English LCCC Newsbulletin For Lebanese, Lebanese Related, Global News & Editorials
For May 23/2022
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
Mary and her sister Martha sent a message to Jesus saying, ‘Lord, Lazarus whom you love is ill
Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 11/01-16/:”Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ But when Jesus heard it, he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’ Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again.’The disciples said to him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?’ Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.’ After saying this, he told them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.’ Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’ Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow-disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’”

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on May 22-23/2022
Rahi: As if someone wants to disrupt the movement for political change, overturn the election results
Rahi warns some want to 'block change, bypass popular will'
Beirut Governor initiates campaign to remove partisan, political & sectarian slogans from the city
Abdel-Sater presides over feast Mass of St. Rita: I wish our Christian politicians would stop talking about their superiority...
On Beirut’s Gemmayze Street: An Oasis of Music and Art
Hizbullah grip on Lebanon must end, says Geagea
Rich Lebanese buy 'island passports' as crisis bites
Raad: We are still a powerful parliamentary force that can act in a manner that preserves the interest of our people
Lebanon is the State… Not the Names/Tariq Al-Homayed/Asharq Al Awsat/May 22/2022
On Moods and Boredom in Lebanon’s Latest Elections/Hazem Saghieh/Asharq Al Awsat/May 22/2022
Les élections au Liban auraient elles un lendemain?/Charles Elias Chartouni/Mai 22/2022

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 22-23/2022
Russia's Ukraine invasion 'makes no sense,' according to a leading historian who once angered Putin by asking him about energy/Ryan Hogg/Business Insider/May 22/2022
Ukraine warns only diplomacy can end war
Revolutionary Guards Say Colonel Assassinated in Tehran
Iran's President Meets Sultan of Oman on Monday
Wife of Swedish Citizen Threatened with Iran Execution Appeals to EU
Russia, Israel Exchange ‘Ukrainian Letters’ in Syria
Biden arrives in Japan with no response on outreach to North Korea
Jordan: 4 Killed in Attempt to Smuggle Drugs from Syria
One Killed, Dozens Wounded in Sudan Protests
Erbil Requests a UN Envoy to Organize Relations with Iraq
US Supports Holding Libyan Elections, Preserving Oil Resources
Biden Says 'Hello' to N.Korea's Kim Amid Tensions Over Weapons Tests
Biden Says Monkeypox Cases Something to 'be Concerned About'

Titles For The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 22-23/2022
“They Consider Us Inferior and Want to Rule Us”: The Persecution of Christians, April 2022/Raymond Ibrahim/Gatestone Institute/May 22/2022
Who is the new militant group targeting a Turkish base with drones? - analysis/Seth J. Frantzman/Jerusalem Post/May 22/2022
For Putin, a Nordic Nightmare Is Springing to Life/Marc Santora and Natalie Kitroeff/The New York Times/May 22/2022
How Can the US Fix Its Baby Formula Crisis?/Sarah Green Carmichael/Bloomberg/May 22/2022
Time is Running Out on Vladimir Putin: Ruthless Escalation or a Climbdown?/Raghida Dergham/The National/May 22/2022

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on May 22-23/2022
Rahi: As if someone wants to disrupt the movement for political change, overturn the election results
NNA/May 22/2022
Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Mar Bechara Boutros Rahi, pointed out that "the parliamentary elections led to a new national atmosphere, which gave citizens a dose of hope for positive and national change that would encourage the international community to help Lebanon seriously, not symbolically, to get out of its economic hardship and its existential crisis."The Patriarch stressed, while presiding over Sunday Mass at the patriarchal edifice in Bkirki this morning, that "what drew our attention was that the security turmoil erupted the day after the results of the parliamentary elections: the fuel crisis returned, medicine and bread were unavailable, commodity prices were rising, and the dollar peg was being manipulated.”"Wasn’t the opposite supposed to happen, to secure what was missing and decrease prices?" Rahi asked. "It is as if there are those who want to disrupt the reality of parliamentary change and the movement for political change, and want to overturn the election results and dominate the upcoming elections," he said.

Rahi warns some want to 'block change, bypass popular will'
Naharnet/May 22/2022
Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi on Sunday described the explosion of several economic and financial crises after the elections as a “suspicious development.”“It was notable and painful that, after the elections results were announced, we witnessed security disturbances and the return of the fuel, bread, medicine, prices and dollar crises,” al-Rahi said in his Sunday Mass sermon. “This suspicious development confirms once again that some want to impede parliamentary and political change, to stage a coup against the elections results and to practice hegemony over the upcoming junctures,” al-Rahi warned. Addressing all citizens, “especially those who believe in positive change, national sovereignty, unity of arms, neutrality and decentralization,” the patriarch urged “vigilance and readiness to confront the attempt to bypass popular will.”

Beirut Governor initiates campaign to remove partisan, political & sectarian slogans from the city
NNA/May 22/2022
Beirut Municipality Public Relations Department announced, in an issued statement today, that Beirut Governor Judge Marwan Abboud has initiated in coordination with all those concerned the campaign to be launched during the upcoming week to render Beirut city free of partisan, political and sectarian slogans.In this framework, Governor Abboud gave his instructions to the Beirut Municipality sanitation department to support the Beirut Fire Brigade and Guard, to remove all slogans, posters, flags and advertisements scattered across the capital’s streets, on the walls of buildings, light poles, all public places and government buildings, on fences, tree trunks, roadblocks, telephone and electricity poles, light signals and others, especially those belonging to the candidates for the parliamentary elections which were distributed everywhere in violation of the law.

Abdel-Sater presides over feast Mass of St. Rita: I wish our Christian politicians would stop talking about their superiority...
NNA/May 22/2022
Pastor of the Maronite Archdiocese of Beirut, Archbishop Boulos Abdel-Sater, celebrated Sunday the feast Mass of Saint Rita at “St. Rita’s Church” in Sin El Fil in the presence of a crowd of believers and prominent figures. In his homily, Archbishop Abdel-Sater said: “Saint Rita did not choose to talk about love, but to live it in her relationship with the Lord and with others, perhaps because she felt within her that words would be a waste of time that she could use in building the other...Perhaps because she knew that speech without action becomes weak and loses much of its significance...”He added: “I wish we could learn from her to love and act before using words, and even without speaking...I wish we lived the hope of resurrection instead of talking about the resurrection that gives hope, and I wish we lived forgiveness and honesty in our lives instead of talking about their importance in our lives.”“I wish our Christian politicians would stop talking about their superiority over the other team and about their future projects, and begin working with the other in order to feed the hungry, heal the sick, find work for our youth and build our homeland Lebanon and its mankind,” the Archbishop underlined.

On Beirut’s Gemmayze Street: An Oasis of Music and Art
Beirut - Vivianne Haddad/Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 22 May, 2022
Gemmayze Street appeals to a broad segment of Beirutis. Brimming with restaurants, cafes and art galleries, it is also home to exhibitions and stores that sell antiques and paintings, cloth boutiques, and others. Recently, it has emerged from the darkness that had been imposed by the Aug. 2020 Beirut Port blast. Most of its streets, as well as its buildings and cafes, were damaged or destroyed by the explosion, paralyzing what had been one of Beirut’s vibrant spaces. Cynthia Warde, who owns In Action Events, which organizes artist and entertainment in Beirut and the mountains, has organized a street fair, Aa Tarik El Gemmayze (On Gemmayze Street), which had been scheduled for Sunday May 22 but was postponed till next Sunday because of extreme wind. In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Warde said: “It is a recreational oasis in the heart of Beirut that has been organized with the aim of spreading.”
“Our will to survive and continue that prompted us to organize this exhibition,” Warde says about the street fair set to host 200 stands set up by vendors hoping to sell local goods and continue. “We insisted on all the artistic works and food on display being stamped Made in Lebanon in order to shed light on these industries, which we urgently need today to encourage and highlight their strengths and diversity,” she adds. Discussing the difficulties she faced in organizing this fair, Warde says: “Today, the people of Gemmayze, after everything they have endured following the Beirut blast, are overwhelmed with despair. Homes have been destroyed, restaurants have been wiped off the map, and buildings have had their doors and windows broken. This sadness undermines enthusiasm because the Lebanese love life and do not give up by nature.”“At first, many met our invitations to take part with reluctance. They were afraid of this step after the street had been paralyzed for so long and everything that they had undergone over the past two years. But a not insignificant number of artists and vendors dared to join this cultural oasis. The number of participants increased, so much so that we ran out of space. This enthusiasm warmed our hearts and inspired us to think of similar exhibitions that we might hold in other streets of Beirut, such as Hamra, Saifi, Mono and others.” In parallel, the restaurants and cafes of Gemmayze will open their doors to customers and offer them discounts. “They are a key partner, and we are happy to see them play a role so they could benefit from the hustle and bustle that will reflect positively on their employees.”

Hizbullah grip on Lebanon must end, says Geagea
Agence France Presse/May 22/2022
Lebanon's "hijacked sovereignty" must be restored after an election denied the powerful Iran-backed Hizbullah a parliamentary majority, said Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea. "All strategic decision-making should return to the Lebanese state... and security and military matters should be handled exclusively by the Lebanese army," Geagea told AFP. "No one... should be able to transport missiles from one place to another without the permission and knowledge of the military," the 69-year-old added, referring to Hizbullah. Geagea's campaign for the May 15 election centered mainly on disarming Hizbullah, cementing his role as the movement's staunchest domestic rival. The Iran-backed Shiite group, which held a majority in the outgoing parliament together with its allies, is the only group to have not disarmed after the end of Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war. Hizbullah, whose arsenal outguns the army's, is described by its supporters as a bulwark against enemy Israel, but it is blacklisted a "terrorist" organization by the U.S. and other Western countries. Detractors argue it undermines the state's decisions on security and exposes Lebanon to costly disputes, with Hizbullah deploying combatants and weapons across the region. "No one should be allowed to use their weapons inside the country," said Geagea, who rose to prominence as a militia leader during the civil war. "This is no longer acceptable," he said during an interview at his residence in Maarab, northeast of Beirut.
Anti-Hizbullah alliance
Lebanon's latest election yielded a polarized and fractured parliament that denied any single bloc a clear-cut majority. Geagea's party, which has strong ties to Saudi Arabia, clinched 18 seats, with an additional spot going to an allied lawmaker who is not a party member. To challenge Hizbullah, Geagea is counting on alliances with other traditional powers opposed to it, including the Christian Kataeb party, and the Progressive Socialist Party led by Druze leader Walid Jumblat. At least 13 independent lawmakers who emerged from an anti-government protest movement in 2019 could also bolster their ranks, said Geagea. "We are in intensive talks" with them, he said. "We agree at a minimum on the need to build an actual Lebanese state... away from corruption, clientelism, quotas, and private interests." From Sunday, after the current assembly's mandate expires, the new lawmakers will have to pick a speaker, a position Nabih Berri has held since 1992. Berri is expected to hold on to the post with the backing of Hizbullah and his Amal party which, together, account for all Shiite lawmakers. But Geagea called on incoming lawmakers to chart a new political path by selecting a speaker who would work to "preserve" the state's sovereignty. "We can't nominate Berri at all because he is aligned with the other team," Geagea said, referring to Hizbullah. Another hurdle set to face the new parliament is the process of forming a government, which could take months. Geagea said he opposes plans for a "national unity" cabinet.
"We support a majority government that can be effective... and that agrees on a unified project," he said.
IMF & Gulf allies -
Lebanon is grappling with an unprecedented financial crisis widely blamed on corruption and mismanagement by a bickering ruling elite that has dominated the country since of the civil war. The country has been battered by triple-digit inflation, soaring poverty rates and the collapse of its currency since a 2020 debt default. International donors including the International Monetary Fund have preconditioned assistance on the implementation of key reforms. Lebanon's Gulf Arab allies have also held off funds following a diplomatic dispute last year over Hizbullah's growing dominance. Saudi Arabia and its allies have long pushed for Hizbullah's exit from parliament and cabinet by backing politicians like Geagea. "Our ties with Gulf Arab states will certainly be restored and Gulf aid will gradually flow to Lebanon," if a government is formed "that can inspire trust and confidence," said Geagea. The swift formation of such a cabinet will also streamline IMF negotiations, according to the Christian politician. The IMF and Lebanon in April struck a conditional deal for $3 billion in aid. Enacting reforms, including a financial recovery plan which was approved by government on Friday, is one of many prerequisites for the package. IMF talks are the "main entry point" for financial recovery, Geagea said.

Rich Lebanese buy 'island passports' as crisis bites
Agence France Presse/May 22/2022
Fearing visa hassles could cost him his job in Dubai while an economic collapse had dashed any homecoming options, Lebanese executive Jad splurged around $135,000 on a new citizenship for himself and his wife. Within a month of making the payment last year, the 43-year-old businessman received a small package in his mailbox. Inside were two navy blue passports from the Caribbean island nation of Saint Kitts and Nevis -- his ticket to visa-free access to more than 150 countries, including in Europe. This was a major upgrade from the Lebanese passport, which is ranked among the worst in the world and has become nearly impossible to renew because the cash-strapped state is running out of stocks. "Three years ago, I would not have imagined I would buy a passport," said Jad, who had previously grappled with lengthy visa procedures for business trips. "But now because of the situation in Lebanon -- and because we can afford it -- we finally did it," he said, asking for his full name to be withheld for privacy reasons. A Saint Kitts passport ranks 25th in the world while Lebanon languishes at 103rd on the Henley passport index for freedom of travel. With a population of under 55,000, it started selling citizenships a year after gaining independence in 1983. Citizenship by investment schemes have become a booming business internationally, attracting the well-to-do from volatile countries like Iraq, Yemen and Syria. Some EU member states, including Bulgaria, Cyprus and Malta, have also operated "golden passport" schemes, but they have run into opposition from the European Commission over the back door they offer to EU citizenship. Wealthy Lebanese, mostly living in Gulf or African nations, are now among those hunting for passports that offer easier travel and a safety net from the economic crisis at home.
'Nice country' -
Commonwealth Caribbean nations are particularly attractive because of their long-standing schemes offering citizenship within months in exchange for a lump sum. Applicants are not even required to visit. When Jad first went to Paris as a Kittitian, officers at passport control told him: "You come from a nice country." "But actually I have never been there," he said. Jad's Lebanese friends in the Gulf were also shopping for "island passports" or investing in real estate in Greece and Portugal to obtain residency as part of so-called "golden visa" schemes, he said. "This is not just a trend. It's a solution."
Lebanese expatriates in Gulf Arab states have long borne the brunt of political bickering and rifts between their capitals. Last year, several Gulf countries cut diplomatic ties with Beirut for months after a Lebanese minister criticized a Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen.
Kuwait limited the number of visas granted to Lebanese, and many in the diaspora worried other Gulf states would follow suit. "That made me think: I have a problem here, I don't want to jeopardize my work in the Gulf," said Dubai-based businessman Marielli Bou Harb. The 35-year-old bought Saint Kitts passports for his family of four last year, encouraged by a hefty discount as the Covid-19 pandemic beleaguered the island nation's tourism-dependent economy. A single passport usually costs around $150,000, a sum funneled into a sustainable growth fund for the country, which only installed traffic lights in its capital Basseterre in 2018. Other Caribbean islands including Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada and Saint Lucia also sell passports.
'Buying their freedom' -
Few people can afford such a purchase in Lebanon, a country in an economic crisis that has seen the currency nosedive, banks freeze deposits and most of the population fall into poverty. Yet demand for foreign citizenship has spurred a boom in passport consultancy, with firms advertising on social media, billboards and even inside Beirut's airport. Among them is Global Pass, converted in 2020 from a real estate company after Lebanese started complaining of higher visa rejection rates. "Our business has grown by at least 40 percent from 2020 to 2021," said founder Ziad Karkaji.
Even international firms are raking in a profit. Jose Charo, who heads the Beirut office of Swiss-based Passport Legacy, said Lebanese now account for one-quarter of the company's clientele. Their number has grown fivefold due to the economic crisis that was made worse by a devastating explosion at Beirut's port in 2020, Charo said. Having Grenadian citizenship makes applying for a U.S. investor visa easier for businesspeople, he said, while those looking to retire or settle abroad can invest around a quarter of a million dollars in Greece or Portugal to secure permanent residency.
"The industry will keep on growing, unfortunately for this country but fortunately for us," Charo said. "They are buying their freedom."

Raad: We are still a powerful parliamentary force that can act in a manner that preserves the interest of our people
NNA/May 22/2022
Head of the “Loyalty to the Resistance” parliamentary bloc, MP Mohammad Raad, affirmed Sunday that his bloc is still a powerful parliamentary force that can effectively act to preserve people’s interests. “Unfortunately, some of the Lebanese whom we want as our partners in this country, resorted to claiming parliamentary majority following the elections...We say that we are still a significant parliamentary force that can be effectively present and act in a way that preserves the interest of our people,” he said. Raad’s words came during his patronage of a ceremony honoring the first winners in a competition organized by the Association for Islamic Religious Education in Nabatiyeh earlier today. "We realize that the coming days are not days of prosperity, but rather difficult days that require sincere, patriotic and cooperative efforts from many in this country in order to address the problems and repercussions that have occurred as a result of the economic crisis,” Raad went on. He blamed the prevailing crisis on “some of those who now claim to have the parliamentary majority, in partnership with the leading international powers that wish to implement their programs and policies in the region for the benefit of the Israeli enemy and to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and Islamic and Christian holy sites, and to subjugate the entire Arab region.”“This is the reality, and we do not want to plant illusions in the minds of our people, but we want to say to our people that we will do everything in our power and exert all our efforts to prevent any infringement upon their will or dignity, and to safeguard them from becoming destitute in light of policies that aim to take us to a place where we do not remain Lebanese patriots,” Raad underscored.

Lebanon is the State… Not the Names
Tariq Al-Homayed/Asharq Al Awsat/May 22/2022
The recent Lebanese elections, which saw Hezbollah losing its allies and the parliamentary majority, and the entry of independents into parliament, is not only a lesson for the party, Iran and the Lebanese, but rather a message for the entire region.
The first lesson is “not to rely on agents,” whether those were prominent figures, families or houses… Saudi Arabia has always been aware of this reality, and for years, it has not been dragged into such an illusion. The phenomenon, which ended with the departure of the martyr Rafik Hariri, cannot be repeated. That man was an exception.
In my conviction, which I have reiterated before some Lebanese politicians, a state should deal with a state and institutions. In the Arab case, it is in everyone’s interest to deal with everyone, but in a manner consistent with the reality of the region.
Our region needs wise people from all sects and classes. It falls in the interest of a state to deal with wise Lebanese figures, whether Sunnis, Shiites or Christians. The same is true for the rest of Arab conflict areas, based on the components of each country.
We have to deal with institutions and rational people, not with agents. This is not rejection, inaction, or lack of loyalty, but falls instead within general and comprehensive interest, especially since the opponents - such as Iran and Hezbollah, or the Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq, and others - have understood the rules of the game and thus easily sabotage it.
For example, in Lebanon, Hezbollah assassinated Rafik Hariri, to bring down an entire project. In Iraq, moderate figures, who tried to raise their voice, have been immediately liquidated. It’s simple: when a project revolves around one person, all you have to do is to assassinate that person to eliminate the project.
Therefore, a more comprehensive and transparent strategy is required. It is to deal with states and institutions, and to mobilize the wise, from each sect, and thus block the road to corruption and political monopoly.
These words do not target Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who committed grave political mistakes against Lebanon and himself, but rather to avoid a country being “crammed” into an individual. In short, this approach summarizes Saudi rationality and realism.
I have witnessed two decades of Saudi relations with Lebanon, and I repeatedly heard from Saudi leaders and senior officials - may God have mercy on the dead among them and God save the living - that Saudi Arabia stands on the same distance with all.
One day, a Lebanese political figure asked me to convey a message to a Saudi official, wishing to meet with him. The senior Saudi official replied: “He is welcome; but tell him that I have no preference to anyone. The most important for us is the Lebanese state, and we are on the same distance from everyone.”
Accordingly, before the recent elections and since 2015, Riyadh has been aware of the importance of “not relying on agents”, but on transparency and clarity. In fact, Saudi Arabia has launched the biggest war against corruption, and stands on one distance from all to serve the concept of the state, and not a particular sect, figure, or family. This requires an integrated strategy to protect and empower wise figures across Arab countries and to encourage rational voices, because the supreme goal remains the region’s stability.

On Moods and Boredom in Lebanon’s Latest Elections
Hazem Saghieh/Asharq Al Awsat/May 22/2022
There are countless reasons, in theory at least, for the Lebanese to change their allegiances: the economic crisis, the evisceration of their bank deposits, the explosion at the port of Beirut, political and security instability... But other factors that most established political analysts do not refer to also play a role in this regard. These factors- which are more prominent in environments in which closed sectarian loyalties are less pervasive- can be grouped under two headings: boredom and a public mood or sensitivity.
We know, for example, that a revolutionary mood took hold of Europe after the French Revolution, especially after Napoleon and his wars. We also know that the sixties spoke to a mood that spilled over from politics to culture and music to gender and sexuality... Indeed, we now have what is known as the study of public mood, whose results politicians and opinion-makers seek and whose causes university departments and research centers focus on. Some of these reasons are conscious and tangible, tied to the development of machines, technology and knowledge, as well as income and unemployment rates. Others are unconscious, with values, images and the influence of others playing a central role.
Those who hate recognizing the existence of a mood, usually adherents of eternal ideologies and immortal causes, seek to trivialize it: it is a trend- though trends are not frivolous, even if they are vulnerable to being invested, manufactured, or exaggerated for profit or some other end. However, the social landscape nevertheless reflects shifting trends: we see this in the streets, clothes, songs, communication tools, and the words being added to or removed from languages... Some things become obsolete while others rise. Using a feather to write today, or indeed a pen, instead of a computer, is gradually becoming like using a horse to move around. While the feather and horse are now romanticized after having been retired, raising a sword in the face of an opponent or an enemy is a comic material resembling black comedy.
Politics is no exception: in the 1960s, for example, posters of an angry-looking man with a bushy mustache raising a rifle or a Kalashnikov with his veiny fist were commonplace. Today, a similar poster would invoke pity for the illustrator and the illustrated. The term “comrade” is now used ironically or as a joke. The term “militant” is related, in a way or another, to those over seventy. The issue becomes even more ironic when advocates of change and “a better future” adopt terms from this pastist stockpile. Slogans are not immune to changes in mood either: dying for one’s homeland or so that new generations can prosper has lost much of its appeal as individuals’ sense of self grew; life, in the end, is short, and is cherished.
Of course, the shifts in public mood that arise in light of a culture and economy in crisis could leave us with worse options than those we currently have. Populism’s consistent rise over the past three decades is a blatant example. However, this potentiality should not hinder us from recognizing the changes so long as they are happening. This recognition has the potential to open the door to breaking with custom and a broader array of options: since this approach has failed time and again, let’s try a new one.
The same is true for boredom. It could also push those who are discontent or dismayed with the status quo to take extreme, misguided positions. However, boredom is an unavoidable human emotion that pushes in divergent and contradictory directions.
Just as dogmatic doctrines, claiming control of history’s mind and progression, are not concerned with changes in mood, political inheritance is not concerned with boredom. Power being handed down from one generation to another is as boring as it gets, precisely because of its repetitiveness. For this reason, it is extremely hostile to any recognition of boredom’s political implications.
In one of Lebanon’s environments, an abundance of boredom has been exacerbated by a lack of recognition: people have become weary of politicians who inherited their power- most of whom are not able to compose a single useful phrase- of politicians who, decade after decade, maintain the same “fundamentals,” at the forefront of which is loyalty to the security regime in Damascus and fighting in its corner. People are bored of their aesthetics, names, clothes, fancy titles, tinted cars, and televised vulgarity. Another boredom stems from four decades of resistance, occupation and liberation, blood, ripped limbs, martyrs, threats, speeches being yelled at us, fingers being waged in our face, and fighters who will liberate Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque being paraded without anything being liberated.
If consistently achieving success is boring enough, what can be said about consistent failure that is costing the Lebanese extremely dearly.

شارل الياس شرتوني: هل للانتخابات النيابية اللبنانية من غد
Les élections au Liban auraient elles un lendemain?
Charles Elias Chartouni/Mai 22/2022
Les élections s’avèrent de bon augure dans un pays voué à la décomposition depuis plus de deux ans. Néanmoins, rien ne s’est fait, rien ne se fera tant que les hypothèques du Hezbollah et consorts au sein des coalitions oligarchiques régnantes depuis trois décennies, continuent de peser sur le fonctionnement même des institutions dans ce pays. Réduites à n’être que des auxiliaires aux politiques de puissance en place, les institutions libanaises sont réduites à un statut subsidiaire, celui d’encadrer la démarche des oligarchies, et leur fournir les étayages d’une pseudo-légitimité puisés à une caricature ubuesque de l’État de droit.
Le fait que les forces de l’opposition aient pu déjouer les calculs et projections des mouvances chiites et leurs alliés ne suffit plus, alors que nous sommes ramenés aux impasses de jadis: soit nous contrôlons l’État, sinon il n’y aura pas d’État, dans un contexte de catastrophes, où nous assistons à la destruction intentionnelle d’un centenaire de modernisation dans tous les secteurs (politique, économique social, éducationnel,….) et à la prolifération exponentielle des crises humanitaire et écologique de tous ordres.
Ce qu’on prévoit, c’est une politique d’obstruction qui vise de manière répétée à verrouiller les institutions et les rendre inopérantes, au bénéfice d’une politique de subversion qui instrumentalise le Liban au profit d’un Iran, engagé, à son tour, dans une dynamique de crises enchevêtrées et mortelles. L’élection du Président du Parlement, les aléas de formation d’un cabinet ministériel et ceux de l’élection du Président de la République, nous renvoient aux paralogismes de la consitution de Taef, aux verrouillages de la politique sectaire du chiisme politique, et des jeux politiques à somme nulle. Comment pouvoir mettre en rail une politique d’alternance démocratique, alors que le jeu est soumis à des distorsions systémiques où les institutions parlementaires, les pouvoirs exécutif et judiciaire sont les annexes d’une politique de domination expresse.
Comment peut on remettre en question un Président de Parlement en fonction depuis trente ans qui se permet de casser, en toute désinvolture, le principe de la séparation des pouvoirs, user de manière illégale ses prérogatives pour instituer des prébendes, tisser un réseau de clientélisme transversal, former une milice muée en “police parlementaire” dont le rôle est de réprimer les manifestants à coup de fusils à plomb visant les yeux et les veines jugulaires, et installer ses leviers à tous les niveaux de l’État (ministère des finances, procureur général des finances, ministère de la justice), afin de préempter les audits financiers, bloquer les négociations avec le fonds monétaire international, manipuler les intrications de la débâcle financière dont il est un des principaux architectes, encadrer les circuits de l’économie souterraine et ses plateformes opérationnelles sur le territoire libanais et dans le monde, et entraver le travail judiciaire se rapportant à l’explosion criminelle du Port de Beyrouth.
Comment pouvoir former un cabinet d’alternance à défaut d’une reconnaissance des normes juridique et éthique d’un État de droit (majorité et minorité parlementaires, consensus normatif et gouvernance, politiques publiques consensuelles). La récapitulation de ces équivoques qui pèsent sur cette phase post-électorale, nous laisse perplexe sur les chances d’une alternative politique réelle qui nous permet de sortir des ornières d’un immobilisme prolongé et ses effets dévastateurs, dans un pays condamné à une mort lente dûment diligentée par les mouvances du fascisme chiite et ses complices.

The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 22-23/2022
Russia's Ukraine invasion 'makes no sense,' according to a leading historian who once angered Putin by asking him about energy
Ryan Hogg/Business Insider/May 22/2022
He said Russia's days as an energy superpower were "waning," and called the invasion "irrational."Yergin said he'd once angered Putin by asking about shale energy at a conference in 2013. A leading energy historian, who claims to have enraged Vladimir Putin by asking him about shale energy, has said Russia overestimated the West's reliance on its oil and gas when it invaded Ukraine. In an interview with the New York Times, Daniel Yergin called the invasion "irrational," adding: "One of Putin's many miscalculations was his assumption that, because of Europe's dependence on Russian energy, it would protest but stand aside, as it did with Crimea. "It has had just the opposite effect. Europe wants to get out of that dependence as fast as it can." Yergin, who is vice-chairman of S&P Global, told the Times Putin was "like a CEO when he talks about energy markets," and that he had timed the invasion to when those markets were at their tightest, as supply chains unwound after the COVID-19 pandemic. He said the invasion heralded "a new uncertain era," adding: "As we talk, the risks are going up."European countries are trying to reduce its dependence on Russian energy, which makes up 45% of its gas imports. The EU has drafted a plan to wean itself off Russian fossil fuels by 2027, while the US banned imports of Russian oil, gas and coal. In a separate interview on Friday, Yergin told Bloomberg's "What Goes Up" podcast that he asked the first question of Putin after the Russian president had spoken at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in 2013. The historian said he asked about shale gas and Putin "started shouting at me saying, 'shale is barbaric!'""He knew that US shale was a threat to him in two ways: one, because US natural gas would compete with natural gas in Europe, and secondly, because this would really augment the US's position in the world and give it a kind of flexibility it didn't have when it was importing 60% of its oil," Yergin told the podcast. He added that growing American shale oil and gas production had reduced the country's dependence on Russian energy, which "had a much bigger impact on geopolitics than people recognize." Yergin said on the podcast that "Russia's door to the West is closed," and that it would be forced to pivot toward China as Europe moves away from Russian energy.

Ukraine warns only diplomacy can end war
Agence France Presse/Sunday, 22 May, 2022
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned only a diplomatic breakthrough rather than an outright military victory can end Russia's war on his country, while pushing its case for EU membership. Zelensky also appealed for more military aid, even as U.S. President Joe Biden formally signed off on a $40-billion package of aid for the Ukrainian war effort. That call came just hours after Russia claimed to have destroyed a cache of Western-delivered arms in the country's northwest.
Zelensky also insisted his war-ravaged country should be a full candidate to join the EU, rejecting a suggestion from France's President Emmanuel Macron and some other EU leaders that a sort of associated political community be created as a waiting zone for a membership bid.
"We don't need such compromises," Zelensky said Saturday during a joint news conference with visiting Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa. "Because, believe me, it will not be compromise with Ukraine in Europe, it will be another compromise between Europe and Russia."
Zelensky, who will speak to the world's political and business elite at the exclusive Davos forum via videolink on Monday, told Ukrainians in a televised address: "There are things that can only be reached at the negotiating table." The war "will be bloody, there will be fighting but will only definitively end through diplomacy." "Discussions between Ukraine and Russia will decidedly take place. Under what format I don't know," he added. But he promised that the result would be "fair" for Ukraine.
Cruise missile 'strike'
After just over 12 weeks of fierce fighting, Ukrainian forces have halted Russian attempts to seize Kyiv and the northern city of Kharkiv, but they are under intense pressure in the eastern Donbas region. Moscow's army has flattened and seized the Black Sea port of Mariupol and subjected Ukrainian troops and towns in the east to relentless ground and artillery attacks.
On Saturday, Russia's defense ministry claimed to have destroyed a large stockpile of weapons supplied by the West in a cruise missile strike on the town of Malyn in the northwest Zhytomyr region. "Long-range, high-precision Kalibr missiles, launched from the sea, destroyed a large consignment of weapons and military equipment supplied by the United States and European countries," the ministry said. While local authorities acknowledged three missiles had damaged "civil infrastructure" in Malyn, Ukraine's defense ministry made no mention of the Russian claim in its Sunday briefing and the existence of an arms depot has yet to be independently confirmed.
Russia cuts Finland's gas-
Zelensky's Western allies have shipped a steady stream of modern weaponry to his forces and imposed sweeping sanctions on the Russian economy and President Vladimir Putin's inner circle.
The Kremlin has responded by disrupting European energy supplies. On Saturday, Russian energy giant Gazprom said it had halted gas supplies to Finland after Helsinki refused to pay its bill in rubles, which Moscow had demanded in a bid to side-step financial sanctions. Finland's state-owned energy company Gasum said it would use other sources, such as the Balticconnector pipeline, which links Finland to fellow EU member Estonia. Moscow cut off gas to Poland and Bulgaria last month, a move the European Union denounced as "blackmail". The row over Finland's gas bill comes just days after it joined Sweden in breaking their historical military non-alignment and applying to join NATO.
Moscow has warned Finland that joining NATO would be "a grave mistake with far-reaching consequences", and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has said it will respond by building military bases in western Russia. But both Finland and Sweden are now apparently on the fast track to join the military alliance, with Biden offering "full, total, complete backing" to their bids.All 30 existing NATO members must agree, however, and Turkey has condemned Sweden's alleged tolerance for the presence of exiled Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militants
Dogged resistance
On the ground in Ukraine, the fighting remains fiercest in the eastern region of Donbas, a Russian-speaking area partially controlled by pro-Kremlin separatists since 2014. In Severodonetsk, a frontline city now at risk of encirclement, 12 people were killed and another 40 wounded by Russian shelling, said regional governor Sergiy Gaiday. "The Russians are using artillery day and night," he said. In the neighboring Donetsk region, governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Telegram on Saturday that seven civilians had been killed and 10 wounded. Further north in Kharkiv, just 50 kilometers from the border with Russia, new networks of trenches and checkpoints have cropped up as the city prepares to defend against a fresh assault. "When we were here on the 24th of February there were no positions at all," says "Doctor", a medic with the National Guard, referring to the day the Russians invaded. "But now we have trenches, we have well-protected zones, so for them, it would be impossibly hard to capture (this position)." On the roads leading out of the city -- some of which have been closed off -- civilians help soldiers fill sandbags for the checkpoints."We have a problem, we are at war," jokes a soldier as he checks a vehicle and turns it back.
-Prisoner swap mooted-
On Friday, Moscow declared its bloody, months-long battle for the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol at an end. Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenko said 2,439 Ukrainian personnel had surrendered at the plant since May 16, the final 500 on Friday. Ukraine hopes to exchange the surrendering soldiers for Russian prisoners. But in Donetsk, pro-Kremlin authorities have threatened to put some of them on trial. A Russian negotiator on Saturday said Moscow would consider exchanging prisoners from Ukraine's far-right Azov battalion for Viktor Medvedchuk, a wealthy Ukrainian businessman known for his close ties to Putin. "We are going to study the possibility," said Leonid Slutsky, a senior member of Russia's negotiating team, speaking from the separatist city of Donetsk, the RIA Novosti news agency reported. Medvedchuk, 67, is a politician and one of Ukraine's richest people. He escaped from house arrest after Russia invaded in February but was re-arrested in mid-April.

Revolutionary Guards Say Colonel Assassinated in Tehran
Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 22 May, 2022
Iran's Revolutionary Guards said on Sunday that one of its officers, Colonel Sayad Khodai, was killed in a rare assassination in Tehran. Khodai was "one of the defenders of the shrines", the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported, referring to military personnel or advisers who Iran says fight on its behalf to protect Shiite sites in Iraq or Syria against groups such as ISIS.Two people on a motorcycle opened fire on Khodai, Tasnim reported, citing an informed source. The Guards blamed Sunday’s killing on “anti-revolutionary” opponents of the government. The motorcycle attack was a reminder of killings of Iranian nuclear scientists which Iran has often blamed on Israel. At least six Iranian scientists and academics have been killed or attacked since 2010, several of them by assailants riding motorcycles, in incidents believed to have targeted Iran’s disputed nuclear program, which the West says is aimed at producing a bomb.

Iran's President Meets Sultan of Oman on Monday
London - Tehran - Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 22 May, 2022
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is set to visit Oman on Monday at the invitation of Sultan Haitham bin Tariq, according to the official media in Tehran. Raisi will travel to Muscat "at the head of a high-level delegation to follow the neighborhood diplomacy of the Popular Government and to expand the fields of economic, political and cultural interactions."According to the statement, the two sides are scheduled to sign cooperation documents, and the President will meet Iranians residing in Oman. Before Raisi's visit, a delegation comprising 50 Iranian traders and businessmen visited Oman to lay the groundwork for strengthening bilateral economic and trade relations. The trip to Muscat is the President's first visit to the country during the term of the new Sultan of Oman and Raisi's fifth foreign visit since he assumed the position. After assuming the presidency, Raisi said that strengthening relations with neighboring countries is a priority of his government's foreign policy to end Iran's regional isolation and alleviate its economic suffering. In February, the Iranian presidency announced that Raisi received an invitation from Sultan Haitham to visit Oman. Tehran has close political and economic relations with Oman, which played the mediator between Iran and the United States, especially during the secret negotiations that preceded the launch of the nuclear talks in 2013. The Iranian President's visit to Muscat comes when diplomatic efforts are being made to break the deadlock in the talks aimed at reviving this agreement after the US unilaterally withdrew in 2018. In April 2021, Iran and the major powers relaunched the talks with indirect participation from the US to save this agreement. The talks were officially suspended in March, and concerned parties confirmed that an understanding is almost accomplished. However, a few disagreements remain, including Iran's request to remove the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from the list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO). Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad stressed during his visit to Tehran on May 12 that Doha is working to advance the stalled talks.
During a visit to Germany on Friday, Sheikh Tamim expressed optimism that an agreement between the United States and Iran could be achieved, voicing readiness to help. "We reiterate the importance of cooperation between Iran, the EU, and the US," Sheikh Tamim affirmed, stressing the importance of solving outstanding differences peacefully. Meanwhile, the European Union's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, and Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian discussed the latest developments in the Vienna negotiations over the phone. Abdollahian referred to the "initiatives" that Iran had put forward during the recent visit of Borrell's deputy, Enrique Mora. The Foreign Minister asserted that Iran is serious about reaching a strong and lasting agreement in the Vienna talks on the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal, noting that Tehran has the goodwill and required determination to this end.
According to the Foreign Ministry, Borrell referred to the initiatives put forward by Iran throughout the negotiations. “We are currently on the new path of continuing the negotiations and focusing on the solutions," said Borrell, adding that he is determined to continue the ongoing contacts between Tehran and Washington, expressing optimism about reaching a good result.

Wife of Swedish Citizen Threatened with Iran Execution Appeals to EU
Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 22 May, 2022
The wife of Iranian-Swedish citizen Ahmadreza Djalali accused of espionage and threatened with execution in Iran, on Saturday called on the European Union to secure her husband's release. "I hope that the EU can really act decisively in order to bring Ahmadreza home," Vida Mehrannia said according to excerpts of an interview on Germany's ZDF channel. The EU must "not allow an innocent man to be killed in such an inhuman way", AFP quoted her as saying. Djalali was sentenced to death in 2017 on the espionage charges, allegations denied by Sweden and his supporters. Iranian media had said he could be hanged on Saturday, a sentence that Iranian officials have said they want to carry out. According to his wife, the execution did not take place. She said Iran's justice minister was considering a postponement of the sentence. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on Tuesday called for Tehran to suspend the execution, and requested the revocation of his sentence. Djalali, who was based in Stockholm where he worked for the Karolinska Medical Institute, was arrested during a visit to Iran in 2016. In February 2018, while he was still in custody, Sweden granted the academic Swedish citizenship.

Russia, Israel Exchange ‘Ukrainian Letters’ in Syria
London- Ibrahim Hamidi/Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 22 May, 2022
Each wave of Israeli raids on Syria in the past years had been weighty. But the latest attacks, which occurred on Friday night, had an additional significance. Syria, in fact, has turned into a “letter box” between Russia and Israel, as a result of tension over Ukraine on the one hand, and Iran’s efforts to “fill the vacuum” in Syria, on the other. The most powerful Russian message came on May 13, when Israel launched raids in Syria. In an unprecedented move, the Hmeimim base operated the advanced S-300 missile system, and targeted Israeli bombers as soon as the raids stopped. It was the first time that the Russian base used one of its three systems - the S-300, the advanced S-300, and the S-400 - since its deployment in Syria following the military intervention at the end of 2015. This is an important development, especially as Moscow had given pledges to Tel Aviv that it would control the command room of the missile system in Syria, and prevent its fall into the grip of the Syrian Air Force, which operates the old systems such as the S-200 and below. These understandings were underlined following efforts to alleviate Russian-Israeli tension in the wake of the targeting of a Russian plane in western Syria in September 2018.
But why did Moscow change its behavior? Why did Mikhail Bogdanov, the envoy of Russian President Vladimir Putin, deny reports of the use of the system against Israeli planes? According to a senior Western official, intelligence reports confirm that the Hmeimim base operated the system, in a rare incident, “because Russia wanted to tell Israel that its ability to chase Iranian targets was linked to Moscow’s decision, and that it should take this into consideration when taking a stance over the Ukrainian file.” Since the outbreak of the Russian war in Ukraine, Tel Aviv has tried to play a “balanced role” and refused to hand over the Iron Dome to Kyiv. However, as the bombing intensified, political signs and an escalatory rhetoric emerged, along with talk of military support and the presence of Israeli “mercenaries” or experts alongside the Ukrainian army, followed by a diplomatic rift. At this moment, Moscow sent a message to Tel Aviv through the “Syrian box.” The response - which came in the form of the Israeli bombing – was aimed at “testing the resolve” of the Russian side, along with a determination to chase “Iranian targets” in Syria. In fact, the latest raids on Friday were broader and more comprehensive than the previous ones, because they targeted points in the countryside of Damascus and central and western Syria, leading to the killing of Syrian officers. Despite Bogdanov’s denials and claims that Western reports were “lies,” the Russian reminder not only affected Israel, but also included hints to Damascus and Tehran that the military-air decision remained in Moscow. This comes following the intense exchange of visits between Syrian and Iranian officials in recent weeks, including the visit of President Bashar al-Assad to Tehran, to work on “filling the Russian vacuum.” The reminder also highlighted Israel’s adherence to its “red lines” in the phase shifting between the Russian withdrawal and Iranian advances. President Putin wants to say that despite his preoccupation with Ukraine, he has not forgotten Syria and its “players.” Or perhaps he wants to use it to improve his position in his great war in “Little Russia”. Here, it was remarkable that after Jordanian officials announced that they had noticed a decline in the Russian military presence in southern Syria, with the possibility that Iran and its militias would advance to “fill the vacuum,” the Hmeimim base rushed to conduct Russian military patrols on the Syrian-Jordanian border. The same can be said about the Russian messages to Turkey. The Hmeimim planes target from time to time areas of Turkish influence in northern Syria, to remind Ankara of the Russian papers when it reviews its decisions and options regarding the Dardanelles and Bosphorus corridors to the Black Sea, and when it discusses the request of Sweden and Finland to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). So far, Putin has been able to use Syria as a “letter box” and a platform to pressure players in Ukraine. Only time will tell whether Russia would be capable of maintaining this strategy, if the Ukrainian land turns into a “swamp” for the Russian forces, impacting the Russian depth and the theaters of the Middle East.

Biden arrives in Japan with no response on outreach to North Korea
Agence France Presse/Sunday, 22 May, 2022
U.S. President Joe Biden arrived Sunday in Japan for the second leg of an Asia trip underlining U.S. commitment to the region but overshadowed by concern that North Korea will test a nuclear weapon after ignoring Washington's attempt at outreach. Biden, making his first trip to Asia as president, flew from South Korea into Yokota Air Base outside Tokyo, where he will meet with Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and emperor on Monday, as well as unveiling a US-led multilateral trade initiative. On Tuesday, he reinforces the theme of American leadership in the Asia-Pacific by joining the leaders of Australia, India and Japan for a summit of the Quad group. The trip, which comes as rival China is experiencing significant economic disruption due to Covid outbreaks, has been touted by Washington as a display of US determination to maintain its commercial and military edge across the region. But hanging over every step of Biden's tour is fear that unpredictable North Korea will test a nuclear-capable missile or a bomb. Speculation that this might even happen while Biden was just across the border in Seoul did not materialize. However, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters that the threat remains. Echoing Biden's earlier statement that the United States is "prepared for anything North Korea does", Sullivan said the dictatorship has a choice. "If North Korea acts, we'll be prepared to respond. If North Korea doesn't act, North Korea has the opportunity, as we've said repeatedly, to come to the table."Pyongyang has so far declined to answer US appeals for dialogue, officials say, even ignoring offers of help to combat a sudden mass outbreak of Covid-19, according to Biden. And while in Seoul, Biden confirmed he was prepared to meet with Kim Jong Un if the leader-for-life is "sincere", but Sullivan said that remains far off. "We're not even at step one yet," he said. Symbolizing the apparent one-way conversation, Biden said the only message he has right now for Kim would consist of a single word: "Hello. Period," he said.
Military exercises
Biden spent two days with South Korea's new President Yoon Suk-yeol, with beefing up the military defense against North Korea high on the agenda. They issued a statement on Saturday saying that "considering the evolving threat" from Pyongyang, they were looking at expanding the "scope and scale" of joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises. Joint exercises had been scaled back due to Covid and for Biden and Yoon's predecessors, Donald Trump and Moon Jae-in, to embark on a round of high-profile but ultimately unsuccessful diplomacy with North Korea.
In contrast to the dovish Moon, Yoon said he and Biden discussed possible "joint drills to prepare for a nuclear attack" and called for more U.S. assets to be deployed to the region.
Any build-up of forces or expansion of joint military exercises would likely enrage Pyongyang, which views the drills as rehearsals for an invasion. North Korea has conducted a blitz of sanctions-busting weapons tests this year, including firing an intercontinental ballistic missile at full range for the first time since 2017, with satellite imagery indicating a nuclear test is looming. But its weapons testing schedule may also be affected by a raging Covid-19 outbreak. More than 2.6 million cases of what the regime calls "fever" have been reported since the Omicron variant was first detected in April, state media said Sunday.
- Economic ties -
Before heading to Japan on Sunday, Biden met with the chairman of Hyundai to celebrate a decision by the South Korean auto giant to invest $5.5 billion in an electric vehicle plant in the southern US state of Georgia. He also met US and South Korean troops alongside Yoon, a schedule that a senior White House official said was able to "reflect the truly integrated nature" of the countries' economic and military alliance. Biden is also emphasizing a broader, almost existential aspect to his trip, saying that Asia is a key battleground in the global "competition between democracies and autocracies".
"We talked in some length about the need for us to make this larger than just the United States, Japan, and Korea, but the entire Pacific and the South Pacific and Indo-Pacific. I think this is an opportunity," Biden said after meeting Yoon. While China is the main US rival in that struggle, Biden illustrated the acute challenge from Russia when he signed a $40 billion aid bill late Saturday to help Ukraine fight the invasion by Moscow's forces.

Jordan: 4 Killed in Attempt to Smuggle Drugs from Syria
Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 22 May, 2022
Four people were killed in an attempt to smuggle large amounts of drugs from Syria to Jordan, the kingdom's armed forces said on Sunday. Some smugglers were also wounded while others escaped by going back to Syria, Reuters quoted the statement as saying. In January, Jordanian soldiers killed at least 27 armed smugglers and wounded others as they crossed the border.

One Killed, Dozens Wounded in Sudan Protests
Khartoum - Mohammed Amin Yassin/Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 22 May, 2022
Sudanese security forces killed one protester on Saturday during renewed demonstrations against a military takeover that derailed a transition to civilian rule last year, medics said. The victim, who was not identified, died from "a bullet to the chest" in the capital's twin city of Omdurman, the pro-democracy Central Committee of Sudan Doctors (CCSD) said in a statement. The CCSD said that the peaceful protesters faced excessive violence by security forces. The latest death brings to 96 the toll from a crackdown on anti-coup protests which have taken place regularly since October, the committee said.
The doctors explained that the forces fired large quantities of tear gas canisters directly at the protesters. The security forces also besieged the protesters to prevent them from reaching the hospital, the CCSD underscored. In parallel, huge numbers of protesters poured onto the streets in Burri suburb, east of Khartoum and they were faced by tear gas, rubber bullets and attempts to run over them with armored vehicles. Eyewitnesses told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the security forces were firing tear gas directly at the protesters, leading to smoke inhalation cases. On Oct. 25, Sudan's ruling council head Abdel Fattah al-Burhan announced a state of emergency across the country and the dissolution of the transitional sovereign council and the government.

Erbil Requests a UN Envoy to Organize Relations with Iraq
Baghdad - Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 22 May, 2022
The Presidency of the Kurdistan Region in Iraq announced that the Security Council approved a request submitted by Erbil to send a UN envoy to organize the relationship with Baghdad and find radical solutions for their differences. The Presidency said in a statement that Council members expressed their support of a request by Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani, asking for the appointment of an official to facilitate dialogue between Erbil and Baghdad over outstanding issues. The statement noted that the Security Council would issue next week a draft resolution to renew the work of the UN mission and discuss the issue in a special session. The federal government in Baghdad did not comment on the request. Relations between the two governments soured significantly in the energy file following the decision of the Federal Supreme Court regarding the unconstitutionality of the region's oil sector.
Head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in the Iraqi Parliament Vian Sabri confirmed that the Security Council countries agreed to the request to send a special envoy to regulate the relationship between the two parties. Sabri told Asharq Al-Awsat that the goal is to reach an agreement and find radical solutions to the differences between the two governments under the Iraqi constitution. She noted that regulating the relationship between the two governments has become a necessary matter, especially since there have been outstanding differences, namely the issue of oil and natural resources.
Erbil's request comes when the political process in Iraq is going through a phase of political impasse due to the inability of the winning electoral blocs to form a new Iraqi government.
The Kurdish parties' distribution between two Shiite alliances significantly weakened their position towards Baghdad. The two parties' differences are related to the constitution, especially Article 140 on Kirkuk and the disputed areas and Article 111 on oil. However, the differences between the two main Kurdish parties, the KDP led by Massoud Barzani and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) headed by Bafel Talabani, over the Presidency damaged the unity of the Kurds regarding the unresolved issues. PUK senior member Mahmoud Khoshnaw told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Patriotic Union wants constitutional solutions, especially after the Federal Court's decision. Khoshnaw explained that the internal dialogue, albeit under external auspices, is critical to resolving differences, some of which have lasted for decades, stressing that it has become necessary to separate political and economic issues.
On Saturday, the Iraqi Oil Ministry said that the federal government aims to establish a new oil company in the Kurdistan region, seeking to enter into new service contracts with oil firms currently operating under the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). On May 7, Oil Minister Ihsan Abdul-Jabbar said that the ministry would start implementing a February federal court ruling that declared the legal foundations of the Kurdistan region's oil and gas sector unconstitutional, Reuters reported. Iraq then asked international oil and gas companies operating in the Kurdistan region to sign new contracts with the state-owned marketing company, SOMO, instead of the KRG. The letters marked the first direct contact between the ministry and the oil companies operating in the Kurdistan region. The move follows years of attempts by the federal government to control the revenues of KRG, including local court rulings and threats of international arbitration. The Ministry of Oil said it will pursue legal actions against companies that continue to operate under "unlawful production sharing contracts" and "do not engage in good faith negotiations to restructure their contracts." Meanwhile, the UN Sec-Gen Special Representative for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, presented a comprehensive briefing on the Iraqi situation before the UN Security Council. Plasschaert said that Iraqis continue to wait for "a political class that will roll up its sleeves to make headway on the country's long list of outstanding domestic priorities.""A sincere, collective, and urgent will to resolve political differences must now prevail – it must prevail for the country to move forward and meet its citizens' needs."She warned that "Iraqi political inaction comes at a huge price. Not (in the short term) for those in power, but for those desperately trying to make ends meet daily."

US Supports Holding Libyan Elections, Preserving Oil Resources
Cairo - Jamal Jawhar/Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 22 May, 2022
US Special Envoy and Ambassador to Libya Richard Norland has met with MP Abdul-Salam Nassiya in Tunis to discuss the important efforts underway to support Libyans’ demand to hold elections. The US will continue to support this effort and work with all sides in Libya with the goal of completing Libya’s transition to a democratic, stable, and prosperous country, Norland said. A statement issued by Speaker of Parliament Aguila Saleh on Saturday ordered the freezing of oil revenues in the Foreign Bank of Libya until establishing safeguards and a mechanism to ensure that all Libyans benefit from this income, "in a manner that achieves justice and equality for all.” Washington has reiterated support for the temporary freezing of oil revenues in the National Oil Corporation (NOC) account at the Libyan Foreign Bank until reaching an agreement on a revenue management mechanism.
A statement issued by the US Embassy in Libya said Saturday that an agreement on a mechanism for transparent management of oil revenues is imperative for restoring Libya's oil production. "The Mechanism should incorporate agreement on priority expenditures, transparency measures, and steps to ensure oversight and accountability," the embassy said. It affirmed Washington's willingness to provide technical assistance at the request of the Libyan parties to assist in setting up such a mechanism, emphasizing that progress on such important issues will contribute to creating a more stable political environment that will help restore momentum toward parliamentary and presidential elections.

Biden Says 'Hello' to N.Korea's Kim Amid Tensions Over Weapons Tests
Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 22 May, 2022
US President Joe Biden, in Seoul before heading to Japan as part of his first Asia trip as president, had a simple message for North Korea's Kim Jong Un: "Hello... period," he told reporters on the last day of his visit to South Korea on Sunday. Biden said he was "not concerned" about new North Korean nuclear tests, which would be the first in nearly five years. But his wry response when asked what message he had for Kim underscored the administration's low-key approach to the unresolved tensions with North Korea. It is a stark contrast with former President Donald Trump's showy threats, summits, and "love letters" with Kim. Neither president's approach has led to a major breakthrough, however, and North Korea has resumed testing its largest intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), while intelligence reports suggest it is preparing for a new nuclear test. “We are prepared for anything North Korea does,” Biden said. On Sunday, Biden and his new South Korean counterpart, President Yoon Suk-yeol, agreed to consider bigger military exercises and potentially deploying more nuclear-capable American weapons to the region in response to the North's weapons tests. Early Sunday, Biden met with the chairman of Hyundai to celebrate a decision by the auto giant to invest $5.5 billion in an electric vehicle plant in the southern US state of Georgia. Biden has used his visit to call for the democratic allies to deepen ties, saying at a joint press conference with Yoon that Asia was a key battleground in the global "competition between democracies and autocracies".

Biden Says Monkeypox Cases Something to 'be Concerned About'
Asharq Al-Awsat/Sunday, 22 May, 2022
President Joe Biden said Sunday that recent cases of monkeypox that have been identified in Europe and the United States were something “to be concerned about.”In his first public comments on the disease, Biden added: “It is a concern in that if it were to spread it would be consequential." The president was asked about the disease as he spoke to reporters at Osan Air Base in South Korea, where he visited troops before taking off for Japan to continue his first trip to Asia as president. “They haven’t told me the level of exposure yet but it is something that everybody should be concerned about,” Biden said. He added that work was underway to determine what vaccine might be effective. Although the disease belongs to the same virus family as smallpox, its symptoms are milder. People usually recover within two to four weeks without needing to be hospitalized, but the disease occasionally is deadly. The World Health Organization said it expects to identify more cases of monkeypox as it expands surveillance in countries where the disease is not typically found. Monkeypox is rarely identified outside of Africa. But as of Saturday, 92 confirmed cases and 28 suspected cases of monkeypox have been reported from 12 member states that are not endemic for the virus, the UN agency said, adding it will provide further guidance and recommendations in coming days for countries on how to mitigate the spread of monkeypox. "Available information suggests that human-to-human transmission is occurring among people in close physical contact with cases who are symptomatic", the agency added.

The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 22-23/2022
قائمة بأحداث ووقائع اضطهاد المسيحيين خلال شهر آذار/2022..يعتروننا دونيين ويريدون حكمنا
“They Consider Us Inferior and Want to Rule Us”: The Persecution of Christians, April 2022
Raymond Ibrahim/Gatestone Institute/May 22/2022
On Good Friday, Fulani [Muslim tribe] kidnapped eight Christians. Four were released after paying a hefty ransom. One of the women released said that she was “raped several times by two leaders of the Fulani Militants.” A “militant told us, after receiving the ransom money, that they got money to kill more Christians.” — International Christian Concern, April 18, 2022, Nigeria
“It is not the first time that we ourselves have been attacked in Italy because we are Christians… It makes me angry to think that this discrimination also exists here.” — Daughter of a Coptic Christian man who was attacked for smoking during Ramadan, medforth.biz, April 23, 2022, Turin, Italy.
“They want to apply Sharia law because they consider us inferior and want to rule us.” — Coptic Christian man who was attacked for smoking during Ramadan, medforth.biz, April 23, 2022, Turin, Italy.
“They destroyed almost everything in the house, shot holes in the new truck and tried to burn it. The house itself is OK, but its contents are “They seized Sister Suellen from her bed in her nightclothes, with “no glasses, shoes, phone, medicine, etc.” She has not been heard from since. — Marianite Sister Ann Lacour, congregational leader, Clarion Herald, April 5, 2022, Burkina Faso.
“Inside the police station, I was surprised by attempts and pressure to conciliate. The perpetrator’s lawyer steered the writing of the report [in a manner] that contradicted reality, and they forced me to sign the report which contained statements from the pharmacist’s lawyer without taking my statements. …. We were especially shocked to see the report said that ‘the pharmacist is a friend of the family, who was just bantering and joking around with Mrs. Nevin, because he is close to the family.'” — Christian woman who was violently slapped by a pharmacist for entering his store without a head covering during Ramadan; Coptic Solidarity, April 27, 2022, Egypt.
On April 8, a Muslim man from North Africa entered the Saint-Étienne Cathedral in Toulouse, France during the 8am mass, and left a homemade explosive device near the altar. Pictured: Saint-Étienne Cathedral in Toulouse. (Image source: Felipeh/Wikimedia Commons)
The following are among the abuses Muslims inflicted on Christians throughout the month of April, 2022:
The Muslim Slaughter of Christians
Egypt: On April 7, a Muslim man wielding a long knife lunged at and repeatedly stabbed a Coptic Christian priest, killing him. The attack occurred in a crowded street in Alexandria. Fr. Arsenius Wadid, 56, who was leading his church’s youth group on a field trip, was stabbed in the throat three times. Passersby captured the assassin and handed him over to police.
Although the Egyptian media tried to present this tragic assault as an aberration, it is not the first time that Muslims have slaughtered Christian clergymen in Egypt. In one especially notable — because very similar — incident, security camera footage (formerly viewable here) captured a Muslim man with a large butcher knife chasing and stabbing Fr. Samaan Shehata — in the head, neck, and torso — on the streets of Cairo on October 12, 2017. He then drew a cross on the priest’s forehead with his blood. About the murderer’s motive, one report said that “he had decided to kill any Coptic priest, purchased a dagger, and lay in wait for one to pass by, in a street leading to the local church.” Similarly, in 2013, Coptic priest Mina Cheroubim was shot dead as he left his church in al-Arish.
A few days after the slaughter of Fr. Arsenius, also in Egypt, three masked men pulled up near the workshop of Rani Ra’fat, a 28-year-old Coptic engineer. Once the Christian appeared, a hail of fire was opened on him; he died on the spot. His killers then fled the scene. Twenty-two bullets were found in his body. Then, on May 13, a man claiming to be the murderer made a brief video in which he beams a great smile and congratulates himself for his deed. He identifies himself as Faisal Abdul Nasser, says that he did not know his victim, but that he was moved to the act after reading the Koran and because he is “loyal to Allah”:
“I am the one who killed that Christian of al-Daba, and—by Allah, by Allah, by Allah—I am delighted that I killed him! I killed him on behalf of Muhammad’s umma [the Muslim world], because he is a polytheist who associates another [Christ] with Allah, and his own Bible confirms this…. No Christian polytheist, who doesn’t believe in our lord, Muhammad, can just come and profane our women! He is a polytheist and my heart was inflamed. I had read the Koran and my heart was inflamed with fire, so I killed him. He is not permitted to touch someone [a woman] who believes in Muhammad the messenger of Allah… I neither knew him [personally] nor the women he was reportedly involved with. However, when I read the Koran, my heart was set afire. I am zealous over and sacrifice for Islam. I have no problem surrendering myself [to the police]. This is a state issue: It is not permissible for a Christian who associates others with Allah to be involved with a Muslim woman… No one incited me to do this, only my heart—because I am loyal to Allah.”
Since last reported, and despite the fact that police have supposedly been “investigating” this case for more than three weeks, the confessed murderer has yet to be apprehended.
Syria: On April 6, a Christian priest was found dead inside the St. George Greek Orthodox cathedral in Latakia. According to a statement from Syria’s Ministry of Interior, Fr. George Rafiq Housh, 65, “had shot himself with his own 7.5 mm pistol due to psychological and social pressures…” Many, however, question the claim that he had committed suicide. One report notes that it was “murder, not a suicide,” as well as a “message of intimidation.” Another report asserts that he was “found sitting in a chair with multiple gunshot wounds,” which would seem most odd for a suicide. Syrian researcher and academic Dr. Samira Moubayed said:
“[P]romoting the story of Father George shooting himself is naive and adopting the regime’s lies, which were repeated during the numerous assassinations it carried out… It is linked to a security agency and has a clear goal, which is to intimidate the Christians in the region and displace them or push them to despair and apprehension.”
Nigeria: Muslim Fulani terrorists continued their jihad on Christian communities throughout April; some of the accounts of slaughter include:
April 10: Muslim terrorists raided about ten Christian-majority villages throughout Central Plateau State; 142 people were slaughtered, about 70—mostly women and girls—were abducted, and three thousand displaced. Responding to these attacks, a local Christian said, “The government has turned a blind eye to these atrocities.”
April 26: Fulani terrorists slaughtered 21 Christians in four different villages of Kaduna State. They also torched a church and at least 92 Christian homes.
April 11: Muslim terrorists attacked Tior-Tyu in Benue State; they butchered at least 17 Christians. A local said:
“This attack was not envisaged at all because we live as a peaceful Christian community and have never expected any attack from anyone most especially from the Fulanis. We were not prepared for such at all. Many people ran leaving their farms and means of livelihood…Women and children were also brutally killed and a fast a [sic] burial arrangement was made for them because of how gory it was.”
April 11: The Muslims raided the central Nigerian village of Semaka; they killed 5 Christians.
April 1: Fulani attacked Christian villages in Plateau State; they killed at least two, displaced more than a thousand, and torched their churches and at least 90 homes.
April 4: Muslim terrorists attacked Christian villages in Miango District; they killed three people and torched 65 properties, including the community church, which was burned to the ground.
April 15: On Good Friday, Fulani kidnapped eight Christians. Four were released after paying a hefty ransom. One of the women released said that she was “raped several times by two leaders of the Fulani Militants.” Moreover, a “militant told us, after receiving the ransom money, that they got money to kill more Christians.”
Muslim Attacks on Christian Churches
France: On Friday, April 8, an unknown man entered the Saint-Étienne Cathedral in Toulouse during the 8am mass, shortly after communion, and left a package near the altar. He also shouted something at the church worshippers, which they could not understand. Police and explosive experts were quickly deployed to the cathedral. The package turned out to be a homemade explosive device that contained acid. The suspect, a Muslim man from North Africa, was eventually found and arrested. According to the French language news report, his “motive remains unknown.”
Greece: During Holy Week, “an unprecedented event took place” in a church during liturgy, according to an April 20 report:
“A foreigner of Arab descent broke into the church, turned to the microphone, and started shouting Quranic verses in front of a shocked congregation.
In seconds, two men in the choir ran towards him and dragged him out of the Church. By the time police arrived, the man had disappeared from the scene.”
Sudan: On April 10, a church “long harassed by Islamic extremists,” was attacked. According to the report, three Muslim men barged in during worship. One of the Muslims, “punched the pastor, tore his shirt and assaulted two women… The other two assailants tore Bibles and broke chairs.” One of the women suffered cuts to her mouth, and the other sustained hand injuries. Both required medical treatment. One, aged more than 50, was also pushed onto her back and continues to suffer from back pain. When the pastor, Stephanou Adil Kujo, later went to police, they responded by charging him with “disturbing the peace and [being a] public disturbance.” “It is surprisingly strange that the pastor is accused and charged,” responded his lawyer. Then, on April 25, a Muslim judge sentenced the pastor to a month imprisonment for “disturbing the peace,” as well as Ibrahim Kodi, the leader of the three Muslims who assaulted the church. According to one report,
“The jailed Christian leader’s church has long been harassed by Muslim extremists. Leaders of the church were detained and questioned in February after Muslim extremists upset about the presence of their worship building locked it shut on Feb. 21…. [T]he Muslims accused church members of hostility toward Islam by holding gatherings on Fridays, the Muslim day of mosque prayer.”
Holiday Related Attacks on Christians: Easter and Ramadan
Spain: On Sunday, April 10, Muslims physically tried to block an Easter procession in Tarragona (video here). When police arrived to intervene and allow passage for the procession, the Muslims began to riot, prompting police to call for reinforcements. In the end, two men of North African background were arrested, and an investigation was opened concerning the rest.
Similarly, on April 14, during an Easter procession in Granada, a large number of objects began to rain down on the Christians. They came from the Bermúdez de Castro refugee center. Discussing the violent Muslim migrants, the leader of Vox Granada, Onofre Miralles, said, “They are against our culture and against our tradition. I demand measures from the Junta de Andalucía.”
Italy: On April 18, Muslim migrants beat and kicked two Coptic Christian brothers, aged 62 and 71, for wearing crosses and because one of them was smoking during Ramadan, when Muslims are supposed to fast. The incident took place in a street in Turin. The Christian brothers had been living in Italy for more than 40 years. According to the 23-year-old daughter, of one of the brothers, who was born and raised in Italy, said. “It is not the first time that we ourselves have been attacked in Italy because we are Christians.” She suggested that the main reason they were attacked was because “Both wear quite obvious Christian crosses.” After noting that Coptic Christians are persecuted in their Egyptian homeland, she said, “It makes me angry to think that this discrimination also exists here”:
“We have had problems before. It happened to me in the city centre when I was out with my friends and we were approached by a man with a small child who started calling us unclean and said we were dressed like prostitutes because we were wearing western clothes. This always happened during Ramadan. The husband of one of my mother’s friends was attacked because he ate during the fasting month, which he obviously does not comply with because he belongs to a different religion [Christianity].”
Another Coptic businessman in Turin who has been similarly harassed by Muslim migrants
Egypt: In late April, a Muslim man berated and beat a Coptic Christian woman because she had entered his establishment with her head uncovered during Ramadan. Nevin Sobhi, a 30-year-old married mother, had gone to her local drugstore to pick up some medication for her young son, who accompanied her. On entering, she noticed that the head pharmacist, Dr. Ali Abu Sa’da, was giving her “the evil eye.” He eventually launched into a loud and “hate-filled tirade” against her for daring to enter his store during Ramadan without any head covering and while wearing a short-sleeved T-shirt. Ali was aware that Nevin was Christian and, therefore, not obligated to observe Ramadan’s rules. When she told him as much, he responded with a violent slap to her face. When she responded with shock and anger, he slapped her again—all while her scared, young son cried. She ran out “in a state of collapse, crying and incapable of absorbing the shock.” She contacted her family, and they went to the local police station to report the incident. There, Nevin received what she called her “third slap.” According to the Christian woman:
“Inside the police station, I was surprised by attempts and pressure to conciliate. The perpetrator’s lawyer steered the writing of the report [in a manner] that contradicted reality, and they forced me to sign the report which contained statements from the pharmacist’s lawyer without taking my statements. […] We were especially shocked to see the report said that ‘the pharmacist is a friend of the family, who was just bantering and joking around with Mrs. Nevin, because he is close to the family.'”
“I was so shocked,” she continued; “it was as a third slap to me—that such a radical character could emerge victorious, even as I lose my rights as an Egyptian woman!”
Turkey: In the days leading to Easter as well as Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day (April 24), the front gate of an Armenian Christian school in Istanbul was vandalized with a swastika. The April 14 report noted:
“The same school in Istanbul faced anti-Armenian persecution in November 2016 when graffiti was written on the walls stating ‘One night, we suddenly will be in Karabagh.’ Also in 2016, walls of Uskudar Surp Khach Seminary and Uskudar Kalfayan School were vandalized with anti-Armenian graffiti. The graffiti read ‘May the Turkish race live!’ and ‘Torment Armenians.'”
Armenian Christians and churches have faced vandalism and discrimination in Turkey annually around the time of the commemoration of the Armenian Genocide. Recently this included the acquittal of those who danced on the gate of an Armenian church in 2021.
The Muslim Abduction of Christian Women
Burkina Faso: On April 5, masked militants abducted an 83-year-old nun living at a parish. Originally from New Orleans, Marianite Sister Suellen Tennyson had been stationed there, helping the sick and needy, since 2014. “There were about 10 men who came during the night while the sisters were sleeping,” Marianite Sister Ann Lacour, congregational leader, said. “They destroyed almost everything in the house, shot holes in the new truck and tried to burn it. The house itself is OK, but its contents are ruined.” They seized Sister Suellen from her bed in her nightclothes, with “no glasses, shoes, phone, medicine, etc.” She has not been heard from since.
Egypt: On Apr.5, a married Coptic Christian mother of three and her one-year-old daughter disappeared off the streets of Beni-Sweif, where she worked as a teacher at the American College. Mary Wahib Joseph, 36, had left home to take her toddler daughter to a nearby clinic. Her husband immediately contacted police and anyone else who could help recover her. One week later, on Apr. 12, Mary appeared in a video, wrapped in a hijab, and saying that she had willingly and without any coercion converted to Islam; that her name was now Mary Ahmed Muhammad; and that her husband, children, and parents should stop looking for her, because this is her choice. While making these claims Mary’s baby daughter can be heard crying in the background.
Responding to this video, her husband said that he knows his wife’s mannerisms and could clearly tell that she was frightened and speaking under duress. He also pointed out that, if she had really run away to convert to Islam and abandon him and their two other young children, why did she not take any of her belongings—no clothes, suitcases, etc.—with her. Instead, she was in the midst of preparing their home for Easter festivities, so “are these the actions of a woman intending to escape?” he asked. The disappearance of Christian women, who then reappear in a video dressed in a hijab and say that they had run off and freely embraced Islam, only for the truth to later emerge—that they were abducted and forced to make such videos—is common in Egypt. A virtually identical case from 2020 is documented here.
Separately, on April 11, Simone Adel Isaac, a 15-year-old Coptic Christian girl, disappeared. Her parents immediately carried out an extensive investigation and discovered that the elder brother of one of her Muslim schoolmates was behind the girl’s disappearance. The parents provided police with the man’s name, home address, and phone number, and anxiously awaited the return of their daughter. To their dismay, police did nothing. The distraught parents responded by sharing their experiences in a video. Abandoned by police, the mother, in tears, appealed to anyone and everyone, including the Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and the Coptic pope, to intervene:
“Any person with a merciful heart who can return her to me, please do so, because my girl is a minor, my girl doesn’t understand anything, she was deceived by that guy, his sister, and even his mother.”
The girl’s father added, “The government knows exactly where the fellow is. They should be the ones to go and get him, not us.” Happy ending: both Mary Joseph and Simone Adel were eventually found and returned home.
Muslim Attacks on Freedom: Apostates and Evangelists
Uganda: On April 2, Muslim relatives poisoned and nearly killed a Muslim convert to Christianity. A few days earlier, on March 27, Hiire Sadiki, 56, formerly an Islamic sheikh and teacher, had put his faith in Christ after several months of debating with a Christian pastor.
On noticing that he was no longer observing Ramadan, his wife closely followed him and noticed that he was praying in the name of Christ. “She questioned me because of the mode of my praying,” Sadiki said. “I told her that I had believed in Issa [Jesus].” His wife, who “knew verses about punishment for apostasy,” left the room and made a few calls to Islamic leaders; she then returned and started to prepare dinner. “After 30 minutes,” Sadiki continued, “a lady who is a neighbor arrived and went to the kitchen, and after a short while, she left.”
After the unsuspecting former Muslim had his meal, he began to vomit and convulse violently. He phoned his pastor friend who quickly came and transported him to a local hospital. According to that pastor, “As we arrived at the hospital, his conditioned [sic] worsened. He started having diarrhea with blood, nausea, vomiting and severe abdominal pain.” Tests revealed that his food was laced with a poison used to kill rats and vermin. His pastor friend continued:
“He had lost some amount of blood. I then rang his wife. As I began asking about the sheikh and introducing myself, she was so annoyed and started abusing me for converting her husband. She said she did not want to be identified with him because he had become an infidel, and that she was leaving him and going back to her people, that her husband deserved death for forsaking Islam, and that she didn’t want to relate with an infidel.”
She then slammed the phone in his face. The pastor called Sadiki’s sister-in-law, who responded in a similar manner. His wife then took their three children, 6, 10, and 16, and left him.
Also in Uganda, on Easter Sunday, a Muslim man stabbed his wife upon learning that she had converted to Christianity. Two weeks earlier, Zaina Gimbo, 26, had put her faith in Christ from her hospital bed. Then, on Sunday, Apr. 17, while her husband was away on a fishing trip, she attended a local church for Easter worship: “It was a wonderful celebration,” Gimbo said. “At about 1 p.m., I went home not knowing that he had come back. I came back with a lot of joy, singing Christian songs that I had learned in the church.” On reaching her home, “immediately the door opened, and there and then my husband came out very furious.” He grabbed her and began interrogating her about her newfound faith:
“My husband beat and cut me with a long knife. I made an alarm that brought many people who came and disarmed him. I fell down bleeding seriously and lost my conscious[ness].”
Christian friends took her to a local hospital, where she was treated for deep wounds to her face, head, and back, and bruises on her hand.
Finally in Uganda, Muslims attacked, burned, and then fired the head of an Islamic private school, after learning of his recent conversion to Christianity. On April 1, Yusufu awoke at 3 am to pray in Christ’s name; unbeknownst to him, a Muslim colleague and neighbor secretly recorded the entire prayer and shared it with other school workers. On the following day, he performed the same early morning prayers, but this time, several of his Muslim colleagues had surrounded his house to eavesdrop. According to Yusufu:
“As I finished the prayers at 4:45 a.m. and began preparing to go to the mosque to pray, I heard a knock at the door. As I opened the door, there were people outside my door. They began shouting, ‘Allah akbar [the jihadist slogan, ‘Allah is the greatest’]! Allah akbar! Allah akbar! This is a kafir [infidel], this is kafir… They grabbed me and took me inside the mosque and started beating me badly and accusing me of heading a Muslim school yet I had converted to Christianity. Others shouted, ‘A liar, a liar, a liar…He deserves the death penalty.”
During his beating, two Muslim staffers “brought two old jerry cans and lit it [sic] with fire and started burning me with it. It was too painful. I fainted.” Before long, an elderly teacher intervened, saying to leave him to Allah, who “would kill him.” Some of his Christian friends found him and took him to a hospital, where he was treated for second- and third degree burns. He was then fired, and not even allowed to return to collect his belongings.
Austria: On April 12, a Muslim man chased and kicked a man who was distributing Bibles in the streets of Vienna-Meidling. The Christian tried to defend himself but was overwhelmed and fled. According to eyewitnesses:
“[The Muslim man] was angry about the Bible distributor’s sweater, which said ‘Christ is God’ in Arabic script. Obviously, this provoked the rabid man in such a way that he completely lost his composure and literally chased him. And that’s exactly what outraged a colleague of the victim: in his opinion, the attack had a radically religious background.”
*Raymond Ibrahim, author of the new book, Defenders of the West: The Christian Heroes Who Stood Against Islam, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute, a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center, and a Judith Rosen Friedman Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
About this Series
While not all, or even most, Muslims are involved, persecution of Christians by extremists is growing. The report posits that such persecution is not random but rather systematic, and takes place irrespective of language, ethnicity, or location. It includes incidents that take place during, or are reported on, any given month.
© 2022 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Who is the new militant group targeting a Turkish base with drones? - analysis
Seth J. Frantzman/Jerusalem Post/May 22/2022
The creation of a new “group” called Ahrar Sinjar may be an excuse to strike Turkey now, alleging to be responding to other Turkish attacks.
A group calling itself Ahrar Sinjar claimed to carry out a drone attack on a Turkish base in northern Iraq on Sunday. According to Iranian media, the attack targeted a Turkish base at Bashiqa, east of Mosul, and involved “six kamikaze drones.” Other reports said four drones were used and that one struck the base.
The Zilkan base - the crown jewel
The Turkish base, sometimes called the Zilkan base, is located on the borders of the autonomous Kurdistan region of northern Iraq and areas of Nineveh province that are governed by Iraqi federal forces. It includes Shi’ite militias and other pro-Iranian groups like the Hashd al-Shaabi Brigade 30 of Shebek minorities.
The Hashd, or Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), is a large umbrella group of militias, many of which are Shi’ite and pro-Iran. Since 2018 they have been organized as an official paramilitary force and they maintain checkpoints in some areas of Iraq. Many of these groups are either directly linked to Iran, like Kataib Hezbollah, or are territorial and minority brigades that secure areas where the Iraqi army is weak. In that context, they can easily fire rockets at US forces or Turkey or Erbil from areas such as the Nineveh plains east of Mosul.
The Turkey base that was targeted near Bashiqa was previously used to support Iraqis who had fled Mosul during the ISIS war. It was considered increasingly controversial by pro-Iran politicians in Baghdad who viewed it as a symbol of Turkish encroachment into Iraq.
Turkey has a dozen bases and outposts in the mountains of northern Iraq often that is confined to the border region where Turkey claims to be fighting “PKK terrorists.” However, in recent years, Turkey has launched new operations in this mountainous area and has penetrated deeper into northern Iraq, closer to the Kurdish cities of Dohuk and Erbil.
Turkey also uses drones and warplanes to strike at areas in Sinjar and Makhmour. Sinjar is where Yazidis live, people who suffered the ISIS genocide. Makhmour is not far from Kirkuk and is an area where there is a refugee camp for Kurds. Turkey accuses the PKK of having bases in these places, but locals say Ankara has targeted civilians and local activists.
The same drones in Iraq, Iran and Gaza
In recent years, the Turkish base at Bashiqa has come under frequent rocket fire that are similar to rocket attacks that have targeted US forces and facilities in Iraq. Usually, the rockets are 107mm rockets fired from trucks. Pro-Iran militias in Iraq have also increasingly resorted to using drones similar to the kamikaze UAVs used by the Houthis and Hamas in Gaza. These have targeted Erbil, US forces at various facilities and even the Prime Minister’s house.
"We have already warned of the consequences of Turkey's continued invasion of Iraq and its safe havens,” reads a report from Tasnim News. Iranian media has in the past reported on incidents like this when they are linked to pro-Iran groups; they get the press statements directly from the militant groups themselves. Pro-Iran groups in Iraq often create new fake names for themselves in order to create plausible deniability, so that the new “group” cannot be targeted because it may not exist — it may be a stand-in for an existing group.
"Our operation was carried out in response to the recent aggression on the outskirts of Kirkuk and Dohuk," the statement by the new Ahrar Sinjar group reads. "These drones hit the intended targets with high accuracy, as a result of which the occupiers suffered material and human losses," the group stressed. Tasnim News reported: "Some Iraqi sources say two Turkish soldiers and a Turkish army contractor were killed in the drone strike.”
Rudaw media, based in Erbil, noted that “a drone on Saturday night targeted a military base housing Turkish troops in northern Iraq, killing one person, as Turkey’s offensive against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) stationed in the Kurdistan Region’s mountains continues.”
This report does not mention six drones and it appears to link the attack to the Turkish conflict with the PKK. “A drone fell on the Turkish base tonight and injured one person who later passed away,” Mohammed Amin, mayor of Zilkan subdistrict, where the base is located, told Rudaw on Saturday. According to Rudaw, the man killed in the attack was a chef at the base who is from the Kurdistan region.
What do the people think?
Some posts claimed the attack was in response to Turkish “occupation” and operations in northern Iraq, adding that the attacks would continue. Some of the posters are supporters of Iran and Kataib Hezbollah in Iraq.
One of the posts linked the name of the group to the Yazidi minority in Iraq. Turkish airstrikes have targeted Sinjar where Yazidis live. Some Yazidis are members of the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS) which Turkey has attacked in the past.
Ankara claims these groups are linked to the PKK. In the last weeks, there have been clashes between YBS and the Iraqi army. Thousands have fled and some believe that Turkey had encouraged Iraq to pursue these clashes. The Iraqi army moved into Sinjar in October 2017 after the Kurdistan referendum, causing Kurdish Peshmerga to leave.
However, the YBS which had been fighting ISIS remained behind. Some sources at the time said the YBS and other Yazidi factions had decided to work with the Iraqi federal forces and also groups linked to the Hashd al-Shaabi. Turkey has pressured Iraq to expel the PKK from Sinjar while Iraq claimed, several times between 2018 and 2020, that “armed elements” had left Sinjar.
Turkey continued to bomb the area, claiming “terror” threats while also levying threats of invasion.
Allegations that the Hashd and PKK have coordinated go back several years; in the time after the Iraqi army moved into Sinjar these allegations only grew.
Turkey has even claimed, back in December 2020, that PKK members joined the Hashd. Daily Sabah claimed at the time that “Sinjar District Governor Mahma Halil said Wednesday that there is no sign of withdrawal by terrorists from the northern Iraqi district, as envisaged by the US-backed agreement, adding that they are joining the Iran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces - PMF) paramilitary group instead.
"[The] majority of PKK terrorists joined Hashd al-Shaabi. A group of terrorists might be infiltrated into Tal Afar and Kirkuk as well,’ Halil said, Turkish daily Yeni Şafak reported.” This suits the pro-government far-right narrative of Ankara, which wants an excuse to invade Sinjar. Days before the drone attack a statement [was] provided to Turkey’s Anadolu news agency, also claimed that the “Hashd al-Shaabi supports PKK in Sinjar.”
The complexity of Sinjar and the latest attack on the Turkish base could be connected. In late 2021 three PMU brigades: 21, 14 and 33, were sent to Sinjar amid tensions with Turkey. These were a Badr brigade, Kataib Sayyid al Shuhada and a third brigade. Another unit of the Hashd has included Yazidis as part of its Lalish regiment for several years, dating back to 2017.
What does Iranian media say?
What is interesting about the reports of the attack on the Turkish base is the extent to which Iranian media appears to be highlighting and celebrating the attack.
IRNA in Iran says Turkey is waiting for more attacks, and other reports pointed to the “quality” of the drones. These reports also indicate the “great accuracy” of the drones. The reports imply also that the Ahrar Sinjar statement did not specify the type or number of drones, meaning Iranian media obtained the number via another method.
The implication is Iranian media is backing this campaign. While Kurdish media reported about the PKK-Turkey tensions, Iran’s media highlights the fact that Turkey is occupying northern Iraq, a source of anger in Baghdad for some years.
“The presence of the Turkish army deep in Iraq and the establishment of more than 40 bases on Iraqi soil has aroused great sensitivity in various Iraqi groups, especially the Iraqi resistance groups. To this must be added the almost daily attacks of Turkish helicopters, fighters and drones on northern Iraq, and in particular on Duhok in the Kurdistan Region; Where Turkey claims that the forces of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) are stationed, this has provided an excuse for Ankara to continue its attacks on northern Iraq,” IRNA reported.
Rockets have been fired at the Bashiqa base in early April and late April, and in January, as well as numerous times before. An April report noted that Turkey had used a drone to target pro-Iran militias.
These increasing rocket attacks and tensions indicate that the base has become a flashpoint. Turkey is also worried about responding directly to pro-Iran elements. The fact that Sinjar has become the site of new clashes between the Iraqi army and Yazidis seems to make it questionable whether Iran would then work with Yazidi groups in Sinjar or PKK affiliates to attack the Turkish base.
What would be the point of Iraq pushing Yazidi groups out of Sinjar, causing 10,000 people to flee, while Iranian militias allied to the same Iraqi government form ties to Yazidi armed groups and provide the technology for drones to be used against the Bashiqa base? More likely the same pro-Iran groups involved in targeting the Bashiqa base in the past used the drones they have used against US forces, Erbil and others, to attack the base.
The creation of a new “group” called Ahrar Sinjar may be the excuse for them to strike at Turkey now, alleging to be responding to other Turkish attacks. That Ankara has mobilized its media to blame the PKK is easier for Ankara than blaming Iran.
Iraq thus becomes a proxy battlefield. Another scenario is that in the wake of the clashes between the Iraqi army and YBS that the Hashd has sought to divert local frustrations with the clashes by working to encourage attacks on the Turkish base. That pro-Iranian social media has celebrated the attack points to an angle that benefits Iran in some way.

For Putin, a Nordic Nightmare Is Springing to Life
Marc Santora and Natalie Kitroeff/The New York Times/May 22/2022
For years, President Vladimir Putin of Russia has viewed the expansion of NATO as an existential threat that would leave Russia hemmed in with Western missiles on its doorstep. Now, Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine seems to be bringing the Russian leader’s nightmare to life, with NATO on the brink of starting its largest potential expansion in nearly two decades.
After navigating the postwar era in nonalignment and neutrality, Sweden and Finland are now actively exploring ascension to the military alliance forged in the Cold War, with officials from both countries set to meet with their NATO counterparts Saturday.
Russia lashed out immediately, halting exports of electricity to Finland and promising an unspecified “military-technical” response after warning that the move would pose a clear threat to its own national security.
Some analysts were concerned that Russia was laying the groundwork to threaten the deployment of nuclear weapons near the border with Finland. But officials in both Sweden and Finland played down that threat, noting that with the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad only 200 miles away, Moscow already has nuclear-capable missiles in easy range.
An acceptance of Sweden and Finland into NATO, a process that could take up to a year to finalize, would bring the Western military alliance right to Russia’s 810-mile-long border with Finland and would mark another profound shift to Europe’s strategic landscape brought on by Russia’s war in Ukraine. At the same time, the Pentagon is rotating new troops into Europe to bolster the alliance’s eastern flank, signaling that the temporary troop buildup is likely to become permanent.
As Western powers buckled down for what Ukraine’s defense minister called a “new, long phase” in the war, developments on the ground bore out the idea that Ukraine was still fighting Russia doggedly in the east and reporting that it was gaining ground.
In recent days, Ukrainian forces have begun consolidating control over the major city of Kharkiv after months of Russian attacks and heavy shelling. In a seeming replay of the Russian retreat from Kyiv, its battered battalions are withdrawing in order to protect critical supply lines to the east and to reinforce struggling units elsewhere in the Donbas in the country’s east, Ukrainian officials said.
The head of Kharkiv’s regional military administration said Saturday that Ukrainian forces had started a counteroffensive against Russian forces around the northeastern city of Izium, which Russia captured last month and had hoped to use as a base for a drive south into other major cities.
In a flurry of U.S. diplomacy, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the minority leader, made a surprise visit Saturday to Ukraine to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The accompanying delegation of U.S. lawmakers was just the latest to travel to the country as the U.S. deepens its commitment to Kyiv’s fight against the Russian invasion.
The U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, was scheduled to travel to Germany on Saturday, to meet with NATO counterparts before discussions with Sweden and Finland.
In a phone call Saturday, President Sauli Niinisto of Finland said he told Putin that his country is seeking to join NATO because Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine had “fundamentally” altered Finland’s security environment.
Putin warned the Finnish leader it was a “mistake” to abandon Finland’s long-standing policy of military neutrality, the Kremlin said in a statement.
“By joining NATO, Finland strengthens its own security and assumes its responsibility,” the Finnish president said in a statement, adding that Finland wants “to take care of the practical questions arising from being a neighbor of Russia in a correct and professional manner.”
There was initial alarm as Turkey, a longtime NATO member, signaled this week that it might seek to block the Nordic countries’ joining the alliance. But Saturday, a spokesperson for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey walked back any potential challenge, saying that Turkey was merely trying to ensure that all alliance members’ security concerns were heeded.
The potential growth of NATO added to a mounting list of setbacks for Putin. Russia’s military offensive in eastern Ukraine remains stalled, and The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank, said in its latest assessment that the Ukrainians had now won the battle for Kharkiv.
Having failed in its initial campaign to take the Ukrainian capital and oust the government, the Kremlin can ill afford to accept another defeat in the east.
In an interview with Britain’s Sky News on Saturday, the country’s military intelligence chief, Maj. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov said the months ahead would be decisive.
“The breaking point will be in the second part of August,” he said. “Most of the active combat actions will have finished by the end of this year.”
But as Moscow’s forces around Kharkiv are driven back toward the Russian border, they are expected to fight hard to keep open critical supply routes running through the region. Russia also controls a wide swath of land across southeastern Ukraine, where it is increasingly fortifying its position. The military campaign, analysts say, will continue to devolve into a protracted slog characterized by heavy casualties on both sides and devastating long-range bombardment.
Ukraine’s defense minister, Oleksii Reznikov, warned of “extremely tough weeks” ahead. “No one can say for sure how many of them there will be,” he said in a statement.
Zelenskyy acknowledged that the fight to regain control of Russian-occupied territories would be long and hard, but he vowed that they would not be abandoned.
“The gradual liberation of the Kharkiv region proves that we will not leave anyone to the enemy,” he said.
The impact of the battlefield clashes continue to ripple around the world.
The war has interrupted wheat production in Ukraine and Russia, both major suppliers, while fighting and blockades in the Black Sea have disrupted transport of the grain. And poor harvests in China, along with a heat wave in India and drought in other countries, have further snarled global supply.
But India, the world’s second-largest wheat producer, says it is banning exports with some exceptions, a move that could compound a worldwide shortfall worsened by the war in Ukraine and deepen an already dire forecast for hunger across the globe.
India has about 10% of the world’s grain reserves, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a large surplus resulting from its heavy subsidizing of its farmers. It has been seen for months as a country that could help make up for global supply shortages.
“Russia’s war of aggression has generated one of the most severe food and energy crises in recent history,” the leaders of the world’s wealthiest democracies, the Group of 7, said in a statement Saturday, adding that the problem “now threatens those most vulnerable across the globe.”
© 2022 The New York Times Company

How Can the US Fix Its Baby Formula Crisis?
Sarah Green Carmichael/Bloomberg/May 22/2022
This is one of a series of interviews by Bloomberg Opinion columnists on how to solve the world’s most pressing policy challenges. It has been edited for length and clarity. This interview was conducted on Instagram Live on May 18.
Sarah Green Carmichael: As the founder of “The Formula Mom” (@theformulamom on Instagram), an online network focused on helping parents navigate the challenges of infant feeding, you’ve been sounding alarms about the infant-formula shortage for months. There were indications the crisis was going to get worse as far back as February, when Abbott Laboratories issued a recall and shut down its plant in Sturgis, Michigan, which affected the Similac, Alimentum and EleCare brands. Why is this only receiving high-level attention now, when it has been a problem brewing for months?
Mallory Whitmore, founder, “The Formula Mom:” I think a lot of it’s related to just how long it takes to produce formula. It’s generally at least a six-to-eight week month process. And so I think we’re starting to see the effects of [the plant shutdown] in February. I think the media attention is good because we’re starting to see some movement from the Biden administration, but also I think it’s increased panic buying to an extent, which is making things worse.
SGC: President Biden has just announced he will use the Defense Production Act to try to boost the amount of formula available. Will this actually help?MW: Yes. It means that companies that provide ingredients to US formula makers must prioritize filling those orders before providing orders to any other industry. For example, if a dairy company provides milk to an ice cream company and also to a formula maker like Enfamil, they must fill all of Enfamil’s orders first. This should help with part of the production bottleneck, because formula manufacturers have been having trouble finding their ingredients. It also means that the US will start using Department of Defense airplanes to bring formula to the US, which should help address the issue of shipping delays. Finally, the order also gives $28 million to the FDA to help expedite the rate at which they can review foreign manufacturer applications and get formula on shelves quicker.
SGC: How did this recall at this one factory cause such a ripple effect?
MW: Most parents don’t realize there are only five approved infant formula manufacturers in the US. You go to Target and you see 30 different brands and you think there’s a lot of manufacturers, but there’s only five — and three of those five control 80 to 90% of the market. Abbott alone produces 40% of the US formula market, and this plant is their largest plant. So it just took out a huge portion of the product that we typically see on the shelves.
SGC: Are there any brands that have been unaffected?
MW: It has been hit or miss. It seems like it depends based on geographic area. Certainly more expensive formulas tend to be more available. Most of those smaller brands — Earth’s Best, Burt’s Bees, Happy Baby, Bobbie — are all produced by the same contract manufacturer, so they’re all experiencing the same issues trying to get space on the lines to produce more.
SGC: Some people have blamed excessive regulation for the shortage. How you think that plays in? Don’t we want infant formula to be highly regulated, to make sure it’s safe?
MW: I think there’s absolutely some room for improvement in terms of how difficult it is for new brands to enter the market. It’s very time- intensive and very expensive. ByHeart is a brand-new formula company that launched about two months ago, and it took them five years from start to finish. There’s also not a huge incentive for people to get into the market because it’s so tightly controlled by these three companies that reap the great majority of the profit.
On the one hand, you wish there were more players in this space so we weren’t in this position. On the other, we want to make sure that not anybody can just go producing infant formula. The ingredients have to be very specific. But I think we’re seeing now that the market as it currently operates is a problem.
SGC: What about imports — why is it so hard to buy European formula in the US?
MW: The European Commission’s standards are different than the FDA standards. Some people think that their standards are better. For example, they require organic ingredients when possible and don’t allow corn syrup or corn syrup solids [in formula]. They allow goat milk to be used as the protein source. On the other hand, they have looser requirements for things like how much iron is allowed in the formula; the FDA doesn’t feel that’s appropriate. In light of the shortage, though, the FDA has created an expedited approval pathway for foreign formula manufacturers to be able to sell in the US.
SGC: Is there anything else that you think government officials should be doing to speed up the end of the shortage?
MW: What I would like to see personally is an overhaul of how the WIC program functions. WIC is a supplementary nutrition program for lower-income women, infants and children. Fifty percent of babies born in the US qualify — not that many are enrolled, but 50% qualify. How it works is that each state has one single contracted manufacturer. So in Tennessee, where I’m from, Similac is the contracted provider and folks who receive WIC benefits are only permitted to purchase Similac products. This is a problem for two reasons. Number one is that Similac doesn’t have all of the formulas that a baby may need. Parents aren’t able to choose what’s best for their baby, they’re only able to choose from what the state has contracted for.
Second, this decreases incentive for smaller companies to enter the space, because 50% of the market is already essentially bought out by these bigger manufacturers. And that also doesn’t create an incentive for these large formula companies — Similac, Enfamil, Gerber — to elevate their standards because they don’t have to win parents over when parents are forced to use their product in a state agreement that currently exists. I would love to see more of a voucher system where parents can put their money toward whatever brand or whatever formula they feel good about and that aligns with their baby’s needs.
SGC: What do you think is a realistic timeline for seeing more formula back on the shelves ?
MW: In terms of the domestic supply, I think we’re likely looking at from six to eight weeks because we know that’s how long it takes to make a batch of formula. Many manufacturers are increasing their capacity to turn out more product, but it’s going to be six to eight weeks before we see that on the shelf. It’s likely to be even longer than that for Similac products, since they’re still going through this process of meeting the guidelines outlined in this consent decree with the FDA to reopen the Sturgis facility. So it might be even longer for them. We are hopefully going to be seeing some imported formula options before then.
SGC: How do we prevent this from happening again?
MW: First, reduce that concentration at the top and diversify where our formula is coming from, by increasing the number of manufacturers and allowing a pathway for imported formula to continue beyond the immediate crisis.
I also think we have to really look at how are we ensuring safety in our existing supply chain. We know that in 2020 with the Covid pandemic, that the FDA didn’t inspect a lot of these facilities. That has to be a priority. These are our very most vulnerable citizens. It has to be a priority to make sure that the formula that we’re seeing on the shelves is safe. Why did it take so long? I think the FDA must have been trying to weigh the risk of bacterial contamination and infant illness with knowing that a shortage was a likely outcome if they introduced a recall of this size.
SGC: As this shortage has gone on, I’m sorry to say, there’s been no shortage of people on social media who will say things like “Just breastfeed!” or “Why not pump?” Why is that not the best advice?
MW: I think a lot of folks don’t realize that it takes a good number of weeks to establish a full milk supply. And 25% of our parents are back at work within two weeks of having a baby — 25%. That is not enough time to establish a full milk supply. Also, hourly workers or part-time workers might not have protected time at work for pump breaks and those pump breaks aren’t paid. And if those people can get formula for free through WIC, they’re obviously incentivized to do that.
Low breastmilk supply is more common than people realize. Up to potentially 10% of mothers are not able to produce a full milk supply. We’ve also got parents who have medication needs that are incompatible with breastfeeding. We’ve got same-sex families, adoptive parents, grandparents, parents through surrogacy where breastfeeding is just not possible. And even when it is possible, the time associated with nursing is incompatible for many, many families due to their jobs and the needs of their other children.
I hope that this is just sort of a reckoning point that highlights the absolute insanity of what we expect American parents to do — and that’s to parent like they don’t work, and to work like they don’t have kids. To breastfeed, but not take too much time at work and not in public.
SGC: Do you think that we could get to a world where we both provide more support for breastfeeding and reduce the stigma around formula?
MW: I would love nothing more than that. Ultimately, it’s got to come down to trusting that individual families know what’s best for their babies and then supporting them in whatever choice they make.

Time is Running Out on Vladimir Putin: Ruthless Escalation or a Climbdown?
Raghida Dergham/The National/May 22/2022
We do not know whether Russian President Vladimir Putin is now at the edge of escalation or the edge of backing down, or even whether he will try to combine these two opposites. There is a clear fierceness in the battles in Donbas, which Putin is determined to settle in his favor no matter the cost. But a climbdown may be forced by Sweden and Finland’s move to apply for NATO membership, where his options are narrowing down, time is running out, and NATO is stepping up its encirclement.
The Russian president still holds tactical nuclear cards, and perhaps this is the ‘surprise’ that Moscow is preparing to detonate in response to Helsinki and Stockholm’s NATO accession. However, these are suicidal cards and Putin is not ready to commit suicide, yet. Clearly, Putin’s war on Ukraine forced Sweden and Finland to abandon neutrality. The war unleashed terror from Russia’s motives, pushing the two states into the arms of NATO, seeking protection and collective immunity.
The war also undermined Russia’s achievements that the Kremlin had long boasted of, in theaters like Syria. The fierce battle in Donbas is pushing some states to realign their posture in the direction of NATO and its allies, gradually moving away from their initial sympathy with Russia, to preserve their economic and geopolitical interests. In light of this, the Biden administration and European powers have jumped at the opportunity to invest again in relations with the Arab Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, hoping to upend their neutrality vis-à-vis the conflict in Ukraine, and to tempt them with the prosect of restoring strategic ties with the United States and NATO.
Regarding Iran, there is ambiguity over the fate of the nuclear talks between the P5+1 countries and Iran. This is while the Kremlin is caught between its strategic need for Iran and its concerns that the latter could exploit Russia’s preoccupation with Ukraine, to fill the vacuum in important positions in Syria. The Kremlin is also confused in its policies and relations with Israel, especially after the clear US response to the Kremlin’s wager on a structural straining of US-Israeli relations that would force Biden to choose between Israel and Iran.
So what is Vladimir Putin’s mental, health, military, and political status? Where does Russia currently stand at this juncture of the Ukraine war?
The Russians love to mark history and anniversaries. On June 12, Russia will celebrate its National Day. The military and political establishment in Russia wants to achieve a major breakthrough in the war with NATO in Ukraine – as official Russian sources started describing the conflict – by then. December marks another important occasion, the 100th anniversary of the creation of the Soviet Union. For Putin, the collapse of the USSR was heart-breaking event, and he remains convinced the West will blink first, especially when the nuclear card is placed on the table – and then Putin will win.
The danger lies in Putin’s logic and in the fact that he has continued to back himself into the corner, as NATO expands and steps up its efforts to close in on Russia. Time is running out for the Russian president. There are whispers he may have cancer and the truth may come out in the second half of June, when tests are reportedly scheduled. Russia is not like Western countries: If the president is indeed diagnosed with such a disease, the regime in Russia will act in the ‘Russian way’.
On the other hand, the Russian president appears to be in a race against time and NATO’s involvement in Ukraine. A crucial NATO summit will convene in Madrid on 29 and 30 June, setting another deadline for the Russian president and his limited nuclear-and-otherwise options. If he is thinking about making a show of force, he has one month to pull it off – including deploying tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine.
New reports suggest a major shift in NATO’s position on imposing a no-fly zone in Ukraine. Previously, many states including the United States and Germany resisted this option. If this shift occurs, there is a near certain prospect of direct aerial combat between Russia and NATO, paving the way for major escalations in Ukraine and Europe writ large.
In the Ukrainian theatre, time is not on Russia’s side. Its operations in Donbas are grinding slowly and its objectives require ruthlessness to achieve. Some in the Russian military are calling for the full liquidation of the Ukrainian army in Donbas to end operations there. The imposition of a no-fly zone in Ukraine by NATO would open a new chapter in the war and invite potential Russian retaliation in the Baltic States – Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania – not through direct invasion but through hybrid warfare.
In Europe, it’s not just Sweden and Finland’s NATO accession that poses a test for Russia. Poland is the leading candidate for becoming the next arena for Western-Russian conflict. If Poland decides to allow the United States to deploy nuclear weapons on its soil, Russia could bring nuclear weapons to Kaliningrad, a mere 500 km from Stockholm, and home to a nuclear capable missile arsenal and one of Russia’s most heavily militarized territories.
Russian sources have confirmed a warning from Moscow to Warsaw that American nuclear weapons must not be placed in Poland under any circumstance. Moscow made it clear to Warsaw that Russia would retaliate to such a step by bringing nuclear arms to Kaliningrad. This would nuclearize the Baltic Sea, bearing in mind that Kaliningrad is located between Poland and Lithuania, allowing Russia to threaten Europe easily with nuclear warheads.
Putin and Russian FM Sergei Lavrov know that it is too late to threaten measures in retaliation against Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership. They have avoided making direct threats and have swallowed the bitter truth: Russia’s new borders with NATO will make the Baltic Sea “a NATO lake”, as one veteran expert of Russian-NATO relations put it. According to this expert, NATO, after Finland and Sweden’s accession, will be able to blockade St. Petersburg and the Kaliningrad enclave – Russia’s most important and only base in the Baltic – by land, sea, and air.
Putin never believed Finland and Sweden were serious about NATO membership and downplayed the prospect, so he is now caught by surprise. It is too late for Russia to be able to do anything about this, especially given the clear public support in bother countries for the move and distrust of Russia following its invasion of Ukraine. Even Turkey, which opposes particularly Swedish NATO membership given its ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), will likely overcome this psychological barrier in return for EU aid and US approval of readmitting Turkey into the F-35 fighter jet programme, from which it was expelled because of its S-400 missile deal with Russia.
Even Putin’s much-vaunted achievements in Syria are now secondary to his war in Ukraine. In fact, the fate of the war will determine Russia’s fate in Syria. Today, Russia’s preoccupation with Ukraine means it is not concerned by who is filling the vacuum it is leaving in Syria. Some in Moscow even believe there is much to gain from Iran filling this vacuum.
The thinking in Russia today is no longer strategic, but tactical. This applies especially to Russia’s relations with Iran, Israel, and Hezbollah, which enforces Iran’s IRGC agenda in Lebanon especially in the context of Iran-Israel relations.
Russian sources have confirmed that Iran received a green light from Russia to do as it pleases against Israel, not only because of strained Russian-Israeli relations, but also because Moscow believes this would serve Russia’s interests. Moscow has sent advanced weapons to Iran, which will make sure to deliver them to Hezbollah in Lebanon. But what is Moscow’s logic here?
Moscow believes that a crisis between Hezbollah and Israel will force the latter to seek help from Russia to pressure Iran to rein in the militant Lebanese Shia party. This twisted logic demonstrates the decline of Russian policy and global influence. Not long ago, Russia was an important actor shaping major international decisions. Today, the limits of its global influence end with its UN Security Council veto power through which it can paralyze the international organization. It ends with arming militias like Hezbollah to retaliate against Israel’s position in the Russian-Ukrainian war, despite not long ago being a key sponsor of regional rapprochements.
The United States has benefited in no small way from Russia’s failure. President Biden’s leadership is now taken seriously, thanks to Putin’s strategic and tactical blunders. Biden has not slipped when it comes to Israel, and most likely will not fall into the trap as Putin wanted, abandoning Israel in its time of need. The opposite is happening: The United States will participate in broad Israeli war games simulating a strike on Iranian nuclear facilities, undertaking unprecedented US-Israeli air force cooperation.
The question here is: Will Russia be able to provide Iran with military assistance in the event of a direct Iranian-Israeli war? The answer is no because Russia has neither the resources nor the time to become involved outside Ukraine and Europe. Would Lebanon’s implication in a war with Israel help Russia in its war with NATO? Certainly not. So where is the logic in these short-sighted Russian policies? The strategic incoherence marring the Kremlin’s decision is terrifying.
The US and European charm offensive in the Arabian Gulf has important implications, part of which are linked to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its energy and geopolitical ramifications. The charm offensive is a calculated move to repair previous US and Western arbitrariness in the Gulf.
Finally, this is not the hour of decisive outcome to the war in Ukraine or Russia’s options in the war with NATO. Nor is it the hour of Western victory or total Russian strategic failure despite Putin falling into the trap of NATO encirclement. Rather, Putin now stands on the precipice of ruthless escalation and the precipice of backtracking. Time is running out and the world is holding its breath in the meantime.