March 26/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
Jesus Cures The Paralysed Man/I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Mark 02,01-12/:"When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. Then some people came, bringing to him a paralysed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’ Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, ‘Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, ‘Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, "Your sins are forgiven", or to say, "Stand up and take your mat and walk"? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’ he said to the paralytic ‘I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.’ And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’

Whoever teaches otherwise and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that is in accordance with godliness, is depraved in mind and bereft of the truth
First Letter to Timothy 05/24-25/06,01-05/:"The sins of some people are conspicuous and precede them to judgement, while the sins of others follow them there. So also good works are conspicuous; and even when they are not, they cannot remain hidden. Let all who are under the yoke of slavery regard their masters as worthy of all honour, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be blasphemed. Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful to them on the ground that they are members of the church; rather they must serve them all the more, since those who benefit by their service are believers and beloved. Teach and urge these duties. Whoever teaches otherwise and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that is in accordance with godliness, is conceited, understanding nothing, and has a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words. From these come envy, dissension, slander, base suspicions, and wrangling among those who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.

Question: "How can you believe in salvation by faith alone when the only occurrence of ‘faith alone’ in the Bible (James 2:24) says that salvation is not by faith alone?"
Answer: It is entirely true that the one verse in the Bible that contains the exact phrase “faith alone” seems to argue against salvation by faith alone. James 2:24 reads, “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (ESV). However, rejecting the doctrine of salvation by faith alone based on this verse has two major problems. First, the context of James 2:24 is not arguing against the doctrine of salvation by faith alone. Second, the Bible does not need to contain the precise phrase “faith alone” in order to clearly teach salvation by faith alone.
James 2:14–26, as a whole, and especially verse 24, has been the subject of some confused interpretations. The passage definitely seems to cause serious problems for the “salvation by faith alone” concept. First, we need to clear up a misconception, namely, that James means the same thing by “justified” in James 2:24 that Paul means in Romans 3:28. Paul is using the word justified to mean “declared righteous by God.” Paul is speaking of God’s legal declaration of us as righteous as Christ’s righteousness is applied to our account. James is using the word justified to mean “being demonstrated and proved.”
The 2011 NIV provides an excellent rendering of James 2:24: “You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone” (emphasis added). Similarly, the NLT translation of James 2:24 reads, “So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone” (emphasis added). The entire James 2:14–26 passage is about proving the genuineness of your faith by what you do. A genuine salvation experience by faith in Jesus Christ will inevitably result in good works (cf. Ephesians 2:10). The works are the demonstration and proof of faith (James 2:18). A faith without works is useless (James 2:20) and dead (James 2:17); in other words, it is not true faith at all. Salvation is by faith alone, but that faith will never be alone.
While James 2:24 is the only verse that contains the precise phrase “faith alone,” there are many other verses that do, in fact, teach salvation by faith alone. Any verse that ascribes salvation to faith/belief, with no other requirement mentioned, is a declaration that salvation is by faith alone. John 3:16 declares that salvation is given to “whoever believes in Him.” Acts 16:31 proclaims, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith.” See also Romans 3:28; 4:5; 5:1; Galatians 2:16; 3:24; Ephesians 1:13; and Philippians 3:9. Many other verses could be referenced in addition to these.
In summary, James 2:24 does not argue against salvation by faith alone. Rather, it argues against a salvation that is alone, a salvation devoid of good works and obedience to God’s Word. James’s point is that we demonstrate our faith by what we do (James 2:18). Regardless of the absence of the precise phrase “faith alone,” the New Testament definitely teaches that salvation is the product of God’s grace in response to our faith. “Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? . . . On that of faith” (Romans 3:27). There is no other requirement.
Recommended Resource: Faith Alone, The Doctrine of Justification: What the Reformers Taught...and Why It Still Matters by Thomas Schreiner.

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published On March 25-26/17
The Healing Miracle of the Paralyzed/Elias Bejjani/ March 26/17
Michel Aoun playing with fire over Hizbollah/Josh Wood/The National/March 25/17
US Charges Lebanese ‘Hezbollah Financier/Asharq Al-Awsat English/March 25/17
All eyes on Lebanon ahead of Arab Summit/Joseph A. Kechichian/Gulf News/March 25/17
Trump's greatest deal/Aoun is a Hezbollah ally/By Caroline Glicks/The Jerusalem Post/March 24, 2017
Amman Summit to Highlight Arab Solidarity, Consensus on Ending Conflict/Sawsan Abu-HusainAsharq Al-Awsat English/March 25/17/
Questions Rise on Why Some Muslim Converts are Prone to Extremism/Mohammed Al-ShafeyAsharq Al-Awsat English/March 25/17/
Trump: ‘We Should have Never Left Iraq/Abdulrahman Al-RashedAsharq Al-Awsat English/March 25/17/
As a Muslim, I am Shocked by Liberals and Leftists/Majid Rafizadeh/Gatestone Institute/March 25/17
From the Golan, Iran is paving the way for a new war in Lebanon/Huda al Husseini/Al Arabiya/March 25/17
The five scenarios on the future of Europe/Dr. Ibrahim Al-Othaimin/Al Arabiya/March 25/17
The Westminster attack and the Western dilemma/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/March 25/17
A Saudi library in Beijing/Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/March 25/17
The Power Struggle for the Throne and the Saudi 'Reset' With Trump/Simon Henderson/The Washington Institute/Foreign Policy/March 25, 2017

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published  On March 25-26/17
The Healing Miracle of the Paralyzed
Michel Aoun playing with fire over Hizbollah
US Charges Lebanese ‘Hezbollah Financier
Daylight-Saving Time Begins at Midnight
American University of Beirut Settles U.S. Lawsuit over Hizbullah
Berri Says Wage Scale Must be Approved Separate from Taxes
U.S. Charges 'Hizbullah Financier' Kassem Tajideen
Report: Israeli Bill to Annex Gas-Filled Maritime Area 'Blackmails' Lebanon
Shiite Lebanese Women Wage Painful Custody Battles
Ibrahim: Lebanon No Longer an Arena, Nothing Justifies Harboring Terrorists
All eyes on Lebanon ahead of Arab Summit
U.N. officials meet with Aoun before summit
Trump's greatest deal
Aoun is a Hezbollah ally. So is Defense Minister Yaacoub Sarraf and LAF commander Gen. Joseph Aoun

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published On March 25-26/17
Air strikes kill 16 civilians near Damascus, 16 in Idlib
US Warns against Travel to Unruly French Guiana
Laptop Ban Hits Dubai for 1.1m Weekend Travelers
Iraqi forces pause Mosul push over concern for civilian casualties
Mosul: 500 civilians killed, calls to declare the city a disaster zone
Tens of thousands in London protest Britain’s EU departure
London attacker was cheerful and joking on eve of deadly rampage
Gunmen kill Hamas official who was swapped for Israel’s Gilad Shalit in 2011
Israel ‘ignoring’ a UN resolution to immediately halt settlements
Defeated Trump warns that Obamacare ‘will soon explode’
Saudi forces kill 17 Houthi militias attempting to breach border

Links From Jihad Watch Site for 
March 25-26/17
Canadians Duped: A Victorious Day for Islamic Supremacists
Canada: Imam quotes Muhammad, complaint lodged with police
Brussels mayor: “All mosques in Brussels are in the hands of Salafists”
Board of Deputies of British Jews reassures Muslims who are “anxious” after London jihad
London jihad murderer was “very religious”
Australia: Muslim teen in deradicalization program plotted jihad massacre
Theresa May: “The fight against terrorism and hate speech has to be a joint one”
German state bans mosque group after imam repeatedly calls for killing of infidels
France: Veiled Muslim woman threatens passersby with a knife
London jihad murderer “said he needed time to pray and read the Koran – something about finding inner peace”
Globe & Mail columnist: London jihadi “not Muslim,” “extremists” often come from “Christian families”
Texas public high school defends its Islamic prayer room after warning from state deputy attorney general

Links From Christian Today Site For March 25-26/17
Republicans in disarray as Trump fails to repeal Obamacare
Pope Francis warns EU risks dying, faces 'vacuum of values'
Douglas Carswell quits UKIP, says he will remain as independent MP
Religious people are less afraid of death, say researchers – but so are atheists
Westminster attacker was a criminal who was not seen as a threat
Archbishops launch investigation into Philip North row after 'highly individualised' attacks
Why Trump's deportation policies are making immigrants afraid to go to church
Bishop steps down after speaking of campaign forcing him to quit

Latest Lebanese Related News published On March 25-26/17
The Healing Miracle of the Paralyzed
Elias Bejjani/ March 26/17
“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matthew 11/28-30)
The practice of praying for others in any manner or pattern is a desirable religious conduct, especially when the prayers are for the sake of those who are sick, persecuted, oppressed, poor, lonely and distressed, or have fallen prey to evil temptations.
Praying for others whether they are parents, relatives, strangers, acquaintances, enemies, or friends, and for countries, is an act that exhibits the faith, caring, love, and hope of those who offer the prayers. Almighty God, Who is a loving, forgiving, passionate, and merciful Father listens to these prayers and always answers them in His own wisdom and mercy that mostly we are unable to grasp because of our limited human understanding. "All things, whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” (Matthew 21/22)
On the fifth Lenten Sunday the Catholic Maronites cite and recall with great reverence [ ] the Gospel of Saint Mark ( 02/1-12): "The Healing Miracle of the Paralytic": "When he entered again into Capernaum after some days, it was heard that he was in the house. Immediately many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even around the door; and he spoke the word to them. Four people came, carrying a paralytic to him. When they could not come near to him for the crowd, they removed the roof where he was. When they had broken it up, they let down the mat that the paralytic was lying on. Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” But there were some of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak blasphemies like that? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you reason these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to tell the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven;’ or to say, ‘Arise, and take up your bed, and walk?’ But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”— He said to the paralytic— “I tell you, arise, take up your mat, and go to your house.” He arose, and immediately took up the mat, and went out in front of them all; so that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”
This great miracle in its theological essence and core demonstrates beyond doubt that intercessions, prayers and supplications for the benefit of others are acceptable faith rituals that Almighty God attentively hears and definitely answers.
It is interesting to learn that the paralytic man as stated in the Gospel of St. Mark, didn't personally call on Jesus to cure him, nor he asked Him for forgiveness, mercy or help, although as many theologians believe Jesus used to visit Capernaum, where the man lives, and preach in its Synagogue frequently. Apparently this crippled man was lacking faith, hope, distancing himself from God and total ignoring the Gospel's teaching. He did not believe that the Lord can cure him.
What also makes this miracle remarkable and distinguishable lies in the fact that the paralytic's relatives and friends, or perhaps some of Jesus' disciples were adamant that the Lord is able to heal this sick man who has been totally crippled for 38 years if He just touches him. This strong faith and hope made four of them carry the paralytic on his mat and rush to the house where Jesus was preaching. When they could not break through the crowd to inter the house they climbed with the paralytic to the roof, made a hole in it and let down the mat that the paralytic was lying on in front of Jesus and begged for his cure. Jesus was taken by their strong faith and fulfilled their request.
Jesus forgave the paralytic his sins first (“Son, your sins are forgiven you) and after that cured his body: "Arise, and take up your bed, and walk". Like the scribes many nowadays still question the reason and rationale that made Jesus give priority to the man's sins. Jesus' wisdom illustrates that sin is the actual death and the cause for eternal anguish in Hell. He absolved his sins first because sin cripples those who fall in its traps, annihilates their hopes, faith, morals and values, kills their human feelings, inflicts numbness on their consciences and keeps them far away from Almighty God. Jesus wanted to save the man's soul before He cures his earthy body. "For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world, and forfeit his life?" (Mark 08:/36 & 37).
Our Gracious God does not disappoint any person when he seek His help with faith and confidence. With great interest and parental love, He listens to worshipers' prayers and requests and definitely respond to them in His own way, wisdom, time and manner. "Ask, and it will be given you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives. He who seeks finds. To him who knocks it will be opened". (Matthew 07/07 &08)
In this loving and forgiving context, prayers for others, alive or dead, loved ones or enemies, relatives or strangers, are religiously desirable. God hears and responds because He never abandons His children no matter what they do or say, provided that they turn to Him with faith and repentance and ask for His mercy and forgiveness either for themselves or for others. "Is any among you suffering? Let him pray. Is any cheerful? Let him sing praises. 5:14 Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the assembly, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord, 5:15 and the prayer of faith will heal him who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up". (James 05:13)
There are numerous biblical parables and miracles in which Almighty God shows clearly that He accepts and responds to prayers for the sake of others, e.g.
Jesus cured the centurion's servant on the request of the Centurion and not the servant himself. (Matthew 08/05-33 )
Jesus revived and brought back to life Lazarus on the request of his sisters Mary and Martha. (John 11/01-44)
In conclusion: Almighty God is always waiting for us, we, His Children to come to Him and ask for His help and mercy either for ourselves or for others. He never leaves us alone. Meanwhile it is a Godly faith obligation to extend our hand and pull up those who are falling and unable to pray for themselves especially the mentally sick, the unconscious, and the paralyzed. In this realm of faith, love and care for others comes our prayers to Virgin Mary and to all Saints whom we do not worship, but ask for their intercessions and blessings.
O, Lord, endow us with graces of faith, hope, wisdom, and patience. Help us to be loving, caring, humble and meek. Show us the just paths. Help us to be on your right with the righteous on the Judgment Day.
God sees and hears us all the time, let us all fear Him in all what we think, do and say.

Michel Aoun playing with fire over Hizbollah
ميشال عون يلعب بالنار بتماهية الكلي مع حزب الله الإرهابي
Josh Wood/The National/March 25/17
BEIRUT // Lebanon sits in a region torn by conflict and its armed forces are limited. As such, it is one of the largest recipients of American military aid. And with limited economic opportunities, it is dependent on the benevolence and investment of Arabian Gulf states that also provide employment to many of its citizens. But Lebanon is now led by a president who praises Hizbollah, the powerful Shiite group that dominates the country, is at war in Syria and is considered a terrorist group by the US and Gulf states. To both the Gulf states and the US, Hizbollah is the strongest manifestation of Iran’s ambitions and influence in the Middle East and a force that must be confronted and stopped. To General Michel Aoun, who was elected by parliament late last year, Hizbollah is "an essential part of defending Lebanon". He sees Hizbollah’s arsenal as a complement to the Lebanese army, which he admits "doesn’t have the needed power to fend off" threats from Israel. In theory, Gen Aoun took office as an ally of Hizbollah. However, this was largely seen as a marriage of political convenience, not ideology, and the president said little about the group during his first months in office.
Last month, however, Gen Aoun endorsed Hizbollah publicly and threw his support behind the group, risking Lebanon’s relations with allies in Washington and the Gulf.
The president is playing with fire.
Lebanon is the world’s fifth-largest recipient of US military aid, with more than $1 billion (Dh3.67bn) worth of equipment received since 2006. The battles against extremists in the Nahr Al Bared Palestinian refugee camp in 2007 and more recent confrontations with ISIL and Jabhat Al Nusra along its border with Syria persuaded the Americans to provide a steady stream of weaponry, vehicles and ammunition to the Lebanese army. But Gen Aoun’s support for Hizbollah could jeopardise all that. While the president is traditionally a figurehead, Hizbollah’s support gives Gen Aoun’s words and actions weight, as does the large Christian political party he heads. And with his son-in-law Gebran Bassil as foreign minister – a man blamed by the Gulf for tensions last year over Hizbollah – Gen Aoun is in a position to shape Lebanon’s international relations.
While the particulars of US foreign policy under Donald Trump remain vague more than two months into his presidency, one theme has been consistent: a tougher stance on Iran. Mr Trump has stacked his administration with hawks who want to confront Iran rather than negotiate. Lebanon’s embrace of Hizbollah will not sit well with them. So far, the Trump administration has taken no discernible action against Lebanon. The country escaped Mr Trump’s attempted travel bans on several Muslim majority countries although it is dominated by what Washington considers a terrorist group.
However, the US has made it clear that the travel ban issue is still alive and that the list could be expanded.
Mr Trump has also pledged to move closer to Israel, which is now striking Hizbollah targets inside Syria more brazenly.
Israel has criticised America’s arms transfers donations to Lebanon. Now, with Gen Aoun’s very public backing of Hizbollah and talk of confronting Israel, Israeli leaders might try to persuade Mr Trump to halt military aid to Lebanon. Last year, Israel alleged that US armoured personnel carriers supplied to the Lebanese army were going to Hizbollah. The administration of Barack Obama denied it.Gen Aoun’s praise for Hizbollah could also land him in trouble with Gulf states, notably Saudi Arabia. The kingdom last year cancelled US$4bn in grants to Lebanon’s security services, citing Hizbollah’s "hijacking" of the country. It then led a charge against Lebanon and Hizbollah, prompting GCC states to ban their citizens from travelling to Lebanon, downgrading diplomatic ties and imposing sanctions on people and businesses connected to Hizbollah. Saudi Arabia is furious about Hizbollah’s role in Syria and alleges that the group is backing Houthi rebel forces in Yemen. Relations thawed after Gen Aoun was elected president in October, ending a 20-month power vacuum. The new leader soon received a Saudi diplomatic delegation in Beirut and his first trip abroad as president was to Riyadh in January.
There was hope in Lebanon that a restoration of diplomatic relations meant the arms grants would be reinstated and that Lebanon would again be friends with the Gulf states. But that was before Gen Aoun began praising Hizbollah, the very core of the spat between Lebanon and the Gulf states. Saudi Arabia’s King Salman to cancel a trip to Beirut and Ge Aoun’s comments may have been the reason. Hopes for normalised ties are now fading. If Gen Aoun’s words and actions result in the US and the Gulf distancing themselves from Lebanon, the country will be left with few friends, creating an bigger opportunity for Iran to assert its influence there.

US Charges Lebanese ‘Hezbollah Financier’المغرب سلم قاسم تاج الدين لأميركا وهو يحاكم في واشنطن بتهم تمويل حزب الله
Asharq Al-Awsat English/March 25/17
A Lebanese businessman was on Friday charged in the US for violating sanctions through his support for Lebanon’s “Hezbollah,” less than two weeks after he was reportedly deported to the United States from Morocco.
Kassim Tajideen, 62, pleaded not guilty in federal court in Washington, D.C., nearly eight years after the United States placed him on a sanction blacklist because of his support for “Hezbollah.”
The 2009 sanctions on Tajideen prohibit US companies from doing business with him or with any companies that are operated for his benefit.
US authorities say Tajideen ran a multi-billion-dollar “global business empire” that traded in commodities across the Middle East and Africa.
The 11-count indictment unsealed Friday charges him with multiple counts of violating the sanctions regulations as well as money laundering. But by restructuring the company and using a complex web of trade names, authorities say Tajideen was able to hide his involvement and continue doing business with US firms. That included buying commodities from US exporters and making wire transfers payments for them worth a total of $27 million. The US companies involved in those transactions were unaware they were involved with him, the charges said.
He will be held in jail until a detention hearing next week, the Justice Department said in a statement.
A lawyer for Tajideen, Matt Jones, declined to comment after the court appearance.
Reports said that Tajideen had been arrested on March 12 in the Moroccan city of Casablanca on an international warrant issued by Interpol’s Washington office.
Tajideen’s arrest and indictment followed a two-year investigation led by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and assisted by US Customs and Border Protection, the Justice Department said in a statement.
“Tajideen acted as a key source of funds for (Hezbollah’s) global terror network,” Raymond Donovan, a DEA special agent in charge of the Special Operations Division, said in the statement.
Writing about Tajideen on Thursday, Hanin Ghaddar and Sarah Feuer of the Washington Institute think tank said Tajideen remained an important backer of Hezbollah. They said that although Morocco would not confirm that Washington had asked for his arrest, “such cooperation would be in keeping with Morocco’s emergence as a key counterterrorism partner in recent years.”

Daylight-Saving Time Begins at Midnight
Naharnet/March 25/17/Daylight-saving time will begin in Lebanon at midnight where clocks should be set an hour ahead as per a decree issued by cabinet earlier this month. The move will put Beirut 3 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. Clocks will have to be turned back to wintertime at midnight on the last Saturday in October.

American University of Beirut Settles U.S. Lawsuit over Hizbullah
Naharnet/March 25/17/The American University of Beirut will pay $700,000 to settle a U.S. lawsuit over allegations it provided "material support" to entities linked to Hizbullah, U.S. officials said. AUB confirmed in a statement Friday it was settling the lawsuit, which charged it had violated the terms of grants it received from U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan announced the deal on Thursday, saying AUB would be required to pay the U.S. government $700,000 (650,000 euros) and revise its internal policies to ensure future compliance with U.S. law. "For years, the American University of Beirut accepted grant money from USAID, but failed to take reasonable steps to ensure against providing material support to entities on the Treasury Department's prohibited list," said Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said. "With today's settlement, the University is being made to pay a financial penalty for its conduct, and importantly, it has admitted to its conduct and agreed to put proper precautions in place to ensure that it does not happen again." The civil lawsuit charged that AUB violated U.S. law by providing media training between 2007-2009 to representatives of two media outlets -- Al-Nour Radio and Al-Manar television -- under U.S. sanctions for their ties to Hizbullah. It also accused AUB of listing the Hizbullah-linked Jihad al-Binaa, also under U.S. sanctions, on the university's NGO database. Hizbullah is listed as a "terrorist" group in the United States and entities linked to it are also under sanctions. In its statement, AUB said it acknowledged the accusations. But it insisted "AUB does not agree that its conduct was knowing, intentional or reckless." It welcomed the settlement and said it would conduct additional training of faculty and staff on U.S. law going forward. AUB was founded in 1866 and is considered one of Lebanon's leading universities.

Berri Says Wage Scale Must be Approved Separate from Taxes

Naharnet/March 25/17/After a wave of protests rejecting the parliament's decision to impose a series of tax reforms in a bid to fund Lebanon's long-stalled wage scale, Speaker Nabih Berri said the pay scale must be approved “independently” from the controversial issue of tax suggestions, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Saturday. “Efforts are underway as for the wage scale file, some important progress has been recorded in that regard,” Berri said in front of his visitors according to the daily. However he stressed that the parliament “has nothing to do with the taxes and levies, these are the government’s responsibility. We don't accept to work within certain limits. What we care about as parliament is the approval of the wage scale, a righteous demand for the people, independently from the taxes issue.”The Speaker did not disclose an exact date for a session dedicated to discuss the file, but assured that it is not distant, saying “before anything else, the salary scale is a right and must be approved.”The parliament said it will approve a series of taxes in order to fund the new wage scale. The decision triggered dismay sending the people to the streets in protest.

U.S. Charges 'Hizbullah Financier' Kassem Tajideen
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 25/17/U.S. authorities arrested a long-wanted alleged Hizbullah financier Friday on charges of violating U.S. terror-related sanctions, after he was apparently deported to the United States from Morocco. Kassim Tajideen was formally charged in U.S. federal court in Washington nearly eight years after the United States named him a "specially designated global terrorist" for allegedly proving tens of millions of dollars to Hizbullah. He was charged with multiple counts of violating U.S. terrorism sanctions regulations as well as money laundering. According to multiple media reports, Tajideen was arrested on arrival in Casablanca on March 12 on a request by U.S. authorities. He arrived in the United States early Friday, but the Justice Department would not confirm that he had been handed over to the United States by Morocco. Tajideen, 62, pleaded innocent to the charges, according to a Justice Department statement. A commodities trader across the Middle East and Africa, Tajideen was given the terror finance designation in May 2009, which carries sanctions that largely locked him out of global financial networks. The designation named him an "important financial contributor" to Hizbullah. "Because of his support for Hizbullah, a major international terrorist group, the US government imposed sanctions on Kassim Tajideen in 2009 that barred him from doing business with U.S. individuals and companies," Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Blanco said in a statement. But the charges unveiled Friday did not accuse him of any recent provision of financial support to Hizbullah. Instead, he was accused of restructuring his business organization after the 2009 designation in order to evade the sanctions and continue doing business with U.S. companies. That included buying commodities from U.S. exporters and making wire transfers payments for them worth a total of $27 million. The U.S. firms involved in those transactions were unaware they were involved with him, the charges said. Writing about Tajideen on Thursday, Hanin Ghaddar and Sarah Feuer of the Washington Institute think tank said Tajideen remained an important backer of Hizbullah. "In addition to the revenues he secured for Hizbullah, his company Tajco has been involved in a number of residential projects located in strategic areas of Lebanon," they said. Ghaddar and Feuer said that although Morocco would not confirm that Washington had asked for his arrest, "such cooperation would be in keeping with Morocco's emergence as a key counterterrorism partner in recent years."

Report: Israeli Bill to Annex Gas-Filled Maritime Area 'Blackmails' Lebanon
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 25/17/After Israel's announcement that it will submit a bill to the Israeli Knesset annexing a disputed maritime border area with Lebanon, Lebanese authorities have sent a letter to the United Nations and Security Council denouncing the move and warning of the repercussions, media reports said on Saturday. The Israeli move has put Lebanon on alert at the political and diplomatic levels. Prominent political figures have questioned the objectives that Israel seeks to achieve at this particular time, said al-Joumhouria daily. In the past few hours, a series of contacts from the Lebanese side towards the United Nations and the Security Council were made. Lebanon's foreign ministry has sent a letter, described by a senior source “as extremely important”, to the Security Council drawing attention to Israel's acts and warning against the repercussions, said the daily. The letter reiterated that Israel seeks to pirate a Lebanese area within its economic borders. It referred to the documents Lebanon has sent to the United Nations proving that. Similar contacts were held with Washington, said the daily, being the mediator who has contributed in the past years to find a compromise between Lebanon and Israel on that matter. Even-though Washington reached at one point a near-agreement, but it was unable to make Israel commit to it. However, Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, said the Israeli pretext for such a move is due to the failure of US mediation efforts between Lebanon and Israel. But what drew attention, is a report in Israel's newspaper Maariv that Tel Aviv has asked Washington to pressure Lebanon into withdrawing the tender for oil and gas exploration in the Mediterranean, in exchange that Israel stops to push the bill to the Knesset, Lebanon's daily said.
A prominent Lebanese source who spoke on condition of anonymity told al-Joumhouria: “Lebanon has not received any request from the United States, knowing that we have already confirmed our right in this maritime area to Washington and the United Nations. “It is obvious that Israel is taking a blackmailing step towards Lebanon and trying to discourage foreign companies from participating in this matter. We better be cautious and not succumb. On the contrary this must make us more determined than ever to assert our right and defend it.”Lebanon and Israel are bickering over a maritime zone that consists of about 860 square kilometers and suspected energy reserves that could generate billions of dollars. Lebanese officials have continuously warned that Israel's exploration of new offshore gas fields near Lebanese territorial waters means the Jewish state is siphoning some of Lebanon's crude oil. In January, the Lebanese government has approved key decrees that pave way for oil and gas extraction off Lebanon's coast, after more than two years of political deadlock. The decrees authorize regulators to divide the offshore areas into blocks for drilling and exploration and to issue tenders. A portion of the reserves lies in territory disputed by the two countries.

Shiite Lebanese Women Wage Painful Custody Battles
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 25/17/Every week, young divorcee Rita Choukeir looks forward to the three precious hours she gets with her young son in Lebanon, where child custody is awarded according to religious rulings. Typically hailed as one of the region's most liberal countries, Lebanon's so-called personal status issues -- including marriage, divorce, and child custody -- are still determined by authorities of its 18 religious sects. Shiite religious courts have ruled that divorced mothers must turn over custody of their sons when they reach two, and daughters aged seven, when custody goes de facto to the father. But hundreds of mothers, including 24-year-old Choukeir, are fighting back. "As a mother, you have the biggest right to rebel, to take on the whole world to protect your son," said Choukeir, who has been fighting for custody of her four-year-old son Adam since her divorce in 2015. Her struggle is familiar and traumatic: Choukeir grew up seeing her own divorced mother just eight hours a week because of a ruling by a religious court. Barely holding back her tears, she told AFP: "I've seen the pain of both experiences: my own as a child raised far away from her mother, and a mother kept from her son."Adam has been living with his father since shortly after the divorce, but Choukeir is now appealing to the country's top Shiite Muslim court for full custody. - 'Not open for discussion' -Choukeir told AFP she was not expecting the court to rule in her favour, but that she would not stop fighting for custody "until the last of my days". "I don't trust the (religious) court, I'm afraid of it," Choukeir said.
"How can someone like me, who was deprived of her mother at three years old because of this court, trust it today?" According to Shiite scholars, the custody rule is an interpretation of the hadith (words and practices of the Prophet Mohammed) and the Koran, which stipulate that fathers are responsible for child-rearing. Ali Makki, who heads the religious court at Lebanon's Supreme Islamic Shiite Council, told AFP: "The Shiite sect relies primarily on interpretation, but the highest point of reference for the council is in Najaf," a Shiite shrine city in Iraq. "Amending the issue (of custody) is not easy for the Shiite sect." A similar custody rule once applied to Lebanon's Sunni population, but after widespread pushback, clerics amended it and Sunni divorcees were granted full custody until their children turned 12. Now, Shiite mothers in Lebanon are waging their own protest campaign, with Choukeir's case as a rallying cry. On a recent Saturday afternoon, dozens of mothers gathered with their children at the Supreme Islamic Shiite Council headquarters in Beirut. Organised by the "Protecting Lebanese Women" campaign, protesters held banners that read, "Custody is a right for Rita and every mother!" "We have been waging this battle for four years without any positive response from the Supreme Islamic Shiite Council, which insists that this issue is not open for discussion," said campaign head Zeina Ibrahim.
- 'Stood my ground' -In some cases, divorcees offer to give up their alimony in exchange for full custody. But sometimes, Shiite women who resist lose their visitation rights, or are even jailed. In early November, Fatima Hamza, 32, spent six days behind bars after refusing to hand over her four-year-old son Ali to his father. The top Shiite court had ruled that since her son was older than two, full custody would be awarded to his father. "The court didn't even listen to me. Instead, they added to the injustice against me," she told AFP. While Hamza was imprisoned, Ali stayed with a relative and later returned to his mother's care -- although his father is still pressing the legal battle for full custody. "They renewed their demands that I be imprisoned again but I stood my ground. I told the judge that I was ready to go to jail again, but I would not implement this unjust and unfair decision," she said. Surrounded by women outside the Shiite Council's headquarters, Hamza said Lebanese "mothers are becoming more daring after breaking down the walls of fear". Last year, Darine Salman was jailed for 27 days when she refused to hand over custody of her six-year-old son to her Kuwaiti husband. By the time she was released, Salman's husband had taken custody of their son. "The religious judge ruled in favour of the father, as expected. He refused to listen to me or let me defend myself," Salman, 36, told AFP. "I don't want my rights. I just want to see my son."

Ibrahim: Lebanon No Longer an Arena, Nothing Justifies Harboring Terrorists
Naharnet/March 24/17/General Security chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim stressed Friday that “Lebanon is no longer an arena,” emphasizing that “nothing justifies harboring terrorists and suicide attackers” in the Palestinian and Syrian refugee camps.“Any security deterioration in any Palestinian camp or Syrian gathering would be an attempt to blow up the country and it shall not pass regardless of the alibis and no matter how great the sacrifices might be,” said Ibrahim at a ceremony that was thrown in his honor by Beiruti families. “Whoever seeks blood for the sake of political bickering must know that Lebanon is no longer an arena and that it is prohibited to harm Lebanese security,” he added. “Nothing justifies harboring terrorists and suicide attackers or to remain silent over them. Quite to the contrary, the interest of our Syrian and Palestinian brothers lies in realizing that their security is part of the security of Lebanon and the Lebanese,” Ibrahim went on to say. The ceremony at Beirut's Movenpick Hotel was attended by Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Latif Daryan, Beirut Governor Ziad Shbib, Beirut Police Commander Brig. Gen. Mohammed al-Ayyoubi and religious, military, political and social figures.

All eyes on Lebanon ahead of Arab Summit
Joseph A. Kechichian/Gulf News/March 25/17
Beirut: All eyes will be on Lebanon’s during the Arab League summit in Aqaba Jordan this week. Its positions will be closely observed by member states, particularly Saudi Arabia which has been displeased with several statements made by pro-Iranian Lebanese politicians, including the president, Michel Aoun, as of late. At an emergency foreign ministers meeting last year, Lebanese Foreign Minister Jibran Bassil, refused to condemn attacks on Saudi missions in Iran in early 2016, which sparked a massive diplomatic crisis between Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. In response, Saudi Arabia stopped critical military aid to the Lebanese army and banned its citizens from travelling to Lebanon, in a severe blow to Lebanon’s tourism industry.
Aoun, who became president in late 2016, travelled to Riyadh on his first official trip, hoping to patch things up with Lebanon’s traditional ally. However, a planned follow-up visit by Saudi King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz to Lebanon was cancelled after Aoun praised Hezbollah and backed the militia’s right to bear arms alongside the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) during an interview with Egyptian TV. On Wednesday, Lebanese Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri, met Egyptian President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi in Cairo to close ranks with the most populous Sunni power in the Arab world, ahead of the summit.
Hariri will accompany Aoun during the summit, in an unprecedented move interpreted as trying to cushion any potential fallout. Hariri, whose father Rafik Hariri was assassinated allegedly in a Syrian-Hezbollah coordinated plot in 2005, wanted to coordinate Lebanon’s positions with Egypt to avoid any potential embarrassing incidents.
On Thursday, the pro-Hezbollah daily Al Akhbar reported that Aoun was facing pressure not to repeat his past controversial positions. It also reported that Washington was exerting intense pressure on Lebanese banks handling transactions and accounts of Hezbollah members. Despite the pressure, Al Akhbar said that Aoun would stick to his pro-Hezbollah stances during the summit, which would only prolong Lebanon’s isolation in the Arab world and worsen its economic crisis. Hariri, who heads the Lebanese government which was formed late last year after a two-year vacuum, is looking to stem the rising tide of Iranian influence in the region and particularly in Lebanon. Lebanese President Michel Aoun is leading a government divided between politicians who both back and reject Iranian meddling. Aoun himself was seen as Iran’s preferred choice for the presidency and has openly backed the right of the pro-Iranian Hezbollah militant group to be armed, even though it is the only armed group currently in Lebanon.

U.N. officials meet with Aoun before summit
The Daily Star/March 25/17/BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun received U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag and U.N. Deputy Special Coordinator Philippe Lazzarini in Baabda Friday ahead the Arab League Summit on March 29. Aoun is set to meet with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the summit in Jordan. Aoun’s media office said a letter from Guterres was delivered to Aoun at the meeting. Kaag briefed Aoun on recent Security Council consultations on the implementation of Resolution 1701, which called for a cessation of hostilities between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006. Talks also included preparations for the April 5 Brussels conference on Syria.

Trump's greatest deal
Aoun is a Hezbollah ally. So is Defense Minister Yaacoub Sarraf and LAF commander Gen. Joseph Aoun
By Caroline Glicks/The Jerusalem Post/March 24, 2017
The Iran deal Trump needs to make with the Russians is clea
What can be done about Iran? In Israel, a dispute is reportedly raging between the IDF and the Mossad about the greatest threat facing Israel. IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot thinks that Hezbollah is the greatest threat facing Israel. Mossad Director Yossi Cohen thinks Iran’s nuclear program is the greatest danger facing the Jewish state. While the media highlight the two men’s disagreement, the underlying truth about their concerns has been ignored.
Hezbollah and Iran’s nuclear program are two aspects of the same threat: the regime in Tehran. Hezbollah is a wholly owned subsidiary of the regime. If the regime disappeared, Hezbollah would fall apart. As for the nuclear installations, in the hands of less fanatical leaders, they would represent a far less acute danger to global security. So if you undermine the Iranian regime, you defeat Hezbollah and defuse the nuclear threat.
If you fail to deal with the regime in Tehran, both threats will continue to grow no matter what you do, until they become all but insurmountable. So what can be done about Tehran? With each passing day we discover new ways Iran endangers Israel and the rest of the region.
This week we learned Iran has built underground weapons factories in Lebanon. The facilities are reportedly capable of building missiles, drones, small arms and ammunition. Their underground location protects them from aerial bombardment.
Then there is Hezbollah’s relationship to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF).
For more than a decade, the Americans have been selling themselves the implausible claim that the LAF is a responsible fighting force capable and willing to rein in Hezbollah. Never an easy claim – the LAF provided targeting information to Hezbollah missile crews attacking Israel in 2006 – after Hezbollah domesticated the Lebanese government in 2008, the claim became downright silly. And yet, over the past decade, the US has provided the LAF with weapons worth in excess of $1 billion. In 2016 alone the US gave the LAF jets, helicopters, armored personnel carriers and missiles worth more than $220 million.
In recent months, showing that Iran no longer feels the need to hide its control over Lebanon, the LAF has openly stated that it is working hand in glove with Hezbollah. Last November, Hezbollah showcased US M113 armored personnel carriers with roof-mounted Russian anti-aircraft guns, at a military parade in Syria. The next month the Americans gave the LAF a Hellfire missile-equipped Cessna aircraft with day and night targeting systems. Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun is a Hezbollah ally. So is Defense Minister Yaacoub Sarraf and LAF commander Gen. Joseph Aoun. Last month President Aoun told Sen. Bob Corker, the chairman of the US Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, that Hezbollah serves “a complementary role to the Lebanese army.”And yet the Americans insist that it continues to make sense – and to be lawful – to arm the LAF.
You can hardly blame them. Denial is an attractive option, given the alternatives.
For the past eight years, the Obama administration did everything in its power to empower Iran. To make Iran happy, Obama did nothing as hundreds of thousands of Syrians were killed and millions more were forced to flee their homes by Iran and its puppet Bashar Assad.
Obama allowed Iran to take over the Iraqi government and the Iraqi military. He sat back as Iran’s Houthi proxy overthrew the pro-US regime in Yemen.
And of course, the crowning achievement of Obama’s foreign policy was his nuclear deal with the mullahs. Obama’s deal gives Iran an open path to a nuclear arsenal in a bit more than a decade and enriches the regime beyond Ayatollah Khamenei’s wildest dreams.
Obama empowered Iran at the expense of the US’s Sunni allies and Israel, and indeed, at the expense of the US’s own superpower status in the region, to enable the former president to withdraw the US from the Middle East.
Power of course, doesn’t suffer a vacuum, and the one that Obama created was quickly filled.
For decades, Russia has been Iran’s major arms supplier. It has assisted Iran with its nuclear program and with its ballistic missile program. Russia serves as Iran’s loyal protector at the UN Security Council. But for all the help it provided Tehran through the years, Moscow never presented itself as Iran’s military defender.
That all changed in September 2015. Two months after Obama cut his nuclear deal with the ayatollahs, Russia deployed its forces to Syria on behalf of Iran and its Syrian and Lebanese proxies. In so doing, Russia became the leading member and the protector of the Iranian axis. Russia’s deployment of forces had an immediate impact not only on the war in Syria, but on the regional power balance as a whole. With Russia serving as the air force for Iran and its Syrian and Hezbollah proxies, the Assad regime’s chances of survival increased dramatically. So did Iran’s prospects for regional hegemony.
For Obama, this situation was not without its advantages.
In his final year in office, Obama’s greatest concern was ensuring that his nuclear deal with Iran would outlive his presidency. Russia’s deployment in Syria as the protector of Iran and its proxies was a means of achieving this end.
Russia’s alliance with Iran made attacking Iran’s nuclear program or its Hezbollah proxy a much more dangerous prospect than it had been before.
After all, in 2006, Russia supported Iran and Hezbollah in their war against Israel. But Russia’s support for Iran and its Lebanese legion didn’t diminish Israel’s operational freedom. Israel was able to wage war without any fear that its operations would place it in a direct confrontation with the Russian military.
This changed in September 2015.
The first person to grasp the strategic implications of the Russian move was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu recognized that with Russian forces on the ground in Syria, the only way for Israel to take even remedial measures to protect itself from Iran and its proxies was to drive a wedge between President Vladimir Putin and the ayatollahs wide enough to enable Israel to continue its raids against weapons convoys to Hezbollah and other targets without risking a confrontation with Russia. This is the reason that Netanyahu boarded a flight to Moscow to speak to Putin almost immediately after the Russian leader deployed his forces to Syria.
Israel’s ability to continue to strike targets in Syria, whether along the border on the Golan Heights or deep within Syrian territory, is a function of Netanyahu’s success in convincing Putin to limit his commitment to his Iranian allies.
Since President Donald Trump entered the White House, Iran has been his most urgent foreign policy challenge. Unlike Obama, Trump recognizes that Iran’s nuclear program and its threats to US economic and strategic interests in the Persian Gulf and the Levant cannot be wished away.
And so he has decided to deal with Iran.
The question is, what is he supposed to do? Trump has three basic options.
He can cut a deal with Russia. He can act against Iran without cutting a deal with Russia. And he can do nothing, or anemically maintain Obama’s pro-Iran policies. The first option has the greatest potential strategic payoff. If Trump can convince Russia to ditch Iran, then he has a chance of dismantling the regime in Tehran and so defusing the Iranian nuclear program and destroying Hezbollah without having to fight a major war.
The payoff to Russia for agreeing to such a deal would be significant. But if Trump were to adopt this policy, the US has a lot of bargaining chips that it can use to convince Putin to walk away from the ayatollahs long enough for the US to defuse the threat they pose to its interests.
The problem with the Russia strategy is that since Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the presidential race, the Democrats, their allied media outlets and powerful forces in the US intelligence community have been beset by a Russia hysteria unseen since the Red scares in the 1920s and 1950s.
The fact that Obama bent over backward to cater to Putin’s interests for eight years has been pushed down the memory hole.
Also ignored is the fact that during her tenure as secretary of state, Clinton approved deals with the Russians that were arguably antithetical to US interests while the Clinton Foundation received millions of dollars in contributions from Russian businessmen and companies closely allied with Putin.
Since November 8, the Democrats and their clapping seals in the media and allies in the US intelligence community have banged the war drums against Russia, accusing Trump and his advisers of serving as Russian patsies at best, and Russian agents at worst. In this climate, it would be politically costly for Trump to implement a Russian-based strategy for dismantling the Iranian threat.
This brings us to the second option, which is to confront Iran and Russia. Under this option, US action against Iran could easily cause hostilities to break out between the US and Russia. It goes without saying that the political fallout from making a deal with Russia would be nothing compared to the political consequences if Trump were to take the US down a path that led to war with Russia. Obviously, the economic and human costs of such a confrontation would be prohibitive regardless of the political consequences.
This leaves us with the final option of doing nothing, or anemically continuing to implement Obama’s policies, as the Americans are doing today. Although tempting, the hard truth is that this is the most dangerous policy of all.
You need only look to North Korea to understand why this is so. Seemingly on a daily basis, Pyongyang threatens to nuke America. And the US has no good options for dealing with the threat. As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acknowledged during his recent trip to Asia, decades of US diplomacy regarding North Korea’s nuclear program did nothing to diminish or delay the threat.
North Korea has been able to develop nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles while threatening the US with destruction because North Korea enjoys the protection of China. If not for the Chinese, the US would long ago have dealt a death blow to the regime.
Israel has moved Russia as far away from Iran as it can on its own. It is enough to stop convoys of North Korean weapons from crossing into Lebanon.
But it isn’t enough to cause serious harm to Tehran or its clients.
The only government that can do that is the American government.
Trump built his career by mastering the art of deal making. And he recognized that Obama’s deal with Iran is not the masterpiece Obama and his allies claim but a catastrophe.The Iran deal Trump needs to make with the Russians is clear. The only question is whether he is willing to pay the political price it requires.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published  On March 25-26/17
Air strikes kill 16 civilians near Damascus, 16 in Idlib
AFP/Saturday, 25 March 2017/At least 16 civilians were killed and dozens wounded on Saturday in an air strike on a rebel-held area outside Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said. It said it was not immediately clear who was responsible for the strike on the town Hammuriyeh in the opposition bastion of Eastern Ghouta, which has been targeted by both the government and its ally Russia in the past. “Sixteen civilians, including a child, were killed and around 50 others wounded in an air strike on the main street in the town of Hammuriyeh,” Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said.
He could not immediately confirm if all the wounded were civilians or if some were rebel fighters. The death toll could rise further because a number of the injured were in serious condition, he added. An AFP photographer saw members of the White Helmets rescue organization removing survivors from the aftermath of the street, including a man whose face was coated in blood. Other White Helmet volunteers sprayed water from hoses onto smoking rubble including overturned and mangled cars. Elsewhere, a man carried two children, a girl in yellow fluffy pyjamas, her hair stiff with dust, and a smaller child whose head was haphazardly bandaged. Another carried the lifeless body of a child, half its head missing below a crop of black curls. The Eastern Ghouta region outside Damascus has been under a devastating government siege since 2012, and is also the regular target of regime air strikes and artillery fire. It is the last remaining opposition stronghold near Damascus, where a string of local “reconciliation deals” have seen villages and towns brought back under the control of President Bashar al-Assad’s government.
Air strike on prison in Syria’s Idlib kills 16
Seperately, At least 16 people were killed overnight in air strikes on a prison in the rebel-held city of Idlib in northwest Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said Saturday. It said the dead included prisoners and prison guards, but did not have an immediate breakdown of the toll.
The strikes were believed to have been carried out by Russian warplanes, More than 320,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests. Government ally Russia and rebel backer Turkey brokered a nationwide truce in December, but violence has continued across the country.

US Warns against Travel to Unruly French Guiana

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 25/17/The United States warned its citizens Friday to avoid travel to French Guiana, France's South American territory now in the grip of labor unrest. Striking workers in the territory, which is administered as a region of France, have set up barricades on several roads and forced the postponement of an Ariane rocket. The State Department warned of "widespread protests throughout French Guiana and along the roads leading to the neighboring countries of Suriname and Brazil." The US embassy in neighboring Suriname can only provide limited assistance to travelers, it said, and added: "US citizens should avoid travel to French Guyana at this time. "Protests in the cities of Kourou and Cayenne have the potential to become violent," the statement warned. On Thursday, the Guiana Space Center, a French and European launch site near Kourou, cancelled the planned launch of an Ariane 5 rocket carrying a Brazilian telecoms satellite. Workers in several sectors, including the energy giant EDF and public hospitals, have launched protests this week demanding pay raises and improved public safety and health coverage.

Laptop Ban Hits Dubai for 1.1m Weekend Travelers
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/March 25/17/Dubai International Airport and its flag carrier Emirates began implementing a ban on laptops and tablets on direct flights to the US Saturday, on one of the busiest travel weekends of the year. 1.1 million people are expected to pass through the busiest international airport as the city marks UAE spring break, Dubai Airports' senior vice president for communications Anita Mehra said. An estimated 260,000 travellers were expected to pass through each day from Friday through Monday. Dubai International Airport expects 89 million passengers this year. The United States announced a ban on all electronics larger than a standard smartphone on board direct flights out of eight countries across the middle East. US officials would not specify how long the ban will last, but Dubai-based Emirates told AFP that it had been instructed to enforce it until at least October 14.Travellers using 10 airports across the Middle East and North Africa are subject to the ban. The ban also covers all electronics sold at Dubai Duty Free, Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths told local radio earlier this week.  Government-owned Emirates operates 18 flights daily to the United States out of Dubai. In an attempt to appease its customers, the airline announced it would be offering complimentary packing and shipping services at gates to enable passengers to use their electronic devices after check-in and until boarding. Adding to the complication on Saturday, a number of flights out of Dubai and Abu Dhabi airports were delayed due to thunderstorms, including an Emirates flight to Houston. The US ban affects nine airlines from eight countries: Turkey, Morocco, Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Britain has also announced a parallel ban, effective Saturday, targeting all flights out of Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Lebanon. Abu Dhabi, home to UAE national carrier Etihad Airways, is one of the few international airports with a US Customs and Border Protection Facility, which processes immigration and customs inspections before departure.
"All Etihad Airways guests travelling to the United States clear US Immigration and Customs at the US Preclearance facility in Terminal 3, the only one of its kind in the Middle East," read a statement emailed to AFP.  "When guests land in the US, they arrive as domestic passengers with no requirement to queue for immigration checks again." The bans have come under criticism for targeting majority-Muslim countries. The US ban in particular has raised eyebrows for covering airports from which US airlines do not operate direct flights. The United States and Britain have cited intelligence indicating passenger jets could be targeted with explosives planted in such devices.

Iraqi forces pause Mosul push over concern for civilian casualties
Reuters, Mosul, Iraq Saturday, 25 March 2017/Iraqi government forces paused in their push to recapture western Mosul from ISIS militants on Saturday because of the high rate of civilian casualties, a security forces spokesman said. Residents escaping the besieged area have told of Iraqi and US-led coalition air strikes demolishing buildings and killing numerous civilians. The insurgents have also used civilians as human shields and opened fire on them as they try to escape ISIS-held neighborhoods, fleeing residents said. The US-backed offensive to drive ISIS out of Mosul, now in its sixth month, has recaptured most of the city. The entire eastern side and about half of the west is under Iraqi control. But advances have stuttered in the last two weeks as fighting enters the narrow alleys of the Old City, home to the al-Nuri mosque where ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a caliphate spanning large areas of Iraq and Syria in 2014. “The recent high death toll among civilians inside the Old City forced us to halt operations to review our plans,” a Federal Police spokesman said on Saturday. “It’s a time for weighing new offensive plans and tactics. No combat operations are to go on.”Local officials and residents said on Thursday that dozens of people were buried in collapsed buildings after an air raid against ISIS triggered a huge explosion last week. Bodies are still being pulled from the ruins.
The coalition has said the reports are being investigated.
“We need to make sure that taking out Daesh (ISIS) from the Old City will not cost unwanted high casualties among civilians. We need surgical accurate operations to target terrorists without causing collateral damage among residents,” the Federal Police spokesman said.
An army statement published in the al-Sabah state newspaper said that future operations would be carried out by ground troops highly trained for urban combat. “Our heroic forces are committed to the rules of engagement which ensure protection of civilians,” the statement said. A US deputy-commanding general for the coalition told Reuters on Friday that the solution could lie in a change of tactics. The Iraqi military is assessing opening up another front and isolating the Old City, where the militants have put up fierce resistance, US Army Brigadier General John Richardson said.
Fleeing residents have described grim living conditions inside the city, saying there was no running water or electricity and no food coming in. Aid agencies say as many as 600,000 civilians remain in the western half of Mosul. But families are streaming out of the northern city, Iraq’s second largest, in their thousands each day, headed for cold, crowded camps or to stay with relatives. Hunger and fighting are making life unbearable inside. The Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights said that since the campaign on western Mosul began on Feb. 19, unconfirmed reports said nearly 700 civilians had been killed by government and coalition air strikes or ISIS actions. The militants have used car bombs, snipers and mortar fire to counter the offensive. They have also stationed themselves in homes belonging to Mosul residents to fire at Iraqi troops, often drawing air or artillery strikes that have killed civilians.

Mosul: 500 civilians killed, calls to declare the city a disaster zone
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishFriday, 24 March 2017/Authority in the Iraqi city of Mosul demanded to open an investigation following the killing of hundreds of civilians in coalition strikes Thursday. The Mosul district council called for an immediate halt of airstrikes in the city’s west and to declare it a “disaster zone”, adding” two days now we are appealing for civil defense help to rescue civilians.”Around 230 civilian, mostly women and children, were killed overnight in strikes targeted three adjoining residences in “new al Mosul” district. Meanwhile, military offensive on parts of the city has been put on hold whilst joint forces prepare for new assault adopting new tactics to protect civilians in populated areas. On the other hand, Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights put the toll of civilians killed in coalition airstrikes in the past few days to 500.

Tens of thousands in London protest Britain’s EU departure
By The Associated Press, London Saturday, 25 March 2017 /Tens of thousands protested Saturday under sunny skies in London against plans for Britain to withdraw from the European Union. The Unite for Europe march, which saw many people carrying bright blue EU flags, came just days before Britain is expected to begin its formal separation from the other 27 nations in the EU. The crowds observed a minute of silence at Parliament Square as a tribute to the four victims killed and dozens wounded in an attack Wednesday on Parliament. Many bowed their heads as Big Ben chimed and placed flowers at Parliament’s gate to honor the victims. Police did not provide a crowd estimate. Organizers said more than 25,000 people were present. There was also a smaller anti-Brexit protest march in Edinburgh, Scotland. Organizers considered delaying the long-planned march because of the attack - in part to avoid putting extra strain on British police - but decided to go ahead. Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron told the crowd that “democracy continues” despite the assault. “We stand in defiance of that attack,” he said. Prime Minister Theresa May plans to trigger Article 50 of the EU treaty on Wednesday, setting the Brexit process in motion. Negotiations are expected to take at least two years. Britain voted in a June 23 referendum to leave the EU.

London attacker was cheerful and joking on eve of deadly rampage
The Associated Press, Birmingham/Saturday, 25 March 2017/Long before his short stints in jail turned into years behind bars, Khalid Masood was known as Adrian Elms, with a reputation for drinking and an unpredictable temper.
At least twice he was convicted of violent crimes, well before he stabbed a police officer to death Wednesday in London with a motion that one horrified witness described as "playing a drum on your back with two knives."But as he checked out of his hotel to head toward London for his deadly rampage, the manager said he was struck by his guest's friendly manner. Within hours, Masood drove his rented SUV across the crowded Westminster Bridge, leaving a trail of dead and wounded. Then he jumped out and attacked Constable Keith Palmer, an officer guarding Parliament, stabbing him to death before being shot to death by police.
In all, he killed four people and left more than two dozen hospitalized. Masood, who at 52 is considerably older than most extremists who carry out bloodshed in the West, had an arrest record dating to 1983. The violence came later, first in 2000 when he slashed a man across the face in a pub parking lot in a racially charged argument after drinking four pints, according to a newspaper account. The victim, Piers Mott, was scarred for life, said his widow, Heather. Masood's last conviction was in 2003, also involving a knife attack. It's not clear when he took the name Masood, suggesting a conversion to Islam.
Heather Mott said Masood appeared to come out of jail "even worse." She said she got chills when she learned the identity of the London attacker. "What a pity they didn't realize he was a nutter," she said. Police are combing through "massive amounts of computer data" and have contacted 3,500 witnesses as they look for clues as to why the British-born man launched the deadly attack. "Clearly that's a main line of our investigation is what led him to be radicalized: Was it through influences in our community, influences from overseas or through online propaganda? Our investigations and our arrests will help in that, but the public appeal will make a big difference if people come forward with more information," said Britain's top counterterrorism officer, Mark Rowley. A security official who spoke Friday on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about an ongoing investigation confirmed that Masood had spent time in Saudi Arabia but said investigators were still trying to determine how long he stayed and what he was doing. Prime Minister Theresa May said Masood was "investigated in relation to concerns about violent extremism" years ago. But she called him "a peripheral figure."ISIS group described Masood as "a soldier," claiming responsibility for the attack. Rowley said police are investigating whether he "acted totally alone inspired by terrorist propaganda, or if others have encouraged, supported or directed him."People made arrests across the country as they investigate whether anyone else helped Masood prepare his attack. Six people were released without charge Friday night, leaving four in custody on suspicion of preparing terrorist acts. Detectives have searched 21 properties in London, Brighton, Wales, Manchester and the central English city of Birmingham in one of Britain's biggest counterterrorism operations in years. Wednesday's attack was the deadliest in Britain since suicide bombers killed 52 commuters on London's transit system on July 7, 2005.
Once Masood's identity became known, police and the media began tracing his final hours. The manager of the Preston Park Hotel in the beachside city of Brighton where Masood stayed the night before the attack said he seemed unusually outgoing and mentioned details about his family, including having a sick father. "He was normal, in fact friendly, because we spent possibly five or 10 minutes talking to him about his background and where he came from," Sabeur Toumi told Sky News. He was "laughing and joking, telling us stories about where he lived."
Police raided the room, searching for clues about Masood.
Masood's mother lives in rural Wales, according to a website on which she sells handmade cushions and handbags. The listings on Folksy by Janet Ajao have been taken down, but in an archived version of the site, she describes living in "rural west Wales with my husband, border collie and a few chickens." Calls to the home in remote Trelech, Wales, went unanswered Friday. When Masood was in school, he took his stepfather's name, Ajao. He was athletic and popular in high school, known as someone who liked to party, according to Stuart Knight, a former classmate, who said the young man was one of only two black students in the school of 600. "I am in shock - that is not sympathy for what he has done - he was a nice guy and I'm surprised he turned and did what he did," Knight said.
In one of the last places Masood lived, a home in Birmingham, neighbors recalled him as a quiet man whose wife was veiled and who wore traditional Muslim clothing. But the neighborhood is not among one of the city's many Muslim enclaves, suggesting he was not deeply embedded in its religious community.
Moazzam Begg, a former Guantanamo prisoner born and raised in Birmingham, said the details emerging of the attacker's life raised questions about where was radicalized. "He did not live in a Muslim neighborhood. In my mind, in my analysis, he was probably a drifter," said Begg, adding that no one he knew in the community had met Masood. "I'd also be surprised if he had any connection with a mosque, because sadly they are places where you can no longer discuss politics or air grievances."Since British authorities began cracking down on mosques, many people are instead being radicalized online, Berg added. Cultural and religious alienation can fuel such violence, he added. Begg helps run a group called Cage that has encountered extremists who spoke of their alienation before they committed attacks. While in prison, Begg said he saw others who succumbed to radicalism. He said groups like ISIS can exploit people's weaknesses and criminality. Late Friday, the British government honored a lawmaker who battled to save the life of the police officer slain in the Parliament attack, giving him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. May's office said Tobias Ellwood has been named to the Privy Council, a committee of senior lawmakers, judges and others that advises Queen Elizabeth II. The institution dates back a millennium. Security Minister Ben Wallace, who helped coordinate the government response to Wednesday's attack, was also named to the council.

Gunmen kill Hamas official who was swapped for Israel’s Gilad Shalit in 2011

AFP, Gaza City, Palestinian Territories Saturday, 25 March 2017/Gunmen in the Gaza Strip on Friday shot dead a Hamas official who was freed by Israel in a 2011 prisoner swap, the interior ministry in the Palestinian enclave said. Mazen Faqha was released along with more than 1,000 other Palestinians in exchange for Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier Hamas had detained for five years. Iyad al-Bozum, an interior ministry spokesman in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, said that gunmen opened fire on Faqha in the Tell al-Hama neighborhood. “An investigation has been launched,” he said, giving no further details.
Police spokesman Ayman al-Batniji said Faqha had “four bullets in his head” and said Israel and its “collaborators” were responsible for the killing. “We know how to respond to this crime,” he added. Faqha was a senior Hamas official in the Israeli-occupied West Bank but after his release Israel transferred him to Gaza. The Israeli army refused to comment. But Khalil al-Haya, a senior Hamas official in Gaza, said: “This assassination does not serve anybody but the occupiers (Israel), it is of no interest to the other parties.”

Israel ‘ignoring’ a UN resolution to immediately halt settlements
AFP, United NationsSaturday, 25 March 2017/Israel has ignored a United Nations resolution demanding it halt settlement building in the occupied Palestinian territory that was criticized by the Trump administration, the UN Middle East envoy said Friday. Although the UN Security Council resolution passed December 23 demanded that Israel immediately cease all settlement activities, "no such steps have been taken," envoy Nickolay Mladenov said in his first report to the council since the resolution was adopted. "The January spike in illegal settlement announcements by Israel is deeply concerning," he said.
In January, Israel made five announcements on settlement building that together totaled more than 6,000 homes in the occupied West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem. In early February, Israel declared its intention to build what would be, according to anti-settlement group Peace Now, the first new settlement by an Israel government since 1992. Mladenov also expressed concern about the Israeli parliament's approval of a new settlement law on February 6 that retroactively legalizes dozens of Jewish outposts and thousands of settler homes built on private Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank. The new law will allow Israel to legally seize Palestinian private land on which Israelis built without knowing it was private property or because the state allowed them to do so. Palestinian owners will be compensated financially or with other land. Mladenov said the law represents a major change in Israel's position on the question of legality in the Palestinian occupied territories. Settlements in both the West Bank and east Jerusalem are viewed as illegal under international law and major stumbling blocks to peace as they are built on land the Palestinians want for their own state. The Middle East envoy's report came before the 15-nation Security Council held a closed-door session to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Under the new administration, the United States, one of the five veto-wielding council members and a long-time Israel supporter, has pledged to back Israel more than Donald Trump's predecessor Barack Obama. As president-elect, Trump in late December assailed Obama's outgoing administration for abstaining in the December 23 council vote on a UN resolution reprimanding Israel over its settlement activity. By declining to use its veto, the US enabled the adoption of the first UN resolution since 1979 to condemn Israel over its settlement policy. The Obama administration justified its decision by citing frustration with Israel's attitude on settlement building. The newly installed Trump administration in late January signaled that Israel did not have a blank check from America on settlement building. And Trump sowed confusion in mid-February in seeming to distance Washington from the two-state solution -- the creation of a Palestinian state that coexists with Israel -- that has been supported by the international community for years.

Defeated Trump warns that Obamacare ‘will soon explode’
The Associated Press, Washington/Saturday, 25 March 2017 /In a humiliating failure, President Donald Trump and GOP leaders yanked their bill to repeal "Obamacare" off the House floor Friday when it became clear it would fail badly - after seven years of nonstop railing against the health care law.
Democrats said Americans can "breathe a sigh of relief." Trump said Obama's law was imploding "and soon will explode."Thwarted by two factions of fellow Republicans, from the center and far right, House Speaker Paul Ryan said President Barack Obama's health care law, the GOP's No. 1 target in the new Trump administration, will remain in place "for the foreseeable future." It was a stunning defeat for the new president after he had demanded House Republicans delay no longer and vote on the legislation Friday, pass or fail. His gamble failed. Instead Trump, who campaigned as a master deal-maker and claimed that he alone could fix the nation's health care system, saw his ultimatum rejected by Republican lawmakers who made clear they answer to their own voters, not to the president. He had "never said repeal and replace it in 64 days," a dejected but still combative Trump said at the White House, though he had repeatedly shouted during the presidential campaign that it was going down "immediately." The bill was withdrawn just minutes before the House vote was to occur, and lawmaker said there were no plans to revisit the issue. Republicans will try to move ahead on other agenda items, including overhauling the tax code, though the failure on the health bill can only make whatever comes next immeasurably harder.
Trump pinned the blame on Democrats.
"With no Democrat support we couldn't quite get there," he told reporters in the Oval Office. "We learned about loyalty, we learned a lot about the vote-getting process."The Obama law was approved in 2010 with no Republican votes. Despite reports of backbiting from administration officials toward Ryan, Trump said: "I like Speaker Ryan. ... I think Paul really worked hard."For his part, Ryan told reporters: "We came really close today but we came up short. ... This is a disappointing day for us." He said the president has "really been fantastic."But when asked how Republicans could face voters after their failure to make good on years of promises, Ryan quietly said: "It's a really good question. I wish I had a better answer for you." Last fall, Republicans used the issue to gain and keep control of the White House, Senate and House. During the previous years, they had cast dozens of votes to repeal Obama's law in full or in part, but when they finally got the chance to pass a repeal version that actually had a chance to become law, they couldn't deliver.
Democrats could hardly contain their satisfaction.
"Today is a great day for our country, what happened on the floor is a victory for the American people," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who as speaker herself helped Obama pass the Affordable Care Act in the first place. "Let's just for a moment breathe a sigh of relief for the American people."
The outcome leaves both Ryan and Trump weakened politically. For the president, this piles a big early congressional defeat onto the continuing inquiries into his presidential campaign's Russia connections and his unfounded wiretapping allegations against Obama. Ryan was not able to corral the House Freedom Caucus, the restive band of conservatives that ousted the previous speaker. Those Republicans wanted the bill to go much further, while some GOP moderates felt it went too far. Instead of picking up support as Friday wore on, the bill went the other direction, with several key lawmakers coming out in opposition. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey, chairman of a major committee, Appropriations, said the bill would raise costs unacceptably on his constituents. The defections raised the possibility that the bill would not only lose on the floor, but lose big. The GOP bill would have eliminated the Obama statute's unpopular fines on people who do not obtain coverage and would also have removed the often-generous subsidies for those who purchase insurance. Republican tax credits would have been based on age, not income like Obama's, and the tax boosts Obama imposed on higher-earning people and health care companies would have been repealed. The bill would have ended Obama's Medicaid expansion and trimmed future federal financing for the federal-state program, letting states impose work requirements on some of the 70 million beneficiaries.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the Republican bill would have resulted in 24 million additional uninsured people in a decade and lead to higher out-of-pocket medical costs for many lower-income and people just shy of age 65 when they would become eligible for Medicare. The bill would have blocked federal payments for a year to Planned Parenthood. Republicans had never built a constituency for the legislation, and in the end the nearly uniform opposition from hospitals, doctors, nurses, the AARP, consumer groups and others weighed heavily with many members. On the other side, conservative groups including the Koch outfit argued the legislation did not go far enough in uprooting Obamacare. Ryan made his announcement to lawmakers at a very brief meeting, where he was greeted by a standing ovation in recognition of the support he still enjoys from many lawmakers. When the gathering broke up, Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee that helped write the bill, told reporters: ""We gave it our best shot. That's it. It's done. D-O-N-E done. This bill is dead."

Saudi forces kill 17 Houthi militias attempting to breach border

Hani al-Sufayan, Al ArabiyaSaturday, 25 March 2017/Saudi forces killed at least 17 Houthi militias who attempted to breach the border with Yemen on Saturday. The militants tried to breach the border near Al Khubah village in the province of Jazan. While stationed in border villages on the Yemeni side, militants attempted to launch missile attacks against Saudi army posts in recent weeks. At least three vehicles belonging to the militias were also destroyed in the counter-attack on Saturday. Meanwhile, senior Houthi militia leader Abdulmalik Al Dulaimi was confirmed killed during an air strike in the Saada region of Yemen after attempting to cross the border with Saudi Arabia near Najran.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published On March 25-26/17The Iran deal Trump needs to make with the Russians is clear
Amman Summit to Highlight Arab Solidarity, Consensus on Ending Conflict
Sawsan Abu-HusainAsharq Al-Awsat English/March 25/17/
Jordan- Saturday marks the beginning of delegate meetings in preparation for the upcoming Arab League Summit scheduled for March 29.
Permanent representatives of states to the Arab League will be preparing resolution drafts that will be presented before the preliminary meeting of foreign ministers on March 27. A total of 16 items were submitted to the Summit, while 30 were presented at the ministerial meeting covering all political, economic and social issues. The regulatory committee will hold a meeting at the level of delegates on Saturday morning to follow up on present consultations.
The committee includes the Arab summit troika body, featuring Jordan, Mauritania and Egypt, and the League’s ministerial troika, comprising Tunisia, Algeria and Djibouti. The first preliminary meeting had kicked off at the Dead Sea area on Thursday with the participation of senior officials of the Economic and Social Council of the Arab League.
Secretary General of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Supply Yousef Shamali said in remarks that the “potentials, locations and resources of the Arab ummah prompt us to boost economic cooperation, as well as investments,” Jordan’s news agency Petra reported. Meanwhile, resolutions issued by the summit on vital topics, such as the Palestine cause and the Syria and Libya crises would be relayed by Jordan’s King Abdullah II during his upcoming official visit to Washington, as well as Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who will also be visiting the United States.
The leaders are scheduled to meet with US President Donald Trump, to whom they would convey and uphold unified Arab assertions and positions concerning the two-state solution and the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, diplomatic sources told Asharq Al-Awsat.
More so, Arab League spokesman Mahmoud Afifi expected Palestinian officials to present a new draft resolution at the summit concerning a political settlement for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, stressing that Arab League chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit told media outlets that the officials have not yet submitted a final draft resolution on the issue.
A draft is presented every year at the Arab Summit.
Aboul Gheit pointed out that he expects Palestinian officials to seek rephrasing some of the draft resolution and adjust the wording of its stipulations. He also rebutted rumors circulated by the media on an entirely reinvented draft resolution looming in the horizon. Jordanian officials said that the Palestinian issue, along with the Syrian and Libyan crises, will top the agenda at the 28th Arab summit, which Jordan is hosting for the fourth time. Officials also said that Arab leaders are keen on ending violence in Syria and the suffering of the Syrian people. They expressed the desire Arab leaders have in supporting Iraq’s efforts in dealing with security challenges and fighting terrorism and extremism.
The meeting of Arab ministers of foreign affairs will be held on March 27, while the Arab leaders will meet on March 29, Petra reported.

Questions Rise on Why Some Muslim Converts are Prone to Extremism
Mohammed Al-ShafeyAsharq Al-Awsat English/March 25/17/
London – Whether it is “Azzam the American,” a top al-Qaeda leader killed by a drone attack on Pakistani-Afghan borders in 2016, Shoe Bomber Richard Reid, who is serving a life sentence, or Khalid Masood, who staged last Wednesday’s London parliament attack, reasons behind new Muslim converts being hard-wired to extremism remain unknown.
Questions have started to grow in Europe on whether recent converts to Islam are more likely to feed into extremist ideology rather than those initially brought up as Muslims.
It goes without saying that the vast majority of converts to Islam remain respectful and law-abiding citizens–but it cannot be overlooked that for some, the experience of recent conversion in and of itself could be linked to their extremist tendencies. Adam Yahiye Gadahn, who later came to be known as al-Qaeda’s “Azzam the American”, is considered to be the first ever American facing charges of treason since the end of World War II.
Gadahn previously was wanted in 2004 by the United States’ FBI for interrogation on cases related to terrorism. The FBI said that Gadahn was being pursued for possible ties to terrorism threatening the US, however it did not have evidence linking him directly to specific terrorist activities.
On the other hand, born Adrian Russell Ajao in Kent to the south-east of London on Christmas Day in 1964, Khalid Masood moved though several addresses in England, although he was known to have lived recently in Birmingham in central England. Masood –before having ploughed five pedestrians in the worst attack since Britain’s 2005 bombings — was seen as a moderate criminal threat by intelligence officers. His name showed up on the sidelines of previous terror investigations, which drew the attention of British intelligence.
But Masood, a British-born teacher who recently converted to Islam, was not under investigation when he stormed through the Westminster Bridge with his rented car. Counterterrorism experts said that new converts to Islam who became extremists have been in maximum security prisons, such as Britain’s Belmarsh.
At 52, Masood may have been older than the average home-grown terrorist, but sources have indicated that — like many others — he may have been radicalized by extremists he met in prison.
Masood had come to the notice of MI5 and Scotland Yard’ Special Branch in the past for associating with known extremists, but, security officials insist, he had not been involved in plotting terrorist acts.
Known by a number of aliases, he clocked up convictions for assaults, including grievous bodily harm, possession of offensive weapons and violations of public order, but he had not committed a felony in 14 years. His last conviction was in December 2003, when he was 39, for the possession of a knife. It is possible, though, that when the security services reexamine the man, who was only noticed on the periphery of extremism, they may find a trajectory becoming increasingly common among the ranks of Europe’s petty criminals-turned-extremists.
Asked about his possible conversion to Islam and subsequent radicalization, Britain’s most senior counterterror police officer Mark Rowley said that “clearly that’s the main line of our investigation, is what led him to be radicalized, was it through influences in a community, influences from overseas, or through online propaganda.”
“Our working assumption is that he was inspired by international terrorism,” he added. Rowley said detectives were questioning nine people in custody, having made two further “significant” arrests in central and north-west England.
A former neighbor from Birmingham said: “When I saw the pictures on TV and in the papers of the man who carried out the attack, I recognized him as the man who used to live next door.”
“He had a young child, who I’d think was about 5 or 6 years old. There was a woman living there with him, an Asian woman. He seemed to be quite nice, he would be taking care of his garden and the weeds,” Iwona Romek, 45, told reporters at her home. In December, she said, he suddenly moved out.

Trump: ‘We Should have Never Left Iraq’
Abdulrahman Al-RashedAsharq Al-Awsat English/March 25/17/
US President Donald Trump had once again voiced his opinion about Iraqi crisis, which he had previously said during his presidential campaign: “Perhaps we shouldn’t have gone in, and certainly we shouldn’t have left. We certainly should never, ever have left, and the vacuum was created.”
Several ministers and military experts in Trump’s government with substantial expertise after direct interaction with Iraqi officials seem to form the current administration’s opinion on what should be done.
Trump believes that Iran took over Iraq because of the last administration’s slackness and getting out of the country without estimating the negative outcomes. General Michael Flynn, former national security advisor, believes in this theory and so does Minister of Defense James Mattis.
All of them see Iran as the root of all problems in Iraq, Yemen, and Syria.
Former President Obama’s administration saw Iran as the key solution to the region’s crisis, and that is why it chose to cooperate with it in Iraq.
The theory that Iran is the solution failed eventually, because it complicated things further and damaged the interests of several major countries, while today it is threatening the regional security.
Iran took advantage of Obama’s withdrawal of all US forces from Iraq, and fortified its presence in the country. This is a debatable opinion that assumes if the troops had remained in certain areas of Iraq and it would have sent an important deterrent message to Iran and supported the Iraqi central authority.
Trump’s administration believes Iraq to be an important strategic country, and despite the losses it suffered there, US should not have given up so easily like the former administration did.
The ongoing discussion about this between debaters and former politicians, especially on Twitter, reveals that those who were involved in Obama’s administration think that Trump is mistaken by taking Iran as an enemy that poses a threat on US’ security and its interests. While the others believe fortifying Iran in a rich and strategic country like Iraq will only threaten the interests of Washington further in the future, and of course, the security of the region.
It is not very difficult to understand the gravity of Tehran’s regime taking control over Iraq, especially that we’ve been witnessing its signs for over two years now. Iran uses the land, militias, air space, and Iraqi troops for its own purpose. It even uses Iraq’s financial resources for funding its military and political activities in the region. Several Iranian MPs had praised Qudus Force for not costing the Iranian treasury anything in its external wars. Iranian Revolutionary Guard is using Iraqi money to fund its military activities in the region, starting from Iraq itself.
Though it may not be easy to take Iran’s forces out of Iraq, it also shouldn’t be this simple to allow it to become an easy prey. Iraq is not a country that can be easily taken over on the pretenses that it is a natural geographical extension and religiously close to Iran. All countries of the region are close to each other of similar ethnics and sects. This surely doesn’t make it up for grabs for anyone in the name of common history, religion and neighborly relations.

As a Muslim, I am Shocked by Liberals and Leftists
Majid Rafizadeh/Gatestone Institute/March 25/17
It is the fear of this violence, torture and death, wielded by extremist Muslims, that keeps every person desperate to obey.
If liberals are in favor of freedom of speech, why do they turn a blind eye to Islamist governments such as Iran, which execute people for expressing their opinion? And why do they not let people in the West express their opinion without attacking them or even giving them the respect of hearing what they have to say? They seem, in fact, like the autocratic people from whom I was fleeing, who also did not want their simplistic, binary way of thinking to be threatened by logic or fact.
As, in Islam, one is not allowed to attack except to defend the prophet or Islam, extremist Muslims need to keep finding or creating supposed attacks to make themselves appear as victims.
Finally, a short message to liberals might go: Dear Liberal, If you truly stand for values such as peace, social justice, liberty and freedoms, your apologetic view of radical Islam is in total contradiction with all of those values. Your view even hinders the efforts of many Muslims to make a peaceful reformation in Islam precisely to advance the those values.
If you had grown up, as I did, between two authoritarian governments -- the Islamic Republic of Iran and Syria -- under the leadership of people such as Hafez al Assad, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, you would have seen your youth influenced by two major denominations of Islam in the Muslim world: the Shia and the Sunni. I studied both, and at one point was even a devout Muslim. My parents, who still live in Iran and Syria, come from two different ethnic Muslim groups: Arab and Persian.
You also would have seen how the religion of Islam intertwines with politics, and how radical Islam rules a society through its religious laws, sharia. You would have witnessed how radical Islam can dominate and scrutinize people's day-to-day choices: in eating, clothing, socializing, entertainment, everything.
You would have seen the tentacles of its control close over every aspect of your life. You would have seen the way, wielded by fundamentalists, radical Islam can be a powerful tool for unbridled violence. It is the fear of this violence, torture, and death, wielded by extremist Muslims, that keeps every person desperate to obey.
My father was brutally tortured -- justified by some of the fundamentalist Islamic laws of the ruling governments in both Iran and Syria. The punishment extended to my mother, my family, and other relatives, who were tormented on a regular basis.
What was even more painful was, upon coming to the West, seeing the attitude of many people who label themselves liberals and leftists, towards radical Islam.
These liberals seem to view themselves as open-minded, but they have a preconceived way of thinking about Islam: to them, it seems, there is no radical Islam, Islam is only a force for the good, Islam can do no evil.
How could they not see the way extremist Muslims exploit some aspects of the religion of Islam to legitimize its acts? How could they not even acknowledge that radical Islam, a force that threatens to destroy the planet, let alone my family, exists?
Instead, many liberals would criticize me or attempt to turn a blind eye, as if I were accidentally making some embarrassing mistake. They seemed instead to love being surrounded by Western Muslim "scholars", those who are apologetic towards radical Islam and -- notably -- have never actually lived in a Muslim country under the strangling grip of the official fundamentalist laws, sharia.
Why do many liberals, who criticize Christianity and religious conviction in general, appear to open their arms to radical Islam so affectionately? Why are so many liberals, who call themselves the robust defenders of peace, social justice, and freedoms, apologetic for all types of fundamentalist Islamist laws?
If, as liberals argue, they support women's and LGBT rights, why, by their silence, do they condone gays executed and women subjugated on a daily basis throughout most of the enormous Muslim world? If liberals are in favor of freedom of speech, why do they turn a blind eye to Islamist governments such as Iran that, based on the government's radical, theocratic laws, execute people for expressing their opinion? And why do they not let people in the West express their opinion without attacking them before even giving them the respect of hearing what they have to say?
Liberals argue that they are in favor of critical thinking, but they do not like anyone challenging their "comfort zone". They seem, in fact, to be just like the autocratic people from whom I was fleeing, who also did not want their simplistic, binary way of thinking to be threatened by logic or fact.
Even if a person is from a Muslim country, and has direct experience with extremist Islam, many liberals will strenuously avoid this information. They seem not to want their apologetic view of radical Islam to be questioned or contradicted. They apparently have no desire to open their closed minds on the subject. The thought of a question evidently wounds them, as if an answer would mean that they were turning their backs on the ongoing crimes against humanity. How come, then, that so many liberals appear resistant to seeing that the crimes of radical Islam are those crimes against humanity? And at present, the largest?
Second, these liberals -- indulging in faulty, sophisitic, logic -- seem to think that if they criticize Christianity and Islamists criticize Christianity, then Islamists will like them for hating the same thing. In the same vein, many liberals hate the U.S. Republican government and many radical Muslim groups hate the U.S. Republican government, so perhaps many liberals think that Muslims will like them for hating the same government? Sadly, as these liberals will soon find out, the enemy of my enemy is not always my friend.
Third, and more fundamentally, sympathizing with all kinds of Islamist practices and radical Islam seems to fit a wider narrative of bashing the West and white people for "imperialism, colonialism, and any sense of superiority". Unfortunately that view fails to take into account that there have been no greater imperialists the Muslim armies; they conquered Persia, the great Christian Byzantine Empire in Turkey, North Africa and the Middle East, virtually all of Eastern Europe, most of Spain, and Greece.
As, in Islam, one is not allowed to attack except to defend the prophet Muhammed or Islam, extremist Muslims need to keep either finding or creating supposed attacks to make themselves appear as victims.
Anjem Choudary, a radical British Muslim cleric, was sentenced late last year by a British judge to five and a half years in prison for encouraging people to join the Islamic State. (Image source: Dan H/Flickr)
Many liberals, not knowing the background, buy into this claim. By siding with the "other", they probably feel a moral superiority: they are helping a cause, championing the "other" and rescuing a "victim"! But this moral superiority is both superficial and misplaced. It is more like that of the proverbial boy who murders his parents and then asks the judge for mercy because he is an orphan.
Maybe that is why, when many liberals hear criticism of radical Islam and the nuances of some aspects it, they refuse to hear it. For them, as radical Islam is not being depicted as a victim anymore, this view does not offer them the comfort of being morally superior defending victims. Ironically, that is the same motive for many radical Islamists: feeling morally superior defending Islam. The liberals then become confused, and do not know how to answer because I am a Muslim, have grown up there -- not a Western Muslim who has never lived in a Muslim society. I am not even a Western conservative, with whom the liberals are also at odds. Many liberals, like all people happily married to a fantasy, and despite towering evidence, will stick to the fantasy and to their binary way of thinking. It is like trying to tell your friend that the stripper he wants to marry might not want to stay home, make babies and cook. He is so emotionally addicted to his dream that he will do anything to protect it.
Finally, it goes without saying that, as with all of us, liberals too attempt to preserve their financial and political interests. These material and social investments are also threatened by hearing from Muslims who have endured oppression and torture under radical Islam. Those liberals seem to suspect, correctly, that this new information might create some kind of conflict of interest, so possibly decide it might be safer not to hear it in the first place. Instead, again to protect their investment, many liberals and leftists ignore or criticize Muslims such as these.
Finally, a short message to liberals might go: Dear Liberal, If you truly stand for values such as peace, social justice, liberty and freedoms, your apologetic view of radical Islam is in total contradiction with all of those values. Your view even hinders the efforts of many Muslims to make a peaceful reformation in Islam precisely to advance the those values. In addition, sadly, your view towards radical Islam actually contributes to the violence and the repression of millions of people -- women, children, slaves, and all those people whom you claim you want to protect. These are the true victims. They are subjugated, dehumanized, terrorized, tortured, raped and beaten on a daily basis by the practitioners of radical Islam and the religious laws of sharia, which are at the core of that fundamentalism. It is time to open your eyes and your minds and see what is staring at you.
*Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, political scientist and Harvard University scholar is president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He can be reached at
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From the Golan, Iran is paving the way for a new war in Lebanon
Huda al Husseini/Al Arabiya/March 25/17
‘Harkat al Nujaba’ or the ‘Movement of the Nobles’ is not temerarious enough to contend the Arabic language printed by the Iranians on placards carried by masked members to declare the formation of the Golan Liberation Brigade. The Golan name is misspelled missing the introducatory ‘al’ that precedes Golan as it should be written in the Arabic language. Nonetheless - exactly like ‘nobles; – they “toed the line” and raised the banner. They also released propaganda videos showing members of the movement carrying banners that read: “Israel will be destroyed”.
The militia’s official spokesperson, Hashim al Mussawi, said in a press conference on March 8 in Tehran that the new unit could assist the Syrian regime in taking the Golan Heights, a region occupied by Israel since 1967, a verdict he left entirely to Damascus to take, saying: “Should the Syrian government make the request, we are ready to participate in the liberation of occupied Golan with our allies. Unquestionably, the unit in concert with the regime, is likely to participate in a future offensive to capture territory from Syrian opposition on the part of the Golan still controlled by Syria prior any “full liberation” of the Golan.
The formation of the Golan Liberation Brigade conspicuously demonstrates Tehran’s priorities in south Syria, for agitprop purposes, locally and internationally limited to the so-called ‘Resistance countries’ that extend to Venezuela and Cuba.
Iran believes it is obliged to confront and to emphasize its commitment to fight Israel, mainly with the arrival of a new administration in Washington where observers feel certain that curbing Iran is a paramount issue for politicians and military officials alike.
Pivotal role in Aleppo
‘Harkat al Nujaba’ played a pivotal role in assisting the Quds forces – the elite arm of Iran’s IRCG – and pro-Syrian regime forces to conquer Aleppo last year. The Iraqi militia functions as an extension of the Islamic Republic, having sworn full allegiance to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayotollah Ali Khamenei. The militia promotes ‘velayat-e-faqih’ and takes direct orders from Major General Qassem Soleimani, the chief of the IRGC’s extraterritorial branch – the Quds Force. Last year, the Iraqi militia, which is also known as ‘Harakt Hezbollah al Nujaba’ proclaimed that it and Lebanese Hezbollah were the “twins of resistance.”The militia leader, Akram al Kabi, is close to the top Iranian leadership, including the Supreme Leader and the co-founder of the ‘Asaib al Haq’ itself an offshoot of the Mahdi Army. In 2015, he bluntly stated that he would oust the Iraqi government if Khamenei seeks to do so. Last year, top Iranian officials close to Khamenei gave Kabi a highly publicized reception unprecedented in scope and scale for one of their Arab zealots. ‘Harakat al Nujaba’ publicized Kabi’s meeting with Khamenei on the sidelines of a conference held in Tehran last December.
Albeit the fact that ‘Harakat al Nujba’ derive its moral potency from the Iranian patronage, a wide chasm remains between its capabilities and ambitions to recapture the Golan. Since 1967, the Syrian regime fecklessly “vowed” to respond to Israel in due time, in addition to Iran’s IRGC who is affiliated with militants groups founded by the Islamic Republic in countries under its clout. These combined forces are no match for the Israeli army.
Iran’s goal of establishing a foothold in the Golan Heights is not a secret any more. The Islamic Republic justified intervening in Syria to defend the Shiite shrines. However, the chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces said in remarks published last November that Iran may seek to set up naval bases in Yemen and Syria. Moreover, on several occasions, Israeli officials openly referred to Iran’s increased leverage on Syria during the six years’ old civil war, either through the IRCG or Shiite militants, chiefly Hezbollah. Previously, Avi Dichter, chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee stated that Iran had tried several times last year to move troops into the Syrian Golan Heights: "All movements are tracked.”Nonetheless, media reports revealed that Israel had repelled several Iran-directed attempts to move forces to the Golan. Senior Iranian military commanders are known to operate in the Syrian Golan, and usually local press cast lights on such visits after its conclusion.
Killed in Israeli strike
General Mohammad Reza Naqdi, the commander of the Basij - a paramilitary force operate under the IRGC – toured al Quneitra sometime last year. However, Iranian media outlets published photos of the visit in July. The most renowned incident happened in January 2015, when an Israeli helicopter strike several targets in the area, including IRGC Brigadier General Mohamed Ali Allah Dadid accompanied by Hezbollah field commander, Mohamed Eissa, and Jihad Mughniyah, the son of Imad Mughniyah. The three were killed in the attack. Albeit the fact that ‘Harakat al Nujba’ derive its moral potency from the Iranian patronage, a wide chasm remains between its capabilities and ambitions to recapture the Golan. Since 1967, the Syrian regime fecklessly “vowed” to respond to Israel in due time, in addition to Iran’s IRGC who is affiliated with militants groups founded by the Islamic Republic in countries under its clout. These combined forces are no match for the Israeli army. Iran is embracing a punctilious stance towards Israel, concealing behind its ideology of “Do not assault but infiltrate”. Despite, Iran and Hezbollah’s accusations of Israel bolstering the Syrian opposition embattling the regime, Israel not only successfully distanced itself from the Syrian war cataclysm effect, but was occupied in striking military and technology deals with China and India, and in ensuring that its frontiers are rather quiet from occasional skirmishes. Yet there is an understanding within Israeli security institutions that the status quo is unsustainable and that Israel must re-evaluate its strategy. These Iranian threats, by ‘Harak al Nujba’ and Hezbollah rather serve Israel in boosting its international relations, especially with the United States.

The five scenarios on the future of Europe
Dr. Ibrahim Al-Othaimin/Al Arabiya/March 25/17
The presentation of a white paper on the future of Europe by the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, in the European Parliament on March 1 provoked a heated debate in Brussels. The paper represents a constitutional reform blueprint aiming at EU unity after Britain leaves.
The 32-page-long proposal includes five scenarios laid out before the EU leaders for discussion during the upcoming EU summit to be held in Rome on March 25 (Saturday). The summit coincides with the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, signed in 1975, which led to the creation of the EU.
The first of the five scenarios suggests that the EU should “carry on” its course with minor changes. Such changes include deepening the EU’s single market, pooling certain military capabilities, and speaking with one voice regarding foreign affairs. Most other issues, including border control, remain at the discretion of each individual member state.
One drawback of this scenario lies in the lack of agreement on future issues facing the EU, including its change of management and the continuous improvement of border control. Failure to reach agreement could encourage some states to maintain their own internal control systems. Subsequent to the failure by the 27 member-states to find a common ground on an increasing number of general political areas, the second scenario revolves around the “single market”. This scenario will make “decision-making simpler, but it will also restrict the ability of the EU to act collectively”. This may widen the gap between expectations and delivery at all levels. Although France and Germany hailed Juncker’s white paper, it has been set out shortly ahead of the elections in the Netherlands, France and Germany, where polls suggest a possible win for far-right parties which, in all three countries take an opposite stance to the EU, calling for nation-states, border control, and an end to the flow of refugees, which could shatter Juncker’s proposed scenarios.
The third scenario is a “coalition of the willing”, to use Juncker’s expression. It calls on the EU member-states to do more for advancement in specific areas such as defense, internal security, and social policy. It will allow closely tied national armies to rapidly move forward in new areas, such as surveillance operations using UAVs, possible united economies, or the development of a uniform commercial law. However, this scenario may result in differences in the rights of citizens. The paper shows the minimum optimism regarding the establishment of economic governance in the Eurozone.
The fourth scenario proposes “doing less more efficiently”, which means that the EU must narrow down its list of priorities in order to do what it does more efficiently in specific areas. This scenario poses a real question concerning the agreement among EU member-states as to what areas should be prioritized for more efficient cooperative efforts. The fifth and final scenario consists of “doing more together”. This scenario focuses on sharing power and resources. The EU could have more of its own resources, i.e. increased income through taxation, and the Eurozone would end up as planned in the Five Presidents’ report issued in 2015. Hence, the EU would speak as a single unit on trade and foreign policy and assume global leadership to face climate change and humanitarian issues.
Quicker decision-making
Decision-making in Brussels (the EU headquarters) would be much quicker, but the papers acknowledge the risk of “alienating parts of society, which feel that the EU lacks legitimacy”.I think the fact that all five scenarios are merely proposals, with none favored over the others, will be a hindrance.
Moreover, Eastern European countries may oppose the scenarios as they fear becoming marginalized by powerful Western countries such as France and Germany, particularly on immigration issues, where Eastern European countries hold a tougher stance. Finally, although France and Germany hailed Juncker’s white paper, it has been set out shortly ahead of the elections in the Netherlands, France and Germany, where polls suggest a possible win for far-right parties which, in all three countries take an opposite stance to the EU, calling for nation-states, border control, and an end to the flow of refugees, which could shatter Juncker’s proposed scenarios.

The Westminster attack and the Western dilemma
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/March 25/17
The ISIS terrorist who drove at pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in London and stabbed the policeman at the gate of the British parliament, to be then shot by British policemen, showcased the depth of the Islamist terrorist danger that is threatening Europe and the West. Some will ask about the same danger that the Muslims and Arabs are facing. One day after the London attack, the Egyptian ISIS killed 10 officers and members of the Egyptian army in Sinai, and the army in turn killed 15 ISIS members. So why do we always say that ISIS only threatens the West? The problem is that the threat against the West is complex and varied. The proportion of Muslim citizens is increasing. Therefore, the tackling of the intellectual dilemma posed by Islamist terrorist groups that are generating these killers can no longer be handled by Muslims alone.
How does the Christian and the secular West deal with this sensitive issue?
An urgent threat
We are tackling this issue because the terrorist threat against western cities has become urgent. What happened is not a random attack because in Belgium, for example, on the first anniversary of the March 22 attacks on Brussels that claimed the lives of 32 people, the Belgian police arrested yesterday a criminal who also tried to drive at pedestrians in a shopping area in the city of Antwerp. The spokesman added that they have also found weapons and knives inside his car. The problem is that the threat against the West is complex and varied. The proportion of Muslim citizens is increasing. Therefore, the tackling of the intellectual dilemma posed by Islamist terrorist groups that are generating these killers can no longer be handled by Muslims alone. On the occasion of the anniversary of last year’s attacks, we recall the terrible Nice (France) attack in July 2016. It was carried out by a French-Tunisian attacker named Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel who has hit 86 people with his truck. In December 2016, there was also a similar attack in Berlin, in which 12 innocent people were killed by an ISIS criminal. The truck had been driven into a Christmas market. The terrorist, Anis al-Amri, was of Tunisian origin.
Getting rid of this “culture” and those who abide by it, such as the London criminal, Khalid Massoud, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel and Anis al-Amri, is no longer a matter limited to Muslims, but has become a major international issue.
The victory of Donald Trump, the US president, is in part a response to the great security challenge, and his firm commitment to eliminate “Islamic terrorism.”We do not like this description, and we are keen on mentioning that these groups do not represent Muslims, adding that they kill Muslims more than others.
This is true but it is not enough, and this is a ‘world-wide war’ because the killers do not exclude any nation. The interesting new question would be: how will the West contribute to finding the right answer to the problem of cultural terrorism?
Anyway, the danger will persist for the time being. It may increase at times due to the easy communication through social media. These are not my words; they are the words of a field expert, Major General Mansour al-Turki, spokesman for the Saudi interior ministry. He recently said from Paris: “We will enter the next phase of terrorism through social media and lone wolves.”Thus, the danger threatens all humanity.

A Saudi library in Beijing

Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/March 25/17
The title seems like a far-fetched dream or like a translated Chinese story; The oldest Arab proverbs highlight the importance of seeking knowledge, even if in faraway lands, such as China! A book fair in Riyadh was once the dream of every publisher until it became a reality, and now Saudi Arabia is building a library in China. The vice-president of the Beijing University – Lee Yan Soung – said during a cornerstone-laying ceremony that this is a branch of King Abdulaziz’s library. He added: “This is not an ordinary cornerstone; it is a representation of the friendship between two countries. It paves the way for further cultural exchange between Saudi Arabia and China.” He confirmed that this cultural project will have a huge impact on the development of cultural relations between both countries. Saudi citizens go to the international Book Fair in Riyadh, where intellectuals meet and writers compete to finish their books and send them to publishers so that they can feature them in the fair, while a library is being inaugurated in Beijing in the name of the founding king. The public library of King Abdulaziz in Beijing is huge; it covers 13,000 square meters, in a gigantic building of six floors. It includes reading rooms that can receive 100 researchers or visitors. In its Arabic and Chinese departments, the library can embrace 3 million books and manuscripts over an area of 500 square meters. It also includes a conference hall for exhibitions, in addition to an Arabic and Chinese research center, a department dedicated for old manuscripts in the Beijing University and administrative offices for more than 40 employees.
The oldest Arab proverbs highlight the importance of seeking knowledge, even if in faraway lands, such as China! Indeed, a library in Beijing shows that we have come from the desert that became a cradle of writers and publishers. We express our love to you by translating our books for you. We are the grandsons of Mohammad, the Arabian prophet who was known for his eloquence. We are the sons of Abi Tayyib, Aasha and Mobser al-Moara al-Kabeer. We are the knights that have offered the Chinese empire a rare book about Arabian horses that was published in 1848. Hao Ping, chairman of the Beijing University council, said during the ceremony: “the library is the optimal way to spread knowledge and science, especially in Arabic; it is one of the cultural exchange bridges between the two countries”.
Not lost in translation
Today there is no better bridge than translation. Translating one work from a language to another is like choosing an ambassador to represent you in a friendly country; the ambassador might change but the letters are eternal; this is why the kings of this country were keen on translating works from living languages to Arabic and then, from Arabic to other languages. Every translator is a bridge and every translation is a passport between two languages. This is why the Saudi king was keen on promoting translation as an embassy, equivalent to the diplomatic embassy that represents his country in a new nation of translated books. Dear new friends, even if we are now signing a commercial agreement, the bibliophile king wanted to offer this facility as a public library in the name of his father the founding king, so that knowledge becomes internationally reachable, even in lands as far as China.

The Power Struggle for the Throne and the Saudi 'Reset' With Trump

Simon Henderson/The Washington Institute/Foreign Policy/March 22, 2017
Palace intrigue and regional war could complicate the budding romance between Riyadh and the Trump administration.
American media were rather muted about last week's visit to Washington by Saudi Arabia's Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman. They were unswayed by the juicy tidbit in the official statement reporting that the man known as MbS told President Donald Trump that Saudi intelligence "confirms...the existence of a plot against the United States of America that had been planned" in the six countries whose citizens had just been banned from entering the country. Nor were they moved by the effusiveness of an anonymous Saudi "senior advisor" who lauded the Oval Office meeting and luncheon with Trump as a "huge success," "a historic turning point," and "a significant shift in relations." The statement went on to describe "President Trump's great understanding of the importance of relations" and "his clear sight of problems in the region."
But it's no accident that much of the Arab media's coverage echoed this over-the-top line. The Saudi side was intent on using the visit to "reset" relations with Washington after the Obama years, as well as to introduce the new administration to the young man who seems destined to be the next king of Saudi Arabia.
The reset mission arguably succeeded. But judgment on the personal coming-out of MbS should be postponed. Inconveniently for the 31-year-old MbS, his older cousin Muhammad bin Nayef (MbN) is crown prince and appears reluctant to let MbS leapfrog over him. The Trump administration must deal with two alternative future Saudi leaders and may -- and perhaps should -- regard it as premature to decide whom it prefers.
Rivalry between the two men is not a figment of the imagination of foreigners. Last week, the anonymous but seemingly well-informed Saudi blogger who uses the Twitter handle @Mujtahidd re-emerged after several months. He reported that the two Muhammads were trying to avoid any public differences, but each was keen to win the approval not only of the wider House of Saud but also the United States.
On a point-scoring level, MbN probably had the last laugh on MbS's trip. Despite the photo opportunities and honor guards, MbS's departure from the United States was very low-key. No waves to crowds of fawning admirers, but rather a 2:30 a.m. flight to Riyadh a day after meeting with Defense Secretary James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford, instead of heading to New York for business meetings as had been expected. What happened? King Salman, MbS's father, was returning to the kingdom after cutting short a month-long Asian trip, and the prince needed to be there to welcome him.
But the royal court's claim that the monarch's vacation in the idyllic Maldives had been canceled because of an outbreak of swine flu seemed too diplomatically convenient to be entirely believable. The Financial Times reported that local opposition politicians there were making a stink because of a putative arrangement for a group of islands to be ceded to MbS in perpetuity. The members of the king's entourage who had been hoping to take over two resort complexes and dip their toes in the Indian Ocean found themselves back in Riyadh early -- which meant that MbS, whatever his self-appointed mission in Washington, was obliged to be back early, too. That may have been for the best. Despite the notional reset, the photos and video clips in Washington suggested coolness by Trump toward MbS. Perhaps the U.S. president was irritated that the young Saudi showed no apparent deference.
Ultimately, of course, policy differences, not personal ones, will matter most. Everyone in the Saudi leadership shares with the Trump administration a common view on the dangers posed by Iran. But there's a gap in their respective positions on the war in Yemen and how the kingdom can best be extricated from it. The Saudis have made scant progress there in fighting the Iranian-backed Houthis, and bureaucratic Washington is probably regretting its initial profuse support for the war -- a political concession to Riyadh to placate Saudi concerns about the nuclear agreement with Iran. The Saudi military persists in demonstrating that it is, in the words of a Pentagon official during the Obama administration, a "paper tiger."
As if to underline the problem, as MbS flew back home, news emerged that a helicopter probably belonging to the Saudi-led coalition opened fire on a refugee boat carrying Somalis escaping the Yemen civil war. The death toll was given as 42, but, from Washington's point of view, the worst part was the report that a U.S.-made Apache helicopter was involved. That means it could have been either Saudi or Emirati, but the United Arab Emirates has issued an official denial. (Doubts about a Saudi role are based on the judgment that its pilots were too incompetent to have carried out the attack, at night and at sea.) The United States was already in a quandary about resuming supplies of bombs to the Saudi Air Force following last year's suspension after concerns about Yemeni civilians being hit. Pictures of the dead and rescued refugees will further complicate this policy shift.
If Yemen remains a thorn in the side of the U.S.-Saudi relationship, the two countries seemed to find common ground over economic ties. The Saudi statement said Trump's changes to U.S. policy coincide "with the undergoing change in Saudi Arabia through 'Vision 2030,'" MbS's blueprint for the kingdom's economic transformation. The official White House readout spoke of "expanded economic cooperation [that] could create as many as one million direct American jobs within the next four years, millions of indirect American jobs, as well as jobs in Saudi Arabia." It also mentioned deals "worth potentially more than $200 billion in direct and indirect investments within the next four years."
This may be on the conservative side. Gossip in the financial markets suggests that the kingdom was dangling the notion of $1 trillion in investments in the United States over the next decade.
Such a deal may be tantalizing for Trump. But, as always, it comes at a price. As Saudi Oil Minister Khalid al-Falih told the Wall Street Journal, the 2016 Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act "stoked tension in U.S.-Saudi relations and threatens to chill Saudi investment in the U.S." Falih also said the law was a consideration in whether the kingdom would choose to list shares of the state-owned Saudi Aramco oil company, the 2018 initial public offering of which is expected to be the largest in history, in the United States.
The law, known as Jasta, came as a consequence of the large number of Saudis who were involved in the 9/11 attacks. It allows U.S. terror victims to file civil suits in federal court against the kingdom, which had been protected by sovereign immunity. Trump was a strong supporter of the measure. The Saudis want to at least neuter the measure but have worked on the issue to no avail, despite a multimillion-dollar lobbying effort.
This twist makes the calculus of what each side got from the Washington meetings more challenging. There is clearly agreement to work together, but Yemen is an immediate problem, skewing the discussion about how to tackle the broader threat posed by Iran as well as the Islamic State, al Qaeda, and other terror groups. Meanwhile, a public reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and the UAE with Israel over their fear of Iran remains elusive. The Saudi statement blamed Iran for obstructing a deal "to settle the Palestinian issue" but managed to avoid any mention of Israel.
It may fall to Trump's coterie of close advisors to grapple with these difficulties. His chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, and senior advisor (and son-in-law) Jared Kushner were at the Oval Office and Pentagon meetings as well as the White House luncheon. Meanwhile, Trump's lawyer and Israel advisor Jason Greenblatt was in Jerusalem and Ramallah talking to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.
Occasionally, world events have a curious and perhaps prophetic irony. King Salman's trip to Asia concluded last week with a high-profile visit to China, where he and his delegation of Saudi business leaders were received by the top leadership and reportedly agreed to deals worth $65 billion. On March 19, the next foreign leader arrived in Beijing for similar discussions -- Netanyahu. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang honored him by saying, "The Chinese people and the Jewish people are both great peoples of the world."
The trend lines are obvious. Business can be the key to deeper political alliances, and Saudi Arabia and Israel have more in common than the House of Saud wants to admit. Does a bigger deal await?
**Simon Henderson is the Baker Fellow and director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at The Washington Institute, and coauthor of its 2017 Transition Paper "Rebuilding Alliances and Countering Threats in the Gulf."