April 05/2018
Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani


The Bulletin's Link on the lccc Site


News Bulletin Achieves Since 2006
Click Here to enter the LCCC Arabic/English news bulletins Achieves since 2006


Bible Quotations
Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them
Letter to the Hebrews 12/28-29-13/01-09: "Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; for indeed our God is a consuming fire. Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured. Let marriage be held in honour by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers. Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’So we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?’ Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever. Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings; for it is well for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by regulations about food, which have not benefited those who observe them.

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 04-05/18
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
"May 7" era, an extension of the "October 13" era./Dr.Walid Phares/Face Book/April 04/18
Turkey-US relations are salvageable but require great effort/Yasar Yakis/Arab News/April 04/18
Syrian civilians face landmine menace after ISIL/Mina Aldroubi/The National/April 04/2018
Elections won’t improve the Middle East, good governance will/Sir John Jenkins/Arab News/April 04/18
ISIS comeback? How US withdrawal is a triple whammy for Assad in Syria/
Martin Jay/Al Arabiya/April 04/18
Russia’s nuclear deal with Turkey targets NATO/Huda al-Husseini/Al Arabiya/April 04/18
A US-Saudi entertainment summit/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/April 04/18
What is happening in Arabistan, the region Iran has dubbed as Khuzestan/Mohammed Al-Hammadi/Al Arabiya/April 04/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on April 04-05/18
Judases Of the Cedar’s Revolution & the 14th Of March Coalition
To Make Our Easter’s Commemoration Godly & Righteous
"May 7" era, an extension of the "October 13" era.
Lebanon celebrates ties with Kingdom as street in Beirut is named after King Salman
Lebanon Hopes to Raise Billions at CEDRE Conference to Keep Economy Afloat
Three Injured in Petrol Station Fire in Hasbaya
Report: Berri Criticizes 'Exploitation' of Influence for Electoral Ends
Aoun Says Lebanon's Taxation Law 'Must be Reviewed'
Future bloc hails budget endorsement prior to Cedre conference
Sami Gemayel meets candidate Kamil Chamoun over elections' update in Chouf
Berri warns against Israeli hostile statements
Bassil from Grand Serail: Monitoring, transparency available for expatriate vote
Cabinet emphasizes transparency of expatriates vote
Report: Hizbullah Says 'We are Not War Fanatics' but 'Ready' to Defend Lebanon
Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 04-05/18
Female Suspect Dead, Several Hurt in YouTube Shooting
Khamenei: Israel should be forced to 'retreat to point of demise'
Trump agrees in NSC meeting to keep US troops in Syria
UN seeks access to people ‘on their knees’ in Douma in eastern Ghouta
Broken by Siege, Syria Rebels Face Worst Loss Yet in Ghouta
First UN humanitarian mission to Syria’s Raqqa since ISIS defeat
British Labor Delegation in Syria to Support Kurds
Turkey Hosts Critical Summit on Syria with Russia, Iran
Bahrain Announces Discovery of 80 bn Barrels of Oil
Israel Arrests 10 Gazans Accused of Planning Naval Attack
Trump under Investigation but Not Criminal Target
Egyptian court sentences 35 to life in prison on terror charges
First cinema in Saudi Arabia to open on April 18
UAE files complaint against Qatar to UN Security Council
Latest Lebanese Related News published on April 03-04/18
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
"May 7" era, an extension of the "October 13" era.
Dr.Walid Phares/Face Book/April 04/18
When the next legislative elections in Lebanon will be over, the Lebanese public will realize that it was an exercise to grant Hezbollah and its allies four more years of additional control of the country. For the next majority will be in their hands, and the next minority will be seeking to join that majority whenever it can. Lebanon continues to live in the "May 7" era, an extension of the "October 13" era.
Lebanon celebrates ties with Kingdom as street in Beirut is named after King Salman
Arab News/April 04/18/ The street, the first in the country named after a Saudi king, is on the road from Minet El Hosn to Zaitunay Bay Has been described as a celebration of "deep-rooted" Saudi-Lebanon relationship
Beirut: A street in Lebanon has been named in honor of Saudi Arabia’s King Salman. The inauguration ceremony for King Salman Avenue — a huge political occasion, attended by the Saudi envoy Nizar Alaoula — was described as a celebration that “reaffirms the deep-rooted relationship between Riyadh and Beirut.” The street, the first in the country named after a Saudi king, is on the road from Minet El Hosn to Zaitunay Bay. It runs parallel to the sea, is 1.3 kilometers long and 45 meters wide, and features some of the country’s finest hotels and tourist attractions. Diplomats from the Saudi embassy in Lebanon welcomed VIP guests at the inauguration ceremony, including: Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri; former President Michel Suleiman; former prime ministers Fouad Siniora, Tammam Salam and Najib Mikati; Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea; head of the Democratic Gathering Walid Jumblatt and his delegation; and representatives of the spiritual authorities. Some members of the public who attended the ceremony carried photos of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, one of King Salman’s titles, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Hariri. Saudi Minister Plenipotentiary Walid Bukhari described the naming of the road as “proof of the Lebanese people’s deep love for the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, who embodies peace and moderation.” He added: “This wonderful initiative reminds us of Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, who was martyred meters from here. “I am very happy to see this country safe, stable, and secure...the gem of moderation that brings together people who carry tolerant messages. “Saudi Arabia has always been, and will always be, the guarantor of security, safety, and stability in Lebanon, and will always protect its unity.” Bukhari praised the continuing efforts of Prime Minister Hariri, President Michel Aoun and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri in facing and overcoming difficulties to ensure peace, stability, and sustainable development in their country. “The Saudi-Lebanese relationship is well-established and will remain as strong and stable as the cedar tree,” he added. Hariri said: “Beirut, with all its diversity, has gathered here to honor a great Arab figure who stood by Lebanon during the darkest of circumstances. “Saudi Arabia has conveyed the true meaning of brotherhood in its relationship with Lebanon. The Kingdom has a glorious history as a supporter of Lebanon. It sponsored the Taif Agreement and ended the Lebanese tragedy. “The history Lebanon shares with Saudi Arabia is unbreakable, no matter how hard others sought to do so, and this evening in Beirut confirms that Lebanon’s Arab identity is above all else.” Beirut Mayor Jamal Itani said that “the area in which King Salman Avenue is located is of strategic importance because it’s a vital economic bloodline and a cultural meeting point for Beirut’s diverse residents.” He added: “The Municipality of Beirut decided to name the avenue after King Salman as a gesture of appreciation for all that the Kingdom has done for Lebanon.”Jumblatt said: “King Salman has a great history of supporting Lebanon, especially when he and King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz participated in facing the Tripartite Aggression in 1956. “This is Beirut — the Beirut of Arab resistance, patriotism and steadfastness.”During the ceremony, doves and 7,000 balloons were released, while a fireworks display illuminated the sky in the center of the capital. The Municipality of Beirut said: “Releasing the doves symbolized peace, which is the focus of King Salman’s attention through the King Salman Center for International Peace and the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center.”

Lebanon Hopes to Raise Billions at CEDRE Conference to Keep Economy Afloat
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 04/18/Lebanon is hoping to raise billions of dollars at a France-led donor meeting on Friday to stave off an economic crisis in the world's third most indebted country. Growth in the small Mediterranean country has plummeted in the wake of repeated political crises, compounded by the 2011 breakout of civil war in neighboring Syria. The Syrian war has sent one million Syrian refugees in flight to Lebanon, a country of only four million before the conflict. The Paris conference comes as Lebanon gears up for its first general elections in almost a decade in May, after parliament renewed its own mandate three times since 2009. The Middle Eastern country hopes donor countries and financial institutions at the CEDRE conference will help stimulate the economy through investment. Lebanon hopes to raise "between $6 billion and $7 billion in the shape of credit facilities and funds," Nadim Munla, an adviser to Prime Minister Saad Hariri, has said. Parliament last week adopted a 2018 government budget, projecting a deficit of $4.8 billion -- more than double the deficit in 2011, when Syria's war started. Economist Paul Doueihy says this growing budget shortfall means "the probability of a systemic crisis is now higher than ever". To avoid bankruptcy, the state should "urgently" reduce its spending, he and others say. 'State keeps' spending -"But the state keeps increasing its expenses," Doueihy says. In July, parliament approved an increase in public salaries, estimated to cost more than $1 billion per year. Nassib Ghobril, head researcher at Byblos Bank, says the state has also given jobs to 26,000 new employees over the past three years. In February, the International Monetary Fund warned that Lebanese authorities needed to address "rapidly rising" public debt. It stood at 150 percent of GDP in 2017 -- the third highest worldwide after Japan and Greece, the international body said. With a budget deficit last year equivalent to more than 10 percent of GDP, the IMF signalled a "critical need for a fiscal consolidation plan" and cuts in spending. On top of budget trouble, fears remain over the devaluation of the national currency. The central bank in November drew more than $800 million from its foreign reserves to maintain the fixed exchange rate of around 1,500 Lebanese pounds to the dollar, in place since 1997. But structural factors behind the currency's fragility persist, experts say.
With Lebanon importing more goods and services than it exports, the pound is artificially overvalued, they say. This is likely to continue with the current account deficit "expected to remain above 20 percent". The pound would be worth much less under a floating exchange rate.
- 'Political will' -And monetary stability has been achieved at the cost of increased interest rates for deposits and loans in pounds. This will likely affect investment and increase the cost of public borrowing. On top of this, banks also cannot lend as much money to the state as before because deposit growth has been down. Deposit growth stood at four percent last year, against 12 percent in 2010 on the eve of the Syrian conflict. As for increasing revenues, the state in October adopted fiscal measures including increasing VAT to 11 percent to fund its new spending on public salaries. "But in a context of weak growth and the erosion of purchasing power, it's difficult to increase taxes further," economist Marwan Barakat says. The state could however fight tax evasion, which stands at an estimated $4.2 billion per year. "If there is serious political will, Lebanon can get back up to half of what is missing -- i.e. more than $2 billion per year," says Barakat, head of research at Bank Audi. But corruption remains an obstacle to reforms. In 2016, more than 92 percent of Lebanon's population saw worsening corruption, graft watchdog Transparency International said. In its last report, the watchdog ranked Lebanon 143rd out of 180 countries it surveyed for its perceived corruption index.

Three Injured in Petrol Station Fire in Hasbaya
Naharnet/April 04/18/At least three people have been injured in a fire blaze that engulfed a petrol station in the southeastern district of Hasbaya, the National News Agency reported on Wednesday. The blaze started early on Wednesday at the Jumblat Gas Station. The volume of fire grew worse where large plume of black smoke billowed from the site covering the skies over the towns of Hasbaya, al-Arqoub and Marjayun, NNA said. The fire extended to reach nearby houses after the attempts of Civil Defense firefighters failed to extinguish it, it added. The cause of the fire is not yet known.

Report: Berri Criticizes 'Exploitation' of Influence for Electoral Ends
Naharnet/April 04/18/As political parties and parliament hopefuls gear for the upcoming legislative May elections, Speaker Nabih Berri expressed resentment with the “use of influence for electoral purposes,” al-Joumhouria daily reported on Wednesday. Berri expressed “resentment with manifestations of influence reported in several electoral districts. Complaints are growing every day about candidates, having state positions or links to security apparatuses, exploiting their influence for electoral purposes,” the daily quoted the Speaker as telling his visitors. The Speaker did not specify anyone, but according to reports some state figure candidates are using their influence and state benefits for the welfare of their campaigns. Berri added picking at the country's electoral law: “Everything so far shows that the current electoral law needs to be improved,” he said. On May 6, Lebanon will stage its first elections in nine years based on a complex proportional representation law, only agreed in June, 2017. The elections will be held across 15 electoral districts. The new law stipulates that each voter shall vote for one of the competing lists and shall be entitled to cast one preferential vote for a candidate of the same chosen list. According to reports some state figures running in the upcoming polls are using their influence and state benefits for the welfare of their campaigns. On a question whether he would name Prime Minister Saad Hariri for a second term, Berri said: “Yes I will vote for him.”

Aoun Says Lebanon's Taxation Law 'Must be Reviewed'
Naharnet/April 04/18/President Michel Aoun stated that Lebanon's taxation law must be subject to a comprehensive review, stressing the need for joint citizen-state efforts to combat corruption, the Presidency media office said on Wednesday. “A comprehensive review of Lebanon's tax law (stipulated) since the independence must be considered,” he said, stressing the need for “stable taxation schemes that attract investments and strengthens productive sectors,” Aoun told a delegation of the Lebanese Tax Association. Aoun emphasized that “fighting corruption and tax evasion, which is a continuous process especially in the positions of influence, is a responsibility shared by the citizen and the state.” He expressed hope that more achievements are made in this area after the upcoming parliamentary elections and the formation of a new government. The President stressed that “taxes are a cornerstone to encourage investments, especially foreign ones."
Future bloc hails budget endorsement prior to Cedre conference
Wed 04 Apr 2018/NNA - Future parliamentary bloc on Wednesday heaped praise on the fresh endorsement of the 2018 state budget, especially as the Cedre conference is nearing. "The bloc hails the endorsement of the 2018 public budget at this time in particular before the Cedre conference that will be held in Paris," the bloc said in a statement following its regular meeting under the chairmanship of MP Fouad Siniora, at the Center House in Downtown Beirut. "This accomplishment shall reflect a positive image of Lebanon's determination to restore order and restraint to its finances," the statement read. "The Cedre conference shall give momentum to Lebanon amid the critical juncture in the region," it added. On a different note, the bloc extolled the inauguration of King Salman Avenue in Beirut, maintaining that the event only confirms the depth and strength of the Lebanese-Saudi ties. Furthermore, Future bloc sternly condemned "the brutal and criminal Israeli suppression of the Palestinian people." It also deplored "the crimes perpetrated against the Syrian people in al-Ghouta."

Sami Gemayel meets candidate Kamil Chamoun over elections' update in Chouf

Wed 04 Apr 2018/NNA - Kataeb leader MP Sami Gemayel held talks with candidate to the legislative polls Kamil Chamoun, at the party's Central House in Saifi on Wednesday. Both dwelt on the latest developments regarding the legislative polls in the district of Chouf and Aley.

Berri warns against Israeli hostile statements
Wed 04 Apr 2018/NNA - House Speaker, Nabih Berri, on Wednesday has warned against the hostile statements by the Israeli chief of staff and Israeli assaults and provocations. Speaker Berri cited herein the recent Israeli violation of Lebanese sovereignty, namely the incident of the Israeli drone's crash in Beit Yahoun in southern Lebanon. Visiting deputies within the framework of 'Wednesday Gathering' reported that the Speaker conducted a series of contacts with the international references and with the President of the Republic in order to confront the dangers of such hostile Israeli policy. Wednesday Gathering also dwelt on the climate of the forthcoming legislative elections on May 6. Visiting lawmakers relayed the Speaker's dissatisfaction with certain violations of the electoral law, particularly those related to the dispensation of electoral money. Berri noted in front of his visiting MPs that several flaws have appeared so far in the new electoral law, stressing the need to amend such law in the future. On the other hand, Berri welcomed at his Ein Tineh residence European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides, and European Ambassador to Lebanon, Christina Lassen. Talks reportedly touched on most recent developments in Lebanon and the broad region.

Bassil from Grand Serail: Monitoring, transparency available for expatriate vote
Wed 04 Apr 2018/NNA - Foreign Affairs and Expatriates Minister, Gebran Bassil, confirmed in a statement after the cabinet meeting on Tuesday that monitoring and transparency were available for expatriate voting. The Minister also pushed for halting campaigns questioning the integrity of expatriate voting, asserting greater transparency abroad. "Securing polling stations for expatriate voting abroad was such a tiring process," Bassil added, hoping that these efforts will not be sabotaged. On another level, Bassil pointed out that all the conferences that had taken place abroad had received special funding. "The state did not pay a single Lebanese pound. Conferences abroad are not of a political nature like the previous ones or the ones that will take place in the future," Bassil added.

Cabinet emphasizes transparency of expatriates vote

Wed 04 Apr 2018/NNA - The President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri chaired the cabinet session today at the Grand Serail, following which Minister of Information Melhem Riachi read the following official information: "The cabinet held a regular session under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Saad Hariri. It approved its agenda and an article related to sewage in Kadisha valley. There was a lot of discussion about the broadcast of football matches. The Ministry of Information will meet with beIN company in order to buy the rights for Tele Liban so that all Lebanese can watch football games."Question: Did the Council of Ministers address the CEDRE conference? Riachi: Yes, we discussed the conference.
Question: What about the discussion regarding the expatriate vote?
Riachi: There is a discussion in order to protect the electoral process from any attempt to falsify. I think that things are normal. Both the Interior and Foreign ministers spoke on how to protect the elections and there is a determination by the Council of Ministers to monitor and protect the electoral process.
On the other hand, asked about this issue, Interior Minister Nohad Mashnouk said: "There are no problems with the expatriate vote. The boxes will be closed with red wax and sent by DHL to Lebanon. The delegates can be present at polling stations, although there is a lack of space. There is also a system of cameras at all polling stations to transfer the picture directly to Lebanon on polling day. All concerns are illusions and the supervision of the voting process will be from ambassadors and consuls because we do not have 150 persons to supervise the process abroad. We trust the role of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the ambassadors and consuls."
For his part, Education minister Marwan Hamade said: "The transparency of the expatriate vote was discussed, because with all our trust in the ambassadors, they cannot be in all voting stations. The Interior Ministry cannot send observers to 140 station. We prefer to send employees from Lebanon who have a connection with the electoral supervision body. These are among the problems of this hybrid law."For his part, Foreign Minister, Gebran Bassil, said: "We are all responsible for this national achievement because for the first time the expatriates participate in the poll and they should not be swept in a cheap political debate. First, the Ministry of the Interior is responsible for this electoral process and the Foreign Ministry is executing in agreement with the Ministry of Interior. We want the Ministry of the Interior to send all the staff and observers to carry out this task. If we are relieved of this, we would be grateful, because it is not part of our work to hold the elections. But we cannot doubt an ambassador and trust another employee.
It is not the duty of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to conduct the elections. We implement the instructions in the law as put by the Ministry of the Interior. We do everything necessary to guard ballot boxes and seal them with red wax. They will be transferred via DHL to the Central Bank and the vote will be counted on sorting day. There is also a mechanism for delegates. All the means of transparency and monitoring are available, and I can say that they are more available than in Lebanon, in coordination with the Ministry of the Interior. I hope that we will stop the questioning, which has no basis and no reason, and only harms the expatriates. Expatriates are scattered in 40 countries and we believe in 116 centers, almost 220, and we made great efforts to secure them so that expatriates can reach the nearest areas to vote. Let us not doubt them and say later that they did not participate. All this false media pumping only aims to incite. I think that all the political parties have representatives abroad and will monitor and supervise this process, so let us not engage in a groundless questioning process. We also spoke about the expatriates data. It is not only present at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs but also at the Ministry of the Interior and parts are available at the embassies and political parties. We could distribute it. I told the cabinet that we should distribute it because all candidates and political parties are asking for it, but we should not to distribute officially because the expatriates may not want this.
Regarding the Diaspora meeting next Saturday in Paris, Bassil said that it is the twelfth conference and another one will happen after the elections. He added that these conferences are not political and not funded by the state.

Report: Hizbullah Says 'We are Not War Fanatics' but 'Ready' to Defend Lebanon
Naharnet/April 04/18/Hizbullah has reportedly assured that the party is not “a war fanatic” but at the same time reiterated readiness to "defend" Lebanon against any future Israeli aggression, al-Joumhouria daily reported Wednesday.
Replying to Gadi Eisenkot, Israeli chief of staff's statements about Hizbullah, unnamed party sources told the daily: “We can not rest assured next to an enemy. But, we believe the statements were mere threats and there are no real chances of war between Lebanon and Israel, or between the enemy and countries of axis of the resistance. But it seems the Israelis have lost their minds in the light of the great victories achieved by the axis of resistance in Syria.”“Israeli threats against Lebanon are not new,” reminded the sources, “but it seems that Eisenkot and Israeli officials have been empowered by their relations with Saudi Arabia that became public now. Anyway, Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has replied to these threats and stressed that the party is not a war fanatic, but will always be ready to defend Lebanon.” The source added that Hizbullah plans to wage any future battle with Israel as “an axis,” saying “Eisenkot and others know well that a choice of war is not a picnic. The next time we fight, we will fight as an axis, we will not fight alone.”Israeli chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot said in statements late in March that Israel “still has a lot of work to do to slow down Hizbullah's progress,” adding that “Hizbullah is incapable of attacking a specific target within Israel. It cannot arm an airplane or shoot a missile that will hit a specific target inside Israel. We, on the other hand, have tens of thousands of opportunities to harm them.”

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 04-05/18
Female Suspect Dead, Several Hurt in YouTube Shooting
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 04/18/Gunfire erupted at YouTube's offices in California Tuesday, leaving three people wounded and sparking a panicked escape before the suspected shooter -- a woman -- apparently committed suicide. California news outlets late Tuesday said she appeared to be a vegan-themed content creator who has raged against YouTube on her personal website for what she saw as censorship of her videos. "There is no free speech in real world and you will be suppressed for telling the truth that is not supported by the system," read a post on a website identified as hers by the San Francisco Chronicle. "There is no equal growth opportunity on YouTube or any other video sharing site." Police had yet to formally released the name of the apparent shooter or confirm a motive. Amid a chaotic scene in the city of San Bruno, a woman believed to be the shooter was found dead at the scene of the Google-owned video sharing service. "We have one subject who is deceased inside the building with a self-inflicted wound," San Bruno Police Chief Ed Barberini told reporters. "At this time, we believe it to be the shooter."Officers arriving to numerous calls for help saw employees running from the building, and found a person out front who appeared to be shot in the leg, according to police. Four people, three suffering from gunshot wounds, were taken to local hospitals, police said. The fourth person hurt suffered a sprained or broken ankle. "I know a lot of you are in shock right now," Google chief executive Sundar Pichai said in a message to employees shared by the company on Twitter.
"I am grateful to everyone inside and outside the company for the outpouring of support and best wishes." He thanked emergency workers for springing into action to help, and said that he and YouTube chief Susan Wojcicki were focused on supporting employees in the aftermath of the violence. "There are no words to describe how horrible it was to have an active shooter @YouTube today," Wojcicki wrote."Our hearts go out to all those injured and impacted today. We will come together to heal as a family."
Shootings by women are a rare occurrence in the United States, where the overwhelming majority of gun violence is carried out by men. According to an FBI study that looked at 160 incidents involving one or more shooters in public places between 2000 and 2013, just six of the people who opened fire were women, or 3.8 percent. Barberini said the injured "have been transported and are being treated for injuries that are treatable." Frantic escape -Employees recounted frantic scenes as they fled YouTube's headquarters near San Francisco, with one saying he saw blood on the floor as he escaped. The shooting took place around midday, when many at YouTube were having lunch. "We were sitting in a meeting and then we heard people running because it was rumbling the floor. First thought was earthquake," employee Todd Sherman tweeted.
Sherman said that as he headed for an exit, "someone said that there was a person with a gun," adding that "at that point every new person I saw was a potential shooter."Sherman's tweets continued: "I looked down and saw blood drips on the floor and stairs. Peeked around for threats and then we headed downstairs and out the front." One image posted by a Twitter user showed employees being led out of the building with their hands up, with no further explanation. Another YouTube employee, Vadim Lavrusik, tweeted: "Active shooter at YouTube HQ. Heard shots and saw people running while at my desk. Now barricaded inside a room with coworkers." Later, Lavrusik said he had escaped to safety. A worker told of a fire alarm going off at one point, prompting an exodus that grew more urgent as news of gunfire spread. Witnesses reported helicopters on the scene as well as police SWAT teams. The White House said President Donald Trump had been briefed and that his administration was monitoring the ongoing situation in San Bruno.
Shortly afterward, Trump tweeted: "Our thoughts and prayers are with everybody involved. Thank you to our phenomenal Law Enforcement Officers and First Responders that are currently on the scene."Apple CEO Tim Cook tweeted a message of solidarity that said: "From everyone at Apple, we send our sympathy and support to the team at YouTube and Google, especially the victims and their families."YouTube headquarters is located some 30 miles (50 kilometers) from the main Google campus in Mountain View.The shooting, which follows a series of deadly gun incidents at schools and elsewhere, comes amid heated debate on gun control measures in the United States. An estimated 1.5 million people participated in demonstrations on March 24 calling for stricter firearms measures following a deadly shooting in Parkland, Florida. Organizers of the March for Our Lives sent a message of solidarity to the employees hit by the latest shooting, tweeting: "Our hearts are with you, @YouTube."

Khamenei: Israel should be forced to 'retreat to point of demise'
Ynetnews/Reuters/April 04/18/Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei calls on people of Muslim countries to defeat Israel, says negotiations with 'cheating, lying and oppressive regime' are 'unforgivable mistake'; statements come in the wake of The Atlantic interview with Saudi Crown Prince bin Salman, in which he said Israelis were entitled to live peacefully on their own land. Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called Wednesday on the people of Muslim countries to defeat Israel. "With an intense and planned struggle, they should force the enemy to retreat toward the point of demise," he said.
Any move to negotiate with Israel would be an "unforgivable mistake", the cleric added, after Saudi Arabia's crown prince said Israelis were entitled to live peacefully on their own land. Supreme Leader Khamenei later tweeted, "On days when escalation of oppression & barbarism by the Zionists, in Gaza has saddened and angered those who care for Palestine, we reiterate the perpetual stance of the Islamic Republic regarding the issue of Palestine. "The return of dignity and power to the Islamic nation is exclusively linked to resistance—while confronting arrogant powers and their wicked plots—and the issue of Palestine is at the top of Islam's international agenda in the face of the arrogant front." Saudi Arabia—birthplace of Islam and site of its holiest shrines—does not officially recognize Israel, but Mohammed bin Salman's comments, quoted in the US magazine The Atlantic, are a further sign of an apparent thawing in bilateral ties. They come as mainly Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia faces off against Shiite Iran in a regional power struggle. Tehran and Riyadh back opposing sides in the conflicts in Yemen and Syria, as well as rival political groups in Iraq and Lebanon. "Movement toward negotiation with the cheating, lying and oppressive regime (of Israel) is a big, unforgivable mistake that will push back the victory of the people of Palestine," Khamenei said in a statement posted on his official website. The statement, which did not explicitly name Saudi Arabia, said it was the duty of all Muslims to support Palestinian resistance movements and it pledged continued Iranian backing for the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas. After the crown prince's comments, his father King Salman reiterated Saudi Arabia's support for a Palestinian state. Riyadh has long maintained that normalizing ties with Israel hinges on an Israeli withdrawal from Arab lands captured in the 1967 Six Day War—territory Palestinians seek for a future state. However, Saudi Arabia opened its air space for the first time to a commercial flight to Israel last month, which an Israeli official hailed as historic following two years of efforts. In November, an Israeli cabinet member disclosed covert contacts with Saudi Arabia, a rare acknowledgment of long-rumored secret dealings that Riyadh still denies. Khamenei issued Wednesday's statement in reply to a letter he recently received from Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh that criticized the support of Arab governments in the region for the United States. Hamas, which is sworn to Israel's destruction, dominates the small coastal strip of Gaza, where this week at least 17 Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli security forces.
Trump agrees in NSC meeting to keep US troops in Syria
Arab News/April 04/18/Washington: US President Donald Trump agreed in a National Security Council meeting this week to keep US troops in Syria a little longer but wants them out relatively soon, a senior administration official said on Wednesday. Trump did not approve a specific withdrawal timetable at Tuesday’s meeting, the official said. He wants to ensure Daesh militants are defeated but wants other countries in the region and the United Nations to step up and help provide stability in Syria, the official said. “We’re not going to immediately withdraw but neither is the president willing to back a long-term commitment,” the official said. Trump had signaled his desire to get US forces out of Syria in a speech last Thursday in Ohio, and officials said he had privately been pressing for an early withdrawal in talks with his national security aides. “We were very successful against (Daesh). We’ll be successful against anybody militarily. But sometimes it’s time to come back home, and we’re thinking about that very seriously,” Trump told a news conference on Tuesday with Baltic leaders. His advisers have been pressing him to maintain at least a small force in Syria to ensure the militants are defeated and prevent Iran from gaining an important foothold. The United States is waging air strikes in Syria and has deployed about 2,000 troops on the ground, including US special operations forces whose advising has helped Kurdish militia and other US-backed fighters capture territory from Daesh. US Army General Joseph Votel, who oversees US troops in the Middle East as the head of Central Command, estimated on Tuesday that more than 90 percent of the group’s territory in Syria had been taken back from the militants since 2014. In the National Security Council meeting, Trump made clear that he did not want to stay in Syria for a lengthy period. The senior official said the impression Trump left was that he would like to withdraw in a year or less. “He’s not going to tolerate several years to a half decade,” the official said. Brett McGurk, the US special envoy for the global coalition against Daesh, speaking alongside Votel at an event in Washington on Tuesday, said the US fight against Daesh, also known as ISIS, was not over. “We are in Syria to fight ISIS. That is our mission and our mission isn’t over and we are going to complete that mission,” McGurk said.

UN seeks access to people ‘on their knees’ in Douma in eastern Ghouta
Reuters/April 04/18Geneva: UN humanitarian adviser for Syria Jan Egeland called on Wednesday for access to the eastern Ghouta town of Douma, where he said an estimated 80,000-150,000 civilians are “really on their knees” after years of siege and intense fighting.
“There is an ongoing negotiation between the (Syrian) government and the Russian Federation, and the armed group inside Douma, which is the remaining area still under armed opposition control,” Egeland told a news briefing in Geneva.
Eastern Ghouta
Eastern Ghouta is a suburb of the Syrian capital of Damascus and has been held by armed opposition groups since 2013. He added: “Why can we not deliver to the people of Douma today for example even though we are on the eve of a deal for Douma, they are really, really on their knees in terms of needs.”
Broken by Siege, Syria Rebels Face Worst Loss Yet in Ghouta
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 04/18/The expected loss of Eastern Ghouta will deal Syria's fragmented rebels their biggest blow yet, leaving them unable to threaten President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus and increasingly subservient to competing global interests. Just weeks after their ill-fated uprising turned seven years old, Syrian opposition fighters have found themselves bussed out of their one-time bastion on the capital's outskirts. They had overrun the suburb in 2012, setting up independent power structures that served around 400,000 residents and granted them a thriving popular base.
The three main factions -- Jaish al-Islam, Faylaq al-Rahman, and Ahrar al-Sham -- continually pledged to march on Damascus and rained rockets down on its residential neighbourhoods. Weakened by a slow and painful half-decade siege, rebels could hardly hold out under weeks of bombing that culminated in negotiated withdrawals, a strategy polished by Syria's regime elsewhere. "What happened is an absolutely huge loss strategically, militarily, and politically for the rebels. However you look at it, it's a total loss," says Nawar Oliver, an analyst at the Omran Institute.
"Just having a presence at the gates of the capital, near foreign embassies, was enough for rebels to impose themselves as essential players." Even during Ghouta's dying days, its rebels maintained their deadly ability to lob mortar bombs and rockets on the capital, killing dozens. It had granted them leverage for years, Oliver said. "The regime had to talk to them, had to release prisoners, because they held the gates of the capital," he said. "Now, they're nothing."'Nowhere' is safe -After the crumbling last year of the Islamist State (IS) jihadist group's "caliphate" in Syria and neighbouring Iraq, Assad's troops have shifted their focus elsewhere. Helped by air strikes from steadfast ally Russia, Syrian troops are now in control of 55 percent of the war-ravaged country. Swathes of the north and northeast are held by Kurdish militia and IS still holds small pockets in the country's centre and east. The conventional armed opposition still holds most of the southern province of Daraa, a few towns in central Syria, and part of Aleppo province in the north. They are also present in northwest Idlib, but their influence has been shrinking as Islamist and jihadist groups tighten their grip on the province.
Just like Ghouta, those areas have been designated as "de-escalation zones" meant to pave the way for a nationwide ceasefire. But after Ghouta, nowhere is safe, Nawar told AFP. "This is the essential thing the opposition knows now: nowhere is an exception," he said. The evacuation deals that appear to have sealed Ghouta's fate were preceded by years of similar withdrawals, most infamously in December 2016 from second city Aleppo. After a bombing blitz, tens of thousands of rebels and civilians were bussed out of their stronghold in the city's east in what was, at the time, their most devastating defeat. "The fall of Aleppo was the beginning of the end, but Ghouta is more symbolic," said Thomas Pierret, a researcher at the University of Edinburgh. At the time, mainstream rebels held more territory in Idlib, Homs, and around Damascus -- and they still had Ghouta. "At a rather symbolic level, there was this idea that we still have something. (Ghouta) was a meaningful challenge to the regime," said Pierret. - 'Biggest loss' -Now, rebels across the country face three options, Pierret told AFP. They could reconcile with the regime and join loyalist forces, or could throw their lot in with the opposition's main remaining backer -- Turkey. "The only alternative is the jihadi option. The jihadists would be the only group left fighting the regime and not directly under the control of another state," said Pierret. Syria's conflict has drawn in a host of international players -- including rebel backer Turkey, regime allies Russia and Iran, and the US-led coalition fighting IS. The "Syrian National Army" -- the Turkey-backed force tied to the political opposition -- said Ghouta's rebels were welcome to join its ranks. "Developments in Ghouta and elsewhere make us more insistent on maintaining and organising the SNA," said its spokesman Mohammad Abadeen.
Most of the fighters evacuated from Ghouta belonged to Faylaq al-Rahman, who would likely join ranks with Ankara-backed forces in Idlib and Aleppo. Ahmad Abazeid, an independent Syrian analyst, said rebels in Ghouta's armed insurgency had been a rare case of more independent decision-making.
"Ghouta's loss shrinks the opposition's manoeuvering space with these other powers, because they now need a foreign ally and civilians need an international umbrella to protect them from a similar campaign," he said. "Aleppo is Syria's second city, but Damascus is the capital -- and losing Ghouta represents the biggest loss in the history of the Syrian revolution," said Abazeid.
First UN humanitarian mission to Syria’s Raqqa since ISIS defeat
AFP/Wednesday, 4 April 2018/The United Nations said Wednesday that it has conducted its first humanitarian mission to Raqa since the Syrian city was liberated from the ISIS group, warning that returning civilians face enormous risks. The city, which ISIS proclaimed part of its "caliphate" in 2014, is littered with unexploded devices, the head of the UN's Syria humanitarian taskforce, Jan Egeland, told reporters in Geneva. "Homes are still full of bombs (and) grenades. Children are still being maimed and killed," Egeland said, after receiving a report on the visit, which was carried out in recent days. Roughly 100,000 people have returned to Raqa since ISIS was flushed out in October by fighters backed by a US-led international coalition. Egeland said another 100,000 displaced people are waiting near the city and want to go back. Compounding the risks of returning is the near complete absence of basic services including water, electricity and healthcare. "It is incredible to have a city with nearly 100,000 people and no public services," the UN official said. "There is no real police (or) law and order." The battle against ISIS in Raqa included a heavy bombardment by coalition jets and left much of the city in tatters. Egeland said the extent of the devastation observed by the UN team again raised the question of whether it was "necessary to totally destroy (Raqa) to liberate it."Relief work in Raqa had been carried out by local civil society groups, but Egeland said the UN expects to start its own humanitarian operations in the city soon.

British Labor Delegation in Syria to Support Kurds
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 04/18/British members of parliament from the opposition Labour party visited northern Syria Wednesday to express solidarity with the region's embattled Kurdish minority. Their visit came at a time when Kurdish-controlled areas faced the threat of military operations by neighbouring Turkey and its Syrian Arab proxies. "We're here for a long-term relationship with you, where we can support you against all the people who are trying to destroy your liberty and your democracy," said Maurice Glasman, from the House of Lords, or upper house of parliament.
"We also bring with a full heart our solidarity with you," he said at a press conference held late Tuesday in Qamishli, a city in northeastern Syria's Kurdish heartland. Turkey and its allies last month wrested the area of Afrin from the People's Protection Units (YPG) -- the Kurdish militia that controlled it.
Ankara has threatened to advance deeper into Syria, to cripple a group it considers a terrorist organisation and to create a buffer along its border, which millions of refugees have crossed in the seven-year-old conflict. The British delegation also includes MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle and on Wednesday was due to visit Kobane, a town on the border that Kurdish forces retook from jihadists in 2015. The YPG has been a key player in military operations against the Islamic State group in Syria, spearheading ground offensives backed by the US-led coalition.
With the IS "caliphate" now in tatters, rivalries have resurfaced in Syria, where the Kurds are seeing their autonomous statelet come under attack and are obtaining few concessions from Damascus or Turkey. Many Kurds have also felt abandoned by the West, arguing they were being poorly rewarded for agreeing to wage deadly battles against IS that the US and its allies mostly backed from the air.

Turkey Hosts Critical Summit on Syria with Russia, Iran
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 04/18/The presidents of Iran, Turkey and Russia meet on Wednesday for their second tripartite summit in under six months, aiming to speed the peace process for Syria and bolster their influence in the country. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will host his Russian and Iranian counterparts Vladimir Putin and Hassan Rouhani in Ankara for a meeting that could have a critical bearing on developments in Syria. The meeting will be the second such tripartite summit after the first hosted by Putin in November in the Black Sea city of Sochi and will be a new symbol of the increasingly deep cooperation. The three powers have backed peace talks in the Kazakh capital Astana which they argue are a parallel process to support UN-supported discussions in Geneva.Experts say that Ankara, Moscow and Tehran have quite different interests but have for now decided to team up to take advantage of the waning Western influence in Syria. Hours before the summit, US President Donald Trump said he wanted to "bring our troops back home" from Syria after indicating last week the US would withdraw from the country "very soon". Jana Jabbour, professor of political science at Sciences Po university in Paris, said the aim of the summit was to "reorganise and renegotiate the zones of influence in Syria as well as to reflect on the future of Syria's north after US withdrawal". 'Key player' -Turkey drove out Kurdish militia from Afrin city on March 18, two months after it launched an offensive in northern Syria supporting Syrian rebels. Erdogan has indicated Turkey could extend its operation to the YPG-held town of Manbij as well as Ayn al-Arab (Kobane) and Qamishli, all east of Afrin.
"Erdogan likely wants to use the summit to secure Russian and Iranian support for expanded operations in northern Syria or Iraq," said Elizabeth Teoman, Turkey analyst at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). After bilateral talks with Putin on Tuesday, Erdogan said Turkey and Russia would continue their cooperation "focusing on our common interests" in Syria. Jabbour said Iran and Russia would give free rein to Turkey in the north against the YPG in exchange for bringing the groups it controls to the negotiating table. "Turkey remains a key player in the Syrian crisis especially because of the opposition groups it controls. A solution to the crisis is unimaginable without Ankara's contribution," she added. - 'Tensions to flare again' -While Moscow and Tehran support the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad politically and militarily, Turkey has repeatedly called for his removal and supported Syrian opposition fighters.Last year, the powers agreed to set up "de-escalation areas" in western Idlib province, north of Homs province, parts of Deraa and Quneitra provinces in southern Syria and Eastern Ghouta near Damascus, which has come under heavy bombardment. Cooperation between the three in Syria "may break down at some point", Teoman warned, while issues between Moscow and Turkey could come to the fore over Idlib. Idlib's civilian infrastructure is largely controlled by the jihadist alliance Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), led by Syria's former Al-Qaeda affiliate. Turkey is keen to prevent a Russia-backed regime assault on the province home to around 2.5 million people who analysts say would have few places to flee after having already fled areas like Ghouta and Aleppo. Turkish armed forces have now set up eight observation posts to keep the ceasefire intact but Moscow wants Ankara to also exert influence over the jihadists in control of Idlib. Teoman said that tensions between Russia and Turkey "will flare up again when the pro-regime coalition refocuses on Idlib province."Tensions may also be emerging behind the scene between Russia and Iran, with Moscow much more concerned to press for reform under Assad than Tehran. More than 340,000 people have been killed since the war began following anti-government protests in 2011, while millions have been internally displaced or forced to flee. Turkey hosts over 3.5 million Syrian refugees and Ankara is keen to avoid a further influx ahead of 2019 elections and also wants to install some refugees in safe zones inside Syria.

Bahrain Announces Discovery of 80 bn Barrels of Oil
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 04/18/Bahrain on Wednesday announced its newly discovered shale oil reserve was estimated to contain more than 80 billion barrels, making the once-marginal oil producer potentially a major player in the market. The amount of recoverable oil -- or oil that can be extracted -- is still under study, Oil Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al-Khalifa told a press conference in Manama. The new field dwarfs the Bahrain Field, the country's only other oil field, which contains several hundred million barrels. The small Gulf state currently produces some 50,000 barrels per day of crude oil from the Bahrain Field, discovered in 1932. Manama also gets another 150,000 barrels daily from the Abu Saafa offshore field it shares equally with giant neighbour and oil powerhouse Saudi Arabia. Sheikh Mohammed said that natural gas estimated at between 10 trillion cubic feet and 20 trillion cubic feet has also been discovered. The new huge discovery was made in west Bahrain in what is called the Khalij Al-Bahrain Basin. The minister said that appraisal studies are underway with the help of international oil companies to assess the quantities that can be extracted of both oil and gas. Yahya al-Ansari, manager of exploration at national oil company Bahrain Petroleum Co. said that pumping of oil from the field is not expected for at least five years.

Israel Arrests 10 Gazans Accused of Planning Naval Attack
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 04/18/Israeli authorities said Wednesday they have arrested 10 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip accused of planning a missile attack and hostage taking against a navy ship. The announcement of the March 12 arrests comes ahead of expected new mass protests along the Gaza Strip's border with Israel on Friday. Authorities did not immediately respond to a question on why the announcement was delayed for more than three weeks, though Israel often keeps such arrests under a gag order while it investigates. A protest by tens of thousands last Friday led to clashes in which Israeli forces killed 17 Palestinians and injured more than 1,400 others, the bloodiest day since a 2014 war. There were no casualties among Israelis. Israel's Shin Bet domestic security service announced the arrests in a statement, saying the 10 Palestinians from the city of Rafah in southern Gaza were on a boat outside a designated fishing zone off the blockaded enclave. It alleged one of those arrested, fisherman Amin Juma, 24, has been involved in "terrorist activities" for militant group Islamic Jihad. According to the statement, Islamic Jihad assigned him to gather information to prepare for an attack using a Kornet missile against an Israeli naval vessel. It said the plan was to fire on an Israeli vessel and take hostages that could be used in a prisoner exchange. Juma was expected to be formally charged later Wednesday. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a statement called the arrests "proof of the real intentions of terrorist organisations in Gaza". Israel's use of live fire last week has come under criticism from rights groups, while the European Union and UN chief Antonio Guterres have called for an independent investigation. Israel has defended its soldiers' actions, saying they opened fire only when necessary against those throwing stones and firebombs or rolling tyres at soldiers. It said there were attempts to damage the fence and infiltrate Israel, while alleging there was also an attempted gun attack against soldiers along the border.
Palestinians say protesters were fired on while posing no threat to soldiers.

Trump under Investigation but Not Criminal Target
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 04/18/Agence France PresseUS President Donald Trump is under investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller but is not currently considered a criminal target, The Washington Post reported Tuesday. Mueller is investigating possible collusion between Russia and Trump's campaign, a probe the president has denounced as a "witch hunt." The newspaper, quoting three anonymous sources, said that Mueller considers Trump a subject of the investigation, meaning there is currently not enough evidence to bring criminal charges. Additionally, Mueller told the president's lawyers that he is preparing a report on Trump's actions and possible obstruction of justice, the Post said. Mueller, a former FBI director and federal prosecutor, was named last May to investigate possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. US intelligence agencies say Russian President Vladimir Putin himself was behind a hacking and disinformation effort to disrupt the election and boost Trump's chances of winning.

Egyptian court sentences 35 to life in prison on terror charges
AP/April 04/18/CAIRO: An Egyptian court sentenced 35 alleged Muslim Brotherhood members to life in prison on Wednesday for allegedly forming “terrorist cells” to attack security forces and state institutions. The Sohag Criminal Court in central Egypt sentenced another 155 defendants to three to 15 years on similar charges, including plotting to kill public figures and security officials, and joining an outlawed group, a reference to the Brotherhood. The verdict can be appealed, and 124 suspects who remain at large will be re-tried once they are apprehended. Also on Wednesday, an Egyptian military court sentenced four suspected Muslim Brotherhood members to life imprisonment on terror-related charges, a defense lawyer said. Two of the suspects were sentenced in absentia and they will be re-tried once they are apprehended, Khaled el-Masry told The Associated Press. The court sentenced two others to 10 years each and acquitted 13, he said. The charges include plotting militant attacks against the security personnel and bombing malls in Cairo in addition to belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood group, he said. The Brotherhood won a series of free elections after Egypt’s 2011 uprising, and a senior Brotherhood figure, Muhammad Mursi, was elected president in 2012. A year later, the military overthrew Mursi amid mass protests against his rule. Authorities have since branded the Brotherhood a terrorist organization. Egypt has for years struggled to contain an Islamic insurgency in the turbulent Sinai region. It has carried out military operations there that, it says, have killed hundreds of militants and soldiers. The country is also facing a growing number of attacks in its Western Desert, along the porous border with Libya that authorities contend is used by both militants and smugglers. In February, Egypt launched a massive security operation in Sinai, the Nile Delta and the Western Desert to target “terrorist and criminal elements and organizations.”

First cinema in Saudi Arabia to open on April 18
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Wednesday, 4 April 2018/Saudi Arabia has confirmed it is opening up the country’s first cinema hall open to the public in its capital Riyadh on April 18.The Saudi Ministry of Information confirmed that 350 cinema theatres with 2,500 screens are expected to be open across several Saudi cities by 2030. 40 cinemas in 15 cities within five years. Saudi Arabia has announced that it will open 40 cinemas in 15 Saudi cities over the next five years as part of plans to develop the entertainment sector in the Kingdom. The General Entertainment Authority of Saudi Arabia announced Wednesday the signing of an agreement with AMC, the first company to obtain a license to operate cinemas in the Kingdom. The granting of the license was announced on the sidelines of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to the city of Los Angeles in the United States. AMC has the largest movie market in the United States and is the world's largest cinema chain with more than 2,200 screens, 244 theaters in Europe alone, and more than 8,200 screens in 661 theaters in America. Saudi Arabia has taken steps to open up the entertainment sector and develop investment in it by signing an agreement with Six Flags to develop recreational parks, as well as to announce the project "Al Qadeya", the largest cultural, sporting and entertainment city in Saudi Arabia. Among the most important Saudi entertainment sector developments, the decision is set to make cinemas available in the Kingdom with expected presence from the UAE’s VOX Cinemas, Vu the British chain, the American AMC and the Canadian IMAX. Plans have also been announced of investing $64 billion in the Saudi entertainment sector over the next 10 years, as well as allowing women to attend concerts and setting up 5,000 recreational events in 2018.

UAE files complaint against Qatar to UN Security Council
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Wednesday, 4 April 2018/The UAE has filed a complaint against Qatar to the UN Security Council for putting the safety and security of civilian airlines at risk. The complaint letter, which Al Arabiya obtained a copy of, stipulated that on January 15 and March 26, Qatar put the lives of civilians at risk after Qatari fighter jets closely approached civilian planes. The letter also noted that it is unfortunate to see Qatar continue conducting such irresponsible actions that put the lives of civilians onboard UAE airlines at risk. Earlier, the UAE filed an official complaint against Qatar to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published
on April 03-04/18
Turkey-US relations are salvageable but require great effort
Yasar Yakis/Arab News/April 04/18
Bilateral relations between NATO allies Turkey and the US began to sour in May 2003, when a motion was submitted to the Turkish Parliament about allowing US troops to cross Turkey into Iraq to open up a second front in the north. The Parliament voted down the motion and the US reacted angrily.
In Syria, Turkey and the US cooperated in the early years of the crisis by supporting the moderate opposition, but their priorities evolved in different directions as the crisis unfolded. Now their policies have become not only different, but also contradictory. The US supported Kurdish political party the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military branch the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which is an extension on Syrian soil of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a listed terrorist organization in all EU and NATO countries, including the US. Several high-ranking US officials have admitted the strong link between the PKK and the YPG, but the US still regards the YPG as its most reliable and capable ally in Syria, while Ankara considers it a threat to Turkey’s security and territorial integrity.
Turkey has carried out two major military operations in Syria: The first was Euphrates Shield, which was aimed at interrupting the Kurdish belt that was emerging along the Turkish-Syrian border. The second was operation Olive Branch in Afrin, aimed at ousting the YPG from the district and setting up a more representative administrative structure. Both of these operations were carried out despite US reluctance.
Turkey has other problems with the US. One is Washington’s refusal to extradite cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Turkey regards as the mastermind of the military coup attempt of July 15, 2016. Insistent extradition demands by Turkey have remained without a clear-cut answer so far.
Every single conflict between Turkey and the US has its own dynamics and a blanket solution that will eliminate all controversies between them is not easy to find.
A similar case is that of an American pastor who was arrested in Turkey on charges of conspiring against the state. The US authorities claim he is being kept as a hostage for reciprocal extradition with Gulen.
Another court case — filed in the US involving a Turkish gold trader of Iranian origin and the deputy director of a Turkish bank that was used as an intermediary in the gold trade — has disturbed the Turkish political masters because their names were mentioned in court proceedings. Turkey is uneasy with the way this case is being handled by the US. Meanwhile, Turkey’s decision to buy Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile systems angered the US and pushed it to move NATO to declare that these missiles are not interoperable with the NATO air defense infrastructure. American officials also threatened to impose an economic embargo on Turkey.
As a result of all these and other small incidents, support for the US in Turkish public opinion has dwindled to a record low level.
One of the reasons for Turkey not being able to establish a meaningful dialogue with the US is that various departments in the US administration, the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department speak with different shades of meaning on major controversies with Turkey. Frequent top-level reshuffles at the State Department and in the national security apparatus is also a factor.
Turkey and the US have never been on the same page regarding their Kurdish policy. The US considers the PKK a terrorist organization but has reservations on the way the Kurdish file is handled in Turkey.
The US has so far ignored the coercion the Kurds practiced in Kobane and Raqqa. In Kobane, the PYD did not allow Arabs and Turkmens, or Kurds who do not support the PYD, to return to their homes and properties. In Raqqa, the Kurds are trying to govern a city inhabited predominantly by Arabs.
The outcome of Turkey’s operation Olive Branch in Afrin may have changed certain paradigms in Turkish-American relations. It proved that Turkey can deliver what it promises, though it is difficult to tell whether this operation will change the American reliance on the Kurds. The US may be planning to use the Kurds later for putting pressure on the Syrian regime, for controlling territories rich in oil, gas and water resources, and for countering the Iranian presence in Syria.
Every single conflict between Turkey and the US has its own dynamics and a blanket solution that will eliminate all controversies between them is not easy to find.
The golden rule of diplomacy of identifying overlapping areas of interests and trying to widen them as much as possible may be one tool to reverse the regrettable situation where the relations between these two allies stand, but it will require a lot of effort, determination and talent.
• Yasar Yakis is a former foreign minister of Turkey and founding member of the ruling AK Party.

Syrian civilians face landmine menace after ISIL
Returning families find homes booby trapped by insurgents, report warns
Mina Aldroubi/The National/April 04/2018
Syria is facing an unprecedented landmine crisis caused by departing ISIL insurgents, campaigners warned in a report released on Wednesday.
The explosives are killing and maiming hundreds of civilians, mostly children, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said, despite many areas having been liberated by security forces. Published on International Mine Awareness Day, the report said displaced people returning to the Deir Ezzor, Hassakeh and Raqqa regions of Syria face mortal danger. Numerous booby traps, landmines, ammunition and rockets have been rigged to explode in and around the homes of unsuspecting families.
"Many are not aware that there are a lot of risks waiting for them," Imad Aoun, MSF's field communication adviser for Iraq and Syria, told The National.
The explosives are suspected to have been planted by the insurgents or armed groups as they retreated.
"They are usually missiles that haven't exploded or booby traps set in place to harm people," Mr Aoun said. "Many people think it's safe to go back home but the minute they enter their homes …"
The problem is difficult to tackle as such devices are hard to detect, difficult to clear and often designed to maim, rather than kill.
Landmines are also hard to spot as they are usually buried under earth or rubble, a problem that has existed for decades in neighbouring Iraq.
In north-east Syria, ISIL's former heartland, civilians are being wounded in many ways, including reports of detonations after bedroom doors have been opened in homes. The majority of those treated in MSF-affiliated hospitals have suffered landmine injuries in Deir Ezzor.
More than half of the patients treated are children, one just 12 months old
"Children are not always aware of what these mines and booby traps look like, they come in forms of cars or teddy bears," Mr Aoun said.
Last year, Deir Ezzor topped Syrian areas for migration, with more than 800,000 leaving, according to UN estimates.
Those left critically wounded face immense difficulties in obtaining medical and acute trauma care because of Syria's war-shattered state. With many roads damaged or blocked, it often takes hours to reach hospital, increasing the odds of death before treatment can be given.
Satoru Ida, MSF's head of mission in Syria, said people interviewed outlined a catalogue of risks. "Landmines, booby traps and other improvised explosive devices are planted in fields, along roads, on the roofs of houses, and under staircases," he said. "Household items like teapots, pillows, cooking pots, toys, air-conditioning machines and refrigerators are also reportedly rigged to explode as people return home for the first time after months or years in displacement."
Iraq faces similar problems, stemming as far back as the war with neighbouring Iran between 1980 and 1988. Years of work by international organisations had limited those dangers but ISIL has raised them again.
The threat is highest in areas that suffered significant destruction such as Mosul and the province of Anbar, west of Baghdad, where landmines are still posing a security threat to civilians and security forces. With Iraqis returning home as more areas are liberated, unexploded ordnance lies hidden among the rubble, a separate report by the Mines Advisory Group said this year. Four Iraqi servicemen were killed on Sunday in a landmine explosion in Anbar, security officials said.
Over the past few years, thousands of roadside bombs planted around the streets and buildings of Ramadi, 100 kilometres west of Baghdad, delayed the return of about half a million displaced residents since the Iraqi military, backed by US air strikes, recaptured the city in 2016. The international action day on mines urges governments to develop better policies to tackle explosive ordnance.
A Mine Ban Treaty that became international law in 1999 currently has 162 state signatories. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for collective action to strengthen its reach. "I urge all governments to provide political and financial support to enable mine action work to continue, wherever it is needed. In our turbulent world, mine action is a concrete step towards peace."

Elections won’t improve the Middle East, good governance will
Sir John Jenkins/Arab News/April 04/18
Elections are like London buses: You wait impatiently for one to turn up and then a whole fleet arrives at once. This year we have already seen Egypt’s latest presidential election, and in May we’ll have parliamentary elections in Iraq and Lebanon. There should also be parliamentary and municipal elections in Bahrain, municipal elections in Tunisia — the first since 2011 — and provincial elections across Iraq, including in Kirkuk for the first time in a decade. I’m not holding my breath but we may also see elections of some sort in Libya and new parliamentary elections in the Kurdistan Regional Government.
This is surely good news. Elections are the life blood of democracy and democracy, after all, is what we all want. Isn’t it?
That was certainly the lesson many people drew from the events of 2011 to 2013 in the Arab world, when autocrats fell, domestic politics opened up and they saw — or thought they saw — a thousand flowers blooming on the streets of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen. If things subsequently became more complicated, then this simply meant the need for democracy was even more urgent.
I have a lot of sympathy with this view. I saw a lot of these events up close and personal and I have no doubt that people in the region want a say in who governs them and, more importantly, how they do so. In particular, they want an end to corruption and to be able to hold their leaders accountable in some way for their promises and their ability to deliver real improvements in their daily lives and hope for the future.
The problem lies in believing that elections are necessarily the way to ensure all this happens. And this goes to the heart of the problem. There have been elections of various sorts in the Middle East and North Africa for decades — in Egypt since the 1920s and patchily elsewhere since the 1930s. But elections have been no guarantee of good governance, and in some ways the reverse.
We can see this clearly when we consider the recent history of elections in Lebanon and Iraq. In Lebanon, the distribution of political authority continues to be decided not in the polling booth but in the deals cooked up beforehand between the main blocs. These reflect sectarian and communal organizational power rather than the considered and collective judgment of ordinary people. Even with the new electoral law, we will again see the major Shiite, Sunni and Maronite blocs dominating particular geographical areas and the ultimate allocation of seats.
The basis of democracy is a sustained, structural and effectively intermediated relationship between the governed and those who govern.
In Iraq, there is a long history of bad electoral faith and sharp practices. Former Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, put in place in 2006 by a backroom deal, lost the 2010 popular vote to Iyad Allawi. But Al-Maliki hung on to power through a series of squalid and secretive machinations involving the then chief justice, the US, Iran and some factions of the Kurds, who all had different motives but came to the same conclusion: Better the devil they knew. That was a disastrous decision, but it was driven by a sense that elections were simply an opening bid, not the final word. The real game lay elsewhere.
We saw similar turns of events from 2012 in Libya and Tunisia, with superficially different results but ultimately the same outcome: The absence of any serious attempt to grapple with real national needs for reconciliation, reconstruction and social equity.
And this illustrates a great truth: Elections are the end of a process of political development, not the beginning. In many ways, Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak were far more democratic in the sense of holding frequent elections than Gamal Abdel Nasser. But the results were never in doubt; they were the product not of the free decisions of voters but of deals struck in advance in order to create a theater of democratic choice for the world to admire.
Iraq is in many ways the country that needs a real reconnection of rulers and ruled more than any other in the region. It is striking how many hopes the key external players in the West are investing in Prime Minister Haider Abadi winning again. Partly this is in order to avoid Al-Maliki making a comeback. Abadi has done some good things, including seeking to rebuild Iraq’s relations with the Arab states of the Gulf. But, in the current electoral campaign, there is no discussion of a vision for the country (apart, interestingly enough, from the occasional intervention by Muqtada Al-Sadr).
Elections are not the main issue; good governance is. This is emphatically not an argument about democracy or its alternatives, it is an argument about where we start. Underlying good governance means administrative efficiency, education, tolerance, social justice and the rule of law. And these, not the outer trappings of electoral process, are the things on which we should collectively focus. Otherwise the cycle of conflict, repression, stagnation and the exploitation of national politics for their own purposes by outside actors will continue.
The late, great philosopher Ernest Gellner once said that nations did not produce nationalism: Nationalism produced nations. Form follows content. In the same way, elections do not produce democracy: Democratic habits produce elections.
The basis of democracy is a sustained, structural and effectively intermediated relationship between the governed and those who govern. It can take many forms. The purpose is to improve governance — that’s the bus we’ve been waiting for all these years.
• Sir John Jenkins is a senior fellow at Policy Exchange. He was the British ambassador to Saudi Arabia until January 2015.

ISIS comeback? How US withdrawal is a triple whammy for Assad in Syria
Martin Jay/Al Arabiya/April 04/18
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” is disquieting adage surely about to prove its validity in the coming months as President Trump announces plans to pull out what many believe is around 2000 troops in Syria. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise though as, not only does the US President relentlessly go against the flow of advice from him own experts who tell him that withdrawal is not an option – but he has also been hinting it since mid-February in a press conference with Australian PM Michael Turnbull. What’s less clear is what has provoked the announcement in recent days. Perhaps it may well have been the death of a British soldier embedded with US forces in Manbij or the recent reports that he asked for a $4bn from Saudi Arabia for a new push in Syria. لاWhat is clearer, however, is the impact this will have on the ground, which from a Washington perspective would appear to be entirely self defeating at best and suicidal at worse, which will lead many to second guess that it is a temporary wile designed to leverage a better deal with partners in Syria. Yet at what cost? The Assad regime will benefit enormously from money put aside to go into rebuilding infrastructure once destroyed by ISIS, being withheld, which Trump also announced just days ago. Yet the killer blow is what this erroneous plan will do to ISIS, which far from what some media reports, is not dead in the water but in reality rebuilding itself and its ideology
Edge of the wedge
But pulling US forces out of these tiny enclaves which were taken over from ISIS is only the thin edge of the wedge. If Washington goes the full nine yards, it might well even freeze the military aid it has pencilled in for the Kurdish-led SDF forces which were benefitting from US Special Forces help. Such a move is also an unpalatable victory for Assad’s allies in Syria, namely Hezbollah and the Iranians, with the latter expanding throughout southern Syria in recent months and building military garrisons. Russia too will toast the announcement as America appears to be in retreat, a point even endorsed by a US military magazine which admitted losing Syria to the hands of Moscow.
Yet the killer blow is what this erroneous plan will do to ISIS, which far from what some media reports, is not dead in the water but in reality rebuilding itself and its ideology. It was, in a nutshell, waiting for the right moment for a comeback. And here it is.
Nobody in the White House nor even in the Pentagon – and certainly not its chief James Mattis – believes that the fight with ISIS is over in Syria (the death of the British soldier in Manbij, who was on an anti ISIS mission was a sad reminder of that). In fact, in many ways, it’s only just begun in Iraq and the US pull out in Syria will be a godsend for the extremist group, given the border with Syria, remarkably, is still not secure. As King Abdullah of Jordan once said in a TV interview “what the West doesn’t get is that terrorists don’t recognize the Iraqi Syrian border”.
ISIS rebuilding itself
Indeed, and, according to one of region’s leading journalists and experts on ISIS, Hassan Hassan, the group is already rebuilding itself and planning a comeback –already starting to take back small pockets of terrain originally won in battle by the Iraqi army. Estimates vary but leading experts say that ISIS still has 10,000 fighters, many lying dormant in villages and towns in both Syria and Iraq. Yet if the decision by Trump is genuine and US troops will not return in the coming months, then the mistakes of the US invasion of Iraq – and subsequent premature withdrawal – have clearly not been learnt, nor for that matter the West’s bundled intervention in Libya. Pulling out of Syria will give Iran an even greater justification for remaining as it will use the rise of ISIS and America’s innocuous, confused policy in the region – which barely misses a heartbeat before it contradicts itself – as a basis for a bigger military build up. In turn, this will attract more fighters from Iraq to join their brothers in arms against a new enemy whom they loath even more than Assad or the Americans. It’s senseless and only begins to become comprehensible when the pundit examines Trump’s track record on such capricious stunts, whether it be threatening North Korea or slapping trade tariffs on the EU, only to lift them a week later. We will have to wait a while to see if it is really genuine. ISIS, in the meantime, will look on curiously in particular to the suspension of 200 million dollars which was put aside for mine clearing and the restoration of water and electricity.
In such desperate times, any faction whatsoever which enters such devastated towns which can restore public services will be mightily welcomed. History is about to repeat itself in Syria due to the tumultuous foibles of US foreign policy and we already have ringside tickets.

Russia’s nuclear deal with Turkey targets NATO
Huda al-Husseini/Al Arabiya/April 04/18
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has deployed ground and air forces in Syria and Iraq. He is also moving his naval fleet in the Aegean Sea threatening Greece and Cyprus.
Turkey-Greece spat
He is taking things further as it is time to harvest, and according to Erdogan this is what will specify his share. On March 25, on the commemoration of Greek independence from Ottoman rule, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called on Turkey to suspend its illegal activities in the Aegean Sea and to respect international law. On the same occasion, Greek Defense Minister Panos Kammenos said: “We will crush whoever dares to question our national sovereignty. Whoever has in mind large Ottoman empires should remember 1821. How the Greek people faced the Ottoman empire and crushed it.”
Tensions between Greece and Turkey have escalated over the past two months due to several problems such as the gas drilling operations around Cyprus and extradition of Turkish soldiers who fled to Greece following the coup on July 15, 2016. Turkey opposes Cyprus’ right to exploit huge gas reserves in East of the Mediterranean Sea claiming that this violates the rights of Cypriot-Turkish people in north of the island. Turkey has prevented the Italian oil and gas company ENI from carrying out exploratory drilling operations twice this year. American oil and gas corporation ExxonMobil only began its drilling operations; there after a US amphibious assault ship and other naval units arrived to the Cypriot coastal city of Limassol.
As ties between Russia and the West deteriorate, it is to some extent reminiscent of the Cold War, if not worse
Relations with neighbors
Europe’s limited ability to influence Turkey adds to the difficulties which Greece and Cyprus have in their relations with their neighbor. The Turkish president presents himself as the protector of Muslims and a great victor. In order to maintain this image, he engages in practices that defy Cyprus’ sovereignty and continuously pressures Greece. The only country that can pressure Turkey is Russia as Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin now find themselves in a marriage of convenience. The reasons behind these tensions are nothing new. Greece and Turkey want to confirm their sovereignty over disputed islands in the Aegean Sea, which the Turks call Kardak and the Greek call Imia.
Disputed islands
The roots of the dispute date back to the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923 in which Turkey agreed to its modern borders after the Ottoman empire was dissolved in the wake of World War I. In this treaty, Turkey conceded islands to Italy. Then Italy handed these islands to Greece when the Paris Peace Treaties were signed in 1947. The islands, though small and uninhabited, thus became disputed. In 1996, Turkey and Greece were on the verge of war due to this dispute. A war was avoided thanks to the efforts of Richard Holbrooke, then-US Assistant Secretary of State for European affairs. The issue of these disputed islands surfaced again following in recent times.In December last year, during the first visit by a Turkish president to Greece in 65 years, Erdogan hinted at the controversial borders upsetting and surprising his hosts. Tensions escalated after the July 2016 coup when Greece refused to extradite eight Turkish officers who fled to it. Ever since, confrontations between Turkish and Greek naval forces worsened tensions. What added fuel to the fire is that on March 2, Turkey arrested two Greek soldiers who entered Turkish territories due to bad weather conditions. Both soldiers are still detained.
As reports about gas in Cyprus increased, Ankara said it was looking after citizens’ interests in North Cyprus. A western source said the situation has begun to take a dangerous turn and that there are no indicators that tensions will dissipate anytime soon. Although no one desires to see a new conflict erupt, it seems a prolonged confrontation is likely to occur. When Erdogan became prime minister in 2003, relations with Greece were bad due to the disputed islands. In 1999, Turkey detained Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, while he was looking for refuge at the Greek ambassador’s residence in Nairobi in Kenya. This caused a scandal for Greece and upset Turkey. However, relations significantly improved during the Justice and Development Party’s reign, especially as Ankara sought to join the EU. To prove good intentions, Greece and Turkey opened a gas pipeline in 2007. However, this did not resolve issues – such as find a permanent solution to the Cypriot conflict and to the situation of minorities in each country. Instead of using his visit to Greece to mitigate tensions, Erdogan called for reviewing the Treaty of Lausanne. This shocked Greece which felt that the Turkish president wants what’s rightfully for Greece in the Aegean Sea. In this context, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras described Turkey as an “aggressive neighbor” during the Davos Forum in January. A western source told me that tensions between Greece and Turkey are significant particularly in terms of their impact on the future of the NATO. As Russia further intervenes on the outskirts of Europe – not just in Ukraine but also in East of the Mediterranean Sea via its intervention in Syria – the increased hostility between two major members creates a serious problem for NATO. What worsens the NATO’s fears is the increased friction between Turkey and the US.
Turkey’s future in NATO
Ankara’s decision to buy the advanced S-400 defense system from Russia also worries NATO. There’s also Moscow’s ambition to divide the NATO. All these, in addition to the Turkish-Greek dispute, threaten to hand over victory to Putin on a silver plate, as my source puts it.
The source added that there’s no clear exit from this crisis, especially that the Akkuyu nuclear power plant – launched by Turkey and Russia – is a large joint project that symbolizes the strategic Russian-Turkish ties. Officials hope everything goes as planned despite funding difficulties.
Turkish officials insist that Akkuyu will begin operating in 2023, which happens to mark the 100th anniversary of forming the Turkish republic – although it looks unlikely that they will commit to this timeframe.
It’s well-known that nuclear energy is an important constituent in the strategic arsenal of Russia’s foreign policy. The Russian company Rosatom, which was granted a construction license for the Akkuyu project, currently has contracts to build 34 nuclear power stations.
According to my source, this makes Russia more capable of reaching out to more countries, which it cannot reach via oil and gas pipelines. There are also other Russian projects in Turkey, in addition to its projects in other countries like Egypt and Iran. There are also ongoing negotiations with Gulf countries. The source added that although ties between Russia and Turkey may not be a real alliance, Russia will enjoy strong geopolitical benefits.
Relations between Turkey and the NATO are deteriorating. A Greek political commentator said that as ties between Russia and the West deteriorate, it is to some extent reminiscent of the Cold War, if not worse. It’s not possible that Russia’s pressure on Turkey will have any benefits.
Turkey will be capable to act like it’s in its own parallel universe and do as it likes. It began doing so in Iraq and then in Syria. It’s now eyeing Greece. The Middle East has slowly begun expanding towards Europe. Russia is happy and the US is reiterating: We must not lose Turkey!

A US-Saudi entertainment summit
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/April 04/18
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is currently in Los Angeles to meet with leaders from the entrainment industry.  A Saudi-US summit on the future of entertainment in Saudi Arabia will be held in LA, the land of arts and future, and will be attended by a number of ministers and leaders from the most prominent entertainment companies in both countries. The crown prince had met with Kevin Tsujihara, the chairman of Warner Bros. Entertainment, and top executives from other relevant companies. Warner Bros. Entertainment is of course one of the most famous companies in the entertainment sector. There are two questions here. Why is there an interest in entertainment? And why head toward the US in this regard?
When it comes to the first question, we do not need to remind of the importance of entertainment in spreading tranquility and helping one usefully spend his time. Seeking entertainment is a human “instinct.” Look at an infant who after he eats, drinks and gets warm begins to play.
We are before an “entertainment revolution” in Saudi Arabia which is aware of the vitality of revitalizing this sector and its significant effects on the social, cultural, security and economic fronts.
As to why the US was chosen for this purpose, the US is a leader in this sector as it’s one of the first countries to gain experience in this field. The crown prince did well when he chose to head to the masters of this industry in the US.
According to the Saudi daily Okaz, Saudi Arabia signed a deal with AMC Entertainment granting it the first license to build and operate movie theatres in the kingdom. AMC has the largest share of the theater market in the US and is also the largest movie theater chain in the world.
We are before an “entertainment revolution” in Saudi Arabia which is aware of the vitality of revitalizing this sector and its significant effects on the social, cultural, security and economic fronts. In February, the Saudi Entertainment Authority announced that 5,550 events were planned this year in 56 cities.
According to a piece by Dr. Abduallah al-Radadi in Asharq al-Awsat daily, the Saudi Entertainment Authority announced it will invest around $64 billion over 10 years. He noted that although this seems like a huge amount, it’s actually small when compared with what’s spent in other countries. The value of the global entertainment market reached $1.6 trillion in 2014 and it’s expected to grow to $2.2 trillion in 2019. In the US alone, there are over 3 million people working in the entertainment sector. The Saudi crown prince’s US tour is historic given the significance of the weapons, energy, political and security deals signed. Welcome to the new Saudi Arabia.

What is happening in Arabistan, the region Iran has dubbed as Khuzestan?

Mohammed Al-Hammadi/Al Arabiya/April 04/18
When Iran occupied Arabistan region north-west of the Arabian Gulf in 1925, it brazenly changed the name of the region to Khuzestan and made AAhwaz its capital. This occupation came to control a vast area extending from the Strait of Hormuz to the Iraqi border, having a population of more than 10 million people. Thus the second largest oil and gas reserves in the world came under the control of the Iranian regime. The Arab people who live in this land remain in a state of ignorance, poverty and neglect, although 90 percent of the oil and gas in Iran comes from Ahwaz, and the region has a fertile terrain.
This occupation, that is about to complete a hundred years, exposes the reality of the Iranian regime. Ironically, this regime talks about the rights of the oppressed people and claims to supports the rights of the Palestinians, Iraqis, Syrians, Yemenis, Bahrainis and others, even as suppresses the rights of its own supposed citizens! In recent months, a series of protests have struck Arab Ahwaz and the southwestern region of Iran. Although protests are quite common here, but they have been occurring more frequently.
These protest are the result of the policy of racial discrimination which the Iranian regime practices against the Arab people in Ahwaz. These people are demanding their legitimate rights of leading a good life, of freedom and equality. Unfortunately, all these issues have evoked repressive measures — tear gas, arrests, daily executions. Iran claims that it defends the rights of other peoples. However, its real motive is to expand its hegemony and fulfill its delusions of grandeur which we all know would never be achieved
Widespread protests
About a week ago, protests erupted in the region after Channel 2, television media outlet of Iran, purposely overlooked in a children’s TV program the presence of Arabs in Ahwaz. In the show, all Iranian provinces were shown with their peoples wearing their local dresses except for Ahwaz.
This mischief forced people of the region to hold demonstrations, as this was a clear manifestation of repression of the Arab identity of the region, which comes in the wake of Iran’s recent changing the names of the region’s places and preventing its people from learning and teaching Arabic.
Iran should respect the rights of the Arab people living in its territory, and preserve their rights before things gets out of control. Iran claims that it defends the rights of other peoples for “doctrinal” reasons.
However, its real motive is to expand its hegemony and fulfill its delusions of grandeur which we all know would never be achieved. The people of Ahwaz would not let surrender their rights, and the Palestinians do not want anything from the Iranian regime after realizing that it is only using their case.