February 19/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
Parable Of Lazarus The Poor Man, & The Rich Man Who Was dressed In Purple & Fine Linen
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 16/19-31/:"‘There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, "Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames." But Abraham said, "Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us." He said, "Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house for I have five brothers that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment." Abraham replied, "They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them." He said, "No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent." He said to him, "If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead." ’

God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him

First Letter to the Thessalonians 05/01-11/:"Concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When they say, ‘There is peace and security’, then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labour pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then, let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on February 18-19/17
Aoun moves to appease critics after backing Hezbollah arms/Joseph A. Kechichian/Gulf News/February 18, 2017
Saudi Arabia and Lebanon find accord once more/Maha Samara/The National/February 18/17
Canada's Islamophobia Motion Targets Moderate Muslims/Tarek Fatah/The Toronto Sun/MEF/February 18/17
A New Review of Colonel Yair Ravid’s book, "Window to the Backyard"Rebecca Bynum/Assistant to Dr Walid Phares, Trump campaign foreign policy advisor/February 18/17
Even if Rouhani Visits Saudi Arabia/Tariq Alhomayed/Asharq Al Awsat/February 18/17
Syria and the Avalanche of Evidence/Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/February 18/17
New Turkey-Europe War over ‘Spying Imams’/Saeed Abdelrazek/Asharq Al Awsat/February 18/17
Welcome to Sweden, Eldorado for Migrants/Nima Gholam Ali Pour/Gatestone Institute/February 18/17
Unraveling the mystery over ‘Muslim NATO’ chief Raheel Sharif/By Ehtesham Shahid/Al Arabiya English/ Saturday, 18 February 2017
Some Iraqis are risking it all to spy on ISIS militants in Mosul/By Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Susannah George/The Associated Press/ Saturday, 18 February 2017
The Sultan and the Shah… on TV/Mshari Al Thaydi/Al Arabiya/February 18/17
Jeff Sessions and the triumph of Trump/Ahmad al-Farraj/Al Arabiya/February 18/17
Arab and Muslim relations with the world/Radwan al-Sayed/Al Arabiya/February 18/17
Turkey, the Gulf and regional ownership/Ibrahim Kalin/Al Arabiya/February 18/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published on February 18-19/17
Aoun: Message of Israeli Delegate at the UN poses a threat to Lebanon, any Israeli attempt to undermine Lebanese sovereignty will find its appropriate response
Hizbullah Dismisses Reports Published by Reuters
Report: Mashnouq to Order Preparations for Elections
Khoury: Wage Scale Must be Separated from Budget
Riachi Says No Negotiations between LF and Hizbullah
Army Arrests Syrian for Terror Links
Mustaqbal: Nasrallah's Stances Deal Strong Blow to Aoun's Initiatives towards Gulf StatesTwo Syrians Robbed at Gunpoint in North Lebanon
Hariri, Kuwaiti delegation discuss refugee aid
Riachy confirms LF
Hezbollah communication limited to deputies, ministers
Khatib promises solution to trash problem
Kataeb, NLP rally in front of Beirut municipality
Aoun moves to appease critics after backing Hezbollah arms
Saudi Arabia and Lebanon find accord once more

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on February 18-19/17
Iran in new military drills despite US warnings
Pentagon has evidence of ISIS ‘exodus’ from Syria’s Raqqa
Daddy, Pick Me Up!' Screams Boy after Syria Attack
Russia Calls for 'Post-West' World Order
41 Fighters Executed in Syria Jihadist Infighting
Trump Calls Media 'Enemy of the American People'
ISIS command center ‘destroyed’ in Mosul, ISIS says civilians killed
10-year-old child killed in southeast Turkey car bomb
UN chief: US blocking Libya envoy was ‘serious mistake’
Pakistan shuts key border crossing in wake of shrine attack
Houthi militia killed, field commanders captured in Yemen
Read French presidential candidate Macron’s controversial Algeria comments
Germany’s Merkel: Islam not source of terrorism
Egypt's Renaissance Dam fears remain despite diplomatic efforts

Links From Jihad Watch Site for February 18-19/17
At least 140 Somali refugees settled in US after court suspends ban
San Francisco Police Department ends cooperation with FBI counterterrorism efforts
Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel Rahman, mastermind of 1993 World Trade Center jihad bombing, dies
Islamic State jihadi says mass rapes of non-Muslim women were “normal”
Merkel: Europe must take in more Muslim migrants, Islam “is not the cause of terrorism”
Hugh Fitzgerald: Salat and Zakat in Summerville, South Carolina
UK: Tory MP says views of some conservative Anglicans “differ little from ISIL”

Egypt: Muslims shoot Christian teacher in the head as attacks on Christians escalate
Pope Francis: “Migrations are not a danger. They are a challenge for growth.”
Denver: Pipe bombs discovered in hotel room of Muslim ex-Marine
Pope Francis: “Muslim terrorism does not exist”
Trump Upsets the Academic Foreign Policy Establishment

Links From Christian Today Site for February 18-19/17
Could This Be The End For Britain's Ugliest Cathedral?
Malaysia Arrests North Korean Man As Row Over Kim Jong Nam's Death Escalates
Torry MP: Some Conservative Anglicans Are The Same As ISIS
What About The Rights Of The Gay Christians Who Choose Celibacy?
How The Fight For Religious Liberty Is Harming Christian Witness
Trump's Religious Liberty Order Could Cause 'Constitutional Problems', Warns Former Ambassador
Priest On The Front Line Of The Refugee Crisis Speaks Out

Latest Lebanese Related News published on February 18-19/17
Aoun: Message of Israeli Delegate at the UN poses a threat to Lebanon, any Israeli attempt to undermine Lebanese sovereignty will find its appropriate response
Sat 18 Feb 2017/NNA - President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, deemed on Saturday that "the message content of Israel's Delegate at the United Nations, Danny Danon, poses a threat to Lebanon," adding that "the international community ought to pay attention to the possible Israeli hostile intentions against Lebanon."Speaking before his interlocutors at Baabda Palace this afternoon, Aoun asserted that "any Israeli attempt to undermine the sovereignty of Lebanon shall be confronted with the appropriate response." The President stressed that "Israel must comply with Security Council resolutions before any other, yet it still refuses to implement Resolution #1701 and the transition from the cessation of hostilities to a ceasefire stage, despite the fact that more than 11 years have passed since the release of said Resolution.""Israel still occupies Lebanese territories in the northern part of Ghajar, Shebaa Farms and Kfar Shouba Hilltops, while effecting daily violations of the Blue Line and Lebanese sovereignty by air and sea," Aoun went on to indicate. "In addition, half a million Palestinians are still forced to stay away from their homeland, hosted by Lebanon in the absence of their right to return to their land and property, which constitutes an act of aggression against Lebanon and its people," he added. "This act of aggression falls under the content of Article 51 of the UN Charter, which gives Lebanon and its people the natural right to defend their land," Aoun underscored. The President concluded that "Lebanon, which has respected all obligations towards the United Nations and its labor force in the South, views the Israeli message to the United Nations as a blatant attempt to threaten the security and stability enjoyed by the southern towns and villages located within the international area of operations, and therefore, bears full responsibility for any aggression against Lebanon."

Hizbullah Dismisses Reports Published by Reuters
Naharnet/February 18/17/Hizbullah's media office issued a statement on Saturday stressing that the party does not make statements to the press under the so-called “Hizbullah sources” and has therefore denied reports published by Reuters in that regard. “Hizbullah's media office reminds that the familiar media policy we follow never uses the so-called 'Hizbullah sources' in our statements, and we do not use 'sources close to Hizbullah,'” the party's media office said in a statement. “A report (citing Hizbullah sources) was published by Reuters commenting on the speech of Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah during a rally commemorating the annual Hizbullah Martyrs Leaders' Day. We emphasize that none of Hizbullah's officials made a statement of this kind,” said the statement. Quoting "sources familiar with Hizbullah's thinking", Reuters reported on Friday that “Nasrallah's statements aimed to deliver a message to U.S. President Donald Trump.”Reuters has also quoted the source as saying that “Hizbullah is not worried about the arrival of Trump to the presidency but has rather called him an idiot and has drawn “red lines” to prevent any threatening action against Lebanon or the party.”The source added: “Remarks made by Nasrallah earlier this week were aimed at delivering a message to the new US administration led by Donald Trump that Hizbullah might target US interests by striking vital sites in Israel.”According to Reuters, Trump and his administration have used rough rhetoric earlier against Iran, Hizbullah's patron, to support its Israeli enemy, including an "official warning" to Tehran after test-firing a ballistic missile which the US said violates a nuclear deal.

Report: Mashnouq to Order Preparations for Elections
Naharnet/February 18/17/Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq will adhere to the current applicable electoral laws and is set to order the start of preparations for Lebanon's parliamentary polls where he will be sending a decree to the Presidential Palace in the coming 48 hours, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Saturday. According to information, the decree will not be signed by President Michel Aoun because it is linked to the current 1960 majoritarian law which the President has rejected having the elections staged on its basis. In addition to the President's decision not to sign the decree, the decree itself carries some disabling factors. Starting with the fact that a supervisory committee to oversee the elections has not been formed so far, and there is no decision taken by the cabinet to provide financial accreditation to cover the election process expenses, said the daily. It is to note that Aoun had previously rejected Mashnouq's request, during a cabinet meeting on January 26, on the formation of a supervisory committee until a new election law is agreed. The President had assured previously that agreeing on a new law is necessary because the polls will never be staged under the 1960 law, nor will the term of the parliament be extended again even if it meant vacuum at the parliament. Mashnouq had previously clarified that he is obliged to finalize electoral rolls prior to the date of the elections. In order for the elections to be held on May 21, he must call for elections and complete all preparations before February 21.

Khoury: Wage Scale Must be Separated from Budget
Naharnet/February 18/17/Economy Minister Raed Khoury stressed the need to separate the longtime wage scale file from the state's annual budget over concerns that it would remain pending if the cabinet discussions stuttered. “The wage scale must be separated from the annual budget over fears that discussions would remain pending in the cabinet,” Khoury told VDL (93.3). “The scale would not be approved except after the issuance of reform laws and a thorough study to the scale to preserve the citizens' rights,” he said, adding “this would need about a month or two ; thus, if the salary scale remained within the budget then none of them would be approved.” The Minister hailed the ongoing efforts to approve an annual budget: “The ongoing intensive discussions over the budget draft reflect clear will to approve it. Those were reflected in Prime Minister Saad Hariri's calls to hold successive cabinet sessions until a final budget formula is approved.”Hariri scheduled successive cabinet meetings next week to approve a budget. Due to conflicts between the rival political parties, Lebanon has not approved a state budget since 2005 and its public debt has amounted to around $70 billion. Responding to a question regarding the course of the electoral law, Khoury confirmed that there is "no return to the 60's law."

Riachi Says No Negotiations between LF and Hizbullah
Naharnet/February 18/17/Lebanese Forces Information Minister Melhem Riachi emphasized on Saturday that contacts with Hizbullah are merely limited to the party's ministers and lawmakers, the state-run National News Agency reported. “We do not negotiate with Hizbullah. There are some contacts limited to Hizbullah ministers and deputies,” said Riachi during a visit to the eastern city of Zahle where LF MP Toni Abi Khater received him at his residence in the presence of a number of LF lawmakers. “There are a lot of differences between us provided these differences do not turn into major conflicts,” added Riachi. Early in January, Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea dismissed any hostility in ties with Hizbullah, but stressed that dialogue with the party must be based on a clear road-map aimed at building the real state of Lebanon.
Separately, Riachi hailed ongoing efforts to agree on a new electoral law, he said: “There are genuine efforts to formulate an electoral law that rectifies the damaged Christian representation, lifts injustice without being unfair to others, and preserve everyone's right of everyone, including MP Walid Jumblatt."

Army Arrests Syrian for Terror Links
Naharnet/February 18/17/Police in north Lebanon arrested a Syrian national suspected of having links to a terror group, the National News Agency reported on Saturday. The police patrol arrested, Sami Ahmed Salloum, a Syrian, in Akkar's town of al-Ayoun for having ties to terror groups, NNA said. The detainee was referred to the related authorities.NNA didn't specify which terror group the suspect belongs to. Several suspected jihadist members have been arrested in recent months throughout Lebanon.

Mustaqbal: Nasrallah's Stances Deal Strong Blow to Aoun's Initiatives towards Gulf States

Naharnet/February 18/17/Al-Mustaqbal Movement on Friday called on President Michel Aoun to address Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's latest verbal attacks against some Gulf countries, describing them as a “strong blow” to Aoun's efforts to mend ties with the Gulf.
“Through his attacks on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Bahrain, Hizbullah's secretary-general has dealt a strong blow to President Michel Aoun's efforts and to the visits that he intends to make to Kuwait and the UAE after he had visited Riyadh, Doha, Cairo and Amman,” Mustaqbal said in a statement. “It is clear that Hizbullah is extremely annoyed by KSA and its role in defending Arab rights, and it is much clearer that it is annoyed by the kingdom and its wise leadership's embracement of the new presidential tenure and its recurrent attempts to reconcile between the Lebanese,” the movement added. And noting that the president “is keen on the best relations with KSA,” Mustaqbal called on Aoun to “address Nasrallah's stances” which it described as an “insult to the oath of office” of the president. Nasrallah had on Thursday accused Saudi forces of “oppressing and killing the Bahraini people” as he slammed Bahrain's government over its crackdown on Shiite-led dissent. He also blasted Saudi Arabia and the UAE over their military campaign in Yemen against Iran-backed rebels.

Two Syrians Robbed at Gunpoint in North Lebanon
Naharnet/February 18/17Two Syrian nationals were robbed at gunpoint on an inland road in Akkar north of Lebanon, the State-run National News Agency reported on Saturday. A group of unidentified gunmen, riding a brown Mercedes, robbed Adnan al-Sadbbashi and Mohammed Moustafa on a village road in Akkar at around 1:30 a.m. on Saturday, said According to the victims' statement, the four-member gang intercepted the vehicle of the two, thieving $5000 and 80000 Syrian Pounds and managed to speed away, added NNA.

Hariri, Kuwaiti delegation discuss refugee aid

Sat 18 Feb 2017/NNA - Prime Minister Saad Hariri received at the Central House on Saturday the head of the Kuwait Red Crescent Society, Hilal Al Sayer. Discussions focused on providing aid for refugees, particularly Syrians. The meeting was attended by State Minister for Affairs of the Displaced, Moein Merabi.

Hariri meets with Iraq's Kurdistan region Prime Minister and Deputy PM

Sat 18 Feb 2017/NNA - Prime Minister, Saad al-Hariri, met on Saturday evening at the "House of Center" with Prime Minister of Iraq's Kurdistan region, Nechirvan Barzani, and Deputy Prime Minister, Qubad Talabani, in the presence of the former Minister Jihad Azour and Hariri's Bureau Director, Nader Hariri. Discussions during the meeting touched on the latest developments in Lebanon and the region.

Riachy confirms LF/Hezbollah communication limited to deputies, ministers

Sat 18 Feb 2017/NNA - Information Minister, Melhem Riachy, underscored that the relations between the Lebanese Forces (LF) and Hezbollah are limited to communication through their ministers and deputies. Minister Riachy added that there were no negotiations between the two parties due to prominent differences among them. Riachy whose words came during his visit to Zahle on Saturday, reiterated that great efforts were being made over an electoral law which rectified not only Christian representation, but also the representation of everybody including the Druze community. He concluded that Zahle's visit came within the context of friendly relations and not with an electoral or popular aim.

Kanaan: No elections except on basis of a new law
Sat 18 Feb 2017/NNA - "Change and Reform" Parliamentary Bloc Secretary, MP Ibrahim Kanaan, said that "the President of the Republic's position is clear in terms of holding the parliamentary elections on basis of a new electoral law."Speaking in a TV interview to "LBC" Channel on Saturday, Kanaan considered that "our political system can no longer tolerate the imbalance which has lasted for 27 years," stressing that "the current era is one of change and achievement." "The President's stand will be decisive with regards to any breach," he added. "There will be no election on the basis of the sixty-law, but there will be a real reform with regards to representation within constitutional institutions," explained Kanaan.

Riachy: We seek equitable electoral law
Sat 18 Feb 2017/NNA - Information Minister, Melhem Riachy, said during his visit to the Syriac Orthodox church in Zahle that the Lebanese Forces seeks a balanced electoral law that provides equitable representation to all. He told Bishop Boulos Safr that he aimed at rectifying Christian representation in parliament, of which the Syriacs were an integral part.

Khatib promises solution to trash problem
Sat 18 Feb 2017/NNA - Environment Minister, Tarek Khatib, said on Saturday that his ministry is on the brink of finalizing a comprehensive plan for the trash problem. The Minister spoke during a ceremony held by the Diocese of Sidon for the Melkite Catholics in his honor. Said plan would be based on decentralization of the trash file. "This file will go back to the municipalities under the patronage of the Environment Ministry," said Khatib. He asserted that his ministry would be ready to offer all necessary technical consultations.

Kataeb, NLP rally in front of Beirut municipality
Sat 18 Feb 2017/NNA - The youth and students' sector of the Kataeb Party and the National Liberal Party organized a demonstration on Saturday in front of the municipality of Beirut, protesting against extending the Parliament's mandate. The protestors demanded that a new electoral law is set and adopted in upcoming legislative elections.

Aoun moves to appease critics after backing Hezbollah arms
Joseph A. Kechichian/Gulf News/February 18, 2017
Lebanese president assures detractors that the militant group would be bound by the National Defense Strategy
Beirut: A day after Michel Aoun told an Egyptian newspaper that Hezbollah’s weapons did “not contradict with the [authority of the] State,” the Lebanese President appeared to backtrack by insisting that the party will comply with the National Defence Strategy, even if one is yet to be adopted.
Though Aoun “guaranteed” that Hezbollah would not “turn its arms inward,” as it had in the past, he warned that there was no reason to add fuel to the controversial fire. His interview with Egyptian media outlets raised eyebrows, however, as the Phalange Party, a key actor on the local scene, categorically rejected the head-of-state’s interpretations.
An official Phalange statement maintained that “all weapons outside the legal institutions are in contradiction with the planned construction of the State, legally and constitutionally”. It added: “Only the army and law enforcement must be responsible for defending the country,” stressing the importance of respecting all international resolutions on the subject, including 1559 and 1701.
Aoun’s comments elicited a reaction from the UN representative in Lebanon, Sigrid Kaag, who tweeted the international repercussions of such a position in words that upset some: “Reminder of the Security Council resolution 1701, vital to the stability and security of Lebanon. This resolution calls for the disarmament of all armed groups. No weapons beyond the control of the State,” she wrote.
Other officials were equally livid, with the Minister of Labour Mohammad Kabbara (Future Movement) clarifying that the 2006 memorandum of understanding between Aoun and Hassan Nasrallah will not be transferred to Baabda Palace.
Another Future Movement parliamentarian, Amine Wehbé, opined that the president’s position “weakens the national sovereignty and the neutrality of the presidency and consequently reduces the scope of the sacrifices of the army, courage and efficiency”.
Shaken by the level of criticisms, the president quickly fell back on a nuanced reply, clarifying that he would not allow anyone to stand above the State. He advanced the notion that Hezbollah arms would be subject to the National Defence Strategy, though one is yet to be adopted.
Aoun was a participant in the endless roundtables among elites to discuss the adoption of such a blueprint, even if the previous president’s efforts came to naught. Michel Sleiman probably devoted more time to this subject than any other leader between 2008 and 2014, all to draft a defence strategy over Israeli threats, terrorism dangers and the spread of illegal weapons in the country, though he failed to reach consensus before he left office.
Suleiman laboured tirelessly to persuade the political establishment that a defence strategy that relies on the Lebanese Army is a must; that strengthening the armed forces was overdue; and that Hezbollah’s weapons must be surrendered to the sole legitimate military institution in the country.
The last time when the Lebanese Parliament acted on a defence matter was in March 1979, when a defence law was adopted. That initiative reorganised the command structure of the armed forces, created the Supreme Defence Council, which consists of the president of the republic as chairman, the prime minister as vice-chairman, and the deputy prime minister and the ministers of defence, foreign affairs, interior, and finance as members, and invited the commander of the armed forces to attend Supreme Defence Council meetings in an advisory capacity.
Aoun told Egyptian television that “Lebanon, relative to its surroundings in terms of both human and economic power, is incapable of building a military force capable of confronting the enemy.” Many Lebanese disagreed, perceiving the real challenge coming from Hezbollah, which is in no hurry to surrender its weapons to the State.

Saudi Arabia and Lebanon find accord once more
Maha Samara/The National/February 18/17
Saudi- Lebanese relations have warmed significantly following the recent visit of Thamer Al Sabhan, the Saudi minister for Gulf Affairs, to Beirut. His visit had three key objectives: the return of the Saudi ambassador to Beirut, the lifting of the ban on Saudi tourists travelling to Lebanon and increasing the frequency of flights to and from Beirut. The visit comes on the heels of a recent tour of the region by Lebanon’s new president Michel Aoun, who last month travelled to Saudi Arabia. Mr Aoun is indebted to the kingdom for supporting his presidential nomination despite his former alliance with Hizbollah.
Historically, Saudi Arabia has offered political and financial support to Lebanon. The GCC countries host more than 400,000 Lebanese professionals and skilled workers whose remittances provide an important cushion to their families back home in Lebanon. Iran, while constantly seeking to assert itself throughout the Middle East, is not popular in Lebanon outside Hizbollah’s circles of influence. Iranian interference in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen and Hizbollah’s involvement in these three conflicts had previously complicated Lebanese-Saudi relations, especially after Iranian propaganda claimed dominance over four Arab capitals – Baghdad, Damascus, Sanaa and Beirut. Relations between the kingdom and Beirut had been further complicated by the long-running presidential vacuum – now filled by Mr Aoun – which had been at least partially created by Iranian intervention and Hizbollah’s threats.
Mr Aoun’s January visit to Saudi Arabia – a tour on which he was accompanied by seven ministers, reflecting the multisectarian political components of the country – allowed the Saudi leadership to listen to Mr Aoun’s plans before responding positively after watching the direction that the new Lebanese political settlement was taking. The kingdom’s historical position on Lebanon was founded, in part, during the negotiations in 1989 for the Taif Agreement, which ended the civil war and restored peace and security. The agreement, which established several principles – including the notion of Lebanon as a sovereign, free and independent country that is Arab in belonging and identity – became the long-standing framework for Lebanese-Saudi relations. This was exemplified by the appointment of Lebanese Saudi entrepreneur Rafik Hariri as prime minister in 1992. Several Gulf states – Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and Kuwait – played a significant role in the reconstruction of Lebanon in the early 1990s following the end of the civil war. Saudi generosity was also evident in the funds that were poured into reconstruction after the civil war and again after the conflict with Israel. Does the recent warming of diplomatic relations between the two countries point to a restoration of that historical accord? Only time will tell.
**Maha Samara is a journalist in Beirut

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on February 18-19/17
Iran in new military drills despite US warnings
AFP, Tehran Saturday, 18 February 2017/Iran’s Revolutionary Guard is to conduct military drills next week, a senior commander announced Saturday, despite warnings from the United States and fresh sanctions over a ballistic missile test. “The maneuvers called ‘Grand Prophet 11’ will start Monday and last three days,” General Mohammad Pakpour, commander of the force’s ground units, told a news conference. He said rockets would be used without specifying which kind. In early February, Iran conducted drills involving short-range missiles at a time of heightened tensions with the United States. Iran has said the exercises were aimed at demonstrating Tehran’s “complete preparedness to deal with the threats” and “humiliating sanctions” from Washington. US President Donald Trump slapped fresh sanctions against Tehran’s weapons procurement network following a ballistic missile test on January 29. “Iran would do well to look at the calendar and realize there’s a new president in the Oval Office. And Iran would do well not to test the resolve of this new president,” Vice President Mike Pence said earlier this month. New Pentagon chief James Mattis, for his part, has branded Iran “the single biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world”.Iranian officials have rejected the threats emphasizing that the missile program is purely defensive.

Pentagon has evidence of ISIS ‘exodus’ from Syria’s Raqqa
The Associated Press, Washington Saturday, 18 February 2017
A months-long campaign to isolate and pressure the ISIS group’s self-declared capital of Raqqa, Syria, is paying off as the administrative backbone of the militant organization is beginning to crack, the Pentagon said Friday. ISIS leaders "are beginning the process of leaving Raqqa and moving their operations farther downriver," said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesperson. He said an unspecified number of ISIS "bureaucrats" are heading east along the north bank of the Euphrates River toward Deir el-Zour, because they see "the end is near in Raqqa.""We are seeing now an exodus of their leadership," Davis said, adding: "This seems to be a very organized, orderly withdrawal of a lot of their non-combatant support people."Davis did not predict an imminent collapse of the militant group, and analysts said they expect a tough fight for the Syrian city. The US-led coalition has been pounding the Raqqa area regularly for months. On Thursday, it conducted 17 strikes near the city, targeting two ISIS military staging areas and an ISIS combat unit, according to the US Central Command’s daily airstrike tally. It said the attacks destroyed four tunnels, three fighting positions, three ISIS-held buildings, two weapons storage areas, two ISIS headquarters, a bridge and other targets. The coalition also launched 11 airstrikes near Deir el-Zour, destroying 20 oil tanker trucks, six oil wellheads, two artillery systems, an oil storage tank and a crane. "ISIL is going to have to think hard about where they go next. Do they have any place to go?" said Christine Wormuth, the Pentagon’s top policy official from 2014 to 2016. Wormuth, now a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, said she expected some fighters would stay in Raqqa and fight. "The whole point of the isolate mission is to try to squeeze them and get them to leave and flush them out into the open," she said. President Barack Obama’s strategy was to recruit, organize and enable local Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters to retake Raqqa, rather than put American combat forces in the lead. The Trump administration is now reevaluating that approach and considering options that could include a more direct US combat role. At his confirmation hearing a month ago, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the US approach should be reviewed and "perhaps energized on a more aggressive timeline." He has not said what changes he would recommend. Last week, the top US commander for the counter-ISIS campaign in Iraq and Syria, Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, said forces leading the fights for Raqqa and the northern Iraqi city of Mosul should prevail within the next six months. A major complication in the current strategy is Turkey’s strong objections to a Syrian Kurd role in the Raqqa campaign. The Turkish government views the US-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters as terrorists and a threat to Turkey. The US sees them as the most effective and reliable element among local fighters supported by the Pentagon.

Daddy, Pick Me Up!' Screams Boy after Syria Attack
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 18/17/In the aftermath of a barrel bomb attack in Syria's Idlib, nine-year-old Abdel Basset al-Satuf tries to sit up, his legs blown off, and screams "Daddy, pick me up!" Abdel Basset was caught in a barrel bomb attack by regime forces on Thursday in the town of al-Hbeit, in northwest Idlib province. The harrowing footage of the young boy screaming for his father as he struggles to sit up, his legs turned to bloody stumps, quickly spread on social media. The child was taken to a hospital in the provincial capital Idlib city for preliminary treatment, but on Friday he and his father were transferred to Turkey for specialized care. In an ambulance about to head to the border, Abdel Basset recounted the incident as his father Taan tried to keep his composure. "We were sitting having lunch when the barrel bombs started to fall on the town and my father told us to get in the house," he told AFP.
"But as we arrived at the door of the house a barrel fell on it and when it exploded fire blasted towards me and amputated my legs," he said. "My father immediately picked me up and moved me and put me down on the ground (away from the house) and then an ambulance came and they treated me," he added. In the video, Abdel Basset can be seen sitting stunned as desperate voices scream for an ambulance and paramedics. His father had run back to the house to search for the rest of the family, three of whom were killed in the attack. In al-Hbeit, the family's landlord described the incident as "a massacre.""The family was having lunch and I was walking with his father, and at first we didn't notice anything until the aircraft arrived," he said "Then a barrel bomb came down and there was a big explosion," Walid Abu Ras said.
His mother was killed
Taan ran back towards his house, trying to warn his family to take cover when their home was hit.
"Abdel Basset's legs were blown off and one of his sisters was killed, and another one was wounded. His mother was killed and he doesn't know yet," Abu Ras said. The attack also killed the husband of one of Abdel Basset's sisters. Abu Ras said the family had arrived in Idlib less than two years ago from Latamneh in neighboring Hama, displaced by war like more than half of Syria's population. The video of Abdel Basset is just the latest footage to refocus attention on the plight of Syria's civilians, particularly children. In August 2016, haunting images of a four-year-old called Omran, shell-shocked and covered in dust after an air strike, reverberated around the world. Syria's government and rebel forces are technically observing a ceasefire brokered by Turkey and Russia that began on December 30. But while the truce has brought relative quiet to parts of the country, sporadic violence has continued, with civilians often the victims. More than 310,000 people have been killed in the conflict that began with anti-government protests in March 2011. Rights groups have regularly criticized Syria's regime for using barrel bombs, crude munitions notorious for causing indiscriminate casualties, but President Bashar Assad denies his forces use the weapon. On Friday afternoon, Turkey's IHH charity tweeted pictures of Abdel Basset arriving in Turkey and being attended by medics there. His body extended just half way down the stretcher carrying him to an ambulance, and he was covered in a thick blanket. Next to him lay a stuffed yellow toy duck nearly the same size as the boy himself.

Russia Calls for 'Post-West' World Order
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 18/17/Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called Saturday for an end to a world order dominated by the West and said Moscow wants to establish a "pragmatic" relationship with the United States. "I hope that (the world) will choose a democratic world order -- a post-West one -- in which each country is defined by its sovereignty," he said. Lavrov also said Moscow wanted build relations with Washington which are "pragmatic with mutual respect and acknowledgement of our responsibility for global

41 Fighters Executed in Syria Jihadist Infighting
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 18/17/A jihadist group has executed 41 fighters from al-Qaida's former Syria affiliate and allied factions in infighting between the extremists in Syria's Idlib province, a monitor said on Friday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Jund al-Aqsa group had captured the fighters and shot them to death in the town of Khan Sheikhun on Monday. The deaths were only confirmed on Friday amid fierce fighting between the jihadist factions, said the Britain-based monitoring group. Jund al-Aqsa has been locked in clashes with former al-Qaida affiliate Fateh al-Sham since Monday, after tensions erupted between them over influence in the rebel-held province of Idlib. Fateh al-Sham is fighting alongside several allied groups in a coalition dubbed Tahrir al-Sham, and the clashes have spread beyond Idlib to neighboring Hama province. The Observatory said the clashes had killed 125 fighters from both sides, including the 41 executed by Jund al-Aqsa. Jund al-Aqsa is reviled by most rebels in the region, and is designed a "terrorist group" by Washington. Despite that, in October Fateh al-Sham announced it had taken Jund al-Aqsa under its wing, although clashes between the two groups erupted shortly afterwards. In January, Fateh al-Sham also battled other rebel groups in Idlib during 10 days of clashes that killed dozens of fighters. The fighting reflects the increasingly strained relations between different factions in Idlib province that once fought alongside each other against President Bashar Assad's forces. Idlib province is held almost entirely by opposition factions, and was captured by an alliance of fighters dubbed the Army of Conquest, led by Fateh al-Sham. More than 310,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.
The war has become a complex multi-front conflict, drawing in jihadist groups and international armies.

Trump Calls Media 'Enemy of the American People'

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 18/17/Donald Trump ratcheted up his attacks on the media Friday, blasting the press as "the enemy of the American people!"Shortly after landing at his holiday home in Mar-a-Lago, Florida -- where he is spending a third consecutive weekend -- the president lashed out in 140 characters. "The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!" Trump wrote on Twitter. Trump had tweeted an earlier post which targeted the New York Times, CNN, NBC "and many more" media -- and ended with the exclamation "SICK!"But he swiftly deleted that missive before reposting the definitive version -- adding two more "enemies" to his blacklist. The 70-year-old Trump built his campaign on criticizing the press as biased. In addition to regularly accusing the media of overstating his setbacks, he has also accused journalists of failing to show sufficient respect for his accomplishments. On Thursday, he launched a long diatribe at a grievance-filled news conference, in which he blamed the media for his one-month-old administration's problems. In four weeks, Trump has seen his national security advisor ousted, a cabinet nominee withdraw, a centerpiece immigration policy fail in the courts and a tidal wave of damaging leaks. Many US presidents have criticized the press, but Trump's language has more closely echoed remarks leveled by authoritarian leaders around the world.
His comments had some observers declaring that the Republican was veering dangerously close to infringing on the constitutionally protected freedom of the press. "I love that part of the 1st Amendment that declares the press the enemy of the American people," conservative commentator S.E. Cupps wrote on Twitter, adding the hashtag "TrumpsAmerica." Ben Rhodes, a top advisor to former president Barack Obama, called Trump's criticism of the media "a gift to authoritarians everywhere -- will discredit any US efforts to support freedom of the press globally."
Many reporters were taken aback by Thursday's press conference, described by some as bizarre, but Trump echoed the words of praise he got from one rightwing commentator and insisted the outing had been a bravura performance. "'One of the most effective press conferences I've ever seen!' says Rush Limbaugh. Many agree. Yet FAKE MEDIA calls it differently! Dishonest," Trump wrote on Twitter about an hour after the earlier tweet. Trump declared during the news conference: "Much of the media in Washington, DC -- along with New York, Los Angeles, in particular -- speaks not for the people but for the special interests and for those profiting off a very, very obviously broken system. "The press has become so dishonest that if we don't talk about, we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people. Tremendous disservice. We have to talk to find out what's going on, because the press honestly is out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control."Trump's campaign website and the Republican Party on Thursday posted a "Mainstream Media Accountability Survey," asking respondents questions such as: "On which issues does the mainstream media do the worst job of representing Republicans?"
It also asks whether the GOP should spend "more time and resources" holding the media accountable. It's not known what it will take -- or if it's even possible -- for Trump to plug the leaks in his administration, but an ally on Capitol Hill stepped in Friday to help. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes has asked the FBI to investigate the leaks, Politico reported, citing three sources familiar with his request.

ISIS command center ‘destroyed’ in Mosul, ISIS says civilians killed
By Reuters, Baghdad Saturday, 18 February 2017/The US-led military coalition on Saturday said its forces destroyed a building in the main medical complex of western Mosul, suspected to house an ISIS command center. The militant group disputed the assertion, saying in an online statement that Friday’s strike killed 18 people, mostly women and children, and wounded 47.Independent media have no access to western Mosul or other areas under ISIS control in Iraq and Syria. The militants are essentially under siege in western Mosul, along with an estimated 650,000 civilians, after US-backed forces surrounding the city dislodged them from the east in the first phase of an offensive that concluded last month. The coalition accused ISIS of using the five-story building as a military command and control facility. “The coalition was able to determine through intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance efforts that ISIS did not use the building for any medical purposes and that civilians were no longer accessing the site,” a coalition statement said, using an acronym for ISIS. The strike followed reports that the militants are dug in among civilians on the western side of Mosul and storing weapons in hospitals, schools, mosques and churches as a tactic to avoid targeting. The offensive to dislodge ISIS from Mosul, its last major city stronghold in Iraq, started in October. The hardline Sunni group declared in 2014 a self-styled caliphate that also spans parts of Syria.

10-year-old child killed in southeast Turkey car bomb
AFP, Ankara Saturday, 18 February 2017/A car bomb on Friday rocked the southeastern Turkish province of Sanliurfa, close to the Syrian border, killing a child and wounding 17 people, the provincial governor's office said. "Eighteen of our citizens have been taken to hospital, among them a 10-year-old child who lost their life," the office said, adding that one of the injured was in a serious condition. The explosion -- which took place near a building where prosecutors are housed -- struck the district of Viransehir, the office added. Earlier the official Anadolu news agency had cited governor Gungor Azim Tuna as saying the dead child was a three-year-old boy. The governor said the "terror attack" was caused by a parked vehicle that was loaded with explosives and detonated using a remote control, the agency reported. The lodgings were badly damaged, the governor added, while Dogan news agency said other buildings and several cars in the area were also damaged. Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said on Twitter that no terrorist organisation or attack would weaken Turkey's fight against terror. "Our determined and effective fight against terror will continue," he said. No group immediately claimed the attack, and Bozdag did not say which organisation the government suspected. Turkey was hit by a series of attacks in 2016 blamed on Kurdish militants and ISIS militants, killing hundreds of people. The country was also shaken by a failed military coup last July. This year also had a bloody start, with a New Year's attack on an elite Istanbul nightclub that left 39 people dead, most of them foreigners. The attack was claimed by ISIS. Last month the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), a splinter group of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), claimed responsibility for an attack that left two dead in the Aegean city of Izmir. The PKK has been waging an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984 during which over 40,000 people have been killed. It is proscribed as a terror organization by Ankara, the United States and the European Union. The Turkish government says the TAK is merely a front for the better-known PKK.

UN chief: US blocking Libya envoy was ‘serious mistake’
The Associated Press Saturday, 18 February 2017
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says that the US decision to block a former Palestinian prime minister from leading the UN political mission in Libya was “a serious mistake.”Washington blocked the proposed appointment of Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian Authority’s prime minister from 2007 to 2013, a week ago. It said it was acting to support its ally, Israel. Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, Guterres said: “I believe that it’s essential for everybody to understand that people serving the UN are serving in their personal capacities. They don’t represent a country or a government.”
Guterres said that Fayyad “was the right person in the right place at the right time.”Libya has been gripped by unrest since its 2011 revolution and the killing of longtime leader Muammar Qaddafi.

Pakistan shuts key border crossing in wake of shrine attack
The Associated Press Saturday, 18 February 2017/Pakistani authorities shut down a second key border crossing into Afghanistan, halting trade supplies to the neighboring landlocked country and increasing tension between the two nations in the wake of a bloody suicide bombing at a sufi shrine in Pakistan, officials said Saturday. The border closure at Chaman in Pakistan’s southwest Baluchistan province came after an attack on a Sufi shrine in southern Pakistan on Thursday left 88 worshippers dead. The move was seen as an effort to pressure Kabul to act against militants who Pakistan says have sanctuaries in Afghanistan. The attack at Lal Shahbaz Qalander shrine in Sehwan was claimed by the Islamic State group. Pakistan security forces have launched nationwide operations they say have left more than 100 “terrorists” dead.
Pakistan closed the border at Torkham hours after the bombing and the Chaman border was shut late Friday, said a senior army official. A second official confirmed the details, saying trucks and shipping containers carrying trade supplies were parked miles away from the border crossings. Torkham connects Pakistan to Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province and Chaman is located near Spin Boldak in Kandahar. The Pakistani officials asked to remain anonymous because they are not authorized to brief the media on the record. The latest developments come amid media reports that Pakistani troops backed by artillery targeted camps belonging to Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a breakaway faction of the Pakistani Taliban, near the Afghan border, causing an unspecified number of militant casualties. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar has claimed to have carried out a number of attacks, including the Feb. 13 suicide assault in Lahore that killed seven police officer and six civilians. Pakistan says Jamaat-ul-Ahrar and the main Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan militant groups had been operating from Afghan areas near the Pakistani border and that Kabul in the past ignored Islamabad’s pleas to take action against them. Pakistan’s military said Friday it summoned Afghan diplomats and handed over a list of 76 suspected “terrorists” who were hiding in Afghanistan. Pakistan wants immediate action by Afghan authorities, including the suspects’ extradition to Islamabad. In Kabul, the Afghan government Saturday summoned Pakistan’s ambassador in protest of recent shelling in Afghanistan’s eastern provinces. The foreign ministry summoned Ambassador Abrar Hussain in Kabul, where Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai sought an explanation from Hussain, but also gave his condolences regarding recent suicide attacks in Pakistan. At least two people have been killed and two others wounded in the shelling from Pakistan, according to reports.
Karzai said the Afghan government wants Pakistan to take strict action against terrorists that are hiding in Pakistan. He expressed concern over the closure of the Torkham and Chaman border crossings and asked that the gates be reopened. Also on Saturday, the Afghan army chief of staff, Gen. Qadam Shah Shahim, told reporters that security forces have killed 1,955 Islamic State group fighters over the past year including important military leaders and foreign fighters. Shahim said he regretted that Pakistan attacked eastern Afghanistan with artillery fire and said “we have shared our concerns through diplomatic channels with Pakistani authorities. We are waiting for the response through the diplomatic channels; otherwise we are fully ready to defend our country.”To a question about the list of 76 “terrorists” given by Islamabad to Kabul, Shahim said they too gave such a list of terrorists to Pakistan in the past and hoped Pakistan will act against them because they were using Pakistani soil to launch attacks in his country.

Houthi militia killed, field commanders captured in Yemen
By Staff writer, Al Arabiya Saturday, 18 February 2017/Confrontations erupted on Friday between the Popular Resistance and Houthi militia and the deposed president’s forces in Atma in Dhamar, located in the center of Yemen, according to local sources. Sources told al-Arabiya that Resistance members had fired a missile at a rebels’ armed vehicle, when the militia tried to target military points on the highway. The missile killed at least five people, including Field Commander Abu Nasr, and destroyed the vehicle. After the attack, the resistance was also able to seize another Houthis According to the same sources, the resistance has captured Houthi field commander - Abu Malik al-Jermouzi - with seven other militia during the confrontations that erupted in one of the popular markets. This comes amid widespread anger arousing against the rebels in all provinces, especially ones that are under their control.

Read French presidential candidate Macron’s controversial Algeria comments

Reuters, Paris Saturday, 18 February 2017/French presidential frontrunner Emmanuel Macron faced a storm of criticism from his right-wing opponents over his comments condemning France's colonial past in Algeria, and on Thursday he refused to back down. On a visit to Algiers on Tuesday Macron said France's history in Algeria was a "crime against humanity", he went on: "It's really barbaric and is part of that past that we must face up to also by apologising to those who were hurt."Algerians lived under French rule for 132 years until it won a bloody war of independence in 1962. The conflict killed 1.5 million Algerians, the Algerian government says. On Thursday, far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who Macron looks likely to face in a second-round run-off, said on Facebook: "Is there anything worse when you want to become president than going abroad to accuse the country you want to lead of crime against humanity?"Macron refused to back down, and in a video statement sent to Reuters, he said: "We must find the courage to call things by their name," he said. "Are we condemned to forever live in the shadows of this traumatic experience for our two countries?" Polls show that Macron has a strong chance of winning the French presidency in May and his strong criticism, unusual for someone running for high office, also made the front page of daily Le Monde, with the headline: "Macron sparks controversy".Another rival for the presidency, conservative Francois Fillon zeroed in on the row, saying in a campaign speech: "This dislike of our history, this continual repentance, is unworthy of a candidate for the presidency of the Republic."Before winning the presidency, President Francois Hollande suggested it was time to turn the page on France's Algerian colonial history, although he stopped short of offering the formal apology many in Algeria want to hear.

Germany’s Merkel: Islam not source of terrorism
Reuters, Munich Saturday, 18 February 2017/German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday said Europe's ties with Russia remained challenging, but it was important to work with Russia in the fight against Islamist terrorism. "The joint fight against Islamic terrorism is one area where we have the same interests and we can work together," Merkel said in a speech to the Munich Security Conference, where US Vice President Mike Pence was in the audience. Merkel, who has been critical of a US ban on travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, underscored that Islam itself was not the source of terrorism. She said it was critical to include Muslim countries in the fight against Islamist terrorism. Germany, under increasing pressure by US leaders to increase its military spending, would do "everything possible" meet a NATO target for spending 2 percent of economic output on defense by 2024, Merkel told the conference.
Also speaking at the conference, Pence sought to assure allies that the Trump administration will back NATO and stand with Europe even as it looks for new ways to cooperate with Russia. In the first major foreign policy address for the new administration of President Donald Trump, Pence warned allies that they must pay their fair share to support NATO, noting many lack "a clear or credible path" to do so. He also said Russia must honor the Minsk peace accords and deescalate violence in eastern Ukraine. "Know this: the United States will continue to hold Russia accountable, even as we search for new common ground, which as you know, President Trump believes can be found," Pence said, according to a copy of his prepared remarks.Merkel said on Saturday she would like to discuss cyber attacks and fake news with Russia, but it was questionable whether the problem of fake news could be successfully addressed before European elections this year. "We know that Russia communicates very openly that it views hybrid warfare as a form of defense," Merkel told the Munich Security Conference when asked about the issue of fake news. "If I could wish for one thing, it would certainly be very good to get this topic, for example, on the agenda in the framework of NATO-Russia talks."

Egypt's Renaissance Dam fears remain despite diplomatic efforts
By Shounaz Meky/Al Arabiya English Saturday, 18 February 2017
Cairo -- As Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam nears completion, Egyptian fears that the dam will affect its historic Nile water share remain unchanged. Expected to be ready by July 2017, Ethiopians consider the dam a great national project and a means of overcoming poverty. Egypt’s share of 55 billion square meters is the country’s main supply of drinking water and irrigates the Nile Delta and generates nearly half of the country’s electricity through the operation of the Aswan High Dam. In 2015, Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan signed a declaration of principles in Khartoum in which the three nations agreed to take all measures to avoid causing damage to the others, and to offer compensation in case of any damage. Egyptian president Fattah al-Sisi, left, and Ethiopian prime minister Hilemariam Desalegn, right, shake hands after the press conference at The National Palace Tuesday, March 24, 2015 in Addis Ababa. (AP)
While the Ethiopian side has reportedly reassured Egypt that its water share will not be affected, Egyptians are concerned the dam would impact the agricultural output. Last month, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn met in Addis Ababa on the sidelines of the African Union summit. The meeting raised speculations on whether thawing relations between the two countries could have any effect on the construction of the Renaissance Dam. Prior to the visit, Nader Nourridine, a professor of water resources at Cairo Univeristy, commenting to a local newspaper on Sisi’s visit, said it should help Egypt reach solution that preserve its water rights and reduces possible damages that could occur as a result of the Renaissance Dam.
Too late?
The Egyptian diplomacy handled the issue very late, political sociology professor Saeed Sadek told Al Arabiya English. “Egypt now has no option but to wait for the dam to start operating to see how that would affect its water share.” The Blue Nile river flows near the site of the planned Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam near Assosa in the Benishangul-Gumuz region. (AP)While there were several attempts to build the dam during the era of former President Hosni Mubarak, Ethiopia “took advantage of the political turmoil that followed his overthrow to construct the dam,” Sadek explained.
A different approach was taken when Sisi came to power, he said, mentioning Egypt’s intervention in retrieving 27 Ethiopians who were kidnapped in Libya.But still, Sadek said, “we are yet to witness a major push in Egyptian-Ethiopian relations” that would provide water security for Egypt.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on February 18-19/17
Canada's Islamophobia Motion Targets Moderate Muslims
Tarek Fatah/The Toronto Sun/MEF/February 14, 2017
Originally published under the title "Islamophobia Motion Will Target Moderate Muslims."
The Canadian parliament voted February 15 to approve a motion by Liberal MP Iqra Khalid (center left) calling on the federal government to condemn and battle "Islamophobia."
In the wake of the tragic massacre at a Quebec City mosque that killed six Muslims, a motion will be debated in the Canadian parliament Wednesday asking MPs to "condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination." [It has since been approved]
Many in the mosque establishment and right-wing Islamic groups in Canada are celebrating this as a victory.
But Muslim critics of the so-called "Motion 103," which mentions only Islamophobia by name and not any other form of religious persecution, are in disbelief that so few members of parliament have objected to this giant step backward and the watering down of our freedom of expression.
Perhaps, since the motion is being put before the Commons by Liberal MP Iqra Khalid, a Muslim Canadian, MPs don't want to be seen as insensitive to Muslim victimhood. Opposing the motion risks being labelled racist, misogynist, and, of course, "Islamophobic."
Khalid introduced her motion on Dec.1, 2016, before the Quebec City massacre on January 29, 2017.
That said, popular TV host Asif Javaid argues that it "echoes the agenda of Islamists and Islamic extremists in North America who are shamelessly taking advantage of the Quebec City tragedy to advance the international Muslim Brotherhood agenda to silence any critique of Islamism."
TV host Asif Javaid argues that Khalid's motion "echoes the agenda of Islamists."
In a post on his Facebook page, Javaid wrote: "(E)xtremist Muslims who came here as refugees are making preparations to turn Canada into a ... nightmare."
As for the motion to be debated in parliament, I wrote to Khalid asking her to define "Islamophobia," since her motion does not.
Would Muslims who denounce Sharia law as barbaric fall into that definition, I asked?
I asked if she believed "declaring the Islamic doctrine of armed jihad as an outdated concept that needs to be renounced" was Islamophobic?
She has not responded to my questions as of this writing.
Any threat to Islam's unofficial papacy by moderate Muslims is met swiftly by threats of death and fatwas.
Moderate and secular Muslims today are similar to the Christian followers of Martin Luther in 1517, whom the Catholic clergy condemned and later excommunicated.
Despite the fact Islam is without an equivalent to papal authority, Islamic clerical authority in the West works through transnational networks such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat-e-Islami, whose cadres operate cells in schools, universities, and NGOs to help infiltrate the system.
Just as in the Europe of the 1400s, any threat to Islam's unofficial papacy is met swiftly by threats of death and fatwas.
If systemic racism was an issue for Khalid and other MPs, I asked her why she did not, to my knowledge, react when it was reported that an Islamic cleric in Montreal uttered the following words to a congregation:
O Allah, give victory to our brothers who engage in Jihad
O Allah, give them victory over their enemy
O Allah, destroy the accursed Jews
O Allah, make their children orphans and their women widows.
If this prayer was in fact spoken to a congregation, then perhaps MP Khalid will have the courage to amend her motion and include a denunciation of this prayer, variations of which are read at most mosques every Friday.
Will she label such hateful statements as an example of systemic racism that is anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, anti-Hindu, and anti-atheist?
**Tarek Fatah, a founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress and columnist at the Toronto Sun, is a Robert J. and Abby B. Levine Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

A New Review of Colonel Yair Ravid’s book, "Window to the Backyard" (The History of Israel-Lebanon Relations - Facts and Illusions)
by Rebecca Bynum/Assistant to Dr Walid Phares, Trump campaign foreign policy advisor
Friday, 17 February 2017
Window to the Backyard: The History of Israel-Lebanon Relations - Facts and Illusions
by Yair Ravid
I would like to commend Colonel Yair Ravid’s new book, Window to the Backyard, to our readers. I first became interested in foreign policy in the early 1980’s when the Lebanese civil war was raging, political assassinations were rampant, and the Lebanese drama briefly flared up to obliterate the main action of the Cold War and to a lesser extent, the Iran-Iraq conflict.
Ravid, known as Abu Daoud, was an Israeli intelligence officer operating in Southern Lebanon during the time when Israel tried to establish a buffer zone between its borders and the main fighting there beginning in the early 1970’s. Ravid entertainingly recounts his interactions with many of the major players, from President Camille Nimer Chamoun’s partridge hunts on the border to his personal relationship with Pierre Gemayel and his sons, especially Bashir, who was assassinated shortly after being elected as President, and his relationship with legendary Israeli military leaders such as General Raphael “Raful” Eitan.
The Lebanese conflict was extremely complex, at least as viewed from the outside. It began after the PLO, having been ejected from Jordan, entered Lebanon and began attacking civilians in Beirut. The Israelis eventually hoped to use the Christians to help defeat and remove the PLO from the south. The Christian militias hoped to use the Israelis to push back the Syrians (who had also entered the conflict) and then pressure the Israelis to withdraw leaving them in control of their own destiny once more. Neither side got what it wanted, but the history of their interaction is a very interesting and we are fortunate to have this testimony from one of the most integral players on the Israeli side.
Ravid clearly sympathized with the Christian villagers who were being shelled by the PLO and massacred en masse in village after village. The Lebanese Phalangist militias eventually gave as good as they got, but the Sabra-Shatila massacre of Palestinians in 1982, carried out in retaliation for a massacre of Christians, was sensationalized in the press and used to blame Israel and force its wholesale withdrawal from south Lebanon. Despite the bitter and hysterical recriminations which flew in all directions following this terrible incident, Ravid’s intelligence arm remained active, providing the IDF with vital information and doing what he could to provide weapons to the Christians for their self-defense. Hezbollah was also born in this cauldron of strife and, with the support of Iran, has grown to become the most powerful force in Lebanon today. The former Christian stronghold, once protected by the French, has witnessed its Christian population become a relatively powerless minority whose leader, Lebanese President Michel Aoun, has openly allied with Hezbollah.
Colonel Ravid’s account is a personal story. Most interesting is his description of relationships with his various “assets,” who were most often a type of lovable rogue involved in various black market or other nefarious activities when not providing intelligence to Abu Daoud. The last section of the book is comprised of short character sketches of several of these men and what became of them in later life. Some died in service, but several brought their families to Israel and died in peaceful old age. Ravid’s affection for them is palpable and the book as a whole is filled with the kind of small cultural detail which gives insight missing in most historical analyses of that time. My one quibble is that the book could have used a better English language editor, but that is a minor issue. Overall, this book is a sensitive, insightful and often humorous personal account of that lamentable conflict. I would recommend it as an excellent supplement to general historical works on the period.

Even if Rouhani Visits Saudi Arabia!
Tariq Alhomayed/Asharq Al Awsat/February 18/17
Following the visit of Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani to Oman and Kuwait, his deputy chief of staff said the regional initiative in accepting the invitations of the two countries’ leaders is an indication for the need to establish Islamic friendships and restore regional ties.
He added that this initiative is “an opportunity that should be exploited by the friends in the region because it will come only once. Take advantage of the good opportunity!”
Is it really a “good opportunity” that should be exploited by the Gulf countries because “it will only come once?” In fact, it is not a one-time chance and is not necessarily a good one even if Rouhani visits Saudi Arabia.
This is not the first trick played by the Iranian regime, i.e. strengthening ties with Gulf countries to avoid a clash with the West, mainly the U.S. This was done before by former Iranian presidents Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Mohammad Khatami and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in various stages, but nothing changed.
Tehran has caused destruction in Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and Syria due to its intervention, not to mention what has happened and still is in Bahrain, which Hassan Nasrallah considers it occupied.
Tehran has also interfered in some Gulf countries, including Kuwait. Then, why should we believe Iran now? Why should we believe that it is a good opportunity that “will come only once?”
In fact it is absurd to believe Tehran based on statements or visits because the region’s history shows that the right way to put Iran-Gulf relations on the right track starts with actions and not slogans.
Given that some tend to forget, it is necessary to remind them that Rouhani rejected a pilgrimage invitation made by Saudi Arabia in 2013. This invitation was controversial but was published by Fars News Agency. It reported that “Rouhani has not announced his final decision on the Saudi King’s invitation to participate in the Hajj rituals”, adding that he will make an announcement after returning from New York where he attended the U.N. General Assembly meeting.
Back then, Rouhani turned down the invitation because he was busy mending fences with former U.S President Barack Obama – Today we find Rouhani trying to tour the Gulf due to concerns over the Trump administration’s policies.
Worse still, Gulf countries are being told via a tweet from the Iranian president’s deputy chief of staff that Rouhani’s visit to Oman and Kuwait is a one-time chance and the region should exploit it!
Not only that, but Rouhani says that “good relations with neighbors and Gulf security” are the foundation for Iran policies. The question here is: Why hasn’t Rouhani worked on this foundation until now? Why is he visiting the Gulf now and not since 2013? The answer is easy – it is because of the Iranian concerns from Trump. For this, it is difficult to believe Tehran.

Syria and the Avalanche of Evidence
Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/February 18/17
It is not yet clear exactly when, or even whether, the next round of “peace talks” on Syria might take place. Nevertheless, one thing is already clear: More and more parties involved in the Syrian conflict are showing signs of readiness to tackle the fundamental causes of what remains the new century’s greatest human tragedy.
Without a doubt, one of those causes is the speedy “falling out of love” of the Syrian people with a regime that had dominated their nation since 1970.
This does not mean that Syrians loved the Assad regime even at its best or least bad.
What it means is that many Syrians, perhaps even a majority, were prepared to tolerate it the way one tolerates bad weather. Those who visited Syria during the reign of the two Assads always noticed a sentiment that the French call “desamour”, a term that means a sense of “un-loving” that, in time, leads to intense hatred.
Thus, a consensus is taking shape, even in such unexpected places as Moscow and Tehran, that the departure of President Bashar al-Assad from power must, at some point, be considered as inevitable.
A year ago, Moscow and Tehran regarded Assad’s departure as “non-negotiable”. At the same time, the Western democracies, with the exception of Obama’s bizarre administration, insisted it was a sine qua non for a peaceful settlement.
Since then, both sides have modified their positions.
Moscow and Tehran no longer reject any talk of an eventual retirement for Assad.
In contrast London and now Washington under the new Trump administration send signals that they no longer demand that Assad step down as a precondition for a peaceful settlement.
Easing Assad out of the equation faces a number of difficulties. The first of these is the length of any transition that leads to his departure. Assad wants to remain until the end of his presidential mandate, that is to say another five years at least.
Western powers, however, insist on a transition of 12 to 18 months.
As a sweetener, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has suggested that, at the end of a brief transition, Assad may be allowed to stand for re-election. Johnson’s offer may sound like fools’ gold because it is unlikely that Assad would have any chance in any election not organized by himself.
Nevertheless, the gesture could bridge the gap between Western powers and the pro-Assad camp led by Russia.
The length of transition, however, isn’t the only problem. Assad and his protectors also need to settle the thorny problem where and for how long the deposed ruler and his immediate entourage might spend the rest of their life. If our information is correct, neither Tehran nor Moscow wish to play host to a group that would be a magnet for revenge operations by those who have so terribly suffered in recent years. And, yet, finding a host country that could also guarantee the safety of Assad and his entourage is no easy task.
An even more complicated issue concerns the guarantee that Assad wants against prosecution for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The problem is that the way the corpus of international law related to war crime sand crimes against humanity has developed in the past three decades makes the prospect of such a guarantee hard to imagine.
For almost a century the concept of sovereign immunity shielded government, leaders against charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Though substantially eroded at the trial of Nazi party leaders in Nuremberg, the concept maintained half a life of its own until the 1990s. There was consensus that one could bring a state to justice, albeit in civil suits seeking financial compensation and/or restitution of illegally confiscated property while making it impossible to prosecute individual officials of a state.
In the past quarter of a century a new consensus has taken shape, leading to the Rome Protocols and the creation of the International Criminal Court endorsed by the overwhelming majority of the United Nations members. Today, except in very rare cases, the principle of Sovereign Immunity does not cover individual officials of a state even at the highest levels.
Another significant development is the disappearance of “status of limitation” as a legal concept. Until two or three decades, acts that might be classified as war crimes were subject to time limits beyond which no successfully prosecution was possible. Now, however, war crimes and crimes against humanity remain open to prosecution for ever. Thus, regardless of how long he might live, Assad would always remain a target for prosecution on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. That principle was most dramatically established in the case of Charles Taylor, a former Liberian President involved in war crimes in Sierra Leone, and the cases of Serbian leaders Slobodan Milosevic, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic.
Despite informal guarantees offered by France and a number of its African allies, number of African former leaders, among them Chad’s Hicene Habre, fall in the same category.
Yet another major change concerns the development of a new approach to rules of evidence.
In some instances, for example the trial of Khmer Rouge leaders in Cambodia, evidence presented in war crimes cases consisted almost entirely of testimonies by individual victims and/or their survivors and was, thus, vulnerable to cross-examination.
Now, however, many governments systematically collect evidence regarding war crimes and crimes against humanity. The U.S. State Department, for example, has a special Office of Global criminal Justice that advises the Secretary of State and the Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights on issues related to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.
Between 2012 and 2013 the office had a special project regarding the conflict in Syria and amassed a mass of evidence on Assad’s alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity. As a gesture of goodwill towards the Islamic Republic in Tehran, in 2013 President Obama shut down the project and transferred its budget. Nevertheless, the evidence collected is intact and could be used in any eventual cases against Assad and his entourage.
Other nations, including in Denmark and Germany have also collected evidence regarding Syria, at times in conjunction with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria (IICIS).
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has publicly accused Assad’s troops of committing “crimes against humanity” that could not be overlooked.
“The use of barrel bombs and incendiary bombs, and even chemical weapons, is not being shied away from,” Merkel said in November 2016 in Berlin.
“The civilian population is being starved, medical institutes are being attacked, doctors are dying and hospitals are being destroyed,” she said, adding that not even United Nations aid convoys were safe from bombardment.
For its part the IICIS has published a number of reports, most recently regarding the systematic massacre of detainees in Syrian prisons run by Assad.
The report states that thousands of detainees held by the regime have been beaten to death or dying from torture.
“Nearly every surviving detainee has emerged from custody having suffered unimaginable abuses,” Paulo Pinheiro, Chair of the IICIS, said of those held by the regime with the title: “Out of sight, out of mind: Deaths in detention in the Syrian Arab Republic.”
Last but not least, scores of Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and thousands of human rights activists, many of them Syrians, have bene collecting evidence for years.
No other ruler in history has faced such an avalanche of evidence indicating his role in a tragedy. The question is not whether that avalanche will roll down on its object; the only question is: when?

New Turkey-Europe War over ‘Spying Imams’
Saeed Abdelrazek/Asharq Al Awsat/February 18/17
Ankara- Allegations on spying activities practiced by some Turks, who belong to Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB) and other unions and associations in Germany and Austria, have opened a new door for tension with Ankara.
DITIB is Germany’s largest Islamic umbrella group with over 900 mosques tied to the Turkish government’s Directorate of Religion, or Diyanet.
German officials not only issued statements about activities practiced by some Turkish people, especially imams sent by DITIB, but also started judicial investigations.
The imams have allegedly collected information across Europe on supporters of the religious movement Ankara blames for last July’s failed coup attempt.
German police on Wednesday raided the homes of four imams alleged to have spied on the opposition for the Turkish government.
The Federal Prosecutors Office (GBA) said in a statement no arrests were made in the raids in the states of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) and Rhineland-Pfalz, which aimed to collect evidence into imams conducting alleged espionage against supporters of U.S.-based preacher Fethullah Gulen.
The prosecutor’s office said the raids were carried out as a result of a September order from Diyanet, a religious body tied to the Turkish premiership, for imams to pass information to diplomatic missions on Gulen supporters.
Chief of the Turkish Presidency of Religious Affairs Mehmet Gormez said Turkish authorities had acknowledged that six imams had “exceeded their authorities” and were called back to Turkey in order not to harm relations with Germany.
Gormez blamed “internal” political concerns for the raids, which he said were conducted despite the fact that the imams had returned to Turkey.
He rejected accusations that the clerics were engaged in spying or any other illegal activity.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu criticized Germany on Friday saying that the country has become a safe haven for PKK members, as well as for followers of the Gulenist Terror Group (FETÖ).
Speaking to reporters at the G20 Summit of Foreign Ministers in the German city of Bonn, Cavusoglu said Ankara’s concerns over the FETÖ members in Germany have been expressed to German authorities at every opportunity.
“It is not acceptable that they have found a place for themselves in a country like Germany.”
For his part, Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag condemned on Thursday the raids and accused Berlin of acting indirectly under the influence of the Gulen movement.
He said the investigation into the alleged spying showed how easily Germany “believes the allegations of terrorists.”
In a common matter, an Austrian opposition lawmaker accused Turkey of operating an informer network via its embassy in Vienna that he said targets critics of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, promotes his policies and receives payments from Ankara.
Peter Pilz, from the Austrian Greens, said he sent documents to the police detailing the activities of the ATIB, an umbrella organization headed by the religious attache at Turkey’s embassy that oversees dozens of mosques in Austria.

Welcome to Sweden, Eldorado for Migrants!
Nima Gholam Ali Pour/Gatestone Institute/February 18/17
From the perspective of a poor migrant, the cash Sweden gives to all who come seems a lot of money, without working a single day to get it. This makes Sweden a paradise for the migrants of the world who do not want to work. The Swedish taxpayer pays for this party.
Recently, the city of Malmö bought 268 apartments, so newly arrived migrants would have a roof over their head. But at the same time, Swedish citizens in Malmö have to wait more than three years in line to rent an apartment.
While Swedish taxpayers are forced to fund all these benefits for migrants, the migrants do not have to adapt to the Swedish way of living.
In 2015, the proportion of rapes where the police actually found the suspect was 14%. In 86% of the rapes, the rapist got away.
It needs to become clear that the responsibility for becoming integrated into Swedish society rests entirely on the newly-arrived migrants. Migrants who do not receive a residence permit must go home or somewhere else.
In 2016, Sweden received 28,939 asylum seekers. Sweden is a predominantly Christian country in northern Europe, and yet most asylum seekers to Sweden came from three Muslim countries in the Middle East: Syria (5,459), Afghanistan (2,969) and Iraq (2,758). Why is it that people from these three Muslim countries choose to cross Europe to come to Sweden? What is it that Sweden offers that attracts people from the other side of the world?
It is not the major metropolises in Sweden that attract these people. 56% of Sweden's land area is covered by forest. Besides the Swedish capital Stockholm, there is no Swedish city with more than 1 million inhabitants. Sweden's average annual temperature is around 3°C (37.4°F), so it is not the weather that attracts tens of thousands of people from Muslim countries to Sweden.
What Sweden provides is economic and social benefits for all who come. Sweden is a country where the state pays newly-arrived migrants to encourage them to enter the community and seek jobs. If you receive a residence permit as a refugee, quota refugee or person with "subsidiary protection," you get up to $35 (308 SEK) a day, five days a week, if you participate in a so-called "establishment plan." So, the newly arrived migrant does not even have to work to get this money; the only thing he or she needs to do is to accept the help that the Public Employment Service provides. The newly-arrived migrant receives an "establishment allowance" (etableringsersättning) during his first two years in Sweden. After two years, the migrant is still entitled to all the benefits of the Swedish welfare state.
The migrants who receive this kind of establishment allowance can also get a supplementary establishment allowance (etableringstillägg) if they have children. They will get $91 a month (800 SEK) for each child under the age of 11, and $170 (1500 SEK) for each child who has reached the age of 11. A newly-arrived immigrant can get this supplementary establishment allowance for three children at most. If a newly-arrived immigrant has more than three children, then only the three oldest children count. The newly arrived immigrant can receive a maximum of $509 dollars (4500 SEK) a month through this supplementary establishment allowance.
So, if somebody lives in poverty in an Arab country and has several children, there is every reason to try to get a residence permit in Sweden. From the perspective of a poor migrant, that seems a lot of money to cash in, and one does not have to work a single day to get it. This makes Sweden a paradise for the migrants of the world who do not want to work. The Swedish taxpayer pays for this party.
If you accept the help of the Public Employment Service and start looking for a job, as a newly arrived migrant, you will also get help to pay the rent. If a newly arrived migrant has a rent of $396 (3500 SEK), the state pays $192 (1700 SEK). This is called the housing allowance (bostadsersättning).
It is not, however, only newly-arrived migrants with residence permits that receive economic and social benefits. Migrants who do not have residence permits also receive economic and social benefits. Since July 2013, immigrant children who live illegally in Sweden have the right to go to school.
In addition, also since July 2013, illegal immigrants have the right to state-funded health care, dental care, contraception counseling, and maternity care, as well as care in case of abortion. The illegal immigrant is also entitled to transportation to and from health care facilities, and also an interpreter. All children, in fact, who are living illegally in Sweden are offered the same health care and dental care, and under the same conditions, as children who are Swedish citizens.
The strange thing is that illegal immigrants pay lower fees for their medical and dental care than Swedish citizens pay. This is something that has upset many Swedish senior citizens, as 355,000 Swedish senior citizens live below the European Union's poverty line. It is not certain that these senior citizens can afford dental care at all, while at the same time, illegal immigrants receive dental care by paying a fee of $6 (50 SEK). In Malmö, Sweden's third largest city, the children of illegal immigrants receive full income support, and illegal migrants who have children have their entire rent paid by the municipality.
Since January 1, 2016, Sweden also has a law that offers children free medication. This law also applies to children seeking asylum in Sweden and children in Sweden illegally.
Children who come to Sweden and receive a residence permit further have the right to a "survivor pension" (efterlevandepension) if their parents have died. If the parents have never worked or lived in Sweden, the child will receive $167 (1477 SEK) per month, or $335 (2954 SEK) per month, if both parents are deceased. This is paid by the Swedish Pension Agency (Pensionsmyndigheten).
These are just some of the economic and social benefits that both legal and illegal migrants receive as soon as they set foot on Swedish soil.
So, if you live in an African country and want your child to go to school, Sweden will provide free education for your children, whether you have permission to stay in Sweden or not. If you are sick and cannot afford to go to the hospital, Sweden will provide free health care, whether you have the right to be in Sweden or not.
Recently, the city of Malmö bought 268 apartments with the taxpayers' money, so newly arrived migrants would have a roof over their heads. But at the same time, Swedish citizens have to wait more than three years in line to rent an apartment in Malmö. The reason that people from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq cross the entire European continent to come to Sweden is because Swedish politicians have given them every reason to come. From the day that a newly arrived migrant enters Sweden, the authorities at all levels of government throw money at him, with access to free health care and education. Why shouldn't he come? Sweden's current policies offer a free ticket to a better life for all poor migrants who come to Sweden, and the Swedish taxpayer foots the bill.
While migrants get all these benefits, there are not many obligations. Sweden is a multicultural society. This means that many of the migrants do not feel any loyalty to the Swedish culture, but retain their own culture within Swedish society. While Swedish taxpayers are forced to fund all these benefits for illegal and legal migrants, the migrants do not have to adapt to Swedish way of living. Instead, the Swedes not only have to pay for the migrants, but also seem required to adapt to them.
Screenshot from a government-sanctioned video propagating "new Swedes will claim their space, bringing their culture, language and habits, and it's time to see this as a positive force" and "old [native] Swedes have to integrate as well" in this new reality.
Meanwhile, Sweden has a critical shortage of police officers, which means that it is easy to commit crimes and get away with them. If one would, against all expectations, get caught, the punishment in Sweden is not harsh. If someone is convicted of rape, he would be incarcerated from two to six years. In 2015, the proportion of rapes where the police actually found the suspect was 14%. This means that in 86% of the rapes, the rapist got away. The police could simply not do their job because lack of resources and poor leadership.
Many might say that it is racist to associate migrants with sexual crimes. The Swedish police published a report in June 2016 which gave a status report of sexual abuse. In the report, one can read the following quote:
"In cases where the crimes were carried out by offenders in a larger group in public places and in public swimming pools the perpetrators have been mainly youngsters who have applied for or have recently received asylum in Sweden."
Although Sweden has a more restrictive immigration policy than the liberal migration policy it had before the migration crisis began, Sweden continues to have a welfare and integration policy towards newly arrived immigrants that functions as a magnet and draws less-educated immigrants to Sweden. Those who come to Sweden seem to be seeking a country that provides many entitlements but not many obligations. People seeking success go to the UK, Canada or the United States, while it often appears as if people who want to break the rules choose to come to Sweden.
As long as Sweden gives migrants all these benefits and demands so little back, Sweden will be the ideal country for the world's opportunists and freeloaders. The benefits of immigration, such as a well-educated workforce, economic growth and increased entrepreneurship, will not contribute to Sweden, because through its welfare and integration policies Sweden is attracting migrants who are either unwilling or unable to make an effort.
According to Eurostat figures from 2015, the unemployment rate among foreign nationals in Sweden was 20.1 percent, while Swedish citizens had an unemployment rate of 5.7 percent. Only three other countries in the European Union -- France, Spain and Greece -- had a higher unemployment rates among their foreign nationals than Sweden.
Among foreign nationals who were citizens of a non-EU country, Sweden had an unemployment rate of 29.3 percent. Only two other countries in the European Union -- Spain and Greece -- had a higher figure than Sweden. If you look at the unemployment rate among Sweden's own citizens, Sweden has EU's second-lowest unemployment rate.
Many would say that this might indicate that there is discrimination in the Swedish labor market. A major investigation (Långtidsutredningen 2015) by the Swedish Ministry of Finance, published in 2015, made the assessment that the Swedish labor market mainly rewards individuals' skills, and as a whole does not seem to be characterized by ethnic discrimination. The investigation also made the assessment that in many instances, persons who are born outside Sweden and have higher education from their countries of birth, need further education in Sweden to become established in the Swedish labor market.
The problem therefore is not discrimination; it is that migrants who come to Sweden lack the proper education to enter the Swedish labor market.
A restrictive immigration policy is not enough for Sweden. As long as Sweden has all these benefits for illegal immigrants and newly-arrived migrants, the most opportunistic and sometimes the most unmotivated migrants will make every effort to come.
Migrants who stay in Sweden even though they do not have permits should not be rewarded. Migrants should not get paid because they are accepting support from the government to find jobs. These kinds of benefits need to be phased out and eventually eliminated.
It needs to become clear that the responsibility for becoming integrated into the Swedish society rests entirely on the newly arrived migrants. Migrants who do not receive a residence permit should go home or somewhere else. If this does not happen, it could lead to a crisis for the Swedish welfare state and the social rights of the Swedish people. Many Swedes would say that this welfare crisis has already begun.
**Nima Gholam Ali Pour is a member of the board of education in the Swedish city of Malmö and is engaged in several Swedish think tanks concerned with the Middle East. He is also editor for the social conservative website Situation Malmö. Gholam Ali Pour is the author of the Swedish book "Därför är mångkultur förtryck"("Why Multiculturalism is Oppression").
*Follow Nima Gholam Ali Pour on Twitter and Facebook
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Unraveling the mystery over ‘Muslim NATO’ chief Raheel Sharif
By Ehtesham Shahid/Al Arabiya English/ Saturday, 18 February 2017
For most analysts and watchers of Pakistan, the appointment of General Raheel Sharif as head of the Saudi-led military coalition continues to be shrouded in mystery. They either see little progress since the announcement or cannot comprehend what it really entails.
Despite the skepticism, General Sharif heading the 39-nation Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT) is being seen as a step in the right direction. Observers believe this has been in the works for some time and that Pakistan, despite occasional turbulence in its relations with the Arab world, continues to be in the scheme of things, definitely at a military level.
Arshi Saleem, a leading security analyst in Pakistan, says the announcement generated a lot of discussion and debate in the country. “It is still not confirmed because the way system works here, his appointment needs to be endorsed by the government,”, she says.
According to her, the government’s still sees it as a proposal and will decide keeping in view the best interest of the country. Anyways, there has been no official statement on his appointment from the military sources.
Army protocol
“Once a military official retires there is a certain period during which he cannot accept any position because of the sensitivity attached to his work. Especially being army chief, he is privy to a lot of state information related to security,” says Saleem.
According to her, it is still not clear whether this would be more of an advisory and planning position or actually commanding forces on the ground. “It seems if at all he accepts the position, it may be more of an adviser than commander leading the forces,” she says.
Kamran Bokhari, Senior Fellow with the Center for Global Policy and Fellow with the Program on Extremism with George Washington University, admits there is very little in the way of available details. “It is very difficult to say with any degree of certainty beyond some basic geopolitical realities that are shaping this,” he says.
According to him, either way there are limits to how far Islamabad is willing to be part of this venture. “At best the Pakistanis are willing to offer retired personnel. Gen Sharif is also the most popular general that the Pak army has produced in decades, which means his decision to lead this military alliance will not be as controversial on the home front,” says Bokhari.
Work in progress
Defense analyst Awad Mustafa chooses to look beneath the headlines. He says the alliance against terrorism has been built on the 2015 plan to create an Arab League quick intervention force also dubbed as the "Arab NATO".
“The Arab NATO plan was set to be an air, naval and land operation force large enough to intervene in major operations but also specialized enough to conduct special operations tasks against terrorist organizations”, says Mustafa.
According to him, Sharif’s appointment is the first key step to establishing the force and establishing the communication format between all the members. “Currently the only members experienced in coalition combat would be the GCC states. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE have all been working together in Yemen and regularly exercise as well,” he says.
A bus moves past a banner hanging on a light pole with the picture of Pakistan's Army Chief of Staff General Raheel Sharif along a road in Karachi, Pakistan February 25, 2016. (Reuters)
This is also not the first effort at coalition-building in this part of the world. The Northern Thunder exercise, for instance, brought forces from Turkey, Sudan, Jordan and other members establishing a link between their forces.
By the look of things, Gen Sharif would have to build on this platform but also build a political structure to facilitate future operations.
“Gen Sharif’s experience in the provision of unconventional warfare training to the Pakistani forces - shown by the counter-insurgency operations he led against Tehrik-i-Taliban (Pakistani Taliban) militants - is a clear example of his leadership prowess and why he is the right choice to set up the IMAFT structure,” says Mustafa.
A strategic relationship
Riad Kahwaji, Founder/CEO, Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (INEGMA), says Sharif’s pick will possibly get Pakistan more involved in this coalition. This is where geo-strategic realities begin to surface and probably also explains the slow progres.
“Saudi Arabia and Pakistan have a long-term strategic relationship on many levels and this coalition will be another pillar solidifying their partnership,” he says.
According to him, Pakistan being the only Muslim nuclear power, makes a logical choice to provide the founding leadership of this coalition, which so far remains a virtual alliance. “We have seen so far declaration of intent to form this entity and heard others interested in joining. Now it is time to see it come together,” he says.
Saudi Arabia announced the alliance in December 2015 which has urged greater regional involvement in the campaign against ISIS. (Al Arabiya)
Kahwaji believes that, at this stage, General Sharif will have to lay out the military strategies and the process of establishing the coalition’s command and structure.
“More important is to see the financial backing and the seriousness of the member states to contribute manpower and resources necessary to create the co-called Muslim NATO,”‎ says Kahwaji.
The quartet?
The move is also being positively viewed in Turkey, which is being forced into conflicts in the Middle East. This also adds another layer to the posibilities such alliances may throw up.
Dr. Mehmet Seyfettin Erol, President of Ankara Center for Crisis and Policy Studies (ANKASAM), says the appointment is not only the result of a cooperation in the context of Saudi Arabia-Pakistan but can also be considered a common step of the “Islamic Alliance Against Terrorism” consisting of 34 countries including Turkey.
“With this step, significant progress has been made in terms of the “Islamic Army Coalition” declared on December 16, 2015.
Last year, joint military exercises brought together 20 Arab and Islamic countries, aimed at encouraging armed cooperation. (Al Arabiya)
More concretely, this development points to ongoing decisiveness in the context of the institutionalization of the Islamic Army decided to be formed as a result of a common will and its transformation into a more deterrent force,” he says.
Dr. Mehmet maintains that global and regional developments give rise to a security-based regional Muslim NATO in the Islamic world. “The Islamic world has to cooperate with each other because of multidimensional common threats.”
In making this case, Dr. Mehmet adds another dimension to the entire debate. “The coalition under the quartet leadership of Turkey-Saudi Arabia-Pakistan (along with active engagement of Egypt) should be viewed as a global opportunity in terms of regional and global stability, peace and security”.
Whether there are takers for such a formula remains to be seen.

Some Iraqis are risking it all to spy on ISIS militants in Mosul
By Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Susannah George/The Associated Press/ Saturday, 18 February 2017
The Iraqi intelligence agent knew something was wrong. An Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) member working for him as an informant in the city of Mosul called him on his mobile, but he didn’t identify himself by the code name they always used in their communications. Then the informant started talking to him about selling his car.
The agent played along.
Days later, the informant called back and explained: The militants had seen the number on his phone and, always on the hunt for spies, demanded he call it. So he did and pretended he was talking to the guy who sold him his car.
Iraqi intelligence has some 300 people working as informants inside the city of Mosul, part of an enormous information-gathering operation unfolding on the sidelines of the intense urban fighting for Mosul, according to officials. They have pinpointed militants’ positions and movements, warned of car bombs or hidden explosives and helped fill a list of names of ISIS supporters.
The work is extremely dangerous.
ISIS militants in Mosul are known to kill at the slightest suspicion of espionage. People caught speaking on mobile phones have been shot by snipers or killed and hung from lampposts, according to accounts from the city. And when Iraqi forces recapture a neighborhood, informants face getting caught up in residents’ revenge attacks against militants.More than half a dozen Iraqi intelligence officials interviewed by The Associated Press described their operations. They said trust of the security forces among Mosul’s residents has been key to their efforts. However, reports of long, arbitrary detentions of men and boys suspected of IS-links risks undermining that trust. During the Mosul operation, intelligence agencies have built a database of some 18,000 names of suspected ISIS fighters, according to two Iraqi intelligence officials in Baghdad who have access to the database. Male residents of retaken parts of the city are checked against the list, leading so far to the arrest of 900 people, they said. All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to talk to the press. They also refused to give details on the informants for fear of endangering them.
The informants have a variety of motives. Some do it for money, since some agents pay for information. Others do it out of hatred of ISIS. One operative was an Iraqi ISIS member who was beaten because he was caught smoking — a crime under the militants’ rule.
“That was the first spark,” said a Baghdad-based intelligence official in contact with the man. As time went on, the man grew disillusioned. So he started feeding information to intelligence officials.Another is a 70-year-old man who escaped the militants’ suspicions because of his age, the official said. But then after his neighborhood was retaken by Iraqi forces, neighbors blew up his house in anger at ISIS, unaware he was secretly betraying the group. After months of fighting, troops have taken Mosul’s eastern half and are about to move into the west. The intelligence gathering effort has been crucial there since Iraqi forces were under pressure for precision to avoid casualties among the hundreds of thousands of civilians still in the city.
On a recent day on the outskirts of Mosul, an Iraqi major involved in planning the western assault scrolled through messaging apps on his phone. The screen was filled with short texts, dropped pins and links to satellite maps. The messages read simply: “sniper position,” ‘‘mortar team,” and “Daesh base,” using the Arabic acronym for the militant group.
He and intelligence officials said they vet and cross-check information. Still, the process has been plagued with problems.
A colonel in the intelligence services in Baghdad said dozens of trusted informants have turned out to be double agents for ISIS. He recounted one case of one who provided information for weeks about fighters and headquarters behind ISIS lines. Last month, he sent in a tip about a roadside bomb. The colonel vetted the tip and sent one of his men in Mosul to investigate. The soldier and the source were not heard from again.
“We think the source handed him over to Daesh,” he said.
Another intelligence official said he knew of some half dozen informants discovered and killed by IS and still more who stopped sending information, their fate unknown. Key to success has been the concerted effort by security forces to keep support of Mosul’s Sunnis, who have resented domination by the Shiite-led government in Baghdad. They long complained of discrimination and of abuses by security forces, something that helped fuel the rise of the Islamic State group. During the Mosul offensive, troops have gone out of their way to help residents and prevent sectarian tensions.
On a recent operation in eastern Mosul, Lt. Col. Muhanad al-Timimi and his men were greeted warmly by residents of the Andalus neighborhood. They went door to door asking about IS militants. One resident, Muhammed Ghanim, led the soldiers to a house with a pile of mortars in the garden. “This was where they had their base,” he said.Another, Amar Baroudi, gave the soldiers tea — and names of more than 20 Iraqis fighting for ISIS. “These people were ignorant and very cruel to us.” he said of the militants. “Now I’m proud to help the security forces find them and punish them.”
That goodwill can be easily strained. Human Rights Watch says it has information indicating thousands have likely been arrested in the Mosul operation. The vast majority have not been allowed to access a lawyer or inform their families where they are, said Belkis Wille, the senior Iraq researcher for HRW.
Wille said initially families from Mosul who had a loved one detained by Iraqi forces trusted they would quickly be screened and released, but as months dragged on with no news, that mood is changing. “They had this window to regain the trust,” Wille said, “but they’re losing that opportunity.”

The Sultan and the Shah… on TV

Mshari Al Thaydi/Al Arabiya/February 18/17
News about a new historical series tackling the conflict between the Safavids and the Ottomans in the Islamic middle centuries has caught my attention.
Al Arabiya producer Sabah Nahi watched a few episodes of this series, entitled “the Sultan and the Shah.” He described it as an “epic drama that addresses a conflict between two leading empires at the time in the Arab world; namely the Ottomans, represented by Sultan Selim I, who defended his reign, and the Safavids, led by the Shah Ismail Safavi.”
The director of this series is Jordanian, Mohammad Aziziah. The executive producer Dr. Mohsen al-Ali said that they relied on important historical sources from various Persian, Turkish and Arab sides, to verify the facts and become inspired by their implications.
Iraqi, Syrian, Lebanese, Jordanian and Egyptian actors starred this series among others. However, the series focuses on two main characters leading these wars: Ottoman Sultan Selim I and the Safavid Shah Ismail.
I have not watched the series yet to be able to comment on its content, historical story, production quality and the message that it wants to convey. However, such a series that took nearly two years to be make, as Aziziah said, should reach the minimum requirements of such a production.
We stress on the need for historical stories to be told because our main problem today is that we still linger negatively in our past
It is now time for other Arab-made dramas, movies and documentaries to be produced with a professional insight similar to those seen on the Discovery and National Geographic channels, for example.
If Arab artists were able to provide the historical sensitive era in a high-caliber and clever output, a multifaceted text with rich sources, and flawless acting, directing and music, they would have spared unnecessary and empty discussions about historical issues.
We stress on the need for historical stories to be told because our main problem today is that we still linger negatively in our past, from Iraq to Syria and Yemen and other countries.
We are a nation that is still living in its past. Once we distance ourselves from our past, we will be able to look at it calmly, understand it and analyze it with interest, disregarding the consequences.
Some of the examples include but are not limited to Karbala, Zaid bin Ali, the battle of Nahrawan, al-Amin and al-Ma’mun, Abu Muslim al-Khurasani, Marwan al-Himar, Saqr Quraish, Helping the State and the rest of the Buyids, Tatars, Salah ed-Din, Qutuz, Qarmatians, Hasan Bin Sabbah, the fall of Baghdad, al-Tusi, the crusader invasions, Louis IX, the Portuguese invasion, Zaydi war against Bani Rasul, etc.
It is true that ancient Egyptian and Syrian dramas have tackled some of these, but what I am talking about is a western-style production, or at least series that are similar to the historic non-commercial Turkish series, of course.
So, is it time for a new era of Arab drama?
**The article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat.

Jeff Sessions and the triumph of Trump
Ahmad al-Farraj/Al Arabiya/February 18/17
Over the past week, after long hearings, unjustified postponements and a heated debate between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate, the Council voted to approve the appointment of Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General.
All the Democrats, except for a single senator, voted against the appointment. But since the Republicans are the majority of the senate with 52 seats out of 100, the confirmation had been approved. Traditionally, all the candidates of the new cabinet are approved with a large majority rate.
With President Trump the situation is different, as a result of the sharp ideological splits between the conservatives and the liberals in the American society, especially with regard to the new Attorney General, so what is the reason behind this?!
Some civil rights groups and black rights organizations accuse the new Attorney General of racism. He is from the state of Alabama, in the deep conservative American South. Alabama has a long history with racial movement before the adoption of the Civil Rights Act in the sixties of the last century .It is also one of the states that seceded from the United States, after President Abraham Lincoln decided to abolish slavery, more than a century and a half ago. The new Attorney General already served as US Attorney for Alabama, before he was elected as a member of the Senate on behalf of the same state.
His opponents claim that his career echoes a clear intolerance toward other racial groups and bigotry. Trump nominated Sessions for the Justice department, because the latter was very loyal to him since the first day of his candidacy. Indeed, Sessions attended some of the gatherings of Trump electoral campaign and even took part in the events, so the nomination is rightfully his.
The problem, as I have repeatedly emphasized, is that Trump came from outside the institution, and promised to shake Washington to its core to serve the American public.
To be objective, the Democrats failed, during the confirmation process of the new Attorney General, to prove any racist charges against him. Moreover, some black testimonies were in favor of Sessions and stressed that he was not a racist. As a matter of fact, his career was characterized by trying to preserve the values of justice and equality. Thus shutting down the controversies around him led a systematic smear campaign against him, headed by African American Representative John Lewis, who testified against his colleague in the Senate in a rare, once in a lifetime phenomenon!
The ferocious campaign led by the Democrats against Trump and his candidate for the Ministry of Justice, is not the first of its kind. It is a part of a systematic campaign against Trump and his Cabinet since he won the presidency. A campaign supported by Media titans. Most of Trump’s candidates faced the same fate. The state secretary of Education, the Treasury Secretary of State and The Secretary of State for Health all stood against stormy interrogations in the Senate. But Sessions faced the most stubborn savage inquiry of all.
As a follower of American affairs I can say, that these campaigns would not have happened if the new president came from within the official establishment in Washington. The problem, as I have repeatedly emphasized, is that Trump came from outside the institution, and promised to shake Washington to its core to serve the American public. This is the reason for the fierce campaigns against him by politicians and the media. So stay tuned because there are blustery times ahead and the battles are not finished yet.
**This article is Also Available in Arabic.

Arab and Muslim relations with the world
Radwan al-Sayed/Al Arabiya/February 18/17
In his meeting with Saudi diplomats and employees at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, King Salman bin Abdul Aziz stressed on the need to focus on shifting the speech and focal points because the current situation regarding “the international relations”, is affecting the interests of the Saudi Kingdom.
If we observe the most recent events of 2016, we find that the main topic in Europe and America was and still is terrorism, and accordingly, distrusting Muslims in general and young Arab Muslims living in the West in particular. The terrorists who threatened Europe and America fall into two categories: youth of the third generation who came from the west to fight in Syria and Iraq, some of which returned home and undertook terrorist activities.
The second category is represented by individual wolves (as they call them); they were amazed by the violence of ISIS, so they carried out or tried to carry out terrorist acts in their home countries, without the need to go to ISIS and get directions from there.
The security topic has become the obsession of Westerners. Therefore, their concern is not only limited to young bearded men and veiled women, but also includes all Muslims.
One of the leaders of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany came to Lebanon last week. His lecture about the successful experience of the Christian Democratic Union, showed that he is a passionate supporter of Chancellor Merkel. However, when explaining the difficulties that the party is facing in the upcoming elections, he made a mistake – if we may say so – and said that the problem with the one million Syrian refugees received by Merkel is not in their huge number but rather in their different culture! I asked him: There are nearly 3 million Turkish Muslims in Germany and we have never heard you complaining about their cultural differences, and what you meant here is the religious differences? After hesitating, he answered: “None of them has ever been violent, while Arab youth and seniors have carried out violent acts for religious purposes. This is my point of view of course; Right and left wings in Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria and Denmark, etc, believe that Arab and Muslim immigrants affect employment, and they insist on the distinction and isolation.”
One of the Christian participants said to him: but the percentage of Arab and non-Arab violent persons is trivial, so why do we doubt them according to gender and religion? The lecturer surprised everyone by saying: There is a deep conviction that cannot be mostly explained, stating that religious Arabs might justify violence for the least accurate or delusional sense of injustice or marginalization. Look at the justifications of violent Islamists, justifying their acts with the grievance and violence that occurred back in the time of colonization and when the West took over the world in terms of values and practices: didn’t China and India pass through Western or Western-driven colonization and injustices? So why didn’t those huge Nations do what al-Qaeda or ISIS have done? Thus, we conclude that Muslims and Arabs in particular are violent!
This tragedy or irony can be divided into two parts: the first part is the tendency of the Arabs and Muslims to emigrate to the West at any cost, due to poor economic, political and security conditions in their countries. The second part is that most of the Arab and Islamic regimes repel their people and wish that all citizens immigrate even if that would mean that the regime and its devices would stay alone! For instance, Bashar al-Assad objected on the safe haven that Turkey wants to dedicate for the displaced people and refugees in northern Syria; he considered that it would be a violation of Syria’s sovereignty! Nevertheless, he did not ask himself why millions have fled the country and he did not suggest receiving them again in areas that he controls.
On the contrary, he worked on the displacement of the remaining people in those areas! What is ironically more tragic is that those who want to get rid of the immigrants, who might include terrorists, work with Bashar al-Assad to fight terrorism, although Assad was the one behind the immigration of those poor people to Europe and other countries! Let us go back to the consequences: high doubts in Muslims, and thus, doubting the religion which followers easily resort to random violence. Random violence was previously carried out by the authorities but not in the name of the religion. There are also groups that are not affiliated to the authorities that also carried out random violence such as the Qarmatians and before them, the Kharijites. Scholars used to label this violence as “showing off powers” and they used to reject it. They considered the perpetrators as apostates, fools and bandits.
Hatred and distrust
There is hatred and distrust when it comes to Muslims and Islam. It is worth noting that if a western extremist Christian carried out a violent act, even if it was for religious purposes, as has happened in Denmark, no one would label it as a terrorist but rather a criminal! This is because people are no longer used to violence that is triggered by Christian religious causes. Moreover there is unanimity among religious hierarchies to reject violence no matter the reason. So, will the image get better if intellectual, religious and security thinkers insist on fighting violence as Arabs and Muslims are now doing? This will take a long time because it took us hundreds of years to enlighten and build the modern state, and change communities’ way of life. All of that was for the sole purpose of getting integrated in this era and take part in its civilization and values. All the above are mere debris now in the eyes of the whole world. The initiative must first start with renewing the religious and institutional speech, and renewing its national experience that is highly influential if it succeeds in changing the world’s opinion, by the means of religious and political reforms. However, both the work and the result will relatively take a long time. There are huge and enormous non-violent generations born in Europe and America, suffering from the effects that violence has on Arabs and Muslims.
There is a very long way to go; it is a must but the results cannot be guaranteed, and this is completely normal. It may succeed if we were able to restore the communication between religion and religious institutions, culture and intellectuals, as well as encouraging the merge between communities. All we need is to achieve a transformation of religious, cultural, political and ethical policies!
*This article is also available in Arabic.

Turkey, the Gulf and regional ownership
Ibrahim Kalin/Al Arabiya/February 18/17
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent visit to the three Gulf countries of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar comes at a critical juncture in the Gulf region and the Middle East. The current global disorder and regional rivalry for power has taken its toll on the political architecture and ordinary citizens of the Middle East and the larger Muslim world. There is an urgent need to establish power equilibrium to address the pressing security and economic challenges and avoid new conflicts. This can happen only when the key stakeholders initiate a new period of intra-regional solidarity and claim their regional ownership.
The Gulf region, like the rest of the world, is not immune to the corroding effects of globalization gone astray. While global interdependence has brought blocks of countries in Europe and the United States closer to one another, it has dismantled old alliances and sowed seeds of conflict and war in other parts of the globe, including the Muslim world. Since the end of the Cold War, the search for a global balance of power has not produced a new order. The Bosnian war, the Rwanda genocide, Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait and the first Gulf War, the U.S. led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq following 9/11, the Russian annexation of Crimea, the wars in Libya, Yemen and Syria and the rise of militia groups and non-state actors, inter alia, point to the extremely fragile nature of the post-Cold War period. These conflicts, regardless of their reasons or manipulators, call for closer cooperation among Middle East nations. Furthermore, the rise of violent extremism in the form of al-Qaeda and Daesh on the one hand, and the deepening sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims on the other, require a long-term vision and wise political leadership. Muslims cannot let violent extremism and sectarianism define their faith and destroy their future. Speaking at the International Peace Institute in Bahrain, President Erdoğan reiterated his commitment promoting peace and stability in the Middle East and warned, "We cannot leave our future at the mercy of others."
Muslims cannot let violent extremism and sectarianism define their faith and destroy their future
Third worldism
Regional ownership calls for dealing with the challenges and crises of the Middle East and the Muslim world through strengthened dialogue in the fields of security and economic cooperation. This does not mean turning our back on the rest of the world. No form of "third worldism" and turning inside would work in the increasingly sophisticated and multi-polar world in which we live. To the contrary, regional ownership encourages openness to the world, but this can generate a win-win situation only when regional problems are no longer there for others to manipulate to their advantage. Turkey pursues a policy of mutual empowerment with its neighbors and the larger Muslim world. It seeks regional solutions to regional problems. Getting our priorities right is a step in the right direction to cultivate win-win relationships that contribute to the growth and security of our peoples. Ending violent extremism and sectarian conflict is possible only when we realize that power equilibrium is in the interest of all parties. As we have seen in recent conflicts, seeking undue influence through proxies in other countries hurts everyone. No one can claim victory in self-defeating conflicts.
Over the last decade, Turkey developed a wide-ranging relationship with the Gulf countries. Its current trade volume with Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC) is a little over $16 billion. Given the economic potential, this is not sufficient but can serve as a basis for further cooperation in trade, energy, tourism, the defense industry, science and technology and education. The Turkey-GCC High Level Strategic Dialogue mechanism established in 2008 in Jeddah has helped realize new potential but ought to be further activated to create new opportunities. Turkey pays close attention to the security priorities and economic outlook of the GCC countries and supports regional initiatives to resolve conflicts in Yemen, Bahrain, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere.
Talks concerning a free trade agreement between Turkey and the GCC are underway and can be signed this year under the Bahraini term presidency. This approach is reciprocated by the GCC countries, which understand Turkey’s security concerns over the PKK and FETÖ and have declared both as terrorist organizations. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain, in particular, have taken a number of steps to stop the activities of FETÖ institutions and individuals in their countries. Fighting Daesh and other terrorist organizations ideologically and militarily is also a common goal shared by all parties. Equally important are the joint efforts to prevent the coupling of Islam with violence and terrorism by extremists in the Muslim world and Western countries. Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are working closely to resolve the conflict in Syria and help establish peace and security in Iraq. Closer cooperation among the countries of the region will help us all utilize our own resources for the peace and welfare of our people. Global challenges require a global outlook, but this must be complemented by regional partnerships and alliances at the same time. Without an anchor point in one’s own habitat, no one can sail safely in a world of disorder and instability.
*This article was first published in the Daily Sabah on Feb. 17, 2017.