April 04/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify against it that its works are evil
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 07/01-13/:"After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He did not wish to go about in Judea because the Jews were looking for an opportunity to kill him. Now the Jewish festival of Booths was near. So his brothers said to him, ‘Leave here and go to Judea so that your disciples also may see the works you are doing; for no one who wants to be widely known acts in secret. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.’ (For not even his brothers believed in him.) Jesus said to them, ‘My time has not yet come, but your time is always here. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify against it that its works are evil. Go to the festival yourselves. I am not going to this festival, for my time has not yet fully come.’ After saying this, he remained in Galilee. But after his brothers had gone to the festival, then he also went, not publicly but as it were in secret. The Jews were looking for him at the festival and saying, ‘Where is he?’And there was considerable complaining about him among the crowds. While some were saying, ‘He is a good man’, others were saying, ‘No, he is deceiving the crowd.’Yet no one would speak openly about him for fear of the Jews."

We suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us
Letter to the Romans 08/12-18/:"We are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published On April 03-04/17
Analysis: Is Israel ready to face thousands of Hezbollah missiles?/Anna Ahronheim/Jerusalem Post/April 04/17
Iran arms manufacturing facilities in Lebanon are new kind of threat/Herb Keinon/Jerusalem Post/April 04/17
Arslan Condemns Choueifat Incident, Says Priority for Civil Peace
Lebanese Columnist, Diana Moukalled, Warns: Any Hizbullah Aggression Against Israel Will Be Disastrous For Lebanon More Than Anyone /MEMRI/April 03/17
In-Chief Of Lebanese Daily Close To Hizbullah And Assad Regime: President Trump Offered To all Assad And Examine Collaboration Against /MEMRI/April 03/17
Palestinians: The Diploma for Terror/Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/April 03/2017
Inciting statements for ideological /Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/April 03/17
Yemen and two years of confronting Iran/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/April 03/17
Iranian trap targeting the US in Mosul/Sawsan Al Shaer/Al Arabiya/April 03/17
My five weeks in a wheelchair/Oussama Romdhani/Al Arabiya/April 03/17
Is this a war on Gulf carriers/Hussein Shobokshi/Al Arabiya/April 03/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published  On April 03-04/17
Is Israel ready to face thousands of Hezbollah missiles
Iran arms manufacturing facilities in Lebanon are new kind of threat
Lebanese Columnist, Diana Moukalled, Warns: Any Hizbullah Aggression Against Israel Will Be Disastrous For Lebanon More Than Anyone Else
In-Chief Of Lebanese Daily Close To Hizbullah And Assad Regime: President Trump Offered To Call Assad And Examine Collaboration Against ISIS
Italian defense minister discusses bilateral ties in Beirut
Arab League letter aims at building Lebanon: Mikati
Raad Expects Agreement on Electoral Law 'within Days'
Hollande Honors Hariri, Tells Him Lebanon Can Always Count on France
Gemayel Calls for Endorsing Proportional Representation Law Agreed on in Bkirki
Kataeb Party Slams Hizbullah's Paramilitary
Report: AMAL, Hizbullah Believe Bassil's Law Proposal 'Problematic'
Mashnouq Condemns Hizbullah's Armed Appearance in Beirut Suburb
Berri receives Pinotti, Mikati
ISF Member Dies after Losing Control of Vehicle
2 Syrians, one Lebanese arrested in Baalback over murder charges
Turkish ambassador: All Lebanese irrespective of their religion, sect and race are most welcome to Turkey
Rahi convenes with Gemayel, Keyrouz
Bassil from Brisbane: Displacement could cause terrorism
Israeli warplanes conduct overflights over Hasbaya, Arqoub
One killed in gunfight in Chiyyah
Kataeb renews support for One Man One Vote system
Hezbollah condemns Saint Petersburg metro blast
Othman, Kuwaiti Ambassador tackle current situation
Jraisati, interlocutors tackle relevant affairs
No Lebanese among Saint Petersburg metro blast victims: Ambassador
ESCWA distributes paper on Brussels Conference on Supporting Future of Syria and the Region

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published  On April 03-04/17
Around 10 Killed in Saint Petersburg Metro Blast
EU Sees No Future for Assad in Syria
Trump Hosts Sisi in Landmark Visit, Praises 'Fantastic Job' in Egypt
Slain Student's Parents Urge Pope to Raise Case with Egypt
Israel Blocking Rights Workers' Access to Gaza, Says HRW
Tunisia to Hold First Post-Revolt Local Polls on Dec 17
Bahrain King Approves Military Trials for Civilians
From Ducks to Dushkas: Gun Repair Shops in Syria Today
Bahrain Cuts Opposition Chief Jail Term
Washington Will Not Allow for Iran Regime to Exploit Yemeni Territory
General Jones: Iran Regime Can't Be Trusted
Arab Summit: Iran's Meddling Strongly Criticized
The NCRI Women's Committee Condemns the Iranian Regime's Banning of Female Athletes' Competition on the Bogus Charge Of "Failing to Observe Islamic Codes"

Links From Jihad Watch Site for April 03-04/17
Florida: Christian student reinstated after college finds Muslim prof lied that he threatened her
Obama administration gave Islamic market guilty of food stamp fraud a pass
Chechen authorities are arresting and killing gay men
France: Two teenage Muslimas held for Islamic State jihad massacre plot
Australia: Muslims slam imam as “fake Muslim” for opposing Sharia and obeying Australian law
Boko Haram kidnaps over 20 more girls and women
SC Muslim arrested trying to join ISIS was arrested for jihad mass murder plot in 2015
Iranian women players banned from sports competitions for “un-Islamic” acts
Australia: Muslim MP says offending Muslims is “racist” even though Islam isn’t a race

Links From Christian Today Site For April 03-04/17
Words of Jesus to be emblazoned on London buses this Easter in new evangelical campaign
I loved drugs more than life itself': How Jesus transformed this former addict's life
Terrorism suspected as at least ten are killed in Russian metro explosions
Row over Gibraltar escalates as Bishop of Leeds says it shows 'major problems' of Brexit
Pope Francis visits earthquake hit victims
Church of England blasts BBC for public service 'failure' over closure of religion and ethics department
Palestinian, 17, shot dead in Jerusalem's Old City after stabbing attacks
Florida college reinstates student who clashed with Muslim prof over Crucifixion of Jesus
Welsh bishops dismiss complaints against homophobia as 'without merit'
Truck driver in church minibus crash that killed 13 may have been texting

Latest Lebanese Related News published On April 03-04/17
Analysis: Is Israel ready to face thousands of Hezbollah missiles?
هل إسرائيل مستعدة لمواجهة صواريخ حزب الله
Anna Ahronheim/Jerusalem Post/April 04/17
The idea for Iron Dome came after the Second Lebanon War in 2006, when large Israeli cities were struck by missiles for the first time from its northern neighbor.
David’s Sling, the final piece of Israel’s protective aerial umbrella, became operational Monday afternoon, filling the last gap in Israel’s missile-defense system and sending a clear signal to the country’s enemies.
With Iron Dome, Arrow and David Sling batteries deployed throughout the country, Israel should be completely defended against aerial threats. Will the systems measure up if Israel is faced with a real rocket barrage upon its cities? The timing of the system’s initial operational capability (IOC) comes as tension has risen along both the northern and Gaza borders, and shortly after the first successful interception by an Arrow battery of a Syrian anti-aircraft missile that had been fired toward Israel.
Speaking at the IOC ceremony at the Hatzor Air Force Base in central Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the “cutting-edge technology” of David’s Sling will help protect Israel against her enemies, warning that “whoever seeks to hit us will be hit. Whoever threatens our existence places himself in existential danger.”
According to Yiftach Shapir, head of the Middle East Military Balance Project at the Institute for National Security Studies, while David’s Sling is a “wonderful addition to Israel’s defense arsenal,” it will be hard to defend against a rocket barrage of thousands of missiles.
“It will be able to defend against threats that the Iron Dome is not able to,” Shapir told The Jerusalem Post, “but nothing is ever 100%. Every kind of defense system is vulnerable.”
Designed to intercept medium- to-long-range rockets, as well as cruise missiles fired at ranges between 40 to 300km, David’s Sling complements the Iron Dome system, designed to shoot down short-range rockets, and the Arrow system, which intercepts ballistic missiles outside the Earth’s atmosphere.
Together the systems will provide Israel the ability to counter threats posed by both short and mid-range missiles used by terrorist groups in Gaza and Hezbollah, as well as the threat posed by more sophisticated long-range Iranian ballistic missiles.
The idea for Iron Dome came after the Second Lebanon War in 2006, when large Israeli cities were struck by missiles for the first time from its northern neighbor. It has since been used during two military operations against Hamas.
Iron Dome has proven itself since it went into service in April 2011, with a successful interception rate of 85% of projectiles fired toward Israeli civilian centers since its first deployment.
During the 2014 war with Hamas in Gaza, the system successfully intercepted nearly 800 rockets fired at Israeli cities.
A recent series of successful experiments for Iron Dome focused on the ability of its Tamir anti-missile rocket to intercept a number of targets fired simultaneously at different ranges.
But while Iron Dome has proven itself against Hamas rockets from Gaza, experts have long warned that Israel faces the threat of thousands of Hezbollah rockets pounding the home front in the next war on the northern border.
The Lebanese Shia terrorist group is believed to have more than 100,000 rockets and missiles aimed at Israel, including sophisticated long-range rockets.
This is a threat that despite all of the army’s advanced air-defense system, it remains ill-prepared to face.
Even if the air force manages to destroy a large amount of missiles, there will likely remain enough of them to risk the interceptor systems being inundated if either group decides to launch large-scale barrages with rockets from varying ranges simultaneously.
According to a senior officer in the Air Defense Command, while Israel “now has the ability to protect more territory, it is impossible to protect everything at all times.”
With one David’s Sling interceptor missile costing $1 million, $100,000 for one Iron Dome interceptor missile and $3 million for one Arrow interceptor missile, the economic cost of destroying the hundreds of thousands of rockets aimed at Israel is astronomical.
According to Shapir, Israeli government strategists will have to decide what is to be defended by David’s Sling and other missile defense systems.
“When the Iron Dome was first deployed, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said openly that it should be used to defend strategic assets, so that Israel can continue fighting. But within months, the government decided that defending civilian populations is more important and that was Hamas’s targets,” Shapir said. With Hezbollah likely to target Israeli strategic installations as well as military bases, that is what we will have to defend, he added. “But if they decide to target both military installations as well civilian centers, the Israeli leadership will have to decide what they choose to defend. It will be a very tough decision no matter what way you look at it.”

Iran arms manufacturing facilities in Lebanon are new kind of threat’
معامل الأسلحة الإيرانية في لبنان هي خطر جديد
Herb Keinon/Jerusalem Post/April 04/17
According to Tzuriel, the most important development in Syria of late has been the strengthening of the Iranian- Shi’a axis there.
Reports that Iran is building workshops and facilities to make advanced rockets inside Lebanon is a “huge development” that constitutes a “whole new kind of threat,” Chagai Tzuriel, director- general of the Intelligence Ministry, said Monday.
Tzuriel, at a briefing organized by The Israel Project, attributed the reports to a Kuwaiti newspaper, but seemed to accept their veracity. If true, it would mean the Iranians and Hezbollah are trying to get around the difficulty of transferring arms over land through Syria to Lebanon by manufacturing them there instead. Israel reportedly, on a number of occasions, has attacked convoys moving potentially “game-changing” armaments over land through Syria.
In addition to the weaponry, Iran continues to provide Hezbollah with $1 billion a year.
Tzuriel said Hezbollah has an estimated 6,000 to 7,000 of its best fighters in Syria, and has lost approximately 1,700 men in the war there with thousands others wounded.
Today, Tzuriel said, the most important strategic issue in the region for Israel is not Iran’s nuclear capability, but rather “Iran in the region.”
The nuclear issue is “always high on the agenda,” but it is a threat that – because of the deal reached with the US in 2015 – will become more dangerous in five, eight and 10 years. But more immediately pressing, he said, is Iran’s efforts to build a land bridge stretching from Iran, through Iraq, Syria and then into Lebanon – a land bridge that could be complete in the near future when Mosul is expected to be wrenched free of Islamic State control.
“The greatest state threat facing Israel is Iran,” he said. “The greatest non-state threat comes from Hezbollah, it has the greatest damage potential. And the greatest non-state threat in terms of volatility is Hamas. Gaza is volatile both militarily, as well as from a humanitarian point of view.”
With that being said, the most important strategic arena right now is Syria, he added, calling it a “microcosm of much of the international regional and local relationships and power balances.”
What happens in Syria – where the world superpowers are vying, as well as regional powers, local elements, and a diverse group of ethnic and religious groups – “will influence to a large extent what happens in the region and the world,” he said.
“Syria is an exporter of terrorism and refugees and immigrants, and just that has already changed the social and economic make-up or reality in the neighboring countries, specifically Jordan, but also in Lebanon and other countries,” he said. “I think we can say that it changed the political and social fabric in Europe, and I think it would not be far fetched to say it influenced, to large extent, the Brexit and the elections in the US.”
According to Tzuriel, the most important development in Syria of late has been the strengthening of the Iranian- Shi’a axis there. Jerusalem, he said, believes that if Iran bases itself in Syria over the long run it will be a constant source of friction not only with Israel, but also with the Sunni majority in Syria, Sunni countries outside Syria and Sunni minorities outside the region.
Regarding Russia’s involvement in Syria, Tzuriel said it is “a dominant player and is not going anywhere. I think their profile may change, but they are here to stay. We need to understand this and cope with it. For us, Russia is not an enemy, despite selling advanced weapons to Iran.”
He added: “The dialogue we have with Russia, alongside our most important dialogue with the US – our most important strategic partner – has the potential of influencing the outcome of the final future picture in Syria.”

Lebanese Columnist, Diana Moukalled, Warns: Any Hizbullah Aggression Against Israel Will Be Disastrous For Lebanon More Than Anyone Else
MEMRI/April 03/17
In an article titled "Does Hizbullah Threaten Israel or Us" in the English-language Saudi daily Arab News, Lebanese columnist Diana Moukalled commented on the recent escalation in Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah's threats against Israel, including his threat to target Israel's nuclear reactor in Dimona.[1] She assessed that this escalation in Nasrallah's rhetoric is an attempt to make up for Hizbullah's military losses in Syria and to garner popular support in light of the decline in Hizbullah's and Iran's global standing. She also noted that his threat to target the reactor is irresponsible because thousands of Palestinian and Israeli civilians live near it. Noting that Iran often uses Lebanon as an arena for its "adventures," she warned that the current political climate might prompt Iran and Hizbullah to renew their aggression against Israel – which would be catastrophic for Lebanon, even more so than in previous confrontations.
The following are excerpts from her article:[2]
"Israel has reacted to recent statements by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah with a mixture of mockery and cynicism, as he said Hezbollah was ready to bomb the Dimona nuclear reactor or ammonia tanks. Israeli websites reported military discussions indicating that Israel believes Hezbollah is facing a dilemma over aid and funds due to the fighting in Syria.
"In the past, Israel dealt more seriously and carefully with Hezbollah threats and movements, but this has seemingly changed. I am in no way praising Israel, an occupying racist state, or minimizing its danger as an aggressor. Rather, this is an attempt to understand the whirlwind of rhetoric recently launched by Nasrallah, which affects Lebanese, Palestinians and others living mere kilometers from the Dimona reactor.
"Everyone, primarily Hezbollah, knows that the results of any war or military action against Israel will be catastrophic. Nasrallah may have learned this lesson, since the southern front with Israel has been calm since the end of the last war 11 years ago.
"As such, escalating rhetoric to target nuclear reactors — near to which thousands of Palestinian and Israeli civilians live, and would be harmed by substantial radioactive fallout — is at the very least irresponsible and no more than a popular mobilization attempt.
"But these empty slogans seem more necessary today than ever, as Nasrallah’s words seem to be an attempt to rebuild a combat position against Israel and make up for Hezbollah’s losses in Syria. This approach seems logical given the view that rapid political developments and the international consensus around Syria will lead to Hezbollah’s exit from the country. This would result in an Iranian response wherever it can do so.
"In a realistic characterization of current politics, now is not the time to make decisions, but to make a show of force and assemble cards to be presented while waiting for a clearer understanding of US regional policy. Continued escalation against Iran and its influence in Syria may lead to Tehran and Hezbollah reverting to a policy of confrontation, including against Israel. Where better than Lebanon as a gateway for new Iranian adventures?
"But the situation is not as it was during the 2006 war, as Israel says its response will be massive against Hezbollah and Lebanon if Hezbollah takes military action against it. This threat includes Israel’s preparedness to target all Lebanese territory. Lebanese President Michel Aoun’s comments that Hezbollah’s weapons complement the role of the army serve as a pretext for Israel to target the army as well.
"The appropriate conditions to target Hezbollah will come soon, but Israel is in no rush for military action as it is monitoring Hezbollah’s financial, moral and military depletion in Syria, amid Arab hostility toward Hezbollah, compared with support in 2006, due to its regional role at Iran’s behest. Any threat posed by Hezbollah will affect Lebanese before anyone else, and more severely than in previous wars and crises."
[1] In a February 16, 2017 address aired on Al-Mayadeen TV, Nasrallah called on Israel "not just to move the ammonia facility out of Haifa, but to dismantle the nuclear plant in Dimona," saying: "They know what will become of them and of their [Zionist] entity if missiles hit that plant." See MEMRI TV Clip No. 5896, "Hizbullah Secretary-General Nasrallah Threatens Missile Attack on Israeli Ammonia Facilities and Dimona Nuclear Plant," February 16, 2017.
[2] Arab News (Saudi Arabia), February 26, 2017.

In-Chief Of Lebanese Daily Close To Hizbullah And Assad Regime: President Trump Offered To Call Assad And Examine Collaboration Against ISIS
MEMRI/April 03/17
On March 30, 2017, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the "long term status of [Syrian] President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people."[1] Following this comment, Ibrahim Al-Amin, editor in chief of the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar, which is close to the Assad regime and Hizbullah, published a front-page article in the daily arguing that Tillerson's statement was not surprising and that it had been preceded by a message from President Trump to Assad via Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), who met with him in mid-January 2017. According to Al-Amin, who likely received leaked information reflecting the position of the Syrian regime, during the meeting with Assad, Gabbard inquired, on President Trump's behalf, about the possibility that the two would speak directly via telephone, and Assad instantly agreed without consulting with Iran and Russia. Al-Amin also claimed that Gabbard had told Assad that the struggle against ISIS, rather than Assad's ouster, was Trump's top priority, that he is therefore interested in collaborating with the Assad regime on this matter, and that he even believes that Iran is serious in its own fight against the terrorist organization. He added that Trump stressed that direct relations with Syria and a lifting of sanctions in accordance with Syria's demands are matters that will take time to settle. Additionally, Al-Amin said that Assad gave Gabbard proof of U.S. security personnel involvement in supporting terrorist groups in Syria ordered by the previous U.S. president, Barack Obama.
In this context, it should be noted that on January 20, 2017, the Qatari Al-Quds Al-Arabi daily, which is published in London, reported that Gabbard had arrived in Syria and met with Assad, and that she had been sent by Trump.[2]
According to U.S. media reports, Rep. Gabbard's unusual seven-day visit was coordinated by the Cleveland, Ohio-based Arab American Community Center for Economic and Social Services (AACCESS-Ohio) The group's head, Bassam Khawam, said that he personally had financed the trip and denied that he has links to Assad.[3]
Al-Amin's front page article in Al-Akhbar
Following are excerpts from Al-Amin's article:[4]
Trump Sends Message To Assad: Interested In A Phone Conversation To Discuss Collaborating In The Fight Against ISIS
"The statement made by the White House that the Syrian people would decide Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad's fate was unsurprising and was heralded early last fall, before and after Donald Trump's election as U.S. president in place of Barack Obama, who was nearly prepared to launch a military campaign against the Syrian government in the summer of 2013 [due to allegations of chemical weapons use by the regime]...
"The Democratic congresswoman from Hawaii, Tulsi Gabbard, has contentious opinions regarding the events in our countries. This woman, whose voice can be heard in the corridors [of power] and in the media, was an unwanted voice for elements of influence in the [Obama] administration. She decided to study up close what really happens here, particularly in Syria, and decided in mid-summer of last year to visit Syria and examine the facts...
"After [Trump's] victory in the election [and prior to his inauguration], he and his team examined whether Gabbard could be talked into accepting a central role in his new administration. During the contacts and deliberations [with Gabbard], Trump discovered her intention to visit Syria, and asked her to postpone the visit until after his inauguration, since he had something to say to her [on the matter]. Gabbard agreed and met with President Elect Trump on November 21 for over 2.5 hours... During the meeting, [Trump] asked her to outline her view on the situation in Syria and Iraq. After hearing what she had to say, he told her he agreed with her analysis...
"Trump asked her: 'Will you meet with [Bashar] Al-Assad in Damascus?' She replied: 'Most likely!' He said: 'OK. Ask him if he is willing to call me [and tell him] that I'm willing to call him on the phone, but he must know now that [our] main collaboration will be in the fight against ISIS. He [Assad] will see that the demand to oust him does not concern me, and that this matter will gradually disappear from the discourse. As for direct ties [to the American administration] and the lifting of sanctions, these two things take time, and the important thing is that we know [Assad's] course of action and the extent to which his is willing to collaborate with us separately from the Russians and Iranians. We must shift our policy towards Al-Assad. A direct embrace [of Assad] could help. The man survived in his role. Reality indicates that if we wish to effectively deal with ISIS, we have to hold ties with him [Assad].'
"Trump the pragmatist believes that the policy of his predecessor Obama has ruined American influence in the Middle East, and holds him responsible for leaving the arena open to Russian influence. Trump believes that his administration should once again participate in managing the region, particularly with regards to Syria and Iraq. In this context, Trump wishes to change all the policies of the [previous] administration, both foreign and domestic. He commits to not confronting Russia and seeks to increase the pressure on Iran, and to cancel the results of the JCPOA even without giving up the agreement itself. He believes that Syria is the arena [on which to reach] understandings with Russians and others.
"Trump also believes that ISIS is the main danger for everyone, and is sure that Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey play a role in supporting ISIS and all Al-Qaeda branches. Despite his hatred of Iran, he believes it is the most serious in fighting ISIS. He does not want a mere political change, but rather a strategic one, and therefore the important thing to do now in his opinion is focus on ISIS and ignore the other targets, including ousting Al-Assad. He knows he has many rivals in the U.S., in the [political] parties, the media, the intelligence [community] and parts of the military, but he does not want to back down [from this position]..."
Assad to Gabbard: U.S. Security Personnel Are Involved In Supporting Terrorists In Syria
Al-Amin also reported on what happened during Gabbard's meeting with President Assad. He wrote: "Assad received her with his well-known smile, shook hands with the delegation, and inquired about their trip. She immediately got [down to business,] saying: 'I am here on a visit to examine facts. I want to visit as many areas of Syria as possible and to meet with people on the ground. I want you to help me and provide me with proven documented data about the elements supporting the terror organizations, particularly ISIS and Al-Qaeda. I am here with Congress's approval. I meant to come a few months ago, but the visit was postponed at the request of President Trump himself."
"Gabbard set out before Assad her view regarding the situation in Syria and in the region, saying: 'I met with Presdient Trump before I came. I am bringing you a message from him. He asked me convey to you his perception and his ideas about the region and asked me something else directly.'
"Assad continued to listen, and Gabbard presented her perception and what she had heard from the American president-elect. She presented to him the comments of the American administration with regard to the policy of its allies – Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the other Gulf states – concerning Syria. She told him that Trump's top priority was the fight against terrorism, and that when he came to examine the issue of Iran he [Trump] would take into account that [Iran] was very serious in the fight against ISIS. President Trump, she said, 'wants to essentially change U.S. policy vis-à-vis Syria and the region.'
"Assad asked her: 'Is this your impression after the meeting with Trump?'
"Gabbard answered, 'No, these are his ideas. He asked me to convey them to you. In short, we want to cooperate with you in the fight against ISIS. Trump was very amazed by Russia's insight in dealing with the Syria issue, and he wants to draw up understandings with the Russians regarding Syria.'
"Then Gabbard suddenly asked Assad: 'If President Trump calls you, will you pick up the phone?'
"Assad smiled and asked her, 'Is this a hypothetical question or a proposal?'
"She replied: 'It's not a hypothetical question.'
"Assad: 'Is this your proposal?'
"She answered: 'No, it is a question that President Trump is asking you, and he asked me to convey it to you. I ask again: If he calls you, will you answer?'
"Gabbard was surprised at Assad's swift reply. He said: 'Of course. I will give you a telephone number where I can be reached quickly."
"Gabbard seemed surprised, as if she had been under the mistaken impression that Assad would not answer directly and that he would ask for time to think about it. It became clear later that the Trump administration thought that Assad would ask for time before answering [the question] in order to consult with his Russian and Iranian allies. The Americans honestly thought that Assad 'would not dare to be in touch with them without Moscow's approval.'"
Al-Amin then reported that after the meeting with Assad, Gabbard met with other officials, and visited Aleppo, and before leaving that city "her assistant received a phone call informing him that President Assad had decided to meet with her again on Wednesday for the entire day, that [Assad] had made arrangements to hold detailed meetings with her, including lunch, and that he would give her irrefutable documents proving that U.S. security personnel are directly involved in supporting terrorists in Syria as requested by the administration of the previous president, Barack Obama.
"And this is what happened. [Gabbard's] departure from Damascus was postponed from Wednesday to Thursday. On Wednesday, Gabbard met with Assad twice in the presence of senior Syrian officials who brought the documents and the files. They were presented to her and not only surprised her, but astounded her. She was given proof whose veracity she would be able to confirm upon her return to the U.S..."
[1], March 30, 2017.
[2] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), January 20, 2017.
[3], January 26, 2017;, January 31, 2017.
[4] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), April 3, 2017.
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Special Dispatch - No. 6850 - March 29, 2017
'Al-Sharq Al-Awsat' Report Specifies Locations Of Foreign Military Bases In Syria, Says Syria Is Turning Into Brittle Federation That Can Fall Apart At Any Moment
Special Dispatch - No. 6849 - March 29, 2017

Italian defense minister discusses bilateral ties in Beirut
The Daily Star/April 03, 2017/BEIRUT: Visiting Italian Minister of Defense, Sen. Roberta Pinotti, Monday discussed with President Michel Aoun military aid and economic ties between both countries.Aoun told Pinotti that Lebanon and Italy "currently face the same challenges, such as immigration, refugees, terrorism, and security matters.”The Lebanese Army and all other security forces in the country have been relentlessly cracking down on sleeper cells in order to prevent terrorism from reaching the country. Pinotti expressed her country's vehement will to help reduce the impact of the Syrian refugee crisis on Lebanon and readiness to aid security forces to guarantee the success of their missions.The Lebanese government estimates that around 1.5 million Syrian refugees live in the country in deteriorating economic conditions – which Lebanon was already suffering from prior to the refugee crisis. One million Syrian refugees are registered with the UNHCR in Lebanon. The president reiterated calls for the international community to work on safely returning the refugees to secure areas in Syria. Aoun praised Italy's role with UNIFIL in south Lebanon, saying he “appreciates the sacrifices the Italian soldiers have made in order to keep south [Lebanon] secure and stable by working [closely] with UNIFIL.” The president called for stronger economic and commercial relationships between the two countries, thanking Pinotti for the economic help that her country has already offered, and asking her to carry his regards to the Italian President, Sergio Mattarella. Pinotti congratulated Aoun on his presidency on behalf of the Italian government. She is the first Italian official to visit Lebanon since his election in October. She stated her interest in the "continued cooperation of both countries, to further boost the relations between Lebanon and Italy." The Italian minister also met with Speaker Nabih Berri, who informed Pinotti of "daily Israeli violations." Berri called on Italy to press the United Nations to respond to Israeli threats and to deter the Jewish state from continuing its violations against Lebanon's sovereignty. The Italian Minister later in the day paid a visit to the Italian contingent operating within UNIFIL in Shama in south Lebanon. She was accompanied by Italian Ambassador to Lebanon Massimo Marotti and chief of the Defense Italian Army Maj. Gen. Claudio Graziano. Pinotti met with UNIFIL Sector West Commander Brig. Gen. Ugo Cillo, a statement by UNIFIL said. She was briefed on the situation in south Lebanon and the tasks mandated to the Italian peacekeepers. Wrapping up her two-day visit, Pinotti met with Lebanese counterpart Defense Minister Yaacoub Sarraf and Lebanese Army chief Gen. Joseph Aoun. Pinotti had arrived Sunday in Beirut.

Arab League letter aims at building Lebanon: Mikati
The Daily Star/April 03/17/BEIRUT: The controversial letter to the Arab Summit last week signed by five former presidents and prime ministers was intended to help build a just state in Lebanon, said Former prime minister and Tripoli MP Najib Mikati on Monday. Following a meeting with Speaker Nabih Berri, Mikati told the press "I also assured Speaker Berri of the national foundations in this memo," adding that he shares a strong relationship with all political entities in Lebanon. "It is natural that Speaker Berri would ask me about the contents of the memo that was sent to the Arab Summit," Mikati said. The former PM also called for others who opposed or criticized the letter to read it again. "If they reread the letter with an open mind politically, they would see the letter doesn't target anyone," he said. "Our only goal is for Lebanon to be a strong and capable state."Mikati as well as former prime ministers Tammam Salam and Fouad Siniora, as well as former presidents Michel Sleiman and Amine Gemayel sent three-page letter to the Arab Summit that addressed five issues: adherence to the Taif agreement, compliance with international obligations including U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, the proliferation of illegal arms in Lebanon, the Baabda Declaration and means to prevent interference in the Syrian crisis. The letter was also sent to President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and Speaker Nabih Berri, and was received with condemnation. "It's an unfavorable and unprecedented move,” Berri was quoted by local daily Al-Akhbar as saying. "There is a train in Lebanon that is moving," Hariri said in response to the letter. "Those who want to get on board are welcome to get on board, or else they should stay in their place." Loyalty to the Resistance Bloc MP Ali Ammar told the press that the letter was motivated by foreign interests, calling the five former leaders "five little slaves."

Raad Expects Agreement on Electoral Law 'within Days'
Naharnet/April 03/17/MP Mohammed Raad, the head of Hizbullah's Loyalty to Resistance bloc, announced Monday that an agreement over a new electoral law will likely be reached “within days.”“An influential group in the country has agreed to proportional representation with medium-sized districts and the details of this proposal are currently being discussed. Within days – if the intentions are honest – the electoral law will be finalized,” Raad added, noting that negotiations are in their “final” phase. Rejecting “parliamentary vacuum, term extension and the 1960 law,” Raad reiterated that an electoral system based on proportional representation and a single electorate would be “the best format, because it would grant every component the right to take a share that is proportional to its political weight.” He also noted that all the formats of the so-called hybrid electoral system that mixes proportional representation with the winner-takes-all formula “would simply and frankly aggrieve a certain party.”

Hollande Honors Hariri, Tells Him Lebanon Can Always Count on France
Naharnet/April 03/17/ French President Francois Hollande on Monday decorated Prime Minister Saad Hariri with the insignia of Commander in the Legion of Honor over his contributions to Lebanon in the past decade, telling him that Lebanon “can always count on France's assistance and support.”Hollande also acknowledged that the presence of “1.5 million Syrian refugees” in Lebanon is a major burden on the country, noting that “this requires the solidarity of the international community and France with Lebanon.”
Hariri had begun his official visit to France earlier in the day by meeting his French counterpart Bernard Cazeneuve. A statement issued by Hariri's office said talks with Cazeneuve tackled “the latest developments in Lebanon and the region, the repercussions of the Syrian refugee crisis, and means to strengthen and develop the relations between the two countries.” “I wanted to visit Prime Minister Cazeneuve and thank him for everything that France is doing... I explained to the prime minister the situation in Lebanon and informed him that we will attend the Brussels conference and we hope that France will play a big role,” said Hariri after the talks. “France helped Lebanon during all stages, and we urge all countries to help Lebanon, particularly with regard to the crisis of the displaced Syrians,” Hariri added, urging the international community to “look at the topic in a different way.”
“Lebanon cannot host on behalf of of the international community a million and a half displaced Syrians and the international community must invest in Lebanon and help it complete this journey, especially since the crisis in Syria is not over,” the premier went on to say. Asked to what extent he is optimistic about the Brussels conference, especially since the London conference “did not fulfill the promises it made towards Lebanon,” Hariri said: “Today there is a government and a president, and we can work harder and faster. In the past, there may have been a lack of consensus within the government regarding this file. Today there is consensus on it, and we as Lebanese will work on it.” As for his recent visit to Riyadh and whether the issue of assisting Lebanon's armed forces was discussed with the kingdom's officials, Hariri said: “We talked about everything and agreed to establish a higher committee between Riyadh and Beirut within a month.”“We will then return to the Kingdom, and in the presence of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdul Aziz, we will sign several agreements. Like all the joint committees, such as the one with Egypt, there will be economic, industrial, security and military committees and reciprocal trips between the two countries,” Hariri added. “This has not happened in the past, and we want to reflect this relationship within the institutions of Lebanon and Saudi Arabia,” he noted.

Gemayel Calls for Endorsing Proportional Representation Law Agreed on in Bkirki
Naharnet/April 03/17/Kataeb Party chief MP Sami Gemayel has called on the political forces to endorse an electoral law that had been agreed on by the main Christian parties during a meeting in Bkirki, which is based on proportional representation and 15 electoral districts.
“Since everyone is talking about proportional representation today, there is a law that was agreed on by a large number of parties under Bkirki's sponsorship, which is based on proportional representation and 15 electoral districts. It preserves pluralism and the consensual rights and allows all parties from all sects to be represented in parliament, so why is it being disavowed today?” Gemayel said during a Kataeb ceremony in Zahle. He stressed that the new electoral law must be “fair” and not “tailored” to fit the interests of some parties. “We want a law based on unified standards, a law that secures correct representation and real partnership and equal power-sharing between the Lebanese. Accordingly, we call on all political forces and the parliament speaker to put the electoral laws to a vote in parliament without any delay,” Gemayel added. Earlier in the day, MP Mohammed Raad, the head of Hizbullah's Loyalty to Resistance bloc, announced that an agreement over a new electoral law will likely be reached “within days.”“An influential group in the country has agreed to proportional representation with medium-sized districts and the details of this proposal are currently being discussed. Within days – if the intentions are honest – the electoral law will be finalized,” Raad added, noting that negotiations are in their “final” phase.

Kataeb Party Slams Hizbullah's Paramilitary Parade
Naharnet/April 03/17/The Kataeb Party on Monday blasted the latest paramilitary parade that members of Hizbullah staged in the Beirut southern suburb of Bourj al-Barajneh, saying it “harms the state's image and its security and political institutions.”“The Kataeb Party condemns the armed appearance in Bourj al-Barajneh and rejects any military deployment by any party or group under any alibi, whether that happened in the southern suburbs, the camps or any spot of the country,” said a statement issued by Kataeb's political bureau after its weekly meeting. “It harms the state's image and its security and political institutions and strengthens the deplored and rejected principle of autonomous security,” the statement added. “What justifies this resonating silence and unprecedented disregard for the violation of the state's sovereignty? Where are the legitimate security forces and where is the government and all its security and military agencies?” Kataeb wondered, urging the State to extend its authority across Lebanon. Pictures of masked, black-clad Hizbullah members went viral on social media on Friday, as reports said they roamed Bourj al-Barajneh's streets as part of a campaign against drug dealers and gangs. Sources close to Hizbullah and the party's MP Ali Ammar said the move was not coordinated with Hizbullah's leadership.

Army Commander Aoun: I Want to Windup the File of Abducted Servicemen
Naharnet/April 03/17/Newly appointed Army Commander General Joseph Aoun stressed his adamant will to uncover the fate of the Lebanese abducted servicemen regardless what their fate turns out to be, as he said his focus will concentrate on distancing the army from political interference. “The file has been an obsession for me even before taking responsibility (as army commander), I want to close this file whether the servicemen are alive or martyrs,” he told al-Akhbar daily in an interview on Monday. “It's a mission that must be accomplished. I will hold contacts with General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim to complete this file. This is a wound that must be closed, knowing there isn't an honest mediator right now between the Army and the abductors,” he added. The IS group and al-Nusra Front, which re-branded itself as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham in July when it split from the al-Qaida movement, abducted over 30 servicemen in clashes with the Lebanese army in the northeastern border town of Arsal in August 2014. Sixteen held by the Jabhat Fateh al-Islam were freed in December 2015 through a Qatari-mediated deal that also included a prisoner swap to release a number of inmates from Lebanese jails. The two groups had previously executed four of the hostages. Nine hostages are still being held by the IS and their families do not know much about their fate. The new military chief who was appointed in March. About his vision and what he plans for the military institution, the new military chief said: “I came from a military establishment and I know the problems it suffers from. Apart from the basic issue of interest to the army in facing the Israeli enemy, my interest is focused on combating terrorism, maintaining security in Lebanon and on the border, and in revealing the fate of the abducted soldiers. “Internally, emphasis must be placed on strengthening the military's capabilities and improving military medical treatment. The most important thing we will work on is the army's independence and distancing it from political interference and discord, and strengthening confidence in the decision of the institution away from any external factors.”

Arslan Condemns Choueifat Incident, Says Priority for Civil Peace
Naharnet/April 03/17/Minister of the Displaced Talal Arslan condemned on Monday a dispute that erupted between supporters of the Progressive Socialist Party and Hizbullah over raising party flags in the Choueifat area and stressed that his party adheres to civil peace. Lebanese Democratic Party leader, Arslan stressed that “all political parties have condemned the incident,” assuring that political “cover will not be provided for anyone who plans to involve the Mountain area in sedition.”He pointed out in a press conference that it has been “agreed to remove all partisan slogans,” in the area. Leader of the Democratic Gathering party MP Walid Jumblat and Hizbullah want to know what happened, said Arslan, as he called for lifting political cover off the perpetrators. “We are committed to civil peace. Cover should be lifted off all those who try to fish in troubled waters and to drag the sons of the Mountain and Choueifat into discord,” said Arslan. Dispute erupted in Choueifat on Sunday when Hizbullah supporters raised party flags in the area, after which supporters of the PSP instantly removed placing their own flags. An army patrol ended the dispute and removed all party slogans after dispersing the crowds.

Report: AMAL, Hizbullah Believe Bassil's Law Proposal 'Problematic'

Naharnet/April 03/17/Hizbullah party and the AMAL movement do not seem to approve of a new electoral law proposal presented by Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil describing it as “very problematic”, media reports said on Monday. “The electoral law proposal suggested by Bassil includes a very big problem that has to do with sectarian majority voting in a way that will only push the country backward,” sources from AMAL and Hizbullah parties told al-Joumhouria daily. The sources added that Bassil's law does not bring Lebanon closer to the implementation of the Taef Accord as he claims, because his own law is sectarian “how can a sectarian law bring us closer to the Taef accord which states the abolition of sectarianism?” they asked. The sources said they presented their remakes to Bassil who chose to ignore them and instead continue to suggest new ideas without addressing the major problem, “the ball is in his court now. We are waiting for his reply,” they concussed. Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil has recently proposed an electoral law that mixes proportional representation with the controversial law proposed by the Orthodox Gathering. An informed Free Patriotic Movement parliamentary source told ad-Diyar on Sunday that he is optimistic that a new law might be reached within two weeks, noting that “an intensive round of contacts and deliberations will begin next week.” The country has not organized parliamentary elections since 2009 and the legislature has instead twice extended its own mandate. The last polls were held under an amended version of the 1960 electoral law. Hizbullah has repeatedly called for an electoral law fully based on the proportional representation system and a single or several large electorates. Druze leader Walid Jumblat has rejected proportional representation, warning that it would "marginalize" his minority Druze community, whose presence is concentrated in the Aley and Chouf areas. Amid reservations over proportional representation by other parties such as al-Mustaqbal Movement and the Lebanese Forces, the political parties are mulling a so-called hybrid electoral law that mixes proportional representation with the winner-takes-all system.

Mashnouq Condemns Hizbullah's Armed Appearance in Beirut Suburb

Naharnet/April 03/17/Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq denounced on Monday Hizbullah's armed deployment over the weekend in Beirut's southern suburb of Bourj al-Barajneh stating it as a "challenge to the new term" of President Michel Aoun. “Hizbullah's manifestation is condemned and rejected. It is a slap in the face for the new term and a challenge to the logic of the State,” said Mashnouq on Twitter. The Minister added that the government will respond to the military parade with more persistence to extend the State's authority, he said: “We will reply to the military parade with a better confrontation in favor of the State and the State only.”Mashnouq pointed out that measures that the law imposes will be taken to prevent all forms of “self-security which the entire Lebanese reject.”Pictures of masked Hizbullah members in black-clad went viral on social media on Friday, as reports said they spread out in Bourj al-Barajneh in the evening in a campaign against drug dealers and gangs. Sources close to Hizbullah said the move was not coordinated with the party's leadership and that it was taken by individual Hizbullah members. Former Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi has also slammed on Saturday Hizbullah's move saying it confirms the “state's resignation in favor of statelet

Berri receives Pinotti, Mikati
Mon 03 Apr 2017/NNA - House Speaker Nabih Berri on Monday received in Ain Al Tineh Italian Defense Minister, Roberta Pinotti, and Italian Army officer, General Claudio Graziano, in presence of Italian Ambassador Massimo Marotti, with talks featuring high on bilateral ties as well as the role of UNIFIL in the South. Separately, Speaker Berri received former PM Najib Mikati and discussed with him the general situation and the electoral law issue.

ISF Member Dies after Losing Control of Vehicle
Naharnet/April 03/17/A member of the Internal Security Forces was killed on Monday in a vehicle accident in the southern city of Nabatieh, the National News Agency reported. The victim, 25, who was identified with his initials as N.S. was killed after losing control of his BMW vehicle, causing it to slam into an electricity pole, NNA said. He was taken to the hospital where he succumbed to his wounds

2 Syrians, one Lebanese arrested in Baalback over murder charges
Mon 03 Apr 2017 at 20:59 Security/NNA - An Information Department patrol raided a house in Sheikh Habib Street in Baalback, and arrested one Lebanese and two Syrians in a murder case, National News Agency correspondent reported on Monday. The Lebanese was held for hiding the Syrians, wanted for having committing murder in the north. The killers are identified as Hassan Mustafa Ali, born 1994, and Hussein Ahmad Mohammad, born 1989.

Turkish ambassador: All Lebanese irrespective of their religion, sect and race are most welcome to Turkey

Mon 03 Apr 2017 /NNA - "All Lebanese, irrespective of their religion, sect and race, are most welcome to Turkey," the Turkish ambassador to Lebanon, Cagatay Erciyes, said via Twitter."Indeed Turkey has become number one tourism destination for Lebanese people. Unfortunately, tourism traffic between Turkey and Lebanon is one way. In 2016, almost 8 million Turks travelled abroad spending 6 billion USD. But only 20.000 Turkish tourists arrived in Lebanon. Lebanon's share of Turkish market is sadly almost none. I will continue to encourage two-way tourism traffic between Turkey and Lebanon for further strengthening our good bilateral relations which will also benefit Lebanese economy despite some recent unacceptable and irresponsible verbal attacks against Turkish-Lebanese Friendship and cooperation," he said in his tweet.

Rahi convenes with Gemayel, Keyrouz
Mon 03 Apr 2017/NNA - Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Beshara Rahi, convened on Monday in Bkirky with Kataeb Party Chief, MP Sami Gemayel, who told the press that they agreed to commit to the results of Bkirky's extended meeting on the electoral law, which adopts proportionality on the basis of fifteen electoral districts. "We suggested activating this project law and going through with it," said Gemayel. The MP also met with Cardinal Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, who noted that the situation "could have been better."Separately, Rahi convened with MP Elie Keyrouz, who relayed to him the contents of the proposed law for the protection of children from early marriage. The law also stipulated that the youngest age for legal marriage should be no less than eighteen years old. Rahi later met with Minister of Public Health, Ghassan Hasbani, who told reporters that talks with the prelate touched on an array of issues, including the financial condition of Lebanon hospitals. "We also discussed the government's intensive work in order to approve the state budget and move forward with the election law," the Minister said. In response to a question, he indicated that there could be "technical extension" of the current Parliament's mandate. "There is a headway towards a new election law; if it enjoys positivity and cooperation like the budget did, there will be elections this year," he said.

Bassil from Brisbane: Displacement could cause terrorism
Mon 03 Apr 2017/NNA - Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, currently on a state visit in Australia, warned on Monday that the massive displacement of Syrians into Lebanon could cause terrorism, due to poverty, misery, and sectarian incitation. "Our country is bearing more than it should; no country would be able to endure like Lebanon with flames of conflicts surrounding it," Bassil said. "In Lebanon, where Shiites, Sunnites, and Christians coexist, we are still able to contain those crises, because the Lebanese are highly resilient and they remain steadfast," he added. Bassil made these remarks during a reception ceremony where he met with the Lebanese Diaspora in the capital of Queensland state, Brisbane

Israeli warplanes conduct overflights over Hasbaya, Arqoub

Mon 03 Apr 2017/NNA - Israeli enemy warplanes are currently conducting high altitude overflights over the localities of Hasbayya, al-Araqub, Jabal al-Sheikh, Shabaa Farms and the occupied Golan, NNA reporter said.

One killed in gunfight in Chiyyah

Mon 03 Apr 2017/NNA - One was killed and another was injured in a clash that erupted in Chiyyah locality, and soon developed into a gunfight, National News Agency correspondent reported on Monday. Law Enforcement reached the scene and the chase for the shooter began.

Kataeb renews support for One Man One Vote system

Mon 03 Apr 2017/NNA - Kataeb Party renewed on Monday holding into the One Man One Vote system "as it guarantees correct and fair representation," voicing commitment to Bkekri's proposal as per which proportionality is adopted with Lebanon as 15 electoral districts.
The party also held the political authority responsible for the failure to endorse a new election law, and the reverberations of slackness. Kataeb convened today in a regular meeting at its Saifi office, under the chairmanship of MP Sami Gemayel. In a statement issued following the meeting, the party condemned the spread of illegitimate arms in Borg al-Barajneh, rejecting military deployment by any party or group.

Hezbollah condemns Saint Petersburg metro blast

Mon 03 Apr 2017 at 19:37 Politics/NNA - Hezbollah condemned, in a statement on Monday, Saint Petersburg metro blast, expressing condolences to the Russian leadership and for the families of the victims. "This crime, which targeted ordinary civilians, is one episode of a terrorist criminal series targeting the entire world, and which the Russian state is fighting in Syria and elsewhere," the statement read. "This confirms the obligation of the world's unity in the face of those terrorists, as well as their funders, sponsors, and protectors," it said.

Othman, Kuwaiti Ambassador tackle current situation
Mon 03 Apr 2017 at 19:36 Politics/NNA - Internal Security Forces chief Imad Othman met on Monday at his Barracks office with Kuwaiti Ambassador to Lebanon, Abdel Aal al-Qanai, accompanied by the Embassy's Military Attaché, Brigadier General Adel al-Anzi, on a visit aimed at cooperation and coordination. Talks reportedly dwelt on the overall security situation in the country.

Jraisati, interlocutors tackle relevant affairs
Mon 03 Apr 2017/NNA - Minister of Justice Selim Jraisati received on Monday at his ministerial office with Sri Lankan Ambassador to Lebanon, Wejeratne Mendes, whereby they discussed bilateral relations between the two countries. Minister Jresiati also met with State Security General Director Tony Saliba, and his deputy, General Brigadier Samir Sinan, who came on a courtesy visit. Jreisati then met with a delegation of senior army veterans, who raised with him the issue of related Support Fund.

No Lebanese among Saint Petersburg metro blast victims: Ambassador
Mon 03 Apr 2017/NNA - Lebanon's Ambassador in Moscow, Shawki Bou Nassar, assured, in a statement on Monday, that the Lebanese nationals in Russia were safe and sound, adding that there is still no information about the presence of Lebanese among Saint Petersburg metro blast's victims.

ESCWA distributes paper on Brussels Conference on Supporting Future of Syria and the Region
Mon 03 Apr 2017/NNA - Upon its participation in the Brussels Conference on Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region, ESCWA distributed on Monday a paper on the conference's National Agenda for the Future of Syria Programme (NAFS).
The paper read the following:
"Six blood-drenched years have passed since the start of the Syrian crisis, which is proving to be one of the severest humanitarian crises facing the international community since the end of the Second World War, if not the severest. So far, the international community has been unable to find a political solution to stop the bloodshed and to limit its repercussions for the region and the world.
Around 470,000 people have lost their lives, equivalent to over 3.5 per cent of the remaining population in Syria after more than a quarter of its people were forced to seek refuge across the world, and over 6.3 million Syrians have been internally displaced. The gravity of the crisis has become the greatest challenge to global peace, because of regional and international military transformations and interventions and the rise of terrorist movements in Syria and the rest of the world.
Studies conducted by experts under the National Agenda for the Future of Syria Programme show the wide-scale destruction in the country. As at the end of 2016, the damage to physical capital has been estimated at approximately $100 billion, in addition to losses in the opportunity cost of GDP growth placed at over $228 billion. Had the crisis not erupted, GDP was expected to grow by over 28 per cent over the past six years. Instead, GDP has lost over 57 per cent of its value since 2010, leading to an unprecedented increase in the number of Syrians living below the poverty line to 80-85 per cent compared with 13 per cent in 2007.
The enormity of the destruction is most evident in the housing sector, representing 30 per cent of total destruction, with over 50 per cent of residences damaged and still at risk given the continuing war. Industry, a key vital sector in Syria, has suffered 18 per cent of the total destruction, negatively affecting employment and growth and causing trade imbalances.
The agricultural sector has suffered 9 per cent of total destruction to physical capital, in addition to facing significant challenges during the crisis. Before 2011, Syria was committed to high levels of food security and the sector had kept large segments of its workforce above the minimum poverty threshold. Syria was also the fourth global producer of olives and exporter of olive oil.
Today, unfortunately, data show huge losses in wooded areas from war or from felling for heat, because of a lack of heating fuel caused by damage to the oil and gas sector totalling 9 per cent of total destruction, or by the loss of means and equipment to import or subsidize petroleum products because of economic sanctions.
Another key sector significantly affecting daily life is water and electricity, with a 9 per cent share of total destruction. The electricity sector has been considerably damaged following the destruction of its infrastructure and given the lack of means and resources to conduct maintenance work and import spare parts for its smooth operation.
Syria, which used to generate over 8,500 megawatt hours, some of which it exported to neighbouring countries, can no longer produce 15 per cent of its basic electricity needs.
The following figure details the scale of destruction and losses by sector caused by the raging conflict.
Experts from the National Agenda for the Future of Syria Programme state that rebuilding the destruction as at 2016 requires double the cost of damage to physical capital totalling over $200 billion, given a 50 per cent drop in investment in Syria because of a lack of security, infrastructure damage and a deterioration in human capital from conflict and displacement, and a flourishing economy of violence, among other things.
At the social level, the protracted conflict has resulted in horrific social effects. With regard to education, for example, over 3 million Syrian children are currently denied access to schooling, either because they are required to work, with many suffering exploitation at the hands of employers, or because of a lack of education opportunities in Syria or in refugee host countries, despite great efforts by specialized international and humanitarian institutions in this field. Studies indicate that a lack of education and the spread of illiteracy are major factors contributing to increased poverty and the absence of opportunities, thus creating an enabling environment for extremism and social disintegration.
In January 2017, the National Agenda for the Future of Syria Programme launched its first document entitled 'Strategic framework for policy options: post-conflict Syria', a concerted research and analytic effort by over 1,600 Syrian experts from various specializations, brought together by an ESCWA initiative. They set aside their political differences to assemble under one roof and forge a way forward for their country. The document is the fruit of thousands of working hours and dozens of meetings and workshops attended by an elite group of Syrian intellectuals, experts and technicians who submitted hundreds of research papers that have enriched this scientific work with their thoughts, proposals and options at the policy level.
Today, in parallel with the Brussels Conference, the National Agenda for the Future of Syria Programme is placing in the international community's hands this document that embodies the results of those efforts. It can be summarized as follows:
1. Syrian territorial integrity
To ensure the sustainability of the Syrian rebuilding process, the country's territorial integrity must be taken into account with all its ethnic, racial and national components, under a system of government selected by the Syrian people through a representative political process that includes all Syrians. This process shall protect central government institutions, empower them and build upon them.
Any rebuilding process that does not take into account the roots of and reasons behind the crisis - economic, social and governmental - is unsustainable and will face challenges that might reignite conflict in the future.
2. Syrians in Syria and neighbouring countries
Statistics indicate over 8 million internally displaced Syrians and more than 6 million refugees in neighbouring countries. The international community, when planning the rebuilding process, must take into account this large number of people and its effects on Syria and neighbouring countries, and must work without delay on developing projects and programmes to empower Syrians within Syria, allowing them to remain and providing them with decent livelihood opportunities, in addition to other programmes supporting refugees in host countries and the diaspora by empowering them, building their capacity and preparing them for a safe and dignified return to their homes, cities and villages.
3. Rebuilding opportunities
Rebuilding the destruction caused by the Syrian conflict is an opportunity for development and integration between Syria, its neighbours and other countries in the region. Consequently, it is vital to develop inclusive policies and development plans that transform the rebuilding process into a new phase aiding the creation of an environment conducive to stability and sustainable development for the region as a whole."

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published  On April 03-04/17
Around 10 Killed in Saint Petersburg Metro Blast
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/April 03/17/About 10 people were killed and several more injured Monday after an explosion rocked the metro system in Russia's second city Saint Petersburg, according to authorities, who were not ruling out a possible terror attack. President Vladimir Putin said investigators were looking into all possible causes for the explosion -- "accidental, criminal and first of all ... terrorist." Pictures screened on national television showed the door of a train carriage blown out, as bloodied bodies lay strewn on a station platform. Above ground, emergency services vehicles rushed to the scene at the Technological Institute metro station, a key transport hub in the city center. "For the time being, we can say with full confidence that nine people have died and over 20 people were injured, including some who were seriously injured," the spokesman for Russia's national anti-terrorism committee (NAK), Andrei Przhezdomsky, said in televised remarks. Authorities in Saint Petersburg had previously given a death toll of "about 10 people."The blast caused scenes of confusion, with traffic blocked on Moskovsky Prospect, a busy thoroughfare as emergency vehicles rushed to the station. "My mom was in the metro, I don't know what's happened to her, I can't get hold of her," one woman, Natalia, told AFP outside the station as she was trying to make a phone call on her mobile. Pensioner Vyacheslav Veselov told AFP he had seen four bodies at the Technological Institute station. "A station attendant in tears called on the men to help carry the bodies," he said.
2nd device 'neutralized'
Przhezdomsky said the blast occurred at 2:40pm local time (1140 GMT) and that the NAK had already launched an investigation. He said "the blast happened in a train carriage between the stations Technological Institute and Sennaya (Square)," which are next to each other. The committee later confirmed that security services had found a device at the Vosstaniya Square metro station which didn't explode and "neutralized" it. The metro network announced it was shutting down entirely after evacuating all passengers and Russia's Investigative Committee also began a probe into the blast. The Moscow metro also tweeted that it was "taking additional security measures" as required by law in such situations.NAK said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies that security was being stepped up at transportation hubs and crowded places across the country.
Putin 'condolence'
Putin, who was holding a meeting near Saint Petersburg in his official Strelna presidential palace, offered "condolences" to those hurt in the blast. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini wrote on Twitter she was following the story "together with all EU foreign ministers" gathered for a meeting in Luxembourg. "Our thoughts are with all the people of Russia," she wrote. While there was no immediate indication as to what caused the blast, Russia's security services have previously said they had foiled "terrorist attacks" on Moscow's public transport system. And extremists have targeted Russia's public transportation systems in the past. In 2013, Russia was hit by twin suicide strikes that claimed 34 lives and raised alarm over security at the Sochi Winter Olympic Games. A bombing at the main railway station of the southern city of Volgograd killed 18 people on while a second strike hit a trolleybus and claimed 16 lives. A suicide raid on Moscow's Domodedovo airport claimed by Islamic insurgents from the North Caucasus killed 37 people in January 2011. That strike was claimed by the Caucasus Emirate movement of Islamist warlord Doku Umarov. Russia beefed up its security over the holiday period in the wake of the attack on the Berlin Christmas market that killed 12. Russia has intervened militarily to bolster Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces in September 2015, turning the tables on the battlefield just as rebel forces were strengthening their hold on key areas. Russian bombardments helped the regime retake rebel areas in the east of the northern city of Aleppo after four years of fighting. More than 310,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict broke out in March 2011 with protests against Assad's rule.

EU Sees No Future for Assad in Syria
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/April 03/17/President Bashar Assad has no future in post-conflict Syria but his fate is ultimately up to the Syrian people, EU foreign ministers said Monday in response to an apparent shift in US policy. The United States and the European Union have consistently demanded Assad stand down in any peace deal. But last week Washington signalled it would no longer focus on Assad's ouster as it concentrates on the wider fight against terror groups such as Islamic State. Asked what this meant for EU policy, bloc foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said she believed it "would be impossible" to return to the status quo in Syria. After nearly seven years of war, "it seems completely unrealistic to believe that the future of Syria will be exactly the same as it used to be in the past," Mogherini said as she arrived for an EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg. "But this is for the Syrians to decide, that is clear ... any solution that can be acceptable by all Syrians, we will support it."The foreign ministers later endorsed a statement which noted: "The EU recalls that there can be no lasting peace in Syria under the current regime."It said some 13.5 million Syrians were now in need of humanitarian assistance inside Syria while another five million had sought refuge in neighbours, such as Turkey and other regional countries. Mogherini on Tuesday co-hosts with the United Nations a two-day conference on Syria's future in Brussels focused on the disastrous humanitarian situation in the country after a war which has claimed more than 320,000 lives. Mogherini stressed that this was part of efforts to prepare properly for the end of the war while UN-sponsored peace talks in Geneva continued to search for a peace settlement and Russia and Turkey brokered talks between Damascus and the rebels on a ceasefire. German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said he believed the changed United States position was certainly "more realistic", as to insist that Assad must step down from the start would only result in deadlock. "But there is one thing which cannot happen -- that a dictator who committed horrible crimes in the region remains untouched," Gabriel said. The UN peace talks should continue with the aim of producing a "new constitution, elections and a new and democratic government," he said. "This cannot be abandoned or subordinated to the conflict against Islamic State," he added. French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault for his part said there had to be a genuine political transition to a new Syria. "France does not believe for an instant that this new Syria can be led by Assad," he said.

Trump Hosts Sisi in Landmark Visit, Praises 'Fantastic Job' in Egypt

Naharnet/Agence France Presse/April 03/17/President Donald Trump put human rights controversies aside to warmly welcome Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to the White House Monday, the first such visit from an Egyptian president in almost a decade. Greeting Sisi in the Oval Office, Trump heaped praise on the former general's leadership and embarked on a charm offensive designed to fix ties strained by revolution and security crackdowns. "You have a great friend and ally in the United States and in me," Trump told Sisi, sweeping aside his predecessor's concerns about democratic abuses in Egpyt. "I just want to let everybody know that we are very much behind President al-Sisi, he has done a fantastic job in a very difficult situation," Trump added. The meeting symbolizes an end to years in which the Egyptian leader had been kept at arm's length by Washington amid rights concerns. The last time an Egyptian president was at the White House was in 2010, when Hosni Mubarak attended Middle East peace talks alongside Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian leaders. Within months Mubarak was ousted by a popular uprising, which received tacit support from president Barack Obama. The Egypt-U.S. relationship was strained further as a broadly Islamist and then a military government -- led by Sisi -- took charge. The Obama administration froze military aid to Egypt after then-defense minister Sisi led the 2013 ouster of president Mohamed Morsi, and a bloody crackdown on his supporters. Egypt's key role as the most populous Arab nation meant that the aid was fully reinstated in 2015, but diplomatic relations remained difficult. The catalyst for Trump and Sisi's friendship has been a common hardline against jihadist groups, which Sisi described as "a satanic ideology" during brief remarks at the White House.

Slain Student's Parents Urge Pope to Raise Case with Egypt
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/April 03/17/The parents of Giulio Regeni, the Cambridge University student tortured to death in Egypt last year, appealed Monday to Pope Francis to raise their son's unexplained killing when he visits Cairo this month. "We are sure that the pope will not be able to not remember Giulio during this trip and will share our concrete demand for the truth so that we can finally find peace," Regeni's mother, Paola Regeni, said in a press conference at the Italian Senate. Francis is due to travel to the Egyptian capital on April 28 for a two-day visit that will include meetings with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and the grand imam of the al-Azhar mosque and university complex. Raising Regeni's case publicly would be a highly unusual move for a pope, but Francis has repeatedly demonstrated that he is nothing if not unpredictable. Regeni, a 28-year-old Cambridge PhD candidate, disappeared from central Cairo on January 25, 2016, a day when security in the capital was tight as it was the fifth anniversary of the uprising that ousted longtime leader Hosni Mubarak. His mutilated body was found on the outskirts of the city on February 3. He had multiple broken bones and an autopsy concluded he had been beaten with fists, batons and hammers. His mother later said she was only able to recognize her son by the tip of his nose. The case has badly strained the traditionally close relationship between Italy and Egypt, with the authorities in Rome frustrated at the lack of progress towards establishing who was responsible for Regeni's death. Egyptian police initially suggested the student had died in a traffic accident, but later said he had been killed by an anti-foreigner criminal gang whose members were all killed in a shootout with police. That account was met with suspicion in Italy, where politicians and the media have suggested Regeni was slain by elements of Egypt's security services. There is no consensus however on the motive for the killing. Alessandra Ballerini, the Regeni family's lawyer, said during Monday's press conference that Giulio Regeni had been the victim of "state murder," and that she had evidence two senior security officials were involved in his disappearance. Regeni was in Cairo researching Egyptian street vendor trade unions, a sensitive topic, and had written articles critical of the government under a pen name. Egyptian authorities confirmed in January that police looked into his activity in the weeks prior to his death, but concluded he posed no threat to state security. Other theories for Regeni's death include the possibility that he was a spy, or was mistaken for one, and that he was killed by rogue elements in connection with some kind of internal battle within the security services. The case has refocused international attention on rights abuses in Egypt. The country's own watchdog said in a report last year that it raised 266 cases of enforced disappearances with the interior minister. The report also highlighted the continuing torture of prisoners, which it said fed suspicions that Regeni had been abducted by security agents.

Israel Blocking Rights Workers' Access to Gaza, Says HRW
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/April 03/17/Israel is blocking rights activists' access to and from the Gaza Strip, hampering their work in the Palestinian enclave run by Islamist movement Hamas, Human Rights Watch said Monday.A new report from the rights group "documents how Israel systematically bars human rights workers from traveling into and out of Gaza, even where the Israeli security services make no security claims against them as individuals," it said in a statement. Human Rights Watch said it had only once since 2008 received permission from Israel for foreign staff to enter Gaza. Palestinian militants in the coastal enclave and Israel have fought three wars since 2008 and Gaza has been under an Israeli blockade for 10 years. The Gaza Strip's sole crossing with Egypt has also remained largely closed in recent years. "Neither Human Rights Watch nor Amnesty International has been able to get staff into Gaza via Egypt since 2012," HRW said. The New York-based rights watchdog said access to the strip was important to look into allegations of abuses during the devastating 2014 war. The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor has opened an initial probe into alleged war crimes by both sides during the July-August 2014 conflict. "If Israel wants the ICC prosecutor to take seriously its argument that its criminal investigations are adequate, a good first step would be to allow human rights researchers to bring relevant information to light,” said HRW's Sari Bashi. "Impeding the work of human rights groups raises questions not just about the willingness of Israel’s military authorities to conduct genuine investigations, but also their ability to do so." A spokeswoman for the Israeli defense ministry unit that oversees permission to travel to Gaza said that "all requests were carefully studied". "We coordinate regularly crossings of numerous human rights organizations," she added, naming such groups as Doctors Without Borders. Bashi told AFP that while Israel was allowing access for humanitarian workers, it was not permitting rights activists, invoking security concerns. Human Rights Watch also criticized restrictions recently imposed by Hamas following the assassination of one of its officials in the strip on March 24. It has blamed Israel for the assassination and restricted passage out of Gaza as it investigates the murder.

Tunisia to Hold First Post-Revolt Local Polls on Dec 17
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/April 03/17/Tunisia is hold municipal polls on December 17, the country's first since its 2011 revolution, the electoral commission announced Monday. After legislative and presidential votes in 2014, on the back of the adoption of a new constitution, local polls aim to complete the process of democratisation following the revolution that toppled longtime dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. The date of December 17 was agreed in consultations with the government, political parties and civil society groups, the president of Tunisia's electoral body, Chafik Sarsar, told a news conference. After Sarsar initially proposed November 26, some parties had suggested March 2018, but the elections chief warned a long delay would be "a bad sign for Tunisia" and signal "an incapacity to move forward with the democratic transition". Progress within parliament was initially held up by debate over a new electoral law which was finally adopted in January. The law allows members of the security forces and army, amounting to around 130,000 people, to take part in municipal elections as well as regional polls to be held at a later date.

Bahrain King Approves Military Trials for Civilians
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/April 03/17/Bahrain's King Hamad on Monday approved a constitutional amendment granting military courts the right to try civilians accused of terrorism, state news agency BNA said. The amendment, approved unanimously by the upper house of parliament last month, drops a clause limiting military trials to members of the armed forces or other security branches. It does not specify what constitutes an act of terrorism. The Sunni-ruled kingdom has seen frequent protests since authorities quelled Arab Spring-inspired demonstrations led by the Shiite majority in 2011. Hundreds of protestors have been arrested in connection with protests. Many of them, including high-profile activists and clerics, have been charged with acts of terrorism. King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa declared a three-month state of emergency in 2011 during which special military courts were temporarily established to try civilians.

From Ducks to Dushkas: Gun Repair Shops in Syria Today
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/April 03/17/For years, Abboud Jan's gun repair shop in the northeastern Syrian city of Hasakeh catered exclusively to local hunters, but the country's devastating six-year war has changed all that. "We used to repair just hunting weapons, but things have changed with the crisis," says the 36-year-old, standing under a sign in his shop promising "Repair of all weapons". Jan has been in the business for 15 years. When he started out, he mostly fixed shotguns used to hunt waterfowl and other birds. But since Syria's conflict began in March 2011, his skills have branched out to include weapons of war. Now he works on everything from pistols to the widely used Russian DshK heavy machinegun nicknamed the "Dushka". "Now we fix big pieces, in addition to the Dushka and the PKC machineguns, as well as light Russian weapons," he says. His clientele has also changed. Many of his customers these days are either people who carry a firearm for protection, or fighters from local Kurdish or pro-regime militias. Much of Hasakeh province and the regional capital are under the control of a Kurdish "autonomous administration," which runs separate schools and police units. Other parts of Hasakeh city and the surrounding province remain under government control. Jan receives around 10 customers a day in his cramped city center shop, where empty tea cups sit atop soot-covered drawers filled with tools.
Never expected' to carry arms
Freddy, a 31-year-old jeweler wearing a baseball cap, comes in holding a small pistol. Jan swiftly gets to work on it. "Before the war I had a hunting rifle, and I used to come here for repairs now and again," Freddy tells AFP. "But when the war started, I bought a pistol. "I keep it with me all the time. We've seen several kidnappings during the war," he says, adding that his work as a jeweler makes him particularly vulnerable to crime. Jan charges between 1,000 and 5,000 Syrian pounds ($2-$10) for basic maintenance work on a pistol, with the price for work on larger pieces determined by their size and make.Most of his work involves fixing weapons that have jammed because of heavy use without proper cleaning and care. Local pro-regime militiaman Fayez, a 25-year-old dressed in military fatigues, comes to Jan with a malfunctioning Kalashnikov. Jan examines the assault rifle's sights and then replaces a part. Within minutes he hands it back, fully working again. "I never expected I'd be using weapons," says Fayez. "But today I take care of my weapons and maintain them on a regular basis."Fixing firearms is the only line of work Jan has ever known, but he says he hopes his children will continue with their education and enter a profession unrelated to violence.
'First mistake is your last'
In another repair shop in the Kurdish-controlled Aziziyeh neighborhood, 47-year-old Abu Mohammed replaces part of a pistol using rough, grease-stained hands. He says he is unhappy about the turn his business has taken. Like Jan, he mostly worked on hunting weapons before Syria's conflict began in 2011, and he too has since shifted to fixing battlefield arms. "At the beginning, war prompted me to quit my job for a while. I didn't want to deal with combat weapons," he tells AFP. But with no other work available, he felt forced to return to his sole source of income. He now handles a wide range of arms, including pistols, rifles and machineguns. He says he avoids working with heavy weapons because of the dangers involved. "Our profession requires a lot of concentration -- it's as though you're dealing with mines," he says. "The first mistake you make is your last."The constant risk is one reason why Abu Mohammed hopes to find another job and stop repairing guns for good. "Maintaining a hunting rifle that brings pleasure to its owner is far better than maintaining these death pieces," he says. He says he never expected Syria to turn into a war zone, and struggles with the idea of fixing weapons to be used against fellow humans. As if trying to convince himself, he adds: "All the guns and pistols that I repair are being used to defend the country, not to spread death within it."

Bahrain Cuts Opposition Chief Jail Term
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/April 03/17/Bahrain's top court on Monday reduced the jail sentence of Shiite opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman, who has been in prison since 2014, a judicial source said. The Sunni-ruled kingdom's court of cassation reduced Salman's sentence from nine to four years, the source said on condition of anonymity. No further details were immediately available. The court of cassation in October had ordered a retrial of the 51-year-old cleric, who headed the now-banned Al-Wefaq Shiite opposition movement. Salman had been arrested on charges of inciting hatred and insulting the state in December 2014. He was found guilty in July 2015 and sentenced to four years in jail. An appeals court later more than doubled his jail term to nine years, after reversing an earlier acquittal on charges of calling for regime change by force. Salman is considered a moderate who has pushed for a constitutional monarchy in Bahrain compared to more hardline groups who have demanded the toppling of the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty in a string of protests that go back to 2011.  Bahrain has cracked down over the past six years on dissent by members of the Shiite majority, whom it accuses of being manipulated by Iran. Shiite Iran has consistently denied any involvement. The kingdom last year ordered the dissolution of Al-Wefaq, the country's main Shiite opposition party, for "harbouring terrorism". Al-Wefaq was the largest bloc in Bahrain's elected lower house of parliament. Its lawmakers resigned en masse in protest against the state crackdown on the 2011 protests. In 1995, Salman was among a string of oppositionists exiled from Bahrain, moving to the United Arab Emirates and then Britain. In 2001, he returned to Bahrain under a general amnesty and set up Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society with other Shiite opposition figures. In 2006 he was elected secretary general of the group.

Washington Will Not Allow for Iran Regime to Exploit Yemeni Territory
National Council of Resistance of Iran/Monday, 03 April 2017
Yemeni Diplomat: Washington Aware of Size of Iranian Involvement in Yemen
Riyadh – Yemeni ambassador to the United States Ahmed Awad Bin Mubarak confirmed a “radical” change in the United States’ stances on Yemen under the President Donald Trump Administration. Recent statements made by Washington officials point out a more decisive and focused approach in the Yemen crisis, Mubarak clarified. The Trump administration is well aware of the depth of Iran’s interference in Yemen today, Mubarak told Asharq Al-Awsat in a phone call.Washington will not allow for Iran to exploit Yemeni territory, so that it becomes a secured arms-trafficking route serving their ends, he added.
A number of reports this week stated that Trump is considering providing assistance for an offensive on the key port of Hodeidah that is held by Iran-backed putschists in Yemen and has already increased intelligence sharing and logistics support. Iran has long armed, funded and trained militias across the region, both expanding its sphere of influence and securing ground proxies that will eventually serve Tehran’s overall agenda. For example, Tehran arms and funds the Lebanon-based paramilitary militia “Hezbollah.”The Yemeni diplomat pointed out to clear condemnations issued by Washington against the Iran-aligned insurgency forces fueling Yemen’s civil war.Washington publicly reiterated its support for the internationally recognized government in Yemen led by President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, added ambassador Mubarak. Putschists in Yemen have staged loud transgressions against Yemen, overlooking international waters and their safety, referring to the insurgency-held port of Hodeida, the diplomat said. He also shed light on Houthi militiamen looting aid sent to deprived areas that now face famine, especially in the port city of Hodeidah. The World Food Program said earlier this month that the governorates of Taiz and Hodeidah risked slipping into famine if they did not receive more aid. The Red Sea port near the Bab al-Mandab strait is under the control of Yemen’s armed Houthi movement. The Bab al-Mandab is a waterway through which nearly 4 million barrels of oil is shipped daily. “Iran continues to smuggle arms in an effort to support Houthi and Saleh militias nestled in Hodeidah,” said the diplomat. The embassy now is seeking to employ more international influence into the efforts seeking to pressure the insurgency into releasing and lifting the blockade off the port city. “Our government recognizes the significance of Hodeidah’s port for aid delivery, and therefore rooting out Houthis will eliminate their destructive meddling in aid distribution,” Yemen’s ambassador said. Yemen’s civil war between the internationally recognized Aden-based government of Hadi and the Houthis backed by army units loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh erupted in March 2015. Shortly after the start of the conflict, the Saudi-led coalition of Arab countries launched Operation Decisive Storm, which aims to restore the constitutionally elected authority into power.

General Jones: Iran Regime Can't Be Trusted
National Council of Resistance of Iran/Monday, 03 April 2017/
A Gulf NATO Delivers Powerful Message to Iran
London – General James Jones, former supreme allied commander of NATO, has always been involved in the Middle East affairs, problems and causes. In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Jones expressed relief towards the “tremendously successful” meeting between Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Second Deputy Premier and Minister of Defense, and US President Donald Trump where both agreed upon “risks threatening the Gulf.” What follows is an excerpt of this interview.Jones suggested forming a Gulf coalition similar to the NATO. “The NATO succeeded in facing the existential threat posed, then, by the Soviet Union and helped in dissociating it,” Jones added as he affirmed that US will be pleased to join this dialogue if the idea of a Gulf NATO was endorsed by Saudi deputy crown prince and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. When asked to evaluate US-Saudi relations and to point out how they will differ compared to the presidential tenure of Barack Obama, General Jones replied that “Trump and the government were clear that Iran is a state that can’t be trusted and that it represents a threat to the region and is a source of terrorism. I think that the common vision of Saudi deputy crown prince and other Gulf leaders towards Iran enhanced the ties with the new US administration.”“How can the US cooperate with the Saudi kingdom and the Arabian Gulf countries to limit the Iranian intervention in their affairs and to halt Iran’s terrorist operations?”Jones answer was as follows, “I see that if we are facing an existential threat then we should be decisive, double the sanctions and do all that we should to make Iran change its attitude radically.”

Arab Summit: Iran's Meddling Strongly Criticized
National Council of Resistance of Iran/Monday, 03 April 2017 09:42
Is the Arab Summit alliance raising stakes for Iran?/ It appears the recent Arab League Summit in Jordan should be considered an important development in the path of further isolating Iran in the Middle East. At a first glance, this was a conference in which the highest number of state leaders participated in comparison to previous such gatherings. Al-Arabiya covered in an article by Heshmat Alavi, On April 3, 2017. A more in-depth perspective places us before this important conclusion that most speakers strongly criticized Iran’s meddling and highlighted the necessity of solidarity and alliance amongst Arab states to confront this phenomenon. Leaders of Saudi Arabia and Jordan specifically expressed their grave concerns over Iran’s interference across the region, especially Syria, sectarian warmongering and Tehran’s state sponsorship of terrorism.“Tehran provokes sectarianism and hinders efforts to resolve regional crises,” said Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit.
Iran’s setback
Significant is the fact that the Arab Summit initially prepared a relatively low-profile draft resolution adopting a soft tone in relation to Iran. However, the final resolution prepared and published by Arab League Foreign Ministers reflected the majority members’ position, being completely against Iran and the mullahs’ policies of meddling and supporting terrorism. However, a few Arab countries such as Iraq and Lebanon – literally taken hostage by Iran – or Algeria, enjoying specific interests in its relations with the mullahs’ regime, could not jump on this resolution train.
This left the remaining member states before two options: either refusing to sign, forgoing any possibility of forming a consensus and accepting resulting rifts; or financing on their common grounds, being the subjects of Palestine and opposing any meddling in others internal affairs (without specifically mentioning Iran). Although the terms used in the resolution falls of short of directly pinpointing the mullahs’ regime in Iran, it is quite obvious who the crosshairs were placed on.
Importantly, of grave significance for the main member states in this conference was to enjoy Iraq’s signature, and that of its Prime Minister, on this initiative. Considering the new international status quo and Washington’s new policies, the gradual distancing of Iraq from Iran, and further advances in this regard is seen in the forecast.Although the terms used in the Arab Summit resolution falls of short of directly pinpointing the regime in Iran, it is quite obvious who the crosshairs were placed on. (Reuters)
A new era
It is worth noting the Obama years rendered a complete passive and inactive American policy in regards to Iraq. Through a disastrous strategic mistake in pulling out prematurely from Iraq, Washington practically giftwrapped Baghdad to Tehran.
This policy has currently changed and American policymakers have made it crystal clear how they will not permit Iran take on any wished measures.
US CENTCOM commander General Joseph Votel in a recent hearing of the House of Representatives Armed Forces Committee emphasized on the necessity to confront Iran as the main long-term threat before stability in the Middle East. Votel also went the distance to insist on considering military assets and other capabilities to stop this regime. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi recently visited Washington and signs indicate he has been briefed and received specific instructions over the America’s major policy overhaul and shifts in relation to Iraq and the entire Middle East. To this end, Arab leaders saw it very important to have Iraq – a party voting against previous summit resolutions – to sign this new initiative. This allowed the summit to maintain its fabric and unity over two main subjects of Palestine and condemning meddling in the internal affairs of other countries.
General James Jones, former NATO commander and US national security advisor, recently called on all Gulf States to establish a defensive alliance similar to that of NATO against the threats Iran poses for regional states. Such an “Arab NATO” will enjoy America’s support, he added.
Global front against Iran When we use the terms a substantial alteration in international politics, we must mention a recent hearing held at the British Parliament discussing Iran’s meddling in the region, widespread condemnations targeting the mullahs’ human rights violations, calls to establish an Arab alliance aimed at evict this regime from regional countries. For such a cause, designating the Revolutionary Guards as a foreign terrorist organization would be a prelude measure and act as a necessary springboard.
This goes in line with further measures to enforce the flawed deal aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program. Rest assured if the Arab World adopts a firm stance and demands Iran’s eviction from their soil, the US will most definitely be encouraged to blacklist the IRGC and defang Iran’s meddling.
Moreover, the presence of United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Organization of Islamic Cooperation Secretary-General Youssef bin al-Ottaimeen, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, envoys of the US And France in this conference indicated the decisions made in this platform enjoy enormous international support, rendering further worldwide isolation for Tehran. Reactions seen from Iran prove the fact this Arab Summit in Jordan ended as a complete failure and delivered heavy damages to Tehran’s interests. As usual, the mullahs’ media resort to low-standard lies that deserve no repetition. The mullahs, however, cannot cloak their utter anger and fear of such a united position against its meddling in Arab countries. As we close in to Iran’s presidential elections in May, rest assured this isolation on the international stage will have a major impact on Iran’s domestic politics, and the Iranian society – described as a powder keg – is watching very closely.

The NCRI Women's Committee Condemns the Iranian Regime's Banning of Female Athletes' Competition on the Bogus Charge Of "Failing to Observe Islamic Codes"
National Council of Resistance of Iran/Sunday, 02 April 2017/In an appalling measure, the clerical regime deprived five female Iranian athletes for one year from participating in all national and international tournaments for "failing to observe Islamic codes" while participating in China's Open billiard competitions.This is part of the clerical regime's policy against Iranian athletes, particularly women. Last year, Khamenei issued a preposterous decree banning women from "riding bicycles in public and in front of strangers". He said, "Riding bicycles often attracts the attention of men and tends to seduce and corrupt the society. It is against women's chastity and must be abandoned." (The state-run press – September 10, 2016). The Women's Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran condemns deprivation of female athletes on such bogus charges. The NCRI Women's Committee calls on the freedom-loving women of Iran to stand up to and protest the regime's medieval and repressive compulsions. The Women's Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published On April 03-04/17
Palestinians: The Diploma for Terror
Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/April 03/2017
A glance at their leaders and senior officials tells them that Palestinian Authority jobs go to "graduates" of Israeli prisons.
Besides sending a message to Palestinians about who is valued in Palestinian society, the Fatah leader is also making it clear that the path to leadership and employment passes through Israeli prisons. Abbas's senior representative is telling Palestinians that there is no need for them to pursue actual education: Israeli prisons are the best "universities."
The longer the time spent in prison, the higher the military rank. Ten years will earn them the rank of Colonel. More than that will earn them General. The path to winning a job with a PA ministry also passes through Israeli prisons. These are the leaders touted as role models to young Palestinians.
Palestinians who are being held in Israeli prisons are "a model for sensibility and national culture and constitute a pillar for the establishment of a Palestinian state." This glorification of Palestinian prisoners, many of whom are behind bars for murdering Jews, was issued last week by Fayez Abu Aitah, a senior representative of President Mahmoud Abbas's ruling Fatah faction.
Abu Aitah's words of appreciation for murderers of Jews came during a visit he paid to Hatem al-Maghari, a Palestinian Authority (PA) policeman who was released last week after serving 17 years in prison for his role in the lynching of two Israeli reserve soldiers who mistakenly entered Ramallah. Upon his arrival at his home in the town of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Al-Maghari received a hero's welcome. Hundreds of Palestinians have since converged on his home to congratulate him on his release from prison and heap praise him on for his "contribution" to the Palestinian cause.
Abbas's Fatah was quick to embrace al-Maghari as "one of our sons" in order to send a message to Palestinians that the Fatah faction is also involved in terror attacks against Israel. For years, Fatah's opponents have been accusing it of abandoning the "armed struggle" in favor of a peace process with Israel. Groups such as Hamas, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Palestinian Islamic Jihad continue to criticize Fatah for not being sufficiently active in the terror campaign against Israel.
The release of al-Maghari provided an opportunity for Fatah to remind its Palestinian enemies of its "contribution" to the war against Israel. The lynching of the two soldiers inside a Palestinian Authority police station in Ramallah was one of the most brutal crimes perpetrated by Palestinians. The PA leadership has never accepted responsibility for the lynching of the two soldiers, who were being held by PA policemen inside the station after taking a wrong turn into the city as they were on their way to their base.
The hero's welcome that al-Maghari received and the words of praise from Fatah leaders serve as a reminder of how murderers of Jews continue to be hailed as role models for Palestinians. President Abbas and his PA and Fatah representatives have long lauded Palestinian prisoners held by Israel as "heroes" and future leaders of a Palestinian state.
As Abu Aitah explained during his well-wishing visit to the released terrorist:
"The prisoners are the pillar of our national movement. They have sacrificed the best of our committed and responsible national cadres that are leading the struggle of our people. Our prisoners have turned (Israeli) prisons into universities from where the future leaders graduate."
Besides sending a message to Palestinians about who is valued in Palestinian society, the Fatah leader is also making it clear that the path to leadership and employment passes through Israeli prisons. In no uncertain terms, he is saying to young Palestinians: "If you want to become a leader, you need to prove your qualifications by following the example of those Palestinians who carried out terror attacks against Israel and spent time in Israeli prison." Again: Abbas's senior representative is telling Palestinians that there is no need for them to pursue actual education: Israeli prisons are the best "universities."
Palestinians have every reason to believe Abu Aitah; he is the top Fatah official. Just a glance at their leaders and senior officials tells them that Palestinian Authority jobs go to "graduates" of Israeli prisons. There is no shortage of such leaders who rose to power thanks to their involvement in terror attacks against Israel. In the world of the Palestinians, terror is indeed the diploma of currency. Serving time in Israeli prison can even earn one a military rank without having to go to any military or security academy.
The PA, according to Palestinian sources, has one of the largest numbers of Generals and Colonels in the Arab world. Most of these high-ranking officers earned their titles thanks to the time they served in Israeli prison, not because they studied at any military academy.
Take, for example, Jibril Rajoub, the former commander of the Palestinian Authority's notorious Preventive Security Force, who holds the rank of Major-General. Rajoub's rank is largely the result of the 17 years he spent in Israeli prison for his role in terrorism. Rajoub is only one of dozens, if not hundreds, of former prisoners who hold such high-ranking titles but do not have any real military background.
Many high-ranking PA security officials, such as Major-General Adnan Damiri, spokesman for the PA security forces, wear medals and decorations on their military uniforms even though they have not participated in any war. Damiri spent 10 years in Israeli prison for security-related offenses.
Many high-ranking Palestinian Authority (PA) security officials, such as Major-General Adnan Damiri, spokesman for the PA security forces, wear medals and decorations on their military uniforms even though they have not participated in any war. (Image source: PA video screenshot)
These are the leaders touted as role models to young Palestinians. No small number of Palestinian senior "officers" failed even to complete their high school education. But that should not bother any Palestinian who is dreaming of assuming a senior job in a Palestinian state.
On April 17, the Palestinians will again mark "Palestinian Prisoners' Day" by holding as series of rallies in solidarity with prisoners who carried out terror attacks against Israel. This event is marked every year by Palestinians to honor the "heroes" who made "huge sacrifices" on behalf of the Palestinians.
These "sacrifices" include the maiming and murder of Jews. The annual event in the West Bank is sponsored and funded by Abbas's Fatah, in turn funded by Europe and the West, in the context of glorifying terrorists and encouraging Palestinian youths to follow their presumably heroic example.
A Palestinian teenager who wishes to become a "general" under Abbas need not apply to any sort of academy. The shortest route to achieve rank is by carrying out a terror attack against Israel and doing time in Israeli prison. The longer the time spent in prison, the higher the military rank. Ten years will earn them the rank of Colonel. More than that will earn them General. The path to winning a job with a Palestinian Authority ministry also passes through Israeli prisons. Former prisoners are treated as the "good boys of the revolution" and granted the plum jobs. Meanwhile, those Palestinians who actually choose to become educated once again lose out.
It would be no surprise, then, if al-Maghari finds himself awarded the rank of General in Abbas's Fatah-controlled security forces.
And so it continues: the unashamed glorification of murderers; terrorists paraded as role models and paragons of virtue to yet another generation of Palestinians. Under these conditions of unremitting incitement, no Palestinian can talk about peace with Israel.
When President Abbas visits the White House, it will be interesting to see if his "peace" stance includes a discussion of the Diploma for Terror.
**Bassam Tawil is a scholar based in the Middle East.
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Inciting statements for ideological reasons
Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/April 03/17
Statements released for a specific political purpose have always been used for political ends. They are used to inflame public anger and sometimes to blackmail the society and government. They are sometimes released coinciding with certain events and sometimes without any specific event.
A similar statement was made when a petition was signed calling for the support of Iraqis in the American war in 2003. As a result, a group of Saudis went to help and sacrificed their lives in a war that had nothing to do with them. Let us remember the number of victims that have been claimed by statements made on the basis of ideology calling for support, revolt and resistance
Differing purposes
Such statements have been excessively used to protest against any civil action, warlike situations and even, recreational and civil phenomena. During the conference – Ideological Trends between Freedom of Expression and The Rullings Of Sharia – organized by the Muslim World League in the presence of experts, the League advised an end to “speeches, appeals and statements issued by supporters of scientific approach and advocacy (Daawa) from time to time. This is usually done to elicit Islamic approach to a particular decision, fact or opinion. To sum it up, ideological opinions differ with political mobilization and party activities. Let us remember the number of victims that have been claimed by statements made on the basis of ideology calling for support, revolt and resistance. This article was first published in Okaz on April 3.

Yemen and two years of confronting Iran
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/April 03/17
The Houthis and former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s takeover of the Yemeni capital Sanaa through the power of arms marked the end of the Yemenis’ peaceful uprising and the beginning of the war. I was certain that the war be will long and tough for several reasons.For instance, former president, Saleh, was still in control of the armed forces and the Houthi movement is a group that takes orders from Iran. This is in addition to the lack of a central authority in Yemen and the country’s rough terrains.
The Iranian links to the war could be traced since the beginning and Iran did not hide them because it viewed the war as regional. Iran believes that opening a front against Saudi Arabia in Yemen is part of the geopolitical balance in Syria and Bahrain’s conflicts. Although many observers have denied this possibility since the beginning and mocked it, they later admitted Iran’s involvement. What’s interesting is that Tehran had not even bothered to hide it. Saudi Arabia’s and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries’ only option in Yemen was confronting the Iranians who are fighting via their Houthi proxies and Saleh’s forces. There are documented reports of arrest of Iranian military men who were present in the warzones. This war aims to defend Gulf countries against Iran that wants to expand and threaten its neighbors.
The missiles which the rebels in Yemen fired deep into Saudi Arabia confirmed the fear that Saleh and Houthis have a missile system that threatens Saudi Arabia’s security. Later on international navy inspectors also found missiles in Iranian ships heading to Yemeni ports. The rebels use similar missiles to shell southern Saudi areas. The war in Yemen, just like other wars in the region, is not a mere dispute among local groups. It is planned and funded by regional powers, mainly Iran, which appears determined to expand its influence and besiege it neighbors
Two years later
Two years on after the war in Yemen began, it is important to remind of the facts which are often forgotten amid the developments of war.
First of all, it was the Yemeni people who ousted Saleh and established a new political situation. The people revolted against Saleh as a result of his failure in governance. Saleh was the longest-serving leader in the world and the most unsuccessful as well.
Altering the regime was not the desire or plan of Gulf countries. It was a result of the Arab Spring, which toppled several rulers – Moammar Qaddafi in Libya, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia. After protests erupted in Sanaa, the UN acted out of fear and sought to organize the situation by assigning an envoy whose task was to maintain civil peace and propose a political plan which the GCC, the US and Europe agreed to.
The solution was establishing a democratic system through which a president and a parliament could be elected. All Yemeni parties agreed to this and a temporary transitional government was formed for the period of 18 months.
During this phase, they were supposed to draft a constitution and prepare for the elections. However, Saleh and the Houthis planned the coup, seized the whole of Yemen and arrested most ministers and political leaders.
After the rebels rejected all international efforts to convince them to retreat and after they rejected all additional concessions, military response was the only solution. The rebels had thus insisted to be in command and maintain their arms in what resembles Hezbollah’s situation in Lebanon.
The war in Yemen, just like other wars in the region, is not a mere dispute among local groups. It is planned and funded by regional powers, mainly Iran, which appears determined to expand its influence and besiege it neighbors.
Unfortunately, the war was thus painfully imposed on the Yemenis and the Saudis. It is unacceptable to let the Iranian regime use Yemen as a base to attack the latter’s neighbor without militarily confronting it.

Iranian trap targeting the US in Mosul
Sawsan Al Shaer/Al Arabiya/April 03/17
Iran has an operative presence on Iraqi and Syrian territories through Iranian fighters and military leaders who are in command of Shiite militias. Some of them are Arabs who joined the Popular Mobilization in Iraq, Hezbollah in Syria or non-Arab militias recruited by Iran to fight in Syria under the pretext of fighting ISIS. This is an occupation project that has cost the Islamic Republic of Iran billions of dollars and many lives that got back in coffins covered with Iranian flag. Will Iran easily give up on the positions it occupied just because of some Arab breakthroughs or closures with the Iraqi government or because of some Gulf concessions related to the survival of the Assad regime?
Is the Iraqi government or the Syrian regime capable of taking a decision to abandon Iran and return to the Arab circle?
Iran is keen to convince the international coalition, led by the United States, that it (Iran) is the only and unique force that can defeat ISIS in this region because it is the only one with operative presence on the ground. ISIS cannot be eradicated from Mosul and Raqqa without cooperation from Iran, that is to say that even the international coalition is forced to cooperate with the Iranians.
So will it stand idly and watch the American enthusiasm pulling the rug from under its feet in the region and prove that the elimination of ISIS is possible without Iran itself? This is why we ask: Did Iran set a trap for American forces when it leaked false information through its Shiite militias about alleged military targets that turned out to be civilian ones and caused a disaster in Mosul? The Pentagon admitted last Saturday that an examination showed that the international coalition targeted – upon the request of Iraqi security forces – ISIS fighters and equipment on March 17, with reports that civilian casualties resulted from this attack. The trap that has been set up for US forces causing Iraqi civilians casualties is not surprising and is intended to provoke discontent and outrage that would eventually lead to Iraqis calling for the US withdrawal
Defenseless civilians
Basma Basim, the head of Mosul’s provincial council, confirmed that more than 500 defenseless civilians were killed in the raids of the International Coalition on the Mosul district, during the Iraqi forces preparations to enter Mosul about a week ago. She added that what happened was practically intended because it did not target ISIS fighters who were not more than 6 in number.
Bashar al-Kiki, head of the provincial council for Nineveh, said that “they are still searching for bodies underneath the rubble.” Iraqi Vice President Osama al-Nujaifi accused the International Coalition and the Iraqi Federal Police of using excessive weapons, aircraft, artillery and missiles during the battle; he called for rapid investigations and the protection of citizens’ lives and dignity.
The American-Iranian “cooperation” on Iraqi territories is a test for the credibility of the US-Iranian relations during Trump’s tenure; the US forces responded to the demand of the Popular Mobilization, which the US Treasury classified as terrorist and sectarian, controlled by Iranian leaders led by Qassem Soleimani. The Pentagon announced that it was cooperating with it and undertook the attack based on the request of the so-called “Iraqi security forces” but it turned out that there were civilians on the site, which led to many casualties.
The coordination between the US forces and Iranian leaders or Popular Mobilization Shiite leaders, is still in full swing and is not limited to Mosul. The coordination is also on the level of US General Stephen Townsend, commander of US forces in Iraq and Syria, and Abu Mehdi al-Muhandis, leader of Iraqi Hezbollah, top advisor to Qasim Soleimani in Tal Afar and Popular Mobilization Deputy who was listed by the US Treasury on the terrorism list.
Obama’s legacy
Moreover, according to the “Strategic Observatory”, the cooperation is still on between US officers and Badr militias led by Hadi al-Amiri, where Mcgork and Townsend maintain close relations with him since the presidency of Obama.
The Iranian-American cooperation in Iraq and Syria, is still working under Obama’s policies, where there is absolute confidence in the synchronization between Iranian and American objectives. So, are these common goals still the same during Trump’s presidency, or did they change? Do US field leaders have full trust in the Iranian leadership? Logically, one of Iran’s goals in Syria and Iraq is the withdrawal of American troops and its one-sided presence on the ground. The trap that has been set up for US forces causing Iraqi civilians casualties is not surprising and is intended to provoke discontent and outrage that would eventually lead to Iraqis calling for the US withdrawal. We should be very careful. Iran will not leave the region in peace, especially that its allies see it as the only means for salvation. The US-Gulf understanding and the American enthusiasm to end ISIS is a threat to Iranian interests.
Thus, when we deal with the Iraqi government, we should not forget that it is, along with the Shiite armed militias, a segment of the Iranian army.

My five weeks in a wheelchair
Oussama Romdhani/Al Arabiya/April 03/17
A nasty ankle fracture put me in a wheel¬chair for more than five weeks, turning the shortest trips and simplest errands into enormous tasks. The experi¬ence did, however, offer me a different perspective on the daily challenges facing people with disabilities in my home town of Tunis. I suspect the plight of the disabled in the rest of the Arab world is not that different. In those five weeks, I did not venture into the narrow alleyways of the Old Medina, but even the commute to work or to visit the doctor’s office and, oddly, the hospital’s emergency room itself were no easy tasks. The wheel¬chair ramps, even in the city’s newest buildings, seem to have been designed to serve more as missile launch pads than as access routes for the disabled. There are no handicapped slots in car parks. Going to the bank once in those few weeks was one time too many. Even if helped by a companion, crossing the street to the uneven pavement and accessing the bank’s entrance was a hazardous adventure. After five weeks, I still do not know how on Earth the handi¬capped manage to do the most basic things, such as going to the restroom. These places are not properly designed or customized to accommodate the average wheelchair.
The attitude of people you encounter makes up only a little for the inadequate infrastructure. When in close contact, the major¬ity of people seems moved to some form of embarrassed compassion. Most people feel the compulsion to help. Sometimes there are many volunteers when you don’t need them to push your wheelchair.
Often, people usefully and helpfully try to hold the temperamental elevator so you aren’t caught in the door, but the kindness of strangers cannot reshape the steep ramps or straighten out dangerously uneven sidewalks. Sometimes though, people’s reactions to the wheelchair-bound can be fairly complex.
The spectacle of you struggling to get out of a car in your wheel¬chair proves mesmerizing for some who hardly notice the face of the person engaged in the difficult maneuvers. A few don’t see you, period. You are too low in altitude to be caught by their radar screen. Being in a wheelchair does not make me an expert on the plight of the handicapped but it makes me think that experience of the permanently disabled is probably beyond imagining by the “normal” population
The invisible
Perhaps, like members of ethnic and racial minorities in many societies, the disabled too can be somehow invisible. Human reflex¬es spare the “normal” majority in society, the discomfort of dealing with those whose presence itself is a challenge to their complacency-driven sense of normality.
Not too long ago, didn’t many families in the Arab world conceal their physically or mentally disa¬bled children from public view? No wonder, many Arab countries still under-report the number of disabled people in their midst. To¬day, if 15 percent of the world population is estimated to live with disability, Arab countries report a “compara¬tively low prevalence of disability, ranging from 0.4-4.3 percent of the population”.
That’s according to the UN Economic and Social Com¬mission for Western Asia (ESCWA). This under-reporting takes place despite a reasonable expectation that the Arab world has higher risk factors for disability — including wars, road accidents and medical conditions that are specific to the region.
“Rates in Arab countries must be taken with a grain of salt,” con¬cludes ESCWA. Being in a wheelchair does not make me an expert on the plight of the handicapped but it does make me think that the experience of the permanently disabled is probably beyond imagining by the “normal” population. Their needs are not sufficiently recognized, so they are more un¬likely to be addressed.
Bloated bureaucracy
They are probably the most affected by the region’s bloated bureaucracy. When undertaking the simplest transactions, they are bound to feel the suffocating weight of red tape more than eve¬rybody else. In a part of the world where almost every signature on a docu¬ment needs to be legally notarized, waiting in line or climbing the stairs in office build¬ings is an obviously huge im¬pediment for people with impaired mobility. Such obstacles prevent the disabled from pursuing a normal pro¬fessional or educational life. In fact, employment rates for the disabled in the Arab world are estimated to be one-half to one-third that of the rest of the population. Illiteracy rates are at least double (rising to six times in certain countries) those of the general population. That’s not to say that there aren’t laws on the books and official proclamations about helping the disabled. There are also employment quotas for the disabled, for instance 7 percent in Morocco. Much less in most other Arab countries. However, the disabled need fewer laws and quotas than a real chance to function as normal and valued members of society. Despite all the formal pronouncements, the disabled — especially women — are still awfully marginalized. The wheelchair-bound don’t need people to push them along to their destinations as much as they need enforceable regulations that allow them to be independent and safe in their cities. Being physically or mentally impaired in most of the Arab world today means losing your ticket to social inclusion. The disabled are probably one of the biggest still-disenfranchised minorities in the region. Reversing this situation is the just thing to do. Freedom and dignity of the disabled — and the rest of society — start there.

Is this a war on Gulf carriers?
Hussein Shobokshi/Al Arabiya/April 03/17
It is no secret that a feud has been going on for a long time between commercial airlines from the United States and Canada and Gulf-based airlines such as Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and especially Emirates Airlines.
The US and Canadian commercial airlines consider some Gulf-based airlines to be government owned and subsidized ventures. They believe that the Gulf-based carriers do not incur the normal operating costs of other airlines and, therefore, that there is unfair competition which threatens the rival airline companies.
The opposing airlines try to counter the domination of Gulf-based carriers by raising issues against them. However, their complaints to the respective Gulf governments have failed to yield significant results.
Now, in the ongoing trade war, Gulf airlines companies are targeted again following the decision of the US Department of Homeland Security to ban laptops and other large electronic devices from being carried in the cabins of the airplanes of some Middle Eastern carriers flying to the United States.
There are also reports that Britain and Canada plan to follow suit. Some interpret this move as a preemptive strike against the strong Gulf aviation companies as part of a policy that aims to protect the US economy.
There have been previous instances of commercial wars between the European Airbus and US Boeing companies concerning competition issues, as well as similar disputes faced by companies like “Huawei” for competing against American companies.
This latest change in the rules of the game will benefit US carriers under the pretext of a policy of countering terrorism, which cannot be rejected or challenged
Awaiting the response
The question now is: How will Emirates Airlines respond? The company is known for its creative action and for facing challenging problems. Its response will be very important, as it is likely that other affected companies will probably adopt and emulate its actions.
Emirates realizes the importance and seriousness of the electronics ban that affected it adversely following a 35 percent cancellation of flight reservations soon after the announcement of the ban was made. Emirates Airlines, the largest UAE carrier, is a world-class airline that has introduced routes to cover the needs of others.
For example, its daily flight from Dubai to Sao Paulo in Brazil is in fact service for the large Lebanese community there and the Los Angeles and San Francisco sectors serve the Indian and Pakistani communities in California.
The trade war with its protectionist cover also includes Turkish Airlines, another airline that has captured a significant market share. At the moment, Asian aviation giants that compete fiercely for flying across the Pacific Ocean and have strongly influenced and successfully competed with American aviation companies, are not included in the electronics ban. However, they may be targeted at a later stage.
The US aviation market is a formidable one and American authorities make it difficult for other airlines to fly to the US. This latest change in the rules of the game will benefit US carriers under the pretext of a policy of countering terrorism, which cannot be rejected or challenged.
A practical response from Emirates Airlines must be creative and innovative. Will it resort to technological changes with support from companies like Google, Cisco, Apple and Oracle to offer computing solutions from Cloud Computing with fixed devices on the plane to overcome the US decision to ban electronic devices? As history teaches us, innovative solutions come from impossible situations.