April 07/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
Jesus's 40 Days Fasting & The Devil's Temptation
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 04/01-13/:"Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness,
where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, "One does not live by bread alone." ’Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, ‘To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.’Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, "Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him." ’Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, "He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you", and "On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone." ’Jesus answered him, ‘It is said, "Do not put the Lord your God to the test." ’When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

Keep away from believers who are living in idleness and not according to the tradition that they received from us
Second Letter to the Thessalonians 03/06-18/:"We command you, beloved, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from believers who are living in idleness and not according to the tradition that they received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, and we did not eat anyone’s bread without paying for it; but with toil and labour we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you. This was not because we do not have that right, but in order to give you an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat. For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right. Take note of those who do not obey what we say in this letter; have nothing to do with them, so that they may be ashamed. Do not regard them as enemies, but warn them as believers. Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with all of you. I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the mark in every letter of mine; it is the way I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published On April 06-07/17
Gassing’ Syrians Is Overshadowed by Considerations of “The Eastern Question”
Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al Awsat/April 06/17
Tech Underestimates Future Demand for Privacy/Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg View/April 06/17
Iranian Militias in Bahrain/Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al Awsat/April 06/17
Scholar Radwan al-Sayed Wins King Faisal International Prize for Islamic Studies/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/April 06/17
The Terrorism Industry/Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/April 06/17
Europe's Out-of-Control Censorship/Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/April 06/17
What happened? Iranians are condemning Khan Sheikhoun massacre/Mamdouh AlMuhaini/Al Arabiya/April 06/17
Is it now Trump’s turn to bring misery to Syrians/Dr. Azeem Ibrahim/Al Arabiya/April 06/17
Why some family businesses do not taste success/Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi/Al Arabiya/April 06/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published On April 06-07/17
Al-Rahi Meets Aoun: We Won't Accept to Reach Elections without New Law
Hariri: Our government achieved a lot in 3 months
Hariri: Investing in Lebanon Prepares for Massive Reconstruction of Syria
Parliament Convenes to Assess Government Performance
Aoun Says Judicial Line-Ups Should be Free from Political Affiliations
Beary Says UNIFIL Would Evacuate Southern Citizens in Case of Crisis
Nusra Militant Dead, Another Hurt in Arsal Outskirts Blast
Ibrahim Pledges Effective Policies to Confront Terrorism
UK Says Lebanon Continues to be the Focus of International Attention
Fares braces new poll law based on proportionality with single constituency
Italian bilateral military mission (MIBIL) trains Lebanese air force on activation safety and aircraft accident investigation
Sakr asks government over exit to vote law vicious circle
Machnouk from Tunis: Congratulations for Lebanese as Beirut will host upcoming Arab interior ministers meeting
Bassil concludes his Australian tour: State cannot rise up without fair representation, political stability
Army Commander, Canadian Ambassador tackle general situation
Army: Terror cell in Tripoli referred to judiciary for links to terrorist organization
Doueihy: 60's law better than vacuum
Zahra from Nejmeh square calls for holding parliamentary session to endorse wage scale
Fadlallah from Nejmeh square: We register for government budget accomplishment
Hamadeh from Brussels: Implementing our vision will help mitigate ramifications of Syria crisis

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published On April 06-07/17
US, Russia debate limit of US strike against Assad
UN urges 72-hour ceasefire to allow aid to Syria’s eastern Ghouta
US, Britain, France request name of pilot who carried out Syrian chemical attack
Responding to Idlib attack, Trump considering military action in Syria
Kremlin says Syrian gas attack ‘unacceptable’ but US data on it not objective
Israel Says Assad Ordered 'Chemical Attack'
Turkey Says Initial Probe Suggests Syria Attack Victims Exposed to Sarin
Trump Sees Russia as 'Problem', Says Haley
Russia, Syria Hit Back as Pressure Builds over 'Chemical Attack'
Syria 'Did Not and Will Not' Use Chemical Weapons, Says Muallem
French FM Says Assad Will be Judged as a War Criminal
Two Iraqi pilots killed when helicopter shot down over Mosul by ISIS
Top Bahrain Activist Denied Family Visit after Surgery
Moscow Says US Has No Objective Data on 'Monstrous Crime' in Syria
Human Rights Watch Slams 'Barbaric' Hamas Executions
Drone Strike Kills Qaida Suspect in Yemen
Army: Israeli Killed in West Bank Car Ramming Attack
Macron, Le Pen Still Leading Polls after ‘Historic’ Presidential Debate
Russia Arrests Suspected Accomplices of St. Petersburg Bomber
Paris, London: Priority in Syria Remains UN Resolution
Key Player of 1988 Massacre to Run in Iran "Presidential Elections"
Geneva – UN European HQ: Condemning Executions in Iran
Condemnation of the Syria Gas Attack in Idlib Province

Links From Jihad Watch Site for April 06-07/17
Egyptian President Sisi: “Trump has true understanding of terrorism”
Islamic State tells Muslims to steal from infidels and send them 20%
Israel: Two Muslim clerics arrested in connection to jihad stabbing attack in Jerusalem
France: Muslim screaming “Allahu akbar” murders Jewish woman, cops cover up terror angle
PA TV instructs viewers to obey Qur’an’s rules for wife-beating
Islamic State hackers release ‘kill list’ with 8,786 targets in US, UK
Robert Spencer in PJ Media: South Carolina Terror Case Highlights U.S.’s Schizophrenic Response to Jihad
Fifty Shades of Green
Video: Harvard students say Trump is more dangerous than the Islamic State
“Palestinian” rams car into Israeli soldiers, killing one and injuring another
Poland blasts EU for migrant quotas: ‘We will resist blackmail and pressure’
Making Things Appear What They Are Not

Links From Christian Today Site For On April 06-07/17
Muslim births will soon outpace Christian births – while more Christians are dying than Muslims
EXCLUSIVE: Nicky Morgan vows to keep asking questions because 'we have no effective opposition'
Christian charity defends its President Franklin Graham after controversial comments backing Donald Trump
Monk accused of child sex abuse 'was allowed to stay at leading Catholic school for years after claims emerged'
Prince Charles' aides deny he 'bumped' Theresa May off 'prime ministerial plane' for trip to see The Pope
Corbyn blasts Livingstone for causing 'deep offence and hurt' to Jewish community as Labour opens fresh inquiry

Trump launches military strike against Syria
Barbara Starr and Jeremy Diamond, CNN
Updated 9:46 PM ET, Thu April 6, 2017
(CNN)The United States launched a military strike on a Syrian government target in retaliation for their chemical weapons attack on civilians earlier in the week.
On President Donald Trump's orders, US warships launched between 50-60 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian government airbase where the warplanes that carried out the chemical attacks were based, US officials said.
A US defense official said the strike was targeted on runway, aircraft and fuel points. The missiles were launched from warships in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Strikes are over "until another decision is made," the official said.
Trump on Syria's Assad: 'Something should happen'
Trump on Syria's Assad: 'Something should happen'
The strikes are the first direct military action the US has taken against the leadership of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country's six-year civil war and represent a substantial escalation of the US' military campaign in the region, which could be interpreted by the Syrian government as an act of war.
Trump was very affected by the images of dead children among the civilian casualties in the Syrian chemical weapons attack and felt compelled to act, a senior administration official said.
The US began launching airstrikes in Syria in September 2014 under President Barack Obama as part of its coalition campaign against ISIS, but has only targeted the terrorist group and not Syrian government forces.
Trump met with his national security team before his dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Mar-a-Lago Thursday, where he made the decision to pull the trigger on the biggest military action of his presidency, an administration official says.
He sat through dinner with the President Xi as action was under way.
Hillary Clinton: US should 'take out' Assad's air fields
Hillary Clinton: US should 'take out' Assad's air fields
Defense Secretary James Mattis has been updating Trump about the missile strikes in Syria following his dinner with Xi, according to a US official.
Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Trump's national security adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster were with Trump at Mar-a-Lago at the time. Vice President Mike Pence remained in Washington, where he returned to the White House after dinner.
Trump's order to strike the Syrian government targets came a day after he said the chemical attacks -- whose grisly effects were broadcast worldwide where videos captured in the immediate aftermath -- "crossed a lot of lines for me" and said he felt a "responsibility" to respond.
Tillerson: No doubt Assad is responsible 01:39
"I will tell you it's already happened that my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much," Trump said.
"When you kill innocent children -- innocent babies -- babies -- little babies with a chemical gas that is so lethal, people were shocked to hear what gas it was, that crosses many, many lines. Beyond a red line, many, many lines," Trump said.
Trump's decision to launch the strikes, the most significant military action of his young presidency, came nearly four years after the US first concluded that Syrian forces had used chemical weapons in Syria. The Obama administration concluded that Syria had violated the "red line" Obama had set a year earlier in discussing the use of chemical weapons, but ultimately decided against military action against Syria in favor of a Russian-brokered deal to extricate the country's chemical weapons stockpile.
Trump at the time said the US should "stay the hell out of Syria" and urged Obama on Twitter to "not attack Syria" in the wake of the 2013 chemical attack.
"There is no upside and tremendous downside. Save your 'powder' for another (and more important) day," he tweeted in September 2013.
Trump repeatedly criticized Obama during his presidential campaign for not acting on his "red line" threat, but the real estate mogul also argued against deepening the US' military involvement in Syria, particularly as it related to Assad.
Trump argued last May in a TV interview that he would "go after ISIS big league," but said he did not support targeting Assad's regime, arguing the US has "bigger problems than Assad."
Syria's six-year civil war has claimed the lives of at least 400,000, according to a United Nations estimate released a year ago. More than 5 million Syrians have fled the country and more than 6 million more have been displaced internally, according to UN agencies.

Latest Lebanese Related News published On April 06-07/17
Al-Rahi Meets Aoun: We Won't Accept to Reach Elections without New Law
Naharnet/April 06/17/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi on Thursday visited President Michel Aoun in Baabda and stressed that a new electoral law should be reached as soon as possible.“After 12 years (from the 2005 elections), we cannot accept to reach the electoral juncture without a (new) law,” al-Rahi said after the meeting. “This is shameful and the president categorically rejects it,” he added. “We urge the parliament to perform its duty in organizing fair and comprehensive elections that prove that we are a democratic country in which all Lebanese forces are represented,” the patriarch went on to say. He emphasized that it is not enough to repeat the “no to vacuum, no to extension and no to the 1960 law” slogan.

Hariri: Our government achieved a lot in 3 months
Thu 06 Apr 2017/NNA - This is the statement made by President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri during the parliamentary session to assess the government's performance: "This government was formed with a new term that gave the Lebanese the hope of restoring the respect of the state and its legitimate institutions. Three months after the government won the vote of confidence, we return to the parliament with many achievements. The government's commitment to the policy statement in this short period of time is a clear commitment that reflects the governmental solidarity and the effort exerted to address several chronic demands. First: We committed in the policy statement to have a new electoral law and to hold the parliamentary elections according to this law. The issue of the electoral law has been there for years and it has been placed in the hands of the political forces, which are all represented in parliament, and most of them are present in the government.
This issue has reached the final point and there is no escape from a new law. We are in a race with the constitutional deadlines and this new law is a national responsibility just as it is the responsibility of the government. We in the government bet on a political agreement that would be translated in the cabinet and the bet continues. But if you want to move discussions and negotiations to the cabinet table, we are ready to do so. The government is committed to hold the parliamentary elections and reject the vacuum in the legislative authority and this would be achieved by a new law, and I will insist in Cabinet that we submit a draft law soon, and the cabinet will hold a meeting on Monday to discuss it and when we approve it we will send it to parliament. Second: This government worked on compensating the delay in the gas and oil sector, and approved the decrees related to it. It also launched a licensing session and approved the draft law on tax provisions of the sector and announced Lebanon's intention to join the Arab initiative for transparency in extractive industries. Third: The government held 16 meetings to discuss the draft budget law of 2017, completed it and sent it to parliament. The deficit in this budget is expected to be less than the deficit of last year. In one month we will also start preparations for the 2018 state budget. The government also took a number of decisions to stimulate the economy, control squander and benefit the revenues without adding burdens to the low income class. The government also made the necessary appointments in the customs starting with the general director to the remaining members in an attempt to control the land borders, airport and ports to combat customs evasion and squander.
Fourth: The government prepared a three year contingency plan for the electricity sector that will provide non-stop electricity. At the same time there will be no need to finance the electricity from the treasury. The plan involves the private sector in the production, and the transfer from fuel to gas for power generation and alternative energies.
Fifth: The government prepared a new vision to deal with the displaced Syrians, based on economic stability and development. I discussed this vision during several Arab and international meetings and with concerned ministers, just as we did yesterday in Brussels conference. We ask the international community to shoulder its responsibility and invest in Lebanon to enable our infrastructure and public services to carry the pressure resulting from displacement and in order to re-launch growth and job opportunities especially for the youth.
Sixth: The government achieved the security appointments and this gave a great thrust for the work of the military and security institutions. The government's decision to invest in the legitimate security and combating terrorism and outlaws is a decisive decision that had national and political consensus and security is the responsibility of the state and its legitimate institutions. Seventh: During the last three months, there were massive efforts to correct our relations with Arab countries, and in this respect I would like to praise the initiatives of president Michel Aoun, his visits to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt, Lebanon's participation in the Arab summit and the speech he delivered which touched the souls of all Arabs. Lebanon is an inseparable part of the Arab world, and Lebanon's presence under the ceiling of Arab solidarity is a brotherly commitment that we stress, and it is in Lebanon's interest to cooperate with its brothers and not deny their role in supporting us. Eight: The government completed the book of conditions for security and technical equipment at the Rafic Hariri International Airport, including detection machines, cameras, etc… Also a workshop on the safety of the airport's security in cooperation with the European Union was completed. This workshop complies with the requirements of the World Civil Aviation Organization. The government achieved a lot in such a short time as a result of the solidarity among its members and the seriousness in dealing with the files. But we still have a lot to do to achieve the hopes of the Lebanese to live in dignity. We are determined to continue the achievements and regain the confidence that is the emblem of our government. Here I would like to thank your parliament for cooperating for the country's interest and we are ready to answer any question."

Hariri: Investing in Lebanon Prepares for Massive Reconstruction of Syria
Naharnet/April 06/17/At the opening of the Silk Road Conference on Thursday, Prime Minister Saad Hariri invited China and other countries to invest in Lebanon as a preparation for the massive reconstruction of Syria, as he called for joint efforts by private and public sectors between the two countries in that regard. “China has always been a leading exporter to Lebanon. The same is not true of our exports to China. This calls for particular joint efforts by private and public sectors in our two countries. Today is a good start,” said Hariri at the opening of the conference “One Belt One Road in Lebanon” at the Adnan Kassar center for Arab economy. “Relations between Lebanon and China are ancient. They developed as transport and communications grew always shrinking the distance. So today, in the age of the global village, none of us, Chinese or Lebanese have any excuse!” he added. “Our ancestors traced the Silk Road, knowing its economic and social importance. Today, this importance has doubled to push economic growth and combat poverty and unemployment. This is the only way to combat extremism, bigotry, racism and isolation. In other words, it is the only way to preserve world stability and peace,” added the Premier. Turning to the issue of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Hariri said: “My government has adopted a new approach to dealing with the challenge of hosting over 1.5 million displaced Syrians. “We thank the international community for humanitarian assistance extended to the Syrian displaced and we certainly hope it will continue. But our infrastructure and public services are simply not designed for this massive influx of users.”He went on to say: “I am sure the Chinese government and private companies will understand how important this is, especially that investing in Lebanon today is preparing for the massive reconstruction of Syria when a political solution is reached, we hope sooner than later.”“Lebanon is too important to be left alone,” he said, “Lebanon is the model of coexistence and dialogue. It is the model for political settlement so many crises in the region are seeking today. Security and stability of our country is my government’s utmost priority today. It should be the priority for everyone hoping to preserve these values in the world today. Our choice is to travel down the road of hope, stabilization and development. And that’s just where the “silk road” might lead us all.”

Berri Says Clock Ticking, Urges Agreement on Voting System
Naharnet/April 06/17/As the parliament prepares to convene on Thursday in a general discussion where MPs will question the cabinet's progress, Speaker Nabih Berri said the session is an “alarm bell” as he urged all political parties to shoulder responsibility and agree on a new law for the upcoming parliamentary polls to avoid vacuum in the legislative institution. Parties who have recently met the Speaker came out with the impression that “he is not comfortable” and believes Lebanon is facing a difficult stage, An Nahar daily reported Thursday. Today's session is a “alarm bell”, said Berri and urged everyone to “shoulder their national responsibilities.”Berri has fears that political parties could fail to agree on a new voting system before mid of April, and he is not certain if they will agree on one in the cabinet paving the way for its referral to parliament for approval and hence a technical extension of the parliament' term, said the daily. The parliament's ordinary term ends on May 31. Efforts will be carried out to complete a “bitter” term extension in order to preserve the legislative institution so it won't slip into vacuum. The Speaker has warned on numerous occasions that rejecting a “technical” extension of the parliament's term is aimed at “paving the way for vacuum in parliament consequently the other constitutional institutions.”MP Ibrahim Kanaan of the FPM had announced Tuesday after meeting Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea that the two parties reject a so-called technical extension of parliament's term in the absence of an agreement on a new electoral law. Berri's visitors have quoted him as reminding that Lebanon has a parliamentary system and that any vacuum in parliament would delegitimize the other institutions seeing as they were either elected by parliament or are operating under the legislature's confidence.

Parliament Convenes to Assess Government Performance
Naharnet/April 06/17/A parliamentary session to assess the performance of the government on a number of issues began on Thursday in Nejmeh Square, in light of the political parties failure to devise a new voting system that will rule the upcoming parliamentary polls. Prime Minister Saad Hariri said at the opening of the session: “We are committed to stage the parliamentary elections and reject all forms of vacuum.”Referring to Lebanon's relations with Arab countries, he said: “During the three previous months, there were massive efforts to reform our relations with Arab countries.
He stressed that the cabinet is “determined to pursue the achievements in the government and restore confidence. We are ready to answer your questions.”MP Wael Abou Faour who spoke standing up from his designated place said: “Consensus must be the major title to agree on a new law. I hope we are not pushed into the taboo.”For his part MP Hassan Fadlallah stressed the need to combat what he described as the “phenomenon of smuggling which causes losses worth between $500 to $700 million.”He pointed out saying that the “State is being robbed. The government does not fear the parliament's accountability nor do the MPs fear the people's accountability.”He concluded and called for a proportional representation electoral system. Focusing on the problematic electricity issue, MP Robert Ghanem urged the government to send a specialized inspection team to two Turkish vessels (Fatmagül Sultan and Orhan Bey) providing Lebanon with electricity, to verify if this company carried out its commitments. MP and former PM Najib Miqati urged the formation of a “committee to oversee the parliamentary elections before the constitutional deadlines.”He called on the government to either review an electoral law that was suggested by his government when he was in office, or to study a new one." “Lebanon's experience as for the electricity file was a bad one, we hope that the 2012 experience will not be repeated,” said MP Akram Shehayyeb. “We are en route to a crisis in 2018 regarding waste management file,” he said, adding “that the agriculture sector is facing important difficulties due to smuggling." MP Antoine Zahra touched on the long-stalled salary scale file, he said: “It would be wrongful to approve a state budget without considering the wage scale file.”MP Oqab Saqr of al-Mustaqbal bloc meanwhile said that "the crisis of blocking the electoral law is similar to the (2014-2016) crisis of blocking the election of the president.""We reject extension and we reject parliamentary vacuum," he stressed. Saqr lamented that "there is a search for an electoral law tailored to fit the interests of parties and sects, and this is the truth." Turning to the issue of corruption, Saqr added: "We have made an anti-corruption initiative and lifted the political cover off (ex-OGERO chief) Abdul Menhem Youssef. Let the judiciary rule in his case and we call on all political forces to lift the cover off corrupt employees."Commenting on the latest security incidents in the country, Saqr called on the government to "work on a plan to remove weapons from cities, starting by Greater Beirut."He also warned that the Hizbullah-linked Resistance Brigades have "undermined the image of the state." The parliament is scheduled to meet again on Friday to continue questioning the government's progress.

Aoun Says Judicial Line-Ups Should be Free from Political Affiliations
Naharnet/April 06/17/President Michel Aoun called on Thursday for the necessity to let any judicial line-ups be clean from any sense of political affiliation in order for the judicial authority to be able to carry out its missions with equality and justice, the State-run National News Agency reported. Aoun underscored the significance of letting the judicial authority work in parallel with the security apparatuses in favor of anchoring local stability and security, NNA said. He stressed the need to catch any saboteur and bring him to justice. The President hailed the security and military performance and the national sacrifices made in this regard.

Beary Says UNIFIL Would Evacuate Southern Citizens in Case of Crisis
Naharnet/April 06/17/After repeated troubles between the United Nations International Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and citizens in south Lebanon over the forces' military vehicles patrols in some towns, UNIFIL Commander Michael Beary said on Thursday that the forces would use its military vehicles to evacuate the citizens shall a crisis erupt in the area, al-Akhbar daily reported on Thursday. Our forces “will evacuate the citizens, women and children using these very military vehicle when a crisis occurs in the south,” he said during chitchats with reporters at the headquarters in Naqoura. Giving an example on how their vehicles are used, Beary said: “Not many know the use of these vehicle which I would like to mention here.” A few days ago, the UNFIL carried out a live exercise to evacuate its soldiers, employees and their families in the event of an incident. Although the training was a regular procedures carried out at all United Nations missions around the world, but the added measures to the recent training were striking, said the daily. Reports said that residents of some towns in south Lebanon have been protesting the UNIFIL's village patrols.

Nusra Militant Dead, Another Hurt in Arsal Outskirts Blast
Naharnet/April 06/17/A member of the jihadist group al-Nusra Front was killed and another was wounded in a bomb attack in the outskirts of the eastern Lebanese border town of Arsal on Thursday, state-run National News Agency reported. It said the explosive device was planted by jihadist rivals from the Islamic State group in the Wadi Ajram area in the town's outskirts. Members of the two groups are entrenched in rugged areas along Lebanon's eastern border with Syria. The Lebanese army regularly shells their positions while Hizbullah and the Syrian army have engaged in clashes with them on the Syrian side of the border. The two jihadist groups briefly overran the town of Arsal in 2014 before being ousted by the Lebanese army after days of deadly battles.

Ibrahim Pledges Effective Policies to Confront Terrorism
Naharnet/April 06/17/General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim said on Thursday that the renewal of his term as the agency's chief is a “great responsibility thrown on my shoulders” that he will seek to safeguard, as he assured that he will seek to make the institution a source of pride. “The General Security will not be less motivated in the next stage. Renewal of my term is a great responsibility and a confirmation of trust in Law,” said Ibrahim in an interview to the General Security magazine. “I promise the Directorate officers and military personnel of all ranks that we will make them an institution they will be proud of belonging to. We will continue with the same policy,” added Ibrahim who retained his post as chief of General Security in March. Speaking of the challenges facing Lebanon in the coming stage, Ibrahim said that Lebanon is part of the region and it will be affected by the crises running around it “the region is being hit by storms from all directions,” he said. “We are going to face great challenges at all levels, and I think we have prepared a lot in the past period to face any emergency we face in the future,” he assured. “At the administrative level, we have set plans until the year 2025 in terms of equipments and members to keep up to date,” added Ibrahim. Turning to the security level, he said: “I don't want to speak of the accomplishments we made so far, but we will carry on with the same policy of confronting terrorism. I will do my full duty with President Michel Aoun, who renewed his confidence in me and chose me to be next to him in the coming period.”

UK Says Lebanon Continues to be the Focus of International Attention
Naharnet/April 06/17/One year on from the London conference for “Supporting Syria and the Region”, Lebanon continues to be the “focus of international attention” in Brussels, the British Embassy in Lebanon said on Wednesday. At the Brussels conference on “Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region” that was held earlier in the day, the UK reiterated its “ongoing support to the Lebanese people and the Government of Lebanon as it continues to generously host large numbers of refugees until it’s safe for them to return home,” an Embassy statement said.
In his speech, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson paid tribute to countries hosting millions of refugees including Lebanon, saying: “We are all humbled by the contribution and sacrifice of our friends such as Lebanon.”
He added: “We should work together to help refugees gain an education and find work so that they can contribute to the economies of their host countries and eventually support themselves in a peaceful Syria.”
On the sidelines of the conference, Johnson and British International Development Secretary, Priti Patel, met with Prime Minister Saad Hariri and the accompanying delegation where discussions focused on “the UK’s continued and steadfast support to Lebanon as it continues to host large number of refugees.”
The Foreign Secretary and Development Secretary confirmed the UK “will provide new support for PM Hariri’s new economic vision, through technical assistance from top British universities as well as new funding for infrastructure and SMEs.”
Patel also held a bilateral meeting with Education Minister Marwan Hamadeh that focused on the UK’s continued support to the Ministry of Education, amounting to £160m over four years to “help bring quality education to all, including helping the Lebanese public school system to become stronger despite the huge numbers of additional students,” the Embassy statement said. British Ambassador to Lebanon Hugo Shorter meanwhile said: “The UK has delivered on the promises made last year at the London Conference in 2016 with our support reaching hundreds of thousands of Lebanese and refugees. We pledged and we are now delivering.”“The UK continues to be one of the largest bilateral donors to Lebanon and we hope today’s new pledges in Brussels will bring further support to Lebanon, its people and the refugees until they can safely return home. As Prime Minister Hariri said in his inspirational speech: 'an investment in Lebanon is an investment in peace and stability in the entire region’,” Shorter added. In February 2016, the London Conference raised over $12 billion in pledges from 2016-2020. Lebanon received from the UK and the international community over $1.9bn last year (including carry over from 2015) in support for host communities and refugees.

Fares braces new poll law based on proportionality with single constituency
NNA - Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP) bloc MP Marwan Fares called for holding timely parliamentary elections, voicing support to a new poll law based on proportionality and Lebanon single electoral constituency. "Practicing democracy life is an essential matter to all the Lebanese," MP Fares said in his address at the parliamentary evening session at Nejmeh Square, devoted to weighing up the government performance in its mandate. Fares considered the single constituency bolsters the unity of the Lebanese in all regions, indicating that Lebanon as one constituency is outside the confessional registration or alignment. The Lawmaker also deemed the poll law based on proportionality and single constituency an essential principle to extricate out of the longstanding confessional and sectarian predicament

Italian bilateral military mission (MIBIL) trains Lebanese air force on activation safety and aircraft accident investigation

Thu 06 Apr 2017/NNA - Today, a ceremony at the Beirut Air Force Base marked the conclusion of the training course on Aviation Safety and Aircraft Accident Investigation organized by the Italian Bilateral Military Mission in Lebanon (MIBIL), with the participation of Italian and Lebanese civilian and military authorities.The two-week course was held by a team of trainers from the Italian Military Air Force and saw the participation of 20 soldiers of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), including pilots and technical team specialists. The outcome of this training activity is an important result of the close collaboration that the Italian Armed Forces have established since 2015 with the Lebanese Armed Forces through the Italian Bilateral Military Mission in Lebanon (MIBIL), to contribute to the overall improvement of operational capabilities through training and educational activities.

Sakr asks government over exit to vote law vicious circle
Thu 06 Apr 2017/NNA - Deputy Oqab Sakr asked on Thursday the government about the exit to the current crisis resulting from the poll law issue, stressing the dire need for the endorsement of a new vote law. "We are currently living a disruption crisis for the birth of a new law similar to the crisis to disrupt the birth of a new president," MP Saqr said on Thursday at the resumption of the evening parliamentary session at Nejmeh Square devoted to weighing up the government performance during its mandate. Saqr stressed the need for a new poll law, voicing rejection of parliamentary term extension and vacuum. He also called for lifting cover on any corrupt employee.

Machnouk from Tunis: Congratulations for Lebanese as Beirut will host upcoming Arab interior ministers meeting
Thu 06 Apr 2017/NNA - Interior and Municipalities Minister Nouhad Machnouk congratulated Lebanese as Beirut will host the upcoming round for Arab interior ministers meeting that will be in March 2018. Minister Machnouk's stance came Thursday from Tunisia as he concluded his participation in the 34th round of Arab interior ministers meeting.

Bassil concludes his Australian tour: State cannot rise up without fair representation, political stability
Thu 06 Apr 2017/NNA - Foreign Affairs Minister, Gibran Bassil, said that the Lebanese state could not rise up without the approval on a new electoral law able to provide fair popular representation at the parliament and to preserve coexistence, freedom, equality, justice and political stability. Minister Bassil's stance came Thursday as he concluded his Australian tour in the South of Australia. Bassil spoke of Lebanon as the country of human values and principles, confirming Lebanon's commitment to international regulations and standards and its utter refusal to extremism via enhancing national unity and boosting the coexistence.

Army Commander, Canadian Ambassador tackle general situation
Thu 06 Apr 2017/NNA - Army Commander, General Joseph Aoun, met on Thursday at his Yarzeh office with Canadian Ambassador to Lebanon, Michel Cameron, over the general situation in Lebanon and the region as well as army bilateral relations. General Aoun also received Egyptian Military attaché, Colonel Houssam el Din Mohsen Ali Hasan, on a farewell visit upon ending his diplomatic mission in Lebanon. He received MPs Emile Rahme and Walid Khoury as well as former MP Ousama Saad with talks focusing on most recent developments in the country.

Army: Terror cell in Tripoli referred to judiciary for links to terrorist organization
Thu 06 Apr 2017/NNA - Army intelligence referred to the concerned judiciary a terror cell consisting of 11 people in the city of Tripoli, for links to a terrorist organization inside Ain Helweh Palestinian camp, army command said in a communiqué on Thursday.
The 11-member cell was planning to target the Lebanese army posts and patrols with hand grenades and explosive devices, and the killing of civilians and military men.

Doueihy: 60's law better than vacuum
Thu 06 Apr 2017/NNA - MP Estephan Doueihy said on Tuesday during the general discussion of the Parliament that 60's law was better than vacuum. "We want to regain trust and to reach a new electoral law as soon as possible," MP Doueihy added.

Zahra from Nejmeh square calls for holding parliamentary session to endorse wage scale
Thu 06 Apr 2017/NNA - "Lebanese Forces" bloc MP Antoine Zahra deemed it wrong to endorse the national budget without the wage scale figures, calling for a parliamentary session to approve said scale. "The salary and rank scale is a national deadline which we have failed to accomplish," MP Zahra said, stressing the necessity to hold a parliamentary session to approve it. The Lawmaker failed to see an economic prosperity in the offing, underling the need for adopting austerity measures. Zahra also branded the proposed national budget as "unbalanced" saying that the current situation can be salvaged through a political decision.

Fadlallah from Nejmeh square: We register for government budget accomplishment
Thu 06 Apr 2017/NNA - MP Hasan Fadlallah said that public fund was for all Lebanese "and we register for the government the accomplishment of 2017 budget pending its discussion by the finance committee."MP Fadlallah's stance came Thursday in the context of the general session for the Parliament. Fadlallah spoke about the waste of money in allocating sums for illusionary public employments. He reiterated his support for an electoral law based on total proportionality.

Hamadeh from Brussels: Implementing our vision will help mitigate ramifications of Syria crisis
Thu 06 Apr 2017/NNA - The Lebanese official delegation to Brussels winded up its conference activities on Thursday. Higher Learning and National Education Minister, Marwan Hamadeh, delivered a word representing the delegation and Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
"My Government has presented to this Conference a Vision for Stabilization and Development in Lebanon aimed at mitigating the impact of the Syrian crisis. Since the London Conference the flow of displaced Syrians to Lebanon has abated," Hamadeh said. "But today, six years after the start of the Syrian conflict, no less than one out of three persons is a displaced or refugee in Lebanon. Unfortunately, prospects for the return of the displaced to their home country in the short term are uncertain at best. The Government of Lebanon, therefore, looks forward to a resolution of the Syrian conflict and will support international initiatives in this respect," he added. Hamadeh went on to explain: "As a result of the crisis, and according to World Bank estimates, Lebanon has suffered some US$18 billion in cumulative loss in GDP through 2015, and some US$ 6 billion in incremental fiscal deficits that have been financed by incurring additional external debt on market terms. Growth estimated now at less than 1% for a population of 4 million has in fact plunged to minus 5-6% if calculated for the effective population of 4 million Lebanese plus 2 million displaced."
"Our economy is depressed, poverty and unemployment among Lebanese are rising, and social discontent intensifying, with increasing tensions in the host communities, and not to forgot that we have 17 communities. Increasing unemployment among Lebanese and Syrians is of particular concern. Since the start of the crisis, the rate of unemployment among Lebanese has doubled and 30% of Lebanese youth is now unemployed, partly because they have lost their jobs to Syrian workers who accept lower wages.
Thanks to the efforts made by Lebanon and the donor community, nearly half the displaced young Syrians are now employed," Hamadeh added.
"The recent socio-economic trends, in particular increased poverty and unemployment, could result in increasing social unrest and violence, and threaten the country's security and political stability.
The current situation is a ticking time bomb. If it explodes for lack of decent action to reverse recent trends, the repercussion would be felt beyond Lebanon's borders. As long as the conflict in Syria is not resolved, the needs for humanitarian assistance will remain large. Lebanon does not have the resources to provide such assistance," the Minister said.
He went on to say that the Government of Lebanon was aware that there were increasing needs for humanitarian assistance in other parts of the world.
"But we nevertheless expect the international donor community to continue to provide such assistance directly to our institutions or through the UN system and NGO's as long as needed. Lebanon needs to create half a million jobs over the next five years in order to absorb new entrants into the labor force, to reduce the unemployment rate among Lebanese and to provide increased opportunities for Syrians."
Hamadeh added, "Under the current circumstances, it cannot be the private sector that takes the lead on this aspect of the crisis. It is the Government that should and will take the lead. At the same time, implementation of our Vision for Stabilization and Development will help boost private sector confidence and quick-start the economy. The prime objectives, as outlined in the Vision, are the creation of employment opportunities through an expansion of public investment in infrastructure and providing educational opportunities for Lebanese and Syrian youth, in particular with an expansion of non-formal education, technical education and vocational training, which would reduce the number of new entrants into the labor force. Lebanon wants the young Syrians to return to their country educated and with skills that will allow them to contribute to Syria's reconstruction. In this connection, Lebanon is very proud of its achievements in our Reaching All Children with Education five-year plan and must receive 350 million USD per annum in multi-year funding commitments to continue to deliver results on enrolment and learning."The Minister concluded his speech by saying that Lebanon could no longer accumulate market debt in order to provide a global public good. "Without the continuous flow of humanitarian and development support and especially concessional financing requested from the international community, the objectives of the Vision cannot be achieved, and the ticking time bomb will explode."

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published On April 06-07/17
US, Russia debate limit of US strike against Assad

DEBKAfile Special Report April 6, 2017/The Trump administration is clearly on the brink of military action against the Assad regime judging by the thunderous rhetoric of its highest officials Wednesday night, April 5. President Donald Trump said the horrific chemical attack had “crossed many, many lines” for him. “It is now my responsibility to respond to the crisis. My attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much.”Vice President Mike Pence said later that “all options are on the table,” while US Ambassador Nikki Haley warned the UN Security Council emergency meeting that countries could be "compelled to act individually if the world body does not take collective action after a deadly poison gas attack in Syria. The ambassador spoke in expectation of a Russian veto against the US-UK-French draft resolution condemning Syria for the use of chemical weapons. Israel lined up behind Washington on this issue when Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman spoke of proof Thursday that the order to launch the sarin bombs against the town of Khan Sheikhun came directly from the Syrian leader Bashar Assad. Russian President Vladimir Putin, for his part is firing big guns both to defeat a UN condemnation of the Syrian ruler, by claiming the bomb hit a rebel toxic weapons store, and trying to head off an American military strike to punish him. President Trump himself was still wrestling Thursday morning with three major decisions.
1. Determining the scale of a military operation in the complicated Syrian arena. Should it aim for a regime or a military target, or also extend the attack to the Iranian and Hizballah presence? The thinking behind the latter option is that if weakening Assad is the goal, why not go all the way and hit the foreign forces propping him up as well?
2. A clash with Russian forces must be avoided. However, Russia could agree to stay out of action in the Assad regime’s defense, but would certainly demand in return to be informed in advance of the precise limits of such mililtary operation.
debkafile’s military and intelligence sources reported Thursday that Washington and Moscow have been locked in intense negotiations for hours regarding the possible attack. The outcome is still awaited.
3. The arrival of Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday for two days of talks with Trump at his Florida residence is a seriously complicating factor. A decision by the US president to go for military action against Syria it would need to be powerful enough to impress his visitor of America's determination not only to cut Assad down but also the North Korean ruler Kim Jong-un, unless China steps in to curb its bellicose neighbor’s nuclear aspirations.

UN urges 72-hour ceasefire to allow aid to Syria’s eastern Ghouta
AFP, Geneva Thursday, 6 April 2017/The UN called Thursday for an urgent ceasefire in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta region, near Damascus, to allow in desperately needed aid and avoid a repeat of the devastation seen in Aleppo. “We need a 72-hour pause for Eastern Ghouta, and we need it in the coming days,” the head of the United Nations-backed humanitarian taskforce for Syria, Jan Egeland, told reporters in Geneva. He warned that the some 400,000 people besieged in the area near Damascus “are now suffering alone in the sense that they have a shortage of medical supplies, their hospitals have been bombed, and they are running out of food and other supplies.” Eastern Ghouta, the last remaining opposition stronghold near the capital, has been under a devastating government siege since 2012, and is targeted regularly by air strikes and artillery. During the weekly meeting of the humanitarian taskforce for Syria, co-chairs Russia and the United States, along with others had agreed to “look specifically at the Eastern Ghouta situation,” Egeland said. “Everybody agrees, including the Russians, that the situation there is very dire, and that a special ... agreement is needed for Eastern Ghouta,” he said. “Nobody wants another eastern Aleppo to be happening on our watch,” he insisted, referring to the drawn-out siege and massive Syrian army offensive last year to retake the former rebel stronghold. “We should learn from the horrific inability to help civilians there, and I am still hopeful that we will have arrangements for the 400,000 people in the Eastern Ghouta besieged areas,” Egeland said, pointing out that “there are more people besieged east of Damascus city than there were in the east Aleppo besieged enclave.”Thursday’s taskforce meeting also discussed the suspected chemical attack that left at least 86 people dead, 30 of them children, in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun in northwestern Syria earlier this week. “A war where children suffocate to death because of toxic chemicals is a very, very dirty war,” Egeland said. Tuesday’s attack so shocked US President Donald Trump that Washington has threatened unilateral US action, marking an about-face after he previously opposed deeper US military involvement in Syria’s civil war. Egeland stressed that he did not believe in a military solution to Syria’s six-year war, which has already killed more than 320,000 people and forced millions to flee their homes. But “what I do welcome is a renewed interest from the US to focus on the carnage in Syria,” he said.

US, Britain, France request name of pilot who carried out Syrian chemical attack
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Thursday, 6 April 2017/The US, Britain and France have demanded the names of the pilots who carried out the recent chemical attack in Syria. Their request came as part of the draft resolution, which they submitted on Wednesday during an emergency session at the UN Security Council. The draft resolution calls for a full investigation into the attack in the early hours of Tuesday in the town of Khan Sheikhoun. At least 72 people were killed in the strike and dozens more were injured. Syrian Pilot Mohammed al-Hasouri, who took off in his jet from the Shayrat military airport on Tuesday morning, may have not thought that his name may be internationally listed and he will be pursued.
Victim testimonies
According to the testimonies of Khan Sheikhoun residents, Hasouri carried out a similar attack using chemical weapons four days ago in Hama’s countryside in the town of Al-Lataminah. A local observatory has taken charge of monitoring the regime air force’s activity. On the day of the chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun, it monitored that the same jet which attacked Lataminah – dubbed Quds 1 according to an audio which the Syrians have been circulating – took off. It was 6:00 a.m. when the jet began to attack Khan Sheikhun in Edleb, northwest of Syria. The attack was thunderous and the one in charge at the observatory said: “It seems the jet is carrying toxic substances.”
Wiretapping communication
These observatories carry out their work by using radars to wiretap the communication among Assad’s forces. Then they use wireless devices to broadcast the type of the jet, its time of departure and the raids it carried out. There are rotating shift workers to carry out this job throughout the day. They also use different channels to broadcast the information they have to members of the armed opposition in Idlib’s countryside. The identity of the pilot is not established yet. However, according to the observatory, opposition members who secretly work in regime-held areas said Hasouri was the pilot who carried out the attack, adding that he hails from Talkalakh in west Homs.

Responding to Idlib attack, Trump considering military action in Syria
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Thursday, 6 April 2017/CNN quoted US sources reported that US President Donald Trump told members of Congress that he was thinking of military action against Syria. Earliers, the US has not excluded a military response to a poison gas attack that killed scores of civilians which Washington blamed on the Syrian government, a senior administration official said on Thursday. Asked whether the military option had been taken off the table, the official said: “No.” It is unclear how much US military planning exists on striking targets associated with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government. The Pentagon is presenting a range of possible military options the White House could take in response to the suspected chemical attack in Syria. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said options include strikes to ground the Syrian air force. Pentagon chief Jim Mattis is presenting the options to President Trump and administration officials in response to White House requests, the official said.
The official stressed that no decisions had been taken.
Trump suggested that Assad may have to leave power after this week’s chemical weapons attack. Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, Trump said Thursday that what happened in Syria is “a disgrace to humanity.” Asked if Assad should go, Trump said, “He’s there, and I guess he’s running things so something should happen.”The president would not discuss what, if anything, the United States might do in response to the deadly chemical attack. He said the attack “shouldn’t have happened, and it shouldn’t be allowed to happen.”Trump said he may talk to Russian President Vladimir Putin about the situation in Syria. Russia is a key supporter of the Assad government.
Tillerson, Russia’s Lavrov spoke about Syria poison gas attack
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke by phone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday about a poison gas attack in Syria that the United States has blamed on the Russia-backed Syrian government, a senior State Department official said on Thursday.
The discussion came days before Tillerson goes to Moscow for talks with Russian officials expected to focus on the Syrian civil war and Russia’s backing of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “We sought the Russian analysis or readout of what they thought had happened” in the poison gas attack, the official said on condition of anonymity. Tillerson also said Washington would make an “appropriate response” to Tuesday’s suspected chemical attack in Syria, while calling for the ouster of Assad. “We are considering an appropriate response (to the) violations of all previous UN resolutions, violations of international norms,” he said in televised comments at the Palm Beach International Airport in Florida, where he greeted Chinese President Xi Jinping who was arriving for a summit with US President Donald Trump.
Tillerson did not specify what actions the United States would take.
He added: “Assad’s role in the future is uncertain and with the acts that he has taken, it would seem that there would be no role for him to govern the Syrian people.”US intelligence agencies suspect Assad kept some chemical weapons. US intelligence agencies suspect that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad kept some of the chemical weapons or components that he agreed to surrender under a 2013 US-Russian deal, a US intelligence official said. “We have never taken the Assad regime at its word that it declared its entire chemical weapons stockpile,” said the US intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Assad has repeatedly shown that he is willing to use whatever chemical weapons he has retained or reconstituted to attack and terrorize his own people,” the official said. (With Agencies)

Kremlin says Syrian gas attack ‘unacceptable’ but US data on it not objective
Reuters, Moscow Thursday, 6 April 2017/The Kremlin on Thursday called a deadly poison gas attack in Syria’s Idlib province earlier this week a “monstrous crime,” but said Washington’s conclusions about the incident were not based on objective data. “This was a dangerous and monstrous crime, but it would be incorrect to hang labels (to identify those who did it),” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call. The use of chemical weapons was “unacceptable,” he said, urging the Syrian army to ensure such arms did not fall into the hands of terrorists. Peskov said evidence about the incident provided by the White Helmets civil defence group could not be considered reliable and added: “We do not agree with these conclusions.”“Immediately after the tragedy no one had access to this region ... any data which the US side or our colleagues from other countries might have had access to could not have been based on objective facts,” Peskov told reporters. The disagreement was unlikely to change the nature of ties between Russia and the United States, Peskov added. Russia’s Foreign Ministry said earlier on Thursday it was too early to accuse the Syrian government of being responsible for the attack in Idlib and said a proper investigation was needed, the RIA news agency reported.

Israel Says Assad Ordered 'Chemical Attack'
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/April 06/17/Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Thursday he was "100 percent sure" Syrian President Bashar al-Assad ordered a suspected chemical attack this week that provoked international outrage. Lieberman said the alleged attack in the neighbouring country was carried out "on the direct and premeditated command of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with Syrian planes.""I say this with 100 percent certainty," Lieberman told the Yediot Aharonot daily, according to excerpts from an interview published on the paper's website. He did not say what his certainty was based on. At least 86 people were killed on Tuesday in rebel-held Khan Sheikhun in Idlib province in the suspected chemical attack.The minister criticised the international community, saying there had been "zero" reaction. Britain, France and the United States on Wednesday held off calling a vote at the UN Security Council on a resolution demanding an investigation after Russia suggested it would veto it. Asked whether Israel should be more directly involved in the war in Syria, Lieberman replied, "Why would it be up to us to do the work of others? It is the responsibility of the international community." Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the world must act to rid Syria of chemical weapons. Israel has sought to avoid being dragged into the six-year Syrian conflict, but has acknowledged carrying out strikes to stop advanced weapons deliveries to Hezbollah, with whom it fought a devastating war in 2006. Syria and Israel remain officially at war, though the border was quiet for decades until Syria's civil war began in 2011. Assad is supported by Israel's enemies Iran and Lebanese movement Hezbollah. Russia also supports Assad and Netanyahu has held a series of talks with President Vladimir Putin in recent months to avoid accidental clashes in Syria.

Turkey Says Initial Probe Suggests Syria Attack Victims Exposed to Sarin
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/April 06/17/An initial analysis of victims of the suspected chemical attack in Syria who were brought to Turkey for treatment suggests they were exposed to the deadly nerve agent sarin, the Turkish health ministry said on Thursday. "According to the results of the initial analysis, the findings suggest the injured were exposed to a chemical substance (Sarin)," the health ministry said in a statement, confirming that 31 people were being treated in Turkey and three had died in hospital.

Trump Sees Russia as 'Problem', Says Haley
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/April 06/17/President Donald Trump does consider Russia a problem, his ambassador to the United Nations and rising US administration star Nikki Haley insisted before an often-hostile New York audience Wednesday. "I have hit Russia over the head more times than I can count and it's because if they do something wrong we're going to call them out on it," she told the annual Women in the World Summit. "The things they've done with Crimea and Ukraine... and how they've covered up for (Syrian President Bashar al-) Assad, those types of things we're not going to give them a pass on," she said. "So I have had conversations with the president where he very much sees Russia as a problem." The Republican president has come under sustained fire from political opponents for not voicing tougher criticism of Russia at a time when US law enforcement agencies and lawmakers are probing alleged ties between his campaign and the Kremlin. "Everybody wants to hear his (Trump's) words, but look at his actions," said Haley, adding that Russia opposed strengthening of the US military and US energy expansion. "The president has done both of those," she told the opening night of the eighth annual summit that was founded by journalist Tina Brown. The remark was met by jeers from an, at times, hostile crowd in a largely Democratic-voting city where many dislike the president. The United States and Russia are on a collision course over Syria after an horrific chemical attack early Tuesday killed at least 86 people in rebel-held Khan Sheikhun in northern Syria. Trump came to office promising both to improve ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin but earlier Wednesday US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged Russia to rethink its support for Assad. Haley, a former Republican governor of South Carolina who endorsed Trump's primary election rival Marco Rubio last year, said she had "a lot" of interaction with the president. "I talked to him this morning," she said, adding that she was in Washington at least once if not twice a week for the president's National Security Council meetings and was also working to keep US senators informed. Her conversation with a television anchor spanned just over 20 minutes and was several times interrupted by an apparent heckler. She was applauded for remarks in support of veterans and military families.

Russia, Syria Hit Back as Pressure Builds over 'Chemical Attack'
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/April 06/17/Syria's regime and Russia hit back Thursday at accusations that Damascus was behind a deadly chemical weapons attack, as pressure built for international action over what Washington called an "affront to humanity."France said it was determined to pursue a U.N. Security Council resolution to investigate dozens of civilian deaths in a northwestern Syria town, which Turkey blamed on a "chemical attack" by the Damascus government. At least 86 people were killed early on Tuesday in rebel-held Khan Sheikhun, and dozens more have received treatment for convulsions, breathing problems and foaming at the mouth. World powers have pointed the finger at the government of Bashar al-Assad, but Foreign Minister Walid Muallem repeated the government's denial on Thursday. "The Syrian army has not, did not and will not use this kind of weapons -- not just against our own people, but even against the terrorists that attack our civilians with their mortar rounds," he said. Longtime ally Russia described the events in Khan Sheikhun as a "monstrous crime," but said there was no "realistic, verified information." "Any data that the American side or our colleagues in other countries could have cannot be based on objective materials or evidence," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
'Must not go unpunished'
At least 32 people were transferred across the border into Turkey for treatment, and Ankara said autopsies performed on three people who died in Turkish hospitals confirmed chemical weapons had been used. "This scientific investigation also confirms that Assad used chemical weapons," Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag told Turkish state media. An AFP correspondent in Khan Sheikhun on Wednesday said the town was reeling, with dead animals lying in the streets and residents still shell-shocked after watching their entire families die. "Nineteen members of my family were killed," 28-year-old Abdulhamid said in the town, surrounded by mourning relatives. "We put some masks on but it didn't do anything... People just started falling to the ground," said Abdulhamid, who lost his twin children and wife in the attack. After an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday, Western diplomats are expected to push for a vote as early as Thursday on a resolution demanding an investigation of the suspected attack. French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said the resolution, presented by Britain, France and the United States, remained a priority.
"These crimes must not go unpunished," Ayrault told CNEWS television.
"It's difficult because up to now every time we have presented a resolution, there has been a veto by Russia and sometimes by China... but we must cooperate because we need to stop this massacre," he added. If confirmed as an attack, it would be among the worst incidents of chemical weapons use in Syria's civil war, which has killed more than 320,000 people since it began in March 2011. It has also prompted an about-face from U.S. President Donald Trump, who in 2013 urged then-president Barack Obama not to intervene against Assad after a major suspected chemical attack. Senior U.S. officials had also recently suggested it was no longer a priority that Assad be removed from power. Trump described the alleged attack as an "affront to humanity" and warned it had changed his view of Assad. "I will tell you, it's already happened, that my attitude towards Syria and Assad has changed very much," he told reporters at a joint White House news conference with Jordan's King Abdullah. "It crossed a lot of lines for me," he said, alluding to Obama's failure to enforce his own 2013 "red line" on the use of chemical weapons in Syria. As she held up pictures of lifeless children at the U.N. on Wednesday, U.S. ambassador Nikki Haley warned of unilateral action if the U.N. failed "in its duty to act collectively."The draft U.N. resolution backs a probe by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and demands Syria provide information on its operations. On Thursday, Muallem said such an investigation "must guarantee that it is not politicized, that it has broad geographic representation and that it is launched from Damascus, not Turkey." British ambassador to the U.N. Matthew Rycroft told reporters he hoped council members would agree on a draft resolution by Thursday, but vowed to press for a vote regardless. Failure to agree on a compromise text could prompt Russia to use its veto to block the draft resolution, which Moscow has done seven times to shield Syria. Syria officially relinquished its chemical arsenal and signed the Chemical Weapons Convention in 2013 to avert military action after it was accused of an attack outside Damascus that killed hundreds. But there have been repeated allegations of chemical weapons use since. Doctors said victims showed symptoms consistent with the use of a nerve agent such as sarin -- suspected to have been used by government forces in the 2013 attacks.

Syria 'Did Not and Will Not' Use Chemical Weapons, Says Muallem
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/April 06/17/Syria's armed forces "did not and will not" use chemical weapons, even against jihadist groups, Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said on Thursday. "I stress to you once again: the Syrian army has not, did not and will not use this kind of weapons -- not just against our own people, but even against the terrorists that attack our civilians with their mortar rounds," he said. Muallem spoke at a press conference in Damascus two days after a suspected chemical attack left at least 86 people dead in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun in northwestern Syria. The deaths have sparked international outrage with many pointing the finger at the government of President Bashar al-Assad, but Muallem cast doubt on the evidence. "The first air raid conducted by the Syrian army was at 11:30 am (0830 GMT) on that day (Tuesday) and it attacked an arms depot belonging to Al-Nusra Front that contained chemical weapons," he said. Al-Nusra -- now known as Fateh al-Sham Front -- was once Al-Qaeda's Syria affiliate and is the main jihadist rival of the Islamic State group. "Al-Nusra Front and ISIS (IS) and other organisations continue to store chemical weapons in urban and residential areas," Muallem added. The Syrian army denied on Tuesday that it had used chemical weapons against Khan Sheikhun, and Damascus ally Moscow said "toxic substances" may have been released when the army struck a "terrorist warehouse".

French FM Says Assad Will be Judged as a War Criminal
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/April 06/17/French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Thursday that "a day will come when international justice will give its verdict on Bashar al-Assad who is massacring his people."Speaking to news channel CNEWS, he added: "These crimes must not go unpunished. In any case, there are investigations, United Nations commissions... there will be a war crimes trial." At least 86 people were killed on Tuesday in rebel-held Khan Sheikhun in northern Syria in a suspected chemical attack that left people choking and foaming at the mouth. France is again pushing for a resolution at the United Nations to condemn the attack blamed by the West on Assad's regime, but Ayrault did not sound optimistic after the first discussions on Wednesday at the international body. "It's difficult because up to now every time we have presented a resolution, there has been a veto by Russia and sometimes by China ... but we must cooperate because we need to stop this massacre," he added. Moscow, which launched a military intervention in 2015 in support of Assad's forces, has defended the Syrian government against accusations it is responsible for the attack.

Two Iraqi pilots killed when helicopter shot down over Mosul by ISIS
Reuters Thursday, 6 April 2017/Two Iraqi army pilots were killed on Thursday when their helicopter was shot down over the city of Mosul by ISIS, according to a military statement. The helicopter was providing air support to Federal Police forces battling ISIS fighters on the western side of Mosul, the statement said. It is the first aircraft downed by ISIS over Mosul since the start of the U.S.-backed offensive on the northern Iraqi city, in October. Mosul is ISIS’ last major city stronghold in Iraq. The hardline group seized the city nearly three years ago, declaring from one of its old mosques a "caliphate" that also spans parts of Syria. ISIS’ news agency Amaq said the helicopter crashed in al-Ghabat, east of the Tigris river which runs through Mosul. The Iraqi military statement also located the crash on the eastern side, which was recaptured from the militants in January, after 100 days of fighting. The insurgents are putting up stiff resistance in the remaining district under their control in northwestern Mosul and the densely populated Old City. The militants are dug in surrounded by civilians, effectively using them as human shields and taking advantage of the narrow streets of the Old City that restrict the movements of the Iraqi forces and limit the use of artillery and air power.

Top Bahrain Activist Denied Family Visit after Surgery
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/April 06/17/The family of jailed Bahraini activist Nabeel Rajab has been denied visiting rights after he underwent surgery, relatives said Thursday. Rights activists confirmed to AFP that Rajab, who is behind bars while facing trial on charges of insulting the state, had had stomach surgery and was banned from seeing his family. Rajab's son also said the family was unable to see the 52-year-old prominent activist and remained concerned about his health. "My father Nabeel Rajab (has) undergone surgery today," Adam Nabeel Rajab tweeted late Wednesday. He said the family was concerned about the state of Rajab's health after the interior ministry denied them visitation. Bahrain's interior ministry did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday. Rajab, a leading rights activist, had been arrested multiple times in recent years over protests that the government said were unauthorized. The Shiite activist was pardoned for health reasons in 2015 before being rearrested in June 2016. He is currently on trial for tweets and statements made in interviews with the foreign press that authorities say insulted Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. The Sunni-ruled kingdom has been the scene of frequent protests and clashes with police since security forces quelled Shiite-led nationwide protests that called for political reforms in 2011. Hundreds of Bahrainis have been arrested and several high-profile figures, including Shiite clerics, stripped of citizenship.
The king last week ratified a constitutional amendment permanently granting military courts the right to try citizens accused of threatening national security.

Moscow Says US Has No Objective Data on 'Monstrous Crime' in Syria
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/April 06/17/The Kremlin on Thursday said US allegations that Syrian forces carried out a deadly chemical attack are not based on "objective" information. "Any data that the American side or our colleagues in other countries could have cannot be based on objective materials or evidence," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, adding that the incident in rebel-held Khan Sheikhun was a "monstruous crime."

Human Rights Watch Slams 'Barbaric' Hamas Executions
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/April 06/17/Human Rights Watch condemned Thursday's executions of three men in the Gaza Strip who were accused by Hamas of collaborating with Israel, calling on the Islamist group to stop the "barbaric" practice. The executions were carried out after Hamas vowed revenge for the mysterious killing of one of its commanders last month, which it blamed on the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad and its Palestinian "collaborators". The men who were hanged on Thursday were not implicated in his killing but were accused of past acts of "treason and collaborating," a Hamas interior ministry statement said. "The abhorrent executions by Hamas authorities of three men in Gaza deemed to be collaborators project weakness, not strength," Human Rights Watch said in a statement. "Hamas authorities will never achieve true security or stability through firing squads or by the gallows, but rather through respect for international norms and the rule of law." It cited data from the Gaza-based Palestinian Centre for Human Rights as saying that the Islamist group had now executed a total of 25 Palestinians since seizing power in the Gaza Strip in 2007. The Palestinian Authority's Independent Commission for Human Rights said the hangings were illegal. "These judgements were not issued by a competent national court and are based on suspicion not certainty," it said.

Hamas Hangs Three Gaza 'Collaborators' with Israel
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/April 06/17/Gaza's Hamas rulers hanged three men they accused of collaborating with Israel Thursday following calls for revenge for the killing of one of their commanders last month, an AFP journalist reported. Hamas says that the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad and its "collaborators" killed Mazen Faqha in the Palestinian territory on March 24, but has offered no evidence. According to Hamas, Faqha formed cells for the Islamist group's military wing in the West Bank cities of Tubas, where he was born, and Jenin. The men who were hanged on Thursday were not implicated in his killing but the Islamist group has pledged "radical measures" against Palestinians who "collaborated" with Israel. Hamas has offered "collaborators" with Israel a chance to turn themselves in and receive clemency. "The doors of repentance will be open for one week, from Tuesday, April 4 to Tuesday, April 11," the interior ministry said on Tuesday. Hamas also tightly restricted movement out of the enclave following the assassination. The measure remains in place despite calls from NGOs and human rights groups to lift it. The restrictions have stopped male patients aged from 15 to 45 from using the territory's sole crossing for people to enter Israel to receive medical treatment, Human Rights Watch said. Security checks and searches have increased, including roadblocks. Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza have fought three wars since 2008. The enclave has been under an Israeli blockade for 10 years.

Drone Strike Kills Qaida Suspect in Yemen
A drone strike killed a suspected al-Qaida militant in southern Yemen, a security official said on Thursday, as the US steps up its air war against the jihadists. The missile hit al-Qaida provincial official Ahmed Ali Saana as he was riding a motorbike late on Wednesday in the town of Khabar al-Muraqasha in Abyan province, a major target of recent drone strikes, the official said on condition of anonymity. The Pentagon has confirmed more than 70 air strikes on al-Qaida targets in Yemen since February 28. Yemeni security officials have reported dozens of suspected jihadist fighters killed in the strikes on Abyan and the neighbouring provinces of Shabwa and Baida. More than two years of civil war in Yemen between government forces and Shiite rebels who control the capital have created a power vacuum which al-Qaida has exploited to consolidate its presence. A commando raid against al-Qaida in Baida province was the first operation US President Donald Trump ordered after taking office in January. It went badly wrong, resulting in the deaths of a US Navy SEAL and multiple civilians, including women and children, the Pentagon acknowledged. Last month, Trump reportedly gave the Central Intelligence Agency new powers to authorize drone strikes against extremist targets in the Middle East independently of the Pentagon.

Army: Israeli Killed in West Bank Car Ramming Attack
Asharq Al-Awsat English/Asharq Al Awsat/April 06/17/One Israeli was killed and another injured on Thursday in a car-ramming attack near the Ofra settlement in the occupied West Bank, the Israeli army said, adding the alleged attacker was arrested. The army statement did not give details about him.
Pictures published by Israeli media showed a vehicle with Palestinian license plates which had mounted the pavement, surrounded by soldiers. Witnesses told Israeli media that as he approached a bus stop, outside Ofra, north of Ramallah, the driver accelerated and aimed the vehicle at two Israelis waiting there.
Israeli emergency services said the dead man was in his 20s and the wounded one 19. It was the first fatal attack on Israelis since January 8, when a Palestinian killed four soldiers in a Jerusalem truck-ramming attack. A wave of violence that broke out in October 2015 has claimed the lives of 259 Palestinians, 41 Israelis, two Americans, one Jordanian, an Eritrean and a Sudanese, according to an AFP count. Most of the Palestinians killed were carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks, according to Israeli authorities. Others were shot dead during protests or clashes, while some were killed in Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip. The violence has greatly subsided in recent months. Israel has accused the Palestinian leadership of inciting the violence. The Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the occupied West Bank, denies incitement and charges that in many cases, Israel has used excessive force in thwarting attackers armed with rudimentary weapons.

Macron, Le Pen Still Leading Polls after ‘Historic’ Presidential Debate
Michel Abu Najm/Asharq Al Awsat/April 06/17/Paris – All 11 candidates for the French presidency held a debate on Tuesday night, the first of its kind in the European country. The four hours of debate, which drew in six million viewers, saw candidates clash over economy and redefining France’s place in Europe. While frontrunners 39-year-old centrist Emmanuel Macrona and 48-year-old far-right leader Marine Le Pen continued to lead the polls, the television debate helped shed light on the six lesser-known candidates. “I want to recover the optimism of the French,” said Macron, currently tipped to win in May, asserting that entrepreneurs and businesses are job creators. “We must invest to get the machine going again.”But Le Pen said the answer lies in “economic patriotism”, vowing to fight “out-of-control globalization” with her anti-EU agenda. Former Prime Minister Francois Fillon, under pressure after being charged with misuse of public funds, said France’s grinding 10 percent unemployment and massive debt combined to create an “explosive situation”. The 63-year-old conservative said Europe was “veering off course” and that France needs to get it back on track. Communist-backed Jean-Luc Melenchon, 65, who has been rising in the polls, came out slugging against big business, saying it should “pay back” its riches. For his part Benoit Hamon, who is carrying the Socialist banner as Francois Hollande nears the end of a deeply unpopular presidency, vowed to “demolish” new labor laws seen as too pro-business, and create one million jobs in the next five years. He took a swipe at Fillon, who has vowed to cut half a million jobs from the country’s bloated civil service. The presence of the six minor candidates — all polling well under five percent — added a strong anti-capitalist element to the debate, as well as vivid anti-EU sentiment.
“The French understand that the stakes in this election are to reorient Europe” in view of globalization and Britain’s decision to quit the EU, said Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, head of Debout la France (Rise Up France). Jacques Cheminade, head of the LaRouche movement, railed against what he called the “financial dictatorship” and Philippe Poutou of the New Anti-Capitalist Party slammed “those who stuff themselves”. Jean Lassalle, speaking in the thick accent of the southwest, said he proposed a “future based on hope” in contrast to high suicide rates in the suburbs of main cities, as well as in rural communities — “that’s the reality”. Security issues prompted a vigorous discussion as the country is still under state of emergency following deadly attacks in Paris in 2015.
Le Pen wants to reinstate France’s national borders to prevent potential attackers from entering the country. She pledged to boost the military budget and suggested closing a hundred mosques in the country she describes as preaching a “radical” Islam. Macron vowed to pursue France’s military operations in Syria, Iraq and Africa’s Sahel region and promised to hire 10,000 police forces to help ensuring security on the country’s territory. In the crowded debate, each candidate was allowed to speak for around 15 minutes and the questions were restricted to just three themes — how to create jobs, how to protect France, and the thorny issue of how each candidate would implement their vision of France’s social model. The final result of an election that is being watched closely around the world is still seen as highly unpredictable. Dissatisfaction and outright hostility towards mainstream politics is high in France and surveys show around a third of voters plan to abstain, while around a third of likely voters say they have still not made up their minds. Macron, whom the daily Le Parisien on Tuesday dubbed “the man to beat”, has warned that commentators are still underestimating Le Pen. Those who say she stood no chance in May’s deciding round — between the top two places in the first round on April 23 — are “the same people who said (Donald) Trump couldn’t win”, Macron said. He is facing the most scrutiny, as he is tipped to clinch final victory in a May 7 run-off against Le Pen.

Russia Arrests Suspected Accomplices of St. Petersburg Bomber
Asharq Al Awsat/April 06/17/. (AP) Several people were arrested on Thursday on suspicion of being accomplices of the man behind Monday’s St. Petersburg metro bombing, news agency Interfax reported on Thursday, citing a law enforcement source. It said the detainees’ links with the suicide bomber were being verified. Russian investigators said they had searched a flat of acquaintances of the suspected metro bomber, as they probe the attack that left 13 people dead. “Objects relevant to the investigation were found during the search of the apartment where these people lived,” the Investigative Committee said. “They were all confiscated and sent for analysis.”Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said, according to Russian news agencies, that the object found early Thursday in an apartment building on St. Petersburg’s eastern outskirts could contain explosives. Residents have been evacuated and explosives experts have started working on the site. Police in the city are on high alert following Monday’s explosion that killed the attacker and 13 other people and wounded some 55. Police on Wednesday arrested eight Central Asian migrants suspected of acting as recruiters for the ISIS group and al-Qaeda’s Syria branch. The investigators found no immediate evidence of their involvement in the subway attack. Also on Thursday, a man was hurt in an explosion in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, a law enforcement source told TASS news agency. At around 6:30am (0330 GMT), the man discovered a bag containing a torch and when he tried to switch it on, it exploded and tore off his hand, the TASS official news agency quoted a local policeman as saying. REN-TV cited witnesses as saying that the explosion happened near a school on Sadovaya Street.

Paris, London: Priority in Syria Remains UN Resolution

Asharq Al Awsat/April 06/17/France and Britain are still seeking a United Nations Security Council resolution on Syria, the foreign ministers of the two countries said on Thursday, adding that diplomatic negotiations were a priority over possible military action. A chemical attack by regime forces in Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province earlier this week killed at least 72 people. Jean-Marc Ayrault told CNEWS television that France was pursuing a UN resolution condemning the attack and trying to convince allies to back it, in spite of pushback from Russia. “France is still seeking to talk with its partners on the Security Council, especially the permanent members, and Russia in particular,” Ayrault said. He was more cautious on whether or not France would contemplate a military intervention if Washington decided to take action and ruled out stepping in for now. “The first stage is to get a resolution vote and above all to re-start peace negotiations in Geneva. It is not to go in ourselves, under the pretext that the US President may have a rush of blood to the head, and get onto a war footing,” Ayrault said, asked whether France would join any possible US military operation. Ayrault added that the US response on Syria was still unclear, and that he was getting mixed messages from his counterpart, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. “They’re not saying the same thing,” he said. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson also said a UN resolution should be passed before any unilateral action was taken in Syria. “It is very important to try first to get out a UN resolution,” Johnson told reporters in Sarajevo. “I cannot understand how anybody on UN Security Council could fail to sign up to a motion condemning the actions of the regime that is almost certainly responsible for that crime,” Johnson told reporters. France and Britain renewed their call this week for the head of the Syrian regime Bashar Assad to leave office. “His crimes cannot remain unpunished. The day will come when international justice will have its say on Bashar al-Assad,” Ayrault said. “In any case, there are investigations, United Nations commissions… there will be a war crimes trial,” he added.

Key Player of 1988 Massacre to Run in Iran "Presidential Elections"
NCRI/Thursday, 06 April 2017/Ebrahim Raisi was born in 1960. He entered the clerical regime’s judiciary from the first years of the regime. He started his work as assistant prosecutor in Karaj (West of Tehran) when he was 18 years old. He became the prosecutor of the revolutionary court of Karaj when he was just 19. In 1988, when he was Deputy Prosecutor of Tehran, he was one of the four individuals who Khomeini appointed to carry out his order to massacre the activists of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). During that massacre, 30,000 political prisoners, who were primarily from the PMOI, were executed within a few months. An audio tape surfaced last summer, after 28 years, of Hossein-Ali Montazeri, Khomeini’s designated successor at the time, meeting with the “death committee” in Tehran, including with Raisi, about 20 days after the start of the massacre. Montazeri told them that these executions were the biggest crimes committed by the Islamic Republic… In that meeting Montazeri talked about how pregnant women and 15-year-old girls were executed during the massacre. Those who attended the meeting (including Raisi) condoned the mass executions. It was subsequently exposed that Raisi was the most active and most ruthless member of the committee. The audio file of the meeting between Khomeini’s then-successor and the “death committee” also corroborated this reality. Raisi, who is Deputy Head of the regime’s “Assembly of Experts”, was promoted to the position of Tehran Prosecutor in 1989 subsequent to Ali Khamenei assuming the role of the regime’s supreme leader. He held this position for five years. He was the Head of the Office of the Inspector General for a decade from 1994 to 2004. He was the Deputy Head of the Judiciary for a decade from 2004 to 2014. Since 2012, while he held the position of Deputy Head of Judiciary, upon Khamenei’s order, he became the Prosecutor General of the Special Court for the Clergy. Raisi was the Prosecutor General from 2014 to 2015. Following the death of mullah Vaez-Tabasi, Khamenei appointed Raisi as the Head of the Astan Quds Razavi foundation, which is one of the most important political and financial conglomerates of the clerical regime controlling massive assets and capital.

Geneva – UN European HQ: Condemning Executions in Iran
NCRI/Thursday, 06 April 2017/call to hold perpetrators of 1988 massacre accountable
Speakers at a conference held in the United Nations European Headquarters in Geneva by the international Radical Party condemned widespread human rights violations and increasing executions in Iran, and discussed the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in Iran. As the conference coincided with the 34th UN Human Rights Council session, the speakers called for a UN probe into these crimes and holding the perpetrators accountable. Former Italian MP Elizabetta Zamparotti, joint chair of the Italian Committee of Citizens and Parliamentarians for a Free Iran underscored the deteriorating human rights situation in Iran. “As members of the international Radical Party we support an international campaign for the rule of law in various countries. Iran must be the center of this campaign’s focus,” she said. “Despite an international trend seeking the complete revoking or suspension of the death penalty, Iran continues to horrendously use the death penalty even against juveniles, and this is a violation of the most fundamental international conventions, especially the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” she added. “Rouhani is no different in comparison to other figures involved in this regime’s massacre of 30,000 political prisoners back in 1988,” Zamparotti highlighted. Expecting moderation from this regime is nothing but an illusion. Iran’s crimes, and especially the 1988 massacre, must be challenged through international means. “Change will only take place through brave activists in Iran, and the international community, and the West must support this effort by conditioning any economic relations with this regime to Tehran respecting human rights standards,” the former Italian MP added. Dr. Henirk Mansson, professor of Copenhagen University said human rights violations are not forgotten through the passage of time and evaluated various international methods to evaluate the 1988 massacre in Iran. “There are three methods to pursue this dossier. First, referring the case to the International Criminal Court and demanding strong accountability. Second is to include the 1988 massacre into the mission of Iran’s Special Rapporteur. This can be a decent basis for holding the perpetrators accountable. And there is an imminent solution through the UN Investigative Commission. This can be tracked through the UN Human Rights Council and especially the High Commissioner in regards to gross and systematic human rights violations. To this day 18 investigative commissions have been launched and eight cases have involved human rights violations,” he said. A number of eyewitnesses also delivered their remarks at the conference. Farzad Madadzadeh, a former political prisoner in Iran, explained what he witnessed in Iran’s prisons, the crimes and tortures used against political prisoners in various jails across the country. He also spoke of various pressures and inhumane measures imposed on himself and other cellmates. Ms. Iran Mansouri, a family member of political prisoners in Iran, spoke of arrests, tortures and inhumane pressures against political prisoners in Iran’s prisons. Ms. Simin Nouri spoke of the women’s role in the Iranian opposition and provided explanations regarding the women’s movement activities and international support for these measures. Ms. Masoumeh Joshaghani, another former political prisoner, provided further details about what she witnessed in the regime’s prisons and how political prisoners, especially the women, stood firm against such atrocities. Ms. Azade Alamian referred to a scope of women’s activities against the regime aiming to establish freedom and equality.

Condemnation of the Syria Gas Attack in Idlib Province
NCRI/Thursday, 06 April 2017/Mr. Struan Stevenson, President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA), issued a statement concerning the horrific chemical attack in Syria, the following is the full text: We strongly condemn the gas attack in Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib Province on Tuesday and call for urgent and effective action by the UN Security Council to punish Bashar al-Assad. This attack, which left hundreds dead and injured, is a war crime. The international community's silence and inaction in responding to this massacre will simply embolden the Syrian dictator and his allies to continue to expand their war crimes and crimes against humanity. Assad has slaughtered tens of thousands of Syrians with bombs, bullets, torture and poison gas. A similar attack took place in Eastern Ghouta in 2013, after which the US administration did nothing, despite Barack Obama having said that any use of chemical weapons would cross a red line. His failure to act led to 4 more years of ongoing atrocities in Syria. Raed Al Saleh the head of the Syrian Civil Defence or White Helmets has said: “I am horrified at reports that certain leading European politicians want to consider a deal with the Assad regime. It is beyond belief that the perpetrators of most of the violence could effectively be rewarded and even propped up, for their brutal crimes.” It is important to point out that war crimes in Syria have taken place with the full cognizance and support of the Iranian regime and the active presence and involvement of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its affiliated militias. Therefore the UN, US and EU must combine their political will and use all their resources to expel the Iranian regime’s forces and militias from Syria as the first essential step for toppling Assad and establishing peace and democracy in Syria. The European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA) extends its condolences to the families of the victims. Struan Stevenson, President, European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA).  Struan Stevenson was a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), President of the Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14) and Chairman of Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14). He is a lecturer on Middle East policy and President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA).

Iran's War Crimes in Syria
NCRI/Thursday, 06 April 2017/Syrian opposition delegation chief Dr. Nasr al-Hariri warned of Iran’s occupation of Syria and measures provoking sectarian wars. “Iran is committing war crimes west of Damascus. What is taking place today is a continuation of a planned policy by the Assad regime and its allies, especially Iran, to gain dominance over all areas west of Damascus. This is a very dangerous initiative,” he said in an interview with Al Arabiya TV. “This regime is involved in war crimes. Displacing people from their homes, forcing locals from their ancestral home lands, altering the social fabric, all the while imposing blockades and mass killings against the Syrian people,” al-Hariri added. “America’s focus on fighting against Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) and ending Iran’s meddling will serve in the interest of the Syrian revolution,” he continued. “Washington’s focus on distancing Iran from Syria, and in the end, expelling this regime’s proxies from Syria will leave Iran completely isolated,” al-Hariri concluded.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published On April 06-07/17
Gassing’ Syrians Is Overshadowed by Considerations of “The Eastern Question”
Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al Awsat/April 06/17
Washington graciously ‘reassured’ us the other day that the fate of Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad is no longer a United States priority in dealing with the ongoing tragedy there. This message was conveyed by not one, but two foreign policy authorities, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley. Hours before, Turkey, too, had some ‘good news’. It declared its “Shield of the Euphrates” in northern Syria as ‘complete’ as after ‘achieving its aim (!)’, although, what had been achieved up till the declared ‘completion’ contradicts with not only Ankara’s promises, but also with its threats and sabre-rattling since 2011.
Between Washington’s ‘reassurances’ and Ankara’s ‘good news’, the journey of lost peace, non-existing trust, as well as ill will, limped to another unsavory Geneva stop.
The Syrian regime’s thugs continued with the help of their Iranian and Russian ‘sponsors’ the process of uprooting and displacing people, and shamelessly and openly redrawing a map of Syria based on sectarian cleansing and partition.
Secessionist Kurds, too, were working over-time to carry out what they had been tasked to do in order to destroy what remains of the Syria we know; while ‘loyalists’ and ‘opposition radicals’ – who have been accusing each other of apostasy and terrorism – found enough common interests in carrying out ‘population exchange’ at the expense of helpless people.
A couple of days ago, I read two interesting articles. The first tackled the competition raging between Turkey and Iran to re-establish their long gone old empires while, in fact, they are nothing more than lackeys to the more powerful superpowers. The second posed the valid question of ‘why after 6 years of tragedies and bloodshed we do not hear of a ‘Syrian Question’, similar to the ‘Palestinian Question’ and the ‘Armenian Question’?
Here, I venture to say that there are several complex and intersecting issues involved. Issues that one needs to understand and deal with realistically, away from the announcements and posturing.
I claim that, we in the Middle East are completely lost. There are no more proper yardsticks for running away and moving forward, expansionism and entrenchment, barricading behind nationalism bordering on racism… and religion to the extent of accusing others of being infidels. Indeed, if the Arabs appear almost ‘absent’ from the scene, the Iranians, the Turks and also the Kurds seem to be lost even if their respective leaders have managed to convince them that they are approaching a great dawn in the ‘absence’ of the Arabs.
However, there is still one major difference between the case of the Iranians and the Turks, and that of the Kurds. The former are raising the banners of religious and sectarian ‘leadership/legitimacy’ in what is fundamentally a nationalist bid for regional supremacy. As for the latter, they are bidding for national sovereignty and expansion by becoming clients to global superpowers that are much more powerful that Turkey and Iran, both of which have never agreed on one issue as much as they did against a ‘Greater Kurdistan’!
While the Arabs are nowhere to be seen, Tehran is bidding to convince the West, indeed, the ‘World of Christendom’, that it is its ally in the war against “Takfiris”. A term in Tehran’s jargon which simply means political Sunni Islam.
In turn, Ankara is trying – so far unsuccessfully – to remind the West of its past NATO ‘services’ during the Cold war. However, Russia’s apparent success in ‘penetrating’ Western political and security establishments has weakened the credibility of Turkey’s leadership in America and Europe. Noteworthy here, is the fact that in Russia’s Christian and nationalist memory, there is a deeply held hate and fear of any Muslim power – particularly, Sunni – sharing its southern borders.
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rhetoric, almost always, is neither helpful in putting to rest the Ottoman siege of Vienna and the old ‘Eastern Question’, nor persuading Europeans to ignore what their racist leaders are drumming up as the ‘Muslim time-bomb’ in the Continent.
In this regard, the Iranians have proven to be far more ‘PR savvy’ than their Turkish neighbors. They have been much more skillful, despite the frequent vocal threats against Israel’s existence. To begin with, even the Israel’s leadership does not believe these threats, and treats them as empty bravado intended for local consumption; the reason being that Iran which today boasts being in control of four Arab capitals, has never attacked Israel. However, Tel Aviv seems happy about these empty threats for two reasons: the first is that they facilitate the process of liquidation of any future Palestinian state; and the second, is that they ensure Tel Aviv continued Western political, military and economic support.
Furthermore, a powerful Iran wreaking havoc in the Muslim world, and creating terrorist Sunni organizations that help its PR strategy, and distort the image of Sunni Political Islam, is very beneficial to Israel and the West since the Sunni-Shi’ite animosity whose fire Tehran is stoking is the best recipe for a global Islamic ‘civil war’.
While these complications engulf the Middle East, voices of hate and xenophobia – especially against immigrants and refugees, and particularly those from Muslim countries increase. Regardless, which is the main reason behind such a situation; is it Western racist supremacy which establishes centuries of colonialism, and even the Crusades before that; or is it the Islamic conquests which reached central Europe and Western Europe, or the current difficult co-existence between Muslims and ‘civil rule’?
My guess is that the two sides have enough to fear and be greedy about. The Christian west is demographically dwindling, and its global influence looks threatened by the rise of non-Western, non-white and non-Christian powers, and in both cases its cause is not being helped by the tide of globalization. Thus it feels cornered as the refuge of the ‘nation-state’ is shaken, ‘capitalism’ is losing its glitz, ‘democracy’ no longer enjoys consensus, and neither does the issue of the separation of the state and the church.
On the other side, those outside the ‘World of Christendom’ that they are outside the arena which they had entered, and sometimes accepted its rules and preconditions unwillingly. They have adopted a ‘democracy’ alien to their traditions, a ‘capitalism’ detached from their heritage, and a ‘secularism’ they are barely comfortable with. However, as major Asian players are accommodating what is going on with patience and wisdom, irrational violent rejection embodied in what we define as ‘terrorism’ is pitting the Muslim World, specifically, Sunni Muslims in an indiscriminate war of obliteration against the West, Indeed, the whole World.
This brand of ‘terrorism’ has provided anti Muslims everywhere with not only the perfect excuse to practice racism and discrimination, but also justified using all kinds of weapons against them… including disregarding their human rights, dehumanizing them, and ignoring their most just and humane causes.
**Eyad Abu Shakra is the managing editor of Asharq Al-Awsat. He has been with the newspaper since 1978.

Tech Underestimates Future Demand for Privacy
Leonid Bershidsky/Bloomberg View/April 06/17
US Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey designed his social media presence to be safe from prying eyes. He set up a private Instagram account only followed by family members, and subscribed to Twitter under a false name. After just one mention in a public speech, it took only a few hours of a reporter’s time to discover the accounts with certainty approaching 100 percent. (Apparently in response to the story, the Twitter account — which quickly started gaining followers — is now available only to subscribers approved by its owner.)
If anyone really wants Comey’s family pictures and media-reading history, the Instagram and Twitter accounts will be hacked in no time. In any case, the companies involved have the data, and the Senate recently voted to allow internet service providers to sell personal browsing and app usage histories to advertisers — or, presumably, to anybody who wants them. Meanwhile, the internet privacy of non-US citizens is not protected at all thanks to an executive order that tells agencies foreigners are exempt from the US Privacy Act, even though European officials cling to the illusion of an unenforceable “Privacy Shield” arrangement with the US (Under it, affected Europeans are invited to sue in US courts; I’d have to be officially accused of being the leader of ISIS before I’d contemplate that.) People the world over should be aware that using any of the services provided by major US-based internet companies means giving up privacy altogether and opening up the most personal data to governments, advertisers, the press and private investigators. It also makes malicious hackers’ work a lot easier because a lot of eggs are being put in large baskets.
Up until now, the services have flourished anyway thanks to the well-known privacy paradox: people say they care about their privacy, but in practice they willingly give it up for convenience. My favorite explanation of the phenomenon is so-called “benefit immediacy”: When the benefits of disclosure are instantaneous while the risks are delayed, the benefits are perceived to be higher than the risks. Last year’s Pew Research study of the paradox showed a plurality of Americans is fine with giving up shopping histories in exchange for a discount card, but not with putting tracking devices in cars in exchange for cheaper car insurance.
The trade-off, though, is highly fluid; customers may become hostile to privacy intrusions by the tech industry if there are more major security breaches and more people are personally affected. So while investment currently flows mostly to companies whose products further compromise privacy — such as Uber, which knows everything about its customers’ movements and has been known to misuse the information, or Internet of Things startups that essentially install surveillance technology in people’s homes — privacy protection may be Silicon Valley’s next hot play.
While there are many privacy protection products available, from browsers that block trackers to messenger applications offering end-to-end encryption, using one or several such products doesn’t guarantee true safety: users need a holistic approach that entails lifestyle changes to stay safe but still connected to the tech-enabled universe.
A company called Purism, for example, sells laptops with maximum privacy and security in mind. It means not using certain processors — like recent Intel ones — that enable remote access to the computers even when they’re powered off. It also employs an operating system (Linux-based) that prevents information collection, and has privacy-ensuring software, from a custom browser to encrypted messaging to a Google-bypassing map app. If one has the discipline to give up the social networks (especially Facebook, whose data-collection practices are so complex that it’s probably fair to say no outsider understands them), a Purism machine can take care of all the basic privacy and security needs. But Purism is a tiny firm, which has had to crowdfund its component inventory. It gets some attention in the tech press, but not enough for a breakthrough: Its target audience is considered paranoid.
Because much of the tech economy is advertising-financed, and advances in important fields such as big data and artificial intelligence depend on people’s propensity to share lots of information, much of it inadvertently, privacy concerns have taken a back seat. That doesn’t mean, however, that the status quo is sustainable.
I wrote recently about a similar lack of investment in devices that work to reduce, not increase, people’s device dependency; at some point, when medical science judges the digital media addiction as dangerous as the tobacco one and there’s public pressure to combat it, the money will come. The same goes for privacy. The more intrusive the tech industry becomes, the less users want to be the commodity sold by tech companies to advertisers or other exploiters of behavioral data and the more demand there will be for means of resistance. Investors betting on a Big Brother future may be in for some nasty surprises; those who bet against its endurance may be rewarded for their prescience.

Iranian Militias in Bahrain
Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al Awsat/April 06/17
The quiet kingdom on the Arabian Gulf has experienced a tough crisis over six years of chaos, explosions and sabotage. Bahrain has been shouting loud for six years: This is not a revolution nor a peaceful protest, but a riot supported by Iran. The West, however, only sees what it wants to see. Even worse, the administration of former US President Barack Obama abandoned its closest ally and the Fifth Fleet of the United States Navy – it also blinded itself to the facts. But the facts are finally being revealed to the western governments– they themselves are admitting, for the first time, that there are criminal acts by which Iran is endeavoring to form militias in Bahrain.The Washington Post has published documents and interviews with former and current intelligence officials on a detailed training program by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to train its Bahraini members on building advanced bombs and waging guerrilla warfare.European and American analysts now see a mounting threat since Iranian-funded and -armed cells are emerging. The Washington Post intelligence report also revealed that over the past three years, a huge quantity of modern weapons and military grade bombs have been discovered in Bahrain, all of which have most certainly been made by Iran.
At any rate, what the western intelligence considers as a newly-discovered major surprise has been known and backed with evidence since the eruption of the riots in February 2011. The Iranian exploitation of these acts to picture them as another form of the “Arab Spring” has also been known.
In fact, the Iranian regime had itself made this admission when in March 2016, Senior IRGC Saeed Qassimi openly declared “Bahrain an Iranian province that had broken away from our country due to colonization.” He added that Iran is now a base to support “the revolution in Bahrain”.
The belated western confession that the developments in Bahrain are neither a revolution nor an “Arab Spring” is a new western failure in analyzing, reading and taking decisions in the region. It is true that the Trump administration is keen on setting things right through imposing sanctions on two Bahraini individuals who have been designated as terrorists on the US terrorism list. The US Department of State pointed out clearly that the designation came after the “escalation of rebel attacks in Bahrain, where Iran provided arms, funds and training for the rebels.”
The Bahraini kingdom has however witnessed serious losses and has been suffering for six years from organizations, associations and western parliaments that depended on the wrong stances of their governments. This led to the acquittal of the criminals and the indictment of the victims and caused unjustified international pressure. This complicated the Bahraini crisis, which was not a revolution, but a riot backed by the Iranian regime’s money and arms. The West’s confession, although very late, is an opportunity for Bahrain to face all these rights and humanitarian organizations that overlooked all the human rights violations in all the conflict zones around the world and focused only on Bahrain.It is time to confront these organizations with their own weapons: the intelligence reports that they have long used as an excuse, even if in most cases they were used for political, not rights, purposes.

Scholar Radwan al-Sayed Wins King Faisal International Prize for Islamic Studies
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/April 06/17
Well did the committee supervising King Faisal International Prize for Islamic Studies this year by granting its award to Dr. Radwan al-Sayed whose work made significant difference in this field. Sayed is one of today’s few intellectuals who provide a systematic and developed analysis of Islamic culture. By presenting this award to him the committee sent a positive message indicating that this was the Islamic ideology we wanted. In the speech he delivered when he received the award, Sayed focused on three challenges Muslims were facing across the world. The three challenges he shed light on were: the challenge of rescuing the national state, as he called it, the challenge of religious reform and the challenge of rectifying relations with the world. Moreover, and over the course of four decades, Sayed contributed to issuing valuable ideological works that have been distinguished from other traditional ones.
His ideas discuss the modernization of Islam, which is lagging behind because of burdens that prevent it from progressing, leaving it unsuitable for the current time and place.
Sayed’s history has a rich and diverse academic career; from Tarshish in Lebanon to al-Azhar, then to the University of Bamberg in Germany followed by the University of Chicago. He was familiar with different schools of Islam in several Arab cities. In his speech, Sayed talked about his categorization of political Islam’s ideology, which is an essential matter that must be addressed considering the dangerous historical circumstances. The political crisis among Muslims lies in the historic interpretations of Islam, that parties are being selective about. Before Sayed classified this, several groups had created cells whose political Islamic ideology established the “legitimacy” of the ISIS group and described how the Muslim individual should live his life. These groups are responsible for the disasters the world is suffering from nowadays. The significance of intellectuals like Dr. Sayed is their intellectual and scientific capability.
This is, of course, in addition to their respect, which makes them the most competent to submit a new cultural project that could resolve the crisis of a billion Muslims, who suffer from oppression by their jurists. Those jurists have either been brainwashed or failed to keep up with the developments that have changed the world. Dr. Sayed was aware of this challenge when he graduated from al-Azhar University in Cairo and traveled to Germany to resume his Islamic studies.
He says that a German orientalist ironically asked him: “Why do you come to us from al-Azhar to attain a degree in Islamic studies while we do not feel the need to go to al-Azhar to study about classical Islam?” Islamic studies, like all studies, are not exclusive for Muslims and some of the most distinguished works related to Islam are found in Western universities. Dr. Sayed, who studied in many universities and research centers, believes that participating in establishing and developing the “science of Islam” is a necessary and honorable task performed by respectable institutions like the King Faisal Foundation.
Granting Dr. Sayed this award signifies the recognition he deserves. We look up to him, to figures like him and to modernizing groups because they push the elite towards reforming the underdeveloped and sabotaging ideological situation that neither suits the present of a great nation nor its great history.
Developing scientific centers and activating the special ones is the first step towards developing the entire society.

The Terrorism Industry
Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/April 06/17
What is obvious is that the West concerns itself with its live citizens; we concern ourselves in glorifying our industry of death. No one here really cares about the dead: they quickly become just an excuse for more violence and more terror attacks.
When one looks at Westerners, one can only envy the hyper-morality of their self-criticism. They are forever accusing themselves of moral lapses. Sometimes they seem to have some kind of autoimmune disease whose function is to cleanse their societies.
To us, it looks as if all they really care about are hating Jews and stroking corrupt dictatorships.
Perhaps the time has come to learn from our "enemy" and first take a cold hard look at ourselves.
It is obvious that the West concerns itself with its live citizens; we concern ourselves in glorifying our industry of death.
It seems we regard our dead differently from the way the dead are regarded in the West. Here, no respect is paid to the shaheed [martyr]; he is expendable. He serves only as an excuse to hate, riot and glorify the "resistance" and the "jihad" -- terrorist attacks.
Why, during the long years of our conflict in the Middle East, have we Palestinians never interested ourselves in the bodies of Palestinian terrorists killed in terrorist attacks? No one has ever shown the slightest interest in their fate. Arabs and Muslims in the Middle East often point fingers at one another, yet in reality, we respect neither the living nor the dead. No one buries the thousands of bodies of Islamists killing each other. We abandon our brothers to rot in foreign soil. There are untold number of civilians killed in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, their bodies unmourned, eaten by scavengers.
We simply use the bodies of terrorists -- to call for more blood and more terrorism against civilians, and to keep the terrorism industry going. No one here really cares about the dead: they quickly become just an excuse for more violence and more terror attacks.
When one looks at Westerners, one can only envy the hyper-morality of their self-criticism. They are forever accusing themselves of moral lapses. Sometimes they seem to have some kind of autoimmune disease whose function is to cleanse their societies.
One honestly has to wonder at the West, surrounded as it is by murderers, rapists and terrorists responsible for the flight of millions of refugees from the Middle East, yet struggling to be hyper-moral, dealing obsessively with self-criticism about people who offend terrorists, or how to be nicer to individuals who often can be seen not accepting hospitality but trying to see how much advantage of it they can take. There do not seem to be many refugees risking their lives to get to the oil-rich countries of the Gulf -- Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait. Nor do there seem many invitations from them to go there.
The so-called "human rights" groups -- usually just political hit-squads -- the lazy, biased media; the sweet but misguided do-gooders of Europe; the sanctimonious church groups who cannot tell their friends from their enemies; the United Nations, which empowers all the corrupt dictatorships -- they really do not give a rap about us, our jobs, or well-being or our rancid governance. To us, it looks as if all they really care about are hating Jews and stroking corrupt dictatorships.
Perhaps the time has come to learn from our "enemy" and first take a cold hard look at ourselves.
**Bassam Tawil is a scholar based in the Middle East.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Europe's Out-of-Control Censorship
Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/April 06/17
If Facebook insists on the rules of censorship, it should at the very least administer those rules in a fair way. Facebook, however, does not even pretend that it administers its censorship in any way that approximates fairness.
Posts critical of Chancellor Merkel's migrant policies, for example, can be categorized as "Islamophobia", and are often found to violate "Community Standards", while incitement to actual violence and the murder of Jews and Israelis by Palestinian Arabs is generally considered as conforming to Facebook's "Community Standards".Notwithstanding the lawsuits, Facebook's bias is so strong that it recently restored Palestinian Arab terrorist group Fatah's Facebook page, which incites hatred and violence against Jews -- despite having shut it down only three days earlier. In 2016 alone, this page had a minimum of 130 posts glorifying terror and murder of Jews. Germany has formally announced its draconian push towards censorship of social media. On March 14, Germany's Justice Minister Heiko Maas announced the plan to formalize into law the "code of conduct", which Germany pressed upon Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in late 2015, and which included a pledge to delete "hate speech" from their websites within 24 hours.
"This [draft law] sets out binding standards for the way operators of social networks deal with complaints and obliges them to delete criminal content," Justice Minister Heiko Maas said in a statement announcing the planned legislation.
"Criminal" content? Statements that are deemed illegal under German law are now being conflated with statements that are merely deemed, subjectively and on the basis of entirely random complaints from social media users -- who are free to abuse the code of conduct to their heart's content -- to be "hate speech". "Hate speech" has included critiques of Chancellor Angela Merkel's migration policies. To be in disagreement with the government's policies is now potentially "criminal". Social media companies, such as Facebook, are supposed to be the German government's informers and enforcers -- qualified by whom and in what way? -- working at the speed of light to comply with the 24-hour rule. Rule of law, clearly, as in North Korea, Iran, Russia or any banana-republic, has no place in this system.
Maas is not pleased with the efforts of the social media companies. They do not, supposedly, delete enough reported content, nor do they delete it fast enough, according to a survey by the Justice Ministry's youth protection agency. It found that YouTube was able to remove around 90% of "illegal" postings within a week, while Facebook deleted or blocked 39% of content and Twitter only 1%. The German minister, it seems, wants more efficiency.
"We need to increase the pressure on social networks... There is just as little room for criminal propaganda and slander [on social media] as on the streets," said Maas. "For this we need legal regulations." He has now presented these legal regulations in the form of a draft bill, which provides for complaints, reporting and fines.
There also appears to be no differentiation made between primary-source hate speech, as in many religious tenets, and secondary-source hate speech, reporting on the former.
According to the draft, social media platforms with more than two million users would be obliged to delete or block any criminal offenses, such as libel, slander, defamation or incitement, within 24 hours of receipt of a user complaint. The networks receive seven days for more complicated cases. Germany could fine a social media company up to 50 million euros for failing to comply with the law; it could fine a company's chief representative in Germany up to 5 million euros.
It does not stop there. Germany does not want these measures to be limited to its own jurisdiction. It wants to share them with the rest of Europe: "In the end, we also need European solutions for European-wide companies," said Maas. The European Union already has a similar code of conduct in place, so that should not be very hard to accomplish.
Facebook, for its part, has announced that by the end of 2017, the number of employees in complaints-management in Berlin will be increased to more than 700. A spokeswoman said that Facebook had clear rules against hate speech and works "hard" on removing "criminal content".
If Facebook insists on operating under rules of censorship, it should at the very least aim to administer those rules in a fair manner. Facebook, however, does not even pretend that it administers its censorship in any way that approximates fairness. Instead, Facebook's practice of its so-called "Community Standards" -- the standards to which Facebook refers when deleting or allowing content on its platform in response to user complaints -- shows evidence of entrenched bias. Posts critical of Merkel's migrant policies, for example, can get categorized as "Islamophobia", and are often found to violate "Community Standards", while incitement to actual violence and the murder of Jews and Israelis by Palestinian Arabs is generally considered as conforming to Facebook's "Community Standards".
Facebook's bias, in fact, became so pronounced that in October 2015, Shurat Hadin Israel Law Center filed an unprecedented lawsuit against Facebook on behalf of some 20,000 Israelis, to stop allowing Palestinian Arab terrorists to use the social network to incite violent attacks against Jews. The complaint sought an injunction against Facebook that required it to monitor incitement and to respond immediately to complaints about content that incites people to violence. Shurat Hadin wrote at the time:
"...Facebook is much more than a neutral internet platform or a mere 'publisher' of speech because its algorithms connect the terrorists to the inciters. Facebook actively assists the inciters to find people who are interested in acting on their hateful messages by offering friend, group and event suggestions ... Additionally, Facebook often refuses to take down the inciting pages, claiming that they do not violate its 'community standards'. Calling on people to commit crimes is not constitutionally protected speech and endangers the lives of Jews and Israelis".
In 2016, Shurat Hadin filed a separate $1 billion lawsuit on behalf of five victims of Hamas terrorism and their families. They are seeking damages against Facebook under the U.S. Antiterrorism Act, for Facebook's having provided material support and resources to Hamas in the form of Facebook services, which Hamas then used to carry out their terrorist activities. The US has officially designated Hamas a "Foreign Terrorist Organization" which means that it is a criminal offense to provide material support to such an organization.
Notwithstanding the lawsuits, Facebook's bias is so strong that it recently restored Palestinian Arab terrorist group Fatah's Facebook page, which incites hatred and violence against Jews -- despite having shut it down only three days earlier. In 2016 alone, this page had a minimum of 130 posts glorifying terror and the murder of Jews.
It is only a small step from imposing censorship on social media companies to asking the same of email providers, or ordering postal authorities to screen letters, magazines and brochures in the event that citizens spread supposed "xenophobia" and "fake news". There is ample precedent for such a course of action on the continent: During the Cold War, people living behind the Iron Curtain had their private letters opened by the communist authorities; those passages deemed to be out of line with the communist orthodoxy, were simply blacked out.
Who would have thought that more than a quarter of a century after the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989), Western Europe would be reinventing itself in the image of the Soviet Union?
**Judith Bergman is a writer, columnist, lawyer and political analyst.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

What happened? Iranians are condemning Khan Sheikhoun massacre!

Mamdouh AlMuhaini/Al Arabiya/April 06/17
Millions have been shocked by the sight of children dying as a result of the recent Khan Sheikhoun massacre in Idlib. We should be aware that unfortunately this might not be the last chemical attack. Such attacks have taken place several times in the past. We wake up to the news of horrific massacres and then life goes back to normal. Then another massacre happens. The photo of Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian boy who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea as he was fleeing the war in Syria with his family, shook the world but nothing happened. Later on, there was the picture of Syrian child Omran Daqneesh wiping blood off his face; nothing happened thereafter. Unfortunately, nothing will happen now as well. It is morally and ethically shameful to live through these developments and watch how these crimes against humanity are being committed before the eyes of the entire world. Why did I say this tragedy will happen again and perhaps very soon? It is because the world is passing through a phase of chaos and there is no power capable of ending these human tragedies. Victims’ hopes and demands do not jail criminals; security forces do but there is no one policing the world today. Assad will attack his people with toxic gas like he has done before and Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Iranian regime and Hezbollah will protect him. There will be no power in the world that will be capable of punishing him. In order to understand how we have reached this state of affairs, where crimes are being publicly committed, we must go back a little.
Action speaks louder than words. The discussion should now be focused on the policy Trump adopts to deal with this crisis and what are likely to be its implications
Dictators of the past
History is full of leaders who have committed hideous massacres. However, there has always been a virtuous power capable of deterring them and maintaining the international system. Adolf Hitler committed terrifying massacres but thanks to American power and famous British leader Winston Churchill, he was defeated. As he killed himself, his evil regime ended for good. Benito Mussolini also committed horrible crimes and in the end he was executed and his body was hung upside down like a slain sheep. The allies’ power was the reason behind his fall. Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi also committed terrible crimes and he would have remained in power for many decades and committed more crimes if the NATO hadn’t intervened and put an end to his dark era. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein paid the price for his horrible crime. Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, who committed war crimes, ended up dead in a prison cell in The Hague. All these and many other criminals would have resumed killing people if a power had not emerged at the right time and eliminated them.
When it comes to Bashar al-Assad, the situation has been different for several reasons. The most significant one is the retreat of the American power during Barack Obama’s term who promised to punish Assad but backed down at the last minute. Some officials in his administration – such as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and later John Kerry – called on him to intervene and end the Syrian tragedy but he refused to perform the role of the necessary good power at the right time. Although Obama reiterated that he did not want to involve his soldiers in this war, like the way it happened in Iraq, the issue was much bigger than that. It was maintaining a world order, which had lost its balance due to the crimes against innocent people.
Lack of accountability
This is the reason why several massacres have taken place and yet no one is held accountable. It is no longer strange to see footages of blue bodies of dead children being shown on television channels. What’s worse is that the Iranians and Russians practically want to destroy this international system and establish another that has different standards and conditions where rogue regimes continue to commit their crimes without being held accountable. This amounts to destroying the world we live in today – the world which we thought has become civilized to the point that it will not allow these massacres to be committed in public. Obama’s term has ended so the attention is focused on the Trump administration, which has condemned these massacres. Trump’s comments on the chemical attack have been far more forceful than that of his aides. He said the attack is something “that cannot be ignored by the civilized world.”Of course, action speaks louder than words. The discussion should now be focused on the policy Trump adopts to deal with this crisis and what are likely to be its implications. Will he continue the isolationist policy like his predecessor or demand human rights, like Jimmy Carter. Will he call for democracy like George W. Bush or be a realist like George Bush Sr.? All these political classifications do not matter amid the chaos and all these unprecedented horrific massacres. Syrians do not want to defend their rights but they just want to stay alive. This is the least that the American power, which is the only power capable of confronting this axis of evil, can do. Ironically, the Iranians have condemned the crime and said they want to help children caught in this conflict. These are the same children Iran participated in killing by attacking them with chemical gas and barrel bombs.

Is it now Trump’s turn to bring misery to Syrians?
Dr. Azeem Ibrahim/Al Arabiya/April 06/17
I have written extensively (such as this article) about the fact that the Obama administration could and should have ended the civil war by intervening in Syria to enforce their own chemical weapons “red line”. Obama’s failure to deliver on that very reasonable threat has done untold damage to Syria, to its people, but also to America’s ability to project power and promote its interests around the world. Not to be outdone, President Trump has now made matters even worse. Though he has failed to intervene, President Obama did at least impose some restraint on the Assad regime, by getting both him and his Russian allies to agree that the Syrian government should surrender all chemical weapons. At the very least, Syrian civilians would no longer need to worry about the threat that they will be gassed by their own president. But that was then. As it turns out, Assad still has some Sarin gas stockpiles lying around and what better use for it than to drop it on his own civilians, once more? And the response from the White House? Have at it, Bashar! Syria is no longer a priority for America. Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are rather more preoccupied with smoothing things over with Russia. What is a few more hundreds of dead civilians in Syria to the hundreds of thousands we have already?
This, of course, does nothing to allay concerns over Trump’s dealings with Russia. Though, to be fair, the administration has been increasingly brazen in the face of mounting evidence on that front.
A former Trump adviser has insisted that giving documents to a Russian spy was “no big deal” while a former national security advisor to Trump, Michael Flynn, has a “story to tell” about the administration’s links to Russia in exchange for immunity.
If tyrants like Assad can now deploy chemical weapons against civilians with impunity, any pretense that international law is still in force has to be abandoned. This attack is a war crime, and nobody is queuing up to respond to it
Turning point in geopolitics
Nevertheless, this potentially marks a very dangerous turning point in geopolitics. If tyrants like Assad can now deploy chemical weapons against civilians with impunity, any pretence that international law is still in force has to be abandoned. This attack is a war crime, and nobody is queuing up to respond to it.
The United States would normally be the first to respond, and its allies would join in. Now the United States has declared it has no interest in the situation, and the other Western countries, for all their protestations, have neither the capacity, nor the will to intervene on their own in any effective manner.
What is worse, this does not in any way promote in any way American interests. America’s Western allies did not need any more reason to be concerned over the new direction Trump is dragging the United States towards.
Such a stark difference in the moral response over what is expected from America in the world, and the clear preference towards Russian interests even at the cost of implicit American strategic interests is not going to put anyone in NATO at ease. Nor is the European Union be happy about the next incoming wave of Syrian refugees this escalating situation in Syria is likely to produce. Trump seems to be doing exactly what many of his supporters claimed he would do: “shake things up”. What that will mean for the United States domestically remains to be seen. But for Syria, this already means giving Assad and Putin free reign to commit as many crimes against humanity as they wish. For the wider Middle East, this will translate into further destabilization and the increased likelihood of full-blown war. For America’s allies, this means that America’s treaties and commitments are hardly worth the paper they are written on.
And for the world, it means that the United States has forfeited its rightful place as leader among nations. So much for America and “greatness”.

Why some family businesses do not taste success
Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi/Al Arabiya/April 06/17
In most cases, family businesses are those firms that are established and run by individuals. Sometimes, the individual owner gives a portion of the stake in the firm to his brothers or sons. The individual, usually from humble beginnings, starts his business and then he expands it, transforming it later into an establishment or company. That individual founder will be the major decision maker of the firm until he becomes aged or breathes his last. In the event of the founder’s death, his eldest son will normally take over the firm on the basis of a will, if there is one prepared beforehand. There are many instances in which such firms are successful and expand their activities. In other cases, disagreement among the heirs may lead to the collapse of the firm. This might be because of mismanagement by those who run the firm or because of the jealousy and suspicion of some partners about the overall functioning of the firm.
This may be one of the key factors that has prompted many owners of family businesses to convert their establishments and limited liability companies into joint stock companies by floating a maximum of 30 percent of shares into circulation, and keeping the remaining shares in their name and the names of their sons and daughters. They constitute the board of directors and choose its chairman by exercising their power as long as they are the holders of more than two-thirds of the shares. The shareholders have to agree with the decision of the chairman of the board, and those who try to criticize him or make an observation with which he does not agree might be marginalized to the extent of not having their board membership renewed in the future.
Poor performance
Some family businesses have had a record of poor performance and a subsequent fall in their profits. Some of these firms have failed to earn any profit while others are run at a loss. There are other firms that follow corrupt practices even in the process of their formation and publish false financial statements. These firms float their shares at a high premium and this causes tens of thousands of subscribers to incur huge losses, and eventually results in cases of fraud and cheating. Subsequently, these cases lead to the trial of the concerned officials and the award of stiff penalties as happened in some cases. There could be alternative ways of exposing these fraudulent practices and prosecuting those who have eaten the money of people in a wrong way, and of helping secure compensation for those subscribers who were victims of fraud and malpractice.
Some companies resort to duplicity by announcing that they had incurred losses after being converted into joint stock companies. This was the case with some companies that announced huge profits before launching their IPO so as to fix a high share premium
Some officials of chambers of commerce and industry and concerned government agencies have discovered malpractice in the functioning of some family businesses and have taken action to tackle the fraudulent activities of their boards of directors. These measures are aimed at protecting the rights of shareholders who purchased shares at the time of their initial public offering (IPO).
These companies resorted to duplicity by announcing that they had incurred losses after being converted into joint stock companies. This was the case with some companies that announced huge profits before launching their IPO so as to fix a high share premium. Such unethical practices are more common after the passing of the first generation of the founders of companies. In such a scenario, it is significant that the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in the Eastern Province (Asharqia) is organizing a forum on the governance of family firms on April 19. The theme of the forum is “Secrets of success of a board of directors,” according to a recent report published by Okaz newspaper. In the report, Abdul Rahman Al-Otaishan, chairman of the board of Asharqia, said that several leading legal and financial consultants specialized in the governance of family businesses will attend the forum.
Procedures of good governance
“Global studies and research have confirmed that family businesses should be converted into joint stock companies with strict application of the procedures of good governance so as to ensure the sustainability of family businesses and their smooth transition through generations. Therefore, Asharqia has taken the initiative of making the owners of family businesses aware that the current governance law needs a comprehensive revamp so as to close those loopholes that have made it virtually useless in effectively regulating these businesses,” he said.
Al-Otaishan noted that in the case of most family businesses, it is the president of the board who holds the majority of shares and, therefore, makes decisions while the rest of the shareholders do not have any noteworthy influence and their voice is not heard. Their numbers in certain firms are very limited and the number of shares owned by them does not give them any voting power. The current law of governance has proved incapable of preventing conflicts of interest. There are loopholes in the law that allow some companies to restrict items in their general assembly agenda to merely ratifying deals that have been concluded earlier between the company and members of the board of directors.
Hence, an effective corporate governance law is the need of the hour for the smooth running of family businesses. The absence of such a law is attributed to the poor performance of both family businesses and other firms. This has also forced some foreign investors to quit the local Saudi market.