May 25/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Indeed, we live as human beings, but we do not wage war according to human standards
Second Letter to the Corinthians 10/01-07: "I myself, Paul, appeal to you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold towards you when I am away! I ask that when I am present I need not show boldness by daring to oppose those who think we are acting according to human standards. Indeed, we live as human beings, but we do not wage war according to human standards; for the weapons of our warfare are not merely human, but they have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ. We are ready to punish every disobedience when your obedience is complete. Look at what is before your eyes. If you are confident that you belong to Christ, remind yourself of this, that just as you belong to Christ, so also do we."
Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 24-25/18
The Majority Of Lebanese Politicians have Succumbed to The Iranian occupation/Elias Bejjani/May 24/18
Hezbollah’s bogus Liberation & Resistance Day/Elias Bejjani/May 25/18
Pompeo calls for review of security assistance to Lebanon/Bryant Harris/Al-Monitor/May 24, 2018
Trump cancels summit with NKorean leader, places US armed forces on the ready/DEBKAfile/May 24/2018
Press Releases/USA Treasury Targets Procurement Networks and 31 Aircraft Associated with Mahan Air and Other Designated Iranian Airlines/U.S. Department Of The Treasury/May 24, 2018
Pompeo Raises the Price for Iran to Rejoin International Community/Eli Lake/Bloomberg/May 24/18
The Similarity of Qatar, Iran Crises/Salman Aldosary/Asharq Al Awsat/May 24/18
Why are they Attacking Saudi TV Series ‘Winds of Change/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/May 24/18
UNRWA's "Palestinian Refugee" Fraud/Ruthie Blum/Gatestone Institute/May 24/2018
USA: The Iron Ladies/Ahmed Charai/Gatestone Institute/May 24/2018
France: Macron Buries Plan to Rehabilitate 'No-Go Zones'/Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/May 24/2018
Compte à rebours pour le régime des Mollahs/Par Abdel Hamid El Ahdab, Avocat/May 24/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 24-25/18
The Majority Of Lebanese Politicians have Succumbed to The Iranian occupation
Hezbollah’s bogus Liberation & Resistance Day
Hariri Officially Tasked with Forming a New Government
Saad Hariri, Prime Minister Once Again
Hariri Says New Govt. to Abide by Dissociation Policy
Berri: Consultations for 'Broad National Unity Govt.' to Begin Monday
Geagea Meets Aoun: 'Christian Duo' Must be Treated Like 'Shiite Duo' in Govt.
Ibrahim: Fight against Terrorism, Israel Will Remain Priority
Hezbollah outlet: US coalition attacked Syria regime targets
Report: LF Accuses Bassil of ‘Staging Campaign against Party'
Pompeo calls for review of security assistance to Lebanon

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on May 24-25/18
Khamenei Sets 5 Conditions for Europe to Stay in Nuclear Deal
Moscow Rejects Anti-Iran Campaign
Netanyahu Moves Cabinet Meetings to Secret Headquarters
Trump cancels summit with NKorean leader, places US armed forces on the ready
Investigators: Russian Military Unit’s Missile Downed MH17
Syria Says Repelled 'Missile Attack' on Homs Military Airport
Syrian Regime Media Says US Hit Army Posts, US Denies
Algerian Blogger Faces Death Penalty on Espionage Charges
Houthi Missile Intercepted by Saudi Arabia
Sadr Calls for International Support to 'Exit Sectarian Tunnel'

Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on May 24-25/18
The Majority Of Lebanese Politicians have Succumbed to The Iranian occupation
Elias Bejjani/May 24/18
Lebanon is an occupied country by all means and standards.
Almost 90% of the Lebanese active and practising politicians who are involved currently in politics on all levels and in all domains did overtly or covertly succumb to the occupation and practice under its umbrella and in line with all its enforced red lines and taboos.
The priority of the majority of the Lebanese politicians and political parties is their own and individual interests and gains, and not in any way the fate of the oppressed and impoverished Lebanese people, or independence, sovereignty or the implementation of both the country's constitution or the UN Resolutions 1559 and 1701.
Sadly, our beloved country, The Holy Lebanon, is totally occupied by Iran through its Hezbollah terrorist proxy.
In reality, the majority of the Lebanese politicians from all denominational factions, and in a bid to remain in power, maintain their own personal interests, protect their own businesses and financial investments, they evilly keep a blind eye on the Iranian occupation and camouflage all their political activities with shameful non patriotic approaches and stances.
Meanwhile almost 90% of the top notch politician, parties, clergymen and officials and with very few exceptions are cowardly subservient to the occupier and work under its Faramens (dictated orders and decrees) with a 100% Dhimmitude education and mentality.
Therefore any changes that might take place under the Iranian occupation like a new Federal System or any other constitutional amendments will be completely dictated and forced by Iran to serve its denominational Persian scheme of expansionism and dictatorship.
Within the realm of this occupational enforced reality of succumbing and Dhimmitude emerged the results of the Iranian orchestrated recent Lebanese parliamentary elections that gave the occupier, Hezbollah and its Iranian masters the upper hand in the parliament.
In conclusion, at the present time, sadly there is no hope what so ever from the majority of the current Lebanese politicians, political parties or officials due to the actual unfortunate fact that they all did succumb to the occupier.

Hezbollah’s bogus Liberation & Resistance Day
Elias Bejjani/May 25/18
Believe it or not, on May 25 each year since 2000 Lebanon has been celebrating a so-called “Liberation & Resistance Day.” Sadly, this celebration commemorates a bogus event, and a phony heroism that did not actually take place.
On May 22, 2000 the Israeli Army unilaterally and for solely Israeli domestic reasons withdrew from the security zone of South Lebanon in accordance with UN Resolution 425. The withdrawal was a fatal Israeli decision that has inspired the Hamas terrorism acts and the on-going havoc in the Palestinian Gaza strip.
During the last 13 years many Israeli officials and politicians form all parties openly and harshly criticized Barak’s Government (Barak was PM at that time) hasty and unwise decision through which Israel’ abandoned its ally the South Lebanon Army (SLA) and gave Hezbollah all south Lebanon on a plate of sliver.
The unilateral Israeli withdrawal created a security vacuum in south Lebanon. The Syrians who were occupying Lebanon at that time and fully controlling its government, did not allow the Lebanese Army to deploy in the south and fill this vacuum after the Israeli withdrawal. Instead Syria helped the Hezbollah militia to militarily control the whole southern region, and even patrol the Israeli-Lebanese border.
It is worth mentioning that the Israeli army’s withdrawal was executed without any military battles, or even minor skirmishes with Hezbollah, or the Lebanese and Syrian armies. The Syrian regime, in a bid to justify both its on going occupation of Lebanon and the avoidance of disarming Hezbollah, came up with the “Shabaa Farms occupation big lie” and declared Hezbollah a Liberator, alleging it had forced Israel to withdrawal from South Lebanon.
Syria, in the same camouflaging and devious context, dictated to both the Lebanese parliament and government to declare May 25th a National Day under the tag of “Liberation & Resistance Day”.
In reality Hezbollah did not force the Israeli withdrawal, and did not play any role in the Liberation of the southern Lebanese region. In fact both Hezbollah and Syria deliberately hindered and delayed the Israeli withdrawal for more than 14 years.
Every time the Israelis called on the Lebanese government to engage in a joint, serious effort under the United Nations umbrella to ensure a safe and mutually organized withdrawal of its army from South Lebanon, the Lebanese government refused to cooperate, did not agree to deploy its army in the south, and accused the Israelis of plotting to divide and split the Syrian-Lebanese joint track. This approach to the Israeli calls was an official Syrian decision dictated to all the Lebanese puppet governments during the Syrian occupation era.
Since then, Hezbollah has been hijacking Lebanon and its people, refusing to disarm and advocating for the annihilation of Israel. This Iranian mullahs’ terrorist army stationed in Lebanon, is viciously hiding behind labels of resistance, liberation and religion. Hezbollah has recklessly jeopardized the Lebanese peoples’ lives, safety, security and livelihood. It has been growing bolder and bolder in the last four years and mercilessly taking the Lebanese state and the Lebanese people hostage through terrorism, force and organized crime.
Sadly, Hezbollah is systematically devouring Lebanon day after day, and piece by piece, while at the same time marginalizing all its governmental institutions in a bid to topple the Lebanese state and erect in its place a Shiite Muslim regime, a replica of the Iranian Shiite mullahs’ fundamentalist republic. Meanwhile the free world and Arabic countries are totally silent, indifferent, and idly watching from far away the horrible crime unfolding without taking any practical or tangible measures to put an end to this anti-Lebanese Syria-Iranian scheme that is executed through their spearhead, the Hezbollah armed militia.
Who is to be blamed for Hezbollah’s current odd and bizarre status? Definitely the Syrians who have occupied Lebanon for more than 28 years (1976-2005). During their bloody and criminal occupation, Syria helped the Iranian Hezbollah militia build a state within Lebanon and fully control the Lebanese Shiite community.
But also the majority of the Lebanese politicians, leaders, officials and clergymen share the responsibility because they were subservient and acted in a dire Dhimmitude, selfish and cowardly manner. If these so-called Lebanese leaders had been courageous and patriotic and had not appeased Hezbollah and turned a blind eye to all its vicious and human rights atrocities, intimidation tactics, crimes and expansionism schemes, this Iranian Shiite fundamentalist militia would not have been able to erect its own mini-state in the southern suburb of Beirut, and its numerous mini-cantons in the Bekaa Valley and the South; nor would Hezbollah have been able to build its mighty military power, with 70 thousand militiamen, or stockpile more than 50 thousand missiles and force the Iranian “Wilayat Al-Faqih” religious doctrine on the Lebanese Shiite community and confiscate its decision making process and freedoms.
Since Hezbollah’s emergence in 1982, these politicians have been serving their own selfish interests and not the interests of the Lebanese people and the nation. They went along with Hezbollah’s schemes, deluding themselves that its militia and weaponry would remain in South Lebanon and would not turn against them.
This failure to serve the people of Lebanon allowed Hezbollah to make many Lebanese and most of the Arab-Muslim countries through its terrorism propaganda to blindly swallow its big lie of theatrical, faked resistance and Liberation.
Hezbollah would not have been able refuse to disarm in 1991, like all the other Lebanese militias in accordance to the “Taef Accord,” which called for the disarmament of all militias. Hezbollah would not have become a state inside the Lebanese state, and a world-wide terrorism Iranian-Syrian tool which turned against them all after its war with Israel in year 2006 and after the UN troops were deployed on the Lebanese – Israeli borders in accordance with the UN Resolution 1701.
On May 7, 2008 Hezbollah invaded Sunni Western Beirut killing and injuring in cold blood hundreds of its civilian citizens, and attempted to take over by force Mount Lebanon.
Hezbollah’s General Secretary Sheik Hassan Nasrallah called that day (May 7, 2008) a great and glorious victory for his resistance, and keeps on threatening the Lebanese that a replicate of that day will take place if they do not succumb and obey his Iranian orders.
Hezbollah is a deadly dragon that the Lebanese politicians have been allowing him to feed on sacrifices from the southern Lebanese citizens, especially on those who were living in the “Security Zone” and who fled to Israel in May 2000 after the Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon. This dragon who enjoyed devouring his southern sacrifices has now turned on all the Lebanese and if they do not stand for their rights and dignity, he will keep on devouring them all one after the other.
We call on the Lebanese government, the Lebanese Parliament and on all the free and patriotic Lebanese politicians and leaders to cancel the May 25 National Day, because it is not national at all, and also to stop calling Hezbollah a resistance, put an end for its mini-state, cantons and weaponry, and secure a dignified, honorable and safe return for all the Lebanese citizens who have been taking refuge in Israel since May 2000.
N.B: This article was first published in 2010

Hariri Officially Tasked with Forming a New Government

Naharnet/May 24/18/Saad Hariri was officially tasked Thursday with forming a new government after he garnered 111 votes in the binding parliamentary consultations, the Presidency said. The consultations were held at the Baabda Palace from 10:00 am until 5:00 pm. Hariri was first to arrive at the Presidential Palace where he met President Michel Aoun as part of the consultations. Hariri was supported by the largest blocs in parliament and will most likely work on forming a national unity Cabinet, similar to the one he's been heading since 2016. Tripoli MP ex-PM Najib Miqati, who leads a four-member parliamentary bloc, met with Aoun and told reporters afterwards that he nominates Hariri for the premiership. “In light of the national imperatives and challenges, I named Hariri for the premiership,” he said.
The consultations on a premier came a day after parliament elected Nabih Berri as its speaker. He has been holding the post since 1992. Former Prime Minister and Beirut MP Tammam Salam also named Hariri. He said: “A new phase is ahead of us. I pray it will be a promising one led by a promising man who is Saad Hariri.” Deputy Speaker Elie Ferzli, whose election to the current post a day earlier was not met with the approval of (Hariri's) al-Mustaqbal Movement, said after meeting Aoun: “We have affirmed the nomination of Hariri for the premiership.”After consultations with Aoun, al-Mustaqbal bloc led by MP Bahia Hariri (Saad Hariri's aunt) said the bloc has nominated the caretaker PM to lead the new premiership.
The 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 named Hariri. MP Jebran Bassil, the head of the bloc, told reporters: “We have nominated Hariri. This position is normal and consistent with the outcome of the elections.”On the other hand, Hizbullah’s Loyalty to the Resistance bloc unsurprisingly did not name Hariri for the post. They said they "nominated no one."
MP Faisal Karami, spoke on behalf of the National Coalition bloc (Farid al-Khazen, Tony Franjieh, Estephan Douaihi, Fayez Ghosn, Mustafa al-Husseini, Jihad al-Samad and Karami) after meeting Aoun.
He said: “As a national coalition we have named Hariri for premiership except for Jihad al-Samad.”Shyly stuttering newly elected MP Taymour Jumblat, who heads the Democratic Gathering bloc succeeding his father Walid Jumblat, announced that the bloc has nominated Hariri. “We deposited the name of our candidate to the government at President Aoun,” said the Social National bloc (SSNP) without disclosing their nomination. The Strong Republic bloc of the Lebanese Forces meanwhile named Hariri for the premiership. After a 15-minute bilateral meeting with the president, LF leader Samir Geagea said: “I hope the new government will be new par excellence and the country needs a major rescue operation.” Surprisingly, the opposition Kataeb Party bloc also nominated Hariri, with its leader MP Sami Gemayel saying that he wants to give Hariri and the country “a chance.”
“Our opposition is against a performance, not certain individuals,” Gemayel told reporters. Hariri was also named by the MPs Fouad Makhzoumi, Edie Demerjian, Michel Murr, Talal Arslan and Adnan Traboulsi as MPs Osama Saad, Jamil al-Sayyed and Paula Yacoubian said they did not nominate anyone. “I have not nominated PM Hariri because I'm opposed to his policies,” Saad said. “I have not nominated anyone for the premiership and I explained to the president that we will practice constructive opposition,” Yacoubian for her part said, noting that this is the stance of the Kollouna Watani civil society coalition. Berri's Development and Liberation bloc also named Hariri for the premiership. Hariri's al-Mustaqbal Movement lost a third of its seats on May 6, when Lebanon held its first legislative election in nine years and voters reinforced the weight of Hizbullah and its allies. Hariri has been prime minister since December 2016 and served his first term from 2009 to 2011.

Saad Hariri, Prime Minister Once Again
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 24/18
Saad Hariri, designated Thursday for a third term as Lebanon's prime minister, is the son of assassinated billionaire ex-premier Rafik Hariri and a long-time critic of Iran and its powerful Lebanese ally, Hizbullah. But after a bizarre resignation scare late last year, the political scion is poised to make what could be a pragmatic return, now tasked with forming a cabinet in a parliament dominated by Hizbullah and its allies. The stocky 48-year-old, who sports trademark slicked-back hair and a closely cropped beard, was thrust onto the political stage after his father was assassinated in a February 2005 car bomb attack. But he has struggled to fill his father's shoes, ending short his first term in office and threatening to do the same with his second. Already a two-time premier, Hariri sent shockwaves across the region last year by resigning from office while in Saudi Arabia and blaming Iran-backed Hizbullah for destabilizing the region. The announcement triggered a flurry of international interventions that eventually saw Hariri return to his post, adopting a more conciliatory tone towards the group. He also blamed Hizbullah for his father's death, but has had little success in reining in the group, which was the sole faction to retain its arsenal after Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war. His al-Mustaqbal Movement lost a third of its seats on May 6, when Lebanon held its first legislative election in nine years and voters reinforced the Shiite movement's parliamentary weight. He has now been tasked with forming a cabinet -- typically a drawn-out process involving horse-trading among Lebanon's competing political forces.
Rollercoaster political career
Hariri launched his political career at the urging of his family, after his father's death. He left his post in Saudi Arabia running the Oger firm that was the basis of his family's business empire. Back in Beirut, Saad played a key role in mass demonstrations that culminated in the end of the Syrian government's 30-year military presence in Lebanon. His political career has been something of a rollercoaster, beginning with his August 2007 formation of al-Mustaqbal Movement. In Lebanon's 2009 legislative elections -- the country's last since this month's parliamentary polls -- the Sunni-majority bloc won just over a quarter of the parliament's 128 seats. Hariri has been regarded as the de facto leader of Lebanon's Sunni Muslim community, despite the occasional ribbing of detractors who mocked him as a political novice with sometimes hesitant formal Arabic. Hariri is generally soft-spoken during his public pronouncements, eschewing the table-thumping style preferred by some of his political rivals. His close friends say he enjoys cooking and exercising, and was known for making appearances at Beirut bike rides and the city's annual marathon.
Deposed, exiled, returned
Hariri began his first term as prime minister in November 2009, forming a unity government with Hizbullah and its allies after marathon negotiations. But the confrontations with the Iran-backed movement had begun six months earlier, when Hizbullah fighters and allied gunmen seized parts of Beirut following street battles with al-Mustaqbal Movement supporters. Hariri stayed on as prime minister for several rocky years, but in January 2011, Hizbullah and its allies abruptly withdrew their ministers from the Cabinet. The move collapsed Hariri's first government while he was meeting with then-U.S. president Barack Obama in Washington. The deposed premier stayed in self-imposed exile in France and Saudi Arabia for several years, citing "security" concerns. But in 2016, he decided to back a presidential bid by his rival, Hizbullah ally Michel Aoun, a move that ended more than two years of political stalemate and saw him return to head a unity government that again included Hizbullah. Hariri's return to Lebanon, and to the premiership, gave him the chance to once again assume leadership of the Sunni community, though some detractors criticized his willingness to make "deals" with Hizbullah.
Saudi Arabia has long accused Iran and Hizbullah of effectively holding Lebanon hostage, even pulling the plug on funding for Lebanon's under-equipped army to protest against what it deemed undue influence. Hariri has Saudi citizenship and has tirelessly praised the kingdom, but the change of the guard in the country appears to have left the Lebanese leader with fewer allies in Riyadh than his father had. His wife Lama Bashir-Azm, who is of Syrian origin, and their three children live in Saudi Arabia and remained there during his tenures as prime minister.

Hariri Says New Govt. to Abide by Dissociation Policy
Naharnet/May 24/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri announced Thursday after he was tasked with forming a new Cabinet that his government would abide by Lebanon's declared policy of distancing itself from regional conflicts. “I will embark on the mission of forming the government, knowing that all the influential blocs have agreed on the need to form a national unity government as soon as possible in light of the pressing financial and external situations,” Hariri said in an address to the nation after his designation. “The new government is asked to consolidate stability, strengthen state institutions, revive the economy, create jobs and carry on with the course that was launched with the formation of the outgoing government,” the PM-designate added, calling on the new government to “capitalize on the previous government's many achievements.”He added: “The government will achieve a series of reforms and it is also asked to abide by the dissociation policy and preserve good ties with the Arab brothers.”And noting that his hand is extended to “all political components,” Hariri said he will spare no effort to form a government “as soon as possible” in order to “protect Lebanon's stability according to the principles of the Taef Accord, the Constitution and Lebanon's democratic system.”Hariri's designation comes less than three weeks after elections that saw his movement lose ground in parliament. Hariri has been prime minister since December 2016 and served his first term from 2009 to 2011. His appointment comes amid a struggling economy, rising tensions in the Middle East and a new wave of sanctions against Hizbullah. Asked if there is a veto on Hizbullah's participation in the new Cabinet, Hariri said, "I only heard that from the Lebanese media. This is the first time I hear it."
Hariri added: "I am open to all elements and never closed the door in front of anyone."
Hizbullah, which has 13 seats in the 128-member legislature, did not name its own candidate for the premiership as it has done in the past — signaling it will likely go along with Hariri's re-appointment despite tense relations between the Iran-allied Shiite group and the Western-backed Hariri. "We have confirmed our readiness to take part in the next government and to deal positively with whomever is named by the majority," Mohammed Raad, who heads Hizbullah's bloc in parliament, said after meeting President Michel Aoun.

Berri: Consultations for 'Broad National Unity Govt.' to Begin Monday
Naharnet/May 24/18/Parliamentary consultations for the formation of a “broad national unity government” will kick off on Monday, Speaker Nabih Berri announced Thursday after meeting President Michel Aoun in Baabda. “The government must be formed quickly because the economic situation is pressing,” Berri said, shortly after Saad Hariri was officially tasked with forming a new government. “The new government will be a broad national unity government,” he added. Aoun had earlier issued a decree tasking Hariri with forming a new government after he received 111 votes in binding parliamentary consultations. Berri was on Wednesday elected to a sixth consecutive term as parliament speaker while Elie Ferzli of Aoun's Strong Lebanon bloc was named deputy speaker.

Geagea Meets Aoun: 'Christian Duo' Must be Treated Like 'Shiite Duo' in Govt.
Naharnet/May 24/18/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea held talks Thursday with President Michel Aoun in Baabda on the sidelines of the binding parliamentary consultations to name a new premier. After a 15-minute bilateral meeting with the president, Geagea announced that the LF bloc nominated caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri for a new term. “I hope the new government will be new par excellence and the country needs a major rescue operation,” Geagea told reporters. Turning to issue of shares in the new government, Geagea called for “treating the Christian duo (LF and Free Patriotic Movement) the same way like the Shiite duo (Hizbullah and AMAL Movement) in the government formation process.”“We must also treat blocs according to their real sizes, seeing as a bloc cannot add four or five members before the formation process,” the LF leader urged.

Ibrahim: Fight against Terrorism, Israel Will Remain Priority
Naharnet/May 24/18/General Security Chief, Major General Abbas Ibrahim marked Resistance and Liberation Day on Thursday assuring that the fight against terrorism and the Israeli enemy “will always be a priority,” the NAtional News Agency reported.
Addressing the troops, he stressed that the battle against Israel was similar to that against Takfiri terrorism. "Eighteen years ago, the last Israeli soldier was driven out of Lebanon... In recent years, you have fought incessant war against the Israeli enemy and their espionage networks, and have successfully dismantled dozens of networks that were trying to destabilize Lebanon," he said. "Esteemed soldiers, Israeli terrorism is similar to the Takfiri one that you fought all over Lebanon. Your battles have resulted in the liberation of much of our land after years of bloodshed." "May 25 of this year is of special importance, not only thanks to the victory against the Takfiri enemy, but also thanks to the holding of legislative elections, where you played a role to guarantee security and stability," he added. Ibrahim went on to say urging the military for “vigilance,” to counter the dangers facing our country.

Hezbollah outlet: US coalition attacked Syria regime targets
Joyce Karam/May 24/18/Twitter account affiliated with the group claimed that positions in the desert came under attack. A Hezbollah Twitter outlet accused the US coalition of carrying airstrikes against Assad regime targets in east of the country, early on Thursday morning. The unit named ‘the military media’, which is directly affiliated with Hezbollah, tweeted around 1.30am local time that the US coalition had carried out attacks against two Syrian regime force targets in the east of the country, near the T2 pumping station. “Military source: Some of our positions in Boukamal and Hmeimeih in the Syrian desert came under attack by US coalition around 12:40am, as ISIS was grouping its forces. Only material damages were incurred”, the tweet read.
Report: LF Accuses Bassil of ‘Staging Campaign against Party'
Naharnet/May 24/18/The Lebanese Forces party accused Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil of “leading a campaign against the LF,” describing the election of an FPM figure to the permanent secretary post for this Parliament’s term as a “coup,” al-Joumhouria daily reported on Thursday.
“What happened at the secretariat of the Parliament is a coup on the promises that were given to us. It was agreed with Speaker Nabih Berri that (LF) deputy Fadi Saad would replace MP Antoine Zahra in the secretariat,” said the sources. Although “(PM Saad) Hariri told Geaga that President Michel Aoun had agreed to the above, we were surprised on Wednesday to see (FPM) MP Alain Aoun nominated. We found out that a sort of agreement was struck between Bassil and Berri to give him an ample number of votes from his Strong Lebanon bloc in return for nominating Aoun for the secretariat.”The sources added that Bassil has tried to downsize the Lebanese Forces, but the outcome of the parliamentary elections have proved him wrong. Bassil’s “failure to downsize the LF (during the elections) made him switch to plan B. He is now trying to encircle them by expelling them from the constitutional positions. It was evident in the post of deputy speaker and secretariat,” the sources added.On Wednesday Lebanon’s new parlaiemnat re-elected Speaker Nabih Berri for a new term, veteran politician, MP Elie al-Ferzli as deputy speaker and MPs Marwan Hamadeh (PSP) and Alain Aoun were elected as the permanent secretaries for this Parliament’s term. “What is happening is very dangerous. It indicates that Bassil is leading a campaign against the LF,” they said. Despite the LF-FPM Maarab agreement that eventually brought the FPM founder President Michel Aoun to the post, ties have been strained between the two parties over disagreements on several key issues.

Pompeo calls for review of security assistance to Lebanon
وزير الخارجية الأميركي يطالب بمراجعة المساعدات العسكرية والأمنية للبنان
Bryant Harris/Al-Monitor/May 24, 2018
The State Department and congressional hawks are taking a second look at US support for the Lebanese Armed Forces after Hezbollah and its allies won a parliamentary majority in this month’s elections.
REUTERS/Leah MillisUS Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testifies at a hearing of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 23, 2018.
Mike Pompeo used his first official appearance before Congress as secretary of state to call for a review of US military assistance for Lebanon following Hezbollah’s gains in this month’s elections.
Washington has long relied on the Lebanese Armed Forces as a bulwark against the Iran-backed Shiite paramilitary group’s influence in the divided country. But critics of the army’s unwillingness to confront the group, which plays a dominant role in Lebanese politics, are gaining traction as the Donald Trump administration pursues a more aggressive stance against Tehran.
“We need a review … to make sure that we’re using American tax dollars right in supporting the groups that can most likely achieve our outcome there,” Pompeo testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee today as the Trump administration weighed in on a simmering debate about Lebanon.
“That’s the first time the administration openly mentioned some things related to a review of the use of the LAF [Lebanese Armed Forces] aid,” Joseph Gebeily, the president of the Lebanese Information Center, a think tank critical of Hezbollah, told Al-Monitor. “The Lebanese Armed Forces have been a very useful partner to the US military. They’ve built a good relationship.”
Some Hezbollah hawks in Congress have long called for curtailing US support for the Lebanese Armed Forces, saying the Hezbollah paramilitary group exerts undue influence on the Lebanese military.
“I’ve long been concerned over reports of the LAF-Hezbollah cooperation and US commitment to the LAF,” Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., the chairwoman of the House panel on Middle East policy, said earlier this week at a hearing reviewing Hezbollah’s electoral gains. “US law stipulates that no assistance may be made available to the LAF or Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces if they are controlled by a US-designated foreign terrorist organization. Hezbollah certainly [qualifies].”
“I hope that this administration, unlike previous administrations from both parties, takes a clear-eyed approach to the LAF [and] reassesses our security assistance to Lebanon,” she added.
The United States announced at a donor conference earlier this year that it was providing the Lebanese Armed Forces with three transportation helicopters worth $30 million. Since 2006, Washington has given the Lebanese Armed Forces more than $1.7 billion.
Proponents of the Lebanese Armed Forces point to the army’s recent deployment to secure the Lebanese border and its success last year in pushing Islamic State and al-Qaeda militants out of the country. Hezbollah, however, also participated in the offensive, lending further ammunition to the Lebanese Armed Forces’ critics in Washington.
Still, some Republican lawmakers who have voiced similar concerns nevertheless cite the Lebanese Armed Forces as an important tool in curbing Hezbollah’s influence in Lebanon, even as the paramilitary group expands into Syria.
“We have worked closely with the Lebanese Armed Forces over the years to try to strengthen that institution because basically you have the formulation of a terrorist state within a state,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., told Al-Monitor following Pompeo’s testimony. “So we want to make certain that there is distance between the Lebanese Armed Forces and the capability of the terrorist network to get their hands on any material. And that is what I believe [Pompeo’s] referring to.”
However, Gebeily said that while the Lebanese Armed Forces have been effective in ensuring Lebanon’s security, a review of their objectives is warranted as they have failed to disarm Hezbollah.
The Lebanese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“The taxpayer is asking: Is my assistance, the money I’m giving … to the LAF, disarming Hezbollah?” said Gebeily. “It’s not, so maybe we should review the objective of this assistance to make it more in line with what’s being achieved. If it has the purpose of disarming Hezbollah, then we should see how this can be implemented.”
While Pompeo himself has a reputation as a hawk, singling out Hezbollah in a hard-line Iran strategy speech earlier this week, his stance on the Lebanese Armed Forces has historically been more nuanced.
Gebeily, who said he formed a relationship with Pompeo during his time as a congressman from Kansas, said that while Pompeo has always been “very tough on Hezbollah and Iran,” he was also “supportive of the LAF, strengthening state institutions overall — of course with the objective of weakening Hezbollah.”
As a member of Congress, Pompeo’s district included Wichita, which boasts a sizable Lebanese American population. During that time, he made at least two trips to Lebanon, in 2014 and 2015, as a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
A readout of that first trip says Pompeo “reaffirmed US support for Lebanon’s security and political institutions.” And on his second trip, Pompeo met with Michel Aoun, now the country's president but who at the time was a Hezbollah-allied member of parliament.
Despite calling for a review, Pompeo still reaffirmed, in his testimony today, US support for the Lebanese Armed Forces “to help us achieve the security element of our efforts.” And although he expressed concern about Hezbollah’s strength in the Lebanese government, he conceded that “ultimately it’s our assessment at this point that the overall balance of power won’t be materially changed” by this month’s elections.
*Bryant Harris is Al-Monitor's congressional correspondent. He was previously the White House assistant correspondent for Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan's largest newspaper. He has also written for Foreign Policy, Al Jazeera English and IPS News. Prior to his stint in DC, he spent two years as a US Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco. On Twitter: @brykharris_ALM, Email:

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 24-25/18
Khamenei Sets 5 Conditions for Europe to Stay in Nuclear Deal
London - Adil Al-Salmi/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 24 May, 2018/Verbal attacks by Iranian top military and political officials on US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, for saying that the US would adopt a strategy to face Iranian threats, went unabated for the third consecutive day. “Iran’s armed forces will not wait for a green light from any force to develop their defense capabilities,” Armed Forces Chief of Staff Mohammad Bagheri said Wednesday, adding that Washington “does not have the courage to face a military confrontation with Tehran.”Iran’s adviser for military affairs, Rahim Safavi said: “Iran has become the biggest force in the West Asia region whether America accepted it or not.”Spiritual Leader Ali Khamenei said the US steps “aim to overthrow the regime”, noting that he “is not worried” because all such “conspiracies have failed.” “The United States has practiced hostility to strike the regime through political, economic, military and propaganda methods,” the official website of Khamenei quoted him as telling a crowd of senior political officials on Wednesday. He set out five conditions for European powers if they want Tehran to stay in the nuclear deal after the US exit. Khamenei called on Europe, in his first condition, to “issue a resolution against the United States for violating Resolution 2231,” and considered that European powers “must promise they would not seek new negotiations on Iran’s ballistic missile program and regional Middle East activities.” The third condition is that Europe must face any sanctions against Iran and address the US sanctions. As for the fourth condition, Khamenei said: “Europe should fully guarantee Iran’s oil sales. In case Americans can damage our oil sales..., Europeans should make up for that and buy Iranian oil.”The last condition is that European banks should ensure trade with Iran. “European banks should safeguard trade with Iran. We don’t want to start a fight with these three countries (France, Germany and Britain) but we don’t trust them either,” he stated. Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif revealed on Wednesday that experts from his diplomatic team had launched meetings with the European Union. Zarif pointed to his trip last week to Moscow, Beijing and Brussels to discuss the positions of the parties to the nuclear agreement. He spoke about “complex negotiations” with the Chinese and Russian “friends” at the expert level, noting that Tehran reached “broad plans,” as reported by ISNA. Commenting on the US state secretary’s recent statements, he said: “Pompeo’s comments were so hit-and-miss and far from civility and logic that are not even worth being answered.” Zarif said in response to a question about the prospects of American influence on the meetings of the Joint Commission of the JCPOA: “The Americans have left the agreement, so they are not members of the commission, and they cannot obstruct meetings like they did before.”

Moscow Rejects Anti-Iran Campaign
Moscow - Raed Jabr/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 24 May, 2018/Moscow expressed concern over what it called the expansion of the anti-Iran campaign. The warning from possible repercussions because of the US decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran coincided with Moscow's continued efforts to mobilize a unified position with Europe in the face of Washington's policies.The nuclear deal with Iran is expected to be among the most important topics that will be discussed during a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin today with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron. Notably, Macron is visiting Russia to participate in the St. Petersburg Economic Forum, which will start Thursday. In addition to discussing the nuclear deal, Putin's Foreign Affairs Adviser Yuri Ushakov said that the Russian President will also discuss with Macron Syria, Ukrainian crisis, Libya and the settlement in the Middle East.
Macron’s visit comes few days after German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Sochi that focused on the implications of the US withdrawal from the deal with Iran and the efforts exerted by Moscow and Brussels to coordinate joint steps to counter the repercussions of this withdrawal, especially regarding the work of European and Russian companies in Iran. "(The leaders) plan to discuss the prospects of maintaining the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on regulating the Iranian nuclear program after the US’ unilateral withdrawal from the agreement," Ushakov explained. Macron’s third official visit to Russia after his election coincided with the escalation of Russian warnings from the consequences of the US decision. Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stated announced that Moscow views the United States' conditions put forward to Iran completely "unacceptable.”"It is worrying that the anti-Iran campaign is gathering momentum in Washington like a snowball. It seems that the United States finally opted for the policy of ultimatums and threats against Iran,” Zarakhova said. “This does not correspond to the spirit of the Joint Comprehensive Action Plan on the Iranian nuclear program and goes beyond the framework of normal interstate relations," she noted during a press briefing. The Russian official added that the US has not only violated the international laws by withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal but also threatens now Tehran with "unacceptable conditions."

Netanyahu Moves Cabinet Meetings to Secret Headquarters
Tel Aviv- Nazir Majli/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 24 May, 2018 /Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu informed his senior ministers that the security cabinet meetings will be moved from the prime minister's office to a high-tech underground secure bunker in West Jerusalem, which hosts the national crisis management center in case a war was waged to threaten Israel’s security. This sudden move was considered by observers as “a war message addressed to Iran.”The relocation came after Netanyahu expressed frustration about information leaks specifically related to an Israeli cabinet meeting's discussion of the Iranian nuclear program. However, security sources said it is “a message to Iran and anyone who thinks of threatening Israel.”These sources added that Netanyahu is trying to say that "when he threatened to prevent the Iranian presence in Syria no matter what the price will be, he meant this seriously, and his decision lies in this direction.” Two meetings of the 11-member forum have already been held there, and a third was scheduled for Wednesday, channel 10 news reported. The Knesset voted early this month and gave the prime minister the authority to declare war or order a major military operation by consulting only the defense minister, and not via a full cabinet vote as the law had previously required. Sixty-two Knesset members voted the dramatic proposal into law, beating out the 41 opposition MKs who opposed it, claiming that the language of the law effectively gives free reign to the prime minister by removing all oversight. According to the new law, in “extreme circumstances,” military operations can be authorized by the prime minister and defense minister alone and do not require
a vote by cabinet ministers.

Trump cancels summit with NKorean leader, places US armed forces on the ready
DEBKAfile/May 24/2018
The White House letter to North Korea’s Kim Jong-un on Thursday, May 24, regretted a “missed opportunity and a truly sad moment in history.” President Donald Trump called off his meeting with the North Korean leader scheduled for June 12 in Singapore, after Pyongyang insulted Vice President Mike Pence as a “political dummy’ and issued threats, including, “We are just as ready to meet in a nuclear confrontation as at the negotiating table.” Trump replied that “the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel is inappropriate at this time to have this long-planned meeting.”At the same time, Trump did not entirely close the door on future talks for a summit, provided the North Korean leader changes his tone on US administration leaders. DEBKAfile’s sources report that the removal of the North Korean nuclear issue from Washington’s immediate agenda leaves the administration free to focus on the Iranian nuclear problem.
President Trump announced later that after terminating plans for a summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, he spoke with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and the armed forces chiefs to make sure they are ready in the event of “reckless actions by North Korea” for US operations, “should a confrontation is forced on us.” Trump said he had also conferred with South Korea and Japan about sharing the financial burden of such operations. “I still hope that Kim will do the right thing for himself and his people who suffer needlessly,” the president said. “If he chooses constructive dialogue, I am waiting. Meanwhile tough sanctions and maximum pressure will stay in place. The US will not compromise the safety and security of the USA. Our military has been greatly enhanced as never before. If it all works out well with North Korea, the summit will take place [as planned] or at a later date.”
Pence had confirmed a suggestion made by national security adviser John Bolton that the nuclear deal with North Korea could follow the model of the agreement with Libyan ruler Muammar Qaddafi to dismantle his nuclear program and remove it from the country. Eight years later, Qaddafi was deposed and murdered. This week, to allay North Korean’s mistrust of US intentions, President Trump declared that he would guarantee Kim’s safety as part of any nuclear deal.
North Korea appears meanwhile to have blown up tunnels at its only nuclear test site, Punggye-ri in the north-east, causing a big blast. Pyongyang later said the site had been dismantled. American and Japanese experts said this was an empty gesture since they believed the tunnels had partially collapsed after the last test in September 2017, rendering it unusable. Independent inspectors were furthermore not allowed to witness the dismantling, raising concerns that it could be reversible.

Investigators: Russian Military Unit’s Missile Downed MH17
Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 24 May, 2018 /Prosecutors investigating the downing of a Malaysia Airlines passenger plane over eastern Ukraine in 2014 said on Thursday for the first time that they had identified the missile used to shoot down the aircraft as coming from a Russian military brigade. Flight MH17 was blown out of the sky on July 17, 2014 while en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur with 298 people on board, two-thirds of them Dutch. Wilbert Paulissen, head of the crime squad of the Netherlands' national police, said the missile had been fired from a carrier belonging to Russia's 53rd Anti-Aircraft Brigade. "All the vehicles in a convoy carrying the missile were part of the Russian armed forces," he told a televised news conference. In an interim update on their investigation, prosecutors said they had trimmed their list of possible suspects from more than a hundred to several dozen. "We have a lot of proof and a lot of evidence, but we are not finished," said chief prosecutor Fred Westerbeke. "There is still a lot of work to do." Russia has denied involvement in the incident. There was no immediate comment from Moscow on the investigative development. Dutch officials have announced any suspects arrested in the shooting down of flight MH17 will be tried in the Netherlands under an agreement reached with the countries leading the joint probe.
Syria Says Repelled 'Missile Attack' on Homs Military Airport
Naharnet/May 24/18/A Syrian military airport came under a “hostile missile attack” Thursday evening, Syria's state news agency SANA said. “One of our military airports in the central region has come under a missile attack and our air defense systems have confronted the attack and prevented it from achieving its goals,” SANA quoted a Syrian military source as saying. The agency had earlier reported blasts around the al-Dabaa military airport in Homs' countryside. Shortly before the reported attack, several warplanes were seen and heard flying over the Lebanese capital Beirut and the Mount Lebanon region.
Israel has several times used Lebanon's airspace to carry out airstrikes in Syria in recent months. The raids usually target bases belonging to Hizbullah and Iranian forces.

Syrian Regime Media Says US Hit Army Posts, US Denies
Asharq Al Awsat/Thursday, 24 May, 2018/Syrian regime media reported that a US-led coalition airstrike targeting positions in eastern Syria killed at least 12 pro-regime fighters, but the US military denied knowledge of it.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a broad network of sources across Syria, said the raid hit army positions south of Albu Kamal, a town on Syria's border with Iraq. "At least three vehicles were destroyed by the strike," said Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman. He said that the 12 pro-regime fighters killed in the incident were not Syrians, but he could not provide more details on their identity. A military source quoted by regime news agency SANA said that "some of our military positions between Albu Kamal and Hmeimeh were hit this morning in an aggression by American coalition warplanes". SANA reported that the strikes caused only material damage and came within 24 hours of an ISIS attack on Syrian army positions in the same region. Albu Kamal and Hmeimeh lie in Syria's eastern Deir Ezzor province, where Russian-backed Syrian troops and the US-led coalition have been waging separate offensives against the ISIS terrorist group. A "de-confliction" line in place along the Euphrates River since last year is meant to keep the two assaults from crashing into each other. Loyalist troops are present west of the river while the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are on the east. A military source from forces allied to Syria's regime said the strikes had targeted two regime military positions near a frontline with ISIS. "There are no Iranian or Lebanese fighters among the dead," the source said. ISIS lost most of its territory in Syria last year, but retained some remote desert areas and has attacked the army and allied forces in recent weeks. On Monday, Syrian troops and allied forces ousted ISIS from the last districts it held in the capital Damascus. After a fierce month-long battle, an evacuation deal saw the remaining jihadists bussed out of the city towards small pockets of land still held by ISIS in the Badiya, a vast desert area stretching from central Syria to its eastern border with Iraq. The day after the transfer, ISIS fighters in the Badiya attacked a nearby regime position, leaving more than two dozen Syrian troops and allied fighters dead. The Observatory said the ISIS fighters responsible were from the group that had just been transferred out of the Yarmuk area in southern Damascus.

Algerian Blogger Faces Death Penalty on Espionage Charges

Algiers - Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 24 May, 2018/Amnesty International has asked the Algerian authorities to release a blogger who faces the death penalty on “espionage charges.”In a post early last year, Merzoug Touati interviewed an Israeli foreign ministry spokesperson in which he disputes accusations by the Algerian authorities that the Israeli authorities were involved in protests in Algeria. The trial of Touati “on trumped-up espionage charges based on online posts is yet another stain on the country’s human rights record,” Amnesty International said on Wednesday on the eve of the opening hearing. Touati, 32, “faces charges relating to a Facebook post and YouTube video that authorities claim encouraged civil unrest. He has been in detention since January 2017,” it said. “Amnesty International has reviewed the court documents which list as 'evidence' the posts published by Touati before his Facebook account and website were deleted, and found that there was no incitement to violence or advocacy of hatred, rather his posts were covered by freedom of expression in relation to his work as a citizen-journalist,” according to the US-basked human rights organization.
“Amnesty International therefore considers Merzoug Touati a prisoner of conscience held solely for expressing his peaceful opinions,” it said. Heba Morayef, Middle East and North Africa regional director at Amnesty International, said that every day “Touati spends in prison ... is a further stain on Algeria’s human rights record.” “It is ludicrous that a Facebook post expressing peaceful opinion could lead to the death penalty. Touati represents the broken dreams of a generation in a country where freedom of expression has been repeatedly undermined,” she added.

Houthi Missile Intercepted by Saudi Arabia
Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 24 May, 2018/Saudi air defenses on Thursday intercepted a ballistic missile over the southern city of Jazan after it was fired by Houthis in Yemen, the Arab Coalition said. Debris from the missile landed in residential areas of Jazan without causing casualties, Coalition Spokesman Turki al-Maliki said in a statement released by the official Saudi Press Agency. He reiterated that the new attack by Iran-backed Houthi insurgents proves the Tehran regime’s support to the armed militias in violation of UN Security Council resolutions 2216 and 2231. Such attacks aim to threaten the security of Saudi Arabia and that of the region and the world, said Maliki. He added that firing missiles on populated areas is considered a violation of international humanitarian law.

Sadr Calls for International Support to 'Exit Sectarian Tunnel'

Baghdad - Hamza Mustafa/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 24 May, 2018/While Muqtada al-Sadr, whose Sairoun alliance got a majority of votes in the May 12 parliamentary elections, has intensified his meetings with leaders of other alliances and parties to form a large parliamentary bloc, Washington communicated with the Iraqi official through intermediaries, after a series of sharp positions taken by his movement against the US. Dhiaa al-Asadi, a senior aide to Sadr, said the United States had contacted members of Sairoun, adding that there were no direct talks with the Americans, but mediators were assigned to open channels with members of the coalition. Al-Asadi was quoted by Reuters as saying: “They asked what the position of the Sadrist movement will be when they come to power. Are they going to reinvent or invoke the Mahdi Army or reemploy them? Are they going to attack American forces in Iraq?” “There’s no return to square one. We are not intending on having any military force other than the official military force, police forces and security forces,” he added. US State Department spokesperson, Heather Nauert said during a press conference that her country respected the choice of the Iraqi people. “We will work with whoever the Iraqi Government and the people of Iraq decide to elect into its government. We’ve had a long, good – longstanding, good relationship with the Government of Iraq and we will continue to have a good relationship with them”, Nauert said. Meanwhile, Sadr met with the United Nations special envoy to Iraq, Jan Kubis, and stressed that Iraq needed support from the international community and the UN organization “to get out of the tunnel of sectarianism and to prevent regional interference in the Iraqi elections file.” Kubis, for his part, underlined the UN’s readiness to provide assistance needed by Iraq, and expressed his hope that the understandings and discussions would lead to the formation of a national government that supports stability in the country. The meeting was held on the eve of an extraordinary session held by the Iraqi Parliament, whose term expires at the end of June, to discuss the results of the parliamentary elections, after increasing complaints and challenges in a number of provinces, primarily Kirkuk. Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission announced on Monday the cancellation of the results of 103 vote centers of parliamentary elections after the verification of dozens of “red complaints”, which are considered as “extremely serious violations that affect the outcome of competing lists at the voting centers.”
Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 24-25/18
Press Releases/USA Treasury Targets Procurement Networks and 31 Aircraft Associated with Mahan Air and Other Designated Iranian Airlines
U.S. Department Of The Treasury/May 24, 2018
Washington - Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated nine individuals and entities procuring export-controlled, U.S.-origin goods for sanctioned Iranian airlines. They were designated as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs) pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists or acts of terrorism. OFAC also identified 31 aircraft in which entities previously designated under E.O. 13224 have an interest.
“The facilitators designated by the Treasury today have been procuring parts and providing services for the fleets of sanctioned Iranian airlines, including Mahan Air, Caspian Air, Meraj Air, and Pouya Air. In so doing, they extend a lifeline to the IRGC-QF and enable the Iranian regime to transport weapons, fighters, and money to its proxies, including Hizballah, and to prop up the brutal Assad regime,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “Countries and companies around the world should take note of the risks associated with granting landing rights and providing aviation services to the airlines used by Iran to export terrorism throughout the region. The deceptive practices these airlines employ to illegally obtain services and U.S. goods is yet another example of the duplicitous ways in which the Iranian regime has operated.”
Designated Iranian commercial airlines in general, and Mahan Air in particular, have played a critical role in exporting the Iranian regime’s malign influence. Mahan Air was designated in 2011 under Executive Order 13224 for support to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF). Mahan Air has ferried IRGC-QF operatives, weapons, equipment, and funds to international locations in furtherance of Iranian state-sponsored terror operations. Mahan Air has provided travel services to IRGC-QF personnel flown to and from Iran and Syria for military training and has facilitated the covert travel of IRGC-QF members by bypassing normal security procedures and flight manifests. Mahan Air has also transported weapons and personnel for Hizballah and regional armed groups promoting conflict and regional instability. Since the onset of the Syrian civil war, Mahan Air and designated Iranian commercial airlines have routinely flown fighters and materiel to Syria to prop up the Assad regime. Iran’s military support for Assad has contributed to mass atrocities in the country and the displacement of millions across the region.
Designated Iranian airlines rely heavily on front companies across the world who illicitly procure the parts and services required to sustain their fleets. Front companies like those being designated today employ deceptive measures to illegally obtain controlled U.S. parts from suppliers. Additionally, we are identifying a number of aircraft associated with designated Iranian airlines Mahan Air, Caspian Air, Meraj Air, and Pouya Air, giving notice to those who grant landing rights and provide general services to these aircraft that they could be exposed to U.S. sanctions.
The aviation community is also alerted to the sanctions risk for those maintaining commercial relationships with Mahan Air and other designated Iranian airlines, including Caspian Air, Meraj Air, and Pouya Air. Persons operating in the civil aviation industry should implement appropriate controls to ensure compliance with their legal requirements. Potentially sanctionable activities include, but are not limited to: procurement of aircraft parts and equipment, maintenance contracts, airline ground services and catering, interline transfer and codeshare agreements, general sales agent services, ticketing services and sales, marketing services, cargo cooperation agreements, cargo sales agent services and agreements, and freight forwarding services and agreements.
Today’s actions are the result of a U.S. Government-wide effort to prevent the procurement of U.S.-export controlled goods by designated Iranian airlines through individuals and entities in third countries, demonstrating the United States’ commitment to enforcing existing sanctions and to targeting those that support terrorism. These actions build upon President Trump’s decision to cease the United States’ participation in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and begin re-imposing U.S. sanctions that had been lifted under the JCPOA.
OFAC is designating Turkish citizen Gulnihal Yegane and a network of Istanbul-based firms, including Trigron Lojistik, RA Havacilik, and 3G Lojistik, for enabling designated Iranian airline Mahan Air to secure key aviation goods and services and sustain its fleet of Western-manufactured aircraft. Mahan Air was designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 on October 12, 2011, for providing financial, material, and technological support to the IRGC­QF.
Gulnihal Yegane is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for assisting in, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or financial or other services to or in support of, Mahan Air. Istanbul-based Gulnihal Yegane manages multiple businesses that purchase and/or receive aviation parts from foreign vendors, including export-controlled, U.S.-origin items, who then forward those parts to Mahan Air. Gulnihal Yegane’s businesses have purchased export-controlled, U.S.-origin engines from foreign vendors, which were delivered to Istanbul, and forwarded to Mahan Air.
Trigron Lojistik is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for assisting in, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or financial or other services to or in support of, Mahan Air, as well as for being owned or controlled by Gulnihal Yegane. Trigron Lojistik collects consignments of aviation parts, including export-controlled, U.S.­origin items that are shipped from foreign vendors to companies in Istanbul, and forwards those cargoes to Mahan Air in Tehran.
OFAC also is designating 3G Lojistik and RA Havacilik pursuant to E.O. 13224 for assisting in, sponsoring, or providing financial, material, or technological support for, or financial or other services to or in support of, Mahan Air. Both 3G Lojistik and RA Havacilik purchase aviation parts, including export-controlled, U.S.-origin parts, from foreign vendors on behalf of Mahan Air, which are then delivered to Istanbul and forwarded to Tehran by Trigron Lojistik.
As a result of today’s actions, Gulnihal Yegane, Trigron Lojistik, 3G Lojistik, and RA Havacilik are subject to secondary sanctions pursuant to the Iranian Financial Sanctions Regulations (IFSR), which implement, among other authorities, the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions and Divestment Act of 2010 (CISADA). Pursuant to the IFSR, OFAC can prohibit or impose strict conditions on the opening or maintaining in the United States of a correspondent account or a payable-through account by a foreign financial institution that knowingly facilitates a significant transaction for persons designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 in connection with Iran’s support for international terrorism.
OFAC’s actions were closely coordinated with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), which on February 2, 2018 issued a Temporary Denial Order presenting evidence that Gulnihal Yegane, as well as Trigron Lojistik and RA Havacilik, are engaged in procurement activities relating to export-controlled, U.S.-origin aircraft engines and parts for or on behalf of one or more Iranian airlines, operating as transaction parties, and facilitating transactions structured to evade the Export Administration Regulations. BIS previously placed Gulnihal Yegane on the BIS Entity List in December 2013, denying her U.S. export privileges for her involvement in a procurement scheme that directly supported Mahan Air.
OFAC is designating two entities, Iran-based Blue Airways and Turkey-based Otik Aviation, in connection with Mahan Air.
Iran-based Blue Airways is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for providing material support to, and for acting for or on behalf of, Mahan Air, primarily through the procurement and provision of aircraft parts from abroad. Blue Airways, which is co-located with Mahan Air, is a Mahan Air-operated shell company with no aircraft or discernable assets. To disguise Mahan Air as the actual buyer and final recipient of prohibited U.S. goods, Blue Airways often is listed on commercial documents in place of Mahan Air. This tactic is used by Mahan Air to procure goods from neighboring countries, China and Europe.
Otik Aviation, an Istanbul, Turkey-based entity, is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for providing material support to Mahan Air, and regularly supplying the Iranian airline with export-controlled, U.S.-origin aircraft parts. Over the last several years, Otik Aviation has procured and delivered millions of dollars in aviation-related spare and replacement parts for Mahan Air, some of which are procured from the United States and the European Union. As recently as 2017, Otik Aviation continued to provide Mahan Air with replacement parts worth well over $100,000 per shipment, such as aircraft brakes. Representatives of Otik Aviation wittingly ship the aviation-related goods that they procure for Mahan Air to Blue Airways.
As a result of today’s actions, Blue Airways and Otik Aviation are subject to secondary sanctions pursuant to the IFSR.
OFAC is designating two Iranian individuals for acting for or on behalf of designated Iranian airline Meraj Air, as well as one Iran-based company that is owned or controlled by these individuals and that acts for or on behalf of Meraj Air. Meraj Air was designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 on August 29, 2014, as a Government of Iran airline that has been used to ferry illicit cargo, including weapons, from Tehran to the Syrian regime since at least 2013.
Iraj Ronaghi (Ronaghi) and Touraj Zanganeh (Zanganeh) are being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for acting for or on behalf of Meraj Air.
Dena Airways is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13224 for being owned or controlled by Ronaghi and Zanganeh, and for acting for or on behalf of Meraj Air. Meraj Air transferred VIP flight operations for the Government of Iran to Dena Airways in November 2017.
As a result of today’s actions, Iraj Ronaghi, Touraj Zanganeh, and Dena Airways are subject to secondary sanctions pursuant to the IFSR.
Additionally, OFAC is identifying 31 aircraft as property in which Caspian Air, Meraj Air, Pouya Air, or Mahan Air, Iranian airlines previously designated under E.O. 13224, have an interest. These identifications serve to warn those who grant landing rights and provide general services to these aircraft that they could be exposed to U.S. sanctions:
Nine aircraft in which Caspian Air (designated on August 29, 2014) has an interest: EP-CAR, EP-CAQ, EP-CAP, EP-CAS, EP-CPD, EP-CPU, EP-CPV, EP-CPX, and EP-CPZ;
Five aircraft in which Meraj Air (designated on August 29, 2014) has an interest: EP-AJC, EP-AJH, EP-AJI, EP-SIF, and EP-SIG;
Five aircraft in which Pouya Air (designated on August 29, 2014) has an interest: EP-LDA, EP-LDC, EP-PUA, EP-PUL, and EP-PUM; and
Twelve aircraft in which Mahan Air (designated on October 12, 2011) has an interest: EP-MMA, EP-MMB, EP-MMC, EP-MMJ, EP-MMV, EP-MNF, EP-MOD, EP­MOM, EP-MOP, EP-MOQ, EP-MOR, and EP-MOS.

Pompeo Raises the Price for Iran to Rejoin International Community
Eli Lake/Bloomberg/May 24/18
If you ever wanted to know what the opposite of Barack Obama's Iran strategy would look like, I recommend Mike Pompeo's speech Monday at the Heritage Foundation.
In his first major address as secretary of state, Pompeo outlined a new strategy that overturns three key assumptions that underpinned the Iran policy of Obama and his top diplomat, John Kerry. These are: that America can live with Iranian regional aggression in exchange for temporary limits on its nuclear program; that the 2015 nuclear bargain expressed the will of the international community; and that Iran's current elected leadership can moderate the country over time.
Let's start with that first assumption. While past U.S. presidents sanctioned Iran for a variety of bad behavior — ranging from its sponsorship of terrorism to its human rights abuses — Obama by his second term offered to lift the most biting ones in exchange for nuclear concessions. Obama gave the regime a choice: your nukes or your economy.
Pompeo on Monday said the old deal no longer applied. Under renewed sanctions, he said, Iran would be forced to make a different choice: "either fight to keep its economy off life support at home or keep squandering precious wealth on fights abroad. It will not have the resources to do both."
This formulation flips Obama's gamble on its head. Obama argued that for all of the instability Iran sowed in the Middle East, it was worth relaxing sanctions on Iran's banking system and oil exports in exchange for limitations on its nuclear program. Pompeo says that deal was a loser. "No more cost-free expansions of Iranian power," Pompeo said. Speaking of the commander of Iran's Quds Force, Qassem Suleimani, America's top diplomat said he "has been playing with house money that has become blood money; wealth created by the West has fueled his campaign."
Pompeo on Monday also took aim at one of the more insidious elements of Obama's diplomatic strategy, which was that the countries most effected by the change in U.S. policy toward Iran — Israel and America's Arab allies — were not included in negotiations. The negotiators of the deal were the U.S., China, the European Union, Iran, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom. Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were briefed later about the talks.
Now the Europeans, Russians and Chinese are part of a much larger group America wants to press the Iranians to change their ways. "I want the Australians, the Bahrainis, the Egyptians, the Indians, the Japanese, the Jordanians, the Kuwaitis, the Omanis, the Qataris, the Saudi Arabians, South Korea, the UAE, and many, many others worldwide to join in this effort against the Islamic Republic of Iran," Pompeo said.
The secretary also made an explicit appeal to the Iranian people. "Next year marks the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Republic, the revolution in Iran," he said. "At this milestone, we have to ask: What has the Iranian Revolution given to the Iranian people?"
In a dig at Obama and Kerry, Pompeo called out Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani, and foreign minister, Javad Zarif. Addressing the Iranian people, Pompeo said, "The West says, 'Boy, if only they could control Ayatollah Khamenei and Qasem Soleimani then things would be great.' Yet, Rouhani and Zarif are your elected leaders. Are they not the most responsible for your economic struggles? Are these two not responsible for wasting Iranian lives throughout the Middle East?"
Compare that with Obama's and Kerry's careful courting of Rouhani and Zarif. Even after Iran's revolutionary guard corps detained and humiliated 10 U.S. sailors who drifted into Iranian territorial waters, Kerry made sure to thank Zarif for helping to get them released. After Rouhani won the 2013 presidential election, the Obama administration began relaxing sanctions designations months before the formal nuclear negotiations started.
Pompeo's appeals to the Iranian people stopped short of calling for regime change. The closest he came to that was saying, "We hope, indeed we expect, that the Iranian regime will come to its senses and support — not suppress — the aspirations of its own citizens."
That said, Pompeo's expectation about Iran's treatment of its own people was not included in his list of 12 demands of the

The Similarity of Qatar, Iran Crises
Salman Aldosary/Asharq Al Awsat/May 24/18
Ever since each of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain severed ties with neighboring Qatar on June 5, 2017, Doha seemed to have only warmed up more by the second to its neighbor on the eastern bank of the Arabian Gulf, Iran. Parallels can be drawn between Tehran and Doha’s attitudes and tactics in managing their critical international ties crises.
The similarities go beyond each facing international demands –the Saudi-led quartet set 13 demands for Qatar to fulfil, and the US issued 12 conditions to be met by Iran to escape harsh sanctions- as Qatari and Iranian policies often overlap.
With both Iran and Qatar left in hot waters, Doha is just as unable to escape its worst crisis yet as much as Tehran’s regime won’t be able to doge historical sanctions, unmatched in their severity.
The two states may seem different from a first glance-- and this is true-- but with a closer look, it becomes apparent that they both are equally manipulative when it comes to politics. They both stubbornly ignore change.
Qatar refuses to see into the decisive change in the countries that have chosen to sever diplomatic ties, and assumes it will be able to get away with covering up its misdeeds as it had been used to.
Iran too has not read into the huge change in the White House since the election of Donald Trump, and assumed a war of words and threats of escalations can perhaps mitigate their losses.
Without changing their existing policy, the two countries cannot adhere to international demands. Both regimes follow a policy rooted in prevarication and striking hushed alliances with terror groups and armed militias.
However, it does go without saying that Qatari support for extremist groups is slightly lower than that of Iran.
Although Qatar’s 13 demands, and Iran’s 12, are terms and conditions all countries abide and conform to, the two remain reluctant to accept reality. They insist on pushing forward their aggressive policy passionately arguing it’s for their self-styled sovereignty. They even went as far as purposely worse conditions for themselves. That the alliance between them has become stronger and stronger than previously because of the complexity of their crises, each party finds shelter and appropriate echo of his policy on the other side.
More so, just like Iran backs extremist Shiite militias in Syria, Qatar supports the Sunni extremist militias, such as Al-Nusra Front.
Tehran openly and militarily supports Yemen’s Houthi coupists who fire rockets against civilians in Saudi Arabia; Doha follows with political and media support.
Iran and Qatar also share the misfortune of going up against a well-defined international roadmap which highly relies on exercising maximum pressure to prompt both regimes to abandon illicit behavior before matters are made worse.
Regardless of how intense the reactions were, all attempts are made to change international policy pushing back against aggressive behavior have perpetually failed.
Doha's reliance on Western support failed to find light, and Iran’s rushing to the arms of European defense will not be able to revive a nuclear agreement which died the moment the world's most powerful nation withdrew.

Why are they Attacking Saudi TV Series ‘Winds of Change’?
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/May 24/18
They are attacking it because of the channel, the actor and the writer. The Al-Asoof (“Winds of Change”) TV series has been targeted for its theme, topic and scenario before it was even broadcast.
This is a Ramadan battle that we have grown accustomed to in the past few years. Ramadan is accompanied with television battles in which extremist voices attack TV series every year. This takes place in Ramadan in particular because it is the month when a majority of people flock to TV screens. The aim of these campaigns is to distort and suspend works of art, because they know that they influence the public and society against their extremist rhetoric.
Al-Asoof, a drama series airing on MBC, is set between 1970 and 1975. The show beautifully reflects the period with accurate details based on real testimonies. Unfortunately for its haters, Al-Asoof is actually a long series and only the first season is being aired this year.
Extremists oppose it because they see it as an attempt to destroy what they built in the next two decades after 1975, during a period they call the “Sahwa”. And they are right. The series presents an image of a conservative and pious Saudi society that is free of all the distortions that were introduced by extremists in wake of the Iranian revolution, which tarnished the image of the entire Muslim world, not just Saudi Arabia.
Extremists are right to be angry because the series opened the eyes of more than 80 percent of viewers to a Riyadh they believed to be a dark city whose residents were ignorant, narrow-minded and extremist. The truth is the complete opposite. The history of the capital and of the entire country was blurred and rewritten. False witnesses want to suspend the airing of Al-Asoof to prevent the people from discovering the truth.
There is huge controversy over that period. Comparisons have been made between the traditional old alleys and today’s world, which is controlled by concepts derived from different interpretations of Islam. These concepts were created by groups that want to control the neighborhood, city, country and the entire Muslim world.
In their attack on Al-Asoof, they pick small stories to distort the drama’s greater idea – stories like those related to bastard children, disputes and flirting. Yes, all these issues used to exist in that society, which was normal and which had flaws known to all other modern societies.
The extremists are not objecting to these depictions, but they fear the portrayal of a tolerant society that has never known hatred or radicalism. They do not want the people to know the truth.
The emergence of Khomeinism, extremism and the Sahwa led to the closure of cinemas, banning of concerts, persecution of artists and confiscation of books. Writers and thinkers were threatened and seminars were suspended. They restricted work at television until it became a gloomy outlet dominated by educational programs. They distorted charitable works and portrayed as heroes preachers and fighters in Afghanistan. Add to this the distortion of history, literature, science, arts and media. Even banking was not spared of their influence.
They are attacking Al-Asoof because it highlights a period that was intentionally kept in the dark. Extremists from among the Sahwists want to turn this light off. What further enrages them is that this series is being aired at the same time the Kingdom is restoring awareness and returning life to how it was before 1979. This is our very ordinary, old and real society with its virtues and flaws.
UNRWA's "Palestinian Refugee" Fraud?
Ruthie Blum/Gatestone Institute/May 24/2018
It is no wonder, then, that the classified State Department report's findings -- showing that billions of taxpayer dollars have been funneled over the years into an organization that has seems to have been perpetuating a fraud -- that the Obama administration kept its content a secret from the American public.
UNRWA is anything but a humanitarian organization interested in the welfare of the Palestinians whom it claims to have spent the past nearly 70 years assisting. It is, rather, a self-serving political body that has bolstered Arab/Palestinian rejectionism and perpetuated Palestinian suffering, thereby preventing peace and prosperity.
Its dissolution is long overdue.
In early 2018, President Donald Trump froze a large portion of the funding that the United States provides annually for UNRWA (the United Nations Relief Works Agency for Palestine Refugees a in the Near East). Prior to imposing the $125 million freeze, Trump tweeted: "[W]e pay the Palestinians HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect."
The president's move came in response to the fact that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his henchmen yet again were rejecting American and Israeli peace overtures. Yet it was both welcome and necessary for reasons well beyond Palestinian intransigence. UNRWA not only has an abominable record of ties to terrorism, which makes a mockery of its mandate to " provide relief, human development and protection services;" but its entire existence is based on a false premise -- a special UN definition of "refugee" for Palestinians that sets them apart from other people in the world categorized as such. It thus has been able for decades to keep cash flowing freely into its coffers, providing "humanitarian services" for millions of Palestinians who are not refugees by any measure. As the ZOA's Morton Klein and Daniel Mandel recently wrote:
"All this stands in stark contrast to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the international body that deals with all refugee problems other than the Palestinian Arabs. UNHRC observes a universal definition of refugee status, one that applies solely to those who actually fled their country during hostilities, civil war, natural disaster, or other disturbances. UNHCR works to resettle refugees quickly and dismantle the temporary refugee camps housing them. Nor does it count descendants as refugees.
"This has immense practical ramifications: in literally all other cases other than the Palestinian Arabs, the number of refugees shrinks over time — chiefly through successful resettlement. In contrast, in the Palestinian Arab case, their numbers continue to expand ceaselessly.
"Thus, instead of the living original refugees officially numbering 30,000, UNRWA now services some 5.3 million Palestinian Arabs."
The actual number of Palestinian refugees is likely even lower than that cited by the authors: a classified State Department report, delivered to Congress in 2015, reveals it to be closer to 20,000. The report showed that billions of taxpayer dollars have been funneled over the years into an organization that seems to have been perpetuating a fraud. It is no wonder, then, that the Obama administration kept the report's contents a secret from the American public. More surprising is the fact that, since the report was first submitted to Congress in 2015 -- and subsequently exposed by the Washington Free Beacon in January, 2018 -- it has yet to be made public. To rectify this situation, fifty-one members of the House of Representatives signed a letter on April 18 -- spurred by the Middle East Forum -- calling on Trump to declassify the report.
The letter reads, in part:
"We commend your leadership in guiding the U.S.-Israel relationship to its best years in recent history, and also for finally recognizing that Jerusalem is the capital of important step in reaching a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. We have tremendous confidence that you will continue taking such steps to resolve the conflict, and encourage you to next address the so-called 'Palestinian refugee' population
"America has provided $1 billion to ...UNRWA over the last four fiscal years, and nearly $6 billion since UNRWA's inception in 1950. We are concerned that American taxpayer dollars are not being used properly. Your withholding of funds from UNRWA in January on the condition that they reform was a tremendous first step. American taxpayers deserve to know how they tax dollars are spent on Palestinian refugees and their descendants.
"In order to investigate the matter, the Senate Report 112-172 to the Department of State, Foreign Operations, And Related Programs Appropriations bill in 2012 directed the Department of State to issue a report to Congress detailing 'the approximate number of people who, in the past year, have received UNRWA services: (1) whose place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948 and who were displaces as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict; and (2) who are [their] descendants...
"...Finally, in 2015, the Obama State Department delivered the mandated report to Congress in classified form despite no apparent national security threat or known historical precedent...We believe this classification was inappropriate and a deliberate attempt to conceal information from American taxpayers...
"We respectfully request that you instruct the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration to declassify this report. The issue of the so-called Palestinian 'right of return' of 5.3 million refugees to Israel as part of any 'peace deal' is an unrealistic demand, and we do not believe it accurately reflects the number of actual Palestinian refugees..."
UNRWA is anything but a humanitarian organization interested in the welfare of the Palestinians whom it claims to have spent the past nearly 70 years assisting. It is, rather, a self-serving political body that has bolstered Arab/Palestinian rejectionism and perpetuated Palestinian suffering, thereby preventing peace and prosperity. Its dissolution is long overdue.
Pictured: Ann Dismorr (right), the Director of UNRWA in Lebanon, poses with a map that erases the State of Israel and presents all of it as "Palestine." (Image source: Palestinian Authority TV via Palestinian Media Watch)
*Ruthie Blum is the author of "To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the 'Arab Spring.'"
© 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.

USA: The Iron Ladies
Ahmed Charai/Gatestone Institute/May 24/2018
"I know that at home you call me 'the old lady.' Well, I'm a grandmother, and you're a grandfather. And so from one grandparent to another, let me express my hope that our grandchildren will know a future of peace ..." — Former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir to former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.
Yesterday, two women were named at the head of what is seen as the center of power in the US, the Intelligence services: Gina Haspel and Kirstjen Nielsen.
It is this permanence of public service that, in the USA, assures that a president cannot be omnipotent; it is a true sign of democracy.
Some Arab leaders stood out, in part, by their sexist and disrespectful language against former Secretaries of State, Madeleine Albright and Condoleezza Rice. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat referred to Golda Meir as the Old Lady. There was a famous discussion about it when Sadat came to the Knesset, and in front of the camera she said to him: "I know that at home you call me 'the old lady.' Well, I'm a grandmother, and you're a grandfather. And so from one grandparent to another, let me express my hope that our grandchildren will know a future of peace..."
The Libyan dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, had what some referred to as a slightly eerie obsession with Condoleezza Rice, describing her as his "African Princess."
Yesterday, two women were named at the head of what is seen as the center of power in the US, the Intelligence services: Gina Haspel and Kirstjen Nielsen.
Secretary Nielsen was brought to the helm of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), a department staffed with 200,000 employees. The DHS was created after 9/11 to pool together a number of disparate branches of the administration, from emergency management, to customs, border protection and immigration. It is an extremely important position.
The United States' Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in Langley, Virginia, remains — beyond imagining— the best performing foreign intelligence organization in the world, and therefore an essential tool for US foreign policy. Gina Haspel is the first woman to be named to Langley.
This was not the result of "reverse discrimination." Director Haspel seems to have been born for public service. She wanted to join West Point, the prestigious military academy, but closed to women at the time. She nevertheless worked with the 10th Special Forces Group, then went to join the CIA.
For 30 years, Director Haspel worked first as a reports officer, then in several undercover overseas operations, and ultimately as station chief, before becoming assistant director, and finally the top job. One of her predecessors, John Brennan, albeit a Democrat, has praised her skills and integrity, and strongly defended her nomination.
Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen (left) and Central Intelligence Agency Director Gina Haspel. (Images source: Nielsen - World Economic Forum / Haspel - CIA)
These are two sharp profiles, adapted to the responsibilities that they have shouldered until now.
The other point to emphasize is that the institutional architecture in the US is special. Although appointed by the President, the directors of the agencies obey his directives only in respect of the laws, and especially of the missions, of the institutions they manage. This is a constant in the United States whereby democracy lives and thrives.
The two women will handle two crucial battles in Donald Trump's agenda. Director Haspel will be in charge of the fight against terrorism, a file she knows blindfolded -- whether funding, religious indoctrination or recruitment. Her memos will be sure to affect diplomacy, especially as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, is a former colleague who appreciates the primacy of Intelligence. Ultimately, the President's tweets will not impact the work of the CIA; rather, the other way around.
Secretary Nielsen will be in charge of the thorny issue of immigration. The president's maximalist proposals will be put to the test by realities on the ground and by the law. There is no doubt that the work of the homeland intelligence will be at the forefront of this job.
It is this permanence of public service that, in the USA, assures that a president cannot be omnipotent; it is a true sign of democracy.
*This article was originally published with minor differences in L'Observateur du Maroc & d'Afrique and is re-printed here by the kind permission of the author.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

France: Macron Buries Plan to Rehabilitate 'No-Go Zones'
Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/May 24/2018
Initial reaction to Macron's speech was one of nearly unanimous disappointment over a missed opportunity. "We were expecting concrete policies," said the mayor of Aulnay-sous-Bois, Bruno Beschizza. "For now, there is nothing practical. I came out empty-handed."
An estimated six million people — around one-tenth of France's population — live in 1,500 neighborhoods classified by the government as Sensitive Urban Zones (zones urbaines sensibles, ZUS), priority targets for urban renewal.
Back in Paris, Macron admitted that France has "lost the battle over drug trafficking in many cities." He promised to announce a new plan to combat drug trafficking "by July."
President Emmanuel Macron has substantially scaled back plans to rehabilitate France's banlieues — poverty-ridden and crime-infested neighborhoods with large Muslim populations — and has instead called on local mayors and civil society groups to find solutions at the grassroots level.
The policy reversal follows weeks of internal debate about whether a top-down or bottom-up approach is the best way to improve life in the troubled banlieues, which are breeding grounds for Islamic fundamentalism and are often referred to as no-go zones because of the dangerous conditions there for police and other representatives of state authority.
In a much-anticipated speech at the Élysée Palace on May 22, Macron announced only modest, non-budgeted, initiatives for the banlieues, including a plan to hire more police officers, a crackdown on drug trafficking and a corporate internship program for underprivileged youths.
Addressing 600 guests, including lawmakers, entrepreneurs, community leaders and residents, Macron said that he would not be announcing yet another "Marshall Plan for the suburbs," as a 2008 plan for urban renewal was called, because at least ten previous such strategies all have failed:
"I will not announce a city plan or a suburban plan because this strategy is as old as me. The first plan was presented by [former French prime minister] Raymond Barre about the time I was born... we are at the end of what this method is able to produce."
Macron called for "a general mobilization" to lay the foundations for "a policy of emancipation and dignity" based on "a philosophy of action" and "a change of method" to get residents of poor neighborhoods out of "house arrest." In terms of security, Macron called for "a vigilance society" built with prefects, elected officials and residents where "everyone is an actor of collective security."
Macron also called on the top 120 companies in France to "do their part" in the fight against discrimination against Africans, Arabs and Muslims: "We are going to expand testing to check behaviors and make sure that there is no discrimination in hiring practices."
Macron's proposals are a far cry from an ambitious plan announced less than a month ago by former cabinet minister Jean-Louis Borloo, who had been tasked by Macron to devise a grand strategy for the banlieues.
The 164-page report — "Living Together, Living Well: Toward a National Reconciliation" ("Vivre ensemble, vivre en grand: Pour une réconciliation nationale") — unveiled on April 26 after nine months of work, listed 19 proposals aimed at bringing about "radical change." They included a focus on education, employment and renovation of decaying buildings and infrastructure. The plan would cost €38 billion ($45 billion) to implement.
"I want the face of our neighborhoods changed by the end of my five-year term, not because we have invested a certain amount of money, but because we will have changed our methods," Macron said. "It makes no sense that two white males who do not live in these districts exchanged one report. That no longer works."
Initial reaction to Macron's speech was one of nearly unanimous disappointment over a missed opportunity. "We were expecting concrete policies," said the mayor of Aulnay-sous-Bois, Bruno Beschizza. "For now, there is nothing practical. I came out empty-handed."
Stéphanie Daumin, mayor of Chevilly-Larue, a commune in the southern suburbs of Paris, tweeted:
We expected strong acts and commitments and we were only treated to words. Cold shower for those who worked on #RapportBorloo and who want to rebalance the territories and the return of Republican equality."
The leader of the center-right Republicans, Laurent Wauquiez, described Macron's speech a "talk-and-do-nothing political show" and a "photo opportunity."
Éric Coquerel, MP for the far-left party La France Insoumise, accused Macron of "burying" the Borloo report and "humiliating" those who worked on it. He added that Macron had "proposed a series of measures without funding, investment or novelty."
Stéphane Le Foll, a former spokesman for the Socialist government of President François Hollande, tweeted: "We are witnessing the liquidation of the Borloo plan."
Marine Le Pen, President of the National Front, noted that Macron had failed to address the issues of immigration and Islamism:
"Barely a word on immigration, barely a word on Islamic fundamentalism. We know perfectly well that these problems are partly the source of the difficulties in the suburbs. Refusing to see the reality is to condemn oneself to failure."
An estimated six million people — around one-tenth of France's population — live in 1,500 neighborhoods classified by the government as Sensitive Urban Zones (zones urbaines sensibles, ZUS), priority targets for urban renewal.
In October 2011, a landmark 2,200-page report, "Suburbs of the Republic" ("Banlieue de la République") found that many French suburbs are becoming "separate Islamic societies" cut off from the French state, and where Islamic law is rapidly displacing French civil law. The report said that Muslim immigrants are increasingly rejecting French values and instead are immersing themselves in radical Islam.
The report, commissioned by the influential French think tank, L'Institut Montaigne, was directed by Gilles Kepel, a respected political scientist and specialist in Islam, together with five other French researchers.
The authors of the report showed that France — which now has 6.5 million Muslims (the largest Muslim population in European Union) — is on the brink of a major social explosion because of the failure of Muslims to integrate into French society.
The report also showed how the problem is being exacerbated by radical Muslim preachers, who are promoting the social marginalization of Muslim immigrants in order to create a parallel Muslim society in France that is ruled by Sharia law.
The research was primarily carried out in the Seine-Saint-Denis townships of Clichy-sous-Bois and Montfermeil, two suburbs that were ground zero for Muslim riots in the fall of 2005, when Muslim mobs torched more than 9,000 cars.
The report described Seine-Saint-Denis as a "wasteland of de-industrialization" and said that in some areas, "a third of the population of the town does not hold French nationality, and many residents are drawn to an Islamic identity."
Pictured: A residential street in the French township of Clichy-sous-Bois, part of the Paris suburb of Seine-Saint-Denis, which was described in a recent report as a "wasteland of de-industrialization" where "a third of the population of the town does not hold French nationality, and many residents are drawn to an Islamic identity." (Image source: Marianna/Wikimedia Commons)
Another township of Seine-Saint-Denis is Aubervilliers. Sometimes referred to as one of the "lost territories of the French Republic," it's population is more than 70% Muslim. Three quarters of young people under 18 in the township are foreign or French of foreign origin, mainly from the Maghreb or sub-Saharan Africa. French police are said to rarely venture into some of the most dangerous parts of the township.
A day before Macron's speech, French television channels broadcast images of masked gunmen opening fire in broad daylight in the southern port city of Marseille. The assailants, dressed in black and carrying Kalashnikov assault rifles, kidnapped one individual, placed him in a car and drove away while police helplessly stood by. The gangsters, who are thought to be involved in a turf war for control of the drug trade in the city, "fear neither the police nor justice," according to an officer, who said that the police "had no chance" because they were outgunned and outmaneuvered.
Back in Paris, Macron admitted that France has "lost the battle over drug trafficking in many cities." He promised to announce a new plan to combat drug trafficking "by July."
*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.

Compte à rebours pour le régime des Mollahs
Par Abdel Hamid El Ahdab, Avocat/May 24/18
Si le régime des Mollahs iraniens se retire de Damas, comme le demande l’Amérique sous peine de sanctions, il tombera à Téhéran, et s’il s’obstine à y rester, il tombera à Damas !
S’il se retire avec ses Houthis du Yémen, il tombera à Téhéran, et s’il s’obstine à y rester, il tombera à Sanaa comme c’était le cas au Yémen avec Abdel Nasser qui ne pouvait ni avancer, ni opérer de retraite !
Avec tous les « si », le résultat sera le même. Nous marchons sur la carte en papier de la région avec la peur au ventre. Nous sommes, sur cette carte, tous étrangers !
Le régime des Mollahs iraniens n’est pas viable dans un pays devant être concorde avec ses voisins. Son assise et sa colonne vertébrale relèvent d’une politique d’édification d’un empire perse ! Le régime des Mollahs estime qu’il est seul parmi les nations à avoir raison, les autres ayant tous tort. Il est seul à estimer que son avenir réside en un retour à son passé. Il a emmuré les rêves et baigne dans le sang, l’abjection, la traitrise, la souillure. Sa culture est celle des tombes et du lavage des morts. Tous les peuples enfantent des générations nouvelles, sauf les peuples du régime des Mollahs qui enfantent leurs propres pères et grands-pères !
D’où des changements importants prochains dans la région ! Le compte à rebours a commencé. Les sanctions américaines déferlent ! Les Etats-Unis tiennent en main l’économie de la planète ! Qu’en est-il alors de l’Iran qui souffre, même en l’absence de sanctions américaines et en raison de ses guerres impériales coûteuses, d’une crise économique et d’une instabilité augmentant la pression sur le régime qui est confronté à des manifestations de plus en plus étendues et qui y répond par une répression de plus en plus forte. Cette crise s’accentue de jour en jour et se propage de région en région. Elle a pour origine la faim et la pauvreté. Les manifestations sont similaires à celles qui ont pris leur départ dans les derniers jours du règne du Chah et qui se sont développées pour entraîner enfin sa chute. Ces manifestations sont à présent visibles sur les écrans de télévision et ne sont pas de simples rumeurs ! Si le régime des Mollahs ne tombe pas de lui-même, une guerre infernale le détruira de l’intérieur ou de l’extérieur parce qu’Israël ne permettra pas la réalisation d’une bombe atomique menaçant son existence ! Quelle occasion sera meilleure que l’occasion qui se présente actuellement d’une guerre destinée à renverser le régime des Mollahs ? L’Amérique est gouvernée par un fou israélite et les pays arabes sont tous en guerre ouverte ou masquée avec ce régime de Mollahs, chacun à sa manière ! La carte de la région arabe est devenue un scandale car il n’y a que des barrages et des postes de police et des chiens. Les pays qui vouaient une allégeance absolue à l’Iran se font eux-mêmes rares. Nous avons vu les manifestants crier dans les rues de Bagdad : « Iran …dehors ». Le nationaliste Moqtada Sadr a remporté les élections et les Gardiens de la Révolution ne savent plus comment fomenter des discordes entre les partis politiques irakiens pour empêcher ce dernier de prendre le pouvoir et mettre fin à la corruption et à la division.
Il n’y a plus pour les Mollahs de régime ami. Les valets et les milices utilisés dans les combats sont tous entrés en guerre avec la région. La Syrie n’a plus d’existence réelle. Elle est devenue un terrain de jeu pour divers états et Assad n’est pas plus qu’une image qui ne dispose de rien et qui n’a nul pouvoir. Les minarets de Damas pleurent
L’économie européenne est chétive comparée à l’économie américaine et le vent qui souffle en ce moment en Europe n’a rien de rationnel. Les politiciens la mènent au suicide économique et ses leaders ne savent pas comment sortir de l’impasse créée par les surenchères nationalistes !
Les idées nationalistes européennes destinées à faire face aux sanctions américaines sont exactement pareilles à la politique qui voulait jeter les juifs à la mer. Elles sont tout aussi « choukeiristes » parce qu’elles ne sont en rien réalistes et ne servent qu’à satisfaire la fatuité européenne. Elles se heurtent aux réalités de la situation économique mondiale. L’Europe ne jouit plus d’une indépendance totale et ne peut se dispenser du concours américain.
Le régime des Mollahs iraniens a vacillé le jour où Trump a annoncé le retrait de l’Amérique de l’accord nucléaire.
La question est à présent celle de savoir comment et quand il va tomber.
Est-ce de lui-même, comme dans le cas du Chah ? Ou militairement par une guerre ? Quelle serait la position de la Russie dans ce cas ? On sait en tout cas maintenant qu’un conflit a éclaté entre cette dernière et l’Iran.
Poutine est intervenu en Syrie pour y retrouver le rôle joué par l’Union Soviétique, mais comment sortira-t-il de cet enfer si les pertes politiques le placent dans la situation de Raspoutine ? Et jusqu’où ira Erdogan qui a arraché la Turquie à Ataturk pour la transformer en mi-Taliban, mi-Ottomane ?
L’annonce du retrait américain de l’accord nucléaire présage de changements importants dans une région où sont effacés tous les tracés de l’accord Sykes Picot et qui est livrée à présent à tous les vents. La nuit y est devenue jour, le jour y est devenu nuit et la terre y est devenue volcan !
Le Liban qui vit ces jours ci en dehors de l’Histoire avec son président « fort » et son parti « fort » qui tirent leur force de leur antagoniste « étranger », le Liban qui vit une faillite financière non déclarée et dont l’économie pue la corruption, ne sait pas que la guerre de la chute ou du renversement du régime des Mollahs ne se déroulera pas seulement à Damas et à Téhéran mais s’étendra peut-être à Beyrouth !!! Mais Beyrouth ne se sent pas concernée par ces nuages et ces soucis. Elle est occupée à la formation du gouvernement issu du système électoral le plus étrange et le plus incroyable de l’histoire de l’humanité, un système confectionné à la manière d’un faux tapis persan ! Le gouvernement sera d’ailleurs formé à l’unanimité de la même manière, un gouvernement de « baltaja » et de « ghalaza » !
Nous contemplons leur Liban et nous n’y trouvons que les individus gros et gras qui courent les invitations et les funérailles !
L’Etat du « Sultan », frère du Président, lors de l’Indépendance est revenu, puis l’Etat du gendre lors de la période de la tutelle, puis l’Etat de l’autre gendre en cette période du président « fort ».
Ils ont rayé le nom du Liban de la liste des fleurs pour le mettre sur le menu de la nourriture.
Nous attendons le grand chambardement dans toute la région arabe !