May 24/2018
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 23-24/18
All That Happens In Lebanon Under the Hezbollah Occupation is Rejected & Illegitimate/Elias Bejjani/May 22/18
Aoun and Berri strike a conciliatory note/Sabine Darrous/The Daily Star/May. 23/2018
A Syrian-Hizballah buildup for a leap on Jordan’s border, cause for US, Israeli concern/DEBKAfile/May 23, 2018
The USA Wants To Crush Hamas, Hezbollah & Iran. But How/Jerusalem Post/May 23/18
Senior Israel Air Force officer: Israel Still Striking In Syria/Jerusalem Post/May 23/18
Germany: Asylum for Cash Scandal/Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/May 23/18
Palestinians: Americans Now Legitimate Targets/Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/May 23/18

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
Aoun Vows to 'Eradicate Corruption', Urges Fast Govt. Formation
Speaker Berri Re-Elected to Post, Ferzli as Deputy Speaker
Speaker Nabih Berri, Great Survivor of Lebanese Politics
Berri Meets Aoun, Says Consultations to Pick PM to be Held Thursday
U.N. Chief Urges Hizbullah to 'Halt Military Action'
Yacoubian Disrupts Berri's Reelection by Voting for Labaki
Nadiem Gemayel: Martyrs Didn't Die So That We Would Surrender
Mashnouq Walks Out of Parliament to Avoid Voting for 'Ghazi Kanaan'
Army commander pursues official visit to Australia
Grand Mufti leads prayers at Baabda palace ahead of iftar
Lebanon's Aoun to begin consultations on new PM on Thursday: Berri
Nabih Berri Re-Elected Lebanese Parliament Speaker
$2.4m military aid from Italy to Lebanon
Aoun and Berri strike a conciliatory note

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 23-24/18
A Syrian-Hizballah buildup for a leap on Jordan’s border, cause for US, Israeli concern
Speculation Mounts over U.S. Push for Iran Regime Change
U.S. Policy on Iran Puts Region in 'Further Danger', Says France
Syria Says Withdrawal of Iran, Hizbullah 'Not on Agenda'
Israeli Court Suspends HRW Official's Expulsion
Russia Calls for International Aid to Rebuild Syria
US Blacklists 5 Iranians over Houthi Ballistic Missile Support
Tehran Responds to Pompeo Conditions
Iraq’s Sadr Intensifies Consultations by Meeting Barzani Delegation
Two Soldiers Killed in East Libya Suicide Attack
26 Pro-Regime Forces Killed in ISIS Attack in Syria
Egypt Army Denounces HRW Report on Sinai
Trump Says his Summit with North Korean Leader May Be Delayed
Bin Daghr, US Ambassador Discuss Iranian Interference in Yemen
Haftar Forces in Libya Tighten Noose on Derna Jihadists

Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on May 23-24/18
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.
Aoun Vows to 'Eradicate Corruption', Urges Fast Govt. Formation
Naharnet/May 23/18/President Michel Aoun on Wednesday called on all parties to “facilitate” the formation of the new government as he promised Lebanese citizens that steps will be taken to “eradicate” the rampant corruption in the country. “There are a lot of domestic and external challenges ahead and we can only confront them through our unity and solidarity and by giving the priority to the national interest,” Aoun said at the annual iftar banquet in Baabda, which brings together the country's top leaders and officials every year. “We must seal all the possible gaps through which the winds of violence and disturbances could leak from abroad into the country,” the president added, warning against disunity and “conflicting visions and interests.”With the election of a new parliament and Speaker, Aoun said that the next step is to "form a national unity government that can confront the challenges, a government that can deal with the regional and international situation while preserving domestic stability."The president added that the new government should also "carry on with reforms as it seeks to combat corruption, modernize state administrations" and "implement an economic plan that can lead to the country's growth and rise."
"Everyone is asked to facilitate the formation of the new government, seeing as the pressing situation does not allow any waste of time. The standards of the formation process are well-known and we only have to abide by them and implement them," Aoun went on to say.
He cautioned that "the most important challenge is the economic situation that has deterioated due to accumulations and continous crises that have been running for decades and that have been aggravated by the repercussions of the global economic crisis and the wars in the region." Aoun warned that “any economic plan will not fully succeed if we do not devise practical solutions to resolve the growing Syrian refugee crisis.” The president also said that he "promises all Lebanese" that the State will take "decisive steps to eradicate corruption" before next Ramadan.
Aoun's speech comes on the eve of binding parliamentary consultations to name a new premier in which caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri is expected to be re-appointed to his post.

Speaker Berri Re-Elected to Post, Ferzli as Deputy Speaker
Agence France Presse/Associated Press/Naharnet/May 23/18/Speaker Nabih Berri has been re-elected for a sixth consecutive term on Wednesday with an overwhelming majority of 98 votes out of the parliament’s 128-seat assembly. Berri, who ran unchallenged, won 98 votes with 29 blank ballots and one that was annulled. The newly elected parliament convened for the first time after the May 6 nationwide balloting. Veteran politician, Elie al-Ferzli was also elected as deputy parliament speaker after winning 80 MP votes. In accordance with the protocol, the Parliament convened under the most senior MP, Michel Murr, who was accompanied to the parliament by caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri. The country's first parliamentary elections in nine years ended years of political stalemate over a new election law and repeated extension of the parliament's terms. The re-election of Berri, an ally of Hizbullah who has held the post since 1992, reflects Lebanon's entrenched sectarian-based political system which has held despite rising discontent. Together, the two parties hold all but one of the 26 Shiite-allocated seats in Lebanon's parliament. Outgoing PM Hariri called him a "national symbol." Michel Murr meanwhile commended Berri for successfully managing the country's sectarian politics over the years, preventing conflict. After his election, Berri addressed legislators by saying "thank you" six times, in reference to his sixth term. He pledged bills on major legislative issues, notably on potential maritime oil and gas reserves. Lebanon in February signed its first deal to drill in a pair of offshore zones, including one that is disputed between Lebanon and Israel. "Parliament will be a bulwark for the country's sovereign land and maritime borders -- a national response by the state, army, people, and resistance to Israel's aggressions and violations," Berri said. Celebratory gunfire and firecrackers erupted across Beirut and its southern suburbs after Berri was approved. Lebanon's confessional political system divides seats in parliament equally among Muslims and Christians, then further splits them among the various sects. The position of speaker is reserved for a Shiite Muslim, while the other two top positions of prime minister and president go to a Sunni Muslim and a Maronite Christian, respectively. Born in 1938, Berri is a veteran of Lebanon's complex political scene. He rose to power as AMAL Movement leader in the civil war (1957-1990) before transitioning to politics when it ended. He was simultaneously elected member and speaker of parliament in 1992. In his official role he calls and runs Lebanon's parliamentary sessions. The long delay preceding this month's parliamentary elections was blamed on political divisions, the war in neighboring Syria and an unsatisfactory voting law. President Michel Aoun will on Thursday consult the newly-elected body to name the country's next prime minister. Al-Mustaqbal Movement leader, caretaker PM Hariri, is expected to return for another term in that role, his third time as premier.

Speaker Nabih Berri, Great Survivor of Lebanese Politics
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 23/18/ Famous for his quick wit and shrewd politicking, Hizbullah ally Nabih Berri is returning for a sixth consecutive term as speaker of Lebanon's parliament, making him one of the world's longest-serving legislative chiefs. At 80 years old, he is one of the great survivors of the country's complex political scene, which he has expertly navigated as head of parliament for the last 26 years. In a confessional system where the speaker's post is reserved for a Shiite Muslim, Berri has become one of his community's most successful leaders. He won another four-year session practically unchallenged on Wednesday, winning votes from 98 of parliament's 128 members at their inaugural session. The tall, light-eyed politician heads the AMAL Movement and is a close ally of Iran-backed Hizbullah. Together, the two parties hold all but one of the 27 Shiite-allocated seats in Lebanon's parliament.
A lawyer by training, Berri won power as a militia leader during the 1975-1990 civil war and transitioned to politics as the war ended. His career since has mirrored the Shiite community's steadily rising clout in a country where it had long been marginalized both economically and politically. He has nimbly navigated shifting tides over the past three decades to seal both his popularity in the Shiite community and his grip on the post of speaker. Even as he fashioned himself into a mediator among Lebanon's deeply divided political factions, he has remained firmly allied to Hizbullah. That partnership is likely to remain intact. In an AFP interview shortly after this month's parliamentary election, Berri said the so-called 'army-people-resistance equation' was key to keeping Lebanon safe.
From law to war and back
Like many Lebanese from the south, Berri's parents moved to Africa to make a better living. He was born on January 28, 1938, in Freetown, Sierra Leone. He earned a law degree from the state-run Lebanese University in 1963 before completing post-graduate law studies at the Sorbonne in Paris. During Lebanon's war, he rose to prominence by taking over the leadership of the AMAL movement in 1980, two years after the mysterious disappearance in Libya of its founder, Imam Moussa Sadr. In 1984, he led his militiamen in an uprising against the U.S.- and Israeli-backed regime of president Amin Gemayel. Between 1985 and 1988, he helped crush supporters of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in the so-called "war of the camps." In 1988, his militia fought a deadly power struggle with Hizbullah, which took control of almost all the Shiite southern suburbs of Beirut and swathes of Lebanon's Shiite-dominated south.AMAL continued to fight against Israel's occupation of southern Lebanon until the latter withdrew in 2000. "I am proud of my participation in the resistance against Israel," Berri told AFP in an earlier interview. "But the rest (of the war) could have been avoided."Like many of Lebanon's war-time chiefs, Berri transitioned to politics when the frontlines calmed, making himself an indispensable ally to Syria, which kept its troops in Lebanon. Berri was named minister several times between 1984 and 1992. That year, in the first elections after the war ended, Berri was simultaneously elected a member and speaker of parliament -- the highest post for a Shiite in the country's sectarian political system.
A 'wily fox'
Since Berri's entry into parliament, politicians aligned with him have virtually always won in legislative elections. He is known to speak off-the-cuff, even while chairing parliamentary sessions, which typically involve a lot of gavel-banging. Despite his famously sharp tongue, use of colloquial idioms, and booming voice, Berri rarely makes direct comments to the media. But he holds an open house for members of parliament every Wednesday, and visitors relay his words to waiting journalists on their way out. He regularly hosts top officials visiting Lebanon from Western countries, who talk to Berri as they cannot publicly meet with Hizbullah. Supporters cite Berri's focus on development projects and creation of employment opportunities for Lebanon's long-neglected south. Detractors, meanwhile, deride him as a "wily fox" who runs his political party the same way he ran his wartime militia -- unfairly filling government posts with members of his own constituency. But even they admit that they respect his ability to shrug off criticism and carry on.  Berri is married and has nine children, six of them from a previous marriage.

Berri Meets Aoun, Says Consultations to Pick PM to be Held Thursday
Naharnet/May 23/18/Binding parliamentary consultations to choose a new premier will kick off on Thursday, Speaker Nabih Berri said.
“Together with the deputy speaker and the members of the parliament bureau, we came here to take the blessing of President Michel Aoun, in line with protocol,” Berri said after meeting Aoun in Baabda, flanked by Deputy Speaker Elie Ferzli and MP Marwan Hamadeh. “After consulting with President Aoun, it has been decided to speed up the binding parliamentary consultations as much as possible and to begin them tomorrow,” Berri added. Asked about his relation with Aoun, the Speaker quipped: “Permanent love, God willing.”The National News Agency meanwhile reported that the “single-day consultations” will be held Thursday in Baabda from 10:00 am until the Ramadan iftar time in the evening. Caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri is widely expected to be renamed premier in Thursday's consultations.
A statement issued by the presidency said the consultations will start at 10:00 am and end shortly after 5:00 pm according to the below schedule:
- 10:00 am: Caretaker PM Hariri
- 10:15 am: Ex-PM Najib Miqati
- 10:30 am: Ex-PM Tammam Salam
- 10:45 am: Deputy Speaker Elie Ferzli
- 11:00 am: Al-Mustaqbal bloc
- 11:15 am: Strong Lebanon coalition which comprises the Free Patriotic Movement's MPs, the Armenian MPs bloc, the Mount Lebanon Guarantee bloc (Talal Arslan, Cesar Abi Khalil, Mario Aoun and Farid al-Bustani), and Independence Movement leader MP Michel Mouawad
- 11:45 am: Loyalty to Resistance bloc
- 12:00 pm: National Coalition bloc (Farid al-Khazen, Tony Franjieh, Faisal Karami, Estephan Douaihi, Fayez Ghosn, Mustafa al-Husseini and Jihad al-Samad)
- 12:15 pm: Democratic Gathering bloc
- 12:30 pm: Miqati-led 'Independent Center' bloc
- 12:45 pm: Social National bloc (SSNP)
- 2:30 pm: Strong Republic bloc (LF)
- 2:45 pm: Kataeb Party bloc
- 3:10 pm: MP Michel Murr
- 3:20 pm: MP Fouad Makhzoumi
- 3:30 pm: MP Edie Demerjian
- 3:40 pm: MP Osama Saad
- 3:50 pm: MP Jamil al-Sayyed
- 4:10 pm: MP Adnan Traboulsi
- 4:20 pm: MP Abdul Rahim Mrad
- 4:30 pm: MP Paula Yacoubian
- 5:00 pm: Development and Liberation bloc

U.N. Chief Urges Hizbullah to 'Halt Military Action'
Associated Press/Naharnet/May 23/18/Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly criticized Hizbullah for operating as the most heavily armed group and a political party in Lebanon and urged it to halt military activities inside and outside the country, including in Syria. In a report to the Security Council obtained by The Associated Press, Guterres also called on Lebanon's government and armed forces "to take all measures necessary to prohibit Hizbullah and other armed groups from acquiring weapons and building paramilitary capacity" outside the authority of the state.
He said Hizbullah'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 Hizbullah's engagement in the Syrian conflict also violates Lebanon's official policy of "disassociation," or neutrality in regional affairs.
Guterres said the report demonstrates Hizbullah's failure to disarm and "its refusal to be accountable" to state institutions that the U.N. 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 Hizbullah fighters fought a monthlong war. The border with Israel has remained mostly quiet since then, but Guterres said an alleged increase in Hizbullah'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 Hizbullah 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 Hizbullah in Syria and elsewhere. Both are strong supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad's government. Guterres said Hizbullah'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." Hizbullah 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 Hizbullah made major gains. Its leader, Hassan Nasrallah declared "mission accomplished."Nonetheless, Lebanese analysts say the next Cabinet, like the outgoing one, will likely be a unity government that includes Hizbullah.

Yacoubian Disrupts Berri's Reelection by Voting for Labaki
Naharnet/May 23/18/First-time parliamentarian Paula Yacoubian, a journalist who is close to Prime Minister Saad Hariri but ran as a civil society candidate, made a scene at parliament on Wednesday by voting symbolically for prominent Lebanese filmmaker Nadine Labaki for the parliament speaker post. Yacouboian objected after Labaki's name was not read out during the counting of votes. Yacoubian's vote was subsequently disqualified after it was initially counted as a blank ballot. Parliamentarians had submitted anonymous paper ballots which were then read out loud. Speaker Nabih Berri's name was read 98 times, and "blank" was read 30 times. Under Lebanon's confessional-based political system, the position of parliament speaker is reserved for a Shiite Muslim. Candidates also have to be members of parliament. Labaki won one of the top prizes at the Cannes film festival on Saturday. She is the first Arab woman to have won a major prize at the festival and only the second to have had a film competing for the Palme d'Or. Lebanon witnessed controversy in the past few days after Hizbullah MP Nawwaf al-Moussawi and the journalist Manar Sabagh of Hizbullah's al-Manar TV downplayed and ridiculed Labaki's win in Twitter posts. Hizbullah has distanced itself from the tweets, saying in a statement that they do not reflect the party's stance on cinema and arts. Moussawi interrupted Yacouboian several times during her objecting remarks Wednesday in parliament.

Nadim Gemayel: Martyrs Didn't Die So That We Would Surrender 23rd May 2018/Kataeb MP Nadim Gemayel expressed unwavering steadfastness in the face of malicious schemes aimed at turning Lebanon into an arena that serves foreign interests, outlining the importance of reuniting the March 14 forces which paid heavy prices to defend the country's sovereignty and independence. "Lebanon is fine when the Kataeb party is fine," he assured during the annual dinner hosted by the Kataeb's office in London. "The option offered by one of the local political groups is to turn Lebanon into a war front that stretches over Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. On the other hand, another group is counting on no one other than the state institutions and the Army when it comes to defending national sovereingty.""Over the next four years, our mission will be to go back to the roots to tell the expats who are angered by the situation in their country not to lose hope. We want you to remain proud of your national belonging," Gemayel stated. "Our martyrs did not sacrifice their lives so that we would surrender."
Mashnouq Walks Out of Parliament to Avoid Voting for 'Ghazi Kanaan'
Naharnet/May 23/18/Caretaker Interior Minister and Beirut MP Nouhad al-Mashnouq on Wednesday walked out of parliament during a vote for the deputy speaker post. “I will not vote for Ghazi Kanaan for the deputy speaker post,” Mashnouq tweeted, in a jab at MP Elie Ferzli who was elected deputy speaker during the session. The late Kanaan was the head of Syria's infamous security apparatus in Lebanon during Damascus' tutelage over the country. “I only voted for (Speaker Nabih) #Berri out of my belief in his patriotism and Arabism... but I will not take part in a session that reelects one of the most notorious Syrian tutelage figures as deputy speaker,” Mashnouq added. “The Lebanese paid a lot of blood to get rid of Syrian tutelage that was for long years embodied in Ghazi Kanaan and his cronies, and I do not accept to take part in any practice aimed at reviving the Syrian tutelage,” the minister stressed.

Army commander pursues official visit to Australia
Wed 23 May 2018/NNA - On the third day of his official visit to Australia, Army Commander General Joseph Aoun and his accompanying delegation moved from the Australian Canberra to Sydney. Lebanon's General Consul, Charbel Macron, gave a lunch banquet in honor of General Aoun at the Lebanese Consulate's headquarters, attended by Lebanon's Ambassador, Milad Raad, Australian lawmakers of Lebanese origin and the Lebanese community members. In his delivered word, General Aoun thanked the Lebanese community for the warm welcome, hailing the affinity demonstrated by the Lebanese people, residing and emigrants, towards the Lebanese army in its recent "Fajr al-Joroud" battle. "The moral and financial support granted by the Lebanese people to the army during "Fajr al-Joroud" was a key factor in realizing victory," the army commander said. General Aoun noted that the financial aids provided by the people have contributed to the purchase of UTV vehicles used on the battlefield.

Grand Mufti leads prayers at Baabda palace ahead of iftar
Wed 23 May 2018/NNA - Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdel Latif Derian led prayers at the Presidential palace's Ambassadors' Hall ahead of the iftar banquet. Partaking in said prayers had been House Speaker, Nabih Berri, and Prime Minister, Saad Hariri.
Lebanon's Aoun to begin consultations on new PM on Thursday: Berri
BEIRUT (Reuters) May 23/18/Lebanese President Michel Aoun will begin consultations with MPs on Thursday to pick the next prime minister, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said. Aoun is obliged to designate as prime minister the candidate with the greatest support among MPs. Outgoing Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri is widely expected to be selected again. Berri made the announcement after meeting Aoun at the presidential palace, following the first session of the new parliament during which Berri was elected as speaker for the sixth time in a row.

Nabih Berri Re-Elected Lebanese Parliament Speaker
Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 23 May, 2018 /Lebanese lawmakers re-elected on Wednesday Nabih Berri as parliament speaker, a post he has held since 1992.The 128-seat assembly voted 98 in favor of Berri, with 29 blank ballots and one that was annulled. The newly elected parliament convened Wednesday for the first time after May 6 nationwide balloting. It is Berri's sixth consecutive term; he ran unchallenged. MP Elie Ferzli was elected as his deputy. “Your vote of confidence make me keener on preserving the parliament and Lebanon as a whole,” Berri told MPs after securing the vote. "I extend my sincere thanks, for the sixth time, to the members of parliament for their confidence in renewing my responsibilities as parliament speaker," he said. He said that the new parliament will focus on combating corruption, achieving decentralized government and approving legal measures to pave the way for oil exploration. Keeping on Berri as parliament speaker is expected to smooth the way for the formation of a new government in the coming weeks. Political powers will now shift their attention to the nomination of a prime minister, who will be tasked with forming the government. These consultations with President Michel Aoun are set to kick off next week. Current PM Saad Hariri is widely expected to be renamed to the post. This month’s parliamentary elections were the first in Lebanon since 2009.

$2.4m military aid from Italy to Lebanon

Middle East Monitor/May 23, 2018/Italy will provide Lebanon’s army and security services with equipment and training worth $2.4 million, the Italian Ambassador in Beirut Massimo Marotti said yesterday according to the Anadolu Agency. The pledge for the new aid package came during a meeting between Marotti and Lebanese President Michel Aoun. Marotti reviewed with Aoun the steps taken by his country to support the Lebanese army and security bodies in line with the Rome II conference that was held in March in the Italian capital where the international community committed to supporting the country’s security institutions. During the meeting, France pledged to provide €14 million ($17 million) worth of aid to the Lebanese army, to include training and equipment such as anti-tank missiles.

Aoun and Berri strike a conciliatory note
Sabine Darrous/The Daily Star/May. 23/2018
A new relationship of mutual respect and cooperation between President Michel Aoun and outgoing Speaker Nabih Berri is being gradually built ahead of the formation of a new government, replacing the previous tensions between the two leaders. This new stage was further reinforced Tuesday by the decision of Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement to leaving to MPs the decision of whether to vote for Berri to take up another four-year term as speaker of Parliament, with MP Elie Ferzli as deputy speaker. This move broke with the party’s former “eye for an eye” approach toward the longtime speaker, whose parliamentary bloc refrained from casting votes for Aoun when Parliament elected him president in 2016. This rapprochement was first made clear when an ice-breaking meeting was held between Berri and Aoun in Baabda Palace following this month’s parliamentary elections.
Berri described the meeting as “more than excellent,” signaling the end of the strained relations between the two officials that had colored their interactions over the preceding months. FPM’s new conciliatory approach to Berri comes from its concept of “supporting and respecting the strongest in each sect,” which has been reiterated several times by FPM head and MP Gebran Bassil. This concept can explain the party’s decision to elect Berri to the speakership – a position which he has held since 1992 – and to nominate caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri to head the new Cabinet.
FPM MPs Ibrahim Kanaan, Elias Bou Saab and Alain Aoun visited Berri Tuesday at his headquarters in Ain al-Tineh to speak with him about their party’s deliberations regarding the speaker and deputy speaker. The elections for these positions are set to be held in a parliamentary session Wednesday.
Speaking after the meeting, Kanaan said that the meeting had been held in order to convey to Berri “the president’s clear stance toward opening a new page and establishing cooperation with [Berri], in light of the challenges that require cooperation to preserve Lebanon.”
Bou Saab, whose name has been circulating recently as a strong contender for the position of deputy speaker, seems to have backed away to make way for Ferzli, his colleague in the FPM parliamentary bloc Strong Lebanon. “I did not offer myself as a candidate for the position of deputy speaker,” Bou Saab said after meeting Berri. Political sources told The Daily Star that they believed Bou Saab’s decision to withdraw was due to FPM’s hope to have him appointed as a minister in the new government, and to back him for the position of deputy prime minister. Such a step would most likely intensify the tug of war between the FPM and the Lebanese Forces during the process of forming the new government. The position of deputy prime minister is currently held by caretaker Health Minister Ghassan Hasbani, affiliated with the LF. It’s thought that LF head Samir Geagea would not give up this position without a fight – especially since the party will likely not succeed in grabbing the position of deputy speaker, for which it nominated the newly elected MP Amin Nassar. Nassar, who is a member of Strong Republic, has little chance of winning the seat over Ferzli, heightening the LF-FPM tensions over the distribution of ministerial shares and portfolios. The LF is aiming to secure four seats in the new Cabinet, one of which should be a sovereign ministerial position, to reflect its success in the parliamentary elections. LF boosted its parliamentary representation from eight to 15 seats in the May 6 elections.
The four ministries that are considered to be sovereign in the Cabinet are the Foreign, Interior, Defense and Finance ministries, usually distributed equally among Christians and Muslims. The FPM, meanwhile, is eyeing nine or even 10 ministerial seats, reflecting its 29-member parliamentary bloc.Custom dictates that the president should receive a share of Cabinet positions to which he or she can nominate ministers. The president’s share in the government has drawn criticism from LF officials, who argued that the president should receive these ministerial positions only if he retains a “neutral” position.
Aoun is affiliated to a political party – the FPM – which will receive its own sizeable share in the government. LF sources said previous presidents, such as Michel Sleiman, Emile Lahoud or even Elias Hrawi, did not head large political parties and parliamentary blocs, which explains why they were offered their own ministerial seats in the Cabinet.
Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 23-24/18
A Syrian-Hizballah buildup for a leap on Jordan’s border, cause for US, Israeli concern
حشد عسكري لحزب الله والجيش السوري بالقرب من الحدود الأردنية يسبب قلقاً لأميركا وإسرائيل

DEBKAfile/May 23, 2018
A large Syrian army/Hizballah force is massing at Izra in the southern Daraa region poised to fight through to the Jordanian border and come within reach of Quneitra. This is reported by DEBKAfile’s military sources. The big Izra base also houses the Iranian command for eastern Syria. Bashar Assad has freed up substantial military strength for his drive to capture the south after beating back rebel forces from the Damascus area and proclaiming it under his control. The strength piling up at Izra consists of elements of the 4th Armored Division, as well as the 5th, 7th and 9th Divisions, paired with Hizballah reinforcements. They are armed with fresh Russian arms deliveries of Golan 1000 missile launchers and the new version of the Kornet D anti-tank missiles which can hit targets within a range of 8-9 km.
Our sources report that these units are preparing to drive south, knock over the rebel militias holding positions in the southeast and break through to the Syrian-Jordanian border crossing at Nasib. This is not the Syrian army’s first expedition with this goal, but hitherto they were pushed back by the rebels when the Russian command denied them air support at US and Jordanian insistence. This time, Russian intentions are unknown.
The US and Israeli commanders are watching the buildup at Izra with concern. Should a Syrian government force manage to fight its way through to the Jordanian border, backed by Hizballah and Iranian commanders, it would pose a threat to the US contingents posted in northern Jordan and embedded in the Syrian-Jordanian-Iraqi border triangle. Their presence there would be just a hop and a jump away from the Syrian Golan town of Quneitra and the Israeli border to the east, which is causing anxiety in Israel.

Speculation Mounts over U.S. Push for Iran Regime Change
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 23/18/Speculation is swirling over the prospect of US willingness to push regime change in Tehran, as US officials including Washington's top diplomat urge Iranians to "choose for themselves" their government. "The Iranian people get to choose for themselves the kind of leadership they want," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday after outlining a day prior aggressive measures designed to counter Tehran, including what he dubbed the "strongest sanctions in history."Pompeo has made similar comments in recent days. Experts consider the remarks as admission of a strategy that aims to trigger the collapse of the regime born out of the 1979 Islamic Revolution that shattered US-Iranian relations. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said US "policy is not regime change" -- but made clear the United States would "welcome" a new era in Tehran.
"If the Iranian people were to choose, somewhere down the road, to make their views known, they're certainly welcome to do so," she said. "The Iranian people for far too long have lived under a regime that has mistreated its people."President Donald Trump had already raised the specter of regime change when he announced the US would pull out of the Iran nuclear accord earlier this month, saying Iranians "deserve a nation that does justice to their dreams."Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani also told exiled Iranian opposition figures "we have a president who is as committed to regime change as we are."The prospect finds support from neoconservative circles, and remains charged in the US since the 2003 military intervention that toppled Saddam Hussein -- a move now widely considered a blunder, including by Trump. Foreign policy analysts have noted the appointment of so-called "hawks" to key positions, including Pompeo and John Bolton, the national security advisor. Both have advocated for regime change in the past. "I'm convinced that the people of Iran, when they can see a path forward which will lead their country to stop behaving in this way, will choose that path," Pom

U.S. Policy on Iran Puts Region in 'Further Danger', Says France
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 23/18/French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Wednesday that the United States risks further destabilising the Middle East after Washington warned Iran faced the "strongest sanctions in history". "The sanctions to be launched against Iran will not foster dialogue. On the contrary, they will boost the importance and power of Iran's conservatives and weaken president (Hassan) Rouhani, who wanted to negotiate," Le Drian told France Inter radio. "Ultimately, this stance is likely to put the region in further danger than it is today." On May 8, US President Donald Trump pulled out of the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which curbs the country's nuclear program in return for sanctions relief. The decision to withdraw from the accord marked a stark diplomatic defeat for Europe, whose leaders, repeatedly and in person, had called on Trump to think again.
Speaking Monday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Tehran would be hit with the "strongest sanctions in history" and cautioned European firms against continuing to do business with the Islamic republic. Le Drian warned Wednesday of a "regional explosion" because of the Syrian civil war and the Iranian nuclear crisis. Asked if there was a risk of a new conflict, he replied "yes". He referred to rockets fired from "Iranian arms based in Syria" on May 10 on the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, which prompted return fire by Israel against Iranian targets inside Syria. "The conditions are all there so that if by chance something happened, perhaps on purpose, perhaps not, there could be an escalation," he added.

Syria Says Withdrawal of Iran, Hizbullah 'Not on Agenda'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 23/18/Syria's deputy foreign minister said Wednesday Damascus did not envisage Iran and Hizbullah participating in the withdrawal of foreign forces from the war-torn country as announced last week by Russia. Asked whether the removal of Iranian and Hizbullah forces could end Israel's strikes on Syria, Faisal Mekdad told RIA Novosti state news agency that "this topic is not even on the agenda for discussion.""All these forces oppose terrorism. They are not making an attempt to violate the sovereignty and territory of Syria," he said in comments translated into Russian.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Thursday, with the Russian leader saying "foreign armed forces will withdraw from Syrian territory" although he gave few details. But Russia's chief Syria negotiator Alexander Lavrentyev later told journalists that the withdrawal of foreign troops should be done "as a whole" and include Iranians and Hizbullah, the powerful Lebanese group that is an ally of Iran and Assad. "We are talking about all the foreign troop divisions which still have troops in Syrian territory. That includes the Americans and the Turks and Hizbullah, of course, and the Iranians," Lavrentyev said on Friday, quoted by RIA Novosti. Mekdad, however, suggested Russia had not meant to say this. "I don't think that our Russian friends meant the forces that entered Syria in agreement with the Syrian government," he said. "Russia demanded the withdrawal of forces that are here without agreement: that is the forces of the US, France, Turkey and other forces that are here illegitimately." Russia and Iran are both allied with Assad. Together with rebel-supporting Turkey, they have been brokering peace talks in Astana, the Kazakh capital, running in parallel to talks supervised by the United Nations. Last year, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow was acting on the basis that both Hizbullah and the Iranians, "just like the Russian air forces, are in Syria at the invitation of the legitimate government."

Israeli Court Suspends HRW Official's Expulsion
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 23/18/An Israeli court on Wednesday suspended an expulsion order for Human Rights Watch's country director until a decision is taken on a HRW legal challenge against it, the rights watchdog said.
The injunction granted by the district court in Jerusalem came only a day ahead of the deadline for Omar Shakir to leave Israel after authorities accused him of previously supporting a boycott of the country. Shakir, a U.S. citizen, rejected the allegation and said Israel was seeking to silence dissent. U.S.-based HRW has filed a lawsuit challenging the decision by Israel's interior ministry terminating Shakir's residency permit.The court had last week rejected an initial HRW request for Shakir to be allowed to remain in Israel at least temporarily. But the rights group also filed a separate request for the injunction granted on Wednesday. Shakir said in a statement the court found that the decision to revoke his residency permit was based on facts that pre-dated its issuance, meaning it could have been known beforehand. "The court reasoned that the revocation decision was based on 'old facts' that predated the grant of the work permit," Shakir said in a statement.Proceedings are now expected to move forward on HRW's full lawsuit against the expulsion order. Last year, Israel passed a law banning entry to foreigners who support boycotting the country. The law was passed in response to a movement to boycott Israel by those seeking to pressure the country over its occupation of Palestinian territory. Israel sees the boycott movement as a strategic threat and accuses it of anti-Semitism -- a claim activists deny, saying they only want to see the occupation end. Israel's government, seen as the most right-wing in the country's history, has repeatedly criticized rights groups it accuses of having a left-wing agenda.

Russia Calls for International Aid to Rebuild Syria

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 23/18/Senior Russian military officials on Wednesday called for the United Nations and other international organizations to help rebuild Syrian territory recaptured by government forces, in order to consolidate the "successes" of the military campaign. "To completely restore the areas that were damaged by military action against terrorist groups in Syria, and the economy of Syria as a whole, the help of all the international community is needed," senior military officer Sergei Rudskoi said at a Moscow briefing. "We call on the U.N. and other international organizations to get involved in this process," Rudskoi said. Russia in 2015 launched a military intervention in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the conflict that has now lasted seven years and cost over 350,000 lives. Russian President Vladimir Putin warned while meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday that Syria needed aid to ensure that refugees return home from Europe. "We need to depoliticize the process of humanitarian aid and restoration of the Syrian economy," Putin said at a joint press conference with Merkel. "If Europeans want people to go back to their homes from Europe, they need to remove restrictions on help to Syria that are incomprehensible to us, at least in the territories under control of the Syrian government." Rudskoi on Wednesday hailed the "significant successes" of Syrian government troops with the support of Russian forces in "liberating key areas of Syria from the remnants of terrorist groups.". Currently "all the conditions have been created to restore Syria as a single, undivided state. But to achieve this aim, not only Russia needs to make efforts, but also the other members of the international community," Rudskoi said. Some 6.1 million people are now internally displaced in Syria, more than five million have fled the country and 13 million including six million children are in need of aid, according to the U.N. The U.N. says that $9 billion is needed this year to help those in need inside Syria and living as refugees in neighboring countries, but international donors in April pledged only $4.4 billion at a conference in Brussels.
US Blacklists 5 Iranians over Houthi Ballistic Missile Support
Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 23 May, 2018/The US Treasury announced on Tuesday that it was blacklisting five Iranians for supplying ballistic missile technology to the Houthi militias in Yemen. The Treasury said the five placed on its sanctions list were linked to an operation by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps to support Houthi attacks on cities in Saudi Arabia. "The United States will not tolerate Iranian support for Houthi rebels who are attacking our close partner, Saudi Arabia. All countries in the region should be on guard to prevent Iran from sending its personnel, weapons, and funds in support of its proxies in Yemen," Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in a statement. The Arab coalition to restore legitimacy in Yemen has frequently accused Tehran of providing the Houthis with weapons, including ballistic missiles. Since 2015, they have launched more than 130 ballistic missiles at Saudi Arabia, which has intercepted them through anti-missile defense systems. Iran has denied supplying missiles to the Houthis, while the group has insisted that they developed the missiles themselves. But the United States says it has irrefutable evidence of Iran's involvement. Actions by the Revolutionary Guards "have enabled the Houthis to launch missiles at Saudi cities and oil infrastructure," Mnuchin added. Four of the five men hit with sanctions, which aim to lock them out of the global financial system, are senior officials in the Revolutionary Guard Aerospace Forces Al-Ghadir Missile Command.
The fifth was linked to a Revolutionary Guards unit responsible for researching and developing ballistic missiles. The sanctions freeze any assets the five may have in US jurisdictions and prohibit Americans from any transactions with them. Over the last two weeks, the US Treasury has stepped up sanctions targeting Iran, and especially the Revolutionary Guards, in the wake of President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. On Monday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Tehran that it was facing a tougher sanctions regime than it ever experienced as Washington pressures Tehran to disengage from regional hot spots like Syria and Yemen and to stop exporting its ballistic missile technology. He vowed that the US would step up efforts against Iran's support for groups like the Houthis, Lebanon's “Hezbollah”, the Palestinian "Hamas" movement and Syria's regime.
"This sting of sanctions will be painful if the regime does not change its course from the unacceptable and unproductive path it has chosen to one that rejoins the league of nations," said Pompeo.

Tehran Responds to Pompeo Conditions
London - Asharq Al-Awsat/May. 23/2018/Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani made comments on Tuesday after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday that Washington will increase the financial pressure on Iran by imposing the "strongest sanctions in history" on Tehran if it refuses to change the course of its foreign and domestic policy. Shamkhani affirmed that Iran wont stop its nuclear activity. Elsewhere in his remarks, the senior Iranian official said Iran's enrichment right has been officially recognized in the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231. He emphasized that the "futile" US efforts to limit the Tehran's strength indicates Washington's weakness and is a clear indication of Iran's power in domestic and foreign arenas. Shamkhani said the world confirms that Iran has played a leading role in preventing the expansion of ISIS in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and even Europe.  Iranian President Rouhani said: “The Iranian nation is not afraid of empty threats and is so much greater than Trump, Pompeo, (John) Bolton and all these people who have gathered in Washington as extremists. The Iranian nation have been victorious in all periods of history and I want to say it here, Mr Trump! This nation will be victorious against you."In a Monday statement, the Iranian foreign ministry said the cheap, baseless, insulting and interventionist remarks made by Mike Pompeo and the accusations he leveled against the great and civilized Iranian nation are indicative of US officials’ despair and desperation in the face of the Iranian nation. “Pompeo’s remarks once again revealed the poor intelligence, weak oversight, analytical backwardness and confusion in decision-making processes in the United States, and showed radical and hawkish currents in the US neither know history, nor can learn lessons from it,” said the statement of the Iranian ministry of foreign affairs. It also said that the United States is not entitled to tell Iran what policies it should or should not adopt in its own region as all the problems facing the Middle East region, including those in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Yemen and Afghanistan, all emanate from the interference and encroachment of Washington and the medieval dictatorial governments of its allies.

Iraq’s Sadr Intensifies Consultations by Meeting Barzani Delegation
Baghdad - Hamza Mustafa/Wednesday, 23 May, 2018/Dr. Qahtan al-Jubouri, former Iraqi Tourism Minister and official spokesman of the Sadrist Sairoun alliance, said Tuesday that the current extensive meetings held among Iraqi political leaders remain at the protocol level and are simply aimed at gauging their stances. He told Asharq Al-Awsat that the “Sairoun bloc does not have red lines regarding allying itself with any other political power in Iraq, on condition that they respect the program we believe in and which we based our electoral campaign on.”The spokesman said that the alliance was not attached to naming a particular person for the position of premiership. Moqtada al-Sadr, whose Sairoun alliance got the most votes in the May 12 parliamentary elections, has intensified his meetings with leaders of other alliances and parties ahead of forming the biggest parliamentary bloc that would ultimately form the new cabinet. On Tuesday, the Shiite cleric met with a delegation from the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which is headed by President Masoud Barzani. “Sadr emphasized the government moving towards resolving all outstanding issues with Erbil in the upcoming stage and working paternally with all the components of the Iraq people,” Rudaw news agency quoted a statement issued by Sadr’s office as saying. The statement added that Sadr welcomed at his Baghdad residence Fadhil Mirani, the secretary general of the KDP, stressing his keenness for the emergence a “paternal” government that could cater to all sides. “Iraq is a tent under which everyone can seek shade,” Sadr stated.

Two Soldiers Killed in East Libya Suicide Attack
Benghazi - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 23 May, 2018 /At least two army personnel loyal to military commander Khalifa Haftar were killed Tuesday in a car-bomb attack in eastern Libya. An officer in the Libyan National Army, who preferred to remain anonymous, said that a booby-trapped vehicle headed towards Bawabat al Siteen in the south of Ajdabiya and targeted it, killing two soldiers from the battalion 152. Bawabat al Siteen is located 69 kilometres south of Ajdabiya. In another context, armed men attacked Awjila gate and kidnapped one soldier – the gate was damaged completely and one soldier survived. Awjila gate is located at the north of Awjila and 200 kilometers away from Ajdabiya. The two offensives occurred early and no party claimed responsibility. However some said that they hold the imprints of ISIS. In March, ISIS claimed responsibility over two attacks on the Libyan National Army in Ajdabiya that led to the death of two, and eight relatively. The extremists also claimed responsibility of a suicidal attack in the beginning of May in Tripoli. ISIS benefited from the chaos in Libya to lay hand over Sirte (north) in June 2015 but pro-National Accord government forces regained control over the city in December.

26 Pro-Regime Forces Killed in ISIS Attack in Syria
Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 23 May, 2018/At least 26 Syrian regime forces and members of their allied militias were killed on Tuesday in an ambush by the ISIS terrorist group in the Syrian Badiya, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The attack took place at dawn against one of their posts in the Badiya, said the rights group. The British-based monitor said 17 non-Syrians, among them Iranians, were killed in the attack. The Badiya is a vast desert region stretching from central Syria to the eastern border with Iraq, where ISIS still holds small pockets.
Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said the attack hit a small base east of Palmyra, the famed ancient city that ISIS has overrun twice in Syria's war. "It began with a car bomb targeting regime forces that set off clashes that are still ongoing," he said. A former resident from the eastern Homs countryside near Palmyra who is in touch with local people said the terrorists had come from hideouts in the vast stretch of desert they once controlled. Five militants were also killed. "ISIS fighters launched their attack from a pocket they control in the Badiya, and which was the destination for ISIS fighters evacuated from southern Damascus on Sunday and Monday," Abdel Rahman added. Syria's regime on Monday seized a southern pocket of the capital from ISIS, announcing that the regime was back in full control of Damascus and its outskirts. The Observatory, as well as a military source close to the regime, said the capture came after ISIS members were bussed out of the zone to desert territory.

Egypt Army Denounces HRW Report on Sinai
Cairo - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 23 May, 2018/The Egyptian army strongly condemned on Tuesday a recent Human Rights Watch report claiming the military had “legally” demolished civilian houses in Sinai as part of its campaign against an ISIS affiliate there. Egyptian Military spokesperson, Tamer Rifaei denied the report, saying it was based on “undocumented sources”. He stressed that the armed forces were working within a legal framework to create a buffer zone along the Gaza border and around al-Arish airport. “Egypt’s armed forces are taking all procedures according to the law and all those affected have received compensations of up to 900 million Egyptian pounds,” Rifaei stated. He added that the army was keen to provide all the basic commodities, administrative and medical needs for Sinai residents after cooperating with the country’s bodies and organizations. Egypt has witnessed a spike in terrorist activity in wake of the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi in 2013. The security forces have clashed with the ISIS affiliate in northern Sinai, which had turned into terrorist hub after 2013. On February 9, the army launched a massive operation in northern Sinai, which has so far killed more than 200 militants and more than 30 soldiers, according to the army. The New York-based HRW released a report on Tuesday, saying the army had left excessive destruction in its wake since the launch of its operation. Hundreds of hectares of farmland and at least 3,000 homes and commercial buildings were destroyed in the latest wave of destruction, in addition to 600 buildings destroyed in January, said the monitor. It also cited evictions that began in 2014. The military explained that the evictions were necessary to curb the infiltration of fighters and smuggling of weapons through Gaza tunnels.

Trump Says his Summit with North Korean Leader May Be Delayed
Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 23 May, 2018/US President Donald Trump announced on Tuesday that his much anticipated summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may be delayed. He made his remarks while receiving at the White House South Korean President Moon Jae In. "It may not work out for June 12," Trump said of the Singapore meeting, adding in a now familiar non-committal riff: "if it does not happen, maybe it will happen later." "There are certain conditions we want to happen. I think we'll get those conditions. And if we don't, we won't have the meeting," he said.
Politically, Trump has invested heavily in the success of the meeting, so most US officials, as well as outside observers, privately expect it will go ahead. But as the date draws near, Trump's divergence from his top aides, the differences between the two sides and the astronomically high stakes are coming into sharp relief. Success could lead to peace on the Korean peninsula and end the threat of a nuclear conflagration. Failure could all but destroy hopes of a peaceful solution to the crisis.
"You never know about deals," Trump said. "I've made a lot of deals. You never really know."Trump expressed suspicion that the North's recent aggressive barbs were influenced by Kim's unannounced trip to China two weeks ago — his second in as many months. Trump said he noticed "a little change" in Kim's attitude after the trip. "I don't like that," he said. The president added that he hoped Chinese President Xi Jinping was actually committed to the goal of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula, calling him a "world-class poker player."Trump said he was displeased by China's softening of border enforcement measures against North Korea. North Korea's willingness to denuclearize -- the very basis for the talks -- was recently plunged into doubt when the government denounced US demands for "unilateral nuclear abandonment."Pyongyang also canceled at the last minute a high-level meeting with the South in protest over joint military drills between Seoul and Washington. Despite the North's move, Trump said he believes Kim is willing to give up nukes. "I do think he is serious. I think he is absolutely very serious," the US president said. Trump encouraged Kim to focus on the opportunities offered by the meeting and to make a deal to abandon his nuclear program, pledging not only to guarantee Kim's personal security but also predicting an economic revitalization for the North. "I will guarantee his safety, yes," Trump said, noting that promise was conditioned on an agreement to complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization. Trump said if such an agreement is reached, China, Japan and South Korea would invest large sums to "make North Korea great." Moon's trip to the White House represented an effort to salvage the rare diplomatic opening. The dovish Moon deployed a tactic frequently used by foreign leaders who meet this most mercurial of presidents: flattery. "Thanks to your vision of achieving peace through strength as well as your strong leadership," Moon said in the Oval Office, "we find ourselves standing one step closer to the dream of achieving denuclearization on the Korean peninsula."
"All this was possible because of you, Mr. President," Moon added, taking pains to stress the concrete results of diplomacy so far -- most notably the release of three US prisoners from North Korean jail. "The fate and the future of the Korean Peninsula hinge" on the meeting, Moon added. "I have no doubt that you will be able to ... accomplish a historic feat that no one had been able to achieve in the decades past.” South Korea -- deeply worried about Kim's bellicose weapons testing and Trump's similarly aggressive warnings about "fire and fury" -- was instrumental in convincing the two Cold War foes to sit down and talk. Moon sent his own national security advisor to the White House in March, carrying an offer of talks and word that North Korea may be willing to abandon nuclear weapons, an enticing prospect.

Bin Daghr, US Ambassador Discuss Iranian Interference in Yemen
Riyadh - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 23 May, 2018/Yemen’s Prime Minister Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr condemned the Iranian regime’s continued support of the Houthi militias with ballistic missiles and praised the US firm stance against Tehran’s intervention in the region. He also reiterated his government’s commitment to supporting international efforts to achieve peace in his country. Bin Daghr’s remarks came during his meeting with US Ambassador Matthew Tueller, with whom he discussed latest developments on the Yemeni arena, and the UN and international efforts to push the peace negotiations forward. Yemen’s official news agency noted that the two officials have tackled the continuous Iranian support of Houthi militias, by providing them with ballistic missiles and threatening international navigation in the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandab strait. According to the agency, Bin Daghr expressed his country’s support for “the steadfast US position in support of the Yemeni legitimacy, the commitment to provide the necessary support to end the coup and support the aspirations of the Yemenis to build a safe and prosperous new federal Yemen that will contribute effectively to stability and global security.”He also praised “the firm American stance against Iran’s ambitions and its support for terrorism and destructive projects in Arab countries through the financing of rebel militias.” Saba Net quoted Tueller as saying that his country “rejects Iran’s interference in the affairs of Yemen, its continued support of the Houthi militias and the threat against the security of neighboring countries, particularly Saudi Arabia.”The ambassador also praised the role of the Yemeni government in the fight against terrorism within an international partnership. Bin Daghr has held a number of meetings over the past few days, with ambassadors of countries concerned with the Yemeni issue, to discuss developments in the UN peace efforts and means to support humanitarian relief work in Yemen.
Haftar Forces in Libya Tighten Noose on Derna Jihadists
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 23/18/Strongman Khalifa Haftar's self-proclaimed Libyan National Army said Wednesday it was tightening the noose on the last jihadist bastion in the country's east after breaking through the suburbs of Derna. Haftar launched an offensive on May 7 to "liberate" the eastern coastal city, home to about 150,000 people and held by hardline fighters since the fall of Moamer Kadhafi in 2011. "Army forces are steadily advancing on Derna to liberate it from the grip of terrorist groups," LNA spokesman General Ahmad al-Mesmari told AFP. The LNA carried out "combat missions" and took control of fortified positions at the entrances of the city, he said. On Tuesday, the spokesman announced the death of the head of an LNA special forces unit, without specifying whether there had been other losses among Haftar's forces since the offensive began. "The enemy has suffered heavy losses in terms of men and equipment," he added. In a speech late Tuesday, Haftar said the LNA was "near victory", calling on his forces to protect civilians and their property and to treat prisoners well. "We are close... to liberating our country from the last bastion of terrorism," he said. Rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, have expressed concern over risks to civilians in Derna. LNA forces have besieged the city for nearly two years, making it difficult for residents to access humanitarian aid. Derna is held by a ragtag coalition of Islamist and jihadist militias, including groups close to Al-Qaeda, hostile to both Haftar and the Islamic State group. Libya has been wracked by chaos since a 2011 uprising that toppled and killed long-time dictator Kadhafi, with two rival authorities vying for control. Haftar supports an administration based in the east of the country. A UN-backed unity government based in the capital Tripoli has struggled to assert its authority outside the west. The stronghold of hardline fighters Derna, 1,000 kilometres (620 miles), is the only area in the country's east not controlled by Haftar's forces.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 23-24/18
The USA Wants To Crush Hamas, Hezbollah & Iran. But How?
: أميركا تريد أن تسحق حماس وحزب الله وإيران ولكن كيف
Jerusalem Post/May 23/18
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went after Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad Monday.
If President Donald Trump put Iran on notice two weeks ago when he pulled the US out of the nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was even more specific and aggressive on Monday, vowing to crush “Iranian operatives and their Hezbollah allies around the world.”
Pompeo went after Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad – a wish list of enemies Israel would love the US to deal with on its behalf. But crush with what? Like many pronouncements in the Trump era, all of the administration’s various statements and actions, especially on the ground, are key to understanding what is really happening. Over Israeli objections, Trump has made it clear he wants US troops out of Syria, other than possibly a contingent to help preserve small areas not under the Assad regime’s control. The president has made it clear that he does not want to use US military force in the Middle East other than in the most extreme circumstances, as with his surgical strike on the Assad regime’s chemical-weapons facilities.
There are no US forces to use and no will to use them.
So how is the US going to crush Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad? Moving to the sanctions arena, there are more who think the US has powerful cards to play. Presumably focusing on what US sanctions would achieve, Pompeo also went much further than Trump regarding the nuclear deal, even seeking to ban Iran from possessing a heavy-water reactor and from any uranium enrichment. Under the 2015 deal, the core of Iran’s Arak heavy-water reactor, part of a plutonium path to a nuclear bomb, was removed. Also, the reactor has been in a redesign process, so it would be unable to yield fissile plutonium usable in a nuclear bomb. In other words, it is not and was not expected to become a nuclear problem.
Uranium enrichment is more complicated.
Under the nuclear deal, Iran detached around 70% of its uranium centrifuges and placed them in storage. But it was allowed to maintain around 5,000 centrifuges and to experiment with advanced centrifuges. This was Iran’s big win of an endorsement of its “right” to enrich uranium.
This was not a problem now, but it was expected to become a problem when the deal expired. But Pompeo did not just say the current nuclear restrictions on Iran must be extended. He was targeting completely taking away the nuts and bolts for even potentially manufacturing the material for a nuclear weapon.
This is beyond what any major Western political official, including Trump, has demanded, and it goes way beyond anything that Europe, let alone Russia and China (which are massively economically invested in Iran’s enrichment and its heavy-water reactor) were expected to ever go along with.
The realistic best-case scenario for Trump’s aggressive move has been that Europe would stand with the US to get the Iran deal’s current restrictions extended, to limit Iran’s ballistic-missile testing, to gain access to military nuclear sites and to somewhat reduce Iran’s adventurism.
But it is far from clear whether Europe will and would have played ball with Trump’s sanctions program – the EU has threatened counter-sanctions – and there was no sign that Russia or China would play ball. Iran Watch and others have shown that deep in the details, Trump may not even be trying to enforce Iran sanctions on China, and he may quietly look away from China-Iran business if it helps the US in broader trade negotiations with Beijing.
If there was a scenario where Russia and China could be co-opted, it was likely going to be by improving the Iran deal in ways that did not directly undermine their major investments. A big stick, let alone a threat to crush someone, only works if some combination of military, diplomatic and economic force exists to bring pressure and has a chance of being effective. There is strong rhetoric, but there are still no concrete signs of the stick being used, and it is unclear if the US’s stick is large enough to meet the goals it is setting for itself.

Senior Israel Air Force officer: Israel Still Striking In Syria
قيادي رفيع المستوى في قيادة القوة الجوية الإسرائيلية: لا تزال إسرائيل مستمرة في هجماتها داخل سوريا
Jerusalem Post/May 23/18
The IDF had said earlier that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp’s Quds Force had launched 20 Fajr-5 and Grad missiles towards Israel’s front defensive line in the Golan Heights. Israeli jets have continued to strike targets in Syria following the recent Iranian missile barrage against IDF posts in the Golan Heights, a senior Israel Air Force officer said on Tuesday. “We can assume that there have been strikes since the last events in Syria. We have maintained our freedom of action over Syria,” he said during the Senior Air Force Conference in Herzliya. Stressing that Israel will continue to carry out air strikes in the war-torn country, he said that Israel will continue to work with “determination” to thwart the entrenchment of Iran in Syria and the arming of Hezbollah. “The Iranian resolve in the region continues and we keep operating and disrupting below the threshold of war,” he said.
Speaking earlier at the conference, Israel Air Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin said that Iran had launched 32 missiles toward Israel earlier in May.
“Iran launched 32 missiles... we intercepted four of them and the rest fell outside of Israeli territory,” he said at the conference, which was attended by more than 20 air force commanders from around the world.
The IDF had said earlier that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp’s Quds Force had launched 20 Fajr-5 and Grad missiles towards Israel’s front defensive line in the Golan Heights. In response, Israel struck 50 mainly Iranian targets in Syria in an operation called “House of Cards.”
According to Norkin, Syria fired over 100 anti-aircraft missiles at Israeli jets; in response, Israel destroyed the anti-aircraft batteries.
Israel has been “managing a campaign against Iranian forces, especially on Israel’s northern border” for the past two years, Norkin said. He said that the country had been preparing for a direct attack from the Quds Force since mid-April in response to a strike allegedly carried out by the Jewish state against an Iranian-operated airbase in Syria, which killed seven IRGC soldiers. “We have been watching what the Iranians were doing around us,” Norkin said. “The Quds Force is set up at the T4 base, which is some 250 kilometers from Israel. From this base they tried to attack using an armed drone that infiltrated Israel several months ago from our eastern border. After that incident, we determined that they were continuing to store weapons at the base, including aerial defense capabilities that we attacked over the past month.”The IAF had received extensive intelligence several days earlier that the Quds Force in Syria was planning an attack on Israel; it carried out a preventative strike on a base in Kisweh outside Damascus, effectively thwarting the attack. “In recent weeks, we realized Iran had sent missiles and long-range rockets to Syria, including [BM-27] Uragan launchers that we attacked north of Damascus,” Norkin said.
It is believed that due to that strike Iran carried out their backup plan, the launching of 32 Fajr-5 and Grad missiles towards Israel at midnight. The night before the missile salvo, the military instructed local governments to open bomb shelters to residents of the Golan Heights following the identification of “abnormal movements of Iranian forces in Syria.”The army had raised the preparedness of “troops for an attack” and deployed air defenses at several locations in the north of the country.During the Israeli retaliation, the Syrian regime fired dozens of air-defense missiles from SA2, SA17, SA22 and SA5 missile batteries. No Israeli jets were hit and all returned to base safely.

Germany: Asylum for Cash Scandal
Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/May 23/18
Germany's Federal Office for Refugees and Migration (BAMF) will review more than 25,000 asylum decisions after allegations of corruption at its regional office in the northern city of Bremen.
Some of those granted asylum were considered by German authorities to be potential security risks, according to the news magazine Der Spiegel. They include Syrian intelligence operatives, human smugglers and other hard-core criminals — as well as potential Islamic State jihadists.
BAMF currently rejects almost all asylum requests from converts from Islam to Christianity, according to Thomas Schirrmacher, president of the International Society for Human Rights. He said that when undergoing "belief tests," BAMF often relies on Muslim translators who deliberately mistranslate at the expense of Christians or converts.
Germany's Federal Office for Refugees and Migration (Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge, BAMF) will review more than 25,000 asylum decisions after allegations of corruption at its regional office in the northern city of Bremen.
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer announced the audit after it emerged that a former official at BAMF's Bremen branch allegedly accepted cash bribes in exchange for granting asylum to at least 1,200 refugees who did not meet the necessary criteria. Five others, including three lawyers, an interpreter and an intermediary, are also being investigated.
The three lawyers allegedly received cash payments from "refugees" across Germany and submitted their asylum applications to the Bremen office. The interpreter then "interpreted" asylum interviews in such a way that the answers supposedly given by refugees matched the requirements for successful asylum applications. He reportedly received €500 ($680) per asylum seeker.
In one instance, BAMF's Bremen office approved the asylum application of Mohamad A., who, through a corrupt interpreter, claimed to be a Syrian refugee and whose sister was shot dead by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Two years later it emerged that Mohamad A. lied: His name is actually Milad H. — and he comes from Romania.
Some of those granted asylum were considered by German authorities to be potential security risks, according to the news magazine Der Spiegel. They include Syrian intelligence operatives, human smugglers and other hard-core criminals — as well as potential Islamic State jihadists.
BAMF Director Jutta Cordt said that a team of 70 in-house auditors will reevaluate 18,000 asylum decisions issued since 2000 by its Bremen branch. In addition, BAMF will reexamine another 8,500 decisions made in 2017 by ten other regional offices, according to Die Welt. The branches are under scrutiny because of noticeable differences in the number of asylum applications approved or denied, compared to other offices.
Internal BAMF emails leaked to Süddeutsche Zeitung showed that Cordt and other senior BAMF officials had received information about "suspicious cases" at the Bremen office as early as February 2017, but that the information was kept under wraps until after the German elections in September 2017. It was not until October 26, 2017 — one month after the federal elections — that BAMF quietly launched an internal audit. Immigration policy was a key issue in the election, in which the anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany (AfD) became the third-largest party in the Bundestag, the German federal parliament.
The scandal did not became public knowledge until April 20, 2018, when Bremen's prosecution service announced that a former official at BAMF's Bremen branch was under investigation, along with several others, and that police had raided the homes and offices of the suspects.
Also in April, BAMF fired more than 2,000 freelance interpreters because they "did not appear to be neutral or were untrustworthy." In some instances, interpreters who were suspected of being spies for the Turkish government were terminated for "violating their duty of neutrality."
At present, some 5,800 freelance interpreters — many of whom are migrants themselves and are not proficient in German — are working for BAMF in 472 languages, according to Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung. Most were hired, without being vetted, during the height of the migration crisis in 2015, when Chancellor Angela Merkel allowed into the country more than a million migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Only 620 of the 5,800 interpreters are certified, according to Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung.
The asylum scandal has significantly damaged public confidence in BAMF. A Civey survey published by Die Welt on May 21 found that 79.7% of Germans stated that they had "fairly little" or "very little" confidence in BAMF's asylum decisions. Only 8.9% said that their level of confidence in BAMF was "very large" or "rather large."
The lack of trust in BAMF was shared by voters from all political parties: 97.9% of those who support the anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany (AfD) said they mistrust BAMF, followed by the Free Democrats (87.1%), Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative CDU/CSU bloc (80.8%); the Left (66.5%), the SPD (64.5%) and the Greens (62.4%).
Meanwhile, nine out of ten rejected asylum applications end up in court, according to Süddeutsche Zeitung. In more than 40% of the cases, judges have ruled in favor of the migrants and overturned BAMF's negative asylum decisions. Judges have sided with migrants from Syria in 99.9% of the cases, Afghans in 47% and Turks in 34% of the cases. Migrants filed 328,000 lawsuits in 2017 — twice as many as in 2016 — to overturn BAMF's negative asylum decisions. At the end of 2017, there were 372,000 pending cases in German courts.
BAMF currently rejects almost all asylum requests from converts from Islam to Christianity, according to Thomas Schirrmacher, president of the International Society for Human Rights. He said that when undergoing "belief tests," BAMF often relies on Muslim translators who deliberately mistranslate at the expense of Christians or converts. He cited an example of a convert who, when talking about Martin Luther and the Gospel of Matthew, the Muslim interpreter referred to Lothar Matthäus, a well-known German footballer.
"It is a scandal that almost all converts from Islam to Christianity are being denied asylum," Schirrmacher said. "How do BAMF decision makers hope to answer the highly complicated and sensitive question of whether conversion to Christianity is fabricated or not by using bad and partisan translators?"
*Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Palestinians: Americans Now Legitimate Targets
Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/May 23/18
Ultimately, it is all about money. The Palestinian Authority is desperate for US financial aid; without it the Palestinian leadership would not be able to survive. So the Palestinians are hoping to extort protection money from the Americans. It is like saying, "You see what will happen to you if you stop funding me? It could always get worse for you. I suggest that you restore my accountability-free funding, and perhaps I will see to it that you do not get hurt." The Americans should call the Palestinian bluff and send a warning to the Palestinian leadership that there will be consequences for their rhetoric and actions if they do not cease the incitement and brainwashing. The US should use the money as leverage to demand this from the Palestinians. The Palestinian Authority needs your money and you have the right to demand something good in return for it. There is no reason why any American should be funding the same Palestinian propaganda machine that is inciting not only against Israel, but also against the US and its citizens.
There is a new development in Palestinian hatred of the Trump administration: the Palestinian leaders' verbal attacks on the US are now being translated into acts of violence against US delegations visiting Palestinian communities in the West Bank.
The Palestinian campaign against the US began in December 2017, when President Donald Trump made his announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital, and escalated after he announced that the US embassy in Tel Aviv would be moved to Jerusalem.
The anti-US rhetoric has come from Palestinians representing all walks of life -- from the most senior, including President Mahmoud Abbas, to ordinary citizens in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and from secular groups such as the ruling Fatah faction to extremist Islamist organizations such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
If there is anything that unites the vast majority of Palestinians, it is their hatred of the Trump administration's representatives and policies. It is hard to find even one Palestinian who is prepared to say a good word about the US administration or its policies, especially with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Now, however, it is official: Palestinians view the US as an enemy. Even more worrying, some Palestinians even see US citizens and officials as "legitimate targets" for violent assaults. It does not seem to matter to these Palestinians whether the Americans they are targeting have come to help them or express sympathy with their cause. Attacks on Americans visiting Palestinian cities in the West Bank are no longer uncommon. It is only by luck that no US citizen has thus far been hurt as a result of these assaults, which are being carried out by Palestinian activists who have been told by their leaders that the US is an enemy of the Palestinians.
The latest incident took place on May 21 in the town of Bet Jala, near Bethlehem. Activists belonging to the Palestinian Popular Resistance group attacked a US consular vehicle with eggs and shoes, forcing it to flee the town. The protesters chanted slogans denouncing the US as the "head of the snake" and carried banners which said, "US Government, You Are Not Welcome in Palestine" and "America is a State of Terror." A video posted on social media showed the protesters surrounding and kicking the US vehicle as it sped away. This was a rather humiliating scene for the Americans who came to Bet Jala to attend a graduation ceremony for Palestinian students who participated in a US-sponsored educational program. "Our message to the Americans today is that there is no room for the US Government in Palestine because this Government is in collusion with Israel," explained Mazen Al-Ezah, one of the leaders of the anti-US protest. "We love the American people, but their Government is part of the Israeli occupation of our land and people."
Another protester, Mahmoud Brejiyeh, said that the goal of the protest was to convey to the Americans that they are "not welcome in Palestine. We are here to tell the Americans that the Palestinians no longer trust them and they can no longer play any role in the peace process [with Israel]."
Now it is official: Palestinians view the US as an enemy. Anti-US rhetoric comes from Palestinians representing all walks of life -- from President Mahmoud Abbas to ordinary citizens in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Some Palestinians even see US citizens and officials as "legitimate targets" for violent assaults. Pictured: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. (Photo by Kevin Hagen/Getty Images)
This was the second incident of its kind in the Bethlehem area since the beginning of this year. In January, a group of Palestinian activists expelled an American delegation that was visiting the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce and Industry as part of a cooperative effort between Palestinian businessmen and the US Consulate in Jerusalem.
In February, Palestinian Authority (PA) policemen had to rescue an American delegation that was visiting a research center in Ramallah. The delegation, which included New York legislators and civil society groups, was pelted with eggs as Palestinians chanted, "America is the head of the snake." Again, no one was hurt. In addition to the violent attacks directed against Americans in the West Bank, Palestinians have also been burning effigies and photos of Trump, as well as US flags. During one protest in the Al-Aydah refugee camp near Bethlehem, Palestinian protesters staged a mock trial for Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. The verdict: a death sentence. The Palestinians then carried out the "death sentence" by hanging effigies of Trump and Pence in a public square in the camp.
All these anti-US protests have a common feature: the Palestinian activists always coordinated their moves in advance with the local media. Palestinian journalists and photographers were invited to cover the protests to make sure that their message reaches the White House and the rest of the world.
It is also worth noting that the Palestinian Authority security forces, which are partially funded and trained by Americans, did not take pre-emptive measures to stop the anti-US protests. It is hard to imagine that these security forces, which enjoy excellent intelligence information, did not know what several Palestinian journalists and photographers knew in advance about the planned protests. In fact, some Palestinians say that the anti-US protests could not have taken place without the prior approval of the Palestinian security forces.
Why should the Palestinian security forces prevent such protests when President Mahmoud Abbas and many other Palestinian officials are engaged in almost daily rhetorical attacks against the US administration and its representatives? Why should these security forces prevent such protests when the Palestinian Authority itself has been boycotting the US administration and launching scathing attacks on Trump's "Jewish advisors" -- David Friedman, Jason Greenblatt and Jared Kushner?
Hardly a day passes without the Palestinians gushing forth venom concerning the US administration. And as time goes on, the Palestinian tone gets more and more vicious. Trump and his advisors are being denounced as Zionists and settlers and accomplices in Israeli "war crimes."
In addition, the Palestinians continue to accuse the Trump administration of "conspiring to liquidate the Palestinian cause and national rights" through the yet-to-be-announced US plan for peace in the Middle East. Under the current circumstances, it is hard to see how any representative of the Trump administration would ever be able to set foot in Ramallah or Bethlehem.
The Palestinian Authority has whipped up anti-US sentiments to a point where no American can feel safe visiting any Palestinian city. Not even an American who comes to offer help in the business or educational fields. The Palestinian Authority leadership has made it clear to Palestinians that the Americans are now the enemy, and this puts the lives of US citizens and diplomats at risk. US diplomats and officials who continue to visit Ramallah and Bethlehem with good intentions to help the Palestinians are jeopardizing their lives in order to help those who are spitting into the cup they are drinking from.
It is only a matter of time before one of the attacks on Americans in the West Bank ends in tragedy. Yet the Palestinian leadership is showing no signs of bringing down the volume of its verbal attacks on the US. On the contrary, each day brings more violent rhetoric by Palestinian leaders and spokesmen about the US administration. For some time now, Israeli Jews have been banned from entering Palestinian cities, out of concern for their safety. This ban by the Israeli authorities is not unjustified, as some Israeli Jews have been violently attacked after entering Palestinian cities.
Perhaps soon we will see such signs warning US citizens against entering Palestinian cities, out of concern for their safety. Unless someone calls out the Palestinian leadership for its incitement against the US.
Why are the Palestinians doing this? This is a bullying tactic to scare the US administration into supporting their cause and abandoning its "bias" in favor of Israel. This is a new/old tactic that the Palestinian leadership has long used to extract political support and financial aid from the world. It is like saying: Give me everything I want or I will exact revenge.
The Palestinians consider the present US administration one of the most hostile American governments in history towards the Palestinians. They are hoping that the bullying, threats and violent attacks on US citizens and officials will make the White House backtrack on its support for Israel and start appeasing them. Ultimately, it is all about money. The Palestinian Authority is desperate for US financial aid; without it, the Palestinian leadership would not be able to survive. So the Palestinians are hoping to extort protection money from the Americans. It is like saying, "You see what will happen to you if you stop funding me? It could always get worse for you. I suggest that you restore my accountability-free funding, and perhaps I will see to it that you do not get hurt."
The Americans should call the Palestinian bluff and send a warning to the Palestinian leadership that there will be consequences for their rhetoric and actions if they do not cease the incitement and brainwashing. The US should use the money as leverage to demand this from the Palestinians. The Palestinian Authority needs your money and you have the right to demand something good in return for it. There is no reason why any American should be funding the same Palestinian propaganda machine that is inciting not only against Israel, but also against the US and its citizens.
*Bassam Tawil is an Arab Muslim based in the Middle East. © 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.