May 29/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me
John 11/55-57//12-01-11: "Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. They were looking for Jesus and were asking one another as they stood in the temple, ‘What do you think? Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?’Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who knew where Jesus was should let them know, so that they might arrest him.Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him. Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, ‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money given to the poor?’(He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.) Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.’ When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, since it was on account of him that any of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 28-29/18
The Iranian Occupation is the cancer & not /Elias Bejjani/May 28/18
US pressure on Hezbollah may hamper Lebanese government/Associated Press/ Ynetnews/May 28/18
Israeli, Russian defense chiefs to meet Thursday in Moscow. Netanyahu: Iran must leave ALL Syria/DEBKAfile/May 28/18
PM Netanyahu, Minister Lieberman to meet European leaders on Iran/Itamar Eichner, Shahar Hay and Yoav Zitun/Haaretz/May 28/18
Looking back, (Israeli) Gaza pullout was a mistake/Sever Plocker/Ynetnews/May 28/18
Fascism Is Back. The Internet Is to Blame/Timothy Snyder/Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 28 May, 2018
He Does Not Like the Sight of Coffins and yet/Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 28 May, 2018
What Happened at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum/Leonid Bershidsky/Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 28 May, 2018
Coalition forces in Syria, Iraq targeted three Canadians, secret document says/Stewart Bell and Andrew Russell/Global News/May 28/18
UK: You're Not Allowed to Talk about It. About What? Don't Ask./ Bruce Bawer/Gatestone Institute/May 28, 2018
Is Italy flirting with Israeli Apartheid/Ramzy Baroud/Al Arabiya/May 28/18
Gaza and the bitter harvest/Mohammed Al Shaikh//Al Arabiya/May 28/18
Obama’s Netflix deal and ‘digital’ Hillary/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/May 28/18

Titles For The Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on May 28-29/18
The Iranian Occupation is the cancer & not the corruption
Hariri Wraps Up One-Day Govt. Consultations with Parliamentary Blocs
Very Optimistic' Hariri Thanks Blocs for Govt. Formation 'Cooperation'
Al-Sayyed Asks Hariri for Justice Ministry Portfolio
Bassil Demands Finance or Interior Portfolio, Calls for Minority Representation
Adwan: We Pledge to be Part of President's Share in Govt.
Kardel Meets Iranian Officials, Says ‘Specter of War’ Must be Kept Away from Lebanon
Al-Rahi in Paris for Talks with Macron, Other Officials
Army Raids in Tripoli in Search of Deadly Clash Fugitive
Douiri denies giving interview to Yediot Aharonot or any other Israeli newspaper
Hariri tackles Army needs with Sarraf, French delegation
Makhzoumi calls for discussing defense strategy within Parliament
Aoun called on the Higher Judicial Council to “preserve the dignity of the government” by fighting corruption
US pressure on Hezbollah may hamper Lebanese government

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 28-29/18
Russia says only Syrian army should be on country's southern border
Israeli PM: We Will Not Allow Transfer of Lethal Weapons from Syria to Lebanon
Moscow Vows to Punish Violations of Syrian Regime Forces
Strikes Cripple Iran for 5th Day as Judiciary Allows Security Forces to Suppress them
EU Extends Syria Sanctions by a Year
Netanyahu: Iran can have no military presence in Syria
Deal Sought to Allow Lieberman to Temporarily Replace Netanyahu in Exchange for Early Polls
India says it only follows UN sanctions, not unilateral US sanctions on Iran
Iraqi Electoral Commission Breaks Silence, Defends Voting Results
Tehran ‘Tests’ European Guarantees Post US Nuclear Deal Exit
Small German Banks Risk Iran Sanctions Damage
Small German Banks Risk Iran Sanctions Damage
Israeli Army Raids West Bank Palestinian Camp after Soldier Death
Italy Plunges into Political Crisis after Govt Talks Collapse
'Hacked' Qatar News Site behind Crisis Back on Twitter

Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on May 28-29/18
The Iranian Occupation is the cancer & not the corruption
Elias Bejjani/May 28/18
The Iranian Occupation is the cancer that is devouring Lebanon in all domains and at all levels. Meanwhile the majority of our derailed merchant like politicians and after they shamefully surrendered to the occupier and became tools in its hands are viciously cheating the public and distracting its focus to the cancer's symptoms like corruption, and not on the main problem, which is the occupation

Hariri Wraps Up One-Day Govt. Consultations with Parliamentary Blocs
Naharnet/May 28/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri on Monday held one-day, unbinding consultations with the parliamentary blocs and deputies in Nejmeh Square, kicking off his bid to form a new government. Hariri first met with Speaker Nabih Berri, and afterwards met separately with former PM Tammam Salam and ex-PM Najib Miqati. Salam made remarks to reporters after the meeting saying although everyone is calling for a quick Cabinet formation, “but I don’t think it should be rushed.” Deputy Speaker Elie Ferzli said he wished Hariri “would take the presence of the opposition into account so as not to disrupt the supervisory role of the Parliament.”The PM-designate then started receiving the various parliamentary blocs. He met with the Development and Liberation bloc that stressed “commitment to the Constitution, preserving Lebanon’s sovereignty and seeking the formation of a national body to abolish political sectarianism.”He then met with al-Mustaqbal bloc and the Strong Lebanon bloc that called for adding two more portfolios to the Cabinet. The Strong Lebanon bloc demanded that minority groups, the Alawite and Syriac communities, be represented in the Cabinet, saying the bloc wants six ministerial portfolios other than the President’s share and the allocation of either the finance or interior ministry to the Free Patriotic Movement.
Hariri then met the Loyalty to Resistance bloc, the Democratic Gathering bloc, the Kataeb bloc and the Strong Republic bloc of the Lebanese Forces. The LF's bloc demanded a share of the ministerial seats allocated to the President, arguing that it had “played a role in his election.”
“We wished success for PM-designate Hariri and we want everyone to show positivity to give a real chance to the country. Today the entire country is on the same boat and if it sinks we will all drown,” Kataeb Party chief MP Sami Gemayel said after the talks. “We care about programs and priorities more than individuals and we will take the right stance accordingly,” he added./
MP Mohammed Raad said Hizbullah's Loyalty to Resistance bloc “welcomed the designation of PM-designate Saad Hariri to form the government and stressed its willingness for positive cooperation with him.” “As for portfolios, the bloc said it has the right to have a key portfolio and also stressed the need to create a public planning ministry for the country in order to clearly define the long-term course that the country would take in a correct and appropriate manner,” Raad added. MP Talal Arslan meanwhile stressed that his Mountain Guarantee bloc should be represented by a Druze minister. “The results of the parliamentary elections led to the formation of two blocs in Mount Lebanon and they have the right to be represented,” Arslan added. MP Hagop Pakradounian of the Armenian MPs bloc meanwhile demanded the formation of a 32-member Cabinet and the allocation of two portfolios to the Armenian community.
MP Fouad Makhzoumi meanwhile called for “discussing the national defense strategy in parliament and not outside state institutions.”Media reports said the various political parties are eager for an “expedited” formation of a “national unity government” able of confronting the “danger facing Lebanon's economic and financial system,” al-Joumhouria daily reported.
Although political parties have reportedly shown eagerness to facilitate the formation process, but they have also reflected their demands regarding portfolios and shares in the new Cabinet. The Progressive Socialist Party (of Walid Jumblat) is demanding the allocation of all three Druze seats to the PSP, which would keep Arslan out of the government. The PSP argue that they kept a place for Arslan on their electoral list during the parliamentary elections, but he chose instead to strike an alliance with the FPM. Another obstacle that could be facing the formation is the dispute between the Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces over the Christian shares and portfolios. Furthermore, the daily said Hariri “will not enter into details during his consultations so as not to commit himself to anything in advance, but rather to listen more than talk.” Meanwhile, “a kind of resentment is lingering among Sunni circles because of attempts made by Shiite and Christian parties to control the role of the PM-designate,” the daily said. “Circles close to Hariri have advised him to draw clear lines for his jurisdiction, mainly that the Sunni situation bears no more jabs particularly after the outcome of the parliamentary election,” the daily added.

Very Optimistic' Hariri Thanks Blocs for Govt. Formation 'Cooperation'
Naharnet/May 28/18/Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri on Monday thanked all parliamentary blocs for their “great cooperation” regarding the cabinet formation process. “Everyone agreed that we must speed up the government formation due to the regional and economic challenges that we are facing in the country and undoubtedly everyone's objective is to improve the national economy and strengthen state institutions,” Hariri said at the end of his one-day, unbinding consultations with parliamentary blocs. “After all that I've heard, I will see what would be the best method to push the country forward in terms of the government's shape and components. We want it to be a national accord cabinet and we want to come together to immunize our domestic arena in the face of the regional challenges,” the PM-designate added. “To me, the economic situation is the most dangerous issue and we must do all we can, because there is a real chance to overcome this dire situation that we are living, due to the CEDRE conference and the reforms that we should make in order to stem corruption and public money waste in the country,” Hariri went on to say.
The premier-designate also reassured that he is “very optimistic” and noted that the political parties are capable of forming a government “as soon as possible.”

Al-Sayyed Asks Hariri for Justice Ministry Portfolio
Naharnet/May 28/18/MP Jamil al-Sayyed, a controversial former General Security chief, on Monday demanded that the justice ministerial portfolio be allocated to his pro-Damascus March 8 political camp. “The meeting with PM(-designate) Saad Hariri was normal and it involved a brief discussion about the 2005 period and its events,” al-Sayyed said after meeting Hariri as part of protocol parliamentary consultations related to the formation of the new cabinet. “Hariri dealt with me as if there has never been a problem between us,” the major general added. Al-Sayyed was one of four generals ordered jailed by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in connection with the 2005 assassination of ex-PM Rafik Hariri, Saad's father. The four generals were eventually released due to lack of evidence. Al-Sayyed has accused so-called “false witnesses” of framing him and the other three generals. After the meeting with Hariri, the newly-elected lawmaker said the new government should be inclusive as much as possible. “The ministerial policy statement should endorse the resistance,” al-Sayyed added. He also said he asked Hariri to allocate the justice ministry portfolio to his political camp “as a sort of compensation and because this ministry witnessed the fabrication of false witnesses.”

Bassil Demands Finance or Interior Portfolio, Calls for Minority Representation
Naharnet/May 28/18/Head of the Strong Lebanon parliamentary bloc, caretaker Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil on Monday said the minorities in Lebanon should be represented in the government, adding that his bloc demands the allocation of either the Finance Ministry or the Interior Ministry in the new Cabinet. “The bloc has demanded the representation of two minority groups, the Alawite and Syriac, in the new cabinet,” Bassil said after meeting Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri as part of consultations made by the Premier to line-up the Cabinet. Bassil also said that the so-called “sovereign portfolios should be distributed to minority groups,” including the Druze and Alawites. The Free Patriotic Movement chief stressed that no party has the right to adhere to specific ministerial portfolios, in an indirect reference to the AMAL Movement demand to permanently allocate the Finance Ministry. “The time has come for the Strong Lebanon bloc to either allocate the Finance Ministry or the Interior Ministry,” he emphasized. LBCI said the bloc has demanded the allocation of six ministerial seats other than the share allocated to President Michel Aoun (founder of the Free Patriotic Movement). Hariri has started consultations with the various parliamentary blocs on Monday in a bid to form a new government.

Adwan: We Pledge to be Part of President's Share in Govt.
Naharnet/May 28/18/Lebanese Forces deputy chief MP George Adwan on Monday vowed that the LF will be “a part of the President's share in the new government.”“What we care about are the standards that will be followed in the formation of the government and the standards that should be followed are that the LF's representation should be equal to the Free Patriotic Movement's representation,” Adwan said after leading the LF's delegation to the protocol parliamentary consultations with Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri. Expressing the LF's willingness to “cooperate to facilitate the formation of a government that would address problems and corruption,” the lawmaker added: “We in the LF consider ourselves to be a part of the President's share, seeing as we were partners in his election.”“We pledge to be a part of the President's share in the new government and everyone knows the role that we played in his election,” Adwan went on to say. As per constitutional norms, Hariri kicked off parliamentary consultations Monday morning to explore the demands of the parliamentary blocs regarding the line-up and policies of the new government. Earlier in the day, FPM chief MP Jebran Bassil had demanded six ministerial portfolios including finance or interior. He also said President Michel Aoun should have four other separate portfolios.

Kardel Meets Iranian Officials, Says ‘Specter of War’ Must be Kept Away from Lebanon
Naharnet/May 28/18/The UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Pernille Dahler Kardel said that staging the parliamentary elections was a “great accomplishment,” as she stressed the need to “keep the specter of war away from Lebanon,” al-Joumhouria daily reported on Monday.
“The latest parliamentary elections in Lebanon was a great accomplishment, but that is not the end of the mission, we must still help Lebanon maintain its stability and keep away the specter of war,” said Kardel. Her remarks came during a meeting on Sunday in Iran with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif and Parliament's General Director for International Affairs Hussein Amir-Abdollahian. “Achieving economic development in Lebanon and protecting Syrian refugees is one of our priorities," she said, hoping to reach a "comprehensive agreement in a political framework on these issues.""The developments in the region are interrelated. Countries of the region should seek to remove the specter of war from Lebanon and not allow it to be involved in regional crises,” she added. For his part, Zarif said Iran “aspires and wants to promote stability and security in Lebanon," adding that “the Lebanese people's vote and their will must be respected.”"Fortunately, through the wisdom of Lebanese officials, we are witnessing a period of calm, stability and understanding between the political parties in Lebanon and we hope that the Lebanese government will be formed in the shortest possible time," Amir-Abdollahian said.

Al-Rahi in Paris for Talks with Macron, Other Officials

Naharnet/May 28/18/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi arrived Monday in the French capital Paris for a visit that involves talks with President Emmanuel Macron, Lebanon's National News Agency said. Al-Rahi will also meet with a number of political and religious officials, NNA said.
Shortly after the patriarch's arrival at his residence at the Hôtel Le Bristol Paris, he was visited by Lebanon's former deputy premier Issam Fares, the agency added. He is accompanied by Maronite Archbishop of Beirut Boulos Matar, Patriarchal Vicar Bishop Boulos Abdel Sater, the head of the Catholic Media Center Father Abdo Abu Kassm and Walid Ghayyad, the head of the patriarchate's press office.

Army Raids in Tripoli in Search of Deadly Clash Fugitive
Naharnet/May 28/18/The army carried out intensive raids Sunday in Tripoli's al-Qobbeh neighborhood in search of a fugitive who took part in a deadly clash with troops earlier this week, media reports said. “The army encircled the street where the raids took place, deploying units on the rooftops of neighboring buildings,” LBCI television reported. Troops were searching a building after the army obtained information about the presence of the fugitive Khaled Hmeidan, who took part in shooting against soldiers in Tripoli several days ago, the TV network added. A soldier was killed and several others were wounded in Tuesday's clash with a number of fugitives in Tripoli's al-Tal area.

Douiri denies giving interview to Yediot Aharonot or any other Israeli newspaper
Mon 28 May 2018/NNA - The Lebanese Film Director, Ziad Douiri, on Monday denied in a statement giving any interview to the Israeli daily 'Yediot Aharonot' or any other Israeli newspaper. "I have called in more than one press interview to fight Islamic extremism and clean the Arab House, and I will continue to say this... However, I did not give any interview to Yediot Aharonot, nor to any other Israeli newspaper," Douiri said in his statement. Douiri added that he has asked his media team in the United States to reject requests for interviews with Israeli media outlets. He categorically denied giving any interview to any Israeli daily or newspaper during the screening of his "Case Number 23" Film in the United States in the run-up to the Oscars ceremony.

Hariri tackles Army needs with Sarraf, French delegation
Mon 28 May 2018/NNA - Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri received this Monday at Beit Al-Wasat caretaker Defense Minister, Yacoub Sarraf, in the presence of the French ambassador to Lebanon, Bruno Fucher, and a delegation from the French administration.
The meeting dwelled on the needs of the Lebanese Army in light of the 400 million euro loan pledged by France at the Rome II Conference dedicated to assisting the Lebanese Army and security forces. Hariri later met with US Senator Cory Booker, in the presence of the US Ambassador to Lebanon, Elizabeth Richard, with talks touching on the situation in Lebanon and the region. Conferees also tackled bilateral relations and ways to bolster ties.

Makhzoumi calls for discussing defense strategy within Parliament
Mon 28 May 2018/NNA - "National Dialogue" Party head, MP Fouad Makhzoumi, on Monday stressed the need to discuss the defense strategy within the Parliament rather than within dialogues from outside the constitutional institutions. MP Makhzoumi's words came in a statement issued by his Media Bureau, in the wake of his meeting with Prime minister-Designate Saad Hariri at the sidelines of parliamentary consultations to form the new cabinet. Makhzoumi said on emerging that they discussed the future work mechanism and development and daily living' projects intended for the welfare of the city of Beirut and its people, in light of the pledges made during the recent parliamentary elections.

Aoun called on the Higher Judicial Council to “preserve the dignity of the government” by fighting corruption
The Daily Star/May 28/18/BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun called on the Higher Judicial Council to “preserve the dignity of the government” by fighting corruption, as he welcomed the appointment of seven new judges to the body Monday. “Starting from today, I hope that you will work to always uphold the dignity of the government and maintain the Constitution,” Aoun told the newly-appointed judges at Baabda Palace, urging them to “remain on our side” against corruption, according to a statement released by his press office. Also speaking at the ceremony, caretaker Justice Minister Salim Jreissati called on the Higher Judicial Council to “root out corruption from the state.”Judges are appointed to the council, which is Lebanon’s highest judicial body, for non-renewable three-year terms.
US pressure on Hezbollah may hamper Lebanese government
الضغوطات الأميركية على حزب الله قد تؤدي إلى عرقلة تشكيل الحكومة اللبنانية

Associated Press/ Ynetnews/May 28/18
Analysis: Caretaker Prime Minister Hariri's aim is to quickly recreate a national unity government that incorporates Hezbollah members to implement reforms and deal with a crippling and growing national debt, but he might come under increasing pressure from US and its Arab allies to shun militant group which says it wants to play a bigger role in the future cabinet.
Growing US pressure on Lebanon's Iranian-backed Hezbollah group, including a new wave of sanctions targeting its top leadership, may hamper the formation of a new government that caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri was overwhelmingly chosen to form on Thursday.
Hariri's aim is to quickly recreate a national unity government that incorporates Hezbollah members to implement reforms and deal with a crippling and growing national debt, but might come under increasing pressure from the US 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 Hezbollah's bloc and some of its allies, did not give a name. Hariri's nomination comes after this month's parliament elections in which Hezbollah, 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 the leading daily An-Nahar. He said Lebanon is again in the heart of the US-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 Hezbollah'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."
Hezbollah, 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 UN-backed tribunal has indicted five Hezbollah members in the 2005 assassination of Hariri's father and former premier Rafik Hariri. Hezbollah 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," Mohammed Raad, who heads Hezbollah's bloc in parliament, said after meeting Aoun.
Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah. Senior organization official says Saudis 'can't prevent Hezbollah from holding important portfolios in the government'
Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah. Senior organization official says Saudis 'can't prevent Hezbollah from holding important portfolios in the government'
Naming Hariri came amid concerns in Lebanon that a new wave of sanctions by the US and its Arab allies against Hezbollah would delay Hariri's formation of the Cabinet.
The increasing pressures by the US and its Arab allies on Hezbollah 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, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tehran should end its support of Hezbollah, Iran's most powerful arm in the region.
"We will track down Iranian operatives and their Hezbollah proxies operating around the world and crush them," Pompeo said.
The US 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 US 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 US 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 Hezbollah officials including its leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, his deputy Naim Kassem and top officials Hashem Safieddine, Ibrahim Aim al-Sayyed, Hussein Khalil and Mohammed Yazbek.
A day later, Washington imposed sanctions on businessman Mohammed Ibrahim Bazzi and Hezbollah'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 US consider Hezbollah 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 Hezbollah and its Iranian backers. Despite Nasrallah's claims, Hezbollah 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 Hezbollah's most prominent financiers cannot be tolerated. This Administration will expose and disrupt Hezbollah 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 Hezbollah would "hamper the formation of the government."
Senior Hezbollah official Nabil Kaouk 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 Hezbollah 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.
Hezbollah'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 Gibran Bassil, who heads the Free Patriotic Movement that has the largest bloc in parliament, about Hezbollah.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 28-29/18
Russia says only Syrian army should be on country's southern border
Reuters, Moscow/Monday, 28 May /Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday that only Syrian government troops should have a presence on Syria’s southern border, which is close to Jordan and Israel. Rebels hold stretches of that area and intensive Israeli airstrikes in Syria this month were prompted by what Israel said was Iranian rocket fire from the area into the Golan Heights. Russia and Iran are close allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “Of course, the withdrawal of all non-Syrian forces must be carried out on a mutual basis, this should be a two-way street,” Lavrov said at a joint news conference in Moscow with Jose Condungua Pacheco, his counterpart from Mozambique.“The result of this work which should continue and is continuing should be a situation when representatives of the Syrian Arab Republic’s army stand at Syria’s border with Israel,” Lavrov said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported Syrian army movements into the south and state media have reported leaflet drops on rebel-held areas there urging insurgents to accept government rule, two signs a military offensive may be coming.
Israeli PM: We Will Not Allow Transfer of Lethal Weapons from Syria to Lebanon
Tel Aviv – Nazir Majali/Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 28 May, 2018/The Israeli government withdrew on Sunday the powers of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to decide on a war unilaterally and only in consultation with the defense minister. Last Monday, the Knesset had granted this authority to the prime minister, allowing him to declare war only with the approval of the defense minister. The government on Sunday decided, however, to restore these powers to its 12-minister security cabinet. The move was a blow to Netanyahu, who, for several weeks, has been trying to provoke a whirlwind of war against Iran that ended with Sunday’s session. The Israeli premier said he was working “to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and in parallel, working against the Iranian military presence in Syria, which is directed against us.”Netanyahu added that he was also seeking to thwart the transfer of lethal weapons from Syria to Lebanon or their production in Lebanon. “All of these weapons are for use against Israel and it is our right – based on the right of self-defense – to prevent their manufacture or transfer,” he said during the cabinet session. The Israeli official said he spoke with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over the weekend and expressed his gratitude for the determined stance the US administration has adopted against the nuclear agreement with Iran and against Iranian aggression in the region. “The regime in Tehran is the main destabilizing party in the Middle East, and the campaign against its aggression is not over and we are still at its peak,” he added.

Moscow Vows to Punish Violations of Syrian Regime Forces

Beirut - Damascus - London - Nazeer Rida and Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 28 May, 2018/Moscow has vowed to deal forcefully with any violations by the Syrian regime forces “in areas liberated with the participation of Russian forces.”Hmeimim military base said on its Facebook page on Sunday that the Russian police in the south of Damascus “managed to arrest a number of members of the Syrian regime forces after trying to loot and steal civilian properties.”“Russian forces certainly do not allow violations in the liberated areas, and the Russian police are committed to restoring security to areas south of Damascus. Any rebelling individuals… will be dealt with force in the areas where they are being held,” it added. In response, proponents of the Syrian regime accused Moscow of “generating terrorism” in Syria and “insulting the Syrian military uniform”. A person, who identified himself as First Lieutenant Hayyan Lohu of the Syrian regime forces, accused the Russian side of “generating terrorism” and seeking to win the opposition support for the Russian presence. In the Syrian Badiah, ISIS intensified its attacks on the gathering points and positions of regime forces and their allies, leaving dozens, including Russian fighters, dead. The deadliest attack occurred last Wednesday in the province of Deir Ezzor, with the killing of 35 fighters of the regime forces and loyalists, including nine Russian fighters, according to information published by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) on Sunday.
In the past few days, social networking sites have been flooded with images of regime forces looting and stealing houses in the neighborhoods they re-captured south of Damascus - in al-Hajar al-Aswad and the Yarmouk refugee camp -and other areas.
Strikes Cripple Iran for 5th Day as Judiciary Allows Security Forces to Suppress them
London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 28 May, 2018/As truck drivers’ strikes in Iran continued for the fifth day, the Iranian judiciary on Sunday ordered the security forces to take firm steps to quell any protests that could challenge the authorities. Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei warned that groups with legitimate demands and a right to protest should not allow the “opportunists, counter-revolutionaries and terrorists to exploit them.”“I urge families not to let their children be fooled by psychological warfare ... and not let counter-revolutionaries infiltrate crowds of protesters, who have with legitimate demands,” he stated. In a first response from the judiciary to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s announcement last week of a stronger strategy to face Iranian threats, Ejei said: “No one says the United States can be trusted.”The US has, “from the beginning, wanted to confront Iran through a military and economic war,” he added. During an interview with Voice of America Persian last week, Pompeo had called on the Iranian authorities to stop “looting” their own people. Iran had seen popular protests at the end of December, which extended to mid-January, reaching more than 80 Iranian cities. The protests saw turned violent in 46 cities, leading to 12 civilian deaths and hundreds of detentions. Demonstrators chanted slogans criticizing the economic situation and corruption, while some called for overthrowing the regime and the departure of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, as well as a halt to Iran’s regional meddling. Meanwhile, truck drivers’ strike continued for the fifth day across Iran, as the government ignored union demands to raise cargo fees. State-run Iran Labor News Agency (ILNA) reported on Sunday that the demand to increase the cargo fees by 20 percent was among the motives of the strike. Truck drivers protested high expenses, resulting from taxes, services and insurance, in comparison with low cargo fees. In parallel, universities of Baluchistan province witnessed on Sunday angry protests after the circulation of a video showing a professor at the University of Zahedan making harmful statements against Sunnis. The authorities announced that they arrested the professor in light of the protests.

EU Extends Syria Sanctions by a Year

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 28/18/The European Union on Monday extended sanctions against the Syrian government for another year because of the "ongoing repression of the civilian population."A meeting of the 28 EU foreign ministers in Brussels agreed to roll over sanctions against President Bashar al-Assad's regime until June 1, 2019 and also updated the bloc's list of individuals subject to travel bans and asset freezes. A total of 259 people and 67 organizations are now under sanction by the EU. "Given the ongoing repression of the civilian population, the EU decided to maintain its restrictive measures against the Syrian regime and its supporters, in line with the EU strategy on Syria," the European Council, which groups the member states, said in a statement. EU sanctions currently in place against Syria include an oil embargo, restrictions on certain investments, a freeze of Syrian central bank assets held in the EU and restrictions on the export of equipment that might be used for repression. The EU has been pushing for a resumption of U.N.-led peace talks in Geneva as a means to end the Syrian civil war, which has raged since 2011.

Netanyahu: Iran can have no military presence in Syria
AFP, Jerusalem/Monday, 28 May 2018/Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday he will press German and French leaders next week to support his position that Iran should have no military presence in neighboring Syria.
Netanyahu will travel to Germany and France for talks expected to focus on the US decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal -- long sought by Israel -- and the Iranian presence in Syria. He will meet French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the June 4-6 trip. Netanyahu said he may also meet British Prime Minister Theresa May. “We believe that there is absolutely no room for any Iranian military presence in any part of Syria,” Netanyahu told senior officials from his Likud party, according to a statement from his office. “These things, of course, reflect not only our position. I can safely say that they also reflect the views of others in the Middle East and beyond the Middle East. This will be the main focus of my discussions.” Israel has been pledging for months to prevent its main enemy Iran from entrenching itself militarily in Syria, where Tehran is backing President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Earlier this month, Israel launched a large-scale attack on what it said were Iranian targets in Syria, raising fears of a major confrontation. Those strikes followed a barrage of rockets that Israel said was fired toward its forces in the occupied Golan Heights by Iran from Syria.
Israeli soldiers block a road in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, on February 10, 2018. (AFP)
Recent strikes
Even before that, Israel had been blamed for a series of recent strikes inside Syria that killed Iranians, though it has not acknowledged them. Israel argues the lifting of sanctions under the nuclear deal allowed Iran to expand its presence in the Middle East, both through its own forces and with proxy groups.
It also says the time limits on the accord do not guarantee Iran will not eventually obtain nuclear weapons, while it also wants to see restrictions on Iranian missile development. Trump announced on May 8 that the United States was pulling out of the agreement, but all other parties to it -- Germany, France, Britain, China and Russia -- say the agreement is working as intended and want to stick by it. There have been concerns over the fallout from the White House decision and tensions in Syria. Chagai Tzuriel, director general of Israel’s intelligence ministry, told journalists on Monday he believed recent events were convincing countries such as Russia that allowing Iran to entrench itself militarily in Syria was not worth it. Russia is also backing Assad’s regime in Syria and Netanyahu has held a series of recent discussions with President Vladimir Putin on Iran’s presence there. Tzuriel said that if the opportunity is not seized on and Iran is not pushed back “we are on a collision course with Iran”.
Deal Sought to Allow Lieberman to Temporarily Replace Netanyahu in Exchange for Early Polls
Tel Aviv – Nazir Majali/ Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 28 May, 2018/At a time when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been stirring up an atmosphere of war against Iran, contrary to the desire of the army and the majority of intelligence services, efforts are being exerted in Tel Aviv to bring forward the date of parliamentary elections. This will help boost his image before the public as he battle corruption cases that have been piling up against him by the police and prosecution. Given the fierce opposition Netanyahu is facing from his closest allies on the right and the far-right, he has been trying to reach a deal with Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman that will provide him with the required majority to dissolve the Knesset (Israeli parliament) within the next two months and head towards new elections. The deal relies on the position of religious parties that oppose mandatory military service being imposed on religious Jews. According to the expected scenario, these parties will insist on drafting a law that reduces the chances of imposing mandatory enlistment on religious youths. Lieberman will be expected to vote against it and withdraw from the government coalition, granting Netanyahu a minority government that relies on 61 of the 120 deputies. To this end, Lieberman wants a deal under which Netanyahu promises to include his party in the Likud to form a single bloc. He also wants the creation of the post of "acting prime minister", to which he will be appointed, while also retaining his post as defense minister.
Should the police and the prosecution insist on trying and indicting Netanyahu in corruption cases, Lieberman will then replace him as premier and vow to back him in his judicial fight. Circles close to the two officials confirmed that the deal is viable, but key sources in the ruling Likud party have strongly rejected it.
They explained that a Likud-Lieberman alliance was struck in the 2012, but failed miserably in the elections, winning no more than 31 seats. Both parties were represented by 42 seats before the elections, 27 for the Likud and 15 for Lieberman. The alliance fell apart in 2014.
Key Likud leaders oppose an alliance because it will eliminate their chances of replacing Netanyahu. They have declared that such a deal, and under this condition, will bring about the end of the Likud as a historic party for the right, in favor of Lieberman, the opportunist.
Despite the opposition, Netanyahu is insisting on trying to find a way to bring forward the date of the elections. He does not want to repeat the mistake of his predecessor, Ehud Olmert, who resigned as soon as the prosecution announced its intention to indict him for corruption.
He believes that the best way for him is to confront the police and the prosecution from his position as prime minister, and according to opinion polls, the elections will allow him to boost his power. He is trying to confront the party's internal opposition and believes that even if he was put on trial, he needs a prime minister loyal to him. In such a scenario, he will find no figure more loyal than Lieberman, who himself had waged a long bitter battle with the police and prosecution over corruption cases.
India says it only follows UN sanctions, not unilateral US sanctions on Iran
Reuters, New Delhi/Monday, 28 May 2018/India only abides by sanctions imposed by the United Nations and not those imposed by any other country, such as ones announced by the United States against Iran, India’s foreign minister said on Monday. US President Donald Trump this month withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal and ordered the re-imposition of US sanctions against Iran that were suspended under the 2015 accord. But Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj said New Delhi’s position was independent of any other country. “India follows only UN sanctions, and not unilateral sanctions by any country,” she said at a news conference in response at a question on India’s response to the US decision. India and Iran have long-standing political and economic ties, with Iran one of India’s top oil suppliers. Later on Monday, Swaraj will meet Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif who arrived in New Delhi to build support against the US rejection of the nuclear accord.

Iraqi Electoral Commission Breaks Silence, Defends Voting Results
Baghdad - Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 28 May, 2018/A week after doubts, accusations and calls for cancellation surrounding the final results of Iraq’s parliamentary election, the Independent Higher Election Commission broke its longstanding silence and issued a lengthy statement.
In response to overall objections and backlash against the electoral process and results, the commission – acting under government orders— reaffirmed that e-polling is part of the national constitution since the 2013 amendment on regulations pertaining to parliamentary elections.
However, the statement did not address Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi referring results to a government integrity commission for a probe. Abadi’s move came after he argued that the e-polling was conducted without contracting with licensed companies to examine voting systems.
As for arguments on the voting of displaced people, the commission said that they represent at most an approximate 2 percent of the number of polling stations. It added that after registering violations, several of these stations were canceled. The statement concluded that the polling process and vote count were conducted under ministerial and international supervision, adding its willingness to provide any data needed to cement confidence in results. Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court, meanwhile, rejected a request to cancel the parliamentary election results over allegations of voting irregularities, but said it will accept complaints put forth by doubters. Objections citing irregularities in balloting were raised by several political parties suggesting that hackers may have manipulated results. “The Iraqi supreme federal court met and discussed the complaints and decided not to proceed any further," the spokesman of the court, Eyas Al Samok said. Samok stated that the issue must be raised to the Independent High Electoral Commission, “which is responsible for accepting complaints and objections to alleged violations during the election period.”

Tehran ‘Tests’ European Guarantees Post US Nuclear Deal Exit
London - Adil Al-Salmi/ Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 28 May, 2018 /Iran is currently in the process of testing guarantees given by European signatories in hopes of keeping it in the nuclear deal signed in 2015, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi informed the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of the Iranian parliament on Sunday. Araghchi gave a detailed explanation on the outcome of last Friday’s joint committee meeting in Vienna, which was held to discuss the repercussions of Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal.  However, Araghchi expressed pessimism towards the chances of talks working in saving the deal post a US exit. “I felt that negotiations will not lead to tangible results,” he said in a press statement after leaving parliament. He called on the Europeans to work hard on meeting Iranian demands. The Iranian diplomat went on to point out that Tehran has not yet decided whether to stay in the nuclear agreement. “Iran has not yet decided whether to stay in the JCPOA or not and the final decision in this regard is left to the results of the negotiations with remaining members of the JCPOA in the next couple of weeks,” highlighted Araghchi. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action JCPOA, known commonly as the Iran nuclear deal or Iran deal, is an agreement on the nuclear program of Iran reached in Vienna between Iran, the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council—China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States—plus Germany), and the European Union. Stressing that the decision depends on the course of negotiations in the coming weeks, Araghchi reiterated Tehran’s desire to keep talks ongoing. “We will continue negotiations as long as we feel that they are on the right track and take into account the Iranian timeframe,” he said. Spokesman of the Parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Seyed Hossein Naghavi Hosseini said Aragachi told lawmakers those European signatories insist on preserving the deal. “Negotiations have stayed their course, and we see the intention they (Germany, France and the UK) have to save the agreement-- as far as they are able to implement Iran’s demanded guarantees, evaluation is up to Tehran,” Naghavi cited Araghchi.

Small German Banks Risk Iran Sanctions Damage
Frankfurt - Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 28 May, 2018 /Several German banks have been doing business with Iran since the 2015 nuclear deal, but their adventures might come to an end amid a November deadline issued by Washington after the US president abandoned the agreement that loosened business restrictions on Iran in exchange for Tehran giving up its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Germany's two biggest banks, Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank, avoid Iran completely after being slapped with harsh fines in 2015 over their dealings there, with Deutsche alone paying $258 million in penalties. But some firms plan to press on in their dealings with Iran despite the looming threat of penalties. "We will continue to serve our clients," for now, said Patrizia Melfi, a director at the "international competence centre" (KCI) founded by six cooperative savings banks in the small town of Tuttlingen in southwest Germany. The center has seen demand "rising sharply in the last few years, from firms listed on the Dax (Germany's index of blue-chip firms), from all over Germany and from Switzerland," she added, according to Agence France Presse.
Already, firms dealing with Tehran are taking great care not to fall foul of US restrictions. Transactions are carried out in euros, and the KCI does not deal with businesses that have American citizens or green card resident holders on their boards. What's more, products sold to Iran cannot contain more than 10 percent of parts manufactured in the US. One of the most important inputs for the business is "courage among our managers" given the high risks involved, Melfi said. DZ Bank, which operates as a central bank for more than 1,000 local co-op lenders, is withdrawing completely from payment services there, a spokesman told AFP. That left KCI to seek out the German branch of Iranian state-owned bank Melli in Hamburg. Even that linkage could break if Iran's biggest business bank appears on a US list of barred businesses as it has before. Meanwhile, among Germany's roughly 390 Sparkasse savings banks, business with the regime is mostly limited to producing documents linked to export contracts. "We will be looking even more closely at those" in the future, a person familiar with the trade told AFP. Elsewhere in the German economy, the European-Iranian Trade Bank (EIH) founded in 1971 is another conduit to Tehran. Also based in Hamburg, it for now remains "fully available to you with our products and services", the bank assures clients on its website, although "business policy decisions by European banks may result in short term or medium term restrictions on payments".Neither does the Bundesbank (German central bank) believe that much has so far changed for business with Iran. "Only the European Union's sanctions regime will be decisive", if and when it is changed, the institution told AFP. Any payment involving an Iranian party would have to be approved by the Bundesbank if things return to their pre-January 2016 state. German banking lobby group Kreditwirtschaft has called on Berlin and other EU nations to clarify their stance -- and to make sure banks and their clients are "effectively protected against possible American sanctions". KCI's Melfi said time is running out for EU governments to act. Many firms just want to stop anything with Iran, since they can't calculate the risk of staying," she noted.

Arab Coalition Destroys Iran-Made Drone Warehouses in Saada
London, Aden - Asharq Al-Awsat/The Saudi-led Arab Coalition announced on Sunday that it destroyed drone warehouses belonging to the Houthi militias in their stronghold of Saada in Yemen. Coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Maliki revealed to Al-Arabiya television that Houthi drones, which are called “Qasif” by the militias, were actually re-branded Iran-made Ababil drones. An examination of the debris showed the drones were manufactured by Iran and used by the Houthis, Maliki said in a statement cited by the Saudi Press Agency.
The spokesman described the use of drones by the Houthis as an act of terrorism, stressing that militia terror crimes are being countered effectively and dealt with in a timely and firm manner by coalition forces. In what is considered a military escalation, Maliki said that the Houthis have resorted to Iranian drone attacks to divert attention from great losses they are suffering in strategic locations in Saada, Hodeidah, al-Bayda and Hajjah. He revealed that the militias were dealt a “painful blow” after their field commanders were targeted in Razih front. The commanders were identified as Abu Hussein Ghathwan, Walid Saleh al-Ghamri, Ali Qassim Qazan and Hamid Muhammad Rawiya. In a separate development, pro-government Yemeni Popular Resistance spokesman Colonel Sadeq Dweid said that forces are inching in closer to Hodeidah and are only 18 kilometers away after winning fierce battles against the Houthis. The Arab Coalition and Yemeni Resistance forces are also making major advances beyond Zubeid Junction, south of Hodeidah. Hodeidah Governor Dr. Hassan Taher said that Yemeni national army troops and pro-government resistance forces continued their strong advances towards Hodeidah with the support of the Arab Coalition. In a statement quoted by Yemeni news agency Saba, he explained that three new directorates in Hodeidah have been liberated from Houthis.

Israeli Army Raids West Bank Palestinian Camp after Soldier Death
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 28/18/The Israeli army raided a Palestinian refugee camp in the occupied West Bank Monday, AFP journalists said, in an apparent hunt for suspects in the killing of a soldier. Dozens of Israeli troops entered the Amari Refugee Camp in Ramallah in the early hours of Monday, closing off all the entrances, AFP journalists said. At least 13 Palestinians were lightly or moderately injured during the raid as clashes broke out, the Palestinian Health Ministry said, with soldiers firing tear gas and bullets. Residents said a number of Palestinians were arrested, though there was no immediate confirmation or statement from the army. Israeli forces later withdrew from the camp. It came days after an Israeli soldier was killed during a raid inside the camp. Sergeant Ronen Lubarsky, 20, of the Duvdevan special forces unit, was struck on the head by a stone block thrown during an arrest raid Thursday and died early Saturday. Israeli media said the block was a granite slab dropped from a third-floor window. Those responsible were not arrested at the time. Amari is located inside Ramallah, seat of the Palestinian Authority, in an area theoretically under the full control of the Palestinian government. Israeli forces regularly carry out night raids in Palestinian-governed parts of the West Bank to arrest suspects they accuse of militant activities against Israel. Amari, home to around 6,000 Palestinians according to the United Nations, is a regular flashpoint where Israeli raids have sparked fierce clashes in the past.

Italy Plunges into Political Crisis after Govt Talks Collapse
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 28/18/Italy was plunged into fresh political chaos as the president prepared Monday to appoint a pro-austerity economist as leader after a bid by two populist parties to form a government collapsed. The crisis was sparked when President Sergio Mattarella vetoed the nomination of fierce eurosceptic Paolo Savona as economy minister, enraging the far-right League and leading to the anti-establishment Five Star Movement calling for his impeachment. The decision led to prime minister-elect Giuseppe Conte stepping aside, exacerbating the political turmoil nearly three months after March's inconclusive general election. Mattarella said he had accepted every proposed minister except Savona, who has called the euro a "German cage" and has said that Italy needs a plan to leave the single currency "if necessary". The leaders of Five Star and the League, Luigi Di Maio and Matteo Salvini, furiously denounced the veto, decrying what they called meddling by Germany, debt ratings agencies and financial lobbies. Mattarella has summoned Carlo Cottarelli, an economist formerly with the International Monetary Fund, for talks at 0930 GMT, with a temporary technocrat government on the table as Italy faces the strong possibility of new elections in the autumn. Cottarelli, 64, was director of the IMF's fiscal affairs department from 2008 to 2013 and became known as "Mr Scissors" for making cuts to public spending in Italy. But he will struggle to gain the approval of parliament with Five Star and the League commanding a majority in both houses. "They've replaced a government with a majority with one that won't obtain one," said Di Maio.
- 'First impeachment, then polls' -A livid Di Maio later called for the president to be impeached.
"I hope that we can give the floor to Italians as soon as possible, but first we need to clear things up. First the impeachment of Mattarella... then to the polls." "Why don't we just say that in this country it's pointless that we vote, as the ratings agencies, financial lobbies decide the governments."Salvini, who was Savona's biggest advocate and a fellow eurosceptic, declared that Italy was not a "colony", and that "we won't have Germany tell us what to do". On Monday, Salvini threatened to break his alliance with pre-election right-wing coalition partner Silvio Berlusconi should the media mogul's Forza Italia party vote for the government. The 81-year-old billionaire former prime minister released a statement on Sunday in which he praised Mattarella's efforts to "safeguard this country's families and businesses. His partnership with Salvini, which saw them part of a grouping that won the most votes in the March vote, is still in place despite the League's attempt to form a government with Five Star, as Forza Italia and the League hold local and regional administrations together. "Berlusconi's statement yesterday was the same sort of thing that could have been written by (former centre-left prime minister Matteo) Renzi," Salvini told Radio Capitale. French far-right leader Marine Le Pen joined in their outrage on Monday, accusing the president of a "coup d'etat" and saying the "European Union and financial markets are again confiscating democracy". On Monday, the Milan stock market rose sharply after the president's veto.
- 'Diktats' -A former judge at Italy's constitutional court, Mattarella has refused to bow to what he saw as "diktats" from the two parties that he considered contrary to the country's interests. He had watched for weeks as Five Star and the League set about trying to strike an alliance that would give Italy's hung parliament a majority. Mattarella said he has done "everything possible" to aid the formation of a government, but that an openly eurosceptic economy minister ran against the parties' joint promise to simply "change Europe for the better from an Italian point of view". "I asked for the (economy) ministry an authoritative person from the parliamentary majority who is consistent with the government programme... who isn't seen as a supporter of a line that could probably, or even inevitably, provoke Italy's exit from the euro," Mattarella said.
The president said Conte refused to support "any other solution" and then, faced with Mattarella's refusal to approve the choice of political novice Savona, 53, gave up his mandate to be prime minister.

'Hacked' Qatar News Site behind Crisis Back on Twitter
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 28/18/Qatar's state-run news agency was back on Twitter on Monday for the first time since its "hacked" website carried controversial comments from the emir that sparked a Gulf crisis.In its first tweet since May 24 last year, the Qatar News Agency announced the emir had sent a message to Azerbaijan's president, Ilham Aliyev. The return to social media follows QNA gaining notoriety last May, when a press release purporting to contain quotes from the emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, appeared on its website. In comments said to have been from a military graduation ceremony, the emir in part expressed understanding for Hizbullah and Hamas, and claimed Donald Trump might not last long as U.S. president. Doha insists the explosive remarks were fake and that the website was "hacked by an unknown entity." However, less than a fortnight later, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt abruptly broke off diplomatic and trade relations with Qatar, accusing it of having links with radical groups and seeking closer ties with Iran. Qatar denies the charges and the boycott remains in place almost a year later.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 28-29/18
Israeli, Russian defense chiefs to meet Thursday in Moscow. Netanyahu: Iran must leave ALL Syria
اجتماع قريب بين وزيري دفاع اسرائيل وروسيا/نيتانياهو يصر على المغادرة الكاملة لإيران من سوريا
DEBKAfile/May 28/18
PM Netanyahu said on May 28 Iran must quit all parts of Syria, qualifying Lavrov’s comment that only Syrian forces should stay on Israel’s border. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman was then invited for talks with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigo in Moscow on Thursday, May 31. He will be accompanied by Military Intelligence (AMAN) chief Maj. Gen. Tamir Haiman and senior security-political adviser Zohar Palti.
Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov’s comment on Monday, May 28 – that only Syrian government forces should stand on the Israeli border – was a step in the process initiated by his boss. On May 18, President Vladimir Putin summoned the Syrian ruler Bashar Assad to Sochi in order to co-opt him, with President Donald Trump’s tacit assent, to the latest Russian-US posture on Syria. The new direction was summed up by Putin after their meeting in a short sentence: “All foreign troops must withdraw from Syria after the start of the political settlement,” he said to Tehran’s dismay.
On May 23, DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources disclosed that Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had embarked on a consistent, calculated campaign against Iran, contrary to many claims by critics that it was haphazard and unrealistic, and that this strategy was the fruit of a secret deal between Trump and Putin. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Syria’s Bashar Assad are both playing roles.
This joint effort is still in an incipient stage and will no doubt undergo ups and downs as it matures. But meanwhile, on May 23, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad had this to say: “Whether Iranian forces or Hizballah withdraw or stay in Syria is not up for discussion because it’s the [business] of the Syrian government.” Mekdad did not go on to spell out where his government stood on this question, further deepening the uncertainty in Tehran.
The last issue of DEBKA weekly of May 25, outlined in exclusive detail how the nascent collaborative effort was conceived and its early steps. Then, on Sunday, May 27, Netanyahu bluntly informed the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem that the campaign against Iranian aggression had not ended: “We are working to prevent Iran obtaining nuclear weapons…against Iran’s consolidated military presence against us… and operating against the transfer of deadly weapons from Syria to Lebanon or their manufacture in Lebanon,” he said.
What he was saying was that expelling Iran’s military presence from the Israeli border region was not the end of it and that Iran’s military facilities would be targeted henceforth in all parts of Syria – and even outside its boundaries towards Lebanon.
The Russian foreign minister’s comment the next day was meant as a reminder that Moscow stood by the principle of reciprocity. While conceding that no forces other than those of the Syrian government should stand on the Israeli border, he added: “Of course, the withdrawal of all non-Syrian forces must be carried out on a reciprocal basis. It must be a two-way street.” His message was plain: Iran and Hizballah will have to withdraw their forces from Syria, but so too must the US and France.
Netanyahu answered Lavrov with another word about his plans for Iran. He told his Likud faction that he would present Israel’s position – that there is no place for an Iranian military presence in any part of Syria – when he meets German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May next week in their capitals.
The positions laid out this week by Moscow and Jerusalem will no doubt be followed by some pretty animated rhetoric from Washington, Moscow, Jerusalem, Damascus and also Tehran, to the accompaniment of further military action in Syria.
PM Netanyahu, Minister Lieberman to meet European leaders on Iran
رئيس الوزراء الإسرائيلي سيلتقي قادة أوروبا لبحت الشأن الإيراني
Itamar Eichner, Shahar Hay and Yoav Zitun/Haaretz/May 28/18
Premier to leave for Germany, France next week, possibly also visiting UK to impress upon countries' leaders importance of blocking Iranian nuclear aspirations, expansion in Middle East; Defense Minister Lieberman to visit Moscow for meeting with Russian counterpart, accompanied by head of Military Intelligence Directorate. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will leave for a three-day visit to Germany and France starting next Monday, during which he will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss the Iranian nuclear threat and the Islamic republic's entrenchment in Syria. The premier is also said to be mulling continuing across the English Channel from Paris to London, to meet with British Prime Minister Theresa May.
Before he does, however, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman will leave for a working visit to Russia this coming Wednesday. Lieberman was invited by his Russian counterpart Sergey Shoygu after the two conversed this past weekend.
The meeting will take place Thursday, with the defense minister being joined by the head of the Military Intelligence Directorate Maj.-Gen. Tamir Hayman, head of the Defense Ministry's Political-Military Bureau Zohar Palti and other defense establishment officials.
Prime Minister Netanyahu outlined his upcoming trip at the commencement of his party's parliamentary group meeting, saying, "Next week I will leave for Europe. I will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with French President Emmanuel Macron and perhaps with British Prime Minister Theresa May as well.""I will discuss with them blocking Iranian nuclear aspirations and Iranian expansion in the Middle East," the premier expounded. "I will present our positions as clearly as possible. We are already well experienced. For years we stood alone against these twin threats and I think that the situation has changed for the better. Of course I will present these matters as vital to the security of Israel." On Syria, Netanyahu said, "We believe that there is no room for any Iranian military presence anywhere in Syria. And of course, this reflects not only our position; I can say with certainty that it also reflects the positions of others in the Middle East and outside it. This will be the main focus of discussions there."Earlier Monday, Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov said that only Syrian soldiers should be stationed on the country's southern frontier, near Israel.
In so doing, the Russian diplomat may have been sending a message to Syrian rebels, still waging war against the Syrian army near the border, or it may have been a rare warning aimed at Hezbollah and Iran, whose presence near the border greatly perturbs Israel.
Prime Minister Netanyahu himself met Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this month, and expressed his concern at Iranian entrenchment in Syria. "I have no reason to believe Russia will harm our interest," Netanyahu said after the meeting. "I told Putin it was our right to defend ourselves against Iranian aggression emanating from Syria."

Looking back, (Israeli) Gaza pullout was a mistake

بالعودة إلى الوراء في الزمن..فإن الإنسحاب الإسرائيلي من غزة كان خاطئاً
Sever Plocker/Ynetnews/May 28/18
Op-ed: Had Israel remained in Gaza, the economic gap between the Palestinians in the strip and in the West Bank would have been narrowed, the PA would have maintained its rule, tens of thousands of Gazans would be working in Israel and the level of violence would have dropped.
The recent developments on the Gaza border lead to a grim political conclusion: The experiment called the disengagement failed.
Gaza isn’t controlled by the Palestinian Authority, as the supporters of the disengagement—myself included—expected. Gaza was basically handed over to Hamas, which failed to establish a civilian government there. Instead, it established a wild military regime seeking conflicts and lacking any civilian goals. Israel, for its part, tried to rid itself of Gaza, suffocate it and hand it over to Egyptian responsibility.
At the end of the day, neither option was implemented: Gaza is stuck in our throats, today more than ever. The conflict isn’t over. It has worsened, and it likely won’t end on its own.
The disengagement wasn’t an initiative of the “peace camp”; it was the personal initiative of late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. On paper, it seemed like the right solution—the beginning of a process to end the occupation. That’s how it was presented by Sharon too.
But immediately after Israel pulled out of there, it turned out the strip wouldn’t be like Singapore—but rather like Benghazi. The Hamas militias had no interest in an organized transfer of the production and real estate assets Israel had left behind. They preferred to build training camps in greenhouses than grow tomatoes there. And the PA vanished from the area. That sealed the enclave’s fate.
The economic, social and security situation in Gaza has deteriorated in the years that have passed since the disengagement: Thousands of Gazans have been killed in three wars against Israel, tens of thousands have been wounded, and an unknown number have died due to lack of water, electricity and basic medical services. On the Israeli side, many soldiers and civilians have been killed, communities have been damaged and billions have been invested in fortification and in protecting the border.
Our siege worsened the crisis in the strip but didn’t create it. It was created by the fact that the Gazans’ fate was placed—or rather deserted—in the hands of a cruel, violent, illegal and incompetent Islamic terror organization, which was unprepared to rule as a responsible government. Nevertheless, many Israelis, including senior IDF officers, saw it as the lesser of two evils. So did many European and Arab politicians, who didn’t lift a finger to loosen its grip.
Now, tens of thousands of Gazans are protesting under slogans that not a single Israeli can accept or identify with. They’re not protesting against the occupation, against the siege or against the US Embassy’s move to Jerusalem, as the Western media are wrongly reporting; they are protesting against the actual existence of a Jewish state. And we are responding with cruel live fire. We are firing without crying. They are dying without crying. They have nothing to lose apart from a miserable and hopeless existence. It’s a terrible reality. And the hatred is breaking new records.
Looking back, the disengagement was a mistake. I admit I was wrong to support it, although I had my reservations. Had Israel remained in Gaza, the economic gap between the Palestinians in the strip and the Palestinians in the West Bank would have been narrowed, and a solution would have been found for the transfer of goods and people between Gaza and Hebron. The PA would have maintained its rule—and would have even grown stronger. Tens of thousands of Gazans would be working in Israel, as they did in the past, and the level of violence would have dropped.
What now? Israel won’t reoccupy Gaza, but Israel can serve as a critical element in jumpstarting an international move to free the strip of Hamas and restore the PA's rule. We must, therefore, turn to the Arab League and the European Union countries immediately and call for a comprehensive initiative that would include ending the siege, disarming Hamas, opening the crossings between Gaza and Egypt and bringing the PA back to the strip as the only legitimate government.
Because as long as Israel continues the siege, as long as Hamas continues the terror regime, as long as Egypt remains indifferent and the PA keeps enjoying the bloodshed, no one will be willing to invest the billions of dollars needed to reconstruct Gaza—critical investments which will open a window of hope for the strip’s residents, slightly ease their despair and cool the boiling atmosphere. The vicious circle of bloodshed won’t stop turning on its own. On the contrary, its rounds will only hasten and become more frequent—and more disastrous.

Fascism Is Back. The Internet Is to Blame
Timothy Snyder/Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 28 May, 2018
Some Americans ask: What is wrong with the internet? Others ask: Can fascism return? These questions are the same question.
Despite all the happy talk about connecting people, the internet has not spread liberty around the globe. On the contrary, the world is less free, in part because of the Web. In 2005, when less than one-quarter of the global population was online, common sense held that more connectivity would mean more freedom. But while Mark Zuckerberg was calling connectivity a basic human right, the more traditional rights were in decline as the internet advanced. According to Freedom House, every year since 2005 has seen a retreat in democracy and an advance of authoritarianism. The year 2017, when the internet reached more than half the world’s population, was marked by Freedom House as particularly disastrous. Young people who came of age with the internet care less about democracy and are more sympathetic to authoritarianism than any other generation.
It’s telling that the internet has become a weapon of choice for those who wish to spread authoritarianism. In 2016, Russian Twitter bots spread divisive messages designed to discourage some Americans from voting and encourage others to vote for Russia’s preferred presidential candidate, Donald Trump. Britain’s vote to leave the European Union that same year was substantially influenced by bots from beyond its borders. Democracy arose as a method of government in a three-dimensional world, where interlocutors could be physically identified and the world could be discussed and verified. Modern democracy relies upon the notion of a “public space” where, even if we can no longer see all our fellow citizens and verify facts together, we have institutions such as science and journalism that can provide reference points for discussion and policy.
The internet breaks the line between the public and the private by encouraging us to confuse our private desires with the actual state of affairs. This is a constant human tendency. But in assuming that the internet would make us more rather than less rational, we have missed the obvious danger: that we can now allow our browsers to lead us into a world where everything we would like to believe is true. We think of computers as “ours” and imagine that we are the rational ones, using computers as tools. For many of us, much of the time, this may be a disastrously self-flattering perspective. When we perform a search or read a feed, we are encountering instead an entity that runs algorithms about our preferences and presents a version of reality that suits us. Yes, people can also humor us, but not with the same heartless determination, and not with the same flawless and cumulative memory of our weaknesses. Traditionally we have thought of artificial intelligence as a kind of rival to our own intelligence, emerging in parallel. What is actually happening is not parallel development but interaction, in which entities that are not themselves intelligent can nevertheless make us stupid.
Rather than testing the reason of computers, we concede our own at the outset if we are made to feel good about ourselves. We believe that computers are trustworthy when they seem to care how we feel. We follow sites that amplify our emotions, outraging us or elating us, not asking ourselves whether they are designed to keep us online so that we see targeted ads — or, for that matter, whether they are used as weapons by foreigners to harm us.
Democracy depends upon a certain idea of truth: not the babel of our impulses but an independent reality visible to all citizens. This must be a goal; it can never fully be achieved. Authoritarianism arises when this goal is openly abandoned and people conflate the truth with what they want to hear. Then begins a politics of spectacle, where the best liars with the biggest megaphones win. Trump understands this well. As a businessman he failed, but as a politician he succeeded because he understood how to beckon desire. By deliberately spreading unreality with modern technology, the daily tweet, he outrages some and elates others, eroding the very notion of a common world of facts. In fascism, feeling is first. Fascists of the 1920s and 1930s wanted to undo the Enlightenment and appeal to people as members of a tribe, race or species. What mattered was a story of “us and them” that could begin a politics of conflict and combat. Fascists proposed that the world was run by conspirators whose mysterious hold must be broken by violence. This could be achieved by a leader (Führer, Duce) who spoke directly to and for the people, without laws or institutions.
The internet has revived fascist habits of mind. Smartphones and news feeds structure attention so that we cannot think straight. Their programmers deliberately appeal to psychological tactics such as intermittent reinforcement to keep us online rather than thinking.
That’s a lesson we can learn — but not from machines. We can fix the internet only by taking an honest look at ourselves.

He Does Not Like the Sight of Coffins and yet…
Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 28 May, 2018
Russian President Vladimir Putin hates the sight of Russian coffins coming from Syria. He has sought since the beginning to avoid such images. He knows that coffins stir fears of deep involvement, even if Moscow has higher tolerance than Washington in this regard.
This is why he engineered the Russian military intervention in a way that would help avoid such scenes or remind his people of the Afghan war period. Russia intervened by air and did not send soldiers to the battleground. It dispatched aides to accompany the Syrian regime troops and deployed military police in safe areas. We can say that the master of the Kremlin has succeeded. He realized early on that Barack Obama had no intention of ensnaring Russia in Syria and that his attention was focused on the nuclear deal with Iran. This is why he did not provide the Syrian opposition with anti-aircraft weapons and did not allow his allies to send such arms to Syria. This meant that Obama did not want to drown Moscow in a new Afghanistan.
The Russian strikes could not alone shift the balance of power in Syria in favor of the regime. Russia had to take into consideration the pro-Iran militias. This is how this triangle of Russia, Iran and its allies, and the regime emerged to change the balance and ISIS was their main target.
The Russian intervention helped change the rules of the game. The toppling of the regime was no longer part of the equation. In fact, the regime was expected to expand areas that it controls and recapture many it had retreated from.
The truth is that the Syrian opposition was dealt a fatal blow by ISIS and al-Qaeda before it was dealt a similar blow by Russia and its allies. The world could not tolerate the idea of Syria living under ISIS’ control. The regime itself could not coexist with such a Syria. This therefore paved the way for the counter-strike that allowed the regime to seize the reins and deal defeat after defeat against the opposition.
Russia moved on two fronts. First, it focused on enabling the regime to regain the initiative on the battlefield. Second, it broke up the opposition and regional and international front that supported it. In this context, one can understand some Russian ideas over the de-escalation zones and its simultaneous efforts to weaken the Geneva talks through the Sochi and Astana paths.
One has to credit Russia in this regard for taming Ankara’s stance and transforming it into a partner in the Astana talks. In return, Turkey received the right to discipline the Syrian Kurds in Afrin and break the Kurdish belt that was being formed along its border with Syria. It also received the right to set up military positions in Syria. Ankara will likely use this issue as a bargaining chip when serious negotiations over the withdrawal of foreign forces from Syria are launched.
Russia and Iran allied together in battle against the opposition and ISIS in an attempt to change the balance of power. This does not mean that they see eye-to-eye. Whereas Russia was focused on tilting the military balance in the regime’s favor, Iran was concerned with entrenching itself in Syria and bringing it into the “Iranian crescent”. It had shifted its attention to removing obstacles in the formation of a smooth land corridor that connects Iran to the Lebanese Mediterranean coast through Iraq and Syria.
Donald Trump’s arrival to the White House did not flip the game on its head, but he simply created some confusion. His administration does not have an agenda to defeat the coup Russia is leading on the ground. It only possesses the means to delay or obstruct it. The United States is not really that preoccupied with who rules Syria. It, along with Israel, is only looking at Syria because of the Iranian presence there.
In wake of the battle against ISIS and the West’s reluctance to pay the price of a wide military intervention in Syria, western and regional countries opted for accepting the “Russian Syria” if it prevents the establishment of an “Iranian Syria.” Israel has sought to obtain guarantees from Moscow that Iran and its allies would not come near Israeli positions in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. Putin showed great interest in preserving the strong relationship with Israel and understanding what it considers as its security needs. He could not, however, provide the necessary guarantees.
Israel realized that Trump was leaning towards withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal. It therefore, raised the roof of its demands from Russia and increased its raids against what it says are Iranian arms transfers to Lebanon’s “Hezbollah.” As tensions once again soared between Washington and Tehran, Israel moved on towards the phase of directly targeting Iranian military presence in Syria and killing Iranians. Benjamin Netanyahu’s government exploited a “limited” Iranian attack on the Golan to launch a wide strike against the Iranian military infrastructure in Syria.
For now, Putin has succeeded in preventing a wide-scale war from erupting. This success, however, remains vulnerable. He does not want to sever ties with Iran in Syria, which would not be easy if he wanted to. He also can not not go along with the Iran agenda and withstand its consequences. The game has become more complicated after the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal.
Perhaps this is why Putin focused during his latest talks with regime leader Bashar Assad on the need for a political solution in Syria. Assad showed a willingness to go along with his demands. However, the political solution according to Syria and Russia does not fall in line with the spirit of the Geneva peace path because the field developments have eliminated several of its elements, including talk of a transitional period. Moscow, Damascus and Tehran have a complex network of relations. They have mutual needs, but lack united visions and goals. Whenever they near a solution, disputes become clearer. These complex ties exist during a time when American-Iranian tensions have grown more strained and when Israel announced that it wants to uproot Iranian military presence in Syria. A small war is going on and Russia is becoming a simple witness to it. What will happen after the balance of power on the field in Syria has changed? What does Moscow want now and what can it do? How does the regime, which holds the Russian and Iranian wings, think? Is Iran using Syria as a trial area to test American will? Or has Syria turned into a trap that is depleting the Iranian role?
Putin does not like the image of coffins coming from Syria, but keeping Syria without a real solution means that more are sure to come. It is clear that waging a war against the opposition and ISIS is easier than making peace in Syria.
mself since 2006. He had a non-attendee to thank for the full house, Donald Trump.

What Happened at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum
Leonid Bershidsky//Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 28 May, 2018
On Friday, President Vladimir Putin assembled the most impressive panel ever seen at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum, which he’s used as a showcase for Russia and hi
Usually, one or two foreign leaders attend the forum to act as foils for Putin, who delivers a keynote address, pitching Russia as an investment destination. This year, however, Putin shared the stage with President Emmanuel Macron of France, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde and the Chinese vice president, Wang Qishan. They all had something in common: They’ve been slighted, rebuffed or otherwise aggravated by Trump. Macron visited the US president last month to try to dissuade him from imposing high import tariffs on European steel and aluminum, but also to plead with him not to pull the US out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. He failed on both counts. Abe was one of Trump’s early victims, when the US abandoned the Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership, which would have benefited Japan. As for Wang, Trump keeps threatening to start a trade war with China, though he’s blown hot and cold on that. In addition, China is the biggest international patron of North Korea. Lagarde represents the international organizations that form the institutional backbone of globalization. Trump has shown a contemptuous disregard for the system’s rules and recommendations. Putin is seething with anger about US economic sanctions against Russia and what he has long seen as America’s unilateralism on just about every issue and around the globe. So this year’s St. Petersburg Economic Forum could have turned into a support group for people traumatized by Trump. But in their prepared speeches, the dignitaries avoided mentioning the US president’s name. The leaders only lifted the taboo under some pointed questioning from the moderator, Bloomberg Editor John Micklethwait.
One reason for this reluctance to attack Trump directly is that, 16 months into his presidency, the support group members have no idea what to do about him. It’s also extremely difficult for them to form a common agenda. In his opening speech, Putin made an impassioned appeal for the preservation of a rules-based international system and against “economic egotism” and unilateralism (a reference, of course, to He Who Shall Not Be Named). But at least to some Europeans such as Macron and Lagarde, Putin’s plea must have been rich with irony, coming from the leader of a country that has invaded a neighboring state and who on Friday was accused by the Netherlands and Australia of downing a passenger airliner in July 2014.
During the Q&A, Putin teased Macron about Europe’s dependence on the US for security. “Don’t worry, we’ll provide security,” he said. Macron would have none of it; he said he was happy with the current structure.
Abe spoke of a huge potential for energy cooperation with Russia and of Japanese investment for the Russian Far East. But no such partnership would be possible without first resolving a dispute over the Kuril Islands that has prevented the two countries from signing a post-World War II peace treaty. Putin and Abe have failed to advance on the issue in the 20 meetings they have held so far. Still, Abe started his speech with a fantastical scenario for the upcoming soccer World Cup that involved Russia and Japan facing off in the finals. That’s about as realistic as a deal on the islands and the rest of the grand cooperation plans. The Chinese vice president, who tried to say as little as possible, stuck to his country’s strategy of conducting an unemotional dialogue with everyone, making no enemies and getting the best possible deals. As far as China is concerned, Europe, the US, Russia, Japan and the international institutions are all arm’s-length partners. There would be grounds for a broad anti-Trump coalition, but it will never coalesce around Putin, the most passionately anti-American of the group. He would be even more unreliable than Trump. Inexperienced Macron can’t be a convincing leader, either; Japan is too focused on regional interests; China is impervious to anyone’s pull; and the international institutions mean little without the US and have to stay neutral.
That they all came together in Russia would be an alarm signal to any US leader except Trump. But he’s too focused on domestic politics and his promises to his base. The St. Petersburg gathering isn’t a threat even to Trump advisers who would like the US to display its might. The meeting is so ragtag and disunited, it doesn’t give the appearance of the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Not yet, at least. Trump still has enough time in office for that to start changing. Obstacles to “mutual trust,” the leitmotif of the leaders’ speeches in St. Petersburg, could fade if the US remains as unpredictably intractable as it has been in the past 16 months.

Coalition forces in Syria, Iraq targeted three Canadians, secret document says
Stewart Bell and Andrew Russell/Global News/May 28/18
Three Canadians were deliberately targeted by the coalition conducting airstrikes against the so-called Islamic State, according to a secret government document on the military’s role in the killing of its own citizens.
The Canadians were targets of Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S.-led anti-ISIS campaign in Iraq and Syria that Canada participates in, said the briefing note prepared for the Chief of Defence Staff, General Jonathan Vance.
“To date, there have been three known instances where specific individuals targeted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve were believed to be Canadian citizens,” read the four-page document, obtained by Global News.
The briefing note is a discussion of the “strategic issues” arising from the targeting of enemy combatants who are Canadian citizens by Operation Impact, the Canadian Armed Forces contribution to Operation Inherent Resolve.
It laid out the legal justification for airstrikes killing Canadian foreign terrorist fighters in the region, saying their nationality was irrelevant and that each target of the coalition was “first and foremost, an enemy combatant.”
But the document went on to say that, “while the nationality of targeted individuals is, in the context of the Law of Armed Conflict, not an issue, domestic Canadian policy, political, and legal concerns may emerge.”
Titled “Op Impact — Canadian Citizens and Targeting of ISIS Combatants,” the brief, marked “secret,” was dated Sept. 16, 2015 but was only recently de-classified and released to Global News under the Access to Information Act.
It is believed to be the first official confirmation that the anti-ISIS military coalition, which includes Canada, has deliberately tried to kill Canadian citizens in Syria and Iraq. It did not say whether the targeted strikes were successful.
Experts said that under international law there was nothing illegal about the Canadian military participating in the killings of Canadian enemy combatants in an armed conflict. But it raises a host of questions and the government has not discussed the matter nearly as openly as its close allies.
“Your document is the first I’ve ever seen acknowledging that there have been instances in which Canadians were part of a target package” at the time Canadian forces were conducting airstrikes, said University of Ottawa law professor Craig Forcese, co-author of a 2016 paper on the legality of targeted killings of Canadian foreign fighters.
Global News also obtained two secret memos by the Department of Justice dated Oct. 8 and 15, 2015, however government officials completely blacked out their contents before releasing them after eight months.
Asked what role the Canadian military had played in the targeting of the three Canadians, Daniel Le Bouthillier, a National Defence spokesman, said he could not discuss the matter in detail for operational security reasons.
But he said ISIS members who engaged in hostilities against the coalition could “in certain circumstances, be considered a threat” under the Laws of Armed Conflict.
“The nationality of the person is not a factor,” he said.
The briefing note made the same point, saying that discussions with allies “confirm the extant CAF [Canadian Armed Forces] perspective that every individual person targeted under OIR [Operation Inherent Resolve] and consequently Op Impact, is first and foremost, an enemy combatant.”
Forcese, a national security law expert, said he saw nothing in the briefing note to suggest the legal advice it contained was incorrect. Under international law, those directly participating in hostilities in an armed conflict can be legally targeted, he said.
But he said there was no consensus on the meaning of “directly participating in hostilities.” While the U.S. defined it more broadly, others argued that “insurgents by night” can’t be targeted during the time they are acting as civilians.
The briefing note dates to the final weeks of the Conservative government. Airstrikes by CF-188 Hornets began in Iraq and Syria on Oct. 30, 2014. Canadian fighter aircraft struck 246 targets in Iraq and five in Syria over 16 months.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pulled the CF-188s from the conflict on Feb 15, 2016 but the Canadian military continues to participate in the anti-ISIS coalition. A separate Justice Department document, disclosed to Global News following its request for material on Canada’s policy on targeted airstrikes against Canadians, was dated 2016, after Trudeau took office. It was marked “secret” for reasons of cabinet confidence.
The United Kingdom and United States have both conducted airstrikes against their own citizens on the grounds they were threats. After two senior British ISIS members were killed in targeted airstrikes in 2015, the U.K. Intelligence and Security Committee conducted an investigation and published a public report.
Prime Minister Theresa May said in a statement last December that airstrikes against British citizens were a “last resort” but that when there was a direct threat to British citizens the government would “always be prepared to act.”
The killing of Reyaad Khan, a notorious British ISIS attack planner, followed a “rigorous decision-making process,” she said. “The Attorney General was consulted and was clear that there would be a clear legal basis for action in international law.”
The Canadian targets were not named in the heavily-redacted version of the briefing note disclosed to Global News but it was written two months after Calgary ISIS member Mohamed Farah Shirdon, aka Abu Usamah, was killed by a coalition airstrike in Mosul on July 13, 2015, according to the U.S. military.
Shirdon would have been a likely target because of his incitement of attacks in the West, along with Mohamed Ali, aka Abu Turaab, of Mississauga, Ont. and Abu Mohammed Al Kanadi, believed to be a senior ISIS member in Raqqah.
While the briefing note said targeted killings of Canadian terrorist fighters was legal, it also mentioned alternatives. “Canada may also wish to exploit Canadians allied with ISIS for intelligence, or consider prosecuting them under Canadian law,” it said.
Officials from the U.K and U.S. have said they preferred to kill foreign ISIS fighters overseas than see them return home. But the Liberal government had a different message when the issue arose last fall.
“Canada does not engage in death squads,” Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said on the CBC show Power & Politics last fall.
The briefing note suggests that at least some of the almost two dozen Canadian foreign fighters who have died in Syria and Iraq were killed in targeted strikes.
“This note provides a discussion of the strategic issues associated with the targeting of enemy combatants who are also Canadian citizens under the auspices of Op Impact, the CAF contribution to Operation Inherent Resolve.”
“As Canada is engaged in armed conflict with ISIS and associated armed groups, CAF operations under Op Impact include both direct and indirect support to, as well as participation in, strikes against target packages including enemy combatants,” it said. “On occasion, these target packages consist of specifically identified individuals, with nationalities in some cases known prior to engagement.”
The redacted version of the document did not elaborate on the “Canadian policy, political, and legal concerns” it said were raised by Canada’s role in targeting Canadians.
“The policy issues, I imagine, are tied to the reaction, political and otherwise, that Canadians might have to the idea that the Canadian state is targeting Canadians, even if from an international law perspective, in an armed conflict situation, it is lawful to do so,” Forcese said.
“From a legal perspective domestically, this is novel terrain,” he said. What remains unresolved is how the Charter of Rights and Freedoms would apply to a targeted killing. “There’s no precedent on this. My inclination is to suggest that the Charter will map international law in this area.”
Forcese said a targeted strike against a combatant was not the same as an extrajudicial execution that does not take place during an armed conflict. “Whether you’re killing within or outside of armed conflict makes a world of difference,” he said.
Chris Waters, an international law professor at the University of Windsor, said citizens not fighting in an armed conflict should not be targeted under Canadian or international law. However, picking up arms to fight for groups like ISIS makes them legitimate targets.
“Certainly, if the individuals have returned to civilian life in any capacity, I absolutely think it would not be legitimate,” he added. “During that period when they’re engaged in those active hostilities, they are legitimately targetable.”
He said whether targeted killings were the best policy was a separate question. “Certainly, the emphasis should be on de-radicalization, on inclusion, the variety of administrative measures that can be used including in the new bill, C-59, to prevent counseling of terrorists and offences and so on.”
“But I think when it comes right down to it from a, strictly speaking, legal perspective, certainly from an international legal perspective, if someone is engaged in fighting with an armed group, they’re targetable under the laws of armed conflict.”
NDP Foreign Affairs critic Hélène Laverdière called on the government to be more transparent about Canadians who have been declared enemy combatants and those that have been targeted by Operation Inherent Resolve.
“The issue is making sure that was done according to Geneva conventions,” she said. “I think there should be an explanation from the government. Let’s see what the government comes up and if there’s a need then for a formal inquiry.”
Laverdière said while there can be legal justification for targeting enemy combatants there was a “black hole of information” on this issue. “We have a government that talks a lot about transparency but when we compare it to other countries it has very little.”
Forcese also argued the government should be more forthcoming about targeted killings. “We have to ask the question, I think: above and beyond the legal minimum, are there policy issues where we would decide to not kill Canadians, or in this case, kill Canadians? And that’s the sort of debate that I think probably deserves to be a much more open now.”

UK: You're Not Allowed to Talk about It. About What? Don't Ask.
 Bruce Bawer/Gatestone Institute/May 28, 2018
"I am in a country that is not free... I feel jealous as hell of you guys in America. You don't know how lucky you are." — Carl Benjamin (aka Sargon of Akkad), YouTuber with around a million subscribers.
"I am trying to recall a legal case where someone was convicted of a 'crime' which cannot be reported on." — Gerald Batten, UKIP member of the European Parliament.
"UKIP Peer Malcolm Lord Pearson has written to Home Secretary Sajid Javid today saying: if Tommy is murdered or injured in prison he and others will mount a private prosecution against Mr Javid as an accessory, or for misconduct in public office." — Gerald Batten.
Good on Lord Pearson.
On Friday, British free-speech activist and Islam critic Tommy Robinson was acting as a responsible citizen journalist -- reporting live on camera from outside a Leeds courtroom where several Muslims were being tried for child rape -- when he was set upon by several police officers. In the space of the next few hours, a judge tried, convicted, and sentenced him to 13 months in jail -- and also issued a gag order, demanding a total news blackout on the case in the British news media. Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, was immediately taken to Hull Prison.
Hull Prison, in Kingston upon Hull, England, where Tommy Robinson was taken to serve a 13-month prison sentence just hours after his arrest on Friday, May 25.
Most media outlets were remarkably compliant. News stories that had already been posted online after Robinson's arrest at the Scottish Daily Record, Birmingham Live, The Mirror, RT, and Breitbart News were promptly pulled down, although, curiously, a report remained up at the Independent, a left-wing broadsheet that can be counted on to view Robinson as a hooligan. Indeed, the Independent's article described Robinson as "far-right" and, in explaining what he was doing outside the courthouse, used scare quotes around the word "reporting"; it then summed up the least appealing episodes in his career and blamed him for an attack on the Finsbury Park Mosque last January. Somehow, the Independent also got away with publishing a report on London's Saturday rally in support of Robinson.
Also on Saturday, Breitbart UK posted a copy of the gag order, but redacted it as required. The resulting document proved to be a perfect illustration of Western Europe's encroaching tyranny.
Were all the articles in the British media pulled down "voluntarily"? There is no way to know for sure. On Sunday, at about noon Central European Time, one of my Facebook friends posted a link to what was apparently a new story at Breitbart UK, about Robinson's imprisonment in Hull. Three hours later, however, the story was no longer there. Shortly afterward, I clicked on a link to an article at the Hull Daily Mail that Google summed up as follows: "Supporters of former EDL leader Tommy Robinson are urging people to write to him in Hull Prison -- where they say he is in 'grave danger.'" When I clicked on the link, however, the story had been pulled.
Carl Benjamin, who produces video commentary under the name "Sargon of Akkad," is a popular British YouTuber who has somewhere around a million subscribers, and who routinely criticizes Islam, identity politics, and political correctness with wit and panache. He is generally a lively, free-wheeling, sardonic fellow, but in the two-hour-plus video he posted on Saturday about the Robinson case, he was uncharacteristically sober, exceedingly cautious, and at times even sounded mournful.
"I did tell you that Britain isn't a free country, didn't I?" he said a minute or so into his video. "I've been saying it for ages... and nobody listens." He made it clear he was not about to violate the gag order -- not, as he put it, about to "blunder into the jaws of the beast, in much the same way as I guess Tommy has," and thus "deliberately put myself in the line of fire with the UK government, giving them just cause to arrest me."
Benjamin is a gutsy guy, so it was unsettling to hear him speak this way. The look on his face somehow brought home the dark reality underlying Robinson's fast-track arrest, trial, conviction and incarceration. Benjamin emphasized that the most "sensible" thing for someone like himself [Benjamin] to do right now -- he used that word, "sensible," repeatedly -- is to do his best to stay out of jail so that he can continue to speak up. "I am in a country that is not free," he repeated gravely. "My options are limited... I feel jealous as hell of you guys in America. You don't know how lucky you are."
The upside -- and the irony -- of this case is that the gag order, while silencing the British news media, has caused people around the world to take notice. To be sure, a quick tour of major mainstream newspaper websites in Western Europe, North America and around the Anglosphere turned up nothing. But on alternative news sites around Europe, the story was front and center. The Fox News website reported on Robinson's arrest -- but even Fox, frustratingly, insisted on calling him a "right-wing activist."
Judi McLeod, editor of the Canada Free Press, began her article:
"Where is Tommy Robinson? A question whose answer should be demanded rather than merely asked.... Modern day Merry England has become far more nightmare than fairytale, as it steadily works its way toward ugly police state status."
McLeod also challenged Fox's label for Robinson: "'Right wing activist'? How about civil rights activist or humanitarian activist?"
Yesterday, my article asked when anyone in a position of power in Britain would speak up against Robinson's arrest. Since then, Gerald Batten, a UKIP member of the European Parliament, has done so:
"I am trying to recall a legal case where someone was convicted of a 'crime' which cannot be reported on," he tweeted. "Where he can be cast into prison without it being possible to report his name, offence, or place of imprisonment for fear of contempt of court. Can anyone remember such a case"
Shortly after noon on Sunday, London time, Batten tweeted:
"UKIP Peer Malcolm Lord Pearson has written to Home Secretary Sajid Javid today saying: if Tommy is murdered or injured in prison he and others will mount a private prosecution against Mr Javid as an accessory, or for misconduct in public office."
Good on Lord Pearson. We can only hope his efforts make a difference -- and that, in the end, a prosecution of Javid will not be necessary.
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.
See also: Petition to Free Tommy Robinson
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Is Italy flirting with Israeli Apartheid?
Ramzy Baroud/Al Arabiya/May 28/18
On May 4, a legendary Italian biking race, Giro d’Italia, began in Jerusalem, despite numerous calls made to the race organizers not to validate Israel’s illegal military occupation of the city.
Israeli leaders interpreted the event as a “celebration” of Israel’s independence, while Palestinian groups viewed it as a violation of international consensus on the status of Jerusalem.
However, there is more to the story than meets the eye. It is part of a worrying trend in Italian politics and an increasing affinity to the rightwing government of Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Italy breaking ranks
Although the US Administration of Donald Trump is the only country in the world that has carried out the unlawful decision of recognizing Israel’s illegal annexation of the Palestinian city, others could follow suit if enough pressure is not exerted by civil societies on their governments to respect international law.
For now, Italy remains committed to the legal status of Jerusalem, abiding by the consensus of the European Union. But once a strong supporter of Palestinian rights, the Italian government has been shifting course in recent years.
Italy was the first European state to break ranks and reject a resolution by the UN cultural agency, UNESCO, last year which renounced Israel’s sovereignty in Occupied East Jerusalem. This was followed by more disturbing statements by Italian politicians that indicated a sizable shift in Italy’s foreign policy outlook on Palestine and Israel.
The trend continued. Last April, representatives of Italy’s Jewish communities pulled out of rallies marking the 73th anniversary of the country’s liberation from the Nazis simply because various groups attending the rallies raised Palestinian flags.
Instead, separate rallies were staged by pro-Israel Jewish organizations that were offended by “the presence of Palestinian and pro-Palestinian groups,” according to the Times of Israel.
Outrageously, Italy’s leadership accommodated such intransigence as the country’s prime minister and the mayor of Rome reportedly attended the private celebrations.
The irony is that Israeli practices against Palestinians is reminiscent of the reality that Bartali and millions of Italians fought against for years
More recently, for the first time since its inception in 1909, Giro d’Italia kicked off outside Europe and strangely enough, from the city of Jerusalem.
Every attempt aimed at dissuading the race organizers from being part of Israel’s political propaganda failed. The millions of dollars paid to the Giro d’Italia organizers, RCS Sport, seemed far more compelling than shared cultural experiences, solidarity, human rights and international law.
Legendary Italian novelist, Dino Buzzati, wrote various accounts in Italian newspapers in the 1940s, describing the symbolism of the race in the context of a battered nation resurrecting from the ashes of untold destruction.
The 1946 Giro D’Italia, especially the legendary competition between Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali, became a metaphor for a country rising from the horrors of war and reanimating its national identity, as symbolized in the final struggle between heroic athletes pedaling through the torturous mountainous roads to reach the finish line.
Understanding this history, Israel exploited it in every possible way. In fact, the Israeli government recently awarded the late Gino Bartali an honorary Israeli citizenship. The decision was made as an acknowledgment of the Italian athlete’s anti-Nazi legacy.
The irony, of course, is that the Israeli practices against Palestinians – military Occupation, racism, Apartheid and abhorrent violence – is reminiscent of the very reality that Bartali and millions of Italians fought against for years.
When Israeli officials announced last September that Giro D’Italia would start in Jerusalem, they labored to link the decision to Israel’s celebration of 70 years of independence.
70 years ago, Palestinians were dispossessed from their homeland by Zionist militias, leading to the Nakba, the catastrophic destruction of Palestine and the establishment of Israel as a Jewish state.
It was then that West Jerusalem became part of Israel, and the rest of the Holy City, East Jerusalem, was also conquered in 1967 before it was officially, but illegally, annexed in 1981 in defiance of international law.
RCS Sport cannot claim ignorance regarding how their decision to engage and validate Israeli Apartheid will forever scar the history of the race. When their website announced that the race would kick off from “West Jerusalem”, the Israeli response was swift and furious.
Israeli Sports Minister, Miri Regev and Tourism Minister, Yariv Levi, threatened to end their partnership with the race, claiming that “in Jerusalem, Israel’s capital, there is no East or West. There is one unified Jerusalem.” Alas, Giro d’Italia organizers publicly apologized before removing the word ‘West’ from their website and press releases.
Celebrating Apartheid
According to international law, East Jerusalem is an occupied Palestinian city. This fact has been stated time and again through United Nations resolutions, including the most recent Resolution 2334, adopted on December 23, 2016. It condemns Israel’s illegal settlement constructions in the Occupied Territories, including East Jerusalem.
This reality stands as a stark contradiction to the claims made by Giro d’Italia organizers that their race is a celebration of peace. In truth, it is an endorsement of Apartheid, violence and war crimes.
The fact that the race was held according to plan, despite the ongoing killing of Palestinian protesters in Gaza, also underlines the degree of moral corruption by those behind the effort. Over 110 Palestinians have been killed since the start of the peaceful protests at the Gaza border, known as the “Great March of Return”, on March 30. Over 10,000 were wounded, among them 30 athletes, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Youth and Sports.
One of those wounded is Alaa al-Dali, a 21-years-old cyclist whose leg was amputated after being shot on the first day of protests. “Canadian-Jewish philanthropist”, Sylvan Adams, one of the biggest funders of the race, claimed that his contribution is motivated by his desire to promote Israel and to support cycling as a “bridge between nations.”
Palestinians, like Alaa whose cycling career is over, are of course excluded from that lofty, and selective definition. Was the 12 million dollars received by the organizers from Israel and its supporters a worthy enough price to ignore the suffering of Palestinians and to help normalize Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people?
Sadly, for the RSC Sport, the answer is “yes”. Many Italians and more around the world, of course, disagree. Despite Italian media’s partaking in Israel’s ‘sport-washing’, hundreds of Italians protested at various stages of the race. The fourth stage of Giro d’Italia which was held in Catania, Sicily, was delayed by a protest, against a race which is “stained with the blood of Palestinians”, in the words of activist, Simone Di Stefano.
Renzo Ulivieri, the head of the Italian Football Managers Association, was one of prominent Italian voices that objected to the decision to hold the race in Israel. “I could have remained indifferent, but I fear I would have been despised by the people I respect. Viva the Palestinian people, free in their land,” he wrote in a Facebook post.
The RCS Sport has done the ‘Giro’ race, sport cycling and the Italian people an unforgivable disservice for the sake of what could well be constituted an Israeli bribe of a few million dollars. By agreeing to start the race in a country that is guilty of apartheid practices and a protracted military occupation, they have stained the race forever.
This event cannot be seen as separate from Italy’s worrying political attitude towards Israel’s occupation of Palestine. The inherent contradictions in Italy’s behavior are inescapable.
Italy is a country that has experienced a ruthless occupation and was ravaged by fascism and war. To be party to Israel’s constant attempts at whitewashing or, in the case of Giro d’Italia, “sport-washing’ its military occupation and daily violence against the Palestinian people, is appalling.
However, the general wave of indignation caused by this reckless decision seems to indicate that Israel’s efforts at normalizing its crimes against Palestinians are failing to alter public opinion and the perception of Israel as an occupying power – one that deserves to be boycotted, not embraced.
*Romana Rubeo, an Italian writer, contributed to this article.

Gaza and the bitter harvest
Mohammed Al Shaikh//Al Arabiya/May 28/18
In order to understand the extent of misery, suffering and the hardship which the Gazans suffer from under the rule of Hamas Islamists, you have to compare between their living conditions during the Israeli occupation from 1967 until the withdrawal in recent decades with their current living conditions.
You will see how these undesirable Islamists had turned Gaza into a place suffering from hunger, poverty and disease while Hamas and its cadres enjoy the pleasures of life. This is what an elderly Palestinian told me while commenting on the practices of those who insist to rule the Gazans with force and who do not work to serve the interest of Palestine and its people but rather to serve the interest of the Persian expansionist project.
When Iran’s mullahs provide Hamas or al-Jihad with old missiles, they know that these missile cannot confront Israel’s advanced arms and that provoking the Israeli occupier will only affect the Gazans with more bombings, worse siege, deaths and destruction. Those who pay the price are the simple Gazans and not the Islamists.
Ever since Hamas started ruling Gaza, it has been arguing with the authority in Ramallah and intentionally stirring problems to be strongly present on the internal Palestinian scene and to stand as an obstacle against any reconciliation or peace. This presence enables its leaders to serve the Persian expansionist project which exploits the idea of liberating the entire of Palestine as an excuse to expand in the Arab region.
Hamas receives instructions from Tehran, whose authorities choose not to provide it with funds but with missiles and tools of killing and destruction. As for money, Hamas makes money by using the power of its arms on the Gazans to force them to pay money in the form of taxes and fees. Hamas has not even built one hospital or school or construct a road or execute any developmental project ever since it began ruling Gaza. It uses its revenues to confront Israel which in turn directs its anger at the Gazans while Hamas’ leaders and families remain safe.
When there was unrest in Egypt during Hosni Mubarak’s era, Hamas significantly contributed to empowering the Muslim Brotherhood there. Some of its cadres attacked Egyptian prisons to release the arrested Brotherhood members. When the Muslim Brotherhood was ousted, Hamas turned Gaza into a safe refuge for their members who fled the Egyptian authorities. As a result, all crossing points between Egypt and Gaza were closed. The Egyptian authorities also tracked the underground tunnels which link Egypt and Gaza and destroyed them. Hamas intentionally opposes the Palestinian Authority’s positions to avoid holding elections in the strip because it is aware that any elections there will “dump them in the trash bin.”
Hamas consists of hired Islamist fighters whose aim is power and money. This is why they do as they are directed by those who hire them whether it’s Tehran or Doha. The Palestinian cause and the Palestine people are the least of their concerns.
I am completely certain that the Palestinian cause has no solution but peace which the Israelis reject and avoid by all means. Therefore, the practices of Hamas and al-Jihad only serve Israel at the end. That’s why it can be said that the first step which the Palestinians must take towards peace starts with getting rid of these impostor Islamists.

Obama’s Netflix deal and ‘digital’ Hillary

Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/May 28/18
Hillary Clinton, who had lost in the presidential elections against Donald Trump, did not hesitate to voice her desire to be the CEO of Facebook, the most famous social media platform.
According to the Financial Times, Hillary was asked at Harvard last week which company she would like to be the CEO of. She said she wanted to be the CEO of Facebook because “it's the biggest news platform in the world… Most people in our country get their news, true or not from Facebook.”
Earlier this month, Netflix, the biggest digital streaming platform, announced that it secured a deal with former US President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle.
Barack and Michelle Obama and Hillary, and I won’t include her husband Bill Clinton here, represent a political and cultural threat that’s dangerous to stability in the Arab world due to their delusional ideas they have about change and revolution and other leftist illusions
Netflix said that Barack and Michelle Obama "have entered into a multi-year agreement to produce films and series for Netflix, potentially including scripted series, unscripted series, docu-series, documentaries, and features.”
Netflix’s agreement with the couple was announced a few months ago. At the time, the New York Times said that among the proposed programs include Obama conducting debates about healthcare, climate change and immigration. These are all topics which dominated the scene during the eight years of Obama’s term. According to the New York Times and Obama’s supporters, Obama will produce “inspirational” shows.
What will be discussed in the Obama “show” will not be any different than the news piece reported by Reuters which said that Obama opened the Barack Obama Presidential Center in Chicago, which he hopes will become a center to “train” future leaders.
What's the harm?
These are two American symbols, or rather global leftist and liberal symbols, who believe in values like the Arab Spring, and who are politically dragged behind naïve ideas like betting on the fictitious Iranian moderation.
The latter idea was the dangerous cultural motive behind the worst deal in our region – the P5+1 deal with Iran, the “actual” conclusion of which was to empower Iran’s position in the Arab world in exchange for suspending its “military” nuclear program and opening up the Iranian market for western companies.
Barack and Michelle Obama and Hillary, and I won’t include her husband Bill Clinton here, represent a political and cultural threat that’s dangerous to stability in the Arab world due to their delusional ideas they have about change and revolution and other leftist illusions. Becoming leading and influential figures on social media platforms and modern production services must be thoroughly contemplated and paid attention to.
Barack and Michelle entered the world of Netflix and Hillary is waiting for her turn at Facebook. We must develop solid means of protection from the disadvantages of this propaganda which will infiltrate the hearts and minds of the youth, and we must do so soon.

Looking back, (Israeli) Gaza pullout was a mistake
بالعودة إلى الوراء في الزمن..فإن الإنسحاب الإسرائيلي من غزة كان خاطئاً
Sever Plocker/Ynetnews/May 28/18

PM Netanyahu, Minister Lieberman to meet European leaders on Iran
رئيس الوزراء الإسرائيلي سيلتقي قادة أوروبا لبحت الشأن الإيراني
Itamar Eichner, Shahar Hay and Yoav Zitun/Haaretz/May 28/18