March 17/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 12/16-21/:"Then he told them a parable: ‘The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, "What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?" Then he said, "I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry." But God said to him, "You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?"So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.".

What should we say, that God is unjust to inflict wrath on us? By no means, for then how could God judge the world?
Letter to the Romans 03/01-07/:"What advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much, in every way. For in the first place the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. What if some were unfaithful? Will their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Although everyone is a liar, let God be proved true, as it is written, ‘So that you may be justified in your words, and prevail in your judging.’ But if our injustice serves to confirm the justice of God, what should we say? That God is unjust to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) By no means! For then how could God judge the world? But if through my falsehood God’s truthfulness abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner?"

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published On March 16-17/17
Patriarch speaks out against Hezbollah/Diana Moukalled/Arabnews/March 16/17
The Right to Choose Includes the Right to Choose Life/Alan M. Dershowitz/Gatestone Institute/March 16/17
Greece: A Democracy in Crisis/Maria Polizoidou/Gatestone Institute/March 16/17
More Evidence that McMaster Shares Obama’s Views on Islam and Terror/
Raymond Ibrahim /PJ Media/March 16/17
Russia in Libya: Wasn’t that expected/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/March 16/17
The war on others’ tastes/Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/March 16/17
Significant breakthroughs for Riyadh/Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/March 16/17
Why do Western ‘leftists’ and ‘liberals’ love Iran’s government/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arabnews/March 16/17
Reports On Creation Of Muslim Brotherhood Lobby In U.S. To Prevent Trump Administration From Designating The Movement A Terrorist Organization/C. Meital and H. Varulkar/MEMRI/March 16/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published On March 16-17/17
Pope Francis and Lebanese president talk Syrian war
Pope Francis Tells Aoun He Plans to Visit Lebanon
Makari Blames Gemayel for Failure to Pass Wage Scale as Hariri Slams 'Lies'
Parliament Imposes New Taxes on Cigarettes, Alcohol
Mashnouq Says Elections 'Soon', Urges Aoun to Address Hizbullah Arms
Araji Says Mafias Rendering State Incapable of Stopping Corruption
Riad Solh protestors leave square, to resume demonstrations tomorrow
Hariri: We are determined to ratify the scale and those spreading lies about taxes will be arrested
Riachy: Information ministry's infrastructure ready to change to ministry of dialogue
Makari adjourns parliamentary session to date to be set later by Berri
Kanaan asks of those rebuffing taxes to suggest alternative plan to fund salary scale
Gemayel from Parliament: Fighting corruption cost us power
Geagea: LF suspends support for salary scale until revenues secured
Nasserite Popular Youth stage sit in at Sidon's Nejmeh Square rejecting news taxes
Civil movement activists approach separating line between Grand Serail, security forces
You Stink' campaign activists join Kataeb protestors in Riad Solh
Protesters Reject New Taxes in Beirut and Tripoli Sit-ins
Repercussions of Displaced Syrians Addressed in Committee Meeting
Report: Hizbullah Enduring Financial Crisis
Patriarch speaks out against Hezbollah/Diana Moukalled/Arabnews/March 16/17
Lebanese businessman wanted by US for financing Hezbollah detained in Morocco
President Aoun from the Vatican: 'I carry a message of love'

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published On March 16-17/17
US plans for Syria include another 1,000 troops
Saudi deputy crown prince says Donald Trump is a ‘true friend of Muslims’
Egyptian-American Dina Powell named deputy US National Security Advisor
Iraqi forces besiege ISIS around Mosul Old City
Istanbul: ‘Major’ terrorist attack thwarted
Turkey’s Erdogan accuses EU of launching anti-Islam ‘crusade’
Turkey may cancel migrant readmission deal with EU, says foreign minister
Turkey Says no Difference between Dutch Liberals and 'Fascist' Wilders
Palestinian leader Abbas: Trump brings hope for ‘peace’
Israel strikes Gaza after rocket fired
Jordan’s king meets with Trump envoy on Mideast peace push
One Hurt in Letter Bomb Blast at IMF Paris Office

Links From Jihad Watch Site for  March 16-17/17

Raymond Ibrahim: Christianity and Judaism Breed Terrorism Just Like Islam?
Turkish Foreign Minister: “Religion wars will soon begin in Europe”
Media spins Dutch election as loss for Wilders, who is actually stronger than ever
Iran deal architect is now running Tehran policy at the State Department
Georgia: Muslim used scissors to perform FGM on his two-year-old daughter
Sweden: Muslim migrants who raped woman as their friend laughed and livestreamed it over Facebook are charged
Germany: Over 400 police, raid, search, and close mosque that was recruiting for the Islamic State
“Anti-Sharia” bill passes in Montana House judiciary
Federal judge blocks new Trump travel ban
Saudi prince hails Trump as “strong President” in fight against “dangerous” Iran

Links From Christian Today Site On March 16-17/17
Why is East Africa in crisis? The three key reasons famine is spreading across the region
Trump's first budget tells the world about his priorities
Anglican bishop quits after threats to his safety for exposing child abuse
Remember you will die: nun offers five ways to 'divorce' your smart-phone and stop wasting time
Pornography and illegal drugs to blame for increase in demonic activity, says exorcist
Christian pastor finds massive diamond worth millions of dollars
Theresa May hints she will block second Scottish independence vote
Christians 'denied vital aid' as famine sweeps sub-Saharan Africa
Trump's travel ban in chaos as it is blocked by federal judge and new figures show more Muslims than Christians are entering US
UK will not ban religious symbols at work, insists Theresa May after EU court ruling
Don't fear refugees, say US evangelical leaders: 'Jesus threw off the protections of heaven'
Surprising research reveals 'mostly Catholic' colleges have higher rates of sexual encounters
'God is great', cry Islamist extremists as they shoot dead a Christian mum and son, wound husband
Pakistani Christian asylum seekers face pressure to leave Thailand

Latest Lebanese Related News published On March 16-17/17
Pope Francis and Lebanese president talk Syrian war
Vatican City, Mar 16, 2017 / 11:07 am (CNA/EWTN News).- With the 6th anniversary of the start of the Syrian war as backdrop this week, Pope Francis met Thursday morning with the President of Lebanon, Michel Aoun.Their discussion centered on the large number of Syrian refugees now in Lebanon and the efforts to find a solution to the conflict. According to a March 16 statement by the Vatican, in the 20-minute meeting, the Pope and President Aoun discussed Syria “with special attention to international efforts to find a political solution to the conflict.”The Pope expressed appreciation for the many Syrian refugees Lebanon has welcomed during the years of the Civil War. The two leaders also exchanged views on the greater regional context and other ongoing conflicts, particularly the situation for Christians in the Middle East. Lebanon, officially known as the Lebanese Republic, is a sovereign state bordered by Syria to the north and east, and Israel to the south. Before President Aoun, 82, was elected on Oct. 31, 2016, the Lebanese parliament was under a 29-month deadlock to choose the next president. During the audience, Pope Francis and Aoun both expressed satisfaction at the efforts of the various political parties to put an end to the long presidential vacancy. The encounter also “focused on the good bilateral relations between the Holy See and Lebanon, underlining the historic and institutional role of the Church in the life of the country,” the Vatican statement read. The two emphasized, the statement continued, “the hope for an increasingly fruitful future collaboration between the members of diverse ethnic and religious communities in favor of the common good and the development of the nation.”At the visit, President Aoun gifted the Pope a statue of the Infant Child of Prague with emblems of the Holy See and of Lebanon and Francis gave Aoun a bronze sculpture of olive branches as a sign of peace, as well as three books: Evangelii Gaudium in French, and Amoris Laetitia and Laudato Si in Arabic. Since the start of the civil war on March 15, 2011, 400,000 people have died in the conflict between government forces and rebel groups, and over 11 million have been displaced from their homes, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). Five million registered refugees have fled the country, at least 2.2 million of these residing in Lebanon and 1 million in Jordan. This has placed considerable strain on the countries, which previously had populations of just 4 million and 6 million, respectively.

Pope Francis Tells Aoun He Plans to Visit Lebanon
Naharnet/March 16/17/President Michel Aoun held a closed meeting on Thursday in the Vatican with Pope Francis after which the Pope announced that he plans to visit Lebanon pointing out that he always raises prayers for the country. After the meeting, Aoun said: “Lebanon has a special part in the heart of the Pope. He will meet the invitation to visit the country of the Cedars.”“The popes have always considered Lebanon as a role model, and Lebanon has always looked up to the Holy See with utmost gratitude and appreciation,” Aoun added. The President had arrived with his wife and the accompanying delegation at San Damaso Square in the papal palace in the Vatican. They were greeted by the Dean of the Apostolic Palace and a handful of Swiss Guards. The President's first official visit to Europe did not take place in Paris, as the tradition calls, but in the Vatican which could be due to the fact that the mandate of the current French presidency will end in May. Media reports said that talks will focus on issues of concern for Lebanon and the Vatican, and about the Christians in Lebanon and the region in light of the developments threatening their presence at more than one level. According to media reports, the president will inform Pope Francis of the revival of Lebanon's state institutions, a beneficial effect according to him of the end of the presidential vacancy, and the return of Lebanon on the international and Arab political scene. He will also keep him informed of the ongoing discussions to adopt a new electoral law.

Makari Blames Gemayel for Failure to Pass Wage Scale as Hariri Slams 'Lies'
Naharnet/March 16/17/Deputy Speaker Farid Makari on Thursday adjourned a legislative session due to a lack of quorum and accused “those practicing obstruction” and Kataeb Party chief MP Sami Gemayel of jeopardizing the fate of the long-stalled new wage scale. Makari said he adjourned the session to a date that will be set later by Speaker Nabih Berri. “Those practicing overbidding and obstruction, topped by Kataeb Party chief MP Sami Gemayel, are to blame for the possible loss of the new wage scale,” Makari added. “This puts the rights of more than 250,000 families at stake, under the excuse of securing other funds without proposing a realistic alternative and without taking part in any serious efforts,” the deputy speaker went on to say. Makari also accused news websites “close to MP Sami Gemayel” of circulating “rumors” about the new taxes. Gemayel hit back swiftly, noting that the imposed taxes were not “confidential” and that “the 22 taxes were published by all media outlets.”“This is the first time I hear that a parliament or a government would adjourn a session over a rumor,” he added.
“I call on everyone to check Kataeb's website and the social media accounts of our MPs,” Gemayel went on to say. “Does an opposition party have the right to voice its opinion over taxes that harm citizens or have we become in a dictatorship? Thank God the media was present in the parliament hall and I hope they will say whether it was us who obstructed the wage scale,” Gemayel added. “If there is a dispute inside the ruling class over the tax that was imposed on cigarettes, they should not pin the blame on Kataeb,” he said. He also stressed that the responsibility for the adjournment of the session falls on “the MPs who were not present.” Prime Minister Saad Hariri meanwhile lamented the failure to approve the new wage scale, saying he will ask the ministers of justice and interior to pursue those who “spread lies on social networking websites” about the new taxes. “We have been able to arrest terrorists and I assure you that we will arrest those who have spread these lies and we will name them. The law will be enforced on everyone and if the perpetrator is a certain MP, we in parliament can lift his immunity,” Hariri added. “What happened was shameful and Deputy Speaker Makari exerted several strenuous attempts to continue the session,” the PM went on to say. Protesters meanwhile took to the squares in Beirut and Tripoli on Thursday to reject the new taxes following calls on social networking websites. Protesters at Beirut's Riad al-Solh Square were led by activists from the Kataeb Party, the National Liberal Party and others from March 14 and the civil society. Kataeb had repeatedly rejected any tax hike aimed at funding the new wage scale, calling on authorities to secure funds through putting an end to “corruption” and “the squandering of public money.”
The parliament has hiked the value-added tax (VAT) from 10 to 11% and increased other taxes related to cement, stamps, cigarettes and alcoholic beverages. Gemayel warned Wednesday that “failure to tackle corruption and instead targeting citizens' pockets will lead to bankrupting the state, destroying the economy and impoverishing the Lebanese.”He had earlier warned that a “revolution” might erupt in the country should parliament approve new taxes to fund the wage scale.

Parliament Imposes New Taxes on Cigarettes, Alcohol
Naharnet/March 16/17/The parliament resumed its sessions on Thursday to discuss measures aimed at funding the thorny wage scale file, as Deputy Speaker Farid Makari warned lawmakers of his intention to reveal the names of deputies “he believes are stalling the approval of the salary scale during the parliament discussions.”During the legislative session, lawmakers approved a raise on alcoholic beverages. They also approved a proposal suggested by MP Atef Majdalani to impose LBP 250 on cigarette packs, LBP 250 on tobacco and LBP 500 on cigars. Debate intensified between lawmakers over the raise in tobacco fees which made Makari threaten to adjourn the session. 46 lawmakers approved the increase while 22 AMAL and Hizbullah deputies objected against the measure. Industry Minister Hussein Hajj Hassan assured that the wage scale will be approved in the end. “It is just passing through rough times,” he said. The meeting was later adjourned until 5:00 p.m. and consequently to a date that will be set later by Speaker Nabih Berri after quorum was lost. Talking to the press after the morning session, an angry Makari said some lawmakers were wasting time by engaging in useless debates which could threaten the fate of the wage scale. “I will be compelled to name the lawmakers to the public if they continue to do so,” he said. “I hope they do not delay the approval of the wage scale because they say something in the parliament and do another in front of the media.”During its Wednesday session, the parliament approved hiking the value-added tax (VAT) from 10 to 11% as other taxes on financial transactions were also hiked. A LBP 6,000 tax on the production of each ton of cement was also approved amid the objections of the Democratic Gathering and al-Mustaqbal blocs.

Mashnouq Says Elections 'Soon', Urges Aoun to Address Hizbullah Arms
Naharnet/March 16/17/Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq has reassured that the parliamentary elections will be held “soon,” as he urged President Michel Aoun to address the controversial issue of Hizbullah's weapons. In an interview with Egypt's CBC Extra News channel, Mashnouq revealed that he will conduct consultations with the president, the parliament speaker and the prime minister in order to “take a decision about the date of the upcoming parliamentary polls.” He also confirmed that “there will be elections, even if not on time,” adding that the polls will be held “soon.”Turning to the issue of Hizbullah's controversial arsenal of weapons, Mashnouq called on Aoun to sponsor dialogue aimed at reaching “an understanding on a defense strategy that specifies the means to benefit from Hizbullah's arms in the face of any Israeli aggression.”

Araji Says Mafias Rendering State Incapable of Stopping Corruption
Naharnet/March 16/17/MP Assem Araji said on Thursday that various "mafias backed by political sides" are rendering the government incapable of stopping corruption as he warned of an economic collapse if related authorities fail to address the matter. “The numbers related to the corruption file raised during the parliament meeting are enormous and only indicate a tragic situation that portends the worst,” said Araji in an interview with VDL (93.3). The MP warned of an “economic collapse and deterioration in social services if related authorities remain negligent to address corruption,” he called for “the implementation of reforms in the electricity sector and at Lebanon's ports.”Relating to the controversial wage scale file under discussion by the parliament, he said: “Putting an end to squander and corruption would provide for the salary scale. But the state is incapable of that because of mafias supported by political sides.”The lawmaker pushed all the Lebanese factions to agree in a bid to approve the salary scale.

Riad Solh protestors leave square, to resume demonstrations tomorrow
Thu 16 Mar 2017/NNA - Activists protesting in Riad Solh Square lifted their demonstration and pledged to gather back tomorrow (Friday) at 5:00 in the afternoon, according to the NNA correspondent.

Hariri: We are determined to ratify the scale and those spreading lies about taxes will be arrested
Thu 16 Mar 2017/NNA - The President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri made a statement in Parliament this evening after the adjournment by Deputy Speaker Farid Makari of the parliamentary session. He addressed the issue of the ranks and salaries scale and rumors about news taxes in the draft budget: "We came in a positive spirit to approve the scale because people need it. Some people know that our political group was reticent about it but we decided to carry on with it because we believe that it is in the interest of the people and it must happen. This issue has been studied and the government and the Minister of Finance worked day and night to provide the funding."He added: "We want to be honest with people and with ourselves. It is our duty as government and Parliament to provide the revenues before the spending because we do not want to put people in a situation similar to what happened in Greece and several other countries that declared bankruptcy. We want to approve the scale that people need but we have to protect all Lebanese, including those that benefit from the scale. We are not adding taxes because we love to do so, but to protect those who are benefitting from the scale because this is the political consensus we reached."He continued: "I will tell the Ministers of Justice and Interior that a set of lies is being disseminated on social media. If we arrest terrorists, I assure you that we will arrest those who have circulated these lies and we will announce their names. The law will be applied to them, and if there are MPs among them, we can propose to lift their parliamentary immunity. We said that we will regain the confidence of the people and we will. I as a prime minister, as well as Speaker Nabih Berri and President Aoun are determined to regain people's confidence in the government."He added: "We are all here, parliament and government. What happened is shameful and deputy speaker Makari tried several times to manage this session, he was patient and we all agreed. We attended the meetings of the joint committees and we agreed. Yesterday, some people wanted to raise the tax on cement and others not, ultimately we increased the tax, no one got angry, and this is the parliamentary work.
I tell the people and civil society that the indecent words addressed to us insult them. Civil society is supposed to elevate us to its level, not to the level of the indecent words that we are hearing."He added: "Concerning the ranks and salaries scale, we are determined to ratify it. I was reticent previously, but now I am a million times more insistent on it. I thank all MPs and the speaker of parliament. We as government will do our duty. Speaker Berri will call for a session soon, and I tell the people who have been waiting that we will adopt the scale, we all agree on it and everyone will be happy. As for the rumors concerning raised taxes on gasoline and bread, I say that if we wanted to raise the taxes we would have announced it. What is happening is lies targeting parliament and the government. Why? There is a real attempt to target the scale, and those who spread the rumors are responsible of the fate of the families who have been waiting for the rank to be adopted. Let them lie, and hopefully when Speaker Berri calls for a session we will see who is lying and who is sincere, and we will see you soon."He concluded: "All political forces are here, we all want the scale, we are not responsible of its delay, and there are rumors and lies. The atmosphere in the country affected all this movement, so everyone should assume his responsibility."

Riachy: Information ministry's infrastructure ready to change to ministry of dialogue
Thu 16 Mar 2017/NNA - Information Minister, Melhem Riachy, explained that eliminating information ministry did not mean annulling media in Lebanon, rather it meant boosting media and freedoms and leaving a hair thread of separation between oppression and freedom, adding that the current infrastructure of information ministry is ready to change to uphold the upcoming ministry of dialogue. Minister Riachy's stance came Thursday in the context of a seminar held at AUST University under title "Media law between freedom and chaos." The event was attended by, in addition to Minister Riachy, journalist Raficc Khoury and students of the media faculty in said university. "We are interested in protecting media freedom. We are interested too in letting the ethics of media profession be respected by mediamen," said Riachy.

Makari adjourns parliamentary session to date to be set later by Berri

Thu 16 Mar 2017/NNA - Deputy House Speaker, Farid Makari, on Thursday adjourned the parliamentary legislative session to a date to be specified later by House Speaker Nabih Berri. "The session was adjourned due to the lack of quorum," Mkari said, holding out-bidders and hinderers, notably MP Samy Gemayel and Kataeb Party, responsible for circumventing and annulling the salary scale, under the pretext of securing resources from outside the context of revenues without offering a realistic alternative, and without taking part in any serious action.

Kanaan asks of those rebuffing taxes to suggest alternative plan to fund salary scale
Thu 16 Mar 2017/NNA - Member of Parliament, Ibrahim Kanaan, on Thursday could not help but wonder how some sides were depicting the endorsement of the salary scale as a "huge crime" at the time that the matter had been thoroughly discussed by the joint parliamentary committees that were represented by all the political blocs. "I would like to ask those rejecting the tax increase to suggest alternative ways to fund the salary scale unless their prime aim is to hinder the endorsement of the wages scale to start with," Kanaan said in an intervention he made earlier today during the legislative session. "Effective reform doesn't happen at the expense of shrinking teachers' wages, or by forbidding the military from getting their righteous wages increase, but by dealing with the core issue. We seek reform and plan to implement it with action not theories," Kanaan added.

Gemayel from Parliament: Fighting corruption cost us power
Thu 16 Mar 2017/NNA - President of the Kataeb Party, MP Sami Gemayel, responded in a statement he delivered from the Parliament, after the lifted legislative session, to what he called "the series of accusations against the Kataeb; accusations that must be rebuffed with facts."Gemayel stressed that the 22 new taxes were not confidential, pointing out that "it is the first time a legislative session has ever been lifted due to the spread of information and rumors over the additional taxes.""We have nothing to do with those rumors," he assured, pointing out that the Kataeb was not the reason for the adjournment of the session, as claimed. "We were present and we expressed our opinion regarding the taxes imposed on the Lebanese. Let us point fingers of accusation at Deputies who broke the quorum," Gemayel argued. "Our fight against corruption has kept us out of power. We have warned, over and over again, against wasting the money of the Lebanese," he went on, wondering "whether it was forbidden to utter opposition or to say that the taxes were unreasonable.""Let immunity be lifted off all [politicians], and let the judiciary fulfill its duties," he urged, assuring that the party's "clean" past allows it to behave so. "The responsibility falls either on the absentees or on the person who adjourned the session," he accused in return. "We have given our opinion and this is our sheer right. We want to prove to the people that we are not going after power or wealth. We are willing to cede power and let (...) inspectors monitor the State's revenues. Let the State's monitoring apparatus do its job. It appears easier for them to lift from citizens pockets rather than to put term to waste and corruption," he concluded, stressing that "if they wanted to approve the salary scale tomorrow, we will be present as we were today."

Geagea: LF suspends support for salary scale until revenues secured
Thu 16 Mar 2017/NNA - Lebanese Forces Party leader, Samir Geagea, said that "the support of the party to the salary scale is to be suspended until revenues are secured by those opposed to it."Geagea said in a television interview that he doubts "the scenario of adjourning the legislative session was preplanned.""We cannot function in this atmosphere of chaos. We will participate in the next sessions, but we will not support the salary scale. We wish to give people the money they are expecting, but things must go on, and our stance over waste and corruption are well-known," Geagea said.

Nasserite Popular Youth stage sit in at Sidon's Nejmeh Square rejecting news taxes
Thu 16 Mar 2017/NNA - Young people of the "Nasserite Popular" staged a sit in at Nejmeh Square in Sidon, rejecting the new imposed taxes, in the presence of the Organization's Secretary General Ousama Saad, NNA field reporter said on Thursday.

Civil movement activists approach separating line between Grand Serail, security forces
Thu 16 Mar 2017/NNA - A group of civil movement activists approached the separating line between the Grand Serail and the security forces, raising slogans against corruption and over expenditures, NNA field reporter said on Thursday. No clash occurred with the security forces.

You Stink' campaign activists join Kataeb protestors in Riad Solh
Thu 16 Mar 2017 /NNA - Activists of 'You Stink" campaign joined the Kataeb partisans protesting in Riad Solh square, the NNA correspondent said.

Protesters Reject New Taxes in Beirut and Tripoli Sit-ins
Naharnet/March 16/17/Protesters took to the squares in Beirut and Tripoli on Thursday to reject a series of controversial taxes that the parliament has approved as part of measures aimed at funding the long-stalled new wage scale of civil servants. The sit-ins followed several calls for protests on social networking websites. Protesters at Beirut's Riad al-Solh Square were led by activists from the Kataeb Party, the National Liberal Party and others from March 14 and the civil society. Kataeb had repeatedly rejected any tax hike aimed at funding the new wage scale, calling on authorities to secure funds through putting an end to “corruption” and “the squandering of public money.”The parliament has hiked the value-added tax (VAT) from 10 to 11% and increased other taxes related to cement, stamps, cigarettes and alcoholic beverages. The Lebanese Communist Party and civil society groups have also called for protests against the new taxes on Saturday and Sunday. Kataeb Party chief MP Sami Gemayel warned Wednesday that “failure to tackle corruption and instead targeting citizens' pockets will lead to bankrupting the state, destroying the economy and impoverishing the Lebanese.” He had earlier warned that a “revolution” might erupt in the country should parliament approve new taxes to fund the wage scale.

Repercussions of Displaced Syrians Addressed in Committee Meeting

Naharnet/March 16/17/The burgeoning crisis of displaced Syrians in Lebanon was addressed on Wednesday during a ministerial committee meeting, in charge with studying the file, under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Saad Hariri in an effort to approve a strategy for managing the crisis and its repercussions on the Lebanese arena, media reports said on Thursday. Sources that took part in the meeting told al-Joumhouria daily that discussions focused on an overall political plan based on the "Lebanon Crisis Response," announced on January 19, so as to reach a comprehensive idea that will be presented to the international community and donor countries to determine Lebanon's share of international aid, as determined by the Lebanese government. According to information, the plan shall be based on the available figures about the number of displaced Syrians in Lebanon, which amounted to 2.5 million displaced people, including a million and one hundred thousand registered with the General Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The plan shall also propose the allocation of 2.48 billion dollars to cope with the repercussions of the displacement in human terms, part of which is to be devoted to provide economic stability in the framework of a comprehensive development plan to support the economy and infrastructure.The committee agreed on the completion of the plan by the end of March, after-which it will be circulated on donors and the international community in support of the plans for the displaced. On April 5 and 6, Lebanon will partake in a special conference on Syria hosted by the European Union in Brussels.

Report: Hizbullah Enduring Financial Crisis
Naharnet/March 16/17/Hizbullah is passing through a financial crisis and is calling on its supporters for financial contributions after Iran shrank down financial aid it provides for the party, the Kuwaiti al-Anbaa daily reported on Thursday. Billboards have spread in the southern suburbs of Beirut calling upon citizens for financial donations for the benefit of Hizbullah under the banner of “training a mujahid”, said the daily. The step was interpreted by informed political circles as a “reflection of the suffocating financial crisis experienced by the party because of the reduction of Iranian financial aid and its involvement in regional conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Bahrain, in addition to the results of US and international sanctions imposed on it recently. The crisis has led Hizbullah to launch “this aid campaign to get contributions from wealthy Shiites, supporters, politicians, businessmen and merchants in various Lebanese regions," according to the daily.

Patriarch speaks out against Hezbollah
Diana Moukalled/Arabnews/March 16/17

A Twitter campaign, occasional comments and harsh news articles have been spearheaded by Hezbollah media against the Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Bishara Al-Rahi. The campaign seems to have been triggered by statements he made in a televised interview several days ago, in which he criticized Hezbollah’s participation in the war in Syria, the movement’s weapons, and the division this has created in Lebanese society.
The patriarch did not mince words, and the campaign against him is fierce. The irony is that this same patriarch used to speak about harmony between Hezbollah and the Maronite church, and even visited several months ago the Christian parish in Syria. His words mark the first time the head of the Maronite church issues critical statements about Hezbollah.
Al-Rahi had made similar stands, but would often issue an explanatory statement a few hours later to soften the blow. This time, however, 48 hours have passed without such clarification, prompting Lebanese news outlets to declare his position serious and unwavering this time. Is he seeking to return to the old, distinct fundamentals of Christians in Lebanon, or are his words just a maneuver that will soon blow over?
His words are reminiscent of former Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, a main supporter of the Christian position during the Syrian occupation of Lebanon, who was also firm in rejecting the military intervention of non-state actors. Could Al-Rahi be adopting a similar position, or is he reading into regional variables? Surely the head of the Maronite church is not speaking in his name alone, but on behalf of a larger segment of Lebanese, especially Christians.
Local discussions on Hezbollah’s armed intervention in the Syrian war had waned for a while. But after Donald Trump was elected US president and indicated he will work to push Hezbollah and Iran out of Syria, such discussions have resurfaced.
Bishara Al-Rahi’s words mark the first time the head of the Maronite church issues critical statements about Hezbollah.
Al-Rahi’s new position coincides with talk of new international sanctions, particularly financial, against Hezbollah. It seems to mirror the change in position of the international community vis-a-vis Syria. It also reflects the Vatican’s position, which seems to have changed; it used to turn a blind eye to the presence of foreign parties in Syria under the guise of protecting minorities.
It is said Al-Rahi’s previous position, which is credited with having granted cover to Hezbollah, was mainly due to international cover for the movement’s presence in Syria. His new position is echoed by other Christian groups in Lebanon.
But the problem with his position is its weak credibility; in view of previous statements, it does not seem to be a principled position, which is worrisome. His changing attitudes and positions on critical issues regarding Hezbollah, such as border violations and its fight alongside the Syrian regime, weaken and delegitimize his stance.
• Diana Moukalled is a veteran journalist with extensive experience in both traditional and new media. She is also a columnist and freelance documentary producer. She can be reached on Twitter @dianamoukalled.

Lebanese businessman wanted by US for financing Hezbollah detained in Morocco
The Associated Press, Beirut Thursday, 16 March 2017/A lawyer for a Lebanese businessman that the US says has provided millions of dollars to the Hezbollah group says his client has been arrested by Moroccan authorities. The lawyer for Kassim Tajeddine says he was arrested in Casablanca on Sunday while on his way from Guinea to Beirut. In a terse emailed response to questions from The Associated Press, attorney Chibli Mallat said Thursday: “We now know there is an extradition order from the US authorities. ”Mallat said another lawyer who was appointed in Morocco saw Tajeddine in prison in Sale, near the capital, Rabat, and “he is in good spirits and is treated adequately. ”The US Treasury says Tajeddine is “an important financial contributor to Hezbollah” who was listed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in May 2009.

President Aoun from the Vatican: 'I carry a message of love'
The Daily Star/March 15, 2017/BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun departed Wednesday morning for an official trip to the Vatican. The Lebanese president is set to meet with Pope Francis, as well as Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin. Lebanese First Lady Nadia al-Shami Aoun will also accompany him, along with several other unnamed family members. "I carry a message of love on behalf of all the Lebanese," Aoun said upon arrival at Rome Ciampino airport. “Levantine Christians anticipate this trip with hope, to ensure that Lebanon remains a powerful model for the East and the world." Aoun is expected to attend Mass with the Maronite religious order and Lebanese clerics.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published 
On March 16-17/17
US plans for Syria include another 1,000 troops

AFP, Washington Thursday, 16 March 2017/Up to 1,000 additional US troops could deploy to northern Syria under provisional plans drawn up by the Pentagon, a US defense official said on Wednesday. The plans, which still need to be approved by President Donald Trump and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, would mark a significant uptick in US boots on the ground in Syria as part of the fight against ISIS. Currently, the troop level is capped at 500 in Syria, but that number has become increasingly meaningless as commanders flow extra “temporary” forces in as needed –such as last week’s deployment of a Marine artillery battery near Raqa. The actual number of American troops in the war-torn country is likely now between 800 and 900, and a US defense official said the new plans would allow for up to 1,000 more. “That’s one of the proposals that’s on the table for discussion,” the official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Possible deployment
The possible deployment was first reported by the Washington Post, which said the extra forces would come from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit and the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. The official said the troops would not be in direct combat, but rather serve in support roles for any additional capabilities the military requires in northern Syria, where a US-led coalition is training and backing a local Kurdish-Arab alliance to fight ISIS. Such missions could include additional artillery batteries and the use of rocket launchers known as HIMARS that can provide round-the-clock bombardment in the battle to recapture Raqa from ISIS. Trump has said he wants to quicken the defeat of ISIS and told the Pentagon to come up with a range of plans that could accomplish that goal. The “United States does remain committed to finding a peaceful, diplomatic resolution to the Syrian conflict,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said. “All of us know how hard that is.

Saudi deputy crown prince says Donald Trump is a ‘true friend of Muslims’
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Thursday, 16 March 2017/Saudi Arabia’s deputy crown prince has hailed United States President Donald Trump as a “true friend of Muslims” and says he does not believe Trump’s controversial immigration ban targets Islam specifically. A spokesperson from bin Salman’s delegation to the United States said he expressed his “satisfaction with the positive attitude and clarifications he heard from President Trump about his stance on Islam”. “President Trump has an unprecedented and serious intention to work with the Muslim world and to achieve its interests and Prince Mohammed considers his Excellency as a true friend of Muslims,” Bloomberg quoted the senior adviser to Prince Mohammed as saying. According to reports, the meeting between the Saudi deputy crown prince and Trump appeared to signal a meeting of the minds on many issues, in a marked difference from Riyadh’s often fraught relationship with the Obama administration, especially in the wake of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Meanwhile, the White House has announced that the Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and United States President Donald Trump have discussed potential economic projects worth $200 bln.Mohammed bin Salman-Trump meeting marks ‘resetting of US-Saudi relations’. The meeting between Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman and US President Donald Trump has been ...‘A historic turning point’ as Saudi Deputy Crown Prince meets Donald Trump.Saudi Arabia has claimed “a historic turning point” in relations with the US after President Donald Trump ...

Egyptian-American Dina Powell named deputy US National Security Advisor
AFP, Washington Thursday, 16 March 2017/National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster has tapped Dina Powell to become his deputy, promoting the Cairo-born banker and policymaker to a key White House role. McMaster appointed Powell as deputy national security advisor with particular responsibility for developing strategy, a senior administration official told AFP. She is expected to play a broad role in coordinating between military, diplomatic and intelligence agencies and implementing US foreign policy. The appointment shows McMaster putting his imprimatur on the National Security Council, which had been run by retired general Michael Flynn until weeks ago. He was forced to resign abruptly amid revelations that he misled the White House about his meetings with the Russian ambassador in Washington. But many of his allies remain in office, including deputy national security advisor K.T. McFarland, a former Fox News analyst. She is expected to remain at the National Security Council. The deputy national security advisor is a vital position for the functioning of US foreign policy. Almost all big decisions are run through the so-called “deputies committee” - which the official chairs - before framed for “principals,” including the secretaries of state and defense and eventually the president. Current and former NSC staffers complain that process has not been running smoothly under McFarland and has suffered from interference from Trump’s political advisors. Powell -- a former Goldman Sachs partner and assistant secretary of state who speaks Arabic -- had already been advising Trump on economic issues and is well-respected within the administration. She was one of a handful of US officials who attended a meeting between Trump and Saudi Arabia’s powerful deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman this week.

Iraqi forces besiege ISIS around Mosul Old City
Reuters, Mosul, Iraq Thursday, 16 March 2017/Iraqi government forces besieged ISIS militants around Mosul’s Old City on Thursday, edging closer to the historic mosque from where the group’s leader declared a caliphate nearly three years ago. The militants, holed up in houses and darting through alleyways, resisted with sniper fire, suicide attacks and car bombs. Though heavy rain hampered the advance, Federal Police and rapid response unit troops reached points about 500 m (yards) from the centuries-old al-Nuri Mosque by Thursday morning. The black extremist flag was clearly visible draped from its famous leaning minaret. The government forces have made significant gains in recent days in a battle that started in October, seizing a main bridge over the Tigris river and closing in on the mosque. “We are holding positions we took yesterday. There is a lot of resistance in that area with snipers and car bombs,” Federal Police Major General Haider Dhirgham told Reuters. The capture of al-Nuri Mosque would be a huge symbolic victory as well as a concrete gain. “It’s important for them, it’s where they declared their state,” Dhirgham said, speaking at a police forward base as refugees trudged through the muddy streets and wrecked houses. ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi chose the mosque as his backdrop for announcing the caliphate spanning Iraq and Syria in July 2014. Since then, Mosul has been the hardline group’s main urban stronghold in Iraq but it has steadily lost ground since the offensive began. Iraqi leaders say the battle is reaching its final stages. Several more areas of western Mosul had been recaptured, including the hospital, during Wednesday and Thursday morning but officers said progress was slowed by car bombs and booby-traps in houses and alleyways, as well as the bad weather. ISIS hit back with sporadic attacks on government positions, including mortar fire. Suicide bombers had driven explosive-rigged cars at troops, Dhirgham said. Government forces responded with mortars and helicopter gunships strafed militant positions from above. Police said they had killed nine militants who tried to counter-attack one of their positions with rocket-propelled grenades. “Federal Police drones bomb dozens of fixed and mobile ISIS targets in the perimeters of the Grand Mosque,” a later police statement said.

Istanbul: ‘Major’ terrorist attack thwarted
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Thursday, 16 March 2017/Turkish police reported that it had arrested two suspected ISIS loyalists on Thursday who were planning on committing a “major attack” similar to the Istanbul restaurant attack that happened early New Years’ day. Istanbul police raided a suspected ISIS cell in Kağıthane district, located on the European side of the country – arresting two men of Uzbek origins, Turkey’s Anadolu Agency reported. Police stated that the two men were planning on launching a “major attack” resembling the Reina restaurant attack that left 39 people dead and scores injured, which ISIS took credit for.

Turkey’s Erdogan accuses EU of launching anti-Islam ‘crusade’
AFP, Istanbul Thursday, 16 March 2017/Turkey’s president on Thursday accused the EU’s top court of starting a “crusade” against Islam after a ruling allowing European companies to ban employees from wearing religious or political symbols including the Islamic headscarf. “The European Union’s court, The European Court of Justice, my esteemed brothers, have started a crusade struggle against the (Muslim) crescent,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a televised speech, “Where is freedom of religion?” he said, referring to the court ruling this week. “Shame on your European Union acquis!” Erdogan said, referring to EU law. “Shame on your values. Shame on your law and justice!”“Europe is swiftly rolling back to the days before World War II,” he added. The European Court of Justice said it does not constitute “direct discrimination” if a firm has an internal rule banning the wearing of “any political, philosophical or religious sign”.
Mighty row
The response came as Turkey is locked in a mighty row with Germany, the Netherlands and other EU states over the blocking of Turkish officials from holding rallies abroad in the campaign for a referendum on expanding Erdogan’s powers. Turkey last month said it was lifting a historic ban on female officers wearing the Islamic headscarf in the country’s officially secular armed forces, the last institution where the wearing of the garment was forbidden.

Turkey may cancel migrant readmission deal with EU, says foreign minister
Reuters, Ankara Thursday, 16 March 2017/Turkey may cancel a migrant readmission agreement with the European Union, and is also re-evaluating a $6 billion refugee deal with the bloc, foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a televised interview late Wednesday. Cavusoglu’s remarks came at a time when Turkey-EU tensions are running high after several European countries prevented Turkish politicians, including the foreign minister, from holding rallies intended to drum up support for plans to give President Tayyip Erdogan sweeping new powers in a referendum. Turkey agreed in 2013 to take back migrants who traveled illegally to the EU in return for the promise of visa-free travel. Last year it also agreed to stop illegal migrants from crossing into Greece in exchange for financial aid for those in its care and accelerated EU membership talks. “We may cancel the readmission agreement. The EU has been wasting our time on the visa liberalization issue. We are not applying the readmission agreement at the moment, and we are evaluating the refugee deal,” Cavusoglu said in an interview on Kanal 24. The row escalated after the Dutch government banned a rally in Rotterdam at the weekend, fearing that tensions in Turkey over the referendum could spill over into its expatriate Turkish community. Erdogan retaliated by branding the Netherlands “Nazi remnants.” He has also accused Germany of “fascist actions” for cancelling several planned rallies. Erdogan, who survived a military coup last summer, has defended his plans to amass greater powers, saying Turkey needs greater stability. But his crackdown on dissenting voices among the judiciary and the media since the failed coup has drawn rebuke from the West. The EU is, however, caught between holding Erdogan accountable and guaranteeing the continuation of a deal to control the flow of refugees and migrants who pass through Turkey to Europe.

Turkey Says no Difference between Dutch Liberals and 'Fascist' Wilders
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 16/17/Turkey said on Thursday there was "no difference" between the ruling Dutch liberals and the "fascist" anti-immigration politician Geert Wilders, after Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte defeated the far-right in elections. "You look at the social democrats and the fascist Wilders, there is no difference, they have the same mentality," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said, quoted by state-run news agency Anadolu, referring to the ruling Liberal VVD party which won the most seats against Wilders and his Freedom Party (PVV).

Palestinian leader Abbas: Trump brings hope for ‘peace’
AFP, Ramallah, Palestinian Territories Thursday, 16 March 2017/Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday he hopes recent meetings with US President Donald Trump’s team lead to “peace” between Israelis and Palestinians. Trump called the Palestinian president on March 10 for the first time since his inauguration, inviting him to the White House. “We’ll decide on (the date of) this meeting as quickly as possible,” Abbas told a press conference at his presidential complex in the occupied West Bank. Abbas welcomed the visits to Ramallah of several US officials, including CIA chief Mike Pompeo in mid-February and Trump’s special representative for international negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, whom he met on Tuesday. “We have exchanged many ideas,” Abbas said. “Our hope is that those contacts result in the end in a peace that is led by the United States and the international community.”The next major diplomatic rendezvous for the Palestinians is March 29, when the heads of states of the Arab League will meet in Jordan. “All the eyes of the Arab states will be turned toward the capitals of the world, especially Washington to see what can be done by this administration (American) who said it wants to reach peace,” said Abbas after receiving Bosnian President Mladen Ivanic.

Israel strikes Gaza after rocket fired
AFP, Gaza Thursday, 16 March 2017/The Israeli air force carried out raids on Gaza early Thursday after a rocket was fired from the Palestinian territories towards Israel, sources on both sides said. Neither of the attacks caused casualties, the Israeli army and Palestinian sources confirmed. The firing of projectiles towards southern Israel is rarely claimed but such assaults are often attributed to radical groups inside impoverished Gaza. Israel often blames Hamas, which rules the Palestinian territory, and usually retaliates against its armed wing by attacking its bases. Overnight Wednesday the Israeli army said “a projectile was fired towards the south of Israel”. “In response to this attack, the air force targeted two terrorist Hamas positions in the northern Gaza Strip,” it said in a statement. At least two bombs were dropped on a training base of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing, in the central Gaza Strip, witnesses said. Another strike was aimed at land in the east of the city of Gaza, according to sources within the Gazan security services. No casualties were reported as a result of the raids, medical sources said.

Jordan’s king meets with Trump envoy on Mideast peace push
AFP, Amman Thursday, 16 March 2017/Jordan’s King Abdullah II and an envoy for President Donald Trump have held talks about reviving long-stalled efforts to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. The king served as a key intermediary in previous US led negotiations on setting up a state of Palestine alongside Israel. The US Embassy in Jordan says King Abdullah told envoy Jason Greenblatt on Wednesday that he would “do everything possible” to help end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of a two-state solution. Greenblatt told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in separate meetings earlier this week that Trump is interested in reaching a deal. Trump has suggested a two-state deal is not the only possible solution, but has not laid out his vision for a Mideast solution.

One Hurt in Letter Bomb Blast at IMF Paris Office
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 16/17/A letter bomb exploded at the Paris offices of the International Monetary Fund on Thursday, injuring a secretary who suffered burns to her hands and face, police said. Employees were evacuated from the building near the Arc de Triomphe monument in the heart of the capital "as a precaution" after the late morning explosion, a police source said. IMF chief Christine Lagarde condemned it as a "cowardly act of violence." She reaffirmed "the IMF's resolve to continue our work in line with our mandate," according to a statement issued by her office. "We are working closely with the French authorities to investigate this incident and ensure the safety of our staff."French President Francois Hollande called it an "attack", saying it showed that "we are still targeted." The victim, a secretary for an unnamed senior manager, suffered light burns from the blast which might have been caused by a firework, a police source told AFP, asking not to be named. Armed police and soldiers were seen securing the area around the IMF offices. France has been the victim of a series of deadly attacks by Islamic extremists since 2015. Although no link has been established at this stage, a Greek far-left group claimed Thursday that it had sent a parcel bomb to the German finance ministry in Berlin, more than six years after waging a similar campaign targeting European officials.
Claim by 'Conspiracy of Fire' -
The Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei group admitted responsibility in a statement posted on an anti-establishment website, but only mentioned Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble's office as a target. German police said they had discovered the "explosive" package at Schaeuble's office on Wednesday, a day before he was due to host his new U.S. counterpart Steven Mnuchin. Conspiracy of Fire Nuclei, listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, in 2010 sent letter bombs to foreign embassies in Greece and to three European leaders -- then European Commission chairman Jose Manuel Barroso, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and then Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. A Greek police source said the claim was "most probably" authentic. Germany and the IMF are blamed by many Greeks for imposing years of public sector cuts and reforms in exchange for bailout packages needed to prop up the recession-hit country. Greece's interior ministry said authorities in both Greece and Germany were working together on the case. A Greek police source said the package had a Greek stamp. The "sender" of the parcel was given as a deputy leader of the opposition New Democracy party -- along with his real address.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published On March 16-17/17
The Right to Choose Includes the Right to Choose Life

Alan M. Dershowitz/Gatestone Institute/March 16/17
The issue is not whether there should be choice, but rather who should make the choice.
Why should pregnant females who have compelling reasons -- medical, emotional, familial, religious, financial -- not have the right to choose? Why should the impersonal state take that right from them?
What gives other people the right to decide, when they are not the ones who will have to bear the consequences?
There is no conflict between the "right to choose" and "the right to life" in the context of abortion, because the former includes the latter. If the state were ever to require a pregnant woman to undergo an abortion -- as China in effect did with its "one child" policy -- there would be a conflict. But in the United States, the right to choose includes the right to choose life rather than abortion. It also includes the right of women to choose abortion for themselves.
So, what are the anti-abortion right-to-life advocates complaining about? They do not want any woman to have the right to choose abortion for herself. They want to have the state chose for her -- to deny her the right to choose between giving birth to an unwanted child and having an abortion.
They believe that abortion is infanticide -- murder -- not of their child but of the fetus of the woman who would choose abortion. But that woman does not regard the fetus as her child. So, the right to lifer responds: it doesn't matter what you think. It matters what the state thinks. The vast majority -- 70% -- of citizens the United States think a woman should have the right to control her own reproduction -- to choose whether the embryo or the fetus becomes her child, according to a Pew study this year.
If a woman has been impregnated while being raped, she may not regard the fetus as "her child." The same may be true of other unwanted pregnancies, such as those of teenagers who mentally and physically may be unable raise or care for a child for the rest of her life. The problem is what the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan called, "Children having children."
What gives other people the right to decide, when they are not the ones who will have to bear the consequences?
So, the issue is not whether there should be choice, but rather who should make the choice. What is more than ironic that so many conservatives, who believe that the state should not make other choices for its citizens, insist on the state making this highly personal choice for all women.
Right-to-life extremists argue, of course, that no one has the right to make any choices that will result in the destruction of an embryo or fetus. It is their business, they insist, to prevent the pre-meditated "murder" of every potential life, even that being carried by a stranger, who honestly believes that her unwanted fetus is not yet a "life" -- at least for the first trimester or so -- unless she chooses to give birth to it.
These right-to-lifers would go so far as to require a young girl who was raped by her drunken father to bear that child. It is not the fetus's fault, they would argue, that it was created by incestuous rape. Let it not be killed for the sin and crime of the father.
Those right-to-lifers who would make an exception in such extreme cases -- and most elected officials who claim to be right-to-life advocates do support limited exceptions -- must acknowledge that they are supporting the right of the pregnant girl, rather than the state, to choose whether to abort or give birth. Why then should other pregnant females who have compelling reasons -- medical, emotional, familial, religious, financial -- not have the right to choose? Why should the impersonal state take that right from them?
The issue of "who decides?" is a complex one in a democracy governed by the rule of law and the separation of powers. In addition to the personal question, we must also ask the jurisprudential question: "Who decides who decides?" Is it the legislators in our 50 states who decide whether it is the state or the individual who gets to make the choice? Is it the members of Congress? Is it a majority of the nine Supreme Court justices?
This is not an easy question, even for those of us who strongly support a woman's right to choose, as a matter of morality, justice or religion. Not every moral or religious right is a constitutional right, enforceable by the Supreme Court. There is nothing explicit in our Constitution regarding abortion. There are vague references to the right of individuals to be "secure in the persons," which imply a right of privacy. But there are equally vague references to the right to "life." Any honest reading of the words, history and intended meaning of the Constitution, must lead to the conclusion that the framers did not consider the issue of abortion. They did not explicitly include either the right to choose or the right to life in the context of the abortion debate: it was not occurring at the time of the framing. But the framers almost certainly did include the power of future courts to give contemporary meaning to the open-ended words they selected for a document they hoped would endure for the ages -- as it has done.
In 1973, the Supreme Court did interpret the Constitution to accord pregnant women a right to choose abortion, at least under some circumstances. This decision, Roe v. Wade, was not the Supreme Court's finest hour with regard to constitutional interpretation. Many scholars, including me, criticized its reasoning and methodology. But it has become the law of the land. Over the past 44 years, it has been slightly changed by subsequent cases, but its core has remained the same; a pregnant woman has the right to choose whether to abort the fetus or give birth to the child. The debate continues around the edges: when does "life" begin? When, during the course of a pregnancy, does the right to choose end? But at its core the right of a woman to choose -- abortion or life -- remains solidly ensconced in our jurisprudence.
The Supreme Court justices who decided Roe v. Wade, photographed in 1972.
**Alan M. Dershowitz is an American lawyer, jurist, and author. He is a prominent scholar on United States constitutional law and criminal law, and a leading defender of civil liberties. He is now Professor Emeritus of the Felix Frankfurter Chair at Harvard Law School.
© 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.

Greece: A Democracy in Crisis

Maria Polizoidou/Gatestone Institute/March 16/17
The Greek people have just about reached the limits of their strength. The economic situation is tragic. Illegal immigration is out of control, criminality increases day by day. The political system is steeped in corruption and the media have stopped being the communication channel between citizens and the political system. The Greek media are functioning as the praetorian guard of the euro; they favor the massive admission of Muslim populations into Greece and they fiercely attack every voice that disagrees with them.
Bishop Ambrossios is urging people to revolt. He characterizes the illegal Muslim immigrants entering the country as conquerors. He also says that Christianity is under attack in Greece, while Islam is being daily reinforced. He says that Greek Orthodox churches are being desecrated, robbed and burned by Muslim immigrants while the state just sits by and looks on.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras does not fully control his political party; his biggest problem is his cabinet.
When a political system is corrupt, when the media only put out propaganda and not information, when oligarchs control public life, when the political system seems repeatedly directed against the interests of its own people, when a political system ignores the constitution and the will of the majority but draws its legitimacy once every four years through elections, then, although it may be called "democratic", it is a democracy of junk. It is not the people's democracy anymore; instead, it belongs to the elites.
If Greeks do not take back their homeland, wrote journalist Makis Andronopoulos on January 3, 2017, the guns may well have the last word. Andronopoulos wrote that he came to this conclusion after polls showed the detachment of the political system from the Greek people and their tragic way of life.
The director of the newspaper Kathimerini, Alexis Papahelas, wrote on January 29, 2017 that the people are exhausted, that democracy still does not have solution to the problems of citizens and that the situation in Greece reminded him of 2012, when the old political system was wiped out.
Bishop Ambrossios is urging people to revolt. He characterizes the illegal Muslim immigrants entering the country, as conquerors. He also says that Christianity is under attack in Greece while Islam is being daily reinforced. He says that Greek Orthodox churches are being desecrated, robbed and burned by Muslim immigrants while the state just sits by and looks.
Members of the governing coalition say that Germany wants to bring down the Greek government and bring the New Democracy party to power. The leader of New Democracy, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, is the most obedient and tenacious follower of the German policy in Greece.
The Greek parliament has eight political parties, but if one excludes the Greek Communist party and the Golden Dawn party that have their own anti-establishment agenda, the remaining parties express exactly the same policies: All of them are enthusiasts of the eurozone and the European Union; they support open borders and globalization, and have no respect for Greece's religious or cultural roots.
The Greeks, for the last seven years, have been requesting: strict measures against illegal immigration; mass deportations of illegal immigrants; parliamentary independence from supranational organizations; accountability from their leaders; transparency in political life; security and economic liberalization from their lenders; combating corruption and protecting the country's national identity. These requests, however, have been rejected for decades by the system -- with no debate. When those who make these requests are characterized as nationalists and racists and are socially stigmatized instead of being heard, such requests can burst outside the democratic framework. When a supposed democracy and the media do not allow people space to express these opinions and become part of the democratic process, citizens will ask to be heard by other means.
The Greek people have just about reached the limits of their strength. The economic situation is tragic. Illegal immigration is out of control, criminality increases day by day. The political system is steeped in corruption and the media have stopped being the communication channel between citizens and the political system. The Greek media are functioning as the praetorian guard of the euro; they favor the massive admission of Muslim populations into Greece and they fiercely attack every voice that opposes their own.
The country is rotting inside the EU and the eurozone. The Greek people have crashed economically. Greek cities, because of massive illegal immigration, look less like cities in Europe and more like cities in Afghanistan. Banks have begun the mass-confiscation of residences. The people are on the verge of revolt.
The Financial and Industrial Research Foundation, in its latest report, stated that the per capita income of Greek citizens has declined to the level of year 2000.
According to the Bank of Greece, the wealth of Greek households decreased by 37.5% between 2000 and 2015.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), in a report, characterizes the Greek people as the unhappiest in the EU. Unemployment is more than 25%, the highest in the eurozone.
Scandals in Greece have been coming to the surface one after another. The Novartis pharmaceutical company, for example -- in one of the largest scandals in Greece -- was found to be giving money to politicians, government officials, journalists, publishers and doctors so that the public hospitals would use Novartis's products. According to the media, those involved are a former prime minister of Greece, who is currently the EU Immigration Commissioner), Dimitris Avramopoulos, and several former ministers.
In addition, the German company Siemens is also alleged to have been bribing Greek politicians to win public contracts. The case is now being heard in court. The Siemens scandal may also end up having a huge impact on the political system.
According to the accusations of May Zanni, Deputy Secretary for Strategic Planning and Communication (from the New Democracy party), Greece's opposition leader, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, and his family seem to have huge dealings with the German company.
In fairness, the current government is working hard so that corruption and mismanagement cases are heard in court.
Also in fairness, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is not a man with bad intentions and tries, within the limits the lenders leave, to negotiate as hard as he can for his country. He knows very well that Greece, to survive, should withdraw from the euro and the European Union. He also knows, as do the Greek people, that Greek history, Greek values and Greek geopolitics always lie close to the naval powers, the USA and Great Britain. Greece has never been able to join the European continental powers.
But a powerless prime minister, even if he wants to lead his country towards salvation, away from the European Union, cannot do it. Tsipras does not fully control his political party; his biggest problem is his cabinet. SYRIZA is a political party that relates politically and ideologically to the US Democratic Party. So, he is committed to follow the US Democratic Party's policies about the European Union, the eurozone and globalization. Perhaps now, with the Trump Administration, at least some of these problems will be able to be addressed.
The media's favorite target, meanwhile, is President Trump and the orderly, peaceful -- truly democratic -- political revolution that brought his presidency about.
Poverty, criminality, corruption, illegal immigration and the delegitimization of the political system are the dots which, if one connects them, point to Article 48 of the Greek constitution. This article, which determines when the government can suspend the constitutional rights of citizens, can be activated when the state is under siege from internal or domestic enemies.
With more taxes in the offing, with more pension and salary cuts, and with Turkey sending more immigrants to Greece, there is no way for Greece to be governed without the government declaring martial law to enforce its policies on the population. There are several ways this can happen.
One possible scenario is that the Germans will force Tsipras to resign and go to elections. If that happens, the opposition parties will win the elections, but in order to deal with the rage of the left and the Greek people -- who will have to pay even more taxes, as the Germans asked -- the Greek government will have to declare a state of emergency.
One possible scenario is that the Germans will force Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to resign and go to elections. Pictured: German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets with Tsipras, on December 16, 2016. (Image source: phoenix vor Ort video screenshot)
Another scenario is that the EU will push Tsipras to co-operate with the opposition parties in order to create a broad government coalition that will enforce all the new taxes and pension cuts. In such an event, the Golden Dawn party and the Greek Communist party, along with rebellious citizens, will declare themselves against the entire political system, and take their fight not to the parliament but to the streets.
**Maria Polizoidou, a reporter, broadcast journalist, and consultant on international and foreign affairs, is based in Greece.
© 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.

More Evidence that McMaster Shares Obama’s Views on Islam and Terror
Raymond Ibrahim /PJ Media/March 16/17
Donald Trump’s new national security advisor, Lt. General H.R. McMaster, has made troubling remarks — such as “the Islamic State is not Islamic” — that one expects from the D.C. establishment. However, a hearty endorsement that he gave to a 2010 book points to the totality of McMaster’s views on security issues as being worse than simply his parroting politically correct memes on Islam.
The book in question is Militant Islamist Ideology: Understanding the Global Threat. Written by CDR Youssef Aboul-Enein, it was published by the Naval Institute Press in 2010. I read and reviewed it back in 2012 and found its claims — many of which the Obama administration followed to disastrous results — to be incorrect and problematic.
For starters, Aboul-Enein asserts that only “militant Islamists” — ISIS types who behead, crucify, massacre, and burn people alive — are the enemy. “Non-militant Islamists,” however, are not:
It is the Militant Islamists who are our adversary. They represent an immediate threat to the national security of the United States. They must not be confused with Islamists [p.2].
This theme, which the author often expresses in convoluted language — at one point urging readers to appreciate “the divisions between Militant Islamists and between Militant Islamists and Islamists” (p.176) — permeates the book. In reality, all Islamists share the same ultimate goal of global Islamic hegemony. They differ only in methodology — not in their view of us as the enemy to be crushed.
“Non-militant Islamists,” chief among them the Muslim Brotherhood, see incremental infiltration and subtle subversion of infidel Western states as more effective than outright terrorism, as one notorious Brotherhood memo clearly states.[1]
We’ve already seen the outcome of cooperating with “Non-militant Islamists” during the Arab Spring. The Obama administration cast aside decades of standard U.S. policy and support for secular Arab autocrats and made cozy with the Muslim Brotherhood. What followed is well-known: the Arab Spring quickly turned into the “Islamic Winter.” This culminated with the rise of the Islamic State, in large part due to Obama’s policies, both active (aiding Islamic terrorists by portraying them as “freedom fighters” in Libya and Syria) and inactive (pulling all U.S. forces out of Iraq despite the warnings and disposing of a 30-year ally of the U.S., the secularist Mubarak, for the Brotherhood in Egypt).
Aboul-Enein further recommends American forces adopt a Sharia-compliant respect for Islam and Muslims. For example, he suggests that if an American soldier ever desecrates a Koran, U.S. leadership must not merely relieve him of duty, but offer “unconditional apologies” to Muslims, and emulate the words of Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Hammond, which Aboul-Enein quotes as exemplary: “I come before you [Muslims] seeking your forgiveness, in the most humble manner I look in your eyes today, and say please forgive me and my soldiers,” followed by kissing a new Koran and “ceremoniously” presenting it to Muslims.
Not only is such a double-standard un-American — would a serviceman be punished for the “desecration” of any other religious book? — but the very idea that supremacist Muslims can be won over through servile and fawning appeasement is antithetical to reality, if not human nature. Abject behavior breeds contempt and encourages more Muslim aggression and demands.
Here are a few more examples of Aboul-Enein’s false claims, distortions, and general oddities, though one could go on and on:
He writes (p.142) that “when Muslims are a persecuted minority Jihad becomes a fard kifaya (an optional obligation), in which the imam authorizes annual expeditions into Dar el Harb (the Abode of War), lands considered not under Muslim dominance.” This is wrong on several levels. A fard kifaya is not an “optional obligation” — an oxymoron if ever there was one — but rather a “communal obligation.” Moreover, Aboul-Enein is clearly describing Offensive Jihad, which is designed to subjugate non-Muslims and is obligatory to wage whenever Muslims are capable, not “when Muslims are a persecuted minority,” which in Islamic jurisprudence is a Defensive Jihad and fard ‘ain (i.e., individual obligation).
He says (p.75) that the Arabic word for “terrorist” (irhabi) is nowhere to be found in the Koran or Hadith– without bothering to mention that the verb form of that word (tirhibun), “terrorize,” abounds in Islamic scriptures (e.g., Allah himself calls on Muslims to “terrorize” Islam’s opponents in Koran 8:60).
He asserts (p.65) that “militant Islamists dismiss ijmaa [consensus] and qiyas [analogical reasoning]” two tools of Islamic jurisprudence. This is simply false. Groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS regularly invoke ijmaa (for instance, the consensus that jihad becomes a personal duty — fard ‘ain — when infidels invade the Islamic world) and justify suicide attacks precisely through qiyas (see The Al Qaeda Reader, p.138).
After rightfully admonishing readers not to rely on skewed or biased accounts of Islam and Muhammad’s biography, he repeatedly recommends (e.g., pgs. 20, 213, 216) the writings of Muslim apologist extraordinaire Karen Armstrong, whose whitewashing of all things Islamic is notorious.
Such are the claims, distortions, and recommendations of a book that McMaster wholeheartedly endorsed in 2010 as “excellent” and “deserv[ing] a wide readership,” a book that claims “[t]errorist organizations use a narrow and irreligious ideology to recruit undereducated and disenfranchised people to their cause” — yet another tired apologia that has been repeatedly debunked. [2]
Over a year ago I closed an article for Hoover Institution’s Strategika with the following sentence:
Time will tell whether the next [American presidential] administration will remain willfully ignorant of the nature of its jihadi enemy — which is fatal in war according to Sun Tzu’s ancient dictum, “know your enemy” — or whether reality will trump political correctness.
The pun remains truer than ever: If the recommendations of Militant Islamist Ideology reflect the views of Trump’s new national security advisor on U.S. security and Islam — especially this notion of cooperating with “Nonmilitant Islamists” — then it seems we are going right back to being “willfully ignorant” of reality.
[1] Excerpt follows: Understanding the role of the Muslim Brother in North America:
“The process of settlement is a “Civilization-Jihadist Process” with all the word means. The Ikhwan [meaning Muslim Brotherhood] must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and “sabotaging” its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.”
“Without this level of understanding, we are not up to this challenge and have not prepared ourselves for Jihad yet. It is a Muslim’s destiny to perform Jihad and work wherever he is and wherever he lands until the final hour comes, and there is no escape from that destiny except for those who chose to slack.”
[2] Here is McMaster’s entire endorsement, as it appears on the back of the book’s jacket cover:
“Terrorist organizations use a narrow and irreligious ideology to recruit undereducated and disenfranchised people to their cause. Understanding terrorist ideology is the first and may also be the most important step in ensuring national and international security against the threat that these organizations pose.
Youssef Aboul-Enein’s book is an excellent starting point in that connection. Militant Islamist Ideology deserves a wide readership among all those concerned with the problem of transnational terrorism, their ideology, and our efforts to combat those organizations that pose a serious threat to current and future generations of Muslims and non-Muslims alike.”

Russia in Libya: Wasn’t that expected?

Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/March 16/17
The Russian Defense Ministry’s Tuesday statement denying media reports that special Russian forces were deployed in Libya is nothing new. Reuters published an interesting report about Russian intervention in Libya’s internal struggle between parties affiliated with the Brotherhood, and its allies, and national army forces led by General Khalifa Haftar and his allies, the Tobruk and Benghazi government in East Libya. In April 2016, in an interview with the Russia Today television channel, Russian foreign affairs minister Sergei Lavrov warned the international community of intervening in Libya without the UN Security Council’s authorization. In brief, East Libya, i.e. on the side of Egyptian borders, is under the control of the Tobruk-led government. National army forces, under the command of Haftar, control most eastern areas. The West, including the capital Tripoli, remains under the control of a government that supports the Brotherhood and armed militias. The latter has pockets in the eastern region and the national army forces also have pockets in the western region. The most dangerous development was the Benghazi Defense Brigades’ attack on the oil-rich region of Ras Lanuf, which led army air force to retaliate and shell the brigades. On the political front, there is a Tunisian-Algerian-European vision that believes it is a must to include parties in Tripoli and Fajr Libya – the Brotherhood and those with them – in power as it is not possible to eliminate them from the scene. Meanwhile, other parties, such as Egypt and Russia, think the focus should be on fighting armed fundamentalist groups via supporting the Tobruk parliament and the national army led by Haftar. This is why Haftar visited Russia.
Russia is drowning in the waters and sands of the Middle East, which no one exits from the way they entered
Egypt’s stake
Egypt is indeed a partner in the efforts of this Libyan political dialogue and it has hosted a Libyan dialogue in Cairo. It participated with Tunisia, Algeria and other countries in bringing about a consensus on Libya. However, there is a difference in priorities. What matters here is that it is normal for Russia to have some sort of security, intelligence and military role on the ground. Western countries, including America, also have their interventions.Egypt is rightly worried about the situation in Libya and seeks to defeat evil there especially considering it is in a state of war against terrorist groups in Sinai and that ISIS is strengthening its presence in Sirte, al-Bayda and other areas. Russia is drowning in the waters and sands of the Middle East, which no one exits from the way they entered. In all fairness, what is happening in Arab and Islamic countries is what calls for all this intervention by others – whether this intervention is in our favor or against us. Russians make statements about international laws and attaining authorization from the UN Security Council. However, this is their permanent excuse to reject others’ interventions when in fact they do the opposite of that, not just in Libya but also in other countries. Moscow, welcome to our homes and the real world.
*The article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat.

The war on others’ tastes
Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/March 16/17
This time it is a young man with a groomed beard wearing keffiyeh and agal. Yet he is performing an act similar to that of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s followers against historic artefacts, theatres and temples that are deeply significant for the history of humanity. This young man broke the microphone and delivered a fiery statement full of reprimand in an attempt to raise awareness. The scene suggests that the phenomenon of controlling societies’ tastes has not become extinct but has rather become part of several other phenomena. This young man was not wearing a short garment or a bisht (abaya) and didn’t have a flowing beard. He looked and dressed like ordinary Saudis. Yet he was carrying out an extreme act that violates basic rules and regulations. Developing finer tastes in life is part of an ordinary individual’s character building process and not respecting it indicates lack of ethics
Training generations
The point here is not the individual as this young man’s case was referred to the relevant authorities. What is important is how can education institutions train generations to respect other people’s taste? They must be taught that if there is an event they don’t like they can just overlook it and wait for the next one.Developing finer tastes in life is part of an ordinary individual’s character building process and not respecting it indicates lack of ethics. It defiles people’s sense of belonging thus imposing a formula “I don’t like this and everyone else must not like it too.” This is the formula of the “jungle” not the “city”. In brief, these festivals and events are organized for those who would like to attend them. As for those who do not want to attend, they can choose from several other options in Riyadh.
**This article was first published in Okaz on March 16.

Significant breakthroughs for Riyadh
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Al Arabiya/March 16/17
It is an important week for Saudi diplomacy. Saudi Arabia is improving its relations with China, the world’s top oil importer, and has turned over a new leaf with US President Donald Trump to fix what was ruined by former President Barack Obama, whose policy was based on rapprochement with Iran against the interests and security of the Gulf and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia, which found itself in a corner as a result of geopolitical and oil-related wars and transformations, is launching a counter defense campaign. King Salman bin Abdulaziz is meeting with leaders in China, which requested mediating with Iran that is now calling for reconciliation. Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met with the US president around the same time. Commenting on Tuesday’s meeting between Trump and the Crown Prince, a senior adviser to the Crown Prince told Bloomberg: “Today’s meeting has put things on the right track, and marked a significant shift in relations, across all political, military, security and economic fields.”This clearly refers to putting things, which Obama ruined, on the right track and to restoring special bilateral relations that has traditionally been based on the agreements of the meeting that King Abdulaziz and US President Theodore Roosevelt held on board of the Navy cruiser Quincy after the end of World War II.
Few official statements were made about the meeting between the Crown Prince and Trump. The latter has been a president for less than two months now but the White House showed great interest in this meeting. Trump changed the meeting’s time and held it two days ahead of its schedule.
White House officials including the vice president attended the meeting. What emerged – according to unofficial statements – shows that Washington altered its policy toward Iran and that it will not remain idle on Iran’s terrorist activities. There are two models in the Middle East: one that conveys its desire to improve relations via economic and development cooperation and another that uses wars and terrorism to impose its relations
Changed positions
Few weeks ago, Trump’s administration adopted a stance that is different from Obama’s when it allowed shipping ammunition to Saudi forces and supplied Saudi Arabia with intelligence information to support it in Yemen. Saudi Arabia’s relations with the US suffered during Obama’s term. In fact, the entire region went through a turmoil because of Obama’s openness toward Iran encouraged the latter’s military expansion in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Chaos is also one of his policy’s repercussions on the region. The points raised during Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s trip include convincing Trump of a new relationship that aims to rectify the situation, confronting Iran’s domination and fighting terrorism, which is everyone’s mutual enemy. On the economic front, a member of the Saudi delegation said that the Americans are keen to enhance participation in Saudi Arabia’s economic vision.
Meanwhile in China, Iran was not the only topic, which King Salman and the Chinese president discussed. Saudi-Chinese relations in terms of oil, economy, military and security cooperation are good. There is also the Silk Road, China’s promising and interesting giant project, which has complicated political problems because it passes through conflict zones. One of the possible options is for this road to take Saudi lands as passages or as parallel routes.Information released by Beijing shows that it will continue to calmly enhance its presence in western Asian and eastern African areas. Today, China is the world’s second largest economy after the US. Like major countries, it needs raw material and energy resources and it needs to secure its trade passage and protect its investments and interests. However, unlike them, China does not impose its influence via military presence but rather uses its economic influence to impose its stances or protect its interests. There are two models in the Middle East: one that conveys its desire to improve relations via economic and development cooperation and another that uses wars and terrorism to impose its relations.
**This article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat on March 16, 2017.

Why do Western ‘leftists’ and ‘liberals’ love Iran’s government?
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arabnews/March 16/17
Many wonder why so-called Western “leftists” and “liberals,” as well as mainstream liberal media outlets, shower praise on Tehran, particularly given its condemnation of the West, its state sponsorship of terrorism, its poor human rights record and its meddling in other countries in the region. The answer is linked to preserving one’s economic and career interests, as well as to Western education systems, particularly at highly regarded universities. I will focus on the second dimension since the first is self-explanatory. In Western academic systems, students are normally taught via methods that encourage critical thinking and take students out of their comfort zone. It appears that a significant part of shaping this critical thinking is to focus on literature that examines Western imperialism, colonialism and orientalism.
As a result, many develop a negative image of the West while thinking of Tehran as a victim. Since the focus becomes how the US treated or mistreated Iran, the whole picture of what is happening in Iran, what its government is doing to its people, and how it is acting in the region becomes irrelevant and is disregarded. If you examine Iranian-Western scenarios in this framework, you are seen as highly educated, sophisticated, humane and civilized. Even if Iran violates international law, liberals will justify it and blame the West or other countries in the region. This is how they are trained. If you do not follow this framework, you are attacked and labelled, and your credentials and qualifications are questioned.
Because they fit into its agenda of demonizing the West while disregarding or justifying Iranian aggression.  Tehran loves these Western “liberals” and “leftists” because they fit into its agenda of demonizing the West while disregarding or justifying Iranian aggression. Many are repeatedly invited to speak on Iranian media outlets or participate in other activities. Many of them fail to realize that this framework has become their new comfort zone. This framework is binary, simplified and unsophisticated. It does not reflect the nuances and complexities of Iran’s politics, and does no justice to the overwhelming majority of Iranians and others in the region, including Syrians.
By only focusing on criticizing the West vis-a-vis Tehran, we are overlooking the latter’s daily injustices and military adventurism. This indirectly empowers and emboldens Iran’s government to repress its own people and fuel conflicts in other countries such as Syria. If liberals truly stand for values such as peace, social justice, freedoms, democracy and human rights, as they say they do, they ought to forcefully condemn Tehran for violating all these values. It is hypocritical not to do so.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated, Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. He serves on the boards of the Harvard International Review, the Harvard International Relations Council and the US-Middle East Chamber for Commerce and Business. He can be reached on Twitter @Dr_Rafizadeh.

Reports On Creation Of Muslim Brotherhood Lobby In U.S. To Prevent Trump Administration From Designating The Movement A Terrorist Organization
By: C. Meital and H. Varulkar/MEMRI/March 16/17
Following Donald Trump's election to the U.S. presidency, the issue of designating the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) a terrorist organization resurfaced.
During and after his presidential campaign, Trump's Middle East advisor Walid Phares repeatedly stated that the new president would act for the passage of a bill doing so.
For example, following Trump's September 2016 meeting with Egyptian President 'Abd Al-Fatah Al-Sisi on the margins of the UN General Assembly, Phares told the Egyptian daily Al-Watan that Trump had promised Al-Sisi that he would promote a bill that is already before Congress that designates the MB a terrorist organization.[1] After the election, Phares reiterated these remarks to the press.[2]
It should be mentioned that in November 2015, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) announced that they had introduced a bill designating the MB a terrorist organization.[3] In January 2017, Cruz tweeted that he and Diaz-Balart had reintroduced the bill on this matter: "Proud to introduce Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist Designation Act w @MarioDB [Mario Diaz-Balart]. It's time to call the enemy by its name."[4]
Ted Cruz's tweet
In light of this bill, and in light of statements by Trump administration officials about its intent to promote it, the MB began preparations to confront the bill and prevent its passage. Launching a widespread informational media campaign, including the hiring of U.S. lobbying and legal firms, outreach to the press in the U.S., and dissemination of informational content aimed at improving its image in the West, particularly in the U.S., the MB attempted to convey that it is not a terrorist organization, but rather an ideological movement whose methods of operation are peaceful.
On the other hand, the Egyptian regime has been working to persuade the new U.S. administration that the MB is indeed a terrorist organization, as well as an umbrella organization for other terrorist outfits. In addition it was reported that Egyptian intelligence too had hired an American lobbying firm to improve the image of the Egyptian regime in the U.S.[5] Egyptian parliamentary representatives met in January 2017 with U.S. members of Congress to impress upon them the necessity of designating the MB as terrorist. Another visit by an Egyptian parliamentary delegation was scheduled for January but has apparently been postponed to April. Additionally, the Egyptian daily Al-Yawm Al-Sabi', which is close to the regime, has in recent weeks been criticizing Western media, particularly The New York Times, for providing a platform for the promotion of MB ideas. The Egyptian press in general expressed criticism of the regime for failing to sufficiently counter the MB's media campaign.
This report will review MB media efforts to counter U.S. legislative and legal moves to designate it a terrorist organization, efforts by the Egyptian regime and official media to prove that it does indeed engage in terrorism, and claims by Egyptian writers that the regime is not doing enough to combat the MB's campaign in the West.
MB Works To Create U.S. Lobby
In fact, already in November 2016, immediately after Donald Trump's victory in the U.S. presidential elections, the movement began preparing to counter U.S. moves to designate it terrorist. The Egyptian Institute for Political and Strategic Studies, which belongs to the MB and operates from Turkey under the directorship of Amr Darrag, who served as minister of planning and international cooperation in the Mursi administration, published a document by Dr. Badr Shafi'i on November 26 with recommendations for the movement on how to deal with America's intent to promote a terrorist designation of the MB. The recommendations include: Appointing elements within the movement to supervise these steps and make contact with experts on international relations; contacting politicians, clerics, and countries that could sympathize with the MB in order to improve its image in Congress; establishing a legal-media team and hold ties with members of Congress; hiring a U.S. law firm and public relations teams; and establishing a substantial Islamic lobby in the U.S., while strengthening ties with movements opposing Trump's policy.[6]
Recommendations published by the Egyptian Institute for Political and Strategic Studies (, November 2016)
In January and March 2017, the institute published two more documents by Shafi'i that also dealt with this issue, in which he reiterated his recommendations.[7]
In addition, in recent months, the Arab press in general, and the Egyptian press in particular, reported on MB efforts to prevent the Trump administration from listing it as a terrorist organization. Thus, for example, MB sources outside of Egypt told the daily Al-Shurouq that the global MB organization was conducting widespread activity to this end. According to these sources, the movement was being assisted by the governments of Turkey, Tunisia, and Morocco, and by the governments of countries where the MB has substantial parliamentary blocs such as Kuwait, Jordan, and Algeria. The sources also disclosed that the movement's steps, not only in Egypt but in 82 countries around the world, as well as its contacts with members of Congress and senior U.S. writers and civil society organizations, are meant to prevent the decision.[8]
Evidence of these moves could be seen in comments by London-based MB official Mohamed Soudan, who said in late January that MB elements were speaking to American politicians, State Department officials, members of Congress, and academics, in order to explain the nonviolent history of the movement since its establishment in 1928.[9]
In other statements to the media, Soudan said that most of the MB's contacts in the U.S. were done via a public relations firm, and added: "We will defend our history and the movement's future with all possible legitimate and legal means." According to him, the MB will not sit idly by but rather operate on all fronts and conduct meetings with all American parties in order to prevent a U.S. decision designating it a terrorist organization.[10]
On February 5, the Saudi website Elaph reported that the MB had signed a contract with the American lobbying firm Glover Park Group, paying it $4.8 million to help it establish ties with Trump administration officials in order to improve its image in U.S. media. According to the report, the contract included organizing meetings with Trump administration officials, submitting documents on Egyptian government mistreatment of the movement and its members, publishing articles in American media, and providing platforms for movement officials in American print and TV media. Elaph added that elements close to the Obama administration had helped the movement sign the contract with this firm, whose officials include members of Obama's election campaign and Hillary Clinton's law firm. One such official, says Elaph, is Jonathan Kopp, Glover Park Group's Managing Director, who worked for a law firm owned by Hillary Clinton and was Bill Clinton's legal counsel during his time as president. He was also a member of Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign. The Glover Park Group employs dozens of former White House and State Department staffers, who have extensive ties to members of Congress and political and strategic research centers in the U.S.[11]
Furthermore, former MB official Tareq Abu Al-Sa'ad claimed that as part of its efforts to improve its image in the U.S., the movement relies on specific American families who are members of the MB and have close ties to the U.S. administration. He mentioned, for instance, the Al-Haddad family, which he said has ties to American officials and research institutes, as well as other MB officials that are expected to contact human rights organizations to help improve its image in Washington.[12]
One example of the MB's efforts on this front is a New York Times article by Gehad Al-Haddad, a former Egyptian MB spokesman who was arrested in 2013 and is currently incarcerated in Tora Prison in Egypt. Gehad is the son of Essam Al-Haddad, an aide to former Egyptian President Muhammad Mursi.[13] In the February 22 article, titled "I Am a Member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Not a Terrorist," Al-Haddad rejected claims that the MB was a terrorist organization, stating that its ideology stems from the Islamic interpretation based on social justice, equality, and rule of law. He stressed that despite the Egyptian regime's hostility, the movement always fought for the weak in society and that it believes in democracy and pluralism, adding that during the Mubarak era, it even worked together with democratic movements to prevent him from bequeathing the presidency to his son Gamal. He added that the MB opposes violence and has always operated peacefully, and that violent movements that are said to have grown out of the MB actually left the movement because it could not accept their violent methods.[14] Elements close to the movement said it had chosen Gehad Al-Haddad to pen the article because he had held close ties with U.S. officials during the term of former President Mursi.[15]
Al-Haddad's New York Times article (New York Times, February 22, 2017)
Another New York Times article on February 20, by Declan Walsh, argued that a terror listing for the MB, which has millions of followers, could have negative consequences, especially for countries where MB-linked parties are in power or are prominent in Parliament, with serious implications for domestic politics, American diplomacy and the broader fight against Islamist extremism. It stated further that marginalizing this movement could mean discouraging some of its moderate branches that have won wide praise for their democratic engagement, while empowering jihadist groups. Moreover, the proposed designation would reaffirm Trump's embrace of Egyptian President Al-Sisi, who has faced severe international criticism for Egypt's dismal human rights record in recent years and its ruthless persecution of the MB.
It should be mentioned that on February 23, Al-Masri Al-Yawm quoted Mohamed Soudan as saying that the MB had managed to convince Congress to not designate it a terrorist organization. The report quoted Soudan as saying that the global MB organization had managed to hold contacts with administration and Congress officials and had used documents to convince them that the MB was not and would never be involved in terrorist attacks, and that it routinely issues condemnations for attacks that take place in most countries of the world."[16] However, the following day Soudan denied the statements attributed to him by Al-Masri Al-Yawm, and posted an article from the Egyptian daily Al-Misriyyoun on his Facebook page with the comment: "I know nothing of this statement and these comments, and I don't know where they (Al-Masri Al-Yawm) got this fiction."[17]
Al-Sisi Regime Responds To MB Media Campaign
The Egyptian regime does not seem to working as intensively to promote the U.S. Congressional bill to designate the MB terrorist as the MB is to prevent such a designation. In January 2017, Mohamed Al-'Orabi, former Egyptian foreign minister and current member of the Egyptian parliament's foreign relations committee, and Ahmed Al-Fadaly, head of the Independent Party Current, attended President Trump's inauguration, and also met with members of Congress and administration officials. They presented President Trump with a memo demanding quick action to designate the MB as terrorist. Al-'Orabi said during the visit that the Egyptian parliament would soon launch a widespread campaign to advance this issue.[18]
However, besides this visit, and MP statements about their intentions to act on the matter, no actual measures are reported to have been taken to promote the U.S. Congress's anti-MB bill.
In mid-January 2017, it was reported that a delegation on behalf of the Egyptian parliament's Foreign Relations Committee would travel to the U.S. later that month to meet with members of Congress and deliver a report on "the MB's violent and terrorist acts." Tarek Radwan, a representative of the committee, said that attempts were being made to arrange a meeting between the delegation and Sen. Cruz and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart.[19] The visit, however, apparently never took place. On March 6, it was reported that delegation would visit the U.S. in April.[20]
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, asked by the daily Al-Watan whether he had discussed the designation of the MB as terrorist during his late February 2017 visit to the U.S., responded: "I did not address this matter, but I told [U.S. officials] that it was important to note that the MB provides the philosophical and religious basis for radical ideology, and that we cannot combat terrorism [solely] by designating [organizations] in different ways, since all terrorist organizations are interconnected. Thus, [for example] even if ISIS is eliminated, new groups will continue to spring up as long as the source of radical ideology exists." Shoukry added that the U.S. officials had grasped his point, that he was following the efforts of several members of Congress on the issue, and that the issue remains controversial.[21]
Egyptian Daily: New York Times Supports Terrorism, Slandered Egypt
In contrast to Egyptian officials, the daily Al-Yawm Al-Sabi', which is close to Egyptian authorities and intelligence apparatuses, dealt extensively with the issue of designating the MB as terrorist, publishing a number of articles attacking the organization. It also criticized the U.S. media, particularly The New York Times, stating that it was enabling MB terrorism. On February 23, the day after The Times published Gehad Al-Haddad's op-ed, Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' published an article titled "New York Times Supports MB Terrorism, Publishes Article by Gehad Al-Haddad..."[22] On February 24, it published an article titled "Questionable MB Plot to Slander Egypt in Western Media... Islamist [elements]: Organization Spending Millions of Dollars to Spread Its Poison."[23]
On March 2, Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' published an article headlined "New Disgrace for New York Times: Paper Refuses to Publish Article Proving MB Terrorism; [Egyptian-American journalist and researcher] Michael Morgan after His Article Was Rejected for Publication...: 'The Paper Has Become an [MB] Movement Platform and the U.S. Will Pay the Price."[24]
Another Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' article, published March 12, stated: "Since the onset of the June 30 [2013] revolution that ousted the MB regime, The New York Times has specialized in improving the MB's image and slandering Egypt." It quoted Islamic affairs expert Ahmed 'Atta as saying that the MB International Organization secretary-general Ibrahim Munir Mustafa had paid global media outlets, chiefly the Times, $50 million to continue its attacks on Donald Trump because of Trump's anti-MB stance.[25]
Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' February 24 article attacking the New York Times
Egyptian Journalists To Al-Sisi Regime: Be More Decisive In Countering MB Media Campaign
Several Egyptian writers criticized the regime's inertia in the face of the MB's media campaign. On February 22, Al-Ahram columnist Ahmed 'Abd Al-Tawab wrote that the MB's media campaign shows that the movement fears being designated a terrorist organization. He wrote that it is "Egypt's responsibility" in this matter, "due to its decades-long experience with MB crimes, to provide the Trump administration with information and historical and current evidence that will help it combat the movement on the legal, political, and cultural levels, in accordance with the human rights [principles] that the MB endangers..."[26]
Al-Ahram writer Muhammad Salmawi also wrote of the need for Egypt to step up its activity vis-à-vis the U.S. on the MB issue. In an article titled "The Voice of the MB – and Our Silence," Salmawi wrote of his surprise at Egypt's feeble reaction to Gehad Al-Haddad's New York Times article. The MB, he said, realizes that the way to influence American society is through public relations and lobbying firms, and the Egyptian regime needs to do likewise: "Those who follow the American press at this time cannot help but notice the intense campaign to improve the MB's image and cleanse them of any blood spilled now or in the past in the name of Islam. This campaign has a specific goal – to stop the Trump administration from designating the movement a terrorist organization, thus fulfilling one of [Trump's] campaign promises. To this end, the campaign twists facts with reckless abandon, made possible by the absence of an opposing viewpoint that could have corrected the erroneous information and responded to [the MB's] notorious lies. How much longer will we remain silent in light of a campaign that has raised its voice and spread throughout the American media since the onset of the June 30, 2013 revolution?
"Last week I read the article by the former official MB spokesman [Gehad Al-Haddad], penned from his Egyptian prison cell and published by The New York Times. I was surprised that some of the few [Egyptian writers] who addressed this matter settled for pondering how such a message was smuggled out of prison in Egypt... The problem is not how it was leaked, but how we could not deliver a similar message [in Western media]...
"How easy it is to criticize security measures that allow messages to be smuggled out of Egyptian prisons and given to newspaper offices... in New York. How easy it is to step up measures against all the prisoners [as a result]. But the MB continues to be heard in the American press – while our position cannot be found in the international arena...
"First, we must examine how the other side managed to gain such a noticeable presence in Western media – and such an examination is not difficult. The ongoing publication of pro-MB positions in Western media, and [this media's] disregard for the Egyptian popular will, stems not from some global plot against us or global sympathy with the mother movement that birthed all the groups that accuse others of heresy – but mostly from [the MB's] accurate grasp of how to operate vis-à-vis American social institutions, and of the active role played by large PR firms in society – whether in the press, the media, in Congress, or elsewhere...
"The way to actively operate in the U.S. is by arriving at an understanding with these large institutions – whether during a presidential or congressional campaign, or in the fight to influence decision-making circles by means of the press and media, or by means of members of Congress. Such a campaign is undoubtedly costly, but losing is costlier still..."
Salmawi, who is known for his antisemitic views,[27] added: "The Jewish lobby in the U.S. has already understood the power of the PR institutions and the influence they wield over American society on all levels. Using this and other methods, they control the political decision[-makers] in the U.S. The MB and the other international elements that fund them have [also] understood this. Is it not time for us to understand what our enemies already have?!"[28]
* C. Meital is a research fellow at MEMRI; H. Varulkar is Director of Research at MEMRI.
[1] Al-Watan (Egypt), September 20, 2016.
[2] Al-Ahram (Egypt), November 11, 2016.
[3], November 4, 2015.
[4], January 10, 2017.
[5], March 5, 2017.
[6], November 26, 2016.
[7], January 28, March 3, 2017.
[8] Al-Shurouq (Egypt), February 8, 2017.
[9], January 31, 2017.
[10], February 5, 2017; Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), February 23, 2017.
[11], February 5, 2017. Elements in Egypt affirmed the reports about the MB's efforts to form a lobby. Gamal Al-Minshawi, an Islamic affairs researcher and former official in Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya, told the daily Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' that the MB pays millions of dollars to foreign newspapers and news sites for positive coverage. Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), February 24, 2017.
[12] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), February 17, 2017.
[13] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), February 24, 2017. It should be mentioned that in 2007-2012 Al-Haddad was director of the Clinton Foundation's Climate Initiative in Egypt. , September 18, 2013.
[14] New York Times (U.S.), February 22, 2017.
[15] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), February 24, 2017. It should be mentioned that after Al-Haddad's article was published, a website close to the MB reported that Egyptian prison authorities had penalized him by placing him in solitary confinement., February 27, 2017. MB associates also said that Al-Haddad and other MB prisoners manage to smuggle writings out of prison with the help of their lawyers, but an Egyptian security source said that Al-Haddad did not pen the article himself, and that smuggling such writings out of prison was impossible. Al-Watan (Egypt), February 23, 2017; Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), February 24, 2017.
[16] Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), February 23, 2017.
[17] Al-Misriyyoun (Egypt), February 24, 2017;, February 25, 2017.
[18] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), January 20, 2017; Al-Watan (Egypt), January 22, 2017.
[19] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), January 12, 2017.
[20], March 6, 2017.
[21] Al-Watan (Egypt), March 10, 2017. `
[22] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), February 23, 2017.
[23] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), February 24, 2017.
[24] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), March 2, 2017. Michael Morgan is an Egyptian-American researcher at the London Center for Policy Research, who promotes the designation of the MB as a terrorist organization.
[25] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), March 12, 2017.
[26] Al-Ahram (Egypt), February 22, 2017.
[27] In an article he published in the French-language Egyptian weekly Al-Ahram Hebdo, titled "Look for the Jews," Salmawi criticized the French law criminalizing antisemitism and Holocaust denial, stating that it does not forbid denying crimes against humanity but only crimes against six million Jews who "allegedly" suffered a holocaust during World War II. He also wrote that whoever wants to understand the connection between the Monica Lewinsky affair in the U.S., the trial against "French thinker" Roger Garaudy (who was convicted in 1998 of Holocaust denial) and the barring of Holocaust denier David Irving from several countries needs to "look for the Jews." Al-Ahram Hebdo, Egypt, February 4-10, 1998.
[28] Al-Ahram (Egypt), March 5, 2017.