English LCCC Newsbulletin For Lebanese, Lebanese Related, Global News & Editorials
For May 11/2022
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
The loaves and two fish Miracle
John 06/01-15: “After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming towards him, Jesus said to Philip, ‘Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?’He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do.Philip answered him, ‘Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.’One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, ‘There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?’ Jesus said, ‘Make the people sit down.’ Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, ‘Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.’So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, ‘This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.’When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on May 10-11/2022
Lebanese voters abroad say they ‘want change’ when Hariri seeks a boycott of the ballot
Lebanese students shine in Europe Day general knowledge contest
Aoun: Electoral money requires intervention of supervisory commission, judiciary
Aoun welcomes OIF's participation in observing May 15 polls
ISF retirees storm Interior Ministry as they protest dire living conditions
Saniora denies 'betraying' Hariri, says he'll stand by him if he returns
Berri slams 'corruption system' but warns of campaigns 'targeting resistance'
Geagea says Hizbullah's resistance behind current collapse, disasters
Bou Habib takes part in Syria donors' conference in Brussels
As elections approach, Nasrallah seeks to woe voters with energy bounty
Nasrallah says Hizbullah must be in any govt., majority-minority talk 'unrealistic'
EU envoy says Lebanese system not delivering on expectations of ordinary Lebanese
Syrian mothers mourn two brides-to-be lost off Lebanon
Sunni preachers in ‘vote to save Lebanon’ plea
Can Lebanon buck the Middle East’s trend of futile elections?/Sir John Jenkins/Arab News/May 10/ 2022

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 10-11/2022
Ukraine war casts shadow over Syria donors' conference
Ukraine has killed 8 to 10 Russian generals: US Defense Intelligence Agency
Russian troops ill-prepared for Ukraine war, says ex-Kremlin mercenary
Russia FM visits Algeria as EU steps up push for alternative gas
Putin urges stronger action to prevent wildfires
US Senators to introduce resolution to designate Russia a state sponsor of terrorism
US still considers Iran’s IRGC a terrorist group: State Department official
Hifter a no-show for deposition accusing him of war crimes
Canada/Statement on Russia’s malicious cyber activity affecting Europe and Ukraine
Dubai delivery workers go on second rare strike this month

Titles For The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 10-11/2022
Egypt, U.S. eye counter-terrorism ties in wake of deadly Sinai attack/Phil Stewart/Reuters/May 10/2022
Does Iran benefit if Russia moves units from Syria? - analysis/Seth.J. Frantzman/Jerusalem Post/May 10/2022
Qatar Is Hamas’ Patron. Its ‘Moderate’ Rebranding Is a Dangerous Delusion/Hussain Abdul-Hussain/Haaretz/May10/2022
New Mideast task force can counter Iranian arms smuggling, but more capabilities are needed/Bradley Bowman, Ryan Brobst , RADM (Ret) Mark Montgomery/Defense News/May 10/2022
Don’t Cling to Hopes That Putin Will Ever Face Justice/David Adesnik/Foreign Policy/May 10/2022
Saied and his opposition/Farouk Yousef/The Arab Weekly/May 10/2022

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on May 10-11/2022
Lebanese voters abroad say they ‘want change’ when Hariri seeks a boycott of the ballot
The Arab Weekly/May 10/2022
Overall turnout in overseas voting was around 60%, foreign ministry official Hadi Hachem said, or some 130,000 people. Lebanese voters abroad, who had started casting their votes last Friday in more than 50 countries, told reporters Monday they wanted to get rid of the political class that led the country to its worst crisis since the 1975-90 civil war. The Lebanese of all sects and classes have faced the dire consequences of a financial meltdown that has deepened poverty and boosted the drive to emigrate. Overall turnout in overseas voting was around 60%, foreign ministry official Hadi Hachem said, or some 130,000 people. That is roughly three times as many as during the last polls, in 2018. Voters in Lebanon itself will cast their ballots on May 15.Voters’ expressed desire for change was at odds with the call on Sunnis by the head of the Future Movement, Saad Hariri, to boycott the vote. Hariri is in fact seen as having chosen the wrong moment to issue such a call, which can only help Hezbollah and its allies in their quest for control of parliament. Hariri’s stance is dividing and demobilising Sunni voters and is likely to adversely affect the Sunni community’s representation in parliament while tightening the grip of Hezbollah on political institutions.
At the same time, many Lebanese voters want to use the political climate created by months of protest as a means of transforming the parliamentary landscape and chasing out the largely discredited old elite, despite a befuddled electoral law. Even traditionally pro-Hezbollah segments of the Diaspora have become doubtful whether the main Shia party can protect them and their families from the fallouts of the Lebanese crisis or even shield the savings they try to send home. The make-up of the Lebanese expatriate community is affected by new emigration waves. In 2021, nearly 80,000 Lebanese young people left the country, looking for jobs and a future outside Lebanon. “They don't want to look back," said Joseph Bahout of the American University of Beirut. Today there is a firm impression that the country is doomed, not only politically, but also socially and economically.”
Observers expected large numbers of expatriates to vote for candidates from a coalition of activists and independents who gained prominence during 2019 protests against the sectarian political elites whose corruption and mismanagement is widely blamed for the country's catastrophic collapse. A study commissioned by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation last December revealed that the largest group of respondents (25 percent) said they would vote for independent candidates. Supporters of Lebanon's Hezbollah lift portraits of the group's leader Hassan Nasrallah as they rally in the southern city of Nabatiyeh, on May 9, 2022, ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections. (AFP)
"I want change," said Samer Sobbi, a truck driver voting in Sydney on Sunday. "I don't want the same people, the same people every four years, and if not the same people then their kids, if not their kids, their relatives. What about us?"
Australia is among those countries with the highest number of Diaspora voters, alongside Canada, the United States, Germany, the United Arab Emirates. France has the most at around 28,000 eligible voters. Turnout in Australia closed at 55%, while in the UAE more than 70% of eligible voters cast their ballots, one of the highest turnouts registered.
Some 225,000 Lebanese living overseas were eligible to participate in the elections in more than 50 countries, the first since Lebanon's 2019 financial collapse and the port blast that killed more than 215 people and destroyed large parts of Beirut in August, 2020. The queue outside the Lebanese consulate in Dubai stretched for roughly a kilometre despite sweltering heat and local police were seen fanning voters with pieces of cardboard. "I came today just to vote and don’t care how long we wait in the heat. We need change," said first-time voter Christiane Daou, 37.
Long-time Dubai resident Joyce Daou (unrelated) voiced the fears harboured by many voters that their votes may not be counted or could be otherwise interfered with, claims that have been denied by officials. The ballot papers will be shipped back to Lebanon and stored at the central bank before being counted on election day. In parliamentary elections in 2018, the Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections, the main elections watchdog, deemed as "invalid" results from 479 overseas polling stations, with no explanation given by officials. "We are doing our part (by voting). Hopefully, they will do their part and do not change the votes and leave this process to remain democratic and accurate," Joyce Daou said. Support for establishment parties was still evident; near the Berlin polling centre, more than 20 people chanted their backing for Nabih Berri, the veteran speaker of Lebanon's parliament. Others disagreed. Anton Wehb, a 62-year-old construction worker voting in Sydney, said Lebanon needed "new blood", while in Paris, voter Sahar al-Jazzar said she would cast her ballot for "someone who wasn't in power before.""Enough oppression, enough injustice and all the suffering we lived," she said.

Lebanese students shine in Europe Day general knowledge contest
Naharnet/May 10/2022
On Monday, May 9, 32 students from eight private and public schools across Lebanon participated in a contest celebrating Europe Day, as 2022 marks the European Year of the Youth. The contest, which covered such topics as art, literature, history, geography, and sports, took place at the Pierre Abou Khater Amphitheater in Beirut.“The day was a great occasion for students to gain insights into the European Union’s institutions and evolution, as well as into the 27 Member States that make up the Union,” a statement said. The Europe Day contest, organized by the European Union Delegation to Lebanon, also helped shed light on “Lebanon's importance as a neighbor and partner of the European Union, with whom it shares deep cultural and economic ties,” the statement added. The competition took place in the presence of Ralph Tarraf, European Union Ambassador to Lebanon, and Imad al-Ashqar, Director General of the Ministry of Education and Higher Education. In his opening address, Ambassador Tarraf welcomed students and expressed his happiness to be celebrating Europe Day, in person, with Lebanese youths. The competition kicked off with students divided into 4 groups of 8, each answering 15 multiple-choice questions, with the winners from each group advancing to the second round. In it, students had to buzz fastest to answer first, with Syma Jadayel from the International School (Koura) declared the winner of the competition after registering the highest score. The event ended with the distribution of awards and a small cocktail reception. Europe Day is celebrated every year on May 9 to celebrate peace and unity in Europe. The date marks the historic Schuman Declaration that bred a first-of-a-kind form of political cooperation among European states. This Declaration is considered the founding stone of what is known today as the European Union.

Aoun: Electoral money requires intervention of supervisory commission, judiciary
Naharnet/May 10/2022
President Michel Aoun on Tuesday said that the “use of electoral money by some candidates” requires the intervention of the Supervisory Commission for Elections and the judiciary. “All measures have been taken to hold the elections in an atmosphere of transparency and freedom, and the increase in the nominations of women is a positive issue which we hope would improve further in the next elections,” Aoun told a delegation from the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF). The head of the OIF delegation for her part lauded Aoun’s “keenness on the elections” and said that “democracy must be implemented with all due freedom and transparency.”Aoun’s political heir-apparent and son-in-law Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil had on Monday launched a vehement attack on the Lebanese Forces and the Kataeb Party, reiterating accusations that they are violating the regulations of electoral spending.

Aoun welcomes OIF's participation in observing May 15 polls
Associated Press/May 10/2022
President Michel Aoun welcomed Tuesday the participation of delegates from the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) in observing the May 15 parliamentary polls. Last month, a delegation from the European Union election observers wrapped up a six-day visit to Lebanon during which they discussed the deployment of observers ahead of the upcoming May 15 parliamentary elections in the crisis-hit country. The observer mission said it will deploy 30 observers throughout Lebanon, with their numbers reaching more than 150 from 27 EU member states, Switzerland and Norway on the day of the vote. Gyorgy Holvenyi, head of the mission, said the EU Election Observation Mission will evaluate the electoral process and its compliance with regional and international commitments on political participation and democratic elections. “We are not here to interfere in the process. We are not investigators,” Holvenyi said.

ISF retirees storm Interior Ministry as they protest dire living conditions
Naharnet/May 10/2022
Dozens of Internal Security Forces retirees stormed Tuesday the premises of the Interior Ministry, as Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi refused to meet them and listen to their demands, media reports said. The retired ISF members protested deteriorating living conditions, as the Lebanese pound reached Tuesday LL27,000 low against the dollar. They asked for their rights to secure health care, medications and education for their children. The protesters said they will not end the protest until their needs are met.Earlier today, security forces members shad closed the road leading to the Ministry of Interior in Hamra, which caused a traffic jam in the area.

Saniora denies 'betraying' Hariri, says he'll stand by him if he returns
Naharnet/May 10/2022
Ex-PM Fouad Saniora on Tuesday strongly dismissed accusations that he has “betrayed” ex-PM Saad Hariri by engaging in the electoral battle despite al-Mustaqbal Movement’s decision to boycott the vote. “He who can accuse Saniora of betrayal is ‘yet to be born,’” Saniora said in an interview on MTV in response to a question. “When Hariri wants to return, he will have his position, respect and symbolism, and if he returns I will stand by him,” Saniora added. “Ex-PM Hariri has his symbolism and is loved by the people, but he did not tell the Lebanese not to vote,” Saniora noted, urging Beirut’s residents and all Lebanese citizens to “turn out heavily in the elections.” He explained that boycott would lead to lowering the electoral quotient, which “would allow newcomers to usurp the opinion of Beirut’s residents and the Lebanese and would allow Hizbullah and its allies to replace the sovereign forces.” “We are confronting those who usurped the will of the Lebanese through the statelet,” Saniora said of the electoral list that he is backing in Beirut’s second electoral district. “The state is kidnapped by Hizbullah and the free decision no longer exists. Democratic politics in the country have been undermined and the Lebanese are the ones paying the price,” Saniora added. Asked about his electoral alliance with the Lebanese Forces, the ex-PM said: “This law is bad and it obliges all people to forge alliances.” He however added that he agrees with the LF on “a lot of issues.”Responding to remarks voiced Monday by Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, Saniora said: “Lebanon wants Sayyed Hassan to treat it in a different way and he knows that it was the state that rebuilt the South with Arab help” after the July 2006 war.“The Lebanese embraced the resistance and defended it when its weapons were pointed at the Israelis,” he said, lamenting that Hizbullah’s arms were later “turned against the Lebanese.”

Berri slams 'corruption system' but warns of campaigns 'targeting resistance'
Naharnet/May 10/2022
Parliament Speaker and Amal Movement leader Nabih Berri on Tuesday said he is in favor of “toppling the system of corruption” but warned that some are “exploiting the corruption issue” in order to “target the resistance” and the “values” of Hizbullah and the Amal Movement. “In the name of the (Shiite) Duo, I say let the judiciary tackle corruption… We will not provide a cover for anyone,” Berri told a Hizbullah-Amal electoral rally via video link. “They are trying to target our values through the electoral juncture,” Berri warned. Noting that the current period requires a “calm political rhetoric,” the Speaker lamented that “some have resorted to vile sectarian incitement against the Amal Movement and its achievements and alliances in a suspicious manner.”“The period after October 17 and the port explosion witnessed abhorrent sectarian incitement against the Amal Movement and the ‘National Duo,’” he added.
And stressing that “the resistance still represents an urgent national necessity,” Berri reiterated that “Muslim-Christian coexistence is a fortune that must be adhered to.”

Geagea says Hizbullah's resistance behind current collapse, disasters
Naharnet/May 10/2022
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea has said that “the result of resistance as proposed by Hizbullah is the collapse and disasters we’re witnessing today.”“Resistance is to live in dignity, but are you living in dignity today? They promise the people that they will fight the universe while our people are living ‘beneath the seventh ground,’” Geagea said, addressing the Shiite community in the Baabda district and entire Lebanon. “We do not accept that any single party monopolize the concept of resistance, seeing as the real resistance is the one practiced by the entire state supported by the people. What Hizbullah is saying is wrong, seeing as they only want to preserve their weapons. If it is really a resistance, what has it done over the past 15 years?” Geagea asked, during an electoral rally for the candidate Pierre Bou Assi in Baabda. “All Lebanese people support the concept of resistance, but it should be practiced within the right frameworks and exclusively through the Lebanese state and army,” Geagea added. Geagea also accused Hizbullah of “allying with all the corrupts in Lebanon.”

Bou Habib takes part in Syria donors' conference in Brussels
Associated Press/May 10/2022
Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib participated Tuesday in a pledging conference in Brussels for conflict-wracked Syria. Bou Habib had told France 24 that he will urge the international community to help Lebanon by securing a safe return of the Syrian refugees to their country, as he said the refugee crisis has exacerbated the dire situation in Lebanon. "The Syrians are competing with the Lebanese in employment opportunities," Bou Habib said. "They are also additional users of a collapsed infrastructure," he added. The minister said he was not sure if the international community will answer Lebanon's demands. "In case they refuse to help us return the Syrians home, then donors must be ready to provide greater assistance than what has been pledged in the past," he added. Weeks ago, a Lebanese ministerial committee on Syrian refugees had said that Lebanon cannot "bear this burden" anymore. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said during the conference in Brussels that the 27-nation bloc would provide an additional 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) for Syria this year, bringing the annual total to 1.5 billion euros ($1.6 billion). He said the EU would also provide 1.56 billion euros ($1.65 billion) next year.
The funding will go to helping Syrians and to neighboring countries struggling with Syrian refugees, particularly Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. Non-EU country Norway said Monday that it would provide 1.5 billion kroner ($156 million) in 2021 to assist people in Syria and neighboring countries. “Our strong political commitment to Syria must be backed by equally strong financial commitments,” Borrell said. He vowed that the EU would maintain sanctions against Syrian President Bashar Assad's government, and stressed that there can be no normalized relations until Syrian refugees are “safe to go back home.” Last year, the EU, the United States and other nations pledged $6.4 billion to help Syrians and neighboring countries hosting refugees. But that fell well short of the $10 billion that the U.N. had sought. Imogen Sudbery, from the International Rescue Committee aid group, urged the EU to do more, noting that “even if donors pledge the same as previous years, they will not fill this alarming and rapidly-increasing funding gap.”

As elections approach, Nasrallah seeks to woe voters with energy bounty
The Arab Weekly/May 10/2022
The Lebanese hold Hezbollah responsible for the severe economic, financial and social crises that the country is experiencing. Sensing the anger of the Lebanese public and fearing an election setback, Secretary-General of the Iran-backed Hezbollah group Hassan Nasrallah resorted Monday to false promises, saying the “resistance” would take over the extraction of gas and oil. Nasrallah, who fears the public’s frustration with his Shia group may lead to a punitive vote or a boycott that threatens Hezbollah’s control over parliament, said the May 15 parliamentary polls will be a "political July War."
Hezbollah “will practice political resistance in the elections in order to preserve the military resistance,” he added. The Lebanese hold Hezbollah responsible for the severe economic, financial and social crises that the country is experiencing, because it is the party that holds all the keys to governance. Hezbollah is widely blamed for disrupting government’s work and impeding agreements with the International Monetary Fund or with foreign donors that could help Lebanon reform its economy. Observers conclude that Nasrallah has come to feel that the focus of the May 15th elections will be the economy and that the people are no longer interested in the tedious slogans of the "resistance", nor the fictitious wars with Israel.
Nasrallah knows very well that the promise of an energy bounty is just an electoral manoeuvre and that Hezbollah and even Lebanon will not be able to extract oil and gas in the foreseeable future, due to the complexities of the border dispute with Israel.
Through elections, the Lebanese are hoping for political changes that will help the country address the severe economic crisis and pave the way for more effective cooperation with the International Monetary Fund. But the continued control of Hezbollah and its allies over parliament and government would impede any prospects of reform. Last January, the Lebanese pound plunged to 34,000 against the dollar, before the intervention of the central bank to boost the value of the local currency. The World Bank directed sharp criticism at the ruling elite for their role in one of the worst downturns in national economies in the world as a result of their control over resources. In April, Lebanon reached a draft agreement with the International Monetary Fund for a possible $3 billion in support, dependent on Beirut implementing long-awaited reforms. “Some are saying that they won't vote for the resistance due to the economic crisis, but we say that the resistance will guarantee extracting oil and gas from the territorial waters in order to resolve the crisis,” Nasrallah said Monday. “Those who want to defend Lebanon, extract its oil resources and protect its waters must vote for the resistance and its allies,” he told a Hezbollah electoral rally via video link. “I call on you to stand by the resistance and by its allies, because they are also targeted,” he added. Accusing political rivals of seeking to abandon Lebanon’s “biggest strength for extracting its oil and gas,” Nasrallah said that “they have a brave resistance that can prevent the enemy from exploring for oil and gas.”“Hundreds of billions of dollars are present in our sea and waters,” Nasrallah said of the potential oil and gas reserves. He added that those “calling for disarming the resistance” want Lebanon to be “exposed to the Israeli army.”Israel and Lebanon have no diplomatic relations and are technically in a state of war. They each claim about 860 square kilometres of the Mediterranean Sea as being within their own exclusive economic zones.

Nasrallah says Hizbullah must be in any govt., majority-minority talk 'unrealistic'
Naharne/May 10/2022
Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah on Tuesday stressed that his party should be represented in any future government, as he emphasized that Lebanon cannot be ruled in a unilateral manner regardless of who wins the parliamentary majority. “We will keep insisting on being present in any government, regardless of its nature, structure and program, in order to protect the resistance's back,” Nasrallah told an electoral rally via video link. “Lebanon cannot bear a leading sect nor a leading party, no matter how much this party may enjoy strength and popular support,” Nasrallah added. “Elimination and exclusion under the slogans of majority and minority would plunge Lebanon into adventures, and I stress that we are with national partnership in order to pull Lebanon out of its crises,” the Hizbullah leader went on to say. Emphasizing that the country is “built on partnership and non-elimination,” Nasrallah added that everyone must be represented in parliament according to their “natural sizes.”“Under a sectarian system like the Lebanese one, any talk of majorities and minorities is not realistic,” he underlined. Separately, Nasrallah emphasized that Lebanon “cannot bear a new civil war, even for changing the political system.”
“Civil war should be a prohibited red line,” Nasrallah added.
“There are problems and flaws in this system that must be addressed through reform,” he said. In an apparent jab at the rival Lebanese Forces party, Nasrallah said the Lebanese are asked to choose between “those who call for civil peace and cling to it despite being killed on the roads of Tayyouneh” and those who “offer their services to foreign forces and are ready to make a civil war in Lebanon.” He added that his party and its Amal Movement allies “carried their martyrs and wounded and insisted on civil peace despite having the ability to take revenge.”Denying that his party is subordinate to Iran, Nasrallah said: “We are neither tools nor agents nor chess pieces. The Islamic Republic does not interfere in Lebanon, neither in politics nor in elections, and you have seen which ambassadors are touring Lebanon.”

EU envoy says Lebanese system not delivering on expectations of ordinary Lebanese
Naharnet/May 10/2022
Ambassador of the European Union to Lebanon, Ralph Tarraf, has delivered a speech marking Europe Day, in which he also tackled the situation in Lebanon. Below is the full text of the speech as received by Naharnet: “It gives me great pleasure to welcome you tonight at the occasion of Europe Day - the day on which we commemorate the 1950 Schuman Declaration, the first step in a long process, ultimately leading to the creation of the European Union as we know it today. Believe it or not, this is my first Europe Day Reception in my third year as the Ambassador of the European Union to Lebanon. And due to the particular circumstances in which we celebrate today, we meet in a much reduced format, and in the privacy of my Residence. But I’m happy that we do meet after all and I want to thank you all for honouring us with your presence today. Europe today is more united than ever in the face of a brutal, unprovoked and unjustified war waged by Russia on Ukraine, bringing in its wake senseless destruction, killing, suffering and atrocities at a scale not seen in Europe since the end of World War II. Europeans are shocked from witnessing the cruelty of this war, which is waged on innocent people. Allow me to express, on behalf of all the people of Europe, our heartfelt condolences to the families, relatives and friends of those who lost their lives and suffered injury and trauma as a consequence of this sustained barbaric act of war. Beyond the pain and the suffering, this war is also directed against the heart of the European Project, aimed at unifying our continent, which has seen war and destruction for centuries before the process of European unification began at the end of World War II. This war blatantly violates international law, and this by a Permanent Member of the Security Council. It crosses red lines established and respected by all in Europe, even at the height of the cold war, in particular the principle of the inviolability of borders.
The European Union was founded to prevent exactly such a scenario in Europe.
After the horrors of World War II, the leaders and people of Europe united around a common rallying cry: “never again”. We understood that economic, social and political cooperation and integration were key to secure that goal. We developed and put into effect a new, a more humane understanding of security. We understood that our own security depended not so much on the number of tanks, planes, missiles and ammunition we possessed and controlled, but on mutual trust and the fact that our neighbours felt secure. Yes, we acknowledge that the European project and the European Union are far from being perfect, like any project created and put in motion by human beings. We acknowledge also that we often do not live up to our far-reaching stated visions, values and commitments. But the direction in which we want to evolve is clearly marked, and our willingness to be held to account to our visions, values and commitments is unquestioned. Russia put the axe at the foundational principles of this project, and it did so deliberately, out of choice, not out of necessity or self-defence. As a human being, I am shocked and saddened by the human suffering caused by this war. As a diplomat, I am saddened to see that diplomacy could not prevent that war and by the acknowledgment that diplomacy seem to have for now fell silent at the sound of the cannons of war. At this juncture, we all feel that it is our duty to stand by the people of Ukraine in this conflict. For Lebanon, as for many other countries, this war happens at a moment when domestic challenges and challenges closer to home would require undistracted focus and attention. Lebanon, a place which has hardly ever known internal stability and social cohesion in its history, continues to be at the crossroads of adverse regional dynamics, pulling its society and its political system apart.
Lebanon continues in particular to struggle with the fallout of the war in Syria and the massive presence of refugees this war brought onto it. What we call the economic crisis Lebanon is facing today, is in fact much more than just an economic crisis. It is a crisis which has collapsed the business model on which this country has relied on for decades after coming out of a bloody civil war. This economic crisis has a massive impact on Lebanon’s social fabric by putting unprecedented pressure on its middle class and by creating a whole new class of vulnerable people who barely have the minimum left to make ends meet. It has a massive impact also on the legitimacy of the political system, which is not delivering on the expectations of ordinary Lebanese and has therefore lost the trust of most of them.
In this context, the war on Ukraine brings another layer of challenges. Not only with regard to rising prices of commodities and the shifting attention of Lebanon’s European partners. But also with regard to the return of geopolitics at a global scale. Let me assure you that I personally understand the unease of Lebanese decision-makers when asked to choose sides in a conflict, which seems not to be theirs. I understand the preoccupation that choosing sides might bring about a further polarization of an already fragmented and polarized political situation, at the expense of much needed consensus-building to address domestic challenges. I also understand the scepticism of many of my Lebanese interlocutors when Europe speaks about the need to uphold and defend International Law, in view of what seems occasionally a selective reading of what that means - in particular in this region.
And still - for Europeans, this is a decisive moment in which we are counting our friends. This war is not just. This war is not justified. This war is not fought to better the world. We must collectively find a way to end it. The sooner the better. And there can and should be no prime on aggression. Not only for our own sake, but for the sake of continuing to invest into a better future for all of us.”

Syrian mothers mourn two brides-to-be lost off Lebanon
Agence France Presse/May 10/2022
With tears pouring down her cheeks, Syrian mother Shawafa Khodr mourns her daughter, missing since the crowded migrant boat she boarded hoping to join her fiancé in Germany sank in the Mediterranean. Khodr refuses to believe her daughter is dead, hoping against the mounting evidence that the young woman did not drown in the waters off Lebanon, but has somehow survived. "I will wait for her every night and pray to God for her safety," 60-year-old Khodr said. "Maybe she is just lost on the beach somewhere".The distraught mother even kicked her son out of the house, after he said that she should come to terms with the fact that her daughter may never return. Khodr's daughter, Jenda Saeed, 27, and her friend Inas Abdel Salam, 23, were engaged to two brothers in Germany. Last month, the pair left their home in war-ravaged northeast Syria on the start of the long journey to join them.
They headed for neighboring Lebanon, from where they set out on April 23 on a boat jam-packed with 84 passengers hoping for a better life in Europe. They never made it: the boat capsized when it was being chased by Lebanon's navy.
- Perilous sea crossing -
Of the 84 passengers, 45 were rescued but 39 are still missing, according to the United Nations. Saeed and her friend Salam are, along with six other Syrians, among those unaccounted for. Khodr stares at a photograph of her daughter wearing a red and white sweatshirt, a braid cascading down her shoulders. "She carried my scarf in her bag, so that I can protect her," she said. On the eve of her daughter's trip, Khodr held a party to celebrate her daughter's upcoming wedding. "I was happy then," she said, watching a video on her phone of Saaed dancing during the party. "But now not a day passes by without tears," she added, wiping her wet eyes. Thousands risk the perilous sea crossing to Europe each year: last month, the United Nations refugee agency said more than 3,000 people died, double the toll from 2020. But Khodr said she did not know Saeed planned to travel on the dangerous migrant boat route. "If I had known she would travel this way, I would have stopped her," she said. "Even for her weight in gold, I would not have gambled with her life."
'Wedding in heaven'
But unlike Khodr, Hiam Saadoun, 42, mother of Inas Abdel Salam, said she has accepted her daughter has drowned. While her body was never retrieved, Saadoun held a funeral for her inside a tent in the northeast town of Qamishli. Her only hope today is that rescuers eventually find the corpse. "I wish I could have seen her in her wedding dress," the mother said, a picture of her daughter in her hand. "I used to imagine her at home, surrounded by children and family... but today I hope that her wedding will be in heaven."Saadoun said her daughter had long wanted to flee Syria, where civil war since 2011 has killed nearly half a million people and forced half of the country's pre-war population from their homes. "She was looking for a better life in Europe," she said. "She would sometimes tell me: 'I have a feeling that if I go, I will never come back.'"

Sunni preachers in ‘vote to save Lebanon’ plea
Najia Houssari/Arab News/May 10/2022
Sermons to warn against ‘dangerous’ voter boycott in Sunday’s poll
BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Sunni preachers have been told to issue a call in their Friday sermons for people to take part in the country’s parliamentary elections on May 15. Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdel Latif Derian, the Sunnis’ supreme religious authority, instructed preachers to urge Lebanese to head to the polling stations on Sunday, and elect those who would “preserve Lebanon, and the future of its children, its Arab identity and its legitimate institutions.”Many Sunnis have said they will boycott the elections following a decision by the head of the Future Movement, former prime minister Saad Hariri, to step down from politics and not contest the poll. Some say that the many electoral lists and numerous candidates in Beirut, Tripoli and Akkar make it difficult to choose Sunni MPs, with most voting only for the Future Movement in previous elections.
Derian has previously declared that “election is a duty and a necessity,” and warned of the “extremely dangerous” effects of a voter boycott on the representation of Sunnis in parliament.
Meanwhile, Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Walid Bukhari visited several election hopefuls on Tuesday, including the Sunni candidate on the Zahle Sovereignty list, Bilal Hoshaimy. This electoral list includes activists who took part in the Oct. 17 protests.
Bukhari also visited current MP and candidate Michel Daher, who is running with the Independent Sovereigns list, which includes nonpartisan figures.
The incoming parliament will elect a new president to succeed Michel Aoun.
For the second day, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah addressed party supporters in the southern suburb of Beirut and singled out voters “who support the resistance, but do not want to vote because of the living crisis.”
Nasrallah described the upcoming election as a “political July war” — a reference to the July 2006 conflict with Israel — and said: “You must get out of your homes to exercise political resistance in order for us to have armed military resistance; if the resistance abandons its weapons, who will protect Lebanon?”
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri also urged his supporters to vote on Sunday. Before Berri’s speech, the Amal Movement candidate Qabalan Qabalan criticized the “clamor, chaos and madness” that accompanies election campaigns. Qabalan said that his party hopes to renew political life and constitutional institutions in Lebanon in order to get the country out of the “deep pit” it is in. “There is no need to raise the ceiling in political discourse, nor to provoke sectarian and political fanaticism in the hope of a vote or a seat or a majority here or there. We must admit that the country does not function by a system wherein a majority rules over a minority. A majority cannot subjugate a minority, no matter how powerful it is, because the foundations of this country are based on understanding among all its components and groups,” Qabalan said. Samir Geagea, head of the Lebanese Forces party — which is engaged in a fierce battle against the Free Patriotic Movement — addressed supporters during an electoral meeting in which he criticized Aoun, saying that the presidency has become “a title for undermining Lebanon’s sovereignty, destroying its institutions and eroding the state; a title of hunger, poverty, humiliation and power cuts.”The FPM is a Lebanese Christian group founded by Aoun in 2005. Geagea said that Lebanon witnessed “the biggest lies and fraud undertaken by the FPM. Its goal was only to reach power, and when it achieved that, it forgot its promises.”

Can Lebanon buck the Middle East’s trend of futile elections?
Sir John Jenkins/Arab News/May 10/ 2022
So, Lebanon is going to the polls again on Sunday. Excited? No, me neither. Elections in the Middle East tend to follow a pattern as predictable as “Star Wars.” You turn up at the polling station, queue patiently in the heat, cast your vote, have your fingers marked with ink, go home, rejoice at democracy in action and, when you wake up the next morning, absolutely nothing has changed.
Iraq currently provides a nonstop political cabaret illustrating the problem vividly. On the face of it, the main gainers from last October’s national elections were the Sadrists. They might not have increased their total vote count, but these votes were distributed where they made most impact. Their main opponents, the grouping of Shiite parties now known as the Coordination Framework, were dismayed — but not discouraged. They simply prevented a new government from being formed with a variety of stalling tactics straight out of the playbook used to malign effect by Nouri Al-Maliki back in 2010, including the co-opting of the chief justice and the cynical exploitation of ambiguities in the 2005 Iraqi Constitution. They have been helped by divisions among the two main Kurdish parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which each demand the presidency for themselves.
The Coordination Framework has the impudence to claim it is acting in the name of democracy and constitutional propriety — on the grounds that no government should be formed that does not guarantee political control to the Shiite bloc as a whole. They object to the Sadrists’ attempt to exclude them and include independents and Sunni and Kurdish parties instead. They are supported in all this by Iran, which is worried about losing influence if Iraqi politics were to become genuinely more open and responsive to the real, material needs of all Iraqis, not just a small number of ideologically motivated and power-hungry stooges. So much for the national interest…
But this is exactly what you get if you have a system of “muhasasah,” known in English as consociationalism — the distribution of political representation along communal lines, as defined by self-appointed gatekeepers. Some will say that this is a practical way to keep communal tensions in check, by guaranteeing proportionate shares in political benefits to mutually suspicious groups. In practice, it guarantees corruption, political opportunism and a freeze on any positive political development.
And of all the countries in the region, the one with the longest experience of this slow-motion car crash is poor Lebanon. I understand the reasons for the National Pact of 1943 — and why the 1989 Taif Agreement failed to do more than tweak the representational framework to take account of demographic changes. After all, civil wars are exhausting and stopping them is always a priority. But consociationalism is not a long-term answer. It promotes the representation or well-being not of individuals or the community as a whole but of predatory small groups and their leaders.
Electoral democracy is a process not an outcome. It is the product not the cause of a political ideology.
In both Lebanon and now Iraq, it has produced professionally communalist politicians who make decisions not on the basis of voter intentions as revealed through elections but in negotiations behind closed doors with other elite groups whose main aim is to preserve their power and the access to state resources that this power affords — and that in turn supports the patronage on which such a system depends. This has provided fertile ground for external actors such as Iran to sponsor the growth of militias like Hezbollah in Lebanon and Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq and Kata’ib Hezbollah in Iraq. In both places, they have blocked change and hobbled good governance and, in the interests of their sponsor, now effectively hold these entire countries hostage.
Where does this end? In Iraq, in massive economic inequality, environmental catastrophe (with chronic water shortages, agricultural failure and, in recent days, some of the worst sandstorms in living memory), wholly inadequate national infrastructure, lawlessness and the looting of state coffers. In Lebanon, the same again, as vividly illustrated by the complete failure of accountability for last year’s Beirut port explosion, the collapse of the central bank, a disastrous economic situation and rapidly rising poverty.
If you look at the evidence of elections, social surveys and other opinion polling across the Middle East and North Africa since 2011 (or in Iraq since 2003), it is clear that many if not most Arabs — and indeed Iranians, Kurds, Amazigh, Tuareg, Turkmen, Armenians, Assyrians and Yazidis — want a say in choosing clean, competent, effective, accountable and responsible governments. The absence of such governments was a major driver behind the events of the Arab Spring.
But if you then consider the actual outcomes of these elections, you see a graphic illustration of the observation of the Italian Marxist, Antonio Gramsci — made in the context of 1930s Europe — that the new cannot be born, the old will not die and the struggle between the two gives rise instead to a variety of more or less morbid symptoms. More particularly, you see the continued grip that systems of tribe, clan, ethnic, religious, sectarian and other group affiliation have on the politics and sociology of the region and its constituent parts.
Neither Lebanese nor Iraqi elections have produced a permeable and removable class of politicians that represent the interests of their constituents to the best of their ability and judgment. They instead confirm in office a set of elites whose power derives not from the ballot box but from the accumulation of social capital, patronage and the purposeful construction of ethnic, communal or sectarian boundaries.
This story is repeated with variations across the region. Some observers thought that the Arab Spring would produce better and more accountable governance. Instead, it produced insecurity, social turmoil, the instrumentalization of religion, the rise of often violent identity politics and, where elections were held, unresponsive and corrupt confessional elites that looked very much like the old ones. And, as a result, in all elections in the region since 2011, we now see the slow ebbing of popular confidence in the ballot box in response to endemic and persistent problems of misgovernance, corruption and state capture. If voting changes nothing, why bother voting?
Electoral democracy is a process not an outcome. It is the product not the cause of a political ideology. In Europe — whose political liberalism is an exception to be explained rather than a normative rule to be exported — the electoral systems expressed in diverse ways in different countries are the result of a highly contingent set of historical experiences and are underpinned by an articulated ideology of individual rights and freedoms whose origins can be traced back to Roman and common law.
And in the West, modernity was a cultural before it was an institutional project. Successful electoral democracy requires the development of sustained habits of mind and social practices and a shared sense of the past and the future. It needs an acceptance that power can be transferred peacefully, a living memory of efficient and non-predatory state behavior, and an unintimidated civil society. It needs a common sense of justice and acceptance of the rule of law. And it needs strong, independent and impartial state institutions to arbitrate.
So, the real question is this: How do we think the conditions can arise in which functioning electoral democracy can arise and be sustained in Lebanon, Iraq, Tunisia or anywhere else in the Middle East and North Africa? At the heart of this is a question not about democracy but about the state and about governance. Most people want strong and accountable states that deliver security, prosperity, services and jobs. Political systems like those in Lebanon and Iraq have failed catastrophically to meet this desire. Sunday’s elections in Lebanon will not fix the problem. They will simply illustrate it.
Everywhere these systems persist, there is probably a majority of people in favor of something different. But first the existing systems must be swept away or — at the very least — radically changed. And that brings its own huge risks, especially in places where murderous militias are embedded. Nevertheless, there is perhaps some comfort to be taken in the courage of those people — often the young — who have taken to the streets over the past few years in Beirut, Basra, Baghdad, Sidon, Tripoli and Tyre to demand fundamental change. In Iraq, some have even got themselves elected. If their counterparts in Lebanon could come together around a single agreed platform, they might just make some progress. It will be slow, it will be hard and it will be dangerous. And it will need first to construct a strong and effective state rather than simply a set of Potemkin ballot boxes. But something has to give, doesn’t it?
• Sir John Jenkins is a senior fellow at Policy Exchange. Until December 2017, he was corresponding director (Middle East) at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, based in Manama, Bahrain, and was a senior fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. He was the British ambassador to Saudi Arabia until January 2015.

The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 10-11/2022
Ukraine war casts shadow over Syria donors' conference
Agence France Presse/May 10/2022
International donors held a sixth pledging conference in Brussels for conflict-wracked Syria on Tuesday, saying Syrians should not be forgotten even as the Ukraine war grips world attention. "World public opinion seems not to be able to deal with more than one crisis at the time," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said as he opened the event. He admitted "a certain fatigue" among donors, adding: "Now it is Ukraine in the headlines. But don't give up on Syria."Last year's donors' conference raised a total $6.4 billion (6.1 billion euros), with the money to go to helping Syrians and to neighboring countries struggling with Syrian refugees -- not to the Damascus government. Much of the money will go to help Syrians who have taken refuge in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, as well as Egypt and Iraq. The conference brought together around 70 countries and international institutions, including U.N. agencies. Borrell announced an extra one billion euros covering 2022, bringing its total to 1.56 billion euros -- the same as it pledged last year. In addition, EU member states made national pledges, with the total raised to be given later Tuesday.
The Syrian war started in 2011 and is now in its 12th year, with more than half a million people estimated to have been killed. The forces of President Bashar al-Assad, with backing from Russia and Iran, have been battling rebels opposed to his rule, most of them in Syria's northwest. Sweden's participant at the conference, junior minister for international development Jenny Ohlsson, said: "The crisis in Ukraine, of course, takes a lot of attention. "But we remain steadfast and focused in our support to the Syrian population." Her country, she said, would donate 700 million kroner (66 million euros, $70 million). According to UNICEF, 9.3 million Syrian children need aid both inside the country and in the wider region around Syria.

Ukraine has killed 8 to 10 Russian generals: US Defense Intelligence Agency
Tuqa Khalid, Al Arabiya English/10 May ,2022
Ukraine has killed between eight and ten Russian generals during the ongoing conflict, the head of the US Defense Intelligence Agency Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier said on Tuesday. During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Republican Senator Tom Cotton asked: “Does the fact that Russia is losing all these generals suggest to you that these generals are having to go forward to ensure their orders are executed? Berrier replied: “Yes.”The DIA chief said: “I think the Ukrainians have it right in terms of grit and how they face the defense of their nation.”He added: “I’m not sure that Russian soldiers from the far-flung Russian military districts really understand that.”Last month, Russia promoted a new war commander to take control of the Ukraine operations as Moscow struggled to achieve its goals since it launched the “special military operation” – the description it labelled its invasion of Ukraine – on February 24. US officials, however, said that the change in command did not erase the “strategic failure” Russia faced in Ukraine amid a strong resistance put up by Kyiv and the support it received from the US and EU.

Russian troops ill-prepared for Ukraine war, says ex-Kremlin mercenary
Reuters/May 10/2022
The Russian military's failure to seize the Ukrainian capital was inevitable because in the preceding years they had never directly faced a powerful enemy, according to a former mercenary with the Kremlin-linked Wagner Group who fought alongside the Russian army.
Marat Gabidullin took part in Wagner Group missions on the Kremlin's behalf in Syria and in a previous conflict in Ukraine, before deciding to go public about his experience inside the secretive private military company. He quit the Wagner group in 2019, but several months before Russia launched the invasion on Feb. 24 Gabidullin, 55, said he received a call from a recruiter who invited him to go back to fighting as a mercenary in Ukraine. He refused, in part because, he said, he knew Russian forces were not up to the job, even though they trumpeted their arsenal of new weapons and their successes in Syria where they helped President Bashar al-Assad defeat an armed rebellion. "They were caught completely by surprise that the Ukrainian army resisted so fiercely and that they faced the actual army," Gabidullin said about Russia's setbacks in Ukraine. He said people he spoke to on the Russian side had told him they expected to face rag-tag militias when they invaded Ukraine, not well-drilled regular troops. "I told them: 'Guys, that's a mistake'," said Gabidullin, who is now in France where he is publishing a book about his experiences fighting with the Wagner Group. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he did not know who Gabidullin was and whether he has ever been a member of private military companies. "We, the state, the government, the Kremlin can not have anything to do with it," he said. The Russian defence ministry did not respond to a request for comment. Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation” that it says is not designed to occupy territory but to destroy its southern neighbour's military capabilities and capture what it regards as dangerous nationalists. Gabidullin is part of a small but growing cohort of people in Russia with security backgrounds who have supported President Vladimir Putin's foreign incursions but now say the way the war is being conducted is incompetent. Igor Girkin, who helped lead a pro-Kremlin armed revolt in eastern Ukraine in 2014, has been critical of the way this campaign is being conducted. Alexei Alexandrov, an architect of the 2014 rebellion, told Reuters in March the invasion was a mistake. Gabidullin took part in some of the bloodiest Syrian clashes in Deir al-Zor province, in Ghouta and near the ancient city of Palmyra. He was seriously injured in 2016 when a grenade exploded behind his back during a battle in the mountains near Latakia. Gabidullin spent a week in a coma and three months in a hospital where he had surgeries to remove one of his kidneys and some intestines. Reuters has independently verified he was in the Wagner Group and was in combat in Syria. Wagner Group fighters have been accused by rights groups and the Ukrainian government of committing war crimes in Syria and eastern Ukraine from 2014 onwards. Gabidullin said he had never been involved in such abuses.
Moscow's involvement helped turn the tide of the Syrian war in favour of al-Assad, but Gabidullin said Russia's military restricted itself mainly to attacks from the air, while relying on Wagner mercenaries and other proxies to do the lion's share of the fighting on the ground.The Russian military's task was easier too. Its opponents -- Islamic State and other militias -- had no anti-aircraft systems or artillery. Fighting Ukraine, he said, was a different proposition. "I've seen enough of them in Syria... (The Russian military) didn't take part in combat directly," he said in an interview in Paris to promote his book, which will be published by French publishing house Michel Lafon this month. "The military forces .... when it was needed to learn how to fight, did not learn how to fight for real," he said. Wagner Group is an informal entity, with -- on paper at least -- no offices or staff. The U.S. Treasury Department and the European Union have said the Wagner Group is linked to Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin. Prigozhin has denied any such links. Concord Management and Consulting, Prigozhin’s main business, did not respond to a request for comment. President Vladimir Putin has said private military contractors have the right to work and pursue their interests anywhere in the world as long as they do not break Russian law. Putin has said the Wagner Group neither represented the Russian state nor was paid by it. Gabidullin said although he had known the Russian invasion of Ukraine was coming, he did not expect it to be on such a scale. "I could not even think that Russia will wage a war on Ukraine. How could that be? It's impossible," he said.

Russia FM visits Algeria as EU steps up push for alternative gas
Agence France Presse/May 10/2022
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited gas-producing ally Algeria for talks Tuesday as a European drive to secure alternative supplies gathers pace. Lavrov, who arrived in Algiers late Monday, was due to hold talks with both Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra and President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, Algerian reports said. His visit is the first since January 2019 and comes as the two countries mark the 60th anniversary of their establishment of diplomatic relations. Russian President Vladimir Putin held telephone talks with his Algerian counterpart last month on "coordination within OPEC+ as well the situation in Ukraine," Russia's TASS news agency said. OPEC+ is a forum that brings together the OPEC oil cartel with allied producers led by Russia in managing output and prices. Algeria is a major gas supplier to Europe, providing 11 percent of its imports, compared with 47 percent for Russia. Italy, Spain and other European Union member countries have looked to Algeria as they have sought to cut their dependence on Russian oil and gas since the February 24 invasion of Ukraine. But industry experts say Algeria lacks the infrastructure and spare capacity to raise gas exports to replace Russian supplies in the short term, something the government has stressed repeatedly as it seeks to avoid offending its longtime ally.

Putin urges stronger action to prevent wildfires
Associated Press/May 10/2022
Russian President Vladimir Putin urged authorities on Tuesday to take stronger action to prevent wildfires and increase coordination between various official agencies in dealing with them. Speaking in a video call with federal and regional officials, Putin emphasized that wildfires that hit Russia last year were the biggest in years and asked local governors to report on measures that were taken to increase fire safety across the country. He noted that a series of wildfires already spread across several regions. "We can't allow a repeat of the last year's situation," Putin said. "We need to combat fires in a more efficient, systemic and consistent way." He reaffirmed the importance of forests for dealing with global warming, noting that "large-scale wildfires undermine our climate protection efforts.""This issue is of principal importance for our country and the entire world," he said. In recent years, Russia has recorded high temperatures that many scientists regard as a clear result of climate change. The hot weather, coupled with the neglect of fire safety rules, has caused a growing number of wildfires that authorities say have consumed more than 17 million hectares (42 million acres) last year in Russia. Russian experts decried a 2007 decision to disband a federal aviation network tasked to spot and combat fires and turn over its assets to regional authorities. The much-criticized transfer led to the force's rapid decline. The government later reversed the move and reestablished the federal agency in charge of monitoring forests from the air. However, its resources remain limited, making it hard to survey the massive forests of Siberia and the Far East. The authorities responded to last year's fires by beefing up monitoring assets and rapid response forces. The Kremlin has ordered to earmark additional funds for combating the blazes.

US Senators to introduce resolution to designate Russia a state sponsor of terrorism
Tuqa Khalid, Al Arabiya English/10 May ,2022
Two US Senators said on Tuesday they will be introducing a resolution to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism over its war on Ukraine, calling Russian President Vladimir Putin a terrorist. “Last week, the Ukrainian parliament took a vote urging the US Congress to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. So, we heard their plea and we're answering their request. Today we will be introducing a resolution urging the Secretary of State and the Biden administration to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism because they are,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said at a press conference. He added: “The hope is that we can take this resolution and put it in the Ukraine supplemental, because I think it does two things. It sends a strong message to the people of Ukraine, we listen to you, and we agree that the person who is destroying your country, who's murdering, raping and killing your citizens runs a nation that is a state sponsor of terrorism. And we're also letting the Russian people know that our fight is not with you, but is with Putin.”Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal said: “If there is anybody who embodies terrorism and totalitarianism and torture, it is Vladimir Putin. And Russia, unfortunately, is in his hands. And so, this resolution is absolutely appropriate and it will put Russia outside the pale of civilized nations.”Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had asked US President Joe Biden to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism in mid-April. The US currently designates four countries as state sponsors of terrorism: Iran, Syria, North Korea and Cuba. Graham added: “Putin has challenged the world. He's put in question everything we believe in. If he's still standing when this is over and he's not labelled a state sponsor of terrorism, we've missed a mark. Every law on the books regarding war crimes have been violated. Every international norm has been turned upside down. For 20 years, he's literally gotten away with murder. Now it's time to designate him in a fashion befitting his conduct. He is a terrorist and Russia is in the hands of a terrorist state run by Putin.”

US still considers Iran’s IRGC a terrorist group: State Department official
Joseph Haboush & Nadia Bilbassy-Charters, Al Arabiya English/Published: 10 May ,2022
The US still considers Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) a terrorist group, State Department Spokesman Ned Price said Tuesday. “You’ve heard from the Secretary [of State Antony Blinken] that the IRGC has conducted terrorist attacks. Clearly, we’re concerned by the threat that the IRGC poses,” Price told Al Arabiya in an interview from the State Department. Reports have suggested that one of the major sticking points that has prevented a return to the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the West has been Tehran’s demand to have the IRGC’s terror designation revoked. Price suggested that steps taken by the State Department proved that the Biden administration was working to counter threats by the IRGC. “Of the 107 sanctions that this administration has imposed on Iran since January 2021, until the present, 86 of them have been on the IRGC or its affiliates,” Price said. “We are working closely, using our own authorities, also with partners in the region, to counter the IRGC and the threat it poses potentially to our personnel and to our partners in the region as well.” Nevertheless, the US is still hoping to reach a deal with Iran to revive the deal. Biden administration officials believe a return to the deal would “verifiably and permanently” prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. And despite a weekslong halt to the talks, the US still thinks a deal is in its best interests. “As of May 2022, we continue to believe that if the restrictions that the nuclear deal imposed were re-imposed on Iran, Iran’s nuclear program would be put back in a box, that breakout time that now stands at weeks would be lengthened significantly,” Price said. He added: “It’s unacceptable that the breakout time is so low. President Biden has a commitment that Iran will not acquire a nuclear weapon.”
Price also said that a return to the so-called JCPOA would be one way to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. But he also said that the US and its allies would “pursue other means,” if needed, to ensure this would never happen. The US has been discussing alternative plans with partners and allies in the event that no deal is reached. “It was never certain, it was never clear to us whether we’d be able to achieve a mutual return to compliance, so we’ve always been engaged in contingency planning with our partners,” Price said. Asked about comments by the UN nuclear watchdog chief that Iran was not forthcoming on past nuclear activities, Price said the US would be in close touch with the agency on the matter. “But either way, we’re going to continue to partner very closely with the IAEA to make sure that Iran is complying with its commitments, or alternatively, to make sure that Iran is not able to acquire a nuclear weapon,” he said.

Hifter a no-show for deposition accusing him of war crimes
Associated Press/May 10/2022
A Libyan military commander who lived for decades in northern Virginia has failed to show up for a deposition in a federal lawsuit in which he is accused of war crimes. Khalifa Hifter had been scheduled to appear for seven hours in a long-sought video deposition where he would be asked about his role in alleged extrajudicial killing and torture of Libyan civilians in the country's decade-long civil war.He is a defendant in three separate civil lawsuits in U.S. District Court in Alexandria. Hifter tried unsuccessfully to have the lawsuits tossed out, claiming immunity as head of state. Then, on the eve of his deposition last year, U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema put the lawsuits on pause, saying she wanted to ensure they were not being used to interfere with scheduled elections in the country. Earlier this year, Brinkema reinstated the lawsuits after the elections were indefinitely delayed. Hifter's failure to appear Monday was confirmed by Esam Omeish with the Libyan American Alliance, which supports one group of plaintiffs, as well as by Mark Zaid, a lawyer representing another group of plaintiffs. Monday was to be the day lawyers in all three cases were to be allowed to question Hifter to gather information relevant to their case. Lawyers met Friday at the federal courthouse in Alexandria to hash out the rules for conducting the deposition. Over the weekend, though, Hifter said his official duties made it impossible to sit for a deposition and asked for a one-month delay, Omeish said. Lawyers for the plaintiffs said that was unacceptable and said they will seek a default judgment against him for failing to appear. Once a lieutenant to Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, Hifter defected to the U.S. during the 1980s and spent many years living in northern Virginia, where he and his family continue to own extensive property, according to the lawsuits. He is widely believed to have worked with the CIA during his time in exile. He returned to Libya to support the anti-Gadhafi forces that revolted against the dictator and killed him in 2011. Over the last decade, he led the self-styled Libyan National Army, which has controlled much of the eastern half of the country, with support from countries including Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. A U.N.-supported government has controlled the capital in Tripoli, with extensive support from Turkey. A cease-fire between the warring sides in 2020 was supposed to lead to elections in December 2021, but they never occurred. Negotiations to set a new election date ended last month without success. Hifter's lawyer in the U.S., Jesse Binnall, did not immediately return an email Monday seeking comment.

Canada/Statement on Russia’s malicious cyber activity affecting Europe and Ukraine
May 10, 2022 - Ottawa, Ontario - Global Affairs Canada
The Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Honourable Anita Anand, Minister of National Defence, and the Honourable Marco Mendicino, Minister of Public Safety, today issued the following statement:
“Canada strongly condemns the destructive cyber activity by Russia targeting the European telecommunications sector on February 24, 2022. Canada joins its partners and allies in attributing this activity to Russia.
“On February 24, disruptive cyber activity directly targeted the Viasat KA-SAT satellite Internet service in Ukraine, rendering critical infrastructure for Internet and communications inoperable. This activity disrupted the Internet connectivity of tens of thousands of people across Europe.
“Canada assesses that the Russian military was behind this incident. Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, its malicious cyber activity, and its egregious disinformation campaigns are unacceptable and must stop.
“This most recent incident underlines a pattern of disruptive cyber activity that demonstrates a repeated disregard for the rules-based international order. This activity also demonstrates the willingness of Russia to use its cyber capabilities irresponsibly.
“Previous malicious Russian cyber activities include:
the targeting of the Ukrainian banking sector in February 2022
the exploitation of the SolarWinds platform by Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) in 2021
the SVR’s targeting of Canadian COVID-19 vaccine research and development in 2020
the interference by Russia’s military intelligence agency (GRU) in Georgia’s 2020 parliamentary elections
the development and indiscriminate use of NotPetya malware in 2017, which caused massive damage to government and business networks globally
“Canada, in conjunction with our partners and allies, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and the European Union, will continue to advance a stable cyberspace, built on the applicability and respect of international law and responsible state behaviour in cyberspace.
“Canada is also sharing valuable cyber threat intelligence and providing cyber assistance to Ukraine in an effort to strengthen that country’s defence against Russia’s unprovoked and illegal invasion.’’
“The Communications Security Establishment’s Canadian Centre for Cyber Security (Cyber Centre) reminds the Canadian cyber security community, especially critical infrastructure network defenders, to bolster its awareness of and protection against Russian state-sponsored cyber threats. The Cyber Centre encourages all Canadians to follow the updated advice and guidance at Cyber.gc.ca.”

Dubai delivery workers go on second rare strike this month
Associated Press/May 10/2022
Food-delivery workers across Dubai protesting meager pay and inadequate protections have walked off the job across the city, the company confirmed on Tuesday, marking the second strike in as many weeks in an emirate that outlaws dissent. The foreign workers contracted by Talabat, the Middle East unit of Delivery Hero, began their walkout late Monday after organizing on social media, crippling the application's services. As fuel prices surge, many said they were pressing for a modest pay increase from their current rate of $2.04 per delivery — a wage less than what sparked another extremely rare strike among contractors for delivery service Deliveroo last week. Deliveroo drivers make $2.79 per delivery after the walkout forced the U.K.-based company to backtrack on its plans to cut workers' pay and extend their hours. Strikes and unions remain illegal in the United Arab Emirates, where the subject of labor standards has grown contentious in recent years. Videos shared on social media showed scores of Talabat riders gathering in lots beside their parked motorcycles at dawn. It was not clear how many riders took part in the strike, which caused Talabat to acknowledge some "operational delays" on Tuesday.
Talabat, owned by Germany-based Delivery Hero, confirmed the work stoppage in a statement to The Associated Press, saying the company was "committed to ensuring riders can continue to rely on our platform to provide for their families.""Up until last week rider pay satisfaction was well above 70%," the company added, without disclosing how it came to that number. "Yet, we understand economic and political realities are changing constantly, and we will always continue to listen to what riders have to say." Several striking Talabat riders say they hoped to secure a raise to roughly $2.72 per delivery, especially as they're squeezed by spiking gas prices that they pay out of pocket. Many drive some 300-400 kilometers (190-250 miles) a day.
Riders also described a mountain of other costs draining their salaries, including visa fees to contractors who secured them jobs in Dubai, toll charges, regular motorcycle maintenance costs like oil changes and hospital expenses. Contractors do not provide drivers with adequate accident insurance, drivers say, even as many frequently crash on Dubai's dangerous roads. That leaves delivery workers, part of Dubai's vast foreign work force mainly from Africa and Asian countries such as India and Pakistan, with little cash to pay rent and send back home to families they support.
As it seeks to burnish its image as a cosmopolitan haven for expat workers, the UAE has faced persistent criticism from human rights groups over the long hours, tough conditions and relatively low pay endured by the country's manual laborers. Authorities say the country has made labor reforms and offers many workers better money than they would find amid poverty, and sometimes conflict, back home. Khan, a 24-year-old Talabat driver and breadwinner for his family of nine in Peshawar, Pakistan, said he can barely make ends meet in Dubai — even though he hasn't taken a day off in three months and works 15 hours a day. He has been struck by cars twice and injured his foot on the job, he said, but could never afford to get treatment. "I'm not striking for me or for my friends. I know it's not good for us," he said, asking that he only be identified by his family name for fear of reprisals. "It's for the future. For guys like us, coming here to Dubai."

The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 10-11/2022
Egypt, U.S. eye counter-terrorism ties in wake of deadly Sinai attack

Phil Stewart/Reuters/May 10/2022
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi expressed hopes for deeper U.S. counter-terrorism ties during talks with a top American general on Monday, following a deadly weekend attack by militants in the Sinai peninsula, a U.S. military official said on Monday.
The attack was claimed by Islamic State and killed 11 Egyptian troops. Militants descended on a checkpoint at a water pumping station, striking with an explosive-rigged vehicle and firing heavy weapons from pick-up trucks, Egyptian security sources said.
It was one of the most deadly attacks in recent years in the northern Sinai.
U.S. Army General Michael "Erik" Kurilla, who oversees U.S. forces in the Middle East, said following Monday's talks in Cairo that the attack underscored the persistent threat from extremists.
"I offered my condolences and my view of the ISIS threat," said Kurilla, head of U.S. Central Command. Sisi's office said in a statement following his meeting with Kurilla that terrorism was the foremost challenge to Egypt's security and stability and required "collective efforts to combat it."
Since 2018, the Egyptian military has expanded its control over populated coastal areas of Northern Sinai between the Gaza Strip in the east and the Suez Canal in the west, allowing for a return of some civilian activity and the development of some infrastructure.
However, sporadic attacks have continued with militants seeking refuge in desert expanses south of the coast and using different tactics such as sniping or planting explosives. The latest attack took place on Saturday morning on the road leading east from the Suez Canal to Hasanah in the center of Northern Sinai, Egyptian security sources said. A senior U.S. military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Sisi and other Egyptian officials sought a deeper counter-terrorism relationship in meetings with Kurilla on Monday. The U.S. military official added that Kurilla offered to send U.S. Rear Admiral Mitchell Bradley, who leads U.S. special operations forces in the Middle East, to Egypt to offer "guidance and additional assistance."
Kurilla's visit, his first since taking the helm of U.S. Central Command in April, comes less than four months since President Joe Biden's administration announced it would cut $130 million in military aid to Egypt over human rights concerns.
The rare U.S. censure of a geostrategic ally that controls the Suez Canal followed Egypt's failure to address specific human rights-related conditions, which have never been publicly detailed by Washington.
Activists have said those U.S. conditions included the release of people seen as political prisoners. U.S. officials have said the American relationship with Egypt is complex. The most-populous Arab country is a vital ally and key voice in the Arab world. U.S. military officials have long stressed Egypt's role expediting the passage of U.S. warships through the Suez Canal and granting overflight for American military aircraft.
Kurilla told reporters traveling with him that the U.S.-Egypt relationship was critical and that his visit gave him "a new appreciation for Egypt's prominent role in the Middle East."
"This strategic partnership is important to me, the United States, and CENTCOM," he said, using an acronym for Central Command. Despite deep ties to the U.S. military, Egypt has moved to diversify its sources of arms since then-U.S. President Barack Obama in 2013 froze delivery of some military aid to Egypt after Mursi's overthrow.
Egypt's imports of arms from Russia, France, Germany and Italy have surged, according to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
Still, Kurilla's predecessor in the post, Frank McKenzie, a now retired four-star Marine general, told Congress in March that he believed the United States would provide Egypt with F-15 aircraft, manufactured by Boeing (BA.N).
That sale has not yet been formally announced.

Does Iran benefit if Russia moves units from Syria? - analysis
Seth.J. Frantzman/Jerusalem Post/May 10/2022
Does Iran really want to “own” a broken Syria, or merely to use it?
Reports this week say that Russia is transferring units from Syria to aid its efforts in Ukraine. Claims that Iran might benefit from this by somehow moving its units, or partner forces, to backfill areas the Russians are leaving would appear to underline Iranian benefits from Russia’s movements. But it is not entirely clear if Iran can move units into areas the Russians are leaving, or if the Russians really are moving units out at all, or merely rotating units around.
Another possibility is that reports Russia is moving units is leaked information designed to make it look like it is failing in Ukraine, or to cause other informational chaos regarding Syria and Iran. Even if Moscow is moving out of areas in Syria, this may not benefit Iran because while Tehran prefers to use Syria as a launchpad for its threats, it prefers to hide behind the Russian role there, which had conferred some supposed legitimacy and security for the Syrian regime. With less Russia in Syria, Iran could be more exposed, even if it takes short-term advantage.
What is known is that Syrian regime leader Bashar Assad met with the Iranian leadership on Sunday, the same day as the reports emerged. The report at the Moscow Times said that “Russia has begun the process of withdrawing its military forces from Syria and is concentrating them at three airports before being transferred to the Ukrainian front.”
This is supposed to “speed up” the Russian campaign in Ukraine, which has faced many setbacks. Russia held its May 9 Victory Day celebrations on Monday. “The abandoned air bases of the Russian Federation are transferred to the Iranian military-political formation ‘Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ and the Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah,” the Moscow Times report said.
A REPORT at the Alma Research and Education Center on May 8 noted that “until the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, Syria was the most extensive arena [where] the Russian military was deployed permanently.” The report said that the “Russian military force in Syria consisted of around 10,000 soldiers in 12 bases (two main ones: Tartus and Hmeimim, and ten smaller ones) and various assorted field outposts.
"As of now, it is not clear whether, in light of the war in Ukraine, Russia has substantially reduced the number of troops in Syria and transferred them to fight in Ukraine," it said. "It is clear [however] that Russian forces have been transferred from Syria to Ukraine, but the extent of the forces redeployed is not clear to us.” The reports that Russia could be moving some forces would also appear to show that its balance of power with Iran in Syria could shift. This means Assad had a good reason to go to Tehran this week, rather than go to the Victory Day events in Moscow. He wasn’t invited to Moscow, apparently because foreign leaders did not attend this year like they have in the past. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended the Victory Day events in 2018.
What matters here is the perception that Russia might be moving troops. In this world, perception can be as important as reality. Iran perceives an opening as well. It could use this as leverage and could indeed move more forces to parts of Syria. It could try to use what remains of Russian bases and posts to shield its units from threats.
Iran has usually operated in a corridor in Syria, from the Imam Ali base in Albukamal on the Iraqi border to the T-4 base near Palmyra, to other locations near Homs and in the mountains between Lebanon and Damascus, and directly in Damascus and south of Damascus. Beginning in 2018, Iran attempted to move more Hezbollah units toward areas near the Golan as the Syrian rebels were defeated there.
In the past, Tehran has also operated near Aleppo; in 2021 pro-Iranian militia members were killed there and in May 2020 airstrikes allegedly hit some kind of Iranian warehouses and other sites east of the ancient city. Iran also has proxies in the Mayadin and Deir Ezzor areas. This is the Iranian octopus in Syria, which may grow new tentacles. Iran knows that Russia’s main bases are in Tartus and Khmeimim which are in northwestern Syria, near Latakia. This is the area that Russia cares about.
WHY WOULD Russia hand over bases or posts to the IRGC or Hezbollah? It would appear that this would risk those sites and also lead to tensions. Moscow may have had some brief tension last week due to Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s comments, but it likely doesn’t want to open up new files dealing with problems with Israel or Syria. It therefore makes little sense for Russia to give up much space to the IRGC. That being said, smaller Russian posts or areas Russia once used might be sponged up by the Iranian octopus.
The question is whether Iran really benefits here. If Russia does move out of some places, then Iran can’t use them for cover or plausible deniability. It likes the fact Russia is in Syria because Russia shields the Syrian regime and lets Iran hollow out Syria from within.
This is also how Iran does business in Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen. It sets up shop, hollows out and bankrupts, backfills with religious extremist proxies, and then leaves a shell country. It is like a robber baron or corporate raider that leaves shell corporations saddled in debt. Iran is a kind of mafia/empire/corporate raider all wrapped into one, guarded by drones and missiles that it exports.
So how can Iran really benefit if Russia begins to move forces out of Syria? Iran would be more exposed; it would have to “own” more Syrian real estate. This brings us back to the old maxim, “if you break it, you buy it.” Supposedly then-US secretary of state Colin Powell told this to president George W. Bush: “If you break it, you fix it. Now, if you break it, you made a mistake. It's the wrong thing to do. But you own it.”
Either way, does Iran really want to “own” a broken Syria, or merely to use it? The Islamic Republic prefers to use the embattled country; it wants the best of both worlds, with Russia propping up the Syrian regime and giving it legitimacy, while it uses Syria to move weapons and knit together Hezbollah and the Hashd al-Sha’abi in Iraq – and then use these as leverage against Israel; even flying drones from the bases in Syria, Iraq and Iran to threaten Israel as it has done in recent years.
Less Russia in Syria could actually backfire on Iran. In the near-term of course, Tehran can benefit because of the shadow of conflict and lack of knowledge about whether the Russians really did move forces out. But if they did or are moving them, then the evidence will come to light – and the Iranians will be seen at these new locations and will then be exposed.

Qatar Is Hamas’ Patron. Its ‘Moderate’ Rebranding Is a Dangerous Delusion
Hussain Abdul-Hussain/Haaretz/May10/2022
A rash of commentary celebrating a supposed shift in Qatari policy, away from promoting and subsidizing radical Islamists like Hamas and the Taliban to "moderating" them, is misplaced, misinformed and dangerously naïve
There’s been an upswing recently of commentary celebrating what is often termed a welcome “shift” in the policies and behavior of Qatar: away from promoting and subsidizing radical Islamist groups, and towards “deconfliction” and moderation.
This analysis is not only fundamentally incorrect, but plays into Doha’s ongoing attempts to create an illusion of rebranding as a moderating actor in the Middle East and beyond.
The truth is that Qatar’s sponsorship of radical groups has not moderated any of them, and does not reflect a recent “shift” in Doha’s foreign policy. If there has been any shift, it would be Qatar itself switching, some 20 years ago, from moderation to radicalism.
The argument that Qatari investment in extremist groups is “to maintain dialogue with and moderate them” (made in Haaretz, too: In a Shift, Qatar Plays Central Role in Stabilizing Israeli-Palestinian Ties) breaks down upon closer scrutiny. When Qatar was criticized for shuttling top Taliban leaders aboard its royal C17 aircraft from Doha to Kabul in August last year, as they took over the country, Qatari leaders responded that their strong ties with the Afghan group would moderate policies of the new Taliban government.
In September, Taliban announced that the “morality police” would replace the ministry of women. Taliban also reinstated executions and amputations. In March, the radical Islamist group banned Afghan women from flying without male chaperones. This month, Taliban stopped issuing driving licenses for women, and this week decreed all women must veil their faces with the burqa.
If Qatar thought its strong ties with the Taliban would moderate the Afghani group, Doha better think again.
Similarly, Qatar’s policy of “moderating” Hamas has yet to yield results. Despite all the Qatari money, Hamas’s Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar recently called on every Arab Israeli to kill all and every Jewish Israeli they can. “Everybody who has a gun should take it, and those who don’t have a gun should take a butcher’s knife, axe or any knife he can get,” Sinwar said in a speech on April 30.
True that Hamas has reportedly stopped Islamic Jihad from firing rockets onto Israel, but that was unlikely due to Qatari funds or ties and more likely due to Hamas’s calculus that instigating Arab Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem, to start a third intifada, would be more cost efficient for Gaza’s autocratic rulers. Full-scale war with Israel only results in large scale destruction in the Strip, which weakens Hamas’s grip, and achieves little to hurt Israel or would deflect its attention away from the Iranian nuclear program.
A year before he became Iran’s Foreign Minister, Amir Abdollahian implied that pro-Iran militias, like Hamas, allow Iran to better counteract Israel.
Doha subsidizes Hamas to the tune of $360 million to $480 million a year. With one third of that money, Qatar buys Egyptian fuel that Cairo then ships into Gaza, where Hamas sells it and pockets its revenue. Another third goes to impoverished Gazan families, while the last third pays the salaries of the Hamas bureaucracy.
Qatari spending in Gaza might look humanitarian, but in reality, Doha is funding Hamas’s coffers through oil sales. Doha is also bankrolling Hamas’s social services, the main vehicle of the organization’s rentier network that helps Hamas maintain support among Palestinians, in the Strip as well as across the West Bank and Jerusalem. Without Qatari money, Hamas’s governorship of Gaza would have become untenable and its popularity among Palestinians would have collapsed.
In 2002, I was reporting on the Arab League Summit in Beirut, during which the Saudis presented Israel with what came to be known as the Arab Peace Initiative. If Israel withdrew from the 1967 territory and East Jerusalem and allowed for the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state over this land, all Arab countries would ratify peace with Israel and normalize relations.
At the time, Syria’s Bashar Assad instructed his Lebanese puppet president Emile Lahoud, the summit’s chair, to insert a clause that caused the initiative to implode: The “right of return” of Palestinian refugees to Israel.
Besieged in his Muqata and aware that Assad was undermining his position in Beirut, Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat asked his delegation to keep the “right of return” out. Assad and the radicals, however, prevailed. To counter the radicals, Arafat addressed the Arab summit in Beirut through Qatar’s Al-Jazeera.
The Qatari network went further by allowing Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to address the Arab summit live and articulate a vision of peace similar to the Saudi proposal: Withdrawal for peace.
Throughout its live coverage of the summit, Al-Jazeera invited Israeli guests to argue their country’s points. One of them, Victor Nahmias, was an articulate retired diplomat whose foolproof arguments still ring in my head.
Annoyed by Al-Jazeera, Hezbollah and Hamas journalists at the summit’s media center protested next to the network’s live position and tried to sabotage its coverage. This was Qatar’s foreign policy two decades ago.
Over the past few weeks alone, Al-Jazeera has described terrorism that killed Israeli non-combatants as “martyrdom” operations. Al-Jazeera even posted articles describing Israel as “the Zionist entity,” arguing that armed “resistance” is the only way forward.
Over the past two decades, Qatar’s foreign policy has shifted, but not toward moderation. To give Doha a standing ovation for endorsing and sponsoring radicalism is misplaced, misinformed and dangerously naïve.
*Hussain Abdul-Hussain is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy. Twitter: @hahussain.

New Mideast task force can counter Iranian arms smuggling, but more capabilities are needed
Bradley Bowman, Ryan Brobst , RADM (Ret) Mark Montgomery/Defense News/May 10/2022
Eyeing the continued flow of Iranian weapons to the Houthis in Yemen, the Combined Maritime Forces, a naval partnership comprising 34 nations led by U.S. Central Command, established a new multinational task force last month that will focus on the Red Sea, the Bab el-Mandeb Strait and the Gulf of Aden. If properly resourced and supported, Combined Task Force 153 could facilitate a more effective response to the persistent problem of Iranian weapons smuggling to terrorist proxies that fuel conflicts across the Middle East.
The new task force will operate in the Red Sea from the Suez Canal down through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait and around the southwest corner of the Arabian Peninsula to the waters off the Yemen-Oman border, according to U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, the commander of U.S. 5th Fleet and Naval Forces Central Command.
Another task force, CTF-150, one of three existing combined task forces under the auspices of the Combined Maritime Forces, was previously responsible for those waters as well as parts of the Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea and Gulf of Oman. The establishment of CTF-153 will essentially divide CTF-150′s vast maritime area of responsibility into two parts, enabling both task forces to bring greater focus to smaller and more manageable regions.
CTF-153 will initially be led by the United States, but a regional partner will assume the leadership role in the fall. Task force staff will include 15 U.S. and foreign military personnel, who will initially operate from a ship and later transfer to a headquarters in Bahrain.
There is little doubt that the new task force will have its hands full. Iran has used the waters around Yemen to smuggle major quantities of weapons to the Houthis there. The Houthis, in turn, continue to use those weapons to stoke the conflict in Yemen, attack vessels in the Red Sea, and target civilians in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as documented in annual reports by the United Nations’ Panel of Experts on Yemen.
The reliable flow of weapons has given the Houthis little incentive to negotiate with Riyadh in good faith. Instead, the Houthis, sometimes employing human shields, conducted at least 375 cross-border attacks into Saudi Arabia in 2021. And that does not include two Houthi attacks in January on the United Arab Emirates that struck the Abu Dhabi International Airport and targeted the Al Dhafra Air Base, which houses American troops.
It is also worth remembering that the Houthis fired anti-ship cruise missiles at the U.S. Navy destroyer Mason in 2016 while it was operating in international waters in the Red Sea near Yemen. Since then, the Houthis have used unmanned “waterborne improvised explosive devices” to attack commercial vessels, according to a 2022 U.N. report.
So what’s to be done?
The United States and its regional partners must make it more difficult for Tehran to send arms to its terrorist proxies, by sharing intelligence, building interdiction capability with regional partners and actually increasing the interdiction of illicit weapons shipments. The establishment of CTF-153 could help advance each of these goals.
Fortunately, there have already been positive steps in this direction, stemming from a multilateral approach similar to what CTF-153 will institutionalize. Vice Adm. Cooper said 9,000 weapons were seized in 2021 “along routes historically used to unlawfully supply the Houthis in Yemen.” That’s “three times the amount of weapons interdicted in 2020,” according to Cooper.
That progress is encouraging, but it is unclear if the increase in seizures is primarily due to improved interdiction efforts, a growing quantity of Iranian weapons being smuggled to Yemen, or both. Regardless, unless the United States and its partners dramatically reduce the flow of weapons to the Houthis, the war in Yemen will likely continue, exacerbating one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
It remains to be seen whether task force participants will devote sufficient naval assets to the new task force’s mission. At least initially, CTF-153 will oversee around two to five ships operating in the designated area on any given day. That number of ships, unfortunately, is not an increase over the status quo and is almost certainly insufficient.
With the U.S. Navy struggling to build a fleet with an adequate number of ships, and with global threats competing for finite naval resources, the Pentagon has had difficulty maintaining sufficient naval forces in the Middle East. Meanwhile, America’s military partners in the region often lack the naval capability they need and require help detecting and interdicting malign maritime activity. This shortfall in military capabilities creates opportunities that Tehran and its terrorist proxies exploit.
To make progress countering Iranian weapons smuggling, CTF-153 will need to have sufficient intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and interdiction capabilities. The Pentagon and Central Command should ensure the task force retains expeditious access to theaterwide P-8 aircraft as well as medium-altitude, unmanned, airborne ISR systems to detect threats when indications and warnings suggest they are needed.
In addition to the airborne assets, CENTCOM needs the ability to analyze and exploit the intelligence, which will require a robust cadre of analysts. To act on that intelligence, the task force will also need at least four to six ships on station at any given time based on the size of the area of responsibility. Ideally, most of these ships would come from regional partners, and their contributions would grow. Combined training among the participants and the sharing of best practices will help each of those ships operate more effectively over time.
If CTF-153 works with partners to build increased naval capacity and capability in the Red Sea, the Bab el-Mandeb Strait and the Gulf of Aden, it would help secure these vital commercial and military waterways, counter weapons smuggling and potentially reduce the regional security burden on the United States.
The new task force also offers an opportunity to build a more unified and capable coalition of countries countering Iran. The experience working with U.S. senior staff in conducting complex maritime operations will raise the operational expertise of regional navies.
The Combined Maritime Forces’ 34 member nations include Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Washington should encourage each of these countries to participate in CTF-153 while simultaneously inviting Israel to at least join CTF-153 patrols, if not formally join the task force, depending on Jerusalem’s preferences. CENTCOM should also specifically encourage Saudi Arabia to participate in CTF-153, as Riyadh has a deep interest in Red Sea security and possesses meaningful naval forces.
Such suggestions would have been unthinkable a few years ago, but Israel and some Arab states have been slowly increasing military cooperation since the 2020 Abraham Accords, the U.S.-brokered agreement in which Israel established formal relations with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. And Saudi Arabia and Israel have been tiptoeing toward overt security cooperation in recent months.
In short, if properly resourced and supported by the United States and its regional partners, CTF-153 will help counter weapons smuggling and terror attacks in the waters around Yemen, which remain vital to U.S. and international economic and security interests, while advancing Arab-American-Israeli security cooperation and sending a positive deterrent message to Tehran.
*Bradley Bowman serves as senior director of the Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, where Ryan Brobst is a research analyst. Retired U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Mark Montgomery is a senior fellow at FDD and senior director of its Center on Cyber and Technology Innovation. Follow Brad and Mark on Twitter @Brad_L_Bowman and @MarkCMontgomery. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

Don’t Cling to Hopes That Putin Will Ever Face Justice
David Adesnik/Foreign Policy/May 10/2022
The system for prosecuting war crimes is broken—but focusing on sanctions could work.
The White House has made an ironclad commitment to holding Russian President Vladimir Putin accountable for the atrocities his forces have committed in Ukraine. But don’t hold your breath waiting for it to happen. That’s because the Biden administration clings to wishful thinking about war crimes accountability: that leaders can be made to face justice for war crimes using international tribunals and other legal mechanisms, like the Nuremberg trials of Nazi leaders and the tribunal in The Hague faced by deposed Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic.
But successful prosecution remains a rare exception. The system for prosecuting crimes against humanity has failed in case after case: In Myanmar, the Biden administration has determined that the military junta is committing genocide against its Rohingya minority—but there is little hope of bringing the perpetrators to justice. In Ethiopia’s Tigray region, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, atrocities amount to “ethnic cleansing”—but those words have had no consequence. In China, more than a million Uyghurs languish in concentration camps. There is little hope for accountability in any of these cases.
Yet nowhere is the failure of the system for bringing war criminals to justice more visible than in Syria. Putin and his proxy, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, have demonstrated their impunity despite committing horrific war crimes against the civilian population, including the use of chemical weapons, targeting of hospitals and clinics, and obliteration of entire cities and neighborhoods. Ten years of brutal ongoing war have shown the deficiency of the process U.S. President Joe Biden and his administration hope to apply to Ukraine now.
That doesn’t mean the idea of holding Putin accountable is hopeless. Sanctions and diplomatic isolation have greater promise as vehicles of accountability, not least because they deprive their targets of the resources that fuel aggression and atrocities. Already, Russia is reportedly running short of precision weapons such as cruise missiles, whose manufacture relies on Western technology. Comprehensive sanctions may ensure that Putin never again has armed forces strong enough to unleash on his European neighbors.
The most formidable challenge to sanctions as a vehicle for accountability is maintaining the will to enforce and refine them as the target adapts. In Syria, for example, the Western commitment to punishing Assad was intermittent at best—and has now diminished to a point where Damascus was able to begin a process of diplomatic rehabilitation.
Western leaders will have to shift focus on how to pursue accountability—and recognize that judicial approaches are likely to fail.
Before tackling the challenge of how to get sanctions right, Western leaders will have to shift focus on how to pursue accountability—and recognize that judicial approaches are likely to fail. Sadly, that recognition still seems a long way off. When the Russian withdrawal from the Ukrainian town of Bucha exposed evidence of massacres, Biden called for “a war crime trial.” When Blinken told reporters at a press conference, “I can say with conviction that there will be accountability for any war crimes that are determined to have occurred” in Ukraine, he got some well-deserved pushback. “How can you say that after Aleppo and Grozny?” one of the journalists shot back, “[Putin] does it repeatedly.” Blinken did not have a concrete answer, responding, “I hope you’ll take me at my word.”
Reporters have continued to ask variations of the same question. In response, the White House and State Department have begun to emphasize their cooperation with the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), the International Criminal Court (ICC), and various nongovernmental organizations that are working to collect evidence of war crimes in Ukraine. To be sure, these efforts are important, because they solidify the moral foundation for punishing war criminals and may provide rare moments of catharsis and validation to their victims. But the record is sobering. Similar efforts in Syria were never able to touch Assad or his principal enablers in Moscow and Tehran, whose forces participated directly in numerous atrocities.
One reason using international institutions to hold Putin accountable will be difficult is Russia’s power within them. Moscow has vetoed 16 resolutions on Syria in the U.N. Security Council, including several that had no concrete consequence beyond criticizing the Assad regime. That didn’t keep U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield from declaring in late February that “Russia cannot, and will not, veto accountability.”
This kind of aspirational rhetoric from the administration is a recipe for disappointment given the history of failed efforts to bring perpetrators to justice. When that disappointment inevitably sets in, it makes the search for accountability look like a futile distraction, which in turn lowers the bar for reengaging with the perpetrators. That is the story of the Biden administration’s Syria policy.
A month after Biden’s inauguration, Blinken committed to “putting human rights at the center of U.S. foreign policy.” On Syria, State Department officials pledged to seek accountability and enforce the Caesar Act, a sanctions law that Congress passed with bipartisan majorities in 2019. The law’s passage put investors, especially from the Persian Gulf states, on notice that sanctions awaited those who participated in Assad’s reconstruction plans. Although Emirati leaders continued to probe Washington’s commitment to isolating Damascus, Assad got none of the Gulf capital he was hoping for.
In addition to the new sanctions, the Syrian regime suffered two major economic blows in 2020. The first was the COVID-19 pandemic; the second was the collapse of the Lebanese banking system, which held tens of billions of dollars’ worth of Syrian deposits. A major regime offensive in northwest Syria ground to a halt in March 2020 and never resumed, although low-level fighting persists.
Thus, the Biden administration inherited a situation where Assad was already on the defensive. Nonetheless, within six months of taking office, the Biden administration reversed its policy of isolating the regime. The White House informed key Arab allies, including Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon, that it welcomed their efforts to include Damascus in a pair of regional energy deals that would earn tens of millions dollars for the Assad regime. As daily electricity blackouts were adding to Lebanon’s misery amid a severe economic crisis, there was even a humanitarian rationale for allowing Assad to cash in.
Blinken sought to persuade reporters that U.S. policy on Assad’s war crimes had not changed, yet Arab governments had no trouble reading between the lines that they had a green light for business as usual with the Syrian regime. The New York Times reported that, according to an interview with an unnamed senior Biden administration official, “it was clear that Mr. al-Assad had survived and that sanctions had yielded few concessions, so the administration preferred to focus on other issues.” Despite sanctions, Assad still enjoyed a steady supply of crude oil from Iran and rapidly growing revenue from drug trafficking. If the United States and its allies did not adapt along with Assad and his patrons, there was no reason to expect concessions.
Sadly, the Biden administration’s turn from accountability to normalization offers a preview of likely Western policy toward Russia once the current outrage subsides. Right now, Western anger seems unquenchable as reports of executions, mass graves, and gang rapes pour out of Ukraine. But that was also the case after a chemical weapons massacre left 1,400 Syrians dead in the Damascus suburbs in 2013. Assad waited for the Western temper to pass—and resumed his chemical attacks on civilians.
Imagine Ukraine six months from now. The war has settled into a punishing stalemate. Russian forces cannot advance, but their artillery and rocket attacks continue to kill civilians, while starvation exhausts towns under siege. The burden of hosting millions of refugees begins to weigh on Europe. Moscow says it will negotiate peace—but only if Western sanctions are lifted. Wouldn’t such an offer tempt the White House? Peace would come with immediate humanitarian benefits. Kyiv might resist, but, without U.S. support, Ukrainians cannot keep fighting.
Yet a pivotal lesson of the war in Syria is that impunity leads to even greater suffering in the future. The task is therefore not to trade sanctions for peace but to build a sustainable sanctions regime that the United States and its allies are prepared to enforce consistently and vigorously for several years or even a decade. The U.S. Treasury Department and its European counterparts will have to staff up to stay one step ahead of the Kremlin’s finance professionals, who are already well practiced in illicitly evading sanctions. Given the lack of any realistic perspective for Putin to face justice, sanctions and isolation are the only way to punish his regime.
Enduring restraints on Russian military strength and strategic influence are a punishment that fits the crime and reduces the risk of committing another.
Learning from the Syrian debacle, the United States and its allies should also be prepared to encounter growing opposition to sanctions—including on humanitarian grounds—as outrage subsides. For now, Biden is proud to say that Russia’s “economy is on track to be cut in half in the coming years.” In practice, that means impoverishing millions of Russians who have no say in what their government does in Ukraine. A sustainable sanctions policy depends on a firm belief that protecting Russia’s neighbors from brutal attacks, reducing the risk of future bloody wars in Europe, and holding the Kremlin accountable takes precedence over sparing the Russian people from the sanctions’ effects.
The Biden administration, in concert with allies, should also launch a long-term campaign to expel Russia from international organizations or marginalize it when expulsion proves impracticable. Voting Russia off the UNHRC was a small first step in the right direction. Next, Russia should face suspension from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, whose rules it has flagrantly violated. A country that bombs hospitals also has no place on the executive board of the World Health Organization. Across the U.N. system, the United States and its allies and supporters should block the election or appointment of Putin regime officials to leadership positions.
Putin and his cabinet should become personae non grata. Russian participation in summits with U.S. or European leaders should be out of the question unless Putin makes a credible commitment to repair the damage he has done in Ukraine and elsewhere.
There is no established playbook for making a pariah out of a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council. Nor will it be easy to sideline the world’s top oil exporter. But this is a more promising route to accountability than compiling evidence of atrocities in the vain hope there will someday be a venue capable of prosecuting Putin and his lieutenants.
First and foremost, aggressively enforced sanctions have the potential to hobble the Russian war machine. The debacle in Ukraine has already exposed the deficiencies of Moscow’s efforts to build a first-rate military. Enduring sanctions could put that objective permanently out of reach, by depriving Russia both of capital to invest in its armed forces and, perhaps more importantly, of access to Western technology, such as microprocessors for precision-guided weapons.
Rather than a dubious strategy of deterring Putin from renewed aggression in Europe, this approach seeks to deprive him of the means to intimidate his neighbors in the first place. As a pariah wielding only depleted and dilapidated armed forces, Putin will never achieve his vision of restoring Russian imperial greatness.
Of course, Putin’s own champagne-and-caviar lifestyle is unlikely to be affected by sanctions, including on luxury goods. In that regard, sanctions will never be as satisfying as seeing him stew in a prison in The Hague. The problem is that we can’t always get the justice we want. Yet enduring restraints on Russian military strength and strategic influence are a punishment that fits the crime and reduces the risk of committing another. That may just be the justice we need.
*David Adesnik is a senior fellow and the director of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Twitter: @adesnik. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

Saied and his opposition
Farouk Yousef/The Arab Weekly/May 10/2022
It is not acceptable for Tunisia to be a country without political parties even if that is the
Tunisian President Kais Saied has turned his back on his political opponents treating them as if they did not exist. His "three Noes" (to dialogue, recognition or reconciliation) reflected his high level of despair over the prospects of reaching any common denominators that could serve as a basis for mutual trust between the two sides.
The president's opponents accuse him of abolishing the constitution, while the president, on the other hand, accuses his opponents of treason and conspiring with foreign parties; two charges, which make national reconciliation for both sides beyond the pale.
There is no hope for such reconciliation in Tunisia, where the population is divided into opposition and loyalists. Each side appeals to the street, which until now has shown admiration for the president for the courage he displayed by his decisions of July 25, 2021, which ended a phase of government chaos.
After ending the decade-old political predicament, the president does not seem to be in any hurry to end the problems which his actions have created.
It is not acceptable for Tunisia to be a country without parties, even if that is the president's wish. The Ennahda movement is not expected to disappear after having enjoyed direct and indirect rule for ten years. Also, early elections would be only a dismal democratic exercise if the opposition abstained from participating.
There are those who call for banning political parties from taking part in the upcoming elections. This is a hardline position that offers Saied a booby-trapped kind of support. Even if he did not comment on the call, Saied may think that the post-July 25 period has thrown the parties into a complex web of schisms making their participation in the elections a cumbersome factor.
The worst of what is happening is that the curse of the Ennahda movement has spread to other parties, some of which were not involved in running the country and had no hand in the chaos that Tunisia witnessed inside and outside government. This is a flaw that may lead to many mistakes, which can discredit the measures that the president may take in the future.
President Saied thinks of a Tunisia that is different from the one that went through the political chaos following the fall of the Ben Ali regime. The people of Tunisia did not slide into the violence that could have occurred had it not been for the fact that they were sure that their moment of salvation was coming. This is what President Saeed grasped as a man who was not stained by politics and who did not come from the school of political parties. However, his arrival on the political stage was very late.
No one expected the political amateurs among businessmen to use the political chaos as a spring board to establish their own parties, which they construed as fronts to protect them from suspicion and to grant them electoral votes. On the other hand, the traditional left lost its credibility when its parties were divided between those who clung to old slogans and those who sided with the Ennahda movement, based on the view that it was a reliable national party. This was the beginning of the collapse of the traditional left, which has not kept pace with events and is no longer an obvious participant in any national dialogue.
However, in light of the large number of political parties whose projects the general public does not really fathom most of the time, their involvement in any national dialogue may not be useful in shaping common understandings that could form the basis for a future relationship between the regime and its opposition.
The Ennahda movement lost its last place in power when Said decided to freeze the parliament and then dissolve the legislature. However, the other parties, whether they supported Ennahda or opposed it, have also lost their credibility. The Tunisian president has not sought to help these politicians regain some standing, even if only symbolically.
Perhaps it was not a good idea for the Tunisian president to extend his “three Noes” to everyone. That was a shocking position on his part. However, the political parties also did not deal with it positively either. They could have used his position to shore up their popularity ahead of any future election. These parties have lost the heft that would have allowed them to pressure the president into easing his rejectionist stand and compel him to conduct a true national dialogue that saves the country from its political and economic woes.
Will Saied be left alone in the Carthage Palace?
Political parties should think twice about this as their current position may drag Tunisia into a dire situation where political stagnation goes hand-in-hand with an economic collapse, for which the people will pay the price.
Political parties need to recalibrate their positions in order to help rescue Tunisia.