman said the buses headed east for Syria’s vast desert, where ISIS still controls some territory. He had no details on how many people were aboard the vehicles, but said a majority of them were relatives of jihadists and not armed. The evacuations came a day after an apparent deal was reached to put an end to a ferocious month-long offensive to oust ISIS from its last positions in southern Damascus. Pro-regime forces, specifically Palestinian militias, had been fighting since April 19 to recapture Yarmuk, Tadamun, and the nearby districts of Qadam and Hajar al-Aswad from ISIS. The assault had killed more than 250 pro-regime forces and another 233 ISIS fighters, according to the Observatory. Fighting died down around midday on Saturday amid reports that an evacuation deal could be reached. Syrian state media on Sunday denied evacuations were taking place in Hajar al-Aswad, but did not mention departures from Yarmuk or Tadamun. Once a thriving district home to some 160,000 Palestinians and Syrians, Yarmuk’s population has fallen to just a few hundred people.

Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr meets PM Abadi, hinting at coalition
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishSunday, 20 May 2018 /A meeting between nationalist cleric Moqtada Sadr and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was held a day after the announcement of the Iraqi parliamentary election results to reaffirm close ties between both parties in forming a future government, a source close to Sadr revealed. A statement released by Abadi on Saturday said that the meeting with Sadr came for the sake of working together to speed up the process of forming a new government, and ensure that the government will be strong, provide services for the people and job opportunities, as well as increasing people’s standard of living and fight corruption. “During our meeting, we agreed to work together and with other parties to expedite the process of forming a new Iraqi government,” Abadi said at a joint press conference. The statement added that there was an understanding between both parties in the meeting that the future government needs to be inclusive. Sadr said that the meeting is a message of reassurance that the next government will be a “paternal” one, including and caring for all people of Iraq. “We extend our hands to everyone building the country, and for the decision to be an Iraqi one,” Sadr said, reaffirming the importance of speeding the government forming process that prioritizes the Iraqi people’s needs. Abadi called on all other blocs to accept the results and to follow legal procedures if they would like to object. He also stressed on the need for those who won the election to begin their role and tasks in parliament as soon as possible. Two days ago, Sadr invited Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the al-Hikma bloc who won 20 seats in parliament trailing in seventh place, to create a joint vision for the future. Sadr’s Sairoon electoral list captured 54 parliamentary seats, 12 more than Abadi’s. Winning the largest number of seats does not automatically guarantee that Sadr will be able to hand-pick a prime minister. Parties will have to align themselves to try and form a bloc large enough for the parliamentary majority necessary to nominate a candidate. The government should be formed within 90 days of the official results, but negotiations are expected to drag on for months. The election dealt a blow to Abadi, but he could still emerge as a compromise candidate palatable to all sides because he has managed the competing interests of the United States and Iran - unwitting allies in the war against Islamic State - during his term in office. With Reuters

Europe, China, Russia discussing new deal for Iran
Reuters/Arab News/May 20/2018
US President Donald Trump pulled the US out of a 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, saying that the deal did not stop Iran from pursuing its nuclear ambitions and missile program. Iran has struggled to achieve financial benefits from the deal, partly because remaining unilateral US sanctions over its missile program deterred major Western investors from doing business with Tehran. BERLIN: Diplomats from Europe, China and Russia are discussing a new accord to offer Iran financial aid to curb its ballistic missile development and meddling in the region, in the hope of salvaging its 2015 nuclear deal, a German newspaper reported on Sunday. The officials will meet in Vienna in the coming week under the leadership of senior European Union diplomat Helga Schmid to discuss next steps after the May 8 decision by US President Donald Trump to pull out of a 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, the Welt am Sonntag newspaper said, citing senior EU sources. Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China would participate in the meeting, but the United States would not, it said. It was not immediately clear if Iran — which has resisted calls to curb its ballistic missile program in the past — would take part. Under the 2015 deal, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in return for the lifting of most Western sanctions. One of the main complaints of the Trump administration was that the accord did not cover Iran’s missile program or its support for armed groups in the Middle East which the West considers terrorists. Concluding a new agreement that would maintain the nuclear provisions and curb ballistic missile development efforts and Tehran’s activities in the region could help convince Trump to lift sanctions against Iran, the paper said. “We have to get away from the name ‘Vienna nuclear agreement’ and add in a few additional elements. Only that will convince President Trump to agree and lift sanctions again,” the paper quoted a senior EU diplomat as saying. No immediate comment was available from the German foreign ministry. The EU’s energy chief sought to reassure Iran on Saturday that the 28-member bloc remained committed to salvaging the nuclear deal, and strengthening trade with Tehran. Officials from the EU, Germany and other countries that remain committed to the deal have said it would disastrous if EU efforts fail to preserve it. Iran has struggled to achieve financial benefits from the deal, partly because remaining unilateral US sanctions over its missile program deterred major Western investors from doing business with Tehran. The officials are looking for a new approach given an understanding that it would be difficult for European firms to work around new US sanctions, the newspaper reported. It said the new deal could include billions of dollars of financial aid for Iran, in line with an EU deal that provided billions in aid to Turkey for taking in millions of migrants and closing its borders, which helped end a 2015 migrant crisis. Iran and European powers have made a good start in talks over how to salvage the 2015 deal but much depends on what happens in the next few weeks, Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said last week.
Iraq: Battle for Largest Parliamentary Bloc Heats Up
Baghdad – Hamza Mustapha/Asharq Al Awsat/May 20/18/Parliament was unable to achieve a quorum for the convening of the emergency meeting, which was attended by only 105 deputies. A battle meant to form the largest parliamentary bloc in Iraq heated up Saturday after the election commission released the final results for the May 12 elections, which confirmed the victory of the Sayirun alliance of Muqtada al-Sadr and the Communist Party with most seats in parliament's total 329 members. The Fatah alliance came second with 47 seats, while the Victory (Nasr) alliance of incumbent Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi came third with 42 seats. During the weekend, the residence of al-Sadr in Al-Najaf became a destination for Iraqi leaders wishing to win the support of the Shiite cleric who had tipped the balance by winning 54 seats in the new Parliament. Fifteen days after final election results are released, the new parliament must hold its first session to choose the new Speaker before a new president is elected to then ask the largest parliamentary bloc to form a cabinet. It seems al-Sadr’s Sayirun alliance, the Victory alliance and the National Hikma (Wisdom) Movement headed by leader Ammar al-Hakim will be joining hands to form the biggest parliamentary bloc by allying with Sunni parties similar to Al-Wataniya Coalition, led by Iraq Vice President Ayad Allawi and Al-Qarar coalition led by Osama al-Nujaifi. Observers believe that the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), headed by Masoud Barzani, could join al-Sadr’s parliamentary bloc. On the other hand, Iran is weaving the threads of another bloc headed by Hadi al Ameri’s Conquest Alliance (al-Fatah) and former premier Nuri al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition.Early this week, Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander General Qassem Suleimani was in Baghdad for talks with his Shiite allies to save Tehran’s influences in Iraq. The Iraqi Parliament failed Saturday to hold an emergency session aimed to discuss the results of the recent parliamentary elections after failing to achieve a quorum.

Iran Relies on Europe for Saving its Oil Exports
London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 20 May, 2018/Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said on Saturday that US President Donald Trump’s decision to quit a multinational nuclear deal would not affect Tehran’s oil exports if the European Union could salvage the pact. After meeting with EU's Energy Chief Miguel Arias Canete, Zanganeh told reporters that every new decision in OPEC needs unanimity. "I believe that if the European Union helps us... the level of the oil exports of Iran will not change," added the Iranian minister. US Treasury indicated, following Trump’s decision on May 8, Washington would reimpose a wide array of Iran-related sanctions after the expiry of 90- and 180-day periods, including sanctions aimed at Iran’s oil sector and transactions with its central bank. EU wants to salvage the nuclear deal, which offers the Islamic Republic relief from economic sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program. Europe sees the agreement as an important element of international security. Meanwhile, BP Chief Executive Bob Dudley expects a flood of US shale and the reopening of OPEC taps to cool the oil market after crude rose above $80 a barrel this week.
Trump’s decision to exit an international nuclear deal with Iran and revive sanctions on the OPEC member country, as well as Venezuela’s plummeting output, has helped to lift oil prices to their highest since 2014. Speaking to Reuters, Dudley said that BP sees oil falling to between $50 and $65 a barrel due to surging shale output and OPEC’s capacity to boost production. “Clearly the withdrawal of the United States from the Iran nuclear deal has brought a lot of uncertainty to the market,” he said in an interview. Crude exports from Iran, OPEC's third-largest member, could drop by 300,000 to 1 million barrels per day as a result of US sanctions, based on BP internal forecasts. Dudley said he expected the figure to be “at the lower end” of the range. US Energy Information Administration boosted its forecast of growth in domestic crude production in 2018 to an all-time high of 11.17 million bpd, as shale drillers accelerate activity. The surge in US output has been offset by deep supply cuts for over a year by OPEC and other producers including Russia.
Saudi Arabia, assured key consumers that the world would have adequate supplies even if Iran’s exports dropped sharply. Markets have so far been able to absorb oil’s rise without impacting demand growth, but Dudley said a sustained crude price of over $80 would be unhealthy, adding: "I think when you get above $80, it is not a healthy price either.""Two years ago, when the price was $27, it was great for global growth, the engines of the consuming economies, but it was terrible for producing countries and that led to producing countries not being able to purchase things as well. That was not a healthy price," added BP Chief Executive. Although International Energy Agency (IEA) this week cut its outlook for oil demand growth in 2018 due to rising crude prices, BP still expects consumption to expand by 1.7 million bpd, extending a period of strong growth. The world has experienced an unprecedented decade of economic growth that is likely to continue even with sanctions and trade tensions between the United States and China, Dudley said. "We’re about to begin to see political factors creating trade dislocations, sanctions and things like that. They will have impacts here and there but the overall economic growth rates appear to be not overheated," he said. Commenting on Saudi Arabia’s claims that the situation on the global oil market remains unbalanced, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Friday that it will take time to assess if oil prices remain volatile or not.
On Friday, oil prices fell but Brent crude was on track for a sixth straight week of gains, boosted by plummeting Venezuelan production, strong global demand and looming US sanctions on Iran. The global benchmark on Thursday broke through $80 for the first time since November 2014, and investors anticipate more gains due to supply concerns, at least in the short-term. Brent has gained about 20 percent since the start of the year. US West Texas Intermediate crude futures for June delivery dropped 21 cents to $71.28 a barrel, a 0.3 percent loss. The contract was on track for a third straight week of gains.

Saudi Air Defenses Intercept Houthi Ballistic Missile
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 19 May, 2018/Saudi air defenses intercepted on Saturday a ballistic missile fired by the Iran-backed Houthis militias towards its territories.Spokesman for the coalition to restore legitimacy in Yemen Colonel Turki al-Maliki said that the missile was fired from Yemen’s Saada province towards the Kingdom. Soon after, the missiles fired another missile, which was detected by Saudi air defenses. It crashed in an uninhabited desert area. Maliki said that the second rocket was fired towards the city of Khamis Mushait. He accused the militias of deliberately firing missiles towards populated areas, deeming such attacks a violation of International Humanitarian Law. He added that hostile Houthi attacks against the Kingdom demonstrate that Iran was still arming the militias with weapons in blatant violation and defiance of United Nations resolutions.

4 Rebels Dead in Attack on Church in Chechnya
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 19 May, 2018/Four rebels were killed during an attack on a church in the Russian republic of Chechnya, officials said on Saturday. The Investigative Committee, Russia's top investigative agency, said two police officers were killed and another two were wounded in the clash. One churchgoer also died dead and another one was wounded. "According to early information, two policemen in charge of security at the church ... and a civilian were killed," the officials said. They added that "four rebels have been eliminated" while two other policemen were hurt. They also indicated a knife and a gun were found on the attackers behind the assault targeting the Archangel Michael church in central Grozny, and said police had prevented "more serious consequences and a larger number of victims." Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov had earlier told Russian news agencies that rebels acting "on the orders of a Western country" were seeking "to take believers hostage" in a troubled republic where Russia has fought two fierce wars with separatists over the past 20 years. The attack underscored security challenges in Russia as it prepares to host the Fifa football World Cup next month. Grozny is not scheduled to host any World Cup games, but the Egyptian team planned to use it as a training base. Kadyrov said the gunmen also carried axes and Molotov cocktails. He praised police officers who guarded the church for their courage and said the region would help the families of the officers who died. The Chechen leader said three of the attackers were residents of Chechnya and one came from a neighboring region.
U.S., French Fire Backs Advance against IS in East Syria.
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 20/18/Arab and Kurdish fighters were advancing on Sunday against the Islamic State group in eastern Syria thanks to close artillery support from allied American and French forces, a monitor said.
Earlier this month, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launched an assault with help from the U.S.-led coalition against IS fighters hiding out in a small sliver of desert territory near the Iraqi border. The jihadists control three main villages -- Hajjin, Sousa, and Al-Shaafa -- which all fall in Syria's eastern Deir Ezzor province. The SDF was closing in on Hajjin on Sunday after capturing a nearby hilltop the previous day, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. "There are intense clashes around Hajjin, and the SDF is advancing thanks to American and French artillery fire," Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP. He said coalition forces had been backing the SDF's operations with air strikes but switched to artillery as they drew closer to IS. The coalition confirmed on Twitter that "artillery from France" was supporting operations to defeat IS in the Euphrates River Valley. The SDF and their Western allies are present east of Syria's Euphrates River, which cuts diagonally across Deir Ezzor province. Rival regime forces, backed by Russia, are present on the western bank of the river. The SDF has already driven IS out of large parts of northern and eastern Syria, including the onetime jihadist capital of Raqa, with help from the coalition's air strikes, weapons and special forces advisers

Syria Rehab Center Seeks to Tame 'Caliphate Cubs'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 20/18/Thirteen-year-old Hassan may have committed atrocities for the Islamic State group, but instead of jailing him immediately, the Kurdish authorities in northeastern Syria enrolled him in a rehabilitation center. He was one of around 80 teenagers sporting trainers and tracksuits as they filled their lungs with chilly morning air in the courtyard of the Hori Center in Tal Maarouf. Aged 12 to 17, they had all been detained by Kurdish fighters or the U.S.-led Western forces who supported them during the battle to destroy the jihadists' self-styled "caliphate."Some are children of IS families, whose parents may be in jail, while others were directly recruited -- forcibly or voluntarily -- by the jihadist group. After their capture, they were selected for "rehabilitation" in line with the "second chance policy" of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) which controls the region. Local officials admit their prisons are full and say they are hoping a constructive approach can help mend ties with local tribes that once backed the jihadists. It was early 2018 when Hassan checked into the Hori Center, months after the opening of the sprawling complex of red-brick rooms and dorms framing a rectangular lawn. As the son of a senior IS commander in the Syrian city of Raqa, once the de facto capital of the jihadists' proto-state, he regularly witnessed beheadings. The Kurdish forces who captured him found a picture that shows him proudly holding a severed head, but whether the boy ever killed anyone himself isn't clear. "When he arrived, like many of them, he didn't say hi, didn't shake our hands and didn't look us in the eye," said Roka Khalil, one of the center's two directors.
- 'Easily fixed' -
The center is run by two secular women and its boarders are asked to shave and give up their traditional garments for Western-style clothes. Moving there was a culture shock for Hassan. Like other teenagers IS called the "cubs of the caliphate", he had been subjected to the group's efforts to impose its brand of violence and religious conservatism on an entire generation. Now, some of those youngsters are housed in dormitories where they have no access to phones or the internet but where staff are available day and night, said Abir Khaled, the center's co-director. "We consider them as humans, as victims of the war," she said.While most of the children are Syrian, the centre also hosts former "cubs" from countries including Turkey and Indonesia. Their days follow a strict routine that includes a lot of sport, particularly volleyball, various chores on the compound and workshops training them to become barbers and tailors. Also central to the rehabilitation process is a curriculum that includes history, geography, Arabic and Kurdish classes, as well as a "morality" class. Many have experienced poverty, received very little education and grew up in tough family environments. Four of them were dispatched by IS to carry out a suicide operation but surrendered instead, according to the center's staff. "It shows that their ideology is not that deep, and can be easily fixed," said Khalil.
Music replaces 'paradise'
A third of the Hori Center's "guests" have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from six months to seven years, but Kurdish authorities believe they can be rehabilitated if they are given a supportive environment. If their conduct is good at Hori, their sentences may be reduced and they could be released to their families within months. Hassan is now awaiting trial and Khalil said he may be given a term of up to three years, although that could be reduced. The Hori Center's egalitarian and social values are directly inspired by those of the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), Abdullah Ocalan. The charismatic leader, who has been imprisoned by Turkey since 1999, is the main ideological reference of the PYD, whose armed branch controls swathes of northern and eastern Syria. Ocalan's portrait is plastered all over the region, where supporters see him as a visionary leader but his critics denounce him as a Marxist autocrat -- or even a terrorist. The self-proclaimed Kurdish administration insists the Hori Center is not designed to implant PYD ideology in the heads of its young boarders, replacing one brainwashing with another. Yet at Qamishli's Alaya prison, which AFP was allowed to visit and where some of Hori's "patients" were previously detained, the wooden models carved by inmates were often in the image of Ocalan. Khalil said it was too early to describe the center's activities as a success, but stressed that results were already tangible. "Today, lots of them come to talk to us by themselves," she said. "Hassan doesn't insult his classmates any more when there is a dispute, he doesn't believe in paradise and the virgins any more, he even listens to music."

South Syria Factions Renew Fighting ISIS-affiliated Group
London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 20 May, 2018/The Free Syrian Army has launched a new battle against Khalid ibn al-Walid Army that belongs to ISIS, south Syria. El-Dorar Al- Shamia said Saturday that the Free Syrian Army factions started a new battle in the purpose of kicking out Khalid ibn al-Walid Army from Yarmouk Basin. Fierce clashes took place between the two sides, coinciding with shelling on the group locations. The southern front factions launched earlier several battles for the sake of restoring control over regions ruled by Khalid ibn al-Walid Army. This army controls the majority of Yarmouk Basin towns, and has launched a sudden attack in February 2017 in which it took by force new towns, controlled earlier by the opposition factions. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that the clashes were renewed in the western strip of Daraa countryside in which Yarmouk Basin and regions in the surrounding of Masakin Jalin witnessed a fire exchange between Islamic factions and fighters of Khalid ibn al-Walid Army. These clashes coincide with continuous reinforcement by Khalid ibn al-Walid Army in regions ruled by it, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. It has been monitored that the army threw fliers in regions controlled by the Islamic fighters in western Daraa countryside. Further, the Syrian regime forces and ISIS denied Saturday reaching an agreement by which ISIS evacuates Yarmouk Camp. Russia Today reported from field sources that the clashes between the two sides stopped since 12 noon and until 5 in the morning. ISIS showed readiness to withdraw its members and families, a total of 17000. ISIS announced that its members are still clashing with the regime forces, noting that the death toll reached 900 since 28 days and 37 vehicles were destroyed.
Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 20-21/18
What’s Next with Iran?
David Ignatius/The Washington Post/May 20/18
So what’s next with Iran? Even if you think President Trump has made a big mistake in withdrawing from the nuclear agreement, as I do, that’s not the end of the story. Where does this bumpy road lead?
What’s distressing about the Iran question is that nobody in this administration seems to have a good answer. Trump’s move was a chest-thumping political decision, not a clearly articulated strategy. An inflection point for Iran may lie ahead, after the death of 78-year-old Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, but that could be years away. And his passing, when it comes, could raise as many dangers for the United States and its allies as opportunities. Think of an Iranian Saddam Hussein. Good policy toward Iran should begin with a realistic assessment of the country. I’ve visited Tehran twice, and each time was struck by two things: Iran is a modern and sophisticated society, rich with promise, and its people dislike the reactionary clerics who run the country’s political system. It’s a nation yearning to be normal, and for its revolutionary nightmare to end. That was one strategic rationale for President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal: It offered the prospect of gradual normalization and growth, under the relatively moderate leadership of President Hassan Rouhani. One of the deal’s weaknesses, alas, was that Rouhani could never curb the regional subversion campaign run by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.
A sane Iran policy would bet on the people and not the regime; it would avoid a risky war that would make Iraq look like a cakewalk. It would promote the rise of a strong and stable democratic Iran as an American national interest. And it would seek an eventual accommodation between a post-revolutionary Iran and a modernizing Saudi Arabia.
A second essential requirement is to avoid shooting Europe when we’re supposedly aiming at Iran. The most dangerous consequence of Trump’s policy is that it may force a confrontation with Europe by making its companies choose between doing business with Iran and the United States. Some Trump supporters may think this sounds smart, but it isn’t. It creates ill will, to no good purpose. And it may be a loser in international courts. A third key task is to plan for economic instability in Iran and the Arabian Gulf region. Iran is hustling to export oil while it can; traders in the bazaar are rushing to get money out of the country; the Iranian currency will weaken; unemployment and dislocation will grow. Trump may think he can benefit from economic chaos, and perhaps over time he will. But right now, the last thing the Middle East needs is another failed state — especially when it might widen the sectarian wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, like a zipper being ripped open.  Trump has almost guaranteed that normalcy won’t come anytime soon for Iran. By withdrawing from the nuclear agreement, he has put that country on a slow boil. Trump may hope to bend Iranian behavior without war. But there’s no sign that he has a plan for how to accomplish that, nor a strategy for ending the wars in Syria and Yemen. Trump’s first year as president unfortunately convinced him that his trademark disruptive approach is a success. He thinks his bullying of North Korea has worked, as has his trade-war rhetoric with China. So, of course, he overturned the Iran nuclear agreement, too. The strangest aspect of Trump’s gamble on Iran is that it’s so reminiscent of President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003.

Russia Sets Out to Sanction Western Sanctions
Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg/May 20/18
Just as investment banks are cutting their growth forecasts for Russia because of a growing likelihood of new U.S. sanctions, Russian legislators are looking for a strong response. A proposal that could make it illegal to obey the penalties received preliminary approval from the the parliament’s lower chamber on Tuesday. It may not be Moscow’s final word, but it shows the Russian political elite is leaning toward deeper self-isolation.
The bill, sponsored by the speakers of both chambers of parliament and the leaders of all parliamentary factions, proposes a sentence of up to four years in prison for applying any foreign sanctions in a way that restricts the ability of Russian citizens or entities to perform “ordinary economic operations or deals.” The U.S. and its allies initially imposed sanctions on Russia in response to its aggression against Ukraine in 2014. At first, the penalties focused on travel bans and asset freezes, but they were gradually strengthened to restrict borrowing and access to U.S. technology for state-controlled companies and to make it impossible for some businesses deemed close to the Kremlin to trade with the U.S. More Russian companies could be hit in another round of sanctions.
Given the prominence of the new bill’s sponsors, it’s likely that it eventually will become law, but probably with some Kremlin-prompted amendments. The giant state-controlled banks that are the backbone of Russia’s financial system -- Sberbank and VTB -- are the obvious exceptions, as neither has branches in Crimea. Although both banks are subject to U.S. and European sanctions limiting their ability to borrow in Western markets, working in Crimea would expose them to asset seizures and full-blown pariah status.
“You can imagine the price of this matter for Sberbank, for the nation’s financial system and Russia’s competitiveness,” Herman Gref, Sberbank’s chief executive officer, said in 2017 of his decision to stay out of Crimea. “There is no scheme that would allow us to work there without being hit by the entire pool of sanctions.”A four-year sentence for Gref isn’t what the legislators or President Vladimir Putin have in mind. Anatoly Aksakov, head of the parliamentary committee for financial markets, says the big state banks won’t be affected by the new law. This sets the stage either for amendments that will specify exceptions or, just as likely, for the time-honored Russian practice of selective application. The law can, for example, be used against the executives of foreign companies that operate in Russia and who refuse to deal with sanctioned companies (including much of the Russian defense industry) or take on projects or clients in Crimea. Germany’s Siemens, whose gas turbines ended up in Crimea last year, responded by fighting in the courts, withdrawing from a Russian joint venture and stopping supplies of energy equipment to Russia. Its managers would be obvious targets for the new bill. Exxon Mobil, which has scrapped some Russian projects because of sanctions but retained a strong presence in the country, could also be affected.
Generally, the bill targets any multinationals whose activity in Russia is restricted by the sanctions. That’s a potential blow to investment even as the U.S. government is more willing to introduce restrictions that can really hurt Russian companies: Rusal, the aluminum giant is threatened with losing its U.S. business, which accounted for 14.4 percent of revenue last year. “The impact of the sanctions could be viewed as similar to that of the demise of Yukos,” Goldman Sachs wrote in a report this week, recalling the Russian government’s takeover of the country’s biggest oil company in the 2000s. “The Yukos shock did lead to a significant slowdown in activity, and in investment activity in particular." Morgan Stanley predicted that the sanctions would “reduce private sector investment and increase the risk premium.” Both banks have cut their 2018 growth forecasts for Russia: Goldman Sachs to 2 percent from 3.3 percent and Morgan Stanley to 1.8 percent from 2.3 percent.
Russia’s economic output grew just 1.3 percent in the first quarter of 2018, compared with the year-earlier quarter. The Bloomberg consensus forecast is for gross capital formation -- investment minus asset disposals -- to fall to 3.2 percent this year from 7.5 percent in 2017. If the government cares most about the economy, this isn’t a great time to tell investors they could be prosecuted for applying Western sanctions. So Putin’s response to the anti-sanctions bill is a test of whether his priorities will shift toward the economy during his fourth term in power.
The signs are that the priorities will be the same as in the past six years, however. The new cabinet, which Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is in the process of forming, looks a lot like the old one. “System liberals” hoped former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin would get a senior post in the government or on Putin’s staff. Instead, he has accepted an offer to head the Accounting Chamber, a body meant to ensure budget compliance and that is peripheral to economic policy making. On Tuesday, Putin attended the inauguration of a new bridge linking the Russian mainland to Crimea, continuing to demonstrate his commitment to the annexed peninsula’s integration into Russia.

Abadi and Sadr: The path towards an Iraqi national cabinet
Hassan Al Mustafa/Al Arabiya/May 20/18
The Sairoon Alliance, led by Sayyid Moqtada al-Sadr, won the largest share of seats in the recent parliamentary elections in Iraq. Although he did not win an absolute majority, his alliance with the communists and other nationalist allies gave him ascendance over many of his rivals and competitors.
There are still chances that current Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi will be appointed prime minister again in alliance with Sairoon. However, observers had expected that his list — the Victory Alliance — would achieve better results and be the frontrunner in the elections and not among the first three winners.
The Fatah Alliance — which includes Hadi al-Amiri and represents the Popular Mobilization and those allied with it, specifically parties which support Iran’s policy — have gained a balanced presence in the parliament. Therefore, they constitute a political power that also has military presence on the ground and popularity among Iraqis. Only the Sadrist Movement competes with them in this popularity.
Popularly speaking, the competition between Sairoon and the Fatah Alliance will be fierce as despite the difference between the two movements, the disparate loyalties and mentalities which seem to grow even more distant, both movements rely on mobilizing the public because their power lies on the wide base in various cities, whose residents have middle to low incomes, and a very small category of the Iraqi elite which is a percentage that represents nothing compared to the two movements’ size.
Although political and cultural differences may lead to disharmony between Iraqi parties, they can create balance leading to mutual concessions
Haidar Abadi, thanks to his previous political experience with the Dawa Party and his experience as prime minister, has a very good practical and diplomatic experience that’s accompanied with a group of experienced aides. He thus represents the option of the political and technocratic category as well as of the educated category, much more than ordinary Iraqi individuals do.
Although these political and cultural differences may lead to disharmony between the leading parties, they can actually create some sort of balance that eventually leads to mutual concessions between the different movements, particularly the Sadrist Movement and Abadi’s alliance. This way, there will be an agreement on forming national unity and not a partisan government and that works on making the Iraqi decision making limited to local parties, seeks to be independent from foreign parties and keeps away from Iran’s domination or any other foreign domination.
The independence of the Iraqi decision, establishing good relations with surrounding Arab countries, specifically Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries, fighting financial and administrative corruption, improving Iraqi’s livelihood and combating terrorism are the points of convergence between Sairoon Alliance and the Victory Alliance. Thinking in a strategic way that’s not tense or minority-related will help both alliances form a cabinet that enjoys popular support and represents experienced political competencies. This is what Iraq needs and not militant mentalities and violence.

Santa Fe, Texas: Another ‘terrorist’ school shooting
Walid Jawad/Al Arabiya/May 20/18
The troubling thing about the latest school shooting is that it evoked minimal emotions; no horror, no rage. The Santa Fe high school shooting on Friday claimed 10 lives, and another 10 injured including a resource officer (the armed police officer assigned to the school), who was charged with the safety of the school. It's easy to make the case against the NRA mantra: “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun.” Although the argument came to mind, it was not the most dominant thought. I wondered why is it that no one calls the perpetrators of these atrocities terrorists?
It would be a different issue altogether if the shooter had been of Arabic origins or of Muslim persuasion. Similarly if that person had an Arabic/Islamic sounding name or was off-white on the brownish color spectrum. Inevitably, we would notice news channels move from discussing mental health issues and gun control to more sinister angles of homegrown-terrorist, lone-wolves, and Islamic Jihad.
When and if a school shooting would be carried out by a “brown kid” it would be a different national discussion. Immigration and border security would come to the fore. Perhaps assimilation and loyalty to foreign entities will become euphemisms for Islamophobic speech. I doubt most TV talking-heads will have the presence of mind to be politically correct. After all Islamophobia doesn’t appear to be a cardinal sin in this post 9-11 world.
Subconscious racism will be legitimized in the wake of such incident. We, as the “guilty” group, should not become indignant for the sweeping judgment. Instead of becoming defensive we should make sure to condemn these violent acts equating it to other school shootings. If one mass killing is a terrorists act, then all other incidents should be called terrorist acts, regardless of the ethnicity and beliefs of the perpetrator.
Islam was synonymous with terrorism post 9-11, when the Muslim world abdicated to Al-Qaeda criminals confusing the messenger for the purity of the Islamic message. It was a confusing time. The Muslim world bought into a narrative of victimhood where they were on the losing end in the perceived clash of civilizations of that period. Until the Muslim world claimed back their religion from its hijackers, Islam was the enemy of peace. Ironically when the word Islam is derived from the root word peace.
Terrorism: A judgment
Five hours into the news coverage, it dawned on Harris Faulkner, the Fox News anchor, that acts of violence in schools should be labeled by what they cause, terror. Surprisingly a couple of experts agreed with the classification.
Terror in its simplest definition is extreme fear. And in our prevailing narrative, is to instil fear in a community through anticipated random acts of mass violence. Nothing surprising there. School shootings have instilled fear in the heart and minds of American parents and students. Active shooter, lockdown, and shelter-in-place drills are common in most schools. Yet, the uncertainty of when, where, and how is frightening. The futility of these exercises deepens that sense of terror.
The average school shooting lasts 12.5 minutes, according to Homeland Security statistic. Casualties in this year's 22 school shootings were random targets of opportunity. In the last five years of school shootings, about 450 were shot of which 150 lost their lives. We don’t know much about why they do it. Some of the shooter are traumatized, psychopaths, or psychotic kids according to Peter Langman, the author of the book “Why Kids Kill.” Excluding mental disorders, I believe lack of resilience, the inability to overcome difficulties, is a big factor.
The recurrence of school shooting suggests a generation wide lack of toughness. Parents are to blame. Shielding kids from reality and babying them when they are challenged contributes to the problem. We know that these kids are capable and smart because they plot out their school shootings with meticulous detail. They overcome challenges and face uncertainty as they move into the execution phase of their sinister plan. Unfortunately, they’re unable to draw on that resiliency on daily basis under constant low-level adversity. When shooters reach the tipping point due to a slow but long build up, we get to discuss mental health and gun control around the clock on all news channels.
Kids and terrorism
The US had 15 juveniles brought to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, over the years. At the time of their arrest, some were as young as 14 (even a report of 13 year olds were arrested on the battlefields and detained in country). Couldn’t we explain their action in the same way we explain school shooters’, a result of trauma, psychopathy, or psychosis? I believe those explanations are not exclusive to school shooter. But there are other explanations, which are exclusive to battlefield youth. Some of them are recruited by virtue of their guardian’s decision to join the fight, or as an option to escape a worse reality (such as those orphaned by the violence they are embroiled in). There is no justification for dubbing a 13 year old as a terrorist. Teenagers can be manipulated to advance a terrorist organization’s political goals, but the groups strategic goals has little bearing on what drives the kids. Long-term goal of the fight is irrelevant in an environment focused on daily tactics, survival among violent adults, and focus on avoiding death on the battlefield. A far cry from the reality of School aged killers here in the the States. In this environment, teenagers seem to be inspired by other school shootings, plot to avoid others mistakes, and one up the latest massacre. The difference between the two youths is glaring. The duration of violent acts and frequency on the battlefield is long-term vs the very short duration of shoot-em up at schools. Once in motion, the battlefield kids are locked in risking their lives if they were to change their minds vs. school shooters who can abort their plans right up to the moment of brandish their weapons. Battlefield kids are led to believe they are committing violent acts in the name of righteousness while school shooting is selfish; a cry for help at best and sadistic pain inflecting rebelion at worst. Neither is acceptable. It is incumbent upon us, the adult, to understand the circumstances, which lead to such tragic ends. If both teenagers are terrorist. We must wonder if this classification is adequate. Describing all of these kids as terrorist is to expose this classification for what it really is, a catch all for any random violent act against a group.
Because we don't understand what motivates seemingly normal school kids to commit such atrocities, we are bound to focus on the tools used in their attacks. We keep talking about guns and the second amendment rights (It is ludicrous to discuss the second amendment, as it is not under threat on any level). As for access to guns, a student who is hell-bent on carrying out a school massacre will find a way to inflict the most damage. Let us be realistic, there is no control on pipe bombs or pressure cooker conversion to bombs and yet they are incorporated in some attacks. We can devise the most stringent controls over guns, yet school massacres will not end.
America will need to reexamine how it perceives the role of youth in society, how it treats them, how it educates them. Child protection must be redefined to protect children from self-destructive tendencies. Child rearing will need a revolutionary approach that is reflective of the technologically advanced world we live in. There are conditions to be met; we must satisfy children basic needs of nourishment, shelter, and safety as a base from which we can build on. The second layer of this dichotomy requires cultivating a sense of purpose. Adults must assign appropriate responsibilities, to foster a sense of agency. Consequences for their actions should be an exercise in self-reflection at home and school. Society will need to devise new opportunities for children to be engaged in their communities.
Education needs to incorporate a much bigger out of the classroom component. We must reimagine the classroom. We must redesign schools to be open, not turn its walls to fortresses and the classrooms to panic rooms. Schools must become part of the community instead of exclusionary to it. Schools should no longer be daycare drop off points where parents outsource the responsibility of raising their kids to educators. If we are successful, our youth will possess a wider perspective allowing them to understand their role within society. Only then, school shootings will be part of a dark period in America’s history, and our children will become resilient and will lead us to the future we are hoping for them to embody.

Secularism: Differences among academics, radicals and Orientalists
Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran/Al Arabiya/May 20/18
No concept has been distorted by Arabs and Muslims as much as secularism. It all began with the poor translation of the term and which did not end with explaining what it means. The explanation “the principle of separation of the state from religious institutions” remained common even among academics and intellectuals. However, secularism is more than that and carries several interpretations, dimensions, and multiple implementations. Thus, we cannot confine ourselves to just one political model as a basis to judge the difference between true and false secularism.
The aim of the concept is to establish a more earthly atmosphere, to keep religion impartial and spare it from the conflicts between the masses or between different individuals in the one state. Secularism is a concept that can be refined, built, expressed and repeated like any other political concept. All the tense and quick interpretations of secularism were met with outrage by scholars and thinkers alike, as was the case when Abdul Rahman Badawi attacked Fuad Zakaria and said he was advocating secularization. Another example is Mohammed al-Jabri who criticized secularism, thus provoking Tarabishi who compared him to Yusuf Qaradawi who said in a television program: “I am amazed that secularists have not been subjected to the punishment for apostasy.” In any way, al-Jabri's understanding of secularism was one of his weakest political analyses he ever made.
Islam and secularism
In his book Heresies, specifically in the chapter entitled “The seeds of secularism in Islam,” George Tarabishi debated Islamic arguments as well as academic and orientalist ones. He mentioned Bernard Lewis who said that Christianity separated the church from the state but Islam did not and it’s thus not possible for Islamic societies to develop within a typical analysis. This strengthened the idea that secularism is impossible in Islamic countries. In this sense, Tarabishi comments: “There are orientalists and specialists in Islamic studies, who are sustained by local professionals to defend Islam, who confirm with outmost certainty that Islam did not know the principle of separation between religion and politics, as Christianity did in the differentiation between the spiritual and temporal powers between the popes and the tsars, or the popes and the emperors during the reigns of the sacred Roman, Byzantine and Germanic empires and then between the popes and the kings until modernity came along and the nationalist state was established.”But is it possible for Tarabishi to present an example of a “secularization” tendency in Islamic history?
Tarabishi says: “When foreigners whether Turks, Daylamites and Seljuks began controlling the state around the third century AH onwards, the history of Islam went through the same stages as that of Christianity; starting from the distribution of power between the popes and emperors or between the popes and the kings. A Buyid Prince or a Seljuk Sultan emerged alongside the Abbasid caliph and seized the actual political power from him, leaving him with nothing but a mere symbolic religious authority. They controlled him (the caliph) to a great extent, much more than emperors controlled popes, by taking his throne, killing him or plucking out his eyes if necessary for entertainment purposes as was the case with the caliphs Al-Qahir, Al-Muttaqi and Al-Mustakfi.”Therefore, this refutes Islamic thinkers’ and some clerics’ and orientalists’ argument pertaining to the secular model that’s characterized with certain separations between the religious institution, the politics and reality. There is thus no point of repeating that naïve saying that it’s impossible to imagine the secularization of a Muslim society, or an entire country with a Muslim majority.
Conceptual misunderstanding
In his book The Impossible State, Wael Hallaq makes the same argument against those who claim that it is impossible to have models that separate between authorities or between the functions of the state. He says: “The famous Lebanese Orientalist Émile Tyan argued, and his argument enjoyed authority for many decades, that one ‘consequence of the concept of delegation was the complete lack of separation between the judicial and executive powers.’ This view is ill informed and entirely erroneous.” According Hallaq, Tyan is wrong due to several factors such as “the mitigating executive-judicial collusion, namely the paradigmatic moral force of the Sharia, which, as a rule, compelled judges and rulers alike to respect judicial independence.” Hallaq adds: “Put differently, judicial independence was integral to culture.”
At the end, the goal is to put an end to confusion that has lasted for over a century, since interpretations, results and patterns of secularism and Muslim societies’ relations with it are still being discussed. This confusion is due to not discussing the history of the concept and the history of states. This is in addition to issues which justify this sensitivity from the concept including ideological ones and the false claims of some tyrannical states that they follow a secular regime, as in the case of the Baathist regimes in Iraq and Syria.
The bet now is on the true understanding of the concept in order to find a way to explain it and to reassure societies about it.

How the Iraq war undermined the Responsibility to Protect doctrine
Kerry Boyd Anderson/Arab News/May 20/2018
In an interview for Prospect Magazine’s June issue, Emily Thornberry, the British shadow foreign secretary, argued that “the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) is on life support, and that the aftermath of the 2011 military action in Libya badly damaged the concept of R2P.
Certainly, Libya’s instability and the international community’s failure to protect civilians in the Syrian civil war have undermined those who advocate for humanitarian interventions, including through R2P. Before these two crises, however, the 2003 invasion of Iraq and subsequent years of war and instability crippled R2P just when it gained international approval. Humanitarian intervention encompasses a broad set of ideas about what countries and the international community should do to support people suffering from violence, natural disaster and other humanitarian concerns.
While R2P falls under that general umbrella, it is a specific doctrine adopted unanimously by the UN in 2005. R2P represents an effort to address the gap between respect for state sovereignty and respect for the most fundamental rights of people — a gap that was especially clear after the genocides and wars in the Balkans and Rwanda in the 1990s.
R2P posits that state sovereignty comes with responsibilities toward the people that a government governs. When a government is unable to fulfill its responsibility to provide basic protections to its people — or when a government perpetrates specific crimes against people under its care — then other states have a responsibility to step in. R2P applies to four very specific situations with particular meanings under international law: “Genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity,” according to the UN.
The George W. Bush administration did not explicitly cite R2P as a justification for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Bush’s foreign policy team primarily focused on concerns about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and alleged links to terrorism. However, the administration also argued that Saddam Hussein’s brutal treatment of many Iraqis was one reason to overthrow him, as well as promoting democracy.
It is unlikely that the Bush administration’s humanitarian or democratization arguments in 2003 would meet the standards set out by R2P. Nonetheless, the Iraq war set a precedent for large-scale military action based partly on humanitarian justifications.
The results — brutal war, many thousands of Iraqi deaths, lengthy and costly US military involvement, conditions that fostered the rise of Daesh and general instability — made leaders and publics around the world skeptical of arguments in favor of military interventions on humanitarian grounds.
The Iraq war and its aftermath dealt two significant blows to the R2P doctrine, just as it had potential to gain traction. The first was that the Iraq war provided an easy excuse to those who never liked R2P — especially the concept that sovereignty came with certain responsibilities to a government’s people.
As Iraq’s recent elections suggest, the history of the aftermath of the Iraq war is still being written. However, many world leaders took the lesson to mean that they should avoid large-scale humanitarian interventions, especially those involving military action
Russia in particular has expressed skepticism about R2P, which it sees as a potential threat to its interests and its views of sovereignty. Russia also sees R2P through the lens of US and European attempts to impose Western values on the rest of the world. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has repeatedly pointed to the invasion of Iraq as an example of why Washington should not consider military action in Syria.
A related problem for R2P is that the doctrine requires UN Security Council approval for military action, and the council’s paralysis is an obstacle. Multiple times, Russia and China have vetoed actions that they see as infringing on sovereignty, even for the sake of stopping the type of extreme, large-scale violence that R2P is designed to halt. An even more significant consequence was that the Iraq war strongly shaped the foreign policy choices of US President Barack Obama. While he reluctantly intervened in Libya with a multilateral coalition, he decided against significant military involvement in Syria to protect civilians from the Assad regime, even though the Syrian conflict clearly meets the R2P conditions.
Obama’s Ambassador to the UN Samantha Powers was a key advocate of the R2P principle, and some other members of his foreign policy team, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, advocated for stronger intervention in Syria. Obama overruled them for several reasons, including his views of the lessons of Iraq. He was clear that the experience of the Iraq war shaped his thinking on Syria, telling The Atlantic magazine in 2016 that “any thoughtful president would hesitate about making a renewed commitment in the exact same region of the world with some of the exact same dynamics and the same probability of an unsatisfactory outcome.” The hangover from the Iraq war was also a major factor in the 2013 UK vote against taking military action in Syria in response to President Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons, which in turn was one reason why Obama backed off from threats after Assad first used them. As Iraq’s recent elections suggest, the history of the aftermath of the Iraq war is still being written. However, many world leaders took the lesson to mean that they should avoid large-scale humanitarian interventions, especially those involving military action. While clearly it is important to learn the many lessons of the ill-conceived 2003 Bush decisions on Iraq, the Iraq war’s role in undermining the primary doctrine available for interventions to stop genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity adds to the other tragic consequences of the conflict. *Kerry Boyd Anderson is a writer and political risk consultant with more than 14 years’ experience as a professional analyst of international security issues and Middle East political and business risk. Twitter: @KBAresearch

Iran's Leaders at War with Western Civilization/Why is the West Putting Up with It?
Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/May 20/18
The archipelago of political Islam in Europe, from Tariq Ramadan to the Muslim Brotherhood, revolves around the orbit of the Qatar-Iran axis. Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood openly sided with Khomeini's revolutionaries as they overthrew the Shah, and now threatens Saudi Arabia and the UAE and others in the region.
After the revolution, for the first time, the Iranians declared war on their own cultural life: theaters were closed, concerts were banned, entertainers fled the country, cinemas were confiscated, broadcasting was forbidden.
Will Europe – the cradle of Western culture and civilization – open its eyes and stop regularly taking the side of the Iran's tyrannical ayatollahs?
The United States just withdrew from the Iranian nuclear deal. The move is fully justified not only on the grounds security, but primarily because Iran's Iranian Khomeinist revolution is a deadly and propulsive ideology that the West cannot allow to become a nuclearized one.
At the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, everything changed when Said and Sharif Kouachi murdered 11 people in its Paris office. Among the texts recovered on the Kouachi brothers' laptop was the Iranian call for death against the novelist Salman Rushdie, calling it "fully justified". The killers were inspired by Ayatollah Khomeini's deadly edict against Rushdie. The bloodbath at Charlie Hebdo is one of the poisoned fruits of the Islamic Republic. The Iranian ayatollahs fear the allure of Western culture. That is why, since 1979, they are at war with it.
The leader of Iran's Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini, pictured in 1979.
Never, before Ayatollah Khomeini's rise to power, was a writer forced to live under the threat of deliberate murder, with a bounty on his head, for criticizing Islam. Before the Iranian Revolution, no Arab was marked for death. Since Khomeini, murdering literary dissidents has become a routine: the Algerian writer Tahar Djaout, the Egyptian intellectual Farag Foda, Turkish writers murdered in Sivas, and recently butchered bloggers from Bangladesh. The fatwa against Rushdie was one of Iran's most successful attacks on Western civilization and efforts to intimidate the West.
U.S. flag-burning and chanting "Death to America" became common in the Middle East only after the Iranian takeover of the US embassy in Teheran. When Donald Trump pulled the US out of the nuclear deal, Iranian MPs in their Parliament burned the American flag. In the last few months, Iranian girls who took off their veil were arrested and beaten. It was Iran that made chador a symbol of political Islam. A woman wrapped in a black chador, the most severe form of hijab, has become one of the most visible images of the Islamic Republic.
Women never used to be covered in Egypt, Syria Afghanistan, Turkey, the Maghreb. Khomeini changed all that; he called it the veil "a flag of the revolution". It is not a coincidence that 1989 was not only the year of Rushdie's fatwa, but also when in France started the Islamic scarf controversy. A school principal told three Muslim teenagers that they could not attend high school in Creil due to the France's Contitutional commitment to secularism. The Islamic community started to fight for the right to veil their girls at schools. "We will keep it until we die", the Islamic fundamentalists in France chanted.
The hijab was first distributed by the Iranian embassy in Algiers. In Tunisia, the secular government was excommunicated by the Iranian fundamentalists after 1981, when the Tunisian government issued a circular prohibiting the use of a hijab in schools and public offices. In recent years, Iran has also managed to impose the hijab on a large number of European leaders and ministers visiting the country, thereby placing them in a humiliating state of cultural and symbolic subjugation.
The Iranian ayatollahs were the first formally to persecute the Christian populations in the Middle East. Today, Iran is on list of Open Doors' ten worst countries for Christians. The idea of attacking Jewish communities around the world is also an Iranian invention: in 1992 and 1994, the Jewish community and the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires were blown up. Until Iran's Revolution, no country had promoted a false Holocaust denial.
The archipelago of political Islam in Europe, from Tariq Ramadan to the Muslim Brotherhood, revolves around the orbit of the Qatar-Iran axis. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood openly sided with Khomeini's revolutionaries as they overthrew the Shah, and now threatens Saudi Arabia and the UAE and others in the region.
In the early years of the Revolution, a ferocious puritanism hit the nation. Thousands of "prostitutes", drug addicts and homosexuals were executed. In public places, revolutionaries attacked people who did not respect the stringent new codes of dress and behavior. Then, there were no Taliban, no ISIS, no Boko Haram. Since the Iranian Revolution, the idea of including sharia in national laws has spread throughout the Islamic world. After the revolution, for the first time, the Iranians declared war on their own cultural life: theaters were closed, concerts were banned, entertainers fled the country, cinemas were confiscated, broadcasting was forbidden.
The idea of using children as human bombs originated in was also advanced by Iran. As the German scholar Matthias Küntzel wrote, "Khomeini was the first to develop a full-blown death cult". During the Iran-Iraq war, the Ayatollah Khomeini imported thousands of plastic keys from Taiwan. The ayatollah sent these Iranian children through the Iraqi minefields in the direction of the enemy, to open a gap with their bodies. Before each mission, Iranian children were given a key to hang around their neck; they were told it would open the doors to paradise.
Since then, the baby suicide bombers made their appearance in Gaza, Iraq, Syria, Nigeria and Afghanistan.
The fatwas against "blasphemous" writers, the veiling of women, the attacks against Jews worldwide, the persecution of Christians, the abuse of children, the imposition of Islamic law... All these have been the poisoned fruits of Khomeini's revolution and the most direct challenges to the central features of the Western civilization. Will Europe – the cradle of Western culture and civilization – open its eyes and stop regularly taking the side of the Iran's tyrannical ayatollahs?
*Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author.
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Trump ME peace plan: Half West Bank for Palestinians, Abu Dis as capital
خطة ترامب للصراع العربي الإسرائيلي: نصف الضفة الغربية للفلسطينيين ومنطقة أبو ديس في القدس عاصمتهم

DEBKAfile/May 20, 2018
President Donald Trump sees his peace plan as a springboard for shaping an Israel-Arab track – even if spurned by the Palestinians at first. He is preparing for the second time to unveil the all-but complete peace plan in mid-June i.e., after the month of Ramadan, subject to the situation in the region, five administration officials informed US media on Friday, May 18. His son-in-law and senior advise Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, his special adviser for international negotiations, had originally been instructed to tie up the last ends in time for its launch with the US embassy dedication in Jerusalem on May 14. The spadework was in hand. The president had discussed the peace plan’s content with three Arab leaders, Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, UAE emir Sheikh Muhammad bin Zayed, the Qatari ruler Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, Egyptian President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi, as well as thoroughly briefing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan was invited to come aboard, but he rebuffed the offer – and that was even before he generated a crisis with Israel for its deadly confrontation with Hamas in Gaza.
Some of the elements incorporated in the Trump peace plan were revealed by DEBKA Weekly 798 on April 27
The plan will be released on the date scheduled by Washington, regardless of a boycott by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership.
The Arab world is expected to publicly nix the blueprint while keeping it afloat by offering to make the acceptable elements the basis for further discussions for an eventual peace deal between the Palestinians and Israel.
In search of a measure of Palestinian assent, the White House, Egypt and Gulf nations agreed to headhunt Palestinian figures living outside the PA domain, who hold different views from the Ramallah elite, and would be willing to underwrite the plan. Five eminent Palestinians have been found as possible candidates, including Abbas’ arch-foe Muhammed Dahlan. Feelers are still ongoing.
The Israeli prime minister will issue a cautious statement proposing that the Trump plan be the springboard for immediate negotiations with Arab governments on certain mutually acceptable points. Administration emissaries have buttonholed a wide range of Israeli political leaders, both in the government coalition and on opposition benches, who have agreed to look with favor on the Trump plan and not obstruct it.
Kushner and Greenblatt are assigned exclusively with the task of shepherding the peace plan from one stage to the next.
The Trump plan is not a definitive document. It is designed to generate momentum for key Arab governments, notably the three Gulf emirates and Egypt, to sit down with the US and Israel and start the ball rolling for peace talks. Since this will be a long process, the Palestinians will have a chance to jump in at some point. At all events, the Arab and Israeli governments are expected to establish a mechanism for airing common issues that will be open to co-optiong Palestinians.
Sources who have had access to the text told DEBKAfile that it addresses the subjects at issue in detail, including Jerusalem. They disclosed the following nine elements:
A Palestinian state will be established with limited sovereignty across about half of the West Bank and all the Gaza Strip.
Israel will retain security responsibility for most of the West Bank and the border crossings.
The Jordan Valley will remain under Israel sovereignty and military control.
.The Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem will pass to the Palestinian state, excepting the Old City, which will be part of Israeli Jerusalem.
Abu Dis east of Jerusalem is the proposed capital of Palestine.
Palestine and Jordan will share religious jurisdiction over the city’s mosques.
Gaza will be integrated in the new Palestinian state provided Hamas agrees to disarm.
There is no provision in the plan for the Palestinian refugees’ “right of return” – but a compensation mechanism will be established and managed by the international community.
The Trump plan mandates Israel’s recognition as the homeland of the Jewish people, and Palestine with limited sovereignty as the Palestinian homeland.