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Bible Quotations For Today
Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 13/22-30/:"Jesus went through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, ‘Lord, will only a few be saved?’ He said to them, ‘Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, "Lord, open to us", then in reply he will say to you, "I do not know where you come from." Then you will begin to say, "We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets."But he will say, "I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!" There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out. Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God. Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.’"
We thank God for you received the word from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word
First Letter to the Thessalonians 02/13-17/:"We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers. For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you suffered the same things from your own compatriots as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out; they displease God and oppose everyone by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. Thus they have constantly been filling up the measure of their sins; but God’s wrath has overtaken them at last. As for us, brothers and sisters, when, for a short time, we were made orphans by being separated from you in person, not in heart we longed with great eagerness to see you face to face."
Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 10-11/17
Once again Egyptian peaceful Christians are brutally targeted and murdered inside their Churches/Elias Bejjani/April 10/17
MECHRIC Calls on President El-Sisi to Address the Jihadist Ideology in Egypt/April 19/17
Hizbullah Deputy Secretary-General Sheikh Naim Qassem: Iranian Retaliation Against U.S. And Its Bases In The Region Will Be Decisive/April 10/17
44 Dead Christians: Islam’s Latest Victims/Raymond Ibrahim/FrontPage Magazine/April 10/17
Anti-Shi'ite Diatribe By Egyptian Cleric: 'Filthy' Shi'ites Annihilated Millions; Khomeini Had Sex With 5-Year-Old Girl/MEMRI/April 10/17
Breaking the Palestinians' Will to Fight/Daniel /Mosaic/April 10, 2017
Trump, Putin and Syria… The Opportunity and the Trap/Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al Awsat/April 10/17
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, the Dangers of Rabble-Rousing/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed//Asharq Al Awsat/April 10/17
Trump Must Designate Muslim Brotherhood to Defeat Radical Islam/Clifford Smith/National Review Online/Posed on April 10/17
Canada's Coptic Christian community reels from twin church bombings in Egypt/Shanifa Nasser, CBC News Posted: Apr 10/17
Blood brotherhood’ between Iran and Syria/Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/April 10/17
Who benefits from murdering Egypt’s Copts/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/April 10/17
US fed rate hikes: Gains and losses for Gulf countries/Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/April 10/17
Redrafting the curricula for Islamic studies/Samar Fatany/Al Arabiya/April 10/17
Did Iran just violate the Chemical Weapons Convention/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/ArabNews/April 10/17
Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published on April 10-11/17
Once again Egyptian peaceful Christians are brutally targeted and murdered inside their Churches
MECHRIC Calls on President El-Sisi to Address the Jihadist Ideology in Egypt/
Bassil Calls for Sectarian Senate, Proportional Representation Parliament
Cabinet Forms Committee to Prepare Electoral Law Draft, Aoun Assures no Vacuum at Parliament
Geagea Says LF Adheres to Bassil's Electoral Law Format
Report: Hizbullah Adheres to Proportionality during Meeting with Aoun
UK, U.S. Envoys Discuss Border Security with Army Chief as Agreement Inked
The Regime and Daesh: Two Faces for One Massacre
Clashes Continue for 4th Day in Ain el-Hilweh Camp, Toll Rises to 8
Hizbullah Deputy Secretary-General Sheikh Naim Qassem: Iranian Retaliation Against U.S. And Its Bases In The Region Will Be Decisive
Hariri receives Darrell Issa
Geagea meets Fatfat, conveys condolences to Coptic Pope
Berri calls for parliament bureau meeting tomorrow
Kataeb Slams 'Impotence' on Electoral Law, Warns of Possible Ain el-Hilweh Spillover
Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For
Miscellaneous Reports And News published on
At least two dead, two wounded in Southern California school shooting
Pope Still Plans Egypt Visit Despite Bombings
U.S. Warns Syria on Chemical, Barrel Bomb Use, Says Strike Destroyed 20% of Jets
US Ambassador to the UN: Assad Must Leave Syria in the Wake of Chemical Attack
Britain Urges Putin to End Support for 'Toxic' Assad
Jordan Summons Iran Envoy over Comments on King
Syria, Russia to Top Agenda as G7 Ministers Meet
Coalition, Syrian Rebels Fight off IS Attack on Base
Families gather after Egypt church attack, state of emergency approved
State of Emergency in Egypt after IS Church Bombings Kill 44
The Egyptian policeman who tried to stop the church bomber
G7 foreign ministers seek US clarity over Syria strikes
Rocket Fired from Egypt Hits Israel, Crossing Shut
Iran's Rouhani Defends Economic Record ahead of Election
Kremlin Critic Navalny Released from Jail
Jihad Watch Site for
Egypt: After Islamic State bombings at churches, Sisi to declare three-month state of emergency
Muslim Chechnya opens first concentration camp for homosexuals since Hitler
Canada: Imam says of Qur’an’s wife beating verse that “it means to hit the person with a twig, a small twig”
Raymond Ibrahim: Islamic Projection: Why Muslims So Hate Infidels
UK: Brexit group Leave Means Leave calls for “five-year ban on unskilled workers” immigrating
European Parliament’s biggest political party calls for EU-wide ban on Islamic face coverings
Sweden: Six more Muslims arrested over Stockholm truck jihad attack
Idaho: Muslim migrant boys plead guilty to sexual assault of five-year-old, but will victim ever get justice?
Somalia: Muslim murders 17 in jihad car bombing
Sandra Solomon Moment: What Islam Taught Me About the Jews
Christian Today Site
on April 10-11/17
The church was filled with the bodies of the dead': Egypt Palm Sunday bombing survivors speak out
Cathedrals in England to be given management overhaul after growing cash crisis problems
A quarter of British Christians 'do not believe in the resurrection,' BBC survey suggests
How jihadis are killing Egypt's 'soft target' Christians to undermine the state
American war hero dies saving drowning boy during missionary work in Indonesia
Police raid Indian church, question US visitors after Hindu group alleges conversion activity
Singapore Pastor Kong Hee says he is 'deeply sorry' for church funds misuse scandal
Church leaders urge prayer for victims and relatives of new terror attack in Sweden
Latest Lebanese Related News published
on April 10-11/17
Once again Egyptian peaceful Christians are brutally targeted and murdered inside their Churchesاغصان الزيتون امتزجت بالدم في كنائس مصر
Elias Bejjani/April 09/17
“I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” (John 16-33)
The least ethical and human obligation that any peace loving person would do today, is to strongly condemn the barbaric, savage and fundamentalist assault that targeted two Coptic churches in Egypt, as the peaceful Egyptian Coptic Christian parishioners were observing and celebrating Palm Sunday, one of the most important days on the Christian Church calendar. The vicious attack killed more than 36 innocent parishioners and injured at least sixty others, many of them are in critical condition.The coward assailants attacked the Christian civil and peaceful parishioners while they were worshiping and praying. This vicious assault reaches the realm of a series of similar previous and ongoing fanatic attacks against Egyptian Christians and their churches in several Egyptian provinces and territories.
It is worth mentioning that the Egyptian Christian human rights’ status is extremely traumatizing and worrisome as well as their physical safety.
The same humiliating and persecutory status is inflicted on all minorities in the majority of the Middle East countries in general and in particular in Egypt, Iraq, Sudan, Algeria, Libya.
The persecution against Christians and other minorities in these counties is an official and formal practice legitimized by biased laws and regulations.
At the same time, this phenomenon of anti-human rights practices is widely encouraged, nurtured and cultivated through education of hatred, fundamentalism, rejection of the other and ignorance.
What is unfortunate, pitiful and sad is that the governments of many middle east countries adopt such practices while the free world keeps a blind eye or in the best scenario limits its condemnation to mere rhetoric levels.
The horrible and barbaric crime of today is strongly denounced. The Free World has an obligation to protect Egypt’s Christians & the Middle East minorities. We, call on the free world countries, the United Nations, the Vatican and on all the Human Rights organizations to be loud in their public stances of condemnation and to develop a world wide plan and strategy to protect the Middle East Christians as well as all other minorities.
Our deepest sympathies are extended to the families and friends of those killed today, and all wishes for a speedy recovery to all the injured. May the souls of all those innocent victims that were killed today rest in peace.
MECHRIC Calls on President El-Sisi
to Address the Jihadist Ideology in Egypt
For Immediate Release
PRESS RELEASE/April 9th, 2017
WASHINGTON DC: The Middle East Christian Committee (Al-Lijna Al-Mashreqia) condemns in the strongest possible terms the barbaric attack with explosives on two Egyptian Coptic Christian churches during Palm Sunday services this morning. We send our condolences to the families of those murdered and injured as well as to the entire Coptic Christian community. These heinous attacks, on St. George’s Church in Tanta and St. Mark’s Cathedral in Cairo, upon innocent, inoffensive worshippers on this holy day illustrate the danger radical Islamic terrorism poses to the civilized world.
We call on President El-Sisi to take immediate and firm action, not only to bring the perpetrators to justice, but to halt the preaching of hatred and incitement in Egypt’s mosques and to teach openness and tolerance in Egypt’s schools as well. Until Islamic supremacism is officially abandoned and people of all faiths are treated with equal dignity and respect, horrible incidents like this will continue to occur. Egypt must take a firm stand against the jihadist ideology which inspires such brutal violence.
We join our Coptic brethren in prayer for the souls of those murdered in these vicious attacks and for their families at this tragic time. We stand in solidarity with their appeal for better protection and we implore President Sisi to end the incitement and the teaching of hatred and inequality in the mosques and schools of Egypt.
For more information, please contact:
Tom Harb : Contactmechric@gmail.com
Bassil Calls for Sectarian
Senate, Proportional Representation Parliament
Naharnet/April 10/17/Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil on Monday called for the creation of a Senate to which each sect would elect its own representatives and for the election of a parliament according to a law fully based on proportional representation. “As of this moment, we are willing to approve a parliamentary electoral law based on full proportional representation and a Senate elected according to the Orthodox Gathering proposal, and this has been our stance since national dialogue,” Bassil said after a meeting for the FPM's political bureau. The parliamentary electoral law that had been proposed by the Orthodox Gathering stipulates that each sect would elects its own MPs according to a proportional representation system. The proposal’s opponents have dismissed it as “sectarian” and “divisive.”Addressing the political parties that have rejected his electoral law formats, Bassil said they want a “civil state” only when it comes to the electoral law. “But when we want to appoint a low-ranking employee, they resort to a sectarian mentality,” Bassil lamented. He also noted that the so-called hybrid electoral law that mixes proportional representation with the winner-takes-all system is aimed at “paving the way for transition from a sectarian situation to a civil situation.”Hizbullah and its allies have repeatedly called for an electoral law fully based on proportional representation amid reservations by al-Mustaqbal Movement and the Progressive Socialist Party. But Mustaqbal leader and Prime Minister Saad Hariri has recently announced that he is willing to accept full proportional representation. Bassil and Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea have meanwhile called for a hybrid electoral system.
Cabinet Forms Committee to
Prepare Electoral Law Draft, Aoun Assures no Vacuum at Parliament
Naharnet/April 10/17/The cabinet convened on Monday to look into a new parliamentary electoral law system to govern Lebanon's upcoming polls and agreed on the formation of a ministerial committee that will devise a new draft law, as President Michel Aoun assured there will be no vacuum at the legislative institution. “The committee will be led by Prime Minister Saad Hariri and is set to meet on Tuesday,” said Information Minister Melhem Riachi, as he assured that the committee will finalize its mission in a brief period. LBCI has likened the committee to the one that devised the ministerial statement. Before the cabinet convened at the Presidential Palace, President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Saad Hariri held a closed meeting where discussions touched on the general situation in the country. At the beginning of the meeting, Aoun appeased fears over vacuum at the parliament and said: “There will be no parliamentary vacuum. The cabinet will begin discussions on a new electoral law and our meetings will be open until a result is reached.” The cabinet has also shed light on the deteriorating security situation at the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain el-Hilweh in Sidon, as the camp witnesses its fourth successive day of fighting as an extremist group battles a local security force. The cabinet stressed the need to put all efforts needed to bring peace back to the camp. Turning to Egypt's jihadist bombings at two churches on Sunday, the ministers condemned the attack that killed dozens of worshipers as they celebrated Palm Sunday mass. Before the meeting began, Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Ghassan Hasbani said: “The general ideas, principles and the guidelines of the electoral bills will be discussed.” Public Works and Transport Minister Youssef Fenianos said: “We are here to lament the hybrid law and to stabilize full proportionality.”
Industry Minister Hussein Hajj Hassan said: “Our positions is clear and we support proportionality, but we are open for discussions until an agreement is reached.” State Minister for Women's Affairs Jean Oghassapian rejected the principle of voting on a new law, stressing the significance of “understanding and agreement.”
Geagea Says LF Adheres to Bassil's Electoral Law Format
Naharnet/April 10/17/Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea said he supports an electoral law format suggested by Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil because any other law format would give his party 15 seats less at the parliament, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Monday. “We support a hybrid law format, to be specific we support the latest hybrid law suggested by Minister Jebran Bassil, because it leads to proper representation. I can't see any reason to back down on that proposal in favor of any other that would give us 15 seats less at the parliament,” said Geagea in an interview to the daily. “This is why we adhere to Bassil's hybrid law proposal, which I hope will be put for voting at the cabinet or discussed at the parliament,” he added. On what will the LF position be at a cabinet session on Monday devoted to discuss Lebanon's voting system, Geagea lamented how the successive governments have failed to devise a new electoral law despite the pledges they made. “The LF position is very clear. For eight years now, Lebanon has been in the midst of an electoral law challenge. Many pledges were made before the 2009 polls that Lebanon will have a new law,” he said, adding that they still vow the same but without succeeding.
“Frankly, we feel like the deceived spouse on the electoral law, meaning we are given many promises from many parties. But, only a month or two separate us from the term's end of the current parliament without a new law,” said Geagea, stressing the need to adopt voting as a new mechanism to reach an agreement in that regard. “In our opinion, the mechanism that should be adopted is to resort to the cabinet and then to the parliament for voting on the formats suggested. We will declare our opinion during the cabinet meeting,” he added. 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. 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. 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.
Report: Hizbullah Adheres to Proportionality during Meeting with Aoun
Naharnet/April 10/17/On the eve of a cabinet meeting devoted to discuss Lebanon's problematic voting system, a Hizbullah delegation held talks on Sunday with President Michel Aoun at the Presidential Palace in the presence of Foreign Minister and Free Patriotic Movement leader Jebran Bassil, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Monday. Talks have focused on the positions of both parties as for a new electoral law that should govern Lebanon's parliamentary elections, said the daily. The meeting came after negotiations between Hizbullah and Bassil reached a dead end as a result of each party's adherence to his own project, it added. The Hizbullah delegation was comprised of Hizbullah deputy chief Sheikh Naim Qassem, head of the Loyalty to the Resistance bloc MP Mohammed Raad, Hizbullah secretary-general's political aide Hussein Khalil Head of Hizbullah's Liaison and Coordination Committee Wafiq Safa.
Although Baabda sources refused to comment on the discussions, sources close to the interlocutors told the daily: “Ideas about an electoral law were exchanged during the meeting. Hizbullah has put forward its proposal that mainly focused on the adoption of a full proportional representation system and a single or several large electorates.”The sources described the discussions as “serious and profound” where Hizbullah listened to the options suggested by the FPM. “Things are not ripe yet, but it has been agreed to keep meetings open in an effort to unify the efforts until a consensual format is reached,” they added.
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. 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. 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.
UK, U.S. Envoys Discuss Border Security with Army Chief as Agreement Inked
Naharnet/April 10/17/Within the framework of the High Level Steering Committee, British Ambassador to Lebanon Hugo Shorter and U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard met Monday with the Commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces General Joseph Aoun for their first meeting on the Land Border Security Project. A British Embassy statement said the meeting provided an opportunity to discuss the on-going UK and U.S. support for the LAF and the border project, including the construction, training, and equipment being provided in order to reach the goal of “securing the entirety of the Lebanon-Syria border.” Ambassador Shorter also signed an updated LAF-UK Joint Undertaking with General Aoun from 2013. The agreement aims to commit to securing the entirety of the Lebanese border with Syria and the training of over 11,000 LAF troops by 2019, in addition to building watchtowers and delivering equipment to the Land Border Regiments. “The UK is a long term, proud supporter of the Lebanese Armed Forces. The signing of this Joint Undertaking is another UK commitment to securing Lebanon’s border with Syria, supporting the LAF as the sole security provider in Lebanon, and helping to bring Lebanese State authority to vulnerable near-border communities,” Ambassador Shorter said. “By 2019, this Joint Undertaking commits the UK to train over 11,000 LAF troops for internal and border security operations, and equip, mentor, and train 4,000 troops from the LAF’s Land Border Regiments for their specialized border security mission,” he added. “During our meeting today – the first High Level Steering Committee with Commander Aoun – we, and my U.S. counterpart, reviewed the excellent progress on this program so far. Over 70% of the border is secure, and communities’ sense of security up, significantly. I praise the excellent work of the LAF, and continue to offer them the UK’s full support,” Shorter went on to say.
The Regime and Daesh: Two Faces for One Massacre
Ahmad El-Assaad /April 06, 2017/The Khan Sheikhoun massacre exposed the true face of the Syrian regime to the entire world, after it so adamantly tried to hide behind the practices of Daesh and protect itself with the latter’s sanguinary image. The chemical carnage gave unequivocal proof of the regime’s bestiality, which is nothing more than the other face of Daesh. It explicitly showed that the Regime is not necessarily an alternative for the Group – both are terrorists, each in its own way. Whether the massacre was a way to test the International Community’s response or not, it must be an essential motive for the world to finally take a stance, and to put an end to the ongoing Syrian bloodshed, by eradicating both the Regime and the Group, and to bring peace to the heart of Syria and its helpless people, who are being exterminated by the different belligerent parties. There is no more room for hesitation, recession or content in watching and waiting for Security Council resolutions – only to be countered by a Russian and Chinese veto. As it is no longer acceptable to simply wait for a new massacre for the world to take action. The Syrian situation can no longer afford any shortcomings, which could double as an implication, and even a participation on the International Community’s part. This massacre exposed the lies of the Assad regime. Chemical weapons are still existent in Syria, no matter how much the Regime tries to make it seem as the property of the Opposition, and that the bombing targeted its warehouses. If it were the case, the rebels would have used it in many battles against the Regime and its Iranian and Lebanese allied militias. Which wasn’t the case. The crimes are plain to see, and the lies clear to hear. The destruction is evident, and the refugees are knocking on your doors. It is time for the world to wake up from its stupor.
Clashes Continue for 4th Day in Ain el-Hilweh Camp, Toll Rises to 8
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 10/17/Sporadic clashes that have killed eight people continued in the Palestinian Ain al-Hilweh camp in southern Lebanon on Monday, as an extremist group battled a local security force. An AFP correspondent on the outskirts of the camp in the city of Sidon reported the sound of intermittent fighting and bursts of gunfire, after a night of heavy clashes. Medical sources said the toll in the fighting, which began on Friday, had risen to eight, among them five civilians, with at least 40 people wounded. Among the injured were three people in critical condition, as well as a four-year-old boy. The fighting has prompted security measures outside the camp, which the Lebanese army does not enter by long-standing convention. The adjacent highway is closed, and patients at the neighbouring government hospital have been moved elsewhere. On Monday, the education ministry ordered the closure of all public and private schools in Sidon and the surrounding area as a precaution. Fighting erupted late Friday after Palestinian factions deployed throughout the camp as part of a joint security force aimed at combatting the influence of a local Islamic extremist group. Inside the camp, Palestinian charitable groups distributed bread and water to residents most affected by the fighting after the clashes damaged water tanks supplying several neighbourhoods. Ain al-Hilweh is home to multiple armed factions, and has been plagued by intermittent clashes among them as well as against smaller extremist groups. Lebanon's army does not enter Palestinian refugee camps, where security is managed by joint committees of Palestinian factions. Ain al-Hilweh is home to some 61,000 Palestinians, including 6,000 who have fled the war in Syria.
Hizbullah Deputy Secretary-General Sheikh Naim Qassem: Iranian Retaliation Against U.S. And Its Bases In The Region Will Be Decisive
Hizbullah Deputy Secretary-General Sheikh Naim Qassem said that he did not expect a war between Iran and the U.S. because Iran is too strong and is capable of a "decisive" retaliation against the U.S. and its bases. Speaking on Mayadeen TV on March 30, Sheikh Qassem said that he had heard "from the Iranian brothers" that when President Bush was making threats against Iran, Khamenei had authorized the military command to launch a retaliation missile attack without confirming with him first.
Naim Qassem: "Things will not easily deteriorate into a state of war (between Iran and the U.S.), because Iran is strong and cannot be occupied. The circumstances of Iran, its people, its power, and its status, will not allow America to attack it. This is according to the available information."
Host: "What about the Iranian response?"
Naim Qassem: "The Iranian response will definitely be decisive. I want to tell you a story that I heard from the Iranian brothers: According to my information, when Bush threatened Iran, and the plans to strike Iran were ready, the imam and commander Khamenei authorized the military command to launch missiles in the event that certain places came under attack, and to carry out the mission of defense without confirming with him. They were at a very high level of readiness."
Host: "Against whom?"
Naim Qassem: "Against America."
Host: "Only America? Or against countries that host its military bases as well?"
Naim Qassem: "It was America that was making threats…Obviously, I mean America and its bases in the region. What I want to say is that Iran has always rejected any kind of aggression against it, whether from America or anyone else. Iran is ready to retaliate, and they know it, but they do not know the outcome. They can attack (Iran), but what will happen afterwards? What will be the consequences for them?"
Host: "Are you saying that Iran is capable of confronting America and NATO?"
Naim Qassem: "Of course it is capable."
Host: "Or is it capable only of containing them?"
Naim Qassem: "What does confrontation mean? It means preventing America from accomplishing its goals. It does not mean that Iran would go to America and eradicate it. But can America occupy Iran? No. Can America strike Iran and bring it to its knees? No. Can America strike Iran without paying a price, along with its allies? No
Hariri receives Darrell Issa
Mon 10 Apr 2017/NNA - Prime Minister Saad Hariri received at the Grand Serail on Monday the US congressman of Lebanese origin Darrell Issa (member of the House of Representatives and of the Foreign Affairs Committee), at the head of a delegation, in the presence of US Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard and Hariri's advisor for economic affairs Mazen Hanna. Discussions focused on the latest developments in Lebanon and the bilateral relations between the two countries. Earlier, Hariri received the Director General of State Security Major General Antoine Saliba, the Secretary General of the Higher Defense Council Brigadier General Saadallah el-Hamad and the Deputy Director General of State Security Brigadier Samir Senan and discussed with them security issues. He also received the new administrative committee of the Beirut Arab University headed by the Association's President Issam Kaskas in a protocol visit.
Geagea meets Fatfat, conveys condolences to Coptic Pope
Mon 10 Apr 2017/NNA - Lebanese Forces leader, Samir Geagea, met, at Maarab on Monday, with Future bloc MP Ahmad Fatfat, over latest political developments, especially the election law. Geagea has earlier met with a delegation of Sidon-Zahrani municipalities' union, headed by Mohammad al-Saudi. "We discussed an array of national affairs, in addition to issues relevant to the region of Sidon, mainly the events in Ain-el-Hilwe camp," Geagea told reporters following the meeting. "We hope that the security forces will intervene to end the constant clashes inside the camp, in coordination with the Palestinian Authority, which showed readiness and intention to facilitate the work of the Lebanese authorities," he added. Separately, Geagea contacted by phone Coptic Pope Tawadros II, to whom he offered condolences following the recent terrorist explosions.
Berri calls for parliament bureau meeting tomorrow
Mon 10 Apr 2017/NNA - Speaker of the House Nabih Berri called on Monday for a meeting of the parliament bureau body at 1.00 p.m. tomorrow, to discuss matters related to the Council.
Kataeb Slams 'Impotence' on Electoral Law, Warns of Possible Ain el-Hilweh Spillover
Naharnet/April 10/17/The Kataeb Party on Monday lashed out at the ruling political class over its “impotence” regarding the approval of a new electoral law, as it warned of a possible spillover of the ongoing clashes at the Ain el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp. “The Kataeb Party warns of the growing threats that are facing the country as the ruling class maintains its procrastination, impotence and conflicts while seeking to strike deals at the expense of the country and its citizens,” Kataeb's political bureau said in a statement issued after its weekly meeting. The ruling class “is focusing its efforts on tailoring an electoral law that fits its interests, or else it would push for an illegitimate extension (of parliament's term) or a lethal vacuum,” it added. “In both cases, the Lebanese will not remain silent over the disregard for their right to decide their future,” the party warned, calling for “a fair law tailored to fit the interest of the entire country while ensuring correct and fair representation.”Turning to the deadly clashes that have been raging for four days now in Ain el-Hilweh, Kataeb warned of a possible spread of the fighting to “the city of Sidon and the neighboring villages.”“Why did the situation blow up now? What has this ruling class done to prevent it? Why is it excluded or excluding itself from everything that is happening in this camp? Hasn't the time come for working on removing the camps' unrestrained weapons? And who is obstructing this step as long as the Palestinian leadership has expressed its consent to the removal of the arms?” Kataeb asked. At least eight people have been killed and dozens others have been wounded in four days of clashes between the Joint Palestinian Security Force and a group of Islamist militants led by Bilal Badr.
Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 10-11/17
At least two dead, two wounded in Southern California school shooting
Mon 10 Apr 2017/NNA - At least two adults were killed and two persons, possibly students, were struck by gunfire in a classroom shooting on Monday at a Southern California elementary school, police and fire officials said. San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said the shooting at Northpark Elementary School in San Bernardino, east of Los Angeles, appeared to a "murder-suicide" and that two wounded students had been taken to the hospital for treatment. "We believe the suspect is down, and there's no further threat," Burguan said in a Twitter post. He said the dead were adults. ABC News, citing information from a police spokeswoman, earlier reported that three people, including a teacher, were hit by gunfire, in addition to the shooter. The San Bernardino County Fire Department said in a Twitter post that there were "multiple gunshot victims" from the incident. The elementary school was being evacuated and students were being taken to a nearby high school. Aerial television footage from the scene showed students walking single-file across the campus from the school building. ---Reuters
Pope Still Plans Egypt Visit Despite Bombings
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 10/17/Pope Francis will visit Egypt as planned this month despite the weekend bombings of two Coptic Christian churches that killed 44 people, a Vatican official said. "There is no doubt the Holy Father will maintain his offer to go to Egypt" on April 28 and 29, Monsignor Angelo Becciu, the Holy See's number three, said in an interview published in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera on Monday. "What happened caused disorder and tremendous suffering, but it cannot stop the pope's mission of peace," he added. Sunday's bombings in churches in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria and Tanta north of Cairo were the deadliest attacks on the Coptic Christian community in recent memory and were claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group. Becciu, who will travel to Egypt with the pontiff, described the bombings as an "attack on dialogue, on peace". "Egypt has assured us that everything will go as well as possible, so we will go confidently," he said. The pope had also voiced his condolences Sunday for victims of the double bombing, which has led Egypt to declare a three-month state of emergency. "May the Lord convert the heart of those who sow terror, violence and death and also the heart of those who make weapons and trade in them." Francis will become the second Roman Catholic pope to visit Egypt, following John Paul II's historic trip there in February 2000. The Vatican's slogan for the trip is "Pope of peace in Egypt of peace".
U.S. Warns Syria on Chemical, Barrel Bomb Use, Says
Strike Destroyed 20% of Jets
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 10/17/The White House on Monday warned Syria that further use of chemical weapons or barrel bombs could bring U.S. military retaliation. Broadening its warning to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, White House spokesman Sean Spicer indicated that such attacks were unacceptable. "If you gas a baby or drop a barrel bomb onto innocent people, you will see a response from this president," Spicer said. Trump last week ordered missile strikes against an air field in Syria that U.S. intelligence believes was used to carry out an attack with the chemical agent sarin. But this was the first mention of the use of barrel bombs, crude munitions notorious for causing indiscriminate casualties. Assad denies his forces use the weapon. The White House also doubled down on its rhetoric on the need for Syria's leader to step down. "You can't imagine a stable and peaceful Syria with Assad in charge," said Spicer. Pentagon chief Jim Mattis meanwhile said that last week's U.S. strike on a Syrian air base destroyed a fifth of the regime's working warplanes. "The assessment of the Department of Defense is that the strike resulted in the damage or destruction of fuel and ammunition sites, air defense capabilities, and 20 percent of Syria's operational aircraft," Mattis said in a statement. "The Syrian government would be ill-advised ever again to use chemical weapons," he added. Mattis called Friday's strike a "measured response" to the regime's "use of chemical weapons." Friday's strike saw two US destroyers unleash a volley of 59 Tomahawk missiles at the airbase. The U.S. military's Central Command spokesman Colonel John Thomas said the runways were deliberately avoided because the United States was trying to draw a clear line that its military action was in response to the suspected chemical attack, and not a signal of willingness to get more involved in Syria's brutal civil war.
US Ambassador to the UN: Assad Must Leave Syria in the
Wake of Chemical Attack
Asharq Al Awsat/April 10/17/REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton. London – US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could not stay in power in the wake of the chemical attack on the neighborhood of Khan Sheikhoun. In an interview with CNN on Sunday, Haley said: “There’s not any sort of option where a political solution is going to happen with Assad at the head of the regime.” “It just — if you look at his actions, if you look at the situation, it’s going to be hard to see a government that’s peaceful and stable with Assad,” she added. The UN ambassador’s remarks came just a day after she warned that the United States was prepared to take further actions in Syria during a special session at the UN following a US military strike against a Syrian air base. US President Donald Trump ordered the strike in response to a chemical attack carried out by the Assad regime against civilians in a neighborhood in Idlib. “If he needs to do more, he will do more,” Haley said when asked if Trump would order more strikes. “So, really, now what happens depends on how everyone responds to what happened in Syria, and make sure that we start moving towards a political solution, and we start finding peace in that area,” she added. However, she noted that toppling the Assad regime was not her country’s only priority. “So there’s multiple priorities,” she said. “It’s — getting Assad out is not the only priority. And so what we’re trying to do is obviously defeat ISIS. Secondly, we don’t see a peaceful Syria with Assad in there. Thirdly, get the Iranian influence out, and then, finally, move towards a political solution, because at the end of the day, this is a complicated situation.”
Britain Urges Putin to End Support for 'Toxic' Assad
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 10/17/Russia should end its support for "toxic" Syrian President Bashar Assad, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said on Monday ahead of a meeting of G7 foreign ministers in Italy. "It's time for (Russian President) Vladimir Putin to face the truth about the tyrant he is propping up," Johnson said, according to a foreign ministry spokeswoman. "We need to make it clear to Putin that the time to back Assad has gone," he said, warning that Putin was "damaging Russia" by supporting Assad. "He must understand that Assad is now toxic in every sense. He is poisoning the innocent people of Syria with weapons that were banned 100 years ago -- and he is poisoning the reputation of Russia," he said. Johnson on Saturday cancelled a scheduled visit to Moscow over its support for the Syrian regime. The move came after a suspected chemical weapons attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Seikhun last week in which at least 87 people were killed. The United States launched a missile strike on a Syrian airfield on Friday in its first military action against Assad in retaliation for the attack. Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven main industrialised countries are meeting in the Italian town of Lucca later on Monday before US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson flies to Moscow on Tuesday. "There's no doubt the US action is a game-changer in Syria. We need to make it clear to Putin that the time to back Assad has gone," Johnson said on Monday. Russia's foreign ministry earlier condemned Johnson's decision not to come to Moscow, saying it showed that Britain had "no real influence on the course of international affairs". Moscow has sought to deflect blame from its long-time ally Assad over the suspected gas incident and says Syrian jets struck a rebel arms depot where "toxic substances" were being put inside bombs. More than 320,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict erupted in March 2011 with anti-government demonstrations. Poison gas was extensively used in the Western Front in the 1914-18 World War I from 1915. It was outlawed internationally by the 1925 Geneva Protocol, which entered into force in 1928.
Jordan Summons Iran Envoy over Comments on King
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 10/17/Jordan summoned Iran's ambassador to Amman at the weekend, the foreign ministry said, after an Iranian official slammed comments by King Abdullah in an American newspaper as "silly and careless". King Abdullah told the Washington Post in an interview published Thursday that Iran was involved in "strategic problems" in the region. "There is an attempt to forge a geographic link between Iran, Iraq, Syria and Hezbollah/Lebanon," he said. He added that Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops are within 70 kilometres (45 miles) of Jordan's border and that non-state actors approaching the frontier "are not going to be tolerated". In a response published in Arabic by Iran's Fars news agency Sunday, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi described the king's comments as "silly and careless". "It appears that the Jordanian king made a fundamental and strategic mistake in defining terrorism," he said. Ghassemi said the Jordanian monarch's comments showed "his ignorance and his superficial view of developments in the region." "It would be better if (Abdullah) put aside some of his time to study the logic, history and geography of the region," he said. Jordan's foreign ministry on Sunday said it had summoned Iran's ambassador in Amman, Mujtaba Fardousi Bour, to deliver a "strongly worded protest". It said Ghassemi's "unacceptable" comments were "a failed attempt to misrepresent the central role the kingdom plays in supporting regional security and stability and fighting terrorism."Jordan, which hosts tens of thousands of refugees from the war in neighbouring Syria, is part of a US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group there and in Iraq. Iran with Russia is the closest ally of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and has provided money, weapons, military advisers and trainers, as well as volunteer militiamen to support it in the six-year civil war.
Syria, Russia to Top Agenda as G7 Ministers Meet
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 10/17/G7 foreign ministers were on Monday to send a "clear and coordinated message" to Russia on Syria as Washington upped the pressure following a suspected chemical attack in the wartorn country. Top diplomats from the seven major advanced economies are in Italy for their annual two-day meeting which had initially been expected to focus on intimate talks with new US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson about hotspots like Libya, Iran and Ukraine. But the agenda is now likely to be dominated by last week's suspected chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held Syrian town that killed at least 87 civilians, and the US cruise missiles fired at a Syrian air base in retaliation. It marked the first time Washington has intervened directly against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, who is fighting a civil war with the backing of Russia and Iran, and the G7 ministers will deliberate the West's next steps. The gathering in the Italian city of Lucca, which begins at 1430 GMT, groups foreign ministers from the US and Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan. The US diplomacy chief arrived in Tuscany late Sunday and briefly met Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida Monday morning before attending a WWII memorial at the site of a Nazi massacre in Sant'Anna di Stazzema near Lucca. Tillerson was then to hold a series of bilateral talks before the start of the G7 meeting. - Britain cancels Moscow talks -Washington's retaliation was slammed by Iran and North Korea and put it on a direct diplomatic collision course with Moscow, where Tillerson heads on Tuesday for talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. Italy has arranged a last-minute meeting on Tuesday between the G7 ministers and their counterparts from Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Qatar.
Italian media said the aim was "to avert a dangerous military escalation". Britain's Johnson cancelled a scheduled visit to Moscow Monday, saying his priority was now "to continue contact with the US and others" ahead of Tillerson's Russian trip. He called on Russia to do "everything possible to bring about a political settlement in Syria and work with the rest of the international community to ensure that the shocking events of the last week are never repeated". Tillerson would "deliver that clear and coordinated message to the Russians", he said.
Coalition, Syrian Rebels Fight off IS Attack on Base
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 10/17/US-led allied forces and Syrian rebels have thwarted a significant Islamic State group attack on their base near the Jordanian border, according to the anti-IS coalition. The coalition said Saturday's attack on the At-Tanf Garrison was a complex one involving a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device, followed by a ground assault and suicide vests by up to 30 IS fighters. "Coalition and partnered forces defended against the ISIS attack with direct fire before destroying enemy assault vehicles and the remaining fighters with multiple Coalition airstrikes," the coalition said in a statement. The "vetted" Syrian opposition forces, known as VSO, who participated in the battle are distinct from the Syrian Democratic Forces, which are assisting Syria in the north. "In southern Syria, VSO forces focus on conducting operations to clear ISIS from the Hamad Desert and have been instrumental in countering the ISIS threat in southern Syria and maintaining security along the Syria-Jordan border," the coalition statement said. In June 2016, Russian warplanes bombed the remote outpost used by elite US and British forces. It is located about 10 miles (16 kilometers) from the Jordanian border.
About three weeks later, Russian warplanes hit a rebel camp used by family members of CIA-backed fighters about 50 miles west of At-Tanf.
Families gather after Egypt church attack, state of
Reuters, Alexandria, Egypt Monday, 10 April 2017/Families of victims of Sunday’s bombing at Alexandria’s Coptic cathedral gathered at the Monastery of Saint Mina under heavy security on Monday as Egypt’s cabinet approved a three-month state of emergency ahead of a scheduled trip by Pope Francis.
Coffins of the 17 killed were lined up on the tiled square outside the monastery ahead of the funeral. Police checked cars as they entered the grounds, with hundreds of people gathered outside, and dozens of tanks lined parts of the road from Cairo.The blast in Egypt’s second largest city came hours after a bomb struck a Coptic church in Tanta, a nearby city in the Nile Delta, killing 27 and wounding nearly 80. Both attacks were claimed by the ISIS, which has waged a campaign against Egypt’s Christian minority, the largest in the Middle East. The Copts, whose presence in Egypt dates to the Roman era, have long complained of religious persecution and accused the state of not doing enough to protect them. Coming on Palm Sunday, when Christians mark the arrival of Jesus in Jerusalem, the bombings appeared designed to spread fear among Copts, who make up 10 percent of Egypt’s population. They also raised security fears ahead of a visit to Cairo by Roman Catholic Pope Francis planned for April 28-29. Coptic Pope Tawadros, who was leading the mass in Alexandria’s Saint Mark’s Cathedral when the bomb exploded, was not harmed, the Interior Ministry said. The nationwide state of emergency declared by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and agreed by the cabinet on Monday is expected to be approved by parliament within seven days in order to remain in place. “The armed forces and police will do what is necessary to confront the threats of terrorism and its financing,” the cabinet said in a statement. Measures would be taken to “maintain security across the country, protect public and private property and the lives of citizens,” it said.
Softer Christian target
In Tanta, where many families buried their dead on Sunday, members of the Coptic community expressed anger at the lack of security, saying that despite warnings of an attack, police had not stepped up efforts to protect them. A senior police official told Reuters a bomb was discovered and disabled near the Tanta church about a week ago. “That should have been an alarm or a warning that this place is targeted,” said 38-year-old Amira Maher. “Especially Palm Sunday, a day when many people gather, more than any other time in the year... I don’t know how this happened.”At Tanta University hospital morgue, desperate families were trying to get inside to search for loved ones. Security forces held them back to stop overcrowding, enraging the crowd. “Why are you preventing us from entering now? Where were you when all this happened?” shouted one women looking for a relative. Some appeared in total shock, their faces pale and unmoving. Others wept openly as women wailed in mourning. Though ISIS has long waged a low-level war against soldiers and police in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula for years, its stepped up assault on Christians in the mainland could turn a provincial insurgency into wider sectarian conflict. On Sunday, the group warned of more attacks and boasted it had killed 80 people in three church bombings since December. Security analysts said it appeared that ISIS, under pressure in Iraq and Syria, was trying to widen its threat and had identified Christian communities as an easier target. “ISIS are deeply sectarian, that’s nothing new, but they have decided to re-emphasise that aspect in Egypt over the past few months,” said H.A. Hellyer, senior non-resident fellow at the Atlantic Council and the Royal United Services Institute. “Christian targets are easier -- churches are far more difficult to fortify than say an army barracks or a police station. It’s a disturbing development because it indicates we have the possibility of repeated and continued attacks against soft targets.”
State of Emergency in Egypt after IS Church Bombings Kill 44
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 10/17/Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced a three-month state of emergency following twin church bombings by the Islamic State group that killed dozens on Palm Sunday, the deadliest attacks on the minority in recent memory. The attacks in the Nile Delta cities of Tanta and Alexandria followed a Cairo church bombing in December and came weeks before a planned visit by Catholic Pope Francis intended to show support for Egypt's Christian minority. Sisi declared the "three-month" state of emergency, which he must present to parliament within a week, during a defiant speech warning that the war against the jihadists "will be long and painful". The first bombing at the Mar Girgis church in Tanta city north of Cairo killed 27 people, the health ministry said. Emergency services had scrambled to the scene when another blast rocked St Mark's church in Alexandria where Coptic Pope Tawadros II had been leading a Palm Sunday service. Seventeen people including at least four police officers were killed in that attack, which the interior ministry said was caused by a suicide bomber who blew himself up when prevented from entering the church. The ministry said Tawadros was unharmed, and a church official said he left before the explosion. The private CBC Extra channel aired footage of the Alexandria blast, with CCTV showing what appeared to be the church entrance engulfed in flame and flying concrete moments after a guard turned a man away.
Eyewitnesses said a police officer detected the bomber before he blew himself up.
At least 78 people were wounded in Tanta and 40 in Alexandria, the health ministry said.
Egyptian officials denounced the violence as an attempt to sow divisions, and Francis sent his "deep condolences" to Tawadros. IS claimed two Egyptian suicide bombers carried out both attacks and threatened further attacks in a statement published on social media. After the bombings, Sisi ordered military deployments to guard "vital and important infrastructure", his office said. State television reported that the interior minister sacked the provincial head of security and replaced him after the attack. "I heard the blast and came running. I found people torn up... some people, only half of their bodies remained," Nabil Nader, who lives in front of the Tanta church, said. At St Mark's in Alexandria, at night the bodies were brought in wooden coffins decorated with golden crosses to the church yard where hundreds of sad and angry Copts gathered and a priest was saying prayers.
A Muslim funeral was also held in El Behira province for one of the four policemen killed in the St Mark's attack. Worshippers had been celebrating Palm Sunday, one of the holiest days in the Christian calendar, marking Jesus's triumphant entrance to Jerusalem. Egypt had been ruled under emergency law -- which allows police expanded powers of arrest and surveillance -- for decades before 2012. - Pope prays for victims -Pope Francis, who is due in Cairo on April 28-29, offered prayers for the victims. "Let us pray for the victims of the attack unfortunately carried out today," he said. "May the Lord convert the heart of those who sow terror, violence and death and also the heart of those who make weapons and trade in them."Copts, who make up about one tenth of Egypt's population of more than 92 million and who celebrate Easter next weekend, have been targeted by several attacks in recent months. Jihadists and Islamists accuse Copts of supporting the military overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, which ushered in a deadly crackdown on his supporters. In December, a suicide bombing claimed by IS killed 29 worshippers in a Cairo church.
The group later released a video threatening Egypt's Christians with more attacks.
A spate of jihadist-linked attacks in the restive Sinai Peninsula, including the murder of a Copt in the city of El Arish, led some Coptic families to flee. US President Donald Trump led international condemnation of Sunday's attacks. "So sad to hear of the terrorist attack in Egypt. US strongly condemns. I have great confidence that President Al Sisi will handle situation properly," he tweeted. UN chief Antonio Guterres expressed the hope that the perpetrators will be swiftly brought to justice after a Security Council statement condemned the bombings as "heinous" and "cowardly".
- String of attacks -The Cairo-based Al-Azhar, an influential Sunni Muslim authority, said the attacks aimed to "destabilise security and... the unity of Egyptians". Egypt's Copts have endured successive attacks since Morsi's ouster in July 2013.
More than 40 churches were targeted nationwide in the two weeks after the deadly dispersal by security forces of two pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo on August 14 that year, Human Rights Watch said. Sisi, who as then army chief helped remove Morsi, has defended his security forces and accused jihadists of attacking Copts in order to divide the country. In October 2011, almost 30 people -- mostly Coptic Christians -- were killed outside the state television building in Cairo after the army charged at protesters denouncing the torching of a church in southern Egypt. A few months earlier, the unclaimed New Year's Day bombing of a Coptic church killed more than 20 people in second city Alexandria.
The Egyptian policeman who tried to stop the church
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Monday, 10 April 2017/If it was not for this policeman, whose photo has been obtained by Al Arabiya, an even bigger disaster would have taken place at the Alexandria church where a bomb exploded on Sunday, killing 17 people including 4 security personnel, and wounding 35 others. The security forces that are in charge of guarding and protecting the church where Pope Tawadros II was praying, managed to stop the suicide bomber who tried to sneak into the St. Mark's Church and blow himself up inside the church.
More specifically, policeman Imad al-Rekaibi was the one who prevented an even bigger disaster inside the St. Mark's Church in the Manshiyya area in Alexandria, where hundreds of Copts were marking Palm Sunday. Two clips show a man wearing a blue sweater draped over his shoulders approaching the main gate to the cathedral, before being turned away and directed toward a nearby metal detector. For his part, the spokesman of the security forces said that members of the security guards who were in charge of protecting the Church in Alexandria has prevented the suicide bomber from entering the church and detonate it with an explosive belt that he was wearing. The official added that “at the moment of the attack, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of Saint Mark was inside the church but did not get hurt.”He explained that “the security forces who were outside the church, were able to stop the suicide bomber from entering the church so he resorted to detonating himself outside,” which resulted in killing two male officers and a female officer from the Alexandria Security Directorate as well as a number of citizens. Many injuries were also reported.
G7 foreign ministers seek US clarity over Syria strikes
Crispian Balmer, Reuters Monday, 10 April 2017/Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven major industrialized nations meet on Monday for an annual gathering, with Europe and Japan seeking clarity from the United States on an array of issues, especially Syria. The two-day summit in Tuscany comes as the United States moves a Navy strike group near the Korean peninsular amid concerns over North Korea's nuclear ambitions, and as the West's relations with Russia struggle to overcome years of mistrust. But the civil war in Syria is likely to dominate talks, with Italy hoping for a final communique that will reinforce United Nations' efforts to end six years of conflict. The meeting will give Italy, Germany, France, Britain, Canada and Japan their first chance to grill the new U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on whether Washington is now committed to overthrowing Syrian President Bashar al Assad.
President Donald Trump had hinted he would be less interventionist than his predecessors and more willing to turn a blind eye to human rights abuses if it was in U.S. interests. Given this, the U.S. attack on Syria last week in retaliation for what it said was a chemical weapons attack by Assad's forces on Syrian civilians confounded many diplomats. However, there is uncertainty over whether Washington now wants Assad out, as many Europeans are pushing for, or whether the missile strikes were simply a warning shot. The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said at the weekend that regime change in Syria was a priority for Trump, while Tillerson said on Saturday the first priority was the defeat of Islamic State.The mixed messages have confused and frustrated European allies, who are eager for full U.S. support for a political solution based on a transfer of power in Damascus.
"The Americans say they agree, but there's nothing to show for it behind (the scenes). They are absent from this and are navigating aimlessly in the dark," said a senior European diplomat, who declined to be named.
The foreign ministers' discussions will prepare the way for a leaders' summit in Sicily at the end of May. Efforts to reach an agreement on statements and strategy ahead of time - a normal part of pre-meeting G7 diplomacy - has gone very slowly, partly because of a difficult transition at the U.S. state department, where many key positions remain unfilled. Some issues, such as trade and climate change, are likely to be ducked in Tuscany. "The more complicated subjects will be left to the leaders," said an Italian diplomat, who declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
However, the foreign ministers will talk about Libya. Italy is hoping for vocal support for a United Nations-backed government in Tripoli, that has struggled to exert its influence in the city, let alone in the rest of the violence-plagued north African country. The Trump administration has not yet defined a clear policy and Rome fears Washington may fall into step with Egypt, which supports general Khalifa Haftar, who operates in eastern Libya. The struggle against terrorism, relations with Iran and on-going instability in Ukraine will also come up for discussion, with talks due to kick off at 4.30 p.m. (1430 GMT).
Rocket Fired from Egypt Hits Israel, Crossing Shut
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 10/17/A rocket fired from Egypt's Sinai region on Monday crashed into Israel where authorities also closed a border crossing over security threats, officials said. The incident, which did not cause injuries or major damage, came only hours before the start of the week-long Jewish Passover holiday at sundown. "A projectile was launched from the Sinai peninsula and hit in the Eshkol regional council," an Israeli army statement said, referring to an area in the south of the country. "No injuries have been reported." Earlier in the day, Israel had taken the rare step of closing a major border crossing into Egypt, citing increased security threats. Israelis holidaying in the Sinai would be allowed to return but those seeking to enter through the Taba crossing would not be permitted for the next week, a statement from the prime minister's office said. Israel had already on Sunday updated its warning against travel to Sinai, citing Islamist bomb attacks on Egyptian churches the same day that killed 44 people. In February, a volley of rockets was fired from the fractious Sinai region into Israel, with the Islamic State affiliate in the Sinai claiming responsibility. It was the first time since 2015 that rockets had been fired at Israel from Egypt. IS has been waging a deadly insurgency against Egyptian security forces in the Sinai but it has rarely attempted attacks against Israel. Egypt and Jordan are the only Arab countries that have signed a peace treaty with the Jewish state.
Iran's Rouhani Defends Economic Record ahead of Election
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 10/17/Iran's President Hassan Rouhani defended his economic record in a press conference on Monday but stopped short of formally announcing his candidacy for next month's presidential election. Rouhani rejected criticism from conservatives over his economic performance, saying he had overseen measurable improvements in agriculture, health care, energy and internet coverage. He also focused on his key achievement, a nuclear deal with world powers that ended some sanctions in return for curbs on Iran's atomic programme. "In every aspect that you consider, figures tell us that after the (nuclear deal), there is more space for movement and progress," he said. Pointing to deals signed by Iranian airlines to buy planes from Airbus and Boeing, he said the some $4 billion (3.8 billion euros) that Iranians spend on tickets to fly abroad would now go to domestic carriers. Rouhani is expected to run for a second term on May 19, but said this press conference was "not about elections"."We need to wait two or three more days," he said. Hopefuls in the election have from Tuesday until Saturday evening to register their candidacy. Sitting presidents in Iran are expected to be modest about their ambitions and to refrain from using state television as a campaigning platform. The moderate cleric boasted that his government had allowed social media platforms to stay online despite objections from conservatives. "People should speak out clearly about issues that are not being handled to their satisfaction," he said. He criticised the arrests of administrators of top reformist social media channels in late March. Rouhani also slammed the United States for imposing sanctions on Iran and attacking an airbase in Syria, a key Iranian ally, following a suspected chemical attack last week. "The Syrian people and army must give a response that makes Americans regret their attack," he said. During his first month in office, US President Donald Trump imposed fresh sanctions targeting Iran's ballistic missile programme. Rouhani said America had "never acted within international frameworks". "One instance is the sanctions it has imposed on Iran, unreasonably seeing itself as the leader of the world," he said. Rouhani said Tehran was "ready to improve relations" with regional arch-rival Saudi Arabia providing Riyadh "stops its attacks on Yemen" where a Saudi-led coalition is battling Iran-backed Huthi rebels. The Sunni kingdom cut diplomatic ties with Shiite-dominated Iran early last year after its missions were attacked in Tehran and Mashhad by protestors angered at Riyadh's execution of a prominent Shiite cleric.
Kremlin Critic Navalny Released from Jail
Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny walked free on Monday after spending 15 days in jail over a rally protesting against alleged massive corruption by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. The opposition leader and anti-corruption campaigner was arrested on March 26 at the largest unauthorized demonstration of recent years in Moscow and found guilty of disobeying police orders. On Monday afternoon he was released at the appointed time, his campaign director Leonid Volkov told several dozen journalists waiting outside the detention center where he had been held in northern Moscow.
Police had moved Navalny to a different detention centre before releasing him, in an apparent attempt to avoid media coverage. "We're waiting for Alexei here but he called me and said they moved him to another police station in Konkovo (south Moscow) and released him precisely at 2:28 pm (1128 GMT) when his 15 days ran out," Volkov said. The European Parliament had urged Russia to release Navalny and the others arrested at the Moscow protest and rallies held the same day in dozens of other Russian cities. In Moscow, police in riot gear detained around 1,000 people, including a striking number of teenagers who grew up under Putin's rule. Navalny has announced he intends to stand in 2018 presidential polls that Vladimir Putin is expected to contest for a fourth term. The 40-year-old rose to fame with fiery speeches at mass protests over Putin's return to the Kremlin for a third term in 2012. He has harnessed the power of social media and YouTube to spread his message.
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44 Dead Christians: Islam’s Latest Victims
Raymond Ibrahim/FrontPage Magazine/April 10/17
Egypt’s Christians began Holy Week celebrations by being blown up today. Two Coptic Christian Orthodox churches packed with worshippers for Palm Sunday mass were attacked by Islamic suicide bombers; a total of 44 were killed and 126 wounded or mutilated.
Horrific scenes of carnage—limbs and blood splattered on altars and pews—are being reported from both churches. Twenty-seven people—initial reports indicate mostly children—were killed in St. George’s in Tanta, north Egypt. “Where is the government?” yelled an angry Christian there to AP reporters. “There is no government! There was a clear lapse in security, which must be tightened from now on to save lives.”
Less than two hours later, 17 people were killed in St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria, which—since the original church building founded by the Evangelist Mark in the first century was burned to the ground during the seventh century Muslim invasions of Egypt—has been the historic seat of Coptic Christendom. Pope Tawadros, who was present—and apparently targeted—evaded the carnage.
In death toll and severity, today’s bombings surpass what was formerly considered Egypt’s deadliest church attack: less than four months ago, on Sunday, December 11, 2016, an Islamic suicide bomber entered the St. Peter Cathedral in Cairo during mass, detonated himself and killed at least 27 worshippers—mostly women and children—and wounded nearly 70. Descriptions of scenes from that bombing are virtually identical to those coming from Egypt now: “I found bodies, many of them women, lying on the pews. It was a horrible scene. I saw a headless woman being carried away. Everyone was in a state of shock. We were scooping up people’s flesh off the floor. There were children. What have they done to deserve this? I wish I had died with them instead of seeing these scenes.”
Before the December 11 attack, the deadliest church bombing occurred on January 1, 2011. Then, while ushering in the New Year, 23 Christians were blown to bits.
The Islamic state claims both December 11’s and today’s bombings. (Because there was no “Islamic State” around in 2011, only generic “Islamics” can claim that one.) This uptick in Christian persecution is believed to be in response to a video recently released by the Islamic State in Sinai. In it, masked militants promised more attacks on the “worshipers of the cross,” a reference to the Copts of Egypt, whom they also referred to as their “favorite prey” and—in a bit of classic Muslim projection—as the “infidels who are empowering the West against Muslim nations.”
It should be remembered that for every successful church bomb attack in Egypt, there are numerous failed or “too-insignificant-to-report” ones. Thus, in the week before today’s bombings, an explosive device was found by St. George’s in Tanta and dismantled in time. Before that, another bomb was found planted at the Collège Saint Marc, an all-boys school in downtown Alexandria. Similarly, a couple of weeks before December 11’s church bombing, a man hurled an improvised explosive at another church in Samalout. Had that bomb detonated—it too was dismantled in time—casualties would likely have been very high, as the church was packed with thousands of worshippers congregating for a special holiday service. In a separate December incident, Islamic slogans and messages of hate—including “you will die Christians”—were painted on the floor of yet another church, that of the Virgin Mary in Damietta.
Today’s church bombings also follow a spate of murderous hate crimes against Christians throughout Egypt in recent weeks and month—crimes that saw Copts burned alive and slaughtered on busy streets and in broad daylight and displaced from the Sinai. In a video of these destitute Copts, one man can be heard saying “They are burning us alive! They seek to exterminate Christians altogether! Where’s the [Egyptian] military?” Another woman yells at the camera, “Tell the whole world, look—we’ve left our homes, and why? Because they kill our children, they kill our women, they kill our innocent people! Why? Our children are terrified to go to schools. Why? Why all this injustice?! Why doesn’t the president [Sisi] move and do something for us? We can’t even answer our doors without being terrified!” (Note: Donations that go directly to Egypt’s displaced Copts can be made here).
In response to today’s church bombings, President Sisi declared a three-month state of emergency, adding in a statement that such attacks will only strengthen the resolve of Egyptians against “evil forces.” For his part, President Trump tweeted that he is “so sad to hear of the terrorist attack” but that he has “great confidence” that Sisi “will handle the situation properly.”
Sisi further blamed today’s bombing on “countries and fascist, terrorist organizations that tried to control Egypt.”
But what about what’s happening right inside of Egypt? Is Sisi “handl[ing] the situation properly” there? Whether those terrorizing Coptic Christians are truly card-holding members of ISIS or are mere sympathizers, the fact is they are all homegrown in Egypt—all taught to hate “infidels” in the mosques and schools of Egypt.
Sisi himself openly acknowledged this in 2015 when he stood before Egypt’s Islamic clerics of Al Azhar and implored them to do something about how Islam is taught to Muslims. Among other things, Sisi said that the “corpus of [Islamic] texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the centuries” are “antagonizing the entire world” and that Egypt “is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost—and it is being lost by our own hands.”
Just how seriously his words were taken was revealed last November when Egypt’s highest Islamic authority and Grand Imam, Dr. Ahmed al-Tayeb—who appeared sitting in the front row during Sisi’s 2015 speech—defended Al Azhar’s reliance on that very same “corpus of [Islamic] texts and ideas … sacralized over the centuries” which many reformers are eager to see eliminated from Egypt’s curriculum because they support the most “radical” expressions of Islam—including killing apostates, burning infidels, persecuting Christians and destroying churches.
Egypt’s Grand Imam went so far as to flippantly dismiss the call to reform as quixotic at best:
When they [Sisi and reformers] say that Al Azhar must change the religious discourse, change the religious discourse, this too is, I mean, I don’t know—a new windmill that just appeared, this “change religious discourse”—what change religious discourse? Al Azhar doesn’t change religious discourse—Al Azhar proclaims the true religious discourse, which we learned from our elders.
And the law that the elders of Islam, the ulema, bequeathed to Muslims preaches hate for “infidels”—which, in Egypt, means Christians. This is Egypt’s ultimate problem, not, to quote Sisi, foreign “countries and fascist, terrorist organizations,” which are symptoms of the problem.
Anti-Shi'ite Diatribe By Egyptian Cleric: 'Filthy' Shi'ites
Annihilated Millions; Khomeini Had Sex With 5-Year-Old Girl
Egyptian cleric Muhammad Al-Zoghbi, calling the Shi'ites "criminal Rafidites," said that they annihilated four million Sunnis in Iraq and over half a million in Syria, compared to no more than 50,000 Palestinians killed by the "accursed Jews." He said that Khomeini, whom he called a "wild animal," had sex with a five-year-old girl. "These are filthy people... nothing like the Sunnis," he summed up his tirade, which aired in an Al-Rahma TV interview on February 13.
Muhammad Al-Zoghbi: "I could never imagine that any supposedly human creature could take the form of those criminal Rafidites, Allah's curses upon them all. Allah, amen!
"You may think that they are human beings, but they are not.
"Take the Jews, who have been torturing the Palestinians for 60 years of more. Let's take a look at what is going on in modern days: How many heroic monotheistic mujahideen were killed? How many Palestinian children, men, and women were killed by the accursed Jews? With all due respect, the figure cannot exceed 50,000. If you look at what has been done in just a few years by the criminal Rafidites, may Allah bring shame upon them..."
Muhammad Al-Zoghbi: "They annihilated four million Sunni monotheists in Iraq in just a few years. They have killed more than half a million in Syria, not including the displaced and the people who disappeared. Only God knows the real number.
"Take Khomeini, for example, may Allah destroy any memory of him. Once, he was staying at the home of Sayyid Saheb in Iraq, along with Sayyid Hussein Musawi. Musawi recounted that during dinner, when everybody was happy and all the family was there, a very beautiful girl, less than 5 years old, was playing with them. Khomeini said to Sayyid Saheb: 'I want to enjoy her tonight.' Get it? With the girl! Sayyid Saheb rejoiced: 'What bliss! Our master Khomeini…' May Allah destroy any memory of him. He said to Khomeini: 'No problem, she is yours tonight.' We are talking about a little girl, younger than five years old. Sayyid Hussein Musawi said: 'I could not sleep that night. The girl was screaming all night long.' The man was hurting the girl. He had sex with her while she was screaming. This was a little girl! That shows you that the man was a wild animal.
"In the morning, when Khomeini noticed Musawi's disapproval, he asked him: 'Do you think that this kind of sexual relations is forbidden? It is permitted, even with an infant girl, but in that case you can only rub against her thighs since she is unfit for sex.' I tell you, these are filthy people! They are nothing like the Sunnis."
Breaking the Palestinians' Will to Fight
Daniel /Mosaic/April 10, 2017
[Mosaic title: "The Israel-Palestinian Peace Process Has Been a Massive Charade"]
Daniel Polisar of Shalem College in Jerusalem.
Daniel Polisar of Shalem College in Jerusalem shook the debate over Palestinian-Israeli relations in November 2015 with his essay, "What Do Palestinians Want?" In it, having studied 330 polls to "understand the perspective of everyday Palestinians" toward Israel, Israelis, Jews, and the utility of violence against them, he found that Palestinian attackers are "venerated" by their society—with all that that implies.
He's done it again with "Do Palestinians Want a Two-State Solution?" This time, he pored over some 400 opinion polls of Palestinian views to find consistency among seemingly contradictory evidence on the topic of ways to resolve the conflict with Israel. From this confusing bulk, Polisar convincingly establishes that Palestinians collectively hold three related views of Israel: it has no historical or moral claim to exist, it is inherently rapacious and expansionist, and it is doomed to extinction. In combination, these attitudes explain and justify the widespread Palestinian demand for a state from "the river to the sea," the grand Palestine of their maps that erases Israel.
With this analysis, Polisar has elegantly dissected the phenomenon that I call Palestinian rejectionism. That's the policy first implemented by the monstrous mufti of Jerusalem, Amin al-Husseini, in 1921 and consistently followed over the next near-century. Rejectionism demands that Palestinians (and beyond them, Arabs and Muslims) repudiate every aspect of Zionism: deny Jewish ties to the land of Israel, fight Jewish ownership of that land, refuse to recognize Jewish political power, refuse to trade with Zionists, murder Zionists where possible, and ally with any foreign power, including Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, to eradicate Zionism.
The continuities are striking. All major Palestinian leaders--Amin al-Husseini, Ahmad al-Shukeiri, Yasir Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas, and Yahya Sinwar (the new leader of Hamas in Gaza)—have made eliminating the Zionist presence their only goal. Yes, for tactical reasons, they occasionally compromised (most notably, in the Oslo Accords of 1993), but then they reversed these exceptions as soon as possible.
In other words, the Israeli-Palestinian "peace process" that began in 1989 has been a massive charade. As Israelis earnestly debated making "painful concessions," their Palestinian counterparts issued promises they had had no intention of fulfilling, something Arafat had the gall publicly to signal to his constituency even as he signed the Oslo Accords, and many times subsequently.
So long as rejectionism runs rampant, debates about one-, two-, and three-state solutions, about carving up the Temple Mount into dual sovereign areas, or about electricity grids and water supplies, are for naught. There can be no resolution so long as most Palestinians dream of obliterating the Jewish state. Indeed, this makes negotiations counterproductive. The Oslo Accords and other signed pieces of paper have made matters much worse. The farce of negotiations, therefore, needs urgently to end.
If no more negotiations, then what? Polisar rightly recommends tackling the problem head-on with "policies that seek to reduce decisively popular Palestinian support for a maximalist state." This shift accords with what I call an Israeli strategy for victory: breaking the Palestinians' will to fight by convincing them that Jews have historic ties to the land, that Israel has a determined citizenry, a powerful economy and military, and mighty allies, even as it respects its neighbors and will be around into the distant future. Therefore, the dream of a grand Palestine is the purest fantasy.
In other words: Palestinians, the game is up. Accept the Jewish state, bargain with it, and benefit from its dynamism.
Here, happily, things are not entirely bleak. My research finds, and Polisar's confirms, that about 20 percent of Palestinians are ready to live peaceably with the Jewish state. The challenge is to increase this number to 60 percent and more, so that this group at last can wrest control of the Palestinian national movement from rejectionists.
This process will be neither easy nor pleasant, for there is no avoiding the bitter crucible of defeat. The Palestinian Authority and Hamas will violently repress readiness to accommodate Israel, making the transition all the more painful. They will not, however, manage to reverse their populations' demoralization and restiveness, or stop the movement favoring an end to hostilities. As the reality of defeat sinks in, new voices will inexorably be heard and will strengthen, calling for an end to the century-long catastrophe of rejectionism.
When Palestinians emerge from this ordeal, they will greatly benefit from throwing off the burden of anti-Zionism. Finally, they can begin to build their own polity, economy, society, and culture. Finally, they can learn from their remarkable neighbor. All will gain when this proud people turns its attention to creating the institutions of civil society and to teaching children skills rather than hatred.
Learning about drip agriculture is just one of the many ways Palestinians can benefit from Israel.
International, and especially American, support will much enhance the Israeli strategy for victory and the transition to a better future for Palestinians. May the Trump administration end the failed cycle of negotiations and instead help its "cherished ally" win its war.
*Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org, @DanielPipes) is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2017 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.
Trump, Putin and Syria… The Opportunity and the Trap
Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al Awsat/April 10/17
Vladimir Putin is a game maker and a surprise organizer. At the “KGB” school, he acquired the virtue of hiding intentions. He also learned how important weapons of disinformation could be in winning battles. Western leaders were in fact late to understand what was going on in his mind. He waited until he gathered enough strength before he struck. Barack Obama’s long term was his golden opportunity.
Putin hoped that Trump would acknowledge his triumphs from Crimea to Syria, passing by Ukraine. Some people even talked about a big deal between the two leaders. Many went to blame Trump’s victory on the head of the Kremlin.
The Russian president seemed relaxed when the winds of pragmatism blew over Washington and other capitals. The priority is to eradicate ISIS, while ousting Bashar al-Assad is no longer a concern or an obsession. The Syrian people themselves can negotiate it. During his meetings, Putin talked about a gradual solution that would keep Assad in his post until 2021.
“I am not Obama”; make no mistake in the calculations. Donald Trump was waiting for the right moment to stress what he repeatedly said during his electoral campaign and upon his victory. When his intelligence services informed him that Bashar al-Assad’s forces used Sarin gas in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, he grabbed the opportunity: he launched an attack on Syria’s Al Shayrat air base, hitting three goals: the Assad regime, Putin’s image and his US critics.
The attack labeled Assad’s regime as a regime that uses chemical weapons against its own people. America regained its role as a decision-maker on the Syrian arena. It also restored the alliance against Assad and its practices and revived the idea of the establishment of safe zones.
The attack blew up the Russian tale on the Syrian war, especially with regards to the use of chemical weapons. Stories recounted by Russia’s representative to the Security Council were no longer credible. Russia seemed to be covering practices that remind us of the woes of World War II. The attack also smashed Iran’s own version of Syria’s war: the threats of “ISIS” are not enough to explain images of torture in Khan Sheikhoun and other areas.
Also, the attack hit Americans who believed that Trump owed his victory to Putin and that he would hand over the Syrian file to Russia, under the pretext of curbing Iran’s influence on the Middle Eastern country.
It is still early to state that the US airstrike on Al Shayrat air base represents a turning point in the Syrian crisis. However, one cannot underestimate the importance of what happened. The purpose used to justify the attack makes it difficult for Trump’s administration to go back to its previous stance. The same applies to those who voiced their support to the US strike.
The story of Khan Sheikhoun has puzzled observers. Why has this particular area been attacked with this prohibited type of weapons, while the regime was achieving progress in terms of the postponement of talks on Assad’s fate? Many questions have been raised. Did the regime take advantage of its improved situation to strike a direct blow at the different opposition factions? Is it true that it has been lacking sufficient ground forces to achieve victories, and relying instead on other means despite the danger they represent? Was the attack on Khan Sheikhoun a test for Trump’s administration? Does the US response serve the interests of those who call for the continuation of war and consider any settlement as a loss? Will Iran benefit from the failure of a US-Russian agreement in Syria?
Putin will not disregard the US airstrike, but his options are limited. In 2013, he succeeded in deceiving Obama. He offered him the Syrian chemical arsenal, while practically guarantying the Regime’s safety and the withdrawal of the US Army from the Syrian war scene. Obama rejoiced in the gift, as he always saw Syria as a trap, not an opportunity.
It is clear that the US attack has poisoned the relations between Washington and Moscow. The reinstatement of America’s image as a decision-maker in Syria has rebuilt the pro-US alliance. Any US decision to arm the moderate opposition would bring worries to Putin and might turn Russia’s opportunity in Syria into a trap with unknown results. Trump’s strike has brought the Syrian regime to near isolation and distorted Russia’s image. It is still early to state that Putin has no other choice but to strengthen his alliance with Iran and engage in a long confrontation in the Middle East. This is an costly choice that the Russian economy cannot withstand. In the past few weeks, the prospect of establishing a Russian-made Syria has prevailed over other options. Putin seemed to be catching well the strings of the game. He sought to hamper efforts exerted by the moderate opposition rather than focusing on fighting ISIS and al-Nusra Front. Many went on to believe that a Russian-made Syria would be an acceptable choice.
Suddenly, the Syrian regime committed a massacre in Khan Sheikhoun and the US responded. Things have changed.
Your weak opponent is your best ally. It is most likely that Putin misses Obama’s term. The former US president was always seeking to avoid traps, which has made flaming crises an opportunity for his opponents. Putin has to rethink about his policies, because the man who is sitting in the Oval Office is seeking to become as well a game maker and a surprise organizer. What is painful is that all these horrific games are taking place on the Arab arena, which has not yet recovered from the awfulness of Syria’s Khan Sheikhoun massacre to wake up on devastating images of carnage in Tanta and Alexandria churches. Oh Lord!
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, the Dangers of Rabble-Rousing
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed//Asharq Al Awsat/April 10/17
Consecutive and brutal blows to international peace happening lately force us to address the root cause, “terrorism.” Within the limited window of 48 hours, the very same terror order managed staging untold damage by targeting people at the safety of their hometown streets and churches, not in one country, but two. The Stockholm truck attack in Sweden, followed by the two Egypt Palm Sunday bombings stand to remind us that the battle against terrorists goes beyond the borders of the their self-proclaimed states, such as the one established in the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt.
These terrorists are not only at odds with state armies, but their violence systematically targets the very social fabric of civilization.
Explosions at two Coptic Christian churches in Egypt happened on Palm Sunday, killing at least 40, including worshipers. While in Sweden, the beer truck ploughing into pedestrians proved that the threat of terrorism rises above capacities of security services when it comes to unconventional methods, like stealing a vehicle and running it into a crowd of innocent civilians.
Egypt’s attacks are far from a coincidence, given the extensive rabble-rousing campaigns led by hardline groups that not only incite acts of violence but accredits them with self-styled legitimacy.
Cairo has spared no effort in raising awareness on demagogues being just as much a partner in terror as the perpetrators themselves.
Clouds of global anger have been massing against religious fanatics and fundamentalist rhetoric, which should signal to groups, such as Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, that they have become a target not only to the governments they are at odds with, but also a larger number of states, institutions and civil groups.
In the past, ultra-conservative groups’ violence was justified on the premise of animosity with local political systems. These groups have also long directed blame towards the Salafist school of Islam – a sect at which they are at odds with – was responsible for terrorism. But these poor justifications wavered away in time. Political differences do not excuse coercive proselytizing and murder. More so, the fault in scapegoating religious schools for terrorist actions –clearly-driven by political agendas– has also been exposed.
The Muslim brotherhood today undergoes a major crisis in achieving its goals. Based on that, it has resorted to anarchism as a mean to reestablishing. Brotherhood hardliners did not waste the openings found in light of the turbulence which accompanied the Arab Spring riots.
But after failing to do so, the group took another route and advocated itself as key for peace, trying to convince the world that its self-tailored pan-Islamist approach is the source of stability.
Such global extortion is no longer tolerable, especially with the former United States administration being replaced with a fiercer anti-extremist administration under President Donald Trump.
On the other hand, we have the opportunists, the wave riders, exploiting Gulf-Gulf differences to advance personal agendas. Those too must take caution—the world has reached an extremely sensitive and dangerous stage. Terrorism has become an international issue, and whether involved directly or indirectly all will be held accountable.
Later on, the brotherhood sought to level out the playing field by putting the region’s security at stake. But for a number of years their promiscuous goals had no avail.
Its incitement has been made futile, the brotherhood could not even establish state dominance either-one of its rudimentary aims – and above all has failed to secure a place among key players in the regional arena.
After repeated bombings in Egypt, disagreements with regional countries, and international warnings against programs affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, it appears that the brotherhood’s agenda has become detrimental to its very own self, followers and governments embracing the group. It could be said that the group is well on the verge of becoming an international target.
Trump Must Designate Muslim Brotherhood to Defeat Radical Islam
Clifford Smith/National Review Online/Posed on April 6, 2017
Originally published under the title "Sisi, Trump, and the Politics of Designating the Muslim Brotherhood."
President Trump must designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization to win the fight against radical Islam.
Hopes that the Trump administration will designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization have hit rough waters, with anonymous officials citing concerns about diplomatic blowback and frayed relationships with Muslims at home and abroad. The leaks came on the eve of a historic visit to Washington by Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, a key Arab ally and devoted Muslim who is locked in a life-or-death struggle with the Brotherhood.
The irony is hard to miss, particularly given that Egypt and several other Arab countries have already designated the Brotherhood a terrorist organization.
Whatever the truth behind the leaks, they underscore that the inside-the-Beltway conventional wisdom — that the Brotherhood is "moderate" and so popular that designation would be seen as "a declaration of war against . . . Islam itself" — will not die as easily as many hoped.
This thinking is rooted in a failure to understand the difference between Islamists — a sizable but distinct minority of Muslims who adhere to a radical utopian ideology — and the majority of Muslims, among whom are found friends and allies. President el-Sisi, who has publicly called out extremism to clerics in Egypt, understands this. After all, Egypt is not the only state in which the Brotherhood engaged in attempts to kill its way to power. It did the same in Syria in the early 1980s.
Despite the Brotherhood's long history of bloodshed, claims that it is "moderate," or opposes violence, are still prominent. While above-ground Brotherhood organizations use peaceful means when effective, they are "prepared to countenance violence . . . where gradualism is ineffective," as a 2015 report by the British government noted with significant understatement.
Claims that designation will complicate U.S. relationships with certain Arab allies are overblown.
Claims that designation will complicate U.S. relationships with certain Arab allies are overblown. While it is true that some allies, such as Jordan, have Muslim Brotherhood–affiliated parties represented in their parliaments, this is easy enough to finesse. Members of Hezbollah, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, have long served in Lebanon's parliament, but American diplomats manage to avoid contact with them and still do business with the Lebanese.
Moreover, failure to designate the Brotherhood complicates some alliances. The Egyptian public has grown deeply suspicious of the U.S. government precisely because under Obama the U.S. came to be seen as overly sympathetic to the Brotherhood. When Senator Ted Cruz introduced the Muslim Brotherhood Terror Designation Act, many Egyptians saw it as a sign the U.S. may be waking from its long slumber. A tweet introducing the bill was the subject of a segment by popular Egyptian talk-show host Amr Adib and was retweeted 17,000+ times.
Domestically, in the wake of Trump's admittedly troubling comments suggesting a "Muslim ban" during his presidential campaign last year, some fear that designation will fuel anti-Muslim bigotry and pave the way for "a legal assault on the institutions of American Muslim life." After all, several organizations claiming to represent U.S. Muslims, particularly the Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR), have deep Muslim Brotherhood ties.
Groups like CAIR aren't 'institutions of American Muslim life' - they're just pretending to be.
But groups such as CAIR are hardly "institutions of American Muslim life" — they're just pretending to be. A 2011 Gallup poll found support for CAIR among U.S. Muslims to be just under 12 percent. Britain's inquiry into the Brotherhood found that its activists in the U.K. "appear to be unable to generate any grassroots support."
Frankly, however, if public support for CAIR were higher, that would be all the more reason to be concerned. Notwithstanding its carefully crafted public image, CAIR was named an unindicted co-conspirator in the 2007–09 Holy Land Foundation terror-finance case, and was blacklisted by the FBI as a result. Unfortunately, the Obama administration failed to aggressively continue an FBI investigation into CAIR after it conspired to fund terrorist-designated organization Hamas, the Palestinian wing of the Muslim Brotherhood. Indeed, the United Arab Emirates has declared CAIR itself a terrorist organization.
Trump's rhetorical excesses cannot be understood without recalling the Obama administration's refusal to name the problem. Using euphemisms such as "violent extremism" and feigning puzzlement as to the motives of obvious jihadists made the administration's rhetoric concerning terrorism a national joke. In both the U.S. and Europe, when elites insist that voters must believe them, rather than their own "lying eyes," the voters turn sharply in the opposite direction.
Trump should follow up designating the Brotherhood by forming a commission on radical Islam.
The cure for Trump's rhetorical excesses is increased security, not denial.
Trump laid out a number of smart proposals on radical Islam during his campaign. His administration should now use President el-Sisi's visit to move forward with these ideas.
In particular, it should follow up designation of the Brotherhood with the formation of a congressionally authorized commission on radical Islam tasked with developing a strategy for winning the war against Islamic extremists and explaining the threat of Islamism to the American people. Both are badly needed. Wrongheaded conventional wisdom won't keep Americans, or our Muslim allies, safe.
**Clifford Smith is director of the Middle East Forum's Washington Project.
Canada's Coptic Christian community reels from twin church bombings in Egypt
Shanifa Nasser, CBC News Posted: Apr 10/17
Coptic Christians in Canada were thinking about the victims of two bombings in Egypt on Palm Sunday that killed 44 people.
Father John Boutros's family could see the explosion in their rearview mirror as they drove home from Palm Sunday service at Saint Mark's Cathedral in the coastal city of Alexandria, Egypt.
It was the second of two bombings that ripped through Egypt as worshippers marked the day Christians believe Jesus entered Jerusalem, leaving at least 44 dead and injuring another 100 others, according to officials. The first hit Saint George church in the city of Tanta in the Holy Week leading up to Easter and ahead of a visit by Pope Francis.
A world away at the St. Moses and St. Katherine Coptic Church in Toronto, news of the attack — for which ISIS claimed responsibility — was trickling in, with worshippers frantically trying to find out of any of their family or friends were affected.
"Everyone was asking everyone else, 'Do you know anybody that was affected by the bombings? Do you have any family that was affected by the blasts?'" Boutros said.
'This is personal'
It's a reality all too familiar for the community. In December a bombing at at Egypt's main Coptic Christian cathedral claimed 25 lives. In that bombing, a widowed mother who was friends with Boutros's family lost almost all of her immediate family, including two young women.
"This is not just news for us," Boutros said, recalling the tragedy. "This is personal."
At Father John Boutros's church, in Toronto's Bloor and Bathurst streets area, the usual white vestments have been put away in place of black ones in mourning. (Submitted by: John Boutros)
Those young women were the cousins of the wife of Dr. Sherif Emil, a member of Montreal's Coptic community. For Emil, news of Sunday's attack, while tragic, was no shock. "It's no surprise that this happened today to intimidate people from both participating and exercising their faith and shedding gloom on what's the happiest day of the year for millions of people there," Emil said. Boutros, who was born in Egypt and has lived most of his life in Canada, says the tragedy brings a troubling start to Holy Week.
The attack's timing, ahead of what Christians hold to be the final week of Jesus's life and ministry, is something Boutros says is especially poignant.
The Palm Sunday service, he said, traditionally ends with a funeral prayer — something that took on new meaning on a day when so many were killed while worshipping.
"It's joy interspersed with sadness, knowing that these people were being true to their faith and they're in a better place. We believe that they are in the kingdom of heaven with God, in paradise."
'God can make something good out of anything'
In Toronto, Boutros said, worshippers who would normally write their prayers on pieces of paper to send up to the altar, were mentioning the terror attacks not only in Egypt, but also in Syria, Somalia and elsewhere in the world.
"In a certain sense, there is some good that comes out of this," Boutros said. "God can make something good out of anything — in a certain way it couldn't have happened at a worse time and it couldn't have happened at a better time."
That feeling was echoed in the official statement from the patriarch in Egypt, which bid a farewell to what it called "martyrs," celebrating the life of Jesus believed to have promised "love and peace to all human beings."
"But now, with all the Church, they are offering their prayers to the Just Judge who sees, hears and writes a book of remembrance," the statement said.
At Boutros' church, in Toronto's Bloor and Bathurst streets area, the usual white vestments have been put away. Black flags of mourning will be hung in place of the white ones normally used to declare Jesus's resurrection.
"All of our churches have reverted to solemn tunes and all of our festive apparel that we use for Palm Sunday has been put away and will only come back out again for Easter time," he said.
"If I wear any vestments at all, I'll wear black or deep dark blue ones."
'Send peace into their hearts'
And for other Christians marking Palm Sunday in Toronto, Egypt was on the minds of many. "It's very sad," said Alisha Arif at an event at Queen's Park. "They should have the right to praise the Lord. Everyone should have their own freedom."
In a statement, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned Sunday's attacks, calling on the international community to "stand united in our efforts to stop those responsible and to fight against hate by embracing values of diversity, inclusion and peace."
About a hundred Christians gathered in front of Queen's Park in Toronto with palm branches in hand to mark Palm Sunday, and many had the victims of Egypt's twin bombings on their minds. (CBC)
Pastor Praskah Masih, who was also at Queen's Park, shared the sentiment of the attack's timing. "It happened on a very special day," he said, adding that the message to those behind the attacks is precisely the one Jesus is believed to have brought.
"It is the same as was from the cross, because Jesus said to those who persecuted him and crucified him, 'Father, forgive them because they know not what they are doing,' so that's the same message we want to say to them… 'Send peace into their hearts.'"
Blood brotherhood’ between Iran and Syria
Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/April 10/17
“We are blood brothers with Iran.” This is what the Baathist Syrian foreign minister said after decades of making statements on his nation’s legacy and on a one-Arab nation carrying a mortal message. After making all these noises about national unity and Arab revival, the Syrian regime allowed Iranian forces into its territories and forced Lebanon to be occupied and controlled by Iran. The Syrian regime has been fighting the entire Arab world and planting terror cells. At the same time, it wants societies to believe its lies about national revival and unifying legacies. Unspeakable acts of crime committed since the reign of late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, deposed Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and other such leaders, suggest that these regimes have caused negative influences on Arab societies
Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Mouallem said no one can break or upset this blood brotherhood with Iran. Unspeakable acts of crime committed since the reign of late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, deposed Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and other such leaders, suggest that these regimes have caused negative influences on Arab societies. They show that stable regimes and monarchies are the most capable when it comes to respecting people and safeguarding their interests and the most competent in terms of respecting human rights.
Who benefits from murdering Egypt’s Copts?
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/April 10/17
ISIS Qutbist - ie in reference to Sayyid Qutb - criminals targeted churches in Alexandria and Tanta on Palm Sunday. The blasts were carried out by suicide bombers, using explosive devices, killing at least 40 people and wounding dozens more. Among those killed were a police brigadier-general who clashed with the suicide bomber in Alexandria and an Egyptian policewoman. The latter is thus the first Egyptian female “hero” to fall victim in this war against terrorism. The attacks’ outcomes could have been far worse and more disastrous as the Coptic Pope was inside the Alexandria church; fortunately, he was not harmed.
The terrorists of Sinai, ISIS and Al-Qaeda and vengeful Brotherhood groups are keen to harm Egypt’s security, in particular its soldiers, policemen, judicial figures and Copts. Egypt is in a state of open war with Islamized terrorist groups. Anyone with eyes can clearly see this. Solidarity with Egypt is a duty which no one must be hesitant about. The malicious attack comes before the Catholic Church’s Pope Francis’ visit to Egypt which is scheduled for the end of April. Egypt is in a state of open war with Islamized terrorist groups. Anyone with eyes can clearly see this. Solidarity with Egypt is a duty which no one must be hesitant about. This is why Saudi Arabia beginning with its highest command King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said the kingdom stands with Egypt against these malicious people. Like Saudi Arabia, the other Gulf countries have also voiced their support. What was also important was American President Donald Trump’s stance as he spoke about his trust in Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi’s capability to resolve this “difficult” situation.
What is interesting is the extent of rivalry some have towards the Egyptian government. Some groups tried to exploit the recent attacks to serve their political aims. Cleric Doctor Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Brotherhood’s symbol, said on Twitter: “Throughout its entire history, Egypt has only witnessed explosions that target a group of people during eras of tyranny.” He later tried to delete this tweet but it was too late. Qaradawi’s statement is a historical fallacy which is the result of passionate political beliefs.
Developments related to sectarian strife in Egypt are not the result of today’s policies or due to “tyranny” as Qaradawi put it. I won’t talk about the events of Al-Khankah in 1972, or Az-Zawiya Al-Hamra in 1981 or the Kosheh incident in 1999 or the 2011 bombing of the Saints’ Church in Alexandria. The latter explosion happened before the January 2011 revolution and back then, “revolutionaries,” and of course the Brotherhood mouthpieces, accused the Egyptian interior ministry of orchestrating the attack. Can you imagine this. And why would the ministry do that? “To distract” the Egyptian people.
After the so-called January revolution, the Maspero and Atfih events happened and all of them were due to sectarian tensions. However, what’s more important is what happened in July 2013 when Brotherhood President Mohammed Mursi was ousted and when Brotherhood armed gatherings were dispersed. At the time, Human Rights Watch said around 42 churches and Christian property were looted and held extremist Islamists responsible. There are strenuous efforts to create “security” and civil strife in Egypt during this phase. The question is: Who benefits from that?
US fed rate hikes: Gains and losses for Gulf countries
Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/April 10/17
It is not often that countries and businesses are forewarned with near certainty on where interest rates and hence borrowing costs are heading. This is precisely what is now happening following the rise in the Federal Reserve interest rate by 0.25 per cent in March, the third time in a decade, with at least two to three more hikes forecasted along the way this year, adding another 0.75 to 1.0 percent. These rate increases brings both losses and gains to the Gulf countries. On one hand, this should provide Gulf businesses with enough early warning to get their finances and borrowing requirements in order so as to better mange higher borrowing rates and whether to pass on costs to consumers in a more competitive economic environment. For GCC countries like Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain, in the process or planning to raise new or additional international loans, whether traditional bonds or Islamic sukuks, their borrowing costs and hence national debt burden is going to increase. The latest Saudi Aramco SR 10 billion sukuk issue was priced at 25 basis points above the Saudi SAIBOR rate.
It is not that the rate path is pre-set, it is just that all signals from the Federal Reserve is for a pretty aggressive quickening in pace from one to four rate hikes in a single year based on a stronger, and hence higher inflationary outlook for the US economy. On the positive side, a higher valued US dollar will reduce Gulf countries import bill, easing on foreign exchange reserve outflow.
It seems that the earlier caution of the Federal Reserve Bank and its Chair Janet Yellen has been thrown aside and gone is the almost glacial, risk-averse, once a year hikes of 2015 and 2016, replaced by the higher probability for three hikes this year and bringing to an end the near zero interest rates environment seen over the past few years. These expected rate increases are not greeted universally with dismay though, much to the relief of savers who have seen their real income decline. It is not only the Gulf countries that face possible long term negative effects of these planned US rate hikes but many developing countries who are struggling with steep rises in their debt payments after being hit by a double whammy of lower commodity prices and a stronger dollar
The reaction to the rate hike and those in the planning stage has been surprising. Higher yields look to have done little to no damage, the dollar has held fairly steady, and the US stock market has soared, all of which should support aggregate demand for more growth, although the uncertainty following President Trump’s failure to muster all the Republican congress and Senate members to support his repeal of the Obamacare program has caused market uncertainty.
There could be another reason for the Federal Reserve Bank’s pre-emptive rate hikes this year. The idea is to avoid the risk of needing to raise rates too rapidly, perhaps next year when the full effects of a stimulative tax and fiscal policy are stoking demand in an economy already at maximum employment and very near mandate-consistent inflation.
The failure to pass the new Trump Medicare program will also put into doubt some of these fiscal reform measures, affecting the pace of new rate hikes. International populist political fallout is also another consideration A March interest rate move, for one, certainly resolves the potential dilemma over a May move bracketed by the first and second rounds of the French elections.
In the Gulf, the March rate hike by the US Federal Reserve has triggered similar rates by several GCC Central Banks given that their currencies are tied to the US dollar. The Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) raised the reverse repurchase rate from 75 basis points to 100 basis points with immediate effect, while the UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain also hiked key policy rates by 25 basis points, following the Fed rate hike.
Gulf commercial banks followed suit and hiked their lending rates with those on floating term rates hardest hit, but those who prudently took out long-term fixed loan rates better shielded, unless the banks have the right to adjust rates under fixed loan agreements granting banks this discretion.
It is not only the Gulf countries that face possible long term negative effects of these planned US rate hikes but many developing countries who are struggling with steep rises in their debt payments after being hit by a double whammy of lower commodity prices and a stronger dollar, with more pain to come. Some of the world’s poorest countries have seen the cost of repaying their debts – as a proportion of government revenue – hit the highest level for a decade.
Government revenues have been depleted by lower commodity exports, especially for countries with floating exchange rates. For commodity producers in the Gulf, dependent on oil revenues but having their currencies linked to the US dollar, the effect has been the opposite as they have benefitted from lower import prices due to the stronger dollar, although they now face higher debt repayments. The size of dollar-denominated debts has risen as the US currency has strengthened. The dollar has risen more than 6 percent against a basket of other big currencies over the past six months as investors anticipate that big spending plans by President Donald Trump will boost US growth. This would further increase the cost of debt payments for poor countries, which have taken out big loans in recent years from western countries where interest rates have been low.
The rising cost of debt payments will put developing countries under extra strain just when they need to be spending more money at home to meet the UN sustainable development targets – a series of goals for human development intended to be achieved by 2030. Countries with the highest debt payments in 2016 included commodity producers such as Ghana, Mozambique, Angola, Laos and Chad as well as countries on the frontline of refugee flows from Syria, including Lebanon and Jordan. Pressure on these countries will only add to the migrant and refugee flow and continued domestic turmoil. The consequences of further US interest rate hikes are indeed far reaching.
Redrafting the curricula for Islamic studies
Samar Fatany/Al Arabiya/April 10/17
In order to develop society culturally, educationists today are on a mission to change the rigid mindset that rejects anything that is foreign and refuses to adopt a moderate Islamic approach toward a progressive society.
Qassim University recently announced that it will redraft its Islamic studies curriculum to emphasize the moderate tone of Islam and ensure ethical, intellectual and religious balance. The curriculum will include courses to build character, develop critical thinking and improve intellectual skills. Producing graduates with well-rounded personalities who are well versed in Islamic studies can offer solutions from an Islamic point of view to help young people deal with modern-day issues and confront the challenges facing the Kingdom today. Qassim University Prof. Abdulrahman Al-Dawid said that Saudi students need proper guidance and education that are in sync with their generation and time. The main objective of the redrafting project is to provide the youth with intellectual immunity against intrusive and radical ideologies that stand against the values of Saudi society and its Islamic principles. The university will consult all people who are qualified to contribute to the project, Al-Dawid said.
In line with Saudi Vision 2030 and addressing the alarming threat of terrorism, seeking academic cooperation with reputable academic institutions is critical to promote a high standard of education that can counter the intolerance that has led to extremism, violence and conflict.
Many young Muslims have become disappointed at the hardline position of Islamic scholars who have failed to provide guidance to the troubled Muslim world. The Qassim University initiative can promote moderate scholars trained in Islamic law to develop a more tolerant curriculum introducing interpretations focusing on spirituality rather than religiosity.
Unfortunately, our academic institutions in the past did not monitor militant literature and did not teach the concept of moderation in Islam and did not emphasize the importance of respecting all human beings regardless of their religion or race. As a result, the distorted interpretations of Islamic texts allowed fanaticism to spread. Meanwhile, many members of our society remained passive and did little to stop the extremists that have gained influence in almost every academic institution. The Qassim University academic project can include global thinkers and scholars to work on building bridges of understanding to promote global coexistence and influence positive change in the region and the Muslim world at large. Revamping academic structure and reassessing strategies are necessary steps to promote quality, efficiency and the internationalization of the educational system. The development of an advanced Islamic studies curricula can be achieved with more focus on key core skills, nurturing spiritual values and by strengthening the role of moderate teachers of Islamic studies who focus more on the Holy Qur’an’s emphasis on the ethics of redressing injustice in economic and social life. Muslims are urged to spend of their wealth and substance on family, orphans and the needy. The Qur’anic revelation is based on a clear distinction between right and wrong.
The basis of the divine command is establishing a moral order through human endeavor.
Students need to understand the divine message of Prophet Muhammad, which is a mercy for humankind, and learn about the teachings of good behavior and compassion. Prophet Muhammad was the living example of what a Muslim should be. He preached the values of justice and peace, to wish for others what you wish for yourself, and not to do harm to others. The Islamic studies curriculum should instill in students the idea of using the example of the prophets to tackle the religious turmoil we are witnessing in the region. The threatening events that unfolded after 9/11, mainly the spread of extremism and terrorism, the sectarian divide, Islamophobia and the chaos and wars surrounding the Kingdom, have tested Saudi Arabia’s resolve as a stabilizing factor in Middle Eastern politics. Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman stated during his recent visit to Malaysia that campaigns against Islam were aimed at undermining its moderation and tolerance, stressing the importance of introducing the approach of Islam, which calls for tolerance, moderation and combating extremism and terrorism in all its forms.
The new curricula should promote research and serious discussion. It remains imperative that Muslims enhance the quality of Islamic education to produce more leaders who can be effective in fighting sectarianism, and the distorted ideology of ISIS and other terrorist organizations that use religion to gain power and control. Academic institutions today have a responsibility to produce scholars who combine sound religious learning, practical knowledge of the contemporary world and high linguistic proficiency that will enable them to communicate Islam’s teachings to all Muslims and the rest of the world
The Qassim University project to redraft its Islamic studies curriculum is a significant development that needs professional academic support to provide quality Islamic studies education. The initiative has the potential to encourage our youth to live a fruitful and successful contemporary life while embodying their religion’s core spiritual teachings.
Did Iran just violate the Chemical Weapons Convention?
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/ArabNews/April 10/17
Both Iran and Syria are signatories of the international treaty, the Chemical Weapons Convention. The use of chemical and biological weapons in war was banned after World War I through the 1925 Geneva Protocol. Subsequently the Chemical Weapons treaty went into effect in 1997.
International attention has been directed toward the Syrian government for the use of chemical weapons against innocent people. Nevertheless, the critical role that Assad’s staunchest ally and bedfellow, the Islamic Republic of Iran, has played in these attacks should not be overlooked.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pointed to Iran’s “moral responsibility” in Syria’s chemical weapons attacks. He stated that “while we continue to monitor the terrible situation, it is clear that this is how Bashar Assad operates: With brutal, unabashed barbarism … Those who defend and support him, including Russia and Iran, should have no illusions about Assad or his intentions. Anyone who uses chemical weapons to attack his own people shows a fundamental disregard for human decency and must be held accountable.”
Nevertheless, I would argue that the Islamic Republic appears to bear more than just moral responsibility in the latest chemical weapon attacks. From a legal stand point, there exist robust grounds to legally hold the Iranian government — specifically Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and its elite branch Quds Force, which operate in foreign territories to advance Iran’s revolutionary principles — accountable and responsible.
Iran government’s responsibility
There are two key issues to address. The first is linked to the parameters of the Chemical Weapons Convention, and second is related to the scope of Iran’s involvement in Syria’s war and military actions. It is crucial to point out that Iran does not deny its military involvement in Syria.
The Chemical Weapons Convention prohibits the following:
• Developing, producing, acquiring, stockpiling, or retaining chemical weapons.
• The direct or indirect transfer of chemical weapons.
• Chemical weapons use or military preparation for use.
• Assisting, encouraging, or inducing other states to engage in CWC-prohibited activity.
• The use of riot control agents “as a method of warfare.
It goes without saying that if it was not for Iran’s military, financial, intelligence and advisory assistance to the Syrian government’s apparatuses, Assad’s Alawite state would have not survived.
In addition, it worth noting that Iran’s Quds Force, under the leadership of Qassem Soleimani, has infiltrated Syrian military and security infrastructures in such a manner that it has significant control of Syria’s political establishment. Iran’s military generals make major decisions in Syria battlefields. Iran also hires and deploys proxies as well as Shiite fighters from other countries to fight in Syria. Taking all this hard evidence into account, it is hard to believe that Iran is not involved in every tactical, strategic, and militaristic move that Assad’s forces make.
Iran’s Quds Force, under the leadership of Qassem Soleimani, has infiltrated Syrian military and security infrastructures in such a manner that it has significant control of Syria’s political establishment. it is hard to believe that Iran is not involved in every tactical, strategic and militaristic move that Assad’s forces make.
When it comes to the Chemical Weapons Convention, it prohibits the Syrian government from “developing, producing, acquiring, stockpiling, or retaining chemical weapons.” In the midst of war, it is questionable whether the Syrian government will have the capabilities of producing chemical weapons without the technological and military assistance of it closest ally, Iran. Even if we assume that the Syrian government has the capability of developing its own chemical weapons, it would be impossible for the Syrian government to “stockpile” and “retain” these weapons without assistance from Iran’s military force. Likewise, “direct or indirect transfer” of these chemical weapons would more likely require protection from Iran’s military.
Furthermore, the Chemical Weapons Convention prohibits any state from “assisting, encouraging, or inducing other states to engage in CWC-prohibited activity.” In addition, the Syrian government is not even supposed to possess chemical weapons due to a 2014 agreement as well as the Chemical Weapons Convention. But this is not the first time that chemical weapons have been employed in Syria against innocent children, women, and men. Despite that, Iran has continued to support and encourage Assad by all means.
Tillerson also called upon Russia and Iran to “exercise their influence over the Syrian regime and to guarantee that this sort of horrific attack never happens again.”
But Iran will never use its influence to stop Assad from using these types of brutal military tactics. The major purpose of these attacks is not only to kill people but also to impose tremendous shock and fear among them and the opposition. Since 2011, when Syria’s war erupted, no amount of brutal acts by Assad has stopped the Iranian government from full heartedly supporting Assad’s Alawite state. In fact, Tehran’s financial, military, intelligence and advisory assistance have significantly increased.
Finally, based on the nuances of the Chemical Weapons Convention, there exist robust grounds to hold the Iranian government and leaders accountable for Syria’s Chemical Weapons attacks; and to bring those Iranian leaders and generals to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Many people including Syrian human rights activists have long called on the UN to bring Iran to justice for other crimes and atrocities as well, such as killing of civilians through militias or the IRGC. Nevertheless, no actions have been taken.
Other methods to pressure Iran include to imposing sanctions on the Quds Force and the IRGC, which are publicly and blatantly assisting Assad’s forces in every endeavor.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated, Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. He serves on the boards of the Harvard International Review, the Harvard International Relations Council and the US-Middle East Chamber for Commerce and Business. He can be reached on Twitter @Dr_Rafizadeh.