April 15/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
The Holy Saturday/Pilate said to them, ‘You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.’So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 27/62-66/:"The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, ‘Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, "After three days I will rise again."Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, "He has been raised from the dead", and the last deception would be worse than the first.’Pilate said to them, ‘You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.’So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone."

We also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us
Letter to the Romans 05/01-11/:"Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 14-15/17
Withdrawing ‘Lebanese Forces’ from Syria/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/April 14/17
Why Christians Are Being Slaughtered in Egypt/Raymond Ibrahim/PJ Media/April 14/17
Turkey's Vainglorious Referendum/Daniel Pipes/Wall Street Journal (webarchive)/April 14, 2017
Sharia Councils and Sexual Abuse in Britain/Khadija Khan/Gatestone Institute/April 14, 2017
Putin Cautions Iran and Assad/Tariq Alhomayed/Asharq Al-Awsat/April15/17
Working with Assad, but to Do What/Amir Taheri/Asharq Al-Awsat/April15/17/
White House to Call Out Russia’s Fake News on Syria/Eli Lake/Bloomberg View/April15/17/
Assad remains disastrous, with or without chemical weapons/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/April 14/17
The contribution of female Muslim scholars in Islamic history/Suhaila Zain Al-Abideen/Al Arabiya/April 14/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published on April 14-15/17
Ain el-Hilweh Picks up the Pieces after Latest Round of Clashes
US Congress Delegation in Beirut to Bolster Security Cooperation
Withdrawing ‘Lebanese Forces’ from Syria
Al-Rahi Says Won't Tolerate Extension, Urges Electoral Law that Preserves Everyone
Berri: Outcome of Negotiations on Electoral Law to be Reaped Mid May
Report: Voting System Talks Making Headway Amid PSP, LF Rejection
MP Aoun Says Parties Reached Near Agreement on Electoral Law
Ezzedine: Delay in adopting electoral law a sin against country, stability
Easter message by Patriarchs John X and Aphrem II calling for peace
Dabbour, Ibrahim discuss conditions in Palestinian camps, confirm that situation is stable
Sit-in by families of Abra detainees, demanding amnesty for their sons
Islamic detainees' families stage demonstration in Tripoli

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 14-15/17
US Assessing 'Military Options' as North Korea Test Looms
N. Korean army vows 'merciless' response to US provocation: KCNA
Conflict can break out on Korean Peninsula any moment: China
Assad's Comments on Chemical Attack are '100% Lies', Says French FM
Buses Evacuate Hundreds from Four Besieged Syria Towns
US sanctions Tehran’s prison system over human rights violations
Canada adds Syrian officials to sanctions list
US defense chief to visit Saudi Arabia, Egypt next week
Iranian President Rouhani registers to run in May for second term
Russia slams watchdog probe of alleged Syria chemical attack
Turkey detains ISIS suspects over planned attacks
ISIS Mufti killed by air strike in western Mosul
Residents, fighters evacuate from four besieged Syria towns
Second church bomber identified in Egypt following Sisi pledge
Lavrov: Russia, US agree US strikes on Syria should not be repeated
Assiri: We will not allow Houthis to become Hezbollah of Yemen
Yemeni forces seize strategical mountains from Houthi militias
Yemen’s Houthis appoint new Mufti educated in Iran
Israeli stabbed in Jerusalem, attacker arrested: police

Links From Jihad Watch Site for April 14-15/17
Detroit: Muslim physician charged with practicing female genital mutilation
UK: Jihad drone attack fears led soccer bosses to call for closure of stadium roof
Chechnya: Muslim clerics call for “retribution” against journalists who revealed persecution of gays
Trump bringing in Syrian refugees at more than twice the rate Obama did
Passover in Israel: Muslim stabs British student to death on Jerusalem train
Pakistan: Muslim mob screaming “Allahu akbar” lynches student for “blasphemy”
Leftist group laments Trump’s MOAB bombing of “marginalized” Islamic State jihadis
Merkel confesses: “There is no doubt some asylum seekers are terrorists”
Murder Americans Abroad: You Will Be Hunted by the FBI
Georgetown’s Jonathan Brown Kicks Out Critic, Again
Truman State University: Robert Spencer Set to Speak, Left-Fascists Call for Violence
Australia: Islamic group produces video calling wife-beating “a beautiful blessing”

Links From Christian Today Site on April 14-15/17
I forgive you': Widow of guard who died protecting Coptic Pope in Egypt's Palm Sunday bombings addresses his killer
US 'mother of all bombs' killed 36 ISIS militants in Afghanistan
Politicians who do God: How do Trump, May, Merkel and Blair square their public lives and private faith?
Young British woan stabbed to death in Jerusalem in Good Friday attack
China says North Korea tension must be stopped from reaching 'irreversible' stage amid fears of nuclear test
Egyptian Coptic priest delivers inspiring Christian message to bombers: 'Thank you, we are praying for you'
US 'mother of all bombs' killed 36 ISIS militants in Afghanistan
Archbishop of Canterbury: 'Have we lost our national nerve?'
Security stepped up at churches in Egypt as Easter approaches

Latest Lebanese Related News published on April 14-15/17
Ain el-Hilweh Picks up the Pieces after Latest Round of Clashes
Paula AstihAsharq Al-Awsat/April15/17/
Beirut – Residents of the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain el-Hilweh began picking up the pieces following the latest round of armed clashes in the volatile camp in southern Lebanon. Palestinian leaders vowed that they would break up the Bilal Badr armed Islamist group involved in clashes with security forces inside the camp. At least seven people have been killed since Friday as combatants exchanged machine gun, rocket and mortar fire in the crowded camp near the coastal city of Sidon. A ceasefire was announced after the five days of unrest. The latest settlement between the Islamist factions, Fatah movement and Hamas militant group has created differences within the movement as some of its members have pushed for continuing the fighting until Badr is arrested, while others advocated the ceasefire. The clashes initially erupted after the security force sought to deploy throughout the camp and met resistance from the Badr group. Commander of Palestinian National Security Sobh Abou Arab told Asharq Al-Awsat that the military command had received a political order to halt the fighting, saying that it has committed to it. He described the situation in the camp as “good” in wake of the ceasefire. “Bilal Badr has escaped like a rat and has been completely removed from the equation,” he added. The Lebanese army has meanwhile intensified its security measures around Ain el-Hilweh and throughout Sidon. Army Commander Joseph Aoun declared that the measures are aimed at “protecting civilians and preventing the infiltration of outlaws.”
He vowed that the army “will strike back with force” against any attack on the military or residential areas near the camp. Lebanon’s Palestinian camps, which date back to the 1948 war between Israel and its Arab neighbors, mainly fall outside the jurisdiction of Lebanese security services. There are some 450,000 Palestinian refugees living in 12 camps in Lebanon. The residents of Ain el-Hilweh on Thursday began to remove the rubble from the latest round of fighting that has heavily damaged the area. Sources on the ground told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Dozens of residents are demanding that a state of ‘relief emergency’ be declared.”

US Congress Delegation in Beirut to Bolster Security Cooperation
Asharq Al-Awsat/April15/17/Beirut – A delegation from the US Congress visited Beirut on Wednesday and discussed with Lebanese officials US aid to the country. Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri met with the delegation at the Grand Serail, where talks focused on several issues, including US aid to the Lebanese security apparatuses.Headed by US Republican Congressman Harold Rogers, the delegation comprised six congressmen. A statement by the US embassy in Beirut said: “Representative Harold Rogers (R-KY) led a delegation of six Congressmen including Representatives David Price (D-NC), Ken Calvert (R-CA), Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN), David Joyce (R-OH), and Evan Jenkins (R-WV) to visit Lebanon on April 12.”“The delegation met with Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Lebanese Armed Forces Commander Joseph Aoun during their visit and discussed the close relationship and security cooperation between the United States and Lebanon,” the statement added. The statement also said that the delegation’s visit underscored Washington’s support for Lebanon, the Lebanese Armed Forces, and Lebanon’s legitimate security institutions. Hariri met the delegation in the presence of the US Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth Richard, the premier’s media office said in a statement. Discussions touched on the developments in Lebanon and the region, as well as the issue of American aid to the Lebanese army and security forces. According to the statement, the meeting reaffirmed the US continued support for Lebanon, the army and security apparatuses.

Withdrawing ‘Lebanese Forces’ from Syria
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/April 14/17
It is ironic how roles have been reversed in Syria whereby the conflict has moved to Syria and regime in Damascus is living under the watch of Lebanese militias.
We consider Hezbollah militias Lebanese forces, and they are indeed so. In fact, they consider themselves equivalent to the Lebanese army and internal security forces.
This situation brings back to memory the times of popular Lebanese demands and international calls for the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon.
The withdrawal of Hezbollah and other forces and militias from Syria is at the core of the talks between Russian and the US governments as part of the discussion to find a peaceful solution to the Syrian crisis.
The US wants to end the presence of any foreign armed forces supporting the Syrian regime, mainly the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Lebanon’s Hezbollah and other Iraqi, Pakistani and Afghani militias.
The Syrian regime occupied Lebanon on the pretenses of fighting Israel. The Lebanese people did not believe Damascus’ justifications, because they witnessed the hegemony of the regime and its interference in the details of their daily lives. Arabs believed the “propaganda” until the civil war erupted in Syria.
On a peaceful solution for the Syrian revolution, Washington had in principle said it accepts the Russian plan to politically end the struggle, regardless whether Bashar al-Assad remains in power or not.
The regime then however committed a major mistake by striking Khan Sheikhun with chemical weapons. It did not even have to do so because it already kills on a daily basis with strikes and barrel bombs.
The strike was a challenge to the US administration and it proved true the declarations of Damascus’s opponents who had stated that the regime and its allies will not commit to any political pledges and that the “agenda” goes beyond Syria.
In their latest statements, US officials raised the bar of their demands. They want Assad out of power and they demanded the extraction of Iranian, Lebanese and other militias from Syria. Their number is estimated to be 50,000.
This means that the upcoming focus will actually be on the second point, which is the extraction of non-Syrian troops from the country, with maybe the exclusion of Russia.
The US will later discover that it is easier to remove Assad from power than achieve the withdrawal of Iran’s Quds Force and Lebanese Hezbollah, who are well-settled in Syrian territories now.
I do not think Hezbollah is happy with the job assigned to it by Iran, which is demanding it to fight in Syria. There are several reasons it is not happy, the main one is that it has depleted its forces and it has lost more men in Syria than it did in 30 years of wars with Israel.
In Lebanon, Hezbollah is in a tough spot because of its interference in the conflict that led to the displacement of one and a half million Syrian refugees to Lebanon.
Hezbollah has also been weakened militarily because it has been involved in the war in Syria for three years, which will also have ramifications on its power inside Lebanon.
But the decision to send the Hezbollah’s militias to war was an Iranian one, like the other affiliated militias in Iraq. Tehran decides and negotiates and the party will not be part of the withdrawal negotiations in the future.
The challenge will be for Assad to remove 50,000 fighters from Syria under the supervision of the IRGC. I think this would be mission impossible.
Russia is aware that it does not have the final word in Damascus despite its military interference that tipped the balance in Assad’s favor.
Sources agree that Iran is the main decision-maker in Damascus and it had sought during the war to gain control over the Syrian state, including its security and military apparatuses.
The real challenge for the international community is to remove the various Iranian forces from Syria. Withdrawing the “Lebanese forces” from Syria has now replaced the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon. We do not know how or when that will happen because the Iranian project in the region includes Lebanon and Iraq and the Iranian leadership considers Syria a necessary link to control those two countries and not Syria itself.

Al-Rahi Says Won't Tolerate Extension, Urges Electoral Law that Preserves Everyone
Naharnet/April 14/17/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi warned Thursday that he will not tolerate an extension of parliament's term, as he called for an electoral law that does not “eliminate” any Lebanese component. “We want an electoral law that preserves all components... We are against exclusion, elimination and any monopolization of power,” al-Rahi said in an interview on LBCI TV. “There won't be an electoral law if every person wants it to be tailored to fit their size,” the patriarch cautioned. Commenting on President Michel Aoun's use of his presidential powers to suspend parliament and prevent it from extending its own term for a third time in less than four years, al-Rahi voiced concerns that the political parties might fail anew to agree on a new electoral law during the one-month period ahead of parliament's next meeting. He also rejected a new extension of parliament's term and noted that the 1960 electoral law is “still in effect.” “We would accept technical extension, even for a full year, if such a step is accompanied by a new electoral law,” al-Rahi added. He also congratulated Aoun on his constitutional move and Speaker Nabih Berri on “his responsiveness.”“We thank President Aoun for his efforts to rescue the situation in Lebanon,” al-Rahi added.

Rahi officiates over Good Friday mass in Bkirki

Fri 14 Apr 2017/NNA - Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Beshara Rahi, presided over Good Friday Mass service in Bkirki in presence of Cardinal Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir. After the mass, Rahi met with the newly-appointed Army Intelligence chief General, Tony Mansour, who wished him success in his new duty and praised the army's efforts in providing security and stability in the country.

Berri: Outcome of Negotiations on Electoral Law to be Reaped Mid May
Associated Press/Naharnet/April 14/17/After President Michel Aoun suspended the parliament for a period of one month paving way for political parties to agree on a new electoral law, Speaker Nabih Berri said Friday the next parliament session on May 15 must reap the “fruits” of the agreement. “What has happened must place everyone in front of their responsibilities as for agreeing on a new law as soon as possible. The month time period must be a month of decisiveness as for agreeing on a new voting system,” said Berri to his visitors on Thursday. “Now, there is one (election) format advancing on others in the 'qualification'. This will naturally be subject for discussion that ends in a month, that is when the fruits will be harvested in the next parliament meeting on May15,” concluded the Speaker. On Wednesday, Aoun used his constitutional powers and adjourned the parliament for one month to avoid a parliament term extension, which pushed political parties to hold extensive negotiations to agree on a voting system. Lebanon's deputies were set to vote in Parliament on Thursday to postpone national elections and extend their term for a third time since 2013. Reports said, in the past few days the parties reached a near agreement on a new electoral law known as the 'qualification law.' Lebanon's political parties say it is time to scrap the country's 1960 voting law that allocates seats by religious sect, but disagree over what system should replace it. Opposition parties and civic groups are threatening demonstrations against any parliamentary extension tomorrow.

Report: Voting System Talks Making Headway Amid PSP, LF Rejection
Naharnet/April 14/17/Serious efforts will be exerted in a month time period to form a new law, but chances of a failure still linger in light of some positions rejecting or expressing reservation about the proposed so-called 'qualification format', al-Joumhouria daily reported on Friday. “Serious work will be taken within a month to agree on a new law. Although agreeing on one is possible, but the probability of a failure still lingers,” Parliamentary sources following up on the elections file told the daily on condition of anonymity. Efforts could fail “due to a number of factors the most important is (MP Walid) Jumblat who rejected the principle of qualification, and the Lebanese Forces party who reject full proportionality in addition to al-Mustaqbal Movement's reservation on whether to qualify 2 or 3 candidates.”Hailing President Michel Aoun, they said he “has proved a strong position using his jurisdictions and was able to prevent four things: vacuum, parliament extension, the 1960 law and street protests.”Nevertheless, the sources said although Aoun succeeded at that, concerns have not been wiped out and “street (protests) are behind the curtain, the extension is inevitable, while the efforts continue on the issuance of a new election law meanwhile the 1960 law is on standby.”“Only threats of vacuum have been demolished completely,” they remarked. Turning to Speaker Nabih Berri's stance after Aoun announced the suspension of the parliament for one month, the sources said “his stance must be appreciated. He defused the challenge and considered Aoun's move democratic.”

MP Aoun Says Parties Reached Near Agreement on Electoral Law
Naharnet/April 14/17/MP Alain Aoun said on Friday that efforts of political parties will succeed at finding a new electoral law for the upcoming parliamentary polls, as he assured that fears of another term extension must be dropped. “We are going to devise a new electoral law. Everyone knows there won't be a new extension crisis,” said Aoun in an interview to VDL (100.5). The MP believes that efforts are close to completion of the agreement which reached its final stages. Aoun said there is a “debate that should be completed, even if there is a preliminary agreement on a certain format for the election law,” pointing out that “everyone is committed to the basic details of the law.”The MP added saying that the issue must be resolved in the next few days for the government to approve the election law which will to be studied by the parliament when it resumes its meetings. Media reports said that political parties held extensive negotiations in the past few days and have reached a near agreement on a new electoral law known as the 'qualification law.' However, the Lebanese Forces and the Progressive Socialist Party do not support the format. The system had been initially proposed by Speaker Nabih Berri several months ago before being eventually endorsed by Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil. In the first round, voting takes place in the current 26 districts and voters are not allowed to vote for candidates from other sects. Two candidates for each sectarian seat qualify for the second round during which voting would take place in 10 newly-defined electoral districts and according to a non-sectarian proportional representation polling system. The second round's ten districts are Akkar, North, Baalbek-Hermel, Zahle-West Bekaa, Northern Mount Lebanon (Jbeil, Keserwan, Metn, Baabda), Southern Mount Lebanon (Chouf and Aley), Beirut 1 (Ashrafieh, Rmeil, Medawwar, Marfa, Saifi, Bashoura), Beirut 2 (Ras Beirut, Dar el-Mreisseh, Mina el-Hosn, Zoqaq el-Blat, Mazraa, Mousaitbeh), South (Sidon, Tyre, Zahrani, Jezzine), and Nabatiyeh (Nabatiyeh, Bint Jbeil, Marjeyoun, Hasbaya).

Ezzedine: Delay in adopting electoral law a sin against country, stability
Fri 14 Apr 2017/NNA - State Minister for Administrative Development Inaya Ezzedine said on Friday that delaying the adoption a new electoral law is a sin against the country, its stability and country's civil peace. During an event commemorating Mouna Haddad Yakan in Tripoli, Minister Ezzedine launched an appeal to all the political forces, urging them to "enhance the stability and security [in the country]." Ezzedine warned against any political vacuum in the country and the adoption of an unfair electoral law. She added that adopting a proportional electoral law with wider districts would create a new dynamic for all generations and categories as well as new opportunities in political representation.

Easter message by Patriarchs John X and Aphrem II calling for peace
Fri 14 Apr 2017 at 13:51 Politics/NNA - Patriarch of Antioch and all the East and Supreme Leader of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church, Ignatius Aphrem II, and Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, Patriarch John X issued on Friday a joint Easter message asserting that the "children of the cross" will never be uprooted from their land in the Levant, regardless of the conspiracies woven against them. "We want to live in peace and harmony in the Levant," read the message, "we do not need lamentation and condemnation, in as much as we need serious and sincere will from all keen parties to spread peace over our land." The Patriarchs asserted that their message was a call to end terrorism and takfirism, and a call for those who fund them to stop."On this Easter, which means the pass-over, we pray to the God of the angels to grant peace to our land and the entire world."

Dabbour, Ibrahim discuss conditions in Palestinian camps, confirm that situation is stable
Fri 14 Apr 2017/NNA - Palestinian State Embassy in Beirut disclosed, on Friday, that Palestinian Ambassador Ashraf Dabbour met today with General Security Director General, Major General Abbas Ibrahim, with talks centering on the recent security incidents in Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp, in particular, and the general conditions of the Palestinian camps in Lebanon. Both men stressed that "the security situation in the camps is stable."

Sit-in by families of Abra detainees, demanding amnesty for their sons
Fri 14 Apr 2017/NNA - Families of Abra's detainees staged a sit-in on Friday in front of al-Rahman Mosque in Majdel'youn, east of Sidon, in demand of total amnesty for the sons, NNA correspondent in Sidon reported. The families vowed to pursue their moves until their demands are met.

Islamic detainees' families stage demonstration in Tripoli
Fri 14 Apr 2017/NNA - The families of the Islamic detainees are currently staging a demonstration in front of Taqwa Mosque in Tripoli, asking for general amnesty for their children, National News Agency (NNA) correspondent said on Friday.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 14-15/17
US Assessing 'Military Options' as North Korea Test Looms
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/April 14/17/The United States is assessing military options in response to North Korea's weapons programs, a White House foreign policy adviser confirmed Friday, saying another provocative test was a question of "when" rather than "if." As speculation mounted that Pyongyang is preparing to fire a trial nuke or missile on a major anniversary Saturday, the official said the United States was poised to deal with the security threat posed by North Korea's nuclear ambitions. "Military options are already being assessed," the adviser said on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive topic, describing a fresh test as "possible." There are reports of activity at a nuclear test site in North Korea ahead of Saturday's 105th anniversary of the birth of the country's founder Kim Il-Sung. "They have telegraphed a bit, it's no surprise that the anniversary is on Saturday, traditionally he has the big parade and rolls out his weapons and his mock weapons," said the adviser. "Unfortunately it's not a new surprise for us, (North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un)continues to develop this program, he continues to launch missiles into the Sea of Japan. With the regime it's not a matter of if, it's when." The comments came after President Donald Trump told reporters that the "problem" of North Korea "will be taken care of."- 'Complicated' -The ominous comments came the same day the US military dropped the biggest non-nuclear bomb it possesses on Afghanistan, targeting a complex used by the Islamic State group. Trump also flexed his military muscle last week by ordering cruise missile strikes on a Syrian airbase the US believed was the origin of a chemical weapons attack on civilians in a northern Syria town. And a US aircraft carrier and its naval strike group has been diverted to the Korean peninsula. Trump has repeatedly said he will prevent Pyongyang from developing a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States. It was a main topic of discussion when Trump met then president Barack Obama shortly after the November election, with Trump being warned he may face a difficult choice early in his presidency. Trump subsequently asked his advisers to give him all options for dealing with the nuclear-armed North. But privately the White House acknowledges that striking North Korea would be a "much more complicated piece of business" than the Syria strike, in the words of a second senior administration official. Any US strike on North Korea could prompt retaliation against allies or US forces in South Korea or Japan. But there are few good diplomatic or economic options for the Trump administration. The North is already under multiple sets of United Nations sanctions over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, and appears to see these programs as insurance against regime change.- Pence to Asia -In a Wall Street Journal interview, Trump said a recent meeting with China's President Xi Jinping dissuaded him of the notion that Beijing could compel North Korea to change course. "After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it's not so easy," Trump said. "I felt pretty strongly that they had a tremendous power" over North Korea. "But it's not what you would think."On Saturday Trump will dispatch Vice President Mike Pence to the region to firm up resolve among allies. Pence will visit South Korea, Japan, Indonesia and Australia, with North Korea high on the agenda in each capital. With the exception of Indonesia, the United States has a treaty obligation to come to the defense of all those countries -- an obligation Trump has sometimes appeared to call into question. Pence will be looking to assure allies that commitment is "ironclad," according to one White House official. "We are fully committed to our security alliances, especially in the face of our evolving security challenges, as we've seen the nuclear threat of North Korea."

N. Korean army vows 'merciless' response to US provocation: KCNA
Fri 14 Apr 2017 at 16:22 International/NNA - North Korea's army vowed a 'merciless' response to any US provocation, the official news agency reported Friday, as tensions soar over Pyongyang's rogue nuclear programme. A statement on KCNA, which cited Washington's recent missile strike on Syria, said the administration of President Donald Trump had "entered the path of open threat and blackmail against the DPRK". Trump recently threatened unilateral action against Pyongyang if Beijing failed to help curb its neighbour's nuclear weapons programme. The North has conducted a series of missile launches and nuclear tests in defiance of UN sanctions and there is growing speculation that it is preparing another atomic or missile test. The Korean People's Army statement was typically defiant and menacing, boasting that US military bases in the South "as well as the headquarters of evils such as the (South Korean presidential) Blue House would be pulverized within a few minutes"."The closer such big targets as nuclear powered aircraft carriers come (to the Korean peninsula), the greater would be the effect of merciless strikes," the statement added. ---AFP

Conflict can break out on Korean Peninsula any moment: China
Fri 14 Apr 2017/NNA - China has warned that “conflict could break out at any moment” on the Korean Peninsula, as North Korea and the United States increasingly seem headed for a potential military confrontation. Speaking on Friday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi also said there would be “no winner” in a potential war, and that the party that triggered conflict would “pay the price.” “Dialogue is the only possible solution,” he said during a joint press conference with his French counterpart Jean-Marc Ayrault in Beijing. Tensions between North Korea and the US have significantly ratcheted up over the past weeks. The US has been concerned by North Korea’s nuclear tests, which Pyongyang believes act as deterrence against a potential invasion by the US or South Korea. The US has deployed a strike group, including a large aircraft carrier, to the Korean Peninsula, and North Korea has said it is ready for war.
?US President Donald Trump threatened on Thursday that North Korea was a problem that “will be taken care of.”An NBC News report on Thursday anonymously cited senior US intelligence officials as saying that the US was ready to launch a preemptive conventional strike if officials were convinced that North Korea was about to follow through with a new nuclear weapons test. A White House foreign policy adviser said Friday that the US is assessing military options in response to North Korea's weapons programs, saying another provocative test was a question of "when" rather than "if."There are reports of activity at a nuclear test site in North Korea ahead of Saturday's 105th anniversary of the birth of the country's founder Kim Il-Sung. Trump has called on China, the North’s main ally, to help denuclearize Pyongyang. But the US president has also said the US would go it alone if China did not help. ---Press TV

Assad's Comments on Chemical Attack are '100% Lies', Says French FM
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/April 14/17/Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's comments that last week's chemical weapons attack was a fabrication to justify a US military strike are "100 percent lies", French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Friday. "It's 100 percent lies and propaganda," Ayrault said during a visit to Beijing, responding to an exclusive AFP interview with Assad on Wednesday. "It's 100 percent cruelty and cynicism." The French minister mirrored language used by Assad himself, who dismissed the allegation that his regime perpetrated the attack that left 87 civilians dead, including many children. "Definitely, 100 percent for us, it's fabrication," Assad said in the interview.The Syrian leader questioned whether the attack had in fact occurred, claiming that "fake videos" and "propaganda" were being used against his government. He also accused the United States of colluding with terrorists and "fabricating the whole story in order to have a pretext" for a cruise missile strike on a Syrian air base last week. The French minister made the remarks during a joint press conference with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi."The reality is that more than 300,000 have died, 11 million people have been displaced or become refugees, tens of thousands have been placed in Syrian prisons and a country has been destroyed," Ayrault said. "That is the reality. It is not a fantasy."He emphasised the need for an end to the conflict with a "real ceasefire, one which restricts the Syrian air force and military and is upheld by the international community."Ayrault praised China's role in the matter, noting its abstention from a United Nations Security Council vote on a resolution to condemn the Syrian gas attack. In the past, China has voted alongside Russia to veto UN resolutions on the Syrian conflict. Wang expressed his agreement with the French minister, noting that an "independent, fair and professional investigation" into the chemical weapons attack should be conducted "as soon as possible."

Buses Evacuate Hundreds from Four Besieged Syria Towns
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/April 14/17/Hundreds of civilians and fighters who have been under crippling siege for more than two years left four Syrian towns in fleets of buses Friday under a delayed evacuation deal. There has been a string of such agreements through Syria's six-year civil war. They have been touted by the government as the best way to end the fighting but have been controversial with the rebels who say they are starved out. Critics say the population movements are permanently changing the ethnic and religious map, but in an exclusive interview with AFP on Wednesday President Bashar al-Assad insisted they were only temporary and people would return to their homes once the "terrorists" had been defeated. The evacuation of the four towns -- two besieged by the army, and two by the rebels -- had been due to start on April 4. But implementation of the deal brokered by rebel supporter Qatar and regime ally Iran late last month was repeatedly delayed. At least 80 buses left the government-held towns of Fuaa and Kafraya in Idlib province​ in the northwest, an AFP correspondent in rebel-held territory said. They arrived at a marshalling point in Rashidin, west of government-held second city Aleppo. Most of the evacuees from the two mainly Shiite towns were women, children or elderly people. Dozens of rebel fighters, including Sunni extremists of Al-Qaeda's former Syria affiliate, Fateh al-Sham Front, stood guard, the correspondent reported.All of Idlib province bar the two towns is held by an increasingly uneasy alliance between the jihadists and Islamist rebels. - Waiting in the cold -A civilian who was travelling in one of the evacuation buses from the rebel-held towns of Madaya and Zabadani said the operation began at around 6:00 am (0300 GMT). "We just left now -- around 2,200 people in around 65 buses," Madaya resident Amjad al-Maleh told AFP by telephone. "Most of the passengers are women and children who started gathering yesterday evening and spent the night in the cold waiting."He said that rebel fighters among the evacuees had been allowed to keep their light weapons. More than 30,000 people are expected to be evacuated under the deal, which began on Wednesday with an exchange of prisoners between rebels and government forces. All 16,000 residents of Fuaa and Kafraya are expected to leave, heading to government-held Aleppo, the coastal province of Latakia or Damascus. Civilian residents of Madaya and Zabadani will reportedly be allowed to remain if they choose. Those who opt to leave with the fighters will head to rebel-held territory in Idlib. The four towns are part of a longstanding agreement reached in 2015 that requires aid deliveries and evacuations to be carried out to all areas simultaneously. But access has been limited, with food and medical shortages causing malnutrition, illness and even death among besieged residents.The UN says 4.72 million Syrians are in so-called hard-to-reach areas, including 600,000 people under siege, mostly by the Syrian army, but also by rebels or the Islamic State group.
'Wouldn't worry about it' -There has been a series of evacuations in recent month, mostly around the capital Damascus but also from the last rebel-held district of Syria's third city Homs. The mainly Suuni rebels have charged that Assad's Alawaite minority-dominated regime is deliberately forcing civilians to leave to alter the country's sectarian map in its favour. But in Wednesday's interview, the president told AFP that it was the rebels who were driving people to leave their homes. "We didn't choose it," he said. "We wish that everyone could stay in his village and his city, but those people like many other civilians in different areas were surrounded and besieged by the terrorists, and they've been killed on (a) daily basis, so they had to leave. "But of course they're going to go back to their cities after the liberation," he said. "Talking about demographic changes is not in the sake or in the interest of the Syrian society when it's permanent. As long as it's temporary, we wouldn't worry about it."

US sanctions Tehran’s prison system over human rights violations
Lisa Daftari/The Foreign Desk/Thursday Apr 13, 2017/Citing deep concern over human rights abuses in Iran’s prisons, the U.S. sanctioned Tehran’s prison apparatus and a key prison official Thursday, according to the U.S. Treasury Department. The sanctions, naming specifically the Tehran Prisons Organization and its lead official Sohrab Soleimani, reflect the latest attempt by the U.S. to combat the Iranian regime’s support of global terrorism and continued human right’s violations against its prisoners. According to the U.S. Treasury Department, the sanctions are in line with and compliant with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or the Iran nuclear agreement. “Today’s designations highlight our continued support for the Iranian people and demonstrate our commitment to hold the Government of Iran responsible for its continued repression of its own citizens. “We will continue to identify, call out, and sanction those who are responsible for serious human rights abuses in Iran” Director of the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) John E. Smith said. Sohrab Soleimani, the head of the Tehran Prison Organization and who came under the radar during a brutal crackdown by prison officials at Iran’s notorious Evin prison in 2014, was also added to the OFAC Specifically Designated National’s (SFC) list.
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He is also coincidentally the brother of shadowy Revolutionary Guard General Qasem Soleimani, the notoriously brutal commander of the Quds Forces, conducting Iran’s clandestine operations outside Iran’s borders. His latest offensives have been in Syria, propping the Bashar Al Assad regime in line with Tehran’s steadfast support of Syria’s government. Iran’s government has drastically increased its human rights abuses against prisoners including Westerners, political dissidents, writers, bloggers, journalists and others since the Green Revolution of June 2009. "These sanctions mark a clear change of policy between the Trump Administration, which has decided to defend Iran's civil society and the past Obama administration which had abandoned The Iranian people since 2009,” Middle East expert and foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign Dr. Walid Phares told The Foreign Desk.
“This is a message as to the new direction in Washington.”During the White House Press Briefing, press secretary Sean Spicer noted that the sanctions come at a time when “Iran continues to unjustly detain in its prisons various foreigners including U.S. Citizens Siamak Namazi and Baquer Namazi. We join recent calls by international organizations and U.N. human rights experts for the immediate release of all U.S. citizens unjustly detained or missing in Iran so that they can return to their families.”Last year, a British mother was sentenced in a secret trial to five years in Evin Prison, the notorious “hell on Earth” prison in northwestern Tehran, on unknown charges. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 38, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, has been serving her prison term in the women’s ward of Evin. Former U.S. detainees Jason Rezaian and Pastor Saeed Abedini were incarcerated at Evin and released just after the nuclear deal was announced, although both U.S. and Iran officials maintain the two incidents were unrelated.

Canada adds Syrian officials to sanctions list
April 14, 2017 - Ottawa, Canada - Global Affairs Canada
Canada supports the Syrian people and is working with the international community to find a solution to end the war in Syria.
The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today announced new sanctions against the Assad regime. Canada’s Special Economic Measures (Syria) Regulations have been amended to list 27 additional individuals who are now subject to an asset freeze and dealings prohibition.
These individuals are high-ranking officials in the Assad regime. Adding their names to the sanctions list is part of additional international pressure on the regime to immediately end indiscriminate violence against its own people, like this month’s chemical weapons attack, and engage in meaningful negotiations.
Canada is focused on supporting the Syrian people. It has committed $1.6 billion to efforts in the region to provide humanitarian, security, stabilization and development assistance, in addition to having welcomed over 40,000 Syrian refugees to Canada.
“Today’s new sanctions against key officials are part of our continued efforts to increase pressure on the Assad regime to stop the violence against innocent children, women and men. Last week’s chemical weapons attack in southern Idlib is a war crime and is unacceptable. Canada is working with its allies to end the war in Syria and hold those responsible to account.”
- Hon. Chrystia Freeland, P.C., M.P., Minister of Foreign Affairs
Quick facts
Canada reviews its sanctions on an ongoing basis and takes action as appropriate.
Canada contributes to investigations on the use of chemical weapons and the collection of evidence to support the prosecution of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Syria.
Canada is contributing more than $1.6 billion over the course of three years toward its approach to security, stabilization, and humanitarian and development assistance in response to the crises in Iraq and Syria and their impacts on neighbouring countries.

US defense chief to visit Saudi Arabia, Egypt next week
Reuters, Washington Friday, 14 April 2017/US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will visit Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel, Qatar and Djibouti starting on Tuesday, the Pentagon said in a statement on Friday. It said Mattis would “reaffirm key US military alliances,” and “discuss cooperative effort to counter destabilizing activities and defeat extremist terror organizations” during the April 18-23 tour.

Iranian President Rouhani registers to run in May for second term
Reuters, Ankara Friday, 14 April 2017/Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, a pragmatist who engineered the country’s landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, registered on Friday to run for a second four-year term in the May election, state television reported. “Once again, I am here for Iran, for Islam, for freedom and for more stability in this country. I am urging all Iranians to vote for Iran and for Islam,” Rouhani told reporters. He won election by a landslide in 2013 on a platform of ending the Islamic Republic’s diplomatic isolation and creating a freer society, but faces a stiff challenge from conservative hardliners because of discontent over the economy. Influential Shi’ite cleric Ebrahim Raisi, the custodian of a powerful organization in charge of Iran’s holiest shrine, appears to be the leading hardline candidate. But despite months of talks, hardliners have been unable to unite behind a single candidate and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appears to have not yet intervened to make them do so.
Complex mix
Within Iran’s complex mix of clerical rulers and elected officials, Khamenei has the final say on all state matters. An ally of Khamenei, Raisi also registered on Friday for the vote. But some prominent conservatives, including parliament speaker Ali Larijani, have thrown their support behind Rouhani. Though Rouhani won in a single round with more than 50 percent of the vote in 2013 when no other candidate took more than 17 percent, he could face a tougher campaign this time if hardliners join forces against him. Many Iranians have grown impatient with the slow rate of improvement in their economic fortunes since the lifting of sanctions after Iran curbed its disputed nuclear activity under its deal with world powers. The five-day registration period for the May 19 election began on Tuesday and will be followed by a process of vetting of the hopefuls by a hardline watchdog body, the Guardian Council. More than 950 people have signed up so far for the vote. Several former ministers and hardline former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are among those who have registered.

Russia slams watchdog probe of alleged Syria chemical attack
AFP, Moscow Friday, 14 April 2017/Russia on Friday criticized the world’s chemical weapons watchdog for not sending experts to the site of an alleged chemical attack in Syria, backing up President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. “We consider it unacceptable to analyses events from a distance,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a press conference in Moscow with his counterparts from Syria and Iran. Lavrov said Assad’s opponents had “in essence” given guarantees for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to visit the location where at least 87 people died, but the watchdog was refusing to send them. “They say still that it is not very safe, but they cannot put forward convincing arguments,” Russia’s top diplomat said. Russia has rejected accusations from the West that its Assad’s forces were responsible for a chemical attack and has lashed out at the US for its cruise missile strikes last week against a Syrian air base. The OPCW said Thursday that a fact-finding mission was analyzing samples gathered from “various sources” and that allegations a chemical attack took place in the Syrian rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun were “credible”. Lavrov said Russia, Iran and Syria have demanded a “thorough, objective and unbiased investigation” under the auspices of the OPCW, insisting it must use “independent experts”, including from Moscow. Russia on Wednesday vetoed a Western-backed UN resolution demanding that the Syrian government cooperate with an investigation into the alleged attack, blocking Security Council action against Moscow’s ally for the eighth time. Russia and Iran are the firmest allies of Assad’s regime and have deployed forces to the war-torn country to back him in the country’s brutal six-year conflict. Lavrov was meeting with his counterparts from Syria and Iran in a show of support for Damascus after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited Moscow earlier this week. Lavrov repeated the Kremlin’s condemnation of the US missile strike in Syria and said Washington was seeking “excuses for regime change”. “These attempts will not succeed, this will not happen,” he said.

Turkey detains ISIS suspects over planned attacks
Reuters, Istanbul Friday, 14 April 2017/Police in Istanbul have detained seven suspects, two of them believed to be members of ISIS, who were plotting to carry out attacks in Turkey ahead of a referendum on Sunday, a police statement said on Friday. The four Turks, two Syrian nationals and one Tajik aimed to “create chaos” in Turkey, police said. Two of the Turks were thought to have joined the ranks of ISIS, which holds territory in neighboring Syria and Iraq. ISIS has been blamed for at least half a dozen attacks on civilian targets in Turkey in recent months, including one on New Year’s Day at Istanbul’s Reina lounge, which killed 39 people. The police said they had also seized identity cards, mobile phones and passports in the raids in four districts of Istanbul since last week. Turks will vote on Sunday on constitutional changes that would give President Tayyip Erdogan sweeping new powers. Supporters say that will strengthen the country at a time when it faces threats from ISIS and Kurdish militants. Opponents fear a lurch towards authoritarianism in Turkey. Two opinion polls on Thursday showed a narrow majority of voters would vote in favour of the changes. Security efforts have been tightened ahead of the vote, but Kurdish militants on Wednesday claimed responsibility for a bomb attack on a police compound in southeast Turkey that killed three people. NATO member Turkey is part of the US-led coalition fighting ISIS and it launched an incursion into Syria in August to drive the extremist group and Kurdish militia fighters away from its borders.

ISIS Mufti killed by air strike in western Mosul

Staff writer, Al Arabiya englsih Friday, 14 April 2017/The Directorate of Military Intelligence announced on Friday that areas controlled by ISIS in the neighborhood of al-Rifai on the right side of Mosul, have been destroyed.It confirmed the killing of a number of ISIS members, the most important of whom was Abdullah al-Badrani, ISIS legitimate Mufti. According to the statement of the Directorate of Military Intelligence, the coalition aircrafts destroyed areas controlled by ISIS in al-Rifai district on the right side of Mosul. The statement reported that the strikes resulted in the death of ISIS Mufti Abdullah al-Badrani. It also reported the death of terrorist Abdul Rahman al-Talib, known as Abu Obaida and is of Arab origins. Ibrahim Awni al-Hayali, known as Abu Baraq, who is ISIS leader in al-Rifai neighborhood was also killed.
It is worth noting that the security forces, with the help of the international coalition, are fighting to liberate the right side of Mosul.

Residents, fighters evacuate from four besieged Syria towns
AFP, Beirut Friday, 14 April 2017/Civilians and fighters began evacuating four towns besieged by rebels and government forces Friday under a deal brokered by opposition backer Qatar and regime ally Iran, an AFP correspondent and a local source said. An AFP correspondent in rebel-held Rashidin, west of Aleppo city, said at least 80 buses arrived in the region from government-held Fuaa and Kafraya in Idlib province. A rebel source in Idlib told AFP “the implementation of the deal started in the morning”. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the beginning of the evacuation. Madaya resident Amjad al-Maleh, who spoke to AFP on the phone from one of the buses leaving opposition-controlled Madaya and Zabadani at around 6:00 am (0300 GMT), said: “We just left now, around 2,200 persons in around 65 buses”. More than 30,000 people are expected to be evacuated under the deal, which began on Wednesday with an exchange of prisoners between rebels and government forces. All 16,000 residents of Fuaa and Kafraya are expected to leave, heading to government-held Aleppo, the coastal province of Latakia or Damascus. Civilian residents of Madaya and Zabadani will reportedly be allowed to remain if they choose.

Second church bomber identified in Egypt following Sisi pledge
AFP, Cairo Friday, 14 April 2017/The authorities in Egypt said on Thursday they had identified the second of two jihadist bombers who targeted Coptic Christian Palm Sunday services last week. The interior ministry made the announcement after President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi pledged as he visited Coptic Pope Tawadros II to hunt down the perpetrators of the bombings. ISIS claimed the Sunday attacks, which killed 45 people and followed a December 11 suicide bombing that killed 29 in a Cairo church.
Sisi’s visit to the papal seat in the capital came a day after the interior ministry identified the bomber who struck outside Saint Mark’s church in Alexandria, killing 17 people. Sunday’s first bombing at the Mar Girgis church in Tanta, north of Cairo, killed 28 people. Sisi said “state agencies were exerting their utmost effort to chase down the perpetrators of those vile acts,” the presidency said in a statement. On Wednesday, the interior ministry identified the perpetrator of the Alexandria attack as Mahmud Hassan Mubarak Abdullah, born in the southern province of Qena in 1986. On Thursday, it said it had now also identified the bomber who blew himself up in the Tanta church.
Egypt church becomes target of terror
“DNA tests carried out on the family of a fugitive member and the remains of the suicide bomber... made it possible to identify him as Mamduh Amin Mohammed Baghdadi, born in 1977 in Qena province, where he lived,” it said. The ministry said he was a member of a “terrorist” cell, and also announced the arrest of three other members of the group. On Wednesday, it also offered a 100,000 pound (about $5,500) reward for information leading to the arrest of suspects it said belonged to militant cells linked to the church attacks. On Thursday, the reward was increased to 500,000 pounds. Sisi declared a three-month state of emergency after the bombings and called in the army to protect “vital” installations around the country. The Coptic Church said on Wednesday it would cut back Easter celebrations to a single mass after the bombings. The violence came ahead of Catholic Pope Francis’s first visit to Egypt, which a Vatican official said will go ahead as planned on April 28 and 29 despite the attacks.

Lavrov: Russia, US agree US strikes on Syria should not be repeated
AFP/Reuters, Moscow/Washington Friday, 14 April 2017/Russia and the United States have a shared understanding that US air strikes on Syria should not be repeated, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told his Syrian counterpart Walid al-Moualem in Moscow on Thursday, Interfax news agency reported. He said this was “concluded” during Wednesday’s visit of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Moscow. But in Washington, the US State Department said Tillerson did not eliminate the possibility the United States may undertake future strikes. “The secretary explained there were no subsequent targets after the missile strike, but he did not rule out any future action,” State Department acting spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement.“He stressed that Russia is in a position to use its influence over the Assad regime to ensure it is never again necessary for the US to act,” Toner said.
Chemical attack was ‘war crime’
The Syrian government’s suspected chemical weapons attack on civilians last week amounts to a “war crime,” the US State Department said Thursday. It also ridiculed comments by President Bashar al-Assad in an interview with AFP to the effect that the alleged attack was fabricated by the United States to justify an American military strike. “Sadly, it’s vintage Assad. It is an attempt by him to throw up false flags, create confusion,” said department spokesman Mark Toner, alluding to what Assad said in the interview Wednesday. It was Assad’s first since the alleged April 4 chemical weapons attack prompted a US cruise missile strike on a Syrian air base.“Frankly, it’s a tactic we’ve seen on Russia’s part as well in the past,” Toner told a daily press briefing. Echoing charges by Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Toner said there can be little doubt that the chemical weapons attack in Idlib province was carried out by Syrian government forces. “It wasn’t only a violation of the laws of war but it was a – we believe, a war crime,” Toner said. Tillerson, visiting Moscow on Wednesday, addressed the issue of the chemical weapons attack but he stopped short of calling it a war crime.

Assiri: We will not allow Houthis to become Hezbollah of Yemen
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Friday, 14 April 2017/Saudi Arabian Defense Minister, Major General Ahmad Assiri, announced that since the beginning of its operations, the forces of the Arab coalition in Yemen have worked in two axes. The first is to carry out military operations and reduce the capabilities and influence of the militias. The second is to build the military establishment from day one, pointing out that the alliance will not allow the Houthi militias in Yemen to become as the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon. Assiri, speaking at a seminar in Paris, said that military operations in Yemen were being carefully conducted to protect civilians, adding that “the Houthi militias in Yemen have established command and control centers among civilians."He also considered that “the rush in the implementation of military operations in Yemen may lead to losses, and that the policy of besieging the militias in Yemen is leading to effective results.”Assiri explained that the legitimacy forces have made progress in Yemen and that the political leadership has returned to Aden. He also confirmed that the alliance cooperated with the Yemeni forces to defeat al-Qaeda. He stressed that the Arab coalition “seeks a comprehensive political solution that satisfies everyone”, saying that the solution in Yemen should include the implementation of international resolutions and the will of the Yemenis, refusing to accept any “mid-solutions that makes the Houthis part of the solution in Yemen.”
Civilian security
He said that the legitimacy forces in Yemen are working to train young people in the security sector and the war against terrorism. He added that the coalition does not use non-guided free-fall bombs since they are dangerous to civilians. He also explained that the military operations in Yemen are taking place in dangerous areas because of the density of the population. He explained that the coalition is implementing a maritime ban, not a blockade; meaning that they make sure who is using the waters, which challenges those who claim that the siege led to a famine. He said that the coalition forces have given more than 6,000 permits to international bodies to work inside Yemen, saying that there are organizations that report on Yemen which are not even there.
Humanitarian crisis
He added that the port of Hudaydah is important, because it provides money, weapons and communication to the militias. But the port, according to Assiri, has become the source of the diversion of weapons inside Yemen instead of aid. He said that the port of Hudaydah has become a base for targeting the traffic navigation in Bab al-Mandab, revealing that the alliance was clear to the international community “either inspection or submission to the legitimacy forces."
Attacking journalists
For his part, Yemeni Information Minister Muammar Al-Iryani said that the Houthis had turned against the elected president and launched small wars against him. He added that the international organizations revealed a terrible reality for journalists in Yemen. "It came to the point of carrying out assassinations against journalists by the rebels."He considered that the rebels took control of all the media who are against them, and there is no longer any truth to any information. He said that the death sentence against the Yemeni journalist was issued after a trial of only 10 minutes.

Yemeni forces seize strategical mountains from Houthi militias
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Friday, 14 April 2017/Yemen’s National Army and Popular Resistance Forces, supported by the Arab Coalition, managed to seize control several strategical mountain ranges from Houthi militias on the western coast of Yemen. Intense clashes took place on mountains al-Nar and al-Nabati between Houthi Militias and Yemeni forces loyal to President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. This comes after Yemeni forces stormed the strategic camp of Khalid bin Walid from the western side of the city of Taiz.

Yemen’s Houthis appoint new Mufti educated in Iran
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Friday, 14 April 2017/Houthi militias have appointed Beraas Shams al-Din Muhammad Sharaf al-Din as a new Mufti to be the leading authority in issuing fatwas in Sanaa, a decision reflects a sectarian ideological orientation of the militia and could create sectarian division in Yemen. Sharaf al-Din, who was educated in Iran, replaced Judge Mohammed bin Ismail Al-Omrani as the Mufti. The newly appointed mufti is believed to be one of the most important links between Iran and the Houthi rebellion movement. He is a political activist with the Houthi movement and was a member of the political delegation of the militias that went to Moscow last year to persuade Russia to recognize the power of the Houthis in Sanaa. The decision has been widely rejected by Yemenis in the capital.

Israeli stabbed in Jerusalem, attacker arrested: police
Fri 14 Apr 2017/NNA - An Israeli woman was stabbed and seriously wounded in Jerusalem on Friday and her attacker arrested, a police spokeswoman said. The attack took place on the light railway close to the Old City, where Christian commemorations were under way for Good Friday as Jews marked the week-long Passover holiday. The woman, who is her 20s, was in a "critical condition", the emergency services said. Police had been on high alert for Passover when tens of thousands of Jews pray at the Western Wall inside the Old City and some visit the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound above it. The compound, which is the third holiest site in Islam and the holiest site to Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount, is the source of constant tensions. Jews are allowed to visit but not pray at the site. Palestinian fears that Israel will seek to change those rules have been the source of repeated violence. A wave of unrest which erupted in October 2015 has claimed the lives of 260 Palestinians, 41 Israelis, two Americans, one Jordanian, an Eritrean and a Sudanese, according to an AFP count. Most of the Palestinians killed were carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks, the Israeli authorities say. Others were shot dead during protests or clashes, while some were killed in Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip. The violence has greatly subsided in recent months.--AFP

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 14-15/17
Why Christians Are Being Slaughtered in Egypt
Raymond Ibrahim/PJ Media/April 14/17
On April 9—Palm Sunday, which starts the holy week of Easter—two Christian churches were bombed during mass in Egypt, leaving at least 50 worshippers dead and nearly 130 injured and/or mutilated (graphic images/video of aftermath here).
Less than four months earlier, around Christmas, another Christian church was bombed in Egypt, leaving 27 worshippers—mostly women and children—dead and wounding nearly 70. On New Year’s Day, 2011, yet another Egyptian church was bombed, leaving 23 worshippers dead.
In 2013, almost 70 Christian churches in Egypt were attacked, many burned to the ground, by Muslim Brotherhood supports.
Then there are the many “lesser” attacks on Egyptian churches—botched bombing attempts, hate-filled graffiti, and “angry mob” uprisings—that are so “everyday” as to receive virtually no media coverage in the West.
One need only listen to the words and teachings of some of Egypt’s Muslim preachers to understand why Egypt’s Christians—who are increasingly being slaughtered—and their churches are constantly under attack.
Take Dr. Ahmed al-Naqib, for instance. He has studied at the best Islamic madrassas, including Al Azhar, authored numerous books on doctrine, received awards and decorations for his academic achievements, and regularly appears on television. In one video he appears discussing an earlier Muslim mob attack on a church in Egypt, which the media and government always denounce as fitna, an Arabic word that means temptation or discord and which Islam commands Muslims to oppose.
Citing revered Islamic texts including the Koran, Dr. Naqib explained that the open display of shirk—the greatest sin in Islam, associating someone else with God, which the Koran accuses Christians of doing via the Trinity—“is the worst form of fitna, worse than murder and bloodshed.”
In other words, and as he went on to make perfectly clear in the remainder of the video, fitna (or discord) is not when Muslims attack Christian churches—far from it—but rather when Christians are allowed to flaunt their shirk (or “blasphemies”) in churches near Muslims. Fighting that—even to the point of “murder and bloodshed”—is preferable.
Then there’s Dr. Yasser Burhami, the face of Egypt’s Salafi movement, who is as well credentialed and prolific as Naqib: he’s on record saying that, although a Muslim man is permitted to marry Christian or Jewish women, he must make sure he still hates them in his heart—and always shows that he hates them—because they are infidels; otherwise he risks compromising his Islam.
As for churches, Burhami once issued a fatwa forbidding Muslim taxi and bus drivers from transporting Christian priests to their churches, and act which he said is “more forbidden than taking someone to a liquor bar.”
But it’s not just “radical” or Salafi sheikhs who make such hateful pronouncements. Even so-called “moderate” Islamic institutions, such as Al Azhar’s Dar al-Ifta, issued a fatwa in August 2009 likening the building of a church to “a nightclub, a gambling casino, or building a barn for rearing pigs, cats or dogs.”
Such analogies are not original to the Salafis or Dar al-Ifta but rather trace back to some of Islam’s most revered doctrinaires, including Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn Qayyim, whose books are sold and used everywhere in Egypt, including schools. They taught that “building churches is worse than building bars and brothels, for those [churches] symbolize infidelity, whereas these [bars and brothels] represent immorality.”
Hence why after the fatal December 11, 2016 church bombing that left 27 dead, “everyday” Muslims wrote things like “God bless the person who did this blessed act” on social media. One average looking Muslim woman appears in the streets of Egypt jubilantly celebrating the massacre (video with English subtitles). She triumphantly yells “Allahu Akbar!” and says that “our beloved prophet
Muhammad is paying you infidels [Christians] back… for rejecting tawhid, which must be proclaimed in every corner of Egypt!”
Americans may remember that Muslims around the world also celebrated the terror strikes of September 11. Then, the assumption was “we must’ve done something to make Muslims hate us so much.” But if powerful America is capable of provoking Muslims with its foreign policies, what did Egypt’s already downtrodden and ostracized Christian minority do to make Muslims celebrate the news that a church was bombed and Christians blown to pieces?
One can go on and on with examples of Muslim clerics and institutions inciting—with absolute impunity—against Christians and their churches in Egypt. Many secular and/or moderate Egyptians agree. For instance, back in 2014, Muslim Brotherhood supporters mauled and murdered a woman after her cross identified her as a Christian. Soon thereafter, an Egyptian op-ed titled “Find the True Killer of Mary” argued that:
Those who killed the young and vulnerable Mary Sameh George, for hanging a cross in her car, are not criminals, but rather wretches who follow those who legalized for them murder, lynching, dismemberment, and the stripping bare of young Christian girls—without ever saying [the word] “kill.” [Islamic cleric] Yassir Burhami and his colleagues who announce their hate for Christians throughout satellite channels and in mosques—claiming that hatred of Christians is synonymous with love for God—they are the true killers who need to be tried and prosecuted.
One can say the same thing about last Palm Sunday’s church bombings that claimed 50 lives. Although the Islamic State was quick to claim the terror attacks, it’s really not relevant to the story. “ISIS”—like al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, Hamas, Taliban, Wahabbi Saudi, and the Muslims who persecute Christians in 40 of the 50 worst nations around the world—is a symptom, not the source of the hate.
In short, until such time comes that the Egyptian government removes the “radical” sheikhs and their teachings from the mosques, schools, television stations and all other positions of influence, Muslims will continue to be radicalized, churches will continue to be bombed, and Christians will continue to be killed.

Turkey's Vainglorious Referendum
Daniel Pipes/Wall Street Journal (webarchive)/April 14, 2017
[WSJ title: "The Other Islamic State: Erdogan's Vision for Turkey." The text below contains some minor edits.]
This Sunday, millions of Turks will vote to endorse or reject constitutional amendments passed in January by Turkey's parliament. An opinion piece published by the German news agency Deutsche Welle explains that the "crucial" amendments "give all the power to one person, with almost no accountability," eliminating what is left of democracy in Turkey. Virtually all observers agree that if the referendum passes, Turkey will be transformed into an authoritarian state.
But I (along with a few others) disagree. Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan years ago arrogated all the powers that the constitutional changes would bestow on him. He is already lord of all he sees for as long as he wants, whether through democratic means or by fixing election results. If the referendum passes, it will merely prettify that reality.
Consider the nature of Mr. Erdoğan's power. The obsequious prime minister, Binali Yıldırım, tirelessly advocates for the constitutional changes that will eliminate his own office, historically the most powerful in the country. Criticism of the all-mighty president can get even a child thrown into jail. The most tenuous connection to a (possibly staged) coup d'état attempt last July means losing one's job—or worse. The state routinely jails journalists on the bogus charge of terrorism, and truly independent publications are shuttered.
Is Erdoğan (R) reminding Yıldırım to eliminate his own job?
If Mr. Erdoğan has no need for constitutional changes, which amount to a legislative triviality, why then does he obsessively chase them? Perhaps as added insurance against ever being hauled into court for his illegal actions. Perhaps to assure a handpicked successor the power to continue his program. Perhaps to flatter his vanity.
Whatever the source of Mr. Erdoğan's compulsion, it greatly damages Turkey's standing in the world. When his aides were not permitted to rally Turks living in Germany for the constitutional changes, he accused the Germans of "employing Nazi measures." He also compared the Netherlands to a banana republic after Turkish ministers were prevented from speaking in Rotterdam. This souring of relations has already led to a breakdown in military ties with Germany.
Implicitly threatening street attacks on Europeans hardly helped Mr. Erdoğan's international standing, nor did allowing one of his close allies to call for Turkey to develop its own nuclear weapons. More damaging yet, the leader restarted a civil war with the Kurds in July 2015 as a gambit to win support of a nationalist party in parliament, a move that has already had dreadful human consequences.
This insistence on doing things his way fits a pattern. Mr. Erdoğan could have won visa-free travel for Turks traveling to Europe, but he refused a meaningless change to the definition of terrorism in Turkey's criminal code. He harms relations with Washington by making the extradition of Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen a personal fixation. He potentially disrupts relations with 35 countries by setting his intelligence agencies to spy on pro-Gülen Turks. Former Trump adviser Michael Flynn tarnished his reputation by hiding his registering work as a foreign agent representing Turkey.
This dictatorial narcissism increases the price of dictatorship by causing Mr. Erdoğan to make unwarranted mistakes. A once cautious and calculating leader now pursues baubles that only generate enmities. This has damaged the economic growth that fueled his popularity. Mr. Erdoğan has turned into a self-parody, with his 1,100-room palace and Ruritanian honor guard.
Erdoğan greets Mahmoud Abbas under an honor guard of historic Turkic soldiers.
Where will it end? The president has two apparent objectives. First, Mr. Erdoğan seeks to reverse Kemal Atatürk's westernizing reforms to reinstitute the Ottoman Empire's Islamic ways. Second, he wants to elevate himself to the grand, ancient Islamic position of caliph, an especially vivid prospect since Islamic State resurrected this long-moribund position in 2014.
Those two ambitions could meld together exactly one hundred years after Atatürk abolished the caliphate, either on March 10, 2021 (by the Islamic calendar) or March 4, 2024 (by the Christian calendar). Either of these dates offers a perfect occasion for Mr. Erdoğan to undo the handiwork of the secular Atatürk and declare himself caliph of all Muslims.
No one inside Turkey can effectively resist Mr. Erdoğan's enormous ambitions. This leaves him free to continue in his erratic ways, stirring trouble at home and abroad. That is, unless he one day trips, likely over an external crisis. Meantime, Turks and millions of others will pay an increasing price for Erdoğan's vainglorious rule.
Erdoğan is lord of all he sees for as long as he wants.
**Mr. Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum.

Sharia Councils and Sexual Abuse in Britain
Khadija Khan/Gatestone Institute/April 14, 2017
As bad as this is, there is an even darker side to the story: Under sharia law, the second husband is under no obligation to give his wife a quick divorce – allowing him to keep her as his virtual sex slave for as long as he wishes.
If one asks how all of this jibes with British law, the answer is that it does not.
The UK-based NGO, Muslim Women's Network, penned an open letter -- with 100 signatories -- to the British government and Home Affairs Select Committee demanding that the Sharia Council be investigated to determine whether its practices adhere to British law. In response, the Sharia Council declared the letter to be "Islamophobic" and accused the Muslim Women's Network of being an anti-Muslim organization.
It is British law, not sharia, law that protects Muslim individuals and couples, as it does any other citizen. Contrary to what apologists for this travesty say, the plight of Muslim women should be treated as an issue of human rights.
The most recent scandal surrounding the sexual exploitation of Muslim women by Islamic religious leaders in the UK is yet further proof of the way in which Britain is turning a blind eye to horrific practices going on right under its nose.
A BBC investigation into "halala" -- a ritual enabling a divorced Muslim woman to remarry her husband by first wedding someone else, consummating the union, and then being divorced by him -- revealed that imams in Britain are not only encouraging this, but profiting financially from it. This depravity has led to many such women being held hostage, literally and figuratively, to men paid to become their second husbands.
This ritual, which is considered a misinterpretation of Islamic sharia law even by extremist Shi'ites and Saudi-style Salafists, is practiced by certain Islamic sects, such as Hanafis, Barelvis and Deobandis. When a husband repeats the Arabic word for divorce -- talaq -- three times to his wife, these sects consider a Muslim marriage null and void. For such a woman to be allowed to return to the husband who banished her, she must first marry someone else -- and have sex with him -- before the second husband divorces her.
These divorce rites, despite the laws of the land, are common in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and other Asian countries, where a majority of the people belong to the Hanafi, Barelvi or Deobandi sects. Nevertheless, local seminaries, mosques and online services openly advertise and promote halala with impunity; it is accepted by society and rarely monitored by state authorities.
In Britain, halala has emerged as a booming business, with websites and social media sites offering to provide women with second husbands for exorbitant sums of money. As bad as this is, there is an even darker side to the story: Under sharia law, the second husband is under no obligation to give his wife a quick divorce -- allowing him to keep her as his virtual sex slave for as long as he wishes.
One Muslim woman, who changed her mind about going through with halala after looking into the process, told the BBC that she knew others who did undergo the process, and ended up being sexually abused for months by the second husbands paid to marry them. According to a report in The Guardian, the Sharia Council of Britain says it deals with hundreds of divorce cases annually.
This infamous council is indirectly responsible for what essentially has become a rape pandemic, since it does nothing to stop or refute halala. In fact, it declares that the practice is completely legal under sharia law. The only caveat, the council states, is that the imams presiding over it are not following the proper guidelines, according to which the second marriage and divorce should not be premeditated, but rather happen naturally.
If one asks how all of this jibes with British law, the answer is that it does not. But young Muslims in the UK are discouraged by their communities from marrying through the British system, and are told to have imams perform their weddings and sharia councils register their marriages. Couples who comply end up being at the mercy of Islamic authorities in family matters, including divorce.
Due to its often unethical practices conducted in the name of religious law, the Sharia Council has come under scrutiny a number of times. Last November, for instance, the UK-based NGO, Muslim Women's Network, penned an open letter -- with 100 signatories -- to the British government and Home Affairs Select Committee demanding that the Sharia Council be investigated to determine whether its practices adhere to British law.
In response, the Sharia Council declared the letter to be "Islamophobic" and accused the Muslim Women's Network of being an anti-Muslim organization. In addition, Labour MP Naz Shah jumped to the defense of the Sharia Council, rejecting the idea of an inquiry, on the grounds that shutting down such councils could mean that more women would be stuck in abusive marriages.
While acknowledging that these councils could be used as a tool to deny women their rights, Shah said that they also serve as valuable arbitrators in marital disputes.
Her claims are totally baseless. It is British law, not sharia, law that protects Muslim individuals and couples, as it does any other citizen.
Haitham al-Haddad is a British shari'a council judge, and sits on the board of advisors for the Islamic Sharia Council. Regarding the handling of domestic violence cases, he stated in an interview, "A man should not be questioned why he hit his wife, because this is something between them. Leave them alone. They can sort their matters among themselves." (Image source: Channel 4 News video screenshot)
Had the British government addressed Sharia Council malpractice when it was first revealed, we would not be facing this pandemic today. Contrary to what apologists for this travesty say, the plight of Muslim women should be treated as an issue of human rights.
It is time for the British government to wake up and take a tough stand on such unethical, and probably illegal, system. And the sooner the better, lest the whole sharia council system go "underground" and out of reach to protect thousands of women from abuse.
*Khadija Khan is a Pakistan-based journalist and commentator.
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Putin Cautions Iran and Assad
Tariq Alhomayed/Asharq Al-Awsat/April15/17
When asked by a reporter if he expected more US missile strikes on Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin replied: “We have information that a similar provocation is being prepared … in other parts of Syria, including in the southern Damascus suburbs where they are planning to again plant some substance and accuse the Syrian authorities of using (chemical weapons).”
According to Reuters, Putin said Russia would be urgently asking the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the global chemical weapons watchdog, to investigate the incident in Idlib.
Putin said that he realized that Russia will receive criticism for its role in Syria, but he hoped that eventually positions will be eased.
So, what do these statements mean with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson due to arrive at Moscow for direct talks?
Surely, no one in his right mind would believe that the US is “planning to plant some substance and accuse the Syrian authorities of using (chemical weapons).”
As Putin said, if the US wanted to strike Damascus criminal Bashar al-Assad, there are simply several and logical justifications for it. This has been the case since the presidency of Obama and the US does not need to wait for Assad to use chemical weapons to launch strikes.
Therefore, the only reasonable analysis of Putin’s statement is that he is warning Assad and Iran against doing anything that could lead to more US strikes against the regime which would embarrass Russia, who will in turn not take any action that could lead to a military confrontation with the US.
No matter what Russia’s interest in Syria may be, Moscow will not go all the way to defend Assad because its real interests are in Europe. It has now become evident that President Trump is not the ally Russia was hoping for, but he is rather the president who launched a military strike against Assad.
The Russian president sought to assure the West that his country welcomes criticism of its role in Syria because he wants to convince the West that he is still in the political game. In addition, Russia’s position in Syria is not ideological or a matter of life and death, like it is with Iran and the terrorist “Hezbollah” organization, but it is negotiable.
As it stands, Putin will not allow any more embarrassments in Syria. We say “embarrassment” because Russia did not respond militarily to the Turkish downing of the Russian fighter jet, so how will it respond to US strikes against Assad after he used chemical weapons which Moscow pledged to remove in 2013?
Russia is in a tight spot and that is why Putin’s statement is more of a warning to Iran and Assad against doing anything reckless than being an accusation against the US. If Washington is colluding like that, it is better if Moscow halts the negotiations or not be so eager to welcome the Secretary of State.
It seems that Putin’s announcement is directed at Iran and Assad more than it is at the US.

Working with Assad, but to Do What?

Amir Taheri/Asharq Al-Awsat/April15/17/
Last week’s US missile attack on an airbase used by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s air force may or may not have been a turning point as far as American foreign policy is concerned. Nevertheless, it has put the thorny issue of Assad’s future back on the diplomatic agenda.
By hitting Assad’s airbase in the wake of the chemical attack on Idlib, President Donald Trump has enforced the “red line” declared and abandoned by his predecessor Barack Obama.
Will Trump also try to enforce another of Obama’s loudly declared and quietly dropped positions: that Assad has no role in Syria’s suture?
Obama launched his “Assad must step down” mantra in 2012 to the delight of experts at the State Department and the Pentagon, who believed that unless the dictator left, Syria would not calm down.
By 2013, however, Obama had reformulated his mantra to read “Assad must step aside”. Track-II secret talks were held about a formula under which Assad would remain head of state, but hand over power to one of his vice presidents leading a cabinet of technocrats tasked to prepare for a new constitution followed by elections.
Yet, by 2015, Obama had forgotten all that, accepting Assad’s presence well into an undetermined future.
One fact that remained obscure is that the Syrian tragedy is, for a good part, a result of Assad’s decision, out of opportunism or cowardice, to adopt the position of the most radical elements within his Ba’athist regime.
Between 2011 and 2015 dozens of Syrian officials, some with decades of service under Bashar’s father Hafez al-Assad, tried to develop formulae to help all parties in the civil war forge a compromise. Assad, may be with a gun pressed to his temple, refused to budge, making sure that the carnage continued.
Many of those officials either quietly faded into the background or fled into exile. Bashar remained at the center of a coterie of sanguinary sectarians increasingly beholden to Iranian mullahs and, from 2014 onwards, the “big bear” in the Kremlin.
Today, in terms of actual power, Assad has become largely irrelevant. He is little more than a mask of pseudo-legality for Russia and the Tehran mullahs for their common, yet contradictory, designs for Syria.
Outside Russia and Iran, some, including the usual suspects in the perennial anti-West movement, use Assad as a theme in confusing public opinion with regard to the Syrian tragedy. Some advocates of Realpolitik, for example Julian Lewis, who chairs the Defense committee in the British House of Commons, start with a prologue about how evil Assad is, but end up by saying we should nevertheless work with him.
Since “the work” that Assad is doing largely consists of killing people, Lewis must tell us in what way could the British help him do that.
Lewis says that during the Second World War Britain forged an alliance with Stalin to fight Hitler, forgetting the Soviet despot’s blood-soaked record.
However, the honorable MP forgets that Stalin had signed an alliance with Hitler, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, and was dragged into the war only after Germany invaded the USSR. When that happened it was Stalin who begged the British, and later the Americans, to help him stop the Nazi juggernaut.
Stalin controlled vast expanses of land and scores of millions of young men to be used as cannon-fodder.
Assad has neither. He barely controls about 15 per cent of Syrian territory and has publicly admitted that he lacks the manpower to extend his rule. Without the estimated 60,000 Lebanese, Afghan, Pakistani and other mercenaries mobilized by Tehran, Assad would not be able even defend his lair in Damascus. And without Vladimir Putin’s air force enlisted to carpet bomb Aleppo and other Syrian cities, Lewis’ putative Syrian ally would have never been able to hoist his flag there.
More importantly, perhaps, Assad is fighting the majority of the Syrian people, who could hardly be described as “Nazis”.
What interest does Britain or any other democracy have in letting the carnage continue in Syria?
In Realpolitik terms, Assad is a diminished figure; each day that passes sees him shrink further into insignificance.
Another argument used in defense of the “we must work with Assad” formula is advanced by Francois Fillon, the beleaguered right-wing candidate in the next French presidential election. He says the West should “work with Assad” because he represents Syria’s legal government.
But how did Assad gain legality? There has never been genuine election in Syria, and Bashar was simply declared president in succession to his father and in violation of the Constitution.
However, even if Assad’s legality were not doubtful, there is no reason why legality should give anyone carte blanche to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity. After all, Hitler’s government was also legal because he had once won a general election.
Putin advances another argument: Assad is fighting “terrorists” and deserves to be supported. However, it is now clear that Assad’s forces, and their Russian and Iranian backers, have taken no meaningful action against ISIS, the arch-terrorist group still in control of large chunks of Syrians territory. It is far-fetched to suggest that 80 percent of Syrians who oppose Assad are all terrorists. The millions of refugees and displaced persons, a majority of them women, children and old people, are ordinary human beings, who want a bit of freedom and security to live their lives. Assad and ISIS and other smaller terror groups have deprived them of that.
The truth is that Assad no longer has a place in Syria.
Even if he is handed the whole of Syria on a platter, he does not have enough supporters to establish control and recreate a minimum of government. In fact, as a state, Syria has already died. A new Syrian state must be created. Neither Assad nor ISIS nor the two dozen or so armed groups fighting Assad can assume that task on their own. However, Assad’s departure could open a space for all Syrians, including the minority that backed Assad, to come together to tackle that awesome task.
In both moral and Realpolitik terms “Assad must go” is a reasonable formula for ending the Syrian tragedy.

White House to Call Out Russia’s Fake News on Syria
Eli Lake/Bloomberg View/April15/17/
President Donald Trump’s Russian reset is in big trouble.
That’s one message of a four-page dossier on the Syrian regime’s April 4 chemical weapons attack that killed up to 100 people and injured many more. The document, prepared by the National Security Council and scheduled for release later Tuesday, provides details on the US assessment that the Syrian regime was responsible for the atrocity. But it also amounts to a public change of heart for a Trump administration that had, like its predecessor, hoped for improved relations with Russia.
The dossier is short on specific intelligence. It is also silent on whether the Russians had foreknowledge of the attack, as some US intelligence agencies have concluded. But it is pointed in its refutation of Russian disinformation, which has made a variety of specious claims. They range from saying the gas was released after a strike on a chemical weapons depot belonging to opposition forces to asserting the incident itself was entirely fabricated.
“The Syrian regime and its primary backer, Russia, have sought to confuse the world community about who is responsible for using chemical weapons against the Syrian people in this and earlier attacks,” the dossier says. Another passage says Moscow’s response to the April 4 incident “follows a familiar pattern of Russia’s response to egregious actions; it spins out multiple, conflicting accounts in order to create confusion and sow doubt within the international community.” The dossier also derided a “drumbeat of nonsensical claims” from Syria and its allies, a clear reference to Russia.
The dossier refutes the Russian claim that the attack was on an opposition-held chemical weapons depot. It notes that commercial satellite video showed a crater in the road and no attack on a chemical weapons depot. It also notes that Russia said the attack occurred between 11:30 am and 12:30 pm on April 4, but that allegations about the attack surfaced on social media at 7:00 am local time.
As for proving Syrian culpability on the attack itself, the document, provided to Bloomberg View, says the US government has collected “signals intelligence,” or communications intercepts, and “geospatial intelligence,” an analysis of imagery and other data that pin the attack at Khan Sheikhoun on Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. The dossier says the US government obtained evidence from “physiological samples collected from multiple victims” of the Sarin attack. And it noted there is also a preponderance of open source data ranging from witnesses on the scene to many videos uploaded to the internet in real time that contradict the Russian account. But it is really the report’s condemnation of the Russian response that is most striking. Trump has sought to reset the relationship with Moscow, as President Barack Obama hoped to do in 2009 and 2010. Now, one US official tells me, Russian officials in phone calls with their Trump administration counterparts repeated in private the same propaganda lines their government was issuing in public. “That has led to a lot of frustration at the highest levels of the government,” this official said.
Already the Syrian incident has had diplomatic consequences. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did not meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in his visit to Moscow. Tillerson’s rhetoric has gotten more muscular over the last week on Syria as well. Speaking to reporters in Italy before departing to Moscow, he said, “It’s clear to all of us that the reign of the Assad family is coming to an end.”
There is a hopeful irony in the latest turn in US-Russian relations. On March 30, former FBI official Clint Watts told the Senate Intelligence Committee that during the election Trump and his campaign at times parroted fake news generated by Russian agents of influence, such as a story that there was a terrorist attack at the Incirlik Airbase in Turkey. The intelligence community’s assessment of Russia’s influence operation against the 2016 election also noted that a component of that campaign was generating and distributing fake news meant to discredit the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.
Trump himself has not condemned Russia for these kinds of dirty tricks in the election. But now his National Security Council will release a document that exposes Russian fake news about its client’s atrocity. Given the president’s own ambivalence up to now toward Russian disinformation, this counts as real news, not the fake kind.

Assad remains disastrous, with or without chemical weapons
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/April 14/17
Bashar al-Assad’s regime is more dangerous than any chemical, nuclear or biological weapon. Likewise, Khomeini’s Iran is dangerous with or without nuclear weapons. It is normal to focus on stopping Bashar and his mercenaries who have no human values; they kill children, women and elderly using poison, rudeness and ruthlessness. Chemical weapons are banned internationally and Bashar’s targeting of helpless victims aroused Donald Trump’s anger. Russians, Bashar and Khomeini doubted the US strikes on Shuayrat military base in the countryside of Homs. However, ethical side of the American strike apart, the survival of this regime, which happens to be the trigger of this conflict and catalyst for terrorist groups, is not the cure for terrorism. For this reason, the right action for America, and its US allies in Europe and the Arab world led by Saudi Arabia, is to end this regime and not just remove Bashar. The regime should be removed regardless of Russia’s moral and political mask as it did not care for the tragedies of the Syrian people and just wanted to maintain the survival of Bashar. US ambassador to Damascus, Robert Ford, said in an interview to American CBS channel that attacks against Assad regime must continue. It is not possible to achieve the American desire to change the regime as long as there is still Iranian and Russian support for Assad. What is required now from Arabs is to stand by this new momentum built by American attacks. They should move on from expressing just moral outrage to building a new strategy to end this regime
Need of the hour
I think it is possible to end the Assad regime despite Russians and Iranian support and all that is needed is a vision, determination and solid alliance. The Russians stood on the dark side of history. They risked going against Muslims across the world and not just in the Arab region. The most recent expression of the Russian decision was the horrid veto used on Wednesday to prevent investigations in the wake of Khan Shaykhun chemical attack. An interview released by Kremlin quoted Putin as saying that “Damascus got rid of its chemical weapons.”Putin was upset with what he heard about the Khan Shaykhun’s poisonous rain. So he said “the air strikes of the Syrian government might have hit a chemical weapons warehouse belonging to the opposition, which led to the emission of toxic gas, or it could also be a fabricated incident to mislead the image of the Syrian government.”What is important for the Russian leader is to protect Bashar and his regime whether he targeted his people with chemical weapons or not, these are trivial details. What is required now from Arabs is to stand by this new momentum built by American attacks. They should move on from expressing just moral outrage to building a new strategy to end this regime.

The contribution of female Muslim scholars in Islamic history
Suhaila Zain Al-Abideen/Al Arabiya/April 14/17
Some Muslim historians, both old and modern, have tried to hide the contributions of Muslim women to the scientific and non-scientific advancement of Muslim societies throughout Islamic history. Such historians wanted the public to think that men have played the major role in all advancements and women have done nothing when in fact Muslim women have played a pivotal role in the evolution of Muslim societies ever since the revelation of the Holy Qur’an. Female scholars learned from male scholars and taught male scholars as well. Many female scholars wrote books and acted as authorities on religious issues. Men who wanted to widen their Shariah knowledge used to attend the sessions of female scholars and some men even traveled for days to another city to attend the sessions of a certain female scholar. Men who wanted to widen their Shariah knowledge used to attend the sessions of female scholars and some men even traveled for days to another city to attend the sessions of a certain female scholar. Therefore, Muslim women were not stay-at-home moms; on the contrary, they had strong roles in society. At the time, the West did not have any impact on Muslim societies. However, women have been marginalized since 1494. Because of this marginalization, the illiteracy rate among Muslim women has reached 66 percent. Among the most prominent female scholars was Umm Al-Darda Al-Soghra, who died in 700 AD. She was an authority on “ahadith” (sayings of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him) and several great scholars at the time attended her classes such as Hasan Al-Basri, who died in 728 AD and was a great scholar, theologian and judge.
Complicated juristic viewpoints
The celebrated scholar Muhammad Ibn Sirin and Abu Bakr Ibn Hazm, a great judge of Madinah, also attended her classes. This great female scholar was known for her in-depth fatwas. She held classes inside Damascus Mosque where she explained complicated juristic viewpoints to her students, both male and female. Even the Umayyad Caliph Abdul Malik Bin Marwan attended her classes. Another prominent female scholar was Nafisa Bint Al-Hassan, the granddaughter of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). She grew up in Madinah where she attended the sessions of great scholars, such as Imam Malik Ibn Anas and learned from them. She was an eminent scholar who taught two of the great scholars of the time: Abu Abdullah Muhammad Idris Al-Shafi’i and Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, who were two of the four great imams. The former’s legacy on juridical matters and teaching led to the Shafi’i School of Jurisprudence while that of the latter led to the Hanbali School of Jurisprudence.