May 26/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

The Bulletin's Link on the lccc Site


News Bulletin Achieves Since 2006


Bible Quotations
We suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him
Letter to the Romans 08/12-18: "We are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us."
Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 25-26/18
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
Report: Suspected Israeli strike targets Hezbollah in Syria/Ynetnews/News agencies, Smadar Peri and Daniel Salami/May 25/18
Israeli Strike in Syria Targeted Hezbollah Base, Watchdog Says/Haaretz/The Associated Press and Jack Khoury/May 25/18
U.S. Pressure on Hizbullah May Hamper Govt. Formation/Associated Press/Naharnet/May 25/18/
Imaginary War Serving False Peace/Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/May 25/18
Italy’s Populist Government May Not Bring Doom/Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg/May, 25/2018
Iran’s Supreme Guide Sees the World as a Cartoon/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/May 25/18
Saudi Arabia Hits the Brakes on Reforms/Simon Henderson/Atlantic/May 25/18
Trump Says Kim Summit Could Still Go Ahead on June 12/Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 25/18/
The world according to Iran’s Supreme Leader is a cartoon/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/May 25/18
Reasons behind US-EU rift over Iran nuclear deal/Shehab Al-Makahleh/Asharq Al Awsat/May 25/18
Chasm between realities and EU’s daydreaming over Iran/Hamid Bahrami/Asharq Al Awsat/May 25/18
Bitterness, confusion among Saudi Arabia’s foes/Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi/Asharq Al Awsat/May 25/18
Modi-Putin informal summit and Eurasian geo-politics/C Uday Bhaskar/Asharq Al Awsat/May 25/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 25-26/18
The Majority Of Lebanese Politicians have Succumbed to The Iranian occupation
Hezbollah’s bogus Liberation & Resistance Day
Report: Suspected Israeli strike targets Hezbollah in Syria
Israeli Strike in Syria Targeted Hezbollah Base, Watchdog Says
Nasrallah: Hizbullah Not Seeking War, Doesn't Want Sovereign Ministerial Portfolio
Hariri: Regional Situation to Expedite Govt. Formation, LF Won't be Excluded
Berri Says Unity is 'Weapon' that Can Liberate Land
U.S. Pressure on Hizbullah May Hamper Govt. Formation
Monitor Says Missiles Hit Hizbullah Depot in Syria's Homs
Amin Gemayel Calls for Good Governance to Address Problems, Eradicate Corruption

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on May 25-26/18
Israel Presses Washington to Recognize Golan Heights As Part of Its Territories
Iraqi Jets Strike ISIS Positions in Syria
The Netherlands, Australia Find Russia Accountable for 2014 Downing of Flight MH17
US-Turkey agree ‘roadmap’ on Kurd-held Manbij in Syria
Iraq Orders Probe after Voting Machines Fail Hacking Test
Gaza officials: 86 hurt by Israeli fire in border protest, Palestinian killed
Twin explosions target Iraq communist party HQ: spokesman
Several Dead, Injured in Benghazi Car Bombing
Tunisia: Detention of Top ISIS Member Extended
Russia: We Have a Common Position with Riyadh on Oil Deal
Trump Says Kim Summit Could Still Go Ahead on June 12

Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on May 25-26/18
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
Report: Suspected Israeli strike targets Hezbollah in Syria
اشتباه بغارات إسرائيلية استهدفت حزب الله في سوريا

Ynetnews/News agencies, Smadar Peri and Daniel Salami/May 25/18
Syrian war-monitoring group says Israel suspected of launching strikes on military base overnight in central Syria that houses Hezbollah and other hostile forces to Israel; Syria also blames Israel for one of two strikes carried out Thursday.
A Syrian war-monitoring group says suspected Israeli strikes hit a military base overnight in central Syria that houses Lebanon's terrorist Hezbollah group alongside other factions allied with the government in Damascus.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Friday that it's not clear if there are any casualties in the strikes on the Dabaa air base in central Homs province. The base is north of the town of al-Qusair that Hezbollah captured in 2013 from rebels, a turning point in the group's role in the Syrian war.
Syria's state media reported late Thursday that a military base in central Syria came under attack from "enemy" fire. It said Syrian air defenses responded.
Hezbollah and Iran's role in Syria has alarmed Israel and the United States, which have threatened action.
Syrian state media and a military media unit run by Hezbollah said early on Thursday that the US-led coalition targeted Syrian army positions in Syria's desert, but US military officials denied any knowledge of the strikes.
"Some of our military sites between Albu Kamal and Hamimia were exposed at dawn today to aggression launched by US coalition jets," state news agency SANA reported, citing a military source.
A Syrian news agency also reported overnight Thursday that Israeli jets were responsible for carrying out a separate strike against the Dabaa military airfield in Homs.
An explosion was heard Thursday evening in the airfield near the Syrian-Lebanese border, Syrian state news agency SANA reported. The source of the blast was initially unclear.
Opposition news sites also reported that 25 Iranian and Hezbollah fighters had been killed in the strike, but the figure has not yet been verified
Syrian state media added the military airport had come under a missile attack, which was repelled by its air defense systems.
A news site affiliated with the Syrian opposition reported in the past that the Assad regime had already begun transforming the Dabaa air base, which is situated 30 kilometers west of Homs, for “civil” purposes in cooperation with the Iranians.
The goal of the Syrian regime, according to the report, was to build an alternative international airport to that currently being used in Damascus, which has also been subject to constant attacks by rebels in the country, which has been beset by a bloody civil war.
The pro-Hezbollah newspaper Al Akhbar reported on Friday morning that the attack on the military airbase was “the largest by the Israeli Air Force since the night of the missiles," a term used in reference to the night in which Iran launched 32 rockets at Israeli targets earlier this month.
Israel’s response was one of the heaviest barrages in Syria since the conflict there began in 2011.
**Reuters and Associated Press contributed to this report.
Israeli Strike in Syria Targeted Hezbollah Base, Watchdog Says
غارات إسرائيلية تستهدف قواعد لحزب الله في سوريا

Haaretz/The Associated Press and Jack Khoury/May 25/18
State media said yesterday that missiles fired at Homs air base were intercepted before reaching targets. Death toll in alleged U.S. strike from Wednesday climbs to 14
A Syrian war-monitoring group said Friday suspected Israeli strikes hit a military base overnight in central Syria housing Lebanon's militant Hezbollah group alongside other factions allied with the Damascus government.
It was not clear if there were any casualties at the Dabaa air base and surrounding areas in central Homs province, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The base, north of the town of al-Qasr near the border with Lebanon, was captured by Hezbollah in 2013 from rebels, marking a turning point in the group's role in the Syrian war.
Explosions were heard late Thursday near an airport in Homs in Syria, Syrian state media reported. According to residents in the area, the blasts were heard near the military airport near the city of al-Qasr.
Syrian state media said a military airport was subject to "missile aggression" and was intercepted by air defense system before it reached its target.
Some witnesses in Syria claimed that aircraft flying from Lebanese airspace conducted the strike, following earlier reports of Israeli aircraft being seen above Lebanon.
"One of our military airports in the central region was exposed to a hostile missile attack, and our air defence systems confronted the attack and prevented it from achieving its aim," state news agency SANA said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said troops belonging to Hezbollah and other militias allied to Syrian President Bashar Assad are stationed in the Dabaa military airport. It had no information on casualties.
SANA earlier reported sounds of explosions heard near the Dabaa airport, about 20 km (12 miles) southwest of the central Syrian city of Homs and 10 km (6 miles) from the Lebanese border.
The Observatory also raised the death toll from Wednesday night airstrikes in eastern Syria to 14 pro-government fighters, all but two foreign nationals. The Syrian-run media blamed the U.S-led coalition fighting IS for the strikes on military positions between the towns of Boukamal and Hmeimeh in the eastern Deir el-Zour province.
A Syrian source close to the government, meanwhile, said the bombardment struck bases manned by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards allied with the Syrian government.
"Some of our military sites between Albu Kamal and Hamimia were exposed at dawn today to aggression launched by U.S. coalition jets," state news agency SANA reported, citing a military source.
On Sunday, heavy explosions were heard overnight south of Damascus in Syria in an area which holds a security facility used by Iranian forces, Sky News in Arabic reported.
The alleged blasts came days after explosions were heard near Hama airport in Syria last week. The U.K-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights group said the series of explosions were near Hama's military airport and had been heard in Hama city, killing at least 11 government soldiers and allied fighters. According to reports, the explosions went off in fuel and arms depots.
Last month, the Israeli military targeted an advanced Iranian air-defense system at the T4 base in Syria and not just attack drone deployment, the Wall Street Journal
The report noted that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the strike after conferring with U.S. President Donald Trump, in hopes of preventing Iran from using the anti-aircraft battery against Israeli jets carrying out strikes in Syria.
The April 9 strike killed seven Iranian military personnel at a Syrian airbase. Iran blamed Israel and vowed to retaliate.

Nasrallah: Hizbullah Not Seeking War, Doesn't Want Sovereign Ministerial Portfolio

NaharnetظHizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah announced Friday that his group is not seeking a new war with Israel and denied reports that it wants a so-called sovereign ministerial portfolio in the new government. “We are not seeking war but we do not fear it and I'm confident of victory in any upcoming war,” Nasrallah said in a televised address marking Lebanon's Resistance and Liberation Day. Commenting on the latest wave of sanctions against his group, Nasrallah said: “The U.S. and Saudi sanctions against me and my brothers do not have material effect, seeing as we don't have money in banks, but the aim is to scare people of meeting with us.” “Placing some names and firms on terrorism lists harms some people and businessmen and the Lebanese state must protect the interests of these people because they are Lebanese citizens,” he added. “This is a U.S.-Israeli course and the Gulf states are taking part in it and this issue needs a discussion seeing as the state and the government are responsible for these Lebanese,” Nasrallah went on to say. He said the objectives behind the sanctions are “putting pressure on the resistance's social incubator, scaring the allies and pushing them away from the resistance, and also drying up the resistance's funding sources.”“They've been seeking this since the 1990s to no avail,” Nasrallah noted. Turning to the issue of the formation of a new government in Lebanon, Hizbullah's leader emphasized that his group is not “rushing up” the formation process because it is “scared” of regional developments. “We are calling for a speedy government formation because this is in the country's interest and because there are major files that need to be addressed and the all the developments in the region are in our favor,” Nasrallah added. He also underlined that Hizbullah does not want any of the so-called sovereign ministerial portfolios – defense, foreign affairs, finance and interior. Moreover, Nasrallah reveaed that Hizbullah has appointed MP Hassan Fadlallah as its pointman for the file of combating corruption.

Hariri: Regional Situation to Expedite Govt. Formation, LF Won't be Excluded

Naharnet/May 25/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri announced Friday that the volatile “regional situation” will play a role in expediting the formation of the new government. “We want a national consensus government and the regional situation will expedite its formation as long as there is domestic consensus,” Hariri said after meeting ex-PM Salim al-Hoss in Beirut at the beginning of protocol consultations with former premiers after his designation. “We want a government containing national agreement on the main topics and some details and we must work with positivity,” Hariri added.
“We all want the country's interest and Lebanon must implement reforms,” he stressed. Noting that the outgoing government “made many achievements,” the PM-designate said the new government should work in the same way. As for the Lebanese Forces' participation in the government, Hariri added: “The LF won in the elections, so why would it be excluded.”And noting that al-Mustaqbal Movement will not nominate any of its MPs for ministerial portfolios, the PM-designate emphasized that there is no “dispute” between him and caretaker Interior Minster Nouhad al-Mashnouq dismissing media reports in this regard.

Berri Says Unity is 'Weapon' that Can Liberate Land
Naharnet/May 25/18/ Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri on Friday said unity among the Lebanese can be a “weapon” that can liberate Lebanese territory still occupied by Israel. “The Liberation Day is a day to glorify those who planted their bodies in the homeland's soil. Every martyr is a cedar in a flag and every wounded is a thread in Lebanon's fabric,” Berri said in a statement marking the 18th Resistance and Liberation Day. “All the greetings go to Lebanon and its people, army and resistance. The weapon of our unity is the guarantee to liberate what's left of our land and water,” the Speaker added. The Resistance and Liberation Day is a national holiday that marks the withdrawal of Israeli forces from south Lebanon after a 22-year occupation.

U.S. Pressure on Hizbullah May Hamper Govt. Formation
الضغوطات الأميركية على حزب الله قد تعرقل تشكيل الحكومة في لبنان
Associated Press/Naharnet/May 25/18/
Growing U.S. pressure on Hizbullah, including a new wave of sanctions targeting its top leadership, may hamper the formation of a new government that Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri was overwhelmingly chosen to form on Thursday.
Hariri's aim is to quickly recreate a national unity government that incorporates Hizbullah members to implement reforms and deal with a crippling and growing national debt, but might come under increasing pressure from the U.S. and its Arab allies to shun the militant group which says it wants to play a bigger role in the future Cabinet.
After a day of consultations between President Michel Aoun and the country's 128 legislators, 111 named Hariri as their choice to form a new Cabinet while the rest, including Hizbullah's bloc and some of its allies, did not give a name. Hariri's nomination comes after this month's parliament elections in which Hizbullah, along with its political allies, significantly increased their presence in the legislature.
"The least we should expect is huge complications over the formation of the Cabinet," said Nabil Bou Monsef, deputy editor-in-chief of An-Nahar newspaper. He said Lebanon is again in the heart of the U.S.-Iran conflict and this will lead to "complications over the government that will be caused by conditions and counter conditions."
Despite soaring regional tensions, Hariri appeared optimistic after he was named to form the Cabinet.
"I extend my hand to all political elements. We should work together to achieve what the Lebanese people are looking for," Hariri told reporters.
Asked if there will be a veto on Hizbullah's participation, 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.
A U.N.-backed tribunal has indicted five Hizbullah members in the 2005 assassination of Hariri's father and former premier Rafik Hariri. Hizbullah denies the charges.
"We have confirmed our readiness to take part in the next government and to deal positively with whomever is named by the majority," MP Mohammed Raad, who heads Hizbullah's bloc in parliament, said after meeting Aoun.
Naming Hariri came amid concerns in Lebanon that a new wave of sanctions by the U.S. and its Arab allies against Hizbullah would delay Hariri's formation of the Cabinet.
The increasing pressures by the U.S. and its Arab allies on Hizbullah come amid rising tensions in the region following President Donald Trump's decision earlier this month to withdraw Washington from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and the militant group's gains in the May 6, parliamentary elections.
On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tehran should end its support of Hizbullah, Iran's most powerful arm in the region.
"We will track down Iranian operatives and their Hizbullah proxies operating around the world and crush them," Pompeo said.
Pompeo in testimony Thursday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was asked if the Lebanese government is now indistinguishable from Hizbullah and whether the U.S. should continue to provide assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces.
"I don't believe that it is, although we are reviewing that, to be sure, to make sure that the actions that we take, the funding that is provided, is provided appropriately and consistent with the law," he said.
The U.S. has been imposing sanctions on the militant group for decade. However, a new wave last week appears to be more serious about targeting the group's top leadership as well as businessmen and companies that Washington says are funding the group that is heavily involved in Syria's seven-year war, providing strong military backing for President Bashar Assad's forces.
The sanctions reflect the battle between the U.S. and its allies against Iran, which has expanded its influence in the Arab world in recent years. Tehran enjoys wide influence in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen and last year opened a land corridor from its border through Iraq and Syria all the way to the Mediterranean.
On May 16, the U.S. and the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council that includes Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman imposed sanctions on 10 top Hizbullah officials including its leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, his deputy Sheikh Naim Qassem and top officials Hashem Safieddine, Ibrahim Amin al-Sayyed, Hussein Khalil and Sheikh Mohammed Yazbek.
A day later, Washington imposed sanctions on businessman Mohammed Ibrahim Bazzi and Hizbullah's representative in Iran, Abdullah Safieddine, as well as several companies in Europe, Africa and Lebanon saying they launder money for the group.
The six GCC countries and the U.S. consider Hizbullah a "terrorist organization" while the European Union only labels its military wing as a terrorist group.
"This action highlights the duplicity and disgraceful conduct of Hizbullah and its Iranian backers. Despite Nasrallah's claims, Hizbullah uses financiers like Bazzi who are tied to drug dealers, and who launder money to fund terrorism," said Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin in a statement.
"The savage and depraved acts of one of Hizbullah's most prominent financiers cannot be tolerated. This Administration will expose and disrupt Hizbullah and Iranian terror networks at every turn, including those with ties to the Central Bank of Iran," he said.
Hariri said earlier this week that the sanctions will not hinder the formation of a new Cabinet but on the contrary might accelerate it.
On Sunday, outgoing cabinet minister Marwan Hamadeh, a Hariri ally, said that sanctions on Hizbullah would "hamper the formation of the government."
Senior Hizbullah official Sheikh Nabil Qaouq said Saudi Arabia does not want his group to be represented in the government, adding that the coming days will prove that the kingdom "is weak and cannot prevent Hizbullah from holding important portfolios in the government."
A Saudi envoy said during a visit to Lebanon over the weekend that the kingdom does not interfere in the country's internal politics and supports the stability of Lebanon.
Hizbullah's allies are strongly standing behind the organization's representation in the new Cabinet.
"The party should be represented in the new government. This is not negotiable," said Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, who heads the Free Patriotic Movement that has the largest bloc in parliament, about Hizbullah.

Monitor Says Missiles Hit Hizbullah Depot in Syria's Homs

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 25/18/Missiles hit a weapons depot belonging to Hizbullah at Syria's Dabaa military airbase in the central province of Homs overnight Thursday, a monitor said. "Six missiles were fired at the Dabaa military airport and surrounding area in the western sector of Homs province, targeting Lebanese Hizbullah weapons warehouses," Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP. "The missiles would have been fired by Israel," he added. A source close to the Lebanese-Syrian border told AFP that planes had flown over Lebanese airspace and "some people are still expecting new strikes." Israeli planes often use Lebanese airspace to conduct raids in Syria. Syria's official SANA news agency confirmed the airbase had been targeted, but said air defenses had intercepted the missiles. "One of our military airports was the target of missiles intercepted by our anti-aircraft defenses," SANA said, citing a military source. There were no casualties immediately reported, but SANA reported explosions in the area. Hizbullah, backed by Iran, fights in Syria alongside President Bashar al-Assad's forces. Tensions are high in Syria after several Israeli bombing raids in recent weeks on regime positions, as well as on military instillations reportedly used by government ally Iran. More than 350,000 people have been killed since Syria's conflict erupted in March 2011 with protests that spiralled into a brutal war.

Amin Gemayel Calls for Good Governance to Address Problems, Eradicate Corruption
Kataeb.orgFriday 25th May 2018/Former President Amine Gemayel stressed the need for a good governance that would address Lebanon's structural problems and eradicate corruption that is plaguing the state institutions, saying that this must be endorsed with full sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Speaking at a conference hosted by the House of Future in collaboration with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Gemayel stressed that there will be no lasting security and no real peace unless justice and tranquility are secured, adding that the political achievements accomplished in Lebanon lately must be preserved despite their flawed aspect. “The challenge lies in maintaining the political achievements despite their flaws, starting with the presidential election that was accomplished despite the vacuum scandal, and the parliamentary polls that were held despite the flawed electoral law and the violations that marred the process,” he added. Gemayel said that the international community's initiatives towards Lebanon will remain ineffective unless they get fortified by a procedural system based on the rule of law, the exclusivity of weapons and neutrality."

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 25-26/18
Israel Presses Washington to Recognize Golan Heights As Part of Its Territories
Tel Aviv- Nazir Majli/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 25 May, 2018/After the United States' recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the transfer of the US Embassy to it, Israel is pressing Washington to recognize the occupied Syrian Golan Heights as part of Israeli territories, Intelligence Minister Israel Katz said on Thursday. In remarks to Israeli media, he said that Israel was making great efforts and was exerting friendly pressure on the administration of US President Donald Trump to recognize its sovereignty on the Golan Heights. The Israeli minister predicted that these efforts would bear fruit with the approval of the US within months. The Golan Heights is a strategic area in Syria, occupied since the June 1967 war. It extends over 1,200 square kilometers, giving the occupation the ability to explore large areas of Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. The Syrian army was able to liberate it completely in the early days of the 1973 war, but withdrew from it in the last days of the war. Based on the Disengagement Agreement in 1974, Israel withdrew from part of it. In 1981, Israel enacted a law in the Knesset to annex it to Israeli sovereignty, in a move not recognized internationally. Katz stressed that the new move was a natural extension of the US withdrawal from the international nuclear agreement with Iran, Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the opening of a new US embassy in the occupied city this month. He noted that the Israeli presence in the Golan Heights was a security necessity for Israel and its allies, an important monitoring station for the West over the domestic and international activity in Syria and a lever for Western interests in the region.

Iraqi Jets Strike ISIS Positions in Syria
Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 25 May, 2018/Iraqi jets carried out air strikes against ISIS positions in Syria, its operations command said in a statement on Friday. "Iraqi F-16 planes carried out (Thursday) morning raids against the headquarters of ISIS terrorist gang leaders and an explosives depot occupied by terrorists in Syria's Hajin region," it announced. This marks Iraq’s third cross border aerial operation inside a month in its war-torn neighbor. A video released with the text shows a strike on a huge building surrounded by palm trees and a wall. The images show the wall and the building collapsing simultaneously. The statement said both sites were completely destroyed, but gave no other details. Several strikes have been carried out by Iraq or the international coalition since Thursday against the center of Hajin, the last major area held by ISIS in Syria, confirmed the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor. At least 65 senior ISIS leaders live in Hajin, the Observatory's director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP. Hajin is in Deir Ezzor province in eastern Syria, about 50 kilometers (just over 30 miles) from Iraq's border. It has been surrounded since the end of 2017 by the Syrian Democratic Forces, Abdel Rahman said. Several hundred prisoners are still held by the terrorists in Hajin, he added. Since April, Iraq's air force has carried out several air strikes on ISIS-held Syrian territory close to the border between the two countries. The Iraqi air strikes are believed to be coordinated with Syrian authorities, Russia's military, which has troops and warplanes deployed in Syria, as well as the US-led coalition that has waged an air campaign against ISIS since 2014. ISIS seized a third of Iraq in 2014, before the government declared victory in December, but the military has continued regular operations along the porous Syrian border.

The Netherlands, Australia Find Russia Accountable for 2014 Downing of Flight MH17
Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 25 May, 2018 /The Netherlands and Australia held on Friday Russia accountable for the downing of flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014 that killed all 298 people on board. The two countries "hold Russia responsible for its part in the downing" of the Malaysia Airlines flight, the Dutch government said in a statement. It said a “possible” next step would be presenting the case to an international court or organization for their judgment, adding Australia shared its assessment of Russia’s role. “We call on Russia to accept its responsibility and cooperate fully with the process to establish the truth and achieve justice for the victims of flight MH17,” Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said. “The Netherlands and Australia have asked Russia today to enter a dialogue in order to come to a solution that does justice to the enormous suffering and damage caused by the downing of flight MH17.” The move came a day after investigators concluded that the Russian-made BUK missile which smashed into the plane in mid-air on July 17, 2014 came from a Russian military brigade in Kursk. The plane was traveling from from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. Most of the passengers were Dutch, but there were 17 nationalities, including 28 Australians, on board. "The government is now taking the next step by formally holding Russia accountable," Blok said. The Dutch government said state liability was invoked in cases where nations violate international law, but warned it was a "complex legal process and there are several ways to do this." "This is the legal avenue that the Netherlands and Australia have now chosen to pursue," the statement added. Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop called for support from the international community for the move. "This represents a threat to international security," she said. "If military weapons can be deployed and then used to bring down civilian aircraft in what was essentially a war zone, then international security is at risk and we call on all countries to inform the Russian Federation that its conduct is unacceptable." Moscow has rejected Thursday's accusations, saying no such weapon had ever crossed the Russian-Ukrainian border. The Russian foreign ministry denounced what it called an attempt to "discredit Russia in the eyes of the international community". But investigators, who painstaking recreated the BUK missile system's route from Kursk across the border into rebel-held eastern Ukraine, said they stood by their findings. The Joint Investigation Team "has come to the conclusion that the BUK-TELAR that shot down MH17 came from 53rd Anti-aircraft Missile Brigade based in Kursk in Russia," top Dutch investigator Wilbert Paulissen said. "The 53rd Brigade forms part of the Russian armed forces," he told reporters Thursday. Later on Friday, the Kremlin rejected the Dutch and Australian accusations, saying Moscow was not a full-fledged participant in the MH17 investigation and it therefore could not trust the findings. It added that it will refer the issue of compensations for families of the victims to the Russian foreign ministry. Investigation officials have not yet said who actually fired the missile after it arrived in rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine, stressing that the investigation continues.
US-Turkey agree ‘roadmap’ on Kurd-held Manbij in Syria
AFP, Ankara/Saturday, 26 May 2018/Turkish and US officials on Friday agreed on a “roadmap” for further cooperation to ensure the security of a Kurdish-held city which became a major headache between the NATO allies, according to a joint statement.
The northern city of Manbij is held by the People's Protection Units (YPG) Kurdish militia, a group which Ankara says is the “terrorist” offshoot of Kurdish hardliners in Turkey. The US has a military presence in Manbij and has provided military support to the YPG in the fight against the ISIS extremist group, causing anger among Turkish officials. After Turkey launched a cross-border operation against the YPG in the western enclave of Afrin in January, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to take the offensive to Manbij. The prospect raised fears of a confrontation between Turkish and American troops. The offensive also caused tension between the allies because Washington urged Turkey to show “restraint” and said it could harm the fight against ISIS extremists. US officials were in Ankara on Friday as part of a working group on Syria. After talks with Turkish counterparts, the statement was issued by the Turkish foreign ministry and the US embassy in Ankara. “The two sides outlined the main contours of a roadmap for their further cooperation in ensuring security and stability in Manbij,” the statement said, giving no further detail. The working group was established to try to resolve the Manbij issue and coordinate US-Turkey efforts in Syria after Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and then US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met in February. Turkish officials were in Washington in March as part of the working group, set up after the threats by Ankara and repeated calls for the YPG to leave the city. Cavusoglu is due to meet the new US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington on June 4. According to the joint statement, the two men will “consider the recommendations” of the working group during their meeting. Ankara says the YPG is linked to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by Ankara, the US and the European Union. The PKK has waged an insurgency inside Turkey since 1984. Erdogan has repeatedly urged the US to halt support for the YPG. His ruling Justice and Development Party published a manifesto on Thursday calling for “concrete steps” by the US to end its backing of the YPG and provide “concrete support” to Turkey in its fight against the PKK. Erdogan vowed Turkey would “continue its operations in Syria until the last terrorist is cleared”.
Iraq Orders Probe after Voting Machines Fail Hacking Test
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 25/18/ Iraqi authorities have launched an inquiry into this month's parliamentary elections after intelligence services found that the voting machines used were vulnerable to hacking. The May 12 poll delivered a shock win for populist cleric Moqtada Sadr, who faces a huge task to form a governing coalition despite winning the most seats in parliament. But with the results yet to be ratified by Iraq's Supreme Court, a government official told parliament on Thursday that intelligence services had conducted tests which showed it was possible to hack voting machines and manipulate the results.
The cabinet decided to form a commission "to study reports and information on the electoral process" and make recommendations, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a televised address. Experts said the probe could lead to anything from local recounts to the entire vote being annulled. Multiple candidates and parties are expected to appeal the results of Iraq's first poll since the defeat of the Islamic State group. Limited recounts have already been ordered in the flashpoint multi-ethnic province of Kirkuk, where clashes between communities prompted authorities to impose an overnight curfew. The International Crisis Group said Thursday it was "deeply concerned" about the possibility of further inter-ethnic violence there and called for a recount "to restore confidence in the institutions vital to manage deeper divisions over the contested, oil-rich area."

Gaza officials: 86 hurt by Israeli fire in border protest, Palestinian killed
The Associated Press, Gaza Strip/Friday, 25 May 2018/Gaza’s Health Ministry says dozens of Palestinians were hurt along the border with Israel. It said most of the 86 people injured Friday were treated for tear gas inhalation while some sustained gunshot wounds. Israel’s military said Palestinians tried to damage the border fence, rolled burning tires and threw an explosive device at soldiers. It said troops responded with tear gas and live fire.Leaders of Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza, visited protest tents near the border and vowed to continue the weekly rallies they’re leading. Over 110 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since demonstrations began March 30. Israel says it is defending its border as well as its communities nearby. It accuses Hamas of trying to carry out attacks under the guise of protests.
Palestinian killed
Meanwhile, a Palestinian man shot by Israeli forces in recent clashes along the Gaza border died Friday, the health ministry in the Hamas-run enclave announced. Yasser Habib, 24, was wounded several days ago east of Gaza City, the ministry said. It did not give details of exactly when he was shot, but low-level demonstrations along the border have continued since protests peaked on May 14. At least 115 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in the Gaza Strip since mass demonstrations broke out on March 30, according to newly-released figures from the ministry. No Israelis have been killed during that time.
At least 61 Palestinians died on May 14, when tens of thousands of Gazans protested as the US moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Two men injured in recent clashes died of their wounds Thursday. Israel says its actions are necessary to defend the border and stop mass infiltrations from the territory.
It accuses Hamas, with whom it has fought three wars since 2008, of seeking to use the protests as cover to carry out violence. With AFP.

Twin explosions target Iraq communist party HQ: spokesman
AFP, Baghdad/Friday, 25 May 2018/Two bombs exploded on Friday close to the Baghdad headquarters of the Iraqi Communist Party, said a spokesman for the political alliance which alongside populist cleric Moqtada Sadr triumphed in elections earlier this month. Three people were injured in the twin explosions, a police official told AFP on condition of anonymity. The attack is the first time a political party has been targeted in the Iraqi capital since the electoral campaign started in mid-April.

Several Dead, Injured in Benghazi Car Bombing
Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 25 May, 2018/A car bombing on a busy commercial street in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi early on Friday killed at least seven people, including a girl, and wounded 20, a security official said. The blast, the latest to rock Libya's second-largest city, took place as the street behind hotel Tibesti, which is the city's largest, was full of people, said Spokesman for the Military and Police Forces in Benghazi. Capt. Tarek Alkharraz. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. Footage that circulated online shortly after the explosion show a massive fire in the middle of the busy Abdel-Nasser Street. Plumes of heavy smoke are seen rising into the night sky as fire truck and ambulance sirens can be heard in the background. Other images show mangled and charred cars on the street, with scores of onlookers gathered around.

Tunisia: Detention of Top ISIS Member Extended
Tunis - Al Munji Al Saidani/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 25 May, 2018 /Sufian al-Sulaiti, a spokesman for Tunisia’s counter-terrorism apparatus, has said that Haikel Saydani, who was deported from Germany to Tunisia on May 9 after two years of negotiations, is one of the most notorious Tunisian terrorist members. Initial investigations proved his involvement in various terrorist operations in Tunisia between 2013 and 2016, said Sulaiti. The public prosecution in Tunisia decided to extend Saydani’s detention pending further investigations into his involvement in several terrorist attacks on Tunisian soil. According to judicial sources, Saydani has received many charges, including facilitating the movement of ISIS members between Syria and Turkey. The sources affirmed that he is involved in several terrorist attacks in Tunisia such as the assassination attempt of former Tunisian Minister of Interior Hadi El-Majdoub, and the Mnihla operation (west of the Tunisia capital in 2016) that resulted in the arrest of more than 30 terrorists plotting to travel to Syria and Libya. Germany handed Saydani over based on an international arrest warrant in addition to a request by the Tunisian justice ministry’s criminal affairs department. The Federal Constitutional Court said German authorities had obtained sufficient assurances from Tunisia that Saydani wouldn't face the capital punishment in his home country. Saydani, 36, is accused of participating in the 2015 attack at the National Bardo Museum in the capital that killed 21 foreign tourists and a Tunisian policeman. Tunisian authorities also accuse him of involvement in the 2016 attack on the border town of Ben Guerdane.

Russia: We Have a Common Position with Riyadh on Oil Deal
London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 25 May, 2018/Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said on Thursday that Moscow and Riyadh have a common position on the future of the oil output-cutting deal, while Russia's Lukoil said the agreement should remain in place but needs to be altered. Novak, speaking in St. Petersburg at an economic forum that is expected to be attended by Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih, said: "We have a common position.” The Saudi-led Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and other large oil producers, notably Russia, have agreed to reduce output by 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) until the end of the year. Some oil market participants have expressed concerns about potential oil shortages amid a production decline in Venezuela and after US President Donald Trump announced plans to pull the United States out of a nuclear deal with Iran. Saudi Arabia has indicated that it could raise its oil output to offset any potential supply deficit. Novak said on Thursday restrictions on oil production could be eased "softly" if OPEC and non-OPEC countries see the oil market balancing in June, the Interfax news agency reported. Novak said OPEC and non-OPEC countries currently plan to keep in place their deal to cut global oil output, the news agency reported. OPEC and non-OPEC countries will meet in June in Vienna to discuss their cooperation and the future of the production cut deal. Vagit Alekperov, head of Russia's No.2 oil company Lukoil, which produces over 1.7 million bpd, said it was time to raise oil production as prices had hit $80 per barrel, a level not seen since late 2014. "I hope that minister Novak will gather us before the (Vienna) meeting ... the oil price at $80 is already high," Alekperov said.
Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 25-26/18
Imaginary War Serving False Peace
Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/May 25/18
Listen to the so-called “moderate faction” in Tehran and you are likely to hear a litany of woes, echoed by some European circles, about alleged attempts by the Trump administration to push the Middle East towards a new war. The leitmotiv is the claim that the so-called “nuke deal”, also known as Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is an almost sacred text that should be neither amended nor improved.
“We shall not accept an iota of change in this text,” says Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
“There is no alternative to JCPOA,” echoes Federica Mogherini, foreign policy spokeswoman for European Union.
As for Alistair Burt, the man in charge of the Middle East in the British Foreign Office, the so-called “nuke deal” is an “unalterable text” that cannot be renegotiated let alone revised.
But how could this be?
What is so special about JCPOA that we should treat it as a sacred text with one single unalterable version? After all, even synoptic gospels, not to mention Saint John’s Gospel, offer different narratives of the same body of memory, doctrine and belief.
In a secular context, all national constitutions are open to revision and amendment. For example, the US Constitution has been amended no fewer than 27 times. Sometimes a whole national constitution is consigned to the dustbin and replaced by a new one, as has been the case in France five times in a century. Mogherini’s native Italy, created as a nation-state in 1861, has had no fewer than six constitutions in its short life. Burt’s United Kingdom has never had a constitution, plodding along with tradition and compromise.
Compared to the documents mentioned above, JCPOA has a lesser claim to sacredness. To start with, it lacks a universally recognized version, coming in three different versions, two in Persian and one in English with significant differences in each. Next, it was negotiated between Iran and the so-called P5+1, a group with no legal status, no mission statement and no accountability to anyone. Thirdly, it was not signed by anyone and no Cabinet and no legislature ever debated let alone legally approved it.
Finally, as we have shown in several articles, both Iran and P5+1 have repeatedly violated key aspects of it.
Iran is still subject to heavy sanctions while, among other violations, it has failed to send all its stock of enriched uranium outside the country and shelved the re-design of its plutonium plant with the excuse that it finds no partner to help it do so.
Rouhani complains that the P5+1 have not honored their part of the bargain. Mogherini forgets the fact that ENI, the oil giant in her native Italy, has reneged on an energy deal with Iran while Danieli, Italy’s steel giant, has jettisoned a $5 billion contract to the dustbin, in direct violation of the CJPOA. As for Burt, his government is still unwilling to allow Iran in London the right to open a bank account so that it doesn’t have to pay its employees in cash. Last week the British Petroleum dropped a joint venture with Iran. The UK still refuses to unfreeze upwards of $2 billion in Iranian assets while China, a P5+1 member, is sitting on $22 billion worth of frozen Iranian money.
The JCPOA fan club, which still includes former US President Barack Obama and his sidekick John Kerry, pretends that the only alternative to the fudge they market is an invasion of Iran by the United States.
“The choice is between the deal and war,” Kerry muses as he tours the world to lobby for Iran.
But why should we reduce our choice to swallowing a lie for fear of an imaginary war?
To be sure, the Iranian nuclear problem should be solved so that Iran can resume some kind of normal existence while the rest of the world is reassured that it won’t face a nuclear-armed rogue state.
The existing CJPOA does not deliver on either of those accounts. However, a new, revised and improved CJPOA may just do that. But that would require jettisoning the Obama “lie” and renegotiating a new text.
Any future negotiations should be done within the transparent system of international law that is to say between the UN Security Council and Iran as a member of the United Nations. If the UNSC so wishes, it could appoint the same P5+1 as its negotiating side with a clear mission statement and transparent accountability. The P5+1 would no longer be a posse chasing a fugitive, i.e. Iran; it would be a legally appointed sheriff seeking to bring a suspect to justice.
Next, the new negotiations would have to take place within the rules of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), both of which Obama circumvented, and the framework of seven unanimously passed UNSC resolutions, and, again, haughtily ignored by the precautious Nobel laureate.
Fresh negotiations would establish a single new text, part of which borrowed from segments of the existing CJPOA, in all the official languages of the UN with the exactitude that the CJPOA lacks.
Once a clear text is established, it should be submitted to relevant parliaments, including the US Congress and the Islamic Republic Majlis, for ratification giving it the force of a treaty, something that the CJPOA lacks. Provided she is still in her European chair, Mogherini could invite the European Union Council to ratify the new treaty.
A legally binding treaty, backed by international and national law, would not permit a la carte implementation as is the case for CJPOA that allows the Trump administration to “walk out” of something into which it had not walked. It would also make violation by individual companies, such as British Petroleum, the French Total, the Italian Danieli and many others a crime under national and international law. More importantly, it would block Iran’s path to playing games with implementation with 1001 excuses, some valid mostly not.
Whether one likes Trump or not the fact is that when he says that the Emperor is naked he is telling the truth. It is quite possible that he says that to vilify Obama. But that does not change the fact that the witches’ brew that Obama cooked is laced with poison. Let’s not use the excuse of an imaginary war to market a false peace. Let’s prepare for a true settlement of the Iranian nuclear dispute. Let’s get serious.

Italy’s Populist Government May Not Bring Doom
Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg/May, 25/2018
The economic policy proposals of Italy’s populist coalition have spooked the markets, which have driven up government debt yields. And yet the two coalition partners, League and the Five Star Movement, may be on to something with a proposal for a two-tier flat tax.
Today, Italy has five income tax brackets with rates ranging from 23 percent to 43 percent. The coalition proposes to “flatten” them to two, with rates of 15 percent and 20 percent. On paper, the change threatens the government with a big revenue loss. Yet, if the experience of Russia and Eastern European countries is anything to go by, Italy could end up collecting more taxes, despite the obstacle of the country’s long history of spotty compliance and enforcement.
Italy has a major problem with tax evasion. According to a recent paper written by Andrea Albarea and collaborators for the Italian Senate’s Impact Assessment Office, Italians underreport employment income by 3.5 percent, self-employment income by 39 percent and rental income by 65 percent. The total “tax gap” is between 16.5 billion euros ($19.5 billion) and 38.6 billion euros a year. Italy has a shadow economy that’s bigger than the European average — up to 19.8 percent of economic output, compared with 10.4 percent in Germany and 9.4 percent in the U.K., according to the International Monetary Fund.
Russia’s 2001 tax reform, which scrapped an ill-considered progressive income tax system from the early 1990s for a 13 percent flat rate, increased receipts. In 2002, the year after the introduction of the flat tax, the economy grew 5 percent in real terms, but income tax receipts increased by more than 25 percent.
More than 20 countries followed Russia with similar changes, and though some recent studies have challenged the efficiency of these programs, flat taxes have generally delivered. For example, Bulgaria, which introduced an ultra-low flat income tax of 10 percent in 2008, halving the existing rate for the lowest bracket, saw receipts increase as a share of total government revenue. In 2009, the year after the flat tax was introduced, income tax receipts made up 10.2 percent of all tax revenue, compared with 9.4 percent in 2007. And Slovakia didn’t get a revenue increase when a leftist government abolished a flat tax and returned to a progressive system.
The advantage of a low, flat tax is that people tend to pay it voluntarily because it’s easy to understand. Convoluted systems with multiple brackets and many deductions practically require taxpayers to get professional help, and few Italians who file a tax declaration can get by without a consultant. That’s a strong disincentive to declaring multiple types of income. Simpler income tax rules are also easier on small and medium-sized employers charged who must deduct income taxes for their workers’ paychecks.
Apart from increasing government revenue (or, in some places, having only a marginal impact on them), flat taxes in Eastern Europe have led to demonstrable welfare effects, which produced increases in consumption. In turn, that can boost government receipts from value-added taxes or sales levies. Italy isn't great at collecting consumption taxes: Its VAT gap, at 25.8 percent of what the government should receive, is at the higher end for the European Union. The country is undercollecting about 35 billion euros a year. The challenge for the populist government is to improve compliance and harness some of the consumption gains a flat tax might produce.
Populists elsewhere, notably in Hungary (which charges a 15 percent flat income tax) and Poland (with a much simpler system than Italy’s current one), have been remarkably successful in increasing the collection of consumption taxes. They have to take in more tax revenue because, like the new Italian coalition, they tend to make expensive social promises to get elected. These promises, like the current nationalist Polish government’s now-realized idea of big payouts to families to improve demographics, look unachievable at first. But funding them becomes a matter of political survival for the populists, and it motivates politicians to take tax collection seriously.
Since Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary came to power in 2010, the country’s budget deficit has dropped to 2 percent of gross domestic product from 4.5 percent. Poland’s deficit of 2.6 percent of GDP when the current nationalist government took over, was 1.7 percent, the post-Communist record low, last year.
Italian populists may turn out to be less reasonable or less skillful than their Eastern European counterparts. They certainly harbor greater social ambitions with their planned experiment of creating a basic income, introducing a minimum wage and lowering the retirement age. But there’s no reason, at least yet, to assume Italy will be unable to do some variation of what Poland and Hungary have done.
The new coalition now needs to get out of election mode and only roll out spending programs that are funded by tax reforms and more effective collection. Joining the ranks of the EU’s maverick states doesn’t necessarily spell economic disaster, even if these reforms often are accompanied by unsavory political change, as in Poland and Hungary.

Iran’s Supreme Guide Sees the World as a Cartoon
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/May 25/18
The simplicity of the argument made by Iran’s supreme guide expresses his vision of the conflict in the region quite well. Responding to the American sanctions, Ali Khamenei likened the Iranians and the Americans to the famous cartoon "Tom and Jerry."
The Americans are Tom, the big foolish cat who spends his time in vain chasing the mouse Jerry but failing at catching him. It’s a correct depiction. This is actually what’s happening now, and what’s been happening between America and Iran for 40 years. The JCPOA agreement is one of the games played by Iran to evade the sanctions which Washington imposed on it during the first few years of Obama’s presidency. By signing the agreement without stopping Iran, the mouse escaped from the trap once again.
The supreme guide views the destruction as a game and believes his country’s role is to play tricks. He thinks that this time he will survive Donald Trump’s chase just like he has previously done, although Trump has set a plan that seems well-devised to trap the Iranian mouse.
The cat-and-mouse game has taken so long that Iran has succeeded in escaping responsibility for the harm caused to its people and the region and the massive destruction inflicted upon us all. The question is, will it be able to escape again this time?
Conflict is a complicated game and it’s not as simple as a chase as the supreme guide put it. Iran invokes religion, culture and history in its battles and plays on the region’s axes and conflicts. It convinces the Iraqis that they are Shiites who are targeted at the sectarian level, the Sunnis that they are targeted in an infidel Christian world, the Arabs that they are threatened by Israel, and the East that it’s being plundered by the West.
It hires organizations like Hamas, allies with its enemies like al-Qaeda and establishes proxy militias and organizations, like the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Yemeni Houthis. It uses opposition groups in their countries regardless of their sect and ethnicity, allies with Russia and blackmails superpowers including China and Europe by threatening that it’s able to sway terror groups in their countries. Iran is not a small mouse but a large regional state that harnessed all its power for evil. It hasn’t taken fruitful steps, not even for its citizens, and hasn’t allowed the people in the region to peacefully fulfill their dreams.
I think Iran exhausted all its tricks and has no way to escape except by confronting what’s decisive. It played for a long time and the last of its victims was Obama. It deluded him that it learnt its lesson and promised him what he wanted to hear, so it got all it wanted from him and more, and then betrayed him.
During Iran’s confrontations throughout the years, I have not seen such realization and understanding of the regime like I see today, as not only the Americans have reached a better understanding of it, but also most Arabs and Muslims who were deceived by it for four decades and stood with it after it got them to defend its causes against the West and Israel. The majority now sees it for what it is: Iran is an evil giant in every cause and region. It’s true that it managed to deceive most people most of the time, but I hope its time is up.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s speech last week is the best of what’s been said. The 12 conditions he announced are difficult dictations in exchange of lifting the sanctions. If the Iranian regime implements them, it will not be the regime we know, and if it does not, it will fall apart.

Saudi Arabia Hits the Brakes on Reforms
Simon Henderson/Atlantic/May 25/18
Arresting feminists doesn’t inspire faith in the crown prince’s much-hyped reform agenda.
For months, Saudi Arabia had been enjoying a public-relations windfall. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, or MbS, the kingdom’s charismatic future leader, seduced the world with his vision for a new, modern nation. There have been live concerts, and cinemas are opening, with many more planned. Women can attend soccer games. Last September, MbS announced a bold promise to overturn the country’s ban on women driving, a change that is set to go into effect on June 24.
Then, late on Friday, it all came crashing down: Reports emerged that the women activists who pressed for the policy change had been arrested and imprisoned. As of this morning, 13 are reported to have been arrested; most are women. Apart from the driving issue, they have campaigned against so-called guardianship rules which require Saudi women to receive permission from a male relative before making many life decisions, like traveling. One of those detained was Loujain al-Hathloul, who was photographed at the 2016 One Young World Summit with none other than Meghan Markle, who married Britain’s Prince Harry on Saturday.
What is happening in the kingdom? MbS may want to discourage any popular protests seeking additional social or political changes. (Over the weekend, one American official told me that the arrests reflected the prince’s personal style, even if his name was not publicly linked to them.) His reforms were always likely to provoke opposition from within Saudi Arabia’s male-dominated, hierarchical society, which follows a strict interpretation of Islam. The apparent need to arrest women activists suggests that MbS is having to rethink his grand plans.
In Saudi Arabia, MbS is sometimes likened to Saddam Hussein, the executed former dictator of Iraq. Most often, they’re referring to the “good” Saddam, who, as vice president, was a driving force for modernization in the 1970s. That Saddam, though ruthless, was respected. Only later, in the 1980s and 1990s, did he come to engender widespread fear. I have spoken to Saudis who fear MbS will turn out the same way.
One anecdote about MbS that seemingly every ambassador in Riyadh tells is the “bullet story.” When MbS was 22 (roughly 10 years ago), he wanted to build a business career. On one occasion, he needed a Saudi judge to sign off on a deal. But there was a problem with the contract, so the judge declined. MbS, the story goes, pulled a bullet out of his pocket and put it on the man’s desk. “You will sign or this is for you,” he said. The man signed the contract, but complained to then-King Abdullah, who banned MbS from the royal court.
Such stories and fears about MbS suggest a rising royal with a short fuse, bent on reshaping the kingdom in a hurry. Maybe the crown prince now believes that the reform movement he kicked off has spun out of his control. Or maybe he sees that he moved too fast, unsettling the old elites who now need soothing. Or perhaps his father advised him—or was told to advise him—that he needs to slow down.
The possibility that MbS may be facing powerful opposition emerged last month at the Arab summit hosted by King Salman in the Gulf city of Dhahran. The gathering focused on President Donald Trump’s decision to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem; the meeting’s final communique repeated many of the usual lines about support for the Palestinians. This was hardly surprising, perhaps except for the fact that MbS (who attended the summit, but in a supporting role to his father) had just returned from a three-week tour of the United States, where he had reportedly captivated both the business community as well as leaders of the American Jewish community. MbS reportedly told the latter group that the question of the fate of the Palestinians did not rank among the top 100 issues for ordinary Saudis—a line that reportedly caused some people to literally fall off their chairs.
Those who have met MbS say he is Bill Clinton-like in his knack for engaging with even those whom he disagrees with. Yet he rarely seems to change his mind. That’s a pity, because he’s also gaining a reputation for making bad decisions. Those include the detention of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Saudi Arabia’s ongoing war in Yemen against Iran-supported Houthi tribesmen, the diplomatic rift with Qatar, and the arrest of nearly 400 princes and businessmen accused of corruption. In addition, Vision 2030, the kingdom’s economic transformation plan, is proceeding at a snail’s pace. The centerpiece of the plan is the partial sell-off of the state-owned oil company Saudi Aramco. But this has been delayed. Meanwhile, embarrassing revelations of MbS’s tacky extravagance continue to emerge.
MbS, it seems, isn’t really interested in change. Arresting the activists is the way that Saudi Arabia would and did behave in the past: In 1990, several dozen women were arrested for driving through Riyadh. But today’s Saudi Arabia is meant to be different, and MbS is supposed to be a different kind of royal. The world’s hopes are on him to create a modern Saudi Arabia, able to detach itself from its conservative theocratic underpinnings. After these latest arrests, his ability to satisfy those hopes is in doubt.
*Simon Henderson is the Baker Fellow and director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at The Washington Institute.

Trump Says Kim Summit Could Still Go Ahead on June 12
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 25/18/
U.S. President Donald Trump, a day after his cancellation of a high-stakes summit with North Korea, said Friday that the meeting with Kim Jong Un could still go ahead. "We're going to see what happens," Trump told reporters at the White House, after welcoming Pyongyang's latest statement on the talks as "very good news." "It could even be the 12th," he said in a reference to the original June 12 date set for the meeting in Singapore. "We're talking to them now," Trump said of the North Koreans. "They very much want to do it. We'd like to do it. We'll see what happens."North Korea, responding to Trump's abrupt cancellation of the meeting over "hostility" from Pyongyang, said Friday that it is willing to talk to the United States "at any time." Trump welcomed the statement as "warm and productive." "We will soon see where it will lead, hopefully to long and enduring prosperity and peace. Only time (and talent) will tell!" the US president said in a tweet. In a letter to Kim, Trump said Thursday he would not go ahead with the summit in Singapore, following what the White House called a "trail of broken promises" by the North. Trump blamed "open hostility" from Kim's regime for his decision to call off the talks, and warned North Korea against committing any "foolish or reckless acts." But Pyongyang's reaction to the sudden U-turn has so far been conciliatory. First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan called Trump's decision "unexpected" and "regrettable." But he left the door open for talks, saying officials were willing "to sit face-to-face at any time."
Just before Trump announced the cancellation of the meeting, North Korea declared it had "completely" dismantled its nuclear test site in the country's far northeast, in a carefully choreographed goodwill gesture ahead of the summit. But the chances of success for the unprecedented face-to-face had recently been thrown into doubt as threats were traded by both sides.
The U.S. summit cancellation blindsided treaty ally South Korea, which until now had brokered a remarkable detente between Washington and Pyongyang, with President Moon Jae-in calling the move "shocking and very regrettable." Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said however he respected and supported the U.S. president's move.
China, Pyongyang's sole major ally, urged the two foes to "show goodwill," while UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on the parties to keep talking, as did host Singapore, and Russia's President Vladimir Putin held out hope the talks would eventually take place. Trump's announcement came a day after Pyongyang hardened its rhetoric, calling comments by Vice President Mike Pence "ignorant and stupid."
"Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting," read Trump's letter to Kim. But he said talks could still go ahead "at a later date."
Politically, Trump had invested heavily in the success of the planned summit.
As the date drew nearer, however, the gulf in expectations between the two sides became apparent. Washington has made it clear it wants to see the "complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization" of the North. But Pyongyang has vowed it will never give up its nuclear deterrent until it feels safe from what it terms U.S. aggression.
U.S. aides stood up
A senior White House official said Pyongyang had demonstrated a "profound lack of good faith" in the run-up to the summit -- including standing up the White House's deputy chief of staff, who had traveled to Singapore for preparatory talks.
The White House viewed North Korea's objections to the latest US-South Korean joint military exercise -- and its recent cancellation of a meeting with the South Koreans -- as a breach of its commitments leading up to the summit. It also was unhappy about the North's failure to allow international observers to verify the dismantling of the Punggye-ri test site, the staging ground for all six of its nuclear tests which was buried inside a mountain near the border with China. But the North's Kim Kye Gwan countered that Pyongyang's angry statements were "just a backlash in response to harsh words from the US side that has been pushing for a unilateral denuclearization."
Both Pence and Trump's hawkish National Security Advisor John Bolton had raised the specter of Libyan leader Moamer Khadafi, who gave up atomic weapons only to die years later at the hands of US-backed rebels. Experts warned that cancelling the meeting could have knock-on effects, especially among allies already rattled by Trump's unpredictability. "In a contest of who can be the most erratic leader, President Trump beats Kim Jong Un hands-down," Joel Wit, founder of the respected 38 North website which monitors North Korea, wrote on Twitter. "His unsteady hand has left everyone scratching their heads, including our ROK (South Korean) allies." But others said Trump's willingness to walk away could extract further concessions from Pyongyang.
"North Korea will have to propose more detailed plans for denuclearization if it wants to talk in the future," said Go Myong-hyun, an analyst at the Asan Institute of Policy Studies.

The world according to Iran’s Supreme Leader is a cartoon
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/May 25/18
The simplicity of the argument expressed by Iran’s Supreme Leader expresses his vision of the conflict in the region quite well. Responding to the American sanctions, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei likened the Iranians and the Americans to the famous cartoon Tom and Jerry. The Americans are Tom, the big foolish cat who spends his time in vain chasing the mouse Jerry but failing at catching him. It’s a correct depiction. This is actually what happening now, and what’s been happening between America and Iran for 40 years. The JCPOA agreement is only one of the games Iran used to escape from the sanctions which Washington imposed on it during the first few years of Obama’s presidency. By signing the agreement without stopping Iran, the mouse escaped from the trap once again. This chase has been going on for a long time with Iran which succeeded in evading its responsibilities in terms of harming its people and the region and the massive destruction it has inflicted upon us all. The question is, will it be able to escape again this time?
The chase and Iran's escape
The Supreme Leader views the destruction happening as a game and believes his country’s role is to escape and play tricks. He thinks that this time he will survive Donald Trump’s chase just like he survived every time, although Trump has set a plan that seems well-devised to besiege the Iranian mouse.
This chase has been going on for a long time with Iran which succeeded in evading its responsibilities in terms of harming its people and the region and the massive destruction it has inflicted upon us all. The question is, will it be able to escape again this time?
Conflict is a complicated game and it’s not as simple as a chase as the Supreme Leader put it. Iran invokes religion, culture and history in its battles and plays on the region’s axes and conflicts. It convinces the Iraqis that they are Shiites who are targeted on the sectarian level, the Sunnis that they are targeted in an infidel Christian world, the Arabs that they are threatened by Israel and the East that it’s being looted by the West.
It hires organizations like Hamas, allies with its enemies like al-Qaeda, establishes arms of militias and organizations, like the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Yemeni Houthi militia.
It uses opposition groups in their countries regardless of their sect and ethnicity, allies with Russia and blackmails superpowers including China and Europe by threatening it’s capable of swaying terror groups in their countries. Iran is not a small mouse but a large regional state that harnessed all its energy for evil and did not build anything fruitful, not even for its citizens, and did not allow the people in the region to peacefully fulfill their dreams.
Is it game over for Iran?
I think Iran exhausted all its games and has no way to escape except by confronting what’s decisive. It played for a long time and the last of its victims was Obama. It deluded him that it learnt its lesson and promised him of what he wanted to hear so it got all it wanted from him and more, and then betrayed him.
During Iran’s confrontations throughout the years, I have not seen such realization and understanding of the regime like I see today, as not only the Americans realize its truth but also most Arabs and Muslims who were deceived by it for four decades and stood with it after it got them to defend its causes against the West and Israel. The majority now sees it for what it is: Iran is an evil giant in every cause and area. It’s true that it managed to deceive most people most of the time, but I hope its time is up.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s speech last week is the best of what’s been said as it stripped the Supreme Leader’s regime. The 12 conditions he announced are difficult dictations in exchange of lifting the sanctions. If the Iranian regime implements them, it will not be the regime we know, and if it does not, it will fall apart.

Reasons behind US-EU rift over Iran nuclear deal
Shehab Al-Makahleh/Asharq Al Awsat/May 25/18
US President Donald Trump’s pullout declaration from the multilateral nuclear deal with Iran is tantamount to a declaration of war in the Middle East, which would lead to the change of the regime in Tehran. However, the EU-American rift over the deal would weaken the sanctions on Iran if imposed.
But why are American allies in the EU opposing deal pulling? It can be attributed to changing political alignments in the Middle East region after the 2011 Arab Spring, and the Western drive to reach a deal that serves EU interests as many of the European states have been undergoing rigid economic conditions. These factors prompted the EU to sign the deal alongside China and Russia in 2015.
However, the agreement has not changed Iran’s behavior and that former US President Barrack Obama’s administration was pathetic in signing such a deal along with the UK, Russia, China, France, and Germany.
The Americans have sought to ignite fire under Iranian feet by pushing the government into new negotiations with new rules and conditions while Europeans have sought to keep the agreement and to add some amendments to the deal. The EU has repeatedly declared support for the deal, rejecting American pugnaciousness and confrontational attitude.
The EU advocacy for the deal stems from economic and commercial factors as Europeans fear unexpected hindrances and obstacles to affect their penetration to the Iranian market. Thus, the EU states give priority to economic interests in the Iranian market to secure more commercial contracts. However, political, security and human rights files, are less important to them compared to Americans.
If there is no win-win formula for the EU, it is not expected that the EU would ever accept any amendments to the deal
Geopolitical factor
While Washington focuses on keeping the geopolitical factor in the Middle East unchanged, rejecting Iranian expansionist policies, opposing Iranian hiking influence in the region which threatens stability of the Middle East, and countering Tehran’s support for armed movements and militias in Arab countries, the EU turns deaf ear to this risk.
Thus, Trump’s administration calls on Tehran to set aside its expansionist agendas before talking about any economic openness. At the same time, the US urges the EU to follow the American approach when opening dialogue with the Iranian government; in other words, not to prioritise their economic and commercial requirements to political and military ones.
The EU sounds not interested in the Middle East issues and concerns are only restricted to economic regardless of the repercussions and ramifications to the Middle East region.
To date, Trump seems to have achieved a partial victory; however, this can be a double edge weapon that can backfire against American interests any moment. He has been able to move the European rhetoric machine against Iran at some point vis-à-vis Tehran’s political and military interventions in the Middle East and with regard to Iranian ballistic missiles.
The question remains whether American pullout of the nuclear agreement cause rift between the US and the EU? It has been clear that since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's presentation of documents related to Iranian nuclear program about Tehran’s breach of the nuclear agreement, Trump and his hawkish administration have taken their decision to cancel the deal and started to discuss scenarios of imposing sanctions on Iran.
Some experts believe that Trump has given a precious gift to the Supreme Leader of Iran and the hawks of the Iranian government because he ended the power of the reformers and the Iranian opposition. Both the hawks and the hardliners in Iran have been awarded a golden opportunity and would have in the near future the upper hand to Hassan Rouhani and his reformist wing.
Trump’s decision was not a surprise as he previously announced that the multilateral deal was an unmitigated disaster which has not taken into consideration the Iranian ballistic missile and its other military capabilities.
The rift between the EU and the US over the deal is that any sanctions on the Iranian economy will harm the European markets, which have won many contracts in Iran after the 2015 deal. Thus, Trump's declaration could harm investor’s confidence in Iran and freak out larger businesses to get out of Iranian volatile market.
Apparently, Tehran and Washington have no economic or commercial ties at present; however, this is not the case with the European partners as they seek to maintain Iranian economy vibrant and buoyant.
Why the EU, China and Russia support the deal?
Trump has pulled out of the deal leaving the EU, Russia, China and the UK at stake to negotiate a new deal that better serves their interests in Iran. Statistics show that trade exchange between the EU and Iran reached $9.5 billion in 2015, hiked to $17 billion in 2016. In 2017, trade exchange recorded $25 billion.
The major companies benefitting from Iran are French, Dutch and German including Total, Airbus, Renault and Shell amongst others. China, on the other hand, is deemed the largest trade partner to Iran. In 2017, trade turnover between Iran and China stood at US$38 billion, accounting 23 per cent of Iran’s total trade. Russian Iranian total trade amounted to US$1.8 billion in 2017.
If there is no win-win formula for the EU, it is not expected that the EU would ever accept any amendments to the deal.
However, China and Russia will gain more from the pullout of the Americans from the multilateral nuclear deal as this will give both Moscow and Beijing diplomatic leverage over Washington’s as both capitals would present themselves as the credible mediator to fill the vacuum of the US in the Middle East.

Chasm between realities and EU’s daydreaming over Iran
Hamid Bahrami/Asharq Al Awsat/May 25/18
One could predict that the Iranian regime would announce “it will stay in the nuclear deal or the JCPOA”, contrary to its blustering to pull out if the US did so.
The JCPOA was in fact between the world powers and the theocratic regime in Iran, however, without the US, the agreement is like a human body without a head.
President Trump believes the deal is catastrophic and one-sided in favor of Tehran. In the meantime, America’s European allies benefit economically with no care whatsoever about its catastrophic flaws and disastrous results.
Fortunately, the EU lobbies could not persuade President Trump to stay in the deal but they egocentrically insist on maintaining and carrying on with a dead deal.
The US National Security Adviser John Bolton warned over President Trump’s determination to impose sanctions on the EU companies engaging in trades with Iran.
In contrast, during a summit in Sofia, the President of the EU Commission Jean-Claude Juncker said, “we look for a legal process to prohibit our companies from complying with the American sanctions”.
EU leaders should understand by now that if they stand in the way of President Trump’s strategy to have a perfect deal with Iran, he has a less expensive option, supporting regime change by the Iranian people
Respecting international laws
If the EU persuaded the Iranian regime to respect international laws and fulfill President Trump’s concerns regarding its unacceptable regional behavior or the JCPOA’s sunset clauses, which would eventually bring a real agreement, with the same resolve that it lobbied President Trump to stay in the deal, major and multinational European companies would be more satisfied than any risky process to protect them.
As the EU leaders are discussing and misleading the member states over trade with the world’s biggest sponsor of terrorism, its companies are already leaving the Iranian market one after another.
The reality in the free market is that traders understandably are skeptical to invest in a faltering economy in a corrupt country. Thus, regardless of what politicians say, traders favor markets where they can earn more money or at least markets were the risks are significantly lower.
French energy giant Total’s preparation to pull out of a billion dollar gas project in Iran due to facing of US sanctions proves this argument.
The current US strategy toward Iran has two parts:
• Force the Iranian regime to return to the negotiating table for sincere talks by scrapping the JCPOA and imposing paralyzing sanctions. This was reiterated recently by Brian Hook, a senior adviser to the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, as he said, “the goal of abandonment of the nuclear deal is to achieve a ‘better’ and more ‘comprehensive’ deal than the 2015 nuclear pact.”
• Pursue a policy of regime change if the first part fails.
The EU leaders themselves have no plan to address the major threats from Tehran but oddly, they are trying to do everything in their power to maintain the status quo. The UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson naively parrots the theocracy’s propaganda by insisting that “regime change in Iran will descend the Middle East into chaos”.
EU leaders should understand by now that if they stand in the way of President Trump’s strategy to have a perfect deal with Iran, he has a less expensive option, namely supporting regime change by the Iranian people and their resistance, which means the current EU leaders will lose face.
On the latter option, the US Secretary of State Pompeo tweeted on Friday, “We support the Iranian people who are demonstrating against an oppressive government”.

Bitterness, confusion among Saudi Arabia’s foes

Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi/Asharq Al Awsat/May 25/18
I am a Saudi citizen and I say: Saudi Arabia first. This is what every Saudi, whether a leader or a citizen, says. Saudi Arabia comes first because it’s the nation and is the collective identity; the history and the geography; the memory and the sense of belonging, the present and the future.
This is what citizens say about their countries, such as Americans like US President Donald Trump says America First. The same applies to Russians, Turks, Iranians and others.
Enemies are upset and confused and the world is recalibrating its power equations so that each knows its place and capabilities. Also, so that each country can reflect on its policies and alliances through the power of politics, diplomacy, boycott and sanctions, as well as with the power of armies and weapons
Saudi Arabia, UAE leading Arab front
In this context, it is noteworthy that patriotism is strengthened through victories, achievements and successes. People become hostile to countries if their leaders guide them as cattle and if they ideologically control their ideas, be they leftists, nationalists or Islamist ideas. In such instances, people become enemies of their states.
This is what the herd of traitors and conspirators — who work for Iran, Turkey, Qatar, the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups — do.
The Arab alliance led by the Saudi kingdom and the UAE, of which Egypt and Bahrain are part of, is leading the Arab front today to secure Arab states and interests.
This alliance is the real savior against all the new colonizers — which include Iran in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, Turkey in Syria and other areas and the Muslim Brotherhood in the region and the world. This alliance led by Prince Mohammed bin Salman managed to help the US safeguard its interests under the Trump administration.
The rationale of history must dominate, the exigencies of reality must be addressed and an exact balance of power must be achieved. This can be realized through deep insight, knowledge, planning and a sharp vision.
Confusion in enemy ranks
Enemies are upset and confused and the world is recalibrating its power equations so that each knows its place and capabilities and reflects on its policies and alliances through the power of politics, diplomacy, boycott and sanctions, as well as with the power of armies and weapons. This can be seen by observing changes in relations of European countries with the US and among Middle East countries.
The US has declared Lebanese Hezbollah a terrorist group and has put both its military and political wings in this category, as they are both terrorists no matter how much they exploit the Jerusalem issue and raise its slogans or seek to use Palestine as a bargaining chip. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain are on the same path and have the same orientation and they know how the region is being harmed. They know the region’s peoples well and are most capable of influencing them. Saudi Arabia and the UAE saved Bahrain once and also saved Egypt twice. This alliance of victory and salvation has proven itself as a daunting entity in all international and regional equations on all fronts.
Iran is begging for a European savior that may provide it with guarantees but no one has responded yet. Big European companies are fleeing Iran at a fast pace and everyone who has dealt with Iran, whether banks or companies, are looking for a safe way out of any ties they have with Iran, its parties, militias and ideology. Everyone now accepts the facts about Iran’s crimes such as its sponsoring of terrorism, drug dealing and money laundering in the region and the world.
Exploiting Palestinian cause
The world now knows about Turkey’s relations with the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Nusra Front and about its ties with ISIS. What was happening in South Turkey in the past few years, and which resembled hosting Afghan-Arabs in Pakistan during the 1980's, is now being highlighted by think tanks and media outlets. The Qatari role in all of this and its complete support for terrorism and its groups are under scrutiny. An example is the interview which Al-Arabiya television channel aired last week.
So what are the foes stirring up an uproar against? What are they holding onto? How are they distorting this salvation alliance? The answer is easy. They have done so through the Palestinian cause which they have, from Iran, Turkey, Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood, managed to exploit to serve their interests and fulfill their ambitions.
It’s easy for an observer to know that there’s no difference between Lebanese Hezbollah Party, which is Iran’s agent, and Hamas, which is also Iran’s agent, when it comes to the aims and goals. Just like the slogan of “resistance” did not cleanse Hezbollah, the slogan of Palestine, Jerusalem and “the cause” will not cleanse Hamas, as the traitor is a traitor and an agent is an agent. Facts and data are what provide evidence and are what have the final word.
Free men have fulfilled what they promised. The salvation alliance has fulfilled its promises in Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon. This is what Trump is also doing as he seeks to fulfill the promises he made to his voters. This can be seen in every decision and policy he had promised to adopt. The ball is now in the court of enemies who are now looking for ways and seeking the help of international powers for protection.
In politics, there is nothing better than patience when you besiege your enemy and boycott him and inflict continuous losses on him, thus leading him to use his bargaining chips. There’s nothing better than letting your enemy feel confused as to which path to take and which direction to go as you break his will and strength and get rid of his evil.
I do not have exact numbers but it’s very easy to know that the Arab salvation alliance is heading towards ascendance on the political, developmental, cultural and military fronts. Meanwhile, enemies are suffering evident losses. All this allows us to analyze and foresee the future.
Hezbollah’s terrorist tag
Saudi citizens are now happier and their loyalty to their country is increasing while Iranian citizens are protesting and revolting against the regime.
Given these two opposite paths, the future must be clear for observers, whether in the region or outside it. These observers include countries, organizations, media outlets and research centers. They must take this into consideration if not for the sake of professionalism at work then to avoid scandals when the conflict ends and it’s revealed who the losers and winners are.
This salvation alliance which consists of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain in alliance with the US began with imposing strict sanctions against Hezbollah and its leaders and its branding as a terrorist organization. Other movements, organizations and militias will suffer the same fate.
The US has begun the building of an international alliance against Iran, as part of Trump’s strategy against the regime. Meanwhile, Iraq’s elections have begun to head in the direction of rejecting Iran’s agents and embracing national symbols and movements. More is yet to come.

Modi-Putin informal summit and Eurasian geo-politics
C Uday Bhaskar/Asharq Al Awsat/May 25/18
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has shown a noticeable preference for the “informal” short-notice summit with his peers and held a day-long meeting (on May 21) with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.
This is Modi’s second such informal summit and follows the end April meeting with the Chinese President Xi Jinping in Wuhan. On both occasions, it was a case of seeking to press the reset button and re-arrange the wrinkles in the bi-lateral relationship.
Whatever be the outcome of these informal summits, it is evident that Eurasian geo-politics, as they are unfolding now in the post-Trump tempest and over the next two decades, will be shaped considerably by the nature of the complex, imbalanced and contradictory Russia-India-China relationship.
Both Sochi and Wuhan also testify to India’s centrality as a distinctive swing-state in the geo-politics of the first half of the 21st century.
Informal summits do not have joint statements and neither is the focus on a single issue – as was the case during the Cold War decades when the “summit” usually meant a highly structured meeting between the US and Soviet leaders at the apex level.
More often than not the objective was on the reduction of strategic arms (nuclear weapons and missiles) and it is a reflection of the changes that have taken place in international relations, that the word “strategic” is now used very often and the informal summit is the latest variant in the diplomatic lexicon.
Both Sochi and Wuhan testify to India’s centrality as a distinctive swing-state in the geo-politics of the first half of the 21st century
Complex historical inheritance
The Russia-India-China relationship is tangled, for these three nations have a complex historical inheritance and certain major reversals have taken place over the last three decades. Moscow is the inheritor of the Soviet legacy, though the geographical area of modern Russia is considerably smaller than that of the former USSR.
At the time, Moscow was a superpower capital and both China and India were subalterns in the Cold War strategic framework. While Beijing was formally allied with its communist big brother, Delhi remained neutral.
Beijing played its cards deftly and in the latter phase of the Cold War, moved from the Soviet orbit to align itself with the USA, which in turn led to Moscow entering into a treaty of friendship with non-aligned India.
The Cold War ended in December 1991 and in the intervening decades, the shift in national power is indicative of the imbalance in this triangular relationship. The current Russia-India-China GDP is in the ratio 1: 2: 9 with the Russian economic index being the least at $1.5 trillion (2017).
However Russian trans-border military power and the manner in which President Putin has used it, accord Moscow a very visible profile in Eurasia – whether it is in Syria or Afghanistan – and thus the GDP metric alone can be misleading about the strategic relevance of these three nations.
The India-Russia relationship has been going through an uneven and discordant patch in recent years. Moscow’s dismay over a growing post 2008 proximity between India and the US is matched by Delhi’s disquiet over Russia’s overtures to Pakistan and the tacit endorsement of the Taliban in Afghanistan; as also the deepening Sino-Russian relationship, which has the US as the catalyst.
Satisfactory review
It would appear that Sochi has led to a reasonably satisfactory review and reset of the India-Russia bi-lateral.
The brief Indian official statement noted that both leaders “shared the view that India and Russia have an important role to play in contributing to an open and equitable world order. In this regard, they recognized each other’s respective roles as major powers with common responsibilities for maintaining global peace and stability.”
From the Indian perspective, the agreement on the importance of a “multipolar world order” and the decision to “to intensify consultation and coordination with each other, including on the Indo-Pacific Region” is significant.
A multipolar world order has been the post-Cold War Holy Grail for Delhi and this reiteration is a signal to Washington, while the Indo-Pacific reference has a sub-text for Beijing. Harmonization of policies over the Afghan quagmire is evidently on the cards.
Paradoxically, both Moscow and Delhi have their own anxieties about an over-bearing Beijing. Geography imposes certain geo-political constraints and all of China’s neighbors have to arrive at some kind of modus-vivendi among themselves about how best to deal with this creeping assertiveness of a muscular Beijing. While the Cold War geo-politics were binary and zero-sum, the current Trump-led US orientation has led to considerable uncertainty and anxiety about how major power relations will unfold over the next two years. Syria, Iran, Afghanistan and the Korean peninsula are all indicators of the potential for greater instability. In the Eurasian framework, China and Russia, wary of each other and the US will be jostling to advance their long-term interests and will be cognizant of India’s distinctive swing status. An unaligned India that remains engaged with the major powers may be the most prudent geo-political permutation for the prickly Russia-China-US triangle.