March 05/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
Sunday of the Man with Leprosy/If you choose, you can make me clean.’ ‘I do choose. Be made clean
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Mark 01/35-45/:"In the morning, while it was still very dark, Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, ‘Everyone is searching for you.’He answered, ‘Let us go on to the neighbouring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.’And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, ‘If you choose, you can make me clean.’Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’ But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter."

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey
Letter to the Romans 06/12-23/:"Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification. When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published english On March 04-05.17
Elias Bejjani/The Leper's Sold Faith Cured Him/March 05/17
Lebanon to get new military chief after 8 years/Joseph A. Kechichian/Gulf News/March 04/17
The Lebanese Army will fight alongside Hezbollah in a war with Israel'//Jerusalem Post/March 04/17
Lebanese president provokes outcry with Hezbollah comment/Haytham Mouzahem/Al-Monitor/March 03/17
Ya'alon announces intention to run for prime minister, form new party/Udi Shaham/Jerusalem Post/March 04/17
Trudeau rewards a terrorist with citizenship/Candice Malcolm/The Sun/March 04/17
The Objecting Enclaves in Saudi Arabia/Abdulrahman Al-RashedAsharq Al-Awsat/March 04/17
France's Fatal Attraction to Islam/Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/March 04/17
The Enlightenment Project/David Brooks/The New York Times/March/March 04/17
Mubarak’s innocence through the eyes of history/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/March 04/17
Why Trump’s Congress speech heralds his makeover/Trisha de Borchgrave/Al Arabiya/March 04/17
Entertainment is the army’s partner in this war/Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran/Al Arabiya/March 04/17
The Iraqi parliament does not deserve this/Adnan Hussein/Al Arabiya/March 04/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published On March 04-05.17
Elias Bejjani/The Leper's Sold Faith Cured Him
Cabinet approves budget items except for salary scale
Berri Urges Two-Thirds Cabinet Approval on Electoral Law
Public School Teachers Go on Strike as Cabinet Finalizes Budget Discussions
Gunmen Open Gunfire at Residence in Akkar
UNRWA Condemns Violation of Its Ain el-Hilweh Installations by Gunmen
Druze Leader Heir Will Run in Parliamentary Elections
Tallawy windsup her visit to Beirut
Rifi: We shall create a resounding surprise in the elections, we reject any coalition not in harmony with our constants
Bou Assi: We are on the verge of a new electoral law, tending towards adopting 'mixed law'
To disband Palestinian security joint force, to announce tomorrow about new force named 'joint force'
Machnouk after meeting Berri: His Excellency commits to law and constitutional deadlines, wants to agree on new electoral law
Kahwaji, British Armed Forces Commander in Chief meet in Yarzeh
Khoury launches 'Five Year plan of Cultural Development' in Lebanon
Ogassapian: Positive ambiance within Cabinet
Justice Minister bans Klink's music video
Abu Faour: Jumblatt's proposal helps exit electoral crisis
Lebanon to get new military chief after 8 years
Lebanon: FPM Turns Page on ‘Cold War’ with Amal Movement
The Lebanese Army will fight alongside Hezbollah in a war with Israel'
Lebanese president provokes outcry with Hezbollah comment/Haytham Mouzahem/Al-Monitor/March 03/17

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published On March 04-05.17
Iran announces successful missile test
Egypt Police Kill 4 Terrorists in Shootout
Thousands Flee Syria Army Advance in North
Dispute Plagues Egypt on Amending Al-Azhar Law
Iran’s Russian-made S-300 air defense system ‘operational’
Jordan hangs 15 death row prisoners, mostly terror convicts
Bahrain uncovers ‘terrorist cell’, captures 25 members
Yemen forces shoot down drone belonging to Houthi militias in east Sanaa
US launches 30 airstrikes in two days against al-Qaeda in Yemen
Trump alleges wire tapping by Obama during campaign
Twelve treated for chemical weapons agents in Mosul since March 1

Latest Lebanese Related News published On March 04-05.17
The Leper's Sold Faith Cured Him
Elias Bejjani
Christ, the Son of God, is always ready and willing to help the sinners who seek forgiveness and repentance. When we are remorseful and ask Him for exoneration, He never gives up on us no matter what we did or said. As a loving Father, He always comes to our rescue when we get ourselves into trouble. He grants us all kinds of graces to safeguard us from falling into the treacherous traps of Satan’s sinful temptations.
Jesus the only Son Of God willingly endured all kinds of humiliation, pain, torture and accepted death on the cross for our sake and salvation. Through His crucifixion He absolved us from the original sin that our first parents Adam and Eve committed. He showed us the righteous ways through which we can return with Him on the Day Of Judgment to His Father’s Heavenly kingdom.
Jesus made his call to the needy, persecuted, sick and sinners loud and clear: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) The outcast leper believed in Jesus’ call and came to Him asking for cleansing. Jesus took his hand, touched him with love, and responded to his request.
The leper knew deep in his heart that Jesus could cure him from his devastating and shameful leprosy if He is willing to do so. Against all odds he took the hard and right decision to seek out at once Jesus’ mercy.
With solid faith, courage and perseverance the leper approached Jesus and begging him, kneeling down to him, and says to him, “If you want to, you can make me clean.” When he had said this, immediately the leprosy departed from him and he was made clean. Jesus extended His hand and touched him with great passion and strictly warned him, “See you say nothing to anybody, but go show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing the things which Moses commanded, for a testimony to them.” But the leper went out, began to proclaim it much, and spread about the matter so that Jesus could no more openly enter into a city, but was outside in desert places: and they came to him from everywhere. (Mark 1/40-45)
We sinners, all of us, ought to learn from the leper’s great example of faith. Like him we need to endeavour for sincere repentance with heartfelt prayer, begging Almighty God for absolution from all our sins. Honest pursuit of salvation and repentance requires a great deal of humility, honesty, love, transparency and perseverance. Like the leper we must trust in God’s mercy and unwaveringly go after it.
The faithful leper sensed deep inside his conscience that Jesus could cleanse him, but was not sure if he is worth Jesus’ attention and mercy.
His faith and great trust in God made him break all the laws that prohibited a leper from getting close to or touching anybody. He tossed himself at Jesus’ feet scared and trembling. With great love, confidence, meekness and passion he spoke to Jesus saying “If you will, you can make me clean.” He did not mean if you are in a good mood at present. He meant, rather, if it is not out of line with the purpose of God, and if it is not violating some cosmic program God is working out then you can make me clean.
Lepers in the old days were outcasts forced to live in isolation far away from the public. They were not allowed to continue living in their own communities or families. They were looked upon as dead people and forbidden from even entering the synagogues to worship. They were harshly persecuted, deprived of all their basic rights and dealt with as sinners. But in God’s eyes these sick lepers were His children whom He dearly loves and cares for. “Blessed are you when people reproach you, persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you”. Matthew(5/11-12)
The leper trusted in God’s parenthood and did not have any doubts about Jesus’ divinity and power to cleanse and cure him. Without any hesitation, and with a pure heart, he put himself with full submission into Jesus’ hands and will knowing that God our Father cannot but have mercy on His children. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”. (Matthew5/8)
We need to take the leper as a role model in our lives. His strong and steadfast faith cured him and put him back into society. We are to know God can do whatever He wants and to trust Him. If He is willing, He will. We just have to trust in the goodness and mercy of God and keep on praying and asking, and He surely will respond in His own way even though many times our limited minds can not grasp His help.
Praying on regular basis as Jesus instructed us to is an extremely comforting ritual: “Therefore I tell you, all things whatever you pray and ask for, believe that you have received them, and you shall have them. Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father, who is in heaven, may also forgive you your transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your transgressions” (Mark 11/24-26)
The leper’s faith teaches us that God always listens and always responds to our requests when we approach Him with pure hearts, trust, confidence and humbleness. Almighty God is a loving father who loves us all , we His children and all what we have to do to get His attention is to make our requests through praying. “Ask, and it will be given you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives. He who seeks finds. To him who knocks it will be opened”. (Matthew 7/8 -9)

Cabinet approves budget items except for salary scale
Fri 03 Mar 2017/NNA - The Cabinet approved today all items related to the state budget, except those on the salary scale, which shall be discussed during the joint House committees' session on Monday, Minister of Information, Melhem Riachy, indicated on Friday. The Council of Ministers convened at the Grand Serail this afternoon, in a session devoted to discussing the 2017 state budget bill.Reading out the Cabinet decisions, Minister Riachy told reporters that discussions were positive, and that the budget would be soon finalized. Asked whether the Cabinet would convene on Wednesday, he said ministers had not been officially notified of it, adding that an agenda of items is being prepared for this session. In response to a question on whether the budget would be approved during a session chaired by the President of the Republic, Riachy said that discussions were taking place at the Grand Serail under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister, and that an ordinary session could be held at Baabda palace on Wednesday. Afterwards, Minister of Culture Ghattas Khoury revealed that his Ministry is holding a seminar at UNESCO palace tomorrow, to launch a national plan on the development on culture.

Berri Urges Two-Thirds Cabinet Approval on Electoral Law
Naharnet/March 04/17/As efforts stall to find a new law that will govern Lebanon's upcoming parliamentary elections, Speaker Nabih Berri said the cabinet could approve the draft electoral law with two-thirds majority to be referred and approved in the parliament, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Saturday.
An agreement on a new electoral law has not been reached as yet, as efforts and consultations between political parties continue the latest was a meeting Friday evening at the Grand Serail following a cabinet session. The daily said that Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Free Patriotic Movement leader Jebran Bassil and Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil held a meeting after the cabinet concluded a session dedicated to approving the country's 2017 budget. The three men's discussions, which lasted for more than two hours, focused on the controversial electoral law, said the daily.Meanwhile Berri has expressed a desire that the cabinet approves the electoral law draft with a two-thirds majority of votes to then be referred to parliament for discussion and approval, concluded the daily. Political parties are bickering over amending the current majoritarian 1960 election law which divides seats among the different religious sects.
While al-Mustaqbal Movement has rejected that the electoral law be fully based on proportional representation, arguing that Hizbullah's arms would prevent serious competition in the party's strongholds, Jumblat has totally rejected proportional representation, even within a hybrid law, warning that it would “marginalize” the minority Druze community. Hizbullah, Mustaqbal, the Free Patriotic Movement, AMAL Movement and the Lebanese Forces are meanwhile discussing several formats of a so-called hybrid electoral law that mixes proportional representation with the winner-takes-all system. The country has not organized parliamentary elections since 2009 and the legislature has instead twice extended its own mandate. The last polls were held under an amended version of the 1960 electoral law and the next vote is scheduled for May.

Public School Teachers Go on Strike as Cabinet Finalizes Budget Discussions
Naharnet/March 04/17/In light of reports that Lebanon's long-stalled 2017 budget plan will be approved next week in parallel with joint parliamentary committee meetings to discuss the thorny wage scale file, the Public Schools Teachers Association called for a general strike on Monday to press the government into approving the scale after more than six years of waiting. The Association will stage a sit-in Riad al-Solh area in Downtown Beirut at 10:30 am to press the government into approving the long-stalled scale. In February, the Syndicate Coordination Committee, a coalition of private and public school teachers and public sector employees held a sit-in as the cabinet convened to discuss whether or not the new wage scale will be added to the draft state budget. The SCC has been pushing for the approval of the new wage scale for several years now and has organized numerous street protests and strikes to this end. In a recent stance, the SCC has rejected the possible separation of the wage scale from the state budget, threatening to suspend the school year should the government return the wage scale to parliament. Education Minister Marwan Hamadeh had earlier met with Public Schools Teachers Association and expressed total support for their demands, as he vowed to defend their rights at the cabinet and parliament.

Gunmen Open Gunfire at Residence in Akkar
Naharnet/March 04/17/Unknown assailants opened gunfire at a residential house in the Akkar town of Bebnine without causing any casualties, the state-run National News Agency reported on Saturday. The gunmen opened fire at Abdul Karim al-Kassar's residence and managed to flee to an unknown destination, NNA added. Only material damages were reported, said NNA. Security forces arrived at the scene and investigations were opened into the incident. No further details were reported.

UNRWA Condemns Violation of Its Ain el-Hilweh Installations by Gunmen
Naharnet/March 04/17/A security mission from the U.N.'s Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) conducted a preliminary inspection on Friday to ascertain the extent of the damage to UNRWA’s installations in the Ain el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in south Lebanon, following several days of clashes in the camp. The inspection revealed that five UNRWA installations -- three schools, one Relief and Social Services Office and the Camp Services Office -- were entered and used by armed actors, contrary to the inviolability of United Nations premises, an UNRWA statement said. The agency’s Marj Ben Ammer school and one UNRWA Relief and Social Services Office have sustained “significant material damage,” the statement said. “The cost of the damage to UNRWA installations is yet to be finally determined. Once the situation permits, the Agency will conduct a full assessment of the damages and will consider seeking compensation from relevant actors, as appropriate,” it added. “UNRWA strongly condemns these violations of the inviolability and neutrality of United Nations installations,” the agency said. It said the human impact of the recent conflict in Ain el-Hilweh is also of “deep concern.” One person was killed and nine others were wounded in the latest round of violence that ended on Tuesday. UNRWA said it is also “disturbed” about the preliminary indications of the extent of the violence, including unexploded ordinance found next to the UNRWA Camp Services Office. “Private homes and vehicles have been burnt, particularly in the vicinity of the Agency’s Marj Ben Ammer School. UNRWA cannot currently confirm that armed factions are no longer present within Agency installations in Ain el-Hilweh. We have received reports that following the inspection of the UNRWA Relief and Social Services Office in the camp, armed actors may have re-entered and resumed their presence within the installation,” the agency added. As a result of the violence, all of UNRWA’s education, health and other services in the camp continue to be suspended, and will not reopen until relevant actors can give “guarantees of the safety and security of UNRWA staff and civilians, including children,” it said. “UNRWA again calls on all armed actors operating in the camp to maintain the cessation of recent hostilities and take all necessary measures to protect civilians, to respect the inviolability and neutrality of U.N. premises, and ensure safe access to schools, clinics and other vital services,” the statement added.

Druze Leader Heir Will Run in Parliamentary Elections

Naharnet/March 04/17/Taymour Jumblat, the son of influential Druze leader and Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat said he will run for Lebanon's upcoming parliamentary elections to prove “that the Druze community will stay and no electoral law is able to marginalize it,” the pan-Arab Asharq al-Awsat reported Saturday. Taymour said he will lead a list of political mavens and old friends of his father in addition to candidates new on the political arena, added the daily. “It is certain. I will run for the parliamentary polls. It's an important moment for me to prove myself. I will form a list that includes partisan comrades and former allies in addition to new faces known for their efficiency and well-representation ability,” said Taymour in an interview to the daily. Referring to a statement he made earlier challenging parties who allegedly plan to marginalize the Druze community through an electoral law format that allegedly diminishes their representation , he said: “Many are attacking us...I wanted to convey a simple message saying that with or without elections and whatever law format is adopted, whether a majoritarian, proportional or hybrid law, we will stay here and no one is able to marginalize us.”Political parties are bickering over amending the current majoritarian 1960 election law which divides seats among the different religious sects. While al-Mustaqbal Movement has rejected that the electoral law be fully based on proportional representation, arguing that Hizbullah's arms would prevent serious competition in the party's strongholds, Jumblat has totally rejected proportional representation, even within a hybrid law, warning that it would “marginalize” the minority Druze community. Hizbullah, Mustaqbal, the Free Patriotic Movement, AMAL Movement and the Lebanese Forces are meanwhile discussing several formats of a so-called hybrid electoral law that mixes proportional representation with the winner-takes-all system. The country has not organized parliamentary elections since 2009 and the legislature has instead twice extended its own mandate. The last polls were held under an amended version of the 1960 electoral law and the next vote is scheduled for May.

Tallawy windsup her visit to Beirut
Sat 04 Mar 2017/NNA - Airport - Arab Women Organization Director General, Mervat Tallawy, left Beirut this evening, heading back to the Egyptian capital, Cairo, after participating in the forum over "the empowerment of women in the banking and financial sector." The forum was held in Beirut at the invitation of the International Union of Arab Bankers, in cooperation with the Arab Women Organization affiliated to the Arab League and Lebanese civil society bodies.

Rifi: We shall create a resounding surprise in the elections, we reject any coalition not in harmony with our constants
Sat 04 Mar 2017/NNA - Former Justice Minister, Major General Ashraf Rifi, said on Saturday that "we shall create a resounding surprise in the elections," adding that "we refuse any coalition that is not in line with our stable constants."Speaking during his visit to "General Ashraf Rifi's Youth Sector" headquarters in al-Tal Locality in Tripoli, Rifi stressed on undertaking a "battle for change in this nation.""The struggle today is not of traditional parliamentary elections, but rather of forming, together, the nucleus for change towards a better and independent Arab Lebanon," Rifi underscored. "We shall undergo the parliamentary elections on basis of any adopted electoral law," Rifi went on, adding that "we support a law that unites the Lebanese, which must be based on two main aspects: the proper representation of citizens and unified standards."He concluded by asserting that "we have no objection to adopting a mixed or relativity law, provided that equal participation and unified standards are ensured."

Bou Assi: We are on the verge of a new electoral law, tending towards adopting 'mixed law'
Sat 04 Mar 2017/NNA - Social Affairs Minister Pierre Bou Assi asserted, on Saturday, that "we are on the verge of a new election law," pointing to the direction towards adopting a "mixed law."Speaking in an interview to "New TV" Channel Station, Bou Assi indicated that "the mixed law was proposed by the Lebanese Forces in their quest to combine political realism, which takes into account agreement between political parties, and proper representation of citizens and their right to express their opinions."Over the salary scale issue, Bou Assi reiterated that "the Lebanese Forces is supportive of the salaries and ranks series, being a rightful demand, while highlighting the need to find suitable funding for it." He referred herein to the bill proposed by MP George Adwan, noting that "it provides essential grounds for a solution, and discussions have progressed in this regards." Bou Assi recalled the strenuous circumstances that Lebanon has witnessed over the past years, which coupled with failing to approve the annual budget. He stressed that "the situation is complicated and requires difficult solutions," adding that "the solution starts with the Parliament Council."

To disband Palestinian security joint force, to announce tomorrow about new force named 'joint force'
Sat 04 Mar 2017/NNA - The national and Islamic Palestinian forces in Lebanon agreed on Saturday, to dissolve the "Joint Security Force" in Lebanon headed by Major General Mounir Maqdah, and to form a new force named the "Joint Force" only , i.e. without the word "security". The mission of this new force is to maintain security and stability in the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in Sidon, in the wake of the latest clashes, which took place in the said camp, claimed the life of one person and injured six others. The new Force would enjoy broad powers and would have the authority to intervene immediately when necessary, without having to return to the political references. The agreement to form this new "Joint Force" came during a meeting of the "unified political leadership" in Lebanon at the headquarters of Palestine's Embassy in Beirut in the presence of the Palestinian Ambassador to Lebanon Ashraf Dabour.

Machnouk after meeting Berri: His Excellency commits to law and constitutional deadlines, wants to agree on new electoral law
Sat 04 Mar 2017/NNA - Speaker of the Parliament Nabih Berri welcomed on Saturday noon in Ain El-Tineh Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk with discussions reportedly featuring high on the parliamentary elections deadline as well as the security situation in the country. Machnouk said after the meeting that Parliament Speaker Berri briefed him clearly and honestly on his commitment to the laws and deadlines; adding that Speaker Berri , at the same time, has revealed his desire to have a new electoral law on which all political parties would agree. Machnouk pointed out that they also discussed the security issue, adding that he assured His Excellency that the security situation is under control and the circulated concerns in media are just a result of well-known political rhetoric. Later, Berri welcomed at noon the new Yemeni ambassador to Lebanon Abdallah Abd El Karim Deis in a protocol visit. Then, the Speaker welcomed the new Japanese ambassador to Lebanon with talks reportedly featuring high on bilateral relations between the two countries.The Speaker also welcomed today afternoon the Banking Control Commission headed by the Commission's president Samir Hammoud.

Kahwaji, British Armed Forces Commander in Chief meet in Yarzeh
Sat 04 Mar 2017/NNA - Army Commander, General Jean Kahwaji, met on Saturday in Yarzeh with British Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief, Colonel Robert Pedre. Pedre was accompanied by British Ambassador to Lebanon Hugo Shorter and the embassy's military attaché, Chris Gunning.Discussions focused on ways to strengthen the capabilities of the Naval Forces and their mission in monitoring and controlling the Lebanese territorial waters.

Khoury launches 'Five Year plan of Cultural Development' in Lebanon
Sat 04 Mar 2017/NNA - Minister of Culture Ghattas Khoury opened on Saturday at UNESCO Palace the Consultation Conference to launch the "Five- Year Plan of Cultural Development in Lebanon" in which he called for a cultural vision that gives Lebanon back its distinguished position on the Arab and International map. Minister of Information Melhem Riachi, Minister of Administrative Development Inaya Ezzeddine, Minister of Tourism Avedis Kidanian and Representatives of the Ministers of Interior, Foreign Affairs, Education and Transportation and Public Works attended the Conference.
Khoury said that the target of the plan is to be a gate to cultural vision that allows Lebanon to resume its distinguished position on the International and Arab Cultural Map and regain its status as the Arab Library, pen and podium as well as the land of intellectual, artistic, scientific, musical and literary creativity of the Lebanese youth as well as anyone who requests cultural asylum in this country. "I hope to make this Consultation conference a podium for serious and productive discussions and exchanging ideas and suggestions as well as a place that reflects the various Lebanese cultural colors to reach practical recommendations that can be achieved," Khoury said, adding that the conference is the first step in a foundation cultural workshop which the ministry will announce soon from the Grand Serail to confirm the participation of all concerned official parties.
In turn, Administrative Development Minister Inaya Ezzeddine described culture as a reflection of the collective and individual methodology of thinking, concepts and behavior. Ezzeddine pointed out that they are working on projects to fight corruption, achieve E-government and strengthen human resources despite some difficulties due to some observed concepts. Minister of Information Melhem Riachi also made a speech in which he pointed to the significant "connection between media and culture as media is the publisher of cultures." Riachi stressed that culture needs media as much as media needs culture, underscoring the role of media in accompanying the culture Minister's plan. However; the minister sorrowfully pointed to the insignificant pieces of news which the media sometimes publish, saying that "some people use the media communication outlets to provoke hatred."The Minister hoped the Five-Year Plan would inoculate connection between culture and media and vice versa.

Ogassapian: Positive ambiance within Cabinet
Sat 04 Mar 2017/NNA - State Minister for Women's Affairs, Jean Ogassapian, told Future TV on Saturday that the atmosphere ruling over Cabinet sessions is a calm and positive one that is heading towards resolution to all pending files. The Minister revealed that the Cabinet planned to discuss the budget file during upcoming session on Monday. "Each ministry will have its own budget discussed separately," he explained. Shifting the focus to the much debated electoral law, Ogassapian declared in no uncertain terms that he would categorically reject any law that did not include a female quota, not only in candidacy but in legislative seats. "The ambiance is positive, since both House Speaker Berri and PM Hariri agreed to the quota principle," said Ogassapian, adding that the initial agreement was for thirty percent of seats to go to women. "It is necessary to pass through the quota phase, until citizens are accustomed to the presence of women in that the woman can have a say in legislative decisions."

Justice Minister bans Klink's music video
Sat 04 Mar 2017/NNA - The media office of the Justice Minister issued a statement on Saturday detailing that following communication between Information Minister, Melhem Riachy, and Justice Minister, Salim Jreissati, concerning the music video of Lebanese artist Myriam Klink, which features Jad Khalifa, it has been decided to withdraw said video from all types of media outlets, including social media and YouTube. The video which was recently released was described as indecent, and any sharing or airing of it was subject to a fine of fifty million Lebanese Liras.

Abu Faour: Jumblatt's proposal helps exit electoral crisis
Fri 03 Mar 2017/NNA - MP Wael Abu Faour indicated on Friday that Democratic Gathering chief, MP Walid Jumblatt, had proposed to House Speaker Nabih Berri a bill that would help exit the election law crisis. "We made a proposal to effectuate partial amendment of the 1960 law, and that is based upon the principles of national partnership and consensus, as well as on Taif Agreement and the correct representation of all the political and non-political components of this nation," Abu Faour told a cornerstone laying ceremony for a disabled and elderly home in Rashaya. The event was held under the patronage of Jumblatt, represented by Abu Faour, at Kamal Jumblatt Cultural and Social Center in Rashaya. "Unlike what others think, we are not against the new tenure. On the contrary, we seek to build a positive relation and we are ready to meet each positive step with two," he indicated. "Anyway, discussions over the election law are still underway," he added. "We are concerned with the election law and we do not fear it; we are also concerned with the related discussions and we do not fear them," he stressed. "Our law is a law of commitment and loyalty to Walid Jumblattt. A law of sacrifice for this conviction. Our law, voices, and souls are for the sake of Walid Jumblatt, and we do not need ballot boxes that test our choices," he concluded.

Lebanon to get new military chief after 8 years
Joseph A. Kechichian/Gulf News/March 04/17
Joseph Aoun is favoured to replace Qahwaji whose term was extended twice during Lebanon’s political vacuum
Beirut: Brigadier General Joseph Aoun is expected to be appointed as the new Commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF). He will succeed General Jean Qahwaji. General Qahwaji was appointed military chief under the presidency of Michel Sulaiman in 2008. Aoun (no relation to President Michel Aoun) was born in 1964 in Aychiye, East of Sidon, a predominantly Maronite Village in South Lebanon. He joined the military right out of college and reached his current rank after he assumed command of the 9th Brigade, which served in South Lebanon alongside United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil) with whose officers he is quite familiar with. Aoun has been slated to head the LAF since 2015, but Qahwaji’s term was extended twice. In addition to this critical new appointment, the Cabinet is apparently slated to designate Major General Emad Othman, who is currently serving as a director general of the Internal Security Forces (ISF), to become its Commander. He will be promoted to succeed Major General Ebrahim Basbous. Reliable sources told Al Jumhuriyyah that Major-General Khalil Yahiya, secretary-general of the Supreme Defence Council, will succeed Major-General Mohammad Khayr, and that Major-General Tony Saliba will replace Major General George Qara‘a as head of the State Security Service. Major-General Khalid Hammoud is slated to become head of the ISF’s Intelligence Branch and Major-General Samir Sinan as deputy to the State Security Service. Parallel to these appointments, Major General Abbas Ebrahim, the director general of public security will resign from the military, allowing him to stay in office until the retirement age for civilians, which is 64 years old. Both Qahwaji and Basbous are slated to assume diplomatic posts. Qahwaji is likely to be appointed as ambassador either to Washington, London or Paris, and Basbous in Riyadh or Cairo. It was unclear whether the Council of Ministers will make a change in the position of director general of the Lebanese Customs, currently occupied by Brigadier General Chafic Merhi, given various controversies associated with the post. The president and the prime minister were apparently anxious to make all of these appointments to avoid drawn out contentions among political forces, as most rejected term extensions for any military or security official. The sources did not give an exact date for the new appointments. What UAE residents will pay for petrol in March.

Lebanon: FPM Turns Page on ‘Cold War’ with Amal Movement
Paula Astih/Asharq Al-Awsat/March 04/17/Beirut- The head of the Free Patriotic Movement, Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, and Speaker Nabih Berri’s political advisor Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil have been exerting strong efforts for the past months to make a rapprochement between the two parties. Bassil and Khalil have been drafting an “understanding document” to end the “cold war” between the FPM and Amal that has been raging for many years. Among the most powerful signs of differences between the two sides was the rejection of Berri to vote for FPM founder Michel Aoun as president in October last year. Berri, who had backed Marada Movement chief MP Suleiman Franjieh for the country’s top post, submitted a blank ballot during the elections. Tense relations between the FPM and Amal had been a source of concern for their common ally “Hezbollah,” which had been working as a “mediator” to soothe tension. Bassil and Khalil began holding meetings before the presidential elections. But informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that their talks have culminated with an initial agreement on how to manage the country’s affairs and exercise power. The understanding document, which is expected to be announced soon, looks almost similar to the “declaration of intent” made by the FPM and the Lebanese Forces before the presidential elections last year. FPM official and former Minister Mario Aoun told Asharq Al-Awsat that the rapprochement between the two movements is the result of an initiative launched by General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim. The new understanding will reflect positively on the upcoming parliamentary elections, Aoun said. “Things will become clearer once an agreement is reached on an electoral law.” President Aoun had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Amal’s ally Hezbollah in February 2006. That document kept the FPM-Hezbollah alliance strong until this day. As for the “declaration of intent” announced by Aoun and LF chief Samir Geagea in January 2016, it paved way for the FPM founder’s election as president and ended years of rivalry between the two sides.

The Lebanese Army will fight alongside Hezbollah in a war with Israel'
In the past two years a new challenge has risen on the northern front. Should Israel go to war with Hezbollah, the Lebanese Army would fight on the Shi'ite terror organization's side, Maariv, the sister publication of The Jerusalem Post quoted Israeli security officials as saying on Friday. According to the officials, unlike Israel's 2006 war with Hezbollah in Lebanon, a future war would feature the Lebanese Armed Forces on Hezbollah's side.
Lebanon's new pro-Hezbollah president vows to retake 'Israeli-occupied' land
Since the second Lebanese war, the Lebanese army has rearmed itself, strengthening its ability in the air as well as on the ground and sea, with the help of the United States, France and Saudi Arabia. The army had originally rearmed itself in order to deal with internal terror, however they also strengthened their ability to fight an army such as the IDF. While the army may not have specifically advanced weaponry, they do currently have more ability than before to fight the IDF, including more precise anti-tanks rockets. The Lebanese Army is made up mostly of Christians, although Lebanese from all ethnic groups and religions serve in the army as well. The army is under the rule of President Michel Aoun, a political ally of Hezbollah. Many Shi'ites also serve in the army, as well as in Hezbollah. "Shi'ites serving has no correlation to the strengthening of the army," officials in Israel say. "They have always served. The strengthening came form the army's rearming as well as the supreme commander, Aoun and Hezbollah."
A friend of Israel that turned into a Hezbollah supporter
Aoun, 81-years-old, was once a Lebanese Armed Forces officer and in the 1980s was an ally to Israel. He has since changed his views. Due to changing circumstances in the country, the Christians have grown closer to the Shi'ites, and Aoun was able to win their support, taking office four months ago.
In an interview with Egyptian TV two weeks ago, Aoun hinted that Hezbollah and the Lebanese Armed Forces are working side by side. "The Lebanese army is not strong enough to fight Israel face to face," the supreme commander of the army stated, "because of that, Hezbollah is necessary."
"There is no contradiction between them. The people of Hezbollah are southerners, they are people of the earth. They protect themselves when Israel threatens or invades them."
Aoun has said that Hezbollah's weapons are not considered a problem for Lebanon. "Hezbollah is a significant factor in protecting Lebanon," Aoun said.
Hezbollah has published targets
The website Al-Ahed, which works closely with Hezbollah, published on Thursday what it called a, "bank of targets for the next war," with Israel. According to the website, Hezbollah is targeting nine centers it has declared are holding nuclear and chemical weapons. The site has also declared how many employees each center has.The article featured photos depicting Hezbollah members using Russian made F-300 missiles to damage the Dimona reactor, which they claim boasts ten floors and 2,700 employees.
The list included other targets it claimed store missiles and nuclear weapons.

Lebanese president provokes outcry with Hezbollah comment
Haytham Mouzahem/Al-Monitor/March 03/17
Lebanese President Michel Aoun’s description of Hezbollah’s weapons as complementary to those of the Lebanese army provoked strong reactions on the part of the United Nations, the March 14 coalition and the Future Movement, which is headed by Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
In an interview with Egypt's CBC during his visit to Cairo Feb. 12, Aoun said, “As long as Israel continues to occupy lands and the Lebanese army is not strong enough to stand up to it, we feel the need to have the resistance army as a complement to the Lebanese army's actions.”
Aoun said, “The resistance’s arms are not contrary to the state project; otherwise we could have not tolerated it. It is an essential part of Lebanon’s defense."
“Hezbollah represents the people of the south. They are the inhabitants of the land who defend themselves when Israel tries to occupy or threaten them,” Aoun said, noting, “It is no longer an urgent matter to discuss the need to strip Hezbollah of its weapons, because Israel continues to occupy our lands and is seeking to take over Lebanon’s waters,” a reference to the Shebaa Farms and Kfar Shuba hills areas that have been occupied by Israel since 1967.
Aoun also said he is confident that Hezbollah will not point its weapons at the Lebanese people or sow confusion in the country. He added that the issue is being discussed “within Lebanon’s strategic defense plan, which might or might not include said arms, depending on what is necessary.”
Commenting on Hezbollah’s intervention in Syria, Aoun said the move came after terrorist groups entered Arsal. “After the liberation of Qalamoun, the danger had passed as terrorist groups became restricted,” he said.
Farhan Haq, the deputy spokesman for the UN secretary-general, said in a statement, “UN Security Council resolutions 1559, 1680 and 1701 clearly call for the dissolution and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias. Keeping arms in the hands of Hezbollah and other armed groups outside the state framework would limit Lebanon’s capacity to exercise its sovereignty and full authority over its geographical area. We urge Lebanese to exploit the current political momentum to look into a defense strategy led by Lebanese themselves.”
Fares Soueid, secretariat coordinator of the March 14 coalition, derided Aoun in a Feb. 11 tweet. “We have read the statements of Aoun, who spoke about the weakness of the army and Hezbollah’s ability to defend Lebanon,” he said, asking in another, “Why don’t we demand the abolition of Resolution 1701 and place the army’s weapons in the hands of Hezbollah?"“I understand if Hezbollah’s secretary general defends the party’s weapons, but I don’t get it when the president does it. Relying on Hezbollah to stand up against Israel does not make sense,” Soueid wrote in another tweet.
In still another, he said, “If Aoun believes that Hezbollah is able to protect Lebanon, why don’t we call on Hassan Nasrallah to move to [the presidential palace in] Baabda?”
The Future Movement issued two statements in response to Aoun’s remarks. The first on Feb. 15 confirmed its “commitment to Resolution 1701 and all other pertinent international resolutions related to Lebanon, which preserve Lebanon’s sovereignty and security.” The statement clarified, “The Lebanese state’s arms are the only legitimate weapons in Lebanon, as per UN Resolution 1701.”
In the second statement issued Feb. 23, the movement condemned Nasrallah’s remarks against Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries, saying that they would affect Lebanon’s relations with the Gulf after the recent improvement following Aoun’s visit to Saudi Arabia and Qatar. In a Feb. 16 speech, Nasrallah said that some Arab Gulf states had started secretly normalizing relations with Israel and accused Saudi Arabia of occupying Bahrain and killing the Yemeni people.
The movement reiterated the importance of “UN Resolution 1701, which aims to protect Lebanon’s security and stability in the south and along the coast,” adding, “Any decision seeking to evade or underestimate this resolution means to renege on international commitments, which could have negative repercussions at the security, political and economic levels,” a jab at Aoun’s remarks.
A member of the Future Movement’s political bureau told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that he found it strange that Aoun chose to defend Hezbollah’s arms and participation in the Syrian war during his visit to Egypt, only a month after he visited Saudi Arabia and Qatar to repair the Gulf-Lebanese ties.
The senior member does not expect Saudi Arabia to criticize Aoun in the media in response to his positions favoring Hezbollah and the Syrian regime, but discarded the possibility that Riyadh will resume the $4 million military grant that Saudi Arabia had suspended on Feb. 19 because Lebanon failed to condemn attacks on the Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran.
The source believes there have been important shifts in Aoun’s orientations, starting with his Feb. 3 call for reconciliation with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as he represents legitimacy in Syria and counters terrorism and because it is important to consult with him to arrange for the return of Syrian refugees. Aoun has thus derailed the self-distancing policy followed by the Lebanese government since the start of the Syrian revolution in 2011.
Political analyst Abbas Sabbagh told Al-Monitor that it is no surprise for Aoun to state that Hezbollah’s arms are necessary to counter Israeli aggression and liberate the occupied Lebanese territory. He said as much in his inaugural speech on Oct. 31, and the right to resist was also included in the ministerial statement. Sabbagh explained that Aoun is committed to a memorandum of understanding signed with Hezbollah in 2006, an alliance that brought him to the presidential seat.
Some may take the view that Aoun is returning Hezbollah the favor of backing him for the presidency. Others attribute this position to the escalating conflict over the elections law between Aoun and his allies and Hariri and his allies, in addition to the struggle for power in Lebanon between the Future Movement and its allies and Aoun and Hezbollah.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published On March 04-05.17
Iran announces successful missile test
Roi Kais/|Ynetnews/March 04/17/Iran's official news agency reports the first successful experiment carried out by its aerial defense system S-300 received from Russia; this is reportedly the first test of its kind using the new system; in the past, Israel tried dissuading Russia from selling the Islamic Republic such a system. Iran's official media reported Saturday that Iran had successfully carried out a missile test with the advanced aerial defense system S-300 they had received from Russia. According to Iranian media, the test, which as far as we know, was the first of its kind using the new system, was carried out in one of the country's aerial defense bases in the presence of senior military and civilian officials. The experiment was carried out as part of a program titled Damavand, designed, among other things, to test the system's ability to deal with a wide spectrum of airborne targets and rockets. In the process, the Iranian team tried out the entire system, even going as far as positing imaginary scenarios similar to tangible threats. The test also included the system's different operational stages, like: target identification, observation and monitoring, and interception of hostile targets. During the test, the system launched several missiles, successfully destroying the required targets. It should be noted that Israel has tried to dissuade Russia from selling Iran such a strategic system, but the Russians eventually sold Iran the system in full.

Egypt Police Kill 4 Terrorists in Shootout

Asharq Al-Awsat English/March 04/17/Egyptian police have killed four fugitive terrorists believed to have been plotting a “major attack” in a shootout near Cairo, the interior ministry said. The “takfiri” cell had been meeting when police raided their hideout in Giza province, on the southwestern edge of the Egyptian capital, the ministry said in a statement on Friday. “When the terrorist cell sensed the police drawing near they began shooting at them, which prompted the police force to fire back,” the statement said. They were “preparing to execute a major attack in the coming period,” it added. The ministry identified one of them as Sameh Mohamed Farahat Abd el-Mageed, a 30-year-old leader of a takfiri group. Ammunition, weapons and a car were found at the scene, the statement said. It did not identify the three other men. ISIS’ Egyptian branch has killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers in attacks, mostly in the Sinai Peninsula but also in Cairo.

Thousands Flee Syria Army Advance in North
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 04/17/Tens of thousands of Syrian civilians have fled advancing Russian-backed regime forces fighting Islamic State group jihadists in the north over the past week, a monitoring group said Saturday. Most of the more than 30,000 fleeing civilians in Aleppo province were women and children, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. It said the army had retaken several villages from IS during a vast offensive that was still ongoing on Saturday. Most of the civilians who fled went to areas around Manbij, under the control of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters backed by the United States that is also fighting IS, it said.

Dispute Plagues Egypt on Amending Al-Azhar Law
Waleed Abdul Rahman/Asharq Al-Awsat/March 04/17
Cairo – Despite intensifying controversy within Egypt’s parliament, demands urged the amendment of Al-Azhar law on diversifying the highest committee members. The amendment orders that specialists not exclusive to religious subject material are incorporated within al-Azhar’s Council of Senior Scholars.
“Our body is not in need for change, all life-related disciplines needed by the community exist within the body, even psychology,” a member of the Egyptian Council of Senior Scholars Dr. Mahmoud Muhanna told Asharq Al-Awsat. The new amendment, currently drafted by MP Mohammed Abu Hamed a Member of the People’s Assembly of Egypt, includes rules to elect al-Azhar’s top Sheikh when the post is vacant–the same goes for the post of the national Grand Mufti. Regulating the nature of ties shared between al-Azhar chieftain, al-Azhar University and al-Azhar institutes has also been broached by the amendment. Hamed confirmed working on meetings with leading religious figures to render their perception on the amendment, preparing the draft for submission to the House of Representatives in upcoming weeks. “I have contacted president of al-Azhar University Dr. Usama al-Abd two days ago, and told him that al-Azhar and the Council of Senior Scholars are entrusted to his guardianship — he reassured me that it (the amendment) would not affect a single al-Azhar member,” al-Azhar’s Dr.Muhanna said.“Egypt is nothing without al-Azhar,” Muhanna cited Dr.Abd saying. Furthermore, Muhanna stated that a crackdown targeting al-Azhar bodies and affiliated institutions is in effect. Al-Azhar University is in Cairo–associated with al-Azhar Mosque in Islamic Cairo, it is Egypt’s oldest degree-granting university and is renowned as “Islam’s most prestigious university.” In addition to higher education, al-Azhar oversees a national network of schools with approximately two million students. As of 1996, over 4000 teaching institutes in Egypt were affiliated with the University. Al-Azhar University’s Council of Senior Scholars was founded in 1911 but was replaced in 1961 by the Center for Islamic Research. In July 2012, after the law restricting al-Azhar University’s autonomy, the Council was reformed.

Iran’s Russian-made S-300 air defense system ‘operational’
AFP, Tehran Saturday, 4 March 2017/Iran’s advanced S-300 air defence system, delivered by Russia following a July 2015 nuclear deal after years of delay, is now operational, state television reported on Saturday. Iran had been trying to acquire the system for years to ward off repeated threats by Israel to bomb its nuclear facilities, but Russia had held off delivery in line with UN sanctions imposed over the nuclear program. “The S-300 air defense system has been tested... in the presence of government and military officials,” the television said. It said that the test at a desert base had seen several targets, including a ballistic missile and a drone, intercepted. Air defense commander General Farzad Esmaili told the television that a domestically manufactured air defense system dubbed Bavar 373 which was “more advanced than the S-300” would be tested very soon. “The S-300 is a system that is deadly for our enemies and which makes our skies more secure,” he said. Iran’s activation of the defense system comes amid mounting tensions with the new US administration of President Donald Trump, who imposed sanctions after Iran tested a medium-range ballistic missile in January. The deal to buy the S-300 system was originally signed in 2007 but Russia suspended it in 2010 citing a UN ban on arms sales to Iran. It was revived after the nuclear deal between Iran and major powers went into effect in January last year. In August, state television aired footage of the system being installed around the Fordo nuclear site in a mountain near Qom, south of the capital.

Jordan hangs 15 death row prisoners, mostly terror convicts
By Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Saturday, 4 March 2017/Jordan hanged 15 death row prisoners at dawn on Saturday, Information Minister Mahmud al-Momani said. The executions were a further break with the moratorium on executions the country had observed between 2006 and 2014. Momani told the official Petra news agency that 10 of those put to death had been convicted of terrorism offenses, while five were convicted of crimes including rape and sexual assault. Momani also said those executed included one man who was convicted of an attack last year on an intelligence compound that killed five security personnel. Another five were involved in an assault by security forces on a militant hideout in Irbid city in the same year that led to the death of seven militants and one police officer, while the rest related to separate incidents that go back as far as 2003.
All were Jordanians and they were hanged in Suaga prison south of the capital Amman.(With AFP and Reuters)

Bahrain uncovers ‘terrorist cell’, captures 25 members
Al Arabiya English Saturday, 4 March 2017/Bahrain said on Saturday that it has uncovered what it called a terrorist cell and arrested 25 individuals so far with 16 others charged in absentia, Al Arabiya News Channel has reported. The cell has been said to have carried out at least six operations inside the tiny island Gulf kingdom. “The terrorist cell planned to assassinate security forces in Bahrain with coordination from Iran,” sources told Al Arabiya News Channel. Several weapons, home-made explosive devices and munitions were also found when a security operation to arrest individuals belonging to cell were carried out. A source told Al Arabiya English that one of the members arrested confessed that they have been receiving instructions from a leader in Germany who has been organizing their travel in and out of the country from Iran and Iraq. Some of the operations that were planned out and executed in Bahrain by this terrorist cell involved the recent Jaw Prison break and the failed attempt by some prisoners to escape Bahrain to Iran in recent weeks,” Bahraini writer Sawsan Al Shaer told Al Arabiya. “Some of the confessions that were extracted from members of the cells said that some of the group’s militants received training from grounds in Iraq. This poses questions to the Iraqi government on what needs to be done to ensure that these terrorist elements in Iraq do not plan further operations in Bahrain,” Al Shaer added.

Yemen forces shoot down drone belonging to Houthi militias in east Sanaa
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Saturday, 4 March 2017/A drone belonging to Houthi militias has been shot down in Sanaa, sources from Yemen armed forces have announced. On a different front, Yemeni forces were able to find and destroy a weapons facility near Qarn Nehm mountain which included a cache of ballistic missiles. The weapons find comes at the time when Houthi militias are increasing their rocket attacks on Dhamar Governorate after failing to advance in that area.
Arab coalition airplanes were able to strike another weapons facility located at the Aviation College compound in west Sanaa in recent days.

US launches 30 airstrikes in two days against al-Qaeda in Yemen

Reuters, Washington/ Aden Saturday, 4 March 2017/The United States carried out a second day of air strikes against al-Qaeda in Yemen on Friday, US officials said, in the latest sign of increasing US military focus on a group whose strength has grown during Yemen’s civil war. Since a January commando raid, the United States has shown a desire to both strike al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and to recover from what US officials acknowledge has been an intelligence shortfall about the group since Yemen’s civil war forced the closure of the US Embassy in 2015. “We have a lot of gaps in our understanding of the organization,” a US defense official said, adding the pullout of US personnel two years ago “certainly did not help our understanding of the situation.”Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said at a news briefing that the United States had carried out more than 30 strikes over the past two days in Shabwah, Abyan and Al Bayda provinces. The US military did not disclose how many al-Qaeda fighters were killed on Friday although Reuters reported that Thursday’s strikes, using manned and unmanned aircraft, left at least nine militants dead. The US military did not rule out further strikes in the days ahead. “I don’t want to telegraph future operations but this is part of a plan to go after this very real threat and ensure they are defeated,” Davis said at a Pentagon news briefing.
Vital intelligence?
America’s military strategy in Yemen has become a political lightning rod issue after the late January raid against AQAP, authorized by President Donald Trump, resulted in the death of one of the commandos, US Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens. Critics questioned the value of the mission. That prompted a fierce rebuttal from Trump, who said during a televised address to Congress that “large amounts of vital intelligence” was seized in the operation. Trump’s speech featured a standing ovation for Owens’ widow. The US defense official, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity on Friday, shied away from describing the intelligence as “vital,” saying that was a subjective term. The official said the intelligence was “good” and “potentially actionable,” suggesting that phone numbers and other information about AQAP’s network seized in January would require analysis or development before leading to new US strikes or raids. “It’s definitely helping us understand the network and further develop it out ... This has been good information,” the official said, adding the United States seized “an awful lot of telephone numbers.” Strikes over the past two days have not been based on intelligence from the January raid, the Pentagon says.
After its pullout in 2015, the US military started returning to Yemen in small numbers last year to support a successful April push orchestrated by the United Arab Emirates, with support from Saudi Arabia, that ejected AQAP from Mukalla, home of Yemen’s third largest port, where AQAP had raised tens of millions of dollars. The US defense official said losing Mukalla degraded AQAP but also cautioned the group did not leave its money or many of its recruits behind.
Gun battles
Residents told Reuters on Friday that US air strikes were accompanied by gun battles, which they thought involved US soldiers on the ground in Yemen. The Pentagon denied US involvement in any ground combat and it was unclear if one of the United States’ Gulf allies might have been engaged in gun battles.
US intelligence and military officials still view AQAP as a real threat to the United States, as do allies like the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. The group has plotted to down US airliners and claimed responsibility for 2015 attacks on the office of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris. AQAP also has boasted of the world’s most feared bomb makers, Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, and the Pentagon estimates it has between about 2,000 and 3,000 fighters. The defense official said the group was well armed and US strikes since Thursday have included AQAP’s heavy weapons.”We would expect that they certainly have light anti-aircraft and they possibly have MANPADS, that is a possibility we have seen,” the official said, referring man-portable air defense systems. Davis noted that al-Qaeda, even more than the Iraq- and Syria-based Islamic State, had US blood on its hands. In 2000, al-Qaeda bombers steered a boat full of explosives into the side of the USS Cole, a US Navy destroyer, while it refueled in the Yemeni port of Aden, killing 17 US sailors and wounding about three dozen others.

Trump alleges wire tapping by Obama during campaign
By Reuters Saturday, 4 March 2017/US President Donald Trump on Saturday accused former president Barack Obama of wire tapping him in October during the late stages of the presidential election campaign, but offered no evidence to support the allegation. “How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!,” Trump said in a series of Tweets on his Twitter account early on Saturday. In one of the tweets, Trump said the alleged wire tapping took place in his Trump Tower, but there was “nothing found”. Trump’s administration has come under pressure from FBI and congressional investigations into contacts between some members of his campaign team and Russian officials during his campaign. Obama imposed sanctions on Russia and ordered Russian diplomats to leave the US in December over the country’s involvement in hacking political groups in the Nov. 8 US presidential election. Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, resigned in February after revelations that he had discussed US sanctions on Russia with the Russian ambassador to the United States before Trump took office. Flynn had promised Vice President Mike Pence he had not discussed US sanctions with the Russians, but transcripts of intercepted communications, described by US officials, showed that the subject had come up in conversations between him and the Russian ambassador.
Trump has often used his Twitter account to attack rivals and for years led a campaign alleging that Obama was not born in the US He later retracted the allegation.

Twelve treated for chemical weapons agents in Mosul since March 1

By Reuters, Baghdad Saturday, 4 March 2017/Twelve people, including women and children, are being treated for possible exposure to chemical weapons agents in Mosul, where ISIS is fighting off an offensive by US-backed Iraqi forces, the United Nations said on Saturday. The UN’s World Health Organization has activated with partners and local health authorities “an emergency response plan to safely treat men, women and children who may be exposed to the highly toxic chemical,” the agency said in a statement. It said all 12 patients had been received since March 1 for treatment which they are undergoing in Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdish region, east of Mosul. Four of them are showing “severe signs associated with exposure to a blister agent”. The patients were exposed to the chemical agents in the eastern side of Mosul. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Friday that five children and two women were receiving treatment for exposure to chemical agents. The ICRC statement did not say which side used the chemical agents that caused blisters, redness in the eyes, irritation, vomiting and coughing. Iraqi forces captured the eastern side of Mosul in January after 100 days of fighting and launched their attack on the districts that lie west of the Tigris river on Feb. 19. The eastern side remains within reach of the militants’ rockets and mortar shells. Defeating ISIS in Mosul would crush the Iraqi wing of the caliphate declared by the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in 2014, over parts of Iraq and Syria. The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, Lise Grande, called for an investigation. “This is horrible. If the alleged use of chemical weapons is confirmed, this is a serious violation of international humanitarian law and a war crime, regardless of who the targets or the victims of the attacks are,” she said in a statement.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published
On March 04-05.17
Ya'alon announces intention to run for prime minister, form new party
Udi Shaham/Jerusalem Post/March 04/17
The former defense minister emerges as another alternative replacement for PM Benjamin Netanyahu, announcing his intention to run for national leadership and change the political discourse.
Former Defense Minister Moshe (Bogie) Ya'alon officially declared on Saturday his intention to run for the post of prime minister as well as form a new political party. Making the official declaration at a cultural event in Tel Aviv, Ya'alon explained that he feels that the time has come for him to pursue a new stage in his decades-long political career. This new stage was in the plans for quite a while, Ya'alon told the audience at the event, stating that "as I said when I resigned- I will run for the national leadership.""I know how hard it is in politics, but I care about this country," he explained. "I am forming now a new party which will [serve as a] political platform."While the future party Ya'alon plans to establish has yet to be named, activities to promote it are already underway. Ya'alon said that he is currently operating through an NGO he founded, fittingly named "Alternative Leadership."
Ya'alon explained that it is important for him to be in direct contact with the Israeli population, saying that "I have days that I go to three different homes to talk to potential voters."
"I have learned that the mediation of the media can cause you damage, especially when you don't control a TV channel or a newspaper," the former defense minister added, alluding at allegations concerning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been accused of controlling the daily newspaper Yisrael Hayom that is owned by his longtime confidante, American billionaire Sheldon Adelson. Ya'alon also addressed speculations regarding possible cooperation with Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, and did not rule out the option of joining forces. "I do not like the fracturing into small parties, I think we should unite our efforts," he said. "I am building my political power now, and when needed I will be happy to see unity." Ya'alon then added that he is certain that we will see more players joining the political sphere before the elections like he plans to. Ya'alon also used the opportunity to discuss what he sees as attacks on the democratic symbols in Israel, and claimed that these are the country's true threats. "Corruption, hate speeches, contempt of the rule of law and de-legitimization of the media," he said, "Our threats are internal." Ya'alon blamed politicians who according to him want to "score points" among their constituency and using their power for incitement.
Continuing his critique of the government, Ya'alon didn't hesitate to take a stab at his former Likud party, saying that "Today, even Jabotinsky would not been elected in their primaries." Meanwhile, Likud MK and former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) director Avi Dichter announced that he will run for his party's leadership. "I am already getting ready for the next primaries, even if it means running against Netanyahu," Dichter stated on Saturday at a cultural event in Modi'in. Dichter touched on the controversial subject of Netanyahu's investigations and claimed that the prime minister cannot function during this period in which police are looking into numerous corruption allegations allegedly involving the premier. "I was in the government when the prime minister [Olmert] was under investigations… anyone [who] tells you that they can fully function with no distractions or disruptions during such period – is not telling the truth."
Ya'alon ended by adding that the social divide between Jewish Israelis and Arab Israelis is often heavily impacted by the polarizing speech and agendas promoted by Israeli politicians. "The Arabs want to integrate [in society] but they see a discourse full of hatred," he said. "How many terrorists were actually Arab Israelis? They want to be part of us but they see this public atmosphere that politicians have created."

Trudeau rewards a terrorist with citizenship

By Candice Malcolm/The Sun/March 03/17
Zakaria Amara is a convicted terrorist, serving a life sentence for his role in a plot to murder scores of Canadians. And now, thanks to a Trudeau government bill passed through the Senate this week, Amara will soon be given the privilege of Canadian citizenship.
After all, a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian, right?
In the case of Amara, this “Canadian” was born in Jordan and raised in Saudi Arabia.
He came to Canada as a teenager, became a Canadian citizen as a young man, and, by the time he turned 20, he was behind bars and charged with terrorism.
Amara was the ringleader of a sophisticated terrorist cell known as the Toronto 18. He recruited, trained and groomed fellow Islamist extremists and worked towards a deadly terrorist plot.
Amara wanted to detonate bombs in downtown Toronto, and coordinate shooting sprees at the CBC and the Toronto Stock Exchange. He planned to siege Parliament Hill in Ottawa, and carry out executions and beheadings of politicians, including the Prime Minster.
He wanted to mass murder Canadians. And even more so, he wanted to shatter our sense of safety and security. It would have forever changed Canada.
Thankfully, this madman’s plot was foiled by an undercover police sting operation. Amara pled guilty to terrorism charges, and was slapped with a life sentence.
Under the Harper government, Amara had his Canadian citizenship revoked and was set to be deported the moment he was released from prison.
But things have changed under Justin Trudeau.
Trudeau said during the 2015 election campaign that he believes “terrorists should get to keep their Canadian citizenship.” And now he’s keeping good on that pledge.
Trudeau’s Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen told the Senate that the Liberal government had already initiated the process to restore citizenship to the convicted terrorist.
While Trudeau didn’t mind throwing other campaign promises out the window – modest deficits, electoral reform, legalizing marijuana, and so on – he deemed it a priority to grant citizenship to this convicted terrorist.
Trudeau’s agenda prioritized helping a man who hates Canada so much he wanted to wage war against it. Amara was so ungrateful to his host country that he plotted to mass murder civilians in a senseless and unprovoked attack.
And yet, Trudeau is rewarding him with the privilege of Canadian citizenship.
The decision is as reckless as it is absurd.
It’s the height of Liberal moral relativism to say that we’re no better than Islamist extremists, and that terrorists deserve a second chance in Canada. Trudeau seems to believe we should be tolerant and welcoming to everyone, even hateful Islamists and bloodthirsty jihadists.
In Trudeau-land, everyone is a Canadian. He believes in open borders, envisions Canada as the world’s first “post-national state” and considers himself a “global citizen.”But to the rest of us, Trudeau is simply out of touch. He’s diminishing the value of Canadian citizenship and putting an idealistic platitude – a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian – ahead of common sense, not to mention the safety and security of real Canadians. Amara was up for parole in 2016, and fortunately, his parole was denied. But sooner or later, thanks to Canada’s revolving door prison system, this thug will be released from prison and let back onto the streets in Canada.What message does this send to wannabe jihadists and extremists looking to sneak into the West? In Trudeau’s own words, “Canada will welcome you.”

The Objecting Enclaves in Saudi Arabia
Abdulrahman Al-RashedAsharq Al-Awsat/March 04/17
The wave of protest and refusal on social media against modernization represents those that fear change. In fact, these uncontrolled objections give a credit to the Saudi government on the international level for struggling to empower women, stand against religious extremism, encourage social openness and get rid of the absolute dependence on oil resources. Saudi domestic affairs go beyond this framework, as an influential state on the regional and international stages. Those who think what is happening in Saudi Arabia is only limited to the Kingdom are unaware of the fact that it goes beyond the Saudi borders, especially in a time governed by international standards rather than local ones. The modernization challenges of Saudi Arabia coincide with the bold and massive economic changes. Social modernization and substantial economic development are tasks undertaken by the government. Those criticizing Saudi Arabia are unaware of the difficulty of the change process, especially on the social level.
Thanks to change objectors in the country, the world can now perceive the Saudi government as the leader of change.
The government’s initiatives include the growth of women’s employability in public and private sectors, giving them remarkable government positions and ending the embargo on youth that is collectively fleeing the country due to the conservative environment — the youth brain-drain is harming the economy.
The government’s plans cover the amendment of education via eradicating extremism from the curricula and institutions, modernizing the official media and introducing entertainment activities in cinema, concerts and popular events. There is no doubt that these programs will face severe objection, from some people, majorly out of ignorance or good intentions.
After years of rising extremism, it is normal to have enclaves refusing any attempt to improve the aspects of life. These enclaves are resorting to all possible means to incite people against changes. Ironically, the suggested modernization concept today in Saudi Arabia would mean a step back to the past, namely the sixties and seventies era when the society was still religious and tolerant; all what is now refused was permitted back then. All societies that have passed through the waves of change were also faced with objection. For instance, I remember when Britain decided to open shops on Sundays, the step was rejected under the pretext of the sanctity of the community’s traditions. They first refused it but the wind of change was stronger than their objections. There is no nation that has not been affected by change and modernization that might not have pleased everyone. Protestors have the right to object, but the change is stronger. This is why, some of them resort to the most dangerous weapons of intimidation, such as atonement, and they misuse religious platforms to offend others, although mosques belong to everyone and they can express their personal point of view on the available communication platforms.
Those who express conservative ideas that are labeled as defending traditions and hardline religious interpretations are not aware of the danger they are putting their country and community into. Restricting women’s role is harming families on the financial level and depriving them of possible additional incomes, at a time when the income of the breadwinner is no longer sufficient. The society and government cannot pay this high cost, which is threatening the future where oil revenues will not be able to fulfill the needs. If we want to change this erroneous situation, we must resort to change, not for the sake of entertainment itself or handling foreign criticism, but rather for the sake of this country, its existence and prosperity.

France's Fatal Attraction to Islam
Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/March 04/17
Instead of fighting to save what is savable, French opinion-makers are already writing the terms of surrender.
By hybridizing cultures and rejecting Christianity, France will soon end up not even teaching also Arabic, but only Arabic, and marking Ramadan instead of Easter. Instead of wasting their time trying to organize an "Islam of France", French political leaders, opinion makers and think tanks should look for ways to counter the creeping Islamization of their country. Otherwise, we may soon be seeing not only a "Grand Imam de France", but also lashes and stonings on the Champs Élysées. Two years ago, the rector of the Great Mosque of Paris, Dalil Boubakeur, suggested converting empty churches into mosques, to accommodate the growing Muslim community in abandoned Christian sites. Now, many people in France seem to have taken the idea so seriously that a report released by the foundation Terra Nova, France's main think tank that provides ideas to the governing Socialist Party, suggests that in order to integrate Muslims better, French authorities should replace the two Catholic holidays -- Easter Monday and Pentecost -- with Islamic holidays. To be ecumenical, they also included a Jewish holiday. Written by Alain Christnacht and Marc-Olivier Padis, the study, "The Emancipation of Islam of France," states: "In order to treat all the denominations equally, it should include two important new holidays, Yom Kippur and Eid el Kebir, with the removal of two Mondays that do not correspond to particular solemnity".
Thus, Easter and Pentecost can be sacrificed to keep the ever-elusive multicultural "peace".
Terra Nova's proposal was rejected by the Episcopal Conference of France, but endorsed by the Union of Islamic Organizations of France, close to the Muslim Brotherhood, which would also like to include the Islamic holidays of Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha in the calendar. The idea of replacing the Christian holidays was also sponsored by the Observatory of Secularism, an organ created by President François Hollande to coordinate secularist policies. The Observatory of Secularism also proposed eliminating some Christian holidays to make way for the Islamic, Jewish and secular holidays. "France must replace two Christian holidays to make way for the Yom Kippur and Eid," said Dounia Bouzar, a member of the Observatory.
In his recent book, Will the Church Bells Ring Tomorrow?, Philippe de Villiers notes the disappearance of churches in France, and their replacement by mosques. Pictured above: On August 3, 2016, French riot police dragged a priest and his congregation from the church of St Rita in Paris, prior to its scheduled demolition. Front National leader Marine Le Pen said in fury: "And what if they built parking lots in the place of Salafist mosques, and not of our churches?" (Image source: RT video screenshot)
"France is no longer a Catholic country", wrote Frederic Lenoir, editor-in-chief of Le Monde des Religions. The newspaper Le Figaro wondered if Islam can already be considered "France's prime religion." Instead of fighting to save what is savable, French opinion-makers are already writing the terms of surrender. That is the meaning of Terra Nova's proposal. A similar shocking idea came from another think tank, the Montaigne Institute, which provides ideas to another presidential candidate, Emmanuel Macron. In its report, written by Hakim El Karoui, the Montaigne Institute proposed the creation of a "Grand Imam of France", no less, as if Paris and Cairo would have the same historic roots. Macron recently apologized for French colonialism, feeding a defeatist sense of guilt that fuels Islamic extremists in their demands.
The Montaigne Institute has also suggested teaching Arabic in public schools. This idea was also sponsored by Jack Lang, president of the Institute of the Arab world, who stated, "the Arab world is part of us". By hybridizing cultures and rejecting Christianity, France will soon end up not even teaching also Arabic, but only Arabic, and Ramadan instead of Easter.
If the goal is accommodating Muslims in the French Republic instead of assimilating them, why not ban pork in the schools, avoid sensitive subjects such as the Crusades and the Holocaust, separate men and women in swimming pools, call cartoonists to "responsibility," and allow Islamic veils in the public administration? In fact, all these things are taking place in France today. And the result is not "emancipation," but religious segregation.
It is in this Apartheid that Islamic extremists grow and permeate hearts and minds. France's director-general of intelligence, Patrick Calvar, has been clear: "The confrontation is inevitable," he said. There are an estimated 15,000 Salafists among France's seven million Muslims, "whose radical-fundamentalist creed dominates many of the predominantly Muslim housing projects at the edges of cities such as Paris, Nice or Lyon. Their preachers call for a civil war, with all Muslims tasked to wipe out the infidels down the street".
The Socialist front-runner for the Presidential elections, Benoit Hamon, to whom the Terra Nova's report was directed, even justified the disappearance of French women from the cafés in Muslim-majority areas: "Historically, in the workers' cafes, there were no women," he said.
Instead of wasting their time trying to organize an "Islam of France", French political leaders, opinion-makers and think tanks should look for ways to counter the creeping Islamization of their country. Otherwise we may soon be seeing not only a "Grand Imam de France", but also lashes and stonings on the Champs Élysées.
*Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author.
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The Enlightenment Project
David Brooks/The New York Times/March/March 04/17
Being around a college classroom can really expand your perspective. For example, last week we were finishing off a seminar in grand strategy when one of my Yale colleagues, Charles Hill, drew a diagram on the board that put today’s events in a sweeping historical perspective.
Running through the center of the diagram was the long line of Enlightenment thought. The Enlightenment included thinkers like John Locke and Immanuel Kant who argued that people should stop deferring blindly to authority for how to live. Instead, they should think things through from the ground up, respect facts and skeptically re-examine their own assumptions and convictions.
Enlightenment thinkers turned their skeptical ideas into skeptical institutions, notably the US Constitution. America’s founders didn’t trust the people or themselves, so they built a system of rules, providing checks and balances to pit interest against interest.
De Tocqueville came along and said that if a rules-based democratic government was going to work anywhere it was going to be the United States. America became the test case for the entire Enlightenment project. With his distrust of mob rule and his reverence for law, Abraham Lincoln was a classic Enlightenment man. His success in the Civil War seemed to vindicate faith in democracy and the entire Enlightenment cause.
In the 20th century, Enlightenment leaders extended the project globally, building rules-based multilateral institutions like the European Union and NATO to restrain threatening powers and preserve a balance of power.
The Enlightenment project gave us the modern world, but it has always had weaknesses. First, Enlightenment figures perpetually tell themselves that religion is dead (it isn’t) and that race is dead (it isn’t), and so they are always surprised by events. Second, it is thin on meaning. It treats people as bland rational egoists and tends to produce governments run by soulless technocrats. Third, Enlightenment governance fails from time to time.
At these moments anti-Enlightenment movements gain power. Amid the collapse of the old regimes during World War I, the Marxists attacked the notion of private property. That brought us Lenin, Stalin and Mao. After the failures of Versailles, the Nietzscheans attacked the separation of powers and argued that power should be centralized in the hands of society’s winners, the master race. This brought us Hitler and the Nazis.
Hill pointed out that the forces of the Enlightenment have always defeated the anti-Enlightenment threats. When the Cold War ended, the Enlightenment project seemed utterly triumphant.
But now we’re living in the wake of another set of failures: the financial crisis, the slow collapse of the European project, Iraq. What’s interesting, Hill noted, is that the anti-Enlightenment traditions are somehow back. Nietzschean thinking is back in the form of Vladimir Putin. Marxian thinking is back in the form of an aggressive China. Both Russia and China are trying to harvest the benefits of the Enlightenment order, but they also want to break the rules when they feel like it. They incorporate deep strains of anti-Enlightenment thinking and undermine the post-Enlightenment world order.
Hill didn’t say it, but I’d add that anti-Enlightenment thinking is also back in the form of Donald Trump, racial separatists and the world’s other populist ethnic nationalist movements.
Today’s anti-Enlightenment movements don’t think truth is to be found through skeptical inquiry and debate. They think wisdom and virtue are found in the instincts of the plain people, deep in the mystical core of the nation’s or race’s group consciousness.
Today’s anti-Enlightenment movements believe less in calm persuasion and evidence-based inquiry than in purity of will. They try to win debates through blunt force and silencing unacceptable speech.
They don’t see history as a gradual march toward cooperation. They see history as cataclysmic cycles — a zero-sum endeavor marked by conflict. Nations trying to screw other nations, races inherently trying to oppress other races.
These movements are hostile to rules-based systems, multilateral organizations, the messy compromises of democratic politics and what Steve Bannon calls the “administrative state.” They prefer the direct rule by one strongman who is the embodiment of the will of the people.
When Trump calls the media the “enemy of the people” he is going after the system of conversation, debate and inquiry that is the foundation for the entire Enlightenment project.
When anti-Enlightenment movements arose in the past, Enlightenment heroes rose to combat them. Lincoln was no soulless technocrat. He fought fanaticism by doubling down on Enlightenment methods, with charity, reason and patience. He worked tirelessly for unity over division. He was a hopeful pessimist who knew the struggle would be long but he had faith in providence and ultimate justice.
We live in a time when many people have lost faith in the Enlightenment habits and institutions. I wonder if there is a group of leaders who will rise up and unabashedly defend this project, or even realize that it is this fundamental thing that is now under attack.

Mubarak’s innocence through the eyes of history
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/March 04/17
After the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917, Tsar Nicholas II was arrested and accused of several charges. In the following year, he was executed along with his family, after a quick trial for treason, killings and corruption. Trials that are held after revolutions are always political. Hosni Mubarak was Egypt’s longest-serving president; he served six presidential terms. No one imagined that he would end up humiliated and imprisoned. He won every presidential election held, with little efforts, because the voting law guaranteed him the win, and even after the law was amended during his last elections, it was easy for him to win because the elections were a plotted play intending to guarantee him victory. However, even with all the flaws in his legitimacy, Mubarak was never a tyrant ruler as has been said. During his reign, all his men worked in plain sight, including the opposition such as the Muslim Brotherhood, which had its own parliamentary representation, as well as its own media outlets and space of freedom. Ahmed Maher from the April 6 Youth Movement, an opposition organization that was established three years before the Tahrir Square revolution, said that the plan of the revolutionary youth had not essentially intended to imprison former President Hosni Mubarak or have him sentenced to death. Those who participated in the revolution wanted to get a decent life, justice, freedom and human dignity.
Narrators of history
The Court of Cassation has finally acquitted Mubarak of the charges of killing demonstrators. Mubarak’s lawyer has said that these charges were not proven during the three last presidential terms after Mubarak rule, which saw the armed forces, the Muslim Brotherhood, and now President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi take power. I do not believe that innocence is important for President Mubarak for the sake of avoiding the death penalty, because he is 88 years old and he had been suffering from several illnesses since he was still in power. I do believe however that Mubarak is interested in being acquitted for the sake of history. Mubarak was a bad governor on an administrative level, his family and members of his party were known for corruption, but not killings. The fact that the courts acquitted him will not be enough, because the narrators of history will decide his innocence or guilt. His lawyer, Farid al-Deeb says: “It is not reasonable for someone to spend 2211 days in prison on charges that he did not commit.” He asked “who will compensate for all these years?”In fact, Mubarak’s imprisonment for 6 years was the price he paid for his stubbornness; he disregarded domestic and international warnings regarding corruption during his reign and marginalizing the army, which finally led to his defeat. Many got convinced over time that the January 25 revolution in 2011 could not have succeeded without the army’s consent for change, unlike what happened in Tunisia, Libya, Yemen and Syria, where the popular revolution defied all institutions and forces. People will have different opinions about the former Egyptian president for many decades to come; some will blame him, others will defend him. The fact that the courts acquitted him will not be enough, because the narrators of history will decide his innocence or guilt.
**This article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat.

Why Trump’s Congress speech heralds his makeover
Trisha de Borchgrave/Al Arabiya/March 04/17
Trump's speech to Congress was on first impression a welcome harbinger of a restrained and more presidential Trump. Unsurprisingly, the almost 90 standing ovations were generated by the GOP majority, many of whom also agree with his policy priorities - if not his methods - to roll back de-regulation and universal health insurance, and reform the tax code and immigration. Above all, they yearn to turn their leader into a character fit for purpose. In the finest of Jewish traditions, the first forty days and first forty tweeting nights of Trump’s presidency have been a period of probation, trial and much chastisement, with a good deal of judgement in between. He has shown an incapacity to rise to the grandeur, wisdom and understanding of his position, unable to lift his finger off the campaign button. It was questionable how much longer he could survive, lurching like a wounded bull in the ring, blinking through the bleeding cuts of accountability while trying to focus on the dizzying matadors' capes of civil protests, town hall rebellions, investigative news coverage, decisive court rulings and searing ridicule. Trump’s fondness for an adversarial and divisive method of deal-making was not working, particularly when it came to the lawlessness of his refugee and travel ban. The mainstream press, smelling impeachment over his team's alarming connections to Russian intelligence, kept up with his levels of adrenaline. The techniques of deceit that won Trump the hearts and minds of the rallying crowds were insufficient to govern. Despite this inauspicious start, his aides showed themselves canny enough to draft a powerful speech that would avoid the Trump juggernaut’s headlong rush into further barriers of disapproval, the lowest since Ronald Reagan at the commencement of a presidential first term. From this perspective, his speech was a success; it vindicated his supporters' contention that they were not “deplorables”, gave a stay of execution to those congressmen and women whose office switchboards were catching fire with their constituents’ invective, and involuntarily triggered a feeling of national pride for many Americans who thought themselves anti-Trump. It is difficult to acknowledge oratory that went some way to try to unite a country when it was delivered by the very person responsible for ratcheting the divisions and eroding the integrity of politicians and trust of citizens alike.
But the fact-checking page from the New York Times revealed that Trump's mis-interpretations of data - including murder rates, Obamacare premiums, and the number of Americans on food stamps and in poverty - were no worse than the average politician's assertions every time a microphone is thrust in front of him or her. His policies may be unimplementable or ineffective, but that is love and war in the business of governance, not a threat to the democratic process or to the constancy of vital international alliances. More importantly, by dialing back the invective, Trump's address to Congress may give the chance to the heavy-weights at his cabinet table - National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis - to test their intellectual and psychological mettle against the President's animal instincts.
Sense of duty
The Republican bursts of acclaim resounded with a sense of duty, a call to arms even, for the country to move on. When Trump spoke of the importance of America’s armed forces, serving police officers and veterans, it was difficult for Democrats to deny him their visible support. The lengthy standing ovation given to the widow of William (Ryan) Owens, the Navy SEAL killed in Yemen in the first attack on Al-Qaeda that Trump authorised as President, was deeply moving; not even the most cynical could detract from her abject pain and misery. And Trump seemed genuine in his sympathy; until, that is, he called out to her that her husband - slain just over a month ago - must now be very happy with the record-breaking duration of applause he received from the chamber. However, the dogged and lawful search to understand and hold to account Trump's role in condoning Russian state intervention in America's political process will continue. Congress's duty lies in uncovering the facts about the Trump campaign's alleged contacts with Russian individuals, not that the US intelligence services leaked the information, as some Republicans would have everyone believe. So, Trump’s speech was a breather. It lasted the time it took to eat that evening’s meal. Trump advocate and now Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been found to have lied under oath when asked whether he had any contact with the Russian government during the campaign. It seems that he too, had trouble remembering his two conversations with the same Russian Ambassador, Mr. Kislyak, with whom the now disgraced Mike Flynn did not recall discussing American sanctions. Welcome as it was, Trump's new tone has not served as a dose of amnesia to all that preceded it. The speech was a glimmer of acknowledgement of America’s power and greatness, and about her don't-mess-with-me attitude which, when placed alongside her strong democratic checks and balances, gives us hope that this mighty and, indeed, great country will prevail.

Entertainment is the army’s partner in this war
Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran/Al Arabiya/March 04/17
There’s something on this earth with its water, mountains and hills that’s worth living. Arts flourished when spirits were innocent and when they found great pleasure in the sound of the rebab, performed the Samri dance and celebrated weddings to the music of drums. Songs in their general concept are lived from the sunrise to the sunset. They live with the nature, the mud, the fresh evergreen and the dance-like walks to rugged mountains. Art has been part of the soul and part of one’s inherent right. It was never a luxury. Even during the worst times of famine, people sang despite the burning hot temperatures and their torn soles. The innocent society lived through an unimaginable storm. Those with a mourning spirit delivered politicized preaching and brought people out of the bliss of innocence, love, art and joy and took them into the hell of doubt urging them to waste away life. When we went to war, the drums played Ardah music as the war was declared. There’s no contradiction between deriving power from art and angering enemies with war poetry. The Ardah became linked to the unification wars King Abdulaziz led. The sound of the drum while reading Ardah poems causes panic and weakens the enemy. Therefore, there’s absolutely no contradiction between war and art.
During the wars he led, Adolf Hitler was fond of Richard Wagner and particularly of his piece The Valkyrie. He named one of his army forces after it. The role of this music was clearly depicted in Tom Cruise’s movie Valkyrie which was released in 2008. The movie is about the 20 July plot by German officers to assassinate Hitler. The song is played in certain scenes throughout the movie. This piece brings most children to tears due to its military and fierce vengeful rhythm. Politicians employed art like they should in war and there are countless examples to that. War and art both play part in the will of survival. Art is war and dancing is like war, it resists stillness and depicts an image of power. Late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz mastered the Saudi Ardah in such an exceptional manner. It’s such an artistic and martial dance! As Georges Canguilhem put it, war is conflict and it entails creating risks and suffering. And so is art. What’s strange is that those who oppose art under the excuse of war believe Hollywood is carrying out an ideological invasion. So why do they view it as an invasion there but think it’s reckless and leads to disintegration here?
History and wisdom
If we take a look at Greece’s history, we’d see how arts revived in wars as they nurtured and empowered the society. It’s through art that they showed how relaxed the society was and how it was not in crisis while managing the war. In this case, art sends a message to infuriate the enemy. The war is led by courageous men. People in towns and cities will listen to works of art which conveys the message that they’re enjoying art and they are completely relaxed. They do so instead of spreading discouragement as if the enemy has won a round! In his book Wisdom of the West, Bertrand Russell writes about the history of arts’ development in Greece. He wrote: “In a short time, that’s no more than two centuries, Greek cleverness overflowed in the arenas of art, literature and philosophy. The Greeks created masterpieces that ever since have been a general measure of western civilization.”
Let’s take Greece, its wars and arts as an example. In the book The History of Political Philosophy from Thucydides until Spinosa, David Bolton published a research about Thucydides (400 B.C.) and wrote: “Pericles spoke in detail about what the Athenians said in Sparta. He addressed the Athenian people and described them as people who love beauty and wisdom. In addition, he commended the Athenians for their desire to be brave in the battle without needing to depend on a long and tiresome training.” Bolton added that the city with all its details, including art, is part of the martial power, because in this case it will be a complete city. Bolton also wrote: “The Athenians willingly chose to employ their intellect and other talents to serve the city. They were also willing to risk their lives for it. To them and according to how they view themselves, this is part of what made them noble.” Bolton also wrote in detail about how war also sends civilian messages as art reflects the peak of stability. Darkness and sensing fear contradict the aim of war which is to solidify stability and the will to stay. They must incite fear, terror and horror to break the enemy and they can do so via weapons, imagery and sound, through poetry and statements and through music and display of arts. Entertainment is not luxury but it’s an inherent right that’s linked to the individual and part of man’s existence in this world. In his book “What is Literature?” Jean-Paul Sartre wrote that it’s not about choosing the times in which we live but in choosing how to be during these times.
*This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on February 23, 2017.

The Iraqi parliament does not deserve this
Adnan Hussein/Al Arabiya/March 04/17
The new fierce attack – as Iraqi parliament speaker Salim al-Jabbouri put it – against the parliament was launched by patriotic media figures and social media activists. It was particularly launched by the civilians in the past two days. However, those who launched the campaign do not have the right to what they’re saying and writing as they should have been patient a little and waited a while before speaking out. If they had waited a little before getting too comfortable drowning the media and electronic space with their “fierce” attack in which they used slogans of woe and darkness, made grave statements against the “people’s representatives” and protested to condemn their decisions, they would have heard the wise opinion of State of Law Coalition – the political bloc of the Islamic ad-Dawa Party - Member of Parliament Haidar al-Kaabi. In a clear and frank address, Kaabi said the MPs’ nominal monthly salary increase of 1 million dinars will not be retroactive. This is equal to the entire wage of an employee who worked in the state for around 20 years after attaining a bachelor degree which many of the MPs themselves do not have and it may one day turn out that some of them entered the legislation institution using forged degrees or degrees they attained thanks to their connections. According to Alsumaria News, Kaabi said the salary increase will be paid starting February.
No shame
After this announcement, we must thank Kaabi and voice appreciation for reassuring us as such. We actually must go ahead and kiss the foreheads of all the MPs, and their speaker in particular, as they deserve this for being humble and for making concessions and accepting that their massive salary increase is not retroactive! Patriotic media figures and civilian social media activists transformed into fierce predators - as the parliament speaker saw them - that are eating the flesh of the MPs. These poor people, i.e. the MPs, spend their entire time among those who voted for them. They listen to their complaints and work with them to solve their problems. This is why they spend millions of dinars on hosting them and on going from a town to another. Statements about the MPs’ weekly touristic travels to Amman, Beirut, Dubai, Cairo and oversees are “fabrications by the people’s enemies” as Mr. Jabbouri also put it in his statement on Sunday. The parliament speaker must be recalling what American President Donald Trump is repeating these days against media figures who criticize his racial stances and policies.If what’s reported by Bukhari that the Prophet Mohammed said: “If you feel no shame, then do whatever you wish” is true then the prophet must have specifically known that there will come a time when Iraq will have a parliament whose members have no shame and do whatever they want without any social or national inhibitions.
*This article is also available in Arabic.