April 02/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today
Bible Quota/06/25-34/"‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, "What will we eat?" or "What will we drink?" or "What will we wear?"For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. ‘So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil
Those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires
First Letter to Timothy 06/06-12/ Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains. But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 01-02/18
To Make Our Easter's Commemoration Godly & Righteous/Elias Bejjani/01 April/18
How We Can Understand The Holy Concept Of Resurrection/Elias Bejjani/April 01/18
The act of forgiveness is the Core & essence of love, and love is God/Elias Bejjani/31 March 18
Syria: Americans Withdraw, Iranians Stay/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al-Awsat/April 01/18/
Contradictions, abandonment and reversal: what Trump's Syria 'withdrawal' tells us about the future of US foreign policy/Raghida Dergham/The National/April 01/18
Iraq's Christians: Eighty Percent Have "Disappeared"/Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/April 01/18
Trump and the Fading Ghost of an Illusion/Amir Taheri/Gatestone Institute/April 01/18
The UN Security Council veto must be abolished/Dr. Azeem Ibrahim/Al Arabiya/April 01/18
Changing security landscape in the Middle East/Bayram Aliyev/Al Arabiya/April 01/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on April 01-02/18
To Make Our Easter's Commemoration Godly & Righteous
How We Can Understand The Holy Concept Of Resurrection
The act of forgiveness is the Core & essence of love, and love is God
Aoun marks Easter with Palestine at center
Jabbour Says LF Backs Reelection of 'Geagea's Friend' Berri
Lebanon: Brigadier General on Wheelchair Promoted
Lebanese couple sentenced to death for killing maid in Kuwait
Hariri Defends 'Dialogue with Hizbullah', Says CEDRE to Create '900,000 Jobs'
Paris Urges Commitment to Economic Reforms, Says Macron May Visit in Summer
Alain Aoun Says Talk about Berri's Reelection 'Premature'
Rahi officiates over Easter Mass in Bkirki
Hariri visits Salam: Rafic Hariri taught us to hold dialogue with everyone
Jumblatt meets with Saudi Charge d'Affaires
Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 01-02/18
Pope After Gaza Violence Says Defenceless Being Killed In Holy Land
Christians Mark Easter at Jerusalem's Holy Sepulcher
U.S. Blocks U.N. Security Council Statement on Gaza Violence
Erdogan: You Are A Terrorist, Netanyahu, You are A Butcher
Netanyahu hits back at Turkey’s Erdogan over Gaza violence
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Says Empowering Iran doesn’t Serve Assad
Plane Carrying Russian Diplomats Expelled from U.S. Lands in Moscow
Final’ evacuation deal reached for Ghouta’s Douma
'Tri-Arrangements' for the Syrian North
Egypt’s FM: Qatar’s counterterrorism policies inconsistent with Arab consensus
Egypt says six militants, two soldiers killed in Sinai operation

Latest Lebanese Related News published on April 01-02/18
To Make Our Easter's Commemoration Godly & Righteous
Elias Bejjani/01 April/18
يبقى احتفالنا بذكرى قيامة المسيح دون معنى إيماني ما لم نتواضع ونتصالح مع الذين نعاديهم أو يعادننا حيث لا قيامة دون محبة وغفران
There is no doubt that our commemoration of the resurrection of Christ remains meaningless unless we humble ourselves and reconcile with our actual enemies and open a new page of respect and love with those who we are in conflicts with, especially parents and family members. In conclusion the righteous celebration of the lords' resurrection is not genuine without actual deeds of love and forgiveness.
How We Can Understand The Holy Concept Of Resurrection
Elias Bejjani/April 01/18
Don’t be amazed. You seek Jesus, the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen. He is not here (Mark 16/05)
Easter Sunday is a holy feast of love, humility, forgiveness, brotherhood, tolerance and repentance.
Religiously and consciously we are not supposed to participate by any means in any of the feast prayers or make any offerings or receive the Holy Communion unless we are genuinely replace hatred with love, grudges with forgiveness, rejection of others with tolerance, arrogance with humility, greed with contentment, deception with transparency, and evil with righteousness.
Do not be afraid, “Don’t be amazed”, with these reassuring and soothing words The Angel spoke to Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome. They had came to the tomb on Sunday morning to mummify and anoint Jesus’ Body as the Jewish tradition required. They thought death had defeated Jesus and ended His life as it does to every human being. On their way, they were sadly thinking and wondering who will roll for them the stone away from the tomb’s entrance so they can get in and perform the mummifying and anointing process. While halfway from the tomb, they saw that the enormous stone had been rolled away. When they entered the tomb they found that Jesus’ body was not there. They found only the shrouds that His body was wrapped with on His burial after the crucifixion.
Saint Mark’s (16/01-13) Gospel describes thoroughly what has happened with these three loyal and faithful women: “When the Sabbath was, past Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, that they might come and anoint him. 16:2 Very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. They were saying among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” for it was very big. Looking up, they saw that the stone was rolled back. Entering into the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were amazed. He said to them, “Don’t be amazed. You seek Jesus, the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen. He is not here. Behold, the place where they laid him! But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He goes before you into Galilee. There you will see him, as he said to you.’” They went out, and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had come on them. They said nothing to anyone; for they were afraid. Now when he had risen early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. When they heard that he was alive, and had been seen by her, they disbelieved. After these things he was revealed in another form to two of them, as they walked, on their way into the country. They went away and told it to the rest. They didn’t believe them, either.”
Lord Jesus who died on the cross, had risen from the dead on the third day just as He has said while proclaiming His message. He triumphed over death, defeated the forces of darkness, overcame pain, abolished anguish and brought despair to an end. He rose from the tomb to be constantly with those faithful to Him throughout their lives, and to never abandon them. He shall empower forever those who believe in His message and observe His commandments with the spirit of truth, knowledge, wisdom and solidarity with His Father, Almighty God.
Christ is the Way, Christ is the Truth, and Christ is the actual eternal life that we long for. We strongly believe with full conviction that Christ dwells in His Holy Church, and exists in its Mysteries (Sacraments). He is always present in the Holy Eucharist that we receive during every mass. Christ at all times is ready, willing and delighted to help us in our burdens when we call on Him and ask for His mercy. “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. 11:30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew11:28)
The miracle of resurrection is the cornerstone of our Christian faith. This pivotal liturgical fact was strongly stressed by Saint Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians, (15/12-26): ” Now if Christ is preached, that he has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, neither has Christ been raised. If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, and your faith also is in vain. Yes, we are found false witnesses of God, because we testified about God that he raised up Christ, whom he didn’t raise up, if it is so that the dead are not raised. For if the dead aren’t raised, neither has Christ been raised. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are still in your sins. Then they also who are fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have only hoped in Christ in this life, we are of all men most pitiable. But now Christ has been raised from the dead. He became the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since death came by man, the resurrection of the dead also came by man. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then those who are Christ’s, at his coming. Then the end comes, when he will deliver up the Kingdom to God, even the Father; when he will have abolished all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death”.
Through Crucifixion and resurrection, Christ has overcome death, broke its thorn, and granted us His eternal forgiveness from the original sin. With His death and resurrection, death in its traditional earthly human concept has been abolished forever and Sin since then has become the actual death that leads the sinners to Gahanna into the unquenchable fire.
When our bodies die, we sleep in the hope of resurrection. On Jesus’ return on the Day of Judgment, the dead will be the first to rise and escort Him. “Behold, I tell you a mystery. We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed”, (Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians 15 / 51-52).
Easter Sunday is a holy feast of love, humility, forgiveness, brotherhood, tolerance and repentance. Religiously and consciously we are not supposed to participate by any means in any of the feast prayers or make any offerings or receive the Holy Communion unless we are genuinly replace hatred with love, grudges with forgiveness, rejection of others with tolerance, arrogance with humility, greed with contentment, deception with transparency, and evil with righteousness.
If we do not learn how to tame our selfishness, anger, hatred and forgive others for whatever evil deeds they commit against us and reconcile with them, than we do not qualify to be called Jesus’ followers. Our prayers will not be heard or responded to, if we do not practice the grace of forgiveness as did He who was crucified for our salvation.
“If therefore you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift”. (Matthew 5/23-24).
Meanwhile our true faith in Jesus and in His Sacrifices won’t be complete unless we adopt in our thinking, deeds and language the pure components of sacrifice, honesty, truth, self respect, meekness and decency. “Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth, but such as is good for building up as the need may be, that it may give grace to those who hear. Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, outcry, and slander, be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God also in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4/29-32)
For our prayers to be looked upon and heard by Almighty God, we are required to reconcile with ourselves and with all others on whom we have inflicted pain and injustice, and treated with an evil manner. To please the Lord we are required to genuinely, heartily and overtly perform all required acts of repentance for all our mischievous conducts and wrongdoings. Mark 11/24-26: “Therefore I tell you, all things whatever you pray and ask for, believe that you have received them, and you shall have them. Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father, who is in heaven, may also forgive you your transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your transgressions”
Almighty God has endowed us with His love talent, (minas) and expects us to faithfully invest it in helping others who are in need. He expect us to observe all the teaching of His Bible so that He will reward us on the Day of Judgment and put us on His Right Side.
On this Holy Day of Resurrection, we are ought to be aware that Jesus’ Holy blood was shed on the Cross for our sake. Remembrance of His death and resurrection is a Godly consignment that we are entrusted with. It’s up to us either to honour this trust or betray it. In regards to what is committed to us, Saint Paul conveyed to his disciple Timothy the following advice (6/20-21): “Timothy, guard that which is committed to you, turning away from the empty chatter and oppositions of the knowledge which is falsely so called; which some professing have erred concerning the faith”.
Halleluiah! Jesus has risen! Indeed He has risen.

The act of forgiveness is the Core & essence of love, and love is God
Elias Bejjani/31 March 18
Today while solemnly we celebrate “The Holy Friday” that personify Our Lord’s love, sacrifices, Sufferings, pain and tolerance, let us all pray that Almighty God shall showers on us graces of love and forgiveness.
Jesus taught us in the “Our Father’s prayer” to forgive those who sin against us, so that He forgives our sins.
Jesus told us that if while presenting our offerings before the altar and remembered there that we have an unsolved conflict or a certain problem with anyone, we are ought to immediately abstain from continuing this holy ritual and go first to reconcile with the one who we have the conflict with, and afterwards return to carry on presenting the offerings.
Meanwhile our “Holy Bible” emphasizes in dozens of verses that faith without deeds, is a dead faith, exactly like a body without spirit.
Hence, a person who can not, and does not seek to forgive others, God shall not forgive his sins.
At the same time all prayers remain futile and worthless in case they are not genuinely combined at the same time with actual deeds.
Also, all sorts of faith, no matter how strong or solid they might be, shall remain superficial and incomplete without turning them into righteous deeds.
He who holds grudges, falls a prey to temptations, lives with hatred, and lets the devil control his life, is a person who does know how to love or forgive, and does not know Almighty God, because God is love and forgiveness.
In conclusion, any person no matter how righteous he might be, and does not know and practice both love and forgiveness he does know Almighty God.
On this “Holy Friday” let us kneel with reverence and call on our loving Father to grant us and every human being the gifts of forgiveness and love, and to enlighten our thoughts to clearly realize that faith without deeds is a dead faith and that God Himself is LOVE and forgiveness.
Aoun marks Easter with Palestine at center
The Daily Star/April 01/18/BEIRUT: Recent developments in Jerusalem and Palestine were central to President Michel Aoun’s Easter message Sunday, delivered ahead of a televised service from Bkerki. “Our eyes are pointed towards Jerusalem and the Church of Resurrection ... If Christian monuments are controlled in Jerusalem, the spring that feeds the Christian spirit will run dry,” he said in his address after meeting Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai. “We do not want our churches to become just touristic centers where we must wait at the door to enter, just as could have happened with the Church of Resurrection in the Zionist state,” he added. “Jerusalem and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher will not be exposed to what it was before,” he added. The Church, among the holiest in Christendom, closed its doors in February in protest of planned Israeli tax collection on Christian properties in the holy city. The Israeli government later walked back the plans following pressure and protest. Christians across Lebanon and the world attended mass in throngs to mark Easter Sunday, which Christians believe is the day Christ was resurrected. Aoun was also asked whether Lebanese nationals who had previously crossed into Israel would be included in a proposed general amnesty bill, which will reportedly include Islamist prisoners and those imprisoned for petty crimes and drugs. Aoun responded: “The General Amnesty has nothing to do with those who departed [for Israel]. For those who want to come back, we are trying to facilitate their entry. Today we came to pray, tomorrow we will deal with everything else,” Aoun said. Several Lebanese leaders, including Prime Minister Saad Hariri, have expressed support for a general amnesty and have said they were working on passing it before elections, set for May 6. Many groups, including the families of suspected Islamists and of those imprisoned for petty crimes have said they would withhold their votes from parties they have traditionally cast ballots for if the amnesty was not passed before Election Day.

Jabbour Says LF Backs Reelection of 'Geagea's Friend' Berri
Naharnet/April 01/18/ The Lebanese Forces supports the reelection of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri to his post, LF spokesman Charles Jabbour has confirmed. “LF leader Samir Geagea has always expressed his respect and admiration of his friend Speaker Berri,” Jabbour told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper in remarks published Sunday. “Although the LF's Mps did not vote for Berri in 2005 and 2009, seeing as the vote was governed by the March 8-March 14 political alignments, which had nothing to do with Berri as a person, we confirm today that the LF's priority is that the chairmanship of parliament and government as well as the Presidency should reflect the will of the (confessional) component that they represent,” Jabbour added. “Accordingly, the LF will not back a choice that contradicts with this and it cannot be part of a political elimination battle between one political party and another,” the LF spokesman went on to say. MP Hani Qobeissi of Berri's AMAL Movement had warned Saturday that there are attempts to "weaken" Berri. "Their main slogan is weakening Speaker Nabih Berri and rejecting his reelection as parliament speaker," the MP alleged. Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat had cautioned in remarks published Friday that President Aoun, Prime Minister Saad Hariri and the FPM "are targeting Berri."

Lebanon: Brigadier General on Wheelchair Promoted
Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/April 01/18/In an unprecedented step, Lebanese Army head Gen. Joseph Aoun promoted a brigadier general on wheelchair, knowing that he was injured during performing his military duties. The army sources rejected to reveal his name, however they affirmed that this decision is a humanitarian gesture and a message from the army’s head to, the Lebanese people in general and the soldiers in specific, that everyone has equal chances of getting promoted. The sources added that when soldiers get injured while performing their duties they don’t get expelled but instead they are moved to an administrative post that suits their abilities. In other critical cases injured soldiers may stay at home, if they were incapable of performing their work, however they continue to receive their allowances and other benefits.
Lebanese couple sentenced to death for killing maid in Kuwait
Arab News/April 01/18/DUBAI: A Kuwaiti criminal court has sentenced a Lebanese man and his Syrian wife to death by hanging for killing their Philipinna maid on Sunday, Kuwaiti newspapers reported. The Lebanese man admitted killing the maid a year ago in what became known as the Freezer Body case. Following that, the General Attorney in Lebanon charged the man with killing his maid and putting her body in a freezer. Lebanese authorities arrested the man last month and he was reffered to justuice authorities in Southern Lebanon because he is a resident of Saidon, a city in Southern Lebanon. The man's wife, a Syrian, is still at large. Security authorities in Kuwait had announced almost two months ago that the body of the maid was found in a freezer in the flat where the couple resided for a long period of time and said they had left the country. Kuwaiti authorities informed Lebanese security officials who arrested the man but refused to extradite him and decided to put him on trial in Lebanon. His wife is still at a place unknown in Syria. The crime caused a crisis between Kuwait and the Philippines after which Manila ordered its workforce to leave the country and put on hold all applications for work in Kuwait by its citizens.

Hariri Defends 'Dialogue with Hizbullah', Says CEDRE to Create '900,000 Jobs'
Naharnet/April 01/18/Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Sunday noted that dialogue is the only way to resolve the differences with Hizbullah. “Lebanon and the Sunni community are being targeted, but we, through our behavior, have the choice to preserve the community or abandon it,” Hariri said after talks in Msaitbeh with former premier and incumbent Beirut MP Tammam Salam, who will run on a Mustaqbal list in the upcoming parliamentary polls. “To preserve the community, it is necessary to endorse the approach of the late Saeb Salam and martyr premier Rafik Hariri, who were sacrificing themselves for the sake of the community and the country without considering their personal interests,” Hariri added. Turning to the issue of the relation with Hizbullah, the premier said: “If I don't engage in dialogue with Hizbullah, then with whom will I be engaged in dialogue? Dialogue takes place with those whom we differ with, not with those whom we agree with.” “Shall we engage in dialogue with Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea? I'm in agreement with Dr. Geagea over the (defense) strategy and in all matters. Certainly I will not engage in dialogue with any party with which I agree but rather with those whom I disagree with,” Hariri explained. He added: “Rafik Hariri's school has taught us to talk to everyone.” Separately, Hariri noted that the upcoming CEDRE economic conference in Paris will “provide more than 900,000 jobs” in Lebanon.

Paris Urges Commitment to Economic Reforms, Says Macron May Visit in Summer
Naharnet/April 01/18/Paris is expecting a broad turnout at the upcoming CEDRE conference that will rally economic support for Lebanon, a prominent French official has said. “There will be funding pledges but they will not be direct grants but rather financial commitments binding the Lebanese side to abide by a post-elections reform dynamism,” the unnamed official told al-Hayat newspaper in remarks published Sunday. The official noted that Lebanon “has lately showed a good performance” in terms of the economic reforms. French President Emmanuel Macron “is keen on visiting Lebanon as soon as possible, but he has a busy agenda which makes the visit's date unclear until the moment,” the official said. “Perhaps it will happen in the summer,” the official added.

Alain Aoun Says Talk about Berri's Reelection 'Premature'
Naharnet/April 01/18/MP Alain Aoun of the Change and Reform bloc has announced that the ongoing talk about Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri's reelection to his post is “premature.”“There are divergent viewpoints in the Free Patriotic Movement, with some backing the reelection of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and others rejecting it,” Aoun told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper in remarks published Sunday. “We might deal with this vote the same way they dealt with the presidency,” Aoun added, referring to Berri's opposition to President Michel Aoun's election. “However, any talk about this topic ahead of the parliamentary elections would be premature, and it will definitely be discussed in the bloc to take the appropriate stance,” the lawmaker went on to say. MP Hani Qobeissi of Berri's AMAL Movement had warned Saturday that there are attempts to "weaken" Berri. "Their main slogan is weakening Speaker Nabih Berri and rejecting his reelection as parliament speaker," the MP alleged. Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat had cautioned in remarks published Friday that President Aoun, Prime Minister Saad Hariri and the FPM "are targeting Berri."
Rahi officiates over Easter Mass in Bkirki
Sun 01 Apr 2018/NNA - Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Beshara Boutros Rahi presided Sunday over Easter Mass service in Bkirki, in presence of President of the Republic, Michel Aoun, and First Lady, Nadia Aoun, and a number of political, security and diplomatic figures. In his holy sermon, the Patriarch congratulated the President on Easter Day, wishing him success in leading the country at the political, economic, security and social levels. The Patriarch also thanked the Lebanese President for reactivating the work of constitutional institutions and public administrations. Rahi lauded the current mandate for the achievements made on more than one level, particularly on increasing the capabilities of the army, the security forces and other security apparatuses, especially in maintaining the sovereignty and security of the homeland with high efficiency. The Patriarch broached the issue of the economic situation in Lebanon, in addition to the educational sector, which he deemed as Lebanon's natural wealth. "This wealth is threatened to fall if the State does not maintain it. Schools can not in any way hold the burden of endorsing the salary scale without raising tuition fees," stated Rahi. "Schools in Lebanon are now facing two things: depriving the teachers of their rights and putting additional burdens on the parents," he went on. "We pray, Mr. President, for God to help you in governing and to be able to find the appropriate solutions to these challenges," Rahi concluded.

Hariri visits Salam: Rafic Hariri taught us to hold dialogue with everyone
Sun 01 Apr 2018/NNA - Prime Minister Saad Hariri paid a visit Sunday to former Prime Minister Tammam Salam at his Mseitbeh residence, in a gesture of appreciation for the Salam family's sacrifices for the sake of Lebanon. Hariri vowed to pursue the political march alongside Salam, in line with Martyr Rafic Hariri's lessons of dialogue and communication with all sides. "The Late PM Rafic Hariri encouraged his supporters to hold dialogue with all parties," said Hariri, adding, "We must have wisdom and dialogue to achieve our desired goals."Touching on the conferences organized in support of Lebanon, Hariri said, "We went to Rome to reinforce the army and security forces, and later we will go to Paris to rebuild the economy."He noted that the Cedar Conference would provide over 900,000 job opportunities for the Lebanese youth, without increasing the country's public debts. "Instead, it would increase investments in projects that would yield positive results," Hariri reassured. In turn, former PM Salam thanked the Prime Minister for his kind gesture of support and appreciation, vowing to remain together in the march for the country's unity and the unity of Beirut, its decision and future.

Jumblatt meets with Saudi Charge d'Affaires
Sun 01 Apr 2018/NNA - Democratic Gathering Chief, MP Walid Jumblatt, met Sunday evening at his Clemenceau residence with Saudi Chargé d'Affaires Walid Al-Bukhari, with talks centering on current political developments in Lebanon and the region. Attending the meeting were Democratic Gathering Members, MP's Ghazi Aridi and Wael Abu Faour.
Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 01-02/18
Pope After Gaza Violence Says Defenceless Being Killed In Holy Land
Reuters/Jerusalem Post/April 01/18
He also appealed for an end to the "carnage" in Syria.
VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis, in his Easter address on Sunday, called for peace in the Holy Land two days after at least 15 Palestinians were killed on the Israeli-Gaza border, saying the conflict there "does not spare the defenseless." The pope made his appeal in his "Urbi et Orbi" (to the city and the world) message from the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica to tens of thousands of people in the flower-bedecked square below where he earlier celebrated a Mass. He also appealed for an end to the "carnage" in Syria, calling for humanitarian aid to be allowed to enter, and for peace in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Francis appeared to refer directly to the Gaza violence last Friday, calling for "reconciliation for the Holy Land, also experiencing in these days the wounds of ongoing conflict that do not spare the defenseless."
Israel's defense minister has rejected calls for an inquiry into the killings by the military during a Palestinian demonstration that turned violent at the Gaza-Israel border. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Federica Mogherini, the European Union's foreign policy chief, and other leaders have called for an independent investigation into the bloodshed. The Pope also begged for peace for "the entire world, beginning with the beloved and long-suffering land of Syria, whose people are worn down by an apparently endless war."
"This Easter, may the light of the risen Christ illumine the consciences of all political and military leaders, so that a swift end may be brought to the carnage in course... " he said. He spoke a day after the Syrian army command said it had regained most of the towns and villages in eastern Ghouta. Tens of thousands of people have now evacuated once-bustling towns in the suburbs east of the capital, which had nearly 2 million people before the start of the conflict and were major commercial and industrial hubs. Francis called for international assistance for Venezuela, so that more people would not have to abandon their homeland because of the economic and political crisis. He hoped the "fruits of dialog" would advance peace and harmony on the Korean peninsula, where the two sides are set to hold their first summit in more than a decade on April 27, after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pledged his commitment to denuclearisation. Francis, celebrating his sixth Easter as Roman Catholic leader since his election in 2013, urged his listeners to work for an end to the "so many acts of injustice" in the world.
He prayed the power of Jesus' message "bears fruits of hope and dignity where there are deprivation and exclusion, hunger and unemployment, where there are migrants and refugees - so often rejected by today’s culture of waste - and victims of the drug trade, human trafficking and contemporary forms of slavery."

Christians Mark Easter at Jerusalem's Holy Sepulcher
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 01/18/Hundreds of pilgrims filed into Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulcher -- believed to be the site of Jesus's resurrection -- for Easter celebrations on Sunday. Western Christians marked Easter on Sunday, while eastern Orthodox Christians do so on April 8. The eastern Orthodox marked Palm Sunday on April 1 and also held mass at the church in Jerusalem's Old City, with worshipers holding palm fronds as is tradition. Some worshipers prostrated over a stone -- where they believe Jesus' body was anointed before his burial -- near the towering wooden doors at the entrance to the church. The church is built at the site where Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected. A recently renovated ornate shrine within the church surrounds the cave where Jesus is believed to have been buried. Easter marks the day when Christians believe the miracle of his resurrection occurred. Catholic Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa held mass at the church on Sunday morning near the shrine over the cave, entering dressed in the traditional purple Easter robe. He made reference to the Middle East's numerous conflicts in his homily, saying "our times are marked by death".
"Easter is the ability to come back and look at our history in the light of the promise of life that takes place today," he said. "Yes, today, at Easter, we announce a life that death can no more extinguish." On Friday, Christians traced the route of the Stations of the Cross through the Old City, which pass through the traditional sites of Jesus's condemnation up to his crucifixion. In March 2017, renovations to the 19th-century shrine covering Jesus's tomb were unveiled following a $3.7 million project that restored its stones to their original reddish-yellow and reinforced the heavily visited site. The Greek Orthodox, Armenian and Roman Catholic denominations share custody of the church, but disputes between the three had led to renovations being delayed for decades.
U.S. Blocks U.N. Security Council Statement on Gaza Violence
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 01/18/The United States has blocked a draft U.N. Security Council statement urging restraint and calling for an investigation of clashes on the Gaza-Israel border that left 16 dead, diplomats said. Clashes erupted as tens of thousands of Gazans protested near the border on Friday, with Israeli forces using tear gas and live fire to force back smaller numbers of demonstrators who approached within a few hundred yards (meters) of the heavily fortified border fence. In addition to the 16 Palestinians killed, more than 1,400 were wounded, 758 of them by live fire, with the remainder hurt by rubber bullets and tear gas inhalation, according to the Gazan health ministry. Kuwait, which represents Arab countries on the council, presented the proposed statement, which called for an "independent and transparent investigation" of the violence. The draft council statement also expressed "grave concern at the situation at the border." And it reaffirmed "the right to peaceful protest" and expressed the council's "sorrow at the loss of innocent Palestinian lives." The draft statement was circulated to the council on Friday, but on Saturday the United States raised objections and said it did not support its adoption, a Security Council diplomat told AFP. The U.S. mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request from AFP for comment. The proposed statement also called "for respect for international human rights law and international humanitarian law, including protection of civilians," according to the draft seen by AFP. Council members "called upon all sides to exercise restraint and prevent a further escalation," the draft said. The proposed statement stressed the need to promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians based on a two-state solution.

Erdogan: You Are A Terrorist, Netanyahu, You are A Butcher
Jerusalem Post/April 01/18
Erdogan slammed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday, calling the Israeli leader "a terrorist." Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blasted Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday after a war of words over Israel's actions on the Gaza border, saying the Turkish leader is in no position to be teaching Israel about morality. "Erdogan is not used to being answered. He should start getting accustomed to it. Whoever occupies North Cyprus, invades the Kurdish belt and butchers civilians in Afrin, should not preach to us about values and morality," said Netanyahu.  Earlier on Sunday, Netanyahu issued a sharp response to his Turkish counterpart's comments, saying his description of the IDF as "inhumane" must be the way they celebrate April Fool's Day in Turkey. “The most moral army in the world,” Netanyahu said of the IDF, “will not be preached to from someone who for years has indiscriminately bombed civilian populations. Apparently this is the way they mark April Fool's Day in Ankara.” Erdogan, who has turned strident anti-Israel comments into one of the trademarks of his rule, replied on Sunday by calling Israel a “terrorist state and occupier,” and Netanyahu a “terrorist.”According to Turkey's Daily Sabah, Erdogan – speaking at a meeting of his ruling Justice and Development Party in the southern Adana province -- said, "I do not need to tell the world how cruel the Israeli army is. We can see what this terror state is doing by looking at the situation in Gaza and Jerusalem."
Israel, he said, “has carried out a massacre in Gaza, and Netanyahu is a terrorist.”Netanyahu's “April Fool's” remark was triggered by remarks Erdogan made on Saturday, during a speech in Istanbul. “I strongly condemn the Israeli government over its inhumane attack,” Erdogan said of Friday’s incidents along the Gaza border. “Have you heard any noteworthy objections to the massacre by Israel that happened yesterday in Gaza from those who criticize the Afrin operation? This is the biggest proof of insincerity of those who fixate on us but say nothing about Israel using heavy weapons to attack people who are protesting on their own lands.”On January 20, Turkey began a cross-border military operation against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Afrin in northern Syria, an operation for which Turkey has come under widespread criticism.The Syrian Observatory for Human rights reported that 289 civilians have been killed since Ankara began this military operation. Other estimates put that number as high as 500, amid allegations of indiscriminate Turkish artillery fire. There have also been reports of Turkish border guards shooting refugees fleeing the fighting and seeking shelter inside Turkey. According to Turkish newspaper Huriyett, Erdogan said of Netanyahu, “He says our soldiers are oppressing people in Afrin. Netanyahu, you are very weak, very poor.”Erdogan said that Turkey is “dealing with terrorists. But you are not concerned about terrorists because you are a terror state.”Erdogan continued: “You are not popular… Stop bragging about owning nuclear weapons. The time may come when those weapons don’t work.”Though for years Netanyahu took Erdogan's insults about Israel without getting into a tit-for-tat confrontation, of late he has been less reluctant to answer the Turkish president in kind. After Erdogan led the chorus condemning the US for recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital in December, and criticizing how Israel handled Palestinian protests at the time, Netanyahu said: “I am not used to receiving lectures about morality from the leader who bombs Kurdish villagers in his native Turkey, who jails journalists, who helps Iran go around international sanctions and who helps terrorists, including in Gaza, kill innocent people. That is not the man who is going to lecture us.”
Netanyahu hits back at Turkey’s Erdogan over Gaza violence
AFP, Jerusalem Sunday, 1 April 2018/Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hit back at Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday over his sharp criticism of Israel after its soldiers killed 16 Palestinians when a major demonstration led to clashes. Erdogan has condemned Israel over its “inhumane attack” on the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, prompting Netanyahu’s response. “The most moral army in the world will not be lectured to on morality from someone who for years has been bombing civilians indiscriminately,” Netanyahu wrote on Twitter. He added, referring to April Fool’s Day: “Apparently this is how they mark April 1 in Ankara.”Netanyahu has previously labelled Erdogan as someone who “bombs Kurdish villagers.”Israel has defended its soldiers’ actions on Friday, when troops opened fire on Palestinians who strayed from a main protest camp attended by tens of thousands and approached the heavily fortified fence cutting off the Gaza Strip. The Israeli military says it opened fire only when necessary against those throwing stones and firebombs or rolling tyres at soldiers. It said there were attempts to damage the fence and infiltrate Israel, while alleging there was also an attempted gun attack against soldiers along the border. No casualties were reported among Israelis. Palestinians accused Israel of using disproportionate force, saying its soldiers opened fire on protesters who did not pose a threat, while human rights groups questioned Israel’s use of live fire. Both UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini have called for an independent investigation. Israel has rejected calls for an independent probe.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Says Empowering Iran doesn’t Serve Assad
Seattle, Washington -Asharq Al-Awsat/April 01/18/Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said Assad’s interest lies in not permitting Iranians to do whatever they wish to do. Prince Mohammed said in an interview with US "Time" magazine: “We believe that US forces must stay in Syria for the medium term at least.” The crown prince explained that “US presence in Syria is the only way to limit Iranian influence in the region.” The Saudi crown prince said that having US troops in Syria would allow Washington to have a say in the future of the war-torn country. In the interview, the prince warned that Iran and its militia in the region are working to open an Iranian land route that links Tehran to the Mediterranean through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.Further, he visited Boeing’s Everett jet assembly plant Friday and announced a military deal with the jetmaker. Bin Salman also met with Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation co-founder Bill Gates at his home in Seattle on Friday. Saudi Crown Prince earlier also met with Amazon’s founder and CEO Jeff Bezos and Satya Nadella, chief executive officer of Microsoft.

Plane Carrying Russian Diplomats Expelled from U.S. Lands in Moscow
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 01/18/The first plane carrying Russian diplomats expelled from the United States over the poisoning of a former spy arrived at Moscow's Vnukovo airport on Sunday. The Il-96 jet brought home 46 Russian diplomats and their family members, the state TASS news agency said. Russian television showed passengers disembarking from the plane while several buses waited to pick them up. A second plane was expected to arrive in the Russian capital later Sunday. In total, 171 people -- diplomats and their families -- were scheduled to leave the U.S. Washington joined a score of Britain's allies in expelling Russian diplomats in response to a nerve agent attack against a former double agent, with more than 150 ordered out of the U.S., EU members, NATO countries and other nations. The U.S. announced it would send home 60 diplomats -- which it alleges are "spies" -- posted around the country and at the Russian mission to the United Nations, as well as closing Russia's consulate in Seattle. Moscow responded by expelling 60 U.S. diplomats and closing Washington's consulate in Saint Petersburg. The tit-for-tat measures came in retaliation to the coordinated expulsion of Russian diplomats by Britain and its allies over the nerve agent attack against former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English city of Salisbury on March 4. It is the biggest wave of diplomatic expulsions between Russia and the West in recent memory.

Final’ evacuation deal reached for Ghouta’s Douma
AFP, Beirut Sunday, 1 April 2018/A “final” deal has been reached to evacuate rebels and civilians from Douma, the last opposition holdout in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta, a monitor said Sunday. The deal, brokered by regime ally Russia, provides for Jaish al-Islam fighters and their families, as well as civilians, to be evacuated to rebel-held areas in the northern province of Aleppo, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. It will also see Russian military police enter the town and government institutions return to the area, the Britain-based monitor said. Pro-regime newspaper al-Watan quoted “diplomatic sources” as saying a deal had been reached with the Jaish al-Islam rebel group that would see fighters put down heavy weapons and leave Douma for north Syria. The Douma deal comes after two similar ones for two other pockets of Eastern Ghouta that have seen 45,000 people in total ferried on buses to the northwestern province of Idlib. In another deal for Douma, evacuations were underway on Sunday for civilians -- including the sick or wounded, or family members of the Faylaq al-Rahman rebel group -- to head towards Idlib, the Observatory said. State television said a “number of terrorists from Faylaq al-Rahman” had started to leave Douma on Sunday, using its usual term for rebels. The Observatory insisted the deal was for family members of the rebel group only. The regime has retaken 95 percent of Eastern Ghouta since it started a devastating air and ground assault on the last opposition bastion outside Damascus on February 18. As of late Saturday, the main town of Douma was the only rebel holdout left of the former bastion.
'Tri-Arrangements' for the Syrian North
London - Ibrahim Hamadi/Asharq Al-Awsat/April 01/18/Moscow insisted on the five-day period for Jaysh al-Islam to take a decisive position in Duma, north Ghouta, to achieve an infringement before the Iranian-Turkish-Russian summit next Wednesday. In this way, the summit would be dedicated to settle the distribution maps in the north of Syria, and to test the presence of US existence and the international coalition in Manbij and west of Euphrates in addition to settling the tri-summit to move from the military actions to the political settlement in Syria. Opposers and their families continue to be evacuated from the center and south of Ghouta. The displacement of civilians towards Damascus also continues with a total number of 200,000 including 150,000 civilians. On the other side, Jaysh al-Islam rejected to withdraw their arms, saying that the experience of the displaced in Ghouta has reinforced the leadership's standpoint represented in the rejection to withdraw the weaponry.  Jaysh al-Islam requested 10-day period with the continuity of cease-fire, however the Russian party insisted on five days only so that the issue of Ghouta would be tackled before the summit of the presidents. The issue of the south is postponed due to the Russian-US-Jordanian arrangements.

Egypt’s FM: Qatar’s counterterrorism policies inconsistent with Arab consensus
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Sunday, 1 April 2018/Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Sunday that Qatar’s counterterrorism policies are inconsistent with Arab nations’ consensus. In a press conference held with his Jordanian counterpart, Ayman Safadi, Shoukry said that they discussed the unfortunate developments in Gaza, saying “we are defending the Palestinian’s to receive their full legal rights.”“The International Human Rights Council should revise its policies towards the Palestinian people,” he said. Safadi also called for the international community to protect Palestinian rights. “We reject the violence that Palestinians are being subjected to, and we look forward to an important meeting on the matter by the Arab League in Saudi Arabia soon,” he said. The Jordanian minister added that a two-state solution is the only option to fix the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying that Jordan rejects the announcement of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. He added that Jordan supports Egypt’s efforts in fighting terrorism in Sinai. Safadi also said that Amman will continue to take responsibility for thousands of Syrians who are displaced in Jordan, pointing out that Jordan has reached its maximum capacity to host anymore migrants.

Egypt says six militants, two soldiers killed in Sinai operation
AFP, Cairo Sunday, 1 April 2018/Six militants and two Egyptian soldiers were killed last week during a sweeping operation against ISIS militants in the Sinai Peninsula, the army said on Sunday. The army launched the campaign on February 9 after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who this week won a second term, gave it a three-month deadline to crush ISIS in the Sinai. Army spokesman Tamer Rifai in a statement said the six jihadists were killed in an exchange of fire in the north of the Sinai, as the army launched a raid against a "very dangerous terrorist cell". An officer and a soldier were also killed last week and two other troops wounded, he said. During the same period the army arrested more than 500 "wanted criminals" and prevented 169 people of various nationalities from infiltrating across the western border with Libya, the military said. Since the campaign was launched, more than 100 militants and at least 22 soldiers have been killed, according to official figures. Sisi won a second term with 96.9 percent of valid votes during this week's presidential election, in which he faced only one candidate, state media reported on Friday. The National Election Authority is scheduled to announce the full official result on Monday. In November Sisi, a former army chief, issued an ultimatum to the army to crush the militants after suspected ISIS gunmen massacred more than 300 worshippers at a Sinai mosque associated with Sufi Muslim mystics.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 01-02/18
Syria: Americans Withdraw, Iranians Stay
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Asharq Al-Awsat/April 01/18/
Apart from defeating Daesh, the presence of American troops has had no critical role in the Syrian war. However, their withdrawal would make it easier for the Iranian regime to complete ‘the final chapter’ of its full takeover of Syria, and control over Iraq and Lebanon. In a speech in Ohio on Thursday, US President Donald Trump surprised his audience when he said: “We will pull out our forces from Syria,” and “We will leave if we eliminate the remaining Daesh enclaves.” Meanwhile, in his own assessment of the situation in Syria, the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said that if Bashar Assad were to remain as president he should not be under the control of the Iranians, but has to get rid of them. The American presence blocks the establishment of a direct route from Iran to Lebanon, through Iraq and Syria, the crown prince said.
The situation in Syria today looks like a torn dress. Russia has bases in the areas under the regime’s influence. The US has limited its presence in Syria to fighting Daesh, without interfering in the war between Syrians themselves. Israel is concerned that Iran and its militias might threaten its security.
Turkey is also interested in chasing the Kurds in Syria far from its borders. And despite the losses of the Free Syrian Army, some of its factions remain established in their regions, disappointing a lot of people who had declared its death. As for terrorist organizations such as Jabhat Fatah Al-Sham, i.e. the former Al-Qaeda-related Al-Nusra Front, they have been defeated and distracted but not completely eradicated.
Thus, Assad remains established, relying on two powers: Iranian ground forces and the Russian air force. It is hard for most people with a conscience in the Arab world to accept that Bashar Assad should remain in power after all he has done. Crown Prince Mohammed, however, talked about the situation as it really is to Time magazine; Assad’s presence is a reality, he said, but he called on him not to be a façade for Iran and its militias. Here two essential questions come to mind. Is Assad truly capable of ridding Syria of the Iranians? And if he were to do so, would he be able to survive without their aid? In order to control Syria, Iran has lost thousands of its fighters and its militias’ fighters, and wasted billions of dollars. If Qassem Soleimani and his Iranian forces and militias were pulled out of Syria, that would reduce their influence in Lebanon and Iraq too.
Withdrawing from Syria would have repercussions on Iranian life, as the Tehran regime has been, for four years, justifying its war there as a necessary measure to protect the regime itself; indeed, that it was a matter of survival. That might not be untrue, especially, amid the recurring popular uprisings in the streets of Iran’s main cities. The second test for Assad is; if he ordered Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and its Lebanese, Iraqi, Afghan and other militias to leave Syria, and hid behind the UN and the major powers to implement such an order, could the Syrian regime survive without them?
I doubt that; the majority of those who fought the armed opposition in Eastern Ghouta, in greater Damascus, were either from Iran and/or Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iraq, with Russia handling the air attacks.
Hence, if Assad’s forces were incapable on their own of managing and executing a battle raging in the capital’s outskirts, how would they manage and protect a big state such as Syria, which has inherited hostilities and vengeance from the war of the past seven years? Let us not forget that the majority of the other security and armed forces of the regime have been decimated in the war by internal divisions, human losses, and the escape abroad of many draft-age men. Even if Assad wanted to turn a new page and everyone agreed to stop the bloodshed, no one would believe any promise of the withdrawal of Tehran’s forces. They would stall for ever, especially now that they have dug themselves trenches and bases, showing their intention to stay in Syria. For starters, the situation might require an international solution that officially regards the Iranian forces in Syria as an “occupation force,” and orders them out.

Contradictions, abandonment and reversal: what Trump's Syria 'withdrawal' tells us about the future of US foreign policy
Raghida Dergham/The National/April 01/18
Either some kind of schizophrenia has made inroads into Donald Trump’s character or the man behind "the art of the deal" is combining pragmatism with improvisation in his foreign policy vision. Or, perhaps, Mr Trump believes he is smarter than any member of his administration and does not need to consult anyone before he proclaims a completely different policy line from one he has previously espoused.
Perhaps Mr Trump is prematurely revealing the features of a new US policy in order to take some credit for what is to come. A few weeks ago, Mr Trump announced, without warning, his willingness to meet North Korea after months of mocking Kim Jong-un. This may have encouraged him to pursue these shock tactics in foreign policy. Two days ago, Mr Trump declared that the US would withdraw from Syria “very soon”, to the surprise of all those who have followed US policy declarations. So was Mr Trump’s shock announcement a gaffe or have geopolitical developments and realpolitik now brought about a new strategy in the region?
Mr Trump made his Syria announcement while addressing workers in Ohio. The context of his populist speech was lamenting Washington’s squandering of trillions of dollars on wars in the Middle East, in the wake of the visit by the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose priority was Yemen.
In Yemen, the US can put Iran on the defensive. Furthermore, defending the flow of oil from the Gulf, a permanent American red line, can justify US military intervention. The Houthi missile strikes on Saudi Arabia could trigger an American push to alter the current stalemate. Mr Trump can use the oil argument to convince his base of the need to head-off Iran’s scheming in Yemen. Mr Trump is also leading a revival of the strategic relationship with Saudi Arabia, and has felt during Prince Mohammed’s visit the clarity of the Yemeni priority for Saudi national security.
The pushback against Iran will not be confined to Yemen. The US focus following the putative move away from Syria will be on Iraq, where the modified political behaviour of the leaders in Baghdad has been received well in Washington. According to the new thinking in the US, heading-off the Iranian crescent should cover both Syria and Iraq.
But how could the policy of the Trump administration have evolved from seeing Syria as the main arena for containing Iran’s expansion to apparently entrusting Russia with the responsibility for curbing Iran?
“Look for Steve Bannon,” says an informed observer familiar with the thinking of Trump administration officials. Bannon was let go because of the revelations in Fire and Fury, but his isolationist instincts still influence Mr Trump. What happened, according to the source, is the triumph of Bannon’s strategy sans Bannon.
Since Mr Trump took office, the administration has stumbled between two conflicting visions, and many White House staff have been victim of the dissonance. Bannon’s vision had identified three key challenges: China, Iran and Turkey. In this vision, Russia is not a challenge but a side show, as the source put it, with Vladimir Putin seen as someone the US can do business with. “What we see now is the translation of Bannon’s vision ... Fire and Fury destroyed Bannon but not his vision,” said the observer.
The White House faction espousing this believes a deal with the Russians is possible, especially with regard to containing the short-term challenges represented by Iran and Turkey. Therefore, the diplomatic violence with Russia – with the expulsion of diplomats – must not be seen in isolation from gestures such as Mr Trump congratulating Mr Putin for his election victory. Indeed, this is not random, but reflects Mr Bannon’s strategy and the orientations of the new national security and state department appointees, John Bolton and Mike Pompeo.
Sources close to the outgoing national security adviser, H R McMaster, said he had been replaced for two main reasons: first, Mr Bolton is a tough civilian, the sources say, who understands very well the intersection of politics and the military game. Second, it was Gen McMaster who had persuaded Trump to focus on Syria. He belonged to the team that wanted a deeper US involvement in Syria to challenge Iran and contain Russia. Those were the people who were replaced, because the other faction prevailed, as Mr Trump’s announcement proves.
Mr Trump linked the announcement to defeating ISIL and this could well be a declaration of the end of the US war against the group in Syria. Iraq is a more important theatre for the Americans when it comes to preventing ISIL from regrouping, while Syria can be handled by other powers.
On the surface, this appears to be an American reversal in Syria and a serious blow to US policy, already notorious for its contradictions and abandonment of allies. Not long ago, the Trump administration and the US top brass had laid down the roadmap for Syria, yet now Mr Trump has completely upended it.
Some commentators insist the pushback against Iran remains at the heart of US strategy. The goal now may be to challenge Iran in Yemen and Iraq, in parallel with economic measures and withdrawal from the nuclear deal. Mr Trump chooses his battles, one source in Washington said that “regime change in Iran is one of his priorities.”
The equation with Russia, according to the source, is this: “We will leave Bashar Al Assad to you in return for not standing in our way with Iran.” However, this equation does not mean that the US will leave the arena completely open to Iran and Hezbollah in Syria. Rather, the US will want to increase the cost of the intervention there by stepping up the war of attrition against them in Syria and beyond.

Iraq's Christians: Eighty Percent Have "Disappeared"
ثمانون بالمئة من مسيحيي العراق لم يعد لم وجود في بلدهم

Giulio Meotti/Gatestone Institute/April 01/18
Tragically, Christians living in lands formerly under the control of the "Caliphate" have been betrayed by many in the West. Governments ignored their tragic fate. Bishops were often too aloof to denounce their persecution. The media acted as if they considered these Christians to be agents of colonialism who deserved to be purged from the Middle East. And the so-called "human rights" organizations abandoned them.
The West was not willing to give sanctuary to these Christians when ISIS murdered 1,131 of them and destroyed or damaged 125 of their churches.
We must now help Christians rebuild in the lands where their people were martyred.
Persecution of Christians is worse today "than at any time in history", a recent report by the organization Aid to the Church in Need revealed. Iraq happens to be "ground zero" for the "elimination" of Christians from the pages of history.
Iraqi Christian clergymen recently wore a black sign as a symbol of national mourning for the last victims of the anti-Christian violence: a young worker and a whole family of three. "This means that there is no place for Christians," said Father Biyos Qasha of the Church of Maryos in Baghdad. "We are seen as a lamb to be killed at any time".
A few days earlier, Shiite militiamen discovered a mass grave with the bodies of 40 Christians near Mosul, the former stronghold of the Islamic State and the capital of Iraqi Christianity. The bodies, including those of women and children, seemed to belong to Christians kidnapped and killed by ISIS. Many had crosses with them in the mass grave. Not a single article in the Western mainstream media wrote about this ethnic cleansing.
French Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia made an urgent plea to Europe and the West to defend non-Muslims in the Middle East, whom he likened to Holocaust victims. "As our parents wore the yellow star, Christians are made to wear the scarlet letter of nun" Korsia said. The Hebrew letter "nun" is the same sound as the beginning of Nazareen, an Arabic term signifying people from Nazareth, or Christians, and used by the Islamic State to mark the Christian houses in Mosul.
Now a new report by the Iraqi Human Rights Society also just revealed that Iraqi minorities, such as Christians, Yazidis and Shabaks, are now victims of a "slow genocide", which is shattering those ancient communities to the point of their disappearance. The numbers are significant.
According to the report, 81% of Iraq's Christians have disappeared from Iraq. The remaining number of Sabeans, an ancient community devoted to St. John the Baptist, is even smaller: 94% have disappeared from Iraq. Even 18% of Yazidis have left the country or been killed. Another human rights organization, Hammurabi, said that Baghdad had 600,000 Christians in the recent past; today there are only 150,000.
These numbers may be the reason Charles de Meyer, president of SOS Chrétiens d'Orient, has just spoken of the "extinction of Christians". Father Salar Kajo of the Churches' Nineveh Reconstruction Committee just spoke of the real possibility that "Christianity will disappear from Iraq".
Many ancient Christian churches and sites have been destroyed by Islamic extremists, such as Saint George Church in Mosul; the Virgin Mary Chaldean Church, attacked by car bomb, and the burned Armenian Church in Mosul. Hundreds of Christian homes have been razed in Mosul, where jihadists also toppled bell towers and crosses. The Iraqi clergy recently warned, "The churches are in danger".
A fighter from the Nineveh Plain Protection Units (NPU) walks through a destroyed church on November 8, 2016 in Qaraqosh, Iraq. The NPU is a militia made up of Assyrian Christians that was formed in late 2014 to defend against ISIS. Qaraqosh is a mostly Assyrian city near of Mosul that was captured by ISIS in August 2014, and liberated in November 2016. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Tragically, Christians living in lands formerly under the control of the "Caliphate" have been betrayed by many actors in the West. Governments ignored their tragic fate. Bishops were often too aloof to denounce their persecution. The media acted as if they considered these Christians to be agents of colonialism who deserved to be purged from the Middle East. And the so-called "human rights" organizations abandoned them.
European public opinion, supposedly always ready to rally against the discrimination of minorities, did not say a word about what Ayaan Hirsi Ali called "a war against Christians".
Some communities, such as the small Christian enclaves of Mosul, are now lost forever. Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II said there is a "real danger" Christianity could just become a "museum" in the Middle East. He noted that Iraq has lost 80-90% of its Christian population.
A few Christian villages have begun a slow and painful process of reconstruction with funds donated mainly by international relief organizations such as the US Knights of Columbus and Aid to the Church in Need. US Vice President Mike Pence recently promised to help these Christians. Action now must follow words. Christians who escaped and survived ISIS cannot depend today only on aid from churches and private groups.
Among European governments, only Hungary took a principled position and openly committed itself to save Iraqi Christianity from genocide. Recently, the Hungarian government opened a school for displaced Christians in Erbil; Hungary's Minister of Human Resources, Zoltan Balog, attended the event.
Imagine if all the other European countries, such as France and Germany, had done the same. The suffering of Christians in Iraq would today be much less and their numbers much higher.
The West was not willing to give sanctuary to these Christians when ISIS murdered 1,131 of them and destroyed or damaged 125 of their churches. We must now stand by their side before it is too late. After the mass displacements and the mass graves, we must help Christians rebuild in the lands where their people were martyred. Otherwise, even the smallest hope of hearing the sound of Christian church bells in the ancient lands of the Bible will be forever lost.
**Giulio Meotti, Cultural Editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author.
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Trump and the Fading Ghost of an Illusion
Amir Taheri/Gatestone Institute/April 01/18
The central assumption of Iranian strategists is that the US cannot sustain a long war. It is, therefore, necessary to pin down its forces and raise the kill-die ratio to levels unacceptable by the American public.
Iran did not seize the US diplomats as hostages with nuclear weapons; nor did it massacre 241 US Marines in Beirut with an atomic bomb. The mischief that Iran is making in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and Bahrain is not backed by nuclear power either.
Does the appointment of John Bolton as National Security Adviser indicate President Trump's determination to formally renounce the so-called "nuclear deal" concocted by his predecessor Barack Obama?
The common answer of the commentariat is a resounding yes. Long before Trump promised to tear-up the deal, Bolton was on record denouncing it as an ugly example of appeasement.
Thus, next May, when the "deal" comes up for its periodical renewal, President Trump's idea of "tearing up a bad deal" is likely to have broader support in his administration. And that seems to be exactly what Tehran is expecting.
In fact, just days after Bolton's appointment, the spokesman for Iran's Atomic Energy Agency, Behruz Kamalvand, broke a year of silence to boast about ambitious new plans for speeding up and expanding the Islamic Republic's nuclear project.
The buzz in Tehran is that the ruling establishment expects Trump to refuse to sign another waiver linked to the "deal" and, perhaps order a tightening of the existing sanctions. However, Tehran seems determined to continue its formal commitment to the "deal" as part of a strategy to drive a wedge between the Europeans and a Trump administration already unpopular in the old continent.
Tehran's calculation is that the mid-term elections in the US may deprive Trump of crucial Congressional support and pave the way for his defeat in the following presidential election. Thus the wisest course is to keep everyone focused on the nuclear issue that the Europeans, and part of the political establishment in the US, believe they have solved thanks to the "deal," while the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) continues its 20-year long equivocation on the issue.
Only Iran really knows its own intentions on that score.
Iran is right in saying that it is not producing nuclear weapons. What Iran is doing is to set up all the technical, industrial and material means needed to produce such weapons, if and when it decides to do so.
While not producing nuclear weapons now, Iran has a program designed to make such weapons within months. It is like a chef who brings in all that is needed for making a soup but does not actually start the cooking until he knows when the guests will be coming.
While Iran sets up all the technical, industrial and material means needed to produce nuclear weapons, it seems determined to continue its formal commitment to the "nuclear deal" as part of a strategy to drive a wedge between the Europeans and the Trump administration. Pictured: Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and European Union foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini smile during a 2015 photo-op.
In the past three decades Iran has trained and deployed the scientists and technicians needed, built the research centers required, and set up structures for a complete nuclear cycle, from raw materials to the finished product.
Part of the Iranian national defense doctrine is based on the capacity to produce and deploy nuclear weapons within a brief time span.
Before the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran regarded its northern neighbor, the nuclear "super-power" Soviet Union, as the sole serious threat to its national security. The assumption was that in case of a Soviet invasion, Iran should be in a position to use tactical nuclear weapons while waiting for the great American ally to ride to the rescue.
After the mullahs seized power, Iran's national defense doctrine was based on the assumption that it will, one day, fight a war with the United States plus its Arab allies and/or Israel.
The central assumption of Iranian strategists is that the US cannot sustain a long war. It is, therefore, necessary to pin down its forces and raise the kill-die ratio to levels unacceptable by the American public.
In the meantime, Iran would put its nuclear-weapons program in high gear, and brandish the threat of nuclear war as a means of forcing the US to accept a ceasefire and withdraw from whatever chunk of Iranian territory they may have seized.
Former President Hashemi Rafsanjani publicly evoked the possibility of using nuclear weapons against Washington's regional allies, especially Israel.
"In a nuclear duel in the region, Israel may kill 100 million Muslims," Rafsanjani said in a speech in Tehran in October 2000. "Muslims can sustain such casualties, knowing that, in exchange, there would be no Israel on the map." Iran's top military commanders also speak about a military clash with the United States as the only serious threat to the Khomeinist regime in Tehran.
They believe they have three trump cards to play.
The first is that Iran has a demographic reserve of some 20 million people of "fighting age" and is thus capable of sustaining levels of casualties unthinkable for Americans. The second is that Iran is already the missile superpower of the Middle East and could target all of Washington's allies in the region.
Iran's third trump card is its nuclear program. Without it, the other two cards will not have the desired effect, especially if the US unleashes its new generation of low-grade nuclear weapons designed for battlefield use.
The real issue, as far as US and its allies are concerned, is that the regime in Iran has been, is and most likely will remain, a threat with or without nuclear weapons.
Iran did not seize the US diplomats as hostages with nuclear weapons; nor did it massacre 241 US Marines in Beirut with an atomic bomb. The mischief that Iran is making in Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and Bahrain is not backed by nuclear power either.
So the real question is: How to deal with a maverick power that has built its strategy on fomenting discord and instability not only in the Middle East but anywhere else it gets a chance?
Washington hawks, among them Bolton perhaps, believe that the only realistic policy towards Iran is one of regime change before the Khomeinists build their nuclear arsenal. They believe that could be achieved with a mixture of military and diplomatic pressure, combined with moral and material support for a pro-democracy movement in Iran.
The Europeans, however, fear that any attempt even at soft regime-change may push the Khomeinists on the offensive in Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf, Iraq, the Caucasus, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories.
Could a realistic policy be developed through a sober assessment of both positions? If yes, that would requires far more sophistication than the "to waiver or not to waiver" debate over what is; in fact; the fading ghost of an accord wrought from dangerous illusions.
Amir Taheri, formerly editor of Iran's premier newspaper, Kayhan, before the Iranian revolution of 1979, is a prominent author based on Europe. He is the Chairman of Gatestone Europe.
**This article first appeared in Asharq Al Awsat and is reprinted here with the kind permission of the author.
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The UN Security Council veto must be abolished
Dr. Azeem Ibrahim/Al Arabiya/April 01/18
The limits of the United Nations have been exposed again recently as the organisation has failed to take any effective measures in response to the crises in Syria and Myanmar. In both cases, a member of the Permanent Security Council has used their veto to ensure that the entire international system is held hostage: Russia has vetoed any initiative concerning Syria, while China has been consistently opposing measures against the authorities in Myanmar.
The fundamental problem is that in the current geopolitical climate where talk of a new ‘Cold War’ is increasingly justified, just about any global crisis is taking on a geopolitical dimension, where at least some members of the Permanent Security Council take every given opportunity to play out their respective global rivalries.
America’s veto means nothing will ever be done about Israel and the Occupied Territories, Russia’s veto means that Putin can throw his weight around as much as he wants in the former Soviet sphere of influence, while China’s veto means that Beijing’s Silk Road commercial interests will always take precedence over any humanitarian concerns all across in Asia.
At the very least, the system needs to be reformed such that measures on mass atrocities or genocide, like those concerning the Rohingya of Myanmar, or the ongoing civil war in Syria, would require two Permanent Members to jointly issue a veto. Though it is likely that even such modest reform would be opposed by all the major players.
As things stand, however, there is simply no way of getting around the fact that the UN has long since stopped being representative of the world we live in and its geopolitical realities. The entire continents of Africa and South America are not represented. The UK, France and Russia have their seats and their vetoes, but India, Brazil or Germany do not. There is no logic other than the historical for the current setup of the UN. But history has moved on.
Our collective failure to tackle existential crises
The consequence of this is that the UN is simply incapable of representing the international community as a collection of states with a joint stake in the governance of the world, and in global peace and security. And this institutional lack is a contributing factor to the growing instability we see everywhere around the globe, and our collective failure to tackle existential crises such as climate change, global migrations, and the proliferation of failed or failing states.
Everything we need to do to meet the global challenges of this century will require a great deal of consensus. But nothing will get done if every last decision requires absolute consensus amongst global and regional powers with entrenched rivalries and historical axes to grind.
If international collective action is to become possible again so that we may try to address these ever more acute challenges, a new institutional order will be required. And that new institutional order will neither happen, nor would be effective if it did, so long as the powers that be insist on Permanent Memberships and Vetoes.
Everything we need to do to meet the global challenges of this century will require a great deal of consensus. But nothing will get done if every last decision requires absolute consensus amongst global and regional powers with entrenched rivalries and historical axes to grind.
Perhaps suggesting the rebuilding of the global institutional order in the age of Trump and Putin seems naive, even misguided. How would such an initiative even get off the ground when the erstwhile pillars of the global order have so thoroughly abandoned the idea of a rule-based world?
But China, the world’s fast-rising power, does recognise the value of an international rule system. And it has positioned itself as a defender of the international order. This is promising. What is more, there are benefits for both Putin and Trump’s America to accepting international institutional constraints on their power-plays. Doing so would lower risks of direct confrontation and possible nuclear escalations, it would make the strategic calculations of each side far more predictable, and would most likely lower the costs of play at the geo-strategic poker table.
There are reasons why the big players might consider moving in this direction. And the need is very pressing indeed, as the global situation becomes more and more acute. Whether the current crop of world leaders have the foresight to do so, or whether we will be lucky enough that circumstance will force them into doing what needs to be done, remains to be seen. But the direction in which we need to be going is quite clear: Security Council Permanent Memberships and Vetoes must go.

Changing security landscape in the Middle East

Bayram Aliyev/Al Arabiya/April 01/18
“War is the continuation of politics with other means.” (Carl von Clausewitz)
The radical transformation illusion in international politics with the end of Cold War in the West seems to be wrong and replacing again more realistic perception of World Politics, currently. States are still dominant actors in international politics and attempt to gain more relative power in order to maintain their security. The only real fact is that power distribution in World politics changed with the collapse of Soviet Union, but the same structure of global politics have still been functioning with a few changes. That’s why great power behaviors in 21st century will continue to happen as they did before. As Mearsheimer argues, the real World remains a realist World in new era.
To analyze the developments in Middle East, power relations between states is important and it is also important to focus on issues beyond political and religious ideologies. Indeed, there is a power competition in the region over using ideologies as a tool. For example, Iran uses Shiism as an ideology to consolidate its power in the region as well as in Syria by involving Shiites from the countries where there is Shiite community like in Pakistan and Afghanistan to Syrian war and organize militias such as Zeynebiyyun and Fatimiyyun that has been witnessed in Syria.
Current developments in global politics have impact on balances in the Middle East region. The last two developments in global politics-President Trump's new choices for his National Security Advisor and State Secretary and Putin's re-election as a President in Russia-will continue to influence the ongoing civil war in Syria and other regional issues in the Middle East. Explicitly, Mike Pompeo and John Bolton are in favor of hawkish foreign policy and see Iran the number one threat among others for the US and regional security. Namely, one of the prior goals of these decision-makers seems to be restricting Iran’s influence in the region, which had been expanded during Obama period. Secondly, these figures also approach current Turkish government with doubts as we can understand from their statements in the past. It is expected that Turkey will be forced to make clear its geostrategic goals and its relations with allies and states which are perceived as threat in the Western hemisphere.
Political and security goals
On the other hand, recent incident that England and other western states accuse Russia of the killing of former agent and their removal of Russian diplomats from Western capitals has minimized the possibility of reconciliation between Russia and the West in the Middle East as well. This means that Russia will continue to back up the Assad regime in Syria and to strengthen its strategic alliance with Iran. In this balance, Turkey’s place also will be important and will define the next steps of Turkish decision-makers in the region, more specifically in Syria.
Turkey’s military operations in Syria conducted against the Kurdish forces in the border region between Turkey and Syria, can be considered as a factor to restructure regional balances. Turkey has long been showing differences in its strategies on certain issues from its Western allies. This disagreement has made Turkey to be forced to put into effect its own unique strategy. However, this does not mean that foreign policy axis of Turkey is in shift in favor of Russia and Asian Powers. As it is known there are deep political disagreements between Turkey and Russia on regional issues, although there are some tactical compromises between these powers.
Only two years ago, there were debates in Russia to support Kurdish forces both in Turkey which are PKK terrorist organization and PYD in order to weaken the position of Turkey. That’s why both sides- Turkey and Russia- are well aware of differences of their political and security goals. Furthermore, PYD which is defined as a terrorist organization is supported and trained by the US forces. Although, the US declared that this support is only for defeating of ISIS, but PYD’s increasing power near Turkey has security challenge for Turkey. If Turkey and the US cannot find common language, it seems likely that Turkey and the US led Western coalition will move away further that will alter regional balances completely.