February 27/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
Ash Monday
Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 06/16-21/:"‘Whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God
Second Letter to the Corinthians 05/20-21//06,01-07/:"We are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, ‘At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.’ See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labours, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left;".

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on February 26-27/17
Hezbollah’s latest threats: More rhetoric than action/Ali al-Amin/The Arab/February 26/17
The hard and urgent mission of fighting corruption in Lebanon/Dalal Saoud/The Arab Weekly/February 26/17
The Lebanese have shown a humanity the West could learn from/Gareth Smyth/The Arab Weekly/February 26/17
Samir Frangié : « Mettons en avant le modèle libanais où chrétiens et musulmans gèrent l’Etat ensemble/LE MONDE/February 26/17
Canada: Ontario unanimously passes “anti-islamophobia” motion/Jihad Watch/February 26, 2017
Protest against Haifa's ammonia tank/Ahiya Raved|/Ynetnews/February 26/17
Six Years into Syria’s Revolution/Eyad Abu Shakra/Al Arabiya/February 26/17
Will Jubeir end a quarter-century estrangement/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/February 26/17
The two-state solution is the minimum required/Khairallah Khairallah/The Arab Weekly/February 26/16
France: Deradicalization of Jihadists a "Total Fiasco"/"Deradicalization in and of itself does not exist."/by Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/February 26/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published  on February 26-27/17
Bassil Threatens Return to Controversial Orthodox Gathering Electoral Law
Rahi: Increase of taxes, absence of electoral law are repulsive acts
Embassies Seek Clarifications on Foreign Ministry's Summoning of Kaag
Qaouq Says Lebanon Facing 'Unknown' Due to Failure to Agree on Electoral Law
Report Says ISG Statement on Elections and Security is 'Last Warning' to Lebanon
Alain Aoun: Not battling to change electoral law for our team, but rather for allies and adversaries' representation
Moukhaiber for activating Lebanese Diaspora's participation in elections
Hashem: To endorse an electoral law that establishes grounds for changes in political system
Zeaiter arrives in Dubai to partake in World Gulfood Exhibition Opening
Hamadeh: Salary scale on right track
Abu Arab: External agenda parties are causing tension inside Ain elHilweh Camp
Cautious Calm after Fierce Fatah-Islamist Clashes in Ain el-Hilweh
Ceasefire tentative agreement, withdrawal of militants from Ain elHilweh Camp
Hezbollah’s latest threats: More rhetoric than action
The hard and urgent mission of fighting corruption in Lebanon
The Lebanese have shown a humanity the West could learn from
Samir Frangié : « Mettons en avant le modèle libanais où chrétiens et musulmans gèrent l’Etat ensemble

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published  on February 26-27/17
Egyptian Christians fearing terror flee Sinai for 4th day
Canada: Ontario unanimously passes “anti-islamophobia” motion
Iran holds naval war games amid rising tensions with US
Syrian Opposition Accuses Damascus of 'Stalling' Talks
Bombings, air strikes in Syria rattle Geneva peace talks
Senior FSA officer: We’re ready for direct talks with Assad regime
Iraqi police commandos recapture new neighborhood in Mosul
Iran begins navy drill off Strait of Hormuz
Iran’s ex-president Ahmadinejad writes open letter to Trump
Saudi King Salman in Malaysia: We stand fully behind Islamic causes
Bomb hits bus carrying policemen in Bahrain, four injured
UN agency suspends Gaza staffer over Israeli claims
Egypt annoyed as Britain continues suspension of flights
Obama-Era Veteran Picked to Lead Democratic Party

Links From Jihad Watch Site for February 26-27/17
“Can I criticize Islam without fearing for my life?”
Nigeria: Muslim leader warns that regulations on polygamy violate the Qur’an
France: Muslim “human rights activist” to Le Pen: “I am going to slit your throat Muslim-style”
UK: Oxford University protects lecturer on Islam from hard questions by ex-Muslim
DNC’s Perez denounces Trump’s “racist executive action against Muslims”
Iran’s former President Ahmadinejad to Trump: “The contemporary U.S. belongs to all nations”
Indian doctor freed from Islamic State captivity saw jihad suicide bombers as young as 10
Canada: Ontario unanimously passes “anti-islamophobia” motion
Germany: Muslim migrant who raped and murdered EU official’s daughter lied about being a minor
View from Sweden: Donald Trump was Right
Canada: Ryerson University TA is imam who asked Allah to kill the enemies of Islam

Links From Christian Today Site for February 26-27/17
Trump To Skip White House Press Dinner After Battles With Media
We Have To Help Christians Fleeing Islamic State, Says Egypt's President Sisi
US Will Start 'Aggressive' Cuts To Obama's Environmental Protection Rules
Vancouver Church Leaders Slam Franklin Graham: Statements 'Don't Convey Spirit Of Christ'
Iraqi Forces Push Into Western Mosul And Launch Airstrikes In Syria
Inspirational Soul Survivor Leader Mike Pilavachi Is Suffering From Heart Problems
Jerry Falwell Jnr Says Steve Bannon Suggested Him For Top Education Role
Opposition To Philippine's President Duterte Turn Historic Event Into Protest March

Latest Lebanese Related News published  on February 26-27/17
Bassil Threatens Return to Controversial Orthodox Gathering Electoral Law

Naharnet/February 26/17/Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil warned Sunday that the FPM would insist anew on a controversial electoral law under which each sect elects its own MPs should the parties reject a new draft electoral law that he intends to propose. “Dialogue is necessary but not at the expense of time... Dialogue is necessary in order to hold elections under a law that represents us all and achieves reform and real representation,” said Bassil, stressing that “there can be no stability in Lebanon without an electoral law that represents all Lebanese fairly and restores the rights” of Christians. “Do we want people's opinion? Do we want to stay confined to the 1960 law or should we move forward?” Bassil asked. Reminding that he had proposed two hybrid electoral laws and that the parties rejected them due to a dispute over “one or two seats,” Bassil expressed his readiness to propose a third electoral law. “But what will happen should the parties reject this third law? We will then return to insisting on the Orthodox Gathering law, which we had sacrificed and which achieves real equal power-sharing between Christians and Muslims and a correct representation of the sects,” the FPM chief warned. “If the intention is not to organize elections and procrastination, we are not a minority and no one can strike deals at our expense and we are not willing to lose more time,” he added.

Rahi: Increase of taxes, absence of electoral law are repulsive acts

Sun 26 Feb 2017/NNA - Maronite Patriarch, Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rahi, said on Sunday that the increase of taxes and the failure to decree an electoral law are two repulsive things. Cardinal Rahi chaired on Sunday a mass in Bkirky in presence of President of Caritas, Father Paul Karam, and other figures. Rahi said that "corruption, bribery, theft of public funds, wastefulness, and smuggling are a heinous acts."The prelate stressed that the non-approval of the electoral law after 12 years of debate, was also a vice. He called upon political parties to spread joy among people through their legal, administrative, procedural and legislative actions, in order to elevate oppression and injustice.

Embassies Seek Clarifications on Foreign Ministry's Summoning of Kaag
Naharnet/February 26/17/Western and European embassies have demanded clarifications about the circumstances and reasons that led to the summoning of U.N. Special for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag to the Foreign Ministry over a tweet related to U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, a media report said on Sunday.Quoting European diplomatic sources, An Nahar newspaper said the embassies are yet to receive an answer to their questions. According to the Central News Agency, the U.N. has rejected the move and expressed its dismay through a stricter statement that was issued in New York by U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq, which “condemned the violation of international resolutions” and warned against such Lebanese stances.In the wake of remarks by President Michel Aoun that defended Hizbullah's arms as necessary to deter Israel, Kaag tweeted on February 13 that UNSCR 1701 is “vital for Lebanon's stability and security.”“Resolution calls for disarmament (of) all armed groups. No arms outside control of state,” Kaag added. Aoun had stressed that Hizbullah's weapons “do not contradict with the State,” noting that it is “more than guaranteed” that the party will not “turn its arms inwards.”“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 told Egypt's CBC television on the eve of a visit to Cairo.

Qaouq Says Lebanon Facing 'Unknown' Due to Failure to Agree on Electoral Law

Naharnet/February 26/17/Hizbullah central council official Sheikh Nabil Qaouq warned Sunday that the failure to agree on a new electoral law has started to pose risks and an “unknown” future for the country. “This is due to some parties' monopolization of unfair parliamentary representation and their rejection of equal (Christian-Muslim) power-sharing, partnership and real representation,” Qaouq said. “There is no solution to the parliamentary elections dilemma other than agreeing on a new electoral law, because the deformed 1960 law is aggrieving the Lebanese and disorienting the Taef Accord,” the Hizbullah official added. “Hizbullah's stance is the same behind closed doors and in public: the rejection of the 1960 law, extension and vacuum, and calling for a new law that ensures correct and fair representation,” Qaouq went on to say. The country has not organized parliamentary elections since 2009 and the legislature has since extended its own mandate twice. While al-Mustaqbal Movement has rejected that the electoral law be fully based on the proportional representation system, arguing that Hizbullah's arms would prevent serious competition in the party's strongholds, Druze leader MP Walid Jumblat has totally rejected proportional representation, even within a hybrid law, warning that it would “marginalize” the minority Druze community. The political parties are meanwhile discussing several formats of a so-called hybrid law that mixes proportional representation with the winner-takes-all system.

Report Says ISG Statement on Elections and Security is 'Last Warning' to Lebanon
Naharnet/February 26/17/The statement that was issued Wednesday by the International Support Group for Lebanon was “the last warning” to the country, diplomatic sources have said. It was issued out of fear of a possible delay of the support programs that were launched in New York in 2013 by then-U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon and then-President Michel Suleiman, An Nahar newspaper quoted the sources as saying. The programs are aimed at rallying support for Lebanon to help it cope with the repercussions of the Syrian crisis. In their statement, the Members of the International Support Group encouraged all Lebanese parties to “arrive at an early compromise, which would present an appropriate electoral framework for Lebanon.”“The timely conduct of peaceful and transparent parliamentary elections are an important step to preserve Lebanon’s democratic tradition, and to meet the aspirations of the Lebanese people,” the ISG added, noting that the ISG Members “stand ready to provide support.”The ISG Members also reaffirmed “their commitment to the stability and security of Lebanon.”The statement was issued days after U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag tweeted that U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 is “vital for Lebanon's stability and security” and that it “calls for disarmament of all armed groups.”The tweet came after remarks by President Michel Aoun that defended Hizbullah's arms as necessary to deter Israel. Lebanon's Foreign Ministry summoned Kaag over the tweet, although the U.N. official clarified that it was not in response to Aoun's statements. The ISG Members had repeatedly stressed the importance of Lebanon's continued commitment to the Baabda Declaration and U.N. resolutions, especially UNSCR 1701. They have also issued repeated calls on the need to hold timely parliamentary elections in May 2017.

Alain Aoun: Not battling to change electoral law for our team, but rather for allies and adversaries' representation
Sun 26 Feb 2017/NNA - "Change and Reform" Parliamentary Bloc Member, MP Alain Aoun, said on Sunday that "the Free Patriotic Movement is not fighting to change the electoral law for its own sake, since it is comfortable with all formulas, but is rather battling for the sake of representation of allies and adversaries."Speaking during the annual dinner organized by the Movement's Furn el-Chebbak branch, Aoun stressed that the Movement "did not come to power to repeat the experience of its predecessors, but to restore confidence in the State which its citizens had lost hope in.""The Lebanese have lost confidence in their State a long time ago, but we are seeking, as a political team that has recently come to power, to restore trust to citizens, and to build a State that is up to our aspirations," Aoun emphasized.

Moukhaiber for activating Lebanese Diaspora's participation in elections
Sun 26 Feb 2017/NNA - MP Ghassan Moukhaiber called, on Sunday, for "activating and facilitating the Lebanese Diaspora's participation in the upcoming parliamentary elections, in order to allow for expatriates' representation within Parliament."Speaking at a forum organized by the Lebanese World Cultural Union during his participation in the French Chamber of Deputies in Paris, Moukhaiber made several proposals concerning the amendment of the law in force in this regards. He stressed on the importance of expatriates' voting, while touching on the political and technical obstacles which prevented the timely registration of expatriates with the relevant electoral centers."Electoral law reform, especially in terms of expatriates' voting, is impossible in the absence of a strong political determination," Moukhaiber underscored.

Hashem: To endorse an electoral law that establishes grounds for changes in political system
Sun 26 Feb 2017/NNA - "Development and Liberation" Parliamentary Bloc Member, Deputy Kassem Hashem, called on Sunday for "endorsing an electoral law that allows for establishing foundation grounds for changes within the country's political system."Following his meeting with figures from Arqoub villages in Shebaa Farms, Hashem considered that the "positive discussion by the Cabinet over the annual budget, as well as the ranks and salaries series, promises of reaching its endorsement within the budget, after convincing all concerned sides of its rightfulness, and of the fact that procrastination is no longer permissible in this respect."Hashem hoped that "the tripartite meetings would end next week by approving the budget, together with the salary scale, so that the government can then devote its time and attention to fulfilling its promises in approaching all pending dossiers and issues of concern to the Lebanese people."

Zeaiter arrives in Dubai to partake in World Gulfood Exhibition Opening

Sun 26 Feb 2017/NNA - Agriculture Minister Ghazi Zeaiter arrived in Dubai, on Sunday, in order to participate in the opening of the World Gulfood Industry Exhibition, which includes products of a large number of food factories in Lebanon. Zeaiter met upon arrival at the Lebanese Consulate in Dubai with participants in the Exhibition. Discussions centered on the Ministry's agricultural food industry strategies, which form part of the solution to the problem of marketing agricultural products. In this context, Zeaiter expressed his willingness to "cooperate with all stakeholders in the agricultural sector during his tenure at the Ministry of Agriculture, and to work on improving the quality of Lebanese products and increase agricultural exports to global markets, especially to the Gulf markets."In addition, Zeaiter vowed to encourage the consumption of Lebanese national products within the regions of Lebanese expatriate presence in the world at large.

Hamadeh: Salary scale on right track
Sun 26 Feb 2017/NNA - Higher Learning and National Education Minister, Marwan Hamadeh, said on Sunday that "we reached a consensus regarding the salary scale, thus, placing it on the proper track in giving rights to those who deserve." "However, I cannot say the same for the election law," added Hamadeh. The Minister's fresh words came during the conclusion of the General Educational Conference of the National Liberal Party's Secretariat of Education and Culture, which was held at the Hilton Metropolitan Palace Hotel in Beirut under the patronage of National Liberal Party Head, MP Dory Chamoun, and in the presence of a number of prominent figures, teachers and students.In his address at the Conference, Hamadeh stressed on the necessity of maintaining a free democratic majority that believes in the republican system and the Taif Accord, as well as in Lebanon being a parliamentary democratic Republic. With regards to the Lebanese University, Hamadeh vowed to "spare no effort in restoring some balance to this important educational edifice, in spite of the government's short term." "I do not promise to reach magical solutions, but there are things that should be stopped, such as favoritism in employing the University's faculty, whereby such decisions ought to be made by a balanced University Council," asserted Hamadeh.

Abu Arab: External agenda parties are causing tension inside Ain elHilweh Camp
Sun 26 Feb 2017/NNA - Tension is still prevailing inside Ain el-Hilweh Refugee Camp, whereby clashes kept intensifying every now and then throughout Sunday, while snipers' bullets continued to be heard along Fawqani Street, NNA correspondent in Sidon reported.
Meanwhile, Palestinian National Security Chief, Major General Soubhi Abu Arab, accused "hired external agenda parties" of being responsible for the rising tension within the Camp. He added: "Fateh has been, and still is keen on preserving Ain el-Hilweh's security and the safety of its people, but if this group persists in tampering with the situation, the Movement will not tolerate it anymore and would fight back."
Abou Arab concluded by stating that "those attempting to increase tension inside the Camp ought to be handed over to the Lebanese state, since they are hired by foreign agendas to do so, and have nothing to do with the Palestinian cause whatsoever."

Cautious Calm after Fierce Fatah-Islamist Clashes in Ain el-Hilweh
Naharnet/February 26/17/Fierce clashes erupted Sunday afternoon between the secular Fatah Movement and a number of hardline Islamist groups in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain el-Hilweh, state-run National News Agency reported. The fighting was focused on the Sifsaf-Briksat frontier on al-Fawqani street and the sounds of machineguns and rocket-propelled grenades echoed across the city of Sidon, NNA said. Cautious calm engulfed the camp in the evening after the national and Islamist Palestinian factions reached a tentative ceasefire agreement under which the gunmen were supposed to be withdrawn from the streets, media reports said. The clashes had renewed earlier in the day, leaving several people injured. The agency identified one of the wounded as Alaa Hammoudeh. “We will not allow the extremist groups to cross the line in the Ain el-Hilweh camp and things are taking another direction today. A final solution for these groups should be found,” Fatah official Mahmoud Abdul Hamid Issa, aka al-Lino, told al-Jadeed TV. The Lebanese army meanwhile closed the Ain el-Hilweh entrance that faces Sidon's state-run hospital to preserve the safety of passersby.

Ceasefire tentative agreement, withdrawal of militants from Ain elHilweh Camp
Sun 26 Feb 2017/NNA - Palestinian factions and the national and Islamic forces inside Ain el-Hilweh Refugee Camp have reached, on Sunday evening, a tentative agreement to cease fire and withdraw gunmen from the Camp's streets, in wake of the second round of clashes witnessed between Fateh Movement and Islamic militants, NNA correspondent in Sidon reported. The forces and factions inside the Camp held an emergency meeting at the headquarters of the "Democratic Front," which was crowned with the "cease-fire and withdrawal of insurgents" agreement. Meanwhile, contacts are still underway to implement what was agreed upon, alongside serious discussions over finding radical and permanent solutions to the recurring security incidents within the Camp. However, and shortly after said agreement, the sound of a bomb explosion was heard inside the Camp.

Hezbollah’s latest threats: More rhetoric than action
Ali al-Amin/The Arab/February 26/17
Suddenly, and without notice, the familiar sounds of escalation have burst from both sides of the Lebanese- Israeli border. Are we witnessing a new explosive scene on Lebanese territory and across Israeli borders between Iran and its proxy Hezbollah on one side and Israel on the other?
It has been almost 11 years that peace and stability have been bro­ken in the two safest zones in the Middle East — southern Lebanon and Galilee — but in early February US President Donald Trump made statements suggesting there is a new US policy aimed at limiting Iran’s influence in the Middle East.
For its part, Hezbollah is quite aware of the sensitivity of the international game in the re­gion. Knowing that the United States had closed an eye to its involvement on the side of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Hezbollah carefully avoided even the slight­est hint that it was targeting US in­terests in Lebanon and the region. Its verbal diatribes were directed against Israel. When Reuters quoted a Hezbollah source saying it is warning Trump, the Hezbollah information unit quickly denied the allegation.
Hezbollah’s warnings to Israel, voiced by Secretary-General Has­san Nasrallah, were also carefully chosen. Nasrallah always started with “If Israel attacks Lebanon, Hezbollah will retaliate”, then said Hezbollah had a few surprises for the Israeli Army and that Israeli intelligence about the party’s fighting capacities was weak.In truth, though, the intended target of Nasrallah’s arrows was the region’s Arab coalition, in par­ticular Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. It seems that the party reversed its position regard­ing the consensus in Lebanon to revive the country’s relations with the region’s Arab states. Hezbol­lah’s verbal escalation against Israel and the Arab states was, however, not followed by any action against Israel. Instead, the party continues to ferry fighters to battle zones in Syria, Yemen and Iraq.
Hezbollah has made fighting Israel its raison d’être. Respond­ing to Nasrallah’s surprises, Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieber­man warned that in case of a war all institutions of the Lebanese state would be targeted. He did not mention Hezbollah by name, but Israel’s strategy is to make Hezbollah unpopular in Lebanon. Hezbollah knows very well that given Lebanon’s dire financial and economic conditions, it would not be easy to garner popular support in Lebanon and the Arab world as it did in the war of 2006. Observers have interpreted Hezbollah’s media campaign as a manoeuvre to pre-empt any Israeli field campaign against it at Trump’s behest. Others see in it as a message from Iran reminding that it has a crucial role in ensur­ing stability along the Israeli-Leb­anese border. If its interests and influence in the Arab region are threatened by the United States, Iran is willing to take suicidal initiatives along Israel’s northern borders. In Lebanon, two reactions and positions have emerged. The first was voiced by Lebanese President Michel Aoun, who is preparing for his party’s participation in upcom­ing parliamentary elections. His objective is to ensure a Christian majority for his party and he needs Hezbollah’s political and logistic support. It is not surprising that he has sided with preserving Hezbol­lah’s fighting power because the Lebanese Army is not ready for a war with Israel. The second position was ex­pressed by the Lebanese govern­ment, which lambasted Nasrallah’s positions regarding Arab coun­tries. Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri qualified them as detri­mental to Lebanon’s relations with its Arab neighbours. In a speech commemorating Rafik Hariri’s assassination, Saad Hariri said he would continue pushing for removing all illegal armed forces in the country in favour of the legitimate military and security institutions.
In Lebanon, it looks as though Iran’s interests have the upper hand over those of the Lebanese people. The latest storm kicked up by Hezbollah can only be under­stood as part of a posturing display by Iran in reaction to perceived American threats. The Trump administration seems determined to stand up to Iran’s influence and role in Yemen. The presence of US Navy warships in the Gulf is a clear message that Iran seems to have picked up.
Iran’s anti-Israel rhetoric was absent a year ago. Waiving Hezbol­lah’s flag, hosting a pro-Palestine conference in Tehran and threat­ening to hit Israel’s Dimona nu­clear facilities, in addition to the flood of insults to Arab regimes, are more talk than actions. Not a single bullet will be fired against the Israelis.
Ali al-Amin is a Lebanese writer.

The hard and urgent mission of fighting corruption in Lebanon
Dalal Saoud/The Arab Weekly/February 26/17
Beirut - Setting up a state Ministry for Combating Corruption in the new cabinet of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has raised eyebrows, leaving Lebanese wondering how it is possible to eliminate widespread and ingrained corruption that has permeated the lowest level of society.
Corruption in Lebanon is not just about a few leaders at the top who crossed the line and abused their powers. It is about a system in which politicians, public administration, parliament, police and the judiciary are involved in corrupt conduct. Nepotism, bribery, kickbacks, embezzlement, favouritism and mismanagement have become part of the daily life. Coupled with the absence of a strong political will, transparency and accountability, they have greatly affected the country’s economic and political performance as well as its reputation.
Past shy attempts to combat corruption were never serious enough and turned to be mere cosmetics to cover for bad govern­ance. Nicolas Tueni, the new state minister for Combating Cor­ruption, said he is aware of the difficult mission with which he was entrusted. Coming from outside traditional political circles and as he said wealthy enough with “moral values” that make him “incorruptible”, Tueni was enthusiastic enough to establish a mechanism to combat corruption and take action.
“Lebanon is entering into the era of anti-corruption properly and surely,” a confident Tueni said during an interview with The Arab Weekly.
He referred to four laws “funda­mental” to his ministry, including the law to access information that was issued on January 26th, the law against illicit enrichment, the law establishing a high commission for anti-corruption and one related to the protection of whistle-blow­ers.
“Our duty is to set up the legal framework and enlighten the presi­dent and prime minister on any wrongdoings or any tender that the government can engage itself in and lose money,” Tueni said. Journalists, former civil servants and volunteers have been engaged in the anti-corruption drive, giving tips and gathering information on suspected corruption cases, the minister said. Civil society groups, such as Sakker El Dekkene (Close the Shop), have been active for years in encouraging people to report acts of corruption, which are documented and shared online. Seven cases are under investiga­tion by the new ministry, with one having been referred to Justice Minister Salim Jreissati, who ordered a look into alleged corrup­tion at Casino du Liban.
“Any wrongdoing will be punished… Any file I have will go to the Justice Ministry,” Tueni assured. The urgency in tackling corrup­tion was probably due to deterio­rating economic conditions. The situation reached an alarming level because of the spillover of the war in Syria, fleeing Gulf investment and tourists as well as the political disputes that paralysed the country for more than two years. A year-end settlement led to the election of Michel Aoun as president and the formation of Hariri’s cabinet.
“We explained that the cow has no more milk… We are saying to everyone (politicians): If from now till the end of the year, you don’t solve the problem, everything will explode,” Tueni said.
Restoring confidence in Lebanon by acting on rampant corruption is a must if the tiny country expects European, Arab and other coun­tries, as well as international or­ganisations, to continue investing in it and refraining from shifting interest to other countries in the region.
The task is not easy, if not impossible, with the ruling elites and their protégés, many of whom have been involved in corruption, greatly benefiting from the power-sharing system. Illicit enrichment is so blunt while a project cannot pass unless people in power secure personal gains.
The 2-year waste management crisis is one such example. Squan­dering public funds persists in most sectors and is mostly visible with the failure in restoring a con­stant power supply 27 years after the 1975-90 civil war ended. In 2016, the state electricity company registered a deficit of $1.4 billion.
It is thus hard to measure the extent of corruption or estimate the losses. Figures provided by former ministers range between $1.5 billion-$10 billion per year. Tueni estimated losses in Lebanon treasury at $3.3 million.
Although he acknowledged that there is “no magic stick” to end corruption in Lebanon, Tueni ap­peared determined to expose any corruption case, even if it involves officials and followers from his own political camp.
Setting up the anti-corruption ministry has been hailed as “a good but yet insufficient move” by Ziad Abdel Samad, the executive direc­tor of the Arab NGO Network for Development. He emphasised the need for more laws to secure the independence of the judiciary and the financial inspection authority and for measures to stop squander­ing, smuggling, taxes not being col­lected and spending from outside the budget. For Riad Tabbarah, director of the Centre for Development Stud­ies and Projects (MADMA), the system has proved to be “very strong” and facing “no major pressures” to change it.
“We have new things coming up like the oil that is a whole field of corruption that could last for an­other 50 years,” noted Tabbarah. That, Tueni said, would not stop him from trying hard to fulfil his new mission. “Either I succeed or leave,” he concluded.

The Lebanese have shown a humanity the West could learn from
Gareth Smyth/The Arab Weekly/February 26/17
Unlike Europe, Lebanon has not been swept by malicious social-media rumours over rapes and thefts.
When war broke out in Syria in 2011 no country appeared as vulnerable to contagion as Lebanon. The assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri in 2005 had removed the figure with the widest national appeal and clearest strategy, and tensions between Lebanon’s two main political blocs were rising with the regional divide between Shias and Sunnis, and between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
The main Sunni group, al- Mustaqbal, supported the Saudi and US line that Syrian President Bashar Assad should leave power while Hezbollah, the main Shia party, committed fighters alongside Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps to defend Assad. As the first war refugees arrived in Lebanon, Hezbollah opposed establish­ing camps out of fear they would become rebel bases and there was a wider Lebanese wariness due to the experience of Palestinian camps, set up impromptu in 1947.
As the war progressed — the number of refugees entering Leba­non passed 1 million in 2014 — the Lebanese began to contemplate the effects of the arrival of so many Sunnis upsetting the country’s precarious sectarian balance and making the Sunnis a majority.
Aside from politics, the refugee presence has added to the pres­sures of daily life. Electricity and water supplies were already woe­ful. Cynicism of politicians and corruption grew in 2015 as piles of rubbish built up when the collec­tion system broke down. Political wrangling centred on a new elec­toral law, with no parliamentary elections since 2009 and parlia­ment’s mandate extended twice.
And yet, somehow, Lebanon has held together. The country has absorbed at least 1.5 million Syrian refugees, about 30% of the esti­mated total and equal to one-third of its own population. During 2016, there were more Syrian babies born in Lebanon than Lebanese ones.
To grasp the scale, just imagine 110 million Mexicans arriving in the United States over four years — but remember that Lebanon’s popu­lation density has reached 600 people per sq. km compared to just 35 in the United States.
In Europe and the United States, the refugee crisis has prompted a wave of racism and right-wing populism that saw Britain vote in June to leave the European Union and spurred November’s election of Donald Trump as US president. Yet the United States has taken only about 15,000 Syrian refugees, 0.005% of its population and 0.3% of the total number of refugees. Britain has taken 10,000, 0.015% of its population and 0.2% of refu­gees.
Of course there are signs of resentment in Lebanon, where the refugees’ presence has pushed up rent and lowered wages. In a country with 20% unemployment, Syrians work for as little as 30% of the rate a Lebanese worker expects. Some towns have signs warning “foreigners” not to be in the streets after 8pm.
Few areas are unaffected, as Syrians are throughout Lebanon. Expensive cars with Syrian plates are easily spotted in better-off parts of Beirut such as Hamra or outside nightclubs in Manara. At the other end of the social scale, the popula­tion of the Beirut Palestinian camp Shatila, established for 3,000 peo­ple on 1 sq. km of land in 1949 — has been swollen by Syrians to perhaps 40,000 people.
Yet, overall, civil peace has been maintained. “I haven’t heard of any increases in crime,” one writer told me. “The Syrians have behaved very correctly.”
Unlike Europe, Lebanon has not been swept by malicious social-me­dia rumours over rapes and thefts.
It is too easy to say this is due simply to the Lebanese believ­ing the Syrians have no chance of acquiring nationality and therefore see their presence as temporary. In fact, this is far from clear: There is every chance that many Syrians will not return home, certainly not with Assad still in power.
No, the Lebanese have shown a humanity the purportedly civilised West might learn from. Perhaps this comes from the Lebanese own experience of war and why people flee. Perhaps they emerged more tolerant from their own crises.
Lebanon’s failures are real enough but its successes should be recognised and applauded. The Lebanese should be supported more effectively by the internation­al community. Existing intelligence and military cooperation could be extended, existing pledges of billions in aid should be honoured. If Lebanon falters, many refugees will take a boat west and that would really be a crisis.
*Gareth Smyth has covered Middle Eastern affairs for 20 years and was chief correspondent for The Financial Times in Iran.

Samir Frangié : « Mettons en avant le modèle libanais où chrétiens et musulmans gèrent l’Etat ensemble »
LE MONDE | 24.02.2017
Propos recueillis par Laure Stephan (Beyrouth, correspondance)
L’arrivée de Michel Aoun à la présidence du Liban a conforté le Hezbollah au pouvoir. Le parti chiite, alerte l’intellectuel Samir Frangié, reproduit la même erreur que le camp chrétien avant la guerre civile, qui avait refusé de donner leurs droits aux musulmans.
Intellectuel libanais, Samir Frangié est ancien journaliste et ancien député. Il a été l’un des ténors du 14-Mars, ce mouvement né en 2005, dans la foulée de l’assassinat de l’ancien premier ministre Rafic Hariri, qui a su, grâce à une mobilisation pacifique, chasser du pays les forces d’occupation syriennes (présentes au Liban depuis 1990). Auteur de Voyage au bout de la violence (Actes Sud, 2012), Samir Frangié plaide pour un « autre » Liban, débarrassé de son carcan communautaire.
Vous avez été l’une des rares personnalités libanaises à vous enthousiasmer pour les « printemps arabes ». Aujourd’hui, conservez-vous ce sentiment ?
Oui, même si les élans démocratiques inaugurés par ces « printemps » ontconnu des reculs considérables. Au Yémen, la situation a pris la dimension d’un conflit entre communautés musulmanes. En Syrie, cela a dégénéré avec la violence du régime et la contre-violence. Mais il y a eu aussi des percées positives, comme en Tunisie. Dans tous ces pays, cet élan de 2011 reste gravé dans la mémoire des gens.
Beaucoup redoutaient que le conflit syrien ne s’exporte au Liban, mais ce ne fut pas le cas, même si le pays a été déstabilisé par des attentats…
Les Libanais ont tiré des enseignements de leur guerre civile [1975-1990] : il n’y a pas d’excitation à porter les armes. L’affrontement qui a eu lieu à Beyrouth en mai 2008 [le Hezbollah chiite avait pris le contrôle de l’ouest de la capitale, après que le gouvernement eut décidé de supprimer son réseau de télécommunications parallèle] a montré qu’il existait dans le pays un conflit sunnite-chiite larvé. Mais cette confrontation a aussi posé des limites : une guerre au Liban ne ferait que multiplier les problèmes, sans en résoudre aucun. Ce qui m’inquiète, en revanche, ce sont de possibles nouvelles opérations de Daech [acronyme arabe de l’organisation Etat islamique] contre le Hezbollah, qui pourraient contribuer à relancer les tensions communautaires au Liban.
Quel est l’avenir du Hezbollah dans la guerre en Syrie, où il se bat officiellement depuis 2013 aux côtés du régime ?
Le Hezbollah sait pertinemment qu’il ne peut pas ramener Bachar Al-Assad au rang de dirigeant, tel qu’il le fut avant la révolution. Il peut seulement retarder sa chute et permettre une négociation sur l’avenir de la Syrie, sans la mener. Le prix payé par la communauté chiite libanaise,...
L’accès à la totalité de l’article est protégé

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on February 26-27/17
Egyptian Christians fearing terror flee Sinai for 4th day
Associated Press/Feb. 26, 2017/ISMAILIA, Egypt: Egyptian Christians fearing attacks by ISIS militants are fleeing the volatile northern part of the Sinai Peninsula for a fourth day, after a string of sectarian killings there sent hundreds fleeing and raised accusations the government is failing to protect the minority. Official Nabil Shukrallah of the Evangelical Church in Ismailia, 120 kilometers (75 miles) east of Cairo, says Sunday that over 100 families from the city of el-Arish and nearby had passed through the church since Friday, some 500 people. He says the families arrive scared, exhausted and in need of supplies, which were being stockpiled at the church via donations from several parishes. They are then transported to be housed in and around the city, in private homes and now also housing provided by the government.

Canada: Ontario unanimously passes “anti-islamophobia” motion
Jihad Watch/February 26, 2017
The Ontario legislature unanimously passed an anti-Islamophobia motion Thursday afternoon, a marked difference from the heated debate happening among Conservatives over a similar motion at the federal level….
Des Rosiers introduced the motion Dec. 1 in response to incidents in her Ottawa-Vanier riding such as anti-Muslim graffiti, and young women wearing hijabs who were spat on, she said. It took on extra urgency after six men were shot to death at a mosque in Quebec, she said.
Also, “Ontario Attorney General Yasir Naqvi said the recent acts of hatred against Muslims are not representative of the country Canadians want.” True indeed, but it must be remembered amid all the hoopla about “Islamophobia” that other groups also suffer from acts of hatred, yet only “Islamophobia” is the subject of government motions. Antisemitism in Canada is reported to be skyrocketing. Just two days ago, McGill University student board leader Igor Sadiko, who advocates for the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, tweeted: “Punch a Zionist today.” It is intolerable that any group should be targeted for hate because of race or religion.
The Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs stated this about bigotry, intolerance, and the inappropriateness of the use of the word “Islamophobia”:
We believe the term “Islamophobia” should be replaced with a more precise phrase, such as “anti-Muslim bigotry”, which was suggested by, among others, former Justice Minister Irwin Cotler.
At her invitation, we offered MP Khalid thoughtful, constructive suggestions that we believe would have allowed the motion to gain significantly more support. You can read our letter to her here. Ms. Khalid did not respond to our suggestions……
Several other faith communities reached out to us with similar concerns. We relayed that to MP Khalid.
The paradox of this debate is that those who stand to lose the most by the normalization of the term Islamophobia are Muslims as they are the primary victims of Islamist extremism.
The Ontario legislature “anti-Islamophobia” motion was passed by a vote of 81-0; a particularly surprising development was that the Progressive Conservative caucus was urged by its leader, Patrick Brown, to support the motion two days prior to the vote. Brown stated:
“Whether it’s hate against any faith, it’s wrong,” he said. “We always will condemn any form of hate. In terms of Islamophobia, it’s real.”
Brown needs to have more faith in Canadians, who widely share his condemnation of “any form of hate.” He is apparently determined to steer clear of making any political waves about the global “Islamophobia” scheme, despite documented evidence of its agenda. He also stated that “Islamophobia is real and we have to condemn it unreservedly.” He received much applause from the establishment media, which, of course, supports “anti-Islamophobia” motions, as well as from Amira Elghawaby, communications director for the National Council of Canadian Muslims (formerly CAIR-CAN). Elghawaby stated that the NCCM was “pleased that Brown will support the Ontario motion.” CAIR was deemed an unindicted co-conspirator in the largest terrorism financing trial in the history of the United States — the Holy Land Foundation trial — during which the carefully calculated Muslim Brotherhood plan for North America was revealed.
It is no secret that conservatives tend overall to hold nationalistic views on issues of diversity and multiculturalism that liberals are often quick to label racist; but Ontario Progressive Conservatives seem to be ill-informed, or perhaps driven by political correctness, despite valid concerns voiced within their own constituencies about the divisive nature of the “anti-Islamophobia” motions. Although motions are not bills and do not translate into laws, they do express unified and powerful attitudes and sentiments, so they inevitably guide legislative business from the inside.
The “Islamophobia” initiative is anti-democratic and supremacist at its core. It is not based on real concerns about discrimination, although it is presented as such. It was devised by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and is used as a “thought terminating cliché” to beat down critics. Normative Islam is immutable and proclaims that no law can be above the Sharia, which outlaws any criticism of Muhammad and/or Islam. Author and writer Paul Marshall stated ten years ago:
The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), in conjunction with the United Nations Human Rights Council, is currently seeking to rewrite international human rights standards to curtail any freedom of expression that threatens their more authoritarian members. They are attempting to use charges of “Islamophobia” and purported Western “insults to Islam” to provide international legitimacy for their suppression of their critics in the name of respect for their religion. The European response to this has been contradictory and confused.
Jihad Watch has also been reporting some other worrying trends in Canada:
The Liberal Party of Canada opted to support an “anti-Islamophobia” motion (M-103) in Parliament. M-103 was the second anti-Islamophobia motion tabled, and it stirred up opposition by some Conservative Members of Parliament. The first was unanimously approved in October and sneaked through with hardly any attention.
Six Canadian cities signed a charter against “Islamophobia” this past summer, drafted by the National Council of Canadian Muslims.
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre has been pressing to have Montreal declared a “sanctuary city,” at a time when a surge of unvetted asylum seekers has been streaming into Canada from the United States. Coderre is also president of the World Association of Major Metropolises, an organization that has been doing a great deal of business with Iran over the past two decades. The World Association of Major Metropolises signed an agreement with Tehran last fall to “boost mutual cooperation in various fields”; the Association is described as “the largest association gathering the governments of major cities and metropolitan areas all over the world.”
Fredericton, New Brunswick is also aiming to become a “sanctuary city.”
“Ontario legislature unanimously passes anti-Islamophobia motion”, The Canadian Press, February 23, 2017:
The Ontario legislature unanimously passed an anti-Islamophobia motion Thursday afternoon, a marked difference from the heated debate happening among Conservatives over a similar motion at the federal level.
The vote passed 81-0.
The motion from Liberal backbencher Nathalie Des Rosiers called on the legislature to “stand against all forms of hatred, hostility, prejudice, racism and intolerance,” rebuke a “growing tide of anti-Muslim rhetoric and sentiments” and condemn all forms of Islamophobia.
Des Rosiers introduced the motion Dec. 1 in response to incidents in her Ottawa-Vanier riding such as anti-Muslim graffiti, and young women wearing hijabs who were spat on, she said. It took on extra urgency after six men were shot to death at a mosque in Quebec, she said.
Canadians shocked by mosque shooting
Attorney General Yasir Naqvi, who is Muslim, said Muslims and Canadians across the country were shaken by the violence at the mosque.
“The day after the shooting in Quebec a father called my community office asking in the morning is it safe for him to send his son to school,” he said. “That’s not the society we live in. That’s not the society we’re building. Parents should not be fearful for a nanosecond whether they should send their children to school because of their faith. It’s real.”
Premier Kathleen Wynne said, as a lesbian, some people had tried to discourage her from running in a riding with a large Muslim population. She disagreed and said when she spoke to community members they discussed their differences but also what binds them together, such as values about health, education and family.
“It’s those commonalities that make it possible for us to create this country, to create this province, and that’s why it enrages me — it enrages me that we still have to have this conversation globally,” she said.
PC support in Ontario, not yet Ottawa
Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown said Ontario’s legislature “unequivocally opposes Islamophobia.”
“Islamophobia is real and we have to condemn it unreservedly,” he said.
“No matter the colour of your skin, which part of the world you come from, what language you speak, whether you attend a mosque on Friday, a synagogue on a Saturday or church on a Sunday, every distinct element of who we are as a people comes together to form this beautiful mosaic that is Canada.”
The Tories’ support means the Ontario motion has not generated the political debate seen over a similar item in the House of Commons…..

Iran holds naval war games amid rising tensions with US
Ynetnews/Reuters/26.02.17/Despite President Trump’s previous warning that he is putting Iran ‘on notice’ and that its recent ballistic missile test was ‘playing with fire,’ Tehran moves ahead with naval drill. Iran launched naval drills at the mouth of the Gulf and the Indian Ocean on Sunday, a naval commander said, as tensions with the United States escalated after US President Donald Trump put Tehran "on notice."Since taking office last month, Trump has pledged to get tough with Iran, warning the Islamic Republic after its ballistic missile test on January 29 that it was playing with fire and all US options were on the table. Iran's annual exercises will be held in the Strait of Hormuz, the Gulf of Oman, the Bab el-Mandab and northern parts of the Indian Ocean, to train in the fight against terrorism and piracy, Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said, according to state media. Millions of barrels of oil are transported daily to Europe, the United States and Asia through the Bab el-Mandab and the Strait of Hormuz, waterways that run along the coasts of Yemen and Iran. Navy ships, submarines and helicopters will take part in the drills across an area of about 2 million square kilometres (772,000 square miles) and marines will showcase their skills along Iran's southeastern coast, the state news agency IRNA said. The US Navy's Fifth Fleet is based in the region and protects shipping lanes in the Gulf and nearby waters. Last month, a US Navy destroyer fired warning shots at four Iranian fast-attack vessels near the Strait of Hormuz after they closed in at high speed. The vessels belonged to Iran's Revolutionary Guards which are not participating in the current war games.Trump said earlier this month that "Iran has been put formally put on notice" for firing a ballistic missile, and later imposed new sanctions on Tehran.
The US Navy's 5th Fleet, based in Bahrain, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Associated Press contributed to this report.

Syrian Opposition Accuses Damascus of 'Stalling' Talks
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 26/17/The main Syrian opposition group at peace talks in Geneva accused Damascus on Sunday of "stalling", after its chief envoy demanded all sides condemn the deadly suicide assault in Homs this weekend. The High Negotiations Committee (HNC) made the charge after the Syrian regime's chief negotiator Bashar al-Jaafari said any opposition delegates who refused to condemn the attack were "accomplices of terrorism." "Jaafari is stalling, they don't want to start the political transition," HNC spokesman Salem al-Meslet told AFP in Geneva, where sputtering U.N.-sponsored peace talks are taking place. He said that in previous Geneva meetings, and now this one, "the only word that the regime knows is terrorism. In fact he is stalling by only mentioning this word and the fight against terrorism. "Just as he is insisting on condemning the incident that happened yesterday, we also demand the regime delegation to tell everyone that they are committed to political transition," he added. U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura launched the fourth round of Geneva talks on Thursday, but as in previous meetings there appears little prospect of the two sides meeting face-to-face. In Homs on Saturday blasts targeted two security service bases, killing dozens including a top intelligence chief and close confidant of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in all 42 people were killed, but the provincial governor put the figure at 30 dead in the attacks claimed by former al-Qaida affiliate Fateh al-Sham Front. The Syrian regime's delegation chief in Geneva vowed "retaliation" in response to the atrocity, and demanded all opposition delegates condemn it. In response, HNC chief negotiator Nasr al-Hariri said: "Our positions are clear in condemning terrorism and terrorists." When asked to clarify if that meant he condemned the Homs attacks, he said: "We condemn all terrorist operations committed by terrorist groups, and if what happened in Homs is a terrorist operation then my remarks are clear."The Homs attacks came a day after 77 people, mostly civilians, were killed in a suicide bombing claimed by the Islamic State group in Al-Bab, said the Observatory. The jihadists were ousted from the northern town this week by Turkish-backed rebels.

Bombings, air strikes in Syria rattle Geneva peace talks
By Reuters Sunday, 26 February 2017/A United Nations peace envoy said a militant attack in Syria on Saturday was a deliberate attempt to wreck peace talks in Geneva, while the warring sides traded blame and appeared no closer to actual negotiations.Suicide bombers stormed two Syrian security offices in Homs, killing dozens with gunfire and explosions including the head of military security, prompting airstrikes against the last rebel-held enclave in the western city. “Spoilers were always expected, and should continue to be expected, to try to influence the proceedings of the talks. It is in the interest of all parties who are against terrorism and are committed to a political process in Syria not to allow these attempts to succeed,” UN mediator Staffan de Mistura said in a statement.De Mistura has met the two sides separately in Geneva while he tries to get agreement on how talks to end the six-year-old conflict should be arranged. He has warned not to expect any quick breakthrough and to beware of letting the violence derail any fragile progress, as happened repeatedly in the past. A ceasefire brokered by Russia and Turkey with Iran's support is increasingly being violated by both sides. The jihadist rebel alliance Tahrir al-Sham, which opposes the talks - although it has fought alongside factions that are represented there - said that five suicide bombers had carried out Saturday's attack. It celebrated with the words “thanks be to God” but stopped short of explicitly claiming responsibility. Tahrir al-Sham was formed this year from several groups including Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, which was formerly known as the Nusra Front and was al Qaeda's Syrian branch until it broke formal allegiance to the global jihadist movement in 2016.After a 2-1/2 hour-long meeting with de Mistura, the Syrian government's lead negotiator Bashar al-Ja'afari spoke to reporters and repeatedly demanded the opposition condemn the attacks or face the consequences. “If anyone refuses to condemn this terrorist attack then he is an accomplice of terrorism and we will deal with them accordingly,” Ja'afari said. He ruled out leaving the talks, saying he would meet de Mistura again on Tuesday, but he implied that some of the opponents that he had sat face-to-face with at Thursday's opening ceremony were “sponsors of terrorism”. Warplanes also carried out six raids on Douma in the eastern suburbs of Damascus, resulting in six deaths, and earlier, an air raid in Hama killed four people from the same family, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Speaking to Reuters earlier on Saturday, Basma Kodmani, a negotiator from the opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC), said groups backing the talks had abided by the ceasefire. But she questioned the government's commitment and whether Russia, a key Assad ally, was ready to pressure it to curb the violence.After Ja'afari's comments, the opposition condemned the attack but accused the government of trying to use the events to derail the negotiations. “We condemn all terrorist acts done by all terrorist groups. If the Homs operation was done by any of those, it is clear what I say,” lead negotiator Nasr al-Hariri told reporters. “They just want to remain in power. The regime is trying to block the negotiations,” he added, saying they would not walk away from the talks. Colonel Fateh Hassoun, a member of the opposition negotiating team, pointed the finger squarely at the government forces for the Homs attack.
“What happened today is an operation the regime has implemented to retaliate through another action against civilians besieged for the past 3-1/2 years, and this is to send a message to the people, societies and the world that he is fighting terrorism,” he said. Although Assad's government has controlled most of Homs since 2014, rebels still control its al-Waer district, which warplanes bombed on Saturday, wounding 50, the Observatory said. De Mistura handed a working paper on procedural issues to delegations at the talks on Friday but there appears little prospect of things moving to the key political issues that he had hoped to be able to begin addressing. The envoy is looking to lay the foundations for negotiations to end the conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions. “In reality, nothing is happening,” said a senior Western diplomat. “The paper handed out yesterday by de Mistura is procedural. It is not the future of Syria.”

Senior FSA officer: We’re ready for direct talks with Assad regime

Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Sunday, 26 February 2017/A senior officer from the Free Syrian Army has said the rebels are committed to a political solution and are ready to take part in direct talks with the Assad regime. The same officer also said recent talks in Astana did not provide any grounds to achieve a political solution.He added the rebels consider ISIS, al-Qaeda and Iranian militias as “terrorists”.

Iraqi police commandos recapture new neighborhood in Mosul
By Associated Press Sunday, 26 February 2017/A senior commander says Iraqi militarized police have captured a neighborhood on the western side of Mosul amid fierce clashes with ISIS militants. Maj. Gen. Haider al-Maturi of the Federal Police Commandos Division told The Associated Press that his troops entered the Tayaran neighborhood Sunday morning and it is now “under their full control.”Al-Maturi said ISIS militants deployed at least 10 suicide car bombs, but nine of them were blown up before reaching their targets. The 10th killed two policemen and wounded five. Al-Maturi added that his forces arrested two militants - an Iraqi and a foreigner who speaks Russian. Iraqi forces, backed by aerial support by the U.S.-led international coalition, control eastern Mosul. Iraq's second largest city is split roughly in half by the Tigris River.

Iran begins navy drill off Strait of Hormuz
The Associated Press, Tehran Sunday, 26 February 2017/Iran’s navy has begun an annual drill near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, its first major exercise since the inauguration of US President Donald Trump. Iranian state television quoted navy chief Adm. Habibollah Sayyari on Sunday as saying the maneuver will cover an area of 2 million square kilometers in the Sea of Oman and the Indian Ocean near the strait. Nearly a third of all oil traded by sea passes through the strait and it has been the scene of previous confrontations between the US and Iran. But the drill does not involve Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard, a paramilitary force the US Navy often criticizes for harassing its vessels. The US Navy’s 5th Fleet, based in Bahrain, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Iran’s ex-president Ahmadinejad writes open letter to Trump
AFP Sunday, 26 February 2017/Iran’s ex-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad published Sunday an open letter to Donald Trump, welcoming his criticism of the US political system but taking issue with his visa ban and attitude to women. Many Iranians see the new US president as cut from the same cloth as Ahmadinejad, who shocked the establishment with his sudden rise to power in 2005, combining hardline rhetoric and populist economic policies to win a powerful following among Iran’s lower classes. At times in the long and rambling letter, published in English and Farsi on his website, he appears to find a kindred spirit in Trump. “Your Excellency (Trump) has truthfully described the US political system and electoral structure as corrupt and anti-public,” he writes. But much of the letter is spent exhorting Trump to end interventions in the Middle East and ditch the “arrogance” of past US administrations. Ahmadinejad also takes issue with Trump’s visa ban on seven Muslim-majority countries, including Iran. “The presence and constructive effort of the elite and scientists of different nations, including the million-plus population of my Iranian compatriots has had a major role in the development of the US... the contemporary US belongs to all nations.” He also finishes with a short lecture on respecting women -- a possible reference to Trump’s recorded claims that he has sexually assaulted some. “The great men of history have paid the highest level of respect to women and recognized their God-given capabilities,” Ahmadinejad writes. Ahmadinejad has a fondness for writing to world leaders, having sent letters to former US president Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the pope -- as well as an 18-page missive to previous US leader George W. Bush.

Saudi King Salman in Malaysia: We stand fully behind Islamic causes
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Sunday, 26 February 2017/Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud has said that his country stands behind Islamic causes across the world. “We confirm that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia stands with all its might behind the Islamic causes in general and we are fully ready for assistance and cooperation with your sisterly country as regards any effort or movement that serves Muslims' issues,” King Salman said in a speech on Monday during a dinner banquet held by Malaysia’s monarch. The visit to Malaysia is the first by a Saudi king to Malaysia in more than a decade. It is part of a month-long Asia tour that will see him visit Indonesia, Brunei, Japan, China, the Maldives and Jordan “to meet with the leaders of those countries to discuss bilateral relations and regional and international issues of common concern,” a royal court statement carried on Saudi Arabia’s state media SPA reported.

Bomb hits bus carrying policemen in Bahrain, four injured
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Sunday, 26 February 2017/A bomb has struck a bus carrying Bahrain police on Sunday night, injuring four police officers. The bus was stationed near Jaww Village and injured four policemen who are currently in stable condition, according to tweets from Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior account on Twitter. “Necessary steps are being taken,” the statement added.

UN agency suspends Gaza staffer over Israeli claims
By AFP, Jerusalem Monday, 27 February 2017/A United Nations agency said on Sunday it was suspending a Gaza staffer accused of being politically active in the Islamist group Hamas, which rules the coastal strip. UNRWA, the UN agency in charge of Palestinian refugees, said the decision had already been taken ahead of an Israeli call earlier Sunday to fire Suhail al-Hindi, head of the agency’s staff union. “Before that communication, and in light of our ongoing independent internal investigation, we had been presented with substantial information from a number of sources which led us to take the decision this afternoon to suspend Suhail al Hindi, pending the outcome of our investigation,” UNRWA spokeswoman Chris Gunness wrote. COGAT, the Israeli defense ministry agency responsible for civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories, says that al-Hindi was appointed to the militant group’s leadership in a February 13 internal election. He was chosen “as a senior Hamas member from Jabalia in northern Gaza”, it said in an English-language statement. “He also holds positions as both the Chairman of the Association of Palestinian Workers of UNRWA since 2012 and as an elementary school principal in the Gaza Strip,” it added. “Due to the severity of the situation, the head of COGAT, Major General Yoav Mordechai called on UNRWA to terminate al-Hindi immediately,” it said. The Israeli foreign ministry made the same allegation on Thursday on its official Twitter account. UNRWA issued an initial denial the next day.
“Based on the due diligence carried out by the agency to date, UNRWA has neither uncovered nor received evidence to contradict the staff member’s denial that he was elected to political office.”Its Friday statement quoted Hindi as saying that he has “no relation whatsoever with the issue”.It said that agency staff are regularly advised that political activity or fundraising is considered improper conduct.

Egypt annoyed as Britain continues suspension of flights
By Reuters, Cairo Sunday, 26 February 2017/Egypt expressed frustration on Saturday at Britain's refusal to lift a suspension of flights from the United Kingdom to the Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Sheikh, imposed after Islamic State brought down a Russian airliner in 2015. The issue of airline security came up in talks involving visiting British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Foreign Minister Sameh Hassan Shoukry. Johnson praised Egypt as a longstanding friend of Britain and said they were strong allies against terrorism and extremist ideas, according to a British statement. But Shoukry said Britain's continued suspension of flights to Sharm al-Sheikh, once a popular destination for British holidaymakers, was unjustified. Britain and Germany both imposed bans on flights to certain places in Egypt following the downing of the Russian airliner over the Sinai Peninsula in which all 224 people on board were killed. Russia suspended all flights to Egypt and has yet to restore them. “The continuation of the halt of the British airline to the Egyptian tourist destinations despite the progress that has been made in securing airports is completely not understandable and unjustified,” an Egyptian foreign ministry statement said. More than six years of political turmoil in Egypt since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in 2011 have scared off investors and tourists. The flight suspension was hitting Egypt's economy hard and was "inconsistent with Britain's repeated promises to support Egypt", the statement said. The British statement did not mention when flights would resume. During Johnson's visit, Britain and Egypt completed a $150 million loan guarantee agreement to help Egypt complete its program of economic reforms, the British embassy said.

Obama-Era Veteran Picked to Lead Democratic Party
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 26/17/Opposition Democrats on Saturday chose Tom Perez as their new leader, tapping an establishment figure to lead the fight against President Donald Trump and the Republican Congress. Perez, a labor secretary under former president Barack Obama and the party's first Hispanic-American leader, immediately named the contest's runner-up, leftist lawmaker Keith Ellison, as the party's deputy chairman. "Someday, they're going to study this era in American history... and ask the question, of all of us, where were you in 2017 when we had the worst president in the history of the United States?" said Perez, 55. "And we will all be able to say, the united Democratic party led the resistance, ensured this president was a one-term president and elected Democrats across this country." Ellison, an 53-year-old African American who is the first Muslim elected to the US Congress, warned that "we don't have the luxury to walk out of this room divided."The fight over who would chair the Democratic National Committee (DNC) appeared at times to be a proxy battle between the supporters of defeated 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her leftist primary rival Bernie Sanders. Perez, who won 235 votes against 200 for Ellison - a strong Sanders supporter - was seen as the establishment pick. A third candidate, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg -- a gay, 35-year-old Rhodes Scholar and military veteran -- dropped out of the race before the vote, which was held in Atlanta, Georgia. Unlike in other democracies the leaders of the two main US parties wield little influence on policy, with leading party lawmakers holding far more clout. But this backstage role is taking on greater significance following Clinton's surprise 2016 defeat, and as Democrats prepare for next year's midterm elections and the 2020 presidential vote.
Perez 'will unite us'
Perez succeeds interim chair Donna Brazile, who took over after Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz was ousted in mid-2016 when leaked emails showed that some DNC members, who are pledged to be neutral in presidential primaries, favored Clinton over Sanders. The progressive group Democracy for America was upset with the "incredibly disappointing" vote result. Choosing Perez "is another missed opportunity for a Democratic Party desperately trying to regain relevance, and proves... how out of touch party insiders are with the grassroots movement currently in the streets," said the group's chair Jim Dean, an Ellison supporter. But Obama, who has largely been silent since leaving office in January, called for mending rifts."What unites our party is a belief in opportunity -- the idea that however you started out, whatever you look like, or whomever you love, America is the place where you can make it if you try," he said. "I know that Tom Perez will unite us under that banner of opportunity, and lay the groundwork for a new generation of Democratic leadership for this big, bold, inclusive, dynamic America we love so much."
Crisis of confidence.
After the vote Trump offered what appeared to be tongue-in-cheek congratulations on Twitter. "Congratulations to Thomas Perez, who has been named Chairman of the DNC. I could not be happier for him, or for the Republican Party!" he wrote. Perez's response: "Call me Tom. And don't get too happy. @keithellison and I, and Democrats united across the country, will be your worst nightmare." According to Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, by choosing Perez Democrats "only create deeper divisions within their own party by pushing a far left agenda that rejects a majority of their base outside Washington." During a televised DNC candidate debate late Wednesday, Perez said Democrats need to "get back to basics" by making house calls in all 50 states and reminding workers that the party represents their values and interests. "When we lead with our message, our message of economic opportunity, that's how we win," he said. Perez also warned that Democrats must reform their party's presidential primary system, which he said has created "a crisis of confidence" because of its lack of transparency.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published  on February 26-27/17
Protest against Haifa's ammonia tank
Ahiya Raved|/Ynetnews/February 26/17
As Haifa District Court deliberates over a petition by Haifa Chemicals seeking to keep the facility open, despite one report describing it as a ‘ticking time bomb’ that could potentially claim half a million lives, 3,000 people gather outside the court, calling for its immediate closure and relocation; ‘Hezbollah’s Secretary General was absolutely right about the destructive potential of the ammonia tank.’
Three thousand people demonstrated in front of the Haifa District Court Sunday in an effort to bring about the closure of the city’s ammonia tank, which was ruled by a separate court to be a serious danger to public health.
Meanwhile, as the protestors called on the courts to act swiftly, inside the court judges were considering and were preparing to rule on the petition filed by Haifa Chemicals against closing it.
By 1:30pm, the court announced that a final decision would be taken on the matter in the coming days, and would be given no later than Wednesday.
Haifa’s Court for Local Affairs had previously cited the serious health hazards entailed in keeping the facility operational, and consequently ordered Haifa Chemicals to close the ammonia tank within 10 days, a time limit which expired last Tuesday.
However, the decision was scrapped after Haifa’s District Court permitted the company to keep the tank open and active until the petition was heard.
With the onset of the protests, which got underway in the morning, roads in the city were closed. Middle and high schools in Haifa and nearby cities were also closed until 12:00pm to allow students to participate in the demonstration.
Overall, more than 33,000 students will be affected by the disruptions. National Student Council Chairman Hanan Yazdi described the ammonia tank as "a ticking time bomb. We cannot allow for this immense danger to exist in the heart of a populated area."
The Haifa District Student Council Chairman Noy Krief added that "The ammonia tank endangers and threatens hundreds of thousands of citizens living in the Haifa district. I call on all teenagers to ask the hard questions, create a discourse, become actively involved and go and protest for the relocation of the ammonia tank."
The ammonia tank made headlines recently after a report by experts from the Technion Institute of Technology claimed that it poses a severe risk in its continued activity since it has not been properly inspected since it was built 30 years ago.
The report also claimed that "the ammonia ship that enters the Haifa Bay every four weeks is akin to a ship carrying five primed atom bombs, each more deadly than the one dropped on Hiroshima," and therefore constitutes a major security weak point.
The report determined that any leakage, resulting from either a terror attack, an earthquake (the Carmel Mountain is an active seismic area), or even an accident could create a deadly cloud of highly poisonous gas that could kill over half a million people, depending on the prevailing wind conditions.
The report was written by Prof. Ehud Keinan of the Technion Schulich Faculty of Chemistry (formerly the faculty’s dean). It has been in the hands of Haifa’s city council for over six months. The state objects to the conclusions of Keinan’s report.
Among other things, the report concluded that “to take down the Twin Towers in New York the terrorists didn’t need tens of tons of up-to-standard explosives, but realized the destructive potential in a large passenger plane that is filled with fuel and travelling at a high speed. Hezbollah’s Secretary General was absolutely right about the destructive potential of the ammonia tank, and even more; of the ammonia ship"

Six Years into Syria’s Revolution
Eyad Abu Shakra/Al Arabiya/February 26/17
Listening to UN envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, and following the ongoing infighting raging in Aleppo, Idlib and Hamah provinces, between the ‘Islamist’ armed opposition groups, are enough to uncover the terrible conspiracy that seems to have succeeded in putting down the uprising of the Syrian masses before it completed its sixth years.
It is also sufficient to watch the proliferation of ‘opposition platforms’ - such an ugly and meaningless term - here and there like poisonous mushroom, if not in capitals friendly or supportive of Bashar Al-Assad and Iran’s Mullahs, then in the Humaymeem Russian Airforce Base in Latakia province from which Russia’s air force bombers raze Syria’s villages, towns and cities… including Aleppo.
Then, look no further than how rational enlightened personalities that spoke for the ‘revolution’ a few years ago, have been pushed away by bearded-militiamen, opportunist henchmen, and exclusionist sectarians.
Then keep in mind a conspiring international community which has exploited every weakness in the political culture of a long suffering population, living for more than half a century under a ‘police-state’ dictatorship; and examine fake ‘friendships’ that have drugged, dispirited and splintered the opposition while helping a murderous regime to get back on its feet.
The bitter pill
Today, in what looks like a race against time, what has remained of the real opposition is trying to swallow the bitter pill of including in their negotiating team many from the fake ‘opposition’. Indeed, some of the latter have been chosen by Russia, Al-Assad’s main military backer, while the forthcoming negotiations are expected to be as useless as the previous ones, so long they are under the same international sponsorship and UN special envoy.
This is also taking place after the international community shifted its ‘priorities’ away from regime change and building a democratic Syria, to fighting terrorist groups which the regime and its backers, had helped create and promote. And major world capitals had allowed it to grow and expand, when for four years they stubbornly refused the demands of ‘safe havens’ and ‘no-fly zones’.
The Syrian regime, as the Syrians have discovered lately, has been a ‘necessity’ for everybody but themselves. It has been a much needed servant to those keeping it, despite its crimes; simply because its crimes have been serving their interests
Furthermore, the fate of the Syrian people - for around six years being driven towards death, displacement or despair - has become a matter of expediency, while the new maps of the Middle East are being drawn, based on ambitions and exchanged interests. Even those who still think the international political wind is blowing in the favor of their religious, sectarian and ethnic interests may eventually discover, like many before them, they were sacrificed for greater deals cut above their heads.
For this instance, I recall the period when Western powers - namely USA and UK - were busy preparing to bring down Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq. Particularly, I remember the deep divisions that were the hallmark of the Iraqi opposition factions. This fact was clear to all at the ‘London Conference’ before it was concluded by a 22 points declaration in December 2002.
The new taboo
Before the destructive ill feelings later emerged, the above-mentioned ‘declaration’ recognized Iraq’s diversity, and claimed to respect the countries’ sects and parties. However, the most important part was, despite the divergence between the words and the intentions of those who signed it, there was an evident will - at least in Washington and London - to effect regime change in Baghdad.
The divisions tearing apart the Iraqi opposition factions then were as bad if not worse than those plaguing Syria’s opposition groups today. The difference, however, between the two cases was that while the momentum to bring down Iraq’s regime was obvious, the same could not be said about Syria’s. While intentions and plans then claimed that the Iraqis, the Middle East and the whole world be better off without the Baghdad regime, the approach to the situation was and still is quite different.
It may not be possible here and now to discuss in full detail what made ousting Saddam perfectly right, but is now taboo in Al-Assad’s case. But one can look, first, at the interests of the major regional players; and second at the international scene in 2002 and now.
In 2002 there was at least a tacit agreement between Israel and Iran to get rid of a ‘common enemy’. The Iraqi regime had also lost a significant part of its Arab ‘cover’ following its invasion of Kuwait, which created a climate of mistrust and doubts throughout the Gulf region. This made it isolated and vulnerable.
Political Islam
As for Turkey, it had not then taken forceful strides under the banner of ‘political Islam’ which is now established, after 15 years of the leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his colleagues.
Vladimir Putin’s hesitant Russia of 2002, just emerging from the Boris Yeltsin era, was totally different from the 2017 Putin’s Russia. It was not capable then of doing what it is doing now - taking risks, threatening, conquering, even, interfering in elections in major Western powers. And sure enough, both the USA and the UK were under strong and decisive leaderships in 2002 unlike today.
During the last 15 years a lot has changed in Syria and Iraq, as well as in the rest of the Arab world.
Iran, with American blessings embodied in the JCPOA fathered by Barack Obama, is now the dominant force in several Arab capitals that seem to have forgotten their Arab identities, such as Baghdad and Damascus. The ‘Arab Spring’ has managed to uproot the desiccated shoots before the flowering of the buds. Even Turkey, dreaming of combining the ‘opposites’: the Ottoman Caliphate and Ataturk’s nationalism, has been brought back to reality by Russia’s old animosities and America’s betrayal.
Finally, Israel under the Likud is now so relaxed and relieved thanks to the ‘Arab Fatigue’, that it is completing the ‘Judification’ of the whole Palestine.
Thus, circumstances in 2002 facilitated the disabling of the former Iraqi regime through the creation of ‘no-fly zones’ and ‘safe havens’. On the contrary, the role the Syrian regime has played since it came to power in the autumn of 1970, has not only been accepted, but also required regionally and internationally. It has been an excellent ‘mail box’, an effective ‘buffer zone’ on Israel’s northern borders, and a valuable trap - serving Western powers - in catching and blackmailing naïve and misguided Arab radicals.
The Syrian regime, as the Syrians have discovered lately, has been a ‘necessity’ for everybody but themselves. It has been a much needed servant to those keeping it, despite its crimes; simply because its crimes have been serving their interests.
*This article was first published on Asharq Al-Awsat.

Will Jubeir end a quarter-century estrangement?
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/February 26/17
The public opinion is like a herd of sheep. It’s led and it does not lead. The rejection, anger, tension and accusations we witness today are only a result of the political mood of the moment. This applies to Iraqi-Saudi relations, which have been through several phases of tensions poisoned by regional disputes.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir surprised us yesterday when he appeared in Baghdad after abandonment lasted for a quarter of a century. It’s an important initiative amid these circumstances, which really call for reforming relations between the two countries especially that there are no significant disputes that can hamper Saudi-Iraqi relations.
Unfortunately, tension is not new but it has a history. Regardless of the slogans made during political propaganda seasons – such as Iraq is the protector of the Gulf’s eastern gate and center of stability – disputes with Baghdad are old and frequent and they have been a source of unrest and wars mostly due to problems related to domestic governance.
In the 1960’s and 1970’s, the domestic battles of the Baath Party, which had seized power in Iraq, increased. The new governance led to crisis with Saudi Arabia, which had finalized reconciliation with Egyptian President Gamal Abdelnasser at the Khartoum Summit in 1967. Back then, the Baath Party launched propaganda campaigns against Saudi Arabia inciting a coup and Baghdad embraced Saudi opposition figures. Relations worsened for about 10 years and they did not improve until after Saddam Hussein decided to turn towards Iran after the Shah’s fall in the end of the 1970’s.
At the beginning of this war, Saudi Arabia was worried of any victory that Saddam Hussein may achieve because it would provide him with superiority that threatens it too. After his troops retreated and the Khomeini regime insisted on going on with the war, Riyadh had no other option but to indirectly support him.
Jubeir’s visit to Baghdad is an important diplomatic step, one with dimensions that may go beyond Iraq during this difficult time when the region needs cooperation to decrease tensions, chaos and terrorism
The US, which realized that extremist Iranian clerics are more dangerous than Baath figures in Baghdad, did the same. Relations remained friendly with Saddam’s regime until the war ended as Iraq once again turned towards Gulf countries and began to provoke problems with them. Iraq did not like the idea that Gulf countries had established the Gulf Cooperation Council without it and viewed this as deceit as it believed that Gulf countries exploited its preoccupation with the war with Iran to establish their own regional alliance.
This was where Iraq began to slowly approach its enemy Iran and formed an organization in response to the GCC and named it the Arab Cooperation Council, thus hinting it was directed against Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries. It then triggered two disputes. The first one was related to shares of oil production and it targeted Kuwait in particular.
Iraq triggered the second dispute by resorting to blackmail, claiming it needs more financial support. It then invaded Kuwait. Saddam was well-known for his aggressive character whether against his rivals or his own friends in the Baath Party or even against his family members. Due to his character, Saudi Arabia’s relation with Baghdad continued deterioration for 12 years after the liberation of Kuwait. Iraqi opposition figures met in Riyadh and other capitals and expected Saddam to trigger another crisis once international sanctions were lifted.
In the end, the Americans decided to get rid of his regime after economic sanctions failed to topple or contain him. The weapons of mass destruction were a mere excuse to militarily finalize the matter.
After Saddam’s downfall, the American governing council replaced him in Baghdad but this council could not reassure Riyadh which had worries and fears from the American project and thus abstained from cooperating with the US.
Iran intervened and offered to cooperate with American troops there. When Saudi Arabia refused to allow the Americans to use their military base in al-Kharj in Saudi Arabia to launch war, Qatar offered to cooperate so the Americans withdrew their troops from Kharj and built an alternative base in Qatar. The latter base became the center of their military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
On the diplomatic front, Saudi relations with the new Iraqi leaders were almost non-existent as Saudi Arabia did not want to grant legitimacy to the new regime under American military presence. At the same time, Saudi Arabia was not its rival. The situation worsened during the reign of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. When Haidar al-Abadi was elected instead, Saudi Arabia welcomed him.
However Abadi’s rivals, including Maliki and Iran, succeeded in weakening his government and he did not succeed at developing his foreign relations despite the ambassadors’ return to the country. Jubeir’s visit to Baghdad is an important diplomatic step, one with dimensions that may go beyond Iraq during this difficult time when the region needs cooperation to decrease tensions, chaos and terrorism and diminish the possibilities of opening more war fronts.
**This article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat on February 26 2017.

The two-state solution is the minimum required
With Trump, is the world entering a new era where occupation and colonisation are valid options?
Khairallah Khairallah/The Arab Weekly/February 26/16
For US President Donald Trump, whether the Palestinians and the Israelis agree on a single state or two states or not is irrel­evant as long as they reach a solution. That is asking for the impossible considering a US absence from the process.
Trump was very clear about this during a news conference in Wash­ington with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who had gone to Washington with one ob­jective: Convince the United States to give up on a two-state solution.
So the US administration has abandoned the option of two inde­pendent states on Palestinian land. What next? The answer is simple. The only option left is that of a single state for both Israelis and Palestinians, meaning both Arabs and Jews.
What to do then with those Pal­estinians who had refused to leave their land following the creation of the state of Israel? Those Palestin­ians have become known as the “Arabs of 1948” and are Israeli na­tionals. They are by far the bravest of the Palestinian Arabs because they decided to hold onto their land come what may and refused to become refugees like some of their countrymen who had been taken in by Arab nation promises.
Let’s say the Arabs give in to Netanyahu’s insistence on the single-state solution so he can please the 500,000 Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank. What do you think will happen ten or even 20 years from now when Arab Palestinians likely become the majority population in this single state? The recent history of South Africa might give us a clue. The racist white minority in that country had, in the end, no choice but to recognise the black majority and help make Nelson Mandela’s the country’s leader. The rest is history.
What Trump’s news conference with Netanyahu revealed was both men’s flagrant lack of political vision, at least during the current stage of the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict. Both leaders face real prob­lems locally. Trump is busy fending off challenges to his decisions from the courts, the media and among representatives in Congress. Net­anyahu is a hostage of his political allies from the extreme right in Is­rael of the likes of the Jewish Home Party headed by Naftali Bennett, who hates the phrase “two-state option”. Netanyahu simply cannot ignore the settlers’ lobby.
Every president in the United States must deal with the power of the media. Richard Nixon was taken down by the media before Watergate finished him. Trump might have enough skeletons in his closet to make him vulnerable to scandals. The Michael Flynn affair is perhaps the initial drops of a looming storm in case the US presi­dent is unable to put an end to the confusion in his administration.
The Trump administration will seemingly need weeks to get its act together and start dealing with issues realistically, beginning with the topic of Islam and Muslims, then the issue of Israeli occupation of the West Bank and recognising the legitimate rights of the Palestin­ian people to a state of their own.
All this talk about a single-state solution is just a storm in an American teacup. Going with that option means that Israel is slowly inching its way to being a racist state and that the United States accepts that occupation triumphs over international legitimacy. UN Security Council Resolution 242 of November 1967 clearly refuses military occupation.
With Trump, is the world enter­ing a new era where occupation and colonisation are valid op­tions? We must wait and see. The only light at the end of the grim tunnel resides in the fact that US governmental institutions are re­fusing to go along with such moral reversals. The political system in America is immune to major upheavals thanks to its checks and balances placing strict limits on the executive branch.
What we know for sure is that, in the long run, the United States cannot resign from the Middle East. Even now, the Trump ad­ministration seems to have a clear grasp of the threat represented by Iran’s expansionist project in the region. America’s policies in the region must show a minimum degree of fairness if the new ad­ministration wishes to achieve its objective of fighting terrorism by eliminating the Islamic State (ISIS) and the sectarian militias working for Iran.
It is clear that Trump is still searching for the right team for his administration. He has just appointed US Army Lieutenant- General H.R. McMaster to replace Flynn as national security adviser. With Vice-President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Rex Till­erson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis at the centre of Trump’s foreign policy team, there will, hopefully, be a return to the basics, meaning more precisely returning to the two-state solution in the case of the Palestinian ter­ritories.
This option is the minimum required for stability in the region and stability is a prerequisite for winning the war on extremism and terrorism.
**Khairallah Khairallah is a Lebanese writer. The commentary was translated and adapted from the Arabic. It was initially published in

France: Deradicalization of Jihadists a "Total Fiasco"/"Deradicalization in and of itself does not exist."
by Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/February 26/17
The report implies that deradicalization, either in specialized centers or in prisons, does not work because most Islamic radicals do not want to be deradicalized.
Although France is home to an estimated 8,250 hardcore Islamic radicals, only 17 submitted applications and just nine arrived. Not a single resident has completed the full ten-month curriculum.
By housing Islamists in separate prison wings, they actually had become more violent because they were emboldened by "the group effect," according to Justice Minister Jean-Jacques Urvoas.
"Deradicalizing someone does not happen in six months. These people, who have not been given an ideal and who have clung to Islamic State's ideology, are not going to get rid of it just like that. There is no 'Open Sesame.'" — Senator Esther Benbassa.
"The deradicalization program is a total fiasco. Everything must be rethought, everything must be redesigned from scratch." — Senator Philippe Bas, the head of the Senate committee that commissioned the report.
The French government's flagship program to deradicalize jihadists is a "total failure" and must be "completely reconceptualized," according to the initial conclusions of a parliamentary fact-finding commission on deradicalization.
The preliminary report reveals that the government has nothing to show for the tens of millions of taxpayer euros it has spent over the past several years to combat Islamic radicalization in France, where 238 people have been killed in jihadist attacks since January 2015. The report implies that deradicalization, either in specialized centers or in prisons, does not work because most Islamic radicals do not want to be deradicalized.
The report, "Deindoctrination, Derecruitment and Reintegration of Jihadists in France and Europe" (Désendoctrinement, désembrigadement et réinsertion des djihadistes en France et en Europe) — the title avoids using the word "deradicalization" because it is considered by some to be politically incorrect — was presented to the Senate Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs on February 22.
The report is the preliminary version of a comprehensive study currently being conducted by a cross-party task force charged with evaluating the effectiveness of the government's deradicalization efforts. The final report is due in July.
Much of the criticism focuses on a €40 million ($42 million) plan to build 13 deradicalization centers — known as Centers for Prevention, Integration and Citizenship (Centre de prévention, d'insertion et de citoyenneté, CPIC) — one in each of France's metropolitan regions, aimed at deradicalizing would-be jihadists.
The original plan, which was unveiled with great fanfare in May 2016, called for each center to host a maximum of 25 individuals, aged 18 to 30, for periods of ten months. The government said that 3,600 radicalized individuals would enter these deradicalization centers during the next two years.
The government's first — and, until now, only — deradicalization center, housed in the Château de Pontourny, an isolated 18th-century manor in central France, opened in September 2016.
When Senators Esther Benbassa and Catherine Troendlé, both of whom are leading the task force, visited Pontourny on February 3, they found only one resident at the facility. That individual has since been imprisoned for committing "acts of domestic violence."
After just five months of operation, Pontourny is now empty, even though it employs 27 people, including five psychologists, a psychiatrist and nine educators, at an annual cost of €2.5 million ($2.6 million).
The Château de Pontourny "Center for Prevention, Integration and Citizenship," in France. (Image source: 28 minutes - ARTE video screenshot)
Although France is home to an estimated 8,250 hardcore Islamic radicals, only 59 people have inquired about going to Pontourny since its opening. Of those, only 17 submitted applications and just nine arrived. Not a single resident has completed the full ten-month curriculum.
One of the residents was a 24-year-old jihadist named Mustafa S., who was arrested during a counter-terrorism operation near Strasbourg on January 20, 2017. Police said he has links to one of the authors of the November 2015 jihadist attack on the Bataclan Theater in Paris. Mustafa S. was arrested while on leave from Pontourny: He was allegedly on his way to join the Islamic State in Syria.
Another one of the residents of Pontourny was a 24-year-old pregnant woman named Sabrina C., who lived in the facility from September 19 to December 15. She revealed to a local newspaper that she has never been radicalized but took advantage of Pontourny to escape her "family cocoon" and get some "fresh air":
"At no time did I feel interested in any religion whatsoever. My family is Catholic, non-practicing, we go to church from time to time, but no more. My boyfriend wanted me to wear the headscarf, but I always refused."
Sabrina's mother said the deradicalization facility "was an opportunity for our daughter to attend vocational training, to learn cooking, to be near the animals." Sabrina added that her stay there was a nightmare: "I wept every night, I did not feel in my place. In Pontourny, they treated me like a criminal." She speculated that the only reason she was allowed into the facility was because the government needed "to make the numbers."
The government has also failed in its efforts to stamp out Islamic radicalization in French prisons. In October 2016, the government reversed a policy to house radicalized prisoners in separate units after an increase in attacks on prison guards.
The original idea was to isolate Islamists to keep them from radicalizing other inmates, but Justice Minister Jean-Jacques Urvoas admitted that by housing them in separate prison wings, the Islamists actually had become more violent because they were emboldened by what he called "the group effect."
The report also denounced the emergence of a "deradicalization industry" in which associations and non-governmental organizations with no experience in deradicalization have been awarded lucrative government contracts. "Several associations, seeking public funding in times of fiscal shortage, turned to the deradicalization sector without any real experience," according to Senator Benbassa.
Benbassa said that the government's deradicalization program was ill-conceived and rushed for political reasons amid a growing jihadist threat. "The government was in panic as a result of the jihadist attacks," she said. "It was the panic that guided its actions. Political time was short, it was necessary to reassure the general public."
French-Iranian Sociologist Farhad Khosrokhavar, an expert in radicalization, told France 24 that the government's only option for dealing with hardcore jihadists is to lock them up:
"Some people can be deradicalized, but not everyone. It's impossible with the hardcore jihadists, those who are totally convinced. These types of profiles are very dangerous and represent about 10% to 15% of those who have been radicalized. Prison might be one of the only ways of dealing with these die-hard believers."
In an interview with L'Obs, Benbassa said the government has also failed to address prevention:
"Young candidates for jihadism must be socialized. We must teach them a profession, professionalize them and offer them an individualized follow-up. This involves the help of the family, imams, local police officers, educators, psychologists and business leaders, who can also intervene....
"I also think that our political leaders should adopt a little sobriety and humility when approaching this complex phenomenon. The task is extremely difficult. 'Deradicalizing' someone does not happen in six months. These people, who have not been given an ideal and who have clung to Islamic State's ideology, are not going to get rid of it just like that. There is no 'Open Sesame.'"
Senator Philippe Bas, the head of the Senate committee that commissioned the report, described the government's deradicalization program this way: "It is a total fiasco. Everything must be rethought, everything must be redesigned from scratch."
*Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter.
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