March 10/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
Should you not have had mercy on your fellow-slave, as I had mercy on you
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 18/23-35/:"‘For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, "Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything."And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow-slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, "Pay what you owe."Then his fellow-slave fell down and pleaded with him, "Have patience with me, and I will pay you."But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow-slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, "You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.
Should you not have had mercy on your fellow-slave, as I had mercy on you?"And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he should pay his entire debt.o my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’

The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth
Letter to the Romans 01/18-25/:"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; for though they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools; and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published On March 09-10/17
This Is Not Our Lebanon/Elias Bejjani/March 09/17
A fragile Arab consensus: Michel Aoun and the road to the Arab summit/Makram RabahMiddle East Eye/Thursday 09 March/17
France: The Taboo of Muslim Racism and Anti-Semitism - Part I/Yves Mamou/Gatestone Institute/March 09/17
Palestinians: Fake News and "Alternative Facts"/Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/March 09/17
The Central Role of Women’s Issues in Post-Arab Spring North Africa/Fatima Sadiqi/Washington Institute for Near East Policy/March 09/17
Burning Questions for Trump on the Middle East: We Still Don't Know Where His Gut Instincts Are/Robert Satloff/New York Daily News/March 07/17
Sisi's Domesticated Foreign Policy/Eric Trager/The Washington Institute/March 8, 2017
The Quiet Advance of Eastern Mediterranean Gas/Simon Henderson and David / The Washington Institute/March 8, 2017
The Gulf states and anarchy in the Middle East/Dr. Ibrahim Al-Othaimin/Al Arabiya/March 09/17
Japan, a nation that survives and thrives/Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/March 09/17
The trail of Dreamers/Fawaz Turki/Al Arabiya/March 09/17
Brexit and the unthinkable – ‘Frexit’ next/Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/March 09/17
In Media, Iranian Foreign Minister, Majlis Member Clash Over Iran-U.S. Relationship/MEMRI/March 09/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published On March 09-10/17
This Is Not Our Lebanon
Hezbollah operative indicted for planning kidnapping
Israel Accuses Palestinian 'Hizbullah Operative' of Planning Kidnap
Handover ceremony in Yarzeh between Kahwaji, Aoun
Army Chief Vows to Boost Capabilities to Maintain Readiness against Israel, Terror
Report: Kremlin Denies Plans to Target Hizbullah from Syria Airspace
Miqati Says Aoun Won't Sign Decree Calling for Elections under 1960 Law
Paris Lauds Appointment of New Army Chief, Says Military Cooperation to Continue
Berri Chairs Parliament Bureau Meeting, to Call March 15 Legislative Session
Aoun to Visit Vatican, Meet Pope Francis
Berri to Call for Legislative Session Next Week
Report: Aoun to Raise Electoral Law at Cabinet Before End of Month
Man Injured in Overnight Beddawi Clashes Succumbs to Wounds
Ibrahim Says Clamping Down on IS Funding Enhances International Confidence in Lebanon
Jumblatt, diplomats tackle current developments
Hamadeh withdraws from discussions over salary scale
Ezzedine, Shorter tackle prospects of future cooperation
Riachy, Italian Ambassador tackle media affairs
Miles: Half a million descendants of Lebanese origin in Australia
U.S. Ambassador delivers equipment to ISF

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published On March 09-10/17
Netanyahu in Moscow leverages Putin Purim greeting to slam Iran
Suspected Coalition Raids Kill 23 Civilians in North Syria
‘We need to get Iran’ out of Syria, says US envoy to UN
Staffan de Mistura: New round of Syria talks to resume in Geneva on March 23
IS Leader Baghdadi 'Flees Mosul' as Iraqi Forces Advance
Suicide Bombers Kill 26 at Iraq Wedding Celebration
Baghdadi reportedly flees Mosul as ISIS tears down cell towers
US adds 400 troops in Syria to expedite ISIS defeat in Raqqa
Suicide bomb blasts hit wedding near Iraq’s Tikrit
Boy, 15, two militants killed during Kashmir crossfire in India
Boris Johnson: Alternative to two-state solution is Israel apartheid
Hawaii becomes first US state to sue over Trump’s new travel ban
France’s Macron seen on top in first round presidential vote
New Poll Shows France's Macron Leading in First Round
Morocco Jails Frenchman for 'Terrorist' Links
Saudi-Led Coalition Used Cluster Bombs in Yemen

Links From Jihad Watch Site for March 09-10/17
Raymond Ibrahim: The Islamic State Revives Islam’s Original Terror Tactic — Cannibalism
Hawaii issues first challenge to Trump’s new travel ban
Khizr Khan’s claim that his “travel privileges are being reviewed” by US authorities is unraveling
Pakistan: Facebook helping Pakistani officials remove “blasphemous” content
Spain: Muslims call for marriage to Christian women to strengthen Islam
Afghanistan: Islamic State jihadis disguised as doctors murder more than 30 people in attack on military hospital
More oppression chic: Facebook marks International Women’s Day with image of girl in hijab
Oppression chic: Nike offers “Pro Hijab” for athletic Muslimas
BBC identified man as “Muslim” when he was denied visa, “Indian” when he was arrested for sex abuse
93% of women in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan experience sexual violence
Robert Spencer video: Opposition to Trump immigration ban is based on false pretenses
Robert Spencer video: What if the media had covered World War II the way it covers jihad?
Trinidad: Imam arrested as part of Islamic State gang, threatens to murder police
A week before 2016 election, Obama administration spiked arrest of jihadi who lied to enter US
Hugh Fitzgerald: Good News From France: “Hate Speech” Charges Dropped Against Georges Bensoussan
Pakistan: High Court orders government to prevent “blasphemers” from leaving country
Robert Spencer video: Why the State Department Swamp Is In Dire Need of Draining
Hugh Fitzgerald: Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl as Scholar of the House (Part II)

Links From Christian Today Site On March 09-10/17
Knights Templar Hide-Out Of Caves And Tunnels Found Through A Rabbit Hole In England
Neo-Pagan Sexual Morality' Spreading Throughout Church, Warns Conservative Archbishop
Philip North Withdraws As Bishop Of Sheffield
Indian Government Forces Compassion International To Pull Out Of All Projects Next Week
Majority Of Evangelical Christians Believe Trump's Claim That Journalists 'Make Up' Quotes
Should American Christians Engage In Society? Conservative Author Sparks War Of Words With Rachel Held Evans
Mosque Blocked After Planning Meeting Turns Bitter: 'How Many Children Have Died Under This So-Called Religion?'
Salvation Army Welcomes Vulnerable, Homeless Family Of Syrian Refugees To London
Pope Francis Hints At Allowing Married Priests
Jesus Is Always There': Archbishop Of Canterbury Launches New Evangelistic Resource For Churches
Catholic Church Moves To Give Women A Stronger Voice On International Women's Day

Latest Lebanese Related News published On March 09-10/17
لا، هذا ليس لبناننا على الإطلاقThis Is Not Our Lebanon
الياس بجاني/09 آذار/17/Elias Bejjani

Nepotism, subservience, hypocrisy, evilness and corruption are at their best in Iranian Occupied Lebanon
المحسوبية والتبعية والنفاق والإبليسية والفساد هي كلها موبؤات في أفضل حالاتها تنهش في جسم لبنان المحتل من إيران وميليشياتها الإرهابية

Hezbollah operative indicted for planning kidnapping
Yoav Zitun|/Ynetnews/Yousef Yasser Sweilam was apprehended by the Shin Bet before managing to implement orders to gather intel on the IDF and establish a terrorist unit in order carry out a kidnapping attack. An indictment was submitted against 23-year-old Qalqilya resident Yousef Yasser Sweilam Thursday for planning to commit acts of terrorism, including kidnapping. Sweilam was arrested as part of a joint operation by the IDF and the police and was transferred to Shin Bet custody to be interrogated. During the investigation, the Shin Bet discovered that Sweilam was recruited to the Hezbollah terror organization through Facebook. He was instructed to open an email which contained an encryption software, through which he could stay in contact with a Hezbollah enforcer nicknamed "Abu Hasin."Sweilam was also instructed to perform various missions, including photographing and collecting intelligence on IDF bases, checkpoints and other sites in the nearby city of Jerusalem. In addition, Sweilam set about attempting to recruit jihadists and establish a terror cell in order to kidnap an Israeli citizen and transfer him to Lebanon.

Israel Accuses Palestinian 'Hizbullah Operative' of Planning Kidnap
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 09/17/Israel has arrested a Palestinian allegedly planning attacks for Hizbullah, the Israeli army said in a statement Thursday. Youssef Sweilam, 23, from the occupied West Bank, was contacted by Hizbullah operatives on social media and "instructed to form a terror cell with the intent to carry out a kidnapping from Israel into Lebanon," the army said. In addition, his minders "instructed him to gather information regarding (Israeli) military bases, security checkpoints, and passages, specifically in the area of the Old City of Jerusalem," the English-language statement said.
It did not say when he was arrested but said the plans were foiled before he began to enact them. An indictment against the suspect has been filed in a military court. Lebanon and Israel are still officially at war although the border area has been relatively calm in recent years. Hizbullah and Israel scuffle intermittently in the disputed border area between the two countries. Hizbullah has targeted Israeli army patrols along the border in southern Lebanon in response to strikes against its members, sometimes in Syria where Hizbullah is supporting President Bashar Assad. A 34-day conflict in 2006 led to the deaths of 1,200 people in Lebanon, mainly civilians, and 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.

Handover ceremony in Yarzeh between Kahwaji, Aoun
Thu 09 Mar 2017/NNA - A handover ceremony took place on Thursday in Yarzeh between the newly appointed Army Commander, General Joseph Aoun, and his predecessor, Jean Kahwaji. "I am confident today that the army leadership is in good hands. A courage man who has vision, knowledge, expertise and culture. Above all, commitment and dedication in his responsibility and duty," Kahwaji told General Aoun. "I am fully aware that there is a lot of work to do to develop this institution, and many defensive and security missions are laying ahead. But, I am sure that the institution is capable of countering threats and challenges and you are able to lead it efficiently in light of a new era headed by President Michel Aoun," he added. "My loyalty to this institution will remain in my heart and soul, do not hesitate to ask for any advice," Kahwaji addressed the attendees. "I will be next to you in everything you do. May God help you in assuming this noble responsibility so that the banner of the army remains high in the midst of a free and independent nation," he concluded. General Joseph Aoun, for his part, praised the work of Kahwaji and said, "I am assuming this responsibility as your successor and it makes me feel more confident.""The constants are well established, the approach is clear and straight, and the military structure is coherent. All of this would not have been possible without your love for this institution and your devotion to its service, your vision, and your unlimited patience to face difficulties.""Thank you General and thanks to all commanders, officers and military who were beside you throughout the previous stage."General Aoun pledged to spare no effort to make the military institution a guarantor of unity and to preserve sovereignty, independence, and dignity for people. He vowed to maintain its institutional status as a leading model for institutional work in the country, in terms of demonstrating standards of efficiency, integrity, and transparency. He promised to preserve people's confidence in the army.

Army Chief Vows to Boost Capabilities to Maintain Readiness against Israel, Terror
Naharnet/March 09/17/Newly-appointed Army Commander General Joseph Aoun on Thursday pledged to boost the military's capabilities and to do everything in his capacity so that the army remains “the certain guarantee for Lebanon's unity, sovereignty, independence and dignity.”“I will employ all my efforts, expertise and knowledge to continue what you started in terms of boosting the military institution's capabilities in personnel, equipment, arming and training to maintain its readiness, under any circumstances, to defend Lebanon in the face of its enemies, topped by the Israeli enemy on the southern border and terrorism and its cells on the eastern border and in any region of the country,” Aoun told his predecessor, General Jean Qahwaji, during a handover ceremony in Yarze. Aoun also vowed to “exert utmost efforts and employ all possible means in order to liberate the troops that are being held captive by the terrorist groups (Islamic State).”He also promised to keep the military institution “immunized against the poisons of sectarian sentiments.”The security appointments that were approved on Wednesday ended a deadlock that twice forced an extension of the term of the army's sitting head. A ministerial source told AFP the appointment had "the consensus of all the political forces," adding the new chief was "well-known and removed from any political conflicts." Joseph Aoun is not related to President Michel Aoun, himself a former army chief, although the two served together in the military. Lebanon's already fractious political scene has faced tensions linked to the war in neighboring Syria since March 2011.

Report: Kremlin Denies Plans to Target Hizbullah from Syria Airspace
Associated Press/Naharnet/March 09/17/The Kremlin denied on Thursday media reports alleging that Moscow has approved the launch of Israeli operations against Hizbullah from Syria's airspace, media reports said. A spokesman on behalf of the Russian President, Dmitry Peskov, stressed that the issue has not been raised in the context of the Russian and Israeli communications, they said. Media reports had earlier quoted a source close to the Israeli prime minister alleging that Moscow would allow the Israeli warplanes to target Hizbullah from Syria's airspace. Israeli prime minister is set to visit Moscow for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin about security issues stemming from Iran's presence in neighboring Syria. Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement Wednesday that his visit is "very important" for Israel's security. Israel has been warily watching its frontier with neighboring Syria as the civil war rages. Israel and Syria are enemies but President Bashar Assad kept the border quiet for years. The statement said Netanyahu will express "strong objection" to the Iranian presence in Syria. Iranian forces and the Hizbullah, both sworn enemies of Israel, are fighting on Assad's side in Syria. Russia is a strong supporter of Assad and its entry into the war helped turn the tide of the conflict in the government's favor.

Miqati Says Aoun Won't Sign Decree Calling for Elections under 1960 Law
Naharnet/March 09/17/President Michel Aoun will not sign any decree calling for parliamentary elections under the 1960 controversial law, ex-PM Najib Miqati said after meeting the president on Thursday. “I was pleased to meet the president and I sensed that he is fully determined to seek the approval of a new electoral law based on fairness and balance in all districts... so that any group, regardless of its size, can be represented in the new parliament,” said Miqati after the talks at the Baabda Palace. “He will seek to issue this law as soon as possible and send it to parliament to that the elections can be held in the coming period,” the former premier added. Asked whether the ongoing controversy over the electoral law will lead to keeping the current law, Miqati said: “What I understood during the meeting with the president is that it is impossible to sign the decree calling for elections under the 1960 law.”

Paris Lauds Appointment of New Army Chief, Says Military Cooperation to Continue
Naharnet/March 09/17/France “hails the appointment of General Joseph Aoun as Army Commander and stresses that cooperation with the military institution and supporting it are among its priorities,” the French Embassy in Lebanon said in a series of tweets on Thursday. France also thanked former Army chief General Jean Qahwaji, describing him as a “loyal partner.” It also expressed its “confidence” that “the cooperation that was established with Internal Security Forces chief Ibrahim Basbous will continue with his successor Imad Othman.”Wednesday's security appointments ended a deadlock that twice forced an extension of the term of the military's sitting head. A ministerial source told AFP the appointment had "the consensus of all the political forces," adding the new chief was "well-known and removed from any political conflicts." Joseph Aoun is not related to President Michel Aoun, himself a former army chief, although the two served together in the military. Lebanon's already fractious political scene has faced tensions linked to the war in neighboring Syria since March 2011. A political stalemate left the country without a president for over two years until Michel Aoun was elected under a compromise deal in October 2016. Under the deal, rival Saad Hariri was named prime minister and he formed a cabinet in December. Lebanon is due to hold parliamentary elections in May 2017, the first legislative vote in eight years, after the body twice extended its own mandate.

Berri Chairs Parliament Bureau Meeting, to Call March 15 Legislative Session
Naharnet/March 09/17/Speaker Nabih Berri on Thursday chaired a meeting for the parliament's bureau during which the conferees agreed on the agenda of a March 15 legislative session, Deputy Speaker Farid Makari said. “There are several items, including draft laws for treaties, bills for amending the articles of some laws, and urgent bills,” Makari told reporters. “As for the new wage scale, you know that there is a session this evening for the Joint Parliamentary committees and there is a feeling that we will finalize it today. Should that happen, it will be put on the agenda of the legislative session,” Makari added. On Wednesday, the Committees approved the lists of the armed forces and public school teachers while the thorny issue of funding the new wage scale and the necessary reforms was postponed to Thursday's session. The head of the Finance Parliamentary Committee, MP Ibrahim Kanaan, clarified that Wednesday's progress does not mean that “the new wage scale has been passed.”“What happened today was a key step but there are revenues and reforms that will be discussed in tomorrow's session,” Kanaan added, noting that “reforms are essential for securing funds and preserving financial stability in the country.”Admitting that the approved parts fell short of the expectations of civil servants and the members of the armed forces, the MP said “what happened does not satisfy all people and does not meet the aspirations of teachers and the armed forces.”“We are keen not to target the lower and middle classes with new taxes,” Kanaan added. The Syndical Coordination Committee, a coalition of private and public school teachers and public sector employees, 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.

Aoun to Visit Vatican, Meet Pope Francis
Naharnet/March 09/17/Following a tour he made where he visited several Arab and Gulf countries after his election in October, President Michel Aoun is expected to launch visits to European countries that will start in the Vatican for a meeting with Pope Francis, the National News Agency reported on Thursday. The President will travel to the Vatican on March 15 and will hold the meeting with the Pope on March 16, NNA said. Aoun is also scheduled to meet with secretary of the Vatican Cardinal Pietro Barawlin in the presence of senior Vatican officials. He will take part in the afternoon Mass at St. Maron Church in Rome. Following the mass, Lebanese Charge D'affaire to the Holy See, Albert Samaha, will hold a reception at the Maronite Institute in honor of the President.

Berri to Call for Legislative Session Next Week
Naharnet/March 09/17/Speaker Nabih Berri is expected to invite lawmakers for a legislative session next week to discuss the long-stalled wage scale file shall the Joint Parliamentary Committees complete deliberations on the issues, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Thursday. Berri is expected to schedule the meeting on Wednesday, said the daily. The Joint Parliamentary Committees approved in a meeting yesterday the new wage scale lists of the armed forces and public school teachers while the thorny issue of funding and reforms was postponed to a Thursday session. The Speaker emphasized during a meeting with lawmakers a day earlier, that the scale must be approved because it is a right for the people.

Report: Aoun to Raise Electoral Law at Cabinet Before End of Month
Naharnet/March 09/17/After stalled efforts between political parties to find a new electoral law for Lebanon's looming parliamentary elections, President Michel Aoun is expected to raise the thorny file at the cabinet before the end of the month, An Nahar daily reported on Thursday. The daily added that Aoun is set to propose staging the polls based on a proportional representation system, dividing each of Lebanon's governorates into two districts or more while keeping the regions of Aley and Chouf as a single district. Instead of staging the polls in two phases, Aoun will suggest that they be held in one phase, according to the daily. Shall the President's proposal meet approval, the elections will be technically postponed until September. But if it fails, then the extension of the parliaments' mandate will become inevitable so as to avoid legislative vacuum, it added. Lebanon's political parties are bickering over amending the current 1960 majoritarian election law which divides seats among the different religious sects. They have intensified their efforts recently in a bid to agree on a new electoral law before the expiry of the deadlines. They are discussing several formats of a so-called “hybrid” electoral law that combines the proportional representation and winner-takes-all systems. While Mustaqbal has rejected that the electoral law be fully based on proportional representation, arguing that Hizbullah's arms would prevent serious competition in the party's strongholds, Druze leader MP Walid Jumblat has totally rejected proportional representation, even within a hybrid law, warning that it would “marginalize” the minority Druze community. The country has not voted for a parliament since 2009, with the legislature instead twice extending its own mandate. The 2009 polls were held under an amended version of the 1960 electoral law and the next elections are scheduled for May 2017.

Man Injured in Overnight Beddawi Clashes Succumbs to Wounds
Naharnet/March 09/17/A Palestinian man wounded during Wednesday's armed clashes in Tripoli's al-Beddawi Palestinian refugee camp in north Lebanon, has succumbed to his wounds, the National News Agency reported on Thursday. NNA said the victim, identified as Nemr Sh., was wounded during an armed fight and transported to al-Qobbeh Hospital in Tripoli a day earlier has died on Thursday. Later during the day, NNA said the camp's joint security committees handed over to the army intelligence a suspect believed to have relations to the shooting. It said he is accused of opening fire at the deceased during the clashes. On Wednesday, three people were wounded when a personal dispute escalated into an armed clash at al-Beddawi. The wounded were transferred to hospitals in Tripoli for treatment as the camp's joint security committees were trying to contain the situation, NNA had said. A state of anxiety and tension engulfed the camp.

Ibrahim Says Clamping Down on IS Funding Enhances International Confidence in Lebanon
Naharnet/March 09/17/General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim said the security achievement made after unveiling money-changing offices transferring money to the Islamic State group, proves Lebanon's persistence in confronting terrorism and reinforces international confidence in the country, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Thursday. “What we have done is part of our usual tasks which we have insisted on carrying out no matter what the obstacles are. Arresting this network, displays our follow-up for the financial, economic, and social safety which could probably be one of the most important tributaries financing terrorism,” said Abbas in an interview to the daily. “The operation proves our engagement in confronting terrorism and drying out its sources as part of the global fight against this scourge,” stressed Abbas. He added: “We believe this step is an advanced one in the long path so as to enhance international confidence in our actions and in the fight against the financing of terrorism.”On Wednesday, Lebanese authorities carried out raids against currency exchange offices and money transfer companies on suspicion they sent huge sums to the Islamic State group. A judicial source said the raids started Tuesday against several institutions "on suspicion they transferred huge sums of money to areas controlled by IS in Raqa and elsewhere", referring to the jihadists' stronghold in Syria. A number of people had been detained for investigation but were not yet formally under arrest. "Information is being gathered on the value of the money that was transferred," the source added. In a statement issued late Wednesday, the General Security agency confirmed it had carried out raids across the country and detained "people of Syrian nationality", without giving figures. It said those detained had admitted "belonging to a terrorist network" and to the transfer of money to "terrorist groups" without specifying which organizations allegedly received the funds. Lebanese media reported that as much as $20 million had been transferred to the jihadist group, which holds territory in Syria and Iraq, as well as Libya. But the judicial source dismissed that figure as "exaggerated" while conceding that the suspected sum was nonetheless "huge".On Wednesday afternoon, an AFP photographer saw security forces raiding three offices on bustling Hamra Street in the west of Beirut, and seizing documents and computer equipment. Afterwards, the raided premises were sealed with red wax and a sign posted from the military prosecutor warning against their reopening "under penalty of prosecution". There was no official word on the number of companies that had been targeted. Lebanon's central bank imposes strict rules on financial institutions intended to prevent money laundering and terrorism financing, including caps on the amount that can be transferred overseas without additional supporting paperwork. Lebanon has been heavily impacted by the war in neighboring Syria since it erupted in March 2011. Security forces have on several occasions arrested suspected IS members, including in February when two men were detained on accusations of planning an attack in central Beirut.

Jumblatt, diplomats tackle current developments
Thu 09 Mar 2017/NNA - "Democratic Gathering" head MP Walid Jumblatt met on Thursday evening at his Clemenceau residence Check Ambassador to Lebanon, Michaela Frankova, with talks reportedly touching on most recent developments in Lebanon and the broad region. MP Jumblatt also met with Indonesian Ambassador to Lebanon, Ahmad Khamidi, whereby they discussed the current political developments.

Hamadeh withdraws from discussions over salary scale
Thu 09 Mar 2017 /NNA - Minister of Education and Higher Learning, Marwan Hamadeh, withdrew from the joint committees' session devoted to discuss the salary scale in protest against what he deemed "unfairness towards teachers," the NNA correspondent reported. "I apologize, once again, to every teacher. The salary scale may be fair vis-a-vis public workers in administrations and in the military institutions, but it is no longer acceptable to keep marginalizing teachers at every stage," Hamadeh said while leaving the joint committees' session. "I stand by teachers, and I will defend their rights in this salary scale," he said, calling to reconsider teachers' demands.

Ezzedine, Shorter tackle prospects of future cooperation

Thu 09 Mar 2017/NNA - Minister of State for Administrative Development Inaya Ezzeddine met on Thursday at her ministerial office with British Ambassador to Lebanon, Hugo Shorter, with talks reportedly touching on projects supervised by the Ministry in the various sectors and administrations. Talks majorly touched on the prospects of future cooperation, in terms of administration development, notably in the fields of digital government, open government, and anti-corruption. Minister Ezzedine also briefed Ambassador Shorter on her viewpoint regarding women's participation in political life and the subject of women's quota.

Riachy, Italian Ambassador tackle media affairs
Thu 09 Mar 2017/NNA - Information Minister Melhem Riachy met on Thursday afternoon at his ministerial office with Italian Ambassador to Lebanon, Massimo Maruti, whereby they discussed public affairs concerning Lebanon and media development. Minister Riachy also met with former Miss Universe Georgina Rizk, with talks reportedly touching on media affairs and profession code of ethics.

Miles: Half a million descendants of Lebanese origin in Australia
Thu 09 Mar 2017/NNA - Australian Ambassador to Lebanon, Glenn Miles, said on Thursday that half a million of people in Australia were descendants of Lebanese origin and this proves the profound ties between Lebanon and Australia. Ambassador Miles' fresh words came during his visit to Al-Arz Educational Compound in El Minieh. The diplomat said that there was a large number of Australians present in El Miniye town, expressing his surprise to see that 17% students in the compound held a Canadian nationality. "We are aware of the brunt of displaced Syrian on Lebanon... Australia offered 220 million dollars over the last three years in support of the Syrian refugee issue. Lebanon will receive an additional 70 million dollars mainly to support the educational sector."He also stressed the importance that Australia attaches to women empowerment, praising the role of teachers "who build the future."

U.S. Ambassador delivers equipment to ISF
Thu 09 Mar 2017/NNA - In a press release by the US Embassy in Beirut, it said: "U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon Elizabeth H. Richard participated today in a ceremony to celebrate the delivery of approximately $1 million dollars’ worth of equipment to the Internal Security Forces (ISF), highlighting U.S. commitment to Lebanon’s state institutions. Ambassador Richard said the U.S. is proud to deliver this much needed equipment and reiterated America’s partnership with Lebanon in the fight against terrorism and extremism. The gear and equipment delivered today is part of the U.S. State Department’s Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program, which also included five courses of training to advance the ISF as a sophisticated, capable, and professional police force. The equipment and training is part of long-standing U.S. support to develop Lebanon’s border and internal security. U.S. assistance to the ISF is a vital aspect of the cooperation between the two countries. The United States remains committed to strengthening the capacity of the ISF to combat terrorism, promote rule of law, ensure human rights and dignity, and maintain stability and safety."

A fragile Arab consensus: Michel Aoun and the road to the Arab summit
Makram RabahMiddle East Eye/Thursday 09 March/17
The Lebanese president's rhetoric risks isolating the country from its Arab neighbours and placing it at odds with the international community
Over the years the Lebanese have got used to the idea that many, if not all, of their leaders' political statements and actions can be easily reversed or simply swept away without any form of accountability or consequences. However, the hail of criticism generated by the recent remarks of Lebanese President Michel Aoun in support of Hezbollah might be the exception to the aforementioned rule.
If Aoun continues touting Iran’s line and defending the arms of Hezbollah, he risks placing the entire country under more political and economic austerity
The objections to Aoun’s unstatesmanlike remarks stem from the ambassadors of the International Support Group for Lebanon (ISGL) - the US, France, Britain, Germany, Italy and China, in addition to the EU ambassador and representative of the UN secretary-general in Lebanon and Arab League representative. This might perhaps serve as a warning of what awaits Lebanon if Aoun stays his precarious course.
The US ambassador to Lebanon, Elizabeth Richard, clearly warned the Lebanese state that its refusal to abide by international law and UN resolutions might lead to the withdrawal of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
As it stands, however, President Aoun's skewed position in support of Hezbollah has virtually imploded UNSCR 1701, which requires the disarmament of all armed groups in Lebanon, and has placed Lebanon under the scrutiny of the international community, something that might have dire repercussions for Lebanon and its fragile economy.
Provocative comments
So to follow the logic of the ISGL, why would the international community continue to assist the Lebanese government when clearly it refuses to practice common sense and use the UN resolution to extend its sovereignty and control over its domain?
More dangerously, however, the withdrawal of the peacekeeping force could be construed as an implicit endorsement of the Israeli warmongering Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to achieve what his predecessors failed to do, and that is to root out Hezbollah and its now underground missile arsenal.
The withdrawal of the peacekeeping force could be construed as an endorsement of the Israeli PM to achieve what his predecessors failed to do – root out Hezbollah and its now underground missile arsenal
From a practical perspective, Hezbollah would be heavily disadvantaged by a UNFIL withdrawal, as it will no longer be able to use the interim force as virtual hostages to hide behind nor to claim that their actions against Israel were of a defensive nature.
The UNIFIL departure scenario, while possible, remains somewhat far-fetched at this juncture, as all sides concerned (UN, Israel and Hezbollah) have grown accustomed to this contentious peace.
More importantly and, as some analysts have noted, Hezbollah is too deep in its fight in Syria to pose any serious threat to Israel and therefore both factions would prefer this status quo to linger.
The real threat to the Lebanese state and its new president is to be found elsewhere in the Arab world, specifically in the Sunni Gulf states who are convinced more than ever that Lebanon has been seized by Iran and consequently must be treated as a rogue state.
Serious test
In 2006, Hezbollah's so-called divine victory was made possible by internal Lebanese cohesiveness and a massive initiative led by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Qatar to rebuild the country’s civilian infrastructure, as well as the towns and villages in the south of Lebanon and the southern Beirut suburbs that Hezbollah used to fend off the Israeli war machine.
This financial and moral commitment on the part of these Gulf States went unrecognised, as Hezbollah - using the Lebanese state and its allies in the government as cover - declared an open war against the House of Saud.
Many Lebanese viewed Aoun’s visit to Saudi Arabia last January as an attempt to mend relations and possibly revitalise the kingdom’s largesse towards Lebanon and its struggling economy. All these hopes, however, have been swept away following Aoun’s provocative comments in support of Saudi Arabia's arch-nemesis, Iran.
But more importantly, a serious test awaits Aoun, as well as the entire Lebanese state, at the upcoming Arab League Summit slated in Jordan at the end of March. As projected, Aoun will lead a senior delegation which will include PM Saad al-Hariri to participate in the summit, where all eyes will be on the Lebanese president and his keynote address.
If Aoun chooses to continue touting Iran’s line and further drifting from the Arab consensus by defending the arms of Hezbollah, he risks placing the entire country under more political and economic austerity.
If such a scenario does play out, Hariri, Saudi Arabia's main ally, will be required to step out of his hibernation mode and publically denounce Aoun’s ill-advised conduct as a measure to shield Lebanon from any Arab retribution.
However, as it stands, Hariri has refrained from criticising Aoun even after the Saudi monarch cancelled an upcoming visit to Lebanon, an event that would have reinstated relations between Lebanon and Saudi, which has yet to send an ambassador to replace the one recalled almost a year ago.
President Aoun has always insisted that Lebanon needs a strong president, one who can bring back the glories of a prosperous long gone past when the Christians reigned supreme. However, the remarks and actions of Aoun go against this declared goal, as isolating Lebanon from its Arab surroundings and placing it at odds with the international community could only make Lebanon more marginalised than it is at the moment, perhaps a new low for a country which boasted about being a bridge between east and west.
This reality would perhaps be a useful reminder for Aoun and his party when they land on the tarmac in Amman to attend the Arab summit, that every word they utter will have its toll on Lebanon and its future.
* Makram Rabah is a lecturer at the American University of Beirut, Department of History. He is the author of A Campus at War: Student Politics at the American University of Beirut, 1967-1975.
*Photo: A peacekeeper of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) speaks on his talkie-walkie in front of a billboard bearing a portrait of Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah during a patrol in the southern Lebanese town of Adaysseh, near the border with Israel, on 19 January 2015, one day after an Israeli air strike killed six Hezbollah members in the nearby Syrian-controlled side of the Golan Heights (AFP)

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published On March 09-10/17
Netanyahu in Moscow leverages Putin Purim greeting to slam Iran
Herb Keinon/Jerusalem Post/March 9, 2017/Today, Netanyahu said, Iran – the continuation of ancient Persia – has similar designs: to wipe out the state of the Jews.Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, March 9, 2017. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in Moscow Thursday afternoon, and used Russian President Vladimir Putin's greetings for Purim as a chance to blast Iran. “I think you for your good wishes on Purim,” Netanyahu said alongside Putin before their meeting in the Kremlin. “Some 2,500 years ago in ancient Persia, there was an attempt to wipe out the Jews, which did not succeed, and which we commemorate with this holiday.”Today, Netanyahu said, Iran – the continuation of ancient Persia – has similar designs: to wipe out the state of the Jews. “They say this clearly, and it is etched on their ballistic missiles,” Netanyahu said.
The prime minister continued: “I want to say clearly that Israel is today a state with an army, and we are able to defend ourselves. Extreme Shia Islamic terror does not only threaten Israel, but rather the region and the world. I know that we are partners in the desire to prevent any victory for Islamic terror, from any direction.”In his comments, Netanyahu said that Russia has played an important part in the fight against Sunni Islamic terror represented by Islamic State and al-Qaida. “It is obvious that we would not want that terrorism to be replaced by extreme Shia Islamic terrorism, led by Iran,” he said. Netanyahu said prior to his trip that one of the main objectives of the visit was to relay to Putin Israel’s unequivocal objection to Iran gaining any kind of permanent military foothold in Syria in the aftermath of any accord that will be reached on the future of the war-torn country.

Suspected Coalition Raids Kill 23 Civilians in North Syria
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 09/17/The toll in air strikes thought to have been conducted by a US-led coalition on a jihadist-held northern Syrian village on Thursday has risen to 23 civilians killed, a monitor said. "The raids hit the village of Al-Matab after midnight and were likely carried out by the coalition," said Rami Abdel Rahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Observatory earlier reported a toll of 14 people killed. At least eight children and six women were among the dead in Al-Matab, held by the Islamic State group. The village lies near a key road linking Raqa -- IS's de facto capital -- to Deir Ezzor city, the capital of the adjacent oil-rich province. On Monday, fighters from the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces cut off that route in a bid to encircle the jihadists in Raqa. The US-led coalition has been backing the SDF's drive for Raqa with air power and hundreds of special operations forces as advisers. Abdel Rahman said SDF fighters advancing on IS jihadists in Al-Matab, which lies about 55 kilometres (35 miles) southeast of Raqa. The SDF, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, launched its offensive for Raqa in early November and has since seized swathes of territory in northern Syria. But it is despised by Ankara, who condemns the group's dominant component -- the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) -- as "terrorists" because of its links to an outlawed Kurdish militia in Turkey. The profusion of forces operating in Syria -- particularly in its fractured north -- has led to a deeply complex battlefield and tensions between different parties. The US-led coalition fighting IS in Syria and Iraq said earlier this month that its raids had unintentionally killed at least 220 civilians since 2014 in both countries. Critics say the real number is much higher. More than 310,000 people have been killed since Syria's conflict erupted in March 2011 with protests against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.

‘We need to get Iran’ out of Syria, says US envoy to UN
Reuters, United Nations Thursday, 9 March 2017/The United States supports the UN-led Syria peace talks, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said on Wednesday, saying Syria could no longer be a “safe haven for terrorists” and that it was important “we get Iran and their proxies out.”Haley spoke to reporters after UN Syria mediator Staffan de Mistura briefed the Security Council behind closed doors on 10 days of talks between the warring parties in Geneva, which ended last week. She did not respond to questions on whether the United States believed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, backed by Russia and Iran, should step down. All eyes have been on how Washington would approach ending the six-year war in Syria, given pledges by President Donald Trump to build closer ties with Russia, especially in the fight against ISIS.Also read: Staffan de Mistura: New round of Syria talks to resume in Geneva on March 23. Trump’s Syria policy has been unclear. “The United States absolutely supports Staffan de Mistura and the work that he’s doing, we support the UN process, we support the talks in Geneva, we want to see them continue,” Haley said. “This is very much about a political solution now ... and that basically means that Syria can no longer be a safe haven for terrorists, we’ve got to make sure we get Iran and their proxies out, we’ve got to make sure that, as we move forward, we’re securing the borders for our allies as well,” she said.

Staffan de Mistura: New round of Syria talks to resume in Geneva on March 23

AFP, United Nations Thursday, 9 March 2017/Syria’s government and opposition groups are invited to resume peace talks in Geneva on March 23, the UN envoy said Wednesday, as the United States pledged support for the negotiations. Staffan de Mistura announced the date after reporting to the Security Council on the results of the last round of talks on ending Syria’s six-year war. “My current intention is to bring the invitees back to Geneva for a fifth round, with a target date of the 23rd of March,” he told reporters after the meeting. The new round will focus on governance, constitutional process, elections and counter-terrorism and there may also be discussions on reconstruction, said De Mistura. The European Union and the United Nations will host a conference in Brussels on April 5 on Syrian reconstruction but the assistance will only start flowing once a political transition is in place. US Ambassador Nikki Haley told reporters after the meeting that the new US administration supports the Syrian peace process and wants the talks in Geneva to continue. Russia, Turkey and Iran are expected to convene a new meeting in the Kazakh capital of Astana to prepare for the Geneva talks. Previous rounds of peace talks have hit a wall over the future role of Assad, accused by the West of stoking the violence that has left 310,000 dead since March 2011. The UN envoy sounded cautiously optimistic, saying that while there were no “miracles” during the last round, “we achieved much more than many people had imagined we could have.” “No one left. Everybody stayed. They were focused. We got an agenda. We got a timeline and we got some agreement, even on substance,” he said.

IS Leader Baghdadi 'Flees Mosul' as Iraqi Forces Advance
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 09/17/Islamic State group chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is reported to have abandoned Mosul, leaving local commanders behind to lead the battle against Iraqi forces advancing in the city. With Iraqi troops making steady progress in their assault to retake Mosul from the jihadists, a US defence official said Baghdadi had fled to avoid being trapped inside. It was the latest sign that IS is feeling the pressure from twin US-backed offensives that have seen it lose much of the territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria. Speaking to reporters in Washington, the defence official said Baghdadi had left Mosul before Iraqi forces seized control of a key road at the beginning of this month, isolating the jihadists in the city. "He was in Mosul at some point before the offensive.... He left before we isolated Mosul and Tal Afar," a town to the west, the official said.
"He probably gave broad strategic guidance and has left it to battlefield commanders."Baghdadi, who declared IS's cross-border "caliphate" at a Mosul mosque in 2014, in an audio message in November urged supporters to make a stand in the city rather than "retreating in shame". Iraq launched the offensive to retake Mosul -- which involves tens of thousands of soldiers, police and allied militia fighters -- in October. After recapturing its eastern side, the forces set their sights on the city's smaller but more densely populated west. - 'Ran away like chickens' -In recent days Iraqi forces have retaken a series of neighbourhoods in west Mosul as well as the provincial government headquarters and a museum where IS militants filmed themselves destroying priceless artefacts. The military said Wednesday they had also taken the infamous Badush prison northwest of Mosul where IS reportedly executed hundreds of people and held captured Yazidi women. On Thursday Iraqi forces were "combing the city centre area to defuse (bombs in) homes and shops and buildings," Lieutenant Colonel Abdulamir al-Mohammedawi of Iraq's elite Rapid Response Division told AFP.
Forces were also "searching for snipers in the city centre," Mohammedawi said. The area is located on the edge of Mosul's Old City, a warren of narrow streets and closely spaced houses that could see some of the toughest fighting of the battle. "Currently there is no order from the operations command to advance toward the Old City. We will advance when this order is issued," Mohammedawi said.
Hundreds of thousands of civilians are believed to still be trapped under IS rule in Mosul. Those who did manage to escape the city said the jihadists were growing increasingly desperate. Abdulrazzaq Ahmed, a 25-year-old civil servant, was seized by jihadist fighters as they retreated from the neighbourhood of Al-Mansur. "We were used as human shields" said Ahmed, who managed to escape along with hundreds of other civilians to Iraqi police waiting outside the city. Rayan Mohammed, a frail 18-year-old who was once given 60 lashes for missing prayers, said the jihadists were scrambling in the face of the Iraqi offensive."They ran away like chickens," he said. - Marines deployed to Syria -West Mosul is the most heavily populated area under IS control and along with Raqa in Syria the last major urban centres it holds. In Syria, a US-backed alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has been advancing on Raqa. Earlier this week its forces reached the Euphrates River, cutting the main road to the partly IS-held city of Deir Ezzor downstream. A US official said Wednesday that a Marine Corps artillery battery had been sent into Syria to support the battle for Raqa -- joining some 500 American special operations fighters who have been training and assisting the SDF. The United States has been leading a coalition since mid-2014 carrying out air strikes against the jihadists in both Syria and Iraq. Elsewhere in Syria, Turkish troops and their rebel allies have pushed south from the Turkish border and driven IS out of the northern town of Al-Bab. Russian-backed government troops have meanwhile swept eastwards from Syria's second city Aleppo and seized a swathe of countryside from the jihadists. The US defence official said IS was now looking beyond the seemingly inevitable losses of Mosul and Raqa. "I don't think they have given up on their vision of their caliphate yet," the official said. "They... are still making plans to continue to function as a pseudo-state centred in the Euphrates River valley." About 15,000 IS fighters remain in Iraq and Syria, including some 2,500 in Mosul and Tal Afar and as many as 4,000 still in Raqa, the official said.

Suicide Bombers Kill 26 at Iraq Wedding Celebration
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 09/17/Two suicide bombers attacked a celebration being held the night before a wedding north of Baghdad, killing 26 people, a police officer and a doctor said on Thursday. The bombings in the Al-Hajaj area, north of the city of Tikrit, also wounded 25 people, the sources said. "The first blew himself up at 8:30 pm (1730 GMT on Wednesday) amid men who were dancing during the celebration," while the second attacked a few minutes later, a police lieutenant colonel said. The bombers detonated explosive belts, the officer said. A doctor at a local hospital confirmed the toll. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but the Islamic State jihadist group carries out frequent suicide bombings targeting both civilians and members of the security forces in Iraq. IS overran large areas north and west of Baghdad, including swathes of Salaheddin province, where Wednesday's attack occurred, but Iraqi forces backed by US-led air strikes and other support have since regained most of the territory they lost. Iraqi forces are now fighting to retake west Mosul, the largest urban bastion still held by the jihadists in Iraq. But recapturing Mosul and the other remaining parts of the country still held by IS will not eliminate its threat, and the group may increasingly turn to bombings such as those in Al-Hajaj if it no longer holds territory.

Baghdadi reportedly flees Mosul as ISIS tears down cell towers
Al Arabiya English and agencies Thursday, 9 March 2017/ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has fled Mosul and has apparently delegated tactical control of the battle for the city to local commanders, US defense officials have said. The official said the elusive leader, who appeared in public in Mosul in July 2014 to proclaim a “caliphate,” fled the former ISIS bastion some time before Iraqi security forces surrounded the city during an offensive to retake it. “He was in Mosul at some point before the offensive. We know he’s been there,” the official told reporters. “He left before we isolated Mosul and Tal Afar,” a town to the west of the city, the official added. Baghdadi is not believed to be exercising any kind of tactical influence on how the Mosul fight will play out, the official said. “He probably gave broad strategic guidance and has left it to battlefield commanders.”The hunt for Baghdadi is being led by various groups including US special operations forces, while the anti-ISIS coalition focuses on killing battlefield commanders. ISIS has lost most of the land it once held in Iraq and Syria but hopes to cling to scraps of a self-declared caliphate, the official said. Sources have also confirmed to Al Arabiya News Channel’s correspondent that ISIS has teared down communication cell towers in areas of west Mosul. ISIS have done so in order to cut off communication between local residents and US forces who are furthering their advances to retake Mosul from the extremist group. (With AFP)

US adds 400 troops in Syria to expedite ISIS defeat in Raqqa
Reuters, Beirut Thursday, 9 March 2017/A US Marines artillery unit has deployed to Syria in recent days to help local forces speed up efforts to defeat ISIS at Raqqa and the campaign to isolate the city is going “very, very well”, the US-led coalition said on Thursday. Coalition spokesman US Air Force Colonel John Dorrian said the additional US forces would be working with local partners in Syria - the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Syrian Arab Coalition - and would not have a front line role.The additional deployment comprises a total of 400 US forces - both Marines and Army Rangers. It adds to around 500 US military personnel already in Syria, Dorrian said. The SDF, which includes the Kurdish YPG militia, is the main US partner in the war against ISIS insurgents in Syria. Since November it has been working with the US-led coalition to encircle Raqqa, ISIS’s main urban bastion in Syria. This week, the SDF cut the road between Raqqa and the extremists’ stronghold of Deir al-Zor province - the last main road out of the city. ISIS is also being fought in Syria by the Russian-backed Syrian military, and by Syrian rebel groups fighting under the Free Syrian Army banner with Turkish backing in northern Syria and Jordanian backing in southern Syria. Dorrian said the effort to isolate Raqqa was “going very, very well” and could be completed in a few weeks. “Then the decision to move in can be made,” he said. Earlier, air strikes pounded a town in the eastern Syrian province of Deir al-Zor, killing seven civilians and injuring more than 70 others, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.The Britain-based war monitoring group said two warplanes, believed to be Russian, dropped nearly two dozen bombs on al-Mayadin in the ISIS stronghold of Deir al-Zor.
The strikes hit a school sheltering displaced people, a bakery and residential areas in the town, which lies along the Euphrates river, the Observatory said.

Suicide bomb blasts hit wedding near Iraq’s Tikrit

The Associated Press Thursday, 9 March 2017/Iraq’s Defense Ministry says a twin suicide bombing targeting a village wedding north of Baghdad has killed at least 20 people. The ministry says two suicide bombers walked into the wedding party in al-Hajaj village, near the city of Tikrit, on Wednesday evening. It says up to 13 people were wounded. Tikrit is about 130 kilometers, or 80 miles, from Baghdad.It didn’t provide more details and there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack but suspicion is likely to fall on the ISIS, which has staged similar attacks in the past. ISIS has also used large-scale attacks in an effort to distract from its losses as Iraqi forces battle to retake all of Mosul, the country’s second-largest city — from the Sunni militant group.

Boy, 15, two militants killed during Kashmir crossfire in India
AFP, India Thursday, 9 March 2017/A teenage boy, and two militants were killed in a firefight with government forces in Indian-administered Kashmir on Thursday, which brought hundreds of local villagers out onto the streets in defiance of police orders. Police said the firefight began after soldiers and police cordoned off a village outside the main city of Srinagar early Thursday, believing that two suspected militants were hiding out there. Both died in the firefight, which also killed a 15-year-old student hit by a stray bullet, and injured a second civilian. “Two terrorists were killed in the encounter. Both were locals and belonged to Lashkar-e-Taiba group,” director general of police, S. P. Vaid told AFP. Lashkar-e-Taiba is a pro-Pakistan militant group that has been involved in a number of deadly attacks in India. Vaid said villagers shouting pro-freedom slogans clashed with security forces near the site of the gun battle, defying orders to stay indoors. A second officer who asked not to be named said hundreds of villagers marched to the scene, throwing rocks at government forces in a bid to aid the besieged militants. Such scenes are increasingly common in the restive region, where rebel groups have for decades been fighting for independence or a merger with Pakistan. Police said they brought the wife of one of the LeT militants to appeal him to surrender. “But he refused and was killed later. LeT militants don't surrender,” Vaid said. Around 500,000 Indian soldiers are deployed in the region and the fighting has killed tens of thousands most of them civilians.

Boris Johnson: Alternative to two-state solution is Israel apartheid

AFP, Jerusalem Thursday, 9 March 2017/British foreign minister Boris Johnson has warned that the alternative to a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an “apartheid system,” in an interview with an Israeli newspaper published Thursday. Johnson had a whistlestop 24-hour visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories Wednesday in which he reaffirmed British support for Israel but criticized settlement building in the occupied West Bank. “What we are saying is that you have to have a two-state solution or else you have a kind of apartheid system,” Johnson said in an interview published in the English-language daily The Jerusalem Post Thursday. The two-state solution, meaning the creation of a Palestinian state existing in peace alongside Israel, is a key policy goal of the international community. US President Donald Trump cast uncertainty over his country's commitment to the idea when he met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House in February, saying he would be open to a single state if it led to peace. Palestinians fear the prospect of a single state in which Israel would not give the same rights to Jews and Arabs, with senior leaders warning it would constitute “apartheid.”In Ramallah on Wednesday, Johnson stressed that his government’s policy was “absolutely unchanged” and they remain committed to two states. The international community considers continuing settlement growth in the West Bank a major obstacle to peace. When meeting Netanyahu on Wednesday, Johnson stressed Britain’s “rock-like” support of Israel, but also touched on settlement building. “Israel has first and foremost an absolute right to live in security, and the people of Israel deserve to be safe from terrorism,” Johnson said. But he later added: “Of course we must also try to remove obstacles to peace and progress such as the settlements.”

Hawaii becomes first US state to sue over Trump’s new travel ban
AP, HONOLULU Thursday, 9 March 2017/Hawaii has become the first state to sue to stop President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban. Attorneys for the state filed the lawsuit Wednesday in federal court in Honolulu. The state had previously sued over Trump’s initial travel ban, but that lawsuit was put on hold while other cases played out across the country. Hawaii gave notice Tuesday night that it intended to file an amended lawsuit to cover the new ban, which plans to goes into effect March 16. The revised executive order bars new visas for people from six predominantly Muslim countries and temporarily shuts down the US refugee program. It doesn’t apply to travelers who already have visas. Hawaii’s lawsuit says the order will harm Hawaii’s Muslim population, tourism and foreign students.The move came after a federal judge in Honolulu said earlier Wednesday that Hawaii can move forward with the lawsuit.
US District Judge Derrick Watson granted the state’s request to continue with the case and set a hearing for March 15 - the day before Trump’s order is due to go into effect. It bars new visas for people from the six predominantly Muslim countries and temporarily shuts down the US refugee program.
Officials in heavily Democratic Hawaii previously sued to stop Trump’s initial ban but that suit was placed on hold amid legal challenges around the country. The US Department of Justice declined to comment on the pending litigation.The state will argue at the March 15 hearing that the judge should impose a temporary restraining order preventing the ban from taking effect until the lawsuit has been resolved. Hawaii’s complaint says it is suing to protect its residents, businesses and schools, as well as its “sovereignty against illegal actions of President Donald J. Trump and the federal government. The order affects people from Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Libya. It does not apply to travelers who already have visas. A federal judge in Seattle issued a temporary restraining order halting the initial ban after Washington state and Minnesota sued. The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reinstate the order. While Hawaii is the first to sue to stop the revised ban, the restraining order is still in place and could apply to the new one, too, said Peter Lavalee, a spokesman for the Washington attorney general's office. Given that the new executive order spells out more of a national security rationale than the old one and allows for some travelers from the six nations to be admitted on a case-by-case basis, it will be harder to show that the new order is intended to discriminate against Muslims, Tobias said.

France’s Macron seen on top in first round presidential vote

Reuters, Paris Thursday, 9 March 2017/Centrist Emmanuel Macron would come out ahead of far right leader Marine Le Pen in the first round of France’s presidential election before going on to win a runoff vote against her, a Harris Interactive poll showed on Thursday. Macron would win 26 percent of the vote in the April 23 first round followed by Le Pen with 25 percent, the poll showed, the second so far to give the popular former economy minister a first round lead. While Le Pen’s score was unchanged from the last time the poll was conduced two weeks ago, Macron’s surged six percentage points after he unveiled his campaign manifesto and veteran centrist Francois Bayrou gave him his support. Conservative Francois Fillon’s struggle to overcome allegations that members of his family were paid public money for work they did not really do has also benefited Macron. Also read: France’s Fillon makes no promises to stay as party fights for electoral survival. The poll showed Fillon, a former prime minister who had sought to project a wholesome image before the scandal broke in January, would be eliminated from the race with only 20 percent of the first round vote, down one point from two weeks earlier. In the May 7 runoff vote, Macron was seen winning the presidency by 65 percent to 35 for Le Pen, with him gaining five percentage points from two weeks ago and her losing five. The poll, which was conducted March 6-8 among 4,932 people for France Televisions, offered the latest boost to Macron after former Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe, a Socialist heavyweight, said on Wednesday he would support him.

New Poll Shows France's Macron Leading in First Round
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 09/17/A new poll Thursday showed centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron for the first time beating the far right's Marine Le Pen in the initial round of the French presidential elections next month. Macron's lead comes as a growing list of backers from both the left and the centre throw their support behind the 39-year-old former economy minister who is trying to upend France's traditional politics. The Harris Interactive poll showed Macron taking 26 percent of the vote on April 23 -- a six-point gain in two weeks -- compared to 25 percent for National Front leader Le Pen, who had long been leading in the first round. In the likely event that no one wins an outright majority, a run-off between the two top candidates will be held on May 7. The Harris poll shows Macron would take 65 percent of that vote to Le Pen's 35 percent. Though no polls currently show her winning, anti-immigration nationalist Le Pen is hoping to emulate the shock success of President Donald Trump in US elections last year. In a boost to his campaign on Wednesday, Macron won the backing of Socialist former Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoe who called him "a reformist, a European and a realist". Delanoe, who oversaw the French capital from 2001 to 2014, told France Inter radio he backed Macron because it was essential to "throw the most weight possible behind the candidate who can beat Madam Le Pen in the first round". His stance on the prospect of a Le Pen presidency was echoed by France's ambassador to Japan, who on Wednesday broke diplomatic protocol by stating publicly that he would refuse to serve if she won. "If the French tragedy comes to pass and leads to her election, I would withdraw from all my diplomatic functions," Thierry Dana, 60, wrote in a column in Le Monde newspaper. - Fresh blow for Fillon -A former investment banker who quit the Socialist government in August to prepare a bid for the presidency, Macron has risen fast in opinion polls, but has never won elected office. In remarks on International Women's Day on Wednesday, he suggested he would ideally name a woman as prime minister if he were to win the keys to the Elysee Palace. "To be honest, it's too easy to say it this evening. But I've spoken to others, starting with men, and that's what I wish really," he said, when asked if he would name a female PM at a public rally in Paris. An already unpredictable French election has become even harder to call given the legal woes afflicting the conservative challenger Francois Fillon, who is embroiled in a "fake jobs" scandal. In another blow, the investigative paper Le Canard Enchaine published new claims late Tuesday that the scandal-hit Fillon had failed to declare an interest-free loan of 50,000 euros ($53,000) from a billionaire friend. Once the frontrunner in the race, Fillon has slipped to third in the polls and the gap between him and Macron and Le Pen appears to be widening. Delanoe's support for the Macron campaign is a blow for the Socialist candidate for the presidency, Benoit Hamon, whose hard-left policies have led some commentators to dismiss him as unelectable. Macron still has his detractors though, with veteran conservative former prime minster Alain Juppe describing him this week as "politically naive".
- 'Forgotten' middle classes -Macron told AFP in an interview Tuesday that he will defend France's middle classes, which he says have been ignored by the left and right. He claimed that both the outgoing Socialist government under President Francois Hollande -- in which he served -- and their right-wing opponents have let down the middle classes, assailed by job cuts and an increasing tax burden. "The right talks about the France that is succeeding, the left talks about the workers who are struggling the most," he said. "They have forgotten the middle classes." Macron claimed that snubbing middle earners had led to Britain's Brexit vote and to Trump's victory in the United States. "Democracies that have succeeded economically by depending only on the classes that succeed... while forgetting the middle classes, are shattered by the rise of extremes," he said.

Morocco Jails Frenchman for 'Terrorist' Links
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 09/17/A Moroccan appeals court has sentenced a Frenchman to four years in prison after he was convicted of financially supporting a "terrorist" cell, a case that has alarmed rights groups. Thomas Gallay, a 36-year-old engineer, was detained in February 2016 in the resort of Essaouira on Morocco's Atlantic Coast. He was initially given six years in jail but the sentence was reduced on appeal by a court in Sale near Rabat on Wednesday evening. International rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch in November voiced concern about the case and what they called "convictions based on tainted 'confessions'," in Morocco. "In Morocco, even if the police prevent you from reading your 'confession' or type it in a language you don't understand -- once you sign, you're basically on an express train to prison," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. According to the Frenchman's mother Beatrice Gallay, he was accused of giving 70 euros ($74) to an acquaintance involved in the case. She said that her son had been convicted on the basis of "false confessions" that he was asked by police to sign in Arabic, even though he does not understand the language. She said her son had not converted to Islam and had later denied making the purported confession. The prosecutor argued in the final indictment that all procedures were carried out in accordance with the law, denouncing the "lies of the foreign press" about the case. "Morocco faces the terrorism threat and the entire security apparatus is mobilized for this," he added. "Many foreigners are coming to Morocco to try to carry out attacks on behalf of Daesh," he said, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group. Eight co-defendants also saw their convictions upheld and were sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.

Saudi-Led Coalition Used Cluster Bombs in Yemen
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 09/17/Amnesty International on Thursday accused the Saudi-led Arab coalition battling rebels in Yemen of using banned cluster munitions in raids on residential areas. The Brazilian-manufactured munitions were fired in a February 15 attack on three residential districts and agricultural land in Saada province of northern Yemen, a stronghold of the Shiite Huthi rebels, it said in a statement. Two people were wounded in the attack, said Amnesty, which has also reported that the coalition used cluster munitions in October 2015 and May of last year. The coalition "absurdly justifies its use of cluster munitions by claiming it is in line with international law, despite concrete evidence of the human cost to civilians caught up in the conflict", said Lynn Maalouf, research director at Amnesty's Beirut regional office. "Cluster munitions are inherently indiscriminate weapons that inflict unimaginable harm on civilian lives," she said. Amnesty called for Brazil "to join the Convention on Cluster Munitions and for Saudi Arabia and coalition members to stop all use of cluster munition". Separately, Human Rights Watch in December accused the coalition of firing Brazilian-made rockets containing the outlawed munitions near two schools in Saada, killing two civilians and wounding six including a child. The December 6 came a day after Saudi Arabia joined the US and Brazil in abstaining from a UN General Assembly vote that overwhelmingly endorsed an international ban on cluster bomb use. The weapons can contain dozens of smaller bomblets that disperse over large areas, often continuing to kill and maim civilians long after they are dropped. The Saudi-led coalition, which has come under repeated criticism over civilian casualties in Yemen, acknowledged in December it had made "limited use" of British-made cluster bombs but said it had stopped using them. The conflict in Yemen has left more than 7,400 dead and 40,000 wounded since the coalition intervened on the government's side in March 2015, according to the UN.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published On March 09-10/17
France: The Taboo of Muslim Racism and Anti-Semitism - Part I

Yves Mamou/Gatestone Institute/March 09/17
Since Bensoussan rejected "any idea of destiny or essentialization," the judges denied any possibility that he could "be accused of having aroused or wished to arouse a feeling of hostility or rejection against a group of people [Muslims]".
The Islamist CCIF said it would appeal the decision.
It is becoming more and more difficult in France to hide the fact that hate speech and anti-Semitic statements are coming mainly not from non-Muslims, but from French Muslims.
March 7, 2017, the 17th Chamber of the Tribunal Correctionel of Paris acquitted Georges Bensoussan, a Jewish Moroccan-born historian, of any "incitement of racial hatred" ("provocation à la haine raciale").
On January 25, 2017, all of France's "anti-racist" organizations -- even the Jewish International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism (LICRA) -- joined the Islamist Collective Against Islamophobia (CCIF) in court against Bensoussan. He was prosecuted for remarks he made in October 2015, during a debate on radio station France Culture about anti-Semitism among French Arabs. Benoussan said:
"An Algerian sociologist, Smaïn Laacher, with great courage, just said in a documentary aired on Channel 3: It is a shame to deny this taboo, namely that in the Arab families in France, and everyone knows it but nobody wants to say it, anti-Semitism is sucked with mother's milk."
The Islamist CCIF send the quote to the public prosecutor, who opened a case against Bensoussan. The charge was simple: "mother's milk" was not a metaphor for cultural anti-Semitism transmitted through education, but a genetic and "essentialist" accusation. "Mother's milk", they claimed, means: "all Arabs are anti-Semitic" -- in other words, that Bensoussan supposedly a racist.
The decision of the court to acquit of Bensoussan is a key moment for freedom of speech in France in general, and for the freedom to speak about Muslim anti-Semitism in France.
Georges Bensoussan, a highly regarded Jewish historian of Moroccan extraction, was recently found not guilty of "hate speech." (Image source: Jusqu'au dernier video screenshot)
The judges said that "the impugned remarks [of Bensoussan] were held in a very particular context" -- a radio debate on a hot topic, "in the heat of conversation". The judges recognized that the quotation of Smaïn Laacher by the defendant was not strictly accurate. Laacher said:
"it is a monumental hypocrisy not to see that this anti-Semitism is in the beginning domestic, and quite evidently, is without doubt reinforced, hardened, legitimized, almost naturalized with various distinctions... externally. He will find it at home and will sense no radical lack of continuity between home and the external environment. Because the external environment, is, in reality, the most often [experienced]. It is to be found in what are termed the ghettos, it feels as though it is in the air one breathes, it is not at all strange. And it is difficult to escape from it in those places, particularly when you find it in yourself."
According to the judges, however, "the idea expressed by Smaïn Laacher is almost the same, or even identical to that expressed by Georges Bensoussan."
"Lastly and above all," according to the court, "the offense of incitement to hatred, violence or discrimination presupposes to be constituted, an intentional element," and the characterization of this intent is lacking and "runs against the fact that Georges Bensoussan... never ceased to deplore this constitution of two separate peoples [Muslims and non-Muslims in France]... and never called for a separation of the faction [Muslims] supposed to have seceded, its rejection, its banishment or its eradication, but on the contrary, [Bensoussan called] for their reintegration into the French nation."
Since Bensoussan rejected "any idea of destiny or essentialization," the judges denied any possibility that he could "be accused of having aroused or wished to arouse a feeling of hostility or rejection against a group of people [Muslims]".
The Islamist CCIF said it would appeal the decision.
It is becoming more and more difficult in France to hide the fact that hate speech and anti-Semitic statements are coming mainly not from non-Muslims, but from French Muslims.
*Yves Mamou is a journalist and author based in France. He worked for two decades for the daily, Le Monde, before his retirement.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Palestinians: Fake News and "Alternative Facts"
Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/March 09/17
There is no shortage of Palestinian and Arab news websites that publish hoaxes, propaganda, lies and disinformation disguised as real news. This garbage is accepted as factual by many Palestinians and other Arabs.
This is a form of incitement to which the West is deaf, largely because journalists working for Western mainstream media do not wish to understand what is being reported in Arabic, or even in English.
Blood libels against Jews were once thought to be part of the dark past. They are not. What do such stories accomplish? Excuses for the murder of Jews.
Another "new" old blood libel that Palestinians have been spreading against Israel claims that Israelis are flooding Palestinian communities with narcotics in order to spread moral corruption and destroy the health of Palestinians. This lie helps Palestinians avoid responsibility for the smuggling of drugs (by Palestinians) into the West Bank and Gaza Strip from Jordan and Egypt.
That leaves us with some questions: Where is the international community's exposure of the lies that fuel the Palestinian murder of Jews? And: Will the international community once again in history fail to speak the truth about the murder of Jews?
One after another, young Palestinians continue to carry out terrorist attacks against Jews. Why? We might start at the beginning: the campaign of incitement, indoctrination and lies that Palestinian media outlets wage against Israel. This campaign has poisoned the hearts and minds of millions of Arabs and Muslims. It ought to be no surprise, then, when the poisoned Palestinian youths grab a weapon and set out to do the death-work they are taught to cherish.
The anti-Israel incitement can even be quite subtle. Those injecting the venom do not always issue a direct call for Palestinians to go out and kill Jews. It is enough, for example, to tell Palestinians that Jews are "defiling with their filthy feet" Islamic holy sites, to drive a Palestinian to go out and stab a Jew.
Or when a Palestinian leaders repeatedly accuse Israel of seeking to "Judaize" Jerusalem and change its "Arab and Islamic character." This is like urging Palestinians to "defend" their city against Israel's "evil conspiracies."
The vicious rhetoric and the fairy tales they feed Palestinians provide ample incentive and ideology for would-be terrorists.
While Palestinian mosque preachers, political activists, journalists and senior officials have long been preoccupied with the mission of delegitimizing Israel and demonizing Jews, other Palestinians also fabricate "news" in order to further the Israeli death count.
The epidemic of "fake news" and "alternative facts," which has recently flooded the internet, is not new to Palestinian culture. In fact, "fake news" has long been an essential component of the Palestinian campaign to delegitimize Israel, demonize Jews and even to cite false claims. Historically, for example, Jordan illegally seized Jerusalem and the West Bank in the 1948 war and proceeded to ethnically cleanse the area of Jews; in the 1967 war, the Israelis merely took their land back.
The head of Apple, Tim Cook, was recently quoted as saying, "Fake news is killing people's minds."
Palestinians have long been fed fake news. It is a tried and true method for recruiting terrorists and jihadists in the fight against Israel and Jews. As, in Islam, jihad is allowed to "defend Islam," narratives sometimes have to be provided to give the impression that Islam is being attacked.
There is no shortage of Palestinian and Arab news websites that publish hoaxes, propaganda, lies and disinformation disguised as real news. This garbage is accepted as factual by many Palestinians and other Arabs.
This is another form of incitement to which the West is deaf, largely because journalists working for Western mainstream media do not wish to understand what is being reported in Arabic, or even in English. These journalists either deliberately turn a blind eye to this indoctrination or underestimate how it deforms the hearts and minds of Palestinians.
Take, for example, a recent story published on Palestinian news websites, claiming that Israel has been spraying agricultural fields in the Gaza Strip with pesticides. According to the report, Israel uses planes to destroy Palestinian agricultural products in order to ruin the Palestinian economy and deprive farmers of their livelihood.
Last week, some Palestinian news websites came up with a story that sounds as if it were lifted straight from an action movie. What do such stories accomplish? Excuses for the murder of Jews.
The story goes as follows: "An Israeli plane dropped suspicious objects that look like candies near the Palestinian city of Jenin in the northern West Bank." According to the report, Palestinians who examined the "candies" discovered that they contained toxic material. In other words: Israel is seeking to poison Palestinian children. Is it any wonder when a Palestinian teenager who hears such a story runs out to murder Jews, as in Petah Tikva last month, when a 19-year-old Palestinian shot and stabbed several Israelis.
Another recently resurrected old blood libel that Palestinians have been spreading against Israel claims that Israelis are flooding Palestinian communities with narcotics in order to spread moral corruption and destroy the health of Palestinian youths. This particular lie helps the Palestinians avoid responsibility for the smuggling of drugs (by Palestinians) into the West Bank and Gaza Strip from Jordan and Egypt.
At a recent seminar in the Gaza Strip, a group of Palestinian "experts" claimed that "hidden parties backed by Israel" were responsible for "drowning the Gaza Strip with various types of lethal and dangerous drugs."
Similar false charges were made by the Palestinian police in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip last year.
Ayman Al-Batnihi, a police spokesman in Gaza City, went as far as claiming that the widespread use of narcotics was the product of an Israeli "conspiracy" to destroy Palestinian youths and prevent them from engaging in the fight against Israel. Needless to say, the spokesman, like the Palestinian news websites, never provides any evidence to back up his false claims.
The libels and lies are not coming from Hamas alone. The Palestinian Authority (PA), which relies almost solely on American and European funding, offers similar "information" to its readers. Here is a news report that appeared in the PA's Ramallah-based Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda newspaper, claiming that Israel is "flooding" the Arab residents of Jerusalem with narcotics. The report claims that some 20,000 Arabs have fallen victim to the purported Israeli "conspiracy" and have become drug addicts. "Israel's goal is to destroy the Arab youths of Jerusalem and empty the city of its Arab inhabitants," the report went on to explain.
According to reports such as these, Jews also supposedly use pigs to persecute Palestinians. Palestinian news websites regularly inform their readers that Israel releases wild pigs in the West Bank to destroy Palestinian crops and drive Palestinians out of their homes. The wild pigs, the reports tell Palestinians, are brought by Jews to Palestinian villages as part of a scheme to destroy the crops and intimidate villagers (some of whom claim the wild pigs attack them). An interesting facet of this "fake news" is that the Jewish settlers accused of using pigs to wage war against Palestinians are mostly religious, the last people in the world interested in getting involved with swine.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the lies about Israelis that Palestinians are fed daily by their leaders, journalists and media outlets. This is also what Palestinians think of when they pick up a knife to thrust into the body of a Jew.
Blood libels against Jews were once thought to be part of the dark past. They are not. That leaves us with some questions: Where is the international community's exposure of the lies that fuel the Palestinian murder of Jews? And: Will the international community once again in history fail to speak the truth about the murder of Jews?
*Bassam Tawil is a scholar based on the Middle East.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

The Central Role of Women’s Issues in Post-Arab Spring North Africa
Fatima Sadiqi/Washington Institute for Near East Policy/March 09/17
Women’s demands in North Africa are increasingly diversified and polyvocal as new actors and agents gain visibility in the public sphere of authority. This diversification is being nourished by new values, such as all citizens’ dignity in the public sphere, and new approaches, such as the use of social media and transnational networking. Women’s issues and women’s rights are at the center of these dynamics; just as they have been before. Although the Arab Spring did not specifically target women’s issues, it is thanks to decades of women’s struggle for their rights that issues like education and health care were top on the agenda of the mass protests. Furthermore, it was the protest culture that secular women’s activists instilled in the public sphere that opened the door to large-scale demonstrations. Given the rapidity with which events and changes are taking place, we need both a diachronic and a synchronic perspective to understand what’s happening. Women’s issues are creating what I will refer to as the «Center».
I define the Center as an ideological middle-ground space between the increasingly antagonistic paradigms of secularism (separation of religion and politics) and Islamism (use of religion in politics) in the post-revolution North Africa. It is a space in which a reconfiguration of social space is taking place: the Center itself holds, but with diachronic and synchronic aspects that move. This reconfiguration is based around the twin dichotomies of conservative/modernist and Islamist/secular.
The conservative-modernist dichotomy in North Africa was born during the colonization period. While both trends supported nationalism, they significantly differed in their reactions to the West and modernity. Conservatives opposed any influence of the West, especially in family and social matters, and modernists viewed the West as a symbol of progress. From the 1970s onward, and with rampant political Islamism in the background, the conservative-modernist dichotomy developed into a secularists-Islamists one. It is important to note that this new development did not supplant the initial modernist-conservative dichotomy but politicized, and thus polarized, the dichotomy and rendered it more complex. In politics, modernists tend to support secularists and conservatives tend to support Islamists, although the latter are not necessarily against modernity and some of them may support secularists.
A number of women-related issues are now raised in the Center: Islamist rhetoric that aims at rolling back women’s achievements in terms of rights, the escalation of gender-based violence pursuant to the escalation of terrorism in the region, domestic violence, rape, sexual harassment, etc. In addressing these issues, secular feminist forces are trying to gain initiative. Women’s rights are increasingly included in “mutual accountability frameworks” between donors and aid recipients in governmental institutions with the aim of regulating political dialogue, aid, trade, gender aspects, and wider economic relations.
The Center exhibits the following characteristics: it does not have a clear leadership; it transcends the boundaries of the secularist-Islamist dichotomy; it uses conventional and social media; and it is porous, i.e. has open boundaries that are often variable and not clearly delineated. Hence, seemingly incompatible standpoints, like secularism and Islamism, may co-exist and converse without converging in this space. Subsequently, the Center is bound to be complex and multifaceted because it addresses different important facets of a complex and quickly changing reality. In practical terms, the Center expands beyond the reform movements of the 1990s-2000s and as such, does not easily fall in the Anglo-American or Western European frameworks of what constitutes a “political center” because the base of social reform is expanded and the relationship with politics is not direct.
Theoretically speaking, the way secularism and Islamism are applied varies from country to country in North Africa (and the Arab-Muslim world at large) because although all Arab-Muslim countries consider Islam a state religion and legal reference (thus part and parcel of politics and religion) Islam does not play the same political role in every country. The differences were constructed during the state-building phases when each country chose a specific madhab as a frame of reference that fitted its political structure. For example, Morocco chose the Maliki madhab because this school acknowledges the religious authority of the ruler and hence suited a multi-ethnic and multilingual country like Morocco. In other words, the way political and religious authorities function in Muslim-majority countries, as well as the means and degrees of the application of shari’a law in their legal systems, varies. In Morocco, secularists do not in general see their stance as opposing Islam, but they see it as opposing Islamists in an overarching context where monarchy (expected to protect both trends) rules. Indeed, the secularists and Islamists in Morocco exhibit surface commonalities and deep underlying divergences. In sum, while we all understand what secularism means theoretically, it is tailored to the specific historical and sociopolitical nature of each country. Within the Moroccan ruling system, where both the supreme religious and political authorities are prerogatives of the king, the majority of the secular and Islamist forces do not contest this reality. Of course each trend has its own moderate and extremist versions, but in general both secular and Islamist forces acknowledge the position of the king as the supreme and ultimate arbiter in cases of clash between parties, as well as a source of stability.
Within this framework, women’s issues constitute genuine fuel in the battlefield of ideas. This fuel is used by politicians (men and women) for specific political aims, whereas women’s movements use it to score more gains. The moving grounds may either bring secular and Islamist women together on the premise that after all they are fighting for the same rights, or separate them when the rights are too much politicized.
It seems that in the long run the Center will allow a broadening of the support base for women’s rights movements, through engaging new youth activists and women in rural and urban slum areas. Initiatives to transform development programs that embed gender equality and women’s participation are a valuable start. However, there is a growing feeling that the chief obstacle to these goals is the rise of fundamentalist movements in the region and the failure of political Islam to manage politics and be inclusive in governance.
By way of conclusion, I would say that whatever the constraints, in the case of North Africa, the use of gender as a lens through which emerging politicized identification processes are analyzed is a promising field of inquiry which brings together various intellectual voices in the region and across the globe. This in turn allows a contextualization of the dominant post-revolution narratives in the region - the public role of Islam in women’s roles, recent reforms regarding women’s legal status, etc. Gender politics is crucial in forging these narratives, and hence, exemplifies how the three axes of identity—religion, ethnicity, and gender— were activated during the revolution moment and nourished in the aftermath of the revolution.
**Fikra Forum is an initiative of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The views expressed by Fikra Forum contributors are the personal views of the individual authors, and are not necessarily endorsed by the Institute, its staff, Board of Directors, or Board of Advisors.​​

Burning Questions for Trump on the Middle East: We Still Don't Know Where His Gut Instincts Are
Robert Satloff/New York Daily News/March 07/17
Short-term benefits aside, America's partners in the Middle East will all suffer in the end if estrangement from the region becomes the norm of U.S. foreign policy.
Middle East chatter is filled with talk about how the budding romance between Israel and Sunni Arab states will transform the region. Will these newfound "allies," as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called them in Washington last month, join forces to counter Iran's nefarious designs for regional hegemony? Will they work together to achieve a breakthrough in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process? Or do they have an even grander design to form a mini-NATO, sharing intelligence, anti-missile defense, cyber-warfare strategies and counter-terror forces for the sake of their common defense?
As worthy as these targets are for cupid's Middle East arrow, they miss the mark. The top priority for Arab-Israeli cooperation should not be in the Middle East but, odd as it sounds, it should be in Washington.
This is where Israelis, Saudis, Emiratis, Jordanians and Egyptians will find the most important question affecting their collective security: Namely, will the Trump administration decide to lead by investing the money, manpower and political capital to address the rot at the heart of the Middle East, or will it suffice with an "Obama-plus" strategy of strictly limiting America's exposure to the region's endemic problems, masked by a kinder, gentler, more indulgent attitude toward our traditional allies?
Pursuing both policies -- engagement and retrenchment -- is not really possible. But President Trump's words provide evidence to support both approaches. The person who promised "to dismantle" the Iran nuclear deal, "knock the hell" out of ISIS and "extinguish" the ideology of radical Islamic extremism is, for example, the same person who authorized fairly minor Obama-like sanctions on Iranian officials when Tehran waved a brazen ballistic missile test under his nose and who railed against getting stung by the "hornet's nest" of the Middle East, where Americans already lost "$6 trillion" over the past two decades with little to show for it.
True, Trump has promised to "straighten out" the "mess" he inherited from his predecessors, but it's not clear which "mess" he will fix and how.
Will he focus his administration more on the "urgent" problem of the Islamic State or the "important" problem of Iran's regional ambitions?
Does he consider Russia and its key local partner, Iran, as instigators of the region's ailments, beneficiaries of the region's dysfunction, or essential players in fixing the region's problems?
When, though their terrorist proxies, Iran's ayatollahs threaten American partners and test American resolve, will he rise to the challenge and risk escalation?
After Mosul and Raqqa are liberated, does he have the attention span and staying power to keep a substantial U.S. presence in Iraq and Syria to ensure that the next generation of Sunni jihadists doesn't emerge from the rubble of the anti-ISIS campaign?
Even more broadly, does he have the strategic foresight to knock heads together to come up with a plan to save Egypt from economic collapse now, rather than face political collapse -- and the potential of a failed state on Israel's border -- before the end of his term?
If Arab and Israeli strategists are meeting behind closed doors to map out plans for their collective defense -- and I fear there is less of this than is commonly believed -- these are the questions that should focus their attention. After all, no single factor will have as much impact on the security and defense of both Israel and Sunni Arab states in coming years as the willingness of President Trump to provide effective leadership to the region's camp of pro-West, pro-stability countries. Their common objective should be to convince the President that it is in America's interest to play that role.
In his early days in office, President Trump has already shown a warmth toward Israel and an openness to longtime allies like Egypt; that approach has been reciprocated by the praise of leaders from other Mideast countries, such as the Saudi foreign minister's tribute to him as a "pragmatic problem-solver." So far, so good.
But it is not too difficult to imagine that overall administration policy could see improvement in key bilateral relations that soured under Obama while maintaining Obama's reluctance to roll up his sleeves and get his hands dirty on behalf of America's longtime partners and their core security concerns. While some in the region may enjoy short-term benefits from that approach -- more military sales and, perhaps, additional foreign aid -- they will all suffer in the end if American estrangement from the region becomes the norm of U.S. foreign policy. At that point, they will truly find themselves as allies, stuck together in the same boat, adrift without a captain.
**Robert Satloff is executive director of The Washington Institute.

Sisi's Domesticated Foreign Policy
Eric Trager/The Washington Institute/March 8, 2017
Much to his Gulf allies' chagrin, Egypt's president has not toed their anti-Iranian line in the region, instead following his own pattern of supporting state actors against non-state actors.
When then-Defense Minister Abdel Fatah al-Sisi responded to mass protests in July 2013 by ousting the country's first elected president, Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi, Cairo's Gulf allies rushed to keep Egypt afloat economically. Within months, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait sent approximately $7 billion in aid, and they pledged an additional $12 billion in aid after Sisi won the barely contested May 2014 presidential elections. These Gulf states' support reflected their concerns about the Muslim Brotherhood, which they viewed as a threat given the Brotherhood's explicitly hegemonic aims, and they also feared that Egypt's economic collapse would have devastating consequences on a region that was rapidly unraveling.
Yet beyond these immediate concerns, the Gulf allies saw their generosity towards Egypt as an investment in their own long-term security. They believed that a strong Egypt, which possesses the Arab world's largest army, would help them counter Iran's expanding influence in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Indeed, Sisi appeared to promise that Egypt would play this role when he told King Salman in March 2015 that the security of the Gulf is a "red line" and an "integral part of Egyptian national security," and he also agreed shortly thereafter to Egypt's participation in a joint Arab military force.
Four years after Morsi's overthrow, the Gulf aid has satisfied its first two objectives. Cairo's crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood has divided the organization and neutralized it politically, at least for the time being. And while Egypt is still struggling economically, it has nonetheless muddled through despite dwindling foreign direct investment and tourism revenues. But much to its allies' chagrin, Egypt hasn't become the anchor of a broader Sunni Arab alliance against Iran. Instead, Sisi has charted his own course -- one that sometimes aligns with the Gulf allies' interests and at other times contradicts them, but which always follows the same pattern: Sisi supports state actors whenever they are in conflict with non-state ones.
Sisi's foreign policy outlook is, as The Century Foundation's Michael Hanna has noted, an extension of his domestic one. At home, Sisi sees himself as a strongman combatting those who seek chaos, foremost among them the Muslim Brotherhood. According to the Egyptian government's narrative, Sisi "saved" Egypt from the Brotherhood, which seeks the collapse of the Egyptian government and the establishment of an Islamist theocracy. In turn, Egyptian officials routinely argue that a strong (meaning repressive) state is necessary for preventing the Brotherhood's return and the upheaval that might follow. Sisi fleshed this out in his September 2016 address at the United Nations General Assembly, when he defined terrorism not as violence against civilian populations by non-state actors, but as "a threat to the entity of the state." To bolster Sisi at home, Egypt's pro-government media routinely highlights the violence in Libya, Yemen, and Syria as examples of what might happen if the Islamists are allowed to challenge the Egyptian state.
Due to his strong preference for state actors over non-state ones, Sisi has diverged sharply with his Gulf allies regarding the Syrian conflict. The Gulf states have tended to see the Syrian conflict in terms of their broader concerns regarding Iran's expanding regional influence, and they have strongly supported the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad's Iranian-backed regime. The Saudi government and Kuwaiti individuals have generously backed various Sunni Islamist rebel groups, some of which are tied to al-Qaeda or cooperate with al-Qaeda offshoots, while the UAE has contributed to multi-country funds for arming approved rebel groups and is actively fighting ISIS in Syria as part of the U.S.-led coalition.
Sisi, however, is less concerned about Iran's regional influence than he is about the fallout if Sunni Islamist groups gain the upper hand, since, from Sisi's standpoint, these rebels often look similar to the Islamists that he is fighting at home, and he has increasingly shown his preference for Assad. Egypt explicitly declared its disagreement with its Gulf allies at the United Nations meeting in September, when Egypt's foreign minister met his Iranian counterpart on the sidelines and then told the press that, "The Coalition fighting in Syria may want to change the regime in the country, but that is not Egypt's position." Then in October, Cairo supported a Russian UN Security Council resolution that Saudi Arabia strongly opposed, and a few days later it hosted the Syrian intelligence chief for talks that, according to Syria's news agency, concluded with an agreement to "strengthen coordination in the fight against terrorism." Egyptian-Saudi ties have been frigid ever since (and Cairo's delay in completing the transfer of two Red Sea islands, Sanafir and Tiran, to Riyadh has only made things worse).
At other times, Sisi's preference for state actors has kept him aligned with his Gulf allies. When Iranian-backed Houthi rebels seized Sanaa in September 2014, Egypt supported the government of Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, and it joined the Saudi- and Emirati-led coalition by dispatching its navy to protect Bab al-Mandab in March 2015. While Sisi has continued to support Hadi politically, including by meeting him on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September, Yemen has increasingly become a point of friction between Cairo and its allies in recent months, and Sisi has resisted Saudi entreaties to send more troops. To some extent, this reflects the legacy of Egypt's costly involvement in Yemen from 1962-1966, and Sisi's desire to avoid getting more deeply involved in another Yemeni quagmire. But it's also a consequence of the Houthis' success: the Houthis continue to control much of the country, including the capital, while Hadi remains in exile. This has blurred the distinction between state and non-state actors in Yemen, leaving Sisi without a horse to bet on aggressively.
Sisi initially faced a similar conundrum in Libya, where the breakdown of the state following longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi's overthrow in 2011 unleashed a civil war among multiple militias. Without a clear state actor to support, Egypt instead focused on countering Islamist militias. Egypt reportedly cooperated with the UAE to launch a series of airstrikes in August 2014, and it launched another round against ISIS targets in Libya after the group beheaded 21 Egyptian Christians in February 2015.
Yet Gen. Khalifa Hiftar's successes on the ground against the Islamists, as well as his appointment by the House of Representatives to lead the Libyan National Army (LNA) in March 2015, catalyzed a shift in Egypt's policy. While Cairo officially supported the United Nations-led negotiations that produced a (teetering) peace deal in December 2015, Sisi now supports Hiftar despite the LNA's continued clashes with forces loyal to the UN-backed government in Tripoli. In this vein, Egypt advocates lifting the arms embargo on Libyan groups so that it can arm the LNA, and Egyptian intelligence and military officials have hosted Hiftar on many occasions. Sisi seemingly views Hiftar as an analogue to himself -- a military man battling Islamists, some of whom are backed by Qatar, which also backs the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. As Sisi explained in April 2016, "Egypt supports the LNA, represented by Hiftar, because it believes that it is the best way to get rid of terrorism and help Libya recover."
For the most part, Sisi's foreign policy outlook has come at a price. As a result of his preference for Assad and unwillingness to get more involved in Yemen, Riyadh announced in October that it would withhold the oil aid that King Salman had promised during his April 2016 visit to Cairo, and the UAE appears to be playing wait-and-see on future investments in Egypt. But in a certain sense, Sisi's unilateralism is merely a consequence of his regime's nationalist bent. "We appreciate [the Gulf's] political and moral support even more than financial support," a senior Egyptian official told me in December. "But for our Gulf brothers and sisters, protecting Egypt after [Morsi's overthrow] was about protecting themselves [from the Brotherhood]...We respect the sovereignty of Saudi Arabia and the UAE. They can contact whomever. But they should preserve the right for us."
Sisi, in other words, will follow an "Egypt first" playbook, and Cairo expects everyone else to do the same. Still, if oil-rich Gulf states believe that they can't face the region's challenges alone, then it's unclear why a resource-poor country with severe structural and security challenges believes that it can.
**Eric Trager is the Esther K. Wagner Fellow at The Washington Institute and author of Arab Fall: How the Muslim Brotherhood Won and Lost Egypt in 891 Days.

The Quiet Advance of Eastern Mediterranean Gas
Simon Henderson and David / The Washington Institute/March 8, 2017
News that Israel has begun exporting gas to Jordan indicates that commercial logic can prevail despite adverse political rhetoric.
In January, without fanfare, natural gas from Israel's offshore Tamar field began flowing across the border near the southern end of the Dead Sea, where it will provide power for a bromine plant and potash factory in Jordan. Although the quantities of gas involved are relatively small, the development was significant because it came at a time when King Abdullah was profoundly concerned that the new Trump administration intended to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The palace had ample reason to play down Jordan's ties with its western neighbor, but carrying out the gas deal was apparently deemed more important. And while the king's sensitivity probably explains why Amman has not publicly agreed to buy gas from Israel's much larger Leviathan field, the same under-the-table approach to hydrocarbon development seems to be playing out in that case as well.
The prospect of a major deal with Jordan's main electricity generator, the National Electric Power Company (NEPCO), is considered a key element in Leviathan's viability, and observers had expected the go-ahead for that project to be announced at the end of 2016. As the new year came and went, the absence of news seemed to augur badly for the deal, as did Jordan's tense domestic opposition to buying Israeli gas (though such sentiment should be tempered by the population's dependence on Israeli drinking water).
On February 23, however, Houston-based Noble Energy -- which leads the consortia for Tamar and Leviathan -- suddenly announced that it would move forward with developing the latter. The company made no direct reference to Jordanian involvement, instead obliquely mentioning that the project would provide "affordable energy resources to Israeli citizens and neighboring countries," and that the gas would reach "regional markets via onshore export pipelines." Yet the company's clear insinuation is that King Abdullah has privately agreed to buy Leviathan gas. In Noble's view, even an unannounced Jordanian commitment is apparently bankable, enabling it to secure financing for the project.
Supplying Israeli gas to Jordan's Dead Sea factories also confronts a wider Middle Eastern taboo. While Amman and Egypt have peace treaties with Israel allowing for commercial trade, most other Arab countries have continued their perpetual boycott. Indeed, a Saudi bank divested from one of the factories -- the Arab Potash Company -- at the first sign that Israeli gas would be flowing there. Yet according to APC's website, the company's board of directors still appears to include representatives from its Emirati, Iraqi, Libyan, and Kuwaiti quasi-governmental shareholders. APC is also a partial owner of the other factory receiving Tamar gas, the Jordan Bromine Company.
Putting Israel's gas progress with Jordan in a broader commercial and regulatory context is instructive as well. Last month, apparently disappointed by the lack of interest from foreign companies, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz announced a new timeframe for bids to explore in Israel's exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Bid submission will now start at the end of May and end on July 10, and financial guarantees must be valid until March 2018. This suggests that licenses may not actually be awarded until next year.
One factor in this decision was no doubt the continuing reluctance of international oil and gas companies to risk their commercial interests and future prospects with Arab countries and Iran by doing business with Israel. For instance, despite concerns about Tehran's troublemaking role in the region, the Islamic Republic is a particularly attractive prospect for energy companies because it has the largest proven gas reserves in the world, some 180 times the size of Israel's.
Moreover, Israel arguably shot itself in the foot by changing its taxation framework for gas production. Whatever the domestic rationale behind that move, such changes can have consequences when exploration companies are deciding whether to risk their own capital in a search for hydrocarbon reserves that lie far below the seabed, in challenging waters more than a mile deep.
The quantities of hydrocarbons in the region known geologically as the Nile and Levant Basins represent but a fraction of those found in the Persian Gulf countries. Even so, the current and future prospects in the Eastern Mediterranean (mainly gas but also some oil) could substantially improve the economies of Egypt, Cyprus, and Lebanon along with Israel and Jordan. Recent developments in the area support such optimism.
First, Egypt is moving rapidly to bring its Zohr offshore gas field online. Cairo claims that the field is larger than Leviathan, though it suffers from high levels of hydrogen sulfide that needs to be removed at an onshore facility currently under construction. Britain's BP and Russia's Rosneft have bought into the field, and Italy's Eni will develop it. Yet while Egypt hopes to regain its status as a gas exporter, high domestic demand could make this an elusive dream. Currently, all domestic production is directed toward generating electricity, and extra liquefied natural gas must be shipped in weekly from Qatar for this purpose. Egypt's industrial plants are still suffering shortages, however, and its two LNG export terminals on the Nile Delta are almost idle. Against this backdrop, imports of Israeli gas would seem to be commercially attractive, at least in the interim.
Second, Cyprus -- whose own EEZ is tantalizingly close to the Zohr field -- is hoping for new discoveries by international companies previously disappointed by local prospects. Its only discovered field, Aphrodite, is yet to be exploited. Given the island's small population, most if not all of its eventual gas production would be for export, but this would only be achievable through cooperation with Israel and/or Egypt. Turkey's acquiescence may be required as well.
Third, after years of delay, Lebanon ratified decrees in January that divided its offshore EEZ into ten exploration blocs and established a commercial process for awarding licenses. Yet three of these blocs are located along Lebanon's self-declared southern maritime border, beyond which lie Israeli waters. Beirut still does not officially recognize Israel, and the Lebanese tender document did not incorporate any of the U.S.-brokered proposals for dividing the contentious maritime zone, so the licensing process could run into problems. According to industry experts, one of the three blocs in question is the most likely to contain gas in commercial quantities, but it is difficult to imagine any international exploration company wanting a license in an area that could be legally and even militarily contested. Other potential obstacles include deciding which areas of Lebanon would initially benefit from any new gas flows, and how any eventual export revenues would be divided between the country's various armed factions.
Fourth, the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip has an unexploited offshore field known as Gaza Marine, which could be used to generate electricity both there and in the West Bank. Technically, however, the field is owned by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, which is reluctant to invest in a project that could economically and politically bolster its Hamas rivals.
The Eastern Mediterranean's most tantalizing gas export option is a proposed undersea pipeline from Israel's Leviathan field to Turkey, either across Cyprus or skirting the island to the east. The former route could be problematic given the lack of a peace settlement in the divided country, where Turkish troops have occupied the north since a crisis with Greece in 1974. Israel's relations with Turkey have improved recently, but perhaps not enough to sign a twenty-year gas supply deal with associated heavy investment in an expensive pipeline.
A further possibility (though one that strains credulity) is an undersea pipeline that stretches from Aphrodite and/or Leviathan to Cyprus, the Greek island of Crete, and the Greek mainland. A variation of this would be installing an undersea cable known as a "connector" to link the Israeli, Cypriot, and Greek electric grids.
To be sure, all of these low-key advances are overshadowed somewhat by the region's latest troubles. Jordan is burdened by Syrian refugees, and Lebanon's future shape is probably linked to the incumbency of President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus. Meanwhile, Iran is affecting the Eastern Mediterranean situation from afar by supplying hostile actors with cruise missiles capable of hitting offshore drilling rigs and production platforms, among other destabilizing actions.
Yet the February go-ahead on Leviathan means that Israel can now bring gas ashore in the center of the country rather than at Ashkelon, where facilities are within rocket range of Gaza. Similarly, a steady supply of Israeli gas would reduce Jordan's near-total reliance on supplies arriving by sea at Aqaba, and perhaps end its schemes to import Iraqi gas overland or build Russian nuclear reactors.
Energy security is as much about having alternatives as it is about any notion of energy independence. U.S. diplomacy has played a low-key and not always effective role in encouraging the commercial exploitation of Eastern Mediterranean natural gas. But it is a necessary role that needs to be continued, even if commercial interests remain the main driver of multilateral dealmaking.
**Simon Henderson is the Baker Fellow and director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at The Washington Institute. David Schenker is the Institute's Aufzien Fellow and director of its Program on Arab Politics.

The Gulf states and anarchy in the Middle East
Dr. Ibrahim Al-Othaimin/Al Arabiya/March 09/17
Former US Secretary of State and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger made an interesting remark in World Order: Reflections on the Character of Nations and the Course of History. The book addresses the conflict of survival among nations. He says that the Middle East is going through a conflict similar to the European wars of religion in the nineteenth century. This is a result of a state collapse that turns its territories into a base for terrorism and arms smuggling which leads to the disintegration of the world order. Kissinger presents a noteworthy portrayal of the regional status quo. Five years of regional events starting in 2011 disintegrated national states, posing massive security and political challenges to the Gulf states. One of the major challenges has been the rise of a number of terrorist organizations with ISIS at the forefront. Such organizations exploited the political instability of some countries, which provided them with fertile ground and ideology to operate and expand in the immediate vicinity of the Gulf states. It is well known that the Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, were subject to a wave of terrorist attacks by Al-Qaeda between 1995 and 2009. The country dealt with those attacks in a wise and decisive manner that left the organization weak and disintegrated. Most of its cells were destroyed, and many of its affiliates moved to Yemen forming a new organization named “Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula”. While regional events impacted differently on each Gulf state, hardly any of them escaped the consequences. The Global Terrorism Database (GTD) shows an escalating number of terrorist attacks on Saudi territories in recent years. Moreover, in 2012, Bahrain witnessed 26 terrorist attacks, rising to 52 in 2013, but then dropping in 2014 to 41 and then falling to 18 attacks in 2015. As for Kuwait, there were no terrorist attacks on Kuwaiti territories between 2011 and 2014. However, in 2015, there was an attack on a mosque claiming 28 lives. The UAE witnessed its first terrorist attack in 2013, with two more attacks in 2014, and there were no attacks on the UAE in 2015. Qatar witnessed no terrorist attacks between 2012 and 2014, but in 2015, a single attack took place there. Oman, by contrast, witnessed no terrorist attacks at all from 2012 to 2015. Thus, the regional events had their impact on the security and stability of the Gulf states.The so-called Arab Spring turned the region into a launch pad of terrorism in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen that has infiltrated the rest of the Arab world
Response to terror
The GTD is presented by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) of the University of Maryland. It has analyzed dozens of indicators in 158 countries during the past decade. Furthermore, the 2016 GTD presented by the Institute for Economics and Peace in Australia, based on the GTD of START, shows that the Gulf states have seen a relative rise in terrorist attacks. In 2016, Saudi Arabia was ranked 32nd on the global terrorism scale scoring 5.404 out of 10 degrees of terrorism threat on the Global Terrorism Index (GTI). It was ranked 42nd on the same GTI in 2015 scoring 4.006 out of 10. The number of lives claimed by terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia rose sixfold in comparison with 2014. In 2016, Saudi Arabia witnessed 48 terrorist attacks that killed 107 people. This was the highest rate of terrorism in Saudi Arabia since 2000. Kuwait was ranked 37th on the GTI in 2016 scoring 4.449 out of 10. The index shows a 10 percent rise in attacks in comparison with 2015, when it was ranked 122nd scoring 0.019 out of 10. As for Bahrain, the threat of terrorism fell by 0.665 degrees in comparison with the previous year as it was ranked 44th scoring 4.206 out of 10 in 2016 whereas in 2015, it was ranked 30th with 4.871 out of 10. The rest of the Gulf states remained highly stable as Oman scored 0.00 out 10, Qatar scored 0.23, and the UAE scored 0.422. Thus, the so-called Arab Spring turned the region into a launch pad of terrorism in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen that has infiltrated the rest of the Arab world. If the countries that witnessed the Arab Spring protests do not restore political stability and secure their borders, this will pose a real threat to the Gulf states and it will require collective efforts to face this danger.
**This article was first published in Saudi Gazette on March 9.

Japan, a nation that survives and thrives
Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/March 09/17
“The whole of Japan is a pure invention. There is no such country, there are no such people.”This is how Irish playwright, author and poet Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) described this marvelous country, which imitated no one and which no one will be able to imitate. Japan benefitted from its openness to the West. European civilization and the modern American trend inspired it but several characteristics distinguish it, particularly in the fields of education and work. While reading a magazine on self-development, I read few topics about Japan. Students in Japan study moral education and learn how to deal with people.
Children in Japan are taught how to clean their school and class every day. There are also strict rules regarding use of mobile phones as they are not allowed in some public places out of respect for others
Aim of education
Students from the first elementary stage through to the third intermediate do not fail because the aim of education is to build character and not just to teach. They do not hire janitors although they are among the richest people in the world. Children in Japan are taught how to clean their school and class every day. There are also strict rules regarding use of mobile phones as they are not allowed in some public places out of respect for others. Japan is a successful nation, which has created a great model despite its fall after World War II. Nations full of life may get ill but they don’t die.
**This article was first published in Okaz on February 16, 2017.

The trail of Dreamers
Fawaz Turki/Al Arabiya/March 09/17
“Dreamers dream because they know that if they throw their dreams into space like a kite,” wrote Anais Nin, the well-known essayist and poet, who was born in France to Cuban parents, but lived most of her life in the United States, where she died in 1977, “it may bring back a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country.”Nin may not have had DREAMers in mind when she wrote that, but she may as well have. The term, an acronym for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM), refers to congressional legislation, proposed during President Obama’s tenure in office, that would have allowed undocumented immigrants, who came to the US as children, to pursue legal status, and even citizenship, provided they entered the country before age 16 and never been convicted of a felony. The act was not passed but the President offered them temporary legal presence through an executive order in 2012 known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which offered a two-year, renewable reprieve from deportation. After all, it was argued, these children were brought to the country through no fault of their own and, moreover, having grown up and gone to school in the US, socialized as they were by its cultural norms, they surely must be as American as apple pie.
New man in charge
True, but that was the understanding when President Obama was in the White House. Obama is no longer there, and the man who occupies it today is on record – a record he verbalized vociferously on the campaign trail – as wishing to adopt a harsh, unyielding immigration policy, even against DREAMers. And it is beginning to show. Ask Daniela Vargas, a 22-year-old DREAMer, brought to the US by her parents from Argentina at the age of seven, who last Thursday was snatched off the street by Immigration and Customs (ICE) agents in Jackson, Mississippi, after she had spoken about her plight at a press conference, where she called for a “path to citizenship” for DREAMers like herself. DREAMers have always lived in the shadows, but after President Obama’s 2-year conditional resident status granted them in 2012, they came out in the open, and actively publicized their cause, feeling bold enough to stage protests
As she was about to enter a friend’s car, following the conference, she was pulled over by ICE officials and taken into custody. Her lawyer fears that she could be deported without a court hearing because, it would appear, her DACA two-year program had expired in November 2016, but she applied to renew it in mid-February this year, presumably after she was able to save $495 for the application fee. Ask 23-year-old DREAMer Daniel Ramirez Medina, detained last month in Seattle and today remains in custody. Ask 19-year-old Josue Romero from San Antonio, also retained last month but released on bond. Ask countless others.According to the American Immigration Council, a non-profit group, there are 1.8 million DREAMers in the US, with nearly half of them living in California and Texas, and the rest spread in other states across the country. Seven tenths are Mexican and the rest are from all corners of the globe.
Living in the shadows
DREAMers have always lived in the shadows, but after President Obama’s 2-year conditional resident status granted them in 2012, they came out in the open, and actively publicized their cause, feeling bold enough to stage protests, even outside ICE headquarters.
To be sure, DREAMers never failed to project a sympathetic narrative to a great many Americans, who see them, despite their quirky status, as fellow Americans – so much so, in fact, that in 2010, while the Dream Act was being debated in Congress, four students staged the now famous Trail of Dreams, a 1,500-mile walk from Miami, Florida, to Washington, DC. to support the passing of the Act.The inspiration for the name came from the Trail of Tears, the forced removal in the 1830s of Native American tribes from their ancestral lands in the Southeastern United States to an area west of the Mississippi where, while on route, they suffered from exposure, disease and starvation that resulted in 4,000 deaths before they reached their destination. Needless to say, President Trump’s win in November, coupled with his threats to deport all undocumented immigrants, ignited fears throughout the immigrant community, not least of all among DREAMers, who now feel under siege, as if they are now living not just in the shadows but in the cross-hairs – American kids who, were they to be deported, would be sent to countries whose languages they do not speak, whose culture they do not understand and whose norms they do not embrace.
*I say the hunt for DREAMers is, at its core, a heartless enterprise.

Brexit and the unthinkable – ‘Frexit’ next?
Dr. Mohamed A. Ramady/Al Arabiya/March 09/17
The UK’s Brexit vote and Trump’s election triumph took many pundits by surprise. As Europe faces several national elections, more surprises can no longer be discounted, especially on a possible French exit or Frexit, as political unpredictability is now the name of the game.
The French financial markets have been rattled by a late surge in the second round poll numbers of National Front leader Marine Le Pen in a hypothetical runoff against the front-runner, centrist independent Emmanuel Macron in May.
That sell-off was further exacerbated by rumours of a possible alliance between Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon and the far-left’s Jean-Luc Melenchon, which, if it were to propel the left to the second round, could further increase chances of a Le Pen victory. François Fillon, the centre-right’s standard-bearer in France’s forthcoming presidential election chances was seemingly fast slipping.
Accused of defrauding the public purse by employing his wife, Penelope, and their children in “fake” parliamentary jobs, Fillon will be formally charged by prosecutors on 15 March with leading politicians on the right, including former premier Alain Juppé, at first distancing themselves from his faltering candidacy, but in a last minute emergency meeting the party affirmed its support for Mr. Fillon as its main candidate. However, all is seemingly not lost to pro EU fans, with all eyes now on the first round of voting on 23rd April.
Should we now think outside the box and look forward to a future of either a looser European federation or full exit of more countries like France or Italy, with others seeking best possible bi-lateral trade agreements?
The referendum
Contrary to current assumptions, for instance, if Le Pen should win, she will not still be able to move quickly on a referendum to take France out of the Euro and the European Union, immediately. National Front officials explain Le Pen would first go through at least six months of negotiations with the European Commission before even going to a French referendum.
The French referendum in any case would not be a simple “in or out” vote as the British vote was last July, but for a more politically complicated drafting of a new French constitution rewriting the articles that regulate France’s EU membership, and introducing a proportional system to French electoral law. It would in effect be tantamount to creating a Sixth French Republic, and that could take years with stops or reversals along the way.
The result though would be to cast long and dark shadows over the European integration dream. Le Pen, if elected, would first to head to Brussels to convince EU partners to give France a new arrangement that would allow her to control borders, devalue the currency, and increase deficit spending. But that would be tantamount to exiting the single market, and France’s exit would factually mean the end of the EU as we know it.
The French centre-left/far-left alliance, while it cannot be completely ruled out, is highly unlikely. Hamon, despite playing coy in public, is pushing hard for a deal, but Melenchon will agree to one only on condition that he will be the presidential candidate in the coalition - a condition Hamon, who leads him in the polls, would never accept.
Le Pen’s candidacy could, however, get an assist from another, little noticed source, namely from centrist François Bayrou, should he declare a presidential run. To add to the current confusing French political leadership landscape, not even Bayrou himself appears sure yet whether to announce or not. While early on in the race he was leaning against a run, he could now be tempted, with Les Republicains candidate Francois Fillon plagued by scandal but still in the race, and centrist independent Emmanuel Macron losing some steam in the polls.
And even an announcement that Bayrou is not running himself but backing Macron could be a negative for the independent former economic minister, who would then have a harder time in claiming his distance from traditional party politics. Indeed, such is the state of French political party machinations and switching alliances that is the same reason that Macron has been begging former socialist presidential candidate Segolene Royal, who is eager to endorse him, not to do so, not wanting to remind voters of his ties to the embattled outgoing President, Francois Hollande.
Captains of the industry
French captains of industry are making their voices heard, unlike in the UK where polls seemed to indicate that a remain vote would scupper the Brexiteers and British industry leaders went along with accepted political wisdom. The global French energy giant Total’s CEO Mr Pouyanne warned against mounting economic protectionism, especially in developed countries, saying it may lead to disaster.
According to Mr. Pouyanne free trade has helped reduce poverty in emerging markets, and added that “This trend to have countries around the world thinking that it’s better to be inside their borders” than open to the world will lead to catastrophe,” and that Total is in favour of “open trade and fair trade.”
His remarks come as the French presidential candidate for the National Front party, Marine Le Pen, is calling for France to increase trade barriers, abandon the common European currency and exit the European Union and, despite a scandal concerning the misuse of EU funds by her assistants, is rising in opinion polls ahead of elections in April and May.
For multinationals like Total’s CEO, the euro “is a powerful currency” which needs to be kept, and added that voters’ support for Le Pen and the UK’s decision to leave the European Union are “a question mark for ourselves, the global leaders.”
However, populist and nationalist electioneering seems to be the order of the day even if populist candidates seem to be tarnished by scandals, and seemingly spurred on by Trump’s election in representing the forgotten masses. This raises the question on whether holding internationalist trade and political principles, however noble, too little too late for Frexit to happen?
Should we now think outside the box and look forward to a future of either a looser European federation or full exit of more countries like France or Italy, with others seeking best possible bi-lateral trade agreements?
For the Gulf countries this also raises some interesting questions for the future of the GCC bloc. Moving forward, should it be more fully integrated at the same pace for all countries, or should individual GCC countries forge closer economic, political and military links with like-minded countries, as the recent high level Saudi – Emirati coordination council retreat seems to indicate, but still remain within the bloc?

In Media, Iranian Foreign Minister, Majlis Member Clash Over Iran-U.S. Relationship
MEMRI/March 09/17
Recently, Iranian Majlis member and National Security and Foreign Policy Committee member Javad Karimi Ghodosi, from the ideological camp that is critical of the JCPOA and of Iranian ties to the U.S. made accusations against Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. In a February 28, 2017 interview, Ghodosi told the YJC website, which belongs to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), that Zarif had sent a letter to his U.S. counterpart Secretary of State Rex Tillerson requesting, inter alia, that former secretary of state John Kerry be appointed special JCPOA representative. Ghodosi also noted: "[I]t is unclear whether the letter was sent in coordination with regime officials in Iran."
The Iranian Foreign Ministry immediately denied Ghodosi's allegations, attributing ulterior motives to him and saying that he was attempting to defame Iran's diplomatic officials.
These statements must be viewed in the context of the Iranian leadership's apprehensions about what the Trump administration will do next, after President Trump tweeted, on February 2, that "Iran has been formally PUT ON NOTICE for firing a ballistic missile" and added that the JCPOA was a "terrible deal." They must also be viewed against the backdrop of the disagreement within the Iranian leadership over what its strategic response to the U.S. should be – whether to work with it, in line with the pragmatic camp's approach, or to strengthen strategic ties with Russia, in line with the IRGC's position.
Ghodosi, Zarif. Source: YJC, February 28, 2017
Following is the translation of the YJC interview with Ghodosi and of the Foreign Ministry's rebuttal:
Majlis Member Ghodosi: Foreign Minister Zarif Asked Secretary Of State Tillerson To Appoint John Kerry As JCPOA Representative Because Of His Ties With The Iranians
"The Foreign Minister [Zarif] has sent a letter to [U.S. Secretary of State] Rex Tillerson with four requests. I hope the foreign minister will not deny this, because everything I say is true.
"One of the requests that Zarif presented to the American secretary of state is that America not take steps to cancel the JCPOA, and that if it did, Iran would submit a complaint to the [UN] Security Council regarding American violations of the JCPOA.
"Zarif's most important request to the American secretary of state is that the U.S. State Department appoint a special JCPOA representative. The letter stated that John Kerry should be selected for this position, because he has a good and transparent relationship with the [Iranian] negotiating team.
"In this letter, Zarif [also] proposed to the new American secretary of state that he conduct a secret bilateral meeting in Istanbul, Turkey.
"Additionally, Zarif also requested that a direct emergency line be set up for special cases between the two countries' foreign ministries.
"Thus far, no response from the new American secretary of state to the Iranian foreign minister's letter has been received, and it is unclear whether the letter was sent in coordination with regime officials in Iran. However, since Iran does not approve of such ties [with the U.S.], we must question [whether it was coordinated with regime officials].
"Additionally, the Iranian foreign minister sent three letters to [EU Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica] Mogherini presenting [Iranian allegations of U.S.] JCPOA violations. This is an excellent revolutionary letter.
"Regime officials stressed to the Iranian foreign minister that the public must be kept up to date regarding such letters and JCPOA violations. In any case, even Zarif's fourth letter, [which was] to [Iran's] National Security Committee, mentioned no such JCPOA violations.
"In light of the increasing severity of the sanctions, which keeps rising, the government, and especially [President] Rohani and [Foreign Minister] Zarif, must be more transparent with public opinion on nuclear matters."
Foreign Ministry Vehemently Denies Ghodosi's Claims
The Iranian Foreign Ministry announcement stated that "this new, untrue, and unfounded claim by Karimi Ghodosi on the matter of letters by Zarif to the American secretary of state is strongly denied.
"The Foreign Ministry is shocked and saddened by the improper and bizarre thought process of Karimi Ghodosi, who insists on continuing to make false and unfounded allegations about the senior echelon of the Iranian diplomatic corps. The aim of this appears to be disruption of public opinion and self-aggrandizement. As in the past, these claims will not benefit his specific goals.
"The wise and diligent Majlis members are well informed about all of Iran's foreign policy, and will not be influenced by these false statements.
"Such deviant issues will [also] not influence the continuation of the principled path of the Foreign Ministry, or its general operating frameworks. Measures that disrupt public opinion are against national security and can be dealt with by legal means."[1]
[1] YJC (Iran), February 28, 2017.