March 01/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
When you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 06/0104/:"‘Beware of practising your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. ‘So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you."

Those who have never been told of him shall see, and those who have never heard of him shall understand.
Letter to the Romans 15/14-21/:"I myself feel confident about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another. Nevertheless, on some points I have written to you rather boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to boast of my work for God. For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to win obedience from the Gentiles, by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and as far around as Illyricum I have fully proclaimed the good news of Christ. Thus I make it my ambition to proclaim the good news, not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, ‘Those who have never been told of him shall see, and those who have never heard of him shall understand.’"

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published english On March 01.17
Hizbullah Efforts To Impose Religious Standards In Public Spark Anger Among South Lebanon Residents/MEMRI/February 28/17
The Faustian pact revisited: Aoun and Hariri/By Dr. Makram Rabah/Anadolu Agencys/February 28/17
Bishop Angaelos: Christians In Egypt Told To 'Leave Or Die', 40 Killed In 3 Months, Prays For ISIS/Joseph Hartropp/Christian Today/February 28/17
What to Remember in Fighting Radical Islam/Saied Shoaaib/Gatestone Institute/February 28/17
Europe: Laughing at the Messenger/Douglas Murray/Gatestone Institute/February 28/17Time to Put an End to Montenegro's Bid to Join NATO/Grégoire Canlorbe/Gatestone Institute/February 28/17
Rise in Executions and Crackdown Against Iran's Youth/NCRI/Tuesday, 28 February 2017
Iraq and Syria, post ISIS/Sawsan Al Shaer/Al Arabiya/February 28/17
Concessions did not save Geneva/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/February 28/17
Saudi Arabia and Iraq, the spheres of Arabism/Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/February 28/17
Punish those who falsely accuse others/Khaled Almaeena/Al Arabiya/February 28/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published On March 01.17
Hizbullah Efforts To Impose Religious Standards In Public Spark Anger Among South Lebanon Residents
The Faustian pact revisited: Aoun and Hariri
Geagea Urges Parliament Vote on New Electoral Law
Hariri: Women's Quota Prerequisite in New Electoral Law
Clashes Renew in Ain el-Hilweh after Ceasefire Collapses
UNRWA Condemns Armed Violence in Ain el-Hilweh Camp
Kanaan: Wage Scale Endorsement a Political Decision
Berri receives regional director for International Organization for Migration
Muslim, Christian clerics convene coexistence meeting
Hariri in launching office of Minister of State for Women Affairs: The time of eliminating discrimination against women has come

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published On March 01.17
Civilians Flee Mosul Fighting as Iraq Forces Battle IS
Syria ex-Qaida Says Opposition Leaders Must 'Step Aside'
Russia Wants Terrorism on Agenda of Syria Talks
UN Security Council to Vote Tuesday on Syria Sanctions
Trump Looks to Reboot in First Address to Congress
Trump Aide Conway Draws Ire for Kneeling on White House Sofa
Israeli Police Begin Evacuating West Bank Settler Homes
Netanyahu Hits Back ahead of Gaza War Report
Palestinian Municipal Elections in West Bank Only
Egypt Lawmaker Says Expulsion Warning to Opposition
Saudi Analyst: Iranian Regime's Terrorism Case to Be Reviewed During Saudi King's Asian Tour
Iran Regime's MP: "So What? If People Are Selling Their Kidney out of Poverty, Is It a Problem?"
Former Iranian Regime's MP Acknowledges Country's Deadly Recession

Links From Jihad Watch Site for March 01.17
Canada: Unvetted asylum seekers headed for Toronto
George W. Bush hits Trump, says Islamic jihadis “are not religious people”
Hugh Fitzgerald: The Highest and Best Use of Keith Ellison
Robert Spencer in PJ Media: “Can I Criticize Islam Without Fearing for My Life?”
Reza Aslan: Why he is not a Muslim
10 attacks on refugees daily in Germany: “Nazis are threatening refugees and therefore our democracy”
Robert Spencer: The Roots of Islamic Anti-Semitism
India: Muslim group offers $15,000 reward to anyone who beheads Muslim “moderate” Tarek Fatah
Robert Spencer: Good Riddance: Hijab-wearing Muslim NSC staffer quits, blames Trump, claims victim status
Raymond Ibrahim: Pope Francis Tears at History’s Walls against Islam
McMaster and Gorka: Understanding or Misunderstanding Islam?
Mali: Muslims smash Timbuktu bars and liquor stalls
CPAC Declares World War III Against Jihad
Jamie Glazov Moment: Lindsay Lohan ‘Racially Profiled’ for Wearing Hijab?
US Army names Muslim chaplain spiritual leader of 14,000 mostly Christian soldiers
Germany: Berlin truck jihadi frequented mosque that was Islamic State recruitment center
Islamic State teaching its jihadis to eat non-Muslims
Kosovo imam indicted for “inciting terror activities”
Khamenei: The “real war” the West is pursuing is “culture war” against Islam
Glazov Gang: Robert Reich Blames Trump for Muslim Sweden Riots

Links From Christian Today Site for March 01.17
Bishop Angaelos: Christians In Egypt Told To 'Leave Or Die', 40 Killed In 3 Months, Prays For ISIS
Theresa May: We Must Stand Up For Persecuted Christians
Does Being Conservative On Gay Sex Help Church Growth?
How Should Christians Respond To Donald Trump? Obama's Faith Advisor Sees A Fresh Opportunity
Preparing For War While Seeking Peace: The Israeli Rabbi Who Lived By 'The Book And The Sword'
Now Christian Art By The Masters Can Be Seen In Stunning Detail As Sistine Chapel Is Digitally Photographed
Boycott Campaign Against Israel Is Latest 'Mutation' Of Oldest Hatred Says Former Chief Rabbi
Egypt's Churches Condemn ISIS' 'Terrorist Acts Of Murder' Against Christians

Latest Lebanese Related News published On March 01.17
Hizbullah Efforts To Impose Religious Standards In Public Spark Anger Among South Lebanon Residents/
مارسات داعشية لحزب الله في الجنوب
MEMRI/February 28/17
In the last six months there have been increasing reports in the Lebanese media regarding Hizbullah's efforts to enforce compliance with Islamic standards in various towns in South Lebanon. This religious coercion is manifest in announcements issued by municipal and local councils that are controlled by Hizbullah representatives, ordering the closure of liquor stores or banning the free mixing of men and women in public places. These measures sparked protest among sectors in South Lebanon that support Hizbullah as a resistance organization but do not necessarily agree with its religious policy. In many cases the protest caused the local councils to rescind the orders. Criticism of the measures was also voiced in the Lebanese press, including even in the daily Al-Akhbar known for its support for Hizbullah.
This report reviews some of the coercive measures taken by Hizbullah and some of the critical responses to them.
Banning Gender Mixing In Public Places, Events
In July 2016 the Lebanese press reported that the city council in the town of Jebchit, in the Nabatiyah Governorate in South Lebanon, had banned women from internet cafes and entertainment venues and also ordered to close these venues during prayer times, in order to "preserve the residents' peace of mind and in consideration of the shari'a and moral [standards]." The owners of these businesses protested that the city council was not authorized to issue such an order. A report in the pro-Hizbullah Al-Akhbar daily noted that the residents of the town are religious but nevertheless oppose religious coercion. One of the residents quoted in the daily even likened the order to measures taken by ISIS.[1]
The same month it was reported that the mayor of Al-Khiam in South Lebanon had canceled the participation of women in a marathon held in the area. Ibrahim Haidar, a columnist for the Al-Nahar daily who addressed the issue in his column, noted that the Al-Khiam city council is controlled by Hizbullah and that the city has a Christian minority.[2] Al-Akhbar subsequently reported that 13 women from the town participated in the marathon despite the order.[3]
According to Al-Akhbar, the town of 'Aitaroun banned men and women bathing together at the local swimming pool, sparking opposition from some residents, most of who traditionally avoid gender mixing but nevertheless oppose religious coercion by the authorities as a matter of principle. The daily reported that following residents' protest the town cancelled the ban.[4]
In August 2016, Hashem Safi Al-Din, chairman of Hizbullah's executive committee, addressed the measures taken in Jebchit, 'Aitaroun and Al-Khiam in evasive terms, saying: "Hizbullah's objective [in its activity in the] municipal [councils] is to serve the residents while observing two boundaries: the Lebanese law and respect for the culture [of the local] public."[5]
Shuttering Liquor Stores
In January 2017, Al-Akhbar reported that several city council members in the town of Kafr Rumman in the Nabatiyah Governorate, all of them members of the Shi'ite Amal movement or Hizbullah, had circulated a petition demanding to close the town's liquor stores, and that 2,500 locals had signed the petition. In response, the head of the governorate authorized the city council to "take measures against the store owners." However, after council members from the communist party and from the Al-Tali'a party – a Lebanese branch of the Al-Ba'th party – expressed opposition to the move at a council session, and after local residents protested against it on the grounds that it contravenes Lebanese law, the council returned the matter to the governor.[6]
Banning Music At Public Events
The Janoubia website, known for its opposition to Hizbullah, reported on January 16, 2017 that the organizers of a memorial for Cuba president Fidel Castro that had taken place two days earlier in Beirut had removed from the program two interludes of lute music, and this on the insistence of Hizbullah representatives who were invited to attend, chief among them MP Muhammad Ra'ad. The decision infuriated some other figures who attended the ceremony, including supporters of the Democratic Youth Union and the communist party, who left the memorial in protest.[7]
A similar incident took place in early December 2016 at the University of Lebanon in Beirut, when the students' council at the faculty of engineering, whose members are Hizbullah supporters, forbade students at the faculty to play music at a memorial for a fellow student who had been killed in a car accident. The ceremony was to be held in the faculty forum and to include songs by famous Lebanese singer Fayrouz that the student had loved. Hizbullah members at the university claimed that playing the songs in public was forbidden since it would offend the religious sensibilities of some students. They also said that they had asked the organizers of the memorial to hold it in a closed hall but they refused. Eventually the organizers tried to hold the memorial as planned but students belonging to Hizbullah arrived and forcibly kept them from holding it.[8]
Lebanese Press Slams Religious Coercion By Hizbullah: It Is An Attempt To Change The Lebanese Way Of Life
As stated, the Lebanese press, both anti-Hizbullah and pro-Hizbullah, criticized the religious coercion measures employed by the organization in the country. Journalist Elie Fawwaz wrote on the NOW Lebanon website, known for its opposition to Hizbullah: "Lebanon does not have a law banning gender mixing at [marathon] races or anywhere else. Men and women run side by side in the annual Beirut marathon. So on what basis did the city [councils] make this decision? Can't they be said to have broken the law in this instance? Can't this decision be said to contravene the [Lebanese] constitution, whose preamble states that 'Lebanon is a democratic parliamentary republic based upon respect for public freedoms, freedom of opinion and freedom of belief, and for social justice and equality in rights and duties among all citizens, without distinction or preference'[?] Doesn't this preamble state that 'the people are the source of power and sovereignty, exercising them through constitutional institutions'?... [These incidents of religious coercion by Hizbullah] are not a temporary problem but rather [an attempt to] change the Lebanese way of life. The sad thing is that the state is not doing anything to decide the issue, defend the constitution that is the basis of its power, and enforce equality among citizens. [Rather, it] seems to accept the existence of a parallel law, just as it accepted the existence of [Hizbullah's] parallel weapons [arsenal] and parallel economy, and the existence of more than one governing body [in Lebanon, i.e., the Lebanese government and Hizbullah's authorities]. This disintegration of the state institutions will no doubt lead to social disintegration as well, and to another crisis in addition to the crises already afflicting Lebanon."[9]
Pro-Hizbullah Daily: Hizbullah Must Stop The Mistakes Made By Some Of Its Representatives
The daily Al-Akhbar is known to support Hizbullah's military activities as well as its political activity in Lebanon; nevertheless, it does not always support the organization's religious and social policies and does not hesitate to criticize them. An example is a July 26, 2017 column by Fiyar Abu Sa'd, who argued that Hizbullah is first and foremost a resistance organization that defends Lebanon, and as such, it has an obligation to defend the country's cultural diversity and promote tolerance. He stated that that moves like those recently taken by Hizbullah in the South could alienate parts of the public that support Hizbullah as a resistance organization but cannot accept such religious coercion.
Abu Sa'd wrote: "The decisions of various city councils in South Lebanon relaunched, albeit belatedly, the uneasy debate over the boundaries of social openness and individual freedoms... among public [sectors] in which Hizbullah has a strong presence or influence..." While noting that the decisions were made by Hizbullah representatives in various South Lebanese towns, and not by the organization's higher echelons, he expressed concern that they might start a trend that would spread to other towns and villages where there are many Hizbullah supporters, and added: "The organization [Hizbullah] must clear up the confusion and put an end to the extremism and political mistakes made by some of its elected representatives. Hizbullah... is at once a religious party and a political party [operating] in a diverse society. But before anything else it is a resistance [organization] that has achieved victories in the name of the national [Lebanese] and pan-Arab interest, and [support for it] cuts across sectarian and religious divisions... [Hizbullah] invested all its efforts in fighting Israel and thereby became a model... for all other national liberation movements in the Third World. This immense achievement has definite national and pan-Arab implications, the most important of which is opening a window on a future in which people will be tolerant and society will embrace [every] individual and [also] accept women and afford them a place... Ladies and gentlemen, Lebanon is ours in its entirety, and defending it also means defending its shared culture, its principles, its fundamentals, and its national laws that protect everyone and apply to everyone, regardless of sector."[10]
Another Al-Akhbar article leveled similar criticism at Hizbullah following the incident at the University of Lebanon in Beirut. Journalist Ahmad Muhsin wrote: "Does the so-called student's council [really] think that this is the way to defend the resistance, Islam and the culture of the Islamic Revolution – or is this simply a [show of] force[?] What makes the [student] council think it can ban [people from doing things] and decide which music is appropriate and which isn't[?]..." He added that this behavior did not typify all the Hizbullah supporters in the university but only a group of extremists among them.[11]
[1] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), July 26, 2016.
[2] Al-Nahar (Lebanon), July 24, 2016.
[3] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), July 26, 2016.
[4] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), July 26, 2016.
[5] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), August 11, 2016.
[6] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), January 9, 2017.
[7], January 16, 2017.
[8],, December 3, 2016; Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), December 5, 2016.
[9], July 27, 2016.
[10] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), July 26, 2016.
[11] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), December 5, 2016.

The Faustian pact revisited: Aoun and Haririعون والحريري واهتزازات الصفقة
By Dr. Makram Rabah/Anadolu Agencys/February 28/17
Anyone who follows Lebanese politics and its seemingly countless important as well as trivial affairs is well aware of its volatile nature as well as to the fact that everything is possible when dealing with Lebanon and its political class.
These developments, more often than not, are triggered by regional factors as well as the drive of the local actors who jump on any chance to capitalize on these situations.
The recent twist of events which led to the election of Michel Aoun to the presidency after Samir Geagea, the leader of the Lebanese Forces and Saad al-Hariri, the head of the Future movement both endorsed Aoun, is a case in point.
Long considered to be their opponent, Geagea and Hariri each brokered a separate deal with the 82-year-old former army chief who reciprocated by issuing a few pledges which affirmed Lebanon’s neutrality amid the ongoing conflicts in the region, especially in Syria.
In his confirmation speech Aoun, a strategic ally of Hezbollah and Bashar al-Assad, affirmed that Lebanon’s strategic interests will always reign supreme and that he will never allow the ongoing regional conflict to seep into the country.
However, the alliance which brought Saad al-Hariri back as prime minister is at risk of crumbling after President Aoun repeatedly declared the arms of Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy militia in Lebanon, were vital for country’s protection, taking a clear stand with the Iran-Syria axis.
As a result, Saad al-Hariri unleashed a verbal barrage declaring that Hezbollah was merely peddling an Iranian agenda and their involvement in Syria to defend the Assad regime was living testimony to such a claim.
Hariri’s violent comments, however, did not mention Aoun nor that by relinquishing his customary role as an arbitrator, and siding with Iran, he was compromising Lebanon’s standing in relation to the Arab Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia.
The Sunni-Shia schism and the wars in Yemen and Syria have led Saudi Arabia to take a staunch attitude towards its own allies, who have failed on many occasions to effectively counter Iran’s influence in Lebanon.
While Hariri has constantly denied that Saudi Arabia makes this claim, the suspension of a $3 billion Saudi package to the Lebanese army as well as their lukewarm reception of Aoun when he recently visited Saudi Arabia speaks volumes.
Therefore Aoun’s reckless and irresponsible -- yet calculated -- statements will further estrange Hariri from the Saudis and might ultimately force him to walk away from this unholy alliance and consequently the national unity government he presides.
However, this scenario might prove more difficult given Hariri’s collusion with Aoun and his associates over a number of domestic issues, primarily the extraction of gas off the Lebanese coast as well as a number of other projects of an entrepreneurial nature.
Hariri, who inherited a business as well as a political empire from his late father, soon found himself politically outmaneuvered by his opponents and facing financial difficulties and even alleged bankruptcy.
Consequently, according to many, Hariri’s decision to vote for Aoun was a desperate attempt to leverage his political and financial status, something which the premiership could possibly remedy.
These realities are equally known to Hariri’s former opponents turned allies who recognize quite well that his ability to maneuver or truly break rank with their alliance is a luxury he cannot truly afford.
As a result, there is nothing preventing Aoun from pursuing his adoption of the ethos of resistance complicating matters even further for Lebanon not only with Saudi Arabia but also with a new American administration adamant on confronting Iran and its subsidiaries in the region.
Strangely however, Aoun’s zeal to side with Iran is not ideologically driven but rather part of a strategy to exert internal concessions from Hariri and other Lebanese factions to consolidate his own party’s hold over all aspects of the state, a process which is well on its way.
Consequently, if Hariri truly intends to salvage his own career and to shield Lebanon from the implications of Iranian hegemony, he should not allow Aoun to extort him in this manner, nor hold the Lebanese hostage by exposing them regionally as well as internationally.
Saad al-Hariri can continue to ignore the obvious and hide behind his pledges to improve the economy, provide faster Internet or fix a few potholes. This, however, will not change the fact that Lebanon is under constant threat from Iran and their auxiliaries.
The only way going forward would simply be for Hariri as well as Geagea to show Aoun that despite their heavy investment in his presidency, a continued breach of their original agreement would lead to their walking out from a government incapable of protecting Lebanon and its people.
*Opinions expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Anadolu Agency's editorial policy.

Geagea Urges Parliament Vote on New Electoral Law
Naharnet/February 28/17/Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea met on Tuesday with President Michel Aoun at the Baabda Palace, and stressed that political parties should seek a parliament vote on a new electoral law for the upcoming elections shall they fail to agree on a consensual law to govern the polls. “Shall we reach some kind of accord it would be fine, otherwise let the parliament play its role and vote on a new electoral law,” said Geagea after talks with Aoun that focused on the controversial law file. “We cannot keep the current (1960) law,” said Geagea, “We have to either agree on a new one or head to parliament for a vote knowing that the 1960 law is rejected.”The political parties are bickering over amending the current election law which divides seats among the different religious sects. On the LF's request to privatize the electricity sector, Geagea said: “We must find quick and productive solutions. We have to privatize the electricity sector because the results today are unacceptable and we have to try something new. “The production and distribution of electricity is critical and affects each and every citizen. We raised the privatization issue to have some hope. I don't agree with those who said it requires 5 to 10 years to finalize,” he said. “We are having discussions with all parliamentary blocs to garner support for this proposal which provides 24/24 power supply without imposing additional taxes, and at the same time reduces the treasury's costs,” he concluded.

Hariri: Women's Quota Prerequisite in New Electoral Law
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 28/17/Prime Minister Saad Hariri stressed on Tuesday that establishing a quota for women in the upcoming parliamentary electoral law is essential, as he stressed that efforts are pushing in that direction. “When we first launched the Ministry of Women’s Affairs we were planning to strengthen the Lebanese society in general. Empowering women (simultaneously) empowers Lebanon,” said Hariri from the Grand Serail, during the launching of the Office of the Minister of State for Women Affairs. “Our country has contributed to the development of the Human Rights Charter, about 70 years ago, and women's rights is in its core. It is no secret that the empowerment of women became an international standard for measuring the progress of nations. Today, after almost 70 years, we are still late in this measure, despite the manifestations of modernity and openness in the country,” lamented the PM. “In Lebanon, women represent only %3 of the number of lawmakers in the parliament. The Ministry's role is to rectify this flaw. I have reiterated that a women's quota in one of the conditions in the new electoral law being discussed,” stressed the PM. “I also intend to put into implementation a previous recommendation of mine, in 2010, to include women in senior positions and boards of directors in the State.” The Women's Affairs Ministry was first established in 2016 under the government of Hariri. Minister Jean Oghassapian heads the ministry.

Clashes Renew in Ain el-Hilweh after Ceasefire Collapses
Naharnet/February 28/17/Despite an evening ceasefire agreement in the southern Palestinian refugee camp of Ain el-Hilweh in Sidon, tension escalated once again overnight and the sound of hand grenades explosions and sporadic sniper activity were heard in the camp, the state-run National News Agency reported on Tuesday. Tension prevailed and security breaches throughout the night were recorded where some “seven hand grenades were tossed at al-Fawqani street and at the junction of the vegetable market accompanied by bursts of gunfire,” said NNA. Gunmen were on alert and were seen deployed around several streets in the camp, it added. Meanwhile the UNRWA put on hold its educational, social and health services. Efforts of Palestinian officials are underway to control the situation, and a meeting will be held on Tuesday at the Palestinian embassy to study the conditions in the camp," said NNA. The agency later reported that sniper gunfire in al-Fawqani street has left a young boy dead and a civilian wounded on Tuesday morning. Fierce clashes erupted Sunday between the secular Fatah Movement and a number of hardline Islamist groups in Ain el-Hilweh. 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. 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. The clashes had renewed earlier in the day, leaving several people injured. The Lebanese army meanwhile closed the Ain el-Hilweh entrance that faces Sidon's state-run hospital to preserve the safety of passersby.

UNRWA Condemns Armed Violence in Ain el-Hilweh Camp
Naharnet/February 28/17/UNRWA strongly condemned on Tuesday the ongoing armed violence that erupted in the Ain el-Hilweh Palestine Refugee camp in Lebanon. Recurrent armed violence continues to impact the civilian population in the Camp, including children, an UNRWA statement said on Tuesday. There are reports of injuries to civilians and damage to shelters as a result of the weekend’s clashes. An UNRWA installation is reported as sustaining minor damage and the unauthorized entry of armed actors into one UNRWA school was reported. Due to the violent clashes that erupted in Ain el-Hilweh and taking into consideration security considerations, all UNRWA services were suspended yesterday and today. On Friday, 24 February, two UNRWA facilities for health and relief services in the Upper Street of Ain el-Hilweh were also closed due to clashes, it added. UNRWA will continue to assess the security situation to ensure that services can be resumed as soon as possible considering the need to ensure the safety and security of the Agency’s personnel and beneficiaries. As a humanitarian organization we are significantly concerned about the impact that ongoing armed violence in Ain el-Hilweh has on beneficiaries and on safe access to UNRWA services, including schools and vital health services. UNRWA again calls on all those involved to ensure Palestine refugees are protected against harm in accordance with applicable standards under international law. UNRWA also continues to urge all armed actors to respect the inviolability and neutrality of UNRWA premises in accordance with international law and to take all measures necessary to ensure the safety of civilians, including UNRWA staff, the statement concluded.

Kanaan: Wage Scale Endorsement a Political Decision
Naharnet/February 28/17/Change and Reform MP Ibrahim Kanaan stressed on Tuesday that approving the long-stalled wage scale without making the necessary reforms is a deception, stressing that the decision to approve it is political, the National News Agency reported. “Approving the wage scale without introducing the needed reforms is an attempt to cheat the people and burden them with the policies of squandering and corruption,” said Kanaan. “The tripartite meeting I held with (Finance) Ministers Ali Hassan Khalil and (Telecommunications) Jamal Jarrah was devoted to legal and technical discussions on the state budget. We made a progress, yet the implementation is up to the political parties, whereas the approval of the wage scale happens at the parliament. Experience has taught us that the decision on the salary scale is a political one,” Kanaan said in an interview on NBN channel. Furthermore, the lawmaker stressed that President Michel Aoun was determined to make reforms, as promised by the new tenure. On the parliamentary electoral law, Kanaan said that Aoun would spare no effort to reach a new vote that guarantees proper representation. Reiterating backing for the Orthodox Gathering proposal, Kanaan said: “We still back the Orthodox proposal, but we do not refuse any other suggestions.” He concluded saying: “The 1960 law is worse than extending the parliament's mandate and vacuum, and it threatens stability.”

Kataeb Slams Govt. of 'Contradictions' for 'Tampering with Country's Democratic System'
/Naharnet/February 28/17/The Kataeb Party on Monday lashed out anew at what it called a government of “contradictions” over its continued failure to approve a new electoral law. “The Kataeb Party holds the political authority responsible for usurping the popular will and tampering with the country's democratic system through its procrastination in producing a new electoral law,” the party said in a statement issued after its political bureau's weekly meeting. It warned the ruling political class against “taking the country into the unknown through its attempt to pass one of three terrible choices: elections under the 1960 law, extension (of parliament's term) or vacuum.”“The Kataeb Party insists on a law that ensures correct representation and pluralism inside sects and allows popular accountability,” it said. “Accordingly, the party is open to any draft law that achieves this, and the best law that achieves this would be one based on individual districts, but it also supports the one person, one vote system and proportional representation according to the 15 districts that were agreed on by the Christian parties in Bkirki,” Kataeb added.

Palestinian factions agree on ceasefire in Ain elHilweh refugee camp
Tue 28 Feb 2017/NNA - The national and Islamist forces and the Palestinian Liberation Organization factions held on Tuesday a meeting at the Palestine Embassy, where they took up the present situation at the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain el-Hilweh. In a statement by conferees, it said that the meeting reached an agreement on ceasefire in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain el-Hilweh in Sidon, and the formation of a joint committee with full powers to put the ceasefire into effect. Palestinian Ambassador to Lebanon, Ashraf Dabbour, attended said meeting. Conferees categorically deplored the sorrowful events in the camp, stressing adherence to the joint Palestinian national action to preserve the security of camps and the Lebanese neighborhood. The meeting also stressed strengthening cooperation with the Lebanese state at the various political and security levels, hailing the national stances by the dignitaries of the city of Sidon calling for reinforcing security and stability of Ain Hilweh refugee camp. Conferees underlined that "the camps shall not be a base or a hub for any individual or group which wants to tamper with the Lebanese and Palestinian security," reiterating that the Palestinians in Lebanon are part of the Lebanese security and a factor of stability, peace and security." A delegation from the Embassy is scheduled to head to the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain el-Hilweh in order to put ceasefire into effect.

Aoun: My dream is to accomplish security, prosperity for Lebanon
Tue 28 Feb 2017/NNA - President of the Lebanese Republic, General Michel Aoun, said, "My dream is to accomplish security, stability and prosperity for Lebanon. And I am rest assured about Lebanon as long as we ourselves are guiding the boat. I want you too to be rest assured." President Aoun's stance came Tuesday as he received at Baabda Palace a delegation of Lions clubs headed by Fady Ghanem. "I dream of Lebanon to be - and it has been so since a very short time ago - a region for the dialogue between religions and civilizations in the world," said the President. Afterwards, Aoun received a delegation of Conference of Beirut and the Coast headed by Kamal Shatila. Aoun explained to the delegation that his main concern nowadays "is accomplishing a new electoral law without which we won't be able to change the image of representation that we want. And such cannot be achieved without the proportionality because if we strive to reach political stability, all Lebanese must be represented in the Parliament." Among Baabda's visitors had been the family of abducted press photographer Samir Kassab, and others.

Meeting at Sidon Municipality to discuss Ain El Helwe fresh events
Tue 28 Feb 2017/NNA - A meeting at Sidon Municipality has just started upon a call from MP Bahia Hariri to take a unified position regarding the current situation in Ain El Helwe refugee camp.

Ibrahim reviews with Azzam Ahmad situation in Ain Al Helwe
Tue 28 Feb 2017/NNA - General Security Director, Brigadier Abbas Ibrahim, on Tuesday received at his office member of Fatah Movement Central Committee, Azzam Al Ahmad, accompanied by Palestinian Ambassador Ashraf Dabbour, and discussed with him the security situation in Ain Al Helwe camp.

Berri receives regional director for International Organization for Migration
Tue 28 Feb 2017/NNA - House Speaker Nabih Berri on Tuesday received in Ain Al Tineh a delegation of International Organization for Migration headed by the regional director of said organization Carmela Godeau and discussed with her the activities of the organization as well as the displacement crisis. Separately, Speaker Berri received head of American University of Beirut Fadlo Khoury.

Muslim, Christian clerics convene coexistence meeting
Tue 28 Feb 2017/NNA - Top Muslim and Christian clerics from the Middle East gathered in Cairo on Tuesday for a two-day conference on promoting co-existence, as sectarian conflict continues to ravage the region. The "Freedom and Citizenship" conference is hosted by Al-Azhar. It comes as Coptic Christians in Egypt's Sinai flee attacks by Islamic State group jihadists who are waging an insurgency in the peninsula. "Exonerating religions from terrorism no longer suffices in the face of these barbaric challenges," Al-Azhar's head Sheikh Ahmed Tayeb said in a speech on the opening day. Tayeb called for dispelling "the lingering mistrust and tensions between religious leaders that are no longer justified, for if there is no peace between the proponents of religions first, the proponents cannot give it to the people." Coptic Christian Pope Tawadros II called for "fighting extremist thought with enlightened thought." He said: "Egypt and the region have suffered from extremist thought resulting from a mistaken understanding of religion that has led to terrorism." The conference, including Muslim muftis and Christian clergy, is to issue a closing statement on Wednesday.--AFP

Hariri in launching office of Minister of State for Women Affairs: The time of eliminating discrimination against women has come
Tue 28 Feb 2017 /NNA - Under the sponsorship of the President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri, the Office of the Minister of State for Women Affairs (OMSWA) was officially launched this morning at the Grand Serail. The "Technical Support to the Office of the Minister of State for Women Affairs" Project between the ministry and the UNDP was also signed.
The Minister of State for Women Affairs, Jean Oghassapian, delivered the following speech:
"We are honored today, two months after the formation of the government and the introduction of the ministry of state for women affairs, to launch this ministry by defining its goals and responsibilities, stressing our absolute seriousness to improve the situation of women in Lebanon.
In fact, the establishment of a new ministry in a record time represented a great challenge because such an establishment needs the preparation of an infrastructure that takes into account the international standards set forth in new ministries. We should commend, in this respect, the close follow up and support of Premier Saad Hariri in all phases, the collaboration with the United Nations Development Program in Lebanon, which helped to lay the foundation of the ministry, and the cooperation with the National committee for Lebanese women affairs and all associations and institutions concerned with women causes, to develop a road map for the work of the ministry that covers all the gaps faced by the Lebanese women.
Based on this, we defined the following goals: Ensure equal access of men and women to all civil, economic, social, cultural and political rights; empower women, enhance their potential and develop their capabilities; and integrate women's rights in the national sustainable development process.
These goals put major responsibilities that the ministry will work to achieve by:
1- Enhancing the participation of women in politics and decision making positions by initially working on including a women quota in any electoral law, and to have this quota in seats and not candidacies.
2- Empowering women and promoting their professional and financial capabilities and eliminating unemployment and poverty
3- Eliminating violence against women through the adoption of relevant laws
4- Providing basic and continuous education
5- Ensuring equal access to health care and improving reproductive health for women
6- Applying the principle of equality in legislative texts by amending unfair laws against women
7- Implementing international agreements starting with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) that aims at eliminating all forms of discrimination against the woman, and that was ratified by Lebanon in 1996
8- Taking the necessary steps to involve women in peace processes and protecting them in conflicts
9- Eliminating the stereotyped images in media and advertisements
10-Supporting women's participation in environment planning and protection
11-Strengthening the capacities of the organizations working in the field of women's rights
We also launch today the ministry's website as an essential tool to display the strategy and the achievements of the ministry, and also for communication with all official institutions, and local and international organizations that deal with women affairs.
This will be the roadmap towards gender equality in Lebanon and we hope to cooperate together to achieve it".
The UNDP Resident Representative, Philippe Lazzarini, delivered the following speech:
"I am very pleased to be here with you today. The establishment of a ministerial portfolio to address women affairs is a timely decision taken by Prime Minister Hariri and his cabinet and constitutes an important development.
It comes at a time when Lebanon's women still face discrimination and inequalities and so unfortunately still do not enjoy full and unconditional parity. While globally the gender gap in fields such as health and education has almost been closed, Lebanon still has to address a range of challenges related to women's social, economic and political participation.
Despite being ahead in so many areas such as higher education, with more than 55% of female graduates, and its privileged situation compared to many Arab counterparts, it still lags behind when it comes to gender equality. This is a Lebanese Paradox. Allow me to provide some key examples:
Lebanese women are not entitled to the same personal status and marriage rights as Lebanese men. Women' rights are much more restrictive in terms of divorce, child custody, and inheritance, which are subject to decisions by the religious courts. Equally important, and despite the Lebanese Constitution and International commitments, Lebanese women are still unable to pass over their nationalities to their children and foreign spouses, while men enjoy both rights. This legislative gap not only affects the concerned women, but impacts the entire household. Can you imagine that a boy born in Lebanon with a Lebanese mother having been brought up in the country, cannot attend public school, benefit from free healthcare, join the national soccer team, and later access the job market without a permit, just because of the law?
It is also not acceptable nowadays to witness gender based violence. Every year there is at least 15 known cases of women dying. It was not until 2014 that a law was passed by Parliament to protect victims of violence, and we should join efforts to follow the line of similar laws and look into enforcement mechanisms.
In the economy, Lebanese women represent only a quarter of the country's labor force. Less than 20% of companies are owned by women, and female presence in company boards unless family owned (or social enterprises), is almost null. Female entrepreneurship is still relatively low. Most of women-owned businesses in the country operate in the informal sector, and therefore it is less common for women to access financing from banks.
The same applies to political participation, despite the fact that Lebanese women were granted the right to vote in 1952, 20 years before my own country (Switzerland). Lebanon has one of the lowest shares of women in parliament in the world, with only 3.1%, compared to an average of 15% in Arab Parliaments. It is frankly striking that such a wealth of competent and educated women is not yet able to significantly influence public life.
Research has shown that gender equality is a stronger predictor of a state's peacefulness than its level of democracy or gross domestic product.
Where women are more empowered, the state is less likely to experience conflict. By investing in its peace and security agenda, Lebanon should make social, economic, and political equality a core priority.
We are now at a cornerstone of change here in Lebanon. The new government has made its key priority to restore trust with citizens. The ministerial statement focused on the promotion of women role in public life and in political participation. It also focuses on refining laws to eliminate all forms of discrimination. To succeed in this endeavor, ensuring the adequate inclusion, protection and representation of women will be key.
For all these reasons, the United Nations offers its technical support to the Minister of State for Women Affairs (OMSWA). The Project Document the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is signing today with the Lebanese government represents an opportunity and an entry point for the government to work closely with UN agencies to address technical and capacity gaps.
I am all the more happy to be present here today, as it gives me the opportunity to make a call for action. A call for us to work together with the Government to provide the space for Lebanese women to run for elections, by adopting as a temporary measure a women quota. There is no reason why there should not be a quota for women, who are the largest under-represented group. Together, we should push for legal reforms to also ensure their active engagement in all sectors of the economy and society. We should aim at protecting women from violence. We should ensure proper access to health and education for all girls and women. It is through the establishment of partnerships, and making use of all talents and capacities that we can restore trust and create lasting change".
The UN Special Representative for Lebanon, Mrs Sigrid Kaag, delivered the following speech:
"I have the privilege of actually being very brief, having listened to an excellent vision statement and a plan of action by the minister and my colleague Philippe Lazzarini. It is all about "he" for "she", and I can only congratulate once more, President Aoun, Prime Minister Hariri for having taken the decision to appoint a man to this ministry.
This is more than a male colleague qualified for this ministry; it is a symbol, a signal, about men sharing the responsibility of driving change for women and women's leadership, participation and representation in society.
Without the men and the gentlemen in the room, change will not happen, politically, socially and at home in the family. It is a shared responsibility, but also a shared opportunity, and it is a huge role, not only because girls do very well in school, globally but also in Lebanon. They are tough graduates; they are competitive, innovative, multitaskers. But in the political space, we see that absence. You know that there are only 4 MPs to date. We have seen the municipal elections from our perspective, supporting women's organizations, women who have been campaigning, lobbying and training. But ultimately we only saw 5 % of women elected in the municipal ballot. But the totality of women was only 7% as participants. So we can do the more, the plan is very clear. Politics at the end of the day is where decisions are made. My message is two-fold. I would like to echo the call for action by the minister and Philippe Lazzarini. Let's focus on the change, let's look at the parliamentary elections. We are not sure which formula Lebanese leaders will agree on, nor which framework. But let us make sure that women remain at the heart of whichever compromise you agree to amongst yourself.
We will be there, supporting you through technical assistance, politically when relevant and appropriate, and in so many ways. It is not just the quota. If the quota will not be achieved, every party can increase the number of women on the electoral ballot, one does not need a quota, it is a reflection of political will.
Lebanon is not alone, my own country has elections on the 15th of March. I am also looking at every list for where women are. Globally, everybody can do better. But I firmly believe in Lebanon, in its diversity, in its strength, resilience and its ability to lead the way once more, to punch above your weight in a region that needs it so much. Lebanon can and will shine and women are part of that picture, 50/50 , moving forward".
Prime Minister Hariri delivered the following speech:
"When we decided to dedicate a ministry of state to women's affairs in Lebanon, we did not think of serving the Lebanese women but of serving the Lebanese society as a whole. Empowering the Lebanese women economically, socially and politically and removing the obstacles that stand in their way in all areas, means in fact empowering all of Lebanon, and removing obstacles that hinder our country, our economy and our society as a whole.
Ensuring women's right to equality in culture and education is a guarantee of the rights of our children, grandchildren and all the generations that will follow. When we talk about fighting the poverty of women and empowering them economically, we would be fighting half of the poverty in our society and achieving a big leap in the ability of our country to produce, initiate and create jobs opportunities.
When we modernize our legislation to eliminate violence against women, we would be eliminating half of the violence in our society, and contributing to breaking the cycle of the other half, by diminishing the hidden violence that feeds the violence models in the eyes of today's children, who are our future.
History recognizes that our country has contributed to writing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, almost 70 years ago, with women's rights in its core. It is no secret that empowering women has become one of the international standards for measuring the advancement of nations. Today, almost 70 years later, we remain behind in this standard, despite the aspects of modernity, development and openness that abound in our country.
Women in our country represent 54 percent of those who belong to the level of higher education, but they represent only 28 percent of the labor force and 3 percent of the members of Parliament. In short, the mission of the Ministry of State for Women's affairs is to correct this imbalance, and we are committed to support this mission.
I said on more than one occasion that I consider women's quota an essential condition of the new electoral law that we are trying to reach. I also intend to implement a recommendation issued during my first term as Prime Minister in 2010, to include women in senior positions and boards of directors in the state, after this recommendation remained seven years in the refrigerator of the fear of change and of cultural and social obstacles.
If Lebanese women, who represent half of our society and paint through their role the form of the other half over generations, have been able to achieve scientific, cultural and economic successes in all fields despite the discriminatory laws, customs, traditions and legacies, then imagine what they can achieve, what we can all achieve as a society, a state and a country, if we cooperate to eliminate discrimination and overcome these obstacles and legacies. This task requires us all to cooperate with this new ministry. On behalf of all of you, I thank the United Nations Development Program, and I must thank the National Commission for Lebanese Women, civil society and its women's organizations on all their achievements so far. The Ministry of State for Women's Affairs will build on these achievements in collaboration with the Commission, civil society and all energies.
This is the greatest investment in our future. An investment requires the mobilization of everyone. If tomorrow marks the beginning of the "Women's Month" in the calendar of the United Nations, then the Lebanese women's time in all fields has started in our calendar. And it is not just the time for quota, but also for all the reforms pertaining to Lebanese women."

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published On March 01.17
Civilians Flee Mosul Fighting as Iraq Forces Battle IS

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 28/17/Several hundred civilians fled through the desert on Tuesday to escape fighting against jihadists in the Mosul area, reaching an Iraqi position south of the embattled city. At least 16,000 people have been displaced since Iraqi forces launched a push to recapture west Mosul from the Islamic State group on February 19, according to the ministry of displacement and migration. "So far today (Tuesday), we have around 300 displaced people -- men and women and children," Brigadier General Salman Hashem of the Counter-Terrorism Service told AFP. "There are more coming. They're stopped at a checkpoint when they arrive and separated. The men are searched and then checked against a database," Hashem said. While the men are taken to be checked, the women and children sit on sheets on the dusty ground, and security forces bring them water, food and condensed milk. Eighteen-year-old Baidaa, wearing a ragged black scarf and holding her young daughter, said she and her family had fled early in the morning. We left at five o'clock this morning. We started running and then we walked the rest of the way. We had to run because we were afraid of fire from (IS)," Baidaa said.
"They trapped us and they didn't want us to leave," she said of the jihadists. Her two children didn't "understand what's happening, they just followed us. They were so afraid of the firing from the fighting."Iraqi forces backed by a US-led coalition launched a massive operation to retake Mosul on October 17, recapturing the city's east and then setting their sights on its smaller but more densely populated western side.

Syria ex-Qaida Says Opposition Leaders Must 'Step Aside'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 28/17/The head of al-Qaida's former Syrian branch said weekend suicide attacks in third city Homs were a message for opposition figures engaged in peace talks in Geneva to "step aside". In a rare video address released late Monday, the head of Fateh al-Sham Front reiterated his group's responsibility for the bombings, which killed dozens of people including a top intelligence chief and close confidant of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. "This operation is a lesson to the defeated politicians in Geneva, and previously in Astana," said Abu Mohamed al-Jolani. "This lesson will wipe off some of the shame that has followed those gambling with the lives of the Syrian people," he said, adding that the attacks were "just one episode in a series that will follow." Opposition and government representatives are in Geneva this week for UN-sponsored talks aimed at ending Syria's brutal six-year war. Fateh al-Sham has been excluded from the opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC), as well as previous talks in Astana between rebel groups and the government. Jolani said the deadly attacks in Homs were a message "to leave the war to our people, and to step aside." "It has been demonstrated to them that this regime only understands the language of force and blood... These politicians... are handing the regime a victory without it having to win," he added. The Geneva talks, the fourth under UN auspices and the first since last April, are struggling to get off the ground. The HNC is expected to meet a Russian delegation on Tuesday, in the hope that Moscow will pressure its ally Damascus to kickstart the negotiations. More than 310,000 people have been killed and millions more driven from their homes since the conflict broke out in March 2011. Fateh al-Sham Front split from al-Qaida in July 2016 from al-Qaida in a move analysts said was an abortive attempt to end its blacklisting by the United Nations and Western governments. In January, it joined forces with other hardline groups to form Tahrir al-Sham. Its fighters have been targeted by intensifying air strikes, not just by the government but also by its ally Russia and by the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group. Scores of its fighters have been killed since the start of the year.

Russia Wants Terrorism on Agenda of Syria Talks
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 28/17/Russia called Tuesday for terrorism to be included on the agenda of UN-sponsored peace talks on Syria in Geneva, which have been overshadowed by violence on the ground. Moscow, a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, wants the issue added to an agenda which for the moment focuses on three "baskets" or areas: governance, constitution and elections. "Definitely yes," deputy foreign minister Gennady Gatilov told reporters when asked if terrorism should be included. "Terrorism is a priority. The fight against terrorism is a priority and it should be on the agenda, along with other issues that were suggested that are contained in (UN Security Council) resolution 2254," which set the terms of reference for the UN talks, he said. The Syrian regime's delegation chief, Bashar al-Jaafari, demanded at the weekend that all opposition factions present in Geneva condemn a suicide assault that killed dozens Saturday near Syria's third city of Homs. The Russian minister, speaking after meeting al-Jaafari, said Damascus wants terrorism on the agenda of the sputtering peace talks, the first in 10 months and the fourth round under UN auspices. Al-Jaafari "said that terrorism should not be ignored and should be also on the agenda," said Gatilov, who is due to meet the main opposition delegation in Geneva on Wednesday. UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura launched the latest round of talks last Thursday, but as in previous sessions there appears little prospect of the two sides meeting face-to-face. Gatilov was cautious in his assessment of hopes for the latest Geneva talks. "Let's hope that in this round we will be able to move forward on the path towards a solution to the crisis in Syria," he told reporters. Asked about his planned meeting with the opposition on Wednesday, he added: "I don't know what they are going to insist on, that is why we are going to meet them to know their position". Saturday's Homs attacks dealt a powerful blow to the already-faltering talks, triggering the Damascus demand that all opposition factions condemn terrorism. In response the main opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) said its "positions are clear in condemning terrorism and terrorists".But HNC spokesman Salem al-Meslet also accused Damascus of a delaying tactic. "Jaafari is stalling, they don't want to start the political transition," the HNC spokesman told AFP on Sunday.

UN Security Council to Vote Tuesday on Syria Sanctions
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 28/17/The UN Security Council will vote Tuesday on a draft resolution that would impose sanctions on Syria for the use of chemical weapons, diplomats said. Russia has vowed to use its veto to block the measure, which would be the seventh time that Moscow has resorted to its veto power to shield its Damascus ally. The vote is scheduled for 11:30 am (1630 GMT). The proposed resolution drafted by the United States, Britain and France would slap sanctions on 11 Syrian nationals and 10 entities linked to chemical attacks in the nearly six-year war. It would also ban the sale, supply or transfer of helicopters and related materiel, including spare parts, to the Syrian armed forces or the government. The proposals follows a UN-led investigation which concluded in October that the Syrian air force had dropped chlorine barrel-bombs from helicopters on three opposition-held villages in 2014 and 2015.The joint panel of the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) also found that Islamic State jihadists had used mustard gas in an attack in 2015. Russian Deputy Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov said Friday that Moscow would veto the measure because it was "one-sided" and based on "insufficient proof." The Syrian government has repeatedly denied using chemical weapons in the war that has killed 310,000 people since March 2011.

Trump Looks to Reboot in First Address to Congress
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 28/17/President Donald Trump gives his maiden speech to Congress Tuesday, trying to boost dismal approval ratings and flesh out his promise to help Americans left behind by a changing economy. During a first turbulent month in office, Trump has put homeland security front and center -- plotting immigration bans, border walls and a nearly 10 percent increase in defense spending. But aides say his prime time address to lawmakers and the nation at 9:00 pm (0200 GMT Wednesday) will tilt the focus back toward the type of bread and butter issues that helped win him the presidency. "All I can do is speak from the heart and say what I want to do," Trump told the conservative morning show Fox & Friends, according to excerpts of an interview to air ahead of his Tuesday address. Trump's focus will be "solving real problems for real people" said a senior administration official, previewing an address centered on "economic opportunity." The billionaire's tough talk and populist economic message were crucial in his November victory over Hillary Clinton, winning over voters in crucial rustbelt states like Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. But his White House honeymoon has been anything but. Infighting and inexperience have dogged the new administration. Some 44 percent of Americans think Trump is doing a good job, according to the RealClearPolitics poll average. That is a historic low for modern presidents after a month in office. President Barack Obama's rating on the eve of his first speech to a joint session of Congress in February 2009 was 62 percent. Trump is likely to use the pomp and tradition-filled occasion -- which is a State of the Union Address in all but name -- to tout his willingness to tear up trade deals that he claims are bad for the American worker. The CEO-turned-commander-in-chief has already withdrawn the United States from a trans-Pacific trade pact and is threatening to scrap a deal with Canada and Mexico if substantial changes are not made. He is likely to claim once again credit for the rising stock market and corporate job announcements. But many will be looking beyond the rhetoric to what plans Trump has in store for high-stakes tax and healthcare reform. On both issues Trump faces a difficult balancing act with fellow Republicans, who control both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Lawmakers are sure to offer him a warm reception but could yet frustrate his goal of swift, far-reaching reforms. "We have a really terrific, I believe, healthcare plan coming out," Trump assured Fox & Friends. But while reforming "Obamacare" was a rallying cry on the campaign trail, fissures are emerging within his party. Conservatives are desperate to pull the law out by its roots, but party pragmatists are wary of dismantling a system that has, despite driving up costs for many, helped some 20 million Americans obtain health insurance. The move is appearing increasingly controversial in light of town hall meetings this past week in which constituents expressed worry and anger to their Republican lawmakers about the prospect of losing health coverage. "Nobody knew health care could be this complicated," the president said Monday at a meeting with the nation's governors at the White House.
Similarly, efforts to cut corporate taxes might only be paid for with a contentious import tariff that might not pass muster in the Senate.
'More with less'
Tensions between the executive branch and the Republican-led Congress are also simmering over Trump's 2018 budget proposal, which will undergo intense negotiations in coming months as it goes from wish list to law. The White House said Monday Trump wants to hike defense spending by $54 billion, or about nine percent above current levels, with corresponding cuts in foreign assistance and other non-military spending. Nonetheless, Trump will struggle to sustain promised -- but costly -- social security spending without worsening the country's national debt, which is set to top $20 trillion on his watch. Democrats have been quick to accuse to Trump of favoring the rich and powerful, despite his populist campaign message.In a "prebuttal" of Trump's speech, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer, warned of tough times ahead for American workers. "In future months, burden after burden will be shifted off the special interests and onto the working people," Schumer said. Republicans hold 52 Senate seats, compared to 48 by the Democrats, who are pledging a united front that could slow down or even block some reform legislation in the event some Republicans defect.

Trump Aide Conway Draws Ire for Kneeling on White House Sofa
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 28/17/Counselor to the US president Kellyanne Conway sparked social media fury late Monday after kneeling on a White House sofa with her shoes on. In an image captured by an AFP photographer, Conway appears casually kneeling on the couch as Donald Trump poses for a photo with leaders of historically black colleges and universities. Many Twitter users were quick to berate Conway, with many calling her body language a sign of "disrespect." "Conway with her shoes on the couch in Oval Office -- consistent with general level of disrespect Trump team has shown," tweeted one user. "The new stock photo for 'white privilege,'" wrote another Twitter user of the image which shows her surrounded by a large number of black people who are standing. Some drew comparisons to a 2013 photo of former president Barack Obama with his feet up on the desk of the Oval Office. "Remember when Republicans used to flip out over Obama Oval Office decorum," posted one Twitter user. Conway recently came under fire for plugging the fashion brand of the president's daughter. The head of the US Office of Government Ethics urged the White House to investigate Conway after the incident, saying she should face disciplinary action.

Israeli Police Begin Evacuating West Bank Settler Homes

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 28/17/Israeli police on Tuesday began removing residents and protesters from nine West Bank settler homes set to be demolished under a Supreme Court ruling. The homes in the Ofra settlement -- a symbol of Jewish settler defiance to international concerns -- were found to have been built on private Palestinian land and ordered razed by March 5. On Tuesday police were entering the homes and removing young protesters one at a time, an AFP reporter said. One youth was arrested for attacking officers, according to a police statement. Police said they would act with restraint but would not tolerate violence. Eight families had agreed to leave their homes ahead of time, police said. Leaders of the Ofra community said they were intent on preventing clashes with security forces such as those that took place during the eviction of the nearby Amona outpost three weeks ago, where youths barricaded themselves in the synagogue and wounded Israeli forces with stones and acid. Amona residents announced they would begin a hunger strike on Wednesday until the government kept its committment to build them a new settlement. More than 400,000 Jewish settlers live in the West Bank, which Israel has occupied since the Six-Day War of 1967. Most of the international community sees settlements as a major obstacle to peace, as they are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state.
Israel distinguishes between settlements it has authorised and those built without permission.

Netanyahu Hits Back ahead of Gaza War Report
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 28/17/Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared on the defensive ahead of a report Tuesday expected to criticize him and military leaders for insufficiently preparing for attack tunnels in the 2014 Gaza war. The findings of a two-year inquiry by state comptroller Yosef Shapira are widely expected to fault Netanyahu, then-defense minister Moshe Yaalon and former army chief of staff Benny Gantz for poor preparation despite intelligence warnings. The report, due to be released at 1400 GMT, is expected to say that Israel's cabinet was insufficiently briefed on the threat posed by tunnels dug into southern Israel by Hamas, the Islamist group that runs Gaza. Destroying the tunnels and stopping Gaza-based Palestinian militants launching rockets into Israel were the key declared goals of Israel's third offensive in the coastal territory in six years. The tunnels were among the Palestinians' most effective weapons during the conflict, some used by militants to infiltrate Israel and carry out deadly attacks there, others used to surprise Israeli forces inside Gaza. This lack of planning left Israeli soldiers to face a major threat without a specific plan, the 200-page report compiled by Shapira -- who is in charge of assessing governance and use of public funds -- is expected to conclude. Netanyahu has frequently denied such claims, saying he regularly briefed colleagues on the situation. Speaking to his party ahead of the report's release, Netanyahu accused Shapira of not supporting the army.
"As opposed to the state comptroller's report, I support the heads of the (army)," he said. "The truly important lessons aren't located in the state comptroller's report, and we apply them without declarations and statements to the media," he added. Analysts will be looking to see what effect, if any, the report has on Netanyahu's rightwing governing coalition. But Avraham Diskin, a political scientist from Jerusalem's Hebrew University, said he did not expect any major political upheaval or resignations, noting that such inquiries rarely have dramatic long-term impacts.
"The report won't cause an earthquake," he said. - Cabinet conflict -During the July-August 2014 war, 74 Israelis died, 68 of them soldiers. According to the United Nations, 2,251 Palestinian were killed. Shapira launched the probe almost immediately after the 50-day conflict. Maariv columnist Ben Caspit said Netanyahu's remarks constituted "incitement" against the state comptroller. Shapira's report was "an important, in-depth and serious document," he wrote. A "reasonable" prime minister, he added, would have accepted that while the war achieved many of its objectives of weakening Hamas, "at the same time, there obviously were flaws."The fallout is likely to pit Netanyahu against coalition partner and political rival Naftali Bennett, head of the rightwing Jewish Home party. Bennett has said that he and fellow members of the security cabinet were not properly briefed by Netanyahu on the tunnel threat. Yair Lapid, another political opponent who was in the 2014 security cabinet, has also criticized Netanyahu's alleged lack of planning. Israel's military found 32 tunnels, including 14 from the Gaza Strip into Israel, according to a UN inquiry on the war. Hamas says it has continued to dig new ones.The ceasefire between Israel and Hamas continues to be fractious. In the latest flare up on Monday, a rocket fired from Gaza hit southern Israel without causing any damage. The army retaliated by bombing Hamas targets in the Palestinian enclave.

Palestinian Municipal Elections in West Bank Only
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 28/17/Palestinian local elections scheduled for May will take place in the West Bank only and not in Gaza, the government announced Tuesday, scuppering hopes of the first vote in both territories in a decade. The Palestinian Authority, run by president Mahmud Abbas's Fatah party, sits in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, while the Islamist Hamas movement controls Gaza. The rival parties have not competed in an election since parliamentary polls in 2006, which Hamas won -- sparking a conflict that led to near civil war in Gaza the following year. "(We will) hold the municipal elections in the West Bank on May 13 and postpone them in the Gaza Strip," Tarek Rishmawi, spokesman for the government in Ramallah, told AFP. He did not give a date for elections in Gaza. Civil society organisations had attempted to find a way to hold the elections in both territories simultaneously. Hamas said the announcement reinforced the "division" between factions and "serves Fatah's political interests." Rishmawi, in turn, blamed Hamas for the decision. The municipal elections are seen as a key confidence builder which could open the way to parliamentary or presidential elections. A previous attempt to hold a simultaneous vote in both territories collapsed last year. The last municipal elections in 2012 were held in the West Bank only and were boycotted by Hamas. The failure of the rival movements to reconcile is seen as a major obstacle to any settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Both sides have voiced commitment to the principle of reconciliation but multiple efforts at forging a unified administration have failed.

Egypt Lawmaker Says Expulsion Warning to Opposition

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/February 28/17/An Egyptian lawmaker who was one of the few dissenting voices in parliament said Tuesday his expulsion over accusations of leaking a draft law to foreign embassies was a warning to the opposition. Mohamed Anwar Sadat, a nephew of the assassinated president Anwar Sadat, was expelled in a vote on Monday for allegedly leaking the draft of a controversial NGO law to foreign embassies. The frequent critic of the government and parliament, which is dominated by supporters of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, was also accused of forging MPs' signatures on a bill he had presented. Sadat denied both accusations to AFP on Tuesday, saying they were "false.""I was not surprised because I have expressed many reservations about what parliament does and its compliance with the constitution and the law," he said. As we see, many people are not content with the status of democracy in Egypt," he said. His expulsion was "a message to those inside and outside parliament: 'No one is dear to us'," he added. Elected in 2015, parliament has been accused by critics of acting as a rubber stamp for Sisi, the former army chief who toppled his Islamist predecessor Mohamed Morsi. Morsi's overthrow in 2013 ushered in a deadly crackdown on his supporters that killed hundreds of protesters and left thousands in prison. Sadat had chaired parliament's human rights committee before resigning in protest at what he called its ineffectiveness. He had heated disputes with parliament speaker Ali Abdel Al, who once shouted down Sadat when he inquired about military pensions for officers who went on to lead industry and state institutions. He comes from a prominent political family, having been named after his uncle Anwar Sadat, whom jihadists assassinated in 1981 after he signed a peace treaty with Israel.

Saudi Analyst: Iranian Regime's Terrorism Case to Be Reviewed During Saudi King's Asian Tour

NCRI/Tuesday, 28 February 2017 /The London-based ELAPH website wrote on February 26 on king Salman’s Asian tour “King Salman is going to describe to his Asian friends the challenges Saudi Arabia is faced with.”ELAPH then quotes Sadigheh Fazel, a professor of political science and former member of Saudi’s Parliament, as saying that Salman’s Asian tour will strengthen Saudi Arabia’s position in the world. She also believes that king Salman will probably discuss Iranian regime’s terrorism case and its expansionist policies with the leaders of the countries he’s going to visit. Fazel emphasizes that Salman’s visit to Malaysia will have positive effects on the future of Saudi-Malaysia relations in particular, and on the relations of Saudi Arabia and other Asian countries in general. Something that will hopefully reflect well on Saudi Arabia’s position and its political situation, particularly at a time when the region is faced with massive political developments and unprecedented tensions. King Salman Bin Abdulaziz arrived in Kualalumpur Sunday morning, at the start of his Asian tour which includes Indonesia, Brunei, Japan, China, Maldives and Jordan. This is king Salman’s first Asian tour since he came to power in January 23, 2015.
The announcement issued by the king’s office says that Saudi’s king will meet with the leaders of the countries he’s going to visit, to discuss bilateral relations as well as regional and international issues of mutual interest. As for the issues of mutual interest, Sadigheh Fazel explains that “as we know, Saudi’s king is concerned with all key issues in the region, since being at the heart of the developments, Saudi Arabia affects and is also being affected by them. The most important issues in this regard are fight on terrorism, particularly what is known as ISIS, as well as Iranian regime’s expansionist policies and its nuclear ambitions, and the turbulent political situation in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya. These issues are of importance for all these countries as the Arabic region is a strategic area with which the whole world is concerned.”

Iran Regime's MP: "So What? If People Are Selling Their Kidney out of Poverty, Is It a Problem?"
NCRI Iran News/February 28/17/As a sign of disastrous living condition of the Iranian people, The horrible phenomena of selling one’s kidney out of poverty, is wide spreading on daily basis. On Monday February 27, Hossein Ali Shahriari, Regime’s MP from Southeastern city of Zahedan stated in this regard in an interview with state run ‘Shafa online’, that if a poor person is selling his kidney for $5000 – 8000 and has a change in his living condition, so what? Is there anything wrong with it? He further added: “some people need kidney to continue their lives, some people are living with one kidney, and there are no side effects for it!”It is worth mentioning that while the massive wealth of Ali Khamenei and other senior officials of the Iranian regime and the theft of billions of dollars by those affiliated to the regime are subject of talk all over Iran, the number of people resorting to selling their organs to make ends meet in Iran under the mullahs’ regime is escalating significantly. While selling blood, kidneys and livers is now common in Iran, currently this market is witnessing a growing trend of human eyes being placed for sale, reports indicate. Deprived people that literally cannot make ends meet for themselves or their family due to extreme poverty and unemployment have no other choice but to sell their organs at risk to their health. “Seventy percent of all kidney transplants in Iran were from living individuals, whereas in other countries across the globe this rate is only 15%,” admitted Mohammad Reza Ganji, head of the Iranian regime’s nephrology Association.“New market for buying and selling eyeballs”, “Kidneys for sale with discount”, “Kidneys for sale, AB+, 18 year old”, “Liver for sale, O-, 23 year old”, and “bone marrow for sale, B-, 54 year old” are just some of the writings advertising organ sales on the Internet and on walls in cities across Iran.
The mullahs’ regime does not impose restrictions on living individuals selling their organs and has in fact made this a tool for embezzling the deprived people of Iran. A large number of websites and blogs launched for this very cause are actually encouraging this viciousness and evil trade.
These developments are taking place as mullahs are allocating billions of dollars of the Iranian people’s wealth for the export of terrorism and fundamentalism and warmongering across the region, especially in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen to maintain this repulsive regime in power in any way possible.

Former Iranian Regime's MP Acknowledges Country's Deadly Recession
NCRI Iran News/February 28/17/ Commenting on why 38 years after the revolution there’s still poverty and prostitution, former Iranian regime’s MP Alireza Zakani said in a conference held at the Rajayee Teacher Training University “there is a deadly recession in the country. Our economic problem is the issue of unemployment. Unfortunately some (regime’s officials) are not willing to work, and they don’t believe they should look for solutions within the country, either”, according to state-run ‘Javan Online’ news agency February 26. “20 billion dollars of smuggled goods come into the country each year. With each one billion dollars, nearly one hundred thousand jobs are gone, meaning that if there’s a will to fight smuggling, one to two million jobs could be created in the country. Smuggling is not carried out by back-packs and small boats, but it is done through the country’s official entry points”, said Zakani. On the issue of nuclear deal, Zakani said “some promises were made in the deal. It was supposed to remove the shadow of war, but it did not. Also sanctions were supposed to be lifted, but it didn’t happen, either. It’s been said recently that instead of keeping 300 kg of enriched uranium, only 100 kg is remaining in the country.”
Pointing to the regime’s poor budgeting system, saying “I was in the Parliament for 12 years. All the budgeting process was done by one person. Our budgeting system is a black box.”It is noteworthy that Iran regime’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) is heavily involved in all abovementioned elements in Iran’s economy, the Guards have gradually built up a gigantic business empire in various sectors of the Iranian economy, and from humble beginnings in the construction trade, they now dominate several lucrative industries. Through a myriad of holding companies, front companies and so-called “charitable foundations”, the IRGC run their huge business domain. Having used these organizations to work around international sanctions imposed on the country, through its refusal to allow International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections of its nuclear facilities, the Guards have become very adept in the workings of the black economy, using its control of customs and excise and the docks, to set up a substantial smuggling network. Such is the scope of the Guards enterprises, they have also ventured into the lucrative oil and gas sectors, moved into the production of consumer goods, car manufacturing, the import-export industry, telecommunications, and black market smuggling. Just like the American Mafia, the Guards have built up varied routes to smuggle goods, and are said to be in control of a string of jetties on the southern Iranian island of Qeshm, situated in the strategic Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Gulf Coast.
The Guards also have the use of terminals at Iranian airports, to enable members of their vast workforce to fly their illicit goods in and out of the country unchecked, and whichever route they use, they are guaranteed to avoid having to pay any form of export or import duties.
Operating what has become a powerful criminal empire, the Guards have long been involved in the black market, and by shipping in and out of the country various illegal goods, which includes vast caches of weapons, they have built up a highly lucrative business. The Guards also have a large stake in the illegal drugs industry, using the vast drugs network setup by Hezbollah, which enables the IRGC Qods Force to deal with various major players throughout the world. When you consider that sales of illegal drugs in Iran is around $3 billion per year, with the Qods Force said to be taking a sizeable cut, through the running of many of the routes in and out of the country, as well as having contacts with drug smuggling gangs in Afghanistan, and also South America through Hezbollah, their wealth is vast through this alone. So it isn’t surprising that the US Department of the Treasury had placed Qods Force Commander Gholamreza Baghbani on the US sanctions list, accusing him of being a narcotics kingpin. Over the years, various ex-members of the IRGC, who now live in exile, have made highly credible claims, on how the corps they had served in for many years, had been dealing in vast amounts of illegal drugs, and that the global network it was running, was bringing in billions of dollars, which would then be used to pay for terrorist activities carried out by the Qods Force across the globe.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published On March 01.17
Bishop Angaelos: Christians In Egypt Told To 'Leave Or Die', 40 Killed In 3 Months, Prays For ISIS
Joseph Hartropp/Christian Today/February 28/17
As Coptic Christians continue to flee for their lives from the threat of ISIS in Egypt, the head of the Coptic Church in the UK has called out the 'horrific attacks' that have claimed 40 Christians in the last three months. His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom today released a statement addressing the ongoing crisis. He said: 'In the past three months alone forty Coptic Christians have been murdered in targeted attacks in Egypt. From the terrorist bombing on St Peter's Coptic Church in Cairo that claimed the lives of twenty nine mainly women and children, to the murders of individuals across the country since, the one common denominator is that these innocent children, women and men have had their lives brutally and tragically ended for no other reason except that they are Christians.
'Incitement by terrorist groups that calls for the killing of Christians in Egypt has spiralled over the past weeks to the extent that lists of churches and individuals have now been released as desirable targets.'Attacks have escalated in recent weeks following the release of an ISIS video which incited fellow jihadists to target the 'infidel' Christian community. Hundreds have now fled from El-Arish in Sinai, Northern Egypt, and as His Grace told Christian Today yesterday, specific lists of Christian targets have been circulated among militants. 'These horrific attacks have gone largely unnoticed by the international community, but Copts continue to suffer tragic violations daily. The attacks against them are anti-Christian and religiously-motivated, demonstrated in many cases by the circulation of flyers within villages urging Christians to 'leave or die'.
'Similar events have tragically occurred far too often over the past years, and there is unfortunately little deterrent to prevent them from reoccurring.'
Angaelos added: 'In our fast moving world that is filled with so much news of tragedy, war and death, it is all too easy for atrocities to become 'incidents', and for individuals suffering them to become mere statistics, very quickly pushed aside by the next item of news. 'In the eyes of the perpetrators they are a viable target, and in the eyes of the world they become a regrettable phenomenon; yet what is actually left behind is traumatised individuals, families and communities that have lost loved ones, living the reality of themselves being targeted.' The bishop highlighted the resilience of the community that has remained steadfast, and forgiving to its persecutors, despite constant opposition. He said: 'After the destruction of over 100 places of Christian ministry and worship in August of 2013, the bombing of various churches across the country in the last decade, and the targeted killing of clergy, families, women and children, purely for their Faith, the community and individuals within it remain non-violent and resilient.'Coptic Christians represent about 10 per cent of Egypt's majority Muslim population. Angaelos added that Christians have not been the only target, noting that 'scores of Egyptian civilians, soldiers and police officers have lost their lives as a result of this wave of terrorist activity'.The prelate concluded: 'we pray for those who perpetrate these crimes, that they once again become conscious of the true value of every life that appears to be dispensable in their eyes'.

What to Remember in Fighting Radical Islam
Saied Shoaaib/Gatestone Institute/February 28/17
In every Muslim-majority country, especially in the Middle East, the Islamic terrorist genie came out from under the ashes, built the Islamic state and threatened the West -- both with terrorist operations and from inside, in a more surreptitious, seemingly peaceful manner, as the Muslim Brotherhood does.
It is important to understand that Islam is a religion that includes, in its structure, political power that governs and controls and spreads the force of arms.
US President Donald J. Trump has succeeded in naming a jihadi problem, political Islam, but it is hard to single out defective products from the factory without closing the factory -- if one does not want them to appear again.
This does not mean that what Trump intends to do is not important; on the contrary, we need him after most Western politicians faced Islamic terrorism awkwardly, if they faced it at all. Sometimes they even cooperated with these terrorist organizations, invited their members to the White House; to Iftar dinners during Ramadan, and hugging what they falsely call "moderate Islam" -- especially the Muslim Brotherhood, the incubator that most terrorist organizations come out of -- instead of the true "moderate Muslims" who have been struggling to be heard above the crush of "influence," infiltration and petro-dollars.
We can say that so far "Trumps's recipe" for facing radical Islam had been tried before and failed. Dictatorships and military regimes in the Middle East, such as the presidents of Egypt Nasser, Sadat and Mubarak, and now el-Sisi, faced political and radical Islam. Russia did, and Saddam did in Iraq, Gaddafi in Libya, Bourguiba in Tunisia and others.
Perhaps the saddest failure is the Turkish model. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk built a dictatorship-state on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire. He decisively confronted all forms of political Islam, and destroyed the military wing of the army that dreamed of restoring that Empire. Atatürk founded a dictatorship guarded by the army's broad powers, but within a constitutional and legal framework, to deter Islamists who might want to change his modernist structure. It was also meant to stop any move to Islamic rule that might want to change the relatively open and pro-Western ideas of the Kemalist Republic.
Atatürk dominated the religious institutions, and made them work for him; they gave him a legitimate Islamic platform. He wanted Islamic culture to prevail, but under his control.
Unfortunately, this model also failed. Turkey's current president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, prosecuted the leaders of the army with trumped-up testimony; lowered the retirement age of the judiciary to force them out; fired educators, jailed journalists is building his Islamic state step by step.
Many Western politicians have cooperated with Islamists and Islamist organizations. (Image source: RT video screenshot)
In every Muslim-majority country, especially in the Middle East, the Islamic terrorist genie came out from under the ashes, built an Islamic state and threatened the West -- both with terrorist operations and from inside, in a more surreptitious, seemingly peaceful manner, as the Muslim Brotherhood does.
Most of those who fought Islamic terrorism focused their efforts on the hunt for dangerous products from the factory of Islamic ideology, such as Anwar al-Awlaki or Osama bin Laden. This is important, but no one tried to shut down and destroy the factory itself.
Perhaps we remember that the West, in the fight against the ideology of communism, used weapons only rarely. The major part of the fight was against the ideology itself: encouraging and supporting its opponents, and disseminating ideas to counter those the Communists were exporting. There was a focus on the disadvantages of Communist ideology, such as oppression, tyranny and human rights violations. And suddenly the world woke up one day to find the Soviet Empire collapsed from inside.
We need from the West a positive energy to rebuild the civilization after the destructive energy that hollowed it out. And we need to dismantle the prevailing Islamic ideology that produces terrorism.
It is important to understand that Islam is a religion that includes, in its structure, political power that governs and controls and spreads the force of arms. First the Islamic prophet Muhammad published his call peacefully for nearly 13 years in Mecca, when the Quran verses called for tolerance, freedom of belief and other human values. But then Muhammad and some of his companions moved to the city of al-Madina and turned religion into a political authority aiming to expand and defend itself. It entered into a political and military struggle against its opponents within al-Madina and outside, especially with his tribe of Quraish.
At that time, Muhammad established what we might call political Islam. It was based on a new call: that Islam was no longer interested in the relationship between the individual and his God, as well as a good relationship with those around him, whether they agreed with his religious faith or not.
He turned the religion into a ruling political organization, undertaking to control -- religiously, politically, socially and economically -- Muslims and others. It builds on the culture of the tribe, spreads the force of arms and increases its numbers and the territories governed by them.
It became the religion of loyalty -- meaning loyalty to the governor and vice-versa.
This structure continued after the death of Muhammad. Many ruled out of Quraish, the most prominent Turks, Al-Othmanin and the Ottoman Empire that expanded through force of arms to Persia; swept away the Christian Byzantine Empire; conquered by force North Africa, the Middle East, Greece, Spain and Eastern Europe
During this long history was established the Islamic culture that now prevails among the millions of Muslims in all corners of the world. It was founded on the sacred religious texts: the verses of the Quran and hadiths (the Prophet's biography). Add to this a religious jurisprudence established during this imperial tide that swept the world. All of this, ordinary Muslims imprison inside them, unhappy. Some of them become potential soldiers for terrorist organizations and all varieties of political Islam.
This culture, prevalent in the West, is backed by money from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, especially Qatar, and often backed by money from the West itself -- along with many politicians, often opportunistic.
What is the solution? From within. Islamic political power controls the Islamic world, whether military or in an everyday dictatorial form.
Religious reform in Islam did not find support, as it did in the West. What does Trump need to do? There needs to be a stop to any form of cooperation with the varieties of political Islam and certainly the terrorist organizations.
Add to that: Dismantle the ideology that produces Islamic terrorism by supporting the disintegration of the ideology of terrorism through Islamic jurisprudence, Islamic schools, mosques, books, radio stations and television stations. Dry up the external financing and private Saudi and Gulf Islamic institutions in the West. And thus give to the Muslims what is normal in the West. We need to promote other Islamic religious choices, completely out of the ideology of the Islamic terrorist prison, and to encourage being part of the building and development of human civilization rather than the cause of its destruction.
**Saied Shoaaib is a Muslim scholar based in Canada. He can be reached at:
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Europe: Laughing at the Messenger
Douglas Murray/Gatestone Institute/February 28/17
Once again, an American has pointed to a failing in European society, and instead of focusing on the problem identified or even admitting that there is a problem, the European response has been to point at the American and blame him for creating the problem he has in fact merely identified.
We are being given an accurate representation of a serious problem.
If the response to every problem is denial, and the response to anyone pointing to the problem is opprobrium, legal threats or hilarity, it suggests that Europe is not going to make the softer-landing it could yet give itself in addressing these issues.
It might make us feel better, but every time we attack or laugh at the messenger, rather than addressing the message, we ensure that our own future will be less funny.
How can one excavate the minds of so many European officials and the extraordinary mental gymnastics of denial to which they have become prone?
One of the finest demonstrations of this trend occurred in January 2015, after France was assailed by Islamist gunmen in the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and then in a Jewish supermarket. In the days after those attacks, Fox News in the U.S. ran an interview with a guest who said that Paris, and France, as a whole, had "no-go zones" where the authorities -- including emergency services -- did not dare to go. In the wake of these comments, the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, chose to make a stand. She announced that she was suing Fox News because the "honour of Paris" was at stake.
It appeared that Mayor Hidalgo was rightly concerned about the image of her city around the world, presumably worrying in particular about the potential effects on tourism.
Of course, Mayor Hidalgo's priorities were all wrong. The reason Paris's public relations suffered a dent was not because of what a pundit said on Fox News one evening, but because of the mass murder of journalists and Jews on the streets of the "City of Light." Any potential tourist would be much more concerned about getting caught up in a terrorist firefight than a war of words. Mayor Hidalgo's manoeuvre, however, turned out not to be a rarity, but a symptom of a wider problem.
Consider the almost precise replay of that 2015 episode after U.S. President Donald Trump referred in a speech to "what's happening last night in Sweden." Much of the press immediately seized the opportunity to claim that Trump had asserted that a terrorist attack had occurred the night before in Sweden. This allowed them to laugh at the alleged ignorance of the president and the alleged concoction of what has become known as "fake news." Except that it swiftly became obvious to anyone who cared that what the president was referring to -- a documentary film about the situation in Sweden that had aired the night before on Fox News -- showed the extent of the lawlessness in parts of Sweden. While every authority in Sweden was laughing at Donald Trump, a day after his comments. residents of Rinkeby, a suburb of Stockholm, obligingly had a car-burning riot and attacked police.
The troubles that Sweden has gone through in recent years, since mass migration began in earnest, are hard indeed to ignore. These troubles include the setting up of what the American scholar of Islam, Daniel Pipes, most accurately referred to as "semi-autonomous sectors." Although non-Muslims can enter, the areas are different from the rest of the country. These are areas where, for instance, police, fire and ambulance services refuse to enter because they and other authority figures representing the state frequently come under attack. The filmmaker, Ami Horowitz, experienced the downside of some of these areas. On a recent visit to Sweden he was attacked for taking a film crew into a suburb of Stockholm when some of the locals objected. We are being given an accurate representation of a serious problem.
Car-burnings and riots do break out in Sweden today with considerable regularity, and sexual assaults have sky-rocketed in the country (although these figures are the subject of heated debate over whether they represent a rise in incidents or a rise in reporting). Either way, rapes carried out by immigrants remain a real and underreported issue. The authorities – including the Swedish media – have refused to run stories about these unpleasant facts.
In Sweden, more than in perhaps any other European country, the media is homogenous in its support for the left-wing status quo in the country, and this includes a support for the views of recent governments on immigration policy. Anything which could give ammunition to critics of that policy is -- as in Germany -- deliberately underreported or actively covered over by the majority of the media.
The response to Trump's comments unfortunately demonstrated this yet further. The desire to pretend that the president had specifically claimed that there had been a terrorist attack the night before was one trick. Another was to simply mock and belittle him and his claims. Former Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt took to Twitter to say, "Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking?" The European press gleefully took up tweets by members of the Swedish public who responded to Trump's claims by sending photos of people putting IKEA furniture together. A joke which would have been funnier had a failed asylum seeker from Eritrea not stabbed and killed a mother and son in an IKEA store in Västerås in 2015. Elsewhere, the present Swedish foreign minister, Margot Wallström, in her familiar preaching tones announced that diplomacy and democracy "require us to respect science, facts and the media."
In response to US President Donald Trump's recent reference to "what's happening" in Sweden, Swedish Twitter users mocked him by posting photos of people putting IKEA furniture together. The joke would have been funnier had a failed asylum seeker from Eritrea not murdered Carola Herlin (left) and her son in an IKEA store in Västerås, Sweden, in August 2015.
So, once again an American has pointed to a failing in European society, and instead of focusing on the problem or even admitting that there is a problem, the European response has been to point at the American and blame him for creating the problem he has in fact merely identified. Such behaviour is a psychological affliction before it is a political one. It must stand somewhere along the continuum of the famed stages of grief. But it bodes exceptionally poorly for Europe's future. If the response to every problem is denial, and the response to anyone pointing to the problem is opprobrium, legal threats or hilarity, it suggests that Europe is not going to make the softer-landing it could yet give itself in addressing these issues. It might make us feel better, but every time we attack or laugh at the messenger, rather than addressing the message, we ensure that our own future will be less funny.
*Douglas Murray, British author, commentator and public affairs analyst, is based in London, England.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Time to Put an End to Montenegro's Bid to Join NATO
Grégoire Canlorbe/Gatestone Institute/February 28/17
According to a 2016 investigation by Balkan journalists Marko Vesovic, Vladimir Otasevic and Hasan Haydar Diyab, the Montenegrin government is indirectly involved in the funding of Islamic terrorism.
Charges were dropped due to former PM and President Milo Đukanović's diplomatic immunity, but not before he admitted his involvement in the criminal enterprise. In other words, while Đukanović was signing the accession protocol with NATO, boatloads of illegal cigarettes from Montenegro were apparently making their way into ISIS-controlled areas.
For all his talk of rethinking America's foreign commitments, it appears that President Donald Trump has also made the decision to endorse Montenegro's membership bid.
While Đukanović stepped down in October in favor of Duško Marković, a former intelligence chief and a close ally, he is widely believed to be the power behind the throne and to be planning a comeback in the 2018 presidential elections.
Between its apparent links to the funding Islamic terrorism, its flawed democracy, and its still-insufficiently developed army, Montenegro is not yet a reliable partner for the West.
Does a country involved in financing Islamic terrorism deserve to be invited to join the world's biggest military alliance, and receive all the perks that come with it? Many may argue this is the case with the small Balkan state of Montenegro, whose NATO membership will soon be taken up for consideration by the U.S. Senate.
According to a 2016 investigation by Balkan journalists Marko Vesovic, Vladimir Otasevic and Hasan Haydar Diyab, the Montenegrin government is indirectly involved in the funding of Islamic terrorism. More precisely, between 2013 and 2015, 3.5 million kilograms of cigarettes were illegally delivered from the Montenegrin port of Bar to Libyan areas under the control of terrorists close to al-Qaeda and ISIS. And such a movement of cargo would not have been possible, they claim, without the explicit endorsement of high-ranking Montenegrin officials. According to Vesovic, in an interview with Sputnik News, the former Montenegrin prime minister and president Milo Đukanović, who kept himself in power for the past quarter of a century (until 2016), would be himself a case in point.[1]
As revealed by Italian prosecutors in 2001, it seems that Đukanović was involved in the smuggling of cigarettes around the Adriatic by Italian crime syndicates in the 1990s. Charges were dropped due to Đukanović's diplomatic immunity, but not before he admitted his involvement in the criminal enterprise. According to Vesovic:
"The same Montenegrin elite is (now) involved in a very complex system of organized crime, based on the smuggling of cigarettes to North Africa. In the 1990s they were smuggled to Italy.... Now, as we see, they found a new market."
In other words, while Đukanović was busy signing the accession protocol with NATO in May 2016, boatloads of illegal cigarettes from Montenegro were apparently making their way into ISIS-controlled areas. Shortly thereafter, Đukanović was greeted by then US President Barack Obama in New York and praised for his country's progress. For all his talk of rethinking America's foreign commitments, it appears that President Donald Trump has also made the decision to endorse Montenegro's membership bid, according to the Wall Street Journal.
While then Prime Minister Milo Đukanović of Montenegro (sitting behind the table, at right) was busy signing the accession protocol with NATO in Brussels on May 19, 2016, boatloads of illegal cigarettes from Montenegro were apparently making their way into ISIS-controlled areas. (Image source: U.S. State Department)
As noted by political commentator Guy Millière, Trump is the first American President explicitly to designate militant Islam as a main enemy. He has constantly repeated his determination to eviscerate ISIS and to break with the complacency of his predecessor on this issue. In this regard, it seems that Montenegro's admission to NATO would be problematic.
Moreover, many Montenegrins have not forgiven the Western military alliance for some of its actions during the Kosovo War, including the 1999 bombing campaign that targeted Serbia and Montenegro. That memory explains why an opinion poll conducted in December 2016 found that only 39.5% of Montenegrins were in favor of NATO membership while 39.7% opposed it, with the remaining 20% undecided. Other opinion polls have produced similar results. Đukanović and his party might be prepared to drag Montenegrins kicking and screaming into NATO, but how committed an ally can it be?
Meanwhile, an argument has been invoked among officials from NATO and Montenegro to justify its admission: the geopolitical interests of the United States and a set of shared core values: the Western ones of "democracy, individual liberty, and the rule of law," to quote Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael R. Carpenter.
The geopolitical argument is implicitly premised on the so-called "Brzezinski Doctrine." Brzezinski himself, however, pointed out in 2016 that the strategy of dividing Eurasia at any cost failed, in that it did precious little to strip Russia of its influence while at the same time only heightening bilateral tensions.
Another problem is that the Montenegro's rule of law seems to leave much to be desired. According to Freedom House's 2016 survey, Amnesty International reports from 2015/16, or the 2015 edition of the Annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices of the State Department, Montenegro can be described as an autocracy, stifling freedom of the press and freedom of expression, and with deep connections to organized crime. The October 2016 parliamentary elections were controversial, and the process was perceived as deeply flawed: messaging apps were blocked, mobile phone services broke down, and multiple instances of ballot-stuffing and physical abuse were reported.
Allegations by Đukanović that there was a supposed coup attempt against him were rejected by the opposition, who suspected the supposed attempted coup was actually a "false-flag" operation used by Đukanović to discredit his political rivals in the past. While Đukanović stepped down in October in favor of Duško Marković, a former intelligence chief and a close ally, he is widely believed to be the power behind the throne and to be planning a comeback in the 2018 presidential elections.
Taken together, these factors seem to leave the case for Montenegro joining NATO considerably thorny. As Doug Bandow, former special assistant to Ronald Reagan, summed it up: "Whatever Podgorica's virtues, reflecting the best of the West is not one."
Between its apparent links to the funding Islamic terrorism, its flawed democracy, and its still-insufficiently developed army, Montenegro is not yet a reliable partner for the West.
*Grégoire Canlorbe, a journalist, currently lives in Paris.
[1] Sputnik News has an obvious pro-Putin bias, but here, it is referenced ONLY to quote the journalist, and it's the quote and the investigation that are relevant.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

تصاعد حملات استهداف واعدامات الشباب في إيران
Rise in Executions and Crackdown Against Iran's Youth
NCRI/Tuesday, 28 February 2017
Executions and crackdown against Iran’s youth is increasingly on the rise. Many inmates in their 20’s and 30’s have been executed or killed during the past months, while hundreds have also been arrested or mistreated. Wrote Donya Jam in ‘News Blaze’ on February 26, 2017.
Dozens of prisoners have been hanged during the first two weeks of February, including a mass execution of 12 prisoners in Gohardasht Prison, west of Tehran, on Feb. 15. 13 inmates, including prisoners aged 29 and 30, were executed between Feb. 11-13 in the prisons of Qom, Zabol, Jiroft and Mashhad.
On Jan. 29, regime authorities publicly executed four prisoners in the cities of Bandar Abbas and Mashhad. These prisoners were all in their early to mid 20’s. Reports indicate 87 inmates were sent to the gallows in the month of January alone. Many of those executed never received due process and some were hanged while their cases were still open.
Hamid Ahmadi, a juvenile offender, has also been reported to be at imminent risk of hanging. The United Nations and prominent human rights organizations such as Amnesty International have been campaigning to halt his execution. 160 juveniles are on death row in Iran, according to the United Nations. The number, however, could be higher.
On Feb. 9 in Shadegan (Khuzestan Province in southwest Iran), state security forces shot and killed a young Iranian-Arab man named Hassan Ablu Ghabish.
Alongside hangings and killings, regime authorities are also continuously arresting and attacking youths for absurd reasons.
In Shiraz, a teenage girl celebrating her birthday along with friends was brutally beaten and arrested for wearing ripped jeans. Two young women were arrested in Dezful for riding a motorcycle. And hundreds have been arrested between 2016 and January 2017 for attending mixed-gender parties. In some instances, the regime has also brutally punished the arrestees.
Back in May 2016, Iranian authorities arrested and flogged 30 students for attending a mixed-gender graduation party. Their flogging sentence was implemented within 24 hours of their arrest. Each student received 99 lashes.
Imprisonment for attending mixed-gender parties continues. It was reported on Jan. 28 that another 13 boys and girls were arrested in Gilan Province, northern Iran.
One may ask why is the regime increasingly targeting youths? If we recall the 2009 nationwide anti-government uprising in Iran, the youth took the forefront of the demonstrations. They played one of the most significant roles throughout the protests. Therefore, the regime is using suppression as a method to spread fear in society in order to prevent the youths from uprising.
And part of the reason why the regime is heavily cracking down on parties and get-togethers is because they fear people’s gatherings could turn into anti-government uprisings. The regime is doing everything in its power to prevent a reoccurrence of the 2009 demonstrations.
Now that reform in Iran has been proven to be nothing but a myth, another question that may be asked is what is the true solution to bring an end to the suffering of Iran’s youth? This is where Iranian youth activists want their voices heard by the international community. They want to see an end to deals and negotiations with the regime, and instead yearn for the international community to recognize the Iranian people’s aspirations for freedom and democracy.
Sourosh Abouthalebi, an Iranian student in Belgium majoring in political science, expressed his deep concern about the executions. He called on the international community to end economic deals with Iran because the continuation of such agreements signals to the regime’s leaders to carry on with their human rights violations.
“Trading with this regime without raising any human rights concerns is perceived as a green light by this regime for even more executions,” he said.
Abouthalebi added that countries should instead support the Iranian people.
“Each country has a unique opportunity to place itself alongside the Iranian people. Iranians will never forget those that have stood up for the rights of the Iranian people during the darkest period of Iran’s history,” he concluded.
Afshin Motevalli, an Iranian student studying pedagogy at the University of Oslo said the international community should end relations with Iran.
“I ask the international community to stop the appeasement vis-a-vis the Iranian regime. The regime in Iran gives nothing back to its people nor the international community other than terrorism, suppression, executions, and destruction,” he said.
Motevalli also mentioned that the world community should support regime change in Iran by the people and their resistance movement, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).
“The international community should support the Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), as well as the millions of men and women in Iran longing for freedom and democracy,” Motevalli added.
“Regime change is the only method to end suppression, torture and executions, and regime change is the only path to democracy, equality, freedom and harmony,” he finalized.
Iran’s youth are oppressed. They yearn for freedom and justice. The only way to bring an end to the executions and suppression of youth is through democratic regime change. Therefore, the international community should end all deals with Iran and instead support the Iranian opposition PMOI/MEK and people in their plight to establish freedom. This is the only way to put an end to the injustice and the only way the youth of Iran can be guaranteed a brighter, safer and hopeful future.
*Ms. Donya Jam is an Iranian-American Christian and human rights activist. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Shenandoah University.

Iraq and Syria, post ISIS
Sawsan Al Shaer/Al Arabiya/February 28/17
With a new American administration in place an idea has begun to crystallize in the war against ISIS. This idea is not limited to deploying helicopters and artillery in Raqqa and Mosul and empowering the presence of special forces but also includes forming a US-Gulf front that contributes to fighting ISIS on condition that the areas liberated from ISIS are not occupied by Iran or militias affiliated with it. This is the major point concluded by the Moscow document and the US Secretary of Defense James Mattis’ visit to the Gulf and Iraq. So there’s a US-Russian-Turkish-Gulf agreement to end the Iranian expansion in Arab capitals. We must be clear regarding this point if the world wants our cooperation to eliminate ISIS. In exchange for any Gulf or Arab contribution in the war against ISIS, whether in Iraq or Syria, Iran must be outside these areas. This message must be clear to the Iraqi government. Mattis said that the US will continue to support Iraq even after it liberates it from ISIS. If we link this stance to Mattis’ stance on Iran, as a state that sponsors terrorism, we will realize we are before a united front that does not only insist on the exit of Iranian forces from Iraq and Syria but that also wants to end Iranian influence in them. This message is conveyed by both, Gulf countries and the US. Establishing a US-Gulf front is the headline of the next phase. It carries the slogan of the Arabism of the lands liberated from ISIS. It is soon that the world will clearly know who supports terrorism and helps ISIS stay and who really wants to get rid of it or use it an excuse to expand. If Iraq wants Gulf countries to support its security and stability by cooperating with the US, it must act to address the security chaos caused by Iranian militias on its land. The exit of foreign forces and militias supported by Iran from Syria and Iraq is a major helpful goal. The post-ISIS phase is being discussed even before eliminating the group. This is what Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir mentioned when he announced his country’s willingness to send troops to Syria to combat ISIS in cooperation with the US.
In an interview with the German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Jubeir said: “Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries announced they’re willing to participate with special troops alongside the US. Some countries from the Islamic Alliance to fight terrorism and extremism are also ready to send troops.” He added: “We will coordinate with the US to know what the plan is and what is necessary to execute it.”
ISIS-combat plan
It is worth noting that the US President Donald Trump ordered Mattis to draw up a plan within 30 days to combat ISIS. Jubeir also told the German daily that he expects these plans to be proposed soon, indirectly hinting that liberated zones in Syria may be handed over to the opposition.
“The major idea is to liberate areas from ISIS and to also guarantee that these areas do not fall in the hands of Hezbollah, Iran or the (Syrian) regime,” Jubeir added. On January 4, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that the Syrian regime must go back to the table of negotiations to hold direct negotiations with the opposition in order to achieve peaceful political transition in Syria. “We must send a strong message in which we demand that all foreign militias exit Syrian territories immediately,” he said. Turkish FM emphasized the importance of the withdrawal of all militias from Syria in the end of 2016 after what was known as the Russian-Iranian-Turkish document was announced. This document led to calling for the Astana conference in Kazakhstan. Therefore, Russia does not at all oppose Iran’s exit from Syria and Iraq as on the contrary this serves its interest if we take into consideration that Iran’s presence will keep the Syrian front ablaze even if the resistance is forced to give up its weapons.
The post-ISIS phase
Meanwhile in Iraq, talking about the post-ISIS phase has in fact begun. They also began to particularly address the Iranian situation, like the case is in Syria. This is why former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki rushed to visit Iran in the beginning of January as he felt the circumstances are accumulating against Iran. He rushed to meet with Ali Akbar Velayati, Khamenei’s international affairs advisor, to be reassured over his future. On January 4, reported that according to the Mehr news agency, Maliki said he went to Iran to meet with Khamenei to discuss what he called “possible threats post-ISIS.”
Al-Arabiya’s report added: “This is a new political term in international and regional politics especially that the war against ISIS has not ended yet in Iraq and Syria. The point of Maliki’s statements that he went to Iran to discuss possible threats post-ISIS with Iranian officials are unclear as the extremist organization is not present among the Iranians and ISIS does not have any announced military activity in Iran.”
**This article is also available in Arabic.

Concessions did not save Geneva
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/February 28/17
The American government has tried to solve Syria’s crisis by proposing negotiations in Geneva on three occasions. The negotiations were based on a balanced political proposal. But the Damascus regime-Iran-Russia axis ruined all three conferences. And now the Russians along with their allies have come up with two conferences, one in Astana and the other, which is currently being held in Geneva. The beginnings simply confirm how the conferences will end: repeated failure. Although almost everyone - including Turkey, Gulf countries and Donald Trump’s new administration - cooperated with the Russian project, this was not enough. In order to satisfy the Russians, and in cooperation with the UN, providing arms to the opposition was suspended. Moderate opposition factions were pressured to accept solutions that were less than their expectations and some of them were prevented from participating in the talks. Washington supported that and UN mediator Steffan De Mistura became a lawyer for the Russian stance. The Geneva 4 conference hasn’t ended yet but so far, it seems the final result will be failure. This situation first shows there’s no victor or one powerful party to impose on everyone through international support. Iran and Russia had tried to impose the crumbling Syrian regime before. Second of all, it exposes failure because the proposed solution does not meet the minimum expectations of millions of displaced and fearful Syrians. The project’s pillar is to keep the regime in governance. This means imposing the regime’s policies, which range from displacement to cancelling the remaining majority of residents in Syria.
The practical solution
The idea itself cannot stand even if all factions agree to it. It’s a formula that enables the regime to govern most of Syria by force, like how the West Bank is under Israeli occupation except that Israel has a massive power and system that enabled it from maintaining this anomalous situation. Although the Russians tried to convince a number of opposition factions to join the regime and be rewarded with seats in the government in exchange, the entire situation, to them and to everyone else, seems like legislating rape. No one of any value will accept the solution. Although the Russians tried to convince a number of opposition factions to join the regime and be rewarded with seats in the government in exchange, the entire situation, to them and to everyone else, seems like legislating rape. No one of any value will accept the solution. The political solution which was previously proposed and rejected by both, the Syrian regime and the opposition, is still the practical solution and the reasonable alternative. The solution stipulates a joint regime and not dependence on it. It can now be developed by keeping the president but giving the security and finance authorities to the opposition or by having the president depart and keeping sovereign posts in the regime’s hands but within a framework of cooperation that’s protected by regional and international powers. Sharing can be based on a reasonable balance formula that both parties have an interest in maintaining: either the presidency or the presidency’s jurisdictions but not both. We have a standing model which is the Taif Agreement which ended the Lebanese dispute and which is more complicated than the Syrian solution. It’s based on creating a solution in which all parties made concessions. There were calls to cancel the Christians’ right to presidency and the presidency’s jurisdictions and demands to equally distribute them. They ended redistributing jurisdictions, and the president thus stayed and a part of his jurisdictions went to other parties. Without the Taif Agreement, the war may have resumed and the Christians would have lost their shares. If the Sunnis and Shiites had refused to make concessions, the war would have resulted in more foreign interventions that would prolong the war as the Lebanese arena had begun to witness more divisions within sects.
The Lebanese approach
The current political situation in Lebanon is not perfect or complete, but at least the country is stable. Syria’s dispute is more complicated, the civil opposition accepts to share power and accepts a constitution that protects all minorities. Its system includes a good experience as it allowed the participation of Syrians regardless of their religious and ethnic differences. But there is one exception - most of the armed Islamic opposition is rejected by everyone because it has a religious and internationalist project that is not relevant to the core of the Syrian people’s demands. The failure of the Astana and Geneva conferences will result in fighting again, even though the moderate opposition has been deprived of weapons. Some of the opposition groups had to ally with some terrorist groups to protect themselves after they ran out of ammunition. The repeated failure may lead intransigent parties to reasonably and rationally think. Iran must realize that it will not be allowed to take over Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Iran achieved its incursion by benefiting from the weakness of the former American administration. Its dominance over this major crescent threatens the rest of the region’s countries and the world, either because it uses its agents as a weapon against its rivals, including the Americans and Europeans, everywhere or because unrest will continue and attract extremists thus threatening everyone.
**This article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat on February 28 2017.

Saudi Arabia and Iraq, the spheres of Arabism
Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/February 28/17
In the western side of Mosul where battles have intensified and war raged, Kurdish journalist Shifa Gardi and her colleague Younes Mustafa, a photographer, travelled to cover the news. She went to western Mosul, her face expressing grief and her passion prompting to be in the field. Gardi responded to the call of duty. During the process of observing the battlefiel and documenting information and significant developments, she stepped on a landmine, which ISIS had planted. She lost her life and her spirit ascended into heaven. The scene makes it easier to comprehend the international desire to uproot terrorism. Saudi Arabia could not leave Iraq go through this unrest. On the day Gardi was killed – Saturday – Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir made a surprise visit to Baghdad. This was the first visit of its kind since 1990. The goal is clear and direct. There is a desire to bring Iraq to the Arab fold and to discuss coordination with the country to curb terrorism, especially considering the fact that the menace is expanding over vast areas of Iraq and Syria.
Policies devoid of wisdom
Iraq has suffered as a result of policies that lack wisdom. In September 1980, the then-President Saddam Hussein frankly told King Fahad that he intends to launch a war against Iran. When the king asked why launch the war and start it, Saddam said Iranian provocations were increasing. The king thus advised him not to start the war without a real justification. “I will invade Iran, drag Khomeini from his beard and get him out of Iran,” Saddam thus responded. The king then told Saddam: “You should not drag him from his beard and he should drag you from your tie! Act upon reason and logic.” Saddam did not listen to the king’s advice and launched a war that exhausted Iraq and other Gulf countries. The major challenge is Shiite radicalism, which is adopted in some policies and decision-making processes, particularly by those affiliated to the Ad-Dawa Party and those who genuinely support Iran and open their doors and borders for it. In 2003, there was Sheikh Zayed’s initiative, which Saddam refused. America beat the drums of war against Iraq. Saudi Arabia was one of the countries opposing the war the most because the latter meant handing Iraq completely to Iran. Iraq went through what Iraqi journalist and politician Hassan al-Alawi called Iraq’s three phases: the Baathist, the American and the Iranian era, which it is currently living through. This is why Jubeir’s visit is significant as it draws a map that makes it possible for Iraq to return to its Arab axis. This is of course not easy. The major challenge is in Shiite radicalism, which is adopted in some policies and decision-making processes, particularly by those affiliated to the Ad-Dawa Party and those who genuinely support Iran and open their doors and borders for it.Iran’s influence in Iraq. It is no secret that Nouri al-Maliki represents the pillar of Iran’s presence in Iraq, and he does not hide that. He once said that “the weapons which the Iraqis are fighting with are Iranian,” and he criticized America’s lack of support to him.
This reminds us of an important criticism made by “Nouri al-Maliki’s maker”, veteran journalist and politician Fouad Ajami who expressed his regret for recommending Maliki and believed he was a soldier of fortune who is destroying Iraq’s unity and committing pure sectarian acts without taking Iraq’s historic religious, ethnic and racial diversity into consideration. Saudi Arabia congratulated Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi for the success of security forces in their confrontation against armed groups. It decided to name a Saudi ambassador in Baghdad and it wants to employ its military and security wherewithal to serve Iraq’s stability and unity. Then there’s the important confirmation that Saudi Arabia stands at an equal distance from everyone. This is not fiction. If Saudi Arabia only wanted to support the Sunnis, it would have done so since 2003 when the arena was empty and before Iran and its wings infiltrated the scene.
However, Saudi Arabia has since day one decided to support Iraqi unity and powers of political moderation and carry out humanitarian work such as Saudi King Salman’s sponsorship of 1,000 Iraqi children who were displaced by the terrorist ISIS.
Iraq will remain Arab and one day it will return to its natural space, the reservoir of Arab and Islamic civilization.
*The article was first published in Al Sharq al-Awsat on February 28, 2016.

Punish those who falsely accuse others
Khaled Almaeena/Al Arabiya/February 28/17
A report in a local paper focused on the damages inflicted on people by false accusations made to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (Nazaha). Nazaha Chairman Khalid Al-Muhaisen highlighted some of the points and said that care will be taken to protect those against whom allegations have been made.
Personally, I am somewhat suspicious of people who in the “public interest” send letters, whether anonymous or signed, accusing others of wrongdoing. Before Nazaha was created, it was usual to have those who were accused locked up while investigations were being made. This method itself is very cruel. It’s unfortunate that in our society we have more than our fair share of evil people who thrive on the misery of others. However, my advice to the authorities is not to jump to conclusions. Every person is innocent until proven guilty. And this message is relevant to all levels of society because it will help safeguard the rights of innocent people.It is necessary to have a well-trained, professional, enlightened and modern judiciary that will be part of Saudi Vision 2030
No ‘wasta’
And it is not only Nazaha that these miscreants approach with their false claims. There are those who use their friendship or position to cause harm to others based on their personal interests, likes or dislikes. And if the victim has no “wasta” (loosely translated as “connections” or “influence”), it is a nightmare.
I know of two such cases that are truly heartbreaking and many more may exist. While we all agree that wrongdoers and those who pose a threat to our security should be dealt with, we cannot condone “collateral damage” in terms of reputation, hardship, jail or fines.It is, therefore, necessary to have a well-trained, professional, enlightened and modern judiciary that will be part of Saudi Vision 2030. We should not create a society of whistleblowers or minders who observe others and spy on them and try to damage them. The government must ensure that those who falsely accuse others for their own interests or revenge are duly punished. This will ensure justice for all.
**This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on February 26, 2016.