April 13/2019

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness
Letter to the Romans 06/12-23: “Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification. When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on April 12-13/19
Decades on, War-Scarred Beirut Buildings Remain
Kataeb Party Inaugurates Independence Museum
Independence Museum: Treasure Trove of Kataeb's Heritage
Najarian Says 'Martyrs Day' Commemoration Is a Duty to Honor Wartime Heroes
Possible US Sanctions Against Non-Shiite Hezbollah Allies
Lebanon's Aoun Refuses to Join Any Mechanism Involving Israel
Carlos Ghosn’s Detention Extended Until April 22
Hariri in Tripoli Before By-Elections, Says 20% of CEDRE Grants for North
Hariri and Rifi express their solidarity and their support for the state
Kanaan Meets Billingslea: No New Sanctions on Lebanese Officials
Jabaq to 'Visit' Washington: International Organizations Recognized I Don’t Belong to Hizbullah
Rahi Says His Meeting with Aoun Was 'Reassuring'
Berri meets Maronite League delegation, US Congress members

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 12-13/19
Reports: Trump to Announce ‘Deal of the Century’ after Israeli Government Formation
Iran’s Heavy Floods Deepen Ahvaz’s Adversity
Sudan's military council chief Ibn Auf resigns day after overthrowing Omar Al-Bashir
Profile: Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf…Sudan’s Intelligence, Security Figure
Israel’s moonshot failed to touch down in final seconds
Tajik ISIS Member: Many Foreign Militants Jailed or Killed
Algeria: Anger Mounts at Army, Interim Leader
Algeria protests keep up pressure on regime
Assange Aide Arrested Trying to Leave Ecuador
Two Killed in Suspected Boko Haram Suicide Attack in Nigeria
Tunisia Arrests Members of ISIS-Affiliated Terror Cell
Salih: Iraq Will Not Be a Starting Point to Harm its Neighbors
Saudi Arabia, UAE Announce Initiative to Help Iran Flood Victims
Turkish minister, French lawmaker clash over Armenia 'genocide' day

Titles For The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 12-13/19

Decades on, War-Scarred Beirut Buildings Remain/Associated Press/Naharnet/April 12/19/
Kataeb Party Inaugurates Independence Museum/ Friday 12th April 2019
Possible US Sanctions Against Non-Shiite Hezbollah Allies/Mohamed Choucair/Asharq Al-Awsat/April 12/19
Israel’s moonshot failed to touch down in final seconds/Debka File/April 12/19
Iran: The Ventriloquist Dummy’s New Lexicon/Amir Taheri/Asharq Al-Awsat/April 12/19
What Happens to Palestinians Who Demand a Better Life/Khaled Abu Toameh/Gatestone Institute/April 12/2019
Opinion/After Netanyahu's Reelection, the Challenge Ahead Will Be No Picnic/Ehud Barak/Haaretz/April 12/19
The wide-ranging implications of Turkish, Israeli elections/Sinem Cengiz/Arab News/April 12/19

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on April 12-13/19
Decades on, War-Scarred Beirut Buildings Remain
Associated Press/Naharnet/April 12/19/
They are a common sight around Beirut, but their presence barely registers with Lebanese citizens anymore.
Nearly 30 years after civil war guns fell silent, dozens of bullet-scarred, shell-pocked buildings are still standing — testimony to a brutal conflict that raged for 15 years and took the lives of 150,000 people. Some are Beirut landmarks, like the iconic Holiday Inn, a hulking, bullet-riddled blue and white building that towers over the capital. The hotel, which opened for business just two years before the war broke out on April 13, 1975, was destroyed early on during battles between rival factions and used as a sniper's nest. It has stood deserted and untouched since then, its shareholders locked in a dispute over its future.
There's the modernist movie theater that never was, nicknamed locally "The Egg." Its moldy skeleton stands as a ruin, its future unclear. Like the Holiday Inn, it is a curious attraction for visiting foreigners. There are also a few remaining residential buildings located along the former Green Line, which separated the mainly Muslim part of West Beirut from the predominantly Christian part, their ravaged facades a testimony to the horrors witnessed many years ago. They still stand, either because their owners have no money to fix them, or because of disputes over ownership. "Seeing these buildings is like being slapped in the face," said Sahar Mandour, a Lebanese journalist and a writer. "You're walking around going about your daily business when suddenly you come face to face with a scene that takes you back to the old days." Unlike others who dislike the sight of these buildings and think they should be demolished, Mandour, 42, says it's important that they stay for the nation's collective memory, to never forget a war that pitted Palestinians against Lebanese, Christians against Muslims, Christians against Christians and every other combination possible. Israel also stepped in, adding to the destruction. "For a foreigner, it is a destroyed building. For us, it is a painful reminder of the bullets that pierced our bodies, streets and walls," Mandour says. "I don't want these buildings to disappear, their mission is not over yet."Not everyone feels the same. A woman who rents an apartment in a bullet-scarred building on the former Green Line between the mainly Muslim Shiyah and Christian Ayn el Rummaneh districts, said she worries about her two sons and society judging them for where they live. She keeps plants on the veranda and on the stairs to compensate for the building's grim facade. "If I had somewhere else to go, I would," she said, identifying herself by her nickname, Imm Lebnen, or mother of Lebanon.

Kataeb Party Inaugurates Independence Museum Friday 12th April 2019
The Lebanese Kataeb party on Friday inaugurated the Independence Museum as part of this year's "Martyrs Day" celebration to mark the 44th anniversary of the start of Lebanon's 15-year civil war.
Former President Amine Gemayel on Friday said that the Independence Museum exhibits Lebanon's contemporary history and the heritage of the Kataeb party equally, saying that it serves as a place of testimony, remembrance and forewarning. In a speech he delivered during the inauguration of the museum in Jounieh's Haret Sakher, Gemayel stressed that the venue testifies to Lebanon's cultural and political history; the history of a nation that has long struggled for democracy and freedom. According to Gemayel, the museum is also a place of remembrance as it reminds of the essence of Lebanon's existence as a platform of dialogue, coexistence, culture and modernity. The ex-president noted that the museum forewarns of the repercussions of disconnecting from the prestigious history show in it, adding that it also cautions against normalizing and surrendering to the current status quo.
"This is the Lebanon that we love and want; a country of endless ingenuity and ambition," he stressed. By choosing to inaugurate the Independence Museum, Gemayel stated, the Kataeb party wants to introduce the youth to a past era of Lebanon's history and to remind those who lived it of the treasure "that we once had and are now fearing for it."
"The Kataeb party wants to bring to everyone's attention that it is shameful for the Lebanese, who had the privilege to struggle for freedom, democracy, sovereignty and independence, to fail now to exercise those values," he said, praising the Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel for his courage in swimming against the tide. Gemayel deplored the absence of communication and solidarity between political forces, saying that they are all favoring their interests over the country's welfare and basing their work on spite, obstinacy and recklessness. The former Kataeb leader also lamented the absence of dynamism in the country, wondering why Lebanon's historical role as an exemplary model of coexistence, pluralism and diversity is being diminished.Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi, who took part in the inauguration and blessed the venue, stressed that establishing the museum at a close distance from the Maronite Patriarchate seat in Harissa encloses a significant importance. "Hadn't it been for those martyrs, we wouldn't have been here today," he said. “They died so that we would live."The patriarch stressed that the Kataeb party and Lebanon's independence are closely linked, noting the Kataeb party has been struggling for a free, independent and sovereign country since 1936. Al-Rahi pointed out that the Kataeb has chosen to join the opposition ranks in defense of Lebanon's sovereignty and dignity, hailing all the party's martyrs who sacrificed their lives for this country, notably President Bachir Gemayel and Minister Pierre Gemayel. The patriarch hailed the idea of establishing the museum, saying that it allows the new generations to get to know their history and to realize the meaning of their presence in this country. "The existence of Lebanon holds a significance that must not be dropped into oblivion or wasted. This country carries a great message for both the East and West." “Unfortunately, the truth has been forgotten because we are suffering from allegiances and affiliations to other countries. This is why the Kataeb did not hesitate to speak up even if this would be to its own detriment."

Independence Museum: Treasure Trove of Kataeb's Heritage Friday 12th April 2019/As Lebanon is set to mark the 44th anniversary of the start of the 15-year Civil War, the Kataeb party will inaugurate the Independence Museum as part of a large event that commemorates the martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the sake of the nation. The museum's manager, Joy Homsy, said that it was initially the idea of former President Amine Gemayel to establish a venue that combines exhibits about the history of the Kataeb party. In an interview on Voice of Lebanon radio station, Homsy explained that the "Independence Museum" appellation mirrors the 83-year-old history during which the Kataeb party did not cease to defend the country, both politically and militarily. Homsy called on the Lebanese to visit the museum which exhibits the history of a nation through that of a prestigious party. Sophie Akl, a key member of the team that worked on the collection of exhibits and the historic researches, stressed that the museum serves as a memorial and a place of rememberance to all those who dedicated their lives for the country, be it on the political or military level, and a place that provides resources for historians. "We wanted to know more about the history of Lebanon because if you don't know where you come from, then you don't know where you're going," she told Voice of Lebanon radio station. For his part the museum's architect, Valdemar Faddoul, described the exhibition as a "safe that contains an important treasure", deeming it as a place that displays a trove of rare, historical valuables. Faddoul explained that the museum was designed in accordance with international standards, in terms of lighting and high technology, noting that it also provides accessibility to people with disabilities and pregnant women.

Najarian Says 'Martyrs Day' Commemoration Is a Duty to Honor Wartime Heroes Friday 12th April 2019/Kataeb's Secretary-General Nazar Najarian said that the party has decided this year to mark Lebanon's Civil War anniversary by paying a tribute to the thousands of martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the country, stressing that it is a duty to commemorate them for their steadfastness had preserved Lebanon at the worst time of its history. "Hadn't it been for the sacrifices of more than 6,000 martyrs, we would not have still been present here," Najarian told the Kataeb website. "Despite all the problems and hardships we are experiencing today, we still at least have a nation." Najarian stressed that resistance is a continuous action and not just a transient phase, adding that it is still needed today given that the country's sovereignty is still flawed and incomplete. "The Lebanese are asked to keep on struggling for a full and absolute sovereignty," he said. The Kataeb official affirmed that the party will not relinquish its national role no matter what, stressing that it is the right time for it to fulfill its duties towards the nation with full courage and resilience just like it did during wartime.

Possible US Sanctions Against Non-Shiite Hezbollah Allies
Mohamed Choucair/Asharq Al-Awsat/April 12/19
Several Lebanese parties, including Hezbollah rivals, have downplayed hints that the US would impose sanctions on Speaker Nabih Berri, who is an ally of the Shiite party.
A number of ministers and deputies confirmed that during his visit to Beirut last month, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo frankly told Lebanese officials that America will not tolerate individuals who collaborate with Hezbollah.
Pompeo hinted that US sanctions on Hezbollah could even involve non-Shiite figures if there was evidence on their involvement with the party, the ministers and MPs told Asharq Al-Awsat. The Lebanese politicians explained that the US did not place a veto on the appointment of Hezbollah-affiliated Jamil Jabak as health minister in the government of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, but it warned against any attempts by the party to use the cabinet portfolio to buy Iran-made medication. Moreover, they said that Washington does not seem in a hurry to place sanctions on Berri without previous notice, adding that MP Yassin Jaber, who is a member of the speaker’s parliamentary bloc is currently in the US with Berri’s adviser, Ali Hamdan. “Washington has no interest in issuing sanctions against Berri, a step that would surely lead to the boycott of a principle component of the Shiite sect in Lebanon,” the ministers and deputies said. Some observers believe that the US intimidation against Berri aims to place pressure on the Speaker to accept the demarcation of the Lebanese-Israeli maritime borders based on the Hoff line, which calls for Lebanon to acquire 550 square kilometers of a disputed triangular area, and consider the rest as part of Israeli territorial waters.

Lebanon's Aoun Refuses to Join Any Mechanism Involving Israel
Beirut - Nazeer Rida/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 12 April, 2019/Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun affirmed his country’s right to extract oil and gas within its exclusive economic zone, stressing the refusal to join any forum or cooperation mechanism in which Israel participates, especially the East Mediterranean Gas Forum. Seven Mediterranean countries, including Cyprus, Egypt and Israel, agreed earlier this year to launch the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum, to be based in Cairo, aimed at establishing a regional gas market that serves the interests of the members. Speaking at a press conference with his Greek counterpart, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, after talks at Baabda Palace, Aoun welcomed the meeting of the tripartite summit between Lebanon, Greece and Cyprus, which will be hosted by Cyprus, to consolidate various aspects of joint cooperation. Gas exploration in the eastern Mediterranean is raising hopes about an economic transition that could consolidate partnerships in the region, but at the same time is causing concerns over potential tension over disputed territorial waters, such as the case between Lebanon and Israel. For his part, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, underlined the need for a tripartite meeting between Greece, Lebanon and Cyprus to discuss the cooperation mechanism of oil exploration. Following his meeting with the Greek president on Thursday, Berri said: “We discussed many issues, especially those concerning maritime borders and the special relations that must continue between the three countries,” he said. Lebanon’s top officials, including Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, held a series of meetings on Thursday with the Greek President and Cypriot Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides. Talks focused on the means to deter possible conflicts that could prevent the exploration of energy in additional maritime areas in the Mediterranean. The meetings come a week after Lebanon launched the second licensing cycle for oil exploration in Lebanese waters, in five blocks, three of which are adjacent to the Cypriot waters

Carlos Ghosn’s Detention Extended Until April 22
Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 12 April, 2019/The Tokyo District Court on Friday ruled that Carlos Ghosn will remain in detention until April 22, as prosecutors grill the former Nissan boss over allegations of financial misconduct. Ghosn, who is a French, Lebanese and Brazilian citizen, will be held in custody at a detention center in Tokyo until then, whereupon authorities will either have to press formal charges, release him or re-arrest him if they feel he has other accusations to answer. Prosecutors are looking into allegations that the 65-year-old siphoned off some $5 million from funds allegedly transferred from Nissan to a dealership abroad, and spent the money on a luxury superyacht. Ghosn has not been formally charged over these allegations. But the tycoon does already face three separate charges. Two of these relate to millions of dollars in salary believed to have been concealed from shareholders. The third charge is that he sought to shift personal investment losses to company books. Ghosn denies all allegations and lashed out in a video message -- shown on April 9 -- at what he termed a "plot" by "backstabbing" Nissan executives scared of closer integration with French partner firm Renault. His wife Carole has increasingly become a key figure in the case and was questioned by authorities on Thursday. Ghosn's defense team has launched a public and fierce battle against Tokyo prosecutors, calling the latest arrest "illegal" in documents seen by Reuters.

Hariri in Tripoli Before By-Elections, Says 20% of CEDRE Grants for North
Naharnet/April 12/19/On the eve of Sunday’s parliamentary by-elections, Prime Minister Saad Hariri visited Tripoli on Friday accompanied by former minister Ghattas Khoury in a show of support for al-Mustaqbal Movement candidate Dima Jamali. Hariri first visited the Safadi Foundation where he was received by former Minister Mohammed Safadi.The PM is expected to hold popular meetings aimed at encouraging people to vote massively in Sunday’s elections. He held a meeting attended by many Tripoli figures, among whom the president of the municipality, Ahmed Kamareddine, the president of the municipality of Mina, Abdel Kader Alameddine, and candidate Dima Jamali. In remarks he made to reporters after the meeting, Hariri threw support behind Jamali urging citizens to vote for her, saying “Tripoli needs people like her.”By-elections will be held in Tripoli on Sunday to elect a Sunni MP. The seat became vacant when the Constitutional Council annulled the parliamentary membership of Jamali after an appeal submitted by rival Taha Naji, who ran on the electoral list of MP Faisal Karameh in May 2018 elections. On the support expected for the northern city from the loans and grants allocated for Lebanon at the CEDRE conference, Hariri assured that “Tripoli and north Lebanon have a share of more than 20%.”

Hariri and Rifi express their solidarity and their support for the state
Fri 12 Apr 2019/NNA - The President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri visited this afternoon Former Minister, Major General Ashraf Rifi, in Tripoli.
At the beginning of the meeting, Rifi said: “Welcome to Tripoli and to your home, the brothers remain brothers and blood is thicker than water. We are beside you. The challenges at this stage are great, both at the regional and local levels, and you are not envied for the situation you are in. Locally, there is a statelet trying to control the state. There are also repercussions for corruption, out passing law and trying to turn the state into a failed one. There is no doubt that you bear a lot, but be sure that there are men in every sense of the word standing by you to pass this stage, and hopefully we will overcome it together. The presence of the statelet is like cancer, which is the main disease that produces side effects if it is not treated, such as the corruption we see in the country.” He added: “You are very keen on preparing the budget, reducing the deficit and passing the electricity project. On the other hand, all of us know that one political team has put its hand on the Energy Ministry for ten years, and in fact gave us nothing but words, while your presence gives us hope that things will be normal despite all the difficulties. I assure you that we are by your side and this northern region, which is the main line of defense of the sovereignty of the country, tells you that it is by your side and that it will make great sacrifices to help the country cross from the statelet to the state. We do not recognize any illegitimate weapon. We recognize the weapons of the Lebanese state, the Lebanese army, the internal security forces and the official armed forces. We live a very unusual situation, and rare are the countries that have a statelet that is sometimes stronger than the state. We must continue working with you to eliminate the existence of the statelet and rise as one state. Our coexistence is sacred. We must gather around our political authority, our religious authority, and our national references, to establish the state.”
For his part, Hariri said: “Ashraf has always been frank. As Ashraf said “blood is thicker than water.” We walked a long path together, we may have differed at some point, but eventually we returned to our roots and to our cause. We want the country to rise. My presence today is on the occasion of the elections in which Dima Jamali is participating, but development in Tripoli and in all the Lebanese regions must take place. The advantage of what happened during CEDRE is that for the first time there is a balanced development that includes all the Lebanese regions. Some came to tell us that there is no share for Tripoli and the North in the CEDRE projects, but there is actually a share of these projects for all the Lebanese regions. Tripoli's share exceeds 20% of the total CEDRE, in addition to the national projects that benefit every Lebanese, whether in the north, the south, the Bekaa, Beirut or Kesrouan.
If we set up an electricity plant in any region, for example, in Salaata, Zahrani or Jiyeh, all the Lebanese would benefit from it in all regions. We have a project to end the economic crisis that is ravaging the country, but that does not mean that we are in a worrying situation.
What is reassuring is that all the political forces today agree on the need to carry out reforms and fight corruption, and more importantly, to stop the squander that should not be present in the new budget.There are still some problems here and there, but we ended the divisions that have been taking place, and we are moving forward to improve the economy.”He added: “A lot has been said about the general amnesty, and to emphasize this issue, I insisted to include it in the ministerial statement so that no one questions the matter. We obtained parliament’s confidence on the basis of this statement. The amnesty will happen. Some people speak without knowing the truth about who these Islamist detainees are, knowing that they have been unjustly imprisoned for five or ten years without being interrogated or tried. We will work on the amnesty and all political forces are convinced that injustice has been inflicted on them.
We will focus our work on all of Lebanon, especially Tripoli and the North, as well as Baalbek, Hermel and the Bekaa. These are forgotten areas but we assure you that all the CEDRE projects and all that we work for day and night in this government, aim to have projects in all Lebanese regions, especially the north. Today there are the projects of the economic zone, the port of Tripoli, the International Fair, Rene Moawad airport, roads, electricity and water.
We approved the electricity plan and now we are working on approving the budget, and then we will approve all the CEDRE projects so we can get funding from the Council of ministers and Parliament. These projects are known and studied and we only have to implement the reforms”.
Hariri added that reform is necessary, and reminded that when Paris II Conference was convened and collected a lot of funds, Rafic Hariri was prevented from carrying out the necessary reforms, adding: “We reached where we are today because we did not make the necessary reforms, nor develop our political system or update the laws dating back to the 1950s and 1960s. Today there is a technology that did not exist 20 years ago. We have to provide electricity, roads, technological platforms and laws that facilitate work. I assure you that the young men and women of Tripoli will raise the city much better than the state.”He concluded: “We will continue this path together and our project is clear. We want the state and all of us to be under the banner of this State, in which Martyr Prime Minister Rafic Hariri believed in and for which he was killed. He developed the country when some wanted to take it backward, but we are determined to move forward. We will not forget and we will not forgive, but at the same time, there is the interest of the Lebanese citizen for whom we must work. In the end, I, as the head of the government, am an employee of the Lebanese citizen who pays me my salary. We all have to realize who we are. Those who come to power must serve the people”.Earlier, Hariri had visited Rifi's mother and checked on her health.
Friday prayer
Before that, he performed the Friday prayer at the Salam Mosque in Tripoli, with Rifi and a number of MPs and citizens. This mosque had been severely damaged in a terrorist attack in August 2013 that also targeted al-Taqka mosque and killed dozens.

Kanaan Meets Billingslea: No New Sanctions on Lebanese Officials
Naharnet/April 12/19/Head of the Finance and Budget Committee MP Ibrahim Kanaan assured from Washington after meeting with Marshall Billingslea, the U.S. Treasury’s assistant secretary on terror financing, that “no new sanctions on Lebanese officials,” the National News Agency reported on Friday. “There are no new sanctions slapped at Lebanese officials. Lebanon’s stability is a priority,” NNA quoted Kanaan as saying after the meeting. Kanaan and a Lebanese delegation has been in Washington since last week to meet with US officials at the invitation of the World Bank and to participate in a financial and economic conference. Kanaan and head of the Foreign affairs Parliamentary Committee MP Yassin Jaber and Adviser to Parliament Speaker Ali Hamdan held several meetings in Washington, the latest was with Billingslea.

Jabaq to 'Visit' Washington: International Organizations Recognized I Don’t Belong to Hizbullah

Naharnet/April 12/19/Health Minister Jamil Jabaq asserted that international organizations and donors have realized through his work since taking office, that he does not belong to Hizbullah although the party called him to participate in the government, the Kuwaiti al-Rai newspaper reported on Friday. “The health ministry is a ministry responsible for providing services and its minister is not affiliated to any political party,” Jabaq told the daily in an interview. He added: “This has encouraged the development of relations with the European International Group and the World Bank which provided Lebanon with a soft loan worth $150 million and met with me personally about three times. We have developed a strategic plan to implement the terms of the contract and I will have a visit to the World Bank in Washington soon.” Jabaq fills one of three Cabinet seats allocated for Hizbullah party which is subject to US sanctions. This is the first time that Hizbullah allocates the health portfolio which has one of the largest budgets in Lebanon’s government. On the other hand, Jabaq revealed in his interview, his first with a media outlet since he took office, the fact that he was referred to as the personal physician of Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. “I wish I am,” he said, noting that individuals very close to Nasrallah visit him as physician.

Rahi Says His Meeting with Aoun Was 'Reassuring'
Naharnet/April 12/19/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi said “things are turning for the better” in the country and that his talks with President Michel are very “reassuring.”“Things are turning for the better and we must all cooperate with each other. What I heard from the President was very reassuring,” said Rahi after meeting Aoun at the Presidential Palace. Referring to the electricity plan approved after years of wrangling between parties, Rahi said: “I congratulated the President on the approval of the plan and he also assured us that the state budget will be approved next week.”
On the austerity measures adopted by the government, the Patriarch said: “Austerity must not mean stripping people of their rights. It means an end to squandering, and guidance to spending,”noting that the fight against corruption has started. On the file of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Rahi said that Aoun and the Russian President Vladimir Putin are “in accordance over their repatriation.”

Berri meets Maronite League delegation, US Congress members
Fri 12 Apr 2019/NNA - House Speaker, Nabih Berri, on Friday afternoon met with a delegation of the executive board of the Maronite League, led by League's head, former MP Neamatallah Abi Nasr. Speaking in the wake of the meeting, Abi Nasr reiterated the Maronite League's national constants and its trust in the Lebanese parliamentary democratic system. Abi Nasr recapped the League's constant objectives, including its advocacy of all sorts of human rights in Lebanon, freedom of expression and public and media liberties. Abi Nasr also underlined the paramount importance of dialogue as the proper means to preserve Lebanon's stability, unity, sovereignty and independence. The former Lawmaker also hailed Speaker Berri's national role in terms of consecrating moderation and openness. On the other hand, Speaker Berri welcomed a delegation of the US Congress.
Berri also met with General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim, with whom he discussed the general security situation.

Latest LCCC English Miscellaneous Reports & News published on April 12-13/19
Reports: Trump to Announce ‘Deal of the Century’ after Israeli Government Formation

Tel Aviv - Washington - Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 12 April, 2019/The US plans to announce its long-awaited ‘Deal of the Century’ after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu forms a new government at the end of May or early June, according to political sources in Tel Aviv. US President Donald Trump's full plan will be proposed and handed out to the Arab and Israeli parties simultaneously, based on leaks from Washington to right-wing political circles in Israel. Only a few people have apparently had regular access to an input to the plan: Trump, his senior advisers Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Kushner’s aide Avi Berkowitz. Sources added that the deal seems to talk about a Palestinian state of limited sovereignty on 90 percent of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Some land captured by Israel in 1948 can be added to it. Further, Israeli forces will be deployed in critical zones in the West Bank. The deal also includes an article that rejects to recognize the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland. It also offers to compensate Arab countries that agree to approve their presence. For example, refugees in Jordan are granted the nationality and the country receives USD40 billion to provide them land and housing. Daniella Weiss, a leader in the far-right (partners to Netanyahu), said that a plan of an additional 1.5 million Jewish citizens will be proposed before the new government. "The Likud and the right have succeeded and now they have to get to work and expand the entire area,” Weiss added. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo revealed on Wednesday that the Trump administration will soon announce its ‘Deal of the Century’. However, he abstained from answering whether the administration endorses the two-state solution. US Vice President Mike Pence, Pompeo and White House national security adviser John Bolton are all kept up to date on the peace plan, but have kept a hands-off approach to it, in line with Kushner’s request, two officials said. Dennis Ross, a longtime Middle East envoy and now a distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said the US team still has “a lot of work to do to make sure that Arab leaders aren’t surprised by what’s going to be presented, and they need to see it in writing, not verbally.”

Iran’s Heavy Floods Deepen Ahvaz’s Adversity

London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 12 April, 2019/Inhabitants of Arab cities southwestern Iran are facing more hardships after Karun and Karkheh rivers have for the first time joined each other near Ahvaz and are now flowing towards the oil-rich city. Floods have displaced some 500,000 people from Ahvaz, days after Coordinating Deputy of Iran’s Army Habibollah Sayyari confirmed to the state TV that 200,000 areas had to be evacuated, IRNA reported. Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said 400,000 people were threatened by the floods, according to IRNA. While the Iranian Red Crescent Center said it had provided aid to 138,297 people affected by the floods. “The most important step in the current situation is the management of the flowing water, which has shifted towards the city of Ahvaz,” Fazli said while touring areas affected by floods in Ahvaz. IRNA quoted eyewitnesses as saying that displaced people are suffering a shortage of primary resources. Representative of the Iranian Supreme Leader and member of the Assembly of Experts Mohsen Haidari demanded to declare Ahvaz province in a state of crisis, wondering about the government's reluctance to announce it. Ahvaz governor, for his part, told Iranian state TV that authorities are trying to distort Karun River’s course after floods from Karkheh River have reached it. Further districts of Ahvaz were put on flood alert, the provincial governor said, as more torrential rain was forecast in coming days. “The current situation should be considered due to dam flooding or mismanagement,” said another member of the Assembly of Experts, Abbas Kaabi, stressing the need to “take psychological measures to prevent people from being frustrated.” Notably, Iranian authorities have been rushing for three decades to build dams on Iran's largest river, which flows from the Zagros Mountains, west of the country, and passes through Ahvaz, a natural stretch of southern Iraqi territories. They have been facing charges from local residents about preventing water from flowing into the southern part of Hawizeh Marshes, where Iranian oil stretches between 250 and 350 meters in the Azadegan oil field. People fleeing affected villages towards the hills, sand dunes and forests are facing dire conditions, an activist among the popular relief teams in Ahvaz told Asharq Al-Awsat. According to the activist, the displaced face serious risks due to lack of food and aid, with the wide spread of toxic reptiles.

Sudan's military council chief Ibn Auf resigns day after overthrowing Omar Al-Bashir
AFP/April 12, 2019/CAIRO, KHARTOUM: Sudan’s Defense Minister Awad Ibn Auf said on Friday that he is stepping down as head of the country’s transitional military council, a day after former President Omar Al-Bashir was overthrown in a coup. Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan will be the new head of the transitional military council, Ibn Auf said in a speech broadcast on state television on Friday. Ibn Auf said: “I, the head of the military council, announce I am giving up the post.” He said he took the decision to preserve unity of the armed forces. Tens of thousands of Sudanese protesters have been rallying in front of the military headquarters in Khartoum, against the military takeover of power after ousting Al-Bashir on Thursday. The head of the military council’s political committee, Gen. Omar Zein Abedeen, earlier said the council would hold a dialogue with political entities. The council also announced that it would not extradite Al-Bashir to face accusations of genocide at the international Criminal Court. Instead he might go on trial in Sudan. Friday’s announcement of a future civilian government by Zein Abedeen, appeared aimed at reassuring mistrustful demonstrators who went back into the streets to warn against imposing army rule after Al-Bashir’s ouster. Separately, Zein Abedeen told diplomats Al-Bashir’s toppling after 30 years in power was “not a military coup.” The council also appealed for aid to tackle the country’s economic crisis. Addressing the UN Security Council on Friday, Sudan’s envoy Yasir Abdelsalam said the two-year transition period to civilian rule could be shortened. Abdelsalam offered assurances that the military council would support an inclusive civilian-led government. “The (military) council will be the guarantor of a civilian government to be formed in collaboration with political forces and stakeholders. No party will be excluded,” said Abdelsalam. The Security Council was meeting to discuss the situation in Abyei, a territory disputed by Sudan and South Sudan. Zein Abedeen stressed that the military takeover had no political or economic agenda. But the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) restated its demand for power to be handed immediately to “a transitional civilian government.”Worshippers packed the streets around the Defense Ministry for Friday prayers, witnesses said, heeding a call by the SPA to challenge the military council. “We do not reject a military council in principle, but we reject these people because they are from Bashir’s regime,” said Abdelhamid Ahmed, a 24-year-old doctor at the sit-in. “We don’t want Ibn Auf, we don’t want any military government,” said one protester.

Profile: Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf…Sudan’s Intelligence, Security Figure
London – Mustapha Seri/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 12 April, 2019/Sudanese Defence Minister Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf, the man behind ex-president Omar al-Bashir step-down from the rule and at the helm of country’s transitional government, was born in the 50s in a rural north Sudan village and is a graduated cadet from the Military Academy in Khartoum. Before going on to hold a teaching position at the Command & Staff College, he was trained in Egypt. Auf, after joining the army, became an artillery chief. He was later Head of Military Intelligence, and also Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
After his whopping success as chair of the security committee of Eritrean-Sudanese negotiations, Auf was awarded the post of Director of Crisis Management at the Foreign Ministry and the title of Ambassador after retiring from the army in 2010. Growing his diplomatic career, Auf was appointed Consul General of Sudan in Egypt and then represented his country as Ambassador to the Sultanate of Oman. But it wasn’t long before Auf resumed a role as an army man--a presidential decree appointed the top brass as defense minister in August 2015. Climbing further up the ladder of governance, Auf was assigned to the vice president post, replacing former vice president Bakri Hassan Saleh, all while retaining his post as defense minister. Auf’s military legacy is credited for revamping the military establishment’s artillery and making the Sudan home to Africa’s longest-reaching missile system. He also served as Director of the General Secretariat of the Sudanese Socialist Union, the ruling party in the regime of former President Gaafar Nimeiry (1969-1985) and then moved to work as Director of the Foreign Intelligence Service. Auf’s name gained notoriety when a UN fact-finding commission found him complicit in the 2003 Darfur war crimes, which cost the lives of more than 300,000 people and left the region riddled in untold poverty. It is worth mentioning that Auf was on a May 2007 list of individuals sanctioned by the United States due to his alleged role as a liaison between the Sudanese government and the Janjaweed-staged genocide in the Darfur War.

Israel’s moonshot failed to touch down in final seconds
Debka File/April 12/19
Beresheet, the privately-funded SpaceI-IAE moon project successfully completed all its assigned maneuvers but failed to touch down on the moon. During its six-week voyage, the mooncraft broke out of earth’s orbit to circle the moon in ever decreasing elliptical cycles, reducing speed until it was minutes away from landing on the moon on Thursday night, April 11. The lander had been operating autonomously according to instructions fed into its computer in advance. Then, suddenly, while orbiting the moon at 6,000km/h, shortly before making its schedule autonomous descent, the main engine developed a fault and contact was lost with the control room at Israeli Aerospace Industries. Instead of making a soft landing, Beresheet went into free fall 25km above the surface and 800km from the landing site. The project, which if successful, would have made Israel the fourth country to land a spacecraft on the moon after the US, Russia and China, took eight years of preparation and an investment of $100m in private funds and donations. Israel will have to settle for being the seventh country in the world to attempt a moon landing and try again.

Tajik ISIS Member: Many Foreign Militants Jailed or Killed
Rmeilan (Syria) - Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 12 April, 2019/A Tajik man who joined ISIS said many foreigners who enlisted with the group in Iraq and Syria were jailed or killed for trying to leave. The 28-year-old, who once drove a taxi in Moscow, said he handed himself over to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US-backed group, from ISIS’ last holdout of Baghouz in eastern Syria last month after years of trying to escape. SDF officials monitored and recorded a Reuters interview with the man, Abdul Ahad Rustam Nazarov, at an SDF center in Rmeilan in Syria. Reuters could not verify his account. Tajikistan has offered amnesty to those who quit ISIS and return home, provided they've committed no other crimes. Nazarov says he never fought for ISIS. Parts of his account about his life were inconsistent, although other parts matched what others have said about ISIS, including its strict judicial system and its eventual defeat. "I was jailed three times for trying to leave," Nazarov said. "I wanted to come and see ISIS for myself.”Nazarov said most foreign men who traveled to Syria were immediately taken to Mosul in Iraq for military training. Some refused and were punished, he said, describing a special ISIS judicial section that dealt with those trying to flee or refusing to pledge allegiance. "Some friends were executed ... because they were not ready to commit to ISIS," he said. Nazarov said he tried more than once to escape to Turkey across the Syrian border. He said he made contact with authorities in Tajikistan to arrange for his own surrender. Tajik interior ministry and state security officials, speaking anonymously because they were not authorized to comment, said neither body had received requests from Nazarov. Thousands of men from Central Asian are estimated to have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS since 2014, when it declared its so-called “caliphate.” The terrorist group was driven from all territory it controlled in Iraq in 2017 and from its final redoubt of Baghouz in eastern Syria last month. Some foreigners including Central Asians surrendered but most were killed, Nazarov said. "There were experienced snipers in ISIS ranks who were from Chechnya. Most of them died in battle, especially in Mosul, Baiji and Raqqa," he said. Nazarov said ISIS militants tried to stop men surrendering to the SDF in Baghouz, locking them in cars and firing at them when they eventually fled. The US-backed campaign to drive ISIS out of Iraq and Syria involved tough battles with hardened militants, especially in Mosul and Raqqa. Nazarov said he once met Gulmurod Khalimov, a Tajik military commander who joined ISIS, in an internet cafe in Mosul frequented by militants. He believes Khalimov was killed fighting. Nazarov said he wanted to be reunited with his pregnant wife, a Chechen now in al-Hol camp in Syria, where 60,000 people who fled Baghouz live. "My other two children starved in Baghouz," he said.

Algeria: Anger Mounts at Army, Interim Leader
Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 12 April, 2019/Riot police pulled back from positions in Algeria's capital as protesters massed in an iconic square, demanding the departure of the country's interim leadership in the first Friday demonstrations since the announcement of presidential elections to succeed ousted leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika. A larger-than-usual police deployment met protesters who converged on Algiers, lining boulevards and checking all vehicles entering the city. Skirmishes broke out at the outset of the protest near the landmark main post office. Apparently wanting to avoid an escalation of violence, rows of riot police then suddenly started pulling back from the area, lowering their face shields and truncheons. The crowd broke out in applause as police vans drove away, shouting "The police with the people!"Protest organizers encouraged Algerians to come out in Algiers and other cities to show that Bouteflika’s departure last week is not enough, that they want wholesale political change. Anger is also mounting at military chief Gen. Ahmed Gaid Salah, who was instrumental in Bouteflika's departure after a two-decade rule but then threw his support behind the interim president, Abdelkader Bensalah, who is seen as part of the old regime. Presidential elections are to be held on July 4, Bensalah's office announced on Wednesday, just hours after he pledged "transparent" polls. The new date was set a day after Bensalah assumed office for a 90-day period, as stipulated by the constitution but much to the ire of demonstrators. Although Bensalah is barred under the constitution from running in the upcoming election, protesters have nonetheless pushed for the close Bouteflika ally to step down. "Bensalah, get out!" the protesters shouted on Friday, as a river of people adorned in green-white-red Algerian flags wove through the city. The demonstrators argue that elections cannot be free and fair if they are held under the same judicial framework and institutions as those of the Bouteflika regime.

Algeria protests keep up pressure on regime
AFP/April 12, 2019/ ALGIERS: Algerian protesters gathered for the first Friday protests since the announcement of presidential elections to succeed ousted leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika fearing a ploy by the ruling system to stay in power. Social media, the source of mass protests which led to the end of Bouteflika’s two-decade rule, have echoed with calls for an eighth week of demonstrations, this time under the slogan of “They will all leave.”“On Friday, we’ll show them what it means when we cry out, ‘Go away!’” said Walid, 22, near the principal protest site outside the landmark main post office in central Algiers. Presidential elections are to be held on July 4, interim leader Abdelkader Bensalah’s office announced on Wednesday, just hours after he pledged “transparent” polls. The new date was set a day after Bensalah assumed office for a 90-day period, as stipulated by the constitution but much to the ire of demonstrators. The appointment of upper house speaker Bensalah as Algeria’s first new president in 20 years has failed to meet the demands of demonstrators. Although 77-year-old Bensalah is barred under the constitution from running in the upcoming election, protesters have nonetheless pushed for the close Bouteflika ally to step down. Students and magistrates have called for renewed rallies and marches in the capital and other cities across the North African country. “I’m not going to vote. What for?” asked Walid. For the first time since the anti-Bouteflika protest movement was launched in mid-February, police vehicles and forces have blocked off access to the post office.But young protesters were undeterred. “We will be out in large numbers, very large. They don’t know what’s coming. They won’t be able to do anything against us,” said Yassine, 23. For Mahrez Bouich, a philosophy professor at the University of Bejaia, east of Algiers, “the July 4 election has already been rejected by the people, which also refuses Bensalah’s nomination.” The demonstrators argue that elections cannot be free and fair if they are held under the same judicial framework and institutions as that of the Bouteflika regime.
Bensalah has received the implicit support of the army whose chief General Ahmed Gaid Salah withdrew his backing for Bouteflika, prompting his resignation on April 2. But the general has stood up for the defense of Algeria’s institutions and warned against the “unrealistic slogans” of protesters aiming to sweep away the whole ruling system. All eyes are now focused on the turnout on the streets on Friday, the traditional day of protests in Algeria, and whether the authorities will adopt a tougher line and step up security measures.For the first time in the wave of demonstrations which have swept Algiers, police fired tear gas and water cannons on Tuesday to try to disperse a protest by students. But Mohamed Hennad, a political sciences professor at the University of Algiers, said “the balance of forces will favor the street if it’s a large mobilization on Friday” as in past weeks.

Assange Aide Arrested Trying to Leave Ecuador
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 12/19/A collaborator of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was arrested Thursday in Ecuador while trying to flee to Japan, the South American country's interior minister said. Maria Paula Romo did not identify the person but told Sonorama radio he was very close to Assange, who was arrested Thursday in London on a US extradition request after spending seven years in the Ecuadoran embassy there. Channel Teleamazonas identified him as Ola Bini, a software developer focused on privacy, security and cryptography, but did not name its source. Earlier Thursday, the minister had linked the collaborator with alleged attempts to destabilize the government of President Lenin Moreno. He "has been detained simply for investigation purposes," she said, adding he had taken foreign trips with former Ecuadoran foreign minister Ricardo Patino, who gave political asylum to Assange in 2012. "We have sufficient evidence that he was collaborating in attempts to destabilize the government," she said. Romo's announcement followed the arrest of Assange earlier Thursday. British police moved in after Ecuador pulled its asylum for Assange and cancelled his citizenship, granted in 2012. He had been living in the embassy, fearing arrest, but the Ecuadoran government says that Assange "repeatedly violated" the conditions of his protection. The US Justice Department said Assange was being charged with a computer hacking conspiracy relating to his work with former US intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning in March 2010.

Two Killed in Suspected Boko Haram Suicide Attack in Nigeria
Agence France Presse//Naharnet/April 12/19/Two people, including a soldier and a vigilante, were killed when two female suicide bombers detonated their explosives in northeast Nigeria's Borno state, military and militia sources said Friday. The bombers quickly blew themselves up on Thursday in bid to evade arrest when they were stopped by troops and militiamen outside the garrison town of Monguno. "We lost a solider and a civilian vigilante in the explosion which also injured another soldier," a military officer who did not want to be named, told AFP. "Two female suicide bombers were involved in the incident," he added. One of the bombers panicked when they were being questioned and detonated her explosives, killing her while her accomplice "took to the heels", added a militia leader in the town. "The soldiers and the vigilante pursued her and when she realised they were closing in on her she exploded, killing a soldier and a civilian JTF (militia)," said the militia, who didn't want to be identified for fear of official sanction. He said another soldier sustained injuries in the incident. Monguno, 135 kilometres north of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, houses a military base and camps for people displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency. The town which lies in the Lake Chad area has been repeatedly attacked by the jihadists who have made several failed attempts to overrun the base. Suicide bombings are the hallmarks of the Boko Haram faction loyal to longtime leader Abubakar Shekau, targeting civilian targets like mosques, markets, schools and displaced camps. Another IS-affiliated faction focuses on attacks on military targets including raids on bases. Boko Haram's decade-long conflict has killed more than 27,000 people and displaced 1.8 million others in the northeast. The violence has spread to neighbouring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, prompting regional military response to fight the Islamist group.

Tunisia Arrests Members of ISIS-Affiliated Terror Cell

Tunis - Al-Mongi al-SouaidaniAsharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 12 April, 2019/Tunisian anti-terrorist security units busted an ISIS-affiliated terrorist cell in the southeastern Medenine region, said Interior Ministry spokesman Sufian al-Zaaq. The ten-member cell was planning to attack security headquarters and government facilities, Zaaq explained, adding that it was in contact with serious and dangerous Tunisian terrorist elements residing in neighboring Libya. They were charged with providing financial assistance to families of the terrorists, who were killed in armed confrontations in Tunisia and abroad. Sources said that these terrorists are part of a larger ISIS-affiliated cell, whose members have been hiding in Tunisia’s western mountains. On March 7, 2016, the town of Ben Guerdane was attacked by terrorists, who had received military training in neighboring Libya. They sought to establish an ISIS “emirate” in the city to extend the group’s control over other Tunisian cities. After days of armed clashes with authorities, military and security forces killed some 55 terrorists. Around 20 people, including civilians and members of the military and security forces, were also killed. The terrorist plot was foiled and it later became known as the Ben Guerdane “epic battle”. Separately, Defense Ministry spokesman Mohamed Zekri said a military unit opened fire on Wednesday evening at suspected terrorists after detecting “suspicious movements” in the western heights of El Kef. After searching the location, forces found a Kalashnikov and ammunition that were left behind by the terrorists before fleeing. They also found a backpack containing various materials and clothes. Zekri said this operation was part of ongoing efforts to crack down on terrorists that have sought refuge in the country’s western region.

Salih: Iraq Will Not Be a Starting Point to Harm its Neighbors

London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 12 April, 2019/Iraqi President Barham Salih reiterated on Thursday his rejection to turn the country into a "starting point" for any action against its neighbors. Salih called for reducing tensions in the Middle East while highlighting the importance of combating terrorism, during a meeting with Iranian Ambassador to Iraq Iraj Masjedi. The president stressed that "Iraq would not accept to be a starting point for any action that would harm its neighbors or strain the regional situation," underlining the need for mitigating tensions in the already troubled region. He also underpinned the importance paid by Iraq to reinforce bilateral ties with Iran, out of respect to social and cultural ties, and economic and security interests. Commenting on his discussions with Iraqi officials on Thursday, Masjedi told reporters that he took the opportunity to convey Tehran's stance on Washington's "unwise" and "stupid" move against the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC). Besides Salih, Masjedi also met with leader of Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq Ammar Hakim and ex-president Fuad Masum. "It was necessary for us to let the Iraqi side and our friends know about our views and stance as well as our expectation from them," the diplomat said. Iran is "surprised that the fate of a country like the United States has fallen into the hands of an individual who is committed to no policies or regulations." Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has called on Iraq to make sure that US forces leave the country as soon as possible. In response, Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Othman al-Ghanemi said US troops would stay in Iraq, but he reassured the Iranian side that their presence is part of training Iraqi forces. There is no accurate data on the economic activity of IRGC in Iraq but Abdullah Abdullahi, former Commander of Khatam al-Anbiya (the economic arm of IRGC), said during a meeting with Khamenei in Sep. 2016 that the Guards’ investment in Iraq, especially in Najaf, exceeds USD1 billion. Back then, Abdullahi revealed IRGC’s intention to implement 30 projects in Iraq worth more than USD2 billion. The IRGC founded Khatam al-Anbiya Construction Headquarter in 1988 and its role increased during the presidency of former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. It has up to 800 active firms in the Iranian economy, around 135,000 full-time workers and 500,000 contract workers.

Saudi Arabia, UAE Announce Initiative to Help Iran Flood Victims

Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 12 April, 2019/Saudi Red Crescent Authority and Emirates Red Crescent announced on Friday a joint initiative to ease the suffering of Iranian civilians affected by the devastating floods affecting their country. In a joint statement, they said that the initiative stems from humanitarian solidarity and the Islamic bonds that bind them to the people of Iran.The two authorities are currently studying the necessary mechanisms to activate the initiative and positively contribute in containing the disaster.

Turkish minister, French lawmaker clash over Armenia 'genocide' day
AFP/Fri 12 Apr 2019/NNA - Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu clashed Friday with a French lawmaker over the commemoration of the "Armenian genocide" in a heated exchange that prompted the French delegation to walk out. French President Emmanuel Macron in February announced France would hold a national day on April 24 to commemorate the "Armenian genocide," drawing criticism from Ankara.. During a meeting of the NATO parliamentary assembly in Antalya in southern Turkey on Friday, Turkish parliament chief Mustafa Sentop lashed out at France's decree to establish the commemorative day, accusing Paris of "manipulating history." He also referenced massacres committed in Algeria when it was still a French colony and in Rwanda whose government accuses Paris of being complicit in the 1994 slaughter there. Attending the meeting, French lawmaker Sonia Krimi, from Macron's LREM party, criticised Turkish comments saying she was shocked. But that provoked a sharp response from Cavusoglu. "In terms of genocide and history, France is the last country to be giving lectures to Turkey, and we have not forgotten what happened in Rwanda and Algeria," the minister said. "You can keep trying to look down on us, but we will keep putting you in your place." Krimi and the French delegation left the room in protest over Cavusoglu's remarks. "When the arrogant @MevlutCavusolgu gives you lessons on arrogance and politeness, arrogantly and without any respect," she wrote on Twitter referring to the incident. Turkey's presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin hit back posting on Twitter a story from state news agency Anadolu about "dark stains in French history." "Neither their colonial past nor their self-centred present guarantees their moral superiority," he wrote.--AFP

Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 12-13/19
Iran: The Ventriloquist Dummy’s New Lexicon
Amir Taheri/Asharq Al-Awsat/April 12/19
Though it is too early to assess the impact of President Donald Trump’s decision to harden US policy towards the Islamic Republic in Iran one thing is already clear. Trump’s rhetoric and the reactivation of sanctions suspended by President Barack Obama, plus new measures against the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps(IRGC) are making it harder for the leadership in Tehran to pursue its forked-tongue diplomacy designed to hoodwink bleeding heart liberals in the West while fanning the fires of hatred in the global anti-West constituency. The ventriloquist running that diplomacy used loudmouths like Dr. Hassan Abbasi (aka Kissinger of Islam) to peddle a pseudo-Islamicized version of the anti-American narrative created by people like Noam Chomsky and Louis Farrakhan in the United States and Jean-Luc Melenchon and Marine Le Pen in France. At the other end of the spectrum, the ventriloquist used people like Muhammad Javad Zarif to deceive East Coast liberals and Europe’s “soft” anti-Americans. Zarif was the ideal dummy to play the role. Having spent nearly half of his life in the United States, part of it as a student in a provincial college in the Wild West, he has mastered the vocabulary to reassure audiences in the Council on Foreign Relations branches from New York to Peoria, if such a place exists. He knows how to use American clichés such as “give-and-take”, “win-win” “the roadmap” and “dialogue of civilizations”, whatever that means.
In his long stint at the Islamic delegation at the United Nations in New York, he also learned how to use ghostwriters to pen op-eds designed to hoodwink the Americans.
For many years, he shortened his first name to Javad, thinking that Muhammad would be too provocative. He also signed himself “Ambassador of Iran”, no mention of the Islamic Republic, and tried to sound as sweet and reasonable as a Swedish foreign minister discussing the Nobel Peace Prize. Obama and his side-kicks John Kerry and Joe Biden helped the son of the carpet merchant from Isfahan to sell his bill of goods. Trump’s entry into that idyllic scene was as comforting as a bull piercing his way into a china shop. The hapless dummy’s script began to sound like the soured text of a fading stand-up comic.
The ventriloquist tried to concoct a new text centered on the illusion that the European Union will rein in the Trumpian bull and allow the Islamic Republic to pursue its shenanigans at no cost to itself. In every speech, he used the word “Europe” as a talisman while heavily courting Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign affairs tsarina who has been nursed on the bitter milk of anti-Americanism.
Last week, however, the penny dropped as Zarif realized that even if the EU could forge a coherent foreign policy it could not defy the United States solely to help the mullahs “export” their revolution through murder and mayhem. A slanted indication came in the communique of the G7 ministerial meeting in Dinard, France, in preparation for the summit to be hosted by President Emmanuel Macron in August. Put briefly, the communique endorsed the 12-point desiderata fixed by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo without naming him. Worse still from Tehran’s point of view, the communique breathed some life back into United Nations’ resolutions concerning Tehran’s missile project and violent involvements in other countries. The dummy quickly tried to readjust his text. In a series of tweets and settlements, Zarif more than implied that he had shed his European illusions.
“We no longer can count on Europeans,” he lamented. He also warned the EU of unspecified “retaliation”. Abandoning the New York lexicon of black-tie liberalism, he started using the vocabulary of fire and brimstone in the tradition of the Akhund of Swat, Zarraq Khan, and the “Mad” Mullah Hassan, not to mention our own “Imam” Khomeini.
But don’t’ rush to congratulates Zarif for abandoning his European illusion. Minutes after he had done so he adopted a fresh illusion: creating a new anti-West coalition with China, Russia, Turkey, and Iraq. Noting that Iran’s exports to Iraq were 10 times more than to European Union, he also boasted that China and Russia would “always help us” while Turkey is supposedly abandoning Washington to get closer to Tehran. Zarif’s hare-brained analysis would be hilarious had it not been dangerous for Iran’s national interests and security. Iraq, annually, imports around $10 billion from Iran, including $2 billion in electricity and gas which it hasn’t paid for yet. It also profits from the collapse of the Iranian currency by importing goods that Iran itself buys from Europe and China at an artificially low parity fixed by the government for the US dollar. That crazy system has also led to massive shortages in Iran itself, driving prices of such things as onions and potatoes through the roof. (Last week government banned all exports of those items.) In what resembles a fire-sale, Iran has also increased its exports to Turkey and Afghanistan.
China and Russia are likely to back the mullahs in Tehran with their UN vetoes if necessary. But they are careful not to let the mullahs get too big for their slippers. China still refuses to release $22 billion in Iran’s frozen assets, insisting that Iran buys Chinese goods instead. Beijing is also sore that Tehran has teamed up within India to develop an Indian Ocean trade “hub” to rival the one that China is building in Gwadar, Pakistan. As for Russia, it has imposed the Caspian Convention it dictated but vetoes Iran’s membership in the Euro-Asian “economic family” and the Shanghai Group. Russia’s interest is keeping Iran out of the international gas market, thus holding Moscow’ Damocles Sword above the EU’s head.
As for Turkey, its chief interest in the Islamic Republic is to secure support for killing Kurds, something that runs counter to Iran’s own national interests. Zarif’s first illusion was the “fresh start” with Obama. He then switched to the Mogherini illusion. Now he is getting high on a new “coalition” illusion.
Poor guy isn’t all to blame. He is desperately trying to play the diplomat on behalf of a regime that loathes diplomacy. As long as the Islamic Republic believes that it can do whatever it likes without risking any punishment it would make little difference through which dummy the ventriloquist utters his text.

What Happens to Palestinians Who Demand a Better Life?
Khaled Abu Toameh/Gatestone Institute/April 12/2019
Mohammed Safi is reported to have lost his eyesight while being held in a Hamas prison. His crime: participation in demonstrations calling for an end to the economic crisis in the Gaza Strip and protesting new taxes imposed by the Hamas rulers.
"The interrogator hit him in the head from behind three times and told him: 'This is so you won't be able to see at all.'" — Ahmed Safi, Mohammed Safi's brother.
Safi simply sought to communicate that Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are living under a brutal Islamist regime that has offered them nothing but terror -- directed towards Israel and towards themselves. He wanted the world to know that Palestinian leaders deflect the heat on the Palestinian street towards Israel.
Safi chose to speak truth to power and place the misery of the Palestinians in Gaza squarely where it belongs: at the feet of Hamas. He paid dearly for that choice. Meanwhile, Hamas leaders can now claim another "achievement" in their jihad against Israel: they managed to transform a clear-headed and courageous young man into a blind and disabled one.
Mohammed Safi, 27, is the latest victim of Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement that has been controlling the Gaza Strip since 2007.
While voters in Israel were heading to the ballot boxes to elect a new parliament, Safi, who is from the town of Beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip, is reported to have lost his eyesight while being held in a Hamas prison. His crime: participation in demonstrations calling for an end to the economic crisis in the Gaza Strip and protesting new taxes imposed by the Hamas rulers.
The protests -- held under the banner "We Want to Live!" -- were the first anti-Hamas demonstrations of their kind in many years. Thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip took to the streets during the protests and called for solutions to their horrific economic morass, including soaring unemployment and the skyrocketing cost of living.
Safi was among the Palestinians who decided that they had had enough of the brutal and corrupt regime of Hamas. Like most men at his age, he wanted his Hamas leaders to do something to improve their living conditions. They wanted an end to repression and dictatorship. They wanted their leaders to offer them hope instead of sending them to fire rockets at Israel and demonstrate violently at the Gaza-Israel border.
It now seems that Safi will never live literally to see Hamas removed from power. He will not live literally to see an improvement of living conditions and the economy in the Gaza Strip.
According to Safi's family, he is now blind. He lost his eyesight, they say, under torture while being held by Hamas security forces for talking to people gathered on the streets to protest economic hardship. Most of the protesters said they had been brutally assaulted by Hamas security forces. Some complained that Hamas security officers had broken their arms and legs. Even senior Fatah officials such as Atef Abu Seif fell victim to Hamas's violent crackdown on peaceful demonstrators seeking job opportunities and a better life.
The price that Safi paid, however, has probably been the highest. His family says he was detained for interrogation by Hamas security forces at least five times on suspicion of participation in the economic protests in mid-March in the Gaza Strip.
His brother, Ahmed, said that Safi had already suffered from a neurological disease that affected one of his eyes. "When the [Hamas] security services took him away," Ahmed said, "We told them that he's supposed to undergo surgery in one of his eye. The officers ignored us. They didn't care about his health condition. During the interrogation, Safi complained that he wasn't able to see in one eye. In response, the interrogator hit him in the head from behind three times and told him: 'This is so you won't be able to see at all.' My brother is now in hospital after losing his eyesight."
From his hospital bed, where doctors are trying to find ways to restore his eyesight, Safi confirmed that he had warned his interrogator about his health condition, but to no avail. He said: "I only have one request from all those who have a conscience, all those who care: I want to see again. That's all."
A human rights group in the Gaza Strip called the Journalists Forum for Human Rights held the Hamas security forces fully responsible for the tragedy and called for a comprehensive investigation. It also called for holding those responsible to account and denounced the incident as a "human, moral and national crime."Safi's friends and several youth activists from the Gaza Strip who gathered near his hospital bed expressed outrage over the way he was treated during his incarceration by the Hamas security forces.
"Like many Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, Mohammed Safi, who is lying here in Shifa Hospital, doesn't have media organizations to support him," said one of the youth activists, Rami Aman. "He and many Palestinians don't have the support of any organizations. Mohammed is now blind because of the actions of members of Hamas's security forces."
Safi's case serves as a reminder how Palestinians living under the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip are continuing to suffer from repression, corruption and bad government. The Palestinian Authority and Hamas tolerate no criticism. They arrest political opponents almost on a daily basis. They throw them into prison and in many instances subject them to physical and mental torture.
Safi is lucky to be alive, albeit now blind. He could easily have wound up dead. That is what happens to Palestinians who dare to stand up and speak out against their leaders.
This week, Israel held its fifth election since the most "recent" Palestinian election. The last time the Palestinians held an election was in January 2006. Then, it was a parliamentary election that resulted in a Hamas victory. Since then, the leaders of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas have been fighting each other and denying their people the chance to hold a free and fair election. There is no room for democracy or free elections under the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. There is also no room for any voices calling for an improvement of living conditions and job opportunities.
Safi was not even demanding new parliamentary or presidential elections. According to his family and friends, he does not even belong to a political group. He simply sought to communicate that Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are living under a brutal Islamist regime that has offered them nothing but terror -- directed towards Israel and towards themselves. He wanted the world to know that Palestinian leaders deflect the heat on the Palestinian street towards Israel.
Had Safi headed towards the border to hurl bombs and rocks at Israeli soldiers and launch incendiary kites in the context of the Hamas-sponsored "Great March of Return," he would have been hailed as a hero by his Hamas leaders.
Safi simply chose to speak truth to power and place the misery of the Palestinians in Gaza squarely where it belongs: at the feet of Hamas. He paid dearly for that choice. Meanwhile, Hamas leaders can now claim another "achievement" in their jihad against Israel: they managed to transform a clear-headed and courageous young man into a blind and disabled one.
*Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem, is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at Gatestone Institute.
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Opinion/After Netanyahu's Reelection, the Challenge Ahead Will Be No Picnic
Ehud Barak/Haaretz/April 12/19
Only a truly stirring, positive vision coupled with determination will ultimately overcome the unholy alliance of the corrupt and the messianic striving to establish a Jewish apartheid state here.
So what did we get this week? A personal victory for Benjamin Netanyahu, first of all. Barring any surprises, he will again be tasked with forming the government, and for the first time after 23 years in politics, he will do so backed by a party of 35 MKs. As far as the blocs go, the change was minimal, with the number of rival MKs from the three center-left Jewish opposition parties having risen from 40 to 45. Not much of an achievement for Netanyahu there. The second big story is Benny Gantz’s unprecedented accomplishment – in much less than 23 weeks, not years, he went from having zero political experience to being a genuine contender, one who came tantalizingly close to victory with a party that won 35 Knesset seats.
Granted, the ultimate goal of replacing the government was not attained, but despite plenty of missteps – including a failure to grasp the crucial importance of bloc size, leading to an insufficiently broad “merging of forces,” and a campaign that lacked a killer instinct as well as the kind of technical infrastructure needed to win in the social media age – the “camp for change” led by Gantz and Co. still notched quite an impressive achievement. This camp is still searching for the most effective way (hint: stronger, lower, coarser, as much as it takes to win, but within the framework of the law) to contend with Netanyahu’s campaign skills. Yet every defeat can be a good starting point for correction and change. And Gantz’s achievement in this election certainly provides all that is needed to immediately launch a new quest to restore sanity, statesmanship and integrity from the fringes to center-stage.
The masks will be off in Israel’s next government. It will clearly be a more extreme government than its predecessor, with its leader less restrained than ever before and with the likes of Bezalel Smotrich and members of Otzma Yehudit filling positions like justice minister and sitting on the judicial selection committee. The acute test of our already weakened democracy’s fortitude will come at the earliest possible stage. Netanyahu and his partners will immediately launch an assault by introducing bills immunizing the prime minister from prosecution (or some similar ploy) that include a special “override clause” that would block High Court intervention.
This two-pronged move, which may sound merely technical, would amount to a donkey’s burial of the principle of equality before the law and an irreversible neutering of the Supreme Court. We shall all be cloaked in shame if we fail to stop this from happening. If it goes through, we will end up like Poland and Hungary, i.e., a nominal democracy that is really an Erdogan-esque autocracy. As the assault continues, Israel will lose its character, the gatekeepers of law enforcement will be trampled, the free press will either be bought or learn to bend to the authorities’ will, and the basic values of the Israel Defense Forces, along with its leaders’ moral authority, will be severely eroded.
Dissemination of lies, incitement, sowing hatred, hacking phones, installing hidden cameras, wiretapping, slandering opponents and threatening senior officials will continue to be common tactics in Netanyahu’s orbit. We are facing an unholy alliance between Netanyahu and his corrupt cohorts who seek to smash the state’s legal system to save themselves from facing justice, and radical zealots who seek to smash that same system to enable the fulfillment of their vision of “Jewish apartheid.” We cannot let this happen.
Some people close to the prime minister are insisting that the presentation of the Trump peace plan will bring positive change. That Netanyahu, having secured immunity from prosecution and understanding that Israel has no choice but to respond, “yes, but…” to the Trump proposal, will be compelled to part with some of his extremist partners and thus take the preemptive move of adding one component of Kahol Lavan to his government, thereby inching towards the center and possibly shielding himself from criticism to boot.
But we already know that Netanyahu is incapable of making reality-altering decisions. He is all about “sound and fury signifying nothing” to avoid making any substantial decision. But back to the heart of the matter. Netanyahu’s repeat election victory is once again causing the public and press to marvel at his virtuosic, “magical” political skills. I beg to differ here. Netanyahu is without question a very talented and experienced politician, a clever and polished campaigner who is always ready to go as low as necessary to win. But a “magician,” in the sense of someone with supernatural powers, he is not.
Skillful at deception – definitely. When I challenged him 20 years ago, the same legend of the “magician” was being repeated. I was already quite familiar with it and told my people: He’s no magician. Whatever he is doing we just need to do it better, stronger and sooner. And we won. Yes, the conditions today are different, and the man has learned from experience and upped his game, but the basic principle remains. There’s no “magic” here. Just a tremendous will to win. We have to be even more determined.
Second, Netanyahu’s fans, and political analysts too at times, get caught up in the notion that the result, i.e., the election victory, “proves” that Netanyahu’s arguments are justified. Fact: The voters gave him their support. The people have spoken, and who are you, Mr. Attorney General, to impugn him or have him prosecuted?
This is a completely baseless contention. The idea that a leader or conjurer can, by means of his discourse with the public, define the boundaries of the law and the extent to which it must be heeded is ludicrous. A thief cannot serve as finance minister and someone who takes a bribe cannot serve as prime minister – and only a court can rule on such matters. It is not up to a majority or minority. These are the common pillars upon which every modern society stands. Negating them by means of a vote undercuts the foundation of a progressive society.
In any other developed country, someone whom the state seeks to indict (pending a hearing) in three cases of bribery, fraud and breach of trust could not run for prime minister – and this is in addition to the submarine case that demands investigation, as well as the affair of the $4 million worth of stock, the quarterly cash transfers from the cousin (what was President Ezer Weizman ousted over, and what’s the difference here?) and the years of false reporting to the state comptroller. This is not a matter of voter opinion. This is a matter of law enforcement and equality before the law. The responsibility placed on Avichai Mendelblit is enormous. Even so, the delay with which investigations are begun is puzzling and troubling. Once the state comptroller has raised an issue, there is nothing to discuss before an investigation is conducted and the facts are brought to light.
I’ll conclude with a more general comment about the Netanyahu phenomenon. Israelis see it as unique and without precedent. But history is filled with precedents of nations, often in times of hardship and frustration, that fell under the spell of a populist demagogue, of a narcissistic, not always stable and frequently corrupt personality – until they hit the wall and went through a painful national awakening, often coupled with disaster. Given the dangers posed by the fifth Netanyahu government, the “camp for change” needs solid leadership that transcends parties, that won’t take Netanyahu’s bait, and has a coordinated plan of action for a lengthy, relentless battle. It also requires a positive vision, one more stirring than the messianic-racist vision being promulgated by the Kahanists, hilltop youth and disciples of rabbis like Dov Lior and Yitzchak Ginsburgh, all of whom have become the tail wagging the dog. A Jewish and democratic Zionist vision, in the spirit of enlightenment and equality before the law expressed in Israel’s Declaration of Independence. A vision of self-confidence and healthy national pride, that requires everyone to pitch in, so that we may put a stop to the downward slide we’re on and begin the quest for the triumph of the Zionist vision over those who distort it.
This will absolutely be a hard-fought battle and no mere discussion group or massage workshop. But if we want it badly enough – we will win.

The wide-ranging implications of Turkish, Israeli elections

Sinem Cengiz/Arab News/April 12/19
The past few weeks have witnessed two significant elections in the region. Both Turkey and Israel have been deeply involved in election season, with Turks heading to the polls for municipal elections on March 31 and Israelis casting their votes in national elections on April 9. The outcomes in both countries, which are at odds with each other, were not only highly significant for their people but also for the regional and global actors that have paid the utmost attention. The election results will have crucial implications on three levels: Domestic, regional and international.
In Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu has been serving as the uninterrupted prime minister since 2009. Netanyahu, who had previously served in the same position between 1996 and 1999, has already become the country’s second-longest-serving PM. David Ben-Gurion, who was Israel’s first prime minister, still holds the record. However, in the aftermath of this week’s elections, Netanyahu wants to continue in office. The election outcome at the domestic level, therefore, is very significant. Who the prime minister will be will also have an important impact on Palestinians, the Israeli-Palestine conflict and Israeli-Arab relations.
The story in Turkey is not much different. Though it only held municipal elections, they ended with a surprising outcome. Although the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has been in power for 17 years, came in first with 45 percent of the nationwide vote, it suffered a severe blow by seemingly losing the two major cities, Ankara and Istanbul. The outcome of the Istanbul election is still contested, as objections have been raised to the Supreme Electoral Council (YSK), which is assigned by the constitution to announce the election results in the coming days.
The results indicated that the majority of the country still appreciates the ruling party’s performance. However, they also show that the efforts of the opposition bloc, headed by the Republican People’s Party (CHP), bore fruit.
Given the fact that there will now be no elections in Turkey until 2023, the consequences of the recent vote on the regional and international levels is noteworthy.
Alongside the many other factors that have led to the deterioration in US-Turkey ties, the Israeli situation plays a significant role.
On the regional level, Ankara is likely to continue pursuing policies that prioritize stability and security along its border with Syria. Ankara seeks gradual changes that could bring solutions to the regional conflicts that jeopardize its interests. For this very reason, we are likely to see a proactive role assumed by Turkey in resisting fait accompli situations in the region, such as the American recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and Israel’s sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights.
What impact will the Israeli elections have on the region? It is fair to assume that, with a government under Netanyahu, the already worrisome situation in Gaza will deteriorate. Israel will also continue to target the Iran nuclear deal. In Tel Aviv’s relations with Turkey, it is hard to expect a breakthrough, particularly with the recent Israeli aggression. The two countries agreed to re-establish relations in 2016, but this did not bridge the confidence and trust gap between them. Although Netanyahu was convinced that the Israeli elections would be focused more on national security and the economy rather than foreign policy, it is clear that the next Israeli government will face a busy foreign policy agenda.
On the international level, both countries’ relations with the US play a critical role. In his victory speech, Netanyahu told US President Donald Trump that Israel has never had a better friend than him. However, we cannot say that same thing in Ankara. It is impossible to say that Trump has been the best ever president for Turkey. Washington and its long-time NATO ally Ankara are going through a complete breakdown in their relationship and it is still uncertain when and how the ties will recover.
Alongside the many other factors that have led to the deterioration in US-Turkey ties, the Israeli situation plays a significant role. First, Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moved the US Embassy there from Tel Aviv. Although Ankara lambasted the US over this policy and brought together the leaders of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to condemn it, Trump has now taken another pro-Israel step and recognized Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights from Syria.
Turkey made it clear that it would “do whatever is necessary until the end,” and work with the global community against “one-sided decisions,” which disregard international law. Russia has also condemned Washington’s recent decision. Needless to say, Turkey’s closeness with Russia, both militarily and politically, is another factor that strains the Turkish-American relationship. Trump can expect that any unilateral decisions taken in favor of Israel will be harshly received by the Turkish government, which, for now, seems happy to continue cooperating with Russia and Iran on regional and international issues.
**Sinem Cengiz is a Turkish political analyst who specializes in Turkey’s relations with the Middle East. Twitter: @SinemCngz