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Bible Quotations For Today
Jesus said to him, If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 21/20-25/:"Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; he was the one who had reclined next to Jesus at the supper and had said, ‘Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?’When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, what about him?’Jesus said to him, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!’So the rumour spread in the community that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?’
This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true. But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written."
Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord
First Letter to the Corinthians 01/26-31/:"Consider your own call, not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;
God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption,in order that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’"
Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 08-09/17
Miseries of the Lebanese Rotten Rulers and Officials/Elias Bejjani/ May 08/17
France: Emmanuel Macron, Useful Idiot of Islamism/Yves Mamou/Gatestone Institute/May 07/17
Safe Zones or Detention Camps/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/May 07/17
Trump to Jeddah… Message Delivered/Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al Awsat/May 07/17
Donald Trump’s grand ambitions in the region/Fawaz Turki/Al Arabiya/May 07/17
Terrorism and sectarianism when combined pose immense danger/Hassan Al Mustafa/Al Arabiya/May 07/17
How can Saudi Arabia agree with Iran/Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/May 07/17
What priest Karmali’s advice to Haider al-Abadi would be/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/May 07/17
Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published on May 08-09/17
Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 08-09/17
Latest Lebanese Related News
published on May 08-09/17
The Miseries of the Lebanese Rotten Rulers and Officials
Elias Bejjani/ May 08/17
The rulers of Iranian occupied Lebanon are mere puppets- mercenaries and are completely detached from all that is law and constitution.
Aoun publishes book; proceeds to
fund Lebanese environmental projects
The Daily Star/May 07/17/EIRUT: President Michel Aoun Sunday hosted a book signing ceremony for his new book “What I Believe In.”"This is book is made for people to know who I am," Aoun said.
"Through this book and many others people can get to know the incidents that happened during our time," Aoun added. The ceremony was held in Baabda Palace. Revenues from Aoun’s book will fund environmental projects, namely, reforestation initiatives that aim to revive the Cedar tree groves across Lebanese mountains. Aoun said that the reforestation endeavor is intended to maintain a clean environment for the future generations. "This is not our first project, and we promise to plant trees across all arid land in the country," Aoun continued, hoping for more prosperity for Lebanon.
A number of Lebanese dignitaries and diplomats attended the ceremony.
Bahrain condemns Syrian ambassador’s interference in Lebanon
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishSunday, 7 May 2017/The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bahrain strongly condemned the statements made by the Syrian regime’s ambassador in Lebanon, saying that it represents an unacceptable interference in the internal affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain and reflects a clear denial of the facts of the matter, according to Al Arabiya TV report on Saturday. The Syrian ambassador, in an interview on “Al Lo’lo’a” channel which backed by Iran, said that Bahrain is trying to increase sectarian conflicts. The ambassador said: “I believe that the state has indulged itself and the region in splits and conflicts with no reason.”In this way, Iran spoke about the Bahraini authorities, through the Ambassador of the Assad regime in Beirut, Ali Abdulkarim, which is a new intervention, that shows the Iranian games, and the evidence is the way the presenter of the program presented the interview on the Iranian-sponsored “Al Lo’lo’a” channel. “The words of the Syrian ambassador in Lebanon, which is going to be presented today at 5:30 Bahrain time, come as part of a series of special interviews broadcast by “Al Lo’lo’a” channel with a number of Arab personalities, prior the trial of the Shiite presence on May 7,” the presenter said. The presenter here is penetrating to prove that the Assad regime’s ambassador is speaking on behalf of Tehran. On May 7, the Bahraini judiciary will pronounce its verdict on the trial of ‘Issa’ Qassim, the one who represents Shia in Bahrain, who was previously stripped of his nationality, and charged of provoking sedition and sectarian division in the country by incitement from Tehran, cover funds to support terrorist operations in Bahrain and neighboring countries. The Supreme Leader of the Iranian Revolution Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared earlier that the dismissal of Qassim means that people would rebel against the country, calling on the Bahraini youth to provoke riots, confront security and not to remain silent in case anything wrong happened to Qassim.
Hariri to Call 'Brainstorming'
Meeting Next Week, Aoun to Dissolve Parliament if No Agreement
Naharnet/May 07/17/Prime Minister Saad Hariri will convene the ministerial panel tasked with devising a new electoral law next week with the aim of “brainstorming consensual ideas,” sources close to the PM told al-Hayat daily. A decision to reactivate the panel had been taken during Thursday's cabinet session. President Michel Aoun meanwhile confirmed that he would dissolve parliament and force elections under the 1960 electoral law should the parties fail to agree on a new law before June 20. Asked by his visitors about possible “vacuum” in parliament, the president “reassured that there will be no vacuum, citing articles 25 and 74 of the constitution,” al-Hayat said. Asked whether that means that the polls will be held under the current law, Aoun said: “Yes, I respect the constitution.” Article 25 of the constitution stipulates that elections should be organized within a period not exceeding three months from the dissolution of parliament.
Qaouq Slams 'Parties Refusing to Offer Concessions' on Electoral Law
Naharnet/May 07/17/Hizbullah central council member Sheikh Nabil Qaouq lashed out on Sunday at “some political forces who are clinging to their stances and refusing to address the crisis or offer concessions” regarding the electoral law. “Their insistence on their stances will drag the country into a deep political crisis,” Qaouq warned, noting that “the atmospheres of political tension and rifts have returned.” “The electoral law crisis has reached a dangerous level that has started to threaten national accord and political stability,” Qaouq cautioned. “Any electoral political gain at the expense of national accord and political stability is a loss for Lebanon and the Lebanese, and any concession for the sake of agreeing on a new electoral law would be a full win for all Lebanese,” the Hizbullah official added. He noted that Hizbullah was among the first parties to “offer political concessions in order to pave the way for consensus among all political forces.”“National responsibility necessitates efforts for two priorities: the first is to preserve national accord and political stability and the second is that we work on an electoral consensus that satisfies all forces and components,” Qaouq added.
Raad Promises Full Proportional Representation Law before June 20
Naharnet/May 07/17/The country will have an electoral law based on “full proportional representation” before June 20, head of Hizbullah's Loyalty to Resistance bloc MP Mohammed Raad told LBCI TV on Sunday. June 20 is the date when the extended term of the current parliament will expire. The country has not organized parliamentary elections since 2009 and the parliament has since extended its own mandate twice. Hizbullah has repeatedly called for an electoral law fully based on proportional representation amid reservations by several parties. Al-Mustaqbal Movement had argued that Hizbullah's arms would prevent serious competition in the party's strongholds while Druze leader MP Walid Jumblat had warned that such an electoral system would “marginalize” the minority Druze community whose presence is concentrated in the Chouf and Aley areas. But Mustaqbal and Jumblat have recently announced that they would accept full proportional representation. The Lebanese Forces has also said that it would accept full proportional representation should certain demands be met although the stance of its ally the Free Patriotic Movement remains unclear. The FPM has recently proposed a hybrid electoral system involving sectarian voting in the first round but the majority of political parties have dismissed it as divisive and counterproductive. On Sunday, MP Alain Aoun of the FPM warned that proportional representation “would turn into a control for one sect over another if voters keep exclusively voting for their sectarian groups.”
MP Aoun: Current Political Tension Doesn't Allow Breakthrough on Electoral Law
Naharnet/May 07/17/MP Alain Aoun of the Change and Reform bloc announced Sunday that “the level of political tension that we have reached does not allow a breakthrough” in the electoral law crisis. “The atmosphere must be pacified and the previous period of negotiations must be reevaluated,” Aoun added in an interview on MTV, noting that “the current atmosphere of tensions does not allow any serious discussion among the parties.” “We are open to all electoral ideas,” Aoun said, pointing out that Speaker Nabih Berri's latest proposal is “good, advanced and remarkable in terms of preserving equal power-sharing (between Christians and Muslims) and amending the constitution.”“But it has been rejected by the Democratic Gathering,” Aoun added. “We in the Free Patriotic Movement accept Berri's proposal in principle and we are ready to discuss it,” the MP went on to say. Turning to the proportional representation electoral system, Aoun said “proportional representation is excellent, the best and a guarantee for political diversity.”“But in Lebanon it would turn into a control for one sect over another if voters keep exclusively voting for their sectarian groups,” he warned.Moreover, Aoun stressed that “the FPM's approach on the electoral law is not based on the distribution of political shares, or else it would have accepted the current law without all this fuss and wrangling.”“The engines have been turned off and we are in 'a state of electoral sleep until the prince wakes up the sleeping princess with a magical kiss', which means the suggestion of an electoral law that cannot be refused,” the lawmaker added.“We will not back down from what we have achieved on the national and Christian levels and we do not want to eradicate pluralism in the country,” Aoun underlined.
Hasbani: LF Open to Any Electoral Law that Secures Equal Power-Sharing
Naharnet/May 07/17/Deputy Premier and Health Minister Ghassan Hasbani announced Sunday that the Lebanese Forces is “open to any electoral law that secures equal power-sharing” between Christians and Muslims. The new law must also ensure correct representation and address the concerns of all components in Lebanon, Hasbani said in an interview with Voice of Lebanon radio (93.3). “Everyone should show openness, offer concessions and propose practical solutions,” Hasbani added. Media reports have said that the LF has agreed to the principle of an electoral law based on full proportional representation and that it is demanding certain guarantees.
Young Woman Dies after Shooting outside Zahle Nightclub
Naharnet/May 07/17/The young woman Sara Suleiman, 24, died Sunday of wounds incurred in a shooting outside the Blue Bar nightclub in the Bekaa city of Zahle, media reports said. Simon Mouawad, 33, was also wounded in the leg in the incident, LBCI television said. The TV network said Sara and her friends were leaving the nightclub at 3:30 am when a man identified as Taha al-Masri passed by them in a Chevrolet Tahoe SUV. “There was a traffic accident outside the nightclub and a person asked Masri to move his car, which infuriated him,” LBCI said. Masri then opened fire indiscriminately towards the nightclub, which resulted in the wounding of Sara and Simon, the TV network added.
Hariri: Sidon Souk Festival affirms City's commitment to remain vibrant
Sun 07 May 2017/NNA - Head of House Commission for Education and Culture, MP Bahia Hariri, on Sunday toured Sidon Souk Market, within the framework of Sidon Festival's activities organized by the International Sidon Festivals in cooperation with Sidon Municipality and Sidon Merchants' Association for the second week in a row. MP Hariri stressed that Sidon confirms through the holding of such educational, cultural, artistic and sports events its longstanding commitment to remain a vibrant city and a meeting point for all the sons of the homeland. "Sidon shall remain a center of attraction and cultural interaction reflecting the real image of this nation and the people's will to achieve uprising towards a better future," Hariri remarked.
Bonne tours polling stations, hails French Lebanese ties
Sun 07 May 2017/NNA - French Ambassador to Lebanon Emmanuel Bonne on Sunday morning toured the various polling stations set up for the French presidential elections, thanking the French General Consulate and volunteers for their contribution to securing the best balloting process.
"This is an important day for our country," Ambassador Bonne remarked, saying that French Lebanese friendship is now translated through the balloting boxes.
Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 07-08/17
France chooses Macron as president over far right’s Le Pen/إيمانويل ماكرون رئيساً لفرنسا
AgenciesSunday, 7 May 2017
Emmanuel Macron was elected president of France on Sunday after winning 65.1 percent of the votes. Macron, who has a business-friendly vision of European integration, defeated Marine Le Pen, a far-right nationalist who threatened to take France out of the European Union. Macron told AFP that his victory in Sunday’s election represented “hope” and a “new chapter” for France.
“A new chapter in our long history begins tonight. I want it to be one of hope and renewed confidence,” Macron said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman welcomed Macron’s resounding win in France’s presidential election on Sunday as a “victory for a strong and united Europe”. “Congratulations, @EmmanuelMacron. Your victory is a victory for a strong and united Europe and for French-German friendship,” wrote Steffen Seibert in French and German on Twitter.
Turnout in the French presidential run-off election was 65.30 percent at 1500 GMT on Sunday, lower than both the first round and the 2012 vote, data from the interior ministry showed.
The figure was 6.6 points lower than in the 2012 run-off for president, and about four points down from this year's first round of voting on April 23. At 11 am local time, Centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron, the front-runner in France's presidential election, cast his vote in the coastal town of Le Tourquet in northern France alongside his wife, Brigitte Macron.
The former Socialist economy minister and one-time banker was all smiles and petted a black dog as he stepped out of his vacation home in the seaside resort.
For security reasons, Macron was driven to his nearby polling station at Le Touquet City Hall and shook hands with a large crowd of supporters before he and his wife entered the building.Macron had a large polling lead over far-right leader Marine Le Pen going into Sunday's presidential runoff election.
At 11:20 a.m., far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has cast her ballot in Henin-Beaumont, a small northern town controlled by her National Front party. Le Pen arrived at the polling station with Henin-Beaumont Mayor Steeve Briois, who took over as the National Front's leader during the presidential election campaign.
She was able to vote without any incident after feminist activists were briefly detained a couple of hours earlier Sunday for hanging a big anti-Le Pen banner from a church. Earlier in the day, outgoing French president Francois Hollande has cast his vote in the runoff election to replace him. He voted in his political fiefdom of Tulle in southwestern France. Hollande, the most unpopular French leader in the country's modern history, decided not to stand for re-election last year.
The Socialist president has called on voters to reject far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and to back centrist Emmanuel Macron, his former protégé. At 12:10 p.m., France's Interior Ministry said the voter turnout in the country's presidential runoff election so far was running slightly lower than it was in 2012. The ministry said as of midday Sunday that 28.23 percent of eligible voters had cast ballots, compared with the 30.66 percent half-day tally during the last presidential runoff five years ago.
The unusually tense and unpredictable French presidential campaign ended with a hacking attack and document leak targeting Macron on Friday night. France’s government cybersecurity agency is investigating the hack. Either candidate would lead France into uncharted territory, since neither comes from the mainstream parties that dominate parliament and have run the country for decades.
After a tumultuous election campaign filled with scandal and surprises, voters will decide on Sunday whether a pro-European Union centrist or an anti-EU, anti-immigration far-rightist will lead them for the next five years.
Macron is favorite
Opinion polls indicate they will pick Emmanuel Macron, a 39-year-old ex-economy minister who wants to bridge the left-right divide, resisting an anti-establishment tide that has seen Britons vote to leave the EU and Americans choose Donald Trump as US president. But should an upset occur and National Front candidate Marine Le Pen win, the very future of the EU could be on the line.
Macron, who wants to deregulate the economy and deepen EU integration, has a 23-26 percentage point lead over Le Pen in the opinion polls. Forecasts proved to be accurate for the presidential election’s first round last month and markets have climbed in response to Macron’s widening lead over his rival after a bitter debate on Wednesday.
French nationals living in Australia stand in a line as they wait to cast their votes in the presidential poll located at a polling booth located at a school in Sydney, Australia, on May 7, 2017. (Reuters)
In a campaign that has seen favorites drop out of the race one after the other, Le Pen, who wants to close borders, ditch the euro currency and clamp down on migration, is nevertheless closer to elected power than the far right has ever been in Western Europe since World War Two.
Even if opinion polls prove accurate and France elects its youngest president ever rather than its first female leader, Macron himself has said himself he expects no honeymoon period.
Abstention could be high and close to 60 percent of those who plan to vote for Macron say they will do so to stop Le Pen from being elected to lead the euro zone’s second-largest economy rather than because they fully agree with the former banker-turned-politician. “The expected victory...wouldn’t be a blank cheque for Emmanuel Macron,” Odoxa pollsters said in a note. “A huge majority will not be backing him wholeheartedly.”
Sunday’s election will in any case far from spell the end of the battle between mainstream and more radical policies in France, with parliamentary elections next month equally crucial. Once the presidential ballot is over, attention will immediately switch to whether the winner will be able to count on a parliamentary majority. The first poll on the parliamentary election, published this week, showed that was within reach for Macron. Much will also depend on both the candidates’ score on Sunday. Le Pen’s niece, Marion Marechal-Le Pen, on Thursday told L’Opinion daily that a 40 percent score would already be “a huge victory” for the National Front. Whoever wins will spell a new chapter in French politics after the major left-wing and right-wing parties -- the Socialist Party and The Republicans -- that have ruled France for decades both suffered humiliating defeats in the election’s first round. The campaign was hit by yet another surprise on Friday night just before the quiet period which forbids politicians from commenting started, as Macron’s team said a massive hack had dumped emails, documents and campaign financing information online. Security will be a prime concern during voting day in the wake of a series of militant attacks in Paris, Nice and elsewhere in the past few years that have killed more than 230 people in the past two-and-a-half years.
Syria Fighting Eases as Safe
Zones Plan Begins
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 07/17/Fighting subsided in Syria on Saturday after a deal signed by government backers Russia and Iran and rebel supporter Turkey to create four "de-escalation zones" began to take effect. The multi-phase plan, signed Thursday in the Kazakh capital Astana, is one of the more ambitious efforts to end Syria's six-year conflict. It provides for a ceasefire, rapid deliveries of humanitarian aid and the return of refugees after "de-escalation zones" are created across stretches of eight Syrian provinces. Those zones would see a halt to hostilities, including air strikes. The plan also proposes the deployment of "third-party" monitoring forces. It began coming into effect at midnight (2100 GMT Friday), according to Russia, but co-sponsors have until June 4 to finalize the zones' borders. The four main battlegrounds covered are the northwestern province of Idlib, parts of central Syria, the south, and the opposition enclave of Eastern Ghouta near Damascus. Some of those areas had already seen a drop in violence by Saturday, and Russia's defense ministry said Syria was "stable" at the end of the deal's first day. "We noticed there are fewer airplanes, almost none. People are buying and selling more," said Abu Qais, a 26-year-old trader in Maaret al-Numan in Idlib province. "Psychologically, residents are relieved," he told AFP.
'Hostilities have dropped'
Syrian government warplanes could be heard from Eastern Ghouta around midday, according to an AFP correspondent in the rebel-held town of Douma. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government forces were clashing with rebels in the central province of Hama, dropping barrel bombs and firing artillery at opposition-held villages there. "Despite these violations, we can still say that hostilities have dropped," said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman. The Britain-based Observatory said a child was killed in government shelling in parts of Homs province that fall within the de-escalation zones, the first civilian death in the zones since the deal began coming into effect. Another seven rebel fighters were killed in other areas, up from an earlier toll of four. Several ceasefires have been agreed since Syria's conflict broke out in 2011, but they have failed to permanently stem the fighting. The new deal was penned by opposition backer Turkey as well as Russia and Iran, which both support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. It was reached during negotiations to shore up a faltering truce deal brokered in December. The agreement would initially last six months but could be extended by the guarantors. It does not specify that the safe zones take effect immediately, but gives the three guarantor states two weeks to form working groups to delineate them and then until June 4 to come up with definitive boundaries.Access to the areas will be controlled by security zones with checkpoints and observation posts.
The deal also calls for a continued fight against the Islamic State group and former al-Qaida affiliate Fateh al-Sham Front, which could pose challenges. In Idlib province in particular, Fateh al-Sham is a major component of the rebel forces that control the area. The Syrian government and rebel groups are not signatories, and both sides spoke vaguely Saturday about "violations" of the agreement.A senior military source in Damascus said the army had noted breaches but was waiting for the zones to be fully delineated. And a member of the rebel delegation to the talks said the opposition was "recording violations of the deal committed by the regime and its militias." "We will send this list to the Russians via the Turks," the source told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity. Germany said it was worried by reports of violations but that successfully implementing the deal could be the first step towards a real ceasefire.U.S. officials have given the deal a guarded welcome and have followed up its signing with several phone calls with Russia. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson discussed Syria with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday, and General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke with his Russian counterpart General Valery Gerasimov on Saturday. World powers are hoping success on the ground could pave the way for a new round of political talks in Geneva this month. More than 320,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began with demonstrations against Assad. The National Coalition, a leading Syrian opposition body, elected prominent dissident Riad Seif, 70, as its new head on Saturday. Seif, who spent eight years in Syrian prison for his opposition activities, will replace Anas al-Abdeh.
Syrian Regime’s Breaches Threaten ‘De-escalation Zones’
Caroline AkoumAsharq Al-Awsat/May 07/17/Beirut – The first day of a memorandum on setting de-escalation zones in Syria eased violence, but did not see a complete cessation of fighting as forces of Bashar Assad’s regime violated the calm in several areas, particularly in al-Qaboun neighborhood in Damascus and in the countryside of Hama, where they launched two separate attacks in addition to announcing the killing of four opposition fighters in Deraa. The opposition said the memorandum could be threatened if regime forces continue to breach the ceasefire. “Moscow respects the memorandum on the de-escalation zones contrary to the regime, while the opposition factions will remain in a defensive position with the right to respond,” chief of staff of the Free Syrian Army Ahmed Beri told Asharq Al-Awsat on Saturday. He added: “Opposition factions responded to regime forces attacks launched at night on several positions in the countryside of Hama. The forces were trying to advance in the area, but the factions confronted them.”Asked about the maps that delineate borders of the zones separating regime forces from opposition factions, Beri, who participated in the last Astana meeting, said: “In a week, if the memorandum lasts, we will meet as military experts with Russian and Turkish representatives to place those maps according to the opposition and the regime locations in those areas.” Last week, states acting as guarantors in bolstering the ceasefire in Syria signed a memorandum on four de-escalation zones proposed by Russia during the fourth round of the Astana talks, held in the Kazakh capital on Thursday. While two senior Russian and US military officials have agreed to fully resume a previous agreement intended to prevent midair incidents by warplanes from the two countries flying over Syria, Russia’s Foreign Ministry published on its website Saturday a detailed text of the memorandum on Syria’s de-escalation zones. The statement said the memorandum is to be in force for six months with the possibility of automatic extension for the same period.
Suspected ISIS militants kill
Christian man in northern Sinai
Associated Press, Al-Arish Sunday, 7 May 2017/Security officials say a Christian man has been shot dead by suspected militants while inside a barber’s shop in Egypt’s turbulent northern Sinai. The late Saturday killing in the coastal city of Al-Arish came one day after ISIS’s local affiliate warned it would escalate attacks against Christians. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media. Ayoub is at least the seventh Christian in northern Sinai to be killed by suspected ISIS militants in recent months. The killings have forced hundreds of Christians to flee the region. At least 75 others have been killed in ISIS attacks targeting churches since December. ISIS is currently spearheading an insurgency in northern Sinai, where security forces have been battling militants for years.
Ex-Nusra fighters to be evacuated from Syrian camp
AgenciesSunday, 7 May 2017/Agreement has been reached to evacuate wounded fighters of the hardline Islamist group formerly known as Nusra Front from Yarmouk, in the southern suburbs of Damascus, to rebel-held Idlib province, Hezbollah-affiliated al-Manar TV reported on Sunday.
The agreement is the second phase of an earlier deal to evacuate people from two towns besieged by rebels, and two towns besieged by pro-government forces, the first phase of which was implemented last month, al-Manar reported. The wounded fighters and some others accompanying them would form a group of about 50, reported the television channel, which is based in Lebanon. Hezbollah, also from Lebanon, is a close military ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Nusra Front was the official branch of al-Qaeda in Syria until a year ago, when it broke formal allegiance to the global jihadist movement and renamed itself. It has since joined a number of other militant groups under the new name Tahrir al-Sham. Both Nusra Front and later Tahrir al-Sham have at times fought alongside other rebel groups, including those that operate under the banner of the Free Syrian Army, against the government and at times have clashed with them. Yarmouk, in the southern suburbs of Damascus, is the location of a large Palestinian refugee camp. Parts of the area are held by the government, parts by rebels including Tahrir al-Sham, and parts by Islamic State. An earlier deal involved evacuating civilians from the rebel-besieged Shi'ite Muslim towns of Kefraya and al-Foua in Idlib province in return for the departure of civilians and insurgent fighters from Zabadani and Madaya, near Damascus. Completed late last month, that agreement was the largest and most complex so far in a series of evacuation deals for besieged areas that have grown more common over the past year in Syria's civil war. While Assad’s government in Damascus has praised such deals as a way to reduce bloodshed, the rebels have condemned them as a means to impose demographic change by forcing large numbers of civilians to leave pro-opposition areas. The United Nations, which has not been party to the agreements, has also voiced concern that they amount to forced displacement.
Syrian army advances
Syrian activists say government forces have taken a village on the edge of a large cease-fire zone encompassing rebel-held territory in northwest Syria. A local media activist who goes by the name Obeida Hamawi says the government pushed opposition fighters out of the village of Zalaqiyat on Saturday, in Hama province, following days of fighting that killed at least 14 rebels. Russia, Turkey, and Iran agreed on Friday to enforce a cease-fire between government and opposition forces in four areas in Syria, including one that extends into northern Hama province, where Zalaqiyat lies. It is not clear if the agreement encompasses the village. Russia says it will publish maps by June 4. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says 11 pro-government fighters were killed in the Zalaqiyat advance. (With Reuters, AP)
ISIS head in Afghanistan killed
By Reuters, Kabul Sunday, 7 May 2017 /ISIS’s head in Afghanistan, Abdul Hasib, has been killed in an operation led by Afghan special forces in the eastern province of Nangarhar, President Ashraf Ghani announced on Sunday.Hasib, appointed last year after his predecessor Hafiz Saeed Khan died in a US drone strike, is believed to have ordered a series of high profile attacks including one in March on the main military hospital in Kabul by a group of militants disguised as doctors, a statement said.
Jordan, US kick off major military drill
AFP, Amman Sunday, 7 May 2017 /Jordan and the United States kicked off annual military exercises Sunday known as “Eager Lion”, with about 7,400 troops from more than 20 nations taking part, officials said. US and Jordanian officials said the maneuvers would include border security, cyber defense, and “command and control” exercises, to bolster coordination in response to threats including terrorism. “Joint efforts and coordination and the exchange of expertise... are needed at the time when the region is facing the threat of terrorism,” Jordanian Brigadier General Khalid al-Shara, who will head the exercises, told reporters. US Major General Bill Hickman, deputy commanding general for the American army in the region, said this year’s “Eager Lion” exercises -- the seventh so far -- are “the largest and most complex to date”. The highlight of this year’s exercise, he said, will be that “for the first time ever a global strike mission” will be conducted by “two US Air Force B-1B bomber aircraft” -- a long-range multi-mission bomber. A statement by the Jordanian army said troops from Europe, Asia, Africa and the Arab Gulf region are taking part in the exercises which run to May 18, including from Britain, Japan, Kenya and Saudi Arabia. About 6,000 troops from Jordan and the US took part in last year’s exercises -- a joint operation first launched in 2011. Jordan is a key recipient of US financial aid and a partner in the US-led coalition battling ISIS in Syria and Iraq. US forces have trained a small group of vetted Syrian rebels in Jordan, and American instructors have trained Iraqi and Palestinian security forces in Jordan as well over the past few years. Two years ago, the United States announced its intention to increase overall US assistance to Jordan from $660 million to $1 billion annually for the 2015-2017 period.
Revolutionary Guards attack Rouhani for criticizing missile experiments
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishSunday, 7 May 2017/Spokesman of the Iranian Armed forces and the general of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Massoud Jazairi, attacked Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s statements during the second round of debates on Iran’s presidential election broadcasted on Friday, where Rouhani accused the Revolutionary Guards of working to break the nuclear agreement by continuing to develop and test the ballistic missiles and threaten the countries of the region. “The development of Iran’s missile force comes within the framework of the general policies of the regime, and the presence of missile bases underground is a significant deterrent to the enemies’ threats,” Fares agency quoted what Jaziri said. In a live interview on Iranian television, Rouhani said that “some displayed the range of ballistic missiles and wrote slogans on missiles in order to stop the nuclear agreement, in reference to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards who launched a rocket of 1400 kilometers, in March 2016, with Hebrew words on it: “Israel must be removed from existence.”The ballistic missile was launched within missile maneuvers attended by Revolutionary Guards commander-in-chief Mohammad Ali Jafari and several senior Iranian military officials who repeatedly threatened all countries in the region. Iran’s missile development program faces opposition from the United States and the European Union, which demands that Tehran should stop its “ballistic missile experiments.”
ISIS flaunts rocket-mounted vehicle attack in northwestern Mosul
Agencies Sunday, 7 May 2017/Flaunting new arms it first announced in late April, ISIS has posted images showing its use of a rocket-mounted vehicle in a suicide bombing in northwestern Mosul. The images showed the attacker inside the vehicle before he carried out the attack targeting Iraqi forces, the vehicle advancing on its target and the detonation he purportedly orchestrated. But they did not illustrate the novel feature ISIS had advertised as key to the new weaponry - the firing of rockets mounted on the vehicle. The group had said this would maximize destruction caused by the attacker as he advanced towards his target.
ISIS attacks kill two at Iraqi base
At least two people were killed and six injured when multiple ISIS suicide bombers attacked a base in northern Iraq where US military advisers are stationed, security sources said on Sunday. In addition, two of the militants died when they detonated their vests at the entrance to the K1 base overnight, and three more were killed by Kurdish peshmerga forces who control the Kirkuk area where it is situated. “They were wearing uniforms like the Kurdish peshmerga and had shaved their beards to look like us,” one officer told Reuters. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement, saying it had killed and wounded dozens of “crusaders and apostates,” referring to the peshmerga and Western military advisers. Iraqi forces backed by a US-led coalition are fighting to dislodge ISIS from Mosul, 140 km northwest of Kirkuk, but large pockets of territory remain under militant control, including Hawija, which is near the targeted base.
Yemen army advancing towards Aqaba mountains in Al Jawf governorate
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishSunday, 7 May 2017/The Yemeni national army has made significant progress towards the Aqaba mountains in the border town of Al Jawf, while Houthi militias were hit with heavy artillery fire in Sarawah province. This comes at a time when the soldiers of the third battalion are besieging the militia in al-Majd mountain. Elsewhere, leadership in Taiz announced the Yemeni National Army’s - with support from the Arab coalition - control of the Omari camp west of the province after clashes with Houthis. According to the leadership, forces of the National Army tightened control over the mountains after fierce fighting with the militias.
Saudi aid to Yemen in two years stands at $8.2 billion
By Staff writer Al Arabiya News EnglishSunday, 7 May 2017 /The Saudi foreign ministry published an infographics that shows the size of aid which the Saudi kingdom has provided to Yemen since April 2015 until April 2017. Saudi Arabia has provided $8.2 billion during this phase. The amount has been divided on different sectors. The development sector received the biggest share worth $2.9 billion while aid to the legitimate Yemeni government was worth $2.2 billion. Yemenis residing in the Saudi kingdom also received aid worth $1.1 billion. The value of humanitarian aid is $847.5 million and $1 billion was deposited in the Yemeni Central Bank.
Saudi Arabia to modify 24 Apache Helicopters
By Staff writer Al Arabiya News EnglishSunday, 7 May 2017/Boeing has been awarded a $143.4 million contract to provide unique Block II and III modifications to AH-64E Apache attack helicopters for the Saudi Arabia National Guard, according to Defenseworld.net. It added that work will be performed in Mesa, Arizona, with an estimated completion date of April 1, 2022. The contract covers 24 of the Apaches, with $3.9 million in foreign military sales funding obligated at the time of the award. The work will be conducted at the Boeing facility in Mesa, Ariz., and is expected to be completed by April 2022. The Apache is the primary attack helicopter of the U.S. Army. The report said that Saudi Arabian National Guard is one of the biggest customers of the AH-64E Apache helicopters and it is planning for a total chopper fleet of some 150 helicopters.
Saudi who named his newborn Ivanka sets off US media buzz
Staff writer, Al Arabiya EnglishSunday, 7 May 2017 /Salem al-Enezi, the Saudi man who had named his newborn Ivanka after the daughter of American President Donald Trump said he had to change the name in compliance with the system. Enezi told Al-Arabiya.net that if he was allowed to register his daughter’s name as Ivanka, he would have unhesitatingly done so. He also said that he does not know who published his child’s information at the hospital, adding that he did not call his baby Ivanka because he wanted to be famous or appear in the media. Enezi added that everything escalated very quickly and he was contacted by American dailies such as The Washington Post.
Asked if his wife approved of the name Ivanka, Enezi said she was convinced of the name and that she does not have a problem with his admiration towards Ivanka Trump, adding that if his wife finds a woman as beautiful as Ivanka, she will ask for her hand for him. He also said that many clerics and religious scholars called him and criticized him for naming his daughter Ivanka so he told them that Prophet Mohammed married Safiya whose father was Jewish, adding that he thus repelled evil by a deed which is better.
Egyptian President Starts Gulf Tour in Kuwait
Asharq Al-Awsat/May 07/17/Cairo – Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is heading to Kuwait on Sunday on an official two-day visit, to meet with Prince Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, to strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries, as well as to continue consultation and coordination on various regional and international issues of mutual interest. The Egyptian president is scheduled to visit Bahrain after Kuwait where he will hold bilateral talks with King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. This is Sisi’s second visit to Kuwait since he became president in June 2014. An Egyptian diplomatic source said that the President’s visit will last for two days and reflects the brotherly relations between the two countries. It also aims at continuous consultations between the two countries on the development of their bilateral relations at all levels. Both leaders are scheduled to discuss ways to strengthen the unity of Arab countries and enhancing their ability to protect their common interests, as well as ways to stand against all attempts of foreign intervention. The Egyptian president is scheduled to head to Bahrain to meet with King Hamad to discuss developing bilateral relations between the two countries and to address all attempts of external intervention. Both visits aim to follow up on bilateral partnerships, reviewing updates on regional conditions, and to confirm the strength of bilateral relations. Meanwhile, Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Egypt Ahmed Abu Zeid announced that FM Sameh Shoukry received his Eritrean counterpart Osman Saleh Mohammed and Eritrean Presidential Adviser Yemane Gebreab.During the meeting, they discussed issues of common interest in addition to means of developing bilateral relations. Abo Zeid added that the area is facing many challenges that require the cooperation and coordination between the two countries. He also said both the Eritrean FM and presidential advisor stressed during the meeting their appreciation for the high level cooperation between the two countries. The two Eritrean officials also reviewed with the Egyptian FM the current crisis in the region especially the situation in South Sudan amid the difficult humanitarian situations.
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France: Emmanuel Macron, Useful Idiot of Islamism
Yves Mamou/Gatestone Institute/May 07/17
Emmanuel Macron, a "Useful Infidel," is not a supporter of terrorism or Islamism. It is worse: he does not even see the threat.
Louizi's article gave names and dates, explaining how Macron's political movement has largely been infiltrated by Muslim Brotherhood militants.
Is Macron an open promoter of Islamism in France? It is more politically correct to say that he is a "globalist" and an "open promoter of multiculturalism". As such, he does not consider Islamism a national threat because the French nation, or, as he has said, French culture, does not really exist.
During the cold war with the Soviet Union, they were called "Useful Idiots". These people were not members of the Communist Party, but they worked for, spoke in favor of and supported the ideas of Lenin and Stalin. In the 21st century, Communism is finally dead but Islamism has grown and is replacing it as a global threat.
Like Communism, Islamism -- or Islamic totalitarianism -- has been collecting its "Useful Infidels" the same way Communism collected its Useful Idiots. There is, however, an important difference: under the Soviet Union, Useful Idiots were intellectuals. Now, Useful Infidels are politicians, and one of them may be elected president of France today.
Emmanuel Macron, Useful Infidel, is not a supporter of terrorism or Islamism. It is worse: he does not even see the threat. In the wake of the gruesome attacks of November 13, 2015 in Paris, Macron said that French society must assume a "share of responsibility" in the "soil in which jihadism thrives."
"Someone, on the pretext that he has a beard or a name we could believe is Muslim, is four times less likely to have a job than another who is non-Muslim," he added. Coming from the direction of Syria and armed with a Kalashnikov and a belt of explosives would, according to him, be a gesture of spite from the long-term unemployed?
Macron comes close to accusing the French of being racists and "Islamophobes". "We have a share of responsibility," he warned, "because this totalitarianism feeds on the mistrust that we have allowed to settle in society.... and if tomorrow we do not take care, it will divide them even more ".
Consequently, Macron said, French society "must change and be more open." More open to what? To Islam, of course.
On April 20, 2017, after an Islamist terrorist killed one police officer and wounded two others in Paris, Macron said: "I am not going to invent an anti-terrorist program in one night". After two years of continuous terrorist attacks on French territory, the presidential candidate said he had not taken the country's security problems into account?
Moreover, on April 6, during the presidential campaign, professor Barbara Lefebvre, who has authored books on Islamism, revealed to the audience of the France2 television program L'Emission Politique, the presence on Macron's campaign team of Mohamed Saou. It was Saou, apparently, a departmental manager of Macron's political movement, "En Marche" ("Forward"), who promoted on Twitter the classic Islamist statement: "I am not Charlie".
Sensing a potential scandal, Macron dismissed Saou, but on April 14, invited onto Beur FM, a Muslim French radio station, Macron was caught saying on a "hot mic" (believing himself off the air): "He [Saou] did a couple things a little bit radical. But anyway, Mohamed is a good guy, a very good guy".
"Very good", presumably, because Mohamed Saou was working to rally Muslim voters to Macron.
Is Saou an isolated case? Of course not. On April 28, Mohamed Louizi, author of the book Why I Quit Muslim Brotherhood, released a detailed article on Facebook that accused Macron of being a "hostage of the Islamist vote". Republished by Dreuz, a Christian anti-Islamist website, Louizi's article gave names and dates, explaining how Macron's political movement has largely been infiltrated by Muslim Brotherhood militants. It will be interesting to see how many of them will be candidates in Macron's movement in the next parliamentary elections.
On April 24, the Union of Islamic Organisations of France (UOIF), generally known as the French representative of Muslim Brotherhood, publicly called on Muslims to "vote against the xenophobic, anti-Semitic and racist ideas of the National Front and [we] call to massively vote for Mr. Macron."
Is Macron an open promoter of Islamism in France? It is more politically correct to say that he is a "globalist" and an "open promoter of multiculturalism". As such, he apparently does not consider Islamism a national threat because, for him, the French nation, or, as he has said, French culture, does not really exist. Macron has, in fact, denied that France is a country with a specific culture, a specific history, and a specific literature or art. On February 22, visiting the French expatriates in London, Macron said: "French culture does not exist, there is a culture in France and it is diverse". In other words, on French territory, French culture and French traditions have no prominence or importance over imported migrant cultures. The same day, in London, he repeated the offense: "French art? I never met it!"
Conversely, in an interview with the anti-Islamist magazine, Causeur, he said: "France never was and never will be a multiculturalist country".
Because he is a politician, Macron is not addressing the French people as a whole. He is addressing different political customer bases. When visiting Algeria, Macron said that colonization was a "crime against humanity". He evidently hoped this remark would help him to collect the votes of French citizens of Algerian origin.
During the presidential campaign, Macron was always saying to people what they wanted to hear. French people may well be on their way to discovering that for Macron, belonging to a homeland, thinking of borders and defining oneself as belonging to a mother language or a specific literature or art, is nothing more than junk.
* Yves Mamou is a journalist and author based in France. He worked for two decades for the daily, Le Monde, before his retirement.
© 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.
Safe Zones or Detention Camps?/مناطق آمنة أم معسكرات اعتقال/عبد
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al Awsat/May 07/17
Do not rush into judging the safe zones plan in Syria. It is not a totally bad idea, but, as one commentator said, the devil is in the details.
When the idea of assigning areas for civilians escaping the war was suggested few years ago, it was rapidly rejected by the Syrian regime, Iran, and Russia. They were also assisted by the former US President who claimed it was impractical.
After that, the three powers, Assad regime, Iran, and Russia, increased their destruction to the cities aiming at increasing the numbers of displaced citizens and refugees, therefore importing the problem outside of Syria.
Indeed, the number of homeless and those crossing the borders exceeded average numbers in the history of wars. About two and a half million Syrian refugees escaped to Lebanon and Jordan, and the same number to Turkey.
Over a period of one year, million Syrian refugee had escaped to Europe through Turkey in an unprecedented manner since the War World II. Among the refugees, a number of terrorists and regime’s intelligence also escaped. Indeed, the war was afraid of Syrian refugees.
Europe pressured for refugee camps inside Syria, but Russia rejected the idea. Assad allies considered the idea of safe areas a counter political game aiming to establish independent cantons.
The regime continued to bomb areas wanting to displace millions of citizens of large clusters.
Only a small percentage of Aleppo’s, largest city, original population remained.
After all borders had been closed, there were about seven million displaced Syrian inside the country and five million outside, the largest number in modern history.
The US administration changed and President Trump changed his country’s policy towards the struggle in Syria. His government is distinctive for having military generals among its members who have actually worked in the region and are aware of the facts about the land.
The administration punished Assad and his allies by bombing Shuyrat airport, hence announcing its new policy. It also requested safe zones on the map. It is true that the idea is old, suggested about three years ago, but the surprising thing is that it was quickly implemented and revealed in less than a week!
This is a step that is approved by involved parties: US, Russia, Turkey, Gulf, and Jordan, and is strongly rejected by Iran and Assad regime. Keeping in mind the worrying details, the plan is good. Establishing refuges means that, first of all, the destiny of the people is no longer under the mercy of Damascus, Iran, and Russia. There is a legitimacy in Syria assigned by other countries like Turkey and USA. It also means that the dangerous project of importing refugees to stable countries as in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, and Europe is over.
Safe refuges for civilians also means putting an end to the Iranian attempt, with the help of Assad, to demographically change the country, ensure control over strategic areas, and build a geographic passage which links Iran’s new colonies together: Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. It will give the Syrian civilian opposition a chance as well to work political on the ground for the first time.
Despite all of that, refuges have possible risks. It has divided the map of Syria politically. It gave US the regions that is important for its security, the areas close to Jordan, Israel, and Kurdistan. It also granted Russia areas adjacent to Lebanon and others occupied by minorities with Russian bases. As for Turkey, it was assigned to the areas close to it. Also, of the possible dangers, the infiltration of terrorist groups into those areas and recruiting civilians as their members, thus becoming an international cause. Without a political solution or a decisive military victory, the areas will be similar to detention camps for millions of people. Yet, in spite of those risks, it is crucial to put an end to this humanitarian crisis and free millions of innocents from the claws of the regime and its allies. This initiative killed the solution imposed two months ago which forcibly declared the regime a ruler. This prompted everyone to search for a reasonable alternative solution.
Trump to Jeddah… Message Delivered?!
Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al Awsat/May 07/17
It is normal for any president to choose his inaugural visit based on his country’s interests. However, if this was done by US President Donald Trump then no doubt that the state he chooses will have the lion’s stake from these interests.
This is what Trump did when he chose Saudi Arabia to be his first foreign visit destination. If the kingdom is the country Trump chose to launch from it his new strategy in the reginal and the Islamic world then the visit will not be a protocol one as other official visits.
Trump will hold three summits in Jeddah to explain his wish to reposition US in the region, besiege the Iranian extension, ostracize extremism and terrorism and differentiate between Muslims and extremists.
Although the visit was a delightful surprise for the majority yet some are still shocked from selecting the kingdom specifically since US president sent positive message to his historic allies and partners in the region and Islamic world as well as warnings to Iran and extremists groups and countries supported by Iran.
It was also a surprise for those who cheered up when Trump became president assuming that he is an enemy of Saudi Arabia and Islam and that he will fulfill their wish in spurring tension and crises in the region – they were quickly disappointed especially after Trump put the Saudi-US ties back on track.
As a matter of fact this man is always surprising us. During 100 days of his term, he was able to gradually change the world’s perspective towards him as if he is separating between his previous electoral statements and his stances after entering the White House.
Here he is opening up on the Islamic world, starting from Saudi Arabia with a historic visit that serves his goal in proving that he is not an enemy of Islam but extremists and terrorists. Choosing Saudi Arabia as a first destination is an attempt to face the widely spread claims that Trump is an enemy of Islam, especially after his promises to ban Muslims from entering the US and his travel restrictions related resolutions – this visit also denies claims promoted by parties close to the administration of former US President Barack Obama that Saudi Arabia overlooks terrorism.
Trump’s visit will change the equation through a pursuit to aid Riyadh in confronting terrorism and extremism.
As for the Saudi-US coalition then it is certain that the historic visit will solve any disputes that occured through the past eight years. It is clear that the visit of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Second Deputy Premier and Minister of Defense, to Washington and his meeting with Trump resulted in putting the Saudi-US ties on track again. Points of agreement surpassed points of conflict.
The anticipated visit of Trump is a US keenness to reveal a new policy in the Middle East in addition that this visit will be a strong indicator of a bigger attempt to isolate Iran that is seen by the new US administration as a sponsor of terrorism in the world – deputy crown prince warned Iran that the kingdom will bring war to its territory in case it resumed its expansive policies.
The Muslim Brotherhood affiliated media – as described by deputy crown prince – seeks to undermine the importance of this visit and to find points of difference in US-Arab relations as well as to spread frustration.
I see that this reaction is expected – it also proves that accusations against this media are true as it seeks to disturb any attempts to restore stability in the region. As for the pessimists and concerned towards Trump’s future policies we advise them to go with the flow.
Donald Trump’s grand ambitions in the region
Fawaz Turki/Al Arabiya/May 07/17
He brags. And he does it with impressive ease. As a case in point, President Donald Trump proclaimed recently that his first 100 days in office have been among “the most productive in US presidential history.” A lot of commentators, not to mention presidential historians, chuckled a bit, and let that boast slide. His latest boast was made last Wednesday as he met with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in the White House. “It’s something that I think may not be as difficult as people have thought over the years,” he said. “We will get this done.”
He was referring to the seemingly insoluble Palestinian conflict -- along with that conflict’s broader dimension, the inter-state dispute between Israel and and the Arab countries -- that stretches back to the British Mandate, when the Foreign Office in London tried its hand at conflict resolution by introducing peace plans stretching from the Peel Commission to the White Paper -- to no avail. Then after Britain had its eclipse, and the United States its day as a big power, Washington tried, and tried and tried again, to search for a peace settlement, all the way from The Rogers Peace Plan in 1969 to Secretary of State John Kerry’s initiative in 2014 -- with the conflict continuing to elude resolution.
These efforts all ended with well-meaning mediators banging their heads against the wall, after trying and then failing to push that rock up the hill, as Israel, during its five decades of occupation -- already the longest military occupation ever of one people by another -- showed no sign of backing off its hard-line policies.
Negotiating a deal
President Trump, who claims to be skilled at the “art of the deal,” said that he would do all he could (“whatever is necessary”) to negotiate an agreement, though he offered no sense of how he would go about doing it or what the agreement would entail (he made no mention of the two-state solution in his remarks last Wednesday). Wanton psychologizing aside, President Trump appears to see himself -- grandiose the self-image may be -- as a latter-day George Mallory, with the Middle East conflict as his Everest. And like Mallory, who wanted to climb Earth’s highest mountain “because it’s there,” the American chief executive, the ultimate deal-maker, wants to solve that conflict “because it’s intractable.” Donald Trump, the 45th president of the United States of America, has his work cut out for him. If he grows with his job -- and let’s face it, he needs to do that, given the fact that he has no experience in diplomacy, politics or the military -- he may, just may, morph into the “mold-breaker” he unabashedly brags about being.
And Trump’s first trip abroad as president later this month, which begins with a visit to the Kingdom, followed by visits to Israel -- with a stop in the occupied territories, hosted by President Abbas -- and Vatican City, is meant to cement the impression that he is different, a “mold-breaker” adept at consummating a deal, regardless of how tough the challenge that deal may present. And what tougher challenge is there than to wade through, and take a shot at solving, the Arab-Israeli conflict, which, as he claimed with optimistic flourish last Wednesday, is really “not as difficult as people have thought over the years”?
To be sure, an American president visiting the Kingdom is not an altogether unusual or rare event. Saudi Arabia and the United States have been close allies for well over seven decades, since President Franklin Roosevelt and King Abdul Aziz in February 1945 met aboard the US cruiser Quincy -- docked in Great Bitter Lake in the Suez Canal -- and their governments bonded thereafter. Moreover, Saudi Arabia is seen by the US as a major, perhaps the major, regional power in the Middle East today.
No doubt Saudi officials will remind the American president, during his visit, of the olive branch the Arab countries have extended to Israel (with no reciprocal response), namely the Arab Peace Plan, endorsed by all member states of the Arab League at the Beirut Summit in 2002, and re-endorsed at subsequent summits in 2007 and 2017, a bold peace plan that calls for normalizing relations between Arab countries and Israel, in exchange for a full withdrawal by the Zionist state from the Arab territories conquered in 1967, along with a “just settlement” of the Palestinian refugee problem based on UN Resolution 194.
Certainly, the American chief executive’s visit to Saudi Arabia, home of Islam’s holiest shrines, will, if nothing else, soften his image in the Islamic world as the president who had uttered some intemperate language about that world’s faith, and who recently imposed a ban on entry to the US of refugees and travelers from several Muslim countries.
In Israel, Trump’s main event will be a visit to Masada, where in the first century AD ancient Israelite zealots held off a Roman siege for a year before committing suicide. The symbolism of the venue seems to have passed largely unnoticed by commentators, including Israeli ones, for Masada embodies everything we associate with religious extremism -- extremism emblematic of the self-destructiveness of today’s Jewish zealots, who are the backbone of the colonial project in the Palestinian occupied territories. And, yes, who has problems with the American president meeting in Vatican City with Pope Francis, spiritual leader of 1.2 billion Catholics, not to mention the most congenial and progressive pontiff in recent memory, whose support for the oppressed and underprivileged around the world, including Palestinians, is legion?
Donald Trump, the 45th president of the United States of America, has his work cut out for him. If he grows with his job -- and let’s face it, he needs to do that, given the fact that he has no experience in diplomacy, politics or the military -- he may, just may, morph into the “mold-breaker” he unabashedly brags about being.
Terrorism and sectarianism when combined pose immense danger
Hassan Al Mustafa/Al Arabiya/May 07/17
Two important security events took place in Saudi Arabia within a few days. A terrorist attack in the eastern city of Saihat, where two security men were killed after being attacked by an armed group who fled afterward. The second was the announcement by the Saudi Interior Ministry of the Al-Harazat cell, which included 46 members who were arrested. The cell was responsible for the attack on the Prophet's Mosque in July 2016. Despite the ideological and doctrinal differences between the two groups, the common factor between them is that they are both armed. Violence is their way of imposing ideas, breaking the law and the authority of the “state”.
Terrorism is not related to a specific doctrine, but rather is an exclusionary behavior practiced by groups with an unilateral, radical thinking that does not believe in the right of the other person to have different opinion, or in conversation as a means of communication, change and reform.
The stand against violence must be clear, without ambiguity or hesitation because the danger of raising weapons against security personnel and citizens, goes beyond the goals declared by fundamentalist groups, which threatens to undermine civil peace, and the spreading of social and sectarian conflicts.
Terrorism is not related to a specific doctrine, but rather is an exclusionary behavior practiced by groups with an unilateral, radical thinking that does not believe in the right of the other person to have different opinion, or in conversation as a means of communication, change and reform.
At the same level of danger comes the question of “sectarianism”, as a symbolic and intellectual terrorism that establishes physical violence, gives legitimacy to the accusation of disbelief, exclusion and desecration of the other.
After every terrorist act in Saudi Arabia we find that the social networking sites are filled with many provocative tweets that pushes elements of society into conflict.
Hundreds of tweets incite those following one doctrine against the other. Questions that have a sectarian and racist nature would increase the level of social tension.
Intellectuals should pay attention to the game of ‘sectarian questioning’ and not to fall into its trap. It is a game that supports the ‘doctrine’ instead of ‘country’, of which each believer wants to present themselves as if they are the owners of original thought and pure blood!.
It is strange that terrorism is ascribed to a particular city or sect, or to the people of Buraydah, Qatif, Riyadh or Abha, and demand declaration of their innocence of terrorism every time a member from these cities points out his blind gun towards the citizens, repeating their clear position over and over, as desired by ‘Twitter’ provocateurs. The common logic in social media most of the time is common, instinctive logic, and tends to overwhelm the individual by narrow ‘sub-identities’.
The right vision requires that we reject racism, sectarianism and incitement, at the same time rejecting terrorism and violence. Otherwise, we will be contributing to the spread of conflicts instead of suppressing them.
How can Saudi Arabia agree with Iran?
Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/May 07/17
Iranian media outlets voiced their anger following Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s recent interview. He was clear and frank as he stated that Iran must choose to either be a civil state which is possible to agree with within the framework of mutual interests and according to the pillars of secular work or it can remain a revolutionary state that bases its foreign policy on doctrinal myths. The prince also spoke about Moscow during the interview. He said Russia is a country that’s possible to agree with as no matter how different its projects and orientations are, it’s still possible to agree with it because there is a common background and because the basis of negotiations is based on developments on the ground, on the calculations of interests and on seeking points of weakness and strength.
On talks with Rafsanjani
He recalled negotiations with former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and said this was a stage that “bit” them, adding that: “A believer is not bitten from the same hole twice.”
It’s easy. Iran must be a civil state that respects international charters and commits to not interfering in the affairs of other countries and not harming their sovereignty. If Iran commits to this, most of its problems with neighboring countries will end.
What priest Karmali’s advice to Haider al-Abadi would be
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/May 07/17
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi recently told the Iraqi Shiites that they must understand that Iraq is for all the Iraqi people and it fits them all.
We hope this sophisticated call succeeds as this will be good for Iraq, the Iraqis and Iraq’s neighbors. This would be tantamount to victory for the human inside every Iraqi.
It’s as if the Iraqis are realizing their religious, sectarian and national diversity now! History has always narrated how people co-existed in Iraq since ancient times.
An example to that is what Priest Anastas Al-Karmali, or Boutros Awwad as this is his original name, wrote about Iraq.
A pioneering figure
Karmali was a Christian priest born to a Lebanese father and an Iraqi mother from Baghdad. He was a master of Arabic language and one of the most prominent scholars in history and literature as well as pioneering figure in Iraqi journalism.
It’s as if the Iraqis are realizing their religious, sectarian and national diversity now! History has always narrated how people co-existed in Iraq since ancient times. An example to that is what Priest Anastas Al-Karmali, or Boutros Awwad as this is his original name, wrote about Iraq.
When he passed away in 1947 aged 80, author Ahmad Hamid al-Sarraf lamented him saying:
In our country which existed for ages,
Our mosques were near our churches
The people will live in unity
Where priests in caps stand by clerics in turbans
I recently read Karmali’s book “A history of Iraq” which students in Iraq are supposed to read for school. While talking about Haroun al-Rashid, the fifth and most prominent Abbasid caliph, he said: “Sports and intellectual games are two things which Haroun introduced to the world of civilization. Foreign kings from different countries followed suit. Today, all civilized people in foreign countries have followed suit as well. Rashid was the first caliph to play with the wand in the field. He practiced archery and played birjas, i.e. archery from horseback, and he played with the ball. Englishmen fell in love with these games. Many became very skilled at them and sought to win prizes in playing these games that Rashid mastered and they also wanted to attract Rashid’s attention. Rashid was also the first one to play chess from among the Abbasids, and he was the first one to play backgammon. The people called these blossoming and rich days ‘the days of the bride’.”
O God bless the days of the bride!
In a sad chapter about the Mongol invasion of Iraq, Karmali wrote: “You know that a country that does not rest will not have the chance to trade or to sell or to work in agriculture or in manufacturing. It will thus become poor. If a country becomes poor, its people will invade each other’s lands to live. The strong will take what the weak has. The country will thus decline and its people will be humiliated. They will decrease in number if not become extinct. All this is due to the scourge of ignorance where decadent people reject sophistication and do not want to owe a wise and reasonable man to show them the truth which is clear even with the smallest amount of observation.”
I hope today’s leaders of Iraq listen to the advice of Karmali, the wise priest of Baghdad.