March 24/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

The Bulletin's Link on the lccc Site

 News Bulletin Achieves Since 2006
Click Here to go to the LCCC Daily English/Arabic News Buletins Archieves Since 2016

Bible Quotations For Today
Jesus cures the two Blind Men/Then he touched their eyes and said, ‘According to your faith let it be done to you
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 09/27-35/:"As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, crying loudly, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David!’ When he entered the house, the blind men came to him; and Jesus said to them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ They said to him, ‘Yes, Lord.’Then he touched their eyes and said, ‘According to your faith let it be done to you.’ And their eyes were opened. Then Jesus sternly ordered them, ‘See that no one knows of this. ’But they went away and spread the news about him throughout that district. After they had gone away, a demoniac who was mute was brought to him. And when the demon had been cast out, the one who had been mute spoke; and the crowds were amazed and said, ‘Never has anything like this been seen in Israel.’ But the Pharisees said, ‘By the ruler of the demons he casts out the demons.’ Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness."

Jesus is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful in you
Second Letter to the Corinthians 12/21.13/01-05/:"I fear that when I come again, my God may humble me before you, and that I may have to mourn over many who previously sinned and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and licentiousness that they have practised. This is the third time I am coming to you. ‘Any charge must be sustained by the evidence of two or three witnesses.’I warned those who sinned previously and all the others, and I warn them now while absent, as I did when present on my second visit, that if I come again, I will not be lenient since you desire proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful in you. For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God. Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you? unless, indeed, you fail to pass the test!"

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published On March 23-24/17
God Bless the Souls of the London Terrorist Attack Victims/Elias Bejjani/March 23/17
Will Morocco Extradite a Hezbollah Financier to the United States/Hanin Ghaddar and Sarah Feuer/The Washington Institute/March 23, 2017
Hezbollah and the gullible Arabs/Mohammed Al Shaikh/Al Arabiya/March 23/17
Canada: Death knell for freedom of speech as House of Commons passes “anti-Islamophobia” motion/Robert Spencer/Jihad Watch/March 23, 2017
Powerless Assad is controlled by Russia and Iran/Michael Young/The National/March 23/17
An opportunity like no other/Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/March 23/17
In Advance Of Arab League Summit In Jordan, Calls In Arab Countries To Reinstate Syria's League Membership; Syrian Writers Reject Calls For Reinstatement, Saying Syria Will Return Only If Arab League Apologizes To It/MEMRI/March 23/17
Why electronics ban is serious business/Dr. Theodore Karasik/Al Arabiya/March 23/17
Of flights, electronic bans and social media addicts/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/March 23/17
UK Parliament terror tied to Antwerp attack/DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 23, 2017

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published On March 23-24/17
God Bless the Souls of the London Terrorist Attack Victims
5 dead in vehicle, knife attack at British Parliament
Report: Aoun's Position at Arab Summit Draws Fate of U.S. Measures against Banks
Aoun: We seek overall economic plan that would improve country's situation
Hariri, Egytian PM Discuss Bilateral Ties
Hariri Says Electoral Law Talks 'Positive', Israel Mustn't Blame Lebanon for Hizbullah 'Regional' Ties
Government Employees in Protest, Vow General Strike Next Week over Wage Scale
Geagea Vows to Prevent Corruption in Oil Sector, Says Reserves Worth $600 Billion
Nusra Official Held in Baalbek after Surveillance
UNIFIL Head Meets New LAF Chief, Stresses Enhanced Cooperation
Aoun Promises 'Economic Plan', Says Understands Citizens Dismay over Taxes
Report: U.S. Military Delegation in Beirut Soon
Sami Gemayel: Proportional Representation Radically Changes Political System,Taef
One killed, two injured in shooting inside Ain El Helwi camp
Samer Saadeh proposes project law to render parliamentary sessions public
Aoun blasts current domestic violence law
Will Morocco Extradite a Hezbollah Financier to the United States
Hezbollah and the gullible Arabs

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published On March 23-24/17
Canada: Death knell for freedom of speech as House of Commons passes “anti-Islamophobia” motion
House of Commons passes anti-Islamophobia motion
Jubeir meets foreign ministers of Britain, Iraq, Italy during ISIS meet
Ten Egyptian troops, 15 extremists killed by in Sinai clashes
London attacker ‘British-born’, known to security services
Five South Korean tourists among those injured in London attack
Amid deepening ties, Chinese troops join Pakistan Day parade
UN-Backed Syria Peace Talks to Restart in Geneva
Man Held for Driving at Crowd in Belgium, Arms Found in Car
Turkey Summons Russia Envoy after Soldier Killed by Shots from Syria
Yemen Official's Son Killed in Suspected Qaida Attack
Emirates Offers Laptop 'Handlers' to Cope with U.S. Ban
Bahrain Frees Former AFP Photographer
Israeli Policeman Suspended after Beating Palestinian Driver
Jewish Youth Arrested in Israel over Anti-Semitic Threats Abroad
Egypt Court to Reopen Corruption Probe into Mubarak
Saudi Executes Two Drug Dealers
UN Security Council honors victims of London attack
Pope Francis 'deeply saddened' by London attack

Links From Jihad Watch Site for 
March 23-24/17
Canada: Death knell for freedom of speech as House of Commons passes “anti-Islamophobia” motion
Islamic Republic of Iran’s Intelligence Minister boasts of “lobby group” boosting its interests in DC
NBC reporter fears London jihad attack will “put wind in the sails” of the “right-wing movement”
London jihad murderer UK-born Muslim named Khalid Masood
Theresa May: London jihad attack not Islamic, but “Islamist terrorism…a perversion of a great faith”
Belgium: Muslim who tried to ram pedestrians had liquid gas, assault rifles and knives in car
Hugh Fitzgerald: The Mickey-Mockers of Mother Jones, and All That Islamophobia
London jihad attack just the latest in twelve years of jihad attacks in UK
Belgium: “Man wearing camouflage” tries to drive car at high speed into crowd
Germany: Media watchdog instructs press to censor of ethnicity and religion in crime reports
London attack: 7 Muslims arrested in multi-home raids
Glazov Gang: Shireen Qudosi on “Muslims Oppressing Muslims”
The Islamic State claims responsibility for London jihad attack
London jihadi was UK-born Muslim who had been investigated for “violent extremism”
UK: Police raid address where London jihadi rented car, multiple arrests
UK news sources withdraw claim that Abu Izzadeen was London jihad murderer
UK’s Independent removes story identifying Abu Izzadeen as London jihadi
UK Home Secretary: British people will work to defeat those who would harm “our shared values” of “tolerance”

Links From Christian Today Site For March 23-24/17
Archbishop of Canterbury: Paramedics treating Westminster attacker show UK's deep Christian values
Brutal and senseless' Westminster terror attack: seven held, faith leaders to meet with police
Our values will prevail' says Prime Minister as she reveals Westminster attacker was British-born and had been on MI5's radar
Far right 'will not succeed' in dividing us after Westminster terror: Christian Labour MP
WATCH: UKIP's Paul Nuttall calls for mosque funding probe after London terror attack
Why does prayer make a difference? 3 lessons from Moses
Newly restored tomb of Christ may be on the brink of 'catastrophic' collapse
God's not through with you' – Rex Tillerson took the job as Secretary of State because his wife told him to
Theologian and philosopher Marilyn McCord Adams dies
Resisting evil: How should Christian respond to the Westminster attack?
Why are new parents and middle-aged couples most at risk of marriage breakdown?
Let's talk about Brexit: Churches plan conversations ahead of Article 50 being triggered next week

Latest Lebanese Related News published On March 23-24/17
God Bless the Souls of the London Terrorist Attack Victimsالرحمة لنفوس ضحايا الهجوم الإرهابي في لندن
Elias Bejjani/March 23/17
With the harshest terms we condemn the terrorist attack that targeted yesterday innocent citizens in London-England. Our thought and prayers go to the victims, the injured and their families
بأشد العبارات ندين العملية الإرهابية والإجرامية التي استهدفت مدنيين وأبرياء في لندن. نطلب من العلي القدير الرحمة لنفوس الضحايا والشفاء للمصابين
5 dead in vehicle, knife attack at British Parliament
The Canadian Press/March 22/17
LONDON — A knife-wielding man went on a deadly rampage in the heart of Britain's seat of power Wednesday, plowing a car into pedestrians on London's Westminster Bridge before stabbing a police officer to death inside the gates of Parliament. Five people were killed, including the assailant, and 40 others were injured in what Prime Minister Theresa May condemned as a "sick and depraved terrorist attack."
Lawmakers, lords, staff and visitors were locked down after the man was shot by police within the perimeter of Parliament, just yards (meters) from entrances to the building itself and in the shadow of the iconic Big Ben clock tower. He died, as did three pedestrians on the bridge, and the police officer.
A doctor who treated the wounded from the bridge said some had "catastrophic" injuries. Three police officers, several French teenagers on a school trip, two Romanian tourists and five South Korean visitors were among the injured.
Police said they were treating the attack as terrorism. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
Metropolitan Police counterterrorism chief Mark Rowley said police believed there was only one attacker, "but it would be foolish to be overconfident early on." He said an unarmed policeman, three civilians and the attacker died. Forty others, including three police officers, were injured.
Islamic extremism was suspected in the attack, Rowley said, adding that authorities believe they know the assailant's identity but would not reveal it while the investigation was ongoing.
The threat level for international terrorism in the U.K. was already listed at severe, meaning an attack was "highly likely."
Speaking outside 10 Downing St. after chairing a meeting of government's emergency committee, COBRA, May said that level would not change. She said attempts to defeat British values of democracy and freedom through terrorism would fail.
"Tomorrow morning, Parliament will meet as normal," she said. Londoners and visitors "will all move forward together, never giving in to terror and never allowing the voices of hate and evil to drive us apart."
U.S. President Donald Trump was among world leaders offering condolences, and in Paris, the lights of the Eiffel Tower were to be dimmed in solidarity with London.
London has been a target for terrorism many times over past decades. Just this weekend, hundreds of armed police took part in an exercise simulating a "marauding" terrorist attack on the River Thames.
Wednesday was the anniversary of suicide bombings in the Brussels airport and subway that killed 32 people last year, and the latest events echoed recent vehicle attacks in Berlin and Nice, France.
In the House of Commons, legislators were holding a series of votes on pensions when deputy Speaker Lindsay Hoyle announced that the sitting was being suspended and told lawmakers not to leave.
Parliament was locked down for several hours, and the adjoining Westminster subway station was shuttered.
Conservative lawmaker Tobias Ellwood, whose brother was killed in the Bali terror attack in 2002, performed first aid on the wounded police officer, who later died. About 10 yards away lay the assailant.
"I tried to stem the flow of blood and give mouth to mouth while waiting for the medics to arrive but I think he had lost too much blood," Ellwood said. "He had multiple wounds, under the arm and in the back."
The attack began early Wednesday afternoon as a driver in a grey SUV slammed into pedestrians on the bridge linking Parliament to the south bank of the River Thames.
Former Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski was in a car crossing the bridge when he heard "something like a car hitting metal sheet" and then saw people lying on the pavement.
"I saw one person who gave no signs of life. One man was bleeding from his head. I saw five people who were at least seriously injured," Sikorski told Poland's TVN24.
Ambulances arrived within minutes to treat people who lay scattered along the length of the bridge. One bloodied woman lay surrounded by a scattering of postcards.
Police said one injured woman was pulled from the river.
The car crashed into railings on the north side of the bridge, less than 200 yards (meters) from the entrance to Parliament. As people scattered in panic, witnesses saw a man holding a knife run toward the building.
"The whole crowd just surged around the corner by the gates just opposite Big Ben," said witness Rick Longley. "A guy came past my right shoulder with a big knife and just started plunging it into the policeman. I have never seen anything like that. I just can't believe what I just saw."
The attacker managed to get past a gate into Parliament's fenced-in New Palace Yard, a cobbled courtyard in the shadow of the Big Ben clock tower.
Daily Mail journalist Quentin Letts said a man in black attacked the police officer before being shot two or three times as he tried to storm into the building.
"As this attacker was running towards the entrance two plain-clothed guys with guns shouted at him what sounded like a warning, he ignored it and they shot two or three times and he fell," Letts told the BBC.
The attacker fell to the cobbles just yards from the entrance to 1,000-year-old Westminster Hall, the oldest part of the parliamentary complex, busy with visitors and school groups. Beyond that, a corridor leads to the building's Central Lobby, flanked by House of Commons and House of Lords chambers.
The prime minister was among lawmakers near the Commons at the time of the attack, and was quickly ushered away by security officers and driven back to Downing Street.
To get that far, the attacker would have had to evade the armed officers who patrol the Parliament complex in pairs, as well as Parliament's own security staff, who don't carry guns.
The attack unfolded near some of the city's most famous tourist sites, including the London Eye, a large Ferris wheel with pods that overlook the capital. It was halted after the attack, stranding visitors in the pods, with an aerial view of the attack scene.
London Ambulance Service said medics treated 12 people for serious injuries and eight who were less seriously hurt.
Dr. Colleen Anderson of St. Thomas' Hospital said some of the wounded had "catastrophic" injuries.
The French Foreign Ministry said that three students on a school trip from Saint-Joseph in the Brittany town of Concarneau were among the injured. Two Romanians were also among the injured, the country's Foreign Ministry said.
U.S. President Donald Trump spoke with May by telephone and applauded "the quick response of British police and first responders," spokesman Sean Spicer said.
London has often been the target of terrorist attacks, from IRA campaigns in the 1970s and 80s to more recent Islamist plots.
On July 7, 2005, four al-Qaida-inspired British bombers blew themselves up on three subway trains and a bus in London, killing 52 people.
British security forces say they have thwarted some 13 terror plots over the past four years, but in recent years the U.K. has largely been spared major international terror attacks such as the ones seen in Belgium and France.
Last year, a far-right supporter shot and killed British lawmaker Jo Cox, who had campaigned for the U.K. to remain in the European Union. Prior to that, an attacker claiming to be motivated by Syria stabbed three people at a London subway station.
The most gruesome recent attack occurred in 2013 when two Muslim converts of Nigerian descent attacked Lee Rigby, a British soldier who was walking down the street. The men ran Rigby down with their vehicle and then used a cleaver to hack him to death as bystanders watched in horror.
Associated Press writers Sophie Berman, Gregory Katz and Rob Harris in London and Lori Hinnant in Paris contributed to this report.
Jill Lawless, Paisley Dodds And Danica Kirka, The Associated Press

Report: Aoun's Position at Arab Summit Draws Fate of U.S. Measures against Banks
Naharnet/March 23/17/After his latest defensive statements of Hizbullah and its weapons, President Michel Aoun is under a “pressure campaign” at the domestic and international levels “to prevent him from making unfavorable positions at the upcoming Arab League Summit,” as concerns mount that U.S. authorities could tighten measures on Lebanese banks over alleged facilitation of Hizbullah transactions, al-Akhbar daily reported on Thursday.It is estimated that the pressure campaign and intimidation will continue, at least until the Arab summit convenes at the end of March in Amman, to prevent Aoun from declaring “undesirable” positions at the highest Arab forum, said the daily. Until then, anticipation at the highest Western and Arab levels continue, said the daily. A large number of diplomats have asked for a meeting with the President before the summit, where he is expected to make a “notable” position.
The President defended Hizbullah's arms during an interview on Egyptian TV channel CBC last month, and said that “Hizbullah's arms do not contradict with the State and are an essential component of the means to defend Lebanon.”Two days after the interview, the president's speech formed one of the agenda points for the meeting between US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House, said al-Akhbar.U.S. media reports have later asked whether the “United States should provide military assistance to the Lebanese army after Aoun considered Hizbullah's existence a necessary defense for Lebanon against Israel.” They called on Washington for the cessation of aid to the Lebanese army. They also pointed out that the “U.S. administration can pressure Lebanon by targeting banks, or reducing funding for the army and displaced Syrians,” pointing out that “the Lebanese banking system may soon face harsh sanctions from the U.S. Treasury.”Al-Akhbar added, Governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon Riad Salameh was reportedly informed by the Americans of preparations in Washington for the adoption of new regulations to tighten measures on Lebanese banks under the pretext of facilitating financial transactions for Hizbullah.

Aoun: We seek overall economic plan that would improve country's situation
Thu 23 Mar 2017/NNA - President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, said on Thursday that he was still betting on the Lebanese people to work together to fight corruption and the squandering of public money in public administrations. General Aoun pledged to keep his promises and implement the content of his inauguration speech and the message of independence, despite the internal and external crises affecting the work of institutions and State networks. He then indicated that he was working in cooperation with the government and the relevant authorities to implement a comprehensive economic plan that would establish a healthy economy and gradually improve the situation in Lebanon. The Head of State, who spoke during a meeting with a delegation of the families and clans of Baalbek-Hermel, said that he gave equal consideration to all Lebanese regions.The President also received the Minister of State for Planning Affairs, Michel Pharaon, who informed him of the plan drawn up by his ministry in order to consolidate the role of national planning in Lebanon and achieve the objectives of the national reform plan.

Hariri, Egytian PM Discuss Bilateral Ties

Naharnet/March 23/17/Prime Minister Saad Hariri held a meeting in Cairo with his Egyptian counterpart Sharif Ismail where talks focused on the latest developments at the Arab and international arenas, a statement issued by Hariri's press office said. Means to bolster bilateral ties between Lebanon and Egypt at the economic, commercial and other levels were discussed, added the statement. Hariri had arrived at 10:30 a.m. at the prime minister's official residence in Cairo where he held a bilateral meeting with Ismail. The two men then presided over the 8th session of the Egyptian-Lebanese Higher Committee which was attended by the Ministers of Electricity and Renewable Energy Mohammad Shaker al-Marqabi, Culture Helmi Nemnem, Finance Amro al-Jarhi, Agriculture Abdul Moneim al-Bana, Trade and Industry Tariq Qabeel, Education Tariq Shawqi, Transport Hisham Arafat, Investment and International Cooperation Sahar Nasr el-Din, Secretary General of the Council of Ministers Major General Atef Abdel Fattah and Ambassador of Egypt in Lebanon Nazih Najari. From the Lebanese side, Deputy PM and Health Minister Ghassan Hasbani, Education Minister Marwan Hamadeh, Interior Minister Nouhad Mashnouq, Agriculture Minister Ghazi Zoaiter, Transport Minister Youssef Fenianos, Finance Minister Ai Hassan Khalil, Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil, Economy Minister Raed Khoury, chief of staff of the PM's office Nader Hariri, Director General of the Ministry of Economy and Trade Alia Abbas, and Charge d'Affaires of the Lebanese Embassy in Cairo Antoine Azzam. A number of agreements were signed at the end of the meeting on the development of relations between the two countries.

Hariri Says Electoral Law Talks 'Positive', Israel Mustn't Blame Lebanon for Hizbullah 'Regional' Ties
Naharnet/March 23/17/Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced Thursday that Lebanon is not headed for a crisis regarding the electoral law, while noting that Hizbullah's presence as an armed group is a “regional issue.” “The atmosphere is positive and I believe that we are not headed for a crisis... I'm confident that we will reach an electoral law that represents all Lebanese,” Hariri told Lebanese reporters accompanying him to Egypt at the end of a two-day official visit. Asked whether the large number of agreements that Lebanon has signed with Egypt during the visit were aimed at compensating for the decrease in cooperation with the Gulf countries, Hariri said: “No, not at all.” “This (Egyptian-Lebanese Joint Higher) Committee had not convened for seven years... although it is supposed to convene every year. But this Committee did not convene and the governments of the two countries did not engage in any communication, that's why we believe that what we did will improve trade between Lebanon and Egypt,” the PM added. Separately, Hariri told Egypt's ON E television that Lebanon should continue the discussion of a defense strategy aimed at countering Israel's threat, “because there is a dispute over this issue.”
He was answering a question about “Hizbullah's argument that the Lebanese army is incapable of defending Lebanon against Israel.”“As for Hizbullah, I'm very frank: Hizbullah is a regional issue and not only a Lebanese one, that's why Israel should not blame Lebanon over this. Israel is addressing the Lebanese state whereas it is actually a regional issue,” Hariri added. “The attempt to point the cannon at Lebanon is a wrong decision by Israel,” he went on to say. Asked whether Hizbullah's presence in south Lebanon is to blame for Israel's hostility, Hariri said: “Israel has its interests and it has waged several wars, but all Arabs must resist Israel.” Separately, Hariri said he does not agree to Hizbullah's argument that its military intervention in Syria has “protected Lebanon from terrorism.”“When you implicate yourself in a conflict in Syria, you are bringing the scourge into your country. They should not have intervened, because this scourge came after their intervention. This is our viewpoint but their viewpoint is different,” Hariri added.

Government Employees in Protest, Vow General Strike Next Week over Wage Scale
Naharnet/March 23/17/The public sector employees in Lebanon held a sit-in on Thursday near the Finance Ministry demanding the government approves a list of demands mainly the long-stalled wage scale file. The Public Administration Employees Association expressed resentment in a statement against what it described as a policy of “procrastination” in relation to the pay scale, and demanded its approval as listed in the tables approved by the parliamentary committees. The campaigners rejected a decision to extend working hours until 5:00 p.m. They said “the government is already giving the employees a delayed right.”Standard working hours in the public sector are from 8:00 a.m. till 2:00 p.m. Furthermore, the Association demanded that pension salaries be calculated at 100 per cent, instead of 85 per cent, and requested recalculation of family and daily transport allowances. In their statement, the employees rejected the principle of halting public sector employment for a specific period of time because “it deprives public administrations of young potentials.”The campaigners said they will escalate measures until their demands are met. They declared a general strike next Thursday in all public departments. The Joint Parliamentary Committees held lengthy discussions on the wage scale, but the parliament failed to complete discussions on the sources of funding.

Geagea Vows to Prevent Corruption in Oil Sector, Says Reserves Worth $600 Billion
Naharnet/March 23/17/Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea on Thursday described the oil and gas sector as “the most sensitive sector in Lebanon.”“The reserves are worth around $600 billion, that's why we will not be able to forgive ourselves should corruption or the squandering of funds affect this vital sector,” said Geagea during a Maarab seminar about the proper management of the oil and gas sector. “Today we are in the government and we will monitor the situation closely and will not allow any corruption in this sector,” Geagea added. The Cabinet had in January approved the long-awaited oil and gas exploration decrees in what was described as the new government's “first achievement.” The key decrees pave the way for oil and gas extraction off Lebanon's coast, after more than two years of political deadlock had stymied previous efforts. The decrees authorize regulators to divide the offshore areas into blocks for drilling and exploration and to issue tenders. Earlier this decade, geologists discovered a bonanza of gas reserves off the coasts of Lebanon and Israel, sparking a frenzy of development on the Israeli side to tap into the fields. Lebanon's successive governments, beset by infighting and corruption, made only marginal progress toward that goal.A portion of the reserves lies in territory disputed by the two countries. Hizbullah has repeatedly warned Israel against tapping into Lebanon's gas reserves.

Nusra Official Held in Baalbek after Surveillance
Naharnet/March 23/17/A member of the jihadist group al-Nusra Front was arrested Thursday in the eastern Lebanese city of Baalbek, state-run National News Agency reported. NNA said the man was arrested by State Security agents after “a close surveillance operation.”“He is an official of the so-called al-Sham Brigades, which operate in Arsal's outskirts and are affiliated with al-Nusra Front,” the agency added.

UNIFIL Head Meets New LAF Chief, Stresses Enhanced Cooperation
Naharnet/March 23/17/UNIFIL Head of Mission and Force Commander Major General Michael Beary on Thursday paid his first visit to the newly appointed Commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), General Joseph Aoun, in Beirut. During the meeting, the two Commanders discussed a wide range of issues concerning the implementation of UNIFIL’s mandate along the Blue Line and in south Lebanon, while underscoring an enhanced UNIFIL-LAF cooperation. “Your experience is critical for further strengthening our collaboration in advancing security in the South,” Major General Beary told General Aoun, while congratulating the latter on his promotion. “Close cooperation between UNIFIL and LAF is a key element in maintaining calm in the south and it is therefore critical to strengthen it.”During the meeting, Beary noted that General Aoun’s prior experience of working in UNIFIL’s area of operations in the South would be “instrumental in advancing the already existing excellent cooperation with the LAF,” a UNIFIL statement said. General Aoun was the commander of LAF’s 9th Brigade in the eastern sector of UNIFIL’s area of operations in south Lebanon until October 2016. The UNIFIL head also briefed the LAF Commander on the recently completed Strategic Review of UNFIL. “Strategic Dialogue should be intensified and we look forward to cooperating closely with you to further this priority,” said Beary. “In addition we are looking forward to enhancing collaboration by extending LAF’s civil-military cooperation (CIMIC) activities to the UNIFIL AO (area of operations) and to establishing a LAF CIMIC office in the South,” he added.

Aoun Promises 'Economic Plan', Says Understands Citizens Dismay over Taxes
Naharnet/March 23/17/President Michel Aoun on Thursday promised that “a comprehensive economic plan” will be devised, noting that he “understands” citizens' dismay over the taxes that have been proposed to fund the wage scale of the public sector. Speaking during a meeting with a delegation from the National Consultative Gathering of the Clans and Families of Baalbek-Hermel, Aoun said he “has always counted that the Lebanese people will cooperate in the fight against corruption and the waste of public funds.”He also pledged to “achieve everything he committed himself to in the oath of office and the independence address, despite the accumulating internal and external crises that are weighing heavily on the work of the state's institutions and agencies,” according to a statement released by the Presidency. The president noted that, in cooperation with the government and the relevant authorities, he is seeking to “devise a comprehensive economic plan that establishes a healthy economy and leads to a gradual improvement of the situations, seeing as problems that have been accumulating for 27 years cannot be eliminated in only a few months.”Turning to the latest dismay over the new taxes that the parliament said it will approve in order to fund the new wage scale, Aoun said the taxes must target specific sectors and must be aimed at “improving the economic situation.”“I'm not justifying taxes and I understand citizens' reaction, but there should be an economic program through which we would know how the revenues from taxes are being spent, in addition to improving the collection of the state's revenues,” Aoun added, noting that “corruption is eating up around half of these revenues.”

Report: U.S. Military Delegation in Beirut Soon
Naharnet/March 23/17/A U.S. military delegation is expected to visit Beirut soon, to complete a visit paid a few days ago by Senator Richard Burr, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, An Nahar daily reported on Thursday. Senator Richard Burr led a delegation of five senators including Senators John Cornyn, Marco Rubio , James Lankford, and Tom Cotton on a visit to Lebanon from March 17 to March 18. The delegation met with Prime Minister Saad Hariri during their visit and discussed the close relationship and security cooperation between the United States and Lebanon. The delegation’s visit underscores United States support for Lebanon, the Lebanese Armed Forces, and Lebanon’s institutions.

Sami Gemayel: Proportional Representation Radically Changes Political System,Taef
Naharnet/March 23/17/Kataeb party leader MP Sami Gemayel emphasized that the party still prefers to hold the upcoming parliamentary elections using individual districts --one person, one vote--or proportional representation in small districts, al-Joumhouria daily said on Thursday. “We are still on our position as for staging the elections using individual districts or proportionality in small districts,” Gemayel told the daily. Whether he believes an agreement on a new law will be reached in April as reports say, he said: “God willing. But frankly, I personally see nothing of that sort. I have not sensed any serious suggestion.”
On proposals calling to stage the elections under a proportional representation system, the Kataeb chief said: “Proportional representation means a radical change in the political system, the Taef Agreement and the Constitution. I don't know if they will go that far.”The political parties have intensified their efforts in a bid to agree on a new electoral law before the expiry of the deadlines.They are discussing several formats of a so-called “hybrid” electoral law that combines the proportional representation and winner-takes-all systems. While al-Mustaqbal Movement has rejected that the electoral law be fully based on the proportional representation system, arguing that Hizbullah's weapons would prevent serious competition in the party's strongholds, MP Walid Jumblat's Democratic Gathering has totally rejected proportional representation, even within a hybrid law, warning that it would “marginalize” the minority Druze community.

One killed, two injured in shooting inside Ain El Helwi camp
Thu 23 Mar 2017/NNA - Palestinian Mahmoud Sayyed got killed and two others (Mustafa Maqsoud and Mohammad Jalal) were injured in exchanged shooting inside Ain El-Helwi camp's neighborhoods, the NNA correspondent said. In details, the security situation in the camp escalated after a personal dispute erupted between an element of the Fatah movement and another of the Jund Al-Sham organization, thus leading to the shooting.Contacts with the concerned sides resulted in ceasefire amid cautious calm.

Samer Saadeh proposes project law to render parliamentary sessions public
Thu 23 Mar 2017/NNA - Member of Parliament Samer Saadeh proposed a project law aimed at making parliamentary committees' meetings, proceedings, minutes, discussions and voting public.

Aoun blasts current domestic violence law
The Daily Star/March 23/17/BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun Wednesday described domestic violence as “shameful,” calling for legislative reforms to better protect women and children. “It’s important that we amend the law, which did not meet our expectations,” Aoun said in a statement released by his press office. He was referring to a disputed domestic violence law which was passed in April 2014. The draft law was submitted by Lebanese nongovernmental organization KAFA, but they, along with other supporters of the draft law, say that the passed law was watered down. Aoun met with several organizations that focus on child protection, including the National Commission for the Lebanese Child, the Lebanese Association for Child Care and SOS Children’s Village. According to Human Rights Watch, the law “defines domestic violence narrowly, and thus does not provide adequate protection from all forms of abuse.”

Will Morocco Extradite a Hezbollah Financier to the United States?هل تسلم المغرب ممول حزب الله قاسم تاج الدين لإميركا
Hanin Ghaddar and Sarah Feuer/The Washington Institute/March 23, 2017
Last week's arrest highlighted the kingdom's role as a key counterterrorism partner, and following through on the U.S. extradition request could deliver a significant blow to Hezbollah's reputation and finances.
On March 21, a Moroccan security official confirmed that the kingdom plans to deport Lebanese businessman Kassim Tajideen to the United States, presumably based on his financial ties to Hezbollah and related designations by the U.S. Treasury Department. He was arrested last week in Morocco while on his way from Guinea to Beirut. His lawyer, Chibli Mallat, told the authors that "there is indeed an extradition request from the U.S. Department of Justice," though he denied allegations that Tajideen is connected to terrorist activities. "For the past seven years," he added, "Mr. Tajideen and his U.S. counsel have communicated openly with the U.S. government and remained extremely cooperative with [Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control], including through regular updates and engagement in the delisting proceeding."
Neither Moroccan nor American officials have confirmed that the arrest came at the request of the United States, but such cooperation would be in keeping with Morocco's emergence as a key counterterrorism partner in recent years. In 2004, Washington formally labeled Morocco as a "major non-NATO ally," and since 2008 they have annually held a joint military exercise called African Lion, which brings together more than 900 Moroccans and 1,200 Americans for training in counterterrorism and other areas. In addition, the Moroccan air force has participated in the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State, and American officials have publicly credited Moroccan security measures for disrupting terrorist activities by al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in the kingdom. Although the two countries do not share an extradition treaty, a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty has been in force since 1993, providing for bilateral cooperation in criminal matters.
When the Treasury Department designated Tajideen in 2009, it referred to him as "an important financial contributor" to Hezbollah. His company "Tajco" was designated as well; Treasury accused him of using "proceeds from this business to provide millions of dollars in financial support" to Hezbollah.
In 2010, Treasury also designated Tajideen's brothers and business partners, Ali and Hussein, on similar charges. The department noted that Ali is a former Hezbollah commander and has provided cash to the group in tranches as large as $1 million. He is also a major player in Jihad al-Binaa, a Lebanon-based construction company formed and operated by Hezbollah and separately designated by Treasury in 2007. His other brother Hussein is a primary Hezbollah fundraiser and prominent supporter in The Gambia; he was later expelled from that country in 2015 for these alleged ties.
Companies owned or operated by the Tajideen brothers include Tajco, Kairaba Supermarket, Congo Futur, Ovlas Trading, Golfrate Holdings, and Grupo Arosfran. These firms are active in The Gambia, Lebanon, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, and the British Virgin Islands.
Hezbollah has not said anything about Tajideen's arrest thus far and will probably refrain from any official reaction, since openly defending or helping him would be considered proof of their association. Yet the group might use other tools to pressure authorities involved in his potential extradition, such as indirectly organizing protests in front of the Moroccan or U.S. embassies in Lebanon. The mayor of Tajideen's hometown, Hanaway, has already given an ultimatum of forty-eight hours for his release, threatening demonstrations. Although protestors would have difficulty penetrating the U.S. embassy's formidable security measures, the Moroccan embassy is more exposed, so demonstrations organized there could be more threatening.
Hezbollah could take other steps as well, as shown following previous actions against its associates and interests. For instance, after the United States signed the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act (HIFPA) into law in December 2015, banks in Lebanon and elsewhere closed hundreds of accounts affiliated with the group. Six months later, an explosion targeted Blom Bank in Beirut. Although Hezbollah did not claim responsibility for the attack, Lebanon's Interior Ministry and security bodies indicated that the incident was spurred by the Central Bank's efforts to comply with U.S. sanctions on the group.
Earlier in 2015, five Czech nationals were kidnapped in the Hezbollah-controlled Beqa Valley area of Lebanon. The driver who vanished with the Czechs turned out to be the brother of Ali Fayyad, a Lebanese national who had been arrested in Prague the previous year and faced extradition to the United States on charges of attempting to sell arms and cocaine to undercover U.S. agents pretending to be Colombian terrorists. Accordingly, many observers began to view the kidnapping as an effort to secure Fayyad's release. Although Hezbollah claimed no responsibility publicly, the Czech government changed its position immediately after the kidnapping and refused to extradite Fayyad to America. In February 2016, he was sent back to Lebanon; the same day, the kidnapped Czechs were released.
Similarly, the group may decide to retaliate for Tajideen's arrest in one way or another, without claiming responsibility or displaying any association with him or his companies. Tajideen is no less significant to Hezbollah than Fayyad -- his arrest could complicate the group's finances at a time when it is undergoing serious financial problems and budgetary shifts. In addition to the revenues he secured for Hezbollah, his company Tajco has been involved in a number of residential projects located in strategic areas of Lebanon. Through these projects, Hezbollah hopes to link the south to Beirut via the coastal Sunni towns, the south to Beqa via Sunni and Christian towns in West Beqa, and finally the Beqa to the coast via Druze areas in the Chouf district. The residences in question are usually occupied by Shiite families who are willing to move from the south, Beqa, and Dahiya because the new apartments being offered are cheaper.
At the same time, locals in the towns where these residences are located have accused Hezbollah of using the projects to enforce its military presence and recruit poor, unemployed Sunni and Christian men into the Saraya al-Muqawama (Resistance Brigades), a non-Shiite militia created by Hezbollah for internal security operations and clashes. Last August, Interior Minister Nohad Machnouk dubbed this sub-militia "the occupation brigades," arguing that its "50,000-strong army" was intended for "domestic missions."
Tajideen's ties to Hezbollah and, by implication, Iran may give Morocco sufficient incentive to comply with the extradition request. The kingdom's relations with Tehran and its proxies have fluctuated between hostility and tepid normalization since 1979. In 1981, Iran cut ties with Rabat in delayed response to the fact that King Hassan II had granted asylum to the ousted shah. Tensions eased in the mid-1990s, and the countries established economic and diplomatic relations. In 2009, however, Rabat severed diplomatic ties with Tehran, accusing it of seeking to convert Moroccans to Shiism and decrying an Iranian official's remarks to the effect that Bahrain, a fellow Sunni monarchy, was a "province of Iran." Leaked diplomatic cables later suggested that Morocco's move came at the request of Saudi Arabia, which at the time had joined with other Gulf Cooperation Council countries to pledge $5 billion in assistance to Rabat. Whatever the motivation, Moroccan-Iranian relations were not officially restored until December 2016, reportedly on the condition that Tehran refrain from proselytizing within the kingdom.
Although it is still unclear whether Tajideen's extradition will actually be carried out, Lebanese sources indicate that his arrest has already created tension and fear among many Shiite businessmen. When HIFPA was signed in 2015, the resultant wave of account closures caused panic among Hezbollah-linked businesses and other entities, some of whom cut their financial ties with the group. Although this fear subsided a few months later when banks were no longer asked to close accounts, Tajideen's arrest has reawakened it. These sentiments are particularly heightened at a time when the new U.S. administration has issued confrontational rhetoric against Iran and Hezbollah. Taken together, such developments have left many Shiite business figures worried that anyone could be apprehended at any airport if they are linked to Hezbollah.
It is these concerns among the business community that aggravate Hezbollah the most. If wealthy Shiite figures become reluctant to support the group, its already fragile support base will become all the more tenuous. Securing Tajideen's extradition would therefore be a significant illustration of Washington's credibility and seriousness when it comes to curbing Hezbollah and its Iranian patron. It would also signal America's intention to continue pursuing terrorism suspects in cooperation with allies in the region.
**Hanin Ghaddar, a veteran Lebanese journalist and researcher, is the inaugural Friedmann Visiting Fellow at The Washington Institute. Sarah Feuer is a Soref Fellow at the Institute.

Hezbollah and the gullible Arabs
Mohammed Al Shaikh/Al Arabiya/March 23/17
The Russians would not save Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his regime without Israeli approval. It is widely known that Israel has normal, if not strong, relations with Russia.
Tense relations are neither in Israel nor Russia’s interest. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu often travels to Moscow apparently to coordinate the Russian interventions in the Arab region. This clearly suggests that the Russian Federation coordinated with Israel before intervening to save Assad and his regime.
Iran too has strong ties with Russia although these relations have been a little tense recently.Lebanon’s Hezbollah is the creation of Iran’s velayat-e-faqih (Guardianship of the Jurist). It receives most of its funding from Iran and secures the rest from drug deals across the world.All these factors destroy the idea that the aim of Hezbollah’s arms is to resist Israel and protect Lebanon’s borders. This aim is often repeated by Lebanese supporters of Hezbollah and even Lebanese President Michel Aoun reiterated this in Cairo.The Iranians and their product Hezbollah propagate this idea to arm the Shiite militias in Lebanon so it can be used to protect Tehran’s influence and control. It doesn’t make sense for the Lebanese president to throw his support behind Hezbollah and officially adopt militias that take orders from the Guardianship of the Jurist.
Hezbollah’s ally
Aoun knows for sure that Hezbollah’s arms do not target Israel, as the party’s secretary general Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah claims. His statement practically means that any threat made by Hezbollah is an official Lebanese threat. It is widely known that before becoming president, Aoun was Hezbollah’s ally and coordinated with the party. He knows well whom Hezbollah’s true target is.All these givens indicate the following: First of all, Hezbollah and behind it Iran are on good terms with Israel and each party serves the other. Iran uses its hostility toward Israel as an excuse to serve its interests in the region. Iran’s support of President Assad, and not replacing him with someone else, serves the interests of both, Israel and Iran.I have no doubt that if Hezbollah threatens Israel’s existence, then Israel can destroy the entire Lebanon, not just Hezbollah, through its intelligence and military power and capability to influence superpowers. Israel’s security and survival is unquestionable, not just for the Americans but for all superpowers.Arabs, who are especially gullible, have not learnt anything from the history of fake leaders who used the Palestinian cause as an excuse to serve their greed and domination.
An example of these leaders is Saddam Hussein and Gamal Abdel Nasser. Now there is Hassan Nasrallah, and behind them the Iranian regime. All of them exploited the Palestinian cause to achieve their aims. Most Arabs believe the same lie uttered by deceitful leaders. The most recent is the liar and terrorist Hassan Nasrallah, and I don’t think he will be the last.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published On March 23-24/17
Canada: Death knell for freedom of speech as House of Commons passes “anti-Islamophobia” motionقرع أجراس جنازة حرية التعبير في كندا
Robert Spencer/Jihad Watch/March 23, 2017
The supporters of the Canadian bill condemning “Islamophobia” insist that it will not restrict the freedom of speech, but interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose was more realistic: she said that she was concerned that charges of “Islamophobia” would be used “to intimidate rather than to inform,” and added: “I do worry that some of my work trying to empower women and girls in Muslim communities could be branded as ‘Islamophobic’ if I criticize practices that I believe are oppressive.”Of course she is absolutely right. That is exactly what happened to Pamela Geller and me when we held a conference about honor killing, and when we tried to run ads in Edmonton offering help to women and girls who were threatened. This “non-binding” motion will have a chilling effect on speech, and will work toward intimidating into silence anyone who dares to speak out against Canada’s suicidal refugee policies, seditious activity in mosques, Sharia oppression of women taking place in Canada, and more. If it isn’t overturned, it will lead ultimately to new and binding laws that will be the end of Canada as a free society. Establishing a particular group as beyond criticism is laying the groundwork for tyranny.

“House of Commons passes anti-Islamophobia motion,”
CBC News, March 23, 2017:
The House of Commons has passed M-103, a non-binding motion condemning Islamophobia and religious discrimination.
All NDP and nearly all Liberal MPs supported the motion, which passed 201-91. The majority of Conservative MPs voted against, with leadership candidate Michael Chong and Simcoe North MP Bruce Stanton voting in favour. Mississauga Liberal MP Gagan Sikand and Barrie Conservative MP Alex Nuttall both abstained.
The vote follows months of bitter debate and a series of protests and counter-protests across the country over whether the private member’s motion would limit free speech or single out Islam for special treatment in Canadian law.
It had additional symbolic significance in the emotional aftermath of the Jan. 29 mosque shooting in Quebec City, where six Muslim men were killed.
The motion was tabled by Mississauga-Erin Mills Liberal MP Iqra Khalid on Dec. 5, 2016. She spoke to reporters after the motion passed Thursday.
“I’m really happy that the vote today has shown positive support for this motion and I’m really looking forward to the committee taking on this study,” she said.
Khalid’s motion calls on the government to do three things:
Condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.
Quell the increasing public climate of hate and fear.
Compel the Commons heritage committee to develop a government-wide approach for reducing or eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination, including Islamophobia.
The latter would require the heritage committee to collect data on hate crime reports, conduct needs assessments for affected communities and present findings within eight months.
Liberals rejected an attempt by Saskatchewan Conservative MP David Anderson to remove the word “Islamophobia​” from the motion and change the wording to “condemn all forms of systemic racism, religious intolerance and discrimination of Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, Hindus and other religious communities.
Anderson argued Islamophobia was not defined in Khalid’s motion, and that its inclusion contributed to widespread confusion and fears about the effect on freedom of speech….

Jubeir meets foreign ministers of Britain, Iraq, Italy during ISIS meet
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Thursday, 23 March 2017/On the sidelines of the Ministerial Conference of the International Coalition for the Eradication of ISIS currently being held in Washington, Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed al-Jubeir on Wednesday held meetings severa foreign ministers to discuss terrorsim.The meetings were held with British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, Iraqi Foreign Minister Dr. Ibrahim Al-Jaafari and Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano, the Saudi Press Agency reported. During the meetings, they discussed bilateral relations and regional and international issues. Minister Jubair also met with Interpol Secretary General Jurgen Stoke. During the meeting, they discussed international efforts to combat terrorism.

Ten Egyptian troops, 15 extremists killed by in Sinai clashes

Al Arabiya English and agencies Thursday, 23 March 2017/Ten members of Egypt's security forces were killed by bombs which struck their vehicles in central Sinai, a military spokesman said on Thursday, during an operation targeting what the army described as terrorist bases. Fifteen extremists from Ansar Bait al-Maqdis were also killed in the fighting, the military said in a statement, without saying when the incidents took place. The military said the clashes broke out when soldiers raided "an extremely dangerous jihadist” hideout. ISIS had said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon that it blew up two army vehicles during clashes south of the Sinai city of El-Arish. The extremists have killed hundreds of soldiers and policemen since the army overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 and cracked down on his supporters. The attacks have mostly been confined to Sinai, which borders Israel and the Palestinian Gaza Strip, but the extremists have also struck elsewhere.In October 2015, the group claimed responsibility for bombing a Russian airliner carrying holidaymakers from a south Sinai resort, killing all 224 people on board.

London attacker ‘British-born’, known to security services
Agencies Thursday, 23 March 2017/The man behind the London terror attack was born in Britain and had been investigated for violent extremism “some years ago” by the MI5 intelligence service, Prime Minister Theresa May said on Thursday.“The man was British born and... some years ago he was once investigated by MI5 in relation to concerns about violent extremism,” she told parliament, adding: “He was not part of the current intelligence picture.”Meanwhile, British police have arrested seven people in the investigation into an attacker who killed three people and injured about 40 before being shot to death by police, Britain’s most senior counter-terrorism officer said on Thursday. Mark Rowley said the latest figures were that there were four dead including the attacker and 29 people being treated in hospital, seven of whom were in a critical condition. Police had said late on Wednesday that the death toll was five.
Rowley said police had searched addresses in London, Birmingham and other parts of the country in their investigation. “It is still our belief ... that this attacker acted alone and was inspired by international terrorism. At this stage we have no specific information about further threats to the public,” Rowley said.
He said there was a mix of nationalities among the dead but gave no details. The victims were a policeman who was stabbed and two members of the public, a woman in her mid-40s and a man in his mid-50s.
The fourth dead was the assailant.
Police believe they know the identity of the attacker but have not named him.
The attack on Wednesday started when the assailant sped across Westminster Bridge in a car, ramming pedestrians along the way. He then ran towards parliament and stabbed the policeman before he was shot. Three French high-school students aged 15 or 16, who were on a school trip to London with fellow students from Brittany, were among the injured. French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault was expected to arrive in London to visit them at hospital, French media reported. Westminster Bridge remained cordoned off with a strong police presence. The nearby Westminster underground train station, normally a busy hub in the morning rush hour, was not accessible from street level as it was within the cordon. Parliament was due to convene later in what Prime Minister Theresa May said late on Wednesday was a sign that the attack would not disrupt British democracy or normal life in the capital.

Five South Korean tourists among those injured in London attack
AFP, Seoul/Ottawa Thursday, 23 March 2017/Five South Korean tourists were injured in a terror attack outside Britain’s parliament, Seoul’s foreign ministry said Thursday. The tourists – four women and a man in their 50s or 60s – were knocked to the ground by people trying to flee as an assailant mowed down pedestrians in a car, the ministry said. While four of them suffered relatively light injuries including a fracture, one – a woman in her late 60s – suffered a head injury and was going through surgery, it said. They were being treated in two local hospitals, it added.
The assault began when a car was driven over Westminster Bridge next to London’s parliament building – a major tourist attraction – hitting and injuring several members of the public. Three, including a police officer, were killed in the attack by the assailant who was subsequently shot dead by armed police.
Canada bolsters security 
Canada has tightened security, especially on Parliament Hill, after the deadly attack outside parliament in London, an official said Wednesday. Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale said Ottawa had taken measures in light of the attack in which least three people were killed and 20 injured when a man mowed down pedestrians with a car then stabbed a police officer outside parliament before being shot dead.“The appropriate response has been taken by every police and security service in Canada, including those that function on Parliament Hill,” he told a press briefing. “Canadians can be assured that everything that could be done is being done by the appropriate authorities here in Canada,” Goodale stressed. The threat level, however, had not been raised. It is at moderate, he added. On October 20 and 22, 2014 two self-styled jihadists killed a total of two Canadian military staff in separate strikes; one was in Quebec and one in Ottawa, near parliament.

Amid deepening ties, Chinese troops join Pakistan Day parade
Reuters, Islamabad Thursday, 23 March 2017/Chinese, Saudi and Turkish troops for the first time joined the Pakistan Day parade in the capital Islamabad on Thursday, in a sign of deepening ties. Before Pakistan showed off long-range rockets, tanks and other military hardware, armed Chinese troops marched past Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and General Qamar Javed Bajwa, the chief of Pakistan’s powerful military. Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain said it was the first time Chinese troops participated in a parade in a foreign country, terming it a “historic event”, with the two countries embarking on building vast infrastructure together. Soldiers from Saudi Arabia, a long-time Pakistan ally, also joined the parade, as did a military band from Turkey, another largely Muslim nation that has strengthened ties with nuclear-armed Pakistan in recent years. Also read: India ranks below Pakistan, Nepal among world’s happiest countries. Islamabad considers China an “all-weather friend” and in recent years the countries have grown even closer on the back of the $57 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a Beijing-funded network of road, rail and pipelines that will link western China with Pakistan’s Arabian Sea port of Gwadar. The militaries of the two countries have in recent years also increased cooperation, with Chinese officials urging Pakistan to do more to improve security to help CPEC work. China has long pressed Pakistan to do more to rein in Islamist militants, saying they have connections with extremists and separatists in China’s unruly far western region of Xinjiang. The United States also has a strategic relationship with Pakistan, but the ties appear transactional at times, with Washington periodically cutting off funding for the Pakistani military to penalize it for failing to do enough to curb Islamist militants destabilizing the region.

UN-Backed Syria Peace Talks to Restart in Geneva

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 23/17/Syrian rivals were to resume UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva on Thursday, with escalating violence and deadlock on key issues dimming hopes of a breakthrough. UN envoy Staffan de Mistura tried to strike an optimistic note when the previous round ended last month. He insisted government and rebel negotiators had agreed on a "clear agenda" and that "everything is ready" for the talks to move forward. On the agenda for this round are issues of governance -- a political transition, the constitution and elections, as well as counter-terrorism at the request of Damascus.
But an already-fragile ceasefire has deteriorated further in recent days after rebels and allied jihadists launched two surprise offensives on government positions in Damascus and central Hama province. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's air force has responded with raids on rebel targets, further threatening negotiations which have yielded little in four previous rounds.The UN talks aim to find a solution to end a six-year conflict that has killed more than 320,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with protests against Assad's regime. A stalemate persists over most of the toughest issues, notably Assad's fate, with the opposition insisting he quit power and the government declaring the president's future off limits for discussion. And analysts say the chances of compromise may be at their lowest point ever, following the regime's military victories. "There's no hope in my view," Syria specialist Thomas Pierret said. "The regime continues to gain ground... There's no reason for it to make the slightest concession."Since Russia's military intervention in support of Assad in 2015, the regime has gained the upper hand, retaking the former rebel bastion of Aleppo late last year.
- Diplomatic tour -The main opposition High Negotiations Committee (HNC) arrived in Geneva on Wednesday. The government delegation led by Syria's UN envoy Bashar al-Jaafari was also due to land in the Swiss city.
De Mistura is scheduled to be in Ankara on Thursday as part of a pre-talks diplomatic tour of the key powers shaping the conflict, which has also included trips to Moscow and Riyadh. The UN's deputy Syria envoy, Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy will meet the rival camps in Geneva "to prepare the round ahead", the UN said. So far, there is no plan for the government and rebels to meet face-to-face. De Mistura has said he wants to unify the HNC with two smaller opposition camps -- known as the Moscow and Cairo platforms -- before presenting the government with a single rebel delegation. But unity among the opposition has remained elusive due to disagreements over core issues like Assad's future.

Man Held for Driving at Crowd in Belgium, Arms Found in Car

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 23/17/Belgian security forces arrested a man Thursday after he drove towards a crowded shopping area at high speed in the port city of Antwerp, officials said. Authorities found a rifle and bladed weapons in the car after the suspect, identified by prosecutors as a 39-year-old named Mohamed R., tried to flee and was detained in the northern city. The man was "under the influence of something" but it was not clear what substance, a source close to the investigation told AFP. Authorities were not certain if it was an attempted attack and the incident remained under investigation, several Belgian sources added on condition of anonymity. The prosecutor's office said the man was a national of France, but a French police source told AFP he was Tunisian holding French residency papers. The incident jangled nerves following attacks at Orly airport in Paris and London, and coming the day after the first anniversary of the Brussels suicide bombings that killed 32 people. "A vehicle with French plates has tried to drive at high speed into the Meir (shopping street) so that pedestrians had to jump aside," Antwerp police chief Serge Muyters told a news conference. "Our army colleagues forced the driver to stop but he pulled away and ran a red traffic light. We sent a special forces team and the car and the driver were stopped," he added. "A man in camouflage was taken away."Images on social media showed investigators searching a burgundy-colored vehicle near the bank of the Scheldt river.
'Very high speed'
The Belgian federal prosecutor's office said the suspect was driving at "very high speed" and that "at different times pedestrians were placed in danger.""Different arms were found in the boot, bladed weapons, a pump-action rifle and a container of as yet unidentified liquid," the prosecutor said in a statement.
Bomb disposal experts attended the scene. "In light of what has initially been gathered, and taking into account what happened in London yesterday, it has been decided to send this case to the federal prosecutor," the statement added. Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said security services in the Flemish-speaking city "did an excellent job" and the government was following this "suspicious incident" closely. Meir is the main commercial street in Antwerp's historic center and is mostly pedestrianized. It is one of the country's biggest shopping areas. The Antwerp incident put Europe further on edge after the attack on the British parliament killed three people plus the attacker, and a man was shot dead at Paris's Orly airport after grabbing a soldier's rifle. With soldiers deployed at key sites, Belgium has been on high alert since March 22 last year when suicide bombers attacked Zaventem airport and Maalbeek metro station, killing 32 people and leaving more than 320 wounded. Belgium suffered a further shock in August when a machete-wielding man shouting "Allahu akbar" (God is greatest) attacked two policewomen in the industrial town of Charleroi, before being shot dead.
IS fighters coming home
Islamic State jihadists have claimed responsibility for a number of attacks using vehicles in Europe in recent months, including Wednesday's carnage in London. An attacker rammed a lorry into crowds in the French city of Nice in July last year, killing 86 people. A similar attack claimed 12 lives at a Christmas market in Berlin in December. On Wednesday, Belgium's King Philippe and Queen Mathilde led ceremonies commemorating the Brussels bombings, which were also claimed by IS. Interior Minister Jan Jambon told AFP in the run-up to the anniversary that Belgium faced the threat of continuing radicalization at home and from battle-hardened fighters who may return from the Middle East. Numbering around 500, Belgium is the European Union's largest per capita source of so-called foreign jihadist fighters, but Jambon said none had left the country for the Middle East since January 2016.

Turkey Summons Russia Envoy after Soldier Killed by Shots from Syria
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 23/17/Turkey has summoned the Russian charge d'affaires after a Turkish soldier was shot by sniper fire from Kurdish militia-controlled Syria, where Moscow has troops, Ankara said on Thursday. Ankara said the soldier was killed in the southern Turkish province of Hatay during cross-border fire on Wednesday from the northwestern Syrian region of Afrin, which is controlled by the Kurdish YPG militia. "Immediately after the incident, we invited the Russian charges d'affaires to the ministry and we first shared how seriously disturbed we were," Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Huseyin Muftuoglu told a press conference in Ankara. "We said to avoid similar incidents after this, whatever necessary must be done. We said if this happens again, an equal response will be given," Muftuoglu said. Moscow's envoy in Ankara was summoned because under a ceasefire agreed late last year, Russia is responsible for monitoring violations in this region, he added. A ceasefire brokered by Russia and Turkey has been in place since late December but both Syrian rebels and the Damascus regime have complained of repeated violations. Earlier this week YPG spokesman Redur Xelil told AFP that Russia's military will train Kurdish forces in Syria, adding that Russian forces were already present at a training camp in the Afrin region. Afrin is one of three "autonomous" cantons that the Kurdish militia control in northern Syria. Ankara views the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia as a "terror group" linked to Kurdish separatists inside Turkey waging an insurgency since 1984. Muftuoglu also said Turkey was waiting for Russia to "take steps to close" the Moscow office opened last month of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), whose armed wing is the YPG. Moscow supports Syrian President Bashar Assad but has also recently worked closely with opposition supporter Turkey to try to end the six-year war in Syria.

Yemen Official's Son Killed in Suspected Qaida Attack
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 23/17/One person was killed and three others wounded in an attack apparently targeting a Yemeni official's car on Thursday, a security source said. The eldest son of deputy interior minister Ali Nasser Lakhsheh was killed when a rocket-propelled grenade hit the family's car in the southern Abyan province, the official said. His wife, another son and a daughter were wounded. It was unclear if the deputy minister himself was in the vehicle at the time of the attack. The official said al-Qaida militants were behind the attack which was carried out when the family was en route from Aden, where the government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi is currently based. Abyan has been the site of attacks by Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in recent weeks. Five soldiers were killed by suspected militants there earlier this month. Abyan has also been the target of a string of U.S. air raids targeting AQAP, which Washington regards as the radical group’s most dangerous branch. AQAP has exploited a power vacuum created by the war between the Hadi government and Huthi rebels who control the capital Sanaa and number of major cities along the Red Sea coast. More than 7,700 people have been killed and 40,000 wounded in the conflict, according to the United Nations.

Emirates Offers Laptop 'Handlers' to Cope with U.S. Ban
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 23/17/Dubai's Emirates airline on Thursday announced it will provide a free packing-and-handling service for passengers on flights hit by a U.S. ban on electronic devices larger than a standard smartphone. Emirates will allow passengers to hold on to their laptops and tablets after checking in until boarding time, when security staff at the gates will themselves pack the devices into boxes and load them onto the flight. "Our new complimentary service enables passengers, particularly those flying for business, to have the flexibility to use their devices until the last possible moment," said Tim Clark, president of Emirates. The devices will be returned to their owners upon arrival in the United States free of charge. The service from Emirates, which prides itself as an airline of choice for business travelers, is also available for passengers transiting through Dubai International Airport. The U.S. ban on laptops and tablets applies to flights from 10 airports in the region, including direct flights to the United States from Dubai International Airport and Ataturk Airport in Istanbul. U.S. airlines do not operate direct flights out of the airports included in the ban. A similar British ban covers all airports in Turkey, Jordan and four other countries, but not the United Arab Emirates. Both countries have cited credible threats to civil aviation from Al-Qaida and the Islamic State group as the reason for the ban, which has come under criticism for targeting majority-Muslim countries.
The bans officially go into effect this Saturday.

Bahrain Frees Former AFP Photographer
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 23/17/Bahraini authorities on Thursday released award-winning photographer Mohammed al-Shaikh after holding him for more than 24 hours over his work for AFP, according to his family. Relatives said al-Shaikh, who worked for AFP in Bahrain for several years until his press permit was denied renewal last August, had been detained at Manama airport late Tuesday on his return from a trip overseas. His family said he does not face charges. Bahraini authorities did not respond to AFP's requests for an explanation for his arrest. Al-Shaikh won the 2014 Bayeux-Calvados prize for his coverage of events in the tiny Gulf kingdom, rocked from 2011 onwards by an Arab Spring-inspired uprising and ensuing crackdown. Rights groups regularly criticize the Sunni-ruled kingdom over its harsh treatment of dissenters. Last year saw a further tightening of restrictions on journalists. Authorities refused to issue visas or renew accreditations for reporters working for foreign outlets. Nazeeha Saeed, a journalist working for France 24 and Arabic radio station Monte Carlo Doualiya, is currently on trial for working "without the necessary authorization."

Israeli Policeman Suspended after Beating Palestinian Driver
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 23/17/An Israeli policeman caught on video beating up a Palestinian truck driver in east Jerusalem on Thursday was suspended from his post, police said. The policeman, in the video widely circulated on social media, curses the driver, headbutts him, hits him in the face and kicks him in the legs. Other Palestinians are seen trying to reason with the policeman only for him to turn on them also. A Palestinian witness filmed the incident, which took place in a parking lot near the interior ministry in the Wadi Joz area of annexed east Jerusalem, and handed a copy to a journalist with Israeli public radio, the station reported. The witness said the policeman had accused the driver of having damaged his car with the truck. The police force swiftly condemned the attack and said in a statement that the policeman was immediately suspended and "summoned for a talk on his future in the police." Public security minister Gilad Erdan, on his Twitter account, also condemned "the very serious and shameful" incident and said it was damaging to the whole police force.

Jewish Youth Arrested in Israel over Anti-Semitic Threats Abroad
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 23/17/A Jewish youth was arrested in Israel on Thursday on suspicion of making dozens of anti-Semitic threats in countries around the world, police said. Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said the suspect was "a resident of the south (of Israel) from the Jewish community."Police said the suspect was 19, but gave no further identifying details. Israeli media said he was a dual Israeli-U.S. national. "The investigation began in several countries at the same time, in which dozens of threatening calls were received at public places, events, synagogues and community buildings that caused panic and disrupted events and activities in various organizations," a police statement said. It said that the investigation was undertaken in cooperation with the FBI "as well as other police organizations from various countries."Israeli authorities did not directly link the arrest with a wave of more than 100 bomb threats against U.S. Jewish organizations since the beginning of the year. "We hope that this investigation will help shed light on some of the recent threats against Jewish institutions, which have caused great concern both among Jewish communities and the Israeli government," Israeli public security minister Gilad Erdan said in a statement.

Egypt Court to Reopen Corruption Probe into Mubarak
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 23/17/An Egyptian court ordered on Thursday a renewed corruption probe into ousted president Hosni Mubarak, who has been cleared for release after almost six years in detention, judicial officials said. The court ruling to reopen the investigation after it had been dropped would not affect a prosecution decision to release Mubarak after his acquittal in another case, the officials said. Mubarak, 88, remains in a Cairo military hospital. The new investigation centers around allegations that he, his wife, two sons and their wives received gifts from the state-owned al-Ahram newspaper valued at about $1 million. An investigative judge had agreed in 2013 to drop the probe after they paid back the amount, but the prosecution appealed. He is also being investigated separately for illicit gain, but has not been referred to trial. On March 2, Egypt's top appeals court had acquitted Mubarak of involvement in the killing of protesters during the 2011 revolt that toppled him, ending the final trial for the strongman who had ruled for 30 years. He was accused of inciting the deaths of protesters during the 18-day revolt, in which about 850 people were killed as police clashed with demonstrators. In January 2016, the appeals court upheld a three-year prison sentence for Mubarak and his two sons on corruption charges. But the sentence took into account time served. Both of his sons, Alaa and Gamal, were freed.

Saudi Executes Two Drug Dealers
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 23/17/Saudi Arabia executed two convicted drug traffickers on Thursday, bringing the number of prisoners killed in the kingdom to 20 so far this year. The state-run SPA news agency named the two men as Saudi Arabian national Nasser Harshan and Pakistani national Namtallah Khasta Qul. Both were put to death Thursday after being convicted of drug trafficking in the conservative kingdom. SPA said Harshan was a repeat offender found guilty of dealing hashish. Qul was found guilty of dealing heroin. More than 150 people were executed last year in Saudi Arabia, according to London-based rights group Amnesty International. Amnesty reported 158 death penalties in the country for 2015, the highest annual rate in the past two decades. Among those executed last year was Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, a high-profile figure behind a string of Shiite protests in 2011 demanding reform in the Sunni-ruled kingdom.

UN Security Council honors victims of London attack

Thu 23 Mar 2017/NNA - The UN Security Council observed a minute of silence Thursday in honor of those killed in the attack in London and all victims of terrorism. Opening a meeting dedicated to discussing Somalia, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson urged colleagues to "pay tribute to the memory of yesterday's attacks and to all the victims of terrorism across the world."British authorities said the perpetrator of the attack was born in Britain and known to intelligence services because of suspected links to Islamist extremism. He was shot dead outside parliament after killing three people - a policeman and two pedestrians. The Daesh has claimed responsibility for the attack. ----AFP

Pope Francis 'deeply saddened' by London attack
Thu 23 Mar 2017/NNA - Pope Francis was "deeply saddened" by the terror attack outside the British parliament and is praying for all those affected, the Holy See said Thursday in a message of solidarity. The message came in a telegram sent by Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin to the head of the Roman Catholic church in Britain, the Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols. It said the pontiff had been "deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and of the injuries caused by the attack (in) central London (Wednesday). "His Holiness Pope Francis expresses his prayerful solidarity with all those affected by this tragedy. "Commending those who have died to the loving mercy of Almighty God, His Holiness invokes divine strength and peace upon their grieving families, and he assures the nation of his prayers at this time." British authorities said Thursday the perpetrator of the attack was born in Britain and known to intelligence services because of suspected links to extremism. He was shot dead outside parliament after killing three people -- a policeman and two pedestrians.--AFP

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published On March 23-24/17
Powerless Assad is controlled by Russia and Iran
Michael Young/The National/March 23/17
At the heart of any resolution to the conflict in Syria, many believe, is a political transition away from Bashar Al Assad. As desirable as that would be, given the Syrian regime’s many crimes, one should not have many expectations that it would change very much in Syria.
For as long as Mr Al Assad remains in office, he will continue to mobilise the many groups opposed to him. His remaining in office will doubtless hinder Syria’s reconstruction. However, it’s also true that the president has become a largely powerless frontman for a regime controlled by Iran and Russia. In other words, even if he was sent packing, power relations in Syria would largely stay the same. A Lebanese politician close to the Syrian regime recently remarked that Mr Al Assad was no longer able to recruit men into his army. If the regime doesn’t have the ability to raise manpower to fight on its behalf, that means it will continue to be overly reliant on pro-Iranian militias and the Russian air force to sustain its military campaigns. That Mr Al Assad has little say in these campaigns seems increasingly evident. It also means the president’s ability to define a political endgame to his satisfaction has been greatly diminished. Indeed, Mr Al Assad’s main reason for being kept in power, it seems, is to allow Iran and Russia to maintain the illusion that there is a Syrian state and regime that they can legitimately defend as each pursues its own interests in Syria.
Since 2011, the Al Assad regime has worked hard itself to keep this illusion alive. In cities located in governorates largely abandoned by its forces — for instance Deir Ezzor and Al Hasakeh — the regime has retained control over key administrative installations, such as land registries or airports.
This control will be vital for when the regime hopes to re-impose its authority in these areas. But it also serves another purpose: it creates a semblance of regime continuity, suggesting the emperor still has clothes.
However, Mr Al Assad’s conjuring trick cannot replace reality. A good illustration of the regime’s true power came in the first Astana round of negotiations last February. This was essentially driven by Russia, Turkey and Iran, with the Syrian representatives appearing to be second-tier participants.
That means that we are heading towards a situation in which Syria’s future will be defined principally through a consensus reached among foreign powers.
The late president Hafez Al Assad must be turning in his grave. A central motivation in his policies since taking power in 1970 was to ensure that Syria would no longer be buffeted by regional rivalries outside its control that had characterised the first decades after independence. In the 1950s and part of the 1960s, Syria had been shaped by the competition between Egypt and Iraq, before getting caught up in the US-Soviet Cold War.
For Hafez Al Assad, it was imperative that he put an end to Syria’s regional vulnerabilities and impose himself and his country as an indispensable, autonomous actor in Middle Eastern affairs.
This he largely did, playing the United States and the Soviet Union off against each other to his own advantage. Even his relationship with Iran was always one in which Syria and Iran were equals in an alliance serving both.
Under Bashar Al Assad those days are long gone. Syria has become a regional football, is a minor partner in the relationship with Iran, while Mr Al Assad is an illegitimate leader reviled by a majority of Syrians.
His removal from office would likely provoke a negative reaction only from officials who fear that his downfall presages theirs. Otherwise, absolutely nothing makes the president indispensable.
That is why, while Mr Al Assad’s exit may be sought by his foes, they should not presume it will alter very much. The president is in power only in name. Once this is understood, the parameters of any future agreement in Syria could become much clearer.
For adversaries of Mr Al Assad, it would mean recognising that far more important than the president’s stepping down is focusing on ways to reduce Iranian influence in Syria, which is much more potent on the ground than the Russian presence. That won’t be easy, because Tehran will seek to undermine any accord that ultimately loosens its authority over the Syrian state. But for those who want real change in Syria, it is the end of Iran’s presence that is essential, more than Mr Al Assad’s removal.
Nor should one rely too much on Russia in any such endeavour. Moscow’s latitude to contain Iran is not great, nor do the Russians have an interest currently in sidelining Iran. Tehran helps keep alive the charade of Al Assad rule, without which Russia itself would have no justification for being in Syria.
Mr Al Assad’s weakness is his strength, then. However, that should hardly reassure the president, or indeed his foes.
**Michael Young is a writer and editor in Beirut

An opportunity like no other
Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/March 23/17
Mother’s Day was celebrated two days ago. It is true that love for your mother must be constant and not linked to a single day but March 21 is an occasion to renew one’s vows. It is needless to say that people love you for various reasons, except for a mother whose love knows no boundaries and who loves unconditionally. A mother with all her generosity does not belong to this world but to eternity. Heaven lies under the feet of a mother. The mother is the most tender and warmest person in one’s life. Words are not enough to describe a mother. A mother knows the meaning of giving and creates meanings of tenderness. A mother is a marvelous gift of god who deserves a lot from us. Whatever we do is little compared to what she has given us. She should be treated well, looked after well and honored. Spend as much time as possible with your mother, seize the moment and enjoy these moments of happiness, pleasure and great love as the bond with her is the most sacred and honest
Seize the opportunity
All of you lucky ones whose mothers are still alive, you should seize the opportunity of being with her. Those who mourn her loss long for her presence. Spend as much time as possible with your mother, seize the moment and enjoy these moments of happiness, pleasure and great love as the bond with her is the most sacred and honest. No one’s loss will hurt you as much as your mother’s. May my mom and other mothers who passed away rest in peace. May God protect mothers that are alive and may you enjoy your moments with them.
This article was first published in Okaz on March 23.

In Advance Of Arab League Summit In Jordan, Calls In Arab Countries To Reinstate Syria's League Membership; Syrian Writers Reject Calls For Reinstatement, Saying Syria Will Return Only If Arab League Apologizes To It
MEMRI/March 23/17
Six years after the outbreak of the civil war in Syria, in which hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed, and in advance of the annual Arab League summit which is set to take place in Amman, Jordan in late March 2017, there have been in recent months calls from some Arab countries to reinstate Syria as a member of the Arab League. The suspension came on November 12, 2017, several months after the beginning of the uprising in Syria against the regime's oppression of its people, and was to be in force until Syria met its obligations under the Arab proposal for resolving the crisis in the country, put forward by the Arab League.[1] At the same time, it should also be noted that Syria has been represented at two League summits by Syrian opposition groups – in 2013 in Qatar and in 2014 in Kuwait.[2]
Among the countries calling today for reinstating Syria's League membership are Iraq and Egypt, apparently following pressure to do so from Russia. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov himself has called for Syria's reinstatement.[3] Support for its reinstatement has also been expressed by other Arab countries such as Lebanon and Tunisia.
Jordan, which is hosting the summit, has officially expressed reservations about such a move. Jordanian officials have reiterated in the past few weeks that Syria will not be invited to the summit because of Jordan's commitment to the League's suspension; League secretary-general Ahmad Abu Al-Gheit has taken the same position.
The Syrian regime, for its part, has welcomed the calls for its League membership to be reinstated, but many articles in the Syrian government press and in newspapers close to the regime have rejected the idea – and have even stated that before Syria rejoins the League, the League must apologize to it for suspending its membership. It should be noted that some of the articles criticized Egypt for never giving Syria sufficient help, while Iraq, whose government supports the Syrian regime, has been treated more sympathetically by Syrian officials and press and shown appreciation for its calls for Syria's reinstatement.
This report will review the calls in several Arab countries to reinstate Syria in the Arab League and the reactions of the Syrian regime and media to these calls.
Arab Countries' Calls To Reinstate Syria In Arab League
As noted, in recent months some official elements in Arab countries have begun talking about reinstating Syria in the Arab League, particularly in advance of the annual Arab League summit set to take place at the end of March in Jordan. The calls have come primarily from Egypt, which has recently begin working on a closer relationship with the Syrian regime,[4] as well as from countries with diplomatic ties with Syria, such as Iraq. It is possible that Russia is behind these calls for Syria's reinstatement; in early February 2017, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called for it because, he said, "leaving Damascus out of the Arab League is not helping the peace efforts." Lavrov added that the League would take a more important and more active role if Syria were a member.[5]
In January 2017, the online daily Rai Al-Yawm reported that Egyptian President 'Abd Al-Fattah Al-Sisi was pressuring Jordan to invite Syria to the League summit. Another report by the newspaper in early February, prior to a Jordan visit on February 8 by Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry, that Shukry would convey to Jordanian King 'Abdullah a message from President Al-Sisi. The paper assessed that the message was connected to a Russian initiative to reinstate Syria in the League.[6]
However, Egyptian efforts to get Syria reinstated did not remain behind the scenes. In a March 3, 2017 interview with the Egyptian daily Al-Watan, Minister Shukry emphasized the importance of Syria's reinstatement, saying: "There is no escaping the fact that the idea of reinstating Syria in the Arab League will come up sooner or later, because Syria [was] and will remain an Arab state and a central element in the Arab system."[7]
The Egyptian call to reinstate Syria had been made previously; in a statement published February 13 by the Egyptian parliament's Committee for Arab Affairs, following a discussion concerning the Syrian war, and against the background of talks for the war's resolution in Astana, Kazakhstan in January-February 2017, the committee stressed the years-long strategic relationship between Egypt and Syria. It added that Syria was part of Egyptian national security, condemned the continuation of Syria's absence from the Arab League council, and called the situation "unacceptable."[8]
Another Arab country that is openly demanding Syria's reinstatement is Iraq, which has diplomatic, military, and economic relations with the Syrian regime, and which, in 2011, abstained from the vote on the resolution to suspend it from the League.[9] At the March 3, 2017 Arab League foreign ministers conference in Cairo, a preparatory conference for the upcoming summit, Iraq demanded Lebanon's and Tunisia's support for Syria's reinstatement. In his address, Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim Al-Ja'fari told the conference: "Iraq is urging its Arab brothers to examine their resolution to suspend Syria's membership in the Arab League."[10] The Egyptian daily Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' reported, citing Arab diplomatic sources, that for several months Iraq had been leading a diplomatic battle together with several other Arab countries for Syria's reinstatement. The sources were cited as noting that Lebanon is one of the countries that supported Iraq's demand, which the Gulf states, headed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, had opposed. They added that Minister Al-Ja'fari had discussed the matter with his Jordanian, Syrian, and Lebanese counterparts.[11] It should be noted that the Egyptian position on this matter at the conference was not reported.
Arab League Secretary-General, Top Jordanian Officials Reject Calls For Syria's Reinstatement: Syria Will Not Be Invited To League Summit
Apparently as a result of Saudi and Qatari pressure, Arab League secretary-general Abu Al-Gheit, as well as Jordan, the summit's host, have thus far rejected the calls to reinstate Syria. Thus, in response to Minister Lavrov's call for reinstatement, Abu Al-Gheit said that the matter was subject to a resolution by the organization's member states and was not currently on the agenda.[12] Abu Al-Gheit made similar comments at an Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo on March 7 at which Iraq demanded Syria's reinstatement; he said, "This is not the right time for it."[13] In a March 22, 2017 interview with the London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Abu Al-Gheit said that the minute an agreed-upon interim government is established in Syria, it will occupy the Syrian seat at the Arab League.[14]
Jordan has also officially stressed on multiple occasions that it was operating in accordance with Arab League resolutions and would therefore not invite Syria to the League summit. Back in December 2016, Jordanian government spokesman Muhammad Al-Momani said that Syria would not be invited to the summit due to Jordan's commitment to Arab League resolutions. He reiterated this position on several occasions.[15]
Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Al-Safadi also said that Jordan had no intention of inviting the Syrian regime to the summit for this reason. In response to a question posed by an MP on March 5, Al-Safadi said: "The government has stressed... that it is committed to the Arab League resolution suspending Syria's participation in Arab League summits, and [Syria] will therefore not be invited to the Arab summit in Jordan." Al-Safadi reiterated this position after a meeting with Abu Al-Gheit on March 19.[16]
Jordan also clarified that it would not invite a delegation from the Syrian opposition to attend the summit, as had happened at two separate League summits following the outbreak of the Syria war. Al-Momani stressed that the Syrian flag would be flown alongside other Arab flags at the summit because Syria is part of the Arab ummah, but that there would be no Syrian presence at the summit, in accordance with the League's resolution. He expressed hope that Syria's reinstatement would take place soon, and would involve a representative agreed upon by all the Syrian people.[17]
At a March 19 press conference, Al-Momani added: "Syria will not attend the Arab summit, because its membership has been suspended by Arab League resolution. Therefore, the Syrian seat will remain empty, as it has been in several previous summits since the onset of the crisis. This does not mean that Syria's flag will be absent. There is conflict and warfare among members of the Syrian people, which we hope will end very soon. Syria is present and dear to us all, and we yearn for the day when it is again a [League] member and has a representative agreed upon by all the Syrian people."[18]
It should be mentioned that some voices in the Jordanian government expressed support for Syria's reinstatement. Thus, Prime Ministry Affairs Minister Mamdouh Al-'Abbadi, expressed regret at Syria's absence from the summit, stating that his country had not fully severed relations with Syria.[19]
Syrian Regime, Writers Respond To Calls To Reinstate Syria In The Arab League
The Syrian regime has not remained indifferent to the debate in Arab countries on its League reinstatement – a debate that reflects the improvement in the regime's standing in both the Arab arena and the world at large, and a waning in the status of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which are known opponents of the Syrian regime.
On the official level, the regime did welcome the calls for Syria's reinstatement, but many articles in the official and the pro-regime press in Syria harshly criticized the League, stressing that the Syrian people alone will decide when it will rejoin it – and only after it receives an apology from it.
Regime advisor 'Abd Al-Qader Azouz also stressed that Syria's suspension from the League was an injustice and was not in line with the charter of the organization, of which Syria is a founding member. According to him, the suspension was based on lies and is therefore invalid, and legally speaking, Syria remains a member in good standing. He added that it was too early to discuss the regime's position on reinstatement, and that such a reinstatement would only happen when the conditions were right and after the League apologized to Syria.[20]
It should be mentioned that Syria has responded differently to Egyptian and to Iraqi calls for its reinstatement. Egypt, which has lately been seeking rapprochement with the Syrian regime, was criticized for not having done enough to support Syria. On the other hand, Iraq has been praised by Syria for its calls for reinstatement, likely because of the close diplomatic, military, and economic relations between the Iraqi government and the Syrian regime.
Syrian Responses To Egypt's Call: We Expected Greater Support From Egypt; We Will Not Rejoin Arab League Unless It Apologizes
As stated, official Syria welcomed the statement by the Egyptian parliament's Committee for Arab Affairs calling for Syria's League reinstatement. The head of the Syrian parliament's Foreign and Arab Affairs Committee, Botros Morjana, called this an opportunity for cooperation between the two parliaments.[21]
However, articles in the official and pro-regime Syrian press harshly criticized Egypt for not supporting Syria as Syria supported Egypt when the latter was suspended from the Arab League following the 1979 Camp David Accords. The articles also claimed that the decision whether to rejoin the Arab League was up to the Syrian people, and that in any case this would only happen after the Arab League apologized to them and reembraced its Arab identity. It should be mentioned that this is not the first time Egyptian rapprochement efforts are met with a cool Syrian response and with demands for further Egyptian gestures. In November 2016, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Mu'allem said that he detected "an improvement in Egypt's discourse" vis-à-vis Syria, but not to the extent Syria expected.[22]
Syrian Former Minister: Who Said Syria Even Wants To Rejoin The Arab League? Only The Syrian People, Which Is Furious With Egypt, Will Decide On This
In a February 15, 2017 article in the pro-regime daily Al-Watan, Former Syrian information minister Dr. Mahdi Dakhlallah responded to the Egyptian call to reinstate Syria in the Arab League, saying: "Who said Syria [even] wants to return to the Arab League?... Can Syria rejoin an organization that is controlled and manipulated by a country of 300,000 citizens [i.e., Qatar]? Renewing relations with any country that took part in the aggression against Syria is an issue to be decided by the [Syrian] authorities according to Syria's interests and policy. [Moreover,] rejoining a regional body that is clinically dead [also] requires a popular decision by means of a referendum.
"Egypt's parliamentary Arab Affairs Committee mouthed a demand to return Syria to the Arab League, which became an inert body after Syria's membership and role [in it] were suspended. Where does the powerful Arab League stand on the large issues that are preoccupying the entire Arab world? Where does it [stand] on the crisis in Palestine, Libya, Yemen and Iraq? Is the Egyptian call meant to save Syria or save the Arab League? And under what circumstances will Syria agree to come back and participate in resurrecting [this] inert body? Will the Arab League apologize to the Syrian people and its regime? Will it promise to respect its [own] charter and principles in the future? Will it condemn Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and other countries that have admitted to supporting those who murder the Arab Syrian people?...
"As for our brothers in Egypt, they [only] recently woke up and began expressing feeble faith [in the Syrian army], while their first army,[23] the Arab Syrian army, expected this from the beginning. It expected them [to express] strong faith in it, and also expected intense and direct support from the [Egyptian] army... Why does the Egyptian parliament not demand to return the Egyptian ambassador to Damascus? How is it that the Egyptian Foreign Minister has visited Israel but has not visited Damascus?... The Syrian people's fury with Egypt is immeasurably greater than its fury with any other regional or Arab capital, because one's fury with [a friend] is in direct proportion to one's love for [this friend]...
"The Syrians' first goal is to renew relations with Egypt, whereas the Arab League is at the bottom of their list of priorities today. Let me just quote what President Assad said, sincerely and clearly, about Syria's return to the Arab League in a 2013 interview on Al-Mayadeen [TV]: 'The decision to rejoin [the Arab league] must be a popular decision. As an official, I do not wish to put myself in place of the entire Syrian people. Syria's presence in the Arab League or absence from it indicates nothing regarding Syria's Arab identity. The Arab League never reflected the Arab identity, except in the days of [the late Egyptian president Gamal] 'Abd Al-Nasser.' On another occasion he said that 'Syria's return to the Arab League is a decision only the Syrian people can make. The Arab League reflects only the situation of the Arabs and their dire deterioration. Therefore, [Syria's] absence [from this body] or the suspension of its membership in it are not a problem. The important question is who suffers [from this situation]? Can a body exist without a heart?'..."[24]
Columnist In Syrian Daily: The So-Called Arab League Must Reembrace The Heart Of Arabism, Apologize To Syrians
Sharp criticism of Egypt was also voiced by Rif'at Al-Badawi, a Lebanese journalist who writes for the Syrian daily Al-Watan. He said: "[In the past] we supported and assisted Egypt, especially by making efforts to reinstate it in the Arab League after it was expelled from it [in 1979] following the Camp David Accords. In fact, our government must be credited with exerting pressure to welcome Egypt back into the Arab fold, [efforts we made] because we consider Egypt to be the body of the Arab [world]. [But] I wonder why the family of Arab [peoples] is doomed to be a body without a heart, for Syria is the beating heart of Arabism...
"Anwar Sadat's Egypt recognized Israel and signed a degrading peace agreement with it, yet it was welcomed back into the Arab League. But proud Syria, which has refused to recognize Israel and has rejected any degrading peace agreement with it, was ultimately suspended... from the so-called Arab League. This is because it never approved any agreement that involved betraying [its] Arab brethren as Egypt did, and because it refused all the enticements offered it and never relinquished Palestine, seeing it as an integral part of Arab Syria, and never gave up its principles, its power, its honor, its identity and its affiliation with the Arab nation. That is why its membership in the so-called Arab League was suspended..."
Addressing the call of the Egyptian parliamentary committee for Syria's league reinstatement, Al-Badawi added: "As if Syria is [even] interested in returning to [that] nest of conspiracies... No, gentlemen. In the time of [Egyptian] leader Gamal 'Abd Al-Nasser and the late [Syrian] leader Hafez Al-Assad, the body called the Arab League was a respectable [organization] with an Arab affiliation and influential opinions. But today, the so-called Arab League has become a nest of conspiracies against Palestine, Syria, Libya, Iraq and Yemen and against Arab identity itself, and has become a body without a heart. The decision whether Syria should return to the so-called Arab League is in the hands of the Syrian people alone. As for what the Syrians want, the bottom line is that they do not want Syria to return to the Arab League. Rather, they want the Arab League to reembrace true Arabism and Arab affiliation and reembrace the heart of Arabism, namely Syria, and apologize to the [Syrian] people, instead of the other way around."[25]
Syria's Response To Iraqi Call To Reinstate It In Arab League: We Welcome The Call, But It Is Meaningless
Syria's response to the Iraqi call to return it to the Arab League was much milder than its response to the Egyptian statement. In a phone conversation with his Iraqi counterpart Ibrahim Al-Ja'fari , Syrian Foreign Minister Mu'allem thanked Iraq for its "courageous stance" at the March 7, 2017 Arab League meeting and even invited Al-Ja'fari to visit Damascus in the near future.[26] Regime advisor 'Abd Al-Qader 'Azouz welcomed the Iraqi foreign minister's call and said that it derives from the fact that both countries are facing terrorism and Iraq therefore understands Syria's need for united Arab action.[27] Articles in the official and pro-regime Syrian press expressed a similar sentiment.
Syrian Columnist: Syria Will Not Rejoin Arab League In Its Present Form
'Ali Nasrallah, a columnist for the official Syrian daily Al-Thawra, welcomed Iraq's call, describing it as "noble," but said that Syria would not return to the Arab League in its present form: "Iraq's call... is undoubtedly worthy of appreciation. [True,] this was apparently an independent [Iraqi] initiative [that was launched] without coordinating with Syria or even consulting it regarding the efficacy [of the move] and whether it should be taken or not. But it was nevertheless a noble measure that has its motivations and objectives, which may be nothing more that a need to mend what can [still] be mended...
"The Syrian view is summed up in the question most people ask spontaneously: Who is supposed to return to whom, Syria to the Arab League or the Arab League to Syria? The Syrian people's paper [Al-Thawra] opposes [not only the first] option but even the second, if the Arab League retains its present form and structure. This is because Syria – with its national inclination, its resistance activity, its pioneering position, its prominent status and its people, [who have love of] Palestine flowing in their very veins – had a thousand reservations about the Arab League's performance and role even when it was still a member of [this organization] and one of its founders. So how can [Syria] now suffice with raising its flag in the halls [of the Arab League] and at its gates, when nothing there has changed? What would be the point of that? That is what the Syrians are asking.
"The [Arab] League is supposed to unite [the Arab countries], its content is supposed to serve the goal for which it was founded, and its activity is supposed to be clear and effective. As long as it fails [to meet these criteria] because it has been hijacked by the Bedouins of the Gulf who have turned it into a den of [our] enemies after paralyzing it, Syria has no need for it and it does not seem to have any need for Syria... This does not mean that Syria has given up looking for other formulas to unite and strengthen [the Arabs], out of its belief in its Arab identity, in the justness of the Palestinian cause and in its commitment to promoting it. [Looking for new formulas] is exactly what it is doing..."[28]
Syrian Columnist: The Arab League Is Isolated, Wretched And Without A Role; It Must Be Dismantled And Rebuilt From Scratch
Dr. Bassam Abu 'Abdallah, a columnist for the Al-Watan daily, wrote in a similar vein: "Iraqi Foreign Minister [Ibrahim Ja'afari] deserves [our] gratitude and appreciation for his honest pan-Arab stance vis-à-vis Syria and its people, for he based his call on the historical truth about the Syrian people and the central role [it played] in the Arab League... At the same time, I apologize to Ibrahim Al-Ja'fari , because with his diplomatic and political experience he [surely] understands that there is a need to dismantle the Arab League and rebuild it from scratch – for it has become a regional organization that conspires against its [own] member states and destroys them one by one! So what League are we talking about, friends, and what Arabs and what Islam?!
"Do we, the [various] Arab countries with our different regimes, [really] have shared and agreed-upon goals regarding fateful issues? I doubt that, because some Arab countries have a covert alliance with Israel and need the Arab League as a fig leaf to cover their shame and as [a body] to carry out their plots!...
"Who says we will ever forget that this [Arab] League legitimized the partition of Sudan, the aggression against Iraq and the killing of Libyans, Syrians and Yemenis? And who said the Russians will forget the decision [to impose] an economic siege and cruel sanctions upon them? [And who says] we will forget that the Arab foreign ministers convened to impose sanctions on the Syrian media, not on the Zionist media?...
"The ones to decide about Syria's return to the Arab League will be the Syrian people... Whoever wants to isolate Syria [will find] that he is isolating himself. The Arab League is now isolated, wretched and without a role... Syria's return to the Arab League will not occur at the convenience of the Arab League, as [its secretary-general] Abu Al-Gheith claimed. Rather, it will occur on the terms of the victor, namely the terms of President Bashar Al-Assad, which will be set out at the moment of truth and at his convenience..."[29]
[1], November 2, 2011. The Arab plan for resolving the Syria crisis, proposed by the Arab League on November 2, 2011, called for the Syrian army to retreat from the cities, the Syrian regime to release political prisoners, and talks to be held with Syrian opposition representatives; see, November 12, 2011.
[2] The 2013 summit in Qatar was attended by then- president of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces Mu'adh Al-Khatib, who was even recognized as the official representative of the Syrian people. In the 2014 summit in Kuwait, Al-Khatib's successor Ahmad Al-Jarba was not recognized as the official Syrian representative, but he did speak at the summit., March 28, 2017.
[3] Al-Hayat (London), February 2, 2017.
[4] On Egypt's position in support of the Syrian regime, see MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 1274, The Egypt-Saudi Dispute Over A Resolution To The Syria Crisis Goes Public, October 18, 2016 and MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 1284, Growing Egypt-Syria Rapprochement Includes Al-Sisi Statement In Support Of Syrian Army, Reports On Egyptian Military Aid To Syria, November 30, 2016. See also the London daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi's March 16, 2017 report on Egypt's participation in the March 14-15, 2017 Astana talks, during which the proposal that Egyptian and Jordanian forces be deployed to preserve the peace among the forces in Syria was discussed.
[5] Al-Hayat (London), February 2, 2017. It should be noted that in a phone conversation with his Russian counterpart, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Al-Safadi invited a Russian delegation to participate in the opening ceremony of the League summit in Amman at the end of the month. Al-Ghad (Jordan), March 16, 2017.
[6] Al-Rai Al-Yawm (London), January 3, 2017, February 7, 2017.
[7] Al-Watan (Egypt), March 10, 2017.
[8] Al-Yawm Al-Saba' (Egypt), February 13, 2017.
[9], November 12, 2011.
[10], March 7, 2017; Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), March 8, 2017.
[11] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), March 8, 2017.
[12] Al-Hayat (London), February 2, 2017.
[13] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), March 8, 2017.
[14] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), March 22, 2017.
[15] Al-Ghad (Jordan), December 8, 2016; March 20, 2017.
[16], March 5, 2017;, March 19, 2017.
[17] Al-Ghad reported that the Syrian flag has been hoisted in Amman alongside the flags of the countries attending the summit. Al-Ghad (Jordan), March 19, 2017. It should be mentioned that the Syrian flag was also flown in previous summits in which Syria did not participate, except in the 2013 Doha summit, which flew the flag of the Syrian opposition that represented Syria at that summit. See, March 28, 2015.
[18] Al-Ghad (Jordan), March 20, 2017.
[19] Al-Ghad (Jordan), March 8, 2017.
[20] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), March 8, 2017.
[21] Al-Watan (Syria), March 6, 2017.
[22] SANA (Syria), November 21, 2016.
[23] This is an allusion to the United Arab Republic, a political union formed by Egypt and Syria in 1958, which existed until 1961. The union also included the creation of a joint military force, consisting of the First Army, which comprised Syrian troops, and the Second and Third Armies, which were Egyptian.
[24] Al-Watan (Syria), February 15, 2017.
[25] Al-Watan (Syria), February 20, 2017.
[26] Burathanews.c om, March 13, 2017.
[27] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), March 8, 2017.
[28] Al-Thawra (Syria), March 9, 2017.
[29] Al-Watan (Syria), March 9, 2017.

Why electronics ban is serious business
Dr. Theodore Karasik/Al Arabiya/March 23/17
The US restrictions applying to flights originating from 10 airports in countries is going to impact major international carriers including Etihad, Emirates, Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines but not US-based carriers. The assertion in the press that no US carrier originates from one of these countries (UAE) is simply false. One simply needs to look at United’s website.Nevertheless, the US, quickly followed by the UK decision, to ban passengers from bringing their electronic devices including laptops and tablets in their carry-on luggage is viewed from two perspectives.
The first opinion is the decision is mostly exclusive to Middle Eastern and North African states. The countries targeted have state-of-the art planes flying nonstop to the US and many passengers prefer flying these jets to flying American or any other airline for their long-haul services.
However, Jordanian officers at the airport in Amman who inspect such devices have managed to scan a number of passengers’ devices and banned them from travelling because of “the stuff on their laptops which were considered a threat to other passengers’ safety”, according to a Jordanian security official.
Proactive action
Apparently, this threat is large enough when combined with other strands of information to force the US and UK to be take proactive action. Information from other sources including from the Gulf played a role in the final decision.
Last week, Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited Washington DC and the Pentagon where a “meeting of the minds” occurred. Saudi Arabia is an able and committed partner in fighting terrorism and information from Riyadh has been extraordinarily helpful in stopping commercial airline plots in the past and now.The ban applies to all devices larger than a mobile phone, including laptops, Kindles, cameras and portable DVD players. The decision came as a shock to many travelers to the US and the UK as many of them use such devices onboard. However, the reason as per American sources are security oriented, terrorist attempts were foiled in the past few weeks from countries in the Middle East, mainly Yemen, where al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is active.
There is no doubt that grumbling will occur over it but Middle East countries are willing to take a short term economic hit for the sake of security and warm relations with the Trump administration
The precedent
There was a precedent three years ago when the US also banned passengers heading to the visit America, fearing bombs in battery compartments. This had led at that time to the issuing of directives that forced all airports to turn the power button “on and off” of such devices in order to be scanned.
Other directives issued in 2005 and 2006 regarding liquid, sharp tools and gels as well as perfumes and cosmetics. These directives are based on suspicions coming from the Middle East.Now, the focus on electrical devices appears to be on the trigger. The bomb needs a trigger, which would be an electronic device such as a gadget, laptop, IPad and so forth. Once the perpetrator has no access to his device, he cannot give the signal to the bomb. This fact is why the “cargo hold” solution for electronics is the immediate solution.The second point relates to protectionism. The security ban involving electronics appears to punish the Gulf airlines by sharply reducing their long-distance haul appeal. Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways have been battling lobbying from major US carriers, which have accused them of receiving unfair subsidies under the Open Skies agreement. This argument – allegedly to attack Gulf airlines – is simply not the case. There is no Trump/UK conspiracy regarding Gulf airlines.
Blessing in disguise
To be clear, security, which the Gulf recognizes as their supreme duty, is at stake for their own commercial airline industry. With recent talk of lower profits and the rise of low-cost carriers taking away Gulf airline business, the electronic security ban may be a blessing in disguise. Let us not forget that travelers will still pay top dollar for long-haul flights with no electronics. The Gulf states recognized immediately the impact of the US and UK’s decision, rolling out quick information campaigns showing the benefits of no electronic devices. This brilliant response fits very neatly into Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid’s 2016 reading program and the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Library Foundation, the largest knowledge project in the world. Other countries are likely to take note of the campaign given their own education and social awareness programs. If stakeholders are arguing that the airline proxy war between Gulf carriers versus American carriers is getting more pronounced, in the protectionist Trump era, take a second look. Overall, the electronics ban is here and likely to stay for a long time. Airlines and passengers will adjust. Gulf Airlines are nimble enough to adjust to the new economic reality. There is no doubt that grumbling will occur over it but Middle East countries are willing to take a short term economic hit for the sake of security and warm relations with the Trump administration.

Of flights, electronic bans and social media addicts
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/March 23/17
American authorities have recently imposed restrictions on carrying electronic devices on certain flights bound for the US. Passengers are thus not allowed to carry i-Pads, tablets or laptops in the cabin and must put them in checked baggage.
This piece of news may come as a shock to some social media and technology “addicts”. According to reports, the decision is imposed on 10 airports, which are mostly in the Middle East and North Africa and it comes “in response to unspecified terrorism threats.”
The Department of Homeland Security will examine passengers’ electronic devices that are larger than cellular phones, such as laptops, tablets, DVD players and cameras. The airports on which these are restrictions are imposed are in Amman, Cairo, Kuwait, Doha, Dubai, Istanbul, Abu Dhabi, Casablanca, Riyadh and Jeddah. Civil aviation authorities and airline passenger firms announced the decision following which people started sharing this news via Whatsapp and Twitter. Reuters quoted American officials as saying that the ban “had been under consideration since the US government learned of a threat several weeks ago.” What if banning of tablets and other electronic devices become common across all global airlines? What if these measures are no longer limited to airports but also extend to trains and buses?
Precautionary measures
These are precautionary security measures, which we cannot argue about even if some people think they reflect paranoia or deprive people of working on their smart electronic devices. Security is above everything else but I will not discuss the circumstances that have called for such strict measure. What caught my attention is something else.What if banning of tablets and other electronic devices become common across all global airlines? What if these measures are no longer limited to airports but also extend to trains and buses? Who will be harmed in this case? Social media companies and companies that manufacture these electronic devices will certainly be the first to bear the brunt.These companies make billions of dollars and their revenue model is based on expanding the number of users and connecting them 24/7 no matter where they are, in land, sea or in the air. This simply does not go well with recent American security measures. These companies have great influence and power over global decision-makers. Here is a question: What will travelers do if they don’t get to work on their smart electronic devices and on social media apps to spend their time on the flight? They will probably sleep, eat, communicate with real human beings or read.

UK Parliament terror tied to Antwerp attack
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report March 23, 2017
The Westminster attacker, 52-year old British-born Khalid Masoud, was claimed as “a soldier of the Islamic State” Thursday, March 23, after he murdered three people and injured more than forty. Some are still in critical condition. The London Metropolitan Police do not now believe he was acting alone. In pursuit of accomplices, anti-terror police made eight arrests at six addresses in East London and Birmingham on suspicion of “preparation of terror attacks." More arrests are expected.
In Antwerp, Belgium, 24 hours later, a man wearing military-style uniform, was arrested trying to drive at high speed into a crowd before anyone was hurt. He was identified as 39-year-old Mohamed R, a French national of North African origin living in France. Bomb disposal experts found knives, a shotgun and a gas can in his car.
French and Belgian police say the London and Antwerp terror attacks were linked. The second attack was scheduled to take place Wednesday at the same time as the assault at the British parliament, a twin event to "celebrate"the first anniversary of the Islamic State's suicide bombing on the Brussels airport and subway which murdered 32 people.
Khalid Masoud began his rampage of terror Wednesday by plowing into a crowd of pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, then crashing his car into the railings of Parliament Yard and ending with a stabbing attack on policemen guarding the entrance to the House.
He had been known to the police and intelligence services, Prime Minister Theresa May revealed to a shocked House Thursday. She told the MPs he had been investigated some years ago, but was not part of the current intelligence picture, which means he was not under the radar at present.
Police said he had a string of convictions for various criminal offensives unrelated to terrorism.
Masoud, who was shot dead by police officers barring his attempt to storm the British parliament, was a married father of three and a former English teacher. Born in Kent outside London, he is believed to have been living in Birmingham.
The terrorist attack that hit London Wednesday, March 22, was all the more shocking in that it came closer than ever before to assaulting a Western government center since Al Qaeda 16 years ago crashed a plane onto the Pentagon in Washington, not far from the White House. This Wednesday, four people lost their lives in London, including a police officer, and more than 40 were injured. The terrorist mowed down pedestrians on the crowded Westminster Bridge and then stabbed policemen who barred him from storming Parliament, before he was shot dead. The British police rate the attack a terrorist incident presumed inspired by the Islamic State, although his identity has not been affirmed.
Careful reconnaissance would have shown him that the entrance to the building serving the vehicles of the prime minister and cabinet members afforded access to the House when it opened for cars. He would also have noticed that, while armed police guarded the House, the vicinity and its famous landmarks, such as Westminster Bridge, were not similarly guarded. Prime Minister Theresa May’s explanation in an address to the nation that night was that England is proud of its traditions of freedom and democracy.
So the terrorist was free to run down dozens of civilians unopposed, before crashing into the railings of the Palace of Westminster and racing to the entrance. His only weapons were a knife and a car. The dimensions of the atrocity had the terrorist carried a powerful firearm are unthinkable.
DEBKA reported Wednesday
Hours after two terrorist attacks at the British House of Parliament Wednesday, March 22, police were still not certain whether they were carried out by a single terrorist, more than one or the work of a terrorist network. A second death was reported of the 20 injured on Westminster Bridge. The assailant stabbed three police officers who prevented him entering the building. One has since died. The assailant was shot and died of his injures. Later, a woman was pulled alive out of the River Thames.
As central London and its transport system ground to a halt, and security police spread over an ever widening net, no one was sure whether the episode was over. Scotland Yard Commander B.J. Harrington said that a full-scale terrorist investigation is underway and called on the public to report with any information and be vigilant.
Cobra, the government’s crisis committee, meets with senior officials from government, counter-terrorism officials and the police present. The meeting will be led by the prime minister. Armed and unarmed police are on duty on the streets of London. Anti-terror police teams are scouring the cavernous parliament building, where lawmakers remain under lockdown along with Downing Street.
The London Eye at the Thames stopped trapping its “guests” within the attraction..
The threat level for international terrorism in the UK was listed at severe. Wednesday was the anniversary of suicide bombings in the Brussels airport and subway that killed 32 people.
debkafile reported straight after the attack.
The UK parliament is in lockdown after an apparent multiple terror attack with at least ten injuries. Several people were struck by a vehicle on Westminster Bridge. The vehicle carried on driving towards Parliament and crashed through the railings into the yard. At the same time, an assailant entered Parliament, stabbed a policeman and was quickly shot by armed police. Parliament was suspended by the Speaker and members were ordered to stay in place. Ambulances are evacuating he at least 12 people injured on Westminster Bridge. One woman has died in hospital.. A police officer bundled Prime Minister Theresa May out of the House. Downing Street is also under lockdown. Scotland Yard is treating this as a terrorist incident until proven otherwise.
Theresa May was rushed into a car 40 yards from the gates outside parliament where shots were fired minutes after the incident occurred, according to footage filmed by a member of staff. She was ushered by at least eight armed undercover police, some with their firearms drawn, into a waiting black vehicle in Speaker’s Court.
There is some speculation that a single assailant may have carried out both incidents. If so, the incident has been contained. If there were two, the second terrorist is on the run.