May 19/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

The Bulletin's Link on the lccc Site

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

Bible Quotations For Today
I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 18/18-22/:"Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.’Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times."

Do all things without murmuring and arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent
Letter to the Philippians 02/12-18/:"Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without murmuring and arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world. It is by your holding fast to the word of life that I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labour in vain. But even if I am being poured out as a libation over the sacrifice and the offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you and in the same way you also must be glad and rejoice with me."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on May 18-19/17
France: The Ideology of Islamic Victimization/Yves Mamou/Gatestone Institute/May 18/17
American Islam's Most Extreme Conference/Samuel Westrop/Gatestone Institute/May 18/17
Digital Insecurity Is the New Normal/Steven Weber and Betsy Cooper/The New York Times/May 18/17
RPG in al-Awamiyah/Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al Awsat/May 28/17
Erdogan-Trump: The most unsuccessful Washington visit ever/Cengiz Çandar/Al Monitor/May 17/17
Will Jesus save Egypt's struggling tourism industry/Menna A. Farouk/Al Monitor/May 17/17
Why southern Syria remains Jordan’s biggest security threat/Osama Al Sharif /Al Monitor/May 17/17
It’s time for a global mobilization against the Iranian ‘Khomeinite’/Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran/Al Arabiya/May 18/17
Sectarian Shiism versus political Shiism threat/Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/May 18/17
The slippery slope of revolutionary politics: Will Hamas be another Fatah/Ramzy Baroud/Al Arabiya/May 18/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published on May 18-19/17
Some MPs question Aoun exclusion from Trump summit
Hezbollah’ Repositions Itself on Syria Border Despite Pullout Announcement
Alfano meets Lebanon president Aoun
Italian FM Meets Lebanese Leaders, Stresses Importance of Lebanon's Stability
Report: Berri Believes Accord on Vote Law 'Likely' Before Deadline
Lebanese MPs Hold 'Positive' Talks with U.S. Lawmaker who Says Sanctions Leaks Inaccurate
Mashnouq: A Committee Will Follow-Up on Inmates File, Atmospheres Inappropriate for Amnesty
IS Militants Abduct Lebanese Man from Arsal
Report: Newly Formed French Govt. Might Help Boost Halted Saudi Grant
U.S.-Led Coalition Strikes Pro-Regime Convoy in Syria
Mystery Shrouds Abu Malek al-Talli's Fate after Arsal Outskirts Strike
Personal Dispute Aggravates into Gunfight in Akkar
Lebanese Army Bombs Cars Carrying IS Leaders
'Loyalty to Resistance' underlines dire need to reach vote law before parliament term ends
Hariri meets regional director of World Food Program
Lassen from North Lebanon: We seek to help refugees, reduce crisis' impacts on Lebanon
Bou Assi meets in Geneva with High Commissioner for Refugees, demands database on displaced Syrians
Bassil holds talks with his Italian counterpart over regional situation, bilateral ties
Pope Francis' message on World Communications Day Falha representing Riachy: We need free media, far from suspicious funding
Army commander welcomes Minister of Labor, Baalbek MPs
Mashnouk receives President of Arab Banks Union
Ibrahim, Iraqi Ambassador broach affairs of Diaspora

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 18-19/17
Trump wants NATO-like force for the Middle East
Trump Decries Russia Probe as 'Greatest Witch Hunt' in U.S. History
US Presses Idea of NATO Taking over Training of Iraq Troops
Saudi: Summit with US to open ‘new page’ with Muslim world
Trump’s Riyadh visit will ‘confront chaos perpetrators in the Muslim world’
International Ground Troops Cutting off Regime Ambitions on Securing a ‘Tehran-Damascus’ Trail
Egyptian-Jordanian Summit Calls for Reviving Peace Talks
GCC Foreign Ministers Meet Ahead of Riyadh Summits
Senior Scholars Council Stresses Importance of Arab-Islamic-US Summit
US-Turkey Differences on Kurds Set to Grow as Ankara Calls for McGurk’s Ouster
Shin Bet Arrests Members of Islamic Movement
Trump Rules Out Moveng Embassy To Jerusalem For Now
Yemen Cholera Death Toll Mounts to 209

Latest Lebanese Related News published on May 18-19/17
Some MPs question Aoun exclusion from Trump summit
The Daily Star/May. 18/17/

Saudi Arabia’s invitation for Prime Minister Saad Hariri to participate in an international conference sparked the ire of several lawmakers and officials Wednesday. Hariri was invited by Saudi Arabia to participate in the Arab-Islamic-American Summit – set to be held in Riyadh on May 20-21 – where top Middle Eastern officials will meet with U.S. President Donald Trump. Critics claim that President Michel Aoun, as Lebanon’s head of state, should represent the country, rather than Hariri as Prime Minister. Many other heads of state from the region and more widely will be attending. “As Lebanon has the peculiarity of sectarian diversity and because its president is a Christian, it would have been better to invite [Aoun], as president, to the Arab-Islamic-American summit,” Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat said via Twitter. MP Boutros Harb also weighed in. “I am confused, as are the Lebanese people, about Saudi Arabia’s invitation to the Lebanese prime minister to participate in the Arab-Islamic-American Summit in Saudi Arabia,” he said, in a statement carried by the state-run National News Agency. Harb claimed that such regional and international conferences should be attended by kings and presidents.“Traditionally, the president would be invited, who in turn would decide whether to attend or choose someone to represent him,” he said.Harb went on to describe the invitation as a “failure of [Lebanese] foreign policy.” “This makes us ask for clarifications about the conditions ... and reasons that pushed one of Lebanon’s [closest] friends to bypass the president,” Harb said. “For us, the media excuses are not enough,” he added, referring to an alleged deal between Hariri and Aoun that would see Hariri go to the summit in exchange for Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil’s participation in the delegation Hariri would be heading. Information Minister Melhem Riachi, speaking after Wednesday’s Cabinet session, told reporters that the ministers discussed the issue but refused to divulge the conversation. “The Cabinet has its privacy and we do not announce everything [to the media],” Riachi said. “There is certainly a will to be fully committed to the ministerial [statement] and to Lebanon as a whole without any exception.” Last Thursday, Saudi Arabia invited Hariri to the Arab-Islamic-American Summit, which will be held this weekend. King Abdullah II of Jordan, Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Niger’s Mahamadou Issoufou are among the heads of state invited by King Salman to the summit, where they will meet with Trump – who will give a speech about Islam. The visit to Saudi Arabia is the U.S. president’s first to the Middle East and comes in the wake of severe backlash Trump faced for alleged discrimination against Muslims, after he enforced a travel ban that targeted Muslim majority countries. The ban was later held up by a group of federal judges. “The aim of the summit is to work toward the establishment of a new partnership to confront extremism and terrorism and to reinforce the values of tolerance and coexistence for the future of our generations in the Arab region,” Walid al-Bukhari, the charge d’affaires of the Saudi Embassy in Lebanon, said after inviting Hariri.

Hezbollah’ Repositions Itself on Syria Border Despite Pullout Announcement
Asharq Al Awsat/May 18/17/Beirut- The recent announcement of Lebanon’s “Hezbollah” that it was dismantling its positions along the Lebanese-Syrian border has not been met with implementation on the ground. Sources following up the party’s moves said that “Hezbollah” hasn’t made an actual withdrawal, but rather repositioned itself in certain areas. The sources said the party’s militants pulled out from several locations but expanded their presence in other areas. Hezbollah’s move on the Lebanese side of the border is most likely met with a similar operation on the Syrian side. A Lebanese military expert told Asharq Al-Awsat that “Hezbollah’s existence and military power contradict with a pullout from the Lebanese-Syrian border despite its shrewdness in promoting for that.” The expert, who refused to be identified, said that “militarily, Hezbollah continues to preserve its force on the border to protect its supply line.”“But politically and in terms of security, it is capable of holding the Lebanese state and the army responsible for any future security breach on the border,” he said. “Hezbollah” Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah declared last week that the party “completed its mission” along Lebanon’s border with Syria, leaving the arena to the Lebanese state. He announced that “Hezbollah” has “dismantled its positions” along the border. Nasrallah also called on the Lebanese state “to assume its responsibilities in protecting the eastern border and preventing the infiltration of gunmen from Syria to Lebanon.” On the Syrian side of the border, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights quoted “reliable” sources as saying that “Hezbollah continues to maintain its positions in al-Qalamoun and its outskirts.”“The party withdrew its members from several bases … but redeployed them in areas that it considers highly important,” the sources said.

Alfano meets Lebanon president Aoun
(ANSA) - Beirut, May 18 - Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano on Thursday met Lebanese President Michel Aoun in Beirut and delivered an invitation from President Sergio Mattarella for Aoun to visit Italy. Alfano also met high-level Lebanese officials before travelling to the south of the country to meet the over 1,000 Italian Blue Helmets in the UNIFIL mission on the Israeli border. On his blog, Alfano said Italy was proud to have worked in Lebanon for many years and was also a strategic commercial partner of the Middle Eastern country. Alfano also said the key to easing the migrant emergency was resolving the Syrian crisis to allow refugees to return. Alfano also voiced the hope that Italian fuels group Eni can have a role in exploiting Lebanon's offshore gas deposits. The foreign minister also urged Iran to implement the accord on its nuclear programme.

Italian FM Meets Lebanese Leaders, Stresses Importance of Lebanon's Stability
Naharnet/May 18/17/Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano held talks Thursday in Lebanon with the country's top officials and stressed the importance of Lebanon's stability. Alfano held talks with President Michel Aoun at the presidential palace in Baabda and handed him an official invitation on behalf of the Italian President to visit the country. The Minister held talks later in the day with Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Saad Hariri. His talks with Hariri focused on the situation in Lebanon and the region and the bilateral relations, the premier's office said. Alfano also met with Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil and vowed to “offer assistance to Lebanon in this difficult period to contribute to its stability and the stability of the region.”And lauding Lebanon's efforts in hosting the Syrian refugees, the minister added: “I don't think that any country in the world is hosting such a huge number of refugees as Lebanon is doing.”
Bassil for his part warned that Lebanon “has reached the point of collapse regarding its ability to cope with the huge influx of Syrian refugees.”The FM also said that he agreed with Alfano that any political solution in Syria must involve the return of refugees to their country. Later in the day, Alfano is scheduled to inspect Italian peacekeepers operating in the South as part of the UNIFIL mission. Alfano had arrived Wednesday evening at the Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut at the head of a delegation from the Italian ministry. He was received by Italian ambassador to Lebanon Massimo Marotti and Deputy Chief of Protocol at the Foreign Ministry Nadim Sourati.

Report: Berri Believes Accord on Vote Law 'Likely' Before Deadline
Naharnet/May 18/17/Although deadlines are looming to agree on a new electoral law for Lebanon's parliamentary polls, Speaker Nabih Berri ruled out the possibility of failure to reach a voting system before June 21 when the term of the parliament ends, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Thursday. A source following up closely on the election debate said “Berri is waiting for other ideas to come up, and ruled out reaching June 21 without an agreement,” they told the daily on condition of anonymity. “The Speaker's former proposal to create a senate has no chances because of the complications and difficulties it faced regarding its leadership and the jurisdictions given,” said the source. “A possibility still stands to agree on a proportional representation system paralleled with electoral districts that take the Christian’s demands into account. The parliament’s term would then be extended until Spring 2018 giving the interior ministry enough time to complete technical and administrative preparations to stage the polls,” added the source. Failure to reach accord on a vote law would place the country in front of two options: vacuum at the legislative authority or an extension of the parliament's term, the source remarked. The option of "parliamentary vacuum would keep the Speaker and the Parliament Bureau in office according to Article 55 of the Constitution. In accordance with Article 74, the elections would be held within three months." "Extension of the parliament's term for three months is the second option, during which the elections would be staged based on the electoral law in force, in this case the 1960 majoritarian law." Berri had recently proposed the election of a parliament under a proportional representation system in six electoral districts and the creation of a senate that addresses the concerns of the country's sectarian components. But, he withdrew his proposal on May 15 after it failed to garner consensus.

Lebanese MPs Hold 'Positive' Talks with U.S. Lawmaker who Says Sanctions Leaks Inaccurate
Naharnet/May 18/17/A Lebanese parliamentary delegation held a “positive” Washington meeting on Thursday with U.S. lawmaker Ed Royce, the Chairman of the United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs, media reports said. Royce described as “inaccurate” a leaked draft bill pertaining to expanded U.S. sanctions on Hizbullah and its allies, saying the leaks have caused great harm and emphasizing that Washington's support for Lebanon and its army will continue, Lebanese TV networks reported. Lebanese delegation sources told LBCI television that the U.S. lawmakers and officials have become aware of the delicacy of the Lebanese situation. The sources also said that Royce's draft “is still being drafted and it is different than what has been leaked.”
“There will be sanctions, but the draft will be evaluated and reformulated,” the sources added.

Mashnouq: A Committee Will Follow-Up on Inmates File, Atmospheres Inappropriate for Amnesty
Naharnet/May 18/17/Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq said on Thursday that a legal committee will be formed to follow-up on hunger strikers in Lebanese prisons, stressing that the current political atmospheres are unsuitable for discussing general amnesty law. “After thorough discussions with PM (Saad) Hariri and (Gand) the Mufti (Sheikh Abdul Latif) Deryan, it has been decided to form a legal committee to follow up on the file of detainees on hunger strike in Lebanese prisons,” said Mashnouq from Dar al-Fatwa. He pointed out saying: “The committee will be formed within a few days. But agreeing on a full amnesty requires a political climate that is currently unavailable.”On Wednesday, Mashnouq received a delegation representing families of the detainees in the presence of Minister of State for Affairs of the Displaced Moein Merhebi and Interior Ministry's adviser for prisoner affairs, Mounir Shaaban.
Lebanese prisoners began a mass hunger strike on Saturday demanding general amnesty to all inmates.

IS Militants Abduct Lebanese Man from Arsal
Naharnet/May 18/17/Militants belonging to the extremist Islamic State group on Thursday kidnapped a Lebanese man from the eastern border town of Arsal, media reports said. The reports identified the abductee as Mohammed Ahmed al-Hujeiri, saying he was taken to an unknown destination. The incident comes a day after the Lebanese army shelled IS posts in the outskirts of Arsal, Ras Baalbek and al-Qaa.Militants from the IS and the rival Fateh al-Sham jihadist group are entrenched in rugged areas along the Lebanese-Syrian border. The two groups overran Arsal in 2014 before being ousted by the army after days of deadly battles.The retreating militants abducted dozens of troops and policemen of whom four were executed and nine remain in IS' captivity.

Report: Newly Formed French Govt. Might Help Boost Halted Saudi Grant
Naharnet/May 18/17/A halted Saudi grant to provide the Lebanese army with French weapons, might be revived by the newly formed French government under elected President Emmanuel Macron, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Thursday. Macron announced the formation of his new government which includes ministers from various political parties and led by Rightwing Prime Minister Edouard Philippe. Socialist Jean-Yves Le Drian was appointed Foreign Minister, Sylvie Goulard appointed Minister of Defense replacing Le Drian, Gerard Collomb was appointed Minister of the Interior and Francois Bayrou was appointed as Minister of Justice. Circles well-informed with France's politics, told the daily: “Appointing Le Drian as Foreign Minister gives strong impetus to the Lebanese-French ties in all areas. “Le Drian knows the Lebanese file well, and will complete the policy of his predecessors in building strong ties with middle eastern countries mainly Lebanon. Paris sees relations with Lebanon as historic and strategic,” they added on condition of anonymity. “Le Drian is well acquainted with the details of the $3 billion Saudi grant to the Lebanese army and the reasons behind its halt. Some regard that Le Drian's appointment at head of the French diplomatic mission is an incentive to motivate this grant, given the French-Saudi ties and the interest of both countries in Lebanon's stability.” In February 2016 Saudi Arabia halted a military grant program for Lebanon in protest against Hizbullah's policies and diplomatic stances by the Lebanese foreign ministry. The program, funded by Riyadh, would provide vehicles, helicopters, drones, cannons and other military equipment from France. After Aoun's election, France's foreign ministry said it was in "close dialogue" with Lebanon and Saudi Arabia in hope of a deal.

U.S.-Led Coalition Strikes Pro-Regime Convoy in Syria
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 18/17/U.S.-led coalition aircraft Thursday struck a pro-regime convoy apparently transporting Shia militiamen in Syria as it headed toward a remote coalition garrison near the Jordanian border, U.S. defense officials said. While officials stressed the defensive strike did not signal deepening U.S. involvement in Syria's civil war, it nonetheless raises questions about the ongoing feasibility for the coalition to maintain its singular focus on the Islamic State group.In a statement, the coalition said the strike had occurred "well inside" an established de-confliction zone northwest of the At-Tanf garrison, where British and U.S. commandos have been training and advising local forces fighting IS. "A convoy going down the road didn't respond to numerous ways for it to be warned off from getting too close to coalition forces in At-Tanf," a U.S. defense official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
"Then there was finally a strike against the lead portion of that movement."A second defense official told AFP the forces in the convoy appeared to have been Shia militia.Attempts to stop the convoy included a call to the Russians -- who are working with the Syrian regime -- then a "show of force" in the skies above the vehicles, followed by warning shots. The first official said the convoy was "significant" in size, but only the lead vehicles were hit. Coalition officials said Russian forces had apparently unsuccessfully tried to dissuade the pro-regime movement south. Describing the hours-long event as an "escalation-of-force situation," the official said it did not signal a strategic shift for the coalition, which remains focused on fighting IS group. Yehya al-Aridi, a spokesman for the Syrian opposition High Negotiations Committee in Geneva, praised the strike. "We welcome robust action against the foreign forces who have turned Syria into a killing field," he said. "Iran and its militias have kept (President Bashar-al) Assad in power. They cannot be allowed to wage war on our soil with impunity." America has been militarily involved in Syria since 2014 but has for the most part avoided engaging directly in the country's civil war. The biggest exception to this was a U.S. cruise missile attack on a Syrian airbase last month in response to a suspected chemical attack by the regime. At-Tanf has been the target of repeated attacks in recent months. Last month, U.S.-led allied forces and Syrian rebels thwarted a significant IS attack on the base. And in June last year, Russian warplanes bombed the outpost, reportedly just one day after British special forces had pulled out.

Mystery Shrouds Abu Malek al-Talli's Fate after Arsal Outskirts Strike
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 18/17/The top official of the jihadist al-Nusra Front group in the border region between Syria and Lebanon, Abu Malek al-Talli, might have been killed in a strike Wednesday in the outskirts of the Lebanese border town of Arsal, media reports said on Thursday.
“Lebanese army helicopters targeted the posts of the Islamic State group in Ras Baalbek's outskirts as the army's artillery targeted cars carrying Nusra Front leaders in Arsal's outskirts,” al-Joumhouria newspaper said. “A senior military official confirmed significant casualties among al-Nusra's leaders but could not confirm whether Abu Malek al-Talli was among the victims,” the daily added. The source however noted that there is a “large probability” that al-Talli was hit in the strike. MTV meanwhile published pictures of alleged missiles that the army's air force reportedly fired on al-Talli's convoy. Some of the writings on the missiles read “For the Tears of Every Mother” and “For Martyr First Lieutenant Nadim Semaan”. An army statement issued Wednesday evening said President Michel Aoun visited the Army Command's headquarters in Yarze to “discuss the situations, missions and needs of the military institution” and to “watch a live broadcast of the special operation that was carried out by Air Force helicopters against targets for the terrorist groups in the outskirts of the Arsal and Ras Baalbek areas.”Unconfirmed media reports meanwhile said that Abu Malek al-Talli, his assistant Abu Khaled al-Talli and al-Nusra's logistical officer Abu Bakr al-Souri were targeted by a large explosive device planted by Hizbullah and that their fate remains unknown.

Personal Dispute Aggravates into Gunfight in Akkar
Naharnet/May 18/17/A personal dispute erupted between members of two families in the northern region of Akkar and escalated into a gunfight, the National News Agency reported on Thursday. The clashes erupted between members from al-Dinnawi and al-Mir families in the Akkar town of Mar Touma, NNA said. It soon escalated into an exchange of fire and roads were closed with burning tires. An army force intervened and staged raids in a bid to arrest the culprits. Internal Security forces opened investigations into the incident.

Lebanese Army Bombs Cars Carrying IS Leaders
Naharnet/May 18/17/The Lebanese army was firing heavy artillery on Wednesday evening at militant posts in the outskirts of the eastern border town of Arsal, Ras Baalbek and al-Qaa, state-run National News Agency reported. The bombardment followed the detection of suspicious movements, the agency said. Army helicopters and surveillance drones were taking part in the operation and several cars carrying leaders of the extremist Islamic State group were hit, NNA added.

'Loyalty to Resistance' underlines dire need to reach vote law before parliament term ends
Thu 18 May 2017/NNA - "Loyalty to the Resistance" bloc categorically underlined the dire need to reach a new vote law before the expiration of the Parliament's term, beseeching all political sides to continue discussions with an open mindset over a final accord in this regard. The bloc's fresh stance on Thursday came in a statement in the wake of its periodic meeting in haret Hreik, presided over by MP Mohammed Raad. The bloc tackled most recent developments in Lebanon and the broader region. "Loyalty to the Resistance" bloc said it is closely following up on the outcome of debate over the long simmering election law, whereby it considered the approval of full proportionality voting system by the various political sides as a "good indicator", which necessitates the completion of discussions over issues related to the number of constituencies and their sizes, as well as restraints to secure equity and correct representation. Turning to Lebanon's Liberation and Resistance Day, the bloc congratulated all the Lebanese and liberals across the region and the world on this gracious Day, thanks to the 'army, people and resistance' equation which managed to restore and liberate the lands from the Israeli enemy occupation, thus accomplishing the historical triumph on 25 May, 2000. The bloc paid tribute to all the sacrifices of the resistance fighters, martyrs, the wounded and their families, vowing to preserve their achievements and fulfill the longstanding aspirations of the Lebanese people and their legitimate cause.

Hariri meets regional director of World Food Program
Thu 18 May 2017/NNA - Prime Minister Saad Hariri met on Thursday with World Food Program Regional Director, Mohannad Hadi, accompanied by Head of Beirut office, Dominique Henrik. Conferees discussed the projects executed by the program, especially those aimed at helping Syrian refugees and host communities, as well as projects relating to the most deprived popular classes.Later, Hariri received in audience a delegation of the Union of Syndicate of Tourism Enterprises in Lebanon, presided by Pierre Achkar. The Prime Minister was informed of the complaints and projects proposed by the Union, with the aim of activating the tourism sector in Lebanon.

Lassen from North Lebanon: We seek to help refugees, reduce crisis' impacts on Lebanon

Thu 18 May 2017/NNA - North Lebanon Governor, Ramzi Nohra, received on Thursday in Tripoli a delegation of ambassadors of the European Union, chaired by EU Ambassador, Christina Lassen. The delegation included the ambassadors of the Netherlands, Austria, Romania, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Greece, Poland, Belgium, Spain, France, Slovenia, Denmark and Sweden. The diplomats discussed with their host the socio-economic challenges facing the capital of northern Lebanon due to the crisis of Syrian refugees. Ambassador Lassen said the delegation visited Tripoli to discuss with local officials the needs of the city. "We realize the importance of launching the economic cycle in this city," she said. The diplomat noted that the European Union had organized a meeting in Brussels, with the aim of helping Lebanon face the refugees' crisis. "We are ready to help, but we aspire to have a list of priority projects in order to follow up on them with the concerned parties," she added. Lassen concluded that the EU acknowledged the difficulties suffered by Lebanon as a result of the refugee crisis, and was trying to help the Syrians and the host communities to reduce the scale of the dilemma on the Lebanese state and citizens.

Bou Assi meets in Geneva with High Commissioner for Refugees, demands database on displaced Syrians
Thu 18 May 2017/NNA - Minister of Social Affairs, Pierre Bou Assi, met in Geneva with High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, and briefed him on the general situation in Lebanon and the Syrian refugees' conditions. The Minister explained to Grandi the response of the Lebanese authorities to this unprecedented crisis and its various repercussions on Lebanon at various levels. The meeting was also an opportunity to present what the Ministry of Social Affairs is doing in this regard, in cooperation with the various Lebanese authorities and other international and local partners. Bou Assi praised the partnership with the High Commission, hoping to deepen it "in the interest of Lebanon and the Lebanese on the one hand, and for the aim of providing the displaced Syrian with all their humanitarian requirements." He stressed "the importance of supporting Lebanon at the national and local levels, so that the host communities can bear the heavy burdens placed on them until the conditions are set for the safe return of Syrians to their country."He also called on the Commission to contribute to bringing Lebanon's true voice to the donors, in parallel with the efforts of the Lebanese government in this regard. The minister urged the High Commissioner to "provide the database owned by the Commission on the Syrian refugees in Lebanon, which will certainly help Lebanon in its quest to provide greater transparency in dealing with this crisis, and towards donors as well." The Minister of Social Affairs is visiting Geneva for two days and heads Lebanon's delegation to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, which discusses Lebanon's fourth and fifth periodic report on children's rights.

Bassil holds talks with his Italian counterpart over regional situation, bilateral ties
Thu 18 May 2017/NNA - Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil on Thursday held talks with Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Angelino Alfano, over latest developments in the region, and the bilateral ties between Lebanon and Italy. Speaking at a joint press conference at Villa Boustros, Minister Bassil thanked Italy for its considerable role within UNIFIL, lauding the positive contribution of UNIFIL in maintaining Lebanon's stability despite the recurrent Israeli violations of Lebanese sovereignty. Bassil said he saw eye to eye with the Italian Minister that a comprehensive political solution is the sole viable one for the Syrian crisis, which should also include the safe return of the displaced people to their homeland. "Lebanon has reached the point of collapse in terms of its ability to shoulder alone the socio-economic, demographic, political and security impact as a result the huge influx of Syrian refugees into Lebanese territories," Bassil sounded the alarm. Turing to bilateral ties, Bassil noted that they agreed on the need to further bolster trade and economic relations notably that Italy is the largest European trading partner with Lebanon. Bassil encouraged Italian companies to be engaged and participate in the promising oil and gaz sector of Lebanon, in terms of expertise in this regard. Minister Alfano, for his part, brought to attention that Italy and Lebanon celebrate this year the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, saying he has handed the President of the Republic Michel Aoun an invitation from Italian President to visit Rome soon, as an echo of the deeply entrenched ties between the two countries. Alfano also pointed out that "Italy is present in Lebanon through its peacekeepers since 1978 within UNIFIL," saying Italy is proud of its contribution to the training of Lebanese soldiers. Alfano lauded Lebanon as a unique model of cultural diversity and democratic pluralism in the Middle East, expressing his belief that Lebanon has an important role to play in the stability of the region. Alfano underlined Italy's continual assistance to Lebanon, saying that Italy cooperates and provides aid to Lebanon to preserve it and maintain its stability. The Italian Minister also heaped praises on Lebanon's enormous efforts in hosting the huge number of Syrian refugees.

Pope Francis' message on World Communications Day Falha representing Riachy: We need free media, far from suspicious funding
Thu 18 May 2017/NNA - A press conference was held this Thursday at the Catholic Media Center, upon the invitation of the Episcopal Committee for Media, to announce the message of His Holiness Pope Francis on the World Communications Day, under the title "Do not be afraid -- I am with you" (Isaiah). Participating in the conference were the Director General of the Ministry of Information, Hassan Falah, representing Information Minister, Melhem Riachy, Head of the Lebanese Press Syndicate, Awni Al-Kaaki, Head of the Editors' Syndicate, Elias Aoun, Archbishop Boulos Matar, Director of the Catholic Media Center, Father Abdu Abou Kasm, Director of the National News Agency, Laure Sleiman Saab, Director of Tele Lumiere Group, Jack Kallasi, and ranking dignitaries. Falha delivered a speech on the occasion, whereby he said "I am honored to be representing the Minister of Information at this meeting to announce this important message of His Holiness Pope Francis on the occasion of the 51st World Communications Media Day." "This is a cross-community, cross-religion message that reaches humanity in its entirety, and gets to every person regardless of his affiliation, especially that we live in the era of social media which eliminated all borders and shortened the distances," he said. "We desperately need such a message at a time when evil overshadows the good, and tragedy prevails over joy.""I would like to encourage everyone to communicate, by renouncing prejudices towards others and by strengthening the culture of togetherness, through which we learn to look at realities with confidence and discernment," he said. "It captivated my attention when the Pope said there is a need to break the vicious circle of fear (...) which is the fruit of getting used to negative news (wars, terrorism, scandals and all forms of human failure)," Falha went on, stressing that this principle must be followed in our perception of the media that we aspire to. "We ought to overcome the feeling of resentment and surrender that often overwhelms us and leaves us in the midst of indifference, thus sowing fear or the impression that it is impossible to put an end to evil. We must drop the logic that says positive news are not as interesting," Falha added. "The message of His Holiness must be a headline for media around the world in general, and in Lebanon, in particular.""We, in Lebanon, do have media freedoms but are in dire need for free media, far from suspicious funding, and aloof from sectarian incitement. (...) What we need, at times where our region lives scourge and wars, is for our media to be guided by this message launched by His Holiness Pope Francis to all humanity," he concluded.

Army commander welcomes Minister of Labor, Baalbek MPs
Thu 18 May 2017/NNA - The Army commander, General Joseph Aoun, received at his office in Yarzeh a delegation of Baalbek-Hermel deputies, including Ghazi Zuaiter, Assem Qanso, Hussein al-Moussawi, Ali al-Miqdad, Nawar al-Sahili, Emile Rahmeh and al-Walid Sukkarieh. the Army Chief also welcomed the Minister of Labor, MP Mohammed Kabara, and then MP Farid Elias Al-Khazen, with whom he discussed the latest developments in the country.

Mashnouk receives President of Arab Banks Union
Thu 18 May 2017/NNA - Minister of Interior and Municipalities, Nuhad MashnouK, received at his office on Thursday afternoon the President of the Union of Arab Banks, Sheikh Mohammed Al-Sabah, accompanied by the Secretary-General of the Union Wissam Fattouh. The meeting dwelled on the economic, financial and political situation in Lebanon and the Arab world.

Ibrahim, Iraqi Ambassador broach affairs of Diaspora

Thu 18 May 2017/NNA - Lebanese General Security, General Director, Major General Abbas Ibrahim, welcomed on Thursday Iraqi Ambassador to Lebanon, Dr. Ali Abbas Bandar Al-Amri, with whom he discussed the latest concerning the Iraqi Diaspora in Lebanon

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on May 18-19/17
Trump wants NATO-like force for the Middle East
Nadia Bilbassy, Al Arabiya English, Washington Thursday, 18 May 2017/A senior White House official told Al Arabiya News Channel’s correspondent in Washington on Thursday that US President Donald Trump wants to set up a NATO-style security organization in the Middle East.The official, who spoke with a small group of journalists and did not want to make his name public, said Trump is going to announce the formation of the regional security organization during his visit to Saudi Arabia.The framework and structure of this organization will be established after eliminating ISIS to bring stability and security to the region through a joint security coalition that includes many of Washington's allies, according to the source. He added that the entity will also enhance and create employment and investment opportunities, which will boost a state of prosperity that will help economic growth, reconstruction, the return of refugees and will also put an end to conflicts. The official said to a small group of journalists that “empowering Iran at the expense of US allies coupled with a declined the US leading role in the region has resulted in causing a lack of confidence. Thus, the plan for the US president was to visit Saudi Arabia “first and to collaborate with Saudi officials to build strong relations and President Trump communicated this message during Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to Washington.”The official added that the administration of President Trump is not at war with Muslims but against extremism and radicalism.
The official praised the Saudi stand and described it as a “catalyst for achieving the vision of President Trump to eliminate ISIS and that there is a real mutual desire to within the administration of President Trump to collaborate in order to achieve these goals.”
He added that Saudi Arabia “as the leader of the Islamic world was able to invite 54 countries to attend the summit and that President Trump will address the Islamic world to confirm that the battle is not between the West and Islam, but rather between the forces of good and the forces of evil.”The senior official stressed that there is a need to confront Iran and to build alliances with the Gulf countries to limit and block its interference in the region. He added that there are many economic deals to be signed with an investment of $200 billion dollars, which will create jobs for both Saudi and American youth, This initiative was discussed when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited Washington and spoke with President Trump. The official revealed that the administration will seal arms deals with Saudi Arabia at a value of $300 billion in stages, out of which a $109 billion to be signed at the end of the summit.
According to a Washington Post report, discussions of the project said that in addition to Saudi Arabia, initial participants in the coalition would include the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan, with the United States playing an organizing and support role while staying outside of the proposed alliance. Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) announced the launch of a state-owned military industrial company aimed at contributing more than 14 billion riyals ($3.7 billion) to the Kingdom’s gross domestic product by 2030. Trump is scheduled to be in Saudi Arabia, home to Islam’s holiest sites, from Saturday on his first foreign trip since taking office in January. The Saudi-hosted summit of Arab and Muslim leaders is expected to include top level talks on Sunday. Trump will also give a major speech on the Islamic faith during visit to Saudi Arabia, home to the religion’s holiest shrines, the White House said on Tuesday.
“He will meet and have lunch with leaders of more than 50 Muslim countries, where he will deliver an inspiring, direct speech on the need to confront radical ideology and the president’s hopes for a peaceful vision of Islam,” National Security Advisor HR McMaster told reporters.

Trump Decries Russia Probe as 'Greatest Witch Hunt' in U.S. History
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 18/17/U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday blasted the probe into whether his team colluded with Russia to tilt the 2016 election in his favor as the "greatest witch hunt" in U.S. history. His comment on Twitter came after former FBI chief Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel with sweeping powers to head the probe. "This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!" Trump wrote. Also via Twitter, Trump accused former president Barack Obama and his 2016 rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton, of unspecified "illegal acts." "With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign & Obama Administration, there was never a special councel [sic] appointed!" he wrote. Trump has denied any links to Moscow, but the appointment of a special counsel dramatically raises the stakes in a crisis threatening to paralyze his presidency. The Republican leader, who has struggled to shake off suspicions that Russia helped put him in the White House, has been accused of seeking to block the investigation by firing FBI chief James Comey. Mueller's appointment has come as Trump fends off reports he shared US secrets with Russian officials in the Oval Office, and had asked Comey to drop his investigation into former Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn.

US Presses Idea of NATO Taking over Training of Iraq Troops
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/May 18/17/The top US military commander floated the idea late Wednesday of NATO assuming some responsibility for training troops in Iraq after Islamic State forces there are defeated. The 28-member Atlantic alliance "might be uniquely posturing to provide a training mission for an enduring period of time" in Iraq, General Joe Dunford told reporters during his flight back to the United States from Brussels, where he attended a planning meeting ahead of next week's NATO summit. "You might see NATO making a contribution to logistics, acquisitions, institutional capacity building, leadership schools, academies -- those kind of things," Dunford, who is Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said.The issue is at the top of the agenda for next week's summit, with US President Donald Trump pushing the allies to take on a greater role in combatting terrorism. After months of brutal, street-by-street combat, IS has lost control of most of its stronghold of Mosul in Iraq, while the jihadists have become largely isolated in Raqa in neighboring Syria.
A change in who leads the training mission would likely also mean revamping the nature of the effort, Dunford said. "We are not talking about NATO doing what we are doing now for combat advising in places like Mosul or Raqa," the general said. "I don't think we are at the point now where we can envision or discuss NATO taking over" all missions of the anti-IS coalition in Iraq, he added. NATO's top brass said on Wednesday they believed the alliance should consider joining the anti-Islamic State coalition put together by Washington to fight jihadists in Syria and Iraq. General Petr Pavel, head of NATO's military committee, told reporters after chiefs of defence staff (CHODS) met in Brussels that it was time to look at this option. "NATO members are all in the anti-IS coalition. The discussion now is -- is NATO to become a member of that coalition," he said.

Saudi: Summit with US to open ‘new page’ with Muslim world
By Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Thursday, 18 May 2017/Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir praised on Thursday Riyadh’s “historic” ties with Washington and “expected” commercial and political deals to be signed during Donald Trump’s imminent visit to the kingdom, the leader’s first foreign trip as US president. Trump’s visit will “reinforce historic partnership” between Saudi Arabia and the United States, Jubeir said during a press conference he held Thursday. The Arab-Islamic-American Summit, which will be attended by 37 leaders, will focus on combating terrorism, bolstering trade, investment, youth and technology, Jubeir said. Jubeir also said this summit with US is going to “open a new page” in terms of dialogue with the Muslim world. He also said that Saudi Arabia wants to send a message to the West that the Muslim world is “not an enemy,” adding the Riyadh comes second after the United States in the fight against ISIS. The foreign minister said both US and Saudi agree on eliminating terror groups such as ISIS. He also said: “We will also look at terror financing initiative, increasing cooperation between Islamic Military Alliance and the [US-led] coalition fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq.”Saudi Arabia, a longtime US ally, caries a major influence in the Muslim world, especially after it formed the 34-member Islamic Military Alliance (IMA) against terrorism and extremism. The minister said there were already several thousand people, who have been arrested in Saudi Arabia for “either recruiting or participating in attacks for ISIS.” At end of the summit, leaders are going to launch global counter-extremism center in Riyadh, which will fight an “ideological battle”, he added.
Jubeir, meanwhile, lent his full weight to Trump’s policies, saying “differences in opinion” with the United States only arose during Obama’s administration. Ex-President Barack Obama used diplomacy - symbolized in the famous nuclear deal signed with Iran - to stave off any potential for the Islamic republic to create a nuclear bomb, an allegation Tehran had always rejected. However, the nuclear deal made some neighboring countries such as the Gulf states uncomfortable as it lifted economic sanctions against Iran, giving it more power. “We will work with our allies, particularly US, to see that Iran is made to act like a normal country,” Jubeir said. “As long as Iran threatens with terrorism, it is impossible to have normal relations with them.”While reiterating Riyadh’s rejection for Iran’s interference in the region, Jubeir dubbed the presidential Iranian election as an “internal matter.” “We will judge Iran by its actions not by its words,” he added. Trump ‘unconventional,’ ‘pragmatic’ While Trump said that he will not move US embassy from Tel Aviv to occupied Jerusalem during his visit, Jubeir said the US leader’s “unconventional abut pragmatic approach” can pave the way to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “We believe resolving Israeli-Palestinian conflict would change regional landscape, requires courage, fresh approach and thinking outside the box,” he added. Trump spoke repeatedly during the 2016 presidential campaign about moving the embassy to Jerusalem, but the debate on the controversial issue has apparently been postponed since he took power. Eastern Jerusalem is considered to be Palestinian territory under international law.

Trump’s Riyadh visit will ‘confront chaos perpetrators in the Muslim world’

Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Thursday, 18 May 2017/Saudi Arabia has said that the three summits hosted by Riyadh on May 20 and 21 during United States President Donald Trump's visit would "change the game’ rules". The official website which was launched on Tuesday for the Arab-American Islamic Summit and said that the "48 hours’ dialogue will change the rules of the game". In addition, a “Message from the Kingdom” said the event “will serve as the launch pad for all of our American, Arab and Muslim partners to take bold, new steps to promote peace and to confront those who perpetuate chaos and violence throughout the Muslim world and beyond”. Trump is scheduled to be in Saudi Arabia, home to Islam’s holiest sites, from Saturday on his first foreign trip since taking office in January. The Saudi-hosted summit of Arab and Muslim leaders is expected to include top level talks on Sunday. Trump will also give a major speech on the Islamic faith during visit to Saudi Arabia, home to the religion’s holiest shrines, the White House said on Tuesday. “He will meet and have lunch with leaders of more than 50 Muslim countries, where he will deliver an inspiring, direct speech on the need to confront radical ideology and the president’s hopes for a peaceful vision of Islam,” National Security Advisor HR McMaster told reporters.

International Ground Troops Cutting off Regime Ambitions on Securing a ‘Tehran-Damascus’ Trail
Asharq Al Awsat/Paula Astih and Nazeer Rida/May 18/17/Beirut- International coalition ground troops were deployed on Wednesday from Tanf military outpost in eastern Syria to stage special operations against ISIS targets, Syrian rebel sources told Asharq Al-Awsat. Led by the United States, dispatched coalition troops included a tripartite of US-British-Norwegian forces. Rebel sources believe that the special taskforce’s engagement is a step towards inhibiting regime forces from reaching far into eastern land enclaves which border Iraq. If regime forces succeed in doing so, they would secure a ‘Damascus-Baghdad’ route first, and a ‘Tehran-Damascus,’ direct pathway later. As for stumbling peace talks, a Syrian opposition negotiator told Asharq Al-Awsat that United Nations envoy Staffan de Mistura had rolled back his proposal on re-establishing a consultative mechanism to draft a new constitution for Syria. De Mistrua’s withdrawal came after the strong opposition of Syrian rebels. However, a group will be assembled to discuss the present constitution, sources said.The Syrian opposition delegation attending the Geneva negotiations has remained committed to reviewing the constitution whilst undergoing political transition. Political vacuum is not a reason for fear, Syrian opposition sources said. The ongoing round of Syria talks, which concludes on May 19, will be organized slightly different compared to the previous ones, as the sides are going to have businesslike intensive meetings and are not going to deliver press stakeouts. The sixth round of UN-backed negotiations is the latest drive to bring a political solution to the conflict which has claimed more than 320,000 lives since 2011. As for field developments, Syrian rebel fighters based in the eastern Damascus neighborhood of al-Qadm have resumed negotiations with regime forces that continue to push for undisputed control over the area. Regime forces persistently seek to dislodge, not only rebels, but also their civilian families. Unlike other areas that witnessed accords, regime troops want to displace the families in al-Qadm towards the north. On another front, US-backed Syrian rebels are fighting with American ground forces against ISIS in Syria’s eastern desert, rebel commanders told Syria Direct, aiming to capture strategic points in Deir e-Zor province and “outmaneuver” pro-regime militias. US-trained and funded rebels with the Free Syrian Army faction Maghawir a-Thawra (MAT) battled ISIS jihadists along the border of Homs and Deir e-Zor provinces. Wednesday’s battles are the latest in the US-led coalition’s bid to take control of a strategic population center along the Iraqi border. The goal of the US-backed Syrian rebels in the Syrian Badia—the largely unpopulated stretch of desert spanning much of the far east of the country—is to push 80km west “to cut off ISIS and liberate al-Bukamal from their terror,” said commander Abu Howsha.

Egyptian-Jordanian Summit Calls for Reviving Peace Talks

Asharq Al Awsat/May 18/17/Riyadh, Cairo – Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and King Abdullah II of Jordan called for reviving serious effective peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians while stressing the need to maintain Jerusalem’s historic status. The two leaders met in Cairo on Wednesday to discuss developments in the Middle East and the region and the means to promote bilateral relations. King Abdullah’s visit to Egypt came few days before US President Donald Trump’s official trip to Saudi Arabia, where he would hold an extensive summit with Arab and Islamic leaders from the region. The Arab-Islamic-US summit will take place on Sunday in Riyadh, in the presence of Trump, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz, Sisi, King Abdullah II and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. In this regard, sources told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper that they expect a bilateral meeting to be held between Trump and Sisi in Riyadh, where officials would focus on the means to resume the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. Egyptian Presidency Spokesperson Alaa Youssef said that Abdullah met with Sisi within efforts to take advantage of the momentum for a Mideast peace revival pushed for by the new US administration. Youssef added that the two leaders reiterated their commitment to a political solution to the civil war in Syria and to global counter-terrorism efforts. The summit between Sisi and Abdullah was held at the Heliopolis Palace and was followed by expanded talks attended by senior officials from both sides. The leaders underlined the need to preserve the current status in Jerusalem, warning that attempts to undermine it would result in dangerous repercussions on the stability and security of the entire region. King Abdullah highlighted Egypt’s pivotal role in serving Arab causes. He said that he agreed with Sisi on the need to proceed with efforts aimed at unifying Arab stances, especially in light of Jordan’s role as the current president of the Arab summit, and in boosting joint Arab action to overcome challenges and crises facing the Arab nation.

GCC Foreign Ministers Meet Ahead of Riyadh Summits
Asharq Al Awsat/May 18/17/Riyadh – GCC countries laid high importance on the summits which will be held in Riyadh on Saturday and Sunday during US President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia. They noted that the visit would reflect the leading role assumed by Saudi Arabia in establishing peace and stability on the regional and international levels. Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmad Al-Khalifa said Wednesday that his country expected much from the planned summit meeting to be held in Riyadh by the GCC leaders and Trump. The minister added that preparations were underway for the historic GCC-US summit and its joint statement as well as the agenda of the subsequent Islamic-US summit. The Bahraini minister was speaking to reporters after attending the 143rd meeting of the GCC foreign ministers in Riyadh. Sheikh Khaled hailed efforts deployed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia under the leadership of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz in promoting GCC international partnerships. GCC Secretary General Dr. Abdullatif Al-Zayani said that the 143rd meeting of the GCC foreign ministers approved the agendas of the GCC-US summit and the Islamic-US summit, which will be held in Riyadh on Sunday. “The ministerial meeting also discussed the agenda topics of the 17th consultative summit meeting of the GCC leaders to be held later on the same day during the visit to Saudi Arabia by US President Donald Trump,” Al-Zayani told reporters on Wednesday. The schedule of Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia was uncovered on Tuesday with additional details about the 17th consultative meeting of leaders of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) for Arab States, Gulf-US Summit, and Arab-Islamic-US Summit to be hosted by the Kingdom on Saturday and Sunday. US National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster said during a press briefing at the White House in Washington Tuesday that his country “will participate in a signing ceremony of several agreements that will further solidify US-Saudi security and economic cooperation.” McMaster added that the US president’s speech during the Arab-Islamic-US summit “is intended to unite the broader Muslim world against common enemies of all civilization and to demonstrate America’s commitment to our Muslim partners”.

Senior Scholars Council Stresses Importance of Arab-Islamic-US Summit
Asharq Al Awsat/May 18/17/Riyadh – Secretariat General of Saudi Senior Scholars Council stressed the importance of convening the Arab-Islamic-US summit to achieve the aspirations of the peoples around the world for security and peace. The Secretariat reiterated that Islam is the religion of peace and mercy to the whole mankind. The Council’s Secretariat General issued a statement on Wednesday stating that convening this summit in “Saudi Arabia, the Guardian of the Two Holy Mosques and the heart of the Muslim world, confirms its great responsibility and shows the importance of its leadership, especially as the Kingdom has been the first of those affected by terrorism.” In its statement, the Secretariat hoped this summit will lead to organized actions and global coordination to combat the scourge of terrorism. It added that terrorism threatened many sites around the world, and would only be eliminated with religious, political, security, intellectual, and economic system. Speaker of the Shura Council Sheikh Dr. Abdullah Al al-Sheikh emphasized that, under the leadership of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman, Saudi Arabia looks forward to a world of security, peace, justice, stability, economic prosperity, and sustainable development. It is required to exert efforts at regional and international levels to achieve greater understanding and cooperation in confronting the threats and dangers that threaten the entire world and enhance security and stability in the region, according to Sheikh Abdullah. The Speaker said that by hosting the 17th consultative meeting of leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) for Arab States, GCC-US Summit, and Arab-Islamic-US Summit, Saudi Arabia confirms its influential role in the Islamic world and on the international arena in promoting stability in the region. Sheikh considered Trump’s first visit to the Kingdom a confirmation of the special strategic relations between Riyadh and Washington.

US-Turkey Differences on Kurds Set to Grow as Ankara Calls for McGurk’s Ouster
Asharq Al Awsat/May 18/17/Turkey called Thursday for the removal of Brett McGurk, the US diplomat coordinating the international coalition fighting ISIS, after it accused him of backing Syrian Kurdish militia, a move that would likely aggravate tension between Ankara and Washington. Washington and Ankara are bitterly at odds over US support for the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria, a group that Turkey considers a front for banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) separatists. “McGurk is definitely giving support to PKK and YPG. It would be useful if this person was replaced,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told the private NTV television. He spoke after returning from a visit with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Washington where they met US President Donald Trump. Last year, McGurk visited YPG members controlling the Syrian town of Kobane and was awarded a plaque, which drew Turkey’s wrath. Erdogan angrily told Washington at the time to choose between Ankara and “terrorists” there. But Ankara is now hopeful about the future of the relationship with Washington under Trump after ties frayed in the final years of Barack Obama’s administration. Erdogan on Tuesday met Trump at the White House. At their meeting, Trump said the US would re-establish its military and economic partnership with Turkey, committing to backing Turkey’s defense against both ISSI and the PKK. Such groups will “have no safe quarter,” Trump said.Erdogan responded that there is no place for any Kurdish “terrorist organizations” in any agreement about the region’s future. The United States sees YPG as its best battlefield partner on the ground in the fight against ISIS in northern Syria. Cavusoglu also told private NTV in the interview that his country won’t beg Germany to stay at the Incirlik airbase.Turkey opened up the airbase to Germany as part of the international coalition’s operations against ISIS, he said. “If they want to leave, that’s up to them and we won’t beg,” he added. The minister’s comments come amid rising tensions with Germany too. Turkey blocked a visit by German lawmakers to some 270 troops stationed at Incirlik, prompting Germany to consider moving aircraft to Jordan or Cyprus. Cavusoglu criticized Germany for preventing him and other Turkish ministers from holding rallies in the country before the April 16 referendum on expanding presidential powers. “If what we are doing is blackmail, then what was that?” he said.

Shin Bet Arrests Members of Islamic Movement
Asharq Al Awsat/May 18/17/Tel Aviv – Shin Bet (Israeli Security Agency) has arrested Arab-Israeli citizens from Beersheba and Kseifa in the south and central Kalansua for plotting attacks against Israeli security officers.The cell’s members were planning the attack in November 2015 in response to Israel’s decision to outlaw the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement and the arrest of its head Raed Salah, and other commanders, the Shin Bet said Wednesday. In November 2015, Israel declared the Northern Branch illegal, charging it with links to terrorist groups and inciting the wave of violence that began the month before. According to the indictment, the suspects planned to attack soldiers at a bus stop or near an army base using a gun, a car or a knife. To this end, one of the suspects was tasked with finding a vehicle to use in the attack. Two of them were arrested in late 2016 and one was arrested at the end of March when he returned to Israel from Turkey. One of the suspects is Faras al-Omari from Qandala who is a top official in the northern branch and is said to be the person the cell members turned to in order to receive approval for carrying out the attack. The statement added that the investigation “exposed the part played by ex-prisoners in the service of the Islamic Movement, who conspired, when called upon, to carry out a serious terror operation in identification with the movement.”Last week, 20 suspected senior members of the Northern Branch were charged with offenses against state security for raising money overseas for their group. Raed Salah denied the allegations saying the Shin Bet and the Israeli government has set a goal of targeting the Islamic movement and everything they announce aims at destroying its reputation.

Trump Rules Out Moveng Embassy To Jerusalem For Now
Jerusalem Post/May 18/17
Friedman: US president won’t unveil diplomatic plan.
President Donald Trump will not use his upcoming trip to Israel to announce plans to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, although he still ultimately wants to take that step, a senior administration official said on Wednesday. The official, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the Trump administration does not want to complicate attempts to nurture a resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process by announcing the embassy move. At a commencement address in Connecticut on Wednesday, Trump made no mention of the issue in advance of his visit to the region next week, but stated that he did plan to “reaffirm his unbreakable alliance with the Jewish state.”His envoy Jason Greenblatt, who is already in the country, plans to hold talks with Palestinians and Israelis on Thursday as part of Trump’s plan to advance the peace process while in the region. To support that process the cabinet is expected to approve on Sunday a package of economic incentives for the Palestinians. US Ambassador David Friedman lowered expectations on what Trump might try to accomplish toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying the president won’t unveil a specific “diplomatic plan” or “road map.”
“The president has clarified that, to start with, he wants to see the parties sitting together and talking without preconditions, with the hope that this will lead to peace,” Friedman said in an interview with Israel Hayom, adding that the United States has not asked for a settlement freeze and the Palestinians have dropped that demand as a precondition for talks with Israel. “We have no demands for a settlement freeze and Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] wants to meet [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu without any preconditions,” Friedman said. Trump’s policy on this issue is the opposite of his predecessor’s, asserted Friedman, adding that Trump does not believe that settlements are a stumbling block to peace. Trump is a skilled negotiator who can help both parties and reach an agreement, said Friedman. He is pragmatic, where his predecessors were more theoretical, the ambassador added. “It does not mean he can produce magic, but he can lead the parties to find common ground, at least in the first stage,” Friedman said.
He added that unlike other American ambassadors, who remained within the Green Line, he plans to cross it, including making visits to West Bank settlements. On Tuesday, Trump spoke separately with Netanyahu and Jordan’s King Abdullah II. The Prime Minister’s Office said Netanyahu’s conversation with the president lasted for 20 minutes.Trump will travel first to Saudi Arabia and will arrive in Israel on Monday. He will also visit the Palestinian territories before leaving on Tuesday for Rome and then Belgium. Jordan is not on his itinerary. While in Israel, Trump will be the first president to visit the Western Wall, but according to the White House, Netanyahu will not be with him. The issue became contentious when US officials in Jerusalem reportedly told Israelis that the Western Wall is in the West Bank and is therefore not under Israeli sovereignty. US Ambassador to the UN Nikkey Haley rejected that assertion in an interview she gave the Christian Broadcasting Network. “The Western Wall is part of Israel, and I think that is how we have always seen it, and that is how we should pursue it,” Haley told CBN. But in Washington, when pressed on the matter on Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer struck a different tone.“The Western Wall is obviously one of the holiest sites in the Jewish faith. It’s clearly in Jerusalem,” he told reporters. “It’s an issue that’s had serious consideration. It will be a topic that’s going to be discussed during the president’s trip between the parties that he meets with. I think this stems from a comment that was made yesterday and which was not the policy of the United States,” Spicer said. Haley also told CBN that she believes Trump should relocate the US Embassy to Jerusalem. “The capital should be Jerusalem and the embassy should be moved to Jerusalem, because [Israel’s] government is in Jerusalem. So much of what goes on is in Jerusalem. We have to see that for what it is. The tricky part is where the Palestinians come in on this and where the Israelis comes in on this,” Haley said.
“We know the Israelis do not want to give on Jerusalem at all, and we have to see how strong the Palestinians stand on that. That is your touchy part. Is Jerusalem even on the table? I don’t know that it is.” Separately, in Jerusalem on Wednesday, Netanyahu met with Danish Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen and urged him to halt his government’s support for pro-Palestinian NGOs. Reuters contributed to this report.

BYYASSER OKBI/ MAARIV HASHAVUA MAY 18, 2017 /Egyptian president to Israel: "The Arabs and Palestinians are ready for peace." Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said Wednesday that US President Donald Trump serves as a crucial link in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Speaking at a meeting with the chief editors of three Egyptian newspapers, Sisi expressed his confidence in Trump, saying "I believe in him and his abilities to resolve conflict." "Trump is a great man who is not satisfied with anything but success, and we have confidence in his abilities and his promises," the Egyptian leader said. Sisi made the remarks ahead of Trump's first presidential foreign trip that includes stops in Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican. Trump is due to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on May 22 and with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem on May 23.In his comments Wednesday, Sisi urged the Israelis to seize what he said was an opportunity for peace. "The Arabs and Palestinians are ready for peace," he stated in address to Israel. "You have an opportunity to reach peace. There is an opportunity for all of us to live together and achieve a better future for our people without hatred."Egypt and Israel forged a historic peace treaty in 1979. Cairo has vied for a two-state solution to the decades-long conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. While speaking to the journalists, Sisi also mentioned that he was planning to attend an Arab-Islamic-American summit in the Saudi capital of Riyadh during Trump's visit there, which was schedule to start Friday. Abbas was also slated to attend the conference. Sisi and Trump previously met in Washington in early April and discussed resting bilateral relations that had been strained during the Obama administration. The two also spoke about efforts to combat militant Islamist extremism. Later in March while Netanyahu was in the US, Trump said that he was open to ideas beyond a two-state solution, the longstanding bedrock of Washington on the Middle East conflict. Staff contributed to this report.

At least one other wounded in incident; IDF says civilian's vehicle was hit by stones and he "fired in the air fearing for his safety."Palestinian was shot dead and two others were lightly wounded by an Israeli settler on Thursday after stones were thrown at his car, near a West Bank protest near Nablus, the Israeli army said. According to AFP, a journalist was one of the wounded. About 200 Palestinians were demonstrating along Route 60, a main artery for Israeli and Palestinian cars that cuts through the village of Hawara near Nablus. The IDF said it used riot dispersal means against the demonstrators. An Israeli civilian whose vehicle was hit by stones said he "fired in the air fearing for his safety," and two Palestinians were hit, the IDF added. The IDF is investigating the incident. The settler, a father of eight, is a social workers and resident of the Itamar settlement, the Samaria Regional Council spokeswoman said. He was on his way home from shopping of when the incident occurred, she added. The Samaria Regional Council provided multiple photographs of cars with smashed windshields and dents, explaining it is the third day in the row that demonstrations were held in the village and stones were thrown.
Ghassan Daghlas, a PA official who monitors settlement activity in the West Bank, told The Jerusalem Post that the Palestinian who was killed was "killed in cold blood. What happened is a crime.” He added, "It was a peaceful protest in the middle of Hawara in support of the hunger-striking prisoners.”
“He was shot in an insane way," Daghlas said. Channel 10 later tweeted a photograph of an Israeli settler allegedly linked to the far-right Otzma Yehudit party handing out chocolates to soldiers in Huwara.  Adam Rasgon and Anna Ahronheim contributed to this report.

Yemen Cholera Death Toll Mounts to 209
Asharq Al Awsat/May 18/17/Taiz- The United Nations children’s agency has said that a cholera outbreak in Yemen has killed 209 people in recent weeks with 17,200 suspected cases across the country. UNICEF’s announcement on Wednesday came two days after the International Committee of the Red Cross said that 184 people had died of the disease since April 27. UNICEF’s Yemen mission said that there had been an “alarming increase” in cholera-related deaths. The agency’s Yemen spokesman Mohammed Al-Asaadi told Agence France Presse (AFP) that 3,000 new suspected cholera cases a day were being reported. In Taiz, the general health bureau announced that 20 people had died from cholera. An official at the bureau, Dr. Ilan Abdul Haq, warned that the number could rise. If it was confirmed that more than 30 people had been infected, then Taiz could be announced as a cholera-stricken city. She urged the government and international organizations for a swift delivery of medication and sterile equipment amid a scarcity in medical supplies to confront the cholera outbreak. Insurgents in the capital San’aa, which is controlled by the Iran-backed Houthis, this week declared a state of emergency over the outbreak.
But the legitimate government’s health ministry said that the alleged announcement has been made by an illegitimate authority, stressing that the government was carrying out its duties in confronting the pandemic in all provinces.The ministry statement accused the insurgents of causing an unhealthy environment, which leads to deadly infections and diseases, resulting in their spread across the country.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on
May 18-19/17
France: The Ideology of Islamic Victimization
Yves Mamou/Gatestone Institute/May 18/17
They are not the victims of any racist system -- it does not exist -- but they are the victims of an ideology of victimization, which claims that they are discriminated against because of race and religion.
Victimization is an excuse offered by the state, by most politicians (right and left) and by the mainstream media.
To avoid confrontation, all the politicians from the mainstream political parties and all mainstream media are going along with the myth of victimization. The problem is that this is only fueling more violence, more terrorism and more fantasies of victimization.
French sociological research seems to have no new books, articles or ideas about French Muslim radicalization. It is not hard to see why: the few scholars tempted to wander off the beaten path ("terrorists are victims of society, and suffering from racism" and so on) are afraid to be called unpleasant names. In addition, many sociologists share the same Marxist ideology that attributes violent behavior to discrimination and poverty. If some heretics try to explain that terrorists are not automatically victims (of society, of white French males, of whatever) a pack of hounds of Muslim and non-Muslim scholars start baying to lynch them as racists, Islamophobes and bigots.
After the November 2015, terrorist attacks in Paris, Alain Fuchs, president of France's National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), launched a call for a new project to understand some of the "factors of radicalization" in France.
The project that emerged, "Youth and Radicalism: Religious and Political Factors", by Olivier Galland and Anne Muxel, was thorough. Their survey is based mainly on a poll conducted by Opinion Way of 7,000 high school students, and was followed by a second "poll" of 1,800 young people (14 to 16 years old). The next phase will apparently include individual and group interviews with young secondary-school students.
Galland and Muxel do not say that their survey is "representative" of all French youth. Muslims high school students are over-represented in the polls, in order to understand what is at stake in this segment of the population.
Their proposal, however, is heretical: it means there is a problem with Muslims.
The preliminary results of this vast study were released at a press conference on March 20. To the question in the study: What are the main factors of radicalization? The answer was: religion.
"We can not deny the 'religion effect'. Among young Muslims, the religion effect is three times more important than in non-Muslim groups. Four percent of youths of all denominations defend an absolutist vision of religion and apparently adhere to radical ideas; this figure is 12% among young Muslims in our sample. They defend an absolutist view of religion -- believing both that there is 'one true religion' and that religion explains the creation of the world better than science."
What about the usual explanations of lack of economic integration, fear of being on welfare, social exclusion and so on?
"A purely economic explanation appears not to be validated. The idea of ​​a 'sacrificed generation', tempted by radicalism, is confronted with the feeling of a relatively good integration of these populations. [Young Muslims] appear neither more nor less confident in their future than all other French youths; they believe in their ability to pursue studies after the baccalaureat and to find a satisfactory job."
These young Muslims recognize that they are not suffering from racism or discrimination. But at the same time, many of them say they "feel" discriminated against anyway. They are not the victims of any racist system -- it does not exist -- but they are the victims of an ideology of victimization, which claims that they are discriminated against because of race and religion.
"The feeling of being discriminated against is twice as strong in our sample especially among young people of Muslim faith or of foreign origin. To explain the adherence [of young Muslims] to radicalism, we must consider that religious factors are combining with identity issues, and mixing themselves with feelings of victimization and discrimination".
If Islam is an engine of radicalization, the second powerful engine of radicalization is this dominant ideology of victimization.
"Young Muslims who feel discriminated against adhere more often to radical ideas than those who do not feel discriminated against."
These preliminary results are more than worrying. Against all sociological evidence, social origin and academic level do not outweigh the effect of religious affiliation. In other words, regardless of a young Muslim's performance at school and his parents' profession, he is four times more likely than a young Christian to adhere to radical ideas.
"This strength of the effect of Islam is perhaps the most surprising teaching of this study," points out Olivier Galland. "This is confirmed in school by school statistics. Whatever their sociology, Muslim youths have an identical propensity to become a radical."
This study is not the first to bring to light the process of the radicalization of young Muslims in France. It is, however, the first to connect radicalization and the ideology of victimization. Victimization is an excuse offered by the state, by most politicians (right and left) and by the mainstream media. Moreover, not only does the policy of blaming victimization fail to be of any help, but the excuse of victimization is actually fueling terrorism. When, on February 17, 2017, French President François Hollande rushed to visit Théo, a 22-year-old youth who claimed that the police sodomized him with a baton during a confrontation with drug dealers -- it appeared later that Theo was not so sure of his accusations against the police. The presidential visit was not helpful. The meeting between President Hollande and Theo sparked three weeks of riots in the suburbs of Paris.
When Emmanuel Macron, the new president of France, states that he is in favor of "positive discrimination" (a €15,000 grant of public money for any company that hires a youth from the suburbs), he is encouraging future jihadists to represent themselves as victims.
When Emmanuel Macron, the new president of France, states that he is in favor of "positive discrimination", he is encouraging future jihadists to represent themselves as victims. (Image source: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
France has Europe's largest Muslim community, largest Jewish community, largest Chinese community, and largest Armenian community. The French integration model worked for all those groups except one. A growing percentage of Muslims in France are not accepting the rules that everyone else has accepted. To avoid confrontation, all the politicians from the mainstream political parties and all mainstream media are going along with the myth of victimization. The problem is that this is only fueling more violence, more terrorism and more fantasies of victimization.
*Yves Mamou, author and journalist, based in France, worked for two decades as a journalist for Le Monde.
© 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.

American Islam's Most Extreme Conference
Samuel Westrop/Gatestone Institute/May 18/17
Islamists, forming inherently political movements, insist to policy-makers and the media that Islam is homogenous and that their Islamist organizations speak on behalf of all Muslims, despite their clear lack of any mandate.
Politicians and journalists -- by speaking at Islamist conferences, or treating the Muslim community as a homogenous bloc represented by self-appointed groups such as MAS or ICNA -- actually serve to legitimize extremist Islamist leadership.
Now it falls to national and state governments to stop working with Islamists, and to support genuinely moderate Muslims instead.
Last month, Keith Ellison's name disappeared from a list of speakers at one of the largest conferences in the Muslim calendar. The annual event, which took place in Baltimore from April 14-16, was organized by the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and the Muslim American Society (MAS).
In December 2016, Ellison also withdrew from the convention's sister-conference, the "MAS-ICNA conference," after reports about extreme clerics sharing the stage.
April's conference was no different. Speakers included Siraj Wahhaj, an imam who addresses Muslim events across the country every week, and is a former advisory board member of the Council on American Islamic Relations. Wahhaj has preached:
"I don't believe any of you are homosexual. This is a disease of this society. ... you know what the punishment is, if a man is found with another man? The Prophet Mohammad said the one who does it and the one to whom it is done to, kill them both."
Elsewhere, Wahhaj cites the death penalty for adultery, advocates chopping off the hands of thieves, and tells Muslims:
"Take not into your intimacy those outside of your race. They will not fail to corrupt you. Don't you know our children are surrounded by kafirs [disbelievers]. I'm telling you, making the hearts of our children corrupt, dirty, foul."
Other listed speakers included Abdul Nasir Jangda, who advocates sex-slavery and gives husbands permission to rape their wives; Suleiman Hani, who claims that "Freedom of speech is a facade" used to stifle "objective discussion" of the "Holocaust and Jews"; Mohammad Elshinawy, who claims that women who fail to wear the hijab will contract breast cancer; and Yasir Qadhi, whose violent homophobia was recently the subject of an investigative report by The Times.
Such extremism is not confined to the speakers. The organizing bodies, MAS and ICNA, are not ordinary Muslim organizations, but Islamist groups with long-standing ties to extremism at home and abroad. Senior MAS-ICNA official Ahmed Taha, the organizer of the December conference, is a strident anti-Semite. He published a text on social media that states, "O Muslim, O servant of God. There is a Jew behind me, come kill him."
MAS was founded in 1993 by operatives of the Muslim Brotherhood, while ICNA has identified itself as an American front for Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), a South Asian Islamist group that Bangladeshi officials have linked to terrorism. One of the other listed speakers at the ICNA-MAS conference was, in fact, Yusuf Islahi, a member of the Central Advisory Council of the Indian branch of Jamaat-e-Islami. According to the academic Irfan Ahmad, Islahi claims that Jews were behind the 9/11 attacks, as part of a conspiracy to defame Islam.
As America finds itself increasingly exposed to the homegrown Islamist terror that has, in recent years, increasingly gripped Western Europe, politicians and law enforcement are starting to ask how Muslim communities have come to be represented by such extremist groups.
Part of the answer lies in the make-up of Islam. Sunni Islam has no organized clergy. There is no equivalent of a Pope. Instead, Islam is divided into dozens of fractious political and religious sects, which no single person or organization can represent. But Islamists, forming inherently political movements, insist to policy-makers and the media that Islam is homogenous and that their Islamist organizations speak on behalf of all Muslims, despite their clear lack of any mandate.
Non-Muslims either do not know any better, or else are seeking votes. Neither reason helps anyone but the extremists. Politicians and journalists -- by speaking at Islamist conferences, or treating the Muslim community as a homogenous bloc represented by self-appointed groups such as MAS or ICNA -- actually serve to legitimize extremist Islamist leadership.
Ellison made a sensible choice to not attend the ICNA-MAS conference. It is a decision that can only help his political ambitions. Allegations of anti-Semitism made against Ellison during the DNC chairmanship race, whether warranted or not, would likely not be put to bed by standing on a stage next to such preachers.
By withdrawing from the ICNA-MAS conference, as DNC vice-chairman, Ellison also avoided lasting harm to the Democratic Party. This is progress. Now it falls to national and state governments to stop working with Islamists, and to support genuinely moderate Muslims instead.
DNC vice-chairman Keith Ellison's name disappeared from a list of speakers at one of the largest conferences in the Muslim calendar, after reports about extreme clerics sharing the stage. (Image source: Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Samuel Westrop is the Director of Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.
© 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.

Digital Insecurity Is the New Normal
Steven Weber and Betsy Cooper/The New York Times/May 18/17
The latest widespread ransomware attack, which has locked up computers in nearly 150 countries, has rightfully captured the world’s attention. But the focus shouldn’t be on the scale of the attack and the immediate harm it is causing, or even on the source of the software code that enabled it (a previous attack against the National Security Agency). What’s most important is that British doctors have reverted to pen and paper in the wake of the attacks. They’ve given up on insecure digital technologies in favor of secure but inconvenient analog ones.
This “back to analog” moment isn’t just a knee-jerk, stopgap reaction to a short-term problem. It’s a rational response to our increasingly insecure internet, and we are going to see more of it ahead.
As part of our research, in 2015 we developed a scenario for the not-so-distant future called “the New Normal,” in which consumers’ baseline belief has flipped from “the internet is basically safe unless I do something stupid” to “the internet is fundamentally insecure, a dangerous neighborhood in which my safety is always at risk.” The impetus for the flipping in that scenario was a flurry of larger, ever more visible hacking attacks — of personal email accounts (Colin Powell and John Podesta) and corporate data (Yahoo and Sony), not to mention bank account information. Last week’s ransomware attack may start to tip a significant proportion of internet users over the edge.
The surprise is not that the frequency of such attacks is accelerating; it’s that it took so long. There are at least three reasons for this acceleration. First, the internet has a fundamentally insecure infrastructure that was initially made for interoperability among a small number of trusted parties, but is now being used by billions who do not know and should not trust one another.
The second reason is that increasingly inventive criminals have become today’s most ambitious internet entrepreneurs. Their work has been made easier by the theft of powerful hacking tools created by and for state security agencies but now available for sale.
Third is the commercial innovation imperative. Consumer demand for digital devices and services keeps pushing companies to the limits of what is technically possible, and then pressing them to go even a little bit further, where security often becomes nice to have but not a necessity.
Silicon Valley has responded creatively, but there’s no silver bullet. Experts have encouraged us all to use two-factor authentication, but text messages can be intercepted even with it. We’ve moved to biometrics, but once a fingerprint or iris scan is stolen, there is no way to change it the way you can change a password. Such security measures are better than nothing, but they won’t repair the internet’s underlying structural flaws.
So what would it mean if we crossed the threshold to digital insecurity? One possibility is that some things we now take for granted — from banking online to electronic medical records — will shift from being seen as common sense to being viewed as scary, dangerous, even reckless.
We know what it looks like when expectations of security in physical environments degrade: People put triple locks on their doors, retreat into gated communities, look over their shoulder as they walk down the street. In our scenario, we’ve imagined the digital equivalent. Will you soon be asked to place your phone and laptop in a locker before you are allowed to enter an office building or a friend’s home? Will you tell your colleagues to call you before they send you an email with an attachment?
Governments will start worrying more about protecting themselves than about innovating in services. Industries like health care and finance will go back to basics. Getting paper money from a bank teller may be less a novelty than a necessity. What happens if your hospital has fully converted to digital X-rays and doesn’t have an analog backup machine lying around? (The British National Health Service is already finding out.)
A society and economy that moves in this direction would be different from the one we have today, and very different from what Silicon Valley is looking to build. Security needs to be made a priority at least as great as innovation right now. We recognize that the consequences of prioritizing security are not all good, and the slowing or reversal of digitization will be a significant headwind for the United States economy even more than for other countries, at a time and in a political environment that really can’t afford such a setback. But there is no other viable choice. You can’t fix a broken foundation by simply building more stories atop the house that rests on it.
The world spends a lot of time right now thinking and dreaming about how life will be digitized, mostly for the better. We don’t yet have a word for even a partial “return to analog,” but we will have to start looking for one at the same time as we work to create a much more secure internet.

RPG in al-Awamiyah
Salman Al-dossary/Asharq Al Awsat/May 28/17
This time, al-Awamiyah witnessed a striking event with terrorist groups launching an RPG missile in the area killing one Saudi policeman and injuring five others.
Surely, clashes with security forces and terrorizing citizens are no new incidents to this organization, but the introduction of a new weapon that isn’t available easily explains the developments in the city and uncovers its reality.
Since the outset in 2010, they tried to fool the world with names like protests, demonstrations, peaceful and activists until they reached a point when they used missiles. For six years, Saudi security forces were self-restrained making sure not to harm the civilians in the region given that they are suffering from the terrorism of these groups as well.
With time, every reasonable person no longer felt any sympathy towards the terrorists. When they launched the RPG missile, they lost their last supporter and were outcast by the residents.
Surely, it is soon to tell how the terrorists received the RPG, and the Saudi Ministry of Interior is still investigating the issue.
In August 2015, it was announced in Kuwait that 19,000 kilos of various types of ammunitions, 144 kilos of highly explosive TNT and 56 grenades were discovered with what later became known as the Abdali cell.
The Abdali cell was supported by members affiliated with Hezbollah and Iran. In Bahrain, too, terrorist groups used such weapons, because such organizations are willing to go far.
We can’t rely on Iran and others to stop weapons’ supply. We can depend on the successful method through which the Saudi security forces managed to classify extremists and reveal their true face to the world. It was not an easy mission.
So, terminating those organizations is only a matter of time, and it won’t be long before tranquility and security return to the area.
It is important to mention here that the use of RPG is an indication that what has been happening in Awamiyah for over six years was never more than riots that gradually became blatant terrorism. It was never an issue of rights as some want to portray and neither was the purpose of targeting citizens.
This is not just about international media outlets thousands of miles away from reality and how they were fooled before the truth was revealed. This is also about regional media like the very close al-Jazeera channel which used to claim that security forces killed the protesters and opened fire at the demonstrations. It is about time a media outlet like Jazeera clarifies its position and how it was fooled while reporting those debunked allegations.
Up until last December and over the past 16 years, 128 terrorists targeted Saudi Arabia killing and injuring over 1147 Saudi citizens, residents, and security men. During those 16 years, Saudi Arabia would come back stronger than the year before, and like that terrorism in Awamiyah would be terminated whether they used RPG or any other weapon or they were supported by Iran. Eventually, the state will remain and terrorism will be abolished.

Erdogan-Trump: The most unsuccessful Washington visit ever
Cengiz Çandar/Al Monitor/May 17/17
“The mountain gave birth to a mouse” is a well-known Turkish saying for describing the disappointing results after big expectations.
History will record Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent visit to Washington as the most unsuccessful presidential visit ever to Washington.
For hours, I had been contemplating whether the White House encounter between US President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan can be described by this saying. After all, following a soured relationship between Erdogan and former President Barack Obama, the Turkish president apparently had extended a mea culpa to Trump.
Even Trump signing a decree to directly arm the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) could not undo the high hopes pinned for the May 16 White House summit. Erdogan’s reaction had been that when he would come face to face with his American counterpart, he would be able to persuade him to change his mind: The United States under Trump would dump the “terrorist” YPG for its staunch NATO ally, Turkey.
Erdogan’s White House meeting with Trump was trumpeted as a “turning point” in Turkey’s relations with the United States. There are three major issues to assess the success of the visit and thereby come to a conclusion of whether it was a turning point:
a change of Washington’s position on the YPG; the extradition of Turkey’s public enemy No. 1, Fethullah Gulen, to Turkey; and the release of Reza Zarrab, the pivotal character of Turkey’s corruption case of 2014, which is seen as the biggest potential headache for Erdogan.
In the aftermath of the Trump-Erdogan meeting at the White House, my conclusion is this: The mountain didn’t even give birth to a mouse. It didn’t give birth to anything.
Considering myself a veteran of Turkish visits to the White House, I have to admit that I had never witnessed such a unique visit. In the past, I have been in the Oval Office and in the press room with former Turkish presidents and prime ministers: Turgut Ozal, Tansu Ciller, Suleyman Demirel, Bulent Ecevit and Erdogan. I was also present during Erdogan’s first visit to the White House in December 2002 when he was received by George W. Bush in the Roosevelt Room. I do not remember any meeting that lasted for only 22-23 minutes.
A turning point or a milestone summit between the presidents of Turkey and the United States at a time when their relations are deeply strained, and it lasted only 22 minutes! That means each president spoke around 10 minutes, including the translations, to address the most crucial issues on the international agenda and those concerning their strained bilateral relations.
The 22-minute “turning point” summit was followed by a joint press conference that lasted about the same length, with Trump speaking less than five minutes and saying nothing significant and Erdogan reading a text that reiterated Turkey’s stand on the thorny issues.
“There is no place for the terrorist organizations in the future of our region. Taking YPG and PYD [Democratic Union Party] in the region — taking them into consideration in the region, it will never be accepted, and it is going to be against a global agreement that we have reached,” Erdogan said.
During the joint press conference, both tried to be cordial to each other, but they were unable to conceal the mundane atmosphere dominating the Roosevelt Room where the joint press conference was held. While Erdogan was talking, Trump’s body language gave the impression that he was somewhere other than next to his Turkish counterpart. Perhaps his mind was busy with the scandal reigning in Washington about his disclosure of classified information to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Untypically, the two leaders did not receive any questions from the crowded press corps.
Nobody from the American media was really interested in the divergences between Turkey and the United States, and they behaved as if the president of Turkey was not in the room. Interestingly, during the press conference, the discrepancy in Erdogan’s Turkish and the English translation that Trump heard was noted and circulated on social media within an hour. That means what Trump heard in English was different in meaning or what Erdogan intended to mean.
The scandalous part of the visit was not confined to the translation of the joint press conference. Kurdish-American activists were holding a demonstration at the Turkish ambassador’s residence to protest Erdogan’s visit to Washington, and it turned into a battleground when Erdogan’s bodyguards and his supporters attacked the demonstrators. Nine people were wounded, and American police had difficulty taking control of the situation.
The joint press conference was followed by a working lunch where the delegations took part. After the lunch, Erdogan’s visit — which was advertised by his team as “a turning point” in Turkish-American relations — ended.
I do not remember there ever being a visit of a Turkish president or a prime minister whose one on one with the American president lasted only 20 minutes, was followed by a joint press conference and a lunch with the delegations, but no questions from the press were asked. The Erdogan-Trump meeting is unprecedented in this regard.
In terms of the three main stumbling blocks on the road of Turkish-American relations, none of them look to be removed. The state of relations is not much different prior to Erdogan’s visit to Washington.
Before coming to Washington, Erdogan met with almost all of the major nationalists/autocrats in the international system — Vladimir Putin of Russia, Narendra Modi of India and Xi Jinping of China. But he needed to get the endorsement of the leader of the strongest nation in the world, the president of the United States of America. However, luck was not on Erdogan’s side this time. Erdogan arrived in Washington from China at a very peculiar period when a scandal involving Trump that put his presidency at stake became the order of the day in the US capital.
Trump and his team had neither time for Erdogan nor the appetite to meet his demands. The official Turkish statement on the Erdogan-Trump talks was issued by Erdogan spokesman Ibrahim Kalin. It only consists of four sentences. There is nothing there to suggest that the two countries overcame their deep divides.
Most interesting of all, the White House’s assessment of the meeting with Erdogan, almost diametrically opposed to that of Kalin’s, emphasized the incarceration of Pastor Andrew Brunson, which was not mentioned by the Turkish side at all.
The White House issued this readout of the meeting: “President Donald J. Trump met today with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey to discuss how to further strengthen the deep and diverse relationship between our two countries. President Trump reiterated the commitment of the United States to the security of our NATO ally Turkey and the need to work together to confront terrorism in all its forms. President Trump raised the incarceration of Pastor Andrew Brunson and asked that the Turkish government expeditiously return him to the United States. President Trump told President Erdogan that he looks forward to seeing him next week during his upcoming international travel.”
Most probably, history will record Erdogan’s recent visit as the most unsuccessful presidential visit ever to Washington.

Will Jesus save Egypt's struggling tourism industry?
Menna A. Farouk/Al Monitor/May 17/17
The Egyptian government plans to expand its religious tourism map by adding the route that Jesus, Mary and Joseph are believed to have traveled after they fled Palestine. The move comes in an effort to boost an industry that has been hit hard since the 2011 revolution. Tourism Minister Yehia Rashed flew to Rome on May 9 to discuss promotional opportunities involving the holy family's journey with Vatican tourism officials.
The Egyptian government hopes that highlighting sites surrounding Jesus' flight into Egypt will boost its sagging tourism sector.
In a May 11 statement, Rashed said that eight of 25 historical sites to be included in the tour are ready to receive visitors. The sites include the Church of St. Sergius and the Hanging Church in Old Cairo, St. Mary's Coptic Orthodox Convent in Maadi, the three monasteries of Wadi al-Natrun, the Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Jabal al-Tair near Minya, Muharraq Monastery at Mount Koskam and the Holy Virgin Mary Coptic Orthodox Monastery at Mount Durunka in Assiut governorate. According to legend, the holy family made stops or had stays at these places or locations during their exile.
Shortly before Rashid’s trip to Rome, Pope Francis had made a landmark visit to Egypt, April 28-29. Rashid said in a statement, “The pope’s visit, the photos [of it] and the content of the visit will contribute significantly to boosting Egypt’s tourism industry, especially in the markets interested in religious tourism.”
The Gospel of Matthew says Mary, Joseph and Jesus fled to Egypt to escape the clutches of King Herod, who feared losing his throne after the Magi proclaimed Jesus the new king of the Jews. To stave off that possibility, Herod sought to kill Jesus. God visited Joseph in a dream, telling him to escort the baby Jesus and his mother to Egypt, where they would find refuge until Herod's death and receive his message to return to Palestine.
Many Egyptians hope that spotlighting Egypt's religious heritage will attract a large number of visitors from around the world. In 2005, the Tourism Ministry developed a plan to feature the holy family's connection and journey to Egypt to boost religious tourism. The plan never got off the ground, however, largely due to the political turbulence caused by the revolution and continuing through the overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi. A ministerial committee was established last year to revive the plan, but little has been accomplished on the ground.
“Rashed’s visit to Rome is a good step toward promoting the journey abroad, especially after Pope Francis’ visit to the country and his statements on the sanctity of the journey,” Adel Saleh Nagi, who owns a tourism company, told Al-Monitor. The pope invoked the journey, remarking, “I am truly happy to be coming as a friend, as a messenger of peace, and a pilgrim to the country that, over 2,000 years ago, gave refuge and hospitality to the holy family as they fled the threats of King Herod. I am honored to visit the land visited by the holy family!” In terms of rolling out a tourism campaign around the holy family, Nagi noted that it would have been better had it coincided with Francis’ visit, rather than taking place after it.
In a speech at a gathering organized by Al-Azhar University, Sunni Islam’s highest institution of learning, Francis said, “For us, Egypt has been a sign of hope, refuge and help. When that part of the world suffered famine, Jacob and his sons went there. Then when Jesus was persecuted, he went there. … Egypt, for us, is that sign of hope both in history and for today, this brotherhood.”
Nagi said that it is important that the Egyptian government and the Coptic Church sign protocols of cooperation with the Vatican, the spiritual guide for more than 1.2 billion Christians worldwide, and the Catholic Church in Europe to promote Jesus' flight into Egypt. He also noted that the government has to increase spending on security measures as well as on infrastructure to be able to accommodate a large number of Christian tourists.
“Hotels near religious sites have to be given a facelift and provided with trained staff,” Nagi said. “Roads should be paved, garbage should be removed and slums have to be destroyed, with inhabitants relocated, so tourists will go back to their countries with a positive image of Egypt.”
Tourism has long been a major source of income for Egypt. Before the January 25 Revolution, more than one in 10 workers were employed in the tourism industry, which generated approximately $12.5 billion in revenue. Egypt welcomed nearly 15 million tourists annually. By 2013, however, that number had fallen by a third, to under 10 million.
The situation further deteriorated after the downing of a Russian plane filled with tourists in Sinai in October 2015. According to the Tourism Ministry, Egypt has incurred monthly losses of 3.2 billion pounds ($178 million) directly and indirectly since the incident, which took the lives of 224 people. The Sinai affiliate of the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.
According to local media, Rashed anticipates a massive recovery in the tourism sector this year, with foreign airlines from major markets, including Russia, the United Kingdom and Germany, expected to resume flights to Egyptian tourist destinations. Revenue from these three markets, the minister said, represented more than 40% of total tourism flows to Egypt in the past two years.

Why southern Syria remains Jordan’s biggest security threat
Osama Al Sharif /Al Monitor/May 17/17
Jordan is anxiously watching military and security developments along its northern border with war-torn Syria, according to a number of Jordanian military and strategic analysts with whom Al-Monitor recently spoke amid heightened tensions between Amman and Damascus. Since King Abdullah II’s April 5 visit to Washington, there have been conflicting reports about a sizeable military buildup of US and British troops on the Jordanian side of the border with Syria, raising questions about a possible joint incursion into southern Syria, apparently to pre-empt and confront Islamic State (IS) expansion in the vast Badia region.
Amman and Washington's concern about an Iranian land corridor from Tehran to Beirut through Iraq and Syria has raised questions about steps Jordan might take along its border with southern Syria, into which extremists are expanding.
Speculation about an “imminent” operation inside Syria from Jordan prompted Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in an April 21 Sputnik interview, to lambast the kingdom, accusing it of being “part of an American plan” to deploy troops on Syrian territory. That triggered a war of words between Jordan and Syria, with a government spokesman in Amman, Mohammad al-Momani, on the same day issuing a statement rejecting Assad’s “fabricated allegations.” On April 26, Abdullah told local media figures that the kingdom will defend itself from any threats “without the need to have a role for the [Jordanian] army inside Syria.”
That should have put the matter to bed, but Syria viewed Eager Lion, the 24-nation war games held annually in Jordan, this year starting May 7, as a provocation and cover for an alleged invasion of southern Syria. Foreign Minister Walid Moallem held a press conference on May 8 in Damascus, warning Amman that although Syria is not in confrontation with Jordan, “If the Jordanian forces entered without coordination with the Syrian government they will be considered hostile forces.” Jordanian officials did not respond, but it became clear that the regime in Damascus was getting ready to take the initiative in southern Syria, and on May 15, it did.
Reports, based on information from rebel group in the south, spoke of the Syrian regime moving government troops supported by Iran-backed militias to the region near its border with Iraq and Jordan. This was the same desert area that US-backed rebels had taken control of after IS fighters withdrew. A few days later, the rebel forces appeared to have consolidated their hold on a number of villages in that region. The Syrian move coincided with an agreement reached in Astana by Russia, Turkey and Iran to designate four “de-escalation zones” in Syria, including one in Daraa, in the south.
Jordan and the United States have supported, as well as armed, so-called moderate rebel groups and local tribal fighters in southern Syria as a proxy force to prevent IS militants from infiltrating the region. The New Syrian Army, as the force is called, had participated in a fierce battle, along with US, British and possibly Jordanian special forces on April 10, to ward off an IS attack on the Tanf base on the Syrian side of the Jordanian-Iraqi border. It is believed that as IS militants are defeated in Mosul and soon in Raqqa, the vast region extending from Deir ez-Zor to Sweida, in eastern and southern Syria, will witness a major power struggle that will include the Syrian army, US-backed Syrian Kurds, New Syrian Army fighters and fleeing IS militants.
From the US perspective, extending the allied presence in that area would serve two major objectives: enable a pincer maneuver to encircle IS militants, and sever the land link between Iraq and Syria that Iranian-backed militias depend on for arms and men. The recent regime push toward the east and south is an attempt to derail such plans.
Southern Syria presents a complex security challenge for Jordan. While Amman has no intention of clashing with regular Syrian army troops in the south, it is particularly anxious about the presence of what Abdullah called “nonstate actors” in an April 5 interview with the Washington Post, referring to IS but also to Hezbollah and Iranian militias, including the Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp. On May 12, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi told his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, that Jordan does not want “terrorist groups or sectarian militias on its northern borders.” He reportedly requested Russian intervention in that regard.
Jordan's northern borders remain tense. On May 11, Amman announced that its air force had shot down an unidentified drone near the border with Syria. Four days later, two car bombs exploded in the makeshift Rukban refugee camp close to the Jordanian border, killing at least six civilians. Jordan had repeatedly warned that the camp, with nearly 100,000 refugees, has been infiltrated by IS militants.
The southeastern Syrian desert aside, Jordan continues to monitor the presence of the so-called Khaled Ibn al-Walid Army in the Yarmouk River basin as a danger that is too close to comfort. The heavily armed IS proxy group, numbering about 5,000, is vying for control of parts of the Daraa governorate with another radical foe, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra), which has overcome most government troops in the old city of Daraa. The close proximity of these al-Qaeda loyalists is another security headache for Jordan.
In the absence of a clear US strategy on Syria, Jordan has tried its best to sustain its precarious balancing act in anticipation of a possible breakthrough in the tumultuous political process in Geneva. It is also keeping its cards close to its chest, with the military option, in the form of special commando operations in southern Syria, very much on the table.
So far Amman has opted not to take part in the latest Astana free-zone agreement, but as retired military analyst Fayez al-Duwairi told Al-Monitor, the kingdom is expecting military confrontations between various parties in southern Syria — including Hezbollah, IS and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham — which remains Amman’s biggest concern. Duwairi asserted, “Eventually, Jordan may want to take part as a monitor of the de-escalation zone, especially if that involves the repatriation of refugees.”
Political analyst Amer al-Sabayleh told Al-Monitor that although Jordan does not want to venture into Syria, it is keen to support local groups that can serve as a buffer against the infiltration of terrorist groups, especially after the battles against IS in Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor.
These assertions do not clarify whether Jordan will come, or is coming, under US pressure to engage in a military operation in southern Syria. Fear of an Iranian land corridor extending from Tehran to Beirut through Iraq and Syria is shared by Amman and Washington, not to mention Riyadh and Tel Aviv. Can Jordan reconcile its own security calculations with those of the United States under President Donald Trump? That remains an open-ended question.

It’s time for a global mobilization against the Iranian ‘Khomeinite’
Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran/Al Arabiya/May 18/17
A CIA official said during the Ronald Reagan time in office that Saudi Arabia was one of the most important allies of America during the 1980’s, adding that the Americans viewed the Saudi kingdom as a decisive factor towards fulfilling many significant aims.
The US partnership with Saudi Arabia achieved many mutual goals, particularly in terms of confronting the communist tide. What facilitated bilateral cooperation is that both countries were worried of the consequences of this communist expansion.
Back then, Prince Bandar bin Sultan said Saudi Arabia’s influence was major and thought that the reward for this cooperation must be much more than the AWACs surveillance aircrafts and it must be “nuclear arms.”
Throughout the history of American-Saudi relations, mutual worries were the ember and flame of cooperation. This has been the case since the presidential term of Franklin Roosevelt and up until Donald Trump’s. Back then, the communist threat was mutual.
Now there are many mutual threats that have made it inevitable for Trump to move towards Saudi Arabia considering it’s a trusted partner that’s capable of overcoming difficulties.
Trump and the Gulf
Trump chose Saudi Arabia as his first foreign visit. The major reason he did so is his desire to address Muslims who are the base of global and media discussions either due to immigration or terrorism. Saudi Arabia, where Islam emerged and which embraces the Two Holy Mosques, is thus the best podium to address 1.5 billion people.
The historical visit will be the base of cooperation and this will be through King Salman’s and Trump’s determination to revive historical cooperation and launch strategic, economic, political and security partnership to work against the “Khomeini theory” in the Middle East and put an end to its interferences and chaos in the region and the world.
Trump will dispel worries which claim America is attacking Muslims. These worries surfaced following the measures pertaining to travel to countries that are all Muslim. Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his team created real and optimistic partnership with the American administration when they visited Washington. His statements during his visit to the US confirmed America’s leading role in the world and Saudi Arabia’s leading role in the Islamic world. This led up to Trump’s upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia to meet with Muslim leaders and prime ministers.
The aim, as expressed by statements from both countries, is “mobilization against Iranian expansion in the region,” and discussing “the threats of terrorism.”
‘Together we prevail’
During a cabinet session, King Salman welcomed the upcoming visit of Trump and Muslim leaders. Perhaps the summits which Trump will hold with Saudi officials will have economic and military dimensions and they may also discuss the purchase of a missile defense system and weapons which the former administration of Barack Obama had refused to sell Saudi Arabia. They will also discuss Yemen. They will likely hold serious talks on the mechanism of cooperation to curb Iran. Ever since the 1979 revolution, Iran has tried to provoke Saudi Arabia on the sectarian and military levels. In one of his interviews, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman clearly said: “We will not wait until the battle is in Saudi Arabia but we will work so the battle is there in Iran.” This statement was reported by global media outlets and viewed as the base of Saudi Arabia’s current strict policy which does not fear war shall someone beat its drums.
During the electoral campaign, Trump promised to uproot terrorism and the culture of hate and to comb every area where there are terrorists. It’s also time to eliminate all Shiite terrorist cells in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. This can be done through military work and financial restraints and through declawing the cells on the security level and lifting political covers off them. It’s not in any country’s interest to resort to political tactics or emotional speeches to justify the presence of these militias on its land. Terrorism is one and there’s no difference between Sunni and Shiite militias. Obama had some sort of truce with Shiite cells and he was ideologically convinced that terrorism’s origin is Sunni. This is a historical lie and it’s due to ignorance in the legacy and history of Islam and in the basis of conflicts and strife. ISIS is Sunni but the Popular Mobilization and its branches as well as more than 40 other factions in Syria and Iraq are Shiite. Therefore, there’s no difference, terrorism is one.
Reagan was decisive when he pledged to support allies and protect them from aggression. The Soviet Union’s interference in Gulf countries’ affair came at a high price thanks to Reagan. He was loyal to this promise. Before that, there was the Eisenhower Doctrine. And now we await the Trump Doctrine to confront Iran and the axis of evil and the forts of violence, backwardness, terrorism and bloodshed. Warnings must be strict as America is the country that’s capable of curbing these mafia-like countries.
The historical visit will be the base of cooperation and this will be through King Salman’s and Trump’s determination to revive historical cooperation and launch strategic, economic, political and security partnership to work against the “Khomeini theory” in the Middle East and put an end to its interferences and chaos in the region and the world.

Sectarian Shiism versus political Shiism threat
Turki Aldakhil/Al Arabiya/May 18/17
Shiites in Saudi Arabia have been there for as long as the Sunnis. They are part of our country’s fabric. They are Saudis first and foremost.
Their religious affiliation of belonging to the Arab Shiite sect comes in second. Shiites are of course part of Islam’s sectarian diversity. Saudi leaders and kings throughout the eras of the first, second and third Saudi states did not scold the Shiites for their sectarian affiliations but King Abdulaziz – from a brotherly stance – advised them not to exaggerate appearances. This did not deprive them of their patriotism or of their belonging to Saudi Arabia. The problem though lies within Shiite and Sunni extremism. It lies in belonging to Iran and in the holy sanctification of concepts related to the governance of the jurist and in claiming there is a “Muslims’ consensus over believing in the Imam Mahdi.”The problem is not in jurisprudence and ideological beliefs but it is in politically depending on this legacy to kill people and destroy countries.
The latter was claimed by Hassan Nasrallah during his most recent speech. The dispute about Imam Mahdi is well-known in both Sunni and Shiite legacies, and anyone who is well-acquainted with Islamic legacy knows that.
Some modern Shiites have even proposed several interpretations about Imam Mahdi. Is he in occultation? Is he man like us? Is he from Ahl al-Bayt (People of the House)? Nasrallah’s claims there is a consensus regarding Imam Mahdi is a mere political escalation that does not have any scientific basis.
Therefore, the problem is not in jurisprudential and ideological beliefs but it is in politically depending on this legacy to kill people and destroy countries.

The slippery slope of revolutionary politics: Will Hamas be another Fatah?
Ramzy Baroud/Al Arabiya/May 18/17
Hamas has recently released a new Charter. Despite obvious contradictions and attempts at finding balances within the region’s increasingly tight political margin, the new document is far savvier than its old Charter of 1988.
Following the announcement of the new Charter, the soon-to-depart Hamas’ leader, Khaled Meshaal, conducted several high profile media interviews, explaining the evolution in Hamas’ political discourse.
In a televized interview with CNN, Meshaal called on US President, Donald Trump, to seize a “historic opportunity” for peace. He said that Trump has a “greater threshold for boldness”, thus is able to pressure Israel and “find an equitable solution for the Palestinian people.”It is not the first time that Hamas has called upon a US president to change his country’s divisive political approach to Palestine and to pressure Israel. But unlike previous calls to former President Barack Obama, for example, Hamas’ ‘plea’ this time is far less confrontational. The Hamas leadership is keen to assure its supporters that the shift is in language only, and that its old values are still strongly guarded. But this might not be the case.
“This is a plea from me to the Trump administration - the new American administration,” Meshaal told CNN. “Break out from the wrong approaches of the past and which did not arrive at a result. And perhaps to grab the opportunity presented by Hamas’ document.”
Trump is due to visit Israel on May 22, and is expected, aside from declaring his unconditional support for the Jewish state, to propose an ‘ultimate deal.’
While many Palestinians are not impressed, the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah is still counting on American political validation and financial support to survive.
However, seeing Hamas joining the official Palestinian chorus, pleading and imploring Trump to be fairer than his predecessors is quite an interesting shift in both attitude and style. The Hamas leadership is keen to assure its supporters that the shift is in language only, and that its old values are still strongly guarded. But this might not be the case.
The old and the new
Undoubtedly, Hamas’ first Charter, which was released to the public in August 1988, a few months after the formation of Hamas - itself a creation from the outcome of the Palestinian Uprising of December 1987, which saw the killing of thousands of Palestinians, mostly stone throwing children - reflected a degree of intellectual dearth and political naïveté.
It called on Palestinians to confront the Israeli occupation army, seeking “martyrdom, or victory”, and derided Arab rulers and armies for their apathy in the face of ‘grave crimes by the Jews’ against the Palestinians. At the time, the Hamas leadership was a grassroots composition, made up almost entirely of Palestinian refugees.
While Hamas founders attributed their ideology to the Muslim Brotherhood Movement, their politics was formulated inside Palestinian refugee camps and Israeli prisons.
Although Hamas desired to be part of a larger regional dynamic, it was mostly the outcome of a unique Palestinian experience. The language of Hamas’ first Charter reflected serious political immaturity, lack of true vision and an underestimation of their future appeal. However, it also reflected a degree of sincerity, accurately depicting a rising popular tide that was discontented with Fatah’s domination of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
Fatah, and other PLO factions, became increasingly disengaged from Palestinian reality after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982. The 1987 Intifada reflected popular frustration, both with the Israeli military occupation and the failure, corruption and irrelevance of the PLO. The signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, but especially the failure of the accords and the so-called ‘peace process’ to meet the minimum expectations of the Palestinian people, gave Hamas another impetus.
Thus, the formation of Hamas during that specific period of Palestinian history cannot be understood independently from the Intifada, which introduced a new generation of Palestinian movements, leaders and grassroots organizations. Due to its emphasis on Islamic (vs. national) identity, Hamas developed in parallel, rarely converging with other national groups in the West Bank and Gaza. Towards the end of the Intifada, the factions clashed, inflicting violence towards fellow Palestinians. Internal strife exhausted the Intifada from within, as much as it was mercilessly beaten by Israeli occupation soldiers from without.
The signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, but especially the failure of the accords and the so-called ‘peace process’ to meet the minimum expectations of the Palestinian people, gave Hamas another impetus. Since the period of ‘peace’ saw the expansion of illegal Jewish settlements, the number of illegal settlers doubling and the loss of more Palestinian land, Hamas’ popularity continued to rise. Meanwhile, the PLO was sidelined to make room for the Palestinian Authority. Established in 1994, the PA was a direct outcome of Oslo. Its leaders were not leaders of the Intifada, but mostly wealthy Fatah returnees from Arab capitals abroad. The late Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, understood the need to maintain a semblance of balance in his treatment of Palestinian opposition forces. Despite tremendous Israel-US pressure to crack down on the ‘infrastructure of terrorism’, he understood that suppressing Hamas and others could hasten his party’s eroding popularity.
Soon after his passing, local Palestinian elections - in which Hamas participated for the first time - changed the political power dynamics in Palestine. Hamas won the majority of seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). Hamas’ election victory in 2006 prompted a western boycott, massive Israeli crackdown on the movement and clashes between Hamas and Fatah. Ultimately, Gaza was placed under siege, and several Israeli wars killed thousands of Palestinians.
Search for alternatives
During the last ten years, Hamas has been forced to seek alternatives. It was forced out of the trenches to govern and economically manage one of the most impoverished regions on earth. The siege became the status quo. Attempts by some European powers to talk to Hamas were always met by strong Israeli-American-PA rejection.
Hamas’ old Charter was often used to silence voices that called for ending Hamas’ isolation, along with the Gaza siege. Taken out of its historical context, Hamas’ Charter read like an archaic treatise, devoid of any political wisdom. On May 1, Hamas introduced the new Charter, entitled: “A Document of General Principles and Policies.”
The new Charter makes no reference to the Muslim Brotherhood. Instead, it realigns Hamas’ political outlook to fit somewhere between national and Islamic sentiments.
It consents to the idea of establishing a Palestinian state per the June 1967 border, although insists on the Palestinian people’s legal and moral claim to all of historic Palestine. It rejects the Oslo agreements, but speaks of the PA as a fact of life; it supports all forms of resistance, but insists on armed resistance as a right of any occupied nation.
Expectedly, it does not recognize Israel.
Hamas is slowly, but decidedly losing that quality, as Fatah already did. If the movement continues on this path it could soon find itself reliving Fatah’s past, which sent Palestinians into years of political disarray and self-defeating internal conflict.
Hamas’ new Charter seems like a scrupulously cautious attempt at finding political balances. The outcome is a document that is - although it can be understood in the region’s new political context - a frenzied departure from the past.
Hamas of 1988 may have seemed unrefined and lacking savvy, but its creation was a direct expression of a real, existing sentiment of many Palestinians. Hamas of 2017 is much more stately and careful in both words and actions, yet it is adrift in new space that is governed by Arab money, regional and international politics and the pressure of ten years under siege and war. The current conventional wisdom among Hamas leaders is that a balance is still possible, where political pragmatism and armed struggle can go hand in hand. In fact, the future of the movement, and its brand of politics and resistance will be determined by the outcome of this dialectics. However, it behooves Hamas to carefully study the political journey of its rivals in Fatah. The latter’s ideology was a blend of nationalism and religion. At times, it too tried to strike the right balance, but failed.
Nearly 47 years ago, Fatah leaders modeled their revolutionary movement after the guerrilla war and resistance in Algeria, which eventually dislodged bloody French colonialism.
Before the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, Fatah still argued that armed struggle could go hand in hand with the so-called ‘peace process.’
Even today, Fatah’s popular rallies still utilize the language of yesteryear although, in reality, neither the ‘peace process’ delivered the coveted peace, nor is armed struggle – or any form of centralized resistance – part of the official Fatah strategy.
One can find clear similarities by comparing the experiences of Fatah and Hamas. Perhaps unwittingly, Hamas seems to slowly adopt Fatah’s past legacy.
What ordinary Palestinians found appealing about Hamas in the past was its ability to articulate a Palestinian position, however amateurish it was, independent from American pressures and Arab influences.
In fact, this is what many Palestinians also found appealing about Fatah in the 1960s.
Hamas is slowly, but decidedly losing that quality, as Fatah already did. If the movement continues on this path it could soon find itself reliving Fatah’s past, which sent Palestinians into years of political disarray and self-defeating internal conflict.