April 24/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 20/01-10/:"Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes."

For a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith is tested
First Letter of 01/01-09/:"Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who have been chosen and destined by God the Father and sanctified by the Spirit to be obedient to Jesus Christ and to be sprinkled with his blood: May grace and peace be yours in abundance. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,
who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire may be found to result in praise and glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 23-24/17
Marine Le Pen… Extremism Knocking on France’s Door/Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al-Awsat/April 23/17/
A Young Prince is Reimagining Saudi Arabia/David Ignatius/The Washington Post/April 23/17/
Islam in the Heart of England and France/Denis MacEoin/Gatestone Institute/April 23/17
The French elections have produced few surprises yet, but what of round 2/Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/April 24/17
Britain’s Mother Theresa/Trisha de Borchgrave/Al Arabiya/April 23/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published on April 23-24/17
Arab, Foreign Ambassadors Reportedly Laud Hariri's Southern Tour
Al-Rahi Says Polls under 1960 Law Better than 'Extension, Destructive Vacuum'
Hizbullah MP: Border Tour Misinterpreted, Resistance in Defensive Position
PSP Says Parties Interested in Its Electoral Law Proposal as Aoun Welcomes It
Mufti Slams Hizbullah Border Tour, Bassil's 'Sectarian Qualification' Law
Qaouq Says Lebanon to Face 'Disaster' if No New Electoral Law
Lebanese Activists Ramp Up Pressure on Reviled Rape Law
Army Commander: No Safe Haven for Terrorists in Lebanon
Lebanon: Jumblat Proposes New Hybrid Electoral Law
Parties, officials take part in Armenian genocide gathering in Antelias
Bassil: There is a cultural genocide attempt against our identity via systematic demographic changes
Sami Gemayel: Is there a compromise on extension of Parliament's mandate, adoption of 1960 law?
17,400 participants in Sidon Marathon: We run for development and peace
Riachy: After the Christian reconciliation, we can say out loud that Muslims resemble us and those who distort their image are not Muslims
Fenianos followsup on veering ship in Sidon, gives instructions to save its crew
Kassem Hashem: To work on common, uniting points
Osseiran representing Berri: We need law that respects representation
Raad: US administration sponsors international terrorism
Delegation from Directorate General of Civil Aviation inspects Koleiaat Airport

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 23-24/17
Pope: Migrant Holding Centers Similar to Concentration Camps
Report: Pro-Assad militia base targeted in alleged Israel airstrike
Israeli Attack on Syria Military Camp Kills Three
Saudi King Names Son as U.S. Envoy, Fires Army Chief, 3 Ministers
French election: Macron vs Le Pen in May 7 run-off vote
Labour leader Corbyn says could suspend Syria air strikes if elected
Why did Erdogan meet secretly with prominent American figures?
Pentagon chief visits African nation home to key US baseNorth
Korea says ready to strike US aircraft carrier

Latest Lebanese Related News published on April 23-24/17
Arab, Foreign Ambassadors Reportedly Laud Hariri's Southern Tour
Naharnet/April 23/17/Arab and foreign ambassadors have praised Prime Minister Saad Hariri's visit to south Lebanon, media reports said. Al-Mustaqbal newspaper, which is affiliated with Hariri's Mustaqbal Movement, reported Sunday that “Arab and foreign diplomats in Lebanon have informed Lebanese political figures of their relief over PM Saad Hariri's visit to the border.” “They said that it boosted confidence in the presence of the state in the South,” the newspaper said. U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag had also welcomed Hariri's visit on Friday, saying it “reflects the continued partnership” between Lebanon and the U.N. Kaag lauded Hariri's reaffirmation of the government's commitment to U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, noting that the U.N. “stands ready to continue to provide its good offices to help effect progress on outstanding obligations under the resolution and towards a permanent ceasefire.”Hariri's visit to the South came a day after Hizbullah took a group of over 100 local and international journalists on a rare tour of the border with Israel. Members of Hizbullah's armed wing stood guard on part of the tour, displaying weapons despite a prohibition stipulated by UNSCR 1701 on any armed paramilitary presence so close to the demarcation line.Hariri said Friday that "what happened yesterday is something that we, as a government, are not concerned with and do not accept."The premier, who was accompanied by the defense minister and army chief, said his trip was intended "to tell the Lebanese armed forces that they and only they are the legitimate force in charge of defending our borders."There has been rising speculation about a new conflict between Hizbullah and Israel, who fought a 34-day war in 2006 that ended after the approval of Resolution 1701. That conflict killed 1,200 people in Lebanon, mainly civilians, and 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.

Al-Rahi Says Polls under 1960 Law Better than 'Extension, Destructive Vacuum'
Naharnet/April 23/17/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi on Sunday reiterated that parliamentary elections under the controversial current law would be better than another extension of parliament's term or parliamentary “vacuum.”“We are praying and pleading so that the political forces, the parliamentary blocs and the government be able to issue a new law that enjoys the consent of all components in the country,” al-Rahi said in his Sunday Mass sermon. “Should they fail after all the attempts, that would be the result of the fact that the electoral laws are being devised to fit the interests of certain individuals and groups, not the people and the whole of Lebanon,” al-Rahi noted. He added: “Should no new law be passed for one reason or another, it would not be shameful to acknowledge failure and go to parliamentary elections under the law that is currently in effect with a necessary technical extension of parliament's term.”
The patriarch justified his suggestion by warning that “what would be greatly shameful and detrimental would be going either to indefinite extension -- which would be a usurpation of power and the people's will -- or to a vacuum that would be destructive for state institutions.”
Al-Rahi cautioned that “more than ever, Lebanon today needs the confidence of its sons and the confidence of the international community in its State.”“This is the confidence upon which it builds its economic, commercial and political ties with the other countries,” the patriarch added.
He also warned that “the domestic and regional situations do not allow additional setbacks that prevent state institutions from performing their numerous roles.”“No one has the right to manipulate Lebanon's fate, because it belongs to the Lebanese people, not certain individuals or groups,” al-Rahi added.
He also noted that the Lebanese are counting on President's Michel Aoun's “wisdom and higher responsibility for the country's fate in order to spare Lebanon any political, economic and social crisis linked to the electoral law and its repercussions.”

Hizbullah MP: Border Tour Misinterpreted, Resistance in Defensive Position
Naharnet/April 23/17/MP Ali Fayyad of Hizbullah's Loyalty to Resistance bloc announced Sunday that the controversial tour that his party organized Thursday for reporters on the Lebanese-Israeli border has been “deliberately misinterpreted” by some Lebanese parties. “Some parties trying to stir disputes based on exaggerated interpretations and sometimes deliberate misinterpretation, especially that it is fully clear that the resistance is in a defensive position and that it is seeking to consolidate the state of stability in the South based on the equation of deterrence with the Israeli enemy,” Fayyad said.
Hizbullah's “steps are aimed at preserving the equation of deterrence and preventing the enemy from pushing for the corrosion of this equation,” the MP added. He reassured that “preserving stability in Lebanon and calm and security in the southern towns is at the core of the resistance's policies and what it does is aimed at achieving these objectives and not the opposite.”Fayyad noted that “there is a certain interest for everyone to refrain from aggravating any dispute that might affect the performance of institutions or the domestic situations.” He also urged all parties to “take into consideration the explosive regional environment surrounding Lebanon, the reckless U.S. escalation policies, Israel's provocative practices and repeated threats, and the poisoned policies of incitement that are being practiced by some regional forces.”Fayyad's remarks come three days after Prime Minister Saad Hariri criticized Hizbullah's border tour during a landmark visit to the South. Several other Lebanese parties have also slammed Hizbullah's move. Hariri's visit to the South came a day after Hizbullah took a group of over 100 local and international journalists on a rare tour of the border with Israel that the party said was aimed at explaining the unprecedented Israeli defensive measures on the frontier. Members of Hizbullah's armed wing stood guard on part of the tour, displaying weapons despite a prohibition stipulated by U.N. resolution 1701 on any armed paramilitary presence near the border. Hariri said Friday that "what happened yesterday is something that we, as a government, are not concerned with and do not accept."The premier, who was accompanied by the defense minister and army chief, said his trip was intended "to tell the Lebanese armed forces that they and only they are the legitimate force in charge of defending our borders."There has been rising speculation about a new conflict between Hizbullah and Israel, who fought a 34-day war in 2006 that ended after the approval of Resolution 1701.That conflict killed 1,200 people in Lebanon, mainly civilians, and 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.

PSP Says Parties Interested in Its Electoral Law Proposal as Aoun Welcomes It
The Progressive Socialist Party has said that several political forces have asked for copies of the electoral law format that the PSP has proposed. “The party has started sending these copies to a host of parties and movements, such as the Free Patriotic Movement, al-Mustaqbal Movement and AMAL Movement,” PSP sources told al-Mustaqbal newspaper in remarks published Sunday. President Michel Aoun has meanwhile welcomed the PSP's proposal seeing as any new suggestion “might help in pushing for an agreement over a law,” the president's visitors told the newspaper. Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil had also welcomed the PSP's move on Saturday, saying “any PSP proposal or ideas regarding the electoral law are something positive and a step forward.” Speaker Nabih Berri is also expected to propose a new electoral law format next week.The PSP's hybrid electoral law formula calls for electing 64 MPs under the proportional representation system and 64 others under the winner-takes-all system in 26 districts.

Mufti Slams Hizbullah Border Tour, Bassil's 'Sectarian Qualification' Law
Naharnet/April 23/17/Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Daryan on Sunday slammed Hizbullah's border tour for journalists and the party's foreign roles as he criticized an electoral law proposed by Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil that involves sectarian voting in the first round.
“All disagreements are permissible except over three issues: coexistence, state institutions and tampering with the security of the South. We can bear any burden except the burden of undermining coexistence and what is being said about religious or sectarian qualification violates the constitution and coexistence,” Daryan warned in an address to the nation marking the Isra and Mi'raj Muslim holiday. Turning to Hizbullah's border tour, the mufti said: “We reached U.N. resolution 1701 after a destructive Israeli war, so why create excuses for the enemy?” “We do not need bloodshed, displacement and destruction after which we say that we emerged victorious,” Daryan added. “Since we have defeated the enemies one thousand times, I want us to triumph over ourselves, our ambitions, our greed and our ploys, even for a single time,” the mufti went on to say. “My brothers, return to the greater jihad, which is the jihad of the soul, after you roamed east and west,” Daryan added, addressing Hizbullah's members without naming them. On Friday, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) said contacts were underway with the Lebanese army over the presence of Hizbullah gunmen during the media tour organized Thursday by Hizbullah along the border with Israel. "As to reports speaking of the presence of armed individuals among the delegation, UNIFIL reminds that this would be a breach of resolution 1701; and as per the resolution, the Lebanese authorities bear the main responsibility to verify the presence of unauthorized armed individuals in the area between the Blue Line and Litani River," a UNIFIL statement read. Hizbullah, which fought a devastating war with Israel in 2006, on Thursday brought dozens of journalists on a rare and highly-choreographed trip to the demarcation line between Lebanon and Israel.
"This tour is to show the defensive measures that the enemy is taking," said Hizbullah spokesman Mohamed Afif, on a hilltop along the so-called Blue Line. Thursday's tour sought to paint Israel as afraid of a new conflict, while depicting Hizbullah as ready for war despite having committed thousands of its fighters to bolstering Syria's President Bashar al-Assad. Journalists were taken from the southern Lebanese town of Naqoura, with Hizbullah fighters in full military regalia stationed along the route alongside the group's yellow flag -- despite a ban by Resolution 1701 on any armed paramilitary presence in southern Lebanon. Faces smeared with black and green camouflage, the fighters stood silently holding guns and RPG launchers. "We do not fear war, we don't hesitate to confront it. We yearn for it and we will confront it if it is imposed on us, and God willing we will win," a Hizbullah commander dressed in military fatigues and sunglasses told the reporters, reciting a famous statement for Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.

Qaouq Says Lebanon to Face 'Disaster' if No New Electoral Law
Naharnet/April 23/17/Hizbullah central council official Sheikh Nabil Qaouq warned Sunday that Lebanon would face a “disaster” should no new electoral law be approved soon. “Lebanon would be approaching a disaster should no new electoral law be approved before the expiry of the legal deadlines, seeing as failure to approve it would drain all the political, social and economic stability in Lebanon,” Qaouq said. He stressed that Hizbullah “has offered concessions for the sake of allowing consensus over a new electoral law” and that “it is not part of the complications and ongoing bickering over this law.”
“Those who would be affected from the correction of electoral representation are the obstacle and they are the ones who are not concealing their intentions and are still practicing political maneuvering,” Qaouq charged.“Those who have not taken a responsible and patriotic decision to offer concessions for the sake of rescuing the country are committing a national sin against our homeland Lebanon,” the Hizbullah official warned.

Lebanese Activists Ramp Up Pressure on Reviled Rape Law
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 23/17/Lebanese activists have ramped up their campaign to scrap a controversial law allowing rapists who marry their victims to go free, with a dramatic installation on Saturday along Beirut's sunny seaside. A proposal to scrap Article 522 of the penal code -- which deals with rape, assault, kidnapping and forced marriage -- was introduced last year and approved by a parliamentary committee in February.It will go before parliament on May 15 and activists hope that MPs will vote to eliminate it. On Saturday they urged Lebanese citizens to sign a campaign to ramp up the pressure on legislators at an open-air exhibit. Thirty-one wedding dresses made of white lace and wrapping paper hung limply from makeshift nooses between four palm trees along Beirut's corniche. "There are 31 days in a month and every single day, a woman may be raped and forced to marry her rapist," said Alia Awada, advocacy manager at Lebanese non-government organization ABAAD. "We are trying as much as we can to shed light on this issue and tell parliament that the time has come for them to vote on canceling Article 522."The reviled article, which also deals with the rape of minors, allows offenders to escape punishment by wedding their victims. "If a valid marriage contract exists between the perpetrator of one of these crimes... and the abused, the prosecution is suspended," it reads. "If a verdict has been issued, the implementation is suspended."Awada said: "We called on all parliamentarians and decision-makers in the Lebanese state with this message: every 'yes' from you is a 'no' to a rapist."
- 'Stone age' -
Standing amid the fluttering wedding dresses, Minister for Women's Affairs Jean Oghassabian described the article as being "from the stone age.""Its turn has come, it's the second item on the agenda" at an upcoming legislative session on May 15, Oghassabian, who is also an MP, told AFP. Lebanese artist Mireille Honein, who designed the exhibition in Paris and brought it to her homeland this week, said she made the dresses out of white paper "to highlight the ephemeral nature of marriage and of laws." "And I hung them up, because this type of law simply robs women of their essence, leaves them without an identity and suspends them in a life that does not suit them and is shameful for those imposing it on them," Honein told AFP. As passersby paused to look at the ghostly installation, volunteers from ABAAD invited them to sign a petition demanding parliament prioritize the article's elimination. Silver-haired Rafiq Ajouri, who hails from a southern Lebanese village, was persuaded to sign on while on his morning stroll along the corniche. "If I were to get raped, why wouldn't I get my rights? I'd want people to stand beside me," he said. But the elderly man, who has five sons and three daughters, hesitated when an ABAAD volunteer said women should be allowed the same liberties as men. "They can have their freedoms, but within limits. Why? Because they're girls."

Army Commander: No Safe Haven for Terrorists in Lebanon
Naharnet/April 23/17/Army Commander General Joseph Aoun stressed on Saturday that terrorists and militants will not find a safe haven in any area in Lebanon. “The security situation in the country is totally under the army's control. Any attempts to disrupt security and stability will be faced firmly,” said Aoun in a statement. The Army commander's comments came after the troops succeeded on Saturday at arresting a group of terrorists, including an IS Emir who has reportedly decreed the killing of Lebanese soldiers. “There is no safe haven for terrorists in any region in Lebanon,” he stressed. At dawn on Saturday, the Lebanese army arrested in Wadi al-Hosn in the outskirts of Arsal a group of ten terrorists who have infiltrated Lebanon's territory earlier. Among the detainees is the so-called Syrian legitimate IS Emir Alaa al-Halabi, aka al-Mlais, who has ordered the killing of Lebanese soldiers.Among the detainees are arms dealers and members of a smuggling networks who work in favor of terrorist groups, it was reported.

Lebanon: Jumblat Proposes New Hybrid Electoral Law
Asharq Al-Awsat/April 23/17/Beirut – Head of Lebanon’s Progressive Socialist Party MP Walid Jumblat presented on Saturday a new parliamentary electoral law in a bid to end the ongoing crisis over the issue. The new hybrid law is a combination of the proportional representation and winner-takes-all system.
At a time when the majority of political powers took their time in reviewing the new law, “Hezbollah” renewed its commitment to the proportional representation law. Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil was quick to hail Jumblat’s initiative, saying: “The fact that the PSP has taken the initiative to present a draft-law away from our opinion is a positive step forward.”The law, revealed in a press conference by MP Ghazi al-Aridi, calls for the election of 64 lawmakers based on the winner-takes-all system and for dividing Lebanon into 26 districts. The remaining 64 MPs will be elected based on proportional representation and 11 electoral districts. “This draft law is complete on the national level and does not omit anyone,” Aridi said.He explained that it caters to the concerns of all political powers, stressing the need to reach an agreement on a new electoral law before May 15. Speaker Nabih Berri had scheduled a parliamentary session for May 15 during which lawmakers will vote to extend their term for a third time. Lebanon last held parliamentary elections in 2009. The parliament has since extended its term twice over the political powers’ failure to reach an agreement over a new electoral law. On the political deadlock, “Hezbollah” MP Ali al-Moqdad said: “As Lebanese, we are required to adopt a new law for the upcoming elections, because the situation can no longer continue without polls.”The party’s support for proportional representation was echoed by head of the Marada Movement MP Suleiman Franjieh. “Complete proportionality offer correct representation,” he stressed. Jumblat’s Druze rival Minister of the Displaced Talal Arslan was quick to reject the MP’s new electoral law, saying that he opposes all hybrid law proposals.He also backed proportional representation.

Parties, officials take part in Armenian genocide gathering in Antelias
Bassil: There is a cultural genocide attempt against our identity via systematic demographic changes

Sun 23 Apr 2017/NNA - Youth sectors of the three Armenian parties, Tashnag, Hanshak and Ramgavar, organized a gathering on Sunday evening at the Armenian Catholic Orthodox Church of the House of Kilikia in Antelias, as part of the activities marking the 120th commemoration of the Armenian genocide. A student and youth march organized by the Zawarian students' section of Tashnag Party set out earlier this evening from Burj Hammoud in order to join in the gathering. Also partaking in the gathering were: Free Patriotic Movement Head, Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Minister Gebran Bassil; State Minister for Women's Affairs Jean Ogassapian; Tashnag Party Secretary-General, MP Hagop Paqradunian; Deputies Serge Tor Sarkisian and Sebouh Kalbakian, former Minister Sebouh Hovnanian, as well as representatives of the three Armenian parties and crowds of young citizens. In a word on the occasion, Minister Bassil considered that "there is a cultural genocide targeting our identity through systematic demographic changes." "We are fighting every day for our survival, because the annihilation we are subjected to is not only to wipe out our people, but all our culture and identity through deliberate demographic changes, which means that they are trying to change our identities and erase them," he explained. "There is an economic genocide, in addition to political obliteration, and each time we survive, we get back into another labor," added Bassil. "So, we all fight to keep this Eastern identity of a human wanting to live freely and harmoniously alongside his fellow brethrens, for freedom is the common denominator that brings us together. Therefore, we are one people, and we will have only one weapon which is the weapon of peace and freedom and openness to the other," vowed Bassil.

Sami Gemayel: Is there a compromise on extension of Parliament's mandate, adoption of 1960 law?
Sun 23 Apr 2017/NNA - Kataeb party leader, Sami Gemayel, on Sunday questioned the government about the reasons behind its failure to put the electoral law on its agenda after four months and with the expiry of constitutional deadlines. At the party's annual dinner in Batroun, Gemayel said: "Why resorting to bids and exchange of accusations? You all bear the responsibility of failing to approve on election law, without exception." "Is there a compromise regarding the extension of the Parliament's mandate and the return to 1960 law?" he said in his speech. According to his remarks, the political life in Lebanon reached a low level in everything. "Political performance must be based on constants and principles, these values are essential for the building of the state," he said. Gemayel promised that his party would be the first to defend citizens who struggle to live in dignity in Lebanon.

17,400 participants in Sidon Marathon: We run for development and peace
Sun 23 Apr 2017/NNA - More than 17,400 people participated on Sunday in Sidon International Marathon, organized on April 23 under the title "We run for development and peace," by Saida International Marathon Association and sponsored by Bank Audi, Rotaract club and the municipality of the city. MP Bahia Hariri, representing Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, and MP Fouad Siniora presented medals to the winners at Rafiq Hariri Stadium. The Marathon was launched around 7.00 am from the north entrance of the capital of South Lebanon and lasted more than five hours.
The race was supervised by the Lebanese Sports Federation in presence of Lebanese and international referees.

Riachy: After the Christian reconciliation, we can say out loud that Muslims resemble us and those who distort their image are not Muslims
Sun 23 Apr 2017/NNA - Under the patronage of Information Minister Melhem Riachy, "Balsamat Association" held the second session of its "CAEL Festival" on Sunday, in appreciation of the role and contributions of embassies in Lebanon. During the event, Minister Riachy was honored along with the President's Advisor for International Cooperation, former Minister Elias Bou Saab, and various Arab and foreign ambassadors and prominent Lebanese figures, for their remarkable efforts and achievements. In his word marking the occasion, Minister Riachy said: "All the Lebanese, Muslims and Christians, as well as the Arab brethrens, are concerned with the issue of awareness of the values of reconciliation, which form the foundation for the civilization of peace.""When peace arrives, the blessing is felt by both Muslims and Christians alike," he added. "In wake of the Christian reconciliation, we are able to say out loud that Muslims resemble us and those who distort their image are not Muslims," stressed Riachy. "Both Muslims and Christians are present in this East, and the natural model of this existence and its continuation, and the reality of the civilization of said existence, is the Lebanese model," he added. "As Lebanese Christians, we are responsible for presenting Islam to the Christian West," emphasized Riachy.

Fenianos followsup on veering ship in Sidon, gives instructions to save its crew
Sun 23 Apr 2017 /NNA - Public Works and Transport Minister, Youssef Fenianos, followed-up Sunday on the Ship "Nabil G" which veered off course nearby the coast of Sidon.In this context, Fenianos contacted Land and Marine Transport General Directorate and Sidon Port Management, giving instructions to rescue the vessel and its crew after being reassured of their safety.

Kassem Hashem: To work on common, uniting points

Sun 23 Apr 2017/NNA - Liberation and Development Parliamentary Bloc Member, MP Kassem Hashem, called, on Sunday, for "working on what is common and uniting between various sides in the country, while staying away from any points of division or separation.""The ideas and election formulas that have been proposed recently are positive and contribute to enriching the debate and ongoing dialogue on the expected election law," said Hashem. He pointed to the importance that such approaches fall within the national framework and away from any sectarian logic that takes the country to a place where the Lebanese do not want under the current exceptional circumstances. Hashem's words came during his tour today among Arqoub villages in the region of Hibarieh, Shebaa, Kfarhamam and Ferdaus. He stressed on the need to deal with the work of institutions in a manner that preserves political stability, and ensures a balanced political life in the country. Hashem concluded by reiterating the "need for an extraordinary development plan and allocating a special budget for the Southern borderline areas, which are still paying a high national price in the face of the Israeli enemy's aggression."

Osseiran representing Berri: We need law that respects representation

Sun 23 Apr 2017/NNA - "Development and Liberation" parliamentary bloc member, MP Ali Osseiran, represented on Sunday House Speaker, Nabih Berri, at the launching of Sidon International Marathon alongside head of the Future Parliament bloc Fouad Siniora, MP Bahia Hariri, and several political, social, and sports personalities.MP Osseiran said in a statement that the country was in dire need for an electoral law that takes into account fair representation and spares the country the repercussions of vacuum.

Raad: US administration sponsors international terrorism
Sun 23 Apr 2017/NNA - Head of Loyalty to the Resistance Parliamentary Bloc, MP Mohammad Raad, summed up the ongoing regional struggle as one over oil, gas and the future. Speaking during a funeral ceremony in Zahrani, attended by MPs Abdulatif Zein and Ali Ousseiran, Raad noted that it was important to distinguish the "real enemy.""We see that the American administration and its regional agents comprised of certain regimes puppeteer these tools. Israel, for instance, is incapable of making war decisions in the region without prior permission from the US administration," said Raad.
"The master of hostilities that sponsors organized international terrorism is the US administration. We are aware that it aims at dismantling our nation, states and societies and weakening armies," added the MP, explaining that targeting Syria was just another step towards achieving the US project.
"By targeting Syria, they target the resistance which has defeated the Israeli enemy.""The enemy is not yet qualified to wage a war on Lebanon...we did not defeat it with our technologically advanced weapons, but we defeated it with our love for Imam Hussein," Raad concluded.

Delegation from Directorate General of Civil Aviation inspects Koleiaat Airport
Sun 23 Apr 2017/NNA - Under the instructions of Minister of Public Works and Transportation, Youssef Finianos, a delegation of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation visited on Sunday Koleiaat Airport. The delegation was briefed about the airport's condition and prepared a report in this regard.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 23-24/17
Pope: Migrant Holding Centers Similar to Concentration Camps
Asharq Al-Awsat English/April 23/17/Pope Francis lamented on Saturday the state of holding centers where migrants are held in various European countries, likening them to “concentration centers.” He therefore urged governments to get migrants and refugees out of these centers. During a visit to a Rome basilica, where he met migrants, Francis told of his trip to a camp on the Greek island of Lesbos last year. Francis took some of the Lesbos refugees with him aboard his plane back to Italy. He met a Muslim refugee from the Middle East there who told him how “terrorists came to our country”. “I don’t know if he managed to leave that concentration camp, because refugee camps, many of them, are of concentration (type) because of the great number of people left there inside them,” the pope said. The American Jewish Committee (AJC) later urged the pope “to reconsider his regrettable choice of words” for using the term concentration camp. “The conditions in which migrants are currently living in some European countries may well be difficult, and deserve still greater international attention, but concentration camps they certainly are not,” the AJC’s head, David Harris, said in a statement. “The Nazis and their allies erected and used concentration camps for slave labor and the extermination of millions of people during World War II. There is no comparison to the magnitude of that tragedy,” he said. Francis praised countries helping refugees and thanked them for “bearing this extra burden, because it seems that international accords are more important than human rights”. He did not elaborate but appeared to be referring to agreements that keep migrants from crossing borders, such as deals between the European Union (EU) and Libya and the EU and Turkey. Humanitarian groups have criticized both deals. He praised Italians and Greeks for welcoming tens of thousands of refugees and migrants rescued at sea. He said he hopes the same generous spirit will “infect” other countries in Europe who have been resistant to taking in the refugees. Noting that Italy had one of the world’s lowest birth rates, he said: “If we also close the door to migrants, this is called suicide.” Next week Francis makes a two-trip pilgrimage to Egypt, a predominantly Muslim Arab nation where on April 9, on the Christian holy day of Palm Sunday, twin suicide bombings of Coptic churches killed 44 people.

Report: Pro-Assad militia base targeted in alleged Israel airstrike
Anna Ahronheim/Jerusalem Post/April 23, 2017/The IDF struck a base belonging to a pro-Syrian militia near Quneitra early Sunday morning, al-Jazeera reported. In a statement released by The National Defense Forces (NDF), a pro-regime militia, the alleged Israeli strike targeted the Naba Fawar base, killing three fighters and wounding two others. The unconfirmed airstrike comes after the army confirmed that the IDF struck several positions in Syria following projectiles which landed in Israel’s Golan Heights on Friday, apparently errant fire from the fighting in the war-torn country. Syria's official news agency SANA said Israel struck a regime military position in the surroundings of Khan Arnabeh in Quneitra countryside, “causing material damage.”Netanyahu: Israel welcomes US airstrikes in Syria (credit: GPO) With various heavily armed radical groups battling President Bashar Assad, Syria is Israel’s most unpredictable and unstable neighbor and poses one of the largest risks for a sudden escalation. As several battles rage in Syria, the errant rocket fire was likely due to fighting between Hezbollah and regime troops against rebel groups near Ain Ayshaa, Samadiniyah Sharqiyah & Madinat al-Baath near Quneitra. The border with Syria has been tense since the war there erupted in 2011, and while Israel rarely publicly admits to carrying out strikes, which are mostly limited to convoys of advanced weaponry destined for Hezbollah, it is suspected of carrying out out occasional retaliatory strikes on Syria after stray rockets or mortar rounds struck Israeli territory.

Israeli Attack on Syria Military Camp Kills Three
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 23/17/An Israeli attack on a Syrian camp for pro-government forces killed three fighters near the Golan Heights on Sunday, an official from the forces said. The official told AFP that two fighters were also wounded in the attack on the al-Fawwar camp near Quneitra in southwestern Syria, adding that it was unclear whether the damage was inflicted by an air strike or shelling. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group confirmed the early Sunday attack but had no further details. Israel's army on Friday said it targeted positions inside Syria in retaliation for mortar fire that hit the northern part of the Golan Heights. Syria's official news agency SANA said Friday that Israel had struck a Syrian army position in the province of Quneitra on the Golan plateau, "causing damage." The Syrian government labels rebel groups and jihadists fighting the regime as "terrorists" and accuses Israel of backing them. Israel seized 1,200 square kilometers of the Golan from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community. Around 510 square kilometers of the Golan are under Syrian control.The two countries are still technically at war, although the border remained largely quiet for decades until 2011, when the Syrian conflict broke out. The Israeli side is hit sporadically by what are usually deemed to be stray rounds, and Israel has recently taken to opening fire in retaliation.

Saudi King Names Son as U.S. Envoy, Fires Army Chief, 3 Ministers

Saudi Arabia on Saturday named an air force pilot son of King Salman as ambassador to its major ally Washington, with which ties are improving under President Donald Trump. The change came among a series of orders issued by the king, who shuffled his cabinet, restored civil service benefits, and replaced the head of the army which for two years has been fighting rebels in neighboring Yemen. "Prince Abdullah bin Faisal bin Turki removed as ambassador to the US. Prince Khaled bin Salman bin Abdulaziz appointed ambassador," the official Saudi Press Agency reported, citing a royal order.Prince Abdullah had served for just over a year, according to the website of the Saudi embassy in Washington. The United States and Saudi Arabia have a decades-old relationship based on the exchange of American security for Saudi oil. But ties between Riyadh and Washington became increasingly frayed during the administration of president Barack Obama. Saudi leaders felt Obama was reluctant to get involved in the civil war in Syria and was tilting toward Riyadh's regional rival Iran. The Saudis have found a more favorable ear in Washington under Trump, who took office in January and has denounced Iran's "harmful influence" in the Middle East. Washington provides some logistical and intelligence support, as well as weapons, for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. The kingdom also belongs to the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.
Prince Khaled, the new ambassador, is an air force pilot who flew missions as part of that anti-IS coalition, said Salman al-Ansari, president of the Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee (SAPRAC). Ansari, whose committee is a private initiative to strengthen Saudi-US ties, described Prince Khaled as a "very organized personality, savvy, youthful, and active." Another son of King Salman, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 31, is second in line to the throne and is one of the kingdom's most powerful figures.He holds the post of defense minister and is pushing a wide-ranging social and economic reform program.
Military bonuses
Among other orders issued by King Salman, the head of the army Lieutenant General Eid al-Shalwi was removed. Fahad Bin Turki was promoted to replace him. The army is helping to defend Saudi Arabia's southern border from rebel incursions but analysts say that, in Yemen itself, coalition troops from the United Arab Emirates have the most prominence in ground operations being conducted with local forces. Saudi Arabia leads the air campaign but after two years of coalition intervention analysts say Yemen is more unstable than ever, and one called it a "quagmire."Saudi military personnel in the Yemen operation will receive a salary bonus of two months, the king also ordered, despite a budget deficit forecast to be $53 billion this year following a collapse in global oil prices since 2014. The salaries of other civil servants were frozen last year and benefits curbed, while the government cut subsidies and delayed major projects. Salman on Saturday ended the restrictions on compensation for state workers because he is "keen to provide comfort to the Saudi citizens," a decree said, as the kingdom prepares to increase electricity and other prices. Salman fired Minister of Civil Service Khaled al-Araj, who will be investigated by a committee of the Royal Court. The Arab News reported late last year that Araj was under investigation by the kingdom's anti-corruption commission for the alleged "irregular hiring" of his son. In other changes, Salman dismissed Minister of Information and Culture Adel al-Turaifi and replaced him with Awad al-Awad. Minister of Communication and Information Technology Mohammed al-Suwaiyel also lost his job, replaced by Abdullah al-Swaha. The king changed some regional governors, along with numerous senior bureaucrats including the head of the General Authority of Sports as the kingdom tries to provide more athletic activities for its people. Under the reforms being directed by the Deputy Crown Prince, Saudi Arabia is trying to make government operations more efficient and officials more accountable.

French election: Macron vs Le Pen in May 7 run-off vote
Al Arabiya English and agencies Sunday, 23 April 2017/French state television has projected Centrist Emmanuel Macron finished ahead of far-right leader Marine Le Pen on Sunday to qualify alongside her for the runoff in France's presidential election, initial projections suggested.
Macron was projected to score 23-24 percent, with Le Pen at 21.6-23 percent, according to several polling institutes. Some 67,000 polling stations opened Sunday at 0600 GMT under tight security monitored by more than 50,000 police officers for some 47 million eligible voters, who will choose between 11 candidates. It’s the most unpredictable election in generations, according to Al Arabiya's Paris correspondent. It’s the most unpredictable election in generations, according to Al Arabiya’s Paris correspondent. “This was an unprecedented election with a sitting president opting out of running for re-elections for fear of losing because of her falling popularity. On the one hand, we have a centrist candidate who opposes much of what far-right Le Pen proposes, from security policies to her views on Islam,” Al Arabiya’s Hussein Kneiber reported. France’s 10 percent unemployment, its lackluster economy and security issues topped voters’ concerns. Turnout was is set to be around 80 percent, polling groups estimated, which would put it in line with 2012 and confound fears of high abstention levels.
The voters will decide whether to back a pro-EU centrist newcomer, a scandal-ridden veteran conservative who wants to slash public spending, a far-left eurosceptic admirer of Fidel Castro or appoint France’s first woman president who would shut borders and ditch the euro.
Polls suggest far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron, an independent centrist and former economy minister, were in the lead. But conservative Francois Fillon, a former prime minister, appeared to be closing the gap, as was far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon.
Macron, head of the political movement En Marche !, or Onwards !, and candidate for the 2017 French presidential election, greets supporters during in the first round of 2017 French presidential election at a polling station in Le Touquet. (Reuters) The bitterly fought presidential election is crucial to the future of Europe. The outcome will be anxiously monitored around the world as a sign of whether the populist tide that saw Britain vote to leave the EU and Donald Trump’s election in the United States is still rising, or starting to ebb. Macron, 39, a centrist ex-banker who set up his party just a year ago, is the opinion polls’ favorite to win the first round and beat far-right National Front chief Le Pen in the two-person run-off on May 7. For them to win the top two qualifying positions on Sunday would represent a seismic shift in the political landscape, as the second round would feature neither of the mainstream parties that have governed France for decades. Marine Le Pen, French National Front (FN) political party leader and candidate for French 2017 presidential election, leaves a polling booth as she votes in the first round of 2017 French presidential election at a polling station in Henin-Beaumont. (Reuters)
“It wouldn’t be the classic left vs right divide but two views of the world clashing,” said Ifop pollsters’ Jerome Fourquet. “Macron bills himself as the progressist versus conservatives, Le Pen as the patriot versus the globalists.”Months of campaigning has been dominated by scandals which have left many voters agonizing over their choice. Some 20-30 percent might not vote and about 30 percent of those who plan to show up at the polling stations are unsure whom to vote for.

Labour leader Corbyn says could suspend Syria air strikes if elected
By Reuters, London Sunday, 23 April 2017/The leader of Britain’s main opposition Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn said on Sunday he could suspend British involvement in air strikes against Syria if he was elected prime minister at a June 8 election. The veteran peace campaigner, whose Labour Party is around 20 points behind the ruling Conservatives in opinion polls, set out his position on a range of security and foreign policies, saying he would look again at Britain’s nuclear deterrent and was against using nuclear weapons. His comments were pounced upon by the Conservatives, who said that Corbyn posed a threat to British security and was the best reason “for sticking with the strong leadership of (Prime Minister) Theresa May”.Corbyn told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that he believed that “the only solution in Syria is going to be a political one”. “I want us to say ‘Listen, let’s get people around the table quickly’ and a way of achieving that - suspending the strikes, possibly.”The leftist leader, whose views on foreign policy have often been at odds with those held by other lawmakers in his party, also said he would have to consider whether he would authorize a drone strike against the leader of ISIS to limit civilian casualties. May, who said she had called the early election to shore up support for her divorce plan with the European Union and heal divisions in the country, looks set to win a large majority, with some polls putting support for her party at 50 percent.

Why did Erdogan meet secretly with prominent American figures?
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Sunday, 23 April 2017/Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan reportedly had a secret meeting with Rudy Giuliani former New York mayor and Michael Mukasey, former Attorney General, to represent Istanbul businessman Reza Zarrab, as the man could be a potential bargaining chip in a national security deal with Turkey, Giuliani said in a court filing, reported New York Times late March. Giuliani was hired recently, along with Michael Mukasey, to represent Zarrab who was accused of conspiring to process hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of financial transactions for Iranian businesses or Iran's government from 2010 to 2015. Zarrab, 33 was a central player in a massive 2013 corruption and bribery scandal in Turkey, though criminal charges were ultimately dropped. He is a famous personality in Turkey because he is married to Turkish pop star and TV personality Ebru Gundes. In papers unsealed late Wednesday, Giuliani and Mukasey said they were hired "principally although not exclusively on an effort to determine whether this case can be resolved as part of some agreement between the United States and Turkey that will promote the national security interests of the United States and redound to the benefit of Mr. Zarrab."The two lawyers met recently with Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, after notifying Attorney General Jeff Sessions and federal prosecutors that they planned to settle the case on a "state-to-state basis" to pursue the possibility of an agreement that could promote the security of the United States and resolve the issues in this case," they wrote.At a court hearing this month, Assistant U.S. Attorney Dennis Lockard expressed concern that the defense lawyers' efforts were an attempt to make a political end-run around a judicial proceeding. However, Giuliani and Mukasey defended their work, with Mukasey writing that their behind-the-scenes maneuvering was "entirely lawful and not at all unprecedented."

Pentagon chief visits African nation home to key US base
The Associated Press, Djibouti Sunday, 23 April 2017/US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Sunday visited Djibouti to bolster ties with the tiny and impoverished African country that is home to an important base for US counterterrorism forces, including drones. Mattis, the first Trump administration official to visit Djibouti, planned to meet with President Ismail Omar Guelleh and greet US and French troops. He was accompanied by Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, head of US Africa Command.| The US operates drone aircraft from Djibouti for surveillance and combat missions against al-Qaida-affiliated extremists in Somalia and elsewhere in the region.
China building base
China is building a military base in Djibouti, a former French colony in the Horn of Africa. For years the US has operated a fleet of armed drones from Djibouti’s Camp Lemonnier, where French troops also are based. Djibouti took on added importance to the US military after the September 11 attacks, in part as a means of tracking and intercepting al-Qaida militants fleeing Afghanistan after the US invaded that country in October 2001. Djibouti has a highly prized port on the Gulf of Aden. The country is sandwiched between Somalia and Eritrea, and also shares a border with Ethiopia.
Mattis is using the early months as defense secretary to renew or strengthen relations with key defense allies and partners such as Djibouti, whose location makes it a strategic link in the network of overseas US military bases. Djibouti also has been instrumental to international efforts to counter piracy over the past decade. Mattis’ predecessor at the Pentagon, Ash Carter, never visited Djibouti during his two years as President Barack Obama’s defense secretary. Over the past week Mattis has met with leaders in Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt and Qatar. The US has a fleet of fighter, bomber, transport, surveillance and refueling aircraft at Qatar’s al-Udeid air base, which also is home to an operations center that coordinates US air missions throughout the Mideast and in Afghanistan.

North Korea says ready to strike US aircraft carrier
By Reuters, Seoul Sunday, 23 April 2017/North Korea said on Sunday it was ready to sink a US aircraft carrier to demonstrate its military might, as two Japanese navy ships joined a US carrier group for exercises in the western Pacific. US President Donald Trump ordered the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group to sail to waters off the Korean peninsula in response to rising tension over the North’s nuclear and missile tests, and its threats to attack the United States and its Asian allies. The United States has not specified where the carrier strike group is as it approaches the area. US Vice President Mike Pence said on Saturday it would arrive “within days” but gave no other details. North Korea remained defiant. “Our revolutionary forces are combat-ready to sink a US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier with a single strike,” the Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, said in a commentary. The paper likened the aircraft carrier to a “gross animal” and said a strike on it would be “an actual example to show our military’s force”. The commentary was carried on page three of the newspaper, after a two-page feature about leader Kim Jong Un inspecting a pig farm.
Speaking during a visit to Greece, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said there were already enough shows of force and confrontation at present and appealed for calm. “We need to issue peaceful and rational sounds,” Wang said, according to a statement issued by China’s Foreign Ministry.
Adding to the tensions, North Korea detained a Korean-American man in his fifties on Friday, bringing the total number of US citizens held by Pyongyang to three.
The man, Tony Kim, had been in North Korea for a month teaching accounting at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), the institution’s chancellor Chan-Mo Park told Reuters. He was arrested at Pyongyang International Airport on his way out of the country.
North Korea will mark the 85th anniversary of the foundation of its Korean People’s Army on Tuesday.
It has in the past marked important anniversaries with tests of its weapons.
North Korea has conducted five nuclear tests, two of them last year, and is working to develop nuclear-tipped missiles that can reach the United States.
It has also carried out a series of ballistic missile tests in defiance of United Nations sanctions.
North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile threat is perhaps the most serious security challenge confronting Trump. He has vowed to prevent the North from being able to hit the United States with a nuclear missile and has said all options are on the table, including a military strike.
Worry in Japan
North Korea says its nuclear program is for self-defense and has warned the United States of a nuclear attack in response to any aggression. It has also threatened to lay waste to South Korea and Japan.
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Friday North Korea’s recent statements were provocative but had proven to be hollow in the past and should not be trusted. “We’ve all come to hear their words repeatedly; their word has not proven honest,” Mattis told a news conference in Tel Aviv, before the latest threat to the aircraft carrier. Japan’s show of naval force reflects growing concern that North Korea could strike it with nuclear or chemical warheads. Some Japanese ruling party lawmakers are urging Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to acquire strike weapons that could hit North Korean missile forces before any imminent attack.
Japan’s navy, which is mostly a destroyer fleet, is the second largest in Asia after China’s.
The two Japanese warships, the Samidare and Ashigara, left western Japan on Friday to join the Carl Vinson and will “practice a variety of tactics” with the US strike group, the Japan Maritime Self Defence Force said in a statement. The Japanese force did not specify where the exercises were taking place, but by Sunday the destroyers could have reached an area 2,500 km (1,500 miles) south of Japan, which would be east of the Philippines.
From there, it could take three days to reach waters off the Korean peninsula. Japan’s ships would accompany the Carl Vinson north at least into the East China Sea, a source with knowledge of the plan said. US and South Korean officials have been saying for weeks that the North could soon stage another nuclear test, something the United States, China and others have warned against.
South Korea has put its forces on heightened alert. China, North Korea’s sole major ally, opposes Pyongyang’s weapons programs and has appealed for calm. The United States has called on China to do more to help defuse the tension. Last Thursday, Trump praised Chinese efforts to rein in “the menace of North Korea”, after North Korean state media warned the United States of a “super-mighty pre-emptive strike”.

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 23-24/17
Marine Le Pen… Extremism Knocking on France’s Door
Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al-Awsat/April 23/17/
While French voters head to the first round of presidential elections on Sunday, the duet of extremism and counter-extremism has thrown its shadow on the country. The terrorist attacks claimed by ISIS have struck fear among the French people.
Terrorist groups are the happiest with the extremist approach of presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, the leader of the extremist right that has benefitted the most from this terrorist wave. The more ISIS increases its terrorism, the more Le Pen stresses her antagonism to Islam, not extremists.
When ISIS claimed responsibility for an armed attack on a police car in Champs-Élysées earlier this week, Le Pen replied by calling for the closure of “the Muslim mosques” in France, not extremist ones. This is only one new episode of extremism and counter-extremism hitting Europe in the past five years and is evident in the presidential elections in France.
Le Pen is always controversial in her attitude towards Islam and Muslims and her incitement to hatred, discrimination and anti-Semitism have led a number of European deputies to call for lifting her parliamentary immunity. Her extremist stances have also taken on a racist edge where in the past she had targeted French football players, especially those of Algerian origin, such as Karim Benzema and Samir Nasri. She also targeted Franck Ribéry who is married to an Algerian. She described them as immoral and haters of the French team and said that they only want to accumulate money and mock the French people.
These extremist stances have made Le Pen – head of a party that had been shunned during her father’s tenure – a strong presidential candidate. France Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve had meanwhile accused her of exploiting the Champs-Élysées attack to spread fear and sedition for political purposes.
Political exploitation of developments for electoral gains is understandable, but they become a very dangerous matter once these methods encourage extremism in the world. It is impossible to combat terrorism with extremism. On the contrary, it expands its circles and grants its perpetrators illusory justifications to incite their supporters.
There is no doubt that Le Pen’s rhetoric is not only backed by the extremists, but it is starting to spread, especially after she pledged to take France out of the Schengen agreement and to restore the French Franc to replace the unified European currency (euro). In most communities, no matter how developed they are, popular rhetoric will always be supported by various segments of society. Add to that the exploitation of the fear of terrorist groups, then attempting to win over voters will not be very difficult, even if they live in such a democratically prestigious country as France. In the past, the bet was on the French voters’ ability to limit the far-right’s advance to a certain limit line. This line however has started to fade.
The French elections are being held at a time of tensions in Europe in wake of the British people’s vote to exit the European Union and the rise of the far-right in several parts of the continent. These polls have been dominated by several main files in recent weeks before ISIS was able to impose itself as a decisive voter after the Champs-Élysées attack. France is a nuclear power that cannot be underestimated. It also enjoys the sixth largest economy in the world and is a founding member of the EU, which makes its presidential elections an anticipated event. It is unfortunate that counter-extremism is the solution that some politicians and voters are looking for. If we add to that the Muslim community in France’s failure to eliminate Le Pen’s stances from the minds of the French community and their failure to show the true image of the tolerant Islam then the extremists have found the road wide open for them to show the tarnished image of Islam that Le Pen and her party have latched on to.It is not surprising that ISIS, or “voter number one”, chose to carry out its attack two days before the first round of the French elections. It is presenting a priceless gift to Le Pen, pushing her to obtain the support of 40 percent of the undecided voters. If ISIS is voting for of the leader of the far-right, then it will definitely be the happiest should she win and become president.
**Salman Aldosary is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

A Young Prince is Reimagining Saudi Arabia
David Ignatius/The Washington Post/April 23/17/
Two years into his campaign as change agent in this conservative oil kingdom, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman appears to be gaining the confidence and political clout to push his agenda of economic and social reform. The young prince outlined his plans in a nearly 90-minute conversation Tuesday night at his office here. Aides said it was his first lengthy on-the-record interview in months. He offered detailed explanations about foreign policy, plans to privatize oil giant Saudi Aramco, strategy for investment in domestic industry, and liberalization of the entertainment sector, despite opposition from some people. Mohammed bin Salman said that the crucial requirement for reform is public willingness to change. “The most concerning thing is if the Saudi people are not convinced. If the Saudi people are convinced, the sky is the limit.” he said.
Change seems increasingly desired in this young, restless country.
A recent Saudi poll found that 85 percent of the public, if forced to choose, would support the government rather than other authorities, said Abdullah al-Hokail, the head of the government’s public opinion center.
He added that 77 percent of those surveyed supported the government’s “Vision 2030” reform plan, and that 82 percent favored entertainment performances at public gatherings. Though these aren’t independently verified numbers, they do indicate the direction of popular feeling, which Saudis say is matched by anecdotal evidence. “MBS,” as the deputy crown prince is known, said that he was “very optimistic” about President Trump. He described Trump as “a president who will bring America back to the right track” after Barack Obama, whom Saudi officials mistrusted. “Trump has not yet completed 100 days, and he has restored all the alliances of the US with its conventional allies.”A sign of the kingdom’s embrace of the Trump administration was the visit here this week by US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. While the Obama administration had criticized the Saudi war in Yemen, Mattis discussed the possibility of additional US support if the Houthis there don’t agree to a UN-brokered settlement. (Writer’s note: I traveled to Saudi Arabia as part of the press corps accompanying Mattis.) Mohammed bin Salman has been courting Russia, as well as the United States, and he offered an intriguing explanation of Saudi Arabia’s goal in this diplomacy. “The main objective is not to have Russia place all its cards in the region behind Iran,” he said. To convince Russia that Riyadh is a better bet than Tehran, the Saudis have been “coordinating our oil policies recently” with Moscow, he said, which “could be the most important economic deal for Russia in modern times.”
There’s less apparent political tension than a year ago, when many analysts saw a rivalry between Mohammed bin Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who is officially next in line for the throne.
The deputy crown prince appears to be firmly in control of Saudi military strategy, foreign policy and economic planning. He has gathered a team of technocrats who are much younger and more activist than the kingdom’s past leadership.
Reform plans appear to be moving ahead slowly but steadily. Mohammed bin Salman said that the budget deficit had been cut; non-oil revenue increased 46 percent from 2014 to 2016 and is forecast to grow another 12 percent this year. Unemployment and housing remain problems, he said, and improvement in those areas isn’t likely until between 2019 and 2021. The biggest economic change is the plan to privatize about 5 percent of Saudi Aramco, which Mohammed bin Salman said will take place next year. This public offering would probably raise hundreds of billions of dollars and be the largest such sale in financial history. The exact size of the offering will depend on financial-market demand and the availability of good options for investing the proceeds, the prince told me.
The rationale for selling a share of the kingdom’s oil treasure is to raise money to diversify the economy away from reliance on energy. One priority is mining, which would tap an estimated $1.3 trillion in potential mineral wealth.
The Saudi official listed other investment targets: creating a domestic arms industry, reducing the $60 billion to $80 billion the kingdom spends annually to buy weapons abroad; producing automobiles in Saudi Arabia to replace the roughly $14 billion the government spends annually for imported vehicles; and creating domestic entertainment and tourism industries to capture some of the $22 billion that Saudis spend traveling overseas each year.
The entertainment industry is a proxy for the larger puzzle of how to unlock the Saudi economy. Changes have begun.
A Japanese orchestra performed here this month, before a mixed audience of families. A Comic Con took place in Jeddah recently, with audience dressing up as characters from the TV show “Supernatural” and other favorites. Comedy clubs feature sketch comedians (but no female stand-up comics, yet).
These options are a modest revolution for a Saudi Arabia where the main entertainment venues, until recently, were restaurants and shopping malls. The modern world, in all its raucousness, is coming, for better or worse.
King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh hosted a Monster Jam last month with souped-up trucks. There are plans for a Six Flags theme park south of Riyadh.
Maya al-Athel, one of the dozens of young people hatching plans at the Saudi General Entertainment Authority, said in an interview that she’d like to bring a Museum of Ice Cream, like one she found in New York, to the kingdom.
“We want to boost the culture of entertainment,” said Ahmed al-Khatib, a former investment banker who’s chairman of the entertainment authority. His target is to create six public entertainment options every weekend for Saudis. But the larger goal, he said, is “spreading happiness.”
The instigator of this attempt to reimagine the kingdom is the 31-year-old deputy crown prince. With his brash demeanor, he’s the opposite of the traditional Bedouin reserve of past Saudi leaders. Unlike so many Saudi princes, he wasn’t educated in the West, which may have preserved the raw combative energy that is part of his appeal for young Saudis.
The trick for Mohammed bin Salman is to maintain the alliance with the United States, without seeming to be America’s puppet. “We have been influenced by US a lot,” he said. “Not because anybody exerted pressure on us — if anyone puts pressure on us, we go the other way. But if you put a movie in the cinema and I watch it, I will be influenced.” Without this cultural nudge, he said, “we would have ended up like North Korea.” With the United States as a continuing ally, “undoubtedly, we’re going to merge more with the changes in the world.”
Mohammed bin Salman is careful when he talks about religious issues. So far, he has treated the religious authorities as allies against radicalism rather than cultural adversaries. He argues that extreme religious conservatism in Saudi Arabia is a relatively recent phenomenon, born in reaction to the 1979 Iranian revolution and the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca by Sunni radicals later that year as a reaction to the Shi’ite radicalism.
“I’m young. Seventy percent of our citizens are young,” the prince said. “We don’t want to waste our lives in this whirlpool that we were in the past 30 years. We want to end this epoch now. We want, as the Saudi people, to enjoy the coming days, and concentrate on developing our society and developing ourselves as individuals and families, while retaining our religion and customs. We will not continue to be in the post-’79 era,” he concluded. “That age is over.”

Islam in the Heart of England and France
Denis MacEoin/Gatestone Institute/April 23/17
"There are plenty of private Muslim schools and madrasas in this city. They pretend that they all preach tolerance, love and peace, but that isn't true. Behind their walls, they force-feed us with repetitive verses of the Qur'an, about hate and intolerance." — Ali, an 18-year-old of French origin, whose father was radicalized.
"In England, they are free to speak. They speak only of prohibitions, they impose on one their rigid vision of Islam but, on the other hand, they listen to no-one, most of all those who disagree with them." — Yasmina, speaking of extremist Muslims in the UK.
"Birmingham is worse than Molenbeek" -- the Brussels borough that The Guardian described as "becoming known as Europe's jihadi central." — French commentator, republishing an article by Rachida Samouri.
The city of Birmingham in the West Midlands, the heart of England, the place where the Industrial Revolution began, the second city of the UK and the eighth-largest in Europe, today is Britain's most dangerous city. With a large and growing Muslim population, five of its electoral wards have the highest levels of radicalization and terrorism in the country.
In February, French journalist Rachida Samouri published an article in the Parisian daily Le Figaro, in which she recounted her experiences during a visit there. In "Birmingham à l'heure islamiste" ("Birmingham in the Time of Islam") she describes her unease with the growing dislocation between normative British values and those of the several Islamic enclaves. She mentions the Small Heath quarter, where nearly 95% of the population is Muslim, where little girls wear veils; most of the men wear beards, and women wear jilbabs and niqabs to cover their bodies and faces. Market stalls close for the hours of prayer; the shops display Islamic clothes and the bookshops are all religious. Women she interviewed condemned France as a dictatorship based on secularism (laïcité), which they said they regarded as "a pretext for attacking Muslims". They also said that they approved of the UK because it allowed them to wear a full veil.
Another young woman, Yasmina, explained that, although she may go out to a club at night, during the day she is forced to wear a veil and an abaya [full body covering]. She then goes on to speak of the extremists:
"In England, they are free to speak. They speak only of prohibitions, they impose on one their rigid vision of Islam but, on the other hand, they listen to no-one, most of all those who disagree with them."
Speaking of the state schools, Samouri describes "an Islamization of education unthinkable in our [French] secular republic". Later, she interviews Ali, an 18-year-old of French origin, whose father has become radicalized. Ali talks about his experience of Islamic education:
"There are plenty of private Muslim schools and madrasas in this city. They pretend that they all preach tolerance, love and peace, but that isn't true. Behind their walls, they force-feed us with repetitive verses of the Qur'an, about hate and intolerance."
Samouri cites Ali on the iron discipline imposed on him, the brutality used, the punishment for refusing to learn the Qur'an by heart without understanding a word of it, or for admitting he has a girlfriend.
Elsewhere, Samouri notes young Muslim preachers for whom "Shari'a law remains the only safety for the soul and the only code of law to which we must refer". She interviews members of a Shari'a "court" before speaking with Gina Khan, an ex-Muslim who belongs to the anti-Shari'a organization One Law for All. According to Samouri, Khan -- a secular feminist -- considers the tribunals "a pretext for keeping women under pressure and a means for the religious fundamentalists to extend their influence within the community".
Another teenager of French origin explains how his father prefers Birmingham to France because "one can wear the veil without any problem and one can find schools where boys and girls do not mix". "Birmingham," says Mobin, "is a little like a Muslim country. We are among ourselves, we do not mix. It's hard".
Samouri herself finds this contrast between secular France and Muslim England disturbing. She sums it up thus:
"A state within a state, or rather a rampant Islamization of one part of society -- [is] something which France has succeeded in holding off for now, even if its secularist model is starting to be put to the test".
Another French commentator, republishing Samouri's article, writes, "Birmingham is worse than Molenbeek" -- the Brussels borough that The Guardian described as "becoming known as Europe's jihadi central."
The comparison with Molenbeek may be somewhat exaggerated. What is perplexing is that French writers should focus on a British city when, in truth, the situation in France -- despite its secularism -- is in some ways far worse than in the UK. Recent authors have commented on France's growing love for Islam and its increasing weakness in the face of Islamist criminality. This weakness has been framed by a politically-correct desire to stress a multiculturalist policy at the expense of taking Muslim extremists and fundamentalist organizations at face value and with zero tolerance for their anti-Western rhetoric and actions. The result? Jihadist attacks in France have been among the worst in history. It is calculated that the country has some some 751 no-go zones ("zones urbaines sensibles"), places where extreme violence breaks out from time to time and where the police, firefighters, and other public agents dare not enter for fear of provoking further violence.
Many national authorities and much of the media deny that such enclaves exist, but as the Norwegian expert Fjordman has recently explained:
If you say that there are some areas where even the police are afraid to go, where the country's normal, secular laws barely apply, then it is indisputable that such areas now exist in several Western European countries. France is one of the hardest hit: it has a large population of Arab and African immigrants, including millions of Muslims.
There are no such zones in the UK, certainly not at that level. There are Muslim enclaves in several cities where a non-Muslim may not be welcome; places that resemble Pakistan or Bangladesh more than England. But none of these is a no-go zone in the French, German or Swedish sense -- places where the police, ambulances, and fire brigades are attacked if they enter, and where the only way in (to fight a fire, for example) is under armed escort.
Samouri opens her article with a bold-type paragraph stating:
"In the working-class quarters of the second city of England, the sectarian lifestyle of the Islamists increasingly imposes itself and threatens to blow up a society which has fallen victim to its multicultural utopia".
Has she seen something British commentators have missed?
The Molenbeek comparison may not be entirely exaggerated. In a 1000-page report, "Islamist Terrorism: Analysis of Offences and Attacks in the UK (1998-2015)," written by the respected analyst Hannah Stuart for Britain's Henry Jackson Society, Birmingham is named more than once as Britain's leading source of terrorism. [1]
One conclusion that stands out is that terror convictions have apparently doubled in the past five years. Worse, the number of offenders not previously known to the authorities has increased sharply. Women's involvement in terrorism, although still less than men's, "has trebled over the same period". Alarmingly, "Proportionally, offences involving beheadings or stabbings (planned or otherwise) increased eleven-fold across the time periods, from 4% to 44%." (p. xi)
Only 10% of the attacks are committed by "lone wolves"; almost 80% were affiliated with, inspired by or linked to extremist networks -- with 25% linked to al-Muhajiroun alone. As the report points out, that organization (which went under various names) was once defended by some Whitehall officials -- a clear indication of governmental naivety.
Omar Bakri Muhammed, who co-founded the British Islamist organization al-Muhajiroun, admitted in a 2013 television interview that he and co-founder Anjem Choudary sent western jihadists to fight in many different countries. (Image source: MEMRI video screenshot)
A more important conclusion, however, is that a clear link is shown between highly-segregated Muslim areas and terrorism. As the Times report on the Henry Jackson Society review points out, this link "was previously denied by many". On the one hand:
Nearly half of all British Muslims live in neighbourhoods where Muslims form less than a fifth of the population. However, a disproportionately low number of Islamist terrorists — 38% — come from such neighbourhoods. The city of Leicester, which has a sizeable but well-integrated Muslim population, has bred only two terrorists in the past 19 years.
But on the other hand:
Only 14% of British Muslims live in neighbourhoods that are more than 60% Muslim. However, the report finds, 24% of all Islamist terrorists come from these neighbourhoods. Birmingham, which has both a large and a highly segregated Muslim population, is perhaps the key example of the phenomenon.
The report continues:
Just five of Britain's 9,500 council wards — all in Birmingham — account for 26 convicted terrorists, a tenth of the national total. The wards — Springfield, Sparkbrook, Hodge Hill, Washwood Heath and Bordesley Green — contain sizeable areas where the vast majority of the population is Muslim.
Birmingham as a whole, with 234,000 Muslims across its 40 council wards, had 39 convicted terrorists. That is many more than its Muslim population would suggest, and more than West Yorkshire, Greater Manchester and Lancashire put together, even though their combined Muslim population is about 650,000, nearly three times that of Birmingham. There are pockets of high segregation in the north of England but they are much smaller than in Birmingham.
The greatest single number of convicted terrorists, 117, comes from London, but are much more widely spread across that city than in Birmingham and their numbers are roughly proportionate to the capital's million-strong Muslim community.
Hannah Stuart, the study's author, has observed that her work has raised "difficult questions about how extremism takes root in deprived communities, many of which have high levels of segregation. Much more needs to be done to challenge extremism and promote pluralism and inclusivity on the ground."
Many observers say Birmingham has failed that test:
"It is a really strange situation," said Matt Bennett, the opposition spokesman for education on the council. "You have this closed community which is cut off from the rest of the city in lots of ways. The leadership of the council doesn't particularly wish to engage directly with Asian people — what they like to do is have a conversation with one person who they think can 'deliver' their support."
Clearly, lack of integration is, not surprisingly, the root of a growing problem. This is the central theme of Dame Louise Casey's important report of last December to the British government. Carried out under instructions of David Cameron, prime minister at the time, "The Casey Review: A review into opportunity and integration" identifies some Muslim communities (essentially those formed by Pakistani and Bangladeshi immigrants and their offspring) as the most resistant to integration within British society. Such communities do little or nothing to encourage their children to join in non-Muslim education, events, or activities; many of their women speak no English and play no role within wider society, and large numbers say they prefer Islamic shari'a law to British law.
Casey makes particular reference to the infamous Trojan Horse plot, uncovered in 2014, in which Muslim radicals conspired to introduce fundamentalist Salafi doctrines and practices into a range of Birmingham schools -- not just private Muslim faith schools but regular state schools (pp. 114 ff.): "a number of schools in Birmingham had been taken over to ensure they were run on strict Islamic principles..."
It is important to note that these were not 'Muslim' or 'faith' schools. [Former British counterterrorism chief] Peter Clarke, in his July 2014 report said:
"I took particular note of the fact that the schools where it is alleged that this has happened are state non-faith schools..."
He highlighted a range of inappropriate behaviour across the schools, such as irregularities in employment practices, bullying, intimidation, changes to the curriculum, inappropriate proselytizing in non-faith schools, unequal treatment and segregation. Specific examples included:
a teachers' social media discussion called the "Park View Brotherhood", in which homophobic, extremist and sectarian views were aired at Park View Academy and others;
teachers using anti-Western messages in assemblies, saying that White people would never have Muslim children's interests at heart;
the introduction of Friday Prayers in non-faith state schools, and pressure on staff and students to attend. In one school, a public address system was installed to call pupils to prayer, with a member of the staff shouting at students who were in the playground, not attending prayer, and embarrassing some girls when attention was drawn to them because girls who are menstruating are not allowed to attend prayer; and
senior staff calling students and staff who do not attend prayers 'k****r'. (Kuffar, the plural of kafir, an insulting term for "unbelievers". This affront reproduces the Salafi technique of condemning moderate or reformist Muslims as non-Muslims who may then be killed for being apostates.)
Casey then quotes Clarke's conclusion:
"There has been co-ordinated, deliberate and sustained action, carried out by a number of associated individuals, to introduce an intolerant and aggressive Islamic ethos into a few schools in Birmingham. This has been achieved in a number of schools by gaining influence on the governing bodies, installing sympathetic headteachers or senior members of staff, appointing like-minded people to key positions, and seeking to remove head teachers they do not feel sufficiently compliant."
The situation, Casey states, although improved from 2014, remains unstable. She quotes Sir Michael Wilshaw, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector, in a letter to the Secretary of State for Education, which declared as late as July 8, 2016, that the situation "remains fragile", with:
a minority of people in the community who are still intent on destabilising these schools;
a lack of co-ordinated support for the schools in developing good practice;
a culture of fear in which teachers operate having gone underground but still there;
overt intimidation from some elements within the local community;
organised resistance to the personal, social and health education (PSHE) curriculum and the promotion of equality.
Elsewhere, Casey notes two further issues in Birmingham alone, which shed light on the city's Muslim population. Birmingham has the largest number of women who are non-proficient in English (p. 96) and the largest number of mosques (161) in the UK (p. 125).
For many years, the British government has fawned on its Muslim population; evidently the government thought that Muslims would in due course integrate, assimilate, and become fully British, as earlier immigrants had done. More than one survey, however, has shown that the younger generations are even more fundamentalist than their parents and grandparents, who came directly from Muslim countries. The younger generations were born in Britain but at a time when extremist Islam has been growing internationally, notably in countries with which British Muslim families have close connections. Not only that, but a plethora of fundamentalist preachers keep on passing through British Muslim enclaves. These preachers freely lecture in mosques and Islamic centres to youth organizations, and on college and university campuses.
Finally, it might be worth noting that Khalid Masood, a convert to Islam who killed four and injured many more during his attack outside the Houses of Parliament in March, had been living in Birmingham before he set out to wage jihad in Britain's capital.
It is time for some hard thinking about the ways in which modern British tolerance of the intolerant and its embrace of a wished-for, peace-loving multiculturalism have furthered this regression. Birmingham is probably the place to start.
**Dr. Denis MacEoin is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute. He has recently completed a book on causes for concern about Islam in the UK.
[1] Hard copies of the report may be purchased via PayPal here. Essays, summaries etc. may be linked to from here. An excellent summary by Soeren Kern is available online here.
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The French elections have produced few surprises yet, but what of round 2?
Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/April 24/17
Despite last minute jitters over a late surge by far-left candidate Lean-Luc Melenchon, independent centrist Emmanuel Macron and National Front leader Marine Le Pen were the frontrunners. At the end of the first vote the pair held significant leads over the initial four key contenders in presidential race.
With so much at stake, what can we expect from Macron or Le Pen? This will have consequences far beyond France. Like Brexit in the UK or Trump in the US, one of the big questions after the second and final vote, will likely focus on who is appointed to the winning candidate’s team. Campaigning for the second round in the French election will start in earnest, with behind the scenes manoeuvring by both camps as the seek support for their candidacies. If Macron wins, then the Socialists have indicated they will support whoever he chooses to appoint as prime minister, but only under certain conditions. Macron will also seek support from the centre-right. But the shift from Les Republicains could be much smaller than the Socialist defections. The center-right is structurally and historically the majority party in France, and they will want to protect their position, if they are to win the next legislative elections, even under a Macron presidency. And so with no absolute majority for Macron in the National Assembly, there would be a need to seek support from within the reformist wing of the Socialist Party, the UDI, and the left wing of the Republicans.
Taking a different path
But Macron could take a different path in choosing his Prime Minister. He could select a PM with a high political profile, someone experienced and knowledgeable of the political in-fights of parliament. Names being floated include Richard Ferrand, current defense minister Yves Le Drian, and Gerard Collomb. The new President could also flip the table and appoint a woman with a political profile, perhaps Laurence Parisot, Liberal MEP Sylvie Goulard, or IMF President Christine Lagarde, who has not given up on her political ambitions in France. There are serious concerns in French political circles that a victory for the National Front’s Le Pen, could be followed by a period of civil unrest . Macron could appoint a PM who combines the two qualities, while also being little known. That would point to Bariza Khiari, a woman and a senator since 2004, who has the advantage of knowing the parliamentary mechanism, without being widely known to the general public, and who would also tick an interesting diversity box.
Political insiders expect Macron to tap a slate of experienced people for other key government posts. This would start with Jean Pisani-Ferry, an economist who has contributed to Macron’s program, and is expected to get an economic ministry. Spokesman Benjamin Griveaux, who may be appointed minister of health, and Laurence Haïm, who could get spokesman of the government or the ministry of culture. Macron will also draw from a number of young local administrators with hands-on government experience who have enthusiastically supported his campaign.
There are serious concerns in French political circles that a victory for the National Front’s Le Pen, could be followed by a period of civil unrest. It is feared there could be clashes between her supporters and her opponents, on the streets of Paris following the first round results. It’s also feared she could use that unrest to consolidate authority by drawing on wide presidential powers provided in the Constitution of the Fifth Republic.
In the event of major disturbances, which the National Front could fuel during the run-up to parliamentary elections, the call to introduce Article 16 of the Constitution (relating to full powers) should not be ruled out. Full powers are typically limited to 30 days, but Le Pen’s opponents fear that could well be enough time to encourage a concerned electorate to spring an elections surprise, which is a very Putin or Erdogan-styled show of strength. With a platform that appeals to French nationalism: abandoning the Euro, a new referendum on EU membership, fighting “Islamic” extremism and tougher immigration controls, a future ‘President Le Pen’ would certainly require even more sweeping presidential powers .
If that doesn't give Le Pen a working majority, the second option for the National Front would be to conclude a government agreement with Les Republicains, which for now seems like a stretch given the differences in economic policy between the two parties.
Will Le Pen become more mainstream?
But it was apparent that in the presidential debate on April 4, Le Pen attempted a turn towards more mainstream economic policies. Probably already with an eye on fighting the second round, she proposed a reduction in taxation for small and medium-sized enterprises. Both Macron and Le Pen are now positioning themselves as champions of the forgotten fringes, as well as appealing to the centre, a hard act to follow under normal circumstances.
A blue-brown coalition supporting a right wing government would be put to the test from the outset with the first parliamentary votes – not least the vote on the budget. The scenario of a relative majority for the FN in the National Assembly, while difficult to envisage – given the widespread opposition throughout France, would lead to opponents sending plenty of candidates to the Assembly that are opposed to FN policies. For example, it is unlikely that even one of the 18 constituencies of Paris will go to the FN.
If Le Pen aims at luring more traditional Gaullist voters, she could decide to give the post of Prime Minister to a right-wing personality like Gérard Longuet, Philippe de Villiers, Thierry Mariani (who is also in the race for foreign minister) or Claude Guéant. Other hard-right personalities like Eric Ciotti, Guillaume Peltier, Geoffroy Didier, Henri Guaino, Nadine Morano or Lionnel Luca could also join the government team. Finally, a former adviser of Nicolas Sarkozy, Patrick Buisson, could return to the Elysée or a ministry, along with cadres of the micro-party “Common Sense,” now close to François Fillon. However, in the event of a small victory, and with a view to seeking unity within her party, Le Pen is expected to appoint a good number of more “mediocre,” extreme party loyalists. The Ministry of the Interior could be given to David Rachline or Steeve Briois, with the latter also in the race to be appointed Minister of Finance. The Justice Department would seem likely to go to Gilbert Collard. But his strained relations with a number of FN executives could work against him to the benefit of an experienced personality like Jacques Bompard, despite announcements to the contrary by Marine Le Pen. For the Gulf countries, a Macron presidency would mean following the same French policies on Syria and the Middle East. But a Le Pen presidency would see France recalibrate some of its Middle East and global foreign policy relations. This would mean especially rebooting warmer relations with Russia - and rather paradoxically - also with the USA. President Trump is seemingly rooting for her, given Le Pen’s EU reformist agenda and vow to fight the “establishment” and globalization. On May 7, French voters will tell us which candidate they resonate with, and bring some modicum of centrist stability or another political earthquake in Europe .

Britain’s Mother Theresa
Trisha de Borchgrave/Al Arabiya/April 23/17
British Prime Minister Theresa May’s surprising, though not astonishing, announcement that she would ask Parliament for a general election on June 8 comes on the heels of a soul-searching referendum ten months ago, in which Britain voted to leave its EU partner of forty-two years.
This was followed by a prolonged period of absorbing the complexities of this undertaking, which has left many in government looking like a startled emoji. A London-centric Brexit industry of bureaucrats, lawyers, lobbyists and consultants has grown exponentially as a result.
Frustrated by accusations of “ill-founded arguments and muddled thinking” from Britain’s former top EU civil servant Sir Ivan Rogers, and by a divided Conservative party with a small majority in Parliament, May used the extolled virtues of a walking holiday over Easter - on the hills of Snowdonia - to conclude “reluctantly” that she would call the general election she promised would not happen before 2020. So Britain’s Mother Theresa has promised to devote herself tirelessly to the wellbeing of her nation, but with a pair of pliers to de-claw all manner of Brexit objectors and Brexit hard-liners and a boot that may even kick out Boris Johnson if she can deliver a landslide victory.
Devoted to Brexit
To all intents and purposes, this will be the Brexit election. Of the many positions May is willing to negotiate Brexit from, over a barrel is not one of them. So Britain’s Mother Theresa has promised to devote herself tirelessly to the wellbeing of her nation, but with a pair of pliers to de-claw all manner of Brexit objectors and Brexit hard-liners and a boot that may even kick out Boris Johnson if she can deliver a landslide victory. The vicar’s daughter has laid down the gauntlet to all Remainers, both in the political and private sector. Like the blackmailer urging his victim to reconsider his behaviour, she has demanded that they absolve themselves of their legitimate concerns in favour of the national interest. And with a populist flourish - “the country is coming together but Westminster is not” - she berated her democratic institutions for undermining the will of the people. These include not only the opposition Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, and Scottish National Party, but also the “unelected” members of the upper Parliamentary Chamber, the House of Lords. In exercising their parliamentary sovereignty to scrutinize the Brexit process, their Lordships were, it seems, flouting the wishes of the 51 percent who had clamoured to regain precisely this autonomy. May’s call for a snap election resonates with as much integrity as the game of politics allows. Her call may smack of dastardly opportunism, but only an unhealthy dose of self-doubt could ignore today’s ripe mixture of political potential for the Conservative Party.
After all, the opposition is in tatters; the Labour Party is more than 20 points behind in the polls and the Liberal Democrats hold only eight Parliamentary seats - down from 57 at the general election two years ago. What’s more, consumer confidence, job and economic growth, and the country’s still resilient finances, despite the dire predictions of the referendum result, have boosted the means of persuading the electorate to vote Tory. A victory for May under these circumstances could bring her the closest a British leader has come to ruling over a one-party state.
Voter’s predicament
Nevertheless, this seemingly impregnable position carries its own set of risks. There has been scant evidence of buyer’s remorse from Brexit voters and an audible harrumphing concession that Brexit is here to stay by some Remainers. But Britain’s voters on June 8 will be an assortment difficult to categorize by an already distrusted polling system. Those who neglected to have their say in the EU referendum could well vote against May, and Remainers who see no alternative leader, might not.And demographics might matter. As Baroness Liz Symons recently indicated in the House of Lords, the majority of 500,000 teenagers who have celebrated their eligibility to vote since the EU referendum, are pro-Remain, while a similar number of over 65’s who voted to leave, have done so, beyond this life. Europhiles and Labour supporters will also be in a quandary of whether to vote for May, and thereby allow her to control the radical Brexiteers pushing for a free-fall Brexit, or to teach her one more lesson in coalition governance with a party that is opposed to Brexit itself. This is both a referendum and voter make-over. The odds are comfortably in May’s favour, albeit in an age of the politically unthinkable. So like another unassuming but wily pastor’s daughter who has used her penchant for home-bound peregrinations to learn to tread the ruts of competing political agendas, Mother Theresa might end up with Mutti Merkel’s other skill - staying power.
Or might “June put an end to May”, as one Remainer recently wished for on social media? In the Prime Minister’s words: “Let us tomorrow vote for an election, let us put forward our plans for Brexit and our alternative programs for government…” All well and good, if only the electorate knew what that meant.