May 05/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 06/48-59/:"I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.’The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’So Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live for ever.’He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum."

If any of you suffers as a Christian, do not consider it a disgrace, but glorify God because you bear this name

First Letter of Peter 04/12-19/:"Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, a criminal, or even as a mischief-maker. Yet if any of you suffers as a Christian, do not consider it a disgrace, but glorify God because you bear this name. For the time has come for judgement to begin with the household of God; if it begins with us, what will be the end for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And ‘If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinners?’Therefore, let those suffering in accordance with God’s will entrust themselves to a faithful Creator, while continuing to do good."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 04-05/17
Canada: Sold to the Highest Foreign Bidder/Shabnam Assadollahi/Gatestone Institute/May 04/17
Iran's Forward Operating Base against the U.S./Thomas Quiggin/Gatestone Institute/May 04/17
The Middle East: Problems Real and Fake/Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/May 04/17
Final Chapter of Dialogue with Iran/Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al Awsat/May 04/17
Trump’s Right, the Constitution Is ‘Archaic’/Noah Feldman/Bloomberg/May 04/17
The Rise and Fall of European Meritocracy/Ivan Krastev/The New York Times/May 04/17
How to identify the Brotherhood media/Mamdouh AlMuhaini/Al Arabiya/May 04/17
All former US presidents failed with Iran/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arabnews/May 04/17
Brampton landlord feels 'powerless' after being labelled religion-based human rights violator/Michele Mandel, Toronto Sun/Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published on May 04-05/17
Aoun, Hariri Ink First Law Restoring Lebanese Citizenship to Expatriates
Aoun pushes for national rapprochement of electoral law
Aoun on Lebanese University 66th anniversary: For detaching University from politics
Hariri patronizes Digital Governance National Conference at Grand Serail
Lebanese Govt. Decides to Reactivate Electoral Law Panel, Hariri Says 'Solution' Looming
Qassem Says 'Everyone Wins' if New Electoral Law Reached
Loyalty to Resistance: Full Proportional Representation Achieves Interest of All Components
Lebanese among 11 Indicted in Hungary over Death of 71 Migrants
4 Held in Hamra over Drug-Related Money Transfers
Mashnouq: Vacuum Impermissible by International and Regional Decision
Kataeb Says Fight over Size of Representation Obstructs Accord on Electoral Law
Report: Lebanese Forces Say Nasrallah's Electoral Law Stance 'Contributes to Solution'
Kaag and Lassen Welcome Lebanon’s Mine Action Efforts
Sarraf, Dusa tackle overall situation

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 04-05/17
Trump Announces Trip to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Vatican
US officials: Iran failed in bid to launch missile from submarine
Astana Talks on Halt after Moscow Failing to Deliver on Safe Zones Promises
Erdogan Says De-Escalation Plan Would 'Half Solve' Syria Conflict
Russia, Turkey, Iran Ink Deal on Safe Zones in Syria
Iraq Forces Advance on ISIS’ Mosul Enclave from Northwest
Sisi, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Discuss Regional Issues, Dangers of Terrorism
Trump Optimistic on Achieving Peace in ME, Abbas Hopes for Historic Deal
Kuwait: Court Rejects Appeal to Dissolve Parliament
Israel Threatens to Evict UN from its East Jerusalem Headquarters
Arab Organization: 19 Journalists Killed in Yemen in 2 Years
Washington Vows to Destroy Qaeda in Yemen
Fundamentalists’ Lawyer in Jordan: ‘More than 5,000 People Joined Extremist Groups’
Macron 'Convinces' Majority of French Viewers in TV Debate

Latest Lebanese Related News published on May 04-05/17
Aoun, Hariri Ink First Law Restoring Lebanese Citizenship to Expatriates
Naharnet/May 04/17/President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Saad Hariri inked on Thursday the first law allowing expatriates to regain the Lebanese nationality. The two men signed the law during the 4th Lebanese Diaspora Energy conference held at BIEL. At the conference opening, Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil said the political parties are fighting to “devise an electoral law that includes six parliament seats to represent the expatriates.”Bassil announced the "map of economic integration between expatriate Lebanon and resident Lebanon.”The Minister addressed the expats and urged them to return back to their homeland, as he assured that Lebanon during the term of President Michel Aoun abides by the National Pact. For his part, Aoun said: “Lebanon's experience with immigration is painful. Our families are paying a new emotional tax," adding "although you have a duty to fulfill to the nations that embraced you, but you also have a duty of loyalty to your motherland. “Migration is an emotional tax paid by our families since we changed into a country that exports its children instead of exporting its produce," Aoun said. The President concluded saying “dislocating from our homeland came as the result of difficult political, social and economic situation that pushed our sons out of their own country.” Lawmakers from the Lebanese Forces and Free Patriotic Movement signed in 2015 the draft-law on allowing expatriates to regain their Lebanese nationality.
It was approved during a legislative session later that year.

Aoun pushes for national rapprochement of electoral law
Thu 04 May 2017/NNA - President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, on Thursday stepped up calls for a national rapprochement of the electoral law, rather than a sectarian one. The President's words came during today's cabinet session at Baabda Presidential palace, which he started by briefing Ministers on the Lebanese Diaspora Energy conference. He also confirmed inking, along with Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the first nationality retrieval decree. "The Lebanese await the endorsement of the 2017 budget, and the project law has been referred to the House of Parliament," the President said, hoping that it will be swiftly endorsed. Aoun also pinned hope on a promising future, and called for appropriate measures to ensure a smooth tourist season in Lebanon. Touching on the electoral law, the President stressed the importance of speedily endorsing the electoral law. "The Lebanese expect a law that ensures proper and just representation among sects. Any new formula will not take from one sect to give the other," he added.

Aoun on Lebanese University 66th anniversary: For detaching University from politics
Thu 04 May 2017/NNA - President of the Republic Michel Aoun urged on Thursday the Lebanese politicians and educators to work on the development of the Lebanese University (LU), calling for detaching the University from politics. "It is our duty to cast the University away from political polarizations, and promote and upgrade its branches with modern mechanization, research tools, laboratories and interactive spaces," President Aoun said during a ceremony marking LU's 66th anniversary at "Rafik Hariri University City" in Haddad. The President underlined the vital and essential role by the Lebanese University in the integration of the Lebanese youth, pressing the need to build up the University's technological and logistic capabilities and its educational and research tools and curriculum. Aoun expressed keenness on providing equal learning opportunities for the Lebanese generations, stressing the need to give the youth the opportunity "to express themselves, identify their options and participate in building their country and achieving its sustainable development and growth."

Hariri patronizes Digital Governance National Conference at Grand Serail
Thu 04 May 2017/NNA - Prime Minister Saad Hariri patronized on Thursday the first national conference on digital governance, entitled "Anchoring Solid Foundations for Digital Transformation" at the invitation of Minister of State for Administrative Development Inaya Ezzeddine. The inaugural ceremony at the Grand Serail took place in the presence of scores of official, diplomatic, and military dignitaries. Minister Ezzedine gave a lengthy presentation on proposed digital government project.

Lebanese Govt. Decides to Reactivate Electoral Law Panel, Hariri Says 'Solution' Looming
Naharnet/May 04/17/The government on Thursday decided during a cabinet session to reactivate the ministerial panel that is tasked with devising a new electoral law, as Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced that Lebanon is “on the verge of a comprehensive and major solution.”Hariri will set a date for the panel's meeting, LBCI TV said, as MTV reported that the reactivation of the committee was President Michel Aoun's idea. The Cabinet, which had not convened for several weeks due to the electoral law crisis, has 105 items on its agenda including pressing issues. Information Minister Melhem Riachi told reporters that the conferees “unanimously” agreed during the session that there will be no new extension of parliament's term. “Each party voiced its stance on the issue of voting (on an electoral law in Cabinet) and President Aoun described it as bitter but a necessary solution,” Riachi added. “A vote on the electoral law might become a necessity should we fail to agree and we hope we will be able to agree, but we cannot bypass the constitution,” LBCI quoted Aoun as saying during the session. MTV said the president “raised the principle of voting at the beginning of the session.”“What should we do if we reach a dead end,” Aoun asked the conferees, according to MTV. Education Minister Marwan Hamadeh of the Progressive Socialist Party meanwhile voiced his objection to “the principle of voting in Cabinet,” MTV said.“We should not reach voting and we should instead reach consensus on the electoral law,” Hamadeh said.
Aoun had announced at the beginning of the session that “the Lebanese want the electoral law to reflect correct and just representation among the sects.”“Any new law will not take from the share of one sect to give another,” Aoun reassured. Hariri for his part said “we are on the verge of a comprehensive and major solution and we must exert serious efforts to reach an electoral law.”Several ministers had voiced stances on the electoral law before entering the cabinet session. “Our approach on the electoral law is based on the principle and mechanism: we are against extension, vacuum and the 1960 law. We support the ongoing deliberations and should there be no agreement, we must go to a vote,” Social Affairs Minister Pierre Bou Assi of the Lebanese Forces said. “We are seeking to guarantee people's right through a fair law and we must preserve our parliamentary system,” he added. Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil meanwhile reassured that “ties are not severed” between Aoun and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. “They held a phone conversation yesterday,” he revealed. Industry Minister Hussein al-Hajj Hassan of Hizbullah said: “Our stance is clear: we are calling for consensus on the electoral law so that we avoid the bad choices – extension, the 1960 law and vacuum – and the electoral law is a pivotal issue that requires consensus.”“Our principled stance calls for proportional representation and a single electoral district, but we have expressed openness to all proposals and we have been extremely positive. God willing all parties will realize the risks that we are going through these days,” Hajj Hassan added.

Qassem Says 'Everyone Wins' if New Electoral Law Reached
Naharnet/May 04/17/Hizbullah deputy chief Sheikh Naim Qassem announced Thursday that “everyone would win” should a new electoral law be approved, urging the political parties to double their efforts in this regard. “Should no new law be reached, God forbid, there would be no winner at all and everyone would lose from the absence of a new electoral law, especially that the three other choices – extension, the 1960 law and vacuum -- have been blasted by everyone,” Qassem added. “This means that any approach that leads us anew to any of these three bad choices will not be correct or sound and will reflect negatively on everyone,” Hizbullah number two warned. He noted that Hizbullah does not favor “any of these three bad choices, seeing as each of them has its problem.”“Vacuum would terminate state institutions, shake stability, undermine confidence in Lebanon, harm the economy and aggravate the social crisis,” Qassem cautioned. “It would be better for us all to seek a new law, and no matter the negativities that the new law might bring, they would certainly be less detrimental than the other three bad choices,” the Hizbullah official added, urging “mutual and logical concessions.”

Loyalty to Resistance: Full Proportional Representation Achieves Interest of All Components
Naharnet/May 04/17/Hizbullah's Loyalty to Resistance parliamentary bloc noted Thursday that an electoral system based on full proportional representation would cater to the interests of all parties in the country. “Lebanon must overcome its strangling crisis through agreeing on a new electoral law before its too late,” the bloc said in a statement issued after its weekly meeting. “After having analyzed the stances and opinions of all political forces, the bloc notes that the full proportional representation format is the format that achieves the real interests of all components, away from any maneuvers or overbidding,” it added. “There is an urgent need for some mutual concessions regarding the number and borders of the electoral districts that could be endorsed,” the bloc said. It noted that “concessions within this format” remain “much better than heading to any bad choice.”

Lebanese among 11 Indicted in Hungary over Death of 71 Migrants
Associated Press/Naharnet/May 04/17/Eleven men including Lebanese nationals have been indicted in the case of the deaths of 71 migrants who suffocated in the back of a refrigerated truck in 2015, Hungarian authorities said Thursday. Laszlo Nanasi, chief prosecutor of Bacs-Kiskun County, said the group includes men from Afghanistan, Bulgaria and Lebanon who allegedly smuggled some 1,200 people from the Hungary-Serbia border to Austria or Germany in 2015. Migrants from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan were among the victims found in the back of a refrigerated truck with Hungarian license plates abandoned in the emergency lane of the A4 highway near Parndorf, Austria, not far from the Hungarian border, on Aug. 27, 2015. The victims included 59 men, eight women and four children. The migrants were locked into the truck the day before near Morahalom, Hungary, near the Serbian border, and likely died within three hours, while the vehicle was still in Hungary. Despite their pleas to open the truck doors, the smugglers were told by their boss to cross into Austria as soon as possible, Nanasi said in a statement. Charges against the defendants include organized human smuggling and the torture of the smuggled persons. The four people accused of direct involvement in the deaths also face charges of homicide committed with particular cruelty. Prosecutors are calling for life in prison for four defendants, with shorter terms at a maximum-security facility and expulsion from Hungary for the rest. The trial will be held at a court in central Hungary, where the smugglers began the trip which ended in the migrants' deaths. Nine of the alleged smugglers are in custody, while prosecutors have filed a motion to try the other two defendants in absentia. The alleged 30-year-old Afghan leader of operation earned some 300,000 euros ($328,000) from the group's smuggling activities in 2015, Nanasi said. Among his alleged accomplices are Bulgarian drivers and a Bulgarian-Lebanese man who obtained the vehicles and the temporary license plates. Just a day after the 71 deaths, the smugglers locked a group of 67 migrants into another closed truck near Morahalom, taking them to the Austrian town of Gols. While the condition of the migrants became life-threatening, they were able to kick open the doors of the truck and no one died. Two of the defendants are facing charges of life-threatening battery in the case.

4 Held in Hamra over Drug-Related Money Transfers
Naharnet/May 04/17/Four people have been arrested on Beirut's Hamra Street on charges of receiving money transfers on behalf of “one of the most notorious drug kingpins in the Bekaa region,” the army said on Thursday. An army statement said the four suspects were apprehended by an Intelligence Directorate patrol on Tuesday after a surveillance operation, identifying them as Suheil Mohammed Jaafar, Abbas Suheil Jaafar, Hammouda Suheil Jaafar and Zeinab Mohammed al-Husseini. The four were part of “a cell that was receiving hefty money transfers” on behalf of the drug kingpin. “A large sum of money was seized in their possession and they were referred along with the seized funds to the relevant authorities,” the statement said.

Mashnouq: Vacuum Impermissible by International and Regional Decision
Naharnet/May 04/17/Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq stressed on Thursday that vacuum at Lebanon's legislative authority is “forbidden by a regional and international decision,” al-Akhbar daily reported on Thursday. “An international and regional decision forbids vacuum at the legislative authority,” the daily quoted the Minister as saying. Mashnouq declined from elaborating any further or disclosing information in that regard, said the daily. During the vacuum at Lebanon's top State post, Mashnouq had pointed out a few months before President Michel Aoun was elected, that a regional and international decision was made to stage the presidential elections. An agreement between political parties on a new electoral law to rule the upcoming parliamentary elections has not recorded a breakthrough despite the high-level consultations in that regard. Early in April, Aoun invoked his constitutional powers and adjourned the parliament for one month paving way for deliberations between political parties for an agreement on a new voting system for the upcoming parliamentary polls. Lebanon's deputies were set to vote in Parliament to postpone national elections and extend their term for a third time since 2013. Lebanon's political parties say it is time to scrap the country's 1960 voting law that allocates seats by religious sect, but disagree over what system should replace it. The cabinet is scheduled to meet on Thursday to discuss a draft of a voting system.

Kataeb Says Fight over Size of Representation Obstructs Accord on Electoral Law
Naharnet/May 04/17/The Kataeb party deplored the political parties' failure to agree on a new electoral law, saying the hurdles obstructing the process are a result of conflicts between authority partners on the size of their sects' representation in the new parliament, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Thursday. “The party refuses any attempt to change the nature of the current problem in Lebanon," Kataeb sources told the daily. "What is being deliberated is not an attempt to produce a better electoral law than the current (1960 majoritarian) one. It is a game between current power partners about the size of their sects (to be represented in the future parliamentary elections),” they said on condition of anonymity. “Lebanon is witnessing a disruption of the political and constitutional life aimed at creating the appropriate conditions for smuggling more deals and brokering. And for re-producing the current authority itself, through an electoral settlement with multiple scenarios, ending in the extension of the current power structure (parliament) and its symbols, to cut the road short on accountability,” they added. The sources called for a radical change in the “mentality of governing” and called for the “formation of a new political class produced by the Lebanese public opinion and simulating the hopes of young people."

Report: Lebanese Forces Say Nasrallah's Electoral Law Stance 'Contributes to Solution'
Naharnet/May 04/17/The Lebanese Forces hailed Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's position after he back-pedaled from adherence to a proportional representation system which the LF described as a “positive” step, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Thursday. “Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah reconsidered his adherence to full proportional representation system which paves way for an agreement on a new electoral law,” LF sources told the daily on condition of anonymity.“One of the major obstacles that existed previously was adherence of the Shiite parties (Hizbullah and AMAL) to the proportionality system which was preventing the possibility of compatibility on a law,” they added. In his speech on Tuesday, Nasrallah stressed that his party is not seeking to “impose” the proportional representation electoral system on the country, while warning that Lebanon is “on the brink of the abyss” regarding the issue of the electoral law. “We see a positive element in his position that allows us to return to the hybrid project, which until today is an understanding between most of the political forces, especially MP Walid Jumblat, al-Mustaqbal Movement and other forces. We believe that this position (Nasrallah's) will contribute to the The country has not organized parliamentary elections since 2009 and the legislature has instead twice extended its own mandate. The last polls were held under an amended version of the 1960 electoral law. Hizbullah has repeatedly called for an electoral law fully based on the proportional representation system and a single or several large electorates. Druze leader Jumblat has rejected proportional representation, warning that it would "marginalize" his minority Druze community, whose presence is concentrated in the Aley and Chouf areas. Amid reservations over proportional representation by other parties such as al-Mustaqbal Movement and the Lebanese Forces, the political parties have mulled a so-called hybrid electoral law that mixes proportional representation with the winner-takes-all system. Other law formats were suggested by political parties including a so-called qualification system which many parties rejected and dubbed as “sectarian.”

Kaag and Lassen Welcome Lebanon’s Mine Action Efforts
Naharnet/May 04/17/United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag and European Union Ambassador to Lebanon Christina Lassen visited the Regional Mine Action Center (RMAC) in Nabatieh on May 3, a UN statement said. The visit included a briefing by Brig. Gen. Ziad Nasr, Director of the Lebanon Mine Action Center, on progress made in the implementation of Lebanon’s National Mine Action Strategy, including in the clearing of mines, cluster munitions, unexploded ordnances and all explosive remnants of war. Kaag and Lassen also visited a demining site, and met with representatives of non-governmental organizations, which support the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) in their efforts to rid the country of mines and unexploded ordinance. Discussions focused on victims' assistance, training and advocacy efforts to raise awareness on the dangers of all unexploded ordinances. Kaag praised the ongoing efforts undertaken, and underscored the importance of both prevention and rehabilitation. "Mine action should remain a priority until all mines, cluster munitions and unexploded ordnance are cleared from Lebanese territory," Kaag said. She said the United Nations would encourage additional international support for Lebanon’s mine clearance activities to enable it to complete the implementation of its Mine Action Strategy by 2020. EU Ambassador Lassen explained that “Land contamination negatively impacts the affected communities’ development by preventing agricultural or other economic activities in and around contaminated areas. Apart from alleviating human suffering, EU funded actions strengthen the capacity of the military in mine action and support the broader EU efforts to support the reform of the security sector in Lebanon. We also encourage other donors and the private sector in Lebanon to join us in our efforts.”Following the visit dedicated to mine action activities, Kaag and Lassen visited Randa Berri, founder of the Lebanese Welfare Association for the Handicapped. Special Coordinator Kaag and Ambassador Lassen were given a comprehensive overview of the Association's integrated program, and a tour of the facilities. Lebanon has cleared some 67% of areas contaminated by mines, cluster munitions and UXOs. The EU is the biggest donor in mine action in Lebanon. Since 2006 around 38 million Euros have been allocated to the sector. Ongoing support amounts to 10 million Euros.

Sarraf, Dusa tackle overall situation
Thu 04 May 2017/NNA - National Defense Minister Yacoub Riad Sarraf met on Thursday at his ministerial office with Romanian Deputy Defense Minister for Defense Policy and Planning, Mirecea Dusa, with talks between the pair reportedly touching on most recent developments in Lebanon and the broad region.Talks also touched on the military cooperation agreement between the armies of both countries.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 04-05/17
Trump Announces Trip to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Vatican
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 04/17/Donald Trump on Thursday confirmed his first foreign trip as president will include stops in Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican.Trump will add the three stops to an already announced visit to NATO and G7 summits in Brussels and Sicily later this month. "My first foreign trip as president of the United States will be to Saudi Arabia, then Israel, and then to a place that my cardinals love very much, Rome," Trump said. The visit comes as Trump wades into Middle East peacemaking, trying to reach a deal where his predecessors and countless diplomats have faltered. Trump said he "will begin with a truly historic gathering in Saudi Arabia with leaders from all across the Muslim world." "Saudi Arabia is the custodian of the two holiest sites in Islam." "It is there we will begin to construct a new foundation of cooperation and support with our Muslim allies to combat extremism, terrorism and violence and to embrace a more just and hopeful future for young Muslims in their countries."From there Trump will travel to Israel -- leaving open the possibility of an additional stop in the West Bank. Trump on Wednesday hosted Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas at the White House, pledging to help end the decades-old conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. "It is something that I think is frankly, maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years," Trump said, exuding his trademark bravado. Pope Francis will receive Trump at the Vatican on May 24, the Holy See said.

US officials: Iran failed in bid to launch missile from submarine
By Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Thursday, 4 May 2017/Iran on Tuesday attempted to launch a cruise missile from a submarine in the Strait of Hormuz but the test failed, a news report has revealed quoting two US officials. According to the Fox News report, an Iranian Yono-class “midget” submarine conducted the missile launch but didn’t succeed. Incidents of this kind have been reported from the region earlier. In April, it was reported that the US Navy’s guided-missile destroyer fired a warning flare after an Iranian Revolutionary Guard vessel came within 1,000 meters of the USS Mahan. Fox News quoted a BBC report saying that the Iranian officials announced late last month that the country’s defense budget had increased by 145 percent under President Hassan Rowhani and that its military is moving forward with a massive restructuring effort aimed at making it a “forward moving force.”

Astana Talks on Halt after Moscow Failing to Deliver on Safe Zones Promises
Asharq Al-Awsat/May 04/17/Moscow, Beirut – Tense caution dominated early hours of the Astana 4 negotiations on Wednesday. Expectations encompassed both positive and negative outcomes from the attempt at brokering peace in Syria. The Russian delegation was chiefly the optimistic party saying that a breakthrough could be achieved in this round. On the other hand, Syrian delegations representing rebels trying to overthrow Bashar al-Assad suspended their participation in the protesting against the continued regime bombing in Syria. “We came to Astana under promises of a comprehensive cessation of hostilities in Syria as soon as negotiations launched—later would come efforts on reaching a political transition—similar to former undertakings, nothing happened,” a rebel delegate on behalf the Free Syrian Army FSA told Ahsarq Al-Awsat. “We met with the Kazakh foreign minister. At the same time, meetings with the UN delegation, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura and Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East Affairs Bureau Stuart E. Jones were scheduled,” the FSA representative said.
“As soon as the opposition delegation received news about ongoing regime shelling, we decided to suspend participation until former undertakings are truly completed. Rebels refused all attempts to return to the talks executive steps are taken” the FSA sources said.
For his part, member of the rebel delegation Osama Abu Zeid said that delegates had exited negotiations due to the lack of clarity on whether battles in rural Homs and Daraa would be put to an end. Zeid stressed that participation of the delegation will remain on halt until cessation of hostilities is realized as well as a better defined agenda for the negotiations is put forth. “On a moral level we cannot sit at the negotiations, while the (regime) bombardment of the Syrian people continues,” rebel representative at Astana, Yasser Arafat Farhan told Asharq Al-Awsat. “We presented what we can and are waiting for an answer,” he added.Russia’s failed proposal calls for the creation of “de-escalation zones” in rebel-held territory in the northwestern province of Idlib, in parts of Homs province in the center, in the south, and in the opposition enclave of Eastern Ghouta near Damascus. The aim is to “put an immediate end to the violence” and “provide the conditions for the safe, voluntary return of refugees”. The designated zones would also see the immediate delivery of relief supplies and medical assistance. A senior official from Kazakhstan’s Foreign Ministry told reporters he expected Syrian opposition figures to return to the talks on Thursday. Another diplomat close to the talks also said the rebels were not walking out completely. “I hope that tomorrow the opposition will again take part (in the talks),” Aidarbek Tumatov, a department chief at the ministry, told reporters in Astana. “The delegation has suspended its participation after presenting a memorandum for a total commitment to stopping (government) bombardments,” Ahmad Ramadan, a spokesman for the opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC), said. In the memorandum, the rebels demanded “clear implementation procedures” for matters such as enforcing a ceasefire, withdrawal of government forces from areas taken by them since Dec. 30 last year, and release of detainees. They also again insisted on Assad’s departure and objected once again to Iran’s role in the process, describing it as an “aggressor state”. Iran, along with Russia, are Assad’s main supporters against rebels trying to topple him. In a phone call on Tuesday, United States President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin sought to defuse tension arising from US air strikes on Syrian regime forces in April, expressing a wish for a ceasefire and safe zones for the civil war’s refugees.

Erdogan Says De-Escalation Plan Would 'Half Solve' Syria Conflict
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 04/17/Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said a Moscow-backed plan to set up so-called de-escalation zones inside Syria would "50 percent" solve the six-year conflict, in comments published Thursday. Erdogan on Wednesday discussed with Russian President Vladimir Putin a plan floated by Moscow for "de-escalation zones" to be set up in several areas in Syria. Speaking to Turkish reporters aboard his plane flying back from the meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Erdogan said such zones would include Idlib, part of Aleppo province, El-Rastan in Homs province, a part of Damascus and part of Daraa. "I hope that if this is implemented then 50 percent of the Syrian issue can be solved," he said in comments published on the websites of the Hurriyet and Yeni Safak dailies. Details on what the de-escalation zones would comprise have been thin so far but Erdogan described the plan as a "new concept" and distinct from Ankara's previous proposals for terror-free safe zones. Turkey and Russia have been on sharply opposing sides in the Syria conflict, with Moscow supporting President Bashar al-Assad but Ankara pushing for his ouster. Relations reached a dangerous low in November 2015 when Turkish warplanes shot down a Russian fighter jet over the Syrian border. But a normalisation deal was reached last year and the two sides have been working ever more closely in a joint effort to end the fighting in Syria. Yet tensions remain, and Erdogan said he had personally shown Putin at the talks a photograph purportedly showing Russian forces in Syria with Kurdish militia that Ankara deems to be a terror group. He said Putin promised that Russian weapons were not ending up in the hands of the Peoples' Protection Units (YPG) and vowed to investigate the picture. Turkey and Russia have also championed peace talks taking place in the Kazakh capital Astana but these hit a snag Tuesday when pro-Ankara Syrian rebels said Wednesday they were suspending their participation after air strikes. But Erdogan said the issue had been solved after intervention by Turkey's powerful intelligence chief Hakan Fidan. "Mr Hakan immediately stepped in, had discussions and the opposition were again satisfied to take part in the talks," Erdogan said. "So Astana is going to continue."

Russia, Turkey, Iran Ink Deal on Safe Zones in Syria
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 04/17/Syrian regime allies Russia and Iran and rebel supporter Turkey on Thursday signed a memorandum on a Moscow-backed plan to create safe zones in Syria to bolster a fragile truce. An AFP reporter at peace talks in the Kazakh capital Astana saw the heads of the delegations, representing the three countries sponsoring the negotiations, sign the document. However a member of the rebel delegation left the room, shouting against regime ally Iran, the AFP reporter saw. The Syrian government and rebel delegations are not signatories. The Kremlin has been touting a plan to create safe zones in Syria that is aimed to "further pacification and cessation of hostilities.""Over the past two days, the participants in the Astana talks reviewed the implementation of the ceasefire agreement and the cessation of hostilities," Kazakhstan's foreign minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov said of a frail truce brokered by Moscow and Ankara in December. "As a result the guarantor countries agreed to sign a memorandum on the creation of de-escalation zones in Syria."An Arabic-language version of the Russian draft proposal seen by AFP calls for the creation of "de-escalation zones" in rebel-held territory in the northwestern province of Idlib, in parts of Homs province in the center, in the south, and in the opposition enclave of Eastern Ghouta near Damascus. The aim is to "put an immediate end to the violence" and "provide the conditions for the safe, voluntary return of refugees" as well as the immediate delivery of relief supplies and medical aid, the document said. But issues including which countries could police any safe zones remain unclear. Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that ways to monitor the zones would be an issue for separate talks.
Boosting ceasefire
Syrian rebels said earlier Thursday that they had resumed participation in the talks after having suspended their involvement a day earlier over air strikes against civilians. After talks with Turkey counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the safe zones were meant to lead to "further pacification and cessation of hostilities."He also said the proposed zones would also be no-fly areas if fighting on the ground there stopped entirely. The Kremlin's plan echoes calls by U.S. leader Donald Trump to establish safe zones in Syria. Putin said Wednesday that "as far I could tell" the U.S. leader broadly supported the idea in a phone call they held on Tuesday. Erdogan said in comments published Thursday that Moscow's plan to set up these zones in Syria would "50 percent" solve the six-year conflict. Damascus supports the Russian plan, Syrian state news agency SANA reported. More than 320,000 people have been killed in Syria since the country's war began with anti-government protests in March 2011.

Iraq Forces Advance on ISIS’ Mosul Enclave from Northwest
Asharq Al-Awsat/May 04/17/Iraq’s armed forces opened a new front against ISIS in the city of Mosul on Thursday, advancing on the jihadists’ enclave from the northwest, a military commander and officers said. The army’s 9th Armored Division and the Rapid Response units of the Interior Ministry were headed towards the city, the commander said. Forces from the army, the interior ministry and the police “began breaching the western side from the north,” the Joint Operations Command coordinating the war against the terrorist organization also said in a statement. It said the targets of the latest push were northwestern neighborhoods on the edges of Mosul called Musharifah, Kanisah and Al-Haramat. An advance from the north will eventually leave the jihadists completely trapped in the narrow streets of the Old City, albeit with a large civilian population they have been using as human shields.The attack would help the elite Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) and Interior Ministry Federal Police troops who were painstakingly advancing from the south, the commander said. A US-led international coalition is providing key air and ground support to the offensive on Mosul, ISIS’ de facto capital in Iraq, which started in October. The militants are now besieged in the northwestern corner of Mosul which includes the historic Old City center and the Grand al-Nuri Mosque. It was from the pulpit of this mosque nearly three years ago that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a “caliphate” that also spanned parts of Syria.

Sisi, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Discuss Regional Issues, Dangers of Terrorism
Asharq Al-Awsat/May 04/17/Abu Dhabi- Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces has discussed with visiting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ways of bolstering bilateral relations as well as regional and international issues of mutual concern. Sheikh Mohamed and Sisi also discussed on Wednesday cooperation in political, economic, development and other vital spheres that are of common concern for the two countries to serve their mutual interests. They discussed crises in Yemen, Libya and Syria, the level of inter-Arab coordination and consultation about addressing these crises facing the region, as well as the dangers of terrorism and terror organizations that threaten security, stability and development in the region and the entire world. Sheikh Mohamed reiterated the keen interest of the UAE in bolstering fraternal relations with Egypt and pushing towards broadening them to achieve the interests of both countries and their people and enhance security and stability for all countries in the region. The Crown Prince reiterated the UAE’s support for Egypt and its people’s aspiration for stability and development, stressing that stability in Egypt means stability for the entire region due to its strategic and historic importance in the Arab world. The current situation in this region requires inter-Arab cooperation and solidarity that can enable the Arab nation to safeguard the security and stability of Arab states and counter common challenges the most important of which are the growing dangers of terrorism, extremism and foreign interference that aim to undermine the security and stability of regional states, he said. Sheikh Mohamed noted the UAE’s unwavering support for regional and global security and stability through positive cooperation with influential countries, in particular Egypt. He also conveyed the condolences of the UAE’s leadership and people to the Egyptian people over the victims of terrorist attacks on places of worship. He expressed his confidence in the Egyptian people’s ability to counter these cowardly acts and stand up against all evil plans to undermine the unity of Egyptians. For his part, Sisi expressed his delight at visiting the UAE and highlighted that Egypt’s leadership and people are proud of fraternal ties and cooperation with the UAE. The president further underlined the importance of continued work for developing bilateral relations at all levels, and noted that the current period poses huge challenges for all Arab states that require joint pan-Arab action to strengthen pan-Arab security.

Trump Optimistic on Achieving Peace in ME, Abbas Hopes for Historic Deal
Heba El Koudsy/Asharq Al-Awsat/May 04/17/United States President Donald Trump vowed on Wednesday to work on brokering peace between Israel and the Palestinians as he hosted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House.In their first direct meeting, Trump pressed Palestinian leaders to “speak in a unified voice against incitement” to violence against Israelis but he stopped short of explicitly recommitting his administration to a two-state solution to the decades-old conflict. As an “intermediary”, “referee,” “facilitator,” “lead to peace”, Trump stressed that repeated failures in the past did not necessarily mean that the task was impossible. “We will get this done,” Trump told Abbas during a joint appearance at the White House, saying he was prepared to act as a mediator, facilitator or arbitrator between the two sides. Abbas quickly reasserted the goal of a Palestinian state as vital to any rejuvenated peace process, reiterating that it must have its capital in Jerusalem with borders based on pre-1967 lines. Trump faced deep skepticism at home and abroad over his chances for a breakthrough with Abbas, not least because the new US administration has yet to articulate a cohesive strategy for restarting the moribund peace process. Abbas’ White House talks follow a mid-February visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who moved quickly to reset ties after a frequently combative relationship with the Republican president’s predecessor, Democratic President Barack Obama. Trump sparked international criticism at the time when he appeared to back away from support for a two-state solution, saying he would leave it up to the parties themselves to decide. The goal of a Palestinian state living peacefully beside Israel has been the position of successive US administrations and the international community. “I’ve always heard that perhaps the toughest deal to make is between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” Trump said on Wednesday. “Let’s see if we can prove them wrong.” But he offered no new policy prescriptions. Palestinians hope that Trump will succeed in reaching a comprehensive peace in the region. “If the United States and the international community are serious about ending violence and terrorism, the basic premise is to eliminate the occupation,” said Abbas Spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeina. “The Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories in 1967 must be put to an end and all prisoners freed. East Jerusalem is the capital of Palestinian people,” he added. For his part, head of Hamas’ political bureau, Khaled Mashaal urged Trump to seize the opportunity and motivate a Middle East peace process which reaches a just solution for all Palestinians.
In his interview with CNN, Mashaal said that Trump has a “historic opportunity” to find an “equitable solution” for the Palestinian people. “This is a historic opportunity to pressure Israel.. to find an equitable solution for the Palestinian people,” he said. “And it will be to the credit of the civilized world and the American administration to stop the darkness that we have been suffering from for many years.” “This is a plea from me to the Trump administration — the new American administration — break out from the wrong approaches of the past and which did not arrive at a result. And perhaps to grab the opportunity presented by Hamas’ document,” Mashaal said.

Kuwait: Court Rejects Appeal to Dissolve Parliament
Mirza Al-Khuwaylidi/Asharq Al-Awsat/May 04/17/Kuwait – Kuwait’s Constitutional Court rejected on Wednesday the petition to annul the parliamentary elections of 2016, upholding the current legislative term.
The court also rejected 47 appeals against the results of the last elections, declared Faraj al-Arbeed as the winner of the elections and cancelled the membership of Marzouq al-Khalifa.
With this decision, the National Assembly averted the crisis of annulment that has been looming since the 2016 elections. The Assembly has been dissolved ten times since it was originally formed in 1963. The first was in 1976 and the last in 2016 when Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah issued a decree to dissolve the assembly after several lawmakers submitted requests to debrief the Ministers of Finance and Justice. On November 26, the Assembly held elections when 50 MPs representing the five constituencies won. The court pointed out that the procedures for dissolving the previous parliament and call for new elections are correct. It added that any error or miscount of a certain candidate’s votes doesn’t affect the results of the whole elections, but rather that of this specific MP and it is the court’s duty to correct the inaccuracy. The court didn’t accept 10 challenges and rejected 42 other appeals on the 2016 elections. Justice Minister Faleh al-Azeb predicted the court’s decision to stabilize relations between the government and the parliament. He asserted the court ruling confirms that the government’s decisions to dissolve the previous Parliament and call for elections were sound. “We believe everyone will calm down and we are now headed towards achievements,” Azeb added. Speaking at a press conference, Azeb said that the relations between the two authorities are a bit rocky, but hoped that after the decision things would settle. He indicated that both authorities will do what is best for the country and its people. Assembly Speaker Marzouk al-Ghanim welcomed the verdict saying it will pave the way for political stability in the country. He said that the court’s decisions are always respected by everyone. Ghanim reiterated the importance of everyone working together to ensure stability, and restated his request for both executive and legislative authorities of cooperating according to Article 50 of the Kuwaiti constitution to help find a solution for all issues that concerns the people.

Israel Threatens to Evict UN from its East Jerusalem Headquarters
Asharq Al-Awsat/May 04/17/Tel Aviv- The Israeli government slammed UNESCO on Wednesday over a resolution on Israeli occupation, considering the UN organization’s move anti-Semitic and threatening to oust it from its east Jerusalem headquarters in the Armon HaNatziv neighborhood.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel would cut $1 million from its UN funding over the resolution he says denies Jews’ historical connection with Jerusalem. “UNESCO again accepted an absurd resolution yesterday about the status of Jerusalem — the capital of the Jewish people for 3,000 years,” Netanyahu said at the opening of a cabinet meeting. “This systematic harassment has a price,” said Netanyahu, telling ministers he had ordered the foreign ministry to “cut an additional $1 million from the money Israel transfers to the UN.” Wednesday’s cut was the third time in recent months Israel reduced its UN budget over what it perceived as anti-Israel votes, putting this year’s payments at $2.7 million. Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin called on foreign ambassadors to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. “Most of you are younger than me,” Rivlin stated. “You have been born into a reality where Jerusalem is the capital city of Israel and you don’t know any other reality. Since the days of King David, there wasn’t and there won’t be another reality. The time has come to end this absurdity and to recognize Jerusalem as the capital city of the State of Israel,” Rivlin told the diplomats. Likud ruling party officials also urged Netanyahu in a letter they sent to him to oust the UN from its current headquarters. The UNESCO resolution passed Tuesday at the organization’s Paris headquarters denounced actions taken by “Israel, the occupying power… to alter the character and status of the holy city of Jerusalem.”It particularly criticized Israel’s annexation of east Jerusalem after occupying it in 1967, a move never recognized by the international community.

Arab Organization: 19 Journalists Killed in Yemen in 2 Years
Asharq Al-Awsat/May 04/17/The organization added that seven of these journalists were killed in gunfire and rocket attacks by Houthi and Saleh militias. Rights Radar organization for human rights in Arab world released a report entitled: “Yemen: Suppressing Voices,” which addresses issues of violations of press freedom and freedom of expression in Yemen from mid-2014 until the end of the first quarter of 2017. The report mentioned that 22 journalists working in the media remain in detention centers, including one detained by AQAP militants and a further 21 detained in Houthi and Saleh prisons. The report includes an executive summary on the status of press freedom and violations in Yemen during the past 30 months and a brief presentation of the most prominent cases of killings, kidnappings, arrests, and trials. Amongst these violations was the issuing of a death sentence against the prominent journalist Yahya Abdul-Raqeeb al-Jubaihi. It highlights how the freedom of the press in Yemen faced its worst time in the years of 2015 and 2016. “Press in Yemen is stained with blood, susceptible to abuse, killing, suppression, and death sentences,” said the report. “Detained journalists in Yemen are subjected to the worst forms of torture and face death sentences by the Houthis and Saleh militias in Sana’a.”

Washington Vows to Destroy Qaeda in Yemen
Badr Al-Qahtani/Asharq Al-Awsat/May 04/17/London- Leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) Qasim al-Raymi took about 60 days to engage in an extended dialogue in which analysts said he showed weakness and disarray. The Qaeda offshoot is said to face its darkest days in Yemen, analysts added.Up-to-date and official statements credit Washington for staging over 90 raids in two months. Raymi exhibited a desire to find a way to halt the United States strikes, analysts said when reviewing the AQAP chief’s speech. A US State Department spokesman made a brief statement to Asharq Al-Awsat saying that Washington will not roll back on its decision to disrupt and destroy AQAP presence in Yemen. Oxford University’s oriental studies faculty member Elisabeth Kendall, who wrote a paper on AQAP and ISIS in Yemen, said that Raymi’s tone mirrored AQAP anxiety under pressure, he resorted to stretching the truth when revisiting resistance Qaeda militants put up against the US strike on January 29 in the Yakla area of the Al Bayda province in central Yemen.
Elaborating on a set of questions emailed to her by Asharq Al-Awsat, Kendall said that AQAP is struck with deep paranoia, which is obvious in their attempt to promote the idea of Iran-aligned Houthis coordinating with US forces. Since the US administration stepped up its efforts against the terror group, it proportionally resulted in the Qaeda branch intensifying its anti-US propaganda, and away from their original antagonists, the Houthis. AQAP media is going out of its way to portray US strikes as a “war on Islam”. In the interview, conducted last March and aired towards the end of April, Raymi echoed the organization’s disintegration and rivalry with its terrorist counterpart ISIS. Kendall notes that Raymi’s comments on singling out “Islamic” groups being determined by the pretext of a common enemy could be hinting an understanding being underway between AQAP and ISIS gunmen in Yemen. “I think that at this stage, Raymi is trying to reshuffle the cards, trying to draw on alleged common interests between Yemeni tribes and pro-coalition members and AQAP is desperate,” said the Yemeni political analyst and researcher Baraa Shiban.
“Raymi is trying to remind people that he still exists, and I believe that he wants to embarrass the Arab coalition and the Yemeni government in front of their international allies,” he added. “The AQAP chief’s allegations were picked up by many Western media. Instead of questioning claims made by a terrorist, Western media reported news stories wrongly claiming that AQAP has joined ranks with pro-US groups in Yemen,” Shiban said. Eager to strike an alliance, Raymi claimed that his group is fighting off Iran-backed Houthis, a common enemy with the Yemeni government. Many Yemeni government officials warned that the AQAP leader has made arrangements with Houthi leaders to further complicate the scene in Yemen. But recent strikes stand to prove that alliances in Yemen are as clear and solid as ever, with Washington coordinating with the internationally recognized government and the Saudi-led Arab coalition against Iran-aligned putschists. The Yakla raid earlier in January was an example of procedural coordination and collaboration between groups supporting the legitimate authorities in Yemen and the US. Authorized by US President Donald Trump, the operation’s goal was to gather intelligence on AQAP and also, as claimed by unnamed sources, target the group’s leader Raymi.

Fundamentalists’ Lawyer in Jordan: ‘More than 5,000 People Joined Extremist Groups’
Thaer Abbas/Asharq Al-Awsat/May 04/17/ISIS capturing a pilot from Jordan, the first hostage from the coalition battling them. Reuters. Amman – Lawyer of extremists groups Musa al-Abdallat said on Wednesday that the number of Jordanians who joined ISIS, al-Nusra Front and Jund al-Aqsa (Liwa al-Aqsa) has exceeded 5,000 people and 80 percent of them have joined ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Abdallat told Asharq Al-Awsat that there are around 800 thousand Jordanian in ranks of Nusra Front, noting that the number of Jordanians who have been killed in Syria and Iraq has amounted to 2,200 during the battles there. He explained that those have joined the terrorist groups since the beginning of the Syrian crisis as they crossed the Syrian-Jordanian borders before the Jordanian forces took control over the borders and used cameras and long-range night radars with a range of more than 12 kilometers. There were Jordanians who resided in Syria and most of whom settled in Yarmouk camp south of Damascus and hundreds of them joined ISIS and Nusra Front. In addition, there were also Jordanians who resided in Iraq and fled in 2003 to Syria and other Kurdish areas where dozens of them joined ISIS, according to Abdallat. The lawyer pointed out that there are 85 members of the Salafist movement, who were being tried over Zarqa incidents that took place in April 2011, got killed in Syria after they were released on bail as they fled Jordan through its borders with Syria.
He said that the case of those killed in Syria remains open before the State Security Court because there are no death certificates submitted to the court or a certificate certified by an official body in Syria to confirm their death. In a common matter, the State Security Court (SSC) on Wednesday held two separate hearings for two women charged with promoting ISIS. In the first case, the SSC charged a 19-year-old woman with promoting ISIS ideologies after she was arrested in February for a friendship with a former teacher who reportedly supports ISIS, according to what a Jordanian judicial source told Asharq Al-Awsat. In the second hearing, a 31-year-old woman, who was also arrested in February, was accused of creating a Facebook page through which she started a friendship with an Egyptian national who allegedly “convinced” her of ISIS ideologies.
The court adjourned the sessions until next week to enable the defendants to present their defense statements.


Jerusalem Post/May 04/17
During a meeting with the Romanian PM the day after Abbas met Trump, Netanyahu reiterates Jerusalem's positive inclination to step up approach to peace talks.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday said he looked forward to talking with US President Donald Trump about the best way to advance peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
He spoke just one day after Trump announced the start of a new peace process during a joint press conference with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Washington. The US president is due to visit Israel later this month.
A desire for peace is something Israel "fervently shares with the President."
But Netanyahu objected to the comments Abbas made the day before.
"I heard President Abbas yesterday say that Palestinians teach their children peace. That's unfortunately not true. They name their schools after mass murders of Israelis and they pay terrorists," he said. "But I hope that it's possible to achieve a change and to pursue a genuine peace. This is something Israel is always ready for. I'm always ready for genuine peace," Netanyahu said.
The premier made the remarks during a meeting with Romanian Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu in Jerusalem. He also stated that discussing an approach to advancing peace talks was a priority that both the government in Jerusalem and Trump seek. "This is something we fervently share with the President."
Meanwhile in Brussels, Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) was expected on Thursday afternoon to attend a high-level meeting — the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee — with representatives from the PA, the European Union, the United States and the United Nations.
The annual spring meeting, which coordinates donor funding to the PA, will be hosted by High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini and chaired by Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende.
On the sidelines of that meeting, US special envoy Jason Greenblatt is expected to update Hanegbi on Trump's talk with Abbas in Washington.
“Abu Mazen [Abbas] arrived in Washington as he continues to transfer money to the families of terrorists. It’s clear to anyone who is intelligent that Abu Mazen isn’t interested in peace,” Hotovely said. Those payments, along with incitement in Palestinian textbooks, prove that Abbas is not interested in striking a deal with Israel, Hotovely added. She also took issue with Abbas’s call for Israel to end the “occupation.” “The nation of Israel isn’t an occupier in its land. We have been deeply rooted to our land for 3,000 years and we will continue to settle the land,” she added.
In Israel, a skeptical MK Shuli Moalem-Refael (Bayit Yehudi) said the idea of a two-state solution had long been dead. “Only the obsession remains," she said.
“Trump can’t achieve anything here beyond cocktail chatter with Israelis and Palestinians diplomats,” Moalem-Refaeli said.
The PA doesn’t want peace or an agreement, she added.
MK Omer Bar Lev (Zionist Union) immediately offered Netanyahu the support of his party from the opposition for any measures he would need to take in moving forward with the peace process.
MK Erel Margalit (Zionist Union) called on the Left in Israel to put forward its own initiative to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict rather than wait for Trump to be its “messiah.”
Former Israeli foreign minister MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) told Israel Radio on Thursday that she also opposed payments to the families of Palestinians terrorists.
But Trump was serious about wanting peace and that there was enough support for it in the Knesset, she said. If Netanyahu wants, he could take "dramatic" steps and pass a peace deal, she said.
"We have an obligation to try to make peace," she continued. To those who feel that Abbas is the problem, she went on to add, Abbas does not increase the chances for peace, he decreases them. "There is a president who wants a deal, one that can't be painted as anti-Israel," Livni said.

Macron 'Convinces' Majority of French Viewers in TV Debate
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 04/17/French centrist Emmanuel Macron impressed more viewers than his far-right rival Marine Le Pen in a fiery TV debate, a poll found Thursday, underlining his status as the favorite for this weekend's presidential runoff. The candidates clashed repeatedly over terrorism, the economy and Europe in Wednesday's hot-tempered debate that was watched by 16.5 million people. A poll by French broadcaster BFMTV found that 63 percent of viewers thought Macron was the "most convincing" of the two, broadly mirroring the forecast result for the decisive election on Sunday. The duel was billed as a confrontation between Macron's call for openness and pro-market reforms and Le Pen's France-first nationalism. Le Pen branded the former economy minister and investment banker "the candidate of the elite" and the "darling of the system". Macron responded by describing the 48-year-old scion of the National Front (FN) as "the heir of a system which has prospered from the fury of the French people for decades". "The high priestess of fear is sitting before me," he said. The 39-year-old frequently branded Le Pen a liar and even a "parasite of the system", who he said lived off the frustrations of France's stalled political system. On Europe, Le Pen accused Macron of being "submissive" towards German Chancellor Angela Merkel, saying: "France will be led by a woman, either me or Mrs Merkel."She also accused Macron of an "indulgent attitude" towards Islamic fundamentalism and constantly sought to remind viewers of his role as a minister in unpopular President Francois Hollande's Socialist government. But Macron was in combative form throughout, repeatedly portraying Le Pen's stance as simplistic, defeatist or dangerous and targeting her proposals to withdraw France from the euro in particular. The euro policy "was the big nonsense of Marine Le Pen's programme," he said midway through the 140-minute debate. Le Pen called the euro, shared by 19 countries in the European Union and blamed by some in France for a rise in prices, as "the currency of bankers, it's not the people's currency". Like much of the French press, Le Monde said the debate had been "brutal" and "violent from start to finish".Former Socialist prime minister Manuel Valls said Le Pen "showed her true face" in the debate and "it's worrying". No Le Pen progression -Trailing in the polls, the debate was probably Le Pen's last chance to change the dynamics of the race ahead of the final weekend of a long and unpredictable campaign. But the poll by Elabe for BFMTV showing that Macron had convinced 63 percent of viewers compared to 34 percent for Le Pen suggests she did little to win over new support. Macron would win around 60 percent to 40 percent if the vote were held now, surveys suggest. On Thursday, Macron was holding a campaign event in the southwest town of Albi while Le Pen was heading to Ennemain in the north.
The TV duel marked a new step into the mainstream for Le Pen, whose party was once considered by France's political establishment to be an extremist fringe that should be boycotted. When her father Jean-Marie Le Pen made it into the final round of the presidential election in 2002, his conservative opponent Jacques Chirac refused to debate with him out of fear of "normalising hate and intolerance". In the first round of the election on April 23, Marine Le Pen finished second scoring 21.3 percent after softening the FN's image over the past six years -- but without fully removing doubt about the party's core beliefs. She sees her rise as the consequence of growing right-wing nationalism and a backlash against globalisation seen in the election of Donald Trump in the United States and Britain's shock vote to leave the European Union. "I am the candidate of the people of France such as we love it, of the nation that protects jobs, security, our borders," she said in her opening comments. - Abstention factor -The debate was unlikely to have swayed any committed supporters of either candidate, but it could influence the roughly 18 percent of undecided voters and others who were planning to abstain. Many supporters of Communist-backed candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, who came fourth in the first round, have said they will not vote on Sunday, comparing the final round as a choice between "the plague and cholera". Macron quit Hollande's government last August to concentrate on his new centrist political movement En Marche, which has drawn 250,000 members in 12 months.

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 04-05/17
Canada: Sold to the Highest Foreign Bidder
Shabnam Assadollahi/Gatestone Institute/May 04/17

In April, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that ISIS supporters have the right to defend their freedom, and was reported to have referred to Evangelical Christians as the "worst part of Canadian society." These remarks came after is after he remained silent when Jewish centers received bomb threats, and despite Canada's imams regularly calling for the annihilation of Jews.
Even more disturbing is a technical loophole in the Canada Elections Act. The law allows foreign entities to make contributions to Canadian candidates. This means that players such as Iran or Saudi Arabia will be able to further their agendas through a particular politician, as long as they pump him with funds for six months and a day prior to his official bid for office.
A journalist was taken to task recently for calling Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau an inelegant name during a press conference. In response, Josh Sigurdson justified his behavior in a YouTube video:
"The state-run media got to ask [Trudeau] questions -- pre-screened ones, at that... How is it journalism to ask pre-selected questions of a politician? Restricting opposition, restricting free speech... pretending to stand for women while sending money to governments and dictatorships who stone women to death for driving and kill gays ... that is the definition of scumbag."
Although many might not have used that exact word to describe Trudeau, one might sympathize with the sentiment behind it.
As a Canadian citizen who was born in Iran and watched my country come under the Islamist regime of the Ayatollah Khomeini, it is not hard to spot a tyrant. It is not hard for Trudeau, either, apparently. Three years ago, as head of the opposition, he told a group of women in Toronto: "There is a level of admiration that I actually have for China, because their basic dictatorship is allowing them to turn their economy around on a dime..."
More recently, last November, Trudeau issued a statement about the death of Fidel Castro; he called the former Cuban dictator "remarkable" and a "larger than life leader who served his people."
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said three years go: "There is a level of admiration that I actually have for China, because their basic dictatorship is allowing them to turn their economy around on a dime." In November, he called Fidel Castro "remarkable" and a "larger than life leader who served his people." (Image source: U.S. Air Force)
After taking over the leadership of the country, Trudeau not only withdrew Canada's participation from the U.S.-led bombing of ISIS strongholds in Iraq and Syria, but months later -- a day after the March 22, 2016 Brussels suicide bombings that left 32 innocent people dead -- he announced that Canada was "not at war with ISIS."
This April, Trudeau said that ISIS supporters have the right to defend their freedom, and was reported to have referred to Evangelical Christians as the "worst part of Canadian society." These remarks came after is after he remained silent when Jewish centers received bomb threats and when the country's imams regularly call for the annihilation of Jews. Trudeau, in March, slammed a video posted to YouTube that offered a $1,000 reward for recordings of Muslim students at schools in a district of Ontario that were "spewing hate speech" during Friday prayer. "Canadians have understood that our differences are a source of strength, not a source of weakness," Trudeau said at a press conference, after the release of the video. Prime Minister Trudeau has been supportive of Muslim prayers in the secular school board, where prayers and students preaching and will be unsupervised.
Prime Minister Trudeau has also been trying to change the rules of the Commons to fit his schedule and strip the opposition of its power to hold him accountable, interim leader Rona Ambrose charged. Apparently he has been trying to limit the ability of the opposition to debate him in Parliament prior to the passage of proposed bills.
Even more disturbing is a technical loophole in the Canada Elections Act, now being brought to the fore by Trudeau's camp. The law allows foreign entities to make contributions to Canadian candidates. This means that players such as Iran or Saudi Arabia will be able to further their agendas through a particular politician, as long as they pump him with funds for six months and a day prior to his official bid for office.
With the entrance into the country of thousands of illegal immigrants and asylum-seekers with criminal records -- thanks to the increasingly dictatorial policies of Trudeau and his Liberal Party strongmen -- this legal loophole leaves Canada wide open to extreme political change, and not for the better.
Shabnam Assadollahi is an award-winning human rights advocate, public speaker, freelance writer and journalist.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Iran's Forward Operating Base against the U.S.
Thomas Quiggin/Gatestone Institute/May 04/17
Iran's aim is to use American's northern neighbour, Canada, as a "forward operating base" for influence operations against the American government.
The Trudeau government has shown both a past and present affinity for dictatorial governments. Trudeau himself said he admires the government of the Peoples Republic of China and their "basic dictatorship." He publicly mourned the passing of Cuban President Fidel Castro. The statement made no note of the 60-plus years of dictatorship, and Cuba's brutal suppression of human rights.
Among its teachings, the Ontario Jaffari Mosque's school suggested that boys should play sports so they can be "physically be ready for jihad whenever the time comes for it." Girls, on the other hand, were told that they should "stick to hobbies that prepare them to become wives and mothers.
Iran and its Islamist regime is currently making a major effort to expand its footprint in Canada. Their aim is to use American's northern neighbour as a "forward operating base" for influence operations against the American government. In a recent video, Hassan Abbasi, a leadership figure in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), was boasting about a "guerilla movement of Iranian agents living and working in the United States." Iran, he says, is leading a clandestine army of potential martyrs within the US.
This does not seem to be an isolated event. Iranian diplomat Hamid Mohammadi said in 2012 there were many Iranian-Canadians "working in influential government positions" and called on others to "occupy high-level and key positions."
Given Iran's history of exporting violence and terrorism, that Iranians on both sides of the border are discussing how they are infiltrating North America should be of concern.
Iran has been forced to recalibrate its efforts during the past decade due to the shifting views of Canadian and American governments. The Obama Administration (2009-2017) gave virtual free rein to Iranian agents of influence. They were supported by a variety of Administration insiders such as Valerie Jarrett. When the Iranian Navy seized ten US Navy sailors and photographed them in humiliating positions, Vice President Joseph Biden described this as "just standard nautical practice". Predictably, Iran forced a US Navy female sailor to wear a hijab , possibly as a way of showing male dominance over an American female.
The government of Canada had earlier allowed Iranian agents such as Faisal Larijani to build infrastructure and support. This included the Center for Iranian Studies, located in Toronto at 290 Sheppard Ave. W., which was incorporated in January 2008.
When Prime Minister Harper (2006-2015) was elected, governmental support for Iran quickly dropped, culminating in the shuttering of the Iranian Embassy in 2012, using, as the leverage to remove them, the newly enacted "Justice for the Victims of Terrorism Act".
The current situation has now reversed itself. The newly elected Trump Administration appears to be taking a much harder stand against Iran while Canadian Prime Minster Trudeau is committed to outreach to Iran and a possible re-opening of the Canadian and Iranian Embassies.
Today's Iran
Iran remains listed as one of three global state sponsors of terrorism, along with Syria and Sudan, according to the US State Department. Canada also lists the Qods Force as a terrorism entity and states that it "is the clandestine branch of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) responsible for extraterritorial operations, and for exporting the Iranian Revolution through activities such as facilitating terrorist operations."
In addition, Iran also has one of the most dismal human rights records of any country. Human Rights Watch and others say that the human rights situation in Iran is "dire." Under the rule of the Ayatollahs, Iranian women confront serious discrimination on issues such as marriage, divorce, and child custody. Women have been sent to jail for publicly speaking out in favor of equal rights for women.
Canada and the Trudeau Government -- Unclear Intentions
According to Canada's former Foreign Minister Stephan Dion (2015-2016), official talks with Iran on re-establishing diplomatic ties have already begun. This is not a surprise; Prime Minister Trudeau campaigned on the issue of doing just that. Some Canadian sanctions against Iran have already been lifted, as of February 2016. Canada also downgraded its warning against all travel to Iran -- despite ongoing arrests and the torture of a variety of Canadians and others.
Trudeau's interest in re-establishing ties with Iran is not new. In 2014, while a Member of Parliament, Justin Trudeau gave an interview to the Montreal-based newspaper Sada al-Mashrek. This paper is openly known to be Khomeinist in nature and supports Iran (as well as Hezbollah). That Trudeau would speak to such a paper in the year before an election suggests he was already reaching out to Iranian regime support in Canada. During this interview, Trudeau also told the paper that he would have a special immigration program that was more open to "Muslims and Arabs."
Foreign Minister, Chrystia Freeland, was appointed in 2017. Her views seem slightly more nuanced, but there has been no indication that she will not pursue the re-opening of the Canadian embassy in Iran or that of Iran in Canada. A spokesperson for Freeland put it this way in March of 2017:
"We maintain our firm commitment to the human rights of Iranians. We continue to oppose Iran's support for terrorist organizations, its threats toward Israel, and its ballistic missile program."
By contrast, she also stated:
"With these amendments to Canadian sanctions against Iran, Canadian companies will now be able to position themselves for new trade opportunities, but we will also maintain rigorous controls on any exports that raise serious proliferation concerns."
Liberal Member of Parliament Majid Jowhari hosted a delegation of three members of Iran's parliament in his home. The delegation included MPs Alim Yarmohammadi, Yonathan Betkolia and Mehrdad Lahooti and Ali Bahraini, who is listed as secretary of a development committee. While Joseph Pickerill, a spokesperson for then Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion, said that the delegation was not an official visit, such a highly unusual meeting raised eyebrows.
Most recently, the Iran Canada Business Council and Export Quebec hosted a meeting on business opportunities in Iran after the lifting of sanctions. Among those invited to participate in this March 28, 2017 Montreal meeting (by Skype) was Medhi Karbasian, Iran's Deputy Minister of Industry, Mining and Trade. He is also the Chairman of MIDRO (Iranian Mines and Mining Industries Development and Renovation Organization), all of which appear to have commercial ties to the IRGC. Karbasian, has "a longstanding direct involvement in government companies."
"His resume reads like a sanctions list -- at one point he was board member of UN-sanctioned IRISL; a board member of US- and EU-sanctioned NITC; chairs the US-sanctioned Parsian Bank; and, most importantly perhaps, vice-chairman on Kharazmi's board as representative of Sepehr Energy Co., a recently formed private energy company controlled by Bank Saderat."
All offices of Bank Saderat worldwide are considered to be IRGC-designated affiliates.
Iran and its Current Khomeinist Representatives in Canada
Imam Rizvi, of the Jaffari Mosque in Thornhill, Ontario, is one of the leading proponents of the Iranian/Khomeinist ideology in Canada. He speaks to support the government of Iran and believes that the Khomeinist interpretation of Shia Islam is to take precedence over all matters. At a 2012 Carleton University conference, he stated:
"Khomeini had proved that Islam is not just a religion of prayers and personal laws that only deals with matters of divorce and inheritance, rather it is a complete code of life that can govern all aspects of society — spiritual, material, as well as personal, social, economic and political aspects."
The conference had been run to celebrate the anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Khomeini and was titled "The Contemporary Awakening and Imam Khomeini's Thoughts."
Consistent with his Khomeinist masters, Imam Rizvi also believes and advocates that sex with 9-year-old girls is acceptable, as long as it occurs within munqati' (temporary) or da'im (permanent) marriage. His book on Marriage and Morals in Islam also says that girls/women can be entered into temporary marriages, apparently from the age of nine and upwards. In the eyes of many, 'temporary marriage' or muta is another word for prostitution. These muta marriages may be occurring now at the Jaffari Mosque.
Imam Rizvi, of the Jaffari Mosque in Ontario, is a leading proponent of the Iranian/Khomeinist ideology in Canada. He believes and advocates that sex with 9-year-old girls is acceptable, as long as it occurs within munqati' (temporary) or da'im (permanent) marriage. (Image source: IslamiCentre video screenshot)
One of three schools run by the mysteriously well-funded Jaffari Mosque was also shut down during a 2012 hate crimes investigation. The teaching materials used by the mosque were from Iran (the Al Balagh Foundation) and from the Mostazafan Foundation of New York, which is identified as an arm of the Iranian government. Among its teachings, the mosque's school suggested that boys should play sports so they can be "physically be ready for jihad whenever the time comes for it." Girls, on the other hand, were told that they should "stick to hobbies that prepare them to become wives and mothers."
Iran and Canada: An Awkward Embrace?
Canada and Iran have an unhappy history with respect to the treatment of each other's citizens. Iran beat, raped and tortured to death in 2003 Canadian citizen and freelance photographer Zahra Kazemi. Her "crime" was being a woman and having taken picture of a demonstration in 2003 in Tehran. Currently, Iran is holding Abdolrasoul Dorri Esfahani, an Iranian-Canadian. He is a member of the Ontario Institute of Chartered Accountants and a former adviser to Iran's Central Bank. He was, by all accounts directly involved in the $1.7 billion cash-for-hostages deal. He was indicted on spying charges in early March 2017. Canada, on the other hand, still has Mahmoud Reza Khavari Ban. He is believed to be responsible for a $2.6 billion fraud case which he helped orchestrated through several Iranian banks. One of the banks involved, Bank Melli, is believed to be an IRGC/Quds Force front and was involved in funding terrorism activities.
Khavari had been a citizen of Canada since 2005 but returned to Iran shortly after getting his citizenship. The fraud in Iran apparently began in 2007, shortly after his return to his native country. This raises the question of whether Khavari sought Canadian citizenship earlier as a means of having a refuge after defrauding Iran. Either way, Khavari fled back to Canada in 2011 after details of the fraud began to emerge. Khavari's return and his kid-glove treatment by the government of Canada suggest to some that he must have struck some sort of deal with the government, perhaps in exchange for insider information on the government of Iran or its embassy in Canada.
The Iranian embassy in Canada closed in 2012, not that long after his arrival. No concrete links have been drawn between the two events. Iran, however, still has an Interpol "Red Notice" on Khavari and still wants his extradition as of October 2016.
How Prime Minister Trudeau would handle this case in the event of the reopening of Iran's Embassy in Ottawa is not clear. It would appear to be a major stumbling block to re-establishing normal relations. For Canada to allow extradition, Iran would have to waive the death penalty that is currently hanging over the head of Mr. Khavari. Iran has executed several other senior executives who were involved in the fraud, so this seems unlikely.
Iran shows every sign of doing a "full court press" on Canada to increase its footprint in Canada and provide it a forward operating base on the border of the USA. The Trudeau government, for its part, has shown both a past and present affinity for dictatorial governments. Trudeau himself says he admires the Government of the Peoples Republic of China and their "basic dictatorship." He publicly mourned the passing of Cuban President Fidel Castro in an official government statement describing him as "larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century." He also stated that the Cuban people had a deep and lasting affection for "el Comandante". The statement made no note of the 60-plus years of dictatorship, Cuba's brutal suppression of human rights nor its systemic persecution of gays.
Trudeau's brother and political advisor is Alexandre "Sacha" Trudeau. Sacha Trudeau and the Iranian state-owned PressTV co-produced a fawning documentary entitled, "The New Great Game," which stated that Iran's nuclear program is for "defensive" purposes only, serving as an effective "deterrent" against Israeli "aggression" and belligerence. In an earlier documentary ("The Fence"), Sacha Trudeau profiled Zakaria Zubeidi, then leader of the terrorist group Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades portraying him as a Robin Hood-like "leader of the resistance."
Given the history of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and based on his time in office to date, it appears likely that Iran will increase its influence activities in Canada, a dangerous development for the USA as it moves to confront Iran.
Tom Quiggin, a court qualified expert on terrorism and practical intelligence, is based in Canada.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

The Middle East: Problems Real and Fake
Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/May 04/17
We have also found ourselves with an a ruthless, expansionist Iran, the preeminent objective of which is to exploit the disarray to take over the Saudi oil fields and the Middle East.
Thus the question of to whom Abu Musa [an Island seized by Iran] belonged was effectively answered, not in an international court of law, as the situation demanded, but by Iranian effrontery and American weakness.
More globally problematic, if America no longer wants to be the "world's policeman," Sunni countries will be cozying up to Russia or China or whatever country looks as if it will fill the ghastly vacuum into which America's allies have been thrown. There is, dangerously, no shortage of candidates for the position of word hegemon; they are all, however, expansionist, authoritarian and anti-democratic.
Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has shown with sophisticated leadership that he understands the danger his country is in. Iran has its sights set on Saudi Arabia.
The problem is that just as U.S. President Barack Obama was incapable of admitting that extremist Islam is what drives global terrorism, his administration seemed totally incapable of recognizing the true objectives of the Iran's military buildup, missiles and nuclear program. Instead, the Obama Administration toadied up to Iran, lavishly bankrolled the leading state sponsor of terrorism and permitted it, in a deceptive, agreement still unsigned by Iran, to build a nuclear weapons capability. Meanwhile, as Iran's leaders threaten to destroy Israel and the United States, what they are actually planning is the complete control of the Arabian Peninsula.
The lowest clerk in the CIA knows that for years Iran has been doing its utmost to subvert and destabilize the Arabian Peninsula, take Shi'ite control of Islam's shrines in Mecca and Madinah, to dominate the sea lanes and oil reserves, and, following a plan of "today the Middle East, tomorrow the world," to expel both the Americans and Saudis from the Hijaz: the western part of the Saudi Peninsula, formerly an independent kingdom, and where the Shi'ites and the major oil fields sit.
Iran also continues to pull the strings of its proxies, Qatar and Oman. From combination of self-interest and fear of Iran, they acquiesce to Iranian control. Others will follow. The entire region is increasingly anxious lest the Americans abandon the Arabian Peninsula altogether.
The lowest clerk in the CIA knows that for years Iran has been doing its utmost to subvert and destabilize the Arabian Peninsula, take Shi'ite control of Islam's shrines in Mecca (pictured) and Madinah, and to dominate the sea lanes and oil reserves. (Image source: Ariandra/Wikimedia Commons)
More problematic, if America no longer wants to be the "world's policeman," Sunni countries will start cozying up to Russia or China or whatever country looks as if it will fill the ghastly vacuum into which America's allies have been thrown. There is, dangerously, no shortage of candidates for the position of word hegemon; they are all, however, expansionist, authoritarian and anti-democratic.
If American thinks it can just retreat into isolationism and be left alone, it has a rude surprise coming.
On the surface, Qatar and Oman represent interests identical to those of the Sunni Arab states, but they do nothing to support their Sunni Arab brothers, and even stab them in the back. Qatar, or instance, which finances the Muslim Brotherhood, subverts the Arab regimes, and uses its Al-Jazeera TV to promote Iranian incitement and hate propaganda.
Oman, for its part, conspires with Iran and will eventually sacrifice the entire region to Iranian hegemony.
Iran's activities in the Arabian Peninsula are invasive: it is attempting to dismantle the region piece by piece. In 1971, Iran took control of three islands belonging to Bahrain -- Abu Musa and Greater and Lesser Tunb -- and has now turned them into military bases that threaten the Strait of Hormuz and control naval traffic in the Gulf. In 2012 Iran's former president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, provocatively went to the island of Abu Musa to prove it belonged to Iran. Thus the question of to whom Abu Musa belonged was in effect answered, not in an international court of law, as the situation demanded, but by Iranian effrontery and American weakness.
Since then, Iran's daring and America's stupidity have known no bounds, not in the Arabian Peninsula and not in the Persian Gulf. Iran continues to challenge the U.S. Navy, take its sailors hostage and swarm its ships. Iran is openly trying to take over Yemen to establish itself on Saudi Arabia's southern border for a future ground assault.
Iran has also repeatedly declared, in yet another potential takeover, that Bahrain is its 14th province. Years ago Iran was fortunately prevented from doing so by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, before he was abandoned by the Americans and dumped from office in favor of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.[1]
The Iranians are also behind the terrorism and slaughter in Syria and Iraq.[2] The result has been a tidal wave of refugees from Syria and Iraq. About half a million Syrians have been killed in the Syrian civil war so far and about five million refugees have left, effectively emptying the country.
In Syria, the Iranians are behind the terrorism and murder through Hezbollah in Lebanon, and are also active in Libya, Egypt and the Gaza Strip, where they finance and arm terrorist organizations such as the Sunni Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
The Arab states, at odds with one another, are unprepared for Iran. To control the Arab masses protesting the corrupt regimes ruling them, attention has usually been deflected away from the real issues and turned instead toward a no-cost target, Israel -- a cheap way to channel justifiable rage and avoid actually resolving the basically comfortable Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Palestinians are, in reality, a "fake problem." The "dirty little secret" is that the only reason the Palestinian cause is a problem is because the Sunni Arab and Muslim states and Europe want it to be one. The current situation, while not perfect, is, actually one with which both sides are relatively happy, but unable to admit it. The Palestinian leaders would, as their maps clearly show, prefer to overrun Israel. Short of that, our leaders know they have all the benefits of claiming to be "victims" without the tedious responsibility of actually running anything. Showered with money from Europe, they do not even have to grow an economy. This way they are free to use the hundreds of millions of euros to reward terrorism, buy Israel's destruction, and plan greater attacks.
Our leaders seem only to be upset about not being in the headlines as much as before, but they no doubt realize that if they were governing a state, the world would pay as much attention to them as it does to Andorra.
It would be easy enough for the Sunni and Arab states to absorb the Palestinian refugees in the Arab countries, where they live now anyway. In reality the problem could go away in a minute. If the problem were solved, the Arabs and Muslims, to distract their public from rotten governance, would just have to find a new problem, so it is probably just as easy to keep the old, comfortable one.
The Israelis apparently find the problem manageable; so both sides are, in truth, quietly content and have no intention of changing anything.
Thus after the so-called "Arab spring" we have found ourselves not with democratic Arab countries, but faced with the ruins of former Arab countries. We have also found ourselves with an a ruthless, expansionist Iranian monolith whose preeminent objective is to exploit the disarray to take over the Middle East.
The tragedy of the Sunni states is that our demographic, geographic military and economic superiority do not seem to faze the Iranians in the least.
Our weak and feckless allies in the West encourage Iran to continue its aggression and military buildup. Thus ironically, the only thing protecting us is the military capability of our supposed enemy.
We allowed ourselves to be tempted by empty American promises of defense -- a trust in an ally that turned out to be a grave mistake. The Russians and the American-led alliance are now fighting ISIS, which, again ironically, is the only organization capable of confronting Iran and stopping it and its Shi'ite proxies. If the Muslim Brotherhood's Sheikh Qaradawi, the most influential Sunni ideologue in the Middle East, who sits in Qatar, had the sense to realize that Iran was the real enemy, and that military efforts have to be directed against Iran, not Israel or the West, the situation of the Sunni states would quickly skyrocket.
In view of Iran's regional threat, the Arabs are beginning to understand that the Palestinian cause is marginal; that Israel is not a rival, and -- as just about everyone knows by now except possibly France, the main instigator of problems in the region -- Israel is not responsible for our problems. We are.
While the West tries to decide who it will or will not support, and the Iranians are busy subverting Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and the UAE by fomenting local Shi'ite rebellions, any pretext could now be used by Iran to attack Saudi Arabia or, for that matter, anyone, through the enormous opening left by a supine American administration, before a new one can take its place.
*Bassam Tawil is a scholar based in the Middle East.
[1] In 2011, using its Shi'ite proxies in Bahrain, Iran almost managed to subvert the country and overthrow the ruling Sunni family. Its ultimate objective was a putsch that would bring Bahrain under Iranian control and make it a bridgehead to the Arabian Peninsula. The plan was foiled when Saudi Arabia and the UAE provided. Bahrain with military support. When it became obvious that the Americans preferred Iranian hegemony, the Saudis and Gulf States, to protect themselves, formed the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Saddam Hussein, the only leader who dared to challenge Iran, kept it busy for years with a war which resulted in an untold number of casualties on both sides and froze progress in both countries. Unfortunately, since he was overthrown and eventually killed, Iran's influence, violence and terrorism have been on the rise throughout the Middle East and are now spilling into Africa.
[2] They are exploiting the Shi'ite regime of Haidar al-Abadi and, with the support of their IRGC and Shi'ite militias, the Shi'ites in Iraq have been slaughtering the Sunnis in Fallujah.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Final Chapter of Dialogue with Iran
Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al Awsat/May 04/17
While Iran is fighting Saudi Arabia and Gulf states through its militias in Yemen and directly in Bahrain, and combats for its interests in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, reconciliation and peacemaking attempts continued between Iran and the Gulf States, prominently Saudi Arabia.
Occasionally, calls for negotiations would come from former US President Barack Obama, or through European foreign ministers, and sometimes – shockingly – through Gulf countries’ efforts.
Each party credits itself for strengthening their positions even if it came on the expenses of Arab and Gulf states, though these calls would benefit Iran.
Everyone knows that Iran can’t go on with a reasonable dialogue while executing its expansion and interference in internal affairs policy.
Yet, it seems that the final chapter of these callings is irreversibly over after Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammad bin Salman explained his country’s position saying it is impossible to reach mutual understanding between Saudi Arabia and Iran: “There is no common ground between us and the Iranian regime.”
So, it is rather impossible to hold negotiations with Iran which Prince Mohammed said was busy with its “extremist ideology” and ambitions to “control the Islamic world.”
The more important and clearer message here is that the battle will be in Iran and not Saudi Arabia.
Why the final chapter?
Precisely because Gulf efforts should be exerted to stop Iran’s expansions rather than being occupied with mediations that are only exhausting and offer the Iranian regime with an opportunity to catch its breath and promote its revolution before western state, and not country, as a peace agent.
It is about time things are set straight and positions are made based on facts, reality and the consequences the area will face because of Iran’s sabotage project. It is no longer useful for the collective Gulf official statements to follow a hostile policy towards Iranian extremism, and then it all changes once the meetings are over.
Iran’s position towards Arab interests became unprecedentedly hostile that it exceeds its eight years’ war on Iraq during the eighties of the last century. Tehran’s main goal is to reach Muslims’ Qiblah, as the Saudi Deputy Crown Prince said in his televised interview.
After all the one-way hostility that spreads from the east to the west of the Gulf, is it right to accept the requests for dialogue and mediation which occupy the region rather than focusing on the real battle?
Surely it is understandable for every country to run its policies based on its own interests. It is also clear that no state can force its own statements on another that doesn’t share the same ideas. But, it is important that the old tools of diplomatic exploitation be stopped, like this endless boring tale of dialogue. It is also crucial to end Iranian regime’s penetration of the Gulf system in a way that helps Tehran proceed with its extreme strategies.
It is about time policies match the reality of the stances given that Iran is literally waging wars on its neighbors via sending weapons and training militias.
Those who believe that their interest doesn’t include collectively fighting the Iranian regime should at least let someone else do this mission in a way that doesn’t complicate the decisive confrontation and thus lessen its strategic success once in a while.
No one wants to go into war with Iran or any other for that matter. Stopping Iran’s extremist project surely doesn’t mean anyone is banging the drums for war. But at the same time, an easy policy is never productive with a state like Iran. The administration of former US President Obama followed that policy for eight years and failed catastrophically.
The issue is now clearer to end Iran’s expansion. Offense is the best defense. It began with putting an end to Iran’s external interventions and exposing the Tehran regime for its domestic reality after it had deprived its people of development for over thirty years. Or, as the Saudi Crown Prince said: “We know we are a main target of Iran. We are not waiting until there becomes a battle in Saudi Arabia, so we will work so that it becomes a battle for them in Iran and not in Saudi Arabia.”

Trump’s Right, the Constitution Is ‘Archaic’
Noah Feldman/Bloomberg/May 04/17
Is the Constitution archaic, as President Donald Trump implied recently in an interview with Fox News? The answer is a resounding yes — if you’re an originalist, as Trump claims to be. The president unwittingly hit on the best possible justification for a living Constitution, which evolves to meet changing times. That evolution, of course, needs to take account of the fundamental elements necessary for life — such as the separation of powers. And it would be a disastrous idea to amend the First Amendment, as Chief of Staff Reince Priebus hinted in another recent interview. But broadly speaking, the way to avoid archaism is to recognize that the Constitution is alive, and like every living thing, must adapt to changing circumstances.
Let’s start with precision, something not always present in Trump’s remarks or liberal criticism of them. Trump didn’t literally say the Constitution was archaic. Instead, he referred to “politics” generally:
It’s a very rough system, it’s an archaic system. You look at the rules of the Senate, even the rules of the House, but the rules of the Senate and some of the things you have to go through, it’s really a bad thing for the country in my opinion. There are archaic rules and maybe at some point, we’re going to have to take those rules on because for the good of the nation things are going to have to be different.
You might think that Trump is saying it’s archaic for Congress to vote before passing a law. But that radical statement can’t fairly be attributed to him. Read closely, Trump’s concerns seem to be mainly about Senate rules like the filibuster.
Notably, the filibuster isn’t in the Constitution. In fact, the filibuster is seriously undemocratic, because it allows a Senate minority to block the majority. And for the record, Trump is entirely right to think of the filibuster as archaic. Not only is it old, it has a shameful history of being used to block civil-rights legislation in the Senate.
The only thing that makes the filibuster constitutional is that, like other rules of the House and Senate, it falls within Congress’s power to make its own internal rules. Article 1, Section 5 of the Constitution says that “each house may determine the rules of its proceedings.”
That means the president can’t constitutionally do anything about such rules. When Trump said, “We’re going to have to take those rules on,” the term “we” must be interpreted pretty loosely. The most Trump can do is use his bully pulpit to criticize.
In fact, the filibuster has been shrinking in recent years, as both Democrats and Republicans have used the so-called nuclear option to eliminate its use for judicial nominees. The filibuster is still in place for legislation, however. For it to be eliminated would mean further evolution in legislative procedure.
Indeed, such evolution is desirable and necessary in constitutional affairs more generally. Take the administrative state, about which Trump’s Supreme Court appointee, Neil Gorsuch, has written critically.
The administrative state isn’t in the Constitution, strictly speaking. Independent agencies weren’t contemplated by the founders. Neither was the ability of many agencies to enact regulations that have the force of law, or their broad capacity to adjudicate. It’s a commonplace of administrative law that agencies exercise these quasi-legislative and quasi-judicial functions despite the fact that they nominally belong to the executive branch.
This governmental evolution requires constant updating. A case in point: the Congressional Review Act of 1996, which gives Congress 60 legislative days to reverse administrative orders issued by a previous presidential administration. Trump has signed 13 bills reversing Obama policies. That’s 12 more times than the law had ever been used before.
The idea behind the act is that Congress has the inherent lawmaking authority to review and reverse decisions made by the apparatus of the administrative state. Actually rolling back regulation may be unwise, but the Congressional Review Act itself represents a creative, evolutionary component of making the administrative state into a functioning part of the US constitutional structure.
Because Congress has the power to reverse regulation, the authority of the agencies to make those regulations in the first place is rendered more legitimate.
It’s worth noting that the Congressional Review Act was passed by a Republican Congress as part of the “Contract With America” — and signed by President Bill Clinton. In some general way, the law may be better for Republicans than Democrats, because Democrats tend to favor more regulation than Republicans. Yet it reflects an underlying democratic model of lawmaking, in which Congress and the president who signs the law must take responsibility for the regulations they roll back.
Eliminating the administrative state on originalist grounds would be absurd — and archaic, to use Trump’s words. A functioning constitutional system needs agencies. Those agencies in turn need to be part of a broader constitutional ecosystem that includes both judicial and legislative oversight.
The upshot is that it’s nice Trump has discovered that there are archaisms in the Constitution. That’s why it needs to evolve, and why originalism is a seriously mistaken constitutional philosophy.
The separation of powers, however, isn’t archaic. Neither is the First Amendment. They are the spine and lifeblood of the Constitution. Take them out, and the system will end. Never forget: The opposite of the living Constitution is a dead one.

The Rise and Fall of European Meritocracy
Ivan Krastev/The New York Times/May 04/17
SOFIA, Bulgaria — When you can’t understand why people behave in a certain way, the easiest thing to do is to convince yourself that people do not know what they are doing. This is what European political, business and news media leaders have done in response to the populist wave that is sweeping the old Continent. They are shocked that many of their compatriots are voting for irresponsible demagogues. They find it difficult to understand the sources of the rage against the meritocratic elites best symbolized by the well-trained, competent civil servants in Brussels.
Why are the “exams-passing classes” so resented at a time when the complexity of the world suggests that people need them most? Why do people who work hard so that their kids can graduate from the world’s best universities refuse to trust people who have already graduated from these universities? How is it possible that anybody can agree with Michael Gove, the pro-Brexit politician, who said people “have had enough of experts”?
It should seem obvious that meritocracy — a system in which the most talented and capable, the best educated, those who score highest on the tests, are put in leading positions — is better than plutocracy, gerontocracy, aristocracy and, perhaps, even the rule of the majority, democracy.
But Europe’s meritocratic elites aren’t hated simply because of populists’ bigoted stupidity or the confusion of ordinary people.
Michael Young, the British sociologist who in the middle of the last century coined the term “meritocracy,” would not be surprised by the turn of events. He was the first to explain that even though “meritocracy” might sound good to most people, a meritocratic society would be a disaster. It would create a society of selfish and arrogant winners, and angry and desperate losers. The triumph of meritocracy, Young understood, would lead to a loss of political community.
What makes meritocrats so unbearable to their critics is not so much their success but their insistence that they have succeeded because they worked harder than others, because they happened to be more qualified than others and because they passed the tests that others failed.
The paradox of the current political crisis in Europe is rooted in the fact that the Brussels elites are blamed for the same reasons that they praised themselves for: their cosmopolitanism, their resistance to public pressure and their mobility.
In Europe, the meritocratic elite is a mercenary elite, not unlike the way the best soccer players are traded around to the most successful clubs across the Continent. Successful Dutch bankers move to London; competent German bureaucrats move to Brussels. European institutions and banks, just like soccer clubs, spend colossal amounts of money acquiring the best “players.” Usually, this system means victories on the pitch or in the central bank’s boardroom.
But what happens when these teams start to lose or the economy slows down? Their fans abandon them. That’s because there’s no relationship connecting the “players” and their fans beyond celebrating victories. They are not from the same neighborhood. They don’t have mutual friends or shared memories. Many of the players aren’t even from the same countries as their teams. You can admire the hired “stars,” but you do not have reason to be sorry for them.
In the eyes of the meritocratic elites, their success outside of their country is a proof of their talents, but in the eyes of many people, this very mobility is a reason not to trust them.
People trust their leaders not only because of their competence but also because of their courage and commitment, and because they believe that their leaders will remain with their own in times of crisis rather than being helicoptered to the emergency exit. Paradoxically, it is the convertible competencies of the present elites, the fact that they are equally fit to run a bank in Bulgaria or in Bangladesh or to teach in Athens or Tokyo, that make people so suspicious of them. People fear that in times of trouble, the meritocrats will opt to leave instead of sharing the cost of staying.
Unsurprisingly then, it is loyalty — namely the unconditional loyalty to ethnic, religious or social groups — that is at the heart of the appeal of Europe’s new populism. Populists promise people not to judge them based solely on their merits. They promise solidarity but not necessarily justice.
Unlike a century ago, today’s popular leaders aren’t interested in nationalizing industries. Instead, they promise to nationalize the elites. They do not promise to save the people but to stay with them. They promise to re-establish the national and ideological constraints that were removed by globalization. In short, what populists promise their voters is not competence but intimacy. They promise to re-establish the bond between the elites and the people. And many in Europe today find this promise appealing.
The American philosopher John Rawls spoke for many liberals when he argued that being a loser in a meritocratic society was not as painful as being a loser in an openly unjust society. In his conception, the fairness of the game would reconcile people with failure. Today it looks as if the great philosopher may have been wrong.

How to identify the Brotherhood media?
Mamdouh AlMuhaini/Al Arabiya/May 04/17
In his most recent interview, Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman addressed the attempts made by the Brotherhood-affiliated media to mar Egypt-Saudi relations. This is actually a very important point and it is an appropriate occasion to discuss this dangerous propaganda machine that continuously spreads lies and rumors and insults everyone who disagrees with it. Sabotaging relations between Egypt and Saudi Arabia is the only aim of the Brotherhood’s media campaign. There are also attacks against the UAE as rumors are continuously spread that there are deep differences between the UAE and Saudi Arabia. These campaigns have not spared Bahrain and the list goes on.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s media does not stop at stirring this uproar but like any other totalitarian media, its content is bad and naively presented. Therefore, it is easy to understand the direct messages it continuously sends. Politically speaking, Brotherhood followers attack moderate countries through media outlets or social media networks because they are the only stable fortresses that the group and its leaders seek to remove from their way to seize authority via the same method which the Shiite Brotherhood version in Tehran used to seize power. The Brotherhood resorts to all possible means to incite, whether through books, articles or even tweets, to make these moderate countries look illegitimate. They turn the leaders of the state into tyrants, security forces into murderers, journalists into Zionists, businessmen into corrupt men (only those who don’t donate money to them). They turn moderate clerics into lickspittles, thinkers into heretics and respectable women into morally decadent. This is how they seek to remove any moral cover off institutions and people so their path is clear and so they have the moral and religious pretext for rebellion and disobedience. With the rise of social media networks, spreading indignation and anger over the current situations has become the way to mobilize people and prepare them for the moment of big conflagration
A mean plan
It’s a mean plan and it doesn’t end here. With the rise of social media networks, spreading indignation and anger over the current situations has become the way to mobilize people and prepare them for the moment of the big conflagration. We can see how unintentional statements by some officials are transformed into an excuse to spread frustration and create pessimism. The Brotherhood’s media escalates its campaign and directs it to directly or indirectly attack the state in order to weaken it and make people lose confidence in it. The Brotherhood seizes every occasion, be it significant or not, and comes up with a hashtag to pass lies on social media. They also dig up stories from the past to serve this purpose. This is why we don’t see any Brotherhood propaganda against governments and parties that are allied with it and that submit to its agenda. The Brotherhood does not criticize them even if they’re drowned in problems and crises. Of course they have mutual interests and these countries or parties use the Brotherhood’s rage to achieve their goals.
One of the Brotherhood’s well-known approaches is to hijack high moral principles and engage them in cheap bids. They hijacked the religion of Islam and turned it into a weapon that they directed against “deviant enemies”. They also exploited pan-Arabism and tried to transform the image of their rivals who believe in political realism into agents and spies. They search books, articles, tweets and news for any word that they can use to insult others. The Brotherhood campaign is also very fierce on the educational, cultural and media fronts as they seek to exercise control over these sectors. They want the education minister to be one of them so they conspire against the ministers who prevent them from executing their plan. The Brotherhood got involved in the education sector in several Arab countries and completely destroyed it by planting the worst thoughts ever in students’ minds.
Conspiracy theories
They planted religious hatred and conspiracy theories in their heads. Instead of preparing students to be ready for life and to accept all ideas and orientations, the Brotherhood put them on a path to destruction. They taught them how to hate others who practice different faith or sects or different ideas.
They turned young people into isolated ones making them obsessed with “conspiracies being planned against the nation”. This is why teenagers who are supposed to be independent and full of life end up being brainwashed. They become mouthpieces that leaders use in their incessant judgment of others.
It is due to this Brotherhood ideology that universities and educational institutions, which previously called for enlightenment, have collapsed. Brotherhood teachers are leading these universities and are roaming their hallways thus leading to catastrophic results in their lecture halls.
It is therefore not difficult to understand why they are hostile to enlightening newspapers and television channels and why they attack intellectuals and journalists. They adopt the same approach of insulting others and scandalizing them to intimidate them so they leave the arena entirely for them. Although this Brotherhood media is naïve and its approaches are well-known, it’s still dangerous because it is based on a culture that the Brotherhood has contributed to spreading for years now. It is therefore easy to influence people through it. However, the easiest way to avoid this negative influence is to realize the Brotherhood media’s approaches and what’s easier is to doubt anything the Brotherhood praises and defends!

All former US presidents failed with Iran
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arabnews/May 04/17
We have heard it for almost four decades. Everyone thought it would work. Six US presidents tried it and failed repeatedly.
What is it?
Addressing Iran by engaging with or appeasing it one way or another. Iran is a top national security threat to the US. Since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979, many American generals have echoed what US Secretary of Defense James Mattis once remarked: That the three primary threats the US faced were “Iran, Iran, Iran.” The Iranian government is sworn to incapacitate and damage the US. Many lives of Americans have been lost due to Iran and its proxies.The Iranian government’s foremost and unchangeable slogan has been “Death to America, the Great Satan.”
Since 1979, Iranians have been told that they can change their leaders. That they can be made not to hate and hurt the people. Jimmy Carter disregarded the rise of the extremist Islamic party of Iran’s founder Ayatollah Khomeini. He thought that diplomacy, soft power, and smiles would change Khomeini’s anti-America feelings.
What was the result? Iran took 52 American diplomats and citizens hostage and held them for 414 days until Carter left office. Iran gave birth to Hezbollah, which committed terrorist attacks and killed hundreds of Americans. Additionally, Iran worked forcefully to scuttle US foreign policy objectives in the region. Former President Ronald Reagan took a tougher stance, but it was not adequate. His tougher position did help release the hostages, but he thought that engagement might change Iran’s antagonism toward Washington. The Iran-Contra affair during Reagan’s second term did not make Tehran appreciate Washington’s assistance. Instead, Tehran expanded its influence in Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, and promoted radical Islam. George H. Bush came to office addressing Iran with “Good will begets good will. Good faith can be a spiral that endlessly moves on.”
Iran betrayed again.
Bill Clinton promoted the idea that aligning with Iran’s “reformist” President Mohammad Khatami would empower the reformists against the hard-liners and fundamentally change the rogue state. Clinton wanted to initiate an official diplomatic dialogue with Tehran. He eased economic restrictions on Iran. What was the result? At the end of his term, the hard-liners were more empowered. Engagement with Iran and appeasement policy with Iranian leaders has not worked for almost four decades, and will not work as long as the revolutionary, religious, theocratic, authoritarian and anti-American political establishment of the Islamic Republic is in power. Iran escalated tensions with Washington. Tehran was sheltering Al-Qaeda members whose activities culminated in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. George W. Bush thought that engaging with Iran in Iraq and Afghanistan would make Iranian leaders feel that they are being respected, and may make the Iranian government a constructive and rational player in the region.
Instead, Iran took control of Iraq, used proxies to attack US forces, and infiltrated the Iraqi and Afghan political, security and economic establishments. Former President Barack Obama took possibly the most extreme measures to “change Iran for the better.”He bombarded the Iranian government with concessions and gifts. He helped lift four rounds of UN Security Council’s economic sanctions against Iran, turned a blind eye to Iran’s military adventurism, ignored Iran’s ballistic missile activities, disregarded Iran’s violation of the nuclear agreement several times, took no notice of criticism about Iran’s meddling in international affairs of many regional countries, ignored Iran’s support for militia groups and Bashar Assad in bombarding and killing people, paid no attention to the fact that Iran was ranked top state sponsor of terrorism and ranked first in executing people per capita, and to its human rights violations.
What was the result?
The Iranian government became more aggressive than ever before, espousing more anti-America sentiment, harassing US Navy ships and arresting American sailors. Iran became more militarily engaged in Syria and Iraq. Tehran began a more aggressive interference in domestic affairs of many countries, including Bahrain, Yemen and Lebanon. As a result of Iran’s sectarian agenda in Iraq and Syria, the situation became more radicalized and militarized; Daesh and other radical groups gained more power in the region and around the world. The Middle East became a more dangerous place.
President Donald Trump should look at this historical evidence that speaks for itself. Engagement with Iran and appeasement policy with Iranian leaders has not worked for almost four decades, and will not work as long as the revolutionary, religious, theocratic, authoritarian and anti-American political establishment of the Islamic Republic is in power.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated, Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. He serves on the boards of the Harvard International Review, the Harvard International Relations Council and the US-Middle East Chamber for Commerce and Business. He can be reached on Twitter @Dr_Rafizadeh.

Brampton landlord feels 'powerless' after being labelled religion-based human rights violator
Michele Mandel, Toronto Sun/Wednesday, May 03, 2017
Human Rights Tribunal rules Brampton landlord must pay Muslim couple $12,000
This poor man came to Canada from Nigeria 22 years ago in hopes of building a better life for his family.
After almost a quarter century of being a law-abiding, hard-working member of society, he never imagined his adopted country would label him a human rights violator and order him to pay $12,000 in compensation to his Muslim tenants.
“I was humiliated, I was made to feel I have no rights, I was made to feel that I’m not wanted in society,” says John Alabi, 52. “I feel powerless. They rented my place for only two months. Two months! It’s just not fair,”
The small landlord came forward to explain his position after the Sun told his shocking story last week: The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario found he failed to accommodate the religious needs of Walid Madkour and Heba Ismail by not giving them more than the legal 24-hour notice before showing the apartment and by failing to remove his shoes when he entered the bedroom they used to pray.
Now the travel agent is on the hook for money he doesn’t have to pay tenants who were in his home for only two months. And he doesn’t feel he did anything wrong.
For 15 years Alabi rented the in-law suite in his home to help pay his mortgage. A tenant’s religion wasn’t important to him.
“I go beyond all that. I just see everybody as human beings like me. That’s why I took them in,” he says. “We got along. And then all of a sudden I’m a racist?”
After they gave notice in February 2015, Alabi says he bent over backwards to accommodate the Egyptian-born couple in booking acceptable times to show their apartment to prospective new tenants. At first, Madkour tried to argue that the landlord couldn’t show the unit when his wife was home. Alabi explained that with 24 hours notice, the law gave him the authority to enter even if she was there.
They called the police, claiming that his shovelling snow outside their apartment was harassment. The officers confirmed that Alabi was legally allowed to show their unit when they were there. That’s when they suddenly raised the religion issue, he says, and told him he couldn’t enter during their prayer times. He agreed.
That still wasn’t enough, Alabi says.
In addition to the 24-hour notice, and the prayer times, they also wanted him to text in advance. But when he texted them, they didn’t reply - so he stopped.
And then there was the issue of removing his shoes. At the tribunal, the couple said they prayed in their bedroom and the floor had to remain clean. Yet Alabi claims the couple never had a problem before when he wore his shoes to make repairs in the apartment. And he wasn’t wearing outside shoes, but the shoes he wore in his own home. He’d come around to their apartment wearing rubbers over them and then take them off at the door. For that, he was accused of being racist.
“I have been victimized,” Alabi says. “They are using their religion to victimize me.”
The tenants waited eight months before filing their grievance with the human rights tribunal, where they receive free representation. They even searched his Facebook page and found a joke they considered offensive to bolster their case. The tribunal agreed he harassed them and failed in his duty to accommodate their religious needs - and awarded them $6,000 each - plus interest.
“What about my rights?” asks the father of three, who has since sold the house. “What about my rights to show my place so I could rent it and put food on the table for my family?”
He doesn’t know what to do.
“I don’t have the money. I work very hard. If they go into my bank account right now, I don’t have $12,000 there,” says Alabi, who lost thousands of dollars in legal fees and time off work.
“It has just shattered me. I am broken. I am broken.”
Broken and disillusioned.
“For the first time in my 20-something years in Canada, I am sorry that I came to this country.”
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