March 13/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 08/21-27/:"Again he said to them, ‘I am going away, and you will search for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.’Then the Jews said, ‘Is he going to kill himself? Is that what he means by saying, "Where I am going, you cannot come"?’He said to them, ‘You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he.’They said to him, ‘Who are you?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Why do I speak to you at all? I have much to say about you and much to condemn; but the one who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.’They did not understand that he was speaking to them about the Father."

Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; continue in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers

First Letter to Timothy 04/09-16/:"The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and struggle, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Saviour of all people, especially of those who believe. These are the things you must insist on and teach. Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I arrive, give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhorting, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you through prophecy with the laying on of hands by the council of elders.
Put these things into practice, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; continue in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published On March 12-13/17
The Bleeding Women: Faith & Hope/Elias Bejjani/March 12/17
Iranian backed militia forms Golan liberation brigade/Roi Kais|/Ynetnews/March 12/17
Trump kicks the ball to Abbas's court/Smadar Perry|/Ynetnews/March 12/17
Death and Destruction for Christmas/Muslim Persecution of Christians, December 2016/Raymond Ibrahim/Gatestone Institute/March 12, 2017
A Month of Islam and Multiculturalism in Britain: February 2017/Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/March 12, 2017
Iran's Economy Post-Nuclear Deal: A Misleading IMF Scorecard/Patrick Clawson/The Washington Institute/March 12, 2017
Significant escalation in Trump’s war with media on cards/Ahmad al-Farraj/Al Arabiya/March 12/17
Iran and Israel’s conflict in Syria/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/March 12/17
Gulf Arabs, poetry and prose/Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/March 12/17
Youth have crucial role in shaping UAE’s future/Yasser Hareb/Al Arabiya/March 12/17
A CIA conflict with internet companies/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/March 12/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published On March 12-13/17
The Bleeding Women: Faith & Hope
Saudi-Lebanese relations suffer setback
Aoun’s Hezbollah remarks threaten US military aid
Lebanon seeking a long-delayed Syrian refugee policy
New Lebanese Army Commander in First Visit to Bkirki
Wednesday Legislative Session to Tackle Budget, Wage Scale amid Growing Objections
Jumblat Says Proportional Representation Must Preserve 'Partnership'
Bassil Says Constitution 'Can be Amended', Promises New Electoral Law Proposal
AMAL MP Warns of 'Vacuum, Chaos' if No New Electoral Law
Abu Faour: No One Can Persecute Us through Electoral Law
Public Administration Employees Reject Proposed Duty Hours Increase
Iraqi Ambassador visits Imam of Nabatiyeh: We appreciate his role in the care of Iraqi refugees
Hobeich: To think about the people when passing electoral laws
Hariri mourns Stavro Jabra, Melhem Imad
Hashem, Saad head to Islamabad
King Abdullah II of Jordan receives Siniora

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published On March 12-13/17
Iraqi Forces Take Third of West Mosul, Jihadists 'Trapped'
Dutch Expel Turkish Minister as Police Break Up Protests
Assad: Several European countries' policies toward Syria and the region have led to the spread of terrorism
Ex-Qaida Affiliate in Syria Claims Damascus Carnage
Iranian speaker rebuffs Netanyahu for Purim comparison: 'Study the Torah'
Palestinian Police Use Tear Gas, Batons to Disperse Protest
Parade Sees Tributes to Israeli Soldier Convicted of Killing Palestinian
Robust and Concrete Measures Should Be Taken Immediately Against Iran Regime
Arab Media Coverage of Iran Opposition Unveiling IRGC Activities in London Press Conference
Internal Factions Flare in Iran Over Upcoming Farce Elections
Behind the Iran Regime's Hippocratic Style of Negotiations
Trump’s White House planning meeting with Saudi Arabia’s deputy crown prince
Saudi Arabia: Security forces kill wanted person in al-Qatif region
Former Saudi justice minister tells EU parliament: Terrorism has no religion
Yemeni army is approaching Sanaa, spokesman says
15 killed, dozens missing in Ethiopia garbage dump landslide

Links From Jihad Watch Site for March 12-13/17

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards now opposite Israeli troops on 1967 ceasefire line in Golan Heights
Islamic State turned Mosul church into base for Islamic religious police
Palestinian children at UK taxpayer-funded school pretend to execute Israeli soldier
Judge refuses to halt Trump’s new immigration order
UK: 5,500 cases of FGM in 2016 alone, not a single prosecution
New Jersey: Rocks thrown through pastor’s window after Muslim center plans nixed
Reza Aslan blames rise of “Islamophobia” on Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller, Frank Gaffney and Daniel Pipes
Netherlands bars Turkish ministers, Turks riot, Erdogan vows retaliation in “harshest ways” against “Nazis”
UK: Muslims barrage Muslima in hijab with death threats for twerking
North Dakota: Muslim calls 911 47 times to say he supports the Islamic State and hates Trump
Hugh Fitzgerald: The Once and Future Al-Andalus
Abu Dhabi: Non-Muslim couple imprisoned for sex before marriage

Links From Christian Today Site On March 12-13/17
Leprosy: How The Biblical Disease Is Still Costing Lives Today, And How You Can Help
At Least 40 Killed In Damascus Bombing Targeting Shi'ites
Jordan Soldier Who Shot Israeli Schoolchildren Freed After End Of Sentence
Why The Future Of The Church Of England Is In The Balance After The Sheffield Debacle
Why What Emma Watson Wears Is Our Problem, Not Hers
How To Make Britain (Really) Great Again – And America Too
Man Faces 10-year Sentence After Scaling White House Fence
Tomb Of Jonah In Mosul Shows ISIS Preserving Artefacts To Sell For Loot

Latest Lebanese Related News published On March 12-13/17
The Bleeding Women: Faith & Hope
Elias Bejjani/March 12/17
(John 6:68): “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life”
Whenever we are in real trouble encountering devastating and harsh conditions either physically or materially, we unconsciously react with sadness, anger, confusion, helplessness and feel abandoned. When in a big mess, we expect our family members and friends to automatically run to our rescue. But in the majority of such difficult situations, we discover with great disappointment that in reality our heartfelt expectations do not unfold as we wish.
What is frustrating and shocking is that very few of our family members and friends would stand beside us during hardships and endeavour to genuinely offer the needed help. Those who have already walked through these rocky life paths and adversities definitely know very well the bitter taste of disappointment. They know exactly the real meaning of the well-know saying, “a friend in need is a friend indeed”.
Sadly our weak human nature is driven by inborn instincts that often make us side with the rich, powerful, healthy and strong over the poor, weak, needy and sick. Those who have no faith in Almighty God find it very difficult to cope in a real mess.
Meanwhile, those whose faith is solid stand up with courage, refuse to give up hope, and call on their Almighty Father for help through praying and worshiping. They know for sure that our Great Father is loving and passionate. He will not abandon any one of us when calling on Him for mercy and help because He said and promised so. Matthew 11/28-30: “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
One might ask, ‘Why should I pray?’ And, ‘Do I have to ask God for help, can’t He help me without praying to Him?’ The answer is ‘no’. We need to pray and when we do so with faith and confidence God listens and responds (Mark 11/:24): “Therefore I tell you, all things whatever you pray and ask for, believe that you have received them, and you shall have them”
Yes, we have to make the effort and be adamant and persistent. We have to ask and knock in a bid to show our mere submission to Him and He with no doubt shall provide. (Matthew 7/7 & 8): “Ask, and it will be given you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives. He who seeks finds. To him who knocks it will be opened”.
On this second Sunday of Lent in our Catholic Church’s Eastern Maronite rite, we cite and recall the miraculous cure of the bleeding woman in Matthew 9/20-22, Mark 5/25-34, and Luke 8/43-48. As we learn from the Holy Gospel, the bleeding woman’s great faith made her believe without a shred of doubt that her twelve years of chronic bleeding would stop immediately if she touched Jesus’ garment. She knew deeply in her heart that Jesus would cure her even without asking him. Her faith cured the bleeding and made her well. Her prayers were heard and responded to.
Luke 8/:43-49: “A woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years, who had spent all her living on physicians, and could not be healed by any, came behind him (Jesus), and touched the fringe of his cloak, and immediately the flow of her blood stopped. Jesus said, “Who touched me?” When all denied it, Peter and those with him said, “Master, the multitudes press and jostle you, and you say, ‘Who touched me?’” 8:46 But Jesus said, “Someone did touch me, for I perceived that power has gone out of me.” When the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared to him in the presence of all the people the reason why she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately. He said to her, “Daughter, cheer up. Your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”
The woman’s faith cured her chronic bleeding and put her back in the society as a normal and acceptable citizen. During that era women with uterus bleeding were looked upon as sinners, defiled and totally banned from entering synagogues for praying. Meanwhile, because of her sickness she was physically unable to be a mother and bear children. Sadly she was socially and religiously abandoned, humiliated and alienated. But her faith and hope empowered her with the needed strength and perseverance and enabled her to cope successfully against all odds.
Hallelujah! Faith can do miracles. Yes indeed. (Luke17/5 & 6): ” The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” The Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you would tell this sycamore tree, ‘Be uprooted, and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you”. How badly do we today need to have a faith like that of this women?
Let us all on this second Lent Sunday pray with solid faith.
Let us ask Almighty God who cured the bleeding women, and who was crucified on the cross to absolve our original sin, that He would endow His Holy graces of peace, tranquility, and love all over the world. And that He would strengthen the faith, patience and hope of all those persecuted, imprisoned, and deprived for courageously witnessing the Gospel’s message and truth.

Saudi-Lebanese relations suffer setback
The Arab Weekly/The Arab Weekly/March 12/17
London - Saudi King Salman bin Ab­dulaziz Al Saud has can­celled a planned trip to Lebanon, delivering Saudi- Lebanese relations a major setback, local media said.
The Saudi monarch, who is visit­ing the Far East, pulled out of the Lebanese visit, scheduled for this month, allegedly over displeas­ure concerning statements by Lebanese President Michel Aoun regarding Hezbollah’s weapons, a report in the Lebanese daily An- Nahar stated.
The article, which quoted uni­dentified Saudi sources, said King Salman’s visit was meant to ex­press Riyadh’s wish to help Leba­non and “encourage it to fulfil its Arab and international obligations and the settlement that ended the presidential vacuum”.
“The visit was supposed to give Lebanon a strong moral and po­litical boost from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and ensure the unconditional return of Arab and Gulf tourists to Beirut. It was to be accompanied by tangible economic support for the Lebanese state,” the sources added.
The report in An-Nahar coin­cided with a visit from French De­fence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to Beirut. A statement from Aoun’s office said France was committed to “well-organised and robust Leb­anese armed forces”.
There was, however, no men­tion of Saudi Arabia unfreezing a $3 billion military and security aid package, which the kingdom had suspended out of concern that it would benefit Hezbollah.
Earlier this year, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said he was confident Riyadh would restore the aid package. That was, however, before the Lebanese president’s statement on Hezbol­lah’s arms.
The suspension of the military grant and subsequent travel bans stemmed from the failure of Leba­non to condemn an attack on the kingdom’s diplomatic missions in Iran in January 2016.
During a televised interview with Egyptian media in Febru­ary, Aoun defended Hezbollah’s refusal to disarm, describing the Iran-sponsored militia as comple­mentary to the Lebanese army. Aoun told Egypt’s CBC that Teh­ran’s support for the militia “could continue indefinitely”.
“As long as the Lebanese army is not strong enough to battle Is­rael… we feel the need for its ex­istence,” Aoun said, adding that: “It is no longer an urgent matter to discuss the need to strip Hezbol­lah of its weapons, because Israel continues to occupy our lands and is seeking to take over Lebanon’s waters.”
Aoun’s defence of Hezbollah arms drew international condem­nation as well as a scolding by the United Nations. UN Special Coor­dinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag tweeted the day after Aoun’s in­terview in Egypt that: “UN Resolu­tion 1701 is vital for Lebanon’s sta­bility and security. The resolution calls for disarmament of all armed groups. No arms outside control of state.”
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri called Hezbollah’s arms il­legitimate. He told supporters in Beirut that he would not change his stance on Hezbollah or the Syrian regime, both of which are accused of assassinating his father, former prime minister Rafik Hariri, in a 2005 car bombing.
In February 2016, after Lebanon refused to back Riyadh in its dis­pute with Tehran, Saudi Arabia and fellow GCC members the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain banned their citizens from travelling to Lebanon and asked those living there to leave due to safety concerns.
Relations improved late last year with a deal in which Aoun became president under the condition that Future Movement leader Saad Hariri, who is backed by Saudi Ara­bia, be installed as prime minister.
Relations between Saudi Arabia and Lebanon appeared to be warm­est in February when the kingdom stated it would be appointing a new ambassador in Beirut, having with­drawn its envoy in the summer of 2016.
The announcement was made on the Lebanese presidency’s official Twitter account on February 6th after Aoun met with Saudi Gulf Af­fairs Minister Thamer al-Sabhan, who delivered the message that the kingdom’s national carrier would be increasing flights to Beirut, with the return of Saudi tourists to sup­port Lebanon’s tourism industry. That was before Aoun’s interview on Egyptian television.

Aoun’s Hezbollah remarks threaten US military aid
Nicholas Blanford/The Arab Weekly/The Arab Weekly/March 12/17
Beirut - Recent visits by US civilian and military officials to Beirut come amid con­cerns that the adminis­tration of US President Donald Trump could reduce fi­nancial assistance to the Lebanese Army, which is playing a vital role in defending Lebanon against the Islamic State (ISIS) and other ex­tremist groups.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun caused a diplomatic and political stir in February when he said the militant Shia Hezbollah, Iran’s most prized proxy force, was a “comple­ment” to the Lebanese Army in helping defend the tiny Mediterra­nean country against Israeli aggres­sion.
Aoun’s comments raised ques­tions in the United States about the continued funding of a military that is said to collude with what Wash­ington classifies as a “terrorist” or­ganisation.
“Lebanon’s new president is le­gitimising Hezbollah’s military role, which is independent of control by the Lebanese state,” wrote Elliott Abrams, senior fellow for Middle East Studies at the Council for For­eign Relations and former US depu­ty national security adviser.
“If it is true that LAF (Lebanese Armed Forces)-Hezbollah coopera­tion is increasing, the United States should demand that the trend be halted and reversed,” he wrote.
Aoun’s comments also earned a retort from the top UN diplomat in Lebanon who said Hezbollah was required to disarm under UN Secu­rity Council resolutions rather than serve as a defence force for Leba­non.
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud was also reported to have postponed a planned visit to Beirut to protest the comments by Aoun, a Christian who was backed by Hez­bollah to become president.
Saudi Arabia is one of several Arab countries that classify Hezbol­lah as a “terrorist” organisation.
In February, US Army General Joseph Votel, the head of the US military’s Central Command, vis­ited Beirut to discuss the military assistance programme and the war against ISIS.
Several hundred militants from ISIS and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, considered an al-Qaeda affiliate, are holed up in barren mountains near the town of Arsal in Lebanon’s north-eastern corner adjacent to the Syrian border.
The United States has provided weaponry, including self-propelled 155mm artillery and missile-firing Cessna reconnaissance aircraft, to help the Lebanese military keep the armed groups at bay.
Votel was preceded in Beirut by US Senator Bob Corker, R-Tennes­see, and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who inspected front-line army positions around Arsal. He said the United States is committed to working with the Lebanese Army, which is the fifth largest recipient of US mili­tary assistance — more than $1.4 billion since 2005.
However, the country is vul­nerable to spillover from the war in neighbouring Syria and Wash­ington is not alone in recognising that improving Lebanon’s military capabilities helps safeguard the country from jihadist groups such as ISIS.
In 2016, Britain’s then-Defence minister, Philip Hammond, said Lebanon was Europe’s “first line of defence” against ISIS. Britain has invested heavily in Lebanon’s mili­tary, helping train and equip four new regiments that are deploying along the Syrian border.
But Hezbollah’s presence com­plicates international goodwill for the Lebanese Army. The Party of God’s opponents have long ques­tioned the army’s relationship with the Iran-backed group, the most powerful non-state player in the region.
In December, Israel accused the Lebanese Army of supplying weapons directly to Hezbollah and claimed that Lebanese soldiers and Hezbollah militants jointly patrol Lebanon’s southern border with Israel.
More recently, Israeli security of­ficials asserted that the Lebanese Army, strengthened by interna­tional support, is expected to fight alongside Hezbollah in the next war with the Jewish state.
In reality, Hezbollah’s battle plans have no space for Lebanon’s military. The army will likely seek to defend its positions in any con­flict and perhaps strike at targets of opportunity but it is not expected to coordinate with Hezbollah. The relationship between the army and Hezbollah is subtle and nuanced, with both parties knowing where each other’s red lines lie.
Lebanon’s army is in no position, politically or militarily, to forci­bly disarm Hezbollah in accord­ance with UN resolutions. To do so would trigger serious sectarian violence.
Hezbollah is careful not to malign the one state institution that the Lebanese see as a guaran­tor of civil peace.
There is coordination on some levels, particularly between mili­tary intelligence and Hezbollah’s own security apparatus but, on the whole, they leave each other alone.
Trump has stated that he wants to slash US overseas financial assis­tance but there is a good chance US support for Lebanon’s military will continue uninterrupted — at least for now.
US Defense Secretary James Mat­tis is familiar with the Lebanese Army and its needs from his time as head of the Central Command and Washington sources say he seeks to maintain the current level of sup­port.
US security officials are aware of the political realities of Leba­non and the complex nature of the army-Hezbollah relationship but, given the Trump administration’s animus towards Iran, more com­ments like those made by Aoun linking the army to Hezbollah will provide grist to those seeking to disrupt US military assistance to Lebanon.
**Nicholas Blanford is the author of Warriors of God: Inside Hezbollah’s Thirty-Year Struggle Against Israel (Random House 2011). He lives in Beirut.

Lebanon seeking a long-delayed Syrian refugee policy
Samar Kadi/The Arab Weekly/March 12/17
Beirut - They constitute more than one-fourth of the population, their needs are huge and some have been staying in Lebanon for almost six years, putting pressure on the small country’s vulnerable infrastructure. However, Syrian refugees will only be repatriated once their safe and voluntary return is assured, whether through the creation of safe zones or a political settlement that would end their country’s civil war.
“The Syrian refugee crisis is overwhelming and Lebanon cannot continue dealing with it in an improvised and reactive way, hence the creation of a ministry to deal with this issue,” said Leba­nese State Minister for Refugee Affairs Mouin Merhebi, who holds the government’s newly created portfolio.
Merhebi said the ministry was specifically established to devise a clear policy for the government on the issue of Syrian refugees.
“We need to have a national strategy coupled with a working plan. In fact, we are late, and this should have happened much, much earlier,” Merhebi said. “I am sure that their number has reached 2 million at some point but it has decreased after a few have returned to Syria, while others were resettled in third countries or migrated to Europe.”
An estimated 1.011 million refugees are registered with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Lebanon but the government puts the figure at 1.5 million.
“We have stopped registering the refugees through UNHCR since 2015. As such, we do not know their exact number… I believe it was a wrong decision, because we should know who is in our country, what is their condi­tion and what are they doing in order to be able to track them,” Merhebi said.
About one-in-four people living in Lebanon is a refugee from the Syrian war, giving Lebanon more refugees per person than any other country.
Unlike the neighbouring countries — Turkey, Jordan and Iraq — hosting refugees from Syria, Lebanon has no formal refugee camps. With refugees scattered across the country, government control over them is a much harder task.
“The problem is that certain political groups (Christians) opposed the creation of camps fearing that some Lebanese (Sunnis) wanted to resettle the Syrians in Lebanon. This is not true. I am a Sunni and I humanely welcome anyone who is exposed to tyranny, killing and massacre but I am against the resettlement of any refugee. They are here on a temporary basis, not indefinitely,” Merhebi said.
Lebanon’s experience with Palestinian refugees, 400,000 of whom have lived in the country for more than 60 years after UN camps were established for them in Lebanon, has left deep scars. Many say that creating formal refugee camps for Syrians would encourage them to settle in Lebanon permanently.
Merhebi said Lebanon would welcome the creation of safe zones in Syria to facilitate the repatriation of refugees, stressing that it should be part of a global arrangement that would ensure the refugees’ safe and voluntary return.
“We are keen on their return to preserve the Arab character of Syria. We are keen on them to return to prevent the ‘Persianisa­tion’ of Syria and to rebuild their country,” said Merhebi, a member of Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Future Movement, a staunch opponent of the Syrian regime. “Lebanon supports UN efforts to settle the Syrian crisis and consequently ensure the safe return of refugees to their coun­try.”
“If safe zones are established, we would consider it a good thing because this would reduce the killings in Syria. Lebanon will ensure that Syrian refugees return willingly and voluntarily. There will be no forceful repatriation by the Lebanese government, in line with our commitments to interna­tional human rights,” he said.
Many hurdles hinder the eventual return of refugees, including scores of unregistered children born to Syrian refugee parents who are considered stateless. Aid agencies suggest the number of children whose births remain unregistered in Lebanon could be as high as 50,000.
“This is an important matter that we will tackle in the national policy. If we are really keen on them to return one day, they should be registered somewhere, have papers to be able to cross the frontier back to Syria,” Merhebi noted.
Syrian refugees are mainly concentrated in remote under­privileged areas in northern Lebanon and the eastern Bekaa Valley, where a creaky infrastruc­ture existed long before the Syrian crisis. Half of the Lebanese population in these areas lack essential services, which were further depleted with the massive influx of refugees.
The World Bank said the refugee crisis has inflicted $15 billion in economic losses on Lebanon, already crippled by $75 billion in public debt.
“Our economy cannot put up with this anymore. We call on the international community to assist Lebanon and invest in stabilising it because that will help combat extremism and terrorism, to which people are driven by injustices, marginalisation and hopelessness,” Merhebi added.
**Samar Kadi is the Arab Weekly society and travel section editor.

New Lebanese Army Commander in First Visit to Bkirki
Naharnet/March 12/17/Newly-appointed Army Commander General Joseph Aoun took part in Sunday Mass in Bkirki, four days after the government named him as the new army chief. Aoun has 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.”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 has said that Aoun's appointment had "the consensus of all the political forces," describing him as "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.

Wednesday Legislative Session to Tackle Budget, Wage Scale amid Growing Objections
Naharnet/March 12/17/The 2017 state budget is expected to be approved by Cabinet and referred to Parliament on Monday evening and the legislature is scheduled to discuss both the budget and the new wage scale during its Wednesday legislative session. In remarks to An Nahar newspaper published Sunday, ministerial sources said the parliamentary debate of the wage scale is expected to be “tense,” especially when it comes to linking its costs, revenues and taxes to the state budget. The session will also be held amid growing objections from the Economic Committees and other parties against the proposed taxes and amid an open-ended strike by public school teachers. The teachers are protesting the wage scale degrees that were granted to them by the Joint Parliamentary Committees on Friday. “This key juncture will be a very critical test for all the political parties as well as for the ruling political class and the government,” the sources added, noting that Parliament might revise some of the taxes that affect low-income citizens.

Jumblat Says Proportional Representation Must Preserve 'Partnership'

Naharnet/March 12/17/Druze leader MP Walid Jumblat on Sunday renewed his reservations over the proportional representation electoral system, noting that he would back such a law only if it preserves an accepted level of “partnership.”“The best thing is clarity. Yes to proportional representation that achieves the minimum requirements of partnership and no to a proportional representation law that leads to divorce and isolation,” Jumblat tweeted. “Enough with the outsmarting attempts and our patience is very long,” he added. Jumblat has repeatedly rejected proportional representation, warning that it would “marginalize” his minority Druze community, whose presence is concentrated in the Chouf and Aley districts. In a recent conference for his Progressive Socialist Party, Jumblat called for implementing the reforms stipulated by the 1989 Taef Accord or holding the elections under an “amended” version of the controversial 1960 electoral law. The Druze later announced that he might accept a so-called hybrid electoral law that mixes proportional representation with the winner-takes-all system.

Bassil Says Constitution 'Can be Amended', Promises New Electoral Law Proposal
Naharnet/March 12/17/Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil announced Sunday that he will launch a new initiative regarding the stalled electoral law while noting that the constitution can be amended if there is consensus. “There can be no political reform in Lebanon without an electoral law, and tomorrow we will launch a new initiative for the FPM in this regard,” Bassil said during the FPM's second political convention. “We are the sons of a cause before anything else. We are not a party but rather the movement of the president of the republic and the movement of the strong republic,” Bassil added.He also noted that the country's constitution “should not be rigid.”“Any amendment can be introduced as long as it enjoys national consensus,” Bassil added.

AMAL MP Warns of 'Vacuum, Chaos' if No New Electoral Law
Naharnet/March 12/17/MP Hani Qobeissi of AMAL Movement's Development and Liberation bloc warned Sunday that Lebanon will be plunged into “vacuum” and “chaos” should the political parties fail to agree on a new electoral law. “Vacuum means chaos,” Qobeissi cautioned, urging all parties to “shoulder the responsibility and offer concessions in order to reach a fair electoral law that represents everyone and achieves partnership.”“The approach of monopolization cannot rescue the country,” the lawmaker warned, adding that “only partnership can preserve national unity.”AMAL leader and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri has stressed that “protecting Lebanon and preserving diversity in the Lebanese formula can only be realized through passing a new electoral law based on proportional representation.”The country has not organized parliamentary elections since 2009 and the legislature has instead twice extended its own mandate. The last polls were held under an amended version of the 1960 electoral law and the next vote is scheduled for May. Hizbullah has repeatedly called for an electoral law fully based on proportional representation but al-Mustaqbal Movement and Druze leader MP Walid Jumblat have both rejected the proposal. Mustaqbal argues that Hizbullah's arms would prevent serious competition in the party's strongholds while Jumblat has warned that such an electoral system would “marginalize” the minority Druze community whose presence is concentrated in the Chouf and Aley areas. The political parties are meanwhile discussing a so-called hybrid electoral law that mixes proportional representation with the winner-takes-all system.

Abu Faour: No One Can Persecute Us through Electoral Law
Naharnet/March 12/17/Former minister Wael Abu Faour, who is close to Druze leader MP Walid Jumblat, stressed Sunday that no one in Lebanon can “persecute” the Progressive Socialist Party or the minority Druze community. “After all these proposals and suggestions, where is reform in the electoral law?” Abu Faour asked during a PSP ceremony. “They are not seeking an electoral law but rather an appointments law, seeing as they are tailoring the law to secure the election of known candidates,” the ex-minister added. And lamenting that “every electoral law proposal” has so far been targeted at eliminating a certain political party, including the PSP, Abu Faour said: “Although we do not suffer the phobia of persecution, no one will be able to persecute us, neither through the electoral law nor through anything else.” Jumblat on Sunday renewed his reservations over the proportional representation electoral system, noting that he would back such a law only if it preserves an accepted level of “partnership.”“The best thing is clarity. Yes to proportional representation that achieves the minimum requirements of partnership and no to a proportional representation law that leads to divorce and isolation,” Jumblat tweeted.
“Enough with the outsmarting attempts and our patience is very long,” he added. Jumblat has repeatedly rejected proportional representation, warning that it would “marginalize” his minority Druze community, whose presence is concentrated in the Chouf and Aley districts. In a recent conference for his Progressive Socialist Party, Jumblat called for implementing the reforms stipulated by the 1989 Taef Accord or holding the elections under an “amended” version of the controversial 1960 electoral law. The Druze later announced that he might accept a so-called hybrid electoral law that mixes proportional representation with the winner-takes-all system.

Public Administration Employees Reject Proposed Duty Hours Increase
Naharnet/March 12/17/The Association of Public Administration Employees has rejected a proposed increase in duty hours, amid reports saying civil servants will be asked to work until 5:00 PM instead of 2:00 PM. “Correcting the wages of public employees is a natural right after decades of injustice, and therefore it should not come at the expense of employees' rights, which are enshrined in the applicable laws and regulations and the international treaties on which Lebanon has signed,” the association said in a statement. “An uncalculated increase in duty hours will not boost productivity as they are claiming and it will represent a useless burden that will aggravate the burdens of women who work in the public sector,” the association added. The proposed increase in duty hours is reportedly one of the reforms that were approved by the Joint Parliamentary Committees as part of the new wage scale draft law. Parliament will begin debating the bill on Wednesday.

Iraqi Ambassador visits Imam of Nabatiyeh: We appreciate his role in the care of Iraqi refugees
Sun 12 Mar 2017/NNA - Iraqi Ambassador in Beirut, Ali al-Ameri, visited on Sunday Imam of Nabatiyeh, Sheikh Abdul-Hussein al-Sadiq, at his home in Nabatiyeh. Following the encounter, the Iraqi Ambassador expressed "deep appreciation for His Eminence, Sheikh al-Sadiq's role in caring for Iraqi refugees and standing by them in an effort to alleviate their pain, ever since the days of the falling regime to-date." In turn, Imam al-Sadiq expressed his sincere gratitude to Ambassador al-Ameri for his visit, stressing on the "historic ties between Jabal Amel and Iraq, especially among the scholars of Jabal Amel and Najaf, which formed the platform for their culture and sciences

Hobeich: To think about the people when passing electoral laws
Sun 12 Mar 2017/NNA - Akkar - MP Hadi Hobeich called, on Sunday, for "thinking about the people when passing electoral laws," adding that "in order to truly have a fair election law, we ought to allow the real voice of the people to reach the Parliament, and not the voice of blocs and parties that endorse said law."In his issued statement, Hobeich said "all people reject the sixty-law, and if the decree to call on electorate bodies is not signed within days, there could be a tendency to postpone the elections.""The new mandate and the existing political consensus should not fall under the pressure of the absence of an electoral law," asserted Hobeich.He concluded by hoping to reach a "just and fair law with uniform standards during the upcoming period."

Hariri mourns Stavro Jabra, Melhem Imad
Sun 12 Mar 2017/NNA - Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, offered on Sunday his condolences for the passing away of caricaturist Stavro Jabra and cartoonist Melhem Imad via twitter.

Hashem, Saad head to Islamabad
Sun 12 Mar 2017/NNA - MPs Qassem Hashem and Antoine Saad left Beirut on Sunday afternoon heading to Pakistan's Islamabad to partake in the conference on Asian parliaments.

King Abdullah II of Jordan receives Siniora
Sun 12 Mar 2017/NNA - King Abdullah II of Jordan received on Sunday Future Parliamentary bloc head, Fouad Siniora, in the framework of his meeting with Arab and International Relations Council, chaired by Mohammad Jassem Saker. Talks focused on the regional situation and most recent developments in the arab region.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published On March 12-13/17
Iraqi Forces Take Third of West Mosul, Jihadists 'Trapped'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 12/17/Iraqi forces seized a third of west Mosul and trapped Islamic State group fighters inside as they made further gains in their battle to retake the city, officials said Sunday. Fierce fighting has shaken Mosul in recent days as thousands of U.S.-backed Iraqi soldiers and police battle to reclaim the country's second city. A renewed push against the jihadists launched last Sunday has seen IS forced from several neighborhoods and key sites, including the main local government headquarters and the famed Mosul museum. By Sunday, Iraqi forces were tightening the noose. "ISIS is trapped. Just last night, the 9th Iraqi army division... cut off the last road out of Mosul," the U.S. envoy to the anti-IS coalition, Brett McGurk, told journalists in Baghdad. "Any of the fighters who are left in Mosul, they're going to die there," he said. "We are very committed to not just defeating them in Mosul, but making sure these guys cannot escape." Staff Major General Maan al-Saadi of the elite Counter-Terrorism Service told AFP that "more than a third" of west Mosul was now under the control of security forces. CTS forces were battling IS inside the Mosul al-Jadida and al-Aghawat areas on Sunday, he said. Iraq's Joint Operations Command (JOC) said that forces from the Rapid Response Division, another special forces unit, and the federal police were also attacking the Bab al-Toub area on the edge of Mosul's Old City. "The battle is not easy... we are fighting an irregular enemy who hides among the citizens and uses tactics of booby-trapping, explosions and suicide bombers, and the operation is taking place with precision to preserve the lives of the citizens," the JOC's spokesman, Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, told AFP. IS resistance "has begun to weaken in a big way," he added. IS seized Mosul in mid-2014 and swept across areas north and west of Baghdad, taking control of swathes of territory and declaring a "caliphate" straddling the border with Syria.
Mass grave
Backed by a U.S.-led air strikes and other support, Iraqi forces have since retaken much of the territory they lost. The operation to recapture Mosul -- then the last Iraqi city under IS control -- was launched in October.  After recapturing the east of the city, Iraqi forces last month set their sites on the west, where hundreds of thousands of civilians remain trapped. Northwest of Mosul, Iraqi forces on Saturday announced they had uncovered a mass grave containing the remains of hundreds of people executed by IS inside the infamous Badush prison, taken this week. The Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary forces found "a large mass grave containing the remains of around 500 civilian prisoners in (Badush) prison who were executed by (IS) gangs," the military said. According to Human Rights Watch, IS gunmen executed up to 600 inmates from the prison in June 2014, forcing them to kneel along a nearby ravine and then shooting them with assault rifles. The U.S.-led coalition launched air strikes against IS in Syria and Iraq in 2014 and is providing a range of support to allied forces in both countries. In Syria the coalition is backing an Arab-Kurdish alliance known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that is pushing towards the jihadists' de facto capital Raqa. On Sunday the SDF fought fierce battles with IS jihadists east of Raqa, around the village of Khas Ajil, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. SDF forces took control of five villages as they continued a slow advance, the monitoring group said, and several coalition air strikes hit the outskirts of Raqa early on Sunday. Turkish-backed rebels are also advancing against IS in northern Syria, as are government troops supported by Russia.
Toll rises in Damascus bombings
The Britain-based Observatory also reported fighting on Sunday in eastern Aleppo province where the jihadists forced regime troops to fall back from the outskirts of the Jarrah military airport. Russian and Syrian strikes hit IS-held areas in the province, Observatory said, with eight civilians, mostly from the same family, killed in a strike on the village of Maskanah. Syria's former al-Qaida affiliate Fateh al-Sham Front meanwhile said Sunday it was behind twin bombings targeting Shiite pilgrims in the center of Damascus that killed 74 people. "On Saturday... a twin attack was carried out by two heroes of Islam... in the center of the capital Damascus, killing and wounding dozens," a statement said. The Observatory said 43 Iraqi pilgrims were among those killed when a roadside bomb detonated as a bus carrying pilgrims made its way through the Ban al-Saghir area of Damascus's famed Old City and a suicide bomber blew himself up. The attack also killed 11 Syrian civilians and 20 members of pro-government security forces, it said. Shiite shrines have been a frequent target of attack for Sunni extremists of IS and al-Qaida during Syria's devastating six-year war.

Dutch Expel Turkish Minister as Police Break Up Protests
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 12/17/Dutch police used water cannon and horses early Sunday to break up protests outside the Turkish consulate in Rotterdam as the city expelled a Turkish minister, amid an escalating diplomatic row with Ankara. After several hours of calm demonstrations, police moved in to disperse over 1,000 people gathered close to the consulate, charging the crowd on horseback and using dogs to regain control. Protesters hit back, throwing rocks at riot police, while hundreds of cars jammed the streets blaring their horns and revving their engines. Tensions finally tipped over into violence after a day of fast-moving events, triggered when Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said he planned to attend a pro-Turkish government rally in Rotterdam. The Netherlands, which holds general elections on Wednesday, had repeatedly said Cavusoglu was not welcome to campaign for Turkey's April referendum in the country and refused his plane permission to land. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reacted angrily accusing the Dutch -- who were once under Nazi occupation -- of being "the vestiges of Nazis." The Dutch decision to ban Cavusoglu from visiting came after Germany and other European nations also blocked similar campaign events. "They are the vestiges of the Nazis, they are fascists," Erdogan told an Istanbul rally on Saturday, days after he angrily compared moves to block rallies in Germany to "Nazi practices.""Ban our foreign minister from flying however much you like, but from now on let's see how your flights will land in Turkey," Erdogan said.
Minister expelled
But later, Turkey's Family Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya appeared at the scene after reportedly traveling by car overland from Germany. She was stopped just outside the consulate by Dutch police, and after several hours of negotiations escorted back to the German border. Kaya was "on the way from Rotterdam to Germany", mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb told reporters, adding: "She has been expelled back to the country she came from."The Dutch government criticized Kaya as "irresponsible" for attempting to visit after being told she was not welcome and said it told Turkey it could not compromise on public order and security. "The search for a reasonable solution proved impossible, and the verbal attacks that followed today from the Turkish authorities are unacceptable," it said in a statement. "In this context Minster Kaya's visit was irresponsible. Through contacts with the Turkish authorities, the message was repeatedly conveyed that Minister Kaya is not welcome in the Netherlands... nevertheless she decided to travel."Kaya complained of her treatment, and could be seen in images on Dutch NOS television appearing to argue with Dutch police about the situation. "We've been here for about four hours. We were not even offered water," she told the NTV television channel. "I was told to leave the country and return to Germany as soon as possible," she added. Cavusoglu meanwhile flew to France where he is expected to address a rally on Sunday in the eastern city of Metz. A French official said the visit had been cleared by the foreign ministry in Paris. As the row raged, Turkish foreign ministry sources said the Dutch embassy in Ankara and consulate in Istanbul had both been sealed off for "security reasons."Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Erdogan's criticism was "crazy.""I understand that they are angry but this is way out of line," he said. "I really think we made the right decision here."
'Don't return' Cavusoglu, speaking in Istanbul, said the ban was "unacceptable.""Why are you taking sides in the referendum?" he said, adding: "Is the foreign minister of Turkey a terrorist?"The Turkish foreign ministry said the Dutch charge d'affaires in Ankara was summoned and told Turkey did not want the Dutch ambassador -- currently on holiday -- to return "for a while."The Netherlands is home to some 400,000 people of Turkish origin, and Ankara is keen to harness votes of the diaspora in Europe ahead of the April 16 referendum on creating an executive presidency. The Turkish government argues the changes would ensure stability and create more efficient governance, but opponents say it would lead to one-man rule and further inflame tensions in its diverse society. The latest row came after NATO allies Turkey and Germany sparred over the cancellation of a series of referendum campaign events there. Germany is home to 1.4 million people eligible to vote in Turkey -- the fourth-largest electoral base after Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.Although Berlin insisted the cancellations by local authorities were for logistical reasons, Turkish officials repeatedly hit back.

Assad: Several European countries' policies toward Syria and the region have led to the spread of terrorism
Sun 12 Mar 2017/NNA - Damascus - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad deemed, on Sunday, that "the wrong policies pursued by many European countries toward Syria and the region, and their support to terrorism, extremism and imposing of economic sanctions, have led to the spread of terrorism which we are witnessing today, and the huge numbers of refugees seeking those countries."President Assad's words came during a meeting with a delegation of European Parliamentarians headed by European Parliament Foreign Relations Committee Deputy Chairman, Javier Couso. "The extent of deception practiced by most of Western media over the years of war in Syria, and the loss of credibility even before Western public opinion itself, contributed to the increased frequency of visits by European Parliamentarians to Syria to see the reality and deliver a true picture of what is happening to their people," said Assad. The Syrian news agency "SANA" quoted members of the delegation, who belong to multiple European States and Parties, in confirming "their determination to pursue their efforts to correct the wrong perspectives and views, both at the political and popular levels, towards what is happening in Syria."The Syrian news agency also disclosed the delegation's determination "to continue to work towards the resumption of diplomacy relations between the Union and Syria, and the lifting of the imposed sanctions that would contribute to the return of peace and stability to this country."On another note, Syrian Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Minister Walid al-Moallem also met with the European Parliamentary delegation, stressing Syria's "support to all sincere efforts to find a political settlement to its crisis, by encouraging dialogue between the Syrians themselves who seek Syria's interest above all, without any outside interference, in addition to promoting national reconciliation."

Ex-Qaida Affiliate in Syria Claims Damascus Carnage
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 12/17/Syria's former al-Qaida affiliate Fateh al-Sham Front on Sunday said in a statement it was behind twin bombings targeting Shiite pilgrims in the center of Damascus that killed 74 people. "On Saturday... a twin attack was carried out by two heroes of Islam... in the center of the capital Damascus, killing and wounding dozens," the statement said. Without elaborating, it called the bombings "a message to Iran and its militias."Iran and the Tehran-backed Hizbullah movement of Lebanon are close allies of the Syrian government. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 43 Iraqi pilgrims were among those killed when a roadside bomb detonated as a bus carrying pilgrims made its way through the Ban al-Saghir area of Damascus' famed Old City and a suicide bomber blew himself up.The Britain-based monitor said 11 bystanders and eight children were among the dead, as were 20 members of the pro-government security forces. State television gave a toll of 40 killed and 120 wounded by "two bombs detonated by terrorists," while Iraq's foreign ministry said around 40 of its nationals had died.In January, Fateh al-Sham Front also claimed responsibility for twin suicide bombings in the high-security Kafr Sousa district of Damascus that killed 10 people, eight of them soldiers.Damascus, stronghold of President Bashar Assad's government, has been largely spared the violence that has rocked other major cities in Syria's six-year war. But periodic bombings have targeted Shiite shrines and were subsequently claimed by Sunni extremists, including the Islamic State jihadist group.

Iranian speaker rebuffs Netanyahu for Purim comparison: 'Study the Torah'
Jerusalem Post/March 12/17
"He has distorted the Iranians' pre-Islam historical era and attempted to misrepresent events," Iran's parliament speaker says of PM. Iran's parliament speaker on Sunday condemned a parallel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made between present-day Iran and the plot to annihilate the Jews in ancient Persia as marked this weekend during the Jewish holiday of Purim. In his dismissal of the comparison Netanyahu made last week during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Iran's Ali Larijani advised the Israeli premier study the Hebrew bible. He has distorted the Iranians' pre-Islam historical era and attempted to misrepresent events," Iranian Fars News Agency quoted Larijani as saying of Netanyahu. "Apparently, he neither is familiar with the history nor has studied the Torah." "Of course, nothing more than presenting such lies is expected from a wicked Zionist," he added in a parliamentary address in Tehran. Larijani remarks came in reference to comments Netanyahu made during a meeting Thursday with Putin in Moscow about Iranian activities in the region. In his third visit to Russia in the last 11 months - a testament to Moscow’s influence in the region as a result of its intense engagement in Syria - Netanyahu used a Purim greeting by Putin as a peg to blast Tehran. “I thank you for your good wishes on Purim,” the prime minister said. “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 heir of the Persians – has similar designs: to wipe out the Jewish state. “They say this clearly, and it is etched on their ballistic missiles,” he said. While convening with Putin, Netanyahu focused on Iran's involvement in the Syrian civil war, warning of the Islamic Republic and its proxies establishing a "permanent presence" in Syria, which shares a border with northern Israel's Golan region. According to Iranian media on Sunday, the country's parliament speaker Larijani claimed that the prime minister's remarks demonstrate Israel "is behind the war in Syria.” "He has set preconditions for peace in Syria and stated clearly that the war in Syria has targeted the anti-Zionism resistance," Larijani charged.
**Herb Keinon contributed to this report.

Palestinian Police Use Tear Gas, Batons to Disperse Protest
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 12/17/Palestinian security forces used tear gas and batons to disperse a protest Sunday at a court involved in the case of five Palestinians, including one recently killed by Israeli forces, activists and lawyers said. The crowd dispersed included journalists and activists while the protest in the Palestinian political capital Ramallah had been peaceful, a group of human rights organizations said in a statement. Police said protesters had "blocked the road in front of the court" and that "they refused to comply when security forces ordered them to clear the way." "Forces then deployed in accordance with the law," they said. Bassel al-Aaraj, 31, was killed on March 5 by Israeli soldiers in Ramallah. According to the Israeli army, he opened fire at soldiers who came to arrest him at his home and was shot dead. Palestinian cities such as Ramallah in the occupied West Bank are meant to be under Palestinian security control, though Israeli forces regularly carry out raids there. Aaraj was involved in both protests against Israel's occupation of the West Bank as well as the Palestinian leadership. He was wanted by the Israelis, but had also been detained for several months by the Palestinian Authority with four others for illegal possession of arms and endangering the lives of others.Israel accused him of being the head of a cell planning attacks against Israel. Israel and the Palestinian Authority coordinate on security matters, drawing criticism from many Palestinians.The killing of Aaraj provoked an outpouring of support among Palestinians, including with graffiti in Ramallah and on social media. The four other suspects were not present in court because they have since been arrested by Israel. Aaraj's name was withdrawn from the list of suspects on Sunday, his lawyer said. "What we suffered today is an attack on our rights," his father Mahmud al-Aaraj told reporters after the protest was dispersed.Mohannad Karajeh, a lawyer defending the accused Palestinians, said he planned to file a complaint on behalf of 12 protesters caught up in the dispersal. The Palestinian journalists' union denounced "shameful aggression."

Parade Sees Tributes to Israeli Soldier Convicted of Killing Palestinian
Israeli settlers celebrating a Jewish holiday in the occupied West Bank Sunday paid tribute to a soldier who shot dead a wounded Palestinian assailant, with some even dressing up as him. A parade in the city of Hebron for Purim, which sees participants dress up, began at the spot where the shooting which deeply divided Israeli society occurred on the same holiday last year. The parade traditionally begins there, but this year it took on particular significance -- a prominent far-right lawyer dressed up as the soldier, Sgt. Elor Azaria, who has been convicted of manslaughter. At least one other person also dressed up in tribute to Azaria, and a loudspeaker announcement as the parade began thanked the soldier, drawing cheers from some in the crowd. The lawyer, Itamar Ben-Gvir, wore an army uniform with a picture of Azaria taped to his chest. He posed alongside Benzi Gopstein, who heads the far-right group Lehava and who dressed as U.S. President Donald Trump, his hair dyed orange. Ben-Gvir said their message was that Azaria would have been treated as a hero had the shooting occurred under a Trump presidency. "It's not possible that a soldier kills a terrorist and he's judged and arrested, and it is simply a disgrace," the 40-year-old said. Several hundred people took part in the parade in Hebron, where the presence of some 500 Israeli settlers in the heart of the city of some 200,000 Palestinians leads to near-constant tension. Security was tight, with a large deployment of Israeli soldiers and police. "I think it's very normal that people feel that he saved us from a terrorist who tried to kill us, and a lot of people support him," Tzipi Schlissel, 51, who lives down the street from where last year's incident occurred, said of Azaria. "I think the terrorist who gets support from a lot of people in the world is an evil person that came to kill people, and he can't complain that he got killed when he came to kill other people," added Schlissel, who said her father was killed in an attack years ago.
Party atmosphere
Despite the tributes to Azaria, the parade was more celebration than politics, with children and adults dressed as everything from cartoon characters to clowns. They paraded through a part of the flashpoint city under tight Israeli control, with checkpoints restricting access. Traditional and dance music blared from speakers, and some drank from whisky or wine bottles. One man leaned against on a tree and vomited. A group of Palestinians watched from a terrace above at one point on the route, a Palestinian flag flapping in the wind above.  Purim celebrates a story from Hebrew scripture in which the Jews of the Persian empire were rescued from annihilation. Every year, Jews celebrate by giving each other presents and wearing costumes. The March 2016 shooting was caught on video and spread widely online. It showed Abdul Fatah al-Sharif, 21, lying wounded on the ground, shot along with another Palestinian after the army said he stabbed and wounded a soldier. Azaria then shot him in the head without any apparent provocation. The soldier was sentenced by a military court on February 21 to 18 months in jail after an exceptional trial that highlighted deep divisions in public opinion.
He has appealed the conviction, but prosecutors have also appealed the sentence, calling it "excessively lenient". A number of politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have called for Azaria to be pardoned, despite the military top brass strongly condemning the soldier's actions. Palestinians have described the shooting as another example of the abuses under Israel's occupation. A Palestinian operating a souvenir shop near where the parade passed expressed dismay when asked about the support being given to Azaria. "It's not good that settlers support the soldiers who do these things," said Saddam Ali Jabari, 18.

Robust and Concrete Measures Should Be Taken Immediately Against Iran Regime
NCRI Iran News/Sunday, 12 March 2017/
A defiant Iran pokes the world in the eye
It has become an alarming and dangerous pattern: Provocations by Iran against many nations in the region, as well as the UK, the US and its allies. On March 4, US officials said several Iranian assault crafts came dangerously close to a US Navy ship, within 150 meters. A similar incident occurred two days earlier. Wrote Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, in the ‘Arab News’ on March 10, 2017. The article continues as follows:
These swift assault vessels operate under Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which has been empowered and emboldened by continuing sanctions relief, and by the lack of a robust reaction against Tehran from the international community. These incidents clearly highlight that Iran is trying to showcase its military power and regional preeminence to the US. Some of Iran’s Persian-language newspapers boasted about its military capacity to counter the US Navy and dominate the Strait of Hormuz, through which about a third of all oil traded by sea passes. Iran has frequently exploited the strait’s strategic location by threatening to shut it down or conducting military exercises that are meant to intimidate. Tehran has been openly boasting about its power in a very dangerous way. Despite Iran’s intentional provocations, the US Navy and military have been trying to avoid escalation because this could lead to direct regional confrontation. Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis said due to “a combination of unsafe or unprofessional behavior” by Iran’s Navy, a US ship altered course to avoid a collision. “It’s concerning because it can result in a miscalculation or an accidental provocation that we don’t want.”
Iran is also trying to send a message to its proxies and hard-line supporters that neither the international community nor the Trump administration can take any serious action against its ambitions.
Tehran believes all talk about countering its actions is simply rhetoric. When Navy Commander Habibollah Sayyari was asked by journalists what Iran would do if the US, UK and France took a “counter-measure against Iran,” he said those countries’ officials “talk a lot.”
Further demonstrating its defiance, Tehran insists on continuing to feel out and test the Trump administration. Their goal is to discover whether President Donald Trump genuinely means what he has said about his policy on Iran. In September 2016, Trump famously said if it tried to harass the US Navy while he was in office, he would order Iranian boats “shot out of the water.” These provocations are not limited to harassing the US or UK navies. Last weekend, Iran test-fired a pair of ballistic missiles, said US officials. According to Fox News: “One of Iran’s ballistic missile tests was successful, destroying a floating barge approximately 155 miles away, two US officials with knowledge of the launch told Fox News. The launches of the Fateh-110 short-range ballistic missiles were the first tests of the missile in two years, one official said.”This would be Iran’s 14th ballistic missile tested since the nuclear deal. It is blatantly breaching UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which “calls upon Iran not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.” In a destabilizing and defiant move, Iran also held a military excise in the Strait of Hormuz on Feb. 26. It is clearly not changing the core religious and revolutionary pillars of its foreign policy, which includes pursuing regional hegemony and encouraging anti-Americanism. Iran has ratcheted up its provocations and interventionist policies. For it to take the international community seriously, robust and concrete measures should be taken immediately.

Arab Media Coverage of Iran Opposition Unveiling IRGC Activities in London Press Conference

NCRI Iran News/Sunday, 12 March 2017/ The Iranian opposition held a press conference in the UK Parliament on Tuesday to reveal details about the smuggling of arms and ammunition by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) through Iran’s southern docks to Gulf countries. These new revelations gained widespread coverage in international and Arabic media. The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) shed light on the widespread arms smuggling carried out by the IRGC, providing aerial images and documents proving the role of IRGC commanders in this regard.
“This evidence we have has been obtained through a network of the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) supporters associated with the NCRI. This new information has been gathered from inside the Iranian regime’s military apparatus and the IRGC itself,” said Hossein Abedini. “This evidence proves three IRGC-associated companies are in charge of smuggling arms to Yemen.”“The timing of this information is important because it is provided after a new US administration is in power and the West’s attitude regarding Iran is changing. Eyes have now opened to Iran’s actions and there is a serious leniency to punish Tehran as the leading sponsor of terrorism,” said Qassan Ibrahim, an Arab journalist at al-Akhbariye. A study shows the IRGC has, for more than three decades, meddled in the internal affairs of 14 regional countries. This review shows the type and volume of this interference, and the support terrorist groups receive in pursuing Iran’s expansionist objectives. The evaluation of the IRGC activities show Iran’s meddling, especially in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon, has increased since the Iran nuclear deal. “The IRGC sends arms, ammunition and military equipment to Yemen and groups fighting as proxy forces on behalf of Iran in order to provoke divides in the Middle East. These reasons show Iran uses the IRGC to spread terrorism in the region and it is important these forces be designated as terrorists,” said Struan Stevenson, President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association. Included in the evidence gathered in this comprehensive study is the IRGC’s use of front companies to manage 90 docks - 45% of Iran’s piers, with an annual revenue of $12 billion. The effort to smuggle weapons from Iran to neighboring countries and from there to associated militias is aimed at disrupting regional stability.
This study ends with recommendations calling for actions against Iran’s IRGC, and most importantly, based on United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 on stopping missile-related activities and smuggling weapons to neighboring countries and their militias, especially Syria and Iraq.
The NCRI in the UK made another call to the international community to place Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on the terrorist list. The report emphasizes the IRGC has 12 terrorist groups in 12 countries.
Iran is taking advantage of the current struggle against Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) in Iraq and Syria to pursue its own plans and agenda in the region. The Iranian opposition unveiled information about docks controlled by the IRGC. This information, provided for the first time by the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), highlights the fact the IRGC must be placed on the terrorist list. The Iranian opposition emphasized the time has come to hold this regime accountable because Tehran has committed crimes in the region, in particular the execution of 120,000 dissidents.

Internal Factions Flare in Iran Over Upcoming Farce Elections
NCRI Iran News/Sunday, 12 March 2017/ As hostilities increase over upcoming so-called presidential elections in Iran in May, officials and media linked to The Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei are lashing out at Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s faction over the failures of the Iran nuclear agreement in relieving the pressures of sanctions. “The main questions are about the unfulfilled promises by the government, including all sanctions that were to be lifted on the first day of the JCPOA implementation. This has not only never materialized, but in fact dozens of sanctions have been added,” said Hossein Shariatmadari, Khamenei’s representative from the Keyhan daily. Former Revolutionary Guards chief Mohsen Rezaie published an open-letter .“You and your friends have spoken of war and anti-war recently. Due to the threats to our national security in the use of such language, I saw it fit to remind you that the Trump administration is now in power in the US… conditions in the region have changed and your government needs to move forward with more caution. If such remarks were useful during the Obama days, such language towards the current US government will allow pro-war advocates to take advantage of these remarks… without a doubt our status has changed in comparison to the former US administration,” he said. Media outlets and figures loyal to Rouhani responded in the same fashion. “Unfortunately, some people keep on denying our achievements. The public should know the nuclear deal is not the victory of all victories, but it’s also no humiliating treaty,” said Ali Akbar Salehi, chief of Atomic Energy Organization in Iran. Aftab-e Yazd daily referred to the corruption witnessed in previous cabinets linked to the rival faction. “If not for the nuclear deal, sanctions would have increased, and considering the lack of goods, prices would skyrocket causing inflation, and since money would no longer enter the country through legal means, it would be wasted and the country would witness numerous cases of embezzlement,” the piece read in part.

Behind the Iran Regime's Hippocratic Style of Negotiations

NCRI Iran News/Sunday, 12 March 2017/Should the Gulf Negotiate Iran or De Facto Aggressor: ‘The Revolutionary Guard’?Iran’s elite revolutionary guard, an armed force intended to protect Tehran’s theocratic regime, has registered disruptive and intrusive activity in 14 regional states. The guards operations in Syria alone cost the cleric-led regime some $100 billion. Wrote Salman Al-Dossary, former editor in chief of Asharq – Al –Awsat on this newspaper on March 12, 2017. The article continues as follows: A paper written by two Brussels-based human rights groups presented, in detail, all unwarranted intrusions and funding of terror groups carried out by the guard in order to achieve the regime’s expansionist ambitions. All the more, the research shows Iran’s elite guard stepping up its meddling in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon ever since Tehran went into its nuclear talks with the world’s super powers. Anyone, party or nation who had firsthand experienced Iran’s bitter attitude and aggressive behavior hardly finds the abovementioned revelations a surprise. And as positive indicatives point towards the United States President Donald Trump seriously considering to enlist Iran’s revolutionary guard as a terrorist organization, it is very embarrassing for any party that still has faith in composed and rational talks being held between Gulf States and Iran. Iran and Gulf states cannot be seen as counterparts to an argument, as one party orients itself towards delivering progress to its people and stabilizing the region whilst the other is a self-styled state that aims to destabilize the region, spreading terrorism everywhere. The latter cannot be simply rewarded a seat to negotiate what can possibly adhere to its hostility. Struan Stevenson President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association, who’s body published the study on the revolutionary guard concluding that “[Iranian] meddling in the affairs of other regional countries is institutionalized and the IRGC (the revolutionary guard) top brass has been directly involved,” the report said, directly implicating the Iranian military and state apparatus in destabilization operations around the Middle East.” The report also criticizes the guard for undertaking a “hidden occupation” of four countries, namely Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon. The European study said: “Every month, hundreds of forces from Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan and Lebanon – countries where the [Iranian] regime is involved in frontline combat – receive military training and are subsequently dispatched to wage terrorism and war.” With all that being said, it is clear that the struggle with Iran is that the problem lies not with its people or its limited-power government or unproductive parliament, but with its guard serving a bellicose expansionist agenda as stipulated in the national constitution. The guard is placed just under the upper hand of the supreme leader which positions it at a place of unconstrained jurisdiction and power and just above Iran’s national army. More so, the study revealed that the guard operates some 90 dummy companies that control 90 Iranian ports – making up for 45 percent of national ports – and which run a whopping $12 billion in annual revenue. The elite guard uses the very same ports to import arms to its militias in neighboring countries that upon delivery aid in further destabilizing security of their respective states. It cannot be trusted that Iran is serious with its negotiations whilst it fosters a home militia (the revolutionary guard) that has literally been placed itself above the law. Iran is far and foremost the greatest winner in the recent calls for negotiations with Gulf States. After having exploited the talks, Iran will employ a stronger expansionist agenda, buying itself more time to extend profits it reaps from regional states. More so, Iran will not stop at the talks failing but will relish in having branded itself a peaceful negotiable state as opposed to Gulf states being the ones having ‘refused’ to instate peace and stability. Should we blame Iran? Of course not, its transgressions had gone beyond that– blocs that allowed for such a cliché and fruitless rhetoric to go into a vicious cycle are those who should be held accountable.

Trump’s White House planning meeting with Saudi Arabia’s deputy crown prince

By Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Sunday, 12 March 2017/The current United States administration is planning a meeting this coming week with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, CBS News has learned. The visit comes as the United States expands its military mission against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen, a country on the brink of widespread famine and torn apart by civil war involving Iranian-backed Houthi militias. The White House has not yet announced the visit, as is still confirming details. The Trump Administration has been considering its approach to the Yemeni war, and eyeing a tougher approach to roll back Iranian interference in the country. That attack coupled with ballistic missile testing prompted then-National Security Advisor Mike Flynn to issue an ominous statement from the White House podium warning Tehran that it was being put “on notice.”
US President Donald Trump has already supported the expansion of a separate military campaign in Yemen against AQAP. The White House is reportedly still determining who will be meeting with the Saudi Deputy Crown Prince during his trip. Saudi Deputy Crown Prince, Second Deputy Premier and Minister of Defense Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz had earlier met with US Senator John McCain last month. During the meeting, they reviewed relations between Saudi Arabia and the US and ways of enhancing them.

Saudi Arabia: Security forces kill wanted person in al-Qatif region
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Sunday, 12 March 2017/A wanted person has been fatally wounded during an operation by Saudi security forces in eastern Saudi Arabia, the interior ministry said on Sunday. The wanted man killed during a raid on Saturday morning targeting wanted people in Awamiya was identified as Walid Talal Ali al-Arayedh. The interior ministry said security forces came under fire while pursuing wanted men who had been hiding in houses vacated by inhabitants to pave the way for a development project intended to revamp the area. "Security men came under heavy gunfire at the Musawara neighborhood from an unknown source, which required an appropriate response," the statement, carried by state news agency SPA said.

Former Saudi justice minister tells EU parliament: Terrorism has no religion
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishMonday, 13 March 2017/The Secretary General of Muslim World League (MWL) Sheikh Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa has warned of the extremist reaction against Islam as a result of Islamophobia, indicating that it will generate more sufferings and increase numbers of extremists who were before normal moderate persons coexisting with their societies in non-Muslim countries and respecting their constitutions, laws and cultures. This came in a speech delivered by Dr. Al-Issa, who is a former justice minister of Saudi Arabia, at a conference hosted by the European Parliament in Brussels in the presence of senior officials from European parliamentarians, politicians, a number of followers of religions and cultures, and leaders and activists of Muslim communities in Europe. He told those in attendance that “terrorism had no links to religion but was groups created over the years came from several parts of the world with one goal in mind”.

Yemeni army is approaching Sanaa, spokesman says
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishSunday, 12 March 2017/The spokesman of Yemen’s armed forces has announced on Sunday that they are approaching the cities of Arhab and Sanaa. According to the government-run Yemeni news agency, Abdullah Bamajalli – who is also a consultant at the General Staff of Yemen – confirmed that battles are continuing to liberate Nahm, eastern front of Sanaa, a development preceded by liberating a series of mountains, including Dorah, al-Ayani, al-Safeh, al-Dhabeeb, al-Tibab al-Hamaraa, west of Al Garn mountain, and al-Safeenah. He added that a number of sites located between the directorate of Nahm and Bani Hashish were liberated while great breakthroughs and advances were achieved by the national army and the popular resistance in Al Masloub directorate and the western coast front as well as other fronts of Taiz. Yemeni government and WFP discuss mechanisms of food aid delivery . Meanwhile, the Yemeni government and the World Food Programme discussed further means of food aid delivery to those in need throughout the country. Prime Minister of Yemen Dr. Ahmed Obaid bin Dhager said during his meeting with Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of the WFP, that his government is ready to provide all necessary assistance to the WFP and other international food agencies so that food and medicine can reach all citizens.

15 killed, dozens missing in Ethiopia garbage dump landslide
Sun 12 Mar 2017/NNA - Fifteen people have been killed in a landslide at a massive garbage dump on the outskirts of Ethiopia's capital and several dozen people are missing, officials and residents said Sunday. Addis Ababa Mayor Diriba Kuma said 15 bodies had been recovered since the landslide on Saturday night at the Koshe Garbage Landfill buried several makeshift homes and concrete buildings. The landfill has been a dumping ground for the capital's garbage for more than 50 years. About 150 people were at the site when the landslide occurred, resident Assefa Teklemahimanot told The Associated Press. The mayor said 37 people had been rescued and were receiving medical treatment. Many people at the site had been scavenging items to make a living, but others live at the landfill because renting homes, largely built of mud and sticks, is relatively inexpensive there. An AP reporter saw four bodies taken away by ambulances after being pulled from the debris. Elderly women cried, and others stood anxiously waiting for news of loved ones. Six excavators dug through the ruins."My house was right inside there," said a shaken Tebeju Asres, pointing to where one of the excavators was digging in deep, black mud. "My mother and three of my sisters were there when the landslide happened. Now I don't know the fate of all of them."The resumption of garbage dumping at the site in recent months likely caused the landslide, Assefa said. The dumping had stopped in recent years, but it resumed after farmers in a nearby restive region where a new garbage landfill complex was being built blocked dumping in their area. Smaller landslides have occurred at the Koshe landfill in the past two years but only two or three people were killed, Assefa said. "In the long run, we will conduct a resettling program to relocate people who live in and around the landfill," the Addis Ababa mayor said. Around 500 waste-pickers are believed to work at the landfill every day, sorting through the debris from the capital's estimated 4 million residents. City officials say close to 300 000 tons of waste are collected each year from the capital, most of it dumped at the landfill. Since 2010, city officials have warned that the landfill was running out of room and was being closed in by nearby housing and schools. City officials in recent years have been trying to turn the garbage into a source of clean energy with a $120 million investment. The Koshe waste-to-energy facility, which has been under construction since 2013, is expected to generate 50 megawatts of electricity upon completion. Ethiopia, which has one of Africa's fastest growing economies, is under a state of emergency imposed in October after several months of sometimes deadly protests demanding wider political freedoms. ---AP

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published On March 12-13/17
Iranian backed militia forms Golan liberation brigade
Roi Kais|/Ynetnews/March 12/17
An Iraqi Shiite brigade, who is backed by Iran, declares its intentions: liberate the Golan; trained and armed by Iran with Russian weaponry, this branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps poses possible threat to Israel.
Equipped with Russian-made tanks (via the Syrian army), Iranian rockets and operating as an elite unit trained by the Islamic Republic, a brigade formed by the Iraqi Shiite militia declared that its target is to liberate the Golan. This brigade is the reason behind the message Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu conveyed in Russia, according to which Israel will not tolerate permanent Iranian presence in Syria. "The declaration regarding the formation of the liberation of the Golan brigade is not only a media campaign, but the real goal of the movement," said the secretary general of the militia, Akram al-Kabi. So who is this militia? Intelligence researcher Ronen Solomon, owner of the Intel Times blog, traced this significant branch of Iran's Revolutionary Guard.
"The militia's name first surfaced in 2013 when it deployed its divisions in Syria, in the areas of Sayyidah Zaynab of the Damascus suburbs (which is sacred to the Shiites), Idlib, Aleppo, Homs, Al-Klmon near the Lebanese border, and Iraq under the auspices of the Revolutionary Guard," Solomon explained.
"That same year, the militia released a series of videos that expressed loyalty to the commander of the Revolutionary Guard's Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani, and even adopted the resistance symbols of Hezbollah," continued Solomon.
The organization in question is an extension of the Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq that includes several Shiite militias who are perceived as controversial due to their religious zeal.
The organization, according to Solomon's analysis, is one of the Shiite militias deployed to Syria by Iran to help Hezbollah and the Syrian army in securing the Shiite holy places, but also to conquer the strategic city of Aleppo, in addition to reinforcing Hezbollah's defense in the Al-Klmon Mountains. "All activity is coordinated with Russia, who has been providing the forces with aerial backup and assisting in transferring weapons of their production."
Solomon claimed that the Iraqi militia has an elite unit trained by Iran, which operates in similar fashion to Hezbollah's elite Radwan Force. "Iran provided the militia with multi barrel rocket launchers… and even though the rockets are not precise, they hold deadly impact, which has proven itself in Iraq against American bases and now, in pounding rebel outposts in northern Syria."In recent months, there have been records of the Syrian militia fighters equipped with Russian T-90 tanks, which they probably received indirectly from Russia through the Syrian army, according to Solomon's assessment. He noted that "the fighting in Iraq and Syria has made them proficient in guerrilla warfare and urban warfare."
Solomon also linked between this militia and the reports concerning an attempt by the Quds Force to use an Iraqi citizen with a Norwegian citizenship against Israel from Jordan territory in July 2015. Jordan arrested the citizen, who was captured with 45 kilograms of powerful explosives.
Sheikh al-Kabi, who heads the militia, occasionally exchanges his traditional garb with a military uniform: "He wanders back and forth on the Iraq—Iran axis, Syria and Lebanon … and holds meetings with security officials working from the Iranian government, and even visits in Lebanon with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah."In September 2015, Al-Kabi gave a speech to his fighters in Aleppo, going so far as to directly accuse Israel of attacking his organization, a claim which to this day remains unproven. Al-Kabi neglected to specify where and where Israel had allegedly attacked, but this accusation is a first of its kind. Usually, the attacks attributed to Israel in Syria are meant to prevent arms shipments from being transferred to Hezbollah in Lebanon. However, on the backdrop of the formation of this brigade along with Netanyahu's quicksilver visit to Russia, it is quite possible that one day, Israel will find itself in conflict with this Shiite militia.

Trump kicks the ball to Abbas's court
Smadar Perry|/Ynetnews/March 12/17
Op-ed: In his belated first phone call with the Palestinian leader, the new US president sent out a clear message: If you really are committed to peace, stop running around international institutions, do your part, and I'll handle Netanyahu.
Here are two quick conclusions drawn from the first phone call between US President Donald Trump and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The first conclusion: The new US administration managed to exasperate Abbas. The Palestinian Authority insisted on keeping score: 49 days since entering the White House, Trump has called Netanyahu twice and warmly welcomed him to Washington, with the two of them looking like a couple of lovebirds. Trump has also called all of the other players in the region, who are keeping the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at arm's length: Jordan's King Abdullah II, with whom the American president also met, Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Saudi King Salman and the three rulers of the Persian Gulf kingdoms. Abbas found himself last on the list.
Trump also made sure to declare that he didn't care if the Palestinian issue would be resolved with one state or two states, but warned Netanyahu—in a message received by Lieberman as well—to calm down with settlement construction. And if that wasn't enough, Trump insisted on appointing the hawkish ambassador David Friedman, but did—for now—drop his plans to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem. The second conclusion: Until further notice, we can expect only meaningless platitudes. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer confirmed reports that Trump invited Abbas to Washington very soon. Meanwhile Palestinian officials described the phone call as "excellent" and "serious and pleasant," while the Palestinian leader said he was looking forward to work with the new president. This was only a short phone call, with both sides saying only what is expected of them: Trump claims he made a decision to restart the talks without trying to impose solutions, while Abbas stressed he would be committed to any effort that would lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel. In other words: Trump kicked the ball to Ramallah's court. Abbas wants a Palestinian state? Ahlan Wasahlan, no problem. Come to Washington, you'll be welcomed with a red carpet, and we'll think together how to restart the process. This, on the condition you realize in advance that not all of your demands will be met. Just don't try to sell me tales about the Palestinian public opinion.
We must not forget that Trump is coming into this with insights from the business world. He has been warned that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a quagmire, that his predecessors invested precious efforts and time in finding a creative solution by forming work teams and spending dozens of millions and dollars. We also must not forget that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not at the top of Trump's priorities when it comes to our neighborhood. It's much more important to him to catch ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and get rid of ISIS in general.
So when Trump informs Abbas that it is time to end 70 years of suffering for the Palestinians, he means: If you really are committed, stop running around international institutions, do your part, and I'll handle Netanyahu.The statements coming out of Washington and Ramallah show Trump's advisors have done their homework. From Abbas's point of view, the White House's treatment of Netanyahu appears too friendly, done at his expense. Trump's team advised the president to have Abbas in Washington even before the Arab League's summit convenes in Jordan at the end of the month to give him support.
From Abbas's point of view, a lot is riding on his meeting with Trump at the White House. It would be a rare opportunity for him to give Trump the Palestinian version, the facts and data the American president did not get from Netanyahu. He has already started laying the groundwork with the new American administration by sending the head of the Palestinian intelligence service, Majid Faraj, to brief his counterparts in Washington on just how deep the PA's security cooperation with Israel is, as proof Ramallah wasn't encouraging terror attacks.Now, it is Trump envoy Jason Greenblatt's turn to skip between Jerusalem and Ramallah. After all, the mystery of what Trump really wants, what his goals are, and how much is he really willing to invest, has yet to be revealed.

Death and Destruction for Christmas/Muslim Persecution of Christians, December 2016
Raymond Ibrahim/Gatestone Institute/March 12, 2017
Nothing has been done by Pope Francis or the Bishop of Abu Dhabi to get me released, in spite of contact being made by my captors." — Rev. Tom Uzhunnalil, a Catholic priest who was kidnapped on March 4, 2016 in Yemen, when Islamic terrorists raided a nursing home and killed 16 people, including several nuns and aid workers.
"Christians continue to be the most persecuted believers in the world with over 90,000 followers of Christ being killed in the last year." — Massimo Introvigne, prominent statistician and researcher, interviewed on Vatican Radio.
As in previous years, the month of Christmas saw an uptick in Islamic attacks on Christians — much of it in the context of targeting Christmas festivities and worship.
The one that claimed the most lives took place in Egypt. On Sunday, December 11, 2016, an Islamic suicide bomber entered the St. Peter Cathedral in Cairo during mass, detonated himself, killed at least 27 worshippers, mostly women and children, and wounded nearly 70. A witness said:
"I found bodies, many of them women, lying on the pews. It was a horrible scene. I saw a headless woman being carried away. Everyone was in a state of shock. We were scooping up people's flesh off the floor. There were children. What have they done to deserve this? I wish I had died with them instead of seeing these scenes."
The death toll and severity of the attack (pictures and videos of the aftermath here) surpassed even the New Year's Day bombing of an Alexandrian church in which 23 people were killed in 2011. A few weeks before the St. Peter's bombing, a man hurled an improvised bomb at St. George Church, packed with thousands of worshippers, in Samalout. Had the bomb detonated, casualties would likely have been higher. In a separate December incident, Islamic slogans and messages of hate — including "you will die Christians" — were painted on the floor of the Virgin Mary church in Damietta.
In Germany, Anis Amri, a Muslim asylum seeker from Tunisia, seized a large truck, murdered its driver, and pushed him onto the passenger seat, then drove the truck into a Christmas market in Berlin. Twelve shoppers were killed and 65 were injured, some severely. Four days later, Amri was killed in a shootout with police near Milan. ISIS claimed responsibility despite original reports claiming the man had no ties to Islamic terror groups.
Police confer at the site of the December 19, 2016 truck-ramming attack in Berlin, Germany. Anis Amri, a Muslim asylum seeker from Tunisia, murdered a Polish truck driver and 12 shoppers at a Christmas market. (Image source: RT video screenshot)
In Turkey, a gunman dressed as Santa Claus entered a nightclub in Istanbul during New Year celebrations and shot 39 people dead, and several dozens wounded. The Islamic State later claimed the terrorist attack and portrayed it as an assault on Christian infidels and their Muslims sympathizers. An ISIS spokesman said that a "heroic soldier of the caliphate ... attacked the most famous nightclub where Christians were celebrating their pagan feast," and partly for Turkey being "the servant of the cross." Separately, and ironically, Turkey's National Ministry of Education issued an email to about 35 German-funded teachers in Istanbul. It said: "No more Christmas celebration and/or lessons on Christmas including carol singing is permitted, effective immediately." A report adds, "That Turkey is the homeland of the real 'Santa Claus' is an irony largely lost on most media: St Nicholas, who secretly left gifts for poor children, was in fact Bishop Nicholas who lived in c.300 AD" -- in formerly Christian Turkey, before Islam overran it.
In the Philippines, as Christians were celebrating Christmas Eve Mass in a Catholic church in Mindanao, a grenade exploded by the entrance. Sixteen people were wounded. According to the report, "No group has claimed responsibility for the Mindanao attack, but Muslim rebels and Islamist extremists are known to be active in the province, where there have been blasts in the past."
On Christmas Day in Cameroon, an Islamic suicide bomber targeting Christians killed a young student and a woman, and injured five others, in an attack on a market full of Christmas shoppers in Mora. Authorities said the bomber, who also died in the attack, was from the Islamic terror group, Boko Haram, based in neighboring Nigeria. They also said that the casualties would have been much higher had a "vigilance committee" not spotted the jihadi, who was pretending to be a beggar, and prevented him from entering the crowded market.
During Christmas weekend in Baghdad, Iraq, two Christian shops were attacked with gunfire. Three were confirmed dead; local activists say as many as nine were killed. The shops were presumably targeted for carrying alcohol. "What a bloody gift they gave us for Christmas," Joseph Warda, a human rights activist, said.
A Muslim migrant in Italy who, according to police, "wanted to destroy Christian symbols," set a church nativity scene on fire and destroyed a separate statue of Mary. He was caught by the church's priest, who notified authorities. They rushed to the scene and fought to restrain the man. who was reportedly suffering from a "visible psycho-physical crisis."
A fortnight before Christmas in a region of Germany that contains more than a million Muslims, approximately 50 public Christian statues (of Jesus, Mary, etc.) were beheaded, and crucifixes broken. Many local Germans were left "shocked and scared," the report said. Police called the incident a "religiously motivated attack."
The Islamic State published the names and addresses of thousands of churches in the United States and called on its adherents to attack them during the holiday season, according to a message posted late-night Wednesday in the group's "Secrets of Jihadis" social media group. One Arabic-language message called "for bloody celebrations in the Christian New Year" and announced the group's plans to mobilize lone wolf attackers to "turn the Christian New Year into a bloody horror movie." Manuals for the use and preparations of weapons and explosives for aspiring assailants were also available on the same social media site.
Police in Australia arrested seven men — described as "self-radicalized" and "inspired by the Islamic State" — for planning a series of bomb attacks in the heart of Melbourne on Christmas Day. Among their targets was St. Paul's Cathedral. Four hundred police were involved in the raid, and more were deployed on Christmas Day as a precautionary measure.
In Pakistan, 43 people, mostly Christian, died, and another 120 were hospitalized, after they drank tainted alcohol at a Christmas celebration. Joseph Arshad, Christian bishop of Faisalabad, while visiting the sick in the hospital, said, "This tragic event turned the joyous festivity of Christmas into mourning with many lives still hang in the balance due to critical conditions" of many patients. A judiciary inquiry needs to be conducted to bring the perpetrators to justice."
In Uganda, 19 masked Muslim shouting "Allahu Akbar" and "Away from here; this village is not for Christians but for Allah," stormed a church compound during Christmas Day service, and savagely beat 15 Christians. Five were seriously wounded; bones were broken. "Previously at an all-night Christmas Eve service, a Muslim had put his faith in Jesus Christ and had been immediately healed of illness," said the report:
Yasiini Mugoya said he returned home and shared the gospel of Christ with his fellow Muslims early on Christmas morning. "They started beating me and forced me to lead them to the church compound where the Christians had prayed for me and I had received salvation and healing. When we arrived at the church, the Muslims started attacking the church members."
In Indonesia, Muslims yelling "Allahu Akbar" stormed a building where hundreds of Christians were lighting candles and singing "Silent Night" as part of a Christmas service, and forced the celebrations to be stopped. The pastor had just said "Christmas is not a day for hatred but Christmas is a day for reconciliation and peace." Separately, the nation's military and paramilitary personnel — a total of 150,000 people — were on high alert as militant Muslims stepped up their anti-Christmas threats. Security forces killed three Islamic terrorists discovered with bombs which they had apparently been planning to use; another dozen or so Islamic terrorists were arrested also for planning Christmas attacks.
Anti-terrorist forces in Bangladesh foiled a planned suicide attack on a Catholic church during Christmas. The conspirators, who belong to the "New Group of Mujahidin," planned to bomb Holy Spirit church in Dhaka, the capital, but were tracked and arrested on Christmas Eve.
Authorities from Christian-majority Kenya said intelligence revealed that Al-Shabaab, an Islamic terror group in neighboring Somalia, was planning a series of terrorist attacks during the Christmas season, and would include houses of worship. The nation was placed on high alert; citizens were asked to be vigilant and report suspicious activities.
In Yemen, on Christmas Day, a video was released of a Catholic priest who was kidnapped on March 4, 2016, when Islamic terrorists raided a nursing home and killed 16 people, including several nuns and aid workers. In the video, Rev. Tom Uzhunnalil, who appeared weak and out of breath, said "Nothing has been done by Pope Francis or the Bishop of Abu Dhabi to get me released, in spite of contact being made by my captors." He also implored the Catholic pope: "Dear Pope Francis, dear Holy Father, as a father please take care of my life."
South Sudan: Flyers and posters were found plastered on churches all throughout the country during the Christmas season. They contained anti-Christian rhetoric and "included calls for Muslims to neither visit nor congratulate their Christian neighbours on the festive season," said a report.
More stories of Christian experiences under ISIS continued to emerge in December. "I just want to go home," said 80-year-old Victoria Behman Akouma, now in a refugee camp. When ISIS took over her town in August 2014, "They asked me to convert to Islam, but I told them I will die a Christian and that they can kill me if they want to."
Based on the findings of Massimo Introvigne, a prominent statistician and researcher in Italy who was interviewed on Vatican Radio, "Christians continue to be the most persecuted believers in the world with over 90,000 followers of Christ being killed in the last year," in 2016 alone; this comes out to one death every 6 minutes, the majority of which occur in Africa.
The rest of the accounts of Muslim persecution of Christians to surface in the month of December, though with little direct relation to Christmas, include:
Austria: A 22-year-old Muslim asylum seeker from Afghanistan stabbed a Christian woman with a knife for reading from the Bible in the asylum center. According to the report, the man "had taken offence to the fact that the woman had been invited by Christian residents of the property to discuss the Bible. When he found out what she was doing, he stormed into the kitchen where the woman was standing and tried to plunge the knife into her upper body." The 50-year-old woman's thick winter coat deflected the knife...."
Democratic Republic of Congo: In a region where Islamic terrorists associated with the Allied Democratic Forces are highly active and where many people of the Christian-majority nation have been killed, a young nun was shot dead in her office. According to the pontifical institute's World and Mission magazine, Sister Marie Claire joins a growing list of clergy in Africa "who have given their lives for the Gospel."
Greece: Unknown vandals set fire to the Church of Archangel in the village of Lagolio, on the island of Crete. The only clue to their identity was that they wrote "Allahu Akbar" in Arabic on the walls, "infuriating locals," said a report. Although local residents managed to put out the fire before it spread, icons and other sacred items were burned.
Uganda: Muslim relatives beat a 30-year-old former Islamic teacher unconscious, after he publicly confessed that he had converted to Christianity. Then, on December 8, Muslims attacked his 60-year-old mother who, after visiting and listening to her son, also embraced Christianity. The men gashed her head open and broke her hand. Separately, Muslims destroyed the home of a single mother because she converted from Islam to Christianity. On December 23, she received a letter in Arabic reading, "Be warned that if you do not return to Islam, then your days are numbered. We do not want to be associated with infidels. You have become a disgrace to Allah and the Muslim community at Kitoikawononi." The next day, Christmas Eve, Muslims came and razed the woman's home to the ground. Her three children and she are now homeless.
Indonesia: A man entered an elementary school in East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), walked to the back of a classroom and began stabbing children. Seven children were injured. The man, reportedly a Muslim, recently migrated to the largely Christian village. Angered villagers stormed the police station, overpowered the police, and killed the attacker. Again separately, a group from the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) stormed and threatened a car dealership that had asked its employees to wear Christmas themed outfits.
Pakistan: A Muslim man beat and kicked a 58-year-old Christian woman unconscious after she refused to clean his home because she was already overbooked with two other homes. "She offered to come back another day with a team of a further two cleaners, however the landlord wanted his home cleaned immediately," said a report.
When Bashiran [the woman] refused, stating that she was too old to take on another job, especially of this size on her own, Afzal [the man] became angry. He glared at Bashiran and accused her of disrespect as Christians should not be refusing to take orders from Muslims. Bashiran was pushed to the floor, and Mr Afzal began kicking and punching her until she became unconscious."
Police refused to register the crime; when the family pressed the case, the Muslims threatened to kill the Christian family unless they dropped it. In still another separate incident, a Christian boy was videotaped being publicly beaten for drinking water from a fountain located inside a mosque. The video shows the boy yelling and screaming after being whipped with wooden sticks and beaten with shoes.
Egypt: A "reconciliation meeting" was held by top officials in Naghameesh, where a building Christians were using to hold church services was torched by angry Muslims. Although the "brotherhood of all Egyptians" — Christians and Muslims — was the main theme, when it came to the question of giving their fellow Christian brothers the same right to worship, the majority of Muslim leaders and family members at the reconciliation meeting continued to refuse them a place in which to pray. Authorities submitted to the decision and did nothing to support the Christians. "We don't understand what is so dangerous about the Copts praying and exercising their legal rights in this matter," one local Christian said.
Separately, but around the same time, the Egyptian government boasted that it is opening 10 new mosques every week; that there are 3,200 closed mosques that need renovating; that the government is currently working on 1,300 of them; that it will take about 60 million Egyptian pounds to renovate them, but that the government has allotted ten times that much, although a total of three billion is needed, and that the Egyptian government is dedicated to spending that much — for "whoever abuses public funds [which should be used for Islamic worship], enters a war with Allah, " according to Dr. Muhammad Mukhtar Gom'a, Minister of Awqaf (endowments). But when the nation's more than 10 million Christian minority seeks to build or renovate a church — and pay all expenses from their own pockets — Muslims riot and authorities submit.
Iran: "Between May and August 2016 security forces arrested at least 79 Christians," said a December report, even though "the true number of Christians apprehended by the authorities could be notably higher," because "many" arrests are never recorded. "At the time of writing some of these 79 Christians remain in detention and have still not been formally charged."
About this Series
While not all, or even most, Muslims are involved, persecution of Christians by Muslims is growing.
The report posits that such Muslim persecution is not random but rather systematic, and takes place irrespective of language, ethnicity, or location.
*Raymond Ibrahim is the author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War on Christians (published by Regnery with Gatestone Institute, April 2013).

A Month of Islam and Multiculturalism in Britain: February 2017
Soeren Kern/Gatestone Institute/March 12, 2017
Muslim pupils outnumber Christian children in more than 30 church schools, including one Church of England primary school that has a "100% Muslim population." — Sunday Times.
Six Muslim men shouted "Allahu Akbar" as they were sentenced at Sheffield Crown Court for a total of 81 years for sexually abusing two girls — including one who became pregnant at age 12 — in Rotherham.
"By 2030, one in three people will be a Muslim in the world — that is a huge population." — Romanna Bint-Abubaker, founder of modest fashion website Haute Elan.
A Chatham House survey of more than 10,000 people from ten European countries found that an average of 55% agreed that all further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be stopped.
February 1. Jim Walker, a 71-year-old volunteer at Carnforth Station, was banned from the premises after someone complained about an alleged racist comment. Walker, who, for more than a decade, has been winding a famous clock at the station, was overheard discussing a newspaper article about young migrants entering Britain from the French port of Calais. Walker said:
"Carnforth Station Trust received a complaint from a visitor who was not happy about me speaking to somebody about the issue.... What they are doing is outrageous. It is absolutely unbelievable, it is a violation of free speech....
"I must be the only man in Carnforth who has a document saying where he can and can't walk and all for expressing a point of view and quoting an editorial from a newspaper. Now [winding the clock] is no longer possible."
February 1. Prime Minister Theresa May told the House of Commons that women should feel free to wear the hijab, a traditional Islamic headscarf. Several European countries have imposed bans on parts of Muslim religious dress. "What a woman wears is a woman's choice," May said after she was asked — on world hijab day — if she supported the right of women to wear the garment.
On February 1 ("world hijab day"), UK Prime Minister Theresa May said that women should feel free to wear the hijab, a traditional Islamic headscarf, stating: "What a woman wears is a woman's choice." Pictured above: Theresa May (then Home Secretary) wears a headscarf while attending an interfaith event at Al Madina Mosque in East London, in February 2015. (Image source: Imams Online video screenshot)
February 2. Six Muslim men shouted "Allahu Akbar" as they were sentenced at Sheffield Crown Court for a total of 81 years for sexually abusing two girls — including one who became pregnant at age 12 — in Rotherham. Three brothers and three other men were convicted of crimes including rape, indecent assault and false imprisonment after the pre-teen victims were "systematically groomed."
February 4. Almost half of the new homes built in the next five years will go to migrants, according to government figures. Soaring immigration means that Britain will need to accommodate as many as 243,000 new households each year for the next 22 years. It is estimated that an extra 5.3 million new properties could be needed to meet the growth in population, and an extra 2.4 million of the new homes will be needed for migrants alone. In other words, one new home must be built every five minutes to house Britain's burgeoning migrant population.
February 5. Muslim pupils outnumber Christian children in more than 30 church schools, including one Church of England primary school that has a "100% Muslim population," according to the Sunday Times. St. Thomas in Werneth, Oldham, is reported by the local diocese to have no Christian pupils, while at Staincliffe Church of England Junior School in Batley, West Yorkshire, 98% of pupils "come from a Muslim background." The Church of England estimated that about 20 of its schools had more Muslim pupils than Christians and 15 Roman Catholic schools had majority Muslim pupils, according to the Catholic Education Service. Some church schools include Islamic prayers in their services.
February 6. The Deputy Mayor of London, Sophie Linden, warned that people who inflict female genital mutilation (FGM) on girls have escaped justice "for too long." Linden said that "inconsistencies in the way these crimes are recorded" had allowed perpetrators to avoid charges, despite FGM being a "widespread" problem. Although FGM has been illegal in Britain since 1985, no one has ever been successfully prosecuted for such offenses.
February 7. Zakaria Bulhan, a 19-year-old Norwegian national of Somali origin, was sentenced to indefinite confinement at Broadmoor Hospital after he admitted to killing American tourist Darlene Horton and wounding five others in a rampage in central London on August 3, 2016. Bulhan, from Tooting, South London, pled guilty at the Old Bailey to "manslaughter by diminished responsibility" on the grounds that he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia at the time of the attacks. He had been charged with murder and attempted murder, but the court accepted his plea. During his arrest, Bulhan repeatedly muttered "Allah, Allah, Allah," and police found a Muslim prayer book, "Fortress of the Muslim," in his pants pocket. The court decided that Islam was not a factor in Bulhan's behavior.
February 7. A Chatham House survey of more than 10,000 people from ten European countries found that an average of 55% agreed that all further migration from mainly Muslim countries should be stopped, 25% neither agreed nor disagreed and 20% disagreed. Majorities in all but two of the ten states agreed, ranging from 71% in Poland, 65% in Austria, 53% in Germany and 51% in Italy to 47% in the United Kingdom and 41% in Spain.
February 9. A 44-year-old man from Hertfordshire was arrested at Gatwick Airport on terrorism charges after he disembarked from a flight from Iraq. He was charged under Section 5 of the 2006 Terrorism Act: suspicion of preparation of terrorist acts.
February 12. A National Health Service (NHS) project based on research by Leeds University claimed that Muslims with mental health issues could be helped by re-embracing Islam. Traditionally, therapists have shied away from talking about religion as part of treatment. Lead researcher Dr. Ghazala Mir, of the university's Leeds Institute of Health Sciences, said:
"We know that in Muslim populations people can get quicker results from faith-sensitive therapies that have been tested elsewhere in the world. They tend to use religion as a coping resource more than people in other religious groups."
Mir has helped to create a new treatment. Patients are asked if faith was part of their life when they were well. Those who stopped being religious because of depression are re-introduced slowly using a self-help booklet, which highlights passages from the Koran that illustrate that "even people with strong faith" can become depressed and that it does not mean Allah is displeased.
February 13. Nadeem Muhammed, a 43-year-old Pakistani national, appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London after security officials at Manchester Airport discovered a pipe bomb in his hand luggage prior to boarding a flight to Italy. Muhammed, who lives in Greater Manchester, was arrested on January 30 but was later released on bail and was allowed to travel. He was re-arrested when he returned to Britain on February 11 and charged with possessing an improvised explosive device.
February 14. Clayton McKenna, a 22-year-old Briton who converted to Islam while in prison, appeared at Newcastle Crown Court after he carried an axe through the streets of Boldon Colliery, apparently with which to confront his Christian father over "religious differences." McKenna allegedly told police that he was on his way to his father's home "to ask him to bow down to me." Judge Penny Moreland told McKenna:
"It appears you were sober, you had not been drinking or taking drugs. There has been an examination by the mental health team and they are satisfied there are no mental health issues I ought to be taking into account.
"You made a series of statements, both at the scene and in interview shortly afterwards, as to what you intended to do and what was in your mind. It is right to say they were confused and contradictory.
"The statements included a suggestion that you were going to use violence against your father, amongst a number of reasons you said was because he was a Christian and you were a recent convert to Islam.
"I am concerned that there is no real explanation for your confused thinking that morning, nor for those threats made, even though they appear to have been without substance."
February 15. Faisal Bashir, a 43-year-old father of two from Ilford, was forced to move out of his home after he renounced Islam and stopped attending mosque. Bashir said he was subject to harassment, but police dismissed his pleas for help as "just a nuisance." He explained:
"These people knew I had become an atheist and soon enough my whole family was being harassed. At least once a week they would hang around near my house, shouting and swearing at me. I was called an apostate, a non-believer, I was told I had betrayed my God and my faith. Sometimes they would even say things to my children — they are far too little to know what was happening, they were very frightened.
"Police always said they could not really do anything because no physical altercation ever took place. But I am not the kind of person to get violent with anybody. Also, it was always different people so they claimed they could not log it as similar complaint. Eventually a police officer told me I should just move house to get away from it all.
"We were not left with any other choice.... The new house is over a mile away, but they still managed to find us again."
The Chairman of the Ilford-based British Pakistani Christian Association (BPCA), Wilson Chowdhry, said:
"Police and councils up and down the country just don't understand the level of animosity people choosing to leave Islam can face."
February 16. Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, Britain's top police officer, urged Muslim scholars to step up their efforts to counter the violent ideology of the Islamic State. He said he believed that IS fighters and terrorists were "political criminals" who were carrying out "horrific violence" which had no justification in Islam. In an interview with the Evening Standard, Hogan-Howe repeated the politically correct dogma that the Islamic State is not Islamic:
"The hardest part for the Western world is to interrupt this philosophy that Daesh [Islamic State] is perpetuating which is that Islam in any way supports this horrific use of violence.
"There is no interpretation I would argue that could say that, but some people are getting away with that. Muslim scholars have got to come up and be really challenging of that and be very clear that this can never be acceptable. There is no interpretation that can ever conclude it is okay to kill people. We cannot be at all sensitive to religious beliefs. We have all got to say that is wrong.
"The Muslim community feel particularly sensitive because Islamism is about people who profess to be Muslims. I would argue that they are political criminals — it just happens to be masked in religion. But when you are dealing with that issue you have to be sensitive to the majority who are good people trying to do the right thing."
February 18. Britain's first-ever "modest" fashion event was held in London with more than 40 designers displaying garments that comply with Muslim values. Event organizer Romanna Bint-Abubaker, founder of modest fashion website Haute Elan, told Sky News:
"The fastest growing global consumer is at the moment the Muslim market. By 2030, one in three people will be a Muslim in the world — that is a huge population."
February 19. Counter-terrorism police launched an investigation into claims that Trish O'Donnell, head of Clarksfield Primary School in Oldham, was being forced to work from home after death threats from Muslim parents opposed to her Western values. O'Donnell reportedly has been subject to "harassment and intimidation" in the form of "aggressive verbal abuse" and "threats to blow up her car" from parents pushing conservative Muslim ideals. The school is mostly filled with Pakistani pupils who do not speak English as a first language.
February 20. Members of Parliament debated U.S. President Donald J. Trump's state visit to Britain. Left-wing MPs called for the invitation to be withdrawn to protest Trump's travel ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries. Conservative Party MPs accused their opponents of hypocrisy and insulting the American people. The debate was triggered after an online parliamentary petition seeking to prevent Trump from making a state visit attracted nearly two million signatures. A counter-petition received over 300,000 signatures. After three hours of debate, Sir Alan Duncan, the deputy foreign secretary, reaffirmed the government's intention to host Trump on a state visit, tentatively set for October 5-8, 2017.
February 21. Rezzas Abdulla, a 33-year-old man from South Shields, was sentenced to eight months in prison, a sentence then suspended so that he could receive treatment for mental health problems, for assaulting a woman and her nine-month old baby. Rebecca Telford, 25, and her daughter Layla-Jean, were strolling in South Shields in January 2016 when Abdulla leaned into the baby carriage and spat into the baby's mouth, and allegedly said, "white people shouldn't breed," before launching into a tirade of racial abuse. Telford told police:
"There was no eye contact and no words had been exchanged. I had never seen him before. I believe he spat on her purely because we are white, I was a lone female and an easy target."
February 22. Jamal al-Harith, a 50-year-old British convert to Islam, blew himself up at an Iraqi army base in Mosul on February 20. He had received £1 million (€1.1 million; $1.2 million) in compensation from the British government after being freed from Guantánamo Bay in 2004. Al-Harith, originally named Ronald Fiddler, was born in Manchester to parents of Jamaican origin and took the name Jamal al-Harith when he converted to Islam. He was also known more recently as Abu-Zakariya al-Britani. Captured in Afghanistan in early 2002, and released from Guantánamo Bay after two years, he later joined IS.
February 23. The BBC paid "very substantial" libel damages and broadcast a full apology to Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin, founder member of the Muslim Council of Britain, who was falsely accused of calling for the lynching of author Salman Rushdie.
February 26. Shahriar Ashrafkhorasani, a 33-year-old Iranian-born convert from Islam and who is set to be ordained as a Church of England priest, accused Oxford University of discrimination and bias after he was told he could not ask a lecturer critical questions about Islam. During a seminar about love in religion, Minlib Dallh, a research fellow at Regent's Park College in Oxford, allegedly pointed at Ashrafkhorasani and said: "Everybody can ask a question except you." Ashrafkhorasani said that Dallh had discovered during a coffee break that he was a convert from Islam. He said that Dallh refused to let him ask questions about the lecturer's description of Islam as a religion of love and peace. Dallh's project was partly being sponsored by the King of Jordan. Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, who was a senior fellow at Wycliffe Hall until last year, said that a "politically correct" atmosphere is "very widespread in the university as a whole." He added: "If people are taking money from these [Muslim] sources, then that can limit the critical approach to the study of Islam and Muslim civilization generally."
February 27. A spokesman for the West Midlands Police wrote on social media that parents caught practicing female genital mutilation (FMG) on their children should not be prosecuted. He revealed that the force is opposed to "prosecuting/jailing" parents for FGM because it would be "unlikely to benefit" children who fall victim to the crime. He added that the best course of action is to focus on "education." Tim Loughton, a member of the Home Affairs Committee, condemned the reluctance to pursue prosecution:
"It is absolutely key to expose perpetrators and to nail them for it. The police must go after offenders. This is deeply disturbing because a key part of eradicating the violence of FGM is exposing, prosecuting, and nailing the perpetrators. Every time a prosecution fails to materialize, it encourages those that are behind this that it is not a serious crime, and they can get away it."
February 28. Patrick Kabele, a 32-year-old convert to Islam, was found guilty of preparing terrorist acts — namely attempting to travel to Syria — contrary to the 2006 Terrorism Act. During his trial, jurors at Woolwich Crown Court heard how Kabele, from Willesden in North London, tried to join the Islamic State in Syria, where he wanted to buy a "nine-year-old virgin, the younger the better." He added that if he had enough money, he would buy four wives. Kabele was arrested after he tried to board a flight from Gatwick to Istanbul, Turkey on August 20, 2016 with £3,000 in cash. Kabele, who was born in Uganda and became a British citizen, told police after his arrest that he did not "owe an oath of allegiance" to the United Kingdom.
*Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter.
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Iran's Economy Post-Nuclear Deal: A Misleading IMF Scorecard
Patrick Clawson/The Washington Institute/March 12, 2017
Iran's budget and banking system are being held hostage by unaccountable revolutionary institutions like the IRGC, but for some reason the IMF is not calling Tehran out on the glaring lack of transparency.
On February 27, the International Monetary Fund released its annual report about the Iranian economy. The report is important not only for what it reveals about the Islamic Republic's economic situation, but also for what it says about how respected international technical agencies respond to a government that has no effective control over revolutionary institutions that act at cross-purposes to its policies.
The IMF report praises Tehran for carrying out a "prudent fiscal policy" that has "kept the budget deficit low in spite of challenging circumstances." It adds, "Over the past 5 years, the overall fiscal deficit of the central government was kept below 2 percent of GDP despite the drop in oil revenues."
Yet a closer look at the report's specifics shows that none of that praise is true in any meaningful sense. In fact, the authors openly acknowledge that President Hassan Rouhani's government has "recognized" arrears equal to 25% of GDP, and mention in passing that total arrears may turn out to be 3,980 trillion rials (about $130 billion USD), which would be 36% of GDP. A government whose annual deficits are "below 2 percent of GDP" does not accumulate arrears of 25% -- that is only possible with the type of massive annual deficits characteristic of imprudent fiscal policy.
Moreover, Iran itself has reported annual government spending to be 18% of GDP. If it has in fact run up the huge arrears reported by the IMF, then its actual expenditures are probably more like 25% of GDP. To put the gap between Tehran's claims and the IMF's findings in perspective, that would be like the U.S. government spending around $1.2 trillion more per year than it publicly disclosed.
Buried in the report's supplement is the explanation for how those arrears occurred: "Non-central government agencies can commit government funds (e.g., through public guarantees) and shift the cost of these commitments to the central government, who then fund these obligations. Moreover, there is no system to record these commitments or monitor arrears." Note the present tense in those sentences: there has been no change in the procedures that caused the massive arrears. And the key problem hinted at here is that the Rouhani government has no control over institutions that report directly to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei -- the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), clerical foundations, and other such entities can incur major debt for which the government is then liable.
Yet while the IMF report offers a "staff appraisal" highlighting the specific steps Iran should take to address some of its most pressing economic issues, there is not one word about "non-central government agencies" spending money without authorization or even any record. Similarly, nothing is said about how to stop a new round of arrears from piling atop the 25-35% of GDP already accrued. In other words, the Iranian government does not even know about, much less control, much of the country's spending, and the main international agency responsible for evaluating Tehran's fiscal policy is glossing over this massive problem.
The concerns are equally daunting in Iran's banking system. There too, the government has limited control, and the IMF barely mentions the substantive issues.
Part of the problem is bankrupt banks and inadequate regulation. In 2016, the Securities and Exchange Organization (SEO) of Iran required banks and other firms listed on the Tehran Stock Exchange to use the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). These standards are used by most advanced countries, and the SEO had been urging firms to use them for years (although U.S. institutions do not use the IFRS, they are held to even more rigid standards). When it was later disclosed that Bank Saderat would report huge losses under the IFRS, the SEO suspended all trading in shares of several banks. And when trading in Bank Mellat shares resumed in January, their value promptly dropped 38%, dragging down the entire Tehran Stock Exchange index. Market analyst Ali Nikoogoftar explained the problem in the January 28 edition of Tehran's Financial Tribune: "This is a watershed for the banks. For years, banks were paying dividends which had no real financial backing, since they were using unpaid loans and debts as profit." In fact, some Iranian analysts estimate that 30% or more of bank loans are nonperforming -- if that is true, recapitalizing state-owned banks could require 15-20% of GDP, a cost that would have to be borne by the government.
The supplement to the IMF report also has a section on "impediments to correspondent banking with Iran," with a subsection on "potential policy options that can facilitate the reconnection to non-U.S. global banks." Yet these sections do not contain one word about the failure of Iranian banks to meet up to the requirements of the Basel III accords adopted by regulators in most industrialized countries, which place a heavy burden on banks doing business with institutions that do not live up to its standards. Under "Pillar II" of those accords, banks have to apply appropriate accounting standards (e.g., the IFRS), implement sound risk-management practices, and value loans accurately. No Iranian bank meets those standards, nor the Basel III requirements on capital and liquidity coverage.
Getting Iranian banks to report their financial results accurately is only part of the challenge. At least as large a problem is the fact that non-bank financial institutions controlled by revolutionary and clerical institutions, including most IRGC entities, refuse to come under the authority of the Central Bank of Iran (CBI). The latest IMF report, unlike previous ones, barely touches on this problem. For instance, it notes that Iran's new draft banking bill grants the CBI "the power to supervise all deposit-taking institutions." Yet that sentence omits the main obstacle to using such authority: the CBI has little information about the size of such institutions, which are ubiquitous in Iran.
This is not just a regulatory concern -- it also affects monetary policy. By any reasonable definition, Iran's money supply includes deposits in non-bank financial institutions. Since the CBI has no idea how much is in those institutions, it has no reliable notion about the size of the country's money supply or what interest rates such institutions have adopted. In effect, Iran's monetary policy is being shaped by the activities of these unaccountable revolutionary entities, not by the CBI alone. And once again, the agency responsible for evaluating Tehran's performance on such matters has glossed over the problem.
The IMF report's failure to highlight glaring discrepancies and contradictions in Iran's economic accounts is discouraging. The IMF is tasked with providing technical advice about fiscal matters to countries worldwide, so surely it should be expected to say something about the need for Iran to control its expenditures, avoid arrears equal to 25% of its GDP, and prevent these massive arrears from draining the private sector? One might also hope that the agency would offer advice on how the government can recapitalize the banking system and at least monitor -- if not control -- the non-bank financial institutions that currently ignore the CBI.
In global security terms, the Iran-related reports issued by another technical oversight institution -- the International Atomic Energy Agency -- are even more important given the existential dangers posed by nuclear proliferation. Thus far, however, the IAEA has done no better than the IMF in holding Tehran accountable. Quite the reverse: the IMF report at least provides enough raw information for readers to figure out that its rosy judgments about certain issues are unfounded, while the IAEA has withheld much of the data needed to even form an independent opinion on whether Iran is living up to its nuclear obligations. It is particularly worrisome that some of the same revolutionary institutions who ignore the central government in the economic sphere have also been key actors in the nuclear program. Hopefully the IAEA will do better than the IMF at detecting and reporting on the activities of such institutions going forward.
Iran should be an attractive place for foreign companies looking to trade and invest. The economy is growing; non-oil GDP will be up 0.8% in the Iranian year ending March 21, and it may increase more than 3% next year. Iran's current account has been in surplus every year for more than a decade, and the country has ample foreign exchange reserves. Even with arrears at 35% of GDP and bank capitalization requirements at 20%, Iran's public debt would be smaller relative to GDP than that of the United States and most other countries.
Yet not paying government bills and not providing accurate financial reports are good ways to scare off investors and trading partners. When such basic business documents as audited bank financial reports and government financial statements turn out to be largely fiction, it is hardly surprising that foreign firms lack confidence in Iranian assurances about more secretive and sensitive issues (e.g., what role the IRGC might play in controlling a given company). And when fiscal and banking policy are thrown into turmoil by revolutionary institutions that pay no attention to such powerful agencies as the CBI and Ministry of Economic Affairs and Finance, foreign firms have to be concerned about how these actors might interfere in their business. In short, if Iranian officials want to know why foreign banks and investors are reluctant to do business there, they should look in the mirror.
**Patrick Clawson is the Morningstar Senior Fellow and director of research at The Washington Institute. Previously, he worked as a senior economist at the IMF and World Bank, among other posts.

Significant escalation in Trump’s war with media on cards
Ahmad al-Farraj/Al Arabiya/March 12/17
President Trump suffered greatly from the biased US media. It is the same media that significantly contributed to his rise as a star because the media outlets were not expecting to be helping him on the political level and when they realized that they are promoting an undesirable political star, they turned against him. But it was too late. The media, especially the left-aligned ones, started to attack Trump from his first day as an elected-president. They dug up his archives at times, and chased leaked news at other times. Trump and his close aides did not know how to properly deal with the media. A senior strategist and mastermind at the Trump administration, Steve Bannon, said that according to Trump’s administration, the media has become an opposition party. However, when things escalated, Trump made a very smart move, which was unusual for him. How did he do that? President Trump decided to give a speech before Congress. We have tackled his speech in the previous piece, stating that it was a successful step because it was a conciliatory speech, not giving his opponents the opportunity to criticize him. However, the biased media did not let Trump enjoy the outcome of his speech with positive reactions. One day after the speech, while Trump was proudly moving forward hoping to close some files with which the media was haunting him, everyone was surprised by the report in the Washington Post newspaper that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has had contacts with the Russians. Sessions is one of the biggest Trump advocate, having declared his support for him from the very first day.
So, who is Sessions and why is his contact with the Russians a big problem that the Trump administration might not be able to overcome easily?
Sessions is a lawyer and former judge from Alabama in the south of the US, where racism has always been widespread. This state has a long history in working against the liberation of Black people for more than a century and a half; it also has a longer history in resisting the Civil Rights Act, which made white and black people equal in the Sixties. Sessions had served as the minister of justice in the state of Alabama and Black people claim that during his term there were racist tendencies. This accusation had deprived him of being appointed as a federal judge in the mid-eighties when the Senate voted against his appointment.
Why did the Washington Post newspaper chose to publish the news about Sessions’ scandal the day following Trump’s conciliatory speech? Why did the New York Times publish another scandalous report against Trump on the same day? Sessions then ran for the Senate and won. He served until he was nominated by Trump as Attorney General in the new administration. After a long hearings, the Senate voted on his appointment. He took office three weeks ago and then the scandal of his communication with the Russians surfaced. There is no doubt that Sessions’ contact with the Russians is a scandal. He denied it when he was being questioned in the Senate under oath, and this is a crime that is punishable by law.
However, for the sake of objectivity, we should also link the harsh attack on Sessions with the media and left-wing’s war on Trump.
Why did the Washington Post newspaper chose to publish the news about Sessions’ scandal the day following Trump’s conciliatory speech? Why did the New York Times publish another scandalous report against Trump on the same day? It is difficult to believe that it is a pure coincidence that the Washington Post got its information about Sessions’ scandal directly after Trump’s speech. The only logical explanation is that the newspaper and those who stand behind it, do not want Trump’s presidency to witness one positive day, and therefore we should expect a significant escalation in Trump’s war with the media.
We will be following up on this feud for sure!
**This article is also available in Arabic.

Iran and Israel’s conflict in Syria
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/March 12/17
Due to the weakness of the Syrian forces, a number of regional and international powers have warned against sealing a peace deal in Syria that parties who support the regime and Iran, can benefit from. This is what Israel said as it believes that any plan to end the war there must not allow Iran to stay in Syria as a military power; otherwise, it will view this as a threat to its security. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talked about this and said he will inform Russian President Vladimir Putin of this message considering he is the godfather of the Syrian solution. Netanyahu said that Israel does not object to the arrangements of a solution in Syria but it strongly opposes the possibility of military presence by Iran and its proxies in Syria. Truth be told, Iran and its proxies’ military presence poses a threat to other countries as well. Allowing Iran and its Lebanese, Iraqi and other militias to stay in Syria will threaten regional balance and affect the security of Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and the Gulf. It’s not unlikely for Iran to finally be convinced of reaching agreements with Israel and end the role of its agents which threaten Israel, like Hezbollah in Lebanon or Hamas in Gaza. However, their threat on other countries will remain for years.
According to some official statements, it’s unlikely that Israel will accept any reassurances made by Iran or by a party that reflects its stance, such as the Syrian government, if they intend to keep thousands of fighters and experts for a very long time without a regional solution in which Iran and Israel are part of.
So why has Israel begun to voice its opinion regarding the Geneva negotiations when it has been silent during the past six years of war? It’s probably because the aspects of a political solution have become clearer. Israel has since the beginning been against any change in Damascus because it had co-existed with the regime for almost half a century. Despite their disagreements and estrangement, Israel thought its neighbor Syria was more secure and restrained than Egypt and Jordan which it has peace deals with.
Weakness shines through
However, the Syrian regime’s military capabilities are weak and Iran wants to compensate for that by providing its own forces and militias. This alters the security and political formula in the entire region and not just in Syria. The Syrian regime’s military capabilities are weak and Iran wants to compensate for that by providing its own forces and militias. This alters the security and political formula in the entire region and not just in Syria. Is it possible for the Syrian regime forces to end the fighting and solidify peace with all this increased Russian support they’re receiving? Russia is not only supplying the regime with fighting troops but it has also provided the regime with police forces that organize traffic in some Syrian cities! The region’s countries, particularly Israel, Jordan and the Gulf, will most probably not oppose it if the Russians assume the task of filling the security and military vacuum through its forces or through international troops when needed as long these forces do not include Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ troops or other foreign militias. However, is Russia willing to carry out this huge task? Or will the Syrian government accept to give up its Iranian ally? Will the Iranians accept to exit Syria without any gains or as the proverb says will they leave the mawlid without chickpeas? We must not forget that Iran has through Syria and via the use of terrorist groups turned the Americans’ life in Iraq into hell. It’s doing the same against Saudis in Yemen and also against Israel through. I think the success of a possible agreement in Syria is based on interpreting the role of Iran and its militias. The new American administration agrees with most of the region’s countries that it’s important to diminish Iran’s expansion in the region’s land and sea and not allow it to expand on a vast area that includes Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. This is all greatly linked to a Syrian agreement to end the war.
**This article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat on March 12, 2017.

Gulf Arabs, poetry and prose
Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/March 12/17
Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan had recently taken part in the children’s television show Sesame Street and read out a story to kids. The minister said he participated following an invitation from Minister of State for Happiness Ohood bint Khalfan Al-Roumi. This is part of the Gulf countries’ political plan to encourage reading. There is also a video in which Saudi King Salman talks about getting children accustomed to reading. King Salman used to give each one of his children a book and gave them one week to read and understand. After reading the book, they must explain to others what it’s about. King Salman’s library is one of the biggest libraries in the world. It’s through reading that one can overcome scientific and practical problems. Reading allows one to invest in himself. It nurtures, refines and trains one’s character. Nations that have excelled are ones that have taught their children how to read at an early age. Many western and Asian countries are examples of this. Reading did not die with the emergence of tablets or due to the digital revolution. Paper books are still a friend to kids and adults.
**This article was first published in Okaz.

Youth have crucial role in shaping UAE’s future
Yasser Hareb/Al Arabiya/March 12/17
A few days ago, I talked in Snapchat about the program Lahza (Moment) which I present during Ramadan every year and about a new scientific program which I am currently producing for another Arabic channel and which will be presented by a promising Emirati young man who is interested in space science. I received a letter from a group of young men and women saying we, in the UAE, have many government-launched science projects. According to them, the UAE has a space center, a plan to reach Mars by 2021 and a plan to colonize the Red Planet in 2117. We have the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant for peaceful nuclear energy, the Masdar City and events that are all year-long and that discuss the future and how to enable the youth. I read the message and said to myself: “True, there is a new Arab model being created here in the UAE.” I recalled the quote of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed – God bless him – as he spoke about youth and education and said: “If our investment today is right, we will celebrate exporting the last barrel of oil after 50 years.”
The Mohammed Bin Zayed Majlis for Future Generations’ workshop wrapped up on Wednesday.
Thousands of students from different UAE universities attended, listening to top officials and experts in different fields from the UAE and other countries. These talks empowered what the Emirati government and its leadership talk about in terms of the future and youth.
Workshops were held on creative innovation to find solutions for future challenges in the fields of transportation and education. There were brainstorming sessions held between students to come up with innovative solutions in cooperation with IBM Watson, the supercomputer, and to plan for the future using modern tools and not via pen and paper. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed always uses the word “my children” to address young Emirati men and women. If you sit with him, you will not attract his attention by talking about funds and investments but by talking about new ideas, philosophy and human development. I once attended an Iftar banquet he hosted during Ramadan.
At the event, Nasa administrator Charles Bolden was seated next to him and for 40 minutes the conversation between them was about the future of humanity and how life will be in the future. The initiative of The Mohammed Bin Zayed Majlis for Future Generations confirms to young people – despite their different fields or ages – that they are a major pillar in development which is an essential principle for the UAE’s strategic plans. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed does not need my praise. You all know him well. The initiative of The Mohammed Bin Zayed Majlis for Future Generations confirms to young people – despite their different fields or ages – that they are a major pillar in development which is an essential principle for the UAE’s strategic plans. Perhaps this experience inspires Arab countries to mould their youth and include them in planning for the future and equip them with modern tools so that they become efficient citizens and not just consumers.At the end of the address delivered by Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed at the opening of the Majlis’ events, he told students: “Those who achieved great change in life are not the ones who learnt more but the ones who were more serious. I hope the young men and women of the UAE are aware that after all these opportunities have been made available to them and all this interest they received at an early age, they bear a great responsibility and are tasked with the precious mission of pushing this great country to be among the top ranks of human civilization. This will not be achieved unless you are serious and dedicated in life and loyal at work.”
**This article is also available in Arabic.

A CIA conflict with internet companies
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/March 12/17
It was always said that the work of a journalist is similar to the intelligence agent or the security services analyst because the journalist and the security agent are both looking for information, at any price. This was back in the old days when the spy used to break into the neighborhood or sit in a cafe reading his newspaper upside down. Back then, the journalist used to carry around his small notebook and chase sources in dark backstreets. Now, the scene has evolved and both parties (journalists and security agents) have clashed at the highest imaginable level. Last Wednesday, the CIA accused Wikileaks, the whistleblowing website belonging to Australian hacker Assange, of helping US rivals by revealing the methods used by the agency to turn your iPhone or Samsung TV for example, into spying tools. Wikileaks revealed information exposing more than a thousand hacking programs that allow controlling electronic devices such as smart phones, televisions connected to the Internet and even cars, in order to spy on their users! This is to be added to the spy scandal of the US “traitor” (as per the American description), Edward Snowden in 2013, who revealed how the National Security Agency hacked Google, Microsoft and Apple. Security agencies are a mighty complex of strength in term of technology. They usually attract genius members to employ their skills for the benefit of the system… the same applies to companies.
From a security point of view, the monopoly of social media companies, smart phone manufacturers and all digital communications systems as well as car displays and modern televisions manufacturers in this thrilling world, is abusing security to make many steps forward in the race for information.
In this regard, we recall how the American security services clashed with Apple Company when the latter refused to unlock the phone of the terrorist who killed people in San Bernardino in December 2015. In August 2016, a deputy in the British Parliament complained about the non-cooperation of Internet companies that own the most interactive applications, when they were asked to check some accounts or their contents, explaining that this falls under the “protection of the terms” of these companies. This is a terrible dilemma between the necessities of security measures regardless how tough and interfering they are, and the interests of big companies that claim that they are keen on protecting the privacy of their users, but in fact, they only want to increase the numbers of clients and users. If it was really a matter of privacy, how did Whatsapp sell the numbers of the users to Facebook breaching prior pledges to protect privacy and data? The officer and the trader, including the journalist, are all striving to get into your privacy, while you grant them your most valuable product… that is your life.
*The article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat.