April 19/2019
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations For today
The Death of Jesus/Good Friday
John 19/28-37: Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty. A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” and, as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.”

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on April 18-19/19
Thursday of the Holy Mysteries & the Last Supper: Rituals, Traditions, Values & Principles
Michigan Hezbollah Propagandist Attacks Phares, is Blasted by Muslim Cleric
Lebanese FM meets with senior Israeli officials in Moscow - report
Aoun stresses keenness on discussing budget at earliest opportunity
STL Judges amend the Rules of Procedure and Evidence
Berri, ambassadors discuss ties, local and regional affairs
Kabalan welcomes Kubis: Israeli violations of Lebanese sovereignty permanent aggression that threatens local, regional stability
UK Affirms Backing for Lebanon Govt. and Army
French Ambassador: Lebanese Govt. Must Implement Strict Measures
Report: Economy Experts Say Pay Cuts Will Impact Economy Cycle
Kanaan: Budget Draft Must Be Discussed in Cabinet
Shuqeir Says Right Budget Decisions Must be Made, Warns of Consequences
Saudi Arabia, Lebanon to Continue Discussions Over Military Cooperation Agreement
Khalil: Draft Budget Brings Down Deficit to Less Than 9 Percent
Lebanon Ranked 101st in World Press Freedom Index
Media Council Blasts Campaign Distorting Kataeb's Image
Saade: Parliament Approved Dangerous Legal Vacuum in Electricity Plan

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 18-19/19
'No collusion, no obstruction' Trump declares victory as Mueller report published
But the report said: “If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commi
Trump Vetoes Resolution to End US Role in Yemen
Did Israel use the supersonic Rampage to strike Iranian targets in Syria?
Iran: Revolutionary Guards are only against 'Zionists' and 'imperialists'
Israel's Arms Exports Reached $7 Billion in 2018
Iron Dome Battery Deployed to Protect ‘Eurovision’ in Tel Aviv
US’ Greenblatt Posts Map Annexing Golan Heights to Israel
Zarif Hints at ‘Mediating’ between Ankara, Damascus
Abdul-Mahdi: Relations between Iraq and GCC ‘must progress’
Iranian Revolutionary Guard Refutes Damning Claims by Ex-General on Terror Connections
Ex-IRGC Leader Sparks Controversy Over Tehran-Qaeda Ties
Iran Oil Exports Hit New 2019 Low So Far in April
Tunisia: Counter-Terrorism Forces Chase Extremists in Kaf
France to Try Bashar Assad’s Uncle for Fraud
N. Korea Wants Pompeo Removed from Nuclear Talks

Titles For The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 18-19/19
Thursday of the Holy Mysteries & the Last Supper: Rituals, Traditions, Values & Principles/ Elias Bejjani/April 18/2019
Michigan Hezbollah Propagandist Attacks Phares, is Blasted by Muslim Cleric/AMCD website/April 18/19
Lebanese FM meets with senior Israeli officials in Moscow - report/Ilanit Chernick/Jerusalem Post/April 18, 2019
Did Israel use the supersonic Rampage to strike Iranian targets in Syria/Anna Ahronheim/Jerusalem Post/April 18/2019
Iran: Revolutionary Guards are only against 'Zionists' and 'imperialists'/Jerusalem Post/April 18/2019
Will Trump be first president to support West Bank settlement annexation?
Tovah Lazaroff/Jerusalem Post/April 18, 2019
Democracy and Revolution in Sudan/Hussain Abdul-Hussain/Syndication Bureau/April 18/19
The 'Next Day' in Sudan/Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al Awsat/April 18/19
Saudi Journalist: Qatar's Claim That It Does Not Support The Muslim Brotherhood And Hamas Is A Lie/MEMRI/April 18, 2019
Hamas's Honesty and the Deal of the Century/Khaled Abu Toameh/Gatestone Institute/April 18/19
German Government: Anti-Israel, Pro-Iran/Stefan Frank/Gatestone Institute/April 18/19
Notre-Dame fire a reminder of world’s unpredictability/Michael Kugelman/Arab News/April 18/19
Iran’s social media smear campaign against Arab states/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/April 18/19

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on April 18-19/19
Thursday of the Holy Mysteries & the Last Supper: Rituals, Traditions, Values & Principles
 Elias Bejjani/April 18/2019
On the Thursday that comes before the "Good Friday, when Jesus was crucified, Christian Catholics all over the world, including our Maronite Eastern Church celebrates with prayers and intercessions the "Thursday of the Holy Mysteries", which is also known as the "Washing Thursday ", the "Covenant Thursday", and the "Great & Holy Thursday". It is the holy day feast that falls on the Thursday before Easter that commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with His 12 Apostles as described in the four New Testament gospels. It is the fifth day of the last Lenten Holy Week, that is followed by the, "Good Friday", "Saturday Of The Light and "Easter Sunday".
Christianity in its essence and core is Love, Sacrifice, honesty, transparency, devotion, hard work and Humility. Jesus during the last supper with His 12 Apostles reiterated and stressed all these Godly values and principles. In this holy and message proclaiming context He executed the following acts :
He, ordained His Apostles as priests, and asked them to proclaim God's message. “You have stayed with me all through my trials; 29 and just as my Father has given me the right to rule, so I will give you the same right. 30 You will eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom, and you will sit on thrones to rule over the twelve tribes of Israel. (Luke 22/28 and 29)
He, taught His Apostles and every body else, that evil temptation and betrayal can hit all those who detach and dissociate themselves from God, do not fear Him, lack faith, lose hope and worship earthly treasures. He showed them by example that even a disciple that He personally had picked and choose (Judas, the Iscariot) has fell a prey to Satan's temptation. “But, look! The one who betrays me is here at the table with me! The Son of Man will die as God has decided, but how terrible for that man who betrays him!" Luke 22/21)
He, washed His Apostles' feet to teach them by example modesty, devotion and humility. “So when he had washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, "Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me 'teacher' and 'master,' and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do. Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him” (John 13/12-16). Modesty was stressed and explained by Jesus after His Apostles were arguing among themselves who is the greatest: "
"An argument broke out among the disciples as to which one of them should be thought of as the greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the pagans have power over their people, and the rulers claim the title ‘Friends of the People.’ But this is not the way it is with you; rather, the greatest one among you must be like the youngest, and the leader must be like the servant. Who is greater, the one who sits down to eat or the one who serves? The one who sits down, of course. But I am among you as one who serves." (Luke 22/24 till 27)
Thursday of the "Holy Mysteries", is called so because in His Last Supper with the 12 disciples, Jesus Christ established the Eucharist and Priesthood Sacraments when "He received a cup, and when he had given thanks, he said, “Take this, and share it among yourselves, for I tell you, I will not drink at all again from the fruit of the vine, until the Kingdom of God comes.” "He took bread, broke it and gave it to the disciples saying: This is my body which is given for you. Do this in memory of me. And when He Likewise, took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you".
Thursday of the Holy Mysteries (Secrets-Sacraments) is the heart of the last Lenten holy week, in which the Maronite Catholic Church lives with reverence and devotion the Lord's Last Supper spirit and contemplation through prayers and deeply rooted religious rituals and traditions:
The Patriarch prays over and blesses the chrism (Al-Myroun), as well as the oil of baptism and anointing that are to are distributed on all parishes and churches.
During the mass that is held on this Holy Day, the priest washes the feet of twelve worshipers, mainly children (symbolizing the apostles numbers). Jesus washed His disciples feet and commanded them to love each other and follow his example in serving each other.
Worshipers visit and pray in seven Churches. This ritual denotes to the completion of the Church's Seven sacraments (Secrets) : Priesthood, Eucharist, Holy Oil, Baptism, Confirmations, anointing and Service.
This tradition also denotes to the seven locations that Virgin Mary's went to look for Her Son, Jesus, after she learned about His arrest. The detention place, The Council of the Priests, twice the Pilate's headquarters, twice the Herod Headquarters, till She got to the Calvary.
Some Christian scholars believe that this tradition was originated in Rome where early pilgrims visited the seven pilgrim churches as an act of penance. They are Saint John Lateran, Saint Peter, Saint Mary Major, Saint Paul-outside-the-Walls, Saint Lawrence Outside the Walls, Holy Cross-in-Jerusalem, and traditionally Saint Sebastian Outside the Walls. Pope John Paul II replaced St. Sebastian with the Sanctuary of the Madonna of Divine Love for the jubilee year of 2000.
The Mass of the Lord's Supper is accompanied by the ringing of bells, which are then silent until the Easter Vigil. Worshipers used to kneel and pray the rosary in front of the Eucharist (Blessed Sacrament) all Thursday night. The Blessed Sacrament remains exposed all night, while worshipers are encouraged to stay in the church as much as they can praying, meditating upon the Mystery of Salvation, and participating in the “agony of Gethsemane” (Garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives) in Jerusalem where Jesus spent his night in prayer before His crucifixion on Good Friday.
After the homily washing of feet the service concludes with a procession taking the Blessed Eucharist (Sacrament) to the place of reposition. The altar is later stripped bare, as are all other altars in the church except the Altar of Repose.
Thursday of the "Holy Mysteries", is called so because in His Last Supper with the 12 disciples, Jesus Christ established the Eucharist and Priesthood Sacraments when "He received a cup, and when he had given thanks, he said, “Take this, and share it among yourselves, for I tell you, I will not drink at all again from the fruit of the vine, until the Kingdom of God comes.” "He took bread, broke it and gave it to the disciples saying: This is my body which is given for you. Do this in memory of me. And when He Likewise, took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you". Jesus ordained His disciples as priests of the New Testament when he said to them during the Last Supper: "But you are those who have continued with me in my trials. I confer on you a kingdom, even as my Father conferred on me, that you may eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom. You will sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”
Before Celebrating the Resurrection Day (Easter) worshipers live the "Paschal Mystery" through the Thursday Of the Sacraments, Good Friday and Saturday Of The Light.
Because He loves us and wants us to dwell in His Eternal Heaven, Jesus Christ for our sake willingly suffered all kinds of torture, pain, humiliation and died on the Cross to pave our way for repentance and salvation.
Let us pray on this Holy Day that we always remember Jesus' love and sacrifices and live our life in this context of genuine, faith, love, meekness and forgiveness.

Michigan Hezbollah Propagandist Attacks Phares, is Blasted by Muslim Cleric

AMCD website/April 18/19
Ali Mansour, that notorious Hezbollah propagandist in Detroit, has done it again. Hours after Dr Walid Phares tweeted a call to the US Government to “start investigating Iran regime influence in America,” Mansour published a smear piece against the former advisor to President Trump and to Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, calling him names and re-circulating fake stories, which had been debunked years ago. Mansour who posted the slander on Sada el Watan, a site known for its promotion of pro Hezbollah material, had also trashed Phares last year in a similar attack, before he was quickly rebutted by number of bloggers including Lebanese and Arab Muslims.
According to observers, in his last anti-Phares smear, the Dearborn based pro-Iran operative seemed to have been mobilized to spread the usual old canards but for direct political reasons. Analysts believe that the slander against one of the nation’s leading experts on the Middle East “is out of season.” Meaning that the usual attacks used to happen when Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood feared Walid Phares could be appointed to a position in the Administration as was the case in 2011 when he was named by Mitt Romney and later in 2016 when he was announced by Donald Trump, as a national security and foreign policy advisor. After both appointments, the Iran and Ikhwan lobby machines hit the seasoned advisor with extensive smear campaigns to pressure the candidates to drop him, which never worked.
More than a year ago, the Hezbollah supporter waged a series of posts smearing Phares, claiming that he was "working on appointing a US ambassador to Lebanon, who is anti-Hezbollah.” Though the former Presidential candidates’ advisor wasn't involved in government selection of diplomats, he naturally would have encouraged the idea of a US ambassador who would follow the lead of Secretary Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton.
This last week Ali Mansour slandered Phares again, but this time, according to Sheikh Mohamed Hajj Hassan, leader of the Muslim American Alliance, it was due to three major reasons. “One is the fact that President Trump withdrew from the Iran Deal. Two is because of the designation of the IRGC as terrorist organization, and three because Walid Phares called for an investigation of Iran's tools of influence in the US.” Hezbollah and Iran's regime believe that Phares is personally behind all of these strategic decisions, and behind leveling economic sanctions on Hezbollah and its allies in Lebanon. Observers acknowledge that the Fox News commentator has had an impact on the foreign policy debate, and some of his positions have eventually been adopted by the White House, but to claim Phares is part of the technical and administrative decision-making system is inaccurate. Phares opines on strategic matters in the press, but isn’t involved in the day to day policy making of the administration.
This year, Ali Mansour slammed Phares with the usual libelous hit piece, though the expert is not even involved in government or in politics currently. Sheikh Hajj Hassan explained that the immediate reason prompting Hezbollah, the Iranian regime and their partners to target Phares in the media, was his tweet calling on the Administration to “close a national security gap, which is Iran’s influence inside the US, deriving most likely from the benefits Teheran reaped from the billions of dollars released by the Obama Administration to the regime, in execution of the Iran Nuclear Deal.”
Hajj Hassan, who has played an important mobilizing role among Arab and Muslim voters in Michigan in 2016 in favor of Donald Trump, said the pro-Hezbollah blogger has concocted fake news against Dr Phares relying on discredited material from years ago. Hassan said the first batch of false reporting goes back to 2011 when a Mother Jones writer invented a story about when Walid Phares was in his early 20s in Lebanon during the civil war. Adam Serwer, a supporter of the Iran Deal, later fabricated a story that the young author was a major player in Lebanon’s conflict! To do so, Serwer quoted a pro-Hezbollah, previously unknown, woman trying to remember phrases Phares allegedly “said” those many years ago. The young scholar had published many books and articles during those years, but these were never once cited by the far-left Mother Jones as they do not fit “the narrative.”
In 2016 a radical blogger, Ishan Tharoor, also supporter of the Iran deal, published a hit piece in the Washington Post re-citing the fake material from 2011. His smear was smashed by rebuttals including from Lebanon. The entire tale about a “Lebanon past,” invented by Iranian propagandists, was sunk by real Middle East experts.
Again in 2019, the Dearborn-based sympathizer of Hezbollah rehashed the same canard in Arabic. Quickly enough, the head of the Muslim American Alliance crumbled Ali Mansour’s lies and drew attention to the tactics employed by Iranian regime supporters in Detroit against the former Trump advisor. Observers also noted that Mansour has posted pictures of himself with Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, explaining perhaps how this attack on US experts may have started. Is it part of the larger offensive on President Donald Trump and his Middle East policies, waged by the pro-Iran and Muslim Brotherhood lobbies? It deserves a serious review.

Lebanese FM meets with senior Israeli officials in Moscow - report
Ilanit Chernick/Jerusalem Post/April 18, 2019
Saudi newspaper 'Elaph' reported that the two "discussed borders" and mutual interests including Syria and Iran. Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil has reportedly met with a senior official in Moscow and "discussed borders," Saudi Arabian newspaper Elaph reported. The source told Elaph that the meeting lasted about two hours under the auspices of Russia. The two sides discussed issues of mutual interest, including the Syrian issue, the Assad regime and the issue of Iranian weapons factories in Lebanon. The Israeli official reportedly told Bassil that Israel does not see Lebanon as an enemy, but will not hesitate to strike Iranian and Hezbollah interests in Lebanon. The report also claimed that the Lebanese minister had asked the Israeli's "to stop threatening Lebanon because of Hezbollah, saying that Hezbollah is part of the components of Lebanon and the Lebanese state will know how to accommodate all parties and groups under its sovereign."The source also told Elpah that the Lebanese minister discussed the issue of US sanctions on Lebanon with the Israeli official and asked him to mediate with the Americans about sanctions imposed on Lebanon, and asked the official to mediate with the American side and not to rush with the imposition of the sanctions, and to give Lebanon time to prepare for it. In February, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a group of UN ambassadors that “Iran has proxies...One of them is Hezbollah."Hezbollah just joined the government of Lebanon. That’s a misnomer; they actually control the government of Lebanon,” Netanyahu said. “It means that Iran controls the government of Lebanon.”Late last year, Israel launched a short operation named Northern Shield to neutralize cross-border Hezbollah attack tunnels. At the time of the operations launch, Netanyahu made it clear that Hezbollah would. In September, during his speech to the UN, Netanyahu revealed that Hezbollah, together with Iran, had set up a number of precision missile factories in Beirut. "In Lebanon, Iran supports Hezbollah in building secret facilities and precision missiles capable of hitting deep inside Israel, with missiles with a precision of 10 meters," Netanyahu said, adding that "Hezbollah uses innocent people in Beirut as shields." Netanyahu made it clear in his speech that "Israel knows what you are doing and where you are doing, and will not let you get away with it."
*Maariv contributed to this report.

Aoun stresses keenness on discussing budget at earliest opportunity
Thu 18 Apr 2019/NNA - President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, reiterated his insistence that there be a draft budget at the earliest opportunity. "All the ideas that are being circulated are mere ideas that do not oblige anyone. It is necessary to present a clear budget draft, including the desired reforms, at the cabinet table. This draft should be discussed within the constitutional institutions, whether in the government or in the House of Representatives. Subsequently, each party can express its opinion with all transparency, and decisions can thus be taken for the benefit of Lebanon and public finances," the president said, stressing the need to fight waste and control deficit through a general plan reflected by the budget to be approved. Aoun was quoted by Finance and Budget Committee Head, MP Ibrahim Kanaan, whom he welcomed in Baabda this Thursday, with talks touching on the outcomes of his most recent visit to Washington and his meetings with a number of US officials, and representatives of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

STL Judges amend the Rules of Procedure and Evidence

Thu 18 Apr 2019/NNA - The Judges of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) approved six proposed rule amendments to the STL’s Rules of Procedure and Evidence (RPE) at a plenary meeting held last week.
The RPE are regularly updated to improve and streamline the STL's procedures. The following is a summary of the most significant changes adopted. The Judges adopted an amendment to Rule 188 (C) concerning the Judgement on Appeal, adding another safeguard in relation to convicted person’s appellate rights. The Rule now states that where only the convicted person has filed an appeal, the Appeals Chamber may not increase the sentence.Changes were also made to Rules 168 (B), 171 (E) and 188 (B) – which concern Judgement, Sentencing Procedure and Judgement on Appeal, respectively – to align them with the provisions of Article 23 and the STL Statute, by clarifying that Trial, Sentencing and Appeals Judgments shall be “rendered by a majority of the Judges and accompanied by a reasoned opinion, in writing, to which any separate or dissenting opinion shall be appended”.
Finally, Rules 50 (B) (iii) and 50 (D) relating to the Victims and Witnesses Unit (VWU) were amended to better reflect the practice of the VWU and the duty of care towards witnesses and victims participating in the proceedings.
In accordance with Rule 5 (H) of the RPE, amendments enter into force seven days after their issuance on 18 April 2019.
The updated RPE are now available on STL website. A summary of the adopted and rejected amendments will follow shortly.
How the Rules of Procedure and Evidence are amended
The Rules of Procedure and Evidence (RPE) govern the various stages of the proceedings before the STL. The rules reflect the highest standards of international criminal justice. The RPE were adopted on 20 March 2009 and have since been revised on ten occasions. They protect the rights of a suspect, an accused or of a convicted or acquitted person. Amendments to the RPE are intended to enhance the efficiency, effectiveness and integrity of the STL's proceedings. Rule 5 of the RPE defines the process for the amendment of the rules. The STL Judges, the Prosecutor, the Head of the Defence Office and the Registrar may propose amendments to the RPE. Such proposals are then reviewed by the Rules Committee, presided by the Vice-President, and composed also of two other Judges designated by the President, as well as the Prosecutor, the Head of Defence Office and the Registrar or their representatives as non-voting representatives.In order for amendments to be adopted, they require unanimous approval of the Judges or the vote of at least seven Judges at a plenary meeting of the Tribunal. Amendments come into force one week after their adoption. There is no limit to the number of times the RPE may be amended. -- STL

Berri, ambassadors discuss ties, local and regional affairs
Thu 18 Apr 2019/NNA - Speaker of the House, Nabih Berri, welcomed this Thursday the United States Ambassador to Lebanon, Elizabeth Richard, with whom he discussed the developments in Lebanon and the region. The paid also tackled relations between the two countries. Egyptian Ambassador to Lebanon, Nazih Al-Najari, also visited Speaker Berri this Thursday, tackling with him a number of regional matters and bilateral cooperation prospects. Najari praised Berri's efforts which "reflect an important and influential role on the Arab arena."In the afternoon, Speaker Berri received Deputy Prime Minister Ghassan Hasbani who briefed him on the outcomes of his visit to the United States and his tour in Washington and New York. "We focused on the economic and financial situation in Lebanon, where we first touched on the need to discuss the budget at the earliest possible opportunity in the Council of Ministers, so as to allow time for a detailed discussion before it is forwarded to the House of Representatives," Hasbani said.Berri also welcomed British Chief of Staff, General Nicholas Carter and British Ambassador Chris Rampling, with talks touching on bilateral relations and cooperation between the two countries.
Conferees also tackled the British support for the Lebanese army and security forces.

Kabalan welcomes Kubis: Israeli violations of Lebanese sovereignty permanent aggression that threatens local, regional stability

Thu 18 Apr 2019/NNA - President of the Higher Islamic Shiite Council, Sheikh Abdul Amir Kabalan, received this Thursday the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Jan Kubis, with talks featuring high on the situation in Lebanon and the region. Sheikh Kabalan stressed that "the Israeli violations of Lebanon's sovereignty by sea, air and land reflect a permanent aggression that threatens local and regional security and stability." "Israel is the source of evil in the region, and it bears full responsibility for the crises and problems caused by its occupation and aggression," he told his guest.
"It continues to occupy a precious part of Lebanon, steal its water resources and violate its rights to invest its sea wealth," he said, referring to the crimes committed by Israel before the eyes of the United Nations, especially the massacres of Qana and others."The resistance was and remains a national and humanitarian necessity to liberate the land of Lebanon and to defend its sovereignty and stability in the face of Israeli occupation and threats," the Sheikh stressed.

UK Affirms Backing for Lebanon Govt. and Army
Naharnet/April 18/19/President Michel Aoun on Thursday met with British Chief of Staff, General Sir Nick Carter at the Presidential Palace in Baabda, the Presidency media office said on Twitter. Carter reiterated his country’s “continued support for Lebanon’s government and its armed forces,” it said.
In February, the UK made a decision to outlaw the political wing of Hizbullah. It announced it would seek to make membership of the movement or inviting support for it a crime. But UK officials have asserted that the move won’t impact the Lebanese government or its people. British Minister of State for the Middle East at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Alistair Burt said that "British ties with Lebanon will remain intact despite the British decisions against Hizbullah."

French Ambassador: Lebanese Govt. Must Implement Strict Measures
Associated Press/Naharnet/April 18/19/France has renewed calls on Lebanon through the French Ambassador to Lebanon Bruno Fouche to implement strict austerity measures to reduce a ballooning budget deficit and massive national debt, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Thursday. “The Lebanese government has adopted an ambitious program of action approved by the House of Representatives, and has started working on several basic files including its electricity, as well as the construction of an austere budget. We expect it to continue in this direction,” Fouche said in a dialogue via Twitter with al-Joumhouria. He pointed out that Lebanon is “suffering from a massive national debt and its financial situation is bad, but the situation of the Lebanese debt is not similar to Greece's debt, so it is necessary for the government to take firm measures to restore balance as promised before the Parliament,” he added. About the CEDRE conference in Paris last year, he said: “The implementation has begun. We consider the electricity file as one major file and so is approval of an austere budget.”The electricity plan was approved by a large majority in parliament Wednesday, days after it was agreed on by the government.Lebanese officials hope that plans to fix the electricity sector that has cost state coffers about $2 billion annually would lead to the release of $11 billion in loans and grants made by international donors at the CEDRE conference in Paris last year. On the visit of French President Emmanuel Macron to Lebanon, Foucher said it will take place in the second half of 2019.

Report: Economy Experts Say Pay Cuts Will Impact Economy Cycle
Naharnet/April 18/19/In the midst of street protests rejecting the possibility of salary cuts of state employees as part of austerity measures to reduce a ballooning budget deficit, economic experts say the measure would reduce the deficit but could also trigger an economic recession, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Thursday. Public sector employees fear that the reduction of the budget deficit will come at their expense by deducting a percentage of their wages which increased after the government approved a long awaited wage scale. Economic expert Mazen Suweid told the daily that reducing the salaries of the public sector has several disadvantages. “It was better not to approve the wage scale instead of giving the employees this right and then pulling it back. Many employees took bank loans based on their new salaries, so the deduction of salaries will be a negative shock on incomes and will undoubtedly have repercussions on the economy,” he said. In terms of the expected advantages, he said: “We hope to avoid the economic disaster we are coming upon threatening of bankruptcy of the state.”“Cutting part of state employee wages is a necessary step, but not enough alone. It must be accompanied by a series of reforms with some savings from the electricity sector estimated at $2 billion, the deficit will fall from $ 8 billion to $ 6 billion,” he said, noting that banks have a tendency to offer IPO’ at zero interest rate. In response to a question, Suweid stressed that the wrong approach adopted by the successive governments in the past years is what led us to the situation today, “the previous governments did not determine their economic priorities and here we are today paying the price.”For his part, economic expert Louis Hobeika told al-Joumhouria: “The increase in public sector salaries about two years ago contributed to the improvement in purchasing power, but today, while talking about the deduction possibility, we note that the consumer movement has stepped backward. This step has very bad psychological, economic and financial repercussions.”

Kanaan: Budget Draft Must Be Discussed in Cabinet
Naharnet/April 18/19/MP Ibrahim Kanaan on Thursday said the state budget draft “must be discussed in Cabinet,” stressing that discussions must be conducted within the constitutional institutions. Kanaan’s comments came after meeting President Michel Aoun at Baabda Palace, he said: “President Aoun is determined to finalize the state budget draft, and all the ideas being circulated (about slashing the budget and cutting state employee pays) are mere ideas.”The MP stressed that the budget must be put on the Cabinet table for discussion in order for “everyone to express transparently their points of view. Then, a decision that serves Lebanon’s interest can be taken.”

Shuqeir Says Right Budget Decisions Must be Made, Warns of Consequences

Naharnet/April 18/19/Telecommunications Minister Mohammed Shuqeir warned of the consequences should Lebanon’s officials fail to take “the right decision to save the country,” al-Joumhouria daily reported on Thursday. He said officials must tell people exactly what they intend to do, noting that the scenario of the wage scale must not repeat itself, “they used to say something inside (during their meetings) and tell people another,” he said. “The decision must be taken by true men, we either decide to save the country otherwise it will be no more,” he warned. Lebanon is set to impose austerity measures to combat its bulging fiscal deficit. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Saad Hariri warned of an economic "catastrophe" if public spending keeps rising. Hariri did not specify what measures his government was mulling but hinted the package may include wage cuts for soldiers. Lebanon is one of the world's most indebted countries, with public debt estimated at 141 percent of gross domestic product in 2018, according to credit ratings agency Moody's. The budget for 2019 has yet to be finalised, but public sector workers fear that austerity measures may mean cuts to their salaries. Hundreds of civil servants protested in central Beirut on Wednesday to denounce any such move. The demonstrations came as part of a nationwide public sector strike that affected schools, universities, state-run media outlets and the tourism ministry's offices.

Saudi Arabia, Lebanon to Continue Discussions Over Military Cooperation Agreement
Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 18 April, 2019/Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Walid al-Bukhari and Defense Minister Elias Bou Saab underlined, during a meeting on Wednesday, the importance of activating the bilateral relations between the two countries within the framework of the technical committee. They also stressed the need to discuss activating military cooperation between the two sides. In this context, Bukhari and Bou Saab said they were committed to complete the discussion of the terms of the military cooperation agreement between Saudi Arabia and Lebanon to sign it as soon as possible.
The two officials called for intensifying efforts to coordinate Arab positions on regional crises and other issues of concern, in order to promote joint Arab action and serve the interests of the countries and peoples, while preserving the sovereignty of each state and preventing any kind of interference in its internal affairs.

Khalil: Draft Budget Brings Down Deficit to Less Than 9 Percent 18th April 2019/The government's 2019 draft budget reduces the deficit ratio to less than 9 percent of GDP, bringing it down from 11.2 percent in 2018, Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil told Reuters. The budget will pave the way for further deficit reductions in 2020 and 2021, he said. The minister revealed that the budget encloses "wide" spending cuts amid the country's need for "exceptional" austerity measures to address the growing economic and financial challenges. The budget forecasts an economic growth of 1.5 percent in 2019 and may reach around 2 percent when the situation improves, he pointed out. "The most important thing is that we have put ourselves on the path of dealing with the accumulated deficit," Khalil said. The minister stressed that the draft budget stipulates measures to address tax evasion and increase customs revenues. It also includes tax amendments for people with high income, he added. "There would be no tax increases for the poor and those with middle incomes," Khalil assured. The minister described the draft as "transparent and realistic", affirming that it encloses many of the reforms pledged at the CEDRE conference. The reforms include reducing the deficit in the power sector, controlling squandering and fighting corruption, he explained.

Lebanon Ranked 101st in World Press Freedom Index 18th April 2019/Lebanon was ranked 101st in the 2019 World Press Freedom Index issued by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The country has fallen by one place since last year. Lebanon’s media was found outspoken but also extremely politicized and polarized. "Its newspapers, radio stations and TV channels serve as the mouthpieces of political parties or businessmen," the report said. It was noted that the country’s criminal code regards defamation and the dissemination of false information as crimes and defines them very broadly, which appeared for example in 2017 where the judicial authorities harassed the well-known TV host Marcel Ghanem for allowing guests to criticize the Lebanese authorities during his programme. “Journalists who are prosecuted and convicted by military or print media courts are usually fined or sometimes sentenced in absentia to imprisonment," the report explains. "2018 saw an increase in cases of bloggers and online journalists receiving subpoenas from the “bureau for combating cyber-crimes” because a social network post had elicited a complaint from a private party, often a prominent person linked to the government,” it added.
Published every year since 2002, the World Press Freedom Index examines 180 countries and regions according to the level of freedom available to journalists without ranking the quality of journalism or public policies even if governments obviously have a major impact on their country’s ranking.
In addition, it calculates a global indicator and regional indicators that evaluate the overall performance of countries and regions as regards media freedom. The degree of freedom is determined by pooling the responses of experts to a questionnaire devised by RSF which developed an online questionnaire focusing on pluralism, media independence, media environment and self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency, and the quality of the infrastructure that supports the production of news and information.

Media Council Blasts Campaign Distorting Kataeb's Image 18th April 2019/The Kataeb Party on Thursday rebuffed the campaign aiming to tarnish its image and mislead the public opinion, refuting allegations claiming that the Kataeb lawmakers did not vote in favor of a bill that would allow the lifting of bank secrecry as part of the fight against corruption. The draft law was not put to the vote during yesterday's Parliament session as it was referred to the competent committee for further study, read a statement issued by the Kataeb's Media Council. “Had the draft law been put to the vote, the Kataeb party would’ve shored up its approval,” the statement stressed. The Media Council pointed out that the issue of lifting bank secrecy and pursuing those involved in corruption lies at the heart of the Kataeb’s 131-point electoral platform (notably Article 15 till 21). "The Kataeb’s proposal is not limited to lawmakers, ministers and senior employees, but also includes contractors who are awarded public projects," it added "Therefore, the party supports the approval of this draft law and commits to voting for it," the statement affirmed. The Kataeb party demanded the Parliament’s secretariat to disclose the minutes of yesterday's session in order to make everything clear to the public opinion, reitertating call for the endorsement of the Kataeb's 2010 proposal on electronic voting which would curb defamation attempts targeting lawmakers.

Abu Nader Warns of State Collapse Amid Plan to Cut Salaries 18th April 2019/Kataeb leader's top adviser, Fouad Abu Nader, on Thursday warned against cutting the salaries of civil servants and pensioners, saying that such thing ushers in the collapse of the State. "States break down and nations crumble when the humble salaries of poor public employees are reduced in order to cover the deficit of the State's treasury stolen by the corrupt and sated politicians," Abu Nader wrote on Twitter.

Saade: Parliament Approved Dangerous Legal Vacuum in Electricity Plan 18th April 2019/Kataeb leader's legal adviser, Lara Saade, on Thursday pointed out that the party's objection to the electricity plan is based on two main reasons, citing the failure to appoint a regulatory body that would manage the power sector and the dismissal of the Private-Public Partnership (PPP) Law. Saade told Al-Markazia news agency that the formation of a regulatory body is one of the conditions set by donor countries at the CEDRE conference, noting that French envoy, Pierre Dukan, demanded the Lebanese government to approve a new budget and appoint said body by the end of April. “They do not want to establish a regulatory body to in order to grant the Energy Ministry full power over the electricity sector and allow it to evade accountability,” she stressed. Regarding the PPP law, Saade criticized both the government and the Parliament for turning a blind eye to the fact that the plan deals with said legislation as inexistent although it was passed by the legislature in 2017. Saade warned that the Parliament has created a "dangerous legal vacuum" by failing to set out the plan within a transparent legal framework, by basing it on either the public accountability law or the Public-Private Partnership Law. “Things are left under the full and exclusive control of the Energy Ministry,” Saade deplored. “That means that the government has opted for absolute and uncontrolled evasion of standards and regulations instead of tightening reforms and auditing," she concluded.

Latest LCCC English Miscellaneous Reports & News published on April 18-19/19
'No collusion, no obstruction' Trump declares victory as Mueller report published
AFP//Arab News/April 18/19/WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump, backed by his attorney general, declared himself fully vindicated Thursday in the investigation into Russian election meddling and alleged collusion with his campaign — before the long-awaited full probe report was made public. “Game Over,” Trump tweeted, using a “Game of Thrones” style montage that pictured him standing in dramatic fog. Just about an hour later, the Justice Department released the full — though redacted — report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, which nevertheless raised questions about Trump’s actions, saying investigators were “unable” to clear him of obstruction. Weeks ago, Attorney General Bill Barr said in a summary of the report that there was no collusion between Trump and Russians seeking to influence the 2016 presidential election in his favor.
In a nationally broadcast news conference held right before the report’s release, Barr repeatedly drove that point home. “We now know that the Russian operatives who perpetrated these schemes did not have the cooperation of President Trump or the Trump campaign,” Barr told reporters, in a statement that effectively sought to spin the report before it was released. “The special counsel found no collusion by any Americans,” Barr said. “That is the bottom line.”The extreme secrecy surrounding Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation ended abruptly at about 11a.m. in Washington when the 400-odd pages of the report were made public to Congress, the media and the public. The report’s publication marks a new peak in a political storm raging over Washington throughout the first half of Trump’s first term in office. While leftist opponents long hoped that Mueller would either charge Trump with crimes or provide evidence for impeachment, the outcome so far has favored the divisive, right-wing Republican president. “NO COLLUSION. NO OBSTRUCTION,” a triumphant Trump wrote in his “Game of Thrones” pastiche tweet. Later, he said at the start of a speech: “I’m having a good day.”Barr emphatically sought to clear Trump of allegations that his actions — including his public attacks on Mueller and firing of then FBI chief James Comey — were not legally actionable.The Trump-appointed attorney general had already asserted this in his summary of Mueller’s report a month ago, despite noting that Mueller himself had been unable to rule clearly on the issue. At his news conference, Barr said he was standing by his own ruling, noting that Trump had no intention to obstruct and had merely been “frustrated and angered.”“The White House fully cooperated with the special counsel’s investigation, providing unfettered access to campaign and White House documents, directing senior aides to testify freely, and asserting no privilege claims,” he said. “And at the same time, the president took no act that in fact deprived the special counsel of the documents and witnesses necessary to complete his investigation.” the obstruction of justice, we would so state.
“Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment.”
Publication of the report — minus parts blacked out for legal or security reasons — will in theory give everyone a chance to get the full picture on a scandal that has been tangled in conspiracy theories. But given the volcanic political temperature in Washington and the left-right chasm through the rest of the country ahead of Trump’s 2020 re-election bid, the debate over what really happened is likely to rage on. At a minimum, the details — based on exhaustive interviews by Mueller’s prosecutors with Trump insiders — could paint an unflattering picture of the president and his links to Russia, including a previously undeclared real estate project in Moscow. The deeper analysis of whether he committed obstruction of justice could also provide headaches for the White House. Trump himself is supremely confident that his opponents have failed in what he claims was high-level “treason” to destroy his presidency.
“The Greatest Political Hoax of all time! Crimes were committed by Crooked, Dirty Cops and DNC/The Democrats,” the president said before Barr took the podium, reprising many of his favorite slogans about his opponents. Claiming that Barr has been working to hamper and whitewash the Russia report, Democrats will push for still more details and testimony in the near future — including from Mueller himself. “It is clear Congress and the American people must hear from Special Counsel Robert Mueller in person to better understand his findings,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler tweeted.
Nadler set a deadline of May 23 for Mueller to come to Capitol Hill.

But the report said: “If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the president clearly did not commi
Trump Vetoes Resolution to End US Role in Yemen
Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 18 April, 2019/US President Donald Trump vetoed on Tuesday night a Congressional resolution that would have ended the US military role in Yemen, the White House said on Tuesday. “This resolution is an unnecessary, dangerous attempt to weaken my constitutional authorities, endangering the lives of American citizens and brave service members, both today and in the future,” Trump said in the veto message. The president said that the measure would harm bilateral relations and interfere with his constitutional power as commander-in-chief. He said the US was providing the support to protect more than 80,000 Americans who live in coalition countries subject to Houthi attacks from Yemen. “Houthis, supported by Iran, have used missiles, armed drones and explosive boats to attack civilian and military targets in those coalition countries, including areas frequented by American citizens, such as the airport in Riyadh,” Trump said. Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, Yemen’s ambassador to the United States, welcomed Trump's Veto saying it was a political and courageous decision. Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat he noted: "The Yemeni government and the Saudi-led Arab coalition will continue exerting needed efforts to achieve peace in the region, however, he added, that Houthis and Iran are trying to destabilize the security and stability of the Yemeni people."For its part, the UAE also hailed Trump’s veto. “Support for the Arab coalition is a positive signal of US resolve toward America’s allies,” Anwar Gargash, UAE's Foreign Affairs Minister, tweeted. "Coalition continues to work without interruption to support peace through UN-led Stockholm Agreement & its commitment to the humanitarian & political dimensions of the Yemen crisis unshakable. President Trump’s important decision is both timely & strategic," he added in another tweet.

Did Israel use the supersonic Rampage to strike Iranian targets in Syria?

Anna Ahronheim/Jerusalem Post/April 18/2019
Israel allegedly struck an Iranian missile factory in Syria's Masyaf on Saturday.Israel’s Air Force reportedly used the supersonic Rampage stand-off air-to-surface missiles for the first time during a strike on Iranian positions in Syria last week, foreign media has reported. Israel allegedly struck a possible Iranian surface-to-surface missile factory in a Syrian base in Masyaf on Saturday. Satellite images released by Israeli intelligence firm ImageSat International (ISI) showed the complete destruction of the factory.
“The main industrial structures were completely destroyed, including the main hangar and the adjacent three production hangers and buildings. The rest of the structures were affected and damaged by the blast,” ISI said, adding that they “assess that all the elements and/or equipment which were inside were completely destroyed as well.” According to Syria’s SANA news agency, Israeli jets fired the missiles from Lebanese airspace at about 2:30 Saturday morning. The factory, ISI said, is located in the vicinity of other facilities likely linked to Iran’s surface-to-surface missile project in Syria , which had previously been struck in alleged Israeli strikes carried out over the past two years.  Dubbed “The Rampage,” after a popular video-game, the missile is a supersonic, long-range, accurate air-to-ground assault missile with a warhead, rocket engine and advanced navigation suit which allow for precision targeting.
Amit Haimovich, director of marketing and business development for IAI’s MALAM engineering unit, told The Jerusalem Post in June that due to the combination of the Rampage’s speed and physical-form factor, “it can be detected but it is very hard to intercept.”
“If you take the Middle East arena and areas protected by air defense systems, the whole point of this missile is that it can target within standoff ranges” without threatening the launching platform, he said.
The missile can be fitted to the Israel Air Force’s F-15, F-16 and F-35 fighter jets, and is meant to be dropped outside areas protected by air-defense systems. The 4.7-meter-long missile, which weighs 570 kg., is guided by a GPS system, giving it the ability to be operated in any weather conditions as well as during the day or night. The targets that best fit the capabilities of the missile include communication and command centers, air force bases, maintenance centers, infrastructure and valuable field targets protected by anti-aircraft batteries.
The Rampage also features a warhead which was designed for optimal penetration capabilities, allowing for the destruction of targets inside bunkers. The factory allegedly struck by Israel is also in the vicinity of Russian-made S-300 missile-defense systems, which were deployed to Syria by Moscow. Satellite images released by ISI have shown three out of the four systems erected in Masyaf, with one launcher covered by a camouflage net. While the systems are still believed to be in the hands of the Russians and not manned by the Syrian military, the advanced S-300 is a major upgrade to Syrian air defenses and would pose a threat to Israeli jets on missions, since the long-range missile-defense system can track objects such as aircraft and ballistic missiles over a range of 300 km.

Iran: Revolutionary Guards are only against 'Zionists' and 'imperialists'
Jerusalem Post/April 18/2019
"The roots of our problems are the Zionist regime and American imperialism," Iranian president Hassan Rouhani declared during a military ceremony.
Israel has long noted that Iran threatens not only them but other regional states, but Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced Thursday his Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps will merely be used against "Zionists" and "American imperialists" and not other Middle Eastern states, Reuters reported.
"The roots of our problems are the Zionist regime and American imperialism," Rouhani declared during a military ceremony in ceremony in Tehran where missiles, submarines, armored vehicles and other army equipment were displayed.  "I want to tell the regional countries that the armed forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran are not against you and your national interests. They stand against invaders," he added, according to a translation of the speech from Reuters. Iran funds several proxy armies including Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Shiite militias in Iraq. The mostly Shiite Muslim nation's disagreements with the Sunni Muslim world has driven Arab Gulf nations such as Oman to build closer ties with the Jewish state despite the Arab-Israeli conflict. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Oman in October. However also on Thursday, Iran and Oman held a joint naval exercise and performed maritime rescue operations in the Gulf, Fars news agency reported. The US declared the Revolutionary Guard a foreign terrorist organization on Monday, something Iran vehemently denies. "We seek regional security and stability, countries' sovereignty and end of terrorism and their activities in this region," Rouhani stated.
He called the declaration "abhorrent," adding "insulting the Revolutionary Guards is an insult to all (Iranian) armed forces, and an insult to Iranian great nation.”US President Donald Trump said the new designation "recognizes the reality that Iran is not only a state sponsor of terrorism, but that the IRGC actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft." The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is a branch of Iran's Armed Forces founded after the 1979 revolution which turned the country from a Western ally to an Islamic republic.

Israel's Arms Exports Reached $7 Billion in 2018
Tel Aviv - Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 18 April, 2019/Israeli military exports exceeded 7.5 billion dollars in 2018, with most of the production going to countries in the Asia-Pacific region, the Israeli Government said on Wednesday. A defense ministry spokesperson told AFP that the total was down from $9.2 billion in 2017, but that had been an exceptionally strong year. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute put Israel in eighth place in its 2017 top 10 of global arms exporters and said its largest clients that year were India, Azerbaijan and Vietnam. The Israeli government does not comment on individual arms sales, but Wednesday’s ministry statement said missile and air defense systems accounted for 24 percent of 2018 sales. Unmanned aerial vehicles and drone systems amounted to 15 percent, radars and early warning systems 14 percent and aircraft and avionics 14 percent. Other areas included “land systems, ammunition and weapon stations,” intelligence and cyber systems and naval systems, it added. “Over the past year we have signed dozens of contracts with various countries around the world,” the head of the defense ministry’s international cooperation directorate, Mishel Ben-Baruch, said in the statement. “This serves as further evidence of the desire of more and more countries to cooperate with the state of Israel, and a sign of their confidence in the excellent capabilities of our defence industries,” he added. Sales to Asia and the Pacific region were 46 percent of the total, the statement said, with 26 percent going to Europe, 20 percent to North America, six percent to South America and two percent to Africa.

Iron Dome Battery Deployed to Protect ‘Eurovision’ in Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv - Asharq Al Awsat/Thursday, 18 April, 2019/The Israel armed forces deployed additional Iron Dome air defense batteries on Tuesday in the central regions surrounding Tel Aviv, in anticipation of launching missiles from Gaza Strip during Eurovision Song Contest 2019 on 14-18 May. An Israeli military source said that despite the current progress in negotiations with Hamas and Israel permitting the access of Qatari funds, the army is taking the Palestinian threats seriously and is preparing for any attempt by Hamas or other armed faction to disrupt or ruin the event through launching missiles.
Some in Gaza think that Eurovision is the best occasion to shed light on citizens’ sufferings in the strip, affirmed the source, and don't find a better means than to escalate conditions and launch missiles during the event. The threat was made by an anonymous who spoke in a video that spread widely on media. The Palestinian resistance factions in Gaza Strip won’t permit the occupation government to hold the Eurovision in case the occupation didn’t fulfill its latest agreements, threatened the anonymous who was speaking in Arabic. The video also displayed footage of the song contest to be held in Tel Aviv and an aerial image of the location where it will take place. Israeli authorities consider that the contest that witnesses participation of 41 European bands is the greatest event in 2019, although it is concurrent with the anniversary of Nakba Day. The Guardian published last Sep. a statement signed by 100 artists who announced boycotting Eurovision because it is being held in Israel.

US’ Greenblatt Posts Map Annexing Golan Heights to Israel

Strasbourg, London – Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 18 April, 2019/Jason Greenblatt, the top White House Middle East peace negotiator, posted a map showing the occupied Golan Heights as part of Israel. “Welcome to the newest addition of our international maps system after POTUS issued a proclamation recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights,” Greenblatt tweeted. President Donald Trump in March recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the strategic plateau, even though the annexation is in violation of long-established US policy on the matter. Meanwhile, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Frederica Mogherini restated that the EU still doesn’t recognize Israeli sovereignty over the highly contentious heights, stressing that taking it over by military force will result in dangerous consequences. "Our position on the Golan Heights has been so clear because we believe that international rules, international law and international standards must be upheld," continued Mogherini. "Borders cannot be changed by military force," Mogherini said. "And this is a principle behind which the EU will continue to firmly stand and in a united manner."In late March the United States recognized Israel's 1981 annexation of the Golan Heights, a territory Israel seized from Syria after the 1967 Middle East war. The EU’s top diplomat also noted that she had already issued a declaration on behalf of all the 28 member states and clarified their stance on the Golan Heights. Additionally, she said, the five EU member states of the UN Security Council – including the UK, France, Germany, Belgium and Poland – had expressed the bloc’s common position on Golan in a joint stake-out. Reaffirming the EU’s position on the Golan, Mogherini stressed support for a two-state solution which ensures Israelis and Palestinians living side by side in peace according to recognized and secure borders. She also warned that abandoning the two-state solution spur untold chaos in the Middle East.

Zarif Hints at ‘Mediating’ between Ankara, Damascus

Ankara - Saeed Abdulrazzak/Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 18 April, 2019/Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan received Wednesday in Ankara Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif who briefed him on his meeting with Head of the Syrian regime Bashar Assad, hinting at Iran’s intention to restore ties between Damascus and Ankara. Zarif’s meeting with Erdogan followed discussions with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, where the two sides focused on developments in Syria. "I had a long discussion with Assad on Tuesday. I intend to bring to Erdogan the contents of our meeting," said Zarif during a joint press conference with Cavusoglu. Iran seeks to see friendly ties prevail among the region countries, said Zarif, adding that Tehran didn’t interfere in the internal affairs of the region. He revealed his country’s aspiration to restore ties among all countries including Turkey and Syria. The Iranian FM continued that he held talks with Russia and Turkey on the Syrian Constitutional Committee, as well as the with the UN. He noted that the coming days will witness a fresh round of negotiations on April 25-26 in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, within Astana process. Zarif expressed hope in achieving a new phase of cooperation with Russia and Turkey, with the participation of Syria and the UN. Zarif also said Iran acknowledges Turkey's concerns about the PKK-linked People's Protection Units (YPG) in Syria. "We understand the concerns of Turkey about terrorist groups in Syria and we agree with them. The security and peace of the Turkish people are very important to us. We enjoy very thorough cooperation on this issue," he stated. Iran backs the Syrian regime economically and politically, not to mention militarily through funding the militias fighting beside Assad forces. “When we start adding other countries’ armies to terror lists, then serious cracks will occur in the system of international law,” Cavusoglu said during the joint conference, “Trust in the global system will decline and total chaos will ensue.” “Our conscience does not accept that the brotherly Iranian people be punished,” Cavusoglu said of US sanctions on Iran. “Such steps put regional stability, peace, calm and economic development under risk.”The Turkish FM also said the US decision to designate Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization is a dangerous development that could lead to chaos and that Turkey will continue to persuade the US to reconsider this step.

Abdul-Mahdi: Relations between Iraq and GCC ‘must progress’
/Arab News/April 18/19/RIYADH: Relations between Iraq and the Gulf Cooperation Council are important and “must progress, ” Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi said on Thursday. On the second day of his visit to Saudi Arabia, Abdul-Mahdi met with the secretary general of the GCC, Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani in Riyadh. Abdul-Mahdi and Al-Zayani discussed the development of relations between Iraq and GCC countries and issues of mutual interest. “Cooperation and economic relations must progress for the better,” Abdul-Mahdi said. Saudi Arabia and Iraq have agreed to cooperate in security and intelligence matters, Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Ali Al-Hakim told Al Arabiya television. Meanwhile, Abdul-Mahdi also attended the Saudi-Iraqi Business Forum, which included representatives from large Saudi companies. He also inaugurated an exhibition on Wednesday called “Cities Destroyed by Terrorism” that is showing at the National Museum in Riyadh. The exhibition was organised by the Minister of Culture and the Arab World Institute in Paris. The Iraqi prime minister arrived in Riyadh on Wednesday for a two-day visit to the Kingdom. He held talks with King Salman on relations between the two countries, and later met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. His visit to the Kingdom “symbolizes the Iraqi government's vision in aiming to bolster ties with the Kingdom in all fields,” the Iraqi prime minister said on Facebook. The two countries signed 13 agreements and memorandums of understanding between their various ministries. The deals covered many areas including energy, education, culture and political consultation.

Iranian Revolutionary Guard Refutes Damning Claims by Ex-General on Terror Connections
London- Asharq Al-Awsat/Thursday, 18 April, 2019/Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard, recently blacklisted as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the US, declined statements made by one of its ex-generals on the armed force’s links with terrorist groups and cooperation with al-Qaeda in the early 90s. Saeed Ghasemi, a retired general who gained notoriety for his role in the Ansar-e Hezbollah militia, revealed in an interview with the state-approved internet channel, Aparat, that in the 90s he visited Bosnia to train Muslim fighters against the Serbs while wearing the Iranian Red Crescent uniform.
In the same interview, Ghasemi admits that he is divulging the fact since the Americans have already discovered the ploy and written about it. Lambasting Ghasemi’s revelations, Revolutionary Guard spokesman, Ramazan Sharif, said: “Saeed Ghasemi’s remarks, who for a while was in Bosnia voluntarily and has retired a long time ago, are his personal views, devoid of credibility and are not shared by the IRGC (an acronym for the Revolutionary Gaurd),” according to ISNA. Sharif also downplayed Ghasemi’s comments and said: “These types of comments by Ghasemi have precedents and the responsibility of these comments are on him.” But he also warned Ghasemi and other retired members of Revolutionary Guard to avoid “making irresponsible and untrue claims” and not to provide “excuse and tools” to the enemy. It is worth noting that the official response is the first in a three-day-long controversy revolving around the Revolutionary Guard’s involvement with al-Qaeda. President Hassan Rouhani's office also dismissed the remarks, saying that the claims help "the enemy". The Iranian Red Crescent has also officially dismissed Qassemi's claims and threatened to sue him. "If an individual or a state entity has used the logo or uniform of the IRCS for operations against the aims and principles of the International Red Cross Society, it definitely happened without the permission of the IRCS or in coordination with it," IRCS announced. Even if the IRCS permission was sought, the statement argued, it would have never been given, the relief group added. "Based on the four conventions ratified in Geneva, the IRCS is impartial in armed conflicts since it has the important responsibility of supporting humanity and civilians," the statement has insisted.

Ex-IRGC Leader Sparks Controversy Over Tehran-Qaeda Ties
London- Asharq Al-Awsat/Wednesday, 17 April, 2019/Statements by the leader of Iran’s Ansar-e Hezbollah organization on training armed radical groups, including al-Qaeda in Bosnia under cover from the Iranian Red Crescent, have sparked widespread controversy in Tehran.
The Red Crescent announced Tuesday it will sue Said Qassemi for his remarks, according to Iranian media. Ansar-e Hezbollah is classified as a hardline group formed mainly of IRGC leaders from the Iran-Iraq war. In a circulated recording of an interview with Qassemi by an e-newspaper, the leader noted that British-Iranian journalist Christiane Amanpour was the first to reveal the Iranian forces’ task. He also criticized “close ties” between Amanpour and Iranian governments, referring to CNN interviews with Iranian presidents. Qassemi went further and revealed Iran's relationship with al-Qaeda since the 1990s. “We were with al-Qaeda members. They were trained by us, and we have formed military units with different militants in the world,” he said. His statements were supported by remarks made by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Fox News about Tehran's relations with al-Qaeda, few hours after adding the IRGC to the terror list.

Iran Oil Exports Hit New 2019 Low So Far in April

London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Asharq Al Awsat/April 18/19/Iran’s crude oil exports have dropped in April to their lowest daily level this year, tanker data showed and industry sources said, suggesting buyers are curbing purchases before Washington clamps down further on Iranian shipments as expected next month. The United States reimposed sanctions on Iran in November after pulling out of a 2015 nuclear accord between Tehran and six world powers. Those sanctions have already more than halved Iranian oil exports, the country’s main source of revenue. Shipments are averaging below 1 million barrels per day (bpd) so far this month, according to Refinitiv Eikon data and two other companies that track such exports and declined to be identified. That’s lower than at least 1.1 million bpd as estimated for March, Reuters said. The latest drop deepens supply losses resulting from an OPEC-led global agreement to cut oil production and US sanctions on another OPEC member, Venezuela. Supported by those moves, oil prices have risen 30 percent this year to $71 a barrel. “Collapsing Venezuelan oil output and sanctioned Iranian exports have put a big question mark over supply,” Norbert Ruecker of Swiss bank Julius Baer said. While exports could rise later in the month, the drop so far suggests Washington is making progress toward its goal of curtailing shipments to below 1 million bpd from May. The United States, seeking to avoid an increase in oil prices, granted sanctions waivers to China, India, Greece, Italy, Taiwan, Japan, Turkey and South Korea that allowed them to keep buying some Iranian crude. Those exemptions expire in May and analysts expect a new round to be less generous. The US government is considering more sanctions against Iran and has the ability not to give waivers at all, a senior Trump administration official said this month. “We think there are very high chances that China and India and perhaps Turkey will receive (fresh) waivers, but with further cuts,” said Sara Vakhshouri of energy consultant SVB Energy International. There is no definitive figure on how much oil Iran exported in March. Shipments have become more opaque since sanctions returned, and Iran no longer reports its production figures to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. One of the two companies that tracks shipments estimated Iran exported 1.1 million bpd of crude last month, while the other company put the number at 1.3 million bpd. Kpler, another company that tracks Iranian exports, estimated March shipments of crude and condensate at 1.29 million bpd. Still, there is general agreement that crude shipments have dropped from at least 2.5 million bpd in April 2018, the month before US President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the nuclear deal with Iran, Reuters said. Tehran has vowed to keep exporting oil despite US efforts to reduce its shipments eventually to zero, it added.

Tunisia: Counter-Terrorism Forces Chase Extremists in Kaf
Tunis- Al Mongi Al Saidani/Asharq Al Awsat/April 18/19/Counter-terrorism forces in Tunisia conducted a wide-scope military operation in al-Kaf (160 kilometers in the northwest of Tunis), which led to exchanging fire with an armed terrorist group. The operation continued throughout the night from Tuesday until Wednesday in an attempt to tighten the grip on a group that was hiding in abandoned buildings. In this context, Interior Ministry spokesman General Sufyan al-Zaq denied the death of a terrorist member during the operation unlike what has been reported by the local media. Zaq affirmed that combing operations were ongoing, covering abandoned buildings in Kaf that were likely used as a shelter by terrorists a while ago. In the same context, Tunisian security sources revealed that the chased-after members belong to Uqba ibn Nafi battalion. During the past years, Tunisian terrorist members took shelter in the western mountains of the country. They are divided into two groups: Uqba ibn Nafi battalion, which is affiliated with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and Jund al-Khilafah, an affiliate of the ISIS terror group. Experts in the field of combating terrorism estimate that these members are 300 tops but they received support from sleeper cells in Tunisia. In March 2014, terrorist militants targeted a bus transporting officers from Kaf, leading to the death of four and the injury of nine. The criminal chamber specialized in terrorist cases at the Tunis Court of First Instance issued, respectively, a 30-year imprisonment sentence and a 20-year imprisonment sentence in this case for Yassin al-Khazri and Faisal al-Jabali.

France to Try Bashar Assad’s Uncle for Fraud
Asharq Al-Awsat//Asharq Al Awsat/April 18/19/The uncle of Syrian regime leader Bashar Assad is set to appear before a French court over corruption charges. Rifaat Assad. 81, will stand try for allegedly acquiring millions of euros worth of French property assets using funds diverted from the Syrian state, a judicial source said on Wednesday. French judicial authorities suspect him of having unduly acquired real estate in several countries with funds from Syria. An investigating magistrate ordered him to stand trial for organized money laundering in building the 90 million-euro ($102 million) property portfolio in France, according to the order for the trial seen by AFP. A lawyer for Rifaat Assad declined to comment. In a written decision dated March 8, seen by AFP, the office of the financial crimes prosecutor called for Rifaat Assad to stand trial for laundering the proceeds of aggravated tax fraud, embezzling Syrian state funds, and failing to register French security and cleaning staff. Rifaat Assad, who splits his time between France and Britain, denies the charges. After he arrived in Europe, his lavish lifestyle, four wives, and 16 children soon raised eyebrows. His reported French fortune includes two Paris townhouses, one measuring a vast 3,000 square meters (32,000 square feet), as well as a stud farm and a chateau near the French capital, and 7,300 square meters (79,000 square feet) of office space in Lyon. Most of that was bought in the 1980s through offshore companies in Panama, Curacao, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg. He and his family also own over 500 properties in Spain. These were seized by authorities in 2017. Rifaat Assad is a former military commander, widely held responsible for crushing an uprising in 1982 against then-president Hafez Assad, Bashar’s father. Many thousands were killed. He turned against the regime in 1984 after a power struggle over who would succeed his older brother, Hafez. He has previously called on his nephew to step down as Syrian leader, although in past interviews has also criticized Syrian opposition groups. Le Monde newspaper has previously estimated his wealth at 160 million euros. Anti-corruption organizations Sherpa and Transparency International France first filed a legal complaint against him in 2013.

N. Korea Wants Pompeo Removed from Nuclear Talks
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 18/19/North Korea on Thursday demanded the removal of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo from stalled nuclear talks between Pyongyang and Washington, accusing him of derailing discussions. "I am afraid that, if Pompeo engages in the talks again, the table will be lousy once again and the talks will become entangled," Kwon Jong Gun, director general of the Department of American Affairs at North Korea's Foreign Affairs Ministry said, according to the official KCNA news agency. "Therefore, even in the case of possible resumption of the dialogue with the US, I wish our dialogue counterpart would be not Pompeo but... (another) person who is more careful and mature in communicating with us."The comments were released hours after Pyongyang announced the test-firing of a new tactical weapon with a "powerful warhead" -- the first such test since nuclear negotiations with Washington stalled. The test-fire marked a ratcheting up of tensions weeks after a summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump collapsed without agreement. And Kwon Jong Gun warned that if the US did not "get rid of the root cause" that led the North to acquire nuclear weapons, "no one can predict the situation on the Korean peninsula". But, he added, it was "fortunate" that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump remained on "good terms as usual" despite the gridlock in nuclear talks.

Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 18-19/19
Will Trump be first president to support West Bank settlement annexation?
Tovah Lazaroff/Jerusalem Post/April 18, 2019
Israel has long held that settlement activity is irrelevant to any peace or diplomatic process.
US President Donald Trump is the first American leader in the last five decades of the Palestinian conflict who appears to be blasé about Israeli West Bank settlement building. It’s an odd stance for a president who dreams of making the "deal of the century" to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Just less than three years ago, in a speech to the United Nations, former US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke about staunch US opposition to such activity and the harm it would cause to any peace process.
“Every United States administration, Republican and Democratic, has opposed settlements as contrary to the prospects for peace.” Kerry didn't name them, but the list of former US presidents vocal on the subject includes Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
When Trump first came into office in January 2017, he appeared to follow in their footsteps, albeit more gently. During his first joint news conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House in February of that year, Trump said, “As far as settlements, I’d like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit.”In the months that followed, a somewhat harsher line was used, with US officials stating that, "unrestrained settlement activity is not helpful to the peace process.”There was even a moment in 2017 when Netanyahu promised the Trump administration that he would constrain settlement activity, promising to build beyond the developed line of the settlements only when necessary. Israel has long held that settlement activity is irrelevant to any peace or diplomatic process.
Israel's 1979 peace treaty with Egypt and its 1994 treaty with Jordan were signed while Israel engaged in settlement building. In 2005 Israel destroyed 21 settlements in Gaza and four in northern Samaria without ever freezing settlement building. The 10-month moratorium Netanyahu imposed on new settlement starts in 2009 and 2010 produced neither a peace treaty nor even protracted negotiations with the Palestinians. In 2018, the Trump administration appeared to accept that settlements did not harm the peace process and stopped criticizing that activity all together.
To each question on the issue, Trump officials have said only this, “The Israeli government has made clear that going forward, its intent is to adopt a policy regarding settlement activity that takes the president’s concerns into consideration," adding that “the US welcomes this.”
But the US officials have not explained what concerns Trump does have, if he has any at all.
Indeed, Trump’s laissez-faire attitude, coupled with an intense annexation push by Israeli right-wing politicians, almost made the settlement building seem passé. In the final days of Israel’s 2019 election campaign, Netanyahu seemed to make the issue irrelevant all together when he made his first public pledge to annex the West Bank settlements to Israel. It was the kind of statement that would have been impossible to make during the Obama administration, or in fact, at any point in the last 26 years at least. Israel has twice sparked an international outcry by annexing territory it captured in the defensive 1967 Six-Day War, applying sovereignty to east Jerusalem in 1980 and to the Golan in 1981. In contrast, although Israel built Jewish communities in the West Bank territory it captured in that war, it never annexed the area that the international community has designated for a Palestinian state.
Such a move became much harder after Israel signed onto the US-initiated Oslo Accord in 1993. Under Oslo Israel committed to resolve territorial issues through negotiations for a final status agreement for a two-state resolution to the conflict. Annexation, therefore, would unilaterally change the status of the territories and run counter to the Oslo pledge.
Annexation also runs the risk of complicating the Trump peace plan that is due to be published at the earliest in June and which calls for a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But while the European Union and the Palestinians have condemned Netanyahu’s annexation talk, the Trump administration has been largely silent on the matter, save for two fateful words US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo uttered last Friday during an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper. Pompeo was asked if he thought Netanyahu's comments on annexing the West Bank would “hurt the pursuit of peace," specifically US President Donald Trump's peace plan. “I don’t," Pompeo replied. It’s possible his words are ploy, allowing the Palestinians to think the US would approve unilateral annexation of the settlements by way of pressing them to the negotiation table. Still his response raises the question of whether Trump could be on the verge of becoming the first US president to support Israeli annexation of portions of the West Bank. It also could indicate that the Trump administration’s peace plan already unilaterally places West Bank settlements within Israel's sovereign borders. If so, Netanyahu's talk of annexation could hardly harm that process.The Palestinians believe Trump has removed the issue of settlements, Jerusalem and refugees from the table announcing that if this is the case, the plan is dead on arrival. Trump’s 2017 decision to relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv to west Jerusalem and his recognition last month of Israeli sovereignty on the Golan Heights have bolstered that belief.
The details of the “deal of the century,” authored by US special envoys Jason Greenblatt and Jared Kushner, have been successfully kept under wraps. Both men have asked the public to keep an open mind about the plan and to wait to judge it until is release.
Kushner recently told ambassadors that both Israelis and Palestinians would have to make concessions, but he did not clarify what those would be. In the past, “concessions” has always been code for a demand for Israeli territorial withdrawal, but Trump is hardly using that same rule book.
As a president, Trump has made his mark by dismantling past international agreements with countries such as Iran, Russia, Mexico and Canada. Similarly, members of his administration have already stated that Trump’s plan will change the known dialogue around the resolution of this conflict and that it does not abide by past international understandings.
"I think that the vision that we’ll layout is going to represent a significant change from the model that’s been used,” Pompeo told CNN’s Tapper last week. Israel’s ambassador to the UN Danny Danon told reporters on Wednesday that Netanyahu would wait for the Trump peace plan before moving forward on annexation. But what if the plan is delayed? How long exactly could Netanyahu wait before making good on his pledge? This is especially given the potential narrow makeup of his coalition, which would make the government's survival dependent on the Union of Right-Wing Party for whom annexation is a critical issue. Two years ago, when Trump first entered office, right-wing politicians in Netanyahu's government begged him to make use of a narrow window of diplomatic time to annex the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement. They argued that Netanyahu could claim he had done so on the basis of Trump's already supportive stance toward the settlements before any prohibitive policies for such a step were put in place. If the peace plan is delayed, history is likely to repeat. Members of Netanyahu’s government could urge him to risk Trump’s ire by moving forward on an annexation plan rather than risk publication of a plan that despite all the positive signs might make such a process prohibitive.
They might even suggest that Netanyahu test his boundaries by applying sovereignty to one of the settlement blocs, such as Ma'aleh Adumim or Gush Etzion. An Israeli unilateral annexation move, with tactic US understanding but without its support, might even help Trump win votes with his evangelical Christian base. Either way, a window of diplomatic opportunity for annexation has opened for Israel. It simply remains to be seen if Netanyahu, who managed to win an electoral campaign with the help of two of the worlds most powerful leaders, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Trump, can make his mark by expanding Israel's sovereign border.

Democracy and Revolution in Sudan
Hussain Abdul-Hussain/Syndication Bureau/April 18/19
While the dizzying pace of change in Sudan makes it hard to make sense of events, some in the Sudanese opposition have quipped that what has happened, so far, amounts to a “bad coup” followed by a “good coup.” Weeks of popular rage and clashes with security forces finally prompted three top generals to whisper into the ear of Sudan’s Islamist president, Omar Al Bashir, that 30 years of his rule had come to an end, and that he would be confined to house arrest. Sitting on a throne-like chair, Vice President and Defense Minister Ahmed Ibn Awf addressed the Sudanese nation on TV, informing them that Al Bashir’s rule had ended, and announcing a transitional period of two years. Mixed in with the Sudanese people’s jubilation, however, was lingering anger against remnants of Al Bashir’s regime. His longtime companion and vice president, Ibn Awf, was perceived as a placeholder. Less than 24 hours later, Ibn Awf showed up on TV again, this time announcing his resignation, and his appointment of Gen Abdul-Fatah Al Burhan — one of the three generals who had walked in on Al Bashir to depose him — as the leader for the transitional period. Al Burhan is seen as non-partisan, less tainted with Sudan’s endemic corruption and hence a better choice to lead the country through transition.
But not all Sudanese expressed approval of the new leader. Many remain skeptical of the military leading the transition, and doubt that Al Burhan would ever give up power. This skepticism was especially pronounced among the group known as the Association of Sudanese Professionals (ASP), a loose organization of lawyers, engineers, doctors and other professionals, which demanded that the army underwrite a peaceful transition of power, without actually leading it.Together with a dozen other political groups, which have formed the opposition to Al Bashir, the ASP signed a document that came to be known as the Proclamation of Freedom and Change, which calls for “the formation of a national transitional government,” to consist of “competent patriots, by consensus of all the factions of the Sudanese people.”
The only problem with such stipulations is that implementing them is easier said than done.
Sudan’s proposal for transition is not unprecedented. In Egypt in 2011, where a popular uprising resulted in the fall of Hosni Mubarak, Egyptians, too, offered half-baked ideas for the post-Mubarak period. Novelist Alaa Aswany, one of the most prominent and outspoken proponents of change in Egypt, said the Egyptian revolution committed several mistakes, the first and foremost of which was “abandoning the streets and squares.” Speaking at a panel at a Cairo bookstore to celebrate his book, “Did the Egyptian Revolution Go Wrong?” Aswany said: “We should have formed a commission to represent the revolutionaries and the revolution, from all provinces, in order to achieve the goals of the revolution.”
Like the Sudanese today, the Egyptians in 2011 deposed their sitting president, and expressed dismay at the military leading the transition.
Their alternative was the creation of a body formed of “competent patriots” or “revolutionaries representing all provinces.” But who decides who are the “competent patriots”? And who vets who is “revolutionary” and who is not?
Not only was Aswany opposed to constitutional reform, which the military had put to a referendum, he was also against parliamentary elections, arguing that the military and the Islamists were best prepared to win them. Aswany predicted that the military would snatch victory for presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq, at the expense of Islamist Muhammad Morsi. But Shafiq lost, clearly illustrating that despite all its might and influence, the Egyptian military did not have it all figured out and planned, as conspiracy theorists would like to believe. Like everybody else, the Egyptian military improvised as events unfolded. Its advantage, however, was that, with the collapse of Mubarak’s regime, it became the only national agency with any kind of legitimacy, even if borrowed from the previous, and hated, regime.
Perhaps heeding Aswany’s advice, Sudan’s protesters held their ground at the camp site, near the military’s headquarters, even after Al Burhan’s takeover. The military tried to disband the camp and restore normalcy, but the signatories on the Proclamation of Freedom and Change refused to let go, perhaps not while Al Bashir is still under house arrest, and can come back. Justifying its refusal to disperse, the Sudanese opposition said it will only call off its protest if the military hand rule over to a civilian government. The question is, even if Sudan’s military agrees to relinquish power, who can succeed the generals? The people in the street? All of them? Or maybe only a chosen few? And who chooses the few? Revolutions are romantic and messy. Their success can be measured by the rulers they manage to topple. Yet revolutions are rarely designed to govern nations, post-revolution. The hero of the most successful of revolutions, the American uprising for independence from the British, was himself a general who presided over the country during the first decade after the Americans trounced the British. True, Gen George Washington answered to an elected Congress, but the American democracy preceded its revolution, not followed it. Perhaps revolutions and democracy are, after all, two separate matters.
*Hussain Abdul-Hussain is the Washington bureau chief of Kuwaiti daily Al-Rai and a former visiting fellow at Chatham House in London.

The 'Next Day' in Sudan
Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al Awsat/April 18/19
Political change is rarely successful if it is carried out quickly and dramatically. In the case of military regimes that have governed for decades, the consequences of change are very costly.
Historically - especially in Arab countries where the Arab Spring is a blatant example - change often brings the worst, not the best, because of the absence of political organizations and civil society components capable of compensating for the vacuum created by the overthrow of regimes that last long in power.
However, developments in Sudan after about a week of the isolation of former President Omar al-Bashir and the assumption of the Transitional Council of power - without bloody or armed clashes – comes in contrast to that rule, and proves that the Sudanese people have so far succeeded in ousting Bashir with minimal damage and greatest gains.
Even the echo of change in the military institution resounded differently. To this very moment, the army has been greatly responsive to the demands of protesters, and the Transitional Military Council asked the political forces to present an agreed national figure to head the civil government during the transitional period - a surprise that was not even expected by those who were hoping the military would not seize power.
Prior to that, the Council president Awad Ibn Auf withdrew a day after his nomination, and issued a series of strong decisions, including the removal of senior officials from their posts in the judiciary, the army, and the media, in response to demands of protesters
and the opposition.
To date – a week after the ousting of Bashir - the NTC has been able to rally support from major Arab countries, which enabled it to neutralize international positions in a positive manner, and to avoid the emergence of confrontational international positions that would jeopardize the confidence of the Sudanese people in it. This will help the Council to impose itself as a system capable of managing the interim phase until the full handover of power to the elected civilian government.
Similar transitional periods, in which major political transformations occurred, have seen differences and tensions, even disturbances. This would have been normal to witness in Sudan, as in other countries where such changes have taken place. Yet, the winds of change in Sudan are clearly different. Who knows, maybe a surprise may come again, 34 years the experience of Marshal Zuwar al-Dahab in 1985, when he transferred the rule peacefully and voluntarily waived the power.
Certainly, it is impossible to say that Sudan was able to overcome the critical transitional phase. At the same time, the growing trust between the transitional council on the one hand and the street on the other is the only guarantee for the Sudanese to emerge from their crisis with minimal losses.
The real fear comes from the absence of a “next day strategy” by the opposition, which apparently did not expect the regime to fall so easily, did not prepare well for Sudan’s next day without Bashir and failed to form a civilian government to run the transitional period, the election of parliament and the restructuring of the constitutional court.
Moreover, the sit-in is still going on in front of the army headquarters, a dilemma that will not be in the interest of Sudan if it persisted for a long time. Therefore, the fears remain valid in view of the many disagreements over the political forces’ vision of the transitional arrangements. One should also not disregard the fact that the popular movement that participated in the protests is wide, varied and composed of all the spectrums, professional unions, and political parties. If they were able unite their goals to overthrow Bashir, the ambiguity of the next day strategy is undeniable.
In the wake of its absence, the gap is growing between the demands of protesters and the rising ceiling of requirements by the opposition. Major transformations deserve some small concessions for a better future.

Saudi Journalist: Qatar's Claim That It Does Not Support The Muslim Brotherhood And Hamas Is A Lie

MEMRI/April 18, 2019
In a March 26, 2019 interview with the American website Al-Monitor, Lowlah Al-Khater, spokeswoman for the Qatari Foreign Ministry, denied claims that the Qatari regime supports the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) and Hamas. She stated that Qatar's contacts with Hamas began only after the administration of former U.S. president George W. Bush asked it to mediate between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, and that the current U.S. administration does not object to these ties either, and in fact approves of Qatar's role in extending aid to Gaza. As for the MB, Al-Khater said that "the United States does not consider the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, [and] neither does the European Union. And that’s the stance of Qatar, just like all Arab countries with the exception of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt." She added that, despite this, "there is a huge spectrum between not considering [the Muslim Brotherhood] a terrorist organization and supporting it... We definitely don’t support the Muslim Brotherhood... We don’t antagonize them, but we don’t support them."[1]
In response to Al-Khater's statements in this interview, Saudi journalist 'Abdallah bin Bjad Al-'Otaibi wrote in the UAE daily Al-Ittihad that her claims bore no relation to reality. Qatar's ties with political Islam organizations such as the MB, he wrote, as well as with terror organizations like Al-Qaeda, ISIS and Jabhat Al-Nursa, are close and long standing, and on various occasions Qatar even paid these organizations millions of dollars. Al-'Otaibi also noted Qatar's support for the Arab Spring revolutions, during which, he said, Qatar provided funds, arms and military personnel to political Islam organizations. He concluded by stating that, as long as Qatar maintains these ties and refrains from reassessing its policies, it will remain weak and isolated.
The following are excerpts from his article.[2]
"In the 20 years since the coup carried out by [the former Qatari emir], Hamad bin Khalifa, against his father [Khalifa bin Hamad Aal Al-Thani] in the mid-1990s,[3] Qatar has earned many apt epithets, including 'Qatar of the Conspiracies,' 'Treasonous Qatar,' and 'Contradictory Qatar,' and, following the boycott [imposed on it in June 2017] by four Arab countries [Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain], also 'Qatar of the Strategic Obstinacy,' 'Qatar the Sanctuary State,' and many other [epithets].[4]
"[During her visit to] Washington, Qatar's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Lolwah Al-Khater made a statement that contravened all of Qatar's policies, its strategic inclination towards the MB and all [other] political Islam organizations and their terror militias, and the support it extends to various organizations and currents [of this sort] on the political, economic, media and cultural levels and on every other conceivable level. Describing Qatar's position on the MB, she said, 'we neither oppose them nor support them,' and justified this with obsolete arguments whose shameful [falsity] was exposed years ago, for Qatar's ties with these organizations are as clear as day. In fact, Qatar has gone far beyond this, and has supported Al-Qaeda, ISIS and Iran's terror militias in various ways. It especially [supported them] financially, [giving them] billions of dollars in various proven and documented incidents, mainly by [paying] ransom – whether to Jabhat Al-Nusra in Syria in the incident of the nuns of Ma'aloula,[5] or to Shi'ite militias in Iraq, in the well-known incident of the hunters.[6]
"[Al-Khater's] statements may be a trial balloon ahead of [Qatar's] succumbing to the demands of the boycott countries and renouncing the MB and all the terror organizations, and perhaps it is merely a statement meant to throw sand in [everyone's] eyes – especially since she spoke in Washington, the capital of U.S. decision making, where President Trump is adopting a firm policy towards Iran and its allies in the region. He is also planning to reassess his treatment of the MB, in light of a new inclination that is emerging in several European states, to thoroughly examine this organization and the roles it is playing in those countries.
"Qatar's ties with the political Islam organizations are inextricable. They date back to the late 1950s and early 1990s [sic, probably meant 'early 1960s'], when [prominent Egyptian] MB members Yousuf Al-Qaradawi and 'Abd Al-Badi' Al-Saqer arrived [in Qatar], and gained momentum and impact with great speed after the 1995 coup [in Qatar], following which the Qatari leadership became hostile towards all its brethren [in the Arab states] and [started] spreading chaos within them and supporting fundamentalism and terror.
"These ties reached their peak during the so-called Arab Spring, which was blatantly the spring of fundamentalism and terror. Qatar supported it by every means at its disposal, as part of its firm alliance with the terror organizations that formed over 15 years ago. Qatari assistance was extended especially to these dangerous and organized [terror] groups in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and other countries where it was possible to supply these groups not just with money but also with weapons of every kind. [This was done] with the direct involvement of Qatari officers and military personnel, who managed some of these diverse operations, [for they] planned to destroy the Arab peoples, and succeeded in several countries, where Qatar's terrorists continue to sow ruin and destruction.
"Following the boycott imposed by the four Arab countries... on Doha, the latter was forced, due to the tight monitoring of its actions, to curb its urge to [support] these organizations, for it failed in most of the countries [where they operated]: Tunisia recovered following a difficult period, Egypt recovered [thanks to] the strength of its people and army, Yemen and its people will come back with a vengeance, for the war there continues and Qatar's allies are losing... and Libya is [also] about to liberate itself from the Qatar-supported terrorists.
"In sum, the decision-maker in Qatar is in crisis, for his cards, his failures and his plans have been exposed. As long as Qatar refrains from undertaking a genuine reassessment [of its policies] and performing a kind of coup, it will remain isolated and weak."
[1], March 26, 2019.
[2] Al-Ittihad (UAE), March 31, 2019.
[3] Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa, the father of the present Emir, deposed his own father in a bloodless coup in 1995.
[4] On the crisis between Qatar and the Gulf countries, see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1315, Uproar In The Gulf Following Alleged Statements By Qatari Emir Condemning Gulf States, Praising Iran, Hizbullah, Muslim Brotherhood And Hamas, May 25, 2017.
[5] The reference is to a group of Greek Orthodox nuns from a monastery in Ma'aloula, north of Damascus, who were abducted in December 2013 by Jabhat Al-Nusra and released three months later. According to some reports, Qatar, which was involved in mediating their release, paid the organization 16 million dollars. See, March 10, 2014;, Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), March 11, 2014.
[6] This refers to an incident in which Qatar reportedly paid a billion dollars to ransom 28 members of Qatar's ruling family who had been abducted by terror groups in Iraq in 2015 while on a hunting trip. See, July 17, 2018,, March 30, 2019.

Hamas's Honesty and the Deal of the Century
Khaled Abu Toameh/Gatestone Institute/April 18/19
Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar's threats serve as a reminder that Hamas and other Palestinian terror group consider Israel one big settlement that needs to be annihilated. Above all, Hamas has never accepted the "two-state solution" or changed its charter, which explicitly states: "When our enemies usurp some Islamic lands, Jihad [holy war] becomes a duty binding on all Muslims.... We must spread the spirit of Jihad among the [Islamic] Umma, clash with the enemies and join the ranks of the Jihad fighters."
Hamas cannot reach any political deal with Israel because it does not agree to Israel's right to exist. This is the message that Sinwar and leaders of all Palestinian terror groups want the world to hear. For the terrorist leaders, the only peace they will accept is one that results in the elimination of Israel and the evacuation of all Jews from their homes.
The Hamas Charter is a straightforward, unambiguous message that says: "[Peace] initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement [Hamas]....There is no solution to the Palestinian problem expect by Jihad."
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has undoubtedly read the Hamas charter. He knows that if he accepts any peace plan that does not include the expulsion of all Jews from their homes, he will be denounced by his rivals in Hamas as a traitor. Abbas is also aware of Hamas's threats to shower Israel with rockets. He knows that at the same time as Hamas attacks Israel, it will seek to flatten him for "betraying" Arabs and Muslims in "allowing" Jews to continue living in "their" state. This is the Palestinian reality that the "Deal of the Century" is about to be dealt.
April 15 marked the 18th anniversary of the firing of the first Hamas rocket toward Israel. Pictured: Armed Hamas militiamen on parade with a vehicle-mounted rocket launcher in Gaza, in August 2016. (Image source: PressTV video screenshot)
April 15 marked the 18th anniversary of the firing of the first Hamas rocket toward Israel. On this day, 18 years ago, Hamas's military wing, Izaddin al-Qassam, launched its first rocket attack at Israeli population centers near their border with the Gaza Strip.
On the eve of this occasion, Yahya Sinwar, the Hamas leader of the Gaza Strip, threatened that his movement will continue to fire rockets at Israel. The rockets, he said, will be fired at Israeli "settlements" not only near the border with the Gaza Strip, but also at supposed "settlements" in the Israeli cities of Ashkelon, Ashdod and Tel Aviv.
Sinwar said that the recent Egyptian-sponsored ceasefire understandings between Hamas and Israel are not a peace agreement. The understandings, he explained, do not require Hamas to disarm or halt, near the border with Israel, the weekly demonstrations, also known as the "Great March of Return."
"The understandings do not have any political dimension," the Hamas leader said. "I promise that if a war is imposed on us, the occupation will have to evacuate its settlements, not only near the Gaza Strip, but also in Ashdod, Ashkelon, the Negev and even Tel Aviv. Remember this promise."
Sinwar's threats serve as a reminder that Hamas and other Palestinian terror group consider Israel one big settlement that needs to be annihilated. Hamas and the other terror groups do not see a difference between a Jew living in the West Bank and a Jew living in Tel Aviv or Ashkelon. To terror groups, all these Jews, regardless of whether they live in the West Bank or in Israel proper, are "settlers" and "colonists."
For them, Tel Aviv, Ashkelon, Ashdod and all Israeli cities are no different than Jewish communities and neighborhoods in east Jerusalem and the West Bank. That's why Hamas and the terror groups consider all "settlements" -- inside Israel and in the West Bank -- as legitimate targets for their rockets.
Contrary to claims by some Western political analysts and media outlets, Hamas has never recognized Israel's right to exist. Needless to say, Hamas has never renounced the "armed struggle" against Israel.
Above all, Hamas has never accepted the "two-state solution" or changed its charter, which explicitly states:
"When our enemies usurp some Islamic lands, Jihad [holy war] becomes a duty binding on all Muslims. In order to face the usurpation of Palestine by the Jews, we have no escape from raising the banner of Jihad. This would require the propagation of Islamic consciousness among the masses on all local, Arab and Islamic levels. WE must spread the spirit of Jihad among the [Islamic] Umma, clash with the enemies and join the ranks of the Jihad fighters."
Sinwar deserves credit for being honest about his movement's true goals. He also deserves credit for sticking to every word mentioned in the Hamas charter, which was published more than 30 years ago and remains as relevant as ever to this very day. Jihad, according to the Hamas leader, should be waged not only against Jews living in West Bank settlements, but also against those residing in "settlements" in all of Israel, including Tel Aviv. He says he wants to see all Jews evacuated from their homes. He says he is hoping that the Hamas rockets will one day force Israel to "evacuate" all Jews from their homes.
In the past 18 years, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terror groups in the Gaza Strip have fired thousands of rockets and missiles at Israel.
A report by the IDF on Hamas's rocket arsenal notes that the terror group has about 6,000 rockets. They include more than 1,000 units of self-produced short-range rockets (15 km range), more than 2,500 units of smuggled short-range rockets (15 km range), approximately 200 units of self-produced Grad rockets (20 km range), approximately 200 units of smuggled Grad rockets (20 km range), approximately 200 units of self-produced improved Grad rockets (45 km range), approximately 1,000 units of smuggled improved Grad rockets (45 km range), more than 400 units of self-produced medium range rockets (up to 80 km range) and dozens of long-range rockets (100-200 km range).
The other terror groups in the Gaza Strip, the report says, have approximately another 5,500 short-range, medium-range and long-range rockets.
That is why Sinwar's threats to fire more rockets at Israel should be taken with deadly seriousness. He is also right when he says that the ceasefire understandings with Israel are not a political agreement with the "Zionist entity." Hamas cannot reach any political deal with Israel because it does not agree to Israel's right to exist. This is the message that Sinwar and leaders of all Palestinian terror groups want the world to hear. For the terrorist leaders, the only peace they will accept is one that results in the elimination of Israel and the evacuation of all Jews from their homes. Hamas, of course, is strongly opposed to US President Donald Trump's upcoming plan for peace in the Middle East, also known as the "Deal of the Century." How can Hamas accept any peace plan that recognizes Israel's right to exist? Hamas is opposed to the Deal of the Century not because the plan doesn't offer the Palestinians enough land. It is opposed to the plan because it doesn't offer the Palestinians all the land, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.
Consider another phrase from the Hamas charter, one that explains why it cannot recognize Israel's right to exist:
"The Islamic Resistance Movement [Hamas] believes that the land of Palestine has been an Islamic Waqf throughout the generations and until the Day of Resurrection; no one can renounce it or part of it, or abandon it or part of it."
Drafted more than three decades ago, the message the Hamas charter sends to the US, the Arab world, Palestinians and the rest of the international community sounds as if it was issued yesterday. It is a straightforward, unambiguous message that says:
"[Peace] initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement [Hamas]. For renouncing any part of Palestine means renouncing part of the religion. There is no solution to the Palestinian problem expect by Jihad."
Hamas is not a small group whose threats can be brushed aside as "irrelevant." It is a terror groups that possesses thousands of rockets and controls the entire Gaza Strip, where nearly two million Palestinian live. It is a terror group that won the Palestinian parliamentary election in 2006. It is a terror group whose supporters have won a number of university student council elections not only in the Gaza Strip, but also in the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has undoubtedly read the Hamas charter. He knows that, as a Muslim, if he accepts any peace plan that does not include the expulsion of all Jews from their homes, he will be denounced by his rivals in Hamas as a traitor. Abbas is also aware of Hamas's threats to shower Israel with rockets. He knows that at the same time as Hamas attacks Israel, it will seek to flatten him for "betraying" Arabs and Muslims in "allowing" Jews to continue living in "their" state. This is the Palestinian reality that the Deal of the Century is about to be dealt.
*Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem, is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at Gatestone Institute.
© 2019 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

German Government: Anti-Israel, Pro-Iran
Stefan Frank/Gatestone Institute/April 18/19
Supporting one-sided resolutions against Israel is not Germany's only unfriendly act against the Jewish state. Chancellor Angela Merkel has put pressure on other European Union states so that they do not transfer their embassies to Israel's capital. Stopping the murder of Israelis is also not on the German government's agenda.
Last year the Palestinian Authority (PA) allocated $330 million to pay terrorists, and Germany paid $100 million to the PA. So it is fair to say that Germany pays the PA to reward the murder of Jews.
While Chancellor Angela Merkel talks about "Germany's special historical responsibility for Israel's security", her government channels German taxpayer money to murderers of Jews, and President Steinmeier sends congratulatory telegrams to those who plan the annihilation of the Jewish state.
"We must no longer let Israel down at the UN. It is madness that we are constantly on the side of countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran or Yemen against Israel" — Frank Müller-Rosentritt, member of the German parliament's committee on foreign relations for the opposition Free Democratic Party (FDP).
Bijan Djir-Sarai, the Iranian-born foreign affairs spokesman for Germany's opposition Free Democrat Party (FDP), sharply criticized the German government's pandering to Iran's Ayatollahs: "You can't get up in the morning and say that you stand by Israel's side and in the evenings have tea with the Iranians and celebrate revolution parties." (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel likes to think of herself as a friend of Israel. In a speech she gave in the Knesset in Jerusalem in Mach 2008, she said:
"Here of all places I want to explicitly stress that every German government and every German chancellor before me has shouldered Germany's special historical responsibility for Israel's security. This historical responsibility is part of my country's raison d'être. For me as German chancellor, therefore, Israel's security will never be open to negotiation. And that being the case, we must do more than pay lip-service to this commitment ..."
Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas claimed that Auschwitz (as a symbol for the murder of six million Jews) made him want to become a politician.
Given such intentions, one would expect Merkel, Maas and Germany's foreign policy in general to be very supportive of the Jewish state and to be fierce enemies of regimes and organizations that seek its destruction. The reality, however, it is the opposite.
When German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier visited Israel in May 2017 (his first visit to the Jewish state since taking office five months earlier), he used the opportunity to pay his respects to Yassir Arafat and lay a wreath at the arch-terrorist's mausoleum in Ramallah.
In February, President Steinmeier sent a congratulatory telegram to Iran's mullah regime in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Islamic revolution, in the name of Germany's citizens: "Mr. President, on the occasion of the National Day of the Islamic Republic of Iran, I congratulate you, also on behalf of my compatriots."
"Not on my behalf", said Hamed Abdel-Samad, a German-Egyptian political scientist and author of several books in which he criticizes Germany's appeasement of radical Islam. For years, Abdel-Samad has been living under police protection in Germany after he published a book, Islamic Fascism, and a radical Egyptian cleric issued a murder fatwa against him. When Steinmeier in February invited Abdel-Samad, among other celebrities, to his official residence to participate in a debate entitled, "Democracy and Religion", Abdel-Samad held Steinmeier to account:
"You congratulated the Iranian regime on behalf of all Germans, but you should not do that. As a German citizen I tell you: not in my name! You sent the wrong signals both to the regime in Iran, to the democratic opposition in the country and in exile, to the tens of thousands of victims of this regime and their families, as well as to the German population. To the regime you sent the signal 'Keep it up', to the opposition 'I do not care about your trouble' and to the German people 'We do not really take our own values seriously."
Abdel-Samad was joined by many human rights attorneys, politicians and journalists. Reverend Steffen Reiche, a Protestant cleric who, in October 1989, was one of the co-founders of the East German Social-Democratic Party (at that time, the communist dictatorship was still intact and the founding of a non-regime party was considered high treason) wrote in the newspaper Die Welt that he was "ashamed" of the president and called for Steinmeier to be disinvited from this year's Protestant church congress. In a rare move, even journalists of Germany's public TV channel ARD criticized Germany's "dangerous pandering to the mullahs".
At the same time, Germany's best-selling tabloid Bild revealed that Deputy Foreign Minister Niels Annen had visited a party in the Iranian Embassy in honor of the Islamic revolution. The Jerusalem Post reported that the timing of Annen's visit coincided with Iranian Brig.-Gen. Yadollah Javani's comments on Israel regarding an American attack on Iran: "...if they attack us, we will raze Tel Aviv and Haifa to the ground," he told Iran's state-controlled IRNA news agency.
"Why does the Federal Government send a representative to a revolution party in the embassy of a terror regime?" asked Bild. The government answered that it wanted to "keep the channels of dialogue open" -- a dialogue with a regime that has committed murders even on German soil.[1] Yet, Germany makes great efforts to help European companies skirt US sanction against Iran.
Nasrin Amirsedghi, a well-known film scholar, cultural scientist and Iranian dissident in German exile, told Gatestone:
"The German government's behavior is unscrupulous and evil. The grievances in Iran and Iran's role as a terrorist in the region and even in Europe are not addressed but ignored and embellished. I'm stunned about the silence in this country -- a country that once contributed so much to enlightenment and humanism.
"How can Germany hold a dialogue with the mullahs, establish diplomatic and business ties, send congratulation telegrams -- all the while the mullahs brutally suppress every justified civil protest, keep 1.7 million political prisoners, homosexuals, women, attorneys, etc. in jail and perform daily public executions. The German government romanticizes a regime that has Israel's destruction on its agenda."
Amirsedghi issued a plea to the German government:
"Stop the policy of appeasement! Show courage and end all economic and diplomatic relations. The Iranian people can overthrow the regime by themselves. Money is the regime's only lifeline. This source has to be dried up."
Bijan Djir-Sarai, spokesman on foreign affairs for the opposition Free Democrat Party (FDP), sharply criticized Steinmeier's and Annen's pandering to the Ayatollahs:
"You can't get up in the morning and say that you stand by Israel's side and in the evenings have tea with the Iranians and celebrate revolution parties; that is a contradiction: the message is sent to Tehran, we'll stand by your side, no matter what you do."
Djir-Sarai, born in Tehran, spent his early childhood under the Khomeini regime. In 1987, when he was 11 years old his parents sent him to an uncle who lived in Germany. In November, during the parliamentary debate about the national budget, Djir-Sarai also confronted foreign minister Heiko Maas with Germany's anti-Israel stance at the United Nations:
"Mr. Minister, can you explain to me why Germany last week in the UN General Assembly approved the eight resolutions that one-sidedly criticized Israel? Mr. Minister, I've always understood you as saying that the safety of the state of Israel is very important to you. That's why I can't comprehend why on the international stage Germany lets Israel down in such a way. As a member of the parliament, I demand that you provide an explanation for this vote, here in this house, in front of the deputies."
When Maas did not reply, Djir-Sarai's colleague Frank Müller-Rosentritt urged him to provide an answer. Maas took to the microphone and explained:
"When it comes to Israel resolutions, Germany -- and this is not a new development -- in recent years followed an approach that has been shaped by our attempts to be involved in the discussions about the drafts until the end. This is why we haven't prematurely withdrawn from the debates of these resolutions and haven't said we vote 'no'. Instead, we have always made efforts that were coordinated with the Israeli representation -- but not always to the latter's satisfaction -- to ensure that the drafts which would have, with or without us, received a majority at the United Nations anyway, were not worded in such a way as they might have been intended by some people. And this is why our interventions have always led to drafts in which much of the acrimony had been toned down."
Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, a watchdog group that holds the UN and its agencies accountable to abide by the principles put forth in the UN Charter, once described this procedure as "the old Brussels-Ramallah wink-and-nod game":
"The PLO submits a more inflammatory text at the beginning, knowing it will be revised later to allow the Europeans to pretend they achieved a 'balanced' text. Israel is then expected to celebrate that it has been lynched with a lighter rope."
Maas even suggested that by supporting anti-Israel resolutions -- in an alleged attempt to tone them down -- Germany had earned "much approval on the Israeli part". This claim was contradicted by Israel's ambassador in Germany, Jeremy Issacharoff. He tweeted that it was "urgently necessary" to change German voting behavior in the UN on Israel and that Germany should adopt an "active leadership role in refocusing the common voting behavior of European partners."
In 2016, Germany even voted for a UN resolution that singled out Israel at the annual assembly of the World Health Organization (WHO) as the world's only violator of "mental, physical and environmental health," and commissioned a WHO delegation to investigate and report on "the health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory" and in "the occupied Syrian Golan".
"The belief that a single country and a single people merit such attention on a permanent basis — this belief is motivated by one thing: anti-Semitism," said the United States Ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, in a speech he gave on March 18 in Geneva. Grenell's speech was part of a rally organized by UN Watch. The rally, which protested the anti-Israel bias at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), drew 1,000 people and featured prominent speakers. In particular, Grenell singled out the council's Agenda Item 7, which is "a permanent directive to debate the human rights record of Israel at every council session." No other country is subject to such scrutiny.
"We must no longer let Israel down at the UN. It is madness that we are constantly on the side of countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran or Yemen against Israel", the FDP member in the German parliament's committee on foreign relations, Frank Müller-Rosentritt, told BILD.
"It can't be that 21 resolutions against Israel are passed in one year and only one against Syria. This mismatch shows that the enemies of Israel use the UN to delegitimize the Jewish state internationally."
This was why the FDP caucus in the national parliament prepared a resolution with the title "Reorientation of German and European Voting on Israel at the UN".
Among other things, the resolution called upon the German government to:
"... clearly distance itself from one-sided, primarily politically motivated initiatives and alliances of anti-Israeli Member States in the United Nations bodies and agencies (such as the UN General Assembly, the UN Human Rights Council or UNESCO) and to protect Israel and Israel's legitimate interests against one-sided denunciations. In this context, Germany's hitherto voting pattern should be questioned and, if necessary, changed "
The resolution was put to a parliamentary vote on March 14. The Bundestag overwhelmingly rejected it. It is very telling how the parties voted. The FDP (69 "yes", zero "no", zero abstentions) and the anti-immigration party AfD (81 "yes"', zero "no", 3 abstentions) were the only parties that supported the pro-Israel resolution. The Greens Party abstained, while both Merkel's CDU/CSU (one "yes", 224 "no", one abstention) and the Social-Democrats (zero "yes", 132 "no", zero abstentions) voted against it. Among Merkel's Christian-Democrats, former interior minister, Hans-Peter Friedrich, was the only one to support the resolution.
"Nowhere is the difference between pretense and reality as obvious as in the German Israel policy", said Anton Friese, an MP of the AfD, in the debate.
"Expressions of solidarity are cheap, but to no avail. Beyond cheap words, when push comes to shove, Germany votes against Israel. In 2018, Germany approved 16 anti-Israeli resolutions in the UN General Assembly and abstained on four others, out of a total of 21 resolutions against Israel.
"The picture is not different in the UN Human Rights Council, of which such illustrious human rights defenders as China, Cuba, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are members. Even there, most of the convictions target Israel, while dictatorships go scot-free.
"Often the federal government says that it wants to prevent something worse and therefore has to participate in such machinations. It's like joining a street gang to get it under control."
The Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung commented on the German parliament's vote:
"From the Israeli point of view, the rejection [of the resolution] should feed doubts about the statements of solidarity by German politicians."
Supporting one-sided resolutions against Israel is not Germany's only unfriendly act against the Jewish state. As research by the journalist Benjamin Weinthal has brought to light, Chancellor Angela Merkel has put pressure on other European Union states so that they do not transfer their embassies to Israel's capital.
Stopping the murder of Israelis is also not on the German government's agenda. Terrorist organizations like the PFLP and the Lebanese Hezbollah are not illegal in Germany. Thanks to Western sanctions, Hezbollah is on the brink of economic collapse. In Germany, however, only Hezbollah's "armed wing" is illegal, so it's still legal for Hezbollah to raise funds. Again, the German government argues that this helps to "keep channels for dialogue open".
It gets worse. Although the German government is aware that the Palestinian Authority (PA) spends a significant portion of its budget on rewarding terrorists -- murderers of Jews imprisoned in Israel and their families receive a life-long pension that is far higher than any social benefit for widows and orphans, it refuses to cut aid payments to the PA. Mahmoud Abbas, president of the PA, has vowed never to stop salaries to terrorists:
"Even if I will have to leave my position, I will not compromise on the salary (rawatib) of a Martyr (Shahid) or a prisoner, as I am the president of the entire Palestinian people, including the prisoners, the Martyrs, the injured, the expelled, and the uprooted."
Last year the PA allocated $330 million to pay terrorists, and Germany paid $100 million to the PA. So it is fair to say that Germany pays the PA to reward the murder of Jews. Volker Beck, an MP of the Greens Party, said in 2017:
"The German government's actions in the Palestinian territories are unprincipled. On the one hand, at a rate of $423 US per capita, the Palestinian territories are among the main receivers of German aid, on the other hand, the government doesn't threaten any consequences due to the 'martyrs rents'".
So while Chancellor Angela Merkel talks about "Germany's special historical responsibility for Israel's security", her government channels German taxpayer money to murderers of Jews, President Steinmeier sends congratulatory telegrams to those who plan the annihilation of the Jewish state. The bright side is that more than ever, German citizens, journalists and lawmakers have criticized this hypocrisy.
*Stefan Frank is a journalist and author based in Germany.
[1] Iran was, in addition, caught red-handed in 2017, when it targeted a German politician and member of Annen's Social-Democrat Party (SPD). Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt, BKA) arrested a Pakistan-born spy; by doing so, it apparently preempted a plot by the Iranian secret service to murder Reinhold Robbe, a longtime MP and former president of the German-Israeli friendship society (Deutsch-Israelische Gesellschaft, DIG). The secret agent was sentenced convicted and sentenced to four years in prison. The Iranian ambassador was summoned to the foreign ministry where he was reprimanded that this kind of behavior was "unacceptable" and a "strain on the bilateral relations". © 2019 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Notre-Dame fire a reminder of world’s unpredictability
Michael Kugelman/Arab News/April 18/19
Back in 1890, the psychologist William James famously described a baby’s first experience after birth as a “blooming, buzzing confusion.”
That colorful phrase also aptly characterizes the world we live in today — loud, frenetic, volatile, unpredictable and so incredibly overwhelming that adults as well as newborns can’t help but be confused by it all.
In such a tough world, it is natural to take solace in the precious few things that are predictable and reassuring — those things we can always depend on being where they have always been and doing what they have always done. These are, in effect, the few items and ideas that we can get away with taking for granted. This is why Paris’ famed Notre-Dame Cathedral going up in flames is so difficult to process. Fortunately, it could have been so much worse. No one died or was injured. No valuable relics were lost. The damage, while serious, could have been much more acute. And the French government intends to rebuild the cathedral within five years.
And yet there is still a sense of trauma and disorientation when trying to process the images of the burning cathedral we saw on our phones and televisions screens — and, in the case of the shocked Parisians who flocked to the site of the fire, right in front of our eyes.
Notre-Dame was predictable in the most fundamental sense of the term. For hundreds of years, it sat majestically on the Ile de la Cite, even while so much changed around it. Everyone assumed it would always be there because it had already been there for so long — surviving several scares over its long history, including during the French Revolution, when people stormed the cathedral and destroyed some of its statues. It also survived both world wars.
Everyone who has lived in Paris, myself included, has memories and stories of walking around inside and outside Notre-Dame, of seeing it from various parts of the city — and recognizing it as one of the most famous landmarks in a country chock-full of them. It was everywhere and was always there. When we had family and other guests visit us in Paris, Notre-Dame was so often the place we would be asked to take them first.
That the structure was rife with so much historical, architectural, literary and religious significance makes the fire even more difficult to process.
When thinking about the conflagration that destroyed the cathedral’s roof and toppled its spire, one is reminded of another tragic case of destruction being inflicted on an iconic structure: The bombing, by the Taliban, of the famed Buddha statues in the Afghan province of Bamyan in early 2001.
To be sure, this is not a fair analogy. The Buddha statues, which were constructed in the 6th century, were completely destroyed and are yet to be replaced; Notre-Dame will be rebuilt. Additionally, the Buddha statues were maliciously targeted by extremists, first with tanks and artillery and then with explosives planted by prisoners of the Taliban. The Notre-Dame fire, according to all indications so far, was caused by an accident that may have been connected to ongoing renovations.
The flames that brought down part of a seemingly immutable cathedral are a sobering reminder that the world is just so utterly unpredictable — and truly a ‘blooming, buzzing confusion.’And yet, in Paris and in Bamyan, something so sublime and sacred — and seemingly permanent — was suddenly taken away. After the US-led intervention ousted the Taliban from power in late 2001, pressure mounted for the statues to be rebuilt. However, that still has not come to fruition.
Nonetheless, the world, undeterred in its determination to somehow bring those statues back, persisted. And, in 2015, they returned — in virtual form, thanks to three-dimensional light projection technology donated to Afghanistan by a Chinese couple. The images were projected on to the same cliffs where the actual statues once stood.
These innovative efforts to recreate the Buddha statues underscore just how vital those cherished artifacts were, and just how far humanity is willing to go to restore them in some way. This all suggests that the French will do everything possible to reconstruct their fallen landmark, even if it takes longer than the five years — an admittedly ambitious timeframe — promised by Paris. “We now have to get things done,” President Emmanuel Macron declared in an address to the nation. “We will act and we will succeed.”
And yet, even though Notre-Dame can and will be repaired, there is something that can never be replaced: Its embodiment of predictability and constancy — the centuries-old Parisian icon that was always there and would always be there, despite a series of scares over time, and that provided a semblance of reassurance to Parisians and to us all.
Indeed, the flames that brought down part of a seemingly immutable cathedral are a sobering reminder that the world is just so utterly unpredictable — and truly a “blooming, buzzing confusion.”
*Michael Kugelman is deputy director of the Asia Program and senior associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Twitter: @michaelkugelman

Iran’s social media smear campaign against Arab states
د. ماجد رافيزادا: اضاءة على حملة التشويه التي تقوم بها وسائل الإعلام الاجتماعية في إيران ضد الدول العربية
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/April 18/19
Since the establishment of the Iranian regime in 1979, one of its most consistent foreign policies has been anchored in projecting the US as its major adversary. Nevertheless, the regime also appears to be increasingly investing significant political and financial capital in depicting some Arab neighbors, particularly Saudi Arabia, as Iran’s main rivals.
One of the methods that the regime is utilizing is to specifically target Arab audiences in order to increase antagonism toward some Arab states and officials. While Iran’s deployment of hard power is well known in the Middle East, the Iranian leaders are now also shrewdly capitalizing on soft power, such as the use of social media in the Arabic language.
Recently, researchers at the Oxford Internet Institute examined many Arabic Twitter accounts that were linked with the Iranian government. The accounts were reportedly engaged in coordinated manipulation and misinformation campaigns against several Arab states, including Saudi Arabia. Such a development ought to be regarded as direct interference in the internal affairs of Arab states. The report said that “Iranian interference in the politics of Arab countries has become more self-evident since the Arab Spring of 2011.”
Since these accounts are most likely created with fake names, inaccurate origins such as being based in Arab countries, and with their users communicating in fluent Arabic, it makes it extremely difficult for the Arab population to detect their inauthentic nature. This also makes it tricky for legitimate news organizations and credible journalists to provide accurate coverage in the Arab world and truthfully inform the public about critical social, political and cultural landscapes in the region.
Such misinformation campaigns against the Arab world are also likely carried out on other popular social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram. For example, researchers with the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab recently analyzed Facebook accounts that were linked to the Iranian government. They stated that these accounts appeared to have been designed to strengthen views “in line with the Iranian government’s strategic narratives.”
It is imperative to set up a joint platform to effectively detect and reverse engineer the Iranian regime’s destructive behavior.
The Iranian regime undoubtedly benefits from intentionally misleading Arab audiences. By relying on the latest technology, the regime is attempting to alter public opinion in the region in its favor, and incite antagonism toward several Arab governments and officials in order to advance the ruling clique’s revolutionary, ideological and geopolitical interests. In addition, the Iranian leaders are trying to create specific narratives in the Arab world by employing various methods, such as generating and disseminating fabricated headlines and videos, and propagating fake news and doctored pictures. One of the common narratives that Tehran spreads is the idea that Bashar Assad and his forces are legitimate. This is because Iran is galvanizing support for Assad, as well as Tehran’s Shiite militias and proxies across the region. Iran also attempts to mislead the Arab world by spreading the narrative that its military operations and political and economic influences in Arab countries — such as Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen — are solely for humanitarian purposes and for fighting “extremist” forces such as Daesh.
To amplify the regime’s social media efforts, high-ranking officials incite antagonism toward several Arab states by utilizing confrontational and incendiary rhetoric and blaming them for domestic or regional conflicts.
In a nutshell, the Iranian regime is increasingly interfering in the domestic affairs of Arab nations and inciting hatred and antagonism toward several Arab states, particularly Saudi Arabia, through popular social media platforms. To counter the Iranian regime’s malignant activities, awareness should be raised among the public regarding the accuracy of the information they view on social media and the role that the Iranian regime’s agents may be playing in distorting the facts and hiding the truth. In addition, it is imperative that the powers in the region cooperate to set up a joint platform, through which they can effectively detect and reverse engineer the Iranian regime’s destructive behavior.
*Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh