English LCCC Newsbulletin For Lebanese, Lebanese Related, Global News & Editorials
For June 16/2022
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
The world hated me before it hated you & hated me before you. You do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world therefore the world hates you.
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 15/18-21:”‘If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, “Servants are not greater than their master.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also.But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.”

Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on June 15-16/2022
There will be no salvation, cure, or resurrection for Lebanon, as long as Hezbollah poisons and ravages the Lebanese minds, and drags them by force to pre-stone times./Elias Bejjani/14 June/2022
Lebanon Extends Licensing Deadline for Gas Exploration
Aoun sets June 23 date for consultations to name new PM
President Aoun calls for binding parliamentary consultations on June 23 at Baabda Palace, Presidency General Directorate issues...
President Aoun meets delegation of new Council of Lebanese Order of Physicians in Beirut: Overcoming economic crisis requires coordination between...
Israeli PM hits out at Lebanon over offshore gas
Reports: French ambassador met with Hezbollah officials in Dahieh
Lebanon optimistic on negotiations resumption after 'positive' Hochstein talks
Fayyad says final touches being put on Egypt gas deal
Report: Abboud suggests expelling Ghada Aoun from judiciary
Lebanon Humanitarian Fund allocates $16 million to support people in need in Lebanon
Mufti Derian meets Saudi Ambassador at Dar Al-Fatwa, hails brotherly relations with KSA
Will Lebanon’s leopards finally change their spots?/Mohamed Chebaro/Arab News/June 15/2022

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on June 15-16/2022
U.S. awaits 'constructive' response from Tehran on nuclear deal
Two Iranian Scientists Join List of Dead in Israeli-Iranian Shadow War
Iran Says Rocket Launch Coming after Photo Shows Preparation
Iran Arrests Suspect Allegedly Involved in Tehran Hacking
Earthquakes Strike Off Iranian Coast; No Damage Reported
Iranian Labor Minister Resigns amid Protests against Soaring Living Costs
Report: UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt Are Region's FDI Hubs
Egypt, Israel to Boost Gas Supply to EU amid Ukraine War
Sisi Warns Against Undermining Egypt’s Water Share
Russia Targets NATO Arms Depot in Western Ukraine
Kremlin Says Communication with Washington Must Continue
Up to 1,200 Civilians May Be in Plant in Eye of Ukraine Battle, Separatist Says
Libya Split Deepens as Sirte Parliament Passes Budget
Abbas Says There's ‘Complete Stalemate’ in Peace Process
Turkey Says Taking Necessary Measures to Fight Terrorism
Two Dead, Seven Injured in Turkish Air Strikes Hitting YBS Site in Iraq
Canada-Kingdom of Denmark joint statement on bilateral cooperation

Titles For The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on June 15-16/2022
Satellite images suggest Iran preparing for rocket launch/Jon Gambrell/AP/June 15/2022
War in Ukraine Is Destabilizing the Middle East and North Africa/Saeed Ghasseminejad/The National Interest/June 15/2022
Biden’s Saudi Arabia Opportunity/Daniel Shapiro and Mark Dubowitz/Politico/June 15/2022
Expedite arms deliveries to beleaguered democracies/Bradley Bowman and RADM (Ret) Mark Montgomery/ Defense News /June 15/2022
Putin Prepares to Declare Himself a Conqueror/Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg/ June 15/2022
Targeting the Octopus’ Head/Tariq Al-Homayed/Asharq Al-Awsat/June, 15/2022
Iranian regime appears committed to nuclear weapons/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/June 15, 2022

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on June 15-16/2022
There will be no salvation, cure, or resurrection for Lebanon, as long as Hezbollah poisons and ravages the Lebanese minds, and drags them by force to pre-stone times.
Elias Bejjani/14 June/2022
The Lebanese Minister of Culture warns Israel: We will leave, crawling towards you
Twitter/June 13/2022
Caretaker Culture Minister Muhammad Wissam Al-Mortada tweeted this morning in response to Israeli threats, saying: “Kochavi threatened massive and devastating bombing if the war with Lebanon broke out. If you do it, and you are answerable and unable to do so, then yes “we will leave”, but to the south, i.e., crawling towards you, and it will not be a short visit.
This above childish tweet is a blatant example of stupidity, ignorance and grandiose delusions. It shows with no shed of doubt, the dire dangers of such an evil mentality, that is based and motivated by illusions, delusions and hallucinations. Such an approach portrays total detachment and alienation from both, reality and capabilities.
Such devastating, and cancerous mentality, life style, and education, are adopted, promoted and imposed on occupied Lebanon and the Lebanese, by the terrorist Hezbollah, and its Iranian Mullahs.
Therefore, there is no resurrection for Lebanon from the yoke of the Iranian occupation, and no cure from the poisons and cancers of Hezbollah, before its entire eradication from all Lebanon, arresting and putting its Trojan leaders on trial, and the implementation of all UN Resolutions related to Lebanon, foremost of which are the 1559, 1701, and 1680, after declaring Lebanon a failed and rogue country, and handing over its governance responsibilities to the United Nations, pursuant to the International Article VII. in bid to rehabilitate the Lebanese to govern themselves.
Meanwhile those who are more dangerous than Hezbollah and from the expansionist, colonial and ideological schemes of its Iranian masters, are the cowardly and traitorous, Lebanese politicians, and in particular the dictators, Iscariots and Trojans, who control, own and run all Lebanese political parties.

Lebanon Extends Licensing Deadline for Gas Exploration
Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 15 June, 2022
Lebanon’s caretaker energy minister on Wednesday extended the licensing deadline for oil and gas companies to explore in the country’s territorial waters until mid-December, to give more firms the chance to bid, state-run news agency reported.
The decision by the minister, Walid Fayyad, to extended the deadline of the second round of licensing until Dec. 15 followed a request by the Lebanese Petroleum Administration, the National News Agency said. In 2017, Lebanon approved licenses for an international consortium by France’s Total, Italy’s ENI and Russia’s Novatek to move forward with offshore oil and gas development for two of 10 blocks in the Mediterranean Sea, including one that is disputed in part with neighboring Israel.
The companies did not find viable amounts of oil and gas in block number 4 north of Beirut, and drilling in block number 9 in the south has been repeatedly postponed because of the maritime border dispute with Israel.
The new round of licensing will cover the remaining eight offshore blocks, the report said. The extension will give additional companies currently not working in Lebanon the chance to prepare their documents in order to apply for licenses. It said such a move would "create an acceptable level of competition between international oil and gas companies."Fayyad’s decision came a day after Lebanese President Michel Aoun presented suggestions related to the disputed maritime border to the US envoy mediating between Lebanon and Israel. The envoy said the suggestions "will enable the negotiations to go forward."The visit by US envoy Amos Hochstein followed an invitation by the Lebanese government after Israel set up a gas rig at its designated location at the Karish field. Israel says the field is part of its UN-recognized exclusive economic zone, while Lebanon insists it is in a disputed area.
Tensions have been rising recently along the border, and Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah party have exchanged threats over the border dispute.

Aoun sets June 23 date for consultations to name new PM
Naharnet/June 15/2022
President Michel Aoun on Wednesday scheduled the binding parliamentary consultations for picking a new PM for Thursday, June 23, the Presidency said. In a meeting with a delegation from the Order of Physicians earlier in the day, Aoun had said that "all parties must work together to correct the mistakes that plunged the country into the current situation." Political opponents and observers have criticized Aoun for “delaying” the call for the consultations in the wake of the May 15 parliamentary polls, accusing him of supporting an alleged bid by Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil to block the re-nomination of Najib Mikati for the PM post. Asharq al-Awsat newspaper reported Wednesday that a number of MPs were “surprised” when they were told by presidential palace officials that Aoun was delaying the call for consultations because “the Shiite duo and its allies are inclined to name a PM-designate who lacks conformity to the National Pact,” in reference to Mikati. Citing Aoun’s opinion, the officials argued that “parliament’s Christian blocs, regardless of their affiliation, do not intend to nominate him.” Several MPs meanwhile quoted a prominent parliamentary source as saying that “Aoun does not want to cooperate with Mikati.”

President Aoun calls for binding parliamentary consultations on June 23 at Baabda Palace, Presidency General Directorate issues...
Presidency Press Office/NNA/June 15/2022
The General Directorate of the Presidency of the Republic issued the following:
In accordance with the provisions of Clause 2 of Article 53 of the Constitution, His Excellency President Michel Aoun will conduct parliamentary consultations to nominate the Prime Minister in charge of forming the new government, on Thursday, June 23, 2022, at the Presidential Palace in Baabda, according to the following :
- Deputy Speaker of the Parliament, Elias Bou Saab ​​(10:00am)
1- The deputies of the Northern Parliamentary Gathering (at 10.15 am) including:
Sajji' Attia, Ahmed Al-Khair, Muhammad Suleiman, Walid Al-Baarini, Abdul Karim Kabara, Abdul Aziz Al-Samad, Ahmed Rostom.
2- The Kataeb Representatives Bloc (at 10.25 am) including:
Sami Gemayel, Nadim Gemayel, Elias Hankash, Salim Al Sayegh.
3- The Independent National Bloc (at 10.40 am) including:
Tony Franjieh, Farid Heikal El-Khazen, Melhem Tawk.
4- The Democratic Gathering bloc (at 10.55 am), including:
Taymour Jumblatt, Marwan Hamadeh, Raji Al-Saad, Akram Shehayeb, Bilal Abdullah, Hadi Abu Al-Hassan, Wael Abu Faour, Faisal Al-Sayegh.
5- The Assembly of Projects bloc (at 11.10am) including:
Adnan Traboulsi and Taha Nagy.
6- The Loyalty to the Resistance Bloc (at 11.20am) including:
Muhammad Raad, Amin Sherri, Rami Abu Hamdan, Ibrahim al-Moussawi, Hussein Hajj Hassan, Ali al-Miqdad, Ihab Hamadeh, Hussein Jashi, Hassan Fadlallah, Ali Fayyad, Ali Ammar, Hassan Izz al-Din, Raed Berro, Yenal Solh, Melhem al-Hujairi.
7- The Islamic Group Bloc (at 11:30am) including:
Emad Al-Hout.
8- The Independence Movement bloc (at 11.45 am) including:
Michel Moawad, Adib Abdel Masih.
9- The Strong Republic Bloc (at 12:00pm) including:
George Adwan, Shawki Daccache, Ziad Al-Hawat, George Okeis, Antoine Habashi, Strida Touq, Pierre Bou Assi, Elias Estefan, Ghassan Hasbani, Fadi Karam, Ghiath Yazbek, Melhem Riachi, Razi Al-Hajj, Jihad Pakradouni, Nazih Matta, Ghada Ayoub, Saeed Al-Asmar, Camille Chamoun, Elias Khoury.
10- Independent Representatives:
Jamil El-Sayed (12.15 pm)
Hassan Murad (12.20pm)
Jean Taluzian (12.25pm)
Fouad Makhzoumi (12:30pm)
Osama Saad (12.35pm)
Abdul Rahman Al-Bizri (12.40pm)
Jihad Al-Samad (12:45pm)
Michel Daher (12.50pm)
Ashraf Rifi (12.55pm)
Jamil Abboud (1:00pm)
Firas Al-Salloum (2:30pm)
Michel Murr (2:35pm)
Nima Ephrem (2:40pm)
Charbel Massad (2:45pm)
Bilal Al-Hashimi (2:50pm)
Ghassan Skaf (2:55pm)
Ihab Matar (3:00pm)
Nabil Bader (3:05pm)
Ibrahim Mneimneh (3:10pm)
Paulette Yagobyan (3:15pm)
Cynthia Zarazir (3:20pm)
Melhem Khalaf (3:25pm)
Waddah Al-Sadiq (3:30pm)
Ramy Feng (3:35pm)
Michel Douaihy (3:40pm)
Halima Kaakour (3:45pm)
Marc Daou (3:50pm)
Najat Aoun (3:55pm)
Elias Jarada (4:00pm)
Firas Hamdan (4:05pm)
Yassin Yassin (4:10pm)
11- The Development and Liberation Bloc (4:30pm) including:
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri
Ali Hassan Khalil, Ali Khreis, Qabalan Qabalan, Nasser Jaber, Qassem Hashem, Ali Oseiran, Muhammad Khawaja, Ghazi Zuaiter, Ashraf Baydoun, Michel Musa, Hani Kobeisi, Ayoub Hamid, Inayat Ezz El-Din, Fadi Allama.
12- The Strong Lebanon Bloc (4:45pm) including:
Gebran Bassil, Ibrahim Kanaan, Alan Aoun, Nicolas Sehnaoui, Edgar Trabelsi, Georges Atallah, Salim Aoun, Simon Abi Ramia, Cesar Abi Khalil, Asaad Dergham, Charbel Maroun, Samer Al-Toum, Nada Al-Bustani, Farid Al-Bustani, Ghassan Atallah, Jimmy Jabbour, Muhammad Yahya.
13- The Armenian Parliament includes the representatives:
Hagop Pakradounian, Hagop Terzian, George Bushekian.
*Presidency Press Office

President Aoun meets delegation of new Council of Lebanese Order of Physicians in Beirut: Overcoming economic crisis requires coordination between...
NNA/June 15/2022
President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, stressed that overcoming the severe economic crisis facing Lebanon requires coordination and work together between all official and private institutions of society.
"I hope after the formation of the new government that a real solution to the crises we face, including in the medical sector, will be reached” the President said.
President Aoun also praised the efforts made by the medical sector and the Lebanese Order of Physicians to strengthen the resilience of this sector and stop the human bleeding it is exposed to.
The President’s stances came while meeting a delegation from the new council of the Lebanese Order of Physicians in Beirut.
The delegation was headed by Head of Syndicate Professor Youssef Bakhash, who started the meeting with the following speech:
“We have the honor to visit you, Mr. President, to get acquainted first and to express our appreciation for what you are doing for the sake of this tormented country in light of successive existential crises and a financial and social siege that is almost destroying what is left of this country.
Your Excellency, we feel as you do the depth of the economic crisis after the gradual collapse of all production sectors after the collapse of the banking and monetary sector, in addition to the health sector, which is on the verge of collapse and the most dangerous is the collapse of society.
Mr. President, it has become our urgent duty to warn against the collapse of the health sector, which is ultimately the backbone of life.
The health sector suffers from challenges that we may not be able to get out of unless efforts are combined and we move quickly to save what can be saved.
The health sector is on the verge of collapse in light of the emigration of the veteran generation of doctors in search of a decent life and lost dignity.
In the context of talking about the migration of the medical body, we are talking about about three thousand male and female doctors and more than five thousand male and female nurses.
The reasons must be explained quite frankly, most notably:
- The guarantors, and here I mean social security and many insurance companies that still pay the doctor in Lebanese pounds and according to the official exchange rate. This means that the doctor still receives less than five dollars for some medical work, in addition to seizing his money with banks and disposing of union savings, as well as not updating the medical ethics laws and approving the doctor’s immunity. This project has been dormant in the administration and justice committee for quite some time.
- Loss of medicines, pricing of medical materials in hard currency, and lifting of subsidies on most medicines, until the prices of some of the necessary ones exceed the minimum wage.
-Delaying the payment of doctors' and hospitals' dues.
- Unresolved financial problems that affect the hospitals and citizens.
We will not dwell on problems and crises, and everyone knows them, and we will search together, with your guidance, Mr. President, for immediate and quick solutions to save this vital sector before it is too late. We are fully prepared to cooperate and give advice if necessary, for health means every citizen and the whole country”.
Mr. Bakhash Statement:
After the meeting, Mr. Bakhash addressed the press with the following statement:
“We were honored today to visit His Excellency the President of the Republic as Head and members of the Lebanese Order of Physicians in Beirut.
We discussed all the economic problems and crises facing Lebanon, especially in the health sector.
Today, this sector faces fateful and existential challenges, the most prominent of which is the medical bleeding we are experiencing and the migration of medical personnel.
Unfortunately, the number of doctors who have left Lebanon today has reached 3,000, while the number of nurses who have left has reached about 5,000.
We discussed the reasons that brought matters to this extent, including the inability of the guarantors to assume their responsibilities and financial benefits.
We also tackled the issue of medical supplies that are sold according to the exchange rate of the dollar in the parallel market, and the lifting of subsidies on medicines, as it has become impossible for the Lebanese citizen to be able to obtain medicine, and this affects his healing ability.
We, as a medical union, have put all our experiences and capabilities at the disposal of His Excellency the President, and we are all ready to provide studies and consultations if necessary, so that we can together stand by this sector to remain steadfast, because in the end health means every person and the whole country, and it is the backbone of the Lebanese state”.
Questions & Answers:
Question: What are the solutions offered? Is there any thought of resorting to international bodies to support the health sector in Lebanon?
Answer: “Before we go to the guarantors or the international bodies, we, as a syndicate and as a new syndicate council, must stand by the Lebanese citizen, thinking, of course, about the doctor’s income.
This income will be studied in a way that secures the preservation of the doctors’ steadfastness and their survival in Lebanon.
We see today that the majority of patients do not go to hospitals. We spoke with His Excellency the President about how to resort to international institutions, especially in emergency cases, such as cases of necessary medical supplies for dialysis patients, where we can reach, within weeks, and this is what we do not wish, to a total lifting of support for these supplies, and this will constitute a health disaster.
To anticipate this problem, we will study how to resort to international organizations and institutions to be able to cover these requirements. Of course, there are other problems in all aspects of the health sector”.
Question: Is there a directive to unify the medical tariff?
Answer: “Of course, we will work to standardize the tariff, which also differs between a general practitioner and a specialist. The union will focus on this subject to standardize the medical tariff”.
MP Major General Al-Sayed:
The President met MP, Major General Jamil El-Sayed and discussed with him general affairs and recent developments.
MP Al-Sayed said that he discussed the visit of the American mediator in the indirect negotiations to demarcate the southern maritime border, Amos Hochstein, "especially since the Lebanese position has become clear, and the President of the Republic emphasized it in terms of not compromising the Lebanese marine wealth, and we will wait for the results of Hochstein's movements, knowing that this file is essential to ensure the interest of Lebanon, especially in light of the current economic conditions”.
MP Al-Sayed stressed to the need to form a new government that exercises its full powers, "And this matter must be done quickly because the situation can no longer tolerate any vacuum as a result of caretaker business, especially the launch of economic treatment and negotiations with the International Monetary Fund, in addition to the situation that emerged in the ongoing negotiations through the American intermediary”. -- Presidency Press Office

Israeli PM hits out at Lebanon over offshore gas
Agence France Presse/June 15/2022
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has directed fresh criticism at Lebanon over the maritime border dispute. Washington has been brokering talks aimed at demarcating the frontier and allowing both sides to ramp up gas exploration. "I look forward to the day Lebanon will decide to take advantage of the natural gas in its economic water," said Bennett. "It's a shame that Lebanon's leadership, instead of extracting gas for its people, is busy fighting internally and externally," he added. Lebanon on Tuesday offered to hold back on demands for maritime territory where Israel plans to imminently extract gas, a Lebanese official told AFP. Beirut's new proposal to visiting U.S. envoy Amos Hochstein however included a claim for all of a separate field that it had initially only sought part of, the official close to the negotiations said, on condition of anonymity. Israel is estimated to have gas reserves of at least one trillion cubic meters, with domestic use over the next three decades expected to total no more than 300 billion.

Reports: French ambassador met with Hezbollah officials in Dahieh
Naharnet/June 15/2022
French Ambassador to Lebanon Anne Grillo met last week in Haret Hreik with a number of Hezbollah officials, including the party’s international relations officer, Ammar al-Moussawi, media reports said. “Discussions tackled the current general Lebanese issues, especially Lebanon’s implementation of the necessary steps for the structural reforms process and an evaluation of the latest parliamentary elections, their results and their impact on the situations,” al-Liwaa newspaper reported on Wednesday. Grillo for her part “relayed French keenness and concern over the need to quickly form a government, without voicing support for a particular figure,” the daily added. “The talks did not at all tackle U.S. envoy (Amos) Hochstein’s visit nor border demarcation, as Grillo stressed that French support for Lebanon will continue,” al-Liwaa said. The newspaper added that communication between France and Hezbollah has never stopped and that Grillo “coordinates with the American side over these issues and over the entire relation with Hezbollah.”

Lebanon optimistic on negotiations resumption after 'positive' Hochstein talks
Naharnet/June 15/2022
Several Lebanese sources have agreed that U.S. envoy Amos Hochstein’s gas talks in Lebanon on Tuesday were “positive,” Asharq al-Awsat newspaper reported on Wednesday. “There is a significant possibility to reach an agreement that would lead to a resumption of indirect negotiations at the U.N. post in Naqoura,” sources informed on Hochstein’s meetings told the daily. The newspaper added that the Lebanese response was verbal rather than written and that in light of the Israeli response the issue of indirect negotiations would be decided. According to the sources, Hochstein told the Lebanese officials that the vessel that had recently entered into the Karish field is “around 2.5 miles away from the disputed area,” adding that according to his information, the vessel will stay where it is now. Sources informed on Hochstein’s meeting with President Michel Aoun meanwhile said that the U.S. mediator did not raise the issue of the warnings that Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has addressed to both Israel and the Greek company operating the vessel.

Fayyad says final touches being put on Egypt gas deal
Naharnet/June 15/2022
Caretaker Energy Minister Walid Fayyad has said that progress has been made as to finalizing an agreement for importing gas from Egypt through Syria. In remarks to al-Joumhouria newspaper published Wednesday, Fayyad said he discussed the issue with visiting U.S. energy mediator Amos Hochstein, who expressed “full readiness to cooperate and help in order to complete the remaining stages.”“The final touches are being put on the final draft of this agreement and a meeting is expected to be held soon in Beirut in the presence of representatives from the energy ministries of Egypt and Syria in order to sign this agreement,” Fayyad added. He also revealed that Hochstein has promised him that he would help in obtaining funding from the World Bank, exempting the plan from the Caesar Act sanctions imposed on Syria, and mediating with the Iraqis to extend a contract for exporting fuel to Lebanon. “It is necessary that gas be soon imported from Egypt so that our electricity network improves and we become able to boost production and simultaneously hike the tariff in order to achieve financial sustainability,” Fayyad went on to say. He revealed that Hochstein, in turn, has informed him that he is “enthusiastic to finalize the gas importation agreement as soon as possible, within the next two months if possible” that he “will seek to contribute to overcoming the obstacles standing in its way.”Moreover, Fayyad noted that Hochstein has also expressed interest in “following on the agreement for importing electricity from Jordan.”
“He heard from Jordanian King Abdullah II, like we have heard, keenness on implementing it as soon as possible after securing the necessary funding for it,” the minister added.

Report: Abboud suggests expelling Ghada Aoun from judiciary

Naharnet/June 15/2022
Higher Judicial Council chief Judge Suheil Abboud has questioned Judge Ghada Aoun’s eligibility to be in her post during a meeting for the council, after referring her to judicial inspection “failed to yield a result nor to curb her drive,” al-Akhbar newspaper reported on Wednesday. Accordingly, Abboud proposed expelling Aoun and Judge Shadi Qardouhi from the judiciary for violating the principle of judicial discretion, the daily added. Abboud a number of judges said Aoun and Qardouhi “are not fit to be judges,” discussing the possibility of asking the Judicial Inspection Commission to prepare a report over the “violations that they have committed” and sending it to the justice minister to ask him to suspend them over “ineligibility,” al-Akhbar said. “However, this proposal created a sharp rift in the council and a heated debate, before an agreement was reached to suspend its discussion,” the daily added.
A legal expert meanwhile told al-Akhbar that the Higher Judicial Council “cannot take such a decision.”“The maximal measure that the council can take is referral to the Judicial Inspection Commission for so that a probe can be conducted,” the expert added.

Lebanon Humanitarian Fund allocates $16 million to support people in need in Lebanon
Naharnet/June 15/2022
Based on recent assessments, 2.5 million people are currently in need of humanitarian assistance in Lebanon – vulnerable Lebanese, migrants, and Palestine refugees in Lebanon (PRL) – in addition to 1.5 million Syrian refugees, the Lebanon office of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said. During meetings with the Lebanese Government, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Lebanon, Najat Rochdi, has announced that the Lebanon Humanitarian Fund (LHF) has allocated US$16 million to scale up humanitarian response in Lebanon. “Needs continue growing day by day and it is essential for the humanitarian community to adjust the response and assist all those most in need. The LHF is a flexible funding instrument that enables a Whole of Lebanon response,” said Rochdi. “Under this allocation, through a collaborative, inclusive and transparent approach, 27 sectoral and multi-sectoral projects for 25 national and international non-governmental organizations have been funded to address the most urgent needs and alleviate human suffering of Lebanese, migrants, Palestine refugees and Syrian refugees in the most affected areas. 65 percent of the allocated funding is targeting Lebanese, 31 percent for Syrian refugees, and the remaining amount for migrants and Palestine refugees,” an OCHA Lebanon statement said. In addition to prioritizing key sectors, such as child protection, education, food security, health, nutrition, protection, shelter and WASH, this LHF allocation also promotes innovation, integrated programming, cash-based interventions, accountability to affected populations, protection from sexual exploitation and abuse, inclusion and capacity development for local and national organizations. “As humanitarian community, we will continue to stand side by side with the most vulnerable people to protect and save lives and avoid a further deterioration of their already dire conditions. I am thankful for donors for their continued generosity and trust in the Lebanon Humanitarian Fund,” added the Humanitarian Coordinator. The LHF is a country-based pooled fund led by the Humanitarian Coordinator for Lebanon and managed by OCHA. Since its inception in 2014, the LHF has received over US$ 122 million from donors to support the delivery of “timely and effective” humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable people in Lebanon regardless their status. “Strong monitoring systems are in place to ensure that assistance reaches the most vulnerable based on needs,” the statement said.

Mufti Derian meets Saudi Ambassador at Dar Al-Fatwa, hails brotherly relations with KSA
NNA/June 15/2022
Grand Mufti of the Lebanese Republic, Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian, on Wednesday received at Dar Al-Fatwa, Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon, Walid bin Abdullah Bukhari, with whom he discussed the latest developments on the Lebanese scene. Mufti Derian briefed Ambassador Bukhari on the role he plays in cementing the unity of the Lebanese ranks, in general, and the Islamic ranks, in particular, especially amid the difficult circumstances Lebanon is going through. Ambassador Bukhari affirmed his country's keenness on the unity of the people of Lebanon in the face of challenges they are enduring, and hailed the role of Dar Al-Fatwa as a guarantor of national unity and civil peace in Lebanon. Mufti Derian stressed "the importance of the efforts made by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to help Lebanon, its people and the unity of its sons, as well as embracing various Arab and Islamic causes.”The Grand Mufti also underlined the strength of the brotherly and excellent relations with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its wise leadership.

محمد شبارو/عرب نيوز/هل ستغير فهود لبنان مواقعها أخيراً
Will Lebanon’s leopards finally change their spots?

Mohamed Chebaro/Arab News/June 15/2022
Since its birth as a state 100 years ago, we were told that Lebanon occupied a strategic location and was the Eastern Mediterranean’s gateway to the Arab world. Lebanon benefited from this for the first 50 years of its existence, but then its geography, religious diversity, cultural position between East and West, and Israel’s establishment on its southern border complicated matters and challenged the future of the country.
Nothing encapsulates this more than Lebanon’s recent offshore gas finds that, if realized, could turn its fate upside down — from a bankrupt state teetering on the edge of total collapse to potentially becoming a natural gas exporter. That is if its competing warlords and its regional political and strategic alignment with Iran do not spoil the golden opportunity this find represents.
But nothing is simple in Lebanon and, instead of all its communities uniting to facilitate and speed up the offshore gas exploration, the borders of its most promising maritime fields are apparently encroaching on Israel’s or themselves are being encroached on by Tel Aviv, depending on who you listen to. Israel is reportedly set to start drilling and extraction work soon. Lebanon and Israel remain technically at war and, though they agreed a few years ago to US-mediated talks to delineate their borders to boost exploration, those talks failed and now the risks of a violent conflict on the horizon are high.
The latest spark was the arrival of a vessel operated by the London-based Energean off the Mediterranean coast in early June. It is set to develop a gas field known as Karish, which Israel claims is in its exclusive economic zone, while Lebanon says the field is in contested waters and should not be developed until the two countries conclude their indirect talks to delineate the maritime borders.
Those talks fizzled out in the past, as Lebanon insisted that a boundary known as “line 23” be moved further south to “line 29,” adding about 1,400 sq km to its claim, including part of the Karish field. Hence, Lebanon pleaded for the return of US energy envoy Amos Hochstein, who on his arrival this week proposed an S-shaped boundary line instead of a straight one.
Though Beirut is suddenly keen on American mediation, this does not come without its habitual saber-rattling. Its de facto strongman Hassan Nasrallah warned in a speech last week that, if Lebanon cannot extract gas from the area, Israel will also not be able to. The head of Hezbollah said the powerful Iran-backed Shiite movement would not “stand by and do nothing in the face of (Israel’s) looting of Lebanon’s natural wealth, which is the only hope for the salvation of the Lebanese people.”
This was a welcome admission that Lebanon is on the brink economically and socially, but also it is like the pot calling the kettle black, since Nasrallah’s party and its corrupt allies are complicit in the grand Lebanese asset theft that led the World Bank to rank the country as suffering from one of the three worst economic meltdowns the world has ever witnessed.
Regarding Karish and the nearby Qana field, Lebanese president and Hezbollah ally Michel Aoun has promised to offer a reply to the American mediator. But in view of their past missed opportunities, I am not holding my breath about seeing gas flowing out of Lebanese rigs anytime soon.
There are reasons for my pessimism. Lebanon’s corrupt ruling class, which has carried out policies over the past three decades that are specifically designed to benefit its own clans, tribes and regional partners, is not likely to have a sudden awakening and reverse its stance politically and economically, clean up its act and reform the system it spent decades establishing just because it is the sensible thing to do to help the 80 percent of Lebanese who are in the grip of poverty.
Many in the country believe that the maritime dispute with Israel is a mere extension of other stalemates the country has been experiencing since Tel Aviv withdrew from the south of the country 22 years ago. These include the Shebaa farms — a strip of land bordering Syria and Israel that remained under the latter’s control and has been exploited by Hezbollah and its patrons in Iran and Syria to maintain its military arsenal, even though all other Lebanese parties have disarmed.
Listening to Lebanese talk shows over the past week, politicians — veterans and newly elected parliamentarians alike — have been vying to show how resolute they are in defending the sovereignty of the country’s gas and acting as guardians of the public wealth. They are all determined not to let Israel benefit from its deep-sea wealth, forgetting that Tel Aviv is already pumping gas from three other fields farther south of Karish and Qana, while Lebanon is yet to find any substantial deposits in its uncontested northern waters.
Some of these politicians have been going even further, dwelling on the Western countries’ rush to buy gas from any source to plug the hole left by Russia turning off some of its gas and oil taps as a response to sanctions imposed on its industry due to its invasion of Ukraine.
The corrupt ruling class is not likely to have a sudden awakening and reverse its stance politically and economically.
In theory, Lebanon’s ruling elites might find themselves — due to some geopolitical calculations — hovering over new-found wealth in the nation’s waters, but I tend to remain skeptical and believe that Hezbollah’s keenness will be checked by Iran and Syria’s calculations and wider vision for what works for the region. If they do allow Lebanon to build a terminal so that it can sell gas to Europe, is Lebanon sure the revenue from such an operation will be deposited in the country’s coffers, without it melting into the pockets of the country’s corrupt but powerful political elite? Can they be sure that this political class, which has prevented people from accessing their savings to fund its failed management of the state and its greed, has transformed into transparent and ethical operators ready to rebuild Lebanon’s economy and its people’s prosperity?
Hochstein might shuttle back and forth, proposing all types of dividing lines as a compromise, but the question remains: Can the Lebanese trust their politicians after all they have seen over the last few years and believe that they are likely to abandon caring for enriching themselves above all else, even if that means sending their people to hell? The leopards of Lebanon have never changed their spots.
*Mohamed Chebaro is a British-Lebanese journalist, media consultant and trainer with more than 25 years’ experience covering war, terrorism, defense, current affairs and diplomacy.

The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on June 15-16/2022
U.S. awaits 'constructive' response from Tehran on nuclear deal

Reuters/June 15/2022
WASHINGTON, June 14 (Reuters) - The United States said on Tuesday it awaits a constructive response from Iran on reviving the 2015 nuclear deal without "extraneous" issues, a possible reference to Iran's demand its Revolutionary Guards be dropped from a U.S. terrorism list. "We await a constructive response from the Iranians, a response that leaves behind issues that are extraneous to the JCPOA," State Department spokesperson Ned Price said, referring to the deal formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. In 2018 then-U.S. President Donald Trump reneged on the deal, under which Iran restrained its nuclear program in return for relief from economic sanctions, prompting Iran to begin violating its core nuclear limits about a year later. Speaking at a briefing, Price was responding to questions about the Iranian foreign minister's statement that Tehran had put forward a new proposal on reviving the agreement, which he did not address in detail. Another State Department spokesperson, who asked not to be identified, denied the United States received any serious proposal from Tehran. Iran has declined direct talks with Washington about reviving the deal and transmits messages chiefly via European diplomats."We have seen no substantive communication from Iran, but we are open to any initiative that would allow us to immediately conclude and implement the deal we negotiated in Vienna for mutual return to full implementation of the JCPOA, dropping issues that go beyond the JCPOA," said the spokesperson.The pact seemed near revival in March but talks were thrown into disarray partly over whether the United States might remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which controls elite armed and intelligence forces that Washington accuses of a global terrorist campaign, from its Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list.President Joe Biden's administration has made clear it has no plan to drop the IRGC from the list, a step that would have limited practical effect but would anger many U.S. lawmakers

Two Iranian Scientists Join List of Dead in Israeli-Iranian Shadow War
London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 15 June, 2022

Two Iranian scientists fell ill in late May, and they grew sicker and ended up in the intensive care units of hospitals in two different cities nearly 400 miles apart. Then, they both died within days of each other. They both graduated from Iran’s top universities — young, healthy and athletic. One of them, Ayoub Entezari, was an aeronautical engineer who worked for a military research center, and the other, Kamran Aghamolaei, was a geologist. Iran believes Israel killed them by poisoning their food, the New York Times quoted Iranian official and two other people with ties to the government who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. Compounding the mystery behind their deaths, Israeli media and Persian news channels abroad reported that Aghamolaei worked at Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility. But friends denied that and said he worked for a private geological research company.
Entezari had a doctorate in aeronautics and worked on projects related to missiles and airplane turbines for a government aerospace center in the city of Yazd, about 390 miles southeast of the capital, Tehran, the newspaper reported.
He developed symptoms of food poisoning after attending a dinner he was invited to in Yazd, according to a staff member of a senior Iranian official. The host of the dinner party had disappeared and authorities were searching for him, according to the staff member, who could not be identified because he was not authorized to speak publicly.
While Aghamolaei had just returned to Tehran from a business trip to the northwestern city of Tabriz when he developed intense nausea and diarrhea that worsened day by day until his organs failed and he died, according to a friend. If, as Iran suspects, these mysteriously similar deaths were targeted killings, it would fit the pattern of a shadow war with Israel that has seen both sides strike each other with just enough secrecy to avoid a full blown war. Now that shadow war appears to be intensifying. In the past two weeks alone, a series of deaths linked to Israel have rattled Iran. Israel appears to have broadened its targets from senior figures connected to the nuclear program to military personnel and lower level scientists. The newspaper said that a spokeswoman for the Israeli prime minister’s office declined to comment on the two recent deaths inside Iran. But Israel has worked clandestinely for years to undermine Iran’s nuclear and weapons programs, including by targeted killings of experts involved in those endeavors. It has also attacked Iranian military sites developing advanced drones and missiles, the report showed. Iran, in turn, has tried to target Israeli citizens around the world and armed and funded regional militias hostile to Israel, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon. But much of the conflict has centered around the nuclear program. Israel staunchly opposes the efforts, albeit faltering, to resurrect the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers — which then US President Donald Trump pulled out of in 2018. The agreement eased punishing economic sanctions on Tehran in exchange for limiting Iran’s nuclear activity.
Israel feels the deal does not limit Iran’s nuclear activities enough at a time when it is deeply concerned that the country is within close reach of producing enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon.
The quickening pace of attacks in Iran, taken together with recent comments by Israeli leaders, suggest a shift in Israel’s strategy. “The past year has been a year of changing course in Israel’s strategy vis-à-vis Iran,” Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Tuesday at a meeting of the parliamentary foreign affairs and defense and foreign affairs committee. “We have shifted into a higher gear. We are acting at all times and places, and we will continue to do so.”Over the past two weeks in Iran, a senior member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, Sayad Khodayee, was targeted and killed in a drive-by shooting in Tehran. A young Defense Ministry engineer was killed in a drone attack, and another IRGC senior member fell suspiciously to his death from a balcony.

Iran Says Rocket Launch Coming after Photo Shows Preparation
Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 15 June, 2022
Iran acknowledged Wednesday it plans two tests for its new solid-fueled rocket after satellite photos showed preparations at a desert launch pad previously used in the program. Iran will launch its satellite-carrying Zuljanah rocket twice more after conducting a previous launch, the state-run IRNA news agency quoted Defense Ministry spokesman Ahmad Hosseini as saying. He did not elaborate on a timeframe for the tests, nor said when the previous launch occurred.Each of the Zuljanah's three stages will be evaluated during the tests, Hosseini said. Satellite images taken Tuesday by Maxar Technologies showed preparations at a launch pad at Imam Khomeini Spaceport in Iran’s rural Semnan province, the site of frequent recent failed attempts to put a satellite into orbit, The Associated Press reported. One set of images showed a rocket on a transporter, preparing to be lifted and put on a launch tower. A later image Tuesday afternoon showed the rocket apparently on the tower. Though it isn't clear when the launch will take place, erecting a rocket typically means a launch is imminent. NASA fire satellites, which detect flashes of light from space, did not immediately see any activity over the site late Tuesday night into Wednesday. Asked about the preparations, State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters in Washington that the US urges Iran to de-escalate the situation. “Iran has consistently chosen to escalate tensions. It is Iran that has consistently chosen to take provocative actions,” Price said.A Pentagon spokesman, US Army Maj. Rob Lodewick, said the American military “will continue to closely monitor Iran’s pursuit of viable space launch technology and how it may relate to advancements in its overall ballistic missile program.”
“Iranian aggression, to include the demonstrated threat posed by its various missile programs, continues to be a top concern for our forces in the region,” Lodewick said.

Iran Arrests Suspect Allegedly Involved in Tehran Hacking
Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 15 June, 2022
Iranian authorities have arrested a suspect allegedly involved in a cyberattack on the Tehran municipality’s website, media reported Wednesday. The official IRNA news agency gave no further details but said more information would be released later. The semi-official Tasnim news agency reported that the suspect worked for the municipality and had links to foreign intelligence services. Earlier this month, Iran said that government-run surveillance cameras in Tehran were "disrupted." An exile group, Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, claimed it hacked into over 5,000 cameras around Tehran and the municipality website. The incident comes after another hack in January where the same exile group called for the death of the country’s supreme leader in video played on multiple state TV channels. In October, an assault on Iran’s fuel distribution system paralyzed gas stations nationwide, leading to long lines of angry motorists unable to get subsidized fuel for days. A cyberattack on Iran’s railway system caused chaos and train delays. Another hack leaked footage of abuses at its notorious Evin prison.

Earthquakes Strike Off Iranian Coast; No Damage Reported

Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 15 June, 2022
Three earthquakes struck off Iran’s southern Kish Island on Wednesday, rattling Dubai and other areas across the Gulf. The US Geological Survey said two magnitude 4.7 temblors struck, followed by a 5.3 off the island near the strategic Strait of Hormuz. Iranian state television reported that authorities deployed rescue teams to the town of Jenah in Hormozgan province, though no damage and casualties were initially reported. Jenah is some 1,080 kilometers (670 miles) south of the capital, Tehran. Iran lies on major seismic faults and experiences one earthquake a day on average. In 2003, a magnitude 6.6 earthquake flattened the historic city of Bam, killing 26,000 people. A magnitude 7 earthquake that struck western Iran in 2017 killed more than 600 people and injured more than 9,000.

Iranian Labor Minister Resigns amid Protests against Soaring Living Costs

London - Tehran - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 15 June, 2022
Iran’s Labor Minister Hojatollah Abdolmaleki resigned on Tuesday amid daily nationwide protests by pensioners, merchants and workers against soaring living costs. While it was not clear if Abdolmaleki’s resignation was directly related to the month-long protests, the senior MP, Nasser Mousavi Laregani, blamed his “incompetence” for the unrest. The semi-official Tasnim news site said his resignation followed “mounting criticism for his handling of the labor market and a meagre rise in the retirement pensions.”“His failure to create a planned number of jobs and the growing protests over insufficient raises in the retirement pensions had fueled speculations that parliament will impeach him,” Tasnim said in its English-language site. The Ministry of Labor, Welfare and Social Security had said it would increase pensions by 57.4% to 55.8 million Iranian rials ($177) a month. But pensioners said it was too little too late to cope with years of inflation. “The level of distrust is unprecedented as we witness protests and anger of laborers and retirees,” Reuters quoted Laregani as telling the parliament. He said pensioners had to forsake their dignity and go to the street to make their demands. The blame lies “squarely on Abdolmaleki’s incompetence,” he added. Social media posts on Tuesday purported to show continued protests in several cities. One unverified post said partial strikes on Monday hit bazaars in the capital Tehran, the central town of Kazerun and in the industrial center of Arak.

Report: UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt Are Region's FDI Hubs
Cairo - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 15 June, 2022
The United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt were ranked the first three, respectively, in the Arab world in attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) for 2021, with investments topping $45 billion. FDI inflows to Arab countries, which rose by 42% in 2021, amounted to about $53 billion, 6.3% of which represented the total inflows to developing countries and 3.3% of the total global inflows that stood at about $1.58 trillion. Asharq Al-Awsat obtained a copy of an annual report released by the Arab Investment and Export Credit Guarantee Corporation (Dhaman) that studied the volume of FDI in the region. It showed that the first five countries accounted for more than 96% of the total inflows. The UAE topped the list by attracting $20.7 billion, followed by Saudi Arabia with $19.3 billion, then Egypt with $5.1 billion. Oman came fourth with $3.6 billion, while Morocco was fifth with $2.2 billion. Data released in the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) World Investment Report 2022 indicated that FDI balances received by Arab countries increased in late 2021 by about $53 billion, representing 5.4% compared to 2020, from $958 billion dollars to more than one trillion dollars in 2021.The first three countries accounted for about 56.5% of the total cumulative balances. Saudi Arabia topped the Arab ranking in cumulative balances inflows with $261 billion and a share of 26% of the Arab total FDI inflows, followed by the UAE with a value of $171.6 billion and a 17% share, then Egypt with a value of $137.5 billion and 13.6% share. Meanwhile, FDI outflows from Arab countries to various world countries rose by 46% to $52 billion. Saudi Arabia and the UAE contributed to about 90% of these outflows, with shares amounting to 46.1% and 43.5%, respectively. Kuwait came third with 7%. In this context, FDI balances issued by Arab countries increased by 10.2% to $543.4 billion by late 2021. The UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar accounted for 76.5% of the total balances, with shares amounting to 39.6%, 27.9% and 8.8%, respectively, followed by Kuwait with a 6.6% share. In terms of cross-border merger and acquisition deals that the Arab countries concluded in 2021, the report showed that the value of sales deals in 12 Arab countries amounted to about $30 billion, with a 4.1% share of the global total value of $728 billion. These deals were mainly focused in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE with 81.5%, 13.6% and 5.1%, respectively. The value of purchase deals for 12 Arab countries amounted to more than seven billion dollars, to which the UAE contributed with $6.1 billion and an 86.6% share of the total deals in the Arab region.

Egypt, Israel to Boost Gas Supply to EU amid Ukraine War
Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 15 June, 2022
Egypt, Israel, and the European Union on Wednesday signed a deal to increase liquefied natural gas sales to EU countries, who aim to reduce dependence on supply from Russia as the war in Ukraine drags on. The deal, stamped in a five-star Cairo hotel, will see Israel sending more gas via Egypt, which has facilities to liquefy it for export via sea, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said. "What a special moment," von der Leyen said in a joint news conference alongside Egyptian and Israel energy ministers. "I very warmly welcome the signing of this historic agreement."Last year, the European Union imported roughly 40% of its gas from Russia, and due to that has had difficulty imposing sanctions on Russia over its ongoing invasion of Ukraine. The Israeli gas will be brought via a pipeline to Egypt's LNG terminal on the Mediterranean before being transported on tankers to the European shores.Israel has two operational gas fields off its Mediterranean coast containing an estimated 690 billion cubic meters of natural gas combined, and a third offshore rig is in the works. It has already signed gas export agreements with neighboring Egypt and Jordan. Egypt's extensive natural gas facilities on the Mediterranean have stood largely inactive since the country’s 2011 uprising. In recent years, the government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi rehabilitated and modernized the facilities. In 2018, Egypt signed a $15 billion deal with Israeli company Delek Drilling and its US partner, Noble Energy to transport natural gas there. Egypt aims to create a regional energy hub.

Sisi Warns Against Undermining Egypt’s Water Share
Cairo - Mohammed Abdo Hassanein/Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 15 June, 2022
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has preempted Ethiopia’s third filling of the Renaissance Dam’s reservoir and warned against “undermining” Egypt’s water share. He affirmed that his country adheres to “diplomacy and patience” when it comes to the conflict over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Cairo is currently implementing many projects to benefit from its share in the Nile waters, Sisi told a group of media professionals on the sidelines of the inauguration of several development projects on Monday. He also indicated that Addis Ababa is ignoring Cairo's demands to sign a binding legal agreement on the rules of filling and operating the dam that preserves the interests of all concerned countries. Ethiopia began constructing the 1.8-kilometer-long dam on the Blue Nile in 2011 to generate power. According to Ethiopian Ambassador to Moscow Alemayehu Tegenu, 88% of the construction work have been completed, noting that his country looks forward to complete the construction process by late 2023. Ethiopian officials have recently stated that the third filling will take place in the upcoming rainy season in August and September, which is expected to raise tension with the two downstream countries, Egypt and Sudan. In 2011, Addis Ababa announced the construction of the $4 billion dam to be the centerpiece of Ethiopia’s bid to become Africa’s biggest power exporter, generating more than 6,000 megawatts. Egypt fears that the dam will damage its limited share of the Nile water, about 55.5 billion cubic meters, which the country needs for more than 90% for its supply of drinking water, irrigation for agriculture and industry.

Russia Targets NATO Arms Depot in Western Ukraine
Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 15 June, 2022
Russia said Wednesday its forces destroyed a depot containing NATO-supplied arms in western Ukraine. "Near the town of Zolochiv in Lviv region, high-precision long-range Kalibr missiles destroyed an ammunition depot of foreign weapons transferred to Ukraine by NATO countries, including 155-mm M777 howitzers," the defense ministry said in a statement. The strikes came as Ukraine keeps up its pressure on Western country to deliver more arms, and as NATO countries pledge more heavy weapons for Ukraine. Ukraine said on Tuesday it had received just 10 percent of the weapons it requested from the West to deter Russia's military intervention. Russian forces are currently concentrating their firepower on the strategically important industrial hub of Severodonetsk as part of efforts to capture a swathe of eastern Ukraine. Meanwhile, the deputy chair of Russia’s Security Council and former president Dmitry Medvedev suggested that Russia appears intent on the destruction of its neighbor. In a Telegram post, he wrote that he saw reports that Ukraine wants to receive liquified natural gas in a deal from its “overseas masters” with payment due in two years. He added: "But there’s a question. Who said that in two years Ukraine will even exist on the map of the world?” Medvedev, the former president, has been making harsh statements against Ukraine and the West since the war began on Telegram.

Kremlin Says Communication with Washington Must Continue
Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 15 June, 2022
The Kremlin said on Wednesday that communication remains "essential" in relations with the United States, amid tensions over Russia's continuing war in Ukraine.
"Communication is essential, in the future we will still have to communicate," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters in a conference call on Wednesday, when asked about the state of US-Russia relations. "The US is not going anywhere, Europe is not going anywhere, so somehow we will have to communicate with them."Relations between Russia and the West were already at one of their lowest points since the end of the Cold War even before Moscow sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine in what it calls a "special military operation".The West responded with an unprecedented barrage of sanctions, and US President Joe Biden pledged to make Russian President Vladimir Putin a "pariah" on the world stage. Russia accused Washington of waging an "economic war". Peskov said the current situation made it "unlikely" that the two sides would get back to what he called the "spirit of Geneva" - a reference to a summit between Biden and Putin in 2021 that raised hopes of limited detente."Is it possible to return to the spirit of Geneva, when there was some hope? Hardly," Peskov said. "It's unlikely that we can indulge in old hopes when we see what is happening now."He said future communication between the two countries - the world's biggest nuclear powers - would have to be on the basis of "mutual respect and mutual benefit". But he added: "This is not a topic on the short-term horizon."

Up to 1,200 Civilians May Be in Plant in Eye of Ukraine Battle, Separatist Says
Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 15 June, 2022
Up to 1,200 civilians may be holed up in the shelters of the Azot chemical plant in the eastern Ukrainian city where one of the fiercest battles of the war has been raging between Russian and Ukrainian forces, a Russian-backed separatist said. Russian forces are trying to grind down Ukrainian resistance in the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk, part of a wider push to drive Kyiv's forces out of two separatist regions which Russia backs and has recognized as independent states. Russia on Wednesday said it had opened a humanitarian corridor out of the sprawling ammonia factory founded under Soviet leader Josef Stalin, to a separatist-controlled town. "About 1,000 to 1,200 civilians of Sievierodonetsk may still be on the territory of the Azot chemical plant," Rodion Miroshnik, an official in the Russian-backed self-styled separatist administration of the Luhansk People's Republic, said on Telegram.
Miroshnik said the civilians are in part of the plant that is still controlled by Ukrainian forces, which he said numbered up to 2,000 people including Ukrainian and foreign fighters. Russia on Tuesday said it dismissed a Ukrainian request for a humanitarian corridor to evacuate civilians from the plant to Kyiv-controlled territory, citing the destruction of the last bridge across the Siverskyi Donets river which blocks the city's eastern exits. "We offer the militants of nationalist battalions and foreign mercenaries located at the Azot plant to cease any hostilities," the defense ministry said.
Russia's defense ministry said what it said were Ukrainian "militants" had deliberately led civilians into the Azot plant and was using them as human shields. Reuters was unable to verify that claim. Ukraine has denied Russian claims that it uses civilians as human shields. Russia's humanitarian corridor northwards to the city of Svatove will be open until Wednesday evening, the defense ministry said. President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly said that the main immediate reason for what he casts as a "special military operation" was to protect the Russian-speakers of Donbas from persecution and attack by Ukraine.
Ukraine and its Western backers say Russia is waging an unprovoked war against a sovereign state which is fighting for its existence. Kyiv says Russia's claim of persecution of Russian-speakers is a baseless pretext for the invasion. The conflict in eastern Ukraine began in 2014 after Russia annexed Crimea, with Russian-backed forces fighting Ukraine's armed forces. About 14,000 people were killed there between 2014 and 2022, when Russia invaded Ukraine, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Libya Split Deepens as Sirte Parliament Passes Budget
Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 15 June, 2022
Libya's east-based parliament approved a budget on Wednesday for the government it appointed in March despite the incumbent administration refusing to step down, a move that may accelerate a return to parallel rule. The parliament in the coastal city of Sirte passed the 89.7 billion Libyan dinar ($18.6 billion) budget unanimously, its spokesperson said, to finance the government of Fathi Bashagha, who has been unable to enter Tripoli to take control there.The dispute over control of government and state revenue, and over a political solution to resolve 11 years of violent chaos, threatens to launch Libya back into administrative division and war. In Tripoli, Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah, who was installed last year through a UN-backed process to head an interim unity government, has rejected the parliament's appointment of Bashagha and says he will step down only after an election.

Abbas Says There's ‘Complete Stalemate’ in Peace Process
Ramallah - Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 15 June, 2022
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas renewed his warning on Tuesday of taking the necessary legal measures to protect the interests of the Palestinian people and put an end to the Israeli occupation’s crimes, which have reached an unacceptable level.
“The current situation cannot be tolerated in light of the absence of a political horizon and international protection for the Palestinian people,” he said during a press conference with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades at the presidential palace in Nicosia. Abbas said he informed his counterpart of the complete stalemate in efforts to reach a peaceful settlement to the Palestinian problem because the current government of Israel has suspended all agreements. He stressed that the Palestinian leadership will continue contacts to mobilize international support to confront these dangerous challenges and to take deterrent measures to ensure an end to double standards. At the same time, the Palestinian President said the leadership is ready to engage in any peace efforts and initiatives based on UN resolutions, leading to the establishment of peace, security, and stability for everyone in the region, and an end to the Israeli occupation of the state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital. Abbas arrived in the Cypriot capital, Nicosia, on Monday on a three-day official visit upon the invitation of his Cypriot counterpart. He met with a number of Arab ambassadors, to whom he explained the latest developments related to the Palestinian cause, and the ongoing Israeli attacks and crimes against the people, especially in Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Islamic and Christian holy sites. Abbas also briefed the Arab diplomats on ongoing contacts and efforts to revive the peace process. During his trip, Abbas also signed with the Cypriot side bilateral cooperation agreements in the field of diplomatic training, exchange of information on education programs, and the exchange of academics at conferences on topics of common interest.

Turkey Says Taking Necessary Measures to Fight Terrorism

Ankara - Saeed Abdulrazek/Wednesday, 15 June, 2022
Turkey on Tuesday affirmed it is taking all the necessary security measures within the framework of its cooperation mechanisms in the fight against terrorism. “It is a fact that Turkey is a safe country and continues to fight against terrorism in the most effective way through domestic and cross-border operations. The successful results in fight against terrorism can be seen clearly,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ambassador Tanju Bilgic said in a statement. His comments came after Israel raised its Istanbul travel advisory to the highest level on Monday because of what it said was a threat of Iranian attempts to kill or abduct Israelis vacationing in Turkey. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said a "huge effort" by Israel's security forces had saved "Israeli lives in recent weeks.”His warning followed the assassination of a senior officer in the Revolutionary Guard Corps, Col. Hassan Sayyad Khodaei, which Iran blamed on Israel.
Bilgic said the “travel warnings are considered to be related to different international developments and motives. In fact, our relevant authorities are taking all the necessary security measures within the framework of our cooperation mechanisms regarding the fight against terrorism.”He said Turkey maintains its fight against terrorism without any discrimination among the terrorist organizations and contributes to the security of the international community, adding that Ankara’s efforts in this regard are also known and commended by the international community. However, the Turkish spokesperson failed to comment on reports published by Israeli media outlets, which said Turkish and Israeli security agencies have arrested a number of Revolutionary Guard members who were involved in an Iranian plot to kidnap Israeli tourists in Turkey and foiled it in the nick of time. Two days ago, the Israeli National Security Council (NSC) Counter-Terrorism Bureau has raised the travel warning for Istanbul to Level 4 – the highest level. Early this month, the travel warning to the public for Turkey was reissued in the wake of security concerns regarding Iranian attempts to attack Israeli targets around the world, but especially in Turkey. The NSC called on Israelis currently in Istanbul to leave the city at the earliest opportunity, and on Israelis planning to travel to Turkey to avoid doing so until further notice.

Two Dead, Seven Injured in Turkish Air Strikes Hitting YBS Site in Iraq
Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 15 June, 2022
At least two people were killed and seven injured in Turkish air strikes targeting the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS), a militia affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), in Iraq's northern province of Sinjar, security sources said on Wednesday. They said one strike targeted an intelligence headquarters and another hit a civilian area, causing damage to nearby shops.Videos on social media showed plumes of thick smoke and fires ablaze while people ran away in the street, though Reuters could not immediately verify the videos. There has been a long-running Turkish campaign in Iraq and Syria against militants of the PKK and the Syrian Kurdish YPG, which are both regarded as terrorist groups by Ankara. Turkey regularly carries out air strikes into northern Iraq and has sent commandos to support its offensives. In April, the Turkish foreign ministry summoned the Iraqi charge d'affaires after Baghdad accused Ankara of violating its sovereignty and called on it to withdraw all of its forces from Iraqi territory. The PKK took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which in the past was mainly focused in southeast Turkey.

Canada-Kingdom of Denmark joint statement on bilateral cooperation
June 14, 2022 - Ottawa, Ontario - Global Affairs Canada
The Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Jeppe Kofod, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Denmark, and Múte B. Egede Prime Minister of Greenland and Vivian Motzfeldt, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Industry and Trade of Greenland issued the following joint statement:
“Canada and the Kingdom of Denmark together with Greenland are close, like-minded partners committed to democratic principles, including the rule of law and gender equality. We work closely to support multilateralism and the rules-based international order, to protect human rights, minorities, Indigenous peoples and to safeguard democracy. We commit to deepening our cooperation across a range of priority issues in support of peace, prosperity and stability globally, as well as in the Arctic region.
“Canada and the Kingdom of Denmark are committed to strengthening relationships that are key to our collective security. We will continue to cooperate closely within NATO, with the EU and the international community to end Russia’s unprovoked and unjustifiable invasion of Ukraine. Russia bears the sole responsibility for the illegal aggression, which violates international law and has caused mass destruction, senseless loss of human life, and food and energy security crises that threaten vulnerable populations globally.
“Together we pledge our steadfast support to Ukraine and salute the courage and resilience of its people. We will support the efforts to investigate reported war crimes, including against women and children, and to hold perpetrators accountable, including through our shared membership of the Group of Friends on Accountability Following the Aggression Against Ukraine. We look forward to the Ukraine Recovery Conference taking place next month in Lugano, Switzerland, and we are united in supporting Ukraine in its reforms, economic recovery and reconstruction planning.
“Democracy is the foundation of long-lasting peace and security, sustainable development and prosperity. Canada and the Kingdom of Denmark are committed to increasing bilateral and multilateral cooperation to promote our democratic values, including in the use of digital technologies and in cyberspace. We commit to working together to advance human rights and fundamental freedoms online and digital inclusion through the Freedom Online Coalition. Canada is pleased to join the Copenhagen Pledge on Tech for Democracy, which includes governments, tech companies, civil society and multilateral organizations. We are also committed to advancing a feminist, inclusive and rights-respecting governance of digital technology through the Global Partnership for Action on Gender-Based Online Harassment and Abuse.
“In the Arctic, our countries share a unique bond, firmly rooted in the rich historical and cultural ties between Inuit in Canada and Greenland. The ongoing and historical links fostered by Inuit in both Greenland and Canada provide opportunities to strengthen cooperation, between the two countries’ governments, including in areas of culture, mobility and transport, natural resources, and sustainable development through trade and infrastructure.
“Canada and the Kingdom of Denmark, together with Greenland, celebrate the signing of a new boundary agreement resolving long-standing disputes over the maritime boundary in the Lincoln Sea and the sovereignty of Tartupaluk/Hans Island. It also establishes a boundary on the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles in the Labrador Sea. From the Lincoln Sea in the north to the Labrador Sea in the south, the line is the longest continuous maritime boundary in the world. This agreement is a testament to our excellent relations, and it demonstrates our commitment to the rules-based international order and in maintaining our shared ambition of the Arctic as a region of low tension and cooperation. We commit to further strengthening this cooperation, which will bring important benefits for the people living in the Arctic.
“To address the most challenging crisis of our time, Canada and the Kingdom of Denmark will take urgent action to address climate change and mitigate its consequences. We are committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, and we will promote trade and investment in clean technologies to promote a green transition and economy-wide decarbonization. Climate change is affecting the Arctic faster than any other region in the world. Our countries together with Greenland commit to helping our communities monitor and build resilience in response to climate change in the Arctic through enhanced collaboration in research that uses both scientific and Indigenous and local knowledge.
“We look forward to increasing and expanding our cooperation in the years to come.”

The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on June 15-16/2022
Satellite images suggest Iran preparing for rocket launch
Jon Gambrell/AP/June 15/2022
Iran appeared to be readying for a space launch Tuesday as satellite images showed a rocket on a rural desert launch pad, just as tensions remain high over Tehran’s nuclear program.
The images from Maxar Technologies showed a launch pad at Imam Khomeini Spaceport in Iran’s rural Semnan province, the site of frequent recent failed attempts to put a satellite into orbit. One set of images showed a rocket on a transporter, preparing to be lifted and put on a launch tower. A later image Tuesday afternoon showed the rocket apparently on the tower. Iran did not acknowledge a forthcoming launch at the spaceport and its mission to the United Nations in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, its state-run IRNA news agency in May said that Iran likely would have seven homemade satellites ready for launch by the end of the Persian calendar year in March 2023. A Defense Ministry official also recently suggested Iran soon could test its new solid-fueled, satellite-carrying rocket called the Zuljanah. It wasn’t clear when the launch would take place, though erecting a rocket typically means a launch is imminent. NASA fire satellites, which detect flashes of light from space, did not immediately see any activity over the site late Tuesday night.
Asked about the preparations, State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters in Washington that the U.S. urges Iran to de-escalate the situation.
“Iran has consistently chosen to escalate tensions. It is Iran that has consistently chosen to take provocative actions,” Price said.
A Pentagon spokesman, U.S. Army Maj. Rob Lodewick, said the American military “will continue to closely monitor Iran’s pursuit of viable space launch technology and how it may relate to advancements in its overall ballistic missile program.”
“Iranian aggression, to include the demonstrated threat posed by its various missile programs, continues to be a top concern for our forces in the region,” Lodewick said.
Over the past decade, Iran has sent several short-lived satellites into orbit and in 2013 launched a monkey into space. The program has seen recent troubles, however. There have been five failed launches in a row for the Simorgh program, a type of satellite-carrying rocket. A fire at the Imam Khomeini Spaceport in February 2019 also killed three researchers, authorities said at the time.
The launch pad used in Tuesday’s preparations remains scarred from an explosion in August 2019 that even drew the attention of then-President Donald Trump. He later tweeted what appeared to be a classified surveillance image of the launch failure. Satellite images from February suggested a failed Zuljanah launch earlier this year, though Iran did not acknowledge it.
The successive failures raised suspicion of outside interference in Iran’s program, something Trump himself hinted at by tweeting at the time that the U.S. “was not involved in the catastrophic accident.” There’s been no evidence offered, however, to show foul play in any of the failures, and space launches remain challenging even for the world’s most successful programs.
Meanwhile, Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard in April 2020 revealed its own secret space program by successfully launching a satellite into orbit. The Guard launched another satellite this March at another site in Semnan province, just east of the Iranian capital of Tehran.
Judging from the launch pad used, Iran likely is preparing for the Zuljanah test launch, said John Krzyzaniak, a research associate at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Krzyzaniak earlier this week suggested a launch was imminent based on activity at the site.
The rocket’s name, Zuljanah, comes from the horse of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. Iranian state television aired footage of a successful Zuljanah launch in February 2021.
The launch preparations also come as the Guard reportedly saw one of its soldiers “martyred” in Semnan province under unclear circumstances over the weekend. Iran’s Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Ministry, however, later claimed the man worked for it.
The United States has alleged that Iran’s satellite launches defy a U.N. Security Council resolution and has called on Tehran to undertake no activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons. The U.S. intelligence community’s 2022 threat assessment, published in March, claims such a satellite launch vehicle “shortens the timeline” to an intercontinental ballistic missile for Iran as it uses “similar technologies.”
Iran, which has long said it does not seek nuclear weapons, previously maintained that its satellite launches and rocket tests do not have a military component. U.S. intelligence agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency say Iran abandoned an organized military nuclear program in 2003.
However, Iran’s likely preparations for a launch come as tensions have been heightened in recent days over Tehran’s nuclear program. Iran now says it will remove 27 IAEA surveillance cameras from its nuclear sites as it now enriches uranium closer than ever to weapons-grade levels.
Both Iran and the U.S. insist they are willing to re-enter Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which saw the Islamic Republic drastically curb its enrichment in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the accord in 2018, setting in motion a series of attacks and confrontations beginning in 2019 that continue today into the administration of President Joe Biden.
Talks in Vienna about reviving the deal have been on a “pause” since March.
Building a nuclear bomb would still take Iran more time if it pursued a weapon, analysts say, though they warn Tehran’s advances make the program more dangerous. Israel has threatened in the past that it would carry out a preemptive strike to stop Iran — and already is suspected in a series of recent killings targeting Iranian officials.
*Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twiter.com/jongambrellAP.

War in Ukraine Is Destabilizing the Middle East and North Africa
Saeed Ghasseminejad/The National Interest/June 15/2022
The war in Ukraine is already setting the Middle East on fire.
The war in Ukraine is already setting the Middle East on fire. In Iran, the government announced it would cut wheat subsidies amid rising global prices triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The announcement ignited a wave of protests that quickly turned political, as demonstrators called for the overthrow of Tehran’s clerical regime. But the ayatollahs are not the only ones in a hot and dry region that feel threatened by the upheaval in global wheat markets. In 2020, Russia and Ukraine provided 43 percent of the wheat imported by the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), compared to just 19 percent in 2008. The region also depends heavily on Russian and Ukrainian corn.
This system shock is not the first time in recent memory that turmoil in global grain markets has turned up the political temperature in MENA. Wheat prices spiked three separate times between 2008 and 2012, contributing to what began known as the Arab Spring, but mostly degenerated into bloody and intractable wars still raging in Syria, Libya, and Yemen. To tamp down risks, the Biden administration has already allocated hundreds of millions of dollars to fight global food insecurity.
Yet the administration should deal differently with friendly governments than it does with adversaries. Assistance for partners such as Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt should be more generous. In contrast, there is no reason to bail out the dictatorship in Tehran, whose corruption and military adventurism are the main drivers of its people’s hardship. Nor should Washington do favors for the Hezbollah-dominated Lebanese government, which takes marching orders from Tehran and whose corruption devastated the economy even before the war in Ukraine began.
There are several ways the war has destabilized the markets for wheat and corn, of which Russia and Ukraine are top exporters. First, the war itself makes it difficult or impossible for Ukraine to grow and harvest crops. Second, the Russian blockade of Kyiv’s Black Sea ports has cut off the main avenue for exports. Third, sanctions against Russian oil and gas can threaten the supply and increase the cost of fertilizer and fuel. The price of seeds is also rising. Fourth, while there are no sanctions on Russian grain, financial sanctions make doing any business with Russia more difficult. Transportation has also become harder to manage.
The prices of wheat and corn in 2021 and 2022 have jumped to their highest level since 2008. If the war continues, the supply shock in late 2022 and early 2023 may be even more significant. After the spikes associated with the Arab Spring, prices had been on a decreasing trend until 2020. The pandemic then ushered in loose monetary policies and supply chain problems that put upward pressure on prices across the product market. Finally, the war in Ukraine set an already-hot wheat and corn market on fire.
The MENA region is water-stressed and has only 2 percent of the world’s renewable water resources, making it very sensitive to waves of drought. As a result, MENA countries rely heavily on grain imports and are very sensitive to price shocks. Egypt, Algeria, and Morocco were among the top fifteen wheat importers in 2020. Egypt, Algeria, and Iran were among the top fifteen for corn in 2020.
Russian and Ukrainian exports have an outsized share of MENA markets. Overall, Russia was the number one wheat exporter globally in 2020, while Ukraine ranked fifth. Over the last few years, one-quarter of global wheat exports have come from Russia and Ukraine, a share that has risen sharply since 2008, when they only accounted for 10 percent of exports. MENA countries import as much as 45 percent of their wheat from Russia and Ukraine, up from 19 percent in 2008. Russia has a larger market share, with 27 percent versus about 16 percent for Ukraine.
Between 2018 and 2020, Russia and Ukraine also exported, on average, $6.5 billion per year of corn to the MENA region, or 23 percent of the region’s total imports—Ukraine provides about 19 percent, Russia just 4 percent.
Most MENA countries have a friendly relationship with Russia, so Moscow has no reason to use wheat exports (or the denial of exports) as a weapon. However, poorer countries in the region may still struggle to afford Russian wheat, although Syria allegedly received 100,000 tonnes of wheat that Russian forces stole from Ukraine.
Once the breadbasket of the Roman Empire, Egypt is now the largest importer of wheat in the world, with 81 percent of imports coming from Russia and Ukraine between 2018 and 2020. The World Bank classifies Egypt as a lower-middle-income nation, so it is especially sensitive to food prices. In 2020, Cairo imported $2.8 billion of wheat. Shortages and rising prices could easily trigger unrest.
Lebanon, Libya, Tunisia, and Yemen already suffer from political instability and economic troubles; all purchased 50 percent or more of their imported wheat from Ukraine and Russia between 2018 and 2020. Libya and Tunisia also get half or more of their corn from Ukraine and Russia. Morocco, Jordan, Iran, and Syria are somewhat less exposed, which bought between 25 to 50 percent of their imported wheat from Russia and Ukraine.
If the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues grinding forward, wheat importers will likely have to contend with an even greater supply shock in the first half of 2023. The United States may want to offer additional aid to partners such as Tunisia, Morocco, and Egypt while helping them secure sufficient imports.
Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen already receive extensive humanitarian aid through the United Nations, most of it paid for by the United States and other Western donors. In Syria, the regime of Bashar al-Assad expropriates much of the aid for its own purposes. In Yemen, the Houthis diverted so much aid that the World Food Programme made the extraordinary decision to suspend part of its aid in 2019, although it later resumed. Last year, a Reuters investigation discovered that Lebanese banks lost $250 million of UN aid money via ill-advised currency trades. Rather than calling for additional donations, the UN’s first priority in these countries should be to stop the corruption that prevents aid from reaching those in need.
The Islamic Republic in Iran, the greatest threat to the United States’s interests in the Middle East over the past four decades, has been the scene of protests over the high price of bread for the last few weeks. The protests were most significant in the southwestern provinces, where the mismanagement of water sources has been the worst. Those protests merged with demonstrations over the collapse of a high-rise building that killed forty-one in Abadan, in the southwestern province of Khuzestan.
The common factor among the numerous mass protests that have roiled Iran since 2017 is that while they start over economic issues, they quickly become political, with the primary demand being the regime’s collapse. International isolation, economic crises, and domestic discontent have put the dictatorship in a perilous position. Instead of throwing the Islamic Republic a lifeline, Washington should side with the protesters, empower them, and push the regime toward the edge. It is what the protesters want because they know that Iran’s economic crises will never end for as long as the country suffers under a regime that values the pursuit of nuclear weapons and foreign military adventures far more than the lives or prosperity of its citizens.
*Saeed Ghasseminejad is a senior advisor on Iran and financial economics at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), where he contributes to FDD’s Iran Program and Center on Economic and Financial Power (CEFP). Follow Saeed on Twitter @SGhasseminejad. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, non-partisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

Biden’s Saudi Arabia Opportunity
Daniel Shapiro and Mark Dubowitz/Politico/June 15/2022
The president’s first trip to the Middle East offers a chance to make meaningful gains.
The U.S.-Saudi relationship has lately endured some of the worst tensions in its history. But President Joe Biden’s first visit to the Middle East next month, with stops in Israel and Saudi Arabia, offers a surprising opportunity — if both sides will take it.
A wide range of issues have stoked disagreement and mistrust between the longtime partners: Iran nuclear talks, the war in Yemen, the Saudi posture on U.S. rivals Russia and China, human rights (including the murder of Jamal Khashoggi), social reform in the Kingdom, oil production and prices, and the U.S. commitment to the Middle East.
That’s a lot to tackle in one presidential visit of perhaps 24 to 48 hours. As senior officials from both countries travel between Washington and Riyadh to lay the groundwork, they should be realistic about what is achievable. One principle that should guide preparations: Not all bilateral differences can be resolved at once. However tempting a grand bargain may be, the relationship is more likely to be repaired step-by-step.
What is most critical to address first? Each side has core strategic interests for which they need to see the other side demonstrate concern. Cementing a set of understandings around these issues would make a visit valuable, even while other disagreements remain.
For Saudi Arabia, the core strategic interest is ensuring its defense against the threat posed by the regime in Iran and its proxies, particularly the Houthis in Yemen, who, with Iranian backing, training and arms, have launched dozens of rockets against Saudi civilian targets. Closely related is the Saudis’ desire for confidence that the United States is committed to stopping Iran’s development of nuclear weapons and that Washington retains a strategic commitment to the Middle East and to its regional partners, even as it addresses other strategic priorities in the Indo-Pacific and Europe.
Here, Biden’s experience cultivating the close U.S.-Israel alliance, while also navigating real differences, is relevant. His career-long bond with Israelis is evidence that as long as one demonstrates clear understanding and empathy for a partner’s major security fears, it is possible to have very tough discussions on a range of topics and work through areas of disagreement.
Biden and Saudi leaders may not agree on returning to the Iran nuclear deal, for example; neither do Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (nor do the authors of this article, for that matter). One side sees the agreement as the least bad available alternative to buy the most time delaying Iran’s nuclear program, while the other side argues it only delays the inevitability of an even worse Iranian nuclear breakout and fuels Iran’s other regional aggressions through major sanctions relief.
The bridge to overcome this disagreement is to achieve understandings on what follows the nuclear talks, whether they collapse or result in a renewed nuclear deal. In either case, Iran’s implacable hostility can be expected to fuel escalation. Recognizing the severe threat Iran and its proxies will continue to pose to U.S. forces and partners necessitates clear U.S. commitments, underscored by its ongoing presence in the region: to assist in development of integrated regional air defenses; to sanction and designate Iranian entities engaged in terror and its ballistic missile and drone programs (even while the nuclear agreement lifts terrorism sanctions on Iran’s central bank and oil and tanker companies); to facilitate interdictions of weapons shipments to proxies; to rally international condemnation of the regime’s interference in its neighbors’ affairs and abuse of its own people; and to prepare military deterrence and defense options, alone or with others, to ensure Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon. That should include a clear and credible threat by Biden to use military force to stop an Iranian nuclear weapon. And the Saudis, who were shaken by the lack of any U.S. response to the Iranian attack on its major oil facility at Abqaiq in 2019 under the Trump administration, must have confidence that they will not be left alone in the event of similar attacks in the future. These commitments, which apply both to a renewed Iran nuclear deal and its sunsets and to a no-deal scenario, and which do not rule out maintaining deescalation channels to Iran, should also elicit a Saudi commitment to take no steps toward developing its own uranium enrichment capability.
For Biden, the core strategic interest that must be addressed is ensuring that Saudi Arabia continues to orient its policies toward the United States, rather than hedge its bets by leaning toward Russia and China. There are many aspects to such commitments, from avoiding acquisitions of major Chinese and Russian military systems to standing with the United States in condemning outrages like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s persecution of Muslim Uyghurs. In the context of the war in Ukraine, it also requires Saudi Arabia to agree to increase oil production to bring down prices, so sanctions on Russia have deeper bite and European energy supply needs can be met by non-Russian sources. Abandoning the oil production quotas the Kingdom and Russia established in the OPEC+ agreement will be a clear sign that the Saudis are prepared to give as well as receive, and understand that to be treated as partners, they must act like partners. That is the essence of the bargain for both sides: the restoration of a partnership. It has always been somewhat transactional — a steady and cheap supply of oil in exchange for security — but its critical elements remain relevant even in the face of serious, perhaps unbridgeable, differences between the countries’ leaders. Saudi Arabia has no serious alternative to the United States as a guarantor of its security against the very real threats it faces. Facilitation of Saudi Arabia’s own defense capabilities, and assurances of U.S. intentions, are fundamental to the Kingdom’s success. Meanwhile, today’s oil price spike underscores the critical role that Riyadh has often played during past geopolitical crises in stabilizing oil markets. And in an era of global superpower competition, keeping key Middle Eastern nations aligned with the United States is imperative.
These are the central requirements that would make a visit to Saudi Arabia worthwhile. And yet it would leave important issues unresolved, from U.S. concerns over Saudi human rights violations to Saudi complaints that its dramatic social reforms underway have not been recognized. Biden should acknowledge these profound changes, perhaps by meeting dynamic female social and business entrepreneurs only recently allowed by Saudi leaders to pursue their ambitions, which they attribute to decisions of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS). Biden can give credit where due and encourage a positive trend. But the Saudis should go further: They need to release key human rights activists from prison, especially those who pushed for the very social reforms MBS has now embraced, and commit not to imprison them in the future. They should also allow Raif Badawi and Loujain al-Hathloul, recently released from prison for advocating these social reforms, to secure a clemency from travel bans that would allow them to leave the Kingdom and, in Badawi’s case, reunite with his family in Canada.

Expedite arms deliveries to beleaguered democracies

Bradley Bowman and RADM (Ret) Mark Montgomery/ Defense News /June 15/2022
Fielded combat capabilities — not arms sales announcements from Washington — are what help America’s beleaguered democratic partners such as Taiwan deter and defeat aggression. Despite this fact, the United States has proven painfully slow in delivering desperately needed weapons to threatened democracies, leaving them unnecessarily vulnerable and inviting costly aggression by authoritarian states.
The United States and Europe have their hands full with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked invasion in Ukraine, belatedly undertaking an unprecedented and difficult transfer of arms to fill the critical gaps in Ukraine’s capability and capacity. To avoid additional catastrophes in the Indo-Pacific region and Middle East, Congress should systematically focus on expediting the delivery of weapons to key partners before adversaries attack them — and while the arms could have the desired deterrent effect.
The most likely cause of war between the United States and China will be aggression by Beijing against Taiwan. Despite this, Washington has been remarkably lethargic in delivering to Taipei the means it needs to deter and defeat an attack by the Chinese Communist Party designed to extinguish freedom on the island. Permitting this meandering and unfocused process to persist would ignore one of the most important lessons of the war in Ukraine: The United States should spend less time worrying about provoking authoritarian bullies and more time urgently helping threatened democracies before an invasion or attack begins. Consider the sales of missiles and jets to Taiwan. The Defense Department’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced in October 2020 the decision to approve sales to Taiwan of 100 Harpoon coastal defense systems, including more than 400 missiles. That was a laudable decision, as the Harpoons would help make Taiwan a porcupine, an unappealing target for consumption by the People’s Republic of China. The DSCA announcement said the systems would help “counter or deter maritime aggressions, coastal blockades, and amphibious assaults” — a top priority for both Washington and Taipei. But here’s the problem: Taiwan is not getting those Harpoons anytime soon. The original plan for a 2024 delivery was reportedly postponed to 2025. And Taiwanese Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng later said the systems delivery would not be complete until 2028.
That’s eight years from announcement to final delivery — a particularly troubling plan given that U.S. Indo-Pacific Command has repeatedly warned that China could attack Taiwan long before that.
Unfortunately, this long lead time in delivering a desperately needed weapon system to Taiwan is not an anomaly. DSCA announced the approval of the sale of 66 F-16C/D Block 70 aircraft to Taiwan in August 2019. Final delivery of those aircraft is currently projected for the end of 2026. The people of Taiwan could be under Beijing’s authoritarian yoke by then.
According to recent reports, there is a more than $14 billion backlog in the delivery of weapons to Taiwan that have been approved for purchase since 2019. Defense News noted that in addition to the Harpoon missiles and F-16s, the delayed weapon deliveries include “Stinger missiles, heavyweight torpedoes, high-mobility artillery rocket systems, Paladin howitzers,” reconnaissance pods, communication systems, air-launched SLAM-ER missiles and components for Patriot missile defense systems.
Those are many of the exact capabilities Taipei needs to deter Chinese aggression and, if that fails, to defeat Chinese forces. While the causes for delays vary between programs, one can observe some of this same sluggish pace of arms deliveries in American security assistance to Israel. To deter and defeat a potential sprint by Iran to a nuclear weapons capability, Israel needs to modernize its aging aerial refueling fleet. Accordingly, Israel has sought to purchase the KC-46, and DSCA announced the administration’s approval of the request in March 2020. But Israel will not receive its first KC-46 from the United States until 2025 or later. Admittedly, the KC-46 program has been plagued by problems, and the entire U.S. defense-industrial base has been hit hard by the pandemic. Exacerbating matters, Jerusalem took too long to request the KC-46 and lost valuable time. But the United States should not need five or more years to deliver a few refueling aircraft, from a line already in production, to its closest ally in the Middle East, who is confronting an existential threat from the Islamic Republic of Iran.
So what’s to be done?

Putin Prepares to Declare Himself a Conqueror
Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg/ June 15/2022
In the early hours of June 12, celebrated in Vladimir Putin’s country as Russia Day, a curious piece appeared on the website of the pro-Kremlin daily Izvestia. Signed ostensibly by Putin’s First Deputy Chief of Staff Sergei Kiriyenko, it promised the residents of the occupied territories of Ukraine that these regions would be absorbed into Russia. It also contained this provocative passage:
“All of Russia will be working to rebuild a Donbass ruined by fascists. Yes, this will cost several trillion rubles. But that money will be allocated from the Russian budget — even at the price of a temporary drop in the nation’s living standards.”
Ukrainian media pounced, reporting the article as a genuine policy statement. Izvestia promptly took the piece down, claiming that it had been hacked.
Replete with punctuation errors, the Kiriyenko piece was likely fake. Yet in many respects, it does reflect designs for Ukraine’s eastern and southern regions that the Kremlin has already set in motion. These will only fail if Ukraine manages to claw back its territory, pushing the Russian invaders out of the country. Initially unwilling to admit he was starting a war of invasion, Putin appears to lean toward declaring victory by openly claiming the land he’s managed to win — but to be able to do that, he needs some kind of medium- and long-term vision. Kiriyenko appears to be setting himself up as the man with the plan.
More than three months into the so-called “special military operation,” the Kremlin has made no official announcement about how it sees the future of the territories it has grabbed. All it has done is recognize the independence of the two pre-existing pro-Russian statelets — the Donetsk and Luhansk “People’s Republics” — within the borders of the eponymous Ukrainian regions. Yet Russia has also seized cities and towns in the Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and Kharkiv regions, to which the “People’s Republics” had never laid claim.
Officials of the collaborationist administrations set up in the conquered territories have often spoken of upcoming referendums on joining Russia. Yet none of these projects has been officially endorsed by the Kremlin. A community in the Zaporizhzhia Region — or, more likely, a group of pro-Russian activists there — “voted” to join the Donetsk People’s Republic in April, apparently fearing a scenario under which the “republics” become parts of Russia after the war and the rest of the conquered territories are stuck in the kind of grey zone that the “republics” inhabited after 2014.
Not even the “republics’” induction into Russia is an official certainty, though the Russian figures who have spoken of it stand much higher in the Putin-led hierarchy than the local collaborationists. They include top functionaries in the ruling United Russia party and the tame Russian parliament. They diverge, however, on when “referendums” on joining Russia can be held — as early as July, or perhaps only in a year’s time. Russia’s hold on its recent conquests is too unstable. In the Luhansk region, most of the territory already has been seized, but about two-thirds of the Donetsk region remains in Ukrainian hands. And even the parts of Ukraine that are under Russian control today are sometimes militarily contested and vulnerable to Ukrainian shelling or insurrectionist attacks. In an address this week, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy assured Ukrainians that Ukraine would return to every town that isn’t currently flying the Ukrainian flag.
To the collaborationists in the occupied territories, this sounds like a death threat. They need a firm promise from Moscow that Russia won’t pull back and thus deliver them to the Ukrainian authorities. And for them to aid the Russian military without reservations, the promise must include the ultimate protection of a Russian border moved far enough southwest to give them cover. Only one man is capable of making such a promise, though, and he hasn’t done so yet — unless one counts Putin’s recent hint that he saw his mission as akin to Czar Peter I’s in the Great Northern War of 1700-1721:
Now, Peter I led the Northern War for 21 years. It may seem that he fought Sweden to take something away from it… But he wasn’t taking it away, he was taking it back… It looks as though it falls unto our lot, too, to take back what’s ours and to add to our strength.
It’s the clearest statement of the dictator’s intent so far. But actually moving the borders is a momentous decision that he’s only made once before, in the case of Crimea. The fake popular votes that the “people’s republics” held back in 2014 were only on broad autonomy within Ukraine: They weren’t told, or allowed, to vie for the status of Russian regions, though their leadership would have jumped at the chance. Similarly, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the Georgian regions Russia also recognizes as independent, have never been invited to join Russia as its integral parts.
It’s easy to see why Crimea — strategically important as the base of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet — has remained the exception. Admitting that territorial expansion is Russia’s goal pretty much rules out business as usual with the West, and primarily with Europe. Setting such a goal officially would be tantamount to a promise never to stop until the Kremlin’s appetites are satisfied. These appetites theoretically stretch to any territory that could be seen as part of “historic Russia,” a vague notion that might encompass much of eastern and northern Europe. Acknowledging them would amount to a declaration of permanent, open-ended war, an aspiring conqueror’s coming-out that would place Putin a tiny step away from donning an emperor’s crown.
Apart from a certain strain of madness, such a coming-out requires the ability to conquer, hold and manage other countries’ territory. In those respects, modern Russia has little experience.
Crimea was seized without a fight from a weak, panicked Ukrainian leadership. Its management — at least initially — was left to local pro-Russian politicians and managers, with rather woeful results. Crimean officials put in charge of administering the federal program, which allocated 1.37 trillion rubles ($23.9 billion at the current exchange rate) between 2015 and 2025 to some 900 projects on the peninsula, have invariably ended up in jail. Now that Moscow’s generous aid — 10 billion rubles a year for the city of Sevastopol and 20 billion rubles for Crimea — is beginning to shrink, the Kremlin wants tighter control over how it is spent.
The statelets recognized by Russia and few others have been managed at arm’s length; they have received enough resources not to starve but generally have been told to fend for themselves economically, which they mostly have done with the help of smuggling and other non-transparent schemes. In the process, they have enriched some lower-level Russian officials sent by the Kremlin to supervise the locals. These freewheeling ways would hardly be possible had the statelets been part of Russia, where Putin’s “vertical of power” is designed to extract results from officials in exchange for finite personal enrichment opportunities.
The statelets as they existed before 2022 also were small and thus easy to hold militarily. If Putin ends up with 20% of Ukraine — a conservative estimate of his gains in the case of a Russian victory — he’ll have to control additional territory bigger than all but 15 of the 51 countries of Europe and the former Soviet Union. That requires a powerful police and military force and capable administrators.
In an only-in-Russia twist, the person who’s offering himself as point man for the effort is a protege and disciple of the Russian politician who spearheaded opposition to Russia’s depredations on Ukraine in 2014. Kiriyenko’s first high-level federal government job, in the administration of Boris Yeltsin, was arranged by none other than Boris Nemtsov, murdered by contract killers a year after the Crimea annexation. Unlike Nemtsov, who turned into a fiery opposition leader under Putin, Kiriyenko toed the line and received important appointments, at one point heading up Russia’s nuclear program. He is Putin’s domestic policy czar now. And in recent weeks, he also has been made responsible for the conquered parts of Ukraine. His trip to the region last month was highly publicized, and his protege Vitaly Khotsenko was recently appointed prime minister of the “Donetsk People’s Republic.”
Kiriyenko’s ideas about running the conquered regions include the use of the government’s “substitute bench” that he has built over several years through a system of competitions and training programs for bureaucrats. Alumni of these programs are being offered ambitious projects in eastern and southern Ukraine as a chance to jump-start their careers and prevent the kind of rampant thievery by the local cadre that Crimea has seen. Putin has always had a weakness for bureaucrats able to run their domains on a system of key performance indicators. Kiriyenko is trying to show this is possible in the occupied territories.
Another Kiriyenko idea stems from Soviet times: patronage, or shefstvo, of Russsian regional chiefs over the war-ravaged towns of occupied Ukraine. In times of natural and man-made disasters, the Soviet Union’s big cities and republics often took charge of various aspects of the rebuilding effort, creating the impression of decentralized, compassionate aid campaigns. Now, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has committed to use Moscow’s budget for the rebuilding of Donetsk and Luhansk, eastern Ukraine’s biggest cities. St. Petersburg has been called on to restore Mariupol, where at least two-thirds of building have been damaged and where thousands of people are buried in the yards of high-rise apartment blocks. Other regions, including those with major infrastructural problems of their own, have been given smaller projects. For example, Penza, where garbage cannot be removed from some towns because of bad roads, has sent construction machinery to eastern Ukraine.
The Russian Construction Ministry is far from done with its damage assessments, and rebuilding budgets are essentially open-ended. While it’s still able to export energy resources, food and fertilizers — and few signs point toward a full embargo — Russia has the funds to restore much of the infrastructure it has destroyed in Ukraine and to lavish gifts on the remaining local population to buy its loyalty. In a regime like Putin’s, with the logistics in the hands of someone as efficient and ambitious as Kiriyenko, that effort may even look more effective than any measures by a democratic government in Ukraine trying to enlist Western aid during a looming global recession.
If it works, it will only whet Putin’s appetite for more.

Targeting the Octopus’ Head

Tariq Al-Homayed/Asharq Al-Awsat/June, 15/2022
As the chances for achieving a nuclear agreement with Iran dwindle, notable Israeli statements are being made about Tehran coming closer to acquiring nuclear weapons and Israel shifting towards a new strategy to target Iran. “We are implementing the Octopus Doctrine,” Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told the Economist. “We no longer play with the tentacles, with Iran’s proxies: we’ve created a new equation by going for the head,” he added. “The past year saw a turning point in Israel’s strategy vis-à-vis Iran,” Bennett told the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee last week.
“Israel has taken action against the head of the terrorist octopus and not just against the arms as was done in previous decades,” he added. “The days of impunity are over. We are taking action, everywhere, at any time, and will continue to do so.” It is evident that there is a noticeable escalation of Israeli operations inside Iran, not only against prominent figures linked to the nuclear program but also military personnel and lower-level scientists. Some of these assassinations are not announced by Iran to avoid embarrassment. “Tehran is expanding its influence around Israel, and Tel Aviv is expanding its influence deeper inside Iran,” said Eurasia Group’s Iranian affairs analyst Henry Rome, according to a quote by Asharq Al-Awsat. The so-called “shadow war” turned into targeting the “octopus’ head.” All of this means that the region is experiencing a moment of escalation, which may mean the outbreak of a military confrontation between Iran and Israel, perhaps unplanned. At this point, it is necessary to talk away from emotion. In the event of a war of this kind, its repercussions will be real in the region, and what comes after it will not be the same as before, but it is expected and not surprising.
Iran has pursued its expansion in the region without a moment of political rationality. Since 2003, Tehran has continued to escalate and play brinksmanship without fearing consequences. Qassem Soleimani, for example, before his assassination, acted as if he was the commander of the region, not a militia leader. Not only did Iran fail to commit to any deal, but it also missed the impetus from the US. The nuclear agreement is almost at a total stalemate, not because Iran doesn’t want an agreement, but because it cannot make honest and real decisions. The cleric-led country is blocked by a dilemma of who will be its next supreme leader and a Revolutionary Guards seeking hegemony. Therefore, it is natural for us to reach the expected moment of confrontation, which Iran itself caused. In our region, it has already been said to the Obama administration that there is no solution except by “cutting off the head of the snake,” not in defense of Israel, but because of Iran’s destruction of our Arab countries and its continued targeting of their security. With the approach of targeting the head of the octopus, we are closer than ever to an Israeli-Iranian military confrontation. What is required now, and I wrote it repeatedly, is to anticipate the consequences because Iran, as usual, does not respond to Israel directly. Whenever Israel targets Iran anywhere, Tehran either responds in Iraq, by burning Gaza and Lebanon or targeting the Gulf. Therefore, this requires preparation and vigilance.

Iranian regime appears committed to nuclear weapons
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/June 15, 2022
The latest developments concerning Iran’s nuclear program indicate that the Tehran regime has most likely decided to go all-out to develop atomic weapons capability.
Firstly, although Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei continues to claim that his government does not have any interest in obtaining nuclear weapons and that Iran’s nuclear program was designed for peaceful purposes from the outset, several revelations show otherwise.
Some Iranian leaders have acknowledged that the regime’s nuclear program was always designed to manufacture atomic weapons. For example, former deputy speaker of the Iranian parliament Ali Motahari disclosed in April: “From the very beginning, when we entered the nuclear activity, our goal was to build a bomb and strengthen the deterrent forces but we could not maintain the secrecy of this issue.”In addition, the former head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Fereydoon Abbasi-Davani, was the first Iranian official to admit that his work was part of a “system” designed to develop nuclear weapons. He said: “When the country’s all-encompassing growth began involving satellites, missiles and nuclear weapons, and surmounted new boundaries of knowledge, the issue became more serious for them.”
Secondly, if we closely examine the Iranian regime’s nuclear file, it becomes crystal clear that secrecy and clandestine activities have always been important elements of the regime’s nuclear program. If the Iranian nuclear program was truly set up for peaceful purposes, the country’s leaders would have declared all nuclear sites and received technological assistance, as outlined in the Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which Iran is still a party.
One of the most alarming issues is that, over recent months, the theocratic establishment has been restricting the ability of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to monitor its nuclear activities. Most recently, Iran has started to deactivate 27 cameras that help the IAEA monitor the regime’s nuclear activity. Just prior to this move, the authorities also turned off two UN surveillance cameras. This comes at a critical time, when the Iranian regime has moved significantly closer to becoming a nuclear state. The IAEA last week acknowledged that Iran is only a few weeks away from having a “significant quantity of enriched uranium.” With this statement, the agency was referring to “the approximate amount of nuclear material for which the possibility of manufacturing a nuclear explosive device cannot be excluded.”On top of this, the Iranian leaders continue to refuse to provide any explanation for its undeclared nuclear sites that have been identified by the IAEA. Director General Rafael Grossi warned: “We have to sit down urgently if possible to see how we continue with this. Iran has not provided explanations that are technically credible in relation to the agency’s findings at three undeclared locations in Iran.”
Secrecy and clandestine activities have always been important elements of the regime’s nuclear program. In the past two decades, the only times the Iranian regime has reportedly slowed down or agreed to curb its nuclear advancement have been when drastic economic sanctions have been imposed. These threaten the hold on power of the ruling clerics, thus forcing the leadership to recalculate its political priorities. For example, the four rounds of UN sanctions imposed prior to the 2015 nuclear deal were significant because all five permanent members of the UN Security Council were on board. The sanctions endangered the ruling clergy’s grip on power and ultimately brought the Iranian leaders to the negotiating table between 2013 and 2015.
However, the unilateral US sanctions that are currently in place do not seem to be affecting the Iranian regime’s main source of revenue — oil exports — to such a significant level. The regime has been steadily exporting more oil over the last year and has now almost reached pre-sanctions levels. In fact, President Ebrahim Raisi, who took office last August, said in a live interview on state-run TV last month: “Oil sales have doubled. We are not worried about oil sales.” One important reason is that China has, despite the US sanctions, been buying a record amount of oil from Iran.
All the signs indicate that the Iranian regime appears to be going all-out for a nuclear weapon. If successful, this would have significant ramifications for peace and security in the Middle East and beyond. It is imperative that the international community acts immediately.
*Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh