April 07/2018
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
You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste
Matthew 05/13-17: "‘You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. ‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil:".

For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ
Letter to the Philippians 01/21-30.: "For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labour for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again. Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. "

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 06-07/18
Political Shameful Subservience in Iran Occupied Lebanon/Elias Bejjani/April 07/18
Not one...But Gebran Tueni/Walid Phares/Face Book/April 07/18
The hidden chapter of Zahle's battle/Dr.Walid Phares/Face Book/April 03/18
Face Book Comments By Dr. Phares//Face Book/April 03/18
Lebanese elections and regional dimensions/Radwan al-Sayed/Al Arabiya/April 07/18
The Cedar Conference and Macron’s trust in Lebanon/Randa Takieddine/Al Arabiya/April 07/18
What the Lebanese Must Do to Deliver CEDRE’s Promise/Stefan Dercon/The Daily Star/April 06/18
Palestinians: Abbas Targets Hamas, Then Condemns Israel for Targeting Hamas
Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/April 06/18
Countering Moscow: NATO's New "Military Schengen Zone"/Debalina Ghoshal/Gatestone Institute/April 06/18
The UK's New Warfare Doctrine Looks Familiar/Leonid Bershidsky/Al Arabiya/Friday, 06 April, 2018
Syria: The Putin-Erdogan Summit Was a Missed Opportunity/Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/April 06/18
The Ankara conference: We are strangers here/Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/April 07/18

Titles For Latest LCCC Lebanese Related News published on April 06-07/18
Political Shameful Subservience in Iran Occupied Lebanon
Not one...But Gebran Tueni
The hidden chapter of Zahle's battle
Hariri at CEDRE Conference Calls for 'Re-launching' Economic Activity
S.Arabia Renews $1bn Line of Credit for Beirut, Lebanese Govt Says
UK Announces £40 Million Aid Package to Lebanon for Economy and Job Creation
Security Plan Set for Election Day
Lebanese President condemns Israeli threats as ‘act of war’
Billions Pledged at CEDRE Conference to Help Lebanon Economy
Lebanon: Early Battle for Portfolios in Post-Election Government
Paris conference raises over $11 billion in pledges for Lebanon
Lebanese elections and regional dimensions
The Cedar Conference and Macron’s trust in Lebanon
What the Lebanese Must Do to Deliver CEDRE’s Promise
Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 06-07/18
300 Iranian Activists Warn Khamenei from Deteriorating Regime Conditions
Supreme Leader Adviser: Iran’s Regional Role is an Internal Issue
US Troops to Remain in Syria for 6 Months
Khalid bin Salman Says Houthis Determined to Escalate the War
Saudi defense forces destroy Houthi ballistic missile over Najran
Saudi Crown Prince: Iran is the cause of problems in the Middle East
Mohammed bin Salman talks plans for Saudi Arabia with Time magazine
Bahrain hosts first British permanent military base in Gulf
Clashes Erupt as Protests Begin along Gaza Border
Palestinians Prepare Mass Protests at Gaza Border, Israel on Alert
Ex-Catalan Leader Leaves German Jail on Bail, Calls for Dialogue
South Korea's Park Gets 24 Years for Corruption
China Says Ready to Pay 'Any Cost' in Trade War with US
Adolf Hitler’s Painting of Lover Up for Auction
38 Pilot Whales Die After Being Stranded on New Zealand Beach
Latest Lebanese Related News published on April 06-07/18
Political Shameful Subservience in Iran Occupied Lebanon
Elias Bejjani/April 07/18
It is so frustrating and disappointing that currently the majority of the Lebanese politicians and parties and with only few exceptions are practically and each in his own way have shamefully succumbed and happily enjoy the role of the subservient to the Iran-Hezbollah occupation.
In reality, they are merchants while their prime priorities are not the people or the country, but an evil strive to serve only and only their own selfish power agendas, riches and individual interests.
The worst among all these narcissistic politicians, and the most derailed are the Maronite politicians as well the so called Christian political parties.
In this context of deviation and derailment from all that is Lebanese patriotism, ethical codes, Faith, Hope, respect of historical roots, and appreciation of martyrdom, emerges the bizarre kind of parliamentary elections’ competition in Kesrouan – Jbeil …
A Judas like competition that presents the evil mentality and education of wide gates that leads to hell.
(Matthew 07/13 &14/”Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.”)
In conclusion all that one can seen at the present time in the Keseroun-Jbeil is an ugly and dirty election campaign based on money, power and personal agendas.

Not one...But Gebran Tueni
Walid Phares/Face Book/April 07/18
Not one of the members of the Lebanese Parliament -except- Gebran Tueni- since 2005 accepted to sign a document by international Lebanese NGOs and addressed to the UN Security Council, or the US Administration, and calling for the full implementation of UNSCR 1559 under chapter 7. So that the friends of Lebanon in the US and the West could mobilize the international community to act against Hezbollah in order to disarm it. Not one member of a Parliament elected twice "after" the Cedars Revolution, accepted to come to Washington or New York, to make such demand officially. "Ya khayye shu badde bi hal shaghle'" they would say. Meeting at the White House? They'd love it. In Congress? Amazing. Fundraising in some city? The best! But acting seriously and strategically for the liberation of Lebanon? Not one time...
Those who were elected have nothing to compare with those who stood on the battlefields in the 1980s, facing the Syrian army or those who marched in demonstrations under Syrian occupation.
The hidden chapter of Zahle's battle
Dr.Walid Phares/Face Book/April 03/18
During April 1981 while the battle of Zahle was underway and the Syrians were trying to push via the "Gurfet el Frensewiye" in Oyoun el Simane, intense diplomatic efforts were taking place to end the conflict. I was one of the (very young) persons in charge of the outreach to the UN as a volunteer in a commission under the Kasleek Group and the Lebanese Front. I remember when Western diplomats told the commission that Assad had ordered his forces to take the city (Zahle) as soon as possible because he was afraid that his army is threatened in Lebanon. Surprised the participants asked the diplomats: "His forces are pounding the coast from Beirut to Kesrwan, are advancing in the jurd and suffocating Zahle. What is he afraid of?" The diplomat answered that Assad assessment is different: "He was fighting the militias in Ashrafieh in 1978 and now they are fighting him in the heart of the Bekaa in 1981. If he doesn't stop there, they would surge in Besharre and Batroun and other communities could follow." We were surprised and wondered if this was a joke. But Albert Sara a Lebanese Melkite bourgeois, member of the Christian Leagues, who was born in Syria whispered in my ear: "That's how Assad think. He has read about Lebanon more than many Lebanese have. He has read Boutros Daou's book. He fears that a prolonged fight will draw international support."Indeed the international intervention materialized after few weeks. All it took was for the local resistance to stand firmly for as long as it took and the leaders demonstrating strategic resolve. How far is Lebanon from these times of clarity...
(From memoirs)
Face Book Comments By Dr. Phares
*Lebanon's politics currently: It is about the management of local politics as lucrative as possible: electoral campaigns empty of national security, bureaucratic positions, asphalt, gas, contracts, electricity, stuff. While the management of Lebanon's national security, foreign policy and regional destiny is in the hands of the real regime, Hezbollah's...
*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.

Hariri at CEDRE Conference Calls for 'Re-launching' Economic Activity
Naharnet/April 06/18/Prime Minister Saad Hariri stressed from Paris on Friday that Lebanon needs the support of the international community to stave off an economic collapse and revamp economic development that dwindled enormously due to the influx of refugees. “Lebanon is a tiny country facing enormous challenges. Lebanon's economy has recorded an average annual growth rate of 8 percent in the three years preceding the Syrian crisis. With the war in Syria, and massive displacement of Syrians to Lebanon, this growth has collapsed to an annual rate of 1 percent,” said Hariri at the opening of CEDRE conference from the French capital. “Until 2015, Lebanon has lost 18 billion dollars in GDP because of the Syrian crisis,” noted Hariri, stressing Lebanon's need of the international community's support to implement the government’s vision and achieve stability.
“This is not just about Lebanon’s stability, it’s about the entire region’s stability; it’s about all of us,” he added. “Economic activity must be re-launched in Lebanon,” the Premier emphasized, noting that measures taken by the Lebanese government regarding its budget and reforms were “necessary but insufficient.”
“We are here to present an overall vision of my government for stability, growth and job creation,” Hariri concluded. International donors have pledged billions of dollars in aid and development loans for Lebanon at the conference in Paris on Friday, hoping to stave off an economic and humanitarian crisis.

S.Arabia Renews $1bn Line of Credit for Beirut, Lebanese Govt Says
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 06/18/Saudi Arabia, which vies with arch-rival Iran for influence in Lebanon, will grant the country a $1-billion development loan, a Lebanese government official told a donor conference in Paris Friday.
"It's a renewal of a line of credit that was there in the past and was not used," Nadim Mounla, an economic adviser to Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, said.

UK Announces £40 Million Aid Package to Lebanon for Economy and Job Creation
Naharnet/April 06/18/A £40 million package of new UK aid support to Lebanon will create jobs and improve infrastructure to boost economic development, reiterating the UK’s ongoing and strong partnership with Lebanon, Middle East Minister Alistair Burt announced at the CEDRE conference on Friday, a statement released by the British embassy in Beirut said. The package announced includes £15m support to the Lebanon Host Community Support Program delivered through the Ministry of Social Affairs and UNDP – targeting the most vulnerable municipalities; a £15m program designed in partnership with the Government of Lebanon, which will provide support to small businesses; and £10m of grant financing to create jobs and deliver infrastructure projects.The UK supports ambitious economic reforms by the Government of Lebanon. Momentum behind key reforms could send a strong signal to the private sector that conditions for investment are improving, helping to unlock new, sustainable inflows of productive private sector investment to boost job creation and public service delivery for the benefit of all those in Lebanon.The UK would also make available to Lebanon £20 million of additional grant support following the establishment of a clear monitoring mechanism and momentum built behind the approval and implementation of key reforms and projects. Overall this could leverage up to £120 million in low interest rate loans. Speaking in Paris, on the initiation of President Emmanuel Macron, Minister Burt said: “The UK cares deeply about the stability and future prosperity of Lebanon. We recognize the enormity of the challenges faced in the region and the extraordinary strength and resilience of Lebanon, not just in weathering these challenges but in providing, at no small cost, shelter, education, and opportunities to work for so many who have fled appalling violence, fear and destruction. “But today is not solely about the Syria crisis, and this is not a crisis conference. It is something altogether more hopeful – and in some ways at least – more challenging. It is about turning a corner, reinvigorating growth in the economy, and unlocking the immense potential and possibility of the Lebanese people to help the country stand on its own two feet. “The path ahead will not be easy. But the benefits are clear. And the UK – as a strong supporter of Lebanon – remains committed to standing shoulder to shoulder with Lebanon now and into the future.” Burt also called on other donors to follow the UK’s lead and step up their international support to help the Government of Lebanon deliver their plans for economic growth and improved support for businesses. In addition to the substantive security assistance the UK provides to the LAF and ISF, Lebanon is the 2nd highest recipient of UK Aid in the region after Syria, totaling £543m since 2012. Since 2015 the UK has been supporting projects which enhance economic opportunities for vulnerable Lebanese and refugees, and has provided significant support to Lebanon’s growing Tech and Social Enterprise sectors.

Security Plan Set for Election Day
Naharnet/April 06/18/One month before Lebanon holds its legislative elections, Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq and the Central Internal Security Council decided to deploy 20,000 military and security members over 7000 poll stations around the country as part of a security plan on election day, al-Joumhouria daily reported Friday.Mashnouq chaired an extraordinary meeting of the Central Internal Security Council on Thursday and discussed the security plan for the May 6 elections to ensure coordination among security apparatuses. He urged security services' chiefs to tighten security measures prior and during the electoral process, especially in terms of “combating electoral bribery and referring perpetrators to judiciary.”The meeting dwelt on ensuring the protection of polling stations and centers, facilitating the movement of citizens during the electoral operation, and securing the transfer of ballot boxes to the registration centers. Lebanon gears up for its first general elections in nine years on May 6, after parliament renewed its own mandate three times since 2009. Elections will be held based on a complex proportional representation system, with the country divided into 15 electoral constituencies.
The law, only agreed in June 2017, 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.
Lebanese President condemns Israeli threats as ‘act of war’
Middle East Monitor/April 06/18 /Lebanese President Michel Aoun yesterday condemned Israel’s recent threats to his country and intervention in its affairs, describing them as an “act of war”. “Lebanon is a country that believes in peace and renounces wars,” Aoun explained during a meeting with the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Pernille Dahler Kardel. “The regular Israeli officials’ threats are unacceptable and we consider them to be an act of war against Lebanon.” His country, he stressed, is keen to strengthen security and stability on its southern border [with Israel].”
Relations between Lebanon and Israel have been strained in recent months, especially after Israel’s construction of a border wall and Lebanon’s oil and gas exploration works near disputed territorial waters. In addition, there is the “growing arsenal of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah,” which Israel considers as its main enemy. President Aoun thanked Kardel and the UN Secretary-General António Guterres for their efforts during the Lebanon-focused Rome II Conference held on 15 March. The conference discussed ways to enhance the capabilities of the Lebanese army and security forces, after the international community had sensed the difficult security conditions and instability in Lebanon. Aoun also expressed his country’s keenness to continue its cooperation with the UN, particularly during the upcoming Brussels Conference on 24 April, in which the issue of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon will be on the agenda. The Lebanese government currently pays around $7 billion on provision for Syrian refugees at a time when it is suffering from an economic deficit. According to the International Monetary Fund, the country’s Gross Domestic Product has dropped from eight per cent before the 2011 Syrian crisis to 1.1 per cent.
The UN’s Kardel briefed President Aoun on the Organisation’s preparations for the upcoming donor conference, which will take place in Paris next Tuesday with the aim of gathering support for the Lebanese economy. The government is planning to showcase 250 projects during the conference as part of a state-run $17 billion investment programme. Prime Minister Saad Hariri said in Beirut recently that he hoped that the conference would attract 500 participants, including leaders and officials from 60 foreign companies in Europe, the United States, China, Turkey and the Arab countries, as well as 120 Lebanese companies and banks. He also said the programme would create around 900 long-term employment opportunities.

Billions Pledged at CEDRE Conference to Help Lebanon Economy

Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 06 April, 2018/International donors have pledged billions of dollars in aid and development loans for Lebanon at the CEDRE conference held in Paris on Friday as they hoped to lay a groundwork to ensure money is well spent.  Some 40 countries have sent representatives to the conference along with officials from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian kicked off the conference by announcing that France would provide 550 million euros ($675 million), saying the contribution reflected "the level of our ambitions in Lebanon".
"In a Middle East shaken by crises, wounded by civil wars, Lebanon remains the model of pluralism, tolerance and openness which we need," he said. "But Lebanon is not an island. It's borne the full force of regional tensions and the Syria crisis. It combats terrorism on its borders and in its own country, and with more than a million refugees, it has taken more than its share of the Syrian exodus," he said. Other than France, several countries such as Italy, Germany and the US, and the European Union made pledges worth in total billions of dollars to help Lebanon. Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri laid out his country's grim situation, which the Syrian war has accentuated. Fears of economic collapse in Lebanon are mounting ahead of next month's parliamentary elections, the first in nine years.  "It is not the stability of Lebanon alone. This is the stability of the region and, therefore, of our world," Hariri said in his opening speech.
“We are a little country facing enormous political, economic and security challenges and these challenges are exacerbated by the war in Syria and the crisis of displaced Syrians in Lebanon," Hariri said, calling for substantial financial support from the international community.
"Lebanon's recovery must start ... the challenge today is to reverse the (negative) trend in terms of growth, poverty and unemployment and the government must play the main role."  Friday’s meeting is not a classic donors' conference but is meant to seek an investment plan around infrastructure, water and energy, delineate structural reforms, and mobilize the private sector. It's to adopt a follow-up mechanism to accompany investment. Lebanon has one of the highest levels of state debt in the world. The 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. Economists say the state urgently needs to reduce its spending to avert a crisis. But public services such as water supplies, electricity and waste management have suffered huge underinvestment.
Lebanon: Early Battle for Portfolios in Post-Election Government
Beirut - Paula Astih/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 6 April, 2018/The head of the Lebanese Forces, Samir Geagea, said his party was eyeing the ministry of energy, now run by Free Patriotic Movement’s Minister Cesar Abi Khalil. Geagea’s remarks, which came during a television interview on Thursday, sparked talks about an early battle over the ministerial portfolios in the new government that will be formed following the upcoming parliamentary elections. “We are eyeing the Ministry of Energy in the next government to solve the problem of electricity; because when there is a problem, it is natural that we need the Lebanese Forces,” Geagea said. Abi Khalil was quick to respond on his Twitter Account, telling Geagea without naming him: “Because your great success in your ministries allows you to have such ambition…”Senior sources in the FPM said they were surprised with the early talks about the ministerial portfolios.
In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, the sources said: “Nothing is finalized in this area, until we have the results of the parliamentary elections and we know the parliamentary share of each bloc; based on these shares, the number and quality of portfolios can be determined for each party.”
On the other hand, sources from the Lebanese Forces said the party supported the principle of rotation in the ministries, stressing that such principle must be “comprehensive”.The sources noted in this regard that the Future Movement’s attachment to the ministry of interior would automatically consolidate Amal Movement’s adherence to the ministry of finance. “In other words, we cannot ask the Amal Movement to abandon the finance ministry if the Prime Minister [Saad Hariri] and Interior Minister [Nohad] al-Machnouk remained attached to the interior ministry, which seems clear now, and Minister [Gebran] Bassil is probably sticking to the foreign ministry,” the LF sources stressed. The sources went on to say that Geagea’s remarks about his party assuming the energy portfolio were not a challenge or a provocation. “On the contrary, there are parties constantly repeating that this ministry is burned; therefore, Dr. Geagea declares his party’s readiness to take over this ministry and engage in this area,” the sources remarked.

Paris conference raises over $11 billion in pledges for Lebanon
Reuters/April 06, 2018/International donors are looking to hold Lebanon to promises of badly needed reforms at a Paris conference
Lebanon has billed the conference as a show of international backing for a country hosting 1.5 million Syrian refugees
Paris: International donors pledged $11 billion in loans and grants Friday to help debt-ridden Lebanon at a conference in Paris that also sought to ensure the money is well spent in a country hit hard by the Syrian war next door. French President Emmanuel Macron praised the international community’s “unprecedented mobilization” for Lebanon as crucial for building the conditions for a sustainable peace in the Middle East. “At a time when the Levant probably lives one of the worst moments of its history ... it’s more important than ever to preserve the most precious asset: a peaceful, diverse and harmonious Lebanon,” Macron said. In total, donors committed $10.2 billion in loans and $860 million in gifts, France’s ambassador to Lebanon Bruno Foucher said on Twitter. Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri outlined his country’s grim situation, saying his nation’s stability is at stake.
“It is not the stability of Lebanon alone. This is the stability of the region and, therefore, of our world,” Hariri said, warning that a collapse in Lebanon could ricochet throughout the Middle East and Europe. Fears of economic collapse in Lebanon are mounting ahead of next month’s parliamentary election, the first in nine years. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announced that France would provide 400 million euros ($489.3 million) in loans below market rates and would gift Lebanon another 150 million euros ($183.5 million). The European Union also contributed 150 million euros in loans.
The meeting was not a classic donors’ conference, but meant to seek an investment plan around infrastructure, water and energy, delineate structural reforms, and mobilize the private sector, French officials have said. Hariri, pointing out the impact of seven years of war in Syria, said that growth in Lebanon has dived from 8 percent to barely 1 percent. Syria’s war has hindered land exports to Jordan, Iraq and oil-rich Gulf Arab countries. Lebanon is also hosting 1.2 million refugees — accounting for nearly a quarter of the country’s population. Rampant corruption by the country’s political class has taken another kind of toll, hollowing out infrastructure and basic services, with frequent water and electricity cutoffs. Last week, Lebanon’s parliament approved a budget — its second since 2005 — with a fiscal deficit of $4.8 billion. The national debt at the end of 2017 stood at $80 billion, or more than 150 percent of gross domestic product. France has deep ties to Lebanon, a former protectorate. Another conference on April 25 in Brussels will aim to help Lebanon better cope with Syrian refugees.

Lebanese elections and regional dimensions
Radwan al-Sayed/Al Arabiya/April 07/18
For the first time in Lebanon’s modern history, election headlines are almost nonexistent. With the exception of the Shiite camp, which has chosen its candidates from among its supporters, the rest have invited rich candidates who can bear the expenses while the head of the list is left with a few gains and profits.
As such, other participants, especially those who are part of the settlement which formed the government, have only one aim which is to increase the number of successful candidates on their lists, with the least possible expenditure. Some parties have the sole goal of not losing badly, especially those who were part of the March 14th coalition in the 2009 elections. Why did I bring up the regional dimension of elections in the title of the article? It’s because Hezbollah underlines the political and strategic dimension of its existence and of the strong presence of Shiites in Lebanon and the region
For example, al-Jamaa al-Islamiya has forged an alliance with the Free Patriotic Movement in several constituencies, while the Future movement has sought rapprochement or forged alliances with several parties in several constituencies. In some constituencies, Jumblatt is approaching Hezbollah and in others he’s approaching the Future Movement or the Lebanese Forces!
Electoral equations
Only Hezbollah doesn’t make any alliance with old rivals, and only appoints those within the party on its lists. As for Sunnis and Christians who are on its lists with the Amal Movement in Shiite populated areas, they are mere followers and not allies. This is proven by the fact that Hezbollah first announced the names of its 27 Shiite candidates in all of Lebanon, and then gradually began announcing the names of the other non-Shiite candidates. The only problem Hezbollah faced was in the Jbeil district, where Shiites hold only one seat and the majority is Christian. Usually the Shiite candidate is represented on the list of an influential Christian. But the party, in order to show its superiority, nominated a Shiite from the Zuaitar family and who is a Hezbollah official. The party convinced some Christians to be on the list which is headed by Zuaitar. Considering the preferential vote in the electoral law, only Zuaitar will win from the list because he will have the advantage among all other Shiite candidates. Only few hundred Christian voters will vote for Zuaitar’s list as most Christians will vote for other Christian lists particularly those of former MP Fares Souaid and the Aounists.
Hezbollah’s bid for legitimacy
Why did I bring up the regional dimension of elections in the title of the article? It’s because Hezbollah underlines the political and strategic dimension of its existence and of the strong presence of Shiites in Lebanon and the region. Ten days ago, Nasrallah told an Iranian delegation that the majority of Lebanon’s population was Shiite, but on account of certain vulnerabilities decided to convert to Sunni Islam or Christianity. Today, Shiites are the most powerful force in the region, and not just in Lebanon — thanks to the policies of the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist. For months now, with growing tensions between America and Iran, the party’s regional duties have renewed. Ever since the continuous Syrian invasion, it has been working — along with the Revolutionary Guards — on increasing pressure on the Jordanian border and the front with Israel on the Golan Heights.
It may act from southern Lebanon via its missiles. A few days ago, Nasrallah said that the Houthis firing of missiles on Saudi Arabia was “a significant military accomplishment.” As such, Hezbollah wants to acquire a domestic cover as much as possible, because it doesn’t have full approval in Lebanon and is charged with terrorism by Arabs and the international community.
Consequently, its existence in Lebanon is linked to the strength of its arms and the dominance it imposed. The party will improve things for itself if it gains a parliamentary majority to its side that may legalize its massive arsenal, as was the case with the Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq, the other Arab country that is scheduled to have elections in May. In one of his recent speeches, Nasrallah stated: “The situation has changed. The majority of the Lebanese people support the resistance in deterring Israel and preventing terrorism!”
Regional dimension
The regional dimension is then the result of Hezbollah’s dependence on Iran and its readiness to execute its policies to undermine Arab security, endanger Western interests and commit blackmail under the pretext of confronting Israel. While the reality is such organizations are the ones that occasion terrorism and Israeli threat. According to intelligence reports on the Syrian issue, the Syrian regime and the Iranians have for months now allowed the infiltration of ISIS remnants through their areas in south Syria and the Golan Heights for two purposes: so these ISIS members fight with other militants and so their presence becomes an excuse for the Syrian regime, the Russians and the Iranians to intervene in the name of fighting terrorism. Lebanese and Iraqi parliamentary elections, despite the banality of their published details and the blind Western love of electoral democracy, are extremely critical for the future of the two countries, because the advocates of Iran in both countries will go to the polls with their weapons as well as with their money.

The Cedar Conference and Macron’s trust in Lebanon
Randa Takieddine/Al Arabiya/April 07/18
On Friday, the Cedar Conference will be held in Paris as part of French President Emmanuel Macron’s initiative to mobilize international support for Lebanon. It is also to show that France and the international community are keen on promoting Lebanon’s security and stability as well as to help it bear the burden of refugees living there. With the efforts of the French president and Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, France has been able to draw more than 50 international delegations that will study investment plans in infrastructure projects in Lebanon. Everyone in Lebanon expects that the conference will supply around 4 to 5 billion dollars. Nevertheless, as described by the French envoy in Lebanon who is also in charge of arranging the conference, the latter will primarily pave the way and not be merely an investment or donor conference. There is a general impression in Lebanon that the situation in the country is disastrous and that corruption will go on. It’s as if the Lebanese people have surrendered to this reality. However, there are individuals with requisite capabilities and competence in the country that raise our hopes
Investing in Lebanon
The amount of funds for investment and moving on with these investment plans will be fixed when the Lebanese government carries out real reforms in the economic sector after the elections. The country has not witnessed any actual reforms in electricity, water and other vital sectors. The Lebanese in general are questioning the feasibility of this conference because they lack confidence in their politicians, who have until now failed to solve the main issues related to electricity, environment, waste management and marine pollution. The Lebanese coast could have been a draw for tourists — just as it is in the Greece, Turkey and Cyprus coasts, but swimming and fishing remains a health hazard in Lebanon. Thus, it would be too much to expect large investment without the proper reform and renewal of vital sectors of the Lebanese economy. We are grateful to President Macron who is encouraging Western and Arab countries as well as member states of the Security Council to help and support Lebanon. Macron trusts Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who has been a traditional ally of French leadership, just like his father Rafic Hariri was. Now Macron’s relations with Hariri and Lebanese President Michel Aoun, who recently visited France, proves that the young French president strongly wants to support Lebanon.
Burden of debt
But just like John Kennedy said, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. This particularly applies to the Lebanese people, as they have to strictly question their politicians, especially through the upcoming elections, which are expected to be disappointing in terms of the law adopted and the candidates in general. It also applies to politicians who should not consider their country as a resource for making personal profit. There is a general impression in Lebanon that the situation in the country is disastrous and that corruption will go on. It’s as if the Lebanese people have surrendered to this reality. However, there are individuals with requisite capabilities and competence in the country that raise our hopes that the country will rise and overcome its ordeal. According to a leaked recording allegedly for an International Monetary Fund (IMF) expert, the organization has, since 1999, been providing recommendations for administrative reforms in Lebanon - reforms which the country must pursue if it wants to reduce the high level of its debt. He added that Lebanon suffers from an incurable cancer which is the absence of good management thus resulting in corruption – a high level of corruption that is only matched by Botswana out of the 20 other African countries where he worked. The expert noted that it is illogical that a country like Lebanon, which has good educational levels and capabilities, has not carried out administrative reforms in the electricity, waste management and other sectors. The expert was also critical of the large number of ministers in the Lebanese government which is 30. In contrast, Russia only has nine ministers. Despite these facts, some still believe in Lebanon and in the path initiated by Macron to help Lebanon as an important initiative that raises optimism. The dynamism, movement and mobilization of the French president to push for support of Lebanon should be matched by effective Lebanese action for reform, or else it would be the last chance for this country to rise. Hariri, who has Macron’s confidence and friendship, should not disappoint him or the Lebanese who trust him. He should work hard to implement the commitments of the reforms as soon as possible, for Lebanon can no longer bear promises without fulfilling them.
What the Lebanese Must Do to Deliver CEDRE’s Promise
Stefan Dercon/The Daily Star/April 06/18
In recent years I have had the privilege of visiting, reading about and thinking about Lebanon. Two stories often recur: the story of Lebanese resilience to crises, and the story of Lebanese vulnerability to crises. I see some truth in both. Indeed, they often seem to be two sides of the very same coin. In CEDRE, I see the possible beginning of a third story – but Lebanon’s leaders will need to demonstrate courage and stamina if it is to deliver on its ambition, to the benefit of all the communities which call Lebanon home.
Resilience and vulnerability
First, a pre-Syria-crisis story of resilience. The Central Bank, through the legendary exchange rate peg, gives confidence to diaspora investors, who in turn send their hard earned dollars back, investing in homes in which to holiday and perhaps retire. Real estate prices rise in response, making investment even more attractive, driving the cycle harder. But turn this coin over and we reveal a story of vulnerability, which lies in what is, or isn’t, done inside all those new buildings. Real estate has, ultimately, to be a means to an end, not an end in itself. A banking system which is channeling overseas cash into local housing often just drives up prices and rents for those who actually want to use those buildings to live and work. And, by focusing on profitable real-estate loans, the banks allocate less of their resources to finance the expansion of productive businesses in other sectors. Meaning, perhaps, that so many of Lebanon’s bright graduates find few opportunities here, and so emigrate, earn and remit, driving the cycle yet harder.
Moving to more recent years. The Central Bank has done a fantastic job at supporting the Lebanese economy through the Syrian crisis. In simple terms: using its assets to subsidize the rate which depositors can earn on their deposits. Which has kept the diaspora cash flowing in, despite real estate wobbles, despite the shadows cast by the terrible conflicts over the border. Allowing Lebanon to keep paying its import bills and keep financing the government’s debt. Adding yet more weight to that Lebanese story of resilience in the face of hardship. But, with or without a magician at the helm, no central bank can do this forever. The other side of this coin, the vulnerability. Eventually, the high returns paid as reward to those moving their money into Lebanon must be backed up by the value that is created here, by Lebanese businesses and Lebanese citizens. Borrowing – whether by households or by governments – must be repaid through future earnings, which is hard work at the best of times – but particularly hard if we consume, rather than invest, the money we borrow.
A third story for Lebanon?
And this is where CEDRE strikes me as interesting, as it could be the beginning of a third story. One which is neither about resilience to crisis, nor vulnerability, but about something else: steady, sustainable improvement. If CEDRE is to be a success for Lebanon, it must mark the start of a process which, over time, grows a new inward flow of international capital. But one which, rather than being channeled into unproductive real estate, or consumed by government debt and imports, is invested in building enduring infrastructure which will pay for itself many times over in the years ahead. In roads, electricity, water, waste water, health, education. Creating many jobs during construction. And, once completed, reducing the costs that Lebanese people face, while improving the services they receive. In turn, allowing both businesses and individuals to be more productive.
That is the single most promising engine to deliver a species of economic growth which can be enjoyed by all of Lebanon’s citizens and communities.
This could be a promising path for Lebanon – allowing, perhaps, the best of both worlds – to keep the currency peg and the confidence this brings, while also reducing costs and increasing the competitiveness of Lebanese businesses and Lebanese exports.
No crisis, no sudden and painful adjustment, just steady, sustainable improvement.
The slow, brave path to success
But for this third story to come true, it will require political courage, stamina, and perhaps most of all cooperation, from Lebanon’s diverse political and confessional leaders. While the international community can help meet the costs, the benefits for Lebanon’s citizens and Lebanon’s future prosperity will only be unlocked if Lebanon’s current and future governments live up to the promises that I hope will be made at CEDRE – to reform the electricity sector, bring government borrowing under control, and improve the civil service’s technical capabilities to deliver the projects.
But most of all, for this story to come true, Lebanese leaders will need to find the cross-party political will to make sure that these projects get delivered, on time and on budget, rather than getting blocked. So that the benefits are felt by the many ordinary Lebanese citizens and businesses, not stolen or diverted by the few.
Which is why I hope that at CEDRE Lebanon’s government commits to a concrete plan and timetable for delivering the crucial reforms needed for these investments to be a success. And I hope Lebanon’s leaders advertise how seriously they take this, by committing to a robust and transparent follow-up mechanism. This would allow Lebanese civil society to track progress, and allow this, and future governments and donors to publically celebrate success, and confront challenges, as they arise. And in so doing, build the confidence that could unlock increasing flows of productive international private sector investment in Lebanon’s creaking infrastructure in the months and years ahead. The road is hard and the hurdles are very high, but the rewards for Lebanese citizens, and for the next generation, are huge. It feels like it might be time for Lebanon’s leaders to show that they are ready to start a new, brave and – in some ways – more boring chapter in Lebanon’s history.
**Stefan Dercon is professor of Economic Policy at Oxford University Blavatnik School of Government, and former senior economist at the U.K. government’s Department for International Development.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published
on April 06-07/18
300 Iranian Activists Warn Khamenei from Deteriorating Regime Conditions
London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 6 April, 2018/A group of 300 conservative figures and Basij officials in Iran wrote an open letter to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei about existing concerns regarding the internal condition of Iran, criticizing Iran’s policy on the nuclear deal and its quest after regional dominance. The activists warned from the worrisome they have towards the future of the country and the gap between the people and the authority, stressing that the internal problems include all bodies of the authority. The signatories backed stances of former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who sent a similar letter on Feb. 19, considering him the basic figure among the political elite to support national demands. They slammed arresting individuals close to Ahmadinejad, doubting that the “revolution goals” were accomplished under the current structure and systems in the country and stressing that they have reached the worst condition during the past four decades. The signatories criticized the “wrong strategies” in foreign policies and accused the diplomatic body of wasting the Iranian revolution and the popularity of Iranians in huge parts of the region. The letter comes two weeks after the speech of Khamenei. Regarding the parliament, the letter said that there was no hope that the parliament enacts national laws that serve the best interest of the people. The letter slammed the judiciary authority in Iran considering it the axis of oppression. In the economic aspect, they accused the government economic institution of marginalizing Iranians, noting that some active institutions in the Iranian economy are not subject to accountability.

Supreme Leader Adviser: Iran’s Regional Role is an Internal Issue
London - Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 6 April, 2018 /Once again, Iran’s Supreme Leader Adviser for International Affairs Ali Akbar Velayati rejected any discussion with the West over ballistic missiles and Tehran's regional role, stressing that it was "an Iranian internal affair." "There is no doubt that the Islamic Republic of Iran never seeks anyone's permission in its defensive sector," Velayati said. Meanwhile, Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Ali Akbar Salehi implicitly threatened to use force against any party that suspends the nuclear deal. Velayti held a meeting with Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad, after which he defended Iran's policy in West Asia region, saying Tehran continues its support and active presence in the region, indicating that it will support allies. "The United States and its allies have been trying for seven years to take over the legitimate rule of Syria," he said regarding US President Donald Trump’s decision not to withdraw troops from Syria. Iran is approaching the end of period determined by the EU to negotiate its regional role and ballistic missiles as a condition to renew approval on nuclear agreement, Velayati played down the importance of the US president's steps, saying the allegations made by Trump lack concrete logic. During a bilateral meeting with Russian President Putin in Ankara, Turkey, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani stressed that Iran is committed to its obligations of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). "If one day something that deprives us from the benefits of the JCPOA happens, we will take a new decision," indicated Rouhani. However, Putin assured his Iranian ally indicating that “all parties” living up to their commitments in this agreement is essential and the international community must support JCPOA’s stability, because “undermining it in any way undermines diplomacy in the region and the world.”On Thursday, Head of AEOI was quoted by Mehr news agency saying: "Enemies should know that in case of a JCPOA rollback, even though we are never looking for such a situation, special conditions will arise, and when the high ranking officials decide, there will be a special surprise for those who scuttle the agreement."Salehi said that Iran seeks to preserve its national interests and sovereignty, but if other major powers withdraw from this agreement, Tehran will definitely act in a different way. At a Nowruz meeting with AEOI staff, Salehi linked overcoming this difficult stage with "national reconciliation, harmony and unity," regardless of disagreements. Earlier in August 2017, Salehi said his country would go back to enriching uranium by 20 percent at the Fordow Plant, but it prefers not to. As for Iran's scenarios in the event US exited the nuclear deal, Salehi indicated that AEOI’s duty is to prepare to resume work. He also stated that the organization is working to establish two new nuclear reactors in Bushehr, south of the country. The head of Bushehr also pointed out that his country is facing a "challenging year" at the international level, and expressed Iran's concerns about the expected US-North Korean negotiations over the nuclear issue."The negotiations between the two countries are vague and complex, but their results require our country to be more vigilant in its work and in making crucial decisions," Salehi concluded.

US Troops to Remain in Syria for 6 Months
London - Ibrahim Hamidi/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 06 April, 2018 /US President Donald Trump has given a 6-month period to defeat ISIS completely and begin the gradual withdrawal of US troops. Meanwhile, US officials and allies in Europe and Middle are trying to convince Trump to return to former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's strategy of staying "indefinitely" to achieve several goals, including not “handing Syria over to Russia and Iran” and not repeating the “2011 scenario of Iraq.”Western officials told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Pentagon sent new US troops to eastern Euphrates under a decision issued by Trump at the end of the year, as part of the periodic rotation of around 2,000 troops within the Global Coalition against ISIS. They pointed out that the deployment of hundreds of coalition soldiers to Manbij was not within the dispatch of new troops, and the transfer of troops from the east of Euphrates to northeast Aleppo was to “confirm the desire to protect allies and send a message to Turkey.” Ankara, they added, wants to send its troops to Manbij as well and pressure an agreement with Washington that includes pushing People’s Protection Units (YPG) from Manbij to the east of Euphrates.
According to those officials, the US President repeatedly expressed his desire to initiate the withdrawal of US troops "as soon as possible" as the task of eliminating ISIS is near completion. The officials confirmed what was published in the Washington Post and US media that Trump repeated several times that “nothing out of $7 trillion [spent] in the Middle East over the last 17 years.”Trump indicated that its time for its allies and partners across the Middle East to ramp up their efforts to destroy ISIS, saying the involvement of US forces in Syria is “coming to a rapid end.” At the meeting of National Security Council, Trump also indicated that he wanted to keep his election promises by focusing on US interests and withdrawing the troops from the Middle East. Trump seemed to want to achieve his goal before the midterm congressional elections in early November, when 435 seats of the Congress and one-third of the Senate are re-elected. A Western official told Asharq Al-Awsat that defense and foreign ministries’ officials, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) members and National Council adviser warned Trump of repeating the same scenario as that of former President Barack Obama in 2011 when he decided to withdraw 10,000 US troops from western Iraq, which led to the formation of ISIS. Contrary to Trump's statement that ISIS’ defeat is soon, US officials have pointed out that the terrorist organization still controls several pockets in eastern Syria with about 3,000 elements. At the meeting, officials explained the "strategic dimensions of the US decision", pointing out that the strategy of former Secretary Tillerson was also discussed. Although Trump was "no longer impressed" with the strategy of Tillerson, who will be replaced by CIA director Mike Pompeo after Congressional approval, the meeting noted that "the strategy's objectives are still valid" and include five goals: limit Iran’s influence by controlling an area on the land route between Iran, Iraq, Syria and Hezbollah, pressure Russia to achieve political transition, return of refugees from neighboring countries allied with US, and the prevention of the use of chemical weapons.
It was said during the meeting that US withdrawal "means handing Syria over to Russia, losing any pressure cards, recognizing the Iranian presence in Syria and Iraq," in addition to having the tripartite Russian-Turkish-Iranian alliance make the arrangements to fill the void, and its effect on US troops in Iraq.
A Western official said that US position after Tuesday's meeting is currently between two possibilities. First one having Trump adhere to his stance by pushing the US Army and the Coalition to achieve a full-fledged defeat in the last two enclaves and then announce the beginning of a six-month grace period for gradual withdrawal. The second is when senior administration officials succeed, especially after John Bolton took over as national security adviser and Pompey as Secretary of State, in persuading Trump to stay in eastern Syria and communicate with allies in Europe and the region to provide military and financial support for the US mission. At the same time, several talks resulted in financial and logistical support to strengthen local administrations and ensure stability and reconstruction in eastern Syria, as well as find ways to invest oil and gas from East Euphrates. Experts believe areas under control of Washington's allies contain 90 percent of Syria's 360,000 barrels per day and 45 per cent of its natural gas, agricultural crops, water dams and electricity, which means that it is possible to provide economic dependence on their own sources. Officials expect the coming stage to witness communication within the US administration on one hand and between Washington and its Western allies and the region on the other, to determine whether US presence in Syria is for six months or possibly extending the period and fortifying their presence.

Khalid bin Salman Says Houthis Determined to Escalate the War
Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 6 April, 2018/Saudi Ambassador to the US Prince Khalid bin Salman has said that Yemen’s Houthi insurgents are determined to escalate the war in the country. The Houthis’ “latest terrorist attack on a commercial oil tanker in one of the world's busiest shipping routes is a demonstration of their disregard for international laws,” the diplomat said on his official Twitter account on Thursday. The attack also shows their “determination to escalate the war" and prolong the suffering of the Yemeni people, he tweeted. The ambassador was referring to the Houthi attack on Tuesday on a Saudi oil tanker in international waters west of the Hodeidah port. The targeted tanker was slightly damaged, but able to continue along its course, escorted by an Arab Coalition vessel.

Saudi defense forces destroy Houthi ballistic missile over Najran
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Friday, 6 April 2018/Al Arabiya correspondent reported that the Saudi air defense forces destroyed a ballistic missile over Najran, fired by the Houthi militia from Yemen, on Friday. Dozens of the Houthi militias were killed Friday in coalition raids and field battles in Bayda governorate in central Yemen, while 13 others were arrested. The forces of the Yemeni army were able with the support of the coalition aircrafts to liberate Mas'udah mountain in Qanya eastern of Bayda. The Arab coalition forces intensified air raids targeting sites and weapons depots belonging to the Houthis in different parts of the province of Bayda. According to field sources, the raids resulted in causalities among the members of the militia, including Houthi leader called "Abu Qusay."The Yemeni army is progressing on the ground by controlling a number of sites where the Houthi militias were based in Qanya.

Saudi Crown Prince: Iran is the cause of problems in the Middle East
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Friday, 6 April 2018/In his interview with the US's Time magazine, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman referred to Iran as the source of all conflicts: “The Iranians, they’re the cause of problems in the Middle East, but they are not a big threat to Saudi Arabia. But if you don’t watch it, it could turn into a threat. They are the main cause of problems, but they are not a threat to Saudi Arabia.”
Iran’s Imam Ideology
The crown prince explained: “The Iranian regime’s problem is that they hijack the country. They use the country’s assets for their own ideological sake. And they’ve seen that every day from ’79 to today, that they are spreading their ideology. Even in the United States of America. And when they do that, they think the hidden Imam will appear from hiding to rule the whole world: United States of America, Japan, the whole world.
Iran causing instability
Mohammed bin Salman noted that countries which were stable were spared the Iranian influence as opposed to the ones that were not: “They are doing that from ’79, and if you see any problem in the Middle East, you will find Iran. Iraq? Iran’s there. Yemen? Iran is there. Syria? Iran is there. Lebanon? Iran’s there. Where is the stable country? Egypt? Iran is not there. Sudan? Iran is not there. Jordan? Kuwait? Iran is not there. Bahrain? Iran is not there."“And it’s not between Iran and Saudi Arabia. It’s between Iran and Saudi Arabia and UAE and Egypt and Kuwait and Bahrain and Yemen - a lot of countries around the world. So what we want to be sure of is that whatever they want to do, they do it within their borders. We drove them out of Africa heavily, more than 95 percent. Same thing goes for Asia. Same thing goes for Yemen,” he added.
The future of Iran
So they’re almost pushed back inside Iran. We hope that the Iranian people and Iran as a nation have a better future without those leaders. And if that changes, of course, Iran will be close to us as it used to be before ’79. But if that doesn’t change, they can enjoy themselves for a very long time until they change.

Mohammed bin Salman talks plans for Saudi Arabia with Time magazine
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English/Friday, 6 April 2018/The US's Time magazine interviewed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last month at New York City’s Plaza Hotel during his American tour. The interview is set to feature on Time’s April 16 issue. The Crown Prince discussed various topics with Saudi Arabia’s reformation plans in the lead, as well as Saudi US relations and visions for the region. Time magazine’s Editor-at-Large Karl Vick sat with Mohammed bin Salman for a lengthy 75-minute conversation. Vick asked Prince Mohammed about the rationale behind his US tour, to which the crown prince replied: “The United States of America is one of our oldest allies in the whole world, and we are the oldest ally of the United States of America in the Middle East. And the economic relationship between both countries is very deep.”
Saudi-US relations
On having a good relationship with President Trump, the Saudi Crown Prince affirmed “Of course we have a good relationship with President Trump, with his team, with his family, with all the key people in his administration, and also we have a very good relationship with many members of Congress from both parties and a lot of people in the United States of America. And everyone believes in the importance of both countries to face the dangers facing us and also to continue growing and getting a better future for both countries.”In reference to dealing with the previous US administration, Prince Mohammed noted: “The only difference was in the tactics of how we should deal with that evil narrative of the Iranian regime. So it’s not a big difference. We are aligned 99 percent. The difference is only 1 percent. But, you know, people try to focus on the 1 percent and avoid the 99 percent that we agreed on.”Commenting on assigning John Bolton as National Security Advisor, the crown prince said: “I’m sure when he’s appointed he will represent the views of the United States of America, and we will deal with him and we will see what happens. But of course we will support him.”
Saudi plan
In reply to a key question about the plan for Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Crown Prince explained, “We are now in the third Saudi Arabia which was established by King Abdulaziz, also known as Ibn Saud, my grandfather.” Interview with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is set to feature on Time’s April 16 issue. (Martin Schoeller for TIME). “King Faisal came with a really great young team, and among his team were King Khaled, King Fahd, King Abdullah, King Salman, Prince Sultan, Prince Nayef, and many other people. And they’ve transformed the country from mud houses to world standard modern cities,” he said. “But for us as a young generation, we’ve not seen this, because we were born in that great modern city. We lived in an economy that is already among the top 20 economies of the world, and our eyes are focusing on what we are missing, what we can’t do. And we believe that Saudi Arabia until today used only 10 percent of its capacity, and we have 90 percent to go,” he added. According to the magazine, the young prince seemd like a "man in a hurry" in terms of building his country's economy. He explained that the old thought prior to the progressive vision that Saudi Arabia embraced after ’79 is challenged by several ideas. “I am young. I don’t want 70 percent of the Saudi population to waste their lives trying to get rid of this. We want to do it now. We want to spend 70 percent of our time building things, improving our economy, creating jobs, creating new things, making things happen.”
Vision 2030
Regarding Saudi Vision 2030 and the industrial developments in the Kingdom, the crown prince highlighted that: “We spend $230 billion a year outside Saudi Arabia. If we do nothing, it will go up in 2030 to between $300-400 billion US spent outside of Saudi Arabia. The plan is to spend half of it in Saudi Arabia. We have many programs to do this.”About education in Saudi Arabia, the Crown prince said: “We are ranked 41 among education systems around the world. France is ranked 40, so we are almost like France, as to the quality of the education system… We want to drive the best talent, to get the best talent to live and come abroad to work in Saudi Arabia … So this is a very important thing that we are trying to improve. And I believe in the last three years, Saudi Arabia did more than in the last 30 years.”
Osama bin Laden and fighting extremism
When asked about fighting extremism, the crown prince said that Saudi Arabia is the most prone country for terrorist groups to spread their ideologies. “If I want to spread my ideology, I will have to go to Saudi Arabia. I have to go to the Qibla of Muslims. I have to go to the country that hosts the holy mosque. Because if I spread it there, it will reach everywhere,” he said. He added that the first terrorist activity carried out by Osama bin Laden was in the 90’s targeting Saudi Arabia and Egypt. He said the kingdom continuously asked that he be arrested and that they were faced with the Independent in ’93 saying that he was a “freedom fighter practicing free speech”. “You can go back to this article in The Independent in ‘93, Osama bin Laden! That was before 9/11, 10 years before 9/11. We were saying that he was a dangerous guy. He was a terrorist. That he had to be arrested immediately. We had terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia. We had terrorist attacks in Egypt in the ‘90s but we were accused of repressing freedom of speech until 9/11 happened,” he said. The crown prince said the solution to eliminate these groups is to “get them, kill them or arrest them”. He added that the biggest terrorist threat at the moment is the Muslim Brotherhood.
Saudis not sects
Concerning Sunni and Shiite sects, the crown prince said: “We don’t differentiate among Saudis based on sects. We live in Saudi Arabia as Saudis in Saudi Arabia.”The crown Prince stated that the focus should be on the end, not the means: “These ends are the rule of law, freedom of speech, freedom to work and security. These are the ends that everyone agrees on, that we agree on in Saudi Arabia in our own way,” he said.

Bahrain hosts first British permanent military base in Gulf

The Associated Press/Thursday, 5 April 2018/Britain opened its first permanent military base in the Middle East in more than four decades on Thursday in the Gulf country of Bahrain, giving the UK an expansive presence along key international shipping routes. The UK Naval Support Facility can house up to around 500 Royal Navy personnel, including sailors, soldiers and airmen, in a region where maritime security ensures oil shipments and goods make it from Asia to Europe. British officials have described it as the first permanent British base east of the Suez Canal since 1971.
Bahrain, located off the coast of Saudi Arabia and just west of its rival Iran, also plays host to the US Navy's 5th Fleet.
Tense encounters have occurred between US and Iranian naval forces in the Gulf, though military officials say provocations of US navy ships in recent months have halted. The new British hub makes it easier for the Royal Navy to conduct longer-term deployments in the Gulf and will offer engineering and logistical support for ships. The facility includes sleeping accommodation, sport facilities, a chapel, and recreational areas for troops. The port would also be able to service mine sweepers and aircraft carriers, though carriers like the HMS Queen Elizabeth will not be able to dock there because the water is too shallow. The Duke of York, Prince Andrew, and Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa were on-hand for the ceremony in Salman Port.

Clashes Erupt as Protests Begin along Gaza Border
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 06/18/Clashes erupted as protesters gathered along the Gaza border on Friday a week after similar demonstrations led to violence in which Israeli force killed 19 Palestinians, the bloodiest day since a 2014 war. Palestinians burned tyres and threw stones at Israeli soldiers over the border fence, who responded with tear gas and live fire, AFP journalists said.
One person appeared to have been shot east of Gaza City, an AFP photographer at the scene said, but his condition was not immediately clear. Hundreds of protesters gathered in locations near the border east of Khan Yunis, in the south of the blockaded Palestinian enclave, and east of Gaza City. The numbers were so far lower than last week, but more were expected in the afternoon after the main weekly Muslim prayers. Mounds of tyres were set up which were to be lit on fire throughout the day in what Gazan protesters want to be a smokescreen from Israeli snipers. Israeli forces took up positions across a ridge on the other side of the border and set up a giant fan about two metres high in an apparent bid to push away the smoke.
"I will be a martyr today. I will cross the border," Ahmed Abu Ghali, 20, who held up his shirt to show his still seeping wound from last week that required 40 stitches, said east of Khan Yunis. "I was wounded last Friday but escaped yesterday from hospital." Israel's military said in a statement that "hundreds of Palestinians have been rioting in five locations along the border with the Gaza Strip."
It added that "troops are responding with riot dispersal means, and fire in accordance with the rules of engagement." Israel has warned that its open-fire rules remain unchanged for Friday's protests, pledging to stop any damage to the fence and to prevent infiltrations or alleged attacks. But it has faced mounting criticism over its use of live fire, and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for restraint. "I particularly urge Israel to exercise extreme caution with the use of force in order to avoid casualties. Civilians must be able to exercise their right to demonstrate peacefully," he said in a statement.
- 'Calculated' -Last Friday's protest near the Gaza border was attended by tens of thousands of Palestinians. A smaller number strayed from the main protest and approached the heavily fortified fence on the border with Israel. Israel says troops opened fire only when necessary against those throwing stones and firebombs or rolling burning 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. It accuses Hamas, the Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip and with whom it has fought three wars since 2008, of using the protests as cover to carry out violence. But the toll of those killed and wounded -- more than 750 people were injured by gunfire, according to Gaza's health ministry -- has led to criticism of Israel.
There were no Israeli casualties. Palestinians say protesters were shot while posing no threat to soldiers, and unverified videos that have spread online have fuelled their accusations. The videos include one appearing to show a man with a tyre shot while running away from the fence. Human Rights Watch has called the actions by the Israeli soldiers "calculated" and illegal. Guterres and the European Union have called for an independent investigation, which Israel has outright rejected. - US embassy move -Israel says more than half of the dead were members of militant groups, including the armed wing of Hamas. Hamas's armed wing has claimed only five of them, saying they were participating "in popular events side-by-side with their people". Militant group Islamic Jihad has claimed at least one of the dead as a member, but said he was not carrying a weapon when he was shot.
Hamas has meanwhile offered compensation of $3,000 to the families of protesters killed and $500 for those seriously injured, drawing outrage from Israel.
The protests, designed to last six weeks, are in support of refugees, including those in the Palestinian enclave who want to return to their former homes in what is now Israel. More than 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their lands during the war surrounding Israel's creation in 1948.
Protests will run until the expected opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem in mid-May. The US move has led to deep anger among Palestinians, who see the annexed eastern sector of Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
The White House on Thursday refrained from criticism of Israel and called on protesters to remain peaceful. President Donald Trump's envoy Jason Greenblatt said protesters "should remain outside the 500-meter buffer zone; and should not approach the border fence in any way or any location."
Palestinians Prepare Mass Protests at Gaza Border, Israel on Alert
Gaza/Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 6 April, 2018/Two Palestinians were killed, Thursday, while dozens others were injured by the Israeli fire, in a time when the Palestinian factions and people are getting ready for mass protest marches on Friday.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said that Mujahid Nabil al-Khudari, 23, was killed east Gaza, in the early morning by the Israeli occupation. Sources revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that the targeted man is from Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. Later, a second Palestinian, Shadi Hamdan al-Kashif, 34, succumbed to injuries sustained earlier. This raises the toll to 21 martyrs since last February and more than 1,492 injuries, including 202 children and 40 women. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said earlier that “these are not innocent civilians who came to peacefully protest” and that the Israeli Army is ready to any possible scenario. Liberman continued that if Palestinians attempted to provoke the sovereignty or security of Israel then there will be strong and decisive response from the forces. “Israeli forces should exercise maximum restraint and Palestinians should avoid friction at the Gaza fence,” UN Special Coordinator Nikolay Mladenov said in a statement. “Civilians must be able to exercise their right to demonstrate peacefully,” he stressed. Hamas announced providing $3,000 to the relatives of those killed by Israeli fire. Palestinians injured by Israeli troops in the clashes would receive $200-$500 in compensation, depending on the level of injury, Hamas said. Israeli army to investigate Gazan protesters' deaths, revealed Haaretz newspaper. According to the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR), Israeli occupying forces used drones to drop tear gas on Palestinians in Gaza for the first time. The purpose of the occupation is to kill the greatest number of peaceful protesters through opening fire and dropping toxic gases, added ICHR. The repressive procedures taken by the occupation authorities are a violation of the international humanitarian law and the international documents along with human rights agreements, continued ICHR.

Ex-Catalan Leader Leaves German Jail on Bail, Calls for Dialogue
Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 06 April, 2018/Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont walked out of a German jail Friday after judges in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein ordered his release on bail as they mull his extradition to Spain on a corruption charge, while dropping the more serious charge of rebellion."I would like to thank everyone for their help and solidarity," Puigdemont told reporters in German outside Neumuenster prison, after posting bail of 75,000 euros ($92,000). The court on Thursday rejected an extradition request on the charge of rebellion for Puigdemont's role in the campaign for Catalonia's independence, but said extradition to Spain was possible on a lesser charge of misuse of public funds. But Spain's Supreme Curt said Friday it was considering consulting the European Court of Justice on the decision to reject his extradition for rebellion. The former Catalan leader, who wore a dark suit on leaving the prison, was arrested last month on a Spanish-issued arrest warrant as he entered Germany. "We have demanded dialogue for several years and we have only received violence and repression," Puigdemont told reporters on Friday. "There is no excuse for the Spanish authorities to start a political dialogue with the Catalan political leaders,” he said. He also called for "the immediate release of all of my (Catalan) colleagues".
South Korea's Park Gets 24 Years for Corruption
Asharq Al-Awsat/Friday, 6 April, 2018/South Korea's disgraced former president Park Geun-hye was sentenced to 24 years in prison on Friday, a year after she was driven from office and arrested over a corruption scandal. The trial which lasted more than 10 months ended with Park being found guilty on multiple criminal charges, including bribery and abuse of power. "The accused abused the power bestowed by the people -- the true ruler of this country -- to cause chaos in national administration," said Judge Kim Se-yoon. "Despite all these crimes the accused denied all the charges against her, displayed no remorse and showed an incomprehensible attitude by blaming Choi and other ... officials," he said, referring to Park's secret confidante and long-time friend Choi Soon-sil. Park, 66, was convicted of receiving or demanding more than $20 million from conglomerates, sharing secret state documents with Choi, ordering officials to stop offering state subsidies to "blacklisted" artists critical of her policies, and firing officials who resisted her abuses of power.  Park maintains she's a victim of "political revenge" and has been refusing to attend court sessions since October. She didn't attend Friday's verdict, citing a sickness that wasn't specified publicly. A lawyer of the former president has called her sentence very bad" and hinted that she would appeal. Kang Cheol-gu told reporters after the ruling that he believes the "appeals court and the Supreme Court will make a different judgment." He said Park's legal team will decided whether to appeal after confirming Park's willingness. Park's presidential predecessor Lee Myung-bak is currently in custody as prosecutors investigate multiple corruption charges involving him and his relatives. The presidential Blue House said in a statement after the verdict: "Each person must have different feelings about former President Park Geun-Hye. But a bleak wind blew through the hearts of all of us today. "It is a heartbreaking event for the nation as well as for the person's life. A history that is not remembered is bound to be repeated. We will not forget today."
China Says Ready to Pay 'Any Cost' in Trade War with US
Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 06/18/China said Friday it was ready to pay "any cost" in a possible trade war with the US, after President Donald Trump warned he was considering $100 billion in extra tariffs. "If the US side disregards opposition from China and the international community and insists on carrying out unilateralism and trade protectionism, the Chinese side will take them on until the end at any cost," the Ministry of Commerce said in a statement on its website. "We don't want a trade war, but we aren't afraid of fighting one." Trump threatened an additional $100 billion in tit-for-tat tariffs on Beijing Thursday, in the latest step in an escalating trade dispute. The US president has said he will impose steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, which would hit China. China responded with proposed tariffs on fresh fruit, pork and recycled aluminum, accounting for $3 billion of US exports last year.
The US on Tuesday published a list of $50 billion in Chinese imports set to be hit by US tariffs. In a speech Thursday, Trump said "in light of China's unfair retaliation," he had instructed trade officials to "consider whether $100 billion of additional tariffs would be appropriate."

Adolf Hitler’s Painting of Lover Up for Auction
Berlin, London- Asharq Al Awsat/Friday, 6 April, 2018 /An oil portrait believed to have been painted by Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler of a little-known former lover will go under the hammer next week with an asking price of 60,000 euros ($74,000), a German auction house said on Thursday.
The 63 x 48 cm painting, signed A. Hitler, 1916, depicts Charlotte Lobjoie, a Frenchwoman whom Hitler met while serving in France during World War One, according to Werner Maser, a leading Hitler scholar who died in 2007. “Portrait of a Girl” - a damaged work painted on hessian - was purchased by Flemish industrialists around 1967, auction house Weidler in Nuremberg said in a statement. It said it had documents showing it had been exhibited at art galleries in Japan. The painting in what appears to be a rural setting depicts a young woman with a red scarf loosely on her head that casts a heavy shadow over her face, and holding a pitchfork. Hitler described himself as an artistic genius – despite having twice been rejected by the Vienna Academy of Art. He painted for a living in the 1920s before rising to power and leading Germany into World War Two. With Soviet troops closing in on his headquarters in Berlin, he committed suicide in April 1945, along with his mistress Eva Braun whom he married shortly before. In 2015 Weidler sold a watercolor of Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria that was also signed A. Hitler and believed to be the work of the former Nazi leader at an auction that fetched 100,000 euros.

38 Pilot Whales Die After Being Stranded on New Zealand Beach
Wellington- Asharq Al Awsat/Friday, 6 April, 2018/A pod of 38 pilot whales that washed on a remote New Zealand beach have died after dangerous sea conditions hampered rescue efforts, creating the largest mass stranding in the area in at least 40 years. Conservationists were forced to euthanize 12 surviving whales this Thursday after efforts to re-float them failed. Department of Conservation manager Wayne Costello said the decision was taken in consultation with whale rescue charity Project Jonah and other experts. He said: "Unfortunately the sea on the West Coast is typically rough and the strong tidal currents in the adjoining lagoon made it impossible for rescuers to safely attempt to refloat the whales, allow them to regroup and to try to get them back to the open sea". Costello added in a statement that a rescue "could not be done without considerable risk to both whales and people". Mystery surrounds how the whales became stranded, but experts suggest the currents played a role. 'There are various factors why this pod came close to shore, we won't know specifically,' Project Jonah general manager Daren Grover told Stuff.
'When they come close to shore they can get caught out by tides, currents and fleeing from predators like orca.' More than 150 pilot whales washed up on a Western Australian beach last month, before some were pulled back out to sea using cranes. Experts suggested at the time that a family pod was following a sick member close to shore.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 06-07/18
Palestinians: Abbas Targets Hamas, Then Condemns Israel for Targeting Hamas

Bassam Tawil/Gatestone Institute/April 06/18
Here is the situation: Abbas is arresting and torturing Palestinians on suspicion of being affiliated with Hamas at the same time that he is criticizing Israel for killing or arresting members of Hamas.
Mahmoud Abbas and his government actually owe Israel a massive debt of thanks for targeting their enemies -- the same enemies they just accused of trying to assassinate Abbas' prime minister in the Gaza Strip last month.
Abbas, of course, knows the truth: that Hamas is sending Palestinians to be killed and disabled near the border with Israel just to be able to hold up dead Palestinian babies with which to blame Israel in front of the press.
Abbas, however, is not only hypocrite, he is a coward. He knows it is safer for him to turn the heat falsely against Israel -- the same Israel that is propping up his regime in the West Bank and ensuring that Hamas does not drag him to the center of Ramallah and hang him for as a traitor.
The Palestinian Authority (PA), now calling for an international inquiry into the March 30 events along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, says that Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have the right to demonstrate and protest against Israel.
Ironically, however, when it comes to areas under the control of the PA in the West Bank, Palestinians are banned from staging protests in front of President Mahmoud Abbas's "presidential" Mukata headquarters in Ramallah. In general, the PA leadership does not tolerate any form of criticism -- which happens to be the reason that protests against Abbas and his government are virtually unheard of.
Palestinians are banned from staging protests in front of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's "presidential" Mukata headquarters (pictured) in Ramallah. (Image source: PalestinianLiberator/Wikimedia Commons)
The only protests the PA accepts and welcomes are those directed against Israel. Yes, in PA-controlled territories in the West Bank, Palestinians can stage daily protests against Israel anywhere and at any time they wish! They can throw stones at IDF soldiers and Jewish settlers, and the Palestinian policemen will do nothing to stop them. Does any Palestinian, however, dare to throw a stone at a Palestinian policeman? You guessed it. Definitely not.
In a similar vein, the PA security forces feel free to arrest any Palestinian they want, even for the most trivial infraction. They are allowed to hold Palestinians in detention without trial and deny them visits by their family and lawyer. They are allowed to arrest any Palestinian journalists they wish for posting supposedly critical remarks on Facebook. Rami Samara, for instance, was arrested by PA security forces on April 3. for criticizing "arbitrary measures" taken by the PA against Palestinian journalists. Unwilling to face the strong protests by human rights organizations and Palestinian journalists, Abbas ordered the release of Samara hours after the journalist was taken into custody.
Again ironically, hardly a day passes without the PA and its institutions condemning Israel for arresting Palestinians in the West Bank for security-related offenses. The PA often denounces the Israeli arrests as "abductions" and "violations of human rights" of Palestinians. Yet, this is the same PA that takes liberties in arresting and harassing Palestinians on a daily basis, mostly for being affiliated with rival groups, and for voicing criticism of the PA leadership and its policies – not to mention corruption.
When Israel arrests Hamas and Islamic Jihad supporters, the PA expresses outrage and demands the immediate release of the suspects. When the PA stages a campaign of arrests against its political opponents, however, suddenly, everything changes. Then, Palestinians are required to remain silent and even support their leaders and security forces for supposedly defending the national interests of the Palestinian public or "preserving law and order."
Consider, for example the following: just in March, Abbas's security forces in the West Bank arrested 210 Palestinians for allegedly being affiliated with Hamas and other Palestinian opposition groups. Another 121 Palestinians were summoned for interrogation by the PA security forces. The PA security forces also raided the homes of 49 Palestinians for various reasons, including critical comments on social media. At least eight detainees are said to be on hunger strikes in PA prisons in different parts of the West Bank. Among the detainees in Palestinian prisons are 25 university students, two school pupils, three journalists, one human rights activist, three school teachers, an engineer, two physicians and two university lecturers.
On April 4, the families of some of the Palestinians held by the PA security forces tried to hold a peaceful sit-in strike in front of Abbas's office in Ramallah to demand the release of their sons. The families, however, were told that it was forbidden to stage any form of protest in front of Abbas's headquarters for "security reasons." The families were told that they could instead go to one of the streets in the center of Ramallah and protest there. The only demonstrations that are permitted in and around Abbas's headquarters are those where Palestinians pledge allegiance to their 83-year-old president or to protest against Israel.
At the April 4 protest, the wives and mothers of the detainees complained that their sons were being held without trial and without family and lawyer visitations. The wife of Ziad Kilani, arrested last month by the PA security forces, said that she and her family do not know anything about their son and do not know where or why he is being held. Kilani's mother said that when she asked the PA security officers the reason for her son's detention, she was told that he was being held on the order of a top Palestinian official. She said that when she asked the official himself, he denied any knowledge of the matter.
The Palestinians say that the vast majority of the detainees arrested by Abbas's security forces are detained solely for their political affiliations. They say these "politically motivated" arrests are part of the PA's continued security crackdown on its political rivals in the West Bank, including Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Huda Na'im, member of the Palestinian Legislative Council -- the Palestinian parliament that has been paralyzed for the past decade because of the power struggle between Hamas and Abbas's ruling Fatah faction -- called for the immediate release of all the Palestinian detainees held in PA prisons. "The ongoing politically motivated arrests in the West Bank [by the PA security forces] constitute a crime against the Palestinian people, and only serve the interests of Israel," she said. Nai'm called on the PA to backtrack on its "treacherous practices. She also called for bringing the commanders of the PA security forces responsible for the arrests to trial for politically motivated arrests and torture.
Some may argue that the PA security forces are doing a good job by targeting Palestinians affiliated with Hamas and Islamic Jihad. One is left, however, with the nagging question: Why does the PA castigate Israel when it does the same thing against Hamas and Islamic Jihad?
During the March 30 events along the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, several Palestinians belonging to Hamas and other armed groups in the Gaza Strip were killed by the Israeli army. The victims were not supporters of Abbas and Fatah. In fact, they were Abbas's enemies. Didn't Abbas recently hold Hamas responsible for the March 13 assassination attempt against his prime minister, Rami Hamdallah, during a visit to the northern Gaza Strip? Didn't Abbas threaten to take "legal, financial and national measures against Hamas? Didn't he threaten that "shoes will be pouring on the heads of the most junior and senior official in Hamas?"
Here is the situation: Abbas is arresting and torturing Palestinians on suspicion of being affiliated with Hamas at the same time that he is criticizing Israel for killing or arresting members of Hamas.
Abbas and his government want the international community to launch an investigation against Israel for killing a number of their Hamas enemies in the Gaza Strip. Abbas and his government say Palestinians are entitled to demonstrate near the border with Israel and endanger the lives of soldiers and Israeli citizens but are not allowed to stage a small protest outside his Ramallah office for "security reasons."
Abbas and his government actually owe Israel a massive debt of thanks for targeting their enemies -- the same enemies they just accused of trying to assassinate Abbas' prime minister in the Gaza Strip last month.
Instead, Abbas is busy inciting against Israel and accusing it of committing "massacres" against "unarmed" civilians in the Gaza Strip. Who is Abbas fooling? Doesn't Abbas see that even Hamas has boasted that several of those killed by the Israeli army were members of Hamas's military wing, Izaddin al Qassam?
Again, we are showered by Abbas and the PA leadership with deceit and dissimulation. Were it not for Israel, these Hamas men would have crossed the border from the Gaza Strip and killed not only Israelis, but the Palestinian president and many of his Ramallah-based cronies.
As the leader of the Palestinians, Abbas should be criticizing Hamas and other terror groups for sending children, the elderly, women and "unarmed civilians" to the border with Israel, where they are endangering their lives. Abbas, however, is terrified of Hamas. He is also afraid of his own people, whom he has taught to hate – more than they love life.
Abbas, of course, knows the truth: that Hamas is sending Palestinians to be killed and injured near the border with Israel just to be able to hold up dead Palestinian babies with which to blame Israel in front of the press.
Abbas, however, is not only hypocrite, he is a coward. He knows it is safer for him to turn the heat falsely against Israel -- the same Israel that is propping up his regime in the West Bank -- and ensuring that Hamas does not drag him to the center of Ramallah and hang him as a traitor.
**Bassam Tawil is a Muslim based in the Middle East.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

Countering Moscow: NATO's New "Military Schengen Zone"
Debalina Ghoshal/Gatestone Institute/April 06/18
"Russia seeks to change the international order, fracture NATO, and undermine U.S. leadership in order to protect its regime, re-assert dominance over its neighbors, and achieve greater influence around the globe." — U.S. Army General Curtis Scaparrotti, Supreme Allied Commander Europe.
"Russia has demonstrated its willingness and capability to intervene in countries along its periphery and to project power... Our highest strategic priority as a Combatant Command is to deter Russia from engaging in further aggression and exercising malign influence over our allies and partners." — General Curtis Scaparrotti.
U.S. Army Europe commander Lt. General Frederick Benjamin Hodges, just before he retired last September, called the process of meeting the transportation laws of individual countries and the movement of even non-military convoys across Europe "cumbersome," citing as an example the five-day notice period required for moving forces from Poland to Germany.
On March 28, the European Union unveiled a plan to enhance NATO defense capabilities, particularly in view of increasing Russian aggression. The plan, which envisions the establishment of a European Defense Union by the year 2025, is aimed at easing current restrictions on the deployment of troops and the movement of military materiel across Europe, in the same way that the Schengen Area agreement has enabled passport-free travel between 26 states, most of which belong to the EU.
Explaining the necessity for a "military Schengen zone," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said:
"By facilitating military mobility within the EU, we can be more effective in preventing crises, more efficient in deploying our missions, and quicker in reacting when challenges arise."
The EU Commissioner for Transport, Violeta Bulc, emphasized another aspect of the proposed zone:
"This means a more efficient use of public money and a better-equipped transport network, ensuring quick and seamless mobility across the continent. This is a matter of collective security"
The principle of "collective security" -- or "collective defense" -- is enshrined in Article 5 of the NATO (Washington) Treaty, and it means that "an attack against one ally is considered as an attack against all allies." It was first invoked after the 9/11 attacks, and has been implemented on several occasions, including in response to the civil war in Syria and after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Currently, collective defense is impeded by regulations that make it extremely difficult for NATO to move troops and equipment swiftly and efficiently from one member-state to another.
This difficulty was behind the idea of creating the "military Schengen," which was raised by NATO leaders in 2015, and repeated last July by U.S. Army Europe commander Lt. General Frederick Benjamin Hodges during the U.S. Army-led Saber Guardian exercise in Romania.
Ahead of his retirement last September, Hodges referred to the need for an improved "speed of assembly," which he defined as "the movement of allied forces from all over Europe to the Black Sea region." Hodges asserted:
"More than anything, we need a military Schengen zone, something that would allow a military convoy to move across Europe as fast as a migrant is able to move across Europe."
Hodges called the process of meeting the transportation laws of individual countries and the movement of even non-military convoys across Europe "cumbersome," citing as an example the five-day notice period required for moving forces from Poland to Germany.
Pictured: Multinational NATO soldiers with the Enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group Poland arrive in Rukla, Lithuania on June 18, 2017, completing a two-day tactical road march across NATO borders, as part of the "Saber Strike 17" exercise.
Though necessary, such a military Schengen zone, analysts say, would not be simple to implement. According to Karlijn Jans from The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies in the Netherlands, and Rachel Rizzo from the Center for a New American Security in Washington,
"First of all, not all NATO members are part of today's Schengen Agreement. Also, despite having practical motivation and goals in mind, a military Schengen zone could be difficult politically. In an ideal scenario, military personnel and equipment would receive the equivalent of the Schengen visa that private citizens receive when travelling to the EU -- but that might be tough to sell to the general public. Finally, separate agreements would have to be created with non-EU NATO members such as the United States, Turkey and Montenegro; Norway and Iceland have associate status in Schengen as part of the existing Schengen Acquis. A separate agreement would also have to be renegotiated with the United Kingdom [now that it has left] the EU."
Nevertheless, Jans and Rizzo argue,
"implementation may not be as difficult as people think, given what is already underway in parts of Europe... such as the European Air Transport Command, which was established by the Netherlands, France, Belgium and Germany in 2010 and has since added Spain, Italy and Luxembourg. This multinational command put significant parts of these countries' air transport- and air-to-air refueling fleets under unified operational control. A permanent multinational airlift training center also recently launched in Spain, marking a major step forward in European defense collaboration."
Testifying before the US Senate Armed Services Committee on March 8, the American commander of NATO forces in Europe, U.S. Army General Curtis Scaparrotti, was emphatic in his assessment of the growing threat from Moscow:
"Russia seeks to change the international order, fracture NATO, and undermine U.S. leadership in order to protect its regime, re-assert dominance over its neighbors, and achieve greater influence around the globe... Russia has demonstrated its willingness and capability to intervene in countries along its periphery and to project power... Our highest strategic priority as a Combatant Command is to deter Russia from engaging in further aggression and exercising malign influence over our allies and partners."
The establishment of greater military cooperation among NATO members, then, is as welcome as it is crucial.
**Debalina Ghoshal, an independent consultant specializing in nuclear and missile issues, is based in India.
© 2018 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

The UK's New Warfare Doctrine Looks Familiar
Leonid Bershidsky/Al Arabiya/Friday, 06 April, 2018
Modern warfare is, in part, about marketing. So, in its National Security Capability Review, the UK government chose a glitzy, tech-sounded new-age name: "fusion strategy." That may have part been to avoid the term "hybrid warfare" often applied to today's Russian warfighting. The difference is subtle but important.
"Call it non-linear war (which I prefer), or hybrid war, or special war, Russia’s operations first in Crimea and then eastern Ukraine have demonstrated that Moscow is increasingly focusing on new forms of politically focused operations in the future," British Russia expert Mark Galeotti wrote in the blog post that launched (to the author's lasting regret) the inaccurate term "Gerasimov Doctrine." He was referring to the 2013 speech by General Valery Gerasimov, chief of the Russian General Staff. In it, Gerasimov dissected a purported Western war strategy, employing propaganda and economic warfare to soften up the adversary for military action by special forces aided by private military companies and domestic opposition. He argued that Russia should preempt these efforts, rather than copy them. The UK's "fusion strategy" aims to "use our security, economic and influence capabilities to maximum effect to protect, promote and project our national security, economic and influence goals." One of the goals is to counter "a well-established pattern of Russian state aggression." So far, so predictably sweeping.
But many of the specific ideas mirror those discussed in Russia in the earlier part of this decade: Modernization of the armed forces with a focus on rapid deployment; building a stronger cyber capability and increasing recruitment of tech workers for government service; expanding the international reach of the national broadcaster and state soft power-projecting organizations; improving the domestic communication of the national security agenda, strengthening counterpropaganda efforts and increasing foreign development aid to "fragile states and regions." Everything -- economic innovation, public relations, defense capability, foreign aid -- is part of the security agenda, just like in Russia's 2015 National Security Strategy; it's a holistic approach, or a hybrid one if you like. That's a matter of semantics.
Rival powers always portray their strategies as defensive, and in recent years, the UK has had a lot more right to this claim than Russia. If it took part in foreign military operations, it has been at the urging and under the direction of the US As for non-conventional ops, the UK hasn't conducted any known cyber offensives, weaponized the BBC (whose independence is in theory guaranteed by its Royal Charter) the way Russia has done with RT or employed mercenary forces in conflicts. It has most certainly not poisoned any former double agents in foreign lands with a military-grade nerve agent such as Novichok, used to attack Sergei and Yulia Skripal earlier this month. So Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson had some justification for saying on Wednesday that "all you need to know about the difference between modern Britain and the government of Vladimir Putin" is that "they make Novichok, we make lightsabers" (the latter is a reference to the latest Star Wars movie having been produced in the UK).
Russia's change to an aggressive posture from a more benign post-Cold War stance occurred after Putin's government convinced Russians that everything the country did was part of national security. He was able to unite economic, technological and media initiatives under a large national security umbrella and to convince Russians they needed to keep a beady eye on external enemies. The public accepted what the state told them and so almost all spheres of Russian life became fair game for weaponization.
The UK has a deep, historic democracy and a fiercely independent, pluralistic media that isn't easily manipulated. But the government's intention to "create a cross-government soft power strategy," suggests it is looking to amplify its message in whatever ways possible. The document promises to respect "the independence of the BBC World Service, British Council and the many British institutions and brands that contribute to our soft power." It's difficult, however, to keep media and cultural organizations independent when they're part of a "soft power strategy" proclaimed and run by the government for national security purposes. If I worked for the BBC, especially for the World Service, I might guard my independence a little more jealously after that.

Syria: The Putin-Erdogan Summit Was a Missed Opportunity

Amir Taheri/Asharq Al Awsat/April 06/18
Earlier this week Russian President Vladimir Putin, still beaming from his re-election victory, tried to heighten his global profile with a much-advertised “summit” with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
(A brief tripartite sitting with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani was later added as a footnote to “exchange views” on Syria.)
At tactical level Putin and Erdogan need each other.
Erdogan gives Putin, who is asserting himself as the arbiter of Syria’s future, as an “Islamic” cover to counter claims that Russia, having bombed large parts of Syria into rubble and killing tens of thousands of civilians, is now at war with Islam. It is no accident that Kremlin’s recent “advice” to Muslim preachers in mosques across the Russian federation includes the claims that Putin’s moves in Syria are backed by Erdogan.
For his part Erdogan, too, needs Putin a tactical level. It was Putin who told his protégé Bashar al-Assad not to press acclaim for control of Syrian Kurdish areas annexed by Turkey in recent operations. Russian forces in Syria looked the other way as Turkish forces carved out the Syrian cordon sanitaire that Erdogan wanted.
It was also thanks to a nod and a wink from Putin that the mullahs of Tehran suddenly ceased their initially violent denunciation of Turkey for annexing chunks of Syrian territory. Furthermore, Erdogan, as any middleweight player in a power game knows, needed a big power protector against another big power, in this case the United States.
More importantly, perhaps, both Putin and Erdogan needed each other complete Iran’s exclusion from the top table on Syria, a process that started in 2015 when Putin rode in to claim the title of protector for what is left of Assad’s ramshackle regime. A group of Iranian parliamentarians who visited Damascus recently were surprised to find posters celebrating the “victory” of Putin and Assad with no mention of Iran’s “Supreme Guide” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, let alone Gen. Assam Soleimani the self-promoting the poster-boy of “Imamist Jihad”.
Another poster distributed in Deir az-Zour puts giant images of Putin and Assad in the front section with small images of Khamenei and the Lebanese "Hezbollah" chief Hasan Nasrallah in the background.
To hammer in the point that we are witnessing a two-man show, Putin and Erdogan did all they could to be seen together, announced grandiose plans for a nuclear industry in Turkey, re-hashed old projects for oil and gas pipelines and even evoked the sale of Russian military hardware to Turkey.
The Putin- Erdogan tandem’s aim is to marginalize Iran’s role in Syria, to encourage US President Donald Trump’s penchant for withdrawal from the Syrian quagmire and to allow no space for any Arab initiative on Syria. With the remnants of the Assad regime reduced to irrelevance, Putin and Erdogan hope to seize sole control of Syria’s destiny.
But how realistic is such an ambition? The short answer is: not very!
There is no doubt that Iran’s role in Syria has been dramatically reduced while Putin has denied Iran its own share of Syrian territory in which to set up a permanent base through which to maintain control over Lebanon. Iran’s fundamental weakness in Syria is that it has no indigenous constituency. Tukey can count on the sympathy of the Muslim Arab majority in Syria while Russia is cast as protector of the Alawite and Christian minorities there. Iran, however, cannot count on any such popular support base. But Iran remains the biggest paymaster for the Assad regime. In fact, before travelling to Turkey for a mini-meeting with Putin and Erdogan, Rouhani had hinted that he would demand that Russia and Turkey make a serious contribution to the cost of keeping Syria “safe from terrorists”. Iran’s other asset in Syria is the estimated 40,000 mercenaries he has recruited from Iran, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That makes ran the second largest military force on the ground after the remnants of Assad’s army and ancillaries’. Putin and Erdogan would be mistaken if they think they could easily exclude Iran from the Syrian scene. Putin and Erdogan would be equally wrong if they take a Trumpian tweet as a US decision to withdraw from Syria. It may be hard to guess Trump’s next move on Syria or, indeed, on any other issues. But, right now, political, diplomatic, economic and military facts on the ground point to an American comeback to the Middle East as a major player. With victory over the so-called Islamic Caliphate now almost complete the US would be ill-advised to throw away its laurels and hand the trophy to rivals and adversaries in the region.
Putin and Erdogan may also be underestimating the ability of Arab states to seek a leading role in shaping Syria’s future. The prospect of a Turko-Russian tandem to dominate the region, with Iran playing second violin, is unlikely to leave most Arab states indifferent.
Machiavellians may suggest that it is not so bad to let Putin and Erdogan, with the mullahs of Tehran hanging to their tailcoats, to remain bogged down in a Syria reduced to the status of an ungoverned territory consisting of mile after mile of rubble. With their economies in meltdown mode Russia, Turkey and Iran are in no position to rebuild Syria into anything resembling a functioning state.
That immense task requires genuine international participation which means an active role by the United States, the European Union, the Arb state; China and Japan among others.
Putin and Erdogan have not been able to forge a realistic policy on Syria.
Such policy could only be based on one inclusion and one exclusion.
The inclusion part would aim at acknowledging the interests and concerns of all foreign powers as well as all domestic forces involved in the seven-year old imbroglio that country. Such inclusion need not take the model of the Berlin Conference on the division of colonies among major European powers. But it would have to accept cold realities on the ground at a time priority must be given to restoration of a measure of stability. The exclusion part would have to apply to the Assad regime which is already no more than walking caricature of the “undead”, and to the remnants of its evil twin "ISIS". Syria can be saved, but only if it is saved for all, starting with its martyrized people. This week we heard nothing from Putin and Erdogan to show that they understand that simple fact.

The Ankara conference: We are strangers here!
Mashari Althaydi/Al Arabiya/April 07/18
The photo that brought together Russia, Iran and Turkey’s leaders who were meeting in Ankara to discuss the Syrian affair sums up the current gloomy Arab scene. With a big smile, the three countries reached an agreement despite the different political beliefs that drive them and the conflicting biases in Syria. Russia and Iran are the reason why Bashar al-Assad’s regime stayed. Meanwhile, Turkey, under Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has beaten the drums of the “verbal” war against the Assad regime from the beginning. Erdogan drew plenty of red lines for Assad in Syria, like not allowing another Hama-like scenario in Aleppo, and later on, “Sufficient was Allah for the believers in battle.”It’s all clear. What happened in Ankara is a “regional” version similar to the Yalta Conference which was held after World War II to divide the spoils of war and global influence
A joint statement
A joint statement following the summit between the three leaders, Erdogan, Rowhani and Putin, in Ankara, said the three countries are working “to bring peace and stability in Syria”. Yes! Russia from its air base in Khmeimim and through its air force in Ghouta and Northern Syria, Iran through the gangs of Qassem Soleimani and Nasrallah and Khazali’s militias, and Turkey through the Muslim Brotherhood brigades and the shelters in Gaziantep that house the fighters of Syrian fundamentalist groups are all “working to bring peace in Syria.” It’s all clear. What happened in Ankara is a “regional” version similar to the Yalta Conference which was held after World War II to divide the spoils of war and global influence. In a joint press conference, Rowhani said: “Today, we officially announce the end of the Syrian war.” While Putin said: “We agreed to cooperate in settling the Syrian crisis.” As for Erdogan, he said: “Those who do not comprehend that ISIS and the Kurdish fighters serve the same aim cannot contribute to (achieving) permanent peace in Syria.” Perhaps the only thing that may disrupt the division of the spoils of war in Ankara is US President Trump’s retreat from his “strange” decision to exit Syria as seen following his meeting with his national security team. The hawk Mike Pompeo was firm as he noted that a hasty withdrawal may harm US interests in terms of stabilizing ISIS’s defeat and curbing Iran. US Secretary of Defense Mattis agreed with Pompeo, according to Ash-Sharq al-Awsat.
Arab countries missing
Alright, so these are all non-Arab countries. Some are neighboring countries, like Iran and Turkey, and some are far like Russia and the US. Where are the Arab countries? Or rather, where are the original protagonists of the Syrian story,
Bashar and his rivals?
The photo of Putin, Rowhani and Erdogan smiling and holding hands in Ankara while discussing Syria’s future is the photo of the year. While returning from a meeting with the Roman emperor, poet Imru' al-Qais, who was known as the Lost King, fell ill at a mountain near today’s Ankara – some say it was in Ankara itself. As he was dying, he saw a woman by his side and said: O neighbor mine, the time of visiting draws near, And I will remain forever with you here
O neighbor, We are both strangers here, And every stranger is in fact a relative to another stranger.