March 06/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
You cannot serve God and wealth
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 06/22-24/:"‘The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! ‘No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth."

Strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints
First Letter to the Thessalonians 03/06-13/:"But Timothy has just now come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love. He has told us also that you always remember us kindly and long to see us just as we long to see you.For this reason, brothers and sisters, during all our distress and persecution we have been encouraged about you through your faith.For we now live, if you continue to stand firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith. Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

Question: "Christian fasting - what does the Bible say?"
Answer: Scripture does not command Christians to fast. God does not require or demand it of Christians. At the same time, the Bible presents fasting as something that is good, profitable, and beneficial. The book of Acts records believers fasting before they made important decisions (Acts 13:2; 14:23). Fasting and prayer are often linked together (Luke 2:37; 5:33). Too often, the focus of fasting is on the lack of food. Instead, the purpose of fasting should be to take your eyes off the things of this world to focus completely on God. Fasting is a way to demonstrate to God, and to ourselves, that we are serious about our relationship with Him. Fasting helps us gain a new perspective and a renewed reliance upon God.
Although fasting in Scripture is almost always a fasting from food, there are other ways to fast. Anything given up temporarily in order to focus all our attention on God can be considered a fast (1 Corinthians 7:1-5). Fasting should be limited to a set time, especially when fasting from food. Extended periods of time without eating can be harmful to the body. Fasting is not intended to punish the flesh, but to redirect attention to God. Fasting should not be considered a “dieting method” either. The purpose of a biblical fast is not to lose weight, but rather to gain deeper fellowship with God. Anyone can fast, but some may not be able to fast from food (diabetics, for example). Everyone can temporarily give up something in order to draw closer to God.
By taking our eyes off the things of this world, we can more successfully turn our attention to Christ. Fasting is not a way to get God to do what we want. Fasting changes us, not God. Fasting is not a way to appear more spiritual than others. Fasting is to be done in a spirit of humility and a joyful attitude. Matthew 6:16-18 declares, “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published english On March 05-06.17
The Leper's Sold Faith Cured Him/Elias Bejjani/March 05/17
Kuwaiti MP Mohammed Hayef AlـMutairi: Amend Constitution, Sharia 'Is Supreme' And 'Should Be Imposed' – Without People Being Able To Reject It – 'Are We Thieves, Who... Fear Having Our Hands Chopped Off?'/MEMRI/March 05/17
Why Trump’s Congress speech heralds his makeover/Trisha de Borchgrave/Al Arabiya/March 05/17
Bahrain Arrests Iran-Linked Terror Cell/Obaid Al-Suhaymi/ASharq Al Awsat/March 05/17
France's Death Spiral/Guy Millière/Gatestone Institute/March 05/17
Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham and Civil Society in Jabal al-Summaq/Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi/Syria Comments/March 05/17
Terror in Sinai: Coptic Christians plead for help/MEE contributor/Friday 3 March 2017

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published On March 05-06.17
The Leper's Sold Faith Cured Him
Alloush Warns of Constituent Assembly Leading to Legalization of Hizbullah Arms
Bassil: Electoral Law More Important than Presidency, Deserves Sacrifices
Probe Ordered after Kanaan's Convoy 'Comes under Gunfire'
Mashnouq Says Hariri to Maintain Sunni Leadership in Any Elections
MP Aoun Rules Out Extension, Elections under 1960 Law, Says Polls in Summer
State Budget to be Passed Monday as Aoun 'Responds Positively' to LF
Public School Teachers Go on Strike as Cabinet Finalizes Budget Discussions
Ibrahim, UNIFIL Chief meet over tension between UNIFIL and residents
Ukraine Ambassador visits Monastery of St. Anthony Qozhaya
More than 100 people starve to death in 48 hours in drought hit region of Somalia, government warns
Machnouk: Our loyalty to Lebanon and Arabism are steady
UK Navy Ship Ends Visit to Lebanon, Shorter Announces Grant to Rangers
Gunmen Open Gunfire at Residence in Akkar
Young men throw stones at security patrol in alHasniah to prevent it from stopping illegal construction works
Brazilian Soccer legends in Beirut to meet with Lebanese stars upcoming Wednesday
Arslan contacts Kanaan, congratulates him on his safety
Khoury from LAUByblos: There will be a new election law in the nearest future to the satisfaction of all parties

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published On March 05-06.17
Fallen Syrian Plane's Pilot in Turkish Hospital
Putin ramps up Syria pact with Iran in US absence
Twin IS Suicide Attacks Kill 15 in North Syria
66,000 displaced in recent north Syria fighting
Cousin’ of ISIS leader Baghdadi arrested in Iraq’s Mosul
Netanyahu to urge Russia to say 'nyet' to Iranian ops near Israel border
Moscow Sets March 20 Date for Geneva 5
Conditional” Release to Montazeri’s Son
Jordan Executes 15 Terrorists
Trump Expected to Sign Revised Travel Ban Monday
Iranian Sunni bloc angered by MP who ‘insulted’ Prophet Mohammed’s companions
10 dead from hunger in 48 hours in severe Somalia drought
Bahrain Approves Military Trial for Civilians

Links From Jihad Watch Site for March 03-04.17

Nine of the ten most dangerous countries in the world for Christians are Muslim
Oklahoma lawmaker gives questionnaire to Muslims, Hamas-linked CAIR enraged
US-based Muslims divorce their wives in India using WhatsApp
“The leader of the SPLC is aware the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) is a Hamas organization”
Sweden’s Integration Minister admits lying when she claimed rape rate was “going down”
UK supermarket clerk converts to Islam, gets bomb-making instructions, tries to join jihadis, blames Brexit
Iran Defense Minister: “Main threat” is from US and Israel, “we need to hit the enemy where it hurts the most”
Germany: Muslim migrant sexually assaults several twelve-year-old boys
UK: Terror attacks have tripled in 5 years, London’s Muslim mayor bringing in 1,500,000 more migrants
NY Muslim: “I’m going to leave this country and come back with an Army — Islam is coming”
Canada: Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen defends bill reinstating citizenship of convicted terrorists
Australia: Muslim students at Sydney high school threatened to behead non-Muslim staff in the name of the Islamic State

France: Muslim teen attacked Jewish teacher with machete in the “name of Allah and ISIS”
Hugh Fitzgerald: Muslims Helping Jews: The Case of Linda Sarsour (Part II)

Links From Christian Today Site On March 03-04.17
US Seeks End To UN Rights Council's 'Obsession' With Israel
Trump Claims Obama Wiretapped Him During Campaign, Obama Refutes It
Do Some Of The Original Supporters Of Pope Francis Now Want Him To Resign?
Northern Ireland Election Leaves 'Door Open' For Legalisation Of Same-Sex Marriage And Abortion, Christian Charity Says
Why No Justice Yet For Murdered Pakistani Christian Shahbaz Bhatti?
Defiant Jesus Talk From The Archbishop Of York: 'We Are Here To Change And Transform The World'
Top UK Major General Who Is A Christian Praises Donald Trump's Defence Team
He Lived To Save Others': The Legacy Of Dawson Trotman And The Navigators
Fears For Malaysian Abducted Malaysian Pastor After Son Says He May Have Been Murdered
Presiding Episcopal Bishop Supports 'Dignity And Worth' Of Trans People In Court Brief
Islam Will Surpass Christianity As World's Largest Religion By 2070, Pew Predicts

Latest Lebanese Related News published On March 05-06.17
The Leper's Sold Faith Cured Him
Elias Bejjani/March 05/17
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)

Alloush Warns of Constituent Assembly Leading to Legalization of Hizbullah Arms
Naharnet/March 05/17/Mustaqbal Movement politburo member ex-MP Mustafa Alloush has warned that any “parliamentary vacuum” might lead to a constituent assembly in which Hizbullah would demand the legalization of its controversial arsenal of weapons. “Vacuum in the legislative authority has never happened throughout Lebanon's history, and should it happen this time, it would mean heading to a constituent assembly which we have been trying to avoid. Everyone would then lose, because change would affect the entire political structure in Lebanon,” Alloush told the Saudi daily Asharq al-Awsat in remarks published Sunday. “The first thing that Hizbullah will ask for in the constituent assembly will be the legalization of its arms and its relation with Iran that is bypassing the state and its institutions,” the former lawmaker warned. He noted that failure to agree on a new electoral law puts the country before two possibilities: “holding the elections under the current law or a 'non-technical' extension of the parliament's term.”“A political crisis is inevitable because all the forces have escalated their stance and voiced existential slogans,” Alloush added. “The president has openly announced that his presidential term would be considered a failure should the elections be held under the current law, and the prime minister has noted that failure to pass an electoral law would indicate that the government is impotent,” the ex-MP went on to say. Hizbullah has repeatedly called for an electoral law fully based on proportional representation but Mustaqbal and the Progressive Socialist Party have both rejected the proposal. Mustaqbal argues that Hizbullah's arms would prevent serious competition in the party's strongholds while the PSP has warned that such an electoral system would “marginalize” the minority Druze community whose presence is concentrated in the Chouf and Aley areas. The political parties are meanwhile discussing a so-called hybrid electoral law that mixes proportional representation with the winner-takes-all system.

Bassil: Electoral Law More Important than Presidency, Deserves Sacrifices
Naharnet/March 05/17/The electoral law is “more important than the presidency” and it “deserves sacrifices,” Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil has declared. “Let no one bet on a change in our stance and let no one threaten anyone with the 1960 law, which has no place in the year 2017,” Bassil added. “The FPM, the Lebanese Forces and the Kataeb Party have agreed that the elections will not be held under the 1960 law no matter what the cost might be,” the FPM chief went on to say. He also noted that the FPM “will put an end to political feudalism in Lebanon,” clarifying that “feudalism is not a political dynasty but rather an Hizbullah has repeatedly called for an electoral law fully based on proportional representation but al-Mustaqbal Movement and the Progressive Socialist Party have both rejected the proposal. Mustaqbal argues that Hizbullah's arms would prevent serious competition in the party's strongholds while the PSP has warned that such an electoral system would “marginalize” the minority Druze community whose presence is concentrated in the Chouf and Aley areas. The political parties are meanwhile discussing a so-called hybrid electoral law that mixes proportional representation with the winner-takes-all system.

Probe Ordered after Kanaan's Convoy 'Comes under Gunfire'
Naharnet/March 05/17/A probe has been ordered into the shooting that targeted the convoy of Change and Reform bloc secretary MP Ibrahim Kanaan overnight, state-run National News Agency reported Sunday. “State Prosecutor Judge Samir Hammoud has asked Brig. Gen. Imad Othman, the head of the Internal Security Forces Intelligence Branch, to conduct investigations to identify the individuals who intercepted MP Ibrahim Kanaan's convoy in the Dora area overnight and opened fire at it,” NNA said. Kanaan's press office had issued a statement saying “a shooting erupted after an unknown car intercepted MP Kanaan's convoy overnight in the Dora area.”Kanaan and his bodyguards were not harmed in the incident, the press office added, saying Kanaan had thanked those who called him to inquire about his health. Kanaan is a prominent MP of the Change and Reform bloc founded by President Michel Aoun and has played a key role in the rapprochement between the Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces.

Mashnouq Says Hariri to Maintain Sunni Leadership in Any Elections
Naharnet/March 05/17/Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq stressed Sunday that Prime Minister and al-Mustaqbal Movement leader Saad Hariri will maintain his leadership of the Sunni community in Lebanon in any parliamentary elections. “I was one of those calling for confrontation, but PM Hariri told me, through his wisdom, that he will not accept that Lebanon suffer what Syria is suffering,” Mashnouq told a breakfast banquet that was thrown in his honor by Beirut dignitary Ahmed Naji Fares. “He will maintain his leadership in any elections,” the minister added, referring to Hariri. “There is another stance that calls for chaos and confrontation, but the region will go through a three-year transitional period before stabilizing, so we either preserve our people and cities through calm and patience or we seek destruction,” Mashnouq said. He added: “Chaos is nice, but the moment PM Hariri was nominated, I decided to become the interior minister of all Lebanese.”Despite his alliance with most of the political forces of the northern city of Tripoli in the 2016 municipal polls, Hariri suffered a stunning defeat at the hands of former justice minister Ashraf Rifi. Rifi has accused Hariri of offering major concessions to the Hizbullah-led political camp while the premier has accused the ex-minister of resorting to a sectarian rhetoric to boost his popularity.

MP Aoun Rules Out Extension, Elections under 1960 Law, Says Polls in Summer
Naharnet/March 05/17/MP Alain Aoun of the Change and Reform bloc stressed Sunday that the parliamentary elections will not be held under the 1960 electoral law and that the extension of the parliament's term is “totally out of the question.”“Everyone must realize that there will be no elections under the 1960 law and any extension is totally out of the question,” Aoun said. “The elections will be held this summer and there will be a new law,” the MP added. “I don't think that anyone wants vacuum,” Aoun went on to say. The country has not organized parliamentary elections since 2009 and the legislature has since extended its own mandate twice. Hizbullah has repeatedly called for an electoral law fully based on the proportional representation system but al-Mustaqbal Movement and the Progressive Socialist Party have both rejected the proposal. Mustaqbal argues that Hizbullah's arms would prevent serious competition in the party's strongholds while the PSP has warned that such an electoral system would “marginalize” the minority Druze community whose presence is concentrated in the Chouf and Aley areas.
The political parties are meanwhile discussing a so-called hybrid electoral law that mixes proportional representation with the winner-takes-all system.

State Budget to be Passed Monday as Aoun 'Responds Positively' to LF
Naharnet/March 05/17/The Cabinet is expected to approve the 2017 state budget on Monday amid a positive approach by President Michel Aoun towards the Lebanese Forces' proposal regarding the electricity sector, a media report said on Sunday. “After LF leader Samir Geagea visited the president in Baabda after which he hinted that his ministers might resign from the government, Aoun summoned Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil, who belongs to his movement,” to the presidential palace, the Kuwaiti daily al-Anbaa said. Abi Khalil was accompanied by a number of the ministry's experts and consultants. “Aoun lauded their efforts... but he told them that they are technical experts and that the decision belongs to him and that they should implement it,” the newspaper added. Due to disputes among the rival political parties, Lebanon has not approved a state budget since 2005. On Thursday, Geagea stressed the “firmness” of the rising alliance between the LF and the Free Patriotic Movement while noting that his party is not seeking to “interfere in the work of the energy minister.”Dismissing media reports suggesting that the LF-FPM ties have been strained by the electricity file, Geagea stressed that “rectifying the issue of electricity is important for rectifying the state budget.” “The FPM ministers have good intentions towards resolving the electricity crisis, but the problem is in the structure of the Lebanese administration and the in the work of the Lebanese government,” Geagea added. He also called on the government to ask the energy minister to “prepare a booklet of conditions for organizing a call for tenders for the electricity sector in Lebanon within a deadline of three months at the latest,” noting that “a law issued in 2014 allows the Energy Ministry to giver power production contracts to the private sector.”

Public School Teachers Go on Strike as Cabinet Finalizes Budget Discussions
Naharnet/March 05/17/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.

Ibrahim, UNIFIL Chief meet over tension between UNIFIL and residents
Sun 05 Mar 2017/NNA - General Security Chief, Major General Abbas Ibrahim, met yesterday (Saturday) with UNIFIL Head of Mission and Force Commander, Michael Beary, with discussions featuring high on recent events in Bint Jbeil.
It is worth mentioning that the Municipalities Union of Bint Jbeil issued a statement regarding tensions between UNIFIL and residents in the region. Major Ibrahim and Maj.Gen. Beary tackled ways to solve the matter. The pair also stressed the necessity to strengthen the relation between UNIFIL and the residents in order to preserve stability and security in said region.

Ukraine Ambassador visits Monastery of St. Anthony Qozhaya
Sun 05 Mar 2017/NNA - Ukraine Ambassador to Lebanon, Igor Eustache, and his wife visited on Sunday the Monastery of St. Anthony Qozhaya.Father Mickael Fenianos and President of the Union of Municipalities of Zgharta Zhenni Kheir welcomed the diplomat. The Ambassador toured the monastery and then left to Ehden.

More than 100 people starve to death in 48 hours in drought hit region of Somalia, government warns
Sun 05 Mar 2017/NNA - More than 100 people have starved to death in a single region of Somalia within 48 hours due to a severe drought, the country’s prime minister has said. In the first drought-related death toll announced since Somalia's government declared a national disaster on Tuesday, Hassan Khaire told the nation’s drought committee 110 people had died from hunger in two days in the southwestern Bay region alone. It comes amid warnings of potential for a full-blown famine, with the UN estimating that five million people in the country are currently in need of aid. ---The Independent

Machnouk: Our loyalty to Lebanon and Arabism are steady
Sun 05 Mar 2017/NNA - Interior and Municipalities Minister, Nouhad Machnouk, said on Sunday that his loyalty to Lebanon and to Arabism were constant and would never be altered by takifiris or by those who call for division. Minister Machnouk's fresh stance came during a luncheon held in his honor in presence of Beirut political figures. Machnouk pointed out that the priority was to preserve Lebanon and Lebanese people by their willingness to engage in dialogue during this transitional period in the region. He confirmed that upcoming legislative elections would prove the permanence leadership of Prime Minister, Saad Hariri.

UK Navy Ship Ends Visit to Lebanon, Shorter Announces Grant to Rangers
Naharnet/March 05/17/Standing 34m high and weighing 22,000 tons, the British navy's Her Majesty’s Ship OCEAN was an unexpected change to the skyline of Beirut port this weekend. The imposing structure of the warship, with its helicopter hangar and launchpad, saw HMS OCEAN’s first visit to Beirut port on the way back to the UK, “intended to mark the UK’s commitment to Lebanon,” a British Embassy statement said. During its stay in the Port of Beirut, the flag ship and crown jewel of the Royal Navy hosted a series of high profile events, school and media tours designed to “emphasize and deepen the partnership -- in the defense field and beyond -- between the UK and Lebanon,” the statement said. Thirty students aged 16-17 from the British Council’s ‘Taqaddam’ (Moving Forward) youth leadership project joined the Royal Marines on a guided tour of the ship, and were put through their paces with British Navy teambuilding exercises. HMS OCEAN Commanding Officer Captain Pedre, British Ambassador Hugo Shorter, and Defense attaché Chris Gunning met Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji and Minister of Defense Yaaqoub Sarraf. Rear Admiral Burton met with LAF Navy Commander Admiral Majed Alwan. And before the ship’s departure, the Ambassador hosted over lunch the chiefs of the Lebanese security agencies. The highlight of HMS OCEAN’s visit was the evening reception, attended by the representative of President Michel Aoun, Minister Sarraf, Prime Minister Saad Hariri's representative Minister Ghattas Khoury, and former minister Yassine Jaber representing Speaker Nabih Berri. Shorter announced further support to the Lebanese army's Rangers Regiment of further equipment to help build their ‘off road’ and ‘all-weather’ capabilities. He added that the essence of the UK’s approach is this: “protecting the co-existence at the heart of the Lebanese model requires a strong state.”Guests also had the chance to see the latest models of high end British luxury cars on display from Jaguars, to Aston Martins and Land Rovers.
Addressing his guests, Shorter said: “We are proud of our partnership with your country, through its institutions. And as a demonstration of our strong belief in the importance of Lebanese sovereignty, we have so far invested $100m in the Lebanese Armed Forces and the Internal Security Forces since 2011.”
“And I am pleased to announce the delivery of further equipment worth $65,000 for Lebanese Rangers of further equipment to help build their ‘off road’ and ‘all-weather’ capabilities,” he added.
“Working with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Lebanese municipalities, we’re supporting communities with cleaner water, farming equipment, better roads, and public spaces. Working with the Ministry of Education, we’re giving schoolbooks to children. Training teachers. And, along with the British Council, equipping young people with the skills they need for the future. Working with the Banque du Liban we’re supporting start-ups and creating hi-tech jobs,” Shorter explained.
He stressed that he wants the partnership between the UK and Lebanon to be “positive and lasting.”“The UK once helped Lebanon gain its independence, and we remain firm supporters of Lebanon’s independence and sovereignty today. The essence of our approach is this: protecting the co-existence at the heart of the Lebanese model requires a strong state. So we build long-term relationships with key Lebanese institutions, to help them deliver for all Lebanese,” Shorter said. HMS OCEAN weighs 22,000 tons and is the largest operational warship in the Royal Navy. Its primary role is as a helicopter carrier and amphibious assault ship.In the months prior to arriving in Lebanon, HMS OCEAN has been the Flagship for Combined Task Force 50 (CTF50), a multi-national task force maintaining “the free flow of trade, freedom of navigation for shipping and regional security in the Middle East.”

Gunmen Open Gunfire at Residence in Akkar
Naharnet/March 05/17/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.

Young men throw stones at security patrol in alHasniah to prevent it from stopping illegal construction works
Sun 05 Mar 2017/NNA - A group of young men from the town of al-Hasniah threw stones at an Internal Security Forces patrol in al-Abdeh on Sunday, as they attempted to halt construction works on a building site in violation at the locality of Dahr Ayass, causing damage to their military vehicle, NNA correspondent reported. The group of young men then attempted to cut-off the road leading to the construction site with burning tires to prevent security men from pursuing their mission.

Brazilian Soccer legends in Beirut to meet with Lebanese stars upcoming Wednesday
Sun 05 Mar 2017/NNA - The Lebanese sports audience will be on a special date with the legends of Brazilian Football, winners of the 1994 and 2002 World Cup, in a football game to unite them together with a team of stars from Lebanese Clubs under the slogan: "The World Cup in Lebanon - Unity for Success and Excellence," scheduled to take place at 5:00 o'clock on Wednesday afternoon at Beirut Municipal Stadium. Coach Carlos Dunga, who lifted the World Cup as a player in the United States World Cup, will be heading the Brazilian team, along with player of Barcelona and AC Milan, best world player in 1999, Rivaldo, who carried the World Cup in South Korea and Japan's World Cup in 2002.Twenty one other players will also be among the team, most prominently Kleberson, Paulo Sergio, Ze Carlos, Viola, Edmilson and Juninho, and others who played with leading European Clubs. The Brazilian team will arrive in Beirut at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, whereby they will be greeted at Rafik Hariri International Airport's VIP Lounge.

Arslan contacts Kanaan, congratulates him on his safety

Sun 05 Mar 2017/NNA - Lebanese Democratic Party Head, Displaced Minister Talal Arslan contacted, on Sunday, Change and Reform Parliamentary Bloc Secretary, MP Ibrahim Kanaan, congratulating him on his safety following the shooting incident at his convoy yesterday evening.

Khoury from LAUByblos: There will be a new election law in the nearest future to the satisfaction of all parties
Sun 05 Mar 2017/NNA - Culture Minister Ghattas Khoury disclosed, on Sunday, that "a new electoral law shall see the light in the nearest future, which shall satisfy all political parties in the country.""The new law shall complement the positive, relief climates that followed the presidential election settlement, which yielded the election of General Michel Aoun as President of the Republic, and the formation of a new government headed by Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, and the approval of its ministerial statement."Khoury's words came during his visit to the Lebanese American University's Byblos Campus, where he met with student representatives of 193 schools partaking in the 12th annual "UN-Model Program" organized by the University, which aims at training students in the art of public speaking and resolving crises peacefully. "There can be no progress in communities without knowledge," said Khoury in his address on the occasion, adding that "finding solutions to ignorance, poverty, unemployment and terrorism requires the consolidation of knowledge values, and breaking-up the intellectual rules of such terrorism, not just confronting it militarily." Praising the role that LAU plays in educating the future generations, Khoury described it as a "cultural edifice that is the pride of Lebanon and all the Lebanese.""It is essential for the youth to know the importance of listening to, and respecting differences with others, in line with the requirements of democracy and the sense of belonging to positive thinking and the culture of life," he added.
Khoury went on to note that "the United Nations, through its variety of programs and the unity of work within its units, has a central role in this regards."
"It is on this basis that Lebanon is committed to be an active member of the international community and a role model in the dialogue of civilizations," Khoury underscored.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published On March 05-06.17
Fallen Syrian Plane's Pilot in Turkish Hospital
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 05/17/A Syrian military pilot whose aircraft crashed in Turkey near the countries' border is in hospital having been found after a nine-hour search, the Anadolu news agency said Sunday. According to the Turkish report, the pilot was recovered during an air and ground search and taken to a local hospital after the plane went down on Saturday night in the Turkish province of Hatay. Anadolu, a state-run agency, did not give further details on the pilot's health but said he was flying alone when the plane crashed. A Syrian military source quoted by state television on Saturday said "contact was lost with a military aircraft on a reconnaissance mission near the Turkish border." The Syrian rebel group Ahrar al-Sham told AFP that it had shot down a government plane "as it was overflying Idlib province (in northwestern Syria) and carrying out air strikes."Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, quoted by Anadolu, said earlier that the cause of the crash was unknown, but he pointed to poor weather conditions at the time. More than 310,000 people have died since the war in Syria erupted in March 2011 after regime forces crushed anti-government protests. Millions have fled the country.

Putin ramps up Syria pact with Iran in US absence
DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis March 05/17
Constantly bombarded by allegations that his campaign associated with Russian intelligence, US President Donald Trump has held back from going through with his original plan for teaming up with Moscow in Syria for the important campaigns of wiping out the Islamic State and relieving Syria of Iran’s iron grip. His entire Middle East policy is up in the air, while he grapples with domestic foes. The much talked-of US coalition with its regional allies, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Israel, is also in abeyance. Amid the uncertainty about the Trump administration’s future steps, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is unlikely to make much headway in his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Thursday, March 9, debkafile’s intelligence and military sources report that, even if does persuade Putin to stick to his promise to prevent Iran and Hizballah from deploying troops on the Syrian-Israeli border opposite the Golan, he won’t get far in his bid to prevent Iran from establishing a permanent military and naval presence in Syria.
This is the situation stacking up against Netanyahu:
1. The Trump administration has decided not to decide on Middle East policy - and Syria, in particular – while engaged in dodging his domestic enemies’ Russian arrows. 2. Some of the president’s advisers maintain that the state of indecision in Washington may turn out into an advantage. It might not be a bad thing for Moscow to carry the heavy lifting of tackling ISIS, Iran and Hizballah, rather than putting US troops in harm’s way. 3. Putin is not waiting for Trump and is already on the move, debkafile’s sources report.Friday, March 3, Russian special operations units recovered the Syrian town of Palmyra from the Islamic State. That day too, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), composed predominantly of the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia and Arab tribesmen from the north, agreed to hand over their positions in the strategic town of Manjib to the Russians and the Syrian army, The SDF was created, trained, armed and funded by the United States as the potential spearhead force for the offensive against the Islamic State. This force was able to last year to capture the small (pop: 50,000) northern town of Manjib, 30km west of the Euphrates, thanks only to US aerial bombardments of ISIS positions and American advisers.How come that this important US ally suddenly surrendered its positions to the Russians and Assad’s army? There is more than one reason. Firstly, the SDF’s Kurdish and Arab commanders apparently decided to give up on waiting for Washington to come round, especially since the only weapons they had received from the Obama administration for fighting ISIS were Kalashnikov AK-74 rifles.Moreover, the Kurds’ most implacable arch enemy is breathing down their necks. On March 1, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan threatened to order his army, which has occupied northern Syria since last year, to seize Manjib. He said: “Manjib is a city that belongs to the Arabs and the SDF must not be in Raqqa either.”The Kurdish-Arab force decided to take the Turkish leader at his word. Believing him to be close to Trump, its leaders decided their services were being dispensed with. They saw no point therefore in wasting and risking their troops in battles in the US interest. In this situation, Moscow looked like a better bet. debkafile’s military sources stress that, when the Russians say they are working with the Syrian army, they really mean the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, the pro-Iranian Shiite militias and Hizballah, because most Syrian army’s units were decimated by nearly six years of civil war, or exist only on paper. That being so, even if Putin does promise Netanyahu to distance Iranian and pro-Iranian troops from the Syrian-Israeli border, he may not be in a position to honor his pledge. With the Americans far away, they are Russia’s main partners on the ground for achieving his future goals in Syria.

Twin IS Suicide Attacks Kill 15 in North Syria
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 05/17/Twin Islamic State group suicide attacks killed 15 people in Syria's northern province of Aleppo, where the jihadists have faced simultaneous assaults in recent weeks, a monitor said on Sunday. One attacker detonated a car bomb near the IS-held town of Deir Hafer, killing eight fighters with regime forces late Saturday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said. IS claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it "was carried out by fighter Abu Abdullah al-Shami with an explosive-laden vehicle". Deir Hafer lies on a key road linking Aleppo city to the IS-controlled town of Khafsah, which holds the main station to pump water into Aleppo, and further east to the jihadist group's de facto capital Raqa. Residents of Aleppo city have been without mains water for 48 days after the jihadists cut the supply. On Sunday, Russian and regime warplanes bombarded IS positions in support of Syrian troops, which had advanced to nine kilometers (less than six miles) from Khafsah, the Observatory said. They were just six kilometers from the pumping station, Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said. The United Nations on Sunday said 26,000 people had fled the fighting since late February, while the Observatory said as many as 30,000 had been displaced. In a second attack, IS said a fighter "detonated his suicide belt" in the rebel-held town of Azaz, also in Aleppo province. The Observatory said the suicide attack in the town "killed seven fighters and wounded several others, some of them in critical condition."In January, a massive tanker truck bomb ripped through a market in Azaz, killing 48 people and wounding dozens, the Observatory said. It was suspected that IS was behind that attack. Syria's conflict broke out in March 2011 with protests against President Bashar Assad, but has escalated into a complex conflict that has killed more than 310,000 people. Air strikes on the northwestern province of Idlib on Sunday killed six people, including five members of the same family, the Observatory said. The raids on the town of Kafranbel also wounded 21 people.

66,000 displaced in recent north Syria fighting
AFP, Beirut Sunday, 5 March 2017/A total of 66,000 people have been displaced by fighting along two fronts in Syria's fractured north, the United Nation's humanitarian coordination agency (OCHA) said Sunday. "This includes nearly 40,000 people from Al-Bab city and nearby Taduf town, as well as 26,000 people from communities to the east of Al-Bab" in northern Aleppo province, OCHA said. Turkey-backed rebels seized Al-Bab from ISIS on February 23 after several months of fighting. OCHA said the 39,766 people displaced from the town fled north to areas controlled by other rebel forces, and that the "high contamination" of unexploded bombs and booby traps set by retreating jihadists was complicating efforts to return. And since February 25, OCHA said, another 26,000 people fled violence east of Al-Bab, where Syrian government forces have also been waging a fierce offensive against ISIS. Many of those people sought refuge in areas around Manbij, a town controlled by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. On Saturday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group had said 30,000 people had been displaced by fighting between government forces and ISIS jihadists. An AFP correspondent in Manbij saw dozens of families speeding towards the relative safety of the town on motorcycles and in minibuses and cars. Since war broke out in Syria in March 2011, more than half of its population has been forced to flee their homes. Aleppo province hosts tens of thousands of displaced Syrians, many in camps near the Turkish border.

Cousin’ of ISIS leader Baghdadi arrested in Iraq’s Mosul
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Sunday, 5 March 2017/Iraqi security forces arrested a man who is believed to be the cousin of the self-proclaimed caliph of ISIS Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Mosul, Iraqi news outlets reported. According to Iraqi media reports, Baghdadi’s cousin - who was not named in the news reports - was arrested by federal police in the Jawsaq neighborhood of Mosul on Friday. “He was arrested after police received accurate intelligence information. Security forces transferred him to a location they did not make public for security reasons, and they will resume investigating him there,” Iraqi reports quoted a security source as saying. According to a photo taken from a video, Baghdadi’s cousin, who has a red beard, can be seen handcuffed as police took him away. Mosul’s Jawsaq neighborhood was liberated on Monday and around 50 ISIS members were killed.

Netanyahu to urge Russia to say 'nyet' to Iranian ops near Israel border
Herb Keinon/Jerusalem Post/March 05/17/PM to discuss Syrian civil war developments in meeting with Putin in Moscow on Thursday. Israel hopes to reach “specific understandings” with Russia to prevent Iran from permanently setting up a base of operations in Syria against Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the cabinet on Sunday.At the opening of the weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu announced that he will be traveling to Moscow on Thursday for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and the focus of the discussions will be on current efforts to put together new arrangements in Syria. Those efforts have taken place in recent weeks in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, and Geneva. “With the framework of these arrangements, and also without them, there is an Iranian effort to become firmly established on a permanent basis in Syria, either through the presence of ground forces, or naval forces,” Netanyahu said. He also said the Syrians are involved in a “gradual attempt to open up a front against us on the Golan Heights.”The prime minister said that he will express Israel's fierce opposition to this in his discussions with Putin. “I hope that we can reach specific understandings in order to decrease possible friction between our forces and theirs, as we did successfully until now,” Netanyahu said. Netanyahu traveled to Moscow in September of 2015, just as Russia began its military engagement in Syria, and set up a deconfliction mechanism between the two countries aimed at preventing any accidental engagement between Israeli and Russian forces in Syria.Netanyahu discussed the situation in Syria, and how he defines Israel’s interests there, with US President Donald Trump when he met him in Washington last month. Diplomatic sources said he now wants to have a similar conversation with Putin.

Moscow Sets March 20 Date for Geneva 5

Michel Abu Najm/Asharq Al Awsat/March 05/17/Paris- Western diplomatic sources saw that the main positive result of the eight days of Geneva 4 is that both delegations (the regime and the High Negotiations Committee of the Syrian Opposition (HNC)) agreed to discuss in a parallel manner the following four topics: governance, constitution, elections and terrorism in Geneva 5. They considered that this would prevent any of the two parties from hurdling the progress in discussions because slowness in one topic would be met with an advancement in another file in a way that maintains political dynamism.
Also, both parties have finally agreed to the four topics suggested by UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura. Regarding Geneva 5, these sources revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that the Russian party intended to announce resumption of negotiations on March 20 without getting back to de Mistura in an attempt to put pressure on him. De Mistura, in his concluding news conference, did not specify a date and only announced that Geneva 5 would be held in March. However, Syrian Ambassador to the UN Bashar al Ja’afari and head of the Syrian government delegation, said on Saturday that Damascus is still considering whether it will return to the talks in Geneva next month. Although this is a significant step but it is still a procedural one and true success is measured by achieving a progress “in depth”.

Conditional” Release to Montazeri’s Son
Asharq Al-Awsat/March 05/17/Tehran, London –The Iranian judiciary granted the jailed son of Ayatollah Montazeri – one-time heir to Iran’s former supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini – a conditional release, AFP reported on Saturday. AFP quoted an Iranian local news agency – Mizanonline – as saying that Ahmad Montazeri, a cleric serving a six-year jail term for “action against national security”, had been released after being pardoned by Khomeini’s successor, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Ahmad Montazeri had agreed not to “take action against the regime”, failing which he would return to prison. An Iranian appeals court ruled that the cleric, whose late father had originally been lined up to replace Khomeini before being sidelined, should serve a six-year term rather than 21 years as ordered by a religious court, Mizanonline reported last month. AFP said that he was also convicted of spreading “lies about the founder of the Islamic republic”, Khomeini. In August 2016, Montazeri released recordings in which his father, Hossein Ali Montazeri, condemned the 1988 executions of thousands of members of the People’s Mujahedeen armed opposition group ordered by Khomeini shortly before his death.

Jordan Executes 15 Terrorists
Mohamed Al-Daameh/Asharq Al Awsat/March 05/17/Amman – Jordan executed 15 people on Saturday morning, including 10 convicted on terrorism charges, according to government spokesman Mohammad al-Momani. Momani told state media that those executed included those involved in the “Irbid terror cell”, and the terror attack against the General Intelligence Department office in Baqaa refugee camp. Other crimes included the assassination of columnist Nahed Hattar, terror bomb attack on Jordan’s Embassy in Baghdad in 2003, and the terrorist attack against foreign tourists visiting the Roman amphitheater in Amman. The men were hanged at Swaqa Prison. Five of the criminals were involved in an assault by security forces on a militant hideout by suspected ISIS militants in Irbid city in the same year that led to the death of seven militants and one police officer in 2016. They were: Ashraf Beshtawi, Fadi Beshtawi, Imad Delki, Faraj al-Sharif, and Mohammed Delki. Mahmoud Hussein Masharfa was the executor of the terrorist attack in June 2016 against the General Intelligence Department office in Baqaa refugee camp. Riyad Ismail Abdullah was executed for assassinating Hattar in September 2016. While, Muammar al-Jaghbir was executed after his conviction in terror bomb attack on Jordan’s Embassy in Baghdad in 2003. Nabil Ahmad al-Jaoura was convicted for the terrorist attack against foreign tourists visiting the Roman amphitheater in Amman which led to the death of a British tourist in 2006. Momani added: “This is an attempt to bring justice to the victims of those terrorists who threatened our national security. Anyone who will dare engage in terrorist activities against Jordan will face the same destiny.” Human rights group Amnesty International condemned the executions by hanging saying they were carried out in secrecy and without transparency. Samah Hadid, deputy director at Amnesty International’s Beirut regional office, said, “The horrific scale and secrecy around these executions is shocking.”Amnesty is against capital punishment regardless of the criminal, his crime or whether he was innocent or not, and the execution method.
Amnesty said in a statement earlier: “Jordan had for years been a leading example in a region where recourse to the death penalty is all too frequent.” In December 2014, 11 men were executed after the capital punishment had been frozen in Jordan since March 2006. In February 2015, Jordan executed Sajida Rishawi and Ziad al-Karboli. The two inmates were hanged a day after the release of a video showing the killing of Jordanian pilot Muath Kasasbeh by ISIS. Rishawi was convicted by the State Security Court in September 2006 of plotting terror attacks against three hotels in Amman in November 2005, which had left more than 60 people dead and around 90 injured. Karboli was convicted of killing a Jordanian truck driver in Iraq in September 2005, possessing explosives as well as belonging to an illegal al-Qaeda-affiliated organization called Tawhid and Jihad. Over 100 people, including around 10 women, are currently on death row in Jordan. Jordan is part of the US-led coalition against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Trump Expected to Sign Revised Travel Ban Monday
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 05/17/U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to sign a revised travel ban on Monday, just over a month after his original decree sowed controversy across the United States and chaos at airports, U.S. media reported. The president will sign the new executive order at the Department of Homeland Security, according to Politico, which cited senior government officials. It was unclear what changes Trump planned to make, according to the publication. Trump's original January 27 order was widely criticized as amounting to a ban on Muslims, and also for being rolled out sloppily -- with virtually no warning to the public or preparation of the agencies tasked with enforcing it. The order, which temporarily barred people from seven Muslim-majority countries from traveling to the United States for 90 days, as well as all refugees for 120 days and Syrian refugees permanently -- triggered worldwide outrage as well as protests in the United States. It also caused chaos in the first days of its implementation as people arriving at U.S. airports from targeted countries were detained and sometimes sent back to where they came from.
However,, the order was halted after two judicial setbacks -- a nationwide freeze on Trump's ban by a U.S. district judge in Seattle and a subsequent ruling by San Francisco's Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upholding the suspension.

Iranian Sunni bloc angered by MP who ‘insulted’ Prophet Mohammed’s companions
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Sunday, 5 March 2017/The Ahlus Sunnah Iranian parliamentary bloc has demanded an investigation into MP Javad Karimi Ghoddousi’s alleged insults of the companions of Prophet Mohammed. In a letter the bloc submitted to Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani on Saturday, the bloc voiced anger of Ghoddousi’s statements made on Friday “insulting” the four successors of Prophet Mohammed and making “false claims” about Sunnis, the Iranian Labor News Agency reported. The bloc voiced the importance of investigating Ghoddousi, who is a representative of Mashhad, over the “insults and fabrications” made. According to semi-official sources, there are between 10 and 20 percent of Sunnis in the country, which has a total population of 79 million.

10 dead from hunger in 48 hours in severe Somalia drought
The Associated Press, Mogadishu Sunday, 5 March 2017/Somalia's prime minister said Saturday that 110 people have died from hunger in the past 48 hours in a single region - the first death toll announced in a severe drought threatening millions of people across the country. Somalia's government declared the drought a national disaster on Tuesday. The United Nations estimates that 5 million people in this Horn of Africa nation need aid, amid warnings of a full-blown famine. Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire spoke during a meeting with the Somali National Drought Committee. The death toll he announced is from the Bay region in the southwest part of the country alone. Somalia was one of four regions singled out by the UN secretary-general last month in a $4.4 billion aid appeal to avert catastrophic hunger and famine, along with northeast Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen. All are connected by a thread of violent conflict, the UN chief said. The UN humanitarian coordinator, Stephen O'Brien, was expected to visit Somalia in the next few days. Thousands have been streaming into Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, in search of food aid, overwhelming local and international aid agencies. Over 7,000 internally displaced people checked into one feeding center recently. The drought is the first crisis for Somalia's newly elected Somali-American leader, President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed. Previous droughts and a quarter-century of conflict, including ongoing attacks by extremist group al-Shabab, have left the country fragile. Mohamed has appealed to the international community and Somalia's diaspora of 2 million people for help. About 363,000 acutely malnourished children in Somalia "need urgent treatment and nutrition support, including 71,000 who are severely malnourished," the US Agency for International Development's Famine Early Warning Systems Network has warned. Because of a lack of clean water in many areas, there is the additional threat of cholera and other diseases, UN experts say. Some deaths from cholera already have been reported. The government has said the widespread hunger "makes people vulnerable to exploitation, human rights abuses and to criminal and terrorist networks."The UN humanitarian appeal for 2017 for Somalia is $864 million to provide assistance to 3.9 million people. But the UN World Food Program recently requested an additional $26 million plan to respond to the drought.

Bahrain Approves Military Trial for Civilians
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 05/17/Bahrain's upper house of parliament on Sunday approved a constitutional amendment which grants military courts the right to try civilians, sparking concern for the fate of activists already in custody. The 40-seat Shura Council, the upper parliamentary chamber appointed by the king in the Gulf state, unanimously approved an amendment to Article 105, members of the council told The amendment drops a clause limiting military trials to members of the armed forces or other security branches. Civilians charged with "damaging public interest" or with terrorism, a vague legal term, could now face courts martial. Sunni-ruled Bahrain last month marked six years since protests demanding constitutional reform in the Shiite-majority kingdom erupted in the capital Manama. King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa, whose family has ruled Bahrain for two centuries, declared a three-month state of emergency in 2011 during which special military courts were established to try civilians. Sunday's move comes two weeks after approval by parliament's elected lower chamber, and has sparked concern among rights activists for Bahraini civilians -- including those already in detention. "We are concerned that they will choose someone to make an example of," Said Yousif al-Muhafdha, vice-president of the non-governmental Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), told AFP. Leading Shiite cleric Issa Qassem, who was stripped of his Bahraini citizenship last year, could be one such example, according to Muhafdha. Qassem is currently on trial on a string of charges which include inciting unrest. His citizenship was revoked over charges that he incited religious tensions. Hundreds of Shiite protesters including high-profile opposition leaders have been arrested since 2011, as Bahraini authorities make sweeping use of counter-terrorism legislation. Prominent Shiite human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, a BCHR founder, is also in custody facing trial on a list of charges, including spreading "false information" about Bahrain. Authorities in the small but strategic archipelago state have accused Shiite-dominated Iran of meddling in the domestic affairs of Arab countries in the Gulf. Iran has consistently denied the charge.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published
On March 05-06.17
Kuwaiti MP Mohammed Hayef AlـMutairi: Amend Constitution, Sharia 'Is Supreme' And 'Should Be Imposed' – Without People Being Able To Reject It – 'Are We Thieves, Who... Fear Having Our Hands Chopped Off?'

MEMRI/March 05/17
In a February 14 session of the Kuwaiti parliament, MP Mohammed Al-Mutairi demanded the amendment of Article 79 of the Kuwaiti constitution - which states that "No law may be promulgated unless it has been passed by the National Assembly and sanctioned by the Emir" - in order to limit the ability of MPs and the government to submit bills that do not conform with the shari'a. He said that the shari'a must be reinstated in Kuwait, in keeping with a commitment made in the wake of the liberation from the Iraqi invasion. "What do we have to fear?" MP Hayef asked. "Are we drinkers of alcohol, who have to fear being lashed? Are we thieves, who have to fear having our hands chopped off?" He concluded by saying that the shari'a should be imposed on people and not merely offered as an option, which they could either accept or reject. The speech aired on Al-Majlis TV, which follows the activity of the Kuwaiti parliament. MP Al-Mutairi is the chairman of the newly-formed parliamentary "Negative Phenomena Committee," which was recently criticized by Kuwaiti liberals for convening to discuss the phenomenon of "Satan worshipers" in Kuwaiti schools.
Mohammed Al-Mutairi: "I call upon my colleagues the MPs to sign the demand to amend Article 79 of the constitution. You will have it ready tomorrow. This is the least we can do for our shari'a. If we believe in Allah as the Lord, in Islam as His religion, and Muhammad as His Prophet and Messenger, we must follow His decrees and obey His Messenger.
"The implementation of the shari'a must not be our last goal, our lowest priority. It is our top priority, and so it will remain, and in each parliamentary session, we shall demand its implementation. The very least we can do is to amend Article 79, in order to contain the flow of bills that do not conform to the shari'a, which could be submitted by the MPs or by the government. "The ruler, the government, and the parliament together must abide by the commitment that they took upon themselves in the days of the [1990 Iraqi] invasion. When they were unjustly banished from their homes by the oppressors, they made a pledge to Allah that they would show their gratitude [for liberation] by reinstating the shari'a in the country. "What do we have to fear? Are we drinkers of alcohol, who have to fear being lashed? Are we thieves, who have to fear having our hands chopped off? The provisions of the shari'a are a mercy to the servants of Allah. The prisons are packed, as my colleagues have just said. A person who is sent to jail over a brawl emerges from it a drug dealer or a drug addict. "The shari'a should be imposed. Sadly, with the changes of time and the the vicissitudes of circumstance, the shari'a is offered to people, and they either accept it or reject it, God forbid. This is a severe transgression. The shari'a is supreme and should be imposed upon the people, rather than people having the prerogative to accept or reject it."

Why Trump’s Congress speech heralds his makeover
Trisha de Borchgrave/Al Arabiya/March 05/17
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.

Bahrain Arrests Iran-Linked Terror Cell
Obaid Al-Suhaymi/ASharq Al Awsat/March 05/17
Manama – Bahrain said on Saturday it had uncovered a 54-member Iranian-linked terror cell suspected of involvement in attacks on security forces, including organizing a prison break in January, and seized automatic weapons.
The organization includes 12 defendants in Iran and Iraq, another one in Germany and 41, including the 10 convicts who had escaped from prison, in Bahrain.
Manama frequently accuses Iran of fomenting civil unrest and supporting attacks against security forces, allegations which Tehran has long denied.
It was one of the biggest security operations against suspected militants Bahrain blames for an increase in armed attacks on security forces in the Western-allied kingdom, where the US Fifth Fleet is based.
Chief of Terror Crime Prosecution Advocate General Ahmed al-Hammadi has revealed the existence of a terrorist organization comprising 54 members.
Hammadi added that 25 members of the cell who had carried out acts of terror had been arrested and that the investigations by the Public Prosecution were still ongoing.
“The Public Prosecution had received a report from the General Director of Criminal Investigation and Forensic Science on the search and investigation efforts regarding the escape of 10 convicts from the Reform and Rehabilitation Centre in Jaw on January 1, 2017 and which resulted in the death of a policeman from the prison guards force,” Hammadi announced.
Hamadi stressed that the investigations revealed that the movements of the terrorists to other countries were coordinated by one of the cell leaders based in Germany.
The leader made the arrangements for several members to go to Iran and Iraq to receive training in the use of explosives and firearms at the Iranian Revolutionary Guard camps ahead of carrying out their terrorist crimes in Bahrain.
The leaders and members of the organization had prepared and made plans for a number of terrorist crimes in order to disrupt public order, endanger the safety of the Kingdom, put its security at risk, undermine national unity and obstruct public authorities from carrying out their work, Hammadi added.
Advocate General stressed that, based on the information confirmed by the investigations and the sufficient and acceptable evidence about the crime details and the perpetrators, the Public Prosecution issued a warrant to inspect the locations identified by the confessions and testimonies in order to seize the explosives, firearms, ammunition, documents and tools related to the crimes and stored by the suspects.
Public Prosecution inspected the crime scenes, confiscated all the seized items and ordered the competent technical authorities to examine the evidence and draft reports.
He added that the security authorities arrested several suspects in accordance with the provisions of the law that protect society from acts of terrorism.
The suspects were referred to the public prosecutor who questioned them in accordance with the prescribed legal procedures.
Advocate General also said that the investigations and the confessions of the suspects revealed the facts about the establishment of the terrorist organization and its composition as well as how the fugitives in Iran and Iraq communicated with its members in the Kingdom in the prison and outside to recruit other elements and provide them with explosives, firearms and ammunition of various kinds that had been smuggled into the country.
They also provided them with the necessary funds for their livelihood and for the activities of the organization and coordinated with the fugitive leader in Germany to arrange the travel of some members to Iran to be trained on the use of explosives and firearms in the Revolutionary Guard camps to prepare them to carry out terrorist crimes in Bahrain.
The members provided them with plans to commit terrorist operations, the means to prepare their implementation, the weapons and explosives as well as the means to film them with drones to broadcast them for propaganda purposes.
Regarding the explosives, firearms and ammunition found in a boat in the Nabih Saleh area, investigations revealed they were part of the schemes by the leaders and members of the terrorist organization to smuggle them from Iran and Iraq into Bahrain via the sea and to use them in their terrorist crimes.
Hamamdi added that the breakout from the Reform and Rehabilitation Centre in Jaw was planned in order to enable the terror convicts to escape and carry out attacks in Bahrain and, for some of them, to go abroad and join the organization leaders in Iran and Iraq.
The jail break, carried out with the assistance of four members of the organization from outside the prison, resulted in the escape of 10 convicts and the martyrdom of one policeman.
In the shooting of a policeman in the Bani Jamra area case, investigations revealed that the terrorist crime was committed by a number of the organization members who were not among the prison fugitives.
The attack was committed as part of the organization’s activities under the instructions of its leaders abroad to disrupt public order and to target policemen.
Hammadi stressed that the murder of a police officer in the Bilad al-Qadeem area was plotted by one of the organization’s leaders in Iran and a member in Bahrain.
The murderer who knew the personal and professional status of the victim monitored his movements before killing him with a machine gun supplied by the organization’s leaders.
Regarding the case of resisting the authorities and shooting police officers in Bahrain’s territorial waters, Hammadi said that it was in the context of an attempt to smuggle ten accused members of the organization abroad.
The individuals being smuggled out included a convicted fugitive from the Jaw prison, three who participated in carrying out the jailbreak and the organization member who killed the police officer.
The police warned the suspects who responded by opening fire on them. Yet, the policemen were forced to exchange fire with the suspects, killing three of them and wounding others.
The defendants indicated to the investigators the locations where they hid the explosives and firearms that had been supplied by the organization’s leaders abroad for use in terrorist crimes.
The Public Prosecution subsequently issued warrants to seize all the items discovered in the hideouts, including the firearm which had been taken from a police officer during the escape from the Jaw prison.
The investigations resulted in the seizure of large quantities of explosives, detonators, grenades, firearms, automatic machine guns, guns, and ammunition of 7 guns, 4 Kalashnikovs, 292 bullets, 19 explosive devices, 11 ammunition cartridge holders, 96 detonators and a drone. Cars and boats used in terrorist crimes and smuggling operations were also seized.
The investigations carried out by the Criminal Investigation Department also revealed that one of the organization leaders, currently in Iran, continued his criminal and terrorist activities and plots against Bahrain.
He assisted many terrorist fugitives in Iran and Iraq with forming, in previous years, groups and cells in Bahrain that were eventually busted.
He was also involved in alliances with terrorist elements and fugitives belonging to various terrorist groups in Iran and Iraq to set up a terrorist group in Bahrain. The terrorist had been sentenced in several cases.
Hamadi said that the Public Prosecution has completed the questioning of 25 defendants who were involved in the operations, contributed to them or sheltered fugitives.
Other fugitives who were mentioned in the investigations or in the confessions of the defendants are still at large.
Public Prosecution levelled 16 charges against the defendants, including joining a terrorist group, training in the use of explosives and firearms to commit terrorist crimes, killing two police officers, attempting to kill police officers, and importing, smuggling and possessing explosives and weapons that may not be licensed in any way with the intention of using them in activities to disrupt public peace and order.
They were also charged with causing damages, robbery, resisting law-enforcement authorities, escaping from prison following legal arrest, and helping terrorists escape and sheltering them.
Only four of the defendants denied the charges while the others admitted them, Hamadi said.
The investigations by the Public Prosecution included a re-enactment of the crimes at the scenes and testimonies from several witnesses.
Public Prosecution remanded the defendants in custody pending further investigations and referred them to the forensic doctors for the necessary medical examination. It also referred the seized items to technical experts for reports.
Public Prosecution is also in the process of gathering testimonies from other witnesses and questioning suspects mentioned in the confessions of the defendants. The boats and cars used in the incidents were confiscated.
The investigations by the Public Prosecution are going on throughout the day in order to finish all details and prepare the case documents, Hamadi said.
Iran has not yet responded to the chief prosecutor’s claims, according to Associated Press news agency.

France's Death Spiral
Guy Millière/Gatestone Institute/March 05/17
In 1990, the "Gayssot law" was passed, stipulating that "any discrimination based on ethnicity, nation, race or religion is prohibited". Since then, it has been used to criminalize any criticism of Arab and African delinquency, any question on immigration from the Muslim world, any negative analysis of Islam. Many writers have been fined and most "politically incorrect" books on those topics have disappeared from bookshops.
The French government asked the media to obey the "Gayssot law." It also asked that history textbooks be rewritten to include chapters on the crimes committed by the West against Muslims, and on the "essential contribution" of Islam to humanity. All history textbooks are "Islamically correct."
In hospitals, Muslims are increasingly asking to be treated only by Muslim doctors, and refusing to let their wives be treated by male doctors.
February 2, 2017: A "no-go zone" in the eastern suburbs of Paris. Police on patrol hear screams. They decide to check. While there, a young man insults them. They decide to arrest him. He hits them. A fight starts. He accuses a policeman of having raped him with a police baton. A police investigation quickly establishes that the young man was not raped. But it is too late; a toxic process has begun.
Without waiting for any further evidence, the French Interior Minister says that the police officers have "behaved badly." He adds that "police misconduct must be condemned". French President François Hollande goes to the hospital to give his support to the young man. The president says he has conducted himself in a "dignified and responsible manner." The next day, a demonstration against the police is cobbled together. The demonstration turns into a riot.
Riots continue for more than two weeks. They affect more than twenty cities throughout France. They spread to the heart of Paris. Dozens of cars are torched. Shops and restaurants are looted. Official buildings and police stations are attacked.
The police are ordered not to intervene. They do what they are told to do. Few arrests take place.
Police look on as a car, which was destroyed by rioters in a Paris suburb, is removed on February 13, 2017. (Image source: Ruptly video screenshot)
Calm is slowly returning, but the riots can easily start again. France is a country at the mercy of large-scale uprisings. They can explode anytime, anyplace. French leaders know it, and find refuge in cowardice.
What is happening is the result of a corrosive development initiated five decades ago. In the 1960s, after the war in Algeria, President Charles de Gaulle directed the country toward closer relations with Arab and Muslim states.
Migratory flows of "guest workers" from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, which had started a few years earlier, sharply increased. Immigrants were not encouraged to integrate. Everyone assumed they would return home at the end of their employment contracts. They were settled in the outskirts of big cities. The economy was dynamic, with strong job creation. It seemed there would be no problems.
Twenty years later, serious difficulties became obvious. The immigrants now numbered millions. People from sub-Saharan Africa joined those coming from Arab nations. Neighborhoods made up of just Arabs and Africans were formed. The economy had slowed down and mass unemployment settled in. But the jobless immigrants did not go back home, instead relying on social benefits. Integration still did not exist. Although many of these new arrivals had become French citizens, they often sounded resentful of France and the West. Political agitators started teaching them to detest Western civilization. Violent gangs of young Arabs and Africans began to form. Clashes with police were common. Often, when a gang member was wounded, political agitators would help to incite more violence.
The situation grew difficult to control. But nothing was done to fix it; quite the opposite.
In 1984, a movement called SOS Racisme was created by Trotskyist militants, and began to define any criticism of immigration as "racist". Major leftist parties supported SOS Racism. They seem to have thought that by accusing their political opponents of racism, they could attract the votes of "new citizens." The presence of Islamist agitators, alongside agitators in Arab and African neighborhoods, plus the emergence of anti-Western Islamic discourse, alarmed many observers. SOS Racisme immediately designated those who spoke of Islamic danger as "Islamophobic racists."
In 1990, a law drafted by a Communist lawmaker, Jean-Claude Gayssot, was passed. It stipulated that "any discrimination based on ethnicity, nation, race or religion is prohibited." Since then, this law has been used to criminalize any criticism of Arab and African delinquency, any question on immigration from the Muslim world, any negative analysis of Islam. Many writers have been fined, and most "politically incorrect" books on those topics have disappeared from bookshops.
The French government asked the media to obey the "Gayssot law." It also asked that history textbooks be rewritten to include chapters on the crimes committed by the West against Muslims, and on the "essential contribution" of Islam to humanity.
In 2002, the situation in the country became dramatic.
Arab and African neighborhoods had become "no-go zones." Radical Islam was widespread and Islamist attacks began. Dozens of cars would be torched each week. Muslim anti-Semitism was rising rapidly and led to an increase in anti-Jewish attacks. SOS Racisme and other anti-racist organizations were silent on Muslim anti-Semitism. Unwilling to be accused of "Islamophobic racism," organizations tasked with fighting against anti-Semitism were also silent.
A book, The Lost Territories of the Republic, by Georges Bensoussan (under the pen-name "Emmanuel Brenner"), was released. It depicted accurately what was going on. It spoke of the sweeping hatred for the West among young people of immigrant origin, and of the full-blown hatred of Jews among young Muslims. It said that "no-go zones" were on the edge of secession and no longer a part of French territory. The mainstream media ignored the book.
Three years later, in October 2005, riots broke out across the country. More than 9,000 cars were torched. Hundreds of stores, supermarkets and shopping centers were looted and destroyed. Dozens of police officers were seriously injured. The storm stopped when the government reached an agreement to make peace with Muslim associations. Power had changed hands.
Since then, the state scarcely maintains law and order in France.
Another book, A Submissive France, was recently published by the man who had written The Lost Territories of the Republic fifteen years before, the historian Georges Bensoussan. Now, the French Republic itself is a lost territory.
"No go zones" are no longer French territory. Radical Islam and the hatred of the West reign among Muslim populations and, more broadly, among populations of immigrant origin. Muslim anti-Semitism makes life unbearable for Jews who have not yet left France and who cannot afford to relocate to areas where Jews are not yet threatened: the 16th and 17th arrondissements, the Beverly Hills of Paris; or the city of Neuilly, a wealthy suburb of Paris.
Everywhere in France, high school teachers go to work with a Qur'an in their hands, to make sure that what they say in class does not contradict the sacred book of Islam.
All history textbooks are "Islamically correct". One-third of the French Muslims say they want to live according to Islamic sharia law and not according to the laws of France.
In hospitals, Muslims are increasingly asking to be treated by Muslim doctors only, and refusing to let their wives be treated by male doctors.
Attacks on police officers occur on a daily basis. The police have orders: they must not enter "no-go zones." They must not respond to insults and threats. They must flee if they are assaulted. Sometime, they do not have time to flee.
In October 2016, two policemen were burned alive in their car in Viry-Châtillon, south of Paris. In January 2017, three police officers fell into an ambush and were stabbed in in Bobigny, east of Paris.
Police officers did respond to the incident on February 2. When a man became violent, they did not flee. The French government could only find them guilty, accusing a police officer of raping his attacker. But the police officer was not guilty of rape; he was guilty of simply having intervened. The French government also found his colleagues guilty. They were all accused of "violence." They now will have to go to court.
The young man who destroyed the lives of these police officers is not being accused of anything. In all the "no go zones," he is now a hero. Mainstream television channels ask him for interviews. His name is Theodore, or Theo. "Justice for Theo" stickers are everywhere. Banners sporting his name are waved at demonstrations. Rioters shout his name along with the name of Allah.
A few journalists have said that he is not a hero; that "no go zones" are reservoirs of anti-Western, anti-Semitic and anti-French hatred ready to burst. But these journalists are also cautious. They know they might be prosecuted.
Georges Bensoussan, the Moroccan-born author of The Lost Territories of the Republic and of A Submissive France -- is currently on trial. A complaint was filed against him by the Collective against Islamophobia in France (CCIF). They are suing him for having said: "Today we are witnessing a different people in the French nation; they are causing the return of a number of democratic values to which we adhere," and "This visceral anti-Semitism, proven by the Fondapol Survey last year, cannot remain in silence."
Judges were immediately assigned to the case. The verdict is due March 5. If Bensoussan is not sentenced, the CCIF will be sure to appeal. Bensoussan is a man from the left. He is a member of "J Call" (European Jewish Call for Reason), a movement criticizing "Israel's occupation of the West Bank", and asking for "the creation of a viable Palestinian state". Even such positions are no longer enough to protect him. The International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism (LICRA), an organization founded in 1927 to combat anti-Semitism, supported CCIF. Organizations ostensibly fighting anti-Semitism in France instead seem to be clinging to futile fantasies of appeasing their tormentors. They never mention Muslim anti-Semitism, and have now fully joined the fight against "Islamophobic racism" against Jewish authors such as Georges Bensoussan.
Elections will be held in France, in April. The Socialist Party chose a candidate, Benoît Hamon, supported by the UOIF (Union of Islamic Organizations of France), the French branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The far-left and the communists will also have a candidate, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, an unconditional admirer of Lenin, Hugo Chavez and Yasser Arafat, and a resolute enemy of Israel.
Hamon and Mélenchon will likely each receive about 15% of the vote.
A third candidate from the left, Emmanuel Macron, is a former member of the French Socialist government under François Hollande. To attract the Muslim vote, Macron went to Algeria and said that French colonization was a "crime against humanity." He stated several times that French culture does not exist, and that Western culture does not exist either; but he added that Arab Muslim culture must have "its place" in France.
The conservative candidate, François Fillon, promises to fight Sunni Islam, but says he wants a "strong alliance" between France, Iran's mullahs and Hezbollah. His reputation is badly damaged by a "fake jobs" scandal. He has attacked France's Jewish community, presumably to secure the Muslim vote. He said it does not respect "all the rules of the Republic." He has said that Israel represents a threat to world peace.
Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate of the National Front, may seem the most determined to straighten France out, but her economic program is as self-defeatingly Marxist as that of Hamon or Mélenchon. Le Pen also wants to attract the Muslim electorate. She went to Cairo a few months ago to meet the Grand Imam of al-Azhar. Like all other French political parties, her party supported the anti-Israeli positions of former U.S. President Barack Obama, as well as UN Security Council Resolution 2334, passed last year on December 23.
Le Pen will likely win the first round of the two-round election, but will almost certainly be defeated in the second round: all the other candidates will gather behind the candidate facing her, probably Macron or Fillon (if he still is in the race). Le Pen might think that in five years the situation in France will be even worse, and that then she will have a serious chance to be elected President.
A few months ago, in a recently published book, Civil War is Coming, the French columnist Ivan Rioufol wrote: "The danger is not the National Front, which is only the expression of the anger of an abandoned people. The danger is the ever-closer links between leftism and Islamism.... The danger must be stopped."
*Dr. Guy Millière, a professor at the University of Paris, is the author of 27 books on France and Europe.
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Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham and Civil Society in Jabal al-Summaq

Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi/Syria Comments/March 05/17
The formation of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (‘Liberation of al-Sham Commission’- HTS) has understandably provoked fear of a total jihadist/al-Qa’ida takeover of Syria’s rebel-held northwest, centred around Idlib province. HTS was announced on 28 January amid wider rebel infighting in Idlib that saw multiple groups merge under Ahrar al-Sham in a bid to protect themselves from Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS), the rebranded Jabhat al-Nusra that had ostensibly dropped links to al-Qa’ida in July 2016. The largest single component of HTS is undoubtedly JFS, whose leader Abu Muhammad al-Jowlani was recently confirmed in a video release to be the overall military commander of HTS, even as the overall leader Hashim al-Sheikh was originally in Ahrar al-Sham and had been pushing for his group to merge with JFS.
At present, there is still a substantial presence of Ahrar al-Sham in northwest Syria, but it is evident that the recent turns of events have severely diminished the influence of rebel factions in the area that are vetted and supported by the MOM operations room in Turkey. A merger with Ahrar al-Sham means an end to vetted status, while rebel factions more widely are being pressured by Turkey and other external backers to take a firmer line against HTS. Yet the prospect of a full-blown confrontation and all-out war with HTS could be fatal to the entire insurgency in the northwest as the regime and its allies would likely exploit the opportunity to secure major territorial gains.
Rebel factions (including Ahrar al-Sham) can of course opt for a closer relationship with Turkey, bolstering the Euphrates Shield operation in north Aleppo countryside that recently took al-Bab from the Islamic State. But this option means drawing more resources and manpower away from Idlib province and the wider northwest, which allows HTS to increase its influence. Whatever way one looks at it, the best that the rebel factions can hope for in the northwest is keeping HTS in check somehow: that is, maintaining some kind of stalemate in the balance of power. Even so, it is apparent that HTS is taking an ever more assertive line on the ground, not only in its drive to absorb more and more factions but also in its relations with civil society structures where non-HTS actors might hope to maintain some influence.
The area of Jabal al-Summaq in north Idlib province is a notable case-in-point. Of Druze origin, the area’s original inhabitants have been forced to renounce their faith and convert to Sunni Islam twice. The first time was under pressure from what was then the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham as it expanded its influence across northwest Syria through 2013. The second time was under Jabhat al-Nusra, which gained control over the area in late 2014 after the expulsion of the Syrian Revolutionaries Front from Idlib province. Jabhat al-Nusra and its successors have remained in control of the area since that time.
The existence of a services wing established under Jabhat al-Nusra has long been known: the General Administration for Services (al-Idarat al-Aama lil-Khidimat). However, its presence and functioning have not always correlated with the existence of strongholds under Jabhat al-Nusra and its successors. In some areas, such as Khan Sheikhoun in south Idlib province but coming under the Hama division of the General Administration for Services, we find that this services department for what is now HTS has been competing alongside the local council. Local councils- which are supposed to be civilian bodies embodying local governance in ‘liberated’ areas-are considered to be among the main pillars of civil society in insurgent-held territory. In the case of Khan Sheikhoun, the local council is affiliated with the Idlib provincial council, which is in turn backed by the opposition-in-exile/the interim government.
In Jabal al-Summaq, despite the dominance of Jabhat al-Nusra and its successors since the end of 2014, there has not until now been a functioning branch for the General Administration for Services. Instead, services have been managed by local councils that share the same chain of affiliation and support as that of the Khan Sheikhoun local council. For example, in the village of Kaftin, one of the larger villages of Jabal al-Summaq in which a substantial proportion if not the majority of the original inhabitants has remained (also true for Ma’arat al-Ikhwan, whereas other villages like Duwair are completely depopulated of their original inhabitants). Displacement has occurred for a variety of reasons: some prefer to work in regime-held areas, others did not want to live under forced conversion to Sunni Islam, a combination of these factors etc.
The local council of Kaftin was set up three years ago and is led by an administrative office consisting of nine people.
Emblem of the local council for the village of Kaftin. On bottom: “We work for your sake.”
Perhaps the most notable service the local council in Kaftin has undertaken is management of an oven that makes and distributed bread for locals. According to a post by the Idlib provincial council in December 2016, this oven in Kaftin serves around 5000 families, translating to approximately 25,000 individuals, in three localities. Based on other information, the other two localities besides Kaftin are Birat Kaftin and Ma’arat al-Ikhwan (both villages also in Jabal al-Summaq, the former having seen more displacement of its original inhabitants than the latter). This oven was opened in November 2016 and the Kaftin local council had announced a recruitment campaign for personnel to operate the oven at the time.
The Kaftin oven. Note the symbol of the Kaftin local council on the banner, which reads: “Our bread is among the treasures of our land.”
Bread packs with the marking of the Kaftin local council.
The local council in Kaftin also plays a role in education for the youth. Kaftin has four schools, but they teach according to the education programs of the regime. These programs are considered better than those offered by the opposition, and so people from neighbouring villages have sought to have their youth study in the schools of Kaftin. That said, there are regulations in place regarding certain subjects, notably the removal of nationalist ideology, modification to the teaching of history and removal of art subjects (i.e. art and music). There is of course also religious education in line with HTS’ rules (i.e. only teaching Sunni Islam). One should compare with regulations put in place in late 2014 by the Dar al-Qada– the judicial branch for what was then Jabhat al-Nusra- in the Idlib locality of Darkush, a stronghold for the group. Some specifications on education were also noted on the second imposition of Sunni Islam on the original inhabitants of Jabal al-Summaq, requiring Islamic teaching for the youth in designated places of prayer- which amounts to standard da’wa practice- and a prohibition on gender mixing in schools.
Many of the teachers and education personnel continue to receive salaries from the regime in Hama province: a key example of how the regime tries to maintain some leverage in rebel-held areas, ultimately seeking to regain them (another case-in-point is that the regime pays salaries of retired state employees in those areas). Yet there are also some teachers who are working on a voluntary basis or have defected from the regime. Their salaries are paid by the local council in Kaftin, which also provides for the needs of the schools (e.g. fuel).
Other services of note include public cleaning, agricultural land auction for the purposes of grazing, working with the Syria Immunization Group to implement vaccine programs, and working on land telephone lines.
Like many other local councils, the local council in Kaftin works with international aid programs and organizations to provide some services. For example, in May 2016, the council advertised distribution of emergency aid to displaced people. The aid was provided by the World Food Program and Human Appeal.
At the head of the Kaftin council is Abd al-Majid Sharif, an anti-regime political thinker and activist originally from Kaftin and presently residing there. Some readers may recall that the outlet Syria Direct interviewed him in March 2015 regarding the situation in Jabal al-Summaq, in which he outlined the reality of the forced conversions and the failure of Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt’s supposed mediation. According to Sharif, the council does not have elections, whether internally done within the council or externally through popular elections for positions. Sharif clarified further: “I want to abandon [my position in the local council] to have time for theoretical work, but no one wants to undertake the job and the other members are threatening me with resignation if I resign.”
The status-quo whereby the realm of services provision in Jabal al-Summaq has been in the hands of these local councils that are ultimately tied to the opposition-in-exile is now under threat from HTS. On his Facebook page late last month, Sharif wrote of a new initiative from HTS to subsume the local councils under its services wing:
“In the province of Idlib and the north of Aleppo, whereby HTS control has arisen without contests and the rest of the factions and formations have gone into seclusion, or even many of their members handed over their weapons to Jabhat Fatah al-Sham or joined it, the commission [HTS] is currently forming a civil administration in the name of the General Services Administration, and is directing for the previous administration represented in the local councils to become affiliated with this General Administration. The cadres of Fatah al-Sham say that the council that will not accept this affiliation to it will be dissolved and a replacement will be formed for it.
But the problem is also with the cadres of the councils who fear the commission’s [HTS’] revenge if the cadre rejects working with it. The second problem concerns the possessions of the councils that will be automatically transferred to the new councils affiliated with the General Administration. The third is that this will annul the work of the provincial council and the interim government. The fourth and most important is that the commission is classified worldwide with terrorism legally speaking since Fatah al-Sham forms its main body, and so also the countries and organizations will reject working with it and we will be turned to a form of siege even if there are no bombing and destruction of the installations that these countries and organizations had previously offered to the local councils.
We are in a true dilemma, I do not know how we can get out from it. But it should be noted that the new General Administration has covered or deceived the entire area with aid, especially free bread and semi-free bread. This aid is being offered by Turkish organizations: it is as though Turkey is trying to pressure the international community through its support to obtain something in return. I do not believe this will last long if something must be sorted out with Turkey and this aid stops.
I asked one of the members of the provincial council: What is your opinion? And where are things headed? He replied: To the precipice.”
Though Sharif told me on 27 February that he had only heard of this services branch for HTS twenty days ago, the reality is that it is not a new institution but reflects the General Administration for Services discussed earlier in this article. The difference now is that HTS is simply being more assertive in trying to ensure services provision comes under the affiliation of this services branch in areas of its control. In Jabal al-Summaq, though the idea of services oversight by what was then Jabhat al-Nusra had been mentioned in the second imposition of Sunni Islam, it does not seem to have been realized. As for what Sharif writes about aid of Turkish origin, it is slightly to make out his exact meaning, but one can only suppose that if the Turkish state is involved in mass aid provision here, the idea is actually to try to undermine HTS, considering that Turkey wants the broader opposition and insurgency to take a firmer stance against HTS. If the aid is being appropriated by HTS though, it only reflects the problem of supply lines into Idlib province being controlled by HTS.
So far in Jabal al-Summaq, according to Sharif, HTS has only set up its own local services administration in the village of Qalb Lawze, which has seen more than half of its original population displaced as well as settlement of Uyghurs, in addition to being the site of an infamous massacre in June 2015. In response, some members of the local council in Qalb Lawze withdrew, while others have remained and overhauled the local council, thus choosing to work under HTS’ services administration. Sharif said that in Kaftin, the ultimatum had not yet come, but he indicated that he does not see an interest in working with an HTS services administration. As Sharif also put it, “I prefer that we administer our affairs ourselves.”
In short, these developments reflect how the declaration of HTS represents an ever bolder assertion of jihadist influence and power, not only in terms of relations with the more ‘mainstream’ insurgency but also wider civil society. The options for these non-jihadist actors in Idlib province in particular in the face of HTS’ ascendancy seem ever more constrained. Undoubtedly, a significant reason for this quagmire is that the growth of HTS’ main predecessors in the northwest and Syria more generally was allowed to fester for too long. Now the broader insurgency and opposition must live with the consequences of that.
The post Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham and Civil Society in Jabal al-Summaq appeared first on Syria Comment.

Terror in Sinai: Coptic Christians plead for help
MEE contributor/Friday 3 March 2017
It was just before dawn and the end of the night curfew as Mourad and seven members of his family started what he calls their “journey of fear”.They hired a took a bus and made their way from Arish, their home in Egypt’s northern Sinai, to the city of Ismailia, which they reached three hours later.“We moved in big numbers in order to avoid being harassed by militants who sometimes hold checkpoints,” recalled Mourad, a father of three who, like many interviewed for this story, did not give his full name out of fears for his safety.“This was the scariest part. We knew that the drivers and the truck owners had already been threatened by the militants.”’The old man and his son who were killed, they were killed inside their home before the militants set it ablaze’- MouradMourad and his family are but some of the hundreds of Coptic Christians who have fled Arish after five members of their faith were shot dead and another two were burned alive by Islamist militants during the last few weeks, according to eyewitnesses and Egyptian officials. As yet no group has claimed responsibility.The burned bodies of Saed Hanna, 65, and his son Medhat were thrown into the streets of Arish, a city that has been a centre of protests against President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.“The old man and his son who were killed, they were killed inside their home before the militants set it ablaze,” explained Mourad, who owns a small grocery store.“Hours later the police came, and they started questioning the wife. Later they released her, without protecting her or keeping her in custody for her safety.”
The aftermath of an attack on a police station in Arish on April 12 2015 (AFP) Moura’s family is currently being looked after by the Coptic Church In Ismailia, spending their days in a room which used to be a classroom. They will eventually move to live with his brother in the Cairo suburb of Shubra, which is heavily populated with Coptic Christians.“Luckily, I can return to Cairo,” he said. “But the status of the people here is disturbing.”Sinai Province: A growing problemCoptic Christians are the biggest religious minority in Egypt, accounting for an estimated 10 per cent of the population. But they have frequently been the target of attacks and discrimination from wider society.In December, a bomb attack at the church of St. Peter and St. Paul in Cairo claimed the lives of 27 people and injured more than 40. The militant group Sinai Province, which is an affiliate of Islamic State (IS), claimed responsibility for the attack.Sisi blamed the attacks in Arish on the “cowardly plot of evil forces” who want to strike at the country’s national unity. Amro Marwan, minister of parliamentary affairs, said on 26 February that 118 Coptic families had been displaced and arrived in four different governorates: 96 families had now sought refuge in Ismailia, 12 in Assuit, eight in Qualubia and two in Cairo. Two days later, that figure had risen to 154.Sinai Province is a growing problem. In a video released before the Arish attacks, it vowed further violence against the Coptic community.Christians flee to to Saint Anthony church in Zaafarana from Sinai on 26 February 2017 (Anadolu) The group, which was originally called Supporters of Jerusalem, has been active in the region since 2011 and adopts a radical approach to Salafist Islam. It pledged allegiance to IS in November 2014 and is believed to want to turn the peninsula into an Islamist province.Its operations are partly based on those of militant Gamaa Islamiya group, a militant Islamist group which operated in the country in the 1990s, especially in Upper Egypt, and lower working-class areas of eastern Cairo.In recent years, Sinai Province has gained ground in Arish and the wider region with near-daily operations against security personnel, police, army informers – and Christians.It appeals to the local community by distributing food, offering security or declaring solidarity. In areas where it finds support, it forces its teachings onto the population and intimidates and attack members of the Coptic community.’Situation like a war movie’The attacks in Arish have spread fear and anxiety across the Coptic community. In Ismailia, displaced families have found refuge in the Saint Antionios Church and the Anglican Church as well as youth hostels. Others have been invited to stay in private homes. The Red Crescent charity have assisted by providing medical checkups and food rations.Matta, a resident who rented a flat to a family, told MEE: “The terrorists will stop at nothing now after this victory of theirs. I am a Copt, and I am afraid because the so-called danger is only 120 minutes away from us. We are victims helping other unfortunate victims.”Morqous, a Copt who volunteers as an aid worker, said: “The situation looks like the war movies we see and the newspapers that show families crossing borders and fleeing terrorists. Most of these people want to return, but cannot guarantee their safety.”He added: “In the end we are civilians, we can only offer food and shelter, temporarily. We cannot stand guard, nor do medical checkups on these people.”Officials including ministers of social solidarity and health have visited the affected families, offering each 1000 Egyptian pounds (around $60) as compensation, in addition to paying for school and medical fees.But many believe it has not done enough. On Wednesday, Amnesty International said that “the government has failed to take action to protect Christians in North Sinai who have increasingly faced kidnapping and assassinations by armed groups over the past three years.”Morquos added: “The government is nowhere to be seen. They only condemn the acts on TV and through official statements, vowing to help.”Shahenda, a nurse from Arish, fled to Ismailia with her elderly parents and brother, who is a university student at one of the Suez Canal universities. “He now risks not finishing the last semester,” she explained, “and not being able to get a job in the government in Arish,”Another concern is that her parents are both diabetic. “A pharmacist who lives in Islamilia donated the insulin dose to us, as we are very short in cash.”’Where are the parliament members whom we voted for? Where are the army and their special forces who go to protect ministers and officials? Why aren’t we protected?’
– Shahenda, Arish
Shahenda said that the killing and humiliation of Christians is part of the militants’ ideology. “Their capability to do this is increasing as they are free to roam the streets of Arish in private cars and carrying machine guns. It’s not because they are against the state that they kill Christians. They are against the state and they kill us.”She also disagreed with comments by Magdy Abdel Ghaffar, the interior minister, that the authorities did not ask citizens to leave their homes. True, she said, there has been no official guidance – but lower ranking officers said that Coptics would not be safe in Arish, which she described as a ghost town after 6pm where even the police are wary of walking the streets.“Where are the parliament members whom we voted for?” asked Shahenda. “Where are the army and their special forces who go to protect ministers and officials? Why aren’t we protected?” An army colonel, affiliated with the counter-terrorism department in North Sinai, told MEE that the attacks against Copts were being used to put pressure on the Egyptian state on the international stage and end military operations in Sinai.He highlighted that the attacks took place after the Egyptian army and police raided the Halal Mountain in Arish, a militant stronghold.
Coptic Christians in the courtyard of the Evangelical Church in Ismailiya on February 24, 2017 (AFP) “There can’t be a security guard for each citizen,” he told MEE. “Indeed, the army has eliminated 90 percent of the terrorist elements.”But had lower ranking officers advised the citizens to leave for their own safety?The colonel refused to comment.Coptics: Government in denialThere has been some wider support for the plight of the Copts. A joint statement from human rights movements and NGOs condemned what they called sectarian attacks against the faith, criticising the government for not intervening enough and calling for more protection from the authorities for those Copts who chose to remain in the city.But for those Copts who have already left their homes, the future is uncertain.’How come they will solve the crisis, which has been going on for three years, in three days?’
Mourad/Angel, a middle-aged women, was angry at the seeming indifference of the rest of Egyptian society. “They keep telling us we must shut up in order to not to become like Syria and Iraq, however the situation here is worse. People all over the country are living like nothing is happening, while hundreds of people are abandoning their houses, fearing some gangs who have guns and cars.”And she disbelieved official statements that the refugees will be able to return to Arish in three or four days.
“How come they will solve the crisis, which has been going on for three years, in three days?”Mourad recalled how a delegation from the Azhar and Awkaq [Ministry of Religious Endowments] came to visit: “They told us that this violence was intended to jeopardise the unity of the state. The priests nodded their heads in agreement.“They are refusing to confess that the strategy they are following is failing and that there is a power that is physically opposing the state, and that one of its enemies is Christians.”