April 20/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

The Bulletin's Link on the lccc Site

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

Bible Quotations For Today
Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Mark 16/15-18/:"‘Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover."

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God
Letter to the Ephesians 02/01-10/:"You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ by grace you have been saved and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 19-20/17
The Top 10 Richest Lebanese Politicians/The961/April 19/17
The US War against ISIS/Eli Lake/Bloomberg/April 19/17
Turkish Opposition Seeks Annulment of Referendum/Said Abdul Razzak/Asharq Al Awsat/April 19/17
What is the IDF trying to hide about the interception of the Syrian missile/Jerusalem Post/April 19/17
Russia In Syria: All Pain And No Gain/MEMRI/April 19/17
Palestinian Writer To Marwan Al-Barghouti: Hunger Strikes Achieve Nothing; What Palestinian People Are You Talking About/MEMRI/April 19/17
UK: War on Free Speech at the National Union of Students/Douglas Murray/Gatestone Institute/April 19/17
Why Is the US Still Funding Palestinian Terrorism/Shoshana Bryen/Gatestone Institute/April 19/17
Trump has to undo Obama’s Mideast legacy/Ahmad al-Farraj/Al Arabiya/April 19/17
Why saying ‘I know a Christian’ only furthers extremist rhetoric/Mamdouh AlMuhaini/Al Arabiya/April 19/17
War on extremism initiated from Malaysia/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/April 19/17
US banks’ Trump card – rolling back banking regulations/Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/April 19/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published on April 19-20/17
The Top 10 Richest Lebanese Politicians
Lebanon: Electoral Law Crisis Intensifies
March 14 Activists Slam Sectarian Incitement, Warn against 'Replacing Democracy by Iran Hegemony'
Berri: Budget Draft Referred to Committee, Wage Scale on Parliament's Agenda
Lebanese Army Clamps Down on 'Biggest Arms Dealer'
Salameh Meets Aoun: Central Bank Has Ability to Preserve Monetary Stability
Berri Overlooks His Version of Electoral Law, Says Weighing New Ideas
Report: International Community Says Lebanon Must Stage Timely Elections
Syrian Mother Arrested for Throwing Newborn in Garbage Container
Hariri, Adwan tackle most recent developments
Lebanese Army: Reconnaissance enemy planes violate Lebanese Airspace
Hariri patronizes reconciliation between Abed El Wahed, Merheb families and military institution
Archbishop Rahme receives Hezbollah delegation
Lebanon's Army Commander, Egypt's Ambassador tackle cooperation prospects

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 19-20/17
Syria moves all its fighter jets to Russian base
Russian envoy, Foreign Ministry to discuss recognition of J'lem as Capital
Civilian Council in Raqqa under Arab-Kurdish Leadership
Six Killed in Aleppo Bombing as Evacuation of 4 Syrian Towns Resumes
White House confirms Iran deal review
US says Iran complies with nuke deal, but orders review on lifting sanctions
‘He does not like white people:’ Man goes on killing spree in California
Chemical weapons watchdog says Sarin or similar used in Idlib attack
Evacuations resume after deadly bombing in Syria
Russia’s undeclared death toll in Syria creeps higher
King Salman, Mattis Discuss Saudi-US Strategic Friendship
Mattis in Riyadh: There is disorder wherever Iran is present
Tillerson: Iran supports Houthis and threatens naval navigation in the Gulf
France to provide proof on Syria govt chemical weapons use
US Special Forces reach Anbar province in Iraq to support ISIS fight
Salman-Mattis meeting affirms convergence on security issues
Arab coalition aerial defense intercepts two ballistic missiles in Yemen’s Marib
Coalition forces destroy ballistic missiles in Yemen
US Drone Strikes Kill 5 Qaeda Suspects in Yemen
Israeli Official: Barghouti Should Have Been Served a Death Penalty
Young Muslim Jordanians Launch Initiative To Guard Churches On Easter Sunday
Turkey’s main opposition party could withdraw from parliament
Members of Modi’s party in India to face trial over Babri mosque demolition
ISIS claims deadly attack near Egypt’s St. Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai
EU Warns against Jeopardizing Libya’s Political Process

Links From Jihad Watch Site for April 19-20/17
Egypt: Muslims attack security forces near St. Catherine’s Monastery, killing at least one police officer
Pakistan: Female Muslim medical student plotted Easter jihad suicide massacre at church
Australia: Muslim who murdered six by hitting them with his car says “Muslim faith is the correct faith”
Muslim receiving cancer treatment in Israel arrested smuggling explosives from Gaza
“I only swear by Allah”: Ohio Muslim pleads guilty to terror charges
AP changes Fresno jihad mass murderer’s words from “Allahu akbar,” removes Islam reference
Islamic State and al Qaeda in renewed talks to join forces
Robert Spencer in PJ Media: How Islamophobia Endangers Us All
Hugh Fitzgerald: A Field Day For Fatuity in Fresno
MSNBC “counterterror expert” Malcolm Nance calls for Islamic State jihad bombing of Trump property
Robert Spencer in FrontPage: Muslim Screaming “Allahu Akbar” Murders Three In Fresno

Links From Christian Today Site on April 19-20/17
Christian governor in Jakarta faces election defeat while on trial for alleged blasphemy
Ancient Sinai monastery targeted by Islamic militants in Egypt a week after Coptic church bombings
Less than half of German Christians believe in heaven
Student lynching spurs Pakistan parliament to call for reform of blasphemy laws
Analysis: Fresh start for all parties as PM produces an Easter shock at Westminster
Growing majority of Americans do not trust Trump to keep his promises, new poll finds
Hope that 'something good will come': How victims of rape and conflict in Uganda are being aided by this Christian charity
Why the gay sex issue isn't going to go away for Tim Farron – and what he should say next time he's asked
MPs overwhelmingly back #GeneralElection2017
Canadian church celebrates Easter by hiring helicopter to drop 45,000 chocolate eggs

Latest Lebanese Related News published on April 19-20/17
The Top 10 Richest Lebanese Politicians
The961/April 19, 2017
Just a few days ago, we featured the richest Lebanese people in the Middle East. This list included several politicians so we thought we’d showcase the richest Lebanese politicians.Among the previous list, several politicians were highlighted so we got curious about the other politicians. Turns out we have billionaire politicians and quite a few who are super millionaires.
Najib Mikati
Najib Mikati was just ranked the number 1 richest Lebanese person in the Middle East. Forbes estimates his net worth at $2.6 billion. Source of wealth is from telecom as well as self-made
Najib Mikati resigned in March 2013 after two years as Lebanon’s prime minister. Before entering politics, he and his brother Taha were telecom operators in Africa and Syria through their company Investcom. They sold it to MTN Group of South Africa in 2006 for $3.6 billion (USD) in cash and stock, and formed M1 Group, an entity with investments in telecom, real estate and retail.
Issam Fares is one of the most prominent Lebanese businessman and politician in Lebanon. He served as a member of the Lebanese Parliament and the former Deputy Prime Minister of Lebanon. His estimated net worth is $2.3 Billion (USD).
In 1954, at the age of seventeen, Fares left Lebanon and found a job as a clerk at a catering and food services firm in Qatar. Two years later, he was heading Abela Group’s finances and subsequently managing its operations in Pakistan, Kuwait, Iran and Saudi Arabia.
At age 38, Fares went into business for himself and established a civil engineering and construction firm, which completed many notable projects including the world’s longest international bridge, which connects Bahrain to Saudi Arabia.
He then sold the company to British Aerospace and used the proceeds to buy up Houston-based investment firm, Wedge Group, a company that he heads today.
Fun Fact: He owns one of the 200 largest superyachts in the world.
Saad Hariri is the son of Rafik Hariri, former Prime Minister of Lebanon prior to his assassination. Saad has followed the footsteps of this father and is now the prime minister of Lebanon. The principal source of his wealth is Saudi Oger, one of Saudi Arabia’s biggest construction companies.
Forbes estimates his net worth at $1 billion (USD) with the source of wealth from construction and inheritance. He’s the 41st richest person in the Middle East.
Michel Aoun is an ex-Army General of Lebanon and the current President. He also served as Prime Minister of Lebanon towards the end of the civil war from 1988 to 1990. He’s the founder of the Free Patriotic Movement political party. His estimated net worth is $90 million (USD)
Walid Bey Jumblatt is a Lebanese politician, the leader of Lebanon’s Druze and the current leader of the Progressive Socialist Party – a party founded by his late father Kamal Jumblatt. He started his professional career as a reporter in Beirut for An Nahar newspaper.
Nabih Berri, who was born in Sierra Leone, is a Lebanese politician who has been the Speaker of the Parliament of Lebanon since 1992. He was elected leader of the Amal Movement in 1980 and continues to head it today. His estimated net worth is $78 million (USD)
Tammam Salam has held several government positions. He was Prime Minister of Lebanon from February 2014 until December 2016. During the presidential vacuum, he was the acting President from May 2014 to October 2016. He also was the minister of culture from July 2008 to November 2009. His father was also prime minister at some point and his grandfather was a Lebanese official during the Ottoman occupation.His estimated net worth is $71 million (USD)
Suleiman Frangieh Jr. is the current leader of the Marada Movement. He held various positions in government at various times, including minister of the interior and municipalities, minister of public health, minister of agriculture and housing, minister of municipalities and rural affairs, minister of housing and cooperatives as well as state minister. His grandfather was the 5th President of Lebanon. His estimated net worth is $65 million (USD)
Amine Gemayel is the Lebanese politician and served as the President of the Lebanon for six years from 1982 to 1988. He served as the 7th president of Lebanon. His family started the Kataeb party. He comes from a family that is heavily involved in Lebanese politics and a family that has fallen victim to assassinations several times. His grandfather was forced to leave Lebanon in the early 20th. His grandfather was forced to leave Lebanon in the early 20th century due to his opposition to the Ottoman Empire. His brother, Bachir Gemayel, was assassinated just a couple weeks after becoming president. His son, Pierre Gemayel, was also assassinated.
His estimated net worth is $58 million (USD)
Michel Suleiman served as the president of Lebanon from 2008 to 2014. Before that, he served as the General of Lebanese Army. His estimated net worth is $49 million (USD)

Lebanon: Electoral Law Crisis Intensifies
Asharq Al-Awsat English/April 19/17/Beirut – Lebanon’s electoral law crisis intensifies as various proposals submitted by Lebanese politicians have failed to please the different factions and groups. In light of the current deadlock, the country has two difficult options. The first is to extend the parliament’s term during a session scheduled on May 15, and the second is parliamentary vacuum, which threatens the work of the country’s constitutional institutions.
Foreign Minister and Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) Leader Gebran Bassil’s proposed electoral law was strongly rejected by the FPM’s ally, Hezbollah, and lacked constitutional legitimacy, according to an expert in the Lebanese Constitution.
Bassil announced his electoral law proposal Monday at the FPM headquarters. Under his proposal, some districts would use a majoritarian voting system, while others would use a proportional system. Meanwhile, sources in the Presidential Palace told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper that it was important not to anticipate conclusions in this matter, noting that while politicians publicly attacked any proposed electoral law, backstage talks were ongoing and would hopefully lead to a positive outcome. The sources added that President Michel Aoun has stressed the inevitability to reach an agreement over a new electoral law within the remaining deadline. Constitutional Expert and Former MP Saleh Honein said that Bassil’s proposed law is unconstitutional, as the Constitution stresses the unity of the Lebanese territories, people, and institutions. Honein told Asharq al-Awsat: “Confessional elections violate the content and the spirit of the Constitution.” He noted that the remaining time until the next parliamentary session on May 15 was enough to reach an agreement between the different parties over a constitutional electoral law. For his part, Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) Secretary General Zafer Nasser said that his party rejected the law proposed by Bassil. In remarks to Asharq al-Awsat, Nasser stressed that the proposed formula was against the Constitution and a blow to partnership and national reconciliation. “If real reforms are needed, then such laws do not build a country,” he stated.

Middle East's only Christian President, Aoun, says his message is peace
Jay Gotera/Christian Today/April 19/17
In a region torn by conflict and hate, a Christian political leader—the only one in the region—lit the light of hope and peace just before Easter, the celebration of Jesus' resurrection. Michel Aoun, the newly elected President of Lebanon and the only Christian president in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), spoke to SAT-7 on Thursday to relate the message of Jesus' resurrection to the search for peace in the region. "Resurrection is what we wish for after death. This is the Christian hope based on our faith. Without it, there is no Christianity and no resurrection," he told the news outlet in an interview.
Aoun emphasized the significance of Jesus' resurrection by quoting the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:14, "And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is worthless, and so is your faith."Aoun—who was elected president by the Lebanese parliament on Oct. 31, 2016, which ended a 29-month power vacuum in the country—emphasized the need for peace, coexistence, and tolerance in the Middle East. "I carry a message of peace," he declared. Aoun is an ally of the powerful Iran-backed Shi'ite Muslim group Hezbollah, Reuters noted. He was prime minister of one of two rival Lebanese governments at the end of the 1975-90 civil war. He fought two wars during that period, one against Syrian forces in Lebanon, and another against a powerful Christian militia, the Lebanese Forces. The Syrian army ousted him from power in 1990 and he went into exile in France. He returned to Lebanon in 2005 after Syrian troops withdrew following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. The following year, Aoun declared an alliance with Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, which has remained in effect.
In the SAT-7 interview, the former army general lamented that the political turmoil in the region is greatly affecting Christians. He focused on the plight of Christians in Israel who, he claimed, are being evicted from their land. "Christians in Jerusalem once constituted 22 percent of Israel's population. Now, we are left with only about one percent," he said. Aoun has vowed to turn Lebanon into a regional and global model of peaceful coexistence among people of differing faiths. He said he is seeking "blessing" from the United Nations in his plan to promote Lebanon as the international hub for religious dialogue. "Lebanon encompasses the ultimate mix of cultural, religious, and ethnic groups in the world," he said. Aoun urged the people of the region, regardless of their faiths, to hold on to their hope of eventually overcoming the many challenges in their lives. He urged the people not to give in to fear, doubt, and temptation, saying these are the "main reasons of failure in life" as conveyed by Jesus to His disciples. Meanwhile, the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem offered an Easter message to the world that celebrates the resurrection as well as unity in Christ. "The message of Easter, which was first announced in Jerusalem, and has echoed down the centuries, now resounds again in Jerusalem, the city of the Resurrection," reads the message. "It is our prayer that the hope established through our risen Lord will enlighten the leaders and nations of the whole world to see this light, and to perceive new opportunities to work and strive for the common good and recognize all as created equal before God," reads the message. "This light of Christ draws the whole human family towards justice, reconciliation and peace, and to pursue it diligently."*This article was originally published in The Christian Post.

March 14 Activists Slam Sectarian Incitement, Warn against 'Replacing Democracy by Iran Hegemony'
Naharnet/April 19/17/The March 14 Moustamerroun group of activists on Wednesday accused some of the ruling parties of “stoking sectarian sentiments” in order to “deviate the attention of the Lebanese from the corruption scandals that have exposed the true nature of the ruling class.”These scandals “will push the Lebanese to hold it accountable in the upcoming parliamentary elections, as evidenced by the results of the latest municipal and syndical polls,” March 14 Moustamerroun said in a statement issued after its weekly meeting at the Bristol Hotel. Turning to the electoral law, the group noted that “the draft laws that the ruling class parties are seeking to pass do not only encroach on the right of a certain sect to correct representation, but also usurp the right of all segments of the Lebanese people to choose their real representatives.” It pointed out that some parties want to “create Christian, Sunni and Druze duos that emulate the Shiite duo.”“What the Lebanese want is a true democracy and that can only be achieved through comprehensive pluralism across Lebanon and inside all sects,” the March 14 activists added. As for the proposed extension of parliament's term, the group said “real rejection of extension is not only about preventing the incumbent MPs from staying in their posts after June 21, 2017, but also about preventing the extension of all the policies that have been in place for several years now.”These policies “are based on replacing the constitution by settlements, the law by deals, legitimate institutions by illegitimate arms, and democracy by the balance of power that Iran is imposing on Lebanon through Hizbullah's weapons,” March 14 Moustamerroun said. “The problem that the Lebanese are suffering from is not only the extension of MPs' terms but also the extension of the mentalities of repression... that were born under Syrian occupation and are still being replicated at the hands of Hizbullah and those who are silent over its arms or are colluding with it,” the group went on to say.

Berri: Budget Draft Referred to Committee, Wage Scale on Parliament's Agenda
Naharnet/April 19/17/Speaker Nabih Berri said on Wednesday that the long-awaited wage scale file is not included in the draft state budget that was submitted to the parliament today, but assured that it is on the agenda of the upcoming legislative session on May 15, media reports said.
“The salary scale is listed on the agenda of the parliament meeting scheduled on May 15,” Berri was quoted as saying. He notified the deputies that a copy of the state budget was submitted to the parliament on Wednesday and that he referred it to the Budget and Finance committee for studying.
In March, the cabinet endorsed Lebanon's 2017 state budget, the country's first budget in 12 years, which was sent to parliament for ratification. Due to political disputes, Lebanon has not approved a state budget since 2005. The cabinet discussed the country's budget amid mounting pressures from the public sector demanding a government approval of the long-awaited wage scale bill. Demands for the salary hike bill has triggered street protests and sit-ins in order to push the government into approving the demand.

Lebanese Army Clamps Down on 'Biggest Arms Dealer'
Naharnet/April 19/17/The Lebanese army arrested the 'largest arms dealer' in Lebanon in the border town of Britel in the Bekaa region, media reports said on Wednesday. The army staged security raids in the said area and was able arrest the dealer, who was identified as Aahed Mohsen Mazloum, they added. Mazloum is one of the largest arms dealers in the country, it said. The army is in a constant battle against outlaws who seek refuge in remote border areas in Lebanon.In March, it staged raids on residences of the most wanted drug kingpin, Nouh Zoaiter in the Bekaa region in east Lebanon. Zoaiter is wanted on several arrest warrants including the Interpol.

Salameh Meets Aoun: Central Bank Has Ability to Preserve Monetary Stability
Naharnet/April 19/17/Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh reassured Wednesday that the Central Bank “has the ability to preserve the monetary stability in the country.”Salameh voiced his remarks during talks with President Michel Aoun at the Baabda Palace. State-run National News Agency said discussions tackled the financial situations in the country and “the available information about preparations in the U.S. Congress to revise the U.S. financial sanctions act targeting some Lebanese parties, institutions and individuals.”Aoun instructed the central bank governor to “follow up on this issue,” the agency added.

Berri Overlooks His Version of Electoral Law, Says Weighing New Ideas
Naharnet/April 19/17/Speaker Nabih Berri said a new electoral law must be agreed within the one-month time period given since President Michel Aoun used his powers to suspend the parliament, and assured that he longer adheres to the 64-64 version of a law format he proposed earlier, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Wednesday. “In the remaining time we have to reach a new electoral law, we must not give up or be forced to extend (the parliament's term). There is still time, it is shameful for us to fail at finding a format that satisfies all segments of Lebanese society, regardless of their magnitude,” Berri told his visitors on Tuesday
“We will not accept a law that is not acceptable to all parties, without any exceptions,” he added. Berri added that in order to avoid a parliament extension term, the political parties have first to agree on a new law. “A parliament extension becomes one of two indispensable evils in the absence of a new law,” he stressed. On the law format proposals that have been put forward so far, Berri said: “Personally I am currently trying to find an ideal format. I have already submitted the 64-64 version which I no longer adhere to, knowing that it secures more than 50 Christian deputies with the votes of Christians. “Moreover, many sharp objections were made about the qualification format, mainly by MP Walid Jumblat, the Lebanese Forces and others.” Berri's hybrid electoral law suggested a distribution of 64-64 between the majority and the proportionality. He concluded saying that many political parties are putting in efforts to find a new format including Hizbullah and himself. Our Hizbullah brothers are studying some ideas,” he said noting that the party has also made a suggestion earlier “and I am trying to take some of these suggestions and combine them with my own perhaps we reach consensus on a certain formula," concluded Berri.

Report: International Community Says Lebanon Must Stage Timely Elections
Naharnet/April 19/17/The international community has notified the Lebanese government of the necessity to agree on a new law for the upcoming parliamentary polls in order for the country to be able to restore its “democratic rhythm,” al-Joumhouria daily reported on Wednesday.
“Prominent international community sources have communicated with the Lebanese government stressing the necessity to devise a new law or stage the parliamentary elections because the international community is annoyed with a country that endured a presidential vacuum for two years, and is unable now to draft a new election law and restore its normal democratic cycle,” said al-Joumhouria. “In this context, a statement issued by the international support group should be considered. It encouraged the Lebanese leaders to "benefit from the time frame to intensify their efforts to agree on an electoral framework for holding free and fair elections in accordance with the constitution,”” added the daily. The sources reiterated “the importance of staging the elections in a timely manner to preserve the democratic process in Lebanon,” and called on Lebanese leaders “to reach an agreement as soon as possible through political consultations.”Furthermore, “it is worth noting that Lebanon is not included in the tour initiated by US Defense Minister James Mattis to the region, knowing that Lebanon is one of the countries that receives US military aid,” said the newspaper.Political parties are bickering over amending the current 1960 majoritarian election law which divides seats among the different religious sects. The latest electoral law proposal suggested by Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, has reportedly been shelved due to the objections of several political forces including allies of the Free Patriotic Mnemosyne such as the Lebanese Forces and al-Mustaqbal Movement. A number of law formats were suggested before Bassil's as well, but none has garnered consensus of political parties. Bassil's hybrid, two-round electoral system had been initially rejected by Druze leader MP Walid Jumblat and the LF, and on Tuesday MP Ammar Houri of al-Mustaqbal bloc said “Bassil's suggestion with its sectarian voting round cannot pass and it is distant from the spirit of the Taef Accord and the constitution.” Bassil's format prevents voters from voting for candidates from other sects in the first round and divides Lebanon into 26 districts. The second round involves a non-sectarian proportional representation system and 10 larger districts.

Syrian Mother Arrested for Throwing Newborn in Garbage Container
Naharnet/April 19/17/The Internal Security Forces arrested 35-year-old Syrian mother on Wednesday after dumping her newborn baby a year earlier into a waste container on al-Dora highway, the National News Agency reported Wednesday. “On the basis of information available to the Tripoli Judicial Unit, the police were able to arrest Syrian national S.H. for throwing out on 22/6/2016 her newborn baby girl into a dumpster in al-Dora area. The baby was thrown out the same day she was born,” an ISF statement said. “The woman has admitted after interrogations that she got rid of her child because it was the result of an illicit relationship. Her mother and sister have helped her throughout the process,” it added. “The two women were also arrested for taking part in the crime of throwing the baby which has not been found as yet,” added the statement. The related judicial authorities continue investigations into the crime.

Hariri, Adwan tackle most recent developments
Wed 19 Apr 2017/NNA - Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, received on Wednesday at Beit El Wasat Vice-President of the executive committee of the Lebanese Forces, MP George Adwan, with talks touching on most recent developments as well as ongoing contacts regarding the vote law.

Lebanese Army: Reconnaissance enemy planes violate Lebanese Airspace
Wed 19 Apr 2017/NNA - An Israeli reconnaissance plane breached the Lebanese airspace on Wednesday at 10:07 above the Southern Lebanese village of Kfarkila and effectuated U-shaped maneuvers over Riyaq, Baalbek and Hermel, a Lebanese Army communiqué said on Wednesday, adding that the enemy aircraft left at 15:14 from abovementioned village. The communiqué added that another Israeli drone violated the Lebanese skies on the same day at 8:00 from above Nakoura village, carried out a circular flight over the south regions and West Bekaa then left from above Kfarkila. Two Israeli enemy reconnaissance planes violated also at 14:25 the Lebanese skies off Rmaish village, made a U turn over the South regions, and then left at 15:30 p.m. from above Nakoura village.

Hariri patronizes reconciliation between Abed El Wahed, Merheb families and military institution
Wed 19 Apr 2017 /NNA - Prime Minister Saad Hariri patronized on Wednesday a reconciliation between the families of Abed Al Wahed and Merheb as well as the military institution, in the presence of Grand Mufti of the Lebanese Republic, Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian, Minister of National Defense Yaacoub Sarraf, Minister of State for the Displaced, Moeen Merhebi, and several MPs. Sheikh Derian expressed his happiness to meet with Premier Hariri and families from Akkar. "Akkar is dear to our hearts, and we want it to be an incubator for security and reassurance, an incubator for tolerance and coexistence."Derian also said that today's encounter aims to cement ties and cordial relations among families. "We may face problems, crises and accidents throughout our coexistence but we should heal our wounds," he said. PM Hariri, for his part, welcomed the families at the Grand Serail and said that he understood their great loss...; "but our stand together and love can mitigate such a loss." Hariri thanked the families for taking this difficult step that leads to righteousness and unity for the benefit of the country and the region. Hariri, separately, received delegations participating at the conference organized by the Lebanese Dar Fatwa including Sheikh Derian, Egypt's Grand Mufti, Sheikh Shawki Allam, Jordan's Grand Mufti, Sheikh Mohammad Al Khalayleh, and scores of scholars. Attendees tackled the conference goals and the paramount importance of inter-faith dialogue in combating extremism as well as the essential role of official religious institutions in this regard.

Archbishop Rahme receives Hezbollah delegation
Wed 19 Apr 2017/NNA - Baalbak Hermel Maronite Archbishop, Hanna Rahme, received on Wednesday a delegation from Hezbollah Bekaa district command to well wish him on Easter.

Lebanon's Army Commander, Egypt's Ambassador tackle cooperation prospects
Wed 19 Apr 2017/NNA - Army Commander, General Joseph Aoun, received on Tuesday at his Yarzeh office Egypt's Ambassador to Lebanon, Nazih al-Najjari, accompanied by Embassy Military Attache Wael Mahmoud Zakaria. Talks reportedly dwelt on cooperation relations between the armies of Lebanon and Egypt. General Aoun also met MPs Samir Jisr and Ziad Kadri, with talks reportedly touching on the general situation. The General also met with the Assistant Secretary General of the Arab League Ambassador Abdul Rahman Solh, whereby they discussed the overall situation.
Aoun then met with Goodwill, Humanitarian and Development Ambassador in the Middle East Hassan

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 19-20/17
Syria moves all its fighter jets to Russian base
DEBKAfile Special Report April 19, 2017
Syria has moved all its fighter aircraft to the Russian Hmeimim air base in Latakia three weeks after 59 US Tomahawk cruise missiles knocked out one-fifth of its air force at the Shayrat base, in retaliation for a chemical attack on civilians in Idlib. This was reported Wednesday night, April 19, by the Pentagon. The Russian high command in Syria has its seat at that base. DEBKAfile’s military sources report that the Syrian air force will operate henceforth under Russian protection and behind the advanced Russian S-300 and S-400 air defense shield without fear of US reprisals. President Vladimir Putin’s response to the Trump administration’s call to distance Moscow from the Assad regime is therefore a flat rejection. He is instead fortifying Russian support for that regime. The upsurge of Russian-US military tension places at risk the operational coordination accords prevailing between the air forces of Russia, the US and Israel in Syrian skies. Syrian operational staff officers working in Hmeimim will now have access to the advanced Russian surveillance instruments tracking the movements of all foreign aircraft moving through Syrian air space. Syrian intelligence officers will also be close to Russian SIGINT facilities which the Russian spy agency GRU has installed there. In other words, by a single move, the Russians have substantially upgraded the Syrian air force’s operational and intelligence capabilities. How does this affect the Syrian and Iranian air freight traffic ferrying military supplies from Iran? Where will they deliver their cargoes? Will they too be allowed to land at the Russian base in Latakia? If they are, the Israeli air force will be prevented from cutting down the flow of Iranian weapons for Hizballah. The new move more or less buries the Russian-Israeli agreements covering Syrian skies. The Pentagon disclosure came ironically just hours after a senior Israeli military officer confidently informed military correspondents in Tel Aviv that the mechanism introduced for Russian-Israeli air force coordination in Syria had been successfully adopted by other nations operating in Syria, such as Turkey and the United States. He reported that the arrangement included reciprocal visits once every two months by heads of the operations divisions of the two armies. These visits will probably go the same way now as the entire arrangement.

Russian envoy, Foreign Ministry to discuss recognition of J'lem as Capital
Jerusalem Post/April 19/17/Even though Russia recognized west Jerusalem as the capital, it does not mean that the embassy will move from Tel Aviv. Russia's Ambassador to Israel Alexander Shein is expected to meet in the coming days with senior Foreign Ministry officials to discuss the significance of its surprise announcement earlier this month to recognize west Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state. Shein is expected to tell his interlocutors that Moscow now recognizes west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and that it expects that east Jerusalem will be the capital of a Palestinian state in any future agreemen. Though Russia is the first country in the world to recognize west Jerusalem as the capital, its decision does not mean that it will move its embassy from Tel Aviv. Moscow’s position is that even with this recognition, it remains committed to UN Security Council Resolution 478 from 1980 that slammed Israel for adopting the Jerusalem Law declaring united Jerusalem as its capital, and that called on all countries to move their embassies out of the city. So far, Moscow’s move has been met with only a muted reaction from the Arab world, even though many have warned US President Donald Trump that if he carries out his campaign promise to move America’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – which would be tantamount to recognition of at least west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital – there would be the risk of a violent flare up, not only in Jerusalem, but throughout the Muslim world.
No such reaction accompanied the Russian move, with one explanation being that the Russians did something that Trump in his campaign rhetoric about moving the embassy did not do: coupled recognition of west Jerusalem with an announcement that it expects east Jerusalem to be the capital of a future Palestinian state. Israel, meanwhile, has not yet publicly responded to Moscow’s announcement, a statement that was to a large extent drowned out because it came two days after the chemical attack in Idlib and a few hours before the US launched 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian air base in response.
While some speculation about Israel’s silence was that it could not publicly applaud a move that only recognized half the city as its capital, Shein is expected to hear Israeli satisfaction at the move. The reason is because it is seen as a step forward against the idea of Jerusalem as a corpus separatum – separate entity under an international regime – as laid out in the 1947 UN partition plan. The corpus separatum remains a position that many countries, such as those in the European Union, have never formally moved away from, even as the EU often states that it would like to see Jerusalem as a capital of two states.
The Russian move has been explained simply as Moscow’s recognition of the reality that most Israeli government offices are situated in west Jerusalem. But The Jerusalem Post has learned that the fact that the Middle East diplomatic process has been stuck for three years also played a part in Moscow’s calculations and timing, with Russia wanting its unilateral step to send a clear message to Israel, the Palestinians and the Americans that it is dissatisfied with the status quo. While Moscow will not move its embassy to Jerusalem, west Jerusalem is expected to appear from now onward in official Russian maps, and will be taught as Israel’s capital in the country’s schools. So far, no other country has followed Moscow’s lead, nor – according to diplomatic officials – are any expected to immediately do so.

Civilian Council in Raqqa under Arab-Kurdish Leadership
Asharq Al-Awsat//April 19/17/Beirut, Washington- The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced on Tuesday the creation of the Raqqa Civilian Council under a joint Arab-Kurdish leadership to administer the northern Syrian city after its complete liberation from ISIS militants. “The civilian council of Raqqa will be charged with administering Raqqa and the surrounding province after liberation,” the SDF Command said in a statement. The announcement was made following a meeting held between SDF leaders and representatives from the Raqqa tribes in the town of Ain Issa, located some 65 kilometers north of Raqqa city. During the meeting, participants announced the formation of the council and said 14 committees are expected to run the province. The Syrian opposition was not enthusiastic about this announcement. Several sources feared the new council would provide the Arab cover for the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) to control Raqqa. Head of the Kurdish National Council Ibrahim Berro told Asharq Al-Awsat on Tuesday that the Kurdish Democratic Party is using a policy that increases the rivalry of the Syrian people’s components against Kurds. SDF sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Leila Mustafa, a Kurdish woman from Raqqa, was elected as the joint head of the council, which is also led by Sheikh Mahmoud Shawakh al-Barsan, a prominent leader of the Raqqa tribes. The SDF source said efforts were expended to form a Kurdish internal security force known as the “Asayesh force” to perform the duties of local police in the liberated areas of Raqqa. Meanwhile, AP reported on Tuesday that President Donald Trump’s plans for Syria have come into clearer view since he ordered cruise missiles fired on a Syrian air base to punish Bashar Assad for a chemical weapons attack. “The strategy breaks down into three basic phases: defeating ISIS, restoring stability in Syria region-by-region and securing a political transition in which Assad ultimately steps down,” a US official told AP. Trump’s airstrikes marked the first US attack against Assad’s forces, but the official said there’s no appetite for using America’s military to depose Assad. At the battlefield, SDF forces continued their incursion in the city of Tabqa, where they are leading fierce battles against ISIS jihadists.

Six Killed in Aleppo Bombing as Evacuation of 4 Syrian Towns Resumes
Asharq Al-Awsat//April 19/17/Six people were killed and dozens others wounded in a blast that rocked the northern Syrian city of Aleppo at a time when a complex evacuation deal was being carried out a few kilometers away in Rashidin, a southwestern suburb of the city. Syrian state TV said an explosive device went off in the northern city of Aleppo, killing six people and wounding 30 others.It did not provide further details on Wednesday’s blast in the regime-held Salaheddin neighborhood. Opposition media groups, including Aleppo Today, said the explosion occurred near a mosque during the funeral of a regime fighter. Aleppo was divided between regime and rebel-held districts for years, but regime forces managed to drive rebels from the city in December with a Russian-backed offensive. Some contested areas remain. Meanwhile, the widely criticized evacuation of thousands of Syrians from four besieged areas resumed Wednesday, state media and activists said, days after a bombing killed more than 120 evacuees and delayed the population transfer. The Central Military Media said 3,000 residents of two pro-regime villages, Foua and Kafarya, left Wednesday in 45 buses bound for regime-controlled Aleppo. Another 11 buses carrying some 500 people, including opposition fighters, left Madaya and Zabadani, near Damascus, heading toward the northern rebel-held Idlib province. The opposition-run Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also reported the transfer, which it said includes 800 armed men from both the rebels and regime. Some 160, mostly gunmen, had remained in Zabadani. “The process has resumed with 3,000 people leaving Foua and Kafraya at dawn and nearly 300 leaving Zabadani and two other rebel-held areas,” the head of the Britain-based monitoring group, Rami Abdel Rahman, told AFP. Security was tightened up for Wednesday’s departures. Several dozen armed rebel fighters stood guard over the marshalling area where the buses were parked. The AFP correspondent said all other vehicles were carefully searched. After repeated delays, the first phase of the deal began on Friday. Some 30 hours after the first two batches reached exchange points, a massive explosion struck near buses carrying evacuees from the pro-regime areas, killing more than 120, mostly women and children. Many of the rebel fighters who guarded the buses were also killed. No one claimed responsibility for the attack, which the regime blamed on the rebels. The transfer deal is not overseen by the United Nations. Critics say the string of evacuations, which could see some 30,000 people moved across battle lines over the next 60 days, rewards siege tactics and amounts to forced displacement along political and sectarian lines. All four areas have been under siege for years, their fate linked through a series of reciprocal agreements that the UN says have hindered aid deliveries.

White House confirms Iran deal review
Reuters, Washington Wednesday, 19 April 2017/The White House has ordered a review of the Iran nuclear deal, his spokesman said on Wednesday. Asked at a news briefing if Trump had decided to pull out of the 2015 deal, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the 90-day inter-agency review, announced on Tuesday, would make recommendations on the path forward. The agreement between Iran and six world powers, negotiated during Barack Obama’s presidency, placed limitations on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for lifting international oil and financial sanctions against Iran. During his presidential campaign, Trump called the agreement “the worst deal ever negotiated.” Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei warned in November that Tehran would retaliate if the United States breached the nuclear agreement.
When Spicer was questioned whether Trump was concerned Iran was cheating on the deal, he said “That’s why he’'s asking for this review. If he didn’t, if he thought everything was fine he would’ve allowed this to move forward.”“Part of the review ... is to determine where Iran is in compliance with the deal and to make recommendations to the president on the path forward,” Spicer said.

US says Iran complies with nuke deal, but orders review on lifting sanctions
Lesley Wroughton, Reuters Wednesday, 19 April 2017/The Trump administration said on Tuesday it was launching an inter-agency review of whether the lifting of sanctions against Iran was in the United States' national security interests, while acknowledging that Tehran was complying with a deal to rein in its nuclear program. In a letter to U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, the top Republican in Congress, on Tuesday U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Iran remained compliant with the 2015 deal, but said there were concerns about its role as a state sponsor of terrorism. Under the deal, the State Department must notify Congress every 90 days on Iran's compliance under the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). It is the first such notification under U.S. President Donald Trump.
"The U.S. Department of State certified to U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan today that Iran is compliant through April 18 with its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action," Tillerson said in a statement. "President Donald J. Trump has directed a National Security Council-led interagency review of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that will evaluate whether suspension of sanctions related to Iran pursuant to the JCPOA is vital to the national security interests of the United States," Tillerson added. He did not say how long the review would take but said in the letter to Ryan that the administration looked forward to working with Congress on the issue. During his presidential campaign, Trump called the agreement "the worst deal ever negotiated," raising questions over whether he would rip up the agreement once he took office. The historic deal between Iran and six major powers restricts Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of international oil and financial sanctions against the Islamic Republic. Iran denies ever having considered developing atomic weapons although nuclear experts have warned that any U.S. violation of the nuclear deal would allow Iran also to pull back from its commitments to curb nuclear development. Those commitments include reducing the number of its centrifuges by two-thirds, capping its level of uranium enrichment well below the level needed for bomb-grade material, reducing its enriched uranium stockpile from around 10,000 kg to 300 kg for 15 years, and submitting to international inspections to verify its compliance.Last month Trump's Defense Secretary James Mattis said Iran continued to behave as an exporter of terrorism and still sponsors militant activity. The United States has long accused Iran of being the world's biggest state sponsor of terrorism, saying Tehran supported conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, and backed groups such as Hezbollah, its Lebanon-based ally.

‘He does not like white people:’ Man goes on killing spree in California
Reuters, California Wednesday, 19 April 2017/A gunman who went by the nickname Black Jesus killed three white men in downtown Fresno, California, on Tuesday, and fired at another before he was taken into custody while shouting "Allahu Akhbar," police said. The suspect, 39-year-old Kori Ali Muhammad, was also wanted in connection with the fatal shooting last week of an unarmed security guard at a Motel 6 in Fresno, Police Chief Jerry Dyer told reporters at a press conference. Dyer said Muhammad fired at least 16 rounds from a large-caliber handgun in less than a minute at four downtown Fresno locations at about 10:45 a.m. local time before he was spotted running through the streets by a police officer. "Immediately upon the individual seeing the officer he literally dove onto the ground and was taken into custody and as he was taken into custody he yelled out 'Allahu Akhbar,'" Dyer said. The term means "God is great" in Arabic. "He does not like white people," Dyer said, citing the suspect's statements after being arrested and his Facebook postings. The chief said Muhammad, who is African American, used the nickname Black Jesus. All four of the men killed on Tuesday were white, as was the security guard and the other man Mohammad shot at but missed. Dyer said it was too early to rule out terrorism and that his department had contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation to investigate, but portrayed the incident as "a random act of violence." "These individuals who were chosen today did not do anything to deserve what they got," he said. "These were unprovoked attacks by an individual who was intent on carrying out homicides today, and he did that." Dyer said Muhammad had been identified quickly as the prime suspect in the Motel 6 shooting on April 13 and that police had been urgently seeking him across the Fresno area since then. Fresno is an agricultural hub in California's central valley, about 170 miles southeast of San Francisco. Muhammad has a criminal history that includes weapons and drug charges and had spent time in state prison, Dyer said. County government buildings were placed on lockdown during the shooting spree and residents were urged to shelter in place. Local television images showed what appeared to be a body covered in a yellow tarp in a street near where police tape marked off several crime scenes.

Chemical weapons watchdog says Sarin or similar used in Idlib attack
Reuters, Amsterdam Wednesday, 19 April 2017/Sarin or a similar banned toxin was used in an attack in Syria’s Idlib province on April 4 that killed nearly 90 people, the head of the global chemical weapons watchdog was quoted as saying by its British delegation. The finding supported earlier testing by Turkish and British laboratories. The British delegation said on Wednesday that the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ Director General Ahmet Uzumcu said results of the analysis “indicate that sarin or a sarin like substance was used.”

Evacuations resume after deadly bombing in Syria
AFP, Rashidin, Syria Wednesday, 19 April 2017/The evacuation of civilians and fighters from besieged Syrian towns resumed on Wednesday after a weekend bombing at a transit point killed 126 people, 68 of them children, an AFP correspondent reported. Dozens of buses from the government-held towns of Fuaa and Kafraya, which have been under crippling siege for more than two years, reached the edge of the rebel-held transit point of Rashidin outside government-held second city Aleppo, the correspondent said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the hard-won evacuation deal was back under way. “The process has resumed with 3,000 people leaving Fuaa and Kafraya at dawn and nearly 300 leaving Zabadani and two other rebel-held areas,” the head of the Britain-based monitoring group, Rami Abdel Rahman, told AFP. Rashidin was the scene of Saturday's deadly bombing. At least 109 of the dead were evacuees. The rest were aid workers and rebels guarding the convoy. Dozens of wounded were taken to hospitals in nearby rebel-held territory, while others were taken to Aleppo. The evacuations were taking place under a deal between the government and the rebels that is also seeing residents and rebels transported out of Madaya and Zabadani, towns near Damascus that are surrounded by pro-government forces. The agreement is the latest in a string of such deals, which the government of President Bashar al-Assad says are the best way to end the violence after more than six years of civil war. Rebels say they amount to forced relocation after years of bombardment and siege. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Saturday's bombing. Islamist rebel group Ahrar al-Sham, which has many fighters in the area, denied any involvement. The government blamed “terrorists,” a catch-all term for its opponents. The evacuation deal was brokered late last month by Qatar, a longtime supporter of the rebels, and Iran, a key regime ally. Its implementation had been repeatedly delayed.

Russia’s undeclared death toll in Syria creeps higher
By Reuters, Khutor Pochtovy, Russia Wednesday, 19 April 2017/The death toll among Russian forces in Syria during a period of intense fighting to retake the city of Palmyra now stands at 21, according to evidence gathered by Reuters, after information emerged about the deaths of three military contractors. The Reuters tally over the period from Jan. 29 until late March is more than four times higher than the official toll given by the Russian defense ministry of five servicemen killed. Russian forces are backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his war with rebels and militants seeking to oust him. Reuters reported last month, based on conversations with friends and relatives of the killed men, social media posts, and cemetery officials, that 18 Russian citizens had been killed from late January to late March. Since then, Reuters has established the deaths in combat of a further three - Alexei Safonov, Vladimir Plutinsky and Mikhail Nefedov - that interviews with people close to them indicated they were military contractors rather than regular servicemen. Apart from regular soldiers, Russia deploys private contractors to Syria. They have civilian status, officially, but are often retired veterans with battlefield experience. They act as an attack force in ground operations under military command, sources familiar with the operation in Syria have previously told Reuters. Moscow does not publicly admit the presence of military contractors in Syria and does not reveal casualties among them. The official total Russian military death toll since Moscow’s 2015 intervention in Syria is 30, but may be considerably higher as under Russian law military casualties are a state secret. The Russian defense ministry, the foreign ministry, and the Russian consulate in Damascus did not respond to requests for comment on the three contractors submitted by Reuters.
The family of 41-year-old Safonov, who died in mid-March, was told little about how it happened, one of his relatives said on condition of anonymity. “I can only say one thing: it was in Syria,” said the relative. Safonov had fought in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Moscow rebels are fighting a separatist war, before moving on to Syria, according to his relative. Safonov was buried in his home village of Khutor Pochtovy, southern Russia, two weeks after his death. Several of Safonov’s neighbors, and a local official, confirmed that he had died in Syria. Pyotr Ivanov, head of the local draft board, did not confirm the circumstances of his death but said he went to the funeral because Safonov was a veteran of the military’s past campaigns against a rebellion in the Russian region of Chechnya. He was not a serviceman when he died, Ivanov told Reuters. Plutinsky, a 46-year-old resident of a settlement called Stanitsa Kazanskaya in southern Russia, was killed in Tiyas near Palmyra on Feb. 12, according to an official document that had data from his death certificate and was seen by Reuters. A relative of Plutinsky confirmed that he had died in the Syrian province of Homs, which includes Tiyas, and said he had not been serving in the army at the time. Nefedov, 27, a private military contractor, was killed in Syria in February, an acquaintance, Alexander Pashkov, told Reuters, confirming earlier reports in Russian media about Nefedov’s death.

King Salman, Mattis Discuss Saudi-US Strategic Friendship
Asharq Al-Awsat English/April 19/17/The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz received at Al-Yamamah Palace in Riyadh on Wednesday United States Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Saudi Press Agency reported. During the meeting, King Salman and Mattis discussed ways of enhancing strategic friendship relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the US, especially in the field of defense. They also discussed the latest regional and international developments, SPA said. According to the state news agency, the audience was attended by Minister of State and Cabinet’s Member Dr. Musaed bin Mohammed Al-Aiban, Minister of Culture and Information Dr. Adel bin Zaid Altoraifi, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir. On the US side, it was attended by US Charge d’Affaires Christopher Henzel, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy Dina Powell, Senior Advisor Sally Donnelly, and Senior Military Assistant Rear Admiral Craig S. Faller, SPA added.

Mattis in Riyadh: There is disorder wherever Iran is present
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Wednesday, 19 April 2017/Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud received the United States Secretary of Defense James Mattis at Al-Yamamah Palace in Riyadh today, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) has announced. During the meeting, they discussed ways of enhancing strategic friendship relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States of America, especially in the field of defense, and the latest developments of regional and international events. At the end of his talks today in Riyadh, the US defense secretary said that Saudi Arabia is taking a leading role in the region by helping Jordan to Egypt with the Syrian refugees. He also said he discussed Iran's activities in the region and aims to prevent them from establishing a ‘Hezbollah-like’ militia in Yemen. Minister of State and Cabinet Member Dr. Musaed bin Mohammed Al-Aiban, Minister of Culture and Information Dr. Adel bin Zaid Altoraifi, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir, were present on the occasion. From the American side, the meeting was attended by the Charge D’Affaires of the Embassy of the United States of America to the Kingdom Christopher Henzel, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy Dina Powell, Senior Advisor Sally Donnelly, and Senior Military Assistant Rear Admiral Craig S. Faller.

Tillerson: Iran supports Houthis and threatens naval navigation in the Gulf
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Thursday, 20 April 2017/US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a press conference in Washington on Wednesday that Iran continues to support the Houthi militia in Yemen and threatens naval navigation in the Arabian Gulf. Tillerson also noted that Iran funds insurgents in Syria as well as sends troops to fight in support of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. He added that Tehran’s nuclear ambitions place a threat on world peace, and it holds the worst record with human rights – highlighting that Iran’s danger to the region and world must be seen.

France to provide proof on Syria govt chemical weapons use
Reuters, Paris Wednesday, 19 April 2017/French intelligence services will provide proof in the coming days that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces used chemical weapons in an attack on April 4, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Wednesday. “There is an investigation underway (by) the French intelligence services and military intelligence ... it’s a question of days and we will provide proof that the regime carried out these strikes,” Ayrault told LCP television. “We have elements that will enable us to show that the regime knowingly used chemical weapons,” he said.

US Special Forces reach Anbar province in Iraq to support ISIS fight
Staff writer, Al Wednesday, 19 April 2017/US Special Forces units reached Ain al-Assad Airbase, the western Anbar province in Iraq, on Tuesday to help Iraqi forces recapture cities still held by ISIS. “A large number of US Special Forces units reached the Ain al-Assad Airbase in Anbar’s Al-Baghdadi district some 90 kilometers west of Ramadi,” the Turkish Anadolu Agency reported, quoting an Iraqi army brigadier-general. The anonymous officer didn’t provide details with regard to the number of Special Forces involved due to restrictions on talking to the media. The source added, the Special Forces units were transported within a military convoy arriving from Al-Bakr airbase to Anbar’s Ain al-Assad in Baghdad. “They arrived fully-equipped to take part in the anticipated liberation of the cities of Anah, Rawa and Al-Qaim,” The military officer stated.

Salman-Mattis meeting affirms convergence on security issues
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Wednesday, 19 April 2017/Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdul-Aziz, who is also the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, met in his office in Riyadh on Wednesday with US Defense Secretary James Mattis. The meeting discussed bilateral relations and opportunities for improving them and pledged to develop programs and initiatives between the two countries. During the session, the two sides discussed the challenges facing the region, especially the hostile practices of the Iranian regime and its role in destabilizing the security and the stability in the region. Prince Salman and Mattis also emphasized the need for joint efforts in combating terrorism and extremist groups such as ISIS and al-Qaeda. The meeting also discussed joint efforts to maintain the security and stability of the region in general, including the navigation routes and water crossing fords. The meeting confirmed a convergence of approaches between both sides and a firm desire to continue joint efforts to achieve security and stability in the region.

Arab coalition aerial defense intercepts two ballistic missiles in Yemen’s Marib
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Wednesday, 19 April 2017/The Arab coalition aerial defense system intercepted two ballistic missiles flying over Yemen’s Marib on Wednesday. The aerial defenses that protect and support the legitimacy in Yemen also intercepted two other ballistic missiles and destroyed them. Earlier, the Yemeni Army took hold of a Houthi militia weapons cache near Khalid bin al-Waleed camp, which contained all types of weapons and ammunition. This came in light of the continuous progress achieved by the national army towards the camp, as battles and artillery shelling and missile exchange continue in the vicinity of the camp.

Coalition forces destroy ballistic missiles in Yemen
By Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Wednesday, 19 April 2017/The Saudi-led coalition air defenses intercepted and destroyed two ballistic missiles in Marib in Yemen. Meanwhile, national army forces seized control of an arms warehouse that belongs for Houthi militias and forces loyal to ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh in the area surrounding Khaled bin al-Walid camp. The warehouse contained small, light and heavy weapons and ammunition. Army forces made these gains as they advance towards the camp. Battles are still ongoing around the camp as legitimate forces intensified their attack on militias’ gatherings and pockets in the north, east and west and managed to deter militias from their posts and to tighten their siege. Military aid provided by the Arab coalition forces was delivered to fronts in East Mokha. The coalition air force also helped legitimate forces pursue militias in some mountainous areas inside the Khaled bin al-Walid camp. The army and resistance forces have as a result advanced in the western and southern gates of the camp.

US Drone Strikes Kill 5 Qaeda Suspects in Yemen
Asharq Al-Awsat//April 19/17/Two strikes apparently carried out by US drones killed overnight five suspected al-Qaeda members as they were travelling through two Yemeni provinces, an official and military sources said on Wednesday. One strike hit a vehicle in the southern province of Shabwa, killing two suspected militants, the sources said. A second hit a car in the province of Marib, east of the capital Sana’a, killing three, they added. A local official said that authorities had not been able to identify those killed because the bodies were so badly Washington has sharply intensified its air war against militants from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) since President Donald Trump took office in January. The Pentagon said on April 3 that it had carried out more than 70 strikes against jihadist targets in Yemen since February 28. Washington regards al-Qaeda’s Yemen-based branch as its most dangerous and accuses it of plotting multiple attacks against the West. In late January, at least 30 people were killed in a US commando dawn raid in southern Yemen, including at least 10 women and children, in the first such military operation authorized by Trump. The new US administration has not yet laid out a clear policy on drone strikes, but Trump has said he would support an escalation of the fight against militant groups.

Israeli Official: Barghouti Should Have Been Served a Death Penalty
Asharq Al-Awsat English/April 19/17/Ramallah, Tel Aviv – On the second day of hunger strikes in Israeli prisons, officials attacked strike leader Marwan Barghouti, saying that Israel should have executed the head of the central Fatah committee a long time ago. Hundreds of Palestinians in Israeli jails began a hunger strike on Monday. Rage-fueled comments were largely instigated by word on Barghouti heading the strike, and the American daily “The New York Times” publishing a detailed report authored by the Fatah activist. The report also received its fair share of Israeli criticism. Netanyahu blasted “The New York Times” for not mentioning Barghouti’s “terrorist actions” and for labeling him a political leader. “Calling Barghouti a leader and parliamentarian is like calling [Syrian President Bashar] Assad a pediatrician,” Netanyahu said on Tuesday. An editor’s footnote explained that the Barghouti article explained the writer’s prison sentence, but neglected to provide sufficient context by stating the offenses for which he was convicted. They were five counts of murder and membership in a terrorist organization. Barghouti declined to offer a defense at his trial and refused to recognize the Israeli court’s jurisdiction and legitimacy.
Referring to the amended description of Barghouti, Netanyahu added that “the paper retracted it because we pointed [the error] out to them.”Israeli officials attacked the Times, saying they publish articles authored by killers, without fully disclosing their crimes and therefore readers do not know who they are.
For its part, the administration of the Israel Prison Service (IPS) said that the article was unlawful, because Barghouthi was not given permission to write it. Barghouti, along with Karim Younis, Maher Younis and Mahmoud Abu Sorour, were isolated and placed in solitary confinement at the Jalameh prison in northern Israel after being transferred from Hadarim Prison, located some 20 kilometers from Tel Aviv. In a statement, the Israeli Foreign Ministry refused to consider Barghouti and his comrades partaking in the hunger strike as “political prisoners,” noting that “they were murderers and saboteurs”– the statement clearly stated that they were tried and convicted, according to the law. In his opinion piece in the Times, Barghouti said a strike was the only way to gain concessions after other options had failed. Intelligence and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said that the convicted Fatah figure, Barghouti, should have been given the death penalty instead of life imprisonment for plotting murders during the second intifada. “When a despicable murderer like Barghouti protests in prison for improved conditions, while the relatives of those he murdered are still in pain, there is only one solution — death penalty for terrorists,” Katz wrote. Palestinians termed the open-ended strike a protest against poor conditions and an Israeli policy of detention without trial that has been applied against thousands since the 1980s.

Young Muslim Jordanians Launch Initiative To Guard Churches On Easter Sunday
MEMRI/April 19/17
On April 15, 2017, following the deadly church bombings perpetrated by ISIS in Egypt and following the circulation of an ISIS video threatening terror in Jordan,[1] the English-language Jordanian daily Jordan Times reported that young Muslim Jordanians from various parts of the country had volunteered to guard churches on Easter Sunday. The article, by Suzanna Goussous, quoted some of the activists, who said that the goal of the initiative was to underscore the unity among Jordanians and enable all citizens of the kingdom to practice their religion in peace without restrictions or fear.
The following are excerpts from the report, in the original English. "After the attacks on two churches in Egypt last week, Muslim Jordanian youth launched an initiative to protect churches all over the Kingdom on Easter Sunday, in an act of solidarity, they said. "Daesh claimed responsibility for the attacks on two Coptic churches in Egypt’s Tanta and Alexandria on Palm Sunday, which killed around 44 and injured more than 100 worshippers, many of whom were children. "Kazem Kharabsheh wrote: 'On Sunday, our Christian brothers and sisters will be in churches [performing] religious [rituals], [and] extremists [are] threatening our national security… My Muslim friends and I will be in Balqa Governorate, protecting its churches and people'... "Another Balqa resident, Fayez Ruqeidi, added the vigilante act is meant to 'underline the unity of Jordanians and to give everyone the freedom to practice their religion without restraints or fear'."In Madaba, Hazem Al Fouqaha said many Muslim residents will stand as guards in front of churches to ensure the safety of Christians inside. "Saleh Abu Mahfoud from Zarqa Governorate, some 19km east of Amman, announced his wil lingness to protect churches in the area, along with other activists to show solidarity with Christians celebrating Easter. "Activists in Ajloun voiced a similar stand to 'show the world the harmony and conviviality in Jordan' and to present a model of a fight against extremism, xenophobia, and radicalism.' "'We are always proud to say Jordan is made up of harmonious pieces of mosaics; it’s truly sad to see such security measures taken out of necessity in Jordan. We live in a small country and we know everyone here,' Amman resident Hala Saadi told The Jordan Times. "Several security checkpoints were installed on the gates of some churches around the country, as a way to ensure protection of worshippers. "Father Rifat Bader from the Amman-based Catholic Centre for Studies and Media said installing checkpoints at church gates is only a normal measure 'to help the security personnel, who are always present on every religious occasion'.
"Palm Sunday in Jordan was trouble free."
[1] About the video, see MEMRI JTTM report, New ISIS Video Calls For Attacks On American And Western Soldiers And Civilians In Jordan, April 6, 2017.

Turkey’s main opposition party could withdraw from parliament
Reuters, Ankara Wednesday, 19 April 2017/Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party could consider withdrawing from parliament in protest at irregularities in Sunday’s referendum, the party’s spokeswoman was quoted by Hurriyet daily as saying. “We don’t recognize the referendum result,” Selin Sayek Boke said. “There should be no doubt that we will exercise all our democratic rights against it.”Boke said the referendum should be held again because its legitimacy was being questioned both in Turkey and internationally.

Members of Modi’s party in India to face trial over Babri mosque demolition
AFP, New Delhi Wednesday, 19 April 2017/Three senior members of India’s ruling Hindu nationalist party including a government minister should face trial over the demolition of a mosque a quarter of a century ago, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday. The three are accused of inciting Hindu zealots to pull down the 16th century Babri mosque in 1992, igniting one of India’s most explosive religious disputes in which thousands died. The demolition of the mosque marked the culmination of a virulent campaign led by the now ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). India’s top court said government minister Uma Bharti, former deputy prime minister L K Advani and M M Joshi – all senior BJP members – should face criminal conspiracy charges, according to the Press Trust of India news agency. The ruling came after a lower court dropped the charges brought against them by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), kicking off a series of appeals and counter-appeals.“We have allowed the CBI appeal against the Allahabad High Court judgement with certain directions,” the Press Trust of India news agency quoted the Supreme Court judges as saying. Many Hindus believe the Babri mosque was only built after the destruction of a temple that marks the birthplace of their deity Ram. Indian activists of Hindu Bajrang Dal, along with Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) organizations, raise religious slogans during a procession marking the 23rd anniversary of the demolition of the Babri Masjid Mosque in Ayodhya, in Amritsar on December 6, 2015. (AFP)
India’s next president
Some in the BJP, which recently won elections in India’s largest state Uttar Pradesh, want to build a temple to Ram on the ruins of the razed mosque – an idea that horrifies the state’s significant Muslim minority. Indian media said the charges would scupper the chances of Advani, now 89, of becoming India’s next president when the role becomes vacant later this year. He was present on the day of the demolition, which sparked nationwide riots and thousands of deaths and came to define his political career. However, in a later interview with the BBC, he said the incident had hurt him “tremendously” and should never have happened. There was no immediate reaction from the BJP, but the opposition Congress said the ruling party had “tried every trick in the book” to ensure that Advani, Bharti and Joshi did not face charges. “What they (Supreme Court) have said today means there’s clinching evidence that needs to be now argued out in the court,” said party spokesman Sanjay Jha. The court also ruled that a fourth senior BJP politician, Kalyan Singh, who was leader of Uttar Pradesh at the time of the incident, should face criminal conspiracy charges. His trial, however, will be delayed until his stint as governor of Rajasthan state is over because the position of governor gives him immunity from prosecution.

ISIS claims deadly attack near Egypt’s St. Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai
Ali Abdelaty, Reuters Cairo Wednesday, 19 April 2017/Gunmen attacked security forces near St. Catherine's Monastery in Egypt's south Sinai on Tuesday, killing at least one police officer and injuring four others, the Health Ministry said, just a week after two deadly church bombings killed 45. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack on a police checkpoint about 800 meters (yards) from the entrance to the monastery, one of the world's most important Christian sites. The attack comes just 10 days before Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Egypt and just over a week after two deadly suicide bombings on Christian churches, also claimed by Islamic State, plunged the country into mourning and marked one of the bloodiest days for the country's Christian minority in decades. St. Catherine's, founded in the 6th century and located at the foot of Mount Sinai, is one of the oldest Christian monasteries in the world and a UNESCO world heritage site. It is part of the Eastern Orthodox church. Egypt's Christian minority, which makes up about 10 percent of the country's 92 million people, has increasingly been targeted by Islamist militants, with three deadly church attacks in the span of four months. In February, scores of Christian families and students fled North Sinai province after a spate of targeted killings.A successful assault on St. Catherine's would be the latest challenge to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who has pledged to protect the religious minority as part of his campaign against extremism. Egypt has for years been battling an Islamist insurgency in the rugged and thinly populated northern Sinai, which gained pace after the military overthrew President Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013 following mass protests against his rule. Attacks in Egypt's southern Sinai, a popular destination for tourists dotted with Red Sea resorts, are by contrast rare. Security sources told Reuters that security had been put on high alert at tourist facilities across southern Sinai after the attack. The attack in southern Sinai comes as Russia is expected to make a long-awaited decision on whether to restore flights to the Sharm el-Sheikh resort after a Russian airliner was downed in 2015, dealing a serious blow to the area's tourism industry, which relies heavily on Russian visitors. Egypt's tourism industry, a crucial source of hard currency, has suffered in the years of turmoil that followed the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, as well as from the suspected bombing of the Russian plane, which killed all 224 on board. Israel took the unusual step earlier this month of barring its citizens from crossing into the Sinai peninsula, saying the threat of attacks in the area inspired by ISIS and other militant groups was high.

EU Warns against Jeopardizing Libya’s Political Process
Asharq Al-Awsat//April 19/17/Cairo – Leader of the Libyan National Army (LNA) Marshal Khalifa Haftar has once again rejected calls made by Libyan Prime Minister of Government of National Accord (GNA) Fayez al-Sarraj to end military operations to liberate the South of armed militias, instead assigning a commander for the southern military area. Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni is expected to discuss the Libyan crisis in his first summit with Donald Trump since the US President took office in January. Algeria is also playing its part in attempts to resolve the Libyan crisis. Algerian Minister of State Abdul Qader Msahel is expected to begin his trip to Libya on Wednesday during which he will visit several cities, according to a Foreign Ministry statement. The statement mentioned that Msahel’s visit is part of the continuous efforts exerted by Algeria to reach a political solution through a comprehensive Libyan dialogue and national reconciliation. On the battlefield, the LNA air force targeted third force militias located near Tamnhant airbase in the south of the country, where the military besieges militias inside the airbase most of which are loyal to Sarraj’s government, including the militias loyal to Chadian opposition and the city of Sirte. Leader of Shield of South brigade Ahmed al-Hasnawi, who is loyal to Sarraj’s GNA, said army troops shelled the airbase, while Brigade 201 spokesperson said the base was targeted with over 20 howitzer-152 projectiles. Spokesperson of Sarraj government’s militias Mohammed al-Ghosari said that Haftar’s end, which will start in southern Libya, is nearing. He stated that the so-called international intervention force will target the troops and air force of the Libyan National Army in the South. Ghosari added that the ministry of defense of Sarraj’s government had requested a no-fly zone over southern Libya. Haftar, who heads the LNA that is loyal to the internationally recognized parliament, ordered the formation of a main operations room for the air force of the general directorate of the army in Benina airbase in Benghazi, eastern Libya.
Haftar had instructed General Pilot Mohammed al-Manfoor to lead the operations room and create additional rooms in areas of al-Akhdar Mountain, central, western and southern Libya. He also assigned Brigadier Khalifa al-Taher Khalifa Milad commander of the southern military area.
Haftar’s decisions came at a time the European Union warned that the escalating violence and clashes are threatening the political process and jeopardizing the lives of Libyan civilians. “Libyans deserve peace and stability, and expect all sides to refrain from violence and take measures to de-escalate the tense situation. Libya’s political crisis can only be solved through negotiation between all stakeholders based on willingness to compromise and by putting the interests of Libyans first,” an EU spokesman said. The spokesperson pointed out that the United Nations remains the framework through which the international community continues to support Libya’s political settlement. He confirmed EU’s determination to continue supporting this process, including through the Libya Quartet with the United Nations as well as the African Union and the Arab League. Sarraj had called on the international community to end the clashes in the south of the country, saying the sudden military escalation puts Libya on the brink of a civil war. In the past few months, the LNA was able to liberate several areas after it lost control over two primary oil ports and then liberated them recently.

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 19-20/17
The US War against ISIS
Eli Lake/Bloomberg/April 19/17
Listening to his campaign rhetoric, the last thing you would expect Donald Trump to do as president would be to escalate a ground war in the Middle East. He won the Republican nomination last year by campaigning against both George W. Bush’s war in Iraq and Barack Obama’s war in Libya.
But as Trump’s young presidency has shown, many of the candidate’s foreign policy positions are not as firmly held as his supporters had hoped. It’s not just that Trump struck the Syrian regime after last week’s chemical weapons attack on rebels. It’s not just his recent reversals on Chinese currency manipulation and the NATO alliance. The president’s biggest foreign policy surprise may be yet to come.
Senior White House and administration officials tell me Trump’s national security adviser, General H.R. McMaster, has been quietly pressing his colleagues to question the underlying assumptions of a draft war plan against the ISIS group that would maintain only a light US ground troop presence in Syria. McMaster’s critics inside the administration say he wants to send tens of thousands of ground troops to the Euphrates River Valley. His supporters insist he is only trying to facilitate a better interagency process to develop Trump’s new strategy to defeat the self-described caliphate that controls territory in Iraq and Syria. US special operations forces and some conventional forces have been in Iraq and Syria since 2014, when Obama reversed course and ordered a new air campaign against ISIS. But so far, the US presence on the ground has been much smaller and quieter than more traditional military campaigns, particularly for Syria. It’s the difference between boots on the ground and slippers on the ground.
Trump himself has been on different sides of this issue. He promised during his campaign that he would develop a plan to destroy ISIS. At times during the campaign, he said he favored sending ground troops to Syria to accomplish this task. More recently, Trump told Fox Business this week that that would not be his approach to fighting the Syrian regime: “We’re not going into Syria,” he said.
McMaster himself has found resistance to a more robust ground troop presence in Syria. In two meetings since the end of February of Trump’s national security cabinet, known as the principals’ committee, Trump’s top advisers have failed to reach consensus on the ISIS strategy. The White House and administration officials say Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford and General Joseph Votel, who is in charge of US Central Command, oppose sending more conventional forces into Syria. Meanwhile, White House senior strategist Stephen Bannon has derided McMaster to his colleagues as trying to start a new Iraq War, according to these sources.
Because Trump’s national security cabinet has not reached consensus, the ISIS war plan is now being debated at the policy coordinating committee, the interagency group hosted at the State Department of subject matter experts that prepares issues for the principals’ committee and deputies’ committee, after which a question reaches the president’s desk for a decision.
The genesis of this debate starts with one of Trump’s first actions as president, when he told the Pentagon to develop a strategy to defeat the ISIS group. Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, opposed sending conventional forces into a complicated war zone, where they would be targets of al Qaeda, ISIS, Iran and Russia. In Flynn’s brief tenure, he supported a deal with Russia to work together against ISIS and al Qaeda’s Syria affiliate, similar to a bargain Obama’s secretary of state, John Kerry’s tried and failed to seal with Moscow.
Inside the Pentagon, military leaders favor a more robust version of Obama’s strategy against ISIS. This has been a combination of airstrikes and special operations forces that train and support local forces. Military leaders favor lifting restrictive rules of engagement for US special operations forces and using more close air support, like attack helicopters, in future operations against the ISIS capital in Raqqa.
McMaster however is skeptical of this approach. To start, it relies primarily on Syrian Kurdish militias to conquer and hold Arab-majority territory. Jack Keane, a retired four-star Army general who is close to McMaster, acknowledged to me this week that the Kurdish forces have been willing to fight ISIS, whereas Arab militias have primarily fought against the Assad regime.
“Our special operations guys believe rightfully so that this was a proven force that could fight,” Keane said of the Kurdish fighters. “While this makes sense tactically, it doesn’t make sense strategically. Those are Arab lands, and the Arabs are not going to put up with Syrian Kurds retaking Arab lands. Whenever you select a military option, you have got to determine what political end state will this support. Regrettably this option puts us back to the drawing board.”
There are other reasons that relying too much on the Kurds in Syria presents problems. The US Air Force relies on Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base to launch bombing raids over ISIS positions in Syria. The Turks consider the Syrian Kurdish forces to be allies of Kurdish separatists within Turkey and have complained that Obama was effectively arming militias with weapons that would be turned on their own government. (Turkey’s own president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, cynically declared war on his own Kurdish population in 2016, exacerbating these tensions.)
Keane, who said he was not speaking for McMaster, told me he favored a plan to begin a military operation along the Euphrates River Valley. “A better option is to start the operation in the southeast along the Euphrates River Valley, establish a US base of operations, work with our Sunni Arab coalition partners, who have made repeated offers to help us against the regime and also ISIS. We have turned those down during the Obama administration.” Keane added that US conventional forces would be the anchor of that initial push, which he said would most likely require around 10,000 US conventional forces, with an expectation that Arab allies in the region would provide more troops to the US-led effort.
“The president wants to defeat ISIS, he wants to win, what he needs is a US-led conventional coalition ground force that can take Raqqa and clean out the Euphrates River Valley of ISIS all the way to the Iraq border,” Keane said. “Handwringing about US ground troops in Syria was a fetish of the Obama administration. Time to look honestly at a winning military strategy.”
White House and administration officials familiar with the current debate tell me there is no consensus on how many troops to send to Syria and Iraq. Two sources told me one plan would envision sending up to 50,000 troops. Blogger and conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich wrote on April 9 that McMaster wanted 150,000 ground troops for Syria, but US officials I spoke with said that number was wildly inflated and no such plan has been under consideration.
In public the tightlipped McMaster has not revealed support for conventional ground forces in Syria. But on Sunday in an interview with Fox News, McMaster gave some insights into his thinking on the broader strategy against ISIS. “We are conducting very effective operations alongside our partners in Syria and in Iraq to defeat ISIS, to destroy ISIS and reestablish control of that territory, control of those populations, protect those populations, allow refugees to come back, begin reconstruction,” he said.
That’s significant. Obama never said the goal of the US intervention in Iraq and Syria was to defeat ISIS, let alone to protect the population from the group and begin reconstruction. Those aims are much closer to the goals of George W. Bush’s surge strategy for Iraq at the end of his second term, under which US conventional forces embedded with the Iraqi army would “clear, hold and build” areas that once belonged to al Qaeda’s franchise.
McMaster himself is no stranger to the surge. As a young colonel serving in Iraq, he was one of the first military officers to form a successful alliance with local forces, in Tal Afair, to defeat the predecessor to ISIS, al Qaeda in Iraq. During the Iraq War, McMaster became one of the closest advisers to David Petraeus, the four-star general who led the counter-insurgency strategy in Iraq that defeated al Qaeda in Iraq — and brought about a temporary, uneasy peace there.
That peace unraveled after Obama withdrew all US forces from Iraq at the end of 2011. Obama himself never apologized for that decision, even though he had to send special operations forces back to Iraq in the summer of 2014 after ISIS captured Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. He argued that US forces in Iraq would have been caught up inside a civil war had they stayed.
The cadre of former military advisers to Petraeus took a different view. They argued that America’s abandonment of Iraq gave the Shiite majority there a license to pursue a sectarian agenda that provided a political and military opening for ISIS. An active US presence in Iraq would have restrained those sectarian forces. One of those advisers was H.R. McMaster. It’s now up to Trump to decide whether to test the Petraeus camp’s theory or try to defeat ISIS with a light footprint in Syria. Put another way, Trump must decide whether he wants to wage Bush’s war or continue Obama’s.

Turkish Opposition Seeks Annulment of Referendum
Said Abdul Razzak/Asharq Al Awsat/April 19/17
Ankara – Tensions have risen in Turkey and protests have erupted following Sunday’s referendum which resulted in a 51.41 percent victory for the “yes” campaign, while the parliament approved the memo presented by the government to extend the state of emergency announced since July 21, 2016.
The main opposition People’s Republican Party (CHP) presented a formal appeal to the High Electoral Board (YSK) challenging the results of the referendum and calling for its cancelation and the recount of 60 percent of the votes. Hundreds gathered at the headquarters of YSK calling for cancelation of the results of the referendum which grants the president new jurisdiction. CHP deputy chairman Bulent Tezcan said the number of missing votes was “unprecedented” – although the exact number of unstamped ballots was unknown. CHP said it will take its challenge to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary. Head of YSK at the parliament MP Mustafa Sentop said that European Court of Human Rights has nothing to do with the Turkish referendum. Pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party stated that it filed an appeal for about three million voters who had unstamped ballots, which is more than the approval result achieved by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey’s bar association said that the last-minute decision taken by YSK to allow unstamped ballots in the referendum was clearly against the law, prevented proper records being kept, and may have impacted the results. “With this illegal decision, ballot box councils (officials at polling stations) were misled into believing that the use of unstamped ballots was appropriate,” the Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB) said in a statement.
The association stated that its regret is not over the outcome of the referendum, but because of the desire to overlook clear and harsh violations of the law that have the potential to impact the results. Council of Europe observer mission said up to 2.5 million votes could have been manipulated, almost double the margin of Erdogan’s victory, and that the YSK decision on unstamped ballots appeared illegal. Member of mission Alev Korun said: “These complaints are to be taken very seriously and they are, in any case, of such an extent that they would turn around the outcome of the vote.”
The European Commission called on Turkey to launch a transparent investigation into the alleged irregularities. On Wednesday, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said that appeals against the outcome of Sunday’s referendum handing Erdogan sweeping powers were a right, but that calling people to the streets in protest were not. During a weekly parliamentary group meeting in Ankara, Yildirim said the ruling AK Party had received a message from the nation in the vote – as the “yes” camp won by a narrower majority than it expected – that it needed to be more careful on some issues.
The PM described efforts to cast a shadow on the result of the vote by spreading rumors of fraud as “futile and in vain.”
“The will of the people was freely reflected into the ballot boxes and this business is over. Everyone and all sections and the main opposition party in particular must show respect. It is wrong to speak after the people have spoken,” Yildirim stated. Turkish Minister for EU Affairs Omer Celik accused the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) mission, which oversaw the constitutional referendum in Turkey, of a biased approach. “Report of the OSCE observation mission is immature and far from objectivity. The violations were noticed, however, the observers did not comment on the lack of opportunities for the supporters of the presidential system in Europe to hold campaigns there, and this is an evidence of their biased approach. The mission also noted the alleged unequal conditions for ‘yes’ and ‘no’ campaigning,” Celik told journalists. A day after the referendum and upon the recommendation of the National Security Board (MGK), Turkish government on April 17 decided to extend a state of emergency for another three months. It has now been extended three times since the July 2016 failed coup. Hundreds of people marched to the streets of Istanbul to protest the results of the referendum and extension of state of emergency. Local media said that 13 persons had been arrested in Antakya, south Turkey. On Monday, protesters took to the streets in at least three suburbs of Istanbul and thousands protesters were shouting “thief, murderer, Erdogan” while banging pots and pans.
Amid the controversy following the referendum, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would be invited to rejoin the governing AK Party as soon as the official results are announced. “After the announcement of official results, we will invite our Founding Chairman [Erdogan] to our party and we will be glad to see him among us,” Yildirim said. During the meeting, Yıldırım said that the results of the referendum are the beginning of a new era in Turkish politics and emphasized the necessity for unity and solidarity in the country as a whole.
“We have turned a new page in our political history. With the result from the ballots, our people and Turkey has won. This result is a beginning of a new era. Not only did the supporters of ‘yes’ win but so did our citizens who chose to support ‘no’ on April 16th… No one is a loser in this election. There is no difference in the percentage of ‘yes’ votes from Bayburt and the ‘no’ votes from Tunceli. They have both won,” Yildrim stated. The prime minister stressed that Turkey is to now move forward and called on his party members to get to work. Continuing his remarks by urging unity as a country, the prime minister affirmed that the AK Party is to protect the rights of all citizens without exception. The membership invitation would come after election results are published in the Official Gazette, expected in 10-11 days.

What is the IDF trying to hide about the interception of the Syrian missile
Jerusalem Post/April 19/17
In the wee morning hours of March 17, a Friday, a strange incident marred the skies over the area of the Jordan Valley in Israel. According to an official statement released by IDF Spokesman, the country's Air Defense Command intercepted a Syrian, Russia-manufactured anti-aircraft missile at 2:40 a.m.
It had later been clarified that an Arrow 2 missile was aimed at a Syrian missile that was fired in the direction of the West Bank and Israel north of Jerusalem, in the area of the Jordan Valley.
But it seems that the short and laconic announcement by the IDF doesn't really tell the full story. Or in other words- the IDF isn't revealing the whole truth about the incident. So what really happened that Friday morning?
On that night, several Israel Air Force jets had returned from a mission in Syria, where they operated like they have in the past (according to foreign reports) to stop weapons convoys –mostly advanced missiles - on their way to Shi’ite terror organization Hezbollah. When the jets were already en route back to Israel, they came under fire of Russian-manufactured surface to air missiles SAM-5 (Vega) that were launched from Syria.
One of the Syrian missiles' trajectory pointed south-south west. Theoretically, it could have landed in Israeli territory. But when such a missile misses its target (in this case, the IAF jets), it's supposed to activate a self-destructing mechanism that sends its parts flying to the ground.
Since it was not clear at the time where the missile was coming from and there was serious concern that it would land within the West Bank or in Israel, it appears that the Arrow missile defense system had fired one or two intercepting missiles in its direction (as is the common procedure during interceptions).
Prior to the launch, a red alert siren was heard in several villages in the Jordan Valley where the interception of the missile was expected to happen.
Several days following the incident, the commander of the Air Defense Command, Brigadier General Tzi Haimovitch, provided more details. According to him "the threat was ballistic, and in such a situation there is no room for question marks or dilemmas." Haimovitch explained that the decision to intercept the missile was made by the relevant commanders "within a split second."
Due to the rapid reaction that was required facing this threat, the commander of the IAF and the chief of staff were not made privy to this decision- but they later backed up and justified it.
Arrow 2 missiles are equipped with a warhead with shrapnel shells. The shrapnel is usually supposed to hit the front part of the ballistic missile the Arrow intercepts. This is aimed mainly against the major threat facing Israel - Shahab-3 and Scud-D missiles, which Iran, Syria and Hezbollah all have in their arsenal. The shrapnel fired at the missile is meant to eliminate the explosives and neutralize the threat.
However, the “warhead” of SAM-5, a 40-year-old, outdated missile, does not contain explosives. It contains "metals"- avionics equipment and a radar antenna. Its warhead is actually located in its back part, some 3.5-4 meters from the tip. Next to it is the self-destructing mechanism, and between the two and the front separates a steel divider.
In short, it is most likely that the Arrow’s shrapnel hit the Syrian missile’s warhead but not its explosives in the back. In other words- it is doubtful that an interception took place in the full sense of the word.
What may have happened is that a shock wave, which spreads when shrapnel shards hit the front part of the missile (with the same effect of a hand-grenade), could have possibly neutralized the self-destructing mechanism of the Syrian missile. Another possibility is that the self-destructing mechanism didn't work for a technical reason.
If that is indeed the case, it can be assumed that a part or parts of the SAM-5, which weighs seven tons in total, continued in its flight and landed in some spot in Israeli territory.
Just to make things even clearer: the warhead of the Syrian missile weighs 200 kg. There are both seeing and hearing witnesses from communities in the area who noted large explosions that were followed by a resounding booming noise and a visible flash.
The Arrow 2 is a two-stage missile with two engines. The first one is manufactured by the Israel Military Industries and the second by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. When the first engine finishes its activity, it is ejected.
After the incident photos were published in Jordan showing a part of a missile's motor with inductors that came out of the engine. It fell to the ground in the area of Jordan's Irbid and was probably the first-stage engine of the Arrow. Therefore, there is a probability that an Arrow shard hit the Syrian missile, neutralized its self-destructing mechanism, but did not entirely destroy it. There's also a chance that the two Arrow missiles missed their target and that following a technical failure in the Syrian missile's self-destructing mechanism, the missile got to Israel.
The claim that some made in Israel that the parts that fell in Jordan were shards of the Syrian SAM has been ruled out by experts.
For the past two weeks the Jerusalem Post has been attempting to receive detailed answers from the IDF Spokesperson's Unit about the aforementioned information. Among some of the questions that were referred to the IDF it was asked whether parts or even small shards from the Syrian missile actually landed in Israeli territory, and whether published images that showed the metal part that landed in Jordan were actually part of the Arrow missile.
The spokesperson's unit declined to comment on the questions and was only willing to comment that the incident was still being investigated and that conclusions will be drawn accordingly.
This evasive reply raises even more questions. It implies perhaps that the IDF has something to hide and that the army is not interested in disclosing to the public the full details about this incident. It is also reminiscent of the security establishment's conduct seven years ago regarding the Iron Dome missile defense system. It was claimed in the past that the Iron Dome would be capable of intercepting mortars or rockets within a short range, even a range of 5km, and still defend the communities along the border with Gaza. However, as the previous two military campaigns in Gaza have taught us, despite Iron Dome's impressive capabilities and the upgrades it has seen since, its ability to protect is challenged on an almost daily basis.

Russia In Syria: All Pain And No Gain
MEMRI/April 19/17
An article by the leader of the liberal Russian party Yabloko, Grigory Yavlinsky, titled "Russia's Deadlock in Syria" was posted on his party's website on April 13, 2017.[1] In his article, written in the aftermath of the chemical weapons attack on Khan Sheikhun and the American retaliatory strike on the Shayrat base, Yavlinksy flayed Putin's policy in Syria. He claimed that Assad was a loose cannon who controlled Russia more than Russia controlled him despite Russia's costly investment in the Syrian regime. Furthermore, Russia's policy had left it without reliable allies in the region, while alienating the Trump administration in which Russia had placed such high hopes.
Russia, argued Yavlinsky, had pressing needs at home and could not financially sustain a quagmire in Syria, while simultaneously overextending itself in Ukraine, Libya, and conducting an arms race with the Americans. In sum, the military involvement in Syria would soon resemble the tragedy of the Soviet Union's involvement in Afghanistan and if Russia sought to avoid a recurrence of that nightmare it had to withdraw immediately from Syria. We republish Yavlinsky's article below:
Assad Is Calling The Shots Not Russia
"How can it be still unclear to someone that Syria is a trap for Russia? Russia was led into the Syrian trap by the stupidity of Russian foreign policy, its short-sightedness and adventurousness. Any further steps targeted at escalation of Russia’s military actions in Syria only aggravate our situation. The suspension of the memorandum envisaging the mechanisms to avoid incidents between the United States and Russia in Syria means that any stupidity or accident can now lead to a direct clash.
"Contrary to common sense, Russia has been struggling to protect Bashar al-Assad. Putin sympathizes with the Assad regime, and our country, having started the war on his side and sending its military to Syria, has become a hostage to this regime. A big political stake was put on the Syrian president and preservation of his power. However, in reality, Russia does not control Assad, either politically or militarily. And it is not Russia which determines the strategy and tactics of military operations and political maneuvers in Syria (in particular, in the inter-Syrian negotiations).
"It is also impossible to rely on Assad. Moreover, the Syrian president does not fully control the situation even in the territories under his control, not to mention the zones of military operations. Nevertheless, the Russian leadership has turned Assad into a symbol of its foreign policy and now cannot give up [supporting] him, even when his crimes drag Russia behind him into a shameful pit. It turned out that Russia fails to effectively protect Assad from Americans either. It has become obvious after yesterday’s destruction by the Americans of the base of the Syrian air force. The US attack showed that, if necessary, they would do whatever they want.
"The Russian partnership with Turkey is not merely fragile; it is a part of the trap.
Bottom Line: No True Regional Allies
"Moreover, Russia’s policy has also led to dependence on the decisions of the extremely inconsistent and unstable Turkish regime. All the plans for a joint action, all the "bridges" with the regime of Recep Tayyip Erdogan collapse, as we can see, in an instant and unilaterally. Turkey actively supports the US and opposes Assad and Russia in the present Syrian crisis.
"Iran has been naturally pursuing its own interests and has also achieved its goal: it firmly tied Russia to itself, embroiled Russia with other interested parties and made Russia its tool. By the way, it cannot be completely ruled out that it was Iran that somehow provoked the use of chemical weapons in Khan Sheikhun.
"Israel, which traditionally strives for good relations with Russia, has sharply condemned the use of chemical weapons, showing no doubt who did it, and supported the American strike against Syria. This was to be expected. Israel is very concerned that new weapons have got into Hizbullah’s hands and that Sh'iite militants have had good training under the guidance of Russian instructors. In addition, after the Israeli air raids on Syrian targets and summoning of the Israeli Ambassador to the Russian Foreign Ministry, it became clear that a crisis had emerged in the relations between the two countries. But it is much more difficult for the Russian aviation to operate in the region without the neutrality of Israel.
Jordan and Saudi Arabia have certainly also supported the actions of the United States.
"So Russia does not have allies in the region."
Russia Has Alienated The Americans, Who Do The Heavy Lifting Against ISIS
"In such a situation under the present "chemical" crisis, Russian politicians and diplomats have, as usually, continued to confront the whole world, stubbornly defending the military dictatorial regime of the Syrian president. Delaying the UN investigation into the bombing with the possible use of chemical weapons in Khan Sheikhun, Russia has virtually proposed to play the fool – proceed, so to speak, from the presumption of uncertainty, as if saying "something happened, let’s start from a clean sheet finding out what happened and who was to blame".
"And then the US missile strike followed. Donald Trump in response to the chemical attack and without much thought, made a strike at Assad’s troops, however, technically warning (literally the day before) China, Israel, Turkey and Russia. The Americans justify the blow by the fact that, given the position Russia has taken at the UN, there was nothing left for them to do.
"The Trump whom so many Russian political commentators were waiting for – the one who would not think twice, resolutely correct the consequences of Obama’s 'indecisiveness' and turn on a dime the previous US policies – showed his worth in the missile attack on Syria. However, the first and so far the only decisive reversal [of policies] not in words but in deed, hurt the interests of the very one who seemed to have been supporting him.
"Furthermore, Syria presents for the United States only one of the elements of their Middle East policy, which, in turn, is only a part, and not a key part, of their global policy. The decision to strike with Tomahawks on the Syrian air force base, which overshadowed all other world events, was in fact taken 'on the sidelines' of Xi Jinping’s visit to Donald Trump. We can assume that one of the motives that guided the US president was the desire to demonstrate his 'toughness' to the Chinese leader.
"The vanity of hopes that Trump would pull Russia out of its international isolation and sanctions was clear from the very beginning. But an American blow at the government airbase in Syria is the end of the "Trump-Is-Ours" game. At the same time, it is clear that heating up of the conflict up to a "hot" war with the US is absolutely unacceptable for our country.
"Protection of the Bashar al-Assad regime did not result in any foreign policy dividends for Russia. On the contrary, he and his crimes only more discredit Russia in the international arena. According to the UN, 300,000 people were killed (according to observers, 465,000 people), 2 million were injured and millions left the country during the war in Syria. Over 4.5 million people live in constant mortal danger.
"Has Russia defeated the Islamic State? Experts, even those from the Russian 'hawks', admit that Russia has not seriously engaged in the defeat of the ISIS, and the United States play a decisive role in the fight against terrorists. However, Russian media criticize more the actions of the anti-ISlS coalition than condemn the ISIS. The report of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on this topic (about 204 killed warlords and liquidation of 35,000 militants) causes perplexity and questions, rather than indicate some achievements.
"The resentment of Russia by Sunnis, the followers of the main and most numerous trend in Islam which Russia helps Assad to fight against, was further strengthened after Russia’s actual blanching over of the recent chemical attack. Moreover that Russia, having been a guarantor of the non-use and liquidation of chemical weapons in Syria since 2013, is responsible for the use of prohibited weapons by Assad. The number of Sunnis in the world is over 1.5 billion people, about 90 per cent of all Muslims.
"Participation in the internal confrontation of Sunnis and Shi'ites is a direct threat to the security of Russian citizens. Therefore, one cannot justify interference into the Syrian war by the need to ensure the safety of Russians. The effect is the opposite. The attack in St. Petersburg on the day of Vladimir Putin’s presence there is a message of this kind.
Protecting Assad Or Treating Russian Cancer Patients
"And that is all for our money, so to say. According to the most conservative estimates, Russia spent at least 87 billion rubles to protect Assad during the 18 months of the war. This is approximately the same amount as was allocated to the housing and utilities sector from the federal budget in 2016. This money could suffice to build 400 kindergartens for 200 children each, or pay for a course of treatment to 320,000 cancer patients, or cover five years of study in Moscow universities for 60,400 children, or build 120 fitness centers.
"Further [Russia’s] participation in the war in Syria and a growing expenditure of [Russia’s] domestic resources is a fundamental undermining of our vital forces. What is Russia doing there? What do we need there and what can we offer? Absolutely nothing, as shown by the developments.
"Russia has got into this quagmire of an endless Middle Eastern religious war, and now our enemies only need only one thing: so that we are completely bogged down there, continuing to spend all possible and impossible resources. That is a trap."
Get Out Now
"There is only one solution: to stop Russian military intervention in the Syrian civil war and withdraw immediately. However, given the psychology of the present authorities in the Kremlin and the history of Russia’s presence in Syria, it is especially difficult to do this now. The assault of Americans on Assad is perceived as a challenge.
"Nevertheless, Russia’s national interests should be higher. Russia has to act right now. Because tomorrow the conditions for a withdrawal from the Syrian trap can become even worse, and it is still necessary to get out of there. Yet Russia does not sacrifice anything, except its ambitions withdrawing from Syria. Further participation in the Syrian war on the side of brutal dictator Bashar al-Assad, who probably does not disdain of chemical weapons, as well as adventurism with bloody consequences in Ukraine, is morally unacceptable and represents an absolute political dead-end.
"In addition, it is necessary to state with all certainty that neither the country’s economy nor its military resources allow to pursue a policy that includes:
– "The war in Syria;
– "The war in Ukraine;
– "Presence in Libya;
– "An accelerated arms race (and at the same time the prospects of a military clash with the US at any moment).
"The country cannot withstand such a garrote even in the medium-term. Russia must stop all these military adventures, because its internal resources do not correspond to the foreign policy and personal ambitions of its leadership.
Otherwise, we will remain trapped, find ourselves in a deadlock from where it will be increasingly difficult to get out. After all, there are real forces interested in Russia getting bogged down in this conflict even deeper, getting exhausted in the absence of the necessary internal resources. And then the trap will slam shut. It was like this when the USSR was dragged into Afghanistan. Then the Americans took revenge for their defeat in Vietnam. Soon after Afghanistan, the country collapsed. History is merciless, it does not tolerate losers.
"We need a powerful political will and at least a simple common sense, if not wisdom so that to admit mistakes and stop Russian participation in wars and adventures that we cannot afford in any way. There are no alternatives to this."

Palestinian Writer To Marwan Al-Barghouti: Hunger Strikes Achieve Nothing; What Palestinian People Are You Talking About?
MEMRI/April 19/17
In a recent article on the liberal left-wing website Al-Hiwar Al-Mutamadin (, Palestinian writer Majdi 'Abd Al-Wahhab addressed the hunger strike that has been launched by Palestinians in Israeli prisons under the leadership of Marwan Al-Barghouti and has been dubbed "the Struggle for Freedom and Dignity." In the article, titled "Marwan, Hunger Is Degradation, Not Dignity," 'Abd Al-Wahhab criticized the strike, stating that hunger bears no connection to freedom and dignity and that this method has been tried many times in the past without yielding any positive results. He advised Al-Barghouti to pursue the goal of his own release from prison, so that he may spend the rest of his life with his family, and asked Al-Barghouti and his fellow prisoners to leave the Palestinians alone and let them enjoy their lives. He also wondered how Al-Barghouti could claim to speak in the name of thousands of prisoners when he was being held in solitary confinement and how he had managed to smuggle letters out of his solitary confinement cell.
It should be noted that 'Abd Al-Wahhab has written on the topic of Al-Barghouti in the past. In a May 2016 article he explained why there was no chance of Al-Barghouti's release from the Israeli prison.[1]
"The Palestinian prisoners, or, to be accurate, many of them, are starting a hunger strike today after Marwan Al-Barghouti announced the strike in a letter that was no doubt smuggled out of solitary confinement cell no. 28 in Hadarim Prison, [where he is currently held]. First, before addressing the essence [of the letter], let me ask: How did the leader [Al-Barghouti] even manage to smuggle this letter out of a solitary confinement cell?! Perhaps with the help of miracle workers?...
"As for the letter [itself], Marwan addressed it to the people, [but] I do not know which people he is talking about. Does he still believe that the Palestinian people exists? Does he not know we are all on the brink of announcing that we relinquish our Palestinian identity? And may God forgive the Jews for turning us into a people!!
"Marwan Al-Barghouti began his letter with the words: 'I address you from my narrow solitary confinement cell.' And I ask: Can a solitary confinement cell be wide? And how can a letter like this be written from a solitary confinement cell? But worse than that is [the fact that] he claims to be 'among thousands of prisoners and [writing] in their name.' If he is in solitary confinement, how can he feel that he is among thousands [of prisoners]? Is this not a hallucination? And how can he feel that he speaks for [all the prisoners], unless the Israel Prison Service allowed him do so? I wish our leader had begun his letter with the words: 'I address those who wish to hear me after the Israel Prison Service allowed me to address this letter to you.' Then he went on to speak of 'the prisoners who decided to take part in the noble and heroic struggle for freedom and dignity– the battle of the open-ended hunger strike.' And I ask: How are freedom and dignity connected to hunger?! Does one need to go hungry in order to attain freedom and dignity? All I know is that hunger is a sign of degradation.
"Marwan Al-Barghouti then stressed that the prisoners have conducted dozens of protests and strikes over the [last] 50 years, and that over 200 prisoners have been martyred. I ask him: What did you attain with all these protests, sir, except for 'martyrdom'? And if these protests were to no avail, as evident from the 'martyrdom' – or actually death – of 200 [prisoners], why announce the present hunger strike?! After all, nothing has changed in your conditions of imprisonment, and I do not even want to go into the question of applying the term 'martyr' to one who died as a result of a hunger strike or who threw himself to his death.
"Marwan Al-Barghouti wrote that every year the occupation casts thousands into the darkness of its prisons and detention camps. I ask: What is he complaining about, if that is the road to freedom?! Is this not a [necessary] struggle [according to his beliefs]? Did he think Israel would hand out roses to those who kill its sons?! Is this not a kind of foolishness?!
"Moreover, Marwan noted that this strike takes place in the month of April, and reminded everyone who had forgotten [exactly] what happened in the month of April: '[It is] the month of the [Deir] Yassin massacre [and of the death of] 'Abd Al-Qadir Al-Husayni[2] and Abu Jihad[3]... and that is not the end of the list.' I ask Marwan: Does that not mean that it was all to no avail and that the path taken by all these leaders was undoubtedly mistaken?!
"Finally, I call on our leader Marwan Al-Barghouti to consider carefully how he can be released from prison and return to his wife and children before he turns old, if at all, and spend some time with his family, without which life has no meaning. [I say to him:] Leave us, our children, our young people and our mothers alone, for all we want is to enjoy life and not spend it with you in a dark prison. If you and thousands of others have chosen this [life in prison], then may you enjoy your choice. But if you want to leave [prison], think carefully and send another, different message. Let me remind you that your message will coincide with the Jewish festival of Passover and the Christian festival of Easter. You should know that [these] holidays are associated with light, salvation and liberty, and these are things that I wish for you and for all of us."
[1] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6431, "Palestinian Writer: No Chance For Marwan Barghouti Release From Israeli Prison," May 16, 2016.
[2] A Palestinian Arab nationalist who founded and commanded a militant group that fought in the Jerusalem area in the 1948 war. He died on April 8, 1948.
[3] Palestinian leader Khalil Ibrahim Al-Wazir, aka Abu Jihad, was a co-founder of Fatah and a top aide of PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, who eventually became the commander of Fatah's military wing. He died on April 16, 1988.

UK: War on Free Speech at the National Union of Students
Douglas Murray/Gatestone Institute/April 19/17
It is interesting to consider what would happen were anyone to demand the same standards of these campaigners against free speech as they demand of others. The people who make such claims rarely if ever exercise the same civic hygiene they demand of everybody else.
If it furthered their political and other goals then Malia Bouattia and the National Union of Students (NUS) would most likely be currently calling for arrests and prosecutions for incitement, "hate speech" and more. Of course, nobody could be so ill-mannered as to play this political game back at them. But if they were to, they would certainly find far greater evidence of cause and effect than Bouattia and her colleagues have produced to date in their war on free speech.
It could be said that Bouattia engaged in "hate speech" as well as "racist speech" when she said the words she did. It could further be claimed that what Bouattia said in fact constituted "incitement" and an "open invitation to violence". It could be argued that the words which came out of her lips led directly to a Palestinian man thinking that a British student could be killed on a tram in Jerusalem in a legitimate act of "resistance" against a representative of a "Zionist outpost."
The great effort of the present-day censors on campuses across the West is to make speech synonymous with action. Campaigners against free expression claim that words not only "wound" people but actually "kill". They claim that people associated with any group being criticised are not only suffering a verbal "assault" but an actual "physical" assault. Those who campaign against any and all criticism of Islamists, for instance, not only claim that the attacks are "Islamophobic" and target "all Muslims". They also claim that such words cause violence -- including violence against any and all Muslims.
One of the notable things about their objection is that the people who make such claims rarely if ever exercise the same civic hygiene they demand of everybody else. It is interesting to consider what would happen were anyone to demand the same standards of these campaigners as they demand of others.
Consider the case of one Malia Bouattia. This is the young woman who is currently president of the National Union of Students (NUS) in Britain. The NUS has long been a campaigning organisation less interested in standing up for the rights and welfare of students as a whole than campaigning for the sort of issues that preoccupy a portion of the hard-left in Britain, at the forefront of which is anti-Zionism. Since her election as NUS president last year, a number of British universities have sought to disaffiliate from the organization in apparent recognition that it has taken an especially virulent turn.
Before she became NUS president, Bouattia had a particular track-record for a type of militant anti-Zionism which can only endear a person to people like the NUS. In a speech recorded in 2014 at a conference on "Gaza and the Palestinian Revolution", Bouattia railed against "Mainstream Zionist-led media outlets" in which, she said, "resistance is resented as an act of terrorism." Three years earlier -- in 2011 -- Bouattia referred to the University of Birmingham as "something of a Zionist outpost in British higher education."
A House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee which looked into Bouattia's track-record last year concluded that:
"The current president of the National Union of Students, Malia Bouattia, does not appear to take sufficiently seriously the issue of anti-Semitism on campus, and has responded to Jewish students' concerns about her previous language with defensiveness and an apparent unwillingness to listen to their concerns.
"There is of course no reason why an individual who has campaigned for the rights of Palestinian people – a cause widely supported on university campuses – should not serve as president of the NUS.
"But Ms Bouattia's choice of language (and ongoing defence of that language) suggests a worrying disregard for her duty to represent all sections of the student population and promote balanced and respectful debate. Referring to Birmingham University as a 'Zionist outpost' (and similar comments) smacks of outright racism, which is unacceptable, and even more so from a public figure such as the president of the NUS."
Malia Bouattia, the president of the UK National Union of Students, refers to acts of terrorism against Israelis as "resistance". (Image source: NUS press office)
Now let us move from the realm of speech into the realm of action.
Last week, a British woman was travelling on a tram in Jerusalem. With no warning, she was suddenly repeatedly stabbed in the chest by a 57-year-old Palestinian man who was detained at the scene. The Israeli authorities immediately described it as a terrorist incident -- yet another in the long line of attacks which have been described as a "stabbing intifada," in which some radical Palestinians follow the advice of radical Palestinian clerics and assault Israelis with whatever weapons they can get their hands on, including cars and trucks.
The murdered woman was subsequently identified as 20-year-old Hannah Bladon. She was a student at the University of Birmingham taking part in an exchange with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She had been taking classes in Bible studies, archaeology and Hebrew. In a statement, her family back in Britain expressed themselves to be "devastated" at her murder, adding that she was "the most caring, sensitive and compassionate daughter you could ever wish for." She was also "a talented musician, part of a serving team at her local church and a member of her local archaeological group."
Even without making as close a link between words and actions as some campaigners currently do, it is worth considering this:
Miss Bladon attended a university described as a "Zionist outpost" by the person elected by the NUS to represent her interests, as well as those of all other students. Miss Bladon was in a city and in a country where that same woman -- Malia Bouattia -- has claimed that what is called "terrorism" is in fact "resistance". By such lights, Hannah Bladon (from a "Zionist outpost") was killed in an act of "resistance". That at any rate is the logical conclusion to draw from the statements of Malia Bouattia.
If anyone were to operate by the standards that some students presently do, then this link could be made further. It could be said that Malia Bouattia engaged in "hate speech" as well as "racist speech" when she said the words she did. It could further be claimed that what Bouattia said in fact constituted "incitement" and an "open invitation to violence". It could be argued that the words that came out of her lips led directly to a Palestinian man thinking that a British student could be killed on a tram in Jerusalem in a legitimate act of "resistance" against a representative of a "Zionist outpost."
That is the game which Malia Bouattia and her colleagues in the NUS would engage in if the target were any other, the victim anyone else and the location of the slaughter anywhere but Israel. If it furthered their political and other goals then Bouattia and the NUS would most likely be currently calling for arrests and prosecutions for incitement, "hate speech" and more. Of course, nobody could be so ill-mannered as to play this political game back at them. But if they were to, they would certainly find far greater evidence of cause and effect than Bouattia and her colleagues have produced to date in their war on free speech. If the NUS and others are really concerned about hate speech, they should look to their own president, and think about Jerusalem.
*Douglas Murray, British author, commentator and public affairs analyst, is based in London, England.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Why Is the US Still Funding Palestinian Terrorism?
(At Least Close the PLO Office in Washington)

Shoshana Bryen/Gatestone Institute/April 19/17
Jamil Tamimi, 57, knew that if he committed an act of terror, he would be lionized by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and -- perhaps more importantly -- that, if he were killed or sent to prison, his family would be taken care of financially.
"The PLO Commission was new only in name. The PLO body would have the ‎same responsibilities and pay the exact same amounts of salaries to prisoners... PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas retained overall supervision of ‎the PLO Commission." — Palestinian Media Watch.
In 2016 Bashar Masalha, who murdered U.S. Army veteran Taylor Force and wounded several others, was hailed on official PA media outlets as a "martyr." A few months later, Abbas said on PA TV, "We welcome every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem.... With the help of Allah, every martyr will be in heaven, and every wounded will get his reward."
The U.S. government should let the PLO and PA know that we are onto their game. Disincentivizing terrorism by closing the PLO office in Washington would be a good first step.
British exchange student Hannah Bladon was stabbed to death on a Jerusalem light rail train last Friday. Her murderer was identified as an East Jerusalem resident who had previously been convicted of molesting his daughter and had tried to commit suicide. Failing at that, he apparently opted for terrorism, on the assumption that the police would kill him. They didn't. "This," the Shin Bet said in a statement, "is another case, out of many, where a Palestinian who is suffering from personal, mental or moral issues chooses to carry out a terror attack in order to find a way out of their problems."
"Suicide by cop" is not unheard of, but the real incentives need to be spelled out.
Jamil Tamimi, 57, knew that if he committed an act of terror, he would be lionized by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and -- perhaps more importantly -- that, if he were killed or sent to prison, his family would be taken care of financially.
To take the PA leader, Mahmoud Abbas, at his word, the PA itself does not pay salaries or pensions to terrorists in Israeli jails or to their families; the money -- instead! -- comes from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). That sleight-of-hand would make this a perfect time for the United States, an ally of the UK and properly appalled by terrorism, to take a step it has been avoiding for more than 25 years: to close the PLO office in Washington -- preferably before the planned visit by Abbas in May.
The PLO was once understood to be a terrorist organization and a terror umbrella. It hijacked airplanes and threw an elderly disabled man in a wheelchair overboard from a cruise ship. Black September, an arm of the PLO, murdered 11 Israeli Olympic athletes in Munich. The PLO has committed acts of horrific terror in Israel -- including massacring bus drivers and their families on holiday. Twenty-five adults and 13 children were killed and 71 others wounded. The PLO has also committed acts of war against the United States by killing American diplomats in Sudan.
In the 1970s and 80s, the U.S. generally knew what it was looking at.
During the Reagan-to-Bush "41"-transition, however, the U.S. dropped its ban on officially talking to then-PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat. (Full disclosure: Colin Powell, then national security advisor, gave this author a "heads up": "Everyone has something to say," he said. "The U.S. government already knows what Arafat has to say," I said, and it is unacceptable." He was not interested.)
Talking was not the same as opening an office; that move was still prohibited by the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1987. However, in the post-Oslo Accords euphoria, Senate legislation permitted the PLO an official mission in Washington "to implement the accords," and it allowed President Clinton to waive the law barring U.S. funds to international organizations that gave money to the PLO. The House passed similar legislation. Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-CA) said at the time:
"This legislation provides a limited, temporary and conditional waiver of restrictions in United States law that would seriously impede the ability of Israel and the PLO to proceed with negotiating and implementing their landmark peace agreement."
It was "conditional" on the PLO meeting its Oslo Accords obligations, including refraining from terrorism and renouncing international moves that would impede bilateral agreement on final status issues. While the legislation was, as Berman said, "temporary," it came with the usual waiver provision, ultimately allowing Presidents to do as they wished.
Presidents, therefore, beginning with President Clinton, did exactly that, even as the Palestinian Authority supplanted the PLO as the "peace partner" and ignored the Oslo Accords at will.
In 2003, the height of the so-called "second intifada," the Palestinian terror war against Israel, Colin Powell, by then Secretary of State, waffled through a statement suggesting that the Palestinians kindly refrain from not killing so many Jews. "We need to see a more concerted effort against the capacity for terrorist activity on the Palestinian side... It's not enough just to have a cease-fire." He then noted "progress in reducing attacks against Israelis" -- but without mentioning that the IDF and Shin Bet had reduced them; not the PA. Nevertheless, President Bush exercised the waiver.
A 2011, a Palestinian bid for recognition as a full member of the UN failed, but the waiver remained. Over U.S. objections, "Palestine" joined the International Criminal Court in 2015. President Barack Obama waived the sanctions every six months -- right through two Hamas wars against Israel.
Largely through the work of Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), the question of payments to terrorists and their families has come to the fore. Worried about foreign aid payments from the U.S. and the EU, in 2014 the Palestinian Authority claimed it stopped paying salaries and that future money would come from a new PLO Commission of Prisoner Affairs. However, PMW reported from Palestinian sources:
The PLO Commission was new only in name. The PLO body would have the ‎same responsibilities and pay the exact same amounts of salaries to prisoners; the ‎former PA Minister of Prisoners' Affairs, Issa Karake, became the Director of the new ‎PLO Commission and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas retained overall supervision of ‎the PLO Commission.
Tower Magazine reported that in 2015, a year after the PA "officially" transferred authority over Palestinian prisoners to the PLO, it also transferred an extra 444 million shekels (more than $116 million) to the PLO -- nearly the same amount that the PA had allocated in the previous years to its now-defunct Ministry of Prisoners' Affairs.
Citing PMW, Tower wrote that the transfer to the PLO was meant to evade pressure from Western governments that demanded an end to terrorist salaries -- specifically the United States and the UK, which froze payments to the PA in 2016 over the problem.
In the end, perhaps, it does not matter whose bank account transfers the money to whose bank account:
In 2016 Bashar Masalha, who murdered U.S. Army veteran Taylor Force and wounded several others, was hailed on official PA media outlets as a "martyr." A few months later, Abbas said on PA TV, "We welcome every drop of blood spilled in Jerusalem. This is pure blood, clean blood, blood on its way to Allah. With the help of Allah, every martyr will be in heaven, and every wounded will get his reward."Abbas has not said much about Jamil Tamimi, last Friday's murderer, and it is time to stop encouraging, threatening or demanding that he do so. Rather, the U.S. government should let the PLO and PA know that we are onto their game. Disincentivizing terrorism by closing the PLO office in Washington would be a good first step.
**Shoshana Bryen is Senior Director of the Jewish Policy Center.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Trump has to undo Obama’s Mideast legacy
Ahmad al-Farraj/Al Arabiya/April 19/17
Ever since Donald Trump became president, I have come to realize how bad the situation was during Barack Obama’s term. The latter served two terms which were mostly lean years on the level of America’s historical relations with the Saudi Kingdom. I have repeatedly written that an intellectual is not fit to become a political leader as politics is the art of the possible and a mixture of innate guile, courage and resolution. Most politicians who changed the world did not belong to the category of intellectuals. What is strange is that Obama’s role model was Abraham Lincoln who made one of the greatest decisions in history – the decision to end slavery. This decision led to a violent civil war in America resulting in many fatalities. It ended with the sweeping victory of America’s best presidents. A great leader is a man who bravely makes difficult decisions no matter how impossible they seem.
Historical surprise When Obama won the elections, it was a historical surprise. Muslims and Arabs rejoiced as they thought he will be the savoir faire to their causes. You probably remember the articles written about him in Arab dailies. However, Obama later turned his back on everyone, including on the historical legacy of America’s relations with the Saudi Kingdom. He did so for ideological and personal reasons. And why else would Obama turn his back on America’s historical allies in favor of a fascist Islamist regime that has always declared hostility against America, supported all terrorist activities in the Middle East and targeted American interests? According to some reports, statements and leaks, Obama is stubborn and he does not care about the opinions of his advisors. This contradicts the “American decision making mechanism” which relies on an ancient institutional system and on studies carried out by respectable academic institutions. Obama, as a well-informed intellectual, believed he could resolve the Middle East problems according to ideological theories and not realistic political ones.
And why else would Obama turn his back on America’s historical allies in favor of a fascist Islamist regime that has always declared hostility against America, supported all terrorist activities in the Middle East and targeted American interests? According to some reports, statements and leaks, Obama is stubborn and he does not care about the opinions of his advisors.
I was asked a lot whether there was contradiction between the fact that some American presidents make decisions on their own and my statements that the American system is an ancient institutional system which formulates plans for decades. The answer is easy. America’s foreign policies have clear objectives which all presidents abide by. However, a strong president can still make a decision that does not go against the grain. For example, America’s general political line is that Iran, under the governance of mullahs, represents a threat that must be dealt with. However, dealing with Iran differs according to the president’s character and political ideology. America’s presidents have strictly dealt with Tehran since 1979 and they resorted to sanctions and siege.
However, Obama thought he could peacefully resolve this problem without resorting to military power or siege. He strongly followed this path and fulfilled his wish of making an achievement. However, he did this at the expense of America’s most important allies. He therefore reshuffled the cards in this disturbed area and then left office leaving a burdensome legacy for Trump. President Trump launched a campaign to rectify all this since day one and he did so by restoring back America’s relations with Saudi Arabia on the right path. He then struck at the Assad regime.
Trump, however, still has a lot to do to correct Obama’s political legacy in the Middle East.

Why saying ‘I know a Christian’ only furthers extremist rhetoric
Mamdouh AlMuhaini/Al Arabiya/April 19/17
The blasts that hit churches in Tanta and Alexandria earlier this month left a trail of death and destruction and led to some painful scenes. Children breathed their last in the presence of their parents. A couple held each other with bleeding hands and a policewoman on duty was killed in a matter of seconds. Her family has now lost her forever. Terrorism not only inflicts horrible pain on victims’ families but also on the society it targets. Most horrible moments are those that take away innocent lives as a result of evil acts of the most morally wicked. The reason behind all this – despite attempts to confuse it – is extremism. Terrorists are born as a result of extremism. Unless this root cause is eliminated, and those promoting it dragged to courts, these demons hiding under the cover of piety will continue to sneak into mosques, churches, markets and airports and turn the happiest moments into the most miserable. Unfortunately, despite all the statements condemning acts of terrorism, we easily fall into the traps laid down by ISIS. Most of the time, we don’t even realize this. One of these traps is a statement we often make in response to terror attacks. We sometimes casually say: “But I have a Christian friend who is very moral and polite.”
If we maintain a solid conviction that Muslims and Christians are the same, then there is no need to argue that “I know some Christians who are kind” as this simply goes without saying. Although the response seems to reflect a defensive approach, it is actually rather ambiguous. It confirms the validity of extremist ideas, which deprive certain religions or sects of integrity. Such a statement suggests that these good individuals are exceptions. If we maintain a solid conviction that Muslims and Christians are the same, then there is no need to argue that “I know some Christians who are kind” as this simply goes without saying.
Extremist rhetoric
Such a discourse also confirms that we remain stuck in the orbit of extremist rhetoric even if we criticize it. This rhetoric is based on looking at others through religious and sectarian eyes rather than as fellow humans. We say this person is a Christian or a Jew or a Sunni or a Shiite is kind and gentle when in fact the real identity that unites us with him is that of humanity. This is his basic identity and we feel sad when he dies because he is first and foremost a human. The extremist rhetoric only sees the religious identity in others. This highlights isolation and psychological and emotional fault lines within societies, which needs unity and solidarity in the most difficult times. One might say I know a kind and ethical Christian. Is there an iota of doubt about that? Even when a person dies in a terrorist attack, we categorize him as a Muslim, Christian or Jew. Truth remains though that a human lost his life.
We do not hear phrases such as “I know a Christian” in cultures that have overgrown narrowmindedness and base their thoughts on human values. When the truck attack happened in Sweden earlier this month, we were not informed about the victims’ religious beliefs because those killed were humans after all. There are no religious or sectarian or blue bloods among us. Extremists drag us into their rhetoric and we don’t even realize it. In fact, we end up furthering their ideas. Even when we believe we are condemning their crimes we are rather strengthening and propagating them.

War on extremism initiated from Malaysia

Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/April 19/17
“Defeating the ideology of terrorism” is a phrase coined by Doctor Mohammed al-Issa, the secretary general of the Muslim World League and the director of the intellectual center to combat extremism and terrorism in the Saudi defense ministry. Issa recently visited Malaysia, a Muslim Asian country which thanks to its rich experience is a basic pillar in the Saudi-led Islamic military alliance to fight extremism and terrorism.
Saudi-Malaysia Cooperation
The aim of the visit is cooperation. This is why King Salman Center for International Peace will be launched in Malaysia. The center’s goal is to work on strengthening peace and tolerance. This can be achieved through confronting extremist ideology. It attracted my attention that they focused on extremism more than terrorism. Another goal is to defend Islam and Muslims against hate speech and those who intimidate others from Islam. Issa reiterated that King Salman Center for International Peace will contribute to solidifying values of peace and moderation and improve positive images about Islam. While speaking before a group of scholars, intellectuals and diplomats in Kuala Lumpur at the Wasatiyyah Institute Malaysia (Moderation Institute) affiliated with the Malaysian cabinet, Issa said: “Extremism will not be politically defeated before it’s ideologically defeated. It previously expanded in areas where there was vacuum in terms of confronting it.” Does Malaysia have something to offer to help accomplish this major mission and fight this intermittent, endless war? It’s actually interesting that, despite their diversity, the Malaysians are the least engaged in terrorist groups from among Muslim communities
Wasatiyyah Institute Malaysia director Mohammed Yusof said the major reason the Malaysian people are united despite their different races and cultures is the moderate approach. It’s actually interesting that, despite their diversity, the Malaysians are the least engaged in terrorist groups from among Muslim communities. Of course some have been engaged in terrorism but they are very few. The World Muslim League, the Saudi intellectual center, King Salman’s peace center and the Malaysian government deserve to be encouraged and supported. I reiterate that focusing on fighting extremism first – before terrorism – is the right approach towards succeeding in this confrontation. Sheikh Issa said it’s not possible to politically defeat extremism before ideologically defeating it, adding that sick extremism expanded amid vacuum in terms of confronting it.
Anticipations are high
Truth is, a lot has been said in terms of confronting extremist ideology. However, it’s not fair to say there was “vacuum.” Thus the question is: Why have these efforts failed? Must we increase these efforts or improve them? Honestly the answer is that Muslim countries did not frankly, decisively and continuously cooperate to launch war against extremists. They failed to do so due to political disputes or intellectual laziness or political negligence. The situation is now different considering the practices of ISIS, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and lone wolves as well as Khomeini and Houthi gangs and popular mobilization forces in Muslim countries.
The question is: How will the confrontation be different this time? We enthusiastically wait for this to unfold.

US banks’ Trump card – rolling back banking regulations?
Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/April 19/17
The 2008-09 global financial crisis tsunami, triggered by excessive banking risk taking in derivative and leveraged financial services which bankrupted not only banks but countries, brought about wide ranging regulations to ensure that systemic bank risk is contained. In the US, in order to avoid another financial meltdown, the Dodd–Frank regulations was passed by Congress which severely restricted banks’ ability to engage in proprietary trading on their own account and also restricted hedge fund like activities at banks that receive deposit guarantees from the US government. US banks are now gleefully expecting a “reform”, if not outright rollback in bank regulations, spearheaded by the assorted millionaires and billionaires on “team Trump”. Billionaire venture capitalist Carl Icahn has been appointed as special advisor of regulatory issues and Steven Mnuchin, US Treasury Secretary, a hedge fund millionaire and Goldman Sachs alumni who has publicly stated that he wants to strip back parts of the Dodd-Frank Act. This has significant repercussions, both to the US financial sector as well as internationally, including the Gulf economies, as the recent global financial crisis so vividly illustrated.
President Trump has now signed an executive order to review the 2010 Dodd –Frank financial regulations and stated that “Dodd–Frank is a disaster … and we’re going to be doing a big number on Dodd-Frank”.
Those critical of the Act have argued that it is an example of government being overtly–controlling and it fits into the President’s election promise to drain the Washington swamp, as he and his advisors believe that unwinding some of Dodd-Frank regulations will enable smaller community banks to compete by offering choice to consumers.
Financial regulators in Europe most affected by the 2008-9 fallout have supported coordinated international regulation and macro-prudential supervision of the world’s largest banks, some of whom had branches operating in the Gulf countries
Consumer banking
One of these regulations under threat of repeal is the so-called fiduciary rules in consumer banking which aimed at blocking financial advisors from steering clients towards investments with higher commissions and fees, making them less valuable on maturity. Trump team now argues that the Act limits investment choices by forcing asset managers to opt to low yield and low risk investment options. Can President Trump really do a “big number” on Dodd-Frank? It would seem that, notwithstanding a rally in US bank shares following the Trump executive order, the move is largely symbolic as only the US Congress can rewrite the legislation which cannot be undone by a fiat executive order, and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin has 120 days to consult with the Financial Stability Oversight Council , also established by the Dodd-Frank Act. The treasury secretary has to make a persuasive case and prove that the Act does not foster economic growth, hinders US companies to be competitive with foreign firms in domestic and foreign markets, and has not advanced US interests in international financial regulatory agreements. It is not certain that President Trump will obtain all the necessary Republican Congressional and Senate support as the Dodd-Frank Act was a sweeping bi-partisan plan. There are some Republican representatives who will be under pressure from consumer and activist groups, like Occupy Wall Street, who will remind their representatives of the consequences to ordinary families whose homes were repossessed during the 2008-9 financial crisis.
Repealing Obamacare
The set in motion a wave of corporate crisis that led to a global recession, that also affected many countries of the Gulf. Moderate Senate Republicans will most probably resist wholesale rollback, and given the fact that President Trump could not muster all his party’s support to repeal Obamacare, this is a possibility. Instead, President Trump will initiate executive order – driven (non-legislative) piecemeal changes, followed by legislative fixes such as his proposed tax cuts. The drive to wipe out or scale back Dodd-Frank has seemingly lost some momentum. Trump issued an executive order on Feb. 3 for Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to review the law, but the president made no mention of it in his priority-setting speech to Congress on Feb. 28. As with the Republican vow to repeal Obamacare, the sticking point may be finding a replacement for the law on the books. Whether Dodd-Frank is partially or totally repealed will have international consequences, given that today’s global financial system is closely interlinked and no country can set up its crisis proof firewall. Financial regulators in Europe most affected by the 2008-9 fallout, like Germany, the UK, Spain, Greece, Italy and Portugal have supported coordinated international regulation and macro-prudential supervision of the world’s largest banks, some of whom had branches operating in the Gulf countries.
The aim was to monitor more closely these international institutions that are “too big to fail” and limit the type of risks they can take. However, building another wall to protect American banks from global banking rules is not something that will come easy.
It has taken nearly seven years for a semblance of confidence to return to the international financial system, but as the current resurgence of Greek debt negotiations illustrate with bailout negotiations between Athens and its creditors stalling, the possibility of “Grexit”, or euro exit, has re-emerged. With selective policy amnesia setting in, the danger of yet another financial crisis remains real.