April 03/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


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Bible Quotations
God Grants Mercy For  that those Grant Others Mercy
Matthew 18/23-35/"‘For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, "Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything." And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow-slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, "Pay what you owe." Then his fellow-slave fell down and pleaded with him, "Have patience with me, and I will pay you."But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow-slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, "You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow-slave, as I had mercy on you?"And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he should pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’"

Wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness
Letter to the Romans 01/18-25/"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; for though they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools; and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 02-03/18
Judases Of the Cedar’s Revolution & the 14th Of March Coalition/Elias Bejjani/02 April/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
The battle of Zahle and of Uyun el Simane/Dr.Walid Phares/Face Book/April 02/18
What on Earth are today's politicians talking about/Dr.Walid Phares/Face Book/April 02/18
The Mohammed bin Salman vision is strategic/Walid Phares/Al Arabiya/April 02/18
How Mohammed bin Salman unites usually divided Iranians/Saeid Jafari/Al Monitor/April 02/18
Palestinians: A March to Destroy Israel/Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/April 02/18 Men Who Do Not Know the World/Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al Awsat/April 02/18
European sanctions against Iran are too little, too late/Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/April 02/18
Syria’s humanitarian catastrophe is far from over/Chris Doyle/Al Arabiya/April 02/18
How terrorism is threatening Islam in Europe/Randa Takieddine/Al Arabiya/April 02/18
The Fate of extremists: Too stubborn to recruit/Mansour Alnogaidan/Al Arabiya/April 02/18
Is there a single terrorist who was not an extremist/Mamdouh AlMuhaini/Al Arabiya/April 02/18
Houthi terrorism and Qatari piracy/Mohammed Al-Hammadi/Al Arabiya/April 02/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on April 02-02/18
Judases Of the Cedar’s Revolution & the 14th Of March Coalition
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
The battle of Zahle and of Uyun el Simane
What on Earth are today's politicians talking about?
Lebanese Interior Minister: Beirut’s Identity is Threatened by Iranian Agenda
Gunmen Fire Shots after Stopping Anti-Hizbullah Cleric Car
Murr Says to 'Benefit from Bassil's Siege' to Win Seats
Aridi: We're Not Biased in Favor of Resistance, We're at Its Heart
Jumblat Says Arabs, World Have Abandoned Palestinians
Hariri Says Mustaqbal Backs Berri's Reelection, Describes Ties as 'Excellent'
Rahi presides over Mass in appreciation of France
Sami Gemayel: Those in Power Must Know That They Cannot Evade Accountability
'Pulse of Metn' Candidates Make Change Pledges During Line-up Announcement
Beirut Airport in blue in support of Autistic patients
Jumblatt: Palestinians in Gaza are left alone amidst the siege
Hariri meets Lebanon's Ambassador to UAE, contacts Aoun, Rahi on Easter
Greek Deputy Foreign Minister visits Aoudeh: Through Christians' faith we can overcome difficulties
Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 02-03/18
One Year Ago: The Sarin Attack on Syria's Khan Sheikhun
Saudi Crown Prince: Iran deal benefits not going to the people
Ghouta Falls in Syrian Regime’s Clutches
Jaish al-Islam Rebels 'Begin Evacuating' from Syria's Douma
Iran, Russia, Turkey Team Up to Hold Sway in Syria
50 Years Later, Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream Remains Elusive
Palestine Insists on International Investigation over Land Day Victims
Arab League Delegation Visits Saudi Arabia to Plan Upcoming Summit
Bahrain: 21 Suspects Referred to High Criminal Court
Bahrain Announces Biggest Oil, Gas Discovery In Its History
Security Measures Tightened in Iran’s Ahwaz as Protests Continue
Debate Rages in Iran over Telegram App Ban
Turkey Seeks Arrest of Gulen over Russian Envoy's Killing
Israel Cancels Controversial Plan to Deport African Migrants
Trump Has Proposed White House Summit to Putin
18 Dead, 84 Injured in Boko Haram Attack in Nigeria

Latest Lebanese Related News published on April 02-03/18
Judases Of the Cedar’s Revolution & the 14th Of March Coalition
يوداصيو ثورة الأرز و14 آذار
Elias Bejjani/02 April/18
Sadly there are no politicians in Lebanon, but mere thugs, mercenaries and merchants. 99% of the so called Lebanese politicians, as well as the majority owners of the so called parties which are in reality commercial corporations ..have No dignity, No self respect, No patriotic background, No vision and no faith or hope.
They do not fear Almighty God or even take into consideration His Judgment Day.
These thugs are 100% totally accountable for all the hardships that Lebanon and the Lebanese have been encountering since 2005..
The worst among these thugs are those who falsely allege to be patriotic and hide behind the Cedar’s Revolution national tags.
the same revolution that they betrayed, abandoned and sold to Hezbollah, Iran and the Syrian butcher. Definitely, we do not have actual politicians in Lebanon at the present time.
To Make Our Easter’s Commemoration Godly & Righteous
Elias Bejjani/01 April/18
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.
يبقى احتفالنا بذكرى قيامة المسيح دون معنى إيماني ما لم نتواضع ونتصالح مع الذين نعاديهم أو يعادننا حيث لا قيامة دون محبة وغفران
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.
The battle of Zahle and of Uyun el Simane
Dr.Walid Phares/Face Book/April 02/18
April 2, 1981: It reminds me of a day when I was attending a class at Saint Joseph University (USJ), and suddenly a massive shelling of Beirut and the suburbs began. Ahrafieh was systematically targeted, and blasts erupted around Rue Huvelin. Students were caught off guard and we had to take shelter in the library. Because of the intensity of the bombardments, some of us went one floor down below the library and there I discovered archived books and documents, including about the history of the Middle East. I was fascinated by what I was reading especially from WWI and the early 1860s, that I almost forgot what was happening outside. Few hours later, it calmed down and we were able to rush out. Upon my arrival at home, few blocks away, I learned that the Syrian army was surrounding Zahle and shelling it. Early afternoon I heard Bashir Gemayel on the radio: "After April 2 won't be like before April 2." From that day on, the balance of power started to change. The battle of Zahle and of Uyun el Simane was one of the most dramatic confrontations in the entire war. Small groups of "Lebanese resistance" were able to stop a Syrian large expeditionary army backed by Soviet technology and logistics. It ended with a negotiated agreement, but the capital of the Bekaa, and its 250,000 inhabitants were taken away from the Assad regime. It was after then that Washington started to view Bashir and the "resistance" as a viable potential partner.
(From memoirs)
What on Earth are today's politicians talking about?
Dr.Walid Phares/Face Book/April 02/18
If what politicians in Lebanon are saying today would have been said in the 1980s, before the full Syrian invasion, people in the 1980s would have needed a translation: What on Earth are today's politicians talking about?
Lebanese Interior Minister: Beirut’s Identity is Threatened by Iranian Agenda
Beirut - Asharq Al-Awsat/April 02/18/Lebanese Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq warned on Sunday that the identity of Beirut was being threatened by the Iranian agenda. This is the first time since 1943 that its Arabism is coming under danger, he said before a delegation of Beirut families. He stressed that the policy of disassociation from regional crises that has been adopted by Prime Minister Saad Hariri sine 2010 has achieved stability and security for the whole of Lebanon, especially Beirut. Hariri has taken the decision that Lebanon will remain safe, he stated. “We stand by him and with him in this decision,” Mashnouq added. “We have made a lot of progress with the Arab countries that have boycotted Lebanon and their nationals will resume visiting us,” he continued.

Gunmen Fire Shots after Stopping Anti-Hizbullah Cleric Car
Anti-Hizbullah Shiite cleric Sheikh Abbas al-Jawhari said Monday that gunmen fired shots between his driver's legs after intercepting a car belonging to him in Baalbek. “They forced him to get out of the car and fired between his legs. Once they knew that I was not present they fired in the air and fled towards Baalbek,” al-Jawhari, who has withdrawn from the electoral race in Baalbek, told al-Jadeed TV. “The message I want to send to officials is that this intimidation will turn into suspicious acts and I hold (Hizbullah chief) Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and his inciteful rhetoric responsible for what happened,” al-Jawhari added. MTV said the shooting occurred “near the Imam Ali Mosque in Baalbek, where Hizbullah has a security zone.”“Two bearded men stepped out of a Mercedes car and fired near his legs before cursing Sheikh al-Jawhar and fleeing towards Baalbek's market,” MTV added. The cleric was detained for around 24 hours in March on an outstanding arrest warrant. General Security said Jawhari was apprehended after arriving at its headquarters to carry out a transaction related to a domestic worker. “It turned out that there is an outstanding arrest warrant against him... over a drug-related offense,” the security agency said at the time. According to Jawhari's press office, the case dates back to around five years ago. “Around five years ago, a brother of incumbent MP Hussein al-Moussawi rented an apartment in Baalbek for eighth months... Sheikh Abbas al-Jawhari had rented the same apartment before Mr. Moussawi,” the press office said in March. “After Mr. Moussawi's departure from the rental apartment, a quantity of Captagon was seized in it and both Mr. Moussawi and Sheikh Abbas al-Jawhari were subjected to an investigation. It turned out later that it was a malicious ploy by Hizbullah to frame Sheikh Abbas al-Jawhari and target him over his opposition to Hizbullah's fighting in Syria,” the office added. “Sheikh al-Jawhari issued later a statement confirming his innocence and the fabricated ploy,” the office said. It added that the cleric was arrested on March 22 “under the alibi of the same file.”

Murr Says to 'Benefit from Bassil's Siege' to Win Seats
Ex-deputy premier MP Michel Murr will snatch seats from the electoral list of the Free Patriotic Movement, the Tashnag Party and the Syrian Social National Party in the Metn elections, sources close to him said. Murr “will benefit from the political siege that has been imposed by FPM chief and Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, who was behind keeping him out of the list despite Tashnag's insistence on including him as one of the list's pillars,” the sources told al-Hayat newspaper in remarks published Monday. “Tashnag was obliged to bow after it was threatened to be kept of the (FPM) alliance in Beirut's first district and Zahle,” the sources added. “This has allowed Murr to win the sympathy of a lot of Metn voters,” the sources went on to say.

Aridi: We're Not Biased in Favor of Resistance, We're at Its Heart

Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 02/18/MP Ghazi Aridi of the Progressive Socialist Party announced Monday that the PSP is “at the heart of the resistance against the Israeli enemy.” Hailing “the sons of the South and their sacrifices” during a PSP rally in Hasbaya, Aridi said: “We in the PSP have offered martyrs because we know the meaning of martyrdom. We are not biased in favor of the resistance; we are rather at the heart of the resistance against the Israeli enemy.” “Throughout decades, this resistance has made achievements and accumulations, all the way to the latest period. From the national resistance to the Islamic resistance to a resistance involving our brothers in the AMAL Movement, led by the great man and the ally Speaker Nabih Berri,” Aridi added.

Jumblat Says Arabs, World Have Abandoned Palestinians

Naharnet/April 02/18/Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat lamented Monday that Palestinians in Gaza have been “abandoned.”“The Palestinian people in Gaza have been abandoned amid the siege, shelling and sniper fire,” Jumblat tweeted. “As if there is no Arab League, international community, a so-called United Nations or anyone,” he added. “I salute the people of Gaza and may God have mercy on the martyr Abdul Fattah Abdul Nabi and the rest of the martyrs,” Jumblat went on to say. Seventeen Palestinians were killed and hundreds wounded when a mass protest near Gaza's border with Israel led to clashes on Friday, in the deadliest single day in the territory since a 2014 war with Israel. Palestinians say protesters were shot while posing no danger to soldiers, while rights groups have questioned Israel's use of live fire. Israel has for a decade imposed a blockade of Gaza that it says aims to isolate the Hamas militant group, but which critics say amounts to collective punishment for the territory's two million residents. Egypt has largely sealed its border with Gaza in recent years, while the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority has also carried out a series of punitive measures against the strip.

Hariri Says Mustaqbal Backs Berri's Reelection, Describes Ties as 'Excellent'
Naharnet/April 02/18/Prime Minister Saad Hariri has confirmed that al-Mustaqbal Movement is in favor of the reelection of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri to his post. “The relation with Speaker Nabih Berri is excellent,” Hariri told MTV. “We have a long journey with him and we always agree on the issues that have to do with the country's interest and the things that benefit citizens,” the premier added. He also stressed that his bloc will back Berri's reelection. 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 Michel Aoun, PM Hariri and the Free Patriotic Movement "are targeting Berri."

Rahi presides over Mass in appreciation of France
Mon 02 Apr 2018/NNA - Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Bechara Boutros Rahi presided Monday over a Mass service in appreciation of France, in presence of French Ambassador to Lebanon Bruno Foucher and a number of political figures.
On this occasion, Rahi prayed for prosperity and peace in France. The Prelate also called on the International Community and officials to unify their efforts towards finding political solutions for ongoing conflicts. After the Mass, Patriarch Rahi hosted a luncheon banquet in honor of the French Ambassador and the accompanying delegation.

Sami Gemayel: Those in Power Must Know That They Cannot Evade Accountability 02nd April 2018/Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel, who is running for another parliamentary term in the Metn district, said on Monday that the upcoming polls serve as a referendum as the Lebanese will be asked to choose between two contradictory, disparate choices.
Speaking during the announcement of the "Pulse of Metn" list, Gemayel said that the Lebanese will have to vote for either one of two governance methods, with one being based on honesty, steadfastness, defense of Lebanon's sovereignty, struggle for freedom, transparency, sustainable solutions, while the other is based on contradictions, disloyalty, relinquishment of sovereignty, suppression and corruption. "You will have to choose between a policy based on serving personal interests and another one that prioritizes Lebanon's welfare over all else."
Gemayel called on voters not to allow the ruling political class to return to power and destroy what is left of the country, urging them not to grant the wrongdoers their support for they will use it later as a motive to carry on their flawed policy. "Do not allow them to spread corruption in your name. Do not allow them to relinquish the country's sovereignty in your name. Do not allow them to impose more taxes and tarnish Lebanon's image in your name." "Each one of them [officials in power] must know that his performance cannot evade accountability, or else they will all continue to bring the country down," he warned.
"Are you satisfied with the current situation in Lebanon? If yes, then I ask you to vote for the lists backed by the ruling authority. If not, then this is your once-in-four-year chance to express your objection."Gemayel stressed that it is the duty of every Lebanese to cast his ballot and to prevent those messing with the country from staying in power. The Kataeb leader warned of attempts to force him, as well as all the other opposition voices, out of the political life in Lebanon, saying that the ruling class wants to eliminate anyone who exposes its shady deals and erroneous practices.
"Nonetheless, they don't know that the people's pulse is much stronger than them and their lies," he affirmed, stressing that the goal behind the electoral battle is to get as much competent and honorable people as possible into the Parliament. "Beware not to get mixed up. The choice is between our slate and that which includes the ruling class and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party," he said in an address to the voters. "Do not let money, services, friendships and social connections weaken our battle because we will be paying the price for that over the next four years."Gemayel voiced confidence that a real and genuine uprising will emerge from Metn on May 6, pledging steadfastness against wrongdoing, corruption and supremacy. "We will not yield as we will defend Lebanon with all our strength.""I, Samy Gemayel, hasn't either surrendered or compromised. I will never surrender or compromise. Today, I need you so that I would be able to continue what I have started 9 years ago. The decision is in your hands on May 6. Be the pulse of change!" Gemayel concluded.

'Pulse of Metn' Candidates Make Change Pledges During Line-up Announcement 02nd April 2018/Kataeb's Candidate for the Maronite seat in Metn, Elias Hankache, on Monday stressed that he is proud of running for the parliamentary polls based on a clear vision and a comprehensive platform as the one put forth by the party, pledging to be the voice of the youths inside the Parliament. “I am here today not to launch slogans as almost all other candidates do. I am here because I am a self-made person whose father was neither a minister nor a deputy," Hankache said during the announcement of the "Pulse of Metn" list. “I am a man who wants to live in a beautiful and normal country where my children won’t have to migrate so that they would build a future for themselves. I want to live in a country where we can achieve our dreams and ambitions,” he noted. Hankache pinpointed the problems that the Metn area is suffering from, pledging to do whatever is necessary to boost its growth, enhance the condition of its roads, preserve its environment so as to reverse the damage caused by the waste crisis as much as possible. For his part, the candidate for the Armenian Orthodox seat Yeghishe Andounian stressed that his doors will be wide open to everyone if elected on May 6, blasting those who claim to be defending the dignity of the Armenians while actually depriving them of their free will, exercising psychological intimidation and imposing unfair fees on the shops in Burj Hammoud. “Only three streets in Burj Hammoud are still inhabited by Armenians; they have emptied the whole area of its people, but now change is pulsating inside each person." Candidate for the Maronite seat, Nada Zaarour, said that the list's main goals are to safeguard sovereignty, establish a state of law, fight corruption and do whatever is needed to reverse the environmental damage in Metn, adding that the area has become "infected" due to the waste landfill.
“This is your chance for democratic change and accountability," she stressed.
The candidate for the Catholic seat, Mikhael Ramouz, said that sovereignty is safeguarded through real actions, not slogans, adding that this starts by being independent and only loyal to Lebanon where the state is the sole authority entitled to enforce its authority across the country's territory.
Candidate for the Orthodox seat, Mazen Skaff, said a decisive opportunity is awaiting the Lebanese to rebuild a country that scores of martyrs had sacrificed their lives for, stressing the need to boost the economy now that corruption is plaguing the state institutions.
“A strong economy requires the state to impose its power over the whole country, dismantle the corruption network and adopt neutrality," he stated. For her part, the candidate for the Orthodox seat, Violette Ghazal, stressed that the main goal is to carry on the role of the opposition which succeeded in hindering the power barges deal and stood against many other shady projects, pledging to speak up against all wrongdoings if elected on May 6. Ghazal said that she will accord a paramount importance to all economy-related issues, stressing that May 6 will be the day that separates the Lebanese from attaining their dream of a better country.

Beirut Airport in blue in support of Autistic patients
Mon 02 Apr 2018/NNA - Beirut's Rafic Hariri International Airport will be lit in blue at eight o'clock this evening marking the International Day of Autism, NNA correspondent at the Airport indicated.

Jumblatt: Palestinians in Gaza are left alone amidst the siege
Mon 02 Apr 2018/NNA - "The Palestinian people in Gaza are left alone in the midst of the siege, shelling and sniping," said Democratic Gathering Head, MP Walid Jumblatt, via Twitter on Monday, denouncing the ongoing events in Gaza.
"No Arab League exists, no international community, and no United Nations...We salute you, the people of Gaza, and God rest the soul of Martyr Abdel-Fattah Abdel-Nabi and all other martyrs," Jumblatt added.

Hariri meets Lebanon's Ambassador to UAE, contacts Aoun, Rahi on Easter
Mon 02 Apr 2018/NNA - Prime Minister Saad Hariri met Monday at the "House of Center" with Lebanese Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates Fouad Dandan, with talks centering on the development of relations between both countries and the conditions of Lebanese expatriates residing in UAE. The Prime Minister had earlier contacted President of the Republic Michel Aoun and Maronite Patriarch Cardinal Beshara Boutros al-Rahi, as well as Lebanese Forces Party Chief Samir Geagea, Central Bank Governor Riyad Salameh and Army Commander General Joseph Aoun, expressing his sincere greetings and well-wishes on Easter occasion.

Greek Deputy Foreign Minister visits Aoudeh: Through Christians' faith we can overcome difficulties
Mon 02 Apr 2018/NNA - Greek Deputy Foreign Minister, Yannis Amaratidis, visited Monday Beirut's Greek Orthodox Archbishop Elias Aoudeh, accompanied by Greek Charge d'Affaires Constantinos Hadjithomas and the Special Secretary for Religious and Cultural Affairs, Efstathios Lianos-Liantis.
On emerging, Amaratidis described the encounter as "very interesting and fruitful." He added that the visit comes within the context of his presence in Lebanon to partake in the Conference on Parliamentary Dialogue, entitled "Unity and Fundamental Liberties of Christians and Muslims in the Middle East."
"We all know that the region is going through many difficulties, but we are sure that the faith and love of Christians will help overcome these difficulties," said the Greek official. Amaratidis thanked Archbishop Aoudeh for his enlightening advice and guidance, while looking forward to his speech tomorrow at the opening of their jointly organized exhibition on the icons of Virgin Mary in the Holy Mountain - Athos.
Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 02-08/18
One Year Ago: The Sarin Attack on Syria's Khan Sheikhun
Asharq Al Awsat/April 02/18/A year ago a sarin gas attack on Syria's rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun killed 83 according to the UN and 87 according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The attack
On April 4, 2017 at around 7:00 am an air strike hits Khan Sheikhun, a small town in the northwestern province of Idlib. Idlib is a stronghold of rebels opposed to regime leader Bashar al-Assad along with extremists implanted in the region.
Videos distributed by anti-regime activists show corpses lying in the streets, with others convulsing and suffering from suffocation. Medical sources at the scene say patients suffer from symptoms such as fainting, vomiting and foaming at the mouth -- similar to those of previously recorded chemical weapons attacks. Syria's opposition accuses Assad's regime of using munitions containing a toxic gas, a charge categorically denied by its forces. According to the Britain-based Observatory it is the second worst chemical attack since the start of the war in 2011.
In 2013 more than 1,400 had died in a sarin gas attack in the Damascus suburbs.
Trump strikes
Overnight on April 7, on the orders of President Donald Trump, the US military fires 59 Tomahawk missiles from warships in the Mediterranean at the central Shayrat airbase, near the central city of Homs. According to the Pentagon, US intelligence have established that the base was the launchpad for the chemical attack. The Syrian regime describes the US strike as "foolish and irresponsible". Assad's ally Moscow calls it an "aggression against a sovereign state". Days later it vetoes a draft resolution at the UN Security Council. Assad says the West "fabricated the whole story in order to have a pretext for the attack".
UN blames the regime
On June 29, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) says sarin gas was used in the attack, without saying who was responsible. On October 26, a joint UN-OPCW panel says it is confident the Syrian regime is responsible, in conclusions rejected by Moscow. On November 8, the US, Britain, France and Germany, say a presumed chemical attack which just preceded that in Khan Sheikhun "bears the hallmarks of the Syrian regime". On November 16-17, Russia vetoes on two occasions renewal by the UN Security Council of the mandate of the UN-OPCW investigation.

Saudi Crown Prince: Iran deal benefits not going to the people

Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Tuesday, 3 April 2018/In a wide-ranging interview with The Atlantic’s editor-in-chief, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman reiterated that the nuclear deal signed by world powers with Iran has not actually benefitted Iranian citizens but actually did the opposite.
Bin Salman, who spoke to The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg during his current visit to the United States, challenged anyone to provide proof that any economic benefits of Iran signing their deal with the P5+1 has turned into opportunities for its people. “President Obama believed that if he gave Iran opportunities to open up, it would change. But with a regime based on this ideology, it will not open up soon. Sixty percent of the Iranian economy is controlled by the Revolutionary Guard. The economic benefits of the Iran nuclear deal are not going to the people,” he told The Atlantic. “They took $150 billion after the deal—can you please name one housing project they built with this money? One park? One industrial zone? Can you name for me the highway that they built? I advise them—please show us something that you’re building a highway with $150 billion,” he said. The full transcript of the interview, published under the title: “Saudi Crown Prince: Iran’s Supreme Leader ‘Makes Hitler Look Good’”, laid out Saudi Arabia’s stance on several geo-political crises that has shaped the Middle East since 1979.
‘Triangle of Evil’
At the center of the points made is not only Iran’s disruptive foreign policies, but what the prince deemed as the “Triangle of Evil” as a consequence of the Iranian Revolution in 1979, consisting of consisting of Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, and terror groups. “This triangle is promoting an idea that God and Islam are not asking us to promote. Their idea is totally against the principles of the United Nations, and the idea of different nations having laws that represent their needs. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Yemen—all of these countries are defending the idea that independent nations should focus on their own interests, in building good relations on the foundation of UN principles. The evil triangle doesn’t want to do that,” he said. The triangle, according to the crown prince, and their ideologies therefore did not match the tenants and message of Islam. “Islam is a religion of peace. This is the translation of Islam. God, in Islam, gives us two responsibilities: The first is to believe, to do good things, and not bad things. If we do bad things, God will judge us on Judgment Day. Our second duty as Muslims is to spread the word of God. For 1,400 years, Muslims have been trying to spread the word of God. In the Middle East, in North Africa, in Europe, they weren’t allowed to spread the word. That’s why they fought to spread the word. But you also see that, in a lot of countries in Asia—Indonesia, Malaysia, India—Muslims were free to spread the word. They were told, “Go ahead, say whatever you want to say, the people have free will to believe whatever they want to believe in.” “Islam, in this context, was not about conquering, it was about peacefully spreading the word,” the crown prince said.
Terror financing and Qatar
The prince also challenged the notion that the Saudi government financed terrorist groups and asked anyone to “bring any evidence” proving so. When it comes to financing extremist groups, I challenge anyone if he can bring any evidence that the Saudi government financed terrorist groups,” he said.
“Yes, there are people from Saudi Arabia who financed terrorist groups. This is against Saudi law. We have a lot of people in jail now, not only for financing terrorist groups, but even for supporting them. One of the reasons we have a problem with Qatar is that we are not allowing them to use the financial system between us to collect money from Saudis and give it to extremist organizations,” he added. Asked by Goldberg whether Saudi Arabia would ever be friendly with Qatar again, the crown prince said it would depend on Doha. “It has to happen, one day. We hope they learn fast”.

Ghouta Falls in Syrian Regime’s Clutches
Beirut - Nazeer Rida/Asharq Al-Awsat/April 02/18/Fighters from the Jaish al-Islam group will leave Douma to north Syria, possibly to the city of Jarablus, controlled by Turkish-backed rebels, a Syrian opposition source close to talks held between the group and Russia told Asharq Al-Awsat on Sunday. Following tough negotiations held between both parties, Jaish al-Islam and Moscow reached a final deal to evacuate fighters and civilians from the city of Douma, the last rebel-held bastion in the Eastern Ghouta enclave, opening the way for regime forces to capture the entire area. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the news, saying that a deal brokered by regime ally Russia would see fighters with the Jaish al-Islam faction leave Ghouta's main town of Douma for opposition-held territory in northern Syria. Although no official statement was issued by the faction, sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the deal “is not similar to the previous ones that involved Harasta, which was controlled by Harakat Ahrar al-Sham, or Jubar and Zamalka, which were controlled by Failaq al-Rahman.”The sources confirmed that the deal was instead similar to the one reached in Qaboun and Barza, which stipulated the evacuation of fighters opposed to a deal reached with the Syrian regime, and their families to the north of Syria. They added that fighters wishing to ink a deal with the regime would remain inside the city, acting as internal security forces. The fighters should also fly the flag of the Syrian regime above the buildings of public administrations. “The first stage of the deal stipulates that opposition fighters hand over their heavy and medium weapons to regime forces. Later, fighters rejecting the deal would exit the area while the others stay inside the city with their light weapons,” the sources said, adding that Russia's military police would then be deployed inside Douma to take control of the town.
Jaish al-Islam Rebels 'Begin Evacuating' from Syria's Douma
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 02/18/Syria's regime drew closer to taking full control of Eastern Ghouta on Monday as state media reported that fighters began evacuating the last rebel-held pocket of the former opposition stronghold near Damascus. A Russian-brokered deal had been reported on Sunday for fighters with Jaish al-Islam, the largest rebel group still in Ghouta, to leave the enclave's main town of Douma. But the rebels have not yet confirmed the agreement, amid reports of divisions in the group as hardline fighters refuse to abandon their posts. The retaking of Eastern Ghouta would mark a major milestone in President Bashar al-Assad's efforts to regain control of territory seized by rebel factions during Syria's seven-year civil war. Assad's forces have retaken 95 percent of Eastern Ghouta since launching a blistering assault on the besieged enclave on February 18, killing 1,600 civilians and displacing tens of thousands more. State media on Monday said Jaish al-Islam fighters and members of their families had started leaving Douma in preparation for them heading to a rebel-held town in northern Syria. "Twelve buses carrying 629 Jaish al-Islam terrorists and their families exited Douma... in preparation of them being transported to Jarabulus," state news agency SANA said, using the government's term for all rebel fighters. But journalists on the ground said both the regime and the rebels had restricted access to the evacuation operation from Douma.
'We will stay'
Pro-regime newspaper Al-Watan said in an editorial on Monday it was a matter of hours until Douma was declared a "town empty of terrorism.""The town of Douma has come closer to joining other villages and areas of (Eastern) Ghouta taken back by the army," it said. The rebels have been negotiating with Russia, a key ally of Assad, for days on an agreement to evacuate Douma. Late on Sunday, Russian news agency Interfax quoted General Yuri Yevtushenko as saying a "preliminary deal" had been reached to evacuate Jaish al-Islam fighters. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group on Monday reported divisions within the ranks of Jaish al-Islam, which has previously said it would not leave Douma. "There are attempts to convince the hardline wing of Jaish al-Islam not to obstruct the agreement with the Russians," said the head of the Britain-based monitor, Rami Abdel Rahman. In video footage published by Jaish al-Islam online on Sunday, the group's leader told a group of men in a mosque he would stay put. "We will stay in this town and will not leave. Those who want to leave should leave," Essam al-Buidani says in the video, although it was unclear when it was filmed. Jaish al-Islam counts around 10,000 fighters, according to the Observatory. Backed by Russia, Assad's forces have scored a series of victories over rebel forces in recent years, often through campaigns of siege, aerial bombardment and ground offensives that have drawn widespread international condemnation.
Pile of suitcases
Before February 18, some 400,000 people in Eastern Ghouta had lived under regime siege for five years, facing severe food and medicine shortages. After pounding it with air strikes, regime forces have taken back most of the enclave through a combination of ground assaults and Russia-brokered evacuation deals. In the past few weeks, these deals have seen more than 46,000 people -- fighters and civilians -- board buses with scant belongings to be driven to the northwestern province of Idlib, which is largely outside government control.
These include more than 1,000 people -- fighters from another faction, Faylaq al-Rahman, and family members -- who left Douma late Sunday, according to state media. On Monday before dawn, an AFP correspondent saw men, women and children step off buses in the area of Qalaat al-Madiq in central Hama province, a way station on the road to Idlib. An old woman dressed head-to-toe in black stood by a pile of suitcases, with a child wearing a winter coat and colorful backpack by her side. A man had a gun slung on his shoulder as he picked up a travel bag, while a young boy, who appeared weak and unable to move his limbs, was carried into an ambulance. A man in a long white robe walked on crutches, a light weapon visible under his khaki jacket. Syria's war has killed more than 350,000 people and displaced millions since starting in 2011 with a brutal repression of anti-regime protests.

Iran, Russia, Turkey Team Up to Hold Sway in Syria
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 02/18/Iran, Russia and Turkey have teamed up to forge a strong if brittle tripartite alliance aimed at holding ascendancy in Syria, taking advantage of the West's reluctance to engage militarily in the country. The presidents of the three countries, long seen as regional rivals rather than strategic allies, will meet Wednesday in Ankara for their second three way summit on Syria in a striking demonstration of unity. This meeting, which follows the first tripartite summit between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Vladimir Putin of Russia and Iran's Hassan Rouhani in Sochi last November, comes with Turkey seeking a louder voice after launching an offensive against Kurdish militia inside Syria. U.S. President Donald Trump has signaled that Washington will be withdrawing "very soon" from Syria, in a move that would cement the influence of Ankara, Moscow, and Tehran who have all committed military forces to the ground. Sinan Ulgen, chairman of the Istanbul-based Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies think tank, said the three countries had now become the true masters on the ground in Syria. Ulgen told AFP that the three have "been the regional powers that were willing to invest military resources to influence the outcome of the conflict."
'Built up leverage'
The three countries last year launched a parallel peace process to the U.N.-backed talks in Geneva. The talks, based in Astana, have convened multiple times albeit without finding any breakthrough. "The Astana process is a vehicle through which Turkey, Russia, and Iran, are looking to manage the war and secure their various interests," said Elizabeth Teoman, a Turkey analyst at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW). Russia has substantial air power in Syria while Iran has a strong presence on the ground, partly through militia groups which include foreign fighters. But Erdogan has increased Turkey's influence by launching in January an offensive to capture territory from the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia.The offensive has already succeeded in capturing the former YPG bastion of Afrin and Erdogan has repeatedly threatened to advance the push further east.
"Erdogan is a weaker partner in terms of ground forces and control over airspace. But he has built up leverage and proven he can create facts on the ground," Teoman said.
Stage management
Yet analysts remain skeptical about the long term viability of an alliance between three powers who spent much of their imperial history at war and vying for influence in the Black Sea region. In theory they also remain on different sides of the conflict -- with Moscow and Tehran giving military support to the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad but Turkey repeatedly calling for Assad's ouster.Turkey's focus now is to prevent the YPG from controlling an area that could form the base of a long autonomous region in postwar Syria from the Iraqi border to the Mediterranean. Turkish officials say this would be a threat to national security. Russia, meanwhile, wants to be able to extricate itself from Syria and not be bogged down in any quagmire reminiscent of the Soviet war in Afghanistan. But Iran's priority is to win the major political influence so it can call the shots like in Iraq. "Russia and Turkey have shared interests, but those interests are against Iran and the regime's, so you have Moscow trying to stage manage three partners that hate each other," said Aaron Stein, senior resident fellow at the Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.
Alignment of convenience
Moscow and Ankara claim to have made up following the crisis that followed when Turkey shot down a Russian plane over Syria in 2015 and Putin will meet with Erdogan for a bilateral meeting on Tuesday. Turkish officials acknowledge that Ankara could not have launched its operation against the YPG without a green light from Moscow. "We wouldn't even have been able to put up a drone there!" Erdogan's adviser Ilnur Cevik told CNN Turk broadcaster. Yet relations between Ankara and Moscow are never plain sailing and Turkey has been bitterly critical of the assault by Moscow's ally Assad on rebel-held Eastern Ghouta. Turkish-Iranian relations have the potential to be even more tricky and Ankara has expressed uneasiness over Tehran's attitude towards Kurdish rebels. Tehran angered Turkey by urging it to end its Syria offensive while Cevik accused Iran of cooperating with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). "Iran does not want Turkey to be strong," he said. Jennifer Cafarella, a Syria expert at ISW, described Erdogan's relationship with Iran and Russia as an "alignment of convenience." "He'll remain aligned with them as long as he deems it necessary to pursue his goals against the YPG," she said.

50 Years Later, Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream Remains Elusive
Washington - Asharq Al-Awsat/April 02/18/Towards the end of his life, Martin Luther King Jr. lamented that his dream had "turned into a nightmare."The US civil rights leader was a weary man when he was cut down by an assassin's bullet at the age of 39 on the balcony of a motel in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968. He was also a controversial man -- unlike the iconic figure celebrated today with a national holiday and an imposing granite memorial in Washington, said an Agence France Presse report on Sunday. "He's become frozen in time -- not as the man he was in 1968, but in the image of August 1963 when he gives the 'I Have a Dream' speech," said David Farber, a history professor at the University of Kansas. "It's easy for Americans to forget how polarizing a figure King actually was in the 1960s," Farber said. "He'd become a really radical figure in the United States -- an outspoken opponent of American foreign policy, demanding that justice extend not just to African-Americans but to all poor Americans." A seminal moment came in April 1967, when King made a speech in New York opposing the war in Vietnam, where more than 11,000 US troops were to die that year. "King raised the ire of the entire civil rights movement and of government and much of the political structure when he came out against the Vietnam War," said Henry Louis Taylor Jr., director of the Center for Urban Studies at the University of Buffalo. David Garrow, author of "Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference," said opposition to the war was seen as "fringe" at the time, and anti-war sentiment was "not widely popular like it is, say, come 1972." At the time of his murder by James Earl Ray, a white drifter with racist leanings, King had also been living for years under the constant surveillance of the FBI, which had dubbed him the "most dangerous" man in America. And his unwavering defense of non-violence as the way to bring about change was facing a challenge from a younger, impatient generation of militant black youth.
"The final 12 months of his life, King is so exhausted, so pessimistic about the future, so depressed," Garrow said. "A dozen or more times in his final two years, he says 'The dream I had in Washington in 1963 has turned into a nightmare.'" "One of the things we miss about King is how hard it was to do the work he's doing, the toll it takes," said Jeanne Theoharis, a political science professor at CUNY's Brooklyn College. Fifty years after his death, the vision of racial equality that King outlined on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial remains elusive.
Jason Sokol, a history professor at the University of New Hampshire, said there have been some advances for African-Americans over the years, culminating in the 2008 election of Barack Obama, American's first black president.
But racial inequalities persist, "especially when you look at black poverty, the black incarceration rate and the issue of police brutality," said Sokol. Taylor, the University of Buffalo professor, stressed that by the time of his death, King's ambitions had gone "beyond civil rights to embrace human rights." "King's dream was anchored around imagining another possible world based on economic, social, political and racial justice -- things related to a good education, decent and affordable housing, good jobs with a living wage, quality and accessible health care," he said.
"So when we add flesh to King's dream, we realize that we haven't really made much progress over the last 50 years in the realization of that dream," he said."While certainly there have been changes in the racial attitudes of individuals, the racism that is embedded in institutions and in structures in the United States has not changed much at all."At the same time, King's legacy looms large in myriad ways. "King said in his Nobel Prize lecture in 1964 that the Freedom Movement was spreading the widest liberation in human history," said Taylor Branch. King's legacy can also be seen in the Black Lives Matter campaign against police violence and other movements for social justice, Taylor said. "Most recently you saw it in the 'March for Our Lives' in which millions of kids all over the country took to the streets," he said. "I'm extremely optimistic that out there we're seeing a new generation of folks in this country who are resurrecting the notion of King's dream," he said. One of those kids at the March for Our Lives was King's nine-year-old granddaughter Yolanda Renee, who galvanized the crowd by recalling his most famous words. "I have a dream that enough is enough," she said. "And that this should be a gun-free world, period."

Palestine Insists on International Investigation over Land Day Victims
Ramallah, Tel Aviv – Kefah Zaboun, Asharq Al-Awsat/April 02/18/Palestinian officials announced that Palestinian Authority is demanding an international investigation into the killing of several unarmed Palestinian citizens near Gaza Strip during protests for Land Day. Palestine's representative to the UN Human Rights Council, Ibrahim Khraisha, confirmed that the Secretary-General of the United Nations was working with all the parties in the Security Council to find a mechanism to investigate Land Day incidents. Khraishi said that: "it did not end with the US rejection."Palestinian Ambassador to UN Riyad Mansour is coordinating with Kuwait, which originally called for an extraordinary session of the Security Council, to issue a statement or resolution that includes an investigation into the killing of 17 Palestinians last Friday, during the Return March in Gaza Strip. "If the Security Council fails, the matter will be discussed in Geneva and a meeting with the High Commissioner for Human Rights is needed," Khraisha said. United States has blocked a draft statement by the United Nations Security Council proposed by Kuwait which demanded an "independent and transparent investigation" under international law into the bloody events on Friday's Land Day protests. At least 17 Palestinian protesters were killed and more than 1400 injured, 758 of which were injured with live ammunition. The statement also expressed "grave concern at the situation at the border" and stressed "the right to peaceful protest".
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Friday for an independent investigation into deadly clashes in Gaza, while Security Council members urged restraint on both sides. Similarly, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini called on Saturday for an independent and transparent investigation into the Israeli military's use of live fire during mass rallies. However, Israel refused to cooperate with any international party in the investigation saying it targeted several Palestinians who were trying to cross the borders. It also condemned the Security Council for holding a meeting on Gaza on Passover. Israeli Envoy to UN Danny Danon lodged an official complaint with the UN Security Council for holding the emergency session during the first night of Passover, accusing Kuwait of hijacking the consultations and forcing an open session.
"The State of Kuwait, with full knowledge that our permanent mission, Israel and Jews everywhere were observing the first night of Passover, hijacked the consultations, forced an open session and invited the Palestinian delegation to present remarks that they had been advised to prepare well in advance. Israel was not given the same advance notice and was barred from taking part in the deliberations due to the observance of our religious holiday,” wrote Danon. “Once again, Hamas has exploited women and children as human shields, including by dressing young children in military uniforms and arming them with guns and ammunition,” he added. In turn, Fatah member, Mohammad Ashtiyeh, indicated that eventually Israel should be put on trial and punished for its crimes committed against the Palestinian people, lastly killing 17 citizens in Gaza during the peaceful demonstration demanding an end to the occupation. Ashtiyeh told a delegation of Oxford students that what happened in Gaza recently requires “serious stance by the international community that obliges Israel to abide by international laws and treaties and to provide international protection to the Palestinian people.”Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has called for the protection of the Palestinian people on several occasions, most recently on Friday.
Since Friday, Gaza border has been witnessing daily confrontations and organizers say the march will continue until May 15, the anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba Day. Israel admitted Sunday that it held the bodies of two armed Palestinian civilians from Gaza who were killed by the Israeli forces. Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Yoav Mordechai wrote an Arabic post on his Facebook page claiming the two Palestinians were “armed with rifles and an explosive device. They intended to carry out a terrorist operation in Israel.”The two Palestinians were Mosaab Salol and Mohammed Rabaya. For his part, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused any international or internal investigation into the killing of Palestinian protesters. He even praised Israeli troops and thanked soldiers for allowing the nation to celebrate the Passover holiday. He added: “Well done to our soldiers. Israel acts vigorously and with determination to protect its sovereignty and the security of its citizens.”Israel will refuse to participate in any potential international probe into the actions on the Gaza border Friday that led to the deaths of 17 Palestinians, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman told Army Radio on Sunday morning. Sources at Israeli army indicated that the law that obligates the army to investigate any incident of the death of a non-military person by Israeli forces does not apply to the situation in Gaza. However, an investigation will be conducted only by Israeli forces experienced officers, not by a non-military external party. "The investigation will be thorough and will contribute to drawing lessons and making proper judicial decisions,” they added.

Arab League Delegation Visits Saudi Arabia to Plan Upcoming Summit
Cairo - Sawsan Abou Hussein/ Asharq Al-Awsat/April 02/18/Aide to the Arab League Secretary General, Hussam Zaki, revealed that he will carry out consultations in Saudi Arabia ahead of its hosting of the organization’s summit on April 15. He hailed to Asharq Al-Awsat the special preparations that are being made by the Kingdom to host the summit. Zaki had arrived in Saudi Arabia on Sunday. Asharq Al-Awsat learned that the summit, held in Dhahran, will be preceded by preparatory meetings on April 9. The three-day talks will be attended by senior figures, representatives and economy and foreign ministers. April 14 will witness the arrival of kings, leaders and heads of Arab countries to the Kingdom. Diplomatic sources revealed that senior figures will be attending the summit due to the excellent ties Saudi Arabia shares with Arab countries, as well as the international clout it enjoys. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict, situation in Jerusalem, crises in Syria, Yemen and Libya, counter-terrorism, regional meddling and the dispute with Qatar will top the agenda of the Arab League summit.
Bahrain: 21 Suspects Referred to High Criminal Court
Manama - Obeid Al Suhaimi//Asharq Al Awsat/April 02/18/Terrorist Crimes Prosecution referred 21 suspects, including 15 who are in custody, to the High Criminal Court for a hearing on April 19 after the prosecution completed its thorough investigations. The suspects were charged with the illegal setting up of a terrorist group, joining it and financing its activities, handling, making and possessing explosives, weapons and ammunition, training on the use of weapons and explosives, and harboring and assisting runaway convicts to escape justice, according to Terror Crime Chief Prosecutor Ahmed al-Hammadi. The Public Prosecution received a report from the Directorate of Criminal Investigation (CID) informing that a fugitive who was residing in Iran had carried out several terrorist crimes in Bahrain. The fugitive recruited an accomplice to implement his terrorist plots in Bahrain, receive and conceal explosives and firearms smuggled into the country, and establish a warehouse to keep the materials until distribution to other accomplices who will carry out his criminal plot of targeting security forces. He also tasked an accomplice with the formation of a terrorist cell in Bahrain and the recruitment of several elements to assist him in implementing a terrorist plot. Two suspects had undergone military training in Iraq on how to use explosives and weapons, and some suspects harbored group members, provided logistic support to them, and concealed them from the security authorities in order to smuggle them out of Bahrain to Iran illegally. The Prosecution referred the suspects to the court reliant upon statements, including witness testimonies, technical evidences, CID reports as well as the suspects’ confessions.

Bahrain Announces Biggest Oil, Gas Discovery In Its History
Manama - Obeid Al-Suhaimi/ Asharq Al-Awsat/April 02/18/Eighty-six years after its largest oil discovery in 1932, Bahrain announced on Sunday the discovery of a new tight oil and deep gas resource in the Khaleej al-Bahrain basin, located off the west coast of the Kingdom. The announcement was made by Bahrain’s Higher Committee for Natural Resources and Economic Security, chaired by HRH the Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa. “The find represents the largest discovery of oil in the Kingdom since 1932, when extraction started on Bahrain’s first oil well within the Bahrain Oil Field. The new resource is forecast to contain highly significant quantities of tight oil and deep gas, understood to dwarf Bahrain’s current reserves,” Bahrain news agency reported. Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Prime Minister had carried out the royal directives of giving utmost priority to oil exploration, mapping out detailed plans for that and following up on their implementation. Commenting on the discovery, Bahrain’s Minister of Oil, Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, said: "Following the initial discovery of the resource, detailed analysis of the find’s content, size and extraction viability has been undertaken alongside internationally-renowned petroleum industry consultants, DeGolyer and MacNaughton (Demac). He added: "Today we announce that initial analysis demonstrates the find is at substantial levels, capable of supporting the long-term extraction of tight oil and deep gas."The government confirmed that Bahrain’s National Oil and Gas Authority (NOGA), alongside private sector partners, are ongoing for detailing the ultimate quantity and market value of the find. The discovery is expected to support extensive and long-term downstream activities in Bahrain. The Ministry of Oil will host a press conference next Wednesday to provide additional details on the discovery, including initial findings of size and extraction viability.
Security Measures Tightened in Iran’s Ahwaz as Protests Continue
London - Asharq Al-Awsat/April 02/18/Iranian security forces imposed tight security measures in the city of Ahwaz and other Arab cities in southwestern parts of the country amid a wave of arrests in areas that witnessed anti-racism protests in recent days. The rallies had started a week ago in protest against a children’s television program that had ignored the Arabs while it shed light on the diversity of Iranian society. The oversight sparked anger and a wave of protests in Arab regions in Iran. The Ahwaz residents accuse Iranian authorities of deliberately seeking to alter the identity and demographics of Arab cities. They said that the authorities have even encouraged immigration to these regions, while barring Arabs from privileges that the newcomers are granted. The protests originally kicked off in the city of Ahwaz before spreading to other Arab cities. The demonstrators chanted against the discriminatory practices, demanding that the United Nations and major powers intervene to end what they describe as Iranian occupation of Ahwaz. Videos posted on social media showed security forces firing tear gas at the protesters in the city. Sources from the area revealed that gunmen attacked an Iranian Revolutionary Guards station in the central part of the city. A shootout soon ensued, but no losses of life were reported. Informed sources said that the security forces imposed tight security measures in several cities in anticipation of more unrest ahead of April 25, which many locals consider as the anniversary of the “occupation” of Ahwaz in 1925. Other sources revealed that more than 80 activists have been arrested in the authorities’ crackdown, while no official figures have been revealed yet.

Debate Rages in Iran over Telegram App Ban
London - Asharq Al-Awsat/April 02/18/Chairman for the Committee for Foreign Policy and National Security Committee of Iran Alaeddin Boroujerdi’s announcement that the Telegram app will be banned in the country later this month sparked debate among lawmakers and political circles. He said that the app will be blocked on April 20, citing security reasons. The information exchanged through Telegram can be obtained by Britain, Germany and Israel, he warned, revealing that a major political power, which he refused to reveal, had taken the decision to ban the app. Boroujerdi blamed the application for fueling the anti-regime protests that have been taking place in Iran in recent months. “This network, with its complicated design, is in fact hiding a security threat,” he stated. Reformist Alireza Rahimi denied however that the app will be banned, warning of the negative consequences the announcement may have on the safety of society and the concerns it may spark among the people. Another politician, Jalil Rahimi Jahan Abadi criticized the ban, saying: “The violation of human rights cannot guarantee the country’s permanent security.” He instead stressed the importance of communication between the people, citing Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that calls for respecting freedom of expression. Head of the Telegram app revealed in December that it is used by some 40 million Iranians. The app is expected to resort to the blockchain method in order to confront the Iranian authorities’ ban. President Hassan Rouhani had in January approved a temporary ban of the app in wake of the anti-regime protests. This move and others to block internet websites serves as a blow to hopes that Rouhani would remain true to his presidential campaign slogans of bolstering freedoms in Iran.

Turkey Seeks Arrest of Gulen over Russian Envoy's Killing
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 02/18/A Turkish court issued arrest warrants Monday for eight people, including the alleged mastermind of the 2016 failed coup, Fethullah Gulen, over the murder in Ankara that year of the Russian ambassador. The warrants were issued a day ahead of a visit to Ankara by President Vladimir Putin for talks with Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan aimed at bolstering the growing Moscow-Ankara relationship. Ambassador Andrei Karlov was shot dead in December 2016 by off-duty Turkish policeman Mevlut Mert Altintas, 22, while inaugurating a photo exhibition. Turkey has said the murder was a plot carried out by the group of Gulen, a U.S.-based Islamic preacher who stands accused of staging the 2016 coup bid. But Moscow has yet to echo this. According to the warrants, the eight suspects are charged with seeking to overthrow the constitution and pre-meditated murder, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported. The other prominent figure among the eight is Serif Ali Tekalan who headed a university linked to Gulen in Istanbul and now heads the Texas-based North American University (NAU). It was not immediately clear if any of the suspects are currently in Turkey. Gulen, who denies any link to the coup, has been hit with multiple Turkish arrest warrants. But so far the United States has yet to budge in response to Turkish demands for his extradition. Anadolu said that the investigation had found links between the gunman Altintas and Gulen. According to the news agency, nine people are already in custody awaiting trial over the killing including television producer Hayreddin Aydinbas, the organizer of the photo exhibition Mustafa Timur Ozkan and former police officers. There were fears the killing would again derail relations that had only been put back on track that summer with a reconciliation deal after the November 2015 shooting down by Turkey of a Russian war plane over the Syrian border. But relations have since gone from strength to strength, with Putin's upcoming visit expected to signal the strategic importance of the relationship to both sides.

Israel Cancels Controversial Plan to Deport African Migrants
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 02/18/Israel announced Monday it had reached a deal with the U.N. refugee agency to cancel a controversial plan to deport African migrants and replace it with a new one that will see thousands sent to Western countries. The deal means thousands more of the primarily Sudanese and Eritrean migrants will remain in Israel at least temporarily. It also ends the possibility that many would be forcibly deported to an unnamed African country, widely believed to be Uganda or Rwanda. A minimum of 16,250 migrants will be resettled in Western nations including Canada, Germany and Italy under the agreement announced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "The agreement stipulates that for each migrant who leaves the country, we commit to give temporary residence status to another," Netanyahu said in a televised address after Israel announced the deal. Netanyahu in January announced the implementation of a program to remove migrants who entered illegally, giving them a choice between leaving voluntarily or facing indefinite imprisonment with eventual forced expulsion. According to interior ministry figures, there are currently some 42,000 African migrants in Israel, half of them children, women or men with families, who were not facing immediate deportation. As the migrants could face danger or imprisonment if returned to their homelands, Israel offered to relocate them to an unnamed African country, which deportees and aid workers said was Rwanda or Uganda. They had initially been given a deadline of April 1, but Israel's supreme court suspended the plan on March 15 while it continued to examine it.
Israel's statement announcing the new plan on Monday said there was no longer a need to send migrants to unnamed third countries. Netanyahu said in his remarks on Monday that he had to abandon the earlier plan because the option of sending them to a third country "no longer exists." Rwanda and Uganda have said they would not accept those deported against their will.The earlier plans had drawn sharp criticism from the United Nations refugee agency as well as from some Israelis and rights activists.
The migrants' presence in Israel has become a political issue, with Netanyahu referring to them as "not refugees but illegal infiltrators". Religious and conservative politicians have portrayed the presence of Muslim and Christian Africans as a threat to Israel's Jewish character.
A group of residents of southern Tel Aviv, where many of the migrants have settled, immediately denounced the new plan in a statement, calling it "a shame for the state of Israel." Under the new five-year plan, Israel will "regulate" the status of those not being resettled -- signalling they will be allowed to stay at least temporarily. It also said a committee will be established to come up with a "rehabilitation plan" for southern Tel Aviv. Migrants began entering Israel through what was then a porous Egyptian border in 2007. The border has since been strengthened, all but ending illegal crossings. Holot, an open facility where inmates were free to leave during the day but had to return at night, was opened in 2013 with the aim of siphoning migrants away from the cities. The facility was closed last month as part of the previous plan. Some Holot inmates were transferred to the nearby Saharonim prison. Others who had submitted asylum requests before January 1 were released pending a decision. Another 300 had been freed after agreeing to leave Israel, according to Israel's immigration authority. Those released were barred from living or working in seven cities with high migrant populations, including Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and the Red Sea resort of Eilat. Israeli officials had said that no one they classify as a refugee or asylum-seeker would be deported, though the process of granting asylum has been criticized as extremely slow and biased against claims. Only a handful of asylum claims have been approved in recent years.Those opposed to the original plan included Holocaust survivors who say the country has a special duty to protect migrants.

Trump Has Proposed White House Summit to Putin
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 02/18/U.S. President Donald Trump proposed a White House summit when he called Russian President Vladimir Putin last month, prior to the mass expulsion of Russian diplomats from the U.S., a top Kremlin aide said Monday. "Trump proposed holding a meeting at the White House in Washington," Putin's top foreign policy aide, Yury Ushakov, told reporters. On March 20, Trump called Putin to congratulate him on his re-election, and the U.S. leader told reporters afterwards that the two would "probably get together in the not-too-distant future."In calling Putin, Trump ignored explicit advice from his national security advisers not to do so, The Washington Post has reported, quoting officials familiar with the call. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said on Monday the two leaders had discussed a bilateral meeting "at a number of potential venues, including the White House.""We have nothing further to add at this time," she said. A senior U.S. administration official said separately that "it's obviously in their interest" to publicize the summit invitation as Putin's risks deeper international isolation after the Skripal attack. The official added that planning for the controversial meeting had not yet begun.Ushakov also said that the two sides had not had any "concrete discussions" about the summit since that rare Trump-Putin phone conversation. "It was Trump himself who proposed holding the meeting," Ushakov said. "But after that a new breakdown in our bilateral ties has taken place, the diplomats have been expelled."He expressed the hope that Russia and the United States could return to "constructive and serious dialogue." After the call, Washington expelled 60 Russian diplomats and shut down a Russian consulate in Seattle, joining Britain's allies in responding to the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the English city of Salisbury on March 4. Moscow responded by sending home 60 U.S. diplomats and closing Washington's consulate in Saint Petersburg.
Washington has, however, said Russia is free to apply to accredit more diplomats to replace those expelled.

18 Dead, 84 Injured in Boko Haram Attack in Nigeria
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 02/18/At least 18 people were killed and 84 wounded when Boko Haram jihadists clashed with Nigerian soldiers near the northeastern city of Maiduguri overnight, the emergency services agency said Monday. "So far we have recovered 18 dead bodies from the two villages Bale Shuwa and Bale Kura," on the outskirts of Maiduguri, Benlo Dambatto, an official from the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA) told AFP. Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, is the birthplace of Boko Haram, whose nearly nine-year fight to establish a hardline Islamic state in northeast Nigeria has claimed at least 20,000 lives and displaced more than two million people. "The victims were killed while trying to escape the fight between the insurgents and the military," said the Borno branch of SEMA.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 02-0318
The Mohammed bin Salman vision is strategic
د.وليد فارس: رؤية محمد بن سلمان الأستراتجية
Walid Phares/Al Arabiya/April 02/18
As the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visits Washington to conduct meetings at the White House and with US leaders, critics and supporters compete to frame the achievements of the young royal, who will surely become the next monarch of a major world energy producer and home to the holiest shrines of Islam. The race between critics and fans of the 32-year-old prince, known worldwide as “MBS,” is fueled also by other crises in the region, notably the Iran-Saudi feud and the Gulf-Qatar quarrels.
The supporters of the Crown Prince note his young age, energy, and highlight his activities inside the Kingdom and worldwide. They often cite the project known as Vision 2030, a complex structure of economic and social reforms aimed at modernizing a kingdom endowed with dizzying riches.
The enemies of the young emir assault this glowing image with a plethora of acerbic assertions. They describe his acts as very firm and bound to fail. Prince Mohammed is also criticized for having waged a “war on Yemen” and its civilian bill. MBS is also accused of "escalating the Saudi conflict with Iran, instead of accepting the Iran Deal and its consequences". The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia is characterized by his foes for his alliance with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi in the UAE, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed. Both are chastised by opponents as responsible for the Gulf crisis and the boycott of Qatar since 2017.
Understanding the change
This young leader is indeed making waves as he undertakes perilous changes in the Kingdom while at the same time pushing for changes in the region in a way that has not been done by his country’s leaders since the end of the Cold War. Thus it is important that the American public and the West understands what the Crown Prince is trying to achieve, regardless of success or failure.
Let me first disclose that I have been a critic of radical Salafist ideology who brought forth a web of radicalization from Saudi Arabia and the region that has impacted the world of jihadists for generations. However, as I have also observed and remarked upon for years, reforms should be expected from precisely the countries where extremism also arose. My books Future Jihad and War of Ideas attest to these arguments. But it was not until I actually came into contact with representatives of the reform movement in Saudi Arabia and a number of opinion leaders that I was convinced that what I had projected was finally happening.
Mohammed bin Salman’s vision is strategic. And his vision is assaulted by our strategic enemies. The understanding cannot be simpler.
I have long followed the expansion of social media in the Kingdom and have had the opportunity to interact with men and women who openly expressed their views and aspirations. Thus, I see Mohammed bin Salman as a product of this bottom-up transformation taking place in that country – even though his current role is to initiate top-down change by using the political power with which he has been entrusted. His father has agreed that Prince Mohammed will be a reformer and has accepted that the power of the Saudi state will be used to limit the influence of militant Salafism.
The young bin Salman has undertaken a massive reform campaign to change the political culture of the Kingdom: limiting the religious police, granting women the right to drive vehicles, defending their right to vote, to become part of the government, and soon to inherit and be paid equally with men. Early signs show MBS will alleviate the social and legal pressures which impose strict Islamic clothing on Saudi women.
On a regional level, MBS and his allies in the Arab Coalition, particularly UAE’s Mohammed bin Zayed, have been steadfast in confronting Iran, even when the previous US administration was cozying up to the Ayatollahs. Fighting Iranian-backed militias in Yemen, as they are deploying ballistic missiles from Tehran and firing them across the Peninsula on a civilian airport and on US navy ships, is a strategic move which needs to be supported, not condemned. In standing against Assad and Hezbollah, the Saudis are aligning themselves with US policy. More noticeable is the Saudi-UAE rejection of the Muslim Brotherhood, major producers of extremist indoctrination, and last but not least, waging a war of ideas against the very ideology that many in the West criticized the Kingdom for allowing its funding decades ago. This is a miracle happening in before our eyes. And it needs to be recognized and embraced, even if it is still in its early stages. Such a historic opportunity for comprehensive reforms in the region doesn't come often. It needs to be seized, protected and nurtured.
*Mohammed bin Salman’s vision is strategic. And his vision is assaulted by our strategic enemies. The understanding cannot be simpler.
Dr. Walid Phares was Donald Trump's foreign policy advisor in 2016 and Mitt Romney’s national security advisor in 2012. He advises members of Congress and the European Parliament and is the author of 14 books including The Lost Spring.

How Mohammed bin Salman unites usually divided Iranians
Saeid Jafari/Al Monitor/April 02/18
Article Summary
The Saudi crown prince’s harsh words against the Islamic Republic seem to have a unifying effect among Iranians.
Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is seen during a meeting at the United Nations headquarters, New York, US, March 27, 2018.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s war of words against Iran seems to have had a unifying effect among usually divided Iranians. The 32-year-old prince adopted a particularly tough tone against Tehran during his March 19 interview with CBS' "60 Minutes," sparking Iranian anger both toward him and Saudi Arabia.
In the interview, Mohammed accused Iran of supporting terrorism, saying, “Many of the al-Qaeda operatives are protected in Iran. … This includes the son of Osama bin Laden, the new leader of al-Qaeda. He lives in Iran and works out of Iran. He is supported by Iran.” Mohammed also ridiculed the idea of Iran and Saudi Arabia being comparable in terms of military and economic strength and said, “Iran is not a rival to Saudi Arabia. Its army is not among the top five armies in the Muslim world. The Saudi economy is larger than the Iranian economy. Iran is far from being equal to Saudi Arabia.”
These statements quickly triggered reactions in Iran, where people took to social media to express their anger. Many criticized Mohammed on Twitter, with some arguing that despite its powerful army and three years of war, Saudi Arabia has yet to succeed in Yemen. While Persian social media is usually sorely divided over political issues, there seems to be a consensus when it comes to condemnation of Mohammed's words.
In addition to condemning the Saudi-led war in Yemen, other Iranians were quick to point out the contradictions in Mohammed's statements. For instance, Bahman Kalbasi, a New York correspondent for BBC Persian — which is outlawed in Iran — tweeted March 15, “The Saudi crown prince has given an interview to CBS’ '60 Minutes' on the verge of his visit to the United States. On the one hand, he says Iran’s army and economy is so weak that it cannot be a rival for Saudi Arabia. On the other hand, he says Iran’s [supreme] leader is the new Hitler and is seeking to expand his power.”
Meanwhile, calls have been made on Instagram to target all social media pages linked to Mohammed. Amid these calls, “Special Royal” — which claims to be a dedicated account for the images and life of the crown prince — has come under attack by Persian speakers who have written anti-Mohammed comments in both Persian and Arabic.
Nosratollah Tajik, a former Iranian ambassador to Jordan, told Al-Monitor, “Iranians do not take [Mohammed's] threats seriously for different reasons. First, Saudi Arabia is sitting on several critical fault lines, including the topic of succession and the growing [public] demands that have yet to be met. Therefore, it is going through a sensitive period. Second, to bypass its internal crises, it needs to create an external enemy. On the other hand, [Mohammed] is trying to gain [US President] Donald Trump’s political and military support.”
He added, “However, Trump’s comments after meeting with [Mohammed] indicate that the main priority for Trump’s America is to exhaust Saudi finances as much as possible and under different pretexts, such as the sale of military armaments. Therefore, it is natural that Iranian society, despite its political differences, adopts a unified stance against such an issue and such a foreign enemy. Iran must pursue strategic patience in this situation and allow for this country [Saudi Arabia] to become more engulfed in its own self-inflicted problems.”
The concept of the creation of a foreign enemy in order to advance a domestic agenda is well established in political science. In this vein, some analysts in Iran believe that one of the main reasons why Mohammed is fueling the fire with Iran is to pave his domestic Saudi road for advancing his internal reforms and agendas. However, it should be noted that he has simultaneously provided the Islamic Republic with this same gift. Iran has no desire to increase tensions with Saudi Arabia, and its senior officials have on numerous occasions called for the need to engage in dialogue and remove tensions with the kingdom. But these efforts have done little to allay the tension and hostility between the two regional powers.
Under such circumstances, the Iranian public tends to trust its own political system more than before, thereby creating a stronger sense of patriotism and thus greater unity on the issue at hand. This unity allows senior Iranian officials to stand up to Mohammed bin Salman’s threats and adventurism with more confidence.
For now, things in Washington seem to be moving in Mohammed’s favor, especially as his allies keep being added to Trump’s team. However, one important point should be borne in mind: Former US President Barack Obama succeeded in instilling divisions among Iranians by increasing doubt about the prospect for serious political reform within Iran. Now, thanks to Trump and Mohammed, attention is on US and Saudi threats, with many among even the die-hard opponents of the Islamic Republic now in agreement on the need to deal with foreign adversaries.
Found in: Intra-Gulf relations
**Saeid Jafari is an Iranian journalist and Middle East analyst. He has worked for such Iranian publications as Aseman, Khordad, Mosalas and Mehrnameh. He is the editor of the international and diplomatic section of the weekly Seda in addition to working for Khabar Online. Jafari has also published English-language articles in Iran Review. On Twitter: @jafariysaeid

Palestinians: A March to Destroy Israel
Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/April 02/18
Based on statements made by Hamas leaders, the "March of Return" campaign is not about improving the living conditions of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Nor is it about finding ways to solve the "humanitarian" and "economic" crises in the Gaza Strip.
The mass protests are aimed at forcing Israel to accept millions of Palestinian "refugees" as a first step towards turning Jews into a minority in their own country. The next step would be to kill or expel the Jews and replace Israel with an Islamic state. Did they expect the Israeli soldiers to greet them with flowers?
The Palestinian "March of Return" is being mistakenly referred to by some journalists and political analysts as a "peaceful and popular" drive by Palestinians demanding freedom and better living conditions.
Palestinians' living conditions in the Gaza Strip could be improved if the Egyptians only opened the Rafah border crossing and allowed Palestinians to leave and allowed Arabs and others to come and help the people there. Their lives could be improved if Hamas stopped building terror tunnels and smuggling weapons.
On March 30, an attempt by tens of thousands of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to infiltrate the border with Israel launched a six-week campaign of mass protests -- called the "March of Return" -- organized by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other radical Palestinian groups.
The groups encouraged Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to head to the areas adjacent to the border with Israel. The protesters were also encouraged to try to infiltrate the border, thus putting their lives at risk.
Hamas and its allies told the protesters that the "March of Return" marked the beginning of the "liberation of all of Palestine, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River." In other words, the Palestinians were told that infiltrating the border with Israel would be the first step toward destroying Israel.
Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Yehya Sinwar, who joined the March 30 mass protests along the border with Israel, did not hide the real goal behind the "March of Return" -- to destroy Israel and thwart US President Donald Trump's yet-to-be-announced plan for peace in the Middle East.
The two Hamas leaders told the protesters that the March 30 demonstrations marked the beginning of a "new phase in the Palestinians' national struggle on the road to liberating all of Palestine, from the river to the sea." Haniyeh and Sinwar also made it clear that the "March of Return" had another goal: to foil any attempt by the Arabs to make peace or normalize their relations with Israel. Based on statements made by Hamas leaders, the "March of Return" campaign is not about improving the living conditions of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Nor is it about finding ways to solve the "humanitarian" and "economic" crises in the Gaza Strip. Hamas and its allies did not send the protesters to the border with Israel to demand jobs and medicine. They did not encourage Palestinians to risk their lives at the border with Israel because of the lack of electricity supplies to the Gaza Strip.
Instead, the organizers sent the Palestinians to the border after assuring them that this was the only way to flood Israel with hundreds of thousands of Palestinian "refugees" as part of the "right of return." The "right of return" refers to the Palestinian demand that Israel allow Palestinian "refugees" and their descendants to move to Israel.
As Zaher Birawi, one of the organizers of the "March of Return" explained, "The right of return is sacred and a red line not to be crossed. The Palestinians will do their utmost to achieve this right."
His words, together with those of the two Hamas leaders, prove that the mass protests are aimed at forcing Israel to accept millions of Palestinian "refugees" as a first step towards turning Jews into a minority in their own country. The next step would be to kill or expel the Jews and replace Israel with an Islamic state. Crucial here is the fact that what we witnessed along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel on March 30 was not a protest by poverty-stricken and miserable Palestinians against a blockade of any kind.
If that were so, why didn't the organizers ask Palestinians to march toward the border with Egypt? The real blockade on the Gaza Strip is being imposed by Egypt, and not Israel.
In 2017, the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip was open altogether for less than 30 days; by contrast, the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip was open for more than 280 days during the same year.
Israel enforces a naval blockade on the Gaza Strip that is meant to prevent Iran, Hezbollah and other terror parties from smuggling weapons into the coastal enclave controlled by Hamas. At the same time, Israel has kept its border crossings with Gaza for the movement of goods and individuals.
Israel permits Palestinians to enter and leave the Gaza Strip through the Erez border crossing. Last month, the Palestinian Authority Prime Minister entered the Gaza Strip through the Erez border crossing, only to have his convoy targeted by a roadside bomb once inside Hamas-controlled Gaza. Israel also allows foreigners to enter the Gaza Strip through the same border crossing. They include journalists, diplomats, and hundreds of foreigners working for various international aid agencies, including the United Nations.
All this while the Rafah border crossing with Egypt remains closed. Since the beginning of this year, the Egyptians opened the border crossing intermittently only for two or three days each time. Egypt also continues to bar foreigners from entering the Gaza Strip through the Rafah terminal. Even Arabs who want to help the people of the Gaza Strip are forced to enter through the Erez border crossing because the Egyptians do not give them permission to use the Rafah terminal.
In 2017, Egypt opened its Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip (pictured above) for less than 30 days altogether; by contrast, the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip was open for more than 280 days during the same year.
Take, for example, the Qatari envoy to the Gaza Strip, Ambassador Mohammed Al Emadi. Each time he leaves and enters the Gaza Strip, he uses the Erez border crossing with Israel. The Egyptians will not allow him or any other Arab seeking to help the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to enter through the Rafah terminal. Given this reality, the question is: Why aren't the Palestinian protests directed against Egypt? The answer is obvious.
The Palestinians know that messing with the Egyptian army will cost them a heavy price. If Israel used snipers to stop the March 30 protesters from crossing the border, the Egyptian response would undoubtedly have been much tougher. The Egyptians would have used artillery and warplanes against the Palestinian demonstrators. The Palestinians are well aware that the Egyptian army would raze the entire Gaza Strip if the Palestinians breached the border and undermined Egypt's national security.
Besides, the "March of Return" is intended as part of the Palestinian national struggle against the "Zionist entity" -- Israel -- and has nothing to do with the closure of any border.
It is part of the Palestinian jihad (holy war) to eliminate Israel, which they see as a "colonialist project" imposed on the Arabs by Western powers after World War II. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in a rare moment of honesty, admitted earlier this year that this is precisely how Palestinians and Arabs perceive Israel.
The organizers of the "March of Return" have made it clear that besides flooding Israel with millions of Palestinian "refugees," the campaign has two other objectives: to foil Trump's "deal of the century" and stop any form of Arab normalization with Israel. The Palestinians have proclaimed a wholesale rejection of Trump's plan because they know it will not advance their goal of turning Jews into a minority in their own country. Trump's plan, they believe, does not recognize the Palestinian "right of return," which means that "refugees" and their descendants will not be allowed to move into Israel, turning it into an Arab-majority state. The organizers of the "March of Return" have clearly stated that this is a driving force behind the mass protests -- to send a message to the Trump administration that Palestinians will not accept any deal that does not facilitate their dream of replacing Israel with an Arab Islamic state.
The "March of Return" is also aimed at sending a warning to the Palestinian Authority and the Arab countries not to make any concessions to Israel or collaborate with the Trump administration.
Again, this is not what political analysts are saying. Instead, these are the exact words and phrases used by the organizers of the event. Their ultimate goal: to prevent Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority from returning to the negotiating table with Israel and to threaten Arab countries not to sign peace agreements with Israel.
Now, the organizers are telling us that the "March of Return" will continue and reach its peak in mid-May, on the 70th anniversary of the establishment of Israel.
The "March of Return" is yet another phase in the Palestinian attempt to wipe out the presence of Israel in the Middle East, not about any blockade. The "March of Return" is an anti-peace campaign designed to thwart any attempt to achieve peace between Israel and the Arab countries.
The leaders of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the other groups that organized the mass protests are now complaining about the high death toll and accusing Israel of opening fire at "unarmed and peaceful" protesters. These are the same leaders who urged their people to head to the border with Israel and to try to force their way into Israel. These are the same leaders who encouraged their people to damage the security fence along the border with Israel. Did they expect the Israeli soldiers to greet them with flowers?
As for Mahmoud Abbas, he has supplied yet more proof of his towering hypocrisy. Hours after the violent confrontations along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, Abbas appeared on Palestine TV to hold Israel "fully responsible" for the violence and death and injury of the protesters.
This is the same Abbas who recently told us that Hamas was a terror group that was behind the March 13 botched assassination attempt on his prime minister. This is the same Abbas who last year imposed sanctions on the Gaza Strip by suspending payments for electricity supplied to the Gaza Strip by Israel and suspending payments to thousands of civil servants there. Instead of condemning Hamas for sending the Palestinians to clash with the Israeli army and endanger their lives, Abbas chose to denounce Israel for protecting its border.
The Palestinian "March of Return" is being mistakenly referred to by some journalists and political analysts as a "peaceful and popular" drive by Palestinians demanding freedom and better living conditions.
Palestinians' living conditions in the Gaza Strip could be improved if the Egyptians only opened the Rafah border crossing and allowed Palestinians to leave and allowed Arabs and others to come and help the people there. Their lives could be improved if Hamas stopped building terror tunnels and smuggling weapons. But, as has become evident by now, the "March of Return" is nothing but a declaration of war on Israel and the Trump administration.
**Bassam Tawil is a Muslim based in the Middle East.
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Men Who Do Not Know the World
Ghassan Charbel/Asharq Al Awsat/April 02/18
The world is changing at a remarkable pace and time is merciless. It eliminates old ideas, books and methods and replaces them with new ones, before also leaving them behind. Revolutions and changes no longer take place on the street and by the people. They are born in laboratories that never sleep. The successive technological and scientific revolutions change the lives of peoples and countries and they do not need permission to cross borders.
Nothing can stand in the way of the approaching waves. You either join them or get pushed aside and are abandoned by the world. Your incorporation in the world demands that you change and abandon what you thought were unwavering convictions. You now come to realize that the “generals” of technology are more effective than the generals of armies. The effect of a major organization is more powerful than the might of a country or military.
It is not enough to say that you are headed towards the future. This is not an invitation to a wedding or a reception. It is an invitation to a difficult test that you will not pass unless you are part of a world that lives in the shadow of institutions and men who know this world.
The Middle East stays with the reporters that have left it, no matter how far they go. Perhaps because it is a lake of blood and tears and a swamp of fears and tensions. Lost peoples, porous borders, dark cities and waves of refugees. Schools are weak and unemployment is rampant. We have paid the heavy price for failing to build institutions. We have paid the heavy price for long remaining in the shadow of men who do not know the world.
Today, it is no longer enough to seize control of barracks, radios, parties or capitals. What will you do tomorrow? The antidotes of the old world have expired. You either belong to this age or die in your isolation.
In New York, you find success, money, greed and art. I remember former late Yemeni President Abdullah Saleh. In 2009, I asked him about the security incidents in his capital. He smiled, replying that those killed in Sanaa are less than those killed in New York. I thought it was a strange comparison. I asked him how he managed to remain in power since 1978. He replied sarcastically: “The Washington Post predicted that I would not last more than six months. And here we are now.”
As I rose to bid him farewell, he said: “Do you remember the names of the presidents of the White House since the time the Washington Post predicted the duration of my tenure?”
I mulled over his statements. Can the individual crimes in New York be compared to crimes committed in Sanaa? What about the major financial corporations? What about art, innovation, success, universities and opportunities? Are we an island that is isolated from the spirit of the world and its accomplishments? Can the United States be considered weak because a president is forced to leave office after serving two terms because the institution is more powerful than the man? Can he be considered weak because he cannot tame Congress, predict headlines before newspapers are printed and prevent a judge from imposing the law?
Not knowing the world is a calamity. Saddam Hussein did not know the world. He believed that a ruler is instated through the spirit of the nation, not the ballot boxes. He often wondered how a man, who won only 51 percent of a vote, could be able to make historic decisions. He believed that historic decisions can only be made by a man who wages elections alone and reaps 99 percent of the vote, ignoring the fact that these record figures were concocted at the Interior Ministry and intelligence offices.
Failing to know the world has led many countries to disasters. Believing that the West is weak and quickly accepting of the status quo, Saddam committed the sin of invading Kuwait. Based on his military thought that was inherited from World War II, he believed that he will confront the American army in the streets of Baghdad. He had forgotten that the world had progressed and that the massive technological gap will not allow the Iraqi army to come face-to-face with the Americans.
Moammar al-Gaddafi did not know the world and its real balances of power. He was overjoyed when Silvio Berlusconi kissed his hand and took joy in Italy’s weakness and humiliation. His ignorance of the world reached the extent of disrespecting Tony Blair. He was also tempted to meddle in the French presidential elections, believing that the new president will become a pawn in his hands. He never once believed that those nations have institutions that were awakening and correcting previous errors. No one in the world knew.
The most dangerous thing a ruler can do is waste successive generations and prevent his country from moving forward. Wasting the time of the people is no less dangerous than shedding blood. It is a form of mass murder. It is enough to examine the capitals of countries that were long ruled by men who knew nothing of the world and the real balances of power and the meaning of scientific and technological advancement.
The time of the isolated island is over. The river of progression is flowing and revolutions are being produced in laboratories. We will not be able to head towards the future without institutions, without men who carry the torch of progress. Men who know the world and have the courage to become part of it. Men who draw the path of dreams with numbers.

European sanctions against Iran are too little, too late
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/April 02/18
France, Britain and Germany are discussing ways to impose sanctions on the Iranian regime. These sanctions will most likely be aimed at members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Such a move, if implemented, would be intriguing as it would be the first punitive act carried out by the EU against the Iranian regime and its military since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was agreed and since four rounds of UN economic sanctions were lifted. However, it is critical to point out that EU sanctions against the Islamic Republic are long overdue for several reasons. Since the nuclear agreement was reached between the P5+1 countries and Iran in 2015, Tehran’s foreign policy has taken a more offensive and belligerent path. The Iranian regime has expanded its financial, military, intelligence and advisory support to militia and terrorist groups at a much faster pace. Iran has also escalated the provision of illegal weapons and ballistic missiles to militias including the Houthis in Yemen, in violation of a UN Security Council resolution. The Houthis then began firing these Iranian missiles into Saudi Arabia. One such attack happened on March 25 and resulted in the death of one person and injuries to two more. The UN condemned the Houthis. Formerly, the UN conclusively found the Iranian regime was behind the transfer of illegal weapons to the Houthis.
If the EU really wants to alter the regime’s destabilizing behavior and promote peace and security, it should take tougher measures, including the suspension of trade with Tehran, reimposing the sanctions that were lifted under the nuclear deal, and renegotiating the terms of that agreement.
Any astute observer of Middle East politics can observe that the region has become more unstable since the JCPOA. This is due to the fact it has become easier for the Iranian leaders to expand their influence through hard power thanks to increased revenues from oil sales and other trade with European nations, and their enhanced legitimacy. As a result, these developments indicate that punitive action against the Iranian regime is necessary to establish peace and security. On the one hand, the EU’s discussed sanctions are critical because they would send a robust message to the Iranian regime that the bloc will not tolerate Iran’s aggressive foreign policy, violations of international laws and UN resolutions, military adventurism in the region, and the supply of weapons to terrorist groups. On the other hand, the EU’s discussed sanctions against Iran — reportedly 15 Iranian individuals and companies — are not adequate. They are too little and too limited to moderate Iran’s foreign policy and change the regime’s behavior.
In addition, it would be counterproductive if France, Britain and Germany should only take such measures due to the two following reasons: First, it is tactically discussing sanctions just before US President Donald Trump’s May 12 deadline to “fix the terrible flaws” of the 2015 nuclear agreement in order to persuade the Trump administration to keep the deal intact. Additionally, Tehran’s aggression and violations of international laws have escalated to an unprecedented level. Hence, the EU is only imposing cosmetic sanctions in order to prevent its legitimacy and global image from being negatively impacted if it continued to turn a blind eye to Iran’s aggression and violations on the international stage. It is crucial to point out that, if France, Britain and Germany are acting due to either of these two reasons, they are directly or indirectly serving the Iranian regime’s interests.
With only such limited sanctions, Tehran will more likely escalate its belligerence and disregard for international norms. From the perspective of the Iranian leaders, the EU remains on the side of Tehran because it favors the nuclear deal. They believe these limited sanctions are only being discussed to maintain economic ties with Iran. If the purpose is to alter the Iranian regime’s destabilizing behavior and to promote peace and security, the EU ought to take tougher measures, including the suspension of trade with Tehran, reimposing the sanctions that were lifted under the nuclear deal, and renegotiating the terms of the nuclear agreement. More fundamentally, the EU should act with a united front. This means that other members, such as Italy, Greece, Ireland and Sweden, which are considered Iran’s closest European allies, need to forcefully join Britain, Germany and France.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. He serves on the boards of the Harvard International Review, the Harvard International Relations Council and the US-Middle East Chamber for Commerce and Business. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh

Syria’s humanitarian catastrophe is far from over
Chris Doyle/Al Arabiya/April 02/18
'Had Dante witnessed the suffering of the people in Eastern Ghouta, he might have rewritten his “Inferno.” Pancaked, besieged, and reduced to rubble — his immortal line is perhaps apt: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”
Victory. Winning. Defeat. In Syria, all these terms have corrupted meanings in the apocalyptic wilderness brought about over the last seven years. The latest chapter in Ghouta’s suffering may have started in mid-February, but pick any moment since 2011 and it was one of collective suffering, not least with the use of sarin gas in 2013. The awful tragedy is that the outcome of this denouement was as predictable as a Siberian winter. The flailing, inert international community had issued a UN Security Council Resolution that was doomed before birth. If anything, all the hollow international pressure served to falsely inflate expectations in Eastern Ghouta that somehow they would be rescued, with even rumors of US intervention emboldening some of the armed groups. They amassed in the cities and towns of Eastern Ghouta, once the breadbasket of Damascus, but simply could not withstand the Russian-Iranian-Syrian coalition amassed against them. Once the enclave was split into varying parts, the writing on the wall was bloodily clear. After all, many other opposition-controlled areas in Syria had suffered the same fate: The dreaded green buses shipping them out to Idlib or Jarabulus in the north.
The full story of the negotiations is one that cannot yet be told. Russia played a major if not impartial brokering role, often frustrated by all sides and if anything holding the regime back from a final military campaign to take Douma. Many took huge risks to avoid the inevitable, trying to wrestle the hundreds of thousands of civilians to some form of safety. It will be a story of doctors who not only marshaled the last remaining medical facilities, even as the bombs were aimed at them, but also attempted to find a negotiated exit as part of a civic committee. Different armed groups took differing positions. Faylaq Al-Rahman, largely ensconced in the southwestern part of Eastern Ghouta, were initially the more hardline, refusing to read the runes and being in cahoots with Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham. From the outside, this obstinacy at times looked suicidal, a pointless display of defiance. The fighters of course feared reprisals, arrests, disappearances. Civilians feared the same, as well as young men of fighting age being immediately recruited into the army for national service. Faylaq did then make an agreement at the last moment following heavy losses and extreme pressure from civilians.
Jaysh Al-Islam in Douma entered talks early on but then, owing to a specific jurist, Shaikh Kahkeh, stalled on the final deal. This armed group has lost its external patrons but was still well-funded owing to the lucrative war economy in the enclave. The 100,000 to 140,000 civilians left there are waiting their fate, many of them increasingly furious with Jaysh Al-Islam. The hopeful news at the time of writing was that an informal ceasefire appeared to exist and fighters were being evacuated, indicating serious progress in negotiations.
There is a danger the public perception is that the crisis in Eastern Ghouta is over, yet thousands of those who have got out of the enclave have found themselves in encampments with next to no services.
Certain areas were given special treatment. Hamourieh was rendered uninhabitable. Teams of regime looters systematically took everything from the whole town, right down to stripping copper wires. Yet a deal for Kafr Batna seems to have saved it from the worst of the ravages. Remarkably, its hospital is still operating. Areas where civilians have been able to remain post-deal have suffered less from these parasitical looters. But the humanitarian catastrophe will not finish. Much of the reporting has covered inside Eastern Ghouta. The danger is, as these deals are enacted, that the public perception is that the crisis in this area is over. Yet those who have got out, either in a deal or having successfully fled across lines, have found themselves in encampments with next to no services. One observer counted just eight toilets for 18,000 people. Reportedly, people are being interrogated and tortured.
Almost 41,000 rebels and civilians have also been evacuated to Idlib under deals between the government and rebel factions Ahrar Al-Sham and Faylaq Al-Rahman. This is just a transfer from one warzone to another. At some undetermined date in the future, all the opposition fighters and supporters who have been transferred to the northwest may well face the same foes once again.
Idlib is already under attack in areas, but the regime, totally determined to retain full sovereign control of all Syria, may first need to sort out northern Homs and Hama provinces, and even the south around Dara’a. Serious talks are happening over the fate of the Qalamun Mountains.
The regime will be feeling supremely confident. The end of fighting in Eastern Ghouta will eradicate the last opposition threat in the Damascus region. Yet this might be the moment of greatest danger. Under the cover of war and mortar shelling from Ghouta, the regime could ward off the massive post-mortem on this conflict that it will face with its loyalist base. Many of these loyalists will want to be satisfied with war booty, perhaps land in Ghouta stolen from those who have been forced out.
Tensions will erupt over what to do about those desiring to return to their homes in Syria. Other loyalists will demand serious change, painfully aware that the regime has been a poor protector of their interests over the last several years, mortgaging their country to Russian and Iranian interests in order to pay for this tsunami of carnage and destruction.
**Chris Doyle is director of the London-based Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU). He has worked with the council since 1993 after graduating with a first class honors degree in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Exeter University. Twitter: @Doylech

How terrorism is threatening Islam in Europe
Randa Takieddine/Al Arabiya/April 02/18
France has commemorated a hero from its security forces, Arnaud Beltrame, who died at the hands of a 25-year-old Moroccan criminal while trying to save hostages lives at the recent supermarket siege.
Radouane Lakdim first hijacked a car, after injuring the driver and killing a passenger, then entered a supermarket in the town of Trebes near Carcassonne and killed 4 people and injured 15 others. According to eyewitnesses, he committed this crime while screaming God is Greatest and pledging his allegiance to ISIS.
This terrorist was wanted by French security forces, but was never taken into custody because they thought he was not capable of carrying out a terrorist attack.
These criminals who come to European countries that open their doors and borders to immigrants, eventually force these states to shut their doors on peaceful migrants. The situation in French suburbs and other European countries is worsened by problems like social discord and unemployment
Killing in the name of Islam
Terrorists who perpetrate crimes in the name of Islam and who use Quranic verses to murder innocent people in the cities of Europe — in Paris, Nice, Marseille, Carcassonne – are often of Moroccan origin. They frequently reside in the outskirts of major European capitals and pose the biggest threat on moderate Muslims in Europe who contribute to building a developed, secular European society.
These criminals who come to European countries that open their doors and borders to immigrants, eventually force these states to shut their doors on peaceful migrants. The situation in French suburbs and other European countries is worsened by problems like social discord and unemployment.
In such localities, the environment for criminal activities and extremism flourishes. The security situation in the suburbs has become the prime focus for French governments since the country started witnessing major terrorist attacks. This problem did not just start with the coming of ISIS, but has existed since the mid-nineties when the Paris metro terrorist attacks happened and the Syrian war didn’t exist.
The problem worsened as ISIS recruited unemployed youth who claim that they are Muslims and who live in democratic countries that respect human rights thus allowing them to benefit from freedoms that they cannot enjoy in their homelands. These terrorists do not know the meaning of religion or Islam or human rights and they are the greatest enemies of Islam.
Denouncing terror attacks
French Muslims must strongly denounce these crimes and should ensure the security of their localities, particularly if they live in the suburbs. They must collaborate with local security officials in pursuing young men and women who intend to kill innocent people in the name of Islam.
After the killings in Carcassonne, one expected the Islamic world to raise its voice of condemnation loudly against such a hideous crime and blind action. The death of Beltrame, the hero that France and President Macron commemorated, should have drawn the Council of Arab Ambassadors and the entire Muslim world at this critical moment to convey their condolences to the French on behalf of the Muslim people.
Lieutenant Colonel Beltrame, the late hero, died because he wanted to save the cashier of the supermarket where she was held hostage by the criminal Lakdim. He negotiated to put himself in her place only to later be killed by the terrorist with a knife. Beltrame spent three and a half hours in the store with his killer, according to the prosecutor’s statement. According to his mother, this heroic soldier used to say that his country was more important than anything else, and he ended up dying to protect the people of his country.
The doctrine of terrorists among the Moroccan migrants in Europe exploits Islam, but is completely bereft of Islam’s teachings thus turning Islam into a monster in the eyes of sophisticated Western societies which now look at the religion with caution and vigilance. Muslims and Muslim countries should make immense efforts to show moderation and denounce extremism in all its forms.

The Fate of extremists: Too stubborn to recruit
Mansour Alnogaidan/Al Arabiya/April 02/18
In 1996, A. Z. was arrested for attempted murder for attacking A.A. with a butcher’s knife after the dawn prayer. The incident took place in the city of Ha’el, north of Riyadh. The victim was a preacher who had acquired training in Sharia studies. The killer had judged him to be a “snitch” for the state and a more broadly dishonorable cleric. In September 1994, dozens of men gathered in front of the the largest government building in the province of Al-Qaseem. The crowd consisted of locals and other Saudis from across the Kingdom. They came to express solidarity with Sheikh Salman Al Awda — an activist of the Saudi “Sahwa” (Awakening) movement who had found, following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, a fertile ground in the Kingdom to disperse his ideas — after his arrest. Al Awda’s sermons enticed young people to join the Muslim Brotherhood and serve the movement’s political agenda. His followers amounted to a dark shadow that lingered over the Kingdom for years. The Qaseem protestors managed to breach the gate of the government facility. An hour later, the ranking prince and his deputy still refused to receive representatives of the protesting crowd. After two zealous speeches, riot police surrounded the demonstration and arrested several dozen.
Qaseem’s seminal Salafi Scholar Ibn Athemein, reportedly unhappy with the situation, did not intervene to calm the demonstration. Sheikh Salman Al Awda’s sermons enticed young people to join the Muslim Brotherhood and serve the movement’s political agenda.
The incident captured attention in Saudi Arabia at the time. But behind the headlines lays details known only to a few eye witnesses. Al Awda had been betting that Ibn Athemein would not neither endorse supporters of the Sahwa nor denounce “political Islam” as illegitimate. In a private meeting with his followers, Al Awda said, “Shave my beard, I ask of you, if Ibn Athemein does anything for you. He will disappoint you.”
Ibn Athemein was indeed aware of the events surrounding the arrest of Al Awda. The day of the arrest, a mob encircled Ibn Athemein in public and pressured him to stand with Al Awda. He replied, “You have crossed the line. You surrounded the main government building and breached its gate. You damaged the state’s prestige.” One of the crowd shouted, “You are dishonorable cleric.” Another said, “You are a coward.” Another member of the crowd was A.Z. — the young man who two years later would be arrested for attempted murder. He told Athemein, “Let us be your guests. Open your door and allow us into your home.” The cleric replied, “Not under these circumstances,” and barely managed to enter his home and lock the door. Around the same time, in Al Diriya, west of Riyadh, the Imam of the Mohammed bin Abdul Wahhab mosque was shot from a moving car as he left his mosque. He had been opposed to the Sahwa movement. Others who shared his views were meanwhile under psychological assault from the “Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice,” which at the time was leaking private information about clerics who disagreed with the tenets of the Sahwa.

Is there a single terrorist who was not an extremist?
Mamdouh AlMuhaini/Al Arabiya/April 02/18
If there is a logical and simple explanation to any major phenomenon then it’s probably the right explanation. This applies to the phenomenon of terrorism which is caused by extremism. This is the simplest and most logical explanation to it. The issue is quite simple: Without extremism there will be no terrorists. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman clearly pointed this out during an interview with the Wall Street Journal when he said: “We have to get rid of extremism. Without extremism no one can become a terrorist.”
Although this explanation is simple and clear, there have been dozens of interpretations to the phenomenon of terrorism and that eventually sidetracked understanding it. What’s more dangerous is that this has squandered efforts to decisively eliminate terrorism.
A terrorist, however, acts upon an extremist and ideological belief which legislates ill behavior and makes him think that by blowing himself up he will go to heaven. This is deceitful whitewashing because comparing them to criminals means treating them equally and imprisoning them
Why extremism harbors terrorism
Before addressing these dangerous interpretations, it’s important to explain why extremism is the incubator of terrorism. It’s easy to realize that all terrorists are takfirists. When they carry out suicide bombings, they do not feel remorse because they believe they’re killing infidels whom they’ve devalued as humans. Is there any terrorist who believes in the ideas of tolerance, equality and co-existence? Of course not. No terrorist just wakes up and decides to be a terrorist who rams children in the street. They are ordinary people who have absorbed extremist ideas which eventually made them professional terrorists. All terrorists are necessarily extremists. Without resolving the phenomenon of extremism from its roots, terrorism will not disappear on its own.
This is the logical explanation. However there have been dozens of interpretations which ignore this major and clear reason which terrorists themselves confess in their recordings and conversations that are full of takfir and that speak of murdering Muslims who are different than them and non-Muslims. If terrorists themselves state they are extremists then why do we go ahead and create other excuses for them? This may seem like a naïve comment but there are in fact logical reasons for creating such apologetic interpretations.
One of the most famous explanations of terrorism is that poverty is the main motive. This is invalid because al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was a millionaire and his deputy emir, Ayman al-Zawahiri, came from a famous and well-off family. The list goes on. A rich man becomes a terrorist because his ideas are poisoned. There are millions of poor Muslims around the world, like the case is in India, but they did not turn into murderers who are blowing themselves up in markets.
An unemployed man looks for a job and not for an explosive belt. He may feel frustrated, depressed, hopeless and helpless but he does not decide to kill innocent people in the streets while chanting in God’s name. If this was a valid explanation, we’d see needy unemployed people joining ISIS and Al-Nusra. Humanity has always known poverty which will exist until Doomsday but it’s never been a reason for murder and terrorism.
Marginalization and ‘infidels’
Another explanation attributes terrorism to marginalization. This is also invalid because terrorists in Riyadh and Cairo are not marginalized yet they kill people in their own society. Do you remember the twins who stabbed their mother to death in Riyadh? Were they marginalized in their country, city, family or home? Did their own mother marginalize them to kill her like that? They killed her because they were extremists and terrorists. They decided she was an infidel so they concluded that shedding her blood is permissible. According to them, she had no human value.
Some respond to that by stating that marginalization in European societies pushes Muslims towards extremism and eventually towards terrorism. This is a fallacy because there are plenty of Muslims who integrated in European communities and held prominent posts because they believed in tolerance and co-existence. These people became European citizens, inside outside. Marginalized people and people who feel that they do not enjoy all their rights usually pursue either of two paths.
The first one is a civil fight to restore their rights, like African Americans did in the US when they peacefully fought all the unjust laws against them. They did not decide to establish suicide bombers’ groups to kill in the name of religion and doctrine. The second path is surrendering to frustration, anger and isolation. In this case, protests erupt but terrorism is not produced. In western societies in general, there are groups that are marginalized for several reasons but they have not pursued terrorism or become terrorists. Attributing terrorism to marginalization is wrong and dangerous. The terror attacks which struck Paris, Brussels and London were carried out by terrorists who graduated with distinction from the school of extremism.
A third interpretation is that terrorists are mentally ill people and this is why they commit these horrific massacres. This is a wrong and harmful explanation because it accuses millions of people who suffer from mental issues of terrorism. Facts show this is false. Those who have psychological problems go to hospitals for treatment and do not blow themselves up. There are thousands of mentally ill people in hospitals. If this explanation is true, we’d see all these people at the “jihad” fronts. Attributing terrorism to mental and psychological issues is a mean trick to make it unnecessary to discuss extremist ideas and perceptions.
A fourth explanation stipulates that terrorists are mercenaries and criminals. This explanation bears clear condemnation however it’s dangerous because it transforms terrorism into a criminal offense similar to theft, embezzlement and rape. In this case there is no ideological background to condemn and fight. A thief or a bribe-taker does not ideologically or religiously justify his crime and he does not embezzle money in the name of God. Is there a thief who commits a crime to serve God? No. A thief is aware that he’s doing something shameful and there’s no need to convince him otherwise.
A terrorist, however, acts upon an extremist and ideological belief which legislates ill behavior and makes him think that by blowing himself up he will go to heaven. This is deceitful whitewashing because comparing them to criminals means treating them equally and imprisoning them. Meanwhile, ideas flourish outside prison. This is what happened in the past two decades. It’s as if we are sinking in a sea of terrorists as every time a terror group is caught, another group whose members are younger than the latter’s emerges. This is all because extremist ideas continue to prosper.
Terrorists are not criminals or poor or marginalized or mentally-ill people. These are excuses which are promoted out of good intentions by some and ill intentions by fanatics, like the Muslim Brotherhood and Sahwa, to reshuffle the deck and make accusations in all directions except in the major one which is extremist ideology.

Houthi terrorism and Qatari piracy
Mohammed Al-Hammadi/Al Arabiya/April 02/18
It is difficult to change the attitude and ideas of regimes and groups overnight. For example the aggressive Qatari attitude towards the countries in the region is quite old and will take a long time to change. For many years, the Qatari regime has been in the habit of working against countries of the region and their interests, and it has also gotten used to harming and abusing its neighboring states. Previously, this behavior was done in secret, but now it is done openly in public, as was demonstrated by its media when it supported the Houthi terrorist attack that used ballistic missiles against Saudi Arabia and allowed leaders of the terrorist Houthi forces to appear on Al Jazeera channel. Meanwhile, two Qatari jet fighters approached two UAE civilian aircrafts threatening the lives of innocent passengers. This is not the first time this happens as there have been similar instances in the past and the UAE had taken legal action against them!
Act of desperation
It is also difficult to change the terrorist behavior of various groups and militias, particularly the Houthis. Firing the seven ballistic missiles, which the Saudi forces intercepted, sends a clear message that the Houthis are in a desperate situation and have been defeated. They are fully aware that they are committing a huge crime. Iran which is providing them with these missiles knows that such an attack would invoke due punishment. Yet they insist on continuing with their terrorist behavior, as their sense of despair is forcing them to take all their chances! Firing these missiles is all what the militias can do after they have lost most of their positions on the ground, and after the coalition forces succeeded in regaining many areas that were under the Iranian-backed Houthi militias’ control. When Yemen’s reconstruction phase begins, it will be important to remember all the heroes of the Yemeni and Arab coalition forces. What the terrorists and pirates should know is that the Arab Coalition forces are determined to achieve victory, and will not stop until they have regained legitimacy for Yemen. They should never forget that Saudi Arabia is considered by the whole Gulf and Yemen as a cornerstone for regional security and stability which any attack against will not be tolerated. Any attack against Saudi Arabia is deemed a direct attack on the countries of the region. Iran’s targeting of Saudi Arabia is tantamount to targeting the whole region.
Remember the martyrs
After three years, Yemenis have come closer towards the end a bloody chapter in the history of their country. When Yemen’s reconstruction phase begins, it will be important to remember all the heroes of the Yemeni and Arab coalition forces. We would always remember the UAE’s brave soldiers and our martyrs who sacrificed their souls to restore the rights to owners and to restore the security and stability of Yemen and the region. After three years of victories, the international community must participate in resolving the situation in Yemen. This is not a regional war and not just a civil war, but a war to protect the world’s security and stability which Tehran wants to tamper with by controlling an important part of the Arab Peninsula and the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait.