April 29/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 22/41-46/:"While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: ‘What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?’ They said to him, ‘The son of David.’ He said to them, ‘How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying, "The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’ "?
If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?’ No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions."

For the Lord’s sake accept the authority of every human institution

First Letter of Peter 02/11-17/:"Beloved, I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul. Conduct yourselves honourably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honourable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge. For the Lord’s sake accept the authority of every human institution, whether of the emperor as supreme, or of governors, as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish.
As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. Honour everyone. Love the family of believers. Fear God. Honour the emperor."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 28-29/17
Dr. Walid Phares on al Arabiya: "The first 100 days of the Trump Administration stirred the US in a strategic direction, antipode to Obama's"/April 28/17
Is Iran secretly developing a nuclear bomb/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arabnews/April 28/2017
Why Islamists and Fascists Persecute Christians/Raymond Ibrahim/FrontPage Magazine/April 28/17
Moscow is Trying to Influence Iran’s Presidential Contest/Amir Taheri/AsharqAl Awsat/April 28/17
Globalization of Terrorism in the Service of Bigotry/Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al Awsat/April 28/18
A Month of Islam and Multiculturalism in Germany: March 2017/Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/April 28/17
Absolving Jihadis of Responsibility for Terrorism/A. Z. Mohamed/Gatestone Institute/April 28/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published on April 28-29/17
Bassil: Parliament Must Conform to National Pact, FPM Sacrificing Seats to Avoid Extension
FPM, Hizbullah, Mustaqbal, LF and PSP Hold Unprecedented Electoral Law Meeting
Report: Parties Evaluate Electoral Law, Senate Drafts Suggested by Berri
Man who Crossed into Israel Handed Over to Lebanese Army
Trial of Habib Chartouni in Bachir Gemayel assassination case adjourned till July 7
Aoun: People with autism are integrant part of society
Rahi welcomes Central African official
Riachy informs NNA procurement services employees of their contracts termination
State Security apprehends Syrian Captagon dealer in Saadnayel
Protesters stage sit in against Costa Brava waste dump
Jumblat Raises Concerns of Le Pen's Win in French Elections
Israeli Strikes on Hizbullah in Syria Pick Up Tempo in Proxy War
Shorter Meets Berri, Calls for Holding Timely, Peaceful and Transparent Elections
Chinchinian Says LF Open for Discussing any Law Format
General Security Detains Drug Dealers in Jbeil
Lebanese Arrested in Kiryat Shmona after Infiltrating Israel
Jumblat Says Would Accept 'Proportional Representation Law Taking Minorities into Account'

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 28-29/17
Pope Francis Pleads for 'Holy' Peace during Egypt Visit
40 Dead in Rebel-Jihadist Clashes near Damascus
Reports: U.S. Troops Deploy along Syria-Turkish Border
Turkish Army, Syrian Kurdish Militia in New Clashes
Chemical Weapons Allegedly Used 45 Times in Syria, Says OPCW Head
Netanyahu Hits out at 'Insensitive' German Diplomacy
Clashes at Protests to Support Palestinian Hunger Strikers
U.S.: Threat of N. Korean Nuclear Attack on Seoul or Tokyo is Real
Yemen's President Fires Minister, Aden Governor
China: Use of force in N Korea would lead to bigger disasters
France's Melenchon says will not endorse any candidate for presidential runoff
Erdogan to return to Turkey's governing party on May 2

Latest Lebanese Related News published on April 28-29/17
Bassil: Parliament Must Conform to National Pact, FPM Sacrificing Seats to Avoid Extension
Naharnet/April 28/17/Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil stressed Friday that respect for the 1943 National Pact must also involve parliament, not only the government, as he noted that the FPM is ready to “sacrifice” parliamentary seats in order to avoid another extension of parliament's term.
“The electoral law is the means through which the Lebanese take their rights and the specter of extension must be dispelled,” Bassil added during an FPM ceremony. “We cannot believe that more than 20 proposed electoral laws have all failed to receive approval,” the FPM said, concluding that “some parties are seeking extension.” “No to extension and yes to a new law,” he stressed. Bassil also announced that the FPM is willing to “sacrifice seats” in order to avoid extension while emphasizing that it can never “sacrifice the National Pact.”

FPM, Hizbullah, Mustaqbal, LF and PSP Hold Unprecedented Electoral Law Meeting

Naharnet/April 28/17/A meeting over the electoral law was held Friday afternoon between the representatives of the country's main political parties, media reports said. The two-hour meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Ashrafieh was attended by Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil, MPs Ibrahim Kanaan and Alain Aoun of the FPM, Hizbullah secretary general's political aide Hussein al-Khalil, Lebanese Forces deputy head MP George Adwan, Prime Minister Saad Hariri's adviser Nader Hariri and MP Ghazi Aridi of the Progressive Socialist Party. The meeting comes amid intensified deliberations among the political forces that aim to reach an agreement on a new electoral law before the crucial May 15 legislative session. It was the first such meeting to be attended by a PSP representative and also the first one marred by the absence of Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil, the political assistant of Speaker Nabih Berri. The attendance of PSP's representative comes a day after talks in Clemenceau between Bassil and PSP leader MP Walid Jumblat. Khalil and Adwan had held a meeting earlier on Friday at the Finance Ministry, according to LBCI television. Thursday's talks had involved a meeting between President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Saad Hariri, a meeting between PM Hariri and Khalil, and another between a PSP delegation and LF leader Samir Geagea.

Report: Parties Evaluate Electoral Law, Senate Drafts Suggested by Berri
Naharnet/April 28/17/Speaker Nabih Berri revealed that he has completed drafting two formats one for an electoral law based on proportional representation, and another “integrated” for establishing a senate, and that he handed them to the various political parties and kept their contents secret pending their positions, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Friday. “I believe these two projects offer a solution for the current crisis, and I see no other way. I have closed the page on the qualification electoral project. I only rejected it because it is not proper for the country's interest,” Berri told his visitors on Thursday.
On reports that Prime Minister Saad Hariri has informed Berri of his intention not to attend the May 15 parliament session and that he rejects a parliament term extension, Berri said: “I have congratulated Hariri on his stance. “They believe that I support an extension, it is their business. My position is well known and if they want to prove me wrong let them agree on a new electoral law,” remarked the Speaker. On the fate of a parliament session scheduled for May 15 shall Hariri decide not to attend, Berri said: “It is my duty to keep inviting the council to meet in order to avoid vacuum." The Speaker stressed saying: “There will be no law without consensus. There will be no voting on a law whatsoever.”Referring to Free Patriotic Movement Jebran Bassil's qualification law format, Berri stressed that he no longer “sees the qualification law anymore, I am making them a favor through my two project. Let them take advantage of it, knowing that I can sense that the senate project is garnering the support of the majority of political parties.”

Man who Crossed into Israel Handed Over to Lebanese Army
Naharnet/April 28/17/A Lebanese man who crossed the border into Israel on Thursday was returned Friday to Lebanon via the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). “Lebanese national Ali Imad Mrad was handed over by the Israeli occupation forces to the UNIFIL forces at the Ras al-Naqoura border crossing,” Lebanon's National News Agency said. UNIFIL forces in turn handed over the man to the Lebanese army, which has since launched an investigation, NNA added. Israeli and Lebanese media reports have described Mrad as mentally unstable. In an interview with al-Jadeed television aired Friday, the man's father also said that his son has psychological problems. “My son sent me an SMS yesterday asking me to call him so I did. An Israeli soldier who speaks Arabic answered me and told me, 'Your son is safe and sound',” the father told al-Jadeed. “He asked me what's wrong with my son and I told him that my son is ill, abnormal and suffering from mental problems. He asked me about the type of his illness and whether he takes any medications and I told him that his exact condition is yet to be diagnosed,” the man added. Asked whether Ali had told him that he intended to cross into Israel, the father said: “Yes, my son had told me that.”“My son used to say that he is of Jewish origin. Can you imagine a normal person saying this?” the man told the reporter. Mrad had been arrested Thursday in the central bus station of the northern Israeli community of Kiryat Shmona, which is about 10 kilometers from the border, Israeli media reports said. “Israel's border battalion in Metula went on alert after it failed to detect the crossing of the man, who entered from the Lebanese town of Kfarkila,” NNA said on Thursday.
The incident prompted heightened security measures on both sides of the border.

Trial of Habib Chartouni in Bachir Gemayel assassination case adjourned till July 7
Fri 28 Apr 2017/NNA - The Judicial Council adjourned the trial of Habib Chartouni in the assassination of martyr former President Bachir Gemayel case, till upcoming July 7.Kataeb bloc MP Nadim Gemayel expressed his satisfaction with "the course of the trial today, especially as the hearing session was set on July 7, which shows the seriousness and insistence of the Judicial Council on the prosecution of criminals."

Aoun: People with autism are integrant part of society
Fri 28 Apr 2017/NNA - President Michel Aoun on Friday maintained that autism is a humanitarian and national cause, highlighting the obligation to multiply efforts to make a brighter future for autistic people.
Aoun also called the political, educational, and social institutions to approach autism with the consideration that autistic people are an integrant part of society. The President made these remarks during a celebration at Baabda Palace this evening, upon the conclusion of the autism awareness month.

Rahi welcomes Central African official
Fri 28 Apr 2017/NNA - Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Mar Beshara Boutros Rahi welcomed, at Bkerki on Friday, Central African MP Guy Roger Moskit, accompanied by Central Africa's Consul in Lebanon Camille Fenianos. Talks reportedly touched on an array of affairs of common interest between the two countries. "The meeting was very rich. We discussed the situation in Central Africa Republic, which is very similar to that in Lebanon. Our country suffered a lot from the civil war, which they called sectarian; but it was political just like Lebanon war. But today we are living in peace and stability," the visiting official told reporters following the meeting. "The situation in Syria is concerning the entire world. And we have heard the Patriarch's viewpoint, especially regarding the impact of the displaced Syrians," he said. "I hope that Lebanon would be on the path of peace," he concluded.

Riachy informs NNA procurement services employees of their contracts termination
Fri 28 Apr 2017/NNA - Information Minister, Melhem Riachy, held on Friday a series of meetings with procurement services employees at the Ministry of Information during which he informed them of the end of their contracts, which are usually set for a specific period of time. In the wake of the meeting, the Minister told NNA employees and the Studies' department that their contracts which should be made for a specific period of time according to the law has ended. Minister Riachy said that "the employees are from the society's elites and have worked hard... They have a preference over other candidates to come back to the Ministry through legal means or civil service council.""I will work hard on a limited civil service council competition through a draft law to be submitted to the Council of Ministers and then to the House of Parliament to fill vacancies," Riachy added. Over the number needed by the Ministry to fill vacancies, the minister underscored that the ministry does not have a structure, and "we are preparing its structure perhaps there will be more jobs."

State Security apprehends Syrian Captagon dealer in Saadnayel
Fri 28 Apr 2017/NNA - A State Security patrol raided on Friday a cellphones' store in Saadnayel in Bekaa, and seized a huge quantity of Captagon pills.The store's owner, a Syrian using a fake Lebanese identity, was also arrested.

Protesters stage sit in against Costa Brava waste dump
Fri 28 Apr 2017/NNA - Activists staged a sit-in this evening in Choueifat, in protest at Costa Brava waste dump, calling for conclusive closure as of June 12, National News Agency correspondent reported on Friday.

Jumblat Raises Concerns of Le Pen's Win in French Elections
Associated Press/Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 28/17/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat touched on the presidential elections in France and cautioned against far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen's win in the second round of the elections. “Be careful of Le Pen she has not been defeated yet. (Far-left firebrand Jean-Luc) Melenchon and the so-called far-left are dangerous, opportunists and have no principles,” said Jumblat in a tweet.On Sunday, Macron topped the first round of voting for president, winning 23.75 percent of the vote to Le Pen's 21.53 percent. Nine other candidates were eliminated. Macron and Le Pen will face off in a second round of voting on May 7. Macron is campaigning on a centrist platform that favors business, the European Union and maintaining France's welfare safety net. Le Pen is campaigning on a nationalist platform that would curb immigration and weaken ties with the European Union. Le Pen's goal isn't simply to swing as many, now eliminated, Francois Fillon and Melenchon, voters as possible to her side but to persuade enough of them not to vote at all on May 7, in hopes that her reservoir of committed voters will outnumber those who'll back Macron, many reluctantly, simply to keep her extremism from reaching the Elysee Palace.

Israeli Strikes on Hizbullah in Syria Pick Up Tempo in Proxy War
Associated Press/Naharnet/April 28/17/Syria's military said Israel struck a military installation southwest of Damascus International Airport before dawn Thursday, setting off a series of explosions and raising tensions further between the two neighbors. Apparently seeking to interrupt weapons transfers to Hizbullah in Lebanon, Israel has struck inside Syria with increasing frequency in recent weeks, making the war-torn country a proxy theater for Israel's wider war with Iran. The increasing tempo of attacks risks inflaming a highly combustible situation drawing in Israel, Syria and the Iranian-backed Hizbullah, a staunch ally of President Bashar Assad's government with thousands of fighters in Syria. Israel's military said later Thursday that its Patriot Missile Defense system intercepted an incoming projectile from Syria over the Golan Heights. An Israeli defense official said the Patriot hit a drone, and the military is checking if it was a Russian aircraft that entered the Israeli side by mistake or if it was Syrian. He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with protocol. Both the Syrian government and Hizbullah, however, are mired in the country's 6-year-old civil war and are unlikely to carry out any retaliation that may ignite a bigger conflagration with Israel. "Iran and Hizbullah are overstretched, and it's not clear they can afford to gamble with a direct showdown with Israel now," said Maha Yahya, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center. "Iran knows no matter how powerful they've become, they can't be fighting on two fronts at the same time." Israeli Minister of Intelligence Yisrael Katz would not comment directly on the incident but said any similar strike would be in line with established policy to interrupt weapons transfers.
"It absolutely matches our declared policy, a policy that we also implement," Katz told Israel's Army Radio. Just before the apparent Israeli missile strike, at least three cargo jets from Iran probably landed at the Damascus airport, said Ian Petchenik, a spokesman for the flight-tracking website FlightRadar24. They include an Il-76 flown by the Iranian cargo company Pouya Air that "was last tracked over Iraq headed towards Damascus," he said. It's unknown what they were carrying. Passenger flights and civilian cargo jets continue flying into Damascus, although there's suspicion that some commercial flights serve as cover for weapons transfers from Iran.The Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a right-leaning think tank that has criticized the nuclear deal Iran struck with world powers, has said Pouya Air is the latest name for a long-sanctioned airline. It also has accused Pouya Air of funneling arms from Iran into Yemen's capital of Sanaa to supply Shiite rebels there. Emanuele Ottolenghi, a senior fellow at the foundation, said he tracked a fourth cargo flight from Iran to Syria on Wednesday night, an Airbus A300 operated by Mahan Air, which is suspected of ties to Iran's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard. He also called one of the cargo flights, a Qeshm Fars Air Boeing 747, especially suspicious because the airline stopped operating in 2013, only to resume flights to Damascus three weeks ago.
"We don't know for sure, but let's say that we can fairly safely assume that the weaponry and fighters reach Damascus through these daily flights," Ottolenghi told The Associated Press. The explosions near Damascus reverberated across the capital, seat of Assad's power. Syria's state-run SANA news agency said Israel had fired several missiles from inside the occupied Golan Heights, 60 kilometers (37 miles) south of Damascus, striking a military installation southwest of the airport that serves both military and civilian flights. It reported damage but no casualties."The buildings shook from the force of the blast," said a media activist who goes by Salam al-Ghoutawi of the Ghouta Media Center in the opposition-held northeastern suburbs, about 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the airport. He said he heard the roar of jets in the distance. Explosions were silhouetted against the night sky in a video published by the center. Debris was seen flying out as the explosions illuminated a sizable cloud nearby.Hizbullah's al-Manar television reported a blast at fuel tanks and a warehouse next to the airport, which is 25 kilometers (16 miles) east of central Damascus.
The Syrian military said in a statement the attack sought to "raise the morale of terrorist groups" the government maintains are fighting Assad's forces. It made no mention of whether it would respond. Israel is widely believed to have carried out airstrikes in recent years on advanced weapons systems in Syria — including Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles and Iranian-made missiles — as well as on Hizbullah positions. It rarely comments on such operations. Last month, Syria fired missiles at Israeli jets after they struck targets in Syria, in a rare military exchange between the two adversaries.Hizbullah is an avowed enemy of Israel, and the two sides fought a monthlong war in 2006. Tensions between them along the Lebanon-Israel border have risen in recent weeks, with each side warning of a much more serious confrontation. Some Israeli officials have also recently been threatening grave damage to the Lebanese civilian infrastructure in case of a new conflict with Hizbullah, apparently in hopes the country can somehow rein in the group.Yahya, the analyst, said Israel is increasingly worried about the potential arsenal that Hizbullah could acquire and the weapons already available in Syria. "Most likely they see a window of opportunity where their intervention can degrade Hizbullah's military power," she said. The conflict in Syria, which pits Assad and his regional allies against local and foreign opposition forces, has killed more than 400,000 people since it began in 2011. The civil war is further complicated by militant factions such as al-Qaida's affiliate in Syria and the even more powerful Islamic State group, which in 2014 seized a large chunk of territory but lately has been losing ground in the face of a campaign by a U.S.-led international coalition. Russia, another key Assad ally, denounced what it called an act of "aggression" against Syria. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova did not directly blame Israel for Thursday's explosion, but she cited Syrian media as saying Israel was responsible.

Shorter Meets Berri, Calls for Holding Timely, Peaceful and Transparent Elections
Naharnet/April 28/17/British ambassador to Lebanon Hugo Shorter met with Speaker Nabih Berri on Friday where discussions focused on the impending deadline for the parliamentary elections, a press statement said. “I welcomed the current political momentum that has re-activated Lebanon’s institutions and re-energized the strong bilateral cooperation between the UK and Lebanon,” said Shorter. “Examples of this momentum include the election of the President, formation of the government and reactivation of the parliament,” he added. “I hope that momentum can be maintained. In this regard, I would like to highlight recent statements I have co-signed with the International Support Group Ambassadors and EU Ambassadors, encouraging all parties to use the remaining time to reach agreement on the framework for holding timely, peaceful and transparent elections. We also agreed a new law should include a quota for women,” added the Ambassador. Pointing to the deadlines facing the entitlement, he remarked: “There are 54 days until the expiry of parliament’s mandate. Lebanon and its people have long been proud of their democratic tradition. The timely conduct of elections is key to ensuring that is preserved. It is always useful to discuss developments with the Speaker.“We will continue to follow discussions on a new electoral law and timing of elections very closely,” he concluded.

Chinchinian Says LF Open for Discussing any Law Format
Naharnet/April 28/17/Lebanese Forces MP Shant Chinchinian confirmed on Friday the party's willingness to discuss any electoral law format provided that it ensures proper representation, "especially for the Christians.""Some parties are deliberately wasting time so as to either impose the 1960 election law or extend the parliament's term,” Chinchinian told VDL (93.3) in an interview. The MP assured that the LF has reviewed all the electoral formats suggested so far, and is waiting now for a new proposal suggested by Speaker Nabih Berri. On a law proposal made by Progressive Socialist Party, the MP said: “The PSP made a quality leap with its hybrid election law proposal,” he said. The PSP had proposed a hybrid electoral law that mixes the proportional representation and winner-takes-all systems in an equal manner across 26 districts. As for Free Patriotic Movement Jebran Bassil's so-called qualification law the MP said: “The LF has nothing against Bassil's format, we only have some negotiable reservations.” Earlier this month, Bassil proposed an electoral law that involves sectarian voting in the first round.

General Security Detains Drug Dealers in Jbeil
Naharnet/April 28/17/The General Security in Mount Lebanon arrested on Friday a group of three drug dealers in the Blat-Jbeil neighborhood north of Beirut, the National News Agency reported. Based on an order by the competent judiciary, the General Security staged raids after midnight on a house in the neighborhood of Blat-Jbeil and arrested three individuals, two men and a female, active in the drug trade, NNA said. The police confiscated sizable amounts of cannabis, cocaine, heroin, and marijuana in the suspects' possession. Efforts are ongoing to arrest the rest of the gang members, it added.

Lebanese Arrested in Kiryat Shmona after Infiltrating Israel

Naharnet/April 28/17/Israeli forces arrested a Lebanese man in the northern Israeli community of Kiryat Shmona after he crossed the Lebanese-Israeli border, Lebanon's National News Agency reported. “Israel's border battalion in Metula went on alert after it failed to detect the crossing of the man, who entered from the Lebanese town of Kfarkila,” NNA said. The Lebanese army and security forces and U.N. peacekeepers meanwhile went on alert on the Lebanese side of the border, the agency added. Al-Jadeed television said the Israeli army was staging patrols along the border in the area.
Israeli news website Ynet said the Lebanese man “was caught in the central bus station in Kiryat Shmona, which is about 10 kilometers from the border.”Israeli residents who saw the man called the police and he was taken to a security station for questioning, Ynet added.

Jumblat Says Would Accept 'Proportional Representation Law Taking Minorities into Account'
Naharnet/April 28/17/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat announced Thursday that he would accept an electoral law fully based on proportional representation “if it is based on certain districts that take minorities into account in the current sectarian system.”In an interview with al-Jadeed television, Jumblat also stressed that there is no parliamentary vacuum in the constitution and slammed a proposed electoral system that involves sectarian voting in the first round as a “segregationist law.”“The political class must agree before May 15 on an electoral law that mixes between the winner-takes-all and proportional representation systems, or between proportional representation and the right districts. However, should there be no agreement on a new law, the 1960 law that was amended in Doha is still in effect,” Jumblat added. “I have suggested a solution, but there are other solutions. I don't mind the other solutions but no to the (sectarian) qualification system,” the Druze leader went on to say. Lambasting the qualification system as “outdated” and “a heresy,” Jumblat underscored that it is categorically rejected and that his ministers would vote against it should it be raised in Cabinet.“We are seeking agreement and partnership, not to topple the balances, and we reject the qualification system because it undermines partnership and produces segregation and disintegration,” Jumblat added, emphasizing that “there can be no electoral law without consensus.”He also reassured that “the elections will take place” and noted that his “only ally during this period is Speaker Nabih Berri.”Asked about calls for creating a senate, Jumblat said the constitution stipulates the abolition of political sectarianism as a precondition for the creation of a senate while noting that that there is a 1989 agreement on allocating the presidency of the senate to the Druze community.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 28-29/17
Pope Francis Pleads for 'Holy' Peace during Egypt Visit
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 28/17/Pope Francis pleaded for peace in a visit to Egypt on Friday as he attended a service in solidarity with the embattled Coptic minority at a church bombed by the Islamic State group. The pontiff walked to the Saint Peter and Saint Paul church in Cairo in a procession led by standard-bearing clergy, after meeting Coptic Pope Tawadros II at his headquarters. Security forces in the capital were on high alert under a state of emergency following a series of church bombings claimed by IS. On April 9, the jihadists bombed two churches in the Arab world's most populous country, killing 45 people in the deadliest attack on Copts in recent memory. Last December, the Saint Peter and Saint Paul church was itself targeted by a suicide bomber in an attack that killed 29 people. Francis had earlier met President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of the Al-Azhar institution, one of Muslim world's leading authorities, to push for dialogue between the two faiths. In a speech to a Muslim-Christian conference, the 80-year-old pontiff denounced violence and populism. "Peace alone... is holy and no act of violence can be perpetrated in the name of God, for it would profane his name," Francis said. He also took aim at what he called "demagogic forms of populism... on the rise", saying they were unhelpful to peace.Francis shuttled from one engagement to another in a closed car under heavy guard on the first day of his tightly scheduled 27-hour trip.
Innocent blood'
Police and soldiers stood guard outside the Vatican residence in Cairo and armored cars were stationed outside the Coptic Orthodox Saint Mark's Cathedral, where Tawadros II's headquarters are located.Francis met the Coptic pope at his headquarters, where the two exchanged gifts. "Our church and nation has been through a painful experience in the past few months when the sinful hand of terrorism reached out to murder praying innocents," Tawadros said in a speech at the meeting. "Their innocent blood unites us," Francis said in turn. He and Tawadros then walked in procession to the Saint Peter and Saint Paul church, where they sat near the altar as a choir sang hymns to clashing cymbals. Hours before the church visit, Francis became the first Roman Catholic pope to visit the head of Al-Azhar in his Cairo headquarters, sealing a recent improvement in relations between Catholicism and Islam. In another speech with Sisi in the audience, Francis expressed support for Egypt's military campaign against Islamic State group jihadists, who had bombed the churches and killed hundreds of troops. But he also insisted on "unconditional respect for inalienable human rights such as equality among all citizens, religious freedom and freedom of expression."Sisi has faced heavy criticism from rights groups for abuses since he led the military ouster of his Islamist predecessor Mohamed Morsi in 2013.
Pilgrim of peace
Before disembarking from his aircraft in Cairo, Francis had told reporters his visit was a "journey of unity and fraternity. Less than two days but very intense."His meeting with Tayeb, he said, would "be an example and a model for peace precisely because it will be a meeting of dialogue.""Please pray for my journey tomorrow as a pilgrim of peace to Egypt," Francis tweeted on Thursday, the eve of his departure. Before his visit, some roads had been festooned with posters showing Francis against the backdrop of the Pyramids, with a message that read: "Pope of peace in the Egypt of peace." John Paul II was the last pope to have visited Egypt in 2000, with his arrival also coming weeks after anti-Christian violence that killed about 20 Copts in January that year. Vatican dialogue with the Muslim world, a priority for this pope, was set back significantly when Francis' predecessor Benedict XVI made a speech in 2006 in which he was seen as linking Islam to violence. The now-retired German pontiff's 2011 comments condemning an attack on a Coptic church prompted Al-Azhar to denounce Benedict for meddling in Egypt's affairs. On Saturday, the pontiff will preside over a mass for the country's small Catholic community, estimated to number around 272,000 spread across various rites. Egypt's Copts, who make up about 10 percent of the country's population of 92 million, are the Middle East's largest Christian minority and one of the oldest. But they have suffered attacks throughout the years and many complain that they feel like second-class citizens.

40 Dead in Rebel-Jihadist Clashes near Damascus
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 28/17/Fierce clashes between jihadists and Islamist rebels near Damascus left at least 40 dead and 70 wounded on Friday, a monitoring group said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the clashes pitted the Saudi-backed rebel faction Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam) against Fateh al-Sham, al-Qaida's former branch in Syria, and Faylaq al-Rahman, which is backed by Qatar and Turkey. "There were at least 15 dead among the ranks of Jaish al-Islam and 23 among its adversaries" as well as two civilians, the Britain-based Observatory said. Another 70 were wounded. Jaish al-Islam said its opponents had provoked the clashes by harassing reinforcements headed for Qabun, east of the Syrian capital, a front with regime forces. Faylaq al-Rahman denied the allegation.In May 2016, more than 300 people were killed in a battle between the two sides.

Reports: U.S. Troops Deploy along Syria-Turkish Border
Associated Press/Naharnet/April 28/17/U.S. armored vehicles are deploying in areas in northern Syria along the tense border with Turkey, a few days after a Turkish airstrike that killed 20 U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters, a Syrian war monitor and Kurdish activists said Friday. Footage posted by Syrian activists online showed a convoy of U.S. armored vehicles driving on a rural road in the village of Darbasiyah, a few hundred meters from the Turkish border. Clashes in the area were reported between Turkish and Kurdish forces Wednesday a day after the Turkish airstrike which also destroyed a Kurdish command headquarters. The Turkish airstrikes, which also wounded 18 members of the U.S.-backed People's Protection Units, or YPG, in Syria were criticized by both the U.S. and Russia. The YPG is a close U.S. ally in the fight against the Islamic State group but is seen by Ankara as a terrorist group because of its ties to Turkey's Kurdish rebels. Further clashes between Turkish and Kurdish forces in Syria could potentially undermine the U.S.-led war on the Islamic State group. A senior Kurdish official, Ilham Ahmad told The Associated Press that American forces began carrying out patrols along the border Thursday along with reconnaissance flights in the area. She said the deployment was in principle temporary, but may become more permanent. A Kurdish activist in the area, Mustafa Bali, said the deployment is ongoing, adding that it stretches from the Iraqi border to areas past Darbasiyah in the largely Kurdish part of eastern Syria. "The U.S. role has now become more like a buffer force between us and the Turks on all front lines," he said. He said U.S. forces will also deploy as a separation force in areas where the Turkish-backed Syrian fighting forces and the Kurdish forces meet. It is a message of reassurance for the Kurds and almost a "warning message" to the Turks, he said. Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, did not dispute that U.S. troops are operating with elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) along the Turkish border, but he would not get into specifics. The SDF is a Kurdish-dominated alliance fighting IS that includes Arab fighters. "We have U.S. forces that are there throughout the entirety of northern Syria that operate with our Syrian Democratic Force partners," Davis said. "The border is among the areas where they operate." He said the U.S. wants the SDF to focus on liberating the IS-held town of Tabqa and the extremist group's de facto capital, Raqqa, "and not be drawn into conflicts elsewhere."Rami Abdurrahman, director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the deployment seems limited and is aimed to "prevent fighting" between the two sides.
The U.S. has recently shifted from working quietly behind the scenes in Syria's conflict toward overt displays of U.S. force in an attempt to shape the fight. Last month, about 200 Marines rolled into northern Syria backed with howitzers, significantly widening America's footprint in a highly toxic battlefield. The Marines' deployment came days after another intervention, when dozens of army troops drove outside the town of Manbij, riding Stryker armored vehicles, following an earlier conflagration of fighting between Syrian Kurdish troops and Turkish troops. The U.S. deployment in Manbij intentionally put Americans in the middle of that rivalry, hoping to cool it down. The SDF retook Manbij from IS control, and Turkey — with its troops nearby — said it won't allow the town to be under Kurdish control, threatening to move on it. The American presence appears intended to reassure Ankara the Kurds don't hold the town.
But the new deployment puts U.S. troops directly along the border with Turkey, another flashpoint, and immerses Washington into that increasingly hot fight.

Turkish Army, Syrian Kurdish Militia in New Clashes
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 28/17/New clashes erupted Friday between the Turkish army and a Syrian Kurdish militia seen as a terror group by Ankara but as a key ally by the United States in the fight against jihadists, the Turkish army said. Rockets fired from an area in Syria controlled by the Kurdish Peoples' Protection Units (YPG) targeted a Turkish army command post in the Ceylanpinar district of Turkey's southern Sanliurfa province. The Turkish army fired back, killing 11 "terrorists", it said. There were no reports of casualties on the Turkish side. This was the third day in a row clashes have been reported across the tense border after the Turkish air force earlier this week bombed YPG targets in Syria. The U.S. State Department has said it was "deeply concerned" that the strikes were conducted "without proper coordination either with the United States or the broader global coalition" against the Islamic State group (IS). Russia's foreign ministry on Wednesday meanwhile said Turkey's bombing raids were unacceptable and called on all sides to show restraint. But Ankara insisted that Washington and Moscow had been properly informed ahead of time. Turkey says fighters of the YPG in Syria are linked to Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) separatists inside Turkey, who have waged an insurgency since 1984 that has killed over 40,000 people. But Washington, wary of committing large numbers of its own forces on the ground, sees the YPG as essential in the fight against IS in Syria. The new clashes came as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday warned the YPG that Turkey would fire back against any assault and thwart the creation of any Kurdish state in northern Syria. "Are we going to leave them unanswered? We are doing what is necessary. We will take this kind of measure as long as the threats continue," Erdogan told a conference in Istanbul.

Chemical Weapons Allegedly Used 45 Times in Syria, Says OPCW Head
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 28/17/Experts from the world's watchdog tasked with destroying chemical weapons are probing reports that toxic arms have been used 45 times in Syria since late last year, the body's chief said Friday. Director general Ahmet Uzumcu said there was "a huge list of allegations" of the use of toxic arms reported to the operations hub of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). In the "second part of 2016, 30 different incidents, and since the beginning of this year, 15 separate incidents, so 45," he told a reporters, brandishing a list of several pages which he chose to keep confidential. They include the April 4 sarin gas attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun that was reported to have killed 88 people, including 31 children. "All these allegations are recorded by our experts, who follow this every day from our operations center," Uzumcu said. The OPCW is currently trying to ensure it is safe enough to deploy its fact-finding team to the town for further analysis, after Uzumcu said last week that "incontrovertible" test results from OPCW-designated labs on samples taken from victims showed sarin gas or a similar substance had been used. The government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has "already stated that they would support this mission, actually they have invited us to go via Damascus," he said. "The problem is that this area is controlled by different armed opposition groups, so we need to strike some deals with them to ensure a temporary ceasefire, which we understand the Syrian government is willing to do," he added. "If we can put all this together then we will deploy. The team is ready, and we have the volunteers."However, it is not yet mandated to also visit the Shayrat air base in the central Syrian province of Homs. The base was the target of a U.S. strike launched in the wake of the Khan Sheikhun attack, and Russia has called for the allegations that it was stocking chemical weapons to be investigated. Uzumcu also confirmed that the OPCW, based in The Hague, believed jihadist rebels from the so-called Islamic State group had used "sulfur mustard" near Iraq's second city of Mosul last week. The Iraqi military said some security personnel were injured in the April 15 attack as part of the operation to recapture Mosul. The OPCW has offered to help Iraqi forces investigate, but "they have not yet requested any assistance," Uzumcu said.

Netanyahu Hits out at 'Insensitive' German Diplomacy
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 28/17/Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday slammed Germany's foreign minister as "insensitive" over refusing to cancel meetings with rights groups critical of Israel's government, amid rising tensions between the two allies. Netanyahu had scrapped talks with Sigmar Gabriel at the last minute, after Germany's top diplomat pressed on with plans to meet with Israeli rights groups Breaking The Silence and B'Tselem. In an interview with Germany's biggest selling Bild daily, Netanyahu defended his decision. "Foreign diplomats are welcome to meet with civil society activists and members of the opposition and anyone else they'd like," he said. "But my red line is that I will not meet diplomats who come to Israel and lend legitimacy to fringe radical groups that falsely accuse our soldiers of war crimes and undermine Israeli security," he added.Pointing out that the meetings with the activist groups were held on a day when Israel was commemorating the victims of the Holocaust, Netanyahu said that "it was a particularly insensitive time to seek a meeting like this". "These are the days we mourn the murdered members of our people in the Holocaust and our fallen soldiers. The Israeli army is the one force that keeps our people safe today," he said. Netanyahu's decision to cancel the meeting with Gabriel was a rare step, but in line with the current right-wing government's stance against groups it accuses of having political agendas and unfairly tarnishing Israel. 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 been cautious in its public criticism of the Jewish state. However, tensions have grown as Netanyahu 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 for peace.

Clashes at Protests to Support Palestinian Hunger Strikers
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 28/17/Palestinians clashed with Israeli soldiers across the occupied West Bank on Friday in support of hundreds of Palestinians on hunger strike in Israeli prisons. Clashes took place near Israeli settlements and army checkpoints close to several villages in the Ramallah area, as well as by Hebron in the southern West Bank and many other locations further north. In the village of Silwad Palestinian protesters threw stones at Israeli troops manning a military tower, and soldiers retaliated by firing stun grenades and tear gas at them. The Palestinian Red Crescent said eight Palestinian were wounded in clashes across the West Bank. A spokeswoman for the Israeli army said that around 2,000 Palestinians took part in what she called "violent riots" across the West Bank and had been "dispersed". She gave no other details. The clashes -- on a day usually dedicated to anti-Israeli protests -- came as a hunger strike by hundreds of prisoners in Israeli jails was on its 12th day Friday. Palestinian officials says some 1,500 Palestinian prisoners were ingesting only water and salt. Israeli authorities have put the number of the hunger strikers at 1,200. The International Committee of the Red Cross -- the only organization that can access Palestinian inmates in Israeli prisons -- said Friday ICRC delegates were able to visit hundreds of hunger strikers. The ICRC had been denied visiting rights for nine days, a spokesman said, adding that the group hoped to be able to visit all the prisoners in the next days. The hunger strike began on April 17 and is being led by Marwan Barghouti, a prominent Palestinian leader and prisoner who is serving five life sentences for murder over his role in the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, of 2000 to 2005. Barghouti, of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party, is popular among Palestinians, with polls suggesting he could win the Palestinian presidency. Khaled Meshaal, chief of the rival Palestinian faction Hamas -- the Islamist movement that rules the Gaza Strip -- spoke on Friday about "the imperative to unite behind the cause of the prisoners". The prisoners have issued demands ranging from better medical care to phone access. The Palestinian Prisoners' Club warned early this week that Barghouti's health has seriously declined and that he was refusing medical treatment. Some 6,500 Palestinians are currently detained by Israel for a range of offenses and alleged crimes. Around 500 are being held under Israel's system of administrative detention, which allows for imprisonment without charge. Palestinian prisoners have mounted repeated hunger strikes, but rarely on such a scale.

U.S.: Threat of N. Korean Nuclear Attack on Seoul or Tokyo is Real
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 28/17/The United States sounded a global call to confront the North Korean nuclear threat Friday, exhorting Beijing to use its "unique" leverage to rein in Pyongyang and avert "catastrophic consequences."Addressing the U.N. Security Council after Donald Trump warned of the risk of a "major conflict," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for a campaign of pressure to force Pyongyang to change course and put a halt to its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. "Failing to act now on the most pressing security issue in the world may bring catastrophic consequences," Tillerson told the Council. "The threat of a North Korean nuclear attack on Seoul or Tokyo is real, and it is likely only a matter of time before North Korea develops the capability to strike the U.S. mainland," he said. Tillerson told the Council there was "no reason" to think North Korea would change course under the current multilateral sanctions regime, warning: "The time has come for all of us to put new pressure on North Korea to abandon its dangerous path." "I urge this council to act before North Korea does," he said. Washington has repeatedly called for tougher U.N. sanctions, but wants China to take the diplomatic lead by using its leverage over Pyongyang -- which Beijing has been reluctant to do for fear of destabilizing North Korea. At the council meeting, China pushed back, saying it was not realistic to expect one country to be responsible for solving the conflict. "China is not a focal point of the problem on the peninsula and the key to solving the nuclear issue on the peninsula does not lie in the hands of the Chinese side," Foreign Minister Wang Yi said.
All options on table
North Korea is seeking to develop a long-range missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland with a nuclear warhead, and has so far staged five atomic tests, two of them last year. The Security Council meeting follows weeks of warnings from the U.S. administration that it is running out of patience. "All options for responding to future provocation must remain on the table," Tillerson said. "Diplomatic and financial levers of power will be backed up by willingness to counteract North Korean aggression with military action, if necessary."Russia and China made clear that a military response to the threat from Pyongyang would be disastrous and appealed for a return to talks and de-escalation. China's Wang warned "the use of force does not solve differences and will only lead to bigger disasters."North Korea "is conducting itself in an inappropriate way," Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov told the council. "At the same time, options of using force are completely unacceptable and could lead to catastrophic consequences."Tillerson called on all countries to downgrade diplomatic relations with North Korea and impose targeted sanctions on entities and individuals supporting its missile and nuclear program.The U.S. chief diplomat placed the onus squarely on China -- which accounts for 90 percent of North Korea's trade -- saying it "has economic leverage over Pyongyang that is unique" and suggesting sanctions from Beijing would have a strong impact.
China and Russia argued that sanctions alone were not the answer.
Call for talks
The Chinese foreign minister pushed Beijing's proposal for reviving talks based on a freeze of North Korea's military programs. He said the long-standing proposal, which involves Pyongyang freezing military programs in exchange for a halt to U.S.-South Korean annual military drills, was "reasonable and practical." "Now is the time to seriously consider talks," said Wang. The United States has rejected the Chinese proposal and insists that North Korea first take steps to show that it is ready to abandon its military programs. At the end of the meeting, Tillerson again took the floor and bluntly re-asserted Washington's stance. "We will not negotiate our way back to the negotiating table. We will not reward their bad behavior with talks," he said. The United States, Russia and China took part in six-party talks on North Korea's denuclearization from 2003 to 2009, along with Japan, South Korea and Pyongyang. The Security Council has imposed six sets of sanctions on North Korea -- two adopted last year -- to significantly ramp up pressure and deny Kim Jong-Un's regime the hard currency revenue needed for his military programs. But U.N. sanctions experts have repeatedly told the council the measures have had little impact on Pyongyang because they have been poorly implemented. The meeting of the top U.N. body comes just days after South Korea received the first deliveries of equipment for a new missile defense system from the United States that China fiercely opposes.

Yemen's President Fires Minister, Aden Governor
Associated Press/Naharnet/April 28/17/Yemen's internationally backed president has fired a Cabinet minister and the governor of the southern port city of Aden, two figures known to be close to the United Arab Emirates, a key member of a Saudi-led coalition fighting Shiite rebels in Yemen since 2015. The firing late Thursday of Minister of State Hani Bin Braik and Aden Gov. Aidarous al-Zubaidi appears to be the latest chapter in a stand-off between President Abded Rabbo Mansour Hadi and the UAE. Relations between Hadi and the UAE have been tense over allegations by the Yemeni president that the Emiratis are offering patronage to southern Yemeni politicians campaigning for secession as well as what he sees as UAE violations of his country's sovereignty. Aden has been the seat of Hadi's government since 2014.

China: Use of force in N Korea would lead to bigger disasters
Fri 28 Apr 2017/NNA - China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned at the United Nations today against military action to respond to the threat from North Korea's missile and nuclear programmes. "The use of force does not solve differences and will only lead to bigger disasters," Wang told the Security Council.--AFP

France's Melenchon says will not endorse any candidate for presidential runoff
Fri 28 Apr 2017/NNA - Defeated French presidential election first-round candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon said on Friday he would not give any indication as to who his supporters should vote for in the May 7 runoff. "Me, I will vote...but I am not going to tell you how," Melenchon said in a video message posted on "You don't need me to know what you are going to do. I am not a guru, not a guide". Just under 20 percent of people who cast a vote in the first round picked Melechon. One poll on Friday by Odoxa showed that about 40 percent of those who voted for Melenchon in round one would vote for the centrist Emmanuel Macron, who is overall expected to win the second round with about 60 percent of the total vote. Odoxa said his run-off rival, far-right leader Marine Le Pen would get 19 percent of the Melenchon first-round vote, while 41 percent of it would be abstentions, the poll said. ---Reuters

Erdogan to return to Turkey's governing party on May 2
Fri 28 Apr 2017/NNA - Turkey's prime minister says the governing party will be inviting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to rejoin its ranks on May 2.
Speaking to reporters after Friday prayers in Antalya, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said, "we will restart the membership of the president, our founding chairman and our leader" at a meeting of the Justice and Development Party, or AKP. The "yes" outcome in the April 16 referendum has meant the cancellation of a constitutional article that required the president to sever his party ties. The AKP is scheduled to hold an extraordinary congress on May 21, where many expect the party to re-elect Erdogan as chairman.--AP

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 28-29/17
Dr. Walid Phares on al Arabiya: "The first 100 days of the Trump Administration stirred the US in a strategic direction, antipode to Obama's"
Mideast Newswire/April 27/17
In an interview with al Arabiya TV, Dr Walid Phares said that "in his first hundred days, President Donald Trump moved the United States foreign policy in the Middle East and other regions in a direction situated at the antipode of President Obama's policies." He argued that "from Iran to Syria, to the Gulf, Egypt, and North Korea, it is clear that the US now is engaged to push back against national security threats rather than containment or abandonment of allies. The relations with Egypt, the Gulf and East Asian allies such as south Korea and Japan have improved and messages to Iran and north Korea are clear." Phares added "in the first 100 days a country such as the US doesn't reach massive goals. This is materially impossible. A new Administration shows determination to change strategies and policies, and that is what happened."
Phares added: "the changes produced by the Trump Administration in both foreign and domestic policies were taking place amidst gigantic, rough and systematic push back waged by the opposition, in a density that is unique in US modern history. The real challenge will be to find solutions to wars and crises in the months and years ahead."

Is Iran secretly developing a nuclear bomb?
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arabnews/April 28/2017
Not the first time, new clandestine locations related to Iran’s nuclear program have been revealed. Tehran had previously kept secret some of its nuclear-related operations, in violation of the terms of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which had failed several times to detect Iran’s secret military-nuclear activities. Any current clandestine nuclear activities would not only violate the IAEA terms but also the nuclear deal.This week, critical information about Iran’s nuclear activities was disclosed by the opposition National Council for Resistance of Iran (NCRI). US President Donald Trump followed up by saying Tehran is “not living up to the spirit of the agreement.” Michael Anton, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said his colleagues are “carefully evaluating” the NCRI information.
The organization first revealed Iran’s clandestine nuclear activities in two major sites, Natanz and Arak, in 2000. Due to the NCRI’s connections in Iran, its information is said to have a high level of credibility. Frank Pabian, an adviser on nuclear non-proliferation matters at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, previously told the New York Times that the NCRI is “right 90 percent of the time.”The NCRI report states: “Reliable information… shows that the ‘nerve center’ of the Iranian regime’s nuclear weapons project, responsible for designing the bomb, has been continuing its work. Following the… nuclear deal reached in 2015, not only has the unit remained in place and its activities have not subsided, but it is now clear that in some fields its activities have even expanded.”The international community should act now, before Iran becomes a nuclear state, or else it will be too late for anyone to do anything. A nuclear bomb would ensure the survival of Iran’s clerical political establishment, the continuation of its policies and the robust advancement of its hegemonic ambitions without fear of repercussions. The NCRI says the Research Academy in the highly protected Parchin military base is being secretly used to continue the nuclear weapons project. The location has been hidden from IAEA inspectors. “The unit responsible for conducting research and building a trigger for a nuclear weapon is called the Center for Research and Expansion of Technologies for Explosion and Impact… known by its Farsi acronym as METFAZ.”
MEFTAZ and the new location are part of Iran’s umbrella engineering unit for the nuclear weapons program, the Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research, known by its Persian acronym SPND. This unit comprises seven subdivisions. The NCRI first revealed the SPND’s existence in 2011. It was later designated by the US State Department. The SPND has many secret centers; some may have not been detected yet. Iran has not allowed the IAEA to inspect or monitor many of its nuclear-related sites, including the SPND centers. Tehran has disguised their true nature by labeling some of them military sites or conventional research centers. During the nuclear talks, Iran was determined that Parchin be beyond IAEA inspection. Iranian generals frequently boast that the IAEA is not permitted to inspect these locations, including Parchin and its Research Academy.
The IAEA ought to thoroughly inspect all SPND centers. Interviews should be conducted with the nuclear program’s lead figures and researchers. Iran should not receive sanctions relief while pursuing its nuclear ambitions. The international community should act now, before Iran becomes a nuclear state, or else it will be too late for anyone to do anything.
A nuclear bomb would ensure the survival of Iran’s clerical political establishment, the continuation of its policies and the robust advancement of its hegemonic ambitions without fear of repercussions.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated, Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. He serves on the boards of the Harvard International Review, the Harvard International Relations Council and the US-Middle East Chamber for Commerce and Business. He can be reached on Twitter @Dr_Rafizadeh.

Why Islamists and Fascists Persecute Christians
Raymond Ibrahim/FrontPage Magazine/April 28/17
A study from the Europe-based Center for Studies on New Religions recently confirmed that “Christians continue to be the most persecuted believers in the world, with over 90,000 followers of Christ being killed in the last year [2016],” which computes to one death every six minutes. The study also found that as many as 600 million Christians around the world were prevented from practicing their faith.
Which group is most prone to persecute Christians around the world? The answer to this was made clear by another recent study; it found that, of the ten nations around the world where Christians suffer the worst forms of persecution, nine are Islamic, though the absolute worst—North Korea—is not.
What is it about Christians that brings the worst out of some people, Muslims in the majority? Three main reasons come to mind, though there are more:
Christianity is the largest religion in the world. There are Christians practically everywhere around the globe, including in much of the Muslim world. Moreover, because much of the territory that Islam conquered throughout the centuries was originally Christian—including all of the Middle East, Turkey, and North Africa—Muslims are still confronted with vestiges of Christianity. In Egypt alone, which was the intellectual center of early Christendom before the Islamic invasions, at least 10 million Christians remain. In short, because of their sheer numbers alone, Christians in the Muslim world are much more likely to suffer under Islam than other “infidels.”
Christianity is devoted to “proclaiming the Gospel” (literally, “the good news). No other major religion—not Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism—has this missionary aspect. These faiths tend to be coextensive with certain ethnicities and homegrown to certain locales. The only other religion that has what can be described as a missionary element is Islam itself. Thus, because Christianity is the only religion that actively challenges Muslims with the truths of its own message, so too is it the primary religion to be accused of proselytizing, which is banned under Islamic law. And by publicly uttering teachings that contradict Muhammad’s—including Christianity’s core message—Christians fall afoul of Islam’s blasphemy law as well. Hence why most Muslims who apostatize to other religions—and get punished for it, sometimes with death—apostatize to Christianity.
Christianity is the quintessential religion of martyrdom. From its inception—beginning with Jesus, and followed by his disciples and countless others in the early church—many Christians have been willing to accept death rather than to stop spreading the Gospel—or, worse, renounce the faith; this was evident in ancient times at the hands of the pagan Roman Empire and in medieval (and modern) times at the hands of Muslims and other persecutors. Practically no other religion encourages its adherents to embrace death rather than abjure the faith. Thus, whereas Christ says “But whoever denies me before men, I will deny him before my Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:33; see also Luke 14:33), Islam teaches Muslims to conceal and even publicly renounce Muhammad, rather than die. Moreover, other religions and sects approve of dissimulation to preserve their adherents’ lives. A nineteenth-century missionary observed that in Iran “Bahaism enjoys taqiyya (concealment of faith) as a duty, but Christianity demands public profession; and hence in Persia it is far easier to become a Bahai than to become a Christian.”[i]
Of course, Islam’s oppressive laws target people of all or no religions. Many outspoken Muslim apostates in the West who never converted to Christianity must fear execution should they ever fall into the hands of their former coreligionists. However, they are here now, alive and well in the West and warning us, precisely because they were not challenging the spiritual truths of Islam then, when they were living under its shadow—and why should they have been? If life is limited to the now, as it is in the secular worldview, why risk it, especially when merely not rocking the boat, as many “moderate Muslims” do, will save it?
It is in fact Christianity’s penchant to refuse to toe the line that, from its beginnings till now, has caused fascists and supremacists of all stripes—from the ancient Roman Empire (whence the word fascist is derived) to modern day North Korea—to persecute Christians. The latter have a long history of refusing to be silent and paying the sort of lip service that everyone else is willing to offer to get by.
Just as Jesus irked Pilate by refusing to utter some words to save his life—“Don’t you realize I have the power either to set you free or crucify you?” asked the bewildered procurator (John 19:10)—his disciples and countless other ancient Christians defied the Roman Empire, prompting several emperors to launch what, at least until now, were deemed history’s worst persecutions of Christians; and today, countless modern day Christians continue grieving and thus being punished by their totalitarian overlords—from North Korea to every corner of the Muslim world—for the very same reasons.
[i] Samuel M. Zwemer, The Law of Apostasy in Islam: Answering the Question Why There are So Few Moslem Converts, and Giving Examples of Their Moral Courage and Martyrdom (London: Marshall Brothers, 1916), 25.

Moscow is Trying to Influence Iran’s Presidential Contest
Amir Taheri/AsharqAl Awsat/April 28/17
For four decades Tehranis have heard so many weird slogans chanted in their streets that almost nothing comes as a surprise to them. And, yet, last week many Tehranis were surprised to hear a group of youths, all adorned with suitable beards, shouting: “Russian Embassy is a Nest of Spies!”
“Nest of Spies” was first launched in 1979 by Ayatollah Khomeini as a label for the US Embassy which had been raided and which diplomats were held hostage by the so-called “Students Following the Lead of Imam”. The operation that provoked a 444-day long stand-off between Tehran and Washington had been quietly encouraged by KGB elements in Tehran working through the Tudeh (Communist) Party and its smaller left-wing affiliates as a means of driving the US out of Iran.
At the time no one could imagine that one-day it would be the Russian Embassy’s turn to be thus labelled. True, Iran already has a history of raiding the Russian Embassy. In 1829, a mob, led by mullahs, attacked the Tsarist Embassy ostensibly to release two Georgian slave girls who had sought refuge there. Alexander Griboidev, the Embassy’s ambassador was seized, sentenced to death with a fatwa and beheaded. (Griboidev was more than a diplomat and had made a name as a poet and playwright.)
It is, of course, unlikely that the regime would allow anyone today to raid the Russian Embassy and seize its diplomats as hostages. Nevertheless, the anger expressed by the small bunch of demonstrators is real.
But why has the Russian Embassy become a target for militant anger some four decades later?
The question is all the more pertinent as the “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei has launched what he calls a “Looking East” strategy based on an alliance between Tehran and Moscow. That strategy is in direct violation of Khomeini’s famous: “Neither East nor West” slogan (Na sharqi, na gharbi!) Khomeini insisted that unless Russia converted to Islam it should not expect to be treated any differently than other “Infidel” powers. (The ayatollah sent a formal letter to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev inviting him to embrace Shiism.)
However, two years ago, in a four-hour long summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Khamenei agreed that his Islamic Republic would take no position on major international issues without “coordinating” with Moscow. That historic accord was quickly put into effect in Syria where Putin provided air cover for an alliance of forces assembled by Iran around the beleaguered President Bashar al-Assad.
Putin played a key role in exempting Iran from cuts in its oil production under an agreement between OPEC and non-OPEC producers to stabilize prices.
Putin also lifted the ban on sale of advanced surface-to-air missile systems that Iran says it needs to face any US air attack. At the same time, Moscow has done quite a lot to shield the Islamic Republic against further concessions on the thorny issue of Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Putin went even further by tacitly acknowledging Iran’s lead in shaping policy towards Iraq and Afghanistan.
Working in favor of strategic alliance with Moscow are several elements within the Islamic regime. These include the remnants of the Tudeh, the People Fedayeen Militia and assorted groups of anti-West activists. However, the proposed alliance also enjoys support from powerful clerics who believe they need Russian support to face any future clash with the US.
“By courageously defending the Syrian government, Russia has proved it is a true friend,” says Ayatollah Muhammadi Golpayegani who heads Khamenei’s personal cabinet.
However, to sweeten the bitter pill of alliance with Russia, a power which has a 200-year long history of enmity and war with Iran, the mullahs also claim they could seize the opportunity to spread their brand of Islam in the Russian Federation where Shi’ite account for less than three per cent of the estimated 30 million Muslims. (The only place where Shi’ites are in a majority is Darband in Dagestan.)
In his typically sly way, Putin has encouraged such illusions. He has promised to let Qom set up seminaries in both Darband and Moscow to train Russian Shi’ite mullahs. Putin has also set up something called Strategic Committee for the Spread of Islam led by Tatarstan’s President Rustam Minikhanov.(Tatarstan is the largest Muslim majority republic in the Russian federation.)
Having allegedly tried to influence the latest presidential election in the US and the current presidential election in France, Putin is also accused of trying to do the same in Iran. Last week he sent a 60-man delegation, led by Minikhanov, to Mash’had, Iran’s largest “holy” city to meet Ayatollah Ibrahim Raisi, the man regarded as one of the two candidates most likely to win the presidency. Minikhanov was accompanied by Tatarstan’s Grand Mufti Kamil Sami Gulen who told reporters that Putin wants Iran and Russia to work together to “present the true face of Islam to young people” and “counter propaganda by terrorist circles.”
Kremlin-controlled satellite TV channels have played up the meetings, casting Raisi as a statesman of international standing.
However, to hedge his bets, Putin had already received the incumbent president Hassan Rouhani during a hastily arrange visit to Moscow last month. However, some observers claim that Putin regards Rouhani and his faction as “too close to the Americans.”
Some senior members of Rouhani’s administration who are rumored to be US citizens or holders of “Green Cards”, may cast doubt on their sincerity to embrace a strategic alliance with Moscow.
There are signs that not everyone in the regime is happy about tying Iran’s future to that of the Putin regime. The slogan “Russian Embassy is Nest of Spies” is just one small example of that unhappiness. Other examples include a series of features published by the official media, including IRNA, about Russian historic aggression against in Iran.
One curious feature published by IRNA even claimed that US President Harry S Truman helped Iran recover two of its provinces occupied by Russian despot Stalin in 1946. Another feature, published by a news agency close to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard narrates the “shameful” history of pro-Russian factions in Iran from the 19th century onwards.
An old Persian saying claims Russia is a big bear to admire from afar; if he embraces you he will crush you.

Globalization of Terrorism in the Service of Bigotry
Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Al Awsat/April 28/18
In real democracies elections are a ‘means’ not an ‘end’. This is not the case with other types of democracy; such as the democracies of cheap slogans, and %90 victories which we have experienced in our countries, either to imitate others or to ingratiate ourselves to them in order to escape their pressure or anger. This year, political observers have been awaiting three major scheduled elections in the Netherlands, France, and Germany, following the Brexit referendum in the UK and the US presidential elections. However, certain calculations have prompted British Prime Minister Theresa May to call for a snap early election. As if the Brexit ‘earthquake’ has not been enough, and the Scottish nationalists’ drive for independence is not gathering added momentum, voters in the UK will find themselves on 8 June facing a second general election in less than one year and one month after the last one. Two days before the first round of France’s presidential elections, in the London apartment of an anglophile friend, there was a lively discussion about how the French and British deal with their respective democratic systems. During that discussion, we touched on two interconnected aspects: The difference in ‘party culture and traditions’, and the difference in ‘personal and social moods’ between the French and British (primarily, English) voters.
The French who vote today for their new president live a political culture different from that of their neighbors across the English Channel. Behind this fact are several factors, including:
1- The Geo-Environmental factor, as France is very much a part of the European mainland; and thus has witnessed since the dawn of history endless conquests, waves of immigration and settlement, and centuries of multi-ethnic interaction that have left a huge cumulative imprint on the French identity. Across the Channel, the British are ‘islanders’, which is a reality not only do they profess, but also stress to justify their tendency for exclusivity and exception. Still, while one must not dismiss the multi-ethnic side in the identity of the British, recalling the waves of conquests which brought the Celts, Romans, Angles and Saxons, Juts, Normans and others to Great Britain, the centuries’ old semi-isolation of the island has ensured a semblance of homogeneity in its central areas (as the Celts moved to the peripheries in Scotland, Wales, and Cornwall). This is not exactly true for France.
2- The factor of political change. Here, while France and the UK have both gone through civil wars and dynastic changes, the French have been more at home with ‘revolution’, as compared with ‘evolution’ – or gradual change – in the UK. In the latter, this has been the pattern since Magna Carta, and later ‘The Restoration’ (of monarchic rule after the Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth period following the parliamentarians’ rebellion against king Charles I). Hence, if ‘The French Revolution’ helped shape the political identity of France, and the storming of the Bastille became its national day it celebrates annually, the British position vis-à-vis rebellions or revolution is totally different. In fact, the British political establishment has been averse to any kind of armed struggle against the state as sedition, and in today’s jargon an act of terrorism. This is why London treated not the Irish Republican Army members, but also George Washington and the Mahatma Gandhi as “terrorists”.
3- The organizational/institutional factor. This applies when we see that the roles played by historic ‘larger than life’ individuals (such as Napoleon Bonaparte, Charles De Gaulle, and Francois Mitterrand) in France were much greater than those of political parties even during democratic rule. In the UK the opposite is true, as British political parties have always been ‘larger’ than the aura of their most successful leaders. One proof is that Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, the two longest serving Conservative and Labour prime ministers in the last 100 years, were brought down by their own parties, not defeated by the opposition.
During that evening at my anglophile friend’s apartment, those present talked about the ‘moodiness’ of the French voters as opposed to the consistency, even predictability, of their British counterparts.
Among the things said was that Theresa May would not have called for snap general elections 3 years before the life of the current Parliamentary term had she was not sure she would win big; something which would ensure her a lager majority, and give her the freedom to finalize the UK’s exit from Europe. Those holding this view noted that she must have calculated – based on opinion polls – that the Labour opposition was in a pretty bad shape under its current radical leftist leader Jeremy Corbyn, particularly, since Corbyn has lost Labour the support of the uncommitted ‘floating’ voters, against the background of a divided opposition parties, and increasing threat of secessionist nationalists, namely in Scotland.
Despite the fact that opinion polls went badly wrong twice last year, with ‘Brexit’ and US presidential elections, the clear cut single-constituency party-based British general elections are usually easier to predict than the result of a single-issue referendum that divided both Conservatives and Labour down the middle.
In France, it has been more difficult to predict the outcome. What is at stake is not just how to satisfy the voters of a country where there are 264 types of cheese – as De Gaulle famously said –, but also the broad spectrum of candidates from the extreme right to the extreme Left, while the traditional ‘establishment’ candidates trailing badly. The latest polls gave both the Republican Gaullist candidate and the Socialist candidates less support than the extreme Right’s Marine Le Pen and the independent centrist Emmanuel Macron, and sometimes even the extreme Left’s Jean-Luc Melenchon. Then, as if all this was not enough, the Muslim identity of the ‘Champs Elysees Terrorist’ could only boost the chances of Le Pen, as well as the Republican Francois Fillon, who has shared a lot of her stances on Muslims and immigrants during the last months.
A final thought. British democratic traditions have proven to be capable of containing extremism. While in France, is a second and decisive round of voting enough to prevent ‘globalized terrorism’ from making fear-nurtured isolationism and bigotry… the major voter?

A Month of Islam and Multiculturalism in Germany: March 2017
Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/April 28/17
Police knew as early as March 2016 that Anis Amri, the 31-year-old Tunisian who carried out the December 19 jihadist attack on the Christmas market in Berlin, was planning an attack, but he was not deported because he did not have a passport.
Humboldt University will become the sixth university in Germany to teach Islamic theology. Berlin Mayor Michael Müller revealed that the institute is being paid for by German taxpayers. Humboldt University President Sabine Kunst rejected calls for a joint "Faculty for Theology" for Christians, Muslims and Jews.
"What is clear is that the financing of mosques by foreign actors must stop." — Jens Spahn, a member of the executive committee of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU).
March 1. More than 4,000 millionaires emigrated from Germany in 2016, compared to 1,000 millionaires who left the country in 2015, according to the 2017 Global Wealth Migration Review. Before the migration crisis erupted in 2015, millionaires were leaving Germany at the rate of only a few hundred per year. Most of Germany's millionaires, citing deteriorating security, left for Australia, Canada, the United States, Dubai and Israel. The mass exodus of wealth is hollowing out Germany's tax base at a time when the German government is spending tens of billions of euros for the upkeep of millions of refugees and migrants from the Muslim world. The report's editor, Andrew Amoils, warned that the wealthy are a kind of early warning system for society. Due to their financial status, education and international contacts, they can emigrate more easily than others. Over the longer term, however, their exodus portends increased emigration from among the middle class, according to the report.
March 2. A 36-year-old Syrian migrant identified only as Abdalfatah H. A. was arrested in Düsseldorf on charges of murdering 36 people in March 2013 in Syria in the name of the Al-Nusra jihadist group. He arrived in Germany with his pregnant wife and three children, aged three, five and seven, in October 2015. He had been collecting €2,400 ($2,600) a month in social welfare benefits since April 2016.
March 2. Administrators of the Johannes Rau Gymnasium, a secondary school in Wuppertal, asked teachers to prohibit Muslim pupils from engaging in "provocative praying" in public. An internal memo stated: "In recent weeks, it has been increasingly observed that Muslim pupils in the school building are praying, clearly visible to others, signaled by ritual washings in the toilets, the rolling out of prayer mats, and taking up certain postures. This is not permitted."
March 3. An 18-year-old asylum seeker from Somalia was charged with murdering an 87-year-old woman at a retirement home in Neuenhaus. Police said the accused entered the facility through an unlocked back door with the aim of having sexual intercourse with elderly residents. He sexually assaulted a 59-year-old paralytic, entered an adjacent room and sexually assaulted an 87-year-old man. He then beat the man's wife, who was sleeping in the same room. The woman died from her injuries. The accused is being housed in a psychiatric hospital.
March 4. Spiegel Online reported that more than 900 people, including many women, have left Germany to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Roughly one-third have returned to Germany, while another 145 are believed to have been killed in battle. A state prosecutor warned that the returnees are especially dangerous: "They often have had extreme experiences of violence, are strongly radicalized and have few prospects in Germany."
March 7. The German-language version of the ISIS magazine Rumiyah called on lone wolf jihadists to kill "apostate" imams in Germany and Austria. An article entitled, "Kill the Infidel Imams in Germany and Austria," specifically mentioned the following "apostate" imams: Aiman Mazyek, Secretary-General of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany; Abdul Adhim Kamouss, an imam in Berlin of Moroccan origin; Hesham Shashaa, an imam at the Darul Quran mosque in Munich; and Omar Al-Rawi, a Vienna city councilman.
March 9. A 37-year-old migrant from Kosovo, identified only as Fatmir H., was arrested after he injured nine people, including two police officers, with an axe at the central train station in Düsseldorf. Police said Fatmir H. suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and was in an "exceptional mental state" at the time of the attack.
March 10. An unidentified man brandishing a machete attacked an 80-year-old man in the Kalkum district of Düsseldorf. The perpetrator remains at large. In Hamburg, six people were injured when two youths with tear gas attacked a train carrying 50 people. The perpetrators remain at large.
March 10. Germany spent more than €23 billion ($25 billion) on the reception, accommodation and care of migrants and refugees in 2016, according to Bundestag Vice President Johannes Singhammer. The average annual cost per migrant was approximately €11,800 ($13,000). In Berlin alone, the actual amount of money spent on migrants was twice as much as initially budgeted: €1.27 billion rather than €685 million.
March 10. The Bundesrat, the upper chamber of the German parliament, rejected a law that would have fast-tracked deportations to Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia by classifying those states as "safe countries of origin." The German Constitution defines safe countries as countries "in which, on the basis of their laws, enforcement practices and general political conditions, it can be safely concluded that neither political persecution nor inhuman or degrading punishment or treatment exists." The decision, led by federal states with left-leaning governing coalitions, means that criminal migrants from the Maghreb will indefinitely remain in Germany.
March 11. Police in Essen foiled a jihadist attack on a shopping center at the Limbecker Platz. Essen Police Chief Frank Richter said he had received "very concrete indications" on the plot to attack the facility, which has more than 200 stores and an average of 60,000 visitors on any given Saturday. Police arrested two Salafists from Oberhausen, including one who had fought for the Islamic State in Syria.
March 12. The number of crimes committed by asylum seekers and refugees in Baden-Württemberg increased significantly in 2016. Statistics showed a total of 251,000 criminal suspects, of whom 107,417 were non-Germans, mostly from Turkey, Romania and Italy. Of the non-German criminals, 25,379 were asylum seekers and refugees (up from 18,695 in 2015). They committed 64,329 crimes in 2016, an increase of nearly 20% over 2015. Syrians were the most frequent offenders 4,053 (2015: 1,253), followed by Gambians 2,346 (2015: 1,592) and Afghans 1,934 (2015: 638). The number of suspects from Kosovo fell from 1,531 to 1,094 and Serbs from 1,488 to 1,224. Criminals from those two countries were increasingly being deported in 2016. Police noted a 95.5% increase in the number of physical assaults involving at least one migrant, to 7,670 cases in 2016.
March 13. The number of crimes committed by asylum seekers and refugees in Bavaria increased significantly in 2016. Statistics showed a total of 274,633 criminal suspects of whom 180,023 were Germans (+0.3%) and 94,610 were non-Germans (+14.9%). Of the non-German criminals, 26,332 were asylum seekers and refugees, an increase of 57.8% compared to the previous year. The proportion of migrant suspects to all suspects was 9.6%, an increase of 3.2% (in 2012 the share was 1.8%). Among the migrant suspects, Syrians were the most frequent offenders at 16.1% (2015: 11.1%), followed by Afghans with 14.3% (2015: 10.1%), Iraqis with 8.8% (2015: 4.6%) and Nigerians with 6.8% (2015: 5.4%). "The increase in crime in Bavaria in 2016 is mainly due to foreign suspects, especially immigrants," said Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann.
March 14. A migrant from Kosovo who has lived in Germany for 28 years and is an active member of the hardline Islamic Salafist movement demanded that the Meierfeld secondary school in Herford provide his ninth-grade son with a prayer room "so that he can perform the Friday prayer on time and without disturbance." The man also prohibited his son from attending music lessons, which he said are banned by Islam. Previously, the man demanded that the Friedenstal secondary school, also in Herford, provide a prayer room for another of his sons.
March 14. More than 400 police and counter-terrorism officers raided a mosque in Hildesheim. The Interior Minister of Lower Saxony, Boris Pistorius, said the Deutschsprachigen Islamkreis Hildesheim (DIK) was a "hotspot of the radical Salafist scene" and ordered it closed because it was "indoctrinating Muslims to go to Iraq and Syria."
March 14. A 17-year-old Somali migrant raped a 43-year-old woman at a train station in Bamberg. A "southerner" (südländischer Typ) raped a 14-year-old girl at a playground in Döbeln.
March 15. A 40-year-old German man of Turkish descent stabbed to death his 34-year-old wife in front of a child daycare center in Kiel. Neighbors said the couple, who were separated, had quarreled about moving their children to Turkey.
March 16. Prosecutors in Gelsenkirchen charged a 23-year-old German man of Turkish origin, identified only as Anil O., with membership in a terrorist organization for joining the Islamic State in Syria. He traveled to Syria in August 2015 to work as a medic but, according to prosecutors, he became disillusioned with the Islamic State. Upon his return to Germany, he was arrested.
March 17. A ten-year-old asylum seeker from Afghanistan sexually assaulted a 75-year-old woman in Tyrol (Austria). Police said they believe he has committed at least five other offenses of the same kind.
March 17. German immigration authorities are testing software that will be able to recognize the dialect of migrants to determine whether they are legitimate asylum seekers. Some 60% of migrants who have arrived in Germany since 2015 do not have identification documents. "The idea is to record speech samples from asylum seekers and carry out an automatic dialect analysis," said Julian Detzel of the Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF).
March 18. Five Arab migrants were accused of gang raping a seven-year-old girl at a refugee reception shelter in the Bahrenfeld district of Hamburg.
March 19. Two Syrian asylum seekers, aged 17 and 23, stabbed two female passersby in broad daylight in the pedestrian zone of Dessau-Roßlau.
March 21. Two North African asylum seekers were charged with attempted manslaughter after they pushed a 40-year-old man onto the tracks of an oncoming train at the station in Dresden-Zschachwitz. The conductor brought the train to a halt a few meters from the man, who was prevented from getting back onto the platform by the perpetrators, a 23-year-old Moroccan and a 27-year-old Libyan. Chief Prosecutor Lorenz Haase initially dropped charges against the men, concluding that there was "no evidence" of murderous intent. Haase reversed his decision on day later after a nationwide outpouring of anger.
March 21. Three Muslim teenagers were handed sentences of between six and seven years in prison for the April 16, 2016 bombing of a Sikh temple in Essen. The judge ruled that the motive for the attack, in which three people were injured, was hatred of other religions. The three were members of the hardline Islamic Salafist movement.
March 22. The German Press Council (Presserat) loosened its guidelines (Pressekodex) for reporting crimes. Journalists are now allowed to provide information about the ethnic or religious background of suspects or perpetrators of crimes if there is a "justified public interest" to do so. Previously, journalists were only allowed to provide such details if it was absolutely necessary (begründeter Sachbezug) to understand the reported event. The change followed complaints from German media outlets that the old guidelines were difficult to interpret.
March 23. The Mannheim Labor Court rejected a lawsuit filed by a 40-year-old Muslim nurse who claimed that she was unfairly terminated after only one week by a nursing home because she refused to wash male patients. The woman, who has been living in Germany for three years, told the court that she wants to integrate into German society but does not understand why her former employer could not accept that her religion forbids her to wash men. The court ruled that the employer was entitled to dismiss employees during the six-month period of probation.
March 23. The Interior Minister of Hesse ordered a "permanent ban" the Al-Madina Mosque in Kassel for promoting Salafi-jihadism and for "exchanging and inviting hatred and violence against other religious groups, states and peoples, as well as generally differently thinking people."
March 23. The number of prisoners in the state of Baden-Württemberg has increased by 615 to 7,400 since 2015, and all 17 of the state's prisons are overcrowded. The reason for the increase in the number of inmates is the influx of migrants: The proportion of foreigners among the prison population increased from 39% to 46% in the last two years alone, according to the Stuttgarter Nachrichten.
March 24. The Berlin Police Department announced the creation of a special task force to investigate acid attacks. At least six women in the city have been attacked with acid since the beginning of 2017. The latest attack occurred on March 14, when a 41-year-old pedestrian was attacked by an unknown cyclist in Prenzlauer Berg district of the capital.
March 24. A 31-year-old Afghan migrant brandishing a hammer attacked a 59-year-old man riding a bicycle in the Bergedorf district of Hamburg. Police said the attacker, who was found soaked in his victim's blood, was "psychologically ill."
March 24. A 30-year-old man shouting "Allahu Akhbar" and "you are all going to die" forced the temporary closure of the central bus station in Bamberg. Police said the man showed "clear signs of mental illness." They added that an arrest warrant was not issued due to his illness.
March 24. A 36-year-old Tunisian jihadist evaded deportation by requesting asylum in Germany. Haykel S., who was arrested during a counter-terrorism raid in Frankfurt on February 1, was already on the commercial airplane that was to fly him to Tunis when the Frankfurt administrative court ordered that he be allowed to remain in Germany. Haykel S. first arrived in Germany in 2003 on a student visa. Due to his subsequent marriage to a German, he was granted residency. He later returned to Tunisia and then returned to Germany in August 2015. Since then, he has repeatedly been arrested for criminal activity.
March 25. A North Rhine-Westphalia police report leaked to Bild am Sonntag revealed that police knew as early as March 2016 that Anis Amri, the 31-year-old Tunisian who carried out the December 19 jihadist attack on the Christmas market in Berlin, was planning an attack, but he was not deported because he did not have a passport. The report stated: "Amri presents a threat in the form of a suicide attack. The commission of a terrorist attack by Amri is expected."
March 27. The Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that Turkey's National Intelligence Agency had provided Germany's BND intelligence service with a list of names of hundreds of alleged followers of the Islamic Gülen movement in Germany. The movement is led by Turkish preacher Fethullah Gülen, who has lived in the United States since 1999. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has blamed Gülen for the failed military coup in July 2016. The list, which includes addresses, telephone numbers and photographs of those concerned, proved that the Turkish government has been secretly spying on persons, associations, schools and other institutions linked to Gülen in Germany.
March 28. Humboldt University of Berlin announced it will open an Islamic theology institute. The objective of the program is "to impart academic foundations in Islamic theology for training imams and to qualify students for a school teaching post." Humboldt University will become the sixth university in Germany to teach Islamic theology. Berlin Mayor Michael Müller revealed that the institute is being paid for by German taxpayers: €13.5 million ($14.5 million) of government funding will secure the institute's finances through 2022. Humboldt University President Sabine Kunst rejected calls for a joint "Faculty for Theology" for Christians, Muslims and Jews: "The first step is to set up the Institute for Islamic Theology at the HU. We want this to be a success. It is important that this key project is not overloaded by a much broader idea."
Humboldt University of Berlin has announced that it will open an Islamic theology institute. It will be the sixth university in Germany to teach Islamic theology. (Image source: Friedrich Petersdorff/Wikimedia Commons)
March 30. Jens Spahn, a member of the executive committee of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), called for an Islam Law to regulate the practice of Islam in Germany. He demanded German language tests for imams, saying that many of the preachers who delivered sermons in German mosques come from abroad, cannot speak German and are paid by other countries. Spahn also said that mosques should be registered, saying that authorities "did not know how many mosques there are in Germany, where they are or who finances them." In addition, Spahn, called for the training of imams, teachers of religion and counselors to be paid for with tax money. "What is clear," he said, "is that the financing of mosques by foreign actors must stop."
*Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter.
© 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.

Jerusalem Post/April 28/17
"A partnership has emerged between the Europeans and the Arabs to design an Arab document that rejects Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem and harms our holy places.”
Israel fears Europe might abstain or support a resolution that would reject Israeli sovereignty over all of Jerusalem, which UNESCO’s executive board in Paris is likely to vote on at its meeting on Tuesday, diplomatic sources told The Jerusalem Post.
Representatives from European nations and Arab states held consultations in Paris on Thursday to agree on a common text for Tuesday’s meeting.
If the text has European support, Israel fears it would be more difficult to sway other executive board members to reject that resolution or any other anti-Israel clauses in the text.
Israel is concerned that such a text would delegitimize the government of the Jewish state. The main governing bodies – the Knesset, Prime Minister’s Office, Foreign Ministry and Supreme Court – are all located in the capital city of Jerusalem.
“A significant and active partnership has emerged between the Europeans and the Arabs to design an Arab document that is anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish, that rejects Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem and harms our holy places,” Israel’s Ambassador to UNESCO in Paris Carmel Shama-Hacohen told the Post.
He added that the cynicism of pushing forward such a resolution on Israel’s Independence Day is the kind of tactic one would expect from Arab states, but not European ones.
“When more and more nations are moving to Israel’s side, our European friends that intimately know our history, and that of the Jewish people, have decided to join forces with the Arab nations against the State of Israel,” he said.The EU Embassy in Tel Aviv said the EU tries to avoid “bringing broader political conflicts into these discussions.“The EU generally tries to coordinate positions in UN bodies, and in this process bring texts closer in line with EU policy,” a representative said. “The EU does not have a common position on the text tabled by Palestine and Jordan on Jerusalem, though our mission has shared some suggestions for amendments by some member states with the representatives of Palestine, Jordan and Israel.”
A diplomatic source added that the objective of the European talks with the Arab states was to find language that set a more moderate tone.
An initial March draft put forward solely by Arab states said: “Any action taken by Israel, the occupying power, to impose its laws, jurisdiction, and administration on the city of Jerusalem, are illegal and therefore null and void and have no validity whatsoever.”
This text would mark the first time the UNESCO executive has been asked to reject Israeli sovereignty over western Jerusalem, although other UN bodies have used similar language in the past.
Eleven of the 54 UNESCO Executive Board members are EU states. This includes: Estonia, France, Great Britain, Germany, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. The United States is also a board member. It is presumed that the US would oppose the resolution and likely that the UK would do so as well. The resolution comes as President Donald Trump is weighing the question of relocating the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The international community is split over recognition of Israeli sovereignty over west Jerusalem, with many countries acknowledging Israel’s governing bodies there without formally accepting its status as part of Israel. Just last week, Russia recognized west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. It is not, however, a member of the UNESCO board. Such a text would highlight Jerusalem’s tenuous political status in the eyes of the international community, which already places its embassies in Tel Aviv rather than in Israel’s capital. Tuesday’s text is also expected to reaffirm that the Jewish holy sites of the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem are “an integral part of Palestine.” Muslims consider both places to be holy to Islam and refer to them as the Ibrahimi Mosque and the Bilal bin Rabah Mosque. Absent from the text is the controversial issue of the Temple Mount.
For the last two years, Arab states at UNESCO, backed by the Palestinians, have attempted to reclassify the Jewish holy sites of the Western Wall and the Temple Mount solely by their Muslim names of the Buraq Wall and al-Haram al-Sharif, respectively. In the March draft text of the Jerusalem resolution, there was no mention in any language of the two holy sites. Instead, the resolution reaffirms “the importance of the Old City of Jerusalem and its walls for the three monotheistic religions.”
It does, however, have a line asking for reaffirmation of past texts referencing the sites only by their Muslims names. Last year, five European countries voted against the resolution ignoring Israel’s ties to the Temple Mount: Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Estonia and Lithuania, while six European countries abstained. Berlin and Jerusalem have been at odds over the last few months, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refusing to meet this week with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel during his visit to Israel. Netanyahu was upset that Gabriel had met with the left-wing group Breaking the Silence

Absolving Jihadis of Responsibility for Terrorism
A. Z. Mohamed/Gatestone Institute/April 28/17
More disconcerting is that leading figures in the West -- including Pope Francis and former U.S. President Barack Obama -- assert that ISIS, al-Qaeda and other jihadist organizations are "not Muslim." How would they know? Do Muslims go around telling Christians who is and is not a true Christian? The use of this rhetoric is part of an agenda to absolve Muslims of responsibility for terrorism.
"[T]hey [ISIS] draw their ideas from what is written in our own books, from our own principles." — Sheikh Adel Al-Kalbani, former imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca.
The Oxford Dictionary of Islam defines takfir as "pronouncement that someone is unbeliever (kafir) and no longer Muslim." It has become a key concept in the ideology of both terrorist groups and their enemies as well in the Muslim world. A takfiri is a Muslim who accuses another Muslim (or Christian or Jew) of apostasy. During the last few years, however, several non-Muslims, leading Western figures and even governments have been adopting that ideology. Muslims' excessive use of takfir creates a state of chaos; Westerns' use of it makes the situation more chaotic. The following is a part of the story of "takfirism" and its repercussions.
The Islamic State (ISIS), al-Qaeda, and other terrorist groups always claim that Muslim leaders who do not rule by Islamic sharia law -- and those who obey them -- are not Muslims. The terrorists consider them "hypocrites" (the Saudis), "rejectionists," or "outsiders" (Iranians and Shias). Terrorists always use the concept of takfir to authorize and endorse violence against their enemies.
In reaction, several Muslim leaders and senior Islamic clerics have started to utilize takfir to denounce the terrorists as unbelievers. Such a development highlights the nature of Islam as a political ideology, notably in the Sunni vs. Shia and Sunni vs. Sunni hostilities. The charge of takfir is a weapon used by all parties involved.
In June 2014, for example, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq's chief Shiite cleric, issued a fatwa (Islamic legal opinion) encouraging his followers to take up arms against ISIS. Two months later, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Muhammad ibn Ibrahim Al ash-Sheikh, issued a statement blasting ISIS and al-Qaeda as Islam's key enemies.
Last August in Chechnya, more than 200 Sunni clerics -- among them the Egyptian Grand Imam of al-Azhar -- referred to Wahhabism as "a dangerous deformation" of Sunni Islam.
The following month, the Saudi grand mufti said Iran's leaders are "not Muslims," a day after Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described Saudi rulers as "blasphemous" and "faithless."
"Are there any Muslims left?" said Robert Spencer, a non-Muslim expert in Islam. "Is anyone a Muslim at all?... any Muslim who behaves in a way some other Muslim dislikes is simply not a Muslim."
That radical Muslim ideologues engage in takfir to attack their enemies is considered "the usual" by now. More disconcerting is that leading figures in the West -- including Pope Francis and former U.S. President Barack Obama -- adopted the practice, asserting that ISIS, al-Qaeda and other jihadist organizations are "not Muslim." How would they know? Do Muslims go around telling Christians who is and is not a true Christian? The use of this rhetoric is part of an agenda to absolve Muslims of responsibility for terrorism.
At an all-hands meeting of the National Security Council on February 23, the new U.S. National Security Adviser, H.R. McMaster, argued against using the term "radical Islamic terrorism." Jihadists, he said, are not true adherents to the religion, but rather pervert its teachings. "The phrase is unhelpful because terrorist organizations like ISIS represent a perversion of Islam, and are thus un-Islamic, McMaster said, according to a source who attended the meeting."
U.S. National Security Adviser, H.R. McMaster (left), recently argued against using the term "radical Islamic terrorism." Pictured above: President Donald Trump appears with McMaster, on February 20, 2017. (Image source: PBS News video screenshot)
What is misleading, confusing, and "unhelpful" is classifying Muslims into categories. Relying on Islamic authorities who are not objective and use or misuse Islam for political purposes is even more misleading and "unhelpful."
At least one senior Islamic cleric disturbed by this distinction is Sheikh Adil Al-Kalbani, former imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca. A few months ago, he acknowledged with regret that, "they [ISIS] draw their ideas from what is written in our own books, from our own principles."
He is correct. Classifying Muslims into categories is not only misleading; it feeds into the hands of those who try to obfuscate the dangerous nature of Islam as a political ideology.
*A. Z. Mohamed is a Muslim born and raised in the Middle East.
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