April 17/2019
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations For today
During all our distress and persecution we have been encouraged about you through your faith
First Letter to the Thessalonians 03/06-13: “But Timothy has just now come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love. He has told us also that you always remember us kindly and long to see us just as we long to see you. For this reason, brothers and sisters, during all our distress and persecution we have been encouraged about you through your faith. For we now live, if you continue to stand firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith. Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.”

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on April 16-17/19
Lebanon Expresses Solidarity with France after Notre Dame Fire
Aoun: Judicial Body Not Dependent on Anyone During My Term
Hariri Meets UK Ambassador
Report: Govt. 'Mulling' Pay Cuts as It Seeks to Reduce Deficit
Bassil Raises Refugee File, Urges Giving Arab League Seat Back to Syria
Lebanon Mulls Ways to Reduce Budget Deficit
Fearing Austerity, Lebanese Protest ahead of Budg
Hankache, Mansourieh Delegation Meet with Energy Minister
Hezbollah's Desperate Crowdfunding Reflects Trump's Tough Stance on Iran
How Likely Will Be Lebanon’s Introduction of Urgent Economic Reforms?

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 16-17/19
Nations Express Solidarity with France after Notre Dame Fire
What's Inside the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris
Syrian military officials’ first criticism of Russia, alleging Moscow’s collusion with Israel
US officially designates Iran’s Revolutionary Guards a terrorist group
Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif in Damascus ahead of talks in Kazakhstan
Sudanese forces will remain in Yemen, says military council deputy
Sudan’s main protest group calls for civilian transitional counci
Head of Algeria Constitutional Council Quits as Protesters Press Demands
Algerian Security Denies Mistreating Female Protesters
Key politician backs Netanyahu but tough coalition talks ahead
Rivlin: Majority of Knesset members back Netanyahu as PM
Ynetnews/Reuters/April 16/19
Lieberman says he will support Netanyahu for PM
US counterterror expert visits Gaza border area; blames Iran for regional security situation
Erdogan’s AK Party submits appeal for rerun of Istanbul elections
India’s Supreme Court considers call to open mosques to women
Saudi Crown Prince Holds Talks with US Central Command Chief
Bahrain Jails 138 for Planning Iran-Linked Terror Group
Shamima Begum Was Member of ISIS ‘Morality Police’
Al-Aqsa Mosque Address By Ahmad Al-Khatwani: Job Of Muslims Is To Bring 'Hateful Infidels' To Islam Through Jihad; Rome Will Be Conquered

Titles For The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 16-17/19
Hezbollah's Desperate Crowdfunding Reflects Trump's Tough Stance on Iran/Con Coughlin/The National/April 16/
How Likely Will Be Lebanon’s Introduction of Urgent Economic Reforms?/Michael Young/Carnegie Middle East Center/April 16/19
What's Inside the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris/CNN International/Tuesday 16th April 2019
Syrian military officials’ first criticism of Russia, alleging Moscow’s collusion with Israel/Debka Files/April 16/19
Rivlin: Majority of Knesset members back Netanyahu as PM/Ynetnews/Reuters/April 16/19
Lieberman says he will support Netanyahu for PM//Ynetnews/April 16/19
US counterterror expert visits Gaza border area; blames Iran for regional security situation/Itamar Eichner/Ynetnews/April 16/19
Al-Aqsa Mosque Address By Ahmad Al-Khatwani: Job Of Muslims Is To Bring 'Hateful Infidels' To Islam Through Jihad; Rome Will Be Conquered/MEMRI/April 16/19
Jihadis Celebrate Notre Dame Cathedral Fire, Dub It A Punishment And Good Omen/MEMRI/April 16/19
Saudi Press Attacks Hamas For Suppressing Gaza Civil Protest: Hamas Members Have Become 'The Gazans' Hangmen,' And Capitalize On Gazans' Blood/MEMRI/April 16/19
Why Is Zuckerberg So Relaxed About UK Online Speech Rules/Alex Webb/Bloomberg/April, 16/19
Denmark: Change Appears Elusive Despite Anti-Immigration Movements/Ole Hasselbalch/Gatestone Institute/April 16, 2019
The US Must Stop Iran's Takeover of Yemen/Majid Rafizadeh/Gatestone Institute/April 16/2019
Fighting Harassment at Work in Lebanon/Karim Nammour/Executive Magazine/April 16/19

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on April 16-17/19
Lebanon Expresses Solidarity with France after Notre Dame Fire

Associated Press/Naharnet/April 16/19/Prime Minister Saad Hariri expressed sadness over the fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral in France that he described as a "heritage and humanitarian disaster."Hariri added in a tweet late Monday that Lebanon expresses strong solidarity with the "friendly French people."
Monday's fire collapsed the spire and burned through the roof of the 12th-century building, sparking an outpouring grief and reminiscing of visits to the Parisian landmark. The French president has said he would seek help from the "greatest talents" in the world to rebuild Notre Dame, and many governments said they were considering contributions to what would be a significant architectural undertaking.

Aoun: Judicial Body Not Dependent on Anyone During My Term
Naharnet/April 16/19/President Michel Aoun stressed on Tuesday that “the judicial body is the cornerstone for the establishment of the state and law,” stressing that his term only tolerates an independent judicial authority. “The judiciary is the cornerstone for the establishment of a state and law, the state can not exist without an independent, truth seeking judicial authority,” said Aoun at a ceremony marking the centennial of the Bar Association in Lebanon. He added: “The judiciary must rise above all suspicions, cleansing the judiciary was one of our priorities and part of our battle against corruption.”“According to the Article 20 of the constitution the judiciary must be an independent authority. During our term, the judiciary will be impartial and won’t be dependent on anyone,” he added. The President noted that he called for a conference to discuss the affairs of the judicial authority in Lebanon and will be titled ‘For a Better Justice.’It will be held at the Presidential Palace in Baabda.

Hariri Meets UK Ambassador
Naharnet/April 16/19/Prime Minister Saad Hariri met with British ambassador to Lebanon Chris Rampling who welcomed the Premier’s strong commitment to tackling the government deficit, and the efforts to reform the electricity sector, the UK embassy said in a press release. “I welcomed the Prime Minister’s strong commitment to tackling the government deficit through measures in the 2019 budget, as well as the political consensus over taking the necessary steps to reform the electricity sector,” said Rampling. “As I told the Prime Minister, I and the rest of the international community now look forward to seeing the implementation of these plans. Lebanese and internationals are looking for these steps: while they are difficult, they are crucial in sending the positive signs that Lebanon needs,” he added. The Ambassador stated: “The PM and I also discussed the latest regional situation, including relations with neighbours. I am sure we will continue discussing those urgent issues.”Rampling also congratulated the Prime Minister on Dima Jamali’s electoral success in Tripoli, “I look forward to working with her. On my last visit to the city I saw evidence of the many projects the UK is supporting there, including the revitalisation of the Old City, Souks and Corniche, in education, conflict resolution and many other areas. “I told the Prime Minister that the UK will continue to support projects to improve the lives of Lebanese citizens in Tripoli and throughout Lebanon, and that the UK was now working up ideas for further support to Tripoli and other towns outside Beirut. Improving Services, Education and the economic situation in Lebanon is crucial to the UK,” cocnluded the Ambassador.

Report: Govt. 'Mulling' Pay Cuts as It Seeks to Reduce Deficit
Naharnet/April 16/19/The focus of political forces, citizens and trade union bodies continues on the latest debate on reducing the budget deficit, which some government components aim to achieve “at the expense of public sector employees and the investment and operating expenses of the state,” al-Akhbar daily reported on Tuesday. As part of austerity measures, Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil “has prepared a procedure plan that includes cuts described by all as painful and unpopular,’ said the daily. Although the plan’s details were not revealed, but the measures are reportedly to “affect the salaries of public sector employees, salaries of senior officials in the state institutions, the Central Bank of Lebanon and others,” it added. There is consensus among all the political components to adopt austerity measures to control a growing budget deficit, and counter economic woes facing the country. However, media reports have all assured that reported plans to cut public sector pay are still a mere “presumption,” and that remarks made by Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil about pay cuts “does not mean they will be approved.”Al-Akhbar said that an extensive meeting held earlier between Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Ministers of Foreign Jebran Bassil, Finance Ali Hassan Khalil, Education Akram Shehayyeb, Social Affairs Richard Kouyoumjian, and joined by the Assistant Secretary-General of Hizbullah, Hajj Hussein Khalil, will be followed by several meetings to complete discussions of the proposals submitted by the Minister of Finance. "The meeting lasted beyond midnight," where Hariri warned saying “the country is about to be ruined," said al-Akhbar. For his part, Khalil reportedly presented around 30 pages of suggestions to cut spending that included social contributions, charitable organizations, customs exemptions, and others. Regarding the issue of salaries, informed sources said “there are a number of formulas but no complete study about any.”

Bassil Raises Refugee File, Urges Giving Arab League Seat Back to Syria
Naharnet/April 16/19/Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil on Tuesday urged from Moscow the Arab League to return Syria to its seat and raised calls from Moscow for the repatriation of Syrian refugees from Lebanon, the National News Agency reported. "It is no longer acceptable to continue squandering Arab rights in preparation for the announcement of 'the deal of the era,’ which turned out to be a chain suffocating our cause,” Bassil said at the Arab-Russian Cooperation Forum. "Unmistakably, our enemy is Israel and our compass is Palestine. All that distracts us from our goal defending the rights of the Palestinian people is an attempt to keep our attention away from the best interests our peoples; thus, I call upon you to reconsider your calculations and to redefine your objectives," he added. "Some might think that I'm digressing and not sticking to the main subject of our meeting, but fact is, the political sphere is the most important aspect of the Arab-Russian cooperation so as to restore balance to our region," he added. "Strengthening our cooperation is not directed against anyone, and no one should be concerned, because the main objective of this meeting is coordination, cooperation, and seeking ways to a better life in our Arab region," Bassil maintained. "Every time we meet, there is a vacant seat disrupting the joy of our Arab gatherings; it is no longer permissible for Syria to remain outside the Arab scope," he added, pushing Arab foreign Minister to give Syria back its seat in the Arab league. "Historically, each of us had reservations on the Syrian regime. Personally, I used to be an opponent of the Syrian presence in Lebanon. However, when the Syrian army withdrew to Syria, we wanted to build in the best of relations with our neighboring country," Bassil explained. Now that the Syrian crisis is on the verge of an end, Bassil went on to voice support to a political solution that would be approved and chosen by Syrians, coupled with democratic elections, reconstruction, and refugee return. "Lebanon nowadays is an Arab and international responsibility, and it is not Russia's responsibility alone to support it in its mission helping refugees return sagely to Syria," Bassil added as seeking unified Arab support towards this end.

Lebanon Mulls Ways to Reduce Budget Deficit
Beirut - Mohamed Choucair/Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 16 April, 2019/The Lebanese government is set to agree on a series of measures starting this week to reduce the country’s budget deficit, a move that would likely shrink the growing debt. “The country is on the edge of an abyss. It is no longer acceptable to turn a blind eye to all the warnings made by the economic committees, international institutions and countries supporting Lebanon,” several cabinet ministers told Asharq al-Awsat on Monday. The government should commit to its pledges to reduce the budget deficit, fight corruption and waste of public funds, and launch administrative and financial reforms, they said. The ministers uncovered that the state treasury is reeling under the scourge of monetary burdens, caused by the increase in the number of public servants. “The government pays more than $5.5 billion to around 150,000 employees and more than 100,000 retired military personnel and civil servants,” they said. Among the measures that the government is mulling to take are reviewing the salaries of some director generals, closing some Lebanese embassies abroad, and limiting the trips of official delegations abroad to attend conferences, by tasking ambassadors to represent Lebanon in such events, the ministers told the newspaper. They also said that measures will include putting a freeze on the employment of new civil servants.

Fearing Austerity, Lebanese Protest ahead of Budget
Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 16 April, 2019/The Lebanese government has yet to disclose its budget for 2019 but protesters are already in the streets fearing the “difficult and painful” reforms it is expected to announce as it tries to get spending in control and rein in public debt. Retired army officers blocked several highways with burning tires on Tuesday, a preemptive warning to the government against any cuts to their pensions that might be part of its effort to reduce one of the world’s heaviest public debt burdens. Though small, the protests offered a glimpse of the political minefield facing the government. The budget is seen as a critical test of its will to enact long-stalled reforms that economists say are more pressing than ever for an economy that has suffered years of low growth. State finances are strained by a bloated public sector, high debt servicing costs and hefty subsidizes spent on the power sector.
“We went out today to tell them that our pensions are a red line,” said Khaled Ammar, one of a number of retired officers blocking the highway south of Beirut. The budget has yet to be finalized but speculation it will include cuts to the massive public wage bill has grown since Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil hinted at such steps on Saturday. “There are those who should be making people aware today that if a temporary reduction doesn’t happen, then there will be no salaries for anyone,” he wrote on Twitter, adding that “if we must start with the ministers and MPs, so be it”.
Protesters said tackling corruption should be the priority, reported Reuters. “If the economic condition of the country has reached this difficult level ... we are not responsible for it, the politicians are,” said Ammar, a father of three who served in the military for three decades.
Lebanese leaders have been warning of economic crisis for some time. In a February policy statement, the new government committed itself to launching fast and effective reforms that could be “difficult and painful” to avoid a worsening of economic, financial and social conditions. Prime Minister Saad Hariri said last week he was concerned about a Greek-style crisis in Lebanon while saying that government measures would prevent “economic problems”.
At a Paris conference last year, Lebanon promised to cut its budget deficit by 1 percent of gross domestic product a year over five years. Economists are now looking for a bigger cut because last year’s deficit was bigger than expected at between 10-1/2 to 11 percent of GDP instead of a projected 8.2 percent.
Serious reforms would help Lebanon unlock some $11 billion in financing pledged in Paris. The government last week approved a plan to overhaul the power sector - a major drain on state finances for years. Critics say the government must deliver this time, pointing to previous such plans that were never implemented. The public sector wage bill is the state’s biggest outgoing, followed by servicing the public debt equal to around 150 percent of GDP. The wage bill went up in 2017 after increases were agreed ahead of a parliamentary election. Nassib Ghobril, chief economist at Lebanon’s Byblos Bank, hopes to see the deficit brought down by 2 percent of GDP and says reforms should include shutting down the many obsolete government agencies. “They have to freeze hiring, freeze future salary increases, and increases in benefits, and they have to cut the number of public sector employees and restructure the way companies restructure when they are in financial difficulties,” he said, according to Reuters. “The public sector has recruited 31,000 people over the last four years - more than the entire financial sector.”

Hankache, Mansourieh Delegation Meet with Energy Minister 16th April 2019/Kataeb MP Elias Hankache on Tuesday met with Energy Minister Nada Boustani along with a delegation from Mansourieh to express their concerns and put forth their demands regarding the high-voltage power lines project. Following the meeting, Hankache said that talks did not reach a common ground, adding that divergences remain unaddressed regarding the controversial plan. Speaking to Voice of Lebanon radio station earlier, Hankache stressed that the meeting is aimed at demanding that the power lines be installed underground, as has happened in other Lebanese regions.
The lawmaker reiterated that no one wants to disrupt the government's power plan, adding that health hazards of such a project cannot be dismissed. Protests have been staged in the Metn area since 2011 to denounce plans for high-voltage power lines which, according to subsequent energy ministers, are needed to tackle the country’s electricity crisis as the project aims to connect a power plant in Mkalles to one in Bsalim.

Hezbollah's Desperate Crowdfunding Reflects Trump's Tough Stance on Iran
كون كوغلين: أزمة التمويل اليائس لحزب الله تعكس موقف ترامب الصارم من إيران
Con Coughlin/The National/April 16/19

The news that Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed militia that controls large swathes of Lebanon, has been reduced to crowd-funding to fill its coffers is a clear indication that the Trump administration’s tough sanctions policy towards Iran is starting to pay dividends. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani struck a characteristically defiant note last autumn when Washington announced the imposition of a new round of sanctions designed to cripple Iran’s oil, banking and shipping sectors.
The White House described last November’s move as "the toughest sanctions regime ever imposed". US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Iran must "act like a normal country, or see its economy crumble". But Mr Rouhani, together with the rest of Iran’s clerical leadership, dismissed the effects the sanctions were likely to have on Iran’s economic well-being, with the Iranian president declaring that Tehran would "proudly break the sanctions" and “continue selling oil”.
Five months on, Iran’s defiant stand against Washington’s increasingly robust position does not appear to be achieving the results that Mr Rouhani had hoped for.On the contrary, as the parlous state of Hezbollah’s finances illustrates, the sanctions are having a serious impact on Iran’s already-struggling economy.
Now Iran’s economic plight is likely to deteriorate even further, following Washington’s historic decision earlier this week to designate Iran’s Islamic Republican Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organisation.
Ordinarily Washington’s security establishment only confers this status on non-governmental actors that support the terrorist creed, such as ISIS and Al Qaeda. The fact, therefore, that the White House has decided to apply the designation to an organisation that is an intrinsic part of the Iranian political establishment represents a serious escalation in Washington’s confrontational approach towards Tehran, one that could seriously limit the regime’s ability to maintain its malign activities elsewhere in the Middle East.
It was the significant flaws in the 2015 nuclear deal former US President Barack Obama helped to negotiate with Iran, such as Iran’s ability to continue developing ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, that initially persuaded the Trump administration to withdraw from the deal last May. But it has been Iran’s continued, and unwelcome, meddling in the affairs of the Arab world that has persuaded Washington to intensify the economic pressure on Tehran, in the hope that the wholesale damage inflicted to the Iranian economy might persuade the regime to change its conduct.
Announcing the designation of the IRGC as a terrorist group, US President Donald Trump said he had concluded that the IRGC “actively partipates in, finances and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft”. This was clearly a reference to Iran’s support for Hezbollah in Lebanon as well as its involvement with the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Then there is Iran’s extensive military investment in Syria, where it has played a critical role in keeping Syrian President Bashar Al Assad in power, while elements of the IRGC’s Quds Force are also active in Iraq, where it is actively seeking to undermine the political status quo.
While there will inevitably be questions about how much impact the new US measures will have on curbing the activities of a resourceful and committed leadership at the IRGC, at the very least it will send a warning signal to organisations and individuals who facilitate the IRGC’s agenda in the region of the risks they are taking if they continue to support its activities.
Furthermore, the wide range of punitive measures Washington intends to apply against the IRGC and its leaders will undoubtedly have an impact on their freedom of manoeuvre, as well as their ability to finance their nefarious activities in the Middle East and beyond.
One of the more effective measures contained in the latest round of sanctions applied by the Trump administration last year has been to exclude Iran from the Brussels-based Swift international payment system, which has severely curtailed Tehran’s ability to maintain regular payments.
The financial crisis currently affecting Hezbollah, which is arguably the IRGC’s most important ally in the region, certainly suggests that, for all Tehran’s bluster that it can overcome the impact of the US-led sanctions, the Iranian regime is now facing severe difficulties when it comes to financing its various proxies in the Middle East.
The financial crisis that Hezbollah now finds itself facing is certainly a salutary tale for an organisation whose ultimate ambition has been to seize control of Lebanon’s political establishment. Brian Hook, the US Special Representative to Iran, earlier this month estimated that Iran contributes around 70 per cent of Hezbollah’s annual budget of around $1 billion. Iran’s failure to meet its spending commitments, driven to a large extent by the impact US sanctions are having on Tehran, means that Hassan Nasrallah, the organisation’s spiritual head, has been obliged to issue a crowd-funding appeal, calling on the 500,000 partisans who support Hezbollah to contribute $4 per month.
The so-called “Campaign of Millions to Support the Islamic Resistance” hopes to raise around $2 million a month through individual donations. In addition Hezbollah is promoting other fund-raising initiatives, such as the “Equip a Mujahid” campaign that helps to provide arms and training for Hezbollah fighters.
These are, by any measure, pretty desperate measures, actions that suggest that, far from being able to contend with Washington’s robust policy towards Iran, the sanctions regime is seriously affecting Tehran’s ability to continue financing its terror network.

How Likely Will Be Lebanon’s Introduction of Urgent Economic Reforms?
مايكل يونغ/مركز كارنيغي للشرق الأوسط : كيف سيكون الوضع المحتمل لإصلاحات لبنان الاقتصادية العاجلة؟
Michael Young/Carnegie Middle East Center/April 16/19

It would come as a surprise if the Lebanese authorities were able to design and agree on sustainable economic reforms. Buying time has been their only objective for many years now, knowing that the endemic exploitation of public resources by the political elite has continued to fuel the clientelist nature of Lebanese politics. There is not a single reform that could be undertaken without undermining a deeply-rooted scheme of misappropriated public funds, waste of resources, unjustified tax shelters, unwarranted subsidies, illicit enrichment, organized monopolies, favoritism, rent-based activities, and so on.
The more the reforms are delayed the more costly they will become. Hence the inability of the current authorities to agree on any reasonable sharing of the burden, let alone an equitable one, that would spur job growth and address Lebanon’s debt and imbalances. The decisionmaking process has been flawed for too long. It is based on reciprocal veto rights over lucrative deals, not any acceptance over dividing the losses. This inability to reform is all the more significant in that the fear of triggering social anger is high.
There is little doubt that Lebanon’s economy is suffering. Poverty is widespread; there are no jobs, especially for fresh graduates; prices are increasing and purchasing power is declining; and public infrastructure—electricity, water, transport, and communications—is dysfunctional. Urgent economic reforms are needed, but how can we expect the ruling class that is responsible for this dire state of affairs to enact them? The ruling cartel—a coalition of sectarian, business, and military leaders—has survived by sustaining a rentier economy distributing income and services to its networks of supporters.
The cornerstone of such a clientelistic economic model was a constant flow of funds from abroad in the form of remittances, foreign investment, and aid and political money. With such funds getting scarcer, Lebanon’s political class has struggled to find alternatives, which were promised through yet another donor conference, the CEDRE conference of April 2018. Lebanon’s rulers will, therefore, only pass minor economic reforms that do not undermine their hegemonic model of control.
Serious reforms are unlikely. It is true that Lebanon has a relatively new government, which has claimed that the introduction of economic reforms is a priority. Last week, the government approved the start of Lebanon’s second offshore oil and gas licensing round and a plan for the electricity sector, a first step toward much-needed infrastructure reforms. The incentives of the government to look reformist are high. The country is in a financial crisis and the $11 billion in aid Lebanon obtained at the CEDRE conference of April 2018 is conditional on the implementation of effective reforms.
However, deeper reforms, able to address the extreme levels of inequality that Lebanon is experiencing or the rampant corruption of its institutions, are unlikely. The country’s political and economic elites haven’t changed, nor have their interests. Implementing drastic reforms would jeopardize the rents they are reaping from the public debt or the real estate sector, among other sources. That is why reform attempts have been lukewarm in recent years. The 2017 fiscal reforms, for example, did not even come close to meeting the country’s needs. There is little hope that future reforms—if implemented at all—will be more successful in doing so.The Lebanese economy is like a boat in the heart of a storm. The same crew has been at the helm for the last fifteen years, with no captain in charge. The crewmembers represent Lebanon’s different sectarian groups and have spent more time fighting with each other than agreeing on a plan to avoid a shipwreck.
One could have imagined that the dangers of the situation, international pressure, and, more importantly, their own survival instinct would have been enough to push the crew to save the ship by reducing the real burden on the economy, namely high public expenditures. That means introducing deep structural reforms aimed at reducing the budget deficit and triggering sustainable growth. This has not happened yet, two months after the formation of the government and one year after the CEDRE conference in Paris that was organized to help Lebanon address its economic problems.
In fact how can those responsible for Lebanon’s problems resolve these very same problems? Genuine reform would transform the political and economic system from which they are benefiting. They will not dig their own graves. Therefore, reform seems very difficult, not to say highly unlikely. I hope I am wrong.

Latest LCCC English Miscellaneous Reports & News published on April 16-17/19
Nations Express Solidarity with France after Notre Dame Fire
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 16/19/Nations expressed solidarity with France after the fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral and offered their support for the recovery. Monday's fire collapsed the spire and burned through the roof of the 12th-century building, sparking an outpouring grief and reminiscing of visits to the Parisian landmark. President Donald Trump called the cathedral "one of the great treasures of the world." Pope Francis, Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, Denmark Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen and Norway's Erna Solberg all expressed their sadness. Lebanon's Prime Minister Saad Hariri expressed sadness over the fire he described as a "heritage and humanitarian disaster." Hariri added in a tweet late Monday that Lebanon expresses strong solidarity with the "friendly French people." The Obamas were among people sharing memories of past visits to the cathedral. Former President Barack Obama posted an old photo of himself, his wife Michelle and their two daughters lighting candles there and expressed his grief. Michelle Obama was in Paris on Monday on a book tour. "The majesty of Notre Dame - the history, artistry, and spirituality - took our breath away, lifting us to a higher understanding of who we are and who we can be," she tweeted. The French president has said he would seek help from the "greatest talents" in the world to rebuild Notre Dame, and many governments said they were considering contributions to what would be a significant architectural undertaking. Japan's government said it would consider sending support. "Its damage is a loss to the world and our hearts ache," said Yoshihide Suga, the chief Cabinet secretary. South Korean President Moon Jae-in called for the world to come together to rebuild the Paris landmark. "Our love for humanity will be illustrated in a more mature way in the process of reconstruction," he said. Russian President Putin said in a message published on the Kremlin's website that the tragedy "struck a chord in the hearts of Russians." He called Notre Dame a "priceless treasure of Christian and world culture" and said Russia is ready to send the "best specialists" to help rebuild it. The Polish prime minister recalled how his nation's capital, Warsaw, was rebuilt after being destroyed by the Germans in World War II. Mateusz Morawiecki said on Twitter that "Poland knows what it means to have a cultural heritage lost in fire. We rebuilt Warsaw from the ruins ourselves. We will rebuild the Cathedral of Notre-Dame together as Europeans."Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the New York archbishop, said New Yorkers were united in sorrow with Parisians, who can "count on our love, prayers, support and solidarity. This Holy Week teaches us that, like Jesus, death brings life. Today's dying, we trust, will bring rising," Dolan said outside St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan.

What's Inside the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris
CNN International/Tuesday 16th April 2019
The cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris is home to various artifacts, artwork and relics collected over the centuries, each with its own story.
As a devastating fire tore through the revered Gothic cathedral on Monday, toppling its spire, many feared the items might be lost.
A "forest" of wooden latticework fueled the fire, bringing down the iconic spire and consuming the roof, whose framework dated back to the 13th century, according to Msgr. Patrick Chauvet, the cathedral's rector.
They were just two features in a historic structure renowned for its architecture and other noteworthy features.
• The Rose Windows are a trio of immense round stained-glass windows over the cathedral's three main portals that date back to the 13th century.
• The original Great Organ, one of the world's most famous musical instruments, dates back to medieval times. Over the years, organ makers renovated the instrument and added onto it, but it still contained pipes from the Middle Ages before Monday's fire.
The position of titular organist, or head organist, carries great prestige in France and around the world.
• Numerous sculptures, statues and paintings inside the cathedral depict Biblical scenes and saints.
One series of 76 paintings, each nearly four meters tall, commemorates the New Testament's Acts of the Apostles, including the crucifixion of St. Peter and the conversion of St. Paul. The works were completed between 1630 and 1707 by the members or associates of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture.
Another painting is from a series by Jean Jouvenet depicting the life of the Virgin Mary. All six from the series used to be in the cathedral. They were moved to the Louvre in the 1860s, and only "The Visitation" was returned to Notre Dame.
A portrait from 1648 of St. Thomas Aquinas also graced the cathedral's interiors.
• The twin bell towers were the tallest structures in Paris until the completion of the Eiffel Tower in the late 19th century.
The North tower was completed in 1240 and the South tower in 1250.
• The cathedral's main bell, Emanuelle, lives in the South tower. It has marked significant moments in French history, such as the end of World War II, as well as holidays and special occasions.
• The cathedral's treasury contains several artifacts sacred in Christianity, including what is believed to be the Crown of Thorns, a fragment of the True Cross and one of the Holy Nails.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said the Crown of Thorns was rescued from the burning cathedral, along with the Tunic of Saint Louis and other "major" works.
• On the cathedral's exterior, a menagerie of menacing gargoyles and chimères stand guard. A system of flying buttresses support the outside walls.
• The archaeological crypt is located under the courtyard. It was created to protect 19th century relics that were discovered during excavations in 1965. It opened to the public in 1980.

Syrian military officials’ first criticism of Russia, alleging Moscow’s collusion with Israel
Debka Files/April 16/19
Russia comes under fire from Damascus for the first time, since its 2015 intervention on behalf of the Assad regime, on the charge of collaborating with Israel. Unnamed Syrian military sources said on Monday, April 15: “Israel possesses one of the most powerful military intelligence wings in the world,” and “not only benefits from close intelligence ties with the US coalition but also the Russian military.”Syrian officials have never ventured to criticize the Russian military whose support was critical in rescuing Bashar Assad from an eight-year insurgency. However, dissent was sparked in Syrian army rank and file and the general population by Israel’s aerial missile attack on Syria’s “Scientific Studies and Research Center at Masyaf on Saturday, April 13. The most important Syrian-Iranian production hub for upgrading the surface missile and air defense capabilities of the Syrian army and Hizballah was gutted. Even more infuriating, the Russian S-300 air defense battery posted near Masyaf did not launch a single missile against the enemy assailants. Still strongly implying Russian collusion, the Syrian military officials declared that the Israelis knew perfectly well that the S-300 was not ready for use and exploited this information. They went on to say: “Russia may disapprove of the Israeli air strikes in Syria, but they will not intervene to stop them as they currently have an agreement with the Netanyahu administration.” Syrian officials have never, in the more than two years of Israel air strikes in Syria against Iranian targets, referred to the Russian military’s non-interference or its connection to a Putin–Netanyahu deal. Damascus’ frustration is further compounded by its inability to take direct action against Israeli air strikes, because they are launched from next-door Lebanon’s air space. The Syrian official made it clear that Damascus has no wish to violate Lebanese sovereignty.

US officially designates Iran’s Revolutionary Guards a terrorist group
Reuters, Washington/Monday, 15 April 2019/The United States officially designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization, according to a notice published in the US Federal Register on Monday. US President Donald Trump said last week he would make the symbolic but unprecedented move, which immediately was condemned by Iran and created concerns about reprisal attacks on US forces. The IRGC is in charge of Iran’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs. It also is involved with the country’s banking and shipping industries. The new designation makes it easier to prosecute companies or people in the European Union that do business with Iran. US law already punishes US persons who deal with the IRGC with up to 20 years in prison because of the group’s designation under the United States Specially Designated Global Terrorist list, a different US sanctions program.
Last Minday, Iran warned that Washington’s designation of its IRGC as a terrorist organization could endanger peace and stability in the Middle East and beyond, state TV reported. Tehran also took retaliatory action by naming the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) as a terrorist organization and the US government as a sponsor of terror.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif in Damascus ahead of talks in Kazakhstan
AFP, Damascus/Tuesday, 16 April 2019/Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visited Damascus on Tuesday ahead of a fresh round of talks next week in Kazakhstan towards ending Syria’s eight-year civil war. Iran and Russia are key allies of the Damascus regime, and along with rebel backer, Turkey, have sponsored the so-called Astana negotiations track to end the conflict. Kazakhstan is to host a fresh round of talks on April 25-26 in its capital, last month renamed from Astana to Nur-Sultan. In Damascus, Zarif and President Bashar al-Assad discussed “the next round of Astana talks and the importance of lasting communication between Damascus and Tehran for continued cooperation”, the presidency said in a statement. Both countries are facing a flurry of sanctions by Western nations including the United States, with Washington this month designating Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization. Syria is in the grips of a growing fuel crisis that it blames on these sanctions. Zarif and Assad accused Western countries headed by the United States of “launching wars and economic terrorism against anyone who did not agree with them” in regional matters, the presidency said. Earlier on Tuesday, Zarif met his Syrian counterpart Walid Muallem. After the meeting, Muallem told journalists Iran, Russia and Turkey would be focusing on the militant-held bastion of Idlib in northwestern Syria, pro-government newspaper Al-Watan said. The region on the border with Turkey is held by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, and is in theory protected from a massive regime offensive by a Russia-Turkey deal. The September accord aimed to set up a buffer zone around Idlib but was never fully implemented as militants refused to withdraw from it. “The Astana guarantors... need to abide by the commitments linked to the Idlib file,” including “disarming terrorist groups and them leaving Idlib”, Muallem said, according to Al-Watan. Regime forces have continued to bombard Idlib despite the deal, increasingly so in recent weeks. Zarif is expected to visit Turkey after Damascus. Endless rounds of UN-backed Syria peace talks have failed to stem the bloodshed, and Iran, Russia, and Turkey have sponsored the parallel Astana negotiations track since early 2017. Tehran has provided steady political, financial and military backing to Assad throughout the war, which has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since 2011. The Syrian regime has made a military comeback with Russian military support since 2015, and now holds almost two-thirds of the country.

Sudanese forces will remain in Yemen, says military council deputy
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Tuesday, 16 April 2019/The Sudanese ruling transitional military council’s deputy head said that the Sudanese forces backing the Yemeni legitimate government against the pro-Iranian Houthi militia will remain in Yemen, Sudan news agency (SUNA) reported on Monday.
General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo - widely known as Himeidti - said in a statement to SUNA: “We are adhering to our commitment to the coalition, and our forces will remain until the coalition fulfils its goals.”Ousted Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir deployed troops to Yemen in 2015 as part of the Arab Coalition backing the Yemeni National Army against the Houthis. Several opposition leaders and analysts had questioned Bashir’s decision, which he had justified as a “moral obligation.”It is worth mentioning that Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman al-Burhan, the new head of the Sudanese transitional council, is also the head of Sudan’s ground forces and oversaw Sudanese troops’ role within the Arab Coalition in Yemen. This was the first major foreign policy announcement made by the new military rulers after ousting Bashir last week and essentially a continuation of his policy, according to AFP. (With Agencies)

Sudan’s main protest group calls for civilian transitional council
Reuters, Khartoum /Tuesday, 16 April 2019/
The Sudanese group that led protests against deposed President Omar al-Bashir called on Monday for the transitional military council that has taken power to be disbanded and for a new interim civilian ruling council to be formed. Representatives of the Sudanese Professionals’ Association (SPA) piled pressure on the military commanders who have taken over, issuing a long list of demands for deeper and faster change to end repression and a ruinous economic crisis. If their demands were not met, the group would press on with protests and not join a future transitional government, Ahmed al-Rabie, an SPA member, told Reuters. The SPA held its first news conference since Bashir, who ruled with an autocratic hand since seizing power in a coup 30 years ago, was ousted by the military on Thursday following months of street demonstrations. A new interim civilian body should be given full executive powers, with the armed forces having representation, and the Transitional Military Council (TMC) that took over last week should be dissolved, the SPA said. “If our demand for the formation of a civilian transitional council with military representation is not met, we will not be part of the executive authority, the cabinet, and we will continue the mass escalation and the sit-ins to fulfil our demands,” Rabie told Reuters. In a communique on Monday, the African Union’s Peace and Security Council called for Sudan’s military to transfer power to a “transitional civilian-led political authority” within 15 days or face suspension from the AU. Lieutenant General Jalal al-Deen al-Sheikh, a member of the TMC, met Ethiopia’s prime minister in Addis Ababa, where the AU is based, and said, “We are already in the process of choosing a prime minister” for a civilian government, according to the Sudanese state news agency SUNA. “So we are initiating this even before having this session with the African Union. This is our conviction and this is also the way forward to peace, but also, we respect it and we are committed to the decision of the Peace and Security Council.”
Protesters deflect bid to end sit-in
The SPA issued its demands hours after protesters blocked an attempt to break up a sit-in outside the Defense Ministry that has continued despite Bashir’s exit, a Reuters witness said. Troops had gathered on three sides of the sit-in and tractors were preparing to remove stone and metal barriers, but protesters joined hands and formed rings around the sit-in area to prevent them. Some of the most prominent SPA leaders, most of whom are in their 20s and 30s and were detained until after Bashir’s ouster, spoke at the news conference. SPA representatives also renewed calls for the head of the judiciary and his deputies and public prosecutor to be removed. They demanded the dissolution of Bashir’s National Congress Party and said they received affirmation from the TMC that the party will not participate in a transitional government. The SPA also called for the seizure of the party’s assets and the arrest of its prominent figures. It demanded the dissolution of paramilitary groups that were loyal to the old government, and of the National Intelligence and Security Service’s (NISS) operations authority, and called for an end to Sudan’s press law and the public order law, which the SPA has said restricts freedoms.
On Saturday, Salah Abdallah Mohamed Saleh, better known as Salah Gosh, resigned as head of NISS. He was once seen as the most powerful person in the country after Bashir and protesters held him responsible for the killing of demonstrators demanding an end to military rule.
“For us in the SPA, in the first stage, the transitional government stage, we will play a role in the restoration of the civil service and state institutions and establishing a democratic state,” said Gamaria Omar, an SPA member. “Afterwards, the SPA will be comprised of unions, and will be a guardian of democracy in Sudan,” she added. Outside the Defense Ministry on Monday, the protesters, numbering about 5,000 in the morning with more arriving, chanted “Freedom, freedom” and “Revolution, revolution,” and appealed to the army to protect them.
Some drummed and waved national flags as they mingled in the street, while others took shelter from the sun under parasols and makeshift tents. The protest outside the compound, which also includes the intelligence headquarters and the presidential residence, began on April 6, after more than three months of protests triggered by a deepening economic crisis. On Monday the military council said it was restructuring the joint forces command, appointing a new chief of staff for the army and a deputy. Britain’s ambassador to Sudan, Irfan Siddiq, said he had met the deputy head of the transitional military council, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, and had “asked for clarity on whereabouts of former President Bashir and other senior former regime figures.”
When the military announced Bashir’s ousting, they said he had been arrested and was being kept at a “safe place”. Sudanese sources told Reuters that Bashir was at a presidential residence under “heavy guard.”

Head of Algeria Constitutional Council Quits as Protesters Press Demands
Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 16 April, 2019/Head of Algeria’s constitutional council Tayeb Belaiz resigned on Tuesday following mounting pressure from protesters. The 70-year-old is one of the "3B" top figures targeted by demonstrators in mass rallies which prompted the departure of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika this month. Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui and Abdelkader Bensalah -- who served as upper house speaker until being appointed interim president after Bouteflika quit -- have also faced calls to step down. "We will continue what we have started," said university student Linda, one of thousands taking part in a protest Tuesday in central Algiers. Police were massively deployed around the capital's post office building, the focal point of anti-government rallies which first erupted in February. "Free Algeria," chanted protests, who rallied outside the iconic building. Also on Tuesday, army chief General Ahmed Gaid Salah said the military was considering all options to resolve the national political crisis and warned “time is running out”, after weeks of protests. Salah’s remarks were the strongest indication yet that the military, which has said it supports a transition period after the April 2 resignation Bouteflika, is losing patience. He Salah vowed the military would not turn its guns on demonstrators, while urging them to remain patient. Soldiers have "clear and unequivocal instructions to protect civilians, especially during the (protest) marches," he said in a speech. “We have no ambition but to protect our nation.”“The army’s leadership does not take any decision that does not serve the country and the people,” said Salah, adding that some parties were not happy with the “peaceful protests”. Despite Bensalah calling a presidential election on July 4, demonstrations have continued as Algerians call for a broader overhaul of the political system. The interim president has defended his appointment, but protesters are demanding regime stalwarts be entirely excluded from any political transition. We will continue to march until a transitional (authority) led by clean politicians is set up," medical student Mira Laifa told AFP. "The people want them all to leave," chanted the crowds, in reference to the interim authorities. Demonstrators fear that the election will not be free and fair if they are held under the same judicial framework and institutions as those of the Bouteflika regime. The interim president said his appointment was in line with constitutional rules, and pledged to hold a transparent vote. The constitutional council which Belaiz resigned from plays a key role in elections, vetting candidates and ensuring the regularity of the polls. The outgoing council chief was close to Bouteflika, who was shown handing his resignation letter to Belaiz in footage broadcast by state media last week. The ailing president had on February 10 appointed his adviser Belaiz -- who has also served as justice minister -- to head the constitutional council for the second time.

Algerian Security Denies Mistreating Female Protesters
Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 16 April, 2019/Security agencies in Algeria have denied rumors circulating on the mistreatment of protesters in detention centers after judicial complaints that four female activists had been forced to get undressed. The report came along with a video that has gone viral on social media. The four women were arrested last Saturday during a sit-in. The communication cell of the security of Algiers released a statement on Monday denying the report. The four women, who were accompanied by six men, were transferred to a police station in Baraki for a preliminary procedure to search the four detainees by a female officer. This procedure aims to seize any tool that the detainee might use to harm himself or others. Then all of them were released under normal circumstances, added the statement. It described the reports as baseless, saying they seek to defame Algeria’s national security body. Lawyer and rights activist Abdel-Ghani Badi said he filed a complaint to the public prosecutor on behalf of the four activists accusing the police body of ‘psychological torture’. Fethi Ghares, spokesman for the Democratic and Social Movement (MDS), told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the way the activists were treated confirms that the remnants of Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s regime continue to have a say in decision-making. Meanwhile, protest leader Mustafa Bushashi posted on Facebook that the Saad Dahlab University of Blida banned him from entering the university where he was invited to speak about the ongoing protests.
He apologized to the students for failing to hold discussions on the demonstrations that have rocked the country for the past two months. Bushashi told Asharq Al-Awsat during a phone call that he has been hosted by several universities since the beginning of strikes in universities on April 4. He said that he had spoken freely about the events and consequences, and tackled all topics that are of interest to the society especially the need for regime figures to depart.

Key politician backs Netanyahu but tough coalition talks ahead

AFP/Tuesday, 16 April 2019/A key politician on Tuesday threw his backing behind Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following last week’s elections but signaled tough negotiations to form a coalition were ahead. Former defense minister Avigdor Lieberman’s public endorsement of Netanyahu came as President Reuven Rivlin wrapped up consultations with party heads on the subject. Rivlin must choose who will form the next government and is expected to pick Netanyahu to do so on Wednesday night after final election results are announced. Lieberman, head of the nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, had held off on publicly backing Netanyahu until Monday night when he did so before supporters. His party also told Rivlin on Tuesday that it would back Netanyahu, and Yisrael Beitenu’s five seats will be crucial for the prime minister as he forms his next coalition. Results so far from the April 9 vote show Netanyahu’s Likud and allied right-wing parties, including Yisrael Beitenu, with 65 seats in the 120-seat parliament. But Lieberman also said he would condition his joining the coalition on the adoption of a law aimed at having ultra-Orthodox Jews serve in the military like their secular counterparts.
He has insisted that the version of the law he proposed when he was defense minister be adopted in full and says he will even remain in the opposition or be prepared to go to new elections if he does not receive assurances on the subject. Ultra-Orthodox Jews studying in religious seminaries are currently exempt from mandatory military service, a practice many Israelis view as unfair. But attempts to change the law have met with strong opposition from ultra-Orthodox political parties, which will control 15 seats in the next governing coalition. Ultra-Orthodox Jews make up some 10 percent of Israel’s nearly nine million population. Complications in passing a law on the subject contributed to the holding of early elections last week. Lieberman resigned as defense minister in November after accusing Netanyahu of being soft on Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules the Gaza Strip.

Rivlin: Majority of Knesset members back Netanyahu as PM
Ynetnews/Reuters/April 16/19
President says he will ask Likud leader in Wednesday meeting to form next government; prime minister has potential 65-seat coalition in 120-strong parliament, gets 42 days to build government
President Reuven Rivlin said on Tuesday a majority of parliament members had advised him to have Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu form a government after the April 9 election, effectively ensuring his nomination. In office for the past decade, Netanyahu won a fifth term despite an announcement by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit's in February that he intends to charge the prime minister in three corruption cases. Netanyahu has denied wrongdoing. Under law, President Reuven Rivlin chooses a party leader whom he judges has the best prospect of putting together a ruling coalition. He will announce his candidate on Wednesday.  In broadcast remarks on Tuesday, the second day of Rivlin's public consultations with political parties on their preferences for prime minister, he said Netanyahu "now has a majority of Knesset members" behind him. "Any room I had for maneuver has effectively been removed at this moment," the president said. Netanyahu's nomination had been a foregone conclusion after his right-wing Likud party captured 35 seats in the Knesset in last week's ballot and his closest rival, centrist Benny Gantz of the Blue and White Party, conceded defeat. Netanyahu has said he intends to build a coalition with five far-right, right-wing and ultra-Orthodox Jewish parties that would give the Likud-led government 65 seats, four more than the outgoing administration he heads. Representatives of all of those parties told Rivlin at the meetings, broadcast live on the Internet, that they recommended Netanyahu get the nod. Gantz, a former military chief of staff whose party also won 35 Knesset seats, would likely be next in line to try to assemble a government if Netanyahu fails to do so within 42 days of being chosen by Rivlin. Netanyahu is under no legal obligation to resign if indicted. He can still argue, at a pre-trial hearing with Mandelblit whose date has not been set, against the formal filing of bribery and fraud charges against him. The Israeli leader, whose supporters hail his tough security policies and international outreach, is set to become the country's longest-serving prime minister in July.

Lieberman says he will support Netanyahu for PM
/Ynetnews/April 16/19
Yisrael Beytenu Party chairman returned from vacation amid much speculation; says he sees no need for national unity government, does not intend to back down on Haredi IDF draft bill. Yisrael Beytenu Party Chairman Avigdor Lieberman spoke to the press at an event held at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem Monday evening. "The voters had their say, the election results are clear, the Right won 65-55. Tomorrow we will recommend Benjamin Netanyahu for prime minister," he said. "Unfortunately, the religious and ultra-Orthodox factions grew to 21 or 22 Knesset seats," he added. "I see this as a threat to the ideals of (Zionist revisionist leader Ze'ev) Jabotinsky. This is something I am concerned about, but I am taking it into account. The voter has made his decision."
Regarding the possibility of forming a national unity government with the Likud and Blue and White, Lieberman was dismissive saying that there needs to be a central issue around which the unity government focuses on, otherwise it leads to dysfunction. "Currently, there is no need for a unity government," he said, while pledging not to compromise on his ideals. Netanyahu needs Lieberman in order to form a Right-wing coalition. He is expected to be a tough negotiating partner. Lieberman also touched upon the draft bill that the Haredim oppose. He said that he would not agree to any changes whatsoever, "It is not anti-Halacha or the Haredim, it is pro-IDF." He went on to list the Haredi demands that his party would refuse to submit to in any coalition agreement such as the demand to cancel all construction work on Shabbat or legislate a Basic Law for Torah study.
MK Uri Maklev (Yahadut Hatorah) responded to Lieberman's comments on the draft bill: "He is trying hard to gain a negotiating advantage in order to receive a more lucrative portfolio. He is trying to be the bad boy of the coalition… He wants to be defense minister."
Lieberman thanked his supporters saying that political pundits predicted the demise of his party and politicians from across the spectrum opposed it.
"We fought the coalition that tried to eliminate us; total war, conducted by means I have never before witnessed — online, fake surveys, bots… I witnessed attempts from all directions; apparently we are an important political player," Lieberman said. Regarding the polls that predicted that he would not garner enough votes to cross the electoral threshold, he said that it raises questions regarding the use of polls to manipulate public opinion. He pledged to enact legislation to ensure full transparency with regards to online activity related to the elections. "I want to know who is funding the poll and who they are working with." He pondered, "how is it that all the polls gave the Zehut and New Right parties seven or six seats but Yisrael Beytenu zero?" He asserted that his opponents waged psychological warfare against his party. "Before the elections they said that we won't make the threshold and that the party is over. But now, Yisrael Beytenu holds the key to the coalition… Even our political rivals respect us now," said party MK Oded Forer. Another delegate, Eli Avidar criticized the fact that the Knesset Finance Committee is headed by Haredim (Moshe Gafni) or Arab MKs as they "represent sectors of the population that pay less taxes."It was reported earlier that while on vacation in Europe, Lieberman met with Yair Lapid to discuss the possibility of forming a national unity government without the Haredi and far-Right parties and thus advance civil marriages, public transit on Shabbat and budgetary changes. But the report turned out to be false as Lapid was in Paris and Lieberman in Vienna.

US counterterror expert visits Gaza border area; blames Iran for regional security situation
Itamar Eichner/Ynetnews/April 16/19
'We know what the Iranians are capable of", Nathan Sales tells Israeli counterparts, expresses 'amazement' at Hamas investment in terror activity
US Coordinator for counterterrorism, Nathan Sales visiting Israel said the key to security in the region lies in Tehran. Following President Donald Trump's designation of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as an international terror organization, they have become "'radioactive", Sales said. He added, 'anyone doing business with them will be suspected of funding terror', thereby dealing the organization a massive blow. 'We know what the Iranians are capable of", Sales said, expressing the hope that countries considering conducting business with the Islamic republic, will decide against it.
On a visit to Israel's south, Sales was briefed on the current threats Israel is facing from the Gaza Strip. "I was amazed at the resources Hamas is investing in terror activity against Israel," Sales said, noting these are at the expense of investments in health, education and housing all needed to improve civilian lives.
Israeli officials also briefed the US envoy on the presence of ISIS in the Sinai which is a source of concern for the US as well as Israel. "ISIS in the Sinai is a threat to Egypt the region and beyond" Sales said and warned of a danger to Israel if violence spills over. Regarding the "deal of the century" expected to be presented by President Trump to both Israel and the Palestinians, Sales said the US is taking protective measures in case of active opposition by the Palestinian Authority.

Egyptian lawmakers hold last debate before vote on constitution
The Associated Press/Tuesday, 16 April 2019/Egypt’s parliament held its last debate Tuesday on proposed amendments to the constitution that could see President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi remain in power until 2030. The 596-member assembly, packed with al-Sisi’s supporters, overwhelmingly gave its initial approval for the proposals in February and sent it to the Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee to finalize the wording before the final vote on Tuesday. “Today we are concluding what we started in February,” speaker Ali Abdel-Aal said at the beginning of the session. “In this great day, we offer to the Egyptian people a draft bill of the constitutional amendments.”Abdel-Aal added that a civilian state does not mean a secular, religious or military state. “The civilian state is far different from the three,” he said. Once approved by lawmakers, the constitutional amendments go to a national referendum, likely before early May when the Muslim holy month of Ramadan starts. The proposals would only extend a president’s term in office from four to six years and allow for a maximum of two terms. But they also include a special article on al-Sisi that extends his current second four-year term to six years and allows him to run for another six-year term in 2024 - potentially extending his rule till 2030.

Erdogan’s AK Party submits appeal for rerun of Istanbul elections
Reuters/Tuesday, 16 April 2019/Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party has submitted its appeal for the annulment and rerun of Istanbul’s municipal elections, broadcaster CNN Turk said on Tuesday, more than two weeks after the vote. Initial results showed the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) narrowly won control of Turkey’s biggest city in the elections, seemingly ending 25 years of control of a key power center by the AK Party and its Islamist predecessors. AK Party (AKP) Deputy Chairman Ali Ihsan Yavuz submitted his party’s extraordinary appeal for the annulment and renewal of the elections to Turkey’s High Election Board (YSK) with three suitcases full of documents, CNN Turk said. If the appeal is approved, renewed elections will take place on the first Sunday 60 days after the initial vote, which will be on June 2. If rejected, the results will be finalized and the winner will receive their mandate to start working. Repeated AKP challenges have fueled frustration among CHP supporters, which spilled over into football stadiums during the weekend when fans chanted at top Istanbul derby matches for the mayoral mandate to be given to their candidate. The political uncertainty has added to unease in financial markets. After the latest AK Party comment the lira weakened to 5.8250 against the dollar, it weakest since March 22, bringing its losses this year to 9 percent. The AK Party has already lost control of the capital Ankara, as well as other key cities across the country. Defeat in Istanbul, where Erdogan was mayor in the 1990s, would be an even greater blow to the president.

India’s Supreme Court considers call to open mosques to women
Reuters, New Delhi/Tuesday, 16 April 2019/India’s Supreme Court agreed on Tuesday to consider a petition from a Muslim couple to allow women into mosques, seeking to overturn a centuries-old practice that largely bars women from the places of worship. Women are not allowed inside most mosques in India although a few have separate entrances for women to go into segregated areas. The petitioners, Yasmeen Peerzade and her husband Zuber Peerzade, said that women were allowed to enter mosques during the time of the Prophet Mohammad. “Like men, women also have the constitutional rights to offer worship according to their belief,” they said in their petition. “There should not be any gender discrimination and allow Muslim women to pray in all mosques,” they said. The court last year lifted a ban on the entry of women of menstrual age at a Hindu temple in southern India saying it was a violation of their right to worship. The Muslim couple referred to the temple ruling, which angered conservative Hindus, as a precedent to support their call for women to be allowed to pray at mosques. A representative of a prominent organization of Islamic scholars, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, was not immediately available for comment. The petition comes at a sensitive time for relations been minority Muslims and the majority Hindu community. Some members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist ruling party have been accused of stirring communal animosity as the party seeks a second term in a staggered general election now underway. Supreme Court judge S.A. Bobde said the court will examine the couple’s request at length. The court in 2017 ruled as unconstitutional a law, which allows Muslim men to divorce their wives simply by uttering the word “talaq”, which means divorce in Arabic, three times. This year, the government issued an executive order making instant divorce an offence punishable with up to three years in jail.

Saudi Crown Prince Holds Talks with US Central Command Chief
Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 16 April, 2019/Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, held talks in Riyadh on Monday with Commander of the United States Central Command General Kenneth McKenzie, reported the Saudi Press Agency. They discussed bilateral cooperation, especially in the military field, and efforts to counter terrorism and extremism. They also tackled the latest regional developments. McKenzie had held talks earlier on Monday with Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz.

Bahrain Jails 138 for Planning Iran-Linked Terror Group
Manama- Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 16 April, 2019/Bahrain Tuesday jailed 138 people and revoked their citizenship for plotting to form a "terror" group with links to Iran's Revolutionary Guards, the public prosecutor said. The court, whose rulings can be appealed, handed the men prison terms of three years to life for having tried to build a Bahrain Hezbollah, similar to the Shiite militia active in Lebanon, said prosecutor Ahmad al-Hammadi. Some members had received military training in Lebanon, Iran and Iraq, he said in a statement. Another man was also jailed but his citizenship was not revoked, while 30 others were acquitted, said the statement posted on the prosecution Instagram account. A judicial source said that 111 were already in custody while 58 were sentenced in absentia. In Tuesday's court ruling, the prosecutor said 69 defendants were sentenced to life in jail, 39 to 10 years, 23 to seven years and the rest to between three and five years imprisonment. Ninety-six of the defendants were also fined 100,000 Bahraini dinars ($265,000) each.

Shamima Begum Was Member of ISIS ‘Morality Police’
London- Asharq Al-Awsat/Tuesday, 16 April, 2019/New testimonies have been added to the story of former British student at Bethnal Green School in London Shamima Begum, who ran away from her family to join ISIS at the age of 15. Begum served in ISIS’s “morality police” (hisba) and tried to recruit other young women to join the terrorist group, Syrian witnesses have told ‘The Sunday Telegraph’ newspaper. She was allowed to carry a Kalashnikov rifle and earned a reputation as a strict “enforcer” of ISIS’s laws, such as dress codes for women, the newspaper added. Begum, now aged 19, has insisted she was never involved in ISIS’s brutality but spent her time in Syria as a devoted housewife to one of the group’s elements. Begum’s case ignited a row in the UK following her arrival to a refugee camp in northern Syria in February. British authorities stripped Begum of her citizenship and prevented her from returning to the UK, prompting her family to resort to law to allow her return. She shouted at a Syrian woman in Raqqa for wearing colorful shoes, reported the Telegraph, adding that ISIS members in the city know her well. “Don’t believe any of the bad things you hear about ISIS, it’s fake. You have everything you want here, and we can help find you a good-looking husband,” she wrote in a letter to one of the newly joined members. Begum also stitched ISIS militants into suicide bomb vests so that they could not remove them in case the suicide bomber decided to back off, according to the Daily Mail.
Her name made headlines of Western newspapers when she begged to return to the UK despite insisting she had no regrets about traveling to Syria, joining ISIS, and evading condemnation of the targeting Britain. Her family organized a campaign demanding to allow her return to Britain along with her newborn child, who died later and was buried in a refugee camp in Syria. They have reportedly hired human rights lawyer Gareth Pierce, who once represented the radical Preacher Abu Qatada, to represent her. Tasnime Akunjee, a lawyer who has represented the Begum family since 2015, was quoted in a report confirming that legal aid had been granted to Begum. Akunjee said he passed on the case to Pierce after authorities at the al-Roj refugee camp, where Begum is staying, would not let him see her.

Al-Aqsa Mosque Address By Ahmad Al-Khatwani: Job Of Muslims Is To Bring 'Hateful Infidels' To Islam Through Jihad; Rome Will Be Conquered
MEMRI/April 16/19
Palestinian political researcher Sheikh Ahmad Al-Khatwani said in an address he delivered at the Al Aqsa Mosque that Istanbul had been conquered just like the Prophet Muhammad had predicted, and that Rome will also be conquered according to Muhammad's predictions. Al-Khatwani said that Muslims do not hate non-Muslims; rather, he said that all Muslims do "break down the physical obstacles" that prevent the "hateful infidels" from being brought into the light of Islam. He said that Islam is a religion for all of mankind and that the "physical obstacles" will be broken down by "a huge Muslim army that will wage Jihad for the sake of Allah." The video of the address was uploaded to the Internet on March 31, 2019.
To view the clip of Ahmad Al-Khatwani on MEMRI TV, click here or below.
"Since [These Glad Tidings] Were Realized In Constantinople, They Will Be Realized With The Conquest Of Rome"
Sheikh Ahmad Al-Khatwani: "The Prophet Muhammad said: 'You shall conquer Constantinople and the city of Rome.' He was asked: 'Which one will be conquered first, oh Messenger of Allah?' [Muhammad] said that it would be the city of Heraclius – in other words, Constantinople which is Istanbul. And indeed it was conquered, 700 years after the words of Muhammad.
"Thus, these glad tidings were realized on the ground in Constantinople, and since they were realized in Constantinople, they will be realized with the conquest of Rome, Allah willing."
"But If [The Infidels] Reject [Islam] Because Of Their Hatred, We Have No Choice But To Break Down These Obstacles... This Will Be Done By A Huge Muslim Army That Will Wage Jihad For The Sake Of Allah"
"Is the hatred of the Crusaders towards Muslims met with Islamic hatred towards the Crusaders? There is nothing in Islamic terminology – neither in the Hadith nor in the Quran – about Muslim being hateful towards others. Muslims do not hate. Muslims strive to bring the hateful infidels out of the darkness and into the light. [Muslims] strive to bring Islam to them. All Muslims do is break down the physical obstacles that prevent them from calling on [infidels] to convert to Islam. We do not hate anyone. All we do is carry the call and the message of Islam to the world, because Islam is a religion for mankind in its entirety, and it is our duty to guide mankind to the right path through this religion.
"But if [the infidels] reject [Islam] because of their hatred, we have no choice but to break down these obstacles. Since these are physical obstacles, how are they supposed to be broken down? Not through Facebook and the Internet. This will be done by a huge Muslim army that will wage Jihad for the sake of Allah."

Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 15-16/19
MEMRI: Jihadis Celebrate Notre Dame Cathedral Fire, Dub It A Punishment And Good Omen
موقع ميمري: الجهاديون يحتفلون بحريق كاتدرائية نوتردام الفرنسية، ويصفونه بأنه عقاب وفأل خير
MEMRI/April 16/19
The following report is now a complimentary offering from MEMRI’s Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor (JTTM).

Jihadis celebrated the destruction of large parts of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in a devastating fire on April 15, 2019. Reactions by jihadis on social media refer to the cathedral as a symbol of Christianity and a major point of origin for the Crusades. Several describe the fire as punishment for various crimes attributed to France or to Christians in general, such as France’s military intervention in Muslim countries or the mosque massacres in New Zealand. Some jihadis, including leading figures, view the incident as a good omen heralding calamities for the West and the global order.
The following is a selection of such reactions to the fire:
Muntasir Media, a pro-ISIS media outlet, published a poster showing the burning cathedral, with the caption: “A good day! Notre Dame cathedral. Its construction began in 1163 and finished in 1345. It’s time to say goodbye to your pulpit of polytheism. ‘A fitting reward’ [Quran 78:26].”
A French-speaking jihad supporter on Facebook writes: “800 years of history of pedophilia, worship of Satan and other diabolical rituals, all up in smoke in a few minutes…it’s thrilling […] not mentioning the Crusades and the various wars led by the Church against the Muslims.”[1]
Another jihadi supporter on Facebook describes the fire as punishment for the recent expulsion of the Islamic State from its stronghold of Baghouz: “Paris is burning in flames. Woe to it from the fire of tomorrow [hellfire], for that is the [divine] promise. Oh Paris, the air of your ashes is like snow falling on cheeks strained by exhaustion. Oh Paris, how long will you wander in the sea of haughtiness, do you not long for the army of monotheism in order to pay it the jizyah which is long overdue and provide it with full breasted female slaves? Oh Paris, why the disobedience? You are a sinner, and what is the fire if not an army that came from Baghouz[2] to take a right which was plundered.”[3]
A Facebook post by Muhammad Nasr Abu Bakr which appears to express wishful thinking about ISIS involvement reads: “The burning of the Notre Dame church in Paris is an answer to the mosque incident in New Zealand. Allah bless your virtue, oh ISIS, oh pride of terrorists! Who wants to bemoan it [the fire] so we can stick our shoe in his mouth?”[4]
On Twitter, an ISIS supporter writes: “They bombed the Muslims in the cities of the Islamic State and eradicated them with the ugliest types of weapons, and they thought that they have won and defeated the jihad. They didn’t know that they brought death upon themselves. They didn’t know that they opened the gates of hell, which will close only on their burnt corpses.”[5]
Writing on Telegram, a prominent Al-Qaeda supporter who calls himself Shibl Al-‘Aqidah [the cub of the faith] celebrates the devastation at Notre Dame Cathedral: “I rejoice and praise Allah as I witness the fall of the oldest cross as a result of the fire in the church in France. This joy is mixed with sorrow, as I remember the massacres of Muslims and the burning of mosques by these infidels. Praise Allah who burned their churches and destroyed their crosses. And let there be no comfort to the hypocrites who expressed sorrow for this gladdening event.”[6]
In a lengthy post on his Telegram channel in response to the fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, Jordan-based jihadi ideologue Abu Qatadah Al-Falastini notes that while most educated people associate the cathedral with the classic The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo, few are aware of the church’s Crusader past, alleging that it was from the Cathedral of Notre Dame that Patriarch Heraclius of Jerusalem declared the Third Crusade after Saladin vanquished Crusader-held Jerusalem. Abu Qatadah writes that “today we see” the cathedral, from which the Crusade against Muslim-controlled Jerusalem began, “burning and turning into heaps of ruins.” The jihadi ideologue concludes: “Perhaps it is a good omen.”[7]
Abu Qatadah Al-Falastini
An Islamist rebel commander in Syria writes that the Notre Dame fire might be a good omen heralding the collapse of the international order: “Far from foolish optimism, rather I sense it is an omen for great good. This year there have been many dreams revolving around the glad tidings of victory. Likewise, the events that are happening, if we look at them in a comprehensive perspective, we will find them to be arrangements of Divine predestination laying the foundations for the collapse of the international order and beforehand, or at the same time, the agents of the American domain. All these are part of a recurring story in the annals of history, praise Allah. Today the oldest cross fell because of a fire in a church in Paris. By Allah, from the land of the den of lions [Syria] I read it as a great message, and see it as glad tidings…”[8]
[1], April 15, 2019.
[2] Baghouz, a village in Syria, was ISIS’s last territorial stronghold in that country until the organization was recently pushed out.
[3], April 15, 2019.
[4], April 15, 2019.
[5], April 15, 2019.
[6], April 16, 2019.
[7] Source:, April 16, 2019.
[8], April 15, 2019.

Saudi Press Attacks Hamas For Suppressing Gaza Civil Protest: Hamas Members Have Become 'The Gazans' Hangmen,' And Capitalize On Gazans' Blood
MEMRI/April 16/19
Hamas's violent repression of the social and economic protests against it, that broke out on March 14, 2019 across the Gaza Strip, has been harshly criticized both in Palestinian society and outside of it;[1] criticism was particularly harsh in the Gulf countries and Saudi Arabia. The Saudi press featured op-eds and columns justifying the protests and accusing Hamas of terrorism, oppression, and unbridled lust for power and control. The articles stated that Hamas had turned the Gaza Strip into a huge prison for its residents, that Hamas members had become the hangmen of the Gaza people, and that Hamas is in the same camp as terror movements and as the enemies of Saudi Arabia, among them the Muslim Brotherhood, Iran, Qatar, Hizbullah, and the Taliban. Several writers even called on the Arab countries to work to expel Hamas from Gaza and to restore Palestinian Authority (PA) control in the Gaza Strip; there were also those who argued that Hamas was more dangerous than Israel for Gaza residents.
Criticism of Hamas was also disseminated on social media; for example, Saudi journalist Azzah Al-Subaie responded to a news item on Hamas's violent dispersion of a demonstration by tweeting, "Hamas promises the public Paradise in the world to come – while its leaders prefer the Paradise of this world" – a reference to Hamas's corruption.
The following are translated excepts of articles in the Saudi press criticizing Hamas:
Columnist in Saudi Daily Al-Madina: Hamas Members Have Become Gazans' Hangmen; The Arab Countries Must Expel Them From Gaza
In his March 26, 2019 column in the Saudi daily Al-Madina, Sultan Al-'Anqari criticized Hamas following its suppression of the popular protests in the Gaza Strip, and added that it was using terrorism and repression against its residents and that its rule was no different from that of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Adding that Hamas was motivated by lust for money, and was closing its eyes to the destruction its patron Qatar was wreaking on Arab countries, he also called on the Arab countries to expel Hamas from Gaza and to punish its members, and also to punish Qatar that supports it. He wrote:
"The oppression, the subjugation, and the terrorism that Hamas is using against millions of Palestinian residents in Gaza proves beyond a doubt that we are facing an opportunistic Muslim Brotherhood (MB) movement employing the method used by the corrupt MB, that worships the dinar and the dirham... Since Hamas's coup against the PA, it has made the densely populated Gaza [Strip] into a huge prison. Furthermore, it guards the gates of this prison on Israel's behalf, as [Israel] scratches its back... They [Hamas] have replaced the soldiers of the Israeli occupation as the Gazans' hangmen. Hamas's leader, the head of the snake – MB member Khaled Mash'al... closes his eyes to the destruction and ruin that the regime of the two Hamads [i.e. Qatar[2]] is bringing to the Arab countries, and is indifferent to it, as long as his pockets, and the pockets of his terror gangs in Gaza, are full. Reality tells us that there is no difference between the Emirate of the Taliban in Afghanistan and that of the MB in Gaza...
"Hamas, the agent in Palestine of the deviant leader[3] [Ali] Khamenei, is an obstacle that must be forcibly removed by the Egyptian side via the Rafah crossing, and by the PA. [Hamas] must be placed between hammer and anvil, in order to disarm it and hand [its weapons] over to the PA. Hamas in Palestine is a copy of the party of Satan [i.e. Hizbullah, lit. "party of God"] in Lebanon, and there is no difference between the two. The Arab countries must help the PA retake Gaza from the men of the coup – the Hamas militia – and must punish the terror statelet Qatar, that supports terrorism and division in the Palestinian camp."[4]
'Okaz Columnist: Hamas Is Capitalizing On Israel's Attacks On Gaza –To Maintain Its Own Power
In his weekly column in the Saudi daily 'Okaz, titled "Sorry, Hamas, I Can't Sympathize [With You]," Saudi writer 'Ali Al-Tawati accused Hamas of capitalizing on the blood of Gaza's residents and encouraging Israeli attacks on civilian targets in the Gaza Strip, with the aim of distancing itself from criticism and staying in power. He presented the Gaza Return Marches and the firing of missiles deep into Israel in recent weeks as major examples of this policy. He wrote:
"I am not the only one who is against [Hamas's] capitalizing on Palestinian blood to advance party and regional agendas; the Gaza residents are [too]. It is they who have been harmed by your [i.e., Hamas's] takeover of them, and by the fact that, from time to time, you sacrifice some of your own kin [i.e., some Gazans] to the Israeli killing machine... as if there were an unwritten agreement between you and the [Israeli] occupation authorities to murder the next generation and to sow fear in the hearts of those who were not killed, that will remain to their dying day...
"The frequent Israeli attacks against the imprisoned masses [in Gaza] are vital to these [Hamas] leaders... in order to remind the new generations of the Israeli monster and [thus] to justify their [Hamas's] extremism, continued [grip on] power, and control of aid funds and payments from forces in the region...
"When the Hamas leadership in Gaza realized that the Israeli military response to its provocations were limited to bombing [Hamas] command centers, it began, on March 30, 2018, to use a method that could only have been thought up by sons of Satan – called the Great Marches of Return. They pushed the young people towards the fence separating the [Gaza] Strip from Israel, by means of marches aimed at 'returning to Palestine' – yes, they did! [This was only] so that the Israelis would violently attack these young people... but this did not deter Hamas, which capitalizes on blood, and continues to repeat these actions every Friday...
"Evidence that [Hamas's] sacrifice of human victims had become an aim in itself was the events of the evening of March 14, 2019, when two missiles from the Gaza Strip fell near Tel Aviv without causing damage. The Israeli vengeance was to bomb Hamas positions in Gaza – except that Hamas did not like this response because it did not include massacring citizens. Therefore, it [Hamas] attacked again, on March 25, 2019, and we awakened to the news that a missile from Gaza had fallen on a home north of Tel Aviv and wounded its residents. This time, the timing [of the firing of the rocket] was well planned, perhaps in order to avoid exposing the truth about Hamas's takeover of the Gaza residents following the Hamas militias' operation of repression, killing, accusations of treason, and murder against their opponents and against anyone protesting the deteriorating economic situation...
"I hope that the Arab summit set to convene next Saturday [March 30, 2019] will intervene in determining Gaza's fate, by passing a resolution to remove Hamas's hands from it and to appoint the PA to take up the reins of government there, and [also appoint] Egypt and Jordan to oversee talks to finally remove the Gaza siege, in the name of the Arabs and with their guarantee. The tragedy of the innocent civilians there has crossed every line of [tolerable] human suffering."[5]
Al-Jazirah Columnist: Hamas Is Many Times More Dangerous For Gaza Residents Than Israel
Muhammad Aal Al-Sheikh stated in his March 24, 2019 column for the Saudi Al-Jazirah daily that Hamas was willing to kill half of the Gaza Strip residents if they opposed its policy, adding that members of political movements such as Hamas, the MB, and the Taliban, as well as Iran, were much more dangerous for the Gazans and the Arabs in general than Israel. He wrote:
"Hamas, that puts on a Muslim face and belongs to the MB, has clashed with the Gaza masses that took to the streets to demonstrate demanding food and medicine and complaining about the unemployment that rises by the day. [It did this] by means of gunfire and clubs, and imprisoned some of them [i.e. the protestors]... It is now clear [to everyone] that this benighted [Hamas] is ready to kill half of Gaza's residents with no regard for religion or human rights when anyone opposes its repressive, tyrannical policy. Hamas attained power in the [Gaza] Strip via the ballot box, waving the slogan 'Institute Sharia for Liberating Palestine,' but as soon as it held the reins of power, it became an authoritarian, tyrannical regime interested in nothing but remaining in power at any price.
"What Hamas is doing is not limited to its own activists; this is the system used by all those who pretend to be Muslims when they attain power... All [our] experience with the Muslim pretenders of our time proves and confirms this, beginning with Iran and the Taliban in Afghanistan [through] Sudan under [President Omar] Al-Bashir, who instituted MB doctrine in the country and divided the country in two, to today's Hamas...
"The catastrophe of the Gazans is that they fled the oppression, the takeover and the siege of the Zionists just to fall into tyranny uglier and more loathsome than that of the Israelis. These [Hamas members] who pretend to be Muslims are liars who slaughter [people] in full view, as they repeatedly chant 'Allah Akbar!' Will the Gazans, and the Arabs in general, ever be convinced that these bearded men disguised as Muslims are a danger many times greater for them than the Israeli side?"[6]
Al-Sharq Al-Awsat Columnist: The Gazans Gave Hamas Everything It Asked Of Them – But No Longer
In his March 28, 2019 column in the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, the Bahraini investigative journalist Dr. Shamsan bin Abdallah Al-Mana'i wrote, under the headline "Hamas Is Closing In On Gaza," expressing support for the Gaza residents against the Hamas regime, and accusing Hamas of repressing its people and turning its back on the Palestinian cause as it formed alliances with foreign elements such as Iran, Hizbullah, and the Syrian regime. He wrote:
"The Gaza residents said this explicitly, with no need for commentary, when they called 'We want to live' when their patience ran out... [At that point] they had no choice but to announce a 'revolution of the hungry,' because the basic human needs are food, shelter, medicines, and jobs.
"The root of this problem is that the Hamas leaders became filled with pride in sin,[7] particularly after the Qatari funds and Hizbullah ballistic missiles were lavished on them. From that time... they entered the international game, and turned their back on the Palestinian cause and on the Gaza residents in particular... They allied with countries and parties completely unrelated to the Palestinian cause – Iran, Qatar, Hizbullah, the Houthis, and the Syrian regime – to the point where Gaza became a huge prison and reached a dead end. Hamas let the Gazans suffer hunger, poverty, and unemployment, and [the Gazans] had no choice but to launch an intifada – but this time not against Israel but against the Hamas leaders...
"No one would believe that Hamas, that once enjoyed widespread popular support and had achievements in the Legislative Council elections, would be the one now repressing and persecuting its people. [Hamas] is now surprised that the Palestinian public... is capable of distinguishing between real slogans and lip service for the media. This [Gaza] public gave Hamas everything it asked, as [this public] faced three hard wars between 2008 and 2014, bore the pain of the siege for 12 years, and gave its blood in Marches of Return for an entire year. [It was willing to do] all this when the aim was clear and worthy of conflict. But when Hamas deviated from this, attempting to distract, extort, and exploit public opinion, it realized how things really are."[8]
[1] For criticism within Hamas of the violent dispersal of the protests, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7964, Hamas Members, Supporters Criticize Its Suppression Of Economic And Social Protests In Gaza, March 26, 2018.
[2] Saudi derogatory term for Qatar, stemming from Saudi Arabia's position that Qatar is actually ruled by Hamad Aal Thani, father of current Qatari ruler Emir Tamim Aal Thani, and by former Qatari foreign minister Hamad bin Jassem.
[3] A play on Khamenei's title, 'Supreme Leader ' of Iran.
[4] Al-Madina (Saudi Arabia), March 26, 2019.
[5] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), March 28, 2019.
[6] Al-Jazirah (Saudi Arabia), March 24, 2019.
[7] From Quran 2:206.
[8] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), March 29, 2019.

Why Is Zuckerberg So Relaxed About UK Online Speech Rules?

Alex Webb/Bloomberg/April, 16/19
Britain’s plans to regulate online content have triggered an unsurprising furor about censorship. But that’s largely fine with the technology giants – because it distracts attention from a bigger problem that goes to the heart of their business model.
The white paper on online harms, published Monday, is an effort to curb the online spread of dangerous content, such as incitement to terrorism. It proposed “substantial fines” on both companies and executives who have breached a “statutory duty of care” that would be enforced by a new regulator. As if that wasn’t enough, the regulator will “ensure the focus is on protecting users from harm – not judging what is true or not.”
It has produced an enormous outcry over free speech, including here, here and here. It’s important to discuss this. But let’s not get carried away. This is a white paper, not a bill, let alone an act. It asks questions, as well as answers them – the paper includes a list of 18 of them to guide participants in the consultation, which ends in July. And there's no reason why the result need undermine free expression. Amnesty International, for one, offers clear parameters for the legitimate restriction of speech.
Still, if social media giants are going to be forced to make difficult calls with stiff penalties for getting them wrong you’d expect a bit of outrage from Silicon Valley. Particularly if the U.K. precedent is then followed by governments elsewhere around the world.
Instead, it’s crickets all around. Facebook Inc. itself has asked for these sort of rules – Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg did so in a Washington Post column last month. They will make his job easier. Rather than being beholden to the court of public opinion about what is or isn’t acceptable content, his responsibility will be to uphold rules specified by the government.
They’ll also provide a very useful distraction from something that should be an important focus for lawmakers: these tech behemoths’ business models. They make almost all their money from advertising, and the question is whether their reach has become anticompetitive.
The companies have created a growth cycle where more user engagement generates more advertising revenue, which funds new products, which attract more users, stoking more engagement, and so on. As a digital ecosystem expands to ensnare billions of people, engagement becomes the lodestar for lifting revenue. Unfortunately for society, polarizing and untrue posts and videos are usually a surefire way of generating more engagement, as Buzzfeed journalist Craig Silverman demonstrated back in 2016 when he coined the term “fake news.”
Sites such as Facebook and YouTube, which is owned by Google, are therefore rewarded financially for hosting posts and videos that may attract viewers – but may also cause harm. The link between engagement and revenue has helped them cement their dominance of the online advertising market.
Disentangling the relationship between engagement and revenue is a complex problem that doesn’t have an immediately obvious or proportionate solution. Until such a fix is found, the best stopgap is for governments to intervene to tackle harmful content.
But developing the process for regulating speech will be fraught with controversy. And it will distract from the crucial question of whether they control too much of the digital advertising industry, and how their businesses work. Facebook and Google’s advertising offerings resemble black boxes where money and ad campaigns go in, and prospective customers come out. Does this involve unfair competition? Are potential new entrants to the market being unjustly squeezed out?
The starting point for any conversation is a detailed look under the tech giants’ hood. But a heated debate on the practicalities of containing harmful online speech will unfortunately take precedence over a much-needed discussion about whether the companies should be subject to antitrust regulation.
Dipayan Ghosh has a better understanding of these issues than most, having worked as both an adviser on technology policy to the Barack Obama administration, and on public policy at Facebook. “Nothing is going to happen on the content moderation question in a way that will truly hold the industry accountable until the responsibility gets pulled away from Facebook,” he told me. “But they also want a robust discussion about it because that will drag on for years and pull away the spotlight from the more necessary set of economic regulations you could consider.”
The UK government has already sown some seeds here. Its reports on the sustainability of journalism and unlocking digital competition each cited the need for a study of the digital advertising market. Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright and Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond have both taken up this call. It’s important that their findings aren’t drowned by other debates. It will be months before a bill on online harms surfaces, tying up the resources of politicians and civil servants alike. The last thing Facebook and Google want is a government official trying to pick apart their advertising operations. But a body to set standards for content? Sign them up.

Denmark: Change Appears Elusive Despite Anti-Immigration Movements
Ole Hasselbalch/Gatestone Institute/April 16, 2019
In the 1980s, the Social Democrats had formed a committee to examine the results of immigration. The negative findings that emerged were rejected by the party's leaders, who instead released a pro-immigration report.
The bad news is that the Danish mainstream media and pro-immigration politicians do not tell voters the truth: that the presence of hundreds of thousands of unintegrated Muslims is endangering Danish society. Journalists have not been telling the truth out of denial; politicians possibly also for fear of losing immigrants' votes.
Although Denmark is home to one of Europe's most successful anti-mass-immigration movements, politicians are often reluctant to address the effects of mass-immigration. Pictured: The chamber of Denmark's parliament in Christiansborg Palace, Copenhagen.
Although Denmark is home to one of Europe's most successful anti-mass-immigration movements, the bleak facts concerning the effects of mass-immigration have not been taken seriously by the mainstream media, and politicians are often reluctant to address the matter.
How did this situation come about?
In 1983, the Danish Parliament enacted a new "foreigners' law", the "Memorandum on Migration policy." Preparatory work for the new law was performed by an official committee of public servants and Hans Gammeltoft-Hansen, chairman of the private (heavily subsidized) Danish Refugee Council. Going against the majority of the committee, which included the president of the Supreme Court, Gammeltoft-Hansen succeeded in promoting an alternative bill that opened Denmark's borders to anyone claiming asylum.
At that time, information on immigration was monopolized by the Danish Refugee Council and similar organizations, which -- in an apparent eagerness to seem welcoming and kind-hearted -- usually painted false rosy pictures of the results. With little to contradict those false rosy pictures, the Danish Refugee Council was quite successful at molding public opinion favorably toward migration.
The new act, however, soon proved catastrophic. Attempts at integrating the various "refugees" who flowed into the country kept failing. Three quarters of all refugees who arrived in the early 2000s, for example, remained jobless a full decade later.
In 1984, a refugee donation campaign launched by the Danish Refugee Council spurred a priest, Søren Krarup, to place two separate ads in the newspaper Jyllands-Posten -- for which he wrote a regular column -- against the endeavor. In spite of a tremendous smear campaign against "the black priest," his efforts attracted wide support.
In 1987, a private organization, the Danish Association (Den Danske Forening, DDF), was established:
"... to safeguard Danish culture, language and traditional lifestyle in a world increasingly threatened by chaos, overpopulation, violence and fanaticism... to warn against the dissolution of our cultural identity which is now under threat of being swamped by an enormous influx of immigrants from countries plagued by overpopulation... to prevent the disintegration of Denmark as the homeland of the Danish people."
As a result of these aims, the DDF was accused of "Nazism" and "racism" -- despite many of its key members being veterans of the Danish Resistance Movement of WW II.[1] In response, the DDF filed and won a slew of defamation suits against the media outlets that promoted the lies.
Already at the DDF's inaugural meeting on March 18, 1987, participants were attacked with "small grenades" and a "fair sized bomb." Others were physically obstructed from entering the premises. The chairman of DDF at the time -- the world-renowned pathologist Johannes Clemmesen -- complained to the justice minister about the events at the meeting, which had been barely mentioned in the press.
Police protection remained ineffective, however: DDF meeting sites, such as hotels and restaurants, were continually harassed. The organization then resorted to using community centers for its gatherings.
The DDF engaged in a three-pronged approach: conducting research on the immigration problem and other key issues, such as the workings and funding of the Danish Refugee Council, as well as its formal plan to manipulate public opinion; publishing the findings of the research in leaflets and the DDF periodical, Danskeren; and distributing the material in mailboxes, on public transportation and in letters to the editors in newspapers, and the like.
The advent of the internet provided a huge boost to their efforts. Spreading information could now be done online, through a proper website, which currently has about 3,000 visitors a day.
Although all such endeavors proved effective -- particularly as they circumvented the mainstream media, which was not friendly to any group opposing unfettered immigration -- the DDF acquired the higher ambition of affecting parliamentary policy and taking on issues of demography, culture, national defense, free speech, law, statistics and economics.
Gradually, many groups sympathetic to the same objectives as DDF, in at least questioning the results of unvetted mass-immigration, began to emerge, each dealing with a special issue. Among them are the Danish Culture Association, the Free Speech Society, Stop Islamization of Denmark and Generation Identitær, as well as alternative media outlets and blogs, including Den Korte Avis, Uriasposten, Snaphanen and 24Nyt.
The Danish People's Party, established in 1995 by politicians splitting off from the Progress Party, also adopted an immigration policy generally in accordance with that which the DDF had formulated in 1987. Since then, the party's popularity has soared. Today, it is not only the country's second-largest political party, but also holds the chairmanship of the parliament.
Denmark's Social Democratic Party, which traditionally attracted the "common people" -- those most burdened by the influx of immigrants -- was hit the hardest blow by the rise of the Danish People's Party.
In the 1980s, the Social Democrats had formed a committee to examine the results of immigration. The negative findings that emerged were rejected by the party's leaders, who instead released a pro-immigration report. It was due to the unrealistic immigration policy of the Social Democrats that many of its members ended up defecting to the Danish People's Party. This move, however, caused subsequent leaders of the Social Democrats to shift the party's stance on immigration "in a more restrictive direction." The good news is, as a result, that the Social Democrats' immigration policy today runs along basically the same lines as that of the Danish People's Party, still extremely skeptical about the desirability unvetted mass-immigration.
The bad news is that the Danish mainstream media and pro-immigration politicians do not tell voters the truth: that the presence of hundreds of thousands of unintegrated Muslims is endangering Danish society. Journalists have not been telling the truth out of denial; politicians possibly also for fear of losing immigrants' votes. As a result, the electorate does not realize how serious the situation has become.
*Ole Hasselbalch is a professor of law at Aarhus University, Denmark, and author of "Opgøret med indvandringspolitikken: En personlig beretning."
[1] For example, Jens Toldstrup (key organizer of DD, resistance leader in Jutland during WW II, awarded i.a. with the US Medal of Freedom with Gold Palms); Herluf Rasmussen (DDF-leader of the Copenhagen District, among the leaders of the Communist sabotage organization BOPA); Sune Dalgård (DDF chairman and editor, the illegal press and military groups); Niels Ebbe Lundholt (organizer of DDF Middle Jutland, railway saboteur); Bjørn Palnæs (distribution of DDF information to members of Parliament and the press, the youngest Dane ending up in a Nazi concentration camp).
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The US Must Stop Iran's Takeover of Yemen
د. ماجد رافيزادا/معهد جيتستون
يجب على الولايات المتحدة أن توقف سيطرة إيران على اليمن/16 نيسان/19
Majid Rafizadeh/Gatestone Institute/April 16/2019

After President Trump's visit to the region, the Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have ratcheted up their efforts to fight extremism. The UAE and other Gulf states have been participating with the US in a multinational mission.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has been encircling Saudi Arabia with the apparent goal of taking over Saudi oil fields and holy sites, and the major international shipping lanes on either side of the Arabian Peninsula: the Bab al Mandeb and the Strait of Hormuz. Iran has also been occupying Syria and Iraq; running Lebanon by means of Iran's terrorist proxy group, Hizballah, and funding yet another terrorist group, Hamas, in the Gaza Strip, presumably in the hope of destroying Israel.
Even more alarming, by far, is that Iran is on the threshold of obtaining nuclear weapons and the ballistic missiles to deliver them. Iran, in short, has adopted a dangerous, expansionist ideology that needs to be taken seriously.
America must stop Iran from taking over Yemen.
For the past few years, the Houthis, as puppets and proxies of Iran, have been fighting the Saudi Sunnis, apparently to ensure that the conflict continues in Yemen until they, the Houthis, take control of the country and advance the interests of the Iranian government. Pictured: Militiamen aligned with Yemen's Saudi-led coalition-backed government, at the front-line facing Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, on September 20, 2018, at Hodeidah, Yemen.
One of the primary revolutionary ideals to which the ruling clerics of the Islamic Republic of Iran are dedicated to upholding is not to limit the implementation of its version of Islamic laws to just Iran. The ruling clerics are also committed to exporting Iran's revolutionary principle and expanding the fundamentalist mission to other nations.
How do they carry this out? By effectively taking over other countries. Lebanon, through Iran's proxy Hizballah, was the first. Then came Syria, and finally, Iraq -- with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip waiting in the wings.
With each victory, the ruling mullahs of Iran have grown increasingly lethal and increasingly bold. At present, and for several years, Iran has set its sights on Yemen.
This is not a random or new philosophy. This mission is part of Iran's constitution. Its preamble states that it "provides the necessary basis for ensuring the continuation of the Revolution at home and abroad."
The document goes on to say that Iran's Army and Revolutionary Guards
"will be responsible not only for guarding and preserving the frontiers of the country, but also for fulfilling the ideological mission of (Shiite) jihad in God's way; that is, extending the sovereignty of God's (Shiite) law throughout the world ... in the hope that this century will witness the establishment of a universal holy government and the downfall of all others."
The Iranian government has been employing every political and military tactic possible in order to fulfill this objective. These acts include, but are not limited to, funding and arming Yemen's Houthis. This group, in the 1990s, both in the capital, Sanaa and in the north, started preaching peace to stop persecution of Zaidi Muslims, a sect close to Shiism, but ended up as a military force of more than 100,000. For the past four or five years, the Houthis, as the puppets and proxies of Iran, have been fighting the Saudi Sunnis, apparently to ensure that the conflict continues in Yemen until they, the Houthis, take control of the country and advance the interests of the Iranian government.
The Houthis have been fortunate to have Iran as such a powerful ally. Their Iranian backers will not let them run out of ammunition. The Iranian government continues to smuggle illicit weapons and technology into Yemen. According to a nuanced report by Reuters, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) -- recently designated by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as a Foreign Terrorist Organization -- is a key supporter and sponsor of the Houthis, and has been stepping up its weapons supply to Yemen. The IRGC is also currently using a new route across the Gulf to deliver covert arms shipments to the Houthis.
More broadly, this drive gives an insight into the tactics and long-term strategies of Iranian-trained and -armed proxies across the Middle East. Their plans are built on four pillars: destabilization, conflict, assassination, and the rejection of any solution that has Sunni or Western origins.
An example of Iran's pursuit of these four pillars includes the assassination of Yemen's former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. In 2017, two days after he urged a resolution to the conflict, and when the international community sighed with relief that the four-year-old civil war and seemingly intractable conflict in Yemen was going to be resolved much sooner than expected, the former Yemeni president was murdered by the Iran-backed Houthi militia.
The Trump Administration, in contrast to that of its predecessor, Barack Obama, has taken a tough stance on countering Iran's dark ambitions and extremism.
After President Donald J. Trump's visit to the region to help uproot extremism and revive an "Arab NATO" to deter Iran, the Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, ratcheted up their efforts to fight extremism.
Middle East Monitor reported on "leaked emails sent by UAE Ambassador to the US Yousef Al-Otaiba":
"Several emails between Al-Otaiba and his associates in America indicate that the UAE is promoting what it considers to be 'moderate' Islam, whilst simultaneously directing US officials towards individuals who have endorsed the banning of the Muslim Brotherhood. Al-Otaiba is also revealed to have spoken at an event endorsing the US government's countering violent extremism initiative, a strategy implemented under different names in many Western countries, and a source of much contention in Muslim communities."
A study by Britain's Henry Jackson Society reported in 2018 that: "The United Arab Emirates works closely with the USA and other countries and international organisations to show its commitment to fighting extremism in all forms. The focus of Emirati counter-extremism has been to cut off funding opportunities for extremist activities, and to improve security at the borders to disrupt the recruitment of fighters from other countries. In addition, the UAE monitors social media to prevent the spread of hate messages and intervenes when it feels that religious centres are radicalising people and involving them in extremist activities." (P. 16)
"In 2015, the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, urged his State's Mufti to issue Moderate fatwas which promote tolerance." Fn. 92. (Fn. 92. Dajani, H., 'UAE's new fatwa council "will help fight extreme religious teachings" ', The National, 5 June 2017 ) (P. 17)
Followers of different religions have built 40 churches, two Hindu temples and a Sikh temple, all on land donated freely by the ruling authorities, who welcome foreign congregations in the UAE. The region's largest Anglican Church is currently being built in Abu Dhabi and will accommodate more than 4,000 worshipers once complete. This new large facility will be not only be a center of worship, but also a gathering place for communities who are making a home away from home. This generous provision of land for non-Muslim residents is consistent with the hospitality that is a feature of Emirati culture and tradition.
The UAE and other Gulf states have also been participating with the United States in a multinational mission. As set forth by the UAE:
"The UAE is committed to fighting Islamic extremism across all fronts – including working to address and eliminate the other elements that breed terrorism. This includes:
Promoting new economic opportunities and strengthening governance and institutions across the Middle East region; Stopping the recruitment of foreign fighters into extremist organizations, and the flow of these fighters across borders; cutting off the financing that funds extremist organizations;
Acting to protect those who are subject to kidnapping and sexual violence by their captors; Working together with international partners to undercut the spread of terrorist ideology."
According to the Daily Caller: "Regrettably, in many countries in the region, Christians and other minority faith groups are subject to violence, discrimination and sometimes the inability to freely practice their religions.
"However, not everywhere in the Middle East is that way. The United Arab Emirates, a small country in the Arabian Gulf, is pioneering a different path — one based on tolerance, openness and inclusion."
The Daily Caller also notes that the UAE, through its Hedayah Center, a global think tank inaugurated in 2012, has also worked on being "a home for all faiths," and on providing "communities and governments around the world with tools to increase their capabilities to counter extremism and recruitment efforts by terrorist organizations..."
Last year, the UAE designated 2019 as the Year of Tolerance, with a conference and other programs, been trying to promote the values of tolerance throughout the region ever since.
Saudi Arabia, for its part, after a few bumpy starts, has nevertheless been haltingly nosing toward reforms that include opening cinemas and allowing women to drive. It seems sad that these advances were marred by arresting and putting on trial some of the women who had requested the drivers' reform, especially as what they requested is no longer illegal. It would be most helpful to Saudi Arabia, internationally, to see them all freed. Convicting them will just send a message to the world that the Saudi royal family are trying to threaten others as a warning not to express their views -- and make the new reforms seem a sham.
It would also be most helpful to Saudi Arabia to free some of its other prisoners as well, primarily Raif Badawi, now in prison after receiving 50 lashes, for writing thoughts such as, "My commitment is... to reject any oppression in the name of religion... a goal that we will reach in a peaceful and law-abiding way." In addition, the lawyer who represented him, Walid Abu'l-Khayr, should be freed from prison as well.
Saudi Arabia, despite problematic textbooks and exporting their preferred brand of Wahhabi Islam throughout Europe and much of the West by massively funding cultural centers and mosques, has not threatened Europe, or North and South America with anywhere near the degree of physical violence that Iran's mullahs continue to do. Saudi Arabia has, however, just agreed to set up a strategic partnership council with India to work more closely together to fight terrorism.
Of course, it remains to be seen, as Nina Shea, Director of the Center for Religious Freedom, points out, how the many opportunities established in Saudi Arabia and the UAE are translated into actions, and not just "token tolerance". Indisputably, the UAE has been leading the way. Shea writes of the first Papal visit to the region on February 3:
"On one hand, this is real progress. It further erodes an ancient taboo against religious freedom on the Arabian Peninsula. Attributed to Islam's Prophet Mohammed, tradition holds that no religion other than Islam is permissible there. For many centuries none was...
"In the events this week, the UAE is acting as Saudi Arabia's more liberal alter ego. At a time when American support for Saudi Arabia is wearing thin, these Gulf countries are anxious to shore it up by having the UAE show a modicum of the religious tolerance that Saudi Arabia has promised but failed to deliver. The West should commend the UAE at this time but keep it in perspective."
Iran and its proxies, on the other hand, have already demonstrated their fierce and ruthless strategy through acts of terror. The Houthis last July attempted to fire a missile at an Abu Dhabi nuclear facility -- an act most likely meant to create mass civilian casualties. Thankfully, the missile fell short. Iranian-backed Houthis have also fired several rockets at Saudi Arabia.
The Yemen conflict means more to Iran than merely taunting its Gulf rivals, whom it has vowed to destroy. It is, rather, an ideological crusade to unite the Muslim world under its own Islamist rule, one that will always see any attempts at peace as merely a delay in the process.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has been encircling Saudi Arabia with the apparent goal of taking over Saudi oil fields and holy sites, and the major international shipping lanes on either side of the Arabian Peninsula: the Bab al Mandeb and the Strait of Hormuz. Iran has also been occupying Syria and Iraq; running Lebanon by means of Iran's terrorist proxy group, Hizballah, and funding yet another terrorist group, Hamas, in the Gaza Strip, presumably in the hope of destroying Israel.
Even more alarming, by far, is that Iran is on the threshold of obtaining nuclear weapons and the ballistic missiles to deliver them. Iran, in short, has adopted a dangerous, expansionist ideology that needs to be taken seriously.
These episodes will not be its final iteration. America needs -- now -- to stop Iran from taking over Yemen.
*Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a business strategist and advisor, Harvard-educated scholar, political scientist, board member of Harvard International Review, and president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He has authored several books on Islam and US Foreign Policy. He can be reached at: Dr.Rafizadeh@Post.Harvard.Edu
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Fighting Harassment at Work in Lebanon
Karim Nammour/Executive Magazine/April 16/19
The need to adopt a legal framework to tackle harassment in the workplace in Lebanon has been garnering more space in the public debate during the last couple of months, especially after the success of the almost global #MeToo campaign. In fact, many in the labor sector—especially women and transgender persons, who are verbally or sexually harassed by a colleague or manger, once they gather enough courage to speak-out—often find themselves unable to file a lawsuit against the perpetrator. Instead, they are trapped in a disheartening legal vacuum given the absence of a proper legal framework to fight harassment on one hand and given existing rigid legal imperatives on the other that notably require the victim proves harassment actually occurred. Yes, allegations must be proven, and the alleged perpetrator remains “innocent until proven guilty,” social peace requires it. However, harassment is not assault, and its existence is often contingent on the victim’s perception of the facts. Therefore, an objective serch for the truth is not necessarily compatible with fighting harassment, especially when power-dynamics and patriarchal culture are factored-in. It is precisely for this reason that there is a pressing need to adopt a comprehensive legal framework in the country.
Today, there are at least three different draft laws on sexual harassment that are being proposed in Lebanon. The first one was submitted to Parliament in 2017 by former MP Ghassan Moukheiber and was adopted for less than five minutes before being immediately retracted given the opposition of some MPs, who voiced fears the law would lead to blackmail and vengeful acts against employers. The second law was submitted during the mandate of Jean Oghassabian as Minister of State for Women’s Affairs and adopted by the Council of Ministers on March 8, 2017. In a previous critical review of both draft laws, I had pinpointed many of their problematic issues which may, in fact, counteract the goals they had set, mainly:
The Oghassabian draft law adopts a definition of harassment that recognizes vertical ascendant harassment (meaning that employers can allege being harassed by their employees and sue them on that basis). This recognition is not compatible with the type of hierarchical work-relationships that exist in Lebanon and was only noted in a few rare examples in comparative law within societies where work-relations are of a more cooperative nature. This can, in fact, lead employers to counter-sue employees who claim they are being harassed at work.
On the other hand, both draft laws use an affirmative phrasing in their definition of harassment, meaning that the victim must not only prove the facts but also the damage—such as psychological stress—incurred, which greatly limits the possibility of ever filing a lawsuit in that regard given the complexities of harassment cases in terms of proving damage.
Both draft laws also rely on criminal justice to resolve sexual harassment claims. This may have a deterrent effect on victims given the very public and repressive nature of criminal justice. The aim of legislators should not be limited to compensating victims, but should also ensure the sustainability of their jobs. In that regard a criminal lawsuit against the employer is problematic.
In 2012, I participated—along with various lawyers, researchers, feminist activists, judges, and union members—in writing a comprehensive draft law on sexual and moral harassment at the workplace and outside of it within the “Adventures of Salwa” project undertaken by Nasawiya, a feminist collective NGO. This draft law was written after months of research. Its definition of harassment reduces the burden of the proof on the victims, opens the option to resort to civil courts, safeguards jobs, and establishes an obligation on employers to protect their employees from harassment and find an internal mechanism of complaint and investigation to deal with harassment allegations. The draft law was submitted to the National Commission for Lebanese Women in 2018.
Meanwhile, given the legal vacuum that exists, there are certain loopholes victims of harassment can use in the Labor Code to file a complaint. Indeed article 75 of the Code states that an employee is entitled to quit their job and get paid “dismissal compensation” if the employer or their representative commits an act of violence against them. Since the early 1950s, Lebanese courts have interpreted such acts to include verbal acts of violence (harassment may be considered one of them). It is within that framework and given the current legal situation that we at the Legal Agenda have decided to draft a model defense specifically dedicated to victims of harassment at work. The model defense shall be published within the next couple of months and disseminated for free on our online platform