March 15/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
So also the Son of Man is about to suffer at their hands
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 17/10-13/:"And the disciples asked him, ‘Why, then, do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’He replied, ‘Elijah is indeed coming and will restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but they did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man is about to suffer at their hands.’Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them about John the Baptist."

Be sure that Almighty God shows no partiality
Letter to the Galatians 02/01-07/:"Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up in response to a revelation. Then I laid before them (though only in a private meeting with the acknowledged leaders) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure that I was not running, or had not run, in vain. But even Titus, who was with me, was not compelled to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. But because of false believers secretly brought in, who slipped in to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might enslave us
we did not submit to them even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might always remain with you. And from those who were supposed to be acknowledged leaders (what they actually were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality) those leaders contributed nothing to me. On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel for the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel for the circumcised."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published On March 14-15/17
Revolutionary Guard commander: Hezbollah more prepared than ever to attack /Yasser Okbi/Maariv Hashavua/Jerusalem Post/March 14/17
Kuwaiti Daily: Missile, Arms Factories Built By IRGC In Lebanon Have Recently Been Handed Over To Hizbullah/MEMRI/March 14/17
Hezbollah must drop sectarian rhetoric, push for peace to save credibility: ICG
MEE staff/Tuesday 14 March 2017
Europe's 'Turkish Awakening'/Burak Bekdil/Gatestone Institute/March 14/17
Europe: "The Era of Liberal Babble"/Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/March 14/17
On wresting control over religious discourse/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/March 14/17
Critical look at the past is an absolute must/Mohammed Al Shaikh/Al Arabiya/March 14/17
Saudi Arabia's Future Meets the Trump Administration/Simon Henderson/The Washington Institute/March 13, 2017

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published On March 14-15/17
Revolutionary Guard commander: Hezbollah more prepared than ever to attack Israel
Change and Reform Asks Opponents of Bassil Proposal for 'Alternatives', Vows to 'Resist' 1960 Law, Extension
Mustaqbal Says Only Legitimate Armed Forces Entitled to 'Protect Lebanese from Terror, Occupation'
Report: Iran Built Arms Factories for Hizbullah in Lebanon
Sami Gemayel on March 14 Anniversary: Lebanese Army Must be State's Only Army
Ghana committed to UNIFIL contribution: defense minister
Aoun meets Monsignor Caccia on eve of Vatican trip
Hariri Marks March 14 Uprising Anniversary
General Security Demands Media Precision about Agency News
Ambassador Richard Honors Lebanese Women in Security and Justice
Alan Aoun after Change and Reform bloc meeting: We shall defy all extension propositions
Army Commander, Ghanian Defense Minister hold talks
Khoury, Khamidi tackle cooperation prospects
Bou Assi receives Bulgarian, Cypriot Ambassadors
Riachi meets Audi: For media that respects listeners, viewers and readers
Jreissati, Lassen discuss judicial cooperation
Hariri invited to sponsor Annunciation celebration
UNESCO hosts First International Coordination Meeting for the recovery of Aleppo’s heritage
Aoun receives Ghana's Minister of Defense: We want to strengthen bilateral relations
Cabinet Schedules 'Final Session' on Budget Friday
Kuwaiti Daily: Missile, Arms Factories Built By IRGC In Lebanon Have Recently Been Handed Over To Hizbullah
Hezbollah must drop sectarian rhetoric, push for peace to save credibility: ICG

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published On March 14-15/17
Iran sends destroyer and warship to the Gulf of Aden
Emperor of Japan receives Saudi Arabia’s King Salman
New Round of Syria Peace Talks Opens without Rebels
Reports: Morocco Arrests Hizbullah-Linked Businessman at Washington's Request
Trump Meets Top Saudi Prince as Yemen War Rages
Turkey Slaps Sanctions on Dutch, Says EU Criticism 'Has no Value'
Russian elite units land on Egypt-Libya border
French Presidential Candidate Fillon Charged in Jobs Probe
French Presidential Candidate Fillon Charged in Jobs Probe
Iran Regime's Mercenaries in Syria Will Be Granted Iranian Citizenship
Former Iranian President's Strong Remarks Against Rouhani
Luxembourg Court Ruling & Iran's Concerns
Anwar Malik: Iranian Resistance Should Be Recognized as Legitimate Voice of Iranian People

Links From Jihad Watch Site for March 14-15/17
Why Canada’s “Prime Minister Dreamboat” will come to regret his embrace of refugees
King: “we can’t restore our civilisation with someone else’s babies”
Opposition grows against pro-Muslim Brotherhood Obama-era Mattis pick
Canada: McGill University student tweets: “Punch a Zionist today,” then claims victim status
Egypt: All art is “immoral,” says top cleric, known as a “moderate” around the world
New Book Fails to Convince that Islam Made America Great
France: Muslim migrant says of judges: “I’m going to go to court and shoot them all dead with a Kalashnikov”
Vermont: Mayor who plotted in secret to flood his town with Muslim migrants loses reelection bid
UK: Islamic books promoting jihad and killing of gays and adulterers sold openly
Tunisia: Imam leads jihad attack against police checkpoint, murdering police officer

Links From Christian Today Site On March 14-15/17
Pope Francis victim of 'fake news' story that God ordered him to change the Ten Commandments
Wrong' for Theresa May to block second independence vote, says Church of Scotland
Workers can be banned from wearing any religious symbol, top EU court rules
First ever Anglican Evensong service takes place at St Peter's Basilica in Rome
Trump envoy to meet Palestinian President as US tries to kickstart peace talks
Don't expect married priests from Pope Francis, Cardinal Vincent Nichols declares
Are atheists dying out because they use birth control and this means they have fewer children?
Most US Evangelicals Reject Female Leadership, Research Shows
Bill to decriminalise abortions passes first stage
Pope Francis may be 'backsliding' on paedophile crackdown

Latest Lebanese Related News published On March 14-15/17
Revolutionary Guard commander: Hezbollah more prepared than ever to attack Israel
Yasser Okbi/Maariv Hashavua/Jerusalem Post/March 14/17
In an interview to a Kuwaiti newspaper, the Iranian official revealed that Hezbollah has recently inherited new missile factories from Iran and is training intensely to prepare for an attack. As US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu both continue to apply pressure on Iran regarding its controversial, often-discussed nuclear capabilities, an assistant to a commander in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps revealed to Kuwaiti daily publication Al-Jarida that Hezbollah has raised its level of preparedness and is ready to launch a massive attack against Israel with lethal results. The Iranian commander explained that Iran has opened factories in Lebanon for the purpose of manufacturing long-range missiles as well as other munitions and has recently passed ownership of the factories to Hezbollah. Speaking exclusively to Al-Jarida, the Iranian official, who opted to remain anonymous, said that the decision to set up the factories in Lebanon was made due to "Israel's [alleged destruction] of munition factories in Sudan, as well as the damage caused to munition sources from Syria."Addressing the Shi'ite terror organization's repeated threat to launch rockets that could reach every part of the Jewish state, the official quoted Iranian Defense Minister Hoseein Dehghan who has recently heeded that Hezbollah was now capable of manufacturing rockets that could target every spot in Israel, from the very north to the southern border with Egypt. Speaking exclusively to Al-Jarida, the Iranian official, who opted to remain anonymous, said that the decision to set up the factories in Lebanon was made due to "Israel's [alleged destruction] of munition factories in Sudan, as well as the damage caused to munition sources from Syria."Addressing the Shi'ite terror organization's repeated threat to launch rockets that could reach every part of the Jewish state, the official quoted Iranian Defense Minister Hoseein Dehghan who has recently heeded that Hezbollah was now capable of manufacturing rockets that could target every spot in Israel, from the very north to the southern border with Egypt.

Change and Reform Asks Opponents of Bassil Proposal for 'Alternatives', Vows to 'Resist' 1960 Law, Extension
Naharnet/March 14/17/The Change and Reform parliamentary bloc announced Tuesday that it is “awaiting answers” regarding the latest electoral law format that was proposed by Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil, as it vowed to “resist” any attempt to impose the 1960 electoral law or another extension of parliament's term. “We are awaiting official answers from all parties, especially Hizbullah,” MP Alain Aoun announced after the bloc's weekly meeting in Rabieh. “We cannot wait any longer and any group that rejects the proposal must have an alternative suggestion and we are flexible regarding introducing amendments to what we have proposed,” Aoun added. “The responsibility falls on all the other forces to make initiatives and propose solutions to the crisis we are going through,” he went on to say. Stressing that the elections “will not be held under the 1960 law and there won't be an extension,” Aoun vowed that the bloc and the FPM will “resist” the two possibilities “through all constitutional means, starting by the presidency and the parliamentary bloc.”“We will prevent these possibilities and the entire people are with us and we won't accept a third extension of parliament's term,” the MP went on to say.
Bassil's proposal calls for electing 64 MPs according to the proportional representation system in five electorates whereas the other 64 would be elected by their respective sects under a winner-takes-all system in 14 electorates. 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.

Mustaqbal Says Only Legitimate Armed Forces Entitled to 'Protect Lebanese from Terror, Occupation'
Naharnet/March 14/17/Al-Mustaqbal parliamentary bloc stressed Tuesday that “only the army and the other security forces are entitled to possess arms to protect the Lebanese from terrorism and occupation.”In a statement issued after its weekly meeting, the bloc also underlined its “continued commitment to defending the right and sacrifices of the martyrs of the Cedar Revolution, topped by the martyr Rafik Hariri and his companions.”Separately, the bloc strongly condemned “the threats launched by some officials of the Israeli enemy against Lebanon and its state, institutions and infrastructure.”
“The Israeli enemy does not wait for justifications to aggress against Lebanon due to its ambitions and hostile record,” Mustaqbal said, while noting that “it is important to remain cautious regarding the enemy's intentions.”Israel “continues to work hard to benefit from any excuses or appropriate circumstances that it might exploit in order to launch attacks against Lebanon, which is the only stable oasis in the Arab region amid the extraordinary and destructive circumstances that are engulfing our Arab neighborhood,” the bloc warned.

Report: Iran Built Arms Factories for Hizbullah in Lebanon
Naharnet/March 14/17/mounting pressure on Iran from US President Donald Trump and the Israeli government led by Benjamin Netanyahu's administration, an Iranian aide to the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards said that Iran has established missiles and weapons factories in Lebanon that it handed over to the Hizbullah party, the Kuwaiti al-Jarida reported on Tuesday. A statement issued by the Iranian Defense Minister days ago said that Hizbullah has become able to manufacture missiles capable of targeting the entire Israeli territory, said the daily. An unnamed source who spoke on condition of anonymity told al-Jarida that after Israel destroyed years ago an Iranian weapons lab in Sudan, which provided Hizbullah with weapons, and after the bombed arms supplies moving to it through Syria, the Revolutionary Guards launched a project for the establishment of weapons factories in Lebanon.
According to the source, these factories are built at depths greater than 50 meters underground above which different layers of barricades are built to protect it from Israeli planes airstrikes. The source added, the factories were handed gradually to Hizbullah and three months ago they have become under the party's complete management and supervision, according to the daily.

Report: Bkirki Says Rahi's Remarks about Hizbullah Reflect Reality
Following statements made by Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi about Naharnet/March 14/17/Hizbullah's possession of arms, which triggered a flurry of reactions, Bkirki sources defended the Patriarch and stressed that he has described a reality and will not reconsider his position, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Tuesday. “Rahi has described the reality of the situation as for the Lebanese's separation over Hizbullah's involvement in fighting in Syria. He will not reconsider his position because everyone knows it's true,” Bkirki sources told al-Joumhouria on Tuesday. “The Patriarch has not attacked Hizbullah, he only described things as they are. He stressed that the party is part of Lebanon's structure,” they pointed. “Dialogue with Hizbullah has never been stopped. We only care about saving the situation and not drift into the unknown,” added the sources on condition of anonymity. They however denied reports claiming that Rahi's remarks were in response to President Michel Aoun's defensive statements about Hizbullah, they said: “Relations between Baabda and Bkrirki are unwavering.”In an interview with Sky News Arabia on Friday, Rahi stated that “Hizbullah has engaged in Syria's war without taking into consideration the State's dissociation policy. It has divided the Lebanese upon themselves, some supporting the step and others totally refusing it.” Hizbullah has deployed thousands of militants to fight alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces against Islamist-led rebels and jihadists and many Hizbullah members have been killed in Syria since the start of the conflict. The party argues that its intervention, which is controversial in Lebanon, was necessary to protect the country from extremist groups and to prevent the fall of Syria into the hands of hostile forces.

Sami Gemayel on March 14 Anniversary: Lebanese Army Must be State's Only Army
Naharnet/March 14/17/Kataeb Party chief MP Sami Gemayel stressed Tuesday that the Lebanese army must be the sole armed force in Lebanon, urging “respect for the constitution, the rotation of power and constitutional deadlines.”“We will not remain silent over any violation of Lebanon's sovereignty and we won't accept to renounce any iota of our independence,” Gemayel said during a Saifi rally marking the 2005 Independence Uprising. “We will continue our struggle through all the available means so that history does not go backwards,” Gemayel added, noting that “the current period is against history.”“The wheel of the State can turn in the right direction on the condition that we seek the building of a civilized, sovereign, independent and free State,” the Kataeb chief went on to say. Remembering “all of our fallen martyrs,” Gemayel reiterated his commitment to “the cause for which more than a million Lebanese took to the streets.”In an apparent reference to Hizbullah's controversial presence as an armed group, Gemayel added: “We want a State in which the Lebanese army is the only army, a state of law that respects the constitution, the rotation of power and constitutional deadlines.” “The same as we mark the first independence on November 22, we mark the second independence on this day, and despite isolation and persecution, we won't allow anything to affect the Lebanese cause for which we have made heavy sacrifices,” Gemayel said. “March 14's spirit is what builds Lebanon and when (political) calculations govern our behavior, we would stray away from the goal,” Gemayel went on to say.

Ghana committed to UNIFIL contribution: defense minister
The Daily Star/March 14/17/BEIRUT: Visiting Ghanaian Defense Minister Dominic Nitiwul Tuesday reaffirmed Ghana’s efforts to maintain peace and stability in southern Lebanon with UNIFIL, speaking during a meeting with President Michel Aoun. President Aoun echoed similar sentiments, expressing interest in further strengthening relations between the two countries and thanking Ghana for their contributions to UNIFIL.The two officials also discussed collaborating logistically to support counterterrorism operations. Lebanese Defense Minister Yaacoub Sarraf also met with Nitiwul and the Ghanaian minister later held talks with Army Commander Gen. Joseph Aoun. Talks with the army commander highlighted means of strengthening cooperation between the militaries of the two countries and operations conducted by the Ghanaian contingent in south Lebanon. Nitiwul will later inspect the Ghanaian peacekeeping force with UNIFIL in Lebanon. A total of 32 Ghanaian peacekeepers have been killed since their deployment, according to UNIFIL, both during the civil war and the war with Israel in 2006. There are approximately 10,000 UNIFIL military personnel in Lebanon from 40 different countries.

Aoun meets Monsignor Caccia on eve of Vatican trip
The Daily Star/March 14/17/BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun Tuesday met with Dean of the Diplomatic Corps in Lebanon Monsignor Gabriele Caccia on the eve of the Lebanese president’s trip to the Vatican. Aoun will travel to Rome on Wednesday on an official visit to the Vatican, where he will meet with Pope Francis, the president's press office said in a statement. The president will also meet with Pope's secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin and attend a mass at Saint Maron church at the Vatican. During his meeting with Aoun, Caccia stressed the Vatican's interest concerning Lebanon and Christian in the orient. He said that he discussed with Aoun matters of mutual interest.

Aoun receives Ghana's Minister of Defense: We want to strengthen bilateral relations
Tue 14 Mar 2017/NNA - President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, on Tuesday lauded the role of Ghana's UNIFIL contingent in the context of its mission to preserve security and stability and implement resolution 1701. The President, who met with Ghana's Minister of Defense, Dominic Bingab Aduna Nitiwal, currently on a visit to Lebanon to inspect UNIFIL's Ghanaian contingent, confirmed Lebanon's desire to strengthen relations between Lebanon and Ghana. Aoun asked the minister to congratulate his Ghanaian counterpart on his recent election as head of state, wishing him success in his mission. He also thanked Ghana for hosting the Lebanese Diaspora, for more than a hundred years ago, and for its support to Lebanon. For his part, the Ghanaian Minister said that the Ghanaian UNIFIL force would continue its mission of preserving peace in South Lebanon, noting that the policy of his country was constant in support of Lebanon.

Hariri Marks March 14 Uprising Anniversary
Naharnet/March 14/17/Prime Minister Saad Hariri marked the 12th anniversary of March 14 alliance on Tuesday and said it has set the foundations for Lebanon's free, sovereign and independent political life. “Today we celebrate March 14 Day, the day that founded our political life. On this day we called for freedom, sovereignty, independence, truth and justice,” said Hariri marking the occasion in a video released on social media. “Concerning truth and justice, we have now an international tribunal,” continued Hariri, referring to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon that was established to carry out investigation and prosecution of those responsible for the February 14, 2005 assassination of his father ex-PM Rafik Hariri. “I ask myself every day: How do we preserve sovereignty, independence and freedom? In order to achieve this, it is imperative that we protect Lebanon and the Lebanese, without whom we cannot preserve sovereignty, independence and freedom. This is why I am working day and night in my political life to preserve them.” He added: “I would like to say that this day remains engraved in my mind, in my life and my heart, and I hope that it will remain engraved in your hearts and minds too.”March 14 coalition takes its name from the historic demonstration in downtown Beirut's Martyrs Square on March 14, 2005 that ultimately led to the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon in the aftermath of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri's assassination. Several political and media figures were also killed or escaped assassination after Hariri's Feb. 2005 murder.

General Security Demands Media Precision about Agency News

Naharnet/March 14/17/The General Directorate of General Security issued a statement on Tuesday requesting Lebanon's media outlets to commit to accuracy when reporting news about the agency. “Some visual, printed and audio media outlets, and electronic news websites are reporting inaccurate reports about the work of the Directorate and are incorrectly referring it to sources in the agency,” the statement read. “The General Directorate of General Security urges all media outlets to commit to accuracy and not to publish or exchange any news related to the work of the Directorate without validating the information,” said the statement.

Ambassador Richard Honors Lebanese Women in Security and Justice
Tue 14 Mar 2017/NNA - U.S. Ambassador Elizabeth Richard held a reception on March 14, to honor and showcase the positive contributions of Lebanese women in security and the rule of law, and to celebrate the dynamic, diverse, and positive roles that women play in society.
The event brought together judges, prosecutors, members of the ISF, and representatives of international organizations and embassies in Lebanon. Minister of Interior Mashnouq, Minister of State for Women's Affairs Jean Ogassapian and other representatives of the Government of Lebanon also attended. In her remarks, Ambassador Richard highlighted the value of diversity in our cultures, including gender, cultural, religious, and ethnic diversity, for building stronger, more stable and more prosperous societies. The Ambassador added that working with people from different backgrounds and different perspectives enhances everyone's balance and vision. She closed her remarks by recognizing the ISF members, judges and prosecutors for their commitment to public service and for serving as role models for younger generations, and underscored that the United States will remain a strong partner in support of security, stability, and the rule of law in Lebanon.

Alan Aoun after Change and Reform bloc meeting: We shall defy all extension propositions
Tue 14 Mar 2017/NNA - "Change and Reform" bloc member, MP Alain Aoun, said that the bloc awaits all the answers to its latest electoral law format, voicing rejection of the 1960 poll law and mandate extension for the third term. "We shall defy all these propositions through the constitutional means," MP Aoun said in the wake of the bloc's weekly meeting every Tuesday, adding that they are awaiting an official answer from the other parties on the proposed electoral law, especially Hezbollah. On tomorrow's legislative session, Aoun pointed out "we are in front of an opportunity to endorse the wage scale," stressing that the bloc fights corruption and over-expenditures.

Army Commander, Ghanian Defense Minister hold talks
Tue 14 Mar 2017/NNA - Army chief, Joseph Aoun met on Tuesday at his Yarze office with the Ghanaian Defense Minister, Dominic Nitiwul, accompanied by the Chief of Staff, Obed Boamah Akwa, and discussed ways to boost bilateral ties between the armies of both countries. Also, Aoun received US Ambassador to Lebanon, Elizabeth Richard, and tackled cooperation between both armies and the US aid program. Separately, Aoun met with the Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon, Mohamad Fathali, with talks featuring high on the general situation in Lebanon and the region. On the other hand, Aoun met with Director General of the Internal Security Forces, Major General Imad Othman. Discussions touched on the security situation in the country as well as coordination between both institutions.

Khoury, Khamidi tackle cooperation prospects
Tue 14 Mar 2017/NNA - Culture Minister Dr. Ghattas Khoury received on Tuesday at his ministerial office Indonesian Ambassador to Lebanon, Ahmed Khan Khamidi, with talks reportedly touching on most recent developments and bilateral relations. Both also discussed cultural cooperation to promote mutual understanding between the peoples of both countries and exchange of expertise in the subject of civilizations' characteristics of Lebanon and Indonesia.

Bou Assi receives Bulgarian, Cypriot Ambassadors

Tue 14 Mar 2017/NNA - Social Affairs Minister, Pierre Bou Assi, met on Tuesday with Bulgarian Ambassador to Lebanon, Petko Dimitrov, over issues of common interests and frameworks of future cooperation between the two countries in terms of social affairs. Minister Bou Assi also received Cypriot Ambassador to Lebanon, Christina Rafti, with talks dwelling on the relation between the ministry of Social Affairs and Cyprus.

Riachi meets Audi: For media that respects listeners, viewers and readers
Tue 14 Mar 2017/NNA - Minister of Information, Melhem Riachi, said on Tuesday that "the efforts exerted to protect freedom and ethics of the media aims at maintaining this profession and its respect for listeners, viewers and readers."Riachi made these remarks at the end of his meeting with the metropolitan of Beirut for Orthodox Greeks, Elias Audi, at the archbishopric in Ashrafieh. The minister denied the meeting being focused on the electoral law, adding that "discussions have dwelled on the factors that realize fair representation and the logic of justice that must predominate over any other consideration."

Jreissati, Lassen discuss judicial cooperation
Tue 14 Mar 2017/NNA - Justice Minister, Salim Jreissati received at his office this Tuesday Head of the EU Delegation in Lebanon, Ambassador Christina Lassen, with talks focusing on the status of the judicial system in Lebanon, and the provision of judicial services and support by the European Union through the many judicial reform programs. Lassen stressed, according to a statement issued by her press office that "the European Union remains the largest donor to the judicial system in Lebanon through programs worth more than thirty million Euros, and through the support made for these programs." Lassen reiterated, in this regard, her support for "the continued efforts made by the Ministry of Justice to enhance the efficiency of the Lebanese judicial system, in line with the priorities of the partnership signed in 2016 between the EU and Lebanon for the years 2017-2020, which include good governance and the rule of law."

Hariri invited to sponsor Annunciation celebration

Tue 14 Mar 2017/NNA - The President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri received today at the Grand Serail, in the presence of Dr. Daoud Sayegh, a delegation from the Islamic-Christian association "Together around Mary, our Lady" that included: Sheikh Mohammad Nokkari and Mr. Naji Khoury. They handed him an invitation to sponsor the ceremony that will be held at the Notre-Dame Church of Jamhour on Saturday, March 25. It is worth mentioning that the previous government of Prime Minister Hariri took the decision of consecrating the Annunciation on March 25 of each year as a national holiday.
Research centers
Hariri also received a delegation from the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies that included the center's director Sami Atallah and Ms. Rania Abi Habib. The meeting focused on how the government and public administrations can benefit from the studies conducted by the center, especially about job creation, governance of oil and gas and improving industrial exports. Hariri also received a delegation from the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs (at the AUB), headed by Former Minister Tarek Mitri, who briefed him on the activities of the institute.
National women commission
Hariri also met with Mrs. Claudine Aoun Roukoz who said that the meeting dealt with the preparations to issue a decree related to the National Commission for Women's Affairs. Earlier, he met with students from the "Tebbene high school" from Tripoli while they were on tour in the Grand Serail. He answered their questions and took souvenir photos with them.

UNESCO hosts First International Coordination Meeting for the recovery of Aleppo’s heritage
Tue 14 Mar 2017/NNA - UNESCO brought together Syrian stakeholders and international experts to evaluate damage to historic monuments including the citadel, madrasa al-sultaniya, grand serail, and souk of the Ancient City of Aleppo, a World Heritage site, and to strategize Aleppo's recovery during a Technical and Coordination Meeting convened by UNESCO in Beirut, Lebanon from 2-3 March, 2017.The meeting also aimed to map existing national coordination mechanisms, overview ongoing and planned national and international initiatives, and reflect on a common framework for the rehabilitation and safeguarding of Aleppo's cultural heritage. Representatives of the Syrian Directorate General of Antiquities and Museums (DGAM), the Aleppo City Council, the Ministry of Tourism, the Directorate of Aleppo Awqaf (Ministry of religious endowments), NGOs and universities, presented the legal, technical and scientific initiatives undertaken to safeguard Aleppo's cultural heritage, including damage assessment, documentation, and first-aid measures for unstable structures facing collapse or further degradation. The Director of the UNESCO Regional Office in Beirut, Hamed Al Hammami, stressed that "Syria's national and local stakeholders have successfully started working in a tremendously difficult context, and future recovery and rehabilitation efforts must advance in order, with extreme care and precision."Syrian stakeholders requested that local, national and international efforts be coordinated on the ground, to ensure that urgent safeguarding measures for cultural heritage are undertaken as soon as possible. "UNESCO is fully committed to the protection, conservation, and rehabilitation of the cultural heritage of Aleppo and is ready to facilitate technical guidance and coordination which has been requested by Syrian stakeholders, in line with the needs and priorities identified by them," said Lazare Eloundou, Deputy Director of the Division for Heritage and the World Heritage Centre at UNESCO Headquarters. Among the main outcomes of the meeting, it was agreed that UNESCO will provide the framework for the coordination of all culture-related recovery efforts for Aleppo. A specific UNESCO unit is being set up in Aleppo to serve as a consultation mechanism, and a comprehensive Action Plan will be finalized in a follow-up meeting, which will take place in Aleppo on 15 March. The Beirut meeting was supported by UNESCO's Heritage Emergency Fund.------UNESCO

Aoun receives Ghana's Minister of Defense: We want to strengthen bilateral relations
Tue 14 Mar 2017/NNA - President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, on Tuesday lauded the role of Ghana's UNIFIL contingent in the context of its mission to preserve security and stability and implement resolution 1701.The President, who met with Ghana's Minister of Defense, Dominic Bingab Aduna Nitiwal, currently on a visit to Lebanon to inspect UNIFIL's Ghanaian contingent, confirmed Lebanon's desire to strengthen relations between Lebanon and Ghana. Aoun asked the minister to congratulate his Ghanaian counterpart on his recent election as head of state, wishing him success in his mission. He also thanked Ghana for hosting the Lebanese Diaspora, for more than a hundred years ago, and for its support to Lebanon. For his part, the Ghanaian Minister said that the Ghanaian UNIFIL force would continue its mission of preserving peace in South Lebanon, noting that the policy of his country was constant in support of Lebanon.

Cabinet Schedules 'Final Session' on Budget Friday
Naharnet/March 14/17/An evening cabinet meeting devoted to study and approve Lebanon's 2017 state budget, did not finalize the needed discussions as anticipated by Prime Minister Saad Hariri who scheduled a final session for Friday to endorse the plan for the first time in 12 years, reports said on Tuesday. Hariri chaired the cabinet meeting which convened Monday afternoon at the Grand Serail and was adjourned at 10:45 p.m. A final session was scheduled “to review some of the figures as a prelude to raising the budget to the parliament,” Information Minister Melhem Riachi told reporters after the meeting.
“The suggested reforms for the budget have been approved. On Friday we will review the budget strategy in order to present it to the Parliament. It will be the first approved budget in 12 years since the absence of a budget from the Lebanese treasury and the Lebanese State's financial strategy,” added Riachi.
The Minister added that an agreement between the minsters has been reached that within ten days and at the first cabinet meeting, the Energy Minister would submit a plan to resuscitate the energy sector, “it would save more than $1 billion annually,” said Riachi. The cabinet has been meeting for several weeks now in a bid to approve the budget plan after it has been stalled for 12 years due to conflicts between the rival political parties. Lebanon has not approved a state budget since 2005 and its public debt has amounted to around $70 billion.

Kuwaiti Daily: Missile, Arms Factories Built By IRGC In Lebanon Have Recently Been Handed Over To Hizbullah
MEMRI/March 14/17
The Kuwaiti daily Al-Jarida reported on March 11, 2017, citing an aid to Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), that Iran established facilities for manufacturing missiles and other weapons in Lebanon and has recently handed them over to the management and oversight of Hizbullah. According to the daily's source, the facilities are more than 50 meters underground and heavily shielded against aerial attacks. He also clarified that various parts of the missiles are manufactured in different factories and then assembled together.
The following is a translation of the report:[1]
The Al-Jarida report
With Iran facing growing pressures from the Donald Trump administration and the Israeli government under Binyamin Netanyahu, an aid to the IRGC commander told Al-Jarida that Iran has built factories [for manufacturing] missiles and [other] weapons in Lebanon and has recently turned them over to Hizbullah. In response to statements by Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan several days ago – who said that Hizbullah is capable of manufacturing missiles [that can] hit any part of Israel [but] gave no details or explanations – a knowledgeable source who wished to remain anonymous said that, after Israel destroyed an Iranian arms factory in Sudan several years ago that had supplied arms to Hizbullah, and after [Israel also] bombed an arms convoy that was intended to reach Hizbullah via Syria, the IRGC launched a project for establishing arms factories in Lebanon [itself]. [The source] also claimed that a special department has been established at the IRGC's Imam Hossein University [in Tehran] to train Lebanese and other experts, and that hundreds of experts have already been trained.
"According to the source, the factories are more than 50 meters underground, and above them are several layers of shielding so that Israeli planes cannot hit them. Moreover, manufacture of the missiles does not take place in one factory; different parts are built in different factories and then assembled together. He added that the transfer of the factories to Hizbullah's [management] was gradual but that they have been under full Hizbullah management and oversight for three months now.
"The source stressed that Hizbullah is able to manufacture several kinds of missiles, some with a range of over 500 km, including surface-to-surface and surface-to-sea missiles; torpedoes launched from light high-speed boats; spy drones and [attack] drones armed with weapons and rockets; anti-tank missiles, and fast armored boats. He clarified that weapons produced in these plants have been used in the Syria war and were proved to be effective. Anti-tank missiles managed to destroy car bombs that targeted Hizbullah fighters. He [also] noted that Hizbullah manufactures cannon, machine guns, anti-aircraft guns, mortars, and various [other] missiles and bullets, especially armor-piercing ones..."
[1] Al-Jarida (Kuwait), March 11, 2017.

Hezbollah must drop sectarian rhetoric, push for peace to save credibility: ICG
MEE staff/Tuesday 14 March 2017
Switch to fighting a war that divides the Arab world damages the group's credibility across the region - and among its own fighters, research finds
Hezbollah risks alienating its core support network if it continues to pursue its current strategy in Syria, a report based on interviews with sources inside and close to the group said on Tuesday.
The new report released by the International Crisis Group (ICG), entitled “Hezbollah’s Syria Conundrum” and released to coincide with the resumption of peace talks in Kazakh capital Astana, highlights the Lebanese militant group’s manpower and discipline headaches, suggesting that it has an interest in toning down its sectarian rhetoric and giving real backing to the peace process.
“When Hezbollah threw its fighters into Syria in 2013, it fought primarily to save itself,” the report finds.
“Had the Assad regime collapsed or been defeated by US-backed regional powers, it could have faced a hostile Sunni successor in Damascus and lost its essential arms channel from Iran.
“Today, its core objective of preserving the regime has been met, but there is no end in sight to the war.”
In order to avoid being dragged further into the Syrian “quagmire” – in which Hezbollah has already lost over 1,600 fighters – Hezbollah must enter talks with some rebel groups, stop launching new offensives and tone down sectarian rhetoric, the report finds.
The sectarian rhetoric employed during the war so far, the report finds, has severely damaged the group’s credibility and reputation.
“From a ‘party of the oppressed’ and a Lebanon-based and centred ‘resistance’ movement standing up to Israel, it has projected itself across the border and morphed into a powerful regional force.
“Once acclaimed by Arabs for struggle against a common enemy, most recently in the 2006 Lebanon war, it is [now] widely viewed as a sectarian Shia militia and, in parts of Syria, a ruthless occupier.”
It has also, the ICG writes, left discipline and morale among frontline fighters under threat.
“Of course I wish we were fighting Israel and not in a conflict that is dividing the Arab world,” one fighter told ICG researchers.
A former fighter who had engaged in battles with Israel told researchers that fighters in the current battle were less committed, and less religiously disciplined.
“Our generation used to pray the entire night before going into battle. Now, you see some of these guys spending their days in cafes smoking shisha before they go off to Syria.”
An Iraqi cleric with close ties to Hezbollah told researchers that the lack of discipline among Hezbollah fighters in Syria was down to the fact that only sectarian, rather than political, rhetoric was being used to encourage young men to join the battle.
“What would push young [Lebanese] Shias to fight in Syria? Very few would go for Bashar’s sake, or even Iran’s.
“It’s a single stone of the [Shia] Sayyida Zeinab shrine [in Damascus] that mobilises them.”
The cleric also warned that, if the group continues to focus on purely sectarian rhetoric to swell support for its military engagement in Syria, it could have “dangerous” consequences for the region.
“This could be very dangerous in the long run. One day, leaders may sit around the negotiating table, but it will be very difficult to heal broken spirits from this sectarian rift.”

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published On March 14-15/17
Iran sends destroyer and warship to the Gulf of Aden
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishTuesday, 14 March 2017
In a provocative move, Iran announced sending the “45 Group” of the Iranian Naval Force, which consists of a ship and a destroyer to the Gulf of Aden and Bab al-Mandab. The tension caused by the continued friction between the Iranian gunboats and US forces located in international waters is due to the persistent attempts of Iran to assist and provide the Yemeni militia with weapons. Tasnim news agency, the subsidiary to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, claimed that “Iranian warships are going to the Gulf of Aden and Bab al Mandab “in an effort to maintain the Iranian merchant ships,” currently docked at the Omani ports. Ever since Operation Decisive Storm, launched by the Arab coalition under the leadership of Saudi Arabia in March 2015 to regain legitimacy in Yemen, the Iranian navy has stepped up its provocative moves against US forces in the region. According to observers, Iran aims to control the corridors of international navigation in order to continue to tamper with and send weapons to its allies in the region like the Houthi Militia in Yemen, the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria and the Hezbollah Militia in Lebanon. On January 8, there was a naval confrontation between an American destroyer and boats of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the area of the Strait of Hormuz. The US destroyer fired warning shots toward the boats. This was not a first. Very often, Iranian boats approach American ships in the region and do not answer wireless connections conducted by the American ship neither do they disclose their intentions.

Emperor of Japan receives Saudi Arabia’s King Salman
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishTuesday, 14 March 2017/Japan’s Emperor Akihito on Tuesday received at his palace in Tokyo King Salman bin Abdulaziz and awarded the king a medal. A statement from the Saudi Press Agency said: “The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques expressed pleasure for visiting Japan and meeting the emperor. The emperor awarded the king a Daisy High Medal in appreciation of King Salman. It added that the emperor hosted a special luncheon that was also attended by Saudi Minister of State and Member of the Cabinet Dr. Ibrahim bin Abdulaziz Al-Assaf. The Saudi king is visiting Japan as part of his Asia tour, which has seen him travel to Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia. He is next expected to visit China.

New Round of Syria Peace Talks Opens without Rebels
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 14/17/A third round of Russian-backed talks on the Syrian war opened in the Kazakh capital Astana on Tuesday without armed rebel groups, leaving little hope for a breakthrough in ending the six-year conflict. The talks, sponsored by regime allies Russia and Iran and rebel-backer Turkey, come as other diplomatic efforts to end the bloodshed have proved fruitless. Regime negotiator Bashar al-Jaafari, Syria's ambassador to the UN, slammed the decision by the rebels to snub the talks but insisted that progress could still be made in their absence. "We are eager to ensure the success of the Astana path... whether or not the armed factions attend," Jaafari was quoted as saying by Syria's SANA news agency. "The failure of the armed factions to attend Astana shows the indecency of their politics."More than 320,000 people have been killed and millions forced to flee their homes since the conflict erupted in March 2011 with protests against President Bashar al-Assad's rule. Jaafari said the regime delegation had come to Astana primarily to meet with Russia and Iran, and not armed opposition groups. He said that the sides would discuss "separating the opposition from the terrorists", SANA reported. Previous rounds of talks in Astana were focused on bolstering a frail nationwide truce brokered by Moscow and Ankara in December that has been jeopardised by fighting across swathes of Syria. A Syrian rebel spokesman on Monday said the delegation was skipping the Astana talks because of the regime's "unfulfilled pledges related to the cessation of hostilities". Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday that the Astana talks were "from time to time truly complicated by the existing differences in the different sides' approaches". A new round of negotiations in Geneva is set to begin on March 23 and will focus on governance, the constitution, elections, counter-terrorism and possibly reconstruction, according to the UN's Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura.

Reports: Morocco Arrests Hizbullah-Linked Businessman at Washington's Request
Naharnet/March 14/17/Prominent Lebanese businessman Qassem Tajeddine, who is close to Hizbullah, has been arrested in Morocco at Washington's request, media reports said on Tuesday. LBCI television said Tajeddine, 61, was arrested at Casablanca's airport on Monday morning. Information obtained by LBCI said the arrest was made “at the request of U.S. intelligence.”MTV said Tajeddine arrived at Casablanca's airport from Africa and was scheduled to travel to Beirut aboard a Royal Air Maroc plane. Residents of the southern town of Hanaway, Tajeddine's hometown, described the arrest as a “kidnap,” noting that “U.S. intelligence agencies have pressed Morocco to detain him.”According to MTV, Tajeddine's family has communicated with the Foreign Ministry and Minister Jebran Bassil is “following up on the case in person.”“Speaker Nabih Berri has also been following up on the issue from the very first moment,” MTV added. Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat had on Monday urged Lebanese authorities to follow up on the case. “Regardless of the motives and circumstances behind Hajj Qassem Tajeddine's arrest, logic says that our State should ask about him,” Jumblat tweeted. The man and his brothers, Hussein and Ali, have been blacklisted by the United States since 2009. According to reports, the U.S. Treasury has put him on its sanctions lists and accused him of laundering money and using the funds to “support terrorist activities.”Tajeddine is also accused of running several companies that “cover up for Hizbullah's activities in Africa.”Angola had frozen the economic activities of the Tajeddine family in recent years, “also at Washington's request,” media reports have said. Together with his two brothers, Qassem Tajeddine has built a global foodstuffs and real estate network in several countries across the world. The man is also involved in real estate projects in Lebanon. In 2003, he was jailed for two months in Belgium where he was interrogated over charges of “laundering money on behalf of Hizbullah

Trump Meets Top Saudi Prince as Yemen War Rages

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 14/17/U.S. President Donald Trump hosted Saudi Arabia's powerful Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the White House Tuesday, for talks expected to focus on the economy and rolling back Iranian influence. Trump welcomed the young prince to the Oval Office, as both countries expect to improve ties that were frequently strained under Barack Obama's administration. Saudi Arabia is likely to welcome Trump's harder line on its arch-rival Iran and there is likely to be less friction over Riyadh's war against Iranian-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen. Saudi Arabia viewed Obama as being too accommodating towards Iran -- particularly amid negotiations on a nuclear deal -- while Washington held grave misgivings about civilian deaths in Yemen. Trump's 50-plus days in office have given little indication about his stance on Saudi Arabia's war, but have seen a dramatic uptick in U.S. action against al-Qaida's Yemen offshoot -- AQAP. Second in line to the throne, Prince Mohammed is the son of King Salman and holds the post of defense minister, although much of his focus is on economic issues. He is the chief proponent of Vision 2030, a wide-ranging social and economic reform plan begun last year to diversify the oil dependent economy. He has also played a key role in the Yemen campaign. Trump has expressed hope that Saudi Arabia and other Gulf allies can be helpful across a range of issues, from creating safe zones in Syria to solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Riyadh is also seen by the White House as pivotal in any effort to constrain Iran's influence across the Middle East. But that strategy has been widely questioned. "Anyone experiencing these visions ought to lie down and wait quietly until the sensation passes," warned Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolsky -- foreign policy advisors to Republican and Democratic administrations. The pair warned in a Washington Post opinion editorial that "the president is likely to find that his vision of U.S. interests, let alone strategy, doesn't mesh with that of the Arabs on whom he's relying."Experts familiar with the region have also warned that any robust effort to counter Iran must be well thought through -- as Tehran is likely to hit back at U.S. interests asymmetrically and in a non-attributable way.

Turkey Slaps Sanctions on Dutch, Says EU Criticism 'Has no Value'
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 14/17/Turkey on Tuesday rejected EU criticism of its stance in the intensifying crisis with the Netherlands as having "no value", after Ankara downgraded relations with The Hague and banned its ambassador from returning. In a dramatic escalation after the Netherlands prevented two Turkish ministers from holding rallies ahead of a referendum on strengthening President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's powers, Ankara said it was suspending high-level relations with the Hague in a raft of diplomatic sanctions. Erdogan also lashed out at German Chancellor Angela Markel for "supporting terrorists" as she backed the Netherlands in the increasingly acrimonious standoff, prompting an exasperated response from Berlin. The dispute risks harming Turkey's entire relationship with the European Union, which it has sought to join for the last half century in an agonisingly
- 'New Nazism trend' -Tensions have increased between Berlin and the Hague with Turkey after Erdogan repeatedly described the actions against Turkish officials as reminiscent of the Nazis. His comments sparked particular outrage in the Netherlands, a country bombed and occupied by German forces in World War II. The United States urged the NATO allies to resolve their row, with a State Department official saying "we'd just ask that they not escalate the situation any further and work together to resolve it."EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn called on Turkey to "refrain from excessive statements and actions that risk further exacerbating the situation."But the Turkish foreign ministry hit back by saying: "The EU's short-sighted statement has no value for our country.""Our EU counterparts apply democratic values, fundamental rights and freedoms selectively," the ministry added. Paying no need to the EU's warning, Erdogan had bluntly told the German chancellor on Turkish television late Monday: "Mrs Merkel, you are supporting terrorists." In an interview with A-Haber television, he accused Berlin of not responding to 4,500 dossiers sent by Ankara on terror suspects, including those linked to Kurdish militants and the failed coup in Turkey last year. "Mrs Merkel, why are you hiding terrorists in your country?... Why are you not doing anything?"
Erdogan went on, saying what was happening in Europe was "Nazism, we can call this neo-Nazism. A new Nazism tendency".
Merkel's spokesman described the accusations as "absurd", saying the chancellor had no intention of taking part in a "competition of provocations".
Turkey's EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik also said Ankara "should re-evaluate" a key part of a 2016 deal to stem the flow of migrants to the EU.
- 'Envoy's return blocked' -Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said after a cabinet meeting in Ankara that Turkey will not allow the Dutch ambassador to return until the Netherlands meets conditions over holding rallies. Ambassador Kees Cornelis van Rij is currently outside of the country, and business is being handled by Dutch charge d'affaires.Kurtulmus added: "Until the Netherlands compensates for what it has done, high-level relations and planned meetings at a ministerial and higher level have been suspended."He said Turkey expected an administrative and legal investigation into the events over the past few days, including the use of police officers on horseback and dogs to regain control after a protest outside the Turkish consulate in the city of Rotterdam.
The move by the Netherlands to block the rallies by Turkish minister comes as Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte prepares to face the far-right populist Geert Wilders in a general election on Wednesday.
Turkey is also gearing up for a key April 16 poll to decide whether to approve constitutional changes that would create an executive presidency, boosting Erdogan's powers. In a bid to woo support, Turkish officials have sought to address to their citizens living in Europe, where a majority have traditionally supported the ruling party. In Germany, there are over 1.4 million Turkish citizens eligible to vote while there are nearly 250,000 in the Netherlands based on official figures from November 2015.

Russian elite units land on Egypt-Libya border
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 14, 2017/Russian elite units armed with attack drones were detected on Tuesday, March 14 landing at the big Egyptian air base of Sidi Barrani in the Western Desert near the Libyan border, US military sources reported The incoming Russian troops took up position 95 km from the Libyan border and 240km from the eastern Libyan oil and gas terminals at Tobruk port in eastern Libya. They arrived after their Libyan ally suffered a major defeat. On March 3, Gen. Khalifa Hafter’s Libyan National Army (LNA) militia was attacked in the central region by the rival Benghazi Defense Brigades and driven out of five towns, including the country’s biggest oil terminals at Ras Sidi and Ras Lanuf. Officials in Washington, Moscow and Cairo declined to comment on whether or not the Russians had acted in coordination the Trump administration.
According to debkafile’s military sources, the Russians an Egyptians appear to be preparing to support a counter-offensive by Hafter’s militia to recover the oil facilities. For some months now, Moscow, Cairo and Qatar have been working together to bolster Gen. Haftar, who strongly challenges the UN-backed government of Tripoli. His LNA has taken delivery of Russian fighter jets and tanks, while the Egyptian air force has bombed the mostly Islamist militias fighting him, some of them branches of the Islamic State or Al Qaeda.
Although Haftar’s troops are engaged in battle with rival militias across a broad swathe of territory, from Sirte in central Libya to Tobruk in the east, his main objective is to seize control of the oil and gas fields and refineries in the eastern ports. For President Vladimir Putin, support for Gen, Hafter is a key step in Russia’s military and strategic reach for footholds across the Middle East. He has chosen Tobruk as the next Russian air and naval base in the Mediterranean as a counterpoint to Latakia in Syria. Hafter’s LNA will provide protection.
debkafile first picked up on this development three months ago, when our military sources spotted the Russian aircraft carrier, Admiral Kuznetsov leaving Syrian waters and heading west. The carrier sailed into Tobruk port on Jan. 12. Gen. Hafter was invited on board for a tour of the ship’s facilities and connected to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in his Moscow office for a videotaped chat. This was an exceptional gesture on Moscow’s part in support of a controversial Middle East figure. More recently, the Libyan general visited Cairo to discuss the details of cooperation between the Egyptian army and the LNA with President Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi.

French Presidential Candidate Fillon Charged in Jobs Probe
Tue 14 Mar 2017/NNA - French presidential candidate Francois Fillon was given preliminary charges Tuesday in an investigation of taxpayer-funded jobs his wife and children received but allegedly never performed. The charges further damage the former prime minister's chances at winning the two-round April 23-May 7 presidential election in which he once was viewed as the leading contender. Investigating judges filed the charges Tuesday, Celine Clement-Petremann of the national financial prosecutor's office said. It was a surprise move — Fillon had said the judges summoned him for Wednesday, but they apparently moved up the decision. Fillon is accused of misusing public funds, receiving money from the misuse of public funds, complicity in misusing public funds and improper declaration of assets, among other charges, the prosecutor's office said. Fillon has denied wrongdoing and vowed to continue his campaign.
While it is legal in France for politicians to hire family members for legitimate jobs, the case against Fillion hinges on whether parliamentary positions he gave to his wife, Penelope, and two of their five children were real or fictitious. Fillon's family members insist they did the work for which they were generously paid. Legally, Fillon's case is about to enter into a new phase. Politically, the conservative candidate intends to keep campaigning. Fillon initially said he would quit the presidential race if he were charged. However, he later decided to maintain his candidacy, explaining he has the legitimate winner of the conservative primary and that his Republicans party had no plan B to replace him as the nominee. The decision caused a deep rift within the party, prompting many to abandon his campaign. "There is only one thing that exists in a democracy: it's the people's will. The French will choose", he said Monday in a news conference.
Once a front-runner of the presidential campaign, Fillon has seen his popularity drop following successive waves of revelations in French newspaper reports since January. The allegations over the allegedly illusory jobs have been particularly damaging to his campaign because Fillon used to tout his reputation for probity. "Those who don't respect the laws of the Republic should not be allowed to run. There's no point in talking about authority when one's not beyond reproach," he said while running for the conservative nomination. Independent centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron has overtaken Fillion in pre-election polls, increasingly appearing as the new front-runner. Another top contender also has caught the attention of judicial investigators. Far-right leader Marine Le Pen and some members of her National Front party are targeted in several ongoing investigations. Last week, Le Pen refused to appear before judges in a case concerning her European parliamentary aides. Polls show Le Pen is likely to reach the second round of the election.-----AP

Iran Regime's Mercenaries in Syria Will Be Granted Iranian Citizenship
NCRI/ Tuesday, 14 March 2017 /As the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) agreed to grant Iranian citizenship to the mercenaries fighting in Syria, the Head of the Foundation of Martyrs and Veterans Affairs announced that granting citizenship to these people was ordered by the Iranian regime’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. In an interview with the state-run Javan News on March 12th, Mohammad Ali Shahidi stated that Ali Khamenei in a meeting asked him to grant Iranian citizenship to Fatemiyoun Division forces. This division consists of Afghan mercenaries and Zainebiyoun Brigade includes Pakistani mercenaries residing in Iran and fighting to defend the Assad regime in Syria. According to the reports, Khamenei stressed that: “we are obliged to keep these families. Therefore, make sure to grant them the Iranian citizenship. They shall also be covered by the Foundation of Martyrs."
In this regard also, the Head of the Foundation of Martyrs in Razavi Khorasan Province, Abedin Abedi-Moghaddam on Monday, March 6th announced that the SNSC agreed with a proposal of Khamenei's representative in the Province, Ahmad Alamolhoda to grant Iranian citizenship to the first-degree relatives of the so called foreign Defenders of the Shrine. Hours after the news released, the Secretariat of the SNSC called the speeches given by the Head of the Martyrs' Foundation of Razavi Khorasan Province as "inaccurate". In fact, the Secretariat neither confirmed nor disproved these speeches.
Earlier, the current Spokesman of the Ministry of Interior, Hossein-Ali Amiri, delivered a speech regarding the decisions of the SNSC to grant Iranian citizenship to the families of those foreigners killed in fighting in Syria. On September 27th 2015 in an open session of the Parliament, he had announced that the plan of "granting Iranian citizenship to the children of non-Iranian martyrs" does not require approval. As Hossein-Ali Amiri stated, the Foundation of Martyrs will resolve the problems of those who do service for the goals of the Islamic Revolution within the framework of legislation and regulations.
The current Spokesman of the Ministry of Interior had earlier announced that there are 230 cases related to this issue in this Ministry. The regime's officials did not provide an exact figure regarding those Afghan forces killed in Syria. The head of the Foundation of Martyrs in Qom Province, Javad Hashemi in a meeting with the families of those mercenaries of Fatemiyoun and Zainebiyoun Brigades said that 235 people have been killed in the Syrian civil war and were buried there as well. The Wall Street Journal had earlier reported that Iran pays five hundred dollars a month and gives residence permits to thousands of Afghan refugees in order to hire them for fighting in Syria for the Assad regime. The Head of the Foundation of Martyrs in part of his speech reiterated that 2 thousand forces of the Defenders of Shrine have been killed in the past two years and 10 thousand members of their families in average have been covered by the Foundation of the Martyrs. It is noteworthy that the Iranian officials employ the word "the Martyrs of the Shrine Defenders" for those Afghan and Pakistani mercenaries affiliated with the Iran regime and have been killed during the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

Former Iranian President's Strong Remarks Against Rouhani
NCRI/ Tuesday, 14 March 2017/On the verge of Iran’s presidential elections, former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivered a speech using strong remarks against President Hassan Rouhani. “My silence will not continue… Our silence doesn’t mean we are neglecting issues. When the time comes there will be serious measures. Why doesn’t anybody say anything to them? Who made you so rude to talk like this?” he asked. “Everyone has the right to participate in the elections and no one should say who should come and who shouldn’t,” he said in remarks aimed at Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Khamenei had previously confirmed telling Ahmadinejad it is better he not take part in the elections. In 2013 Rouhani issued a report saying his government had taken over the treasury with around 1.3 trilllion tomans (around $335 million) available and a long list of debts. Rouhani then went on to speak of empty warehouses in Iran. During the past three years Rouhani and his cabinet officials have time and again lashed at Ahmadinejad’s tenure, blaming his own cabinet’s problems on the results of Ahmadinejad’s government.

Luxembourg Court Ruling & Iran's Concerns
NCRI/ Tuesday, 14 March 2017/Le Monde published a piece on Iran’s frozen $1.6 billion in Luxembourg banks. Iran, facing numerous obstacles in its path to establish links with European banks, is angry of its revenue being blocked in such methods. A cat and mouse game and 10-year dispute pursued by a number of American lawyers against Iran’s Central Bank has now spread to Europe. From 20 years ago American courts have registering $50 billion in compensation so far through issuing rulings in response to terrorist attacks related to the Lebanese Hezbollah, an ally of Iran.
The response of the Iranian regime’s elements and media continues on the confiscation of this $1.6 billion. “The government must confiscate $1.6 billion of Luxembourg’s assets. Plundering Iran’s assets are against the fundamental principles of international relations,” said Hossein Ghazizadeh, a member of the Iranian parliament’s board of directors. “This government began decreasing tensions, yet we are witnessing increasing hostile action by the U.S. during this period. Currently our strategy is peace through showing weakness.”Iran’s Central Bank chief attempted to hold the government of former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad responsible. “In the previous government we had the opportunity to transfer these assets prior to being frozen. However, for some reason they failed to take that opportunity,” Valiollah Seif said to the semi-official Tasnim news agency. A state-run website also blamed the Ahmadinejad cabinet and wrote, “We are still cleaning up the aftershocks of that government’s miscalculated decisions.”“It is very strange that the U.S., which has violated all international laws, seeks to confiscate assets of the Central Bank while this entity enjoys immunity,” said Iranian Economic Minister Tayeb Nia.
“The U.S. court’s ruling regarding the Central Bank’s assets in Luxembourg is in violation of all international laws,” Tayeb Nia added. Another state-run website wrote in this regard, “The story continues. The U.S. continues to press on its position and now… it is begging a court in Luxembourg to implement its own illegal measures.”

Anwar Malik: Iranian Resistance Should Be Recognized as Legitimate Voice of Iranian People
NCRI/ Tuesday, 14 March 2017/Anwar Malik, former Syria rapporteur in the Arab League and a prominent politician and writer in the Arab World, had an interview with INTV describing Iran as the main element behind the rise of terrorism under the name of Islam. “The solution is to expel this regime from the international community, and in parallel, recognize the Iranian Resistance as the Iranian people’s legitimate representative,” he said. “The Iranian people are the first victims of the mullahs’ crackdown, terrorism and barbarity,” he added. “However, nations of the region, including the people of Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen have suffered much from this regime, and they all hope the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) will prevail against this religious fascism because this regime’s overthrowing is only on the shoulders of the Iranian people and their organized resistance,” he continued.
“Arab countries must respond adequately to Iran’s deceptive measures. There is no choice but to end all relations and expel Iran’s ambassadors... Only the Iranian people can overthrow this regime,” Malik continued. “On the PMOI/MEK, I have much respect for them because they are the element focused on destroying this huge religious plague,” he said in reference to the Iranian regime. “We are with you and we will help you. You were the first who were hurt by the mullahs’ regime, before we began suffering in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and other countries,” Malik added.“Who are the hope of the Iranian people? A nation that seeks to relieve itself from the mullahs’ rule,” he continued.“The people of Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon… they all hope the PMOI will prevail against this religious fascism, to relieve all nations,” Malik concluded.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published On March 14-15/17
Europe's 'Turkish Awakening'
Burak Bekdil/Gatestone Institute/March 14/17
Europe looks united in not allowing Erdogan to export Turkey's sometimes even violent political polarization into the Old Continent.
Erdogan clearly rejected Merkel's mention of "Islamist terror" on grounds that "the expression saddens Muslims because Islam and terror cannot coexist".
Turkey increasingly looks like Saddam Hussein's Iraq. An Iraqi government guide refused to discuss politics: "In Iraq half the population are spies... spying on the other half."
Officially, Erdogan's Turkey has embarked on a journey toward Western democracy. Instead, its Islamist ethos is at war with Western democracy.
Turkey, officially, is a candidate for full membership in the European Union. It is also negotiating with Brussels a deal which would allow millions of Turks to travel to Europe without visa. But Turkey is not like any other European country that joined or will join the EU: The Turks' choice of a leader, in office since 2002, too visibly makes this country the odd one out.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is now campaigning to broaden his constitutional powers, which would make him head of state, head of government and head of the ruling party -- all at the same time -- is inherently autocratic and anti-Western. He seems to view himself as a great Muslim leader fighting armies of infidel crusaders. This image, with which he portrays himself, finds powerful echoes among millions of conservative Turks and [Sunni] Islamists across the Middle East. That, among other excesses in the Turkish style, makes Turkey totally incompatible with Europe in political culture.
Yet, there is always the lighter side of things. Take, for example, Melih Gokcek, the mayor of Ankara and a bigwig in Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP). In February Gokcek claimed that earthquakes in a western Turkish province could have been organized by dark external powers (read: Western infidels) aiming to destroy Turkey's economy with an "artificial earthquake" near Istanbul. According to this conspiracy theory, the mayor not only claims that the earthquake in western Turkey was the work of the U.S. and Israel, but also that the U.S. created the radical Islamic State (ISIS). In fact, according to him, the U.S. and Israel colluded to trigger an earthquake in Turkey so they could capture energy from the Turkish fault line.
Matters between Turkey and Europe are far more tense today than ridiculous statements from politicians who want to look pretty to Erdogan. The president, willingly ignoring his own strong anti-Semitic views, recently accused Germany of "fascist actions" reminiscent of Nazi times, in a growing row over the cancellation of political rallies aimed at drumming up support for him among 1.5 million Turkish citizens in Germany.
The Dutch, Erdogan apparently thinks, are no different. In a similar diplomatic row over Turkish political rallies in the Netherlands, Erdogan described the Dutch government as "Nazi remnants and fascists". After barring Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu from entering the country by airplane, the Dutch authorities also escorted another Turkish minister out of the country. Quite a humiliation, no doubt. An angry Erdogan promised the Netherlands would pay a price for that.
Dutch police in Rotterdam use batons, dogs and water cannon to control a riot that broke out when pro-Erdogan crowds violently protested the Dutch government's refusal of entry to Turkish government ministers, on March 11, 2017. The Turkish ministers had planned to address political rallies of Turks in the Netherlands. (Image source: RT video screenshot)
Europe, not just Germany and the Netherlands, looks united in not allowing Erdogan to export Turkey's highly tense and sometimes even violent political polarization into the Old Continent. There are media reports that the owner of a venue in the Swedish capital, Stockholm, has now cancelled a pro-Erdogan rally, although Sweden's foreign ministry said it was not involved in the decision.
Europe's anti-Erdogan sentiment is going viral. Denmark's prime minister, Lars Loekke Rasmussen, said that he asked his Turkish counterpart, Binali Yildirim, to postpone a planned visit because of tensions between Turkey and the Netherlands. Although Turkey thanked France for allowing Foreign Minister Cavusoglu to address a gathering of Turkish "expats" in the city of Metz, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault called on Turkish authorities to "avoid excesses and provocations".
None of the incidents that forcefully point to Europe's "Turkish awakening" happened out of the blue. At the beginning of February, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Erdogan held a tense meeting in Ankara. Erdogan clearly rejected Merkel's mention of "Islamist terror" on grounds that "the expression saddens Muslims because Islam and terror cannot coexist". The row came at a time when a German investigation into Turkish imams in Germany spying on Erdogan's foes made signs of reaching out to other parts of Europe. Peter Pilz, an Austrian lawmaker, said that he was in possession of documents from 30 countries that revealed a "global spying network" at Turkish diplomatic missions.
At the beginning of March, after Turkey said it would defy opposition from German and Dutch authorities and continue holding rallies in both countries, Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern called for an EU-wide ban on campaign appearances by Turkish politicians.
In response, further challenging Europe, Turkey arrested Deniz Yucel, a Turkish-German reporter for a prominent German newspaper, Die Welt, on charges of "propaganda in support of a terrorist organization and inciting the public to violence." Yucel had been detained after he reported on emails that a leftist hacker collective had purportedly obtained from the private account of Berat Albayrak, Turkey's energy minister and Erdogan's son-in-law.
Erdogan's propaganda war on "infidel" Europe has the potential to further poison both bilateral relations with individual countries and with Europe as a bloc. Not even the Turkish "expats" are happy. The leader of Germany's Turkish community accused Erdogan of damaging ties between the two NATO allies. Gokay Sofuoglu, chairman of the Turkish Community in Germany, which is an umbrella for 270 member organizations, said: "Erdogan went a step too far. Germany should not sink to his level".
The most recent wave of tensions between Erdogan's Turkey and Europe, which it theoretically aspires to join, have once again unveiled the long-tolerated incompatibility between Turkey's predominantly conservative, Islamist and often anti-Western political culture and Europe's liberal values.
Turkey increasingly looks like Saddam Hussein's Iraq. During my 1989 visit to Iraq a Turkish-speaking government guide refused to discuss Iraqi politics, justifying his reluctance as: "In Iraq half the population are spies... spying on the other half." Erdogan's Turkey has officially embarked on a journey toward Western democracy. Instead, its Islamist mindset is at war with Western democracy.
*Burak Bekdil, one of Turkey's leading journalists, was just fired from Turkey's leading newspaper after 29 years, for writing what was taking place in Turkey for Gatestone. He is a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Europe: "The Era of Liberal Babble"
Judith Bergman/Gatestone Institute/March 14/17
Uninhibited by the obvious fear of their citizens, the EU nevertheless carries on its immigration policies.
Ironically, Western political elites consider this clearly widespread sentiment against Muslim immigration "racist" and "Islamophobic" and consequently disregard it -- thereby empowering anti-immigration political parties.
"Islam has no place in Slovakia.... [the problem is not migrants coming in, but] rather in them changing the face of the country." — Robert Fico, Prime Minister of Slovakia.
Europe, so many years after the Cold War, is ideologically divided into a new East and a West. This time, the schism is over multiculturalism. What Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has termed "liberal babble" continues to govern Western Europe's response to the challenges that migration and Islamic terrorism have brought, especially to personal security.
The Western European establishment considers arming oneself against terrorists, rapists and other ill-wishers outlandish, even in the face of the inability of Europe's security establishments to prevent mass terrorist atrocities, such as those that took place in Paris at the Bataclan Theater or the July14 truck-ramming in Nice.
The European Union's reaction to terror has been to make Europe's already restrictive gun laws even more restrictive. The problem is that this restrictiveness contradicts the EU's own reports: these show that homicides committed in Europe are mainly committed with illegal firearms.
In Eastern Europe, on the other hand, it is still normal to want to defend yourself. Last summer, Czech President Milos Zeman even encouraged citizens to arm themselves against Islamic terrorism. "I really think that citizens should arm themselves against terrorists. And I honestly admit that I changed my mind, because previously I was against [citizens] having too many weapons. After these attacks, I don't think so".
Since the president's remarks, the Czech Interior Minister, Milan Chovanec, has proposed extending the use of arms in the event of a terrorist attack. He explained that despite strict security measures, it is not always possible for the police to guarantee a fast and effective intervention. Fast action from a member of the public could prevent the loss of many lives.
Such reasoning, often seen as laughable in Western Europe, reflects an understanding of the fear that has become a recurring theme on the continent. In Germany, a recent poll showed that two out of three Germans are afraid of becoming the victim of a terrorist attack and 10% perceive an "acute threat" to their safety. Among women, the figures were even higher. 74% responded that they sometimes feel unsafe in crowded places, and 9% said they felt permanently threatened and scared.
Western European leaders, on the other hand, pretend not to understand this fear. In 2015, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was asked how Europe could be protected against Islamization. Merkel, who does not move without her own personal security team consisting of 15-20 armed bodyguards around her, working in shifts, answered: "Fear is not a good adviser. It is better that we should have the courage once again to deal more strongly with our own Christian roots." In December, she told members of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), who were asking how to reassure the public about integrating migrants, "This could also broaden your horizons." (This is the same Merkel, who in 2010 said that multiculturalism had "utterly failed").
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (center) was asked how Europe could be protected against Islamization. Merkel, who has a personal security team of 15-20 armed bodyguards around her, working in shifts, answered: "Fear is not a good adviser." (Image source: Paralax video screenshot)
As Western Europeans are discovering, however, that the state is increasingly unable to protect them, they have begun acting on their fears:
In France, a survey showed an increase of almost 40% in gun license requests since 2011. "Before the beginning of 2015, it was only a vague trend. Since the 'Charlie Hebdo', Bataclan and Nice attacks, [gun license requests] have become a growing phenomenon", wrote Le Nouvel Observateur.
In Belgium, requests for gun license applications soared in one major province, Liège, doubling in just five years. "The explanation may lie in the current security context, which generates feelings of insecurity among the population", said officials from Liège's Arms Service, the state body in charge of granting gun licenses in the province.
In the wake of mass sexual attacks by migrants in Cologne, major German cities all reported an increase of requests for weapons permits. Cologne police estimated that they received at least 304 applications within just two weeks of the mass sexual assaults. In 2015, the city's police force saw only 408 applications total over the entire year.
Switzerland has also seen a drastic rise in gun permit applications, with all 12 cantons reporting an increase from 2015. Interim 2016 figures show a further escalation. "There's no official explanation for the rise, but in general we see a connection to Europe's terrorist attacks," said Hanspeter Kruesi, a police spokesman in the Swiss canton of St. Gallen.
Gun sellers in Austria also said that interest in weapons grew after a large number of refugees arrived. "Fear is very much a driving force," said Robert Siegert, a gun maker and the weapons trade spokesman at the Austrian Chamber of Commerce.
Uninhibited by the obvious alarm of their citizens, the EU nevertheless carries on its immigration policies. "I believe Europeans should understand that we need migration for our economies and for our welfare systems, with the current demographic trend we have to be sustainable," said Federica Mogherini, the EU's high representative for foreign affairs and security policy. She added that the continent "does not and will not close its doors" to migrants.
Mogherini is probably not interested in a recent Chatham House study, in which an average of 55% of the people across the 10 European countries surveyed wanted to stop all future immigration from mainly Muslim countries. Only two of the countries surveyed were from Eastern Europe. A ban was supported by 71% of people in Poland, 65% in Austria, 53% in Germany and 51% in Italy. In the UK, 47% supported a ban.
Ironically, Western political elites consider this clearly widespread sentiment against Muslim immigration "racist" and "Islamophobic" and consequently disregard it -- thereby empowering anti-immigration political parties.
Several countries in Eastern Europe, such as Poland, Hungary and Slovakia, have refused to take in more migrants, and several Balkan countries have completely closed their borders.
Czech President Milos Zeman has openly stated, "The experience of Western European countries which have ghettos and excluded localities shows that the integration of the Muslim community is practically impossible".
Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico has dismissed multiculturalism as a "fiction". He has also refused to accept EU-agreed quotas on relocating migrants saying, "It may look strange but sorry ... Islam has no place in Slovakia." He added that the problem is not migrants coming in but "rather in them changing the face of the country."
Western Europe has predictably responded with accusations of "Islamophobia" and "fanning hatred towards minorities and refugees". One EU state, Luxembourg, even suggested expelling Hungary from the EU for its refusal to toe the EU line and, according to Luxembourg, for treating asylum seekers, "worse than wild animals". Hungary's prime minister, Viktor Orbán, in turn, harbors little respect for the way that his Western European colleagues have shaped politics: "We are experiencing now the end of an era: a conceptual-ideological era," Orbán told supporters in 2015, "Putting pretension aside, we can simply call this the era of liberal babble. This era is now at an end."
**Judith Bergman is a writer, columnist, lawyer and political analyst.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

On wresting control over religious discourse
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/March 14/17
Due to the international crisis confronting Islam and Muslims, figures from across the world concerned over the state of affairs gathered for a meeting in Al-Azhar in Egypt’s Cairo. These figures include muftis, preachers, scholars and politicians from China, Uganda and North and South America. They agree that extremism is a major threat and must be confronted by all means.
At the international conference of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, the best and most direct address came from Tawfiq al-Sudairi, the Saudi deputy minister for Islamic Affairs, Endowment, Dawa and Guidance. He called for wresting the religious discourse from extremists and half-educated people “who harmed the religion’s tolerant teachings and who’ve been directed by opportunists.” He also called for “unifying efforts on the political, intellectual, security and religious fronts to confront deviant ideologies.”
There is no controversy over their consensus against terrorism. This is a settled matter and perhaps no longer requires reiteration. The more important matter, which requires consensus and a plan of action, is extremism, which has developed into a broad challenge. No one can say that terrorism exists without any form of extremism embracing it.
It is impossible for a terrorist to be born in a moderate and centrist environment. Even terrorists who came out of liberal or tolerant societies are the victims of extremist ideology that surrounds them in their virtual environment, like chat rooms and social networking websites. Tens of thousands have joined terrorist groups and all of them are graduates of extremist rhetoric.
Terrorism is the final step in the ladder of extremism. It is not possible to neutralize terrorism without fighting extremism. Those concerned must keep this in mind
Challenge of extremism
Truth be told, terrorists, despite their threat to the world, are less threatening than extremists as the harm caused by the latter is more grave on Muslim societies as well as other communities. What extremists do is worse than the acts of organizations like ISIS and al-Nusra Front whose members are few among a sea of extremists.
Terrorism is the final step in the ladder of extremism. It is not possible to neutralize terrorism without fighting extremism. Those concerned must keep this in mind.
When we talk of extremism, we must not confuse it with extremist tendencies of some individual Muslims. Conservatives have the right to their beliefs within the capacity they see as appropriate. This is their right, and this is the case in all religions. However, this becomes extremism when they try to impose what they want on everyone.
Most dangerous extremist activities are generally based on exploiting religious activities that had no political purpose in the past. These are related to collecting of funds, education, dawa, media and charity. They hijack them and even expand their operations to include students, women and foreigners. These extremist movements even have organized activities, which include travelling across the world to poor and progressive countries to exploit wars and famine.
They also use the injustice being done to some Muslims and use it to plant the seeds of extremism, which stays for a long time and eventually becomes a local culture. If you can imagine this, you can understand how extremism spreads and how terrorism emerged. You will also realize that fighting extremism is more important than fighting terrorism.
Sudairi’s statements at the conference in Cairo leads us to the core of this crisis. A plan of action, which requires collective efforts, must be devised to achieve what he called for.

Critical look at the past is an absolute must
Mohammed Al Shaikh/Al Arabiya/March 14/17
It is said that if the Europeans hadn’t subjected their legacies, which they inherited from the Middle Ages, to scientific and logical criticism, they would still be repeating priestly statements that call for violence and base them on sectarian and religious pillars. Criticism based on reason does not care about emotions as much about logic and facts.
Criticism cannot be scientific unless it is logical and emotions and wishful thinking should have nothing to do with criticism. I am completely convinced that as Arabs and Muslims we will not exit the whirlpool we are living in and will continue to suffer unless we adopt the same critical approach.
Yes, we will eliminate ISIS and al-Qaeda, and perhaps also the Muslim Brotherhood. However, parts of our legacy, which led to the rise of these terrorist groups, is greatly capable of producing another ISIS, al-Qaeda or Muslim Brotherhood.
The situation will continue unless we address the roots of this legacy, and criticize and analyze them in a way that has been done before. I know giving up emotions is very difficult especially if the matter is intertwined with identity but it is critical that we do so. There is no cure to the underdevelopment which bred terrorism unless through this painful confrontation.
I am of a firm belief that if we do not address our situation, renew our true cultural beliefs and not tackle the reasons that resulted in this culture of hate, the future of Arabs and Muslims will remain dark
A necessary condition
I believe that this is a necessary condition to survive in this era and co-exist. I am also aware there are “traders” in underdevelopment and parties, which thrive on keeping this legacy and presenting it as a sacred territory that cannot be touched. Those who observe the catastrophic consequences the Arab region is witnessing will inevitably reach the conclusion I am talking about.
The second point we must note, particularly these days, is summed up by this law of physics – for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The rise of extremist right-wing was a reaction to Islamic extremism which became a reality by importing past concepts and culture and imposing it via violence and the power of weapons. This made the West and East fear us, and our cultural heritage.
They began to think of ways to protect their people of this lurking beast called “Islamic terrorism” and this is what pushed communities, particularly in the West, to gather around right-wing politicians whose rhetoric is based on hostility toward foreigners and on restraining immigrants, particularly those form Muslim countries.
I am of a firm belief that if we do not address our situation, renew our true cultural beliefs and not tackle the reasons that resulted in this culture of hate, the future of Arabs and Muslims will remain dark.
There is no other solution but to renew the legacy and differentiate between what is sacred and untouchable, like the Quran, and what is capable of being developed. We can either take the path to harmony with the modern times or wait for the downfall.

Saudi Arabia's Future Meets the Trump Administration
Simon Henderson/The Washington Institute/March 13, 2017
Talks this week with the Saudi deputy crown prince are expected to cover current issues including Iran, "radical Islamic terrorism," Syria, and Yemen, as well as perspectives on the longer-term future of the Middle East.
The visit by thirty-one-year-old Prince Muhammad bin Salman, a son of King Salman, who turns eighty-one this year and is now on the Japan leg of a monthlong foreign tour, has the potential to reconfigure the U.S.-Saudi relationship. MbS, as he is known, is widely perceived to have been given an almost plenipotentiary role by his father. As such, in this visit MbS will be outflanking if not outranking his older cousin, fifty-seven-year-old Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef, known as MbN, who remains in Riyadh.
MbS left the kingdom for the United States on March 13, but the official part of his trip will only begin March 16. In terms of protocol, as Saudi defense minister, MbS will probably be the guest of Secretary of Defense James Mattis. He will also likely have meetings with the intelligence community, particularly CIA director Mike Pompeo, even though for many years MbN, as Saudi counterterrorism chief, has been the principal intelligence interlocutor, earning himself the sobriquet "Washington's favorite Saudi." With Secretary of State Rex Tillerson traveling in Asia, the State Department's role in any meetings will be much reduced.
But the most important discussions will be those in the White House, where MbS is expected to meet with chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon and senior advisor (and President Donald Trump’s son-in-law) Jared Kushner, who is only a few years older than the prince. A meeting with the president himself is also expected, during which it would be surprising if Trump did not mention his ideas for a grand plan ("a much bigger deal") on Middle East peace including "many, many countries," which he referred to last month at his news conference with Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
The most urgent issue would appear to be the continuing failure of a Saudi-led coalition to reestablish the internationally recognized Yemeni government in the capital, Sana, occupied for the last two years by Iran-supported Houthi tribesmen and supporters of ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The stalemate has allowed al-Qaeda to create safe havens in the interstices of the civil war, prompting recent U.S. military action, including a commando raid and airstrikes. Last week, Washington appeared to offer Riyadh an incentive to appear to change tactics, when the State Department announced approval for the resumption of the sales of precision-guided munitions to the kingdom. The decision still needs White House approval, however, which could give the U.S. side important leverage in this week's discussions.
From the U.S. perspective, the meetings present an opportunity to achieve a clearer understanding of Saudi Arabia’s current strategy in the war and realistic end-states. Whether or not existing military activities, mainly based on aerial bombing, will alter the situation on the ground, it is certain that the legitimate Yemeni government and the Saudi-led coalition cannot retake Sana without catastrophic violence, great human suffering, and a legacy of long-term insurgency. The White House could ask pointed questions about how to restart meaningful peace negotiations.
From the Saudi perspective, the talks could be used to seek clarity on the parameters of the Trump administration's new approach to Iranian troublemaking in the Middle East. Tehran's machinations contribute substantially to problems not only in Yemen but also in Syria and Iraq, where U.S. forces are involved in the fighting against the Islamic State. It will be interesting to see whether Washington accepts a standing Saudi offer to send troops to support U.S. Special Forces in Syria, aimed at bolstering the opposition against advances by Assad regime forces and their Iran-backed allies. A disagreeable item from the Saudi perspective likely on the agenda is Trump's continuing use of the term "radical Islamic terrorism," most recently in his February 28 address to Congress. Riyadh prefers to consider extremist violence un-Islamic.
Unavoidably, the talks will be overshadowed by concern over the price of oil, which fell below $50 per barrel last week, putting into doubt a Saudi-led OPEC initiative to cut production with the intention of pushing the price above $60 or so. But whereas Riyadh can dictate the kingdom's production, neither the White House nor U.S. oil companies can interfere with market mechanisms -- and, arguably, the U.S. economy benefits more from lower oil prices. The lower oil price is painful for Saudi Arabia, to be sure, hampering government revenues and constraining the transition MbS is trying to lead toward a more efficient, less oil-dominated economy, as expressed in the kingdom's Vision 2030 platform. A key component of this change is a planned partial sell-off of the state-owned Saudi Aramco oil company in 2018. The New York Stock Exchange should be ideal as the main venue for the international listing, but a decision has yet to be made.
A further challenge involves finding closure on the 9/11 attacks, in which fifteen of the nineteen hijackers were Saudis. Despite intense lobbying, the kingdom failed to prevent the passage last year of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), which puts at risk Saudi official assets in the United States if the kingdom can be shown to have been either culpable for the attacks or negligent in stopping them. Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir, who is accompanying MbS to Washington, has spent many months in the United States lobbying to reverse the legislation, so far without effect.
This week's visit is an important "getting to know you" event. But merely setting out differences and explaining positions will not be enough. From a U.S. point of view in particular, the meeting offers an opportunity to address the large number of common U.S.-Saudi concerns as well as bridge differences, especially in circumstances where confusion may prevail regarding the theoretical versus actual power hierarchy in Riyadh.
**Simon Henderson is the Baker Fellow and director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at The Washington Institute.