April 09/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

The Bulletin's Link on the lccc Site

 News Bulletin Achieves Since 2006
Click Here to go to the LCCC Daily English/Arabic News Buletins Archieves Since 2016

Bible Quotations For Today
Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 12/12-22/:"The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord the King of Israel!’ Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written: ‘Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion. Look, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!’ His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him. So the crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to testify. It was also because they heard that he had performed this sign that the crowd went to meet him. The Pharisees then said to one another, ‘You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him! ’ Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.

And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best
Letter to the Philippians 01/01-13/:"Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that on the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God. I want you to know, beloved, that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ;"

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 08-09/17
Jesus' Victorious Entry into Jerusalem -Palm Sunday/Elias Bejjani/April 09/17
Free world is also to blame for mass murder in Syria/Ben Dror-Yemini /Ynetnews/April 08/17Middle East: A Shift from Revolution to Evolution/Najat Al Saied/Gatestone Institute/April 08/17
The Chemical Attack a Test for Trump/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/April 08/17
When Economics Failed/Noah Smith/Bloomberg/April 08/17
The Defects of Lavrov’s World Order/Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/April 08/17
Routinizing evil in Syria/Fawaz Turki/Al Arabiya/April 08/17
Rowhani’s re-election depends on Trump/Huda al Husseini/Al Arabiya/April 08/17
Egypt’s economy shows positive signs but big risks remain/Dr. Naser al-Tamimi/Al Arabiya/April 08/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published on April 08-09/17
Jesus' Victorious Entry into Jerusalem -Palm Sunday
Hezbollah Condemns ‘Foolish’ US Strike on Syria, Warns Future Dangers
Army chief tours Arsal, urges steadfast battle against extremism
Jumblat Supports Consensus on Electoral Law, Rejects Voting
Abou Arab: To close all security zones in Ain El Helweh, hand in Bilal Badr
Sidon governmental hospital, Serail closed
Maqdah: Situation in Ain Helweh Camp on way to be resolved
Clashes Continue in Ain el-Hilweh, Army Tightens Security
Report: U.S Mulling New Sanctions Against Hizbullah
Army Commander Inspects Eastern Border
Erslan to a visiting Russian delegation: Situation in Syria could be more critical, but definitely more solid than before
Hariri: Engineering Syndicate elections a new victory for democracy
Bou Assi: Hariri has not declared acceptance of relativity law, we are attached to Bassil's mixed formula
Jumblatt cables Swedish Prime Minister condemning Stockholm attack
Army: Terrorist referred to judiciary authorities
Huge fire at Hasbeh intersection due to clashes in Ain elHelweh
Army: Terrorist referred to judiciary authorities
Swedish police say found "device" in truck used in Stockholm attack

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 08-09/17
US Congress Backs Syria Strikes, Urges Trump to Develop Strategy
Gulf Cooperation Council expresses support for US air strikes on Syria
Canada Arrests Citizen for Attempting to Join ISIS
Jets Launch Raids from Syria Base Hit by U.S.
Swedish Arrests Suspect Driver of Stockholm Crime
Fresh Gaza Protests after Palestinian Pay Cut
Trump Spoke by Phone with Saudi King Salman
Trump's Far-Right Backers Rebel over 'Hoax' Syria Attack
Congress May Be Focus of Debate on U.S. Force against Syria
Trump Drops China Bashing during Warm Xi Summit
Somalia's Puntland State Executes 5 for Murders of Officials
102 Children among 314 Killed in Colombia Mudslide

Links From Jihad Watch Site for April 08-09/17
UK backs Trump missile strike on Syrian airbase, Russia condemns move against 'sovereign nation'
Archbishop of Canterbury on Facebook Live with Christian Today - Palm Sunday
Church leaders urge prayer for victims and relatives of new terror attack in Sweden
North Korea calls US strikes on Syria 'unforgivable act of aggression'
Mike Pence pledges US support for Iraq's war on ISIS
World's Catholic population grows to 1.3 billion: Church surges in Africa amid priest shortage in Europe
Woman who fell into Thames during Westminster attack dies, family pays tribute to 'our shining ray of light'
New Bishop of Sheffield announced after 'highly individualised attacks' forced Philip North to stand down
US Catholics voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump after all, new research says

Links From Christian Today Site For  April 08-09/17
UK’s Theresa May offers to work together with Swedish PM against “extremist attacks”
UK: Westminster jihadi had key role in mosque that urges Muslims to take up arms against Jews and other “enemies of Islam”
King: “Sweden is…and will continue to be a safe and peaceful country”
Sweden: Truck jihadi had been in Swedish Security Service files
Muslim Marvel Comics artist hid anti-Jewish, anti-Christian messages in X-Men comic
Detroit: Muslim who spoke of attacking church and hospital wanted to skin victims “like sheep”
Italy: Mosque frequented by Muslims who plotted jihad massacre ordered to shut down
Sweden: Three Muslims arrested over Stockholm truck jihad attack, bomb found inside truck
Sudan: Muslim mob raids Christian school, murders church elder
Sweden truck jihad killer is Muslim from Uzbekistan who posted Islamic State videos on Facebook
Germany: Muslim asylum seeker rapes two elderly disabled men, then murders one of the victims’ wives

Australia: Letters “IS” written in blood on window of gas station where attendant was stabbed to death
Germany finds 1500 cases of child marriage among Muslim migrants

Latest Lebanese Related News published on April 08-09/17
Jesus' Victorious Entry into Jerusalem -Palm Sunday
Elias Bejjani/April 09/17
(Psalm118/26): "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of Yahweh! We have blessed You out of the house of Yahweh".
On the seventh Lantern Sunday, known as the "Palm Sunday", our Maronite Catholic Church celebrates the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. The joyful and faithful people of this Holy City and their children welcomed Jesus with innocent spontaneity and declared Him a King. Through His glorious and modest entry the essence of His Godly royalty that we share with Him in baptism and anointing of Chrism was revealed. Jesus' Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem, the "Palm Sunday", marks the Seventh Lantern Sunday, the last one before Easter Day, (The Resurrection).
During the past six Lantern weeks, we the believers are ought to have renewed and rekindled our faith and reverence through genuine fasting, contemplation, penance, prayers, repentance and acts of charity. By now we are expected to have fully understood the core of love, freedom, and justice that enables us to enter into a renewed world of worship that encompasses the family, the congregation, the community and the nation.
Jesus entered Jerusalem for the last time to participate in the Jewish Passover Holiday. He was fully aware that the day of His suffering and death was approaching and unlike all times, He did not stop the people from declaring Him a king and accepted to enter the city while they were happily chanting : "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel!”.(John 12/13). Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples!" "I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." (Luke 19/39-40). Jesus entered Jerusalem to willingly sacrifice Himself, die on the cross, redeem us and absolve our original sin.
On the Palm Sunday we take our children and grandchildren to celebrate the mass and the special procession while happily they are carrying candles decorated with lilies and roses. Men and women hold palm fronds with olive branches, and actively participate in the Palm Procession with modesty, love and joy crying out loudly: "Hosanna to the Son of David!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Hosanna in the highest!" (Matthew 21/09).
On the Palm Sunday through the procession, prayers, and mass we renew our confidence and trust in Jesus. We beg Him for peace and commit ourselves to always tame all kinds of evil hostilities, forgive others and act as peace and love advocates and defend man's dignity and his basic human rights. "Ephesians 2:14": "For Christ Himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in His own body on the cross, He broke down the wall of hostility that separated us"
The Triumphal Entry of Jesus' story into Jerusalem appears in all four Gospel accounts (Matthew 21:1-17; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:29-40; John 12:12-19). The four accounts shows clearly that the Triumphal Entry was a significant event, not only to the people of Jesus’ day, but to Christians throughout history.
The Triumphal Entry as it appeared in Saint John's Gospel, (12/12-19), as follows : "On the next day a great multitude had come to the feast. When they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they took the branches of the palm trees, and went out to meet him, and cried out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel!” Jesus, having found a young donkey, sat on it. As it is written, “Don’t be afraid, daughter of Zion. Behold, your King comes, sitting on a donkey’s colt. ”His disciples didn’t understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him, and that they had done these things to Him. The multitude therefore that was with Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb, and raised him from the dead, was testifying about it. For this cause also the multitude went and met Him, because they heard that He had done this sign. The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, “See how you accomplish nothing. Behold, the world has gone after him.” Now there were certain Greeks among those that went up to worship at the feast. These, therefore, came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, “Sir, we want to see Jesus.” Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn, Andrew came with Philip, and they told Jesus."
The multitude welcomed Jesus, His disciples and followers while chanting: "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel!”.(John 12/13). His entry was so humble, meek simple and spontaneous. He did not ride in a chariot pulled by horses as earthly kings and conquerors do, He did not have armed guards, nor officials escorting him. He did not come to Jerusalem to fight, rule, judge or settle scores with any one, but to offer Himself a sacrifice for our salvation.
Before entering Jerusalem, He stopped in the city of Bethany, where Lazarus (whom he raised from the tomb) with his two sisters Mary and Martha lived. In Hebrew Bethany means "The House of the Poor". His stop in Bethany before reaching Jerusalem was a sign of both His acceptance of poverty and His readiness to offer Himself as a sacrifice. He is the One who accepted poverty for our own benefit and came to live in poverty with the poor and escort them to heaven, the Kingdom of His Father.
After His short Stop in Bethany, Jesus entered Jerusalem to fulfill all the prophecies, purposes and the work of the Lord since the dawn of history. All the scripture accounts were fulfilled and completed with his suffering, torture, crucifixion, death and resurrection. On the Cross, He cried with a loud voice: “It is finished.” He bowed his head, and gave up his spirit.(John19/30)
The multitude welcomed Jesus when He entered Jerusalem so one of the Old Testament prophecies would be fulfilled. (Zechariah 9:9-10): "Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your King comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the warhorses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth".
The crowd welcomed Jesus for different reasons and numerous expectations. There were those who came to listen to His message and believed in Him, while others sought a miraculous cure for their ailments and they got what they came for, but many others envisaged in Him a mortal King that could liberate their country, Israel, and free them from the yoke of the Roman occupation. Those were disappointed when Jesus told them: "My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom" (John 18/36)
Christ came to Jerusalem to die on its soil and fulfill the scriptures. It was His choice where to die in Jerusalem as He has said previously: "should not be a prophet perish outside of Jerusalem" (Luke 13/33): "Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem".
He has also warned Jerusalem because in it all the prophets were killed: (Luke 13:34-35): "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it! "behold, your house is left to you desolate; and I say to you, you will not see Me until the time comes when you say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord".
Explanation of the Palm Sunday Procession Symbols
The crowd chanted, "Hosanna to the Son of David" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Hosanna in the highest!" (Matthew 21/09), because Jesus was is a descendant of David. Hosanna in the highest is originated in the Psalm 118/25: "Please, LORD, please save us. Please, LORD, please give us success". It is a call for help and salvation as also meant by the Psalm 26/11: "But I lead a blameless life; redeem me and be merciful to me". Hosanna also means: God enlightened us and will never abandon us, Jesus' is a salvation for the world".
Spreading cloth and trees' branches in front of Jesus to walk on them was an Old Testament tradition that refers to love, obedience, submission, triumph and loyalty. (2 Kings 09/13): "They hurried and took their cloaks and spread them under him on the bare steps. Then they blew the trumpet and shouted, "Jehu is king!". In the old days Spreading garments before a dignitary was a symbol of submission.
Zion is a hill in Jerusalem, and the "Daughter of Zion" is Jerusalem. The term is synonymous with "paradise" and the sky in its religious dimensions.
Carrying palm and olive branches and waving with them expresses joy, peace, longing for eternity and triumph. Palm branches are a sign of victory and praise, while Olive branches are a token of joy, peace and durability. The Lord was coming to Jerusalem to conquer death by death and secure eternity for the faithful. It is worth mentioning that the olive tree is a symbol for peace and its oil a means of holiness immortality with which Kings, Saints, children and the sick were anointed.
The name "King of Israel," symbolizes the kingship of the Jews who were waiting for Jehovah to liberate them from the Roman occupation.
O, Lord Jesus, strengthen our faith to feel closer to You and to Your mercy when in trouble;
O, Lord Jesus, empower us with the grace of patience and meekness to endure persecution, humiliation and rejection and always be Your followers.
O, Lord Let Your eternal peace and gracious love prevail all over the world.
A joyous Palm Sunday to all

Hezbollah Condemns ‘Foolish’ US Strike on Syria, Warns Future Dangers
Asharq Al Awsat/April 08/17/Beirut – “Hezbollah” and pro-Syrian regime parties in Lebanon condemned the US strike on Syria’s Shayrat airport, while President Michel Aoun slammed the use of weapons of mass destruction “by whichever side.”“Hezbollah” condemned in a statement what it described as “blatant American aggression on Syrian sovereignty through the attack on Shayrat airport.”It deemed it a “foolish step taken by the administration of US President Donald Trump, which will pave the way for major and dangerous tension on the regional level and complicate matters on the international one.”“This new crime is part of the American administration’s determination to pursue its aggressive course in confronting our ummah in order to achieve its regional ambitions,” continued the statement by the Iranian-backed party. “Such vicious assaults cannot affect the morale of the heroic Syrian army that is achieving victory after victory against American-backed terrorists and their supporters in different Syrian regions,” it added. “These assaults will also not affect the resistance and perseverance alliance that is standing with and supporting the Syrian state in its ongoing war against terrorism,” stressed ‘Hezbollah’. For its part, the AMAL movement condemned the American strike, saying: “Washington is trying to demonstrate that it is the international arbiter and executioner.”It said that the US adopted a similar strategy to justify its 2003 invasion of Iraq. The Mustaqbal Movement meanwhile, slammed the Syrian regime’s massacre in Khan Sheikhun, noting that “this barbaric crime is another in the lowly series of crimes that have been taking place for years and which regional and international powers are complicit in.” It “welcomes any step that curbs Bashar al-Assad and his allies’ ability to commit massacres and that would lead Syria towards national peace and end the series of pains that are affecting Lebanon and the Arab world.”“After today, we should no longer suffice with condemnations and idly watching images of victims,” but action should be taken to put an end to the suffering of the Syrian people and the massacres of Assad and his allies.

Army chief tours Arsal, urges steadfast battle against extremism
The Daily Star/April 08, 2017/BEIRUT: Lebanese Army Commander General Joseph Aoun Saturday urged soldiers deployed on the frontlines of Lebanon's border with Syria to continue their efforts to defend the country from extremist militants. Aoun's remarks were made during a tour of military posts in the northeastern border town of Arsal. He called on soldiers to be firm in fending off the threats posed by militants along the border and maintain security in the country by defeating the extremists. Daesh (ISIS) has a foothold on the outskirts of Ras Baalbeck, while Jabhat Fatah al-Sham – formerly known as the Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front – has a strong presence around the nearby town of Arsal. Extremists have intermittently engaged in clashes on the town's outskirts over territorial disputes. The two extremist groups have been entrenched on the outskirts of Arsal since they briefly overran the town in August 2014.
More than 30 soldiers and policemen were initially captured, but most have been released. Some were killed in captivity, however, and nine army personnel are still being held by Daesh. The Lebanese Army and Hezbollah target the militants on a near daily basis to keep them at bay.

Jumblat Supports Consensus on Electoral Law, Rejects Voting
Naharnet/April 08/17/Democratic Gathering parliamentary bloc leader MP Walid Jumblat said he rejects voting either in cabinet or in parliament on a new vote law proposal to rule the upcoming parliamentary elections, An Nahar daily reported on Saturday. Jumblat said that consensual agreement on a new electoral law is better than a vote. “The agreement on an electoral law must not be through voting, it must be consensually reached because it is one of the sensitive and fateful nationalist issues,” he told the daily. “We have seen where voting led us in some agreements,” he added without elaborating. The Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces support a vote on a law for the elections while AMAL, Hizbullah, the Progressive Socialist Party and others refuse the measure. A cabinet meeting scheduled to meet on Monday and devoted to discuss Lebanon's voting system, vows to be decisive and productive as for reaching an agreement. The country has not organized parliamentary elections since 2009 and the legislature has instead twice extended its own mandate. The last polls were held under an amended version of the 1960 electoral law. Hizbullah has repeatedly called for an electoral law fully based on the proportional representation system and a single or several large electorates. Druze leader Walid Jumblat has rejected proportional representation, warning that it would "marginalize" his minority Druze community, whose presence is concentrated in the Aley and Chouf areas. Amid reservations over proportional representation by other parties such as al-Mustaqbal Movement and the Lebanese Forces, the political parties are mulling a so-called hybrid electoral law that mixes proportional representation with the winner-takes-all system. Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil has recently proposed an electoral law that mixes proportional representation with the controversial law proposed by the Orthodox Gathering.

Abou Arab: To close all security zones in Ain El Helweh, hand in Bilal Badr
Sat 08 Apr 2017/NNA - Palestinian National Security Commander General Sobhi Abou Arab stressed on Saturday in a statement that Fath and all Palestinian forces will continue their military actions until all security zones in Ain El-Helweh Palestinian camp are closed and Bilal Badr is handed in. Abou Arab word's came in comment on the security developments in Ain El-Helweh Palestinian camp, saying "Fath Movement and all Palestinian forces of which the Palestinian common force is formed have taken a decision to face any aggression against the joint force."He explained that the military actions in the camp translated these words when Bilal Badr challenged all the Palestinian forces and the citizens of the camp and fired at the joint force, stressing that the military actions will continue until "this killer turns himself in as well as all the other killers who fight with him."
Abou Arab added that the field situation in Ain El-Helweh is "excellent", noting that their forces have recorded progress.

Sidon governmental hospital, Serail closed
Sat 08 Apr 2017/NNA - Ain El-Helweh Palestinian camp was still witnessing until today noon clashes between Bilal Badr group from one side and the joint forces and Fath movement from the other, NNA correspondent reported on Saturday, noting that the Lebanese Army took security measures at the entrances of the camp and closed the nearby Al-Hisbeh highway in both directions to protect citizens' safety. The field reporter added that the Public Institutions and Department in Sidon governmental Serail were closed and employees left their offices upon instructions from the Mayor Mansour Daou due to the bad security situation. Worried of any further escalations in the camp, some of Sidon citizens and the nearby regions rushed to check out their patients from Sidon Public hospital due to its proximity of the said camp.

Maqdah: Situation in Ain Helweh Camp on way to be resolved
Sat 08 Apr 2017/NNA - Head of the Palestinian Joint Security Force, Major General Munir al-Maqdah, said on Saturday that the "situation in Ain Helwe Refugee Camp is in harmony with its military course and is moving towards a conclusion," according to NNA correspondent. Al-Maqdah noted that Fatah Movement recorded a progress on Bilal Badr groups, adding that the security forces would be deployed throughout the camp to maintain security. The National News Agency Correspondent added that a cautious calm has been prevailing in Ain Helweh Camp.

Clashes Continue in Ain el-Hilweh, Army Tightens Security
Naharnet/April 08/17/Clashes continued on Saturday at the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain el-Hilweh in Sidon, after overnight armed clashes between the Joint Palestinian Security Forces and hardline Islamist group led by Bilal Badr, the National News Agency reported. NNA said that Fatah commander Munir Maqdah have said in a statement: “The situation at the camp is taking a military course and will be settled. Fatah movement has recorded a progress against the groups of Bilal Badr. The security forces will deploy in the camp, no other solution.”Armed clashes erupted at the camp on Friday and continued throughout the night amid tight security measures taken by the Lebanese army at entrances leading to the camp, NNA said. The clashes between the Joint Palestinian Security Force and Badr's group continued throughout the night, where sounds of bullets and rocket-propelled grenades were heard, NNA said. The clashes were mostly centered on the axis of al-Tayreh, Bilal Badr's stronghold, in al-Fawqani street and Jabal al-Halib. Meanwhile Fatah movement forces broke into Badr's new residence in Hay al-Tayreh without finding him. The clashes left one man, Moussa al-Khorbayti from the Joint Force, dead and nine others wounded. Several houses, shops and vehicles were burned, while schools around the camp and in the city of Sidon were closed because of the deteriorating situation, said NNA. Sidon's Grand Serail and the Governmental Hospital were evacuated. The Lebanese army tightened its security measures at the entrances leading to the camp. Due to stray bullets reaching areas outside the camp, the army blocked Sidon's al-Hesbe highway in both directions. The fighting erupted on Friday evening during a deployment by the Joint Palestinian Security Force on the camp's al-Fawqani street. NNA said the Joint Force was insisting on deploying in three locations it had specified amid continued opposition by Badr's group to the move. Media reports meanwhile said a lot of families have fled the area of the clashes. NNA said Sidon MP Bahia Hariri was conducting intensive contacts with the national and Islamist Palestinian factions in a bid to reach a ceasefire. Several similar clashes have erupted in Ain el-Hilweh in recent months, mainly pitting Islamist militants from Badr's group and members of the secular Fatah Movement.

Report: U.S Mulling New Sanctions Against Hizbullah

Naharnet/April 08/17/The United States House of Representatives is reportedly mulling a bill that will impose tough new sanctions against Hizbullah, An Nahar daily reported on Saturday. Information about the new sanctions against the party were discussed during the latest monthly meeting between the Central Bank of Lebanon (BDL), the Banking Control Commission of Lebanon and the Association of Banks in Lebanon, said the daily. Vice Governor of BDL Mohammed Baasiri, who had been on a short visit to the U.S., told the interlocutors that committees at the U.S. House of Representatives are preparing a bill that will “tighten and expand” sanctions against Hizbullah, according to the daily. He said the bill is likely to be issued next month. Baasiri stressed the need to start contacts at the highest levels to avoid the repercussions of this law, it added. Meanwhile, al-Mustaqbal daily said that BDL sources have denied the reports asserting that the bank did not receive a list of new sanctions that will apply to Lebanese banks. Hizbullah is listed as a "terrorist" group in the United States and entities linked to it are also under sanctions. The U.S. State Department also accuses the group of supporting President Bashar Assad's regime in Syria. The U.S. House of Representatives had previously imposed sanctions on banks that knowingly do business with Hizbullah. The rules prescribe punishing regulations against financial institutions that conduct transactions with Hizbullah or otherwise launder funds for the organization.

Army Commander Inspects Eastern Border
Naharnet/April 08/17/Army Commander General Joseph Aoun inspected military units deployed on the outskirts of the eastern border in the town of Arsal, the National News Agency reported on Saturday. Aoun toured the military outposts in Wadi al-Khayl, al-Masyadeh, Wadi Hmeid, Tallet al-Hosn, Wadi Ata and Wadi al-Raayan in the town’s outskirts, NNA added. Aoun praised “the military unit's efforts on the front lines and hailed their vigilance and role in safeguarding the country's border and safety against militants and terrorists.” The Army commander urged them to “continue and move forward in the preservation of the land, the nation and the people and to fight terrorism lying on the eastern border jeopardizing the country.”

Erslan to a visiting Russian delegation: Situation in Syria could be more critical, but definitely more solid than before

Sat 08 Apr 2017/NNA - Head of the Lebanese Democratic Party, Displaced Minister Talal Erslan, indicated that "the situation in Syria could be more dangerous; however, it is definitely more solid than it used to be." Erslan's words came before a Russian delegation, including current and previous members of the Russian Duma Council and officials at the Russian Transportation Ministry and prominent businessmen, who visited him at his Choueifat residence on Saturday. "The recent aggression against Syria has its regional and international dimensions, not only local, and this is a sign of the strength of the Russian partnership directly on the ground in the Mediterranean Basin and in Syria and the region," said Erslan. "This embarrasses many of the colonial powers that have widely stretched out in this region, and out of which came the Takfiri dimension," he added. "Moreover, and whether some like accept it or not, Russia remains the main anchor and sincere supporter in the confrontation of Takfiri terrorism, which has become a direct threat to civil peace, not only in the Middle East but at the international level as well," asserted Erslan.

Hariri: Engineering Syndicate elections a new victory for democracy
Sat 08 Apr 2017/NNA - Prime Minister Saad Hariri congratulated via Twitter, on Saturday evening, the newly elected Head of Engineering Syndicate in Beirut, Jad Tabet, and his Syndicate members, considering the elections' outcome as "a new victory for democracy in Lebanon, initialed by Beirut's Engineers."

Hariri: Engineering Syndicate elections a new victory for democracy
Sat 08 Apr 2017/NNA - Prime Minister Saad Hariri congratulated via Twitter, on Saturday evening, the newly elected Head of Engineering Syndicate in Beirut, Jad Tabet, and his Syndicate members, considering the elections' outcome as "a new victory for democracy in Lebanon, initialed by Beirut's Engineers."

Bou Assi: Hariri has not declared acceptance of relativity law, we are attached to Bassil's mixed formula
Sat 08 Apr 2017/NNA - Social Affairs Minister, Pierre Bou Assi, indicated, on Saturday, that "PM Saad Hariri has not declared his acceptance of the relativity electoral law but merely expressed that he has no objection to it, meaning that it is not his first choice." "We are attached to Bassil's mixed electoral law and we shall ring the alarm bells during Monday's cabinet session to decide on an election law," added Bou Assi. Speaking during an interview to "MTV" Channel, Bou Assi noted that "the Lebanese Forces Party has been calling for a new election for the past ten years," adding that "Monday's cabinet session will give a clear indication as to which path the electoral law shall adopt."Bou Assi also touched on the escalating tension within Ain el-Helweh refugee camp, saying "there is a security problem exacerbating within the camp," stressing that "we ought to put an end to weapons inside and outside camps.""A political decision ought to be adopted in the near future to lift the cover off the weapons inside Ain el-Helweh," added Bou Assi, noting that Fath Movement is trying to resolve the arising clashes.

Jumblatt cables Swedish Prime Minister condemning Stockholm attack
Sat 08 Apr 2017/NNA - Democratic Gathering Head, MP Walid Jumblatt, cabled Swedish Prime Minister, Stefan Lofven, on Saturday, denouncing the recent terrorist attack in Stockholm, which resulted in the death and injury of many innocent civilians. Jumblatt expressed his solidarity and sympathy with the Swedish people, offering deepest condolences to the victims' families and the Government of Sweden.

Army: Terrorist referred to judiciary authorities
Sat 08 Apr 2017/NNA - The Intelligence Directorate of the Lebanese Army referred the citizen Omran Haisam Dakkak to the concerned judiciary authorities over the crime of belonging to a terrorism cell, according to a communiqué by the Army Guidance Directorate Department.

Huge fire at Hasbeh intersection due to clashes in Ain elHelweh
Sat 08 Apr 2017/NNA - A huge fire broke out at the intersection of al-Hasbeh vegetable market along Fouqani Street inside Ain el-Helweh refugee camp, resulting from the ongoing clashes between Fateh Movement and the joint security forces, on one hand, and Bilal Badr militants group, on the other hand," NNA correspondent in Sidon reported on Saturday evening.

Army: Terrorist referred to judiciary authorities
Sat 08 Apr 2017/NNA - The Intelligence Directorate of the Lebanese Army referred the citizen Omran Haisam Dakkak to the concerned judiciary authorities over the crime of belonging to a terrorism cell, according to a communiqué by the Army Guidance Directorate Department.

Swedish police say found "device" in truck used in Stockholm attack
Sat 08 Apr 2017/NNA - Swedish police said on Saturday they were examining a device found in the driver's seat of the truck used in the attack in Stockholm which killed four and injured more than a dozen. "We have found something in the truck, in the driver's seat, a technical device that should not be there. I cannot say at this stage that this is a bomb or some sort of flammable material," Swedish police chief Dan Eliasson told a news conference. "Whether it is a classic bomb or a fire device or something else is subject to technical analysis," he said. ---REUTERS

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 08-09/17
US Congress Backs Syria Strikes, Urges Trump to Develop Strategy
Asharq Al-Awsat English/Asharq Al Awsat/April 08/17
President Donald Trump’s decision to strike a military airport in Syria was welcomed by members of the US Congress from both parties on Friday, who demanded however that he develop a strategy for dealing with the broader conflict and consult with Congress on any further action. In the biggest foreign policy decision of his presidency, Trump ordered the firing of cruise missiles at a Syrian air base that US officials said was the launching point for a deadly chemical weapons attack against Syrian civilians this week. “The strike was well planned, well executed. It was certainly more than a pinprick, and sends a message … that using chemical weapons again is not something (Syrian regime leader Bashar al-Assad) can do with impunity,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told a news conference. McConnell said Vice President Mike Pence had called him to explain the rationale for the strikes. It was one of a series of calls by administration officials to members of Congress beginning shortly before the strikes and extending until after midnight on Thursday evening. Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was called by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Trump himself. After seeing the devastation in Syria and visiting refugee camps, he said he became emotional when he heard the news. “When I talked to the president last night, I told him how proud I was of our country. And him,” Corker said. Democratic Senator Mark Warner, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Trump’s Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, had called. “I am hopeful these strikes will convince the Assad regime that such actions should never be repeated,” Warner said in a statement.
Partisan debate over how to deal with Syria has been bitter. In 2013, then-President Barack Obama ran into stiff resistance from many Republicans, including McConnell, when he proposed military action to retaliate for a chemical attack that crossed Obama’s red line. Many Democrats, some of whom had paid a political penalty for backing Republican President George W. Bush’s war in Iraq, also opposed intervention. Obama’s abrupt decision not to fire missiles and instead work with Russia to remove Assad’s chemical weapons infuriated many Republicans, who had backed the Democratic president’s proposal. The conflict in Syria has now dragged on for seven years, devastating the country, destabilizing the region and leaving millions homeless.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio said he wanted a broader strategy. “I would love to have one yesterday, or the day before. I’d like to have one already but I’d rather them design it correctly than not,” he said, leaving a briefing by General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Most lawmakers insisted Trump should seek Congress’ approval for any additional military action. “Congress must live up to its Constitutional responsibility to debate an Authorization of the Use of Military Force against a sovereign nation,” Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi wrote in a letter asking Speaker Paul Ryan to call the House of Representatives back to Washington to debate a formal authorization to use military force. The House is not due to return until late April. Republican Senator Rand Paul, a member of the foreign relations committee, called the Syria strikes illegal. Under the US Constitution, declarations of war require congressional approval. “We’ve had no chance to weigh or weigh in on whether we should do it or not,” Paul told reporters. Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, another committee member, said that if Congress does not assert itself now, it risked losing its constitutional right to declare war. “I think it’s devastating to the future role of Congress in foreign affairs. If we don’t authorize this action, I don’t see why any president would ever come to Congress,” Murphy said.

Gulf Cooperation Council expresses support for US air strikes on Syria
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Friday,8 April 2017/The Gulf Cooperation Council has expressed its support of the US air strikes on military targets in Syria in retaliation for a suspected chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held town that killed scores of civilians. The council’s secretary general of the Gulf Cooperation Council Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani said in a statement that the Gulf the US strikes at the Shayrat airfield in Homs province will force the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to halt indiscriminate attacks on his civilians and breaking international law, including the use of banned chemical weapons, in doing so. The Pentagon said 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired from two warships at the base from where US officials believe Tuesday's attack in Khan Sheikhoun had been launched. Al Zayani expressed the support of the GCC countries for US President Donald Trump’s vision aimed at ending the chaos, killing and destruction in the Middle East and combating terrorism in order to restore stability and security to the region and end the suffering of its people. He pointed out that the firmness shown by the current American administration to reach political solutions to the regions’ crises and to alleviate the suffering of refugees and displaced persons by the attacks of the Syrian regime. In this image released by the US Navy, the USS Ross fires a tomahawk land attack missile April 7, 2017, at a Syrian air force airfield. (AFP)

Canada Arrests Citizen for Attempting to Join ISIS
Mohammad Ali Salih/Asharq Al Awsat/April 08/17
Pamir Hakimzadah, 27, accused of leaving Canada in 2014 to join ISIS. - Reuters
Washington – One day after US Congress issued a report on the increased involvement of US citizens with ISIS and other terrorist organizations, Canada announced it has arrested a person who returned from the Middle East, believing he has joined ISIS there. Canadian Security experts said that this increased involvement with ISIS in Canada has become a major concern. AFP said on Friday that Pamir Hakimzadah, 27, was arrested in Canada and accused of leaving Canada two years ago to join a terrorist organization in the Middle East. For its part, Toronto Sun Newspaper said that Hakimzadah has been charged by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) with leaving the country on or about Oct. 22, 2014 to join a terrorist group. That would be the very day that Parliament Hill was attacked and Corp. Nathan Cirillo was murdered by a man who pledged allegiance to ISIS and just two days after another follower ran down Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu. According to the newspaper, Hakimzadah traveled to Turkey on his way to Syria, but for unknown reasons he returned to Canada with news that he was arrested in Turkey and returned to his homeland by the Turkish government. No information was provided on how many months he spent in the Middle East or whether he crossed the Syrian borders and joined ISIS or any other terrorist group. Hakimzadah has been a resident of the Toronto South detention center since his arrest last June on three charges, including assault causing bodily harm and uttering a threat to cause bodily harm stemming from an incident a year earlier against his sister, Saiema Hakimzadah. “When the RCMP went calling at his jail cell Wednesday, they added a far different count: Leaving Canada to participate in the activity of a terrorist group — otherwise known as becoming a terror tourist,” said the newspaper. The 2016 Public Report on the Terrorist Threat To Canada found 180 people with Canadian connections are suspected of travelling abroad to fight for the terror group. “Canadian extremist travelers represent a small but notable part of the broader international problem,” the Public Safety report said. Last March, Turkish authorities intercepted and detained two GTA men suspected of being would-be combatants.
The RCMP were notified and waiting when the pair was returned to Toronto.
In a different matter, Cases of homegrown extremism in the United States continue to rise, according to the House Homeland Security’s latest Terror Threat Snapshot.
The committee, led by Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, released its monthly report on Wednesday, which noted that of the 204 homegrown “extremists cases” in the US since 9/11, 36 occurred in the last 12 months. “We must remain clear-eyed about the threats we face,” McCaul said. “We must intensify our efforts to deny these terrorists safe havens abroad while more aggressively countering extremist radicalization efforts here in the United States,” McCaul added. The report also cited information from former Michael Morell, deputy director of the CIA, who said there is also an “expected growing threat” to US airports from both ISIS and al-Qaeda.Morell urged the Transportation Security Administration to remain alert, calling airports the “center of the target zone.”

Jets Launch Raids from Syria Base Hit by U.S.
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 08/17/Two warplanes took off from a central Syrian airbase Friday hours after it was struck by U.S. missiles and carried out bombing raids nearby, a monitoring group said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the aircraft "took off from inside the Shayrat base, which is partially back in service, and struck targets near Palmyra". Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman could not specify whether they were Syrian or Russian planes, but said they were Sukhoi jets, which both Damascus and its ally Moscow use. The Britain-based group said the aircraft targeted territory controlled by the Islamic State jihadist group, which holds parts of the central Syrian province of Homs. Early on Friday morning, the U.S. military fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at the Shayrat air field in response to a suspected chemical attack this week that has been widely blamed on the Damascus regime. A Syrian military source told AFP that Syria's armed forces were warned about possible U.S. military action hours before the strike took place. "We took precautions in more than one military point, including in the Shayrat airbase. We moved a number of airplanes towards other areas," the source said.
U.S. officials said Russia's military in Syria had been informed of the strike beforehand in order to avoid casualties that could prompt a broader crisis. The U.S. said the missiles targeted radars, aircraft, and air defense systems and destroyed around 20 Syrian planes, but said the runway was intact. Russia's military said the strike had an "extremely low" military impact, with fewer than half of the 59 missiles reaching the airbase. According to the Observatory, the U.S. strike on the base killed eight members of Syria's armed forces, including a doctor. Syria's army had earlier said six people were killed in the strike, without specifying if they were military personnel or civilians. The official state news agency SANA also the strikes also killed nine civilians in villages near the base.

Swedish Arrests Suspect Driver of Stockholm Crime
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 08/17/Flags flew at half-mast across Stockholm on Saturday as the city woke in mourning, a day after a truck attack that killed four as police said they had the suspected driver in custody. A stolen beer truck ploughed into a crowd of people at the corner of the bustling Ahlens department store and the pedestrian street Drottninggatan on Friday afternoon, above ground from Stockholm's central subway station. It was the latest in a string of similar assaults with vehicles in Europe, including in London, Berlin and the southern French city of Nice, all claimed by the so-called Islamic State (IS). No one has claimed responsibility for the Stockholm attack, the third in Europe in two weeks after those in London and Saint Petersburg. Fifteen people were injured in the Stockholm attack, nine of whom remained in hospital on Saturday. "Terror hits the heart of the city," Sweden's biggest broadsheet Dagens Nyheter headlined its front page above a picture of the truck with its front end smashed into the store. Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said he had strengthened the country's border controls, as flags flew at half-mast at parliament, the royal palace, the government offices, and City Hall. "Terrorists want us to be afraid, want us to change our behaviour, want us to not live our lives normally, but that is what we're going to do. So terrorists can never defeat Sweden, never," Lofven said. Streets were empty on Saturday morning, apart from a heavy police presence. A small crowd milled by the security cordon around the scene, as passersby laid down flowers.
- Suspected driver in custody -Swedish police said early Saturday that a man arrested on "suspicion of a terrorist crime" was likely the truck driver. "We suspect that the man who was arrested is the perpetrator," Stockholm police spokesman Lars Bystrom told AFP. The man was arrested "on suspicion of a terrorist crime through murder," Karin Rosander, spokeswoman at the Swedish Prosecution Authority, said. The man was detained on Friday in Marsta, a suburb north of Stockholm. According to several media outlets, he is a 39-year-old of Uzbek origin and an IS supporter. Prosecutors did not disclose his identity, but police said his appearance "matched the description" of a photo they released of a suspect wearing a dark hoodie and military green jacket. "The Jihadist threat has long been minimised," Swedish daily Expressen wrote on Saturday, though there was no official confirmation that police were investigating that possibility.
- 'Terrifying' -Witnesses described scenes of terror and panic on Friday. "A massive truck starts driving ... and mangles everything and just drives over exactly everything," eyewitness Rikard Gauffin told AFP. "It was so terrible and there were bodies lying everywhere... it was really terrifying," he Passerby Hasan Sidi told Aftonbladet he saw two elderly women lying on the ground. He said people at the scene urged him to help one of the women who was "bleeding to death". "One of them died... I don't know if the other one made it," Sidi said. The truck was towed away in the early hours of Saturday. Police cars and ambulances rapidly flooded the scene after the attack, as central streets and squares were blocked off amid fears that another attack could be imminent. - 'It was expected' -An attack on Stockholm was just a matter of time, the head of the Centre for Asymmetric Threat Studies at the Swedish National Defence College, Magnus Ranstorp, told AFP. "It was pretty expected, the police and intelligence agency have practised for this several times the past year... We just didn't know when it was going to happen," he said. Friday's attack was the latest in a string of similar assaults with vehicles in Europe, including in London, Berlin and the southern French city of Nice. The deadliest came last year in France on the July 14 Bastille Day national holiday, when a man rammed a truck into a crowd in the Mediterranean resort of Nice, killing 86 people. Last month, Khalid Masood, a 52-year-old convert to Islam known to British security services, killed five people when he drove a car at high speed into pedestrians on London's Westminster Bridge before launching a frenzied knife attack on a policeman guarding the parliament building. And in December, a man hijacked a truck and slammed into shoppers at a Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12 people. In 2014, IS called for attacks on citizens of Western countries and gave instructions on how they could be carried out without military equipment, using rocks or knives, or by running people over in vehicles. Friday's attack was the second terror attack in Stockholm. In December 2010, a suicide bomber blew himself up, also on the Drottninggatan pedestrian street, lightly injuring several passersby.

Fresh Gaza Protests after Palestinian Pay Cut
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 08/17/Fresh protests against civil service pay cuts broke out in Gaza on Saturday, AFP reporters said, amid pressure on Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to act. The decision this week by the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority to impose pay cuts on its civil servants in the Gaza Strip has sparked anger among the employees, with protests throughout the week. Tens of thousands took to a square in central Gaza City Saturday in the largest protest since the 30-percent cut was announced, with demonstrators calling on PA leader Abbas to sack his government.
A handful of protesters announced they would begin a hunger strike, a spokesman told AFP. Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs Gaza, has been at loggerheads with Abbas's Fatah party since the former seized the Strip in a near civil war in 2007. Fatah runs the West Bank, the other part of the Palestinian territories separated from Gaza by Israeli territory. After Hamas seized power, around 70,000 PA employees in Gaza they lost their posts but they were kept on its payroll nevertheless. Hamas set up its own parallel administration with 50,000 staff, whose salaries the PA refuses to pay. Earlier this week the Fatah-run PA announced the pay cuts, saying they were necessary because its budget has been hit by falling foreign aid. In 2014 Fatah and Hamas agreed to form a unity government that was meant to resolve their dispute but it has remained stillborn, with no real control in either territory.
Local elections due to take place have also been suspended in the Gaza Strip after infighting between Fatah and Hamas, though they are expected to take place next month in the West Bank. Israel has maintained a blockade of Gaza for a decade, severely damaging the enclave's economy.

Trump Spoke by Phone with Saudi King Salman
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 08/17/The official Saudi Press Agency is reporting that U.S. President Donald Trump has spoken by telephone with King Salman about the U.S. missile strike on Syria. The news agency reports that during the Friday phone call, the Saudi monarch congratulated Trump for his "courageous decision."Saudi Arabia says the missile launch by Trump was the right response to "the crimes of this regime to its people in light of the failure of the international community to stop it."The kingdom is among the most vehement opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad and supports Sunni rebel groups fighting to oust him. The Sunni rulers of Saudi Arabia are in a power struggle for regional dominance with Iran's Shiite government and view Tehran's support of Assad as a threat to the region.

Trump's Far-Right Backers Rebel over 'Hoax' Syria Attack

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 08/17/Far-right backers of US President Donald Trump rebelled Friday after he ordered a missile strike to punish Syria for a suspected chemical weapons attack that killed 86 people. Bandying the hashtag #Syriahoax, leaders of the "Alt-Right" white nationalist fringe lashed out at the president for abandoning his election campaign stances. Some denied the suspected chemical attack took place. Others rejected the broadly accepted view that it was the hand of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Instead, they blamed anti-Assad fighters like the al-Sham Front, formerly al-Nusra, for a so-called false-flag attack meant to be pinned on Damascus. Still others said Trump had fallen victim to the US "deep state," an ostensibly entrenched military-national security bureaucracy at odds with the new president's anti-Washington views. "Anyone who claimed Trump had blind loyalty had a wake-up call today," said Mike Cernovich, one of the movement's most prominent leaders and a popularizer of often unfounded conspiracy theories. "We all know that Assad would not poison his own people," he said in an online video. "We do know that the Deep State does want war with Russia, and they are using the Syria gas attack, which is a hoax, to start World War Three with Russia." Alex Jones, whose "Infowars" website is a hub for the far-right movement, but others allege is a wellspring of the "fake news" phenomenon, alleged that Tuesday's attack was launched by Syrian opposition. "Why would Assad do that when he is winning?" he asked in a webcast. Jones argued it was a ruse to force Trump into line with Washington's more traditional conservatives. "If he gives in to this anti-Syria thing to prove he's not a Russian puppet, they're not going to stop. They are already saying Syria is his fault," Jones said.
- Breitbart stays neutral -Most mainstream conservatives endorsed Trump's order to fire 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian military air base to punish and warn the Assad regime. But the far right was angered over what it sees is an abandonment of Trump's nationalist and isolationist campaign positions.
Ann Coulter, a favorite pundit of conservatives, pointed to Trump's 2013 tweets opposing any increase in US military involvement in the Middle East. "We should stay the hell out of Syria," said Trump, then a property tycoon mulling a White House bid. On Thursday, Coulter tweeted: "Those who wanted us meddling in the Middle East voted for other candidates.""Trump campaigned on not getting involved in Mideast. Said it always helps our enemies & creates more refugees. Then he saw a picture on TV," she said, referring to photographs of the 27 children killed in the chemical attack. Such anger though did not extend to Breitbart, the news website formerly run by and still closely allied with Steve Bannon, Trump's anti-globalist White House strategist. Breitbart took a neutral stance in coverage of the attack. John Binder, a Breitbart writer, argued via Twitter that Bannon was against the strikes. "He's the voice of #Americafirst voters in the administration," Binder said, without offering evidence. Sebastien Gorka, a deputy assistant to the president, tried Friday to rally the critics back to the fold. "It is essential for... those who voted for this administration to understand that the president in his fundamental outlook has not changed," he said on the radio broadcast of conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham.

Congress May Be Focus of Debate on U.S. Force against Syria
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 08/17/Many US lawmakers expressed support immediately after the Pentagon's air strikes on Syria. But President Donald Trump's backers and critics alike warn that he needs permission from Congress if he plans a military escalation. The cruise-missile targeting of a Syrian regime air base has rekindled the debate in Congress over the use and legality of America's military might. Republican and Democratic senators emerged from a classified briefing Friday largely backing Trump's swift show of force against Syrian strongman President Bashar al-Assad for using of chemical weapons in an attack this week on his own people. But debate swirled over what the US commander-in-chief's next step will or should be and whether Thursday's strike on the Syrian air base had legal justification. It is the constant wrangling between an executive that wants to respond forcefully -- and sometimes impulsively -- to the latest military challenge, and a legislative branch that holds the power to declare war. "It's critical under our system of government that these types of actions have congressional approval, because they are acts of war," House Republican Justin Amash told reporters. "And what begins as a set of strikes on one night can quickly escalate into a much broader conflict."Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker said the White House has no grand plan -- at least not yet -- for deeper engagement in Syria. "If there's going to be a longer term engagement, no question" that a new authorization of the use of military force (AUMF) would have to pass Congress, he said. "But I don't think there's any sense of that (expanded engagement) occurring right now."Senator John McCain, a national security hawk who has advocated a tougher posture on Syria for years, said a broader strategy was indeed in the making. "We expect to hear that completed strategy very soon," he said, while stressing he did not believe the White House was seeking a new AUMF. The last time Congress declared war was in 1942. Since then, presidents have unilaterally launched military operations under their constitutional authority as commander-in-chief. After the Vietnam War, lawmakers passed the War Powers Resolution, aimed at checking a president's power to engage in conflict and requiring congressional authorization if hostilities lasted more than 60 days. Several US presidents have sidestepped the law, including Bill Clinton in Kosovo in 1999.Then came 9/11. Congress passed an AUMF in the days after the 2001 attacks. It gave George W. Bush sweeping authority to invade Afghanistan and pursue Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, which aided the terrorists who attacked the United States.
But critics say the authorization emboldened US forces under Bush and his presidential successor Barack Obama. It opened the door to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, attacks on Libya, a mission in Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden, and the use of drones to kill terror suspects including US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki.
- 'Unlawful' -Senator Angus King, an independent who mostly sides with Democrats, and who has called for a new AUMF, said today's situation in Syria is far removed from the 2001 authority. "This is different because this is an attack on a regime, not on ISIL (the Islamic State), and that really takes it even further out from under the 2001 AUMF," King told AFP. War-weary lawmakers debated a possible new AUMF in 2013, when Obama mulled military strikes against Assad, but it never received a vote. The situation changed course and a deal was struck with Russia on removing Syria's chemical weapons. With the horrific return of such weapons against innocent civilians in Syria, and US missiles fired, lawmakers may once more develop the appetite to hash out a new military authorization. Senator Tim Kaine, the Democratic vice presidential nominee last year, said Assad must now be held to account, "but President Trump has launched a military strike against Syria without a vote of Congress."He said lawmakers "will work with the president, but his failure to seek congressional approval is unlawful." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell signaled there was little urgency on the matter, as Congress fled Washington for a two-week Easter recess. "If the president can think of some AUMF that he thinks will strengthen his hand, I will take a look at it," he told reporters Friday.

Trump Drops China Bashing during Warm Xi Summit
Associated Press/Naharnet/April 08/17/US President Donald Trump ditched his trademark anti-China bombast, hailing an "outstanding" relationship with counterpart Xi Jinping at the end of a superpower summit Friday overshadowed by events in Syria. "We have made tremendous progress in our relationship with China," Trump said effusively at the close of a high-stakes but studiously familiar first meeting between the pair at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. "I think truly progress has been made," Trump said, declaring his relationship with Xi as "outstanding". The friendly tone was a far cry from Trump's acerbic campaign denouncements about China's "rape" of the US economy and his vow to punish Beijing with punitive tariffs. Xi reciprocated Trump's warm words, saying the summit had "uniquely important significance" and thanking Trump for a warm reception. Beijing's most powerful leader in decades also invited the neophyte US president on a coveted state visit to China later in the year. Trump accepted, with a date yet to be determined. We "arrived at many common understandings," Xi added, "the most important being deepening our friendship and building a kind of trust". The bonhomie extended behind closed doors, where the US president's grandson and granddaughter sang a traditional Chinese ballad -- "Jasmine Flower" -- and recited poetry for their honored guests, earning praise from their "very proud" mother Ivanka in a tweet. "Both the atmosphere and the chemistry between the two leaders was positive, the posture between the two really set the tone," said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. "All of us are feeling very good about the results of this summit."- Winter White House -The start of the meeting came on a night of high drama as Trump not only met his nearest peer in economic world power for the first time but also launched his first military strike on a state target. Trump informed the Chinese leader personally of the strike as the 59 Tomahawk missiles were winding their way to the Shayrat airbase. Although China is not implicated in the Syrian war, Trump's actions resonate widely, not least in the debate over how to tackle North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs. China and the United States agree Pyongyang's programs are a serious problem, but have not seen eye-to-eye on how to respond.
"There is a real commitment to work together to see if this cannot be resolved in a peaceful way," said Tillerson. Trump asked Xi for ideas on how to proceed, but held out the possibility of unilateral action. "(We) are prepared to chart our own course if this is something China is just unable to coordinate with us," said Tillerson. Iran's President Hassan Rouhani meanwhile said that "terrorists" were applauding Trump for launching a missile strike on an airbase of his Syrian government ally. But he backed calls for an independent inquiry into a suspected chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held town in northwestern Syria on Tuesday that Trump blamed on the Damascus regime. "This man who is now in office in America claimed that he wanted to fight terrorism but today all terrorists in Syria are celebrating the US attack," Rouhani said in a speech aired by state television. "Why have you attacked the Syrian army which is at war with terrorists? Under what law or authority did you launch your missiles at this independent country?"
Iran and Russia are the closest allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
- Deliverables -There appeared to be little in the way of concrete achievements during 24 hours in the sun, but officials said that a rapport had been built that will carry on the next four years.The US leader appeared confident when Xi arrived at the Florida venue, even hazarding a joke about his own reputation as a dealmaker."We had a long discussion already. So far, I have gotten nothing. Absolutely nothing," he said to laughs from the delegation. "But I can see that, I think long-term, we are going to have a very, very great relationship and I look very much forward to it."
The two leaders were joined Thursday evening by US First Lady Melania Trump, a former model, and Peng Liyuan -- a celebrated folk singer Trump hailed as a "great, great celebrity". There was little evidence of Xi's promised "tweetable deliverables" designed to smooth ties, but they may be rolled out during a 100-day plan on trade. Sources briefed on Xi's plans promised a package of Chinese investments aimed at creating more than 700,000 American jobs -- the same number China's regional rival Japan pledged to Trump during Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Mar-a-Lago visit in February. In return, Xi hoped to obtain assurances from Trump on punitive tariffs and the delay of an American arms sale to Taiwan, at least until after a major Communist Party meeting later this year. Trump's position on democratically ruled Taiwan -- which China considers part of its territory awaiting reunification -- has been a major irritant since he accepted a protocol-breaking phone call from the Taiwanese president after his election victory. The US leader apparently did speak to Xi about another thorny issue, telling him of "the importance of protecting human rights and other values deeply held by Americans," the White House reported.

Somalia's Puntland State Executes 5 for Murders of Officials
Associated Press/Naharnet/April 08/17/Somalia's northeastern semiautonomous state of Puntland has executed five men who were convicted of murdering two regional officials. Saturday's executions by firing squad are the latest of several in the region that is battling both extremist group al-Shabab and fighters linked to the Islamic State group. A military court sentenced the five defendants for the murders in December of Puntland's statehouse director and the deputy police commander. The five were accused of being al-Shabab fighters. The men appealed the verdict but a higher court upheld their sentences. Two others were sentenced to life in prison. The Islamic State-linked fighters broke away from al-Shabab and are trying to expand areas under their control in Puntland.

102 Children among 314 Killed in Colombia Mudslide
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 08/17/More than 102 children were among 314 people killed in the giant mudslide that slammed into the southern Colombian town of Mocoa last week, the government said Friday. The mudslide hit a week ago after heavy rains caused three rivers to flood, sending a sea of mud, boulders and debris crashing into the town. In the latest toll report on Friday, the National Disasters Risk Management Unit said 332 people were injured and at least 4,506 had been made homeless. The disasters unit said it had received information on 127 people still missing, among them three foreigners: a Spaniard, a German and an Ecuadoran. Mocoa, the capital of the department of Putumayo, was home to 70,000 people, about 45,000 of whom were affected by the disaster, according to the Red Cross. In an effort to speed up reconstruction, the government formally declared a 30-day state of economic, social and ecological emergency in Mocoa. The measure will allow direct contracting of services without the need for formal, more time-consuming procedures. The hardest-hit areas were impoverished neighborhoods populated by residents uprooted during Colombia's five-decade civil war. Authorities are investigating whether local and regional officials correctly enforced building codes and planned adequately for natural disasters. The mayor, the governor and their predecessors are also being probed to see whether they bear any responsibility, according to Colombian media reports. The mudslide turned Mocoa into a wasteland of earth, boulders and debris. Many survivors have had to take the disaster response effort into their own hands, clawing through the mud for their loved ones, digging their graves themselves and defending what belongings they have left from looters.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 08-09/17
Free world is also to blame for mass murder in Syria
Ben Dror-Yemini /Ynetnews/April 08/17
Op-ed: For decades, the international community—including Western states—has been showing forgiveness towards unenlightened states. For decades, human rights groups have been ignoring major human rights violations in the Muslim world.
The following article was written before the US strike on Syria on Friday. Never again, many people thought after World War II. The mass and unnecessary slaughter, including the horrors of the Holocaust, encouraged the international community to create news rules for the game. One result was the Fourth Geneva Convention, which was aimed at protecting civilian populations. The murderous bombing in the Syrian town of Idlib—a chemical weapons attack—reminds us that there is a lot of talk but no action. What happened will happen again, and it will be even worse.
For a moment, it seemed as though a new, more ethical and more decent world was being created. Some 17 million people were killed in World War I, and about 40 percent of them were civilians. Some 64 million were killed in World War II, and about 60 percent of them were civilians. Never again, the international community hoped, and phrased the Geneva Convention.
There is no valid study pointing to the number of casualties in the wars that have taken place since World War II until today. There are different counting methods which lead to different results. According to a minimizing method, we are talking about 86 million people. According to a team of researchers of the American Public Health Association (APHA), we are talking about some 190 million people. There is a dispute over the number of innocent people among the dead. There is no dispute over the fact that there has been an increase from the two world wars.
One thing is clear: Neither the United Nations nor the Geneva Convention or the Human Rights Council or human rights organizations have managed to reduce the mass murder. The world is helpless in the face of Assad’s actions in Syria, just like it is helpless in the face of the mass hunger and mass death and destruction that the global jihad is leading in Nigeria, in Chad, in Cameroon, in Somalia, in Libya and more. Assad the murderer is even being justified, because the alternative to his rule could be one of the jihad branches, and not necessarily the Islamic State, which is the most murderous one of all. If that happens, there will be an even bigger massacre.
The sad truth is that not only is there no desire to stop the dreadful massacre, but there is no ability either. Because the free world has sentenced itself to paralysis. For decades, the international community—including Western states—has been showing forgiveness towards unenlightened states. For decades, human rights organizations have been ignoring major human rights violations in the Muslim world. For decades, the activists of the “forces of progress” have been turning Israel into their punching bag. For more than a decade, they have been creating the impression or explicitly saying that Israel is the main cause of violence in the world. The result isn’t less killing. The result is more killing. Because it’s okay for Muslims. The massacre in Idlib is just another incident, and not the worst one. It joins dozens of other massacres. It joins 1.4 million children in Africa who have become refugees, and tens of thousands of them are on the verge of starvation because of the crimes of jihad. They are not in the headlines, because those talking in the name of human rights will continue to issue reports against Israel.
They must be blamed. For the lies, for the hypocrisy, for the disregard. Syrian President Bashar Assad and the jihad are not the only ones to blame for the mass murder. The free world, the UN, the Human Rights Council and human rights organizations are all responsible for it too.
(Translated and edited by Sandy Livak-Furmanski)

Middle East: A Shift from Revolution to Evolution
Najat Al Saied/Gatestone Institute/April 08/17
The lesson the Trump administration might learn from the disastrous mistakes of its predecessor is that the main sources of terrorism in the region are political Islam and all its related religious groups. All these radical groups, including ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Jabhat Al-Nusra and Hamas have been spawned by a political Islam driven by the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The fight, therefore, should not be against Islam, but against political Islam. Islam needs to be practiced the way other religions are, as a private personal faith that should be kept separate from public life and politics, and whose expression should be confined to worship only.
Mosques, whether in the Arab and Muslim world or in the West, should be places of worship only and must not transformed to centers for polarizing society or for recruitment by political religious groups.
After each Islamist terrorist attack in the West, the public is divided into two camps: one angry and one indifferent. The problem with defeating Islamist terrorism seems to be that either it is attacked by conservatives who call Islam an evil cult or it is forgiven entirely by liberal apologists. What, then, is the answer?
One of the main failures in Western analyses of the origins of terrorism in the Middle East and North Africa is that the West attributes them to a lack of democracy and a lack of respect for human rights. This is, indeed, part of the cause, but the root of the problem is a lack of development and modernity. U.S. President Donald Trump did not exaggerate when he said that the Obama administration's foreign policy was disastrous. It was catastrophic mainly for two reasons. One was the knee-jerk support for the "Arab Spring" and for extremist Islamic political groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood. The second was the alliances the Obama administration built with unreliable countries such as Qatar, which supports radical political groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood. In addition, Obama made the mistake of continuing to try to appease Iran's theocratic regime.
The Arab Spring's uncalculated, hasty attempt to establish so-called democracy only generated more turmoil and chaos in the region. Certain radical political groups simply exploited the elections to serve their own political and sectarian agendas; that swoop for power only resulted in more authoritarian and dictatorial regimes, as have played out, for instance, in Egypt, where we have witnessed the murder of civilians and police officers by the Muslim Brotherhood. In other countries, the situation is even worse; attempts to install democracy have totally destroyed the state and facilitated the spread of terrorist militias, as in Libya.
It is ironic that Western countries and their advocates stress the need to apply democratic practices in Arab countries, but evidently do not recall that development and secularism preceded democracy in Western Europe. The United Kingdom, which has the oldest democratic system, did not become fully democratic until 1930. France became fully democratic only in 1945, 150 years after the French Revolution.
The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, at the Arab Summit in Jordan on March 28, 2017 delivered a speech in which he indicated his continuous support for the Muslim Brotherhood:
"If we are serious about focusing our efforts on armed terrorist organizations, is it fair to consider any political party we disagree with as terrorist? Is our goal to increase the number of terrorists?"
Many Arab leaders were infuriated by his speech; at the forefront was President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, who left the Arab Summit Hall during the speech to meet King Salman of Saudi Arabia.
Most Arab leaders and analysts, in fact, are enraged by Qatar's continuous support for Islamist political groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, because these groups are a threat to their national security.
President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt speaks at the Arab Summit, on March 29. The previous day, Sisi walked out of a speech by the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani. Sisi was infuriated by Al-Thani's declaration of support for the Muslim Brotherhood. (Image source: Ruptly video screenshot)
Another consequence of Obama's foreign policy -- in particular attempts to get close to Iran's hostile regime -- has been a fraying of relationships with old Arab allies of the United States. Some of Obama's advisors thought that replacing Saudi Arabia with Iran was somehow "better" for the United States, if Iran "is beginning to evolve into a very civilized and historically important country" -- an analysis that can be described as completely short-sighted.
The Saudi regime, with all its flaws, is a monarchy run by princes; the Iranian regime is a theocracy run by clerics. The Saudi regime is not a theocratic regime but a hybrid structure, which is neither wholly secular nor wholly religious. As such, the religious class functions under the authority of the ruling class. Princes are driven by self-interest; clerics are driven by ideology. In terms of extremism, the Iranian regime is pushing for hegemony, whilst Saudi Arabia has been taking only a defensive, rather than an expansionist, position.
The motivation of Saudi Arabia in exporting mosques world-wide and installing radical Saudi imams is defensive, not expansionist as in Iran. Saudi Arabia's impetus is to confront Iran's hegemony and the spread of its hostile ideology. It is this strategy, which Saudi Arabia has practiced since 1979 to balance Iran's power and to combat its rebellious ideology, that must change.
That Iran's Khomeini regime sought to embarrass Saudi Arabia -- a country that is home to Islam's two holiest mosques, in Mecca and Medina -- by portraying it as not sufficiently Islamic, meant that the foundational Islamic Wahhabism of the Saudi Kingdom was aggressively reinforced. This emphasis resulted in even more constraints being put in place in Iran: especially on entertainment. Since the Khomeini revolution in 1979, all plays, fashion shows, international events, and cinemas have been banned. As for women, the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice has increasingly harassed them. As for minorities, especially Shia challenging the Iranian Shia regime and its support for Shia militias -- particularly the dominant Revolutionary Guards -- books were published attacking the Shia:
More books appeared, attacking the Shias and especially Khomeini's views. These books – like the arguments of Khomeini's followers – rejected modern thinking as an "intellectual invasion." Saudi Arabia, considered the guardian of Sunni Islam, spent billions of dollars on challenging the Khomeini-backed Shiites.
This religious one-upmanship -- a competition over which body can be the "most religious" -- must stop. Saudi Arabia would do well to understand that in order to confront the hegemony of the Iranian theocratic regime, the answer is not to radicalize Saudi society but to return to the way it was before 1979.
The best way to defeat the rebel hostile regime in Iran might be through creating an inclusive and tolerant society in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia needs to change its approach towards Iran because the current strategy has not worked. The current strategy has done nothing except to strengthen the Iranian regime's dominance; distort, globally, the image of Saudi Arabia and accelerate terrorism.
The lesson the Trump administration might learn from the disastrous mistakes of its predecessor is that the main source of terrorism in the region are political Islam and all its related religious groups. All these radical groups including ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Jabhat Al-Nusra and Hamas have been spawned by a political Islam driven by the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood. Extremist jihadists such as Osama bin Laden, Abdullah Azzam and Ayman al-Zawahiri were all taught by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Political Islam practiced by the Iranian theocratic regime has been comfortably generating Shia radical militias, including the terrorist group, Hezbollah. The fight, therefore, should not be against Islam, but against political Islam. Islam needs to be practiced the way other religions are, as a private personal faith that should be kept separate from public life and politics, and whose expression should be confined to worship only. Mosques, whether in the Arab and Muslim world or in the West, should be places of worship only and must not transformed to centers for polarizing society or for recruitment by political religious groups. Unfortunately, Western countries have turned a blind eye to the political activities inside these mosques.
The danger of these religious political groups is that they do not believe in democracy or human rights; they just use elections to grasp power in order to impose a system of "Islamic Caliphate" as their only form of government. Most of these groups use religion as an ideology to oppose governments other than their own, and when they are criticized or attacked, they play the role of the oppressed.
The Trump administration needs to take advantage of the fact that the majority of people in the Middle East and North Africa have lost faith in religious political groups, especially since the failure of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Tunisia.
Before the Arab Spring, support for these groups was huge; now it stands at less than 10% of the population. This study was conducted in the Arab world, not including Turkey. The Muslims who support Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are the Muslim Brotherhood.
Most recent polls indicate that the majority of people in Arab and Muslim countries prefer religion to be kept separate from politics.
The country that is working the most systematically to fight these religious political groups in the region is the United Arab Emirates (UAE). There are several institutes and think tanks researching how to combat these groups. Dr. Jamal Sanad Al-Suwaidi, Director General of the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR), has given a robust analysis of these groups and how to combat them in his book, The Mirage. In it, he cites a study on public opinion on political religious groups: A survey of the UAE population, on how these groups are able to influence the public by taking advantage of certain flaws in the system: 53.9% because of corruption; 47.9% because of poverty and 29.1% because of an absence of civil society groups that confront these opportunists.
The Middle East-North Africa region will undoubtedly have to go through several stages before it can successfully establish democracy. An evolutionary developmental approach will definitely be better than the failed revolutionary democratic one pursued by the Obama administration.
Secularization is also crucial in the fight against terrorism. Trying to build a democracy before going through the stages of secularism and political reformation -- which includes rectifying existing flaws, such as corruption; modernization which means the liberation of the region from extremist totalitarian religious dogma and all other forms of backwardness in order to kick-start a renaissance; and scientific development -- will not only be inadequate but will actually generate more terrorism by helping radicals to keep gaining power. It would be like a farmer who wants to plant roses in arid desert soil full of thorns.
**Najat AlSaied is a Saudi American academic and the author of "Screens of Influence: Arab Satellite Television & Social Development". She is an Assistant Professor at Zayed University in the College of Communication and Media Sciences in Dubai-UAE. She can be reached at:
© 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.

The Chemical Attack a Test for Trump
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/April 08/17
Regardless that it is prohibited under any circumstances, we couldn’t find a reasonable justification for the Syrian regime use of chemical weapons against civilians in Idlib. The regime forces were not in a critical point there, the targeted site is not a strategic gain to the civil war and it is unclear why the regime is challenging the international community that is by the regime’s side for the first time since the revolution was staged more than six years ago! So why did the regime use toxic gas against civil towns, killing women and children? Why did it take the risk of committing a dangerous crime that might lead to an international trial? Why did it carry out this action while being certain that western governments would be embarrassed having adopted a tolerant stance opposing human rights organizations, a huge number of intellectuals and the public? In fact, we can only find one motive for this horrible crime i.e. that the regime allies, either Russia or Iran, want to test the US President Donald Trump and maybe weaken him – given that he criticized earlier the former US administration for its desertion in the first chemical attack. What can the US president do? Would he directly punish Syria as Israel does when it sees that some red lines are being crossed? Would he take an adverse step, such as arming the Syrian opposition or will he settle to a warning statement that does not commit his government to any future acts, in case the regime dared to repeat this act?
It is a tough test for Trump, already preoccupied in various internal battles, and fears his foot might slip in a foreign battle and sink in moving sand on both sides. I see that the chemical attack in Idlib might not be but the start of a series of other attacks that the opposing parties are willing to embarrass Trump with. It would not be a surprise in case navy confrontations took place in the Persian Gulf or its extensions, or Americans in Lebanon were kidnapped or US forces were targeted in Iraq – busy fighting ISIS.
All these fall under Iran’s capabilities which it used before in the beginning of the eighties when “Hezbollah” in Lebanon became in charge of kidnapping Americans, diplomats and academics on behalf of Iran, in addition to blowing up the marines headquarters in Beirut. When discord occurred with the French government, it also conducted bloody operations that targeted civilians in Paris, not less ugly than ISIS recent operations in Europe. Therefore, Tehran and Moscow are observing the reactions in Washington over Idlib crime: What is Trump’s confrontation ability and what are its limits?
Trump administration is undergoing a tough test. I see that it would have been better if the administration showcased its power before accepting to grant cessions to Damascus axis. Arming the Syrian moderate opposition with qualitative weapons is sufficient to deliver a message that the balance of powers can be changed in the Syrian war. The chemical attack on Idlib – undoubtedly – worries many because it hints that Damascus axis is willing to expand battles and not as thought that the regime is nostalgic for peace.

When Economics Failed
Noah Smith/Bloomberg/April 08/17
When people come up to me and declare that economists are charlatans, they usually mention how economists failed to predict the Great Recession. This is true. No mainstream macroeconomic model of the day managed to anticipate that the largest, longest economic downturn since the Great Depression was imminent, until it was already under way. Macroeconomists typically respond that forecasting isn’t their job. The economy has all kinds of things going on at any given time, they say — too much randomness and noise to allow a reliable forecast. The best they can do, macroeconomists will say, is to predict the effects of specific policies. This defense is weak. If the economy is dominated by random noise, that noise will also permeate the data that is used to validate macroeconomic models. If forecasting is impossible, then picking the right policy-evaluation model will also be impossible. Also, the inability to forecast is often a clue that a model is just plain wrong.
So forecasting actually is important, and macroeconomic models are bad at it. There’s even a whole line of research dedicated to showing just how bad even the most advanced models are at predicting things like output and inflation.
My favorite paper in this literature is by Refet Gurkaynak, Burcin Kisacikoglu, and Barbara Rossi. In 2013, they took some of the most advanced modern macroeconomic models then available — called DSGE, for dynamic stochastic general equilibrium — and tested them against some very simple models called autoregressive (AR) models. DSGE models are very big, complicated things — they rely on tons of assumptions about consumers, companies, technology and the government. An AR model is just a single equation — just about the simplest forecasting model you can possibly imagine. In principle, the sheer complexity of the DSGE models should make them better at forecasting the macroeconomy.
But as it turned out, the super-simple AR models won as many comparisons as they lost. That means that top-of-the-line macroeconomic models, for all their complexity and difficulty, were close to useless for forecasting, at least as recently as four years ago.
In the intervening years, macroeconomists have been working hard to augment DSGE models with new elements that make them better at fitting past data. But macroeconomists are also increasingly experimenting with forecasting models that don’t make so many assumptions about economic relationships. In an interesting and highly sophisticated new paper, economists Andrea Carriero, Ana Galvao and George Kapetanios examined a wide class of macro forecasting models to understand how best to predict the economy. Carriero et al. don’t just test a wide array of models. They also look at multiple developed countries — something that relatively few macroeconomists, especially those based in the US, tend to do. The authors focus on predicting just two things — output and inflation.
Their findings are discouraging. There is no type of model that is clearly the best. Different models work better at different time horizons, for different historical time periods, and for different variables. That implies that forecasting successes are mostly due to luck. Economists’ favorite models, such as DSGE, seem to be better at forecasting inflation at a few time horizons, but even this modest victory is probably accidental. The good old super-simple AR model, as in past studies, wins about as much as it loses, despite going up against fearsomely sophisticated competitors. As the forecasting horizons get longer, the simplest models start to do just as well or better than the What’s more, adding more than a few predictors doesn’t really improve forecasts. That’s discouraging, because it means that macroeconomic data just doesn’t have much useful information in it. The old Wall Street joke that “all financially useful data costs money, which is why macro data is free” seems to hold true.
All this adds up to a pessimistic conclusion — recessions just aren’t very predictable from economic data. The reason economists couldn’t foresee the Great Recession isn’t that they’re blinkered or closed-minded or arrogant or stupid — it’s because no one could predict it, at least not with the kind of macroeconomic data that now exist. That in turn implies that much of macroeconomics itself, as currently practiced, is a dead-end pursuit. But I’m not ready to subscribe to that level of pessimism just yet. Although recessions are difficult or impossible to spot in the near term, there might still be ways to see some warning signs developing a few years out. Research by some economists at the Federal Reserve Board has found that certain characteristics of debt markets — credit spreads and the share of junk bonds in total debt — can give warnings of recessions two years in the future.
So the future of macroeconomic forecasting — and of macroeconomics itself — might lie in a different direction than the one most researchers have been pursuing. Instead of focusing on consumption, investment and other easily measurable things, economists might try thinking more about subtle, long-term buildups of problems in financial markets.

The Defects of Lavrov’s World Order
Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/April 08/17
In a campaign that recalls the old days of Soviet propaganda, Russian President Vladimir Putin is promoting a new theme: the end of the “American” world order. The theme, now peddled by talking heads on Moscow-sponsored satellite TV screens and elaborated upon by “experts” in conferences mushrooming all over Europe, was first put into circulation by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the last international security conference in Munich, Germany. Putin and Lavrov are right: The current world order, which has been in place since the end of the Second World War, is a result – largely though not exclusively – of American initiatives reflecting the United States’ economic, diplomatic and military domination in the confused international scene left by the most devastating armed conflict in human history. Look at international institutions such as the United Nations and its numerous appendages, not to mention the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or the World Bank, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the precursor of the World Trade Organization, and you will see “Made in America” stamped on them.
Virtually every aspect of international life is organized and policed by more than 10,000 international treaties, agreements, conventions and protocols almost all of which were also made in America, occasionally with some input by its European allies. The US currency has been, and still largely remains the principal medium of exchange in international trade partly because anyone who has some money, anyone including the People’s Republic of China, is keen to hold as many dollars as possible. In military terms, the US is the only power with a veritable blue-water navy capable of projecting power in all continents, and logistics capabilities without which no credible military operation is launched beyond any nation’s borders for a significant chunk of time.
Whether or not such American preponderance has been a good thing is a matter of opinion and ideological penchant. What is certain, however, is that, its many defects notwithstanding, the “order” has worked. Although we have witnessed scores of wars, small, medium and large, since 1945, we have not suffered another World War. Almost all nations have also experienced unprecedented economic transformation. Famine, a recurrent feature of human existence since the dawn of time, has all but disappeared while most of the epidemics that were the main killers of humans for millennia have been brought under control.
Of course, all that is not exclusively due to American efforts. After, as Brecht once observed, all when Caesar crossed the Rhine in winter he did have someone to make him some soup, and polish his boots. But the system held, not always in a just way, because it was guaranteed by American power.
Putin and Lavrov may well be right in suggesting that the old American world order may need to be revised.
After all, history is never frozen at any particular moment in time and, for the last decade, the American world order has been brachiating from one uncertainty to another. More importantly, the greater the diversity of ideas offered to mankind the better for our future as a whole.
The question is: what is the alternative that Putin and Lavrov are offering?
A visitor to Russia is surprised by the number of Russians who try to ape the Americans not only in their lifestyle but even in using names borrowed from American TV soap operas. Some in your hotel personnel in Moscow or Saint Petersburg wear name tags identifying them as ”Bob” “Tom”, “Sue” and “ Jackie.” In many places in Putin’s Russia it is easier to order an American-style hamburger than a classical beef stroganov. Look at the way Russians, especially the younger ones, dress and you have a spectacle in which Gogol’s hero wearing the famous Overcoat would find himself a stranger.
On a recent flight from London to Moscow announcements were given exclusively in English although a majority of passengers appeared to be Russians. Many of Russia’s nouveaux-riches hide their money in off-shore banks, including in Cyprus ultimately linked to the big investment houses in New York and London. Russians buying a chunk of Florida, where President Donald Trump has set up his alternative White House, have propelled real estate prices out of the doldrums they were in since 2009. The way the emerging upper and middle classes of Russia are behaving is a daily endorsement of the “American way”, not its denunciation as Putin and Lavrov seem to believe.
Is the Russian government offering an attractive alternative by bombing defenseless Aleppo into rabble in the forlorn hope of prolonging the fictitious rule of a sanguinary tyrant? Or would the alternative Russian world order embrace discrediting international sports by cheating at the Olympics? Should the new world order limit global trade to oil and gas and arms because Russia has nothing else to sell? The Russian alternative world order also includes invading weak and often unarmed neighbors such as Georgia and Ukraine and snatching away parts of their territory, or at least, bullying them as is the case with Moldova and the Baltic States. It also means cuddling people like the mullahs of Tehran, the Taliban in Afghanistan and the ultra-rightist crackpots of Europe like Marine Le Pen or leftist Utopians such as Jean-Luc Melanchon and the SYRIZA dissidents. The way Moscow has behaved in the past few years indicates only one thing: The new “world order” it talks about is a dangerous caricature of the one in place since 1945. Talk of a multipolar system is nonsense. Any shape with more than two poles has no poles in the geometric sense intended. Lavrov may be right in opening the debate on the need to review and, when needed, revise, the “American” world order. Right now, however, it is still the best, or least bad, on offer and the hope should be that, with the Obama zigzag closed, the US might resume its leadership where and when needed. In the meantime, I believe that most people, including many Russians, won’t touch the Putin-Lavrov “alternative” with a bargepole.

Routinizing evil in Syria
Fawaz Turki/Al Arabiya/April 08/17
"I will tell you that attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me, a big impact," President Trump told reporters in the White House Rose Garden, describing the chemical weapons attack in Idlb Province last Tuesday that killed close to a 100 people, many of them children. "My attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much. You're now talking about a whole different level." He later reminded us that Barack Obama drew, then failed in 2013 to enforce, a "red line" over the use of chemical weapons by Damascus. "President Obama said in 2012 that he would establish a red line against the use of chemical weapons and then did nothing." It may have been a gratuitous swipe at the former chief executive, but Donald Trump was right. Asked if the Idlib attack crossed a similar red line, he replied: "It crossed a lot of red lines for me. When you kill innocent children, innocent babies, little babies, with a chemical gas that is so lethal -- that crosses many, many lines." He even went further, describing the horrors as an "affront to humanity."
By Friday, the president had revealed what his administration planned to do in order to punish the blood-soaked regime for its latest atrocity.
Truth be told, those of us who have followed the conflict in Syria, and have gotten used to Washington's prevarications over the last six years, had no illusions, up till then, that an American president, like a knight in shining armor, would come to the rescue. The US, lets face it, is a big power, and like all big powers in history, from ancient Egypt to ancient Greece, and from imperial Rome to colonial Britain, does not conduct a foreign policy driven by a politico-moral impulse. A big power's global interests come first, and realpolitik here is the name of the game. Compassion for the suffering of a little, helpless people is ancillary to that policy.
Yet. Yet, the reaction to the horrific images from Idlib has been so visceral, and outrage on the Hill so widespread by both leading Republican and Democratic legislators, that the president left his America First policy by the wayside and opted for the military option, which included hitting Syrian airfields to ground Assad's air force, thought it did not include hitting the Ministry of Defense in Damascus as experts have been expecting such action. The suffering in Syria, folks, has been unspeakable. And the gruesome imagery of it, as Idlib would attest, is beyond all rational understanding.. Children in spasms, foaming at the mouth? Children gasping for breath? Children writhing with pain as rescue teams attempt to wash chemical agents from their bodies? Then -- and let this one image sink in, let it, as it were, enter one's essential repertoire of consciousness where one could reflect on its incomprehensible cruelty -- the regime launched attacks, according to sundry news reports, on one of the clinics where victims were being treated. Anthropologists tell us that just as we are raised by our families to embrace certain moral values, we are socialized as adults by a demented community -- say that of Nazi Germany -- in routines that produce evil as normal work. The Idlib chemical attack, it will be recalled, was similar in its savagery to the one launched by the regime on rebel held territory outside Damascus in August 2013, where a UN investigation concluded that the military's ground-to-ground rockets delivered the nerve gas agent that killed more than 1,000 people there.
Ordered to kill
Who are these people -- and lets call them that for the time being -- who are propping up the Assad regime and doing that regime's bidding? How did they get from there to here? What are the forces that, in the evolution of culture, destroy what is of man in man and restore in him what is of beast?
Anthropologists tell us that just as we are raised by our families to embrace certain moral values, we are socialized as adults by a demented community -- say that of Nazi Germany -- in routines that produce evil as normal work. People are ordered to kill and they come to embrace the spirit of the order, not just the letter of the order. When Adolf Eichman, for example, was ordered to establish extermination camps in the summer of 1941, we are told by Hanna Arendt in her 1964 boo, The Banality of Evil, he did not reflect on the scale or consequence of what he was ordered to do. Such broad issues were beyond his purview. At least that's what he told the court that tried him as a war criminal. So it is with those, fighting on behalf of the Syrian regime, who drop poison gas on children, commit mass executions, inflict torture on suspects in the regime's crowded prisons, and employ the ancient tactic of besiege-and-starve. Assad's crimes, in short, go beyond the limits of conscience -- and that is precisely what constitutes their monstrous nature. And how do you contextualize such evil? You don't. Evil is so banal, as Arendt reminded us, in its villainy, its malice, its depravity, that you contextualize it only through its dialectical opposite, where good in the end should prevail and evil should be defeated. Defeating the regime in Damascus should be -- and no other word will do here -- the moral responsibility of the international community, even our own moral responsibility as individuals, for we are all complicit in that which leaves us indifferent.

Rowhani’s re-election depends on Trump
Huda al Husseini/Al Arabiya/April 08/17
The official registration of candidates for the Iranian presidential elections will begin on April 11. This is followed by an important step taken by the Guardian Council’s authority vetting the candidates on the 26th of this month. The list of candidates who will be eligible to run for presidency is then finalized. Then a 3-week campaign will start until the elections take place on May 19. The method adopted by the Guardian Council’s authority is increasingly contrasting with the formation of the Iranian political elite, which includes many different circles of power. The Council vets the moderates, conservatives and reformists. Its ideology changes depending on the issue: the economy, cultural freedom, the role of women… but they all adhere to the principles of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The main idea behind vetting the candidates for the presidential elections was to ensure an ideological consensus, so anyone who does not support the idea of the Islamic Republic led by a supreme leader is excluded. Over the past 30 years, the Guardian Council’s authority has become the weapon of the elite factions. The Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appoints the members of the council and the head of the judiciary. So conservatives dominate the council and work on undermining the hopes of their reformist rivals and preventing them from running to avoid reaching the polls. There is a noteworthy interest by the conservatives and the hardliners, which has reached the level of questioning Khamenei himself, although some say President Hassan Rowhani was the target, perhaps to ease the impact of the questioning. Khamenei prevented Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from running for presidency or supporting his candidate Hamid Baqai. On March 27, in the province of Ahwaz where poor Persians are more numerous than Arabs, Ahmadinejad said: Why are you the only one to be right and the other 80 million Iranians wrong?... Are you the only one who can know if someone is bad?... Can you provide us with evidence that you are better informed than the people?
Cultural breakthroughs
Ahmadinejad’s words have directly cast doubt on the Wilayat al-Faqih (Rule of the Islamic jurist). He did not deny that he meant Khamenei. At the same time, Tehran University’s preacher Ahmad Khatami, said on Friday that there is a need to be ready to deal with “cultural breakthroughs that will be tougher than dealing with military confrontations.” The regime fears repeating the experience of protests that took place after the disputed presidential election in 2009, this is why Khamenei said two weeks ago: “Regardless of the outcome of the elections, they are valid and legitimate.”
There is no doubt that the current President Rowhani will be one of the contenders, so the coming elections will partly be a referendum on his performance, especially his promises to enhance the Iranian economy after the nuclear deal.
While Rowhani’s government is armed with economic improvements and further promises, Rowhani’s rivals did not stop criticizing the nuclear deal. Hardliners confirm that Iran’s economy has not improved and that the Iranian political situation in particular has not benefited from the deal
Who will face Rowhani? Will the conservatives agree on a single candidate who can present an alternative program and vision for Rowhani’s proposal? The economy remains a major factor regardless of Khamenei’s call for an “economic revolution”. This is why conservatives need to go beyond the real failures of Rowhani’s government and put forward a program of internal transformation with a smaller foreign participation, in order for the economic growth to make a difference for the Iranians.
None of the most prominent conservative politicians, such as Tehran’s mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf (who attacked Rowhani in 2013 and said yesterday he is not running for presidency), or Ali Larijani, speaker of the parliament (who is said to be supporting Rowhani), have not announced yet whether they are candidates or not. Rowhani will run his campaign after spending the majority of his first term trying to resolve Iran’s standoff with the West regarding Iran’s nuclear program. He strongly believed that the international community was on his side, because he and former US President Barack Obama had been willing to risk their political lives in order to open the deadlock that could lead to a military confrontation. Rowhani labeled the nuclear deal with the West as part of his campaign in 2013, considering that economic prosperity will definitely be the result of the deal.
However, since the implementation of the agreement, little has been achieved and economic gains have not been in line with the expectations. Foreign investments are slow and there are several reasons for that: the financial structure within Iran, such as banking standards, corruption and lack of transparency, as well as the continued concern about the US commitment under the administration of President Donald Trump.
Economic improvements
The uncertainty makes European banks and companies reluctant about making huge investments in Iran, where the economy is much slower than politics.
While Rowhani’s government is armed with economic improvements and further promises, Rowhani’s rivals did not stop criticizing the nuclear deal. Hardliners confirm that Iran’s economy has not improved and that the Iranian political situation in particular has not benefited from the deal. Conservatives are playing their roles very well. There are those who are fully engaged in the internal political game, as if everything is fine, and those in the opposition stating that the wheels of democracy are moving forward without any hindrance. Last Friday, the head of the Quds Force affiliated to the Revolutionary Guards, General Qassem Soleimani, was inspecting the Iranian forces and militias in the suburbs of the Syrian city of Hama. Rowhani had relied on the Obama administration, which lifted international sanctions on Iran without returning to Congress. If Rowhani thought the Republicans at the time of Obama would be willing to cancel the agreement but cannot do so because it is multilateral, President Trump has now come to throw all the American policies of Obama’s tenure out of the window.
Thus, the problem for Iran falls under two parts: the unpredictability of Trump’s intentions makes European companies more reluctant and pushes them to avoid investing in Iran. And there are those who claim Trump represents all that the extremists want in Iran, to the extent that Khamenei has recently said to the leaders of the Iranian air force: “We thank Trump because he made it easier for us to reveal the true face of the United States.”
Hezbollah is suffering
These allegations do not work for a thriving economy that 80 million Iranians need. Moreover, the hardliners may prefer that large numbers of Iranians resort to the swamps of drugs, rather than opening up, and this is a reality. Hezbollah is suffering from this same reality in Lebanon; Hezbollah is considered to have won the war in Syria, but lost it in its stronghold in Burj al-Barajneh, where drugs are stronger than the party’s victories abroad. Former president Mohammad Khatami, who is not allowed to be featured on the news, tried to repair relations with his conservative opponents, urging everyone to face the threats posed by President Trump. He also called for national reconciliation and the release of opposition leaders. However, hardliners and Khamenei preferred to focus on Trump’s threats against their political interests, urging the Iranians to reject his call.
There is also the problem of corruption. In January, Rowhani tried to face the judiciary, criticizing the slow investigation into a 1-billion-dollars corruption case; so far, the investigation is said to be ongoing.
Add to Rowhani’s problems, the death of Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, one of the founding fathers of the Islamic Republic of Iran. He was calling for the normalization of relations with the West, and thus with the United States. Rafsanjani has raised moderate politicians and reformists, according to the Iranian concept, most notably Rowhani.
These problems stand in the way of the re-election of Rowhani, but that does not mean he does not have any chance. Regardless of the first years after the revolution, all Iranian presidents served two terms. Despite the criticism of the hardliners, Khamenei has been supporting him, because the Supreme Leader is largely dependent on unity, popular support and continuity, especially that he does not want to repeat the 2009 experience because there is a new US president who is moody and unpredictable.

Egypt’s economy shows positive signs but big risks remain
Dr. Naser al-Tamimi/Al Arabiya/April 08/17
Egypt has many advantages that theoretically qualify it to become one of the most important economic success stories in the Middle East. These include a strategic geographic, a significant regional influence despite its decline in recent years, a large consumer market, a well-developed financial sector, as well as an underdeveloped private sector providing ample room for growth. However, Egypt’s economy is currently undergoing a painful adjustment process, which could have major economic and political repercussions in the future.
Struggling economy
The Egyptian economy has suffered from structural flaws for many years, but the situation began to deteriorate very quickly since 2011 or the aftermath of the so-called “Arab Spring.” Three pillars of Egypt’s economy have suffered recently: tourism receptions, Suez Canal revenues, and foreign direct investment (FDI).
Egypt’s annual tourism revenues have plummeted by over 45 per cent to more than $1.6 billion (bn) in 2016, and by almost 80 per cent since 2010, in the wake of domestic instability and several terrorist attacks. Visitor numbers have also collapsed from 14 million a year to just 5 million over the same period, whilst the share of travel and tourism (both domestic and foreign) sector as percentage of Egypt’s gross domestic product (GDP), declined to just 3.2 per cent currently from 9 per cent in 2007.
Egypt’s economy is currently undergoing a painful adjustment process, which could have major economic and political repercussions in the future.
Egypt’s Suez Canal revenues fell to $5.005bn in 2016 from $5.175bn the previous year, despite a $8bn expansion in August 2015. Meanwhile, net foreign direct investment as a percentage of Egypt’s GDP declined from 2.9 per cent in 2010 to 2.1 per cent in 2015. Consequently, Egypt’s appeal to investors has also suffered significantly as economic reforms have stalled, foreign exchange shortages, persisting corruption, and low growth rates with high unemployment. These factors combined have brought the Egyptian economy to the brink of collapse.
To be sure, falling revenues mean the budget deficit soared to 12.6 per cent of GDP for 2016. To plug the financial deficit, Cairo has increasingly relied on foreign debt and international bond issuances. As a result, Egypt’s foreign debt increased by $19.5bn in 2016, recording $67.3bn by the end of December 2016, according to the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE).
Not all gloomy
Yet it’s not all gloomy picture. Politically, the Egyptian president during his visit to the United States this month received a strong support from president Donald Trump. Ironically, president Sisi currently is one of few leaders in Middle East and beyond to have the backing of three big powers - the United States, China and Russia.
Regionally, relations with Saudi Arabia are improving, especially after the Egyptian president met with the Saudi king at the Arab summit in Amman. Saudi Arabia agreed this month to provide Egypt with 700,000 tons of oil products every month under a five years’ preferential credit arrangement were set to resume after a six-month hiatus. Whilst Kuwait announced it has signed a new a multi-billion-dollar deal to supply Egypt with two million barrels of crude per month and 1.5 million tons of petroleum products annually over the next three years.
Importantly, the IMF noted in a recent report that the Egyptian government has made inroads to address longstanding challenges in the Egyptian economy, including a balance of payments problem identified in an overvalued exchange rate, foreign exchange shortages; large budget deficits that led to rising public debt; low growth with high unemployment. To be sure, the Egyptian government has been pushing forward with key economic reforms that helped the country secure a $12-billion deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The liberalization of the exchange rate regime and the devaluation of the Egyptian pound, fuel-subsidy cuts, and implementation of the value-added tax (VAT) were critical steps towards restoring confidence in the economy, rebuild international reserves, strengthen public finances, and encourage private sector-led growth, and foster stronger economic growth. The loan agreements with the IMF, World Bank, and African Development Bank are also positive steps in this regard.
Consequently, positive signs are emerging from largest Arab country. Egypt’s foreign currency reserves rose by a further $1.9bn to stand at $28.5bn at the end of March, their highest level since 2011. Moody’s rating agency projects that Egypt’s fiscal deficit will decrease to 11 per cent of GDP in fiscal year 2017 and 8.5 per cent in 2019, from 12.6 per cent last year. Meanwhile foreigners have returned to the Egyptian debt market, currency black market has all but disappeared, and remittances are rising.
Egypt’s medium-term outlook is also relatively positive. IHS projects Egypt’s real GDP to increase around 5 per cent on average from 2018 to 2022. Importantly, Egypt has strong potential to become a gas exporter. BMI research forecasts that gas production to rise from 41.7bn cubic meters (bcm) in 2016 to 67.6bcm in 2026, providing a solid source of foreign exchange inflows and mitigating the impact of the burgeoning import bill.
Challenges ahead
Despite an upbeat medium-term outlook, Egypt’s economic potential faces several risks. These risks include poor infrastructure, a shortage of skilled Labor, high unemployment, pollution, low productivity, security concerns, and a sharp political polarization.
Additionally, the devaluation and the austerity measures imposed by the IMF have led to domestic pain in the shape of high prices and rising costs of living. Indeed, the annual rate of Egypt's inflation jumped over 30 per cent in February, among the highest levels in emerging markets. Worryingly, public discontent with rising cost of living could lead to instability that could lead to a reversal of economic reforms or worse, a return to violent and widespread protests that could destabilize the Egyptian government and the economy.
To be sure, following a meeting with Egypt's President Abdel Fattah El Sisi in Washington on April 5, 2017, Ms. Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the IMF, praised the steps taken by the Egyptian government but acknowledged the difficulties faced by the Egyptians people. “Egypt is implementing a strong economic reform program to help the economy return to its full potential, achieve more growth and create more jobs. We recognize the scarifications made and the difficulties faced by many Egyptian citizens, especially due to high inflation”, she said in a statement.
Meanwhile, “some Egyptian banks are still at risk of struggling to meet minimum regulatory capital requirements as a consequence of currency weakness after the Egyptian pound was floated last November, given their high exposure to foreign-currency (FC) loans”, Fitch Ratings said in a recent report.
Another concern cited by some investors is the growing role of the military in the Economy. BMI research estimates that the Egyptian army controls up to 30 per cent of the economy and it will seek to retain reasonable political and economic influence, potentially impeding the transition to democracy and a more liberalized economy.