May 11/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
Jesus said to them, It is I; do not be afraid
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 06/16-21/:"When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, got into a boat, and started across the lake to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The lake became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the lake and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid.’Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land towards which they were going."

May the Holy Spirit strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints
First Letter to the Thessalonians 03/01-13/:"Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we decided to be left alone in Athens; and we sent Timothy, our brother and co-worker for God in proclaiming the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you for the sake of your faith, so that no one would be shaken by these persecutions. Indeed, you yourselves know that this is what we are destined for. In fact, when we were with you, we told you beforehand that we were to suffer persecution; so it turned out, as you know. For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith; I was afraid that somehow the tempter had tempted you and that our labour had been in vain. But Timothy has just now come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love. He has told us also that you always remember us kindly and long to see us just as we long to see you. For this reason, brothers and sisters, during all our distress and persecution we have been encouraged about you through your faith. For we now live, if you continue to stand firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy that we feel before our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith. Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you.
And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 10-11/17
The Candy Bar that Blew Barghouti's Cover/Palestinian Incitement against the Media/Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/May 10/17
Links Between Islamism and Executions/Majid Rafizadeh/Gatestone Institute/May 10/17
What Macron Can Do for Free Markets Everywhere/Mohamed A. El-Erian/Bloomberg/May 10/17
The Problem Is Not the Islamic State but Islamic Hate/Raymond Ibrahim/FrontPage Magazine/May 10/17
Russia boosts Iran’s role in Syria, while US blocks Tehran’s passage in Deir Ezzour/
Pierre Ghanem/Al Arabiya/May 10/17
Has Saleh turned against the Houthis/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/May 10/17
UN lauds Saudi Arabia’s efforts to counter terrorism/Haifa A. Aljedea/Al Arabiya/May 10/17
Has Hamas just changed its stripes/Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi/Al Arabiya/May 10/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published on May 10-11/17
Phares to al Arabiya: "There are strategic naval red lines to Iran in the region"
Cabinet Avoids Tackling Electoral Law, Electricity, Gives Unlicensed Quarries 1 Month Grace Period
Berri Says 1960 Law 'Bad' but Sectarian Law 'Worse'
Politicians Discussing Proposed Senate's Powers, Sect of Its Chairman
Parties Show 'Flexibility' on Berri Proposal, May 15 Session to be Postponed
2 Held for Plotting to Kill Palestinian Figures including Ahmed Jibril
Lebanese Forces, FPM Standoff over Electricity Plan
Future bloc underlines need to reach consensual election law to avert vacuum
Othman, Lassen tackle overall situation
Wed 10 May 2017/NNA - Internal Security Forces
Army Commander, Girard tackle Syrian refugees' affairs
Mashnouq meets Turkish Defense Minister, Arab police delegations
Hariri, ministers oversee "disaster plan" manoeuver in Hermel
Australian Embassy celebrates its 50th anniversary
Wife of Palestinian hunger striker wants pope to intervene
DRC girls' protection programme graduates meet 'Nour' cast and crew

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on
May 10-11/17
US’s Tillerson meets with Russian foreign minister on Syria
Trump to Receive Lavrov in White House, Syria Tops Agenda
Trump Sacks FBI Director, Sparking Firestorm
Trump Wants 'Mutually Beneficial' Relations with Russia, Says Lavrov
Trump Urges Russia to 'Rein in' Syria's Assad, Iran
Jakarta’s Christian governor jailed for blasphemy against Islam
Police carry out anti-ISIS raids across Germany
Tunnel with nuclear waste collapses in Washington state
YPG and SDF Praise US Arms Move, Turkey Considers it a ‘Threat’
King Salman Invites Leaders to Arab, Islamic, US Summit
OIC Stresses Coherence of Counter-Terrorism Strategies with International Law
Turkish President Calls for Developing Trade with Gulf
Syrian who Fought alongside Nusra in Nahle Outskirts Held

Latest Lebanese Related News published on May 10-11/17
Phares to al Arabiya: "There are strategic naval red lines to Iran in the region"
Face Book/May 10/17
In an interview with al Arabiya TV, Dr Walid Phares argued that there are "strategic red lines to Iran when it comes to naval presence in the region." He asserted that the straight of Hormuz and the Arab coasts of the Gulf as well as the straight of Bab el Mandeb and Yemen's territorial waters are all red lines that Iran should not cross."Phares also added that in his estimate "the US would be concerned about the use by Iran of torpedoes, sea mines, and surface to surface and coasts to surface missiles."

Cabinet Avoids Tackling Electoral Law, Electricity, Gives Unlicensed Quarries 1 Month Grace Period
Naharnet/May 10/17/The Cabinet held an ordinary session on Wednesday during which it avoided tackling the thorny issues of the electoral law and the electricity plan. “The Prime Minister spoke about the importance of ministerial solidarity and the need to streamline the work in the Cabinet and follow up the file of the electoral law so it reaches its successful conclusion, with the insistence on reaching successful conclusions," Information Minister Melhem Riachi said in an official statement after the session. He added: "The Cabinet approved an agenda of 114 items and two items from outside the agenda: a trip of the Prime Minister and the accompanying delegation to Qatar, and agreements between the Ministry of Culture and China." "The issue of quarries was discussed and the Cabinet agreed that the owners of these quarries would use during one month their stocks and warehouses. During this month, all those who need to regularize their situation, if they meet the necessary conditions, should submit their request to the Ministry of Environment," Riachi said. Asked whether the electricity file was tackled, Riachi said it "was not discussed."As for the electoral law, the minister told reporters that “the ministerial committee tasked with studying the file discussed the issue (on Tuesday) and will continue discussing it with the main groups to reach a new electoral law as soon as possible." Prior to the session, Hariri's adviser Nader Hariri had said that he was not aware of any new electoral law that might be proposed by Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil during the session.And responding to President Michel Aoun's remarks on “the usurpation of Christian seats,” State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Qansou of the Syrian Social National Party urged “an end to sectarian rhetoric” and called for “a non-sectarian law, seeing us the usurpation of seats under the winner-takes-all system is not confined to the Christian seats.”

Berri Says 1960 Law 'Bad' but Sectarian Law 'Worse'
Naharnet/May 10/17/Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri on Wednesday acknowledged that the 1960 electoral law which was endorsed in the 2009 polls is a “bad” law for the country but warned against replacing it with a “sectarian law.”“It is not required to move from a bad prison into a worse prison, or from the 1960 law into a sectarian law,” said Berri during his weekly Ain el-Tineh meeting with lawmakers, warning against “sectarian incitement” in the electoral law debate. "We hold onto the national principles and national approach in dealing with the electoral law and we will never support any sectarian approach towards the new law,” Berri added. And warning of the regional threats surrounding Lebanon, the speaker called for “shunning the sectarian spirit and clinging to the national principles, away from any narrow or partisan interests.”Berri was referring to a controversial law proposed by Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil that involves sectarian voting in its first round. The political parties are meanwhile inching closer towards endorsing an electoral proposal suggested by Berri, which involves parliamentary elections under a full proportional representation system and the creation of a Senate.

Politicians Discussing Proposed Senate's Powers, Sect of Its Chairman
Naharnet/May 10/17/After the electoral proposal of Speaker Nabih Berri became the focus of discussions among the political forces, mainly the call for full proportional representation, a debate got underway over the second part of Berri's suggestion, which is the creation of a Senate, media reports said.The debate is specifically focusing on the proposed Senate's powers and chairman, al-Joumhouria newspaper reported on Wednesday. “The number of its members and some technicalities related to its work are debatable, but there are two main issues: the first is related to the powers of this Senate and the need that they don't contradict with or infringe on parliament's powers,” unnamed sources told the daily, criticizing Free Patriotic Movement chief Jebran Bassil's latest proposal in this regard. “Bassil's suggestions gave the impression that he is seeking to create another parliament under the Senate label that would compete with the current parliament,” the sources said. The second issue, according to the sources, is the need to “reach a final agreement on the sectarian identity of the Senate's chairman, seeing as this point is still the subject of a fundamental dispute between President Michel Aoun's camp -- which believes that the chairmanship should be given to Christians (Greek Orthodox) -- and MP Walid Jumblat, who is insisting on the Druze identity of this chairman based on the deliberations that took place during and after the Taef conference,” the sources added.

Parties Show 'Flexibility' on Berri Proposal, May 15 Session to be Postponed
Naharnet/May 10/17/Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri will not convene the May 15 legislative session unless the political forces agree on a new electoral law, media reports said on Wednesday. The political parties meanwhile have started to take Berri's latest initiative on the electoral law into consideration, following previous reservations, al-Joumhouria newspaper reported. Berri's initiative calls for holding parliamentary elections under a full proportional representation system and creating a Senate. “Should no agreement be reached on an electoral law, I will not convene the May 15 session so that extension does not get approved or I be accused of supporting extension” of parliament's term, the daily quoted Berri as saying. An unnamed senior official meanwhile told al-Joumhouria that “it seems that all political forces have reached a dead end and have started sensing the urgency of the situation.”“That's why the last hours were rife with consultations and undeclared contacts in search for a solution to the electoral law crisis,” the official said. Accordingly, an agreement has been reached on endorsing the proportional representation system according to Berri's proposal, al-Joumhouria quoted sources as saying. “Some political forces have started showing flexibility towards the proposal, after previous reservations, especially al-Mustaqbal Movement and the Lebanese Forces,” the sources added. “The urgency of the situation pushed the Free Patriotic Movement to show some timid signs that can be considered positive,” the sources said. The Kataeb Party meanwhile abandoned its call for an electoral law based on individual districts and instead prepared a proposal based on proportional representation. “The proposal was handed to Berri by ex-president Amin Gemayel,” al-Joumhouria said.

2 Held for Plotting to Kill Palestinian Figures including Ahmed Jibril

Naharnet/May 10/17/General Security has arrested two suspects accused of plotting to assassinate Palestinian figures, including Ahmed Jibril, the head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, and his son Abu al-Omarain, in addition to other PFLP-GC figures, a media report said on Wednesday. “The plot was unveiled last month, when General Security agents intercepted the phone calls of the Palestinian Nimr A. and the Syrian Abdul Qader F., who were trying to join the ranks of the al-Nusra Front group before one of them was tasked with carrying out assassinations in Lebanon,” al-Akhbar daily said. After communicating with Nusra militants on social networking websites, Nimr was given the phone number of Abu Maria, Nusra's top official in Syria's Daraa province, who asked him to collect information about the situation of the Shatila Palestinian refugee camp and the Palestinian factions there. “Nimr provided him with the requested information and Abu Maria asked Nimr to carry out attacks on Palestinian officials involved in the fighting alongside the Syrian regime, among them Jibril, asking him to target him during his visit to Lebanon,” al-Akhbar said.

Lebanese Forces, FPM Standoff over Electricity Plan
Asharq Al-Awsat/May 10/17/Beirut – The ministers of the Lebanese Forces (LF) announced on Tuesday that they will take the necessary measures at cabinet in order to put affairs related to the electricity file “back on track in order to preserve public funds and ensure the rise of the state of law.” The declaration pits the ministers against those of their ally the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) over Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil’s electricity plan. The LF ministers said that the differences between the two parties over the plan will not harm relations because the end goal is ensuring the success of the government. During a press conference on Tuesday, the LF ministers presented their reservations on the bidding process in the electricity file, which they said was contrary to a government decision and violated legal norms. The LF officials at the press conference were Health Minister Ghassan Hasbani, State Minister for Planning Michel Pharaon, Information Minister Melhem Riachi and Social Affairs Minister Pierre Abou Assi. Speaking on behalf of the ministers, Hasbani said: “During discussions on the state budget, it was evident that the electricity sector was costing the state losses that have accumulated over the years.” These losses have exceeded 20 billion dollars and are now a large part of the public debt, he explained, saying that there has not been a “solution in sight” to this issue. “We have repeatedly demanded that a permanent solution to this crisis be reached by cabinet in order to reduce the budget deficit and provide electricity to the citizens at the lowest possible cost,” he added. “The electricity minister presented a plan to tackle this crisis on the short and long terms. It was submitted during the first cabinet session that was held after the conclusion of budget discussions. The government took a clear decision, which called for tasking the minister with taking the necessary measures and procuring tenders and gradually presenting them before cabinet according to the rules and procedures,” he continued.
This was however followed by a procurement process that violated the cabinet decision. He explained that no contract conditions were presented before cabinet, but the Energy Ministry adopted amended ones that were approved by a past government. “This led to a deal that had several legal and procedural flaws,” he said. Hasbani added that the bidding process did not abide by legal norms, whether in the management of the tenders or in respecting the general accountability law or the Electricite du Liban company. He revealed that in his capacity of deputy prime minister, he had twice contacted the cabinet to rectify this situation, but his demands were ignored. “We were therefore forced to take this stand before the public in order to declare our commitment to the need to respect cabinet decisions and to return to them during each step of the implementation of the electricity plan, specifically in regards to the current conditions contract,” he stressed. He also demanded the expansion of the conditions contracts in order to find better solutions related to costs, transparency and speed of execution. FPM Secretary Ibrahim Kanann responded to the LF by asking: “What is the purpose of all this uproar over the electricity?”
He said that the LF ministers should present their case before cabinet, which is set to convene on Wednesday, “but it is unacceptable for them to question our reputation.”“The upcoming days will reveal that we are keen on reform,” he stressed.

Future bloc underlines need to reach consensual election law to avert vacuum
Wed 10 May 2017/NNA - "Future" bloc sternly prodded the Lebanese political parties to reach a new consensual vote law format, in order to avert falling into vacuum in the legislative authority. Future Bloc's fresh stance on Wednesday came in the wake of its periodic meeting at the Central House, under the chairmanship of former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.The bloc discussed the overall situation on the domestic arena. Future bloc underlined the dire need to reach a new vote law format through consensus, saying that the current critical national, economic and political circumstances in the country and the sensitive nature of developments rattling the Arab region necessitate utmost keenness to reach a consensual vote law to spare Lebanon further repercussions. On the other hand, the bloc congratulated French President-elect Emmanuel Macron on his election win, saying the outcome of these elections affirmed the triumph of the democratic system, preservation of Europe's unity and the importance of living in coexistence in diverse societies.

Othman, Lassen tackle overall situation
Wed 10 May 2017/NNA - Internal Security Forces chief Emad Othman on Wednesday met at his Barracks office with European Union Ambassador to Lebanon, Christina Lassen, with talks between the pair reportedly touching on the overall situation on the local arena.
The overall situation in the country also topped discussions between Major General Othman and National Liberal Party leader MP Dori Chamoun.

Army Commander, Girard tackle Syrian refugees' affairs
Wed 10 May 2017/NNA - Army Commander General Joseph Aoun on Wednesday met at his Yarzeh office with the Representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Lebanon, Mireille Girard, with talks between the pair touching on Syrian refugees' affairs. General Aoun also welcomed at his office "Independence Movement" chief Michel Mouawad, where they discussed the overall situation on the local arena. The General then met with a delegation of the Military Tribunal Body, with talks reportedly touching on an array of judicial affairs.

Mashnouq meets Turkish Defense Minister, Arab police delegations
Wed 10 May 2017/NNA - Miister of Interior and Municipalities, Nohad Mashnouq, on Wednesday met with heads of the Arab delegations partaking in the Arab Police Tactical Shooting Championship. "Your presence in Lebanon backs the Lebanese-Arab ties and encourages Arabs to come to Lebanon because this proves that the security situation in Lebanon is composed," Mashnouq told his visitors. "We are keen on confirming Lebanon's Arabism and your presence is a serious declaration of this Arabism. The more we hold onto our identity, the bigger our ability to face foreign regional schemes is," he said.
Mashnouq met with Turkish Defense Minister, Fikri Isik, in Istanbul yesterday. The pair dwelt on bilateral cooperation in the field of military industries. They also discussed the current situation and latest developments in the region.

Hariri, ministers oversee "disaster plan" manoeuver in Hermel
Wed 10 May 2017/NNA - The President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri interrupted for a while the cabinet session held at the Grand Serail and headed with a number of ministers to the operations hall, to follow up through television screens connected to the Bekaa mohafazat a live maneuver for the "disaster and crisis plan for Baalbek-Hermel" in coordination with the mohafez, Bachir Khodr. Prime Minister Hariri spoke via the screen with the officials in the Hermel and Bekaa operations room commending their efforts and asserting the government's support. The maneuver organized by the UNDP Disaster Risk Management Unit at the Presidency of the Council of ministers simulated a field exercise for a flood scenario on Nahr al-Assi banks in Hermel. It came in the framework of the implementation of the disaster and crisis plan for Baalbek-Hermel. The Disaster Risk Management Unit at the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, with a financing by the European Union, Kuwait and the Embassy of the Netherlands, is reinforcing Lebanon's abilities to face the risks of natural crises that are manmade on the national, sectoral and local levels. In this framework, they supported the Baalbek-Hermel mohafazat to prepare a disaster response plan based on studies and assessments of the risks facing the region. The mohafazat also formed a disaster management committee, headed by the mohafez, that includes representatives from the concerned ministries and apparatus like the Lebanese army, the internal security forces, the civil defense and the Lebanese Red Cross. The unit also equipped an operations room for the mohafazat with state of the art techniques for a rapid and effective response in case of emergency. During the maneuver, the operations room was put into function in addition to a field operations room that was connected to the central operations room at the Presidency of the Council of Ministers in the Grand Serail, where Prime Minister Saad Hariri oversaw the maneuvers and the measures taken. The maneuver started with speeches delivered by the Secretary General of the Higher Defense Council and Head of the joint committee for disaster management Major General Saadallah Hamad representing Prime Minister Saad Hariri, UNDP Resident Representative for Lebanon Philippe Lazzarini, Dutch Ambassador to Lebanon Han-Maurits Schaapveld, Baalbek-Hermel Governor Bachir Khodr and European Union Representative Alexey Lubber. The head of the Disaster Risk Management Unit Nathalie Zaarour and technical officer Sawsan Boufakreddine explained the objectives of the exercise.

Australian Embassy celebrates its 50th anniversary
Wed 10 May 2017/NNA - The Australian Embassy in Beirut celebrated its 50th anniversary with an outdoor reception at the Phoenicia Hotel. Addressing the gathering of over 500 guests, including Ministers Pierre Raffoul and Jamal Jarrah, MPs, ambassadors, religious leaders, and other friends of the Embassy, Ambassador Glenn Miles spoke about the deep roots underpinning the relationship. In his delivered word, Ambassador Miles said: "In a sense, the Australian-Lebanese story began in 1854, when Massoud Al-Fakri became the first recorded Lebanese migrant to arrive in Australia. His sailed for over three months, across some of the world's most treacherous oceans, to reach a tiny town in Adelaide that had only been established 20 years. It's a decision that can only be put down to an adventurous and entrepreneurial spirit - a belief in oneself that, given the opportunity, Massoud could make a success of his life."
Miles added: "And it is this spirit, this belief, that has characterised Lebanese migrants ever since." Ambassador Miles praised the enormous contribution Lebanese migrants have made to Australia, as Federal and State politicians, business leaders, sporting captains, and artists. He also reflected on the strong bonds of family and friendship that continue to bind the two countries, and on Australia's support for Lebanon's sovereignty and independence. The centerpiece of the evening was a cross-cultural musical collaboration between renowned Lebanese percussionist Rony Barrak and Australian didgeridoo player and story teller, Mark Atkins. To loud cheers, the duo wove their rhythms together and exchanged solos in a dazzling display of artistic flair and precision. The didgeridoo is an indigenous Australian wind instrument made of wood hollowed out by termites. Mark has performed it with orchestras and artists across the world, but this was his first visit to Lebanon. Earlier in the week, Mark and Rony performed a free public concert at the American University of Beirut as part of the Embassy's 50th anniversary celebrations.

Wife of Palestinian hunger striker wants pope to intervene
Wed 10 May 2017/NNA - The wife of the leader of a hunger strike by hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails has written to Pope Francis calling on him to intervene "before it is too late". Fadwa Barghouti, wife of Palestinian leader and prominent prisoner Marwan Barghouti, has called on the pope to "speak up, because freedom and dignity are God given rights, and no human group should deprive another of these rights." "Your call for respect of the rights of the Palestinian people, including the rights of our political prisoners, would allow the voice of those placed in isolation to reach the world," the letter says.The Vatican has recognized Palestine as a state. The hunger strike began on April 17, led by Barghouti, who is serving five life sentences over his role in the second Palestinian intifada. Israeli authorities say 894 Palestinian prisoners have kept up the strike, though Palestinian officials say it is more than 1,000. Palestinian prisoners have mounted repeated hunger strikes, but rarely on such a scale. In her letter, Fadwa Barghouti said "the Israeli courts are instruments of oppression not justice, especially Israeli military courts with their conviction rate of 90 percent to 99 percent for Palestinians."Marwan Barghouti, called the "Palestinian Mandela" by supporters, is a popular figure among Palestinians.--AFP

DRC girls' protection programme graduates meet 'Nour' cast and crew
Wed 10 May 2017/NNA - Over 110 graduated from a Danish Refugee Council (DRC) girls' protection programme in Tripoli, marking the end of the first phase of a country-wide project that aims to prevent and mitigate the life-threatening impact of early marriage. Official figures show that worldwide, more than 700 million women alive today were married as children and more than one in three of them before 15, and a survey by the Lebanese Ministry of Social Affairs and UNICEF found that 27% of the Syrian girls between 15 and 19 are currently married. The numbers are also high among other populations, with the Lebanese and Palestinians from Lebanon at 4% and Palestinians from Syria at 13%. As a way to address the heightened vulnerabilities of Lebanese, Palestinian and Syrian young women and adolescent girls in Lebanon, DRC implemented this SGBV project to prevent and mitigate the life-threatening impact of early marriage by delivering a 17-week life skills curriculum to the most vulnerable adolescent girls. 'We wanted to make sure that girls between 10 and 19 were receiving the right information on important issues in order to make informed choices such as their rights and about physical changes happening to their bodies', said said Rana Aoun, GBV coordinator at DRC. 'Violence against women, in its different types, is a global problem, with official figures show that as many as one in three women worldwide have experienced either physical violence or sexual violence by either partner or non-partner at some point in their lives'. This pilot project is funded by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) with the technical support of the Women's Refugee Commission (WRC). Based on the Lebanese Crisis Response Plan (LCRP) numbers, humanitarian actors aim to reach at least 140,000 women, girls, men and boys at risk and survivors accessing SGBV prevention and response services in safe spaces. 'These numbers are huge and we need to band together to focus and find local solutions', Rana Aoun added. During the event, the adolescent girls attended the screening of the Lebanese film 'Nour' that tackles early and force marriage.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 10-11/17
US’s Tillerson meets with Russian foreign minister on Syria
AFP, Washington Wednesday, 10 May 2017/US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for talks on Syria and Ukraine, amid a political firestorm that has placed Moscow's alleged meddling in last year's election back in the spotlight. President Donald Trump on Monday fired FBI chief James Comey, who was leading a wide-ranging probe into whether Trump aides colluded with Russian officials to sway last year's election, which saw the Republican billionaire defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton. “I want to welcome the foreign minister to the State Department and express my appreciation for him making the trip to Washington so that we could continue our dialogue and our exchanges that began in Moscow,” Tillerson told reporters. After talks with Tillerson, Lavrov will head to the White House to meet Trump -- an unusual Oval Office welcome for a foreign minister.

Trump to Receive Lavrov in White House, Syria Tops Agenda
Asharq Al-Awsat English/May 10/17/US President Donald Trump will receive at the White House on Wednesday Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, with the conflict in Syria expected to dominate talks. The meeting will mark the highest level, face-to-face contact with Russia of the American leader’s young presidency. It would also signal that the two countries have improved ties that Trump recently described as being at an “all-time low.”Trump’s talks with Lavrov will take place after the Russian’s meetings earlier in the day with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Besides Syria, the meeting will be impossible to separate from the Trump administration’s unfolding political drama in Washington, where FBI and congressional investigations are looking into possible collusion between Trump campaign associates and the Kremlin related to last year’s presidential election. US intelligence agencies have asserted that Moscow meddled in the election to help Trump’s chances of victory. The stigma of the Russia probes has been impossible for Trump to shake. Trump on Tuesday abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey, ousting the nation’s top law enforcement official in the midst of the bureau’s investigation into Trump’s ties with Russia. The sacking prompted angry Democrats to call for the Russia probe to be placed in the hands an independent prosecutor or commission. The uproar seemed certain to complicate Lavrov’s mission in search of US support for a Russian plan to create safe zones in Syria. Trump’s hopes for a possible rapprochement with Moscow, so regularly repeated during the campaign, have been derailed. Ties soured further in April after the US blamed a Russian ally, Syrian regime leader Bashar Assad, for a deadly chemical weapons attack on civilians and Trump ordered that some 60 cruise missiles be fired at a Syrian air base in response.After Tillerson visited Russian President Vladimir Putin and Lavrov in Moscow on April 12, Trump said flatly, “Right now we’re not getting along with Russia at all.”Still, Tillerson’s meeting provided a blueprint for how the former Cold War foes might go about improving ties. On Syria, both governments want to end a civil war that has killed up to 400,000 people, contributed to a global refugee crisis and allowed the ISIS terrorist group to emerge as a global threat. The continued fighting between rebels and Assad’s regime has complicated US efforts to defeat ISIS. Lavrov will be coming to the American capital with a Russian plan to end the violence, after hashing out an agreement with Iran and Turkey last week. It focuses on the creation of four de-escalation zones. Critical details still need to be finalized and the US response has been cautious, with top officials such as Defense Secretary Jim Mattis saying they are still studying the concept and its various unanswered questions. The would-be safe zones would not cover areas where the US-led coalition is fighting ISIS. Despite the lack of clarity, the possibility of a meeting between Trump and Lavrov would in itself be a sign of some progress. The Russian diplomat has not visited Washington at all since 2013, a year before Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region and two years before it intervened militarily in Syria to help Assad remain in power. Since the end of Barack Obama’s presidency the United States has gradually withdrawn from the Syrian diplomatic process, leaving Russia to take the lead. It was not part of a deal by government backers Russia and Iran, and rebel supporter Turkey, signed last Thursday in the Kazakh capital Astana on establishing safe zones in Syria. Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Monday that Moscow expected “above all coming to a common understanding on the need for de-escalation in Syria.” “If we manage to find… a common position with the United States on this issue, it will be the most important result,” he said, quoted by the state news agency Interfax.

Trump Sacks FBI Director, Sparking Firestorm
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 10/17/U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday fired FBI director James Comey, ousting the man heading a wide-ranging investigation into whether his aides colluded with Russia to sway last year's U.S. election. In a shock move that drew comparisons to the Watergate scandal that brought down Richard Nixon, Trump told Comey the FBI needed new leadership and he was being "terminated" with immediate effect. Under Comey's leadership, the FBI concluded that President Vladimir Putin approved a multi-faceted campaign to tilt the vote in Trump's favor. His snap dismissal, ostensibly for mishandling a probe into Hillary Clinton's emails, sparked rare criticism from Republicans and allegations of a cover-up from seething Democrats who demanded an independent inquiry. The high-stakes gambit also prompted comparisons to the ill-fated firings that sped the collapse of Nixon's presidency. Trump's decision to fire the FBI director is virtually unprecedented, only one director has previously been fired in the bureau's century-long history. In a letter circulated by the White House, Trump told Comey: "You are hereby terminated and removed from office, effective immediately." "It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission."
Trump also used the letter to try to distance himself from the ever-deepening scandal over Russia's involvement in the election. "I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation," Trump wrote. The White House said the search for a new FBI director was to begin right away. FBI directors are appointed for a single 10-year term. The 56-year-old Comey, who is popular among rank-and-file agents, was appointed four years ago. The top Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, said Trump had made a "big mistake." "This does not seem a coincidence," he said. Unless the administration appoints an independent special prosecutor to probe the Russian meddling, Schumer added, "every American will rightly suspect that the decision to fire director Comey was part of a cover-up."Trump fired back on Twitter: "Cryin' Chuck Schumer stated recently, 'I do not have confidence in him (James Comey) any longer.' Then acts so indignant. #draintheswamp". Republicans, many of whom have fallen into line behind Trump after initial reluctance, also sought to distance themselves from the president. "I am troubled by the timing and reasoning of Director Comey's termination," said Senator Richard Burr.
Congressman Justin Amash, a fellow Republican, described parts of Trump's letter to Comey as "bizarre" and announced "my staff and I are reviewing legislation to establish an independent commission on Russia."Comey played an outsized -- and controversial -- role on the American political stage over the past year, lobbing one bombshell after another that rankled both parties in Washington. The stated reason for his dismissal -- according to a memo from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein -- was for mishandling the probe into Clinton's emails, which the Democrat blames for trashing her chances of becoming president.Comey told lawmakers last week he felt "mildly nauseous" at the thought that he had swayed the election -- but could not have acted any other way.
'Nothing less than Nixonian'
Since the start of Trump's presidency, the FBI chief had increasingly appeared to be a thorn in the president's side. He recently confirmed the agency was investigating Russian interference in last year's presidential election and notably Moscow's possible collusion with Trump's campaign. Democrats -- already angry that Congressional inquiries into Russian meddling have been hamstrung by Republicans' willingness to defend Trump -- voiced sharp concerns that the FBI's investigation may now be in jeopardy too, with several calling for an independent commission to take over the probe. "This is nothing less than Nixonian," charged Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who called Trump's official justification for firing Comey "absurd." "That fig leaf explanation seeks to cover the undeniable truth: the president has removed the sitting FBI director in the midst of one of the most critical national security investigations in the history of our country -- one that implicates senior officials in the Trump campaign and administration," he charged. When Trump initially decided to keep Comey -- a Barack Obama appointee -- in his job, it raised eyebrows from critics who saw it as a tacit reward for his role in damaging Clinton's chances. But within months, the FBI chief was back in the national spotlight -- this time taking aim at Trump. During testimony to Congress last month, Comey overtly challenged the president, flatly rejecting his explosive claim that he was wiretapped by his predecessor. And despite Trump's dismissal of suggestions his team colluded with Moscow as "fake news," it had become increasingly clear that Comey had set his sights on the issue of Russia's election meddling, which has stalked Trump's presidency from the start.

Trump Wants 'Mutually Beneficial' Relations with Russia, Says Lavrov
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 10/17/U.S. President Donald Trump is seeking "mutually beneficial" and "pragmatic" relations with Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday after White House talks with the Republican leader. Lavrov met with Trump and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson against the backdrop of the U.S. leader's firing of his FBI chief James Comey, who was leading a probe into Russia's alleged meddling in last year's U.S. election. The uproar over Comey's dismissal complicated Lavrov's intended mission: securing U.S. support for a Russian plan to create safe zones in war-wracked Syria.But the veteran Russian diplomat said the two sides were seeking to "remove all the barriers" in their thorny relationship, and praised his meetings on Syria as "constructive." "President Trump clearly confirmed his interest in building mutually beneficial, business-like pragmatic relations," Lavrov told journalists. "The goal of both President Trump and President (Vladimir) Putin is to have concrete results which will be tangible and which will allow (us) to alleviate problems, including on the international agenda." Lavrov's visit to the Oval Office was a rare welcome for a foreign minister -- or any non-head of state representing a foreign country. The Russian foreign minister rejected claims that Moscow interfered in the election that sent Trump to the White House as "fabrications."

Trump Urges Russia to 'Rein in' Syria's Assad, Iran
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 10/17/U.S. President Donald Trump appealed to Moscow to "rein in" the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and its key ally Iran, during White House talks Wednesday with Russia's top diplomat Sergei Lavrov. "President Trump emphasized the need to work together to end the conflict in Syria, in particular, underscoring the need for Russia to rein in the Assad regime, Iran, and Iranian proxies," the White House said following their talks. Lavrov, who received a rare welcome to the Oval Office, was in Washington for the first time in nearly four years to secure U.S. support for a Russian plan to create safe zones in war-wracked Syria.

Jakarta’s Christian governor jailed for blasphemy against Islam
Fergus Jensen and Fransiska Nangoy Reuters, Jakarta Wednesday, 10 May 2017/Jakarta’s Christian governor has been sentenced to two years in jail for blasphemy, a harsher-than-expected ruling critics fear will embolden hardline Islamist forces to challenge secularism in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation. Tuesday’s guilty verdict for Basuki Tjahaja Purnama comes amid concern about the growing influence of Islamist groups, who organized mass rallies during a tumultuous election campaign that ended with Purnama losing his bid for another term as governor.
President Joko Widodo was an ally of Purnama, an ethnic-Chinese Christian who is popularly known as “Ahok”, and the verdict will be a setback for a government that has sought to quell radical groups and soothe investors’ concerns that the country’s secular values were at risk.
As thousands of supporters and opponents waited outside, the head judge of the Jakarta court, Dwiarso Budi Santiarto, said Purnama was “found to have legitimately and convincingly conducted a criminal act of blasphemy, and because of that we have imposed two years of imprisonment”.
Purnama told the court he would appeal. Charles Santiago, chairman of the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), a grouping of regional lawmakers overseeing rights issues, said: “Indonesia was thought to be a regional leader in terms of democracy and openness. This decision places that position in jeopardy and raises concerns about Indonesia’s future as an open, tolerant, diverse society.”The United Nations’ Bangkok Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in a tweet said: “We are concerned by jail sentence for Jakarta governor for alleged blasphemy against Islam. We call on Indonesia to review blasphemy law.”
Weeping supporters
Purnama was taken to an East Jakarta prison after the verdict and his lawyer Tommy Sihotang said he would remain there despite his appeal process unless a higher court suspended it. Shocked and angry supporters, some weeping openly, gathered outside the prison, vowing not to leave the area until he was released, while others expressed their shock on social media. Some lay down outside the jail blocking traffic, others shook the barbed-wire topped fence of the prison, while some chanted “destroy FPI”, referring to the Islamic Defenders Front, a hardline group behind many of the protests against Purnama.
“They sentenced him because they were pressured by the masses. That is unfair,” Purnama supporter Andreas Budi said. But Novel Bamukmin, a leader of the Jakarta chapter of FPI, said the group objected to the sentence “because it was still far from what we had expected.”
President Widodo urged all parties to respect the court verdict as well as Purnama’s decision to appeal. Home affairs minister Tjahjo Kumolo said Purnama’s deputy would take over in the interim. Thousands of police were deployed in case clashes broke out, but there was no sign of any violence after the verdict.
Prosecutors had called for a suspended one-year jail sentence on charges of hate speech. The maximum sentence is four years in prison for hate speech and five years for blasphemy. Hardline Islamist groups had called for the maximum penalty possible over comments by Purnama that they said were insulting to the Islamic holy book, the Koran. While on a work trip last year, Purnama said political rivals were deceiving people by using a verse in the Koran to say Muslims should not be led by a non-Muslim.An incorrectly subtitled video of his comments later went viral, helping spark huge demonstrations that ultimately resulted in him being brought to trial.. Purnama denied wrongdoing, though he apologized for the comments made to residents in an outlying Jakarta district.
Radical Islamist groups
Purnama lost his bid for re-election to a Muslim rival, Anies Baswedan, in an April run-off after the most divisive and religiously charged election in recent years. He is due to hand over to Baswedan in October. If Purnama’s appeal fails, he would be prevented from holding public office under Indonesian law because the offence carries a maximum penalty of five years, said Simon Butt of the Centre for Asian and Pacific Law at the University of Sydney. Song Seng Wun, regional economist at CIMB Private Banking, said that the verdict was “not a huge shock” to investors because most blasphemy cases in Indonesia end in convictions. “Going forward, race and religion will continue to be played out and be used by politicians for whatever agenda that they have,” Song said, adding significant capital outflow was only likely if there was a deterioration of law and order. Rights groups fear Islamist hardliners are in the ascendancy in a country where most Muslims practice a moderate form of Islam and which is home to sizeable communities of Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, and people who adhere to traditional beliefs. Andreas Harsono of Human Rights Watch described the verdict as “a huge setback” for Indonesia’s record of tolerance and for minorities. Widodo’s government said this week it would take legal steps to disband Hizb ut-Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), a group that seeks to establish an Islamic caliphate, because its activities were creating social tensions and threatening security.

Police carry out anti-ISIS raids across Germany
Reuters, Berlin Wednesday, 10 May 2017/Police carried out anti-terrorism raids in four German states on Wednesday morning, targeting ISIS sympathizers, prosecutors said in a statement, but said no arrests had been made, contradicting earlier media reports. The raids targeted the homes of suspects as well as other properties in the states of Bavaria, Berlin, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt, prosecutors said. Two of the individuals were suspected of belonging to ISIS, one of supporting it, and two of firearms offenses.

Tunnel with nuclear waste collapses in Washington state
Associated Press, Washington Wednesday, 10 May 2017/A portion of an underground tunnel containing rail cars filled with radioactive waste collapsed Tuesday at a sprawling storage facility in a remote area of Washington state, forcing an evacuation of some workers at the site that made plutonium for nuclear weapons for decades after World War II. Officials detected no release of radiation at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation and no workers were injured, said Randy Bradbury, a spokesman for the Washington state Department of Ecology. No workers were inside the tunnel when it collapsed, causing soil on the surface above to sink two to four feet (half to 1.2 meters) over a 400 square foot (37.1 square meters) area, officials said. The tunnels are hundreds of feet long, with about eight feet (2.4 meters) of soil covering them, the US Department of Energy said. The cause of the collapse was not immediately known. It was discovered as part of a routine inspection and occurred during a massive cleanup that has been underway since the 1980s and costs more than $2 billion a year. The work is expected to take until 2060 and cost more than $100 billion. Hanford officials said they were studying the area of the collapse to determine how to create a barrier between the contaminated equipment in the tunnel and the outside air.
Workers near the site were evacuated and hundreds of others farther away were told to remain indoors for several hours, the federal agency said. Non-essential workers among the labor force of 9,000 at the site were sent home early along a safe route. “No action is currently required for residents of Benton and Franklin counties,” the Energy Department said, referring to the nearly 300,000 residents near the site about 200 miles southeast of Seattle. “There is no indication of a release of contamination at this point.”US Energy Secretary Rick Perry was briefed on the incident that Washington Gov. Jay Inslee called a serious situation. “Ensuring the safety of the workers and the community is the top priority,” said Inslee, a Democrat who previously represented the Hanford region in Congress. The anti-nuclear group Beyond Nuclear said the incident helped show “radioactive waste management is out of control.”Democratic US Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington said worker safety must be the priority. “My thoughts are with the first responders who are working to assess the situation on the ground,” she said. Worker safety has long been a concern at Hanford. Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit last fall against the Energy Department and its contractor, Washington River Protection Solutions, contending vapors released from underground nuclear waste tanks posed a serious risk to workers.
Ferguson said that since the early 1980s, hundreds of workers have been exposed to vapors escaping from the tanks and that those breathing the vapors developed nosebleeds, chest and lung pain, headaches, coughing, sore throats, irritated eyes and difficulty breathing.
Lawyers for the Energy Department have said no evidence has been provided showing workers have been harmed by vapors. The accident Tuesday occurred at a plant known as the Plutonium Uranium Extraction Facility, or PUREX, located in the middle of the 500-square-mile Hanford site - half the size of Rhode Island. The PUREX building is the length of three football fields and was used to recover plutonium from irradiated fuel rods. Hanford for decades made plutonium for nuclear weapons and is now the nation's largest depository of radioactive defense waste, with about 56 million gallons of waste, most of it in 177 underground tanks. As part of the huge, ongoing cleanup, rail cars full of radioactive waste were often driven into tunnels and buried. The senior Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee said he is requesting that the Energy Department brief the committee on the root cause of the collapse. New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone said the incident underscores the need for the department to take all necessary precautions to ensure the safety and security of workers.The committee oversees the department’s management of the cleanup efforts. The Hanford site was built during World War II and made plutonium for most of the US nuclear arsenal, including the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, at the end of the war.

YPG and SDF Praise US Arms Move, Turkey Considers it a ‘Threat’
Asharq Al-Awsat English/May 10/17/The Syrian Kurdish YPG and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) battling ISIS in Syria said Wednesday that US arms and military equipment to Kurdish fighters would help defeat the jihadists despite objections by Turkey which considered the move a “threat.”“We believe that from now on and after this historic decision, (the YPG) will play a stronger, more influential and more decisive role in combating terrorism at a fast pace,” Kurdish People’s Protection Units spokesman Redur Xelil said in a written statement to Reuters after Washington said Tuesday it would provide weapons and equipment to the YPG, which are a key force in the fight against ISIS in Syria. Ilham Ahmed, a top official in the SDF political office, said the decision to provide heavier arms carries “political meaning” and “legitimizes the YPG and the Syrian Democratic Forces.”A spokesman for the SDF, Talal Sello, also told Agence France Presse that “the US decision “is important and will hasten the defeat of terrorism.” The SDF, backed by air strikes and logistical support from a US-led coalition, has been advancing on the northern city of Raqqa, the last main stronghold for ISIS in Syria. It is largely composed of Kurdish YPG fighters. Sello said the US announcement “is the result of the effectiveness of the YPG and SDF in the fight against terrorism”.The US decision has however angered Turkey, which views the YPG as a terrorist group. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli on Wednesday said: “The supply of arms to the YPG is unacceptable.”“Such a policy will benefit nobody,” Canikli told Turkish Broadcaster A Haber. “We expect that this mistake is to be rectified,” he said, days ahead of a crunch meeting in Washington between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US counterpart Donald Trump.
“We cannot accept the presence of terrorist organizations that would threaten the future of the Turkish state,” Canikli said in the interview. The YPG has been seen by Washington as the best ally against jihadists in Syria. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also said that every weapon obtained by the YPG constitutes a threat to Turkey. “Within the SDF, Arabs and the YPG should be distinguished and Arab forces should be the ones entering Raqqa,” he added. A Turkish high level delegation made up of Chief of Staff General Hulusi Akar, presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin and Turkey’s spy chief Hakan Fidan have already been in the US to lay the groundwork for Erdogan’s visit to Washington. Turkey has said it is keen to join the battle to recapture Raqqa but on the condition the offensive does not include the Syrian Kurdish fighters. Last month, Erdogan said if Turkey and the US joined forces, they could turn Raqqa into a “graveyard” for the jihadists.

King Salman Invites Leaders to Arab, Islamic, US Summit
Asharq Al-Awsat/May 10/17/Jeddah – The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz sent a message to Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa inviting him to attend the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit and the Arab, Islamic and US summit to be hosted in Saudi Arabia. King Salman also sent summit invitations to King of Jordan Abdullah II bin al-Hussein, King of Morocco Mohammed VI, Yemeni President Abd Rabbou Mansour Hadi, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Algerian President Abdulaziz Bouteflika, President of Niger Mahamadou Issoufou, and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Saudi Minister of Commerce and Investment Majid al-Qasabi handed the message to King Hamad. He conveyed to King Hamad greetings and wishes from King Salman for further progress and prosperity to the people of Bahrain. King Hamad expressed his appreciation to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques for the kind invitation and tremendous efforts to enhance joint GCC action and the Arab and Islamic issues, lauding the solid relations between the two countries and the ever-progressing cooperation and coordination between them in various fields. He sent his greetings to the King wishing the brotherly Saudi people further progress and prosperity, reported Saudi Press Agency.
King Hamad stressed that Saudi Arabia, under the leadership of King Salman, represents the main pillar of security and stability in the region, and its protective shield thanks to the strenuous efforts it has exerted for the sake of defending Arab interests and preserving Arab countries’ cohesion and unified stances.
The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz has sent a message to President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates, inviting him to attend the GCC Summit and the Arab, Islamic and United States summit to be hosted by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Qasabi delivered the King’s invitations to UAE President to Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of the UAE Presidency Affairs. During an audience held by King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Saudi Minister of State Isam bin Saad bin Saeed handed him King Salman’s invitation to attend the Arab, Islamic, and US summit to be hosted by the Kingdom.
King Abdullah II stressed that his country attaches great importance to its relations with Saudi Arabia, emphasizing his keenness to enhance these relations in various fields to the interest of the two countries. He also sent his greetings to the Custodian wishing Saudi people more progress and prosperity.
During a meeting with Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Nasser Bourita, Saudi FM Adel al-Jubeir delivered the King’s invitation to King Mohammed VI to attend the Arab, Islamic, and US summit. The two foreign ministers also discussed bilateral relations and issues of mutual interest. Minister Qasabi also met with Turkish President Erdogan and delivered the King’s invitation to the summit. He conveyed greetings of the Custodian to the president, government, and people. In turn, the Turkish president sent his greetings to King Salman, Saudi government, and people.
Saudi ambassador to Yemen Mohammed bin Saeed Al Jaber met with the Yemeni President and delivered an invitation from King Salman to attend the Arab, Islamic, and US summit.
During the meeting, Yemeni president thanked the Custodian for this kind invitation, lauding the great efforts exerted by King Salman in supporting the Arab and Islamic unity as well as his efforts in enhancing relations with the international community and the world in the interest of the peace, security, and stability.
The President also hailed the wisdom of the Saudi leadership, lauding the Kingdom’s brotherly stances supporting Yemen in various attitudes and circumstances, according to SPA. Furthermore, the Custodian sent a message to President Abdulaziz Bouteflika of the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria, inviting him to attend the summit. The message was handed over by FM Jubeir during the meeting with President of the National Assembly of the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria Abdulqader bin Saleh. Saudi ambassador to Niger Turki bin Naji al-Ali met with President of Niger Issoufou and delivered the King’s message to attend the summit. The Saudi ambassador conveyed greetings of the Custodian the President of Niger, wishing the people of Niger more progress and prosperity. In turn, the President sent his greetings to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. The President expressed his appreciation of King Salman for his great efforts in supporting the Islamic nation’s unity and stressing depth of relations between the two countries in all fields.
Saudi Minister of Culture and Information Awwad bin Saleh al-Awwad to the Premier of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif and invited him to the Islamic, and US summit to be hosted by Saudi Arabia. The Pakistani PM stressed that Pakistan attaches great importance to its relations with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, emphasizing his keenness to enhance these relations in various fields in the interest of the two countries, SPA stated. The PM added that Pakistan and the Kingdom have identical viewpoints on most regional and international issues and they are working side by side in the service of their common interests and objectives. He praised the pioneering roles being played by the Kingdom under the leadership of the Custodian in support of regional and global security, stability, and peace, as well as its pivotal roles in Arab and Islamic world. The meeting was attended by the Chargé d’Affaires of the Saudi Embassy in Pakistan, Counselor Marwan bin Ridhwan Mirdad, and a number of senior Pakistani officials.

OIC Stresses Coherence of Counter-Terrorism Strategies with International Law

Asma Al-Ghabiri/May 10/17/Jeddah – The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) stressed on Tuesday the importance of ensuring that the member states’ counter-terrorism strategies are in line with International Humanitarian Law, noting that defeating terrorists first requires winning the battle for hearts and minds. The 11th Session of the OIC Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) was held on Tuesday at the OIC headquarters in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Under the theme of “Protecting Human Rights while countering terrorism,” participants discussed the importance of analyzing the current situation in matters related to counter-terrorism measures exercised by member states and other countries. The stressed the need to respect human rights and principles in order to exchange best practices and suggest means of moving forward on the path to ensuring the protection of these rights in the fight against terrorism. They underlined the need to boost institutional ties between the permanent independent commission on human rights and other human rights bodies dealing with counter-terrorism in order to share experiences, best practices, policies and capacity-building programs. On this note, Secretary General of OIC Dr. Yousef al-Othaimeen called on member states to ensure that their counter-terrorism strategies are compliant with International Humanitarian Law and refugee and humanitarian laws. “The counter-terrorism measures, illegal and arbitrary detentions, extrajudicial killings, racial and ethnic profiling and illegal settlements have all become serious challenges to human rights and the rule of law,” said Othaimeen in his inaugural speech. “Such measures foster an atmosphere of mistrust, resentment and marginalization in a manner that diminishes states’ long- term security. Such counter- terrorism measures also disproportionately impact certain populations, including ethnic or religious minorities and migrants, which undermines social cohesion and intensifies radicalization and violence,” he added. The OIC Secretary General stressed that terrorism not only poses a serious threat to peoples’ enjoyment of the right to life and liberty, but also portends a perpetual danger to the existence of human civilization, progress, welfare and global stability. He noted that to defeat the terrorists, “it is crucial to first win the battle for hearts and minds, as countering terrorism merely through security and punitive legal and administrative measures benefits the terrorists by shaking the trust and support of the people, which is vital in the fight against the terrorism.”Othaimeen also asserted: “The OIC is aware of the threats to and infringements of basic human rights in counter-terrorism policies and practices. It firmly rejects the identification of terrorism with any nationality or religion and has always highlighted the necessity of addressing the conditions that foster terrorism by promoting human rights, tolerance and multiculturalism and tackling negative socio-economic factors.”
He commended the OIC Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission on its “great job in promoting human rights within OIC.”OIC member and observer states, including their national human rights institutions, experts from different relevant international and regional organizations and senior officials of the OIC General Secretariat and media representatives, attended the 11th Session of the IPHRC. During the session, the Commission held detailed discussions on all issues on its agenda, including the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights in OIC member states and the human rights violations in Palestine and India’s Jammu and Kashmir. The commission also held the regular meetings of its four Working Groups on Palestine, Rights of Women and Child, Islamophobia and Muslim minorities, and the Right to Development.

Turkish President Calls for Developing Trade with Gulf
Asharq Al-Awsat/May 10/17/Kuwait – Turkey’s trade with the energy-rich Gulf is yet to reach its full potential, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, calling for further developing trade with the Gulf states. Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and Erdogan launched the expansion project of Kuwait International Airport, which will triple its capacity within the coming six years to 25 million passengers a year to ensure seamless and convenient travel. “We want to develop trade volume with the Gulf states, which last year reached $17.4 billion,” said Erdogan at the launch. He told reporters he was happy with his government’s political ties with the Gulf Cooperation Council and had previously said he aims to boost cooperation in the economic and defense sectors. “Compared with the potential we have, this size is below the required level,” said the Turkish leader. Turkey’s Limak Construction and its Kuwaiti partner, Kharafi National, laid the foundation stone for the $4.3 billion airport terminal project. Erdogan and the accompanying official delegation arrived to Kuwait on Tuesday. The Turkish president and Sheikh Al-Sabah also held a meeting on regional and international issues, as well as bilateral relations. Deputy Minister of Amiri Diwan Affairs Sheikh Ali Jarrah Al-Sabah said the talks tackled historic relations between Kuwait and Turkey, which are always characterized by mutual understanding and sincere willingness to promote and develop bilateral cooperation in various fields. The talks also addressed ways of utilizing mutual investment opportunities and the current regional and international developments, he added. Jarrah stated that the official talks were held in a friendly atmosphere that reflected mutual understanding and friendship.

Syrian who Fought alongside Nusra in Nahle Outskirts Held
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 10/17/A Syrian young man who confessed to taking part in an attack on the outskirts of the Baalbek border town of Nahle has been arrested. “In collaboration with the Mount Lebanon directorate, a patrol from the Baalbek-Hermel State Security directorate managed to arrest the Syrian Jamal R. on suspicion of belonging to a terrorist group,” a State Security statement said. “During interrogation, he confessed to taking part alongside several terrorist groups affiliated with al-Nusra Front in the attack on Nahle's outskirts” in 2013, the statement added. The detainee was eventually referred to the army's Intelligence Directorate, State Security said. Nahle's outskirts had witnessed several clashes between al-Nusra and Hizbullah.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 10-11/17
The Candy Bar that Blew Barghouti's Cover/Palestinian Incitement against the Media

Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/May 10/17
Tellingly, although Nasser Abu Bakr's conflict of interest has been reported several times, his spectacular breach of journalistic ethics does not seem to bother his employers at Agence France-Presse (AFP). Worse, it calls into serious question AFP's professional ethics.
Let us be clear on this: Abu Bakr and his PA friends are demanding that the Israeli and international media refrain from reporting anything offensive about the Palestinians. That is censorship -- not to mention shock-troop thuggery.
Since his appointment as chairman of the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS), Abu Bakr has spearheaded a campaign to boycott Israeli journalists and media organizations. He has repeatedly accused Israeli journalists of serving as an "arm" of the Israeli military authorities and government. Ironically, it is Abu Bakr and his PJS who serve as part of the Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership establishment and do not conceal their role as officials.
The Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS), a body dominated by loyalists to Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, has resumed its incitement against Israeli media outlets and journalists.
On May 7, Israeli authorities released a video showing imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, who is leading a "hunger strike" of more than 1,000 inmates held in Israeli prisons, secretly eating a candy bar in the bathroom of his prison cell. Israeli media outlets and journalists, like many of their Western colleagues, reported on the video, which has seriously embarrassed Barghouti and many other Palestinians.
The prisoners' "hunger strike" is not about torture or denial of medical treatment. The prisoners seek expanded visitation rights, better access to public phones and more access to higher education.
But Barghouti, who began leading the "hunger strike" on April 17, has more on his mind than incarceration privileges.
The "hunger strike" is actually a strike against Mahmoud Abbas, who Barghouti believes has marginalized him, denying him an official senior position in Fatah.
It is worth noting that no one in the Israeli media was involved in the secret filming of Barghouti. Nor did any Israeli journalist know in advance about the authorities' decision to film Barghouti. All the Israeli media did was report on the release of the scandalous video, together with analysis about the implications of the video on the Palestinian prisoners' "hunger strike."Yet the moment the video appeared in the Israeli media, Palestinian Authority officials and several Palestinian institutions and groups rushed to make serious and unfounded charges against the Israeli media for reporting on the video.
The charges, needless to say, are so grave that they endanger the lives of Israeli journalists covering Palestinian affairs.
Strikingly, the worst threats against Israeli media came from none other than the body representing hundreds of Palestinian journalists -- the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate. Equally disturbing, the PJS is headed by Nasser Abu Bakr, a highly partisan political activist -- and veteran journalist with the French news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP).
A statement issued by Abu Bakr's PJS, shortly after the Barghouti video was broadcast on Israeli television and radio stations, accused Israeli journalists of "collusion with the Israeli occupation authorities."
The statement warned Palestinian, Arab and Western media outlets against dealing with Israeli journalists, whom it accused of "broadcasting poison" by exposing that Barghouti was eating while claiming to be on hunger strike.
The PJS falsely accused Israeli media outlets of committing a "crime by seeking to break the will of the hunger-striking prisoners by publishing false claims" about Barghouti's eating.
The PJS said that its chairman, AFP's Abu Bakr, has filed a complaint with the International Federation of Journalists against Israeli reporters. According to Abu Bakr, the Israeli media is "involved in the crime of starving and terrorizing our prisoners and are major accomplices of the actions of the occupation."
This is far from the first time that Abu Bakr, who, unethically for AFP, holds a senior job with the international news agency, has been involved in incitement against Israeli journalists and media outlets. Moreover, in addition to his job as chairman of the PJS and reporter with AFP, Abu Bakr recently ran in internal elections for Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction. Tellingly, although Nasser Abu Bakr's conflict of interest has been reported several times, his spectacular breach of journalistic ethics does not seem to bother his employers at Agence France-Presse. Worse, it calls AFP's professional ethics into serious question.
Would AFP ever hire a journalist to report about the French presidential elections while this journalist was running in the election or holding a senior job with the French government?
Since his appointment as PJS chairman, Abu Bakr has spearheaded a campaign to boycott Israeli journalists and media organizations. He has repeatedly accused Israeli journalists of serving as an "arm" of the Israeli military authorities and government. Ironically, it is Abu Bakr and his PJS who serve as part of the Palestinian Authority leadership establishment and do not conceal their role as official organs.
Instead of reporting objectively about the controversy surrounding Barghouti's "hunger strike" and the fact that the jailed Fatah leader was caught cheating, Abu Bakr and his PJS chose to wage a vicious campaign of incitement against Israeli media organizations and journalists for simply reporting the truth. One can understand why Abu Bakr is so furious about the scandal surrounding Barghouti's "hunger strike": he belongs to the same Fatah faction whose members are purportedly fasting in Israeli prisons.
This conflict of interest explains why the PJS and the PA leadership have instructed Palestinian journalists and media organizations to refrain from reporting about the video showing Barghouti enjoying a snack in his prison cell.
Threats against Israeli journalists are intended to deter them from reporting about any topic that could shed a negative light on the Palestinians.
This is, in fact, the preferred method of intimidation among Palestinians. It was first used against Palestinian and Western journalists who dared to criticize Palestinian leaders or report about corruption and terror-advocacy by Palestinian officials. In recent years, the campaign of intimidation has expanded to include Israeli journalists covering Palestinian affairs.
No wonder, then, that many Israeli journalists have stopped reporting about anything that could anger PA officials in Ramallah. These Israeli journalists claim that they deliberately avoid any criticism of the PA because they do not want to "lose access to sources" among the Palestinians.
This campaign against Israeli journalists is far from an isolated move. It ought to be seen in the context of the overall Palestinian incitement against Israel.
While Abbas is busy lying to Trump and the rest of the Western world that his society is raising Palestinian youth on a "culture of peace," the latest threats against Israeli journalists prove once again the depth of his deception.
These threats should be taken seriously for two reasons: they pose a direct threat to the safety of Israeli reporters working in PA-controlled territories and, second, they constitute a flagrant assault on freedom of expression and the media. Let us be clear on this: Abu Bakr and his PA friends are demanding that the Israeli and international media refrain from reporting anything offensive about the Palestinians. That is censorship -- not to mention shock-troop thuggery.
Will international human rights groups and the International Federation of Journalists call out the Palestinians for inciting against Israeli journalists and demanding censorship of unpleasant facts? Or will they take their habitual tack, holding off on their denunciations until they have something negative to say about Israel?
Western journalists would do well to hold the Palestinians accountable for these threats. If they choose not to, their next visit to Ramallah will involve significant appeasement of demanding PA personnel.
**Bassam Tawil is a scholar based in the Middle East.
© 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.

Links Between Islamism and Executions
Majid Rafizadeh/Gatestone Institute/May 10/17
People have, it seems, often been arrested or detained on the basis of a rumor; then convicted without trial, counsel or often even the chance to mount a defense.
As Amnesty International points out, "In many countries where people were sentenced to death or executed, the proceedings did not meet international fair trial standards. In some cases, this included the extraction of 'confessions' through torture or other ill-treatment".
The laws under which these people are sentenced to death are often not only vague and open to interpretation. Charges that warrant the death penalty, for instance, include being "corrupt on earth", "enemies of Allah on Earth", or alleged "crimes against chastity". What exactly does "corrupt on earth" or "enemies of Allah on Earth" mean?
Just how strict and brutal it is to enforce Islamic law, sharia, has now been revealed by Amnesty International.
Amnesty's study, which details the number of reported executions around the world, clearly maps out the most at-risk populations. Lands ruled predominantly by sharia are apparently the most vulnerable to multitudes of executions without fair trials. At the top of the list, with the most executions, are those nations that enforce Islamic sharia law. Despite many human rights violations, these nations, apparently undeterred, continue to execute their citizens.
Sharia makes those in authority infallible and untouchable. Therefore, whatever the government or those in power deem to be "just" can be carried out without question or consequence. Under sharia law and the Islamic penal code, executions can be carried out in sickening forms. Those convicted may be beheaded, hanged, stoned, or shot to death.
As disturbing as the numbers in the report may be, they do not represent the reality that the citizens in these nations across the world face every day. There is, evidently, a connection between radical Islamist governments and extremist groups. The report does not include the gruesome executions that are carried out on a regular basis by extremist Islamist groups and non-state fundamentalists, such as members of the Islamic State (ISIS) and their affiliated groups.
These executions include, as we have seen, slitting throats, burning alive, drowning alive and crucifixion.
If these acts were included in the Amnesty International report, the total number of executions committed under the authority of Islamist law would be far higher. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, for example, pointed out that the Islamic State executed 33 people in the first week of April alone.
The report also did not include the number of Westerners being shot, executed and terrorized by Islamist groups. Many of these, such as ISIS, Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH), Kata'ib Hezbollah (KH), the Badr Organization, Or Kata'ib al-Imam Ali (the Imam Ali Battalions), are funded and trained by Islamist governments and oil-rich, unaccountable leaders.
Mass executions are evidently also being carried out by both extremist Islamist governments and Islamist groups. A culture of executions, often extra-judicial, as in Pakistan, seems to run rampant within the borders of these countries. Without any consequences for this horrifying disregard for human life, the numbers will only increase.
Both Islamist governments and Islamist groups justify their brutal acts by referring to the "religious" Islamist legitimacy of their murders. Members of fundamentalist Islamist governments, to legitimize these types of atrocities, also exploit the right of "sovereignty": they point out that they belong independent state with a fully operating and "legal" judiciary.
In the Amnesty International report, the Iran ranked number one, per capita, in executing people. It also accounted for 66% of all officially recorded executions in the region. Again, this amount only represents those executions that were officially registered.
It is also critical to point out that the statistics Amnesty International provides were given by the very governments that carried out the executions. This method means that those in power were the ones to calculate and decide what number should officially represent their country. The unofficial number is thought to be even higher. There is nothing to stop governments from simply keeping the true number to themselves.
Executions carried out under the strict governmental laws of sharia and Islamist judicial systems can have even more grotesque characteristics. The high number of executions included children, some convicted before the age of 18. Death sentences may frequently have lacked due process and what many would consider acceptable standards of proof. People have, it seems, often been arrested or detained on the basis of a rumor; then convicted without trial, counsel or often even the chance to mount a defense. As Amnesty International points out, "In many countries where people were sentenced to death or executed, the proceedings did not meet international fair trial standards. In some cases, this included the extraction of 'confessions' through torture or other ill-treatment".
Prisoners' vulnerabilities also had no bearing on their executions. Even those seriously ill were executed. Mass executions or stoning could be ordered and then carried out within a very short time, sometimes within days, giving those convicted no time to mount any form of appeal.
The laws under which these people are sentenced to death are often not only vague and open to interpretation. Charges that warrant the death penalty, for instance, include being "corrupt on earth", "enemies of Allah on Earth", or alleged "crimes against chastity". What exactly does "corrupt on earth" or "enemies of Allah on Earth" mean? There are no guidelines to establish guilt or innocence. Those in power are therefore able to decide who has violated what laws on what can only be a capricious basis. Islamist sheikhs, imams, or judges can subjectively interpret charges any way they like. A charge of being "corrupt on earth" can apply to having fun at a party or writing poetry that government decides is critical of it. A charge of being "corrupt on earth" can apply to someone who is homosexual, someone who is claimed to have committed adultery, or who has simply declined to accepted an unwanted advance. It can mean anyone who has done anything that the ruling leaders dislike.
These Islamist laws, moreover, also serve as a perfect tool for exploitation. A woman finding herself accused of breaking a law may be assured that if she agrees to sleep with a judge, for instance, he will interpret the law in a lenient way and protect her from the death penalty. After a woman submits to this, she can be executed nevertheless. Sometimes girls are forced into sighah -- the Shiite Islamist law of temporary marriage -- with a cleric, or a governmental official; after "consummating" it, they can also be put to death.
What does a charge such as "crimes against chastity" mean under sharia? This accusation can apply to a girl who has been raped. Instead of the law providing protection for the victim and consequences for the rapist, the victim is accused of the crime of "adultery", convicted without a fair trial, and swiftly executed.
When Islamist laws enter a land, it seems the number of stonings, beheadings, and executions goes up.
Leaders of these nations can use this flexibility to terrorize and control entire societies, expand their power, export their ideology, and ensure that there is no opportunity to resist. More disturbing is that those numbers are just a portion of the truth.
*Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, political scientist and Harvard University scholar is president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He is author of "Peaceful Reformation in Iran's Islam". He can be reached at
© 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

What Macron Can Do for Free Markets Everywhere
Mohamed A. El-Erian/Bloomberg/May 10/17
Once the initial market relief plays out — that, even during an unprecedented “anti-establishment” wave in both Europe and the US, French voters rejected a far right president in Marine Le Pen of the National Front — interest will shift to how relative newcomer Emmanuel Macron will manage to govern in a country accustomed to mainstream politics. And it is not just about his prospects for reinvigorating the French economy and, working closely with Germany, spearheading a modernization of Europe. It is also about a bigger and more consequential issue: the extent to which endogenous political disruptions are opening the way for better economic governance in the West rather than just setting the stage for a bigger eventual political shock.
Preliminary results from France confirm what markets were expecting: a decisive loss for Le Pen. With the markets’ near certainty now becoming certainty, this is likely to give a further boost to risk sentiment in the short-run. However, the resulting rise in stocks, the appreciation of the Euro, and the fall in the France-Germany government bond spreads will likely be tempered by what has already been priced following Macron’s first round win and the opinion polls forecasting Sunday’s vote. Meanwhile, the European Central Bank and the Swiss National Bank will be putting their contingency plans back on the shelf, with the ECB also preparing for greater pressure to ease off the monetary policy accelerator.
Beyond the immediate reactions, much will depend on the consequences of an establishment shakeup that speaks to considerable dissatisfaction among younger citizens. Remember, over half of them voted in the first round for fringe candidates: Le Pen of the extreme right and Jean-Luc Melenchon on the far left.
Like her father’s loss to Jacques Chirac in 2002, Le Pen was unable to convert her relatively good first round showing into sufficient country-wide support in the second round of the presidential elections. Instead, she lost to a combination of genuine support for Macron and the coming together of voters insisting that France should not be led by someone from the National Front.
This highlights the challenges facing Macron who, just a few months ago, was a long shot in a crowded presidential field. He inherits a divided nation that, yes, resisted extreme politics yet remains highly dissatisfied with a system that has staggered through too many years of low growth, high youth unemployment, and glaring inequalities.
Now that Macron has been elected, markets will be gradually shifting their focus to his ability to overcome gridlock both at home and in Europe. Ahead of parliamentary elections in June, his choice of prime minister will signal how he intends to “cohabitate” as he tries to reinvigorate France within what he hopes will be a stronger and more coherent growth-oriented Europe. He must both cooperate with and shape a National Assembly whose long-standing mainstream parties just suffered a humiliating defeat at the polls.
It is a challenge that, in many ways, is similar to that facing two other G7 leaders who came to their countries’ highest office on the back of the anti-establishment wave — President Donald Trump of the US and Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain. All three leaders agree that the economy can — and should — benefit from low corporate tax rates and a slimmed-down government. They also agree that regionalization and globalization — as well as the evolution of national identity — need to pay greater attention to both real and perceived economic losers, even if they constitute a minority relative to the beneficiaries.
More generally, the Macron-May-Trump outcomes speak to an historic internal disruption to the functioning of traditional politics in the advanced world. And it is part of the larger erosion of trust, credibility, and effectiveness of the establishment, and not just in the public sector.
The jury is still out as to whether these three leaders will be able to lead mainstream-dominated parliaments in unleashing productivity, economic growth, and more inclusive market-based economies. Much will depend on the reaction of establishment forces that remain in control of significant parts of the public and private sectors.
Rather than a decisive blow to anti-establishment wave, as some are claiming, Macron’s victory is a stop along a journey whose destination is still in question.
If the internal political disruption France and other Western countries are experiencing delivers higher and more inclusive growth, it will mark a revitalization of liberal democracies in a pro-market fashion. If it fails, it is just a matter of time before France will be dealing with a more mainstream National Front, more inward anti-establishment forces, and greater sympathy for the view that the Eurozone is about the past and not the future. And that is an outcome that markets would find destabilizing.

The Problem Is Not the Islamic State but Islamic Hate
Raymond Ibrahim/FrontPage Magazine/May 10/17
A lie conceals the truth. And ugly but hidden truths never have a chance of being acknowledged, addressed, and ameliorated. Because of this simple truism, one of the greatest lies of our age—that violence committed in the name of Islam has nothing to do with Islam—has made an intrinsically weak Islam the scourge of the modern world, with no signs of relief on the horizon.
It is, therefore, useful to expose the main strategy used by liars in government, media, and academia: 1) to ignore the generic but chronic everyday reports of Muslim violence against non-Muslims around the world; 2) to address only spectacular Muslim violence, which, because it is almost always committed by professional jihadi groups can be portrayed as a finite, temporal, localized problem: defeat that particular “terrorist group” and the problem vanishes.
By way of example, consider the Islamic targeting of Christian churches. Last month, after two Egyptian churches were bombed, leaving 51 worshippers dead, everyone was quick to point out that something called “ISIS”—which of course “has nothing to do with Islam”—was responsible.
On Easter Sunday, 2016, more than 3,000 miles away from Egypt, in Pakistan, approximately 70 Christians were killed in a bomb attack, also specifically targeting Easter celebrations. Then we were told that something called “Taliban”—also “nothing to do with Islam”—was responsible.
Meanwhile, some 3,000 miles west of Egypt, in Nigeria, Christians are also under attack. There, 11,500 Christians have been killed and 13,000 churches destroyed. According to the official narrative, something called “Boko Haram” is responsible. This is another group that habitually bombs churches during Christmas and Easter; another group that, we are told, “has nothing to do with Islam,” but rather is a finite, temporal, localized problem: defeat it, and the problem vanishes.
About 5,000 miles west of Nigeria, in the U.S., Americans were told that something called “al-Qaeda” attacked and killed 3,000 of their countrymen on 9/11; defeating that finite group would cease the terror. Its leader, Osama bin Laden, was reportedly killed, and victory loudly proclaimed—until, that is, an even more savage manifestation called the “Islamic State” came on the scene and went further than al-Qaeda could’ve ever dreamed.
The problem is not merely that the liars in media, government, and academia refuse to connect the dots and insist on treating each of the aforementioned groups as disparate, finite groups with different “political” or “territorial” motivations—none of which has anything to do with Islam. The greater issue is that regular Muslims who are not called “ISIS,” “Taliban,” “Boko Haram,” or “al-Qaeda,” commit similar acts—and much more frequently—though this is rarely mentioned by big media lest people begin to connect the dots.
Thus, although ISIS claimed the Egyptian church bombing before Easter, it is everyday Egyptian imams who “preach hatred and violence against Christians to the public over loudspeakers”; it is everyday Muslims who persecute Christians “every two or three days”; every day Muslims who riot and kill whenever a rumor surfaces that a church is going to be built, or that a Coptic kid “blasphemed” against Muhammad, or that a Christian man is dating a Muslim woman. In short, it is every day Muslims—not “ISIS”—who cause Egypt to be the 21st worst nation in the world in which to be Christian.
Similarly, though the Taliban claimed 2016’s Easter bombing, it is everyday Muslims who discriminate against, persecute, enslave, rape and murder Christians almost every day in Pakistan, making it the fourth worst nation in the world in which to be Christian. And, though Boko Haram is always blamed for the more spectacular attacks on Christians and their churches, it is everyday Muslims, including the Muslim Fulani herdsmen, who make Nigeria the 12th worst nation in which to be Christian.
This is the real issue. While the media may name the terrorist groups responsible for especially spectacular attacks, few dare acknowledge that Muslims in general engage in similar acts of violence and intolerance against non-Muslims all around the world. Indeed, Muslims—of all races, nationalities, languages, and socio-political and economic circumstances, hardly just “terror groups”—are responsible for persecuting Christians in 40 of the world’s 50 worst nations in which to be Christian. Accordingly, what “extremist” “terrorist” and “militant” groups are doing is only the notable tip of the iceberg of what Muslims are doing all around the world. (See “Muslim Persecution of Christians,” reports which I’ve been compiling every month since July 2011 and witness the nonstop discrimination, persecution, and carnage committed by “everyday” Muslims against Christians. Each monthly report contains dozens of atrocities, most of which if committed by Christians against Muslims would receive 24/7 blanket coverage.)
It bears repeating: Media aren’t just covering up for Islam by pretending that the spectacular attacks committed by Islamic groups on non-Muslims are finite, localized, and most importantly, “have nothing to do with Islam.” They are covering up for Islam by failing to report the everyday persecution non-Muslims experience at the hands of everyday Muslims—Muslim individuals, Muslim mobs, Muslim police, and Muslim governments (including America’s closest “friends and allies”)—and hardly just Muslim “terrorists.” They dare not connect the dots and offer a holistic picture which doesn’t merely implicate this or that group but Islam in general. Accordingly, the world must continue to suffer from Islamic aggression. Not only have these lies allowed countless innocents to be persecuted into oblivion in the Muslim world, but they have allowed the same persecution to enter America and Europe, most recently via mass immigration.
The fact remains: an ugly truth must first be acknowledged before it can be remedied. It may be hard to acknowledge an ugly truth—that Islam, not “radical Islam,” promotes hate for and violence against non-Muslims—but anything less will just continue to feed the lie, that is, continue to feed the jihad and terror.
In short, the problem is not so much the “Islamic State”; it is Islamic hate. The former is but one of many temporal and historical manifestations of the latter, which, as an integral part of Islam, transcends time and space.

Russia boosts Iran’s role in Syria, while US blocks Tehran’s passage in Deir Ezzour
Pierre Ghanem/Al Arabiya/May 10/17
Relationships between Washington and Moscow have reached a new intersection relating to the Syrian conflict. Though both the United States and Russia agree on fighting terrorism they still differ on several files related to Syria. The core of the problem which will be discussed by both foreign ministers Sergei Lavrov, who is on his first visit to Washington since US President Donald Trump assumed office, and his American counterpart Rex Tillerson will focus on Iran’s role in Syria. It will also hone in on Moscow’s support for Tehran’s Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, as perceived by Washington and Gulf states.
Moscow taking the lead over Washington
With the new administration in the White House lead by Trump, the United States has established a strategy focusing on three phases: destroying ISIS, establishing de-escalation zones and establishing peace. The US has tried cooperating with Russia regarding this strategy, but was faced by collusion between Damascus and Moscow when the Syrian regime bombed Khan Sheikhoun with chemical weapons last April, as the Russian military experts were in Al Shayrat airport when a plane caring the poisonous shipment took off. Washington’s bombing of Al Shayrat airport was a move to stop the Syrian regime from using weapons of mass destruction again. While the US believes that Moscow guarantees that the Syrian regime won’t use chemical weapon again, they have agreed to work on a plan to destroy ISIS. The United States believes that Russia, through the Astana talks held on May 4, has done a diplomatic maneuver as they succeeded in “stealing” or “acquiring” the American strategy and republished it with a Russian agenda. The US believes that Russia, through the Astana talks, has done a diplomatic maneuver as they succeeded in “stealing” or “acquiring” the American strategy and republished it with a Russian agenda
Russia boosting Iran role in Syrian
Washington is objecting that the Astana talks shows Tehran as a leading nation for establishing a de-escalation zone, while in reality, Iran’s original role is to support the Syrian regime. The United States has its reservations to changing the way Iran is viewed; from an aggressor to endorsing it as a nation that guarantees stability and fighting terrorism. Washington had commented on the Astana talks by saying that “Iran’s activities in Syria have contributed to violence and not stopped it. Also Iran’s support for the Assad regime contributed to the Syrian people’s misery.”
But what is worse was the draft put forward by the Russians to the Security Council in order to adopt the outcomes of the Astana talks, and trying to convince the international community to give Iran a cover regarding what it did in Syria directly or indirectly through Hezbollah. The moment Lavrov and Tillerson meet face-to-face in Washington, the American stance will be as follows: Tillerson will need to confront Iranian interference in the Middle East while Lavrov will want to defend Iran’s role in Syria.The worst scenario for both diplomats is that the Trump administration sees that Russia cannot implement its strategy in Syria and keep the Bashar al- Assad regime in power without the help and support of Iran and the supporting Shiite militias.
Tehran’s passage goes through Deir Ezzor
The situation on the ground is putting great pressures on both the American and Russian sides. The Americans are preparing for the last stage of the battle to retake Syria’s Raqqa, the de-facto ISIS “capital” with the help of Kurd and Arab forces, and this fight will take a long time. The Americans want to support the same forces or other Arab forces in Deir Ezzor’s southern Bukamal so as to move fast on the northern areas and control International Highway that links Syria with Iraq and consequently controlling Deir Ezzor, as it will be the last city controlled by ISIS and in the middle of the road between Damascus and Baghdad. The aim of gaining this city by the United States will stop Iran and its supporting militias from having control on this route which links Iran’s borders with three Arab capitals. On the other hand, the Syrian regime, with the cooperation of Moscow and Tehran, wants to regain control of what’s left in the Palmyra area and go forward to Deir Ezzor and the connecting the International Highway between Syria and Iraq. Syrian Foreign Minister Waleed al-Mouallem has confirmed this by saying that the Syrian regime’s “target is to reach Deir Ezzor.” This will be unfavorable for the United States if this road is reclaimed with the support of Russia.
The disagreement over Turkey
What is disturbing Washington regarding Moscow’s actions is that their attempts to reach an understanding with the Russians in recent months have reached a deadlock. It is not clear to the Americans if Russian President Vladimir Putin has any intention to cooperate with the Trump administration.
In recent months, Moscow has worked to deepen the American Turkish disputes regarding the Syrian conflict and gave Turkey a role in guaranteeing the outcomes of the Astana talks, while Washington could not reach any understanding with Ankara regarding Kurdish militias in Syria. While Turkey considers the Kurds terrorists, the United States considers them one of their few allies on Syrian territory and counts on them to reach Raqqa and Deir Ezzor. The list of disputes between Washington and Moscow is very long and fundamental and the hardest part in it is that both countries look towards Syria now not only as the passage to destroying terrorism, but also as a passage to establish influence in the Middle East.

Has Saleh turned against the Houthis?
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/May 10/17
Recent reports have claimed that a dispute erupted between ousted Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh and the Houthis. This is good news and was also expected for a while now. Who will turn against the other first? This is the question when it comes to this “hybrid” alliance between a party – that claims to be nationalist and fights against the governance of the Imamate and whose “legitimacy” is as a result of revolting against the governance of Hamid ed-Dine imams – and a group that believes in the myths of the Imamate and the Zaidi Hashemi rule. What adds to these is the more dangerous and mythical Khomeini component of their practices. According to the Saudi Press Agency and as quoted by the Russian agency, Ali Abdullah Saleh, the leader of the General People’s Congress, is angry at the Houthis because the latter seeks to marginalize the allies and undermine Saleh and his group so as to govern alone. This is the reason behind the recent escalated media criticism of the Houthis’ extremism.
In response to the insults which the Houthis have hurled against the General People’s Congress, Saleh said: “No one will twist the other’s arm. Twisting arms is rejected and its consequences are unhealthy.” He also voiced the importance of communicating with the leaders and members of the General People’s Congress to unite the ranks. Saleh and his party are aware of the change in the US administration. Barack Obama’s leniency is gone and now there is Trump promising to efficiently contribute to the Arab coalition and operation Decisive Storm. Saleh also called for preparing for what is coming, adding that “they’ve been patient from 1962 until 1970” in reference to confronting the two imams in the wake of the September 26 revolution. In all cases, we must not trust these reports a lot as it may just be disputes among the alliance especially that media outlets affiliated to Saleh, such as Yemen Today television channel, continues to heavily criticize Saudi Arabia and the Arab coalition.
Man of sudden transformations
However, we must also keep in mind that Saleh is the man of sudden transformations. Wasn’t Houthi his enemy? During the six wars they fought, hasn’t Saleh accused Houthi of being Iran’s agent and of belonging to the backward Imamate rule?
Saleh and his party are aware of the change in the American administration. Barack Obama’s leniency has ended and now there is Donald Trump’s strict approach. Trump has promised to efficiently contribute to the Arab coalition and Saudi Arabia in operation Decisive Storm.
The performance of the national army and popular resistance has become more competent. The war has prolonged and time is on the side of the coalition and not on the side of Houthi and Saleh, as Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in his interview last week. All these matters will impose themselves in the end.
In conclusion, we will wait to see who will turn against the other first. Time is on our side so we will wait and see.

UN lauds Saudi Arabia’s efforts to counter terrorism
Haifa A. Aljedea/Al Arabiya/May 10/17
The UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Ben Emmerson, and his team recently concluded a visit to Saudi Arabia where they met with various heads of government institutions in the Kingdom. As part of his findings, Emmerson stated that he was impressed by Saudi Arabia’s efforts and commended its work on countering the spread of violent extremism. Along with security-oriented strategies, Saudi Arabia’s comprehensive approach encompasses social, political and economic areas such as strict money laundering regulations that stems the flow of terrorist financing and a strong commitment to international cooperation. One example of this longstanding commitment is comments of Saudi’s foreign minister regarding President Trump’s upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia. He said that the trip would be an opportunity to enhance cooperation between the US and Muslim countries in the fight against extremism. Unlike countries in Europe and the North America where conditions in prisons breed terrorism and violent extremism, Saudi Arabia has developed methods to rehabilitate and reintegrate those suspected and convicted of terrorism. Emmerson noted that, “Saudi Arabia can rightly be proud of the genuinely rehabilitative nature of the facilities in which it houses prisoners accused of terrorism.”He commended the standard of care, the conditions of detention, and the medical and recreational facilities of the Kingdom’s detention centers and stated that they are, “are amongst the highest in the world”. Along with security-oriented strategies, Saudi Arabia’s comprehensive approach encompasses social, political and economic areas such as strict money laundering regulations that stems the flow of terrorist financing and a strong commitment to international cooperation
Conspicuous finding
Although those working in counterterrorism in the region already know this, this is a conspicuous finding by the UN rapporteur as it gives a platform to the significant work Saudi Arabia is doing in this area. Recent reports have indicated prisons in Europe act as breeding grounds for terrorism and violent extremism.
While Europe struggles to prevent the spread of terrorism and terrorist attacks, Saudi Arabia is years ahead with the development of an effective and comprehensive rehabilitation strategy. One rehabilitation center in the Kingdom reports an 86 percent rate of non-recidivism. In fact, the UN rapporteur has recommended that other countries consider the Saudi model for counter-radicalization especially for those convicted of terrorism. Along with bi-lateral collaboration between Saudi Arabia and other countries, the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Center (which was created through a $110 million donation from Saudi Arabia) is an appropriate way to apply the rapporteur’s recommendation as it is the main counterterrorism capacity building arm of the UN System.
Emmerson also commended the government’s efforts to alleviate the suffering of victims of terrorism. Although the United Nations has called for supporting the victims of terrorism through its Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, many countries neglect those most affected by terrorism and this heinous form of violence. As stated by the Rapporteur’s findings, Saudi Arabia’s institutions offer comprehensive programs that includes financial, psychological, educational, and moral support. Counter-terrorism experts regard supporting victims not only as an important aspect of an all inclusive strategy, but as a significant method to prevent violent extremism and the spread of terrorism.

Has Hamas just changed its stripes?
Abdullah bin Bijad Al-Otaibi/Al Arabiya/May 10/17
The Palestinian Hamas Movement recently issued a new document or charter, which it seems was not motivated by a purely internal review but rather influenced by the new political situation in the region and the world. One of the most important points in the document is that hostility toward Jews is no longer a major pillar of its ideology like the case used to be in the past. Hamas also denied its hostility toward them and confirmed its antagonism against the occupying Zionists. This is a major change in the ideology of the group, which is originally a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, although it avoided mentioning these strong ties to the Brotherhood in this document. In the past, however, Hamas always confirmed these relations. Hamas accepted the 1967 borders and this is another major change but what do all these changes mean? How can they be interpreted? Why did Hamas make these changes today? Why did it now do what it hasn’t done in the past three decades? This is a moment that reveals the thinking of all political Islamist groups – the pragmatic groups that change their stripes and principles as circumstances change in order to achieve their sole goal of attaining power or maintaining it at any price.
As for the relation with Israel, Hamas’ new position can be compared to the letter which deposed President Mohammed Mursi sent to Shimon Perez addressing him as a dear and great friend. Hamas’ stance is thus an extension of that position. The Egyptian state has now regained control and the people have completely rejected the Brotherhood. Hamas has larger interests in Egypt so it will stay away from the Brotherhood
Political rhetoric
The Brotherhood and its offshoots have often adopted a political rhetoric that accuses all states, presidents and leaders who signed peace agreements with Israel as being “infidel”. They also slammed all states, presidents and leaders who refused to be hostile toward Jews and sought peace via initiatives since the days of Camp David up until the current Arab peace initiative. They attacked everyone and accused them of being infidels and are now pursuing that path and accepting the same goals. So is Hamas. The answer to this question reveals the scandals related to these groups. It lays bare their designs of employing religion to attain political aims, mobilizing people and inciting them to stir chaos and commit acts of terrorism. These groups have given up on this approach now and are doing what Arab countries did. Hamas must thus accept what Fatah and the Palestinian Liberation Organization had accepted before. The accusations of infidelity, which they made for decades, have thus come to an end. But why does Hamas want to stay away from the Brotherhood? It is because the Brotherhood has become a heavy burden on all its followers. It failed to govern Egypt and the Egyptian people and army ousted it from power. Then it chose to resort to terrorism. The Egyptian state has now regained control and the people have completely rejected the Brotherhood. Hamas has larger interests in Egypt so it will stay away from the Brotherhood.
Terror connection
The Brotherhood is also listed as a terror group in three Arab countries which are Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. These countries will not accept a Brotherhood movement that divides the Palestinians and bids over the Arab countries’ choices. Hamas therefore has no choice but to dissociate itself to some extent from the Brotherhood which destroyed itself and which destroys others. On the international level, the future seems clearer in the region as the axis of the so-called resistance, represented by the Iranian regime, the Brotherhood, the Syrian regime, the Lebanese Hezbollah group and the Hamas movement, has lost.They have come together to murder the Syrian people in cold bold upon sectarian basis. Iran gathered militias from different countries to kill more and more people. Its schemes against various Arab Gulf countries stand exposed and its militias in Yemen will be defeated.
And finally, he who supported the Brotherhood has exited the White House. The president now is Donald Trump, and he knows well the atrocities and crimes of this evil axis. Hamas only wants to change its stripes.