ENGLISH DAILY NEWS BULLETIN
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani
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Bible Quotations We suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him
Israeli security and the consolidation of Hezbollah's
influence in Lebanon
Ali Al-Amin/Al Arabiya/May 26/18
Stability on the northern borders of Israel is the key objective of Israeli policy on Lebanon and Syria. Israel is enjoying economic prosperity and an exceptional level of development with a growth rate as high as 8%. Its tourism sector is flourishing at a time when Arab countries are facing major challenges, especially those close to the Hebrew state. Most of them are suffering from disasters, as well as political, economic and developmental crises.
Israel rules the roost
It’s enough to point to the war that Syria has been suffering from as it has witnessed displacement, slaughter and devastation. This is in addition to the terrorism that has afflicted Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan in the backdrop of the Syrian crisis. By contrast, Israel has been achieving political advancement and has secured US support, which is proven by the US decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem. The Israeli government has once again imposed its vision of the peace with the Palestinians by eliminating the terms and conditions of the settlement amid the international community’s silence, if we are not to say “acceptance” or “support,” towards this approach.
Israel has not faced any security or strategic threat during the course of the Syrian crisis. At the same time, Syrian and Iranian military positions, as well as Hezbollah targets in Syria, have for many years until today suffered many Israeli attacks, which have not been met with any serious retaliation. In fact, there is coordination between the Israeli government and the Russian forces in this context, as such Israel can target what it considers is a threat to its security in coordination with Russian forces to dodge any clash between them.
All the countries surrounding Israel were and still are subject to tensions, war and terrorism. On the other hand, the state of Israel seems immune to all these problems. Conflicts and clashes have swept across the Syrian landscape, while borders with the Occupied Golan have maintained peace and stability. The missiles of the Syrian regime and its allies, whether Iran or loyal Shiite militias, neither spared any city or town in Syria nor the lives of thousands of civilians. Nevertheless, they have remained orderly and calm in their response to all Israeli assaults against them.
This is what Israel has today: an enemy devoted to guarding its borders so much that it cannot make the mistake of permitting the entry of guerrilla groups to Israel or to launch missiles deep into Israel. This enemy thus settles with making verbal threats which is a condition to protect the status quo. Israel understands this as an essential factor to maintain the current formula which suits its leaders.
On this basis of Israeli calculations, we can deduce the future steps that Israel can take or defer from on matters related to its northern border. As long as Iran and Hezbollah are committed to the terms of stability on its borders as Israel sees fit, both countries’ presence and influence, whether in Lebanon and in Syria, will remain secure against any Israeli threat. Israel thus has no problem if Iran and its militias fight to protect the regime of Bashar al-Assad with all the legitimate and illegitimate weapons and if Hezbollah controls the Lebanese state with its security, military and political institutions as long as this does not threaten its security.
No Iranian reprisal to Israeli strikes
What matters most to Israel is the compliance of both parties to the rules and conditions of Israeli security on the border and protecting stability on both its sides. This explains why Israel, which has presumed there is a potential threat from some Iranian bases in Syria, has launched multiple and deadly missile strikes to destroy these bases. Israel will keep striking these locations as long as Iran keeps bolstering its military presence in areas considered vital to Israeli strategic security. Iran, whom confronting Israel is not among its priorities, will not make any military reactions to retaliate the attacks on its forces or militias in Syria.
The Iranian command is overwhelmed today in other wars and other priorities that have to do with the Arab map on the one hand and the protection of the nuclear agreement, which precludes that it needs to maintain a certain extent of its relations with Europe and Russia, on the other. This of course can’t be achieved if Iran responds to any Israeli strikes on Syria, particularly as long as European countries consider these strikes as Israel’s legitimate right to maintain its security.
As such, Lebanon is not outside this equation. Israel is imposing the security equation on its borders and implementing its strategic conditions which revolve around the fact that it has absolute power in executing whatever it wants towards Jerusalem and the Palestinians. Meanwhile, Hezbollah’s rockets are safe in their storage units not ready to be launched and the way to Jerusalem remains far.
Furthermore, Lebanon is arranging the return of the Hezbollah fighters from Syria in response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s call to withdraw all militias from Syrian territory. This call will be probably accepted by Hezbollah, if not in the near future then in the long run. The return of these fighters to Lebanon will not be in the context of completing the liberation of Jerusalem, but to preserve the dominance and role of Hezbollah, which will be implemented on the idea of detaching Lebanon from its Arab environment. This power’s military task will not be defending Lebanon in the face of “Arab conspiracies” but it is a task which in the future will allow Hezbollah to justify keeping its weapons.
Iran’s hidden agenda
Israel, which is aware that the guarantees for its security are not only decided by international resolutions or understandings, knows that its security is solidified through the cracks that have permeated the Arab front, particularly in Lebanon and Syria. It is also aware that the priority of Hezbollah today is to control Lebanon, and the long road to attain full control is linked to respecting Israeli security.
The purpose of Hezbollah is no longer liberating Jerusalem or fighting the colonial powers or establishing an Islamic Republic in Lebanon or in Syria and Iraq. Its goal is to protect Iranian influence. This is its plan and it is clear as daylight. This approach leads to controlling the decision centers in the state. Hezbollah is thus taking this path in Lebanon by controlling decision-making, hiding behind the Lebanese state and its institutions, and by, most importantly, reminding Israel and anyone concerned that it is the source of stability in southern Lebanon and northern Israel, and to proclaim that it, i.e. Hezbollah, and no one else, can provide this stability. on May 26-27/18
US-Turkey Agree 'Roadmap' on Kurd-Held Manbij in Syria
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 26/18/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 Islamic State (IS) 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 IS 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".
Trump Says Kim Summit Could Still Go Ahead on June 12
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 26/18/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.
Five White Helmets Rescuers Killed in Gunmen Attack in Syria
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 26 May, 2018/Five Syrian White Helmets rescuers were killed on Saturday in an attack by masked gunmen in the northern province of Aleppo, the volunteer network said. The rescue force said armed men stormed its Al-Hader center in a pre-dawn attack and fired on the first responders inside. Four volunteers were killed on the spot and a fifth died later in hospital, it wrote on Twitter. "At around 2:00 am, an armed group stormed the Al-Hader center, blindfolded the staff members who were on the night shift, and killed five of them," said Ahmad al-Hamish, who heads the center. "Two others were wounded and another two were able to flee. The attackers were masked and escaped after stealing some equipment and generators," he said. It was unclear whether the attack was a robbery-gone-wrong or if the center and its crew had been specifically targeted. Founded in 2013, the White Helmets are a network of first responders who rescue wounded in the aftermath of air strikes, shelling or blasts in rebel-held territory. More than 200 White Helmets rescuers have been killed in Syria's seven-year war, usually in bombing raids or shelling on their centers. While attacks like the one on Saturday are rare, they have happened before. In August, seven White Helmets members were killed in a similar assault in the town of Sarmin, in neighboring Idlib province. On Saturday, five people were killed in a blast in the urban capital of the province, also called Idlib, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. "Two were civilians, including a child. There was also one Uzbek fighter and two unidentified people," said Abdel Rahman. The explosion hit a wide street in Idlib lined by tall cement apartment blocks. Several cars parked outside had been burned by the explosion. White Helmets rescuers could be seen carrying several wounded out of the building, including a crying infant and a wounded man on a stretcher, to ambulances parked nearby. The killings come as the White Helmets are facing a "freeze" on funding from the United States, which is still reviewing over $200 million earmarked for stabilization in Syria.
South, North Korean Leaders Meet for Second Time
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 26 May, 2018/South Korean President Moon Jae In and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met for the second time in less than a month. Their historic second meeting on Saturday was held in wake of US President Donald Trump’s cancellation of a much-anticipated summit with Kim that was set for next month. "They exchanged views and discussed ways to implement the Panmunjom Declaration and to ensure a successful US North Korea summit," Seoul's presidential Blue House said in a statement, adding Moon would make a personal statement on Sunday morning. The leaders held talks for two hours in the same Panmunjom truce village where they had met on April 27, making a declaration vowing to improve ties. Pictures showed them shaking hands and embracing on the North Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone separating the two nations. The meeting is the latest remarkable diplomatic chapter in a roller coaster of developments on the Korean peninsula. Trump had rattled the region on Thursday by cancelling his meeting with Kim which had been due to take place in Singapore on June 12 citing "open hostility" from Pyongyang. But within 24 hours he reversed course saying it could still go ahead after productive talks were held with North Korean officials. Moon met with Kim in an effort to ensure the landmark meeting between Trump and the North Korean leader goes ahead.
Trump's original decision to abandon the historic summit blindsided South Korea which had been brokering a remarkable detente between Washington and Pyongyang. However, there was a further signal from the US Saturday the June 12 summit may yet go ahead as the White House said it would send a team to Singapore to prepare for the meeting. "The White House pre-advance team for Singapore will leave as scheduled in order to prepare should the summit take place," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said. Moon, a longtime advocate of engagement with the North, won election last year partly by vowing to be open to dialogue with Pyongyang and finding a solution to a Cold War-era sore that continues to blight the region. But the flurry of diplomatic backslapping and bonhomie disappeared in recent weeks as the summit was thrown into doubt by increasingly bellicose rhetoric from both top US administration officials and Pyongyang. Trump eventually pulled the plug on talks in a personal letter to Kim on Thursday. But he left the door open to future meetings and Pyongyang responded by saying it was willing to sit down "at any time", prompting Trump to reply that the Singapore summit could still take place. Saturday's meeting between Moon and Kim took place in a grand building on the North Korean side of Panmunjom, a heavily fortified village that lies between the two countries and marks the spot where the armistice ending the Korean War in 1953 was signed. Koh Yu-hwan, an expert on Korean relations at Dongguk University, said Saturday's meeting between Moon and Kim increased the likelihood of the Singapore summit taking place as originally intended. "Today's summit is aimed at resolving the misunderstanding caused by communication glitches between Washington and Pyongyang and lay the groundwork for the US-North Korea summit," he told AFP. Unlike last month's summit, which was held in front of live TV cameras, Saturday's meeting was much more low-key, taking place in utmost secrecy, with reporters only being told later that the face-to-face had taken place. Footage released by the Blue House on Twitter, accompanied by a dramatic orchestral score, showed Moon arriving in a convoy of cars and first shaking hands with Kim's sister Kim Yo Jong, who has played a major public role in recent talks with the South, including leading a delegation across the border during February's Winter Olympics. Saturday's talks are only the fourth time serving leaders of the two Koreas, who remain technically at war, have ever met.
Arab Coalition Thwarts Houthi Drone Attack against Saudi Abha Airport
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 26 May, 2018/The Arab Coalition announced on Saturday that it foiled a Houthi drone attack against Saudi Arabia’s Abha International Airport. Coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Maliki said that the Air Defense unit assigned to the airport detected the drone and destroyed it according to the Rules of Engagement, reported the Saudi Press Agency. Coalition experts inspected the wreckage of the drone and determined that it was a terrorist Iranian-Houthi militia UAV. It was identified as an Iranian UAV Ababil. Maliki said that the aircraft was launched from Yemen’s Saada region. The drone was attempting to launch an attack on Abha airport, in violation of International Humanitarian Law. Maliki revealed that there was minimal damage caused by the drone. No one was injured in the incident. Maliki stressed: “The Joint Forces Command of the Coalition will strike with an iron fist all those who are involved in terrorist activities that threaten the safety and security of Saudi nationals, residents, economy and critical capabilities.”
Not Enough to Follow Instincts
Joe Scarborough/Asharq Al Awsat/May 26/18/American presidents' strategic miscalculations in the bloody years following Osama bin Laden's attacks on New York and Washington have had a catastrophic impact on the Middle East. In response to those attacks by al-Qaeda, Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama spent the next 15 years committing foreign policy sins of omission or commission that unleashed chaos upon an already troubled region. The fallout from those grave missteps empowered our enemies and undermined the noble causes for which too many Americans fought and died. If Afghanistan is truly the graveyard of empires, then today's Middle East is where rigid ideologies go to die. Bush's addiction to the schemes of neocons led to Iraq's unraveling, just as Obama's obsessive retreat from the region left Syria in ruins, ISIS on the rise and Iran marching westward. Both of these well-meaning commanders in chief made historic miscalculations because they were captive to ideological assumptions. Obama's belief that the United States could escape history in an area undone by his predecessor's policies proved to be as misguided as Bush's call for "ending tyranny in our world."Now it is President Donald Trump who has been motivated by his political instincts to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem while abandoning the Iran nuclear deal. Both geopolitical decisions appeal to many conservatives like myself in the way that liberating Iraq from the reign of Saddam Hussein once did. Today, few remember that 76 percent of Americans once supported the Iraq War, while 77 US senators — and a majority of Democrats — voted for the resolution backing the invasion. Proving once again that failure is an orphan, Iraq's most tragic lessons are too often lost on the politicians, press and public who blithely supported a war whose tragic consequences few fully considered. Put me at the top of that list. Unlike Bush's momentous missteps in 2003, however, Trump's policy shifts on Israel and Iran are opposed by a majority of Americans and viewed skeptically by most of our allies. Support for both policies is mainly limited to conservatives who support a stronger Israel and a diminished Iran. If the 21st century has taught Americans anything, it is that Middle East policy decisions demand that our presidents question their assumptions and challenge their ideological instincts. Following their "gut" always ends in disaster. That is a tall order for a politician such as Trump, who lives in the eternal now and brushes aside the complexities of history and the consequences of his actions. Were he more introspective, Trump might conclude that moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem at this moment in history only helps the terrorist group “Hamas,” which had been back on its heels for failing miserably to deliver for its followers. More troubling, but just as predictable, is the burden Trump's decision places on our closest regional allies. Egypt last Thursday opened its border with Gaza for the longest time in five years to "ease the burdens on the brothers in the Gaza Strip."Meanwhile, Trump's decision to abandon the Iran nuclear deal will further strain relations with our closest European allies, undermining long-term US interests. I opposed the 2015 agreement, but unilateral US withdrawal from it just three years later will further strengthen Iran and isolate the United States. While Iran has been the epicenter of international terrorism for 40 years, its leaders have usually proved themselves to be shrewder than the US presidents they have opposed. Expect Iran to remain in the nuclear deal and to give our European allies no reason to answer Trump's call for banking or oil sanctions on a country that Europe believes to be adhering to the agreement's terms. Without those secondary sanctions imposed by Europe or China, the United States will lose most of its leverage over Iran's economic future — and also have far less power shaping Iran's nuclear program than it did when the United States was part of the international deal. As we learned from George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq and Barack Obama's speedy retreat, following one's ideological instincts in places such as Israel and Iran usually ends in disaster. We can only hope that those advising this president will take great care navigating America's course across the Middle East in the coming years.
Mekunu Lashes Yemen, Oman after Being Downgraded to Tropical Storm
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 26 May, 2018 /Cyclone Mekunu was downgraded to a tropical storm on Saturday after lashing eastern Yemen and southern Oman, leaving several people dead in its wake. In Yemen, officials said on Friday that winds blew down houses and took out communication lines and water services in the country’s easternmost province on the border with Oman. Rageh Bakrit, the governor of al-Mahra province, said on his official Twitter account that the Hawf district was worst affected. Emergency aid, including drinking water and fuel, was sent to province. He did not say whether there were any casualties. Bakrit later said that communication lines in some areas, including Hawf, have been partially fixed, promising full restoration in the coming hours. Cyclone Mekunu also hit the Yemeni island of Socotra, listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Yemeni security officials said rescuers have recovered two bodies from the island, with more than 30 people still missing. The officials stated four Indians were rescued from a ship that ran aground during the storm, and that another two Yemenis were found alive.
SABA news agency quoted Socotra Governor Ramzy Mahrous as confirming that four sailors were found alive. Five Yemenis and two Indian sailors were confirmed dead when Mekunu hit Socotra on Thursday, causing heavy damage, Yemen's fisheries minister Fahad Kafin said.
In Oman, at least two people were killed after the storm pummeled its southern coast. Mekunu had intensified to a category two cyclone as it hit Oman's Dhofar and Al-Wusta provinces on the Arabian Sea on Friday, battering the coast with torrential rains, strong winds and massive waves. The national civil defense committee said on Saturday the cyclone had subsided to a tropical storm but was still lashing the country with heavy rain and winds at some 90 kilometers (56 miles) an hour. Oman's directorate general of meteorology said the cyclone had gone inland and was heading northwest into Saudi Arabia, but that heavy rains would likely continue into Sunday. Oman police reported that a man died after floods swept him away with his car near Salalah, a day after a 12-year old girl died when a gust of wind smashed her into a wall. Three wounded Asians were rescued and civil defense teams said they had saved hundreds of people including 260 foreign sailors trapped at sea. In Salalah, rains had almost stopped on Saturday, an AFP photographer said, but many streets were still under water and nearby valleys were flooded.
Material damage was mostly limited to agriculture, with many farms swept by winds at up to 170 kilometers (105 miles), he added. Mekunu is now heading towards southern Saudi Arabia and is expected to hit parts of the Empty Quarter, one of the world's most arid deserts, late Saturday.
American-Yemeni Man Pleads Guilty of Joining ISIS
Washington – Mohammad Ali Salih/Saturday, 26 May, 2018/An American youth, of Yemeni origins, confessed to belonging to the ISIS terrorist group and now faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Akram Musleh had been under surveillance by the FBI for five years, when he was still 15 years, after it was alerted to his pro-ISIS activity on the internet. The Indianapolis Star reported Friday that the 20-year-old pleaded guilty before federal court on Wednesday of trying to join ISIS. Musleh was born and raised in Brownsburg, Indiana. His involvement with the terror group began on social media in 2013, according to court documents, when he posted videos of terrorist leaders. FBI agents spoke with Musleh at the time, hoping to prevent him from heading down the extremist path. The teen told investigators he posted those videos “simply to understand Islam's history.” In 2016, Musleh read a news article about an Indiana Department of Homeland Security list of 8,500 potential terror targets in the state. Around that time, he had researched explosive materials online. He also was seen by an FBI agent shopping for pressure cookers at a Wal-Mart near Brownsburg, Indiana. Pressure cookers are used as a component in some improvised explosive devices. A Google Plus account connected to a YouTube account, highlighted by investigators as belonging to Musleh, showed posts and comments on YouTube videos, at least one of which included a reference to ISIS. In 2013, he commented on a video that referenced Adolf Hitler, writing: “Gays are going to hell.” On another video shared on his Google Plus account in 2014, he wrote: “Someone Should Of Shot All Those Cops And Then Burn There [sic] Bodies.”
China in Another Victory in Campaign to Isolate Taiwan
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 26 May, 2018/China and Burkina Faso signed an agreement to formally establish diplomatic relations on Saturday, days after the West African nation cut ties with self-ruled Taiwan, handing Beijing yet another victory in its campaign to isolate the island. A communique on establishing relations was signed at a state guest house in Beijing by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his counterpart Alpha Barry. Burkina Faso broke off ties with Taiwan on Thursday, becoming the second country to do so within a month and leaving the democratically ruled island with only 18 diplomatic allies around the world, including the kingdom of Swaziland, the only African state. "Now Africa has only one country with which we have not yet established (relations)," Wang said in a speech afterward. "We hope this country can join the big China-Africa family of friendship as soon as possible," he said about Swaziland. China and Taiwan split in 1949 after a civil war won by the Chinese communists. The two sides often use economic support and other aid as bargaining chips for diplomatic recognition. Beijing still considers Taiwan to be a renegade province to be reunified with the mainland, by force if necessary. China's hostility to Taiwan has grown since President Tsai Ing-wen took over in Taipei in 2016.
Pressure Mounts for OPEC Exit from Production Cut Deal
Kuwait - Wael Mahdi/Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 26 May, 2018/The decision anticipated to be taken by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its Russian-led allies at their next Vienna meeting, scheduled for late June, will not be easy. OPEC and non-OPEC countries partaking in the production cut deal were supposed to decide on extending the cuts until the end of 2018, but pressure has been on the rise by consumers, especially the United States, for easing production restrictions and manage price hikes. Under current conditions of improving fundamentals of supply and demand, met with a decline in OPEC production and a potential US embargo, oil prices experienced a 75 percent rise since last summer's rate. This has alarmed US politicians and their Beijing, New Delhi and Seoul counterparts. Pressure has been on the rise since the International Energy Agency published its monthly report acknowledging that the oil market was now balanced and that commercial glut in major industrial countries fell by about 1 million barrels. Strangely enough, consumers do not alone want to see the end of the agreement and more supply on the market, but Russian oil companies also expressed a similar desire. On Friday, many statements by OPEC officials and Russia came to reflect a change in the general trend, which until a few days ago had been backing an extension of the agreement till 2018 ends. Energy ministers of Russia and Saudi Arabia said their countries were ready to ease oil production cuts to calm consumer fears and reassure the international markets that sufficient supplies are available. Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said the easing of restrictions would be gradual so as to not shock the market, noting that producing countries would soon have the capacity to liberalize supply and that this could probably happen in the second half of 2018. Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said current cuts were in reality 2.7 million bpd due to a drop in Venezuelan production - somewhere around 1 million bpd higher than the initially agreed reductions. Novak did not say whether OPEC and Russia would decide to boost output by 1 million bpd at their June meeting. But he said an agreement of a gradual easing was the likely outcome. “Different options will be put forward. But, it is likely that this will be a gradual easing,” Novak said in comments published on the Russian energy ministry website. Initial talks are being led by the energy ministers of OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia and Russia at St. Petersburg this week along with their counterpart from the United Arab Emirates, which holds the OPEC presidency this year, sources said.
Egyptian Female Preachers Confront Extremist Thought
Cairo - Waleed Abdul Rahman//Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 26 May, 2018/Female Egyptian preachers are countering extremist ideologies by holding meetings and seminars at mosques and gathering places. Observers believe that their preaching helps fight extremism advocated by terrorist groups on the social media, especially after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has made a call to counter this phenomenon. Sisi has wondered why religious sects don’t coexist. The Egyptian Ministry of Endowments has placed 300 female preachers in huge mosques during the month of Ramadan to lecture women following prayers. The ministry, which is responsible for mosques, decided for the first time in February 2017, to appoint 144 women as preachers to work in huge mosques. Observers say that appointing female preachers falls within the framework of implementing Sisi’s call to correct wrong concepts, especially among women who are a target of extremist groups. Egyptian Minister of Endowments Mohammed Mokhtar Jomaa affirmed that the participation of female preachers contributed to spreading the true concept of the religion and to raise awareness on community topics. Subsequently, this would correct misconceptions and spread the culture of Islam as well as support coexistence. Female preacher Nivine Mokhtar stated that Muslim women should be able to enhance the moral behavior of their children and to stop them from following extremist ideology. Mokhtar added that women should teach their children that terrorism has no religion and no country. She shed light on some of the current problems such as spreading false information and misconceptions on the internet.
In the European Appeasement Olympics, Who Wins?
Bruce Bawer/Gatestone Institute/May 26/18
The difference [between what Tommy Robinson did and any reporter] is that the BBC and other mainstream media are determined to give as little coverage as possible to the mass Muslim rape of infidel girls.
These same cops arrested Tommy Robinson on Friday not because he did anything wrong, but because he was drawing attention to Muslim crimes that they would rather see ignored – and drawing attention, too, by extension, to their own genuinely criminal failure to defend innocent children from what was essentially jihadist torture.
Within hours, according to some sources, Robinson was tried and sentenced to thirteen months in prison. Even in Islam-appeasing Britain, this seems inconceivable. It sounds like Soviet or Nazi "justice," not like British jurisprudence.
However Tommy Robinson may have strayed from the straight and narrow over the years, he is a champion of those victimized children, a voice for freedom, and a living rebuke to the cowardice of the British media, police, social workers, and other officials and public figures who knew what was going on in flats in Rotherham, Newcastle, and elsewhere, but stayed silent.
All right, the competition is over. Britain wins.
For years I thought that Britain's long tradition of open debate and individual liberty would enable it to stand up more firmly to the encroachments of Islam than other Western European countries. I worried more about the Netherlands, where Pim Fortuyn and Theo van Gogh were murdered, Ayaan Hirsi Ali was hounded into exile, and Geert Wilders, a member of parliament, was put on trial -- and still is on trial this week -- for criticizing Islam in public. I worried more about Denmark, where Lars Hedegaard, a serious historian, was tried for criticizing Islam in the privacy of his own home, and where the Jyllands-Posten cartoon crisis caused riots. I worried about Norway, where people at the highest levels of government conspired to force an apology out of the editor of a tiny Christian periodical who had dared to reprint the Danish cartoons. I worried about France, where the suburbs of major cities were increasingly becoming sharia enclaves, and Sweden, where a cordon sanitaire was put around the one party that dared criticize that country's own steady Islamization.
But I was wrong. It is Britain that is falling fastest to Islam. It is Britain, our mother country, home of the Magna Carta, that is most firmly betraying its own history and values. It has already banned Robert Spencer, a serious and cogent American critic of Islam, from its shores, even as it lets in the looniest of sharia preachers. More recently, three other critics of Islam – American Brittany Pettibone, Austrian Martin Sellner, and Canadian Lauren Southern – were turned away by British border authorities.
Now, Tommy Robinson has been arrested – not for the first time. Born Stephen Bellon, he is a lifelong resident of Luton who helped found the English Defence League, which he left in 2013 because he disapproved of its focus on race rather than ideology; since then, he been involved with Quilliam, a reformist Muslim think tank; with the Canadian alternative-media group Rebel Media; and with Pegida UK, the British chapter of a German anti-Islam organization. Robinson has been an outspoken critic of Islam, and has been imprisoned several times, sometimes for relatively minor physical disturbances and other misdemeanors – he has admitted that he is no saint – and sometimes simply for speaking his mind. I have never met the man, but I have watched hours of interviews with him and other videos in which he does speak his mind, interviews others, and covers various events, and I must say that he comes off consistently as a decent man who is free of prejudice but legitimately concerned about Islam.
Tommy Robinson. His concern about Islam has made him a target of British authorities. Photo: Tommyrobinson.online.
It is his concern about Islam that has made Robinson a target of British authorities. A few years ago, knowing his public profile as a critic of Islam, they put him into a penal institution, Woodhill Prison, where they knew he would be surrounded by Muslim convicts and vulnerable to physical abuse if not jailhouse murder. Indeed, he was assaulted there, and it was apparently only thanks to intervention by Maajid Nawaz, the founder of Quilliam and a prominent Liberal Democratic Party politician, that he was moved to a safer lockup. Since his release, he has been repeatedly harassed by British police. In May of last year, after he was hired as a Rebel Media correspondent, he was arrested while reporting from outside a court in Canterbury where a Muslim rape trial was underway.
Just a few weeks ago, Robinson was the headliner at a "Day of Freedom" free-speech rally in London. Other speakers included UKIP leader Gerard Batten, YouTube celebrities Gavin McInnes and Carl Benjamin (who goes by the name "Sargon of Akkad"), Anne Marie Waters of the political party For Britain, and Milo Yiannopoulos. I watched it on YouTube. It was impressive. It gave me a bit of hope for that scepter'd (but battered) isle.
Now Robinson has been arrested again. On Friday, while livestreaming on Facebook from outside a court in Leeds, where yet another trial of Muslim child rapists was underway, he was taken into custody by a phalanx of police officers. The charge? "Breaching the peace." In fact, anyone who watches the video of his arrest can see quite clearly that he was only doing what any reporter for the BBC would have done – standing in front of a courtroom, talking into a microphone, and being filmed by a camera. The difference is that the BBC and other mainstream media are determined to give as little coverage as possible to the mass Muslim rape of infidel girls. As for the police, they knew about these "grooming gangs" for many years (as did armies of social workers) but did nothing for fear of being labeled racist or sparking Islamic uprisings. These same cops arrested Tommy Robinson on Friday not because he did anything wrong, but because he was drawing attention to Muslim crimes that they would rather see ignored – and drawing attention, too, by extension, to their own genuinely criminal failure to defend innocent children from what was essentially jihadist torture.
It gets worse. Within hours, according to some sources, Robinson was tried and sentenced to thirteen months in prison. To send him to a British prison, where a very high percentage of inmates are likely to be Muslim, is to condemn him to a life of brutal harassment and, very possibly, a violent death. Even in Islam-appeasing Britain, this seems inconceivable. It sounds like Soviet or Nazi "justice," not like British jurisprudence.
Make no mistake: however Tommy Robinson may have strayed from the straight and narrow over the years, he is a champion of those victimized children, a voice for freedom, and a living rebuke to the cowardice of the British media, police, social workers, and other officials and public figures who knew what was going on in flats in Rotherham, Newcastle, and elsewhere, but stayed silent. Anyone in the United Kingdom who believes in freedom, recognizes the danger of Islam, and has any self-respect should rally to Robinson's cause.
**Bruce Bawer is the author of the new novel The Alhambra (Swamp Fox Editions). His book While Europe Slept (2006) was a New York Times bestseller and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. His other books include A Place at the Table (1993), Stealing Jesus (1997), Surrender (2009), and The Victims' Revolution (2012). A native New Yorker, he has lived in Europe since 1998.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.
Swallowing a lie for fear of an imaginary war
Amir Taheri/Al Arabiya/May 26/18
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 JCPOA. 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 JCPOA does not deliver on either of those accounts. However, a new, revised and improved JCPOA 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 JCPOA, in all the official languages of the UN with the exactitude that the JCPOA 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 JCPOA 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 JCPOA 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.
Muqtada Al Sadr’s plea for help
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/May 26/18
Will Iran allow the man who’s now become the most important player in Iraq’s political life to experiment with the possibilities of rapprochement between Iraqi blocs and create a moment of national political consensus away from the influence of Iran and other foreign powers?
Muqtada Al Sadr, the popular Shiite leader, is unlike other Iraqi leaders which Iran has gotten used to dealing with, especially after Muqtada’s alliance Sairoon won the largest number of seats in the recent parliamentary elections.
Muqtada, the descendant of the religious and political Sadr family in Iraq and son of the most popular branch of the Sadr family, that of Sayyid Mohammed Sadeq al-Sadr, has inherited the popular base that his father had gained among non-partisan popular categories. This is evident in the capital Baghdad, especially in highly-populated neighborhoods like the Sadr City or Al-Shu'ala.
Iran will use its proxies to intimidate Muqtada Al-Sadr and his bloc in order to keep Iraq under its influence
Speaking of Al-Shu'ala, there have recently been terror attacks which I think have been carried out by Muqtada’s foes. It’s expected that Iran will use its allies and proxies, like the Popular Mobilization led by Hadi al-Amiri or Nouri al-Maliki, to intimidate Sadr and his bloc into accepting an Iranian solution in order to keep Iraq under Iran’s influence.
Few days ago while meeting with Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General (SRSG) for Iraq Jan Kubis, Muqtada said: “Our vision for the next phase is for decisions to be purely Iraqi national decisions. This stems from people’s desires and the phase also necessitates this because the Iraqi people have suffered a lot from corruption and poor governance.” He added: “It’s important that the international community and the UN increase their support for Iraq to get out of the tunnel of abominable sectarianism and quotas and stop regional interferences in the election file.”
Will Iraq’s popular leader Muqtada al-Sadr succeed in bringing Iraq out of the tunnel of sectarianism, corruption and quotas? This is the question.