April 21/2019
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

Halleluiah! Jesus has risen! Indeed He has risen


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Bible Quotations For today
Easter Sunday/Jesus Has Risen
Mark 16/01-08/ When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

Easter Sunday: The Resurrection of the Lord
Day of resurrection, day of our joy !

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 20/01-09/On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, "They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don't know where they put him."So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead.

Living as Those Made Alive in Christ
Colossians 03/01-04/Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on April 20-21/19
Halleluiah! Jesus has risen! Indeed He has risen
Living as Those Made Alive in Christ
Rahi in his Easter message: We call on the political class to rise above personal interests
Hizbullah Says Won’t Let Poor Pay for Economic Crisis
Report: Lebanon Urged to Control Border Amid Syria Fuel Shortage
Defense Minister Says Army 'Unconcerned' With Budget If Not Discussed with Him
Raad Says Austerity Measures Mustn’t Impact the Poor or Employees
Lebanese Television Administration: Current Minister of Information is no different from the former Minister in dealing with religious events
AboulHassan: To announce a state of alert, draft a national ethics code to limit waste, stop corruption
Salam following his meeting with Derian: No objection to lowering officials' salaries
Hamas & Hizballah set up new March of Return militia on Lebanese-Israeli border
After Social Media Bans, Militant Groups Found Ways to Remain

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 20-21/19
Russia, US Hold ‘Fruitful’ Talks on Syria
Assad Appoints Pro-Russia General as Chief of Staff
IS Hits Syria Army with Deadliest Attacks since 'Caliphate'
Trump Seethes over Mueller Report, Democrat Demands Impeachment
Powerful Emirati Crown Prince Entangled by Mueller Report
Egyptians Vote in Referendum to Extend Sisi's Rule
North Korea Slams Bolton for 'Stupid' Remarks
Iraq Speaker: Baghdad Keen on Security, Stability of its Neighbors
4 Turkish Soldiers Killed in Clashes with PKK
Greece: Police Stop Truck with Arab Migrants Inside
Bosnia Brings Back, Detains ISIS Fighter From Syria

Titles For The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 20-21/19
Halleluiah! Jesus has risen! Indeed He has risen/Elias Bejjani/April 21/2019
Hamas & Hizballah set up new March of Return militia on Lebanese-Israeli border/DEBKAfile/April 20/19
After Social Media Bans, Militant Groups Found Ways to Remain/Sheera Frenkel and Ben Hubbard/The New York Times/April 20/2019
Greece: A "No-Go" Zone in Athens/Maria Polizoidou/Gatestone Institute/April 20/19
Why Does Trump Want to Turn America Japanese/Michael Schuman/Bloomberg/April,20/19
If the Arab Spring proved anything, it's change is a lot easier than stability/Hafed Al-Ghwell /Arab News/April 20/19
Iranians face one plague after another, but the real problem is their rulers/Camelia Entekhabifard/Arab News/April 20/19

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on April 20-21/19
Halleluiah! Jesus has risen! Indeed He has risen
Elias Bejjani/April 21/2019

For our salvation, “He (Jesus) was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; from thence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.”(Nicene Creed)
The rising again of Jesus from the dead, and His ascending into heaven are the resurrection miracle that the church celebrates on the Easter Day.
Resurrection is the cornerstone, the pillar, the heart, the foundation, and the core of the Christian faith.
Those who claim to be Christians, no matter to what denomination or church they belong, are not actually Christians if they doubt or do not totally believe in the resurrection.
Plainly, and simply resurrection is Christianity and Christianity is resurrection.
On this Holy Day of Resurrection, we need to be aware that Jesus’ Holy blood was shed on the Cross for our sake.
On this Holy Day of Resurrection we are ought to remember that Jesus’ death and resurrection is a Godly consignment that we are entrusted with. It’s up to us either to honour this trust or betray it.
Easter Sunday (Resurrection) is a holy feast of love, humility, forgiveness, brotherhood, tolerance and repentance. Worshipers are not supposed to participate in any feast prayers, or make any offerings, or receive the Holy Communion, unless they willingly to replace hatred with love, grudges with forgiveness, rejection of others with tolerance, arrogance with humility, greed with contentment, deception, transparency, and wickedness with righteousness.
Lord Jesus who died on the cross, had risen from the dead on the third day just as He has said while proclaiming His message. He triumphed over death, defeated the forces of darkness, overcame pain, abolished anguish and brought despair to an end. He rose from the tomb to be constantly with those faithful to Him throughout their lives, and to never abandon them. He shall empower forever those who believe in His message and observe His commandments with the spirit of truth, knowledge, wisdom and solidarity with His Father, Almighty God.
Through Crucifixion and resurrection, Christ has overcome death, broke its thorn, and granted us His eternal forgiveness from the original sin. With His death and resurrection, death in its traditional earthly human concept has been abolished forever and Sin since then has become the actual death that leads the sinners to Gahanna into the unquenchable fire.
Christ is the Way, Christ is the Truth, and Christ is the actual eternal life that we long for. We strongly believe with full conviction that Christ dwells in His Holy Church, and exists in its Mysteries (Sacraments). He is always present in the Holy Eucharist that we receive during every mass. Christ at all times is ready, willing and delighted to help us in our burdens when we call on Him and ask for His mercy.
On this holy day, of Resurrection, we are ought to be aware that for our prayers to be looked upon and heard by Almighty God, we are required to reconcile with all others on whom we have inflicted pain and injustice, and treated them with an evil manner.
To please the Lord we are required to genuinely, heartily and overtly perform all required acts of repentance for our mischievous conducts and wrongdoings. We are requires to pray and pray and pray.
How great is the need nowadays, to understand the meaning and message of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Sadly fast pace of life, merciless competition, detachment from almighty God and materialism, have turned us into mere robots and a bunch of spiritually crippled human beings, consumed by greed, selfishness and the lust for earthly pleasures and treasures.
Because of lack of both faith and hope our thoughts and actions are dominated, obsessed and directed by trifle material and earthly matters and concerns. In the midst of all this faith, moral and ethical havoc, we have forgotten that we are the sons and daughters of Almighty God, and that He has created us in His image and likeness and made our bodies a temple for Him.
If we do not learn how to tame our selfishness, anger, hatred and forgive others for whatever evil deeds they commit against us and reconcile with them, than we do not qualify to be called Jesus’ followers. Our prayers will not be heard or responded to, if we do not practice the grace of forgiveness as did He who was crucified for our salvation.
Our resurrection through Jesus Christ occurs today and lives on in each day of our life.
Let us pray that the Holy Spirit enlighten and empower us on this Holy day just as with the Apostles on the day of Pentecost.
Let us all proudly proclaim that Christ is living in us and with us, Christ has truly risen and we are witnesses to His resurrection!
Happy Easter to all, and especially to my dear and beloved family members, relatives, supporters, friends and readers.
Halleluiah! Jesus has risen! Indeed He has risen

Living as Those Made Alive in Christ
Colossians 03/01-04/Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Rahi in his Easter message: We call on the political class to rise above personal interests
Sat 20 Apr 2019/NNA - Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rahi, called on Lebanese officials to rise above their personal interests and narrow calculations for the country's sake. Rahi, whose words came during Easter message in Bkirki, said: "We call on Lebanese politicians to rise above their personal interests and narrow calculations for the sake of the country and its people." He also urged politicians to make necessary reforms and development at the economic and social levels. "I urge officials to lift injustice, concerns, deprivation and hunger off the Lebanese people, who are resorting to expressing their demands through strikes, demonstrations, sit-ins and burning tires that are harmful to citizens, the interests of the state and the reputation of Lebanon," he added. Rahi criticized officials for replacing religious citizenship with a political citizenship. "What we are witnessing today, unfortunately, is the replacement of religious citizenship with a political one, which is apparent in the ministries, public administrations, in addition to partisan influence in various regions, and political interference in public administrations and appointments," he went on. In this context, Rahi called on all political counterparts to implement political reform for the sake of the country. Referring to the austerity measures to be implemented by the state, Rahi said that "the state must collect its funds from its facilities, ports, and tax fees, as well as to control smuggling and illegal imports."Finally, the Prelate called on the Lebanese Diapsora who offered to finance the reconstruction of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, to donate to the state treasury, in order to get Lebanon out of its financial crisis.

Hizbullah Says Won’t Let Poor Pay for Economic Crisis
Naharnet/April 20/19/Hizbullah official Sheikh Nabil Qaouq said on Saturday that Hizbullah will not let the poor pay for the economic crisis, the National News Agency said. “Hizbullah will not let a solution to the economic and financial crisis be made at the expense of the poor. Those who think of a solution from the pockets of the poor are merely creating a new crisis,” said Qaouq. He said the crisis can be resolved “from the top of the pyramid, by stopping corruption and the waste of public funds.”

Report: Lebanon Urged to Control Border Amid Syria Fuel Shortage

Naharnet/April 20/19/Lebanese authorities have reportedly been warned about border smuggling from Lebanon into Syria that reportedly revived lately in light of Syria’s fuel shortage, pan-Arab al-Hayat daily said on Saturday. Sources told the newspaper that smuggling of Syrian goods competing with Lebanese agricultural productions was mainly active earlier, and that due to Syria’s fuel shortage, smuggling has taken an opposite direction. “Lebanese Armed Forces were monitoring the border to prevent smuggling to Lebanon in recent months, but the crisis of fuel shortage in Syria and the need for gasoline supply and food as a result of the imposed siege, raises the necessity that security forces control the border to prevent the violation of the Western siege imposed on Damascus regime since the beginning of the year,” the sources told the daily. Other sources told al-Hayat that fuel traffickers initially managed to pass some quantities to Syria, but these smugglers soon stopped because of a difficulty in having banks accept the remittances they received for their services. However, “smuggling attempts remained active at illegal crossings,” added the newspaper, noting that “Lebanon was informed of the need for control measures.”
Syria's government has been facing a flurry of international sanctions since the conflict started in 2011, including over the import of petroleum-related products. Early in April, the ministry of petrol and mineral resources said it was temporarily slashing the daily cap on subsidised petrol by half, from 40 to 20 litres per vehicle. Later pumping stations said they received another memo from the ministry instructing them to further half the supply of fuel to 20 litres every 48 hours.

Defense Minister Says Army 'Unconcerned' With Budget If Not Discussed with Him

Naharnet/April 20/19/Defense Minister Elias Bou Saad replied to the Finance Minister’s remarks, without naming him, and disagreed with him over possible austerity measures against the military. “Talks being circulated that an agreement with the army was reached to cut wages of military personnel, or about annulling Measure No 3, is a sham,” said Bou Saab. He said the budget must be discussed with him first before enforcing any measure that affects the military and security forces. “The army is not concerned with any budget that does not get discussed with defense minister,” stressed Bou Saab. In a televised interview on Thursday, Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil revealed shocking figures related to salaries of some state employees, suggesting plans to cut pays as part of strict austerity measures to counter an economic collapse. Khalil got to mention wages and pensions of military and security personnel, referring to a so-called Measure No 3 that grants retirement pensions multiplied by three for some of the military and security personnel.

Raad Says Austerity Measures Mustn’t Impact the Poor or Employees

Naharnet/April 20/19/Head of Loyalty to the Resistance parliamentary bloc MP Mohammed Raad on Friday said the government “must not take from the poor and state employees in its quest to implement reforms and slash the budget deficit,” the National News Agency reported. “We are not allowed to touch the pockets of the poor and employees in our quest to implement reforms to slash the budget deficit, and forget tens of years of theft, corruption and squandering that filled the pockets of many who ruled then,” said Raad. Such measures “could cause destruction and chaos. They have to look for other resources and when they do, they will find that the poor employees will also contribute to reforming the economic situation and reducing the budget deficit.”"We are in a difficult economic situation. In spite of all our bitterness and harm to our people, we must prove that we are partners in this country and assume our responsibility in addressing the economic, budget and financial situation,” he added.

Lebanese Television Administration: Current Minister of Information is no different from the former Minister in dealing with religious events
Sat 20 Apr 2019/NNA - In an issued statement by the "Tele Liban" Administration on Saturday, it confirmed that the Television Station caters to all parts of Lebanon from the far north to the far south, and approaches all citizens with equality. The statement asserted that Minister of Information, Jamal Jarrah, accords the same significance to all religious occasions as his predecessor, former Minister Melhem Riachy, and gives instructions for covering all religious events related to various Lebanese sects, contrary to recent baseless news circulated by a certain social network site. The statement concluded by expressing its well-wishes to all the Lebanese, on its behalf and on behalf of Minister Jarrah, for a blessed Easter holiday, noting that "Tele Liban" has covered numerous Mass services on the occasion from all regions in the country.

AboulHassan: To announce a state of alert, draft a national ethics code to limit waste, stop corruption

Sat 20 Apr 2019/NNA - "Democratic Gathering" Member, MP Hadi Aboul-Hassan, called Saturday for declaring a state of alert and drafting a national "code of ethics" to put an end to money waste and corruption in the country. "The position of the Progressive Socialist Party is clear in refusing to undermine the acquired rights of citizens and tampering with their wage grid," Aboul-Hassan underlined, speaking in an interview to MTV Station earlier today. He called for "lifting the cover off all the corrupt and to declare a state of alert in the government, parliament and all public administrations in this respect," adding, "We are with direct tax escalation." "We have to control the borders and protect the Lebanese industry, agriculture and products, and to secure imports and incomes and rectify the employment issue in the country," Aboul-Hassan added. "All the political class is concerned with reform and rescue measures, and we all should not evade our responsibilities but rather compete for the best approach to address the problems at hand," the MP emphasized.

Salam following his meeting with Derian: No objection to lowering officials' salaries
Sat 20 Apr 2019/NNA - Mufti of the Republic, Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian, met at Dar El-Fatwa this afternoon with former Prime Minister Tamam Salam, prior to joining the Islamic Supreme Council meeting. On emerging, Salam said that talks touched on various issues of concern at the religious and daily living levels. "The country is in the midst of important confrontations, the most important of which is related to the consolidation of the authority and role of the state, which caters to citizens' affairs and stability," noted Salam. "Of course, the achievement of stability and security will automatically impact in a positive manner the country's economic and social stability for the goodness of all the Lebanese," he corroborated. On the state budget issue, Salam said: "Today there is a great effort to complete the budget at the earliest possible, and we hope that this effort will also take place within the institutional framework."He added: "There is no objection to reducing the salaries of officials. It is true that not all officials have great financial capabilities, since some of them are also dependent on these salaries, yet there is no problem if any reduction occurs in this respect, so that it would reflect positively on all the other required treatments. " Salam concluded by wishing the Christian Sects and all Lebanese a Happy Easter, deeming it a national occasion par excellence as all religious occasions in Lebanon.

Bisri Dam Likely to Trigger Seismic Event in Lebanon 20th April 2019/A controversial dam project could spark a major seismic event in Lebanon, Asia Times news website quoted experts as warning. The under-construction Bisri Dam sits on two of the Middle East's largest fault lines: Roum and Bisri. “The Bisri fault and Roum fault are interconnected, so if anything happens on one, it affects the other, and vice versa,” said Tony Nemer, an American University of Beirut professor of geology, who wrote his PhD thesis on the same fault line on which the dam will be located. “We know from previous peer-reviewed studies in international journals that the Roum fault generated the earthquake of January 1, 1837 that had a magnitude of 7.1 and it affected the whole region, including Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel/Palestine.”The planned dam would cause around 33 billion gallons of water to pressure the point where an earthquake that took place 60 years ago. “There is something in geology called reservoir-triggered seismicity,” Nemer explained.“You have a fault, you impound water above that fault, and the water has weight.”“There is not a worse place for building a dam in Lebanon,” Nemer warned. “That area where the dam is proposed hosted the epicenter of the 1956 earthquake."“In Lebanon, we are at a tectonic plate boundary. We have the Dead Sea Transform fault, which extends from Aqaba [in Jordan] to southeast Turkey. And when it reaches Lebanon it splays into five different faults,” he explained. The potential seismic danger does not threaten Lebanon only, as it would also affect neighboring countries.

Hamas & Hizballah set up new March of Return militia on Lebanese-Israeli border
DEBKAfile/April 20/19

The relative calm prevailing on Israel’s border with Hamas-ruled Gaza is deceptive. Hamas has not changed its terrorist spots, only switched fronts, DEBKAfile’s exclusive counter-terrorism sources report.
Hamas’s military wing, Ezz e-Din al-Qassam, was not persuaded by the excessive concessions that Israel and Egypt granted the Gaza Strip to give up the mob violence of firebombs and grenades against Israeli troops guarding the Gaza border in the past year, or to withhold the explosive balloons and rocket volleys aimed into Israel. Relative calm for the time being was not bought by the monthly river of Qatari dollars or the cash released by a UN fund which had collected $300 m from donor governments. While pretending to Israel and Egypt to be ready for a long-term truce, Hamas leaders have by no means given up on their terror campaign against Israel. Far from it. They have simply decided that the Gaza confrontation has done its work and yielded lucrative returns and were persuaded to switch fronts and move north into Lebanon.
This was not Hamas’ brainchild. It came from Iran’s Middle East commander, Al Qods chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani. He directed the Hizballah secretary Hassan Nasrallah to sell it to two Hamas leaders, Saleh al-Arouri, head of the organization’s terror networks, who was spending time in Beirut, and Osama Hamdan, head of Hamas’ Lebanese office.
The Soleimani plan hinges on Hizballah raising a new Palestinian force of 3,000 recruits from the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon under the label of “The Hamas Return,” the sequel to the “March of Return” applied to the violence emanating from Gaza in the past year. These recruits would undergo a special three-month training course, at the end of which they would be given arms, including heavy artillery and short-range surface rockets, and posted in South Lebanon opposite the Israeli border. But before then, the first Palestinian recruits were to be placed in position in time for Israel’s Independence Day on May 9.
Additional features of Soleimani’s project:
1-Hamas’ new northern front would be activated in coordination with the Gaza violence, creating a seesaw of terror against Israel.
2-Israel’s military reprisals are expected to focus on the new Hamas Lebanese force rather than jeopardizing the huge investment made in Gaza by Israel, Egypt, Qatar and the UN.
3-The Lebanese-based “Hamas Return” militia will be backed by Hizballah, with which Israel has avoided clashes in recent years.
4-Enhanced Hamas influence in the Palestinian camps of Lebanon will further undermine the Palestinian Authority’s chairman Mahmoud Abbas.
5-Some of the Lebanese contingent’s officers will be assigned to the Gaza Strip as coordinators between the two forces.'
DEBKAfile’s counter-terrorism sources disclose that some 2,500 young Palestinians men have already enlisted to the new Hamas force and are undergoing training at Hizballah facilities in central Lebanon and the Beqaa Valley. Most have come from the refugee camps outside Sidon and Tyre, and in Beirut and Baalbek. Hamas has made its senior representative in Lebanon, Osama Hamdan, responsible for the new militia.
This week, Lebanese intelligence chiefs warned Hamdan and Arouri that Israeli intelligence and its special forces are preparing to attack the leaders of the “Hamas Return” militia and the Hizballah facilities where they are training, in order to nip the entire project in the bud before it is ready for action.

تقرير من النيويوك تايمز: حزب الله وحماس وغيرهما من المنظمات العسكرية تجد طرقاً للعودة إلى مواقع وسائل التواصل الإجتماعي حتى بعد منعها
After Social Media Bans, Militant Groups Found Ways to Remain
Sheera Frenkel and Ben Hubbard/The New York Times
April 20/2019

Hezbollah has been barred by the big social media companies. But the Islamist militant group has found a way to stay a step ahead online.
SAN FRANCISCO — In July 2013, a broadcaster affiliated with the Islamist group Hezbollah posted a threatening video on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. It featured gun-toting militants practicing an ambush to kidnap Israeli soldiers. The message: This is how we kill you.
In December, the broadcaster posted another video that showed how Hezbollah’s social media strategy had changed. This one contained close-up footage of Israeli soldiers on patrol, with no Hezbollah members visible. The message was also dialed back: We are watching you.
Hezbollah is among dozens of groups classified by the United States as terrorist entities that have learned how to stay a step ahead of the social media giants. In the past, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have taken down the official pages of these militant groups dozens of times and banned their accounts.
But Hamas and Hezbollah, in particular, have evolved by getting their supporters to publish images and videos that deliver their message — but that do not set off the alarm bells of the social media platforms. Today, the groups mostly post images of festive parades and religious celebrations online, as well as videos of speeches by their leaders.
That has allowed Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as groups like the East African-based Shabab, to proliferate largely unchecked on social media, even as a clampdown by Facebook and others has neutered the online presences of the terror organizations that are the most threatening to the West — the Islamic State and Al Qaeda.
The change thrusts Facebook, YouTube and Twitter into complicated territory. Unlike Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, Hamas and Hezbollah are political forces in their territories. Hamas has governance duties in the Gaza Strip, in addition to its militancy. Hezbollah is a recognized political party in Lebanon. And by no longer posting overtly violent material, the groups arguably merit a different treatment by the social media companies.
Facebook and others said they typically adhered to the designations set by the United States on terrorist groups, citing how any online presence — even a seemingly innocuous or benign post — helps legitimize them and increase their visibility. Even so, it has proved difficult for the companies to follow the rules they set for themselves, precisely because the groups can be deemed political organizations or terrorist entities, depending on one’s perspective.
“There has to be a differentiation in the way we understand how different groups use social media,” said Lina Khatib, the head of the Middle East and North Africa program at Chatham House, the London think tank.
That complexity has dismayed Israel, which has fought several wars against Hamas and Hezbollah. Since 2015, Israeli legal groups and their partners in the United States have filed at least three lawsuits against Facebook, accusing it of turning a blind eye to how the militant organizations use the social network.'
In November, the Israel legal center Shurat HaDin, which previously had filed some of these cases, threatened to sue Facebook again if the company continued to let a Hamas-linked broadcaster share content on the site.
“The mere fact that Hamas affiliates still have Facebook pages shows you that Facebook does not care,” said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, founder of Shurat HaDin, adding she would not hesitate to take her cases to the Supreme Court. “We argue that anything at all Hamas posts is terrorist content.”
The social media companies could face other penalties from the thriving activity of the groups and their supporters on their networks. The European Union is considering a new law that would fine tech companies if they did not remove terrorist content from their sites within one hour of being notified of its presence.
Brian Fishman, Facebook’s global head of counterterrorism, said the social network had zero tolerance for any group that the United States listed as a terrorist entity. He added that the company had removed 99 percent of Islamic State and Al Qaeda content largely by using artificial intelligence.
But Mr. Fishman also suggested that posts by organizations like Hezbollah could fall through the cracks because the groups stopped short of issuing direct threats of violence.
“If we have to make a hard prioritization decision, we’re going to focus on stuff that directly calls for violence,” he said. “The blunt truth is that it is very difficult” to weed out.
Twitter did not respond to questions about activity by Hezbollah and other militant groups on its service. It referred to a transparency report detailing how it had suspended 205,156 accounts for promoting terrorism in the first half of 2018. A YouTube spokeswoman said the company had removed channels for promoting violence or violent extremism and barred groups that the United States labeled terrorists.
Hezbollah and Hamas did not respond to requests for comment.
The issue of militant groups on social media came to the fore in 2013 when the Islamic State grabbed global attention by posting videos of beheadings and bombings online. The Islamic State also used the channels to spread propaganda and to recruit followers.
Groups like Hamas and Hezbollah do not primarily use social media to recruit, Ms. Khatib said, but to intimidate their enemies and rally their supporters.
Tech companies said they had always barred these groups from their platforms. But the organizations continued posting to social media anyway.
Around 2015, the tech companies started making some headway in removing Islamic State and Qaeda content, according to counterterrorism experts. The companies created dedicated teams and used A.I. tools to find and eliminate posts from the Islamist groups.
But the companies did not reckon with the organizations’ abilities to manipulate their platforms by posting material that went up to, but did not cross, the line of being flagged by users or outside observers. Many of the groups also use proxies, such as media organizations or local charities, to post content on the platforms for them.
Hezbollah and Hamas, in particular, have honed their social media strategies to foster their online presences.
Hezbollah, which now has no official accounts on the big social media platforms, largely shares through Al Manar, a broadcaster with strong pro-Hezbollah ties. Al Manar has a Twitter feed, which is followed by 481,000 people. Content from the channel is easy to find on YouTube, including many lengthy speeches by Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah.
A recent search on YouTube for Al Manar in Arabic yielded over 37,000 results. Many of those videos have tens of thousands of views and have been on the site for years.
Hamas enjoys a similar widespread presence on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. The group has a Twitter feed, though not a Facebook page or a YouTube account. Many of its leaders have personal social media accounts, where they post commentaries, photos and videos.
The Hamas television station, Al Aqsa, also has a Twitter feed and a Facebook page. And on Instagram, the photo-sharing site owned by Facebook, popular Arabic-language hashtags promoting Hamas feature thousands of propaganda videos and images.
When conflicts with Israel escalate, Hamas’s presence on social media also rises. In August, Israel accused Hamas members of posing as attractive women on Instagram to lure Israeli soldiers into sharing details about themselves and to download malware.
Israel called the campaign Operation Broken Heart. It showed, Israeli officials said, how dangerous it was to allow militant organizations to use social media.
*Sheera Frenkel reported from San Francisco, and Ben Hubbard from Beirut, Lebanon.

Latest LCCC English Miscellaneous Reports & News published on April 20-21/19
Russia, US Hold ‘Fruitful’ Talks on Syria
Moscow - Raed Jaber//Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 20 April, 2019/Russian diplomats revealed details of “secret” talks on Syria held by Adviser to US President Donald Trump, Fiona Hill, in Moscow two days ago. A diplomat who took part in the “fruitful” closed-door meetings said that Hill held extensive talks at the Security Council of Russia and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, RIA Novosti reported. Her rare visit to Moscow was a significant development during the past few months when coordination between the US and Russia appeared to have dropped. Save for a few communication channels and military coordination, the majority of joint committees and dialogue mechanisms were suspended on all levels. According to the diplomat, Hill held closed-door talks with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.  Talks tackled Washington’s intention to withdraw from Syria and the situation in the eastern Euphrates region, the Rukban camp and borders with Jordan. Although both parties did not reveal details, the visit brought relief to Moscow, which had weeks ago demanded that discussions be held on Syria and criticized Washington for ignoring this call. Separately, Moscow expressed its satisfaction with the outcomes of the Yalta Economic Forum, whose discussions focused on mobilizing support to Russian firms to participate in Syria's reconstruction projects. Representatives from 60 countries, including Arab states, attended the two-day forum held this week.  Moscow and Damascus reached agreements that fall under Russian efforts to mobilize international support to participate in the reconstruction of the war-torn country. Syrian Economy Minister Mohammad Samer al-Khalil said that the forum was a “landmark” moment in reconstruction and confronting sanctions. Several memoranda of understanding were signed, covering commerce and economic cooperation, facilitating the transport of commodities, encouraging trade and establishing a joint navy transport firm to move goods both ways from and to Syrian and Crimea ports. Kiev had warned in a statement Thursday the forum participants of potentially coming under Ukrainian and western sanctions that were imposed to confront Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014. Damascus recognized the annexation in 2016, promoting Ukraine to sever diplomatic ties it.

Assad Appoints Pro-Russia General as Chief of Staff
The Syrian Observer/ April 19/2019 /Lt. Gen. Salim Harba has the support of Russia and has also been accused of overseeing massacres committed by the Syrian army writes Zaman Al Wasl. Military sources have told Zaman al-Wasl that Bashar al-Assad appointed the pro-Russian Lt. Gen. Salim Harba as the Chief of Staff of the Army and the Armed Forces on Apr. 1, 2019. Harba, who has held several positions in army and government, has now become the de-facto commander of the armed forces. Military sources said Harba’s appointment followed a Russian decision, and was a blow to Iran, which seeks more influence inside the army. Harba, an officer in the Assad army, comes from a remote village in rural Lattakia. He joined the military college in Homs in 1977. Harba is accused of overseeing many massacres and implemented Russian directives for Suhail al-Hassan’s forces in late 2017, east of Hama, Aleppo, the eastern countryside of Idleb, and southern Aleppo. In addition to his position as the Chief of Staff, he was a member of the regime’s Astana delegation in January 2018.

IS Hits Syria Army with Deadliest Attacks since 'Caliphate'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 20/19/Islamic State group jihadists have killed 35 pro-Damascus fighters in Syria, in what a monitoring group described Saturday as their deadliest operation since the fall of the "caliphate". The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said four senior Syrian army officers were among the troops and allied militiamen killed in the desert east of Homs province over the past 48 hours. The Amaq propaganda arm of IS, which lost the last vestige of its "caliphate" to Kurdish-led forces last month but retains desert and mountain hideouts in both Syria and Iraq, said its fighters carried out the operation. Another eight soldiers and militiamen, including two officers, were killed in a separate attack in neighbouring Deir Ezzor province on Thursday night, the Observatory said. The attack targeted a desert village south of the city of Mayadeen, upstream from the stretch of the Euphrates Valley where IS made a desperate last stand for its "caliphate", the Britain-based war monitor said. Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman described it as the "biggest attack and the highest death toll among regime forces since the caliphate was declared defeated". Six IS fighters were killed in the clashes, the Observatory said. Amaq said that IS had launched its assault on Thursday evening after government forces tried to track down its fighters. The vast Syrian desert, known in Arabic as the Badia, stretches all the way from the capital Damascus and the cities of Homs and Hama to its north to the Euphrates Valley near the Iraq border, where the "caliphate" was defeated in the village of Baghouz last month. Commanders of the US-led coalition, which provided air and artillery support for the Kurdish-led operation, have warned repeatedly that the jihadists' loss of their last piece of territory did not mean their elimination as a fighting force. Analysts have said that continuing search and destroy operations by the multiple alliances lined up against the jihadists would be necessary to prevent them mounting a comeback from their desert hideouts.

Trump Seethes over Mueller Report, Democrat Demands Impeachment
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 20/19/A seething President Donald Trump launched a tirade Friday against the "bullshit" Mueller report on how he tried to thwart the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, while a leading Democratic opponent urged his impeachment. In early morning tweets, Trump called it "the Crazy Mueller Report" written by "Haters" and filled with statements that "are fabricated & totally untrue." Some of the statements, he said, "are total bullshit & only given to make the other person look good (or me to look bad)." Just 24 hours earlier, the president crowed "Game Over" after the report by special counsel Robert Mueller was finally released, following two years of investigations. Crucially, the report stated that Trump's election campaign never colluded with Russian meddling efforts, clearing the president of suspicions that he'd been in cahoots with the Kremlin. But Trump, spending the Easter weekend at his Florida golf resort, is now digesting the report's findings that he was happy to benefit from Russian dirty tricks and tried repeatedly to hamper Mueller's investigation. There was no let up for the president from opposition congressional Democrats. Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is vying to become the Democratic candidate against Trump in 2020, tweeted that the Democrat-led House "should initiate impeachment proceedings." And House judiciary committee chairman Jerry Nadler issued a subpoena to try to force publication of still more documentation from Mueller, as well as the portions of the probe that were blacked out for legal or security reasons.
Lying and swearing
Although Mueller stated he was following Justice Department policy in not charging Trump with the crime of obstruction of justice, he laid out 10 instances where the president took steps in that direction. As a result, Mueller said he could "not exonerate" him. That statement was taken by Democrats as an invitation to pursue the president in Congress, while even a top Republican, Senator Mitt Romney, broke from party lines to say he was "sickened" by the report's findings. At minimum, the almost 450-page report -- including scenes of a White House filled with lying, swearing and barely disguised panic -- is deeply embarrassing for a president elected on a mission to clear Washington's "swamp."Adding to its weight is the fact that the material is based largely on sworn testimony by Trump insiders, rather than rival politicians. Whether the Mueller report has any immediate effect on the US political scene ahead of the 2020 elections, however, is uncertain. With Republicans controlling the Senate, Democrats would have little chance of removing Trump through impeachment. For now, Warren is an outlier, with other senior Democrats shying away from the "I" word. And Trump, who throughout the two-year investigation has claimed to be victim of a "witch hunt," is using the latest uproar to cement his "us-against-them" appeal among a loyal right-wing support base. At his Palm Beach resort, Trump played golf with veteran right-wing radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, the White House said.  He was also photographed by The Daily Mail in his limousine reading what appeared to be the front page of The Wall Street Journal, with coverage of the Mueller report release.
Battle over, war continues
What's sure is that publication of the Mueller report will not end the bruising fight. In another tweet, sent after Trump had finished his golf outing, the president threatened to take revenge. "It is now finally time to turn the tables and bring justice to some very sick and dangerous people who have committed very serious crimes, perhaps even Spying or Treason. This should never happen again!" he warned. Nadler fired the first shot for the Democrats, announcing a subpoena requiring the Justice Department to hand over all redacted parts, as well as huge quantities of supporting evidence.
"Even the redacted version of the report outlines serious instances of wrongdoing by President Trump and some of his closest associates," Nadler said. "It now falls to Congress to determine the full scope of that alleged misconduct and to decide what steps we must take going forward."
The Trump administration is likely to fight the subpoena, prompting a legal battle that could even go up to the Supreme Court. In its first reaction, the Justice Department called Nadler's subpoena "premature and unnecessary." White House spokesman Hogan Gidley slammed Nadler for "political grandstanding." Another powerful Democrat with subpoena power, House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, tore into Trump, saying his campaign's Russia contacts were at a minimum unethical and that Congress should now determine whether his obstruction attempts amounted to a crime.
"As I said some time ago, whether these acts are criminal or not..., they are unquestionably dishonest, unethical, immoral, and unpatriotic, and should be condemned by every American," Schiff said.

Powerful Emirati Crown Prince Entangled by Mueller Report
Associated Press/Naharnet/April 20/19/One of the most powerful leaders in the United Arab Emirates has found himself entangled in special counsel Robert Mueller's report on U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian interference in America's 2016 election. Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, believed to be the Emirates' day-to-day ruler, is the only world leader included in Mueller's cast-of-characters index near the end of the 448-page report. His inclusion, stemming from his mysterious role in a 2017 meeting between a Trump associate and a Russian middleman for Vladimir Putin in the Seychelles, stands out from otherwise glancing references to the wider Mideast. But left unsaid — or possibly redacted — is what motivated the UAE, a federation of seven sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula, to insert itself as a middleman in contacts between Trump's campaign and Russia. However, the report's release comes as the UAE backs Trump's maximalist policies against Iran and as Emirati officials have been on a blitz of meetings with American officials, showing the importance they still place on their relationship with him even as faces opposition.
"The Emiratis saw an opportunity for a do-over with the Americans with a new, incoming administration with a president they personally knew," said Ryan Bohl, an analyst with the Austin, Texas-based private intelligence firm Stratfor. "They didn't take into account that other institutions, like the military, the State Department, Congress, would all have an opinion too."Emirati government officials did not respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press about Sheikh Mohammed's inclusion. However, it comes the same week that Sheikh Mohammed, 58, found himself included in Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People list.
The ranking shows what has been known regionally for some time: that Sheikh Mohammed wields tremendous influence both home and abroad. Sheikh Mohammed's 71-year-old half-brother, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, remains the Emirates' president and ruler and ruler of oil-rich Abu Dhabi but has been rarely seen since suffering a stroke in 2014. Sheikh Mohammed also maintains a tight relationship with neighboring Saudi Arabia's own upstart crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. In a country where leaders rule absolutely, the Mueller report provides a brief glimpse into the deal-making and connections of the UAE. It puts Sheikh Mohammed at a luxury hotel in the Indian Ocean Seychelles islands in January 2017, just before Trump's inauguration, with his adviser George Nader. Nader is a Lebanese-American businessman convicted in a Czech Republic court in 2003 of multiple counts of sexually abusing minors, later would cooperate with Mueller's investigation. This meeting put Kirill Dmitriev, the head of a Russian sovereign wealth fund close to Putin, face to face with Erik Prince, the founder of the private military firm Blackwater who had ties to Trump officials, according to the report. Dmitriev earlier had asked Nader for access to Trump transition team members, the report said. While initially distrustful of meeting Prince, Nader reportedly made a point to stress that Prince's sister, Betsy DeVos, would become Trump's education secretary.
"Dmitriev told Nader that Putin would be very grateful to Nader and that a meeting would make history," the report said. What happened at the Jan. 11, 2017, meeting that Dmitriev, Nader and Prince attended remains unclear, in part due to a series of redactions in the report. However, in the released material Prince reportedly told Dmitriev to warn Putin not to get Russia involved in Libya's still-ongoing civil war.
The Washington Post broke news of the meeting in April 2017. Prince, who reportedly has helped the UAE form its own mercenary forces, later told Congress the meeting was happenstance and that "I didn't fly there to meet any Russian guy." That's directly contradicted by Mueller's report, which says Nadler set up the meeting with Prince ahead of time. It's unclear what implications Prince could face over the Mueller report. A request for comment to Prince's new firm, Frontier Services Group, was not immediately answered. The rest of the Mideast gets far less attention in Mueller's report. There's mention of a U.N. Security Council vote calling on Israel to stop building settlements in Palestinian territory, a vote which former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn made calls to Russian officials about and later lied to investigators. Saudi Arabia is mentioned only in context of Trump showing staffers on Air Force One a resignation letter from then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions. However, the small UAE plays an oversized role in the report, as it does in Mideast politics due in part to its closeness to America. Some 5,000 American troops are stationed in the country, while Dubai's Jebel Ali port remains the U.S. Navy's busiest foreign port of call. What's public from Mueller's report does not elaborate on Sheikh Mohammed's role in the Seychelles meeting. However, Sheikh Mohammed also had sought a meeting in the U.S. with Trump transition officials before he entered the White House. But Sheikh Mohammed undoubtedly welcomed Trump's hard-line approach to Iran after President Barack Obama's administration signed onto Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers. And while Sheikh Mohammed hasn't been back to the U.S. for some time, the UAE's foreign minister and its minister of state for foreign affairs both have traveled to Washington in recent days. Trump also spoke by phone to Sheikh Mohammed on Thursday night after earlier vetoing a bill that called for the U.S. to pull its military support from the Saudi and Emirati war in Yemen. "For now, the Emiratis know they have a strong ally in the White House," Bohl, the Stratfor analyst, said. "What would be much more notable if we see them trying to reach out to potential Democratic successors as a backup plan for Trump."

Egyptians Vote in Referendum to Extend Sisi's Rule
France Presse/Naharnet/April 20/19/WorldEgyptians were voting Saturday in a referendum that aims to cement the rule of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the former coup leader who presents himself as a rock of stability in a turbulent region. Despite protests from human rights groups, the three-day plebiscite is expected to approve sweeping constitutional changes that will extend Sisi's rule of the Arab world's most populous country until at least 2024. Beyond that, the amendments would allow Sisi, 64, to run for another six-year term while boosting his control over the judiciary and giving the military even greater influence in political life. Sisi himself was among the first to vote when polls open, casting his ballot in the upmarket Cairo suburb of Heliopolis. In Shubra, a working-class neighbourhood of the capital, dozens of voters, mostly women carrying their children, queued outside a polling station in the local high school. Troops as well as police provided security, an AFP photographer reported.The referendum bucks the trend of the region's mini-Arab Spring, in which mass pro-democracy protests this month swept away veteran presidents in Algeria and Sudan. Sisi made his grab for power in the turbulent years after the original Arab Spring protests of 2011 toppled long-time ruler Hosni Mubarak, who was followed in office by Islamist president Mohamed Morsi. Sisi overthrew Morsi in 2013 and the following year won his first term as president. He was re-elected in March 2018 with more than 97 percent of the vote after standing virtually unopposed. International observers slammed both elections while Sisi's government has been widely criticised for sweeping repression of its opponents -- both Islamists and secular groups. Human Rights Watch charged the constitutional amendments aim to strengthen Sisi's "authoritarian rule", while Amnesty International said that parliament, having already backed the changes, had shown a "complete disregard for human rights".
Grip on regime
For the past few weeks, Egypt's streets have been awash with banners and billboards urging citizens to "do the right thing" and vote "Yes", while popular folk singers have also exhorted voters to go to the ballot box. A muted "No" campaign mounted from the diaspora and online has been thoroughly muzzled as authorities have blocked over 30,000 internet domains. Despite the deep concerns of human rights groups, Sisi has earned the support of many Egyptians and some Western powers by presenting himself as a bulwark against Islamist militancy and turmoil at a time when fighting again rages in neighbouring Libya. Many voters, such as retired banker Ramez Raouf, view Sisi as a champion of stability. "Look, I am against a few of the changes such as extending the president's terms... but I am still going to vote 'yes' anyway," Raouf, 63, told AFP. "Because the military will protect the civilian nature of the state, and that's important to me," he said. Parliament has already voted overwhelmingly this week to approve the changes, including extending presidential terms from four to six years. The referendum also proposes other changes to the five-year-old constitution, among them the creation of a second parliamentary chamber and a quota ensuring at least 25 percent of lawmakers are women. Think-tank the Soufan Center said the main effect of the referendum would be to "solidify Sisi's grip on the Egyptian political regime" in a country that "has become even more autocratic than it was under Mubarak".

North Korea Slams Bolton for 'Stupid' Remarks
A senior North Korean official slammed US National Security Advisor John Bolton on Saturday, accusing him of making "stupid" comments on stalled denuclearisation talks and warning "nothing good" would come of them.  Bolton is the second, top ranking US politician to be criticised by Pyongyang in recent days, after it labelled Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as "reckless" Thursday, demanding his removal from talks over the North's banned nuclear programme. Those comments came hours after the isolated state claimed to have tested a new kind of weapon. Pyongyang and Washington have been at loggerheads since the collapse of a summit between Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump earlier this year. In an interview with Bloomberg published Wednesday, Bolton urged Pyongyang to give a "real indication" it is willing give up nuclear weapons. In comments cited by North Korea's official KCNA news service, Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui said Bolton's remarks may have showed a "lack of understanding about the intentions of the two leaders". But, "they all sound uncharming and stupid to me", she said. "Nothing good would come to you if such insensitive remarks persist."In the Bloomberg interview, Bolton said that for a third Trump-Kim summit to take place, "a real indication from North Korea that they've made the strategic decision to give up nuclear weapons", would be needed. He said US Trump was "fully prepared" for his next summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, adding the Trump administration was ready for "the big deal".

Iraq Speaker: Baghdad Keen on Security, Stability of its Neighbors
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 20 April, 2019/Baghdad hosted on Saturday a summit for the speakers of parliaments of Iraq’s neighboring countries. Addressing the gatherers, Iraqi Speaker Mohammed al-Halbusi said that Baghdad was keen on the security and stability of its neighbors and region.
The meeting was attended by senior officials from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Turkey, Syria and Iran. “Iraq has witnessed the bitterness of war and its people have endured severe conditions… It is now regaining its stature in the region that has stood by and supported it,” continued al-Halbusi.
“We are bound by geography and joint interests with our neighbors,” he added. Today’s historic meeting stems from the need to maintain cooperation between neighboring countries and Iraq, he said. “This will positively impact the security and stability of our nations, which will in turn positively directly affect the people of the entire region.”All this requires “mutual commitments in protecting regional security,” stressed al-Halbusi.

4 Turkish Soldiers Killed in Clashes with PKK
Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 20 April, 2019/Four Turkish soldiers were killed Friday in clashes with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) near the Iraq border, said the Turkish Defense Ministry Saturday. “As part of ongoing operations in the Turkey-Iraq border, two soldiers were killed in clashes with terrorists despite all efforts to save them,” the ministry said, adding that six troops were wounded. Demiroren News Agency said a military base had been attacked in the mountainous Cukurca district of Turkey’s southeastern province of Hakkari, prompting the Turkish military to respond with a “large-scale” military operation. “Terrorists are under intense fire with the air operation and fire support vehicles in the region,” the Defense Ministry said. The PKK, which has waged an insurgency for autonomy in Turkey’s largely Kurdish southeast since 1984, is deemed a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

Greece: Police Stop Truck with Arab Migrants Inside

Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 20 April, 2019/Greek police said Saturday they have stopped a truck with stolen license plates and found 59 undocumented migrants, including Arabs, inside. The truck was stopped Friday afternoon on the highway about 30 kilometers east of Thessaloniki, because it had Bulgarian license plates that had been reported stolen. Behind a few boxes of insulation materials lay the 59 migrants, about half from Somalia and the rest from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Eritrea, Iraq, Palestine and Sudan, police announced Saturday. The migrants told police they had paid 1,500 euros ($1,690) each to a trafficker in Turkey who helped them cross into Greece by boat, before boarding the truck. The 61-year-old Bulgarian driver was arrested.

Bosnia Brings Back, Detains ISIS Fighter From Syria
London/Asharq Al-Awsat/Saturday, 20 April, 2019/A Bosnian national suspected of fighting for ISIS in Syria has been transferred to Bosnia and put in detention, Bosnia’s prosecutor’s office said on Saturday. After the collapse of ISIS' self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq, countries around the world are wrestling with how to handle militants and their families seeking to return. “I.C, 24, is suspected for criminal acts of organizing a terrorist group, illegal formation, and of joining foreign paramilitary or para-police formations, and terrorism,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
Bosnia’s state court has tried and convicted 46 people who have returned from Syria or Iraq in the past few years. Local media identified the man as Ibro Cufurovic from the northwestern town of Velika Kladusa who, along with Armin Curt, 22, from Sarajevo, had been detained by the Kurdish militia more than a year ago. The prosecution outlined the assistance of the United States in bringing the man back. The United States is the ally of the Kurdish militia operating in northern Syria. According to Bosnian intelligence, 241 adults and 80 children left Bosnia or the Bosnian diaspora in 2012-2016 for Syria and Iraq, where 150 more children were born. About 100 adults, including 49 women, remained there while at least 88 have been killed or died. Several women with children, including Cufurovic’s wife, have pleaded with the Bosnian authorities to be allowed to return home but there is still no clear policy in place on how to deal with them because their children do not hold Bosnian citizenship. Also on Saturday, another Balkan state, Kosovo, brought back 110 of its citizens from Syria including fighters and 74 children.

Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 20-21/19
Greece: A "No-Go" Zone in Athens?

Maria Polizoidou/Gatestone Institute/April 20/2019
"[T]he neighborhood has... platoons, companies, battalions, Kalashnikovs. I don't know any more if we, as a police force, have the political mandate to clear the area. This region is a matter for the army now." — Stavros Balaskas, vice president of the Greek Federation of Police Officers, April 6, 2019.
"...[T]here are now too many illegal immigrants in Exarchia who are drug traffickers [and] gun traffickers... they have essentially taken over the whole place." — Michalis Chrysochoidis, a former Greek Minister of Citizen Protection, who was responsible for the 2002 dismantling of the "November 17" domestic terrorist organization, April 8, 2019
In Exarchia, these groups -- which conduct criminal activities and terrorize local residents -- have, in effect, created a "no-go zone," where even police are afraid to enter.
According to Stavros Balaskas, vice president of the Greek Federation of Police Officers, anarchist gangs in the Athens neighborhood of Exarchia have "platoons, companies, battalions, Kalashnikovs. I don't know any more if we, as a police force, have the political mandate to clear the area. This region is a matter for the army now." Pictured: A street in Exarchia following a riot, in December 2008.
An assault on members of the Hellenic Coast Guard during a drug raid in Athens on April 4 highlights a growing problem in Greece. Some opponents of the far-left Syriza-led government attribute the increasing drug traffic in the country to a dangerous alliance between political anarchists and illegal immigrants. The anarchists might be considered the Greek equivalent of the "far left". According to Reuters:
"Many self-proclaimed anarchists - the word stems from the Greek 'anarchia' or absence of authority - say they are pacifist, but certain groups have few qualms about using violence. Six years of recession have fuelled a new wave of left-wing militancy, according to officials, anarchists and court testimony."
The April 4 incident was sparked when Greek authorities arrested a Syrian national on a ferry at the Piraeus Port; he was carrying 200 grams of marijuana, which he said he had purchased from an Egyptian drug dealer in the Exarchia neighborhood of Athens.
Eight members of the Coast Guard and a prosecutor immediately went to Exarchia to raid the supplier's apartment, located in one of 50 buildings in the neighborhood that are occupied by illegal-immigrant squatters. When the officers and prosecutor arrived at the building, they arrested two female suspects, a Greek-Australian and a Syrian national, and confiscated 1.5 kilograms of cannabis and a Glock pistol.
On their way out of the building, the officers were ambushed by a masked mob, wearing helmets and bulletproof vests, and armed with knives, clubs and assault rifles. Two Coast Guard officers were stabbed in the attack, and their weapons taken.
According to the authorities, the building in which the incident took place is near a weapons cache possibly connected to the "militias" of Exarchia -- a neighborhood infamous for previous violent attacks on police. As the Chairman of the Union of Police Officers, Dimosthenis Pakos, said in an interview after the assault, "You don't go for a walk in Exarchia [without being accompanied by] an army."
In an interview with SKAI TV, Stavros Balaskas, vice president of the Greek Federation of Police Officers, agreed, referring to Exarchia as "a state within a state":
"[T]he neighborhood has a structure inside. There are platoons, companies, battalions, Kalashnikovs. I don't know any more if we, as a police force, have the political mandate to clear the area. This region is a matter for the army now."
Michalis Chrysochoidis, a former Minister for Citizen Protection who was responsible for the 2002 dismantling of the "November 17" domestic terrorist organization, told SKAI TV this month:
"...[T]here are now too many illegal immigrants in Exarchia who are drug traffickers [and] gun traffickers... they have essentially taken over the whole place... [I]f there is no immediate operational and judiciary reaction to this phenomenon, the problems will... multiply for society."
On April 11, in what appeared to be a public relations operation aimed at restoring a modicum of dignity to the security forces that had been attacked a week earlier, heavily armed police units raided two buildings in Exarchia in search of drugs and weapons. During the raid, three people were arrested for drug possession, and 90 others were brought in for questioning. Most of them turned out to be illegal or unregistered immigrants.
As of 2017, there were an estimated 3,000 undocumented immigrants living in Athens in privately-owned buildings that are illegally occupied by Greek anarchists.
In the two years since then, the number has likely increased. In Exarchia, these groups -- which conduct criminal activities and terrorize local residents -- have, in effect, created a "no-go zone," where even police are afraid to enter.
It is unclear how these groups get organized and who finances them. It is also unknown how many of the immigrants have ties to ISIS and al-Qaeda.
One thing, however, is certain: In the absence of political will to get to the bottom of the alliance between anarchists and illegal immigrants, the future of other neighborhoods across the country is in jeopardy.
*Maria Polizoidou, a reporter, broadcast journalist, and consultant on international and foreign affairs, is based in Greece. She has a graduate degree in "Geopolitics and Security Issues in the Islamic complex of Turkey and Middle East" from the University of Athens.
© 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.

Why Does Trump Want to Turn America Japanese?

Michael Schuman/Bloomberg/April, 20/19
Asia expert Ezra Vogel published his influential book “Japan as Number One” 40 years ago. At the time, he argued that the US needed to adopt aspects of Japan’s supposedly superior economic system if it wanted to compete with the East Asian powerhouse. Policymakers in Washington were wise to ignore him. While Japan sank into a financial crisis and three decades of malaise, the US has continued to prosper.
As officials from the two countries meet this week to begin hashing out a bilateral free-trade pact, US President Donald Trump seems to be reconsidering Vogel’s advice. His preferred policies would essentially emulate those that underpinned not just Japan’s rise but its subsequent fall. If he persists, the US economy could suffer the same fate. Trump’s antipathy to immigration, for instance, is rivaled only by Japan’s. Nonsensically declaring the US “full,” the US president ignores the fact that America’s acceptance of foreigners is a key reason why the country has avoided a Japan-like aging catastrophe. Depriving the US of new workers would hold back growth just as it has in Japan.
Trump’s protectionist bent also mirrors Japan’s historically insular attitude. The consequences for Japan have been dire. Over the years, its government’s defense of certain sectors -- most of all agriculture -- dampened productivity gains and punished households with higher prices.
Japan’s policymakers and business leaders also remained wedded for far too long to a make-it-and-export-it strategy, failing to adjust to a changing world economy. Granted, some Japanese companies excel at high-end manufacturing. But Tokyo also keeps too many zombie industrial firms afloat, while not doing nearly enough to encourage entrepreneurs in new sectors. That’s left corporate Japan vulnerable to competition from a rising China.
Trump’s penchant for protecting favored industries, such as steel and washing machines, has similarly hurt consumers and businesses alike. And he has been intent on promoting the industries of the past -- such as electronics assembly and car plants -- rather than the future.
Even Trump’s recent hounding of the Federal Reserve bears parallels to the path of Japan’s monetary policy. Frustrated by current Fed management, whom he blames for threatening growth by hiking benchmark interest rates, Trump is now trying to pack the board with loyalists, at least one of whom (Stephen Moore) shares his easy-money views.
Japan has done very much the same. The Bank of Japan’s main lending rate was set at zero 20 years ago, and with a couple brief interruptions, has generally remained there. Even that wasn’t enough to please Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who in 2013 placed a like-minded policymaker, Haruhiko Kuroda, in charge of the institution. The new governor unleashed an even larger torrent of cash into the economy using unorthodox strategies, including negative interest rates.
The results have been questionable at best. The Bank of Japan’s balance sheet swelled well beyond those of the Fed or European Central Bank relative to the size of the economy, in the process distorting the entire market for Japanese government bonds. Yet Japan’s gross domestic product, at current prices, has barely budged since the central bank first introduced its zero-rate program. By contrast, the US’s more than doubled over that same period.
Nor did Kuroda’s frothy wave of yen boost inflation to the bank’s 2 percent target or stir wages, which were flat in real terms last year. Meanwhile, the low borrowing costs have allowed a spendthrift state to dodge fiscal reality. Over the past two decades, Japan’s government debt relative to national output has doubled to almost 240 percent, according to the International Monetary Fund. Perhaps matters would have been worse without the BOJ’s largesse. Still, the lesson Trump should learn from Japan is that monetary stimulus only goes so far. Ironically, even slow-changing Japan has woken to the danger of its outdated policies. Abe is welcoming more foreign workers into the country and has signed major free-trade pacts, including a revised Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Trump rejected. The divergent policy directions of the US and Japan may even give Tokyo a leg up in this week’s trade talks. While Trump has kept the US on the sidelines, American farmers have lost out in the Japanese market to competitors in the renamed TPP. Meanwhile, obsessed with automobiles, Trump will likely try to curtail Japanese car exports to the US, which would hurt the American consumer again while achieving minimal gains in actual trade. Japan, sadly, stands as a stark reminder of the economic damage that can be done by clinging to an idealized past rather than preparing for the future. If Trump wants to copy Japan, he should mimic its recent reforms, not its past missteps.

If the Arab Spring proved anything, it is change is a lot easier than stability
Hafed Al-Ghwell /Arab News/April 20/19
On Oct. 10, 2010 Arab and African leaders descended on Sirte, a coastal city in Libya, for an Afro-Arab Summit presided over by Muammar Gaddafi. Six Arab leaders lined up for a group photograph that, nine years later, would make the rounds on social media, altered by the addition of a red “X” over the images of all six: Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh, Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, Algeria’s Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Sudan’s Omar Al-Bashir.
A few months after the photo was taken, a moment of reckoning came in the form of the “Arab Spring,” which toppled four of the six leaders within a year of the summit. The other two — Bouteflika and Al-Bashir — eventually succumbed in April this year to protests demanding an end to their combined 50 years of rule. Yet, even as the Sudanese and Algerian peoples celebrate the downfall of those who were once “untouchable,” a pervasive anxiety remains:
This region, the Middle East and North Africa, is not particularly good at revolution. In fact, even after the 2011 uprisings that installed four new governments and inspired protests in other seemingly “stable” Arab states, only Tunisia was able to eke out some sort of meaningful change. At times, even that small progress came under intense pressure as new players vied to shape the narrative and claim ownership of the country’s lurch towards democracy.
Libya, Syria and Yemen descended into civil war, while Egypt's parliament recently voted to grant President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi the chance to stay in power for another decade, effectively making him Mubarak II.
In Algeria, close allies of Bouteflika ascended to the leadership; officially so, that is, given that they were already functioning as the head of state when the former president was too sick to perform his duties. The country’s moment of awakening was quickly whittled down, as of now, to what amounts to a minor change to the status quo.
In the case of Sudan, even though 30-year incumbent Al-Bashir was eventually overthrown, a military council headed by his defense minister/vice president and the head of the armed forces, Awad Ibn Auf, attempted immediately to take over.
Libya, on the other hand, is a peculiar case. Unlike Algeria and Sudan, where protesters gathered under one banner to demonstrate peacefully and force a singular outcome, Libya's quest to depose Gaddafi went awry. It is likely that the tense situation in the North African country will persist, given the numerous heavily-armed, well-financed, non-state actors still active there with conflicting aims.
The experiences of Sudan, Algeria and Libya demonstrate the deep challenges and risks of political change in the Arab World, where it might be relatively easy to throw everything up in the air, but no one can quite know for sure where the pieces will land.
Compared with Algeria and Sudan, the dynamics in Libya are very different. The structures that protests might target as a means to pressure those in power are largely non-existent. More than that, civilians are caught in the crossfire of competing interests, lawlessness, a hobbled UN “peace/transition” process and unfettered foreign military support, as well as extremist elements that prey on the chaos to spread their roots, further entrenching the status quo.
Fortunately, there are glimmers of hope for the futures of Sudan and Algeria at least. When the Sudanese people successfully ousted Al-Bashir, the protesters were not content with a “transitional” military council with strong ties to the toppled regime dictating the way forward. As a result, Ibn Auf quickly resigned following further intense protests, leaving Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan — the army's inspector-general — to succeed him. This appeased the protesters since he had sided with them during the initial sit-ins that led to Al-Bashir’s downfall.
This was just the beginning a complete transformation of a political system that had languished under authoritarian rule for 30 years. Protesters had learned from the experience of northern neighbor Egypt about the dangers of allowing a military-controlled transition. It is also likely they had a keen eye on the parallel developments in Algeria, where “le pouvoir” (the power) was still dictating terms even after Bouteflika's resignation.
Sudan's civilians have orchestrated the removal of Salah Gosh — Al Bashir's intelligence and security chief; Ibn Auf is no longer the defense minister, and three of Sudan’s top prosecutors were sacked. The former interior minister and the head of the former ruling party, the National Congress Party, face charges of corruption and have been implicated in the deaths of protesters. The NCP has been denied any chance to participate in the transition process.
While Sudan’s elites have quickly initiated and underscored the sweeping changes to the political system, their Algerian counterparts have not been as receptive. However, the lessons from 2011’s failed “revolutions” are still fresh in people’s minds and protesters remain determined not to fall into the same traps as other countries in the region. Fortunately, Sudan has leaped ahead to demonstrate how to upend an entire political system to place power in the hands of the populace.
Although Bouteflika ultimately resigned, peaceful protests continued demanding the resignations of the “3Bs:” Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui; speaker of the uppper chamber of Algeria’s parliament, Abdelkader Bensalah; and head of the Constitutional Council and Army Chief of Staff Tayeb Belaiz. A the time of writing, the unrelenting protests had forced Belaiz to tender his resignation, which is likely to intensify the pressure on the remaining two to also step aside.
Although it came eight years late, if Sudan and Algeria manage to successfully transition to stable, civilian-led democratic governments, they will join Tunisia as the “success” stories of the Arab Spring.
Libya, on the other hand, stands at the precipice of a bloody, all-out civil war. Eight years of chaos have wrested power from the people, leaving the future of the nation to the purview of military men, militias and the gamesmanship of bad-faith foreign powers. The experiences of all three countries, however, demonstrate the deep challenges and risks of political change in the Arab World, where it might be relatively easy to throw everything up in the air, but no one can quite know for sure where the pieces will land.
• Hafed Al-Ghwell is a non-resident senior fellow with the Foreign Policy Institute at the John Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. He is also senior adviser at the international economic consultancy Maxwell Stamp and at the geopolitical risk advisory firm Oxford Analytica, a member of the Strategic Advisory Solutions International Group in Washington DC and a former adviser to the board of the World Bank Group.

Iranians face one plague after another, but the real problem is their rulers
كاميليا انتخيفارد: يواجه الإيرانيون الكوارث واحدة تلو الأخرى ولكن الكارثةالحقيقية تمكن في حكامهم
Camelia Entekhabifard/Arab News/April 20/19

First floods and then grasshoppers plagued Iran. The heavy rains came during the Persian New Year celebrations in the third week of March, devastating the nation and casting a shadow over the holidays as parts of many towns and cities were buried by mudslides.
The Ayatollah did not call for international help at that time, instead insisting that the country was capable of coping with the disaster itself. The truth was somewhat different, and many people, particularly in the north and south of the nation, were suffering greatly. Photographs and video clips posted on social media showed old and young, men and women desperate for help and assistance.
In some places the mud reached as high the rooftops. Homes, possessions, businesses and life savings were washed away, leaving many people without shelter, traumatized and facing an uncertain future. Some of the communities that were buried or washed away might never be rebuilt.
When the rain stopped, it was the turn of the Iraqi militias, Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi, to pour into the southern cities of Ahvaz and Khorramshahr. These “friendly” militants came to clean the roads and help people rebuild their homes. It is not clear why Iranians would need these particular cleaners when there are more than enough people in their own to clean up the mess. What they really needed was emergency supplies of food and other necessities, medical help, and tents and shelters, none of which can be provided by Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi, or by the Iraqi state that sponsors them but struggles to feeds its own people and manage its economy.
While Iran’s relationships with the UAE and Saudi Arabia are rocky, they are quite amicable with Qatar and Turkey, for example, so why have those nations not stepped forward to help? Afghanistan and Pakistan, meanwhile, are not wealthy countries but might they not be capable of sending in troops or helicopters when people are screaming for help? Pakistan, after all, has the sixth-largest army in the world in terms of active personnel, and the largest among Muslim countries, with 919,000 troops, 637,000 of whom are on active duty. Would they not be more efficient and helpful than Iraq’s Shiite militia? They would certainly be less controversial.
There is no shortage of hate and anger on social media directed toward Iraq from Iran. For the reasons, one need look no further than the Iraqi militias that marched across the border waving their nation’s flag in an area considered a battleground between Iran and Iraq.
Nothing is more damaging to the people of Iran than the regime itself, which is responsible for the mismanagement that lies at the heart of the country’s problems.
Why can the regime not understand or respect the sensitivity of the people to this kind of activity? Of course the Iraqis claim the motivation was humanitarian, to provide assistance. However, this help is a bit late and in any case could be provided by volunteers without provoking anger and a public backlash. Is the regime afraid of its people?
The rains have stopped but now a plague of desert grasshoppers is threatening the southern provinces of Iran. According to officials, a huge number of the creatures has been carried along by the winds after the heavy rains and floods, making people sick and causing heavy damage to agricultural land and crops. Iran’s state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported that the grasshoppers have so far affected 3,000 hectares of farmland, causing huge amounts of damage.
The US sanctions have caused enough difficulties for the Iranians, on top of which they now have to contend with the effects of the floods and the grasshoppers. However, nothing is more damaging to the people of Iran than the regime itself, which is responsible for the mismanagement that lies at the heart of the country’s problems.
These horrible natural disasters and the problems they have caused lay bare the true reasons for the failure of the state to deal with them; the regime cannot hide behind the US sanctions and avoid the blame forever.
• Camelia Entekhabifard is an Iranian-American journalist, political commentator and author of Camelia: Save Yourself By Telling the Truth (Seven Stories Press, 2008).