May 23/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
It is very important That we forgive for each other
Matthew 18/22-35/ Jesus said to him, “I don’t tell you until seven times, but, until seventy times seven. Therefore the Kingdom of Heaven is like a certain king, who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.  When he had begun to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But because he couldn’t pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, with his wife, his children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, have patience with me, and I will repay you all!’ The lord of that servant, being moved with compassion, released him and forgave him the debt.  “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him one hundred denarii,§ and he grabbed him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’  “So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will repay you!’  He would not, but went and cast him into prison until he should pay back that which was due. 31 So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were exceedingly sorry, and came and told their lord all that was done.  Then his lord called him in and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Shouldn’t you also have had mercy on your fellow servant, even as I had mercy on you?’ His lord was angry, and delivered him to the tormentors until he should pay all that was due to him.  So my heavenly Father will also do to you, if you don’t each forgive your brother from your hearts for his misdeeds.”
Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 22-23/18
All That Happens In Lebanon Under the Hezbollah Occupation is Rejected & Illegitimate/Elias Bejjani/May 22/18
Federation is a system, a mean, to resolve a problem/Dr.Walid Phares/Face Book/May 22/18
Screw your weapons. Your pseudo-resistance/Asma-Maria Andraos /Face Book/May 22/18
With Berri’s re-election sealed, focus shifts to new Cabinet/Hussein Dakroub/The Daily Star/May. 22/18
UN Chief Rips Into Hezbollah as Most Armed Militia in Mideast, Urges Group to Disarm/The Associated Press/Haaretz/ May 22, 2018
Middle East Conflicts No Longer Focus on Israel-Palestine: It's All About Iran vs. Saudi/The Associated Press and Haaretz/ May 22, 2018
Israel Launched World's First Air Strike Using F-35 Stealth Fighters, Air Force Chief Says/Yaniv Kubovich/Haaretz/May 22, 2018
The princes, the president and the fortune seekers/By DESMOND BUTLER and TOM LoBIANCO/May 22/18
European Companies are Fleeing Iran/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/May 22/18 The World is Heating Up, But Not Everyone is Staying Cool/Nathanial Bullard/Bloomberg/May 22/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published 
on May 22-23/18
All That Happens In Lebanon Under the Hezbollah Occupation is Rejected & Illegitimate
Federation is a system, a mean, to resolve a problem
Screw your weapons. Your pseudo-resistance
Pompeo Says U.S. to 'Crush Hizbullah Operatives' around the World
Govt. OKs 3-Year Extension for Power Ships as Cost Slashed
Several Troops Wounded in Clash with Fugitives in Tripoli
Senior Officers from UK Defense College Visit Lebanon
Lebanon: Last Cabinet Session Approves Dozens of Pending Articles
Eldest MP calls session of new Parliament
With Berri’s re-election sealed, focus shifts to new Cabinet
UN Chief Rips Into Hezbollah as Most Armed Militia in Mideast, Urges Group to Disarm

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 22-23/18
US sanctions five Iranians it links to Revolutionary Guard, Houthi militia in Yemen
U.S. to Put 'Unprecedented Pressure' on Iran, Asks It to 'Withdraw Forces' from Syria
Europeans Adhere to Nuclear Deal, Despite US Standpoint
Rouhani Minimizes Importance of US Sanctions on Iran
Sadr’s ‘Paternal’ Government Stumbles over Iraqi Politics
Israel Refuses to Cooperate with UN Commission of Inquiry on Gaza
Palestinian FM Submits Referral to ICC on Israeli Crimes
Taliban Attack Afghan Policemen as Minibus Bomb Causes Heavy Casualties
Despite US Military Optimism, Watchdog Says ‘Few Signs of Progress' in Afghanistan
Attacks on Healthcare in 2017: Syria Had the Highest Number
New Ebola Cases, Deaths Reported in Congo
Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on May 22-23/18
All That Happens In Lebanon Under the Hezbollah Occupation is Rejected & Illegitimate
Elias Bejjani/May 22/18
Sadly, our beloved country, The Holy Lebanon, is totally occupied by Iran through its Hezbollah terrorist proxy. Meanwhile all the top notch politician, parties, clergymen and officials with no one exception are shamefully subservient to the occupier and work under its umbrella with a 100% Dhimmitude education and mentality. Therefore any changed that might take place under the Iranian occupation like a new Federal System or any other constitutional amendments will be completely dictated by Iran to serve its denominational Persian scheme of expansionism and dictatorship. In conclusion, at the present there is no hope what so ever from the current politicians, parties or officials due to the evil fact that they all they all did succumb to the occupier.
Federation is a system, a mean, to resolve a problem
Dr.Walid Phares/Face Book/May 22/18
What is important about calling for a federal system in Lebanon is the reason for it, not just its technicalities. Germany, Switzerland, Canada, the US, Belgium or even the UAE have all different types of federations, for different historical reasons. Federation is a system, a mean, to resolve a problem. The last problem needed in Lebanon is to end up calling for a joke-federation of identical Iran-controlled provinces: Druze, Christian, Shia, Sunnis, all dominated by Iranian influence. That would defeat the initial purpose altogether. A federation in Lebanon needs to have all foreign domination out first, or on their way out.
Screw your weapons. Your pseudo-resistance
Asma-Maria Andraos /Face Book/May 22/18
Screw your weapons. Your pseudo-resistance. Your love for death and useless martyrdom. You have spread nothing but hate, horror, and destruction. You have killed hundreds of thousands of Syrian innocent lives. You have assassinated the best of our free-thinking Lebanese leaders. You have dirtied Lebanon’s name and reputation in countless countries. You are corrupt, criminal, traitors at best. Nadine Labaki scares you. Ziad Doueiry scares you. Ali el Amine scares you. Hanin Ghaddar scares you. And the list goes on. Why? Because they love life. And have talent. And influence others. And believe in freedom. And have dreams. You are terrorists. Politically. Ideologically. Culturally. Ethically. That’s what you are. And Nadine, and Ziad, and Hanin, and Ali, and the hundreds of others, they are the light. The very light that will keep on shining, through them and many others, way past your bedtime.

Pompeo Says U.S. to 'Crush Hizbullah Operatives' around the World
Agence France Presse/Associated Press/Naharnet/May 22/18/U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday vowed that Washington will “crush” whom he called Hizbullah's operatives around the world, as he issued a steep list of demands that he said should be included in a nuclear treaty with Iran to replace the Obama-era deal. "We will track down Iranian operatives and their Hizbullah proxies operating around the world and crush them," Pompeo said. Pompeo also demanded that Iran cease from a range of activities throughout the Middle East that have long drawn the ire of the U.S. and its allies. He said Iran must halt support for its Hizbullah, stop threatening Israel, end support for Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen and "withdraw all forces" from Syria.

Govt. OKs 3-Year Extension for Power Ships as Cost Slashed
Naharnet/May 22/18/The government on Monday approved a three-year extension for the contracts of the Turkish power-generating ships, as the energy minister lamented that there was an alleged plot to obstruct his electricity plan prior to the parliamentary elections. “The decisions that were taken in this session and in the previous sessions indicate that all the talk about the electricity file has gone with the wind,” Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil announced after Cabinet's last session ahead of turning into a caretaker cabinet. “A three-year extension has been approved for the power ships that are currently present in Lebanon, which also indicates that all the previous maneuvers were aimed at blocking the electricity plan before the elections,” Abi Khalil added. “We have negotiated over the power ships and we have managed to obtain cost cuts for the next three years and additional 200 megawatts for free,” the minister announced. According to information obtained by LBCI television, the Energy Ministry has reached an agreement with the Turkish Karadeniz Energy Group on dispatching a third ship to Lebanon's coast within a month in order to generate the additional 200 megawatts.

Several Troops Wounded in Clash with Fugitives in Tripoli
Naharnet/May 22/18/Several soldiers were wounded in a clash with fugitives Tuesday in the northern city of Tripoli. Al-Jadeed TV said seven troops were injured, one of them “very critically.”The National News Agency said the fugitive Jihad Baltaji and several others holed themselves up in the office of caretaker Labor Minister Mohammed Kabbara. Al-Jadeed identified the rest of the fugitives as Mohammed Kokolaki, Khaled Hmeidan (aka Abu Ali Lamaa), Shadi al-Zann and Abu Jaafar al-Nashar. NNA said the area was still witnessing intermittent clashes and that the armed group hurled two hand grenades at the troops. “The army fired back and threw a smoke grenade,” the agency added.

Senior Officers from UK Defense College Visit Lebanon
Naharnet/May 22/18/An international delegation of fifteen senior military officers from the British Royal College of Defense Studies (RCDS) has visited Lebanon for one week, the British embassy in Beirut said on Monday.
The delegation, led by Major General Craig Lawrence, visited Lebanon to “learn about the political, economic, security, and social challenges facing Lebanon and how these might relate to regional and international stability,” the embassy said in a statement.
RCDS is a UK based course for military officers and senior government civil servants from the UK and allied nations. The aim of the course is to instruct members in defense and international security matters.
“As part of their overseas study tour, the RCDS delegation of Colonels and Brigadiers from the UK, Germany, Ghana, Japan, Canada, Netherlands, Chile, Colombia, China, India, and Uganda have met with President Michel Aoun, Defense Minister Yaccoub Sarraf, LAF (Lebanese Army) Commander General Joseph Aoun and industrialists and businessmen from across Lebanese society,” the embassy announced. They “saw firsthand how the UK supports Lebanon and the Lebanese Armed Forces during a visit to the 4th Land Border Regiment at Baalbek,” it added. Through meetings with prominent members of the business community, they hope to understand “how Lebanon can move the economy forward towards success,” the embassy said. The officers also visited the headquarters of the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in Naqoura and met with the Force's Commander Maj. Gen. Michael Beary to talk about “some of the challenges the U.N. faces in conducting a large U.N. mission in a volatile part of the world.”Welcoming the course to Beirut, British Ambassador Hugo Shorter said: “It is a privilege to host top military officers from the UK and the world as part of their Royal College of Defense Studies study tour in Lebanon. Their visit to Lebanon is another example of the strategic importance that Lebanon has in anchoring regional stability, and the security challenges it faces as it counters extremism and unrest.”“We’re proud of our strong defense links with Lebanon and I am certain that the officers' experience will be like no other in the region,” Shorter added.

Lebanon: Last Cabinet Session Approves Dozens of Pending Articles
Beirut - Caroline Akoum/Tuesday, 22 May, 2018/Lebanon’s Cabinet held its last session on Monday and approved dozens of pending articles, mainly related to the disputed electricity sector, hours before it turned into a caretaker government at the end of Parliament's term on May 21.
As of Tuesday, the country would face a number of constitutional schedules after President Michel Aoun calls for parliamentary binding consultations to appoint the next Prime Minister, who will be tasked to form the Cabinet. Meanwhile, the new Parliament will hold its general assembly on Wednesday to elect a new Speaker and his deputy. While it remains almost certain that current Speaker Nabih Berri will be re-elected for another term, it is still uncertain who will be elected as his deputy. Both the Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces are competing on the post. On Monday, LF leader Samir Geagea said the party is backing the candidature of MP Anis Nassar while the Free Patriotic Movement would decide on Tuesday whether to support the candidacy of MPs Elias Bou Saab or Elias Ferzli. Similar to the Speakership, the appointment of a new prime minister would not constitute a hard task after most parliamentary blocs decided to name current Prime Minister Saad Hariri for the position. Former Justice Minister Chakib Kortbawi told Asharq Al-Awsat that according to the Lebanese Constitution, the second clause of Article 64 stipulates that the appointed PM shall conduct the parliamentary consultations for forming the government and he should sign, with the President, the Decree of its formation. “The government must present its general statement of policy to the Chamber to gain its confidence within 30 days of the Decree's issuance date in which the government was formed. The government shall not exercise its powers before it gains confidence nor after it has resigned or is considered resigned, except in the narrow sense of a caretaker government,” he said, quoting the text of the Constitution. Following the cabinet session on Monday, outgoing Information Minister Melhem Riachi said that the government appointed Rony Lahoud as the Director General of the Public Corporation for Housing for a four year term and agreed to prepare a plan to save the electricity sector, in accordance with the proposals of Water and Energy Minister, Cesar Abi Khalil. Lebanon’s National News Agency said the cabinet approved the launch of a new tender through the administration of tenders to secure 850 megawatts. Quoting sources, it said the Cabinet also approved the transfer of the agreement with the executing company of Deir Ammar plant to the BOT system. Speaking before the Cabinet session held Monday, Aoun said he wished the soon-to-be caretaker ministers would exercise their caretaking task with full responsibility, and focus on facilitating administrative matters and the citizens' affairs.

Eldest MP calls session of new Parliament
The Daily Star/ May 22, 2018/BEIRUT: MP Michel Murr called Tuesday for a Parliament session to be held the following day in order to elect a speaker, deputy speaker and General Secretariat. According to Parliament’s internal bylaws, the initial session of a new Parliament is to be held at the invitation of its oldest member, in this case Murr. Wednesday morning, before the session begins, caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri will accompany Murr to Parliament. Murr will then head the session while the two youngest newly elected MPs, Sami Fatfat and Tony Frangieh, will act as secretaries. The election process will begin with MPs voting for a new speaker. Outgoing Speaker Nabih Berri is widely expected to be re-elected in this initial vote. Once the newly elected speaker is in place, he will oversee the process to elect a deputy speaker. There are reportedly three incoming MPs vying for this position: Elie Ferzli, Elias Bou Saab and Anis Nassar. Two secretaries, who support the speaker in his or her role, will then be elected, followed by the election of three rapporteurs for the secretariat. Earlier on Tuesday, President Michel Aoun called on Cabinet to continue working in its capacity as a caretaker body until a new Cabinet could be formed. The Cabinet held its final session Monday before it took up a caretaker role as Parliament’s term – which was extended three times since 2013, over security concerns – expired at midnight. Aoun will shortly call for binding consultations with parliamentary blocs to elicit their preferences regarding the formation of the new government. “President Aoun has asked the [Cabinet] to continue to conduct business with the beginning of the [new] Parliament, and to consider the [Cabinet] resigned pending the formation of a new government,” a tweet from the presidency’s official Twitter account read Tuesday.
A statement from the presidency’s office, also released Tuesday morning, noted that Aoun thanked Prime Minister Saad Hariri and all of the ministers for their work.

With Berri’s re-election sealed, focus shifts to new Cabinet
Hussein Dakroub/The Daily Star/May. 22/18
BEIRUT: With the new Parliament starting its term Tuesday and the re-election of Speaker Nabih Berri for a new four-year mandate assured at Parliament session Wednesday, attention is focused on the next move of forming a new government following parliamentary elections earlier this month, official sources said.“Following Berri’s re-election, President Michel Aoun is expected next week to hold consultations with heads of parliamentary blocs on their choice for a prime minister,” a source at Baabda Palace told The Daily Star.
A ministerial source said since the re-election of Berri as speaker, a post he has held since 1992, would be smooth and with a big majority of the new 128-member legislature, similarly, Prime Minister Saad Hariri has emerged as the overwhelming favorite to be named prime minister by a majority of parliamentary blocs. “The three leaders have declared that they want to see the new Cabinet formation carried out very quickly in order for the country to meet internal and external challenges facing it,” the source said.
Meanwhile, the Cabinet held its final session Monday before turning into a caretaker body following the expiry of Parliament’s term at midnight. Parliament’s four-year mandate has been extended three times since 2013 over security concerns.
During a six-hour session chaired by Aoun at Baabda Palace, the Cabinet approved a series of measures, including those aimed at salvaging the ailing electricity sector.
In agreeing on measures that need to be taken to rescue the electricity sector in line with Energy and Water Minister Cesar Abi Khalil’s proposals, the Cabinet authorized the minister to launch a new tender to purchase emergency energy and secure 850 megawatts to boost supply, Information Minister Melhem Riachi told reporters after the meeting.
The Cabinet also agreed on transferring the contract with the operating company of the northern Deir Ammar power plant to a build-operate-transfer, or BOT, contract.
A plan to boost electricity production at Deir Ammar was put on hold by the Finance Ministry over two years ago after the company upgrading the plant accused the government at the time of failing to pay all of its dues to the firm.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Abi Khalil said the ministers who had opposed his proposal to renew the contract of the Turkish barge Fatmagul Sultan for three years agreed Wednesday to his proposal. Lebanon is already renting two barges, which are moored off the coast of Jiyyeh, south of Beirut, and in Zouk Mosbeh, in the north.
Opening the session, Aoun said the Cabinet would be considered resigned and would be in a caretaker status with the beginning of the new Parliament’s term Tuesday. Thanking Hariri and ministers for the Cabinet’s achievements, Aoun said: “This Cabinet has made essential achievements in terms of ensuring the regular work of state institutions, the most important of which are the 2017 and 2018 budget laws, an electoral law, administrative and military appointments, diplomatic and judicial appointments. We launched the [licensing] for oil and gas exploration.”
Under the Constitution, the eldest MP, in this case MP Michel Murr, will call Parliament to meet Wednesday to elect a speaker, a deputy speaker and members of its Secretariat. Berri is widely expected to be re-elected as speaker unopposed for a new four-year term.
However, dissenting voices emerged Monday. Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea said after chairing a meeting of the LF’s Strong Republic bloc that the bloc would not vote for Berri and would instead cast blank ballots.
Geagea said after briefing the LF’s MPs on his meeting with Hariri last week, the bloc decided unanimously to name Hariri for the premiership.“Everyone knows the extent of our respect for Speaker Nabih Berri and our agreement with him on many fronts. Therefore, our blank ballots are not meant against Speaker Berri as much as they are a reflection of our strategic position,” Geagea said.
Geagea also said that LF MP Anis Nassar is the party’s candidate for the post of deputy speaker, a position reserved for the Greek Orthodox sect.
There are two other candidates competing for the deputy speaker’s post: MPs Elie Ferzli and Elias Bou Saab, both of whom belong to the Free Patriotic Movement’s parliamentary Strong Lebanon bloc headed by Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil.
Ferzli, backed by the FPM, Berri and Hezbollah, stands a good chance of being elected deputy speaker after MP Walid Joumblatt said Sunday that his Democratic Gathering parliamentary bloc would support Berri’s re-election and that he would recommend the bloc vote for Ferzli as deputy speaker.
Despite long-simmering tension with Berri that has its roots in the speaker’s opposition to Aoun’s election as president in 2016, Bassil signaled that the FPM’s bloc might vote for Berri’s re-election.
“We waged the presidency battle under the slogan of a strong president. Therefore, conceding the strength of Speaker Berri’s representation and voting for him is normal, conforming with our convictions. But unfortunately, he [Berri] did not have this conviction,” Bassil said in an interview published Monday in the daily Al-Akhbar.
Asked whether he was ready to turn a new leaf with Berri following the latter’s ice-breaking meeting with Aoun last week, Bassil said: “Our ethics and conduct do not allow us to behave in the election of a Parliament speaker as he [Berri] did with Gen. Michel Aoun in the presidential election. This is entirely out of the question.” The Strong Lebanon bloc is set to meet under Bassil Tuesday to decide on the election of a speaker and deputy speaker. Bassil also said that last week’s U.S. sanctions against key Hezbollah leaders would not affect the government formation.
“Let us be clear: linking the latest measures against Hezbollah to [the party being prevented] from entering the government, or to influencing the formation of the government, is unrealistic,” he said. “Certainly, Hezbollah must be represented in the new government, and that isn’t up for discussion.”

UN Chief Rips Into Hezbollah as Most Armed Militia in Mideast, Urges Group to Disarm
الأمين العام للأمم المتحدة يطالب بتجريد حزب الله من سلاحه
The Associated Press/Haaretz/ May 22, 2018
According to Guterres Lebanon's government and armed forces should 'take all measures necessary' to prevent Hezbollah from having paramilitary capacity outside the authority of the state
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly criticized Hezbollah for operating as the most heavily armed militia and a political party in Lebanon and urged the militant group to halt military activities inside and outside the country, including in Syria.
In a report to the Security Council obtained Monday by The Associated Press, Guterres also called on Lebanon's government and armed forces "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.He said Hezbollah's military activity violates a 2004 Security Council resolution ordering all Lebanese militias to disarm and the Taif Accords that ended the country's 1975-90 civil war. In the semi-annual report on implementation of the 2004 resolution, the secretary-general said Hezbollah's engagement in the Syrian conflict also violates Lebanon's official policy of "disassociation," or neutrality in regional affairs.
Guterres said the report demonstrates Hezbollah's failure to disarm and "its refusal to be accountable" to state institutions that the UN resolution sought to strengthen. "In a democratic state, it remains a fundamental anomaly that a political party maintains a militia that has no accountability to the democratic, governmental institutions of the state but has the power to take that state to war," he said. Israel and Lebanon have been in a state of war for decades and do not have diplomatic relations. In the summer of 2006, Israel and Hezbollah militants fought a month long war.
The border with Israel has remained mostly quiet since then, but Guterres said an alleged increase in Hezbollah's arsenal poses "a serious challenge" to the Lebanese government's ability to exercise authority and sovereignty over the entire country.
"I call upon countries in the region that maintain close ties with Hezbollah to encourage the transformation of the armed group into a solely civilian political party, and its disarmament," Guterres said.
He did not name Iran, a strong supporter of Hezbollah in Syria and elsewhere. Both are strong supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad's government. Guterres said Hezbollah's military arsenal and involvement in Syria continue "to be denounced by a number of voices in Lebanon, who consider those issues to be destabilizing factors in the country and ones that undermine democracy." In addition, he said, "many Lebanese see the continued presence of such arms as an implicit threat that those could be used within Lebanon for political reasons."
Hezbollah is considered a terrorist group by the United States, but its political wing has long held seats in Lebanon's parliament and was part of Lebanon's outgoing coalition government. Parliamentary elections earlier this month were the first in Lebanon since war broke out in Syria in 2011 and Hezbollah made major gains. Its leader, Hassab Nasrallah declared "mission accomplished." Nonetheless, Lebanese analysts say the next Cabinet, like the outgoing one, will likely be a unity government that includes Hezbollah.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 22-23/18
US sanctions five Iranians it links to Revolutionary Guard, Houthi militia in Yemen
Arab News/May 22, 2018/WASHINGTON: The United States on Tuesday imposed sanctions on five Iranians it said had provided Yemen’s Houthis with expertise and weaponry that were  then used to launch missiles at cities and oil infrastructure in Saudi Arabia. In a statement, the US Treasury named the individuals as Mehdi Azarpisheh, Mohammad Jafari, Mahmud Kazemabad, Javad Shir Amin, and Sayyed Mohammad Tehrani. It said the first four individuals had worked with the Houthis through Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, while Tehrani had helped with the financing of the Revolutionary Guard. The fresh sanctions, part of President Donald Trump’s pledge to economically suffocate Iran in hopes of hampering the country’s development of nuclear weapons, come one day after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States would soon crack down on Iran’s support for the Houthis. Yemen’s government has been pitched against the Iran-aligned Houthi movement since 2015 in a war driving the country to the verge of famine.

U.S. to Put 'Unprecedented Pressure' on Iran, Asks It to 'Withdraw Forces' from Syria
Agence France Presse/Associated Press/Naharnet/May 22/18/The United States will increase the financial pressure on Iran with the "strongest sanctions in history," after Washington pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday. "We will apply unprecedented financial pressure on the Iranian regime. The leaders in Tehran will have no doubt about our seriousness," Pompeo said in his first major foreign policy address since moving to the State Department from the CIA. "The sting of sanctions will only grow more painful if the regime does not change course from the unacceptable and unproductive path it has chosen for itself and the people of Iran," he added in the speech at the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank. "Iran will never again have carte blanche to dominate the Middle East," he said in outlining the new U.S. strategy on handling the Islamic regime, including 12 tough conditions from Washington for any "new deal" with Tehran. Pompeo's list of 12 tough requirements included many that Iran is highly unlikely to consider. He said Iran must "stop enrichment" of uranium, which was allowed within strict limitations under the 2015 deal. Iran must also allow nuclear "unqualified access to all sites throughout the country," Pompeo said, alluding to military sites that were off-limits under the 2015 deal except under specific circumstances. To that end, he also said Iran must declare all previous efforts to build a nuclear weapon, reopening an issue that the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency has already deemed a closed matter. Pompeo also demanded that Iran cease from a range of activities throughout the Middle East that have long drawn the ire of the U.S. and its allies. He said Iran must end support for Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen, "withdraw all forces" from Syria, halt support for its ally Hizbullah and stop threatening Israel. Iran must also "release all U.S. citizens" missing in Iran or being held on "spurious charges," he said. At the same time, Pompeo offered Iran a series of dramatic potential U.S. concessions if it agrees to make "major changes." Under a new agreement, the U.S. would be willing to lift all sanctions, restore full diplomatic and commercial ties with Iran, and even support the modernization of its economy, Pompeo said.
"It is America's hope that our labors toward peace and security will bear fruit for the long-suffering people of Iran," Pompeo said.

Europeans Adhere to Nuclear Deal, Despite US Standpoint
London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 22 May, 2018/Europeans showed adherence to the nuclear deal, considering it is unlikely that the new strategy unveiled by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would succeed. In a statement, EU's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini warned that there is "no alternative" to the Iran nuclear deal. "Secretary Pompeo's speech has not demonstrated how walking away from the JCPOA has made or will make the region safer from the threat of nuclear proliferation or how it puts us in a better position to influence Iran's conduct in areas outside the scope of JCPOA," she said, using the acronym for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the deal is officially known. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson lashed out against US plans of negotiating a new “jumbo” agreement with Iran Monday, saying such a negotiation would be “very, very difficult."
"The advantage of the JCPOA was that it had a very clear objective. It protected the world from an Iranian nuclear bomb, and in return it gave the Iranians some recognizable economic benefits. That was at the core of it. The Americans have walked away from that,” he said. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo rattled off a 12-point list of what he called “basic requirements” of a new way forward with Iran. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking at a Foreign Ministry reception in the presence of Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes marking the opening of the country’s embassy in Jerusalem, said that US President Donald Trump has “changed policy in fundamental ways,” not only regarding Jerusalem, but also Iran. “No enrichment, tough sanctions and Iran should get out of Syria — we believe that it’s only policy that can ultimately guarantee peace. We call on all countries to follow America’s lead here,” Netanyahu added. He continued, “We believe that is the right policy." “We believe it is the only policy that can ultimately guarantee the security of the Middle East and bring peace in our region, and we call on all countries to follow America’s lead here, because Iran is an aggressive force.”

Rouhani Minimizes Importance of US Sanctions on Iran
London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 22 May, 2018 - 06:30/Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani lashed out at US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, saying that the world would not accept that Washington impose its decisions on other countries. “Who are you to decide for Iran and the world? The world today does not accept America to decide for the world, as countries are independent ... that era is over ... We will continue our path with the support of our nation,” he said on Monday. “The world no longer accepts this logic; the man, who was the director of the spy agency, is today working as foreign minister and wants to decide the world’s fate. Who are you to make the decision for Iran and the world?”Rouhani’s remarks came on the sidelines of his meeting with a number of Iranian university professors and doctors, as reported by ILNA reformist agency.
Pompeo had on Monday issued a severe warning to Iran, saying Washington would be ready to impose the “strongest sanctions in history” if it does not alter its regional policies. Reuters quoted a senior Iranian official as saying that Pompeo’s comments on Iran prove that the US is seeking regime change in the country. “America wants to pressure Iran to surrender and accept their illegal demands ... his remarks showed that America is surely after regime change in Iran,” he stated. In his first major speech since becoming secretary of state, Pompeo said: “The sting of sanctions will only grow more painful if the regime does not change course from the unacceptable and unproductive path it has chosen for itself and the people of Iran.”
Member of the National Security Council and the Foreign Policy Committee at the Iranian Parliament, MP Hashmatullah Flahat Bisha, compared the current US stance with that of former US President Georges W. Bush. He accused Washington of trying to create a new crisis, stressing that the Iranian response would be “rational,” according to the ISNA agency. Prior to Pompeo’s announcement, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi denied that the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Britain, in the presence of European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, had presented a package of proposals to Iran. He said Iran was continuing negotiations with the EU on issues related to the nuclear agreement, implicitly denying that the three countries discussed with Iran its regional threats and the development of ballistic missiles.  Europe has been scrambling to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran following Washington’s withdrawal from the agreement last week. Moscow Warns against Repercussions of Tougher Sanctions on Iran
Moscow - Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 22 May, 2018/Moscow is monitoring US moves on Iran and sees a failure by Washington to understand the nature of the situation inside the country, Interfax news agency quoted a Russian foreign ministry official as saying. The official added that the Americans were counting on fueling the internal situation and inciting the opposition, but their goals would not be successful. The Kremlin and the Russian foreign ministry kept silent over the fierce remarks by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about Iran. No official reaction had been issued by the Russian presidential office or the foreign ministry until Monday evening, except for a comment by the director of the Second Asian Department at the ministry, Zamir Kabulov, who said that more US pressure on Iran would only increase tension in the region. He noted that Washington’s threats regarding “the strongest sanctions in history” against Iran, will push Tehran to adopt a more radical approach in solving regional problems, as Interfax reported. Kabulov went on to say that American officials do not seem to understand that they are using these radical methods that turn the whole Iranian people against them. He added that Washington’s attempts to intimidate Iran would fail, and would lead to the opposite results, given that the use of such rhetoric is considered by the Iranian people as an insult. The Russian diplomat ruled out that the US pressure would strengthen the Iranian opposition, saying: “Even those people in Iran, who disagree with or do not support the current leadership, will stand by their government in this situation.”

Sadr’s ‘Paternal’ Government Stumbles over Iraqi Politics
Baghdad – Hamza Mustafa/Tuesday, 22 May, 2018/In wake of his shock victory in the Iraqi parliamentary elections, Sadrist movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr began receiving in Baghdad numerous political leaders, notably Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi and Fatah alliance chief Hadi al-Ameri, in an attempt to forge an alliance at the new legislature.Ameri came in second in the elections and Abadi third. Sadr formed a negotiating delegation, headed by senior Sadrist leader and former Labor Minister Nasser al-Rabihi, to hold talks with all parties in order to form the largest parliamentary bloc. This will precede the formation of what Sadr dubbed a “paternal government”. “Sadr emphasized the need to speed up the formation of a paternal government as soon as possible so that it could begin servicing the nation,” read a statement from Sadr’s office. The shape and spirit of the new government should be a “national” decision and inclusive of all winning blocs, the statement added. But no clear explanation or detail was offered by any official about Sadr’s vision for the paternal government, save for it being all-inclusive.  This inclusiveness stands in stark contrast to Sadr’s reform uprising in 2015 and 2016. Today, he finds himself forced into becoming part of one regional-international camp that would inevitably lead to distance growing between him and another. The conflict between rival camps is now the main factor in the current political maneuvering in Iraq, while programs and projects that were touted before the elections have taken a backseat. Sadr won 54 seats in parliament, Ameri’s alliance won 47 seats, Abadi’s Nasr (Victory) coalition 42 seats, former PM Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law won 25 and Ammar Hakim’s Hikma movement won 22. Although the above main Shiite political blocs are enough to forge the largest alliance in parliament, with 165 out of 328 seats, obstacles remain in ensuring that all components in Iraq, such as Kurds and Sunnis, are represented. Integrating these minorities has taken a backseat to sectarian and ethnic disputes and calculations. These disputes have proven to be obstacles and sources of conflict in Iraq. Given this failure, political forces have started to propose alternate approaches for parliamentary supremacy, such as establishing concepts like “political majority,” “national majority,” and, finally, the Sadr-styled “paternal government” - the latest attempt to brand and promote his political orientation in both national and Shiite arenas. “Political majority is still the best option compared to previous experiences, which were based on quotas and consensual rule that courted American-Iranian approval, but proved to be failures,” independent Shiite politician Izzat Shabandar told Asharq Al-Awsat. Despite the lack of clarity over the government that Sadr is now promoting, Shabandar believed that “the nationalist views expressed by him, which show disdain for sectarianism, happen to coincide with the political majority project as a national project.”“This majority will serve as the first building block in Iraq's political and economic development.”

Israel Refuses to Cooperate with UN Commission of Inquiry on Gaza
Tel Aviv - Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 22 May, 2018/The Israeli Foreign Ministry has rejected the UN Human Rights Council’s decision to establish a commission of inquiry into the massacres of the Israeli occupation forces against civilians in the Return Marches in the Gaza Strip. In order to evade its international obligations, it tasked the military police to examine the events. A source at the Human Rights Council said that if Israel insists on its position and prevents its men from reaching the Gaza Strip via Tel Aviv airport, the council's investigators will enter Gaza from different itineraries (through Egypt).
In response to the Israeli position, Hamas stressed that the occupation’s rejection of an international commission of inquiry into the recent massacres is evidence of its involvement in a war crime. Hamas spokesman Abdullatif al-Qanoua said in a brief press statement that its refusal emphasizes its brutality and persistence in terrorizing and killing the Palestinian people as well as flouting UN and international institutions and disregarding their decisions. On Friday, the UN Council adopted a resolution calling for the urgent dispatch of an independent international commission to “investigate alleged violations and ill-treatment in the framework of military attacks launched during the major civil protests that began on March 30, 2018 in Gaza.”The Israeli Foreign Ministry expressed the official position of Tel Aviv, through a statement circulated to the media, which stated: “Israel completely rejects the decision of the UN Human Rights Council to form a commission of inquiry into the events of Gaza.”It claimed that the council’s decision proves once again that it is “a body with an automatic majority hostile to Israel and dominated by hypocrisy and absurdity.” “The results of the commission of inquiry, which the Council decided to set up, are known in advance and are reflected in the drafting of the same resolution,” the statement added.

Palestinian FM Submits Referral to ICC on Israeli Crimes
Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 22 May, 2018/Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki will submit a referral to the International Criminal Court on the Israeli crimes and violations of the Palestinian peoples’ rights. Maliki is scheduled to meet prosecutor Fatou Bensouda in The Netherlands on Tuesday morning to submit the referral. He will call upon the court to assume its responsibility and duties towards bringing justice to the Palestinian people and hold Israel, the occupying power, accountable for its continuous crimes and violations, according to the statement issued by the Higher National Committee Responsible for following up with the ICC. Afterwards, Maliki will hold a press conference outside the court. This comes a week after 63 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli forces during protests against a US decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Last week, Bensouda announced that the Court's officials were watching the unrest in Gaza closely and would "take any action warranted" to prosecute crimes. "My staff is vigilantly following developments on the ground and recording any alleged crime" that could fall within the tribunal's jurisdiction, she warned in a statement to AFP. "The violence must stop," she insisted, urging "all those concerned to refrain from further escalating this situation” and the Israeli army “to avoid excessive use of force."In its statement, the Higher Committee asserted that Palestine is exercising its right as a State party in the ICC, and thus "refers to the Office of The Prosecutor the crimes committed by officials of Israel, the occupying power, against the Palestinian people." The ICC will be expected to accelerate the opening of a criminal investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Israel, added the Committee. "It is time to hold the Israeli war criminals accountable and to bring justice to the Palestinian People," concluded the statement.

Taliban Attack Afghan Policemen as Minibus Bomb Causes Heavy Casualties

Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 22 May, 2018/The Taliban launched a wave of attacks in Afghanistan's eastern province of Ghazni, killing at least 14 police officers, as a minibus packed with explosives blew up in the southern city of Kandahar. Ghazni Provincial council member Hassan Reza Yusoufi said seven of the officers were killed in the district of Dih Yak, including Faizullah Toofan, the police chief, and reserve commander Haji Baraket. Another seven were killed in Jaghatu district. The attacks started on Monday night and continued on Tuesday in Dih Yak, Jaghatu, Ajristan and Qarabagh districts, according to Arif Noori, spokesman for the provincial governor. Noori said at least 12 other members of the security forces were wounded in the attacks in Dih Yak and Jaghatu districts. The Kandahar blast, near one of the city's main markets, sent a huge cloud of dust and smoke into the air. At least 16 people were killed and 38 wounded, officials said. A statement from the NDS intelligence service said the minibus, packed with explosives, was discovered in a large open yard of mechanics workshops but blew up before it could be defused. Hundreds of people have been killed or wounded in high-profile bomb attacks since the beginning of the year, many in the capital Kabul, but provincial cities have also been hit as the Taliban have stepped up fighting across the country.

Despite US Military Optimism, Watchdog Says ‘Few Signs of Progress' in Afghanistan

Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 22 May, 2018/Upbeat assessments of an improving security situation in Afghanistan do not line up with the facts on the ground, a US government watchdog said Monday, pointing to "few signs of progress" by President Donald Trump's South Asia strategy in the war-torn nation.
"This quarter, US officials stated that the Taliban was not achieving its objectives and that momentum was shifting in favor of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF)," the Pentagon's Office of the Inspector General said. "However, available metrics showed few signs of progress." The top US commander in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, in November said the fight had "turned the corner" in the longest war in American history, and predicted that the Afghan security forces will expand government control of the population from about 64 percent now to 80 percent over two years.
But the inspector general said there had been "little positive change" in the first quarter of 2018, with just 65 percent of the population living in areas under government control or influence.At the same time, the number of Afghan security force personnel dropped from 331,708 to 313,728 -- a figure that is 11 percent below its authorized strength of 352,000. "This shortfall, at a time when there is an increased emphasis on building the lethality of the ANDSF, renews concerns about recruiting, retention, and casualty rates of the ANDSF and the overall effectiveness of the ANDSF," the report states. Trump unveiled his South Asia strategy last year to convince the Taliban through diplomatic, military and social pressure it cannot win and must reconcile. "During this quarter there was little publicly available evidence that the actions to increase pressure on the Taliban were having a significant impact," the report notes. In February, the Afghan government offered the Taliban the chance to start a reconciliation process with no preconditions, and the US has suggested Taliban elements want to negotiate. But attacks have continued unabated. Pentagon spokesman Colonel Rob Manning said the US remains committed to its "train, advise and assist mission" to help the Afghan security forces. "Chaos and progress can coexist -- and that's exactly what we feel is happening in Afghanistan," Manning said. "Given the different audiences that US military officials have in mind when they make these (public) announcements, there is simply a very strong incentive to accentuate and even embellish the positives, (and) to minimize the negatives," said Michael Kugelman, with the Wilson Center think tank in Washington. "It is a war that many Americans don't support and don't understand and yet it is war that is probably going to continue for the foreseeable future ... it is just like Vietnam," Kugelman said.

Attacks on Healthcare in 2017: Syria Had the Highest Number
London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 22 May, 2018/The Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition has documented more than 700 separate attacks on hospitals, health workers, patients and ambulances in 23 countries in conflict across the globe. Syria continues to experience the highest number of attacks on health, with 252 documented acts of violence against health facilities, transport, and personnel in 2017, amid sustained airstrikes and shelling on hospitals there, it said in its fifth annual report released on Monday. "The world knows about atrocities against health care in Syria – and the report reveals more than 25 acts of violence against health facilities, transport and personnel there, the most in the world – but Syria is hardly alone: governments and armed groups inflict violence against health care with impunity in conflicts across the globe," said Leonard Rubenstein, chair of the Coalition. Susannah Sirkin, director of international policy and partnerships at Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), a member of the Coalition, explains that attacks on medical facilities “terrorize communities." "They deprive already-suffering civilians of the life-saving treatment that they deserve.” The Coalition’s report was released on the eve of the United Nations Security Council's review of actions since it adopted Resolution 2286 two years ago.

New Ebola Cases, Deaths Reported in Congo
Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 22 May, 2018/Seven new Ebola cases and two deaths were confirmed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the health ministry said on Tuesday. One of the deaths occurred in the provincial capital of Mbandaka, according to a daily bulletin. A nurse also died in the village of Bikoro, where the outbreak was first detected, ministry spokeswoman Jessica Ilunga told Reuters. The seven new confirmed cases were registered in Bikoro, the ministry said. The outbreak is believed to have killed at least 27 people so far. Congo has faced nine outbreaks of the hemorrhagic fever since it was discovered along the country’s Ebola river in 1976. The government and international partners have deployed significant resources to the northwestern Equateur province in a bid to quickly contain its spread. Congo began on Monday a vaccination campaign Bikoro to stem the outbreak that has already spread from rural towns into a city of more than 1 million people. There are 49 hemorrhagic fever cases: 22 confirmed as Ebola, 21 probable and six suspected, according to Health Minister Oly Ilunga. "We have established surveillance mechanisms and are following all cases and contacts," he said. "The response is well-organized because we have also put in surveillance measures at the entry and exit points of Mbandaka."In a hopeful sign, two patients who were confirmed as positive for Ebola have recovered and are returning to their homes, where they will be monitored, Ilunga said. They have left the hospital "with a medical certificate attesting that they've recovered and can no longer transmit the disease because they have developed antibodies against Ebola," he said. The vaccine, provided by US company Merck, is still in the test stages, but it was effective toward the end of the Ebola epidemic that killed more than 11,300 people in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia from 2014 to 2016. A major challenge will be keeping the vaccines cold in this vast, impoverished, tropical country where infrastructure is poor. Congo President Joseph Kabila and his Cabinet agreed Saturday to increase funds for the Ebola emergency to more than $4 million. The Cabinet also endorsed the decision to provide free healthcare in the affected areas and to provide special care to all Ebola victims and their relatives. This is Congo's ninth Ebola outbreak since 1976, when the disease was first identified. The virus is initially transmitted to people from wild animals, including bats and monkeys. It is spread via contact with the bodily fluids of those infected.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 22-23/18
Middle East Conflicts No Longer Focus on Israel-Palestine: It's All About Iran vs. Saudi
الصراع في الشرق الأوسط لم يعد فلسطيني -إسرائيلي بل سعودي-إيراني
The Associated Press and Haaretz/ May 22, 2018
The modern Middle East has been plagued by ruinous wars centered on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but never have they seemed so interconnected with Iran and Saudi Arabia vying for regional control
The modern Middle East has been plagued by ruinous wars: country versus country, civil wars with internecine and sectarian bloodletting, and numerous eruptions centered on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
But never in the last 70 years have they seemed as interconnected as now with Iran and Saudi Arabia vying for regional control, while Israel also seeks to maintain a military supremacy of its own.
Russia, the United States and Turkey make up the other powerbrokers in a region where not only wars but proxy battlefields within those wars are on a feverish and hostile footing.
The ongoing wars in Syria, Yemen, this week’s mass killing of Palestinians by Israel in Gaza, Turkish-Kurdish hostilities, and the potential for an all-encompassing war sparked by an Iranian-Israeli conflagration in Syria or Lebanon, all have tentacles that reach across borders and back again.
Suggestion in recent years of a Sunni/Shiite schism across the Middle East and Persian Gulf appears much less a factor than the jockeying of the key actors with the most military, financial and diplomatic muscle who are trying to shape the region in their image, or at least to the satisfaction of their national security and various leaders’ hubris.
Here’s a look at each of the main power players, whom they are aligned with, and what their ultimate goals are.
WHAT’S AT STAKE: Direct conflict with Iran has been simmering and briefly looked like it might burst into full-blown conflagration after Israel launched a blistering bombardment of Iranian positions in Syria, killing Iranian fighters after an alleged Iranian rocket barrage toward its positions on the annexed Golan Heights. The exchange followed several earlier suspected Israeli strikes on Iranian positions in Syria.
Israel sees Iran as its mortal enemy and ‘existential’ threat. Conflict with Iran would likely drag in Tehran’s ally, Hezbollah. An Israeli-Hezbollah conflict could play out in southern Lebanon and northern
Israel, with each side warning it will strike across the opponent’s country.
Israel is bolstered by unprecedented support from U.S. President Donald Trump. Israel is determined to suffocate the Iran nuclear deal; Trump withdrew from the accord and days later sent his daughter and son-in-law to preside over the U.S. Embassy move to disputed Jerusalem, a move that angered the Arab and Muslim worlds. Bloodshed at the Gaza border may have revived global opprobrium against Israel for use of disproportionate live fire against unarmed protesters, killing dozens; but Trump’s backing gives it reason to feel emboldened. Behind the scenes, Israel is building relations with Gulf nations also opposed to Iran.
WHAT IT WANTS: A much weakened Iran, the continuation of the Gaza blockade — which is also imposed by Egypt — with a ferociously controlled border, and no concessions to the Palestinians with regards to land for peace.
WHAT’S AT STAKE: The rapprochement with America under President Barack Obama is now ashes. Sanctions relief, running to hundreds of billions of dollars, is at risk, as Washington targets Tehran again, though a nuclear deal may be salvaged with EU nations, Russia and China.
Iran has built up alliances to counter Israel and Saudi Arabia. In Syria, the presence of its troops and allied Shiite militias has been critical to President Bashar Assad’s survival. In Yemen, it is allied to Shiite Houthi rebels battling Saudi-backed forces. Tehran strongly supports the Palestinian cause, though its ties with Hamas have weakened.
WHAT IT WANTS: Iran has pretty much accomplished a goal its officials have often trumpeted, building a corridor of power from Iran across Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to the Mediterranean. In all those countries, it funds and arms powerful Shiite militias and has enormous political influence. It seeks a continuation of the nuclear deal with the other global signatories, hoping to bolster its financial coffers. There has already been discontent in Iran that sanctions relief was not flowing to the people.
WHAT’S AT STAKE: President Vladimir Putin has ruthlessly filled the U.S. vacuum in Syria, waging an air campaign that has left a trail of dead in Aleppo and Ghouta among other locations. Moscow’s support of Assad turned the tide of war in his favor when defeat seemed imminent several years ago. Russia is also allied to Iran. But it also hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for its Victory Day celebrations hours before Israel’s attack on Iranian positions in Syria, raising speculation the two were quietly coordinating so that Israel kept well away from Moscow’s forces and planes in Syria.
WHAT IT WANTS: Russia’s regional goal in is to sustain and build on the major foothold it now has in the Middle East, beyond Syria, notably where the U.S. might have once before.
WHAT’S AT STAKE: “Traditionally we’ve tried to play a role of fireman in the Middle East. Now we’re playing the role of arsonist,” says Ilan Goldenberg, a former State Department and Pentagon official who runs the Mideast program at the Center for a New American Security. That seems to have plenty of currency in the region now, though some would also argue the U.S. has long played an incendiary role in the region, from reinstating the shah in Iran in the 1950s up to and including its wars in Iraq to the present day.
The Palestinians have essentially cut off contacts and say the U.S. cannot be an honest broker. So Trump’s promised “deal of the century” doesn’t seem to be in the cards for now. Trump withdrew from the Iran deal. He has by his side hawks like National Security Adviser John Bolton, who has advocated for attacking Iran and regime change. Trump can’t decide on Syria — to keep the U.S. presence or not? He doesn’t seem intent on ruffling Putin over Syria unless chemical weapons rear their head again, which prompted U.S.-led airstrikes last month. The administration is very closely allied to Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and seems set to continue following Riyadh’s lead on Yemen. Washington may get an unpleasant surprise if a heavily pro-Iran government emerges in Iraq after last week’s elections.
WHAT IT WANTS: The administration is in complete synch with Israel and Saudi Arabia. Saber-rattling with Iran could escalate, and it shows no urgency in pushing for Israel-Palestinian negotiations.
WHAT’S AT STAKE: Also emboldened by Trump, the Saudi crown prince is determined to make his mark. Riyadh is spending billions of dollars in the Yemen war, leading a Gulf Arab coalition against Iranian-allied Shiite Houthi rebels. Thousands of civilians have been killed by Saudi airstrikes and starvation in the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Prince Mohammed has made vague threats that the kingdom will build a nuclear bomb if Iran starts its program again.
Saudi Arabia sees Iran as the single greatest threat to the region and its competition for the dominant role it wants for itself. The kingdom is closely tied to Trump, who chose it as the destination for his first overseas trip as president, and it has been back-channeling with Israel. At the same time, it has lost influence in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon after placing bets on losing partners or failed gambits.
WHAT IT WANTS: Emasculation regionally of Iran and to be the dominant power in the region.
WHAT’S AT STAKE: For President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it’s almost exclusively about the Kurds, who in an alliance with the U.S. helped defeat the Islamic State group in Syria and in the process captured a quarter of the country. This has infuriated Turkey to the point it launched a military campaign seizing a pocket of northern Syria, and it threatens to attack Kurds all the way to the Iraqi border. The presence of U.S. forces among the Kurds is perhaps the only thing that’s held Turkey back this long. Ankara views Kurdish fighters in Syria as an extension of the Turkish Kurdish PKK, which it considers a terrorist group.
Turkey also gives vocal support to the Palestinians, while relations are at a nadir with Israel. Turkey has also offered to take in wounded Palestinians from Gaza for treatment.
WHAT IT WANTS: To break Kurdish strength and, above all, prevent a Kurdish autonomous mini-state in Syria along its border. It also wants some say in post-war Syria where it has supported opposition fighters and Islamist groups opposed to Assad.

Israel Launched World's First Air Strike Using F-35 Stealth Fighters, Air Force Chief Says

هآررتس: قائد القوى الجوية الإسرائيلي يعلن أن بلاده استعملت لأول مرة طائرات اف 35 الشبح في غاراتها على مواقع إيرانية في سوريا
Yaniv Kubovich/Haaretz/May 22, 2018
Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin says Iranians fired 32 rockets, more than 100 surface-to-air missiles launched from Syria at Israeli jets during the flare-up earlier this month.
Israel is the first country in the world to carry out an "operational attack" with the F-35 stealth fighter, Israel Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin said on Tuesday.
"The F-35 squadron has become an operational squadron. We are flying the F-35 all over the Middle East," he said.
Norkin presented images of the F-35 over Beirut, Lebanon, and said that the stealth fighter did not participate in the most recent strike in Syria but did in two previous ones. He was speaking at a three-day conference organized by the IAF in Herzliya, to which senior officers from armies all over the world were invited.
The IAF commander also said that Iran fired 32 rockets at Israel during the flare-up across the Syrian border earlier this month. According to him, four rockets were intercepted by Israel and the rest landed outside of Israeli territory, and more than 100 surface-to-air missiles were fired at Israeli jets over Syria.
“After that [the Iranian attack] we attacked over 20 Iranian targets in Syria. Unfortunately, Syrian air defense systems fired over 100 antiaircraft missiles at our planes and in response we destroyed their antiaircraft batteries," Norkin said.
A senior IAF officer confirmed that the Israel Defense Forces has continued to operate against Iranian forces in Syria since the attack on Israel, which took place overnight between May 9 and 10.
“It is possible to assume that actions have been taken since the recent events,” he explained. “We are continuing to maintain our freedom of action in the region. We are acting to disrupt and prevent [possible attacks] while keeping the situation below the threshold of war.”
“We are continuing with our operational mission against the arming of Hezbollah and Iranian moves to establish themselves in Syria. As far as we are concerned, anywhere we identify consolidation [of Iranian forces] or the introduction of weapons, we act,” the officer added. “Our success is any move that serves the goals of the government leadership, this is our mission.”
IAF chief Norkin outlined the reasons behind Israel's growing anxiety over Iranian activities in Syria. “The Quds Force established itself at T-4 base, 250 kilometers from Israel. From this base they tried to attack using a drone that entered into Israel, a few months ago. After this incident we realized that they were continuing to store weapons on this base, including air defense capabilities, which we attacked last month," he explained at the conference.
"Over the past few weeks we learned that Iran had sent long-range missiles and rockets to Syria, including the Uragan launchers that we attacked north of Damascus,” added Norkin.
Israel, Iran lock horns
After months of tensions, Israel and Iran locked horns directly in Syria two weeks ago. At the time, Israel reported that Iranian forces had fired 20 rockets at IDF positions in the Golan Heights. Four of the rockets aimed at Israel were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system while the remaining rockets exploded on Syrian territory, the military said.
Norkin claimed that Israel's air defense systems, which include the Arrow, David’s Sling and Iron Dome, have an 85 percent success rate.
He told the conference that Israel’s squadron of F-35 jets has taken part in attacks in the Middle East, but the senior officer noted that even though the aircraft are now operational, the IAF is still examining the best ways to operate them. The F-35 has an “incredible potential” and the IAF is currently discussing how to best exploit its huge range of capabilities, he said.
The Iranian attack earlier this month ago prompted the most extensive Israeli strike on Syria in decades: Overnight, Israel openly attacked dozens of Iranian military and logistics targets in Syria.
The Israeli army accused the Revolutionary Guards' Al Quds force and its commander, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, of launching the attack at the Israeli Golan Heights. The attack was most likely in retaliation for previous attacks attributed to Israel on Iranian bases and positions in Syria.
After the attack, Israel struck dozens of Iranian targets in Syria: The IDF said its targets included weapons storage facilities, logistics sites and intelligence centers used by elite Iranian forces in the country. Twenty-three militants were killed, according to Syrian sources.
For its part, Israel announced that none of its warplanes had been hit, rather that it had attacked five Syrian antiaircraft batteries and reportedly destroyed all of them after coming under heavy fire.
According to Haaretz's senior military analyst, the attack dealt a severe blow to embattled Syrian leader Bashar Assad’s antiaircraft forces. The IAF said that five of the batteries that were hit belonged to the Syrian Army and were Russian-built models: SA-22, SA-2, SA-5 and SA-17.
For months, the IDF has been discussing which new fighter planes should be purchased for the air force. After that decision, the next step will be to determine what other types of aircraft should be acquired to serve the IAF in the next few decades.
The senior officer noted that the IDF's priorities in the near future are to acquire new refueling planes and helicopters – while it continues at the same time to be involved in various other weapons deals.

The princes, the president and the fortune seekers
WASHINGTON (AP) — After a year spent carefully cultivating two princes from the Arabian Peninsula, Elliott Broidy, a top fundraiser for President Donald Trump, thought he was finally close to nailing more than $1 billion in business.
He had ingratiated himself with crown princes from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who were seeking to alter U.S. foreign policy and punish Qatar, an archrival in the Gulf that he dubbed “the snake.”
To do that, the California businessman had helped spearhead a secret campaign to influence the White House and Congress, flooding Washington with political donations.
Broidy and his business partner, Lebanese-American George Nader, pitched themselves to the crown princes as a backchannel to the White House, passing the princes’ praise — and messaging — straight to the president’s ears.
Now, in December 2017, Broidy was ready to be rewarded for all his hard work.
It was time to cash in.
In return for pushing anti-Qatar policies at the highest levels of America’s government, Broidy and Nader expected huge consulting contracts from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, according to an Associated Press investigation based on interviews with more than two dozen people and hundreds of pages of leaked emails between the two men. The emails reviewed by the AP included work summaries and contracting documents and proposals.
The AP has previously reported that Broidy and Nader sought to get an anti-Qatar bill through Congress while obscuring the source of the money behind their influence campaign. A new cache of emails obtained by the AP reveals an ambitious, secretive lobbying effort to isolate Qatar and undermine the Pentagon’s longstanding relationship with the Gulf country.
A lawyer for Broidy, Chris Clark, contended the AP’s reporting “is based on fraudulent and fabricated documents obtained from entities with a known agenda to harm Mr. Broidy.”
“To be clear, Mr. Nader is a U.S. citizen, and there is no evidence suggesting that he directed Mr. Broidy’s actions, let alone that he did so on behalf of a foreign entity,” Clark said.
The AP conducted an exhaustive review of the emails and documents, checking their content with dozens of sources, and determined that they tracked closely with real events, including efforts to cultivate the princes and lobby Congress and the White House.
The cache also reveals a previously unreported meeting with the president and provides the most detailed account yet of the work of two Washington insiders who have been entangled in the turmoil surrounding the two criminal investigations closest to Trump.
Lobbying in pursuit of personal gain is nothing new in Washington — Trump himself, in fact, turned the incestuous culture into a rallying cry when he promised to “drain the swamp.”
“I will Make Our Government Honest Again -- believe me,” Trump tweeted before the election. “But first, I’m going to have to #DrainTheSwamp in DC.”
Broidy’s campaign to alter U.S. policy in the Middle East and reap a fortune for himself shows that one of the president’s top money men found the swamp as navigable as ever with Trump in office.
Nader’s lawyer, Kathryn Ruemmler, declined comment. A senior Saudi official confirmed that the government had discussions with Nader but said it had signed no contracts with either Nader or Broidy.
Neither Broidy nor Nader registered with the U.S. government under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, a law intended to make lobbyists working for foreign governments disclose their ties and certain political activities. The law requires people to register even if they are not paid but merely directed by foreign interests with political tasks in mind.
Violating the federal law carries a maximum $10,000 fine or up to five years in prison.
Broidy has maintained he was not required to register because his anti-Qatar campaign was not directed by a foreign client and came entirely at his own initiative. But documents show the lobbying was intertwined with the pursuit of contracts from the very start, and involved specific political tasks carried out for the crown princes — whose countries are listed as the “clients ” for the lobbying campaign in a spreadsheet from Broidy’s company, Circinus LLC.
e represented Mr. Broidy for many years. He has complied with all relevant laws, including FARA,” Clark, Broidy’s attorney, said in a statement to the AP.
Summaries written by Broidy of two meetings he had with Trump — one of which has not been disclosed before — report that he was passing messages to the president from the two princes and that he told Trump he was seeking business with them.
By December of last year, the partners were riding a wave of success in their campaign to create an anti-Qatar drumbeat in Washington.
Saudi Arabia was finding a new ascendancy following Trump’s election. Broidy sought to claim credit for it, emails show, and was keen to collect the first installment of $36 million for an intelligence-gathering contract with the UAE.
It all might have proceeded smoothly save for one factor: the appointment of Robert Mueller as special counsel to look into allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
In many ways, the partnership between Broidy, 60, and Nader, 59, embodies the insider influence that has given contractors in D.C. the nickname “beltway bandits.”
Both of their careers were marked by high-rolling success and spectacular falls from grace — and criminal convictions. The onset of the Trump administration presented an opportunity: a return to glory.
Broidy, who made a fortune in investments, was finance chairman of the Republican National Committee from 2006 to 2008. But when a New York state pension fund decided to invest $250 million with him, investigators found that he had plied state officials with nearly $1 million in illegal gifts while collecting $18 million in management fees.
In 2009, Broidy pleaded guilty to a felony charge of rewarding official misconduct.
“In seeking investments from the New York State Common Retirement Fund, I made payments for the benefit of high-ranking officials at the Office of the New York State Comptroller, who had influence and decision-making authority over investment decisions,” Broidy said in his plea and cooperation agreement.
Andrew Cuomo, then-New York attorney general, called it “an old-fashioned payoff.”
“This is effectively bribery of state officials, and not just one,” said Cuomo, who is now New York’s governor.
Three years later, Broidy’s conviction was knocked down to a misdemeanor after he agreed to cooperate with prosecutors and pay back the $18 million to the state.
Nader’s problem was pedophilia.
As a young Lebanese immigrant to the U.S. in the 1980s, he quickly established himself as a forceful independent operator, founding a policy magazine called Middle East Insight. By the ’90s, he had risen as a behind-the-scenes player, setting up dinners for Israeli and Arab dignitaries with Washington power brokers and U.S. lawmakers.
But in May 2003, Nader was convicted in the Czech Republic of 10 counts of sexually abusing minors and sentenced to a one-year prison term, the AP revealed in March.
He served his time in Prague, according to Czech authorities, then was expelled from the country.
That sordid past was no obstacle as Nader cultivated a formidable list of high-powered contacts.
After the 2003 Iraq war ended, he re-emerged there, as contractors were making a fortune helping the U.S. coalition and the post-Saddam Hussein government rebuild the country and arm its military.
Nader worked with a private military contractor from the U.S., Erik Prince, whose former company, Blackwater, became infamous after a shootout in Baghdad in 2007 left 14 civilians dead.
Nader has been living in the UAE, working as an adviser to Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Abu Dhabi crown prince known as MBZ.
It was Nader’s connection to MBZ and Erik Prince that eventually caught the attention of U.S. investigators in the Russia probe.
Mueller’s team was interested in two meetings that took place before Donald Trump’s inauguration.
One was in the Seychelles, a tropical archipelago in the Indian Ocean, which drew scrutiny because it included Prince, an informal adviser to Trump, and Russian investor Kirill Dmitriev, who has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. The meeting has prompted questions about whether it was an attempt to establish a backchannel between Russia and the incoming Trump administration.
The other meeting was at Trump Tower in New York.
Nader and MBZ were at both.
Just weeks after those meetings, Broidy and Nader met for the first time, during Trump’s inauguration.
The two men were soon working out their budding partnership. Nader sent Broidy his private email address on the encrypted ProtonMail service.
From the start, the men had a two-track mission: to carry out a campaign against Qatar that would curry favor with the princes, and to then turn that success into millions of dollars in defense deals, documents show.
The two men barely knew each other. But Broidy had the ear of the president. Nader claimed he had the crown princes’.
On Feb. 7, 2017, Broidy wrote to a staffer for the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee about a bill aimed at sanctioning Qatar for alleged support of terrorist groups— part of what Nader called “hammering Qatar,” emails show.
The next day, Broidy forwarded Nader questions about a potential contract with Saudi Arabia to train Arab troops to fight in the escalating war in Yemen.
The three-year civil war there has left thousands of civilians dead, millions displaced from their homes, and put the entire country on the cusp of famine in what is now the largest humanitarian crisis in the world. The war has drawn in myriad combatants, including a coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and backed by the U.S.
Broidy and Nader proposed multiple plans to the princes for more than $1 billion of work. One pitch was to help create an all-Muslim fighting force of 5,000 troops. A second was aimed at helping the UAE gather intelligence. A third would strengthen Saudi maritime and border security. Still another was related to setting up counterterrorism centers in Saudi Arabia.
In a nte to Broidy, Nader said the princes were very happy with the proposed contracts, particularly the crown prince of Abu Dhabi.
But first, emails show, they had to focus on the lobbying campaign. They proposed a budget upward of $12 million to “expose and penalize” Qatar and get the U.S. to pressure it to “aid in coercive action against Iran,” according to a March 2017 document.
The gist of their plan was to show evidence that Qatar was too close to Iran and supported Islamist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood. Iran is Saudi’s main regional rival and on the other side of the war in Yemen.
Ideally, Broidy and Nader would work to persuade the U.S. government to sanction Qatar and move a key military base from Qatar to another location in the Gulf. Broidy said he had a direct line to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
“Mnuchin is a close friend of mine (my wife and I are attending Sec. Mnuchin’s wedding in Washington D.C. on June 24th),” Broidy wrote to Nader. “I can help in educating Mnuchin on the importance of the Treasury Department putting many Qatari individuals and organizations on the applicable sanctions lists.”
The al-Udeid Air Base outside Doha is an important U.S. military asset in the Middle East. It’s the forward operating base for U.S. Central Command and hosts some 10,000 U.S. troops — a geopolitical arrangement that Qatar’s Gulf rivals would like to change. Amid the fissures in the Gulf, the base is key leverage for Qatar to maintain influence in Washington. Unlike other countries, Qatar imposes few restrictions on base operations and is even building new facilities for U.S. troops.
Getting the U.S. government to move its critical base in the Gulf was unlikely. And polishing up the image of the Saudis and Emiratis was a hard sell.
Saudi Arabia has a history of torture and human rights abuses. Many Americans still associate the country with the Sept. 11 attacks. Of the 19 attackers, 15 were from Saudi Arabia, and two were from the UAE.
The UAE’s track record is no better. Last year, the AP revealed that the UAE was operating “black sites” in Yemen, where its soldiers have tortured prisoners - including, in some cases, tying them to a spit and roasting them over open fires.
Qatar has a troubled record as well. International human rights groups have dinged the country for its treatment of migrant workers preparing the country for the 2022 World Cup. Amnesty International, in a 2013 report, stated that migrants from southeast Asia worked in a state akin to slavery, “forced labour,” and lived in “squalid” housing.
Despite the challenges of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, the partners’ timing was good. Trump and many other Republicans in Washington viewed Saudi Arabia as a counterweight against Iran.
Broidy reported he was making progress, and Nader kept the “principals” briefed on their adventures, emails show. Broidy boasted that he had got the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, California Republican Rep. Ed Royce, to back an anti-Qatar bill.
“This is extremely positive,” Broidy wrote. He claimed he had “shifted” Royce from being critical of Saudi Arabia to “being critical of Qatar.” The AP reported in March that Broidy gave nearly $600,000 to GOP candidates and causes since the beginning of 2017. Royce got the maximum allowed.
Cory Fritz, a spokesman for Royce, noted the congressman’s record: Royce has long been critical of both countries. He said Royce has not changed his stance.
Broidy also bragged that he had “caused” Royce to praise a senior Saudi general, Ahmed Hassan Mohammad Assiri, in words that were then memorialized in the Congressional Record. Nader was thrilled: A U.S. congressman publicly flattered a Saudi official, who documents show was helping evaluate Broidy and Nader’s contract proposals.
At the end of March, Nader wrote that he’d had “a terrific, magnificent meeting” with the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. Prospects for the billion-dollar contracts were good.
“He was very positive overall,” Nader wrote. The prince even asked them to discuss their contracts with “General Ahmed.”
The money for the lobbying was another matter.
At Nader’s request, $2.5 million was channeled in two installments from his company in the UAE through a Canadian company called Xiemen Investments Limited, which someone familiar with the transaction said was run by one of Broidy’s friends. The money was then routed to a Broidy account in Los Angeles.
The transaction had the effect of obfuscating that the money for the political work in Washington had come from Nader in the UAE. Some of the recipients of Broidy’s spending in Washington said they had no idea that Nader was involved. Broidy previously told the AP that he did not think to question why the money was routed through a foreign entity.
At that point, Broidy might have realized the dangers of not registering as a foreign agent — it was all over the news.
Three Trump advisers registered retroactively as foreign agents: Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, who had done business for Turkey, and Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his longtime deputy, Rick Gates, who did business for Ukraine.
Broidy was undeterred. Nader cheered on his anti-Qatar exploits and told him to “keep hammering the bastards.”
Armed with fresh cash, Broidy pitched Nader a media blitz that would put the fire to Qatar.
He’d persuaded an American think tank, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, to stage an anti-Qatar conference. Broidy wrote Nader that his plan included the commission of 200 articles assigned to the foundation and other think tanks. Mark Dubowitz, the foundation’s CEO, later said that Broidy assured him the funding was not coming from a foreign government and that he had no contracts in the Gulf.
On April 21, 2017, Broidy sent Nader the draft of an Op-Ed to show the impact of his campaign. It was marked “Confidential.”
Three days later, “The Two Faces of Qatar, a Dubious Mideast Ally” was published in The Wall Street Journal. The opinion piece, co-written by retired Air Force Gen. Charles Wald, who had been the deputy head of U.S. European Command, called for moving U.S. military assets from the al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar. “The United Arab Emirates would be a logical destination,” wrote Wald.
What readers did not know was that Wald was listed in company documents as a member of Broidy’s Circinus team that was pitching contracts in Saudi Arabia.
Asked why he had not made his conflict clear in the Op-Ed piece, Wald denied he had ever worked for Broidy.
“I was not part of the team, period,” Wald wrote. “I can’t speak for his documentation.”
A person familiar with the arrangement, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record, said that Wald consulted with Broidy, but could not join a trip to pitch the contract in Saudi Arabia because of a scheduling conflict. Broidy’s leaked emails refer to Wald’s involvement almost four dozen times.
The Foundation for Defense of Democracies conference was set for May 23 at the Fairmont Hotel in Washington. In a Circinus progress report from Broidy to Nader, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are listed as the clients, Maj. Gen. Assiri as a consultant, and Broidy and Nader are “leader/liaison” — raising questions about Broidy’s contention to the AP that he was not working for a foreign government.
The conference also set off a flurry of more anti-Qatar stories in mainstream media, which Broidy catalogued for the crown princes.
The partners were jubilant when Trump made his first foreign trip not to his allies in Europe, but to Saudi Arabia.
Two weeks later, in a major escalation of tensions, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and regional allies launched a travel and trade embargo against Qatar.
It was hard to tell whose side the U.S. government was on.
One day after the UAE and Saudi Arabia began their blockade, Trump sent a series of tweets signaling support for the two countries’ actions and embracing an anti-Qatar stance. He said his recent visit to Saudi Arabia was “already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding extremism and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to horror of terrorism!”
U.S. officials quickly tried to walk back Trump’s comments, saying the U.S. was not taking sides in the dispute among its Gulf allies.
A week later, on June 16, the Trump administration completed a $12 billion sale of F-15 fighter jets to Qatar that had been approved earlier by Congress. The move was at odds with the president’s rhetoric on Qatar, but it paled in comparison with the $110 billion in arms deals with Saudi Arabia that Trump had previously announced.
In late September, Broidy arranged for the most coveted meeting for any lobbyist in Washington: an audience for himself with the president in the Oval Office.
In advance of the meeting, Nader wrote Broidy a script, an email shows . There were several objectives: to sell the idea for a Muslim fighting force, to keep the president from intervening on Qatar and to arrange a discreet meeting between Trump and the crown prince of Abu Dhabi.
The princes “are counting on you to relate it blunt and straight,” Nader wrote.
Nader told Broidy the meeting was potentially historic and to “take advantage of this priceless asset.”
And there was one more thing. Nader asked Broidy to tell the president about his connections with the crown princes, using code names for all three.
“Appreciate how you would make sure to bring up my role to Chairman,” Nader emailed. “How I work closely with Two Big Friends.”
After the Oct. 6 meeting, Broidy reported back to Nader that he had passed along the messages and had urged the president to stay out of the dispute with Qatar. He also said he explained Circinus’ plan to build a Muslim fighting force.
“President Trump was extremely enthusiastic,” he wrote. Broidy said Trump asked what the next step would be and that he told the president he should meet with the crown prince from the UAE, adding, “President Trump agreed that a meeting with MBZ was a good idea.”
The White House did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Despite that successful readout, Nader wanted more: He wanted a photo of himself with the president — a big request for a convicted pedophile.
Broidy was co-hosting a fundraiser for Trump and the Republican National Committee in Dallas on Oct. 25. The Secret Service had said Nader wouldn’t be allowed to meet the president. It was not clear if the objections were related to his convictions for sexually abusing children.
Broidy drafted an email to Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly, asking him to intervene on behalf of his friend, whom he oddly called “George Vader” — a misnomer that appears elsewhere in the emails.
“One of my companies does deep vetting for the US government,” he wrote. “We ran all data bases including FBI and Interpol and found no issues with regard to Mr. Vader.”
There was another issue. RNC officials had decreed there would be no photos with the president without payment. Broidy suggested that Nader meet the suggested threshold with a donation between $100,000 and $250,000.
It’s unclear exactly how the two issues were resolved. Records from the Federal Election Commission show no donations from either George Nader or “George Vader,” but on Nov. 30, Broidy gave $189,000 to the RNC — more than he had given to the RNC in over two decades of Republican fundraising.
The result: a picture of Nader and Trump grinning in front of the American flag.
It was time for Broidy to visit the UAE and nail down his first contract. He and Nader had already discussed sharing the profits and begun setting up a UAE subsidiary of Circinus, Broidy’s company.
In late November, Broidy planned a visit to complete the contracts in the UAE, where MBZ was hosting a Formula One auto race.
But maybe that was too public.
“I think my friend not very wise for you to be seeing (sic) at this event,” Nader wrote to Broidy. “Many journalists and people from Russia and other countries will be around.”
Broidy met Trump once again on Dec. 2. He reported back to Nader that he’d told Trump the crown princes were “most favorably impressed by his leadership.” He offered the crown princes’ help in the Middle East peace plan being developed by Jared Kushner. He did not tell Trump that his partner had complete contempt for the plan — and for the president’s son-in-law.
“You have to hear in private my Brother what Principals think of ‘Clown prince’s’ efforts and his plan!” Nader wrote. “Nobody would even waste cup of coffee on him if it wasn’t for who he is married to.”
Days after Broidy’s meeting with Trump, the UAE awarded Broidy the intelligence contract the partners had been seeking for up to $600 million over 5 years, according to a leaked email.
The Muslim fighting force contract would be even larger, potentially bringing their entire Gulf enterprise to more than $1 billion.
In January, Broidy was preparing for a third meeting with Trump, at Mar-a-Lago, during celebrations of the president’s first year in office. Nader was supposed to join them, but the initial payment for the intelligence contract was late. He delayed his trip to the U.S. for a day to make sure it was wired.
On Jan. 17, Broidy reported that he had received the first installment — $36 million.
“Terrific!” Nader wrote before his flight. “First among many to go!”
Hours after that money transfer, Nader and Broidy discovered that, despite all their precautions, they had not escaped notice.
When Nader landed at Dulles Airport outside Washington, D.C., a team of FBI agents working for Mueller was there to meet him. He was relieved of his electronic devices and later agreed to cooperate. It is unclear why Nader was detained, but he is a link between the Trump campaign and the Russian investor who attended the meeting in the Seychelles.
While there is no evidence that Mueller is interested in the lobbying effort, Nader’s detention kicked off a spiral of misfortune for the two partners.
In February, the AP, The New York Times and other news organizations began receiving anonymously leaked batches of Broidy’s emails and documents that had apparently been hacked. News stories linked him to plans to leverage his White House access for clients in Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
Broidy fought back. He sued Qatar and its lobbyists, alleging in a lawsuit filed in March that the hack was a smear campaign.
“We believe the evidence is clear that a nation state is waging a sophisticated disinformation campaign against me in order to silence me, including hacking emails, forging documents, and engaging in espionage and numerous other illegal activities,” Broidy said in a statement at the time.
Qatar responded that it was Broidy who had engaged in a propaganda campaign.
Then, on April 9, another blow.
The FBI raided the premises of Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, seeking information on hush money paid to porn actress Stormy Daniels, who said she’d had an affair with the president.
Broidy, it turned out, was also a Cohen client. He’d had an affair with Playboy Playmate Shera Bechard, who got pregnant and later had an abortion. Broidy agreed to pay her $1.6 million to help her out, so long as she never spoke about it.
“I acknowledge I had a consensual relationship with a Playboy Playmate,” Broidy said in a statement the day the news broke. He apologized to his wife and resigned from the RNC. There is no indication Broidy is under investigation by Mueller’s team.
In the end, Nader and Broidy’s anti-Qatar operation lost its momentum. There has been no traction on the effort to get the base in Qatar moved to the UAE. In late April, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for an end to the bickering among Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar during a trip to the Gulf.
Last week, Saudi Arabia distanced itself from Nader and Broidy. A senior official said Crown Prince bin Salman ordered an end to “engagement with these people.”
But Broidy’s huge contract with the UAE?
It’s good to go.
Read key documents in Broidy and Nader’s correspondence at:
Follow Desmond Butler on Twitter at and Tom LoBianco at
Have a tip? Contact the authors securely at

European Companies are Fleeing Iran
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/May 22/18
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s statement on Monday put an end to bargains.
Officially, Washington has begun its war on the Iranian regime. The weapons of economic sanctions threaten the entire regime and do not only restrain it. The French Total left the gas fields in the Gulf and moved on. Head of the Italian company ENI told the company’s board that they shut down their offices in Tehran and stopped searching for oil and gas. Airbus signed a contract to sell Iran 100 airplanes and only three jets arrived in Tehran’s airport as part of this historic deal which the company announced its cancellation.
A Norwegian solar energy company left Iran last week and there are four years left on the contract. Other big companies also fled Iran like the German Siemens, the Italian Danieli company which supplies equipment to the metal industry and Maersk Line, a container shipping company. Dozens of European companies rejected the Iranian temptations to stay in Iran out of fear of the Trump administration which warned that whoever does not stop dealing with Iran during the next 180 days will be prohibited from dealing with the American market.
Why do European and giant companies feel afraid? It’s simply because they have greater interests with the US, and as for those who do not care about the American market, prohibiting Iran from dealing with the dollar will subject them to bankruptcy.
The attempts of European governments, which promised they will continue to deal with Iran on the economic front as part of their commitment to the JCPOA agreement, to protect their companies’ contracts failed. Almost all big companies which made deals with Iran are withdrawing quickly despite the possible losses they may suffer.Total’s contract, which is very important for the Iranian oil and gas industry and which Tehran has greatly relied on, is proof that Europe’s politicians do not dictate their decisions on their companies and will not be able to stand in Washington’s face. Tehran, of course, will also completely fail in the confrontation against the US.
The French company was among the first of those to benefit from the Iranian nuclear signed with the West in 2015. It got the deal to develop phase 11 of the South Pars gas field for around $5 billion. A top executive at the company said at the time that they do not need US’ approval to proceed with the deal. After Trump warned in November of dealing with Iran, the French company retreated and closed its offices in Tehran and opened an office in Washington to coordinate with American authorities. It has finally announced its withdrawal from Iran. What’s Washington’s power and authority over European companies? The US market is worth $19 trillion and trade with the Europeans is worth $700 billion. Therefore, Iran’s deals seem worth so little compared to this. In addition to all that, the US control authorities’ sanctions are painful as they fined the French BNP bank a penalty worth $9 billion for dealing with Iran! . Therefore, the French and German governments’ attempts to defy the Trump administration and insistence to keep the nuclear deal are almost impossible for two reasons: Trump will not bend and the Iranian supreme guide will not alter his policies and stop his wars. Iran will realize that Europe’s politicians want the agreement but they willnot be able to pay it the required price as Europe’s companies’ hands are tied.Therefore, the truth which Iran’s leaders must realize is that the deal died the minute Barack Obama left the White House and Trump took over. Instead of dealing with the new reality and reviewing its wrong calculations, Tehran is running in all direction to Brussels, Moscow, Beijing and New Delhi but it has not succeeded in compensating for its losses or attaining alternatives. It’s militarily failing in Syria and it’s politically failing in Iraq. It’s also suffering losses in Yemen and losses are even greater inside Iran itself.

The World is Heating Up, But Not Everyone is Staying Cool

Nathanial Bullard/Bloomberg/May 22/18
The grid operator that delivers power to most of Texas set an all-time peak electricity demand record this week for the month of May. Hot weather, a healthy economy and a growing population have all given Electric Reliability Council of Texas Inc. reason to expect record-breaking summer usage.
The main driver of warm-weather peaks is air conditioning. Joshua Rhodes of the University of Texas told me that half of all summer peak demand in Ercot’s territory is from air conditioning, with two-thirds of residential electricity demand coming from AC. All told, home air conditioning makes up a little less than one-third of all electricity demand in the biggest state electricity grid in the country. Providing the power to meet that need is one of the main generators of all new electrical infrastructure in Texas, Rhodes says.
But a new report from the International Energy Agency makes Texas’ demand look positively tiny as a growing, urbanizing world demands to cool itself.
The IEA’s data shows not only how many air conditioning units there are in service today (nearly 1.1 billion worldwide) but also how uneven the distribution of cooling is. Japan has 90 residential air conditioning units for every 100 people; India has 1 per 100. South Korea has twice the number of residential air conditioners as Brazil, which has more than four times as many people. And the U.S. has more than a thousand times as much cooling output per person as India does.
Urbanization is also pushing demand for air conditioning higher. The United Nations recently published its updated population projections. In each of the following countries profiled by the IEA in its air conditioning analysis, more than half of their populations are expected to be living in urban areas in 30 years.
As the IEA notes, urbanization and air conditioning go hand in hand: Urban downtown areas can be as much as 7 degrees Fahrenheit (4 degrees Celsius) warmer than outside their cities, and dense settlement means that there is little free movement of air to naturally cool dwellings. At the same time that air conditioning is cooling interior spaces, it is heating the outside air via exhaust, which increases the work required for inside cooling, which increases exhaust and outside temperatures.
It’s an urban vicious circle, to say nothing of its effects on climate change. The IEA expects the number of “cooling degree days” (when temperatures are above 65 degrees Fahrenheit/18 degrees Celsius) worldwide to increase by 25 percent from 2016 to 2050, making the circle even more vicious:
Climate change is raising atmospheric temperatures, directly increasing the need for cooling, which is resulting in more burning of fossil fuels in power stations to meet the increased electricity load, which is contributing, in turn, to more climate change. Breaking this circle ultimately hinges on arresting climate change; that will require curbing the amount of energy used for cooling and for other end uses, as well as decarbonising the energy mix.The grid operator that delivers power to most of Texas set an all-time peak electricity demand record this week for the month of May. Hot weather, a healthy economy and a growing population have all given Electric Reliability Council of Texas Inc. reason to expect record-breaking summer usage.
The main driver of warm-weather peaks is air conditioning. Joshua Rhodes of the University of Texas told me that half of all summer peak demand in Ercot’s territory is from air conditioning, with two-thirds of residential electricity demand coming from AC. All told, home air conditioning makes up a little less than one-third of all electricity demand in the biggest state electricity grid in the country. Providing the power to meet that need is one of the main generators of all new electrical infrastructure in Texas, Rhodes says.
But a new report from the International Energy Agency makes Texas’ demand look positively tiny as a growing, urbanizing world demands to cool itself.
The IEA’s data shows not only how many air conditioning units there are in service today (nearly 1.1 billion worldwide) but also how uneven the distribution of cooling is. Japan has 90 residential air conditioning units for every 100 people; India has 1 per 100. South Korea has twice the number of residential air conditioners as Brazil, which has more than four times as many people. And the U.S. has more than a thousand times as much cooling output per person as India does. Just how much can cooling demand increase electricity consumption? China’s electricity consumption for air conditioning increased 68-fold from 1990 to 2016. Keeping a warming world cool will be a significant challenge, and as the IEA’s analysis indicates, doing it more efficiently will reduce cooling-energy demand significantly. Still, it will require even more power, new infrastructure and billions of new AC units.

العد العكسي لنظام "الملالي"

بقلم المحامي عبد الحميد الأحدب/22 أيار/18

اذا انسحب نظام "الملالي" الإيراني من دمشق- كما طلبت منه اميركا تحت طائلة العقوبات- فإنه سيسقط في طهران، اما اذا تشبّث بالبقاء في سوريا، فسيسقط في دمشق!



خلفيات الشروط الأميركية الـ12 المطلوبة من إيران

لندن: عادل السالمي/الشرق الأوسط/22 أيار/18


شروطٌ أميركيّة صارمة وايران ترد: من أنت حتّى تقرر عن العالم

 بقلم مايكل ر. جوردون نقلًا عن وول ستريت جورنا

ترجمة وفاء العريضي/لبنان الجديد/22 أيار/18


ميراي عون للخارجية وباسيل لشؤون الرئاسة، لمَ لا؟

العائلة موجودة ولكن أقل في "المستقبل" والتقدمي و"القوات" والكتائب و"المردة" و...

إيلي الحاج/نقلاً عن موقع مدى الصوت/22 أيار/18



Israel Launched World's First Air Strike Using F-35 Stealth Fighters, Air Force Chief Says
هآررتس: قائد القوى الجوية الإسرائيلي يعلن أن بلاده استعملت لأول مرة طائرات اف 35 الشبح في غاراتها على مواقع إيرانية في سوريا
Yaniv Kubovich/Haaretz/May 22, 2018
Middle East Conflicts No Longer Focus on Israel-Palestine: It's All About Iran vs. Saudi
الصراع في الشرق الأوسط لم يعد فلسطيني -إسرائيلي بل سعودي-إيراني
The Associated Press and Haaretz/ May 22, 2018

The princes, the president and the fortune seekers

We are all greatly thankful for the Godly gift that our Bejjani Family is blessed with. The priceless gift is our grandson Joseph. With his 19th birthday myself joined with my family members, we all wish Joseph all the luck in the world in his life asking almighty God, His angels and Virgin Merry to safeguard him and shower on him all heavenly endowments of health, peace of mind, love, faith, happiness, success and prosperity. Happy Birth Day Dear Joseph.

All That Happens In Lebanon Under the Hezbollah Occupation is Rejected & Illegitimate
Elias Bejjani/May 22/18
Sadly, our beloved country, The Holy Lebanon, is totally occupied by Iran through its Hezbollah terrorist proxy. Meanwhile all the top notch politician, parties, clergymen and officials with no one exception are shamefully subservient to the occupier and work under its umbrella with a 100% Dhimmitude education and mentality. Therefore any changed that might take place under the Iranian occupation like a new Federal System or any other constitutional amendments will be completely dictated by Iran to serve its denominational Persian scheme of expansionism and dictatorship. In conclusion, at the present there is no hope what so ever from the current politicians, parties or officials due to the evil fact that they all they all did succumb to the occupier.