February 26/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 02/01-11/:"On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.’ His mother said to the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’Now standing there were six stone water-jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, ‘Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.’ So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.’Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

Nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean
Letter to the Romans 14/14-23/:"I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.
If your brother or sister is being injured by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. Do not let what you eat cause the ruin of one for whom Christ died. So do not let your good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. The one who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and has human approval. Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual edification. Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for you to make others fall by what you eat; it is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that makes your brother or sister stumble. The faith that you have, have as your own conviction before God. Blessed are those who have no reason to condemn themselves because of what they approve. But those who have doubts are condemned if they eat, because they do not act from faith; for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

Question: "Are there angels among us?"
Answer: Throughout Scripture, we see numerous instances in which angels were an integral part of God’s plan. One verse alludes to the possibility of angels walking among us today: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2). The obvious reference is to Abraham, whose angelic visitors appeared to him as men (Genesis 18). This verse may or may not confirm that angels are indeed walking among us unawares; “have shown” is past tense, so present-day encounters are not explicitly mentioned.
There are dozens of scriptural examples of angelic encounters, so we know that God can and does use angels to accomplish certain things. What we don’t know for sure is how often angels allow themselves to be seen by people. Here are the basics about angels from the Bible: angels can instruct people (Genesis 16:9), help people (Daniel 6:22), deliver messages to people (Luke 1:35), appear in visions and dreams (Daniel 10:13), protect people (Exodus 23:20), and help carry out God’s plans.
We know that God created angels, and He uses angels in His plan. Angels have a sense of individuality, as some have names (such as Gabriel and Michael) and all have different responsibilities within the angelic hierarchy.
But do they walk among us? If God so chooses to use them in His custom-made plans for us, yes, they absolutely can walk among us doing God’s will. Angels are mentioned in Genesis and in Revelation and witnessed the creation of the world (Job 38:7). God has used His heavenly host from the beginning of time and will still use them at the end of time, according to Scripture. It is quite possible that many people today have met or seen an angel without realizing it.
If angels do walk among us, it is because they are serving a God-ordained purpose. The Bible mentions demons who wander the earth with no purpose other than to destroy (Matthew 12:43–45). Satan and his demonic force can probably appear physically, much like holy angels can. Satan’s purpose is to deceive and kill. Satan “masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).
An important note: angels are not to be glorified or worshiped (Colossians 2:18). They are entities who carry out God’s will, and they refer to themselves as “fellow servants” with us (Revelation 22:9).
Regardless of whether we actually experience angelic encounters, the most important thing is that we experience salvation through Jesus Christ. He is beyond all angels and all humans, and He alone is worthy of worship. “You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you” (Nehemiah 9:6).

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on February 25-26/17
Lebanon-GCC ties: One inch forward, three steps back/Joseph A. Kechichian/Gulf News/February 25 2017
According To Foreign Reports: Israel's Covert Missions Undergo A Change/Alon Ben-David/Jerusalem Post/February 25/17
Abu Brahim/Charbel Barakat/February 25/15
Arab League between Reality and Challenges/Ahmed Aboul Gheit/Asharq Al Awsat/February 25/17
Would You Want Your Vaccine Produced by Supporters of Jihad/Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/February 25/17
Extremist Muslims' One-Way Street/Burak Bekdil/Gatestone Institute/February 25/17
‘Islam’ looms large in the French presidential elections/Talmiz Ahmad/Al Arabiya/February 25/17
The age of contagious chaos/Ibrahim Kalin/Al Arabiya/February 25/17
Debates of rupture and heritage between Radwan al-Sayyid and Ali Harb/Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran/Al Arabiya/February 25/17
Can General McMaster master his destiny/Hisham Melhem/Al Arabiya/February 25/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published on February 25-26/17

Lebanon-GCC ties: One inch forward, three steps back
IDF disperses Lebanese protestors who cross border
Lebanon: Decisive Week for Parliamentary Elections Preparations
According To Foreign Reports: Israel's Covert Missions Undergo A Change
Hezbollah village exhibition shows live footage of IDF soldiers
Report: Lebanon-Gulf Relations Not in Good Place
Reports: Hizbullah Obtained Naval Missiles that Could Threaten Israel
Lebanon's Southern Residents Protest Israeli Incursions
Hariri: Government Keen on Restoring Citizens' Confidence
Oghassapian: To launch the Ministry and its Website on Tuesday
Berri convenes with Ambassador of Italy
Bonne praises constant electric feed in Zahle
Palestinian President convenes with Gemayel, Palestinian factions
Riachy from Canada: Christian reconciliation aims at establishing civilization of peace
Sniper fire hits two in Ain Helwe Palestinian camp
Woman hit by sniper bullets in Ain Helweh
Bomb explodes inside Ain elHilweh Camp
Kidnapped man injured along with his kidnappers in a car crash in Shaath
Lebanese Army restores calm to Sere'en
Ceasefire agreement reached inside Ain elHilweh Camp
Abu Brahim

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on February 25-26/17
Copts flee Sinai after suspected ISIS attacks
White House defends contacts with FBI over Russia reports
One question at UN Syria talks: What does Russia want?
Syria Talks Challenged as Suicide Blasts Kill Dozens
UN Syria sanctions vote sought next week; Russia vows veto
Syrian regime demands opposition unity for talks
Saudi FM confirms commitment to work with Iraq on counter-terrorism efforts
Head of Homs’ military intelligence killed in attacks
Germany: Man hits three with car in Heidelberg, shot by police
Egypt launches societal dialogue on nuclear project
Rowhani: Increasing of military power will not guarantee Iran’s security
Iran requests 950 tons of uranium from Kazakhstan
Battle for Mosul: ISIS drone obliterates Iraqi army tank
Iraqi forces facing stiff resistance in western Mosul as civilians flee
ISIS militants kill 11 in mosque ambush, says Afghan official
Turkish PM launches ‘yes’ campaign over constitutional changes
French judge takes over probe into Fillon 'fake jobs' scandal
Hundreds on Philippine streets as Duterte jails top critic

Links From Jihad Watch Site for February 25-26/17
Congo: Muslims attack churches, terrorize nuns
Canada: Ryerson University TA is imam who asked Allah to kill the enemies of Islam
Free speech foe Perez beats out Muslim Brotherhood Congressman Ellison for DNC Chair
McMaster tells NSC staff that label “radical Islamic terrorism” not helpful because terrorists are “un-Islamic”
France: Muslims took postal worker’s pregnant wife hostage in robbery to fund jihad massacres
Egypt: Islamic State jihadis storm home of Christian plumber, murder him in front of his wife and children
Pakistan: Muslim sons murder their mother for contracting second marriage after divorce
France’s deradicalization centers seen as a “total fiasco”
“There Is Nothing to Fear in Islam,” Says DC Imam At Conference with Hamas-Linked CAIR Official
Paris Muslims kidnap Jewish brothers, attack them with saw: “Dirty Jews, you’re going to die!”
Muslim Reform Group Reached Out to 3,000 US Mosques, Got Only 40 Responses
Bangladesh: Thousands of Muslims march to demand removal of Lady Justice statue as un-Islamic

Links From Christian Today Site for February 25-26/17
Trump Pledges One Of The 'Greatest Military Buildups In American History'
Church Comes Out Fighting For Conservative Bishop In Row Over Women's Ordination
Iraqi Forces Push Into Western Mosul And Launch Airstrikes In Syria
Opposition To Philippine's President Duterte Turn Historic Event Into Protest March
Why Trudy Harrison's Victory In Copeland Is A Win For Traditional English Values
Jesus Turned Over The Tables. How Angry Are Christians Allowed To Get?
'LEGO Batman Promotes Gay Adoption': When Christian Blogging Does More Harm Than Good
Inspirational Soul Survivor Leader Mike Pilavachi Is Suffering From Heart Problems
Jerry Falwell Jnr Says Steve Bannon Suggested Him For Top Education Role
Leading Gay Cleric Jeffrey John Narrowly Rejected As Bishop In Wales

Latest Lebanese Related News published on February 25-26/17
Lebanon-GCC ties: One inch forward, three steps back
Joseph A. Kechichian/Gulf News/February 25 2017
Beirut: Efforts to repair Lebanon’s relationship with Saudi Arabia have appeared to stall after Lebanese President Michel Aoun defended Hezbollah’s weapon arsenal while visiting Egypt on February 13. During an interview with a private Egyptian TV station, Aoun backed Hezbollah’s ‘right’ to be armed — a point of contention inside Lebanon where all militias turned over their weapons after the country’s gruelling civil war except the Iran-backed group. Hezbollah’s arms and influence has also been a sticking point for Saudi Arabia, which is currently engaged in Yemen’s civil war against Iran-backed Al Houthi militants. According to the well-connected Al Jumhuriyyah daily, Saudi officials are livid at Aoun, which meant that Lebanon would suffer in the interim. In January, Aoun travelled to Saudi Arabia and met with King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz, on his first presidential foreign visit. Lebanese hoped the visit would restore vital economic ties and that Saudi Arabia would give Lebanon $3 billion (Dh11 billion) to purchase French weapons for the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) which it had previously withheld after Jibran Bassil, the Minister of Foreign Affairs who heads the Hezbollah-allied Free Patriotic Movement, voted against the unanimous Arab League and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation resolutions that condemned the January 5, 2016 Iranian attacks on Saudi missions in Iran. Aoun’s meeting with Salman was touted as successful and Lebanese were promised ties would soon be restored back to normal. But that hope seems to be dying out, especially after Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah recently escalated his rhetoric against Saudi Arabia and the UAE over the war in Yemen. He also blasted Bahrain and accused the country of oppressing its people.

IDF disperses Lebanese protestors who cross border
Yoav Zitun and Roi Kais/Ynetnews/ 25.02.17 /IDF forces from the Northern Command fired tear gas at Lebanese protestors who crossed the border Saturday near Kibbutz Manara to demonstrate against reports of alleged Israeli 'spying equipment' being installed in Lebanon; protestors were pushed back into Lebanese territory. Dozens of demonstrators from Lebanon crossed the international border Saturday to protest amid reports of Israel installing spy installations and photography equipment in Lebanese territory. The protestors attempted to cross the border near the area of Kibbutz Manara and were eventually dispersed by IDF forces firing tear gas. Protestors from the village of Meiss Ej Jabal became agitated over reports of IDF forces installing spying equipment, apparently, in the village. The IDF confirmed that several dozen Lebanese citizens managed to cross the border and were pushed back. The protest comes amid the backdrop of diplomatic spat between Lebanese President Michel Aoun and Israel over a letter sent by Israeli Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, to the UN Security Council and Secretary-General, António Guterres. The letter was sent following an interview with Aoun in which he said that Hezbollah should be armed in order to compliment the Lebanese Army's ability to confront Israel. Aoun attacked Israel, saying, "Every Israeli attempt to harm Lebanese sovereignty or endanger the Lebanese people—will be answered with the appropriate response," said Aoun. "What was sent in the letter by the Israeli ambassador poses a threat to Lebanon. The international community should be wary of Israel's aggressive intentions toward Lebanon."

Lebanon: Decisive Week for Parliamentary Elections Preparations
Asharq Al-Awsat/February 25/17/Beirut- Lebanon is facing a decisive week on the directions of the country’s parliamentary elections expected next May. President Michel Aoun could issue his final decision regarding signing a decree which calls on the electorate to participate in the next parliamentary elections based on the 1960 law. Last week, Interior Minister Nohad al-Mashnouq signed the decree that calls on resident and non-resident members of the electorate to participate in the polls, in respect to Article 66 of the current electoral law that stipulates sending the decree to cabinet 90 days ahead of Election Day.
Mashnouq sent the signed decree to Aoun, who should also sign it if elections are to be held next May 21 based on the 1960 winner-takes-all law. But the president has so far not issued his final decision on the issue. Officials close to Aoun expect him to send back the decree to the cabinet, a step intended to put pressure on the government to discuss a new electoral law. Meanwhile, political parties are far from agreeing on a joint formula based on which the next elections will be held. MP Alain Aoun, member of the Change and Reform parliamentary bloc, which was previously headed by President Aoun, said on Friday that the parliament should bare its responsibilities and produce a new law for the polls. “Elections based on the 1960 law are out of the question,” he said. The lawmaker said that after Prime Minister Saad Hariri signed the decree, it is now up to the president to make a certain move.
“The president’s moves are expected soon, probably next week. There would be a practical step in this regard,” the deputy said. Aoun also ruled out extending the term of the current parliament. Meanwhile, Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi urged on Friday all parties to unite and support the Republic’s march under the president’s leadership. Speaking after meeting with Aoun at the Baabda presidential palace, Rahi stressed the need for an electoral law that guarantees citizens’ rights to hold deputies accountable, and which secures the representation of all Lebanese factions at the parliament.

According To Foreign Reports: Israel's Covert Missions Undergo A Change
Alon Ben-David/Jerusalem Post/February 25/17
Israel has learned the lessons of past missions and become more dangerous.
In the early hours of Wednesday morning, the Israel Air Force struck in Syria, according to reports from Lebanon. The target was a convoy carrying weapons that were supposed to go from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon. No injuries were reported in the attack, however, if a convoy was indeed destroyed, it can be assumed that somebody there was wounded. The Israeli media mentioned the story in the morning news briefs and the Arab media covered it apathetically. It marked the sixth time since December that the Arab media has reported an Israeli attack in Syria.
Three days beforehand, ISIS in Sinai claimed that the Israel Air Force struck, killing five members of the organization in Egyptian Rafah. Another ISIS cell attempted to retaliate with ineffective rocket fire at the Eshkol region of southern Israel. They were not ashamed to release photographs in which they could be seen placing the 107mm rockets on sandbags in an amatureish manner. It was the fifth time since December that ISIS in Sinai has claimed that the Israel Air Force acted against them.
This is the new Middle East in which Israel acts (according to foreign reports) wherever it needs to advance its interests, whether its in hostile Syria or Egypt, with the approval of the regime. The collapse of the region's states has only made this simpler for Israel: to drop ten tons of explosives on a quiet and organized country would draw attention, but to strike in a country in which hundreds of tons of explosives are detonated on a daily basis,is barely even noticed.
Well before the Middle East began to fall apart, the concept of the battle between wars was developed in Israel. This concept developed from the Israeli understanding that embarking on wars and large military operations carries with it heavy, and even untenable costs: in human lives, economic costs and the difficulty in maintaining international legitimacy. The battle between wars concept, which was developed a decade and a half ago, holds that there are many things Israel can do without starting a war.
According to this concept, Israel's enemies must feel perpetually threatened. They must be surprised everywhere they are found and be forced to invest a great deal of time and energy defending themselves, which will leave them less time to plan attacks against Israel. The battle between wars is meant to perpetually impede the abilities of the enemy, in order to prevent the coming of the next war. And if a war should come - the battle between wars is meant to ensure that the enemy will be at its worst when it begins.
The Syria attacks, which are attributed to Israel, do not fully prevent Hezbollah from acquiring advanced weapon systems, but without the attacks, Hezbollah would have had much more sophisticated aerial and naval defense systems. ISIS in Sinai will also not be beaten by air strikes, and yet they have almost never acted against Israel in the last two years. And these are only the operations of which we are aware.
More than 99% of the activity of the battle between wars does not reach the Israeli public or media. The vast majority of operations are secret, and even those that are affected by them are not always aware of who perpetrated them. Only a small fraction of the operations come to the public eye, when Israel has no choice but to use its air force. An airstrike would be admitting responsibility and always comes with the fear that it will force the other side to respond. But the rest of the time, the operations remain anonymous.
Civilian Intelligence Service
Seven years ago, the Dubai Police revealed the identities of those who perpetrated the assassination of Hamas member Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. The passports used by the assassins were exposed to the entire world, and every country could find out when the passports were used, where they were and whom they visited. Mabhouh's assassination signaled to the world that operations that worked great in the 20th century were now irrelevant in the technological world of the 21st century.
Seven years later, it seems that the lessons from Dubai have been learned. In December, Hamas aerial drone engineer Mohammed al-Zoari was eliminated in the city of Sfax, Tunisia. Police arrested ten people - all people who collaborated with the killers, but without them knowing. They rented cars and bought cell phones for a "European production company."
Among the arrested was a Tunisian-Hungarian journalist hired by the production company to make a film about Zoari. As instructed by her "clients," she met with Zoari twice and set up a third meeting as well, but she didn't show up to this meeting. In her place, two assassins arrived and fired about twenty bullets at Zoari. The Tunisian police investigation revealed the passports used by the assassins, but these passports could not be tied to any other activity.
Using civilians, or "fools" in intelligence lingo, enables espionage organizations to operate in today's filmed and networked world. The assassination in Malaysia of Kim Jong-Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, is a great example of such use. Two young women, Vietnamese and Indonesian, were asked by the "crew" of a TV show to participate in filmed pranks. They were taken to shopping centers, where they were trained on innocent civilians. One of the women would stand in front and get the attention of the victim, while the other would surprise them from behind and grab their face with her hands.
After proving their skills, the two women were brought to the airport in Kuala Lumpur and were asked to perform the prank on Kim Jung-Nam, who was at a flight desk. This time they not only grabbed the victim, but also sprayed or smeared poison on his face. It is not clear whether they understood what they were doing, though at least one rushed to wash her hands after the act. Jong-Nam died before reaching the hospital.
Malaysian police arrested the two women and another North Korean suspect. Four other members of the squad were able to flee the country. Three did not have enough time and rushed to take refuge at the North Korean embassy. The planning of the operation was brilliant, though the execution was less successful.
Israel learned its lesson 20 years ago in Amman and is wary of poisoning operations in public and monitored places. Israeli operations are now much more complex and often combine different disciplines: human intelligence, cyber warfare, technological intelligence, and even cooperation with other countries. One of the main things that is evident in the operations of the 'battle between wars' is that when Israel harnesses the best talents and resources to achieve a certain goal - nothing can stop it.
But it is important to carefully choose the goal to which we direct all these resources. The Army Chief of Staff announced last week that Israel has already invested 2.5 billion shekels in developing a technological solution to the Hamas-built tunnels under Gaza. So before we give ourselves the joy of catharsis of the State Comptroller's report and mourn how we failed in handling the tunnels, it is best to stop and think how much more we want to invest in this issue.Do we really want to pledge huge chunks of the defense budget to treat the underground? Without underestimating the threat posed by the tunnels, it must not be made out to be everything. We are faced with many other challenges and threats, and our ability to handle them will suffer if we dump all the money underground.
**The author is a military analyst for News Channel 10.

Hezbollah village exhibition shows live footage of IDF soldiers
Roi Kais/Ynetnews|Published: 25.02.17/Antitank and antiaircraft missiles, observation equipment and weapons are all part of the 'Exhibition of Martyrdom and Victory' in the southern Lebanese village of Meiss Ej Jabal; held in a Shiite house of worship, the display has been visited by local villages, including on school trips. "Hezbollah village," whence dozens of Lebanese went to demonstrate along the border with Israel, hosted an "Exhibition of Martyrdom and Victory." Visitors were able to review the organization's weapons, including antitank and antiaircraft missiles, and according to reports in Lebanon, even watch IDF soldiers live across the border. A few days later, Hezbollah media published images documenting the so-called "spyware facilities, broadcasting and photography," employed by the IDF. The exhibition is in Meiss Ej Jabal in southern Lebanon. Intelligence researcher Ronen Solomon, who runs the Intel Times blog that covers Hezbollah, has investigated the village, which, according to Lebanese media, recently attracted much attention from Israel. According Solmon, Meiss Ej Jebel is a decidedly Hezbollah-aligned village. On February 16, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah addressed the annual rally in memory of the leaders of the organization, including Imad Mughniyeh. Nasrallah threatened to attack the ammonia tank in Haifa and Dimona's nuclear reactor. A few days later, the exhibition opened. It displays weapons and military equipment that the organization used during its conflicts with Israel. The exhibition took place at a Shiite house of worship that simulated the environment in which the organizations' personnel operate during clashes with Israel. In one corner of the exhibition, according to the report, live footage was broadcast showing Israeli outposts on the border between the Jewish state and Lebanon. Many organized visits to the exhibition came from villages and towns in the region, including students.

Report: Lebanon-Gulf Relations Not in Good Place
Associated Press/Naharnet/February 25/17/Murky atmospheres between Lebanon and Gulf countries seem to surface again following the latest statements made by President Michel Aoun over the Resistance's arms, and Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's escalating rhetoric against Saudi Arabia, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Saturday. The President has defended the Resistance's arms saying they complete the Army's weapons, while Nasrallah waged a verbal attack against Saudi Arabia and the UAE. In an interview to a private Egyptian TV station earlier in February, Aoun had defended Hizbullah's arms and underlined his unabated support for the Iranian-backed group.“As long as there is Israeli-occupied land and as long as the army is not strong enough to fight Israel, we sense that there is a need for the presence of the resistance's arms so that they complete the army's weapons,” Aoun said in the interview.
For his part, Nasrallah had accused Saudi forces of “oppressing and killing the Bahraini people” and 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. In sum, the Lebanese-Gulf ties are a bit tense, reported al-Joumhouria, and it seems difficult to re-normalize them before solutions for the regional crisis become available or a convergence policy between Riyadh and Tehran emerges. Such a convergence not only reflects positively on Lebanon, but on the regional crises as well, it said. However nothing in the horizon indicates this would happen in the near future, it added. Lebanon's political factions are deeply divided with some aligning with Iran, while their opponents side with Saudi Arabia.
Aoun visited Saudi Arabia last month in an attempt to restore relations, which deteriorated after Riyadh accused Beirut of failing to condemn the 2016 attacks by demonstrators on Saudi missions in Iran after the kingdom's execution of a prominent Shiite cleric. In retaliation, Saudi Arabia halted a $3 billion arms deal and banned Saudis and other Gulf nationals from traveling to Lebanon. After Aoun's visit, the ban on travelers was lifted but the arms deal remains on pause. A senior Lebanese official had said at the time that Saudis have conditions to unblock the military aid to Lebanon, suggesting that the arms must not end up in the hands of Hizbullah, which the Saudis view as a terrorist organization.

Reports: Hizbullah Obtained Naval Missiles that Could Threaten Israel
Naharnet/February 25/17/Hizbullah has been able to obtain strategic naval capabilities that could threaten Israel during any upcoming war, Israeli reports have said. It is believed that Hizbullah was able to obtain around eight P-800 Onyx shore-to-sea missiles, also known in export markets as Yakhont, the reports said. The party could use the Onyx missiles to “significantly threaten the Israeli Navy, the US Sixth Fleet and civilian vessels in the Mediterranean, as well as Israel's newly built oil and gas rigs,” Israeli intelligence officials stated. “The Russian anti-ship Yakhont missile can be fired from the shore and has a range of up to 300 kilometers. Even the most advanced missile interception systems are unable to effectively intercept it,” said the reports.

Lebanon's Southern Residents Protest Israeli Incursions
Naharnet/February 25/17/Protesting Israel's recurrent violation against Lebanon's southern territories, residents of the border town of Mays al-Jabal staged a sit-in in the presence of MP Qassem Hashem and a number of journalists, the state-run National News Agency reported on Saturday. NNA said that Israeli troops had fired tear gas bombs in the direction of the campaigners to disperce them which led to several cases of suffocation. Meanwhile Israeli airplanes hovered over the region. On Wednesday, a 12-member Israeli force crossed the electronic fence in the outskirts of Mays al-Jabal in the Kroum al-Sharqi area. Troops planted spy devices consisted of a camera and a transmission instrument that are both solar powered. The development comes amid high tensions between Israel and Hizbullah that follow an exchange of threats and amid unconfirmed reports of Israeli airstrikes on Hizbullah posts inside Syria.

Hariri: Government Keen on Restoring Citizens' Confidence
Naharnet/February 25/17/In light of the controversy between political parties over devising a new electoral law for the parliamentary elections, approving a state budget and the long-stalled wage scale, Prime Minister Saad Hariri emerged to appease the people and assured them that the government is keen on restoring the people's confidence. “As government, we are keen on restoring the people's confidence in the State. Part of this confidence lies in providing services for the benefit of the citizens,” said Hariri from the Grand Serail, during the launch of a tender for the modernization and development of fixed landlines in Lebanon on Friday. The event was held in the presence of Minister of Telecommunications Jamal Jarrah and General Director of Ogero Imad Kreidieh in addition to senior staff of the ministry. “I would like to emphasize that what we do is under the guidance of President Michel Aoun who wants to see a quantum leap in the telecommunications sector and in serving the citizens. You know well the extent of our commitment as a government to restore the people's trust, part of which is providing services especially with regard to telecommunications and the internet which has become an essential part of human life today,” concluded Hariri.

Oghassapian: To launch the Ministry and its Website on Tuesday
Sat 25 Feb 2017/NNA - State Minister for Women's Affairs, Jean Oghassapian, disclosed on Saturday that "the Ministry and its Website will be launched upcoming Tuesday." In a lecture on "Women's Affairs Ministerial Portfolio" in Tripoli, Oghassapian asserted that women's affairs concern the whole of society, and are also the responsibility of man. "Today, we are facing this mission and we have taken on the responsibility of all efforts, struggles and sacrifices exerted by many associations and women's organizations, shouldering the duty to preserve these efforts and create common grounds to follow in the same path," added Oghassapian.  "After the lapse of only two months, we now have a ministry with an independent structure, a team at the professional level of the United Nations, an electronic website, a business strategy, vision and core values," he explained. "We started with four projects with international institutions, and we have submitted three bills to the Cabinet, and we shall launch the Ministry and its website at the Grand Serail on Tuesday and sign an agreement with the United Nations," Oghassapian went on to indicate. "As you know, today's talk is about the budget and our goal, as we begin our projects with Lebanese organizations, is seeking to transform a state ministry to a permanent ministry, whose presence would be binding for any government," Oghassapian underscored.

Berri convenes with Ambassador of Italy
Sat 25 Feb 2017/NNA - House Speaker Nabih Berri met in Ayn Teeneh on Saturday with Ambassador of Italy, Massimo Marotti. Discussions reportedly focused on current domestic affairs.

Bonne praises constant electric feed in Zahle

Sat 25 Feb 2017/NNA - French Ambassador to Lebanon, Emmanuel Bonne, visited on Saturday the town of Zahle, where he checked on Zahle Electricity and praised the efforts made for providing 24/7 electricity for the town. Ambassador Bonne reiterated that France is interested in developing the electricity sector in Lebanon, especially after the increase of the energy consumption due to the Syrian influx into Lebanon.

Palestinian President convenes with Gemayel, Palestinian factions
Sat 25 Feb 2017/NNA - Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, met on Saturday with a delegation from the factions of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, and head of Kataeb Party, Sami Gemayel. Abbas relayed to the Palestinian factions the efforts his administration was under taking to combat the Israeli project. He insisted on accomplishing national reconciliation and achieving the goals numerated in agreements held among Palestinians. Separately, Abbas convened with MP Sami Gemayel, who told the press that the Palestinian President asserted his administration's keenness on Lebanon's stability, starting with de-arming all camps. Gemayel wondered at the Lebanese parties who hindered this step, despite its ability to protect Palestinians and Lebanese alike. Abbas confirmed to Gemayel the need for the Lebanese state to reign over the entire country, including Palestinian camps.
"We confirmed to the President that the solution is in a Palestinian that we can encourage refugees to return to their country and land," said Gemayel.

Riachy from Canada: Christian reconciliation aims at establishing civilization of peace

Sat 25 Feb 2017/NNA - Minister of Information, Melhem Riachy, met on the first day of his Canada tour with the Bishop of the Eparchy of Saint-Maroun de Montréal, Bishop Paul Marwan Tabet, who welcomed the "godfather of the historic reconciliation" between the Lebanese Forces (LF) and the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM). Riachy's visit to Canada is to last a few days, whereby he is to meet with a number of Canadian officials. Present at the meeting were representatives of Lebanese parties in Canada and Montreal, as well as a host of social and religious figures from the Lebanese community. Riachy spoke of the inter-Christian reconciliation, noting that it brought back Christians to the State. "This reconciliation is not directed against anyone and does not aim at excluding anyone," said the Minister, adding that the goal of the reconciliation was to establish a civilization of peace that made Lebanon a model for neighboring countries. The Minister voiced optimism regarding the budget project, noting that it would soon be decreed. He equally voiced similar confidence regarding a new electoral law that rectified legislative representation.

Sniper fire hits two in Ain Helwe Palestinian camp
Sat 25 Feb 2017/NNA - A man and a woman were targeted by sniper fire in Ain Helwe Palestinian Camp on Saturday, NNA field correspondent reported.

Woman hit by sniper bullets in Ain Helweh
Sat 25 Feb 2017/NNA - A woman sustained bullet wounds following sniping operations inside Ain Helweh Camp, National News Agency Correspondent said on Saturday.

Bomb explodes inside Ain elHilweh Camp

Sat 25 Feb 2017/NNA - A bomb explosion was heard a while ago inside Ain el-Hilweh refugee camp, at the crossroads of Jerusalem Orchard, with no fallen casualties, NNA correspondent in Sidon reported.

Kidnapped man injured along with his kidnappers in a car crash in Shaath
Sat 25 Feb 2017/NNA - Three members of Zeaiter family attempted to kidnap the citizen, Elie Harb, for financial reasons in the town of Shaath in Baalbek on Saturday; however, as they fled in their SUV, some members of Harb family opened fire at the vehicle, resulting in its overturning along "Shaath-Northern Baalbek" Highway, injuring both the kidnapped and his kidnappers who were taken to Dar al-Hikma Hospital in Baalbek for treatment, NNA correspondent reported.

Lebanese Army restores calm to Sere'en
Sat 25 Feb 2017/NNA - Army units succeeded in restoring calm to the town Sere'en in Baalbek following clashes that broke out earlier Saturday between members of Shouman family, causing the death of three people and the wounding of two others, NNA correspondent reported. Search operations for the shooters are currently underway.

Ceasefire agreement reached inside Ain elHilweh Camp
Sat 25 Feb 2017/NNA - Palestinian contacts were active, on Saturday, to calm the situation inside Ain el-Hilweh Refugee Camp, whereby a cease-fire agreement has been reached, NNA correspondent in Sidon reported. In this context, Palestinian factions political leadership in Sidon and the joint Palestinian security forces in the region held an emergency meeting inside Ain el-Hilweh Camp to assess the prevailing security situation. During said meeting, contacts were made with Palestinian National Security Brigade Commander Soubhi Abu Arab, and the Islamic "Ansar" leadership, which resulted in a ceasefire agreement and the withdrawal of gunmen from the scene.

Abu Brahim
Charbel Barakat/February 25/15
One of the famous guys in Ain-Ebel was Abou Brahim Wadih El Jishi, he was in some way different and had new revolutionary ideas. Abou Brahim who used to live in the center of the town, specifically at the hara, had a complex of machinery to do different jobs all related to the farmer's produce.
At the end of the summer the farmers start preparing for the Mouni, the Burgul being one of the main products in our kitchen, everybody was supposed to have a good quantity of it. The Burgul preparation starts with the cleaning of the wheat from stones, hay, dirt and soil. This needs plenty of hands and that is why we used to call upon the youth to come and pull the dirt out of the wheat by spreading the wheat on the table and picking up all what is not wheat. This was a very special event for the boys and girls to meet, talk, joke... But Abu Brahim had a better idea, he bought what we called a mechanical Gorbel that does the job faster. The Gorbel was carried to each house where the cleaning operation would happen and by then no need for too many people to do the cleaning job. Then the wheat is cleaned with water to be boiled at the end in a big 8al2eeni and become holbi which needs also manpower (meaning young boys and girls) to be shipped on the girlsheads and lifted to the roof with the boys hands where it is spread to dry in the sun. We used to love eating the boiled wheat (2olbi), and as a privilege sometimes with a bit of grenadine, raisin and sugar. After having the boiled wheat dried and back home, the farmer can go and book a place in Abu Brahim's calender to grind it in the Jaroushi that opens every day during the season and only once a week along the year. We were very curious to look at the operation that takes place in Abu Brahim's front yard. The engine itself used to give much noise, may be to show its importance and to tell us don't dare to approach. The belt running around the small wheel at the engine side and the big wheel of the Jaroushi side was the most dangerous part that every mother used to warn her children from. Only Abu Brahim was allowed to go on the elevated platform where the machinery is fixed. At the platform, Abu Brahim was always serious; no smiles no jokes, the job is a serious one. Women used to check the quality of their Burgul, the size of the grain is very important for the different types of food. Sometimes they used to ask to redo part of the Burgul and sometimes they used to come back again during the year to redo what's left after using the good stuff. Abou Brahim had also a Karakee (means a distillery) for the Arak. People used to come to him at the end of the Fall to make their alcohol fermented in big barrels and after being rested at home for a while to re-distill it with the Annis to have the Arak. Sometimes, for the experts, they used to do it twice so they call it tripled (Mtallat) which is said to be the best. Abu Brahim did not only live on these jobs that were more than enough during the good old days to feed the family, but he had, as everyone does, his own orchard and land to grow his yearly needs.
When farmers became rare in the town and everything was bought ready to pick, Abu Brahim had to open a small little summer coffee shop at the Mahfara where he used to sell mainly his produce of Me2teh with a pop or a beer for sure.
Abu Brahim and his wife “Etoile”, as he used to call her, were a happy couple with much of a good time, good and nice jokes known by many of those who lived in Ain-Ebel at that period.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on February 25-26/17
Copts flee Sinai after suspected ISIS attacks
By AFP Saturday, 25 February 2017
Dozens of Coptic Christians have left Egypt's Sinai Peninsula after a string of jihadist attacks killed three Christians in the restive province, church officials said. On Thursday, suspected ISIS jihadists killed a member of the minority in the North Sinai city of El-Arish and set his house on fire.About 250 Christians took refuge in the Evangelical Church in the Suez Canal city of Ismailiya, said church deacon and administrator Nabil Shukrallah.“They've come running with their children. It's a very difficult situation. We're expecting 50 or 60 more,” he told AFP. Other church officials said they have also received Copts fleeing the peninsula.Families sat in the Evangelical Church's courtyard amid bags filled with their belongings and blankets, some of them still terrified of the danger they escaped. “We've become scared of our shadows. We're scared someone would be walking behind us and shoot us. Christians are being targeted in an ugly way,” said one middle aged man who refused to give his name.
“Some people are too scared to even open their doors to go out and buy food,” he added. Another Christian, who left Sinai with her five children, said the dangers there had put off her husband from work. “My husband hasn't been able to earn a penny in three months,” said Umm Mina. “This is not right,” she said, breaking into tears. On Wednesday, police officials said two Coptic Christians, a father and son, were shot dead behind a school in El-Arish. Christians have been attacked before in the Sinai, where ISIS’ Egypt affiliate is waging an insurgency, but there has been an uptick since ISIS released a video on Sunday calling for violence against the minority. The video included an anti-Christian speech by a militant who later detonated an explosive vest in a Coptic church in Cairo on December 11, killing 29 people.
The bombing of the church within a compound that also holds the seat of the Coptic papacy was the deadliest attack against the minority in recent memory. Copts, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt's 90 million population, say they are sidelined in both the education system and state institutions.
Jihadists and Islamists accuse them of supporting the military overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, which ushered in a deadly crackdown on his supporters. Morsi's overthrow, which came after millions of protesters demanded his resignation, was also supported by Egypt's top Muslim institution, Al-Azhar.

White House defends contacts with FBI over Russia reports

By Associated Press Saturday, 25 February 2017/The White House on Friday defended chief of staff Reince Priebus against accusations he breached a government firewall when he asked FBI Director James Comey to publicly dispute media reports that Trump campaign advisers had been frequently in touch with Russian intelligence agents. President Donald Trump's spokesman, Sean Spicer, argued Priebus had little choice but to seek Comey's assistance in rebutting what Spicer said were inaccurate reports about contacts during last year's presidential campaign. The FBI did not issue the statement requested by Priebus and has given no sign one is forthcoming.
“I don't know what else we were supposed to do,” Spicer said. The Justice Department has policies in place to limit communications between the White House and the FBI about pending investigations. Trump officials on Friday not only confirmed contacts between Priebus and the FBI, but engaged in an extraordinary public airing of those private conversations. Spicer said it was the FBI that first approached the White House about the veracity of a New York Times story asserting that Trump advisers had contacts with Russian intelligence officials during the presidential campaign. Spicer said Priebus then asked both FBI Director James Comey and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe if they would condemn the story publicly, which they declined to do.
“The chief of staff said, well, you've put us in a very difficult situation,” Spicer said. “You've told us that a story that made some fairly significant accusations was not true. And now you want us to just sit out there.”The FBI would not comment on the matter or verify the White House account. The CIA also declined to comment.
The White House also enlisted the help of Republicans on Capitol Hill to talk to reporters about the New York Times story. Jack Langer, a spokesman for Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., the chairman of the House intelligence committee, said the White House asked Nunes to speak with one reporter. He said the chairman told the journalist the same thing that he has said publicly many times before - that he had asked but not received any information from intelligence officials that would warrant a committee investigation of any American citizens' contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Langer acknowledged that this could make it harder to convince people that the House investigation into the matter will be independent and free of political bias, but he said the White House did not tell Nunes what to tell the reporter, or give him “talking points.”The ranking Democrat on the committee, California Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said if the White House indeed contrived to have intelligence officials contradict unfavorable news reports, it threatens the independence of the intelligence community. “Intelligence professionals are not there to serve as the president's PR firm,” Schiff said, adding, “For its part, the intelligence community must resist improper efforts like these by the administration to politicize its role.”
The Washington Post reported Friday that the chairman of the Senate intelligence committee also was enlisted by the White House. The newspaper quoted Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., saying he had conversations about Russia-related news reports with the White House and engaged with news organizations to dispute articles by The New York Times and CNN. Friday's revelations were the latest wrinkle in Trump's already complicated relationship with the FBI and other intelligence agencies. He's accused intelligence officials of releasing classified information about him to the media, declaring in a tweet Friday morning that the FBI was “totally unable to stop the national security 'leakers' that have permeated our government for a long time.”
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi accused Priebus of “an outrageous breach of the FBI's independence” and called on the Justice Department's inspector general to look into all conversations Priebus and other White House officials have held with the FBI on ongoing investigations. “The rule of law depends on the FBI's complete independence, free from political pressure from the targets of its investigations,” Pelosi said.

One question at UN Syria talks: What does Russia want?
Reuters, Geneva Friday, 24 February 2017/The first UN-led Syria peace talks in almost a year are in danger of getting lost in procedure, as officials obsess about who will meet whom, but behind the scenes diplomats say it’s largely up to Russia to call the tune. Russia and the United States were the prime movers behind the last peace talks, which halted as the war heated up. With the United States now taking a diplomatic back seat, Russia - whose military intervention turned the tide of Syria’s war and helped President Bashar al-Assad recapture Aleppo - is potentially a kingmaker. But its endgame is unclear. “Our task is only to stabilize the legitimate authorities and deliver a final blow against international terrorism,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday at a military ceremony as the Geneva talks began. Moscow has sought to revive diplomacy since its air force helped the Syrian army and allied militias defeat rebels in Aleppo in December, Assad’s biggest victory in six years of war. Russia joined with Turkey and Iran to convene intra-Syrian negotiations in the Kazakh capital Astana to reinforce a shaky ceasefire and tried to expand their remit to political aspects, even making public a proposed Moscow-drafted constitution. With Astana handling the ceasefire, Geneva is left with the political conundrum and a UN mandate to discuss a new constitution, UN-supervised elections and transparent and accountable governance. There is leeway for different interpretations, and it is unclear to what extent Russia is willing to put pressure on the Syrian government to reach a political deal with the opposition. Russia supports the creation of a government of national unity, which a senior European diplomat disparagingly said meant bringing in a few dissidents to run the ministry of sports and leaving Assad’s power unchecked. “If they really wanted to move things along, they could hand Assad his boarding card and pack him off to Caracas,” he said.

Syria Talks Challenged as Suicide Blasts Kill Dozens
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 25/17/UN efforts to launch a new round of Syria peace talks sputtered Saturday as suicide attacks killed dozens of people, raising the death toll from two days of violence to more than 80. The blasts which targeted two security service bases in Homs, Syria's third city, killed a top intelligence chief and close confidant of President Bashar al-Assad, and were claimed by former Al-Qaeda affiliate Fateh al-Sham Front. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 42 people were killed, but the provincial governor put the figure at 30 dead in bloodshed which came just 24 hours after another suicide bombing in the northern town of Al-Bab that killed 51. That attack was claimed by Islamic State (IS) group militants. In Geneva, Syrian government and opposition negotiators were to continue meetings with United Nations mediator Staffan de Mistura through the weekend although there was little hope for a breakthrough. After meeting de Mistura on Friday, regime delegation chief Bashar al-Jaafari said he would study a UN paper on the "format" of the talks, but gave no indication that the negotiations had any momentum.
The main opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) described its meeting with de Mistura as "positive", without elaborating on a possible path forward. During three previous rounds of talks in Geneva last year, the rivals never sat down at the same table, instead leaving de Mistura to shuttle between them. The HNC has said it wants to meet the government face-to-face this time. At the end of Friday's negotiations, de Mistura's acting chief of staff Michael Contet signalled there was no immediate prospect of direct talks. - Intelligence chief killed -Saturday's attack saw the bombers targeting the headquarters of state security and military intelligence in a spectacular attack which successfully targeted General Hassan Daabul, a top military intelligence official. "There were at least six attackers and several of them blew themselves up near the headquarters of state security and military intelligence," Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP. Fateh al-Sham Front, however, said just five militants took part in the assault, the latest atrocity in a six-year war which has killed more than 310,000 people. Security forces locked down the city centre. Homs has been under the full government control since May 2014 when rebels withdrew from the centre under a UN-brokered truce deal. But it has seen repeated bombings since then, including twin attacks early last year that killed 64. - Deadlocked talks -The opposition is in a much weaker position compared to the last round of UN-brokered talks in April 2016, notably following the loss of their stronghold in eastern Aleppo. Despite the setbacks on the ground, the HNC still insists that Assad leave power. Damascus says the president's future is not up for discussion. For the UN, the talks are about "political transition", a term contained in Security Council resolution 2254 that provides the framework for the peace process. "Transition means transferring the authorities to a transitional governance body," opposition negotiator Basma Kodmani told AFP Friday, specifying that in this body "there is no role for Bashar Assad."
De Mistura has admitted he was "not expecting miracles" in Geneva, but hoped this round could help build at least some momentum towards an eventual deal.

UN Syria sanctions vote sought next week; Russia vows veto
By Associated Press Saturday, 25 February 2017/Nations urging the UN to ban helicopter sales to Syria and impose other sanctions over chemical weapons use are seeking a Security Council vote next week, saying the body needs to take action after attacks the US envoy called “barbaric” but Russia is vowing a veto. A Security Council diplomat said Friday night that the vote was requested for next week. The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because discussions about the request were private. Britain's deputy UN ambassador, Peter Wilson, had said earlier Friday that a vote would come “as soon as possible.”Britain, France and the United States have been seeking sanctions after an investigation by the United Nations and an international chemical weapons watchdog organization determined last year that the Syrian government was behind at least three attacks involving chlorine gas in the civil-war-ravaged country. The probe also found the ISIS group was responsible for at least one involving mustard gas. President Bashar Assad's regime denies using chemical weapons in the war, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions since it began in March 2011. Russia, Syria's closest ally, has questioned the investigation's conclusions linking chemical weapons use to Syrian government, and Russian deputy ambassador Vladimir Safronkov said Friday that his nation would veto the sanctions measure if it came up for a vote.
“It's a provocation,” he said outside after leaving a closed-door Security Council session about Syria. In a sharp retort, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said the measure “needs to happen.” “How much longer is Russia going to continue to babysit and make excuses for the Syrian regime?” she said. “People have died by being suffocated to death. That's barbaric.”The remarks were the latest signals that new President Donald Trump's administration aims to confront Russia on some issues, while also expressing interest in improving relations. Earlier this week, Haley reiterated that US sanctions on Russia over its 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula will continue until the region is returned to Ukraine. Despite the promised Russian veto, backers of the proposed UN sanctions see them as a moral and institutional imperative. Previous council resolutions called for "measures," under a UN charter chapter that authorizes sanctions, if chemical weapons are used. “On the scale of the threats to peace and security, we are at 10 here,” French Ambassador Francois Delattre said before Friday's meeting.
“If the Security Council is not able to unite on such a literally vital question of proliferation and use of weapons of mass destruction against civilian populations, then what? So what is at stake here, frankly, is the credibility of the Security Council,” he said. The movement toward a vote is coming at a delicate time. Peace talks began Thursday in Geneva, with the UN envoy for Syria casting them as a historic chance to end the conflict. Besides the prohibition on helicopter sales, a draft of the sanctions resolution seen by The Associated Press would impose an asset freeze and travel ban on 11 Syrian people. They include current and former military officers, the managing director of a Ministry of Defense subsidiary and the director-general of Syria's Scientific Studies Research Center, according to the draft. It says the research center was responsible for the development and production of chemical weapons.
The asset freeze also would apply to the research center, to eight entities described as its front companies or proxies and to the Ministry of Defense subsidiary.
There was no immediate response to an inquiry Friday to the Syrian mission. Syria isn't a Security Council member. The US imposed its own sanctions in January on Syria's military and some officials. A chemical weapons attack on a Damascus suburb killed hundreds of civilians on Aug. 21, 2013, leading to a US-Russian agreement and a Security Council resolution the next month ordering the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons, precursors and the equipment to produce the deadly agents. The Syrian government's support for the resolution and decision to join the chemical weapons watchdog, known as the OPCW, warded off possible US military strikes in response to the attack, which the Syrian regime denied carrying out.Syria's declared stockpile of 1,300 metric tons of chemicals has been destroyed, but the OPCW has continued to investigate outstanding questions about possible undeclared chemical weapons.

Syrian regime demands opposition unity for talks
The Associated Press Saturday, 25 February 2017/The Syrian government’s top envoy to Geneva peace talks says his side will meet face-to-face with the opposition only if its various factions come together in a “unified, patriotic opposition.”Bashar al-Jaafari, Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations, pressed home the government’s demand that the opposition denounce terrorism in the wake of deadly attacks against security offices in the central city of Homs earlier Saturday. Speaking to reporters after a 2-1/2-hour meeting with the U.N. Syria envoy, al-Ja’afari said of the government delegation: “We do not have any pre-conditions.”In comments translated from Arabic, he said: “We only have one condition, and that is that we can sit with one unified patriotic opposition that we can consider as a full partner - an opposition delegation that condemns. Jaafari also said demanded that the opposition delegation to denounce the attacks in the central city of Homs as terrorism, saying it is a test of their commitment to finding common ground. He called them “act of political terrorism.” The attacks were claimed by al-Qaeda-linked coalition in Syria. Jaafari said the condemnation wouldn’t bring back lives, but that it would be a “test” to the opposition to prove it is a moderate one. He says those who refuse to condemn the attacks will be considered partners in terrorism, not talks.

Saudi FM confirms commitment to work with Iraq on counter-terrorism efforts
By Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Saturday, 25 February 2017/Saudi Arabia reiterated its commitment to working with Iraq against extremism in the region, the kingdom’s Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said during his visit to Iraq – the first for a high official Saudi in Baghdad since 1990. Saudi Arabia also said on Saturday it plans to increase cooperation and improve on ties with Iraq, Jubeir said during a press conference with his Iraqi counterpart Ibrahim al-Jaafari.“We need to right what has been wronged in the past and improve on our relations moving forward starting with increased visits of officials between our countries,” Jaafari told reporters. Jubeir also told to Jaafari that Saudi Arabia is confirming the naming of their new ambassador to Iraq, reported Al Arabiya News Channel’s correspondent. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir With Iraqi premier Haidar al-Abadi. (Supplied)

Head of Homs’ military intelligence killed in attacks
By Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Saturday, 25 February 2017/General Hassan Daaboul, chief of provincial military security unit, is said to be among 42 victims killed during suicide attacks on Saturday targeting two security centers. State-run Syrian TV cited its reporter on the ground as saying six suicide bombers carried out the attacks. The sound of gunfire and explosions had been heard since early in the day and those killed included a senior officer, the British-based war monitor said. It was not immediately clear if the militants were from Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or other groups, it said. ISIS has carried out bombing attacks in the city, which is under government control except for one besieged district held by more moderate rebels.

Germany: Man hits three with car in Heidelberg, shot by police
The Associated Press, Berlin Saturday, 25 February 2017/A man apparently drove a car into pedestrians in a central square in the German city of Heidelberg on Saturday, injuring three people, then fled and was shot after being tracked down by officers, police said. One of the three people hit outside a bakery on Saturday afternoon was seriously injured, police spokeswoman Anne Baas said. The man, who is believed to have been carrying a knife, then got out of his rental car, another police spokesman, Norbert Schaetzle, told n-tv television. He was intercepted by a police patrol and shot by an officer following a short standoff. He has been taken to a hospital. There was no immediate word on the man's possible motives or where he came from. Schaetzle said he couldn't confirm local media reports that the man was mentally disturbed, but said a “terrorist background is not suspected and the man appears to have acted alone”.

Egypt launches societal dialogue on nuclear project
By BBC Saturday, 25 February 2017/Minister of Electricity and Energy Mohamed Shaker and Matrouh Governor Alaa Abu Zeid on Saturday [25 February] attended the launching ceremony of a societal dialogue to address the environmental impact of building the first nuclear station in Egypt in Dhaba area. The dialogue aims at asserting the popular participation along with experts in establishing the nuclear plant to peacefully generate energy to review the outcome of a study conducted to assess the environmental and societal impact of such project. The session was attended by Commander of the Northern Military Zone General Mohamed Lotfi, Head of Nuclear Stations Authority Hassan Mahmoud and a number of popular and executive officials from Matrouh governorate.

Rowhani: Increasing of military power will not guarantee Iran’s security
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Saturday, 25 February 2017/Iranian president Hassan Rowhani warned during a conference with the Iranian interior ministry that increasing military power will not guarantee the country’s security. He also said that loss of confidence in Iranian society would mean loss of security, reported Iranian news agencies. Rowhani said in a speech at a conference of Iranian officials commenting on the next presidential election: “We must not let elections become polarized because polarized elections bring trouble for our country.”The Iranian president also added, “One needs to pay attention to the fact that the base for security is unity, integrity and social asset. Social asset is the greatest asset and when integrity and unity wanes, disagreement, resentment, and division arise.”Those sowing resentment with their words and pens, are committing a great sin, said Rowhani adding: “Promoting dispute, division and disunion among groups with different ethnicities, language and religion is the greatest sin.”

Iran requests 950 tons of uranium from Kazakhstan
AFP, Tehran Saturday, 25 February 2017/Iran’s nuclear chief said on Saturday that the country had requested to buy 950 tons of uranium concentrate from Kazakhstan over the next three years to help develop its civil reactor program.|The request has been made to the body that oversees the nuclear deal signed between Iran and world powers in 2015. Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, told the ISNA news agency that the purchase was supposed to happen “within three years”. “650 tons will enter the country in two consignments and 300 tons will enter Iran in the third year,” he said. Salehi said the final shipment of concentrate, known as yellow cake, would be turned into uranium hexafluoride gas and sold back to Kazakhstan -- its first international sale of the compound which is used in the uranium enrichment process. Under the nuclear deal, many of Iran’s centrifuges were mothballed but it has the right to enrich uranium to a level of 3.5 percent and sell it abroad. Nuclear weapons require uranium enriched to 80 percent or more. Salehi said Iran has already received around 382 tons of yellow cake, primarily from Russia, since the nuclear deal came into force in January last year. nder the deal, Iran is allowed to run around 5,000 “IR-1” centrifuges and has been testing more advanced models that can produce greater quantities of enriched uranium -- all under the strict supervision of the UN atomic agency.

Battle for Mosul: ISIS drone obliterates Iraqi army tank
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Saturday, 25 February 2017/Amaq News, which acts as a semi-official news agency for the ISIS has released a new video showing a drone striking an Iraqi tank from the air. The footage, which cannot be independently verified as of publication, proves increasing fears of ISIS’ growing sophistication in modern warfare. The attack reportedly took place in an unknown location near Mosul, where an ongoing operation to retake the city from ISIS is entering its fifth month. Special forces Lt. Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi said on Saturday that his troops are “moving very slowly” and that ISIS fighters are responding with car bombs, snipers and dozens of armed drones. The drones have caused relatively few deaths, but have inflicted dozens of light injuries that have disrupted the pace of ground operations.

Iraqi forces facing stiff resistance in western Mosul as civilians flee
By AFP Saturday, 25 February 2017/An Iraqi commander says special forces troops are progressing through western Mosul and encountering stiff resistance from entrenched ISIS fighters. Special forces Lt. Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi said Saturday that his troops are "moving very slowly" and that ISIS fighters are responding with car bombs, snipers and dozens of armed drones. The drones have caused relatively few deaths, but have inflicted dozens of light injuries that have disrupted the pace of ground operations. Al-Saadi says he expects the pace to increase after Iraqi forces retake territory and infrastructure on Mosul's southwestern edge - which will allow them to shorten supply lines and link up with forces in the city's east. Iraqi forces declared eastern Mosul "fully liberated" in January after officially launching the operation to retake the city in October. Elite Iraqi forces on Friday had entered a west Mosul neighbourhood for the first time since the start four months ago of an offensive to retake the city, a commander said. Sami al-Aridhi, a lieutenant general in the Counter-Terrorism Service, said his men had retaken a military base and a village southwest of Mosul and entered a residential neighbourhood of the city. “We have attacked and fully control Ghazlani base, we have also taken Tal al-Rayyan... and we're attacking Al-Maamun neighbourhood,” he told AFP. Iraqi forces secured the east side of Mosul a month ago and on Sunday launched a fresh push on the west side of the Tigris River that divides the city. They have since retaken several outlying villages and desert areas near the city. On Friday, commanders confirmed that government forces had full control of the airport that lies on the southern edge of the city.

ISIS militants kill 11 in mosque ambush, says Afghan official
The Associated Press, Kabul Saturday, 25 February 2017/An Afghan official says that 10 police officers and the wife of a police commander have been killed by ISIS militants in northern Zawzjan province. Mohammad Reza Ghafori, spokesperson for the Zawzjan provincial governor, said on Saturday that the police officers were ambushed on Friday as they were coming out of a mosque. The wife of the police commander heard about her husband being shot and rushed to the scene, where she was also killed. ISIS-linked militants have been active in Afghanistan’s eastern regions, but have recently begun operating in the north of the country as well.

Turkish PM launches ‘yes’ campaign over constitutional changes
AP and AFP Saturday, 25 February 2017/Turkey’s prime minister has officially launched his ruling party’s campaign for a “yes” vote in a referendum on ushering a presidential system. Binali Yildirim formally got campaigning going on Saturday telling supporters in a sports arena that the proposed new system would build a strong Turkey capable of surmounting terror threats and make its economy more robust. Yildirim said: “We are taking the first steps on the path of a future strong Turkey.”
The proposed changes, which would create an executive presidency for the first time in modern Turkey, are controversial and far-reaching. A man holds a flag showing Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that read's "Learning from Erdogan means learning how to win" during the speech of Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim in Oberhausen, Germany. (Reuters) The president would have the power to appoint and fire ministers, while the post of prime minister will be abolished for the first time in Turkey’s history and replaced by one or more vice presidents. The public vote is likely to take place in April.

French judge takes over probe into Fillon 'fake jobs' scandal
By Reuters Saturday, 25 February 2017/French presidential challenger Francois Fillon will face a full judicial inquiry into allegations he paid family members for fake parliamentary jobs after the country's financial prosecutor said he was appointing a magistrate to lead a deeper probe.
The escalation is another blow to the conservative candidate whose status as favorite to win the presidency has faded since the “Penelopegate” affair - named after Fillon's wife - first surfaced a month ago. But it may not stop him from standing in April-May vote.By involving a magistrate in what had so far been a preliminary probe led by police, the prosecutor is putting more resources into the investigation. The inquiry will examine possible misuse of public funds and a lack of full and proper disclosure, according to the prosecutor's statement that was issued as Fillon took to the stage at a campaign rally near Paris.
The judge can decide to drop the case, place the 62-year-old former prime minister under formal investigation, or send the case to trial. It was not clear, however, if the inquiry could be concluded before the two-round election, scheduled for April 23 and May 7, but the French judicial process would not typically wrap up such a case in the nine weeks between now and the poll. Under French law, if Fillon were to win the presidential race the investigation would be suspended during his time in office. Fillon has denied any wrongdoing and says his wife was paid hundreds of thousands of euros for genuine work as his parliamentary assistant, though he has acknowledged giving her the work was an error of judgment.
Fillon made no reference to the prosecutor's decision at his rally, at which his supporters cried out “Fillon, President!”. Fillon has pledged to stay in the race come what may, after saying for weeks that he would step down if he were put under formal investigation. “You are my companions, and with you at my side I can feel your energy that will give me the strength to win,” Fillon told the rally. Nevertheless, the issue has unnerved investors who fear Fillon's campaign woes have handed the anti-euro, anti-immigration Marine Le Pen of the National Front a higher chance of winning the presidency. Opinion polls show Le Pen leading a fragmented field in the first round but then losing to independent centrist Emmanuel Macron in a second round run-off. Macron has been favorite to win the presidency since the Fillon scandal broke on Jan. 25. Fillon - who has long cultivated an image of probity and criticized people for taking government handouts - has been heckled for weeks by protesters at campaign outings. Macron got a boost on Friday when German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was ready to meet him. Le Pen, however, was roundly criticized by the French mainstream political establishment after she refused to attend a summons for questioning by police over allegations that she made illegal EU payments to her staff.

Hundreds on Philippine streets as Duterte jails top critic
AFP Saturday, 25 February 2017
Ex-Philippine leader Benigno Aquino joined thousands of people on the streets of Manila Saturday as protests broke out against President Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal war on drugs. Demonstrators amassed near the national police headquarters, with some warning the Duterte crackdown foreshadowed a repeat of the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship, which was toppled in a bloodless “People Power” revolution 31 years ago. “We are taking the matter seriously. We are warning our people about the threat of rising fascism,” protest leader Bonifacio Ilagan told AFP after leading more than 1,000 protesters at a morning rally. Ilagan, a playwright who was tortured over two years in a police prison under Marcos’ martial rule in the 1970s, cited the “culture of impunity” arising from Duterte’s crackdown. Duterte, 71, won the presidential election last year after promising during the campaign to eradicate drugs in society by killing tens of thousands of people. He launched the crackdown after taking office in June and police have reported killing 2,555 drug suspects since then, with about 4,000 other people murdered in unexplained circumstances. He has not ruled out using martial law to prevent what he describes as the country’s slide to narco-state status. Duterte, who ranks Marcos as one of the country’s best-ever presidents, last year allowed the Marcos family to bury the former leader’s remains at Manila’s Cemetery for Heroes, leading to large street protests. Wearing a black shirt Duterte’s predecessor Aquino marched alongside political allies and around 2,000 other protesters. Aquino denounced the government’s treatment of Senator Leila de Lima, the top critic of the Duterte drug war, who was arrested on Friday and faces life in prison if convicted of drugs charges. De Lima, Aquino’s former justice minister, said the arrest was an act of revenge for her decade-long efforts to expose Duterte as the leader of death squads during his time as mayor of the southern city of Davao.
‘Yes to peace’
Aquino on Saturday also rejected allegations by Duterte spokesmen that people associated with the previous government were plotting to destabilize the new administration. “How can we be causing destabilization when we are actually offering to help,” Aquino said. At one point, tempers rose as several protesters confronted a dozen young people who raised clenched fists while holding up a pro-Duterte banner nearby. “Why did you sell your soul?” a white-haired man in a black shirt said, jabbing his finger at one of the Duterte supporters and telling him the president was “responsible” for drug-related murders.
“They (deaths) are still being investigated,” the young man replied calmly. Television footage showed police hosing down a group of at least 100 people protesting the drug killings, though no one was seriously injured. In a separate demonstration Saturday, around 150 anti-Marcos protesters chanting “Exhume him” marched on the cemetery where he is buried, but riot police stopped them near the gate, an AFP photographer saw. Hundreds of Duterte supporters began gathering at a park across the city on Saturday for a planned overnight vigil to demonstrate public backing for Duterte’s drug crackdown.
“Yes to peace, no to destabilization,” one of their banners read. Another banner identified its owners as “Friends of Bongbong Marcos”, the dictator’s son Ferdinand Jnr.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on February 25-26/17
Arab League between Reality and Challenges
Ahmed Aboul Gheit/Asharq Al Awsat/February 25/17
I have a traditional bias to those who swear to protect nations and sacrifice souls for their sake. I have a deep-rooted conviction that military institutions were and still are one of the essential elements of national fabric coherence in Arab countries regardless of their political regimes and social formations.
If we tackle the issue from a strategic angle, the Arab world is now in a defensive position as it has become a target for attacks from more than one direction. The most dangerous types of attacks ever are those that are home grown, causing an unprecedented burden on security and military bodies of the region’s states. Complexity lies in the absence of a single cause of events and crises. My generation grew up when the Palestinian cause was essential for having clear and definite dimensions. On the contrary, today there is no cause of such an impact on the Arab world as a whole.
And, the Arab world will not witness prosperity as long as there is chaos in any Arab country.
The Arab League continues to be the only platform for Arabism and the fact that its role hasn’t stopped throughout decades is a reflection of inter-Arab relations.
Risks that we are facing today have become crystal clear for citizens – terrorism under the banner of Islam is no more a theoretical idea or mental image but a reality full of tragedies and disasters – a reality that has been rejected by the majority of citizens after their experience with ISIS.
However, terrorism is not the only challenge we are facing. There are a series of other challenges that are no less dangerous. Some of them are geopolitical such as the failure to have a central authority in Yemen, Libya and Syria, as well as the growing regional greed of neighboring countries including Iran and Israel. Some other challenges are economic and social, such as drop in oil prices, economic slowdown, and failure to achieve sustainable development.
Yet, Arab regimes still lack institutionalism and the ability to work collectively in confronting challenges that require a joint strategy. For example one of the faults in the Arab system is the absence of a unified defense strategy.
The region requires a huge economic recovery that grants the Arab youths opportunities to unleash their potentials. Our societies must be able to generate wealth by improving highly-productive sectors and putting an end to dependency on oil resources as well as moving towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The Arab League remains the only framework that can fulfill these goals and face these challenges – it is true that the league’s work has been associated with political issues but its role is wider than that.
Certainly, the collective movement of Arabs through the league grants them greater power against other entities and ensures cooperation among them.
Joint Arab work is now a must and not an option. It is a necessity for survival.
**Ahmed Aboul Gheit is Arab League’s Secretary-General

Would You Want Your Vaccine Produced by Supporters of Jihad?
by Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/February 25/17
"Selling the crucial manufacture of vaccines to an ideologically hostile country, which might - for whatever reason – suddenly decide to shut down production, does not sound like a good idea... Those who say that the Saudis are merely interested in profit, just like everybody else, should know better". — Rachel Ehrenfeld, expert on financing terrorism
Virtually all political parties supported the Danish government's sale of its vaccine manufacturing facility to the Saudi conglomerate.
After the publication of the Danish Mohammad cartoons in 2006, Saudis boycotted Danish goods. Do Danish politicians really have such short memories?
Vaccines are not an easy commodity to come by. It takes minimum six months for an order of vaccines to be delivered, but, according to the World Health Organization, delivery can also easily take up to two years.
How much trust are Danish consumers supposed to have in a Saudi owned conglomerate, which employs jihadists such as Usmani and donates heavily to jihadist organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood, who want to bring about a caliphate? The potential for political exploitation is too evident to reject.
Would you want your vaccines produced by a Saudi company that supports jihad? Danes, it seems, may have no choice.
Denmark recently sold its state-owned vaccine manufacturing facility to a conglomerate owned by the Aljomaih Group, a Saudi family dynasty[1] led by Sheikh AbdulAziz Hamad Aljomaih. The sheikh is also the largest single stockholder and chairman of Arcapita Bank, (formerly First Islamic Investment Bank) headquartered in Bahrain. As an Islamic bank, it has a so-called Sharia Supervisory Board comprised of Islamic scholars, who ensure that the bank's activities comply with sharia (Islamic law).
Former Islamic judge and leading Islamic scholar Taqi Usmani, who sits on the bank's Sharia Board, in his book, "Islam and Modernism", writes ruminations such as: "Aggressive Jihad is lawful even today... Its justification cannot be veiled..."
Usami had also, after Danish newspapers reprinted the Mohammad cartoons in 2008, co-signed an appeal to the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), urging it to boycott Denmark:
"If the Danish government does not declare the [publication of] shameful and blasphemous cartoons as a criminal act, the OIC [should] appeal to all Islamic nations for a trade boycott of that bigoted country".
Equally noteworthy is that the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Yussuf al-Qaradawi, used to sit on Arcapita's sharia board, until he eventually resigned. Qaradawi, already in 1995, told a Muslim Arab Youth Association convention in Toledo, Ohio, "We will conquer Europe, we will conquer America!" According to Qaradawi, sharia law should be introduced gradually, over a five-year period in a new country. Presumably, this gradually-introduced sharia legal system would include the end of free speech under "blasphemy laws", the denigration and oppression of women, such as women worth half as much as men in court, polygamy, the persecution of Jews (Qaradawi advocates killing all of them), beating wives as a way of "disciplining" them and so on. Only after this transition phase, sharia laws such as killing apostates and homosexuals, as well as chopping off hands for theft, would be introduced.
Given Qaradawi's former prominence in Arcapita, it hardly comes as a surprise that the bank has given financial support to the Muslim Brotherhood in Bahrain, known there as the Al Islah Society. According to a leaked report by former US Ambassador to Bahrain, Ambassador William T. Monroe:
"Arcapita reported giving a total $591,000 in 2003 and $583,000 in 2002 to a variety of charitable organizations... the Islamic Education Society (Al Tarbiya Al Islamiya - Sunni Salafi) and the Al Islah Society (Sunni Muslim Brotherhood) are the largest beneficiaries of Arcapita's charitable giving... We are aware of concerns linking Arcapita advisors and staff to questionable organizations."
In August 2016, the Danish government announced that it "...rejects any organization representing antidemocratic and radicalized environments" and considers the Muslim Brotherhood to be "deeply problematic" and something they "strongly reject".
Clearly not strongly enough.
"Selling the crucial manufacture of vaccines to an ideologically hostile country, which might -- for whatever reason -- suddenly decide to shut down production, does not sound like a good idea. Those who say that the Saudis are merely interested in profit, just like everybody else, should know better", Rachel Ehrenfeld, an expert on the financing of terrorism, told Ekstra Bladet.
Denmark's Statens Serum Institut (State Serum Institute). Image source: Wikimedia Commons/Froztbyte.
Virtually all political parties supported the Danish government's sale of its vaccine manufacturing facility to the Saudi conglomerate. This is strange, given the recent history of Danish-Saudi relations.
After the publication of the Danish Mohammad cartoons in 2006, Saudis boycotted Danish goods. Saudi Arabia's religious leader, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheik, demanded that the Danish government hold Jyllands-Posten, the newspaper that printed the Mohammad cartoons, to account and force the newspaper to give an apology: "The government should give [the newspaper] a fine as a deterrence. This is the least that Muslims should demand", he said.
Do Danish politicians really have such short memories?
Vaccines are not an easy commodity to come by. It takes minimum of six months for an order of vaccines to be delivered, but, according to the World Health Organization, delivery can also easily take up to two years. Astonishingly, the Danish state has given the Aljomaih group an incredible start by promising to buy all its children's vaccines from the sheikh for the first 30 months. Only after that will Danish authorities be able to buy their children's vaccines elsewhere. The Danish government has also promised the Aljomaih group not to create new Danish state vaccine production for the first three years.
Should consumers not be able to trust a producer of something as critical as vaccines? How much trust are Danish consumers supposed to have in a Saudi owned conglomerate, which employs jihadists such as Usmani, which donates heavily to jihadist organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood, which in turn wants to bring about a caliphate? The potential for political exploitation is too evident to reject. Ekstra Bladet ran a poll on its website asking whether Danes were in favor or against the sale: 95% were against it.
Even more remarkable is that the government claims not to have known about the connection between the Muslim Brotherhood and Aljomaih; all the information is easily accessible on the internet.
Health Minister Ellen Trane Nørby has defended the sale: "We did not have several buyers to choose from. We have the buyer we have and it has saved 600 Danish jobs, which would otherwise have been lost".
Is she saying that the safety of Danish citizens is worth 600 jobs?
The sale of the Danish vaccine production facility to the Saudi conglomerate captures perfectly everything that is wrong with European politicians today: their apparent gullibility, their carelessness and their desire to sell out to places such as Saudi Arabia, seemingly without giving much thought to the long-term consequences.
*Judith Bergman is a writer, columnist, lawyer and political analyst.
[1] The Group has been active in healthcare through its investment arm AJ Pharma Holding, and it is its Malaysian subsidiary, AJ Biologics, which will take over the vaccine production in the Danish facility in Copenhagen with its 100-year-old history and approximately 500 Danish employees. The deal was a steal for the Aljomaih group, which acquired the vaccine production company for what is believed to be a tenth of its actual value, a mere 15 million DKK.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Extremist Muslims' One-Way Street
Burak Bekdil/Gatestone Institute/February 25/17
Extremist Muslims' understanding of freedom is a one-way street: Freedoms, such as religious rights, are "good" and must be defended if they are intended for Muslims -- often where Muslims are in minority. But they can simply be ignored if they are intended for non-Muslims -- often in lands where Muslims make up the majority.
Many Muslim countries, apparently, already have travel bans against other Muslims, in addition to banning Israelis.
Look at Saudi Arabia. Deportation and a lifetime ban is the minimum penalty for non-Muslims trying to enter the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.
Given the state of non-Muslim religious and human rights, and the sheer lack of religious pluralism in most Muslim countries, why do Muslim nations suddenly become human rights champions in the face of a ban on travel to the U.S.?
Meanwhile, Muslims will keep on loving the "infidels" who support Muslim rights in non-Muslim lands, while keeping up intimidation of the same "infidels" in their own lands.
President Donald Trump's executive order of January 27, 2017, temporarily limiting entry from seven majority-Muslim countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen -- for 90 days, until vetting procedures can be put in place -- has caused international controversy, sparking protests both in the Western and Islamic worlds, including in increasingly Islamist Turkey.
This article does not intend to discuss whether Trump's ban is a racist, illegal order, or a perfectly justified action in light of threatened American interests. The ban, right or wrong, has once again unveiled the hypocrisy of extremist Muslims on civil liberties and on what is and what is NOT racist. Extremist Muslims' understanding of freedom is a one-way street: Freedoms, such as religious rights, are "good" and must be defended if they are intended for Muslims -- often where Muslims are in minority. But they can simply be ignored if they are intended for non-Muslims -- often in lands where Muslims make up the majority.
Muslims have been in a rage across the world. Iran's swift and sharp answer came in a Tweet from Foreign Minister Javad Zarif who said that the ban was "a great gift to extremists." A government statement in Tehran said that the U.S. travel restrictions were an insult to the Muslim world, and threatened U.S. citizens with "reciprocal measures." Many Muslim countries, apparently, already have travel bans against other Muslims, in addition to banning Israelis.
Sudan, host and supporter of various extremist Muslim terror groups including al-Qaeda, said the ban was "very unfortunate." In Iraq, a coalition of paramilitary groups called on the government to ban U.S. nationals from entering the country and to expel those currently on Iraqi soil.
In Turkey where the extremist Islamic government is unusually soft on Trump's ban -- in order not to antagonize the new president -- a senior government official called the order "a discriminative decision." Deputy Prime Minister and government spokesman Numan Kurtulmus said:
"Unfortunately, I am of the opinion that rising Islamophobia, xenophobia and anti-immigrant feelings have a great weight on this decision. Taking such a decision in a country such as America, where different ethnic and religious groups are able to co-exist, is very offensive."
The ruling party's deputy chairman, Yasin Aktay, called the ban "racist," and said: "This is totally against human rights, a big violation of human rights." Aktay also said that he had started to "worry about the future of the U.S."
Turkey's top Muslim cleric, Mehmet Gormez, praised the Americans who rushed to the airports to protest the ban. "[This] is very important. It gives us hope," he said -- presumably meaning that non-Muslim protestors will continue to advocate for Muslim rights in non-Muslim lands.
Turkish government bigwigs and the top Islamic authority seem not to have heard of their own country's dismal human rights record when it comes to non-Muslim minorities. Most recently, Turkey's Association of Protestant Churches noted in a report that hate speech against the country's Christians increased in both the traditional media and social media. It said that hate speech against Protestants persisted throughout 2016, in addition to physical attacks on Protestant individuals and their churches.
Nevertheless, the Islamist's one-way sympathy for human rights (for Muslims) and his one-way affection for discrimination (against non-Muslims) is not just Turkish, but global. What is the treatment of non-Muslim (or sometimes even non-extremist Muslim) visitors to some of the Muslim cities and sites in the countries that decry Trump's "racist," and "discriminative" ban that "violates human rights?"
In a 2016 visit to the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the Muslim custodians of the site did not allow entry to this author, despite the Turkish passport submitted to them, saying "you do not look Muslim enough." And Muslims now complain of "discrimination?" Incidentally, Al Aqsa Mosque is, theoretically at least, open to visits from non-Muslims, except on Fridays.
Look at Saudi Arabia. Deportation and a lifetime ban is the minimum penalty for non-Muslims trying to enter the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. In 2013, the Saudi Minister of Justice, Mohamed el-Eissi, insisted that "the cradle of the Muslim sanctities will not allow the establishment of any other places of worship."
The Saudi ban on other religious houses of worship comes from a Salafi tradition that prohibits the existence of two religions in the Arabian Peninsula. In the Saudi kingdom, the law requires that all citizens must be Muslims; the government does not provide legal protection for freedom of religion; and the public practice of non-Muslim religions is prohibited.
In Iran, where even non-Muslim female visitors must wear the Islamic headscarf, the government continues to imprison, harass, intimidate and discriminate against people based on religious beliefs. A 2014 U.S. State Department annual report noted that non-Muslims faced "substantial societal discrimination, aided by official support." At the release of the report, then Secretary of State John Kerry said: "Sadly, the pages of this report that are being released today are filled with accounts of minorities being denied rights in countries like Burma, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, many others".
In Iran, marriages between Muslim women and non-Muslim men are not recognized unless the husband produces proof that he has converted to Islam. The mullahs' government does not ensure the right of citizens to change or renounce their religious faith. Apostasy, specifically conversion from Islam, can be punishable by death. In 2013, 79 people from religious minorities were sentenced to a total of 3,620 months in prison, 200 months of probation, 75 lashes and 41 billion rials in fines [approximately $1.3 million].
That being the state of non-Muslim religious and human rights, and the sheer lack of religious pluralism in most Muslim countries, why do Muslim nations suddenly become human rights champions in the face of a ban on travel to the U.S.? Why, for instance, does Turkey never criticizes the extreme shortcomings of freedoms in the Muslim world but calls the U.S. ban "racist?"
Why does the Iranian government think that Trump's ban is a "gift to the [Muslim] extremists?" In claiming that travel bans would supposedly fuel extremism, how come Iran does not think that its own persecution of religious minorities is a "gift" to non-Muslims?
Such questions will probably remain unanswered in the Muslim world. Meanwhile, Muslims will keep on loving the "infidels" who support Muslim rights in non-Muslim lands, while keeping up intimidation of the same "infidels" in their own lands.
**Burak Bekdil, one of Turkey's leading journalists, was just fired from Turkey's leading newspaper after 29 years, for writing what was taking place in Turkey for Gatestone. He is a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

‘Islam’ looms large in the French presidential elections
Talmiz Ahmad/Al Arabiya/February 25/17
On February 20, Marine Le Pen, the presidential candidate of the far-right National Front, paid a two-day visit to Lebanon. In Beirut, Le Pen had formal meetings with Lebanese political leaders, but her principal engagement was with the country’s Christian right. Her meeting with the grand mufti of Lebanon was cancelled because she refused to wear a scarf at the meeting.
In Lebanon, Le Pen generally ignored the country’s two-thirds Muslim population, and alienated most politicians by setting out her West Asia policy as consisting of: no more refugees, strong affiliation with the Christian community, and support for the Bashar al-Assad government, which she simply saw as the enemy of ISIS.
In public remarks, she also recalled the strong links between her National Front supporters and Lebanon’s Christian militia, calling it a “bond of bloodshed”, viewed by Muslims as celebrating the massacres of Palestinians and other Lebanese perpetrated by these militia in the 1975-90 civil war.
In Lebanon Le Pen was following in the footsteps of her rival, the 39-year-old centrist candidate, Emmanuel Macron, who is heading his own newly set up party, En Marche! (Onward!). He had visited Beirut in January where he was warmly received. He had called for a more balanced policy toward Syria, engaging with all parties, including al-Assad.
Everything associated with “Islam” is now up for debate: the headscarf, the burkini, the setting up of mosques, halal food, the association of Islam with terrorism, and even the shaky performance of the North African footballer, Karim Benzema
While Le Pen was in Lebanon, Macron, went off to Algeria where he described his country’s colonial experience as a crime against humanity. This alienated the right-wing in France; he also lost left-wing support by opposing gay marriage.
Le Pen’s Islamophobia
Le Pen, today the leader in the campaign with 26 percent support, has promised to close Salafi mosques, get rid of foreign imams and foreign funding for extremist groups, and deport French citizens affiliated with militancy. Le Pen’s platform, sternly nationalist and anti-immigration and avowedly anti-Muslim, has surged in national appeal over the last two years, so that her party was in first place in the 2015 regional elections.
This has been clearly in response to the Charlie Hedbo attacks on January 2015 and the Paris attacks later that year, which have defined the country’s Arab Muslims as the violent and despised “Other”, and made immigration and “Islam” major issues in the presidential contest.
Le Pen’s views are also held by the other right-wing candidate, from the Republican Party, Francois Fillon, who has also promised to curb immigration and conserve France’s conservative values, saying: “Our country is not a sum of communities, it is an identity.” He also noted that Catholics, Protestants and Jews did not denounce the values of the Republic, unlike the followers of a certain other religion, an obvious reference to Muslims.
In terms of the number of worshippers, Muslims in France are second after Catholics, and are about 5-7 percent of the national population, estimated at five to six million. While most of the Muslims are migrants from the former French colonies in Africa, about 100,000 French are converts to Islam.
Radicalization of Arab youth
Everything associated with 'Islam' is now up for debate: the headscarf, the burkini, the setting up of mosques, halal food, the association of Islam with terrorism, and even the shaky performance of the North African footballer, Karim Benzema.
Early in the campaign, presidential candidate Alain Juppe was stigmatized as “Ali” Juppe, while another candidate, Benoit Hamon was nicknamed “Bilel”. Juppe dropped out early, while Hamon is struggling with his hard-left agenda. Muslim graves have been desecrated and mosques attacked.
France has changed over the last three decades. In the 1970s, while there were confrontations between Arab youth and police, Islam was not dragged into the fight. But, the Muslim underclass, leading squalid lives in the suburbs of metropolitan centres, gradually came to find a sanctuary and identity in Islam.
Observers note that in the riots of 2005 in suburban areas across France, Islam became the “identity bearer” of the marginalized Muslim youth against the society that had no place for them.
Since 2005, hundreds of France’s Arab youth have flocked to join extremist groups in West Asia, particularly ISIS in Syria. More seriously, the messages put across by ISIS on social media have encouraged some Muslim youth to perpetrate violence against soft targets in France.
In most instances, these people had shown little religious zeal earlier and had no contact with extremist groups in West Asia. Their profiles show them as under-educated and without regular employments, generally social misfits, with anger management issues and history of domestic violence.
One major victim of burgeoning French xenophobia could be the European Union (EU) itself: 60 percent of the electorate have negative views about the bloc, while 80 percent are hankering for a “strong leader willing to break the rules” to save the country.

The age of contagious chaos
Ibrahim Kalin/Al Arabiya/February 25/17
Is the current global disorder a symptom of a malfunction within the system or is the entire system faulty? The optimists may opt for the first answer and argue that a better and wiser implementation of the current global system may produce peace, stability and prosperity for all. But the problem goes a little deeper than that.The current state of chaos in the world is contagious. It affects everything and everybody. It moves from one country to another, from one region to another. The world has become so interdependent that no one can claim immunity from the penetrating crises of the age regardless of where they occur.
The promise of the Enlightenment has come at a high price: European colonialism, the destruction of traditional forms of social and political association in much of the Muslim world, Africa and Southeast Asia, the two "world" wars (which were in fact mostly European wars), the cold war period and its aftermath. The gap between the rich and the poor is widening, thus deepening the sense of mistrust and despair among hundreds of millions of people who live at the bottom of the world. Capitalism continues to renew itself at every opportunity with a big price tag for the poor of the world and the natural environment. Capitalism thrives on cheap labor and goes after it wherever it is, i.e., Africa and Southeast Asia.
The fact that capitalism needs cheap labor does not justify the exploitation of human beings as machines without souls
Globalization promised a worldwide re-definition and re-arrangement of everything: history, memory, society, politics, communication, economics, education, religion, belief, art, and so on. The big expectation was that the rigid borders of individual and communal identities were going to be replaced by a sense of world-citizenship in which everyone would feel, believe and live a more or less a similar life. Francis Fukuyama found a name for it: the end of history.
The end of history never came. Given the unfolding complexities of the age in which we live, it would be wise for all of us to avoid any "endism." Instead, we should focus on the best practices to end injustice and inequality and put the values of reason, wisdom and virtue to the best use we can. The first principle to observe is the interdependence of the current world system. This means that no actor can claim victory in self-destructive battles that lead to the destruction of all. Therefore it is morally wrong and self-defeating to define and defend one's interest at the expense of others. Wisdom and justice are not simply moral and intellectual virtues. If one is wise, one would know that they are also political necessities.
The rich need to fix this too
The issues of global justice and equality are not simply problems for the poor and struggling countries. To the contrary, they are problems that need resolving in the world's rich and powerful countries. The reason is that the current power gap and disequilibrium is a legacy of colonialism over the last several centuries and cannot be overcome until and unless those who created it in the first place take responsibility for it. The fact that capitalism needs cheap labor does not justify the exploitation of human beings as machines without souls.
On the political front, the current proxy wars fought in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere will not bring peace, stability or prosperity to anyone. It will only create bigger misery, deepen the sense of resentment and play right into the hands of the violent extremists that look for any opportunity to disrupt whatever degree of peace and stability exists in the places in which they operate. Fighting terrorism requires a globally coordinated effort but most importantly it must be an honest and sincere fight. The chaos created by terrorism is also contagious.
Finally we come to the big questions of identity, self-perception and worldview. Human beings have maintained a certain form of self-identity and a view of others as part of their engagement with the world. The current state of contagious chaos and insecurity has not changed this fact but transformed it. We live the processes of rootless urbanization and nativism, globalization and localization, social networking and extreme individualism all at the same time. This is perhaps one of the most pressing aspects of our age: we live these contradictory sentiments so intensely and so confusingly that no one knows exactly how to chart a course in this mayhem of insecurity, unpredictability and despair. Populist, xenophobic and racist discourses appeal to people's sense of misdirection and narrow-minded politicians exploit these feelings. But these short-term political gains make the world an even more insecure and chaotic place.
The last two decades of globalization have shown without any doubt that the issues of identity, loyalty, collective memory and cultural-religious belonging will not go away. And there is no need for them to disappear. To the contrary, they can be a source of collective wisdom and strength against the onslaught of contagious chaos that is tearing the world apart.
*This article was first published in the Daily Sabah on Feb. 24, 2017.

Debates of rupture and heritage between Radwan al-Sayyid and Ali Harb
Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran/Al Arabiya/February 25/17
After accusing Nasr Abu Zayd of apostasy and following the fuss triggered as a result in the first half of the 1990’s, Jizelle Khoury hosted Abu Zayd, his wife Ibtihal Younis and Radwan al-Sayyid during her show Life Dialogue. The interview also included a commentary from Ali Harb.
The reason behind the accusations directed at Abu Zayd was his book Critique of Religious Discourse. Sayyid thought the book was political, while Harb viewed it as a broad criticism that could even change or influence fixed concepts. These opinions express two different projects or rather two major differences between visions and it can be helpful to tackle them to highlight few issues.
Sayyid is an Azhar sheikh who criticizes Islamic rhetoric from within, in order to develop and renew it. He plays the role of the good judge and guide in terms of ending obstructions that hinder Muslims’ activity. He was preoccupied with the nation, the group, the authority and policies of modern Islam and gave a great deal of thought to the authority in the Islamic field. He fought those calling for abandoning heritage and thought that these figures were fighting Arabism and Islam.
These thinkers do not suffer from ignorance or have ill intentions, but they suffer from dogmas related to progress and its conditions. They attribute a part of our underdevelopment to the nesting of these legacies in our minds and souls
Harb, however, is the complete opposite. He was influenced by the rising philosophies in France, especially philosophers of difference since the days of Friedrich Nietzsche, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze. His postmodern vision developed from his book “Truth and Interpretation” to “Critique of the Text, Critique of the Truth, the Forbidden and the Prohibited.”
His vision’s development did not stop at the book “After Deconstruction.” His applications were greatly influenced by Derrida. In his book “Towards a Transformative Logic,” we can see how preoccupied he was with Deleuze’s texts. As we’ve seen in his most recent article in Al-Hayat newspaper, he’s proposing the concept of post-truth. There are major differences between them, and the only thing they have in common is the similar vision towards the aspired Lebanese model as both men support the project of what was known as the March 14 coalition in Lebanon.
The post-truth era
In his article entitled “Sadiq Jalal al-Azm is the most enlightening and least narcissistic” published in Al-Hayat, Harb addressed some of the differences he has in terms of the project which Sayyid represents. He wrote: “If we are to review and hold others accountable in order to derive lessons then we cannot evade reconsidering the proposed slogans and programs. Not only that, but we must reconsider the means, approaches and plans in which slogans, cases and identities are addressed. The slogan is not something we propose and then seek to literally apply. A slogan is not something we violate or abandon if we fail to transform it into something fruitful and constructive. The game and the bet are about confronting what may suddenly happen by creating new facts that alter maps and formulas in the scene. This is the case of the post-truth which they argue about today and which scares them. When writing, most of us were not moved by the love for truth but by an old desire to achieve fame and statuses or win an award which many who work in the cultural field are obsessed with.”
In an interview I held with Sayyid and published on Al-Arabiya’s website, Sayyid attacked the projects of “rupture” which he considers Harb to be ones of its poles in the Arab world. Taha Abdelrahman even considered Harb one of the most significant publishers and implementers of the “deconstruction” concept on the Arab front. Radwan criticized those calling for rupture and said: “A few days ago, I read a book about Arab thinkers of rupture.
These thinkers do not suffer from ignorance or have ill intentions, but they suffer from dogmas related to progress and its conditions. They attribute a part of our underdevelopment to the nesting of these legacies in our minds and souls. Many of them were fond of Michel Foucault, the thinker of rupture, and they wanted to be great like he was. Many of our young and old men welcomed their writings because they are upset from the current situation on the level of religious traditions and authoritarian regimes. What’s ironic is that Doctor Seyid Ould Abah, who knows Foucault more than they do, defended (my criticism of this rupture concept). Ould Abah’s PhD thesis in modern philosophy was about Foucault, despite that, he was not deceived by this rupture and did not understand it like Arab scholars did.”
How education works
This is the difference between the two projects. This difference represents a rich element to Arab readers but it proves the confusion of the intellectual vision to exit ideological, political and religious crises in the Islamic field. There is “contact and separation” with traditions as per Sayyid’s approach and “rupture,” criticizing the truth and going beyond all inherited legacies, exposing them and scandalizing them as per Harb’s approach. It seems there is major distance between the two projects. One – Sayyid’s - represents vision from within and its light is derived from these legacies while another – Harb’s – thinks the world is intertwined through its influences and deliberations.
All current debatable issues are a source of enrichment that elevate intellect and improve concepts and styles of dialogue and they may become complete through the influence they engrave. They may particularly influence students and learners as their sense of judgment will improve so they can later experiment between educational edifices, analytical schools, and philosophical doctrines. This is how education works as we cannot cancel philosophies, knowledge and approaches and cannot marginalize them or dwarf them regardless of the critical approach adopted against them. It’s fortunate that we reached this extent of Arab educational breakthrough that’s beneficial and enlightening to studies and researches which enrich one another, even if they deny that or refuse to acknowledge it.
Intellect’s bliss is in its arguments and effects. In the past, while describing the exit journey and difficult path, Descartes said: “It’s just as if I had all of a sudden fallen into very deep water, I am so disconcerted that I can neither make certain of setting my feet on the bottom, nor can I swim and so support myself on the surface.”
**This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on February 23, 2017.

Can General McMaster master his destiny?
Hisham Melhem/Al Arabiya/February 25/17
By appointing Lt. General H.R McMaster as his new national security advisor, President Donald Trump picked a widely respected military intellectual, and a storied military commander known for his bold initiatives on the battlefield, independent thinking, and a willingness to challenge conventions. General McMaster will be joining a national security team that includes another intellectual warrior, secretary of defense retired General James Mattis, and secretary of homeland security retired General John Kelly.
The three generals, unlike the volatile and erratic president who chose them, are deliberate, disciplined and known for their wise judgment. The three generals served and fought in Iraq and/or Afghanistan, with Kelly having the painful distinction of being the highest ranking American officer to lose a son in Afghanistan. Even the critics of appointing retired generals in senior positions, are hoping that the three generals will be a rational and moderating counterweight to a White House brimming with neophytes, amateurs, and radicals bent on “deconstructing” the administrative state through massive de-regulations.
McMaster will soon realize that in the divisive and toxic Trump era, Washington will become for him a battlefield the likes of which he has not seen before, and that some of his ‘colleagues’ on the National Security Council may have already began sharpening their long knives for him
Of the three generals, H.R. McMaster will be tested early and frequently where he will find himself engaging a group of insurgents led by Mr Trump’s senior advisor and potential Svengali, Stephen Bannon. General McMaster will need all his leadership skills, his tactical prowess, and strong allies like Generals Mattis and Kelly if he is to master the chaotic National Security Council that he inherited, before even attempting to help the president pursue a coherent and rational foreign policy, assuming that goal is possible given President Trump’s political inexperience, ignorance of complex strategic challenges, his intemperance and outsized ego. Those who know General McMaster or served with him would say, if there is a leader capable of achieving this daunting task it would be McMaster.
A soldier-scholar
As a soldier, Captain McMaster distinguished himself on the battlefield as a tank commander in the first Gulf war in 1991, when his small force of nine Abrams tanks ambushed a much larger Iraqi force, destroying eighty Iraqi Republican Guard tanks and other armored vehicles without a single loss, earning him the Silver Star for valor. He sharpened his counterinsurgency leadership in Iraq in 2005 when he led the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment to liberate Tal Afar from the terrorists of al Qaeda. That battle, and the way McMaster handled the administration of the city became part of the manual on counterinsurgency doctrine that McMaster, and Marine General James Mattis, and General David Petraeus developed and used later during the military surge in 2007 that stabilized much of Iraq.
General McMaster gained prominence in 1997 when he published his Ph.D. dissertation from the University of North Carolina titled ‘Dereliction of Duty’, a harsh critique of the dangerous passivity of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the early phase of the Vietnam war, when they failed to challenge the political agenda of then president Lyndon B. Johnson and his secretary of defense Robert McNamara, sowing the seeds for the eventual debacle. He derisively referred to those chiefs of the armed forces as the “five silent men”. The meticulously researched book won accolades from officers, military scholars and historians. Many generals assign the book to their officers. The book cemented McMaster’s reputation as an independent soldier who does not shy away from speaking his mind. General McMaster has criticized the way President George W. Bush blundered his way to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
The long knives
But for all his sharp intellect and military experience as a leader who led men in battles, General McMaster’s first challenge is to master the bureaucratic maneuvering and inter-agency infighting that Washington is infamous for. His personal qualities as a tough, outspoken and honest interlocutor unwilling to remain silent, that gained him respect and admiration in the military, may work against him in a chaotic administration that has more than its share of young, and brash ideologues and a president he shares very little if anything with. McMaster will soon realize that in the divisive and toxic Trump era, Washington will become for him a battlefield the likes of which he has not seen before, and that some of his ‘colleagues’ on the National Security Council may have already began sharpening their long knives for him.
The White House said President Trump has given General McMaster ‘full authority’ to hire his own team, but it is not clear whether this authority includes restructuring the National Security Council and restore full membership of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the director of national intelligence to the Principals Committee of the council or to remove Trump’s ambitious political strategist Stephen Bannon whose appointment to the Principals Committee was unprecedented and unwarranted. Stephen Bannon, has already established what might be called a “shadow” National Security Council the so-called Strategic Initiatives Group, a policymaking body that he co-chairs with Jared Kushner - President Trump’s son-in-law.
Bannon, his counterterrorism advisor Sebastian Gorka, and speechwriter Stephen Miller are known for their anti-Muslim views. Bannon believes that Islam and the West are destined to have an all-out war. President Trump shares this animus towards Islam. In this environment General McMaster will need trusted allies like Generals Mattis and Kelly, and potentially Vice President Mike Pence. Last week Pence and Mattis were dispatched to Europe and the Gulf region to assure long standing allies in Europe that the US is still committed to a viable NATO alliance, and the preservation of the European Union. But unbeknownst to Pence, Stephen Bannon had delivered earlier a different message to Peter Wittig the German ambassador in Washington. According to Reuters ambassador Wittig met Mr. Bannon, who told him the White House considers the European Union a “flawed construct”, and that Washington would like to negotiate bilateral trade deals with Germany and other European countries, instead of entering into collective agreements. General McMaster will not survive long unless he nips this problem in the bud.
Already the pro-Trump Islamophobes, are protesting McMaster’s appointment. McMaster’s nuanced understanding of Arab and Islamic cultures, his famous injunction to his troops “every time you disrespect an Iraqi, you are working for the enemy” will not sit well with Bannon and his team. The New York Times has reported that during McMaster’s first meeting with the staff of the National Security Council, he told them to avoid using labels such as “radical Islamic terrorism” contending that such labels are unhelpful, since Muslims waging terror are distorting their religion. Needless to say, that this view of violence in the name of Islam is anathema to President Trump and his inner circle. Given the competing constellation of forces in the White House and the National Security Council and other departments such as defense, it is safe to say that General McMaster and his allies are on a collision course with Stephen Bannon and his allies. The fate of the Trump presidency may hinge on the outcome. The problem is that the president is not above the fray, and his impulsiveness and xenophobia could drag the country into deeper polarizations.