May 14/2019
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For today
God did not call us to impurity but in holiness.
“First Letter to the Thessalonians 04/01-09: “Finally, brothers and sisters, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus that, as you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God (as, in fact, you are doing), you should do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from fornication; that each one of you knows how to control your own body in holiness and honour, not with lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one wrongs or exploits a brother or sister in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, just as we have already told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God did not call us to impurity but in holiness. Therefore whoever rejects this rejects not human authority but God, who also gives his Holy Spirit to you. Now concerning love of the brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anyone write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another;”

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on May 13-14/19
 Happy & Blessed Mathers Day To All Mothers
So long Patriarch Sfeir
Bishop Elias Zaidan's Eulogy In The Event Of Partiarch Sfier's Death
Thursday Declared National Vacation for Sfeir's Farewell
Aoun receives Cardinal Sfeir’s death notice
Arab ambassadors' delegation offers condolences to Rahi upon loss of Sfeir
Kataeb Party Declares Mourning over Passing of Patriarch Sfeir
Hizbullah Offers Condolences over Sfeir in Bkirki
Aoun Receives Cables from Saudi King, Crown Prince
MP Geagea Says Sfeir 'Stood by LF in Darkest Circumstances'
Lebanese Cabinet maintains contributions to health associations
Lebanese Cabinet Raises Fines for Tax Evasion
Bou Saab Says Servicemen Wages Won't be Cut as Govt. Vows 'Reforms'
Bassil Says Steps Taken over 'Washington' Cable Leaks
Boat with 8 Syrians Capsizes off Lebanese Coast; 5 Missing
Hariri Denounces Saudi Ship Attacks off UAE
Retired Servicemen Suspend Sit-in outside BDL
Human Rights Watch Urges Probe into al-Dika's Death in Custody
Geagea Strongly Condemns Attacks on Ships in UAE Waters
In Lebanon, Vintage Film Posters Question Western Cliches

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 13-14/19
Saudi Arabia Says 2 Oil Tankers Damaged by Sabotage Attacks
Trump: If Iranians Do Anything, They Will Suffer Greatly
Pompeo to Visit Brussels Monday to Discuss Iran
Europe Rejects U.S. Escalation Strategy against Iran
Britain Warns of ‘Unwanted’ Iran-US Conflict
Sudan Protesters, Military Council Resume Talks
Iran Sentences Woman to Jail for ‘Spying’ for Britain
Paris Discusses with Baghdad Fate of French ISIS Militants
MSP Head Blasts Attempts to Remove Algeria’s Army Chief From Power
Clashes in Northwest Syria Kill More than 40 Fighters
After Caliphate's Fall, ISIS Militants Still Spread Fear

Titles For The Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 13-14/19
Happy & Blessed Mathers Day To All Mothers/Elias Bejjani/May 12/2019
So long Patriarch Sfeir/Dr. Walid Phares/Face Book/ 13/2019
Bishop Elias Zaidan's Eulogy In The Event Of Partiarch Sfier's Death/13/2019
Saudi Arabia Says 2 Oil Tankers Damaged by Sabotage Attacks/Associated Press/Naharnet/May 13/2019/
After Caliphate's Fall, ISIS Militants Still Spread Fear//Asharq Al-Awsat/May 13/2019
"I Don't Know Why They Attacked Our Village": Persecution of Christians In February 2019"/Raymond Ibrahim/Gatestone Institute/May 13/2019
Iran and the Difficulty of Dancing with Trump/Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al Awsat/May 13/2019
The Turkish Lira and Political Crises/Marcus Ashworth/Bloomberg ViewMay 13/2019
Banned from Facebook? A Polish Court May Help/Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg ViewMay 13/2019
War with Iran forthcoming? Most experts say they don’t think so/Jerusalem Post/May 13/2019
Chinese Sex Trade in Pakistan: Abuse of Christian Girls/Kaswar Klasra/Gatestone Institute/May 13/2019
How Palestinian Leaders Punish Patients/Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/May 13/2019
Asia Bibi's escape to Canada shines light on Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws/CBC/May 14/2019

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News published on May 13-14/19
Happy & Blessed Mathers Day To All Mothers
Elias Bejjani/May 12/2019

Today while in Canada and USA we are happily and joyfully celebrating the Mothers’ Day, let us all pray that Almighty God will keep granting all mothers all over the world the needed graces of wisdom, meekness and faith to highly remain under all circumstances honoring this holy role model and to stay as Virgin Merry fully devoted to their families.
For all those of us whose mothers have passed away, let us mention them in our daily prayers and ask Almighty God to endow their souls the eternal rest in His heavenly dwellings.
In Christianity Virgin Merry is envisaged by many believers and numerous cultures as the number one role model for the righteous, devoted, loving , caring, giving, and humble mothers.
The Spirit Of My mother who like every and each loving departed mother is definitely watching from above and praying for all of us. May Almighty God Bless her spirit and the Spirits of all departed mothers.
In all religions and cultures all over the world, honoring, respecting and obeying parents is not a favor that people either chose to practice or not. No not at all, honoring, respecting and obeying parents is a holy obligation that each and every faithful individual who believes in God MUST fulfill, no matter what.
Almighty God in His 10 Commandments (Exodus 20:2-17 ) made the honoring of both parents (commandment number five) a holy obligation, and not a choice or a favor.
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you”. (Exodus 20:12)
Reading the Bible, both the Old and New Testament shows with no doubt that honoring parents is a cornerstone and a pillar in faith and righteousness for all believers. All other religions and cultures share with Christians this holy concept and obligation.
“Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, so that your days may be long and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” (Deuteronomy 5:16)
“You shall each revere your mother and father, and you shall keep my Sabbaths: I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 19:3).
Back home in Lebanon we have two popular proverbs that say:“If you do not have an elderly figure in your family to bless you, go and search for one”. “The mother is the who either gathers or divides the family”
How true are these two proverbs, because there will be no value, or meaning for our lives if not blessed and flavored by the wisdom, love and blessings of our parents and of other elder members.
He who does not honor the elderly, sympathize and empathize with them, especially his own parents is a person with a hardened heart, and a numbed conscience, who does not know the meaning of gratitude.
History teaches us that the easiest route for destroying a nation is to destroy, its cornerstone, the family. Once the family code of respect is belittled and not honored, the family is divided and loses all its Godly blessings.
“Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and a house divided against itself falls” (Luke 11-17)
One very important concept and an extremely wise approach MUST apply and prevail when reading the Holy Bible in a bid to understand its contents and observe the Godly instructions and life guidelines that are enlisted. The concept needs to be a faith one with an open frame of mind free from doubts, questions and challenges.
Meanwhile the approach and interpretation MUST both be kept within the abstract manner, thinking and mentality frame, and not in the concrete way of interpretation.
We read in (Matthew 15/04: “For God said, Respect your father and your mother, and If you curse your father or your mother, you are to be put to death).
This verse simply dwells on The Fifth Biblical Commandment: “Honor your Father and Mother”. To grasp its meaning rightfully and put it in its right faith content one should understand that death in the Bible is not the death of the body as we experience and see on earth. DEATH in the Bible means the SIN that leads to eternal anguish in Hell.
The Bible teaches us that through His crucifixion, death and resurrection, Jesus defeated death in its ancient human, earthly concept. He broke the death thorn and since than, the actual death became the sin. Those who commit the sin die and on the judgment day are outcast to the eternal fire. Death for the believers is a temporary sleep on the hope of resurrection.
Accordingly the verse “If you curse your father or your mother, you are to be put to death”, means that those who do not honor their parents, help, support and respect them commit a deadly sin and God on the Judgment Day will make them accountable if they do not repent and honor their parents.
God is a Father, a loving, passionate and caring One, and in this context He made the honoring of parents one of the Ten Commandments.
In conclusion: The abstract and faith interpretation of Matthew 15/04 verse must not be related to children or teenagers who because of an age and maturity factors might temporarily repel against their parents and disobey them.
Hopefully, each and every one of us, no matter what religion or denomination he/she is affiliated to will never ever ignore his parents and commit the deadly SIN of not honoring them through every way and mean especially when they are old and unable to take care of themselves.
Happy Mothers’ Day to all mothers

So long Patriarch Sfeir
Dr. Walid Phares/Face Book 13/2019
My sincere condolences for the passing of Cardinal Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, to the Sfeir family, Bkerke, the Maronite community and all Lebanese.
Patriarch Sfeir was a leader of a Church, of a community and of a nation in the most difficult times of their history. He mobilized as of 2000, with great courage, the silent majority of a country that fell under occupation since 1990. He toured Lebanon and the diaspora relentlessly between 2000 and 2005, to call for the liberation of the mother country from Syrian occupation and the disarming of the militias. His words and determination had an impact on US legislation and on UNSCR 1559, but above all on the millions of citizens who filled Beirut on March 14, 2005.
I met Patriarch Sfeir when he was a bishop in the 1980s. He was a classmate of my uncle, Father Paul Phares. He was also a student of my great uncle Father Joseph Phares at Saint Joseph University in Beirut.
Later I met him several times as a publisher of Mashrek Magazine and when I was appointed as a Secretary General of the World Maronite Union in 1988. I also met him several times in the during the 1990s, including in Rome in 2000, in New York and in Miami.
Patriarch Sfeir will be remembered in history books as a the leader of the spiritual and national resistance during the dark age of modern Lebanon. To him, prayers and respects. May his soul rest in peace.
So long ghubtat al batrak

Bishop Elias Zaidan's Eulogy In The Event Of Partiarch Sfier's Death
Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles/Office of the Bishop
May 13, 2019
Dear Monsignor/Father, Deacon, Brother and Sister
As you know, His Beatitude and Eminence, Mar Nasrallah Peter Sfeir entered into eternal life yesterday, May 11, 2019. He died in hospital. Patriarch-Emeritus Sfeir was born May 15, 1920 in Rayfoun, Lebanon. He was elected Patriarch of Antioch for the Maronites April 27,1986, and his resignation was accepted on February 26, 2011. He was created a Cardinal on November 26, 1994 by Pope St. John Paul II and he was the 76th Patriarch of the Maronite Church with the official title of "His Beatitude and Eminence Maronite Patriarch of Antioch
and the Whole East".Patriarch Sfeir was educated in Lebanon, first at Mar Abda School in Harharaya where he completed his primary studies, and Ghazir where he completed his secondary studiesat St. Maron seminary. He earned a degree in literature and also graduated in philosophy and theology in 1950 at Saint Joseph's University in Beirut; he also was awarded a degree in Literature. He was ordained to the priesthood in the same year on May 7. Thus, he was a priest for 69 years.
From 1951 to 1955 he served as priest to the parish of Rayfoun. In 1956, he was appointed the secretary of the Maronite Patriarchate in Bkerké. In the same year, he became the professor of translation in literature and philosophy at the Marist Brothers School in Jounieh. On June 23, 1961Sfeir was appointed Titular bishop and Patriarchal vicar.
On July 16, 1961, he was consecrated the titular bishop of Tarsus by Patriarch Paul Peter Meouchi. He then served as Patriarchal vicar under Patriarchs Meouchi and Khoreiche until his election as Patriarch in 1986. Patriach-Emeritus Sfeir presided over the Maronite Patriarch Synod from 2003 to 2006 and oversaw the revision and publication of the Maronite Divine Liturgy and many liturgical rituals. A number of new Maronite Eparchies were created during his time as Patriarch, including the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles. Patriarch-Emeritus Sfeir ordained over 40 bishops and ordained and enthroned Bishop Robert Shaheen as Bishop of our Eparchy in 2001 in the United States. He made a number of pastoral visits to the United States and attended Conventions of the National Association of Maronites. As bishop and as Patriarch he met many religious and civil leaders in the world. As a Cardinal he served on the boards of various Vatican Congregations and Councils as well as attended many different Synods of Bishops in Rome. A number of Maronite saints were beatified and canonized during his time. He also authored several books.
Patriarch-Emeritus Sfeir was a staunch and out-spoken defender of the freedom and sovereignty of Lebanon and rights of Christians to live in peace and harmony in their
With his passing, our Maronite Church loses a cherished icon.
He was a true father and shepherd who capably led.
By word and deed, our Church during very difficult and critical times. History will definitely mark his name as one of the great Maronite Patriarchs. At this time we would like to extend our sincere condolences to our beloved Patriarch, His Beatitude and Eminence, Bechara Peter Cardinal Rai, to the Maronite Synod of Bishops and to his family. I ask that all parishes and institutions of the Eparchy include prayers for the repose of the soul of Patriarch-Emeritus Sfeir at each Divine Liturgy for a period of 7 days. May the Risen Lord reward his faithfulness and endeavors, and may He grant to him eternal rest among all the Righteous and Jus in Heaven.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+A. Elias Zaidan
Bishop of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles.

Thursday Declared National Vacation for Sfeir's Farewell
Naharnet/May 13/19/ The Premiership has announced that Wednesday and Thursday will be national mourning days over the death of former Maronite patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir. According to the decree, flags will be flown at half-mast and radio and TV programming will be adjusted to suit the situation.
All public administrations and municipalities and public and private institutions will meanwhile close on the burial day on Thursday.

Aoun receives Cardinal Sfeir’s death notice
Mon 13 May 2019/NNA - President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, received from Maronite Patriarch, Bechara Boutros Rahi, the death notice of late Patriarch Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, transmitted by Patriarchal Vicar, Archbishop Boulos Sayyah, and President of the Catholic Center of the Information, Father Abdo Abu Kasm.

Arab ambassadors' delegation offers condolences to Rahi upon loss of Sfeir

Mon 13 May 2019/NNA - A delegation of Arab accredited ambassadors to Lebanon offered on Monday condolences to Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rahi, upon the loss of former Patriarch Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir. The delegation included Ambassadors of Saudi Arabia, Waleed Bukhari, Qatar Mohammed Hassan Jaber Al Jaber, Sultanate of Oman Badr bin Mohammad al-Mantheri, Kuwait Abdel Aal al-Qinai, Iraq Ali al-Ameri, Tunisia Mohammed Karim Boudali, Algeria Ahmed Bouziane, and Egypt Nazih al-Najjari. Speaking on behalf of the delegation, Dean of the Arab diplomatic corps, Kuwait's Ambassador to Lebanon Abdel Aal Qinai eulogized the great late Patriarch Sfeir as a man of peace, devotion and patriotism, saying "his loss is not only for Lebanon but for our Arab Mashreq."Ambassador Qinai said the late Patriarch was always keen to unite the sons of the nation living together in peace and coexistence."He was also very keen on the prosperity of this brotherly country and all the Arab countries," al Qinai mourned the Patriarch.

Kataeb Party Declares Mourning over Passing of Patriarch Sfeir 13th May 2019/The Lebanese Kataeb party announced on Monday a period of mourning over the passing of Patriarch Emeritus Nasrallah Sfeir, ordering that flags be flown and half mast at the party's offices nationwide. In a statement issued following its weekly meeting, the Kataeb's politburo called for a wide participation in the Patriarch’s funeral on Thursday in Bkirki, hailing the late cardinal as a great national figure. “He has been deeply engraved in the people’s conscience and in the history of this nation, becoming a symbol of freedom and faith in Lebanon," read the politburo statement. "He stood in the face of occupation, injustice and violation of sovereignty."“This Patriarch turned all dreams into reality. He always spoke up the truth with strength." Turning to the appeal that the Kataeb bloc submitted to the Constitutional Council last week along with other lawmakers to contest the government's power plan, the politburo stressed that the challenge is aimed at ensuring the proper and flawless implementation of the plan in accordance with transparency standards, legal norms and constitutional rules.“It is not aimed at obstructing the power plan as some are claiming,” it affirmed. The Kataeb party also voiced deep concern over the tension prevailing over the Gulf region which is threatening security and peace in the region, condemning the recent sabotage attacks on four UAE commercial ships near the country's territorial waters in the Gulf of Oman.

Hizbullah Offers Condolences over Sfeir in Bkirki
Naharnet/May 13/2019/A Hizbullah delegation led by political council chief Sayyed Ibrahim Amin al-Sayyed on Monday offered condolences in Bkirki over the death of former Maronite patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir. "We came to express our condolences and to be part of the grief that is engulfing Lebanon," al-Sayyed said. "Lebanon misses figures such as patriarch Sfeir," he added, noting that Hizbullah might take part in Sfeir's farewell on Thursday. Sfeir died on Sunday days before turning 99. Wednesday and Thursday have been declared national mourning days and his body will be laid to rest on Thursday.

Aoun Receives Cables from Saudi King, Crown Prince

Naharnet/May 13/2019/Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz on Monday sent President Michel Aoun a cable of condolences over the death of former Maronite patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir. "We express to you and to the late patriarch's family our warmest and sincerest condolences, wishing you permanent health and success," the king said. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent the president a similar condolences cable. Sfeir died on Sunday days before turning 99. Wednesday and Thursday have been declared national mourning days a d his body will be laid to rest on Thursday.

MP Geagea Says Sfeir 'Stood by LF in Darkest Circumstances'
Naharnet/May 13/2019/MP Sethrida Geagea on Sunday described late Maronite ex-patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir as a "saint" who "stood by the Lebanese Forces party in the darkest circumstances, especially after the Taef Accord and between the years 1990 and 2005." "He carved irreversible marks in our history," she said in a statement mourning the late spiritual leader. "His role was essential as a resistant patriarch who raised the voice against tyranny, especially when Samir Geagea was arrested together with Lebanon as a country," the MP added. She also hailed Sfeir's role in the Bkirki Declaration in the year 2000 and the Mt. Lebanon reconciliation, saying he stood by "right and truth in the face of hegemony and in support of the LF's cause."Geagea finally called on the Lebanese state to declare Sfeir's burial day a national mourning day because "he worked for the sake of entire Lebanon."

Lebanese Cabinet maintains contributions to health associations
Mon 13 May 2019/NNA - The Cabinet held today a meeting chaired by the President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri, after which the Minister of Information Jamal Jarrah said: The cabinet completed today its discussions about the contributions to the institutions, associations and bodies that receive contributions from the state. The council was very careful not to reduce the contributions to serious associations and bodies that are fundamental for the lives of citizens, most importantly the Children’ Cancer Center, the bone marrow center, Caritas, the Red Cross and other institutions that provide medical, health and educational services to the citizens. These institutions have not been affected, and if there had been a possibility we would have increased the contributions despite the difficult situation. We maintained what the state contributes to them, because they provide services to the citizens especially in these difficult circumstances, and they need this money to continue their work efficiently, and they proved their presence and their relationship with the people. On the other hand, a reduction has been made to the contributions to some associations and institutions, but the reduction was also small, maximum 10 to 15%, so that they can continue to serve the citizens. We almost completed this article. Tomorrow we will discuss the economic proposals and reforms. The Minister of Finance will give a summary of what we did in the past period, which means the results of the reductions. The next session will be tomorrow at noon.
Question: Did you take all that time to study the issue of associations?
Jarrah: We started discussing this issue yesterday and we completed it today. It is a very long and thorny issue.
Question: There are many festival associations in Lebanon. Did you address this issue?
Jarrah: We discussed it. There were views supporting a reduction and others with preserving the allocations, due to their importance for tourism, but the article remained unmodified.
Question: Could you reach salary cuts if the reductions made until now are not enough?
Jarrah: I cannot answer before the Finance Minister presents his report.
Question: You expected to finish studying the draft project last week but until now, you did not finish, why?
Jarrah: Unfortunately, things are taking time, but the discussion is useful and responsible. We have a reformative budget, so there is debate on most of the items in order to reach an agreement.
Question: There was confusion on the issue of the military and measure No. 3. You said the issue was approved in the cabinet, while the Minister of Defense denies that. Is there any clarification on this point?
Jarrah: Measure No. 3 was adopted in the confrontation with the Israeli enemy, and the ministers of defense and interior will determine the necessary procedures concerning the other areas. There may be other areas where they see that measure No.3 applies. They assess the security situation and its seriousness.

Lebanese Cabinet Raises Fines for Tax Evasion
Naharnet/May 13/19/In its evening meeting which extended until after midnight, the Cabinet convened under the chairmanship of Premier Saad Hariri and discussed the tax articles, said Information Minister Jamal al-Jarrah. “It was a long today but we thoroughly discussed the tax articles. Decisions were taken on some articles, for example reducing the registration fees of motorcycles. As you know, most motorcycles are not registered due to the high fees of registration. These fees were reduced to the minimum to encourage people to register their motorcycles,” said Jarrah after the meeting which ended at 2:00 am. “Also, the state’s contribution to free schools has become subject to the supervision of Educational inspection. Fines for tax evasion have been raised to control tax collection. We also raised the fees slightly on work permits for foreigners. This does not affect the Lebanese, but the foreigners who get work permits in Lebanon. We also reduced the state’s contribution to public institutions between 10 to 50 for some institutions in order to control their expenses,” added the Minister.
Jarrah noted “there are decisions that need legal drafting on investment promotion, especially in information and communications technology. We raised the fees on planes landing at Beirut airport, in line with the rest of the airports in the world or the region. These are the most important issues. Some points need legal drafting and there will be another meeting at noon to continue the discussions.”Jarrah was asked why hasn’t the Cabinet discussed the issue of reducing the salaries of ministers, MPs and presidents, and why is the issue of public sector being postponed. He said: “We did not discuss the salaries because we want to see first how much the measures we have taken so far will reduce the deficit. The issue needs more in-depth discussions to decide on it. All the tax measures we have taken and the reduction of spending in ministries and state institutions are significant reductions. For the first time we are being harsh concerning budget cuts to see their financial results and in light of them we will take decisions.”

Bou Saab Says Servicemen Wages Won't be Cut as Govt. Vows 'Reforms'

Naharnet/May 13/19/Defense Minister Elias Bou Saab on Monday reassured that the salaries and other compensations of active and retired servicemen will not be touched, as the Cabinet held another budget session. Bou Saab clarified that a 3% decrease will however affect their medical care compensations, a measure that "will affect all state employees." Retired servicemen have staged several protests in recent days to warn against any cut to their salaries and on Monday they blocked the entrance of Banque du Liban on the vital Hamra Street. The Cabinet meanwhile slashed social aid by 10 to 15% to associations without involving "serious associations that truly aid citizens such as the children cancer center, the red cross and Caritas," Information Minister Jamal al-Jarrah said. He added that Cabinet will continue its discussions at noon Tuesday, reassuring that the country is headed for economic recommendations and reforms." Lebanon has vowed to slash public spending to unlock $11 billion worth of aid pledged by international donors during an April 2018 conference in Paris. Last month, Prime Minister Saad Hariri vowed to introduce "the most austere budget in Lebanon's history" to combat the country's bulging fiscal deficit, sparking fears among public sector employees that their salaries may be cut. Lebanon is one of the world's most indebted countries, with public debt estimated at 141 percent of GDP in 2018, according to credit ratings agency Moody's.

Bassil Says Steps Taken over 'Washington' Cable Leaks

Naharnet/May 13/19/Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil on Monday stressed that diplomatic cables leak is “impermissible” especially if it comes in a “systematic or programmed manner.”In reference to the so-called “Washington leaks,” Bassil said: “Diplomatic cables leak is impermissible whether to the media or to sources outside the ministry, especially if it comes in a systematic manner.” “I have sent a letter to the Beirut Prosecutor to investigate the issue, and lifted the immunity off some individuals starting with the director of my office, the Secretary-General and the Director of Political Affairs and all those involved,” added the Minister. “We only seek the truth. The freedom of the press is protected,” he assured. Last week, three diplomatic reports were leaked from the Lebanese embassy in Washington to al-Akhbar newspaper.State Security agents raided the building of the newspaper and the Foreign Ministry in abid to find the “parties involved.”Six diplomats and an employee were interrogated during that raid.

Boat with 8 Syrians Capsizes off Lebanese Coast; 5 Missing
Associated Press/Naharnet/May 13/2019/The state-run National News Agency says a fishing boat that was illegally carrying eight Syrian refugees to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus has capsized. The report says the incident occurred on Monday off the northern Lebanese town of Chekka. It says that Lebanon's navy detained three of the Syrians when they returned to the coast and that the other five are still missing. Lebanon is host to the highest number of refugees per capita in the world, with about 1 million Syrians — or nearly a quarter of the small Arab country's population. In September, a child drowned after a boat carrying 39 migrants hoping to reach Cyprus capsized off the northern Lebanese coast.

Hariri Denounces Saudi Ship Attacks off UAE

Naharnet/May 13/19/ Prime Minister Saad Hariri condemned the terrorist acts of sabotage against oil tankers off the territorial waters of the United Arab Emirates, saying they pose a serious threat to the safety of navigation in one of the world's most important waterways, the Premier press office said on Monday. He said these actions threaten the stability of the global economy and the international oil markets, in addition to being a direct attack on sister Arab countries and on joint Arab security. Hariri affirmed full solidarity with the United Arab Emirates and with all brotherly countries in the Arabian Gulf.
Two Saudi oil tankers were subjected to a sabotage attack in the exclusive economic zone of the United Arab Emirates, off the coast of the Emirate of Fujairah, while on their way to cross into the Arabian Gulf," the Saudi Press Agency cited the Saudi energy minister as saying. The UAE said on Sunday that four commercial vessels of various nationalities had been targeted by acts of sabotage off Fujairah. The incident comes amid rising tensions between Iran and the United States which has strengthened its military presence in the region, including deploying a number of strategic B-52 bombers in response to alleged threats from Tehran. It also comes as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is headed to Brussels to discuss Iran with French, British and German officials.

Retired Servicemen Suspend Sit-in outside BDL

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 13/19/Retired servicemen on Monday blocked the entrances of Banque du Liban branches and blocked the vital highway of Dahr al-Baydar in protest at possible government plans to cut retirement salaries as part of austere measures to cut the state’s deficit. The retirees suspended their sit-in outside BDL's headquarters in Hamra and outside the branches after a meeting with Defense Minister Elias Bou Saab in the afternoon. The sit-in had blocked the vital Hamra Street for several hours. The retired servicemen said Bou Saab promised them that he would ask Cabinet to drop budget articles pertaining to them. They also said that they would hold general assemblies to discuss the developments. On Sunday, the servicemen had vowed to stage protests and block vital facilities the next morning, warning to escalate their steps “that will paralyze all Lebanese regions.”A Central Bank official assured earlier on Monday that the bank was functioning normally despite the protests outside. The Banque du Liban is headquartered in Beirut and has branches in the various regions of Lebanon. Lebanon is set to impose austerity measures to combat its bulging fiscal deficit. It 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 finalized, but thousands of Lebanese public employees went on strike last week amid fears that their salaries and benefits would be cut as part of strict austerity measures to reduce a ballooning budget deficit and massive national debt. They included employees at Beirut's port, Social National Security Fund and the main state-run landline telephone company.

Human Rights Watch Urges Probe into al-Dika's Death in Custody
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 13/19/Human Rights Watch on Monday called for an "impartial investigation" into the death of a Lebanese detainee over allegations he was tortured while in custody, a charge police have denied.
Hassan al-Dika, 46, was declared dead on Saturday, six months after he was first detained on charges of drug trafficking. The cause of death was not immediately clear. He was a father of three girls, the youngest of whom is three years old. "Before his death, Hassan Dika alleged that he was subjected to torture and ill-treatment at the hands of the" Internal Security Forces, said Aya Majzoub, Lebanon researcher at Human Rights Watch. "But despite at least two lawsuits filed by Dika's legal representatives, his allegations were not adequately investigated," she told AFP. An HRW statement on Monday said "his death in custody highlights the urgent need for an impartial investigation." Interior Minister Raya al-Hassan, who has pledged to reform Lebanon's prison system, on Sunday said she has opened an investigation into the cause of death. Hassan's father Toufic blamed security forces and the judiciary, saying that the torture he was subject to in custody caused his health to decline, ultimately resulting in his death. "My son is a victim of torture," he told AFP. "I blame the security agency that arrested him and the judges who were aware of the torture he was subject to," said the man, who works as a lawyer.
The Internal Security Forces on Sunday denied the allegations. It accused Hassan's father of asking an unidentified forensic doctor to fabricate false medical reports alleging Hassan's body displayed signs of beating. It said the doctor, who is currently in custody, had confessed to fabricating the documents. Sahar Mandour of Amnesty International said "regardless of conflicting narratives, (Dika) did lose his life in custody.""We call on the Lebanese state to show zero tolerance to the crime of torture," she said. Lebanon adopted an anti-torture law in September 2017.
But rights groups have routinely documented credible reports of torture in Lebanon. They say authorities have consistently failed to properly investigate allegations of torture and ill-treatment by security services. On March 7, 2019, the government appointed the five members of the country’s National Preventative Mechanism against Torture, a body tasked with investigating complaints of human rights violations. The Cabinet, however, has not yet allocated a budget for the body.

Geagea Strongly Condemns Attacks on Ships in UAE Waters
Naharnet/May 13/2019/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea on Monday strongly condemned the sabotage attacks on four commercial civilian ships in the UAE's territorial waters. "This development is very dangerous and requires conducting all the necessary investigations to identify those behind it and prevent its recurrence," Geagea said in a stateme nt. He also stressed the need to "provide the necessary protection for international navigation lines," expressing his "solidarity with the UAE" and "adherence to peace and stability in the region."Saudi Arabia said Monday two of its oil tankers were damaged in mysterious "sabotage attacks" in the Gulf as tensions soared in a region already shaken by a standoff between the United States and Iran. Tehran called for an investigation into the "alarming" attacks and warned of "adventurism" by foreign players to disrupt maritime security. The UAE said on Sunday that four commercial vessels of various nationalities had been targeted by acts of sabotage off the emirate of Fujairah. Neither Saudi Arabia nor the UAE gave details on the nature of the attacks. The UAE minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, said the Emirates will probe the "deliberate sabotage" of the ships.

In Lebanon, Vintage Film Posters Question Western Cliches
Beirut/Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 13 May, 2019/A pale woman rides through the desert, flanked by armed men on camels, a palace shimmering in the distance. This is Lebanon -- or so someone thought in the 1950s. At a Beirut cultural center, Lebanese film buff Abboudi Abu Jawdeh is exhibiting vintage film posters from his collection that show off a lost art, but also offer insight into decades of Western cliches of the Arab world. On a guided tour, the collector gestures towards the desert scene, which is an Italian poster for the 1956 French movie "The Lebanese Mission". "This is from the artist's imagination," the 61-year-old says, standing beside the image featuring the camel riders and a palace resembling India's Taj Mahal. "He knew Lebanon was in the East, so he did this," he says, despite the country having ski slopes and sand only on its Mediterranean beaches. Abu Jawdeh moves along to another poster for the same film, this time featuring an oil well. "I hope we will have some," he says, as his country only this year starts exploration for the hydrocarbon off its coast. A glance at the film's synopsis reveals more inconsistencies. A Frenchman falls for the daughter of a Lebanese nobleman while in Lebanon hunting for uranium, a metal not mined in the country.
Abu Jawdeh first began collecting posters in his teens, starting with films starring American actors Steve McQueen and Clint Eastwood. Visiting old cinemas in Lebanon and across the region, he unearthed a world of images -- for more foreign films, but also thousands of prints advertising films from the Arab world. Some of his finds in this rare collection date back to 1930s Egypt or Lebanon in the late 1950s. Today he owns some 20,000 posters, stacked up to the ceiling at his publishing house, their bright colors shielded from the sunlight. Different versions of the same poster are especially revealing -- indicating which country required a change in a film title or a bra to be painted over a naked back to avoid offense. But as he collected, Abu Jawdeh also started noticing a trend in some of the Western posters for films set in the Middle East. They "resembled the paintings that Orientalists painted of the region in the 18th and 19th centuries," he says. Dozens of these images are on show until May 25 at the Dar El-Nimer cultural center in Beirut. Titled "Thief of Baghdad", after a much-remade fantasy film from 1924, the show is replete with turbaned men, flying carpets, snake charmers and belly dancers. There is Elvis Presley starring in a film called "Harum Scarum", and a British-Egyptian comedy reportedly inspired by late Egyptian king Farouk's unrequited passions for a belly dancer. With captions summarising often outlandish screenplays, the posters show a fantastical world far removed from the modern Middle East, but also gross misrepresentation. 'We're not all belly dancers'. "Come to savage seething Arabia on a terror search for forbidden treasures of the ages," reads the tagline for the 1957 action film "Forbidden Desert". Late Lebanese-American academic Jack Shaheen analyzed portrayals of Arabs in Hollywood films. He watched more than 900 movies spanning a century to the early 2000s, and found only five percent showed Arab roles as "normal, human characters". Instead, a whole people was systematically dehumanized or vilified. Often, all Arabs were Muslims, and all Muslims were Arabs, wrote the researcher of Christian descent. Female characters were largely belly dancers or enchantresses, silent "bundles of black" or "terrorists". Abu Jawdeh says that he and others may not have always rejected such depictions. "We too liked seeing a belly dancer," he says. But the public now will likely see the posters differently, he adds, welcoming a fresh-eyed reevaluation of how the West has viewed the Arab world. "They need to see them to re-examine these human relations," he urged. Round the corner, Rabbah Faqih, a masters student in archive management, looks at a poster featuring a skimpily dressed actress. "I'm all for a good expressive poster to draw people in, but I'm against commodifying women like this," she says. "We're not all belly dancers in Lebanon," says the 30-year-old, dressed in a long black robe, her hair covered.

The Latest English LCCC Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 13-14/19
Saudi Arabia Says 2 Oil Tankers Damaged by Sabotage Attacks
Associated Press/Naharnet/May 13/2019/
Saudi Arabia said Monday two of its oil tankers were sabotaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates in attacks that caused "significant damage" to the vessels, one of them as it was en route to pick up Saudi oil to take to the U.S.
Khalid al-Falih's comments came as the U.S. issued a new warning to sailors and the UAE's regional allies condemned the reported sabotage Sunday of four ships off the coast of the port city of Fujairah. The announcement came just hours after Iranian and Lebanese media outlets aired false reports of explosions at the city's port. Emirati officials have declined to elaborate on the nature of the sabotage or say who might have been responsible. However, the reports come as the U.S. has warned ships that "Iran or its proxies" could be targeting maritime traffic in the region, and as America is deploying an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf to counter alleged threats from Tehran. Tensions have risen in the year since President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, restoring American sanctions that have pushed Iran's economy into crisis. Last week, Iran warned it would begin enriching uranium at higher levels in 60 days if world powers failed to negotiate new terms for the deal.
In his statement, al-Falih said the attacks on the two tankers happened at 6 a.m. Sunday. "One of the two vessels was on its way to be loaded with Saudi crude oil from the port of Ras Tanura, to be delivered to Saudi Aramco's customers in the United States," al-Falih said. "Fortunately, the attack didn't lead to any casualties or oil spill; however, it caused significant damage to the structures of the two vessels."Saudi Arabia did not identify the vessels involved, nor did it say whom it suspected of carrying out the alleged sabotage. Underling the regional risk, the general-secretary of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council described the alleged sabotage as a "serious escalation" in an overnight statement.
"Such irresponsible acts will increase tension and conflicts in the region and expose its peoples to great danger," Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani said. Bahrain, Egypt and Yemen's internationally recognized government similarly condemned the alleged sabotage.
A statement Sunday from the UAE's Foreign Ministry put the ships near the country's territorial waters in the Gulf of Oman, east of the port of Fujairah. It said it was investigating "in cooperation with local and international bodies." It said there were "no injuries or fatalities on board the vessels" and "no spillage of harmful chemicals or fuel."
The U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, which oversees the region, did not immediately offer comment. Emirati officials declined to answer questions from The Associated Press, saying their investigation is ongoing. Earlier Sunday, Lebanon's pro-Iran satellite channel Al-Mayadeen, quoting "Gulf sources," falsely reported that a series of explosions had struck Fujairah's port. State and semi-official media in Iran picked up the report from Al-Mayadeen, which later published the names of vessels it claimed were involved. The AP, after speaking to Emirati officials and local witnesses, found the report about explosions at the port to be unsubstantiated. Fujairah's port is about 140 kilometers (85 miles) south of the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a third of all oil at sea is traded. The facility handles oil for bunkering and shipping, as well as general and bulk cargo. It is seen as strategically located, serving shipping routes in the Persian Gulf, the Indian subcontinent and Africa. Sunday's incident comes after the U.S. Maritime Administration, a division of the U.S. Transportation Department, warned Thursday that Iran could target commercial sea traffic. "Since early May, there is an increased possibility that Iran and/or its regional proxies could take action against U.S. and partner interests, including oil production infrastructure, after recently threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz," the warning read. "Iran or its proxies could respond by targeting commercial vessels, including oil tankers, or U.S. military vessels in the Red Sea, Bab-el-Mandeb Strait or the Persian Gulf." Early Sunday, the agency issued a new warning to sailors about the alleged sabotage, while stressing "the incident has not been confirmed." It urged shippers to exercise caution in the area for the next week. Publicly available satellite images of the area taken Sunday showed no smoke or fire. It remains unclear if the previous warning from the U.S. Maritime Administration is the same perceived threat that prompted the White House to order the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group and B-52 bombers to the region on May 4.

Trump: If Iranians Do Anything, They Will Suffer Greatly
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 13/19/ U.S. President Donald Trump warned Monday that Iran would "suffer greatly" were it to "do anything," after U.S. intelligence suggested Tehran was planning to attack U.S. interests in the region. "I'm hearing little stories about Iran," Trump told reporters as he hosted Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban at the White House. "If they do anything, it would be a very bad mistake," Trump warned. "If they do anything they will suffer greatly."

Pompeo to Visit Brussels Monday to Discuss Iran
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 13/19/US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is to visit Brussels on Monday to discuss "pressing matters" including Iran, a State Department official said Sunday. As a result, the top US diplomat is scrapping a stop expected on Monday in Moscow. But he will still head to the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi on Tuesday to meet President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the official added just before Pompeo left Washington. An EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting is scheduled in Brussels on Monday, but the State Department did not offer specific details of Pompeo's revised agenda. It simply said talks would be held with officials from France, the UK and Germany -- the three European signatories to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Iran announced on May 8, one year after the US withdrew from the deal, that it was suspending some of its commitments under the agreement. President Hassan Rouhani issued an ultimatum to the Europeans, threatening that Iran would go further if they fail to deliver sanctions relief to counterbalance US President Donald Trump's renewed assault on the Iranian economy within 60 days. The European powers rejected that ultimatum. The US has continued to build pressure on Iran, with Pompeo accusing Tehran of planning "imminent" attacks. The Pentagon announced Friday that it is deploying an amphibious assault ship and a Patriot missile battery to the Middle East to bolster an aircraft carrier force sent to counter alleged threats from Iran. Pompeo has already canceled in recent days trips to Berlin and Greenland to focus on the Iran issue. In Moscow, Pompeo had been due to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier dedicated to Soviet troops killed in World War II -- an era when Moscow and Washington were allied.

Europe Rejects U.S. Escalation Strategy against Iran
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 13/19/Europe on Monday urged the U.S. not to further escalate tensions over the Iran nuclear deal, with Britain issuing a stark warning of the risk of conflict erupting "by accident" in the Gulf. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a last-minute change of plan scrapping an expected Moscow trip to visit Brussels and meet his counterparts from Britain, France and Germany. The ministers from the European signatories to the 2015 accord that curbed Iran's nuclear ambitions in return for sanctions relief all publicly criticised the hardline U.S. approach. Iran last week announced it was suspending some of its commitments under the agreement, a year after US President Donald Trump withdrew from the accord and imposed swingeing sanctions on the Islamic republic -- putting the deal in peril. Adding a military dimension to the diplomatic tensions, Washington is sending an amphibious assault ship and a Patriot missile battery to the Gulf, having already deployed an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Berlin "still regards this nuclear agreement as the basis for Iran not having any nuclear weapons in the future and we regard this as existential for our security." Maas said he used his one-on-one meeting with Pompeo to stress that "we are concerned about the development and the tensions in the region, that we do not want there to be a military escalation."British foreign minister Hunt called for "a period of calm" and bluntly warned of the danger of pushing Iran back towards developing nuclear weapons. "We are very worried about the risk of a conflict happening by accident with an escalation that is unintended on either side but ends with some kind of conflict," Hunt said. "Most of all we must make sure we don't end up putting Iran back on the path to re-nuclearisation, because if Iran becomes a nuclear power its neighbours are likely to want to become nuclear powers. "This is already the most unstable region in the world and it would be a massive step in the wrong direction." The European Union's diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini, who held her own meeting with Pompeo, stressed the need for dialogue as "the only and the best way to address differences and avoid escalation" in the region. "We continue to fully support the nuclear deal with Iran, its full implementation," Mogherini said. "It has been and continues to be for us a key element of the non-proliferation architecture both globally and in the region."French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian joined the criticism saying Washington's move to step up sanctions against Iran "does not suit us."
'Nuclear bomb'
Mogherini chaired a meeting of the so-called E3 -- Britain, France and Germany -- to discuss efforts to keep the deal going, including the special trade mechanism called INSTEX the trio set up to try to enable legitimate trade with Iran to continue without falling foul of U.S. sanctions. INSTEX was launched in January but is still not operational and has been dismissed scornfully by the Iranian senior leadership. After talks with the E3, Mogherini said they aimed to get INSTEX up and running and have the first transactions "hopefully in the next few weeks". President Hassan Rouhani issued an ultimatum to the Europeans last week threatening that Iran would go further if they fail to deliver sanctions relief to counterbalance Trump's renewed assault on the Iranian economy within 60 days. The European powers rejected that ultimatum. The U.S. has continued to build pressure on Iran, with Pompeo accusing Tehran of planning "imminent" attacks and bolstering the military presence in the Gulf. Brian Hook, the U.S. special envoy for Iran, insisted the Islamic republic was itself an "escalating threat." "The secretary wanted to share some detail behind what we have been saying publicly. We believe that Iran should try talks instead of threats. They have chosen poorly by focusing on threats," Hook told reporters. Pompeo was to head to the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi on Tuesday to meet President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, a State Department official said.

Britain Warns of ‘Unwanted’ Iran-US Conflict
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 13 May, 2019/Iran and the United States could trigger a conflict by accident, Britain's foreign minister said on Monday, urging a period of calm ahead of talks between the European Union and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. "We are very worried about a conflict, about the risk of a conflict ... of an escalation that is unintended," Britain's Jeremy Hunt told reporters as he arrived in Brussels for a meeting of EU foreign ministers. US President Donald Trump is seeking to isolate Tehran by cutting off its oil exports after pulling out of a 2015 deal aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear program. Trump has also sent US warplanes and an aircraft carrier to the Gulf. Hunt, who was due later to meet Pompeo along with the foreign ministers of France and Germany and the EU's diplomatic chief, also expressed concern about the risks of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East if Iran were to acquire such weapons. "We need to make sure that we don't end up putting Iran back on the path to re-nuclearization," Hunt said, calling for "a period of calm so that everyone understands what the other side is thinking". Trump has sent an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Gulf in a show of force against what officials in Washington have said is a threat to US troops in the region. The EU is trying to implement a new channel to allow Iran to sell its oil and circumvent newly-instated US sanctions, but setting it up is proving complex. The US State Department said in a statement that Pompeo had canceled a planned stopover in Moscow to go instead to Brussels "to discuss recent threatening actions and statements" by Iran. After Brussels Pompeo will travel to Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi for talks on Iran with President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Sudan Protesters, Military Council Resume Talks
Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 13 May, 2019/Sudanese protest organizers and the ruling military council resumed on Monday efforts to find common ground on forming a transitional government. Shams al-Deen al-Kabashi, a spokesman for the military council, said the meeting — the first in over a week — is being held "in a more optimistic atmosphere." The protesters are represented by the Alliance for the Declaration of Freedom and Change, a coalition of protest organizers and opposition and rebel groups. The army overthrew longtime president Omar al-Bashir from power in April after months of anti-government popular protests and set up a transitional military council. The protesters and council are divided over what role the military, dominated by Bashir appointees, should play in the transitional period. The protesters demand a full transfer of power to a civilian government during this time. The military seeks a two-year transitional period during which army generals would retain most of the power. Late last month, the Alliance handed the generals its proposals for a civilian-led transition. But the generals have expressed "many reservations" over the coalition’s roadmap.

Iran Sentences Woman to Jail for ‘Spying’ for Britain

Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 13 May, 2019/Tehran sentenced on Monday an Iranian woman to ten years in jail for spying for Britain. “An Iranian who was in charge of Iran desk in the British Council and was cooperating with Britain’s intelligence agency... was sentenced to 10 years in prison after clear confessions,” Gholamhossein Esmaili, a judiciary spokesman, said on the state television. Esmaili said the woman was in charge of projects for “cultural infiltration” in Iran. He did not identify her, but said she was a student in Britain before being recruited by the British Council. Esmaili said the woman had been in custody for almost a year. He did not specify whether she held British nationality. The British Foreign Office did not immediately respond to a Reuters email requesting comment. The British Council is Britain’s cultural agency overseas. The arrest of Iranians accused of espionage has increased since supreme leader Ali Khamenei said last year there had been “infiltration” of Western agents in the country. A British-Iranian woman held in Tehran, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, is serving a five-year prison sentence for allegedly planning the "soft toppling" of Iran's government while traveling with her young daughter. Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for the charity arm of Thomson Reuters, was arrested in April 2016. Her sentence has been widely criticized.Iran does not recognize dual nationality.

Paris Discusses with Baghdad Fate of French ISIS Militants

Baghdad - Hamza Mustafa/Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 13 May, 2019/France's Ambassador to Iraq, Bruno Aubert, has discussed with head of Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council Judge Faiq Zaidan the fate of French ISIS members.
Aubert and Zaidan discussed efforts to strike a judicial agreement between Iraq and France, a Council statement said. In February, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) handed over to the Iraqi authorities 14 French nationals accused of fighting for ISIS. Iraqi President Barham Salih later announced that they will be tried in Iraq in accordance with the Iraqi law. “Aubert discussed with Zaidan the issue of the 14 Frenchmen arrested by the Iraqi authorities in an intelligence operation,” an official familiar with the matter told Asharq Al-Awsat. The official, who asked not to be identified, said the suspects are being prosecuted in Iraq because the crimes they have committed fall under the jurisdiction of Iraqi courts. He explained that France wants to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Iraqi government to repatriate the militants. “Iraq’s Penal Code has defined mechanisms for dealing with crime and its perpetrators, both in Iraq and abroad,” legal expert Ahmed Abadi told Asharq Al-Awsat. “Iraq has no jurisdiction over crimes committed outside its territories, except for ISIS militants,” he said, explaining that the crimes committed by such extremists has repercussions on Iraq’s national security. Iraqi ISIS members are subject to Iraqi law whether they committed their crimes in Iraq or Syria, Abadi added. However, he noted that foreigners, who have not been accused of terror-related crimes, cannot be prosecuted by Iraq unless they commit a crime inside the country. Separately, the Iraqi ministry of interior declared that federal police discovered an ISIS hideout in Kirkuk’s southern village of Khzefiya where they found 42 rockets. Leader of Al-Wataniya Coalition Iyad Allawi warned that ISIS has started to follow new tactics since the collapse of its so-called "caliphate." He said he has previously warned of the militants’ insurgency campaign. Allawi also expressed regret that Iraq continues to have an environment that is incapable of uprooting terrorism.

MSP Head Blasts Attempts to Remove Algeria’s Army Chief From Power

Algiers- Boualam Ghimrasah/Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 13 May, 2019/President of Algeria’s Movement for the Society of Peace (MSP) Abderrazak Makri blasted the country’s extremist seculars who are vying for full control over the country’s military command. Makri said that a group of secular elitists was working to remove Army Chief Ahmed Gaid Salah from power for his Arab nationalist orientation. On 26 March 2019, following anti-regime protests, Salah called for President Bouteflika to be declared unfit for office, a move which succeeded in removing him from power. Speaking at an MSP-endorsed Ramadan dinner, Makri said: “The movement (MSP) has long fought against Bouteflika’s reign and regime stalwarts who took over governing when the former was ill. We fought against the mafia-run economy they oversaw and for a true democratic transition.” Lauding popular will for marching onwards with the country and away from internal corruption, Makri said three goals have been set in motion, one of which already achieved. “The first goal, he said, was to stop Bouteflika from ruling for a fifth mandate,” Makri said, adding that “the second step is to bring down the band running a mafia economy in Algeria.” On the fight against institutional corruption, Algerian police have arrested Said Bouteflika, the youngest brother of the former president, and two former intelligence chiefs, Generals Bachir Athmane Tartag and Mohamed Mediene. Those three were believed to be responsible for the country’s decision-making process during the time Bouteflika was too sick to rule. Algeria’s corrupt but wealthy top brass are believed to have made insane fortunes off being close to the ruling Bouteflika family. As for the third goal, which is yet to be achieved, Makri said: “It is a true democratic transition.”“Innocent ordinary civilians who walk in protests without a political ax to grind will achieve this goal,” he stressed.

Clashes in Northwest Syria Kill More than 40 Fighters
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 13/19/Clashes on the edge of a jihadist bastion in northwestern Syria have killed at least 42 fighters in 24 hours, a monitor said Monday, after regime bombardment on the region devastated health services. The northwestern region has come under increasing fire by the regime and its ally Russia in recent weeks, despite a months-old buffer zone deal intended to shield it from any government offensive. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), Syria's former al-Qaida affiliate, controls most of Idlib province as well as parts of neighbouring Aleppo, Hama and Latakia provinces. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 16 loyalists and 19 jihadists died from Sunday to Monday in clashes in the area of Jabal al-Akrad in Latakia province, which lies on the bastion's northwestern edge. Russian and regime aircraft bombarded the area on Monday, while they also hit southern parts of the jihadist stronghold, said the Britain-based war monitor. Russian air strikes hit a branch of the White Helmets rescue volunteers in the town of Kafranbel, rendering it unable to operate, the Observatory and a rescue worker said. At the White Helmets facility, an AFP correspondent saw a concrete roof had collapsed in on a bulldozer and other vehicles, and the ground was covered with rubble. "Two high-explosive missiles hit the centre" just minutes after its personnel had headed out to the site of strikes in a nearby village, Oneida Zikra, the civil defence chief for the area, told AFP. To the south, rocket fire killed one child in the regime-held town of Suqaylabiyah in Hama province, the Observatory and the state news agency SANA said. HTS and its allies launched a counter-attack late Monday, bombing areas in the north of the province and sparking fierce clashes on the ground, according to the Observatory.
'Brutal offensive'
Idlib's three million inhabitants are supposed to be protected from a massive regime assault by a September buffer zone deal signed by Russia and rebel backer Turkey. But an uptick in air strikes and shelling displaced 180,000 people between April 29 and May 9 alone, the United Nations says. The Observatory says 119 civilians have been killed in the bombardment since late April. On Monday, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said 18 health facilities had been knocked out of service in a little over a fortnight, two of them hit twice. "Attacks on health facilities in northwest Syria continue to exact a devastating toll on the civilian population," said OCHA spokesman for Syria David Swanson. "Such violence is appalling. Hospitals are and must remain a place of sanctuary and unequivocal neutrality," he told AFP. U.N.-linked aid groups on Saturday said they had suspended activities in parts of the region, as the violence has jeopardised the safety of humanitarian workers. In a filmed interview released on Sunday night, HTS chief Abu Mohammad al-Jolani urged supporters to "take up weapons" to defend Idlib. The spike in violence signalled "the death of all previous agreements and conferences," he said. In a joint statement on Monday, Britain, France and Germany said the military escalation in northwestern Syria "must stop." "The current brutal offensive by the Syrian regime and its backers on millions of civilians living in the area is not about fighting terrorism. It is about pushing forward the ruthless reconquest by the regime," they said. Damascus has not announced a wide offensive, but analysts believe there could be a limited military operation. The civil war in Syria has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started with the brutal repression of anti-government protests in 2011.

After Caliphate's Fall, ISIS Militants Still Spread Fear

/Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 13 May, 2019
London- Asharq Al-Awsat/Monday, 13 May, 2019/It was a chilly January evening, and Khadija Abd and her family had just finished supper at their farm when the two men with guns burst into the room. One wore civilian clothes, the other an army uniform. They said they were from the Iraqi army's 20th Division, which controls the northern Iraqi town of Badoush. In fact, they were ISIS group militants who had come down from the surrounding mountains into Badoush with one thing on their mind: Revenge. Around 13 more gunmen were waiting outside. The fighters pulled Khadija's husband and his two brothers into the yard and shot them dead, leaving them in a pool of blood - punishment for providing information to the Iraqi military.
"How can we live after this?" Khadija said. The three brothers were the providers for the entire family. "They left their children, their livestock, their wives, and their elderly father who doesn't know what to do now."
A year and a half after the ISIS group was declared defeated in Iraq, the militants still evoke fear in the lands of their former so-called caliphate across northern Iraq. The fighters, hiding in caves and mountains, emerge at night to carry out kidnappings, killings and roadside ambushes, aimed at intimidating locals, silencing informants and restoring the extortion rackets that financed ISIS' rise to power six years ago.
It is part of a hidden but relentless fight between the group's remnants waging an insurgency and security forces trying to stamp them out, relying on intelligence operations, raids, and searches for sleeper cells among the population.
The militants' ranks number between 5,000 and 7,000 fighters around Iraq, according to one Iraqi intelligence official.
"Although the territory once held by the so-called caliphate is fully liberated, Daesh fighters still exhibit their intention to exert influence and stage a comeback," said Maj. Gen. Chad Franks, deputy commander-operations and intelligence for the US-led coalition, using the Arabic acronym for the group.
In towns around the north, Iraqi soldiers knock on doors in the middle of the night, looking for suspects, based on intelligence tips or suspicious movements. They search houses and pull people away for questioning.
Anyone is seen as a potential ISIS collaborator or sympathizer. In February, Human Rights Watch accused authorities of torturing suspects to extract confessions of belonging to ISIS, an accusation the Interior Ministry has denied. Detainees are pushed by the thousands into what critics call sham trials, with swift verdicts - almost always guilty - based on almost no evidence beyond confessions or unaccountable informants ' testimony. The legacy of guilt weighs heavily especially on women and children, who face crushing discrimination because of male relatives seen as supporting ISIS.
AP journalists embedded with a battalion of the 20th Division last month and witnessed several of its raids at Badoush.
Badoush, on the Tigris River just outside the city of Mosul, is a key battleground because it was once one of the most diehard ISIS strongholds.
In the summer of 2014, it was a launching pad for the militants' blitz that overran Mosul and much of northern Iraq. ISIS built a strong financial base by extorting money from the owners of Badoush's many industrial facilities. Security officials estimate two-thirds of its population - which numbered around 25,000 before the war - were at one point members or supporters of the group.
Now the population is divided. Residents who suffered at the hands of ISIS or lost loved ones to the group are suspicious of neighbors they believe still support the militants. Within families, some members belonged to the group and others opposed it. The Badoush area alone has seen 20 ISIS attacks, from bombings to targeted killings, since it was retaken from the militants in March 2017, according to the Kurdish Security Council. The militants brag about the attacks in videos that show fighters storming houses and killing purported "apostates" and spies.
"The operations that we do now rely on intelligence by following up the families of Daesh," said Maj. Khalid Abdullah Baidar al-Jabouri, commander of a battalion in the 20th Division, speaking at his base just outside Badoush.
Distrust runs deep among the residents.
In one raid witnessed by the AP, troops banged on the door of a man who had returned to Badoush a day earlier. He had fled town just before the ISIS takeover in the summer of 2014 and stayed in the Kurdish town of Sulaimaniyah throughout their rule. But his father and one of his brothers remained and joined ISIS. When the man returned, a local sheikh immediately notified the military. In the raid, the soldiers searched the house and checked his phone records for any suspicious calls abroad. They asked him about his father and brother. "I swear, they destroyed my life," the man said. When asked about ISIS, he insisted, "I never came face to face with them." The soldiers took him away for questioning, as his three little sisters shook and cried with fear. He was later released. On another occasion, an informant told the army he had spotted explosives-laden suicide belts in the mountains while out picnicking and looking for truffles. Presumably, they had been dropped off there for attackers to retrieve and use. Wearing a balaclava to keep his identity secret, he led the army to the spot, where they found the belts and detonated them remotely.
"People in the town are very cooperative," says Mohammed Fawzi, an intelligence officer. "But don't forget that in one house one person was with Daesh and another member was killed by them. It's very complicated."
Among the most chilling ISIS attacks was the Jan. 3 killing of the three Abd brothers, carried out with brutal precision. The strangers claiming to be soldiers who entered the Abd's house said they just wanted to ask a few questions and that it wouldn't take long.
Khadija Abd was immediately suspicious. Her husband, Inad Hussein Abd and two of his brothers, Abdulmuhsin and Mohammed, were informants for the Iraqi military and knew the 20th Division's soldiers personally. So why didn't they recognize these men?
After searching the house, the intruders turned aggressive. They dragged the three brothers outside and beat them. When Khadija tried to stop them, she was beaten too. The fighters put her, the other wives on the farm and their children in a room and told them, "If anyone comes out, we shoot you in the forehead."Khadija could hear the men murmuring outside until 10 p.m. in a dialect of Arabic she couldn't understand. Then it was silent. All they heard was the barking of dogs. Khadija thought the men had taken the three brothers away.
At dawn, she went to get water from the well. She spotted her husband's yellow sleeve in the grass. All three brothers lay on the blood-soaked ground. The militants had used silencers, so the family never heard the gunshots.
Instinctively, she looked for a mobile to call for help. "Honestly, I couldn't even cry. I didn't cry or scream," she said. Memories of the attack return to Khadija in her dreams - how her daughters screamed "Dad! Dad!" when they saw his body, how one tried to pull out a bullet out of her dead father's cheek. "Mom, it won't come out," she told Khadija. Her son is now too afraid to leave his room. To the children, it's the army that killed their father, she said. "They don't understand anything that's going on."

Latest LCCC English analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 13-14/19
"I Don't Know Why They Attacked Our Village": Persecution of Christians In February 2019"
ريموند إبراهيم: تقارير موثقة لشهر شباط 2019 تحكي أضطهاد المسيحيين في عدة دول /لا أدري لماذا هاجموا قريتي يقول رجل مسيحي مستغرباً
Raymond Ibrahim/Gatestone Institute/May 12, 2019

*February witnessed a significant increase of state-sanctioned persecution of Christians in Iran. In the city of Rasht (pictured), nine Christians were arrested. One of them, a pastor who took over after his predecessor was arrested, was himself arrested on February 10 during church service.
During just the first two weeks of February, "[a]t least 10 incidents of vandalism and desecration of Catholic churches have been reported in France." —, February 15, 2019; France.
"The attack was so terrible that Haroon's kidney was cut into two pieces" from the stabbings....After he was rushed to hospital, "doctors were forced to remove his kidney." As is common in such cases, police and local authorities tried to pressure the family not to press charges against the Muslim youths.... —; International Christian Concern; February 21, 2019; Pakistan.
"A group of kidnappers meets in a mosque to discuss potential victims. They keep a close eye on Christians' houses and monitor everything that's going on. On that basis, they weave a spider's web around [the girls].... I remember a Coptic Christian girl from a rich, well-known family in Minya. She was kidnapped by five Muslim men. They held her in a house, stripped her and filmed her naked. In the video, one of them also undressed. They threatened to make the video public if the girl wouldn't marry him.... The kidnappers receive large amounts of money. Police can help them in different ways, and when they do, they might also receive a part of the financial reward the kidnappers are paid by the Islamisation organisations." — Testimony by "G",, February 19, 2019, Egypt.
February witnessed a significant increase of state-sanctioned persecution of Christians in Iran. In the city of Rasht, nine Christians were arrested. One of them, a pastor who took over after his predecessor was arrested, was himself arrested on February 10 during church service.
Massacres of Christians
Nigeria: A number of fatal Islamic terror attacks targeting Christians occurred throughout February:
February 10: Muslim Fulani herdsmen killed 10 Christians and an unborn child. Armed herdsmen in large numbers had surrounded the Christian village around 11 p.m. the night before. "We heard gun shots, and this forced me and my family to remain in our bedrooms as it was difficult for us to run out of the house," said one survivor. "The Fulani gunmen surrounded our house and were shooting and shouting, 'Allahu akbar' ['Allah is greatest']. They killed my father, mother, two brothers, and one of my sisters-in-law." The attack came as a complete surprise, even for the village head: "We have never had any misunderstanding with the Fulani herdsmen, so I don't know why they attacked our village," he said. "Ten members of my community, including a pregnant woman, were killed during the attack, thus making the unborn child to be the eleventh victim."
February 12: In the northeast, Boko Haram jihadis invaded four Christian communities, killing several Christians and displacing many others. "I saw a man who I know to be a Christian and a member of the Church of the Brethren in Shuwa, my home town, shot to death," said one eyewitness. "Also, Bulama, a community leader in Madagali, was shot dead alongside many Christians."
February 26: Muslim Fulani herdsmen slaughtered at least 32 people in Maro, a Christian village in north-central Nigeria. Churches were also damaged and a boarding school shut down. "We ran out of the church building as the shooting was going on," said a woman who was in a Bible study class when the raid began. "Many have been killed, and I have not seen my family members since morning. I have escaped out of the area." Another local Christian said, "The armed herdsmen are shooting anyone they see and are setting fire on houses and church buildings."
Reported on February 25: Muslim herdsmen attacked a Christian wedding celebration, killing 12 people. "From behind the hill overlooking this village emerged armed Fulani herdsmen who shot indiscriminately at Christians from various churches here at the venue of the feast," said one local. "Twelve Christians who are members of various churches were shot dead instantly, while another five Christians were injured." Six of those murdered were children.Burkina Faso: Muslim terrorists slaughtered a 72-year-old Christian missionary in the Muslim-majority African nation. According to the report, "Antonio Cesar Fernandez was travelling with two colleagues from Togo back to their community in the capital Ouagadougou when a group of jihadists stopped their car. After searching the vehicle they made the 72-year get out and took him to a forested area. A few minutes later there was the sound of shots." Fernandez had been a missionary in Africa since 1982.
Attacks on Churches
Ethiopia: Angry Muslim mobs attacked ten Christian churches. "The incensed crowds comprising Muslim residents of all ages from across the town made their way to the churches chanting 'Allahu Akbar' after being given false information that a mosque in the surrounding countryside had been fire-bombed," said a local. "The contents of all the churches were removed from the buildings and set on fire on the street." According to the report:
"One of the attacked churches, Meserete Kristos Church, has since been vandalized again, and area Christians have faced intimidation and threats... While Kale Hiwot Galeto church building was destroyed in the Feb. 9 attack, aid workers believe the other nine church buildings were not set ablaze only because of the risk to neighboring Muslim-owned properties. Municipal police were present during almost every attack but took no action.... More than 9,900 worshippers are estimated to attend the 10 churches. A small number of Christians sustained minor injuries and returned home after receiving hospital treatment, including two that were more seriously injured... Huge amounts of property were destroyed, including Bibles, song books, instruments, benches and chairs...."
France: During just the first two weeks of February, "[a]t least 10 incidents of vandalism and desecration of Catholic churches have been reported in France," notes a February 15 report. "Vandals in Catholic churches throughout the country have smashed statues, knocked down tabernacles, scattered or destroyed the Eucharist, burnt altar cloths and torn down crosses, among other acts of desecration of religious items." The St. Nicholas Catholic Church in Houilles was vandalized on three separate occasions in February; a 19th century statue of the Virgin Mary deemed "irreparable" was "completely pulverized," said a clergyman, and a hanging cross was thrown to the floor. Vandals also desecrated and smashed crosses and statues at Saint-Alain Cathedral in Lavaur; they mangled the arms of a crucified Christ in a mocking manner; an altar cloth was burned. "God will forgive. Not me," the city's mayor said. The next day, Vandals plundered and used human excrement to draw a cross on the Notre-Dame des Enfants Church in Nimes; consecrated bread was found thrown outside in the garbage. According to Father Emmanuel Pic from Notre-Dame parish, "Nothing of value has been broken, but it is the intent that is very shocking. This is what characterizes profanation." The Observatory on Intolerance and Discrimination against Christians in Europe added that "It is our sincere hope that the perpetrators are brought to justice and that awareness of increasing anti-Christian hostility in France reaches the public square."
Turkey: On Sunday, February 23, threatening graffiti messages were found on the main entrance door of the Armenian Church of the Holy Mother of God in Istanbul. The Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople said in a statement that, "There were written racist and hate speeches in both English and Arabic [saying] you are finished!" One Armenian writer shared images of the vandalism on Twitter. He wrote, "The walls and the door of the Balat Surp Armenian Church. We built its entrance with rocks from the historical church in İznik [Nicaea], where the council met [Council of Nicaea, 325].... Now they say, 'YOU ARE FINISHED.' There are no local [Armenian] people left. The 'New Turkey!'" Commenting on this latest church attack, an Armenian Member of Parliament, tweeted:"Every year, scores of hate attacks are being carried out against churches and synagogues. Not just the perpetrators, but also the people who are behind them, should be addressed. For the most important part, the politics that produce hate should be ended."
Egypt: Due to the closure of their church in December 2018, Coptic Christians held their third funeral in the middle of the street in February. They had long tried to get the necessary permits to register their unofficial church, to no avail. According to the report:
"The village currently has no church, but there are approximately 2500 Coptic Christians living there... The police had closed the church in order to pacify the Islamists, who used a nearby mosque's microphone to rally Muslim villagers against the Christians.... Unfortunately, the situation in Kom al-Raheb is commonplace throughout Egypt. Police frequently cave to the demands of hardline Islamists instead of protecting the right of Christians to freely practice their faith. When churches are closed, Christians are left to worship and hold rites (such as funerals) in the street."
Attacks on Apostates, Blasphemers, and Evangelists
Kenya: Muslim men beat and raped a Christian woman and mother of four for leaving Islam. The 41-year-old woman became a secret Christian in 2017; in 2018, however, the threats began, after Somali Muslims saw her at a church: "We have known that you are a Christian, and one of us saw you come out of a church on Sunday," read one message. "If you continue attending the church, then we shall come for your head soon." She and her four children, who had also converted to Christianity, quickly relocated. Then, on January 2, four Somali Muslims forced their way into the Christian family's home:
"I was beaten and then raped by four men who threatened me, telling me not to say anything about the ordeal that I went through. As they left the house at 1 a.m., one of them said, 'We could have killed you for being a disgrace to Islam and joining Christianity, which is against our religion, but since you are a single mother, we have decided to spare your life with the condition that you should not mention our names.'"
Pakistan: On February 19, four Christian women were falsely accused of blasphemy, prompting "enraged Muslims" to riot and dislocate approximately 200 Christian families from the village. Problems began when a Christian landlord asked a Muslim couple to leave, because they had been "causing trouble among the Christian families in the community," to quote locals. In retaliation, the Muslim wife accused four Christian women — three of whom were the landlord's daughters — of desecrating a Koran. "As news of the accusation spread, a mob of enraged Muslims gathered ... and attacked several Christian properties, including [the landlord's] house and a nearby church. The mob killed pets, livestock, and damaged several Christian homes by stoning them." Soon after a police investigation began, "it was revealed that Samina Riaz [the Muslim accuser] borrowed a copy of the Quran from Khalid Khan, a nearby shopkeeper," explained a local involved with the case. "When she reached home, she threw it into a water tub in the restroom. She purposely alleged the Christian women of desecrating the Holy Book of Islam." Even though Samina Riaz confessed to framing the Christians, "members of the mob are still refusing to allow Christians to open their churches," says the report.
Meanwhile, Asia Bibi, a Christian mother who was in prison -- and on death row -- for nearly a decade, was finally acquitted in late 2018. However, apparently to placate tens of thousands of angry Muslims who rioted and protested all throughout Pakistan, authorities still kept her a prisoner. In a February 9 report, which until very recently contained the latest information concerning Asia's whereabouts, AP quoted a human rights campaigner in contact with her: he said the government had her and her husband locked in a single room where "the door opens at food time only." She was permitted to make phone calls in the morning and at night, usually to her daughters. "She has no indication of when she will leave.... They are not telling her why she cannot leave." Because many Muslims have vowed to kill her, "At the moment, she has security, but she could face problems any moment, any time, and it could happen very quickly," said the contact. On May 8, it was reported that Bibi had finally left Pakistan and was at long last reunited with her family in Canada.
Ethiopia: "An Ethiopian police officer was arrested, dismissed and forced to move to another part of the country after he told colleagues about his Christian faith," states a report. The 25-year-old man, using the pseudonym of Adane, grew up in Ethiopia's eastern Somali region, which is "nearly 100 percent Muslim." Although he became Christian two years ago, problems for him began when another policeman "recently filed a complaint against him with the Somali State Human Rights Office. He had been heard talking about his newly found Christian faith while in uniform." The deputy chairman of the Human Rights Office, an ethnic Somali himself, was reportedly "greatly surprised to discover that there actually was a Christian within the tribe." He "advised Adane to return to Islam. Adane refused, claiming a constitutional right to religious freedom. He was then arrested. Following intervention by the Human Rights Office-chairman, Adane was released, only to find he had been dismissed from the police force. The chairman advised Adane to relocate to another area because he had made too many enemies locally..."
Iran: February witnessed a significant increase of state-sanctioned persecution of Christians. In the city of Rasht, nine Christians were arrested and detained. One of them, a pastor who took over after his predecessor was arrested, was himself arrested on February 10 during church service. Although Rasht has had its fair share of persecution — at least three Christians from there recently received a sentence of 80 lashes — "[t]he past month represents the heaviest wave of publicly known arrests in Rasht within the last three years," says the report. "It is the policy of the Islamic government not to put thousands of Christians in jail," explained Dr. Hormoz Shariat, a human rights activist. "Their policy is to arrest a few and put maximum sentence on minor offenses [such as holding church meetings in a home]. They then publicize it in order to put fear in the hearts of Christians. Their strategy is causing fear and isolation."
In another incident reported on February 1, five women, former Muslims who had converted to Christianity, were arrested. One of the women, a 65-year-old, was arrested in her home. According to the report:
"Authorities confiscated several of her personal items, including electronics and Christian materials (such as Bibles), while searching her residence. She was detained for ten days and interrogated during that time. She was temporarily released after paying a bail of 30 million Toman [$600]. However, she was later charged with 'acting against national security.' The prosecutor forced her to visit an Islamic religious leader who offered her the opportunity to return back to Islam."
Another of the apostate women faced the charge of "disturbing public order, propagating Christianity, and connecting with foreign entities." If convicted, all these Christians could face up to ten years in prison.
Tajikistan: New amendments to the Muslim majority nation's religion law are being used to exercise tighter control over its small Christian community. As one February 25 report explains, "Tajik authorities implementing a new religion law are barring children from attending religious [church] services and have burned [five] thousands of calendars with Bible verses."
Hostility for and Violence against Christians
Germany: On February 15, "in the multicultural district of Berlin Neukölln, a Christian man from Iraq was hit in the face by a Muslim ... and threatened with a knife because of a Christian tattoo," said a February 17 report (in translation). Two men approached the 27-year-old Iraqi Christian, "on account of his religious tattoo," and demanded money. "He did not comply with this request, whereupon one of the unknown [men] held him and the other hit him several times in the face," while drawing a knife. The Christian man eventually managed to escape. One of the two assailants was arrested. According to the police report, "The arrested person claims to be of Muslim faith."
Pakistan: Muslim students stabbed and nearly murdered a Christian student in Karachi. Problems for the youth, Haroon Ifhan, began on February 15, when he reported to the school's headmaster that his classmate, Muhammad Majid, had stolen and damaged his notebook. "[W]hen the notebook was recovered from Majid's backpack, he got angry and felt insulted," said Haroon's father. Two days later, on Sunday, February 17, "When Haroon was alone on the road, Majid and five others beat Haroon," explained the father. "The attack was so terrible that Haroon's kidney was cut into two pieces" from the stabbings, added a local activist. After he was rushed to hospital, "doctors were forced to remove his kidney." As is common in such cases, police and local authorities tried to pressure the family not to press charges against the Muslim youths, but the family insists that "We want justice," even at the risk of their own lives.
In a different incident, a district council in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province unanimously voted to employ only Christians as hospital sweepers, thereby "reinforcing a stereotype that views Christians as second class citizens," notes the report.
"The members of the Swabi District Council adopted the measure unanimously and demanded that all Muslims currently posted as sweepers be transferred to other jobs, such as guards.... Due to widespread religious discrimination, Pakistani Christians are often treated as second class citizens. For many Muslims in Pakistan, Christians are considered spiritually polluted and untouchable because of the religion that they follow. In the professional setting, this discriminatory status relegates Christians to menial and dirty jobs.... Although Christians only make up only 2% of Pakistan's total population, they represent 80% of Pakistan's sweepers and sewer workers."
Egypt: Islamic terrorists abducted another Christian man in the Sinai city of El Arish. The man was travelling by bus when, according to a February 6 report, "gunmen stopped the bus ... and examined the identity cards of everyone on board looking for members of the police or military. When they found the Christian's ID card they carried him off the bus and let it depart. The man's family said he had already been forced to flee El Arish in February 2017, along with 355 other Christian families, after terrorists linked to IS (Islamic State) executed seven Christians in the city in less than a month. He was returning there on personal business matters." It is believed that the man has since been killed. A similar incident occurred in 2018, when another Christian, who had fled El Arish in 2017, returned on business only to be gunned down by masked militants. In February that year ISIS-linked terrorists issued a threat to slaughter all Christians found in Sinai.
In a separate incident, an 18-year old Christian girl living south of Luxor was reported missing. Her family accused a local Muslim man of kidnapping her. Other local Christians and they gathered in front of the police station to protest her disappearance, with no result. The disappearance of Christian girls is a growing epidemic in Egypt. In 2017, an ex-kidnapper explained the systematic process of how Christian girls are targeted for abduction, forced conversions and "marriages" to Muslims. According to the report, the man, known only as "G," "admits he was in a network actively targeting Coptic girls for years before he left Islam." Although such networks have been around since the 1970s, they have reached their "highest levels now, in the era of President Sisi," he said. A portion of his testimony follows: "A group of kidnappers meets in a mosque to discuss potential victims. They keep a close eye on Christians' houses and monitor everything that's going on. On that basis, they weave a spider's web around [the girls].... I remember a Coptic Christian girl from a rich, well-known family in Minya. She was kidnapped by five Muslim men. They held her in a house, stripped her and filmed her naked. In the video, one of them also undressed. They threatened to make the video public if the girl wouldn't marry him.... The kidnappers receive large amounts of money. Police can help them in different ways, and when they do, they might also receive a part of the financial reward the kidnappers are paid by the Islamisation organisations. In some cases, police provide the kidnappers with drugs they seize. The drugs are then given to the girls to weaken their resistance as they put them under pressure. I even know of cases in which police offered helped to beat up the girls to make them recite the Islamic creed. And the value of the reward increases whenever the girl has a position. For example, when she is the daughter of a priest or comes from a well-known family.... The Salafist group I knew rented apartments in different areas of Egypt to hide kidnapped Coptic. There, they put them under pressure and threaten them to convert to Islam. And once they reach the legal age, a specially arranged Islamic representative comes in to make the conversion official, issue a certificate and accordingly they change their ID.... If all goes to plan, the girls are also forced into marriage with a strict Muslim. Their husbands don't love them, they just marry her to make her a Muslim. She will be hit and humiliated. And if she tries to escape, or convert back to her original religion, she will be killed."
Indonesia: In a February 6 interview, "Santoso," a Christian, discussed the negative evolution of Muslim-Christian interactions: "[I]n the last two years, we are now seeing that Islam, it's getting more radical and they try to make the politics combine with the religion," he said. "So they try to make their agenda. Like before they had [in] their agenda that in 2020 Indonesia [would be] becoming an Islamic country. But it's not happening, but they are still trying and getting bigger now, the Islamic radicalization in Indonesia." As one example, although Muslims used to wish Christians a Merry Christmas, "now many imams and other Islamic leaders in Indonesia discourage Muslims from acknowledging the holiday even in speech."
As another example of the growing hatred in Indonesia, a Muslim man who tried to bomb a church years ago, and was partially maimed for it, remains unrepentant: "I have no regrets for what happened," he said in a February interview. Eighteen years earlier, Taufik Abdul Halim and his jihadi colleagues tried to bomb several targets. One of his friends who was supposed to bomb a church backed out. "So I decided to deliver it myself," Halim said. "But the package exploded before it arrived at the intended target." The bomb, hidden in a Dunkin' Donuts box, exploded prematurely. It blew off part of Halim's right leg and injured six other people. Although he also ended up serving 12 years in prison, the February 2 report suggests that his experiences have done little to dampen his hate.
*Raymond Ibrahim, author of the new book, Sword and Scimitar, Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West, is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute and a Judith Rosen Friedman Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

Iran and the Difficulty of Dancing with Trump
Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al Awsat/May 13/2019
For four decades, the Iranian revolution danced with seven presidents who successively took over the decision-making in the land of the “Great Satan.” The trip was long, thorny and hectic. There have been exchanges of blows, punctuated by truces and negotiations: the sight of Americans being held hostage at their country’s embassy in Tehran, the bombing of the US Embassy in Beirut, and the rubble of the Marines headquarters in the Lebanese capital, not to forget the Iran-Contra scandal.
During this period, Tehran was able to employ major events in its favor. The 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon constituted an opportunity for the birth of Hezbollah. The overthrow of Saddam Hussein facilitated the empowering of militias that grew up in Iran and were used in defeating the US invasion. The withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon in the wake of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was an opportunity for Iran to become the top player in the Lebanese arena and a necessity for the retreating Syrian regime. The Yemeni “spring” provided an occasion for Iran to foster the Houthi coup, their capture of the Yemeni capital and its military arsenal.
Iran found an unprecedented opportunity under Barack Obama. It signed a nuclear agreement with six countries, including the United States, having succeeded in keeping its broad regional offensive outside the circle of discussion and negotiation.
The entry into force of the agreement allowed it to use the proceeds of the incoming money in the service of its attack, which it said has facilitated the annexation of four Arab capitals to the Iranian orbit.
It is wrong to believe that Iran can pursue with President Donald Trump the same dance that it performed with his six predecessors. Trump has changed the language of communication in America and abroad. At home, he changed his rhetoric with the other party and the media; and abroad, he is now speaking a different language with hostile, rival or allied countries.
This is why the repetition of the previous scenes is difficult and very unlikely, if not impossible. Is it possible, for example, to repeat the hostage crisis, if even in another country? Can an Iranian agent blow up a US embassy in the world and risk leaving his fingerprints there? Is it possible, for example, to assign an Iraqi faction to target the Tanf US air base with an Iranian missile or repeat the bombing of the US embassy in Beirut? It is unlikely to see these kind of scenes again. The reason is the Trump method and the difficulty of predicting his reactions and the extent to which he can go.
Since Trump took over power, Iran has lost its ability to make initiatives in the thorny relations. The administration has moved to the offensive as if it were seeking to correct the mistakes made in the previous administration. Trump’s exit from the nuclear deal signed by Obama was a major development, especially after it turned out that Iran could not seek refuge in European promises.
The American president went on to adopt progressive sanctions with the aim to snuff out Iranian oil exports. At the same time, Washington launched an unprecedented diplomatic campaign to convince the world that the problem with Tehran is not limited to its nuclear ambitions, but also includes its destabilizing behavior in the region through its missile program and the actions of the militias loyal to it. It even labeled it as the “first sponsor of terrorism in the world.”
The US attack was not just a media campaign to tarnish the image. Washington threw its economic weight in the battle and countries had to choose between dealing with Iran and preserving their economic relations with the United States. Experience has shown that many countries and major corporations prefer maintaining their ties with the world’s leading economy. Thus, the US actions against Iran led to a degree of international and regional isolation.
Amid reports that the American actions were painful this time, the recent US military mobilization entered the crisis at a more critical stage. Washington announced it had moved its military forces based on intelligence that Iran was preparing to target US interests.
The US move was very severe and was much felt by Iraqi officials when they received US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The latter conveyed stern messages that Washington would respond firmly to any targeting of its interests by Iran or its proxies. He also said his country would closely monitor Iran’s attempts to circumvent the sanctions, including the sale of its oil, claiming it was Iraqi oil.
In its show of force against Iran, the Trump administration stressed that it was not seeking war. It also said that its policy was not aimed at overthrowing the regime, but at pushing Tehran to change its behavior.
Trump explained that he was ready to sit at the table with Iran if it was prepared to do so. He left the telephone number of the White House with Switzerland. The Swiss Embassy in Tehran has been sponsoring US interests in Iran since the breakup of diplomatic relations between the two countries in 1979.
Tension between the US and Iran is nothing new. What is new is the recognition by Tehran that US sanctions are indeed painful. Let’s set aside the threats from Iranian officials that US naval vessels would be an easy target for Iranian missiles in the event of a conflict. What is also new is that Trump cannot back down if Iran harasses his troops. A move of this kind will harm his image and chances for a second term if it is not met by a strict disciplinary response.
Iran lost the keys to the initiative in the crisis. The sanctions are painful. Inciting a dispute to reshuffle the papers seems dangerous. Waiting for the end of Trump’s mandate is costly, especially if US economic figures continue to boost his ambition for a second term.
But can we always regulate boiling crises? And what if there is an error that causes the escalation? What if a third party infiltrates the picture to light the fuse? And what would happen, for example, if we woke up one day to find that Israeli fighter jets have bombed Iranian nuclear reactors?
The Middle East lives on the beat of the “mother of crises”. It is not surprising that Iran feels the difficulty of dancing with Trump. China feels it too, after it managed to dance with his predecessors. The Chinese president is annoyed by the US instructions through Twitter. Beijing, however, is considering showing more flexibility to avoid a trade war that may plant thorns on the Silk Road.

The Turkish Lira and Political Crises

Marcus Ashworth/Bloomberg ViewMay 13/2019
Turkey’s central bank is again trying to shore up the lira. Its latest effort is unlikely to ease the pain for the worst-performing currency in emerging markets this quarter.
On Thursday, the monetary authority attempted to raise interest rates by the backdoor, suspending its one-week repo auctions and so making it costlier for commercial lenders to borrow money from the central bank.
But traders who had been caught out when the bank tried the same maneuver just before the country’s March 31 municipal elections were this time prepared, and had largely covered their funding needs. This explains the lira’s muted gain on Thursday. By early afternoon, the currency had risen by only 0.8 percent against the dollar. The daily auctions of one-week money are the central bank's main way of providing the financial system with liquidity. By stopping them, policymakers risk driving short-term borrowing costs skyward as banks race to secure funding.
That’s exactly what happened last month, when overnight rates soared to as much as 1,300 percent at one point. Then, the central bank was forced to resume the auctions to regain a semblance of order. Unless it does the same again by the end of next week, rates are almost certain to move inexorably higher again. Jamming up the money markets is no way to revive confidence in a financial system already reeling from the country’s political turmoil. Inevitably, the main loser will be the currency, which will further undermine the allure of Turkey for investors.
In April, the impact on the currency was limited to a brief two-week rally – after which all the gains were unwound and more. This time is likely to be no different. Liquidity still hasn’t returned to Turkish markets. Investors are wary the government could, as it did last month, stop the country’s banks from offering any form of liquidity to non-domestic clients, effectively trapping foreign investors’ holdings.
If the central bank wants to make a real impact on the lira, it needs to raise its benchmark rate and show it is willing to tackle the country’s spiraling inflation. That looks unlikely, at least for now. Last month, the monetary policy committee removed a commitment to raise rates again from its statement. At an April 30 press conference, Governor Murat Cetinkaya was forced to insist another hike was still possible. The currency’s subsequent weakening suggests investors take a different view. Until policymakers stop meddling in money markets and start raising benchmark rates, the lira looks set to return to the depths it plumbed during last year’s political crisis.

Banned from Facebook? A Polish Court May Help
Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg ViewMay 13/2019
Facebook is often criticized for not doing enough to police its platform for hate speech. But the opposite has also been a problem: Mark Zuckerberg’s company uses rather vague “community standards” as the basis for decision to remove users and posts. It doesn’t feel compelled to explain exactly how it applies them, either. Now, a Polish court may decide it should. When Facebook banned Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopoulos, Louis Farrakhan, Laura Loomer and others last week, all it said was that “the process for evaluating potential violators is extensive and it is what led us to our decision.” The prominent right-wingers with huge audiences on the Facebook-owned platforms didn’t, in other words, get much in the way of explanation. Those banned from Facebook and Instagram last week might take a look at Poland, where a local non-governmental organization is suing Facebook for removing its page. The Polish nonprofit, called the Civil Society Drug Policy Initiative and known by the Polish abbreviation SIN for short, filed suit against Facebook’s European arm in the Warsaw District Court last week. At least in Europe, the case may help set up more transparent procedures for banning content and its creators from social networks.
The group specializes in “harm reduction,” an approach to fixing drug-related social problems in part by removing the stigma from drug use and respecting users’ rights. It may be controversially soft on drug users, but the approach has been backed by the United Nations and influential private donors and is by no means illegal.
SIN says Facebook shut down its page last year without explaining what rules it had broken; the organization used the social network’s appeal procedure but the ban was upheld, again without a clear explanation – just like in the case of US right-wingers who were kicked off.
Poland is a country with a right-wing, nationalist government, and the ruling Law and Justice Party has long grumbled about US-based social networks’ banning practices. Like those in the US who were banned, its members see a liberal bias in the platforms’ policies. In 2017, the country's Digital Affairs Ministry drafted a bill that would make the social networks liable for “over-removal” of content, but the bill never made it to parliament, derailed by a ministry reorganization. Panoptykon’s approach, however, is distinct from the right-wing criticism: It’s trying to stress the nonpartisan nature of the “private censorship” issue by backing the drug policy nonprofit’s case.
Panoptykon lawyer Dorota Glowacka argues that though social media companies are, in principle, free to kick people and organizations off their networks on the basis of their terms of service, Facebook, because of its global dominance and huge number of users, doesn’t enjoy full discretion in this area. It should, Glowacka says, “observe human rights standards” – and its freedom to withhold access to its private forum should be limited because users have so few viable alternatives.
This line of attack skirts an issue long debated by Facebook and its critics -- whether the company is a tech platform for users’ free expression or a publisher with its own editorial policy. Publicly, Facebook says it’s a tech platform, which is supposed to absolve it of responsibility for what appears on it (and explain why it doesn’t pay for content). But in a US court case last year, its lawyers argued that it was a publisher and its decisions on what not to publish should be protected for that reason.
I’d be in favor of treating Facebook and its peers as publishers, holding them liable for content and getting them to pay news organizations for providing core material for debate on their platforms. But Panoptykon’s approach – effectively treating the massive social networks as public utilities – also has its advantages: If upheld by the courts, first in Poland and then on the European Union level, it would force the platforms to leave all lawful speech alone and stop taking down posts, profiles and pages simply because it feels like it, because a government objects to the content or because an interest group has put pressure on them with a flagging campaign.
SIN and Panoptykon want the platforms to issue reasoned statements explaining why they removed a certain post or account and who was responsible for the decision – a human or an algorithm. Platforms should only remove posts for violating specific rules, not entire accounts. And users, according to Panoptykon, should have recourse to courts when they want to appeal the networks’ decisions. These demands are largely in line with the so-called Santa Clara Principles, developed by a team of ethics and tech experts and backed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Trying, perhaps somewhat belatedly, to regulate the major tech platforms is turning into a national sport in many countries, especially European ones. So many conflicting demands are being made on them that it’s easy to see why they resist the efforts with all the legal firepower they’ve got.
It’s difficult to comply with demands that they, on the one hand, curb hate speech, political manipulation and the propaganda of violence – and, on the other hand, that they act as a free speech utility for which a takedown or a ban is a rare measure of last resort. But in a sense, it’s good to have the regulatory competition and all the different court cases in which the platforms are attacked from every possible angle.
Out of this chaos of adversity, clear definitions for the platforms’ functions, power, rights and obligations should emerge. The Polish case is one to watch for those who believe the recent bans of right-wingers were unfair. It’s an issue that should, ideally, be settled by the courts in the US, too.
The Qatari envoy Mohammed al-Emadi arrived at the Gaza Strip through the Erez Crossing and handed over $30 million to Hamas on Monday, and families are now being asked to check whether they received the $100 grant they deserve.
After the last round of fighting last week, the Qatari Foreign Ministry issued an official statement saying that Qatar would transfer $480 million in support of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
From the promised budget, Qatar will grant $300 million in grants and loans to support the Palestinian Authority and its health and education sectors. An additional $180 million will be transferred for urgent rescue and humanitarian assistance to residents of the Gaza Strip. Qatar also said that the additional $180 million was intended to support the United Nations programs in Palestine, support the electricity services in the Gaza Strip and ensure that the Palestinian people had access to various sectors
The transfer of funds from Qatar to the Palestinian Authority and the Gaza Strip takes place a week after Israel and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire.
The decision was made in the framework of understandings reached by the parties through intermediaries. Hamas and Israel reached a decision that the two sides would stop the fire, and that the previous agreements and understandings would be fulfilled, including the expansion of the fishing zone and the continued money transfer through the UN.

War with Iran forthcoming? Most experts say they don’t think so

Jerusalem Post/May 13/2019
WASHINGTON – It’s been an intense couple of weeks in the triangle of the United States, Iran and the European Union. The immediate trigger is the one-year mark since US President Donald Trump decided to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The Trump administration decided to use that anniversary to impose fresh sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
The Iranians, on the other hand, are trying to save their crumbling economy and gave the EU 60 days to save whatever is left from the original deal before they’ll cease to abide the agreement.
In between, the US sent a carrier group to the Middle East as a message to the Iranians, following intelligence about an Iranian intent to harm US interests in the region.
But what’s next? Is a war between the US and Iran on the horizon?
Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank in Washington, does not see a direct military confrontation as an option.
“H.R. McMaster said that, ‘There are two ways of fighting America: One is asymmetrically, and the other is stupid,’” he told The Jerusalem Post. “In other words, there’s only one way to fight the United States at this point. And that is through terrorism and insurgency. The idea that Iran would square off with the United States in a conventional conflict is not serious.”
He added that sending a carrier group to the Gulf is meant only to send a message.
“When [US] Ambassador [to Russia] Jon Huntsman talks about carrier groups, he calls them a hundred thousand tons of diplomacy,” Schanzer said. “When you put that in into play, it changes the way that your adversary is going to respond to you. They’re going to be more fearful, and that’s what we call leverage. The hope is that that’s what we’re talking about here, between the financial pressure and the deployment of force not to fight, but to influence, we could potentially start to see changes.”
Ilan Goldenberg, senior fellow and director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, expressed similar sentiments. He told the Post that the US should not expect an immediate crisis, but rather that Iran will once again take a slow-motion crawl toward a nuclear weapon.
“This is consistent with how they were before the JCPOA and how they have been for years - slowly, slowly, slowly making progress, while avoiding the worst consequences of the international community," he said.
According to Goldenberg, while the risk of military confrontation exists, it is overblown by the media.
"Fundamentally, nobody actually wants a direct military conflict," he said. "I think that Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu will be okay if the Americans lead the charge, and I think Trump would be okay if the Israelis lead the charge, but I don't think Netanyahu or Trump wants to be on their own in a major conflict like that. So that's the good news. The bad news is you can always have miscalculation."
“Nobody wants a war,” he continued. “it doesn't mean a war won't accidentally happen."
However, if there’s no war between the two countries, what’s the alternative? Is there any chance we could see the Iranian engaging in negotiations on a revised nuclear agreement with the Trump administration?
Last week, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) told the Post that this is the time to negotiate a new deal that would address the flaws of the original agreement.
“What is becoming an increasingly precarious situation can be turned into an opportunity,” he said. “I would turn [Iranian President Hassan] Rouhani’s words around, and say – ‘Okay, you want to be open to negotiation? We do too.’"
“So, those negotiations have to deal with the failures of the JCPOA,” he continued.
Schanzer thinks that the Iranians would join the table only if they believe they can get something out of it.
“When they engaged with the Obama administration, they got quite a lot,” he said. “With the Trump administration, they may be able to negotiate their survival, which may be just as important to them right now, given that they seem to be under quite a bit of pressure. It’s hard to imagine a fruitful negotiation right now, unless the Iranian regime is willing to change.”
Mike Pregent, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, feels differently. He thinks that now is not the time to negotiate a new deal.
“This is the most pressure this regime has been under for 40 years,” he told the Post. “This is the time to continue to put maximum pressure on Iran and watch what they do over the next 18 months. Every month, the United States will put new sanctions on individuals and entities of Iran."
According to Pregent, by the time the election happens, “whether Trump wins or not, the Democrat presidential candidate, if Trump doesn’t win, will have enough leverage with Iran to get a nuclear deal that could pass Congress. That can pass as a treaty because it will address ballistic missiles. It’ll address terrorism; it’ll address sunset clauses. It would address inspections, everything. This is not the right time.”
The question remains whether or not the EU will save the Iranian economy from the specter of hyperinflation and thereby save the nuclear deal. Pregent thinks that the EU will not volunteer to save Rouhani. He said Iran is making threats against Europe, calling on Europe to invest in the Iranian economy or Iran will step up its nuclear program.
“It’s such a stupid argument, because the last thing the Europeans are going to do is try to look weak,” said Pregent. “The last thing you want to do is give the United States in an argument that Iran is what we said they were. Now they’re saying we’re going to move towards a weaponized nuclear program that we denied we ever had. So it’s pathetic in a way.”
If Pregent is right in his assessment, and the EU does not rush to save the Iranian economy, that means that in 60 days we will see the end of the agreement as we know it. It is hard to predict what the future will look like, but it is clear that the Trump administration will not hesitate to confront the Iranians both with new sanctions and in the diplomatic arena. Whether it will push the Iranians back to the negotiating table or not, is yet to be seen.
But there is one expert who says that a war might be more likely than the others think.
Former US ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro said that with no agreement or negotiations, a military confrontation is more likely.
“If the JCPOA collapsed, you could have new negotiations, and try to get a better deal,” he said. “But there’s no evidence that Trump really has a concept of what that deal looks like."
“If it’s Pompeo’s 12 points, it’s essentially regime change,” Shapiro continued. “If it’s just a longer version of the JCPOA that includes missiles, it seems unlikely that they will be able to reach that kind of agreement when the Iranians think they can get maybe a better deal and wait for another administration in a year and a half.”
Shapiro, a distinguished visiting fellow at Tel Aviv’s Institute for National Security Studies think tank, said that another reason to force Iran out of the deal is to create a justification for a military strike, but then added: “That also isn’t something Trump has shown any appetite for. Some of his advisers may have, but he himself has been very critical of the Iraq war; tries to get US troops out of Syria. He doesn’t want to be involved in wars in the Middle East, which he calls, ‘nothing but sand and death.’”
According to the former ambassador, “It brings us closer to a moment when with Iran advancing on its nuclear program again, and without a prospect of a negotiation and with time ticking on Trump’s term in office that there may be no option other than a military option to slow them down,” he said. “And at that point it’s not at all unlikely that rather than do it himself, Trump would say to Netanyahu, ‘You have a green light.’ No Israeli prime minister has ever been faced with an American president saying, ‘feel free to attack Iran and good luck.’ That’s a decision no Israeli prime minister ever had to make. But it’s one that this current scenario brings us closer to every single day.”
Mark Dubowitz is the chief executive of FDD, a Washington-based nonpartisan policy institute. He told the Post that it is not likely that the Europeans will help the Iranians to save their economy.
"European companies and banks are not going to do this, regardless of what European diplomats say," Dubowitz said. "Ultimately, most banks and companies are going to vote with their feet. The US market is a $20 trillion market. The Iranian market is $400 billion market. They want to use US dollars, not the Iranian rial. [The companies] will leave Iran, or certainly not going back into Iran."
Dubowitz also thinks that the Iranians are starting to realize they could not wait for Trump to leave office and are likely to search a path for negotiation.
"They were told by the Europeans and by Secretary [John] Kerry for the past two years, they just need to wait Trump out, that he will be a one-term president, that a Democrat will come back to the White House in January of 2021 and take America back to the Iran deal, that there would be sanctions relief,” explained Dubowitz. “But I think it's dawning on the Iranians, that first of all, Trump might be reelected. And second of all, they may not even make it to January 2021 without a severe balance of payments crisis."
“They're running out of foreign exchange reserves,” he continued. “The currency is collapsing, there's severe recession. Inflation is skyrocketing. So maybe the Europeans can convince them to come back to the table and we'll see negotiation."

Chinese Sex Trade in Pakistan: Abuse of Christian Girls

Kaswar Klasra/Gatestone Institute/May 13/2019
Once purchased, women and girls are typically locked in a room and raped repeatedly, with the goal of getting them pregnant quickly so they can provide a baby for the family. After giving birth, some are allowed to escape -- but forced to leave their children behind.
That women and girls are being abused throughout Asia is sickening enough, and warrants immediate attention by the international community. But that Christian girls in particular are being targeted in Pakistan makes the current prostitution ring a double human-rights abuse that needs urgent looking into.
That women and girls are being abused throughout Asia is sickening enough, and warrants immediate attention by the international community. But that Christian girls in particular are being targeted in Pakistan makes the current prostitution ring a double human-rights abuse that needs urgent looking into. (Image source: iStock. Image is illustrative and does not represent any person in the article.)
The New York-based international non-governmental organization, Human Rights Watch, warned on April 26 that "Pakistan's government should be alarmed by recent reports of trafficking of women and girls to China. These allegations are disturbingly similar to the pattern of trafficking of 'brides' to China from at least five other Asian countries."
One week later, Pakistani authorities arrested 12 suspects -- eight Chinese nationals and four Pakistanis -- in a case involving the sex trafficking of young Pakistani women to China. Many had been sent as so-called "brides." Most of them, some as young as 13, belong to Pakistan's Christian minority.
After the arrests, Jameel Ahmed Khan, a senior official at Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), told Gatestone Institute that a preliminary investigation revealed that the sex traffickers lured young Christian girls from poverty-stricken families to China by promising them a "better life" there -- and providing their parents with a monthly stipend. Khan said that although it appears that hundreds of girls have been sold this way into prostitution, the exact number is under investigation.
Mohammad Azam, FIA assistant director, told Gatestone that the girls, before being sent to their "husbands" in China, were taken to a base located in a posh sector of Lahore, where they were given Chinese language classes.
According to VOA News:
"A mainstream Pakistani television station last month aired images of an illegal matchmaking center in Lahore housing several Chinese men and six Pakistani women, including two teenage girls, awaiting transit to China as brides.
"The victims told the ARY News channel their families received about $3,000 and were promised about $280 a month in future payments as well as a Chinese visa for a male family member."
VOA News also reported that Zhao Lijian, the deputy chief of the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad, told local media that his government had sent a task force to Pakistan to work with the FIA. The purpose of this task force -- sources from the Pakistani government told Gatestone -- was to investigate the "fake marriages" between Chinese men and poor Pakistani girls.
It is welcome that this Chinese trafficking ring in Pakistan has been exposed and is being tackled by authorities of both countries. The bad news is that it appears to be one of many such operations in Asia dealing in the sale of women to China, where girls are a desirable commodity, due to decades of child-bearing restrictions and the apparent mass abortion of female fetuses.
As Human Rights Watch reported last December:
"The woman shortage is having harmful consequences in China and sometimes in neighboring countries... Traffickers prey on vulnerable women and girls, offering jobs in, and transport to, China. Then they sell them, for around $3,000 to $13,000, to Chinese families struggling to find brides for their sons. Once purchased, women and girls are typically locked in a room and raped repeatedly, with the goal of getting them pregnant quickly so they can provide a baby for the family. After giving birth, some are allowed to escape—but forced to leave their children behind.
"There is evidence of similar patterns of bride migration and trafficking in Cambodia, North Korea, and Vietnam, and more may emerge from other countries bordering China. Importing women doesn't solve the shortage—it spreads it."
That women and girls are being abused throughout Asia is sickening enough, and warrants immediate attention by the international community. But that Christian girls in particular are being targeted in Pakistan makes the current prostitution ring a double human-rights abuse that needs urgent looking into.
*Kaswar Klasra is a journalist based in Islamabad, Pakistan.
© 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.

How Palestinian Leaders Punish Patients

Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/May 13/2019
"By Allah, even if we have only a penny left it will be spent on the families of the martyrs and prisoners, and only afterwards will it be spent on the rest of the people." — Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Media Watch, July 24, 2018.
Evidently, the "rest of the people" includes not only the Palestinian Authority (PA) employees, but also Palestinian patients who are in need of medical treatment. Abbas has now decided to punish these patients by depriving them of medical treatment in Israel.
The PA decision to stop patients from receiving medical treatment in Israel does not apply to senior Palestinian officials.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) has decided that Palestinians will no longer be able to receive medical treatment in Israel -- with the exception of senior Palestinian officials. Last week, Jibril Rajoub, a senior official with Mahmoud Abbas's ruling Fatah faction in the West Bank, was admitted to Ichilov Hospital (pictured), the largest acute care facility in Israel.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) has decided that Palestinians will no longer be able to receive medical treatment in Israel. Last March, the PA Ministry of Health in the West Bank city of Ramallah, the de facto capital of the Palestinians, announced that it was halting medical transfers to Israeli hospitals and promised to find alternatives for Palestinian patients in private and government hospitals.
The PA says that it took the decision in response to the Israeli government's deduction of payments the Palestinian government makes to families of security prisoners and "martyrs" from tax revenues the Israelis collect on behalf of the Palestinians.
A new Israeli law allows the government to impose financial sanctions on the PA for its "Pay for Slay" policy, which encourages terrorists to carry out attacks against Israelis because they know they and their families will be receiving salaries (from the PA government) for the rest of their lives.
One report estimated that the PA spent no less than 502 million shekels [USD $141 million; 126 million euros] of its 2018 budget on salaries and payments to terrorist prisoners and released inmates. At least 230 million shekels [$65 million; 58 million euros] were paid in salaries to terrorist prisoners, while another 176 million shekels [$48 million; 44 million euros] were paid in salaries to terrorists after they were released from prison, the report revealed. The remaining 96 million shekels [$27 million; 24 million euros] covers additional salary payments and other benefits to the terrorists and their families.
Despite the Israeli deductions, the terrorists and their families are continuing to receive full salaries. The only ones who are paying the price are tens of thousands of Palestinian public employees, who in the past three months have been receiving only 50% to 60% of their salaries.
In the past few months, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has vowed to continue making welfare payments to the terrorists and their families, even if its costs the Palestinian government its last penny. "We will not accept a cut or cancellation of salaries to the families of martyrs and prisoners, as some are trying to bring about," Abbas said. In another statement, Abbas was quoted as saying: "By Allah, even if we have only a penny left it will be spent on the families of the martyrs and prisoners, and only afterwards will it be spent on the rest of the people."
Evidently, the "rest of the people" includes not only the PA employees, but also Palestinian patients who are in need of medical treatment. Abbas has now decided to punish these patients by depriving them of medical treatment in Israel.
Osama al-Najjar, spokesman for the PA Ministry of Health, said that the PA government has decided to stop funding medical treatment for Palestinian patients in Israeli hospitals in response to the Israeli deduction of the allowances paid to the terrorists and their families. Al-Najjar estimated the cost of the medical transfers to Israeli hospitals at $100 million each year.
Palestinian journalist Fathi Sabbah said that the decision taken by the PA Ministry of Health was "wrong, hasty and ill-considered." Noting that the decision was taken before finding alternatives to the Israeli hospitals, he said that the "decision was dangerous because the patients are being denied the right to receive medical treatment that is not available in Palestinian hospitals, endangering their lives. This is a heavy price."
Sabbah said that the talk about sending the patients to hospitals in Jordan and Egypt would increase their suffering. Many of the patients, he said, have already begun receiving medical treatment in Israel, and now they will be required to start from the beginning with new medical treatment in Jordan and Egypt.
"The Jordanian and Egyptian hospitals will not be able to deal with these patients with the required professional medical care, and the patients will be forced to return to the starting point and undergo new medical tests," Sabbah added.
"This means additional suffering for the patients and more expenses for the Palestinian government. Besides, the patients will have to bear the suffering of long hours of travelling to Egypt and Jordan. The journey from the Gaza Strip to Cairo lasts two to three days, while the return trip takes three or four days. This means that cancer patients will spend a whole week to get a dose of chemotherapy, while it takes only one day or a few hours to get the same treatment in Israel."
The PA decision to stop patients from receiving medical treatment in Israel does not apply to senior Palestinian officials.
Last week, Jibril Rajoub, a senior official with Abbas's ruling Fatah faction in the West Bank, was admitted to Ichilov Hospital, the largest acute care facility in Israel. Rajoub, who also heads the Palestinian Football Association and previously spent 17 years in Israeli prison for terror-related offenses, was rushed to the hospital for urgent medical treatment despite the PA's decision to ban Palestinian patients from receiving medical treatment in Israel.
However, while Israeli doctors were working hard to give Rajoub the best treatment in Ichilov Hospital, the senior Palestinian official sent a letter to the European and Spanish football associations demanding Spanish football giant Atletico Madrid cancel a post-season friendly game with an Israeli team in Jerusalem. "We are not against playing in Israel, but not in occupied Jerusalem," Rajoub wrote in his letter. Rajoub failed to mention that Teddy Stadium, where the game will take place on May 21, is actually in west Jerusalem.
Days before he was admitted to the Israeli hospital, Rajoub also called on Arabs and Muslims to "halt all forms of sports normalization with Israel."
Rajoub is not the first or last senior Palestinian official to seek medical treatment in some of Israel's best hospitals. In 2017, PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat, who has accused Israel of "genocide," checked into Israel's Beilinson Medical Center for treatment after he underwent a lung transplant in the US.
Palestinian leaders are again engaging in hypocrisy regarding medical treatment. On the one hand, they do not miss an opportunity to make various forms of blood libels against Israel. On the other hand, when they fall ill, the first thing they do is contact Israeli hospitals in the hope of receiving the best medical treatment in the Middle East. They do not rush to hospitals in Egypt and Jordan: they know they will not get the best treatment there.
What is disturbing is that Palestinian leaders are now putting their people's lives at risk by denying them medical treatment in Israeli hospitals. This is yet another sign of how Palestinian leaders act according to their personal interests while endangering the lives of patients whose only fault is that they do not have relatives in senior jobs in the Palestinian Authority leadership who could help them receive treatment in Israel.
*Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East.
© 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.

 هروب الباكستانية المسيحية أسيا بيبي إلى كندا يسلط الأضواء على قانون التجديف المثير للجدل في باكستان 
Asia Bibi's escape to Canada shines light on Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws
CBC/May 14/2019

Asia Bibi held the unfortunate distinction of being the first Pakistani woman sentenced to death for insulting Islam under that country's blasphemy laws.
She spent eight years on death row before her conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in October 2018.
Last week, as Bibi began to settle into her new life in Canada, after arriving on Wednesday, her lawyer turned his focus to his next court battle against Pakistan's blasphemy laws.
Speaking from his home in Lahore, Pakistan, Saiful Malook said he knows that even acting as a lawyer for someone accused of blasphemy in Pakistan could be a death sentence for himself.
"When you start this type of case, you better start developing a close relationship to God because you can go to God at any given moment with 100 to 50 bullets," he said.
'A lot of injustice'
Malook's new case involves a dispute over a text message a man received that allegedly insulted the Prophet Muhammad.
Like Bibi, Malook's new client, Shagufta Kausar, is Christian. The text allegedly came from a SIM card issued to Kausar. Despite the fact that she doesn't read or write, Kausar and her husband were sentenced to death for the message in 2014.
Pakistani human rights lawyer Sarah Suhail says the blasphemy laws are often used against minorities and other vulnerable people to settle scores and disputes in the predominantly Muslim country. According to Amnesty International, between 2011 and 2015, at least 1,200 people were accused of blasphemy in Pakistan.
"The phrasing of the law, and the way in which evidence about it is collected, is really highly questionable and it leads to a lot, a lot of injustice," Suhail said.
Bibi's case would appear to be an example of that.
'Pressure from the religious right'
The confrontation that started the ordeal occurred in 2009, while Bibi was employed as a farm worker.
For some Muslims in Pakistan, drinking or eating from the same dish or cup as a Christian is taboo. During a meal at the farm, Bibi touched the cup that her Muslim co-workers used for water. A heated argument erupted, Malook says, and two of Bibi's co-workers accused her of insulting the Prophet Muhammad.
She was convicted of blasphemy in 2010 and spent the next eight years on death row.
Ultimately, the case made it to the country's Supreme Court, which last October overturned Bibi's conviction, citing inconsistencies in the testimony against her.
Religious extremists shut down parts of Pakistan in protest that day, and threatened to carry out Bibi's death sentence themselves.
Prime Minister Imran Khan appealed to protesters to respect the rule of law, but he has not addressed calls to actually do away with the blasphemy laws.
"The blasphemy law is definitely a really, really big and important issue that the Pakistani state needs to address," said Suhail. "But so far, the pressure from the religious right has been so strong that nobody is even willing to touch this law."
The blasphemy laws started under the British rule of India and Pakistan in 1860. The government said its goal was to prevent religious violence between Hindus and Muslims.
"The language of the law was deliberate and [it outlawed] malicious acts intended to outrage the religious feelings of any class by insulting their religious beliefs," said Suhail.
Since the 1980s, the blasphemy laws in Pakistan have been revised to make the punishment harsher. The consequences for those who have opposed the laws publicly have also been grave.
"Two very important people were murdered over this … that's why this case became so important," Malook said of Bibi's case.
In 2011, Salman Taseer, the governor of the province of Punjab, denounced Bibi's death sentence. His bodyguard later shot him dead. Just three months later, Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian federal minister in Pakistan at the time, was also killed after speaking out against the laws.
"Four people with shotguns came out from their car, and from both sides they start shooting him in the daylight," recalled his brother, Peter Bhatti, who lives in Brampton, Ont. "Then the word spread that this was the punishment of whoever do the blasphemy against our Prophet, that is the kind of punishment he will get."
Peter Bhatti had lobbied for Bibi's release since his brother's death. He says he breathed a sigh of relief when he learned of Bibi's arrival in Canada last week.
"We are thankful that at least she is free and my brother's sacrifice did not go in vain."