April 27/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 06/12-19/:"Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James, and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Simon, who was called the Zealot, and Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.

He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things
Letter to the Ephesians 04/10-16/:"He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.) The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knitted together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 26-27/17
Russian and Saudi foreign ministers clash over Iran, Hezbollah/Liad Osmo/Ynetnews/April 26/17
Le Pen Adopts Russia’s Strategy on Syria, Sees No Alternative to Assad/Michel Abu NajmAsharq Al Awsat/April 26/17
First 100 Days of Trump’s Presidency/Najlaa Habriri/Asharq Al Awsat/April 26/17
A Palestinian State or an Islamist Tyranny/Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/April 26/17
Palestinians: The Secret West Bank/Bassam Tawil/ Gatestone Institute/April 26/17
Happy Earth Day. Enjoy It While You Last/Faye Flam/Bloomberg/April 26/17
Russians on Yemen: Only fight al-Qaeda/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya 26/17
Tackling the threats directly emanating from Iran/Sawsan Al Shaer/Al Arabiya 26/17
Move over globalization, the Silk Road is ‘rising up again/Ehtesham Shahid/Al Arabiya 26/17
An affordable green card for expatriates/Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi/Al Arabiya 26/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published on April 26-27/17
Russian and Saudi foreign ministers clash over Iran, Hezbollah
Lebanon: Cabinet Avoids Snooping into Electoral Law Debate to Elude Divisions
March 14 Activists Urge Aoun to Protect Lebanon from 'Risks Created by Hizbullah Arms'
Mashnouq Issues Ultimatum after Truckers Block Roads across Lebanon
Hizbullah Reportedly Trying to Sway Berri, Jumblat on 'Qualification Electoral System'
Berri Rejects Reallocation of Some Seats if Polls are to be Held under 1960 Law
ISF Announces Arrest of Another Two Lebanese IS Militants
Berri Condemns Blocking of Roads, Says May 15 Session Aims to 'Avoid Vacuum'
Kanaan Decries 'Systematic Anti-FPM Campaign in Media, Protests'
LF Denies Rejecting Bassil's 'Qualification Electoral System'
Army Chief to Visit Washington Soon
Lebanese president meets with Brazilian football star Ronaldinho
Hariri after meeting Berri snubs extension of Parliament's mandate, political void
Kedanian announces Jouneih festivals, looks forward to 'promising' summer
Khoury receives stolen Phoenician artifact retrieved by Canada
Hariri, Hamadeh tackle current developments
Hariri receives World Bank ME director, Turkish Ambassador
Riachi meets citizens without appointment to listen to their concerns
Army Commander chairs meeting of supreme committee for management of military civilian cooperation project with the Netherlands

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 26-27/17
US THAADs to South Korea. China launches carrier
ISIS Resorts to Selling Drugs in Iraq, Syria for Funding
Warnings of Humanitarian Disaster as Most of Syria’s Idlib Hospitals Go out of Service
French Intelligence Blames Syrian Regime for 'Chemical Attack'
France's Macron Says 'Nothing's Won Yet'
German-Israel Relationship: No Longer So Special?
Deputy Crown Prince meets US President’s envoy for Coalition to counter ISIS
After talks in Russia, Jubeir says Syria’s Assad still has to go
Kuwait suspect says ISIS planned attacks: Media
Two Iranians jailed after attempt to smuggle arms into UAE
Bahrain jails 36, strips them of citizenship
Saudi Arabia Intercepts 'Rebel Boat Bomb' from Yemen
Saudi Shake-Up Strengthens King's Powerful Son
U.N. Eyes New Yemen Peace Talks by End of May
UAE Hands Iranian 10-Year Sentence over Sanctions Breach

Latest Lebanese Related News published on April 26-27/17
Russian and Saudi foreign ministers clash over Iran, Hezbollah
Liad Osmo/Ynetnews/April 26/17

Tensions rise during press conference in Moscow between the Russian and Saudi foreign ministers after Sergey Lavrov dismisses Saudi counterpart’s slamming of Hezbollah, Iran and Assad regime. Serious signs of disagreement were exposed Wednesday between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir after Lavrov stated that Russia did not consider Hezbollah a terrorist group or Iran a dangerous influence. During a press conference held by the two in Moscow, the Saudi Minister called for an end to Iran's involvement in the Syrian civil war, adding that Hezbollah has no place in Syria—or anywhere else. Responding to the comments, Lavrov reminded al-Jubeir of the Kremlin's stance on the matter. “As far as the presence of Iran and Hezbollah in Syria is concerned, you know well we do not consider Hezbollah a terrorist organization,” he said. “We proceed from the understanding that both, just as Russia’s aerospace group, are in Syria at the invitation of the country’s legitimate government. “We know Saudi Arabia’s stance and it is clear that our approaches to this are not identical, to put it mildly. But we are unanimous that a settlement of the Syrian crisis requires the involvement of all Syrian parties without any exceptions, and of all foreign actors that can exercise influence on the internal parties," said Lavrov, adding "except for the terrorist organizations declared as such by the UN Security Council, of course.” “Besides, within the framework of the Astana process Iran, alongside Turkey and Russia, is one of the three guarantors of ceasefire, which is of crucial importance at this stage,” Lavrov said. The Saudi Minister accused Russia of continually violating the ceasefire in the war-torn country, admantly declaring that "the Syrian regime must pay the price of the chemical attack, and must prove that it has no chemical weapons." Al-Jubeir's statement was made following France's Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault statement that there is "no doubt" that Sarin gas was used in the Idlib chemical attack. The Saudi minister added that Hezbollah is acting all across the Middle East on behalf of Iran. "We are working to put an end to Iran and Hezbollah's involvement in the region," he stated frankly. "Bashar al-Assad has no place in Syria's future, and Hezbollah has no place anywhere in the world," al-Jubeir added. Despite the differences of opinion, the Saudi Minister expressed optimism about the peace talks in Kazakhstan, noting that Saudi Arabia and Russia agree to "respect countries' sovereignty" and even praising Russia's stance on the Palestinian issue. (Translated & edited by Lior Mor)

Lebanon: Cabinet Avoids Snooping into Electoral Law Debate to Elude Divisions

Youssef Diab/Asharq Al Awsat/April 26/17/Beirut – As the date of the upcoming legislative session to extend Parliament’s term approaches, chances of an agreement over a new electoral law seem to be fading away. In the wake of conflicting draft-laws submitted by different political figures and groups, and disagreements between allies and opponents alike over the nature of the new law, Lebanese President Michel Aoun warned on Tuesday against extending Parliament’s term. Addressing his visitors at the Baabda Palace, Aoun stressed his rejection of Parliament term extension, adding that no vacuum should occur in institutions even if no electoral law is adopted within the June 20 constitutional deadline. “It is unacceptable that the Parliament extends its term for one minute and there will be no vacuum in institutions even if we reached June 20,” Aoun said during his meeting with a delegation from the Administrative Decentralization Committee at the Beirut Bar Association. Aoun underlined his keenness on preserving Lebanese people’s right to hold fair and just elections based on proper representation of the different factions. The Lebanese president expressed his support to any electoral law that “secures proper representation” – adding that any parliamentary extension would be “an accumulated corruption”. “I have an obligation towards the young people of Lebanon and the situation cannot persist as it is,” the president noted, adding that national laws and the Lebanese Constitution should be respected.
In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Minister of Economy and Trade Raed Khoury said that the coming two weeks would determine the course of developments. He added that he expected an agreement would be reached soon over a new electoral law. For his part, State Minister for Women’s Affairs Jean Hogassapian justified the absence of Cabinet meetings, telling Asharq Al-Awsat: “The Cabinet cannot convene without discussing the issue of the electoral law, while this matter requires more agreements.”

March 14 Activists Urge Aoun to Protect Lebanon from 'Risks Created by Hizbullah Arms'
Naharnet/April 26/17/The March 14 Moustamerroun group of activists noted Wednesday that the latest remarks by President Michel Aoun about “economic and financial threats facing Lebanon and the Lebanese due to the new U.S. and international sanctions that are being prepared to target Hizbullah and its supporters” were “a blunt acknowledgment of the threats created by Hizbullah's arms for the country, the people and the institutions.”“This requires the president, the Cabinet, the parliament and all legitimate institutions to take the necessary measures to protect Lebanon, its economy and the interests of its sons from the security, military and economic threats created by Hizbullah's weapons, instead of them carrying on with defending the illegitimate arms in return for some presidential, ministerial, parliamentary and administrative posts and a lot of financial and personal gains,” the group said in a statement issued after its weekly meeting. Aoun had warned Monday that a new anti-Hizbullah sanctions bill that the U.S. Congress is mulling would “greatly harm Lebanon and its people.” Media reports said a Lebanese delegation is conducting contacts abroad in a bid to tone down the U.S. bill. According to reports, the proposed law might for the first time target AMAL Movement, Hizbullah's key Shiite ally. Other reports said the bill might target several other allies of Hizbullah.

Mashnouq Issues Ultimatum after Truckers Block Roads across Lebanon
Naharnet/April 26/17/Truck owners blocked several key roads across Lebanon on Wednesday to protest Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq's decision to shut down sand mining and stone crushing sites. The National News Agency said truckers blocked the Ouzai-Kuwaiti Embassy road as well as the Safra-Jounieh, Dahr al-Baydar, and Zahle-Tarshish roads, causing severe traffic jams on the capital's entrances and in the Bekaa and Zahle. The Khalde-Beirut highway was also blocked by trucks, bringing traffic to a standstill in the area. Trucks also blocked the coastal highway at Jadra's intersection on the Beirut-South highway. The road-blocking protest in Khalde involved a clash between truckers and citizens that escalated into gunfire and the smashing of a car's windows. “I demand the reopening of roads across Lebanon within an hour or else I will obliged to use force,” Mashnouq warned on Twitter.
The minister later called for a Wednesday afternoon emergency meeting for the Central Security Council at the Interior Ministry. “We reopened some roads and I pledge to reopen all roads as of tomorrow and we will take all measures necessary to prevent their closure. This issue will not be repeated and we will not bow to any blackmail,” Mashnouq said later in remarks to al-Jadeed television.
“I hope this issue will be discussed without politicization and the law will be implemented as of tomorrow,” he added.Mashnouq also called on President Michel Aoun to “convene a cabinet session to discuss the issues that are of importance to citizens, away from the political conflict over the electoral law.”

Hizbullah Reportedly Trying to Sway Berri, Jumblat on 'Qualification Electoral System'
Naharnet/April 26/17/Hizbullah is exerting efforts to convince Speaker Nabih Berri and Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat of the so-called qualification electoral system that has been proposed by Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil, a media report said on Wednesday. March 8 sources also noted in remarks to al-Akhbar newspaper that “Hizbullah cannot take part in a parliamentary session that passes an electoral law that does not enjoy the consent of Berri and Jumblat.” Jumblat had on Tuesday tweeted that “the sectarian qualification system would undermine national unity” and would also harm al-Mustaqbal Movement. Jumblat's tweet came after a “bad” meeting between a PSP delegation and Mustaqbal leader PM Saad Hariri, al-Akhbar quoted sources informed on the meeting as saying.
“The PSP is dismayed by Mustaqbal's behavior in the electoral law negotiations and by its non-opposition to the qualification system,” the daily quoted informed sources as saying. In the first round of the system proposed by Bassil, voting takes place in the current 26 districts and voters are not allowed to vote for candidates from other sects. Two candidates for each sectarian seat qualify for the second round during which voting would take place in 10 newly-defined electoral districts and according to a non-sectarian proportional representation polling system.

Berri Rejects Reallocation of Some Seats if Polls are to be Held under 1960 Law
Naharnet/April 26/17/Speaker Nabih Berri has stressed that the upcoming legislative session will be held on May 15, noting that the political forces have been given a chance to agree on a new electoral law and avoid “vacuum.”“Should we return to the 2008 law (1960 law), there are measures that should be quickly taken, including the formation of the electoral supervision committee,” Berri said. “As for what some parties are raising about moving some parliamentary seats (from one district to another) as a precondition for holding the polls under the 1960 law, let them remove this idea from their heads,” the speaker added.

ISF Announces Arrest of Another Two Lebanese IS Militants

Naharnet/April 26/17/Two Lebanese militants belonging to the terrorist Islamic State group have been arrested in the Bekaa town of Kamed al-Lawz, the Internal Security Forces said on Wednesday. An ISF statement identified the two detainees as 17-year-old H. F. and 38-year-old R. Sh., saying they were arrested on Thursday by the ISF Intelligence Branch. During interrogation, H. F. confessed that in late 2016 he had communicated with several IS cadres in Syria's Raqa with the aim of helping him to join the group in Syria. “A leader of the group urged him to stay in Lebanon and asked him to carry out security operations against the Lebanese army and security forces, but he rejected this, preferring instead to move to Syria,” the ISF statement said. The 17-year-old militant later managed to recruit a number of his friends and convince them to travel to Syria to fight alongside IS. He later received via internet from the other detainee an encyclopedia containing files that explain how to manufacture several types of explosives, the ISF said. The two detainees also confessed to promoting IS' ideology on social networking websites. The ISF had announced Tuesday the arrest of another two Lebanese IS militants with ties to senior leaders of the group.

Berri Condemns Blocking of Roads, Says May 15 Session Aims to 'Avoid Vacuum'
Naharnet/April 26/17/Speaker Nabih Berri on Wednesday condemned the blocking of the country's key roads at the hands of protesting truck owners and noted that the May 15 legislative session is aimed at “avoiding lethal vacuum.”“Speaker Berri was dismayed and he condemned the blocking of roads today at the hands of truck owners, while also renewing his stance on the stone crushing and sand mining sites that have 'defaced nature and harmed the environment',” MPs quoted Berri as saying during his weekly Ain el-Tineh meeting with lawmakers. Truck owners blocked several key roads across Lebanon on Wednesday to protest Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq's decision to shut down sand mining and stone crushing sites. Some media reports have accused Berri of having a hand in the several street protests that the country witnessed this week, linking them to the parliament speaker's tensions with President Michel Aoun and the Free Patriotic Movement. As for the stalled electoral law, the MPs said Berri “does not support” the so-called qualification electoral system that has been proposed by FPM chief Jebran Bassil. Berri “has prepared several formats for discussion, including the one that is inspired by the constitution and calls for the election of a parliament under the proportional representation system and the creation of a Senate,” the lawmakers added. “We do want extension (of parliament's term) and we have said this from the very beginning and we repeat it now, but we also want to protect the country and state institutions from collapse and we have sought and are still seeking the approval of a new electoral law,” Berri added. “The May 15 session is aimed at avoiding lethal vacuum and we hope the ongoing contacts and efforts will lead to an agreement on a new law,” he went on to say.

Kanaan Decries 'Systematic Anti-FPM Campaign in Media, Protests'
Naharnet/April 26/17/Change and Reform bloc secretary MP Ibrahim Kanaan lamented Wednesday that “there is a systematic campaign against the Free Patriotic Movement in the media and through the street protests.”“President (Michel) Aoun's stance is clear on the need to produce a new electoral law, but some parties have the intention of blocking a law that ensures real national partnership and strengthens coexistence,” Kanan added, in an interview with Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5). “Neither extension (of parliament's term) nor the 1960 law that aggravated sectarianism can secure this partnership, and the president's course in this regard is very clear and constitutional and not aimed at challenging anyone,” the MP added. He warned that the new presidential tenure is “the tenure of the hopes and aspirations of the Lebanese and any harm against it would harm all Lebanese.”“We are keeping the issue of the law away from bickering and the new law will be in the interest of the constitution, the system and the rise of a real state in Lebanon,” Kanaan went on to say.

LF Denies Rejecting Bassil's 'Qualification Electoral System'
Naharnet/April 26/17/The Lebanese Forces has denied rejecting the so-called qualification electoral system that has been proposed by Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil. “Any talk of the LF rejecting the qualification system is incorrect and some parties are seeking to blame it for the rejection in order to use that as an excuse aimed at binning the proposal while avoiding a clash with the FPM and consequently the Christian popular base,” LF sources told al-Joumhouria newspaper in remarks published Wednesday. “The LF has made several remarks over this proposal and has clearly announced that taking them into consideration would push it to endorse it, especially that these reservations are aimed at improving the system's representative aspects in order to make it closer to equal power-sharing,” the sources added. Bassil's format prevents voters from voting for candidates from other sects in the first round and divides Lebanon into 26 districts. The second round involves a non-sectarian proportional representation system and 10 larger districts.

Army Chief to Visit Washington Soon
Naharnet/April 26/17/Newly-appointed Army Commander General Joseph Aoun will soon make an official visit to Washington, the first since assuming his post in March, a media report said on Wednesday. The visit is part of the ongoing Lebanese-U.S. military cooperation, al-Joumhouria newspaper said. A security source told the daily that “a specific date for the visit has not yet been set due to security reasons.”The army chief received the invitation “through the established diplomatic and military channels and the visit will tackle the aid program and the possibility of boosting it, in addition to the army's needs,” the source said. General Aoun will also explain the army's security and military achievements in the fight against terror and the readiness it has reached in this regard, the source added. A U.S. military plane carrying aid for the Lebanese army had on Tuesday landed at the Riyaq Military Airport. It was the second such delivery in a week. The shipments are part of the ongoing U.S. military assistance to the Lebanese army, according to media reports.

Lebanese president meets with Brazilian football star Ronaldinho
Xinhua| 2017-04-27/BEIRUT, April 26 (Xinhua) -- Lebanese President Michel Aoun met with former World Player of the Year Ronaldinho Wednesday upon his arrival in Beirut to take part in a much-anticipated friendly football match between Real Madrid and Barcelona legends. Aoun welcomed Ronaldinho during the meeting, adding that the upcoming game is a sporting and tourist event which is "additional proof that Lebanon enjoys security and stability", according to a statement issued by the Lebanese Presidency. At the same time, the Brazilian expressed happiness for arriving in Beirut to take part in the game.
"El Clasico of Legends" will take place on Friday at the Camille Chamoun Sports City Stadium in Beirut at 8:30 p.m. More than 8,000 tickets have been sold so far. The local media reported that Ronaldinho's compatriot, Roberto Carlos, will also take part in this game. Ronaldinho, the FC Barcelona representative and ambassador for acts and events around the world, last visited Lebanon in January.

Hariri after meeting Berri snubs extension of Parliament's mandate, political void
Wed 26 Apr 2017 /NNA - Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, confirmed in the wake of his meeting with House Speaker, Nabih Berri, that nobody in the Lebanese state wished to opt for the extension of the Parliament's mandate. "The problem that we're currently facing is in reaching the aspired solutions within the coming few days," the Minister said. "I've been trying to get viewpoints closer among political sides to reach a solution before the 15th of May. At the end of the day, we have to reach agreement on a new electoral law," Hariri maintained. "There are a number of solutions that are currently proposed on the table of discussions," the Prime Minister added, rebuffing any attempt at extending the Parliament's mandate of bogging the nation down in political void. "The country is in a pressing need for a political solution. No political side has the right to abolish the other. As a team, the Future Movement has offered a lot; we expect the rest to follow suit."

Kedanian announces Jouneih festivals, looks forward to 'promising' summer
Wed 26 Apr 2017 /NNA - Minister of Tourism, Owadis Kedanian, held a press conference at Jounieh Municipality on Wedensady announcing the program of Jouneih Summer Festivals 2017. "We are heading with steady and firm steps towards a promising summer season," the Minister said.
"Launching Jouneih festivals is not but a drop in the sea of efforts that we've been exerting hand-in-hand for Lebanon's sake," the Minister added.

Khoury receives stolen Phoenician artifact retrieved by Canada
Wed 26 Apr 2017/NNA - Minister of Culture Dr. Ghattas Khoury received on Wednesday from Ambassador Saad Zakhia the stolen Phoenician artifact since the year 2007, which was confiscated by the Canadian authorities and sent to Lebanon via the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in accordance with international agreements. Khoury thanked the Canadian authorities for their concern to retrieve the archaeological piece, which the Minister, on his part, handed over to the Director General of Antiquities, Sarkis Khoury.

Hariri, Hamadeh tackle current developments
Wed 26 Apr 2017/NNA - Prime Minister Saad Hariri received on Wednesday evening at the Grand Serail Minister of National Education and Higher Education Marwan Hamadeh, with talks reportedly touching on most recent political developments.

Hariri receives World Bank ME director, Turkish Ambassador
Wed 26 Apr 2017/NNA - The President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri received today at the Grand Serail the Minister of State for Planning Issues Michel Pharaon and discussed with him the situation. Hariri also received a delegation from the Syndicate of Pharmaceutical Plants in Lebanon headed by its President Carol Abi Karam who said after the meeting: "We thanked Prime Minister Hariri for sponsoring the launch of the national campaign to support the Lebanese pharmaceutical industry on February 7, 2017. We informed him about the challenges facing this industry and the opportunities to develop it. He expressed his full support and we hope to take future steps to ensure the suitable environment to continue the development of this sector that is considered a cornerstone in the health and economic system, in order to reduce the cost of medicine in Lebanon and ensure job opportunities for the youth in our plants." Hariri met with the Turkish Ambassador to Lebanon Cagatay Erciyes and discussed with him the developments and bilateral relations. He also received the World Bank Director for the Middle East Ferid Belhaj in the presence of his Advisor for Syrian displaced affairs Nadim Mounla. Discussions focused on the projects implemented by the bank in Lebanon and the assistance required to meet the needs of the displaced Syrians. Hariri also received the President of the Lebanese University Fouad Ayoub.

Riachi meets citizens without appointment to listen to their concerns
Wed 26 Apr 2017/NNA - Minister of Information Melhem Riachi met on Wednesday at his ministerial office with citizens without appointment, to listen to their concerns and demands. In two separate videotaped interviews with the students of Media Faculties, Branch 1 and 2, Minister Riachi underlined his "relentless efforts to promote gov-run TV and Radio Stations, in addition to his determination to transform the Information Ministry into a Ministry of dialogue and communication.

Army Commander chairs meeting of supreme committee for management of military civilian cooperation project with the Netherlands

Wed 26 Apr 2017/NNA - Army Commander Joseph Aoun received on Wednesday at his Yarzeh office with Dutch Ambassador to Lebanon, Dutch ambassador, Han-Maurits Schaapveld, accompanied by Embassy Military Attaché Lieutenant Colonel William-Jean Mezger, with talks reportedly touching on cooperation relations between the armies of both countries. Afterwards, General Aoun presided over a meeting of the supreme committee for the management of the military-civilian cooperation project (CIMIC) with the Netherlands, in the presence of Ambassador Schaapveld and representatives of the countries and sides partaking in said project. The meeting discussed the Dutch aids delivered in the framework of the project, and the forthcoming steps in the coming phase. General Aoun thanked the Dutch authorities for their support "which reflected positively on the daily living conditions and development of a large segment of the Lebanese society, especially in the areas of Tripoli, Arsal and Al-Qaa."Aoun pointed out that "one of the strategies and objectives of the Lebanese military institution is to establish best relations of cooperation between the institution and the friendly armies, not only in the military sphere in terms of defense and security, but also in the humanitarian and social fields that serve the interests of the Lebanese people and facilitate their daily living conditions."Ambassador Schaapveld stressed his country's continued support for the military-civilian cooperation program "based on the partnership between the two countries and the two friendly armies", lauding the "constructive role played by the Lebanese army in this regard."

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 26-27/17
US THAADs to South Korea. China launches carrier

DEBKAfile Special Report April 26, 2017/The US early Wednesday, April 26, began moving the THAAD missile defense system to central South Korea opposite the border with the North - months ahead of schedule. A South Korean military official said two road-mobile launchers had arrived at the Osan Air Base. One THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) unit includes six launchers. Tuesday, the USS Michigan nuclear submarine docked in South Korea, after the North began a large-scale, long-range artillery fire drill in Wonsan on the east coast. More than 4,000 artillery guns are reported to be taking part in the “exercise.”The Michigan is in place ready to join the USS Carl Vinson carrier and its strike group which are steaming towards the peninsula, along with two Japanese destroyers. Later Wednesday, all 100 US senators are scheduled to gather at the White House for a briefing by US security and military chiefs on the North Korean crisis, as the buildup to meet North Korean belligerence continues apace. Facing US steps to meet the Korean crisis, China made ready to launch its second aircraft carrier, the Shandong, also known as the Type 001A. The new vessel, the first to be manufactured from prow to stern in China, is bigger than the Liaoning, China's first Russian-made aircraft carrier. It is due to be operational in two or three years. Beijing has voiced objections to the deployment of an American missile shield in South Korea, a country it regards as its back yard. China also continues its own naval buildup to assert its control of the South China Sea. At the same time, the Chinese Air Force remains on high alert over the Korean crisis, although this is denied in Beijing, and Russia continues to pour troops, tanks and missiles to its short 18-km border with North Korea in the Vladivostok district. Japan too is placing its army on a war footing. On Tuesday, US, Japanese and South Korean envoys met in Tokyo to coordinate their preparations for meeting North Korea’s threats, including the detonation of its sixth nuclear test. Seoul, Tokyo, Beijing, Moscow and Washington are waiting tensely to see if Kim Jong-un is deterred from his aggressive rhetoric and moves by the arrival of the THAAD missiles at his back door.

ISIS Resorts to Selling Drugs in Iraq, Syria for Funding
Asharq Al Awsat/April 26/17
Baghdad – Following its oil revenues loss in Nineveh, ISIS is resorting to drug dealing to increase its funds, according to a top intelligence official. Drug dealing became the primary source to supply the terrorist organization with money, he added, saying that Anbar governorate is hub for this trade through a well-known dealer known as “Pablo Escobar of Iraq”. The source warns that Anbar could be in danger of falling under ISIS control once again amid the security chaos and the influence drugs now have within security forces. Armed groups expert Hisham al-Hashimi confirms the intelligence source’s information about drug dealing, adding that the terrorist organization is planting cannabis in different areas of Iraq. Hashimi told Asharq Al-Awsat that ISIS is taking advantage of people’s lack of knowledge about cannabis and is selling it based on the Fatwa that allows selling poison to disbelievers.
The security expert stated that security forces raid every now and then on cannabis planting farms, but sometimes it is difficult to detect this plant because of its nature which resembles the alfalfa plant. It is believed that drug planting was transported to the Iraqi Sunni areas by Afghani militants in al-Qaeda and ISIS, whereas Iranian taught Shi’ites in the south. The source stated that the authorities and media are not giving a dangerous case – such as ISIS drug dealing – the attention it needs. He gave an example of the news reports about the 16 cattle traders who were kidnapped couple of months ago, where they wanted to portray it as a sectarian case knowing that a number of the kidnapped are Shi’ites. In reality, the source confirms that the group is active in drug dealing and was kidnapped by a competing group. Drug dealing is one of ISIS’ most reliable funding means, according to the source.
He added that it is active on two trade routes. The first is used by Qaeda starting from Afghanistan, through Pakistan and Iran, all the way to Iraq and Syria, in addition to Gulf countries. Whereas the second is used by ISIS, making sure it doesn’t interfere with that of Qaeda, and passes through Iraq, Syria, Turkey and then to Europe. He also said that there is a reverse route from Ramadi to al-Qaem under ISIS control. According to the source, it is easy for drug dealers and smugglers to move around areas under ISIS control in Iraq and Syria. He added that a great drug dealer is in Anbar and considered the main sponsor for drugs in the governorate. The dealer was arrested a while back, but later released. He is usually referred to as “Pablo Escobar of Iraq” in reference to the famous Colombian drug lord. Drug dealers pay millions of dollars for officials in security institutions to allow them to move freely and silence those calling for their imprisonment, according to the source. Yet, the source stated, that problem is that the active intelligence in Anbar are aware of the drug trade in the city, but no one dares to deal with the people involved in those issues because of their leverage and power.

Warnings of Humanitarian Disaster as Most of Syria’s Idlib Hospitals Go out of Service
Caroline Akoum/Asharq Al Awsat/April 26/17/Beirut – Over eight medical centers, including Civil Defense positions, have been bombarded by Syrian regime and Russian fighter jets in Syria’s Idlib in April as they intensified their military campaign in the northern region.
Head of Civil Defense in Idlib Mustapha al-Hajj Youssef described the medical situation in the province as “very bad”, warning of a humanitarian crisis if the situation continued. He told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The hospitals that we had been primarily relying on have gone out of service.” The most important of those facilities was the national hospital Muaarat al-Numan in Idlib’s southern countryside and al-Abdeen Hospital. The other facilities that went out of service are al-Rahma hospital in the city of Khan Sheikhoun, the Haysh dispensary and al-Ikhlas hospital in the village of Shinan and the martyr Wassim Husseino hospital in Kfar Rakharim. “We are now depending on medical stations that perform first aid in the absence of necessary equipment needed for surgeries,” added al-Hajj Youssef. “In several instances, we are forced to resort to amputations the patient cannot be transferred to Turkey where they can undergo surgery,” he explained.Medical centers in Idlib were only able to treat medium cases, while the more difficult ones are taken to neighboring Turkey. Al-Hajj Youssef also spoke of the shortage of medical staff. Meanwhile, a Free Syrian Army source rejected to Asharq Al-Awsat excuses that medical facilities are being targeted in the airstrikes because they are allegedly harboring terrorists. He said instead that anyone entering the facilities is searched and armed people are barred from entry. “People started to seek pharmacies and doctors’ clinics when hospitals turned into targets for airstrikes,” he revealed. On Tuesday, 14 people were killed and dozens wounded in Russian strikes in Idlib

French Intelligence Blames Syrian Regime for 'Chemical Attack'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 26/17/A report by French intelligence services blames Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime for a suspected chemical attack in rebel-held Syria that killed 87 people, Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Wednesday. He said the analysis of samples taken at the scene of the April 4 attack in Khan Sheikhun showed "there is no doubt that sarin gas was used".
"There is also no doubt about the responsibility of the Syrian regime given the way that the sarin used was produced," Ayrault told journalists after presenting a report compiled by French intelligence services. "This (production) method bears the regime's hallmarks and allows us to determine its responsibility for this attack," he said.

France's Macron Says 'Nothing's Won Yet'

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 26/17/French presidential frontrunner Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday rejected accusations he was resting on his laurels after winning the first round of the election, insisting "nothing's won yet" in the race against the far right's Marine Le Pen. The 39-year-old centrist said his victory in Sunday's first round of voting was proof that pollsters -- who had long placed him second to Le Pen in the opening round -- "get it wrong". "Nothing's won yet," Macron said during a visit to a hospital near Paris. "I will continue to fight for two weeks... I will defend the progressive camp to the end," the ex-banker bidding to become France's youngest-ever president said. Earlier, President Francois Hollande appeared to admonish his former economy minister for not taking the fight to Le Pen over the past two days. Le Pen, 48, was first out of the blocks after the first round, visiting Paris' main wholesale food market and giving a TV interview in which she accused the pro-EU Macron of representing "runaway globalization" and lacking love for his country. "We need to be extremely serious and mobilized, and not to think it's a done deal, because a vote is earned, it's fought for," said Hollande, who on Monday had urged voters to back Macron and called Le Pen a "risk" for France. After winning Sunday's contest with 24.1 percent to Le Pen's 21.3 percent, Macron gave an exuberant victory speech followed by a high-profile celebration at a famous Paris bistrot, drawing fire from some.
Socialist Party boss Jean-Christophe Cambadelis told French radio: "He was smug. He wrongly thought that it was a done deal. It's not a done deal."Le Pen herself joined the bashing, saying "all French people saw that he had the feeling he'd already won. It's not very respectful of democracy, of the voters".
Macron defended the bistrot gathering in a France 2 television interview on Tuesday evening. "I have no regrets. I take full responsibility," he said firmly, adding his guests were mostly campaigners who deserved a night out after a year of tireless work.
Since securing her berth in the runoff, Le Pen has turbo-charged her campaign with a string of appearances and statements, leaving her opponent on the back foot. At the crack of dawn on Tuesday she was at the sprawling Rungis food market outside Paris, taking aim at what she said was Macron's desire for "total deregulation, total opening up, total free trade". In contrast, her opponent has huddled in strategy meetings over June legislative elections that will determine the shape of a future Macron government. Polls suggest that Macron will trounce Le Pen in the runoff with a margin of some 20 points. But after the political shocks of Britain's vote to leave the European Union and Donald Trump's unlikely ascent to the White House, analysts say a late surge by Le Pen is still possible. Le Pen says she is the only candidate for change in a deeply divided country burdened by high unemployment and inequality.Le Pen said Monday she was quitting temporarily as head of her National Front (FN) party in order to concentrate on the campaign. The move was seen as largely symbolic but one that would loosen her association with the FN, the party founded by Le Pen's father, Jean-Marie, notorious for anti-Semitic and xenophobic remarks. On Tuesday, Le Pen gained an indirect boost from a conservative activist group called Manif pour Tous ("Protest for Everyone") that in 2013 staged mass rallies against same-sex marriage, a cornerstone law pushed through by Hollande. In a statement that made no reference to Le Pen, Manif pour Tous leader Ludovine de la Rochere urged supporters to say "no" to Macron, an "openly anti-family candidate."
Homage to slain policeman
Earlier Tuesday, the rival candidates attended a sombre ceremony honoring a policeman killed on the Champs-Elysees last week. Macron and Le Pen stood grim-faced among hundreds of mourners as Xavier Jugele's gay partner delivered a moving eulogy to the 37-year-old officer, whose shooting was claimed by the Islamic State group. Macron and Le Pen differ starkly on how to protect France, still reeling from a string of jihadist attacks since 2015 that has claimed more than 230 lives. Le Pen has called for France to take back control of its borders from the European Union and deport all foreigners on a terror watchlist, accusing Macron of being soft on terrorism. Macron has urged voters not to "give in to fear" and vowed to step up security cooperation with EU partners. On Wednesday, Macron will visit a household appliance factory in Amiens, northwest of Paris, that is threatened with closure, before holding a rally in Arras, a city in the northern rustbelt where the FN is strong. Le Pen on Thursday will hold a night-time rally in the southern city of Nice -- another party bastion -- and next Monday will hold a traditional May 1 rally at a conference center north of Paris. The two are scheduled to meet in a TV debate on May 3.

German-Israel Relationship: No Longer So Special?
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 26/17/After simmering for months, a crisis between Israel and Germany has erupted into the open, putting serious strain on a special relationship painstakingly built up after the Holocaust. First, Chancellor Angela Merkel in February postponed an annual government meeting with Israel, then this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to meet Germany's foreign minister in Jerusalem. What was once "unthinkable" has become real -- the gild on the ties between Germany and Israel may be fading. Due to its historical responsibility as the perpetrator of the Holocaust that killed six million Jews, Germany has not only been Israel's staunch ally but has also shied away from openly criticizing Israel. But Netanyahu -- Israel's most right-wing leader to date -- has irked Berlin by pressing on with settlement building in the Palestinian territories despite repeated warnings from world powers that it would harm any prospects of peace. On Tuesday, the tensions ratcheted up a notch with Netanyahu scrapping at the last minute a planned meeting with Sigmar Gabriel because the German foreign minister refused to cancel talks with Israeli rights groups. Gabriel had sought to minimize the damage, saying it was "not a catastrophe."But he also stressed that he wanted "to say openly that I think we should not become the pawn of Israel's domestic politics."Public opinion in Germany was firmly on the foreign minister's side, with Spiegel weekly noting that "Netanyahu's government has pushed the historically imperative special treatment to its limits.""Certainly, Israel can never be just another country for Germany. Special consideration for the past is required, and, until today, also special diplomatic sensitivity. "But historical guilt can not lead Germany to accept an Israeli government moving away from certain values that we have always shared."
Treated as a joke
Berlin has been troubled for months by Israel's settlement building program and attempts to crack down on critical NGOs. Rather than air its unhappiness in the open, Merkel's government had sought previously to express concerns behind the scenes. "Merkel has often repeated during bilateral government consultations and during interviews with Netanyahu that despite the solidarity and friendship between the two countries, there is discontent about the decisions concerning new settlements in Palestinian territories," said Volker Beck, a Greens party lawmaker who heads the Germany-Israel friendship group.But right after the Knesset approved a new law legalizing dozens of Jewish settler outposts in the occupied West Bank, the German foreign ministry openly voiced doubts for the first time in January about whether Netanyahu intended to respect his pledge for a two-state solution.
A month later, Merkel's government canceled an annual consultation with Israel which had been planned for May in Jerusalem. Ostensibly, the reason was a diary problem yet the message was clear.
"Merkel has now changed her tone because the Israeli government has taken the reservations expressed by Germany as a joke," said Moshe Zimmermann, a geopolitical analyst at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Serious differences'
In the immediate aftermath of World War II, the young Jewish state had boycotted then West Germany, until a deal in 1952 offering reparations to Israel.Both sides -- and subsequently a reunified Germany -- have since built up a close relationship.In a sign of their special ties, the two governments had met annually for bilateral talks. And Merkel has repeatedly said that "the security and right of the state of Israel to exist is a fundamental tenet for Germany". Their security and economic relations are healthy, borne out most recently by the signing of a military deal for Israel's purchase of three German submarines -- with a substantial discount of one-third of the price. But politically, the differences between the allies are widening. Norbert Roettgen, who heads the German parliament's foreign affairs committee, said it plainly: "The differences are serious, everyone who holds Israel close to their hearts can not help but be sad and depressed by this blockade of (peace talks)." For analyst Eldad Beck, an Israeli journalist and writer of the book "Merkel, Israel and the Jews", the friction may have also arisen as Germany has simply begun moving away from treating Israel with kid gloves."Over the last 20 years, Germany has been normalizing its relationship with Israel. 'Normalizing' often has a positive connotation, but here it's the reverse, it's about ending a unique status accorded to the relationship with Israel."

Deputy Crown Prince meets US President’s envoy for Coalition to counter ISIS
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Wednesday, 26 April 2017/Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Premier and Minister of Defense met here today with United States President's Envoy for The Global Coalition To Counter ISIS Brett McGurk. During the meeting, they reviewed the latest events in the Middle East, including the fight against ISIS terrorist organization and international efforts to ensure the region's security and stability.

After talks in Russia, Jubeir says Syria’s Assad still has to go

Reuters, Moscow Wednesday, 26 April 2017/Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir discussed Syria’s future with his Russian counterpart in Moscow on Wednesday after which he said Riyadh still believed there was no political future for President Bashar al-Assad. Al-Jubeir, after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, also told a news conference that Riyadh wanted to end what he called Iran’s meddling in the Middle East. The Saudi minister gave a positive assessment of Russian-backed Syrian peace talks in Kazakhstan, but said he thought there was no need to widen the list of participants in those talks, which are sponsored by Iran, Turkey and Russia. Despite well known differences between Moscow and Riyadh over the role of Assad - Moscow has rejected calls for him to quit and says his future should be decided in elections - Lavrov said there were no insurmountable differences between the two when it came to finding a solution to the Syria crisis.

Kuwait suspect says ISIS planned attacks: Media
By AFP, Kuwait City Wednesday, 26 April 2017/A suspected member of ISIS has confessed to plotting attacks on targets in Kuwait including the US military and a Shiite religious hall, local media reported Wednesday. Judicial sources said Hussein al-Dhafiri, arrested with his wife in the Philippines last month, confessed to planning suicide attacks on a US military convoy and a Shiite prayer hall, the Al-Rai daily reported. Kuwait’s Arifjan Base houses several thousand US troops and serves as a military transit point to Iraq and Afghanistan.Home to a small Shiite minority, Kuwait was the site of a suicide attack linked to ISIS back in June 2015. A Saudi suicide bomber killed 26 worshippers in a Shiite mosque, the worst such attack in the Gulf state’s history. Dhafiri was deported earlier in April to Kuwait where he is now set to stand trial on charges of belonging to a banned organization and plotting attacks, Al-Rai said. He had been arrested in Manila along with his wife, whom he married after her high-ranking ISIS commander husband was killed in Syria. Authorities in Kuwait have also arrested four of Dhafiri’s relatives, including his brother and nephew, in connection with the planned attacks, Al-Rai said. The five suspects told public prosecutors that suicide bombers had been recruited from outside of Kuwait to carry out the attacks, according to Al-Rai. They also said there had been tentative plans to target a church in Kuwait during a visit this week by Coptic Pope Tawadros II. Kuwaiti courts have handed down multiple convictions on charges of ISIS membership or financing. Some of the defendants have been found guilty of fighting with the militants in Iraq or Syria. All have received lengthy jail sentences. A lower court in December sentenced a Filipina to 10 years in jail after convicting her of joining the militant group and plotting attacks.

Two Iranians jailed after attempt to smuggle arms into UAE
Wednesday, 26 April 2017/Abu Dhabi: Two Iranians imprisoned after an attempt to smuggle arms into UAE

Bahrain jails 36, strips them of citizenship
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Wednesday, 26 April 2017/A court in Bahrain Tuesday jailed 36 people convicted of forming a “terrorist” group to attack police, and stripped them of their citizenship, a judicial source told AFP. Three of those sentenced received life terms, while the rest were jailed for between three and 10 years, the source said. The defendants had been charged with “forming an illegal group that aimed to jeopardize the constitution and laws ... using terrorism as one of its means,” according to the judicial source.They were also accused of “possessing explosives without permits,” the source said, adding that the defendants confessed to taking part in riots and vandalism.

Saudi Arabia Intercepts 'Rebel Boat Bomb' from Yemen
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 26/17/Saudi authorities said Wednesday they had intercepted an unmanned boat rigged with explosives that was sent by Yemeni Huthi rebels to target an oil plant on the kingdom's southwestern coast. The boat, sent from a small island off the Yemeni coast, was targeting a petroleum products distribution terminal run by Saudi oil giant Aramco when it was intercepted on Tuesday, the interior ministry said in a statement carried by the SPA state news agency. "The boat was spotted when it departed from a small island in Yemeni waters and gained speed after entering Saudi waters," the ministry said. After determining that the boat was unmanned, a coast guard unit opened fire on its engine and stopped it 2.8 kilometers from the terminal in the southern Jazan region, the statement said. The boat was loaded with "strong explosive material," it said. The ministry vowed to foil all "terrorist attempts" against the kingdom and to "reach those behind them from the Huthi militias." Saudi Arabia is leading an Arab coalition that in March 2015 launched a military campaign against Iran-backed Yemeni rebels in support of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi

Saudi Shake-Up Strengthens King's Powerful Son
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 26/17/A recent Saudi government and security shake-up aims to strengthen King Salman's increasingly powerful son against a royal rival and to bolster ties with Washington, analysts and diplomats say. Royal decrees at the weekend saw a number of allies of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman moved into key positions and another son of the king named as ambassador to Washington. The goal, a foreign diplomat told AFP, is "to strengthen MBS (Mohammed bin Salman) and the Salman branch" of the al-Saud family which has ruled Saudi Arabia since the country's founding. Mohammed bin Salman, 31, has risen to prominence since he was named deputy crown prince two years ago, a few months after his father took the throne following the death of King Abdullah. The king's nephew Mohammed bin Nayef, now 57, was at the same time named crown prince and is the heir apparent. Reports of rivalry between the two have spread since, with the bearded Mohammed bin Salman seen in the ascendant. He already serves as defense minister, head of Saudi Arabia's main economic policy coordinating body and chairman of a council overseeing state oil giant Aramco.One of the weekend decrees saw the creation of a new National Security Center linked with the royal court.
Competition' over security
Details of how the new center will operate have yet to emerge, but the foreign diplomat said its creation reflects "competition" for succession between Mohammed bin Salman and Mohammed bin Nayef, who is interior minister and heads an existing body, the Political and Security Council. Another decree also named a new national security adviser, Mohammed bin Salih Alghfaili, who foreign diplomats say will play a lead role on the council. He too is linked with Mohammed bin Salman and the new arrangement shows that the crown prince "is losing his power," a second foreign diplomat said. Both diplomats declined to be named because of the sensitivity of royal leadership matters. Another decree named Major General Ahmed Assiri, who the diplomats said is also a loyalist of the defense minister, as deputy chief of the General Intelligence Presidency. Peter Salisbury, a research fellow at London's Chatham House, told AFP that the various moves appear "a lot like Mohammed bin Salman has taken another step towards consolidating his control over the security services." Security matters are especially important to Mohammed bin Nayef, who made his name and won wide respect abroad for having led Saudi efforts against al-Qaida and other jihadists. Analysts and diplomats said other moves made at the weekend appeared aimed not only at boosting King Salman's branch among the thousands-strong royal family but at continuing to improve ties with longtime ally Washington. King Salman named another son, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, as state minister for energy affairs, and one more, Prince Khaled bin Salman, as ambassador to Washington.
Building U.S. ties
The new ambassador Prince Khaled, believed to be younger than 30, is a former fighter pilot who flew missions as part of the U.S.-led coalition bombing the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.
Another change saw Fahad bin Turki, a former head of the Saudi special forces, promoted to lieutenant general to head the army. These appointments appear to involve people "well-placed... to build relationships with senior military and administration officials in the U.S.," Salisbury said.
Ties between Riyadh and Washington became increasingly frayed during the administration of president Barack Obama. Riyadh has found a more favorable ear in the Washington of President Donald Trump, who has echoed Saudi concerns about Iranian influence in the region.Mohammed bin Salman met Trump in Washington last month, a visit followed last week by U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis' trip to Riyadh. Key for Riyadh will be U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition that for two years has been fighting in support of Yemen's government against rebels supported by Iran, Saudi Arabia's regional rival.
The United States has backed the coalition with intelligence, weapons, and aerial refueling for its warplanes, but Obama's government in December blocked the transfer of precision-guided bombs because of concerns over civilian casualties. Under Obama, "things were really bad" between the two countries, the second diplomat said. Saudi officials realized that "they cannot survive on their own" and must depend on American security support, he said.

U.N. Eyes New Yemen Peace Talks by End of May
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 26/17/A new round of peace talks between Yemen's warring sides should begin by the end of May, the U.N. mediator said Wednesday, as alarm grows over the country's humanitarian crisis. U.N. special envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed told AFP that negotiations were underway to stave off a feared military attack on the vital Red Sea port of Hodeida, in what he hoped would be a first step towards a ceasefire. Averting an attack on Hodeida -- the main entry point for desperately needed aid to Yemen -- could allow "a real cessation of hostilities and to go back to the talks," he said. "We are at the preliminary stage, but time is also a real constraint for us, because my aim is to finish all of this before Ramadan," he said, adding that he hoped "to enter into a new round of talks before Ramadan." The Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan is set to begin around May 27 this year.
Even if Ould Cheikh Ahmed manages to get the parties to the table, any success will be hard-won: since Yemen's conflict escalated two years ago, all U.N. mediation attempts and seven declared ceasefires have failed. Yemen's war has pitted pro-government forces against Iran-backed Huthi rebels and their allies, renegade troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. A Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 to help the government retake the capital Sanaa and swathes of the country's north and west. More than 7,700 people have been killed in the past two years of fighting, while the country has plunged into a deep humanitarian crisis and faces the imminent risk of famine.
'Major humanitarian consequences'
Hodeida is currently controlled by the Huthis, but fears are mounting over a potential coalition offensive.
The U.N. and other organizations have urged the Saudi-led coalition not to bomb Hodeida, Yemen's fourth most populated city, and a "major lifeline for a country on the verge of starvation."
"We believe that any military operation on Hodeida will have major humanitarian consequences and could lead to a very high level of civilian casualties," Ould Cheikh Ahmed said Wednesday.
At the same time, he said, he was hearing concerns from the coalition that the port was being used to smuggle in weapons."We are trying to explore various options by which we can reinforce inspection mechanisms maybe or see how we can minimize the risk of any additional smuggling," he said.
The U.N. mediator said the Huthis had voiced interest in his proposals and that he aimed to invite them to a meeting in Oman next month to discuss different options. "I'm a bit optimistic, (because) if we are able, as I am hoping, to stop the military operation in Hodeida, I think we are paving the way for new talks," he said, adding that the negotiations would likely be held in Geneva or Kuwait.

UAE Hands Iranian 10-Year Sentence over Sanctions Breach
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 26/17/A UAE court on Wednesday sentenced an Iranian to 10 years in prison followed by deportation for attempting to ship a generator to his home country in breach of international sanctions. The appeals court in Abu Dhabi found the unnamed man guilty of "attempting to export a power generator to Iran for its nuclear program, in breach of international sanctions," state news agency WAM reported. It did not say when the offense was committed. Nuclear-related international sanctions on Iran were lifted following a landmark deal between Tehran and major powers in 2015. The influence of Shiite-dominated Iran in the Middle East remains a major concern for Gulf countries, including the UAE. Tehran is a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Yemen's Huthi rebels and Shiite armed groups in Iraq and Lebanon. Authorities in Bahrain, where a crackdown on mainly Shiite protesters has seen hundreds jailed, have also accused Iran of backing opposition groups. In a separate case, WAM reported that two men were sentenced to three years in prison and fined 500,000 dirhams ($136,000) each for "posting online information and ideas that aim to incite sedition, hatred and confessionalism." Local daily Al-Ittihad cited judicial sources as saying the two men were citizens of Bahrain. The UAE is a leading member of the Saudi-led coalition fighting Huthi rebels in Yemen. The Gulf state is also a key ally in the U.S.-led coalition's fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 26-27/17
Le Pen Adopts Russia’s Strategy on Syria, Sees No Alternative to Assad
Michel Abu NajmAsharq Al Awsat/April 26/17
Paris – Rapprochement with Russia is one of the most important aspects of far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen’s foreign strategy.
Even though she was not the only candidate to follow this approach, she is the most committed to it and she had paid a visit to Moscow at the end of March, holding an hour-and-a-half long meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Le Pen is seeking “strategic rapprochement” with Moscow and she believes that it is “more than necessary” in the fight against ISIS and terrorism. To that end, she is willing to pay the price of expressing views that support the Russian policy.
She supports the Kremlin’s stance on Ukraine and even considers that the “annexation of Crimea was not an illegal move, but a product of a popular referendum.” She also heavily criticized the US and European sanctions against Moscow that were imposed in wake of the annexation in 2014, saying that they were “unjustified.”
The far-right candidate, who has advanced to the final round of the presidential elections, has declared that she is striving for France to regain its sovereignty and freedom. She is therefore seeking a foreign policy that “takes inspiration from the strategies that General Charles De Gaulle defended.”
Based on this, one can understand Le Pen’s stance on Syria and terrorism and her severe criticism of the French strategy that has “committed error after error.” She has instead backed the Russia on these two files.
Observers have said that her victory in the elections, whose runoff vote will take place on May 7, will be a victory for the Kremlin as well due to her stances and France’s influence on the European Union.
Le Pen has always sought to improve her image and demonstrate her openness to the world. Prior to her visit to Moscow, she visited New York in mid-January, but she was unable to meet with US President Donald Trump. She also paid a visit to Beirut on February 20 where she met with Lebanese President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Saad Hariri with talks focusing on security, immigration and Syria. She declared after meeting Hariri that “options in Syria are limited to (regime leader) Bashar Assad and ISIS,” adding that she would choose the former because he is the lesser of two evils.
She justified her stance by saying that she has never met Assad, asking: “Is there a sustainable and credible solution in Syria that can replace Assad and avoid the collapse of the Syrian state?”
Her position does not differ than Moscow’s that has long said that it “is not bound to Assad, but there is no alternative to him.”
Le Pen also advocated the Russian stance on Washington’s recent strike against Syria’s Shayrat air base in wake of the chemical attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun. She had demanded that an independent investigation be carried out in the attack before resorting to military action.
She went so far as to deem the US strike as “a blatant attack and meddling in the affairs of another country.” At the same time, she noted that a chemical attack is “scary” and the perpetrators should be found.”Furthermore, she had voiced her support for Russia’s veto of the draft resolution that was presented by France, Britain and the US that condemned the strike, “because its laid blame on Assad before an investigation was done.”In addition, she noted that France’s errors in Syria were among the reasons that led to terror attacks in her country in the past two and a half years.

First 100 Days of Trump’s Presidency

Najlaa Habriri/Asharq Al Awsat/April 26/17
London – The US President’s agenda for Tuesday was packed with political activities with internal and external ramifications including tensions with the Canadian government, criticism over “lying” media, and his speech on the holocaust remembrance day.
Like every day, Trump began his 96th day of the 1,400 presidency days, by receiving the intelligence report by 10:00 AM (local time). He then headed to the Congress for the holocaust remembrance day, followed by a meeting with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to discuss the budget that the Congress is supposed to approve on Friday. Later that afternoon, Trump met with National Security Adviser Lieutenant General Herbert Raymond.
The White House publishes each morning the schedule of the President, except the weekends he spends at his private resort in Mar-a-Lago.
Like every US President, the first 100 days is a chance to form his cabinet and set his domestic policies concerning important issues like the economy, immigration, healthcare, and security. It is also a time to decide on foreign policy like the North Korean threat, countering terrorism and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
The first period of Trump’s presidency was a major concern all over the world to try and figure out whether the President was different than Trump the candidate. Everyone wanted to know if the policy he based on “America First” will affect Washington’s foreign policy.
It seems that Trump has managed to calm his western and Arab allies about his country’s commitment to support their interests. The president’s major achievement may be getting close to China and encouraging it to come up with a solution to end the North Korean crisis. He also managed to pressure Iran with a series of sanctions for supporting terrorism in the region.
While Democrats and some Republicans and international observers released their criticism for the first 100 days of presidency, the White House sent an email commemorating Donald Trump’s 100th day.
“Despite historic Democrat obstructionism, President Trump has worked with Congress to pass more legislation in his first 100 days than any President since Truman,” the email reads.
The email titled “President Trump’s 100 Days of Historic Accomplishments,” claims Trump has “accomplished more in his first 100 days than any other President since Franklin Roosevelt”.
It highlights the 30 executive orders and 28 laws Trump has signed since taking office, pointing that Barack Obama only signed 19 and George W. Bush 11 during their first 100 days.
The White House statement wasn’t enough as Trump insisted in a tweet that he has accomplished a great deal during the first 100 days.
“No matter how much I accomplish during the ridiculous standard of the first 100 days, & it has been a lot (including S.C.), media will kill!” he wrote on Twitter last week.
US media is divided on his performance.
Newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post focused on the White House’s setbacks especially after the suspension of the travel ban which initially was for seven Muslim countries and then for six. Other newspapers stated his accomplishments like the release of Aya Hijazi and the attack on Shayrat airport in Syria and his strong opinions against Iran.
Yet, all observers agree that the president became aware of the mission assigned to him after he was elected. This was confirmed by Trump himself who said that his changed style is successful.
Minutes before giving his approval for the attacks on Assad’s regime, Trump said: “I am flexible and I am proud of that flexibility.”
The President also gave similar statements after he tried and failed to replace Obamacare, saying: “Nobody knew healthcare could be so complicated.”
Following talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, he said: “After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it’s not so easy.”
It is worth mentioning that Trump is not the first president who realizes how complicated it is to be in the highest political position in the world.
Former President George W. Bush recently told AFP: “There’s just something about this job as president every president faces, you know, that you think one thing going in and then the pressures of the job or the realities of the world, you know, are different than you thought.”
Trump still has until Saturday to overcome an obstacle on the approval of the Congress to adopt the budget. After midnight of April 28, the US federal funding will stop and the administrations can’t perform legally if the Congress doesn’t vote.
Part of Trump’s priorities is to build the wall that prevents immigrants from illegally entering from Mexico. He requested $1.4 billion to build the wall but opposition by Democrats is setting obstacles in case the new budget allocated money for this project.
Over the next few days, Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper will publish a series of articles analyzing the performance of the US President during the first 100 days.

A Palestinian State or an Islamist Tyranny?
Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/April 26/17
Abbad Yahiya's novel takes aim at Palestinian taboos such as fanaticism, Islamic extremism and homosexuality. The novel's publisher has been arrested and a warrant has been issued for the arrest of Yahiya.
The head of the Union of Palestinian Writers, Murad Sudani, attacked the writer and called for an exemplary punishment. Ghassan Khader, a Facebook user, wrote on his page that Yahiya "should be killed".
We could go on with this list of Palestinian intellectuals who paid a high price for daring to speak the truth to Mahmoud Abbas and his corrupt circle on many issues: coexistence with the Jews, secularism, sexual freedom, freedom of conscience, human rights, or telling the truth about the Holocaust.
A Palestinian state created with the current Palestinian Authority would destroy freedom of conscience for journalists and writers; exile Christians and homosexuals; torture Arab inmates; impose sharia as the only law, and put people to death for "atheism" and "apostasy" (read, conversion to Christianity).
From the United Nations to the European Union and the mainstream press, it seems that the Jews living in Judea and Samaria are the obstacle for the Middle East coexistence. But have these well-known "observers" really observed what is going on in the areas self-governed by the Palestinian Authority, and that two-thirds of the world's nations want to turn into another Arab-Islamic state?
Recently, one of the brightest Palestinian novelists, Abbad Yahiya, saw his fourth book, Crime in Ramallah, seized by the Palestinian police in the West Bank. The order came from Palestinian Attorney General Ahmed Barak, who ruled that the book "threatens morality". The novel's publisher was arrested and a warrant was issued for Yahiya's arrest.
When Palestinian novelist Abbad Yahiya recently published his fourth book, Crime in Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority police seized all copies the book, claiming it "threatens morality". The novel's publisher was arrested and a warrant was issued for Yahiya's arrest. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons)
His novel revolves around the murder of a Palestinian girl in Ramallah, and follows the lives of three other boys, from a homosexual to a drinker of alcohol. The novel takes aim at Palestinian taboos such as fanaticism, Islamic extremism and homosexuality. The young gay protagonist of the novel ends up moving to France.
"I do not know what to do", said Yahiya, who fled to Qatar. "If I return, I will be arrested".
The head of the Union of Palestinian Writers, Murad Sudani, attacked Yahiya and called for an exemplary punishment as happened with Boris Pasternak and other Soviet novelists. According to Sudani, Yahiya's novel "violates national and religious values". He went on to say that "my freedom as a writer ends when the freedom of the country begins". So Palestinian writers should behave like the Soviet "engineers of souls", then at the service of Communism, now of Islamic extremism and the Palestinian war against Israel.
Yahiya was also threatened on social media. Ghassan Khader, a Facebook user, wrote on his page that Yahiya "should be killed". Yahiya should apparently meet the same fate of the Algerian writer Tahar Djaout, murdered by Islamists in 1994. Yahiya's publisher, Fuad Akleek, was arrested in a library "in a very humiliating way". The Palestinian police are reported to have entered five hundred libraries and bookshops of the West Bank to seize all the copies of the novel.
Yahiya's fate is reminiscent of many others under the Palestinian Authority:
Waleed al Husseini is a Palestinian blogger who has spent ten months in a Palestinian prison for the same "crime" as the one for which the Charlie Hebdo magazine's journalists were murdered: "Blasphemy". Like the gay man in Yahiya's novel, Waleed now lives in France, protected and blessed by Europe's freedom.
Haidar Ghanem, the Palestinian human rights activist, was less lucky. He was shot to death by Islamic extremists.
Mohammed Dajani, the Palestinian professor who took his students on a field trip to Auschwitz, had to resign to save his own life after months-long campaign of death threats, campus riots and intimidation. He broke the Palestinian taboo of Holocaust denial. "I put my job on the line to expose the double-talk we live", Dajani told Haaretz. "We say we are for democracy and we practice autocracy, we say we are for freedom of speech and academic freedom, yet we deny people to practice it".
Many Palestinian Christian activists have also been found dead.
We could go on with this list of Palestinian intellectuals who paid a high price for daring to speak the truth to Abbas and his corrupt circle on many issues: coexistence with the Jews, secularism, sexual freedom, freedom of conscience, human rights, or telling the truth about the Holocaust.
Famous Israeli writers such as David Grossman, Amos Oz and Abraham Yehoshua, the "peaceniks" most pampered by the Western newspapers, should, instead of blaming their own country, ask themselves what Abbad Yahiya's case means for the Arab-Israeli conflict, and if they should denounce the Palestinian Authority for what it is doing to him.
What happened to Yahiya's novel contains the real reason for the failed negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. Negotiations did not founder over few houses in Judea and Samaria. The failure is the result of the abyss between an open society, Israel, and a closed regime, the Palestinian entity; between a democracy based on Western liberal principles and a gangster autocracy based on an Islamic dictatorship determined to destroy the Jewish state.
And that abyss is just four kilometers wide, the distance between the Palestinian town of Tulkarem and the Israeli city of Netanya.
A Palestinian State created with the current Palestinian Authority would ethnically cleanse Jews, as Jordan did when it attacked and seized Jerusalem in 1948.
It would be led by Holocaust-enablers such as Hamas, or by a Holocaust-denier such as Mahmoud Abbas. It would destroy freedom of conscience for journalists and writers; exile Christians and homosexuals (hundreds of Palestinian gays now live beyond Israel's security fence); torture Arab inmates; continue to accept funding from Iran and Sunni Islamic extremists in the name of "the caliphate or death"; impose sharia (Islamic law) as the only law; put people to death for "atheism" and "apostasy" (read, conversion to Christianity). It would most likely oblige women to wear burqas and hijabs as in Saudi Arabia; commemorate terrorists and baby-killers who butchered 1,500 Israeli civilians during the Second Intifada; abolish democratic elections; fill libraries with anti-Semitic and anti-Western books; ban alcohol in public, and ask plainclothes officers to stop young couples to show marriage licenses, as in Iran.
How would you describe that state, if not as a carbon copy of a Nazi government? And what is the only country that would allow the creation of such a state on its own shoulders? The world's only Jewish State? Of course.
**Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Palestinians: The Secret West Bank
Bassam Tawil/ Gatestone Institute/April 26/17
As Abbas and his advisors prepare for the May 3 meeting with Trump, thousands of Palestinians gathered in Ramallah to call on Arab armies to "liberate Palestine, from the (Jordan) river to the (Mediterranean) sea." The Palestinians also called for replacing Israel with an Islamic Caliphate.
It is possible that deep inside, Abbas and many of his top aides identify with the goals of Hizb ut Tahrir, namely the elimination of Israel. Abbas also wishes to use these Islamic extremists to depict himself as the "good guy" versus the "bad guys." This is a ploy intended to dupe Westerners into giving him more funds "out of fear that the Islamists may take over."
Abbas's claim that he seeks a just and comprehensive peace with Israel is refuted by fact after fact on the ground. His sweet-talk about peace and the two-state solution will have far less impact on Palestinians than the voices of Hizb ut Tahrir and its sister groups, which strive to "liberate Palestine, from the river to the sea."
Westerners often refer to Ramallah as a modern and liberal city dominated by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction. The city boasts fancy restaurants and bars where alcohol is served freely to men and women in Western dress, who sit together to eat and to smoke water pipes (nargilas).
But the scenes on the streets of Ramallah, headquarters of Abbas's Palestinian Authority (PA) last week broadcast a rather different message -- one that calls for the elimination of Israel. The message came on the eve of Abbas's visit to the White House for his first meeting with US President Donald Trump.
According to PA officials, Abbas is scheduled to affirm during the meeting with Trump his commitment to the two-state solution and a "comprehensive and just peace" with Israel.
As Abbas and his advisors prepare for the May 3 meeting with Trump, however, thousands of Palestinians gathered in Ramallah to call on Arab armies to "liberate Palestine, from the (Jordan) river to the (Mediterranean) sea." The Palestinians also called for replacing Israel with an Islamic Caliphate.
The call for the elimination of Israel was made in the center of Ramallah, only a few hundred meters away from Abbas's office. It came during a rally organized by Hizb ut Tahrir (Party of Liberation), a radical pan-Islamic political organization whose goal is the re-establishment of the Islamic Caliphate, or Islamic state. Like the terrorist group ISIS, Hizb ut Tahrir seeks to establish a state to enforce Islamic sharia law and carrying the da'wah (preaching) of Islam to the rest of the world.
The rally was organized to mark the 96th anniversary of the abolition of the Islamic Caliphate in 1924. It was held with the permission of the Palestinian Authority leadership, even though Hizb ut Tahrir is vehemently opposed both to Abbas's policies and Israel's right to exist, which it rejects. PA officials claim that despite its radical ideology, Hizb ut Tahrir does not pose a threat to stability in the region, because, unlike Hamas, its influence is limited and it does not resort to violence.
One after the other, leaders of Hizb ut Tahrir stood up in Ramallah this week to proclaim the need to "liberate all Palestine" and to restore the Islamic Caliphate. Dr. Maher Ja'bari, a Hizb ut Tahrir leader, said:
"The Islamic Caliphate will be restored only when Palestine is fully liberated. Palestine was occupied because of the collapse of the Islamic Caliphate. The issue of the caliphate has united the [Islamic] nation and it is the basic case for the liberation of Palestine and the implementation of Sharia for all Muslims under one [Muslim] ruler."
Once the Muslim extremists come to power, Abbas and most of his officials would be the first to be beheaded or hanged in public squares for "selling out to the Jews." Still, Abbas's leadership did not see a need to prevent the Hizb ut Tahrir supporters from holding their rally in Ramallah to voice their extremist views, which also included an appeal for the "mobilization of Arab and Islamic armies to liberate Palestine and the Aqsa Mosque."
Thousands of supporters of Hizb ut Tahrir, a radical pan-Islamic political organization, participate in a rally in Ramallah, on April 22, 2017. (Image source: Hizb ut Tahrir video screenshot)
Many of the extremist groups hoping to take over the West Bank despise Abbas and his PA leadership, who for them are arch-infidels. A brief statement, recently issued, again, by Hizb ut Tahrir concerning the transfer of ownership of land in Hebron to a Russian church, is telling:
"For more than a month, the Palestinian Authority and its most brutal criminals are practicing repression, arrests and intimidation, lies and misinformation in order to close the chapter of the land of the companion Tamim bin Aws Ad-Dari; the PA gave away 72 dunams of land in the heart of Hebron to the hateful and criminal Russians."
Referring to the PA's crackdown on supporters of Hizb ut Tahrir and similar groups that have also been protesting the transfer of the land to Russians, the statement added:
"The PA commits one evil crime after another, with no shame or bashfulness; from surrendering of endowment land to the arrest of the sincere people of the country to the spreading of lies and fabrications – all to reward the crimes of the Russians against the Ummah in Palestine, ignoring the rules of Islam. The PA gives no weight to the sanctities of Islam."
In addition to the rally, Hizb ut Tahrir and similar groups have also been organizing a series of lectures and seminars throughout the PA-controlled territories in a bid to rally supporters behind their plan to "liberate all Palestine" and establish an Islamic state that governs according to sharia.
The annual Hizb ut Tahrir rally, which draws thousands of Palestinians, is yet another reminder of the growing influence of radical Islamic groups among Palestinians. In many ways, it is hard to tell the difference between Hamas, ISIS, Islamic Jihad and Hizb ut Tahrir. They all share the same goal: the elimination of Israel and the establishment of an Islamic regime where non-Muslims (dhmmis) would live as minorities and pay jizya, the tax levied by Islamic states on non-Muslims residing in Muslim countries.
Why, then, do Abbas and his PA allow these extremists to send their poisonous messages towards Israel? Some Palestinians argue that fear is what drives them to refrain from stopping Hizb ut Tahrir from issuing calls for the annihilation of Israel. Others claim that Abbas already has huge problems with Hamas and does not want to add to his list of enemies another radical Islamic group, which, they explain, does not engage in violence and terrorism as does Hamas. It is also possible that deep inside, Abbas and many of his top aides identify with the goals of Hizb ut Tahrir, namely the elimination of Israel. Abbas also wishes to use these Islamic extremists to depict himself as the "good guy" versus the "bad guys." This is a ploy intended to dupe Westerners into giving him more funds "out of fear that the Islamists may take over."
This stance may work for Abbas. However, Israel, and secular Palestinians who are not eager to live under an Iranian-style or Saudi-style Islamic regime, are the big losers here.
Meanwhile, such rallies in the center of Ramallah will only help raise another generation of Palestinians on the glorification of jihad and will further incite them against Israel.
Abbas's claim that he seeks a just and comprehensive peace with Israel is refuted by fact after fact on the ground. His sweet-talk about peace and the two-state solution will have far less impact on Palestinians than the voices of Hizb ut Tahrir and its sister groups, which strive to "liberate Palestine, from the river to the sea." One wonders on whose behalf Abbas is speaking when he talks about coexistence with Israel. Indeed, one wonders if he is even speaking on behalf of himself, with the center of Ramallah the stage for Hizb ut Tahrir and its jihadi friends?
**Bassam Tawil, an Arab Muslim, is based in the Middle East.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Happy Earth Day. Enjoy It While You Last.
Faye Flam/Bloomberg/April 26/17
The people who know the most about life on Earth tend to be the most impressed by its staying power.
Harvard professor Andrew Knoll marvels that our planet has sustained life continuously for four billion years — most of its 4.5 billion years in existence. This is not just a matter of location, said Knoll, who is an earth and planetary scientist. Mars and Venus are both in what astronomers would consider a “habitable” zone, getting sunlight in a range suitable for living organisms. Now both are barren (or close to it).
Earth has special features that may or may not be present on many of the other planets detected around the galaxy. Earth’s geology helps regulate the climate through the cycling of carbon dioxide. When exposed rocks weather, carbon dioxide gets pulled out of the atmosphere, allowing the globe to cool. When those rocks get covered in ice, the weathering stops, and carbon can build up as it’s replenished by volcanoes.
We can thank Earth’s system of plate tectonics for this, said Peter Ward, a paleontologist from the University of Washington and co-author of the book “Rare Earth: Why Complex Life Is Uncommon in the Universe.” As new crust continues to be exposed in some places and old crust is buried, carbon can cycle in and of the atmosphere. We’re also very lucky, said Ward, that the Earth got just the right amount of water. It’s thought that most came from impacts with comets early in the history of the solar system. If we’d gotten a bit more, and ended up like that third-rate Kevin Costner movie, he said, Earth would be a lot hotter — maybe too hot for complex life.
Complex life, including plants and animals, are particular. They didn’t get going until the most recent 600 million years. Bacteria are another story. It’s hard to put a date on the origin of simple life because it happened so early. What we know, said Harvard’s Knoll, is that the very oldest rocks on Earth were formed 3.8 billion years ago, and they hold preserved signatures of life.
That’s fast given the widely held view that a few million years after its formation, the infant Earth collided with another early planet, creating debris that became the moon. After the crash, some scientists have calculated that the Earth’s surface temperature reached 3,600 degrees Fahrenheit and our planet shone like a star.
After it cooled off, there were further radical changes: periods when tropical plants grew at the poles, and periods when ice flowed down to the equator. But the extremes always eventually gave way to more moderate periods, and life was never extinguished.
All this recovery and cycling may sound reassuring, backing a longstanding popular belief in an inherent balance of nature. As historian Spencer Weart describes it in his book “The Discovery of Global Warming”: “Hardly anyone could imagine that human actions, so puny among the vast natural powers, could offset the balance that governed the planet as a whole. This view of Nature — suprahuman, benevolent and inherently stable — lay deep in most human cultures.”
But in the last few decades, scientists have learned that there’s no real barrier between the physical processes of the planet and the biological ones. Earth was not born a blue planet rich with oxygen. Single-celled organisms called cyanobacteria started releasing oxygen into the atmosphere. The emergence of plants changed the climate. Animals changed the climate. Even the evolution of poop changed the physical world, said Ward, by creating a new mechanism by which carbon and other materials would get packaged up and sink to the bottom of the ocean.
That still leaves the argument that human-generated greenhouse gases — like early fish poop — represent nothing the Earth can’t handle. Knoll said he recalled a newspaper column by George Will, still available online, arguing that current climate change is nothing to worry about because the past periods of climate change were not the end of the world. But the column focused on recent, small blips in the climate, not on the bigger, longer-term upheavals.
Some periods of climate change were terrible. Take one 252 million years ago called the End Permian extinction. Large volcanic eruptions, possibly combined with ignition of coal beds, led to a rapid enough global warming to kill off about 90 percent of the planet’s species. This was good for some — especially sulfur-excreting bacteria — whose flourishing is preserved in the fossil record. But it was bad for plants and animals. In another of his popular books, “Under a Green Sky,” Ward describes the End Permian seashore this way: “No fish break its surface, no birds of any kind. We are under a pale green sky and it has the smell of death and poison.”
So life went on, in an altered form, and plants and animals again flourished after a few million years. Knoll doesn’t find this particularly reassuring. “We are changing the climate at a geologically unusual rate,” he said — changes comparable to an era of volcanism a million times more powerful than anything in human history. Earth’s climate will probably recover from this human-fueled round of global warming, but “on time scales that are unimaginable to humans.” And perhaps without humans.

Russians on Yemen: Only fight al-Qaeda
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya 26/17
The Russian vision on affairs in our countries is part of the problem and not part of the solution. When it comes to crises, all the Russians see is one slogan “the war on terrorism” – everything else doesn’t matter to them. They seek to cancel and marginalize any other real problem and sometimes these problems which Russia neglects are the reason terrorism flourishes. Extremism breeds terrorism and it’s mainly an intellectual and educational problem. However, pointing this out is not enough to eliminate the forces which strengthen it and help it mobilize and recruit people. During a conference held in Geneva to aid Yemen, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennadiy Gatilov said the most important thing that the international community can do for Yemen is stop the “mad war,” and he called for ending the siege and proposing an initiative to improve the humanitarian situation.
The Houthi group is evil, just like al-Qaeda and ISIS are. This is the case even if the Russians do not see this as clearly as we do
The bigger evil
This is reasonable. We all want to stop the war and help the distressed people in Yemen but notice the traditional Russian turn when Gatilov added that if the war resumes in Yemen, ISIS, al-Qaeda and other terrorists and extremists will benefit. The Russian diplomat called for ending all forms of siege on Yemen and warned of worsening the humanitarian catastrophe in case of an assault against the Hodeidah Port and targeting – liberating – Sanaa. He added this was not acceptable. However, let’s clarify the following. First of all, the war in Yemen was launched against terrorist groups that are affiliated with the Khomeini republic. These groups share the same ideology as Iran and they are armed by the latter, and they seek – upon Iran’s support – to target Saudi Arabia with missiles seeking destruction and death.
The Houthi group is evil, just like al-Qaeda and ISIS are. This is the case even if the Russians do not see this as clearly as we do.
The Houthi factor
We thank the Russian official for his “sensitive” emotions and for the humanitarian aid and concern over human rights in Yemen. However, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Gulf countries have before all other countries helped the Yemenis with their needs. Yes, the humanitarian situation is dangerous and difficult in Yemen. War is always ugly, even if it’s necessary, but I think that what the Russians have done in Caucasia to protect their security is much more than what’s happening in Yemen!
The Hodeidah port is the major naval portal to supply aid and it is under the Houthis’ control. The questions which the Russians must thus ask is: Who is obstructing the delivery of humanitarian aid to people and sending it to its groups in Yemen or selling it in the black market? The conclusion is that in order to eliminate al-Qaeda and ISIS, we must eliminate the Houthi group. They are all as evil.

Tackling the threats directly emanating from Iran
Sawsan Al Shaer/Al Arabiya 26/17
Gulf Cooperation Council countries need to focus on the forms of Iranian threats against Gulf national security and figure out how they are linked to American interests. Are they threats linked to the Iranian nuclear agreement? Or to Iran’s support of its agents in the region? We must specify where the front that Iran launches its war from is, so our attack is focused! On April 19, American President Donald Trump ordered agencies to review the nuclear agreement with Iran to figure out whether suspending sanctions is in America’s interest. It’s worth mentioning that Trump once wrote on Twitter: “Iran was on its last legs and ready to collapse until the US came along and gave it a life-line in the form of the Iran Deal: $150 billion.” Also on April 19, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said while in Riyadh that they’ve all seen Iran’s bad behavior and path in Lebanon, Syria, Bahrain and Yemen, adding that this must be dealt with at some point. On April 15, CIA chief Mike Pompeo warned that “rogue states such as Iran face tougher military action from America under Donald Trump.”Let’s recall US Ambassador to Bahrain William Roebuck’s recent statements on Iran as he better understands our worries in the region. Last Thursday, he voiced fears due to Iran’s support of terrorism and agents that seek to destabilize countries, adding that they were worried of the Joint Comprehensive Action Plan and they still are.
The battle is right here, in Arab countries and it’s against Iran’s agents. Replicating Hezbollah’s model in Iraq and Yemen and the attempts to replicate this model in Bahrain is what we must confront and uproot. Roebuck said there was a belief that if Iran attains nuclear weapons, confronting its malicious efforts to destabilize other countries and support terrorism will be more difficult. According to Roebuck, during a conversation between Saudi King Salman and US President Donald Trump, the two men voiced the importance of strictly executing the joint comprehensive action program with Iran and addressing the latter’s activity that destabilizes regional countries.Roebuck added that President Trump and his team clearly clarified where the US stands in terms of Iran’s behavior that upsets stability across the Middle East. Gulf work is thus important here as this is where our role in bringing American and Gulf points of view closer comes.
Sanctioning Iran
Of course, weakening Iran and pressuring it via sanctions can influence its support to its agents in the region. This is our next front but it may take a lot of time to see results especially that Iran has other resources to fund its agents. These resources are the sums of money collected by Arab Shiites, estimated to be around $95 billion. This money is under Khamenei’s control. Therefore, the question is will economic sanctions effectively diminish the power of agents which pose the worst threats against us in the region? What’s important is to be very clear and decisive, whether we have the US support of not. We must uproot the terrorism of ISIS, the Houthis and the Popular Mobilization. We must be clearer in terms of the idea that GCC countries will not be lenient towards those who support Iran’s agents regardless of the nature of their work, be it political, media-related or religious. These are the fronts from which Iran fights us and we must direct our efforts towards confronting this. We must focus on these wings and follow their tracks all the way to the key Iranian agents that prepare them and support them to harm our countries’ stability and security. We will not rest until we eliminate Iran’s agents and deprive them of all their weapons, whether they’re civilian or military weapons, and hold them accountable after they betrayed their vows and sold their homeland.
The Arab battle
We must make it clear that there’s no political wing and a military wing as they’re all the same. Take Hezbollah as an example. It considered itself a political wing and a partner in the Lebanese state but then it used its arms against it. The Houthis and the Popular Mobilization did the same. Political organizations and licensed dailies that supported Al-Ashtar Brigades in Bahrain did the same. They had misled the public opinion, the international community, international organizations and the former American administration. All these wings follow the Iranian religious reference. They pretended to be as innocent as lambs and claimed they were mere political parties or dailies or institutions that raise cultural and religious awareness. However, their malicious roles which are affiliated with the Iranian project were exposed. There’s no difference between those who carry arms and those who support men who take up arms. This is what American officials must comprehend: We do not need to open a front with Iran. Imposing economic sanctions on Iran will not restrain Iran’s agents and their activity. The battle is right here, in our Arab countries and it’s against Iran’s agents. Replicating Hezbollah’s model in Iraq and Yemen and the attempts to replicate this model in Bahrain is what we must confront and uproot.

Move over globalization, the Silk Road is ‘rising up again’
Ehtesham Shahid/Al Arabiya 26/17
“From East to West, the Silk Roads are rising up once more”. Peter Frankopan makes several interesting observations in his book – “The Silk Roads, A New History of the World.” According to him, we are now seeing the signs of the world’s center of gravity shifting – back to where it lay for millennia.
There is little doubt that new connections are springing up across the spine of Asia with new arteries, transport links and energy corridors. Frankopan even calls today’s upheaval and violence as “birthing pangs of a region that once dominated the intellectual, cultural and economic landscape and which is now re-emerging”. For the uninitiated, the Silk Road was an ancient network of trade routes. For centuries these roads were central to cultural interaction through Asia, connecting the East and West. It began as an overland route from China to the West but as nautical prowess increased, it extended to land and sea. While one is entitled to call Frankopan’s theory simplistic, he deals with the merits of his argument throughout his book. In doing so, he lays down the landscape of a resource-rich stretch of land that is gaining traction. The author claims that these lands have always been of pivotal importance in global history. According to Frankopan, we see globalization as a uniquely modern phenomenon; yet 2,000 years ago too, it was a fact of life, one that presented opportunities, created problems and prompted technological advance. It raises two important questions in my mind: Has globalization outlived its utility? And more importantly, is the re-emerging Silk Road a new form of globalization and why is it so central to today’s geopolitics? Frankopan maintains that the region in question has enormous untapped potential and is about to break the shackles. “Economists are yet to turn their attention to the riches that lie in or under the soil, beneath the waters or buried in the mountains of the belts linking the Black Sea, Asia Minor and the Levant with the Himalayas”, he writes in the book.The Silk Road appears to be a benevolent movement that is willing to mutually benefit from cross-border partnerships. It is neither a marauding ruler of the past who would raze cities on his way to conquering kingdoms nor a convoluted form of globalization that rids the world of its unique cultural identities
Divergent views
Views are bound to differ on what the ambitious project has achieved and how many of them are yet to come to fruition. However, one has to agree that the true Mediterranean – the center of the world – is witnessing the re-emergence of a series of connections. Interestingly, the sequence of events suggests that history is repeating itself, albeit in a reverse manner. If China is investing heavily in bonding itself to the Silk Roads that lies to the West, now we are witnessing the reverse of “Rome’s eyes opening to the world”. At that moment in history, the East was the antithesis of everything that martial Rome stood for, while today Asia looks up to the West for its institutions, innovations and scientific advancements. Either way, the Silk Road appears to be slowly turning into a juggernaut that can hardly be interrupted. We can imagine one Silk Road being superseded by another and the momentum that has been built is likely to carry forward. Like all geostrategic shifts, this also comes with diverse “national interests” that cannot be overlooked. China may be marketing the Silk Road with the stated objective of boosting trade, finding markets for its products and services abroad and securing energy supplies but this cannot be detached from its “hegemonic” ambitions. Yet, so far, the Silk Road appears to be a benevolent movement that is willing to mutually benefit from cross-border partnerships. It is neither a marauding ruler of the past who would raze cities on his way to conquering kingdoms nor a convoluted form of globalization that rids the world of its unique cultural identities. If it manages to redefine globalization, the Silk Road will indeed succeed at shifting the global balance of power.

An affordable green card for expatriates

Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi/Al Arabiya 26/17
I have had several queries from expatriate friends of different nationalities, seeking clarification about the proposed Saudi green card. Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, second deputy premier and minister of defense, earlier announced the government’s plan to introduce a green card system with several benefits. Most queries were about the details of such a system, including the conditions, requirements and cost involved in obtaining a card. Expatriates also wanted to know when this system was going to be introduced in the Kingdom. Unfortunately, I am not in a position to give a definite and clear-cut answer to any of these questions, as the matter is still being studied by the concerned authorities, such the ministries of interior, finance, labor, commerce, economy and planning, as well as the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority. After completion of these studies, the topic will be referred to the Shoura Council to be studied by its committees.
This will be followed by deliberations in regular sessions of the Shoura in which all members can take part and articulate their viewpoints and opinions. Upon the Shoura Council’s adoption of a draft bill, it will be referred to the Council of Ministers for approval and implementation.
announcement about the intention to introduce a green card system that would allow expatriates to reside in the Kingdom permanently in a similar manner to green card holders in the United States, the reaction from the Saudi public has been mixed. There have been supporters and opponents of this proposal and their viewpoints have been aired on social media websites.
Since the announcement about the intention to introduce a green card system that would allow expatriates to reside in the Kingdom permanently in a similar manner to green card holders in the United States, the reaction from the Saudi public has been mixed
Benefits to the nation
Some have welcomed the idea and have indicated that it would bring about many social, economic and security benefits to the nation in terms of the payment of Zakat and taxes by expatriates that are hitherto collected only from Saudis. Moreover, it would be instrumental in reducing the volume of foreign remittances. Green card holders would be allowed to engage in any businesses and commercial activities as well as to own property as in the case of Saudi citizens. The only difference would be citizenship, as expatriates would continue to keep their own nationality. Only those expatriates who fulfill the strict terms and conditions under the special citizenship law would be given Saudi citizenship. The green card would abolish the controversial sponsorship law, which continues to remain an object of criticism by international human rights organizations. This system has also come under criticism by local human rights activists and some writers. The green card system would eliminate the phenomenon of tasattur, the illegal practice by which Saudis permit expatriates to manage businesses in their names for a share in the profits. Tasattur has spread across the country and all attempts to eliminate it have ended in failure.
As for those who oppose the green card idea, they tend to repeat the same arguments without understanding whether there is any basis for such arguments. These arguments include the allegation that “foreigners are eating up and depleting our resources and deprive our children of jobs”. They make such allegations without any substantial evidence or logic.
A materialistic point of view
What bothers me the most is that all those who support granting a green card to expatriates look at the subject simply from a materialistic point of view, claiming that it would pump as much as SR18 billion per year into the state treasury. Of course, there is no doubt that the material aspect is important, but it is not supposed to be everything. The proposed fee for the green card is SR14,000 per annum. This is, I think, a high amount, especially in the case of those expatriates who have spent a long period of time in the Kingdom and who wish to continue living in the Kingdom owing to religious, emotional and social reasons. Many of these expatriates would not be able to afford such as large amount. This fee can be collected from those expatriates who can afford it, in addition to those who are involved in business and commercial activities.
I previously wrote an article in this newspaper, asking Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Naif, deputy premier and minister of interior, to look into the case of those expatriates who have served the Kingdom for a long period of time – sometimes more than 30 years – but who are no longer able to work. However, these expatriates want to stay in the Kingdom or make frequent visits to the Kingdom owing to religious or sentimental reasons.
My request to the Crown Prince in the article was to take a favorable view of such demands by issuing permanent residency permits for these expatriates to live here or to visit the Kingdom at frequent intervals as a token of recognition of the services rendered by them to the nation.
Some of these expatriates came to the Kingdom while they were in the prime of their youth, but are now elderly and unable to continue their work as they did in the past. However, they still cherish a desire to stay in the Kingdom or at least to make frequent visits between their homeland and the Kingdom. A green card would certainly be a solution for them, but the fee should be one that they can afford.